Works for Me Wednesday: Baking Soda

I don't know about you, but in our house we go through a LOT of laundry stain remover.

When you have little boys, they get their clothes extremely dirty, and they get your clothes extremely dirty. And when they have a little sister, they get her clothes dirty, too... not to mention teaching her to get her own clothes dirty, and contribute to the dirtiness of their clothes, and your own clothes. Sometimes we would go through a bottle of Zout in as little as two weeks. It's insanely expensive.

But recently we've discovered that we can use baking soda instead. If you buy it in the huge bags, it's dirt cheap, and it works just as well as the expensive toxic substances. In fact, baking soda has removed set in stains that nothing else would touch.

Of course stains just need Zout. And some stains just need OxyClean. But baking soda is now my stain remover of first resort.

The best thing about it is that since baking soda is non-toxic, the wuggies can help with the laundry. And toddlers LOVE helping with chores. A sense of purpose is such a deep-seated sou-need of children... of everybody, really. Toddlers are such naturally industrious creatures, and nurturing that sense of industry is one of our most important tasks as mothers, I think. It's so easy to relegate them to the sidelines of our existence, to occupy them with arbitrary, meaningless activities while we quickly get through our chores so that we can spend quality time with them, doing "fun stuff." But over and over, I keep finding that the best "quality time" is time spent doing chores together. And right now, they think that working hard is the most fun possible. Laziness is a learned behavior... and come to think of it, not one that I really want to teach.

Turning chores into a family affair? Works for me!



Rush on over to The Slow Lane just as fast as you can, and convince her not to invest in a bigger sock drawer.

No, my dear, your charming wit belongs right out here in the fresh air.


That's MRS. Mommy to you!

As I was changing Nathan's diaper, chattering affectionately at him, I called him "Mr. Meepo."

He liked that very much, and repeated several times, "I'm Mis-ter Meepo. I'm Mis-ter Meepo."

I then pointed to his brother. "That's Mr. Wuggidy."

"Mis-ter Wuggidy. Mis-ter Wuggidy."

He thought about it for a minute, then pointed to me.

"Mis-ter Mama! Mis-ter Mama!"



I'm okay.

My toe does not appear to be broken, just badly bruised. I can walk now, and without too much discomfort. It's back down nearly to its normal size, and the garish color scheme has settled down to a tasteful mauve, with subtle lilac accents.

The kitchen is not nearly as bad as I'd envisioned... turns out it was only one saucepan and one 9x5 casserole that had fallen out of the cupboard. Could have fooled me. It sure felt like an avalanche.

And the flour and sugar that the wuggies used to occupy themselves while I was writhing in agony? It took about 5 minutes to clean up out of the sink.

After the repairman came to check out the leak.

Actually, the repairman came while I was looking for the dirty diaper Tembo had taken off somewhere.

I finally found it in the middle of the kitchen floor.

After the repairman had left.

So anyway, we're okay.

Badly humiliated, but okay.


Feels Like Sunday

I called up my Mommy to commiserate about my day, and while we were on the phone, she relayed my story to Daddy. I could hear him chuckling in the background, saying that it reminded him of the time when the tire on the motorhome blew out, and blew a hole in one of the storage compartments, strewing flip-flops and sneakers all over the road. The tire shrapnel also blew a hole in the sewage tank, leaving a mess of other proportions entirely.

Come to think of it, it's sort of like how Sunday morning was, too, when we were out of milk, and I ran to the store real quick, but as I pulled out of the driveway, I saw that the gas tank read quarter past empty, and I wasn't sure if I even had enough gas to get to the station across the street, but then I missed my turn, and decided that I'd rather do an illegal left turn than stall out in the middle of the road.

And after the kind police officer was done explaining to me where I should and should not turn left, I realized that I'd left my debit card at home. And when I pulled into our driveway, with $5.04 of gas in the tank, I remembered that I'd actually just put my card in a different compartment of my purse.

And then, when I was finally at Stater Brothers, I tried to pull a blueberry yogurt off the shelf, and in the process knocked over two boysenberry yogurts and a cherry vanilla yogurt, and one of the boysenberry yogurts exploded all over my foot.

I thought it was kinda strange that the sprinklers came on just as I pulled into the driveway, but I didn't have time to think about it much, because the milk was leaking all over the back seat.

And THEN, as I was bustling around trying to find a pitcher to salvage the milk, telling Andy what an eventful trip it was, instead of sympathizing, he finished my story for me.

"AND you ran into the sprinkler system."



I'd just finished explaining to Andy that, no, the exploding yogurt thing was entirely separate from the milk thing, when I found the mangled container of cherry-chocolate-mousse yogurt under the place where the milk had been.

That was my Sunday, and that's kinda how today feels, too.

Laughter does a world of good, though, and I feel a whole lot better after a good giggle with my Mommy.

I'm just still not sure how I'm going to take care of everything with a broken toe.

Let alone get all the pots and pans back in order.

Or excavate 5 lbs. of flour from the sink.

WFMW: Ditch the Windex!

Ever since his summer janitorial stint a few years back, Andy has mocked me for using Windex.

"The professionals just use rags and water."


Every self-respecting housewife is dependent upon Windex... right?

Well... maybe not. A wet rag gets everything up quickly (well... everything that Windex gets up, anyway) and a dry rag buffs the glass to a lovely streak-free shine. Better results, quicker, and with no nasty fumes.

Works for me!


Mystery can night just got a little more mysterious.

We're having chili tonight, and so I thought it might be a good opportunity to use up a couple of those label-less cans that every parent of toddlers has lying about.

I was pretty sure that this particular can contained either broth, black olives, stewed tomatoes, or green chiles, and that any one of those would make a splendid addition to my recipe.

I'm still pretty sure that it was one of those things.

And any one of those things would have been very nice.

Only problem is, having opened the can, I'm more confused than ever.

(And no, it did NOT go into the crock pot!)

Flute Impressions

Having just shared some impressively heinous flauteling (Can you believe I actually used to sound like that? Yikes!) I thought I should also point out what inspires and moves moves me, and gets me going in the morning.

This is sunlight streaming through the window, a gentle breeze setting life and greenness all aflutter, a mountain spring right here in my living room.

With a big tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice to go with it all.

This is what the flute is all about.

Nina Assimakopoulos is probably my very favorite instrumentalist. Her technique is flawless, and I'm not sure how to describe her tone, except to say that it is alive. Now soft and tender, now rich and powerful, now soaring and brilliant, now playful and exotic... it constantly changes according to the spirit of the music she plays. I've never heard anyone else play Briccialdi's Carnival of Venice non-ironically, but Ms. Assimakopoulos enters fully into the playful spirit of the virtuoustic showpiece. As you listen all you can think about is the shimmering vitality, and it is only after the last note has died away that you realize just how impressive it all was. Whether it's Chopin or Debussy or Korsakov, or even something as simple as Amazing Grace, she draws out the full force of the music, so that the listener is sucked in and overpowered. But somehow, always, she holds her own.

This is how I want to live, and this is how her music inspires me to live, awake and alive, serene and tender and strong.


Right now is not usually.

Usually, they're just so easy to love.

Usually, they bring me so much joy and delight.

Usually Nathan isn't nonchalantly pouring out a cup of water at my feet as I sop a gallon of cranberry juice off my freshly mopped floor.

Usually I'm not desperately needing to get my chores done in time to run over to the office to notify the management of an extremely urgent leak that absolutely must get fixed before they close for the weekend. In about two hours.

Usually being their mother is a whole lot of fun.

Right now is not usually.

Impressive, but painful... but impressive nonetheless

This guy makes the most out of every bad flute habit I've ever overcome.


But still... wow.

Reason #4 why Blogger could be improved upon

It's all well and good for Brian to be hating on blogger. But I can't very well bite that hand that lets me blog.

And, well... the fact is, thenickfamily.com sure looks nice now.... but it took several years to get it there, and meanwhile, I was actually blogging. So I'm very grateful to google for bringing blogging to the lazy, html-illiterate masses who just plain love to write.

But! This switch over to the new blogger is not very smooth. Well it is for blog authors, actually, (although I did lose a lot of template customizations, and had to reinstall any outside html. But even that was okay, because it prompted me to switch from statcounter to sitemeter, which is actually a lot better.)

Anyway, I follow a perfectly massive quantity of sparsely updated blogs, so I'm quite dependent upon bloglines. But one by one, my subscriptions stop working as everybody switches over to the new blogger. Just the other day I finally got around to updating all my subscriptions... but now Christa has moved, too. Oy, vey. They make everything else so easy... why did they have to change the rss feeds on us? I like blogger because I'm lazy, remember? That's the whole point.

But even if google hadn't chosen to put us through such misery, I guess it really wouldn't have solved my problem entirely. Some people just keep moving all over the place.

I tell you. No sense of commitment.

If only it weren't so easy to just up and start a new blog.


My first attempt at patchwork

This was a LOT of fun to make.

WFMW: GT and the Halo Express

The wuggy-boys got a really wonderful birthday present from Aunt Sarah and Grandma and Grandpa Palmer.

A complete set of GT and the Halo Express.

Remember Psalty? Well, GT is pretty much like Psalty, only better. Instead of a singing hymnal that teaches the kids praise choruses, it's a "band of angels" that teaches Michael and Kristy scripture memory songs that help them deal with their grade-school problems. You know, a "band of angels" complete with drums and saxophones and guitars. And harps, because, well... you can't have angels without harps. The stories are full of little puns like that, which makes it fun for mom, too.

We've been listening to them pretty much non-stop. Well, okay, not quite non-stop... but a lot.

It's just a really good thing, on a lot of levels. The wuggies just love it. Even Tembo tugs at my sleeve, excitedly asking for "JeeTEE! JeeTEE!" And it really seems to be doing them good, developmentally. In our reading time, I've been very intentional about trying to wean them from images to stories, working toward more verbally driven picuture books, and illustrated storybooks.

The GT stories fit very nicely into this process. They're exciting and colorful... and totally non-visual. And sure enough, since we've started listening to GT, the wuggies have started to sit still and listen to stories, pictures or no pictures. Part of this is just the normal process of development, but I really do think that GT helped them to realize just how colorful and exciting stories could be.

And all the scripture flowing through the house! It's a really wonderful thing, and the music helps it to penetrate deep into the soul. It's good for the wuggies, and it's good for me, too.

As a musician, I'm really impressed with the songs. The music may not be genius, but it's solid, and exactly right. The melodies are perfectly suited to the texts, and are clearly the outgrowth of a deep understanding of the scriptures. Simple, singable, and meaningful... It's good stuff.

I have no idea why they aren't more popular, but they seem to be on the verge of out-of-print. They're only available here, and only in cassette tapes.

But they're totally worth scouring your local thrift shops for a cassette player, if need be. And maybe if enough of us do that, they'll start publishing them in less obsolete formats. =)

Scripture songs throughout the day? Works for me!


Important Milestone

September now blows her own nose.

Meepo's Cubist Phase

Nathan absolutely loves to sit at the computer and scribble on MS Paint.

The other day, he drew Tembo.

Apparently he thinks that his sister is two-faced.

Then he decided to add Isaiah into the picture. And a squiggle.

The young artist then began chanting "Itch! Itch! Itch!" and started scratching his itching siblings out with the eraser function.

All this scratching had the unfortunate result of a "broken eye," but with a few more strokes, he was able to transform the image into "clowns!"

And now, for the completed masterpiece:

Come to think of it, in the end it's more abstract expressionist.

From straight representation, to cubism, to his very own symbolic system, to abstract expressionism...

I guess it makes sense. Short attention spans and all that.


Well Rested

I got four hours of sleep last night.

Four blissful uninterrupted hours on a comfy mattress.

I feel incredibly good. So energized I feel like I could conquer the world. Or maybe even get everyone to church on time.

I keep wondering what bliss it will be to sleep 8 hours straight on the new mattress.


A place of her own

Tembo loves her little "hidey-house."

And books.

And shoes.

Oh, yes.



Bosey was happily examining a fanciful colored pencil drawing of a beautiful creature, half girl, half zebra. The image resonated deeply with me, for that is how I always made sense out of my complicated bi-cultural identity. Stripes. And this zebra-child was so happy and free, reveling in her stripes... the image made me happy. So did hearing my little girl refer to an animal as something other than a doggy or a duck.

Tembo had a grand time, trying to figure out whether this was a "Bubba Deeda" or a "Mama Deeda." I guess when you have only brothers, you may or may not have a category that encompasses both "female" and "child," so you sort of have to decide which concept to retain. But whether this creature was a bubba or a mama, Nathan was quite convinced that in any case, it was more properly pronounced "Beza."

It was such a peaceful and happy moment, I was a bit surprised when Nathan announced "Tembo angry!"

"No, I don't think Tembo's angry. See how she's smiling? Tembo's happy. Are you angry, Meepo?"

"No... I not angry!"

"Are you happy?"

"I not happy!"

"Are you sad?"

"I not sad!"

"Are you jubilant?"

"I not jub-lant!"

Finally, though I hit it.

"Are you amused?"

His face lit up with blissful comprehension.

"I'm a-music-ed!"

It's a good feeling to know exactly how you feel.

Even if it's stripey and confusing and a little bit of everything.

Especially if it's stripey and confusing and a little bit of everything.



My husband informs me that the video is extraordinarily dull without some background information.

No, I didn't edit in the spiffy sound effects. Mr. Wuggidy fell asleep while listening to G. T. and the Halo Express. He tried so hard to keep awake, and his little noggin kept slowly sinking down, then snapping back up suddenly, only to start sinking again. I got the camera running just in time to catch the very last nod, in perfect time to the music's final cadence.


Of course all this would be much better as a caption to the previous post... but blogger is being cranky today.


Nodding Off

The Economy of Home

Life is very much uncertain and up-in-the-air right now. I did my one last Costco trip before our membership expired, and since I'd decided against renewing, I wanted to thoroughly stock up on the few things that are actually a good buy there.

But Andy reminded me that I shouldn't get a lot of honey, because one package would probably last us until we move.

June is only four months away, and we're moving June 2.

Where is a little less certain, but the minute Andy dismisses his last class, we're packing up for someplace where we can see the stars.

I was talking to a little neighbor boy the other day, a darling little five-year-old by the name of Orion. I misheard at first, and called him "Ryan," but he quickly and distainfully set me straight.
But I was back in good graces once I said it correctly. "Oh, Orion! Like the stars!"

He looked at me in awe. "You must be the same age as my mother! She knows about the stars, too!"

I miss Orion. And Cassiopeia, and the big and little bears, and the fathomless blur of the Milky Way... but mostly Orion. I've seen him once or twice out here, so I know he does come around, but always the mighty warrior looks so wan and sickly.

I need starlight, and want it badly, but probably not enough to leave. Inertia is a powerful thing, and moving is scary. But come June 2, we're through paying Southern California rent.

So right now, as we're figuring out how we want to structure our life, I found this excellent article especially thought-provoking. (It pays off to hang out at Amy's Humble Musings. Not only does she have good things to say, but she links good places, too!)

For more on the same topic, Nancy Pearcey has some really excellent things to say.


Happily Hatted


The other night, I'm pretty sure Nathan said his first real prayer. Hard to say, I guess. He's blessed our meals a number of times, ("Thank you, Jesus. Amen"), but I'm not going to count that, because he's not so much interested in praying as in having the shortest prelude possible before diving into the grub. Our mealtime ritual is one of my favorite things about our family, but sometimes somebody is absolutely ravenous and would rather just say a quick prayer before getting to the food. And usually that somebody is Nathan.
But the other night, Nathan definitely actually prayed.
It was a night to teach us all to pray. Everybody was sick--draggy and lethargic and stuffy and coughing. Nathan and September napped most of the day, and Andy and I had such sweet, wonderful, precious time with Isaiah.
When we were ready to crash out for the night, though, Nathan woke up, bright-eyed and ready to face the day, rather oblivious to the fact that it was pitch black outside, and we were all ready to sleep. We let him cuddle up with us, admonished him sternly not to squirm to much, and hoped for the best.
Suddenly, September sat bolt upright, and began to bark, gasping frantically between the wrenching coughs.
Nathan giggled. "Funny sound!"
Andy gently told him that it wasn't funny, Tembo was very sick.
We turned on the shower, and sat with Tembo in the steam. She improved immediately, but the second we would try taking her out of the steamy bathroom, she would begin to bark and gasp again. So Andy moved the cabinet out of the bathroom, and squeezed the papazan in, and we all cuddled up and read together.
And we prayed. Oh, how we prayed.
"God. Lord Jesus, the Timmo. Amen."
Through the whole ordeal, Nathan was quietly alert, earnest, and compassionate. As we brainstormed about how we could get the air in the rest of the house moist enough to go back to bed and get some sleep, our little helper suggested a pot of water on the stove. Which is exactly what we did. I've always wondered why Anne-with-an-E told Diana to boil water when the baby had croup... now I know.
She was okay. Eventually we were able to go back to sleep, even.
She's okay. My baby's okay.
And somehow, terrifying as it was, that's one of those days I want to frame and treasure for the rest of my life.


Less talk, more pictures

I do dot like theb, Sab I ab. I do dot like greed eggs add hab.

I thigk I'll stick to Where's Waldo for dow.

At least I cad prodoudce that.


Of Genies and Sewing Machines, and Wisdom Calling in the Streets

Over the past few weeks I've been meditating on the Book of Proverbs. And sewing machines.

The Proverbs part has been good, and convicting, and unexpectedly comforting.

The sewing machine part has been just plain exhilirating.

I was trembling with excitement when Andy brought the old Merritt 4530 home from the thrift store. Which isn't terribly surprising. I'm a generally excitable sort of person, and any new creative outlet is bound to send me into ecstasy.

It really was surprising, though, that the whole project just got better and better. It took me a week of hard research to figure out how to work the machine, without benefit of an instruction manual, and when (with some gracious help from Marcy Koch) I finally figured out how to make it work... it didn't.

And I just got more and more excited. Or rather, my initial excitement slowly began to morph into something deeper and gladder. Really knowing a sewing machine on a deep level--even a broken one!-- turned out to be even better than I'd hoped making stuff would be.

After a quick search on google local I called up the Singer Sewing Center of Orange County, and Steve told me that he'd be glad to take a look, see if it was worth fixing.

It wasn't.

The shop was an adorable little mom-and-pop establishment. Apparently she quilts, he machine-embroiders, and they love what they do. It's a tiny place, and modest, but the massive discount fabric warehouse across the parking lot brings a flow of customers their way, and exceptional customer service brings them back again.

On my second trip out there, I became aware of praise choruses playing softly in the background, but I was already pretty sure that Steve was somebody who loves Jesus, just from the way he treated everybody. He was every bit as courteous to me as to the big time customers as to the homeless guy, and put the same effort into helping me find the right machine for my needs and budget as he did into helping the other ladies understand the deep and marvelous mysteries of a very fine $3,000 embroidery machine.

I ended up buying a basic Elna, not too many bells and whistles, but well-made and durable.

I decided a pair of pajamas would be a good first project. I desperately needed some warmer pjs, especially since we'd stopped heating the house at night, and it would be okay if they were a little bit clumsily done.

The elegant little machine worked like a dream, doing everything precisely as I chose. Which didn't make the pants fit exactly right... I hadn't quite gotten the hang of properly choosing where I really wanted that seam to be. But somehow even the mistakes gave me an euphoric sense of power. With this little machine, I can take some cloth and some thread and with relatively little effort, do pretty much anything I want to. All I have to do is learn how to want the right things.

This sense of empowerment has been leaking through to other areas of my life, and this beautifully sensible little device has been teaching me all sorts of widely-applicable life lessons.

But it wasn't until this morning that I realized how intertwined it all was with Proverbs.

I was reading to the wuggies, a silly Disney book in which Mickey, Goofy, and Donald play out the age-old theme of the wasted wishes. Be careful what you wish for, because it just might be exactly what you get.

It's the same theme as I've been noticing in Proverbs lately. Over and over the wise teacher exhorts us to love wisdom. It is wise to love wisdom! It is wise to love wisdom!

I always found that a tad confusing and redundant. I mean, of course it's true... just not terribly helpful. I would come wanting to hear something important about wisdom, and would feel a bit cheated by the repeated announcements that wisdom is wise.

This time around, it made sense, though, and the words were deeply comforting. Wisdom is calling out in streets, it's there for the taking. Just wanting to become wise is the first step, and if you do want to become wise, then you will. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you. Seek and you shall find.

You just have to learn to want the right things, that's all.