Monday, August 31, 2009

Living in the B.S.E.

Right after Pete and I got married, we moved into our brand-new apartment in Uptown Charlotte, and filled it up with our brand-new wedding gifts, appliances, bedding, etc. Everything was so pristine and clean and shiny. In the subsequent 11 years, though, the luster has faded on almost everything, and now I believe we are in, and probably have been for awhile now, the official time known as the Broken Stuff Era (B.S.E.).

In the last week alone, the kids have broken 2 of our original Fiesta dishes, and 1 Corelle baking dish (all wedding gifts) (And none of our beautiful serving platters we received back then are without chips or cracks in them at this point.) Also in the last week, beside the washing machine saga, our vacuum cleaner broke, the kids added an extra major dent to our living room wall, the fluorescent light in our closet won't light, and our computer network router stopped working, causing our laptop to be un-useable, as well as our Tivo. And while we've been trying to pretend our camera has been "fine" for the last couple of months, we have now been forced to realize that if the LCD screen is blank, you have to use a thumb-tack to press the shutter for each picture, and the camera shuts off every 5-10 seconds, it's probably actually "broken" and needs to be replaced.

Our garage looks like a hospital for wooden objects at the moment. Where our van used to happily sit, there is now: a broken kitchen shelf, a "new" (bought at a yard sale for $10) semi-broken bed for Rayna that needs some fixing up, a broken weed-wacker, and a dining room set that is awaiting some "fixes" (more on that story later). I think the sawhorses are going to put down roots in their newly-won territory. Pete's poor jaw clenches everytime he walks out to the garage to get his shoes, and sees all his "projects."

But as I recall, for my entire childhood my parents lived in the B.S.E. All of my dad's free time on weekends or evenings was sucked up by repair projects, and honestly I don't remember a single perfectly shining new thing in our house during my entire 18 years of living there -- at least if there was one momentarily, it was only that -- for a moment.

So I have a feeling that now that we have entered the B.S.E, we should probably get comfortable here -- it might be a long stage.

(Ed. note: I just heard a crash -- the towel bar in the powder room has broken off.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Best $3.00 I've spent lately

While wandering through the aisles of Hobby Lobby last weekend, I stumbled upon these "Magic Nuudles" and used my 40% off coupon to buy them. And they've turned out to be the best craft item I have ever bought! We have gone a little Nuudle-crazy this week -- it's been a big reward for the kids to play with them in the afternoons.

The 3 best parts:

1. Everyone can build with them -- they're easy enough for even Colsen to use, but fun enough for Strider -- and me!

2. No glue necessary! Just get them slightly damp and they stick to everything -- paper, windows, each other, our faces...

3. They're biodegradable -- made out of cornstarch. :)

(I feel like I'm doing a commercial here... but this is a real-live testimonial. We are not paid actors!)

p.s. While I'm talking about money spent, I just want to follow up on my washing machine saga: It has had a very happy ending for us! We have been very, VERY blessed by the extreme generosity of some folks -- we're so grateful. Our new machine arrives this afternoon!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to School

AtPoplar Streams Academy, we strive to teach our kids the 3 R's: to be respectful, responsible and resourceful, so hopefully school is never actually NOT in session ;) .... but our new school year has commenced officially this week. So far it has gone well... no major complaints or breakdowns quite yet!

Our first-day-of-school apple pie breakfast was, not suprisingly, a hit --although Strider kept peppering me with questions beforehand: "What do you mean apple pie for breakfast? It's not REAL apple pie, is it? It's probably some healthy one you found a recipe for, right? etc., etc" He was happily surprised in the end to find it was actual, real apple pie.

This year is exciting for me on a few levels. We're trying some new things, and I think what we'll be studying will be fun for everyone -- things like Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, insects, plants, etc. Between Strider and Rayna's different learning styles and levels, we have quite a lot of curriculum in play this year: Classical Conversations, Learning Lang. Arts through Literature, Explode the Code, Handwriting without Tears, Italic Handwriting, Singapore Math, Math-U-See, and a myriad of History, Science, Spanish, Music and Grammar books. I, of course, had fun making my master week-by-week spreadsheet with all the different subject areas mapped out for each of us... We'll see how well we stick to it! The beginning of the year holds so much fresh HOPE!

We're also going to (hopefully) have a more hands-on, artsy-crafty year than we've had thus far -- we started out some of that this week, which has been fun.

The biggest challenge is how to deal with Miles and Colsen at this point. They both want to be right in the thick of it all, so I always have someone squirming on my lap, and usually someone else crying somewhere.... Oh well. It's nice to have a loud house and I'm thankful -- most of the time.

So, onward and upward!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Further evidence that the Grass Really is Not Greener on the Other Side

Ok, so for the last several months I've been using a washing machine that is technically broken: one of the spinning things is not connected to the other spinning thing anymore. But, we realized that if I just did smaller loads, the clothes still got clean, so we decided to not pay for someone to fix it. For the last several months I've been doing laundry pretty much constantly due to the smaller load size, but it's been fine.

Then my parents bought a new washer-dryer set and told us we could have their old washer. We thought this was so exciting -- especially because they were going to bring it down with Dad's truck on Saturday on their way to my brother's house. So on Friday Pete asked me if he could sell our old machine, which I said was fine as long as the buyer knew it was broken. Well, an hour later the machine was out of our house -- GONE! Two men came and picked it up for $45. I hadn't been planning on suddenly not having a washer, but figured I could survive until the next night when my parents were coming.

Only they couldn't come because it was raining when they needed to load it up. So, recognizing that we needed to get some clothes washed sooner than later, Pete spent all Sunday afternoon going up to get it, bringing it back, and cleaning it thoroughly. Then my brother Dan came over and they huffed and puffed to get it upstairs and installed that night.

Monday morning I ran my first load of clothes through this "new" washer... and that's when it flooded all through our kitchen and living room ceilings. After further investigation, we realized it was not simply a hose issue; after taking apart the machine, we saw it was leaking in multiple places.

So, yesterday we combed through Craigslist to find a newer/used one. Our dryer is also performing on a sub-par level these days, so we decided we could maybe get a whole set (used). We had been saving up some money for furniture this summer, and I had been eager to buy a new couch (our old one is VERY old).... but now it looks like a big chunk of that money is going to have pay for appliances.

Anyway, Pete found some that sounded like a really good deal, so Dan graciously offered to go with him with a borrowed truck -- to a place about 45 minutes away -- to pick them up. Well, as they tell the story, the place ended up being something "like a meth or crack house" and the whole situation was extremely shady. Needless to say, they left empty-handed (before they could get "shot at.") Then they tried another listing... also a yucky place. They came home with no machines last night.

Soooo.... last week I had a machine that worked reasonably fine. This week I have a machine that does not work fine, several HUGE mountains of dirty clothes and towels (especially after the flood and the kids' weekend water war), ruined ceilings, probably mold growing below the floor, and the dashed hopes for a new couch.

On the plus side of the ledger, though, I got to have a laundry vacation for the last 4 days! And, I'm very blessed to have my neighbor who is letting me use her machines today, since we have gotten a little desperate for clean clothes (Colsen is wearing a swimsuit today because he has no more shorts) (OK, cancel that. I just went upstairs and found Colsen soaked because he was helping me "clean" which meant using a wet towel to wipe all kinds of things, including himself. Now he's wearing just underwear.)

Guess I'm done here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Last day of summer vacation: Staycation!

Weeks ago Strider had a request: he wondered if we could start school on a Tuesday so that the final Monday would be a "staycation." And by staycation, again, he just meant no chores or responsibilities, and getting to choose his own activities for the day.

I agreed to his terms, and then made a suggestion: a Brady Bunch marathon! This is something I would have LOVED as a kid; Strider asked me why I never did it then, and I reminded him that we didn't have DVD's back then. So, it was exciting for me to have the kids do this today -- even though I didn't get to watch any. We borrowed Season 2 from friends, and I think they have watched 16 episodes! I'm so proud of my over-achievers.

The added bonus, I thought, would be that the kids would be entertained all day and I could get my last-minute plans done.... but here my naivete was blinding. I've spent most of the day doing my work with a squirmy, fussy 6-month old on my lap or hip (including now as I type this), and a 2-year old chirping in my ear about a whole myriad of imaginative things.

This morning had an added twist as well-- our brand-new-to-us washing machine flooded on the very first load of the morning, causing our living room and kitchen ceilings to "rain" for hours. We really did not have time allotted in our schedules to deal with all this! Pete is upstairs tonight banging around on the machine... Hopefully he'll figure something out. Needless to say, though, this has not been a Staycation for Pete and me.

Right before dinner tonight we had our now-annual Back-to-School Treasure Hunt in the backyard. The kids are all excited about their new things for this school year... Gotta get them pumped up somehow!

Right now I'm off to bake my first apple pie of the season. I figure some teachers get apples brought to them, but since I don't see that happening for me, I'll take the apples to the kids. Apple pie for breakfast tomorrow!

As I think about it though..... between all the TV-watching brain-frying from today, and a nice sugary breakfast tomorrow, the kids might be a real mess by the end of their first school day. I feel sorry for their teacher.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My application of 1 Corinthians 13: 2009 version

If I speak all wisdom, and can train my children to have great character and great knowledge so they get full-ride scholarships to college, and they turn out to be respectful, responsible and resourceful citizens, but I have not love, I am only a nagging drone.

If I have a great gift of design and can create a beautiful home, and actually keep it mostly clean, and can entertain all kinds of parties and people, and if I plan great trips for my family and spontaneous fun adventures as well, and if I can balance all my responsibilities, work, projects, and errands, and even come up with witty Facebook statuses once in awhile, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give up all my desires for a shower, and still manage to look delightful, and if I surrender my body to be the playground my babies want it to be, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient when I hear the 426th question from my children that day. Love is kind to my husband even when he comes home later than I was expecting him. Love does not envy people like Carol Brady who have an Alice to do all the work and meals; it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude to the person driving in front of me going way too slow and not letting me pass; it is not self-seeking even after 9:00 pm when the kids are supposed to have been in bed an hour ago but they keep coming down; it is not easily angered when things I just did are now undone; it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, even when the lawnmower won’t start. Love never fails, even when a full night of uninterrupted sleep is a distant memory.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mobility Miles-stone!

He's on the move.

Miles did some experimenting today, and finally got the forward motion button figured out. His technique is not the most efficient, but he'll get faster soon enough I know...

Time to get everything up off the floor!

Birthday celebration

To celebrate our August birthday folks -- Pete and Rayna -- we had the local Wray clan over for dinner on Saturday night. It sounded like a nice simple idea, and since this year was an "off" year for Rayna's birthday (no party with friends this year in our every-other-year rotation), we figured this would be a good alternative. But by the end of the night it sure felt like we had had a big party!

As I was preparing food and table places for everyone, I counted how many people we were expecting and realized we would be having 19 people in the house for dinner. Two of these are babies that don't eat at the table yet, but still! We didn't even have enough chairs for everyone (something I should have realized beforehand!), so we had to eat in different locations and shifts. And I probably should also have considered the size of our rather smallish living room when I planned this.... Oh, well. We all had fun anyway! (And if someone didn't, they're nicely keeping quiet about it. : )

Here's the gang (minus Mom who was taking the pic, Dad who didn't want to be in it, and Titus who was hiding behind Karin):

There was always a lot going on!
I thought it was funny that we all wore similar shirts!
Here's video of Rayna blowing out the candles on her cake:

(Mor-Mor, we used the tablecloth you made -- see it?)

After dinner and cake, the kids all found entertainment...

.... And Mom and Dad sure know how to enliven a crowd!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our girl is 7!

Sweet Rayna turned 7 on Friday, and we're so thankful for her! She continues to delight us with her joy for all things (except a few vegetables -- and rice). Her enthusiasm is wonderful to watch as she greets each new day, situation and person with excitement. She's also turned into quite the little helper around the house, loving to do various chores and to take care of her little brothers. She loves to be independent and do things of her own initiative.... we try to encourage her resourcefulness and responsibility.... even though sometimes the results involve more work for someone else. :)

Her primary interests at this point in life are: gymnastics, jumping on the trampoline, scootering, dancing around, doing worksheets, coloring, and being with other people!

To celebrate her birthday on Friday, she got to go to 2 of her favorite "B's": Bob Evans and Brusters. And then on Saturday we had our extended family over for a dinner/party... more on that later.

She is a great delight to our family. Happy birthday, Rayna!

Perseverance practice.... Not great results

So, appropriate for this month's character trait focus of "perseverance" at our house, we had a midterm test this morning, albeit unplanned.

Time has been way too scarce for Pete and me lately -- we've both been saying we need about 20 hours of uninterrupted time to get everything we want to do done. So this morning we realized that with Pete back at school all week now, and one or both of us gone each evening for the foreseeable future, we don't know how we're going to get things like mowing the lawn done. I announced I would mow the lawn this morning. (Colsen laughed out loud when I said that, saying, "The LADY is going to do it??")

It was tricky getting the timing just right since I had 3 goals: mow after the grass is no longer wet, mow before it gets too hot and steamy, and mow before Miles had to go down for a nap.

I eventually had to just settle for meeting one of those goals since Miles was crying too much inside. Outside we went!

And of course, once I got everyone to the bathroom, shoes on, out the door, in the stroller (Miles), etc., I couldn't get the lawnmower to start.

I refused to give up, now that we were all out there, so I called Pete and he told me to tip the mower on its side and prime it like that. Getting very filthy, I did just that, to no avail. Then I even figured out how to add more gas, still to no avail.

By then I was extremely sweaty, angry and frustrated.... and after realizing I had been growling, grunting and grumbling for the last 5 minutes, it dawned on me that my kids were watching very closely how I was dealing with this struggle... And I was failing the test.

But I persevered a little longer... pulling out the electric mower that we had rescued from our neighbor's garbage months earlier. (I could hear Pete's yells in my head, "No! Not the electric mower! It does a terrible job!!" "Too bad," I yelled silently back, "I need to mow something!")

The electric mower is not all the fun it's cracked up to be. After starting it and having it stop because one of the plugs had come undone (2 extension cords involved) approximately 37 times, I was about to just get scissors out to finish the lawn instead. Much frustration, much sweat, and much failing at persevering gracefully.

Then Strider announced he wanted to try it. Go to it, my son! I was so proud of him -- his first lawnmowing job! The next 10 minutes were filled with yells from him, over the sound of the mower, alternating between, "MOM! Maybe I could do this as a business! This is awesome!" and "I hate this lawnmower! I am NEVER doing this again!" Finally, despite my loud entreaties to "persevere!" he marched inside.

Meanwhile, I had been using the time to try and teach Rayna to ride her 2-wheel bike. More sweat, more frustration (times 2), a little success.... but in the end, she, too, marched inside.

So back to mowing I went, this time with a little better sense that I needed to lead the example in perseverance. As I went back and forth across the lawn, Colsen kept up a running dialogue with me as he narrated his life as a panda in pursuit of bamboo. "Uh huh, " I had to keep yelling, with the occasional, "No, don't put that in your mouth!" and "No, don't climb on that!"

Later, when I told Colsen/Panda to put his bike away, I was afraid he, too, was choosing to give up when he said, "No, I'm not a panda anymore!" Then he followed it up with, "I'm a gorilla."

Miles, thankfully, just slept through it all!

But the greater part of the Frank family clearly needs more practice in perseverance! And the 10 minutes I took to write this are up -- I need to get back to the rest of my list.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Jersey Adventure

For Part II of "Two-Franks-At-A-Time-Travel-To-A-Northern-State Week," Miles and I joined my mom and traveled to New Jersey to visit Mor-Mor and Grandpa. It was an especially special visit because Mor-Mor and Miles, who share the same birthday, finally got to meet! We had a great visit with them, and also with our friends, the Goodings*, in Virginia.
For 4 days in a row, we drove in a car between 5-7 hours a day. So my mom and I got a lot of talking time in! Between our destination visits, and our car time, I had plenty of opportunity to learn and think about some things. Here are some of what I realized, or re-realized on this trip:
  • The generations preceding me in my family have had some very interesting lives. And some of them have gone through way harder things than I can even imagine. When I think about what they've had to do, it sure makes my complaints about everyday life seem petty! (And after reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" lately, I see I really have nothing to complain about!)

  • My grandmother is a great story-teller with an incredible memory. Even Strider is impressed when I relay the details she can recall from 60 years ago. She's also the most active 88-year old I've ever met. Here's hoping I got those genes!

  • I am still extremely directionally-challenged when traveling.
  • My mother is a very wise person. I'm glad she is writing a book with her insights to share with young families!

  • The show "24" would not have worked very well in 1994. (Thanks to my cousin Steve for pointing this out)

  • Miles is a wonderful travel baby.
  • Even after 25 hours together in the car, my mom and I do not run out of things to talk about. Although, after about the first 20 minutes each day, I'm pretty sure I just started blithering nonsensically.

*(These friends were particularly helpful to us EXACTLY 7 years ago when I went into labor, about to have Rayna, and they came over in the middle of the night to stay with Strider!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Maine Adventure

Last week Pete and Rayna got to have a special father-daughter bonding time as they headed to Maine for a few days! A lot of the extended Frank family gather there for a vacation, and they all had fun biking, hiking, going on a boat ride, eating lobster, etc. Pete sounded more relaxed than I've heard him sound in a long time, enjoying a lot of outdoor time, and getting to go to one of his all-time favorite bars (Geddy's), appropriately in "Bar" Harbor.

Rayna loved all the adventures and was apparently quite a trooper on all the long bike rides and hikes... but she chose to pass on the lobster-eating day, choosing grilled cheese instead!

We missed them, but were glad they had this opportunity!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My domestic help

We've missed Rayna this past week while she was in Maine with Pete, but the boys stepped up to help with the chores....



Big helps!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Our baby is now half a year old! This sure is going way too fast...

In recent months he has developed a more active personality -- not quite so content to just sit and watch us anymore! He has decided he has some hopes and plans in this life and has been trying very hard to crawl to get to where he wants to go. Right now his attempts usually look like he is swimming -- can't quite figure out the "go forward" button. He's got pivoting, traveling in circles and reversing all down pat, though. This is the typical scene these days: I put him down on his blanket, and a few minutes later come back to this:

His favorite two positions are to be either perched on my right hip, with his legs kicking wildly like a frog, or to be nestled into my neck sucking his thumb. Man, it's great being his mom!

(These pictures are all so fuzzy! I desperately need a new camera... ours is shot)

Friday, August 7, 2009

The rewards of perseverance

This week Pete took Strider and Colsen to do some mountain climbing. Rayna is going on a special trip -- to Maine! -- with Daddy soon, so this was an adventure for just the adventurous (ambulatory) boys.

It was also a good way to kick off our month of "perseverance." We've decided this year to focus on one character trait a month; we'll read books and short stories that illustrate that trait, have a verse to memorize, etc. Since working hard to complete a task is something one or more of us is currently struggling with, we decided perseverance would be a good trait to start with.

So off to the mountain the guys went. The trail they chose was 1.7 miles up (much of it pretty steep and arduous) so it was a challenge. Coming down was actually even harder, I hear, and Strider fell a few times. But they did persevere and, enjoyed the reward.

It was a test even for Pete, since he had to carry Colsen in a backpack for a lot of the way!
But the view from the top made it all worth it.