The Quiet Book, Or, I show the world how little I know how to use a sewing machine

If you ever want to learn about the patience of Job and how crappy a sewer you are AND get to know your new sewing machine, I highly suggest undertaking a toddler's quiet book. It is intricate, and requires some technical know-how. I don't have this. So I learned as I went, and I made mistakes ALL over the book, and I didn't undo any of them. I pressed forward making mental notes. I am leaving to visit family out west soon and I didn't have time for decent work. Almost anything that looks good came from the hands of my good friend L, who is an inspiration as well as saint for pulling a 2am jam sewing session with me on this book.Without her thoughts, I couldn't have put my ideas into execution nor helpful hands finish in time, though I should admit, I also was pointed in the right direction by this post after I had all my materials.

I did not go about this book in an effective, efficient manner. I had no preconceived notion of how I was going to do this or what I was going to create, and instead just showed up at JoschmAnne Fabrics twenty minutes before closing knowing two things.One, I wanted some buttons, zippers, snaps, velcro and two, I needed some fabric. I started randomly throwing things into the basket without a clue at all of what kind of pages I wanted to make when I got home. Considering this ridiculous method, I proud of what ideas germinated out of the scraps and notions, and I am grateful I had supplemental fabric at home because once the ideas flowed, I needed more colors and textures than I actually bought.

Oh but it was tricky. I once spent 45 minutes (in the 2am-3am slot) playing with the darn machine and trying to find a helpful YouTube video in order to change the presser foot so I could do different stitches and get around a zipper better. I know how to do that now, and it takes less than two seconds, but learning mid-project and loosing momentum was tough. I changed thread, bobbins, stitches countless times, each time getting more efficient and confident.

It is painfully obvious that the tension on the machine went haywire on me around 12:30am tonight and I couldn't recover it. I messed with it for about five minutes and couldn't get it right, so I still kept going. All the messy grouped up then spaced out stitches? That is machine tension gone wrong in the hands of a novice. Embarrassing, but I am OK with it.

I will admit, my brain is far faster and more creative than my ability to create. I have so many more ideas for additional pages for this quiet book, which I hope to make after my trip. For now, this is good enough and I think might actually entertain my little sensory seeker for almost one eighth of the time it took for me to make it.

Ready for the unveiling? First page: C is for Cars

I cut out a pocket out of some old boys' cargo pants, complete with zipper, pocket and snaps, how is that for a shortcut? I used black felt to make a little road, and inside the pocket Tsega's searching hands will find some cars and "choo choos" to use on the road.

Next page: Space Station

A zipper pocket reveals some rockets that can fly around and land on the planet, moon or stars. They can be counted, put to bed, blast off again.

Next page: fuzzy cute Panda

He doesn't do anything, but he's soft and loveable and touchable.

Next page: Clothes Line Tree

See those cute little clothes and pins? They come off and can be rearranged.

Next page: I Need Some Mittens!

Some velcro added to the bottom to make things more fun

And then little hands will fit in to get nice a toasty! (My hands are too big, clearly)

Final page (so far): Tsega Boy

Tsega is still needing his eyes, and look, he's missing something else. There is a secret pocket!

And he can change shirts three or four times, just like in real life every day...

Thank you to L for all the help and manual labor and creativity. I can't wait to make more pages!
Will this book make the flight with the kids better? I will tell you in two weeks if it doesn't kill us.


...in which I wax on about why we are doing home school this year

"Homeschooling is a courageous act...we choose differently than the vast majority of parents who are our friends, neighbors and relatives."  - Linda Dobson

A little over a year ago, before Tsega and Brady made their collective dramatic entrance into our family, I realized I was close to having a child in Kindergarten. I recalled my wonderful Kindergarten teacher, Ms Scali, who was kind and sweet and came to my wedding reception almost twenty years after I was in her class. I loved school. I loved my teachers and the crafts, activities and projects. But me, having a school-aged child? How could this have happened so quickly?

My uneasiness grew even more when my older sister's kids started attending school and she admitted to me with regularity how hard the 'whole thing' can be some days. Every morning the frantic searching for shoes, finishing or forgetting of homework, getting there too early, too late, car pick up lines, office notes, ridiculous rules like no lip balm in the class room, food restrictions, bathroom restrictions, butting heads with teachers, difficulties trying to secure child care for her other kids so she can attend field trips and concerts or help in the classroom, waking up her younger children from naps to make it all happen everyday. It sounded daunting and stressful for her, the Mom, and despite the fun, sometimes stressful for the kids, too.

Listening to my sister talk about a typical week for them started giving me the hives when Samantha turned four. I comforted myself with Phew! We have another year  before the school dictates when and what we do. Thank goodness I have one more year before the schedule dominates our lives...

But that was a year ago, and now I have a five-year-old. A precocious and gregarious five-year-old.  And way back in March I found out that I had utterly and completely missed registration for Kindergarten. I had, by a month, missed the orientation for new parents. How would I have known these things were happening? I have no idea. Everyone says "You should have gotten something from the school!" Well, I didn't. And then I had a choice to make. Do I go in and fill out paperwork, or do I fan the spark that had been ignited in my mind for so long about educating my kiddo at home for a year or two, or more? What would that mean? Could it work? Would it be fun?

I must admit, I was deeply inspired by two blogs I read, Lisa at Thankful Mom and Mary at Owhaven, both moms to homegrown and adoptive children who did home school with most of them. Some of these kids turned into doctors, all relatively happy and successful (and they each have over eight kids.) If they can run their homes, fill little hearts with love, little and big tummies with food and little brains with a hunger for knowledge, surely little ol' me could buy us more time as a family, together at home, learning and growing, by doing Kindergarten with Samantha?

Hubs and I talked and talked, and thought and thought, and started to read up, learn, flirt with the idea of home school.

I thought about the three boys, who between them have five naps each day, and how no matter when she has Kindergarten, morning or afternoon, I'd be waking kids up every single day, messing with those precious naps wherein I can get things done and sweep the shreds of my sanity from off the floor.

I thought about how last year was so complicated with the babies coming, Tsega newly home from Ethiopia and Brady in the hospital for so long, and the "big" kids trying to figure out if they really and truly had their Mama back, since I'd been on bed rest for months. How we are really starting to breathe again, have fun together, and I am just starting to reclaim my favorite commodity as a stay-at-home-mother: the sacredness that is Spontaneity. I thought about how that word can melt away into a whisper of a memory for families with kids in school.

After all the thought and reading what it really came down to for us was that there are a hundred awesome things about going to school (first and foremost in my mind loving, dedicated teachers), and there are a hundred awesome things about doing school at home, but only one of those scenarios made me want to throw up when I contemplated it.

When we decided to do school at home this year peace and relief washed over me, and still does every time I think about it.  I feel grateful I am in the blessed position of even considering doing this. Some places this kind of shenanigan is considered illegal.

And, Samantha, dear Samantha is totally on board. We have started doing bits and pieces of school (mostly math, reading and occasionally science) and the more I learn about her learning process and her spirit and what motivates her the more love and appreciation I have for her, and the more glad I am that I get to be apart of her education this year. It was thrilling to be there when she sounded out her first sentence and turned to me with a big grin "Mom, I can read!" It is thrilling to go on a walk, find a leaf and when she asks "What tree  is this from?" I get to say "Let's jump on the computer and find out!" That, my friends, turns into science for the day, all about maple trees, a lesson on rainfall patterns in New England, and top it off with a leaf rubbing art project. Integrating learning and education with life is probably the most wonderful aspect of what we are undertaking.

We really can't wait. Because I've had indescribable fun building our curriculum for math, science, social studies/history, art, reading and writing. The books and field trips and classes and experiments we'll do, and experiences we will have together already have us itching with excitement. Finding supplemental activities for Samantha, t-ball, gymnastics, music classes... the possibilities are endless!

Over the next month I will finish honing in our curriculum and materials and you can bet I will be documenting the fun stuff we do, and what we use to accomplish our objectives.

Hubs, ever supportive of my antics jokingly claimed once "I kinda wish we lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere so it seems less (for lack of a better word) bizarre."  I know. It might be easier for us to explain if we had cattle to brand or crops to thresh or massive distances to cover. It makes more sense to some people than "My wife curls up into the fetal position when she thinks about sending our daughter to school with all these other little ones at home to maneuver."

Seriously though, we really don't think school is the devil at all. But home school is going to allow us grow and learn and be together with our quirks, naps, busy-ness and without anyone or anything imposing a time frame for our days, which might just keep me on this side of sane.

And really, can you image me getting this cherub on time to school more than oh, one out of five days? No. No you cannot, and neither can I. Let the fun begin continue!



Tsega paid me back for his 1.5 hours worth of cornrows. (I know it was exactly ninety minutes because we got through an entire Dinosaur Train and Sesame Street.)

At first the punishment fit the crime: spraying me back seems only fair.

But then he played dirty by spitting out water onto the table.

and dumping out an entire box of cereal.

That's just not cool. I already sweep at least six times a day. At least he tried to help clean up.

Gobez, Tsega konjo. You are a rockstar for sitting still that long and letting Mama get better at these baby boy braids.


defining brotherhood

I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage... brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.  ~Maya Angelou

Lest you think Cookie is the only sibling Tsega likes to get a rise out of:

And speaking of working towards the condition of brotherhood, Hubs and I recently discussed trying to find ways to create more love between the older boys. Don't get me wrong, they love each other, but they are also beginning to be mean to each other, sneaky, violent, competitive -- wait? What's that you say? That's normal? 

{Sigh} Yeah, I know. And I think we can do better than that. We are starting to think about ways to help them enjoy each other without reverting into patterns of PPS. (pinching, punching screaming) five minutes into an interaction. I don't want fighting to define their relationship. I know many sets of brothers who bear the emotional and physical scars from relationships with each other. 

I am OK with the physical scars. Wrestle to your hearts' content dear ones. But please, God, help me teach them to be kind to one another. 

Two ideas we jotted down - and I'd welcome more if you have them.

1) Anytime (even twenty times a day) one hurts the other they have to hug, say "sorry" in a nice voice, and "I love you." Every time. It's not fun being a referee, but I am trying to be consistent with this.

2) Hubs and I plan to make some time to play games with the two of them, one parent helping each kiddo and facilitate the fun. A simple game like kicking the soccer ball back and forth is utterly impossible for them without fighting right now. But if we help them, keep them out of hitting range, they are laughing and happy. They just need help seeing they can do it. It might take months of showing them how to play before this is possible without guidance. And certainly we can't constantly play with them. But we are going to try to do this more.

Do you have nuggets of wisdom? Any brothers out there with ideas?


Fact Confession Question

Happy Monday Internets, welcome to the game Fact Confession Question.

I play this in my head all the time and it is completely diverting.

Fact 1: We have a body count over here. We are up to a total of two genetically enhanced humanoid squirrels who have fearlessly trespassed into our minivan seeking dropped apple cores and granola bars, and become trapped when we enter van, close doors and start driving. There has been a varied level of complete freaking out during the discovery of the rodents leading to the dignified dropping off of squirrels a few miles from home.

We are the Vermin Mafia. We take them in the back of our car, and leave them in the middle of nowhere. Normally somewhat of an animal pacifist I find myself totally heartless about this. I hope their babies die without their mothers; I hope other squirrels get all territorial on them and beat them up. I hope this teaches the others a lesson: You must now stop eating through our trashcans and coolers and garage doors or we will take you and you will never see your family again.

And yes, we should consider closing the van door.

Fact 2: Those fluorescent, somewhat unattractive, cheap pack of Ikea plates you and I have? BPA free. Go figure. I was about to chuck them all a few months ago and go buy some insanely expensive plates for the kids in the name of cancer-causing-chemical-free-living. So glad I did my homework. The Kalas are here to stay; these puppies are $1.99 for a pack of six. Some BPA free plates are $6.00 each.

Confession: Last night I had to clean out a pot that was so nasty I couldn't bear to open the lid. At 2am when I was forced to confront it I took the pot outside, walked down the street a block and dumped it into the gutter and ran. I told myself woodland creatures (including our hyper-intelligent tree rats) would get rid of it for me. 12 hours later, there isn't a sign of it anywhere.

I swear we live less then twenty minutes from down town Boston. Why does this post make it sounds like we live out in the Ozarks or something?
Question: Last week at the mall I saw exactly six women ranging in age from 18-35 wearing exceedingly short Nike running shorts with non-workout shirts and shoes, as if the whole ensemble was a fashion choice, and not just "I am coming here from the gym." Is this a new trend? If so, why?

You can play too, ya know...


Caption Contest Winners and Other Small Victories

Samantha was my assistant today as we drew the names of the winners of the caption contest! The names drawn first will get to pick first, on down the line.

Samantha, how psyched are you to pick the winners?

Eyes closed, no cheating

And first picker is

(who incidentally has a great blog and is linked on the right amid adoption folks)



And last:

Please email me at scoopingitup at gmail dot com to give me your address, and let me know your first, second and third picks, etc. :)

Other victories around these parts: There is a little boy who has some wicked gross motor skills. He is army scooting all around, with some minor arm over arm action. He is getting more and more in the mix, and loving every second of it.

If you plant it, they will come.

Last time I paid someone, but this week I decided to try myself. It was harder than I thought it would be, but turned out better than I'd hoped. OK, peeps, is this girly, or acceptable? Weigh in.

Almost done...

From the back

I asked Baby Boy, do you like your hair in braids? and he responded with a drool raspberry.

I take that as a yes.

And finally, I found a shot I wanted to submit in the Ordinary Miracles and the Crazy 8 monthly photo contest. See, look, you're not the only people who participate in blog contests.

Picture {Perfect}

This months theme is "Summer." And this picture, his tan lines, swim suit, flushed cheeks from running outside, green grass, huge smile, well, to me, it sums it all up.

Have a great weekend!


Betrayed by Google and a Caption Contest! *updated with prizes

Before we get to the picture that will inspire your creativity I thought I'd share something kinda funny: recent Google searches that led people to this blog

puppy cupcake
cupcake puppies
mother lode packing
applecheeks diapers reviews
shirtless lawn boy
t rex cake
28 week preemie
preemies needing g-tube
12 week old feeding strike
bokeh words baby
Ethiopia families
Habesha hair
how to make a last minute t-rex cake
comparing cloth diapers applecheeks vs fuzzibunz
snow day cookies
do applecheeks fit small
how to help my sensory seeking child
books depicting African children blog
blog teaching boys the purpose of breasts
coconut cake
Ethiopian food for book groups

And the most recent and possibly the funniest search words ever:  tsega's mom fixes his hair like a girl

Google totally outed me on emasculating my boy child. I feel somewhat - but perhaps not enough?- chastened.

To reward all the faithful family, friends and visitors who find me each day through internet searches, I am once again having a caption contest. This time though, the winner will be chosen at random, so don't let the competition scare you.

Ready? Fire away!

And here is your pick of prizes. I will draw two winners!
Lot 1

Lot 2

Lot 3

Lot 4  (this book contains some of the most beautiful animal photography I've ever seen and would make an awesome gift for any cat lover!)

Lot 5
Brand new, and awfully hysterical. Another good new-parent gift. (We got two a few years back and one needs a new home.)

Lot 6