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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Seven kids, their friends, my friends, and a field trip

Several years ago there was a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit in a museum in Canada. It was the last time these works would be seen anywhere on the North American Continent for many years, perhaps ever. We planned a field trip with two other homeschooling mothers and some of their kids.  I took all seven of mine, which included a nursing baby, a potty training toddler, and a potty training 11 year old with multiple severe disabilities. Yes, I am insane. But my husband was active duty military, we never lived near any family and if I didn't do stuff like this on my own, we just wouldn't have gone anywhere.  Which, in retrospect, might have been the saner choice, but we have established that sanity is not in my skillset.

 We planned it and looked forward to it for months. I gloated to all my friends, both real and virtual, about the cultural treat in store of us. About a week after the event, I wrote my friends about our experiences. Here it is:
I would love to regale you all with a fine narration of the deeply meaningful experience I had visiting the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit in Victoria, B.C. last Monday. My seven children and I rode in a borrowed 15 passenger van with Tootles and her 13 y.o. daughter, and another friend and her five children. We had, you know, been planning this dream field trip for a few months. Last Monday our plans saw fruition and we all went to Victoria to see Da Vinci's great works of art and models of his incredible inventions.

"Last Monday," you ask? "A week ago? Why haven't you told us about it before," you inquire?

"Because I hadn't yet recovered," I reply. In fact, I don't think I've quite recovered yet, but figured I'd better say something before it was too late. I mean, one can't go see the Da Vinci exhibit and not tell one's friends, can one????

So, as I said, before any more time passes, I'd like to tell you all about the deeply meaningful experience I had visiting the Da Vinci exhibit last week.

Unfortunately, I can't. All the bathrooms we visited between here and the museum stick out in my mind much more than the exhibit. Particularly memorable is the one on the ferry where my 11 y.o. handicapped child dashed in ahead of me, flung her coat to the floor and dropped her drawers before I could stop her- and didn't bother shutting the door. I shut it in the face of a startled and embarrassed ferry employee. O h, yes, that's an event I shall never forget.

Of course the museum bathroom where she didn't quite make it- for the fourth time of the day, also stands out in my memory as an important part of the day. That's where, crowded into one stall with my 11 y.o and my 2 y.o. so my 11 could use the facility, my 2 y.o. suddenly insisted she had to go, NOW. But she was in a sling on my hip. Impressed by the urgency of her pleas, I was Frantically trying to get her OUT before, well, you know-before-what. I yanked, tugged, and pulled, but her boot was caught on a fold of material. Finally, it came free with a jerk- smacking the 11 y.o. in the forehead.

We did not, of course, just visit every public restroom in between Washington State and Victoria British Columbia. That would be silly and not worth writing about. We did many other things in between bathroom trips. The 11 year old tried to snatch three purses from strangers. She's always sure they are hiding treats from her, and she does love to tease. Such a fun sense of humor that girl has. So delightful. We raced two blocks in the rain from the parking lot to the museum and back again about one hour later. I pushed the stroller with one hand and held onto the 11 y.o. with the other hand. You may remember among her litany of issues, she has mild cerebral palsy and walks like a drunken sailor and wears a leg brace that hurts when she steps on you?  I never forget, of course.  I think she found every puddle between the car and the museum and stomped in them. Hard. My left foot was soaked, and it did not dry out until sometime after midnight. It warmed up around three days later. The museum closed thirty minutes before the gift shop did, so I got to spend about as much time in the gift shop as I did in the actual museum proper. While there I did buy a neat book on identifying mosses in the museum bookstore, as well a postcard or two so that later I could look at the pictures from the exhibit and see what I missed.

While in the museum bookstore I had the toddler in the stroller and the baby in the sling. The toddler said she wanted out. I quietly said I knew that, but that the knowledge did not have the impact on me she might have thought. She said she wanted OUT. I calmly said I knew that, but that knowledge did not create in me a desire to leap to her bidding and set her free. She said she wanted OUT NOW TO PLAY WITH THOSE PRETTY THINGS. Peaceful in the knowledge that she could not get out, I calmly said I knew that, too, and actually, that was sort of why she had to stay in there. The sales clerk thought this exchange was positively hysterical. She laughed quite cheerily. Then she asked me how long we were going to be in Victoria, and where we were from. I explained we were from Washington and that we'd left the house at 6:45 a.m. (did I mention that?) and were going back the same day. She looked rather astonished, and then said that all things considered, my little girl was holding up pretty well. I looked balefully at her and said that while that was true, all things considered, so was I. She thought that was very funny, too.

The museum shop closed, so we all ran back in the rain, two blocks, to the van. You have noticed how quickly the 11 year old in the leg brace runs, yes? You have perhaps missed how quickly I run while carrying a child in a sling and pushing a stroller and holding the 11 y.o.'s hand.  Don’t expect to see a repeat performance, as I never intend to repeat it on purpose again.

We got lost leaving town. The baby cried for the only time that day, but he cried for forty-five minutes, and there was truly nowhere to stop. I was in the front seat and he in the middle because as we all know, some of us much to our discomfort, I get woefully abysmally, disgustingly, and nastily car sick, but after twenty minutes of this, and with no stopping place on the highway in sight, I unbuckled my seatbelt and started climbing over the back of my seat to get to my child. Tootles, who was doing an admirable job of remaining calm and trying to soothe my son, raised an eyebrow and asked if I wanted to change seats with her. Since I was by then tossing her out of her seat, I thought the question rather superfluous. I nuzzled my face up against his little wet cheek and he eventually went to sleep. We drove the rest of the way to the ferry in comparative peace.

The bathroom in the coffee shop by the boarding area for the ferry coming home was memorable. We arrived thirty minutes before our ferry was due. It was cold, dark, and pouring down rain. My toddler announced that she needed to go potty, "weally bad." I peered out the windows, and couldn’t see a bathroom anywhere, I couldn't spy even a building where one would be located. I asked if anybody else had seen one. Nobody had. The toddler got louder. I peered into the rainy darkness some more, asked again. Toddler begins screaming in anguish that she has to go weally weally bad. I put a diaper on her and tell her I'm very sorry, but if she can't wait until the ferry arrives, I don't know what else to do, and that there is nothing wrong with her using a diaper in this immediate hour of need. This seriously offends her, and she insists that she will not use that baby diaper, she wants a real toilet. We were also first in the line of cars for the ferry and now more cars are pulling up all around us. This unfamiliar place, in the dark and the rain, is a terribly unsafe place to be wandering around in search of a toilet. I cannot tell where cars may and may not be, we are not dressed for night walking, I can’t even tell which direction to look in the dark, and I am afraid if we leave the car to wander the immense lot of cars, I will lose the van.

She screams some more. I am miserable on her behalf, and not so happy on my own either. I try to reason with her. Screaming, nonstop, continues. Finally, in one of those sterling moments of perfect motherhood that we will all cherish forever, I reasonably and maturely bellow back to my two year old child, "I CAN'T MAKE A BATHROOM! DO YOU SEE A BATHROOM ANYWHERE AT ALL? WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?" There is sudden silence in the van, on the part of everyone except my continuously screaming 2 y.o. Then an 11 y.o.(12 this month), who isn't mine and a very good thing that is for both of us,, casually remarks that we passed the bathroom as we drove in, and she points out where it is.

I didn't say anything at all for a moment, but I think my silence at that moment was more eloquent than anything I could have said. Come to think of it, my silence was also much more polite than anything I could have said. Perhaps the disbelieving glare I tossed in her direction helped me make my point as well. After I recovered from my astonishment that a young person nearly 12 years old could listen to a toddler scream for a bathroom for half an hour without ever once thinking to mention that she, and only she, actually knew where one was, I grabbed the poor little one and raced across the tarmac in the rain, heading for the general direction pointed out for us. We made it. But while we were there the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the ferry was in and it was time to board. You will remember that our van was first in line, so nobody was boarding until we did. So, I hasten my child through the usual steps and make her skip washing her hands (this upsets her), snatch her up hastily again and we frantically race back to the van. I have a bad back and I'm not supposed to carry her, let alone run 100 yard dashes with her in my arms. She thinks this is fun. I suppose if only one of us is going to have fun, I’d rather if it was her. At least, I suppose that if I were as mature and grown up as I’m supposed to be that’s what I would think….

Did I mention that we left our house in the morning at 6:45 a.m? Just wondering. We arrived back home at midnight. We could not sleep in because we were already scheduled to visit the nursing home the next morning- it’s a regular appointment, and the nursing home people have made it quite clear that they do not wish us to alter this schedule. It upsets their routine and it distresses the elderly to have their schedule disrupted, so we must be there no matter what. The next day while we were getting ready to go on our monthly nursing home visit, my poor toddler began kicking and screaming, "No, no, not back in the car!!!" I felt the same way.

Nevertheless, I had made a commitment and while we all must suffer for it, suffer we must, because a commitment is a commitment. The older children understood this, and it was a good example for the younger, and so with grim duty in mind we duly arrived at the nursing home for our regularly scheduled monthly visit where we learned that the nursing home was on lock down because of a power outage the night before, and nobody was allowed in. No, nobody called us. So we all drove back the 20 or 30 minutes back home again, the toddler still complaining bitterly about the car seat.

Before penning this novella I asked the children if they thought it had been worth it. My eldest (15), and my 8 y.o. both were in rapt agreement that the museum was wonderful and every minute was worth it. My 14 and 9 y.o. both thought the museum was boring, but the ferry ride was fun. We live a mere 15 minutes from a ferry with much cheaper rates and better accommodations, so if all they wanted was a ferry ride, we could have done that in an afternoon. My toddler says she didn't like any of it. The 11 y.o. didn't say, but then she doesn't speak. And The Baby, bless his heart, slept most of the time.

Saturday, my eldest and I went to a used bookstore just a few blocks from my house. I found a huge (at least 14X16, 4inches thick) hardback book about Leonardo Da Vinci- with what appear to be reproductions of all the things I didn't see at the exhibit. The cover had a bad watermark, so I got it for 15.00, which is what the owner paid for it. I haven’t gotten to look at it, as my 8 y.o. has monopolized it, but one day this week I intend to sit down, put my feet up, sip a cup of something hot and calming, and leisurely look at page after page, an armchair field trip I shall enjoy with great relish. As for our Da Vinci trip, I'm glad we went, but I'm even more glad that it's over."

That was many years ago, as you can tell. That infant was about five months old then, and he is now a 20 year old college student hitting 6'5". The toddler is in her early 20s and self-supporting and in college. The 14 and 15 year olds are now in their 30s, married with five kids each. The 8 and 9 year olds  are also married with two kids each. Along the way those two reversed their positions and at one point the one who only remembered the ferry ride actually remembered more from the actual exhibit and was glad she went, and the one who loved the museum no longer remembered it at all.

Memory is a tricky thing. The really funny thing about all this to me, is that all the things that I wrote about in this letter, funny as they are, have receded further and further into the distance of my own memory. I am glad I wrote the letter, because I should have forgotten nearly all of those dreadful but very funny in retrospect things if I hadn't. As the details recounted above have grown smaller and smaller in perspective, something I didn't think to mention at all has grown and grown in my mind's eye until it stands out in glorious detail as truly the only significant detail of the entire trip. When I hear Da Vinci's name I no longer think of my wet left foot, my aching back, the stitch in my side from running all over the place. Instead, I see one picture in particular. I have a print of it to remind me, but the print is nothing like the original for beauty and exquisite detail.

In my mind's eye I still stand in a circle of quiet in front of that painting, and I see the detail of the stone window, the small insects on the wall, the creased line in a small, chubby foot- and I am refreshed and renewed in spirit by the beauty and wonder of a man living in the late 15th century reaching out across the centuries, oceans, and continents that divide us, and touching one tired, wet, cold, and sore housewife in the middle of a day that seemingly had no space for such peaceful moments. I couldn't have stood there for more than a minute or two, neither the 11 y.o. or the toddler were capable of permitting me. And yet, that minute has grown swollen and pregnant with meaning and depth, and it now fills the entire day in my memory. (also funny- that painting is no longer considered a Da Vinci, but I don't care).

Had I known what that field trip would be like, I would have sent two children with my friends and kept the rest and stayed at home in peace and quiet, as well as immediate proximity to a bathroom. Had I known what I would remember and take with me from that field trip in later life, I would have gone with gladness and rejoicing. I would not have missed The Kissing in Infants for all the bathrooms in two countries.

I just would have put the 11 y.o. in a pull-up.

(my favorite painting from that exhibit, The Kissing Infants, by Jos Van Cleve, and what I recall most is the detail of the stone framing painted around them, and no picture on the internet does it justice)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Cooking for a Crowd: Peach Cobbler

Take 12 peaches or the equivalent in canned peaches. Wash and slice the fresh peaches.
Combine the peaches and between 1 and 2 cups of sugar (if they are fresh). Set aside. You do not need the sugar if you are using sweetened canned peaches. You probably do not need that much sugar for fresh peaches, either. I have used about 1/2 a cup.

Meanwhile, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, another 1 cup of sugar, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1 1/2 cups milk (or reserved peach juice from canned peaches). Stir until smooth.

Melt a cup of butter (or a cup of coconut oil) and pour in bottom of two 13X9 inch baking pans (1/2 cup fat in each). Pour batter over the melted butter (dividing between two pans), and top with peaches. Bake at 350 for about an hour. Delicious hot, with cream or ice cream.

One summer friends gave us more peaches than we can actually eat, fresh from their tree, so this was a very frugal dessert for us, and that same season, our two godsons were living with us. We had this at least a couple times a week and never had any leftover.  I made three or four large pans of this for serving around 30 college students and the pans were all scraped clean.
A friend suggested the following as well:

4 Frozen Peach Pie Fillings
9 lbs. fresh Peaches (~20 Cups peeled & cut up)
2 tsp. Fruit Fresh
3 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbs. Quick Cooking Tapioca
1/4 Cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt

Slice peaches and sprinkle with fruit fresh & sugar. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Line 4 pie plates with plastic wrap & spray. Put 4-5 cups of filling in each pie plate. Loosley fold wrap over filling. Freeze; when solid, remove from pans, wrap tightly & freeze. (I pop them out of the plastic wrap and vaccum seal the pies.) Return to the freezer until ready to use.

On baking day, simply place frozen pie filling in pie shell, add 1/2 stick of butter (cut up) & sprinkle with 1 tsp of cinnamon. Top with crust, seal well & bake 50-60 minutes or until done in a 375 degree oven.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Why We Sing Folk-Songs

This is from a journal entry from the late autumn of 2009, so our youngest godson was almost 3, his older brother was around 6, and our youngest two children were 13 and 11 (our son).  I am not naming names for their privacy.

The boys came to stay this past weekend, and the young boy came again today for a few hours while his mother had a doctor appointment and his brother was in school.

While here, our fourth girl and our sixth girl read to the youngest little guy.  Our son played with him (blocks and cars). Daughter #6 also played with him, fetched him snacks and almost anything else he asked for, changed his diaper, and helped him with lunch. She basically acted as his personal Jeeves because she thinks he's adorable.  The farmer came to harvest the corn in the field next to us,  and he got to go outside and ride in the Combine with our son (who he sees as a very, very awesome person).  He was a wee bit concerned that the combine would eat him, but he bravely agreed to climb in with That Boy, and that ride probably lasted at least half an hour. 

Then he came inside again, tired, a little bit dusty, and ready to relax.  He sat in my lap for a bit while we listened to music on my laptop using my headphones- he liked that. We listened to the Seegers, and Peggy Seeger singing Too-da-la was such a favorite he asked for it to be repeated about ten times. He wanted me to sing along, too, so I did. Another favorite was The Squirrel:
The squirrel is a pretty thing
he carries a pretty tail.
He steals all the farmer's corn
And husks it on the rail.

The hawk is a scheming bird.
He schemes all over the sky.
He schemes into my chicken house
and makes my roost-hens fly.

Then his mother came to get him.  Our youngest daughter (#6 again), put on his shoes, helped him his coat, and kissed him good-bye.  His mama told him to tell everybody thank-you.

"Buh-bye, Auntie," he said to me. "Tattoo for singing songs with me." And he scampered out the door, leaving me behind smirking at the indignant and very much short-changed Daughter #6.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The White Table

I was scrolling through a friend's feed and stopped cold at a photograph of a simple place setting.  White tablecloth.  White candle.  A plate with a slice of lemon and a bit of salt on the plate.  The empty chair leans against the table.
I cried.  I'm crying again.  It means so much.  My son-in-law is a war veteran. I used to babysit him, and then he grew up and joined the Army when he was 18 and went to Iraq.  My husband spent 20 years in the Air Force. He was in basic training on our first anniversary.  I've been to one of those events with that place setting.
"The table is set with a white tablecloth, a
black napkin and white candle, and a plate with only a slice of lemon
and salt. An empty chair leans against the table.

The tradition, little known to the general public, of setting an empty
table with a white tablecloth in remembrance of prisoners of war and
those missing in action had its beginnings with a group of fighter pilots
who flew in Vietnam.

But what was started by the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots
Association — the so-called River Rats of Vietnam — has, during the
intervening years, spread to other branches of the military where
remembrance tables, or so-called missing man tables, are set when
units or commands gather for dinners or reunions."

Read more here.


America's White Table tells about the custom in picture book form.

I was a young military wife, barely three years into our military life. We were overseas on island in Japan where every branch of the American military except the coast guard can be found. We had friends in all the branches.  One of them was an officer in the Marines. I had to stop by their house one evening to work out some details on some event I was planning with his wife. He was preparing for an annual exercise in another part of Asia. He was taut, a little grim, more serious than usual   His wife was quiet, and then she looked at me and said, "Every year we have this exercise for a week or two.  And every year, one of those kids doesn't come back alive."

I felt like I'd been punched.  The kids were 18 year old Marines.  Some of them went to church with us, and we had them over to stay with us every weekend, all weekend, and they'd play with our kids, and sing hymns, and go to the beach with us and play volleyball, and rearrange my furniture for me, and help carry in groceries.  And then they'd go away to a training exercise and one of them would die. They were not fighting in a war. And people were still dying for their country and we at home knew nothing about it.  

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Children in Church, part 2

I shared some of my ideas and experience last week, and then I thought what would really be helpful would be lots of answers from lots of other mothers, mothers who have done this successfully. I polled some of my friends who fit this category, and below are some of their answers. 

Now, I need to begin with the caveats, because we parents can take parenting advice, no matter how generally give, pretty personally and take umbrage a little too quickly. Of course not everything will work for every parent who reads this. I wouldn't or could not have done every single thing that every single one of my friends did. They probably would not do every single thing that I did, either. I am passing on what worked for me, they share what worked for them, nobody is giving a guaranteed prescription that if you do everything here you will have perfect success, and if you don't you are a failure. These are just some ideas for those who want to consider them.

There are going to be exceptions and various reasons why some of us have more challenges than others, and none of us can address every single exception. And you know what? For some us, there isn't ever going to be a fix for our particular situation. Take us. Out to lunch, preferably. I like Chinese.

Okay, seriously, using our family as an example, although we were able to stop our child with disabilities from pinching her sisters hard enough to draw blood while sitting quietly and angelically in church, to all appearances but her victims, behaving herself like a little lady, she now will reach out to slap one of her nieces or nephews for no discernible reason.  She's 31.  I don't foresee a time ever when she stops loudly blurting out some babbling demand for me to go get her a drink during the quietest part of the church service. I do not see a time when she will not ever again suddenly stand up in the middle of church as though signaling the congregation that she's done and it's time for all of us to go. That's just the way it is. The best 'fix' for this is how I and others perceive it and accept it.  She is is unlikely to change in these things.

If your child is really fractious, crabby, and uncooperative you may have all kinds of problems that all the good advice in the world can't help until other issues are taken care of. Your child may have undetected allergies- and what if the little mite is allergic to or highly sensitive to scents, and you're sitting next to the elderly lady who has lost her olfactory nerves and so now uses perfume as part of a daily baptismal ritual (and she believes in baptism by immersion), or you go to a church with lots of incense and candles- your baby will be more fussy and uncooperative in church and you won't know why,perhaps for years. Or it could be food allergies, or autism, or some other issue going on that makes it harder for your children to behave. Or, you know, maybe your parenting really is lacking and you are not communicating your standards and expectations clearly and firmly, but are sending weak and ineffectual mixed signals- I do not know. I can never, ever know because we do not know each other personally. People who see you face to face may not be able to tell you what the problem is, so I certainly won't.

These are, again, things that other parents did that worked for them. Use them, carefully, thoughtfully, prayfully, or not. Adapt them. Bounce off of them. Ignore them. They are not the ten commandments. They are not attacks on your parenting.

 I would also suggest that before you make any major change to the philosophy of how you parent you talk to real people you know in person, people you like, admire, and trust, people you personally can observe (and who see you and know you as well) about those major issues, so you can be sure you define your terms the same way.

To you, a spank may convey a hard whack with a baseball bat, and to somebody else it may convey a barehanded motion no brisker or firmer than the one used before church to brush the dirt off the back of a toddler's britches.

So please, none of this is meant as specific, pointed advice to *you* personally, whomever you are. If it does not fit your parenting style, philosophy, or situation, if you think it's outrageous, just ignore it or consider whether or not there is a way to adapt it, and then move on. These women don't blog here and they can't defend themselves or explain themselves further (and their children are all beyond this stage already, anyway, I only asked experienced mothers with older, or grown, children).

I played quiet games with my babies in church- I would hold them in my lap and roll their hands (like when you sing roll the gospel chariot), twiddle their thumbs, wiggle their fingers and toes- to distract them from fussing or making loud noises.

We also practiced 'church' time at home- Maybe for fifteen minutes at a time with really little ones. We sat in chairs lined up and sang a couple of songs, prayed, and then listened to a short tape of a bible lesson or reading. Here I could be more clear in our expectations, speaking at normal voice, instead of whispering, for instance.

Which brings us to some of the notes from my friends, the first one of which is really unique:

My friend K is married to a preacher, and she says she and her children spent time at the building when there were not services. They sat in the pew with the bible story books that their family allowed. This way, she says, she was "able to set up a training time to teach them to be quiet (since she could verbally remind them and also to spank them when they were disobedient without disrupting other worshipers). She says, " We also had a quiet time each day at home when I had my bible out and they had the same books. One of the books they had was a "bible song book". They looked at this during the singing and then looked at bible story books during the sermon. (We did not allow food, candy or secular type books so that they were able to understand that this is a special time). As they got older, we allowed them to write but only during the sermon and we called it "taking notes". This naturally translated to their attempting to copy words from the powerpoint. I would put my hand over her mouth to remind her that it was time to be quiet. One thing I did not do was discourage her from "singing" at the appropriate times."

Having special toys or books that only are used for church is also something we tried- if you have an extra diaper bag, this can be the church diaper bag so that your once a week toys don't get mixed in with the general population.

Another friend with six children stresses that this teaching has to begin at home, and suggests you practice, sitting with them, talking softly, telling them "shhh, it's quite time," and keep practicing, talking about being quiet in chuch. She also takes quiet little toys, books, and a quiet snack (like cheerios). She also says to keep in mind that Babies and toddlers do not possess the ability to whisper, so do not expect behavior from an 8 month old that she would be expected to develop until around 16mo-2 yrs old. She says "You can't expect complete silence. Just work on no yelling, or making loud noises, while they are babies. If they are crying, take them out until they settle down." She also says "DO NOT take them to a nursery or room to play. That teaches them that if they get loud or cry they get to go play." She stresses that no stronger discipline be used until you are sure they totally understand what it means to be quiet and are clearly being defiant.   Like me, she says she breastfed all her babies, 'even IN church.' =)

Another woman offers these "Three key suggestions:
If you don't spend time training your child at home (to sit quietly, at your request), then you will have more of a struggle at the assemblies. Have your child sit quietly next to you as you visit with someone, or do something else. The goal is to practice sitting quietly, only speaking when necessary, speaking in whispers, and watching and waiting for the okay to "resume normal speech and activity". Start with short time amounts, and increase as things get better.
Do not take a huge bag of activities. Identify a few quiet things (books are better than toys), and stick to that. Allow the child to look at the book during the lesson (prayer time is prayer time; they can be taught to follow along during singing). If they finish the book (or become bored with the book), you can offer another, or two, but then that is it. A well-trained child can sit for the remaining bit of time without looking at a book if he has already looked at three.
Keep these items JUST for assemblies; they should be "set apart" and not used the rest of the week. You will probably want to switch these things out from time to time, especially if the child IS behaving and IS looking at the books. You want to reward good behavior by having books that capture the child's interest.
Finally: Only take the child out to discipline the child. Never allow the child to think that if he misbehaves in assembly (or any quiet area), that he will be removed and allowed more freedom. His best restraint is knowing to have self-control in the assembly because the alternative is worse!"

I would add that 'discipline' here is not just physical discipline or even always physical. It can be quiet time. The point is, if you want your child to learn to behave in church, don't take the child out to play when he's not behaving.

Another friend says:
the first place to start is prayer. I think most mommies hold their little ones on their laps through church services and that makes a quick correction easy to begin with. If young families make an effort during home family devotion time to "pretend" they are at church and make the baby sit in her lap during that time and not play on the floor it will start the habit. I always shooshed my babies quietly as a loud shoosh can be more distracting at church than happy baby babble. With the shoosh came a firm hand on the mouth. This can also be practiced during the times at home. If the baby doesn't like it and wants to fight mommy then the time will come in the eventual battle when Baby needs to be taken out. With mine, we went into the foyer. There is a nursery with toys at church but I didn't take my baby in to play now as that would be letting him win. We sat in one of the pews in the foyer and kept on shooshing where we could get loud without being a distraction.

For an older child, I would recommend practicing at home. Emulate the "church setting" and practice using our "whisper voice". This is something we employed OFTEN (library, church, doctor's office, etc.) For an 8-month-old, I just put my finger over their mouth and sometimes even tapped it gently to bring attention to the fact that this is the issue (so that they can "make the connection")... Other than that, I have no great wisdom for a child that young...

She does say that there is a difference between what you do when teaching, discipling, and training for learning proper behavior and what you do when a child is obviously crossing the line from being childish to being defiant, and that line is different for each child.

I would also add my advice that you not underestimate your children. I did this with my first when I let her whine for months (she was 2), thinking she did not understand me when I said not to whine. I would whine "This is a whiny voice, and it isn't nice," and then I would say in a nice voice, "This is a nice voice, and this is how you should talk."
And then one day she smirked at me, repeated it word for word, only reversed it, and told me the whiny voice was nice.

And then I did it again (lots of times, but this is the example I am using) with our sixth child, when I insisted to a friend that my child wasn't defiant, she just did not really understand what it meant when I said, "No," or "stop that." My friend, who had known me a long, long time, pointed out dryly, "IF she does not understand what you mean, why does she glare at you and scream in rage every time you tell her 'no,' before you even move?"

One more bit of advice- do your best, but do not stress. You may not be bothering other people as much as you think, or perhaps they are unreasonable. I can't tell from here. I can tell you that one day they will be grown and it won't matter how quiet and still they were in church. It will matter that they know you loved them and did you best however weak it was, and that God loves them more.

And my last bit of advice is... give it time. The first is probably the hardest. But the time will pass, and one day you will not remember that it seemed like such a long time, and when you have other children, the well behaved older siblings will model behavior the younger ones emulate.

Most of the time.=)

Friday, May 17, 2019

No Frills Handkerchief 'Doll'

You do need some imagination to make these work, but most children come loaded with imagination.  WE have made these with hankies, with bandanas, and with paper napkins at restaurants.  They are great for amusing small fry for a bit:

Step One: Take any square or rectangular piece of cloth. Paper napkins and paper towels work, as do bandanas, cloth napkins, old fashioned handkerchieves.
Roll the left and right outside edges in toward the center, sort of like a double scroll.

Step Two- fold in half backwards, so that both sides show the 'scroll' fold (i.e. if you turn your handkerchief over it will still look like the above picture).


Step Three (here you can see that one of the smaller Progeny once used my linen napkins for paint clean up): Begin unrolling the 'scrolls' that face you- unroll them carefully (you don't want to unroll the back half) - the picture above isn't quite finished yet.


Step four- bring the unfolded hem up to the top edge of the folded handkercheif, bring the unfolded corners around to the back and tie in a knot. This step requires a bit of tweaking, as usually it first looks like one of the dolls arms is up over her head and one is dangling uselessly limp at her side, but if you fiddle with the knot a bit, pull at the 'head' and arms of the dolly you'll get it in reasonable shape.

She's not a fancy dolly, and she is not particularly pretty. But there are many things to like about her:
1. She can be made in a moment with things you usually have on hand or can find.
2. The process of making her is itself a distraction for fractious kidlets.
3. She's quiet- she makes no noise if dropped, flung, or banged on a restaurant table or a church pew.
4. Teaching the kidlets how to make her is also entertaining for them.
5. A handkerchief takes up almost no space in your purse and it doesn't weigh much.
6. If you make her with a napkin or paper towel you can draw faces on her.
7. Fold and knot her arms the other way and he's wearing long pants.
Other Dolls:
A prettier but more involved version is online here (some sewing required)
These rolled/folded paper dolls are unusual and look like a lot of fun.
This hanky doll uses cotton balls, ribbons, and lace in addition to the handkerchief.
Here's another way to fold a hanky baby, but I couldn't tweak it to my satisfaction.
Tweaking them a little more than I did here dramatically improves their appearance. These can be fancier and you can use them in different ways.
I used a vintage handkerchief belonging to my great-grandmother to make an angel doll for our Christmas tree.
I've used one to decorate a rustic grapevine wreath.
I think it would be cute to give a 'hanky doll kit' to a child for Christmas. In googling information for these dolls, I've learned that people sell them for a ridiculous amount of money when you could easily make your own for a few cents. You could print out instructions and maybe add some trimming accessories and put these with a hanky or two in a Christmas stocking.
These also could be sweet party favors and crafts for a little girl's birthday or tea party.
Pillowcase dolls are very similar in design. All our older girls have made their own pillowcase doll. They added ribbons and trim around the edges and cross stitched on a stamped pattern along the bottom. These were fancier and obviously took more time, but it was a fun way to practice several skills.
For more ideas, google Handkerchief doll, fold, knot, roll and see what you find!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Living Within Your Means, Advice from 1870

"Aunt Sophronia" explains to some newly married young women how to live within their means:
"...I will give you the rules, which are few and simple, and easily performed by self-sacrifice. Work hard; see and improve all small opportunities; keep out of debt and carefully economize. That is the best that all the wisdom of the world has been able to digest and formulate as rules for getting rich. The matter is simple and lies in a nutshell: have the end definitely before you; do your own work toward it and do it honestly, and don't give up until you have reached your goal; the same plain, straight, unadorned and yet passable road is open to all."
Aunt Sophronia is a character from an old book formerly belonging to my great-grandmother.  The full title is:
The Complete Home, An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Life and Affairs Embracing All the Interests of The Household, by Julia McNair.

Wright is one of my favorite Domestic Treasures. Mrs. Wright wrote to help impoverished families economize during the depression of the 1870's. She writes in the first person in the character of a delightful old gentlewoman named Aunt Sophronia. Aunt Sophronia has three nieces of her own whom she is guiding, and she is aunt by courtesy title to most of the young people in town.