Monthly Archives: April 2015

When the House Gets Quiet

If it’s the middle of the day and not nap time, and the house becomes suddenly quiet…

Do not think, “Ahh… quiet! They must be sweetly playing.”

While they are, in fact, playing, it’s probably not the tea party you’re envisioning. It’s probably something like this:



I’m just glad it wasn’t shredded into the toilet. We have a very strict closed-bowl policy!


Notice how they always destroy and make messes with a smile? I can’t help but take a picture!

Defining Unique (Euphemism for Gross)

There are certain things, like peas and carrots, that go together. And there are things like tuna fish popsicles that do not.

My beautiful, crazy five year old demonstrated another combo that, in my humble, and maybe boring opinion, should not go together.

Raspberries and mustard. Enough said.



Reading Comprehension: More Useful When Applied than Tested

My soon to be 14 year old has been tested as having the reading comprehension level of a third grader. He was diagnosed as autistic at age four and a half. After two years of public school kindergarten, where he learned nothing except that he thought he wasn’t smart, I pulled him out and homeschooled him. I homeschooled all the kids until this January.

He always did everything at his own pace, be it school work or making tea in his just – so way. This was never a problem because, at his own speed, he was learning.

He always was behind in math, but again, he was just learning at a different speed. When we did literature study and reading comprehension, he struggled greatly to put what he read into answer forms on paper. Yet, all of his free time has always been spent pouring over science books or researching plants, animals, ocean life, rocks and minerals, countries and states. His memory for all his “extra curricular” studies is on savant level. He can identify any mineral or rock. He knows all the plants around us, the wildlife and their habitats and diets. He memorized the periodic table on his own and understands how each element interacts with another.  He is, to say the least, incredible. He is also quiet and humble and gentle.

But testing doesn’t show this. Testing says his IQ is very low. Testing says he reads and understands at a third grade level. On paper, no one would know that he is actually a genius.

The other day we were at the park. When it was time to go, he was preoccupied by a very small snake he had spotted in a ditch filled with stagnant water. Naturally, I told him to stay away from it. But he described it to me (it had hidden all but its head under the murky water by the time I came over), and had determined it was not venomous. So we left the park and went home.

A few hours later, I was in the backyard with the little two picking odd sprouts of grass among our growing sod. Suddenly, my finger was on fire. I mean the kind of stinging pain that sends shock waves throughout the rest of your body. Some little weed I’d plucked had stung me. I quickly went inside where my son was researching on the computer.

“I need you to come tell me what this plant is. It stung me bad!

“Is it a stinging nettle?” he calmly asked.

“I have no idea, but it definitely stings!” So he came out with me to examine the offending plant I had pulled.

“That is a stinging nettle. They can be eaten, you know. They are actually very nutritious. People eat them and also use them in teas.” He said this quite matter of factly as I picked it up with a paper towel.

At my request, he very kindly looked about the yard for any more stinging nettles, lest a baby find them first and suffer the same agony I had.

While my finger throbbed and burned for hours, I thought about his reading comprehension abilities. He may never test as smart as he truly is, but he can most definitely apply what he reads. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is more valuable!

The Kids Are Out to Get Me

I mean really. We left the Orthodox Easter service last night, 90 minutes in, at 11:30 pm. My ten year old, brother in law and sister and my parents stayed through and then participated in the big feast afterwards, probably getting home around 4 am. So I really can’t complain too much. I passed out at 1 am.

But do babies sleep in when they go to bed later? No. They use such mornings to tell me just how much they love me by waking up even earlier than most days. The two in diapers poop extra early. They are hungry and otherwise needier than usual. Every other day of the year, pajamas are just fine to wear all day. But on Easter Sunday? No, they must have their clothes on immediately (which are packed neatly in suitcases).

I guess it’s their way of saying, “Christ is Risen, and so are we. So let’s celebrate!” The earlier the better!

So I did what any tired mom would do and grabbed their oversized Reeses Easter bunnies and fed them.

Now we will go find daddy, who moved to a more peaceful location to continue his beauty rest, and we will wipe our chocolate hands all over him 🙂




Noisy Kids, Tired Moms

It could be pregnancy hormones adding to my already sensitive nature, but I’m becoming increasingly annoyed by people’s idea of “children should be seen and not heard.” This is not an isolated phenomenon of the fine art museum and it’s crotchety old curator, but a very frequent occurrence in many places.

Last summer, the kids and I took a two week trip to visit our cousins in Arizona. We visited a few caves during our time there. On one cave tour, it was my six children, my cousin and his son, myself, and a woman and her teenage son. My naturally inquisitive ten year old son was fascinated by the cave and had many questions for the guide. These were not your dumb “do dragons live here?” type, but real questions. Like “how old is this cave?” “When did people first discover it?” “How did they see since there were no lights?” etc. But the guide was annoyed and told him to stop with the questions until the end of the tour. My son was not interrupting; he usually asked after the guide was done talking about one room or as we walked to the next. I thought maybe it was a cave man thing, but then…

We took a tour with my dad of the LBJ ranch and mansion in Johnson City, Texas. This time it was my little three year old who said “YAY!” and clapped his hands. The guide asked if I could please ask my tiny child to refrain from happiness (okay maybe not his exact words). I apologized and said I didn’t bring my muzzle (those WERE my exact words).

The ten year old asked questions, and while the guides usually answered, sometimes they ignored him or said “sorry, have to keep moving.”

Again, if either were being obnoxious or disruptive, I would have taken them out. I do have some common sense when it comes to what’s appropriate and what’s not.  But I appreciate the fact that my kids want to know more.  And I also appreciate the fact we paid to be in the tour and ask questions of interest. Why discourage kids from their natural curiosity? Disclaimer: unless they are being obnoxious.

This week, both my elementary kids had school plays. Both were during the day, so I brought my little three for my son’s, whose play was first. My daughter came to sit with me. At one point, the three year old let out a noise. Every kid in that school, and I do mean everyone, turned and stared. My daughter was embarrassed and said, “I don’t think they want you here. They’re all staring at you!” I felt bad. No one else had little ones there and now my daughter was feeling the heat of all those stares, too. 

The worst, however, is in the church, a place where all should feel welcome and wanted, especially children.  In the Orthodox Church, children actively participate in the services from the time of infancy. It is customary for babies to be brought in and baptized at 40 days old. There are not special services for the littles so the grown ups can pray in peace and quiet. There are usually cry rooms within the church for very noisy kids or nursing moms.

My kids have grown up attending the long services of the Orthodox Church. And while they are familiar with the length of the services and the quiet that is expected of them, they do need to be taken out at times. I have four, soon to be five, age 7 and under. An hour and a half of baby and toddler juggling, in and out, back and forth, swaying and bouncing, is very tiring, especially since my husband rarely attends with us.  I think I leave, more often than not, thinking WHY DO I BOTHER?! I’m exhausted when I get home on Sundays, and frequently upset.

And I see the struggle of other mothers and the frustration and exhaustion on their faces. And I admire them for being there.

But there are those who seem more annoyed with our presence than anything else. They feel the need to continuously look back with disapproving looks, sigh loudly, move to another side of the church, or simply come up and say something. There’s nothing worse when, in the midst of struggling with a child or three in order to wrangle them together and shuffle out AGAIN, than the man, woman or person from behind the altar approaching. I know what they’re going to say. And as I nod that I understand and will remove the offenders (sometimes I do so more humbly than others), I’m usually close to tears.

I get it. Kids are distracting. They are noisy and sometimes downright irritating. And there are times when they need to be physically removed from a situation for the benefit of themselves and everyone else. Be it church, the grocery store, library, wherever. I have two on the spectrum where the simple “please be quiet” didn’t/doesn’t register, and a one year old who could care less.

But we are there. Trying. Struggling. We want to teach our kids and take them places and have them learn how to behave. We want them to learn to properly participate.  We can’t stay shut up inside or on the playground until they grow out of the obnoxious years.

I guess my point is, instead of being annoyed by the mommy and her toddler, wishing they’d just leave, try being sympathetic that she is most likely aware of her child’s noise and movement, and probably overwhelmed at that moment. She may just need a smile thrown her way instead of a scowl. And for all those who do smile or offer a hand, your thoughtful gesture means more than you can imagine. It’s soothing and healing to a tired mama!

In the meantime, I try to remind myself “this too shall pass.”


Getting Ready for Easter Part III




Today is Orthodox Good Friday. And in between services, it’s baking day with Grandma! First on the baking list are Paleo chocolate chip cookies (for the gluten, grain and sugar free members of the house). Here is the recipe for these amazing, healthy cookies, from the site Against All Grain:

Almond Pulp Double
Chocolate Cookies
AUTHOR: Danielle Walker –


2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

4.5 ounces pitted dates, about 1 cup (I use Deglet Noor)

1 cup almond pulp (leftover almond meat/skins after making almond milk)

1/4 cup unsweetened almond butter

1/4 cup honey

1 large egg

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips or chopped 80% dark chocolate


IMPORTANT: Place the squeezed almond pulp on a paper towel inside of an airtight container and place it in the fridge overnight. This will help expel some of the excess moisture without the need to dehydrate.

If your dates are really hard, soak them in warm water for 10 minutes to soften them. Drain the water before using.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the melted chocolate and dates in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 5 minutes, until the dates a paste forms.

Add the remaining ingredients and continue processing until a smooth dough forms. Mix in the chocolate.
Scoop dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Place another sheet of parchment paper over top, then gently press down to form discs. Remove the top sheet of paper and bake the cookies for 17 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack before storing.


Getting Ready for Easter Part II

Yesterday the kids all joined in to color icons for Holy Week and Pascha.  Today’s project was egg decorating.  I have dyed eggs many times in my life, as have the kids.  But this would be our first attempt at egg art. 

I went through my art supplies I had at home, then took the little three to Michael’s for the extras.  I wanted to try decorating with both hollowed and hard boiled eggs.

Hollowing an egg is pretty simple, although it will feel like you are blowing up a bunch of floaties.

1)  Insert a thumb tack, pin or needle into one end of the egg to make a small hole.  On the other end of the egg, make a hole at least three times as large.

2) Blow through the smaller hole (over a sink, or bowl if you will use the egg for baking or cooking) to force out the white and yolk of the egg.

3) After you have gotten all of the egg out of the shell, run some water gently through both ends and then blow out any remaining water/egg.




Be sure not to make the blow hole too large or the egg will crack (see the picture immediately above).  However, even with a few fractures, not all is lost 🙂

While I boiled the other eggs and got to work with my hollowed ones, my five year old busied himself with egg stuffing, both into plastic eggs and into his mouth.

David decorating

From the craft store I picked up some glossy Modge Podge glue and sealer, as well as some cheap paint brushes, some opaque gold acrylic paint, red acrylic, and some neat fabric tape.


fabric tabe

On hand, I had some scraps of fabric and some gold tissue paper.  The tissue paper I tore into manageable sized strips.


gold strips

I coated an egg in the glue and covered it with the gold strips, and then painted another thin layer of glue to make sure all was suck down well.  For another egg, I covered the egg in glue and wrapped the fabric around, scoring and adding more glue where necessary.

wrapped with fabric

I painted the remaining hollow egg with the gold acrylic and one of the hard boiled with the red acrylic.  I wrapped some of the fabric tape around two. Then I set my four little eggs out to dry 🙂

eggs drying

When my older kids came home, they got to work decorating the remainder of the hard boiled eggs.  My ten year old chose a black Sharpie for his egg.  Two eggs broke amongst the group.  My daughter chose stickers (butterflies, of course!) as her medium.

Yana decorating

Considering this is our first egg art project, I am pretty pleased with the outcome.  We have a few more days and plenty of supplies left to perfect our craft!

eggs in basket

Getting Ready for Easter

This April 12th, Orthodox Christians celebrate their Easter (Pascha). While busy with school and Holy Week services and the rest of the day to day duties of a house and six kids, I’m trying to squeeze in time for fun Easter activities for the kids. 

I just came across the most beautiful blog by another Orthodox on egg decorating. If you have never seen truly decorated eggs, you are missing out on an amazing art form. I will try my hand at a few of these decorating ideas. For now, we’ve enjoyed coloring Holy Week and resurrection icons.



Helping Little Learners Learn

A preliminary evaluation of my three year old suggested autism spectrum disorder. While further testing will be done to more accurately determine his needs, for now I’m working with him as though this is his diagnosis.

With an older child on the spectrum, I have a little experience. However, as the term  “spectrum disorder” is used to cover such a wide range of learning disabilities, you’ll be hard pressed to find two children with the same symptoms/issues. For example, at three years old, my now almost fourteen year old could talk, but was unable to communicate. He either repeated the question or statement back or had a set response for certain questions based on a previous conversation stuck in his mind. He made very little eye contact.  My current three year old knows only a handful of words and phrases and can use them appropriately (“Here, Mom,” “goodnight,” “thank you”). But he is very social and will come up to us and babble while making eye contact. My older child had many phobias and would literally take off screaming in the stores, malls, and such places where something triggered a fear or anxiety. Yet, he has always been very gentle and never aggressive, slow to anger or frustration and even tempered. My little three year old now is easily frustrated and will hit us or himself (never non family members, thankfully), throw things and throw himself into tantrums.

One thing that seems to be common amongst the two is the need for a kinesthetic and visual learning approach.

My thirteen year old took about three years to learn to count and two to grasp adding. The breakthrough in adding came when I introduced TouchMath. By seeing and touching the value of each digit, numbers suddenly became more than just characters.


Lots of tracing, drawing while talking  about the drawing, and other true, hands on activities seem to be helping my little guy now learn new words, count and say his alphabet.



While we wait for more testing and evaluations, I’m hopeful that these baby steps will yield progress so we can begin communicating with our son.

Eat WHAT?!

While most of the world waits anxiously for Easter services and egg hunts tomorrow, the Orthodox Christian world has yet another week of waiting (don’t feel sorry for us, the candy in our baskets will be purchased at 75% off, come Monday). Nevertheless, we are also anxiously awaiting our Pascha (Easter). What we will eat after nearly fifty days of fasting from meat and dairy. What my daughter will wear. And saving up energy for all the beautiful Holy Week services and the four hour finale of the midnight Resurrection service.

But things came to a halt the other day when I told the kids we would be celebrating the weekend with the grandparents, eating all sorts of goodies, including… LAMB. My seven year old daughter freaked out.

“Lamb?! Do you know what that is?  Little baby sheep! I’m NOT eating lamb!” She simply couldn’t let it go. At bedtime last night she said more defiantly that she is not eating a poor, helpless lamb. Today she got on the computer and looked up lamb pictures and called me in.  “This is what lambs are! How can you eat a lamb? They are just happy running around in the grass and someone just kills them!”

She’s a passionate one! I guess I should have known…. I seem to recall a similar conversation about deer….