Saturday, December 20, 2008

27 inches

19 pounds

3 1/2 months old.

He started out on the highest trendline on the infant growth chart. Now he's above it.

And he's nursing like mad so he's obviously about to start another growth spurt.

I'm so tired I can barely remember my name. Lion-something?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Special Needs Mother Leads the Heroes in New TV Show

I don't know when it's coming to America, but there's an interesting show on the BBC right now. It's Survivors, a six-part story about what happens to the survivors of a devastating plague that wipes out 99% of the population. The show is a remake of a 1970s series by Terry Nation, the Classic Doctor Who writer who created the Daleks, and the cast is chock full of New Doctor Who/Torchwood alumni. A groups of survivors bands together under the leadership of Abby Grant. Her qualification? Years of mothering a son with leukemia has left her practical, compassionate, and very self-disciplined. It's a heartening endorsement of what we all know but society usually doesn't acknowledge. Here's the website

Friday, November 14, 2008


This week Owl lay on his tummy, lifted his head, and kicked his feet up for the first time.

This week Sunshine made a 100 on a spelling test for the first time.

This week Brighteyes followed a recipe for the first time. She made biscuit dough for chicken and dumplings.

Today Owl made the "g" sound for the first time

Today Sunshine discovered that silent movies could be wonderful and not at all boring for the first time. (Thank you, Buster Keaton.)

Today Brighteyes laughed at herself for the first time.

Today I learned all over again that I can be completely exhausted and still be an okay Mom.

Not a bad week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Election Day 2008

I'm always proud to be an American, but some days I'm prouder than others. Election Day 2008 was one of those days.

We've all been down with bad colds but I'll try to post soon. Owl was 13.5 pounds at his 7-week exam and is over 15 pounds at 11 weeks. He's gaining over an ounce a day, and it's all coming out of me.

Monday, September 01, 2008


Litttle Owl
Originally uploaded by CrabbyLioness

Sorry to take so long posting, but there's a new man in my life. We made contact a few months ago, but we didn't actually meet until last Tuesday. Since then, the greedy boy has demanded my attention for hours at a time. :)

Owl was born Tuesday afternoon at the midwifery center in Summertown, Tennessee. He's about 10 minutes old in the picture. He was 9 pounds and 21 inches at birth, and came after an hour and ten minutes of labor -- my longest yet.

We came home to north Mississippi Saturday, just in time for his first hurricane. (Don't worry, we're way above the evacuation zone.) I'll post his birth story in a few days.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Puttering Around

Okay. After three speedy labors my body has gotten tired with it's old pattern and decided to try something new. Now it's trying the "start and stop" pattern. "Let's try an hour or two of contractions every two or three days! And just as soon as Crabby is sure we're finally getting down to business (at 1:30 at night, mind you) let's stop!"

*Deep sigh* My midwife informs me this is a common pattern with third or fourth babies. She and her colleagues are convinced the best thing for me to do is lots of walking. Walk, walk, walk the baby out. There's some evidence for this, since the baby has been moving lower every time I move around and bounces back up when I lay down.

The problem is that I am so not a pleasure or sport walker. It's an efficient way to get from Point A to Point B but I overused walking for stress relief between grade school and high school (you can probably guess that story), and I've never really enjoyed it since. And that's without the 100F weather we're having.

No, I'd rather dance than walk. But it's been over a year since I took the time to practice, and I didn't bring any tunes. Where am I going to find Middle Eastern dance tracks in rural Tennessee?

But wait. The Farm hosts alternative music concerts. Surely the bands leave CDs at the store to sell. I search the bins and -- score! Amidst the folk songs and such I find a Tribal Bazaar and a Barracka Mundi. I am now in business.

(I love "folk songs and such" but this is edging out of pleasure and into neccessity.)

The dancing does help with the stress relief, even if all the "dancing" I'm up to at the moment is just walking around the room swinging my hips. My slow progress has been discouraging to me. I try to remind myself it's actually very good for the baby, but I don't handle frustration well. It's easy for it to set off my chronic depression, and that's the last thing I need.

So that's where things stand now. My husband is doing a fair amount of writing. The girls are alternating between working on their art and being bored out of their skulls. The library visits when are type these up are helping, but my husband thinks they'll be tired of them after today. We'll see how things go.

Me? I'm puttering around.

My actual due date isn't until Friday. I just gotta remember that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Still here, Still Pregnant....

Two weeks later...

We left back for Tennessee the next day. It's been all quiet on the home front, with no more break-ins. It's been pretty quiet on the Farm too. We moved back into a different cabin, one across the road from our midwife's house.

I guess I should explain about the Farm Midwifery Center. It's the US's oldest freestanding (not directly attached to a hospital) birthing center. The Farm was established in Tennessee in 1970 as a hippie commune by a group of alternative lifestyle advocates from San Francisco. 38 years later it's still going as sort of a combination gated rural community/alternative lifestyle tourist attraction. It's biggest draw is the Midwifery Center.

The Center both takes care of pregnant women and trains midwives. The provide home births for local women, including the local Amish community. But they also have cabins available for women who come in from outside the area. Currently my neighbors include pregnant women from California, New York, and Illinois. We're the only ones who didn't fly in.

So basically, right now we're in a cabin in 40 year-old woods in the foothills of the Appalachias. The deer come up to the back windows. The midwife lives across the road, with more midwives down the street. There's a clinic within walking distance, a spectacular earthen swimming pool with a rock face diving cliff that's like something out of one of the more expensive hotels at Disneyworld just out of walking distance, good restaurants with cheap lunchtime buffets in driving distance, and a tourist town with a friendly obstetrical department that works with the clinic just down the road. I've had nothing to do but eat, sleep, swim and play tourist for two weeks. It's been incredibly relaxing.

It's been so blasted relaxing the baby hasn't wanted to come.

I've had three premature labors in a row. Since they were all eight and nine pound preemies, nobody was sure what the cause was. Now it looks like the premature labors might have been stress-related. This is the first time I've had a labor go full term. That's good. I keep telling myself that's good. The problem is I don't know how to cope with a full term labor.

I'm not used to the baby dropping and staying dropped. I'm not used to contractions that come and go, letting you get back to sleep. It's all starting to get a teensy bit annoying.

Meanwhile, we're not running short of days. My husband has been saving his leave days for this moment for seven years. He's enjoying the delicious feel of it being August and him not being in the classroom teaching a new class, although he has been asked to guest lecture at the Farm's alternative school.

Sunshine is taking it incredibly well. Brighteyes has had some trouble with the break in her routine. Not a day has gone by without her throwing a temper tantrum over something that she felt was out of place in some way. It's probably aggravated by her loose tooth -- she's always fussy when she's got a tooth coming out. Still, in the last few days we've made it clear that her fusses aren't helping the baby. She was shocked to realize the baby could hear her even though it hasn't been born yet. She's trying harder to keep it together. Now that she isn't spending so much energy on fusses, she's become an extremely prolific artist, doing two or three sketches a day. Her father is working his way through the exercises in How to Draw What You See and experimenting with some pastels I found on sale at a local Hobby Lobby. It's occurred to Brighteyes that she can invent her own art exercises, and she has been making detailed notes on how to draw hands.

Sunshine is drawing more as well, and is getting better at drawing individual objects. She's also working her way through a dinosaur coloring book.

I brought their math and spelling workbooks along as well. These were very helpful in the first week. Whenever they started to feel anxious and get fussy over the lack of a familiar routine, I would pull them out and they would calm down. By the second week they preferred to spend their time drawing.

And that's basically it. We've hit all the local tourist attractions and eaten at almost all the recommended restaurants. I found a consignment shop that sells new name brand children's clothing overruns for $1.50 to $5.99 and got a start on the fall clothes buying. I've almost finished the Torchwood audiobooks I never had the time to listen to at home. Tomorrow is our 20th wedding anniversary, and the day after that is the adjusted official due date.

I'm really, really ready for the baby to be born now. Okay baby?

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Really Awful Week

I left home to be closer to the midwives for the birth last week. I came home two days ago. No baby yet, but it's been one hell of a week.

Tuesday I ran around trying to finish the packing and get the house settled for our first vacation in 17 years. I was so busy I didn't conciously notice the heat index of 116F. Which isn't to say I didn't unsconciously notice it, as it sent me into precipitous labor around midnight.

All of my births have been precipitous. Once started, labor doesn't stop until late morning, when the baby is born. So, after a few frantic midnight calls to the midwives, we all agreed it would be best if I came on up.

Problem: the Sunshine and Brighteyes are sound asleep. This means an early-morning call to SIL to ask if she can come over and babysit. At 1 am. That she actually shows up is testament to her good character (a fact I sometimes have to remind myself of when -- but that's another story). So we get underway at a 2:45 am.

Did I mention the midwifery center is three and a half hours away? In the daylight? We get there at 6:45 am, find our cabin, and I get examined and immediately ordered to bed. My husband and I eat a cheese pizza we picked up on the way. I manage to convince myself it's really cheese toast with a fruit on the side in a slightly different format. Alas, my husband lacks my skill at self-delusion and had a harder time with it. We get a call from SIL to see if we made it, then crash for three hours.

SIL is supposed to call back at 11. No call. At 11:30 my husband leaves to pick up the girls. I try to talk him out of it, but he logically points out he has to pick up his paycheck today anyway, and he doesn't trust those jokers not to lose it on him. So he made the trip twice more while I got another checkup and slept the rest of the day.

With all the sleep I actually managed to stop the labor for the first time in four pregnancies. Maybe that wild yam extract the midwife insisted I take is actually doing some good. The family gets in around 10, and we finally get everyone fed, settled, and in bed around midnight.

We spent all day Thursday and Friday morning exploring, shopping for stuff that got behind left in the mad dash, and relaxing. We were feeling pretty good by lunchtime Friday when we got a call from SIL that our house now had busted-out windows.

My husband spent the afternoon and night on the phone getting damage reports while I packed everything back up. According to the searchers, the thief had broken through the window in the front door, found it unopenable, then broke a back window, made a mess, stole some change, and left without taking any large items. They couldn't tell what small items were missing and what were lost in the mess. I finally got my husband off the phone at 11pm so we could sleep.

Saturday morning I had an exam, was okayed with a stern warning to avoid stress, and we left. It was another over 100F day. The car, which had been doing fine, had it's air conditioner die once and it died twice on the way back.

The house was in a bigger mess than we'd been told about. On the other hand, it was in a mess when we left, so the searchers probably didn't realize what was us and what was the thief. On the third hand, the thief apparently found it hard to deal with. He checked a few stereotypical places, then stopped instead of doing the whole place.

Note to future thieves: even I'm not dumb enough to hide anything valuable in my panty drawer. We don't have a lot of pawnable swag. A fortune spent on books, DVDs, homeschool materials, and arts & crafts supplies isn't worth much at Leroy's Pawn Shop. It's called "investing in education". You may have heard of it?

Anyway, don't bother looking for the top pawn shop items here. I don't own any gold jewelry. I'm a silversmith, dude. That means everything I own is silver, and almost all of it is non-commercial and so distinctive tracing it would be a snap. Leroy wouldn't know what to do with it.

As for the electronics, the TV is 13 years old. The buttons have worn off the set and it has to be worked with a remote. The computer was assembled out of mostly second-hand parts put together from junked machines people brought my husband to work on. We're not worth breaking into.

Bah. It looks like the thief got a graphing calculator, around $100 worth of change inside two coin banks (one containing dd1's allowance for the past year!), a pearl necklace, some heavy commercial silver chains, a handmade silver and garnet chain, some carved wood and crystal boxes from my collection, a handful of Christmas candy(?), and some forty-watt light bulbs(?) he stuffed into a toy bucket and dropped in the backyard.

This paucity was not for lack of trying, mind you. He backed his car up to our front door with the intention of loading it up, but in the end he didn't find it worth the effort. We didn't design our house to be easy to steal from.

The next thief will have an even harder time. The broken panes have been replaced with a shatter-proof material, and the windows are being fitted with custom locks made by my husband. Never challenge a genius who has his own machine shop.

And the new front window is elegantly engraved with our family name, our business name, and a pair of dragons.

But the sherriff's department and our own searchers missed the Clues. The thief left his homemade club outside the window and left his bloodstains on the curtain and on the floor after cutting his hand opening the window. Pity we can't interest the sherriff's department enough to come collect them or even take our statement. We called and were told the officer in charge "had called this afternoon but no one picked up the phone". (Lie. Neither we nor the answering machine got any such call.) and wouldn't be available until Monday.

By Saturday night my (not) Good (definitely) Old PTSD was wearing off and I felt a bit -- frazzled. On top of all this I'm still almost 9 months pregnant and still under orders to avoid stress. And did I mention easily exhausted? It took me over 24 hours to type up this post, and I to stop once for contractions, which fortunately stopped with rest and plenty of water. I so don't need this right now.

And on top of everything else, it's probably guaranteed it'll be another 17 years before I get another vacation!

Friday, June 20, 2008

"I Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Daaayyyy"

Sunshine has hit a cognitive bump in her learning. Basically her short-term memory is shot to hell. You tell a story, she'll ask you to repeat it. She works a math problem, and two minutes later can't remember the answer and has to work it again. She looks at a word to copy it down and can't spell it correctly. She loses her pencil and her eraser half a dozen times each during every lesson. She turns over a card in Concentration (card game) and can't remember what it was.

Otherwise, she's smart as a whip. She knows how to spell most words, and her math reasoning skills, handwriting, and drawing are improving in leaps and bounds. She can often out-think her big sister when it comes to making connections and engaging her long-term memory.

That said, I'm about to tear my hair out in frustration. My husband reminds me that Bright Eyes hit a similar cognitive bump as well at 5 years old. True, but Sunshine is 7 years old, and it's harder to keep my patience sometimes. Still, it should clear up in time, when enough brain cells grow enough synapses for her memory to fully work. Not everyone's brain matures in the same manner or at the same rate. Until then it's just a waiting game.

At least she isn't in the school system. One of my husband's former students showed up the other day looking for help for his son. The boy had had a similar problem in his early grades and been labeled "special ed". The problem cleared up over time, but the label stuck. Now 10, he hasn't been challenged to learn anything and his father is starting to panic. At least with Sunshine I can repeat the material as long as it takes for her to master it.

Aaaand back again!

Our recurring problem with the telephone and internet connections being down during working hours tends to clear up within hours after complaining to the state utilities regulatory board. Three cheers for regulation!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Same Song, Second Verse.....

Once again, our phone and internet lines are completely down except for a few hours at night. Once again, I'm not a happy camper. I've been working on new posts. This development really throws a spanner in those works..

Thursday, May 22, 2008

With the political campaign heating up, attention is beginning to fall on Bush's No Child Left Behind program for public schools. The program has drawn loads of scathing criticism for its top-down approach to solving problems and the inept way that it has been implemented in many schools, including the snarky No Child Left Behind -- Football Version

All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship, their footballs and equipment will be taken away until they do win the championship.

It would be a great analogy if it kept things in proportion. NCLB is not, as the blog claims, supposed to prepare children to win the championship. It's supposed to prepare children to qualify for the team. Way-big difference. Currently too many schools are not bothering to prepare children to qualify for the team.

The other day a young woman came over to our house for some math tutoring. She had graduated with good grades from the local "good" high school and is probably gifted, but she had never been taught the fundamental concepts she was supposed to learn. She couldn't subtract 0.5 from 6. While this distressed the adults in the room, it totally amazed my home-schooled eight year-old, who could do all the problems on the woman's college homework assignment in her head. I finally had to distract the child with cartoons before the poor woman died of embarrassment.

While NCLB is a step in the wrong direction, it only got passed because public schools weren't doing their job in the first place. To quote from today's AP article

Educators look at that goal and say, 'These people must be kidding,'" Petrilli said.

Even if educators have that view, parents don't, says Kerri Briggs, the Education Department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

"They would like their kids to be on grade level now and not 50 years from now, not 20 years from now, but this year," Briggs said.

Let's not even try to kid anybody. The only reason NCLB passed in the first place was because the public schools were broke and had refused to do anything substantive to fix their problems for decades. Desperation was the cause for NCLB, not malevolence. Yes, there are a few loonies around who want to end public education, because a working public education system (as opposed to the mess we got now) is essential to a working democracy. But NCLB was not passed because of a few loonies. It was passed because a substantial number of parents in this country are fed up with their schools not working.

Want to end government interference in the school system? Fix the blooming schools without government interference. If the schools are not willing to fix their problems on their own, they can't blame their customers, the parents, for trying to fix the problems for them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I Ought to Frame This

"Dear Taxpayer,

"You are entitled to an economic stimulus payment of $xxx as provided by the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. You can expect your payment by 5/23/08."

Honestly, how often do you get a note from the Federal Government saying, "Your check is in the mail"?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

After weeks without reliable phone or internet, we finally got our line fixed. Turned out there was a loose wire on a pole outside our house. Then AT&T tried to charge us for all that, and tell us there was nothing we could do but pay up. A complaint to the State put paid to their little game.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mississippi's First Big Budget Election

My family just survived our first big-budget political election. In previous years Mississippi has been too inconsequential for the Big Guys to bombard us with a propaganda saturation campaign. Not so this year unfortunately, as the race for the House of Representatives seat MS-01 seemed suddenly worthy of big-money mass callings, media, and mailings praising the virtues of the Conservative Republican candidate while accusing Democratic candidate Travis Childers of closing churches, not paying his own taxes, increasing taxes on others, and everything else short of eating babies for breakfast. Most of the attack ads turned out to be lies and all of them carefully avoided talking about the real issues, like the war and the economy.

I'm pleased as punch to report that the big-money ad campaign failed completely. Glenn McCullough, the Fundamentalist Christian Conservative Republican candidate who snowed in our mailboxes and whose flunkies called our phone 6-12 times a day with pre-recorded messages was about the first person knocked out of the race. Then we were blitzed with a fistful of anti-Childers mailings every day. My husband especially loved the one that linked Childers to Obama; he thought it was the best endorsement anyone could possibly offer Childers. The net result of all that garbage was that Democrat Travis Childers carried our county easily and won the race.

Hopefully the big-money people will have learned their lesson and we won't get a similar blanket of glossy over-sized postcards and annoying phone calls next election. Hopefully.

As for us, we voted for Green Party candidate John Wages until he was knocked out of the race. Wages was the only candidate running in favor of pulling out of the war. Then we switched to Childers for the runoff. Childers seems tolerable, but I could not in good conscious vote for someone who would, among other things, deny the sanctity of marriage to all single adults who seek it's blessings while a better candidate was on the ballot.

While looking for tonight's election reports I found a nice-looking blog for Mississipi Democrats called CottonMouth. It's good to see another Mississippi blogger who isn't a staunch Conservative; sometimes I feel a bit lonely.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

Harvard Law Scholar Elizabeth Warren gave a lecture on what has gone wrong with the American Economic Dream. It's up on youtube here. Watch it. The sad but entirely predictable thing is that I heard all these statements 20 years ago in publications on the "radical liberal fringe". I did what I could to protect my family then, staying away from credit cards and debt. I figured, rightly it turned out, by the time the mainstream media picked up on the story it would be too late. Still, it's nice to see the government's figures backing everything up.

Keep in mind that what Elizabeth Warren talks about isn't news. It's history. She isn't talking about what is happening right now, but what has already happened while America has slept.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blasted At&T

Thanks to our wonderful phone company and internet provider, we now have no phone or DSL during business hours and only intermittent service at night. AND they give me the run-around when I try to get it serviced. I am so not a happy camper.

Monday, March 03, 2008

March 2008 Update On the Girls.


We're starting over again on Minimus. It's a refresher for Brighteyes, but Sunshine needs it more. I had hoped both girls would precede at the same pace, but that's not to be.


Brighteyes is working through Singapore 3 without any real problems. Sunshine is having trouble adding and subtracting above 10. She doesn't want to give up her fingers yet, even though she knows how to use the abacus. I'm printing her out worksheets from for extra practice.

Spelling, Handwriting, Grammar

All going fine. Sunshine is through with her handwriting book and currently practices with Draw, Write, Now at the end of lessons. While Brighteyes inherited her father's command of the pencil, Sunshine has inherited my lack of command of the pencil. She's coming along with her handwriting with practice. I hope we'll show the same improvement with art eventually.

Brighteyes is working in First Language Lessons Volume 3. I really like the way these lessons integrate sentence diagramming into the lessons, teaching the parts of a sentence by teaching their place on the diagram. That makes so much more sense than the way my husband and I were taught grammar in grade school.

The importance of these skills really sank in to us this year. My husband is teaching a remedial test prep class at the high school. He began by spending two weeks teaching the parts of speach and sentance diagramming. The students had never been taught either skill before. They hated every minute of it! Why wasn't he teaching them math, which was on the test, instead of this garbage which wasn't on the test? They tried to sneak out at every opportunity, and he constantly had to round them up. But when they were tested after the first two weeks, every one of them had jumped a letter grade higher. It turned out grammar was on the test after all in every problem. Those poor kids had literally not been taught enough grammar to properly understand the questions they were supposed to answer.


Back at it.

Literature, Science, Art

Not back at it. I have hopes for it as soon as Sunshine stops throwing a tantrum at the start of every lesson. Brighteyes went through the same stage at that age. I hope Sunshine will also leave it behind when she turns 7.


Sunshine is working through her beloved Doggie Sticker Book and happily reads aloud the description of each dog.


Brighteyes has started on Mind Benders. At 8 1/2 she seems a bit young to me, but she is eating them up, completing 3 or 4 3-square logic problems a day. So, I'm ordering her the beginning set and the first Cranium Crackers book. That ought to keep her busy for a while. Sunshine is chomping at the bit to begin the Mind Benders Warmup, but I told her she had to finish first grade math before that.


Right now we're splitting lessons. We work in the mornings until lunch, then resume after a 4pm snack. It's working for now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One More Round!

I'm pregnant again, for the fourth time. It lacks the thrill of my first time, but it also lacks the stark terror of #2 and #3 after the death of my first child. I can live with that. More details to follow.

Monday, January 07, 2008

First Computer

We fixed up an old computer for the girls. It's on Windows 98, with no printer or internet access. It will play the older games and educational software though.

Brighteyes liked playing Jumpstart 3rd Grade on it, but other games haven't interested either girl that much. It's not as much fun as playing outside. That's a pretty good start in my book.