Monthly Archives: January 2013

Problem solving in a multi-colored world

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Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities.– John Dewey (1859-1952), Experience and Education

These are the first lines of John Dewey’s book, first published in 1938, but I believe they still hold quite true today.  A recent blaze of black and white arguments center around the gun related disasters happening around this Christmas.  Advocates are yelling on all sides.  “Gun control!”  “Arm Teachers!”  “Mental Health Care!”  “Violent Media is to Blame!”  Even some are citing conspiracy and fraud.  But as Dewey, a great educational philosopher, had noted, life occurs somewhere between the Either and Or, where the colors become refracted and muddled, not so stark.  Life is so much more messy, complicated, colorful.  Yet, it is also simple.  Simple, but not easy.  Dewey also says, “But the easy and the simple are not identical.  To discover what is really simple and to act upon the discovery is an exceedingly difficult task.”  It’s so much easier to stick to the old arguments, to move to one side or the other.  But to integrate all these views into something that learns from the past, makes sense for the present, and prepares for the future, is so much more complex mission than many of us want to touch.

I don’t profess to have the answer to this problem, or the next.  But I do know if we continue to scream from our side of the ring, we cannot hear what the other side is saying, and therefore, never find resolution.

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Hey Good Lookin’, Whatcha got cookin’?

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I am one lucky girl! My husband cooks. I’m not talking about heating up a can of soup, or the occasional Saturday morning pancakes. I’m talking about sauteed green beans with garlic and sesame seeds. I’m talking about perfectly seasoned and juicy birds, hot from the oven. Spaghetti sauce that begins early on Saturday morning and simmers all day long. When he calls me to kitchen and says “Here, will you taste this?” I am never disappointed. Sure, he uses most of the dishes in the kitchen, but it is always worth it.

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He has the kind of talent it takes to taste something and know exactly what it needs. He can try something new, a little off the wall, and make it a masterpiece. When I tell the children I’m getting creative in the kitchen they all whine “Noooooooo!!!” But when Daddy’s in the kitchen, they know it’s going to be good…maybe a little spicy, but always good.
But there’s more! A guy in the kitchen is hot! Girls, you know what I mean. Guys, learn to make something delicious (preferably from scratch), and you will make her heart melt. Just try not to dirty every dish in the kitchen.

dirty dishes

The Soundtrack of My Life

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music
I think I finally did it. I think I finally caught up on sleep. It may have been the jazz. It may have been the too little sleep several days before. It may have been spending all day with 27 seventh and eighth graders. Maybe it was everything. Shortly after arriving home I dozed off. Maybe around 7. And woke a few times this morning, but finally crawled out of bed about 9. So here am I, well rested.
Despite the attention span of a middle school child can at times rival that of a preschooler, I really enjoyed myself at the Jazz Festival. Sure, there was some shushing, reminders to be polite, and plenty of encouraging. But I spent all day listening to jazz. Are you jealous?
In a recent conversation about music, I confessed my love of the opera and the symphony. Another individual said she prefers stories, as in musicals or operas, but not just music. She couldn’t just sit at the symphony and listen. The last time I went to the symphony I was the same age as the kids I chaperoned yesterday. I remember closing my eyes and letting the music carry me away. Why would I need someone to tell me a story, when I have ones of my own creation in the theater of my mind? I may be flying over meadow and dale. There may heroes and heroines. Maybe it’s simply a scene from my own life.
I LOVE music!
I grew up with such an eclectic mix of tunes. One look at my Dad’s itunes collection and you would understand. Classical, rock, country, christian, world, musical, soundtracks. He even had sound effects records we would listen to when we were kids. Maybe this is what fed my love of music. Or maybe it’s the wonder of exploring other’s talents (I cannot carry a tune and do not play an instrument). Maybe it is the emotions music invokes or the stories it tells. Maybe it’s all of it together.
I love listening to music and let it be the soundtrack to my life. Certain songs fit better than others. In ages old tradition, I will say most of the music my son’s listen to, don’t fit. Some rock, some oldies, maybe. But if my life were a movie, I think I’d stick to a classical track.  So if you see a few people following me around, with instrument in their hands, I’ve either acquired an orchestra, or I’m chaperoning another field trip.

Time to clean the loo…again!

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This is not my bathroom. I wish it were my bathroom, but what we have are tiny, ugly apartment bathrooms. Look at all that white! Someday, maybe.

Upon learning I have five boys, I am surprised more people have not asked “how do you keep the bathroom clean?” Yes, this may be considered a rude question, but I have noticed a number of people forget their manners when speaking with parents of many (https://fostersgreatadventure.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/yes-theyre-all-mine/). The answer is: constant vigilance.

For several years I have wanted to make a sign for my bathroom:

If you sprinkle
When you tinkle,
Be a sweetie
And wipe the seatie.

This one works for either gender (have you been in the women’s bathroom after a preschooler?), but I have seen one which applies a bit more closely to my brood.

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There are times I walk in and then back out again, to hunt down the last occupant. But the sprinkler in question may not have been the last one in there, as they don’t often sit down and therefore don’t notice.

Each of our two bathrooms have their individual issues as well. Neither has any windows, and the old fans are less than effective. One bathroom shares space with the laundry. If you’ve every experienced the dust vortex in the loo, you can see why this might be a problem. If you’re new to this enigma, let me explain. There seems to be, in many bathrooms, a spot where dust likes to collect, profusely. So let’s see, tiny bathroom, teenager’s daily showers (and leaky shower stall), bad fan, and laundry lint. Ew. Constant vigilance, or close the door and tell the teenager to clean it.

While an inadequate fan and hot showers are an issue in the other bathroom, dust isn’t as much. This water closet also houses Sissy Kitty’s potty box (not to be confused with the cat’s party box, where they “play” with the catnip). With the amount of litter bits she scoops out with each visit, I’m thinking we need a bigger box, but then how would we get into that little room? And this is awesome, fancy litter, too. We use Swheat scoop (http://www.swheatscoop.com/), which is made out of….wheat and totally flushable. I just knew gluten was good for something…superior clumping power! However, when she kicks it out of the box, then someone, maybe, takes a shower and the litter hiding under the edge of the box gets wet….if you’ve ever made glue with flour and water you may know where I’m going with this. There’s nothing like kitty grit glue to the bathroom floor to make your cleaning experience more interesting.

Constant vigilance!  And good aim!

Yes, they’re all mine.

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My husband works with all men, and as one can imagine, sometimes the jokes get a little “funny”. Today they joked about, we’ll say…reproductive health. DaddyFoster’s response of “maybe I’ll look into that” got raised eyebrows and more than one guy saying “don’t you have enough kids?” So original, right?
I have heard most, if not all, questions or comments one gets with having a large family.

  • “You know how that happens, right?” Yes, I learned when I was ten. Do you?
  • “Were you trying for a girl?” No. I was trying for five children. At this point, would I know what to do with a girl? I only know how to give a buzz cut!
  • “How do you do it?” Um, I get up in the morning and do what I have to do. Just the same as anyone else, with one child or ten.
  • “Wow. You sure have your hands full.” Duh. But I like them that way. Keeps me out of trouble.
  • “I’d bury myself six feet under if I had that many boys.” This one actually resulted in a call to her supervisor, suggesting tact training for employees.
  • “Are you Catholic (or Mormon)?” At what number does procreating become a religious thing?
  • “I’d go crazy with that many kids.” Who’s to say I haven’t?
  • “Are you done?” It’s so much fun, and they’re so cute, why should I stop?

There are surely many more and so many things we can say. I would like to share a fellow bloggers take on these questions:
http://gardengoatquote.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/answers-rude-questions-large-families/

Large families, unite!

Verbosity

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As I walked into the classroom this morning, one of the two year old’s handed me a ball and asked “Can you pay attention with this?” She meant, of course, that she wanted my attention, which I was more than happy to give. Later in the gym, she said “excuse me, Ms. Foster, can you push me?” How very polite!

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Children gain language at their own pace and in their own way, this child being a bit ahead of the game, but her words started me thinking about my own children’s language. “Appropriate” was and is a big word around here. In preschool, it was not uncommon to hear one of the boys tattling on his one of his brothers, “he’s saying ‘propiate words!” And “actually”, though it was often pronounced “akshee”. “Akshee, I had that toy first.” Then there are the silly mix-ups, like the time Boy 1 stated something so evident that his younger brother had to comment. But instead of calling him the old favorite, ‘Captain Obvious’, he coined the moniker, ‘Doctor Oblivious’. I think this works for all of us at one moment or another in our lives!

Words enrich our lives. They bring meaning and color and taste to the world. Children learn so much when interacting and conversing with others. Reading books, discussing articles, asking questions, and sharing stories play an important part in our household. Here are just a few ways words are enriching our home in the past few weeks:

  • We are currently reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a favorite of mine from childhood. The boys ask plenty of questions, like what’s a trundle bed? Are they going to talk about food through the whole book? Are the Big Woods still there?  I welcome the questions, because they show they are listening and learning.
  • We read interesting articles about current events at dinner and discuss.  Young people can have incredible insights.
  • We play Three Good Things at dinner time, relating high points from our day with each other.
  • When we speak with our children, we use language we would with adults (such appropriate and actually), and explain when they need us to.
  • Shows or movie are watched and discussed together.  We have great conversations going around this season’s Biggest Loser!
  • Games! Boy 2 has beaten me a number of time in Scrabble, but any game is a good reason to socialize.

Feel free to share how words enrich your lives!

Welcome to Foster’s kitchen…may I take your order?

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I am not a waitress, a short order cook, a restaurant manager. And this is not a restaurant. If you eat in my home, I will try my best to make something yummy and nutritious, and accommodate your food sensitivities or allergies. What I will not do is make you something different than what everyone else is eating. Boy #5 is having trouble getting this concept. He has been crying for about two hours. At some point, I’m sure, his thinking brain disengaged and there will be no reasoning with him. “I want something else! I don’t like dinner!” he wails through tears. He is now walking circles around the living room, stopping only to grab a tissue to wipe away the tears.

I don’t know where he got this. I thought the parent’s curse meant we will get children like ourselves? My husband and I are both “foodies”. We will try just about anything, as will all of the other boys. I have worked with many families through Head Start in dealing with their child’s picky eating behaviors. Yet I look at my son and think “what do I do?”

Here are a few tips I have given others and I have to listen to myself:

  • Everyone gets the same food. Do not make something different for the picky eater. He may go to bed hungry a few times, but he will eventually eat.
  • Put the food on the table and eat “family style”. Your child may serve themselves (with help for the younger guys). Demonstrate proper serving sizes, table manners and appropriate table conversation.
  • Encourage your child to try everything, but don’t force it. The country is filled with overweight people who were forced to “clean their plates”.
  • Let your child help make the meals.  This is a great bonding experience!
  • Take a deep breath. This too shall pass.

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Now go enjoy your meals and your families, picky eaters and all.

Happy Birthday, #4!

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Timmy

This is my #4.  A beautiful little surprise. Late in the pregnancy, an ultrasound tech told us she was about “70-75% sure” he was a girl. Unless he’s hiding something really well. He must have been hiding something. I was so excited, and a little worried. What would I do with a girl? I only know how to shave heads? At least we wouldn’t need to teach her to aim. Though given the state of our bathroom some days, I think we may have forgotten to teach someone else to aim.

So we celebrated. The pink baby shower was held on the 18th of January, five days after the due date, two days before the birth. There was a pink cake, pink candies, pink balloon, pink baby clothes! A couple of days later it was time for the birth party! That’s what I call them. I invite my mom, aunts, best friends…it’s a party. There are girl names on the dry erase board, talking and laughter (I had an epidural, couldn’t really feel a thing), then it was time to get down to business. Everyone got quiet about the time the doctor said “it’s a boy!”

“What?”

So I named him after my Dad. And he totally looks like him, too! And thus began a beautiful relationship, (as are all of them).

Some time during his preschool years, I began to wonder about his energy level. I figured he either had more than the other boys, or I was just getting old. More digging brought an official diagnosis of ADHD, the summer after kindergarten. And he knows it. Mostly because he has had the opportunity to participate in a study. And because we talk about it. How to live with it, how to work around it, how to be successful by thinking a bit outside the box. Creativity is strong in this one.

Happy Birthday, my Little Bug! May this year be filled with great adventures!

Are you hungry?

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We are hungry. As a people, as a country, as a culture. We are hungry for food (or at least some edible substance), we are hungry for knowledge, we are hungry for truth. Yet what we are often getting hardly satisfies this ravenous, empty feeling inside. We are being fed, but what is it?

Imagine you are starving, you haven’t eaten for days. Your stomach cramps and growls and you feel weak and weary. Then someone hands you some “food”. This is not what you usually eat, it’s scraps and half rotten food. Maybe it smells a bit past it’s date. Yet you are so hungry, you eat it. You may get sick, or maybe not get the nutrients you need, but for the time being, your stomach has something to digest.

I admit I can spend hours surfing the internet, researching information, “window” shopping, watching videos. Even as I write this post, I’m hopping back to Facebook to see what my friends have posted and play Words with Friends with my Mom. We joke about believing everything we see on television or the world wide web, but this is still a concept our children struggle with. “But Mooooooom! I saw it on the internet! He was a doctor/lawyer/scientist/expert of some sort!” I know they are not the only ones. There are the blatant, obvious, check-out magazine stories we pass by and laugh at. Then there are the stories that are a little sneakier. Like a certain snack cake, they seem so robust, so flavorful, yet when we’re finished, it’s nothing but empty, sugary calories. Nothing remains but our hunger. How can we satisfy this appetite?

Amos 8:11-13 says:

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the Lord,
but they will not find it.
“In that day the lovely young women and strong young men
will faint because of thirst.”

Sound familiar? Then read Isaiah 55:1-3

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.

Yummy!

yummy

Miracles still happen, people!

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My Honey being goofy with my scarf

My Honey being goofy with my scarf

This is DaddyFoster. Seventeen years ago I met this wonderful man…while riding public transportation.
TriMet D40LFR bus
It was love at first sight. I already believed red hair and brown eyes was a handsome combination, so when he flashed his shiny white smile, I was in love. And this one had a beard… so manly (he was 18, I was 19)! He knew my friend from high school, so we came up with ways to get this really shy guy to talk to me. And then I didn’t talk. We just looked at each other and smiled. Oh, yeah, we were that couple. One day he missed his bus stop and had to ride all the way downtown (where we were headed) to get his connection. Then he did again. And again. Then he asked for my phone number. I don’t think I could have smiled any wider. Our first date was in February, the wedding was in December and within the first year we had Boy #1.
Things weren’t always great though. Within a few years we were stuck in a pattern of misunderstanding, miscommunications, and frustrations. It became so bad that at one point I saw no hope for our future together, and we separated. Our youngest was only 3 months old. I do not believe he ever gave up hope during this time. After about 5 months apart, and several months of counseling, I felt the Lord telling me it was time for my husband to come home. I wasn’t quite sure I was ready, but why would I want to argue with God? He’s a bit more in touch with the big picture than I am. After six months, we were together again, but it was still rough. Two years after the beginning of our separation, I was beginning to have doubts about our decision. I was still stuck. My thoughts were so centered around what I was getting out of the relationship that I couldn’t see anything else. “He can’t say to me!” “How can he do ?” My attitude sucked! I was not listening to God!
About the same time, our church began a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Having a fruitful life was a discussion early in our relationship, and my husband didn’t really get it. I attributed this to his faith being so new, less than a year old when we met. But I honestly don’t think I really “got it” either, and I grew up in a Christian home. And I began praying, as I had many times before, that God would send a friend to come along side my husband, and show him what it meant to have a fruitful life.
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That is when it came…the lightbulb? The “aha” moment? The voice of God? “Amee, why aren’t you being that person?”
Oh. Huh. Duh!
When we arrived home that day I wrote these verses on our big chalkboard:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV).
Starting that day, and each day after, I tried to show this fruit to my husband and sons. It hasn’t always been easy, I’m not perfect. But in my imperfections, the Lord’s perfection is evident. What happened in our family after that day was beautiful. The change in our relationship was so great, it could not be missed. Thinking about it today brings tears to my eyes. Miracles still happened, people, and I saw one!
What if I hadn’t listened to God? What if I had said “no”? I would have missed the work He did in our lives. And I would have missed the beauty in our relationship today.
I love you DaddyFoster!