Sunday, August 31, 2008

And Then There Were Walls

A Kingly Court

Over the past couple days, the kids have been playing Narnia. This means we've had knights, princesses, a king, and the all important guy who fixes tents roaming the backyard. Ok, they are a bit free with the plot lines here. Katie is almost always Queen Lucy and Bryan is King Edmond but the rest of the kids get a bit more imaginative. Of course, every princess or queen must have a knight to protect her. And we have one hold out who is insisting on dressing up as Indiana Jones lately. Sorry the pictures are a bit out there. Alan was trying to catch the kids before they knew he was taking the pictures.

The House that Jack Built

Ok, not Jack. And not a house. But the crew is hard at work constructing a storage shed/barn/chicken coop out in the side yard right now. They are making rather decent progress. The poor chickens have long ago outgrown their dog house and the storage shed was lost to the wind storms last year so Alan decided to just build one large building to house it all. It's rather important for the kids to be involved because it helps them learn necessary life skills. And let's be honest. If they are outside swinging a hammer with Dad, we know where they are and that they are not getting into trouble. If you could see the smiles on their faces right now. They know they are doing something important. Big people work. And Alan certainly is not complaining about the help. You just have to love a guy who is willing to teach a bunch of little ones how to do this sort of work and stand near them as they are swinging the hammers. Dangerous work, I tell you. Even a two-year-old can hurt you when they are swinging a hammer. Ouch.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Benefits of Shopping Locally

We've all heard it. Shopping locally saves you money, helps your area, blah, blah, blah. I have to say that for the most part I tend to just look for the best deal for us. Yes, that means farmers markets in the summer and u-pick produce farms. But lately that also means stopping at a local produce stand a couple times a week. This place has locally grown produce from several locations. But the best part is that it is staffed by pretty much the same three people who have gotten to know us. In other words, they know me as the lady with 7 kids. Which means I often leave there with lots of free food. The bruised, day old, not so nice looking stuff that they just can't sell. I bring it home and either the kids devour it or it goes in the freezer or every so often it gets fed to the chickens. Today I brought home a box full of yellow plums, apricots, peaches and a few peppers. We also paid $2 for another box full of bruised peppers. So we now have another gallon sized bag stuffed full of pepper slices in the freezer and a box of fruit for the kids to eat in the next few days. I think I'll be making pie filling with a few of the last peaches from our tree tomorrow as they are getting a little bruised and soft. But the bottom line is don't be afraid to ask if a local place sells their seconds. Last summer I asked this stand if they ever sold seconds and I left that day with a bushel sized basket full of tomatoes and peppers for $5. Since then they've been keeping me in mind when they have stuff that just isn't moving as quickly as they'd like. No one wants to see the food just thrown away. Sure, at times it means I have to come home and deal with it right away but that is a small price to pay for free or nearly free food.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Overheard Recently in Our House

What happens when you do a Vulcan neck pinch?

Do not lasso your sister!

Hey, if we have two more babies, Gabe will be 7 of 9!

Dog, you have dog breath!

Put that hammer away.

I grew last night because I had a taco.

So what do these statements say about our family? I'm not quite sure other than we are slowly turning our children into little geeks. That and we have some rather rambunctious kids at times but boredom is simply not an option around here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Did he Bribe Them?

Ok, I pulled stuffed peppers out of the freezer for dinner tonight. Popped them in the crockpot around lunch time knowing that would assure they would be ready in time for dinner with almost no work on my part. That is very important. No work is sometimes a good thing. Once Dad got home, I retreated upstairs to nap since I have now managed to get sick with what everyone else had over the weekend. I come back downstairs later to find that Dad has made a cake for the kids for dessert. So was he bribing them to get them to eat something they've never had before or was he just being nice? Either way, the kids ate their dinner so I guess it does not matter. And you've got to love a guy who comes home from work and then finds the energy to not only serve dinner to 7 kids and clean up the mess, but also to make a cake. No microwave involved.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When a 6-Year-Old has the Camera

The Final Result

And now we have the final result of my morning spent canning peaches. I have decided the most tedious part of canning fruit is all the peeling and slicing. But in the end, I have 5 quarts of peaches. If anyone knows how to keep the fruit from floating up to the top, please let me know. I have a feeling it won't change the taste any but it does look a tad odd. Sometime tonight or tomorrow I have another batch of peaches to deal with. Hopefully I'll be able to can those with fewer mishaps.

What Not to do While Canning

Ok, when you are filling the canner on a gas stove don't forget that once you put food in the jars they will take up more space then when they were empty. Because if you forget, well, water will come out of the canner and run over the stove and put the burner out. Then you'll have to actually get out a lighter to relight the burner because the electric starter will be too wet to light. You also do not want to attempt to catch your dish towel on fire. Just in case you were wondering. Yes, it has been a fun morning around here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gabe Wants to Say

Gabe just wants to say that he still doesn't feel well and the mean VCR just tried to eat his fingers and he just does not get enough sympathy around here. I mean you'd think you would get more than "Well, stop sticking your fingers in there" for your trouble when some mean machine tries to bite you.

A Tale of Two Kindergarteners

Katie and Liam are only 15 months apart and have done just about everything together forever. They are best buddies so we decided to start them both in kindergarten this year. This would mean that I would have children in 2 grades back to back rather than having kids in 3 grades back to back to back. In theory this is supposed to lessen the teaching burden on my shoulders. Let's be honest here. It is a wee bit hard to keep track of lesson plans for 5 different grades all at once. So instead this year we have 4 grades. Not that much easier but a little bit. In theory at least. But Katie and Liam are determined to totally trash this theory. You put the two of them at a table to work together and it is total chaos. He is distracted my her, she is distracted by him. He starts to scribble and goof off so she does, too. Suddenly the excited "I get to do school today" shouts are replaced by "But Mom. I don't want to do school." Fun times, I tell you. So for the time being we have afternoon and morning kindergarten going. One kid at a time. Remember the whole theory behind putting them both in kindergarten this year was to lessen the teaching burden on me. Maybe one day that will happen. They seem content to do religion together and listen to stories together and do art projects and messy science. Just not the actual bookwork. Maybe they are just typical kids and are allergic to bookwork. Maybe they just enjoy driving me bonkers. Who knows. I'm hoping in a few months we will be able to do everything together again. But hats off to you teachers in classrooms who are actually able to take 25 kids and keep them all on the same page at the same time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sundaes on Sunday

Seems around here most of our traditions revolve around food. There's the big breakfast Dad makes on Saturday mornings. Pizza and movie night complete with homemade pizza and eating in front of the tv. Donuts and bagels on Sunday mornings. Another tradition in our family is just that the adults tend to forget about making lunch and dinner on the weekends. Seems we always get busy with one thing or another and before we know it at least one child is complaining about not being fed lunch or something. So I've decided we will fix that for Sunday's at least. New rules on Sunday are if you are hungry, go look in the fridge. And dinner on Sunday night will consist of ice cream sundae's. Don't call the nutritional police on me here. One day a week will not do harm to the children and they eat rather well the rest of the week. But what we will do is build memories. Give the kids something to enjoy and claim as their own when they think about home. Yup, the goal is to have them actually like being at home and not run screaming the minute the door opens leaving behind stories of how they never got to do anything fun because there were too many kids. Granted, I think folks who complain about doing things because they have kids need to find a new excuse. You know, admit the truth. You are being lazy and looking for sympathy. But I digress. Do something fun with your kids. And tell me what you did because if we like it, we just may steal your idea and start something new around here.

What do you do when. . .

. . . you really wanted a dining room table with enough room to seat 12 but could only find one with room for 10? Well, you wait until a local church is remodeling and replacing all of their pews. Then you buy one of the old ones from them for $10 or so. Then you bring it home and it sits in your garage for, oh, about 2 months at least. This is important. It must sit that long or things will go amiss. Eventually one day your husband decides he wants to be able to park actual cars in the garage and that the pew needs to be dealt with. So you start the measuring, sawing, sanding. You remove the kneelers and missal holders (unless your dining room looks much different than mine). In the end, you have extra seating in your dining room. Course, we haven't reached that end point yet. There was a slight mishap and one of the legs is in need of repair. But I am thinking positive thoughts and believe that at least half the pew will be out of the garage by night fall.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just in from the Garden

You've heard the tales of six foot asparagus plants. This will give you the idea that we are not the best at staying on top of our garden. We are the kind of folks who tend to forget about it for a few days and then come back to discover strange things. I neglected to check on the green bean patch for a week or so and came back to discover gigantic green beans hanging from the plants. Lots of them. But at least they are still edible. The gigantic asparagus plants are not terribly tasty when they grow to such huge proportions. Even the chickens wouldn't touch them. Today we also found a couple of squash that were ready to pick. We left our cherries on the trees just one day too long and came back to discover that everything the birds had not eaten had shriveled up and resembled large raisins on the trees. Very odd. The children pretty much eat the raspberries and black raspberries as soon as they find enough edible ones on the bushes. We were lucky enough to find that the previous owners in this house planted several fruit trees. This year we are benefiting in the form of overflowing peach trees. Sadly, one tree was lost to severe storms this summer but the other 4 are producing wonderfully. The pear trees are also doing great this year but the apple trees are a little sparse. The grape vines also seem to be a little lacking in grapes this year. The walnut trees are still rather immature but are producing a few walnuts here and there. With luck, we will be able to convince the children to quit pulling the walnuts off the trees. I was told "But Mom, you said not to pull the fruit off. That's not fruit." I guess they were listening at least. We are hoping that over the next few years we will actually be able to learn enough about raising out own food and get better about keeping up on things to be able to produce a decent amount of our own food. We did harvest some lettuce and radishes in the beginning of the summer but other than that, we have not done so well. Live and learn I guess. Next summer we'll have to teach the children how to weed properly and see if they do better than their parents do at keeping the weeds under control. The kids are definitely more excited about some of this stuff than we are lately. After learning how maple syrup was made earlier this year, they decided that we need to tap our maple trees to collect the sap to make our own syrup. I'm not quite sure we'll be able to convince them that we don't have enough maple trees to make that worth the effort.

Current Sick Count

You know how it goes: first one gets sick, then before you know it, they are all sick. The littlest guy woke up sick on Friday. By bedtime on Friday, the sick count was 2 confirmed sick, 4 starting to show the signs of fevers, one apparently healthy. I'm predicting a weekend full of tired, cranky, sick kids.

A Few Noteworthy Causes

Those of you who know us well, probably already know where are hearts lie in terms of children and family. But just in case you don't, I wanted to share a few resources that we love with those we care about. Please take a minute or two to check out these resources. You just may find one that will change your life. I know we did.

The Couple to Couple League is a wonderful organization that teaches natural family planning. All teachers are volunteers who give of their time to help other couples learn about a method of family planning that is 100% natural, safe, healthy and 99% effective. We like to say it is couple tested, Vatican approved. Check them out at

The Gift Foundation has helped us learn more about Theology of the Body, John Paul II's response to the sexual confusion in this culture of death. Their audio CD's called Naked Without Shame are wonderful. Check them out at

Cukierski Family Sacramentals is a small family run apostolate specializing in Catholic sacramentals. They have everything from rosaries and prayer cloths to medals and crucifixes. They carry items I had never seen before. This amazing family loves their faith and live on the front lines of the pro-life movement. Check them out at

We have friends who are in the missionary field. Although I don't think I could do what they are doing, I truly admire their ability to put their family out there like that. They live in Germany with their 3 children and work with CreativeWorks, a ministry of Greater Europe Mission. Check out their website at

Don't forget the homeschooling movement. We are supporters of HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association. This group works to promote the right of parents to educate their children they way each family feels is best. Learn more about what they do at

I imagine that is enough of a public service announcement for now. Thanks for bearing with me. Please take some time to learn more about these great groups. They've all changed our lives in one way or another. Hopefully they will do the same for you.

Family Prayer Corner

I've been intending for several years now to set up a family prayer corner. Just a place to keep a few special items, a place to safely stash the extra rosaries and holy medals, perhaps we can use it to set up an advent wreath later. I finally got around to clearing off a space for it. I have different colored cloths so I can change the color with the liturgical year. We'll have the kids add to it during the year. It is still very much a work in progress but I have finally started to make some progress.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On the Homeschool Front

Reviewing religion questions with one of the boys today was rather interesting. The question I asked was "What is Divine Revelation?" The answer I was given was "the last book of the bible." Ok, the kid gets points for creativity. He also got sent back to reread the chapter and take another shot at it later.

What We Learned This Summer

It's been an interesting summer. Here's what we've learned:
1. asparagus will grow 6 feet tall if you don't harvest it every day
2. the mail carrier is afraid to leave her car when the chickens are in the driveway
3. large metal objects and electrical outlets don't mix well
4. apparently driving to the west side of town is like driving to the dark side of the moon for those who live on the east side of town
5. chickens will sleep in trees
6. Liam will sit still long enough to let his brother cover his entire face with face paint
7. when dad sprains his ankle, the 11 year-old can help fix the well so we have water again (amazing how much you use water for every day)

What did you learn this summer?

How to Not Start Your Day

Last night the dog slept with Liam and Kieran. The dog woke up early. Kieran decided to be nice and let the dog out for us. Kieran did not realize the house alarm was set. Man, that alarm is awfully loud. Much louder than the one we had in our previous home. And when the alarm goes off, the older 2 boys will still continue to sleep, oblivious to what is going on in the house. I think it may be time for some intervention since they sleep through the smoke detectors going off and through the house alarm. Everyone else came out of their rooms to see what was going on. Sean and Bryan, they just slept.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Our Hero Gabe

Gabe has been walking for a few weeks now and has really started to take off this past week. He is now officially walking way more than crawling and has now joined in the chaos of the older kids. In this movie he is chasing after his father begging him to pick him up. He's cute even when he's crying.

The Brown Scapular

Faith must be caught, not taught. You can read all the books you want to your kids. Take them to Mass every single day. Pray with them and for them. Teach them about saints. Memorize the catechism. But in the end if the kids don't catch their faith themselves, nothing you do will matter. One of the ways we try to help our kids "catch their faith" is with hands-on activities. This week the older 5 kids made brown scapulars. I ordered no-sew scapular kits put out by Give Glory Arts and Crafts. Even Katie was able to do most of the project herself. We will be taking the scapulars to church with us soon to ask Father to bless the scapulars and say the investiture prayers. Why should you wear the Brown Scapular? When the Blessed Mother gave the scapular to St. Simon Stock, she also gave him the Scapular Promise: "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

Learning about Birds

Kieran is doing a unit on animals for science right now. Last week we covered mammals. This week we are covering birds. When we are all done with the current unit, we will take a field trip to the zoo because school is always more fun when it takes you out of the house. So what has Kieran been doing this week? He helped hang up the bluebird nesting houses. He made a bird feeder. He's helping to take care of our chickens. He's been watching the birds that live in our garage and the ones that hang out in our backyard. The kids have all collected chicken feathers from the yard. We've read a few books. And, of course, no study of animals would be complete without having animal crackers for a snack.

Making Root Beer

Kieran and Bryan made root beer this week. This project was waited on for quite some time before I finally got around to it. In the end they learned that it is best to leave the root beer to ferment a bit longer and not give in to your excitement to try your latest concoction. They've decided that the next batch will sit for a few more days before they put it in the fridge to stop the fermenting. But even flat root beer tastes great when you are the one who made it.

Too Cute for Words

Recently our priest talked about how you should always dress up for Mass and act as if you believe it really is an important event. Then Alan listened to Dr. Ray Guarendi on the radio and heard a talk about maybe boys wearing a shirt and tie to church. Alan comes home and says that's a great idea for our kids. So here they are now, all dressed up for church. They look so cute.