Thursday, July 30, 2009

Totally Inspiring Idea

This entire concept just struck me as totally cool. I think this is the kind of thing I'd like to do when I grow up. Just imagine the amount of time you'd have to enjoy the quiet on a walk like that.
Franciscan Friars

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Painting with Marbles

Today we finally got around to doing a project I have wanted to do with the kids since we went to an Easter party, um, about 5 kids ago. First thing holding me back was not having marbles. Just can't justify buying the little choking hazards just for one art project. Then we found a bag of them in Alan's office that belonged to one of us in high school. Yes, we have a few boxes of junk that really need to be tossed. So marbles in hand I came upstairs and set them on a top shelf in the library and promptly forgot where they were for another couple months. Found them today and decided to seize the moment.
I had Bryan pick out 3 different colors of finger paint. Poured some paint into a muffin tin and added 2 marbles to each color. I printed out a heart template for each of the kids.
Then you put the heart shape (or anything the right size) into a container with sides. We used these pie pans I bought to make quiche for the freezer for the midwives. Yes, on the birth list was vegetarian meals for the midwives. But since Robert came early, they sat unused in our cupboard. You can also use shirt boxes or baking sheets or whatever you have laying around.
Put one marble at a time into the pan and roll it around. The intent was to make patterns on the hearts and see how the colors mixed together but several of the children decided the intent was to cover the paper completely leaving no white showing. And since red and blue make purple and we were also using purple, there wasn't too much noticeable color mixing going on.
But everyone enjoyed the project anyway. The finished projects will be hung up once they finally dry. You'd be amazed at how much paint you can get onto such a small surface when you are determined.
Since there is no way in heck I would trust Gabe with marbles yet, he got to finger paint which he loved. Sadly, I think I have avoided finger painting in recent years. I really need to let the little ones do this some more. Look at that happy face.
This is just one of those reminders to myself that the kids really do enjoy this type of stuff and a couple of 15 minutes snatches of time every day truly goes a long way to keeping them entertained, not fighting and happy. I suppose we should try making these messes a tad more often.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Free Catholic VBS Program

I have been dismally disappointed in the local availability of truly Catholic VBS programs in recent years. I get rather annoyed when I send my children to VBS at a Catholic church and have them coming home telling me things such as we don't need to go to confession anymore. So I suppose it is a good thing that many of the local parishes were unable to put on a VBS program this year due to a lack of volunteers and children to attend. But still my kids felt like they were missing out on something which is why I was pleased to find an email this morning reminding me of a program put together by the folks at Holy Heroes. Yes, it requires that you do most of the work yourself but they provide you with an outline and all the ideas. For me getting the ideas together is always the hardest part. So take a look and sign your kids up. Hopefully we'll be sharing what we are doing next week.

Year of the Priest

We will be celebrating the Year of the Priest as a family this year. I am trying to keep the learning hands-on as much as possible since I truly think that will help the kids remember more than just reading a book would. We plan on using the Priest Game from Catholic Kids' Games and this Faith Folder from Lapbooks for Catholics. The kids will also make spiritual bouquet cards for some of our local priests and hopefully learn about what St. John Vianney accomplished during his life. I also picked up a few items from Jody's Hands-On Learning that I hope the kids will enjoy.

If you are celebrating the Year of the Priest this year, please share what you will be doing. I have a feeling I am lacking enough resources to keep everyone interested all year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Must Make This Cake!

If you are in the mood for some massive sugar overload, you must make this cake. This was the cake I requested for my birthday this year. Yes, Alan actually made a birthday cake for me this year. I almost took a picture of him in action but figured that just may jinx the entire process and leave me cake-less next year. But I have to say the cake was delicious. A tad hard to frost so not the prettiest thing in the world but yummy. I may have to try making it myself with a slightly less sweet frosting since that is what put it over the top. Serious sugar rush.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Toddler Crayons

I finally decided to do something with all those broken crayons in the bottom of the box. We all know you have them hiding underneath the good crayons, too. Unless in a spur of cleanliness, you tossed the small bits in the trash. Or you have kids who would never break a crayon. Or you simply have kids who are not old enough to be trusted with normal sized crayons yet. Never fear, with back to school sales on right now you can get a box of new crayons for a mere quarter and break them to your heart's content and make these nifty creations for your toddler, too. Just don't use washable crayons for this as I've been told the result just won't be as nice.
You'll want to use either an old pan that will only be used for crafts or buy a disposable pan for this project. Just break the crayons up and toss them in as you'd like. If I do this over with the older kids later this year, I may actually have them work on color families and then we can count the whole thing as an art theory class or something. The secrets of an unorganized homeschooler shining through here. Give any project a fancy name and it will qualify as school time.
Put the pan in the oven until the wax all melts. Temperature just depends on how long you want the process to take. I set the oven for 200 degrees and then forgot about the crayons while I was feeding the baby. When he was done eating, they were melted. I let them cool in the oven for a while before putting the pan in the freezer for a bit.
When they were hardened, I popped them out of the pan. Super easy and rather neat looking. Tomorrow they will see if they can pass the Gabe test.

We Have a Two-Year-Old

We celebrated Gabe's birthday today. I took him out shopping this morning with just Robert and was suddenly struck by how big he is getting. I don't often get to spend time with just the younger two. I was reminded why kids are so much fun at this point. Simple things are everything to them.
Gabe loves cars and trucks and playing in the sandbox which is what inspired this cake. Nope, the armored truck was not actually supposed to be on the cake but Gabe insisted.
He finally got a hold of one of the trucks. This apparently trumps cake and ice cream.
Finally he has all of them. He would have been thrilled if all he got today was a few trucks.
He also ended up with sand toys and 600 lbs of new sand for the sandbox. Amazingly enough, that is not enough sand to fill the sandbox so we may be heading back for more.
Happy Birthday little dude. Thanks for giving us another "Oh, wow!" kind of day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Alien Spaghetti

Or an excuse to play with your food. Trust me when I say your kids will love making this dinner. You start with your normal cast of characters. I must say we are only using jarred sauce because Alan is not eating dinner. :) I got this idea from someone who did it with hot dogs but the idea of mixing hot dogs and spaghetti just did not work for me. So we are using pre-cooked meatballs. The small sized ones from your local grocery store.
You want to make sure the meatballs are slightly defrosted. You want them still firm but not too frozen. So after sending the kids to wash their hands, give each kid a few meatballs.
Then give them some spaghetti or we used angel hair because it would cook faster. Break the noodles in half and skewer the meatballs with a few pieces.
This is work that requires concentration. Unless you are Gabe. If you are Gabe it requires a fast hand so you can stuff the meatballs in your mouth when no one is looking. This is one of the reasons it is important to use pre-cooked meatballs.
Eventually you will have a pile of meatballs that looks like this. Toss them into boiling water until the noodles cook. This is another reason we used pre-cooked meatballs. We needed something that would cook in the same amount of time as the noodles. It is also why we used angel hair. I wanted something that would cook quickly enough so that the meatballs did not have a chance to fall apart in the water.
When they are done, they will look something like this. Kind of weird if you ask me but the kids loved them.
Give it a try and get creative. If you try other food combos, let me know what worked and what didn't. We'll be making these again sometime soon.

Please Read

Hey folks. Serious post now. Are you concerned about the state of health care in this country? Are you concerned that our government is trying to mandate federal funding for abortions? That doctors and pharmacists may soon be forced out of their jobs if they are unwilling to perform abortions and supply the "morning after" pills? If you think it is hard to get decent health care now, imagine the state of affairs when so many medical professionals are forced to choose between performing actions they find morally offensive or leaving their jobs. Please visit the site www.stoptheabortionmandate.com. Please pray for our country. I am very afraid for the future I see laying ahead for our children.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Look at Me

Here is Robert's latest trick. Yes, it is possible for your child to learn to hold their head up and roll over without tummy time. Just keep them out of the darn baby gadgets all the time. The littlest dude is getting bigger. His doctor tried to tell me all about how it will be ok to start feeding him baby food soon and I had to laugh. Seriously, do I look like I really want to deal with baby food? Way too much mess. But he's doing fine and enjoying life.

Slip N Slide

Don't let the pictures fool you. It was no where near warm enough to truly justify getting the slip-n-slide out. But what is summer without water. There were plenty of blue lips involved in this venture and lots of kids were covered in grass since this part of the lawn had just been mowed.
Even Katie got in on the action this year.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sewing Again

We decided a few weeks ago that all of the upstairs bedrooms really needed some light blocking curtains. They help keep the rooms cooler and make it nice and dark for naptime. So the curtains were replaced in the girls' room. Which left me with quite a bit of usable fabric left to play with. So far I have turned part of it into a new skirt for Katie.
She loves it but I think I need to work with the pattern a bit more which means she will likely end up with another tiered skirt in the near future. Now I have to come up with something to make with some of the rest of the fabric for Abby. Yes, this means our children will be wandering around town wearing curtains. And unlike another famous large family, we are ok with that.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Case of the Missing Shoes

My children have a long history of loosing their shoes. Or hiding them. Or tossing them in a toy box. Or wedging them between books on the shelf. Or in one case a child's shoe was thrown in the trash by another child who was upset over being given the task of picking up a messy room. Sadly we were only told that the shoe went into the trash after the garbage truck had come and gone. There was the time when two of the children worked together to carry off 5 pairs of shoes and hide them in a drawer in the upstairs playroom at their grandparents' house. And the darn kids let us look for the shoes for 2 days before we finally got one of them to show us where they were hidden. So with all of these various adventures in my past, you would think that I would know when shoes go missing to look in unusual places. But I am apparently a slow learner.

Yesterday both pairs of Gabe's shoes went missing. Strike that. 3 out of 4 of the shoes were missing. We eventually located one shoe from each pair but it was not until today that I finally found all of the missing shoes. They had been shoved into the box that is home to the library books. Can you guess where we went today? Yup, time to track down all of the movies and read books to return to the library and I found the missing shoes tucked between a few of them. Maybe I should just change the St. Anthony prayer to "a shoe has been lost and cannot be found" because we seriously spend way too much time searching for missing shoes around here.

Air Conditioner

Sad day today. I think I may actually have to give in and turn the air conditioner on. Yes, I realize it is a total luxury an we can live without it. We've been doing great so far but something tells me it will finally be turned on soon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Breakfast of Geeks

Ok, I could be nice and say true Star Trek fans but I think the original line works. Alan was a wonderful sport today and had his waffles for breakfast The kids were thrilled although keeping them in bed until a reasonable hour this morning was hard. They wanted to get up at 5:00 to make breakfast but I told them they were not allowed out until 7:00. So Live Long and Prosper folks.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Breakfast Treat

While at the grocery store this morning with the kids, we found something new. A rare treat that we decided we just had to buy for Alan. Not because he particularly likes these or anything. In fact, most frozen food items are way the heck down on Alan's list of liked food. But I just could not resist. I mean, this is the guy responsible for turning our children into geeks-in-training. And they are beyond excited about making these for him for breakfast in the morning. So what did we buy? Star Trek Waffles

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Simply Saturday

So what do you do on a Saturday when you only have 5 kids at home? Yes, I do realize I just used the words only and five children in the same sentence. It is all in your perspective folks. So what did we do today? First we visited the farmer's market before the thunderstorms rolled in.
Then we broke out the ice cream maker to make some ice cream. I do wish I could say I made healthy ice cream but I seem to have lost the book that came with the ice cream maker that was full of easy recipes. Today we relied on a store bought mix that was totally chock full of artificial flavors and colors. But I threw in real cherries so that should redeem me just a little bit.
Very yummy. The kids are very happy. Granted, I think they were going to flip out waiting for the ice cream to harden in the freezer. It's awfully tough waiting until after naptime to dig into the ice cream. And a memo to myself: next time check the ice situation before you start making the ice cream. I think it would have frozen a bit more solidly if I had more ice in the freezer.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Afternoon at the Park

We met some friends this afternoon at a local park. This place not only has a large playground but it also has a water area.
Lots of water sprinklers and a chance to cool off a bit. Yes, it was actually a tad warm today. Which is likely why the place was a bit crowded. The first warm day around here in a long time.
I have a feeling we will be visiting this park frequently this summer.

Berry Picking

We took a trip to our favorite local fruit farm this morning to pick some cherries and raspberries. We didn't get quite as many this year as we did last year but I have a feeling that strawberries we picked earlier will make up for the difference. And there are still blueberries to pick in a few weeks.
The children all sampled quite a few of the cherries along the way. Sometimes I am amazed that any of the fruit ends up in the baskets at all.
Bryan discovered this bird nest full of cherries.
Hard at work.
The branches on the trees at this farm are not quite as low as the ones at the farm we've been to in the past. But it's local while the other one is about 50 minutes or so away. Today's trip was more for the fruit than for the fun since the other farm is a huge tourist type place.
These raspberries are destined for the freezer for use later in the year.
Just loved this view on the way back out. Heading back out through the apple trees.

Today's Liamism

Liam was just outside with me taking the trash to the curb. After taking the last of the recycling bins to the curb (we typically put out 3 or 4 recycling bins), he starts to run towards the house yelling "I'll beat you to the top of the coconut tree!" So bonus points go to the first person who can tell me which book that line comes from.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Liam's Birdhouse

Here's Liam putting together one of his birthday presents. He told us on his birthday that what he really wanted was one of the woodworking kits from Home Depot. Toys R Us used to sell them. Note I said used to. So after calling around and sending Alan to every store in town, Liam finally settled on this Melissa and Doug kit. Not exactly the same thing or what he wanted but he seemed happy enough. When he was done, he painted the front leaves 3 different colors. Painted the picnic table, too. (No, not the nice new one.)
Today one of the guys at Lowe's called me and said they finally found one of the woodworking kits for Liam and had it waiting at the desk for him. I'm hoping Liam likes that one, too. Lowe's gave it to us for free so there's another reason to like them. Year round military discounts and free kits for the kids.
A couple of days after building this bird house, Liam stuck the little screwdriver inside and could not get it out. I could not get it out. We put the bird house aside and I figured I would have to take part of the roof off to retrieve the screwdriver. Nope. Gabe found the house and pulled the screwdriver out. Guess it just took smaller hands. Seriously, I am afraid of what lies ahead when Liam and Gabe start working together. Very afraid.

Fresh Berries

Our raspberries are starting to ripen. We have lots of bushes scattered around our property. Some are still young and some are hidden in some over grown grass (yes, we will try to find the time to plan better next year). Several wonderfully producing bushes sit right on top of a biting ant hill so we are leaving those for the birds. Right now we are picking just enough ripe berries every day for a snack. Or perhaps I could make muffins with them. This batch is going to be served for breakfast tomorrow along side yogurt and homemade granola. Hopefully as the bushes get bigger we'll end up with more fruit. But I have a feeling it will be a while before I'll have enough from our own bushes for a batch of jam. Of course, the kids don't mind. I think they'd prefer being allowed to just eat them straight off the bushes.

Free Summer Movies

One thing the kids look forward to every summer is the chance to go to the movies. Yes, the real movie theater. Yes, for free. Our local theater offers free movies 3 days a week in the morning. They are normally movies that are already out on DVD or no longer running in the theater but since we never go to the movies and have cut back on the DVD's we purchase for the kids, we often end up seeing movies that are new to us. I am able to look forward to about 2 hours of quiet while the kids look forward to the thrill of popcorn and a movie on the big screen. These family movie festivals are a wonderful chance to get out of the house and break up the summer routine. Every theater we have been has allowed you to bring in your own food for these events although they do prefer that you buy it there. We typically buy a large popcorn and share it with everyone. You also normally leave with free coupons from local stores for the kids. And have I mentioned that if the baby starts crying, no one will care about the noise while you settle him back down? There are normally several parents with babies in the theater and yes, the noise level is not always perfectly quiet because the place is packed with small children but that is what makes it more enjoyable for me. I don't have to worry about shushing the kids all the time. Check your local theater and see if you can treat your kids this summer.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

School Planning

It is that time of year again. Time to make a plan for next year. Time to be hopeful that maybe this will be the year where we actually stay on track and stick to a schedule. This will hopefully be the year with little to no burnout, or at least that is what you say to yourself each year as you plan. So as I prepare to place the final book orders, here's hoping that the coming school year will be not only successful from an educational perspective, but also from a fun perspective. I think this will also be the year that I start a "teacher only" chocolate stash. Yup, that's what you need to survive the bad days. Lots of chocolate.

Trip to Grandpa's

We took a trip to visit Grandpa Herb this weekend. The highlight of such trips for the children is always getting to try fishing. I say try because I can't remember the last time anyone actually caught a fish. They seem to spend lots of time throwing worms into the water and getting lines tangled. We also took a ride on Grandpa's boat and spent some time visiting cousins. The dog loved playing in the water every chance she got. The weather was rather cool so the kids weren't able to go swimming but I think they had a blast anyway. I'm not feeling creative at the moment so I'll just leave commenting on the photos to you. Enjoy.