Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Morning

He's shoveling again.
And this is why we have a very hard time feeling much sympathy for those of you with nice short, paved city driveways.  It is common to spend 2 hours or more just clearing our driveway each day.
Yes, we have a snowblower.  I swear it hates us.  It is not running again and the emergency key is missing somewhere in the snow in the front. Don't ask, it was a long night last night. This morning Sean shoveled out around the barn so he could get in to feed the chickens.  While Liam and Abby decided to scale the snow drifts.
But it really is not that cold outside so I predict the children will be spending a bunch of time outside today.  Perfect weather to break out the sleds and skis.  And there is absolutely no denying that the world takes on a new kind of beauty when it is covered in snow.

Take a Picture of Me, Please!

When Children Sword Fight

Or should I say when they decide to sword fight with the brooms.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Real Snow Storm

Ok, not really but we are getting a decent amount of snow. It's supposed to keep coming down all weekend. The yard looks beautiful.  We won't be going much of anywhere today since the roads near our house are last on the priority list for the plows but that is not really a big deal.  Just wanted to share a few pictures.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Nun and The Priest

No, this is not the start of some off-color joke.  Trust me, I wouldn't head in that direction.  This is just a chance to show off a super cute gift we received this year for Christmas.  
Tonight as the kids were sitting down to dinner, Liam asked if they could use the priest pepper shaker.  These two cute folks were a gift from MaryCatherine.  Aren't they adorable?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Attention Coffee Snobs!!

Yes, we have a certified coffee snob in residence in our home. I learned long ago to simply accept that his tastes run towards expensive when it comes to coffee and just buy the good stuff. Whole bean only please.  We are purists around here. Yes, that also means that flavored coffee is frowned upon.  On the rare occasion that Alan finds himself doing the family grocery shopping (normally right around when a baby has been born), he normally decides to try to save some money by buying the cheaper coffee.  This is always a mistake since after brewing one pot with the cheap stuff, he will declare that he must have real coffee in the house.  But he tries. 

I have found a brand of expensive coffee that I can now feel good about splurging on. Yes, I admit it is a splurge but I figure the guy is entitled to a few quirks.  He prefers better beer, better coffee and better ice cream.  These are requests I can honor.   So which brand of coffee is now being served around here?  Mystic Monk.  What could be better than waking up to coffee roasted by Carmelite Monks?  Every coffee purchase supports the monastic life and is delivered direct to your door.  You can even purchase organic free trade coffee for the same price as regular. Try it, you'll like it.

Making Rosaries

For Lent we have been trying to get back into the practice of saying the rosary as a family every night.  Or at least a few decades.  To go along with this idea, I pulled out the rosary kits I bought earlier this year. 
 
I bought these kits from Adoremus Books.  They include everything you need to make a single rosary including directions with pictures. To make them easy to do with children, I bought the kits that came with spacers rather than the ones that require knots.
 Liam decided that is was easiest to string the beads if he stood on a chair so they could then go down the entire 5 foot cord.  Interesting take on things.
 
It took us under an hour to finish the rosaries and the kids were able to do most of the work themselves.  They could have done the entire project themselves but several of them got a bit tired after a while.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Think I Must Be Crazy

We decided over the weekend to sign the older 5 kids up for a session of home school swimming lessons starting next week in Webster.  So those of you who know where we live in relation to Webster, yup, a drive.  But they are during the day so they don't cut into family time any more than we already are with youth group and music lessons.  Plus all 5 kids will have lessons at the same time. And they are Red Cross lessons which we frankly prefer.  Which means for March I will have to drive the kids to at least one activity every single day all week.  I think I'd better make sure we have some decent books on tape for the car.  But swimming lessons are a must do activity and I can count them as part of the kids' pe requirement as well.  I don't want the kids to end up like me and never really knowing how to swim well because I never took swimming lessons until I was much older.  It's never fun when all of your friends know how to swim and you don't.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Living Room Slumber Party

Every so often we like to add a bit of extra fun to movie night.  Last night we watched not just one but two movies, ate homemade pizza and then left the kids to sleep in their sleeping bags on the living room floor.  Don't worry, the dog was there to guard them.  In true slumber party fashion, the kids woke up way too early for their own good but absolutely enjoyed themselves.  Think we can cram a few more kids in there?

Cross Country Skiing with the Older Boys

Today Alan took the older 3 boys and a friend to the nature center for cross country skiing.  Everyone survived the trip in one piece and they are now out back playing in the snow.   May I hope this means everyone will crash early tonight?  I know, dreaming again.  Just wanted to share a few pictures.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gabe and the Snow

Something very important happened today.  Alan was home and took Gabe out to play in the snow. Yes, yes, I will admit that I have avoided taking both the 2-year-old and the baby out in the snow by myself.  Call me a wimp if you'd like but we all have our limits.
He's ready to tackle the great outdoors.  Yes, the snowsuit is a just a tad on the big side.  I goofed and ordered too big and by the time it arrived, the smaller size was sold out.  Live and learn. At least now he can wear it for 2 years before passing it down to Robert.
Every good boy knows that before you can play, first you must work.  And I have to admit that Gabe is a very good snow shoveler. I would safely say he can be listed in the group of kids that you can count on to actually help you out and not cause extra work.  Or toss snow into your face.
Now that the turn around has been safely cleared, it is time to get tossed in the snow bank by Dad.  Yup, fun times had by all.  Gabe actually spent well over an hour outside and had a blast.  Yes, the neon orange on the snowsuit is perfect for making sure you don't lose the kid in the snow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Snow Forts

The children spent a good portion of the afternoon outside building snowforts.  Well, except Gabe.  Gabe spent a good portion of the day wandering around the house with his snowsuit on begging me pathetically to let him go out with the big kids.  "Me too, Mom.  Me too." 
I am well aware that the building of snowforts is now frowned upon by the all knowing "officials" and powers that be but I have to question what childhood will become if we remove all spontaneous fun and creativity from it.  Yes, common sense was at play here and the forts were built in the side yard, well away from the flow of snow plows.
We do enjoy our snow around here.  Granted, that is partly because Alan is now home in case the van gets stuck somewhere and I use common sense with regard to keeping the house well stocked with all essentials during the winter so you won't find me rushing out to the store in a storm.
 
I must admit I am hoping for a bit more snow this winter just so I can see what else the children will come up with.  And because I am enjoying the fact that the kids were so tired out from spending all day outside that they all promptly feel asleep this evening.

Nightly Ponderings

I have to say that most of the time I don't really think of our family as large. It's just what we are and you get used to it as normal.  Every once in a while something happens that reminds you that yup, we are a bit unusual by "normal" standards.  Like when you place an order at the drive-thru for a value sized fry for each kid and they have to ask you to park because they just don't have that many fries available and you hear the lady at the window say with exasperation to the next customer to "please hold, I just got a really big order."  Or they ask you repeatedly to correct your order.  "Was that one?"   "No, seven."  Or tonight as I was making dinner.  Homemade macaroni and cheese.  We always make 2 separate pans so that one can be a spicier version.  Today I realized that with the growth of the children and adding a few more real eaters to the family, a full 1 lb box of elbow noodles would not be enough to feed us.  Seriously, that one kind of snuck up on me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Standing Tall

Can you tell that he is awfully proud of himself? He even tried to take a few steps last night.

New Dog Toys

Bryan signed up for a program at the library to make a dog toy.  When we arrived no one else showed up so all the kids got to participate. For some of the kids, the highlight of the program was eating the candy provided by one of the librarians and watching the Wallace and Gromit movie they had running.  We brought home I think 4 of these fleece dog toys and the kids made several others to donate to Lollypop Farm (the local animal rescue place where we adopted Davie).  Funny thing is that Wiley has no clue what to do with the darn things.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Humor

"You know you have reached middle age when your spouse gives up sex for Lent and you don't notice until Good Friday."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pancake Tuesday

48 pancakes plus 10 hungry kids means I ran out of pancakes before everyone was done eating.  Didn't even have enough bacon to last either.  Must say thick cut bacon is very yummy. You can never have enough of it.  But I must plan better next time.  Pancakes, strawberries, whipped cream and bacon. Yummy. 

Poor Robert

The little dude got a bloody nose when his sister threw a tennis ball at his head.  Guess he's learning early that you must be tough to survive in this house.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Playing the Wii

This is Robert's opinion of playing the Wii.
I think the boy will find it more exciting when he is able to actually participate but I must admit I kind of agree with his view of things.  But then again, I seem to be the only one in the house who is not enthralled by video games.
And this is what playing the Wii with Gabe looks like.  Alan says it is quite the work out for him but Gabe is thrilled.  I did it Dad!
As long as he's happy, life is good I suppose.  I have a feeling Alan is hoping that Gabe will figure out which buttons to push and which ones not to push soon so he doesn't shut the Wii off mid-game when trying to play all by himself.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Schnitzel and Spaetzle

Alan and the kids made dinner tonight.  For the second time in, um, 14 or so years the spaetzle maker was actually put into service.  Yes, we received this neat-o gadget as a gift the Christmas before we got married and it has mostly taken up kitchen space since then.
 
I do have a feeling that the spaetlze maker will be used a bit more often now.  Turns out homemade spaetlze are super easy to make.  To go with them, Alan made jaeger schnitzel.
And this is what the kitchen looks like when Alan is cooking with the kids.  He is much more patient about having them all in his way and helping than I tend to be.  I'm much happier with one kid at a time in the kitchen but the chaos seems to work for Alan.

Father/Daughter Time

Alan took Katie out alone this morning.  They headed to Lowes for a Build and Grow clinic.  Lowes holds these clinics on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month and they are free.  The project today was a jewelry organizer so I thought it would be the perfect father/daughter activity.
Katie is obviously very proud of her work and had a great date with Dad.  He even treated her to a sandwich and hot chocolate at Bruegger's Bagels, a place we normally only go to when we have the free bagel coupons from the library reading program.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lent and Fasting

Lent is quickly approaching.  Seems to creep up on us just a tad earlier each year lately.  I realized a few nights ago that this year will mark the first Lent since 2001 that I have not been pregnant or nursing so I will actually be required to fast this year.  Yup, for the first time in 9 years.  Should change things just a wee bit this year.  I'm actually looking forward to it.  And yes, for those of you placing bets on the matter this does mean that Alan has been home for almost 4 weeks and I am not pregnant. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's Working For Us

For a while now I've been listening to a friend as she worked her butt off to use the Dave Ramsey system to pay off the enormous amount of debt they'd acquired.  I kept thinking to myself well, I'm just not there yet.  We aren't in the hole that much.  I can handle it.  Then one day I decided I was kind of sick of paying off the debt we did have seemingly forever and getting no where and decided I was ready to actually do something about it.  And do something we have.  Since October we have managed to pay off around $15K of debt.  Our van is paid off a year early.  We are down to only one credit card and the last of Alan's student loans.  Granted we still have way more debt between these two than I prefer to think about but we've made major progress.  I see a light at the end of the tunnel now. 

I've also decided that we will be adding a mandatory financial planning course to our high school courses. See, as their teacher I have control over that stuff.  Yet another benefit of homeschooling. I already have the course picked out and the oldest is only in 7th grade. Yes, I would say that we entered into marriage knowing the basics of finance but the basics just don't cut it when you are dealing with real life.  We understood the ideas behind spend less than you earn and only use the credit cards in emergencies but then life happens and you have a month (or 3) where you have only $25 to spend on groceries.  And something in the house breaks.  And someone gets sick.  And you realize that you can't figure out how to stretch the money that far.  I'm hoping the kids will be a bit better prepared than we were.  One, they will know how to cook from scratch so they can stretch that food budget.  Funny thing, I could do it now with 10 of us but couldn't do it then with 4 of us.  They will understand that credit cards are a tool, not an evil thing and not a toy.  They will hopefully understand that there is no need to worry what others think about you and spend extra money on gifts, Christmas presents, trips and stuff so folks think you are doing well.  Yes, for the first time this year Christmas was paid for entirely in cash.  I even took a page out of a family member's book and bought all presents for our nieces and nephew on clearance.  Something I have never ever done before because it is hard to find a gift on clearance that seems to work both for the age of the child and what the child would actually like.  I don't want to just pick 5 items for 5 kids and be done.  So it's a struggle for me. 

As I look at where we are today versus where we were in October, I am amazed at the difference.  I have a decent amount of money set aside for emergencies, for fun stuff with the kids, a small vacation fund, Christmas is paid for, we have 2 fewer debt payments to worry about and we have enough food in the house to feed us for 2 to 3 months.  Amazing the difference reading a few books, getting a bit mad, working a lot extra (thanks Alan for doing the hard part) and getting serious can make.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

First Holy Communion

Kieran will be making his First Holy Communion the first weekend of May.  So mark your calendars and plan to come celebrate with us.

Look, Mom! No Hands!

Robert is starting to test the waters and stand without holding onto things.  Just a little bit here and there but he's getting there.  He'll be a  part of the real action around here before too long.
And I just love this picture. This is Robert crying when I told him he is not allowed to play with the camera followed by a quick attempt to smile because he sees the camera is aimed at him.  Yes, the boy has figured out that you are supposed to smile when the camera points your way but it's awfully hard to smile when you are busy complaining about how unfair your life is at the moment.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tooth

Liam lost his first tooth.
This means we currently have 3 kids with new teeth coming in. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Skiing with the Middle Kids

Yes, there is a group of kids I tend to think of as "the middle ones" although I'm not so sure they would like that designation.  Today Alan took the middle kids cross country skiing. One of the benefits of our family membership at the Genesee Country Village (aside from the discount on the living history camps each September) is free access to the trails at the Nature Center for skiing and snow shoeing in the winter.  You can also rent skis and snow shoes if you need.  Since I've been slowly buying used sets of skis for the kids to use in the yard, we luckily have cross country skis for all 4 of the older kids right now.  Alan has a set as but needs to buy some new boots and we have a set of skis that fits me as well.  Next year maybe I'll work on the downhill skis.
Alan says the visit this year for skiing was much more enjoyable than last year.  Everyone stayed together as they should and the kids were much better at staying on their feet this year.  I have a feeling that all the practice in the yard helped.  Everyone reports that they had a great time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Go Out and Support Adoption

A frequent criticism of the pro-life movement is that many folks stand around and talk the talk, but never put their money to good use.  In other words, folks talk about how a mom should keep her baby no matter what but they don't bother to offer a helping hand to a mom struggling to do the right thing.  Maybe for some that will mean donating their old baby clothes or buying a crib for someone or babysitting so a mom can finish school.  Maybe for some it will mean caring for a grandchild or providing financial support for a grandchild until the parents are able to provide both financial and emotional support to the child.  Here's an easy way to support those who choose adoption. We were at Wendy's the other day for lunch and they were selling coupons for Valentine's Day. They are meant I imagine to be used for the card exchanges in schools and the proceeds from the sale benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.  For $1 you get 3 coupons for a free jr frosty and 3 coupons for a free value size fry.  $6 worth of food for $1.  So for $2 I now have coupons in hand to treat my gang to a treat twice.  Frugal, fun and supports a great cause.  Stop in and see if your local Wendy's is selling something similar.  And then get out and do something else to physically support the pro-life cause pretty please.  Speaking as someone who can honestly say we could not have managed to support our first child for most of his first year without the help we received from family and friends, your help will be appreciated.  And yes, our 8th child is still wearing some of the many hand-me-downs we were given that year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Boys and Dad Skiing

Alan took the older boys skiing yesterday.  Everyone survived and came home in one piece.  Just wanted to share a few pictures.
 
There is a short video on Facebook if you want to see them in action.  Next time Alan takes the middle 3 cross country skiing at the Genesee Country Village. 
  
And since I said it was the boys and Dad, I figured maybe I should add this one in.