Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Greatest E-mail Tagline Ever

Saw this yesterday and made me laugh. Thought some of you might appreciate it. 
Dear Parents: Jasmine was in a relationship with a dirty homeless boy. Snow White lived alone with 7 men. Pinnochio was a liar. Robin Hood was a thief. Tarzan walked around naked. A stranger kissed Sleeping Beauty and she liked it. Cinderella lied and snuck out at night to party.You can't blame us, we were taught to rebel since day one.
One side note. When you find or think of something humorous that you would like to share with folks, don't share it with your husband first or it will end up on Facebook and Twitter before you have a chance.   At least the guy appreciates my sense of humor I suppose.

Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards

I recently read the book Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards by Dr. Ray Guarendi.  If you are already a fan of Dr. Guarendi (which we absolutely are around here, check out his website if you have never visited it before), you know that most of his books take an easy conversational tone. This book is no different.  The simple, direct and friendly approach means that this is a book that can be read in small snatches here and there when life calls you to take care of other projects.

This book focuses on ten small steps you can take to improve the communication and relationship inside your marriage.  Each step is covered in a manner which points out things you can do to change your reactions without feeling as if you are loosing or giving up on something.  Subtle reminders are planted throughout the book that the simplest changes can have the biggest impact. 

While I do not feel that this book would be a fix-it manual for the most troubled marriage, I do feel it is an excellent book for those who are looking for ways to improve their current workable relationship.  Share it with your spouse today.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Marriage - Small Steps, Big Rewards. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Bryan

Bryan turned 14 today. It's frankly amazing to me that he has survived his parents some days.  Those first born kids tend to be a bit resilient it seems.  We are incredibly proud of the young man he is becoming and glad that he still loves to be involved with the younger kids.  It is very obvious that Robert and Gabe look up to Bryan and think of him as a best buddy.  And I have to say he got lots of looks and smiles while carrying Ellie around the store today.
We celebrated tonight with homemade pizza and a chocolate ice cream cake.  All chocolate.  Super yummy.
Hope you had a wonderful day.  Love you Bryan.

Friday, May 27, 2011

If You Are Gluten Free

Just a heads-up for those who are gluten free. Amazon has a sale on many gluten free baking items and cereals through the end of the month.  With the subscribe and save option, you get free shipping.  And groceries delivered directly to your door.  If you are using Swagbucks to earn gift cards, you can get the food for free.  Amazon typically changes their grocery department sale items on the 1st and 15th of the month so be sure to check them often. They are a great source for stretching your food budget if used properly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Swiming Lessons

The older 5 children finished up their latest round of swimming lessons yesterday.  May I say I am really struggling with finding a decent source for swimming lessons?  I absolutely view swimming as a life skill.  I never learned to swim until I was about 12 so I have never been comfortable in the water.  Even less comfortable taking my kids places involving water.  Yet since I have no desire to pass my own fears onto my kids, I've spent countless hours taking the kids to the beach, waterparks and various pools.  Countless hours sitting on the side waiting for swimming lessons to be over while I pray that the younger children I have with me won't have a major melt down this time.  Jumped into pools too many times to catch that child who fell in or got over confident.  My only request has been that we don't vacation near the beach or water.  Granted, since I'm the only one who frankly hates swimming, I am almost always outvoted and get to spend vacation time constantly freaking out on the inside because I hate taking all the kids swimming.  Only positive thing I can say is swimming does tire them out.

Our ventures with swimming lessons started with parent and me classes for the older 2 boys.  Bryan loved them. Sean screamed through every single lesson and spent most classes trying to use me as a ladder to climb on to get out of the water.  The next venture was with an incredible teacher in Florida.  This lady was able to take a class of 6 or more non-swimming 4 and 5-year-olds and have them all swimming independently in 6 short classes. I watched her do it with several groups of kids.  Under her direction, Bryan and Sean learned a ton.  Then our community center switched to classes sponsored by the Y.  These classes were heavy on the use of flotation devices, way too much focus on making sure every liked themselves and other mumbo jumbo.  Progress halted and kids had to come back for multiple sessions to actually learn to swim.  Once moving here we tried lessons at the local high school.  Parents were banned from watching lessons at all and one of our kids was left to cry on the side of the pool for several weeks and no one told us.  Never went back there.  We've tried private lessons at a local college and have seen some progress. We've also tried Red Cross lessons at a facility in Webster that offers homeschool classes during the day. These are the ones we just finished.  I'm frustrated.  Katie still can't jump into the pool alone because she was coddled.  Most of the kids made almost no progress because of the constant use of flotation devices.  The kids were not pushed at all.  One instructor made it her personal goal to never actually get into the water (and actually succeeded).  So I guess I am searching again.  We'll use these lessons again next year if we haven't found another solution because they seem to be the best around so far but I'm really wondering what happened to decent swimming lessons in the past few years? 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Sean

Sean is another year older and another year wiser.  Or should I say another year of developing that incredibly amazing, slightly sarcastic wit of his?  Yes, his birthday was yesterday but most of the family spent Saturday at a wonderful wedding so we celebrated today. Sean now has the very important job of reminding Lee to never, ever forget his wedding anniversary.
A child after my own heart, he picked a chocolate peanut butter bundt cake this year.  The recipe just might need a little tweaking since the cake fell shortly after removing it from the pan but it was still super yummy.

Since Sean is making his confirmation in another week, we will do his birthday shopping when we pick out his suit (yes, it's Sean this year, not Bryan).  I've heard talk of Nerf guns and LEGO kits.  And the big boys will be heading to the movies with friends in a week or so.  Here's hoping you had a great day.  Love you, Sean.

Just Have to Say

. . .  that the lilac bushes in our front yard smell heavenly.  That is all.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why We Homeschool

A question we are often asked is why do we homeschool.  I don't think anyone can make this choice and escape hearing the question at least once or twice.  Our answers have changed over the years I'm sure.  There are lots of reasons to make this choice.  The ability to tailor educational choices to meet each child's unique ways of learning.  The ability to provide religious instruction on a daily basis.  Inability to afford private school.  Wanting to avoid the social pitfalls of many larger educational environments.  Avoiding poorly ranked public schools.  Providing a flexible schedule.  All of these are great reasons.  But honestly I think the real reason we have decided to stick with this life style choice is for family unity.  I just looked out the window and saw the older two boys wandering around the yard together just being together and talking.  May I admit I have absolutely no memories of ever having a similar experience with my own siblings.  We all had our own schedules and between school, sports and friends, we had absolutely no time to get to know one another or spend time together.  I will freely admit that I don't know any of my siblings in any real way.  Many folks I know would say the same thing.  Truly sad when you think about it.  Sure, you know where they work or went to college or the names of their kids and sports teams but does the relationship go deeper than that?  So for us, we homeschool to encourage family unity and togetherness.  Family friendships and joint memories.  And so I can find a reason to smile on those days when I'm wondering if I am truly teaching them all they need to know academically.  Maybe they are struggling with a subject in school but today I don't think they are struggling with thinking of their siblings as friends.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time4Learning

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid curriculum review. Time4Learning can be used as an online homeschooling program or afterschool tutorial. Be sure to come back and read about my experience.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Swear I Didn't Do It

Ok folks. My email was hacked last night.  I swear I did not sent out the yucky spamming email.  Please just delete it.  Pretty please?  I think I get at least one of those emails from someone at least once a week and just hit delete.  It's nothing personal, I promise.  But that old delete function is your best friend.  Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Free Paint

Glidden is giving away free paint right now.  One quart per household.  Request your free sample here.  This will make 2 free quarts for us since we never got around to using the last quart we requested so maybe now we can finally get the girls' bedroom painted (after doing the great bedroom swap since we now have to get 3 girls in the room and move the little boys since they are too little for bunk beds and are currently residing in the smallest room).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

First Communion

Katie and Liam received the Eucharist for the first time today.  We had a wonderful day and were blessed to share it with a house full of friends. The weather did not cooperate so we had 20 kids in the house all afternoon. 

Katie and Liam seemed rather grown up today.  It's been amazing to watch their relationship with each other.  They are absolute best buddies.  I pray that as they get older, they will stay just as close as they are now.  Congrats guys. We love you both.



Friday, May 13, 2011

Free E-Books

I've decided that I must have been living under a rock lately.  Did you know that Amazon offers a wide selection of free e-books for the Kindle?  And that you don't have to have a Kindle to read them?  Yup, just found that one out yesterday.  Maybe it's because I have been avoiding the eReader craze despite my husband's valiant efforts to convince me that I absolutely need one.  Maybe it's that I do attempt to avoid getting caught up in the latest gadget craze.  Or perhaps it's the fact that I simply just kind of love having actual books to read.  Who knows.  Whatever the reason, I missed out on this resource.  You just need put the books on your ipod, computer or eReader.  So now I can add one more resource to the list of places to find free eBooks. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Signs of Spring

May I say that our yard starts to look rather pretty in the spring.  Not a lot of flowers which is a good thing because we would likely just kill them but lots of beautiful trees.

 The birds have moved back into the weeping cherry tree outside our dining room window.
Our chickens are getting big.  We really need to get the barn critter proofed since a raccoon moved in and killed off all of our grown birds.  Must finish that project (or find and kill the darn pest) before moving the younger birds outside.
And, of course, the kids are getting big too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kids Workshop

I took Liam, Katie and Kieran to Home Depot this morning for their free monthly Kids Workshop.  We love this program.  Did I mention that it is free?  The first Saturday of the month, Home Depot hosts a workshop for kids to come in and build a project all on their own.  A few other stores run similar programs but we have found this one to have the highest quality projects, ample spare parts available if your child should bend a nail or splinter a board, super helpful staff who are willing to hold a nail and risk getting hit with a hammer, and they welcome walk-ins which is great when you aren't quite sure what your weekend schedule will look like.

Today the gang made planters.  Since I was also juggling a slightly crabby Ellie, I was not able to get any in progress pictures but we came home and planted flowers in the planters.  Abby also got out the sunflower planter she got for her birthday so she could plant something with us.

We also dropped by Wegmans today so the kids could decorate a cake for Mother's Day.  They did a great job and actually showed a bit of restraint in the amount of sprinkles used. I was rather surprised.  They even accepted only doing 2 cakes instead of 3 because I just could not justify paying that much for a project I know I could recreate at home for mere pennies.    Now everyone is busy trying to clean up the yard a tad from the winter.  This is a rather large project when your yard is as big as ours.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Art Expo

This semester the kids have been taking art classes at one of our local colleges.  This program provides an opportunity for art majors to get valuable classroom teaching time while allowing the students to get hands-on experience with more advanced art projects and materials than most families can pull off at home on a limited budget.  Using college students for the teachers keeps the program costs very low which makes this program easily affordable for families with more than one child, something that is often hard to find in extra curricular activities in our area I've found. 

Today was the final day of class when all of the projects are displayed to show off.  The kids were all very proud of their work.  I have to say everyone did a great job.




Thursday, May 5, 2011

Warning: Rant Ahead

Ok, this is probably going to be a totally politically incorrect rant here. But since when have I worried about that sort of thing? 

In the past few days we have seen a truly disturbing side of our country.  Yes, Bin Laden is dead and many folks are breathing a collective sigh of relief.  But it is never ok to rejoice in someone's death or to parade about the streets celebrating in such a manner.  We are called to pray for our enemies. This is a very, very hard thing to do.  Especially when we are talking about someone who has caused so much heart ache and seemed to be surrounded by evil.  I am thankful that one threat is gone but somewhat afraid of what is lurking in the shadows to take his place. I am remembering how terrible it felt to see people celebrating when many people in our country were killed and can't help but wonder what message we are sending folks when we turn around and do the same thing.  Death is never something to celebrate.

I am thankful to our military members for never giving up.  For continuing to fight for our safety long after the country decided it was no longer the allowed thing to do.  Yes, I realize the members of our military are the ones who are making a real difference, not the politicians or many of the stupid increased security measures that frankly do nothing but cause folks headaches.  I am proud of what they have accomplished.  But I will not and cannot support lowering our standards by throwing parties in the street.  I hope more folks would react with dignity to this news and not resort to jokes and idiocy.  May God have mercy on his soul, the same mercy we hope He gives to all of us one day.

Little Flowers

Today the girls had their last Little Flowers meeting of the school year.  We met to say the rosary and then had a tea party complete with dress up clothes and real tea.  The girls really look forward to this time every month when they get a small break from all of the boys in the house.  Hopefully later this summer we will be able to have everyone over for a camp fire.  Katie and Abby would really like a camp out but since 3 of the Mom's are currently pregnant and due in the next 2 months, I kind of think this is not the summer for a camp out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hair Bows 4 Life

If you are looking for a place to buy high quality hair bows for your daughters, you have to check out Hair Bows 4 Life.  This wonderful company is currently celebrating their 3rd anniversary with several giveaways.  As their name suggests, this company donates 10% of their sales to pro-life charities.  I have purchased some adorable bows from this company for my girls and love their products.  Check them out and don't forget to enter their giveaway.

Bowling

The kids have been participating in a homeschool bowling league the past few months.  The folks at Bowl-a-Roll host groups of kids every single year for non-competitive leagues.  Their program is very cost effective, includes a free bowling coach and an end of session party complete with pizza and trophies.  I've seen a major improvement in the kids' bowling skills over the past few years.

Cobblestone School Museum

 We finally seem to be getting back into the groove of things since the baby was born and are finally going on field trips again on a regular basis.  Field trips are one of the positive aspects of homeschooling and I hate to see them not happen because we are too busy with book work to step away from it every so often.  Sometimes this means I am chasing a toddler who does not want to sit down or maybe one of the kids finds the trip boring but I think it is important to remember that school means more than books and a true education simply must include things outside our front door.
Today we visited the Cobblestone School Museum.  The one-room school house was built in 1848 and used as a school until 1952.  It is called the Cobblestone School because of the cobblestones used to build the school itself. 
I have to admit walking into the school, I was hit with thinking that I would really love to have that much space myself to work with for a school room.  Perhaps in our next house. 
The school was filled with lots of items that the students used while the school was in use.  We saw their lunch boxes, the water bucket, slates, ink wells, old maps, globes, flashcards, pictures and more.
The kids seem to have enjoyed themselves and hopefully learned a few things.