Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Liam!

Liam turned 8 yesterday.  This super busy boy loves to keep us busy.  I do believe he holds the current record for having the most teeth knocked out accidentally.  He's just always busy with something.
Liam treated us to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, then we came home to a Star Trek cake and presents.  Ok, my hat is off to the mother's who delight in spending lots of time creating fancy cakes for their kids every year for their birthdays.  Me, I'm just not that that phase in my life at the moment.  Instead I have discovered this wonderful basket at the bakery in the grocery store. It is full of all the cake toppers that they are no longer selling.  For $4 you can buy then and put them on your own cake.  Does it get any easier than that?  Seriously.  And we have a happy boy who is playing with a model of the Enterprise that even lights up. 

Happy birthday Liam.  I hope you had a wonderful day.  We love you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Inaugural Voyage of the Pizza Cutter

Saturday nights tend to be pizza and movie night around here. Even though I keep making an attempt to throw in something other than pizza, the children often rebel against my efforts.  It seems a bonfire and s'mores is an ok substitute but not much else.
This past Saturday we were able to use the brand new pizza cutter for the first time.  Not sure who was more excited, Alan or the kids. 
And may I say I have become totally addicted to the Buffalo chicken pizza we've been making?
Gabe helped make the dough.  Or he played in the flour. Not sure which.

Monday, June 27, 2011

This One is For the Moms of Many

If you know me well, you know there are certain things in my life that are a constant struggle for me.  Some more than others.  Constantly feeling as if I am a failure because my house is not picture perfect clean is one of them. This feeling is made even more hard to deal with thanks to certain negative people in my life who seem to enjoy tearing me down and insulting my home whenever they get a chance.  Not exactly sure why someone would do such things but it has caused major stress for me over the years.  I have been been made to feel so horrible about it that at one point when two friends helped me out after a baby was born by cleaning the house up while I was in the hospital, I was unable to be grateful but instead just felt judgment and could hear that negative person in my head saying "See, I told you your house was never clean enough. See what they had to do for you?"  Never mind that I currently had 4 kids under 7. Never mind that my husband had been gone since I was 3 months pregnant.  None of that mattered.  Just the constant judgment I would get from certain people. 

Yes, I have learned to be more comfortable in who we are and what are lives are like.  This is my family and our priorities are different. I can have a spotless house or be sane and have time to spend with my family.  I know which one is more important.   I will still admit that I would gladly pay for someone to take over folding and putting away the laundry for us (if we could afford it).  But I think for the most part we do ok.  The house is clean enough to be healthy, lived in enough to be comfy.  And with 10 people here 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, that is a feat in itself.

Yesterday we had the going away party at church for our pastor. Ok, we are beyond sad to be loosing such a wonderful priest as he has been an amazing blessing for our parish and our family but I'm pretty sure a man with his gifts is needed elsewhere.  At least this is what I keep telling myself. :)  We must be nice and share and be grateful for the time we were able to spend sharing his gifts.  One of the reasons we felt so comfortable with our priest was that he didn't give us weird looks over the amount of children and could honestly tell our kids that he could relate to their struggles since he grew up in a family of 10 kids.  This means he never gave us dirty looks if a kid was acting up in church or a baby was fussing.  It also means he was totally sincere in telling Sean at times that he understood what a pain in rear older brothers could be at times but you just have to learn to get along better with them.

Yesterday we had a talk with his mom.  Let me simply say I came away feeling so much better about myself.  To hear someone else say that they would have parties so they would have a reason to deep clean the house.  Or comment about how boys are just awful about leaving trash all over the house (my common phrase is boys are gross).  Or to admit to having a time where you are wondering why there are fruit flies in the living room when it turns out that someone stashed an apple core behind the couch.  Or that rug is just plain worn out because you just can't afford a new one and every inch of your house is a high traffic area.  Laundry that never ends and endless nights spent folding diapers with her husband while watching tv.  She also said that she thinks keeping up with it while homeschooling a large brood is impossible. Turns out her children that homeschool their kids have a housekeeper and say they would never be able to keep on top of everything without her. 

So I guess what I'm saying is don't be too hard on yourself.  This time will pass all too quickly and I have a feeling that those who insist on being negative are either jealous or trying to make themselves feel better somehow by tearing you down.  Don't let them.  Maybe your house isn't spotless but if your kids know that they are loved, are fed, clean and taken care of, maybe it doesn't matter so much.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wow! An Awesome Reminder

A friend shared this on Facebook today and I just have to say what a powerful reminder it was to me of the importance of praying not only for your children but also for their future spouses.  Now to have a talk with our kids and tell them how important it is for them to pray for their future spouses.  Temptation is everywhere and we can all use all the help we can get.

There's a Digger in the Yard!

 Liam is very excited right now.  Our yard is currently housing a large digger (and the huge trench it has dug).  Most of the children spent pretty much all of yesterday with their noses plastered to the front windows watching the progress as the trench was dug to lay some new water lines.  The day before they got to see the guys use the underground technology to dig the trench from the house out underneath all of the shrubbery in front.  Hopefully in a few weeks the water authority will do their portion of the work and we can be hooked up to city water.  Not looking forward to having a water bill again but I am looking forward to not dealing with the constant issues caused by our well water.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Little Flowers Bonfire Night

Katie and Abby have been trying to find a night to invite their friends from Little Flowers over for a camping out for, oh, at least a year now.  Last year out lives got insanely busy during the summer and this summer there were just way too many brand new babies in the group to be able to do a camp out unless it was a father/daughter thing.  Rather than keep putting it off, we decided to just invite the families over for a bonfire, hot dogs and s'mores.  With 15 kids, there were tons of marsmallows roasted, a few that fell into the fire and lots of kids covered in chocolate.  And Katie and Abby finally got to have their Little Flowers camp out night.  Maybe next year we'll actually be able to get the tents out and sleep out. 







Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the great dads out there.

The kids picked out the perfect gift for Alan this year.  Absolutely perfect.  The look of excitement on Kieran's face as he waited for Alan to open the box was almost better than the gift though.  Sheer joy in that face knowing he'd helped find something that his Dad would just love.
The perfect gift for the geek Dad who has everything under the sun he could need (because new clothes for work, although needed are just not exactly as fun to buy from a child's point of view): a genuine collectible Star Trek Pizza Cutter.  This thing is a replica of the Enterprise and very cool.  Not to mention that it will be used on an almost weekly basis around here on movie night (no, we don't believe in keeping dust catchers or fancy things around here, everything either gets used or given away, even the white embroidered apron is used because, well, it's an apron rather than a decoration).

Happy Father's Day to Alan and all the other men who are actually doing their jobs and being there for their kids and putting family ahead of golf or football games or time with the guys.  Thank you for showing your kids that family is more important than stuff and that doing what's right is not always what is fun.  We love you.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kids With Hammers

 Home Depot held a special Kids Workshop today in honor of Father's Day.  Since it was on a different weekend, Alan was actually around to take the kids himself.  Being the wonderful person that I am, I decided that the perfect way for Alan to celebrate Father's Day was by taking 8 of his children to Home Depot while I escaped with only Ellie to get the last few items for the Little Flower's bonfire tonight.  Aren't I just a totally understanding and supportive wife?  Yup, that's my story.
This was Gabe's first trip to the workshops so he was able to get his very own orange apron.  He's very proud of it.
The older 2 boys were great helpers and held nails for Gabe and Abby.  Kieran, Liam and Katie are now able to complete the projects entirely on their own with only supervision and a few suggestions here and there.  Have I mentioned that Liam takes these projects very seriously?  I see wood working in his future.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Time4Learning

Several of the children have been using the Time4Learning program this past month as a supplement to their school time.  I wanted to test out using a computer based school program but did not want to try it with all the kids at once unless I was sure I loved it.  Katie, Liam and Kieran tested out this one for me.

This program has a lot of beneficial features.  I love that everything is in one place.  There are no books to misplace.  Each student is able to progress at their own rate.  There is very little teacher time needed to look over lesson plans and find materials.  The program keeps track of each students progress and sends the parent a report on what has been accomplished.  The program also contains daily lesson plans and extra resources that you can print out to reinforce what your child is learning.  Each lesson is presented with games to reinforce basic concepts in a fun manner.

The program requires internet access to run.  This is both a positive and negative feature.  It means your child can pick up their work from any computer with internet access which is a good thing.  It also means that each child needs their own computer with internet access to do their work so if you only have one computer connected to the internet at home it can be a challenge to use the program with multiple children.  The program has a competitive monthly cost for each child with a multiple child discount.  Once the child is familiar with the program, they are able to use it independently or with minimal adult help.

Although my children enjoyed using the games in their lessons, I don't believe our family would use this program as a full homeschool curriculum.  For our family, the greatest benefit would be as a supplemental program to help fill in gaps or provide extra practice in the areas a child is struggling academically.  I found with 3 children who needed internet access that is was hard to coordinate each child's computer time and assure they were accomplishing everything needed each day.  We also had two other students who needed access to the internet connected computers during the school day for some of their classes.  This left us with 5 students shuffling between 2 computers and it simply was not enough to coordinate things easily.  Perhaps this problem would have been remedied by having a third computer available for school use.

Bottom line, this program is great for providing everything in one place.  It is great for filling in gaps and providing an extra help for busy moms.  I could absolutely see using this program with one or two students if you had a very busy year ahead of you and were worried about younger students falling through the cracks in your packed schedule.  It is easily affordable for most families and options are provided to defer the cost of the program through reviews and referral programs.  Even though Time4Learning does not meet the current needs of our family, I was happy with what I saw and what our children experienced with this user friendly program.   With a 14-day money back guarantee, you have nothing to loose if you try the program yourself.

Just a short note: I was given a one-month membership to the Time4Learning program in exchange for doing an honest review of the program.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Introducing Ellie to the Computer

Ellie loves to help us type.  She's really rather helpful.  Or at least in her own mind.  The kids seem to learn to love the computers rather quickly around here.  Just the way it goes when everyone else uses them on a regular basis.  But seriously, isn't that a happy face?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Baby Birds

It seems we have quite a few birds nesting near our house this year.  Since our bluebird nesting boxes need to be repaired, I was thrilled to find birds living in other areas of the yard.  Abby built the bird house last year and this year it is home to a family of birds complete with eggs.

We also have baby birds living in this nest under the big slide on the swing set.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Country Kids

Nope, this wasn't at home.  I wish.  We went to a church bonfire and the folks' property was beautiful.  Had to put Alan in charge of taking a few pictures.



Friday, June 10, 2011

Another Day at the Village

 Yes, I like to repeat field trips with the kids.  Even if the older kids have seen something, the younger ones still deserve a chance to see it as well.  We also love to get memberships to museums and zoos so we can make multiple trips and not feel the need to cram everything into one day to get the most out of the money spent.  One of the local sites that we love to visit frequently is Genesee Country Village. This living history museum is just 10 minutes from our home and frankly wonderful.  We usually manage to something new with each visit and love to spend time in the hands-on children's area.  Granted, I don't make the kids sit through each exhibit if they have heard the talks before because that would kind of ruin the experience for them and as long as they leave quietly the workers don't care if you leave.  Really they don't. They prefer having you leave part way through if you are bored than have young kids not really paying attention.  On our last trip we were able to visit both the brewery and the pottery studio while folks were working there. 
Walter Grieve's Brewery is the only working brewery housed in a living history museum in the US.  It shows how breweries were run in the early 1800's.  Although the beer made cannot legally be served due to current health regulations, the products produced in the brewery are used throughout the museum for feeding to the animals, fertilizer and compost.  A local brewery has been contracted to produce a beer that is similar in taste to the beer that would be produced by Grieve's Brewery instead.

The kids saw the hops growing outside, the large kettles filled with the ale, pumped water and worked with the grain. 
We also visited the pottery studio and watched the potter shape a jar.  He worked rather quickly and showed us how to keep the pottery wheel running with no electricity.  It's amazing to see the pottery still being hand made using wood fired kilns and such today.
I've wanted to get a picture of this war memorial in the village for a while.  I'm not sure how authentic it actually is.
No visit is complete without pictures of animals.
And the hands-on room. 

It was a super hot day on our visit but everyone had a great time.

Spring Recital

The older two boys had their spring recital last week.  Bryan memorized his piece and Sean actually played a song he wrote himself.  I've been told everyone did a great job. (The recital is held in the sanctuary at the church where the music school is located and there is a very high echo factor so I often stay home with the littlest ones so that other folks can hear and enjoy the music.)  The boys have done a great job with their music lessons this past year.  We are likely on the hunt for new instructors for next year because of some issues with one instructor and a scheduling issue with the other one.  And we have a few other kids who want to start taking lessons but, um, it is super expensive for 5 kids to take music lessons.  Must do more research this summer to find a way to afford it.  I must admit this is one thing I do wish we were allowed to use the schools for but NY state is frankly stupid with regard to their homeschooling laws.  May I say that again?  NY state has stupid homeschooling laws. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pat-A-Cake Nursery Rhymes

One of our favorite homeschool supply stores is Timberdoodle.  I tend to look to this company when I am wanting something less textbookish for the kids.  One of their recent additions to their catalog are their complete curriculum packages.  These packages start out with the baby and toddler stage and go right through high school.  They are perfect for giving you that right out of the box, ready to go set of books that many folks crave during their first few years of homeschooling. They also look great if you want one stop shopping while making sure you are still covering everything.
happy baby
I was recently given the opportunity to review the book Pat-A-Cake Nursery Rhymes which is part of their baby curriculum.  This book is generously sized so that little hands can easily hold it and help turn pages.  The heavy cardboard means it can withstand some of the inevitable chewing that tends to happen to any and all baby related items at one point or another.  This book combines short traditional nursery rhymes with a few modern ones.  Every page is filled with adorable looking kids acting out the nursery rhymes.
big brother really wanted to be included even though Ellie was not interested at the moment
I will admit that I am not really a fan of modern nursery rhymes.  For some reason they never seem to work for me.  The modern rhymes in this book were no exception.  I did enjoy the more traditional rhymes in the book.  There were several rhymes on each page with accompanying pictures so it seemed a tad cluttered to me but my 2-year-old seemed to love the picture layout.  I'm not sure what the baby really thought but she did enjoy having the book read to her by several of her siblings.

The baby curriculum package is absolutely worth looking into if you are interested in educational toys and activities for your little one.  It's high on motor skill building activities and low on noise making obnoxious toys.  Can we say a mother's dream?  No need for the battery fairy to visit you with these toys. It also comes with a planning folder which provides a way for you to keep track of the activities you are enjoying with your baby.  A perfect answer to that new mom question of "am I doing enough with my child" and "how should I be playing with my baby" that I often hear.

Just a note: I was given a free copy of the book Pat-A-Cake Nursery Rhymes in exchange for doing an honest review on the product.