Thursday, January 30, 2014

Riding Lesson Pictures

It has been so cold that lessons were cancelled last week. It was super cold today as well but Katie braved the cold anyway. Today she got to use the reigns to guide the horse herself.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Meal Plan

As I expected, we did not stick to the meal plan last week. Monday turned into enchilada soup, Tuesday into leftovers, Thursday Katie made a homemade version of a taco hamburger helper, and Friday we had hearty Italian soup. Hopefully we'll get back to actually following the meal plan soon.

M: baked oatmeal cups (b), slow cooker honey mustard ham (d)
T: eggs in toast (b), slow cooker honey sesame chicken (d)
W: yogurt and granola (b), potato soup (d)
T: cereal (b), alphabet soup (d)
F: slow cooker egg casserole (b), broccoli cheese soup (d)
S: pumpkin bread (b), pizza (d)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter Crafts

I had the art stuff out for the Frontier Girls meeting but we had a small crowd and lots of stuff left so the boy's got in on the action after the meeting.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Church Related Question

We find ourselves once again in the search for a home parish so I have a serious question for folks. What is it that you look for in a parish? I thought I knew what was best for us and now we are finding we made a huge mistake. Or maybe it's much simpler and yet complicated than that. Who knows.  I will admit that I never felt 100% comfortable at the parish we've been attending and now due to some very specific issues, I will not feel comfortable going back there at all until or unless we get an apology ourselves. While I recognize that will likely not ever happen, it is what is needed and I have no problem stating that. Because people are always people no matter what their calling in life might be.

I do know the most important thing to look for is a lack of liturgical abuse within the parish. Unfortunately, living in the Rochester Diocese makes that one a bit of a challenge at times. I'm hoping with our new Bishop, that will change in the coming months but you never know because people are people.

I've learned that it is also important to make sure you are able in some way to truly participate in the parish on a regular basis. This has always been an important aspect of my life and one that was completely lacking in the parish we were attending because of distance. I want our kids to think of their parish as an extension of their family, not just somewhere we go on Sundays.

What is not important to me is a religious ed program. Sorry, I've attended them in too many places and taught the religious ed classes at many different parishes and the one thing I learned is that they are pretty much a huge waste of time and resources. Religious education belongs in the home.  Lacking that, forcing kids to attend religious ed classes for years is not going to help them stay in the church or keep their faith.

This one may sound strange given the above idea but I do really want a parish with a thriving youth group.  And not one run by anyone who is a parent to a teenager in the group.  That just never works out well. I will openly state that is was my youth group in 7th and 8th grade that I credit with truly inspiring me faith wise and keeping my butt in the pew, so to speak.  Yes, part of it was the awesome trips we were able to take (Dachau, Rome, Assisi), part of it was that the parish was always making youth retreats available, part of it was that these young men and women truly challenged us.  So Craig, Christi, Lisa, and Rob, thank you for all you did for us.  You gave of yourselves and gave me something I can honestly say I would have gotten no where else. The following year we moved to a smaller base and the youth group was an ecumenical effort run by a bunch of Protestants.  Let's just say this did not work out well and is why I am against such ideas. It never matters how well you try such things, there will always be at least one adult who's main goal is to convert as many wayward souls to their own faith as possible. When the Catholics in the group refused to just sit quietly and take that, it did not end well. So I guess in the end this experience did give me the realization that it was important to be able to truly defend and explain my own faith. Apologetics 101, at the mercy of your youth minister is not a great thing, however.  The next year we moved back stateside and the youth group there was run by a Mom.  I'm sure she meant well but it sucked. She wasn't comfortable tackling the hard topics or doing anything fun so it was just like going to religious ed and being lectured to again. (Yes, I believe a youth group and religious ed classes should be two entirely separate things and serve two very different purposes.) I didn't bother to stick that one out. So, yes, I want a challenging youth group to be available to the kids but it has to be done right or it can do more harm than good.

The other thing that is important to me is that children are truly welcomed in the parish. And I don't mean in an idealistic sense but in a real one. Welcoming children means welcoming their parents, their occasional noise, their mess maybe. Means understanding that sometimes a child will throw a fit in church, that sometimes a parent will be at the end of their rope and unable to cope with said child and maybe not jump up and drag them out of Mass immediately. It means welcoming the babbling, the nursing mothers (yes, even those who nurse right in the pew without covering their child with a huge blanket), the toddler who just saw that statue of Mary and wants to say hi. It means never shooting a parent a dirty look because their child was loud. Never. I realize this is an issue I am sensitive to.  I remember the looks my parents got, the rude comments from kids my age when my younger brother was less than perfect in church. I remember when they struggled with it because he was not the perfect ideal angelic child.  I viewed it much differently than I do now after having my own crazy crew to drag to church.  I realize for every time someone said something to me, my parents likely got 2 or 3 comments.  I look back on it and that just breaks my heart.  At least 25% of the time, I have to take the kids to Mass alone on Sundays so this is one point that is oh so very important to me when choosing a parish.

You see, the one place I have always felt at home, felt peace was in church. No matter where we lived.  From that parish in Joplin where the welcoming coordinator made a point of praising me for being a stay-at-home mom (sadly that church was destroyed in the tornado that hit Joplin a few years ago), the parish in Springfield where the kids found their first real play group and Alan and I taught high school religion, the parishes in Florida where we joined the MOMS group and helped with VBS, where Bryan first started serving, where a wonderful priest would remind my boys during those long months that I was alone that it was oh so very important that they were well behaved for me, where I could count on a friend to help with boys when I needed that extra set of hands, the parish in Caledonia where at one point the priest brought in a rocking chair so mothers with babies had a place to sit in church and be comfortable, where the kids were in the Christmas plays, where the older 2 were confirmed, 3 kids received their First Communion, and 3 were baptized.  And all of the parishes we attended growing up.  Yes, I received each sacrament in a different parish and was married in a different one was well. So we've been around quite a bit and this is the first time I've been in a parish where I truly have been a made to feel unwelcome and that is not a good feeling. To be honest, at a time in my life when I truly need to feel comfort and solace the minute I walk into church, to find it so lacking has been troubling me and has left me doubting my faith as never before.  I no longer feel at home in church so I know I need to change something.  The truth is that I can look back at those major moments in my parenting struggle and honestly say that at many times along the way, it was a priest who either helped to encourage me or left me feeling like I was a failure. I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for the priest in Florida who was acting as our tour guide on a field trip. Upon seeing that I was nursing my little one when it was time to move, he picked up my bag, took Bryan and Sean by the hand and made sure all I had to do was take care of the baby and could still participate. He had no way of knowing that after being unable to nurse the first two, I wan entirely self conscious and worried about being able to successfully nurse child number 3 and his actions left me feeling completely at ease when I truly needed it.  I can remember a priest in Chili who made a point upon seeing us in a row with 6 young children to come over and tell me to please not worry if the kids made noise in church. To not feel as if I had to leave because kids were always welcome in his parish and that was just what they did. And, yes, I remember the dirty looks that cut through you like a knife and leave you feeling like a total failure as a parent because the priest feels your child is distracting him when you are struggling to do everything you can.

Anyway, I'm not sure that I expect to get a response from this. Just putting it all out there. Maybe a reminder to all of us that everyone is carrying a heavy load and struggling and that a kind of word or hand or an understanding comment go much further than criticism.  And I still have no clue what we are going to do because I think right now  Alan and I are looking for two different things in a parish and I'm not quite sure how to reconcile the two.

Winter Camping

Bryan and Sean just returned from a winter camping trip.  There was supposed to be a bunch of snow but the weather did not cooperate so many of the outside activities were cancelled. They did still get to go tubing and walk out on a frozen lake.  I'll admit that I am not quite sure why you would actually want to do that just for kicks but I'm fairly certain I would have been totally gung ho about doing it with my scout troop in high school given the amount of time I spent crawling around in caves and jumping off the sides of buildings. (Yes, children. Your mother used to be much more fun before she had kids.)  Even though Alan says he was cold for most of the weekend, I've been told everyone pretty much had a great time.

In case you can't tell, this is the crew out on a frozen lake.

Teen Class at Home Depot

One of the local Home Depot locations has started teen classes once a month. Alan took the older 3 boys this month. This month they focused on wood working.  The boys were able to get their hands on several different types of saws and made bookshelves for their rooms.  Apparently the plan with these classes it to take the kids through several different aspects of home repair to give them some basic experience in fixing all those little things that tend to go wrong like leaky pipes and such things. Do I have to bother to say how awesome an idea like this is?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Meal Plan

Ok, I'll admit it. The last few weeks I do believe I have mostly ignored the meal plans.  I might have laughed at it at one point last week. And then there are the days that start out with us realizing breakfast was supposed to be made the night before or someone knocked the lid off the incubating milk so it did not do it's magic and turn into yogurt. Yup.  One of those weeks.  Here's hoping I do better this week. Trying to use the eggs a bit more regularly again. The chickens have actually kept laying during the winter which is a bit weird. We've been getting about 3 dozen or so a week. I'm hoping that number will double once the weather warms up because we use about 20 dozen eggs a month.  Anyway, here's the current plan.

M: pumpkin bread, fruit (B), crock pot mac and cheese (L), beef stew (D)
T: egg sandwiches (B), leftovers (L), peanut satay (D)  {Ok, this one really might not happen}
W: danish (B), easy noodle stir fry (L), chicken pot pie (D)
T: crock pot breakfast casserole (B), sandwiches (L), pork roast (D)
F: oatmeal (B), leftovers (L), cheeseburger macaroni (D)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Meal Plan

M: baked oatmeal (b), cream cheese chicken over rice (d)
T: eggs (b), meatloaf (d)
W: muffins and fruit (b), potato soup (d)
T: crockpot breakfast casserole (b), pasta (d)
F: yogurt and granola (b), hot dogs (d)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Another Bed

This is what was happening around here today. I'm very impressed with the results. Very impressed that Alan can now put these things together so quickly. Even accounting for putting a drill through his thumb and having to pull the top two bunks down to lower them, it went up quickly. And the girls are thrilled.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Queen & the Cross

All of my Grandmothers shared the same first name: Helen.  Our 3rd daughter also shares a version of their name: Eleanor. And yet I'd never taken the chance to learn much about Saint Helen other than knowing vaguely that she was known for finding the true cross.  That changed when I read the book The Queen & the Cross with my children.
This picture book guides young readers through the life of Queen Helen and her journey to find the true cross of Christ.  From bidding farewell to her son, the Emperor Constantine, to meeting Bishop Macarius in Jerusalem, the stage is carefully set to give ample historical references to place the story in properly in a child's mind. Queen Helen is portrayed as a humble woman with a strong faith in God.

When three crosses are unearthed instead of just one, it takes a miracle to determine which one is the true cross.

I enjoyed the illustrations in this book and the simple storyline that effectively shared the life of Saint Helen without bogging down younger readers with extra details. A more detailed biography on the saint is written in the back of the book for those who want to learn more.

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 The Queen and the Cross-The Story of St. Helen. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Spiritual Dryness

Dark night of the soul. These are the words that have been bouncing around me head for the past few days.  The only way I could think to explain how I've been feeling lately.  Just spiritually dry, empty, alone. Praying constantly but not hearing or feeling anything back.  Debating reading said book but that requires finding a decent free kindle edition and most of the reviews for the kindle editions are lackluster.  Then while discussing some current issues regarding our parish and how they are impacting me spiritually, my friend used those same words. Ok, I get it. God is trying to tell me something there but I'm still not sure what.  So I'm just asking for prayers for me while I sort these things out. Prayers for an increasingly difficult and frustrating situation with regards to church as well. Nope, I can't really give any details. A few of you already know or have an idea. Just prayers please because things are likely going to get worse before they get better.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Ponderings

I've been trying to get into any of Elie Wiesel's books other than Night and I have to say so far they are just all weird. I hate to say that but I'm just not getting it.  I've read several so far and they are just weird. And that is about all I have to say right now.  Just weirdness. I've finished 4 books in the past week, almost through the 5th and his was the only one leaving me just baffled.  But I'll have to assume it is just me.

Meal Plan

I am feeling positively uninspired and somewhat doubt we will actually stick to this meal plan but here goes anyway.

M: eggs (B), baked ziti (D)
T: oatmeal (B), meatloaf (D)
W: eggs and fruit (B), hungarian stew (D)
T: yogurt and granola (B), something in the crockpot because it will be a busy night (D)
F: cereal (B), pork chops with pineapple and pepper (D)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Our Week

I've been rather quiet because we've been busy.  On Saturday, 2 sheep were slaughtered, skinned, gutted, and hung.  Yes, most of the kids helped with it. They seem to like that sort of thing.  Even Ellie seems ok with it given her constant banter later that night regarding the dead sheep and how it no longer had a head and we would be eating it.

On Sunday, said sheep were butchered.  One is now in our freezer and the second one was picked up by a friend on Monday.
On Monday the boys' bedroom was painted in preparation for a construction project. On Tuesday a set of triple bunk beds went up in their room.  Between using paint from the oops section at the hardware store and doing all of the building ourselves, the project was very inexpensive.  The paint was about $13 for 2 gallons and the wood and hardware for the beds was around $160.  We also had to buy a new stud finder and a few extra things that day so we spent a bit more than that but it was still a rather inexpensive trip.  Now we just need to buy another mattress for the beds and are planning to put a similar set of beds up in the girls' room in a few weeks.
Tuesday also left us with our 4th trip to urgent care this year as Ellie fell backwards out of a chair and cut her head open.  We tried medical super glue on her head but she wouldn't stay still and it just didn't work so she ended up with 2 staples in her head.

Several kids are now/still sick so I'm hoping we can just enjoy a couple of quiet days at home now and let everyone rest up.