Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Pictures

We have no pictures of the kids dressed for church this year but we do have the egg hunt pictures.  I think the kids all had fun and too much candy.  Then they found the leftover candy hidden upstairs and raided it all the next few days. And blamed it all on Ellie. Yup. Because we will believe that Ellie managed to eat 3 bags of candy and 6 marshmallow bunnies all by herself without getting so sick that she threw up.  Sounds entirely plausible to me.

The total tally of eggs hidden this year for our crew was 144. And I think they have broken or smashed to bits at least 2 dozen of those eggs already. Because the younger children just don't seem to understand that I really prefer to NOT have to buy new plastic Easter eggs every year for the egg hunt.  Perhaps one year we'll have to actually invite another family to join us. I be that could easily push us over into the 200 egg range or more.
These guys had to be relocated before the eggs could be hidden.

The tree that suddenly grew eggs.

This is only part of the front yard and the reason we never worry about running out of room to hide the eggs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Teen Tuesday

I've often said that I think many of the problems parents complain about with teens actually are the fault of the parents themselves.  Not a hard and fast rule, but I do think it is often a factor that adults simply refuse to acknowledge.  Teen will become disrespectful when not given respect themselves.  Teens will be lazy when not challenged or held to high standards. And teens will get resentful when their contributions are not acknowledged.  So teen Tuesday is about recognizing those things the teens in your life do to make your life better.

Our teens honestly are a tremendous help.  I have often said we would not be able to do as much as we do as a family without their help.  Even though I admit I have often forgotten to thank our teens for their help, I am always grateful for the things they do for us.  They make dinner, lunches, help with the animals, babysit, do laundry, put the groceries away, load things into the van for me, sit at the library so their little sisters can go to book club, help with karate classes, and in general are do a great job at contributing to our family.  And for all of their help, I am incredibly thankful and will try to do a better job of telling them right away in the future. Because I'm sure we can all remember how awful it feels to have those adults in your life refuse to acknowledge your help.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meal Plan

Still working on cleaning out the freezer a bit to make room for our upcoming meat delivery. Also working without a washing machine until Thursday and with a leak in the kitchen somewhere that is causing water to come up through the floor. Possible the new dishwasher was installed wrong or something came loose. Who knows. Add in the brakes failing in the van and it has been a fun, fun week. Just thankful everyone made it home safely.

M: hard boiled eggs and toast (B), leftovers (L), leftovers (D)
T: muffin melts and nectarines (B), sandwiches (L), pulled pork (D)
W: oatmeal (B), leftovers (L), alphabet soup (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), pbj or leftovers (L), chicken divan  (D)
F: pumpin bread and fruit(B), tuna sandwiches (L), spaghetti (D)

We have decided to commit to meatless Fridays year round.  Reminding ourselves that the obligation to have meatless Fridays was never removed, you were just allowed to substitute another sacrifice in it's place. I don't know about your family but we tend not to ever remember to substitute another sacrifice. Just not something we ever got used to doing. So we've decided to go back to meatless Fridays instead.

Also hoping to pull out the beef bones and make bone broth this week as well as turn some dried beans into baked beans using some of the pork hocks we have in the freezer.

Snacks for this week are pumpkin bread, fruit, animal crackers, carrots and celery, and popcorn.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Dark Side of Grief

This is a post that is a long time coming.  A few nights ago, I could not sleep. One of those days where my mind was running a million and one directions and simply would net settle down. Rather than continue down that rabbit hole, I turned a light back on a picked up a book.  I spent the next few hours reading I Will Carry You.  Wonderful book that I so needed right now. It helped me realize it was totally ok to still be hurting, to actually still feel like crying. That it was ok to acknowledge that the pain is still so very real and that most of the things people were trying to do to help were doing nothing but hurting me further.

While I can't say that these words will apply to every person  who loses a child, I can say what I feel in hopes that in your attempts to help someone else through such grief, you don't end up adding to their heartbreak.

First, please please please do not send flowers.  Ever. Unless the family requests them.  Flowers say many things. First, they say this is the absolute least thing I could do to acknowledge your pain and now I can go about my life and feel good about myself.  Second, they say hey, your child died. Now here is something else to watch die.  Isn't that just awesome?  In our case, we specifically asked for no flowers. And yet we were sent huge flower arrangements by siblings. Yup, that sucks. So I had to see this gigantic wall of flowers as I sat in the living room.  Even worse, another person kept asking me over and over and over again about the stupid flowers.  Saying how wonderful they were, what kind are they, aren't they so pretty. And I just kept saying I don't know. I don't care about the flowers. Don't ask me. And they just kept harping on it until I finally told Alan if he did not get rid of the damn flowers, I was going to hurl them out a window.  So please please please do not send flowers unless they've been asked for.

If you are searching for something to say, simply say I'm sorry. I'm praying for you. I don't know what to say. Or perhaps I can't imagine what you are going through. All of these things acknowledge what the person is feeling without hurting.  Trust me, other things do not help. I don't need to hear how my daughter is in a better place or how Mary will take care of my child or how my child is in heaven with so-and-so and that makes you feel so much better.  Especially if I never knew so-and-so. I don't want to be reminded that I have a saint in heaven because frankly, no one wants one and it sucks. Don't force me into going to a healing Mass because you think it will help me when I am clearly not at that point because it so did not help. And seriously, do not say that my child dying is God's way of telling me to stop having kids already because if I were able to at the time, you would have been punched. Seriously folks, think and pray before speaking. Please.

Realize that the grieving family will need help long after the first few days but that they won't want everyone intruding on their lives. If you don't have a good relationship with the family already, please don't try to intrude and push yourself into their lives because you feel you are somehow entitled to such a relationship. At a time when a family is grieving, they have a need to only be surrounded by those who will make them feel comfort and safety. They don't need to be pushed into entertaining. I get that many folks want to help but if you don't have a close relationship with the grieving parents, now is not the time to try to force one upon them.  (Meaning don't show up at their home for hours at a time and expect that your presence will be wanted or welcome or appreciated because it really won't if they are not used to having you there already. There are other things you can do to help if you don't already have a close personal relationship with the family that will equally appreciated.) Bring over a meal (and then just leave), offer to go to the grocery store, help take the kids to their functions.  And don't forget them a few weeks later. I even had one family say they would not be bringing a meal over on the day they signed up for because it was a holiday and I surely had family in town still helping me.  Not helpful.  My husband was working that day and I have no clue what my kids ate that day at all because I still was not eating myself and just couldn't really bring myself to care. So don't assume they have the same help you would have. I needed help for a long time because I could not physically get off the couch other than trips to the bathroom for a long while but we had no help other than our older children.  So a few weeks later call and say hey, I'm going to come over help fold some laundry or make dinner for you or to clean your bathrooms. Or I'm just going to come over to sit and talk and be with you.  And just listen.

Accept that the priorities of the grieving family will be different than yours.  A few weeks after our daughter died, we had some relatives start bugging us about a Christmas gift we often do together for family.  Even after Alan and I both said we weren't doing it that year, we finally had to be rude and actually say basically "Hey, our daughter just died. We don't give a flying flip about Christmas gifts for adults this year. Please leave us alone." Do I really have to ask why we were put in that position? I mean, you'd think people would understand not to place such demands on us at that time in our lives.  Accept that the family will need new traditions, new ways of doing things, and just leave them to figure them out.

There are so many other things I can think of. If you are worried about how we're managing everything financially, put a check in the mail. Don't ask if we were able to claim our child on our taxes. If you are sharing the news, spell the child's name right because a name is all we were able to give her and seeing it spelled wrong over and over and over again kills a part of you. Don't expect that we'll be over it in a few months. Continue to mention our daughter because even if you don't, we are still thinking of her and feeling her absence.

If you are looking for a way to do something meaningful for the family, think of something tangible. We received both a prayer quilt made by a wonderful group of ladies from a church I don't even know, made in Isabel's memory, and a small plaque with her name on it.  I know both gifts took time and probably a bit of pain for the giver to make for us but both are very concrete reminders that there are other people in the world who took the time to think of our daughter. Nothing could be better than that.

I know some people will say this is rude. Truthfully I am not trying to be. I am just realizing that almost all of the "helpful" people who thought they were helping after Isabel died did nothing other than deny me the chance to truly grieve because they said horrid things, pushed me to get back to normal, and assumed that I would be "over it" quickly. I don't think I will ever stop feeling Isabel's loss or the absence in my life.  When you bury your child, you bury a part of yourself. These past few months have been very very hard. But I'm slightly tired of pretending I guess. I know people want to help a grieving family but I wish they would think a bit about the grieving family. If there was ever a time folks are allowed to be selfish and say this is not working for me, please stop, this is it. I didn't say those things and wish I had because I would have possibly spared myself a lot of pain as the same people over and over and over again kept saying stupid awful things to me. I understand that these people probably thought they were helping but they were not even coming close.  I will admit I felt utterly alone over the past few months. I lost so much of myself and my entire family suffered. I'm still not back to normal and don't have a clue how to get back to being the wife and mother my family needs. Add in a situation with a priest that has left me feeling completely without a home church and rather abandoned spiritually and the heartbreak of watching my kids try to figure these things out, and it's been a hard, hard time.  No two people will grieve the same way and that is ok. I'm just finally realizing that it is ok to allow myself to feel what I am going to feel and not keep pretending for the sake of keeping other people happy.

Happy Birthday Abby!

Abby's birthday was actually on Sunday.  I'd been hoping to get the pictures off Alan's camera but that hasn't happened yet.  I think Abby had a good day. She treated us all to dinner out, helped make her cake, got a few presents from her siblings.  It is slightly hard to believe she is 8 already. Kind of crazy.  Hope you had a wonderful day, Abby.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Meal Plan

M: egg sandwiches (B), taco soup or chili (D)
T: bacon and cheese muffins, fruit (B), sweet and sour pork (D)
W: yogurt and granola (B), chicken and rice (D)
T: oatmeal (B), BBQ chicken (D)
F: eggs and toast (B), spinach tortellini soup (D)

Air and Space Museum

The kids requested a repeat visit to the Air and Space museum this year while on vacation.  This year I remembered to bring our current science museum membership card so we got in free which is always awesome. Granted, the guy at the admissions desk was a total dork. Seriously, don't tell a customer that they have too many kids even if you do think you are being funny. Because you are not. Trust me. (And yes, I do realize we were near many of our friends and family but we had sick kids almost every single day we were there so there would have been no way to fit in visits without getting someone sick.)

Alan and the older kids loved the museum and seeing all of the different planes and things.  Gabe kind of freaks out around open stairs and things so he refused to go up to the third floor so I took the younger 3 and hung out in the snack bar and gift shop until the rest of the family was done.

This museum is very awesome but I think it's the kind of place that would be better explored by Alan and the older kids alone simply because there wasn't too much to entertain the younger ones and so much that the older ones wanted to explore.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Beyond Bricks

One of the places we visited while on vacation was Beyond Bricks. This place is basically just a giant play space with nothing but LEGOs to play with. Which is frankly just totally cool.

At first, the older kids acted like we were slightly crazy for bringing them there but before long they were building up a storm.  For some reason they got on a Star Trek kick and started building Borg cubes and ships and such things.  Yes, they are weird.

Ellie managed to build this tower all by herself. Over her head and everything. She was so very proud of herself.

It turned out that poor Gabe was sick. We didn't realize it until we got there and he just curled up in a chair and feel asleep. I do feel badly that he missed out on the fun since he would have enjoyed it and I feel bad for not realizing the kids was sick but no one else was there to catch his germs at least.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Meal Plan

S: waffles (B), curry chicken over rice (D)
M: yogurt with granola (B), spicy Dr. Pepper shredded pork (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), beef teriyaki (D)
W: oatmeal (B), chicken and dumpling soup (D)
T: muffins and fruit (B), pot roast (D)
F: eggs and hash browns (B), soup and tuna sandwiches (D)
S: pancakes and sausage (B), pizza (D)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mini Golf

While on vacation, we took a few of the children mini golfing. I'm pretty sure this was the first time going for all of the children.  Some of the kids were sick and asleep in bed unfortunately.  But those of us who were able to get out, had a great time. A few folks managed to score a hole in one, Abby managed to knock her ball over the fence and shed and lose it in the bushes, Ellie and Robert got a big bored and lost interest but overall everyone had fun.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Week in The Life of Us

I still have lots of vacation pictures to share but just haven't gotten around to it yet.  I'm still feeling a wee bit under the weather.  Anytime I get anything respiratory related, it seems to settle in my chest and take up residence for a month or so. Which leads to a lack of sleep. Which means I'm worn out and drained. And achy. And slightly miserable.

I have lots of ideas floating around my mind to share but certain they will annoy some people.

The children and some kids from another family were goofing off in the parking lot after the expo and broke the van door. Granted, we knew it was coming since Chevy did a terrible job building these vehicles and the hinges are known to rust/break thus causing the doors to simply fall off. They know it happens, know it is a safety issue, and refuse to take responsibility for fixing them. They prefer to charge the vehicle owner around $1k per door for the repair.  Seriously, the van has less than 98K miles on it so I'm less than pleased with how it has held up. I doubt we will ever buy another Chevy/GM vehicle again. So anyway, the van will be in the shop for about 3 days next week. I guess at least it did not happen on vacation.

Still trying to get back into the swing of things after vacation.  Most of the animals seem to have finally adjusted and are back to normal. The cat is back to hanging around the house again. The dogs were constantly fighting with each other, snapping at each other, and at the younger children when we returned which is a sign of major stress. Completely out of character for them so I'm assuming they did not enjoy their break from us.  The chickens still are not laying.  This is because they were under a tremendous amount of physical stress while we were gone.  Sadly this is a normal reaction to such stress and it can take several more weeks for them to get back to normal.  This is rather an upsetting situation since they were laying between 8 and a dozen eggs a day and a major food source. Now we are lucky to get 3.  Sadly the stress they were put under was completely avoidable. I'm just hoping that none of them were injured or permanently hurt. Here's hoping they recover and are back to normal soon but given that it has already been 2 weeks, I'm getting a bit worried.

The snow has melted again but we are apparently expecting a tad more over the weekend. I don't mind the snow but I'd love for us to be able to start planning the garden.

Hopefully I will get some more vacation pictures up tomorrow. Or over the weekend. Hopefully.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nerf Party

We won a Rebelle Nerf Party from the folks at HouseParty. The party pack we received came complete with lots of new Nerf guns, tattoos, bracelets, and coupons. We invited some friends over and had a blast.
 All the loot. I have to say that even though the new toys were lots of fun, I'm not so thrilled that Nerf has bought into the entire girl power, everything  must be pink and purple to inspire girl routine.  It bothers me when anyone acts as if girls are too stupid to like themselves without all of this "girls are awesome" garbage.  Yes, girls are awesome but so are boys and my favorite part of Nerf had always been that it was pretty much gender neutral.

We took the chance to celebrate Robert's birthday while we had a house full of friends. We'd put it off waiting for the entire family to get healthy. Robert loved the extra attention.

The Expo

This weekend we had our annual homeschool expo. Small crowd this year and most of our kids' projects were on the simple side since we'd been so sick the week before. But everyone had a great time.
 Robert shared some of his LEGO creations (he makes awesome Star Trek ships).
 Katie did a project on horses.
 Gabe was talking about bats.
 Abby built a snow volcano with her Dad (the snow was not portable so pictures had to suffice).
 Bryan shared a karate demonstration.
 Kieran talked about the difference in baking with yeast vs baking powder and shared some of his baking.
 Sean showed off his coin collection. He also served as master of ceremonies since this is normally Dad's job and he was home sick.
Liam learned about car engines.