Sunday, July 27, 2014

Meal Plan

The past few weeks we have been luxuriating in the joys of having a pantry. Granted, the pantry is starting to get a bit empty but when you have months like our past few, it's an amazing thing to have a pantry to shop from first. Which is why I truly suggest everyone makes an attempt to keep a stocked pantry to cover their family for at least a month, preferably more because frankly you just never know when you might have a need to use it.

S: not sure (B), steak, potatoes, 1 hr rolls (D)
M: oatmeal (B), cheesy chicken potato casserole (D)
T: pancake sausage muffins and nectarines (B), easy Mexican casserole (D)
W: eggs and toast (B), beef tips over rice (D)
T: yogurt and granola (B), bacon cheeseburger casserole (D)
F: pumpkin bread and leftover yogurt (B), cheesy bean dip, chips, carrots, celery (D)
S: waffles (B), pizza (D)

Lunches will be leftovers, sandwiches, assorted produce. Snacks for the week are string cheese, animal crackers, assorted produce. Which is frankly not a bad plan for a $50 grocery budget week.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happy Birthday Gabe

Gabe turned 7 today. He begged for a birthday party this year so we had some friends over for lunch yesterday. No, we don't do parties other than for sacraments for many, many reasons but he asked so many times that I figured there must be a reason for it. Hot dogs, cupcakes, playing in the back yard. The boys was very happy.
Today he took us all out for dinner, shared cookies with everyone (he's a rather nice kid), and bought a remote control car with his birthday money.
Something tells me he had a great day.  Happy birthday kid. Hope you have a wonderful year.

Children's Adoration Guidebook

Like many folks my age, I was never introduced to the rich traditions of the Catholic faith. The rosary, stations of the cross, adoration, novenas, the saints. All of these wonderful aspects of our faith were neglected, not taught, not shared for so many years.  Now that I am raising my own children and truly learning right along with my children about the amazingly rich history that is part and parcel of the Catholic faith, I sometimes struggle to find the ability to teach the kids comfortably about those things that I have had no experience with myself.

Enter the products from Holy Learning and you have a wonderful way to bridge this gap. Holy Learning sells a wonderful array of products to help you teach your children about the Catholic faith in not-too-boring, often hands-on fashion.  They have faith folders, faith rings, faith cards, a new section of faith games, and a children's adoration guide.

The Children's Adoration Guidebook contains a wealth of information and prayers to help your children (and their parents) better understand what adoration is meant to be and accomplish. It starts with a basic explanation of what Eucharistic Adoration is and what people typically do with their time at adoration.

Next up is a huge section containing many Catholic prayers including an examination of conscience, all of the mysteries of the rosary, the stations of the cross, the divine mercy chaplet, and special prayers devoted to various saints. A wonderful aspect of this section is that for rosary, all of the prayers are repeated on their own page for each set of mysteries. This means there is no flipping back and forth and makes it much easier for younger readers to follow. Both the rosary and chaplet sections have a coloring sheet that you can copy to allow your younger children to color in each bead as they progress through the prayers.

A reflections section follows the scripted prayers. In this section, you will find a collection of pages with "story starters" or suggestions on things for the child to focus on and write about during adoration. These lined pages cover a variety of subjects ranging from what I need help with, how I have been blessed,and how to pray for our secular and religious leaders. These pages can easily be copied for repeat use or laminated so that you can reflect back on the things you wrote earlier.

For the younger members of the family, there is a section with pictures of the many special items they might see in church or the adoration chapel.  These pictures can help your child better understand the sacredness of all the items they see in church each week. I'm sure I am not the only person who never knew what a tabernacle was or what the sanctuary lamp signified. With these pictures, you can guide your children to an understanding of what they see in church each week. Admittedly, there are no descriptions included so you'll have to add that part yourself.

The final sections of the guidebook include brief lives of a few common patron saints along with short bible passages of popular parables. These tend to be saints and parables that kids will recognize from readings at Mass so they should find them easy to understand.

This guidebook arrives to you as a large pdf file.  You may find it is best to have it printed somewhere other than home unless you own a laser printer.  Then it can easily be bound at an office supply store of put into a three ring binder. If you use a binder, you can also add in a pencil case to hold pencils, rosaries, and other items your children may use during adoration.

I shared this guidebook with several other mothers and they all liked what they saw. Some of their opinions are included in this review.  I do believe this is a wonderful resource to help your entire family grow in understanding the concept of Eucharistic Adoration.

If you are interested in some of the other products offered by Holy Learning, here is an earlier review I did of the Respect Life Faith Folder.  We've also used several other faith folders not only with our own children but also with our co-op and they have all been well received. If you would like to use any of these wonderful products with your children this year, use the code hitchings for 15% off your order. This code will be valid for two weeks from the date of this post.  If you have little ones preparing for their sacraments this year, you will find many wonderful hand-on resources to help them understand the sacraments.

I received this guidebook in exchange for an honest review.

Large Family Mothering

There are certain things no one could ever truly explain to you as you jump onto the wagon of large family living. Perhaps in many cases now, it is because there was no one in our lives who was living like we have chosen to. No one ever told me that I would be juggling potty training with driver's tests, OB appointments with the contractors who need to come rip out our kitchen ceiling (and living room and playroom ceiling and the floors upstairs). And yet, as we let go of the expectations and forget every trying to keep up with the proverbial Jones's, I think we are finding more joy than we imagined.

From the seven-year-old dancing around the house singing about wearing his new shirt and the girls who seem to think the best activity with their friends right now is to go out back and eat raspberries straight from the bushes, I hope the kids are enjoying a slightly more simple life than I see many others embracing. As my teenagers seem for the most part to simply accept that there is no place or need for the typical rudeness and jerkiness seen in many of their peers and simply step up and help when asked, I hope they also realize how much of a blessing it is to have younger siblings who come running to the door to hug them when they get home.

While according to the government, we are considered very low income, we still find that we have everything we need any many extras that I am amazed we can afford.  It just leaves me hoping that those mothers out there who are wanting to embrace this life (wether you are talking being home with their kids or having more than the politically correct number of children) will let go of the fears and jump in with two feet. Because even though I never realized I'd be juggling so much craziness at once (yes, even the multiple injuries involving blood, ambulances, and bandages in one week aren't that big of a deal anymore), I truly would not want our life to be any different.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Septic Issues

So last night Alan dealt with septic repairs.  I'm praying that the rest of our week goes a bit more smoothly. And that  I am able to sell a decent chunk of unused homeschooling books tonight to help pay for all of these repairs and medical bills and other issues that have cropped up. Like government credit card issues. Sigh. I know we're being tested here but I'm praying for a few quiet uneventful weeks before our little one arrives because we could use a slight break.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another One

Yet another head injury. It's been that kind of summer apparently. A different child this time thankfully but since we weren't home, we left behind enough blood on a college campus to make people wonder what the heck happened. I think I'll buy a second container of medical super glue to keep in my diaper bag at all times. It would make my life easier. And have a chat with the older child who removed the first aid kit from the van.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Meal Plan

I've been trying to put the meal plan together but I am feeling so unmotivated. Perhaps it is that I am not terribly hungry lately (except for sudden cravings for things I should not and often decide not to eat). Perhaps it's because I've been wanting chicken but the kids accidentally threw the entire jumbo package into the freezer so I have to hack it in half to use it. Who knows. But we have Gabe's birthday on Saturday (and mind but we will celebrate that one another day, my rule) so I know we'll be going out to lunch that day. And he's having some friends over for a "party" at lunch time on Friday. The older boys are back from camp so they can help toss dinner together if I need it but they do have biology camp this week which will keep them out of the house for a decent chunk of the day.  I have a feeling we will be winging it and going for clean out the fridge/fend for yourself nights this week.

M: eggs (B), quesadillas (D)
T: baked oatmeal (B), taco pasta (D)
W: cereal (B), chicken azteca (D)
T: yogurt (B), meatloaf (D)
F: not sure yet other than cupcakes and hot dogs for Gabe's party at lunch time
S: Gabe's birthday so his choice

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Coming Out of the Homeschooling Fog

I'm sitting here today staring at a pile of books I'm pricing for a book sale. I have an equally large stack of partially used school books residing in the basement as well.  You see, the past few years have been crisis years in our homeschool. Crisis years when despite your best intentions, sometimes all that gets done is math, science and history videos, and lots of hands on home ec training for your kids. These are the years that break many homeschoolers. Especially those who lack support from family or friends. These are the years when if you allowed people to truly peek into your world, they'd say you need to send your kids to school. My favorite that we heard earlier this year is "You need to send your son to live with us so he can go to a REAL school." Then the statement was repeated numerous times to the child in question. Needless to say, that will never happen and such statements are rude, uncalled for, and unappreciated.

So what do you do with years like we've had recently? You step back and give yourself grace. The grace to say it will be ok. The grace to acknowledge that no education will ever be without gaps. The grace to allow God to fill in those gaps for your children. The grace to forgive yourself and your children for what you did not accomplish. The grace to look around and admit that maybe what your family needed was to be surrounded by each other. To help one another. To learn to care for one another just a little bit more.

Yes, I'm sure the kids would have pushed further ahead academically if we'd just sent them to school. But I look back on our past few years and realize that we needed something so much more important than that. We needed to heal together. To help each other. And, well, the standardized test scores are the same as they were before so I guess we're ok if you are the kind of homeschooler who cares about that sort of thing.

So what have I learned? Don't share your struggles with those who don't need to know about your school. Don't continue to school when relatives come to visit. If you believe in alternative education ideals (like little boys need twice as much time running around outside than they do sitting at a desk and it is developmentally ok for kids to NOT read at 5), don't share them with the naysayers. The second a relative or friend shows they don't respect you as the authority in your child's life, the one to guide their education, stop sharing with them. Maybe when you are having as awesome year and everything is going wonderful, you can handle sharing and bragging. But when you are struggling and in need of a bit of grace and understanding, that is not the time to share with those people. Find someone supportive and leave the negative Nellies behind.

People tell me my kids are hard workers. That they get along well. That they are so very helpful. That the older ones have a knack for looking out for the younger folks around them and pulling them in. I'll be honest and say these are the important things for me when raising kids. Yes, when we started homeschooling we were star struck by the whole "get them to Harvard" mentality. I abandoned that long ago and no longer worry about such things like getting the kids into the right college. Because it doesn't matter how they do academically if they have no work ethic, no ties to their family, no faith. So give your kids grace. And give yourself some, too.  I think we all could use it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Quiet Week? Nope.

I wished for a quiet week. I should have known better. Even when we are down to only 6 kids at home. Let's just say there are clothes waiting to go in the washer tonight that are covered in blood because head wounds bleed. A lot. Even ones that really turn out to be minor ones.  I'm so glad we have taught all the children to stay calm and rational when dealing with injuries. Of course, that is usually the first sign we get that someone has been injured. You hear the troop of overly calm siblings escorting the wounded one to your side. But other than a bit of hair loss, a bump, and possibly a scar, this one was rather minor. Not even worth pulling the medical super glue out for.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Good Bye Mr. Rooster

So what do you do when you kid is attacked by the rooster? You kill the rooster. End result is that Alan says it is very strange to see a bird running around with no head and the kids are disappointed that some animal ate the remains of the rooster before they were able to have him for dinner. Yes, my kids are odd but I kind of like it that way.

I'm hoping next week is just a tad more quiet.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Meal Plan

I am only cooking for 8 this week. This will be very odd. And my biggest helpers in the kitchen will be gone so I'll actually have to do most of the cooking this week. Again, very odd. Yes, I believe in teaching the children to cook from a very early age. We're talking necessary life skills here folks. Besides, you know those lean years when your grocery budget is smaller than thinkable? If you know how to truly cook before you hit those years, you will not have to live on ramen. So I figure I'm doing the kids a service as well by making sure they know how to use dried beans, bake bread, make jam, make broths and homemade soups, yogurt, and use the crockpots to make some serious dinner magic.

S: bagels and donuts (B), sandwiches (L), steak, peppers and onions, zucchini (D)
M: bacon cheddar muffins, fruit (B), lunch out while grocery shopping (L), pulled pork, coleslaw (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), sandwiches (L), taco salad (D)
W: oatmeal (B), leftovers (L), baked potato bar (D)
T: yogurt, fruit, granola (B), sandwiches (L), hot dogs (D)
F: pumpkin bread (B), leftovers (L), pasta salad, fruit salad, etc (D)
S: not sure yet

We should have the new oven both delivered and installed by the end of the day on Thursday. May I say I am slightly looking forward to it?

Friday Fun

We survived what has apparently become our annual ambulance ride/er trip yesterday. Everyone is fine. One allergic reaction, one fractured arm, and me annoyed with the EMT's. Because they should know how to drive and they should also always listen to the parents on the choice of hospital.  Now we just wait for the bills to come in because I can tell you from experience that ambulance rides are just not cheap.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hasbro House Party

So who likes board games? And who can remember the old Simon game? I know, not technically a board game but super cool anyway. And who likes having friends over for fun and being able to share awesome free stuff with them? We were thrilled to be given the chance to just that earlier this week when we hosted a Hasbro House Party.
The kids all got to try out the new Simon Swipe game as well as a Bop It! Beats game and a game called Catch Phrase Decades. Since these were all battery operated, we a package of Duracell batteries and a box of Quaker granola bars to keep the kids fed. Ok, those did not make it to the party because, really, there were only so many in the box and I rarely buy such things anymore so the kids just might have had them for a snack.

All of the kids liked the games.  But I think the Bop It! game was the hands down favorite.  The Simon Swipe game required a few actions that are so similar that the game often confuses them and calls you out even if you did them right so it's not quite as fun or simple as the original version. But why must we always try to improve things?  The Catch Phrase game was not truly played properly by anyone.  Just a bit too much for the younger ones and the older kids were busy socializing but the toddlers loved banging on it until the Moms decided it must be moved out of their reach.

We had a wonderful time and enjoyed being able to share with our friends. The only negative would the noise levels of the games and the fact that they are, of course, battery operated.

I was given the toys and samples in my party pack for free in exchange for hosting the House Party and sharing coupon samples with my guests. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What To Do?

I am thinking that in order to protect my kids' privacy a bit more, it is time to steer this blog in a different direction for the most part. I do have several product and book reviews to do over the next few weeks. But I'm wondering what else would be of interest to folks.  I am feeling a strong pull to steer away from the kids for personal reasons (and stalkerish reasons and folks who just, well, assume way too much based on what is shared here).  So what would be of interest to those of you who actually hang out here and read things on a regular basis? Give me your best ideas please because I am lacking in inspiration lately but hate to completely shut things down although that is an option I have seriously considered over the past few weeks.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Meal Plan

Ok, I will admit that I am kind of missing the oven. Not really because of the lack of oven. It's more the lack of variety in the meat department right now since we still have not eaten enough beef and pork to make real room in the freezers for chicken.  Seems most of my dump and go crock pot meals use chicken.  And with our busy evening schedule, it is often hard to grill during the week.  Unless we're talking hot dogs and I would have to buy those and they aren't exactly healthy enough to have on a regular basis. Another week and a half to go minimum before the new oven is delivered and then I need to make arrangements with the propane company to hook it up. But I'm sure we'll survive.

S: waffles and spiced apples (B), hamburgers (D)
M: eggs (B), leftovers (D)
T: crockpot breakfast casserole (B), no clue yet (D)
W: oatmeal (B), broccoli beef (D)
T: cereal (B), tacos (D)
F: yogurt and fruit (B), no clue yet (D)
S: FFY (B), finger foods, clean out the fridge night (D)