Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Pantry Challenge

I am attempting to end the year with a pantry challenge. We have an abundance of extras in the house and need to budget for a new car for Alan so it seemed the perfect time. Even with 3 birthdays in December.

So we are heading into week 2 of our pantry challenge and I am hoping to keep it going through the new year. I will still plan to buy the special Christmas extras but I likely won't go searching for anything extra to add this year.  We have so much but it is easy to forget how blessed we are when stress starts getting to you. So I sat down and came up with a meal plan that takes us up to December 23. I'll reevaluate the freezers at that point and see how much further we want to go.

M: cranberry bread and fruit (B), chicken parmesan casserole (D)
T: Kieran's birthday, his choices include breakfast burritos, pizza pockets, and chicken enchiladas
W: St. Nicholas Day so breakfast will include a heavy dose of candy along with yogurt, granola, and apple butter (B), tacos (D)
T: breakfast casserole (B), BBQ chicken (D)
F: bagels, fruit (B), potato soup, rolls (D)
S: cereal (B), pizza (D)

So other than filling the kids up with loads of chocolate, what are your favorite ways to celebrate St. Nicholas Day?

Friday, December 1, 2017

When the Blogger Gets to Thinking

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about what to do with this blog. At one point, I rather enjoyed sharing out life for those out of town. But it gets hard at times. Hard to balance sharing while respecting the privacy and space your kids need. Hard to deal with unrealistic expectations. Hard to find the right niche I guess.

When I go back and read what is written in the past, I see so very much hurt and anger. So much struggle. So much pain. Perhaps that is why I am struggling to jump off from there. I am not the person I was then and I'm not sure I feel like owning those words again.

Hoping to move forward in a more positive manner perhaps. I've seen other folks just delete everything and start over. Somehow that just does not feel right to me.

So while I continue to sort out my world, keep checking back every so often please.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to Plan for a Peaceful Advent

There seem to be two types of people out there when it comes to this holiday season: those who just love it and go into EVERYTHING with a gusto and those folks who just get overwhelmed and stressed by so many expectations and just so much to do. I'd say I fall into that second group.  A few years ago we had to learn by necessity how to slow down and create a more calm, restful holiday season after our sweet Isabel passed away. I'd been planning a bunch of activities to do with the kids once the baby arrived and I felt more normal again. Then our world came crashing down and my plans took an abrupt about face. Many changes were implemented and we haven't gone back to the old way. So here are some of our best suggestions for keeping the peace in your holiday plans.

First, give yourself permission to let go of any tradition, trip, gift, meal or trapping that does not add joy to your life. And I do mean anything. That fancy meal? That huge pile of cards? That trip to the relatives? Cookies for all the neighbors? You don't have to do any of it. I promise you that things will be ok if you just say no this year. Maybe you'll pick it back up again next year. Maybe you won't. The year Isabel died, we sent out a few Christmas cards. Each year I sent out fewer and fewer cards and the world kept turning. Yes, it means we get less cards ourselves but that really doesn't bug me. I love seeing pictures of friends and family members but I don't love feeling an obligation to DO something with those Christmas cards other than throwing them away.  We stopped visiting folks for the holiday way back when the older two were little. We realized very early on that we are just happier at home. Everyone can relax and be themselves. Plus Alan usually has to work anyway so we just embrace the holiday pay and stay home.

It's ok for that tree to go up late and for the decorations to be simple. This is where I admit that I do not do that whole nicely decorated house thing. Truthfully after years of always being told my homes looked awful for one reason or another, I gave up. I always felt too self conscious about it anyway so now we get out the advent wreath, put the tree up later in the season, get out the nativity set and pretty much call it good. If you love to decorate and it gives you joy, go for it. If it stresses you out, let it go.

Let go of the obligation to buy gifts you can't afford for folks. All I know is when my kids are grown and flown, the last thing I want them to do is go into debt buying gifts for us that they can't afford. So why do the same thing ourselves? Now I am not saying just drop out of all of your established gift giving with no notice. Give folks a heads up. They will understand. Perhaps you will free them up from buying another gift that they can't afford either. But don't turn the holiday season into the debt season. Your future and your children will thank you. I promise.

Pick a few simple traditions for your family to keep each year. And keep them low cost whenever possible. The traditions our family has stuck with our silly things, I'm sure. We usually have a cookie decorating party for their friends at some point in December. Meaning Alan makes a bunch of cookies, we throw some lunch in crock pots, invite friends over and the Moms talk while the kids eat all the sugar they can and play.  I will plan a hot chocolate party for our own kids one night. Usually we have a few different flavors of hot chocolate, a bunch of different toppings, and a movie. Super simple. Christmas Eve around here means opening the new pj's, having snack night, and watching the Muppets Christmas Carol. Christmas morning the kids get individual boxes of cereal and we head to morning Mass. Because I will admit I CANNOT stand the family Christmas Eve Masses and their chaos and I'm just not up to taking the littlest ones to midnight Mass.

We usually make our own Advent candles each year but I have a feeling that won't happen this year. One child has requested that we actually attempt to finish the Jesse Tree this year. Since the older kids have started working at a Christmas Tree farm, they insist we have a real tree now so the kids love going together to pick one out. They might have even made sure that the artificial tree was accidentally destroyed in a slightly malicious manner so that I have no choice but to consent to buying a real tree each year. But oh goodness, I don't like the mess from the real trees. Just do not like it. But I do this one for the family. I also acknowledge that it is more environmentally friendly and supports a local family and the local economy. But it does nothing for my mental health. Oiy.

But this is your permission to let go of anything that gives you stress. (Except that real tree if you have a family like mine.)  Embrace a slower pace and fewer obligations and maybe even a smaller budget. I've learned in talking to my own children that the things they remember most are almost always the small ones. The ones I thought were nothing. Turns out the small things truly are the big things. I think we adults tend to forget this simple truth in our quest for all things wonderful

Monday, September 4, 2017

Meal Plan Monday

It is time to get back into real meal planning. We have started school back up, activities are picking back up, and things are getting a little crazy schedule wise. Sticking to a meal plan and relying on easy meals right now as we adjust to a new schedule is a bit of a must.

M: eggs and potatoes (B), meatball subs (D)
T: frozen waffles and pancakes (B), chicken and rice (D)
W: oatmeal (B), pasta with meat sauce (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), pulled pork (D)
F: cereal (B), spicy beans and rice (D)

Two goals for this week food wise are to finish getting a few freezer meals put together and to finally figure out how the instapot works. I've had one sitting in our dining room for much longer than I care to admit but have not pulled out the directions yet. This week that will change.

I am also debating a few changes for lunches at home. That lunch break does not necessarily take too much time but it does make a huge mess every single day. This mess causes me to lose my sanity. Changes must be made to our routine to fix that situation.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Kids in the Kitchen

It is very important to teach your children how to cook. And let them get comfortable in the kitchen. The only problem with this is that it involves actually setting your kids lose in the kitchen. Some days this works out great. Some days, not so much.  

Today was one of those days with creative results. 

I am in the midst of embracing reality and attempting to restock the freezer with some homemade convenience foods because of real life. Messy, chaotic, crazy life. An attempt to avoid the 5 o'clock I forgot to plan dinner panic combined with an attempt to have easy grab and go foods to have on hand for the men in my life who spend almost all day out of the house. 

After returning from grocery shopping today, I had plans to make a batch of beef, rice, and cheese burritos as well as a couple of meatloaves for the freezer. So I enlisted 3 children to help with the prep work. Child one was assigned to making rice. Child 2 was assigned to cooking and seasoning 3 lbs of ground beef for burritos. Child 3 was assigned to taking 3 lbs of ground beef and mixing the ingredients for meat loaf. Seems simple enough.

Child 1 didn't get the rice cooker set up quite right so the rice had to run through again. Small issue and totally the fault of a dented rice cooker. Child 2 successfully managed to cook and season the beef. Child 3 mixed all of the ingredients for the meat loaf and then tossed in the precooked, seasoned meat for the burritos.

So we now have 2 Mexican flavored meatloaves in the freezer to go with 29 beef burritos. I'm hoping the texture of precooked ground beef in the meat loaf won't be too strange but we shall see.

The final goal, of course, is to give your kids the necessary skilled to survive on their own once they leave the nest. And we are well on the way to doing so. You just must learn to embrace the bumps in the road and hope that they results are something edible.  Kids in the kitchen are often unpredictable but always fun.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Homeschool 2017-2018: The Highschoolers

This school year we have 3 kids in high school. As far as records go, Katie and Liam are in 9th grade this year while Kieran is in 10th grade. These three kids are only 33 months apart from the oldest to the youngest so in practical terms, it is easiest to combine them for as many classes as possible. This means fewer classes to keep track of, fewer things to grade, hopefully fewer headaches for me. At least this is the theory. It also means built in lab partners and such things. Sadly, it does not mean saving any money on books because I've learned that if everyone does not have their own copy of each book, you will hear excuses about never having access to the book and such things.

This year the kids are back to using Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 and 2. The last couple of years, they tried something else with their online school but in the end, no one retained anything much at all. Teaching Textbooks does the daily grading for me so all I have to do is log in once a day and verify grades and go over any problem areas. This is truly a lifesaver for me.

Biology this year will be covered using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Biology. This series of books is written with a homeschooled student in mind so it is written directly to the student, assuming the teacher is not always doing direct instruction.  This series also has a notebook that goes with it to keep all of the papers for assignments and labs in one place. With more than one disorganized or slightly distracted or maybe reluctant student in the house, these are incredibly helpful. A full dissection kit and lab kit are available to help and and audio version of the textbook for the kid who does not enjoy reading. I will admit that I am not too thrilled with the young earth leanings in this series but it is otherwise the most student friendly series we have found. The kids just get lots of random discussions from Mom and Dad on our view of things. In May, I plan to have these guys attend a biology lab camp for more hands on experience as well.

For vocabulary, the kids are using Jensen's Vocabulary. This is a 3 semester course. I plan to have them cover one semester per year. This year they are doing the first year of Latin roots.

For grammar review, each student is using a different book because we had a few different options on the bookshelf to choose from. Kieran is using Easy Grammar 10, Katie is using Easy Grammar 9, and Liam is using Fix It! Grammar Book 2. In every case, these books should provide an easy 10 to 15 daily review of grammar for the kids.

We are doing a C.S. Lewis year for literature this year. Using High School Literature Guides from 7SistersHomeschool, the kids will be covering the entire Chronicles of Narnia series, The Screwtape Letters, and the Space Trilogy. They are also taking a 10 week writing seminar through Roberts Wesleyan College. Yes, I know the Narnia series is not typical considered high school fair but this time through the books, we will be taking a more critical approach to analyzing the series.

Visual Latin is our Latin program of choice this year. Video classes 3 times a week taught by Dwane Thomas and streamed through the Compass Classroom website. Mr. Thomas has a very friendly teaching style and his classes are full of "Dad jokes" so the kids learn in a more enjoyable manner than is typical for Latin courses. These classes are taught immersion style. I have to admit that their parents are learning right along with the kids on this one.

World geography this year uses Memoria Press Geography III. We are also starting the year with a quick review of US Geography because it seems somewhere along the lines, these guys never memorized some needed facts. Better to go back now and fix that than wait any longer.

I am planning on a 3 year study of logic, in semester bursts. This year the kids will cover Traditional Logic I from Memoria Press. I loved the logic class I took during a summer college experience in high school and have been looking forward to a logic class with my kids for years. Logic will be covered in the second semester, once the kids have finishes vocabulary for the year.

For religion, the kids are using two different levels of the Didache series from the Midwest Theological Forum. Katie and Liam are working on Introduction to Catholicism while Kieran is working on Understanding the Scriptures. These are very solid textbooks and I love the depth they go into. I do wish an answer key was available for homeschooling parents.

They are also taking a typing class this semester because increased typing speed and accuracy is never a bad thing.

Gym this year is mostly karate. The kids also participated in a kick ball league over the summer and will probably participate in a bowling league. We also hope to fit in a few of the homeschool ice skating sessions.

Hopefully we will have a productive and successful year together.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Another Response of Sorts

In response to all those people who like to say the following:

"I would never have a large family because I knew a large family growing up where the kids did all the work and the parents did nothing other than just keep having babies. Kids should not have to change diapers or help at home. Large families keep kids from being able to be involved in activities and becoming individuals. The kids will all lose their faith. I will never have a large family."

Here's a response to consider. What would you say to the following:

"I would never have a small family because I knew lots of small families growing up. And those kids were almost all spoiled brats. They never spent any time together as family. The kids got every single new gadget and gizmo they ever wanted and never seemed to be thankful for the things they were given. The families are not at all close now that the kids are older and their parents are alone. I will never have a small family."

Can you see how neither one is worth basing your own decisions on? Every single family is different. Every single child is different. Each couple will discern on their own what is right for them. Have a large family. Have a small family. I really don't care what you do. Just quit trying to tell us that we are ruining the earth or being irresponsible or you would never do what we are doing because you are convinced all large families ruin kids. Or maybe remember that entire idea of using NFP as a default for every Catholic marriage is a very modern construct.  Or something.

And in the midst of this idiocy, remember to pray for all those couples who are desperate to have the very family you may take for granted.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Do We Do It?

A week or so ago my husband shared a few posts from this blog on an NFP facebook group. This resulted in questions regarding how on earth can we justify having so many children (from a Catholic NFP group which makes me say, um, we have gone so far off the rails here folks) when we rely on other people to meet our financial needs. So I find myself in the position of having to answer these gross misconceptions.

First, let's consider what parents are obligated to provide for their children. I think we can all agree on the basics. Food, clothing, shelter, a safe and stable environment. As Catholic parents, we are also obligated to provide our children with a Catholic education. Yes, obligated. This obligation can be met in numerous ways. You can send your kid to a Catholic school (assuming the school is truly Catholic and not just calling itself Catholic while promoting values and beliefs that are contrary to the Faith). You can enroll your child in a parish based religious education program (providing, again, that the program truly teaches Catholicism and not some kum ba yah washed down version of what someone thinks is Catholicism). You can teach your children religious ed at home (using authentic resources folks). But it is your obligation to make sure the kids get the real deal stuff no matter how you chose to teach them. You are the one who is ultimately responsible so stay involved. Oh, and love of course. Cause they are your kids folks.

That is it. You are NOT required to provide sports and music and art classes. You are NOT required to provide cars and video games or even a college education. No mommy and me classes. No pets. They can even share bedrooms. Gasp! You are not required to provide the exact clothes your child begs for or whatever food they decide they want to eat. Or cell phones. Or vacations. Or movies. Or any of the other trappings that people seem to think go hand in hand with providing for children now a days. No wonder we are raising a generation of entitled people. Gracious, it is enough to make your head spin.

So now to the question: do we rely on other people to meet our basic needs? Nope. We do happily accept hand me downs, extra garden produce, bikes kids have outgrown, books no longer needed. We do scour thrift stores and even pick up things off the side of the road on occasion. I will acknowledge that we have been blessed with free cross country skis (which are often used in the huge backyard), computers folks didn't need, bikes, tvs, fridges, a piano, and even a couple of free cars. Yes, we have been that blessed. Folks have passed along diapers their kids outgrew, a few cribs, outdoor toys, and furniture. And we do the exact same thing. When we no longer need something or just have no storage space, we pass things along to those who can use them. For FREE. I'm assuming most people do the same thing. I know there are those who must sell everything because, well, they want to. But I'd rather have it out of my house and in the hands of someone who can use it without the headache. So, yes, we accept things people are passing along and have been given some pretty big gifts from time to time. But we are able to provide the basic needs of our children on our own.

How do we do that? That is not a simple question. My husband works a regular job and a part time job. He also does some free lance work on the side which sometimes brings in some change but is mostly a hobby that feeds his soul.  I stay at home with the kids because I truly believe children need a parent at home with them. We also homeschool, obviously, so that cuts down on certain requests and fund raisers and all the assorted stuff that goes along with attending school. It does also mean we cover all books ourselves as well as art, gym, and music classes. I admit that Grandparents often chip in on school supplies every now and again which is awesome and allows us to cover extras instead of just basics but again, I'm talking basics vs extras. We don't have cable and everyone in the house lives in hand me down or thrift store clothes most of the time. But I'd do the same if we had 2 kids. We can and freeze food. We grow or raise some food ourselves. I budget like a crazy person to keep the food bills down and often negotiate with companies for lower costs on services we do pay for. We drive cars until they die. My mother-in-law sends us the coupons they don't use every month. I follow the pantry principle and stock up on items when they are at rock bottom prices. I aim to maintain a 2 to 6 month supply of everything we consume in the house. I'm not afraid to ask for discounts ever. Large family/group discounts, military discounts, homeschool discounts. I ask for them all. We take advantage of discounts from places our kids work if that is a farm, restaurant or fun place to visit. We even do things like pick up the mistinted paint at the hardware store instead of picking colors ahead of time. Our kids pay for their own college education. We help friends do things and they help us fix things. Networking and bartering and learning from other folks.

And what I feel makes the difference: we donate to church and to others in need. Both as a couple and as a family. We share the awesome deals we find on food with the food pantry. The kids often volunteer with parish programs. The boys are altar servers for regular Masses and for funerals. One works with the A/V folks at church and another is training to be a eucharistic minister. One helps with the youth group. We are often around to set up and clean up for fund raisers and parish activities even though we can almost never afford to attend them. We bring meals to folks who need them. Yup, we do that NFP teaching and promoting thing. And we place our trust in a God who has never let us down.

Years ago I clearly heard God telling me two things (different occasions). One was that I needed to learn all the older skills and new ones so that I would be able to take care of this large crew of ours as it continued to grow. This is what led me to learn to can and sew and bake from scratch and all that sort of jazz. The old fashioned home making skills that seem to have gotten lost in the past couple generations. Another was a day when God told me to trust  Him more. We had maybe 4 or 5 kids at the time. Alan was on the road as always. An unexpected bill left us with a very tight budget so I headed to the pantry to do an inventory before making out the meal plan. And discovered it was hit by pantry bugs. Awful things. I had to throw away 90% of our food because it was all stored in the same closet. I do believe there might have been a few tears. So I cleaned out the kitchen, made a list and headed to the store with the kids and the credit card. (Never buy groceries on a credit card, just saying.) The next day our neighbor came over. They were going up north for the summer and wanted to give us all the perishable foods in their kitchen. I kid you not, they brought over almost every single item I had put on the credit card the day before. It was very clearly God telling me that I needed to trust more. He sent these kids our way, He will send a way to provide for them.

I am not saying the way is always easy or simple or what you want to do. Yes, you may be asked to swallow your pride sometimes and ask for help.  Yes, you may be asked to give up that thing you were saving for because your kid needs something more. Maybe you'll have to use drying racks for a while and save up for a new dryer (my life now). Maybe it means cloth diapers (because they are cool anyway). Maybe it means 4 kids share a bedroom.

No matter how you make it work, you won't regret it. The truth is that a healthy Catholic couple getting married in their 20's truly should prepare themselves to raise a brood of 6 or 8 or more. This is as it has always been. There is a reason Catholic wedding vows include accepting children willingly from God and bringing them up according to the law of Christ and his Church. It's just not a negotiable thing. Maybe we took it a bit far with 13 kids but we like to take things to extremes it seems.

So, yes, most of my kids are happily sporting hand me downs right now. So am I. Two of the vehicles sitting in our driveway were gifts. At least one of the tv's in the house was picked up off the side of the road and the second one was given to us. The baby currently plays in a bouncer we picked up for free. Grandparents send the kids' restaurant gift cards for their birthdays because they know we neither need nor want any more toys around here. They send school supplies or books the kids might want to read or a box full of snacks every so often. When they heard one of the kids had started piano lessons, they offered to help pay for them. And yet I don't consider tv's, restaurant meals, bouncers, cookies or piano lessons to be necessities. I'm fairly certain our kids would be just fine without them.

So how do we do it? I will simply say it is a God thing. I've stopped asking how things will work out at the end of each month but I know that they will.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Circle: A Book Review

The book The Circle is written by Dave Eggers. Eggers spins a story of a future that is truly not too far off from the world we are currently living in. A future where everyone shares every single aspect of their lives on-line. A future where cameras are every where and privacy is looked upon as something suspect.

This book follows the life of Mae Holland as she lands her dream job at a company called the Circle. This company actively encourages folks to track and share all of their life online. They promote the idea of community and closeness with those you have never met but converse with over the web. Obviously, the parallels to what we are seeing in our world today are many.

Those who chose not to share their every waking moment online quickly find that they are unable to interact with anyone freely or to easily earn a living. As the Circle begins to promote the slogan "Privacy is Theft," those who are uncomfortable with sharing their every thought are looked upon with suspicion. 

This book left me looking at my own online presence in a different light. I will admit I often find myself feeling thankful that the world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram was not around when I was in high school and college. I find myself feeling tremendous pity for those teens who find things shared about them against their wishes and have found I am less likely to share things about my own children in recent weeks. I've also noticed some push back from those who think that everything should be shared now. Eerily similar to the book. It has made me examine a few things more closely. 

The book does contain several sexual scenes which are more than excessive and unnecessary in detail. For this reason, I caution parents in sharing this book with your teens until after you have read it yourself.

Overall, I found The Circle to be an enjoyable book that definitely gave me a few things to ponder in my own life.

Real Life Math

Forget algebra kids. We have for you today a real life math problem. Or, as my husband corrected me, a Catholic math problem.

You must feed 12 people dinner (it is Mom and Dad's date night and they will eat after the children are in bed). You are serving hot dogs tonight because it is that kind of a night. The hot dogs come 24 to a package. The buns come 16 to a package. The baby will only eat baby food. The youngest toddler won't eat bread yet. The oldest toddler won't eat the buns but will want one to sit on his plate and hold his hot dogs before he devours them. The rest of the eaters are 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, and 19. So how many of each package will you need to feed the crew and come out even?

This is the math they need to teach in school because this is the daily struggle, I tell you. You get it wrong and the teenagers will ransack the pantry after the littles are in bed and devour two weeks worth of snacks in one night. Oh, who am I kidding. They will do that even if you get the math right.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to Make Dinner. . .Or Something

Read carefully for an easy step by step tutorial on how to take dinner a family other than your own. Be sure to follow along exactly. If not, disaster may strike.

Step 1: Remove the chicken and broccoli casserole freezer meal you made a few weeks ago from the basement freezer the night before and place it in the basement fridge to defrost.

Step 2: The next afternoon, send a child downstairs with instructions to bring up the casserole from the FRIDGE, place it on a baking sheet, remove the cover, and put it in the oven at 300 degrees.

Step 3: A little while later, ask another child to please make 3 cups of rice in the rice cooker.

Step 4: Ask who wants to make brownies to go with dinner. Assign task to the willing 9 yo.

Step 5: Ask another child to please shred cheese and top the casserole with it. Said child notices the smell of brownies when he opens the oven and makes sure to ask if the cheese went in the right location because he realized cheese covered brownies would just not be a good thing. See, he was paying attention.

Step 6: Make a salad to go with dinner. Discover that the 1 yo has eaten almost all of the cherry tomatoes but decide that it will be ok with less than planned.

Step 7; Retrieve applesauce and salad dressing from the basement pantry and head upstairs to start packing the meal for delivery.

Step 8: Discover that the rice did not cook. Upon talking to the child who was assigned to make the rice, discover that they only plugged the rice maker in but never actually turned it on.

Step 9: Discover that the casserole put in the oven was retrieved from the FREEZER and not the FRIDGE and is a chicken parm casserole, not chicken and broccoli. And is now covered in cheddar cheese.

Step 10: Discover that the brownies are still mostly raw because they were placed in a 9 by 9 inch pan but cooked using the time for the 9 by 13 pan.

Step 11: Panic. Just a little. Because life. And it is now time to be out the door to deliver said dinner.

Step 12: Stop by the store and pick up cake and ice cream and pray it makes up for the chaos.

Step 13: Arrive with dinner and hear the kids say "But we already ate dinner." Laugh at the craziness of it all and say "Well, this can always go into the freezer for another day. And there's some ice cream so just make sure that doesn't get left out." Because ice cream makes everything better. Or something.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Paschal Candle Thoughts

So I just finished making our Paschal Candle for 2017. Yes, I made it. No, I made no attempts to collect the kidlets around me and make it a meaningful family project or anything. Just nope. And as I set it down on the mantel in our bedroom, I noticed our 2016 Paschal Candle. Still sitting there. Unlit. Covered in dust. Because life. The real kind of life with 10 people down with the flu. At the same time. While Dad is out of town for a month. The kind of life where you laugh at the idea of dusting. Where you just changed 3 diapers in 5 minutes. Just life.

Yes, I am now a certifiable Catholic Mommy Blogging failure. And I'm totally ok with that. I no longer have any illusions of focusing on all the awesome feast days and liturgical awesomeness. Because I'm too busy. Because I'm no longer thinking I have anything new or different to share with folks. Seriously, it has all been done before from the at home altar to the crocheted roses for family prayer time (love them) to the rosaries made out of cupcakes (because sugar).

I've listened to Moms with far fewer kids go on about how there is never a reason for a kid to ever misbehave in Mass or make noise. And gone home to laugh. I've listened to a priest say if you can't keep your child silent in church, you and your spouse must attend separate Masses. And wanted to explain how life just is not that simple (not for single parents, not for parents where one spouse is out of town, not for folks with a deployed spouse, not for lots of folks). And perhaps gone home to cry and yell and shake my head in frustration.And felt the urge to point out to said priest that so many studies show that when Dad does not attend Mass with the family, the kids lose their faith. So, um, there is that and the empty churches now but sure, we'll make sure no child ever makes a peep, ever. I've taught several kids with sensory issues to sit through and eventually enjoy the very experience of Mass which was at one point absolutely painful for them. Listened to the two year old announce loudly "Jesus Coming?" while pointing at all the statues and looking at me like I am a crazy lady for suggesting such a thing when He was clearly already there.

So I guess we are now focusing on hit and miss liturgical parenting. Yes, that is a thing. Because I just made it one. :) We still have our rules. No children's liturgy or cry rooms because we are just do not work that way. Ever it seems. No Santa or Easter Bunny. No Christmas parties during Advent. No egg hunts during Lent. Hit a few feast days every year but don't stress over which ones. Mass is a non-negotiable unless you are ill. We don't focus on attending our home parish but rather on attending together as a family. Because I have done too many years of Mass without my husband to do it now on purpose. No thank you. We don't do the toys in church thing but we do buy donuts most of the time if everyone behaves. The kids know the word tabernacle and what it means and how to find it. The boys serve funeral Masses, even for those they don't know because there is no greater gift to give than your time. We don't participate in most parish fund raisers because we frankly cannot afford to. I swear you have to have an extra income just to participate in these things which strikes me as terribly elitist to be honest. We don't send the kids to religious ed because it is wishy washy as long as you are a good person everything is ok junk.And at $145 for 3 kids, I laugh when they say the cost for classes only covers the cost of materials used. Who are they kidding. And sacraments are an extra fee on top of it. No one has time for that.

So, hm, what am I saying? I'm still learning and growing. Sticking much more fiercely to the things that truly matter and letting go of the extras. Because no one has time for that. Least of all me.

OH, RIGHT. If you want to make that Paschal Candle for your home, here's the print out. Seriously an easy project. All you need is a $1 tall votive candle from the grocery store, a bit of glue, and a print out. Even your 5 year old could do it, it you want to share with them. Or one tired burned out Mom. Either way.

Children, Rain, and Life

So the middle kids are on spring break. Not the older ones, of course. Schedules aligning like that would just be too awesome for words. The younger ones are supposed to be catching up on work since we all got so, so, so horridly sick the month Alan was gone. No, I am not willing to force the kids to plow through school work amidst the flu and a stomach bug and attempts to get people to just drink something, anything, please. And babies and chest x-rays and you know, he just might have asthma the doc says. Of course, the doc hasn't seen his face turn red from the coughing and gagging because the little dude is happy as a clam when he's not puking on you from coughing too much. :)

So spring break. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had plans to take the kids somewhere this week. But then reality hit. Reality that says you don't have a car ever lady. So instead I told the kids "Turn the tv off and go outside." Or something of the like. But then it started raining. And somewhere in my mind I'm thinking hm, maybe they shouldn't be outside because it is raining. Then I thought but it is not thundering and they aren't in the house so let them be. Except they decided rain wasn't enough. Apparently you must stick your head under the broken gutters and take a shower outside, in your clothes. Ah well. That is what towels are for, right? Except for the one boy who found the movie on the Eucharist and begged to be able to go watch that one and who am I to say no to such a request.

All 3 little ones are asleep in various places around the house where they fell. Kolbe might have fallen into my arms but he's the baby so he gets spoiled. And I would love to just fall into bed myself and nap but I must go in a bit and pick up the husband from work. Because I did need the car this morning for an appointment. And someone must leave the house and earn the money. So now someone must bring Dad back home.

Tonight we shall head out to celebrate DD2's birthday. We discussed how Holy Thursday really isn't the best time to be out partying. Yes, she was born on Holy Thursday but she is now old enough to understand that maybe the tail end of Holy Week is not the time for celebrating a birthday if it can wait or come earlier. Time to return to Holy Week being a time of something different. A time set apart. So tonight dinner is on Grandma and Grandpa and the biggest question is will the birthday girl be allowed to order off the adult menu. I'm thinking yes.

So not much amazing or wonderful going on except life. Life is decidedly wonderful. And crazy and stressful and strange.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Playing With Plays - A Review

I received free copies of four of the books in this series in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

I've been meaning to get this review put together for about a year now. Yes, I do sometimes get that far behind on, well, everything. And in the last 18 or so months we've had two kids with broken arms,  1 child who needed several months of physical therapy, one kid diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy, two different children who each had 2 surgeries, 2 new babies added to the family meaning 2 c-sections,  one baby spending 3 weeks in the NICU, one baby spending time in the PICU, me being so anemic that I required a blood transfusion, and a deployment thrown in there for good measure. So, um, yes, I have put a few things on the way back burner and just let them simmer away in my mind somewhere until I was able to deal with them. Like this wonderful review.

Playing With Plays is a series of books that takes higher end literature and breaks it down into child friendly language. Each book contains three different versions of the plays, each meant for a different number of actors. As a performance, the plays are designed to be relatively short (15 minutes or less) but creativity is encouraged on the part of the actors.

One major deterrent for many young children and participating in plays is the fear of forgetting lines or not being able to memorize a long script. This problem is alleviated with Playing With Plays. Some of the words within the script are bolded. These words are particularly important to maintaining the character of the original work and are meant to be said as written. The rest of the words are meant to be a guide. Say them as written or get creative and ad-lib. These are the ones my kids had the most fun with during their performance.

At our Homeschool Expo last year, a group of kids performed one of acts from Hamlet. No one got any of their lines exactly right and there were a few times when younger siblings wandered into the play unexpectedly but everyone enjoyed themselves. More importantly, the kids involved understood the gist of the play. Our performers that afternoon ranged in age from 6 to 16. Everyone was able to find a part they could both understand and perform easily.

These books are very affordable at under $10 each. Group discounts are available directly from the publisher if needed. If you are neither charging for the performance nor the classes to learn the play, you are able to use the materials for free and make photo copies of scripts if needed. If you are charging for the classes, you must purchase a book for each student. If you charge for the performance, there is a royalty fee required but it is a very reasonable one.

These books are perfect to use in a homeschool to introduce your younger children to Shakespeare, Dickens, and other classic literature in a very relaxed, fun way.

My only complaint is that there is too much negative, demeaning language thrown into the plays in an attempt to make them relevant to modern kids. I realize that Shakespeare himself wrote quite a few insults in his plays but the modern take on them was a bit beyond the original meanings for a children's version in my opinion.

Overall, these books earn a 4 out of 5 in my book. If the language was a bit less modern, I'd like them even better.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Lenten Craziness

It has been an interesting Lent so far. The weather has been all sorts of wonky. Snow and wind followed by lots of rain and mud everywhere. We are still waiting on the insurance adjuster to fit us into her schedule so we can get an estimate on damage costs.  For some reason she is having a hard time remembering which city we live near and keeps scheduling us on days she is not actually in our area.

Almost the entire crew has been sick for the past two weeks or so. (And did I mention a 4 week business trip was scheduled for someone during this time? Because I am so lucky.) It started with a stomach bug. A vicious one at that. And in case you were wondering, a stomach bug making the rounds in a large family causes serious laundry issues. During which time the washing machine decided to start not working exactly right. We thought a couple of the older kids were no longer contagious. They'd been healthy for over 24 hrs and were the first to catch it. So some of us went to Stations and then the kids went to a retreat that weekend. And almost everyone they had contact with got sick. Because we like to share.  I do believe we were generous and passed this bug along to several homeschool families and the entire youth group. And people say that homeschooled kids won't learn to socialize and share with others. I say they excel at it. Seriously.   But if you are reading this and your kids/family got sick I am so sorry.

At the same time a respiratory bug hit several of us as well. The two of us who are most susceptible to respiratory issues have been rather sick for the past week. Several of the other kids are mostly sleeping it off and staying quarantined in their rooms. Except when they aren't. Then again, when you share your bedroom with 2 or 3 other people, I'm not sure staying in your room is an effective quarantine anyway.

The kids have been sick enough that they likely would have missed most of school this week. Especially the ones who have been hit with both bugs. One kid just might have thrown up in the middle of class and another one fell asleep while logged in, watching class. But with the online school, I'm finding there is nothing to really do to get much leeway from the teachers. Which is incredibly frustrating to me. You can fill out a form but on days there are no live classes, it won't do much for you. Given that most assignments are due on non class days, this causes issues. And the teachers are not responding to my emails anyway. One of the negatives of the current school.

So the last few days we've been eating lots of soup. Have I mentioned that I love soup for feeding a crowd? Pretty much always easy to stretch, easy on the budget, and it keeps everyone happy. At least around here. Homemade alphabet soup was on the menu yesterday.  Alphabet soup and kindergarten aged kids is always fun. Ellie might have spent more time finding letters in her soup than eating.

Anyway, here's a super easy, kid friendly, kid cookable recipe. Serves a crowd (or a large sized family).

2 28 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 lb of beef of some sort (I've used stew meat, leftover pot roast, a cut labeled as sandwich steaks)
diced onions
assorted frozen vegetables (as much as you like but I wouldn't use less than 3 cups for our crew)
3 28 oz cans of water plus beef bullion or use the equivalent in broth (broth is best but some days call for a short cut)
1 cup or so of alphabet pasta

Cut up the meat small. That way a little goes a long way. Stir everything together other than the pasta and let it cook until the meat is cooked. Then add in the pasta and let it cook a bit. The little suckers soak up a ton of liquid and double or triple in size as they cook so you may find you need to add extra water after they cook. Obviously, this is a super tweakable recipe. Use what you have. This week we threw in carrots, peas, green beans, and corn. If you are feeling up to it, serve it with rolls or muffins or bread. I handed the kids a package of crackers last night because everyone was sick. Short cuts are a wonderful thing to embrace some days.

I have to admit that I am not sure if most of my kids have ever actually had the canned version of this stuff but I've gotten no complaints on the real version.

What are your favorite sick family tricks to keep Mom sane?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

And a Storm Blew Through

For all of the fans of the weather channel, here is the latest update. Because I have to admit that it baffles me when people call and tell you what they saw on the weather channel and then insist that you must be dealing with certain issues because they heard it on tv. Never mind what you are seeing outside your own window or anything. . . I always find it slightly annoying and slightly humorous.

So we were hit with a pretty decent wind storm. And we are doing well. The yard is a mess. A few branches came down and possibly two trees in the back.  There has been damage to the roof and some siding is gone. Part of the barn was damaged but since we plan to take that down soon, I figured that was just helping us get started. Probably the biggest issue is damage to the van. The wind got a hold of the driver's door when Alan opened it and the hinge was damaged. So now the door does not close quite right and the van dings at you and tells you to put it back into park. Alan and the older two also had to go help get a car out of a ditch. Someone who was somewhat less than thankful but I suppose that is a lesson in itself.  Two days without power and it is time to restock some of the emergency supplies. I'm actually rather thankful for a short term test run to let us know what we are lacking and not properly prepared for at the moment. Big one I suppose is to figure out why the generator is broken and get it fixed.

I showed up at the pediatrician's office this morning with my cell phone and breast pump and chargers for both. Then I sat in the office after Kolbe's appointment and charged them. Kolbe is growing just fine and is a very happy baby. Currently the kid has bronchiolitis and is wheezing but is fine.

So there is all the news that is fit to print or something of the like. :)