Friday, July 29, 2011

Adventures in Baby Sign Language

Ellie is at the age where we are starting to teach her the basic signs we need to let her talk to us.  The important ones. Things like more, milk, that sort of stuff.  Yes, our first child had a very extensive sign language vocabulary because we were the typical over zealous must do everything right perfect parents of only one child.  Eight children later and we have learned to stick to the basic simple stuff. Book, more, milk, baby, car, the fun stuff.  Today I am working on milk.  I am thrilled. Ellie, not so much.

Picture a cranky Ellie who has just been rescued from an older sibling who shall remain nameless who thinks it is super fun to dangle her over his head and bounce her around.  Ellie does not like such mistreatment and lets us know.  Crying, fussing Ellie is handed to Mom.  She immediately launches herself into that position every nursing mom can recognize from a mile away.  Mouth wide open, frantically searching for the nearest piece  of exposed skin to latch onto.  For some reason I decided to try to show her how to sign milk at this point.  Let's just say she was not amused.  I can imagine the conversation in her head went something like this:  "Why must I say it? You know what I mean when I launch myself into the nursing position.  Just give me the milk and no one will get hurt lady."   See, we are already communicating rather well, don't you think?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Appeal to Parents of Infants

I have a favor to ask of all parents of infants.  Please, please, please pick your children up.  Don't be afraid to touch them or carry them.  Pick them up and hold them and carry them and interact with them every so often.

Yes, this rant is fueled by various interactions I witnessed while having lunch with my husband this afternoon.  A couple came in directly behind us with an infant in one of those jumbo stroller things that you set your car seat in so that the baby never actually has to leave the car seat.  (Just for full disclosure, I hate those jumbo stroller things and have never used one.) They also had an older child with them.  The entire time we were in the restaurant, the baby never left the car seat/stroller monstrosity.  Even when the baby started fussing.  Even when the fussing turned to crying and the crying turned to wailing.  Sure, mom tried shushing the baby. Then she tried shoving a pacifier at the baby. Then she tried moving the stroller back and forth. Then she started to walk the stroller up and down a bit. Then she pulled both shades closed so you could only hear the baby and not see the poor child.  At no point did anyone ever try to pick the child up.

Obviously, I can deal with a crying baby.  I've had a few of my own.  Obviously I also understand that some children really do need to be kept in a semi-upright position for health issues (to alleviate the pain from reflux for example).  But I have to say I am rather annoyed with our society and our apparent fascination with avoiding ever holding or interacting with our babies.  We leave them in car seats while shopping, move them to exersaucers and swings and assorted baby gadgets at home.  We have a huge upswing in children who have misshapen heads from being left in car seats and other baby gadgets for so stinking long that their heads start to flatten.  The simple truth is that what a baby wants and needs in most cases is to be held by mom.  When mom isn't available, they need to be held by their primary care giver.  Babies were meant to be carried in the womb for 9 months and then carried physically by their mothers for another 9 months at least.  Doing this leads to happier babies.  In cultures where it is normal to carry a baby close to it's mother and attend to it's needs immediately, you almost never hear a baby cry.  Why do we think it's normal for babies to spend so much of their day crying in our culture?

Please don't think I've never had a cranky baby or dealt with a child with colic.  Please don't think I don't understand how hard it is to be the sole caregiver of multiple young children.  Try having a husband who is on the road 3 to 4 weeks a month or gone for a span of 8 months at a time.  I've been there, done that.  I know it is stressful.  I know there are times you must put the baby down and walk away for a bit.  But for goodness sakes, pick up the baby please.

Happy Birthday Gabe!

Gabe turned 4 on Tuesday. Pictures are just a bit late because I haven't had enough time to play with the new camera to figure it out and was waiting for Alan to help.
Gabe asked for a colorful cake with Thomas on it.  It won't win any awards but the kid was happy.  Happy Birthday little man.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Words From the Wise

The winter before we got married, Alan and I took a whirlwind tour through New York State to visit various relatives and friends during our break from school. We spent time with his family near Oneida, my family near Buffalo and some friends near Albany. While having breakfast with our friends in Albany, the father says towards the end of the meal "You can always tell when the meal is over, Alan, because it's when the arguing starts." Fifteen years later and I can say with certainty that Mr. Patrick was right. We can always tell when the meal is over because the kids start getting squirrely.

Monday, July 25, 2011

NFP Awareness Week

It is now officially NFP Awareness Week. I'm sure most of you have heard absolutely nothing about it from your local parishes which is frankly a sad state of affairs. What's not to like about NFP? Ok, it has it's negatives. Like when your husband has been gone for over 4 months and returns home smack dab at the beginning of Phase 2 (or the fertile time for the NFP illiterate) and you have decided it's time to postpone. Yup, that kind of sucks. But it's minor in the grand scheme of things.

What do we love about NFP? It helps you get pregnant. It can save couples lots of money if they start with NFP before heading to a fertility doctor. It can help you pinpoint health issues before your doctor. Folks have even caught things as serious as cancer using only the information on their charts. It's pretty much free once you've taken the classes. It's environmentally friendly. Seriously, I don't understand people who talk about eating healthy and organic and such but pump their bodies (or their teens' bodies) full of chemicals in the name of responsible parenting. And finally it is safe. Do you know how many young women are injured and killed by birth control devices? Have you ever really read the side effects? Blood clots, heart attack, strokes, death, perforation of the uterus, loss of libido, weight gain, depression. Many also function by aborting a newly conceived life. I had a mother once ask me if I would be ok putting a teenager on the birth control pill for menstrual difficulties from a moral stand point since the teen was not having sex. I recall saying no way in heck would I ever do that because of the health risks. I was told "Oh, those things would never happen." I'm very sad to report that the same teen ended up with blood clots a few years later. Perhaps just a sad coincidence but in most cases in young healthy women, there is no other explanation for such things.

Why is spreading NFP awareness so important to me? Many, many reasons. We did not start our marriage using NFP, we just kind of winged it. I was told repeatedly the summer before getting married that I simply had to get on the pill because if we had a child too soon, it would ruin our marriage. From a very early age, I have known the Church's teachings regarding birth control. From an age where I was frankly too early to understand them. I consider this one of the best gifts God ever gave me. That innate knowledge of right and wrong. An especially strange knowledge considering no one in my life seemed to share those beliefs. Why I was given that gift when I had no use for it, I can't say for sure. I have a few ideas but sharing them would bring down a flood of anger from folks so I won't. Anyway, we started our marriage with basic fertility knowledge and love. We celebrated our first anniversary with a baby. We have no regrets at all. Having that baby not only did not ruin our marriage, it helped push us to save it. But then after he was born we "did the responsible thing" and did resort to birth control. It did nothing to help. I'd say it caused more problems. And all my doctor ever had to say about all the risks associated with it's use was "There are many side effects. You'll get used to them" as she pushed me out the door with a bag full of samples in my hand in her way to help the poor struggling young couple who clearly couldn't afford another baby. Not even a year later we tossed the pills for good. We were soon expecting number 2. I found an ad in the back of church one day while hoping to entertain a crabby toddler during Mass. I remember the day very clearly because Bryan was signing over and over again "more water, Mom" while trying to get me to let him play in the Holy Water font. (Yup, we've always taught our kids sign language. You should do the same with your toddlers if you want to talk to them.) I was avoiding the Holy Water and reading the announcements when I found an ad for NFP classes. The rest is history.

Some of that history is Alan got a job paying twice what he'd been making shortly after we decided to truly commit to NFP. We were able to move from a small rental with lovely college kid neighbors to buying a home. Things got so much better in so many ways. It's something I've often noticed in our life. When we make a change or a commitment to doing things the way God wants us to do them, we are always richly rewarded. Some would say it's just coincidence. I don't really believe in coincidence.

So yes, we now share NFP in our home with those interested. Our kids hear and see us teaching classes on a regular basis. The older children provide babysitting for everyone during those classes so they kind of look forward to it. We've spoken with women struggling to conceive, with couples struggling with the cross of abundant fertility, helped teach several Protestant ministers what the Catholic church actually does teach and helped several engaged couples start their married life on the right foot. We've battled doctors who refuse to learn about NFP and found many doctors who believe in NFP and have asked us to share our knowledge with their patients. It's been an amazing journey. Drop us a line if you want to learn more. We love to share and can help you find local teachers in your area. It's about way more than preventing pregnancy. It truly does become in many ways a lifestyle.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Remind Me

Remind me when my children have children, not to give unsolicited parenting advice. Or just when I'm out of the house. It just seems that the grandmother type folks are worse than any others about this one.

Visited the farmers market today. Had the baby in the Ergo. Her favorite carrier lately. My favorite carrier. I swear I can't wear that thing anywhere without the "is that safe" "why is she chewing on it" "Oh, you need help" Blah, blah. No, her head is fine, thanks. No, she's not uncomfy. Can't you tell how miserable she is all snuggled up next to Mom asleep? And for the love of pete, don't get anywhere near me when I'm trying to put the baby in the carrier or you will put her in danger. I know what I'm doing and your stinking hands in the way cause problems. I can't count the number of times I have almost dropped the baby because someone had to "help." Back the heck off. Maybe I should wear I sign that says "I know what I'm doing. Thanks for your concern."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Listening to God with Blessed John Paul II

I was looking for a book to help me focus some individual prayer time and Listening to God with Blessed John Paul II seemed like the perfect solution.  This short, simple book you will find passages taken from John Paul's homilies, general audience talks and various other writings.  The passages are then paired with a short dose of scripture.

Each page in this book gives you an easy to digest bit of inspiration to help your spiritual walk.  The short snippets are easy enough to read while waiting for an appointment or sitting in the line to pick up a child from school.  This book is easily able to come with you as you live your busy life while helping to keep you grounded.  Or read a passage a day as you begin your personal prayer time.  Short, inspirational, simple and sweet.

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 Listening to God with Blessed John Paul II . They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Even More Rambling

Hopefully you are actually watching these videos and not just rolling your eyes at the computer screen saying I really wish she would get off the NFP kick and go back to just pictures of the kids. See, I have two groups of people in general who visit this blog. Those who say they only want pictures of the children and to hear what the children are doing. These people seem to think I should not ever mention anything else or anything other than life is great because I don't have the right to ever say much of anything.  Then those who say it gets a bit boring with just pictures of the kids and they'd like to hear what I actually think and believe from time to time.  I agree with the folks who say just pictures of the kids are boring and that I should feel free to express an opinion.  Even an unpopular one.

No, I'm not always terribly eloquent or inspirational.  Tend to ramble quiet often.  But just maybe you can see that I am attempting at times to share who I am and what I believe.  Doing so does not mean that you always agree with other people or try to play nice.

Anyway, enough rambling.  It's dangerous.  So rather than talk myself into a circle I will share a promotional video made by the Diocese of Phoenix.  The policy in that diocese is that everyone must take a full course in NFP before getting married in a Catholic church.  May I say I so wish folks were required to either take a course in NFP or at least a course that taught about the theology behind the Church teachings on sexuality?  I think it would make a huge difference and people would no longer be able to claim that no one ever told them or they are not smart enough to understand the encyclicals.  I don't think for a minute that everyone will agree with it but I do wish people would quit claiming it makes no sense when they haven't taken the time to even attempt to learn.  Anyway, hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Courage, New Hampshire

It can be quite a challenge to find appropriate television shows for the children lately.  No, we don't allow them to watch a lot of the popular characters.  We choose instead to support organizations like Feature Films for Families and introduce the kids to shows from our childhood.  We love to support organizations that are trying to bring back quality entertainment for families.  One of those organizations is Colony Bay Productions.

Colony Bay Productions focuses on telling the story of America in an exciting living history format.  They are a small company working to bring decent entertainment back to families.  They are currently producing a series focusing on a small town called Courage, New Hampshire in the late 1700s.  I ordered the first episode on DVD and enjoyed it.  Or at least as much as it is possible to enjoy a tv show while the children are still awake.  Seriously, if you want to hear all the dialog, you must put the smaller children to bed first.  You'd think I would know this by now.  Or crank the volume up but I kind of refuse to do that because I can't stand when I can hear the television all over the house instead of just in one room.

Ok, now that I am done with that side rant here's what you need to do.  Go visit the Colony Bay website.  See what they are about. If you like what they are trying to do, order a copy of their DVD yourself.  If you really like what you see, become a supporting member or order the teaching materials to use with the DVD.  It's time we stopped complaining about the lack of wholesome family entertainment and started doing something about it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

NFP vs Contraception I

This is the first in a series of videos produced by Catholic Seminarians at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha.

NFP Part 2: Waiting

Here's an article by Sara Fox Peterson that touches on what is often the most tension causing aspect of NFP: the waiting.  You can find many more articles regarding NFP by Sara at the CatholicMom website.  I truly hope you will take the time to read these articles and consider how they might apply to your life.


The slide presentation I use as an introduction to NFP when I am teaching a group of couples includes a wonderful slide titled The Beauty of Waiting.  Much has been said about the ways in which periodically taking a break of a week or two from sexual intercourse enhances relationships.  In fact, a regular period of abstinence is one of the first recommendations of secular "sex therapists" to couples who are having trouble with their intimate relations.  Abstinence provides us with an opportunity to refocus on the other aspects of communication and intimacy that can get lost in the busyness of our lives. (If we make the effort - this doesn't happen automatically, of course, but abstaining on a regular basis does provide us with a reminder and an incentive to take the time to do this.) 
Catholic couples who abstain as a part of using NFP to avoid pregnancy find that these times of waiting have still other benefits as well.  Regularly having to deny ourselves something that we desire helps to keep us generous in our acceptance of children and honest about the seriousness of our reasons to avoid pregnancy. If abstinence weren't a real sacrifice there would be a great deal less incentive to reconsider the need to avoid pregnancy on an ongoing basis. One of the sad effects of contraception is that couples who use it can go years without ever discussing why they are doing so and often this leads to a great deal of misunderstanding and resentment. 
The struggle to abstain when a couple believes it is necessary to avoid pregnancy can also help them to make better decisions about their life together and to keep their priorities straight and their vocation as spouses and parents first in their lives.  In my own life there has been more than one instance when frustration with the necessary abstinence has led to some big changes in the way my husband and I were doing things so that our reasons for avoiding pregnancy could be removed.

Sometimes the reasons for avoiding pregnancy absolutely cannot - or should not - be changed and in those situations I firmly believe God gives us the grace needed to abstain when necessary. At least for my husband and I, however, there have been other times when the need to avoid pregnancy was the result of a situation we had created ourselves and which God asked us to change by way of tension from abstaining that led to discussion and prayer and, ultimately, a change in our plans.

Not that any of this makes the actual abstinence any easier, but there is something that I have found very helpful and have been told by others has helped them as well - each time I realize that I am feeling frustrated by the need to abstain, I concentrate for a second or two on offering that frustration for someone whom I know to be struggling to live chastely, to accept the Church's teachings on sex and marriage, or whose marriage is troubled.  Or sometimes I will offer it for my own children and their future spouses. This doesn't make the frustration go away, but at least I can do something with it besides carrying it around and feeling sorry for myself. 
The reality is that every marriage involves periods of abstinence - whether a couple uses NFP or not  - following the birth of a baby, when one spouse is sick or traveling alone, when children's needs make intimacy impractical for a time.  The challenge for couples who use NFP to avoid pregnancy is to see the periods of waiting not as a burden, but as a beautiful opportunity for growth and good.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I'm Tired

Tired of Gabe's pants falling off the child.  Seriously.  I think I say "pull your pants up" at least 20 times a day.  He wants a wagon for his birthday. I think he might be getting suspenders instead.

Friday, July 15, 2011

NFP Myths vs Reality

Natural Family Planning awareness week is coming up soon.  I know, most of you have never heard of it and certainly don't expect to hear about NFP awareness week in your church.  That's because NFP is one of those things many priests have decided to sweep under the rug and ignore so as to not upset folks and to keep the money coming in.  Well, they are doing a huge, gigantic disservice to the very people they are charged with leading in taking such an approach.

Every year I feel a nudge to say or do something to commemorate NFP awareness week and every year I ignore that nudge.  This year I've decided to no longer ignore it.  So I will be sharing various articles and comments on NFP over the next few weeks.  Hopefully.  Hopefully this will not become one more thing that I plan and forget ever so quickly in the hustle and bustle of life around here.  So if you have any awesome stories or articles, send them my way.

And I know what you are thinking first of all. There is no way NFP can work because look at them. They have 9 kids. Here's a little secret.  For most of our marriage we have chosen not to use it.  The use of NFP is not required in a Catholic marriage. What is required is that you never use artificial forms of contraception or sterilization.  Big difference there.  There are those couples who are called to raise a large family.  Obviously, that life is not for everyone.  But when we have prayed and felt called to space the births of our children, we've never had NFP fail us.

So here is the first article straight from the USCCB website.  So even though you never hear about NFP from the pulpit, our Church is serious about it.

Myth #1: NFP is just another name for Rhythm.
REALITY: Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for modern, healthy, scientifically accurate, and reliable methods of family planning. It differs from "Rhythm" (or the Calendar Method). Rhythm tried to estimate the time of next ovulation by calculating previous menstrual cycles. Although this approach had sound scientific underpinnings, in practice it often proved inaccurate because of the unique nature of each woman's menstrual cycle. NFP, by contrast, has been proven scientifically sound in both theory and practice.
NFP is based on scientific research about women's cycles of fertility. Since the 19th century, doctors have known about the changes in cervical mucus and its relation to fertility. In the 1920s, temperature rules were developed. However, it wasn't until the 1950s that an educational process was developed to teach the observation and interpretation of these fertility signs.
The NFP methods are: the Basal Body Temperature (BBT) method, which monitors changes in a woman's temperature when she wakes up each morning; the Ovulation Method (OM), which monitors changes in a woman's cervical mucus; and the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM), which combines observations of temperature and cervical mucus with other indicators such as changes in the cervix and secondary fertility signs.

Myth #2: NFP can only be used by women with regular cycles.
REALITY: The natural methods do not depend on having regular menstrual cycles; they treat each woman and each cycle as unique. NFP works with menstrual cycles of any length and any degree of irregularity. It can be used during breastfeeding, just before menopause, and in other special circumstances. NFP allows a woman to understand the physical signals her body gives her to tell her when she is most likely to become pregnant. Once she understands this information, she and her spouse can use it according to their family planning intentions.
The natural methods can be used throughout a woman's reproductive life. These methods are progressive. That is, they monitor the current, day-to-day signs of the woman's cycle. Instruction in NFP provides couples with information about their bodies that is specific and observable.
When special circumstances do occur, a woman can contact an NFP instructor for additional guidance in interpreting her signs of fertility.

Myth #3: NFP is too complicated to be useful for most people.
REALITY: Anyone who is taught by a certified teacher and motivated to use NFP can do so. The methods are so simple that they have been successfully adapted to suit the needs of cultures all around the world. According to Kambic and Gray (Human Reproduction, 1988), NFP use world wide ranges from 1-35% in developing countries. These authors state that "NFP has a role as an important method of family planning in many countries, irrespective of religion, socio-economic development, and overall level of contraceptive use" (p. 693).

Myth #4: NFP is not a reliable method of family planning.
REALITY: When couples understand the methods and are motivated to follow them, NFP is up to 99% successful in spacing or limiting births.
The effectiveness of NFP depends upon spouses' following the rules of the method according to their family planning intention (i.e., achieving or limiting pregnancy). Those who are strongly motivated to avoid pregnancy and follow the method-defined rules are very effective in meeting their goal.

Effectiveness of Natural Family Planning in Avoiding Pregnancy
(Number of pregnancies among 100 couples in one year.)
Couples who carefully follow all the rules for avoiding pregnancy all the time -- 1-3
Couples who do not follow all the rules for avoiding pregnancy all the time -- 2-15

Myth #5: Couples who use NFP have less sex than the average American.
REALITY: Most people most of the time are not engaged in sexual activity (see table). If couples who practice NFP were to engage in intercourse on all the days when abstinence is not required for spacing births, they would be doing so at a rate almost twice the national average!
Average monthly coital frequency among both married and unmarried couples in the United States:

Age: 18-24

Average frequency: 8
If wishing to avoid pregnancy, a couple practicing NFP is usually advised to abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the wife's fertile time. NFP couples can make love no less frequently in each cycle than other couples.

Myth #6: NFP does not allow for sexual "spontaneity."
REALITY: This depends upon what one means by "spontaneity."
If by sexual spontaneity one means loving gestures, caresses, kisses, loving words, etc., then NFP does not hinder spontaneity. In fact NFP encourages couples to explore ways to express their love to one another because sexual intercourse is not always available. And the spontaneity with which a couple unites in lovemaking each cycle is something NFP couples find to be very special.
If by "spontaneity" one means only being able to engage in sexual intercourse whenever the desire arises, then NFP does not measure up. But then, respect for your spouse--whose desires may not always be exactly the same as yours at any moment--is also in tension with that kind of "spontaneity."
Any limitation on "spontaneity" in NFP should be judged in light of the freedom couples gain by not using chemical or barrier methods of contraception. Remember, chemical contraceptives carry heavy baggage in terms of contraindications and side effects.

Myth #7: There is no difference between NFP and artificial methods of contraception.
REALITY: NFP methods are different from and better than artificial contraception because they

  • Cooperate with, rather than suppress, a couple's fertility
  • Can be used both to achieve and avoid pregnancy
  • Call for shared responsibility and cooperation by husband and wife
  • Require spousal communication
  • Foster respect for and acceptance of the total person
  • Have no harmful side effects
  • Are virtually cost free
NFP is unique because it enables its users to work with the body rather than against it. Fertility is viewed as a reality to live, not a problem to be solved.

Myth #8: The Catholic Church wants people to have as many babies as possible.
REALITY: In fact the Church encourages people to be "responsible" stewards over their fertility. In this view of "responsible parenthood" married couples carefully weigh their responsibilities to God, each other, the children they already have, and the world in which they live when making decisions about the number and spacing of children.
Responsible parenthood is lived out within the structures which God has established in human nature. The nature of sexual intercourse, which is both life-giving (pro-creative) and love-giving (unitive), reflects a Divine plan. That is why the Church teaches that couples must not actively intervene to separate their fertility from their bodily union. To do so is to show disrespect for an important gift of the Creator.

Myth #9: Sex is a private decision between two people.
REALITY: Sexual intercourse is not only eminently personal, between a man and a woman, but also has a public and even universal dimension. Human reproduction orients sexual activity to the future of the world. The public consequences of sexual intercourse are illustrated by the miracle of birth, and also through the public devastation wrought by sexually transmitted diseases.
Remember, sexual intercourse radically unites a man and a woman and is the only human act which can worthily bring another person into the world!

Myth #10: The Church does not want couples to have sex for pleasure's sake.
REALITY: The Church wants married couples to have the best sex possible!
Remember, there is a difference between simply "having sex," which includes actions directed towards the self, and "making love," which requires the giving of self to the other. Only in a lifelong, committed, loving relationship, centered in Christ, can couples hope to fully experience the sacrament of life and love, i.e., marriage.
Current studies confirm what the Church has always taught: married sex is more fulfilling and enjoyable than uncommitted sex. People who "use" sex only for their own pleasure end up using other people--and they lose the real joy of sexuality. Unconditional love is what marriage is all about. That love is a real source of joy in the lives of married couples!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kids Pics

Just a few pictures of the kids since I promised they'd be up.
Smiling Ellie

This kid is freezing

She actually gets her head wet now

The dynamic duo

Picture please!

Can you see Sean under the water?

Did I mention I saw some girl checking him out in church today? Yikes.

More Ellie

Abby and homemade snow cones.

Civil War Reenactment

I love our museum memberships.  If you are ever looking for a gift for the kids in your life, buy them a family membership to a zoo or museum.   Because we have the memberships, we are able to go just for a few hours here and there and not worry about getting the most out of our money.  We can take advantage of all the neat programs every weekend if we wanted.  We can decide to just spend a day at the drop of a hat and not worry about the money.  And, well, when you are paying for a family the size of ours, you might was well get the membership anyway since it's often cheaper than buying all the individual tickets.

Today we paid a quick visit to our local living history museum for a Civil War Reenactment.  We were able to see  a battle complete with cavalry and live cannon fire.  Very cool experience although a tad loud.  We were also able to walk through the village and see the changes made by having a war occur in the towns and villages.  Amazing to see the way it became a part of the town's daily life.  Alan decided to pull Sean away from a sign that was giving warnings to avoid pick pockets and loose women so he would not have to explain it.  Kind of wish he'd grabbed a picture of that one.

My only complaint would be the Mom who sent her child back in the bushes during the battle to use the bathroom rather than sending him to the bathroom at the end of the battle field.  Seriously lady? You think that's ok?  It's not like he was 2 and couldn't make it that far.  Anyway, we took a bunch of pictures but only half of them turned out because the camera is dying a slow death and only opens half the time.  Given that it was so sunny, our jr photographer was not able to see that the lens was not open but he did a great job with the pictures he did catch.  Hope you enjoy them.

Better Than Something Cake

I was looking for something different to make for a snack after the crew was in bed the other day and came upon a few recipes for Better Than S3x Cake. Just hoping to avoid the spam bots there but I'm sure you can figure out what it means.  Amazingly enough when I was crazy enough to put the title into google, I did not get unwanted crap.  But I still won't let my kids google something like that.  I combined two recipes and we loved it.  Just need a better title for the kids to use. Sigh.
 And I've discovered that I am incapable of using a recipe written by Paula Dean without hearing the recipe in my head in her southern drawl.  Just try it yourself. I bet you'll hear "boil" in a whole new light.  Here's the recipes we combined: Food Network and Allrecipes.

Seriously, this was yummy goodness.  You must try it yourself. Just make sure you have plenty of folks to help eat it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Homeschool Ramblings

There's a little secret most folks won't tell you about homeschooling a large brood. It's hard. It's humbling.  It's a full time job.  The constant negative comments and relatives who think they need to drill your kids on academics every time they see them makes you want to pull your hair out.

There's another secret.  It's amazing.  It helps keep your family closer most of the time.  You learn so much from your kids.

This year has been a baby year.  Meaning Miss Ellie made her appearance in December and the weeks after were full of Mom being too tired to oversee school work.  The weeks right before were full of Mom being too tired to oversee much school work. To make things easier on the oldest child, I enrolled him in a full-service provider.  This, I have discovered, was a mistake.  I've never been thrilled with this provider but everyone speaks so highly of them so I went against my better judgment and enrolled Bryan.  Let's just say we've decided to go another route for high school.  You see, I do want him to have a real high school diploma in case that becomes necessary later in life.  But we won't be using Seton again I don't think.  I'm tired of a 3 to 4 week turn around on grading.  I'm tired of the over emphasis on writing and the lack of emphasis on science and math.  I'm tired of religion being front and center in every subject even when doing so detracts from the academics of the course.  The pro-life Catholic science text was lacking so much information that I really want to know why people like it.  It seemed like an overview rather than a full year course.  It is great as an overview or a spring board for further studies but not as a full course. The tests on the book seemed to expect you to pull information from the sky at times because I haven't been able to find some of the answers in the book. So if you have used Seton and love it, sorry. I just can't swallow it anymore.  Here's hoping we have found a better solution for next year.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Look at Gabe!

Look at Gabe.  He now gets in and out all by himself and seems to handle the big boys with all of their splashing rather well.  If only we could convince his wimpy older sisters to get with the program.  Katie won't let go of the side of the pool and Abby won't let go of her Dad.  Keep in mind her Dad does not need to hold onto her.  She clings to him like a baby monkey making sure even a pinky toe does not enter the water all while screaming her head off.  I have a feeling someone may get tossed in against their will soon if the dramatics don't stop.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Just Swimming

Since we really can't afford to do much running around this summer but still wanted to give the kids some fun, we finally bought one of those quick set pools.  Hopefully it will be deep enough for Katie and Liam to get more comfortable and actually start swimming a bit.  I have to say it is likely just a wee bit too small for all the swimming the older kids want to do but they seem happy anyway.  Ok, thrilled at the moment actually.  It will make for an interesting summer, that much is certain.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Backyard Science

Have I ever mentioned the amount of wild life we can find without leaving our property?  Since moving here we have shared the property at various times with a lonely cat (previous owners abandoned the poor thing, I do not care for cats but that is just wrong), deer, fox, rabbits, various birds, a hedgehog looking thing (Alan's knows exactly what it is but I have no clue), a raccoon with a taste for chicken blood, our chickens, a skunk, snakes, mice, rats and toads. There are also of course lots of butterflies, bees, wasps and other assorted insects.
For the most part I enjoy being able to catch glimpses of these animals out the windows but lately the kids have been bringing the creatures even closer to me.  They are catching snakes and toads.  The last toad caught was left terrified after Kieran carried it and ran quickly all over the yard.  Poor thing was making the most pitiful noises before we insisted it was set free.
And the kids seem to be very talented at catching snakes.  Only garter snakes as they have been warned to stay the heck away from the others.  But they don't seem to understand why I am not as excited as they are over the snakes in the jar.  Guess I'm just not as much fun as I used to be.