Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Veggie Tales-Where Have All the Staplers Gone

Just because I am in that kind of a mood, I bring you a song which brought a smile or two to our faces while stuck in purgatory, er, I mean the van packed with 9 fidgety children and assorted junk during our vacation. You've just got to love Silly Songs with Larry.

Monday, November 28, 2011


It seems like Advent has kind of snuck up on us this year.  I know it really hasn't but for some reason it seemed to come sooner than expected.  I wish I could say we have grand plans for this year but I have decided not to even plan much this year and just see what gets done instead.  The only think I am planning this year is to actually finish reading the book Jotham's Journey this year.  We started it last year and never finished it.  I don't think the Jesse Tree will be done this year although we may learn a bit about it at some point.  We splurged on a LEGO Advent calendar this year for the children.  Perhaps it was about the same cost as buying 8 or 9 of the chocolate Advent calendars but there will be toys leftover that the kids will use long term this way.  We have the Advent wreath hanging from the lights in the dining room this year because we usually run out of space if it's sitting on the table.  Hopefully we will be able to keep the kitchen table cleared for doing a larger Christmas puzzle.  The tree won't go up for several weeks and won't be decorated until Christmas Eve.  I have to find a new place to set out our creche since we have different furniture in the living room than we did last year.  Just hoping we can keep things calm and peaceful and low key this year.  One thing I am going to try to do is another purge of the house.  28 days of Advent will hopefully correspond to 28 items purged from the house.  I figure when you have so much clutter in the house that your belongings are becoming a hassle rather than a blessing, it is time to get rid of a few more of them. But the point of this rambling post is to say I hope everyone has a peaceful and meaningful advent this year. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Spent the morning at church with a few of the kids and someone snapped this picture for me.  Just a few of the wonderful people I am thankful to have in my life. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baby Steps

Sometimes we all take baby steps.

  It is just cuter when some people do it

Holiday Traditions

This time of year I normally have a bit of an internal debate with myself.  I think we all have at least in the back of our minds some sort of idealistic picture we imagine when we think of the holidays.  A time with little arguing, great memories, families coming together to share and plenty of food.  Let's throw in church traditions as well that everyone will agree with.  Ok, this almost never happens.  Instead you often have a few people who had too much to drink and are getting too loud (or talking about now going to another party to drink more when they are already drunk and their parents just sit there and say nothing which is baffling, um, take their darn car keys), a tv blaring, people fighting, someone mad because they think someone else's kids are ruining their perfect child because there is no way their sweet perfect child ever would have done anything wrong, and the always present fight over are we spending equal time with each side of the family.  And other such crap.

The first year we were married, our holidays were spent blissfully alone.  Nice, quiet, peaceful.  The next year we started to feel a bit of guilt for not sharing our son with everyone else but we stuck to our guns and enjoyed a quiet year mostly alone.  Then we started to let that guilt thing creep in.  So we tried having different people over each year (because we both agreed we weren't schlepping the kids across the country or where ever) but it still never gave us a sense of peace.  I guess maybe we are just meant to be home bodies.  Or something.

Each year I try to come up with some meaningful traditions of our own.  The truth is that we are just too much of a fly by the seat of your pants kind of family to have too many traditions.  Our Thanksgiving tradition seems to be that Alan is always working on Thursday.  I can't remember a year in the last 12 when he wasn't working or on call (which means he ends up working at some point) or out of town.  The other Thanksgiving tradition is that the guys in the family do the cooking. This means that on Thanksgiving itself, the kids and I now settle down to movies and finger foods.  I didn't really realize how much the kids looked forward to their Thanksgiving finger food feast until they started requesting items when at the store and threw a minor party when they saw the ever popular fake spray cheese in a can crap that they only get on Thanksgiving. Alan likes to make a real dinner whenever he's home but the years he has been gone, we've gone without one because I am indeed that lazy.

Christmas traditions have evolved rather slowly for us as well.  The tree goes up late in Advent.  Santa visits on St. Nicholas Day, not Christmas Day and he only brings chocolate or maybe a small toy.  (If I'm going to go to all the work to buy the big present, there is a small part of me that wants a bit of credit for it instead of some mythical dude.)  We go to Mass Christmas morning and sleep in a bit.  No presents until after church.  The Advent wreaths with the kids making the candles some years.  We usually make at least an attempt at starting a Jesse Tree and we have a few manger scenes around (with the wise men absent until Epiphany).  Confession during Advent and lately we've been putting off making the cookies until the actual Christmas season (IOW Christmas Day and later).  The tree stays up through the entire real Christmas Season.  We try to read appropriate books during Advent and do some crafts but some years go better than others.  Some years cards go out, some years they don't.

The one thing that is missing from our holidays is the frantic running from one place to another, the scheduling to make sure we see everyone and check off every single obligation.  Personally, I hate to be thought of as an obligation and would rather someone did not try to see me than come just out of obligation.  I will admit to being rather hurt when one family member basically told me they only came to one of our children's baptisms out of obligation, one that we now in their mind had to return.  So we try to avoid the obligatory mumbo jumbo.  We love visitors but we don't love entertaining or feeling required to clean and put on that perfect look.  I guess I'm hoping this year will be quiet, peaceful, restful and full of joy.  Once we got rid of a lot of the obligation and expectations, we found ourselves enjoying our holidays as a small family much more.  I hope you and your family will be able to do the same.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Fort Niagara

On Friday we took a trip to Old Fort Niagara.  It was a wee bit cold and windy but the kids were troopers and enjoyed the day. We learned about the history of the fort and the kids were given a bit of instruction in the life of the soldiers who would have occupied this fort.  They learned about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the musket, why rifles were not used in combat, why battles were fought how they were at the time and now to properly hold and fire a musket.  I do believe the portion of the day that was spent with the muskets and learning from the French soldier will be the most remembered portion of the trip.

We also learned of the connection between Fort Niagara and The Star-Spangled Banner, although I'm pretty sure the kids have already forgotten.  Like I said, the muskets were the big rage.

We would have stayed a bit longer to explore after our tour but it was getting rather cold and a few kids were complaining about not being able to feel their fingers or something.  So we headed off to drop in on my grandparents for a bit instead.  Nothing like brownies, candy and soda to warm the kids back up.

I'd love to head back to the Fort in slightly warmer weather or perhaps when they are holding one of their reenactments and take Alan with us.  I have a feeling he'd enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Few More Vacation Pictures

Just a few more vacation pictures. Did I mention that Alan and the older kids spent the afternoon at the beach and saw a group of dolphins hunting fish?  Amazing sight I've been told.
 This is how we pack for the trip apparently.
We discovered that we only have 2 suitcases.  Obviously one day we'll have to fix that.  We do have a few large green duffle bags and I've learned to pack in plastic totes because they are easy to stack in the van and carry so we're good as long as we don't ever have to fly somewhere.
 The view from the front row.  Yes, we turned Robert around for the trip thinking he'd want to watch movies but apparently he gets car sick facing forward, wasn't interested in the movies on the way down and the DVD player wouldn't work on the way back home.  He'll be turned back around for the rest of the winter to get us through the icy road season and keep him safer.  And, um, I think we've almost outgrown the van. Hard to imagine.
Kids with personality.  Everyone had fun spending time with their cousins.  It would be nice to be able to get the kids together a bit more often especially since they seem to have so much in common.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Real Reason for the Vacation

Ok, the real reason for the trip to Florida was to wish Grandpa Herb a Happy 90th Birthday.  We really miss being close enough to see Grandpa every week and being able to have the kids get to know one of their grandparents so well.  He's been the only grandparent they have who was just able to drop in at soccer games and such.  I know the kids loved being so close to him and Alan really enjoyed having a chance to get to know him as an adult.  I know we enjoyed spending the time with him so I sincerely hope he enjoyed having the chance to catch up and see everyone.

LEGOLand Pictures

Just a few pictures from LEGOLand.  As I said, we all enjoyed the visit.  I wish we'd had a bit more time to spend there but the traffic was awful that day.  There is enough to keep both little and big kids occupied but if you have both age groups with you, you'll have to split up to hit everything.  We're used to doing that so not a big deal for us.  I learned that Abby is a bit of a dare devil and Liam is not quite as adventurous as his younger sisters.  But there is no way in heck he will admit that in front of his little sisters.  I think in the future the girls will be going to bigger rides with Bryan while Liam and Sean hand out at the slightly more tame ones.  I guess several of the folks who joined us for the group trip are hoping to put together another field trip soon.  With the rates being so low right now, it makes perfect sense.

Ellie's first ride. She was not impressed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Belated Halloween Pictures

I actually succumbed to the begging and pleading and drove the kids to a friend's house to go trick or treating this year.  Liam said it was the best night ever.  Keep in mind these kids have not been trick or treating since we moved here so I don't think Liam could remember ever doing this before.  Amazing how excited they get over these things.  Just one small gripe.  Don't put your religious tracts in with the candy you give the kids.  Hand it to the parents if you want to share with us but don't give it directly to the young children.  I appreciate that you feel it is your duty to save young children's souls but you'll get much farther with most folks if you are up front about what you are trying to do.
And, yes, that is a real uniform Bryan is wearing. Not his Dad's but it belonged to a friend of mine.  Kind of shocking to see how big he is getting.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ten Things I Learned While On Vacation

1.  The mountains of West Virginia are very beautiful.  Not that I would want to live there but it's a beautiful place to visit.

2.  You can get a new battery for the van at the local mega-mart at 4:30 in the morning.

3.  Folks in the south are just so much more polite than those living in the north.  It must be a cultural thing but I really miss it living in New York.  We knew we'd arrived back in the north when we had to deal with a crabby old lady in a parking lot yelling and carrying on for so long that Alan finally called her an old bat and told her to be quiet.  :)

4.  I will never understand the concept of hot boiled peanuts.

5.  Always call your hotel ahead of time no matter what your past experience with their chain has been.  Fire codes vary by city and you may find yourself having to rent a second suite to legally accommodate your family.  Not fun when you arrive at night and have already rented a two bedroom suite.

6.  Our country is so darn uniform that it is a tad depressing.  No matter what state you travel through, you see the same mix of mega-marts, restaurants, fast food joints, hotels and kiddie amusements.  We need some real culture in our country because kiddie amusements sure as heck don't count.

7.  We will more than likely never buy another Chevy vehicle again.  The front passenger interior door handle came off with no reason or warning. This is after the back interior door handle came off and the back interior door panel came off and the back exterior door fell off.  Yes, the door fell off.  Chevy apparently cares way more about their bottom line than their customers.  Don't even get me started on the lack of 3 point seat belts and headrests in every seating location in our van.  Safety and quality construction apparently don't mean a darn thing to this company any longer.

8.  It is possible for children to survive a 12 hour car ride without a DVD player.  Shocking.

9.  When you think you no longer have a child who gets car sick, one will start throwing up every time they get in the car.  Never when you are in a good location to stop either.  So just save yourself the headache and buy the dramamine ahead of time.

10.  We will never be comfortable in big cities.  Traffic, noise, rudeness, light pollution.  Just not our thing.  Give me deer for neighbors and being able to actually see the stars in the sky any day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Relative Term

I've been doing a lot of random reading here and there lately.  Stumbled upon something that truly spoke to me.  I've been hesitant to share it because of where we have been over the last week and a half but I guess I've gotten over that.  If folks will get offended, maybe they are thinking too much.

"Blood and a name makes you a relative.  Only a relationship makes you family."  Or at least that is the gist of it.  I totally forgot where I found it but it seemed rather appropriate for my life.  I realized I have a whole ton of relatives but very few folks who would qualify as family.  And most of the folks who qualify as family do not fall under the relative heading.  I imagine this is somewhat normal for a family where both parents are somewhat uncomfortable in large group social settings.  We both tend to be rather introverted, especially when surrounded by those large groups of relatives who have known each other forever since they spent most of their lives living right near each other.  It's rather hard to break into a group like that if you don't already have a lot in common with them.  And we've both moved so often not only growing up but since getting married so long term friends are hard to come by it seems. It rather sucks at times when you don't have a clue who to call in the middle of the night when all the kids are sick and you just ran out of medicine or have some other emergency.  Granted, we've learned to manage on our own and are just praying that we are raising kids who will have a stronger support system built in than we seem to have had but you never know.  Somehow just thinking of it in new terms makes me feel a little bit better.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


We survived our trip to LEGOLand.  The kids enjoyed themselves.  The older two were thrilled to mix something they rarely get to do (going to a theme park) with seeing some of their friends.  The park is a smaller place and designed more for kids than adults.  There is plenty for the little ones to do but it's harder to get to things for all of the age groups at once.  They did have some pretty strict rules about how tall you could be for the rides and making sure adults were with the smaller kids.  If you just have a toddler or a kid under 3, it's not worth a visit. But then again, if that is the age of your kid, I don't understand taking them to a theme park anyway.

The old Cyprus Gardens park was left and included in LEGOLand which means you can also see waterski shows and enjoy the botanical gardens.  The kids loved seeing miniland with the replicas of Kennedy Space Center, New York City and other places.

Apparently if you are used to bigger theme parks or are able to go to theme parks on a regular basis, you might be disappointed in the park. But our kids had a blast.  And putting together a group trip was super easy and very affordable.  Overall I have to say the park was very family friendly and great for small children.  I'll also admit that the trip pretty much reminded me of my true feelings on theme parks.  Something fun to do with the kids on a rare occasion but not something that I would ever want to plan an entire vacation around or something every kid needs to do.  If given the choice, I'd really prefer taking the kids hiking or exploring nature rather than spending lots of money on child driven tourist traps.  But the kids love it and I do like to occasionally give them these experiences when we can find a way to fit them into the budget. Pictures will have to wait until I can get them off my camera.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Church with Little Ones

I have to say attending Mass with all the kids can be an interesting experience.  We do our best to cut down on the distractions for the kids by sitting in the front and not bringing along books or toys or snacks.  We've come to believe that if a child can learn to sit still for a movie or for dinner, they can learn to sit still for Mass.  There is one drawback to sitting in the front.  When your kids are having a hard time sitting still, everyone else can see them.  This isn't so bad when it's the baby dancing in the aisle or pulling up on the back of the pew.  But it's not great when it's the two-year-old who knows he's in trouble and has decided to run away by crawling under the pews.   Or when WWIII has broken out between a few of the kids and they are beating on each other.  Or when it has just gotten really quiet and your child decides to yell out "Ow! My butt!"  Sigh, if you want to ever be truly humbled, take your children to Mass with you.  Just don't forget to take your sense of humor with you as well.