Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Dangers of Homeschooling

When I first saw this video, I immediately thought of the relationship Gabe and Bryan have with each other.  Bryan is a wonderful big brother who lets Gabe hang around and climb on him and ask a bazillion questions.  Most days I think Gabe's favorite person is his big brother.  All last summer Gabe would come running yelling with glee when Bryan got home from work.  He was even more excited than he is when Mom or Dad come home.  A relationship that I can guarantee would not have developed if the kids were in school all day simply because the two of them would never have had enough time together to truly get to know each other.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Boy Scouts

Tonight was the final Court of Awards for the season.  Bryan and Sean both advanced to Tenderfoot and each earned 3 merit badges.  This year they have also earned the Ad Altare Dei religious medal.  They head to camp in about a month and I believe they will both be working on 3 badges there this summer.  They both seem to be enjoying scouts and Kieran is waiting anxiously in the wings to join them after his next birthday.

If You Take a Toddler to the Park

This was Ellie at the park:

I know she is a bit of a blur in that last picture but work with me.
This is Ellie right now:
Totally wiped out and sound asleep in her bed.

Monday, Monday

We spent Monday afternoon visiting some friends who live right on a lake near/in a state park.  The kids spent a good portion of the day in the water because it was warmer than expected.  No pictures of Bryan because he was off with the older kids hiking and kayaking.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Menu Plan

I'm making this up as I am typing so who knows how well it work out for us.  Today is our oldest son's birthday but we celebrated yesterday.  Friday we have guests coming into town so there is never a guarantee that things will stay as planned in that event but we will do our best.

Monday: super Sonic breakfast burritos for the birthday boy (B), at a friends' house for dinner so whatever we are served
Tuesday: cereal (B), macaroni and cheese (L), taco salad (D)
Wednesday: blueberry bread or cereal, fruit (B), sandwiches (L), Boy Scout picnic (D)
Thursday: baked oatmeal (B), sandwiches or leftovers (L), meatloaf (D)
Friday: eggs (B), sandwiches (L), hot dogs and bratwurst (D)
Saturday: donuts and bagels (B), not a clue (L), pizza (D)
Sunday: cereal (B), coming up empty here, too (L), steak (D)

I realize the meal plan is heavy on red meat this week but we have to put a bit more a dent into the beef in the freezer.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Pink and Purple Room

Alan was finally able to finish painting the girls' room today.  While he was finishing the painting, Katie and I went to the store to pick out comforters and a little wall art for the room.  I decided to take pictures before I totally forgot so please ignore the slight mess.  The room is not exactly put back together yet but we're working on it.
Yes, each girl has a different comforter.  Just seems to work best that way.

And that would be 4 pink walls and 3 purple ones.  Total cost for the paint was about $6 since I picked up with purple in the mistinted section at the hardware store and used our military discount to get an additional 10% off and the pink was free giveaway from Glidden paint.  Which almost makes up for the fact that it took so darn long for us to make good on our promise to paint the room for the girls.  Almost.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Bryan and Sean

We recently celebrated two more birthdays.  Sean turned 13 and Bryan will soon be 15.  This means we have entered a new stage of parenting.  We not only have children in the house, we also have young adults.  There is a big difference in parenting with these older children.  No, I'm not really a fan of the teenager label.  To me that label is just an excuse for allowing people to act immaturely and shirk growing responsibilities.  It's been an interesting ride so far and I'm rather enjoying it.  I'm proud to say we have two young  men who are almost always willing to help out and help to keep things running smoothly around here.  Most of the time.
This year the boys treated us to dinner at Olive Garden.  Since Sean's meal ended up coming out late, we were also given a free dessert.  Everyone behaved wonderfully (as we've come to expect because no one wants to spend the meal sitting in the van with a grumpy parent) and the boys have enough money left over to take their grandparents out to dinner next week.
Happy birthday to two of my favorite guys.  Hope you had a wonderful time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Yellow Belt

On Thursday, the two older boys tested for their yellow belts.  They are both very happy to say they passed.  Next week, the middle 3 kids will test for their belts.  The older two have promised to work with the younger kids this week to help prepare them.  Hopefully next week we'll have 5 yellow belts.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I ordered a new batch of caterpillars a few weeks ago.  Actually, I accidentally ordered the prepaid certificate for the caterpillars which I then had to mail back to the company to request our caterpillars.  Don't know what I was thinking when I did that.  We like to order our caterpillars from Insect Lore. They have a great selection of insect themed science projects, fast shipping, and many coupon codes available at all times.  Your butterfly habitat is reusable so all you need after your first year is the caterpillars.  This year I also ordered a book on painted lady butterflies because our local library only seems to have books on monarch butterflies. Lots and lots of books on monarch butterflies but almost none on other types.  Hold fees to get a book from another library are $1 each so it's often more efficient in the long run to just order a book or two to keep at home instead.
But the caterpillars arrived earlier this week.  So far I have managed to keep the little folks from shaking the caterpillars.  They don't take to be shaken too well. It tends to cause them to not turn into butterflies or so we learned last time we did this.  In a few weeks, we will have painted lady butterflies.

Yes, this is one of those projects I try to do every few years. Even if the older children have already seen the metamorphosis happen, the younger children likely can't remember it.  And I've found everyone learns a little something extra every time.  Just one of those reminders that it is important to continue to do activities with your younger children even if you've already done it before or if you find it boring because honestly, most of parenting is not about you or what you find interesting.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Generation Next

Those who know us well know that we have been spending the past couple years doing everything we can to get rid of our consumer debt.  Consumer debt mostly caused by stupid mistakes and a lack of commitment and knowledge.  As we've traveled this path, I have become committed to making sure we give our children the necessary information at an early age to allow them to hopefully avoid the mistakes we have made.  Yes, the proper management of money is a very necessary life skill but one that is often not taught by parents because we seem to feel as if finances are something that should never be discussed.  Although finances are a difficult topic to discuss, failing to do so with your children is leaving them without a very necessary life skill.

I have been searching for a program to use with our teens to help put them on a firm financial footing before they leave the nest.  There are many different ideas out there but I was having trouble finding something that was both sensible and affordable.

Many years ago I ordered the book 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Guide to Managing Your Money.  Although we were not ready to commit to everything in the book at that time, I loved the common sense approach, lack of excuses, and ready made resources in the book.  When I saw that the author of that book had a similar program aimed at teens and young adults, I was immediately interested in reading it.

Generation Next: A Catholic Guide to Financial Freedom for Young Adults by Phil Lenahan is a wonderful resource for teaching your children about managing their finances.  The book is broken up into eleven chapters.  Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of financial planning.  Topics covered include managing debt, money and marriage, real estate, and financial generosity.  This workbook has examples of resumes, tax forms, pay checks, a credit report, and budgeting sheets. A glossary is included in to explain terms that the reader might not be familiar with yet.

Each chapter ends in discussion topics, many of which help the reader understand how financial management relates back to their faith.  Every chapter also has an activity which is included in the teacher resource guide.  While this guide is inexpensive and will add to the program, you can easily use the workbook without it simply by skipping over the activity sections.

I found this book to be a wonderful resource that covered topics even I learned from.  My only issue with the book is the age guidelines.  I believe waiting until someone is 17 to start sharing such information is waiting far too long.  I believe this book can and should be used earlier.  This book is written in a very down to earth, easy to read style that lends itself to being attractive to younger readers.  I would take advantage of this fact and put the book in the hands of folks just starting high school.

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 Generation Next - Workbook. This is also a great online Catholic store for all your religious shopping needs, such as gifts for Confirmation and gifts for a baby baptism.

Escaping from Karate

While the older five attend karate class, I have to find something to do with the younger four.  Usually I also have two other kids that I need to watch as well.  Normally occupying a few kids would not be a big deal for only an hour.  But for some reason during karate class, the kids always get out of control and loud.  We are allowed to hang out in the back room at the karate studio and they have a wonderful area for the kids to play.  Unfortunately, the room also tends to echo a bit and get loud.  Add to that one child who is a wee bit sensitive to everything so he gets upset easily over what we consider normal not even worth noticing bumps and such in our family.  And for the last 15 minutes, the older folks have a private lesson so all of the other kids converge on the back room bringing the noise and chaos level much higher than I like.

Yes, all normal ideas have been tried to contain the sheer chaos of the back room during karate.  Snacks, toys, games.  Nothing seems to work and I frankly do not at all look forward to karate class because I do not like dealing with the back room of chaos. 

Over the past few weeks I have started taking the younger kids for a snack instead.  Between the walk to the store, having a snack, then walking back to the studio, the kids are kept occupied and we usually only have about 15 minutes left in class.  Last week we actually sat and quietly watched the last of the class instead of having to go to the back room at all.  I loved it because I feel like I am missing out on what the older kids are doing since I never get to watch the class.  Granted, part of the different feel last week was a few missing kids but overall, taking the younger ones out for a walk/snack has made a difference.  Can't say I love hanging out during karate class yet but at least I'm not dreading it every week anymore.

Little Flowers

We had our last formal Little Flowers meeting of the school year last week.  We studied fortitude at this meeting and the girls painted sun catchers. 
Next month we will have everyone and their families over for a bonfire night. 
We had a wonderful group of girls this year.  With such a wide age range, it was sometimes hard to figure out craft activities that everyone could handle.  Thankfully whenever a younger girl needed help with anything, there was always an older girl ready to jump in and help out.  This made things run much more smoothly than I was expecting.

I think the girls have enjoyed themselves this year.  Now to figure out what to do for next year since things will be a bit busier and I'll have a little one to tend to for part of the time.  No, I'm not a babysitter type person for infants. They stay with Mom for their entire first year because that is what is best for them.  While this makes things just a tad more complicated with regard to meetings such as Little Flowers, it is more than worth it in the long run.  So here's a hint: it does not help me if you try to insist on helping me by taking/holding the baby or try to force me to give you the baby because you don't get to see them often.  Nope, not helpful. Just not how I operate or what works for our family.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Need a Meal Plan

I usually figure out the meal plan on Saturday or Sunday.  This has not happened yet this week. I was putting it off due to a birthday today.  The birthday child always gets to pick every meal on their birthday (of the day we are celebrating their birthday).  Today that has meant donuts for breakfast, cheeseburgers and fries for lunch, and I have snake soup in the crock pot for dinner.  We do usually go out to eat on a birthday but this year Bryan and Sean decided they wanted to go somewhere a tad more expensive than usual and decided to request the same restaurant and combine their gift cards so we will go out later this week to celebrate both birthdays.  I'm glad they put their heads together and realized that certain places are more expensive than others. So later this week they will treat us to Olive Garden.

We will likely have pulled pork sometime this week since I did not make that on Sunday (kids had hot dogs instead).  Otherwise, I really have no clue.  I'm trying to make meals that I can eat without getting sick but that kind of requires going outside my normal meal list.  In other words, I have to think more.  So if you have any ideas, I'm listening.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I'm going to come right out and say I do not enjoy having to clean out the playroom.  Yes, it needs to be done.  Yes, it is time to do the near annual whole house purge so that we can find the space to put one more human body in this house. Yes, the playroom is a great place to start because it desperately needs it. But I don't like dealing with it.

I wonder if it would be easier if we did not always have a younger one growing into the toys the older ones are loosing interest in.  I know it would be easier without the LEGO infestation.  And how on earth do my destructive kids manage to break LEGO blocks?  Really, they baffle me.

But the clean out is at least half done.  As long as I can continue to keep the children out of the room, it will be done soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What We've Been Up To Lately

Or what we've learned in real life.

Bryan got an honorable mention in the photo contest at the library.  I have to admit he just grabbed any old photo that he took to enter rather than taking the time to choose one of his better ones.  He was focusing on the librarian telling him they did not have many entries rather than trying his best and lots of people ended up entering at the last minute.  But I think he has learned from that and will try a bit harder next year.

Alan has managed to piece together one working lawnmower from the parts of the two push mowers we had.  Considering one caught on fire and the other one has been broken since we lived in Florida, I am rather impressed that he managed to piece a mostly working one together.  It has a few quirks but it works.  The lawn tractor is once again broken but he's hoping to get that fixed soon. Until he does, the boys are out mowing every single day because that is the only way to keep up with mowing 3 acres with just a push mower.

Friends came over and had the kids clean the downstairs for an early Mother's Day present.  Which was rather nice since I've been too sick to keep up with it.

We are working on reorganizing and purging the playroom. Something that needs to be done far more often than it is done.  When the kids can't keep it organized themselves, it is time for me to help them get rid of stuff to make it easier.  Hopefully I can finish this project this week.

Robert is fighting the idea of potty training with everything he has in him.

Katie made a cake last night almost entirely on her own (her older brother read the directions to her and helped out with putting things in the oven but she did most of it herself).

Last weekend I took 3 of the kids to Home Depot to make planters.  Gabe kept sitting on the "table" and knocking the other end of it up into Katie's face which made it rather hard for her to work.  He just could not understand that a piece of plywood set on supports is not a true table top and cannot be sat upon.

One of the kids broke the back window of the van last Sunday.  Thankfully we have full glass coverage and Safelight will come right to your home (and the van fits in the garage because we got tons of rain before the window was fixed).  But said child will be working that off for a while anyway because it was not entirely an accident.

The slackline has been hung up in the side yard and the kids are learning that it is not quite as easy as it appears but they are enjoying themselves.

So nothing amazing but we've been keeping busy.

Meal Plan

Lunches this week will be a mix of sandwiches and leftovers.  I am trying to crack down a bit more on using up all of the leftovers and making sure things do no get pushed to the back of the fridge.  This sometimes requires a wee bit of creativity but it is worth it when it helps keep the grocery bills down which has become even more important since Sean has been switched to an allergy medicine that will cost over $50 a month and been put on a daily inhaler.   But at least now the kid is no longer coughing all night, is breathing better, and actually sleeping.

Monday: cereal (B), crockpot beef and broccoli stir fry (D)
Tuesday: baked oatmeal (B), hearty Italian soup (D)
Wednesday: eggs and toast (B), taco soup (D)
Thursday: yogurt and granola (B), crockpot pasta fagioli soup (D)
Friday: breakfast burritos (B), tuna casserole (D)
Saturday: blueberry bread (B), pizza night (pretty much always homemade so, no, we aren't throwing the budget away one night a week) (D)
Sunday: probably cereal since Alan will be gone (B), pulled pork (D)

I also have to figure out a meal to take to a family on Wednesday night and the weekend plans are all depending on how well I am feeling since Alan will be gone this weekend.  I am planning to get back to making our own yogurt this week because buying it really is insanely expensive. It is much cheaper to make it but the kids destroyed the cooler that I was using for incubating the yogurt so I have to try something new. I am hoping I can use the microwave to incubate since using the oven just would not work.  I'd likely forget it was in there and someone would preheat the oven and ruin the yogurt. I do need to put it in something so it does not get disturbed so I'm hoping the microwave will work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

NFP and Pre-Cana

We were supposed to have an NFP class to teach tonight but the folks did not show up.  Which happens at times.  We certainly understand although we do wish they'd called.  We tend to end up teaching 2 or 3 classes a year and lately have been working with a pre-cana program at the Cathedral parish as well.  While we do feel it is important to share the truth about NFP whenever possible, I am going to admit that I am starting to feel a tad burned out and frustrated with it.

I'm wondering how we can truly reach the folks who need to hear the message.  How to give them the message in a positive way and how to get the clergy in our area behind us.  Most of our classes are full of Protestant couples with a strong faith who desire a method of family planning that does not conflict with their beliefs.  I'm wondering how we are attracting these folks but not a Catholic audience given that the Catholic Church has always taught that the only acceptable form of family planning is natural family planning and fertility awareness.  I'm grateful for the chance to speak at pre-cana programs because we heard nothing about NFP in our own pre-cana program. Heck, we heard nothing of any real consequence in our own pre-cana program but that is a different story.  A sad one at best.  But I digress.  The problem as I see it is if you wait until couples are in pre-cana to finally give them the first information about NFP, it is already too late in most cases.  I believe we need to reach high school age kids with the message. We need to teach girls about NFP as we are teaching them about puberty.  We need to introduce boys to the concepts when we discuss with them how to properly show respect for the girls and women in their lives. They need to think of it as something normal, not something odd.  It needs to be shown as a real and responsible choice.

How do we make those changes?  I think I would feel less burned out and slightly less like a fraud when giving NFP talks if I at least felt as if I had support from the clergy.  So how do we drum up that support? This is what I am pondering lately.  Yes, I feel NFP is the greatest gift a married couple can give each other if they feel the need to space their children.  No, you are never obligated to use it.  You are just obligated to never use any artificial means of child spacing.  Yes, I feel NFP is the best choice health wise for all women.  I can't understand how any man who claims to love his spouse can be ok with her taking the risks associated with hormonal contraception use.  The two seem rather contradictory to me. I guess I'm just wondering how in the heck we can get the real truthful information out to people.  I long to hear someone light up when they realize how simple and amazing NFP actually is in practice.  Guess I'd better get back to thinking and planning on this one.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dinner Disaster

The unthinkable happened yesterday. I pulled out the 7 quart crock pot only to discover a large crack running all the way through the insert. This obviously means it can't be used to cook any longer. I could just envision it completely breaking while in the middle of making a meal and the huge mess would be, well, a mess. So I pulled out the 6 quart crock pot and tossed dinner into that one instead.

Then I sat down to browse for a replacement for the crock pot.  Seriously, I would be lost without my crock pots.  They make cooking for the crew while doing other things so much easier.

I discovered that a replacement insert is basically the same price as an entire new crock pot.  So I started looking for an 8 quart model since we do at times need something bigger.  Instead we settled on an 18 quart roaster oven with an adjustable temperature setting. This will allow us to use it as a crock pot or as a regular oven.  It will also give us a place to cook the turkey on holidays and free up the oven.  I'm still debating another 7 or 8 quart crock pot since I can't make yogurt and cook dinner at the same time and I don't always need a huge one.  Guess we'll just wait and see what happens in a few weeks.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Meal Plan

I am starting to think that meal plans at this stage in the game are rather pointless.  You'll find that a lot of last week's plan is recycled this week because it was never made. The kids ate a lot of cereal last week and Bryan jumped in and made dinner a time or two for me.  He's getting rather creative in the kitchen and starting to jump away from our standard menus and come up with his own ideas. Some of them make me question what he was thinking (just kidding) but most of them have been absolutely delicious.  Sean is making further progress as well but he's still more in the cookie and boxed meal stage of cooking.  Since the only boxed meal I buy on a regular basis is macaroni and cheese, that means he does not have too much variety yet.  I'm hoping to fix that by the time this baby is born so the older two boys can take over dinner for a few weeks if needed.  Obviously Alan is picking up a lot of the slack as well but if dinner waits until he gets home from work, the kids end up eating a bit late.  It happens but it's not what we want to happen often.

Monday: chocolate banana baked oatmeal (B), leftovers (L), frito chili pie (D)
Tuesday: waffles, oranges (B), ham and cheese, fruit (L), beef tips, rice (D)
Wednesday: yogurt, granola (B), peanut butter and jelly, pretzels (L), macaroni and cheese with broccoli (D)
Thursday: eggs, toast (B), ham and cheese, fruit (L), cheese steak sandwiches (D)
Friday: cereal (B), leftovers (L), fish (D)
Saturday: SuperSonic breakfast burritos (B), tuna salad (L), pizza night (D)
Sunday: muffins (B), leftovers (L), pork chops, spatzle (D)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What We Have Learned This Week

I can't say we have done anything absolutely stellar school wise this week.  Combine Alan being out of town with me feeling rather sick and just the basics got covered. Barely.  And yet that is just the way it goes some weeks.

Most of the kids are still reading about the Titanic.  We checked out a bunch of books and put a few documentaries in the Netflix queue around the anniversary of the tragedy. Since I've been just renewing books and avoiding an extra trip into town, the books are still around the house and the kids have watched several movies.  We haven't watched the Hollywood version with the kids though because Alan thinks it does not focus on the truly important stuff.  I have to kind of agree.

Alan brought home pictures and a few movies of the sea lions in San Francisco so the kids have spent quite a lot of time watching those.

We've learned a rock thrown at the van will indeed shatter the back window.  Don't ask.  My children baffle me but I'll be getting that repaired this week.

First Friday co-op is over and I am rather relieved to not have to deal with the drive and the craziness again.  It's a wash for our family I think.  The high schooler often missed his science class while standing in the confession line because one of the children  would spend over 30 minutes in there.  He expressed lots of frustration over the situation but it never changed.  And since the science class was the sole reason we attended, it rather frustrated me as well.  The other kids enjoyed the art projects and such but mostly just want social time.  Academic work is kind of pointless when you only meet once a month but it often seemed social interaction was not really encouraged.  At least from my perspective.  And Ellie learned to start defending herself in the nursery.  Not a good thing, but not a bad thing either.  At least she choose to take on a child with a mom who understood toddler behavior and did not freak out over the incident.  I mean, they are one-year-olds and things happen.  But sometimes parents freak out over these things and act as if their child would never dream of ever acting like a toddler.  Parents like that amuse me.

We attended the final art class and art show for the year.  The kids all did a great job this year and are looking forward to the class next year.

The older kids stayed up late on Saturday to make up missing out on the soccer game when Alan missed his flight home.  Instead they got to get the telescope out and look at the super moon.

So overall a normal week and life goes on.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Art Class

Today was the final art show for the class the kids were taking at one of our local colleges.  I had 5 kids enrolled this year, everyone from kindergarten to eighth grade.  These classes are very affordable way to provide the kids a chance to work with higher quality art materials and ideas. The classes are taught by art education majors working on getting classroom experience. This means all we have to pay for is materials and the rates top off at 3 kids, any others are free.

Because most schools are cutting their art classes and art departments, the teachers are being taught how to incorporate art as a part of other disciplines. The projects usually focus on cultural awareness in some way or computer graphics.

I did not manage to get pictures of each kid with their individual projects but I did take pictures of most of the projects.  Sean carved an Enterprise which most folks at the art show loved.  Kieran worked on computer images.  Katie and Liam did sculpting projects.  Abby's projects focused on animals this year.  There are 3 sessions during the class and each session focuses on making one single large project so everyone brings home 3 completed items.

The Marian projects were made by Gabe today at his preschool class.  He'll join the bigger kids next year but this year he just had preschool once a month.  He seems to have loved it.

A Boy and His Bike

Katie taught Gabe how to ride a two-wheeler.  Please excuse the not so great picture.  Shortly after this, Liam actually took the training wheels off for Gabe rather than just having them pushed up.  He still can't quite turn that well but Gabe is doing rather well.  Now to convince Abby to give it a try.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fun With the Holy Family

Do you have kids who love to color? Who are constantly clamoring for you to print out a picture for them to color, please!  Kids who will go through a case of printer paper faster than you can turn around? If so, then I have a book for you to put into your budding artists' hands.
Fun With the Holy Family is a coloring and activity book from Pauline Books and Media.  Every other page in this 64 page book is a wonderful picture depicting a scene from the life of the Holy Family.  The other pages are various activities and games to help the child learn more of the Holy Family's story.  These activities include mazes, word games, drawing activities, and craft ideas.

When this book arrived, most of the kids were begging for a chance to use it first.  Today I opened the book to a coloring page showing the Annunciation and gave it to Gabe.  He was very thrilled to have a chance to color someone with "his name" and spent quite a bit of time showing the book to his older sister.  I know, I should have cute pictures to share with you but I am a bit of a slacker mom who is battling morning sickness and just thought to myself "Hey, look.  They are sitting so quietly and seem so happy.  I'm going to enjoy the quiet for a bit and sit down," and only realized that pictures would have been awesome after they were up and running again.

Fun With the Holy Family is a perfect book for kids in the 5-8 age range.  Younger kids will love coloring the pictures but the older kids will love the activity pages.

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 Fun with the Holy Family. They are also a great source for a baptism gifts or first communion gifts.