Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Manning the Grill

Sean has officially been inducted into the realm of all things manly. Or something.  He got to make dinner on the grill last night. By himself.

Monday, April 29, 2013

In the Yard Today

The simple truth is it can often feel somewhat isolating not living near neighbors.  Don't get me wrong, I truly love the space and freedom and privacy.  But every so often I start feeling a tad lonely out here.  No, we don't live too far from folks really. It's just when you factor in the cost of gas into everyone's budget, there just isn't too much left over for just random visiting of folks. Hm, do people even do that anymore? Or is that a bigger part of them problem?

But this time of year I can't help but feel incredibly lucky when I look out in our yard.  The chicken run is finished and the birds are enjoying their new home.  The sheep enclosure is up. Now we just finish the hunt for more affordable to sheep to fill it with.  Alan and the boys have transplanted a few raspberry bushes from the back property line into the garden area.  The asparagus will be coming up soon. All the trees look beautiful.  I'm still debating the necessity of a garden this year. Part of me says yes, part of me says the crew is putting in enough work over at the CSA/coop farm that there would be rebellion if we tried to do it twice.  The tree that fell a few weeks ago is looking kind of forlorn so I'm sure soon the boys will drag it back to the campsite to chop up for fire wood. Give them an excuse to use an axe and they are all thrilled.  The middle kids are now all big enough to climb the rope hanging off the "monster" tree at the very back of our property and have been begging Alan to build them a tree house up there. Mom says the 15 foot height before the first available spot is just too high for the younger ones who will be sure to follow along but she's mean like that.  The slackline will go up in the yard soon.  The kids were asked to clear out the brush from under the grape vines over the weekend.  We really need to remember to trim those back next winter because they just grow better when you do.  I'm hoping for a good fruit crop this year but we've lost half our peach trees so I guess that is kind of up in the air.  The swingset needs some TLC and the picnic table needs to be rebuilt.  But seriously, we have all of that in our own little yard. It truly does not get much better than that.

Meal Plan

I need a meal plan but have no clue what we will be eating this week.  I am lacking inspiration at the moment.  I think we will stick with sandwiches and leftover for lunches this week, hopefully salads for me.  Yes, I am attempting to tweak my diet a bit before making changes for the entire family. Slow and steady I suppose. The problem will be adapting the changes for the entire family without breaking the bank.

M: cereal (B), hot dogs (D)
T: eggs and hashbrowns (B), beef tips over rice (D)
W: oatmeal (B), pasta and salad (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), cream cheese chicken (D)
F: cereal (B), crockpot mac and cheese (D)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013 In 2013

Have you seen this idea to help you get motivated to purge, clean out, and live with less clutter? I hadn't officially planned on doing a big purge this year but I've recently gotten motivated to purge a wee little bit (ok a lot). I'm really thinking I should have kept track as things got packed up and donated or tossed.  Tomorrow will see the third big load of stuff heading off to the thrift store (and when I say big, the last load filled a decent amount of the back of the van with one of the seats removed). Lots of trash has been removed from the house.  So I'm thinking by now that I really should try to go for 2013 items in 2013. The only question is how many do I start with from here because I'm not starting the count over at 0. So a serious question here: how many items do you estimate for a grocery bag of clothes and how do you estimate garbage bag sized bags or a grocery bag full of toys?

Purging the Playroom

I am currently on round two of sorting and purging the toys in the playroom.  Round one resulted in at least 7 bags of stuff being donated and at least one bag of trash being removed from the room. I'll admit that I have no clue where the trash seems to come from or where the endless supply of toys comes from either. So far with round two I have almost 3 large bags of trash and 4 bags of stuff to donate.  I have several other large items in mind to remove from the house but most of that will have to be done when the children are not in the room. Ellie already yelled at me and pulled a toy out of the donate bag that she clearly feels should stay in the house.  Good thing she goes to bed before I do.

I'm truly starting to understand the concept of minimalism with regard to toys.  We met a family in Florida who always managed to limit their kids' toys and clothes. I'll admit on several occasions I thought to myself that it seemed a tad mean to limit the kids' stuff quite that much. But now I am beginning to understand the thinking.  We have spent way too many hours arguing with the kids over the mess in the playroom and the clothes all over the floor.  I've decided I will be much happier if we spend less time arguing, less time cleaning, less money on stuff, and more time just as a family.  Is there any hope for accomplishing such goals?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Meal Plan

Kieran has requested that we make a few things out of the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook, an interesting collection of recipes inspired by various Dr. Seuss books.  So we will be trying a few out this week.

M: blueberry bumplings (B), chicken and cheese quesadillas (L), beef stroganoff (D)
T: pancake sausage muffins (B), noodle eating poodle noodles (L), chicken azteca over rice (D)
W: eggs (B), leftovers (L), pot roast (D)
T: pumpkin baked oatmeal (B), corn dog muffins (L), pasta and salad (D)
F: cereal (B), sandwiches/leftovers (L), Hoop-Soup-Snoop Group Potato Soup and rolls (D)
S: biscuits and gravy (B), sandwiches/leftovers (L), pizza monkey bread (D)
S: cranberry bread (B), whatever we throw together or needs to be cleaned out of the fridge the rest of the day

Friday, April 19, 2013

Just a Few Pictures

I realize it has been quite a while since I have shared some new pictures.  I tend to share more on Facebook as of late and I know there are folks who are not on both. So after pulling a few new pictures off the camera this morning, I decided I should share a few of them here.
The boys at their Court of Awards this week.

How we often find the girls sleeping.

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if you ordered an entire steer and pig for meat?  Yup, kind of like this. Yes, all 4 freezers were full for a while.
Just love that face.

Pilots are apparently getting a tad smaller lately.

Our latest house guests. Yes, they are much bigger now and will be moving to their new digs in the barn hopefully this weekend.
One of the healthy kids before Mass on Easter.
Yes, I realize I have been terrible about not only taking pictures lately but also sharing them.  I'll try to do better over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Post in Which I Brag About My Husband

For just a little bit.  No, I'm not biased or anything but I really think you should order this book.  Why? Because it is a great collection of stories for the young adults in your life.  Yes, everything passes the appropriateness test in this house because, well, one of the book's editors lives here.  So it's something our kids will be reading, I promise.
And if you do buy a copy, you'll let me know that all the hours he spent away from us locked in some dark corner of the house banging his head against a wall over the past few years was worth it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Suggestions Please: Minimalist Kid Stuff

Ok, I am asking for serious opinions and advice here.  I am hoping to do some tweaking/purging in the playroom. I'm looking for a minimalist take on a playroom for kids of various ages from about 10 on down.  The playroom does not house a tv or any seating at the moment and the plan is to keep it that way.  What toys would you keep and what would you purge if you wanted a minimalist playroom for both boys and girls?  LEGOs are staying as are the wooden trains and a kitchen set. Probably about half of the baby doll collection will stay and the wooden blocks and dress-up clothes.  Give me your best ideas and suggestions please because the playroom is a constant headache. My goal is something the kids can pick up on their own without requiring constant parental involvement so I know we have to pare it down a bit.

The older children have a space in the basement with a tv and the Wii which also needs some work because it is pretty constantly in a state of chaos.  We had to haul out a small couch last week for the trash because the children had destroyed it which leaves them with just one couch downstairs which is also on it's last legs because the kids seem to think they can be destructive if Mom and Dad are not in the room at the moment. Yes, I know this is a discipline issue and I am attempting to address it and somewhat failing at the moment.  My hope had been to provide spaces for both ages of children to be able to have friends over and give them some privacy from other siblings when needed but it seems to not be working. So suggestions please.We can't lock them out of the basement until they are ready to stop destroying stuff because two children have a bedroom down there and they use the space for a quiet place to escape the younger while doing school (or pretending to do so).  I'm open to just about anything other than ship them all off to military school until they learn to pick up after themselves because I kind of doubt even that will help.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Abby!

Happy Birthday to our brand new 7-year-old.  Of course, I am a day late again as usual.  Most of Abby's gifts will be arriving later this week but she did receive a wonderful snake in the mail.  And  she picked out a wonderful cake at the store this year.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Meal Plan

M: slow cooker breakfast casserole (B), ham sandwiches (L), alphabet soup (D)
T: baked oatmeal (B), grilled cheese (L), BBQ chicken (D)
W: cereal (B), PBJ (L), chili (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), leftovers/sandwiches (L), hot dogs (D)
F: muffins (B), tuna sandwiches (L), macaroni and cheese (D)
S: cinnamon roll cake (B), FFY/leftovers (L), pizza (D)
S: cereal (B), sandwiches/leftover (L), muffin tin meatloaf (D)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Random Musing Brought on by the Play Museum

Took the kids to the play museum today.  I forgot the camera but remembered all the children so I guess we'll call it good.  Of course, I do feel a little bad to not have pictures because Ellie had an awesome time. Sean took her on the carousel where she got to ride a horse for the first time. She clung to the pole for dear life so I was afraid she would be miserable but she seemed to have enjoyed herself. It seemed a little odd to have all the kids walking and be able to use the stroller just for carrying coats and books.  And the kids' art projects.

May I admit that every time we go to someplace like this, I somewhat question my beliefs as a parent.  Yes, I'm the one there with lots of kids. The one who is too busy doing head counts to sit down and direct the way the children play.  Then again, I can't say I would be directing their play if I was only there with one or two kids.  I tend to be of the mindset that for the most part, kids get a greater benefit from being allowed to figure things out by themselves.  But given that I often get dirty looks because I am not following the toddler around and showing them how to do everything, it appears there aren't too many parents who still believe in just letting the kids be on their own.  Anyway, just a random thought here for the day.   Yes, I love taking the kids to museums and zoos and doing kid friendly activities when appropriate but I don't love being made to feel as if I am supposed to entertain any child constantly.  I just guess today's society makes it a tad hard to even somewhat embrace the free range ideas of parenting.

On a side note, the LEGO exhibit is pretty darn nifty. Gabe was very impressed by all the amazing models put together and Ellie loved riding in the LEGO racecar.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Teeter Totter-A Repost

I wrote this over a year ago but after the weekend I just had with not only my husband gone for the weekend but my older 3 as well, I felt that maybe someone else might need to hear it again.  This is for all those mothers of just young children, embracing the vocation of raising a large brood but wondering if it ever gets any easier.  If you will ever get a chance to get out of the house alone ever again. Just remember that when all your children are under 8 or 9, you are truly in the trenches. In the hardest part of motherhood. It can and will get easier as the children get older. I promise.

We have a rather nice teeter totter in our backyard.  It was given to us by friends who found it in their yard when they bought a house.  Having only a baby at the time, they had no use for this large wooden teeter totter.  It appears to be homemade and it's obvious someone put a  lot of thought into its construction.  It is big enough for several children, the pivot point in the middle is adjustable so that different sized kids can play together.  In short, I am very glad Alan tossed it in the back of the van and brought it home.
Every time I see a group of kids playing on the teeter totter, I am reminded of a picture often used to describe the job of parenting a large family: that teeter totter.  You see, when you have a house chock full of young children, you are on the heavy end of the teeter totter.  You are the only one available to pull those kids up.  The only one around to buckle car seats, zip coats, hold hands in parking lots, change a diaper, make lunch, kiss a scraped knee, comfort a scared toddler, rock the sick baby to sleep.  But as your kids grow, the teeter totter starts to change.  Suddenly you have help.  You look around you and realize you have children sitting next to you on that other end of the teeter totter.  You have a wonderful group of older siblings who naturally reach down for that hand in the parking lot, a favored buddy that the crying toddler naturally runs to when he bumps his head, someone else available to make lunch, a willing volunteer to sit and rock that sick baby.  And slowly you find that the burdens of raising a large group of children are being lifted off your shoulders.  You are now starting to spend more time on the light end of the teeter totter.

Today I was able to go out with just my littlest one to pick up a birthday present for our soon-to-be three-year-old.  Even though my oldest child is still in bed recovering from whatever sickness struck our house this weekend, I was able to leave the other children in the hands of the second oldest.  Yes, it is likely that all the kids did while I was gone was sit in front of the tv and zone out.  But I didn't have to wait for Dad to get home from work to go birthday shopping.  When I came home, the preschoolers were napping, the lunch dishes were in the sink, the kitchen table had been cleared.  No, things were not perfect but the house had not fallen in on itself either.  I walked in (after twisting my ankle checking the mail) and was able to ask the children to help get the baby out of the van, get the box out of the back and help put the new toy together.  And then I was able to sit back and watch the pure excitement on the faces of the older children as they watched the younger ones enjoy the toy they had built for them.  Yes, I am on the other end of that teeter totter now.  And yes, I feel incredibly blessed.

Meal Plan

*This is what I get for planning the week without looking at the calendar.  Saturday is Abby's birthday so just ignore everything on the menu on Saturday. Unless we can talk her into going out to eat not on her birthday.  Or maybe we'll do lunch on Saturday instead.  Saturday nights are just never good night for a party of 11 to try to get a seat at a restaurant even when she has picked Buffalo Wild Wings.  Hm, and maybe breakfast on Sunday will be leftover birthday cake. Just maybe.

Seems looking ahead like we have a super busy week so I'm hoping we can actually stick to the entire meal plan.  I can always hope but we have not been so great at following through all week.

M: eggs and toast (B), leftovers (L), chicken tacos (D)
T: baked oatmeal (B), sandwiches (L), sweet-n-sour pork (D)
W: cereal (B), chili/soup (L), spaghetti (D)
T: eggs (B), sandwiches (L), taco soup (D)
F: cranberry bread (B), leftovers (L), black bean soup (D)
S: pancakes (B), FFY (L), pizza monkey bread (D)
S: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), chicken satay (this keeps making the meal plan but on the nights it is planned life gets in the way, it's in the freezer so I'm hoping we'll actually get it cooked this time) (D)

Nothing is Wasted

This is the song I woke up to this morning. And all I can say is that it brought me a sense of peace.  A friend told me shortly after Isabel died that she felt this entire experience would bring Alan and I closer again and help us find a place of healing.  I'll admit I thought she was a bit crazy and thought surely God could think of a better way to accomplish things but now I look back a little bit and can begin to see that was right. (Of course, if anyone else had said something of the sort to me, I likely would have ripped their head off but only those who truly know the path you've been walking can say certain things.)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Building Bird Feeders

I took the younger 6 to Home Depot this morning for the Kids' Workshop.  This month the kids made bird feeders.  I decided that 6 bird feeders would be just a bit too many so Ellie hung out in her stroller while the other kids worked.

I can remember when Alan and I always did these events together with just the older 2 or 3.  Because we had not yet both mastered the fine art of true multi-tasking.  I have to laugh at my thinking back then.

Liam did a great job of not only putting his bird feeder together but also helping Gabe build his.  Then the two of them headed over to the painting table while the rest of the crew finished up.  Katie helped Robert with putting the finishing touches on his bird feeder.  This weekend having the older 3 off camping and Alan working, I've been once again reminded of the importance of training your kids to truly help one another from a very early age.  And reminded that I need to remember to ask the middle kids to take on more responsibility because they are certainly capable of doing everything the older kids did at their age.

We brought home 5 painted bird feeders and now have to find homes for all of them outside and relatively close to the house.  This will take a bit of creativity I do believe.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Beautiful For Me

The folks at Veggie Tales have recently spent some time focusing on movies catering to girls and the things they really need to hear before they hit those preteen years.  Those wonderful years when society starts telling you that you aren't good enough if you don't look just so perfectly perfect. We have several of the CD's (because nothing is quite the same as belting out the Veggie Tales songs in the car with the kids) and were listening to one of them today.  What struck me with this particular song is that this is message girls need to hear not only from their heavenly Father, but from their earthly one as well.  This is the message fathers need to get across to their little ones and older ones.  They need to remind their daughters that in his eyes, they are perfect and amazing and wonderful.  And they need to tell them that all the time. I'm not talking telling your 3-year-old that she is pretty. I'm talking telling your older daughter and taking an interest in her life and getting to know her just the two of you.  I'm talking about spending time learning her hobbies and introducing her to yours. Taking her out for a date. Getting to know her friends and not just leaving it up to Mom.  I'm talking telling your daughter those 3 little words parents often neglect to use for their older children (and yet then expect to hear coming from their children anyway even if they stopped saying it themselves).  So, Dads, listen to the song and go home and tell your daughters what they need to hear from you because no one else will ever have the same influence in her life as you will.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

You Might be a Homeschooler If. . .

. . . your grocery list includes items for your son to dissect for science class.  We were shopping for a Boy Scout camping trip and the other parent along for the trip with us found that just somewhat funny.  What my life has become sometimes baffles me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Educational Videos

I know this is just slightly controversial in some circles, but I have to admit I am a fan of educational videos.  They have been a life saver over the past few weeks since we've been hit with a bazillion illness this winter.  Even though Alan is amazingly able to work from home when I am too sick to function, (something I am still not used to since this has never been an option before in our world) he stil needs to actually work so educational videos are awesome on those days.  So while I was upstairs sleeping, reading, and catching up on the last season of Eureka (Have I mentioned my love affair with streaming TV with a ROKU box? It's seriously awesome.), the kids were being introduced to Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego so Alan could work and attend meetings on-line.

This is, in my opinion, a very much untapped resource by many educators.  Sure, I can remember being forced to watch a ton of books made into movies in school, but I can't remember actually learning anything from them.  I do believe that the only thing the guys in our freshman English class remembered about the Romeo and Juliet movie we watched was the slight nudity.  All I know is Alan can still pinpoint the version we were forced to sit through but I haven't a clue. And I say that with all humor and respect.  So, anyway, the point is to avoid the movies shown just for the sake of filling in the time and trying to find something worth while.  Something we sometimes fail at but, hey, at least we try.

So here's my current list of go-to movies in our world. Feel free to toss some of your suggestions my way if there is something I'm missing out on.

Foreign Languages: Muzzy, Visual Latin   
Science: Bill Nye, Magic School Bus, Beakman's World, Mr. Wizard's World, Journey to the Stars, Planet Earth
History/Geography: Liberty's Kids, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego, The Story of Us, Nest Hero Classics, Learn Our History, Drive Thru History
Phonics: Leap Frog DVDs
Art: Simply Drawing

We also frequently have documentaries in our Netflix queue that the kids will watch.  Most of the IMAX movies are available on Netflix as well many National Geographic movies.  I'm also a huge fan of historically accurate fictional movies.  The hard part on that end is finding the historical fiction that has not been killed under the guise of political correctness or had too many sexual scenes added to it to help it appeal to the masses.  There are still great options out there but I find that we have to preview the movies more than our parents likely did.  I can't tell you how many movies we've watched from our youth before allowing our kids to watch it only to find ourselves asking each other how on earth did this movie slip past our parents' censoring?  So are there any goldmines in your home that I am missing?