Sunday, December 31, 2006

and a pretty view of our Christmas tree

I like to take a couple of up close pictures of our tree and pick the one that comes out the best for our albums. The corkscrewy ornament is our homemade one for this year. We grew borax crystals on a pipe's supposed to look like an icicle. :) The cat one is Maria's new ornament for this year. The kids each get a new one each Advent. This one looks just like her favorite cat, Dinah (we have 4!). There's some last-minute pipecleaner decoration that Maria made....there's a glass ball behind it, and a snowman peeking up from the bottom. Our ornaments are a bit overcrowded this year. We couldn't put any ornaments on the bottom half of the tree. Jack kept taking them off and distributing them around the house.

my little hugh hefner

Jack, sporting his stylin new Christmas robe...

Friday, December 29, 2006

the Lord giveth...and the Lord taketh away....

We have been going rather stir crazy around here since Christmas Day. Long periods being off-routine have never set well with me, and I just feel like I'm floating around, completely unorganized and off kilter. Kain had been begging me to take him to his most favorite place in the whole wide world, the McDonald's playland, so when I started getting that restless agitated feeling this morning I decided to take them for an early lunch. It was fun! Maria and Kain both found kids to play with. Jack was silly and giggly. I sat on the floor and he ran in dizzy circles around me until he would collapse on my lap for a big hug and kiss, then get up and do it all over again. I felt the stress drain and my brain fog clear up a bit...just the change of scenery was enough to make me feel more in control of things. Then it was time to leave. I gave a warning, told the kids we were leaving in 5 minutes. When I started gathering shoes, Kain started hanging on my shirt and crying that he didn't want to leave. This elevated to him continuing the (very loud) drama through the restaurant (where he decided he wanted the rest of his drink after all when he saw Maria had hers) and out into the parking lot where he flat out refused to get into the car, throwing a screaming fit the whole time. A very nice woman there with 4 or 5 kids of her own was nice enough to help me wrestle him in the car and lock the door...and even though she was nice and even joking about it, I was utterly humiliated. We drove the three blocks home with Kain shrieking in my ear and me trying my very best not to stop the car, drag him out to the side of the road, and leave him there shrieking at the trees. So much for the clearing brain fog.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why I'm not blogging today....

I found this on Elizabeth's blog ( and it guilted me out of my procrastination, at least for today. I'm off to fold a mound of laundry!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

a belated Merry Christmas

Favorite moments of the day include....

Jack opening his first Thomas train set- he has been madly in love with Thomas for several months, and for Christmas he received a set of tracks and several cars. They have been inseparable ever since. He doesn't really drive them on the tracks much yet, but he adores lining them end to end and carefully steering them around the floor.

Maria and Kain test-driving their new scooters out on the street, in the cold, in their pajamas on Christmas morning.

Opening my favorite Christmas candy, Mrs. Field's peppermint bark. John couldn't find it last year, so in reparation he bought TWO packages this year. Good man.

Also opening my new digital camera...stay tuned for a slew of pictures!

John in his much needed new coat- his old one was never warm enough and looked a mess because he kept hooking the pockets on doorknobs.

Getting to tote around this warm and fuzzy 5 month old baby girl at Christmas dinner at Little Portion Hermitage....
scroll down and see the picture of the baby dressed as the "Holy Innocents"...that's baby Madeline, the one that leaves me wondering, yet again, when we will be expecting a baby around here! :)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Traditions

In many ways, I think I enjoy Christmas Eve even more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve, for us, is spent close to home. We spend the morning preparing special foods for this evening, things that can be made ahead of time and brought out quickly for sustenance during the hectic evening- a pretty bowl of clementines, nuts, and cheese to be brought out before evening mass- an antipasto platter (or as John calls it, "the antimatter platter"), chili dip and Fritos, homemade bread, and a relish tray for an easy dinner after mass- and birthday cake, hot cocoa, and hot cider to have before bed. My parents are coming down for the evening mass and Christmas pageant, and afterwards we will all come back here to eat and visit. We are burning down the last of our advent candles this afternoon, and just before mass we will change over our altar, swapping the purple linen for white, taking the purple ribbon off of our wreath and adding a gold ribbon and some holly picks, trading the purple and pink candles for white ones. I'll also load Christmas music into the stereo to enjoy when we get home.

As soon as we return from mass, the Christmas lights and music go on and the wreath is lit. The baby Jesus is placed in the nativity. The kids will each get to open a gift tonight. Their Christmas Eve gift is always something to wear to bed- new pajamas, a new robe, and/or new slippers, depending on what each child needs the most. My parents will head home and we will tuck excited and overtired children into bed. I will mix up some homemade Irish cream for John and I to enjoy. After they finally fall asleep, we will fill stockings, hang candy canes, and lay gifts under the tree. I also always try to have everything ready to go for the ready to brew, camera at the ready in the living room, trashbags tucked behind the end tables to gather shredded wrapping paper. Far too late, John and I will get to bed....and far too early, we will be awakened the next morning.

Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas shopping with Kain

Today I took Kain to Dollar Tree to buy his gifts. I love using Dollar Tree for this. You can turn loose a kid this age, who has no concept of money yet, and tell him to pick anything he wants. Still, gift buying is a foreign concept to Kain. We had a couple of talks beforehand about how this was going to be BUYING STUFF FOR OTHER PEOPLE, not BUYING STUFF FOR YOURSELF. He did surprising well though. He whined a bit here and there when seeing something he wanted, but he recovered and continued shopping. He is also refreshingly quick and finished in about 10 minutes. My daughter takes SO long to pick out gifts, but Kain doesn't have the patience to take more than 10 minutes to do just about anything. I always enjoy taking kids to shop like this. It's amusing to see what they will pick, what they think other people will like. Here's Kain's finds for today--

For me- a nutcracker soldier

For Maria- a little angel figurine

For Jack- a Dragon Tales board book

For John- a flashlight

For his mom- a picture frame with cats around the border and sentiments indicating that the frame is supposed to be for a picture of your CAT. Kain's mom doesn't have a cat. He wants to put a picture of himself in there, and no amount of persuasion would convince him that this frame was for cat pictures!

For his dad- in a similar vein, a picture frame in the shape of a dog bone.

Now check-out is a bit of a juggling act. See, I'm not supposed to *see* my gift. So, he had his own little basket, and when we were ready to check out I looked the other way while the very amused cashier rang everything up and bagged it for him. Then I was allowed to pay. Maria is going to help him wrap all the presents but the one he picked for her. And this afternoon, I take Maria out to finish her shopping.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's been a rough Christmas break....

As Kain engaged Maria in a furious wrestling match over her laundry hamper (don't ask why, there's no telling!)....

ME- Kain, if you are going to fight with everyone all day all Christmas break, I'm going to start driving you to school in the morning and dropping you off at the front door for seven hours!

MARIA- It's eight hours. He's gone for eight hours. I counted.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

decoration destruction

Our sad, sad tree....all the ornaments are on the top half because Jack keeps pulling them off. He even figured out that you could stomp on the glass balls with fabulous effects. Here's a picture of the top half of our tree.... (excuse the ceiling fan in the way up on top!)

And the bottom half....

We keep our decorations up until Epiphany is over...but frankly, I don't know if I can take it.

Memo to myself for next year...Christmas vacation breeds laziness!

Laziness on my evidenced by my much later-than-normal shower this morning. And laziness on Maria's as well. John left to go get a repair done on our car as I was starting my shower, so I asked him to tell Maria to keep an eye on Jack until I got out. Afterwards, I popped my head out of the door wearing a towel and a smile-

ME- Maria!

MARIA- Yeah? (distractedly, tv in background)

ME- Is Dad gone?

MARIA- Yeah (still distractedly)

ME- Where's Jack?

MARIA- Um,,,I don't know...

---Jack rounds the corner from the kitchen with a piece of bread in his hand and a triumphant grin on his face.

JACK- Bread!

ME- Um, how about "he's dumping a brand new loaf of bread all over the kitchen floor"?

MARIA- Um...I don't know...

---I come into the kitchen to find Jack has, indeed, dumped a new loaf of bread all over the kitchen floor. He has, in fact, stepped all over most of it.

JACK- Oh no! Mess!

ME- Uh huh


So,,,no grilled cheese for lunch today after all....

Monday, December 18, 2006

latest picture of my gang

Please excuse my random picture...I'm trying to figure out how to get a picture added to my profile....

Saturday, December 16, 2006

why YES, YES, I *do* have my hands full!!

It happened. A few days ago, I was at the grocery store with all three kids. This doesn't happen very often. See, one of the three kids is my nephew. We are seeking guardianship, but in the meantime we cannot legally homeschool him. Kain is at school all day, and he is usually with his dad on Saturdays. And as for Sunday, frankly, once I get through mass with all three of them my energy for public appearances is shot. But I was with all three the other day in the check out lane, my 10yo daughter, 6yo Kain, and my 2yo son. And the cashier said it, the fateful words that would put me officially into the "larger than average family" category. "Boy, you have your hands full, don't you?"

See, ya'll with large families seem to cringe under these statements, and I can understand why. When you step out with a large family, you are wearing your lifestyle and your values on your sleeve, so to speak, and you tire of the irritating commentary that comes with every milk run. But, I have always wanted a large family....and babies are slow in coming around here! I mean, Jack is 2 years old and we have been (freaking out) waiting patiently for another one for some time already. I am 32 years old. I know I have several baby-years left, but I am already at the age where fertility starts to decrease, and I couldn't help but wonder if a large family wasn't in our future after all. But then came Kain. Kain was a freebie you see, a "bonus kid", if you will, that nicely filled the age gap between Maria and Jack. Now all of a sudden, we are one of *them*, a "big family". I realize that this comment makes those of you with 10 kids chuckle, haha, but throw me a BONE, ok? I realize that in big family circles we are still small potatoes, but you are missing the milestone here. I have always heard friends with large families bemoan the "you have your hands full" comment, but with one deft sentence that cashier at the grocery store put me in ranks with them. I looked up from my frantic search in the diaper bag for my wallet to find out she was talking to *me*, and I was so surprised. I mean, I knew that certain things had changed since Kain's arrival. All of a sudden, dinner recipes had to be doubled because they just weren't *quite* enough...all of a sudden my sedan was a very tight fit...all of a sudden the laundry seemed to DOUBLE with the addition of just one more person. But somehow, maybe because Kain is my nephew and has only been with us a few months, and maybe because we spent the first couple of months waiting for someone to take him away again, I missed this new reality, this new large-family identity. And even though Kain is my nephew and not my own son, we are raising him as our own and sure hope to keep it that way. I looked around at Jack fussing in the cart, Maria and Kain fighting over who was going to put which bags in the car, and I beamed at the cashier. "Why yes. Yes, I do have my hands full, don't I?"

finally, justification for putting our books away

even though we are still so behind!! :)

Twas the Night Before Christmas Homeschool Style(Author Unknown)

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the home,
Children were still studying for their test on Rome.
Mom was planning, she had just an hour,
To teach 'one more lesson' before their night shower.
A whole week of vacation, the children were thrilled,
But Mom saw the lesson plans, and the blocks were still filled.
"Can I stop for a day, much less a whole week?"
Just the thought of time off made me shudder and shriek!
Would they remember anything, would they fall behind?"
Lord, I need your help, just give me a sign!!!"
Then out on the sidewalk, I saw my four boys,
And I heard them say, "it's not about toys."
To the neighborhood kids, they explained Jesus' birth,
And how through Jesus, not toys, we gain our worth.
At that point, math and spelling and learning to write,
Meant little to me as I had lost the sight
Of what teaching at home was truly about.
Then I sat at my desk and began to pout.
The pouts turned to sobs, "Lord what have I done?
It's not about grades, but to follow your Son!"
"Please guide me and show me my job is to teach,
and turn them to you, and of Jesus I'll preach."
Now we'll put away books and not open them 'til later,
We'll focus on Jesus, our Lord and Creator.
It's His day and so we will all celebrate,
I'll never mention the words "behind" or "we're late".
So, Thank You, Lord, for blessing me,
With such a great husband and family.
Now homeschooling moms, TURN OUT THE SCHOOL LIGHT!
And, "Happy Christmas To All And To All A Good Night!"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

comment troubles?

I have gotten word from a couple of people that they haven't been able to comment on my blog...don't know why!! I didn't change anything! But I have tinkered with the settings and hopefully it'll work now. Sorry! :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

not a creature was stirring....

I am sitting in a completely silent house. It is 8:30 in the morning. Usually we are in full-activity by this time of the morning. But it is completely still and quiet. And yes, we have carbon monoxide detectors. John is off of work today. When I got up this morning, I left Jack in bed with him. Kain is now at school. And Maria is still snoozing away. Ah, the bliss of Christmas break....I let her stay up late last night so she could watch "Supernanny" with me, and she is free to sleep as late as she needs to today. Still, it's unusual for her, for anyone in this house, to sleep so late! Uh oh...wait a minute...I hear someone stirring,,,a nose blowing...and yep, Maria has joined me. And yep, there it is...noise. She's switched on PBSkids. Ah was nice while it lasted! :)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

nuh-nuh's = love

"Why haven't you weaned that baby yet?" Would ya'll like to know? Somewhere around Jack's first birthday, I read an article on extended breastfeeding. The article stated that there was a window for natural weaning around the first birthday, and if you don't take it, you'd better be prepared to nurse for a good while longer. I didn't notice that with my first child, but I definitely saw that window in Jack. Around his first birthday, he was eating table foods very well and only nursed once or twice in a 24 hour period. I definitely had the feeling he could take it or leave it, and felt like if we wanted to wean it could be done pretty easily at that point. We didn't wean. My first child nursed until she was nearly 4 (Don't be too horrified. It was just at bedtime!). Weaning at 12 months definitely felt too soon. Eventually he started nursing with more interest again, although he still mostly nurses at bedtime and maybe once during the night. Since his 2nd birthday, however, nursing has become an emotionally-laden activity for Jack. He *loves* to nurse. Whereas before he could, and often would, go to sleep at night without nursing, now he will actually cry for his "nuh-nuh's". When I lay down on our bed to nurse, he will smile at me and sigh, "nuh-nuh's" while he pats me through my clothing. And then, before he latches on, he says, "hug", and turns his head into my arm, and then, "kiss", and pucker up at my face for a kiss before he starts nursing. Nuh-nuh's equal love to him. And that's why we haven't weaned. :)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

snow, snow, snow, Snow, SNOW

That title was from "White Christmas". You've seen it, right? Totally cheesy old-timey movie with Rosemary Cloony and Bing Crosby? It's a must-see in this house, believe me. I've seen it every year since I was, oh, 12 or so? Anyway, we actually *did* get some snow...not as much as forecasted, but then, the forecast is *never* accurate where snow is concerned. I tried to warn the kids,,,,and sure enough, we got about 3 inches instead of the 6 predicted. But still enough to play in! Kain is having a blast. He seems to have the most fortitude for it. He'll stay out there, his otherwise very, very fair-skinned face turned fire-engine red, clothing eventually soaking wet no matter how you dress him, until you drag him inside. Jack also loved his first snowfall (last year we really didn't ever get enough to play in!). He was content to play out there as long as John's fortitude held up. Maria has far less tolerance. She gets her fill of it for the day pretty quickly. So, the day following our snowfall, John had the boys outside most of the day while Maria and I baked 4 dozen cookies for a church fundraiser. Today, the snow is melting fast. It was quite warm and beautiful yesterday, and most of the remaining snow melted. Still, we had enough to make what follows in my next post.....

a "Little House" experience

I love the Laura Ingalls books, and my favorite is "Little House in the Big Woods". So I was especially excited to try my hand at making Ma's maple sugar toffee, just like in the book! We turned up a small bottle of "real" maple syrup at Walmart and boiled it on the stovetop until thickened. Maria brought in a small pan of snow and we periodically tested the syrup in it. At first it just disappeared into the snow, but eventually...viola! Soft strands of toffee solidified in the cold snow. We rushed our pan of hot syrup outside to the back deck. I poured lines of syrup in the snow and Maria came behind with a spoon, twirling up the soft toffee. It was very good, and very rich. That little bottle made more than Maria, Jack and I could ever eat, and we learned that at room temperature it quickly turns back to liquid again. The mom that told me how to make the toffee also told me that if you cook the syrup until it gets grainy, it becomes a hard candy in the stock up for the next snowfall! :) Kain missed this experience because he was visiting his dad, so we will definitely have to do it again.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Zebras, gazelles, wildebeasts, oh my!

We have a new African webcam. Check it out here... If you watch it early in the morning or late at night, it'll be daylight in Africa. Jack got to see live zebras this morning and sat at the computer for a good 10 minutes crying, "Zaza's! Zaza's!"