Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reason # 52, Why no yard should be without a clothesline:

Tent City: Created by my kids and their friends who spent the day with us yesterday. (Note: this works much better when it's not so darn breezy.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

thoughts for this Sunday

Some of the girls and I were leafing through books together today. Baby Lucy was keeping us entertained as she'd grab a book and babble her way through the pages. We'd all laugh with her, and she'd start all over again. Grace reached for my little blue book on the end table, turned to the middle somewhere and attempted to read aloud as well. Alice was quick to steal it away from her and read the sentence for her.
"Think of the countless useless things that ordinarily are the subject of the world's conversation as being an obstacle to the holy relationship God wishes to have with you."

I had her read it again, more slowly. It led to a lovely impromptu discussion about things that are blocking us from a closer relationship with our Heavenly Father. It was really nice. Perhaps from time to time I should encourage them to just grab one of my little daily devotionals and read a line or two just to see what comes up. Always grateful for these grace-filled opportunites for growing in the faith.

Friday, June 26, 2009

what's cookin'?

I called home from work the other day...just checking in to see how things were going. I'm not sure why, I can't fix anything over the phone, but sometimes I get a kick out of what the kids share with me while Dad's busy, away from the phone. Anyhow, this last call was after lunch, and Grace was happy to tell me what they'd just eaten: PB&J, chips, and big marshmallows. Umm? Are you kidding me?! She was so darn excited that dad made all her favorites. I should get frustrated about this. I stress half the day sometimes wondering what fruit and vegetable I can throw together with a fairly healthy main course. But honestly, I'm just glad their being cared for, happy and fed...even if it is mostly garbage. I'll try to get something green in them for supper.

The call reminded me of a few years back...one of the first days I returned back to work after Sam was born. John gave the kids Reeces Peanut Butter cups for breakfast "because peanut butter has protein, right?" God love him for trying.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

She was afraid to come out of the water...

Nervous that someone might see that itsy, bitsy, teeny-weenie, polka dot bikini?

But hey Lucy, if you got it...flaunt it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On the Birth of St. John the Baptist

I just finished watering the garden a bit, and was thinking it's coming along quite nicely. I didn't get it planted as early as I would have liked, but still. I love sneaking out there in the morning to check on things, or in the evening to water if necessary, and as I keep an eye out for a pepper growing, or pumpkin blossom blooming, perhaps the start of the first tomato. I have fond memories of my mother-in-law who first taught me about gardening. Just after John and I married, she invited me to come out to the farm and plant the garden with her. I had no idea what an undertaking it would be. Well after her children had moved away, she was still planting (and canning) like she still had 12 young mouths to feed. The humble garden that first year included dozens of tomato plants, rows and rows of green beans, peas, potatoes, onions, lettuce and cabbage, strawberries, sweet corn and even sweet potatoes. She taught me the very basics from how to hoe and rake, how to cut last years potatoes for planting (with their eyes looking up), what varieties of things she had the best luck with over the years, and on and on. I'll never forget the hours we spent weeding, and the stories she'd share, advice she'd give. Spending even just a little time in the garden helps me to feel a connection with her again.
What does all this have to do with the Birth of St. John? Well, she based the timing of many of the necessary steps of "good gardening" on the church calendar that hung in her kitchen. I can't recall how soon she had her onion sets in the ground, but they were due to be "stomped down" on St John the Baptist's birthday. I've talked to some gardening friends now, who've never stomped down their onions, but her rationale was that by this time, the greens had grown tall enough, and needed stomped down (or bent over flat) to allow the nutrients to stay underground and grow the onion bulb itself, larger. Sounded believable to me. Like I said though, I've never gotten mine planted as early as she, and just haven't come up with a suitable feast to stomp down my onions. I'll have to take a closer look at the church calendar, as mine seem ready this year and let you know.
St John the Baptist, St Isadore (the patron for farmers) and St. Alice (my mother-in-law, teacher, and friend) pray for us.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I thought this was a football movie...

...boy was I mistaken! John and I watched this together last night after the kids were in bed. I had borrowed it last week from the library, and it was due back today. Neither of us had heard too much about it, and weren't at all prepared for the effect it would have on us. The story draws you in to the personal life and struggles of a football coach struggling with a 6 year losing streak, trying to turn around a football program and save his job, and at the same time his personal struggles as he and his wife deal with infertility, and tough financial times. I have to admit, the emotions that resurfaced in me regarding the infertility caught me off-guard, and brought me back to a very painful trying time in our marriage as well. I found myself laughing through my tears often, as the movie had a perfect balance of comedy and raw emotion.
This movie was made by the same group that brought us Fireproof, which I wrote about a few months back. While it's small budget, with no big-name actors, it's an awesome story, and less cheesey acting than fireproof. I loved this, and I think John did too. It's a beautiful story, with a profound, yet simple message "with God all things are possible!"
Definitely a must-see!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

birthday concerns

At the park yesterday, Charlie stopped riding his bouncy horse for a moment to ask nervously, "Mom, ummm. When I turn 4, will I be John?"
Confused I simply asked "What?"
Charlie, "Umm, you know, on my birthday, when I turn 4 will I be John then?"
me, "Nope, you get to stay Charlie forever."
He sighed a big breath of relief. "Oh good! Cause I like being Charlie!"

Charlie turns 4 next month, and was apparently concerned that this would mean he'd be turning into his older brother John...who just turned 5, and thank goodness did not turn into Sam! One of each is just perfect, I think!

Happy Fathers Day!

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

—Psalm 127:3-5

A prayer for fathers.

Most gracious Heavenly Father,
We thank you for our earthly fathers, those to whom you have entrusted the responsibility to provide loving protection of their families and guidance of their children. We thank you, also, for our priests and bishops, whose spiritual fatherhood is so vital to the faith of your people.
May our earthly fathers imitate the manly courage of Abraham, Jesse and Joseph, and all the holy fathers of the past in providing wise counsel to the children you have given to their care. And may our spiritual fathers be guided by the examples of Saints Peter and Paul, all the Apostles and their saintly successors. Give them valiant faith in the face of confusion and conflict, hope in time of trouble and sorrow, and steadfast love for you, for their families, and for all your people throughout the world.
Assist all fathers of families, all spiritual fathers, and all Christian men, that through your Grace they may steadily grow in holiness and in knowledge and understanding of your Truth. May they generously impart this knowledge to those who rely on them.
As you, our Heavenly Father, so loved the world, sending your only Son to be our Savior and Redeemer, we ask you to help all men to imitate His fatherly gentleness and mercy toward those who are weak; His humility, perfect obedience to your Will, and fearless witness to your Truth. May their lives be examples to all of heroic faithfulness to you.
We ask your blessing on all those to whom you have entrusted fatherhood. May your Holy Spirit constantly inspire them with justice and mercy, wisdom and strength, fidelity and self-giving love. May they receive your Grace abundantly in this earthly life, and may they look forward to eternal joy in your presence in the life to come.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son and Our Lord, AMEN.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

popcorn and peach pie

These are just a couple of the bedtime snack selections the kids munched on tonight. The young ones shared a bag of popcorn at the picnic table before coming in for jammies and bedtime. Charlie had an apple on the sly. (He didn't eat much supper, so he wasn't supposed to get snacks...I offered him the chicken salad wrap to finish, but it was still a no-go.) Instead he snuck an apple, while I was folding laundry and left the remnants for me on the cofffee table in the tv room. (Little turkey!) Sam helped me do a little picking-up in the basement, and asked for peach pie and ice cream once the little ones were in bed, and I was happy to oblige. Now Alice and Emma are returning from their swim meet (nearly 10:30) and are starving. Pie and ice cream comes out for another serve.
One thing's for certain, with all the kids home from school for the summer, our grocery bill has grown a bit. They are constantly snacking (and starving!) I try to monitor snacking, and keep it as healthy as possible most of the time (pie is the exception more than the rule.) Even little Lucy knows where the snacks are kept, and is constantly begging someone to open a fruit snack or granola bar for her. But still...I'm wondering if mom's across America are dishing out the same rhetoric..."No snacks! We just ate!" or, "No snacks, we're going to eat soon!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

my sister's keeper

(Okay, so I'm totally stealing that title...looking forward to seeing the movie when it comes around. I haven't read the book, but my sisters-in-law have been filling me in as they read.)

Anyway...my thoughts today are how we as women are are 'called' to sisterhood. While I've mentioned before, I have no sisters of my own, I'm realizing more each day how we as women, wives, mothers and especially disciples of Christ are called to lend our hearts and hands to others who need us, especially our "sisters;" be it biological, social, spiritual or otherwise. There are days when the stress of keeping a household running smoothly can get the best of us...when we find ourselves wondering if anyone can possibly know all that we're going through, or what we're dealing with. I feel at times that my response to those who've called out to me has been so inadequate.

I received this e-mail forward today just after reading a note from another friend who is really struggling today...with incredible stresses I can't fully understand, though I want to, as she's dealing with the highs and lately lows of raising a special needs child. I'm thinking it landed in the wrong mailbox...so I'm passing it along to her, and all my "sisters", who need to read these words today. I prayed this with you in mind!

Dear God: The lady reading this is beautiful, classy and strong, and I love her. Help her live her life to the fullest. Please promote her and cause her to excel above her expectations. Help her shine in the darkest places where it is impossible to love. Protect her at all times, lift her up when she needs you the most, and let her know when she walks with you, She will always be safe. Amen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

sorry if I seem a bit distracted lately

I feel as if I've been neglecting the blog a bit lately. Sorry about that.
Our summer schedule is in full swing right now with baseball, softball, tee ball, 4-H, swim team, and now the library's summer reading club. Top that with quick trips to the pool, parks, picnics and other leisure activities, and it's a bit crazy at times. Even the yard and garden require attention that it wouldn't throughout the rest of the year.
Don't get me wrong...I'm not complaining. In spite of the busy schedule, our overall pace is a bit slower with no alarm clocks in the morning, meals a bit more make-shift, and popsicles to make everything all better. I love summer. I love walking out to the garden in my bare feet just to see what's growing, or better yet, dragging a hose around to water the flowers just because I can. I love hanging out in my rocker on the front porch to watch the kids ride bicycles and scooters up and down the sidewalks, or lounging on the patio while they splash in the sprinkler. It's all good.
I've been focusing my attention a bit more on me lately as well. Heath and fitness have moved up a bit on my priority list. I've joined with a handful of other bloggers who are also trying to find their "best" selves. I'm making time for the treadmill, riding bikes with the older kids, even jogging alongside the kids on bikes and rollerblades. I love that they're seeing their mom wanting to be better and stronger and more fit. We don't call it dieting (cause this is a lifestyle change), rather mom wanting to be around for the kids for a very long time. I've noticed John making subtle changes in his eating and exercise as well, cutting back on soda, taking long bike rides, etc. Little changes that are sure to make a big difference in our overall health.
It's tricky to find balance in all life's chaos, but most days I think I'm getting there. I'm so grateful for the abundant blessings in my life, and for all the graces to get through each day.
Peaceful night all!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

For lack of a better name:

We'll call this recipe "Magic Taco Salad Casserole."
Magic, because it seems to disappear so quickly. Don't let the Casserole part scare you. It's all made in one skillet, is flexible in it's ingredients, and it was delicious!
These were the amounts I used, it could easily be adjusted to suit your family's needs.

In large skillet, brown 1 1/2 # ground beef, drain off grease. Add taco seasoning mix according to packet directions. Toss in about 1/2 bag Frito's corn chips, 1/2 chopped onion, 1 large diced tomato, 1/3 head shredded lettuce, 1/2 jar salsa. Toss a bit, then top with shredded cheddar cheese. Cover and cook on low about 5 more minutes to melt cheese. Serve with (lite) sour cream and salsa to garnish. Yumm!!! Super simple.

Charleston Falls: Review

In two words: LOVED IT!

Easy to find, nice picnicing, clean restrooms, beautiful wooded trails, gorgeous falls, big rocks, small cave, streams to forge, grassy trails, bird viewing area, and on and on. A definite must-do this summer. We all enjoyed it immensely. As Emma put it so well: "Mom, I feel like I'm at home...like God made this just for me!"

(logistically speaking: most of the trails, including a view of the falls from above are stroller/wagon accessible, however a view of the falls from below, and trails around the falls and to the small cave require many stairs/steps, and trickier trails that would be impossible to forge on wheels. Wear old comfortable shoes. It was suggested to us to go after good rainfall to see the falls at their best...leaving some area of the more difficult walking trails just a bit muddy.)

A few pics from the day:

the kids enjoying the observation deck at the base of the falls. My camera flash apparently caught the gentle mist we could feel...very nice!
many of the trails were nice and wide, made of gravel and easy to pull a wagon or push a stroller...

We noticed a picnic table located right next to the (very clean) restrooms just off the parking lot. Later as we started on the trails we learned there was a designated picnic area in the woods. We never made it that direction to check it out...but this worked out just fine.

Emma found a friend "Gary" the snail. No, we're not bringing it home!
Alice, Sam and Emma checking out these cools steps across the stream...I was standing on the wooden bridge to get this shot...but soon had to get into the water to help all the little ones across the much more interesting stepping stones.

Grassy trails led us out to this area...in the center we found a wooden deck area with assorted bird feeders in the distance, a great place for a little quiet bird-watching.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

talk about "gettin' your money's worth!"

$10. per carload to visit the drive-in. HA!! I loaded up the 15-passenger van last night with my 10 kids, plus 3 neighbor kids, and we got our money's worth, by golly!! We parked in the front row in the grass, so the kids could run off their energy pre-movie, and spread out on blankets and lawn chairs during the flick. It was awesome. Cars around us had such great speaker systems blaring, I didn't even have to risk the battery on our big bus. What a great night we had, and at less than $1 per person to see a new release (Night at the Museum 2), you can't beat that value! Add that to your summer to-do list!

Friday, June 12, 2009

a "simple" trip to the pool

I was getting the kids ready to walk to the pool the other day, and realized how nice it is to live just a few houses away. It makes things so simple! We can just walk down there, and come home when we feel like it without much fuss, right?

First, everyone must go potty (cause there's nothing worse than toting 3 toddlers into the restroom and tugging at wet swimsuits to try to take care of business.) Okay, everyone get your swimsuit on!! (Big kids, please help the little ones.) Frank and Lucy still need swim diapers.
Okay, potty (check)
swim diapers X 2 (check)
swimsuits for everyone (check)
plenty of towels, goggles, water toys, etc. (check)
okay, kids go outside for a minute, get the wagon out...mom needs to change. (check)
Load into the wagons, ready to go, right? (not, quite.)

I'll have 10 wet, cold kids when I return at pool-closing time (9pm)...so getting there is just half the battle. Now I need to be ready for getting home...
pajamas, diapers and clean undies for the 4 youngest lined up on my bed (check)
clothespins out at the line for easy towel/suit drying (check)
Barney movie in the VCR, rewound, ready to play...this will keep the 3 youngest happy so I can hang up towels, suits, and put dry clothes on myself. (check)
popcorn out, ready to go in the microwave...one of the oldest can take care of this (check)

oops, nearly forgot...2 clean swim diapers into the pool bag, cause accidents do happen! (check)

okay kids, I think we're ready...what are you guys standing around for?! Lets GO!!!

(oh man, who forgot the pool snacks?! We're gonna starve without pool snacks. Man, everyone else has snacks! Mom, why didn't we bring snacks?! Mom, how could you forget?! oh my, where was my head?)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

it's amazing how they just know...

My heart just melted when I spotted little Lucy snuggling in with big sister Alice on the couch today. Alice has been resting a swollen ankle since Sunday, and has since been battling a high fever as well. We're hoping to be rid of whatever ails her very soon. Even Alice giggled when Lucy tried to brush her hair for her and give her a little TLC. Too cute! I'm tellin' you this is what makes my world go round!!

(On a side note: it's startling to me sometimes to see how much Lucy looks like her big sister Alice at that same age. Lucy is definitely her "mini-me.")

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

it's officially summer now...

It's tradition now, like opening day for baseball, that one of the kids might need an ER visit to ring in the summer break. Today Rosie "took one for the team" I 'spose you could say. While playing at our neighborhood park, one of the older kids (no one's saying for sure) apparently tackled her on the slide. She screamed in pain for a long time before settling down, and holding her arm completely still. There was no bruising or swelling, but still she refused to move or allow anyone to touch her right arm. We headed home, thinking lollipops might smooth things over, but not so. Fortunately for me (not him) my brother happened by to visit. He was roped in to watching my nine and his one while I took little Rosie to the ER. Turns out no fractures, but "Nursemaids Elbow" (or dislocated elbow) which took only a fraction of a second for the doctor to "pop" back in place. She was "healed" instantly, moving her arm any which way, and laughing when the nurse gave her a Dora sticker. Wow...I asked him to show me that maneuver in case this happened again, but he did not. Bummer. It seemed so simple, for something that was causing her incredible pain. Don't you wish everything had such a simple fix. We were blessed indeed.
On a side note: this was my second trip in to the X-ray dept this week, as Alice (the oldest) apparently sprained her ankle pretty bad, and needed X-rays to rule out a fracture. I'm certain it wasn't her on the slide with Rosie tonight, as she was keeping the park bench warm, resting her ankle. With Emma at her softball game...hmmm. Sam? Exactly where were you when this accident occured? Guess it's best to not know for certain.
Here's hoping for smooth sailing (and an emergency free) rest of the summer!
God Bless!

Monday, June 8, 2009

sweet sisters

okay, okay...I'll be glad to share!

Rhubarb Dump Cake
~my mother-in-law's recipe

4 c. rhubarb, diced
1 3oz. box strawberry jello, dissolved in...
1/3 to 2/3 cup warm water
1 cup sugar
1 box Jiffy white or yellow cake mix (dry)
1/3 c. butter, melted

Layer (dump) all into a 9X9 dish, and bake at 350 degrees for 45min. Serve warm with dallop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!!!

(note: I added diced strawberries this time as well, and it was divine!)

can you say "Heaven on Earth?!"

For now, I'm just enjoying the sweet aroma of strawberries and rhubarb drifting through the house. But you can bet as soon as John gets back from the store with some vanilla ice cream I'll be more than smelling it! This totally breaks any getting healthy/weight loss regime I'm trying to follow, but just one small helping, and I'll have had my fix. It's all good!

(John's brother shared some rhubarb, now we'll pay it forward with an extra rhubarb dump cake to share with friends.) Don't you just love summer!?

Check one for fun!

While the kids and I have unofficially toured and picnic'd at several area parks to start off our summer, this weekend's trip to Lake Loramie beach marked our first check-off of our summer to-do list. And my what fun we had!! John allowed the kids to load up his pick-up truck with anything they wanted to bring for the day (that in itself was pure entertainment to watch them all scatter for essentials!) I threw together a simple picnic lunch and a cooler of drinks to last us, and soon we were heading off for the beach. It's a good thing there were twelve of us to help haul all of our things from the truck to the beach...oh my! The kids had packed buckets and baskets full of every kind of sand toys, beach balls, trucks and diggers, a couple (5, 6, 7?) beach chairs, goggles, swim towels, blankets, along with our picnic food and cooler...whew. We should have packed the wagon as well!
John and I found a table just a couple feet from the sand (and in the shade to boot) to drop all of our picnic essentials and towels. The beach chairs and everything else were spread out in the sand for nearly 4 hours! That's a record time for any one activity to hold the attention/interest of all 12 of us without complaints or whining. It was wonderful...building sand castles with moats, and rivers, digging for treasure, looking for shells (not so many) or other pretty stones (lots of those!), boys rolling their trucks across the sand and right out into the water, then back up the sand again. I think we could have stayed all day, except for a few of the younger ones who were reluctantly showing signs of needing a nap.
For you who've never been to Lake Loramie State park, it's a great clean little beach with lots of shade, picnic tables, even areas for grilling foods. The sand is clean, and apparently raked daily, the swimming area is roped off and at the deepest end was neck high for me. There are very nice restrooms, an outdoor "shower" for rinsing sand off your feet, and a very nice shaded playground. It's all maintained very well. Several times throughout our visit I saw volunteers from the campground nearby riding through on their golfcarts checking trash, etc. I highly recommend it for a day of fun if you're in the area!

Friday, June 5, 2009

and here it is Friday already!?

My the time goes so fast! I had the best intentions for posting this week, but somehow fell short...on time, ideas, clever thoughts, you name it. I'll try to fill you in on all the things I wanted to talk about this week...

Alice and Emma joined the swim team this year. It's a new experience for us all, and this week they had their first meet. It was 30-some miles away in Ft. Recovery. Meets last 4 hours or more, and with John at work, there was just no way I could expect the other kids to come with me in hopes of spotting our swimmers race one lap across the pool. So we stayed home, and awaited their return and news of how it went. Each of them competed in 3 or 4 events...once against each other even. Turns out they swam well, and had lots of fun despite the bitter chill that evening. (They got home after 11:30 that evening, frozen like popsicles.) Yikes, hope the meets are warmer from here on out. Anyways, parents are expected to help out at meets, and to allow me not to have to get a sitter for the other 8 kids, the board offered me other ways to help out the team. One way was to bake 20 dozen cookies for today's "fun" practice. I didn't have to make them, just bake frozen cookie dough they purchased for the team, so it wasn't terrible, but time consuming. I've really been working hard at the weight-loss thing, so it was a real test of willpower not to nibble a few. I held strong though. (I can't say the same for little Charlie, whom I caught taking bites out of cookies then hiding them back with the rest like I'd never find out...little stinker!)
As we begin to settle into summer, I'm finding just a couple of the new "rules" in place are working wonders. Kids are doing great with the limited chores I've asked them to help with...little kids pick up toys/shoes/etc in the evenings, and older kids help with all over cleaning on Tuesdays and Fridays. It's just one less thing for me to be thinking about. I've also started the "no tv between 3 and 5pm daily" rule. The younger kids are napping at this time, and the older kids are usually finding their way in from the yard, friends' house or pool and wanting to settle down in front of the tv to unwind before supper and more evening fun. I just hate that laying around in front of the tv. So, while I want them to have quiet, relaxed time, I don't want it to be zoning out with the television. Instead, blocks and puzzles, books and games are making their way off the shelves and being put to use again. Next week starts the summer reading program at our library, and I'm hoping this will be an excellent quiet time to jump into some great books. I'll admit our family prayer time has slipped to nonexistence again...with the exception of meal prayers and bedtime. I'm hoping next week to also "schedule" in a morning family prayer time to start each day. (It's horrible, but I've mentioned before...life is so crazy sometimes, if I don't write it down, it won't happen!) Even if it's just 5-10 minutes before breakfast before the girls take off for swim practice. A morning offering/prayer time sounds like just what we all need. I'll let you know what we end up doing with that, and how it goes.
In other news, I've had a mama robin trying to build a nest atop the light fixture on our front porch. I wouldn't mind it terribly, except that it's exactly above our mailbox, and she's leaving a terrible mess (of every sort) on the mailbox, and I'm afraid the mailman will quit delivering mail with all the poo on the lid. Yuck! Anyway, I chased her away 3 or 4 times the other day, each time removing with a broom, the nest she was trying to build. Within a half an hour, she'd be back at it with more bits of dried weeds, paper scraps, and whatever else she could find. That persistent little devil just wouldn't quit! She finally completed a nest, despite my best efforts to keep her away. I politely lifted the nest off the light, and moved it a few yard away to the front tree. She hasn't been back...to the light, or her nest. Now I'm feeling a bit guilty...but, doggone it...I tried to explain, she just wouldn't listen. Oh my...that reminds me of this story which you must read when you have a moment!

Today is also the feast day of St. Boniface, patron of the German people. Having German roots, and living in an area which is predominantly german in descent, I wanted to do a lovely post about his history, and how he grew the Catholic church in Germany...but that slipped too. Instead, I'll just end with a simple prayer "O Lord, let St. Boniface intercede for us, that we may firmly adhere to the faith he taught, and for which he shed his blood, and fearlessly profess it in our works" Amen.

Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

rainy day rantings

It's raining here today. Not scattered showers, but all day duck drowning rain. There's no chance at all that we're going to be playing outside anytime soon. Lucky for us, the kids did an awesome job cleaning the basement toy room yesterday, reaquainting themselves with some otherwise forgotten treasures, and opening up plenty of floor space to really get down and play. I was busy in the kitchen for a good part of the morning, preparing a meal to take to some friends later today. About halfway in to my cook-athon, it dawned on me how quiet the house had become. This is usually a warning sign that someone's up to no good! I snuck down the stairs to find nine kids (Lucy was hanging close to Dad) playing beautifully together on the floor. Nearly every toy was being incorporated into a giant Lego, Lincoln log, Little People, army man, farm animal village complete with castles, roadways, farm tractors, and much more! It was amazing. I'm not sure which inspired me more, their creation, or their teamwork. Ahhh. I love these moments! I hurried back upstairs to chants of "Mom, don't look! We're not done yet!!" and listened to their excited mumbles..."John, we need more blocks here!" Or "Rosie, help me put the Barbies over here!" Music to my ears.

Unfortunately those moments can't last forever, and as they hurried to make things perfect, shouting began, followed by accusations and frustration over little ones knocking things over. Before long it was all-out war, and I was forced to intervene to have them put things away, and find something new to do. Before I stopped them though, I couldn't help but find a certain similarity between what was transpiring between them, and my own reactions to things in my life. It seems that we are all given gifts, "good things" to share, that are only more perfect and good when shared with others. Just as the kids enjoyed working together, and were more creative and kind while they were sharing, we too find peace and goodness in sharing our time and talent with others. I think it's how God intended. (The whole "It is in giving, that we truly receive" thing.) But somewhere along the line, we become aware of our treasure, and place value on what it means to us, rather than how it could be helping others. Perhaps through sin, perhaps because of fear or anxiety, we reign in and hold tight to what could otherwise be a blessing if only shared. Lord, may I realize the gifts you've given me, not for my own but in service of others most in need. May I embrace the goodness that comes from doing your will, and recognize that only through You do all good things come. (Let me play nice with others, and not spoil the fun!) Amen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

a little something for everyone

(With plenty of room in the comments box for your suggestions!)
warning...this could be a long one.
Okay, so it was suggested by a couple readers that I share our ideas here for fun free (or cheap) things to do with the family this summer. So here goes.
I'll start by mentioning that at the beginning of summer break, the kids and I roll out a huge sheet of butcher paper into the driveway, grab some markers and start a list of all the things we'd like to accomplish in the fleeting 3 months before school rolls around again. We certainly could accomplish the list with a notebook and pen, but it's more interactive when the kids have to sit on the edges to keep it from blowing away into the neighbors' yard. All the kids tend to add their 2 cents worth this way.
Our list is dominated by our "Tour of Parks" which is simply a list of all the area parks/playgrounds (within a 30mile radius or so) at which we plan to play/visit/picnic. We generally schedule one picnic in the park per week on the calendar. If it's not written down, it will never happen!! Our own little community here has several parks worth visiting, and then there's Ft. Loramie (which is all gravel, clean and nice with plenty of shade and a shelter that faces the playground), New Bremen has several...and on and on. Last summer I think we picniced and played at more than a dozen parks.
One of our favorites is Coldwater Park in Coldwater, Oh. I like this one best in the fall, when the ground is thick with acorns and walnuts. The squirrels like it best too, and seem to be used to all the kids around, making it easy to sneak a closer peak at the little critters. This park has plenty of shade, shelters for picnics, tons of playground equipment (old-school, and new stuff), ball diamonds, situated near their community pool, etc.
We also love Tawawa Park in Sidney. It's more of a wooded preserve with miles of nature trails, creeks, playgrounds, plenty of shelters for picnics, and so much for little people to explore. Sometimes we go to play on the playgrounds and hike, other times we pack our "muddin" shoes and nets to discover little creatures in the shallow streams. Always fun there. At the entrance to the park is Sidney's community swimming pool which appears to have awesome water slides, and pretty large baby pools with sprinklers. A friend told me their prices were very reasonable (couple bucks per kid) for a one day pass. It's on our "hope to do" list this summer if we can work out the timing.
On the subject of outdoor/nature places to visit, we love Bruckner Nature Center. It's on Horshoe Bend Road near Troy, Oh. It's a nature preserve with many hiking trails. There's a pond with a nice deck surrounding it to allow an easier view of all the little creatures living inside, and it's also an Ohio wild animal rehab center, that helps treat and release animals back into the wild. Admission is free. There's a very nice picnic area right near the parking lot and a large building/learning center(which was closed for Labor day when we were there...restrooms were still open though!)
We've not been there yet, but Charleston Falls is on our list of places to visit this summer (near Huber Heights.) I've heard the falls are beautiful, there are nice simple trails, and a picnic area as well.
It's difficult to tell from the website, but my neice insists that the Rothschild Berry Farm near Urbana is a great visit with kids. (It looks fancy...but she says she took hers!) There is apparently a somewhat pricey restaurant and gift shop, but the working farm must be a nice see. (I must say, I love some of their gourmet dips and spreads.)
Onto museums and tours: The forts at Fort Recovery are a must go see. There's a museum that charges a minimal amount for tours, but self-guided tours on the grounds are free. Be sure to take a roll down the hill behind the forts. When you see it, you know you'll want too! We actually parked around the back side of the museum/forts at a park there. It had great playground equipment, picnic areas, and baseball diamonds. A walkway lined with history and facts about the forts leads from the park to the site. (I think I learned the most, and the kids enjoyed too, these little history briefs along the path.)
Several of my kids have been to the Allen County Museum in Lima (as part of their second grade class field trip) and have LOVED it. We meant to squeeze it in last summer, but just ran out of time. The kids say it is AWESOME and the website gives a lot of info about some of the displays. (even a newer interactive kids section of the museum which sounds great for the younger crowds.) I believe it suggests a donation admission for adults of $5. The kids each gave $1. when they visited on their field trip. They had a picnic lunch and played kickball in a park nearby (though the name of that park escapes me now.) A side note, I just noticed there's a Chuck E. Cheese opening in Lima across from the Lima Mall. (probably open by now...with some coupons from the paper, this might be a fun rainy day thing to do.)
Not yet visited by us, but definitely on my to-do list this summer is the Velvet Ice Cream Company in Utica, Oh (about 35 miles east of Columbus). It's an historic grist mill with water wheel, ice cream museum, hiking trails, picnic areas, an ice cream parlor (that serves meals as well.) The museum and ice cream production viewing is apparently free. Sounds like a fun day to me! Martha, can I call on you guys to join us sometime?!
One commenter suggested visiting the Santa Maria museum in Columbus. It's a replica ship of one of Christopher's (Columbus) fleet. I've heard of it before, but never been. The website shows it to be quite a cool place for all of our little pirates/sea farers to want to visit! Admission is very reasonable (kids under 5 are free...that's half my crew!!)
Oh, my mind is running out of ideas for now. There are just so many cool things so close to home. Is everyone familiar with becoming a zoo-member and saving money on visits to other zoos and museums? I think nearly every zoo offers memberships. We bought ours last season to the Ft. Wayne Childrens zoo. It was $85 for a family membership which is good for one year. In addition to free admission each time we visit Ft. Wayne zoo, this membership saves us 50% or more at other zoos throughout the US, as well as some museums like Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton. (Oh this is a must!) Lots of things to explore/discover for kids of all ages! Anyhow, a single day at the zoo costs us as much as the years' membership, so we're crazy here not to purchase it. (I think I read a family of 2 adults/2 children is about $45 per visit to the Ft. Wayne zoo.)
We're a little crazy here in that we're one of those vehicles that pulls over to read the historical landmark signs along the road. We've learned some interesting little tidbits and facts over the years, and it keeps the kids guessing when the car slows down unexpectedly...what are we stopping to check out now?!
I'm missing some great spots I know, but I hope this gives you a few ideas of places to check out. Be sure to check the websites, and let me know if you've got other suggestions! We're always up for a roadtrip/adventure! Happy summer all!

Oh, nearly forgot...

In response to the requests for me sharing ideas/suggestions of free or frugal things to do with the kids this summer, I'm putting a few things together for a post in the near future. Be thinking of places you like to visit as well...I'll be expecting some ideas in return in the comments box!

as for my plans

I did just as I intended, and posted a new chore chart today. No, I'm not a big one for stickers and rewards and such...not that we haven't tried that before. This is more of a cleaning mandate, advising all peasants of the kingdom what they'll be responsible for keeping clean as proclaimed by the queen (and the king's been briefed too...so no whining to dad!)
We started simple, with the basics (cause during the summer, these slackers try to get away with anything!)
For instance, in the morning...everyone must eat, get dressed, brush teeth, make bed and straighten bedroom. (can you believe there a few who think teeth brushing is only necessary for going to school?! I'm tellin' you, I gotta spell it all out!)
Tonight, the younger kids were responsible for picking up toys, and straightening the family room, picking up shoes, etc. It went really well. We'll see how the older kids do with the Tuesday and Friday cleaning days (all over cleaning of family room, basement, and bathrooms.) Should be fun. I'm just tickled to be looking at a "picked up" (never mind dusty) house. Ahhh, life is good. Now on to that laundry that's forever calling my name.

plan of attack

I was cleaning up around the kids desks awhile back, and noticed this paper taped up above Emma's desk...directly at eye-level for her when she's there working.
Wow! professional soccer player, fly around the world, general surgeon, world's strongest retired woman, oh and maybe an artist. You go girl! (all this from the young lady who told me last year "Go big or go home!")