Wednesday, September 30, 2009

dental floss...

Perfect for cleaning those hard-to-reach spaces between your toes(?)!

I can laugh about it now.

I could hear the boys (John, Charlie and Frank) hammering away in the basement...buzzing away with their saws, clanging their hammers against the metal support poles in the basement. It was all good, I thought. Tool time...Fisher Price style. They love "working" on stuff, and typically the basement is fair territory. The walls are just painted concrete, and most everything down there is "kid-friendly." Key word being most.
You can imagine my, umm, dismay (for lack of a better word to describe the way I nearly lost it in a fit of not-so-pretty yelling, arms flailing in the air, shock) when I found all three of them standing on top of the tv stand, hammering away at television from every angle. They were wearing safety goggles, I'll give them that much. In hindsight, the look on their faces was not the typical "busted...I know I was doing something wrong." Rather, they seemed completely uncertain of the nature of their offense.
I unplugged the tv about 6 months ago (best thing I ever did!) so the kids would spend time actually playing with their toys/using their imaginations rather than laying like zombies in front of the darn thing. Meanwhile it just sits there useless, collecting dust...except for the rare occassions I plug it in while I use the treadmill. Anyhow. I think the little buggers were actually trying to fix it! I can laugh about it now. Truth is, I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if the thing was permanently damaged...I didn't even bother to turn it on to find out. I'll have to work out the details of it with them tomorrow in a slightly more calm fashion, and go over again the rules of the "workshop."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sorry Grandpa.

Dear Grandpa'
I LOVE coming to your house to visit with you. It seems you always have cool things within reach, and you never once put them up away from my little hands. I love that you're okay with me checking things out...and you seem to giggle a little when I do.
Today we stopped by to visit and you weren't home. So, while Dad was leaving a note on the table for you, we helped ourselves to some cookies (cause you never seem to mind that either) and then I spotted this really sweet puppy just waiting for some attention. I think he's super-cute, and didn't figure you'd mind if I carry him around a little bit. I bet he must have been a gift from someone very special. He looked like he wanted to be held. So, ummm. I did. And well, ummm. I dropped him.
Mom thinks the glue should be dry and we can return him tomorrow morning.
I think he's sad to have the tape around his head, but mom said it's helping the glue work to keep his ear on. I think he'll be all better soon.
I'm sorry Grandpa. I love you.


Ziploc Omelets

Okay, before I get started...YES, I'm going to be cooking in plastic, which probably contains some sort of toxins which might cause someone to grow a third eyeball. But it's quick, it's cool, and it's not likely the third eye will show up anytime soon.

So, with that covered...we made the coolest Omelets this morning. It's something I'd read about a long time ago, and finally googled it to try it ourselves. It's a really cool, simple way to cook custom omelets for the masses, without spending the whole morning at the stove.

Start by bringing a large soup pot of water to a rolling boil. While that's heating, give each person a quart-size ziploc bag (we used generic "storage" bags which worked fine, but I read "freezer" bags are less likely to melt) with their name Sharpied on it. Break 1 or 2 eggs into each bag, seal, and squeeze or shake to scramble. Kids really hate this part. Open bags again and allow each person to add omelet fixin' cheese, onions, peppers, bacon crumbles, ham or sausage, tomatoes, spinach...whatever! Seal bags making sure egg mixture remains in bottom of bag, while all air is squeezed out. (I found it easy to do this over the edge of the counter top.) Drop all sealed bags into the boiling water and cook for exactly 13 minutes. It suggests no more than 6-8 bags for a pot of water, but we used my bigger canning pot, and all 12 bags fit just fine. After 13 minutes, remove bags from water, open (careful of steam) and drop eggs onto plate. They come out in a log-type shape...but they taste great, kids LOVED them, and we all ate at the same time!!!! How cool is that!?! We'll definitely be trying it again....with a little more cheese for me.

More whispers from the pew

Childrens Choir is back in session for the school year, and Saturday evening was their first opportunity to sing at mass. It also happened to be homecoming weekend for our high school, so there was an unusually large number of teens dressed in their dancing finest attending mass prior to festivities. It gave Charlie a lot to talk about come Communion time. He commented on each of the young men...what color shirt or tie they were wearing, etc. I snuggled him in a little closer when he pointed to one handsome fella in all black with a flashy red tie. His comment made me melt, "When I'm big, I'll wear a red tie Mom, and you can go with me in your 'Snow White' dress." Awww. He wants me to be his date, and insists I wear my "big puffy" wedding dress (which he'd seen me try on not too long ago.)
It almost made me forget about the fact that he'd just tried crawling underneath the pew to sit with the boys behind us. Little turkey.

Sunday blessings

Thanks to Saturday evening mass, we had a sleep-in Sunday. And after that it was a lazy morning complete with fresh baked Monkey Bread, Ziploc Omelets (more on that later), and lots of snuggling...

How sweet is that! God is good, indeed.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Nope. "Cinnamon-sweet" would be more fitting, as tonight the house was filled with the sweet smell of cinnamon and apples as apple pie filling bubbled on the stove.
It is with great joy (and a big sigh of relief) that I put away the canner and extra jars and lids for another year. After approximately 28 jars of salsa, 4 quarts of green beans & potatoes, 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 6 quarts of tomatoes, 10 quarts of peaches, 15 jars of applesauce, 28 quarts of grape juice and now 7 quarts of apple pie filling; I can call it quits till next fall.
As much time and work as it requires, I'm already planning a few extra items for next years garden, hoping to be able to put away a few more jars of this or that for the winter more beans, sweet corn, and perhaps potatoes. I'm hoping the girls might be interested in helping out/learning the art by then. A little company in the kitchen is always welcome.
A side note: Alice and Emma asked for a first lesson in hand-sewing this evening. Each of them stitched and stuffed a little fleece pillow to decorate their beds. My, they've come a long way from fingerpainting and sewing cardboard cutouts with shoe-laces. They're growing into quite the little ladies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

can't keep a good man down

a story of one little guy's big determination
I've mentioned once or twice before that our little John (one belonging to our second set of twins) has Cerebral Palsy. He was diagnosed somewhere between the ages of 18 months and 2 years when his delays in walking were more than just his "being a boy." His twin Mary mastered walking on her own right away at 1 year, and we just thought John was taking his time. He seemed to know how to do it, but just couldn't master it without stumbling...a lot. Poor little guy was always black and blue. Anyhow, at 18months, we sought the advice of our family physician who then referred us on to a pediatric orhopedist (bone doctor), and then on to a developmental specialist. Turns out we'd noticed differences in the way he'd mastered lots of developmental milestones, but thought it was just John being "quirky" the way he held his sippy cup with his left hand turned completely over for balance, or the way he army crawled much longer than any of the other kids and managed to only use his right side. Subtle clues, that might have tipped us off sooner, had he not been so good at overcoming all of life's obstacles. We were completely shocked when the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy came up, and yet many things started making sense. Cerebral Palsy simply means that somewhere during development in utero, or sometimes due to trauma at birth, some part of the brain that controls muscle tone and movement didn't develop correctly or was injured. It has increased occurence in twin births, and often affects the muscles of one entire side of the body. In John's case his entire left side is weaker than the right. He's naturally right handed, so has managed to compensate/overcome most challenges he faces. And as the doctor explained to us, his case is very mild...often unrecognizable to people he meets. It appears more as a clumsy demeanor to most. It's difficult and requires much concentration for him to master fine motor skills with his left hand. He's often tripping over his own two feet, bumping into things, and just generally not very graceful. Certainly he was blessed to be so mildly affected. And even more blessed to have such a positive winning attitude.
Today, he ran his first 1-mile fun run at our high school cross country meet. All kids in kindergarden through 6th grade came home with sign-up sheets, and while a couple of my others weren't too interested, John was certain he could "win the big trophy." I smiled to myself remembering one doctor early on, explaining to us that "he'd probably never play guitar or be great at cross country" to which my husband and I both laughed...neither of us had mastered these with our typical abilities.
Anyhow, I found myself sobbing in cheers for him on the sidelines tonight as he battled his way through the hills and turns of the course, stumbling at times over his own two feet, but always getting back up, smiling and moving on. I couldn't swallow the lump in my throat that was my heart as he'd push by, his big toothy grin was ever-present. At the final quarter mile, when I cheered loud for him to keep on, he jetted past me as if winning first place depended on it. He never seemed to mind one bit that remained running with and would finish in one of the last 5 spots. He did it! He was proud as could be to accept his participation ribbon, and was quick to congratulate the top finisher...with a comment about he himself taking home the trophy when he gets a little bigger. Never stop believing big guy! I am grateful everyday for the gift of you, and for teaching me about slowing down a bit to appreciate the journey. You are a beautiful example of determination, perserverance, and triumph! God has blessed us indeed!

Monday, September 21, 2009

submerged (perhaps drowning) in nature

The kids and I ventured out for a "nature" walk this evening. It's been since spring (Lent to be exact) since we'd visited the wooded trails of the Maria Stein Spiritual Center, so we were overdue. It rained this morning, and I just love that their paths are now paved, and awesome for pushing a stroller, rain or shine.
We loaded up the van right after dinner, and headed off for a nice stroll. We arrived and were greeted by the sweetest little yellow butterfly who danced around each of us as we piled out of the van. It seemed to enjoy the attention as one of the kids caught it, then each took turns holding it gently on a fingertip. The sweet little butterfly stayed with Sam most of the walk, and I had to check it once or twice to be sure it was real. Just so cool that it wasn't inclined to fly away...far, far away from our noisy bunch. I finally persuaded Sam to "let it go" and he literally had to set it down on the ground...the darned thing just wouldn't leave us.
Anyway, we eased down the winding wooded rosary path, discovering that several of the new grottos were near completion now with beautiful statues of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes, as well as a gorgeous statue of Our Lady of Fatima. We're so blessed to have this wonderful little retreat so close. The kids stayed busy gathering colorful fallen leaves in the prettiest shades of, orange, yellows. In fact. The leaf-lined trail was so beatiful, I can't even tell you what the trees looked like. About halfway through the trails we realized that we were being swarmed by these tiny gnat-like bugs. They weren't biting or pesky, but our clothing was covered in we'd walked through a cloud and they'd all clung to us. It gave us all the heeby-jeebies a bit, and it hurried our pace more than I'd like. Everyone was swatting, wiggling and trying in vain to rid themselves of the tiny stow-aways. We continued gathering leaves and walked rather briskly back to the van (okay, some of the kids were sprinting) and ended by stripping a couple kids of their outer layers to shake off all the buggies. We laughed about it later on our way home.
We ended the evening with a little craft time. All the kids (except Sam, who was met by neighbor boys in the driveway when we got home) seemed to enjoy arranging and gluing the leaves onto construction paper which will hopefully get covered with contact paper, and become placemats for the fall season...a reminder of the beautiful gifts of nature God provides for our viewing pleasure.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights, who does not change or cause darkness by turning.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

cereal sillies

I can't explain it. "Silly" just happens here. I'll take this over grumpy drama anyday! ~God bless Charlie and Frank for the most recent round of impromptu morning giggles.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

fumbling for my life preserver.

Somedays, I feel like I've got things covered. Schedules are managed, days roll by smoothly, laundry is under control. (okay, that last one is a stretch.) But still, there are plenty of good days. And then there are the "bad" ones. You know, that stretch of time where you feel like everything is one step forward, two steps back... when you're busy all day long, and by bedtime you can't put your finger on anything that really got accomplished. Wow, do I feel like I've been spinning wheels lately. Yes, there have been big things like lucking into someone's extra garden produce. One friend gave me about 5 gallons of tomatoes, or so which that night became another 10 quarts of spaghetti sauce. That same day a neighbor offered us "free pickins" from their apple tree, so I got about 12 quarts of applesauce canned. I can't really plan ahead for those blocks of time. When produce is "ready," everything else goes to the backburner.

Yesterday I had a bit of time in the afternoon, so I drug my sewing machine and a sack full of simple mending projects out. In that process I spent about 15 minutes cleaning out my sewing box due to a package of straight pin spilled out all over. I finally got things organized and machine running, and wouldn't you know it my needle broke and I have no replacements on hand. Darnit! All the projects went back into the bag, sewing machine and supplies back into the laundry room, all waiting for another day.

Oh, I could go on and on about busy days, feeling exhausted and just wondering if I'll ever get my head above water again...but I already know the answer. It's like the ebb and flow of the tide and just as we tend to think it's going to pull us under completely, the tide rolls out. We find ourselves standing on the smooth sand, perhaps even spotting a few treasures that drifted in. This time of chaos will pass. I just need to breathe now and then, be grateful for my life and all the blessings I've been given, and recall my real "Life Preserver," who through his death on the cross has already saved me. I pray I can keep from getting caught up in the ropes. Amen

John 3:16-17 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge but to be its savior.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In praise and thanks

Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me; he freed me from my fears.
I had the pleasure of speaking at a womens conference on Saturday in Coldwater. The group of 150 or so women attended mass together first at Holy Trinity and followed with a day full of prayer, great speakers and reflection centered around Luke's gospel story of Mary and Martha. I spoke mainly about finding balance/time for prayer amidst the chaos of having a large family. (I'm not sure who I fooled into thinking I've mastered any sort of balance here, we are a work in progress...but someone asked me to speak, and I said "yes.")
Anyways, I think things went amazingly well, despite my complete lack of experience/confidence. When my name was announced to come forward and share, I felt the usual lump in my throat, and could feel my heartbeat in my ears...a bit of a mini panic attack, I think. But as I reached the podium and adjusted the microphone, the Holy Spirit took over, and things couldn't have gone more smoothly. I felt relaxed, and enjoyed sharing my story. It seemed well recieved too, which is a bonus. While I'm quite comfortable typing away behind a computer screen, my experience talking with a crowd (that's actually listening) is pretty limited. It scares me to death really. I'm grateful for answered prayers. I felt truly moved by the Spirit! Praise God!

In addition, I met some amazing women who had such incredible stories and kind words to share. I was inspired by the new young priest who celebrated mass (Fr. Stechschulte) as well as Deacon Rob who is to be ordained a priest next May. In this "Year for Priests" I continue to pray for more great men such as these to answer the call. Just wonderful!

to be more specific

When I suggested to 3yr old Frank that he shouldn't wipe his face on his shirt, rather "Go wash up!" I meant, wash his face...not his shirt. I should have been more specific, I guess. So, I'm feeling a little bit guilty for his being reprimanded by Dad, who found him standing at a bathroom sink filled to the rim with water, and dunking the front of his shirt repeatedly like a woman doing laundry at the river.
Water was everywhere. John was upset, which would have been my reaction too, had I not known the vague instructions the little guy had just been given. Frank let the water out of the sink, mopped up the water (a bit) with the hand towel, and walked head-bowed, defeated, into the kitchen only to give me a look of "this is your fault mom, thanks." I felt horrible.
It didn't keep us all from giggling about it later though. God Bless our dear obedient boy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

sigh of relief...

...for now at least. I've been asked to speak to a small group of women at a retreat this coming Saturday. I've been sweating what I'm going to say (have been given 1/2 an hour's time to fill!), and think I've finally finished my notes. Whew! Yet another reason I haven't been posting much of late. I'm actually very excited to attend...the topic of the retreat is the story of Mary and Martha, and finding balance between prayer and work. It should be a wonderful day.
I recieved a letter in the mail yesterday from one of the women organizing the retreat, and she mentioned there are 150 women registered thus far! 150??!! Okay, I'm sweating again...

If you think to pray for me on Saturday morning, that'd be great! Asking for the Holy Spirit to work through me, give me confidence to speak to such a large group, and to give all glory to Him through the message I share. He is Good! (and I'm incredibly nervous! What was I thinking, saying "yes" again?!) Prayers, please.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Toothfairy's on Overtime!

We've been keeping that little pixie busy, for sure! Grace has had wiggly teeth for more than a month now, and last week I could stand the dangling participle no longer. One swift yank with a tissue, and out it came. Whew. (I know some can't stand it, but it's never bothered me to pull out a tooth when necessary....perhaps from when we were kids and would actually help each other with loose teeth. I had two brothers, and yes we used the string tied to a doorknob trick, and yes, it worked.)

Anyhow, Grace was pleased to find a quarter in exchange for the tooth she left under her pillow that night. She was even more tickled when her second tooth fell out on it's own during dinner that very next evening. Although it was a Friday night, and with the busy holiday weekend, football games, etc, the toothfairy needed a reminder note when she still didn't come around after the second night. Another quarter was soon on it's way.
Now tonight, little John turns up in the kitchen after washing up after dinner to announce, "Mom, I lost a tooth." What?! He didnt' have any loose that I was aware of. I'm not mentally prepared to see him with a toothless grin. I double-checked and sure enough, there's one missing. But where is the tooth? Who knows?! He just happened to notice the gap as he grinned in the mirror after dinner. The older kids were quick to start a search party looking for the missing tooth to no avail. We suspected perhaps he ate it. (strange, but possible) Finally at bedtime, as I sat on the edge of the tub as one by one, the young boys took their turns pottying and washing up, there I spotted it in the corner of the bathroom floor. One tiny little baby tooth, now bagged and waiting for the toothfairy to work her magic. (That is, if she doesn't forget.)

has it been almost a week since I last posted?!

Oh my. I swear I have the best intentions, I really do. You must forgive me for neglecting the shop here. It makes it difficult when it's been this long to fill you in on all that's been going on. Suffice it to say though, it's been busy as usual.

We are in full-fledged back to school mode. No more nicey-teachers holding off on homework for that first week of school. Nope, from 3:30-4:30 every day, it's controlled chaos at it's finest. 6 little thinkers swarming the kitchen table, plugging away at math facts, spelling words, independent reading, math worksheets, letter formation (for the kindie-gardners), while 4 pre-k's vie for mom's attention just long enough to get a snack, drink, potty break or other. It never fails as I have Grace reviewing flash cards, Sam reading independently for 20 minutes, I'm listing off spelling words for Alice or Emma to write down (Heaven forbid, they'd be on the same list!), and Mary and John circling all the letter G's on their paper...Frank hollars from the bathroom "Mom, I pooped!!" (code for...come wipe me now!) The doorbell's inevitably ringing for the fourth time, because nobody in our neighborhood does homework at this time, and again I hollar from the kitchen "when you see them outside, they're done!" Terrible, I don't even bother answering the door anymore. Sorry if you've stopped by at that time, and heard me yelling...I swear I thought it was the neighborkids!
Yep. If we can make it through homework hour each day, we can make it through nearly anything. I'm grateful for the hour of quiet time in the house that precedes the school kids' homecoming...a time when the four at home are napping, John's just left for work, the house is tidy for a bit, and I can breathe, pray and be grateful for all these beautiful blessings God has given us. He is good!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

early morning energy

Do your kids wake up singing and dancing? Wow, the kids had endless energy this morning and as the younger ones sat finishing breakfast with John and I, Alice and Emma serenaded us with some manner of cheering/singing/dancing to a made-up song. I don't even recall the words anymore...even though it was the same line repeated over and over. It was too funny. Each version was slightly sillier and more synchronized than the one before. They even asked for raisins to black out one tooth for their "redneck" version. Where do they come up with this?! Maybe the smell of tomatoes cooking all night did something to a strange drug or something.

pasta follow-up

Even after simmering all night (and waking up a couple times to stir...I was so afraid it'd scorch while I slept) the sauce was still pretty thin. It smells divine, though...and suspect it will taste just as good. I didn't have any tomato paste in the house to add, so I canned it as is. I read somewhere that while you shouldn't can with cornstarch, you can add it later when ready to use to thicken it up a bit, and that's just what we might try.

thanks for the tips everyone! BTW~ Tania (who commented), how do the apples come out with your strainer? As runny and slushy as the tomatoes? I like my applesauce a little chunky. Perhaps your newer model has different attachments for different consistencies? I'd love to know more/try more before deciding to purchase one for myself. It did make super easy work of the tomatoes!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

good night sauce...

Tonight I'm working on homemade spaghetti sauce. This is a first for me, but some friends offered us their extra tomatoes and I just can't let them go to waste. I picked 2 full 5-gallon buckets of the gorgeous fruit; a combination of Beefsteak and Roma varieties. They planted 6 just as we had, but ours didn't fare well at all, while theirs were just loaded down with tomatoes, the plants as tall as me. Awesome!
Anyhow, my uncle and I got to talking about canning last week and he dropped off a tomato strainer for me to try. I'd never seen, let alone used one before...well let me tell you it is AMAZING. I put the whole tomatoes into a pan of hot water for just a couple minutes, then into cold water in the sink. Then one by one dropped them into the top of the strainer...all the while turning (or having the kids turn) the crank. The juice and pulp came out one shoot, while the seeds and skins dropped out the back. It was the cleanest process for seperating the seeds/skins that I'd ever seen! It made beautiful slushy tomato juice that probably could have been canned as is without any further doctoring, but I've opted to make pasta sauce instead. I'm using Mrs. Wages pasta sauce seasoning packets, which smells wonderful as it simmers. The sauce is a bit runny though, and everything I've read online suggests just letting it simmer to get rid of the water, for as long as 10-12 hours. So, it looks as though I'll be canning in the morning as opposed to this evening yet. Darn it...I'm in the mood. But, as I said, it smells divine, and will be worth it to have a nice thick sauce to can in the morning. I can hardly wait to try it...the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, peppers & onions all blended and permeating the whole house now. Yumm!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

good night gloves.

I just peeked in on the boys for the night. Everyone's resting well. I tucked in a few sheets/blankets, kissed a few foreheads and just as I was walking out I noticed something dark at the foot of Charlie's bed...two of them actually. They were too small to be stuffed animals, and he hadn't worn black socks today. Hmm. I began to cautiously reach for them when it dawned on me. These were the gloves he'd found out in the garage early this morning; a small pair of black football gloves that a neighbor boy had outgrown and donated to our boys to play with. Charlie wore them to play football at first. Later they were work gloves as we spent time weeding the flower beds this morning. They came off just long enough to eat lunch, and soon were worn to push tractors across the family room carpet. By late afternoon they were baseball gloves, sandbox gloves and even biking gloves. It was necessary to remove them for supper, but he was happy to report that "I don't even need to wash my hands mom, cause I had my gloves on!" Yep, bet they disinfect while you where them, I thought.
Anyhow, here he lays lost in peaceful sleep with those silly gloves waiting at his feet for the next big adventure. What will the morning bring?!