Thursday, August 27, 2009

No sour grapes here.

Mmm. Nothing but purple sweetness! The kids love helping me pick, clean and measure out the grapes for this super simple grape juice. And in a couple weeks, they'll love to help taste it too! This afternoon we put up 18 quarts of the yummy stuff.

The recipe couldn't be any easier...
Measure out 1 cup clean grapes, 1/2 cup sugar, and boiling water to fill clean hot jars. Place lids, and process in boiling water for 20 minutes. Check to be sure they've sealed. After 2 weeks of shelf time (to allow the grape flavor to permeate the water) it's ready to enjoy. Just pour the juice through a colander into a pitcher to seperate out the grapes, and enjoy it's sweet goodness!

...all the better to SEE you with, my dear.

John "Squints" Schmiesing has some new specs...and is looking rather handsome, I think. He had an eye exam last month after failing his kindergarten vision screening. We learned he is farsighted in his left eye, while he has perfect vision in his right. The difference not only affects his ability to focus, but also his depth perception...which may explain some of the silly accidents he's been in over the years (like walking into poles, etc.) The problem with his left eye is most likely a result of his having Cerebral Palsy, muscle weakness that affects his entire left side. So far, he's in love with the glasses and the new resposibilty it entails. Oh yah, he's ALL that!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

remember when...

...the greatest decision you had to make each day was whether to have chocolate milk, white milk or orange drink at snack time?!

Yup. Critical thinking going on there. John and Mary are feeling the stress of it.
Kinda makes me long for kindergarten again...I met my BFF there you know. I can still remember the two of us reaching for the same jumprope at recess. I think we shared.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

and there they go...

All morning I heard the question "Mom, are you making lunch yet?!" It just didn't make sense to them that lunch wasn't until noontime, and not 10am. John and Mary were a bundle of nervous excitement, and couldn't wait to join the other big kids for their first official day of school. The morning flew by though (for me) and at 12:15 we hustled out the front door for a quick picture (to the tune of "C'mon Mom! Lets go!!") and the 2 block walk down to the kindergarden. They just seem too little to be this big already. Where does the time go!?

and they're off!

With butterfly bellies and backpacks full of fresh gear and crisp notebooks, my oldest four were out the door to school this morning. The next two will follow behind after lunch for PM kindergarden. I'd forgotten how nice it is to have everyone up at the same time, eating breakfast together and laughing through their nerves about how the year will go. Sam's face was priceless when Alice mentioned that his new teacher keeps a whip hanging in her classroom for when she needs to "whip" kids back into shape. (He was horrified, and grateful to be forewarned!) It didn't take long for Alice to bust into laughter at his being so gullible. We all got a laugh on that one.
Now that they're gone, what will we do?! Oh, I think we'll find something. Younger ones are taking turns in the bathtub, my second load of laundry is nearly ready for the clothesline, and there's still a little coffee in the pot. Frank and I shared some prayers for the big kids in the quiet family room this morning as Dad and others watched all the kids and cars streaming by from the front porch this morning. Yep, it should be a good year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Busy with BTS

Never before have we spent this much time celebrating "Back To School" (or perhaps better said 'mourning the end of summer.') Our weekend was full, beginning with shoe-shopping Saturday morning, and later that day an end-of-summer celebration at grandma & grandpas house where we enjoyed a fish-fry dinner, treasure hunt, volleyball, campfire, glow sticks, sparklers & s'mores. It really was a good time for all ages, and nice to be outside enjoying the unusually cool August weather. On Sunday after mass, we attended the Back to School ice cream social at the Elementary building where we visited Sam and Grace's classrooms and enjoyed root beer floats and freeze pops. Sunday evening brought about an impromptu bondfire in our back yard with all the neighbor kids staying late to enjoy s'mores, popcorn, ghost stories by the fire, and lots of fun backyard games (like ghost in the graveyard, hide-n-seek, capture the flag, and more.) It really was a fun night, and I'm grateful the kids came up with the idea. This evening John was back at work, so after dinner the kids and I met up with some friends for ice cream at the park, and while the kids burned off a little energy (for their early bedtimes tonight) the moms got some walking/talking in on the path that surrounds the park area. It was a nice simple way to say goodbye to our carefree days of sleeping in, no homework, and unlimited outdoor fun. Tomorrow begins a new school year for our 6 oldest...Alice and Emma walking in one direction to the middle school for their first year there as 4th graders, Sam and Grace walking opposite towards the elementary to 3rd and 1st grade, and in the afternoon Mary and John will begin kindergarden. It's amazing to me how time has flown these past 5 years, and seems impossible that these next two could be starting school this year. It really does feel like just yesteday they were babies, although, I guess I could say that for all of them. Moms of little ones, be warned, one blink and you'll miss it...they'll jump from blankies to back packs quicker than you can imagine!!

mission accomplished

Kids waiting for mom to order up pretzels and drinks after a successful attack on the mall!
I took 8 kids with me to the mall on Saturday morning with one task in mind: school shoe shopping. Happy to report that we got 'er done! Sam (8) and Lucy (1) stayed behind with John, while the rest piled in the van with me. (I had just picked a new pair of tennies up for Sam mid-summer, and Lucy probably needs shoes, but not today.)

Anyhow. Our first stop was Penneys where we found two pairs of sandals (for next year) that were on summer clearance for 7.00 each. With the remainder of an old gift card I was carrying
around in my purse, we got both pairs for $4 total. Perfect. Next stop was Payless to take advantage of their "Buy One Get One 1/2 off" offer. We usually do well here for the younger kids, but unfortunately I find the need to spend a little more on a couple of the older kids who wear their tennis shoes out too quickly. Anyways, I was fortunate to get an incredibly helpful sales woman, who despite the crowds, measured everyone's feet, wrote their sizes on a sticker and pasted it to the front of everyone's shirt without batting an eye. She was incredibly efficient...LOVED HER! Alice and Emma were also really helpful in shepherding the younger kids to their size and helping them to choose/try on what they needed. I just checked for toe room, and nodded a final approval for a couple of them. So nice to have the older ones able to help out now! I believe we were in there less than 1/2 hour to get all but 2 fitted and finished with new sneakers. On to Sears where we scanned the shelves quickly, and didn't find what Emma was looking for (in my price range). Off to another shoe store, where we lucked into a couple of really reasonably priced shoes for Emma and Grace. We stopped back at Payless a second time as I decided to pick up Sam a second pair of tennies...if I didn't, in a month I'll wish I had. Things had gone so well, we back tracked to the food court and shared some pretzels with cheese. One final stop to Walmart for a couple odds and ends while we were out, and home again we go. It was exhausting, but productive. 15 pairs of shoes (several of which were clearance sandals/flip flops for next year) later, and we called it a day. So grateful that we don't have to shop like this often!

Friday, August 21, 2009

garden goodness

Our home is spilling with yummies from the garden this week. Fresh tomatoes sliced with a bit of salt and pepper have been a staple with lunches for the last week or so, and today I had enough to make a first batch of salsa for the season...complete with garden fresh onions, assorted peppers and corn. Yumm. The jars are processing now, and the kitchen still smells of the aroma of tomatoes and spices. Earlier this afternoon I picked our meager crop of pumpkins and baked them up to make pumpkin cookies (with the melty icing on top...mmmmm!) The grapes are abundant on the vine this year and turning a beautiful, deep shade of purple. I foresee many quarts of grape juice in my near future. I think last year we put up 48 quarts, and it looks as though we may make more than that this time around. I have a half-dozen loaves of zucchini bread in the freezer with more of the shredded stuff measured and frozen to bake more bread later. I love this time of year, when a few simple items from the garden and a bit of sweat equity turn into something wonderful to last throughout the winter months. I just finished the last package of frozen apple pie filling last week that I put up last September, and it tasted as wonderful as the first. Sometimes it made its way into a pie or crisp, and other times, we just ate the baked apples plain...which couldn't be any more simple and delicious.
It was a blessing to have the cooler weather today, to keep the oven and stove going without overheating the house. I can clearly remember canning salsa just days before Frank and Rose came into this 90+ heat, no air conditioning, 9 months pregnant with twins and sweating like there was no tomorrow. But it needed to get done, and I was on a mission to tie up loose ends. Funny how that nesting thing works.
Anyhow, I've got a few more items that need washed up and put away in the kitchen. Tomorrow morning the school kids and I (and maybe a couple extras) will be heading out for school shopping. Everyone needs tennis shoes again. It's that time of year when I get that mother of the year award for not realizing that the kids feet grew 3 sizes through the summer, and I've been forcing them to wear their too-small shoes to church on sundays with that "Oh, you'll be fine for an hour!" scowl. Yup. It's that time of year again. Pray for us ;')

Mom, can I have a mowhawk?

Oh my. Tell me he's not going to be trouble someday?!
In a moment of boredom, the kids found a creative outlet playing with my clothespins in the backyard. They tried everything from hairdo's, clothing accessories, tails, and later built towers and bridges by linking them together. Hmm. Might need to get them their own set for Christmas or birthdays this year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Praise God!

(even for the little things.)

It's a miracle!! Our icemaker in our refrigerator has begun to make ice cubes again, after a 2 year hiatus! The fridge is only 4 years old, but for some reason (right after warranty) it quit making the precious cubes. I love ice...could eat it for a snack, and can't have a cold beverage without it, so I was annoyed. My being annoyed wasn't enough to warrant a service-call fee, so I tried taking it apart on my own, and finally just settled for the good old-fashioned ice cube trays.
Suddenly, out of nowhere (while we were camping this weekend) the thing fired up again. We came home to ice cubes all over the freezer. Yahooooooo! Mama's got ice cubes again.
God is good.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

camping memories

I have so many wonderful memories from the weekend. It was our first time camping with the kids, at least camping in one spot for any length of time. Last year, we rented an RV and traveled to a wedding in North Carolina, camping along the way. But we had a 2 night respite in a hotel to break up the trip and enjoy the wedding. This was a bit different. It was simpler in some respects because we weren't constantly packing/unpacking, changing seats into beds and back again so we could hit the road. And yet, it was challenging at times too, trying to keep the kids entertained and ease them into the notion that doing "nothing" can be enjoyable too. We played our share of bean bags, roasted plenty of "mallows", canoed, spent afternoons at the beach, went for nature hikes, and of course just thoroughly enjoyed being outdoors despite the 90 degree temps.
My brother was kind enough to loan us his camper, which sleeps 9. We packed along a tent, which the 3 oldest were happy to claim as their own, so everyone had a spot. The first night was a bit tricky, getting everyone to settle down to sleep, but by the second day, it felt like old hat. My parents stopped out to celebrate Frank & Rose's birthday on Saturday evening. The kids could have stayed up all night listening to their Grandma tell stories around the campfire. On Sunday, I could hear Emma repeating the stories over and over in the tent to the little ones who were asleep for the stories the night before. Too cute.
I'm still struggling to figure out how something could be so incredibly relaxing one moment and hectic/stressful the next, but overall it was wonderful. I enjoyed cooking over an open fire each night, and everyone agreed the food tasted better than grilled, hands-down. We went an entire weekend without television, Nintendo DS, computer, even phone. (I had the cell with us, but it stayed plugged in, charging in the camper for use if necessary.) Amazingly, none of us missed any of it. I would love to have a camper of our own one day to take advantage of more days at the lake with the kids, who haven't stopped sharing stories about their weekend. Surely these are memories to last a lifetime.

Rosie, showing off her birthday "princess" gifts. (This was certainly not part of my minimalist packing.)
John and I sitting for a few moments around the fire. Supper's nearly ready.
Sam and Charlie...scheming up something, I'm sure.
Alice and Emma challenged Dad and Grandpa to a serious game of bean bags.
A view of our site...never a dull moment, for certain!

note to self:

With regards to camping, one can never pack too many pairs of undies (for the kids that is.)

You see, I'm am forever the over-packer. It's just me. But I went outside of my comfort zone and became a minimalist for just this one weekend. With 12 of us sharing only a few square feet of space, it seemed necessary to pare down. So, I gave strict orders for each of the kids to grab only the necessary items...3 outfits (one for each day, and I really didn't care if they matched!) 1 clean pair of undies (cause we probably would only take the time to tackle the shower house once.) and no extra shoes (only what they had on their feet when we left the house.)

Figures, that Frank (who's potty training) went back to diapers in the first hour, Grace and Sam both blew out their flip-flops on day one, and kids who are camping need more than one pair of clean underwear! I made one trip daily back home (thank goodness we were within 5 miles) for shoes, underwear, sweatshirts and ice. Not bad for first-time campers. Next time, perhaps we'll wear the same clothes all 3 days and just pack 3 pairs of undies. (hee, hee...that'd save space, not?!)

Happy Birthday Frank & Rose!

I'm having trouble figuring out just where the time could have gone, now that Frank and Rosie are 3. Yes, THREE years old!! Oh my.
We celebrated their big day while camping at the lake this weekend. (More on the camping later, but for now a pic of the happy, growing pair.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

packing up

In the spirit of trying to cram as much fun into these last two weeks before school starts, we're packing up for a very mini vacation. The kids have been begging to "go somewhere" all summer. (that's code for somewhere overnight...preferrably a hotel with a swimming pool.) Unfortunately hotels and major traveling is just not in the budget. So instead, we're heading just a few miles down the road to Lake Loramie State Park for a few nights of camping. My brother was kind enough to loan us their camper for the weekend. We loved the RV trip so much last year, I think this will be fun for everyone. He brought the camper by today, so we can take our time packing it, and planning where everyone will sleep, etc. We could probably squeeze us all in if we wanted, but the oldest 3 or 4 are looking forward to a little independence and are packing along a tent to sleep together outdoors. It looks as though the weather is going to be beautiful. I've got to get grocery shopping tomorrow so that by Saturday we'll be ready to pull out.
Pray for us, and more importantly for the folks camping next to us, whoever they might be. They're going to need the prayers most!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

facing the inevitable...

I hate to even say the "s" word, but it's approaching fast. So I did what had to be done, and took the kids shopping for school supplies tonight. First step was to have Alice and Emma condense the 4 different grade-level lists into one giant manageable list. With John at work, I was taking all 1o kids to Walmart with me. Things needed to be efficient and organized so we could get in and out as quickly and effortlessly as possible. We have 6 going to school this year...2 kindergardeners, a 1st, a 3rd, and 2 fourth graders.
After locating and sorting through last years' scissors and pencil boxes to see what was still useable, we finalized the list and headed off.
The kids did amazingly well, despite the busy aisles, and always long check-out lines. Little Lucy was in an umbrella stroller with Alice chauffering her around. Charlie, Frank and Rose were buckled in one of those 3-seater carts. (I actually sent Emma into the store ahead of us to locate a cart with all the buckles intact, cause lets face it...if they can get out of the cart, the battle is already lost!) This left the 6 oldest school-goers ready to grab supplies and toss them into the cart. It makes me smile (and feel a little guilty all at the same time) that our kids are so excited to be getting new things, that they don't even buck or whine when I explain they'll be getting the 25cent generic folders that they can decorate themselves in lieu of the Hannah Montana folder that costs quadruple that. They're just too dang excited about getting a fresh pink eraser, it doesn't really matter! I tell you, it's the little things. I did cave on some Swedish fish candy at the checkout (to be opened in the car, cause yes, I need that leverage right up until that moment when everyone's buckled in their seats!)
Anyways, sorting through the treasures when we got home was a whole 'nother ball game. Even the toddlers pulled out old backpacks from the toy box, and begged for a pencil to call their own. We had a couple to spare, so everyone left the table happy. Everyone packed their supplies into their recycled backpacks in anticipation of that big day, exactly 2 weeks away. Oh my.
I'm soooo not ready for homework, alarm clocks, soccer schedules, and remembering who needs to wear gym shoes on which day. My head spins just thinking about it.
Oh, but then I imagine quieter days with just my 4 youngest at home, and wonder what we'll think of to make our time special while the "big kids" are away. I think I should have put playdough on our home "school" supply list.

for giggles: our list
6 jumbo pink erasers
8 folders
4 boxes crayons
2 pair scissors (already had 4 at home)
4 small glue sticks
2 large glue sticks
6 bottles elmer's white glue
....I know, what on earth do they do with all that glue?!
4 packs watercolor paints
10 boxes of tissues
#2 pencils (for everyone!)
8 dry erase markers, fine tip
4 yellow highlighers
1 deck of cards (learning to gamble during recess?!)
3 packs colored pencils
1 red pencil
1 notebook
2-12 packs of post-it notes
2 clear plastic rulers (we already had others at home)
2 red pens
2 packs loose paper (15o pages, wide ruled)
2 binders
2 clip boards
2 ultra-fine black sharpies

10 kids running wild, 1 cart, 1 stroller, and 1 package swedish fish to reward them for good behavior. Whew. we did it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

more weekend pics...

After spending the night with John's sister and her family in Columbus, we headed to Utica, Ohio to check out the Velvet Ice Cream factory.

The kids enjoyed their ice cream at a mini ice-cream parlor set. Yummy!
14 of the 15 kids checking out the restored water wheel outside the factory. (Lucy apparently dodged the camera...she's good at that!)

We found a little off-the-beaten-path river bed there where the kids all waded and enjoyed finding/throwing stones.

Love this picture of Lucy and Daddy. This is a favorite spot for her as we take nature walks. She must feel on top of the world, and safe on Daddy's shoulders. (and I don't think John minds having her there either.)

Skipping stones into the river below. Yep, life is pretty good.

check out this crew

We received many looks, and comments as the 18 of us (John and I and our 10 along with John's sister Martha [her husband Steve had to work]and her 5)forged the fairgrounds on Friday. Many folks wondered if we were part of a church group, or scouts or something. I enjoy sharing our big family blessings with others. Here are our 10, and their 5 New Albany cousins who joined us, and welcomed us all into their home for the weekend. Yes, at moments it's crazy, but I wouldn't trade it for the world! We have been blessed indeed!

the crew of 15 kids posing patiently in the bleachers of one of the cattle barns...and then being just plain silly!

weekend in pictures

We had so much fun this weekend, it's hard to put it all into words... so I won't. I'llll just share a few pics of our crew (and a few cousins) enjoying the Ohio State Fair on Friday, then the Velvet Ice Cream Factory on Saturday. Memories are made of moments like these...

Our 10 met Pink Panther near the entrance of the fair.

City gals get a taste of the country as Alice (in pink) and Emma (black) try their hand at milking a cow. (Several of the younger ones took a turn as well. Too cute!)
Kissing cousins (Kate and Lucy) sharing a sandwich and a few babbles about their adventures that day.
Mary found a little lamb (and Charlie, Frank, Alice and Rose too!)
A fair visit wouldn't be complete without checking out the "Buckeye Big Boar" (or as Alice tells: the "fattest hog in the state!") ...more than 1200 pounds!

hate the humidity...

but I'm loving what it does to her curls!

Monday, August 3, 2009

My sweet girl

(okay, she'll roll her eyes and gag at the use of the adjective...nevermind the fact that I'm using it to describe her!)
Emma's my tom-boy. Baggy boyish t-shirts, basketball shorts (the longer the better) and sneakers with everything are her staple wardrobe elements. She'd wear her favorite (lucky) socks for days on end if I'd let her. Fashion is not at the top of her priority list (it may not even be on the list.) She'd never comb her boy-short hair if I didn't enforce it, and spitting is not beneath her. She loves all things sports-related, is competetive, smart, well-read, and has a heart of gold. Painting her toenails is not something she allows me to do often, but when she does it's usually a cool shade of blue, black or school colors (orange and black). She can most often be found under a shade tree with a good book, or in the top of a good shade tree climbing as high as possible.
You can imagine my shock and surprise when she chose these shoes and dress for the wedding we attended this weekend. Oh my. She looks like a (gasp!) girl. Excuse me while I get a tissue to dry my eyes...

Always fashion-conscious, Alice posing with all dressed-up Emma. As mentioned'd never guess they were twins.