Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time for my Annual Book Club Trip!

My book club consists of:
1.  a foul-mouthed New Yorker
2.  a native Hoosier addicted to running
3.  a high-heel loving Cheesehead
4.  a stay-at-home mom, who doesn't exactly enjoy kids, but likes them more than getting a job
5.  a non-nerdy gadget lover who tries (but fails miserably) to be politically correct
6.  a Goodwill shopper who wears whatever bling she can find, even if it's a candle holder
7.  me

When this group started almost 5 years ago, I knew 2 of the women in it.  Didn't know them well, but our sons played soccer together.  At our first meeting, I simply sat there with my mouth open, wondering what I had gotten myself into.  Now, I am so grateful that God put these wonderful women in my life.  They are kind, generous, funny people who give me a different perspective on every topic under the sun.

About six months after we began meeting, we decided to go on a trip.  I was all for it, as long as I didn't have to do any of the planning.  (I make a million decisions a day.  My dream vacation involves none.)  Our husbands were all for it, but were wondering how many of us would make it back alive.  All seven of us are quite headstrong and opinionated.  Our spouses figured this would be the end of book club.

On the contrary.  We had a blast and sealed our friendship.  Since then, we have seen each other through some serious ups and downs.  Our husbands and children have become great friends, too.  We still meet every 4-6 weeks, and yes, we do read and discuss books.  (One husband commented that the only reason it's a book club is that we like to book trips.)  We take one trip each year, always someplace new.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Charleston, SC.  I have no idea how that came about, and I have no idea what we're doing when we get there.  My friends have let me have my dream vacation.  Not one decision was made with my input.  I didn't even have to book the flight.  I honestly don't know which airline I'm even on.  As I write,  the Cheesehead is checking me and my suitcase in. 

God has blessed me with a perfect-for-me husband and six fantastic children.  And yet, He knew that it wouldn't be enough.  Women need women.  And He has given me six.  All I can do is say, "Thank you!"

So, I'm off until next week.  I'm getting out of this long, cold winter for a few days.  I'll come back with stories I can't tell, a stomach that aches from laughing, and a suitcase full of clothes that never got worn.  (Since I don't know what we're doing, I'm packing for every occasion.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"It's almost spring" chores

I know it's not spring yet.  I am fully prepared to endure at least one more snowfall and many more cold days.  But when we get a glimpse of spring, like we have been this past week, it's time to start preparing.

First, the annual "What was the snow hiding?" hunt.  Before we can actually play out in the yard, the kids and I have to do a sweep to find all of the toys, tools, etc. we have been missing and, more importantly, all of the things we don't want to step on.  (Side note:  Our oldest is the absolute best at this game.  This year, he actually found the tiny little "pen" that goes to a pocket Sudoku game.  His brother had dropped it outside, in the dark, the night before we got many inches of snow two months prior.  In a previous year, he found my lawn mower key and a British coin from WWI.) With two large outside dogs, there are lots of things we don't want to step on.  First and foremost, we take care of the poo.  The kids fan out over the yard, stopping when they find some.  I go around picking it up and disposing of it.  Luckily, we only have to do this for a small fraction of our property, but it is very necessary, as it is the field the kids most use.

Next, we do a dead animal count.  Fortunately, it was a light year.  Guess the cold (or the coyotes) kept the big animals away.  We only found two oppossums, three moles, and the inards of an unidentifiable animal.  These are also disposed of.

The kids then get to play for a while.

The husband, the children, and I then tackle the sticks and branches that have fallen.  So glad that we splurged and purchased a mulcher last fall.  We used to have to drag them all to the burn pile on the far side of the property.  This year, very little dragging.  Just took the mulcher around the yard, then wheel-barrowed the mulch to the flower bed.  So much easier!

The compost pile then gets some attention.  The children are not able (or is it willing?) to get all of the food scraps onto the actual compost pile when there is so much snow.  So, after we take out the lovely dirt to put on the garden, we must scoop the scraps up and put them in their proper place.

Lastly, we spread the compost dirt and clean up the garden to get it ready for tilling and planting.

So far, so good.  We got all of this done in two afternoons.  Next up, fixing the fences and barns before the chickens and pigs arrive.  Those coyotes are going to have to go somewhere else for their meals this year!

What does your family do to get ready for spring?

Monday, February 21, 2011

What's not to love about a toddler?

My baby is almost a year and a half.  I have always enjoyed children at this age, but he is taking toddlerhood to a new level of cute.  And it's not just because he is my last.  He just has a personality unlike the others, and it cracks me up.  Yesterday, he spent half the day with a foam horseshoe around his neck.  We have no idea why, except that it is just typical him.  He also has a thing for hats.  He loves a hat.
He constantly wears them.  Many times they are over his eyes and he just walks around running into everything.  He doesn't care.  Just so he has a hat on.  Until, of course, we go outside.  Then it comes off immediately.

It is so cute when he tries to do everything the big kids do.  Talking on the phone is typical toddler.

But is racing?  And knowing the commands, "On your marks, get set, go!" 

None of the other kids ate junk food until their first birthday cake.  After that, it was a rare treat.  They didn't know how to even identify it, even when someone was eating it right in front of them.  Not so with this guy.  When he was nine months old, he snatched a cookie right out of his aunt's hand and shoved it in his mouth before she knew what was happening.  He can spot sugar-laced food a mile away, and most certainly will not tolerate someone eating it in front of him.
Like all toddlers, he likes to get into trouble.  Dumping a bag of blocks and scattering them around the room is a regular activity for him.  A dining room chair not pushed in all of the way is an invitation as far as he is concerned.

But unlike my other kids, he is built like a linebacker.  He is short for his age, and has a "beer belly" that rivals any middle aged man's.  He uses that low center of gravity to his advantage.  Our poor 2 year old gets tackled on a regular basis, with little to no warning.   Out of the blue, this toddler comes running from another room, straight at the 2 year old, and just takes him out.  Luckily, the 2 year old finds this amusing, at least for now.

Also unlike his siblings, this little guy has a limited vocabulary.  He can say, "Mommy", but it is only spoken in a shrill scream.  The word is usually followed by a sweet little voice asking, "Where's Daddy?"  He has no idea how to say, "Yes", so regardless of the question, he answers, "No".  The tone of his voice lets you know which one he means. 

I could go on about this little guy for days.  Unfortunately, he is in the middle of tossing my clean laundry all around the living room (except for his sister's apron.  That is draped over his shoulders.)  I need to go give him a hug.

What do you love about the toddler years?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Making kids feel special

As parents, we all want our kids to feel loved.  With six kids, we are always trying to make sure the children know that we see them as individuals, that they are each special to us in their own ways, and that we love them each completely.  It's not always easy, but we feel it is important to do.   Our 10 year old will be turning 11 very soon, and I've managed to plan a big surprise to show her that we're listening and we love her.  First, a little back story.

In the days when we only had two children, I was new to town and didn't really know many people.  I would take walks in the neighborhood, hoping to run across someone with kids.  One day, such a thing happened.  The family was playing in the front yard with their dog, and our oldest wanted to pet the dog.  We began a conversation, and a friendship was born. 
This family had two children as well, and they happened to be within a few months of each of my children.  It came to the point where we would spend at least 3 days of the week together.   We would go to parks, library programs, museums, and many other "field trips", including a day at the airport once.  Many times we would still be together when the husbands came home from work.  We decided to just start having dinner together.  Thursday nights were set aside for it.  Over the next 8 years, we got together every single Thursday for dinner.  We both ended up having more kids, and all eight played beautifully together, even though I had boys and they had all girls.  We really became one family with two moms and two dads.  And then some bad news.

Our friends were moving away.  The father's office was closing and moving him two hours away.  We were all very sad, but decided to have one last Thursday together, from breakfast on.  It was a beautiful day at the farm, and we all had a great time.  We took lots of pictures and made books to remember our fun day.
Our friends left the next day, and busy lives have gotten in the way of us getting together much.

Jump back to the present.  Our daughter has told us that she doesn't want any presents for her birthday.  She just wants to spend a day with her friend that moved away.  I told her I would try, but couldn't promise anything.  Well, is she going to have a surprise!  My friend and I have been able to put together a plan.  We're going to meet halfway to make a switch during the day.  Luckily they homeschool and can do this! When I get to school to pick the kids up on Friday, my daughter's best friend will be in the van waiting for her.  They will have until Saturday night to play and enjoy themselves like the old days.  I can't wait to see her face!  I only got the logistics worked out yesterday, but I've already almost slipped three times.  Goodness, I hope I can keep my mouth shut for just two more days!

I'll let you know how it all turns out!  In the meantime, tell me what you've done for your children.  I always need some more ideas!

Have a lovely day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Skates and Cakes

How's this for a way to start the morning?  I went to bed early last night, so I could get up and make heart-shaped pancakes for the kids before school.  I know.  Great mom.  Whatever.  I set the alarm and fell asleep before my husband came to bed.  This morning I woke up on my own and found that he had changed the time back to our normal wake-up time, forgetting my big plans for the morning.  After punching him, I ran downstairs to try something else.  I only had nine minutes before he would be getting them up, so I made pancakes with red food coloring in them.  They turned into the most horrid looking pink I have ever seen.  I tried to make them look better by adding some perfectly sliced red strawberries to the plate.  All to no avail.  The kids came down, saw the pancakes, and gave the "What the heck is that?" look.  They actually said, "Are we supposed to eat those?"  I of course replied, "You most certainly are!  And you're gonna like it, too!"  So, for breakfast, my kids ate these:

Can't wait to see how those come out later today. 

All of this, remember, was my husband's fault.  Guess what dear hubby did for our children for Valentine's Day?  Took them out for doughnuts on the way to school.  Yup.  He makes me look bad, then makes himself the hero.  In the process, he just lost his Valentine's Day, I'll tell ya that!

We had a busy weekend.  First, our daughter had her skating show.  I love where she skates.  I didn't have to pay a dime extra for the show except for the $3 admission.  No fancy costume, no specific hairstyle like those crazy dance moms have to do.  Just a bunch of kids doing 30 second routines.  Although, I did have to get her there for practice at normal time, then be back again 3 and a half hours later.  Which was an hour and a half before the show started.  Oh, and it is crowded and cold for the whole thing.  Oh, and the announcing is quite long, and done by some poor guy who either a.) needs glasses, b.) had trouble reading a hand-written script, or c.) can't read.  But, at least I didn't have to pay anything. 

On Sunday, my husband had to make a cake with our 9 year old.  Hubby had to work the day of the scout cake auction last week and had promised our son that they could do it another day.  Sunday was that day.  The rules of the auction state that no female is allowed to help or even touch the cake when it is being made.  Yeah for me!  Not so much for them.  Neither of them have the experience that I do.  It was a great idea, but as the 9 year old said, "It doesn't really look like the picture I had in my head."  No honey.  It rarely does. 
But, regardless of how it looked, it tasted darn good.  Except for the green icing.  It had one funky aftertaste.

In case you are wondering, it's a monster truck crushing a school bus.  Our family has been known to enjoy a good monster truck rally or 2, or 3, or 4.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

He's Still My Little Boy

Ok, as I sit down to write this, one darn funny phrase was uttered in my home.  The two year old woke up and came downstairs.  He walks into the kitchen, sees his sister and brother eating breakfast and says, "My pee-pee hurts so I need to eat sumfin."  I so love children!  Now to my real post:

It's a moment all mothers of boys anxiously await, and I was able to experience it last night.  I was the chaperone for the 6th grade social.  I was sad, because I hate for my little guy to grow up.  I didn't want to be witness to another thing that shows me how old he is getting.  Yet, I was more excited than sad, as my dear son rarely speaks.  He tells me nothing about what goes on at school.  It's not that he doesn't want to, he is just very unobservent.  He really doesn't know what goes on around him at school.  This was my chance to see with my own eyes how much boy/girl stuff I needed to worry about.

My first clue that he wasn't interested in girls was his attire for the social.

He was not exactly dressed to impress.  He wasn't thrilled that I took his picture, either. 

My first clue that he might be interested in what people think is when we discussed what behavior was and was not allowed.  And I don't mean his.  I was by no means allowed to hug or kiss him.  I wasn't even allowed to acknowledge that I knew him.  Now, you might say, "Duh.  He's a 12 year old boy.  No way would that be allowed."  I would have to respond, " Oh Contrair Monfrair" (This is the extent of my French, and I don't know how to spell it.  I went phonetically.)  This is a boy that normally has no problem with PDA from his mother.  He is a momma's boy through and through.  Every time he goes on a camping trip, HE gives ME a hug and a kiss.  Out of the blue, each day, he will come over and give me a hug.  So the refusal of such for the social was a bit of a shock.

Finally the time comes.  We enter a room of 20 girls and 3 boys.  Good odds for him.  He doesn't even notice.  He is excited to go play ping-pong and corn hole with his friends.  One of those friends is a girl, but she is the most tomboy girl in the class.  She normally hangs out with my son and his friends at school anyway.  Yeah for me.  He is still afraid of girls.  And, none of the girls are in the least bit interested in the few boys that are there. I don't care if it means my boy is in the nerdy crowd. 

The best moment of the night was about halfway through.  I was being good and hadn't spoken a word to him all night.  We catch each other's eye, and he gives me a huge grin and a wave.  Yeah for me again!  He's still my little momma's boy!

So for now I am safe.  No need to worry that my boy likes a girl better than me.  No need to worry that some little girl is trying to get him to.  For now, I will relax a bit.  At least until the next social.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Only One More Day

I love our 150 year old house.  There are so many original details that you sometimes feel that you have stepped into the year 1870.  That is especially true in the winter.  Have mercy, it is cold in this house!
All of the kids have space heaters in their rooms to take the edge out of the chill, but we don't leave them on overnight.  My daughter came down for breakfast and proclaimed, "It is 57 degrees in my room."  I did not need to know that. I know I'm cold.  I don't need to know just how cold.  All I can say is, thank heavens we finally redid the bathrooms.  For the first five years in this house, we went without showers.  Tubs only for this family.  The only difference between us and the owners of 1870 is that we didn't have to first heat the water on the fire.  You have no idea what cold is until you have to take a bath in a room that is only 57 degrees.  For five winters, we were stinky, dirty people.   There was no way I was putting myself through that torture every single day.  I certainly couldn't make my babies do it.
Back to the clean, showered present.  Sitting in the living room, watching the beautiful sun rays coming through the window, it was very obvious that I had not cleaned our glass cabinet in a loooong time.  Let's be honest.  I've never cleaned the glass on the glass cabinet.  Today was the day.  Examining my lovely clean cabinet, I noticed the front door could use a cleaning, too.  I cleaned the door with no problems, but then I went to clean the inside of the storm door.  I went to wipe it, and the cleaner had actually frozen.  It was only ten seconds between spraying and wiping.  That, my friends, is cold.  I spent 10 minutes scraping the window, and it still isn't all off.   So now I have the dirt and grime from my dogs and kids covered with frozen glass cleaner.  Great look.
But relief is coming!  Today is the last day of this arctic weather.  How sad that I am so excited about 35 degrees, but that is the case.  We are all heading outside to play in the mud on Saturday and Sunday.  Then, and only then, will I clean the front door.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Planning the garden

Amongst the ice and snow, we have been dreaming of spring.  And nothing says spring like a garden!  We made our seed/plant order today, and I am so excited for the ground to thaw so we can get started.  Visions of green beans, lettuce, strawberries, potatoes, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, blueberries, watermelon, and garlic are dancing in my head.  We are all tired of the store-bought food.  With the rabbit trouble this year, we ran out of our green beans long ago.  Some sort of blight took out most of our tomatoes, so we are having to buy salsa now, too.  All we have left are pickles, apples, and pears. 

Spring also means pigs!  We usually get them the week after spring break (first or second week of April).  That is always fun for the kids.  We'll be talking to our farmer friend to find out how many we'll be able to get this year.

We'll also be getting a new flock of chicks.  We'll probably wait until May to get them, though.  I do not want chickens flying around my basement this time around.  That will mean we will finally get to stop buying eggs somewhere around Sept.  I can't wait!

I have always loved spring, but this year it will be extra nice.  This winter has about done me in.  It is only 10 degrees outside!  I am currently sitting in my warmest clothes with a robe over top.  Have mercy!  I am not made for this cold.  I'm actually looking forward to mowing the lawn, raking up the clippings, trimming trees, and weeding the garden.  I won't even mind feeding the pigs in a complete downpour.  At least I'll be warm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ice and Snow

Heavens, it is a rough winter!  It started with the early snow in December, and continued with unusually cold temperatures ever since.  The snow just keeps on coming, but last week was the worst of it.  We didn't get snow.  We got ice.  And plenty of it.  So much ice accumulated that the kids were off for three days.  Public schools were closed for four!  As much as I hate the thought of adding extra days at the end of the year, I am glad that we got a little break to stay home and play.   One benefit of a little farm is that you have plenty of things to do and look at.  We didn't have to worry about sliding into an oncoming car.  There were fallen trees and puddles, and many roofs to look at.  Our cars aren't kept in a garage, so there was lots of ice to break off.  The best part was sledding down our little hill.  Without the sled, we could body sled quite a far ways.  With the sled, you just kept on going until you ran into the fence on the edge of the property.  The kids were out there for hours. 

With the bad snow that we had, I have to say that I am grateful to those coyotes.  It would have been a miserable winter to take care of chickens.  Just keeping their water unfrozen would have been a chore.  I know we would have been battling the wild birds in the coop as well.  By now, I might have went ahead and had some chicken dinners myself if the coyotes wouldn't have done it first.  Silver linings.  Never thought I would have found one back in August.

eight year old actually hammering the ice off of the walkway - no shovel was going to take care of this problem

1 year old dressed for the snow
Of course, the time spent dressing him was significantly longer than the actual time in the snow.