Monday, March 31, 2014

One Challenge. Do I Get Points for Trying?

P.J., from a 'lilhoohaa, has a photo challenge each month where he announces a theme.  The participants have one month to take five photos based on that theme.  I have never participated, not because I don't want to, but because I forget to take the photos.

This month's theme is ONE, since it is the one year anniversary of this challenge.

I remembered to take the photos, but only managed to take three.


I'm putting them out here anyway, seeing as how it's the closest I've ever gotten to conquering the challenge.

FYI:  It's hard to take a photo of your feet while you're swinging.  It's even harder to take a selfie.  Remind me to show you sometime.

Construction on the new orangutan exhibit at our zoo is wrapping up.

Exterminator screening off the birds' entry point to our attic.

Have a lovely day!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Short and Sweet Thankfuls, TToT Week 41

The quickest thankfuls you ever did read on my blog comin' atcha.

I am thankful...

1.  that I get to be a stay-at-home mom and can simply take off on an adventure with the kids.

2.  for my husband, who doesn't begrudge us the fun and adventures we take while he stays home and goes to work.

3.  that my mom is healthy enough and crazy enough to join us.

4.  for the opportunities my kids have to grow and be brave.  Three days after school starts back up, my little 6 year old Turken will be reading the introduction to the all-school Mass.  There will be at least 600 people in the congregation, and all eyes and ears will be on him.

5.  that I am able to help a friend with the care of her ill mother.

6.  for good books.  I have read a whole bunch of good books lately.  I most recently finished Yvonne's book, Drawings in Sand.  The main character and I have basically nothing in common, but she has plenty in common with someone I know.  I often felt like I was in my friend's head as I read, and many of the things the character said are things my friend has said.  It was almost eerie sometimes.  Nice work, Yvonne!

7.  that my name was pulled out of the hat to win an iPad mini at our school's fundraiser.  The kids were hoping it would become their iPad, but

8.  for our kids' love of game-playing.  For months, Cuckoo has been watching the rest of us play Settlers of Catan.  This week, he told us he had watched long enough.  He wanted to play.  Not only did he play, he beat us all.  Turken received Ticket to Ride (USA version) for his birthday, so between the two games, we've been having lots of family together time.

9.  for all of my nieces and nephews.  I have lots of them, and I enjoy seeing them every chance I get.  (I will this weekend, when we all get together to celebrate all of the March birthdays.)

10.  for my smartphone.  It will make keeping in touch with Bryan and all the other people who want to keep track of our no-plans spring break trip easy.  And fun.  I'll be taking all sorts of photos and putting them on Instagram so my dad doesn't worry about us too much.  (I'm "inthecoop" if you want to follow along, too.)

That's it for me.  I have to put the finishing touches on the packing of the stuff.  You cannot even believe the organizational system I have going on here in my living room.

Something new I learned...when kids gather laundry from the dirty clothes baskets, they just grab the easy, large articles of clothing.  The small things, like socks and underwear, get shaken to the bottom of the hamper.  While this fact makes packing for a trip very difficult (as no one has clean underwear or socks, even after two days of non-stop washing and drying and folding), it completely explains the putrid feet odor forever hovering in their bathroom and bedroom.  I do appreciate an easy fix to a putrid feet odor.

Your turn.  What is making you want to yell, "Thank you!" for all to hear?

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crossing My Fingers that Car Sickness Is Our Biggest Problem. Basically, Panic Is Setting In.

The countdown to our road trip is on, and I'm starting to panic.

Good grief, what was I thinking?  Who takes 6 kids on a road trip with zero plans??

Me, apparently.  Because instead of, I don't know, making plans, I'm cleaning out my purse.  And painting my toenails.  Real important stuff when you are about to embark on a road trip.

In a weak moment this morning, I asked the kids, "Should we pack a tent?  I'm afraid that at least one night, we're going to be sleeping in the van down by a river."  They simply paused from their bagel-eating to look at me.  They knew if they just sat there quietly, I'd answer my own question.  Which I did.  "No, you're right.  We won't have room for tents.  We barely have room for ourselves with all this other stuff we're packing."  "We" went on to discuss our lack of foresight when buying the 12-passenger instead of the 15-passenger van.

Yup.  It's going well.

Bryan, for his part, is doing his own panicking.  He would never tell me to cancel the trip, but he's making subtle hints.  Last night he suggested, "Remember Nashville?  It has all sorts of fun things to do.  The zoo.  The Parthenon.  The fun museums."  His hinting didn't make me book any hotels, but it did make me wonder if he secretly reads Dyanne's blog.  That would annoy me, since he doesn't even read mine all that often.

He has also handed me a Hilton card with all the phone numbers I can call if I decide to book a hotel in advance.  And this morning, he said, "Once you get to (someplace I can't recall), you can decide whether to go more southeast and head towards Gatlinburg."

There's a reason he plans all of our vacations.

I know there are plenty of people out there who can't even stand the thought of road tripping with kids, never mind road tripping without plans.  I'm not worried about the road tripping part.  Our kids are great travelers.  When they aren't throwing up from car sickness, they are a dream.

Our trip home from Disney two years ago.  Thirty minutes into the 20 hour drive, one child vomited.  15 minutes later, a second child did.  While I took photos, my mom held the bag of vomit-covered everything that Bryan handed to her.  Notice Cuckoo, still strapped into his car seat, "reading" as if nothing gross is going on behind him.
If you are planning on taking a road trip with kids, I've got some wisdom to share.  We've done this lots and lots and lots of times.

1.  Keep them well fed.  Hungry kids are cranky kids.  A steady supply of food will go a long way to keeping everyone content, if not happy.  When feeding the children, I look for fast, mostly healthy ways to do it.  Fast food is fast but gross.  Restaurants can be good, but they take time and require more sitting.  Our solution is to pack a lot of food.  If the kids are doing well, we'll eat in the car.  If they are squirrelly and need a break, we stop.

On a trip to St. Louis when I was pregnant with Giant.  The rest stop was closed, so we just got off at the next exit and ate in the grass next to a hotel parking lot.  Those boxes are the best things I have ever purchased in my entire life.  I don't think Tupperware sells them anymore, which is a darn shame.  They are awesome.  I still use the same ones I bought 13 years ago.

Our favorite foods to pack include cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, individual fruit containers (ex: applesauce cups, boxes of raisins, or pineapple tins), cups of peanut butter with pretzels, fruit leather, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, grapes, carrots, sandwiches, and cheese quesadillas.  Basically, anything that doesn't require a fork or spoon.  (My kids are able to "drink" their applesauce out of the container.)

2.  Give them things to do.  Busy kids are happy kids, so make sure they have things to occupy themselves.  I get carsick if I turn around much while Bryan drives, and I have no desire to sit in the back with them.  The kids are on their own when it comes to entertainment.  Poor, deprived children that they are, we have never had a van with a TV in it.  Each child has a desk in which he can pack toys and other activities but also use as a flat surface on which to write or play.  Activity books are great, whether they are mazes, hidden pictures, brain teasers, color-by-number, or MadLibs.  There are lots of travel games from which to choose, and if they are magnetic, even better.  They always pack crayons and pencils and a notebook.  (Loose paper is a pain in the neck.)

The day before the trip, we go to the library so each child can pick out a bag of books.  The littlest kids are only allowed to pick board books, as I don't like to pay for books little kids rip to pieces while sitting behind me.

Notice the library books between Phoenix and Buttercup?  How about the kids' camera for Giant?  And the small water bottle for Star?  Helps to keep those smiles all the way to our final destination.

As for electronic devices, the older kids are allowed to bring their iPods.  They get to use them until the battery runs out.  Basically, that gives them 2 hours.  The little kids are allowed to use my phone to play, but I limit them to about 30 minutes.  I save this phone time until the kids have played with everything they have brought and are getting restless.

3.  Stop often.  This is the key to any successful road trip.  For us, the vacation starts the moment we get in the van.  Why wait until we get to our final destination?  If possible, we have a buffer day on either side of the trip to allow us to stop and do fun things along the way.  Even if it's not possible, we still add some fun to the drive.

Every town has a school, and every school has a playground.  Our kids have played on many of them all over the country.  Parks are everywhere, and a short hike is a great way to burn some energy.  We stop and enjoy the touristy things in the cities we travel through.  For example, we made a great find in the zoo in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  Little museums and historical sites dot every state, and they are usually cheap or even free.

If nothing else is available, we turn rest areas into parks.  We can play tag, have a relay race, throw a football, chase the squirrels, or follow the leader.  I don't know why, but one of the favorite games of younger kids is to simply play "follow directions".  I stand in one place and tell them what to do.  For example, I tell them to skip to the tree, then hop on one foot back to me.  Over and over again, they want me to tell them what to do.  It's simple, easy, and the perfect way to get the sillies out.

One year I took the kids on a trip to visit my sister in Hilton Head.  This was taken at a rest area on the way.  Some stranger saw the kids playing and me taking some photos for Bryan and offered to take one of all of us.

Basically, be flexible and prepared.  Be especially prepared for car sickness.  No one wants to travel naked and surrounded by vomit simply because Mom and Dad forgot to have extra clothes, trash bags, and wet wipes handy.


It looks like the entire gulf coast will be hanging out in the 70s for our trip, so that's where we're headed. Yes, the coast spans 3 states (and parts of two more), so it's not really narrowing things down much, but it's a start.  We looked at a map to give the kids a better idea of distances and possibilities, so everything from New Orleans to Destin to Atlanta are possible turn around points.

I noticed today that my dad has now gotten an Instagram account to keep track of our travels.  Feel free to do the same.  My tag or whatever it's called is "inthecoop".

Do you have any tips for us and our travels?  What do you do to make sure your road trip is fun and headache free?

Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bats, Birthdays, Big Things, and (Possibly) Bad Ideas

A quick rundown of what's been going on around here:

One:  Finally, after 15 and a half years, we have discovered the one and only thing that Phoenix has inherited from me.

My mad bat-catching skills.

On Saturday, if you remember, I was at "Prom" while Bryan was out of town.  The six children were at home by themselves.  At approximately 8:00, as they watched a basketball game, a bat flew through the room.  Once they agreed that, "Yes, I saw it, too," they went after it.  Unfortunately, after searching the entire house, they couldn't locate it.

At approximately 9:30, as two of them were heading to bed, the bat made another swoop through the TV room.  The kids were ready.  And by ready, I mean Buttercup was under a blanket, Giant ignored it, and Star and Phoenix grabbed the butterfly nets.

From what I'm told, Star was quite stealth in his attempts to find the bat, all crouched down and ready to pounce, until the bat actually came near him.  Then he ducked.

Phoenix, on the other hand, stood tall.  When that bat came through, he swung with all his might and knocked that bat right out of the air.  The bat went skidding under the couch.  He used the net to pull it back out into the middle of the room, where they discovered that the bat was most really, certainly, dead.  He scooped it up with a book and tossed it out into the yard.

Where it remains to this day.

While I feel bad for the bat, I couldn't be more proud of the kids.  No one ran screaming from the house, and Phoenix, my nervous, awkward, procrastinator, took charge and dealt with the situation.

Now, I just need to teach him how to catch it so it can continue to live its little bat life, eradicating the bugs from our yard.

Two:  Yesterday was Turken's 6th birthday!  He wanted to take snickerdoodles in for his class, then have lasagna for dinner and a marble cake with brownie moose tracks ice cream for dessert.  He got it all.  After opening his gifts (some Legos and a new version of Ticket to Ride) he ran them upstairs and put them under his bed.  Didn't want anyone to be confused as to which Legos and game were his, apparently.  It seems everyone we know has a birthday around this time, so between their parties and spring break, Turken won't get to have his birthday party with his friends until sometime around the middle of May.

Three:  The kids have special things coming up.
   Buttercup and Star are in the middle school musical, and the practices are getting long and frequent, gearing up for next month's production.
   Buttercup will be graduating from 8th grade soon (It's a big deal for our school, since the kids have all been together since kindergarten.), and there are tons of 8th grade activities between now and then.
  Turken will be doing the introduction to the school Mass (reading a paragraph in front of 600 people!) as soon as spring break is over.
 Giant has been working so hard on his country project and will finally participate in the parade of countries at school tomorrow (which means rolling and toothpicking lots and lots of Canadian bacon tonight).  Plus, he just found out he has the part of the March Hare the 6th grade's musical.  (The trial of Alice from Alice in Wonderland.)
   Phoenix has been really improving in volleyball and has moved up to a starting position on the team.  Plus, he has been asked to participate in a state-wide Math competition.  Only a couple of other freshman were asked, so he's pretty excited.  Most importantly, though, he will be receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation in a few weeks.

Four:  We have had it with this crappy weather (It snowed yesterday!), so we are blowing this popsicle stand.  The kids and I are heading out for spring break.  Don't ask me where we're going.  I have no idea.  We're just going to drive south, stopping whenever something catches our eyes. The only stop I know we will be making is in Kentucky to pick up my mom. It will either be a raging success, full of fun and adventure, or an epic disaster, full of car trouble and grouchiness.  We will spend a week on the road, or three days, depending on which way it goes.  I won't be blogging each day, but I'll be taking notes.  And I'll be posting photos of it all on Instagram, in case you want to follow along.  (Search for "inthecoop")

Look for the post titled, "What Do You Get When You Load Six Kids and Your Mother in a Van, Then Take Off On a Vacation With No Reservations or Even an Idea of Where to Go?"  It could be up anytime between Tuesday and Sunday.

Place your bets.

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Prom Dresses, Old Dogs, and Photos. Always the Photos. TToT Week 40

My Bible study group was getting together at the park Friday afternoon, seeing as we were having another gorgeous day.  I had to text them to say I couldn't make it.  "I will be collapsing on the couch from exhaustion."  At noon.

Bryan has been out of town this week, and I am worn out.  Bushed.  Drained.  Run over by a herd of buffalo, then for good measure, trampled by wild horses and drug 1000 yards before being rolled down a well-used ski slope.


I don't want you to think I've had a bad week.  I haven't.  It's been full of good and wonderful things, but even good and wonderful things can wear a person out.  It's now been proven.

Some things for which to be thankful this week:

1.  Breakfast with friends.  When Bryan goes out of town, I have to take the kids to school bright and early.  The only upside is I then get to have breakfast with a dear friend before she heads to work.  We had a fantastic two hour breakfast on Thursday.  (Bonus thankful:  Cuckoo behaved beautifully the whole time.)  And then on Friday, my book club went to Mass and breakfast afterward.  I am always grateful to get together with them.

2.  Commiseration.  Our school is having our fundraising dinner this weekend, and the theme is "prom".  We are encouraged to dress up in all of our crinkly, satiny finery of old.  I actually have one of the dresses I wore in high school, so I tried it on.  It almost fit.  It seems over the years, my rib cage has expanded.  That's the only place I couldn't get zipped.  I told someone about it, and within minutes, there were four other women saying they had the exact same problem.  Who knew it would be the rib cages to do us in?

3.  Conversations with my kids.  I can't really tell you about many of the conversations I have with the big kids, so I'm glad I can quote the little ones.  This particular one with Cuckoo was about God, specifically Cuckoo wanting to know where God is.

Me:  God is everywhere, including inside each and every one of us.
C:  He's in my head?
Me:  Well, he does know what you're thinking, but most people say He is in their hearts.
C:  (after a long pause) He knows I'm thinking about chocolate?

4.  Roy's old age.  With the warm weather, the chickens have been outside every day.  Unfortunately, the amount of snow we had did a number on our fence.  A couple of chickens insist on escaping and spending the day out in the yard.  So far, none have been eaten by Roy the Wonder Dog.  When he does happen to see a chicken in his territory, he's not fast enough to catch it before it gets back to the other side of the electric fence.

5.  Responsible children.  Lots of things have prevented us from our usual time at home during the day this week.  Three days this week, I only had 30 minutes at home between the hours of 6:30am and 8:00pm.  (One day was from 8am-9:30pm, but I had all 5 boys with me most of that day.)  In those 30 minutes I threw some dinner together and headed back out the door.  The kids have been left to their own devices quite a bit this week.  I'm so grateful that they can be trusted to take care of themselves and the little boys when I need them to.

6.  Our remoteness.  The house fell apart this week, of course.  It was basically trashed.  Dishes didn't get done for three days.  Wet sheets were stripped off the bed, but they didn't get washed for two days.  Trashed, I tell you!  I'm so glad we never have people dropping in to say hello.

7.  A mostly free Saturday.  After I got Phoenix to school at 6:45 this morning (yes, a Saturday!) to work a volleyball tournament, I had many hours at home.  The four youngest boys and I spent an hour getting the house put back together, dusted, and partially vacuumed.  Later, the two big kids and I will work on scrubbing.

8.  Giant's good taste.  While we cleaned, I put Giant in charge of the music.  On his own, he grabbed the Harry Chapin CD and cranked it up.

One of his lesser-known songs.  Everyone who works with kids should have to listen to it.

9.  Turken's sense of humor.  The boy is coming into his own, and he is funny!  One day, the boys were rolling down a great big hill.  At one point, he decided to somersault instead of lay on his side to roll.  He got going really fast, and by the bottom was doing out-of-control cartwheels.  He landed with a thud, and simply laid there for a bit.  Finally, he spoke.  "I did NOT see that one coming."

Another day, I was in the kitchen making lunch, and by the sound of Cuckoo's whining, I wasn't moving fast enough.  I sang to him "Cause I'm only human" (line from Christina Perri's song).  Without missing a beat, he sang, "At least you're not a dog".

10  Lots and lots and lots of play time at local playgrounds.  Some of it was planned time with friends.  The rest was spur of the moment fun.

You know you couldn't get away without at least a couple of photos.

March Madness

I was on the other end of this modern (aka wimpy) teetertotter with Cuckoo.  His only comment, "Why don't my feet ever touch the ground?" 

I told you Phoenix was tall.

Did you know I'm on Instagram?  I am.  Are you?

OK, I'm off to tease my hair and cement it with hair spray.  While I'm gone, let me know what you were thankful for this week!

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

10 Stages of Odor Detection and Eradication

Day 1:  Walk in the door and smell a slight odor.  Instruct a child to take the trash out.

Day 2:  Walk in the door and smell a slightly stronger odor.  Instruct all children to inspect the bottoms of their shoes for dog poo.

Day 3:  Walk in the door and ask smell-deprived husband what in the world the smell could be.

Night 3:  Lying in bed at 11:00, trying to fall asleep, convince yourself the smell permeating the entire house is a gas leak and this is the last day your family will spend on this earth.  Make your husband get out of bed so the two of you can sniff out the leak.  Smell- and sleep-deprived husband may claim to smell something in the basement just so he can say, "It's not a gas leak" and go back to bed.

Day 4:  Walk in the door and get hit in the face with one of the nastiest odors you've ever smelled.  Children walking in the door with you may fall over gagging and yelling, "Who pooped?"  Decide an animal has died somewhere in the house.

Day 5:  Husband sees this as a prime opportunity to get the basement cleaned in order to find the carcass.  Kids grumble while cleaning, seeing as they don't have gas masks.  No animal is found.  Decision is made to live with it.  Decomposition doesn't take that long.

Day 6:  Say a little thank you prayer that no one has been scheduled to enter our house during decomposition week.  Pray the stench doesn't resemble cigarette smoke, soaking into our clothes and leaving a wake of death smells everywhere we go.

Day 7:  Realize the stench no longer reaches the far ends of the house.

Day 8:  Make white chili in the crock pot to mask the smell all day.

Day 9:  Walk in the door and realize the smell is almost gone.

Day 10:  Walk in the door and smell the normal stink of an old farm house housing 6 kids.  Happy to be back to normal, but scared of that day in the future when the skeleton is finally found.  Pretty sure it will be someone here installing a new washing machine or cleaning out the vents or tuning up the furnace who will find it.

That will be a fun conversation.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Cried at Church, and COW's Name Isn't Really COW

Standing at the end of the pew during Mass yesterday, I got quite teary.  At one point I looked down the pew at my family, and the emotions just hit me.  Everything is changing so fast.  Time is marching on, and I'm not ready.  In three short years, Phoenix will be getting ready to move on to college.  Every single year, another of my babies will begin the transition to move on to independence.  Without me.

And there, at the other end of the pew, stood Bryan*.

I know it's not the PC thing to say, but he is my life.  My world.  My every good thing.  I look at him, and all that I feel is a surge of wonder and love and fullness and love and happiness and love and grace and love.  And I start to cry, because all of that feeling has to come out, and in the middle of Mass, that's really the only appropriate way.  While I'm sure everyone would appreciate the sentiment, they probably wouldn't appreciate me running around the church screaming "I love this man completelyyyyyyyyyyyy!" before I tackled him for a lengthy hug and kiss.

This summer, we will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  Include our 7 years of dating, and it adds up to well over half our lives.  We were babies ourselves when we met.  So much has changed.  So much has happened.  How can I not consider him my life?

When we first started dating, neither one of us even had a driver's license.

My 16th birthday.  Although, by my outfit, you'd think it was Christmas.

Who would have guessed that 27 years later, we'd spend more time in the car, driving our 6 kids all over God's green earth, than anywhere else?

Back in our early years, we were living an active lifestyle.  Just about every waking moment we were playing tennis or running or hiking or swimming or biking or skiing.  Anything that got us moving.

Now, we are active, but not in a "stay fit" sort of way.  More in a "this kid needs new shoes" sort of way.  Or a "we need to fix the barn door that fell off" sort of way.  We look forward to simply falling asleep on the couch together after the kids have finally gone to bed.

We were huge nerds (only saved by our athletic ability) and dressed the part.  We wore whatever our parents thought looked good.

Our first dance together. 
Now, I buy all of our clothes.  We're much more fashionable, despite what our children think.

Before we were married, we tested our relationship.  We didn't want to stay together out of habit.  We went to different colleges on purpose. We were still a couple, but it was a long-distance one.  We wanted to "find ourselves" before we made the commitment to marriage.  While we talked daily and saw each other every month or two, we made choices independently and lived different lives.

Today, there is no testing.  There is no finding ourselves independently.  We consult each other on everything and make decisions together.  While we do enjoy doing things separately every once in a while, we want nothing more than to spend time together.  

When we were young, our lives were filled with big celebrations and big unknowns.  Graduations and weddings and moving out into the great big world without our parents was the normal for us and our friends.  We went to many big parties in such a short amount of time with all of our favorite people in the world.

Hey Shawnna!  Look familiar?  :)
I can't tell you the last time I went to a big celebration with a big group of friends.  Now, our lives are filled with little moments.  Little snippets of fun.  Short bursts of celebrating.  We're in a comfortable, comforting routine.  Even the unexpected, like finding a bat circling over your bed as you slept, is somehow part of the routine.  

Not counting those seven months when we lived in Bermuda, we were broke.  Bryan was in law school, at a university which didn't let law students work during the school year.  I was the sole breadwinner in a town that didn't have any open teaching positions.  We lived in a roach-infested, cinder block, 4th floor, no elevator apartment.  That first year, I was subbing during the day and decorating cakes at Kroger during the evenings and weekends. We were poor, with a capital P-O-O-R.

Our itty bitty tree, sitting on a box.  Notice the handmade ornaments, including the cardboard and tin foil star on top.  Yes, we were still horribly out of fashion, too.  Couldn't afford new clothes!  And how about that orange chair?  We had hand-me-down furniture from his aunt.  For many, many years we lived in perpetual "ode to the 70s" mode.

Fortunately, the gamble to leave his job in Bermuda to attend law school paid off.  We are no longer poor.  We are financially secure.  Our kids may think we're still broke, based on the things they don't get, but we're not.  

Back then, we were nomads.  In our first five years of marriage, we lived in 5 different cities in 2 different states and 2 different countries.  We were adventurous, going wherever the wind and opportunities took us.

Graduation from law school.  I was waaaay pregnant with Phoenix.
We have lived here at the farm for almost 9 years.  At this point, we're prepared to stay here another 16 more.  Moving is the last thing we want to do.  Moving is a lot of work, and we're not really in the business of finding more work to do.

When we were young, we had no idea how to work together to raise children.  I was quite comfortable with babies and kids, seeing as how I'd been taking care of them since I was 11.  However, Bryan had only been in charge of a child once in his life.  His youngest brother.  And Bryan tied his brother into a playpen so he could play video games without interruption.

Oh my word, how is that tiny baby now taller than his dad?!?!
Now, we are pros at taking care of little kids together.  When you have a system for nighttime vomit, you have arrived at pro status.  And I can say, Bryan has never tied one of our kids up in order to get things done.  He may have thought it, but he's never done it. 

We are by no means done changing and growing together.  Many big things are in our future.  In twenty years, I will be able to write another post about how different things are compared to now.  The only thing I know for certain is that Bryan will have even less hair. 

And we will have chased at least 20 animals back to their pens or out of our house.

Oh, and I will have shed a whole lot more tears. 


I'm linking this up with Stasha's Monday Listicles, theme of "10 Things That Are Not the Same", suggested by my friend Julia.

*  And his real name is revealed!!  I couldn't write this post about him using anything but the name I've called him for 27 years.

Have a lovely day!

Friday, March 14, 2014

This Is What Spring in Indiana Looks (and Sounds!) Like, Ten Things of Thankful, Week 39

Old photo, obviously.  Bonus points if you can tell me the post.
Well, almost spring.

The calendar may not say it's spring just yet, but the signs of its imminent arrival are everywhere.  For these signs, I am completely, ridiculously thankful.

Canada Geese
I am not a fan of Canada Geese in general, but in one particular way, I love them.  Each spring and fall I hear them migrating.  The sound starts far off in the distance.  It's so far away, the geese can't be seen yet.  You know they're coming, but you must be patient.  The sound gets louder and louder as they get closer and closer.  And then you see the first wave in the telltale v-formations.

Wave after wave after wave of geese flew over our house on Tuesday.  For 10 minutes, I stood out there watching and listening.  (If you've never heard Canada Geese, listen here.  Note: the sounds I hear are more muted than the site's sound.  These birds were way the heck up there.)

At one point, they all went out of formation and went into what looked like a swarm.  The contrast in the photo has been exaggerated so you can see all of them.  All those black dots, from the top of the photo to the bottom.  This is a fraction of the number of geese passing over our house that afternoon.
Roaming chickens
Normally, chickens out of their pen gets me worked up.  Not so this week!  They were behaving by staying in the holding area, so I was happy to let them stay.  They are outside!  Fresh air!!  Acting like chickens should!

They're kinda hard to find, but little bits of green are starting to pop out of the ground.

Kids playing outside in shorts and t-shirts

He's drawing the sun.  

He drew the sun, the blue sky, and one white, puffy cloud and wrote "Today's weather". 
Clearly, I'm not the only one who is excited to see spring.

Clothes actually drying in the line

Did you notice most of the tree has fallen down, but the zip line is still intact?  I"m thinking it's God's way of telling me, "Thou shalt use the kids' zip line as a clothes line."  
 Snow and cold, when it comes, doesn't last very long.
15 hours after those pictures of my kids coloring with chalk on the porch were taken, I took this photo.

Ice and snow on my windshield
The cold lasted for two days, and by Friday we were back to warm, sunny weather.  Not shorts, but warm.

Funny clothing combinations
As you saw, temperatures drastically fluctuate in the span of a day.  A person has to endlessly add and remove extra layers of clothing.  Or, they partially add and remove layers.  Either way, it makes for some funny combinations.

I went out to hang clothes on the line, and when I walked back up the hill, I caught a glimpse of this lovely look.  I didn't realize how bad it was until I saw it for myself.

Special deliveries
We order all of our seeds and plants from a catalog, and the company sends each plant to us when it is time to plant it.  Today, this came in the mail:

Potatoes, gold.  From Yukon.

So, what does spring look like where you are?  What made you smile this week?

Have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Would You Be Allowed to Sit on the Sidelines With Me? Take My Quiz and See.

Sometimes I wish I could rule the world.  Or at least part of it.  Many times, the world I want to rule is the sidelines of a game in which one of my kids is playing.  I have seen so many ill-behaved players and parents in my 30 years of participating, coaching, and watching kids' sports, and it isn't getting any better.  If I ruled the world, I would only let certain parents on the sidelines to watch their children play.  Some parents just suck the fun right out of a game, and I'm getting mighty tired of listening to them.

If I ruled the sidelines, each and every parent would have to take a short quiz while attached to a lie detector, (because, you know, desperate people sometimes cheat) before he would be allowed to set up a chair or park his rear end in the stands.

1.  A child on the opposing team has a fast break and is about to score a goal.  Do you encourage your child to...
    a.  Congratulate the player for executing such a nice play?
    b.  Get over it and try harder to keep the person from scoring again?
    c.  Trip the kid, even if it means getting carded?

2.  When your child is playing, how does he interact with you?
    a.  He pays no attention to me whatsoever.
    b.  He looks to me to see a cheer when he makes an awesome play or a shrug or a grin when he makes an awful mistake.
    c.  He tells you to shut up after you've yelled at him from the sidelines one too many times.

3.  At your 12 year old's cross country meet, you...
    a.  Stand in one place and cheer for every single runner that goes by.
    b.  Run around to different places on the course, cheering for every single person on your child's team and some kids from other teams.
    c.  Run next to your child for yards at a time, many times throughout the race, yelling for him to run faster.

4.  Your child's team wins 2nd place in a tournament.  You...
    a.  Don't even realize it, because you don't pay attention to the awards.
    b.  Congratulate your child and his team.
    c.  Throw the trophy away because it wasn't 1st.

5.  Your child is 10.  What do you think his chances are of getting a college scholarship?
    a.  He's going to play in college?
    b.  It's always a possibility, but why are we talking about this?  He's only 10.
    c.   He WILL get a scholarship.  He is a star player, and he will take every lesson he can and be on the best teams to ensure that he gets a scholarship.

6.  A referee makes a questionable call.  You...
    a.  Ask another parent what happened, because you don't know a single rule.
    b.  Make a little groan and get over it.
    c.  Yell either directly at the referee or indirectly in that "I'm talking to these parents, but I'm doing it in a really loud voice so you can hear my anger and know that I think you are an idiot" way.

7.  Your child's coaches have asked that parents not coach their children from the sidelines.  You...
    a.  Wonder what he could possibly mean by that.
    b.  Don't coach your kids, but grumble a bit when they do something wrong.
    c.  Continue to yell and coach your child, sometimes even contradicting what the coach has told your child to do.

8.  Your relationship with the other parents on the team is...
    a.  Wonderful.  You see games as a time to catch up with your friends.
    b.  Good.  You don't see them outside of the sport, but you get along well and cheer for each other's kids.
    c.  Why would I want a relationship with the other parents?  I need to watch my kid play!

9.  When your child goes to a game, he has...
    a.  The uniform and some water if I remember to bring them.
    b.  His uniform, a bag with some sweats and a change of shoes, and a bottle of water.
    c.  Warm up shirts I bought for the team, every gadget in the sports store to keep him comfortable and give him the best advantage, UnderArmor everything, 2 bottles of Gatorade, and some energy bars.

10.  While your 8 year old is pitching in a baseball game, you...
    a.  Are torn between wanting him to do well and wanting the cute little batter to hit the ball.
    b.  Cheer him on, regardless of how well he does.
    c.  Stand behind the umpire, yelling to your son, "Just throw it down the middle.  This kid isn't going to get the bat off his shoulder!"


If you answered mostly a, you are welcome to join me on the sidelines.  Your proximity to me will depend on just how many questions you ask.

If you answered mostly b, you are my kind of people and are welcome anytime.  We know how to make a game fun!

If you answered any of the questions with a c, no game for you!  You ruin the game for everyone, including your child.  Sports are supposed to be fun, not stressful.  Your child will not learn how to play if you are constantly telling him what to do.  The referees are doing the best they can, and considering most referees are teenagers, shame on you for acting like such a jerk.  Your child is a child.  Let him be one.  Let him have some fun.  When you have meditated on this, seen the error of your ways, and calmed the heck down, I will welcome you back with open arms.



Have a lovely day!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Apparently, We Really Like to Keep Track of the Rates Our Children Grow, or Traditions Big and Small

The first Christmas after COW's grandma died was a sad one.  It was the first Christmas he had ever spent without her.  It was the first one I had spent without her since COW and I started dating.  Each and every year, COW's mom, all of his 7 aunts and uncles and their children and grandchildren gathered at Grandma and Grandpa's house for a big meal and a gigantic, chaotic present opening.  The first year it didn't happen, we were all off.  It didn't really feel quite so much like Christmas.  Since then, we've created a new tradition, but the days of old have helped shape it and are always in our minds as we celebrate.

COW and I love a tradition, so we have taken our favorites from our growing up years and added some of our own to make our years with our children full of them. Big or small, it doesn't matter.  Traditions give us something familiar and fun to look forward to.  They tie us together, and in the future will be the things we discuss around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

When Stasha had a call-out for listicle ideas, I immediately thought of traditions.  She chose it for this week, and I am excited to see the traditions other people have.  I'm always looking for new ones to add to our repertoire.  (Gotta admit, had to look that word up in the ol' dictionary.)

Some of our favorite traditions:

1.  Every summer we rent a vacation house with a friend from high school and his family.  We have just finalized our trip for this, our 11th year of vacationing together.  People are always surprised by this trip for a variety of reasons.  For one, we go someplace different every year.  Mostly, though, people are shocked that the other family goes with us.  They only have one child.  To ensure this tradition continues, we made them the godparents for two of our kids.  They are stuck with us forever.

2.  Every Friday during the school year we get half-price milkshakes at Steak-n-Shake to celebrate the start of the weekend.

3.  When I was growing up, my dad would make us kids sit on the steps for a photo before heading downstairs on Christmas and Easter mornings.  We do the same with our kids.

1986 - My siblings and me

The Christmas before Turken was born. They were so little!
4.  Each child gets to choose a restaurant for a dinner out with the family for his/her birthday.  We don't have a party tradition, as we didn't want to start that sort of thing.  With six kids, that could get out of hand really quickly.  Sometimes we have parties at our house with their friends, but no guarantees.

5.  Each holiday has it's own tradition.  Thanksgiving is spent with my family, Christmas is with COW's family, and the most fun is had at my dad's big 4th of July party.  Kids and water and ballgames and cousins and food and games and fun all day and night.

There's always the big "Everybody stand on and around the porch while one non-family member takes 300 photos with 100 different cameras" event.  

6.  Easter is the only major holiday we spend at home with just our family.  A few years ago we added a fun element.  Roasting Peeps.  Putting them in a s'more is optional.

Don't ask me why it looks like a funeral for a Peep.  They really do enjoy doing this.

7.  Each year we throw a big Labor Day pitch-in party for our friends from school/church.  This last year, we pared it down and only had about 75 people.  In the past, there were well over 100 adults and children running around the property having a great time.  

8.  Every year COW and I skip the school's Super Bowl party and have one with our kids.  We always have a cake from the Boy Scout cake auction (another annual tradition) and a table full of finger foods.  The food varies, depending on whether the meal planner and shopper is COW or me.  The amount of vomit also varies by the same criteria.

9.  Going to the State Fair is a family tradition we rarely miss.  Each and every year, we get a photo in front of the same barn to gauge how the kids have grown.  It is remarkable.

2013 - the barn got a new coat of paint, the kids got ridiculously big.
10.  We are very aware of the fact we have 6 kids.  We work very hard to make sure each child feels special and gets individual attention.  The biggest tradition we have is the yearly trip.  Each year, one child gets to go on a 3-night, 4-day trip with one parent.  (Which means each of the big kids have gone on a trip every four years.  We're in the 3rd rotation.  Turken took his first one last year, and Cuckoo will get his first trip this year.)  The kids pick the location and the companion parent.  In the past, kids have chosen places such as Orlando, New York City, Glacier National Park, Hilton Head, Miami (Star got sooo lucky, as it was his year to take a trip the year COW won tickets to see the Colt's in the Super Bowl.), Denver, and Atlanta.  

Buttercup in front of the house where part of the second Hunger Games movie was shot.  We stumbled upon it while in Atlanta two weeks after the actors left.
Now, please tell me, what traditions does your family have?

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Accidental Haircuts and Zoo Fun, TToT week 38

With the funk I've been in, I thought I'd have difficulty coming up with a non-sarcastic thankful list this week.  I'm happy to say, it wasn't all that difficult.  It seems my brain has been trained in looking for good things, despite how I'm feeling.  I'm thankful for that, but I'm not even going to count it as my first thankful.

1.  I am thankful for friends who make me laugh, even if it is in the middle of the grocery store where people can see me and stare.  It all started with this text, which I read while Cuckoo was riding the horse that only costs a penny at Meijer:

My friend, Jen, sent it to me, and as horrified as I was by the haircut her daughter gave herself, I could not stop laughing.  I even shed a few tears.  With every text she sent, I was thrown into another round of laughter.  And I laughed again when she write a post about it.  And when I told my kids about it, and Giant got confused, thinking the little girl had cut her mom's hair.  I felt kind of bad with all of the laughing, seeing as how her daughter didn't mean to cut her hair, but was simply trying to get a loose bow out.  Of course, I still laughed, since her daughter couldn't actually hear me.

2.  I am thankful that to balance my grouchiness, Cuckoo was in one of the best moods of his life this week.  We cuddled a bunch, he quickly put his shoes and coat on each and every time I asked, he didn't once whine and wonder when we were going back to Monkey Joe's. (They gave him a free pass for another visit, because, as Cuckoo says, "Monkey Joe likes me and wants me to come back.")  He's been an absolute peach.

3.  I am a strict mom, and I don't allow plenty of things that other parents do.  Lately, both Buttercup and Star have been banned from doing certain things their friends are doing, (sleepovers for Buttercup and watching How I Met Your Mother for Star) and they have both been surprisingly OK with it.  Hardly a complaint out of them.  I am thankful for teens who accept limits without making our lives miserable.

4.  I am thankful for parents who are like-minded and back me up on my strictness.

5.  I am thankful for everyone who reads the blog.  Quite a few people have felt inclined to push the "follow" buttons recently (Welcome new people!), which always makes a person feel good.  When one spends so much time and effort writing, it's nice to see people enjoying it.

6.  I am thankful for Lent.  Funny how we need something to motivate us to make changes.  I have known for a while now that I needed to do a few things.  It took a looming Lent to get me to finally do them.  I haven't eaten a single M&M in over a month, and I have started getting back in the habit of dedicating a part of my morning to praying/reading the Bible/reading "be a better person" books/saying the rosary.  It's a good thing.

7.  I am thankful for Clark and his Wakefield Doctrine.  Phoenix is a child very different from me.  Lately, it has become blindingly clear how different.  While at times it can be frustrating and baffling, it would be a whole lot worse if I had never read about different personalities and the different ways which these personalities "work".

8.  I am thankful for our church/school.  There are huge benefits to attending a church with it's own school.    We went to the fish fry at our school last night.  I sat at a table with one couple we've known since Buttercup was in preschool.  As the night progressed, more and more couples joined us, all of whom we've known for a decade or more.  Not only do they make me laugh every time I see any of them, I would trust my kids in any emergency with any of the people sitting at that table.  Since we live quite a distance from any relative, this church/school family is a gift I treasure.

9.  While I have been known to complain about driving my kids all over God's green earth to their various activities, I am thankful for their healthy bodies and minds which allows them to play sports and participate in academic pursuits.  Star hit his goal of getting a trophy for his science fair project in the CYO Science Fair.  All of the kids have been playing soccer this week, and Phoenix has had a blast learning how to play volleyball.  He has a volleyball tournament today, and I can't wait to watch it.

10.  Lastly, I am so, so thankful for the gorgeous weather we had yesterday and our ability to get out and enjoy it with friends.  We had a ball visiting the zoo and soaking up some sunshine.

Not many animals were out, but the ones that were seemed to be enjoying the weather just as much as we were.

 The view of the lions from one side of the enclosure

Yes, there is still snow to be found, but it's melting.  Meeeeelllllting.  (Sorry, the kids are doing the production of Wizard of Oz this year, so we're kind of in that mode.)

was very different than the view from the other side.  Both the female and the male were up and about and roaring their full heads off.

The gibbons were squawking, the tiger was roaming, the penguins were molting, a guinea hen was eating a mouse it had caught, a dolphin was playing with us,

and the construction workers were busy building the new orangutan area.

We watched the construction for quite a while.  They had cherry pickers waaaaaay up in the air working on the sky line.

I hate to call this an orangutan exhibit.  It is going to be so much more than that, and we are so excited for it to open in May.  (You can read more about it here if you are so inclined.(That was a lot of "so"s for one bullet point.  So sorry.))

Okay, you know the drill.  Unless you are a new reader!!  For you, I shall explain.  If you don't have a blog (or can't link up), I'd love for you to tell me about the things which made you smile this week.  If you do have a blog and want to link up, I promise lots of cheer and visits.

Either way, have a lovely day!

Ten Things of Thankful

 Your hosts