Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in Photos

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. It has been quite nice around here, even if everything didn't get done that I wanted to do and kids were sick most of Advent.

In the end Christmas arrived. Mass was perfect. My oldest son sang a solo Once in Royal David's City for the entrance hymn and did it beautifully. Christ was there and the other stuff didn't matter.

Here are a few Christmas pictures:








The whole gang


Flaming Christmas Pudding

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Baking

A year or so ago, I found an unusual springform cake pan at Goodwill. It had a decorative design on the bottom and was also a tube style, as in, "This cake has a hole in it."

It wasn't for a cheesecake. It wasn't a Bundt pan. It didn't look like my angel food cake pan. What was it? Undeterred by the unidentified pan, I bought it anyway. For $.99 I figured the mystery pan was at least a conversation piece and of historical interest. It was marked "Made in W. Germany" and West Germany hasn't been a country since before I reached adulthood, so this cake pan was obviously terribly old (or not new anyway).

Home it came and after a good washing it went to live in the cake pan drawer. Once in a while, I would take it out when I reached for something else, then I would turn it over and ponder what on earth it was for. Then one day it hit me. It was a fruitcake pan!

I'd never made a fruitcake, but all jokes aside, I rather like them. And one of my go-to cookbooks even has a recipe.

Now that Advent is here, it was time to pull out the fruitcake pan and give it a whirl. I did make a few modifications to the recipe. I used dried bing cherries rather than those green and bright red ones. I added candied orange peel as well as candied lemon and threw in currants and craisins rather than figs and dates, because I had them around. I did add the brandy, however, though I resisted taking an equal measure for the cook.

It is supposed to chill overnight in the refrigerator, but I think my efforts will be tasty indeed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Penitential Season

One sometimes hears that Advent is a penitential season, but before it began and I made all sorts of plans for quiet reflection, lots of Christmas books, and fun baking, I did not make plans for the kids to be feverish and vomiting the first week. Nor did I think that this morning I would wake up at five in the morning realizing simultaneously (as much as one can do anything coherently at 5am) that the five month old was coughing and breathing strangely and blazing hot.

At 103.1, I was right about the temperature and the cough was terrible. As soon as she got outside—on our way to the Children's Hospital—the cough subsided. I said, "I bet this is croup. I've heard it gets better in the cold." We managed to wait until baby number seven to see croup, which is fine by me. The cough and labored breathing are scary.

After a while on humidified air, a breathing treatment, and a steroid, we are home again. This Advent is certainly a penitential season, but the preparation part is going to have wait until babies feel better.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Free (or nearly free) Wreath for the Front Door

Subtitled: Jordana pretends to be crafty.

I've been making a Christmas wreath for our front door for years now. It's easy and can be basically free too. Free is always good. The only necessary expense is some florist's wire. I bought some back when my oldest child was in hippie German pre-school. He's in eighth grade now. I've nowhere near used it up. Green wire would be better, but I bought this for something completely different and since I have it, I use it.



One also needs a frame. For several years, I used a wire coat hanger as a frame. Just pull it into a circle, pinch the hanging part tight and you have a loop to hang the wreath from. A few years ago, I realized I had an old fake wreath I didn't want to use. I pulled the stuff off of it and now I use that as my wreath frame.

Next collect greenery. I don't happen to have any evergreens in my yard, so I go to Home Depot where they will be happy to give you the stuff they cut off Christmas trees when they trim the lower branches. Boxwood or magnolia would also look pretty. Then just start taking pieces and wrapping wire around them and your frame until you have covered it entirely and it is as thick as you wish.






You can even do this with a baby who grabs everything sitting on your lap, but it is easier if they go sit on a sibling's lap.


Then you can add some decorations. This year I went with a few pine cones, I've picked up and saved and some bay leaves from the giant bag I bought at the Indian grocery store and haven't used up. I just wrapped the wire around the pine cone, used a hole punch to make a hole in the bay leaves and wired it to the wreath.





And when it is done to your satisfaction. Hang on the door.




Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Teenage Years



For the first time in many, many years no Legos were involved in the celebration of my oldest's birthday. As the old ladies in the grocery stores had warned me, the years really did fly by and suddenly I'm the mother of a teenager. And even more suddenly, Legos have been replaced somewhat by Doctor Who. 

A lanky, interesting man-child with feet larger than mine now lives in my house. I still look at him and wonder how that happened, but I love that he usually still let's me rumple his hair and chat with him about the goings on of his mind. Even if my eyes sometimes do glaze over slightly at the comparisons of the various Doctors or the history of early Peanuts comic strips.

And of course, as the mother of both a teenager and a five month old, I have the privilege of both being the mom telling women with small babies that the years fly by and being stopped by women seeing the little one in my sling, who want to share that truth with me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sisters

I sent my aunt a photo of my two youngest girls today. In reply, she sent me one of her and her big sister. Some things don't change much.



Friday, November 09, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile Quick Takes



1. Five kids went to the dentist today. None of them had cavities.

2. The oldest had surgery to remove a ganglion cyst about two weeks ago. He gets the cast off today. Now he can help with more stuff and he will stop bonking sibling on the head with a hard cast when they get annoying.



3. My husband built a door for our coat closet. We've been renovating this house since December 2006, and this is the first closet door in the place. You see the coat closet face on when you walk in the front door, so this will be a very nice thing to have. We kept hoping to find something to fit the space, but doors that are 90 inches tall and 20 inches wide just aren't as common as you'd think.


4. Staple-head keeps telling me about hurting his head. His description is pretty amusing (as is his pronunciation). I'd smile even more if he'd stop climbing things.

5. Thanksgiving is coming. We'll have house full of family and friends and my favorite foods. What's not to like?

6. Jennifer Mackintosh is coming to talk about home schooling with our home school group. Her blog is so lovely, and I can't wait to chat with her.

7. This face.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Beautiful Bread and Leftovers


What to do with leftovers? Sometimes we have something leftover that by itself probably won't be eaten -- like the last 1/2 cup of oatmeal, the few spoonfuls of grits, or a lump of mashed potatoes.

Sometimes, I give up and just toss the leftovers, but I do hate wasting them if they could be useful. Recently, when we have extra oatmeal, I've been making this oatmeal cake, although I prefer candied orange peel and cranberries over raisins or chocolate chips.

Grits, I admit often get forgotten in the back of the refrigerator for some reason, but they make delicious grit fritters.

Rice, I usually stick in the freezer and save for making fried rice the next time I cook Chinese food. Here's my simple fried rice recipe:

  • Oil
  • Cold rice (if you froze it earlier, defrost it)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
  • 1-2 Green onions, sliced

Fry the rice in oil. Whisk eggs, vegetables, salt, and sesame oil together. Pour over frying rice. Stir to scramble eggs. Add green onions and pepper.

But what about mashed potatoes? If I have a ton leftover, which doesn't happen often, I make shepherd's pie. Smaller amounts call for things like the bread above -- roasted garlic potato bread from my beloved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook. The perfect companion to the broccoli cheese soup I'm about to make.

What do you do with annoying little leftover bits?


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

That's Going to Leave a Mark

I saw it out of the corner of my eye. After a long day of check-ups at the pediatrician's office for three kids and regular school work, then a rush to get my two oldest kids and husband off to a special evening Mass, I had turned on a video for the other kids and sat down at the computer in the room with them.

A minute or so later, the two year old daredevil stood up on a rolling toy, which slipped out from under him, sending him backwards into a metal magazine box full of coloring books, which had, of course, been pulled off of the bookcase and was lying on the floor.

Smack! I knew it wouldn't be good. By the time I ran him to the bathroom with my hand over the back of his head, we were both pretty bloody. I had to strip him down and rinse his head to even figure out where the wound was.

And then the doubt and questions set in? Does it need stitches? Am I paranoid? Why didn't I catch him? I called the doctor, and after talking to the person on call — got confirmation that we probably should take him in.

By this time, my husband was home, so I didn't have to drag five little kids to the ER at 8 o'clock at night. They returned around 11:15, and he now has four staples in the back of his head. If he'd done it before Halloween, Frankenstein would have been a most appropriate costume.

I sure am thankful for a nearby children's hospital, but I'd rather not have to actually use it so much.

------------

That other thing happening today? Yes, I voted. 'Tis done. I'll try not to feel ill if things don't go my way, as I am sure about half the country will be doing if they do go my way.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Four Year Old Random

A transcript from a recent conversation with my four year old:

J: Mom, you don't wear high heels very much any more.

Me: True. They usually hurt my feet.

J: You should give them away. Unless you have another baby. Then you might need them.

Me: (thinking) ??? As if I'd even try to wear heels when I'm pregnant.

J: (continuing on without even noticing strange looks appearing on her mother's face) If you have another baby you don't need to get married again.

Me: No, they do let you keep the same husband for more than one baby. (muttering under breath) Not that there aren't people who don't seem to understand that.

J: It's good that you don't have to get married again, but I do like wedding dresses. They are pretty, and you can wear high heels.

Me: Ah Ha! It does all come back to shoes.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Pictures from Halloween




A Gypsy
A Cowgirl
A rag doll
Elmo
The Eleventh Doctor
The Tenth Doctor

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Mothers Go Insane

"Mom! He's copying me!"

"Mom! She's copying me!"

"Mom! He's copying me!"

"Mom! She's copying me!"

"Mom! He's copying me!"

"Mom! She's copying me!"

"I am not copying you. I said 'she' not he!"

"Mom!"

Friday, October 26, 2012

Southern Climes

Although August in Tennessee is regarded in these parts as being pretty close to the same temperature as Hell, I take solace in the fact that come late October, I can still pick a big bowl of fresh tomatoes, as well as lettuce, spinach, and peppers. My two year old and I split the three raspberries we found.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Costumes go with a Cast?

Our oldest had a ganglion cyst removed from his wrist yesterday. I suggested thumping him with the family Bible, but he didn't like that plan, so it was the surgeon's knife for him instead.

The arm isn't broken, but they cast it to keep the wrist immobilized for a few weeks. I asked the Boy why he chose a white cast out of the rainbow of choices, and he said he wanted it to look like a traditional cast. A traditionalist, already, it would appear.

But to the titular question—other than a mummy, how does one use a cast in a costume?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Birthin' Babies

I'd heard tell of a new PBS show Call the Midwife, but forgotten about it promptly, until Betty Duffy wrote about it the other day. I pulled it up last night and watched entranced. 

The world of 1950s poor London women seems so different than my own, and yet as they show mothers delivering babies, I felt myself involuntarily holding my breath, trying not to push on my own, and weeping. When one of the women, who has delivered many a baby already resignedly pulls down her pants and gets ready for another exam, that too seemed awfully familiar.

As much as the world has changed, and thank goodness they forgo the shaving and enemas these days, many things about birthing babies don't change. Love shows up in the arrival of babies and through them the world goes on.

Watch Episode 1 on PBS. See more from Call the Midwife.


On Shoes

This is the year I simply no longer could put off buying new slippers, as became apparent when we had a cold morning last week. Our house is cold. Cold! Cold! There might be a reason that cold and old rhyme. I'm a barefoot girl by preference, but in the winter I wear slippers all the time and my old cheap pairs are completely worn out. I keep buying cheap ones, and they don't last.

So this year, I bit the bullet and ordered the Mercedes of slippers (I hope). I plan to make them last forever (I hope). I followed advice in the reviews and ordered a few sizes smaller than my feet, but they were a tad too small. So this morning, I found myself on a live chat with Zappos about making an exchange for bigger ones.

Some how, I'm a VIP customer with Zappos. That might make me feel special, but I think they say that to all the girls. I've ordered shoes from them exactly three times in 5 1/2 years. If they are looking for me to keep them in business, they are out of luck. Still based on my VIP status, they are shipping my new slippers out pronto.

My feet are so excited!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Wrong Side of the Bed

My four year old woke up grumpy this morning. I can tell, based on the following exchanges, and because after all these children, I'm psychic.

--1--

Dad: Why did you just hit your brother?

Four year old: I didn't hit him. I punched him!

--2--

Four year old: What's for breakfast?

Me: I'm making blueberry pancakes.

Four year old: PANCAKES? You always make us eat pancakes. I don't want pancakes. I won't eat pancakes. I want a bagel.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quick Takes





  1. It is hard to get back into the habit of blogging after a long break or else the fact that now that there are seven people vying for attention is having a large impact on my memory and attention-span.

    Usually, I think, "This would make a great blog post. I should take a picture. Darn. Where's the camera? Oh, you used it for a Lego movie and filled a 5 GB card with blurry pictures of Legos that look all the same and you left the camera in your room and can't find it? And look at that mopund of laundry and did the baby just spit up on my shoulder and leak out of the other end? Ack! Get me a rag. Now let's do a reading lesson. Oh wait, you need me to check your math and give you a spelling test -- and what do you mean you wet the bed?" And then two hours later when I remember that I thought of something interesting to say, all that is left is the memory of the passing thought and I can't even remember what that brilliant insight into the human condition (or picture of my cute child) I wanted to post.



  2. Did someone mention cute kids? Here's my beautiful (she'd probably kill me for calling her cute now) ten year old daughter with her newly pierced ears.





  3. There we go -- cute kiddos.

  4. Those pictures were taken on our trip last week to Fall Creek Falls State Park.

    A rare picture with me in it!


    My husband read Simcha Fisher's post some weeks ago on camping and felt we simply must head out on our own adventure. I talked him into renting a cabin. I haven't tent camped since we were in Glacier National Park in 2001 and we only had one small child back then (and I was a young 20-something). I like mattresses and bathrooms even more now, especially with a three month old along.

  5. Today is the last day of our first quarter of school. Maybe I'll get around to talking about what I'm using for Kindergarten soon. Or maybe even discussing what works and what doesn't, and how some days I manage to cook dinner, bake muffins and educate the kids and other days I call my husband at 10 a.m. and threaten to have the kids enrolled in public school before lunch time.
  6. Did I mention my kids are cute? The two year old is also a destructive, wall-writing, wall-climbing menace, who loves music and picks up tunes faster than any other kid I've known. Here he is singing the Kyrie:




  7. And here he is singing Ave Verum Corpus:



    I hear all the true geniuses have destructive tendencies.He's certainly destructive enough.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Third Grade Curriculum



My third grader is gobbling up fiction books faster than I can keep her supplied, but I make her occasionally do actual school work too. Here's her book list:

She's just started taking piano, and as I said about her sister — we get to art and sewing occasionally.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Growing Up

My oldest daughter will be turning ten soon. Recently, her interests have been turning more and more to fashion and messing with her hair. Until recently, she was growing her hair out as long as possible. Then she decided she wanted it all cut off. And after a trip to the hairstylist and a donation to Locks of Love, she seems suddenly even more grown up than before. Sniffle. I'm not ready.







Monday, September 17, 2012

Five Years of Catholic



Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of our family entering the Catholic Church.

It was a smaller family then. My now Kindergartner was not quite one, and my three youngest children were not even on the horizon. I suppose it is rather ironic that unlike the many women I know that are drawn to the Church because of its teachings on contraception, that was one of the hardest parts for me. In some ways, it continues to be.

I love my children and marvel that had I had my own way, three of them would not be here. That's reason enough to appreciate the Catholic Church's teachings. Yet, having seven children is a huge task, one I often feel unprepared and incompetent to handle, and thus far NFP hasn't been all that easy either.

Though life is a struggle one way or another, being Catholic and having access to the sacraments frequently, is a great and amazing blessing. I wouldn't have it any other way.



Fifth Grade Curriculum Choices



Around here, fifth grade is the beginning of middle school -- which puts me in the position of having two middle schoolers. I sometimes can't believe my oldest daughter is that old, although with her new found love of fashion, skinny jeans, and doing her hair, she is trying hard to look as old as possible.

Here's her booklist for fifth grade:
She's also taking piano, and we get to art and sewing occasionally.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Favorite Books about New Siblings



We have been through the addition of a new person several times now. Although, I don't actually think kids need a ton of preparation to welcome a new sibling, we do have some favorite books about new arrivals in the family.

1.The Berenstain Bears' New Baby
I don't normally like the Berenstain Bear books. They are too rhyme-y and too preachy. They also tend to portray the dad as a moron and the mom as a genius. However, I make an exception for their new baby book. I love it. As an added benefit, the dad isn't a moron. He's an expert craftsman, who can whip out a new big boy bed for Small Bear in a few hours.

2. Julius, Baby of the World
In this book in Kevin Henke's series about Lily the Mouse, Lily is frustrated by all the attention showered on her new brother, until her cousin insults him. Lily is hilarious (and reminds me a great deal of one of my daughters). "You'll regret that bump under your dress!" says Lily. The drawings are also hilarious.

3. Hello, Baby!
I love the pictures of fetal development. I love that they show the mom breastfeeding. I love that the big brother is excited to have a new baby sister. It doesn't hurt that the new born baby looks just like one of my kids. My two year old loves to flip through this one, point to the big brother and say, "That's me."

4. A Baby Sister for Frances
All the Frances the Badger books are favorites from my childhood, but this one is interesting, because in some ways it touches very little on the new sibling. Frances doesn't think the house is as fun any more now that her sister Gloria is around and she runs away from home to under the dining room table.

5. The Baby Sister
One of Tommie dePaola's, at least semi-autobiographical, picture books. I love the excitement he has about the thought of a new sister and I love his drawings.

Friday, September 14, 2012

School Time -- Eighth Grade Curriculum Choices

My oldest is in eighth grade this year. Time flies! We are ending our sixth week of school, and this is shaping up to be a challenging year for him. The work is hard enough that he can't breeze through it without paying attention. I figure this will be good practice for high school and beyond.

So what is he studying this year?

He also is taking piano, and we're hitting some art history watching Sister Wendy.

    Thursday, September 06, 2012

    A Comeback


    I never meant to close up shop and disappear. But a wall-writing/wall-climbing toddler, an exhausting pregnancy, the end of the school year, and a lot of depression, sent me into a spot where I wasn't in the mood to blog or think or do much of anything. I've spent a lot of days putting one foot in front of another. Getting done what must be done. Faking it rather well -- most of the time -- but something had to give and blogging was it. The children, after all, demand to be fed.

    Since my disappearance from the blog-o-sphere, we've had all sorts of excitement around here.

    My seven year old had her First Communion.

    We had another baby. The girls are now in the lead, and although my five year old declared that he was going to call her "Stupid Baby" when he found out she wasn't his hoped for brother, he quickly fell in love when he met her. My two year old loves her not wisely, but too well. We try to keep him from squishing her with his great out pouring of love.





    Another school year has begun, with a brand new Kindergartner -- along with an 8th grader, 5th grader, 3rd grader and the four and two year olds running amok -- the baby insists that if she is awake she should be eating.


    I'm trying to get by. I don't love the post-baby flab that never seems to go away, the sleepless nights or all the things I should do and am failing at, but many things are getting done and I try to focus on those as best I can. Someone clearly thought I needed an extra dose of patience and sanctification through diaper changing and large family life. Or something like that.

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