May 30, 2009

I May Be Hooked

A short while ago, my folks were talking about blogging with some other visitors at my home. I didn't know what a blog was. They tried to explain, but I still didn't get it. I am not Internet savvy. I can just do what I need to do. I don't read the newspaper, with the exception of the editorials. And we don't have television. My children are home schooled, as are most of their friends. So, I live in a type of bubble when it comes to current fads and new trends.

Some time later, a sweet friend of mine, sent me the link to Angie Smith's blog, Bring the Rain. Because, she knew it would be of interest to me. In case no one guessed, I am really busy most of the time, and don't really take time out for just sitting around doing anything. So, even though, I really wanted to check it out, because Karen had sent it, I didn't get to it for quite some time.

One very cold and rainy Sunday last fall, I was recovering from a migraine. I grabbed my computer to return some email and saw the link from Karen again. I clicked on it and the next 4 hours were lost to me. I laughed, cried, prayed and cried some more. I read every post for over a year's worth of entries. Karen was right. The story of the Smith's family faith and comfort in the Lord, despite almost unbearable circumstances, was one I was thankful to know.

I still didn't understand blogging... or the point of it... or how anyone would have time to do it...but I needed to know the rest of the story. And so the next day, I went back to her page. And the next. Before I knew it her page became one of those little tabs on Internet Explorer.

I didn't mention it to my family. I had better things to do, than sit around reading about the life of someone I DON'T EVEN KNOW on the Internet. I thought it was quite silly myself and didn't want my family to think I was wasting my time.

A few days later my hubby asked me to go to dinner with him. Almost as soon as we had ordered, he asked me what it was I had been reading the other day, meaning Sunday. In a restaurant, late at night, through tears shed for a child I never knew, I told my beloved the story of Audrey Caroline. I was not prepared for his emotional reaction. As the father of 7 children, who we were told could never be, the frailty of it all touched him, too.

And then he began to reminisce about the little niece who was born far too early and far too sick to live. How he had held her in his arms after there was no life left in her. As a young college student, with no children of his own, a stranger to had little impact on him. But now, at this place in his life, the story of Angie and Todd's little girl opened his heart again and allowed him to mourn as he should have long ago.

After that, the Smith's became a regular topic at our dinner table. And then one day, Angie mentioned a friend of hers. And I just had to check out her blog. And one thing led to another and another. Until, I had come to look forward to the stories of encouragement and craziness of other homemakers laboring daily to follow the Lord and raise their families in truth.

And then the idea came to me. My daughters started writing a family news letter about 5 or 6 years ago. It was quite nice and they kept it up for a long time. It was a great home school project and really kept the family in touch, even though we were spread out all over the place. The thought formed itself over a few days until it seemed perfect. I could start my own blog.

It would be like the girls newsletter, only online, so there would be no printing issues. No need to mail. And it would always be current since I could write and publish instantly. My sister overseas and friends around the country could read it and it would be like they were here with us. I would finally be able to keep up with everyone as I would like.

I had always kept a journal until the most recent years when I was just too tired to write at night...the only time I have to write. This would be a way to write that book my hubby is always asking me to put on paper. Wow! Writing a blog suddenly seemed like such an efficient thing, there was no way to justify NOT doing it.

Oh, but when did I have the time. And then one day it happened...a long chain of really crazy events in the day of a home school mom of 7 during flu season. As we were sitting at the table discussing the events of the daughters compared me to our bird. (Read this if you want to know what that means.) And I could not resist any longer. While the kids were otherwise occupied with videos and naps, I lifted my sick (really, I had the flu) and weary head and typed my first blog.

I don't know if anyone other than my daughters read it...but what fun it was to be writing again. Anyway, as more people read and encouraged me with their comments, I found that I began building a network of other SAHM out there who were just like me. How encouraging it is to know I am not the only one...LOL. Plus, I am having a great time keeping up with my friends and relations around the world.

I have even been able to reconnect with some old friends that time and distance had kept from me for many years. My blog has introduced me to some neat ladies, whom I feel I have known for a long time...even though, I have never met them face to face. It is nice to be able to read about someone and get to know them...find out their likes and dislikes...or even if we have things in common...before you have to commit to being friends.

It is nice to be able to be friends on my own time, too. I have so many dear friends...that I never have time to be with. If the time is good for isn't for them. But blog world friends...well, if I have a free minute at nap time and my RLF are working or running kids from here to there...I can sign in and visit for a while. If one of the kids has a catastrophe...well, no big deal. No one to insult if I shut down.

When my hubby is out of town and I can't sleep...all my (RLF) are sound asleep. But at 3 am I can sign in and chat with BWF (Blog world friends.) How convenient is that? I don't need to try to make plans or schedule...only to cancel or reschedule or get rained out. We can visit in our jammies with or without makeup. No one cares.

That last few months have been crazy for me. Many reasons why...I feel like I have neglected my friends and relations in these busy times. You know what, though? Not so with my BWF. And in the meantime, I am still able to make contact with all my family who are scattered about.

Side note: To those family, whom I am talking about...and you know who you are...don't forget to leave me a comment so I know you stopped by. Even though, you are reading my goings on...I don't hear from you if you don't let me know you paid me a visit.

Something else happened, too. I found when I needed prayer...instantly there were other ladies who understood and were praying. That is a real blessing for someone who is sequestered away with children for the majority of the last 17 years.

And I found, I could reach out and pray for others. What a blessing to feel useful, again...other than wiping noses and cleaning dishes.

And every word I type, is a word my husband doesn't have to hear. I think he must be grateful about that...not that he said it...but I am Italian...and a woman...I have A LOT of words...and no one but him to say them too! I am sure his ears must get exhausted...especially on the days following his travel.

Speaking of travel...blogging makes his travel easier to accept. Not that I will ever like it...but those long nights alone can now be spent writing our story. Something that is very important to me. And with the responsibility of a blog...well, it makes me make time to do it. And the thing about writing your families story...doesn't it make you appreciate them a lot more?

And last but not least... I love the fact that I have been able to reach out to others, pray for them, encourage them...share the love that Jesus gave to me... with perfect strings attached.

So many words to say....I think I am hooked. And I can verify this because the other day one of my daughter's gave me this comic strip...and I could relate.

May 29, 2009

knowing me knowing you may 09

Heather Kay, at Beauty From Ashes, challenged us to this interview a bit ago. I've had toomany things to write about and no time to write lately so here it goes a little late.

1. Do you and your significant other go to bed at the same time?

Yes. If my husband is in town we all but maybe one night a year go to bed at the same time. As a matter of fact, I have gotten so used to going to bed at the same time that I can't go to sleep if he is not in bed. I have mentioned that I am a creature of habit and I thrive on routine. We sleep all curled up together on my side of the bed. I have become so accustomed to our sleep habits that if he is reading or studying and doesn't lie down at the same time I do...I can't go to sleep.

2. Do you have any siblings?

Yes. My "big" brother will be 39 next week. I am 37. My baby sister is 35/soon to be 36. Our baby brother turned 30 last month. Plus, I have 2 step brothers. Jim is the same age as me and his older brother, Jon.

3. You're spending an evening with friends -- would you rather cook for them in your home or go out to a restaurant?

I almost never do this. Too much going on at home...and I hate to leave all the fun. My best friend is married to my husband's best friend. Sometimes, the four of us go to dinner and a movie together. Sometimes, we stay in and hang out with dinner and a video. I have always been a home body and mostly prefer being at home in my bare feet. Once in a while I enjoy dressing up and going out to be waited on. We have another couple that are close friends and when we get together with them we almost always go out to dinner or a show.

4. What's your can't miss TV show?

We don't have cable or satellite. I do like to watch old Dick Van Dyke, Leave it To Beaver, I Love Lucy, Newhart, Andy Griffith that sort of thing on DVD. We also enjoyed the Mad About You series years ago. Our family is currently watching Get Smart on DVD one episode at a time.

I have a big problem of not often staying awake to watch the end of anything.

5. Are you doing any spring cleaning?

I am finished as much Spring cleaning as I intend to do. I will work through the school room closet over the summer when the weather doesn't allow us to be outdoors. I don't clean my own house because of severe dust allergies and asthma. I do organize, though. I usually do my big bit in the weeks following Christmas holidays, when I am going crazy from being stuck inside so long. Then in the fall, the week we get back from vacation, before we start school for the year, I get what I missed or what needs redoing.

Jump on board. Give it try. Then leave me a comment so I know you did and I'll check it out so I can get to know you a little better.

May 28, 2009

Secrets to Surviving the Shred

I have a sweet friend named, Debbie. I don't think Debbie has ever been one pound over weight. She joined a gym a few years ago and was telling me about her workouts. When I asked her what prompted her she said this. "I have a friend who is wheelchair bound." (My note: I can't remember but I think she has MS). Debbie went on to say, "She would love to be able to get up and walk. Isn't it ungrateful toward God for me to not exercise and take care of the healthy body He has given me?"

So, for those who are dying to know... despite injured knees, sickness, missing birds, traveling husband, final exams, long weekends and lots of work to do in the garden... We are on Day 14 of the Shred with Jillian Michaels.

We have been doing level 2, which I personally think is more complicated, but not necessarily harder, than level 1. I expected to go into cardiac arrest after the way Level 1 took me out. I did break a sweat but didn't really have to work very hard and had none of the aches and pains following the start of Level 1. Tomorrow we will be starting Level 3.

Now that I have resolved my knee issues, I don't actually dread doing it so much. And it is a good workout. You can't beat the 20 minutes and you are done deal. I still try to squeeze in more cardio. Twenty minutes just isn't enough for me.

My dad, who is nearing 70 years old, has jumped on board. I don't know what day he is on but if he can do it...surely the rest of us can. In honesty, I should let you know that he does work out at an intense level at least 6 days a week. So he is extremely physically fit.

That being so, he still had the aches that myself and many others complained of for the first few days. He sent me a text after his first workout and said he'd survived and didn't even need to call 911...but it was touch and go for a while. Day 2 he sent me a text in the evening to let me know he'd managed to get through the day at work and was still walking but his thighs were killing him. I was glad to know that it wasn't my body trying to tell me I was old and in bad shape.

For all those diabetics out there... I have found that my blood sugar is better controlled with this workout than it has been in the last few months. Don't ask me why...I don't know the answer. I work out to keep my sugar in check almost every day and have had steady increases for a few months. Since starting the shred my numbers both fasting and those around my mealtimes have been almost perfect.

My dad, who is also diabetic, reported the same thing. I am going to have to check it out with my diabetes educator one of these days...but in the meantime if it works...hey! I'll do it.

As I mentioned, I think Jillian is rather annoying. I found I enjoy my workout much more if I mute her and put my ear buds in. KK actually was messing around with the DVD and discovered that if you go to the language menu, there is an option to mute her and just have the music playing.

Jen T has jumped on board and is on Day 5. I am so proud of her for working it in even with 9 kids to home school and a garden to work in. Good health doesn't come easy but it sure is worth it.

I would love for those who are joining in to leave me a comment and let me know how you are doing.

Week 6 of 52

Forever In Blue Jeans

I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself with one or more of your children. It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. You can check out my previous weeks or Click the button above to add your name to the Mr. Linky. So, have fun!
And Lucky for seems like I had a very photogenic week!

Since I was writing about my sister yesterday, I thought I should dig up the last picture of us together and let you know who she is. This is Diann, my "baby" sister who lives with her Navy husband in Italy. Our dad took this picture just before she left to return home in April. This was a special visit for us because just before she came to stay she found out she was pregnant after many years of suffering infertility. I will be glad with whatever God sends, but wouldn't it be nice for Elisabeth to have a little girl cousin?

Aedan took this shot of Ellie and I on the see-saw last Tuesday...when the weather was perfect.

This photo was taken by our friend, Bruno...after our last class and final exam of the semester. These are my family members that all go together. It has been an amazing blessing for us to do this together this semester. I am going to miss our Monday nights this summer and look forward to the fall semester. In the back from the left is my brother(Frank) Dad (also Frank) and hubby (Allen...but you knew that.) Front row is my daughter (Kaitlin) Me and my mom (Judy).

And this is Me with Gracie (left) and Emma (right). Gracie, my best friend's daughter is staying with us for a week while she and her husband travel. As it turns out Gracie and Emma are the same age and she also happens to be Emma's best friend. Last night Allen and I took them on a date for a late night showing of Night at the Museum. Which happens to be a fun movie and good for kids. (Although, they did have to cover their eyes during the violent previews.) We had a fun time and it was special for the girls to get dressed up and go out LATE at night just the four of us. I have been sick the last week, and so the fact that I fell asleep for the last half hour does not reflect in anyway on the entertainment factor of the movie.

May 26, 2009

There is Something About Sisters...

I don't know what it is exactly...but there is something about sisters that connects our hearts in a way that they can never be connected to anyone else. I love my husband dearly and we definitely share a special connection. Over the years we've come to know each other so well that at times it seems as if we can read each other's minds.

But he still doesn't instinctively read my heart like my sister can. He does know me very well and he can study what is going on with me and get a good idea of what my heart is feeling. But, it is a learned and practiced thing not a natural instinct, as it is with my sister.

My one and only sister lives in Italy. We talk every few weeks and email as time allows. It is never as often as we like and yet when we are on the phone it is like we are in the same room and have never been separated.

While there are many loved ones who come and go at different times and places, none take so much of my heart with them each time they leave as does my sister. I have never known such heartbreak as the times we have been separated by time, distance and circumstance... even though, I have known much loss and hardship at different times in my life.

And one of the amazing things about sisters is that even during these long times of separation and even though our lives have had very separate and different courses for the last twenty years, there are countless times when our lives parallel each other in unusual but comforting ways.

My sister and I were able to share an hour and a half on the phone yesterday morning. Despite my husband's long weekend and the great weather and lots of good times in the gardens, I spent most of the weekend and in a very melancholy state.

One of my sweet birds, Art, went missing Friday. You can read about him in my very first post. I know it sounds absurd...but I couldn't get it off my mind. In fact, I am not a person easily driven to tears, but I spent a good deal of the weekend bursting out in tears at odd moments. To make matters worse, the mate he left behind, Chili Pepper, spent a great deal of time mourning for him. The sound is like nothing I can explain, except that it is terribly sad.

Every time, I walked through the living room and saw her alone in the cage, I would choke up again. I told myself repeatedly to get a hold of myself because they are just birds, but it was really no use. And then I would think about how he was probably dead (parakeets have no ability to survive in the wild outside of their natural habitats, think Australia) or frightened terribly by the things he doesn't know. (Parakeets also are very fearful of any change). And I would start crying again.

And then I would think about the night my hubby gave them to me (for our anniversary) and my brother delivering them, getting down on his knee to sing an anniversary wish and I would cry some more.

But after all, they aren't people with souls...and gee why would I cry about birds. A short while ago, when my son lost his lizard I counted all the sadness to my children's' loss...but this was all mine. I felt like a child as I prayed, "Lord, who loves the sparrows, please bring my bird home."

And then I spoke to my sister. And I told her all that had transpired. And she instantly understood. And then she recounted what had happened to her on Friday, the day my bird disappeared.

Ben, that's my brother-in-law commented on a bird that was very tame. He told Di, that's my sis, how the little fellow hadn't moved at all when approached. Di, looked at the bird and told Ben that he was hurt if he wasn't flying away. They went to the house to fetch him a dish of water. He was too weak to drink from it so they were feeding him from their fingers. He eagerly drank. After a time, they went to the house to search for an eye dropper. When they returned he was dead.

Di, also, not easily moved to tears, spent much time crying over the loss of this bird. It seems like an ordinary story. The extraordinary part is how God worked it out, so that even across an ocean to another continent, my sister could share in my sorrow and be a comfort to me.

And isn't that it. There is just something special about sisters.

May 21, 2009

Week 5 of 52

Forever In Blue Jeans

I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself with one or more of your children. It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. You can check out my previous weeks or Click the button above to add your name to the Mr. Linky. So, have fun!

My picture for this week is from Mother's Day. This is me and my two young ladies. Kaitlin on the left and Brianna to the right. Notice how tall they are. I am wearing 5 inch heels with this outfit. Allen snapped it after we had a breakfast of fresh baked scones in the garden and before we ran out the door to church.

Looking at this picture amazes me. In so many ways. My first thoughts are about what beautiful daughters I have been blessed with. And, although I think their physical beauty is abundant, what I am referring to is their hearts.

So many people lament their relationship with their teen aged children. Even among Christian parents, I often hear tales of how horrible the teenage years are. And in the secular world, the report is far worse.

That has not been my experience. My older girls, now 17 and 13, are two of my best friends. We enjoy working, sewing, cooking, cleaning, shopping, reading, crafting, teaching, playing, singing, gardening, and the list could go on forever, together. I have many friends, but I rarely spend much time with them because I enjoy my time with my girls so much.

They are very well read and thoughtful and we enjoy intellectual conversation together about history, science, scripture and most of all spiritual things. I feel I can speak freely with them on just about any topic. Likewise, I believe they know that should they choose, they can speak freely with me.

I appreciate that they are not afraid to lovingly show me when I have wrong attitudes or need to work on something. Just as I do with them. They encourage me in so many ways. When I am tired, stressed, overworked, under prayed...add any adjective here.

They show me such care and concern. I was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago. This means I need to eat a careful diet at carefully planned times. And exercise daily. If I do so, I don't have to take medicine. They regularly ask me if I checked my sugar today. Did I eat my snack? Have I exercised?

Oh, and they don't stop with asking. They will bring me a snack if I am busy. Exercise with me when I can't stand the thought of it. Rub my feet when the pins and needles set in. They have learned to plan meals to suit my special diet.

They pray for me. They pray with me. Sometimes, I ask them for special requests, but mostly they know when I need prayer. It is not uncommon for them to ask me about this or that and let me know that they prayed about it for me.

When I get an idea, even if it seems wacky, they immediately embrace it and run with it. No matter how odd it may seem. I've mentioned before, that we don't have enough dining room for our table. Especially, when we entertain. My table extends 10 extra feet but my dining room is only about 12 or 13 feet. Last year, I was tossing around the idea of switching my small eat in space with my very long and narrow living room. That way we could extend our table for more comfortable entertaining.

My darling husband, thought it was an odd idea. We have no foyer and so guests would be walking into our dining room from the front door. Plus, our formal living room furniture would be in the tiled eat-in nook of our kitchen. And that nook, as mentioned previously, is quite small. He thought this would be a problem when the family came to visit. I saw his objections, but still wanted a dining room that would be more suitable for the bunch of us. He would have tried it for me sometime, but I never quite got the idea cemented enough in my head to ask him to do it.

One night we went out to dinner with my in-laws, though. When we returned home, we walked into our dining room. Those girls had gotten all the kids together and they moved every bit of furniture, including the huge armoirs and dining room table. Which, if you read my post, Around my Dining Room Table, you know is very large.

My girls are very thoughtful. It is not unusual for one of them to say, "Why don't you and Pa go on a date tonight. We will watch the kids for you." One time Brianna got a little clock, picture frame deal and put it on my night table so that the kids could take turns leaving me notes and drawings. And their thoughtfulness is rubbing off on their younger siblings, who are growing to be thoughtful, not just to their Pa and Mama, but to their siblings, neighbors and strangers as well.

And they have great sense of humors. I have a pretty good time in my garden and can get just about anything to grow. It is not my knowledge or ability, mind you. For I just try things and it happens to work. It is one way that God blesses me. So one day, recently, we were talking about how I can get anything to grow, but can't manage to get mint to stay alive more than one season.

It is a big joke in our extended family, too. If you know anything about mint, you understand the funny. The stuff is almost impossible to kill. My dad had a little patch that took over his entire garden. He sprays weed killer on it and it still comes back every spring.

A few weekends ago we were working in my herb bed and I was surprised to see my mint is indeed coming back. I must have said something about it aloud because the joke started again. Brianna said, "Mom, since you can't grow something as simple as mint, maybe you should try orchids." Well, what do you think was at my place when I sat down to breakfast on Mother's Day? Yes, a stunning orchid.

Oh, and did I mention how talented they are? Art, piano, singing, and acting are just a few of the abilities they have managed to develop. They use these gifts in wonderful ways to praise God and serve others, like volunteering their time to teach piano.

When I look back at Mother's Day with these two girls, I again reminded of God's grace and blessings. My very first Mother's Day, I was a few months along in my pregnancy with Kaitlin. I was admitted to the hospital that day with complications. I spent the next 6 months in and out of the hospital and on medication to try to stop preterm labor. Even the doctors were quick to admit that it was only by God's doing that she was born perfect and only 5 weeks premature. When we left the hospital, she was a week old and weighed 4 pounds 10 ounces, yet today she is the picture of health, strength and beauty.

When she was a month old, KK became very ill. She was admitted to the hospital for a week due to kidney problems that would return her to the hospital many times over before she turned five years old. The only sign left of that struggling baby today is her strong and determined spirit to overcome whatever curve ball is thrown her way.

Four years later, on Mother's Day, I was again on bed rest reliving the same scenario pregnant with my "little" Brianna. And you can see, despite being born premature and blue, requiring resuscitation, that today she is a strong and healthy...and, yes, tall...young lady.

In all of this, the greatest blessing that comes to mind, when thinking of my girls, is their love for our Saviour and desire to serve Him. It is constantly manifested in the way they give of themselves. Volunteering to babysit, sew, cook, and bake for busy moms. Teaching piano to others. Writing letters and visiting with the elderly as well as giving of their time to reach out to others younger or in need of a friend.

Most Mother's Days I have spent focusing on the blessings of the women in my life who have been an example to me and blessed me as a daughter. But this year, the Lord really impressed upon my heart how blessed I've been by the not yet mothers he has placed in my care. After spending a few weeks considering it, I realize how unworthy I am to be their mother. They have far surpassed what I was at their age, my expectations for them, or the woman that I am or could ever hope to be. It seems far too simple and inadequate to say that I am proud to be their mother. But there you have it...I am proud to be their mother.

May 20, 2009

The Really Cheap Theater

We love to be outdoors. We are outside from the first hint of Spring until the cold of winter sets in for good. We play outdoors, eat outdoors, work outdoors, read, swim and even nap under the shade of one of our enormous trees.

Once the cold days and long nights of winter replace the carefree days of summer, there is very little family entertainment to be found in our town. And so many a dreary winter's weekend has found us going to the movies, for lack of anything else to do.

Our steadily growing clan added to the steadily growing cost of seeing a movie has made this a costly endeavor. Last week, when Allen and I went to the movies with my folks it cost $10.50 a person! Let's do the math on this. That is $95 for our gang to see a movie. And it might not even be a good one.

I will spare you the details on the outrageous cost of popcorn and drinks. (Which, by the way, my friend who used to manage a theater assured me cost a mere ten cents for the theater which in turns charges you $10 for a large popcorn and large coke combo!)

However, we do have this very nifty theater in our area. They show movies that are getting ready to or have already left the big theaters. When the Holiday Cinemas opened their doors we called it the 99 cent theater, because that's what a ticket cost.

Over the years, their prices have gone up, just like the big theaters. The last time we went it was $3.29 a ticket. We now call it the cheap theater because the $3.29 theater just doesn't roll off your tongue the same.

Still the cost is more doable than the RC Cinema on the other side of town. Their concessions are cheaper, too. If you can get the kids up and moving on Saturday morning they even have a family show that still costs 99 cents a ticket.

Doing the math, though, I can still quickly calculate for our family to to see one movie at the cheap theater still costs well over $27 . My ever thoughtful mom came up with an idea that really works for us. She suggested we install a drop down screen and projector in our family room.

Now, I know initially spending a thousand dollars on a projector sounds like an odd way to save money but stick with me a minute.

Assuming, as a family, we saw just ten movies a year, and that is a very low number, we broke even the first year. And that is before figuring the savings on popcorn and drinks.

Now consider this, my husband and I now often opt to have a "date at home". Instead of going out to dinner and a movie, we put on PJ's, get some carryout and go to the theater in the basement. Not only is it far more relaxing, cuddled up together on the couch, but we save all over the place. The cost of our dinner is less and we obviously save the ridiculous cost of theater. Adding even more value to our investment. (Side note: our family room is still a work in progress, thus the primer on the walls.)

Our regular Friday night with the family at the theater and pizza restaurant across town has been replaced with home made pizza and a video at home. Often friends often will join us as well. Friday nights have become a regular party for us, friends and extended family. It is not uncommon for me to get a text message mid week asking what will be showing at "THE REALLY CHEAP THEATER" on Friday night.

My sister and her husband made it more authentic when they gave us an old fashioned movie time popcorn popper for Christmas the year before last. It does indeed make great popcorn and adds to the theater feel. The gift came with some nice ceramic popcorn bowls. We added some plastic old fashioned looking popcorn buckets from the dollar section at target so the nice ones don't get broken on the hard wood and ceramic tile in the basement.

We stock up on movie candy at CVS or Walmart for a dollar a box periodically. We have covered cups, in order to protect the leather furniture, that we serve root beer in for an extra treat once in a while.

A few months ago my husband asked the kids to come up with a name for our Friday night's. Many times we make decisions rather democratically in our family. Everyone gets a vote, but Pa's vote is the only one that counts. (More on this in a future post.)

This was a perfect example. A basket was placed on the dining table. For one week people added secret ballots with their ideas for names. At the end of the week all the names were written on the big white board (more on this in a future post) at the head of the dining room table. Then we voted. After an hour or so there were still so many names on the board. Allen picked his favorite of the bunch.

And so "Dish Night at the Wachter's" was born. Unless you lived through the great depression, I am sure you are wondering "What is that supposed to mean?" This takes me back to the initial idea behind this post. Over at Works For Me Wednesday a few weeks ago our host asked for posts about ways to maintain our quality of living during these difficult financial times.

This was the other idea I was too tired to write about after finishing my post on Groceries and Gas. During the Great Depression, theaters would sponsor Dish Night in order to bring in customers. If you came to the theater on those nights you would be given a plate or a glass with little flowers painted on them. It became known as Dish Night at the Movies.

Since, our Friday Night's were born of the desire to save money but still enjoy one of our favorite activities, Dish Night became the ideal name.

Sometimes, we re watch old favorites. We love the classic black and whites of the old days. Laurel and Hardy and Carey Grant to name a few. We don't watch television so we have invested in different television series on DVD. Little House on the Prairie, Scooby Doo and Dick Van Dyke for example. But quite often we buy a new video we've not seen before.

Our most recent investments have been the Back to the Future , Sherwood Church films (Fireproof, Flywheel, Facing the Giants) and the Tale of Despereaux. I know, again, this seems like an odd way to save money but think about it.

I can often get a movie at Walmart or Target for $5 or $6. Our Giant Eagle always has a rack of cheap movies, too. Even if I pay the full price of $20 or $25 for a new release, it still costs less than taking our family to see a movie at the Cheap Theater. And I almost never pay full price. If there is something specific we are looking for, I ask around. Lots of movies are just sitting on the shelves of family and friends. In turn everyone we know has an open invitation to borrow any of our videos. Of which, we have quite an extensive collection.

If no one has the video we are looking for, I search my favorite places like where you can often get a brand new video for less than $10 even with shipping. I have no problem with getting a used video from sellers with good feedback ratings, either. Who cares if it has been watched before as long as it isn't scratched? is one of my favorite places to go for videos, too. It is sometimes cheaper than for a new movie and we are members of Amazon prime so we get it in 2 days with free shipping.

Last week, I stopped in CVS and while I was waiting for my pictures to print I noticed a rack of discount movies. I found quite a few in there that we had been wanting to see or that the story seems like something the family would like. I walked out with 4 movies for less than $25. Earlier in the week we paid more than $30 for 3 of us to see Star Trek. You do the accounting there.

Dish Night at the Wachter's has become such a fun time that the kids ask me a few times each week if today is Dish Night. The morning I say it is, I am greeted with whoops and hollers equal to that on birthdays. Brianna has taken charge of it, and does most of the planning. She chooses movies, after consulting me, and hunts them down or orders them.

Then she makes posters, using Publisher software, to advertise the movie of the week. There are usually posters hanging in the bathrooms, kitchen and at the bottom of the stairs. Even my guys who can't read, get excited about these and can be overheard asking, "What does it say?"

Sometimes, she puts the basket on the table and a movie for the week is chosen by the democratic method I explained earlier. Sometimes, she chooses a movie to go with the season or holiday. The Friday before your birthday the honoree gets to pick the movie and pizza toppings.

Sometimes, she tries to come up with contests or games to go along with the movie. Once, the kids dressed up like Israelites, for example. Another time, we had a contest to see who could work the most quotes from the movie of the night into the conversation during dinner.

We have done double feature nights with, "The Love Bug" and "Herbie Rides Again." We have done themed nights with the animated stories of Joseph and Moses. When we were studying the Exodus in our family Bible time we watched the classic, "Ten Commandments." We've done movie marathons, too. One of the kids favorites is the old "Muppet Shows" from the 70's and 80's.

Another, big plus, even though it is not a money saver, is that Brianna previews movies we've not seen before if there is any question as to whether it is appropriate for everyone or if the little guys will like it. For example, we saw a preview for two movies that we thought might be nice family Christian viewing. We ordered them for a few dollars each. Brianna previewed them and while they were both good movies, they were not something the little guys would enjoy.

KK is my pizza girl. She makes the home made dough on Friday mornings. Sometimes we theme the pizza to the movie. Sometimes, we go on the Internet and look for new ideas. The birthday person gets to pick the week of their big day. Sometimes we just do the standard pepperoni and veggie.

No matter what we watch or which pizza we choose. Dish Night at the Wachter's Really Cheap Theater, is not just a great money saving way to have great entertainment. It has become a family event that is tying strings and building memories. That really works for me.

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday ideas pop on over to We are That Family.

May 19, 2009

Sunny Side Up

I am a creature of habit. I suppose it came from the lack of routine and habit when I was growing up. Any deviation from the normal (which in itself has become normal) throws me for a loop.

I really hate the idea of change. Once change occurs, I usually embrace it with excitement and joy. But, the before part...the thinking about it part...the working up to it part...has always been difficult for me.

For example, Saturday night, my hubby and I went on a date. Besides a delicious dinner, we went shopping for a new comforter. The one I searched high and low for 5 years ago, which was perfect for our master bedroom, is literally full of holes. What were little snags just a few months ago, have grown to rather large tears under the strain of 3 little boys pulling themselves up onto the bed each morning.

Now, I have been half heartedly looking here and there for a new comforter or quilt for a couple of months now, but the truth is what I was really looking for was the same one..only new. I couldn't find even something similar and so the reality of the need to move on was quite clear.

It was in fact on a whim that I suggested we do some looking since we were going out to dinner anyway. I didn't actually expect to put more than ten minutes effort into it and certainly didn't think we would find anything I liked.

We actually, did find three options in the first and only store we went to Saturday night. While we stood there debating back and forth over the merits of each set, I almost threw in the towel and suggested we leave with nothing.

But then, the only thing I hate more than change kicked in. My loathe for shopping. And I said to my husband, "They are all nice. Pick whichever you like."

When we got home and made up the bed, I didn't like it in the least way. Sunday morning, when we made up the bed, I still didn't like it. Sunday afternoon, when we came home from church, I still didn't like it.

Everyone else does. And, I do grudgingly admit it is a very nice looking bit of linen. The style is well suited to our bedroom. The colors are some of my favorite in neutral shades of brown, gold and salmon. If I am being completely transparent, I must say, my objection is probably more related to my resistance to change than whether or not it matches my bedroom.

Undoubtedly, my propensity for routine stems from my inability to greet change with open arms. And I think it is rubbing off on my kids.

I am allergic to egg yolks and it would be time consuming to cook eggs to special order for everyone. Therefore, I make eggs fried or hard boiled. That way I can cut around the yolk and eat the white part. I didn't realize how infrequently I cooked eggs differently, though until last week.

I was frying eggs for breakfast. I picked up one on the spatula to put it on Sam's plate and it slipped and hit the griddle upside down. I picked it up, put it on his plate and someone delivered his plate to the table.

As we were finishing up breakfast, Samuel asked if he could go outside to play. I glanced at his plate and noticed he had not eaten much. Eggs are one of the few foods we don't have to argue with him to eat. So, I picked the egg and told him he could go outside after he finished eating it.

A few minutes later, Samuel said he was full and could he go outside to play now. I looked at his plate, again, and found he still had not eaten anything. I told him that I already said he could go outside after he ate his egg.

He looked at his plate with a very confused expression. Then he looked at me and asked in his most puzzled voice, "What egg?"

I've been serving his eggs sunny side up so often that the kid didn't even recognize that over easy egg as the product of a chicken's hard work!

I said, the thing on your plate! Pointing now... "That egg."

Aedan, was now getting into the topic. He reached over to Sam's plate and poked his fork into the yolk and said, "See, Sam, it has a dippy part. That's an egg."

May 18, 2009

What I Really Think of the Shred

Jillian is a communist. Well, not really. But in all honesty and sincerity, I declare her to be the most annoying of all the exercise gurus I have encountered in my twenty years of exercise in the quest for health and fitness.

It is a good workout. If you live to see the benefits.

To recap...after Day 1 every muscle in my body ached. This sentiment was echoed by Allen and the girls. For each step taken in this house you could hear someone whisper, "Ouch" under their breath. At night, someone would roll over in bed and actually moan!

This had the potential to be a disaster, considering the slow pace at which we moved for several days. I thank God that the weather was poor and the babies were confined to the indoors so that the number of quick reflexes required to keep them safe and out of trouble were kept to a minimum.

I was never so aware in my 17 years of diaper changing and baby feeding how often I am required to lift my arms up in front of me...Ouch!

Day 2 was rather the same.

By Day 3 the pain was starting to subside. We even rewarded ourselves for continuing in the daily workouts despite the pain, by doing Richard Simmons "Sweatin' to the Oldies" afterward.

Day 4 was a little more encouraging. We even watched level 2 after our workout...which was frightening.

By Day 5 I was back to my old self and jumped into the workout with enthusiasm that I hadn't felt since Day 1.

Day 6, my right knee was swollen up like a grapefruit. I worked out anyway.

Day 7, my husband returned from his trip and forbid me to work out until the swelling subsided. I walked a few miles instead.

I finally got well enough to do Day 8 after which I had to pull out the Advil for both knees were aching and swollen!

14 days out...I've completed only 8 workouts...gained 2 pounds...and have yet to see those abs I was promised. As a matter of fact the biggest thing I've seen is that I am no longer as young as I would like to be. Thanks Jillian...I was hoping for a little disillusionment in my life this week.

Just the same I took a couple of Advil with my apple for lunch and will be jumping in with workout 9 this afternoon.

And in all fairness, I must tell you my hubby is doing well and Brianna LOVES Jillian and the Shred. Brianna hounds me all day long about when we are going to workout.

A few of you let me know that you were joining me. Leave me a note and tell me how you are coming along.

May 15, 2009

Around My Kitchen Table Part 1

Dinner for nine is an interesting endeavor. We shop a lot. We cook a lot. And we clean up.

A lot. As a matter of fact, we can no longer fit all the dishes from one meal in our dish washer. But that is not the point of tonight's story. Except to say that meal time is always an experience.

One night last week, after a busy day and evening working in the yard, we came in for dinner. We were having a good time of being together and clowning around, when it suddenly occurred to me that this is one of the best parts of our life together.

And yet, it is so very ordinary, so much a part of every day, that I've never thought to record it anywhere...not in my journal...not in a photograph...and certainly not on my blog where everyone in the world might have the opportunity to see Aedan falling asleep with his head next to his plate.

Before each holiday meal, my dad always takes a picture of the table beautifully set and filled to overflowing with painstakingly prepared dishes. Really, though, who would want a picture of a table on which the centerpiece is ripening cantaloupes?

Yet, as a family with many children...the dining room table is one of the most important parts of our day and if I may be so bold to say so...our life. It is here that we spend a great deal of time sharing, discussing, planning, voting, correcting, instructing, laughing, praying, studying. Together. No matter where we each may go during the increasingly hectic days, it is here that we start each morning and here we end each night. This is one of the intricate and intimate connections that make us a family.

So, I took a picture. That in itself was a story. Our dining room is in fact an eat in kitchen. It is quite small with room just to walk around the table. My husband sits at the head near the living room...which happens to be the only good vantage point from which to take a picture of the whole table. However, I really wanted to immortalize what it looked like from where I was sitting. So, I tried squeezing in between my chair and the window. I still could only get one side or the other...not the whole picture. When all was said and done, I had to hang backwards out the window (10-12 feet up) in order to get this shot-which still isn't great. I debated getting the ladder and setting it outside the window to get the shot I wanted but I am scared of heights ... and it was raining ...and dark.

As I was thinking about this photo, it occured to me that our table itself recounts the history of our family growth and blessings. When Allen and I moved into our first apartment we had no table at all. Our first meal, in our first home together, was fried chicken on the dining room floor. The first dining set, in our first kitchen was about the size of most coffee tables, with four little chairs. It might make one think of a dollhouse dining set. But it was just right for us and our first daughter.

Despite our desire for a large family, with our share of fertility issues it seemed that would be our future. Three of us around a quiet little table. Eating our gourmet dinner full of dignity and composure. What a difference some prayer, a carpenter and 14 years can make!

In our next home, my brother came to live with us and, by God's grace, we added our second and third daughters. I traded my little table for my single sister's slightly larger one. It seemed enormous to me. This one could seat six! I passed on all my little tablecloths and started sewing new ones as each season arrived.

Expecting our fourth, we moved again and had no dining room. Our new eat in kitchen was larger than anything we'd ever need. Or so we thought. Until baby four and five came along. We no longer had enough seats at the table that just two years before seemed so immense. I began looking for tables to fit us all that would also allow for our growing family and future daughters and sons-in-laws. And their children. Such tables were few and very expensive. That would have to be put on hold.

Just the same, the holidays were approaching and we needed room for our extended family for Thanksgiving dinner. A trip to Target and our new dining room table became two conference tables placed side by side. Our chairs were a mish mosh of hand me downs and cast offs. Some the woven seats had worn through and a board across the seat with a cushion on top had replaced them. I bought table cloths in pairs now. For no one made them big enough to fit such a wide table. And, who had time to sew?

And...I started a savings account for a new dining set. At first it looked pathetic as I would tuck away gifts I received on birthdays. Then I added a little extra grocery money once in a while. When my husband found out what I was doing, he lovingly teased me. "We would never need such a big table," he said. "Where would we put such a big table? he asked." But as baby six arrived he changed the way he gave gifts. One birthday, instead of a wrapped package, I got a bank printout showing a deposit into my little account. He had written across the bottom, "Here is a dining room chair." And during leaner times, "Happy Mother's Day, here is half a chair."

As is always the case in our Italian family, eventually the word got out, that I had a plan. For Christmas one year my parents gave me a check with a memo on the bottom, "For your dining room table." And from then on with fervor, the whole clan added to the fund bit by bit. If we sold a loaf of bread in went $5. If I got a gift, in it went. When I won prize money for my sewing and canning entries at the fair, in it went. If it was a holiday, everyone knew a contribution to the table fund was the gift for me. There was no gift that would ever be as special as one day sitting down to a holiday dinner with all of us gathered at the same table. My dream had become the cause of my entire family.

And then it happened. One day, through the recommendation of a friend, I called a man in the Mennonite community who makes custom furniture for a living. I had checked into carpenters who would custom build a table before. The cost was so high, that on more than one occasion I told my husband I would have great grand children before we got our table. But this gentleman gave me hope. Not only was it more reasonable than the $10,000 quotes I'd been getting, but I already had enough to cover the estimate he gave me on the phone!

It felt like Christmas morning the Saturday my husband and I loaded the kids in the car and made the hour long drive to his shop. There he asked me questions about wood, legs and aprons. What type of chair? What color stain? I didn't know how to answer any of his questions. I just wanted a table. After quite some time we made all our choices and got the final quote. It was now early fall and he said he could have it done the week before Christmas.

I was a little disappointed that it wouldn't be in time for Thanksgiving. We always have a crowd and how special it would be to set a proper table and have enough chairs to go around. But, it was a big job and I had waited so long already. What were a few more weeks in the grand scheme of things? And that was that.

Until the Monday before Thanksgiving. Our carpenter called. He wanted to know if it would be alright to deliver our table early. Um, sure. "How early are we talking?" I inquired. "Well, what about the next day? It is finished and all those chairs are taking up a lot of room in the workshop." Can you believe it? Not only was I going to have my table, but I was going to have it in time for our big Thanksgiving feast!

It was a festive occasion, indeed, the next evening when he unloaded a 16 foot table and 20 dining chairs. And when the family arrived for the first holiday dinner, it was with great joy in my heart that I sat beside my husband and looked around the table at the faces of my generous loved ones who had made it possible for all of us to join hands together as we lifted prayers of thanks and praise to our Lord who not only meets our every need but gives us the desires of our hearts.

Indeed, this is not where I was headed with this post. You, my dear reader, can consider it a bonus. Or hit that little x at the top of your screen if my ramblings leave you snoozing. Because, the seemingly never ending rain has left me wordy, I will now call this part one and continue this story in a new post. Lest the batteries die in all your laptops trying to read it. Or worse...I bore you all to death!

May 14, 2009

Week 4 of 52

Forever In Blue Jeans

I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself with one or more of your children. It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. You can check out my previous weeks or Click the button above to add your name to the Mr. Linky. So, have fun!

Just for fun

This is not the picture I was planning on posting this week. However, I've been working out with Jillian Michaels and I can't help but think that everyone on the world wide web should see how glamorous I look when I am sweating. So, this first picture is Elisabeth and I doing the Shred.

I was minding my own business, panting and doing crunches, when she laid down beside me and started kicking her legs, too. I do think she was cheating a little because I never saw her shoulder blades leave the floor.
Albeit, her clothes are coordinated instead of the obvious, "I threw my skirt on the bed and threw on the first pair of sweat pants I could find with no concern with whether or not they match my green shirt deal" that I've got going.

This one was an afterthought, also, but I think it is cute. Today after lunch I said I was going to walk out to pick up the mail. Samuel asked could he walk with me. I said he could and we stood up. Then Nathaniel asked if he could go, too, and we started out the door. By the time we hit the driveway, Aedan was in tow. Brianna grabbed the camera, because she thought the site of four of us walking to the end of the drive and across the street to pick up one newspaper and 4 pieces of junk mail was too good to miss. Can you tell she is the daughter of a scrapbooker?

Unfortunately, I have not time to write the post I have been planning about Mother's Day. But enjoy these and as they said it will be better late than never when I get around to it.

May 13, 2009

Decorative Storage Ideas

Works for me Wednesday...Ways to make life easier, prettier, healthier, less expensive or more fun. Hosted by We are That Family.

As I've mentioned before, we live in a rather small home for the number of us. Our main living area is less than 1800 square feet. We have been working on remodeling our basement for about 2 years now. That gives us another 1500 square feet of family room/laundry room/ game room/play room type area.

To make matters worse, our home was built in the 70's, before architects believed in closets or storage. The layout does not allow for more than a bed and bureau in most of the bedrooms. As a matter of fact my boys' bedrooms don't even have enough room for twin beds. When my boys get too tall for their toddler beds, there will be no more putting off our second floor addition.

In the meantime, I put a lot of thought into finding ways to store toys, dishes, name it...everything from my water bath canner to toilet paper. I have come up with a lot of alternative storage that looks attractive, too.

The kitchen was a particular problem. For the size of it...there is no place to put anything. The cabinets were poorly planned out and more than half of the base cabinet space is drawers...good for nothing more than plastic wrap and tea towels. The solution came when my sister moved and gave me her television armoire. I convinced my husband to fit it with shelves and voila...what was a worthless bit of wall in my kitchen became a focal point and a place for boat loads of storage. The top is filled with dishes and the bottom cupboard contains my large collection of cookbooks and recipe boxes with room to spare for cake decorating supplies and the champion juicer.

Actually, this idea worked so well, that one day I was driving through town and on the sidewalk was another armoire in excellent condition with a sign that said free. I didn't hesitate a minute before pulling over and asking the owner of the house to load it into the back of my Suburban. It has served us very well for china, crystal and other special occasion pieces that used to be stored in boxes in the attic and laundry room.

We have no foyer at all. In our odd shaped and poorly designed living room we have but one small coat closet that doesn't even have enough room for our families coats...never mind company and the other flotsam that collect near the front door of the house. I overcame some of those issues with this little vignette which includes hat boxes, an old filing cabinet (that someone was getting rid of) which fit my decorating style and a vintage suitcase that my daughter got at a Garage sale for fifty cents.

Storage issues in the main meeting area of our home took some effort and is still an ongoing process. I started by forgoing a coffee table and getting a deep vintage looking trunk that fit my decorating to serve the purpose. Hidden away inside are piano books, hymnals and instruments.

This vintage doctor bag is one of my favorite ideas. When I was putting together my husband's outfit for a costume party, my sister tracked it down on ebay. After the party I didn't know what to do with it. In the last year it has held magazines, stored Bibles and hidden throw blankets until they were needed on cold winter nights. It looks perfect on the floor next to the setee.

This little gem of a wine rack makes an excellent place to store rolled up magazines. I added the baskets on top to give it some height and they provide a place for all the books that end up on our coffee table.

The trunk I picked up at Joann's a few years ago serves as an accent to our Master Bedroom tropical retreat. I keep it in front of the open door where it looks like just a large door stop. No one would guess it is filled with my exercise clothes.

This last little number is my newest idea. Our master bath has no linen closet and no storage to speak of. There is no place to even consider putting any storage. As small as our closets are...they are bigger than our bathroom. I was cleaning out my closet a few weeks ago and came across some of my favorite and fun summer bags. I put two of them underneath my jewelry armoire just outside the bathroom door. Inside went extra lotions, soaps and toilet paper. They looked so cute I added a grass type one to the bureau top and found that deodorant and lotion stood up nicely inside.

This is so much fun I could go on all night but I've been neglecting Jillian and the shred so you'll have to fend for yourselves. Don't forget to leave me a comment and share some of your great storage ideas with me.

May 12, 2009

Star Trek

Mikki asked me to let you all know about the movie last night. So here it is. Violent. Graphic. Nerve wracking. The story itself was fascinating and intriguing. The writers did a good job of weaving the old story line and characters in with the new. Leonard Nimoy, the Spock of our early years, even made an appearance. A believable enough substitute for each of the original crew was cast.

But, it was so needlessly and overtly violent. After a few minutes, I was queasy and had to give up trying to eat my popcorn. Which is a shame becasue I've not had popcorn with butter on it for at least six months! My mother and I both found ourselves gasping over and over. My husband who is a Star Trek fan since the beginning and can enlighten you about all the characters in all the movies and television series, admitted it was too violent for his taste, as well. While my dad found nothing wrong with it, dear mom and I left tense and anxious. The show let out around midnight and I was still unable to go to sleep even at 2 am.

I would definitely not let my other children see it and at times was sorry we'd brought our 17 year old with us. However, if violence does not bother you go see it. As I said, the story was well thought out and the characters instantly endearing. Unlike many of the sci-fi movies, I was able to understand what was happening.

One last note in favor of Star Trek: I got my money worth. It has been a long time since I didn't doze off during a movie and at midnight to boot.

Why Isn't It a National Holiday?

Today is one of my favorite days of the year. It happens every spring. It is not a national holiday, although it ought to be. It is not even on my calendar. Yet, I plan and look forward to it more than my birthday.

Today is the day when I sit back in the sun with a novel and watch the kids clean out the shed. Every year they, who made the mess, drag everything out. They trash, recycle and repair. Then they put everything neatly back in its place.

For the next 12 months...I warn, suggest, threaten and elude to what will happen if things aren't put back where they belong. On the first day of Spring, still the inevitable happens. I run outdoors and get into my garden. In search of a rake or spade I open the door to the shed only to find that I can't even walk inside because of the mess piled at the door.

So I begin to anticipate a nice day when I've nothing pressing to do. I never know what day it will be...just so happens that one morning as I clean up the breakfast dishes I know this is the day. I pull up my chair and watch. Lest you think I am an ogre, I don't do this to be mean or lazy. Actually, I find it quite amusing. And, as my flesh and blood friends can tell you, it is an act of unbelievable self control for me to sit and not work.

I was trained in the fine art of home making by my grandmother who truly believed it was a sin to sit and watch others work if God gave you two hands to work with. God placed in me an innate need to jump up and take part in the work and do what needs to be done. I love to organize things. I am thrilled at the concept of throwing things out. I am delighted when I return to a drawer, closet or room that is freshly cleaned out and see the fruit of my work. To be deprived of that is akin to depriving myself of air or food.

Yet, I do so in hopes that they will learn the value of orderliness. That a little bit of time putting things away makes everything easier and saves time. I do it in hopes that they learn a sense of working together without me overseeing things. That they may feel the pride of a job well done each time they go to retrieve a bike. I do it in hopes that they will learn a lesson. I do it in hopes that when August rolls around and I go to get my gardening gloves they will still be right where they belong in the basket on the third shelf down.

Seven years we've been at this annual ritual and yet today I will still be sitting. Either they will learn or they will get married, have their own shed to clean, and carry on the tradition. No matter, at least I get to enjoy a good book once a year.

And isn't self sacrifice what being a mother is all about?

May 11, 2009

Not Me Monday 5-11-09

Today, I did not let my toddler, who is terrified of the bath, get in the tub fully clothed.

And when I was making pizza and dropped the cornmeal on the floor, I did not scoop enough up to coat the pans.

I am not blogging instead of studying for my final in two hours.

I did not buy all my side dishes for the Mother's day dinner I was hosting from the gourmet food counter in the grocery store.

I did not skip the Shred all weekend.

Nor did I dump all my daughters' summer clothes on the bedroom floor to sort through and leave them there so I could take a soak in the tub knowing full well there would be no time to get back to it and it will have to sit that way until tomorrow morning.

I did not agree to go to see Star Trek, which I HATE, with my parents and hubby after my test tonight.

The "Not Me Monday" was created by MckMama. To read more about her and her amazing son, Stellan check out her Blog My Charming Kids. To read more "Not Me Monday" or to play along click on the button above. Happy Monday!

May 7, 2009

Week 3 of 52

I've accepted Carin's challenge, as a Mom, to get back into the picture. The idea is that once a week you take a picture of yourself with one or more of your children. It's that simple. If you'd like you can post your picture on your blog. You can let me know you posted so I can check out your pics. To check out my first week click here or week two click here. You can also Click the button below for more info or if you'd like to add your name to the Mr. Linky. So, have fun!

Forever In Blue Jeans

This is Ellie (16 months) cuddling with me. When my older 3 girls were babies, there was nothing I loved more than sitting and cuddling with them. I would sometimes spend hours or even the better part of a day or night just rocking them, reading to them, praying over them and cuddling. They loved it, too.

Then I had boys. Don't get me wrong. I still wanted to sit still and smell their babiness. And they were OK with it until they were about six months old. Once they started crawling and learned there was a world outside of Mama, those boys wanted nothing to do with cuddling anymore. Now that they are older, they will come at different times and just sit and cuddle or read but for all the years of breastfeeding and diapering, there was a definite drought on baby cuddles around here.

I adore my sons. And we have so much fun together. I am amazed at their caring and gentleness and the way they look out for their Mama and sisters. I would have been so happy to have a another healthy son. However, when I was expecting my last baby I longed desperately for a little girl who would just sit on my lap and be content for a while. I can not explain the unspeakable joy when, after 3 days of labor, the doctor announced Elisabeth Claire was joining our family. At long last I would get my snuggles again.

In an instant all the hugs and pink and fluff I'd been missing flashed before my eyes. My husband was ecstatic with me. I can not tell you how many times in the next few minutes we asked the doctor if she was certain. And then each time, we looked at each other and said, "Can you believe it? Another little princess!"

But Elisabeth is not a cuddle baby. Well, she started out that way. We stayed in the hospital for 12 hours and I don't think I set her down once with the exception of when they examined and bathed her. One of the first days after her birth, my husband took the other children out for their annual shopping for mom's Christmas gift date. That is only one day every year that I have the house all to myself. It is a really big deal for them and they make a whole day of it and go to dinner afterwards. I usually do something I really enjoy but don't have time for. Sew a dress, put together a scrapbook, bake something, call my girlfriends...

Not that Christmas. I sat around in my pajamas all morning without even putting makeup on. And I held my little girl. I had no breakfast to fix. No school to teach. No noses to wipe. And who cared about the dust? It wasn't going anywhere. Later, one of my dearest girl friends called and she came over. And together we sat and took turns holding my little girl for most of the afternoon.

I am not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere down the line Ellie decided she didn't want to cuddle anymore. She wanted to hit the floor and chase after the other kids. I was no longer entertaining enough for her. When we went on vacation in September, she became very ill. She lost a great deal of weight and was very weak and lethargic. She couldn't sleep or eat. She just wanted to sit.

As terribly worried as I was for her, you can bet the best part of that month was the hours and hours of cuddle time I got with Elisabeth. Many days she was too ill to accompany us to Disney World and I would try to convince the family to go on without us. I didn't want everyone to miss out. They would have none of it, though. Opting to stay at our rental house and swim, play tennis and go to the movies instead. Worried that I would feel left out.

What they didn't understand was that sitting with her, cuddling and dozing in the chair while she slept in my arms was better than anything Mickey Mouse could give me. We had a great time on that trip and I have wonderful memories of swimming, playing tennis, Disney World and the beach. But, my favorite by far is the afternoon sitting in the overstuffed chair cuddling my little muffin.

So, now you understand why this ordinary looking picture is so special. In an odd moment of insanity, Elisabeth just wanted to lay on my shoulder. Everything was going on around us...dinner, baths, cleanup...but I sat. As the little ones came running to me, asking for this and that, the older girls and my husband shooed them away telling them not to bother Mama.

And someone grabbed the camera.

May 6, 2009

Groceries and Gas

The idea of Works-For-Me-Wednesday are tips from blog world to make life easier, cheaper or more fun. The theme for this week is frugal living.

Feeding a family of nine (or 3 or 4 or ...) is not getting any cheaper these days. We try to maintain a balance between nutrition and being able to pay the grocery bill without having to leave one of the kids at the checkout.

One of the ways I do this is belonging to a produce coop. We try to eat a mostly vegetarian diet heavy in fresh fruits and veggies. By being flexible in what we take, I can get a much better quality product for far less than what I pay in the grocery store. We place our order every other Monday and pick up every other Wednesday afternoon. The catch is having enough space to store 2 weeks worth of produce for nine. We maintain a spare refrigerator in our laundry room just to store produce. An additional bonus is that if you have a lot of fresh fruit and veggies sitting around it is likely that you are going to be eating healthier, too.

For the small amount of meat we do eat, we found a local butcher who raises their own animals without all the hormones and chemicals of store bought meat. Not only are we getting a fresher and better quality product, that I feel comfortable feeding my family, but...for the ordinary things you would buy, like ground beef or chicken breast...their prices are usually far less than even Super Walmart. Without the yucky additives, the taste is so much better, too. Everyone who's had a burger at my house is converted to Hemp's burgers. My husband doesn't even eat steak in restaraunts anymore because he says it never tastes as good.

As for bread, pizza dough, baked goods... we make our own most of the time. Again, you can not beat the taste or price. An average loaf of bread at home costs about $.50 to make. The last whole grain loaf I bought at Super Walmart cost almost $3.00. That is a big savings. Here's a bonus for you. For health and taste, we buy wheat berries in bulk at the local health food store and grind our own flour. You will never eat bread any other way again. People ask my daughters to bake for them. If you'd like to know more or would like a recipe leave me a comment and I will get back to you.

My eggs come from a local fellow who raises hens in his yard. I pay $1.50 a dozen for organic eggs versus almost $5.00 in the grocery stores. Ask around. I bet there is someone you know who knows someone who raises chickens and has eggs to sell.

Everyone assumes because we are a large family, I shop at the big box clubs like Sam's and Costco. The truth is, there are just a few items that I go to the warehouses for. Frozen fish because it is far better quality than the grocery stores. (I insist on Alaskan Salmon for example. Almost all of the fish in groceries stores is from overseas, even what they market as "fresh". Ask some questions.) For this reason, I am willing to pay more. The best prices on good quality fish, in our area, is at the Sam's club. I also stock up on nuts and cheeses there.

For most everything else, I can do better buying generic items at the Super Walmart. I know...groan. I HATE shopping there more than anyone in the world. Sometime, I will share my philosophy on Walmart. can not beat their prices on most staples like Kashi cereal and organic soy milk.

And while we are on the topic of grocery stores... In our area the Giant Eagle offers credits towards your gas purchases if you shop in their store and buy gas at their GetGo gas stations. I do not buy groceries there because things are much more expensive than what I can do elsewhere. But, you can earn points for gift card purchases, too. In fact, you get double points. And their gas station always has the cheapest price in town. So, what we do is this.

We bought an older house a few years ago and always have a home improvement or gardening project going on. Before we go to the Home Depot we go to the Giant Eagle and buy gift cards for what we will spend. We aren't spending anymore than we would anyway and we are getting free gas for it. In fact, I usually have cards for the pet store we frequent as well as McDonald's, the movie theater we go to on date night, Starbucks and our favorite restaraunts. I shop on ebay quite a bit so I stock up on Ebay gift cards once in a while, too. Every dollar I spend is earning extra money back for me.

Which brings me to the point...we quite often fill our Suburban for free or at a greatly discounted price per gallon and we don't spend a penny more than we normally would. A few months ago that was a savings of $150 a tank or $$300 a month! I have been told that there are similar programs like this all over the country. We all buy stuff and we all need to eat. Make it work for you.

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday tips check out We Are THAT Family

May 5, 2009

The Unbirthday Party

In January Nathaniel turned 7. His birthday is 2 days before Allen's. Also, it is in the middle of winter. His birthday parties have always been grandparents and other family members eating cake and bringing gifts. This year he wanted to have a "real" birthday party with kids his age and party games.

There were two catches. He didn't want or need anything as far as gifts went. Despite our attempts in the past to ask people to come have a party with us and NOT bring gifts, we still find we are left with a pile of presents that we have no room for. I don't mean to sound ungrateful. That truly isn't it.

Our kids have been raised without television and advertising and take little interest in the trendy toys from year to year. No matter what is brought to them the only toys they really play with are the Thomas Trains Nathaniel has had since he was two and a good box of crayons and a coloring book. During the summer they like to play in the sandbox, build forts and ride bikes. Nothing necessary for that.

Furthermore, our main living area consists of 1800 square feet. That doesn't give much room for excess. So everything not being used on a daily basis gets donated or given away. I hate to see our friends and family spend money on stuff just so we can give it away. Especially, in these uncertain financial times.

And the fact of the matter is all he really wanted was to have his friends in to play. Something, we don't do very often. So we scheduled a party and attempted to not let people know it was his birthday so they wouldn't feel obligated to bring gifts.

Catch number two is that we had to cancel it repeatedly. First, a stomach bug. Then the flu. Then a cold. We finally gave up on the whole deal when March rolled around, my sister arrived and we were getting ready to go out of town. Our return would be followed by Easter festivities and Whoa! now it was the middle of April and Aedan's birthday was right around the corner.

So the week before last was planned an "unbirthday party" for both boys. What that boils down to was 14 kids between 3 and 9ish, 24 hot dogs, 2 quarts of apple juice, 4bags of potato chips and 48 cupcakes. They played party games planned and led by the older girls and ate themselves silly. Everyone had a blast.

Since then, several amusing events from that night keep floating around in my head.

When the kids were playing games it seems one little boy, whom I will call "A" and one of my sons whom I will call Samuel, were having a debate over who should go first. Finally, in a valiant gesture of good manners boy "A" told Samuel that he could have the first turn. My Samuel, apparently knowing nothing about manners, piped up with a happy grin and said, "OK". Boy "A" then let out a distressed exclamation and said, "You're supposed to let the guests go first!"

So then Samuel, came upstairs and brought his little scooter with him and started riding through our little kitchen and living room area. With all the obligatory grandparents, this meant a lot of toes were being run over. I asked him why he didn't go downstairs to ride his bike and he said, "I think I need a little Mama time."

And then one of our little friends, Girl "B" was playing with Samuel's Baby Einstein dragon puppet. She was making dragon type noises and saying she was going to eat him. Samuel got it in his mind that this was the epitome of evil and apparently took the puppet away. He came to me after the deed was done and said, "Mama, that girl was playing bad games with my puppet so I put it on top of the armoire." Sure enough, somehow this 3 1/2 foot kid, who can't reach to wash his own hands, had found a way to put the puppet on top of the six foot armoire. It is all about motivation, eh?

Later, while I was entertaining the grandparents and seeing the little guests off, my brother and another single friend of ours were in the kitchen cleaning up. Here they were, two young, attractive fellows, still in their dress clothes from work, at a kids party, of their own accord putting away leftovers and washing dishes. I am still shaking my head trying to understand why exactly they are still single.

After everyone had left I was tucking the boys in bed. I asked them did they have a good time and what did they like best. They each did indeed enjoy their party and named off some things that particularly stuck out at them. Then Aedan made an observation. "We are always last." I asked him what he meant. He said something to the idea of this. "Well, our last name starts with "W" so everyone goes before us if we go by name. And, Than and I are the youngest so everyone goes before us if we go by age. And, we are short so everyone goes before us if we go by size.

Well, his last name may leave something to be desired. And his height genes may not be the best. But Aedan sure makes up for it in his astute philosophical skills, eh?

Just for kicks here is a picture of our little friend, Josie. I think it is HILARIOUS. I don't know what she was trying to do with that hot dog but she meant business!