October 31, 2010

Things I Never Thought I'd Hear

Allen to a faceless child:  "How would you like it if your brother closed the toilet lid on you while you were going?"

October 30, 2010

Chinese Food

I love Chinese food.  Actually, there is not much food I don't like.  As long as it isn't processed and full of chemicals... which I don't really consider food, anyway.  But who cares, right?

The point is, I love Chinese food.  As does my whole family.  There are two places we like to pick up from.  One being a local joint that has been around as long as I remember.  But when we don't feel like waiting for our order, believe or not, my favorite it Panda Express.  Which is odd, since I don't typically go for chain restaurants.  I don't know if they are all as good as our local store since I have never been to another but they sure do a great job here.  The family's favorite dish is the orange chicken.  Which is the only thing Elisabeth will eat.

Something I don't love are chopsticks.  I am not coordinated to make them work for me and I would starve to death if I lived in China.  My kids, however, love to show off their skills with the wooden tools.

Last week, after a day of volunteering, I was too beat to cook dinner.  Someone asked if we could get Chinese.  Since we had money set aside just to spend in Allen's absence and since the kids deserved a reward for working so hard, I picked up a couple of dishes and we ate in front of a video by the fire.

Elisabeth hates to be shown up by the big kids.  She insisted on eating her dinner with chopsticks, too.
Alas, it appears as if she got her chop stick skills from me.  Not to be daunted.  She figured out a way to make it work for her.
 Atta a girl!  Do you think I could look so adorable trying to pull this one off?

October 29, 2010

Let's Go For An Outing

My kids love outings.  Even if it is only to the butcher shop for a pound of ground burger.   I still can't figure out the photo issue with piccasa which essentially boils down to not being able to post.  How can I possibly post when I can't upload photos.  Someone with some know how would be really appreciated. 

In the meantime, how about we take a little outing and pop over to my other blog, 365 Ways to Say I Love You.

Have a safe trip and I'll see you over there!

October 28, 2010

Rest and Relaxation

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture!

This first one was taken a few weeks ago, but I never got it up. When we got home from vacation we had a tree planted.  Allen is planning to lay a patio with paver stones in the Spring.  Of course, I am planning a flower bed to complete the project.  Sunday the 17th turned out to be a beautiful day.  After worship, we couldn't wait to get into our old clothes and tear up sod to put in the Spring bulbs.  
This last weekend, we accepted an invitation to spend the weekend with our friends in Southern Virginia.  Sunday afternoon was a birthday party for their oldest daughter.  Between the two families there were 15 children, including two toddlers and one grandmother.  Fifty guests were expected at four o'clock.  You would think that would mean lots of work for us grown ups.  But actually, the older girls (7 in all) are all good cooks and very able in the kitchen.  They were all so busy working there was nothing for us big people to do.  I sat in the sun room off the kitchen listening to all the fun while reading Southern Living until the guests arrived.
I have more pictures from both these weekends I would love to post but technical issues seem to be in the way.  When I try to upload photos to my post, I get a message saying I have used all my space.  When I try to delete some photos another message tells me that if I delete them, the pictures no longer appear in my posts.  Does anyone know the work around on this?  I sure would appreciate it!

And to those who were asking about my blog makeover... yes, Brianna has been at work, again.  Isn't she so clever?  I'm so blessed to have her around.  For those who would like the new updated button, check out my sidebar.  If you've never visited her design blog you should take a peek.  She has some fun stuff over at The Boutique Window.  

Until next week,

October 27, 2010

Who Says Shopping Can't Be Fun?

A few weeks ago, while shopping for jeans with the boys, Ellie found a way to entertain herself while her brothers tried things on in the dressing room.  Allen thought it was so hilarious he grabbed a picture with his black berry.
Apparently,  Kaitlin, who was sitting on the bench outside the door, thought it was amusing, too.
What can I say? Simple minds are easily amused. ☺

October 25, 2010

Glorified Belly Buttons?

Sometimes no matter how clear an object lesson seems, your audience just can't quite focus on it.

In our family Bible lesson Allen was trying to teach, through the life of Paul, the principle the Bible tells us of being content with food and clothes. He asked the children what did they have when they came into the world. It took about ten seconds for Nathaniel to shout, "A belly button!"

I am beginning to think that they have some preoccupation with belly buttons. A few weeks ago during our Bible lesson we were talking about who you would most want to meet when you get to Heaven. Aedan Said he wanted to meet Adam and Eve. I asked him why. He said that he wanted to find out if they had belly buttons since they were created instead of born.

Later, in today's lesson, Allen asked the kids what would they take with them when they die. Someone said they would take their belly button. Which led down one of those trails in which a big girl said you won't take your belly button because only your soul goes to heaven. Aedan said that we will get glorified bodies. The conversation ended when someone asserted that we will therefor have glorified belly buttons.

What about you girls? Are you just dying to see that glorified belly button?

Allen then tried to direct the conversation somewhere else. He asked each child to bring their favorite possession to the table.

Can you guess what Ellie brought?


In an effort to get them to see that it isn't always as easy as we think to give up everything for the Lord, we discussed some modern day Christians who have been stripped of everything and persecuted for their faith. Then he asked each child in turn about parting with their favorite possession. When he came to Elisabeth he asked if she would give her boots away to a particular little girl we know who is the same age.

My little spiritual diva was very clear with her answer, "No! I want to wear my pink boots."

You win some. You lose some, eh?

October 23, 2010

Because...

Sunday was our turn to sit in the overflow seating at church.  As the service was getting underway, a young men was working on getting the picture and sound up and running.  We were all just sitting there and as I looked down the row of children, I thought how nice they looked. 

Because there was nothing better to do, I stood them up for a photo. 

October 22, 2010

Vegetable Soup

Another great recipe to make in your crock pot is vegetable soup.

Today a few of the kiddos are coming down with a cold.  It is cold and rainy out.  I had  a busy morning and don't feel like going to the market.  Not to mention, I still have a long to do list for this afternoon.  Allen is away and I don't like to make a big fuss about cooking when he is out of town. 

I opened the freezer and dug around for things that need to be used up.  In the crock pot went a batch of beef stock I froze up previously.  (Made with the bones left from steak grilled up this summer).  Then I put in half a block of frozen spinach left from when I made spinach rolls in August.  Corn kernels I cut off of the cob leftover from our Labor Day cook out.  Green beans from the garden that were too buggy to eat fresh.  Carrots I sliced up and froze before we went away.  Tomatoes my girl friend bought from her garden in August.  I sliced up some banana peppers I found in the fridge.  I put the lid on.  Turned the pot to high. 

Five minutes of work and my freezer is cleaner.  Best of all by five o'clock there will be a delicious pot of soup for dinner.  Did I mention how economical it is?  I will boil up some whole wheat noodles to put in the bottom of each bowl before I ladle in the soup. Most likely I will pass a bowl of Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the top.

Voila!  How can you not love cooking in the crock pot?   

October 21, 2010

Joshua's Hands

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture!

Saturday, after some very rainy days, the sun came out.  Eager to get out doors and enjoy some good fresh autumn air, we accepted our friends' invitation to join them for a fall festival in Virginia.

A local family hosts this festival every year on their farm in memory of their son who died in an accident when he was sixteen years old.  Everything is completely free, including food.  It is so well done.  We spent four hours there and the children never stopped moving.

The games were so creative and everyone got a prize at every game.  As a matter of fact, when we arrived each child was handed their own tote bag screen printed with the logo for Joshua's Hands.

The very first activity when we arrived, was musical chairs... or musical hay bales.  We love to play this game at home and play it often when we have large crowds in to visit, so the kids jumped right in with enthusiasm.  

I was quite impressed at how well Samuel did at balancing on the beam while handling two trays.
Katrina and I chit chatting about sewing while the kids play and the men talk about engineering, no doubt.
The wind was very strong.  Elisabeth was kind of scared by it and wouldn't leave my side for a long time after she almost blew over.
In one of the barns, volunteers were directing the children through some fun crafts.  Did I mention how everything was Christ centered?  Ellie quickly tired of the colonial type wreath she was making so I ended up doing most of it while she focused her attention on the bright red lollipop.
And then there was the hay ride.  Our group filled an entire wagon.
In which we got to sit very close with our sweethearts
since there was NO room to spare.
Brianna really getting into the spirit of it!
She's really competitive like her Pa.
Kaitlin coaching Elizabeth on the finer details of Hula Hoops.  I never could figure that one out myself.
When we sat in the tent for lunch, without the sun, it felt quite cool.  Elisabeth crawled inside of my borrowed jacket to get warm.
There was a tent filled with fun dress up things.  This was the favorite of the kids.  I don't know how much time they spent there coming up with different fun. 
But they sure had a lot of laughs.
The volunteers had a blast dressing Elisabeth up.  Of course, this is her specialty.  She plays dress up all day, every day, since she could sit up.  Actually, even before she could sit up the kids would dress her up.
Terry was a good sport about letting every one dress him up in the limited masculine items.
The kids ran and swung on the playground and in the many play houses out by the barn
while we watched the live auction.  This is the first live auction I believe I have ever been to.  It was fun to watch.  Terry and Allen were relieved that Katrina and I didn't get a number to bid, as there were quite a few items, like hand made bags and beautiful quilts we were both interested in.
All in all a wonderful way to spend a Saturday with the family and friends.  After such a hectic time the previous week, and with a number of hectic weeks to follow, it was so good to just take a breath and do nothing that was on my to do list.

Also, it was neat to be at a non church activity where we didn't have to worry about the way others were dressed or what they were talking about.  If you know what I mean.  The Christian Farmer's were running a tent, the Giddeons were handing out Bibles, there was a puppet ministry putting on little skits centered on Christ, butter making, planting bulbs for Christmas, a petting zoo, pony rides and on and on the list could go.  Not one thing that had to be censured.

And all God's people heaved a sigh of relief.

Until next week, 

October 20, 2010

Are You Wondering?

 What could they
possibly be doing 
with all those
 (Yes, I thought Sam might pass out!)
beach balls
when today is
the first day
of the brand new
 wood burning
season?

Yes, I do look forward to the wood stove season as most people anticipate Christmas,  vacation or their birthday.  If it can't always be summer, at least we have a fire to delight us until spring.  

Oh, and the beach balls?  They go in the pool to keep the cover afloat through winter rain and snow.

Southwest Meatballs

A fun and delicious party dish in the crock pot are my South West Meat balls.

I like to make up large batches of my meatball recipe and keep them in the freezer for serving as a side dish, tossing in lasagna, using in appetizers (such as this) or meatball subs.  There are so many great uses for them and they take such little time to prepare for such a great flavor.  However, you can do this recipe with the small frozen meatballs available in the grocery store if you are in a hurry.

For this recipe all you need is a can cheddar cheese soup, a jar of salsa, a can of chilies and about half a bag of meatballs or the home made equivalent.  Multiply the ingredients as your guest count requires and your crock pot capacity allows.  This recipe can also be done in a microwave safe casserole dish. 


Mix the soup, salsa and chilis in your crock pot.  Add meat balls.  Cook until meatballs are heated through and sauce is bubbly. 

If serving as an appetizer put out cocktail picks and a bowl of tortilla chips for dipping in the sauce. 

If using as a meal, this is delicious over brown rice or whole wheat egg noodles.

October 19, 2010

Hot Dogs

You've been reading my blog for a while, then you know how I feel about healthy eating.  From that you might surmise how infrequently we eat things like hot dogs.  Such things are reserved for birthday parties involving little kids.  Even then I insist on Hebrew National or the ones from the butcher shop.  No lips or tongues here, please. 

In fact,  maybe this story will illustrate for you how little attention they get around here.  We bought a box to toss on the grill for Kaitlin's graduation reception in July for the kids who might not want lamb.  (Oh yeah, I didn't post about that yet... one of these days?)  Anyway, the remaining uncooked ones went into the spare refrigerator in the laundry room where I store our dairy order and bulk produce purchases. 

Two days before we left on vacation in September, we cleaned out the fridge, scrubbed it down and defrosted the freezer.  That's when I found the box of hot dogs.  The boys were psyched all day looking forward to those gems for dinner.

When it came time to get cooking, I opened the box and they were moldy.  I never knew something with so many preservatives could spoil but sure enough, they were green!  Yes, my little men were sorely disappointed when there hopes for dinner melted into organic fried eggs and toast.

What does that have to do with the crock pot cooking series?  I am so glad you asked!  Quite a few years ago, in an effort to stretch our grocery dollars, we joined a frozen food coop.  It was a neat concept, but sometimes you ended up with a lot of something you might not necessarily eat.  This particular time it was an enormous box of foot long hot dogs. 

We had just the freezer over top of our refrigerator and they had sat there for some time taking up precious space.  One day we had a fellowship dinner coming up in the middle of winter.  I had put on a pot of borsct to cook the night before figuring it would be perfect when we woke up in the morning.  What I learned instead is that if you cook borsct in the crock pot overnight, the beets turn white.  Really.  It was revolting looking.  I don't think it tasted any different, but it looked so disgusting I couldn't bring myself to eat, never mind take it to fellowship.  Just about the time I was about to burst into tears,  my brilliant husband came up with a plan. 

The hot dogs.  We put the hot dogs in the crock pot.  Covered them with water.  A quick stop on our way to worship for rolls, ketchup and mustard and the hot dogs were the hit of the buffet line.  No kidding.  By the time we got through the line the pot was empty and kids all around were happy as pigs in slop. 

So if you are looking for  a quick dish to take to a pot luck, there you have it.  This would work for a large crowd at your own home that contains a number of children, too. 

October 18, 2010

Tortellini Soup

You will not believe how easy this is!  It is always part of our Holiday buffet because everyone loves it.

Beef, chicken, turkey or ham stock
prepared tortellini in your choice of filling
frozen peas
sliced sausage or diced ham
chopped scallions
Parmesan or mozzarella cheese

Fill crock pot about half way with stock of your choice.  I like the hearty flavor of beef stock for this soup but whatever you have in your freezer will work just fine.  Cover and cook on high until broth is simmering good.  Add tortellini, peas and meat of your choice.  Cook until the tortellini are just tender.  Do NOT OVER COOK THE TORTELLINI.  It will turn to mush and be disgusting.  Yuck!  Ladel into bowls and sprinkle your choice of cheese over top.  Pass some fresh cracked pepper at the table. 

October 17, 2010

Slow-Cooked Broccoli Soup with Garlic and Olive Oil

On the topic of crock pot cooking, this is one of my families favorite crock pot soups.  I adapted it from my favorite soup cook book, "Splendid Soups"  by James Peterson.  My copy is from 1993.  I couldn't find this edition on Amazon.  They do sell a newer version, but I don't know what the difference is.  It is quite pricey.  However, if you click over the eBay you will see the edition I have (white cover with white bowl with orange soup) for just 99 cents.   This book has the most delicious recipes for soup.  I use it constantly through the fall and winter. 

2 large bunches of broccoli, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup vigin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or dried tyhme or marjoram
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper (omit salt if you use canned broth instead of home made)
toasted slices of French bread
finely grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the florets off the broccoli, cut into small bits (about 1 inch in diameter) and place in pot.  Cut of and discard the bottom 2 inches of the stem.  Peel the remaining stem and slice them as thinly as you can.

Combine olive oil, garlic, herbs, broth and lemon juice in crock pot. 

Simmer on low until the broccoli falls apart when stirred.

Pass slices of bread and Parmesan at the table.  Alternately, you could make garlic bread and place a piece in the bottom of each bowl.  Ladle soup over the top and sprinkle with cheese.  This is a very classy presentation, if you don't have an aversion to soggy bread, as I do. 

Happy eating,

October 16, 2010

Reader Mail

 In a comment on my post "The Nights Are Getting Cooler" a reader requested some crockpot recipes.


You have come to the right place! We never had crock pot meals growing up. And when I was in my teen years and had crock pot dishes at other people homes I said to myself, “I know why my mom didn’t use a crock pot!” Everything seemed like a mush of overcooked sludge!

However, there was a time when I couldn’t pay my gas bill and the gas company came and drained the tank… leaving my gas stove worthless for six months. I learned a lot about how to cook in a crock pot and with the microwave.

It didn't take me long to discover the great thing about the crock pot is if you have to be out for a day, you have a hot meal waiting when you get home.  After we became Baptists and I attended a few fellowship meals, I learned there is a whole world of crock pot cooks out there that I never knew existed.  As a matter of fact, Allen and I believe that your ability to cook a meal in a crock pot is in fact a secret requirement of membership in a Baptist church.

Just out of curiosity, I typed crock pot into Google to see what's new in the world of slow cookers.  Wow!  There are some neat things going on there.  You can check it out at the official Crock Pot site.  I think I will be saving up to update mine to one of the great programmable ones.  For those who might be wondering, there is a beautiful red model available, too. 

Most of the books available on crock pot cooking are all the same kind of old fashioned mush.  I learned to adapt many of my favorite recipes to the crock pot… especially soup recipes. The books that I do like are the “Fix-it-and-forget-books.” Allen got me the diabetic one a number of years ago and also the “fix-it-and-forget-it-lightly” book.  You can find them on this page at Amazon.  And for much less by clicking this link to eBay.

For Emma’s birthday, I got her the new kid’s version because she is enjoying cooking so much. Actually, she made oatmeal in the crock pot overnight that we had for breakfast this morning. It was DELICIOUS!!!  The new fangled crock pots have timers you can set.  Mine is the old fashioned kind.  We just used a standard timer, like the sort you use for Christmas tree lights or when you go on vacation, to turn the crock pot on at 4 am so it would be finished cooking when we were ready for breakfast at 7.  It worked like a charm.

Blog posts will follow with some good crock pot recipes. To get you started now you might check out my Chicken and Noodles recipe from last fall. I know you would LOVE it.

Also, we love to get a pot of hot mulled cider going in the crock pot on a cold fall morning and sip at it throughout the day.  My recipe can be found in this post

An English roast or chuck roast in the crock pot with a side of green beans or peas and boiled or roasted potatoes topped with butter and sour cream is a real treat at the end of a long day of work.

All you need to do is drop a roast in your pot.  Pour about 2 cups of stock or broth over top.  I usually have stock in my freezer but the canned kind will work just fine or two bouillon cubes with water.   Put the lid on and cook 4 hours on high or 8 hour on low.  No need to worry about cooking too long.  It's hard to do.  Thirty minutes before we want to eat I pop some mini potatoes in the oven set at 450 degrees.  Some of our home canned green beans in a two quart casserole dish goes into the microwave while we set the table.  To serve, I place the meat on the platter and tear it apart with two forks.  It should rather fall apart.  Green beans get drained and topped with butter, salt and pepper.  Potatoes get passed with butter, sour cream and chives from the garden.

You can't go wrong with that.  The family will be raving for days and asking you to make it again next week.  We have this meal almost once a week in the cold months.

If you all have a favorite crock pot recipe send it to me using my email on the side bar.  I will include it here in future posts.  If you have a recipe that you would like to try to convert to crock pot cooking send it along and I will see what we can come up with.  In the meantime, dig that pot out, dust it off and get something yummy going for dinner.

Happy Eating,

Kat

October 15, 2010

The nights are getting Cooler

That's a good thing.  While I always get sad at the signs of summer leaving, I love fall just as much as its predecessor.  Once I give in to it.  Actually, I must admit, I love all the seasons.  Which ever one we happen to be in, is always my favorite.  So now, as days are getting cooler, I enjoy crock pot dinners.  The return of baking goodies to warm up the kitchen.  Hot mulled cider.  Crisp colorful leaves.  Sweaters.  Boots.  Oh, the fun of it all!

Most of all I love cool nights curled up by the fire or snuggled in bed under the down comforter.  With all the rest we've been doing, I haven't had time to add the comforters to the beds yet.  The night before last, Allen was headed out on travel in the wee hours of the morning.  Just about the time I was starting to feel the chill without his body heat next to me, Samuel came in and asked if he could get into bed with me.

"I'm cold,"  He explained, as he settled in.  "My comforter wasn't strong enough to keep the cold out."

October 14, 2010

Civic Minded

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture!

Because life wasn't crazy enough, I thought it might be a good experience for the kids to take a more active part in the election process.  So... we spent Wednesday volunteering for Senator Mooney on his election campaign.

It was a really neat day to be there, as we found out after we arrived.  The work for the day was related to a topic very near and dear to my heart-the right to life movement.  Together, with 7 members of another family we are close friends with, we folded, stuffed and sealed over 7000 letters addressing the Senator's position against abortion and highlighting the work he has done for that cause over the years.

The boys and I also worked on 200 signs.  Which may sound like a small thing but the bruise and swelling on my hand say otherwise.   In the meantime, the girls addressed post cards.

It was a blessing to be there and take part in something that is so important to us and do a little something to support a politician who believes in things that matter to our family.  We hope time will allow us to help out more before November 2.

In the meantime, I am grateful for this great country of ours, that allows us the freedom to state our views, allows a democratic voting system and permits us to freely worship the one true God.
Oh, and I almost forgot until I saw this picture.  Do you see the lady in the brown jacket?  She came for an hour or so to help out.  She had not been in to volunteer before, either.  Before I even saw her face, I recognized her voice.  Do you know anyone with such a distinctive voice that you would recognize it even 30 years later?  Well Lynn was an old friend of my mother's from way back in my child hood.  I mean my birth mother.  So I have not seen her since I was less than 12 years old.  How neat is that?  We enjoyed catching up about her life, my life, and our families.  (She has two sons who also attended private school with my brothers, sister and I.)  

Until next time,

October 13, 2010

Budding Friendships

While our children are very friendly, they don't have many people that we would call "friends" in the sense that most kids would name their "friends." (And that is an entire blog post in itself... so don't get me started) However, there are certainly some little folks that my youngers look forward to seeing every Sunday when we go to worship.  They often mention so and so and what's happening in the lives of their little buddies.  I think it is so adorable to watch them all together and even more so to listen to their conversations.

One Sunday, Aedan and Nathaniel were chit chatting with these fellows about their hero, Jonathan Park.  I grabbed my camera and had to snap a shot.  They all sounded so grown up. 
On the other hand, Elisabeth and her friends were a bit more spiritual, discussing their pink Bibles.   Our Pastor, the one who I recently mentioned passed away, always gave an inscribed pink Bible to all the little girls.  (The boys weren't left out, they got little blue Bibles.)   This particular Sunday morning, Ella and Elisabeth realized theirs matched.  They aren't always so spiritually minded.  They also discuss the finer points of their dresses, hair bling and shoes.

These two little girls crack me up.  Since they could talk, they have carried on conversations with each other.  Often none of us have any idea what they are saying, but they do, for sure.  They will just sit and talk and talk.  Which is definitely NOT Elisabeth's personality any other time. 
So, while we don't necessarily encourage many friendships outside of the family, I look forward to watching these ones grow and develop as our youngin's grow up, too.

October 12, 2010

Not Quite

I have a friend who refuses to cook a meal on vacation. But not me. I love to cook. I look forward to vacation when I have lots of time to leisurely prepare gourmet meals for my family. We all look forward to spending hours at the table chatting over good food. We rarely eat out on vacation, not because of cost (while this is indeed a HUGE cost savings) but because we have so many happy times in the kitchen and at the table together.


The irony being that in order to cook all those meals someone has to do the shopping. And the last thing I want to do is spend time in the grocery store.  On the topic of shopping, in case you didn't get it, I HATE IT!  Grocery shopping more than any other you might name.


The island we call our home away from home, boasts only a small, poorly stocked IGA Market, to boot.  You can buy any type of beer or wine you could ever ask for (we don't drink alcoholic beverages) but there is not one can of baking powder to be found.  In order to find all the specialty items I want for all those meals I am dying to cook,  we have to make a trip to the next island inland.

You might imagine that shopping for our family is not a small ordeal anyway.  We rarely leave walmart of Target without at least two carts.  Now imagine that times three weeks!

Another thing we really enjoy on vacation, is the smallness of our little town.  We park and walk just about everywhere for three weeks or so. 

Therefore, I try to get all the groceries and house hold goods we will need for the duration in one trip to the Walmart and Publix on the day we arrive.  Now that is a vacation to me.  Not having to enter a store for 3 entire weeks! 

I do spend time planning my menus and shopping lists in the week before we leave.  It is not such a bad deal, even for someone who hates shopping.  The kids each get their packing assignments and gather all their things into the suitcases.  Emma and the boys are responsible for common equipment like tennis rackets and fishing rods, board games and all the jazz that we need for all that R&R.  Kaitlin and Brianna go through each list and check to make sure everyone has all that they were supposed to pack. 

That means, I packed only my own suitcase.  I was responsible for Elisabeth's, too, but she wanted to pack hers when she saw Emma packing so Emma helped her.  This system works out great.  In fact, Allen and I were the only ones who forgot something... my camera charger (ouch) and hat (I managed just fine without it, thank you).   Allen and I decided that someone should make us a check list next year.

Anyway, as I was saying.  The only other duty I had this year directly related to the vacation preparations was my menu and shopping planning.  So the plan goes like this.  After our Suburban is packed with passengers and luggage for nine, there is no room left for groceries, toiletries, laundry, cleaning and paper goods for nine to last three weeks.  What we have found works for us is to pick up our house keys and drop the family off at our vacation home with the remains of the nice picnic we always take along and the luggage.  They are responsible for unpacking, opening the house and settling in. 

We drive back over the bridge for provisions.  Which fills about four buggies and takes more time than I care to think about.  Then Allen and I have a bite of dinner.  When we get home the kids carry everything up to the kitchen and unpack it while I soak in the jacuzzi tub.  You see, not so bad a deal.

But here was the point I was getting to.  You know how sometimes I talk about the funny (and not so funny and down right rude) things people say when they see a family of our size?  Well, here was a great one.

As we are checking out, we were having a delightful conversation with the two ladies (yes, it took two) who were ringing and bagging and carting all the trappings.  As we got near the end of our order, (now remember we are in a coastal town) one of the ladies ran to get another buggy to put the bags in.

With total seriousness, the other lady asked, "Are you shopping for the coast guard?"


Of course, Allen couldn't resist messing with her. He starts by saying, "Some might call them the Coast guard but we call them our kids."

October 11, 2010

Overheard

OK, folks. I am LOVING this one.

On the way home from a wedding tonight, the car was dark and quiet. The kids were tired from a long day starting with worship at our home church (yeah! it's great to be home) followed by a long drive to D.C., wedding ceremony and a delightful reception. The kids were just plum tuckered out for the long return trip home. Parents you get the setting here, right?

From the back seat we heard Aedan say, "Which was the bride and which was the groom?"

Followed by Emma's reply, "The bride was the one in the fluffy white dress and the groom's the one she kissed."

October 10, 2010

Road Trip

Hello, dear blogging buddies.  Boy have I missed you!  Actually, I've been home since Monday night, but there has been no time to even think about logging onto my blog.  I was really grateful that I had put up a few posts before I left to keep things moving for my first week home.

Here it is Sunday night, and it is hard to not think of where I was a week ago.  Balmy 90's, boating with friends, enjoying the scenery, the wild life and a private island.  Sigh... a far cry from the crazy pace we've been keeping since we hit the floor running on our return Monday night.  And I mean literally.  Ten minutes home and we undid three weeks of hard earned rest and relaxation.  When we got in, hours later than scheduled Monday night, we dumped our luggage and the kids to catch our class... to which we were an hour late.  After getting groceries we didn't get to bed until after midnight and that has been the routine since.

Painting, gardening, vacuuming up stink bugs, cleaning, washing, switching summer clothes for fall clothes and more... but let's not dwell on that!

The following post, I wrote from the car on the way home Monday.  I never got to publish it, though.  I had trouble get online with the 3G card and never had an opportunity to put it up since we got in.  Let it suffice to say, I am looking forward to catching up with everyone. 

A great big THANKS to all my guest posters, in case I didn't say that already.  Now I leave you with my long rambling road trip post.

Hugs, hugs, and more hugs,

Kat


All good things must come to an end. And such is the case with every great vacation. Still, it seems cruel to begin the last day of vacation by dragging ourselves out of bed at 4:30 am to start the journey home. In order to avoid the painful evening parking lot they call rush hour traffic on the DC beltway, we do it anyway.


Which works well. Unless, of course, there happens to be a bad accident in Virginia that backs the traffic up for 7 miles while they bring in helicopters and emergency vehicles.

Then all bets are off.

Fortunately, for me, my good husband offered me the use of his 3G card and laptop so I could spend some time catching up on the guest posts here while I was away. And what fun it was! I will comment on individual posts… if I can ever get the network to connect again, but in the meantime, what fun to have all your great posts to come home to. I am so glad the girls came up with the idea of asking you all to stop by and fill the pages in my absence. We might have to do it again some time real soon


A few of the posts that were scheduled for my time away didn’t publish so you might note a number of posts that seem out of place on October 4th. Better late than never?


Can I mention the shock of getting in the car in Georgia where it was in the 80’s yesterday and then stopping for a break four hours later and stepping out of the car where it is only in the 50’s?   And then arriving at home to 48 degrees and all your winter clothes safely tucked away in the attic?  That is certainly the thing I dread each fall about coming home after being away in the subtropics for a few weeks. Adjusting to the cooler weather.


Once we settle in and get used to it, we always enjoy fall with great delight. What’s not to like?  The colors, the smells, cider, leaves, sweaters, bonfires...

In the old days, when we didn’t go away in the fall, the gradual cooling was always a terrific relief from the summer heat. Doing it all in one fell swoop is a whole other story.


Have you all ever read, “The Vacation” by Polly Horvath? Well, if you haven’t, you must. Our family has loved this story for years. Better than the book, is the audio book read aloud by Kirby Heyborne. If you have not read it, do take the time to do so. You will laugh like crazy. It is a great family read aloud. However, I can’t stress enough that Mr. Heyborne enhances a great story with his delightful job of reading it for the library audio book. We listen to it every year when we go on vacation. Among a boat load of CD’s and other audio books.


We love road trips! Have I ever mentioned that?


People are always asking how we manage an 11 hour drive with 7 kids. But that’s it. We just love them. Car trips. Well, we love the kids, too. But car trips is the topic here. We have such a good time. We sing, listen to books, visit, read and play games. The time really flies by.


Except when you are sitting in an accident and have moved less than two miles in more than an hour and all the kids are napping and all you can think about is that you haven’t seen a Starbucks in three weeks.


So, I am just teasing about that last bit, although, I do seriously miss Starbucks!


I am always shocked by how many (meaning just about everyone I have ever discussed the topic with) parents go into a complete panic at the thought a road trip with their family. I know of families who won’t take vacations because the trip in the car with the children is so painful. People report bickering and arguing and whining and complaining along with numerous stops in an attempt to appease the kids.


That has never been an issue with our family. We have traveled by car North from Maryland to Maine and South from Maryland to Florida.


There are a few things that we have learned over the years that make things go smoothly.


An early start, for instance, is key to a happy family trip. We try to make sure everything is packed and in the car the night before our departure. Everyone tries to go to bed early but somehow there always seems to be some last minute details that need tending and the kids are always too excited to go to sleep. But that works well for us.


Years ago, when we had 3 babies, we devised this method of travel. We rise at 3:30 and ready ourselves for the trip. The car is already packed including a change of clothes for each of the babies. We pick them up out of their beds, buckle them in and drive off before they have a chance to wake. They sleep quite contentedly for at least the first four hours of our trip. At our first stop I dress the babies and brush their hair and teeth while Allen gasses the car.


And speaking of stops, we stop no more often than every four hours at which time everyone has ten minutes to use the facilities and stretch their legs while we gas up the car. That’s how it is so make sure you do what you need to. No one pesters about when we will stop because they know we will stop when we stop. No one whines about being hungry because they know we will eat when it is time to eat. And no one asks for a drink because they know that it could be a while before the next facilities are available.


Now, with older children, stops are handled on the buddy system. Each older child is assigned to help a younger child with the rest room, washing up, brushing teeth and purchasing their meal if it is a food stop. Everyone is expected to be back in the car and buckled up before Pa pays the attendant. We haven’t lost anyone yet!


Another question we often get is how do we entertain the children for so long in the car? We don’t. I don’t entertain my children at home and therefore they don’t expect to be entertained in the car. They visit with each other, read, sing and watch the scenery.

If you don’t like any of those choices, take a nap. The more than two hours we just spent sitting waiting for this accident to be cleared up, was spent singing every hymn we could think of. Some of them were only choruses since we couldn’t remember all the verses. While my voice is much weaker for the effort, my heart is light and full of joy!


“The kids bickering drives us nuts!“ Another sad statement Allen and I often hear from weary parents. Our children are never permitted to bicker at home and thus never bicker in the car. End of story. Ditto for whining, complaining or any sort of unpleasant attitude.  That is never acceptable, so why should it be accepted in the car?

It’s all about training. If you allow them to do it, they will do it, regardless of where you are. Having a happy content family at home or while traveling starts with training in manners and kindness to each other.

Which brings me to another point.  Why are children expected to be polite to others outside of the family and permitted, even expected, to mistreat their siblings and parents?  It breaks my heart to always hear parents explaining away the rude treatment their children use toward them and their siblings as if it is an unavoidable thing and a normal behavior.  While it may be typical, it is not unavoidable or normal at all.  I think the Bible says love your neighbor as yourself?  I thought that meant everyone.  Where does this command exclude family members?

When I was a young mother, I heard it put like this.  The home and the family is a training ground for the behaviors that you desire your family to exhibit outside of the family.   Therefor they should be expected to treat their family as they would treat those you meet at worship, in the grocery store or anywhere else you might find your family in a social setting.  My boys are expected to hold the doors and carry bags for ladies.  This includes the ladies they live with. 

You can apply that to table manners etc... if you want them to sit politely in a restaurant than you must start by expecting them to sit politely and use good manners at the family dinner table. 

So, all that is a little bonus for you all.  The bottom line is this.  Road trips, or anything you do as a family be it work or play, should be a happy and pleasant experience no matter the day of the week or age of your children.  If you find this is not the case, perhaps it is time to examine the training ground in your home. 

Until next time,

Now That's Fresh

October 9, 2010

When...

... you let a two year old dress herself...
... it's good to know...
 ...she remembers her bow and arrow.