Friday, October 29, 2010

My Beggars

The gang all ready to head out for Trick-or-Treat night.

Gabe the Giraffe hung out with Grandma at home to pass out treats.

Joseph thoroughly enjoyed his new train wheels. He also was quite fond of going door to door to get candy. Once he got the hang of it, he was full steam ahead.

Juju the Ladybug was easily frightened. Steam machines, masks, and people running amok made her quite nervous. This was more than made up for by the cute way she would say "tank oo" to all the neighbors.

Bophie, always my princess, is forever caught between being a "little" kid and a "big" kid. She spent the night trying to run with the older girls as Dad lad them on a quest to make it through all the houses in the neighborhood. He ended up carrying her for the most part.

Bear, a pilgrim/St. Eliazabeth Ann Seton (once I dye the cap black), packed on two pairs of jeans and three shirts under that costume. It was cold out there!
Banana, a doctor/St. Gianna Molla, led the quest for candy. She also handled pumpkin carving this year like a surgeon.

I should've taken pictures of the loot. Five beggars, two hours, and generous neighbors make for a house too full of chocolate for this low on will power, sleep-deprived mom.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Afternoon

In Pictures

Just call him Scooter. Our little Gabe is finally on the move. He isn't crawling, he puts his arms down, moves one leg back and scoots-- everywhere. His current favorite scooting locations are the fireplace to see his reflection (and leave lots of fingerprints that drive Dad crazy), and the dog's water bowl (must be a boy thing). Don't tell dh he is wearing his Baby Legs (dh calls them leg warmers, the girls call them his caterpillar legs), they are really handy for diaper changing, and I think they are cute!

The girls are schooling outside this afternoon. It is unseasonably warm, but forecasters are calling for a cold front. So we are taking full advantage of the sun and warmth. This is, after all, reason 326 for home schooling.

In case you missed it, here is a close-up of little Bophie. This is what happens when Mom is too busy to help in the morning. A dress two sizes too big. I think I put those pigtails in on Monday and her hair hasn't been brushed since. Most of all the shoe choice. Not only mismatched, but in typical Bophie fashion, the shoes are on the wrong feet.

Ooooo Gross!

After a decade of life with girls, Joseph has brought a whole new level of "gross" to this family. Leave it to the boy to eat the dog food, incessantly play in the toilet, pull off his diapers and leave it for the dog, and.... well, I am sure you've heard enough.

Today, one can only hope, was the heighth of grossness for us. After finishing a grammar lesson with Bear, I walked into the living room to see Bophie playing with Little People. Joseph is uncharacteristically quietly watching her. I look down to see dog poop. Yuck! I quickly try to move everyone out of the room. As I pick up Joseph, a piece of slobber covered poop comes falling out of his mouth. Y.U.C.K!!!

Now, I am in panic mode. How sick is he going to get from dog poop? Am I going to get sick cleaning up this poop? Really, kid, dog poop?!

In the process, I move Bophie's pretty little purse to find more dog poop falling out of the purse. There is even a white piece in there! White? How did the dog poop in the purse? Then it suddenly occurs to me, this isn't poop. Thank goodness, it was only rocks.

Note to self: no collecting small rocks that when wet may closely resemble dog poop. Let's stick to the white, colorful, larger rocks, especially when stuffing our purses with them :)

It also really says a lot when I am relieved the boy was eating rocks...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We Will, We Will

In Juju speak "Bock tyou!"

While walking through the park, one child turns to Joseph and says, "You have mud on your face!"

The older girls in unison respond, "You big disgrace, Kicking your can all over the place!"

Dh replies, "It really says something about what you are teaching our daughters when they respond to such statements with refrains of Queen."

This sort of thing only happens during college football season :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm No Supermom

I'm just a regular soccer mom...

Last night Banana had her last practice for the fall season. Her team was the regular season champs and are headed into the tournament in the #1 seed. This is really fantastic for a team that didn't win a game last season. I am so proud of her. She is working harder each day to be better at something that doesn't come easy for her. She may never be the best soccer player on the team, but I am truly impressed with her diligence and good attitude.

Since we home school, soccer is my one affiliation with other moms in our community. I am blessed to have a wonderful home schooling support network, as well as a parish that is chock full of large families. These sometimes become a little bubble world for me. Soccer takes me out of that bubble. I am forced to confront society at large. Except that by society at large I mostly mean the middle class, suburban, society that is my local community.

I have a rule that when meeting someone new I can mention that I have six children, OR I can mention that I home school. However, it is in my best interest not to divulge both in a single conversation. Either one of those things is so out of the norm for these soccer moms, that one can be somewhat explained, both must mean I am a certifiable.

Thankfully no one has been downright rude (OK, one of the soccer dads said, "Ohhhh, you're one of those crazy people" when I said we homeschooled-- of course following my rule, he had no idea I had six children. I just blew him off.). Mostly I hear things like, "You must be supermom." "You must have a lot of patience." "I could never do that." or worse, "You must be a saint."

What am I supposed to say to that? Do I offer some half hearted, even if it is true, rebuff at my parenting skills? Something that lets them know I'm no expert, and occasionally (truthfully, quite frequently) make just as many parenting mistakes as the next soccer mom. Do I mention how little patience I have, especially in those moments where the baby is fussing, Joseph is again playing in the toilet, while I am attempting to give a spelling test to Bear, Banana is asking some Math question, and Juju and Bophie are again bickering over a doll that is adding its own silly cries to the rabble that seems to be growing louder by the minute? Really, does anyone want to hear that? Do I really want to divulge those gory details of family life to practical strangers? (Better to divulge them to complete strangers by posting on the Internet :) )

On the other hand, I could agree with them, tell them I am supermom. I mean here I am (always with at least one extra kid in tow) on time to practice, after finishing a day of school, preparing dinner, and, usually, I even make it a point to shower and be presentable. As any homeschooling mom of six (with four under five) knows, this is quite the feat of superhero proportions. Never mind that I am well aware that I am anything but a superhero. Do I try to explain that I am only a saint in as much as I try, albeit very feebly, to live out this vocation I am called to? Would they even know what I meant by vocation? Not a job, not a chore, not a responsibility, not a choice, but rather a calling.

In the end, I mumble something mostly unintelligible. I fumble my words. I am quite certain my face turns about six shades of red. I stammer, look down, and then do my best to change the subject.

The truth is, I want to say something. I want to tell them how great my kids are. Tell them that each child brings a new wonderful dimension to our family. That life without anyone of them would seem somehow incomplete. I want to explain about the grace God gives me each day to handle a task that, while often overwhelming, brings innumerable and completely unfathomable rewards. That, yes indeed, my life is chaotic, noisy, and busy. My vocation as a mom is tiring, overwhelming, and often menial, but it is my calling and in the midst of immense chaos there is a truly beautiful peace that I know I am doing the will of God and fulfilling that call.

Since I can't seem to eloquently respond, how could anyone (least of all frazzled and inarticulate me), encapsulate all the beauty of the vocation of motherhood in a sound bite? I only hope that when they see me on Saturdays schlepping all the little ones through the soccer fields, they can sense it. That somehow God's light shines through the chaos of snacks, diapers, and keeping little ones busy while cheering on older ones.

After all, I can't do this all on my own, I'm no supermom.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

**Game Day Edition**

Gratuitous Cuteness

Our Ohio attempt minus one little boy

He was "helping" his dad make the chili :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Need One of These

Or rather Joseph needs one of these so his father and I can keep our sanity at the dinner table, especially after this weekend's squash soup encounter. Unfortunately, there are no videos of that.

This could also be filed under the "Why didn't I think of that?" category.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Experiment

I would consider myself a rather demanding mom. I set high standards for my children and I work hard to meet or exceed those goals. When situations become difficult or challenging, I look for new ways of accomplishing our goals rather than lowering the bar. I expect quite a bit from my children; good behavior, excelling schoolwork, cleaning up after themselves, help with household chores, and I work hard to encourage their growth in their faith.

Discipline, not necessarily just punishment, of my children is important to me. I strive to maintain a well-ordered home and an atmosphere conducive to learning during the day and family life in the evenings. This is accomplished through well-disciplined family members. To this end, I have been known to bark orders, to expect immediate obedience, to push children in their education and in their own self-discipline. I hold the bar out there and expect them to sail over it. I need to be demanding, I need to care that my children succeed. I should absolutely want the best for them and expect the best from them.

That being said, my kids need to know that my high expectations are in place only because I love them and want the best for them. I want to push them to be the best they can be because I care so much about them. While this seems intuitive to me, it probably isn't intuitive to my two-year-old, or for that matter even the ten-year-old.

I was reminded last week that I need to tell my children I love them often. That doing so is one way of giving them help over that bar. I need to do this not just when tucking them into bed, although I wouldn't want to forget that, but many, many times throughout the day. We all like to hear those beautiful words, I love you.

So last week I started saying it over and over again to my children. Randomly throughout the day I grabbed them for a hug, or patted them on the back, or even just looked them straight in the eye and told them I loved them. After wiping hands, while setting the table, correcting a math problem, walking through a room, anytime I caught one of them, I took whatever opportunity I could and told them I loved them. It isn't that I didn't do this before, it's just that I tried last week to do it more-- a lot more.

I have been amazed at the results. No, this was not a magic solution to all my parenting dilemmas. I am still reminding them to make their beds. I still find clothes strewn on the bathroom floor. There are still bedtime blues, and bickering-- oh the bickering. The thing is, they smile at me. I see in their little faces how much they like hearing me tell them they mean the world to me. It makes telling them no a little easier. It makes asking them to do something extra a little easier. Their eyes have more sparkle and they seem happier.

The kids aren't the only ones who've benefited either. In fact, I think I have gained more from this little exercise. I am reminded of the blessings they bring even when I am asking for the fourth time for the same toy to be picked up off the floor. It also has, on occasion, reminded me to keep my sharp tongue in check. More importantly, those little smiles are like rays of sunshine during our hectic days. It warms my heart to see them so happy. Those three little words do more to bring them happiness than any toy, or candy, or privilege and I love bringing that joy to them.

I'd love to hear the results of your "I love you" experiments.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vacation Part 2

Vacation was almost a month ago for us, and yet it seems as though we are still recovering.
For the second leg of our vacation we headed to Williamsburg, VA. We were able to get an amazing deal (specifically for homeschoolers) on a resort condo near Colonial Williamsburg. It was beautiful, much better than a hotel room. The girls were able to sleep in their own "princess room" and we had a full kitchen in which to prepare meals. This being vacation, we opted to only prepare breakfast. There was also a beautiful outdoor pool area. Since it was unseasonably warm, we took advantage of the pool every day we were there. We would see the sites (which often left us dusty and hot), come back and go for a quick swim to cool everyone down, put the little kids in their jammies, and then head out for dinner.Our first few days were spent in Colonial Williamsburg, where the town is set up as if it were the brink of the Revolutionary War. We had prepared for this by skipping to this era in our History course, watching a few documentaries, and, since we have girls, watching (and reading) the American Girl Felicity movie.
My girls had such a good time. We enjoyed touring the buildings, watching court proceedings and plays, and talking to the characters. The girls really immersed themselves in the whole "living history" thing. They bought their mob caps, and tried to put together their own colonial outfits. It was amazing how well Banana did this. She probably ruined a beautiful white skirt, but she tried very hard to fit the part of a colonial girl, and learned quite a bit in the process, so I think it was worth it. New colonial dresses are in the works for all the girls, although I wish I had thought of this before the trip.We also visited Yorktown and Jamestown. The Jamestown Museum was recently renovated and is one of the most beautiful museums we have visited. There was also a recreation of the Jamestown settlement that had replicas of buildings that were most likely part of the original settlement. There was also a recreated Powhatan village where we could contrast how the early settlers lived vs. the Native American Indians. There was also a riverfront area where we were able to tour replicas of the Godspeed, Susan Constant, and Discovery. It is amazing how these men and boys sailed across the ocean.
While the trip was obviously educational, we all really enjoyed ourselves. The girls enjoyed it so much, I am not sure they realize how much history they absorbed. Even dh and I learned a few things and had a few discussions about the founding of our country. Of course, these talks didn't last long as traveling with the little kids left us pretty much exhausted. We fell into bed at the end of most days.The other wonderful part of this vacation was that once again we were able to meet up with good friends. While the sites were educational and fun, and the lodgings were luxurious, the company really made the vacation for me. We were able, once again, to meet up with a family we met while traveling to adopt Juliana. The friendship began on that journey has been a real blessing for our family.
They invited us all for dinner on our arrival to VA. We had a great evening of good food and great company. The girls enjoyed the zip line in the backyard, Joseph enjoyed emptying their sandbox, and Juju enjoyed the attention. Later in the week, dh was able to try out the water balloon launcher and I have a feeling I know what one of Joseph's Christmas gifts will be :) Denise was also kind enough to go along with us to many of the local sites. It was such a blessing to have an extra set of hands. The girls enjoyed the company of B and K.
We weren't sure we were up to such a trip with our young brood of children, but we made it. It had been quite a while since we had a family vacation. It was nice to get away from the daily grind. The trip home (two got carsick) might be enough to persuade us to wait a little before attempting that much of a drive, but the memories made will most likely win out, and we will all look forward to our next family adventure.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome Cousin Liam

Meet little Liam...
Isn't he the cutest little thing?

The girls and I got to welcome this new bundle of joy after returning from vacation. He is such a cutie. Makes my "little" boy look like a giant :) After over a decade of girls, the boy phase of our family is in full swing.

Congratulations Amy and Derek!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Settling the Score

There was a time I thought I would never have the privilege of having two little ones in diapers. I certainly never expected that God's plan would be for us to have THREE in diapers. Some days I feel as though every time I begin a task, I am interrupted to change another dirty diaper.

When Banana was born, dh was so afraid he might hurt her, he didn't change a diaper until she was almost 8 months old. Boy has he come a long way. Now it often takes both of us (and a small fortune) to keep these little ones in clean diapers.

You'll also remember dh's favorite bible verse, 1 Corinthians 15 :51: "We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed." Never in our lifetime has that verse been more real to us than now. There are many, many, many sleepless nights and more changes than we dreamed possible.

In an effort to add some fun to these dreadful and numerous diaper changes, and because I am, by nature, fairly competitive, dh and I now have a diaper scoring scale.

1 point for each diaper
2 points for a number two diaper
+1 point if the change must be done out of the house
+1 point if it is a blowout
+1 point if there is any during changing showers.

So a poopy diaper at the store that blows out is four points, but a routine morning change is only one point. We keep a daily tally of our points.

So far today, I have 7. Dh has 0. My record is a whopping 19!!!

What's the prize? Right now, just bragging rights and the bigger dessert portion on dessert nights, but the system is fairly new so we are open to suggestions...