Category Archives: Family Life

Desperate Times

First, I just want to say that I am loving the Jesus Storybook Bible.  Loving!  It is so sweet, with a lot of illustrations that keep the wee ones engaged and an energetic style that both entertains and illuminates.  The focus is on the bible as a love story, and it just sings with joy.  I would say it’s most suitable for preschool to maybe 8 year olds.  They have a curriculum kit (I don’t have it) which is for upper elementary ages, but I would expect older children to be reading a more challenging bible storybook, so l’m not sure about their expectations.  This is definitely for younger children, but truly delightful.  And truth be told, most of my older children paused in their work to listen in from the next room.  Anyway, highly recommended!

Two cuties in the tub.

Two cuties in the tub.

Now, here’s a sad story for you.

I’ve been warning my people about this for several weeks.  I’ve been stressing about this for a long time.  I’ve got six adults in my household, and yet almost all of the work is falling onto me.  No one person has a lot of chores, but few of them are doing them without being reminded/cajoled/threatened.  All day long, I’m scrambling to care for my wee ones, prepare food for eleven people, two on a restricted diet, manage the household and the farm, and keep up with the never ending pile of laundry.

On Monday afternoon, Evie wet my bed while napping.  I had to strip the whole thing and rewash the sheets I’d just changed and the comforter, too.  Then I had to get the bed remade.  At this time of year, I end up trying to make dinner and milk the cows at the same time, and now I had to deal with the bedding on top of the regular crazy, and I was stressed.  The following morning was our Saint Nicholas celebration, so a special effort had to be put forth there, plus we usually watch Saturday Night Lights on Monday evening.  And I’d asked one of the (adult) children to make sure that there is firewood in the box in the mornings so that I can build their fire without having to go to extraordinary lengths.

But Tuesday morning, I woke at five, as usual, to a messy kitchen full of unwashed dishes from the evening before, an overflowing trash can, laundry and pillows and blankets tossed all over the living room, and no firewood.  I was pretty steamed.  And then my barn buddy never showed, so I headed out for milking and manure shoveling alone.  When I got back, one daughter had set the table and arranged the donuts, but she was sitting in front of a dying fire doing a crossword puzzle.  The others still hadn’t come down, even though it was 7:30.  I was just about boiling over.

A neighbor's barn at sunrise.

A neighbor’s barn at sunrise.

“Good morning, mama!” they each said as they traipsed into the room.

“I don’t want to talk to you right now,” I said back.

That is extremely alarming, when mama can’t even talk to you.

I would have waited till much later in the day to discuss my issues.  I would have waited until I had time to cool down and come up with a reasonable plan of action.  But after a while, somebody asked, “What is the matter, mama?” and that was that.

Mama went on strike.

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Kitchen Work

I have always genuinely enjoyed housekeeping and homemaking.  Well, maybe not always.  We’re each of us, after all, products of our families of origin and the larger culture, and neither one really encouraged a love of homemaking in me.  So, in the beginning, homemaking and I had an uneasy relationship, really, because I did enjoy it, and I could see the value in it, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to.  Then, one day, I met Edith Schaeffer.  My deepest suspicions were confirmed, my efforts applauded and encouraged.  On that day, I embraced motherhood and housekeeping wholeheartedly and did not look back.

That doesn’t mean it has always been easy.  My family has grown and changed, with people in all sorts of life stages demanding more from me than ever before.  The number of “hats” I’m wearing has increased drastically.  But, still, I see the value in keeping house and preparing meals, and I am most relaxed when I get to dedicate myself to those tasks.  I just don’t have as much time for it as I’d like.  Because of that, I’ve been actively working to streamline and minimize my kitchen work.  I might be mentioning a few things in coming weeks.

On the Henry front: I mentioned that he was waking in the night specifically to spit up, but really, it had more the quality of vomiting.  Spit up doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort, but these nighttime episodes were uncomfortable beforehand and the vomiting offered relief from that discomfort.  He’s been doing pretty well with that, until last night.  Last night, I had pizza with tomatoes, onions, sausage and bell peppers, and I think it might have been the peppers that caused our problems.  I blame the peppers because that was the only ingredient I hadn’t eaten in the past two weeks.  Most members of the nightshade family are highly poisonous, but a few are only slightly poisonous and more or less edible.  Maybe for Henry, he leans toward the less.

The hunt for the source of Henry’s tummy troubles continues!  By the way, there’s no particular heroism in this for me; I am inspired and energized by a good challenge!

 

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O, The Irony

When Henry was a newborn, he slept too well.  I never thought that was even possible!  But he’d sleep all through the night, and I actually had to wake him up to nurse.  He is such a big baby that I was really worried about diminishing milk supply if we went that long between feedings.

And then, without me even realizing it, something changed.  He stopped being able to sleep well.  He began waking numerous times each night, sometimes just to spit-up when I picked him up.  It was getting worse and worse, and I was feeling more and more out-of-control… and exhausted.  It’s really hard to love someone when you’re sleep deprived.

All this time, in the back of my head, I wondered, “What if he doesn’t like all the milk?” His dad is unique in our family in that he doesn’t tolerate milk very well, and Henry seems to take after David much more than any of our other children ever have.  What if all this dairy I consume is making him uncomfortable?

So twelve days ago, I gave up all the dairy products, which is where the irony comes in.

I was hoping that, within the first couple of days, he’d be feeling better and sleeping better.  I was hoping that it would reduce the frequency of spit-up.  I was hoping that, if his tummy felt better, he’d be less clingy.

It was kind of a lot of pressure to put on a glass of milk and a slice of pizza.

He does sleep better sometimes, but it’s very inconsistent, and the reality is that we have also developed some bad sleep habits.  And he could use a white noise machine.

He is waking less often specifically to spit up, though he does still catch me unaware sometimes.  However, he’s an active little guy, and the problem has not diminished at all during his waking hours.  I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting for maturity of that muscle group.

And I’m his favorite person in the whole wide world.  He’d rather be with me, up in my arms, than anywhere else on the planet.  No other person is as beloved, no other arms as comforting, no other activity as intriguing as the one I’m engaged in.  The lack of dairy in my diet has not diminished any of my enchanting qualities, and Henry is still as insistent on being held as ever.

So, in the absence of miracles, we have to look at the small details.

He is happier during the day.  Almost right away, he quit crying through the evenings.  At night, when he wakes, I think it is less and less from discomfort.  He has managed a couple of long naps, too, which have been non-existent in recent months.  And the frequency of dirty diapers has unexpectedly dropped.

The dairy-free diet does seem to be having a positive effect on Henry.  And it’s not quite as challenging as I thought it would be.

We’ll keep going with this new adventure and see how it all plays out.

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Fallish Things

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We’ve been having a busy month. First, this replica Lewis and Clark expedition boat showed up at our riverfront. The real Lewis and Clark traveled with one keelboat and two pirogues, but they only brought one pirogue on this trip. Back in 2003-2006, they used these boats to reenact the whole journey, which is both pretty cool, but also, “Do you people not have lives?” They called this their Eastern Discovery Tour, and they visited several museums, but also lots of small river towns like ours. Pretty neat, huh?

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The fellow up the hill at the encampment had a rope making device that Lewis and Clark might have had. Maybe. But theirs would probably have needed to be bigger, since their ropes were made out of elk hide. Anyway, kids love to make ropes and he loves kids, so he picked up a rope-making device and gives demonstrations, over and over and over again, to as many children as want to make ropes. We heard the same spiel with minor variations three times in fifteen minutes while waiting our turn, and he never appeared to weary of it. God bless that man.

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I just think the wood on this boat is so beautiful.

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While we were at the park, we remembered to collect some osage oranges. Rumor has it that they are insect repellent, and especially useful against spiders. We brought them home and tossed them in all of our dark, spidery corners, since this also happens to be the Large Spiders Coming Indoors time of year. For the sake of science, I also put some where spiders were actively dwelling in order to gauge their effectiveness. The spiders in question did not seem at all offended by the fruits; in fact, the one I watched most carefully seemed to be more relaxed, actually enjoying the mild, citrusy scent. Later that weekend, when I cleaned the living room, I also noted several large spiders apparently taking refuge from my vacuum behind an orange. The verdict? They are not spider repellent at all. I suspect that, generally, the appearance of the fruit coincides with colder weather and the natural spider life cycle, and they usually are dead or hibernating by now. I think it’s not a cause-and-effect, just a coincidence. But it was fun to find out.

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Also, may I just say how nice it is to have a big family? You always have people to pick up and go see historical ships with you, or to help you glean from nature’s bounty, or to carry the baby when your arms get tired. And they always do it so cheerfully.

This week, we went to an unphotographed circus, which was fun, and we also went to the pumpkin farm.

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They have a really nice playground here for the children, but there were some crazy kids on this day, and our children don’t care for boorish playmates. They tend to look at them like they are alien creatures and pull off to the side to watch disapprovingly. They have goats and ponies to pet, though, too, and that was fun, except I noticed some boorish adults hanging around the pens, presumably the parents of the ill-behaved children (the Nuts and Trees theory), and I didn’t much care for my little ones to get bored with the animals and take note of their surroundings, so we didn’t stay long.

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We did get pumpkins, though! This farm does not actually grow many of their own. The small ones are grown on site, but the jack-o-lantern sized ones are imported and artfully strewn about the field. Usually. Last year, they left the boxes out there, too.

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The other night, I remembered that there was a chestnut tree at church, and it was probably time for the nut drop. I was right! We spent a happy half-hour after Mass in the bright Autumn morning, harvesting this undeserved bounty from amidst the gravestones in the parish cemetery.

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When I dumped them all out at home, we had most of paper grocery sack full. That’s too many for us, so I packaged some up for my mom and sister. My mom and sister live in New Jersey.

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A couple of weeks ago, I woke with a weight on my heart, and as I went through the morning prayers, I became more and more certain that there was only one option. At breakfast, I said, “I think I need to go see my mom.”

Davey has lived with me for a long time, and he just nodded and said, “I think you should. Go!”

So we’re going, those of us with no obligations outside the family, which means me and five children. If you think of me in the coming days, say a little prayer for us for a peaceful and pleasant journey? Many, many thanks in advance.

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My Boy

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He’s fifteen. He’s already man-sized, and he’s got a lot of growing left to do. He’s strong. He says, “Can I carry that for you?” I say, “It’s heavy…” He says, “Nothing is heavy for me.”

He loves his little siblings, and he’s a good friend to his older sisters. He spends hours watching his fish swim. He spends many more hours building things out of Legos. He’s really good at it. He likes Amtgard, and I remember that, when he was a wee thing and we’d sword fight with wooden spoons in the kitchen, he never backed down. He still never backs down.

He always enjoys the meals I make for him. He’s less picky than his father, so lots of times, I cook for his pleasure instead. A girl likes to be appreciated. :-)

He’s really smart, and very well read, especially about wars, weapons and armor, castles, and medieval Japan. He’s handsome and chivalrous, too.

And I’m honored that I get to be his mother, to play my small part in helping him become what he is meant to be. What a gift he is.

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Apple Picking

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We haven’t been to an orchard since 2003.

Most of my poor children can not remember ever going apple picking.

Ever.

I had an excuse when we lived in Georgia; apples don’t really grow there, so we really couldn’t go. But we’ve been here for eight years. The orchard isn’t far away at all. And we still hadn’t gone. The reason? Oh, I don’t know. Too many have-to-dos crowding out the want-to-dos, but I am becoming increasingly aware of the fleetingness of this life we live together. It isn’t going to last. These children are growing, and they’re going to fly before I’m ready for it, and I don’t want to have put off miniature golf or hayrides to the pumpkin patch. Or apple picking.

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This farm was a little more efficient that others we’ve been to in the long ago past. We were in and out of the orchard in something like 20 minutes, and they charged an extra fee to visit their playground area, so we went elsewhere to eat our lunch.

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We picnicked on the lawn of a pretty little church, Our Lady of the Annunciation, and then went inside to say hello to Jesus.

After that, a bathroom break at a favorite antique store, and now we’re home again. Next up: apple pie! Of course. :-)

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It wasn’t THAT windy…

We were minding our own business, eating a lunch of tuna salad sandwiches and enjoying the breeze on our almost finished patio. Suddenly, we heard a noise, like a cracking or a falling.
“I hope that wasn’t the beehive,” said I.
“More likely it was the tent,” said he.
“You’re both wrong,” said Meg, returning from a scouting mission. “It’s a tree.”

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“At first, I thought it was a bush,” she said. “But I didn’t remember having a bush there.”

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“Half of the tree came down.”
“And you can see the heartwood!” Penelope added.
“It’s rotten,” I said. “No wonder it fell.”
“There was a crack,” Jon added sagely, “and the water has been slowly seeping in.”

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We’re all in shock, as you can see, but grateful that no one was playing nearby.
And that the chickens in their crate were on the other side.

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It was a Bradford pear, enormous, and well known for instability.
In a place like ours, which receives so much interesting weather, it’s a wonder it has stood this long.
Its neighbor was once struck by lightening.

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It barely missed squashing this tomato. It’s our first one.
@brandibruner and her Mittleider Method have nothing on us.

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Back Again!

I just keep disappearing. :-) Actually, I’m going to blame it on my laptop. It’s been quite a while since my laptop worked properly. First, it was the battery. My beloved bought a new one, but it was an off brand, and it only held a charge for 20 minutes – less time than the one it was replacing! So no battery. Then, suddenly, the keyboard was on the fritz. Not all the keys, just some of the keys. So I attached an external keyboard, and if you need a keyboard, you need a mouse, too. My laptop had very much become a desktop. But babies play on the floor, and they like to have a mama nearby, and when I got time at my desk, I worked on school planning. That wasn’t going too well, either, because I wasn’t getting too much time at my desk!

The other night, Davey asked me, “So what do you want for your birthday?”

“Can I think about that for a minute?” I asked.

He nodded. “Oh, by the way, your new laptop will be here on Monday.”

“Wonderful!” I paused. “You know what? Let’s just call the laptop an early birthday gift. Come to my bowling party and we’ll call it good.”

“Deal.”

Henry and laptop

So now I have a new laptop that is actually portable, and I can sit on the floor with the baby and write, or edit photos, or type up the school lesson plans. Also, I get to celebrate my birthday for the entire month. Laptop this week, party next week before the girls go back to college, cake on the actual day, and, later, ice cream at Emery’s. Davey said, “Perfect, because nobody really likes August anyway.” True enough!

The face of hot.

The face of hot.

Last week was our county fair, and the family made a pretty good showing in the home economics building. One of us even won a Grand Champion ribbon! Penelope won for a crocheted piece. It’s our family’s third one, and I’m really proud of the effort the children put into their projects.

The weather was a little milder than the week before, but it was still hot! We drank a whole case of water and about a dozen lemonades in the five hours we were there. It was still pretty quiet when we left at 7:30, so we had a great time on all the rides with hardly any waiting. Also, funnel cake. Lots and lots of funnel cake.

Can you tell who they're dressed up as?

Can you tell who they’re dressed up as?

I should be able to blog more regularly, now that I can write just about anywhere!  I’ll share some of our school plans, and also those make-ahead breakfast recipes I promised.  Easy mornings are good!

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Blueberries and Other Things

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This is the summer I can’t hardly abide being at home.  And home is my favorite place in the whole wide world!  But go out, we must, and go out, we do.  We have access to two libraries, both of which have fun summer reading programs and lots of attendant performances by folks with varying degrees of talent.  One week, we saw a show by a pair called Impossible Magic.  It was a great show!  The next week, we saw a different magic show by Mr. Moustache.  Even the two year old was disappointed.  Silly gimmicks don’t impress us; we want to see some real magic!  Last week, we saw a fun folk storyteller and a strange little puppet show. It’s hit-or-miss, but it’s a free Something To Do, and the children are enjoying it.

(Did you know my dad could rub an eagle through a quarter?  Or turn three sticks into rocks?  I was a rock collector, so that was a handy trick, and he always made the best rocks.  I particularly recall a nice, smooth, pink one.)

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Blueberry picking is one of our regular summer activities.  We pick a whole year’s worth in about an hour, and then go home for blueberry pancakes.  These photos were taken toward the end our picking time, and Delaney was taking a break by throwing blueberries at me.  She said she was aiming for my pail, but I am doubtful, as most hit me right in the chest.

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Boo needed a break, too, so while I nursed the baby, he snacked on his pickings.  I got scolded for snacking on mine, but, fortunately, Delaney threw enough at me that I didn’t suffer too much.

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Big kids and outings. I have found that to be one of the hardest things about them growing up. I want them to come, too, but one or the other is always out! I’m sorry to say I’ve given up. I just put things on my schedule and go with anyone who is available and interested. The little ones and I are having much more fun this way. 

How are you spending your summer? Reading? Traveling? Library programs? 

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{pretty, happy, funny, real}

{pretty}

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We got new patio furniture last week.  We’ve been squeezing around one table meant for four, and, well, we stopped fitting there years ago.  I’d been looking for two rectangular tables, but couldn’t find anything in the material I wanted that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  One day, I stopped in at Walmart to see if they had anything.  Nope!  Nothing.  So I sat down to nurse the baby, and as I was looking around, I spied these up on a shelf.  Excitedly, I sped across the garden center, nursing baby and all, just to make sure.  Sure enough, they were exactly what we wanted!  Well, except for being round.  They didn’t have any on the floor, and there wasn’t a price, so, Walmart employees being notoriously unhelpful, I went home to check.  The price was too good to pass up, so round is what we’ve got!

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This furniture is made of a powder-coated metal mesh, and they are indestructible.  We’ve had our old set for 10ish years, our swing and two other chairs for eighteen, and they have just a little rust where parts rub.  A fresh coat of paint would completely solve whatever minor problems they have after all those years and multiple moves, some international!  We thought about going with something cheaper, just to save some cash, but when you factor in how long these will actually last, the price is just unbeatable.

This isn’t their final home, though.

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This is.  We have high hopes that it will be done soon.  (We had a minor setback regarding concrete and are now switching to paving stones.  Stay tuned!)

{happy}

bread

I just tried baking my go-to quick-and-easy bread on my favorite bread pan in my new roaster oven, and it worked great! The bread came out even better than it does in the oven, crustier on the outside, and more tender on the inside. If you try it, there’s no need to add any hot water to the roaster pan; the roaster holds in moisture so well that the bread itself makes its own steam, producing a most wonderful crust. I’ve only had my roaster a few days and I’ve used it to cook breakfast casseroles and bake potatoes, too.  Everything has turned out even better than in the oven.  It’s big enough to hold a regular 9×13 baking pan, or two loaf pans, so very versatile! I’m loving it.

{real}

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I’m especially loving it because that roaster pan means I don’t have to cook inside. If you’re cheap like me, that means less heat in the house, and less chance of succumbing to the allure of the air conditioner.  The AC consumes vast quantities of discretionary monies, which, of course, I’d rather spend on books.

{funny}

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Speaking of which, this is where I’ve been hanging out most of the time since Henry’s been born. It’s actually looking pretty good today. Usually, the book piles are higher. There are also often pens, notebooks, and glasses of water scattered about. But there are always books.

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These are my current and just-finished reads.  The Green Ember and The Black Star of Kingston I just finished reading aloud to the kids – simultaneously, though that wasn’t my intention.  See, I started the Green Ember one night, and as I’d already read it myself, I thought I’d start The Black Star.  Well, I was reading them both from the Kindle, and they were both on Chapter 2, and they are both about rabbits with swords, so the next night, I was several chapters into Black Star before I thought to wonder aloud, “What happened to Heather and Picket?!”  And that’s when I realized my mistake.  We were already hooked, though, so I read them both.  Now we’re reading On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, and I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  Too many made up words, but silly made up words.  I like my humor a little more sophisticated, and so do the kids. (They take after me.)

I’m mostly reading Moby Dick on the Kindle, though I have a hard copy someplace.  I’ve got all the kids reading it, too.  (Actually, I bribed them.  Melville was inspired by this real life event, which is now a movie starring Chris Hemsworth, and who doesn’t like Chris Hemsworth? I’m just saying.) Also, Ishmael kinda cracks me up.  I’ve shown up in the girls’ bedroom in tears to read them a passage I found too hilarious to keep to myself!  But I have commitment troubles, and so I’m also reading After the Prophet, The Waste Free Kitchen (from the library) and The Living Page (thanks to Anne).  All are good.

See you over at Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}!

All black and white images are part of my Real Life series, and you can see more by scrolling down the homepage.  The patio sets can be found here (several people have asked already, so I’m linking for your convenience!) and this is my huge roaster.  I’m also using an 8-quart slow cooker, though not as often.  It is sufficiently huge to feed this family of eleven, though!

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