Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Last Days of Summer Vacation

Grandpa Ben brought over more delectable garden treats....a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes that I am cooking down overnight to make salsa for canning and about 3 lbs. of fresh green beans.

 Meanwhile, we are doing our last bit of bike riding in the neighborhood and....

sliding at the park.

Our Minnesota State Fair day will probably be Thursday since the kids are on break from piano lessons this week and next.  I can't wait for the State Fair.  I am now a true Minnesotan who loves the Great Minnesota Get Together no matter the heat, the greasy stink, the dead grass, and the hemorrhaging wallet.  It's all good at the Fair!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Behemoth Returns

Yes, we're canning again this year.
The annual Dad's and Kids' Camp trip was this weekend.  Paul ventured out with 6 of the kids this year leaving Nick and me to dogsit for another family.  That was an adventure which I choose not to expound on.  All I can say is that it went better than I expected.  I went into it with a bit of hesitation, but we survived...I survived.  I also felt like I cheated because the dog doesn't shed and was very well trained.

Needless to say, I wrangled the doggy and Nick spending inordinate amounts of time catering to their every need which left them both tired enough to take 2 hour naps on Saturday and Sunday.  Insert canning into that time slot and you get this....

1/2 pint jars of tomato sauce....yummy!
I still have another batch to process, but at least I've got my system down and set up.  Meanwhile, all. of. the. kids. are back which means the noise factor has gone up a few notches and school starts next week.....I think I'm going to lose my mind!!!!!

But at least I can rest assured that Nick received all the attention he needs for the rest of the school year all packed into 2 days alone with Mommy.....yeah, right!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Toddlers & Tiaras

On Sunday, Paul and the kids waited for me to return from Pacem before going to Mass so we could all go together.  Monica and Maria took advantage of the later Mass time by dolling Jane up for a photo shoot that afternoon.  The weather was gorgeous so they headed over to the park and took my Canon camera.

Jane is a willing subject when make-up, jewelry, and fancy dresses are involved.  The girls even did her hair with Milah's help.  The following photos were my favorites!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

She's Thirteen!

Birthdays are not my forte.  I usually forget and try to throw something together last minute.  Well, in some cases that is.  Sometimes the kids give me a little something to go on like saying, "Mom, I'd like to have a birthday party."  Then I go nuts with all the ideas.  But with Monica, she's just not like that.  I have to push myself to remember the kid's birthday because she doesn't make a big deal about it.  I was inspired by Charlotte's beautiful themed birthday spread for her thirteen year old.  I loved the colors, the cake, and the literary theme.  I floated the idea by Monica way back when which she liked, but then we dropped it.  However, last night I started thinking about it again....yes, last night!

I decided to print off pictures of some of the characters from the books she's read over the last few months....Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow), the Hobbit (can't wait to see the movie!!!), Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, and the Baudelaire children from A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I mounted them on pink construction paper and used the black table tents that I made for Paul's parent's 50th Anniversary.  I knew I'd use those again for something!

I woke Daddy up early, pushed him out of bed, and sent him to the grocery store for cake mix, frosting, balloons, and roses plus a few of her favorite foodie things....Cool Ranch Doritos and Cinnamon Toast Crunch!

Auntie Nora's (her Godmother) gift came in the mail just after breakfast.  Oh, the excitement was awesome!

This is the US Olympic Soccer Team's official flag.  She proudly hung it up from her window sill!

Finally, we had to come up with a cake.  I bought a few things a few months ago that I saw at a store....black and white cupcake liners, candles, and pink icing spray.  I randomly gather things when I'm out without the kids.  Sometimes they come in handy.  The black and white wrapping paper I amazingly had in my stash.  Then I had to find stacking boxes.  It seems Amy Atlas, party maven, is always stacking things.  I decided to go with the ever-popular ombré theme and made ascending layers of shades of pink atop the boxes.  I think it came out pretty good.

Happy 13th Birthday, Clare Bear!  We Love You!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Coming Off The Mountain

I'm back from my weekend retreat at Pacem in Terris.  It was incredible!  I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take some time away to do it.  It was not easy for me to leave for many reasons....fear of being alone, fear of the unknown, fear of coming home to a mess....there were many fears.  But I did go.  I cried a lot when I was leaving and after I arrived and got settled.

But it was the best!  I had so many insights, inspirations, and I journaled through it all.  I was surprised I journaled so much, but I was so drawn to it.....like air or water.  For me journaling is a prayer in and of itself.  So how could all of the internal angst in leaving be the best....so worth it?  You know what the I.T. person says when you call in and tell him/her that your computer keeps crashing and is locked up and you're about to throw it out the window?  He usually tells you some funky way to force it to shut down and tells you to start it back up.  Then he tells you something that every says but never really does.  He says to use up all of your battery before recharging it.  Use it up completely before recharging it!  Then he says to make sure you charge it completely....not just 52% so you can unplug it and run and make another blog post, or just 38% so you can check your email and drink tea in the living room and maybe catch a little episode on Hulu, and not 78% just so you have enough to catch up on your YouTube channel.  He says to charge it up to 100% so you can get optimum life out of the BATTERY!    Well, the use it up part we moms have no problem with.  It's the charge it all back up to 100% where we have difficulties.  And not only moms have this problem....so do dads, CEOs, singles on a mission, singles on no mission....basically people in general.  Because we all feel terrible and NEED TO GET AWAY and in the next breath we're fine....everything's fine, just fine....I'll just drink another Diet Pepsi, pop another pill, drink another coffee or latté, go shopping, or get back on the computer.  Or if you're really good, you go for a run or a walk or go sit in a park and journal or go to Mass or Confession or Adoration.

But you still need to get away to really recharge that spiritual battery.  We all need to be broken down to see our sinfulness and be brought to total humility so that God can lift us up again like little children in his arms.  Then you're ready to go out again.  OK...now I'm really preaching because I just came off Mt. Tabor!  But honestly, can you imagine what the world would be like if we treated ourselves the way God wants us to treat ourselves?  I think it would be a very pleasant place to live and raise our children.  In any case, I pray for all of you especially the moms out there because you really do deserve some time alone with the Lord and so do your kids!

Mt. Tabor

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

School Plans

I hesitate writing a post on homeschool plans because it seems I plan only to see myself, or us rather, veer off the path which leaves me with feelings of failure or disappointment, at best.  However, maybe what we have planned for the kids for the year would help someone out there to think outside the box in terms of their homeschooling.  Our model is a homeschool hybrid model because we draw from several sources, not all Catholic, for homeschooling the kids.  The outcomes have been favorable, and we've never had problems with topics being discussed too early or slams on the Catholic faith.  We are also fortunate here in the Twin Cities to have many homeschool coops, tutoring programs that are Catholic, Protestant and non-denominational, and several retired teachers willing to share their talents.

We also school year round so there's not really been an extended break just changes to the schedule.  For example, sports only happen during certain seasons, music lessons continue through the summer, online courses follow the regular school year, and we take a break from art classes when we get tired.  Another skill I have taken from Unschooling is strewing.  When the kids seem to be a bit burnt out from regular schedules and book work, I simply strew books around the house on shelves, in baskets, leave them out where the kids will find them, or change them out in their bed rooms.  I call it invisible control because it gives me the satisfaction of knowing we're still on something of a path, and the kids get a break to read whatever and whenever they want.  Gabe has done a lot of his learning this way.  That kid really resists formal, at-the-kitchen table homeschooling.  He does best hiding around the house reading books.  He's way above grade level for reading and his retention and comprehension are incredible.  He's not able to write very well, and he could be further along in Math, but I'm doing well not worrying about him!

Monica - 8th grade

History:  Memoria Press Online School - US History
Math:  New Elementary Math Syllabus D 2....Turns out the Math tutor was diagnosed with cancer and cannot continue tutoring Mon and Maria at this time.  Therefore, we have a temp. tutor who has agreed to help Mon in the interim.  She's a second cousin who graduated from the U of M, has a Masters degree from the U of Chicago, and taught middle school math last year for Teach America.  I'm excited about it!
Latin:  Memoria Press Online School - Third Form
Literature:  ARCHES, Lino Lakes, MN - Literature II course
Composition:  ARCHES, Lino Lakes, MN - Comp. II course
Greek:  YEAH Academy, Roseville, MN
Science:  Apologia Chemistry CD set on her own with help from mom
Religion:  Evening School of Religion, St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Confirmation Class
Choir:  St. Agnes Children's Choir, St. Paul, MN
Music:  Piano & Violin, Hovland Prep., Arden Hills, MN
Soccer (Fall), Bball (Winter):  St. Charles School
Art:  weekly in home lesson with area artist

We actually did make these nifty cover pages a few months back, but I had forgotten about them.

Maria - 6th grade

History:  American History/American Revolution Lapbooks
Math:  Singapore Math 6A & 6B
Latin:  2nd Form Latin done with 2 other home-schooled gals (8th grader & 7th grader) in our neighborhood.  They have been gathering for 1 hour per week, watch the DVD, and start on their workbook.  It's my job to help Maria with her workbook, help her review, and give her a weekly quiz.
Literature:  YEAH Academy, Roseville, MN
Composition:  Writing Foundations Writing Basics I Email Course on her own
German:  The Learnables CD set on her own
Science:  Astronomy Lapbook with mom
Religion:  Evening School of Religion, SCB Parish; Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - St. Francis Cabrini Parish Level 3 Atrium
Choir:  St. Agnes Children's Choir, St. Paul, MN
Music:  Piano, Hovland Prep., Flute - Mrs. Mackerman, Private Teacher in her home
Bball (Winter):  St. Charles School
Art:  weekly in home lesson with area artist

Molly - 4th grade

History:  D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths with mom
Math:  Singapore Math 4A & 4B with mom
Latin:  Latina Christiana I DVD set done here in our home on her own
Lit & Comp:  Writing Foundations Writing Basics I Email Course with mom & Monica
Grammar, Geography, Handwriting:  Costco 4th Grade Basics Workbook on her own
Religion:  Evening School of Religion, SCB Parish...I'm the teacher!; Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - St. Francis Cabrini Parish Level 3 Atrium
Choir:  St. Agnes Children's Choir, St. Paul, MN
Music:  Piano, Hovland Prep.
Soccer (Fall):  St. Anthony Village Sports Boosters
Bball (Winter):  St. Charles School
Gymnastics:  St. Anthony Village Comm. Educ.
Art:  weekly in home lesson with area artist

Lucas - 2nd grade

History:  American History/Am. Revolution Lapbook
Math:  Singapore Math 2A & 2B with mom
Grammar, Geography, Handwriting:  Costco 2nd Grade Basics Workbook with mom
Religion:  ESR, SCB Parish Communion Class; Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - St. Francis Cabrini Parish Level 3 Atrium

Choir:  St. Agnes Children's Choir, St. Paul, MN
Music:  Piano, Hovland Prep.
Soccer (Fall):  St. Anthony Village Sports Boosters
Small Scale Building/Aerodynamics:  Location TBD, Retired Area Enthusiast who used to teach grade school children
Lego Robotics:  St. Anthony Village Comm. Educ.
Art:  weekly in home lesson with area artist

Gabe - 1st grade

History:  World War II books from Library on his own
Math:  Singapore 1B & 2A done with mom
Grammar, Geography, Handwriting:  Costco 1st Grade Workbook on his own
Religion:  ESR, SCB Parish 1st grade class; Catechesis of the Good Shepherd - St. Francis Cabrini Parish Level 3 Atrium

Choir:  St. Agnes Children's Choir, St. Paul, MN....maybe
Music:  Piano, Hovland Prep.
Soccer (Fall):  St. Anthony Village Sports Boosters
Small Scale Building/Aerodynamics:  Location TBD, Retired Area Enthusiast who used to teach grade school children
Lego Robotics:  St. Anthony Village Comm. Educ.
Art:  weekly in home lesson with area artist

I got busy and never made a cover page for Gabe.  Honestly, I don't think he would have sat still long enough for me to interview him!

Jane - PreK

Reading:  Hooked on Phonics, Reading Works
Religion:  Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Level II Atrium, St. Frances Cabrini Parish
Creative Dance:  St. Anthony Village Comm. Educ.

And now I'm tired....I wanted to link up so much of the stuff posted here, but I'm hungry and need to go scrounge together dinner for everyone else, too.  So if anyone needs a resource, you can just ask me about it in the comments.  I'd be happy to let you know.:)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tightrope Walking

I'm always asked the question, "How do you do it?"  You know....have seven children, weigh and measure my food at every. single. meal, homeschool the children, have a blog, keep a reasonably clean home, yada, yada, yada.

My secular answer is that it's like tightrope walking....you just never look down!  Spiritually, I have to keep my eyes on Christ because, like Peter in today's Gospel, once the reality hits I'm probably going to start to sink.  I'm going to yell out, "Lord, save me!"  I do this a lot.  I keep my eyes focused and everything is doable....I can weather the storms, I can go with the flow, and I can generally keep my patience with "kid" challenges.

However, when I take my eyes off of Christ, I start to wonder,
"How is this possible?"
"Shouldn't I try this?"
"What if I'm not supposed to be {insert super-mommy task} the kids, the husband, the house."
"I shouldn't have had this many kids.  Afterall, I have {anxiety, depression, low blood sugar, I'm an introvert, etc.}.
All of these things escalate into big doubts, big resentments, and big explosions.  I have doubts about my parenting, homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, marriage.  I have resentments towards the kids, Paul, having to potty train a child, taking someone to the bathroom, wiping someone in the bathroom, cleaning up yet another mess or clutter, buying one more book after I put in a giant Rainbow Resource order, or just about any slight annoyance.  I explode over little things like bedtime, laundry folding, TV watching, organizing dirty dishes in the sink, and leftover sandwiches, cookies or pieces of fruit.

All of this comes from taking my eyes off of Christ for even one. small. second.  When I take my eyes off of Christ, the enemy is right there to sow a seed of doubt, a seed of resentment, or a seed of explosion.  The enemy wants me to rely on my own power to do it all.

So what do I need to do?  Well, I took a phone call early this morning....one of three outreach calls I make each day in order to talk about potential triggers that would cause me to eat, but you could insert anything that stress leads you to.  The person on the other line knows all about large families because she has one.  The person on the other line knows about stress eating because she does that, too.  The person on the other line knows about taking one's gaze off of Christ because she is a woman of faith and has been there and done that.

This person suggested I take some time and get away.  She suggested I go here....

Pacem in Terris
I had been told about this hermitage site  years ago.  I was skeptical....thought it would be too "new age" for me.  I thought I didn't really need this type of getaway.  I also wasn't in a place to get away with nursing and pregnancy.  But now I find myself depleted, resentful at times, loathsome of having anymore children (yes, I'll be honest....I haven't always been thrilled about having another baby particularly because when I felt like I could finally walk from crawling with a toddler, I'd be pregnant again.), doubtful of my vocation, and angry (yes, I'll be honest....Anger and rage have been characterizing my soul lately for lack of sleep, lack of prayer, and lack of silence.)

So, I'm going.  On the verge of tears and staring at the website, I called and made my reservation.  I'm afraid of being alone for a whole weekend in a cabin with no electricity or plumbing.  I'm afraid of having to weigh out all of my food ahead of time and bring it all with.  I'm afraid I'll spend a good part of Friday evening and possibly Saturday crying because I'll be faced with myself and all the things I regret saying, doing, and being over these last few weeks/months.  I'm afraid to be alone with God for fear he may ask more of me....more than I am willing to give.  I'm afraid I may fall in love again and surrender and submit willingly to Him.

Are these really substantial fears?  Yes and No.  God can never be outdone in generosity, and (say it with me) He will never give us more than we can handle!

So, I really have nothing to lose and so much to gain.  There is one more fear I substantially have....I fear I'll miss them....the ones who love me unconditionally and who piss me off so much sometimes, but whom I love to love in the little ways that I do.  I really do love them and can't imagine my life without each of them.  But I am not in the place where I should be so I have to do what I can to get there even if that means walking into the woods alone.
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