summer 2011

summer 2011

Paul and I, all 16 kids and Ashley, Benjamin's wife...Christmas 2012

Paul and I, all 16 kids and Ashley, Benjamin's wife...Christmas 2012

Thursday, January 29, 2015

just go outside!!!

It's nice out today. 22 degrees (-5.5c). No wind, it's not sunny, but hey, it's not snowing. It's that time of day when, after doing school work for some hours, they are starting to get antsy. So I shooed them out the door. I don't care if you aren't finished with your letter to Sam, just go. I didn't have to tell Jon twice, he happily set aside his curriculum book and got his snowpants on. It's good for the puppies too, they like to go romp around in the snow.

Today was Report Card Day. I keep them simple, trying to satisfy the requirements of New York state, while not getting into much detail. I know my kids are growing and thriving and learning, but I have to assure the government that they are, too. Can't have them just plain enjoying childhood. Anyway, I felt a tiny bit evil, but in Jonathan's summary on Health class, I added that he has been learning about the dangers of sitting too much. Sometimes when we have been sitting here doing work, I get up and make them all join me, dancing around like idiots for a few minutes.

We went out and about yesterday. Thrift store, where we found a glow-in-the-dark solar system to hang in the girls' room, a Nerf gun, two new Star Wars books, a beautiful London Fog winter coat for Charlotte Claire, a Columbia winter coat for one of the older girls ($4.50!)....a quick stop in the store for two things we forgot in the previous day's shopping trip, and fifty dollars later, we were headed home.

Miss Cam in Target...

I made chicken for dinner, lots of it, so it would last for some lunches. Boneless chicken breast, and boneless thighs, at $1.99 a pound, much cheaper than lunch meats and more healthy. We have lots of romaine and fresh spinach, so they can eat salads with chicken. They also had tomato soup, and some grilled cheese sandwiches. I had a bowl of steamed broccoli with my chicken. I can get through the day pretty well without eating anything bad, but resolve melts, until I am getting into bed of course, and I find myself promising that Tomorrow Will Be Better. But I have been good the last few evenings, and it shows on the scale. My basic diet is good and healthy, it's important for me to just stay away from the extras.

A hot cup of tea is always a good thing in the evening, for me, with just a splash of milk and no sugar. But oh, chocolate goes so well with tea...

And there it is.

Anyway. Samuel was in the coolest presentation/ceremony yesterday! I watched it live on It was the retirement ceremony for the Secretary of Defense. Prez and V. Prez were there, and stood up while the armed forces marched by in full dress dear Sam being in the Old Guard and representing the Army. The video is on youtube....I am going to have my girls who are heading to Florida tomorrow show it to their Grandma, so she can see how handsome Samuel is all decked out.

I talked to Sam last evening. I like to brag about him. I mean, he had a hard time with Infantry boot camp, struggling with those push-ups. But he is an excellent soldier. He has been given responsibility for his group of guys (platoon) a few times, and his Sgt. frequently refers to him as an example of how to do things. It's because Sam is so focused on doing well, and enjoys what he's doing. He is being promoted next week, to Private First Class, which isn't a huge deal, but he's excited about it. He is working hard to practice for his Excellence Infantry Badge, which IS a big deal. Before this kid left for the Army, he would go on runs, and come home after only ten or fifteen minutes, huffing and worn out. He now can go on ten mile rucks with a heavy pack, no problem. He is a "sharpshooter", and...well, I am just proud of him.

The good thing about Sam though is that he is still Sam. He misses the little kids so much. He calls sometimes and talks to everyone in the house. He laughed his head off last night at Joe's story...:

When we were all gone yesterday, Joseph came out of his room and found Suri, the black lab, napping comfortably...ON TOP OF THE KITCHEN TABLE. There next to her was the pancake plate....totally empty, licked clean. Jonathan had made a huge batch of pancakes, which we forgot to put away. oops. Suri ate them ALL.

Sam misses the dogs as much as he misses us peoples.

Miss Char talking to Sam....

Aaron came to visit last evening. He is working hard, and taking classes to get his Bachelor's in nursing. After that, he wants to go to school to be an anesthesiologist, or an NA, because I can't spell Nurse An...blah blah blah.

Today is Margaret Cheryl's very last day of high school!!!!! My ninth child, graduating from high school. She is graduating early, January instead of June. She is leaving tomorrow for Florida for a little vacation with Grandma, with Emily and Mirielle.

I'll try not to be too jelly, as Kap would say.

I have no complaints though, I am going on a little get-away myself, to a hotel with some of my very best friends for the night tomorrow.

Then Saturday, the Harlem Globetrotters come to the Dome! Yes, I am working. Life is not boring, that's for sure.

And now, I have laundry to fold and floors to sweep.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

how long is this gonna take?

Camille, sprawled out on the floor in Evelyn's room in her big baggy Disney World sweatshirt, her heart pajama pants, and Hello Kitty slippers...lying on the floor next to the heater, on this 9 degree morning. She was hurrying me along, as I stretched and did push-ups and lifted my ten pound dumbbells. She had plans with her mama, and this was no fun.

But I held firm, and tried to ignore her cute little self. Then the dogs started barking furiously, oh joy, the UPS man. Whatever. I collected my phone and glasses and slippers, and called it a day.

So Camille's question is a good one. How long is this gonna take? I lost 70 pounds, gained back a little more than 20, and am still working. How long is it gonna take? The answer depends on how much effort I put in to it, I suppose. But then the deeper question, can I be happy on the journey? I have this thing, this subconscious thought, that when I finally finally get thin, I will be ecstatic. I will just be so full of joy. Things will be easier. I can just picture myself so free and light and toned. It can happen, I know that. But I can also win the lottery, ha. And believe me, I know my trials and troubles won't magically melt away:)

Anyway. Here I am in my chair with my coffee, all showered, while the kids lounge on the couches with their school books.

Cousin Danielle decided she wanted to go home last night, after they were all tucked into bed. She said she didn't feel well. I went into their room to try to talk her into just going to sleep and going home in the morning, but she was sitting there with a bowl. Um, okay, I'll call your mom.

While we waited for her mom, she chatted up a storm, and seemed fine, but who knows. I told her I remember what it was like to be little and not feel well and want to be home with my mommy.

So Char and Camille moved into my nice big comfy bed when Dani went home.

And I slept better than I have in days.

In fact, I looked at my phone when I woke up, and it was....9:26. wow.

Cam and I snuggled for a bit, and planned our meals for the week. It's easy to get into a rut with meals. In the fall, it's like, YAY, we can have more soups and roasted veggies and those cold weather comfort foods. But with January winding down, it gets old. Fresh garden veggies sound heavenly. Chicken on the grill, oh yum. Corn on the cob, zucchini. I want taco salad and chicken fajitas. Grocery store tomatoes though, blah.

Anyway, we are going to the library, then the grocery store. Seriously, happiness is having a huge stack of library books, just waiting to be read. And having food in the 'fridge, knowing what's for dinner...oh bliss.

Off we's ten degrees now, but the sun is shining here while the blizzard pounds away at the coast....

Monday, January 26, 2015

coffee coffee coffee.....

This is what I look like before my coffee in the morning...

This stuff is good. No, I am not getting paid to say it. It is too pricey to drink every day, but today was a special day. Monday. Monday morning, after another night of not nearly enough sleep. Just opening the bag of this and taking a deep sniff is yum. mmm, yum.

We have had a flu thing going around here. It starts with a sore throat and a stomach ache, and your eyes ache...I know, isn't that a strange symptom? But it has been reported by quite a few of the kids, and I have experienced it too. I feel like I have been just fighting it off for days. Friday night I felt so awful I was certain I was not going to be able to drive Paul to the airport on Saturday. But on Saturday I was fine. Then Saturday night I felt so awful, I thought I was going to be in bed all day Sunday. Again, not true.

Now my chest sort of aches, like it does when I go on the treadmill for too long and start huffing. I feel like gravity is pulling me down with all it's might, and like gravity is winning. My temperature is only 96.5, which is normal for me. So today, I am taking it easy. I have swept floors and washed dishes and put in a load of towels, and matched some socks. I puttered around a little here and there, taught the kids about possessive plurals, and read the entire Sunday paper. I helped the girls get dressed to go outside, and landed back in my chair. Perhaps today if I listen to my body and take it easy, I will get better faster.

The dogs just came in all covered with snow. It is only 12 degrees out there (-11c). brrr.

Kathryn requested a trip to the library today to return books, but I assured her that I renewed online, so we don't really have to go today. She still has plenty of work to do with the books she has.

Cousin Danielle is with the little girls, she spent the night. They played school in their room before they went out to play. That counts, right?

They are just too cute. Miss Suri and her face! Duke is so tired.

They were outside with the girls for a while, so now they're tired.

Those little girls lasted quite a while out there. They sledded down the slide on sleds and made a little fort. Now they need some tea and cocoa, and a brownie. Today they learned one important thing: It's more fun to homeschool.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

fun and friends...

Kim and I....

I don't know if I can explain how much fun we had this weekend.

It was so nice to have the time with my friends, some of us decided that this coming weekend will be perfect for our randomly chosen next hotel night. 5 or 6 or 7 of us will get together and oh dear, do we have a nice time. The pool, the hot tub, some laughs and of course some encouragement for each other. Life isn't always easy, and we aren't getting any younger. We need each other, we friends.

It is really cold tonight, around zero. It is chilly in this house, too. I have socks and slippers on, and a blanket over me, and my feet are still cold. Winter may be sparkling and pretty, but it has been long enough, thank you. I guess that's why spring is so glorious, and summer....oh I do love me some summer. Just thinking about going barefoot in the garden, picking cherry tomatoes and eating them, all warm from the sun, never mind that Duke sometimes follows me around the garden, stopping here and there and lifting his leg. blah. Anyway. Summer. What a thought.

I made some really good chicken soup for dinner tonight. From the two whole chickens I roasted the other day, I saved all the nice gravy/broth/pan drippings, added some water, lots of chicken, then later some sliced carrots, then some cubed potatoes. Simple, and so yummy, especially on a cold night. Some of the kids ate bread and butter too. We forgot to eat the brownies, how can we forget those? I put them up out of reach of the bad puppies, who get into things in the night, and almost pulled back the foil and sampled one, but then I remembered what would happen if that taste proved to be too yummy. Oh, that plate of brownies wouldn't stand a chance. Okay, I wouldn't eat them ALL, but let's just say it's better if I don't even go there.

Last night, I hardly slept. I forgot that even when I'm tired, I don't sleep well when Paul's gone, especially the first night. I don't know why, I am just totally and completely conscious of the emptiness of the bed. Don't get me wrong, I like that I can toss and turn and read without disturbing anyone, but for some reason, I just feel like the world isn't right.

Today some of us were talking about the good old days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, in the seventies, when I was growing up. We hardly had soda or chips back then. We had a dinner with meat on pay day, you know, a whole chicken leg or a nice pork chop. The next two weeks until the next pay day, we had meat IN our dinner, but not a whole portion. We also had things like scrambled eggs for dinner, or pancakes with corn in them. Or hamburger soup. It looked like dishwater, but it was pretty good. My mother made spaghetti by boiling and draining the pasta, adding some cooked burger, and a jar of spaghetti sauce, then a jar of water...right to the pasta. Voila, a big pot of spaghetti. It was good, especially leftover and reheated. Sometimes, when the days ticked off toward the magical pay day, we would have something like tuna fish and mushroom soup over toast, which I totally despised. Blah. We never starved, but...

Anyway. When I was a kid, we didn't have constant supervision like kids do now. We lived in a neighborhood, and when we got home from school and changed into play clothes, we went outside. We met up with our friends, we played in the creek, we rode our bikes with bare heads around the block, we played jump rope and kickball. We climbed trees and built forts and sometimes went to someone's house, a house with no parent home, and made prank phone calls. We walked to the store, we made those funny chains from gum wrappers, back when each stick was wrapped in foil AND paper. Hershey bars were, too. We made boondoggle bracelets.

Anyway, times have changed. I absolutely hate how addicted kids are to their electronics. It seems like they are born with their faces glued to a screen. Small children should be looking at their surroundings, reading other people's expressions, forming ideas about the world around them, not just playing with their Mom's phone. It has gone out of style to look out the window when driving in the car! Heaven forbid they should get bored! Isn't that where daydreaming comes in?

Blah, I am getting old. Technology has a time and place, but I sincerely believe there should be limits for kids. We, as humans, naturally choose the path of least resistance, and the iPod is easier than getting out a deck of cards to play solitaire, or actually playing board games or hangman with gasp, a pen and paper. Trivia Crack is the latest thing around here. We can be carrying on a perfectly good conversation, and Sonja will ask, "Who won the World Series in 1976?"

What I really hate is when there are ten or twelve of us sitting around the living room, and everyone is on a tablet or computer or iPod. Seriously? Thankfully we all agree that sometimes it's good to just say Put Them Away, and have real conversations.

Especially at dinner.

he's gone away again...

And he is missed, already. Mr. Paul, gone to France again. My dear dear husband, whom I have fallen deeper in love with as the days and months go by. We have been married 31 years this March, which doesn't seem possible. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to him today, but I dropped him off at the airport, and...said goodbye to him.

Two whole weeks.

So this evening, after coming home from a very busy day, which I won't get into the details of, I relaxed with four daughters and Jonathan. Lots of other kids were home, the princesses tucked into bed, or "talked" in, as Char calls it. Abigail, Margaret, Evelyn, Sonja and I laughed our heads off at silly things as we wound down from a busy day. Some of our kids worked at a fundraiser at the basketball game, some babysat for others who worked, and some babysat here while Mama was doing food prep for tomorrow's fun day. Tonight, we gathered in the living room, put up our feet, and laughed. Sonja recounted babysitting for my brother's grand-daughter...she told his dog to SIT, and the little grand-daughter....sat. Then Sonja mistakenly called Tina the dog, "Tuna", and Jon said, "Tuna...that's fishy." And we laughed 'til we couldn't breathe. Then Evelyn brought up a boy who used to like Abigail, named Chip. And I said, "Chip's a dip." Margaret said, "Chip's Ahoy." Silliness, but when you have had a long day, and you are tired, it is so funny.

It is quiet now aside from the laughter still coming from the girls' room.

Can I reiterate how much I love my small children? Jonathan and Miss Char and Miss Cam totally light up my life. I have been a mom for 30 years now, and have learned a thing or two. I have learned to that it is indeed wisdom to overlook a matter, as it is written in Proverbs. I have learned that one catches more flies with honey, and that to think before speaking can save one much grief. I have also learned to appreciate the little ones. The time has slipped by so quickly, and the childhood of my kids has flown by, leaving me with all these teenagers and adults, and basically, three younger kids. Jonathan is ten, Char 8, and Cam 7. These three younger ones still get excited for little prizes and will sit with Mama on a Saturday morning. Holidays are still magical for them, and they love me unconditionally. I savor the days with them, knowing they are numbered...I still enjoy them when they grow up, but they change, and life changes, and soon we won't have kids playing school and house and store...until the grandchildren visit, of course.

And...I am tired. It has been a long day, and tomorrow is another one.

Friday, January 23, 2015

proud army mama....

The Old impressive group, the face of the Army. Samuel is seventh from the right. He was in a funeral the other day, it's quite moving, sad, to follow that casket through the cemetery...he said in spite of that, Arlington is absolutely beautiful in the snow.

Margaret and Jonathan are having a Lord Of The Rings marathon...not all in one night. Marg filled Charlotte Claire in on the details of the first few movies, so tonight Char and Cam are snuggled under blankets on the couch watching, and asking a million questions. They are absolutely fascinated. I see another obsession coming on....

I roasted to nice fat chickens for dinner, with some Jamaican jerk seasoning. We had it with steamed broccoli and some homemade salsa/brushetta stuff....I chopped tomatoes and red onion, added some chopped cilantro, a bit of onion powder, sea salt, and a bit of olive oil. Yum, added to the chicken and broccoli, it made the meal.

So Paul is leaving in the morning. I think this time is the very hardest yet, the impending goodbye. It's never fun, but balanced out with the fact that I don't mind having the bed all to myself and reading the nights away, and knowing how nice it is when he gets home again...I am usually okay with him leaving. Okay, not happy. But this time...perhaps because of his heart procedure...I am just not jumping up and down about this. He is all packed, and when he rolled his suitcase out towards the door...wah.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

a visit to the psychiatrist

Let me introduce you to the best psychiatrist in the world: me. I have no formal education, but I can solve everyone else's problems! But my own...hmm. Well, let's see what I would tell myself if I was my own patient:

Dr. Me: What brings you here today?

Real Me: Well, I am disorganized. I feel giddy when I open my sock drawer and there is a matching pair.

Dr. Me: Is that really why you are here today?

Real Me: Well...I need to lose like 80 pounds. Why am I my own worse enemy? Why can't I just exercise every day like I know I should? Why do cookies call my name? Why do I love popcorn?

Dr. Me: You already know all the answers, dear. You just need to...suffer a bit.

Real Me: Suffer? You think I don't suffer? Why, I can't bend over without ripping my pants! My shirts ride up, and when I have to get my phone out of my jeans pocket, I lose feeling in my hand!

Dr. Me: You are suffering as a result of not suffering in the right way.

Real Me: But but but do you know how many pieces of cake I HAVEN'T EATEN?

Dr. Me: Here's what to do: Book a vacation. When your husband comes home from work, tell him you had to do it, doctor's orders. Then picture yourself on the beach everytime you start thinking of chocolate.

Real Me: So, if I think about the beach when I eat chocolate, I will lose weight?

Anyway...Dr. Me is so right! I just need to suffer. I know that! You can paint it any color you like, but that's what it is. It's not the answer we fat people want, no sir. We want the painless diet, where we can eat frosting on our toast and never ever exercise. But we all know where that has gotten me.

So, after almost four years of fighting this battle...I will continue. I know my weaknesses...namely chocolate. And, cookie dough. And perhaps a few cookies. I no longer eat pasta, rarely eat bread (only the end piece occasionally, from a fresh-baked loaf of Italian or sourdough). I don't eat chips, rarely pizza. So my basic diet is healthy. I just need to slap my little hand a bit more, and get those work-outs in.

I am motivated today, because I got up and got my lovely Nike sports bra on with my sweat pants. Never mind that it's a 1X, I feel sporty in that bra. Even though I am not a real athlete. Anyway, I headed to Evelyn's room, because she has stolen my ten-pound weights, and she has a space heater in there. I was feeling pretty good, but where in the heck were the weights? I tip-toed into Margaret's room, she is a known weight stealer, but no, she said. She could only find one in Evelyn's room, but I was free to take the one. Thank you dear, and by the way, are you going to school? She drives in late these days, she only has six left, then she is all graduated from high school! Next Thursday is her last day! Anyway. Back to Evelyn's room with the one weight. I checked Kathryn and Suzanne's room, no luck. dang. Oh well, I am already in here, all dressed up like a fit person, so I figured it out. I used the ten pound kettlebell too.

The coffee is on, the little girls are playing dolls in their room, the puppies are sleeping on the couch, the kitties are curled up sleeping too. Jon is still sleeping, and the other homeschooled girls are shh, are near Niagara Falls with Mali.

BTW, I didn't book a vacation.

Oh, yesterday our adventure was fun!!! The thrift store, I love that place! I bought a popcorn popper, the kind you put the oil and kernels in the bottom, then flip it over when it all pops...I bought new jeans that fit great until I sit down, then ugh, two pairs of jeans and some snow boots for Jon, an adorable rain coat for Camille, a Lee Middleton baby doll for $2.99, and I can't remember what else. But all that was only $25.

This weekend is going to be fun, except for the part where Paul leaves for France on Saturday. Saturday evening is food prep for our church feast on Sunday, along with practice for the song we are performing. The over 30 year olds are putting hosting this event for all of the under 30. We agreed on a menu, but I am the one who is going to stretch the dollars and go to different stores to get the best prices for all the stuff...which is one thing I am good at.