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

Friday, August 22, 2014

tired me and sad birthdays....

Yes, I stayed up too late. We watched the relatively new Spiderman movie, which I wondered why they bothered to remake a good movie with a good Peter Parker and lovely Mary Jane, but the new version was pretty good. It was Evelyn's birthday, and she picked the movie. When it was over, the girls were putting in another movie, at 12:30 ish....

Anyway, at 6 ish this morning, Duke started barking to go out. I got up fast so he wouldn't wake up the whole house on this dark cozy morning, and let the two of them out. I stayed out there on the deck, and called them back to me when they were done...Suri came, Duke looked me in the eye, not really, but he did seem to consider his options....then took off down the street to visit his girl-dog. rrrr. I should have run after him in my nightie, but I didn't. So here I am waiting for him to get back, feeling like a Bad Dog Owner, a Bad Neighbor, and actually, quite tired. I should have gotten dressed and gone after him, but now, he'll be back any minute...right?

If I get dressed I'll be really wide awake.

And duh, I want to go back to bed.

Paul just left for work. I made him a pot of coffee, because I love him. He thinks I'm crazy, sitting here in the gloom, writing away. :)

Today, I have plans. I have to go somewhere to get something printed, and to get something to bring to Grandma's 85th birthday party tomorrow. I know Evelyn wants me to take her to Target to return the maternity skirt I accidentally bought her, but Target is a dangerous place to bring teenage girls. See, if five or six girls all find one or two or Lord Help Me, three things....even if they're cheap, it adds up somehow to a hundred bucks. The girls say I have a Check-out face. I was never aware of it until they pointed it out, but sure enough, I feel that face coming on when I slide that card.

Anyway. Evelyn's birthday wasn't supposed to be sad. She turned 15. I bought a nice butterfly tablecloth and matching cups. We had heater cake (she wanted it!)(Pepperidge Farms frozen chocolate frosted three layer cake), and the two ice cream pies she made herself. I put out dishes of KitKats, York Peppermints, and miniature Reese's with the dessert. And our dinner was yum: I cut up chicken breast into small chunks, and cooked it up in two frying pans with seasonings. It was interesting that the stuff in the iron skillet browned up so nicely. Anyway, Sonja and I chopped up tomatoes and onions and added olive oil, garlic, and cilantro. We served it with some nice baguettes from Wegmans. We also had sliced cucumbers, and green pepper from the garden.

The sad part? Well, there were ten of us at the table. Ten. I know, that seems like almost a crowd to some people, but for us, for a birthday, it was almost desolate. Only seven of our kids, one cousin, and Mama and Daddy. Nine of our kids not here. Ben and Sam in the Army, a few of the older ones working, then some at a fundraiser...

Evelyn didn't invite any friends over, either. She was back and forth about it, then just didn't do it. Now, before you feel too sorry for her,(:)) she IS going away for the weekend to Connecticut with two sisters, her cousin, and a few older girls from church.

I live a blissful life. I get hugs all day from my little girls, enjoy conversations with my teenagers, and with Mr. Jonathan, who is a ten year old little old man, who quite certainly knows everything. I have a million things to take care of, and am extremely thankful that we can get by without me working.

It isn't all fun and games though. I feel the weight of responsibility so strongly sometimes it might just crush me, to use the time wisely and teach my kids what they need to know in life. And now that I have taken on more to homeschool, I second guess my ability to teach them properly. I wonder if I have taken the plunge for selfish reasons. With the summer winding down, and only three kids heading to school (I haven't sent only three kids since Benjy went to kindergarten, some 20 years ago!), I wonder how long it will take for homeschooling to get old for the kids. Will they resent being home? It goes so against the grain still, yet parents seem so fine and actually happy to send their kids off to perfect strangers when September rolls around. And the bus drivers. Don't even get me started. Just because it is What Kids Do. They go to school. The government says so, the people do it. I just don't buy it that it's the best for all kids, yet I don't feel 100% that keeping them here is absolutely for their best either. So, I made the decision, along with Paul, he doesn't have much faith in our dear government, so school is not so very esteemed by him. We are absolutely not critical of the teachers, no sir, we have been blessed by many excellent ones, who truly care about our children. It's more the blanket policies, the cookie cutter teaching, the one-size-fits all approach, way they dawdle and waste time and feel free to have pajama day to watch movies, yet I am breaking the law by keeping them home when they aren't sick, to watch a movie with ME, perhaps.

Yes, I know I am rambling. Perhaps I should backspace that whole paragraph away, or do some editing.

So I have to call the window company, which I am of course procrastinating. We need to replace a few windows here, a few there, so I have to have all those rooms clean at the same time, so the window people don't think we're slobs. Or rather so they don't find out that we are slobs, it is a big secret, see. Well, "slob" is a horrid word, isn't it? I think I would prefer, "Housekeeping Challenged".

Ah well. I do feel weighed down by responsibilities sometimes. Paul works long hours, he usually doesn't even get to eat dinner with us unless I serve it past 7:30. And he's so tired these days, just from work. He is in a-fib constantly, and it tires him out. (yes, he is seeing a good cardiologist, and yes, he is going to be treated for it, yes he is on medication, hopefully the treatment course will cure him of it). He works very hard, and I do what I can to make sure things are nice for him at home. I have always leaned on him for support, as he's leaned on me. But as he has been so tired lately, I feel like I need to step up and handle more. I also feel helpless sometimes, seeing him put his finger on his neck,feeling that pulse of his just flying, skipping all around. I know, I know, lots of people have a-fib. It isn't a death sentence. He'll be fine. But I am still allowed to feel what I feel. I love him so dearly.

In all this, I know that God is weighing and measuring, and giving us just what we can bear, just right for us. He has works to do in us, and sends all the right trials.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

happy birthday evelyn

Evelyn Joy and me...

Evelyn is 15 years old today. When she was born,

Emily was 14
Abigail was 12
Benjamin was 10
Mirielle was 9
Joseph was 8
Aaron was 6
Mali Rose was 5
Samuel was 4
Margaret was 2
Kathryn was 17 months

Evelyn is my eleventh child, Evelyn -Eleven, ha. (poor Ben, he was only ten years old and the oldest of nine kids). Anyway. Evelyn was born a few weeks after Ben's terrible boat accident, where he fell off and met up with the boat's motor. She was one of my only overdue babies, and it was a hot summer. It was also the summer we took all the kids to a symphony concert in a park, and Margaret dawdled on the way from the playground, stubbornly refusing to come with was about 6 weeks before I had Evelyn...anyway, a sudden summer storm came upon us, cracking and lighting up the sky, wind we tried to herd the children towards the parking lot, we somehow lost Margaret, our two year old. I thought she was right there, she was JUST right there. No, she was not there. We looked and looked, and total strangers helped us look. It was pouring rain, and it was dark, and we simply could not find her. I was getting pretty terrified, Paul was out in the rain looking, I left the other kids with the symphony members, and was out looking too. It turned out that a well-meaning stranger had scooped her up when it started to rain, and brought her to the check-in booth at the park, where the police were informed, and it took a while to put two and two together, and realize we were looking for her. Oh, the days before cell phones. Anyway, it was tremendously terrifying, and I was not appreciative of that stranger at all. I still have my suspicions, I mean, who in the heck scoops up someone's child and brings them somewhere? rrrr. Anyway.

Evelyn was born into a big crazy family, and she was a fusser. She never ever was put down without fussing about it. She had to be held just so, rocked in a specific way, and she had a temper. She was a beautiful baby though.

She is still a force to be reckoned with, my Evelyn. She is extremely capable, and is full of bluster. She has no tolerance for incompetence, and if she's in charge, watch out. But it WILL get done. She seems years beyond 15. She is a book-a-holic. She is probably the library's number one fan. She is always giving me good books to read, but I cannot keep up with her. She loves Suri, our black lab, with all of her heart. She snuggles and mauls that dog!

She made her own ice cream cakes for her birthday. I already gave her some gifts. I bought her two really nice baskets that go with her room, a wood hurricane candle holder thingy, a diffuser that matches her room, some peppermint tea, a nice long skirt that is maternity which I accidentally bought off the clearance rack in Target without looking at it enough which we shall return and get her something else which she is rather happy about, a blue pitcher and four matching canning jar/glasses with lids and straws. Plus, at the thrift store yesterday she found some cool retro jeans, a big floppy sweater, and lace up ankle boots. And, a really nice picture for her room.

Anyway. It isn't much of a birthday, with some of the older kids working at the baseball game, and the three youngest at their friends' house (I have to go pick them up soon). I haven't started dinner because....

Today I took Evelyn and Suzanne and Sonja and cousin Olivia for a little the small store in town, where they got to pick out some candy and nail polish...then out for ice cream.

It is dark and rainy and nice out, very cozy in here. It is too quiet.

I haven't worked out today, and am bound and determined to. So bye for now....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

early morning quiet....

The teenagers outlasted me last night, starting a movie when I was starting to go to bed. So this morning, they are all sleeping away while I grab a bit of quiet. I would have liked to sleep longer, but the quiet is better than the sleep sometimes. I actually sneaked out to the living room to grab my laptop, but I couldn't sneak past the puppies, no way. I snapped the leash on Duke, and out we went.

So here I am all wide awake. I hear the little girls stirring. Have I mentioned how glad I am that I am home schooling them this year? They have their little desks all set up, and were begging me for an assignment yesterday, so I had them write a list of ten field trips they wanted to go on. Then they wanted to do more, so they each wrote a story based on one of the places they want to go. Camille's story about going to the New York State Fair is so good, she convinced me to take them again this year.

So my 16 year old daughter Kathryn is in California. She was in Disney yesterday, no fair! She seems to be having fun, but we miss her too much! Evelyn 14, Suzanne 13, and Sonja 12 are going on a trip to Connecticut this coming weekend to visit friends, and their cousin Ellen. There is a birthday party for their Grandma this weekend, so they are torn about what to do. Paul and I are letting them choose. Margaret is staying home and going to the birthday, but I think the other three girls are going on the trip.

Last evening, Paul and I and the two little girls went to visit our friend Joe. Joe is older, the same age my parents would be if they were still with us, in his seventies. He lives in a nice little place in town now, after years of living in the big city. He had us over, along with my sister and her husband, for some wine, Greek olives and Feta cheese and hummus...(he is Greek). My two little girls can be rambunctious little rascals, so I told them to get all their fooling around out before we went, then I helped them choose nice fancy outfits to wear, thinking that maybe if they thought it was more formal, they would behave like little ladies. And surprise, they did! It helped that Joe set up a nice little table for them and served them fancy juice in pretty little glasses. They whispered and sipped and played on their tablets and colored pictures in their notebooks, and were sad when it was time to leave.

Today is Wednesday, half-price at the thrift store day. I am taking some of the girls there to scout around. Evelyn Joy turns 15 tomorrow, some of us went out and about yesterday to get her some presents. Gone are the days when I could just grab something from my closet, although I do attempt to stock things there when I find good deals.

Ah well, little girls are up and chatting....

Monday, August 18, 2014

why do I stay up so late into the night?

I am addicted to quiet. I was without it for so many years, it is like yumminess to my ears. Everyone is in bed now, and the house is just filled with that yumminess.

Today turned out to be busy busy busy. I noticed a few of these tiny moths flying in and around one of the kitchen cupboards, and yuck, there were little moth-y things in some of the opened bags of rice and chocolate chips. So...I cleaned out the whole cupboard, threw away everything that was opened, wiped down the shelves...then moved on to the next cupboard, where there was absolutely no evidence of any moth-y things, but I figured I would clean it out anyway. We checked all the other cupboards, and phew, the first one was the only one that was involved. blah and yuck, but at least I have some organized shelves now.

After I finished with that, Mali came over for a visit. We had some garden veggies, some tomatoes on rye bread, and some good conversation. She left, and it was time to make some banana bread. I made some Paleo stuff with blueberries (coconut and almond flour), then some regular stuff. Then it was time to make dinner, for eleven of us (Aaron was here, Sonja was at Grace's) beans from the garden, yellow squash from the garden, some red potatoes cut up and tossed in olive oil and seasoning and baked, sliced tomatoes, from the garden, and burgers.

Paul got home from work at 7:30, so by the time we finished dinner, it was almost 8:30. We don't see much of him. We did make some camping reservations though, we are going camping with just the three youngest kids on Labor Day weekend. Interesting times, I tell you! Char said, "People will think we have only three kids!" I remember going to this very same campgrounds years ago, when Paul had to go into work and I was there all day with the kids by myself....oh, how I counted the hours until he got there.

For all the mopping and wiping and dusting I have done today, one couldn't really tell right now if they walked into my house. I tend to lose steam by evening, and say The Heck With It. Then the next morning, oh there is too much to do.

I will hate myself in the morning if I don't get to bed soon. So goodnight.

jon helps me with the pictures....

Ah, a camping picture, thank you Jonathan! Paul and Abigail....note how wonderful the weather was when we were all packed up to go home.:)


Kim and I and our little treat while shopping and shopping and shopping for the summer conference grill....

home again home again, jiggety jig...

Of course I know that "jiggety" isn't a real word. Or is it?

So I feel sort of like I deserve a big prize for not only surviving another camping trip in tents, but surviving a camping trip in tents in the rain! It didn't start until we got them all set up, but it was cold. Chilly and cold. brrr. I don't get cold too easily, either. Abigail had her winter coat on, and was lamenting that she forgot to bring gloves.

Then the rain started. It was rather funny that we sat there around the campfire with umbrellas. Abigail gets a million points for bringing those umbrellas, by the way. When we climbed into our tents (we had five), our bedding was damp because it was so cold and wet.

I slept in practically all the clothes I brought. I had exercise leggings under my sweatpant capris, which looked lovely with my neon socks and Birkenstocks, so I put my sneakers on. I had a short sleeved shirt, a long sleeved shirt, a jacket, then a huge sweater on. I slept in it all too, except for the sneakers:)

Anyway. Saturday was a tad bit warmer, but still very chilly. We went down to the beach, where Paul and the kids did some fishing off the dock, and some of them took the kayaks out. Then three of my daughters decided to take a swim...not that they had their suits with them or anything. The beach was deserted. The sky was cloudy, but that little lake still called me. I couldn't make it down the steep incline to where they chose to take a dip, so I went back to the campsite for my suit, and went in properly on the public beach:). And yes, it was cold. Way too cold. But oh so refreshing.

Due to technical difficulties, aka I Don't Know What I'm Doing, I can't upload any pictures. Jon will have to help me:)

Anyway, we survived camping. Emily and Abigail and Mali, Margaret, Evelyn, Suzanne, Sonja, Jonathan, Charlotte Claire, and Camille, and cousin Olivia went. Kathryn is out west, she won a trip to Oregon and California for her fundraising efforts. She went with a cousin (Olivia's sister Eileen), and three friends.

Getting home from camping is not my idea of fun. It rained, so all the tents have to be aired out. Our deck is draped with them. There are stacks and piles of bedding and towels and smoky smelling clothes that are waiting for their turn to take a ride in the washer. I could breeze right through it, but then one of the girls will come up and put their own load in.

The house is mostly back to it's regular sparkling self, ha. Only a bag here and a stack there to still put away.

It was a lot of work, but oh the fun we had! When Mali had a tiny salamander, oh so cute, until it scrambled up her sleeve, which sent her into a hopping screaming frenzy, as she ripped off her jacket and shirt, and we laughed out heads off. Emily drove up right at that moment, it was pretty hysterical. We went through the industrial sized bag of Twix bars, plus peanut butter M&M's, and marshmallows, and on Saturday, I kept making pancakes and they kept eating them. We had lots of hot coffee and tea and cocoa, too. Hot dogs roasted over the fire, even in the rain, taste excellent. The kids were commenting on how good they were, I said they were seasoned with Camping.

Emily brought up a variety pack of beer, some summer shandy and some rye, a few other flavors, it was fun to try them.

Sometimes I think that you have to have had sixteen kids, going through year after year of having a nursing baby plus a wandering toddler plus a needy two and a half year old plus a four year old who needs to be accompanied to the bathhouse at extremely frequent intervals, plus a few more older kids who dance around begging to go to the beach or a bike ride or to the absolutely appreciate the peacefulness of going camping with a bunch of kids with the youngest being six years old.:)

Paul and I are thinking of going camping again on Labor Day weekend, as the kids are all going to be at the youth conference. We only have three kids who are under youth age (12). So perhaps we will camp with Jon, Char, and Cam. :) (I just told the little girls, and they are jumping up and down and trying to figure out what we will drive (bring bikes! bring kayaks!)

I am happy today. Happy because it is still summer, and because I am homeschooling five of my kids, and I won't be very sad when school starts. A little sad, because that school bus will take Sonja, Evelyn, and Margaret away each morning. But happy that my younger ones will be here with me.

We have plans. Big plans. Field trips and outings and lots of fun. We want to start school a day early, then take the real local first day of school off, and go somewhere fun. We have some books already, some plans. I have written most of the Plans, which I write rather ambiguously. The girls want a cozy reading area, so that means some new bean bag chairs. They are using their Little Tikes tables for desks, but I am imagining them lounging on the couches with their work, before long.

There are things they must learn to do, lots of math and proper paragraph writing, and science-y stuff...but I think we will learn a lot through life. Making and baking and budgeting money and setting up a fish tank. In Real School, they waste so much time, I don't think it will be too challenging to teach these guys as much or more in less time, leaving more time for fun. Right now, they are setting up and organizing their play kitchen...they seriously never get bored.

Maybe today I will let them bake some real cookies....

It is a chilly morning, overcast and gloomy, my favorite kind of day. I have cleaned up and swept floors and put through some laundry. I have fed the little kids, burned some toast, and talked to the neighbor down the road about bad Duke visiting his girl-dog.

So what's on the agenda? Lots of little things. We are getting rid of our big van, wah and yay. I remember getting that thing, it was almost brand new (one year old), and it was so huge and nice! It fit us all for a while, by the time we outgrew it a few of the older kids started driving. (there are 18 of us, it is a 15 passenger van). Then time went on, and the kids grew older, and more started driving...Ben joined the Army, Emily moved out...then Abigail, now Mirielle and Mali too. Then Aaron. Then Samuel joined the Army. Nine of the kids have drivers' licenses, and Kathryn has her permit. Emily and Abigail and Ben and Mirielle and Aaron and Mali all have their own cars. So we drive the minivan and the truck and the Bravada, which takes a lot of gas, but is very nice and seats five. It is really Sam's from his Grandpa and Grandma, but I don't think it's practical for him to have it in Washington, D.C. with all that traffic....

Anyway. We grew and grew until we barely fit in the big van, then lo and behold, we started going in the other direction. It takes SO much gas, and although there are times it would be really convenient to use it, it isn't worth the expense of insuring it when we rarely use it.

Time marches on. Sometimes I am out and about with just a few kids, maybe a couple of teenagers, and I see these moms with their babies and little ones, and I smile at them, and they look at me and perhaps think that I have NO IDEA how busy they are....

So always be nice to people, you have no idea what they are going through, or have gone through.

Ah well, as much as I am enjoying just sitting here writing, I have to get moving. My conscience is niggling me about things that I should do, like go on my walk and and and.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

taking a breather....

There is chicken in the oven, brown rice on the stove, and a pan of taco meat too. I like to cook the food ahead of time for camping, so we just have to heat it up. Tacos are for tonight's dinner though. The chicken will be sliced and frozen in baggies, so it keeps nice and safe in the cooler. We will heat it up in a big foil pan with the rice and some canned veggies. Plain but nourishing, as my father used to tell my mother, which was so insulting I don't know where to start. Anyway.

I took a quick trip to one town to drop off one daughter who is working the baseball game, then to another town to return some Redbox movies, fill the truck with gas for tomorrow, and buy some ice cream and lunch meat for the weekend. No, the ice cream is for tonight:) See, I have some daughters who are doing a fundraising job this afternoon, even though they are ha, on vacation. So I wanted to make them a nice dinner and get them ice cream....

Only four kids are home right now. The little girls are playing with Sonja's crutches...oh yeah, I forgot to tell that story!

The other night at the conference, I was sitting on the back patio, relaxing with some friends, when my niece came and told me that Sonja was hurt. That she couldn't move. Oh dear. Now, this was a surprise, because I had just gotten out of the shower and my hair was shiny and clean! Anyway. Sonja K. had been on this swing (think May Pole with swings instead of ribbons), and somehow she hit the pole really hard, so hard she blacked out. When she came to, she didn't remember what had happened. She was sitting in a chair about fifty feet from the swing. She had walked there, but when we tried to get her to walk again, she simply couldn't, said it hurt her hip/lower back, too badly. Hmm, with a possible back injury, I didn't want to take the chance of just having her go back to the camper and go to bed, then be paralyzed for life because her mother didn't feel like taking a midnight trip to the hospital. Mirielle was with me, and we agreed she needed to be checked out. So off we went, for a midnight trip to the E.R.

She was fine, thankfully.

We arrived back at the camper at 4 a.m. I was NOT fine:)

One of my girls asked me why I was awake so early the next morning, after getting to bed so late. Duh, I said. It's Childrens' Day, the best day of the year!

So tomorrow morning, off we go to the mountains. Paul and I, and at least ten of the kids. I'm not sure if Mali will join us or not. We are taking the minivan and the truck and Abigail's car, and lots of tents. It is going to be chilly up there, but I am still excited about going. There's something soothing about being up there. It helps that there is no cell phone service, and no electricity. That means 100% full attention to each other while sitting around the campfire.

Now on to more practical matters...does anyone else get like a whole grocery store bag full of garbage when cleaning out their purse? Oh, me neither. My purse is like the family suitcase. Right now it has two Snicker Bars, a plastic container of strawberry Mentos gum, three protein bars, a stick of Starburst, three different kinds of mint gum, several pens, a plastic spoon still in a plastic wrapper, a baggy of almonds, a whole can of almonds, several pens,a package of caps for a cap gun, a hairbrush, some hair elastics, a few bobby pins, a baggy of ibuprofen and acetominophen and Pepto tablets and anti-diarrhea pills, a small first aid kit, a baggy of Girl Things, a baggy of wipes, a container of antibacterial wipes, some napkins and tissues, two pair of sunglasses, my reading glasses, two family pictures, and my phone charger. And yeah, that's AFTER I cleaned it out.

Because, never know.

Does anyone else pack and pack until their brain is numb?

Sometimes I feel like Mrs. Potato Head in, "Toy Story", when she kept putting more stuff into Mr. Potato Head.

Two little Amish girls went missing from a place not far from where we are going camping tomorrow. They were missing for a full 24 hours, and are now home. They were presumed abducted, and it is not clear exactly what happened, but the kidnappers are at still out there, and it is a bit scary, but I am so thankful the girls are back home.

I am tired, and we have to get going early, so I am done here. I will be back on Monday!!!!