Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Big Day Has Arrived!

No, it's not Christmas, a birthday celebration, or even a vacation. Nope, it's something my kiddos look forward to even more than that. Can you guess? Yes! It's Grandma's visit!!! My mom arrived from Arizona today for a 5 day visit. I lost count of how many times this past week that I was asked, "Is she coming TODAY?" So today, they are on cloud nine. So what fun things do we have planned for these few days? Well, lots! They're headed to a movie tomorrow, we hope to do some skating, and Matthew is having his 16th birthday Saturday. There's no guest as special as Grandma. Seriously, it is THE biggest deal to my kids when a grandparent is present at their celebration. I hope to get some great pictures of all this fun! These next few days will go by quickly-too quickly-so if you don't see any posts from me, know that I am enjoying every minute of having my mom here with us. I am thankful for such a wonderful blessing!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Little by little...

If you are a mom, no matter how many children you have, you have a to-do list! Probably a to-do list with tons of stuff that you want to get done, but don't get around to. Yes, I am speaking from experience here. I am the type of person who loves to get things done-I'm a box checker. It makes me feel good to know I'm making progress. But it is also easy for me to look at big jobs and feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. As my family has grown, I have come to see that I will never have big blocks of time to set aside to tackle my to-do list. My solution-and one that has worked well for me-is to take advantage of the little pockets of time I do have that may otherwise be wasted. No, the task will not get done all in one sitting, but little by little, with time and diligence, it will get done! This year, I have started setting aside 20-30 minutes in my day that I try to devote to sewing. I am not always able to do it, but that's okay. One day I may only get as far as cutting out a few pattern pieces or sewing a few stitches, but over several days of doing this, you can really see the progress! It's quite fun! So far, I have been able to sew Sarah's swimsuit and also a skirt. I also use a 20 or 30 minute block of time just after lunch when I work on baking something-whether it be rolls for dinner that evening or a dessert opr whatever is needed. I often bake things several days ahead of time and freeze them if I know I won't have the time to do it later. I also do this with my cleaning-using short 15 or 20 minute periods to clean something in a room. No, the whole room isn't getting cleaned, but over several days, you can definitely see the improvement! This is an encouraging way for me to do things and has also helped me relax my standards! A little planning, patience, and diligence certainly goes a long way!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Future homemakers....

It is my heart's desire to pass along as many homemaking skills to my girls as I can. Cooking, cleaning, baking, shopping, managing finances, etc. Some areas we have worked on, others I have done very little with-life gets busy and I just don't make it as much of a priority as I should! Since they are still young (my oldest girl is 9), we try to keep it simple, but fun, so it doesn't seem like drudgery. One of the things they wanted to do this year was to learn some "fun" new skills and hobbies, many of which I know very little about! Going through their Keepers at Home handbook, they picked out several that they would like to try out. We are not going exactly by the book requirements, but sort of making up our own. There are so many, we will never get to them all, but we decided to work on just one or two a month. It sounds like fun and I hope to learn right alongside them. You're never too old to learn a new skill, right? This week, the girls made some simple dolls from dishtowels and potholders. They were named "Kitchen Angels". They were very simple, but a cute finished product. They even have a little poem you attatch to them to give as a gift. With Grandma coming to visit next week, Sarah knew exactly who she wanted to give her's to! It made me happy to see them so willing to bless someone else with something they took time to make. Here they are with their angels-
Little sister Hanah is still young (just 3), but she is definitely my most ambitious little homemaker! I call her my second mom. She folds towels for me, brings me diapers, keeps watch over her younger siblings, and helps clean, too! Here she is helping sweep the kitchen, without even being asked-what a blessing!
I have to say that not all of mine are like that-after all, training means having to repeat things and do them over and over until they are learned, right? I do pray that she keeps her willing heart-it is a wonderful character trait-one that we all should have. In fact, the most valuable homemaking skill of them all!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where has quality gone?

I sat on the phone today with Whirlpool, scheduling a service appointment for my oven-yes, this is the oven that is not even 3 months old, and already we are having problems with it. It seems it has decided to add about 75 degrees to every cooking temperature you set it on which equals burnt food! I can hardly believe after all we went through with the last oven that we are having trouble again with this one. It makes me sit back and wonder, where has the quality gone in products nowadays? It seems like everything is made to be disposable, throw-away, and have a short shelf life. Why is that? Back when I was growing up, you only got rid of your appliances if they were a) over 20 years old or b)they were so hideous and outdated, you had to. They may not have been pretty, but they lasted! I think I remember seeing the appliance repairman at our house maybe once when I was growing up. Now we've got one at our house at least twice a year. To give you an idea, in our last 2 houses, over the past 7 years, we have replaced a dishwasher that was 4 years old, a stove that was 1 year old, a microwave that was 1.5 years old, and a washer that was 3 years old. These are all ones that just died or broke and could not be repaired for less than the cost of a new one. This is also not counting the numerous repairs on the remaining appliances that we have had to pay for(probably at least 10). How about if I told you I was on my 4th hand mixer in just 6 months! No, I'm not kidding. And I'm not rough on them either-I use them for the same things anyone else would. I really think these big companies need to hire real families (like us!) to test their products for them to see if they really do live up to what they say they will do. But if they did that, it would just prove how cruddy their products really are, I guess. The funny thing is, we had a great repairman back in Oklahoma who came to our house several times to fix things and would always tell us how high quality the replacement parts were for products, while the original ones were just junk. Geez, I guess they not only get your money when you buy, but also when you inevitably have to repair. I would love if I could find a reliable brand that still made good quality items. If any of you readers know of some, please share! This is obviously a source of continual frustration for our family. Well, for now, I'm looking forward to Monday when the repairman can hopefully give my "new" oven an overhaul and make it behave again!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Guess what he's doing now?

Luke, my little cutie patootie, turned 8 months old today! Not only that, he started crawling this past weekend. Man, is he quick! It's really more of a belly flop and army crawl, but he certainly can get where he needs to go. He can get up on his knees, but isn't quite sure how to coordinate the actual crawling yet. He's able to get to pretty much anything he wants-he crawled all the way across the room yesterday to come see me-the whole time, saying "Mum, Mum!". By the way, do you like his spiffy new haircut? I think he looks quite handsome. I have to admit, it was hard to cut off those sweet little baby locks, but he looks pretty good with his new 'do. At least we won't get any more cute baby girl comments. He is such a sweet little guy-my day is just not the same unless I get one of his great big bear hugs! He clutches your neck with his chubby little arms and hums in happiness. It truly makes any stress I have just melt away. So if you're ever having a stressful day, head on over here-I've got a baby just waiting to give out hugs! He is very curious and is always looking at and inspecting everything. His 2 yo sister, Eden, is the same way..maybe she can teach him some things! I think at the rate he is going, it won't be long before he's running around the house. What a blessing and joy he is to our family!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's hot!

It's hot here right now in Houston (which anyone knows who lives here!) 100 degrees with humidity feels more like 110! And this is coming from someone who grew up in Phoenix, Arizona-the weather equivalent of a preheated oven. We are in desperate need of rain, too, not only to cool things off, but to green up the lawns, which look more of a burnt brown color than a nice green. Well, with the heat comes finding fun ways to keep cool! My kiddos love the water, whether it be from a sprinkler, hose, or our little kiddie pool. I am still too paranoid to graduate to anything bigger than a kiddie pool after seeing our neighbor's child nearly drown in a swimming pool years ago. Something like that just sticks with you! Really, my kids don't really mind-as long as there's water, they're happy. The only thing I don't really like about summer is the swimwear-just a little too revealing for my taste. So we opted for a different, more modest style of suit for the girls. I made my first one last summer, but with Sarah growing so quickly, she needed a new size this season! This is the suit I finished making for her a couple weeks ago. Keep in mind, I am no seamstress, but she loves it! I think it's cute, too.

As with anything, it was a little easier the second time around, though my workmanship could have been much better! (We had an incident when I was snipping threads too quickly). I was in a rush to try to get it done, considering it is the middle of summer! It really isn't too difficult of a pattern-the only thing that takes some getting used to is that slippery swimsuit material. Not the easiest to sew with. Well, she'll get a lot of use out of it if this hot weather keeps up. Personally, I'm praying for rain to bring my shriveled up plants and shrubs back to life! Hope you all are staying cool-drink lots and spend plenty of time in the air conditioning!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I just received a $5 check in the mail from a phone survey I did a few weeks back. Yes, it was one of those calls that came just at the wrong time (in the middle of fixing dinner). So why would I bother, you ask? Well, because I used to have that job! Years back, of course, but I remember how it was-dialing people all day, hoping just one person would answer the questions you had because you worked on commission! I was always amazed at just how mean people could be-instead of a simple "No thank you", they would often proceed to tell you off. I know it is not the surveyor's intention to irritate me, he's just doing his job! I guess ever since that time, I've always made it a point to try to take those phone surveys if I possibly can, just to try to bless that person's day. Well, this particular day, I figured I'd be done in 5-10 minutes, no big deal. After all, he did say it was a "quick" survey. Well, 25 minutes into it, I so desperately wanted to hang up, but i couldn't do it! I had to hang in there until the end! I must admit, my survey answers toward the end were very half-hearted-I couldn't bear to talk about instant mashed potatoes another minute! Well, I did complete it and my reward, my $5, did come as promised, even though that wasn't the reason I did it in the first place. I have noticed something odd the past few weeks, though. I have gotten more survey calls from other companies than I have in the past 2 years! Is it after you complete a survey like that-they place you on some kind of call list-what I would call a sucker list? They must figure you were gullible enough to do one survey, surely you'd do many others! One company called me 3 times in the same week! I finally had to put my foot down and tell them "Please stop calling!" But,even though I may not enjoy talking to these people on the phone all the time, in the future, I will still try to do their surveys when I can. I am hoping that if I'm ever in that job again, someone will do the same for me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

School's in Session!

A little bit early, you say? Well, I am one of those people who likes to get a headstart on things-and since we homeschool, we have the freedom to start our school year ahead of everyone else and take time off during the year when all the other kids are in school! Oh, the beauty of homeschooling!
Monday was our official first day-it was nice to be back into a good routine, and we learned a lot of interesting things already! Here are Mary, Michael, and Sarah checking out an interesting book on animals for science.

And Rachel, during reading time. I am so proud of how far she's come in her independent reading since last year! She's truly come to love books.

We can't forget those little ones. Here's Luke, with his globe, learning the location of all the continents-and all this at not even 8 months of age! :-)

Eden worked hard on her coloring, except it did transfer off the coloring book occasionally. She's also been practicing her skill of dressing and undressing herself, as you can see from that tag on the front of her shirt!
And look at this cool thing we found on our wall! We found a spider carrying his next meal away-a fly! I can actually say I am thankful for spiders when I see this, as I despise the flies here in the summer!

We topped off our first day with a fun treat-cupcakes! The kids got to each frost and decorate their own. Yummy! I don't have a picture of that because they devoured them so quickly! All in all, a good start to the year. We are looking forward to learning great things together this year and look forward to what the Lord has in store for us!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Teeth cleaning turned fun!

On Saturday, I shuttled 6 of my kiddos to the dentist for cleanings and sealants. I just love that our dentist has Saturday appointments-what a lifesaver! That way, I can leave the littler ones home while I take the others. In all honesty, I don't mind that the appointment takes 2 hours because there are so many of them. I just enjoy the time I get to read a magazine in peace! Well, as we pulled into the dentist's parking lot, we noticed what looked like a little mini-carnival going up. I asked the receptionist what was going on outside and she told me it was to celebrate the anniversary of the medical clinic next door. I thought she meant it was for people who worked there or maybe were patients. During our wait, much to my 5 year old's surprise, in pulled a fire truck. He was in awe. Doesn't every 5 year old boy want to be a fireman? I knew we just couldn't leave without visiting that firetruck-I figured they'd let him take a peek at it, right? As we came out of the dentist's office and made our way over to the fire truck, we were offered icees (no thanks, no eating or drinking for 30 minutes-dentist's orders!), given goodie bags of stuff, handed free tickets for a drawing, and also given some tickets for free BBQ lunch they were serving! Wow-that was so nice! I guess it was a free festival sponsored by a local church and was open to everyone. We got to talk to the firemen and look around the entire truck.
They even let him hop up in the driver's seat! See that smile?

They had a couple of games set up-here is the soccer ball kicking one they did...

Guess what the prize was? Yep, candy! Don't worry-we were past that 30 minute period by now. But we were right in front of our dentist's office-and there were my kids, scarfing down candy! I was sure my dentist was peering out the window, shaking his head in disappointment at all the work I had just undone. Then again, maybe he was smiling at the possibility of all the increased revenue from my family in the coming months! We stayed a little longer, then headed out to Michael's, the arts and crafts store. I had promised Sarah I would take her there to do the free tote bag decorating craft they were having for kids. All I can say is, they had a blast! The 3 girls were very particular about their designs and carefully (as best they could) painted theirs.

John, however, subscribed to the "more is better" philosophy on this one. It was hard to tell whether more paint made it onto the bag or his clothes.

Unfortunately, I ended up wearing some paint, too, after trying hard to stay on the other side of the table. Well, that's what washing machines are for, right? Most importantly, they had fun!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fun outings

The past couple days have been busy! With so many kiddos, it doesn't take much to feel very busy! We were able to do a couple of fun things to help break up the usual routine. On Thursday, since we FINALLY have our big van back, we decided to cash in that AMC giftcard and go see the movie "Up" (minus Dad-he was working). If you haven't seen this movie, it is very cute! I love being able to sit down and watch a movie with my kids and not have to worry about language, sexual references, or potty humor. It was just good, clean fun. We went to the earliest showing-11:00 a.m.-a.k.a. the cheapo show! It is only $5 a person at that hour-what a blessing-so we were able to have some money leftover for concessions. It's incredible how little you get at the concession stand for your money, but we were able to get some large popcorns and drinks. I chose that because the theater offers free refills on the large sizes. Yes, my crew took full advantage of that during the movie. Here they are getting ready to go see the big show. They had such a great time-we don't see movies often, but we all agreed we must do it again!

Tonight, we went to see the Waugh bat colony. It is near downtown houston and is a bridge where thousands of bats live. Each evening at sunset, they all come flying out, looking for their nightly meal of insects. It was so cool to watch-I haven't been near that many bats before. It was quite cool to see them fly just overhead. I don't know if you can see any of the small bats in this picture, but you can get an idea of the bridge.

Here are Sarah and Mary, reading some of the information on the bats, just before they emerged. This trip was a little bit of a drive, but well worth it!

I think our next trip will need to be to the library to get some books on bats! God's creation is truly amazing, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Happy Happy Birthday!

Yep-another birthday! We're just non-stop around here this summer, huh? Really, in our house, you never have to wait long for a birthday celebration-there's always one coming up soon. On Monday, John turned the big 5! Wow! I can hardly believe he is already five. He's a little guy-he doesn't look five, really-and he talks with the sweetest little voice-you know, where the L's sound like W's? He calls his little brother "Baby Wook" (Luke). He's so sweet. He is in love with cars-any kind-he loves them. He is also quite goofy-he loves to dance! (I try to put a halt on this a mealtime). He's definitely all boy!
Here he is with one of his favorite foods...Cheetos! We actually did something funny-we wrapped up the bag of cheetos in wrapping paper and let him open them, just so we could see the reaction. He was so happy, he was hugging them!
This was one of his gifts from Grandma-a robot dog. He just loves playing with it. He tried to help the dog "walk" down the stairs, but as you can guess, that didn't turn out well. Don't worry-robot dog is fine.

He received lots of hot wheels cars, a car carrier, and even a ramp for them. I wasn't able to get a picture, but let me tell you, he's in heaven. I'll give you one guess as to what his cake was.....

Yep! A car! Happy Birthday my little Elfie! You are a bright spot in our lives!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks Fun!

Last night was the big nite-July 4th-fireworks!!!! This year's festivities were a little different from years past-to find out what on! We started the evening with a wonderful BBQ meal with friends and neighbors. You can't go wrong with BBQ, especially when Larry's cooking! I had to snap this picture of John eating.

What good manners to eat his Cheetos with a fork!

Around 8:30 or so, Larry and the boys started lighting off the fireworks. They had a lot to do, too, as you can see from the picture here..

Here's Larry lighting off one of the big ones that goes way up in the air!

What a captive audience there was!

Noisy ones, big ones, ground ones, sparkly seems we had a little of everything....

It was all good fun until (uh-oh!).....Guess who showed up?

Yep....the police. Before you jump to conclusions, yes, it is legal to light off fireworks in our area! Aparently, one of our neighbors, concerned about the drought in our area, called the police. Unbeknownst to us, there was a restriction on lighting them off this year in areas that had lots of houses. I guess because of the risk of fire. The officer told us to relocate our show to an open area, with no homes around. Everyone decided to go just around the block to some open streets, where there are no houses built yet. I stayed behind with the littler ones. No big deal, since I stayed inside most of the time anyway, since Hannah and Eden were scared of the fireworks. The only mishap for the show was a small grass fire that started from a misguided spark. They were able to put it out quickly, fortunately. I guess that officer was right. Next year, we'll be sure to have our hose and our own mini-fire crew standing by!

Friday, July 3, 2009

My little car

As most of you know, I drive a big 15 passenger van-I call it my "bus". Not an actual bus, really, but it's pretty big. Surprisingly, I love it and it's not as hard to drive as most people think. This week, though, my car has been in the shop getting some bodywork and painting done. So here's what I've been driving around in this week....

My little VW Jetta! No, not really mine, just a rental, but it's what's been getting me where I need to go this week. When I say "where I need to go", it hasn't really been much more than running down to the Walgreens on the corner or to pick up a library book. As you can tell, this car wouldn't fit my 10 kids in it-well, maybe if you played some circus music, we could all come piling out of the car, but it just wouldn't be safe to drive like that! So I've been limited to dashing out for a few minutes here and there when needed, while my oldest watch some of the younger ones. Even between our 2 cars, we still couldn't fit everyone in them, which meant only half of us could go to church Sunday. Everyone kept asking me if the rest of the family was sick at home-nope! Just car-less! We were also hoping to go see the movie "Up" this week, after my sweet sister sent us an AMC giftcard (isn't she nice?), but alas, we can't go since we can't all actually get to the theater! I have to say, I miss my big bus. I'm ready for it to come back home. Hopefully, tomorrow that will be my reality. I'm ready to say "good riddance" to my itty bitty car! I have to admit, though, it has been nice driving on $5 worth of gas all week, something I could never do in my big gas guzzler. Oh well, I guess there's tradeoffs in everything, right? And at least gas isn't near that $4 mark that it once was. Some things are just worth it-and for my big family, room for everyone in my car is worth every penny!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Around our house, I've been slowly backing my way out of one cooking job-breakfast. Okay, for many of you, breakfast is probably an afterthought. Not really a big deal, except when you're feeding 10 hungry kiddos! They need some serious fuel, and a piece of toast just isn't going to cut it. I know many people do cold cereal for breakfast, which we do once a week, but it can get pretty pricey when my crew goes thru 2-3 boxes at a sitting. So we make most of our breakfasts from scratch. Sure, we have oatmeal sometimes, but it's fun to have something different. This is where my kids come in. My 5 biggest are each responsible for cooking breakfast one day. Being that our mornings are quite hectic, I have them do it the day before, as one of their chores (unless it's eggs!) They love the freedom of choosing what THEY love! They have made everything from pancakes and waffles to coffee cakes to cinnamon rolls. I am always there to supervise, but try to let them do as much as they can on their own. Today was Michael's turn to make it and he chose what I thought was a simple recipe-cinnamon bread-or at least it's simple until you have to triple the recipe. It is essentially a quick bread with a yummy cinnamon sugar topping. He got through measuring out the eggs and milk okay-those were big round numbers, but when it came to the fractions, well...that was a different story. He had done a lot of fractions this year, so I was surprised he was having such a hard time. It just wasn't computing how to get 3/4 cup of something when you already have 1/2 cup. Okay...out come the math lessons! I got out a piece of paper and went over converting the half cup into fourths to see just how much more we needed. Blank I tried the pie explanation-drawing a picture and showing how dividing a pie into different sections, you could have the same amount, even though the pie was divided into different amounts. Again, blank stare......Then came the kicker.."I can't do this! I hate this recipe and I'm never making it again!" What?! Now I was determined..we will get this..for goodness sake, we're homeschoolers....we can do this! I gave more explanations over the next 5 or 10 minutes, looking for some level of understanding, but of course, still talking in my same, sweet, calm, loving tone (NOT!). Finally, I saw a flicker of the light bulb! By goodness, I think he may have gotten it! Yes, we determined, he need 1/4 cup more to make 3/4 cup! Yay! We both agreed, though, this was NOT a recipe we were going to make again anytime soon. My son, Michael, just peeked over my shoulder and said, "Be sure you put 'And I didn't have fun doing it!' at the bottom, okay?" Enough said?