Saturday, February 27, 2010

Who Will Help Me?

"I will!," said Anna...

Shortly after we got Penny, our dairy cow, Travis and I went on a 'date,' leaving Ben and John Paul to milk her. Well, the milking did not go well. Ben is a bit skittish of large animals, and I guess Penny could sense that. When Ben went over to milk her, she freaked out (for lack of a better expression) and began pushing Ben up against the stall. She ended up breaking out of the headlock and did not get milked until Travis and I got home that night. No one was hurt, including the cow, but Ben was left with a less than healthy fear of Penny.
We have stopped milking Penny until her calf is born in early April, but she still has to be fed twice a day. Usually Ben does the morning feeding/watering, and John Paul or Will does the night feeding. Today times got reversed, and Ben was stuck with the night feeding.
He said, "Mom I'm not going into the barn alone,at night, with the cow and those roosters in the rafter." I told him I was too busy cleaning the kitchen, but if he wanted to help me we could go feed her together later. He opted out. He asked Travis, but he was busy doing something or other, and so on, until he was left to go down alone (or so I thought).
"Anna, will you come help me milk the cow?" I heard Ben ask our two year old. "Yeah!! I'll help you!," she responded with great enthusiasm. I didn't think Ben was serious, but he bundled Anna up, put her shoes on, and down they went in the black of night to brave the cow together.
Anna returned, bursting with excitement, telling everyone how she "fed the cow," and "saw rooster...up there!" How happy it made me to have her really "help" her big brother. How delighted I am to see Ben turn to his youngest sister for companionship. I am Grateful for the opportunity to forge the bonds of friendship between siblings.


This has been a week of homecomings! Oliver came home from the hospital last night with instructions to return if he gets sick during the weekend. We still don't know what is going on with his kidneys, but are hopeful for a complete recovery. Admittedly, the last few days have had worried moments. Despite the concern and uncertainty we have experienced many blessings!
Yesterday a dear friend came to our house with our parish priest, bearing Lentil soup and homemade Macaroni and cheese.The day was blustery and cold,making the twenty-five miles out here seem like a pilgrimage, I am sure! Father Burt held a beautiful Communion service right at our dining room table. He lit a candle and placed the crucifix on the table with a small cloth. He then said some prayers and distributed holy Communion to all of us. It was just what I needed to bring peace and assurance to my aching heart.
Today Oliver woke up and requested waffles. For lunch I made him a German Pancake, and for dinner we had homemade chicken pie. He ate heartily, and it felt so satisfying to see him eat. He played poker with Ben and John Paul, and I've never heard him laugh so long and hard-just so happy to be home and with his family.
The outpouring of prayers and blessings has been so amazing! Even Will's friend from school called to check on Oliver. Rosaries, Masses, and well-wishes are abounding for this little boy! Thank you, everyone. You are wonderful!

Friday, February 26, 2010

No matter what the weather is like outside, the sun is always shining in my kitchen! Today I was doing a little much-needed dusting and was delighted all over again by one of my most cherished possessions. When I graduated from high school over twenty years ago, my sister, Maureen made this smiling sunshine to bring with me to college. This sun has been with me in every dwelling I have lived in since I was a teenager! As I get older, I realize how precious it was that my sister took the time to make such a special gift for me.

Here is another item I dusted today: a painting Will did for us when he was about twelve, and his grandfather lovingly framed.(Sorry I didn't get the frame in the picture!)

The children had a great time playing "Don't Wake Daddy," a thrift store find for Sam's birthday:

On another note.....

I was feeling at times today like the expression on Mary Margaret's face- pensive, a little worried. Oliver had to be admitted to the hospital for severe dehydration and possible kidney complications. Thank you so much in advance for your continued prayers!! Travis is with him in the hospital and we are hopeful for an easy diagnosis and recovery. What a crazy welcome home for Travis. I am just so thankful he is here.
I remember reading once that Jewish people mix bitter and sweet foods during certain celebrations to signify the bitter-sweet aspect of life. How wise. We can't wait for life to "settle down" to find joy. It has to happen in the midst of struggles. Thank you, dear reader, for giving me a chance to share these feelings with you. it is such a blessing.

And here is something from Jose Marie Escriva:
It is always the same: it all depends on your point of view. 'Laeteur cor quaerentium Dominum!'- when you seek the Lord, your heart always overflows with happiness...all the things that are now worrying you can be put into a smile which shows your love of God.
Here is Oliver and his beautiful smile:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Daddy Is Home!!!

Daddy is home!!! He had a welcoming committee to rival that of any movie star!!! I think this picture captures the feel of the moment. So excited to be home, yet bracing himself...

Anna missed snuggles with Daddy!

And back to the favorite reading chair, where Daddy reads and reads to the children:

What a happy homecoming! Will and John Paul went to pick Travis up in Charlottesville for me, so I could stay home with the other children. Poor Oliver is Very sick with a bug that has been making the rounds. He perked up this afternoon when we made some "real" fresh-squeezed lemonade, but this evening he is droopy again. Please pray for him! He has been sick since Sunday.
On a final note, Emily was a tremendous help to me by watching the little ones so Ben and I could clean up for the big homecoming. Click on the link to see some of the fun she had with the girls : The Merry Hoppers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Children Learn~Part 3~Making Connections

Last year I wrote a post on a neat connection we made while driving into town. I also wrote about a day when Mary Margaret was busy making connections. Ever since then I have been mindful of how much we learn by making connections.Learning does not happen in isolation; meaning, everything we learn is connected to something else we have learned. It is fun to see all the ways we connect topics on a day to day basis. Here are a few of our 'recent connections' :

Sam and I were discussing the large icicles hanging from the windows. I mentioned to him how they are like stalactites and stalagmites in a cave. This launched us into an on-line search for pictures of caves.

Oliver made this really cool snowflake, making the connection between the shapes of trees and a snowflake pattern. This was his own idea!!!

And most after Sam mastering the art of pancake making, we found out through a friend that this week is "National Pancake Week," and IHOP was celebrating National Pancake Day with free pancakes. We then looked up the origins of Pancake week, and found out that it is a "Fat Tuesday" tradition (I guess it got displaced on our calendar!)
A while back I read a neat book on connection making. Outside Lies Magic, by John Stilgoe, opens the reader's eyes to the possibilities of connection making in the world around us. Just the introduction to the book was motivating and captivating. I encourage you to check it out of your local library, if possible.
Well, I have a sick child who needs me now, so I will leave you to your connection making! Enjoy the ride!

Monday, February 22, 2010

How Children Learn~ Part 2~Doing

Children Learn by doing. They are happiest (especially when young) to be involved in grown-up activities. My children have a little wooden kitchen that they do play with. But given the choice, Anna would do the 'real ' dishes any day!

As she feels the water running through her hands, I tell her what she is feeling..or I will ask her a question- "Does the water feel warm?" "Are you going to use soap to clean the dishes?" All the while her vocabulary is expanding, and she is feeling different sensations. The sense of touch is very important !

Another important aspect of 'doing' for children is the parents' ability to let go. In other words, we need to let go of higher standards and control over every situation. This morning I inwardly cringed as I sent Sam downstairs with Mary Margaret and Tommy and only verbal instructions on how to make pancakes. He repeated the ingredients to himself all the way down the stairs. When I finally made it down, he had made pancakes start to finish! We need to let our children mess up- or not mess up! Sam did an incredible job, and he was so proud to serve me breakfast!

I can't recall how many times Will has fixed something-even big things like tillers and lawn mowers, because we let him have at it. I have to remind myself of letting the kids "do" on a daily basis, because it's too easy to get comfortable with not wanting to bother with the mess .Fill your home with creative things to do! It doesn't have to be fancy! One thing we have had off and on over the years is a giant 'make-it box.' It is a huge Rubbermaid container filled with junk!: cardboard tubes, pipe cleaners, boxes, string, etc...Just last night Will said, "Remember when I always made rain hats from the 'make-it' box" .... Oh, How I wish we had had blogging back then!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Do you ever look at your children...

in awe and amazement...

wondering how you can possibly love another person so deeply?


"Why did you put thorns in a vase, Mommy?"

"To remind us during Lent of the suffering Jesus had to endure for us."

"Mommy, I think we should put a candle there to remind us that Jesus is light." I liked Sam's idea, and we had our Lenten centerpiece!

What To Do When The X-Box is Broken

Maybe it's a sign of getting older, but my heart is stirred by the craziest things these days. Will had his giant collection of matchbox cars out tonight. Even though he hasn't played with the cars in years (he's sixteen and drives real cars!), he still loves his collection! Tonight (this is where I got all sentimental) he was telling us the stories of where he got every car(he has about 150 or more) the ones that didn't have a story attached to them were selected to use in tonight's entertainment:

Smashing the designated cars in a rat trap. I didn't get any great pictures, but you get the idea!

Later he discovered the washing machine wasn't agitating his clothes, so he decided to agitate them himself with a mop:
"I'm making dirt come out of them, Mom. This washing machine obviously doesn't work." (or maybe has 500 lbs of clothes in it!!)

How Children Learn~Part 1~ Discovery




Create a home where there are possiblities to imagine and discover~ A home that is interesting, that invites learning.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Offer I Couldn't Resist

Come on, Mommy.....

Will you go for a walk with me?

We can play in the snow!

And watch the sunset!

And find treasures!

And take some pretty pictures!

Let's go!!! (Anna really did pull me out for a walk when we were standing in our driveway this evening...I just embellished a bit!)

Making Lemonade

Today my kids taught me how to make Lemonade. Here is the recipe:

Take an evening (about 25 degrees) in town with five hungry and crabby children. Make sure the baby is really fussy and ready to go home. Stop at the local power company (has to be in the remote outskirts of town, on a highway). Turn your fifteen passenger van off to pay the bill, so it won't overheat. I forgot to tell you to make sure the building is closed; no-one is there and you'll have to use the drop box. Now, after you pay the bill, jump back into the van with the children who, at this point, are quite vocal in their pleas to go home. Now comes the fun part. Attempt to start the van, but make sure it doesn't start. Make sure it is completely dead. Then hail down a kind passerby. Maybe he will jump start your car for you. After finding this good Samaritan, make sure your attempts to start the car are fruitless.

As one last favor, ask him if you can borrow his cell phone to call roadside assistance. The road side assistance crew will assure you that help will be on the way. And they will- in an hour and a half. The sun will go down and with that, a drastic drop intemperature.
Have on hand an eight year old who is not bothered by the delay. Hopefully, he will do as mine did and ask to play in the snow. Say Yes: "Yes!!!" He will say, "I thought for sure it would be a 'no,' but thought I would try!!"

Be thankful as you remember all the snow clothes, including boots/hats/gloves are in the trunk of the car. Invest the time to dress an excited two, three, and five year old for the snow. Here is where the lemons will become lemonade.....The children will sled happily right next to the parking lot for an hour and a half. You will have a chance to read a nice book tucked in your car, and there is even a loaf of bread to snack on in the trunk.

Yes, this is what happened to us this evening. I am so appreciative of all the people who helped us and thankful for the kids' positive attitudes. They really did have a great time sledding, and though we didn't end up getting home until eight o'clock (we were stranded at 4:30) , the car is now in the shop, and everyone is fed and tucked in for the night.

I will conclude this post with the delightful excerpt from the book I was reading(which I had just found at a thrift store). The book is called, Through The Kitchen Window, and here is the excerpt:
In Winter, the kitchen is the heart of the house. It is a living place. Kettles sing, pots simmer, pans bubble. Visitors come to sit in the kitchen, children use the kitchen table, to draw at, to paint at, model plasticine upon. And to help with the cooking. They hang about, waiting for bowls to lick out.
There is a chair for quiet reading, and waiting for this or that to be put in or taken out of the oven, to be ready, to be kneaded or turned or basted or stirred.
Beside the stove, cats purr with half-closed eyes. In winter, the kitchen is always warm, and, always, there are smells: of roasting meat and stewing soups, frying onions and baking bread,. There is the chop-chop-chop of the knife, through carrots and turnips and mounds of fresh leeks, and the rhytmic pulse of the electric beater. And, in the sudden silence after it has stopped, the ticking of the clock.
In winter, the kitchen windows are steamed over, and pin-men and names and smiling sunny faces are drawn across the panes with chubby fingers.
Outside, early dark, rain like a whip lash, gale and hail, rattling the latch, or ice, sealing it tight.
But inside, all is bright,warm, savoury, companionable. ~

Incidentally, that is just the kind of kitchen I grew up in and am trying to create for my own family. Hope you enjoy the Lemonade you make today!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Homebody Day

I am sitting here in the peace of a quiet house after a happy day at home. I thought I just heard Anna crying, but it is only the wind...It is howling ! Our day was spent at home, with the exception of rescuing an escaped Penny- who, by the way, made it a mile down the road. I got the call about her from our neighbor just as I was about to put the tea kettle on! Turns out she escaped from a snowed over cattle grate. I'm very thankful for such helpful neighbors that helped me walk Penny home. Another kind neighbor brought us delicious pizza as a thanks for watching her children. Oh, and we also went to our little library down the road tonight while the children were at open gym. Anna was delighted to learn how to play the "Funny Faces" game on the computer at the library.
Here are some of the bright spots in my day:

A burst of summer on my kitchen windowsill. I found this little mint plant at Martin's for 2.00:

Mary Margaret wanted to investigate the inside of a sugar snap pea:


So of course, she made pea soup! I love the reflections in the bowl:

Anna has to stir the soup!!:

And here is Oliver dressed up as a ??????????:

Sam and Anna...Anna wanted to be a princess:

Then we had two Samurais running around the house all day...Sam and Tommy

I will close with some thoughts from the book we are reading for Lent: The Hidden Power of Kindness :
Keep your eyes open to discover other people's needs; take the trouble to remove an obstacle in the path of another; let your hands be busy providing pleasant surprises for your neighbor; be eager to undertake things for others or run errands for them without waiting to be asked. (p8)
(I think Father Lovasik must have been thinking about my mother when he wrote that!)
God Bless you this Lent, and may you find many happy moments in your days!