Wednesday, December 31, 2008


One of the highlights of our travels is seeing my sister. This is a rare opportunity. When you have over 13 hours of driving time between you, little children and pre-determined visiting days, you treasure the moments. Unfortunately, my body and baby had other plans. I had a weird allergic reaction combined with early labor signs. I was not pleasant company. I'm so grateful my children were. Sarah chose a special book to read. She does this each year, practicing words like Babylonian, her inflection, studying the illustrations so she knows what she wants to point out. They played. And connected with their aunt. I tear-up, thinking how they went on to have a fabulous visit without me, each of them valuing in their own way our special time. I hope to have a few moments come summer, so Sr. Theresa Paul can meet her new niece.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

why say good bye, say hello

We stopped in to see my grandma today. This was probably my chance to say good-bye. Who knows. She may strengthen. Parts of her memory may return. Eating may come easier for her. Her body may just feel the love and support rallying behind her. But we live so very far away. I want to take the opportunities, to make the opportunities I can.

I went in knowing she would not recognize me. I just wanted to make her smile. I wanted to say "hello", "I love you," and maybe have a moment of connection. Mission accomplished.

She seemed surprised to see us, but smiled as soon as I told her how beautiful she looked and asked what her secret was. Would she share it with me? Nope, then everyone would be the same and life would not be interesting. She took my hand. But my hands were cold. She wanted to see my children. I lifted each of them up. No names. Just lots of smiles. Numerous "I love you"s. She reached out to "take" each of their noses. Sarah climbed into her bed to read her a story. Grandma read the title, Only the Cat Saw. (I want to keep that book for always now.) She loved the illustrations. At the end, the cat is asleep. Grandma said she was tired. She had just received a breathing treatment before we arrived and the medications make you drowsy. She slept. We left.

Relatives live a matter of minutes away, so we went to visit. Jesse stayed there with the kids and let me go back to have more time with Grandma. This time I held her hand through a sheet. I didn't want to disturb her with my temperature. There was no chair. I sat on the floor beside her bed. We watched TV, or I lay my head down and prayed silently. We were present with each other. She laughed at an orange monster in a commercial. I laughed too. When we saw an add for skiing and tubing, I asked if she preferred the snow or the sand dunes. I hoped to spark a memory, since the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes were her favorite vacation spot. She replied that they both had their good qualities. You couldn't really compare one to the other; showing the rational Grandma I remember rather than the recollection. I had to leave. She asked where I live. When she heard we're near the ocean now, she said she wants to come visit some day. I said we'd put her feet in the waves. Someday...

I came to say my "good byes." Grandma kept showing me "hello". So much "I love you."

Saturday, December 27, 2008


We haven't been all together like this for about two years.

Front row is Amy, David, John, Sarah, Rebecca, (now Sr. Theresa Paul) Leah, Andrea, Brian holding Catherine, my dad holding Joseph. Middle row is myself and Mary Therese. In the back is Jesse, Andrew, Michael and my mom.

David says his favorite part about Christmas is seeing all the family. I agree.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

First we go to Jen's great Christmas Eve party. We see old friends, eat delicious, allergy friendly food and the kids play. Next we are off to my family's and Christmas Eve Mass. We usually do Midnight Mass, but I have trouble after 11pm these days.

Christmas morning we are up dumping full stockings and making pancakes. This is one tradition I missed this year. I forgot to bring my GF, DF, EF pancake recipe and my gingerbread person mold. So, no people shaped pancakes. We did share a beautiful morning Mass with my family.

the girls

the boys
(David would not come sit or stand with the family again.)
Then we are back to a flurry of gifts, mounds of food, relaxation and packing presents for the trip home, leaving some out to entertain us for the remainder of our visits.
We haven't had Christmas in our home for three years. The kids are starting to ask for one. With four young ones to transport next year, we may just give it a try.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Back in 1989, my father came up with a formula for buying a vehicle.

For every $100 you spend, the vehicle should go 3,000 miles.

Our 1993 Mercury Villager did this tonight. (woohoo!) It actually met the formula many moons ago for two reasons. #1 Inflation. The formula can now be adjusted to 3,000 miles for every $170 you spend. #2 It has a sticky odometer. Two years ago we noticed it was at 162,512. On the way back from Florida, it still read 162,512 miles. We know how to fix this, but we sometimes forget to push the little button that reminds it to keep counting.

It's a good van. It's served us well. I think I want a new one in the summer. Something with two sliding doors, a rear windshield wiper that does not have a mind of its own, turn signals that work after using the hazard lights and all cruise control options operating rather than only 1/3, 40% of the time. Leather seats would be nice too, but I don't want to be too picky.

ps. In case you do not want to crunch the numbers, it is not easy for a vehicle to "make formula." Only a handful have done so in the last 20 years.

Monday, December 15, 2008

menu Monday 4

Here are the last 7 meals in our rotation:

M. sloppy joes (made from scratch and served on brown rice)
T. noodles & cabbage (rice noodles)
W. hearty veggie stew
R. black-eyed pea goulash
F. chick pea patties (vegetarian)
S. pork chops and rice (broccoli & tomatoes are on top)
S. empty - go out to eat or have left overs

My favorite parts of having 28 meals are both the stability and flexibility. I'm not sure if that makes sense. I know I should have everything to make dinner. I can see what's for dinner. I create a rhythm. At the same time, we had sloppy joes for Sarah's birthday dinner on Sunday. The ribs from last week then get bumped up to Monday this week. Plus, we're leaving on Wednesday for vacation. When I did not feel like pork chops last Saturday, I could shift my yummy veggie stew to its place. So, we know what to expect, but have the option to be flexible too.

In reality this week, I won't be cooking Wednesday - Saturday. =)
I'm still thinking about a favorite, family holiday recipe...


oh crapity, crap, crap, crap!

I have NO pictures from the girls' dance recital. No video clips. No awesome footage of their rehearsal. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Somewhere in the transfer from camera to computer, they vanished. Actually, I remember seeing some of them on the computer, but now they are all gone.

Leah was an amazing cowgirl, with her pink cowboy hat I found thrifting one night.

Sarah was an angel in the Nutcracker. Granted, this was the Parks & Rec Nutcracker, so you never saw Clara or Nutcracker or a mouse. But there was a Snow Queen, Sugar Plum Fairy, children, Sweets, Dolls, Arabian, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, etc. and Angels - sweet, shining Angels.

I'm so sorry to have lost those pictures...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


You know you are 28 weeks pregnant when:

You start to waddle.
You have to catch your breath at the top of a flight of stairs.
You are suddenly starving.
You eat all the time.
You gain 4 pounds in 9 days from eating all the time.
You have to wake up to roll over at night.
You struggle getting into and out of small cars.
You cry, at the slightest thing.
You are either delighted with your DH or furious with him.
You look like this:
Welcome to the beginning of the third trimester.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday was full, to the max. I got everything done, except dinner. I packed up a dinner for Dawn, made snack for the LLL meeting, taught a FULL day of school - lots of balancing, graphing, reading, grid addition and addition/subtraction families, ran the kids down here, then back up to co-lead said LLL meeting, finally back home to plan class. *whew*

So, either my kids do not find Christmas lights to be as magical and special as I do, or they simply were not impressed with Winter Wonderland. I'm guessing it's the latter, since almost all our outdoor decorations adorn their playhouse.

Perhaps they would have liked the large indoor display, but we were late and missed that part. Here is what they did like:

looking at chickens
playing with goatslifting goatsfinding a Santa/creche sceneand getting dressed up in their new sweaters from GrannyTHANK YOU Granny Wilma! Everyone loves their new things, (and mama loved the gift receipts. It all fits now. =)

Monday, December 8, 2008

menu Monday 3


I decided I would officially do Menu Monday. I want to do some meal shifting and more crock pot meals come 2009, and I thought this might help motivate my changes.

Here are our meals for this next week and breakfast described in more detail.

M. BBQ beans and meat (baked beans, spices, leftover meat, served on rice)
T. chili burgers
W. split pea soup
R. spaghetti (GF noodles)
F. red lentil soup (vegetarian)
S. peking pork chops (crock pot)
S. BBQ ribs (crock pot)

But Sunday is Miss Sarah's birthday, so we'll have her favorite, sloppy joes. Lucky for me, that is next Monday's meal, so I'll just flip Sunday and Monday.

To see previous menus, go here and here. In case you did not notice, the week has a rhythm. Monday is someones favorite. It is also SUPER easy to pack for lunch on Tuesday. Co-op day is Tuesday, so I need an easy lunch to bring. Tuesday is something with hamburgers (or an easy cabbage dish next week.) Since I have yoga on Tuesday nights, these meals are simple for Jesse to prepare. Wednesday is a soup. Thursday is something with noodles. Friday is vegetarian. We usually have a pork chop dish on Saturday. Come Sunday, I pull out the crock pot.

Adding more to my breakfast description:
Monday's muffins are vegan, gluten free, and always banana. Jesse makes these. =)
The kids have wheat bread on Tuesday. I have Energy's rice bread. We all use an organic fruit spread. I hope to be making my own bread in 2009, but for now it is from Trader Joe's.
The kiddos' waffles are from Trader Joe's too, ones with gluten and ones without. Due to the potato starch and flour in the GF ones, I eat leftover pancakes or make a bowl of Cream of Rice.
Thursday is fairly straightforward, except we are originally from the North. We could not imagine our grits without a dollop of organic butter or Earth Balance along with demerara (minimally processed) sugar or pure maple syrup.
Friday's ice cream is soy. Fruit is fruit. =) I do not eat the oatmeal. It gives me a headache.
Pancakes on Saturday are again vegan, gluten free and banana.
Our cereal is either puffed rice or Rice Chex (now GF, yeah!) with soy or rice milk.

There it is!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

kWh usage

Way back when, I said I'd post our kW hour usage. In light of Sarah's challenge, I thought now would be a good time. BTW, is no one else watching their electricity use and weighing their recycling, other than our fun friend Rebecca, in Pgh? Sarah's still tickled to do this, but she was hoping for more participants. =) She's taking it seriously too. She's limiting David and Leah's TV time, not that they have that much, and inventing games for them instead. *hehe*

Anyhow, I'm not sure how many numbers you might be interested in. I have them all. We've never used 1,000 kWh, and now have it to rarely over 500. My favorite numbers are from July: 853 kWh in '06, 862 kWh in '07, 450 kWh in '08. No AC folks! When I broke down and used it for a weekend in September, we had our highest usage for this year - 489 kWh. August was unusually cool here and our usage shows that at 279 kWh. October was 403 kWh. November was 425 kWh.

Last December we jumped up to 505 kWh. I'm not sure why. I think Jess and I stay up late working in December. I'm hoping to have it lower this year, but we're burning the candles again. Rather, we should be burning candles with how late we're staying up. Instead, we've got the lights on. =)

Our average for 2007 was 444 kWh. The average for 2008 so far is 391.5 kWh.

There's our numbers. Sarah wanted to know if our meter ever stopped turning. We discussed the fridge and fish tank. They're always running, and have to. A few months ago we got in the habit of unplugging most of our appliances when they are not in use - TV, VCR, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine. We have one computer that is on all day and asleep all night. I'm working on that habit. Gotta' shut the thing off! Speaking of which...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

where is baby sister?

I got in the bath with Leah tonight. After my long day and yoga, I wanted a little soak. Plus, she was filthy. We usually only scrub children on Saturday night, but she could not wait that long. She agreed to the extra soaping when I said I'd get in too. Anyhow, here is what she had to say:

L: I think Baby Sister might be in your nipples.
me: What makes you think that?
L: Because they're so big!
me: Well that's so Baby Sister has a place to get food when she is born. Do you really know where Baby Sister is?
L: Yeah, (laughing) in your big tummy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

energy challenge

Sarah is looking for a family who wants to conserve energy as much as she does. =)

The challenge is to recycle as much as possible and use as little electricity as possible. She wants you to weigh the material you recycle and track your kWh for the next two weeks. The prize is: "You will have taken care of the planet and made it a much better place."

Anyone up for the challenge?

The recycle tub has a few things in it. We'll wait until it's full before Sarah weighs the stuff.
We're off to find our meter and learn how to read it.
starting at 69701 kWh folks

menu Monday 2

Here is what we are eating this week:

M. bratwurst & sauerkraut
T. burgers & four bean salad
W. grandma's chili
R. spiced beans w/ sausage over spirals
F. tofu stir fry
S. pork chops sweet potatoes apples
S. meal on the run pork loin

An update on last week:

F. ham, beets, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes
S. venison, brown rice, brussel sprouts, salad
S. stir fry with venison, tofu, green beans and corn

Now we have no left overs, so I think I'll make soup for lunch.