Sunday, January 31, 2010

Horse Show In the Snow

For the fourth week-end in a row, we got up at 3:40 am to go to a horse show for the girls's riding team.This time, our team hosted the event which required a GREAT deal of work from Tori  and Natalie.They have worked for many weeks riding about 9 different horses regularly so that the horses would be safe and fit for all the visiting teams to jump on and show without any practice on their individual mounts.  In other words, the hosting team provides everything , the facility, the judge, those who "school" the horses from 6:30 to 8 am,all the paperwork,and most importantly,all the horses and tack needed for 70 middle school and high school riders to compete on.They worked full, long days on Thursday and Friday to move the horses and all the horses's gear to a rented Indoor arena. Meg helped in the last few weeks to ride horses and worked all day today to help run the show.It was bitter cold and although there was not a flake of snow on the ground when we got to the barn at 5 am, there was at least 4-5 inches when we left. All the teams traveled at least 2 hours there from either the north or south  and many planned to stay in local hotels for the night.
            Natalie decided that she didn't get up that early to come in second and proceeded to get two firsts in both her jumping and flat classes.Tori felt that she couldn't be spared from the work and organization required today and chose to sacrifice her own riding to keep things running smoothly. I helped out by working from 5am to 4pm  serving food at a concession stand. It was a big success in that everyone appreciated our menu of hot drinks and food, we made back the money that we had spent on groceries and finished with a profit of 178  dollars which we gave to our coach to donate to the rescue squad which came and was on stand-by all day. By God's Grace, they had a very boring day at the show (it was a very safe day),although they had to leave a couple of times to deal with weather related traffic incidents. We served egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches on a croissant or grilled english muffin  grilled cheese sandwiches, two large crockpots full of delicious chili, hot dogs,chicken ramen cup of soup, nacho chips and many pots of coffee and hot chocolate. I really enjoyed the interaction and tried to provide good customer service with a warm local welcome to so many visitors.

We did not bring our youngest girl ,Miss J. who usually joins us because of the excessive cold, the extra long hours and the increased distraction factor of hosting the show.She is safe at Grandmas and will stay another night because the roads are not optimal for travelling around. It has been a busy week filled with family and friends (these are actually all the same people!). Larry got his sister to the airport safely despite the snow this afternoon.Tomorrow, I must plan for a productive school week after having this past week off for Mom's Funeral and this Horse Show.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Driving Grandma Dolly

Onward, Upward

The boys are playing Basketball with a very nice Christian program that incorporates the Scriptures with physical exercise.It is not terribly competitive as they don't even add up the score, but it is fun and they are enjoying it a lot. For so many years we held them back from extra-curricular activities because we were so busy with the girls. It finally is time for them to be a part of something that they can call their own.The games and practices are manageable and provide great exercise and give us a chance to cheer on our boys. Miss J. likes to wear her dress up outfit to the games. Sometimes the older kids come to watch them play, too.

This Is The Day....

This is the day the Lord has made, Let all the Earth rejoice!!!!!!!!!! This is the song I sang  loudly in the car as  I drove up to Nancy's house today to meet with our homeschooling cousins.We have planned for a Study Skills Seminar that we will do once a week for 4 weeks together. The reason for my happiness is that FINALLY we all live within 45 minutes of each other and we can get these kids together as much as we want to! Better yet, we can get together as much as WE want to !!! We gathered for a pancake and potatoe cake luncheon at 12:30. We had three electric griddles going and blew the circuit! Luckily, my Brother-in-law was home and he fixed that.In this picture you see 20 kids which is 4 kids shy of the total from these four families.You can imagine this Mother's joy when Jeff agreed to join us for lunch before hanging out with Grandpa for the afternoon! We had fun calling him a Homeschool alumnus.He was partially homeschooled so I won't give it all the credit for the success he is enjoying, but I will give it the credit for him wanting to have lunch with his aunts and cousins!

The Seminar is actually a purchased DVD Series of lectures from The Teaching Company.We had the Middle and High School students in our group watch 3 lectures on how to be an excellent student.I learned a lot! All the rest of the kids played well together both inside and outside of the new house. At 4 o'clock, Trent came in with a still warm "Fruit of the Forest" pie that we enjoyed with tea. When we were finished , we invited this class sized group of kids to have Aunt Cecilia's homemade chocolate chip cookies and lemonade. God Willing, we'll get together next week to continue our series.This is the day that we have all been looking forward to for years!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Let Me Know If There Is Anything I can Do ....

I have spoken these words before to someone who has suffered a loss. The last few days have shown me that although the thought is sweet, it probably won't result in actually having to do anything. In the future I will be more aware that it is a much better idea to just go ahead and DO it.These are some of the ways in which our friends and family have participated in honoring my mother-in-law who died a few days ago.A number of these people were never lucky enough to meet her but did something concrete to help out because they cared about my husband and his family in his time of loss. Tim and Kristy offered to make a casserole.Then they went home , made it in an hour and delivered it back to Mom and the girls that night. It was eaten that night and it fed Mom and her visitors the next day at noon.We finished it and that was the last food that Mom ate on this earth. She died that afternoon.
            While Mom was being brought home with Hospice and we knew that she was dying, my Mom arranged with her family to provide plenty of food for her reception whenever that might be. This is a huge help to me and allowed my extended family to be a part of burying this woman whom they have known and cared about and seen at my family functions for 27 years. This also emphasizes the idea that when I got married, two families were united.Which is exactly why it was so sweet of my new daughter-in-law's parents to have sent over that yummy homemade chicken salad ,rolls and pound cake pictured above.
             We have all been so touched to receive the fun and thoughtful fruit bouquet that was chock full of fresh cut melons, strawberries, grapes and oranges that was delivered by the cutest little truck right up the driveway.Some very generous friends sent it and their hearts for giving make me hope that God will bless them 10 times for all they do for so many people. I took the picture after 16 people had been nibbling on it and we are still eating it up. Part of the mourning process is to be together as a family to plan the service and reconnect. Everyone visits and needs to eat. In the future, I will deliver some food to those in need.

We also experienced the contribution of our younger family members who went through so many pictures to find good ones of Mom when she was happy and loving her family and life. The girls went through many songs to pick ones that reflected Mom's style.

Other people took the time to dress up in uncomfortable dress clothes and came to the wake to pray for Mom and say a little something to the family. This is what is meant by "Suit Up and Show Up." It counts. Just being present or taking the time to make a call shows such an investment of time and self. When it was time to drive someone home, it was remembered that Uncle Dan had volunteered to chauffeur anyone who needed it, so we asked him.The  offer was concrete and specific.I have three Home-schooling sisters who are taking the day off tomorrow to bring their children to my Mother-in-law's funeral. To Bury the Dead is a Corporal Work of Mercy. It is what we are called to do as Christians. I didn't realize that there were so many helpful ways to participate in this act of love and respect for LIFE because this is a journey that we all will make.

This last pic shows Greg and Dad "Seating The Wax Seal".Dad had to do a bunch of Honey-do things in order to prepare for a post funeral luncheon. Greg came over to spend the whole day helping his Dad who had just lost his mother. Everything got done!So what I figured out is- if you think it might help-Do It. It probably will be a bigger help than you realize.

Death With Dignity

In the Catholic tradition, St. Joseph is known as the patron saint of a "Happy Death", because  it is said that he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Although my dear Mother-in-law was not a Catholic, Good St. Joe must have been praying for her because her recent death was beautiful in so many ways. Mom had been incredibly active and enjoying a full life which included lunch with her friends at the Senior Center 4 days a week. While boarding the bus to come home from the center last week, she felt short of breath and faint. She was admitted to the hospital, and the next day she was told by her doctor of 9 years that she had a life threatening injury to her heart and that she would not be able to survive it. Mom took this news like a brave soldier and showed us all in the next six days what it looks like to die with grace and courage. Her doctor is to be commended for the gentle honesty that he used in speaking to Mom and to all of us. He prepared us for the worst and we took him seriously. He hugged Mom and  was most compassionate with whatever she needed or wanted.When she told him that she loved him (because she did) he  responded that he loved her too.That's what I call great health CARE.
          Mom spent the next few days in the hospital getting great care.What a wonderful surprise and tremendous comfort it was to her to have her only daughter, and her friend  arrive by plane from Arizona 24 hours after Mom received her diagnosis. She spent time with them and her sons  in deep heart to heart talks as well as with her daughters-in-law and grandchildren.She talked and talked some more, telling the stories we have known and loved. She shared her love and memories with each person individually. She laughed a lot.She enjoyed every minute of it despite the discomfort.She expressed forgiveness to anyone who had ever hurt her. She said " I have no resentments and no regrets".She was not afraid. She continually expressed how good her God had been to her and KNEW that she was a blessed woman. She called on the name of Jesus the Lord.
          After a few days she came home to her own apartment with the care of her daughter and dear friend. She then received visitors who were close friends,neighbors and family. Two days after being at home and still able to walk to the restroom and to sit at the kitchen table, she died in her chair holding the hands of her daughter and friend. There was no ambulance to be called- just gentle peacefulness to be spent with her as her spirit left her body for a better place, please God. The peaceful way in which death came to her seems like a gift of grace from a very merciful God.
           Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another Laundry Pile

I do some of my best thinking, or meditating if you will, while doing repetitive physical work. Folding and hanging laundry allows me to keep my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander. I seem to be able to think at a deeper level when I am busy doing something over and over again. One of the things I have meditated upon is is how a new baby  in the family can be likened very simply to "one more laundry pile". Just like at the dinner table where each of us has our own particular place, we fold our laundry into stacks that are always in the same spot. My grandson who lives here has brought to our family a great deal of joy and love and has been no more trouble than adding one more laundry pile. His is on the back left.

Head Gear

This is a crazy ball that after popping  has found its real purpose in life as a hat. It seems to be irresistible.It is even reversible!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hard-Working Men

In this picture, Jeff is showing us a heavy, golden "General's Coin"  inscribed with the motto "Secure the High Ground". He received it this past week from a general, as a token of appreciation for a job well done. He was honored to be one of the guest speakers on a panel presenting at a conference attended by over 5,000 people. He and a partner had come in first in an important computer competition and he was there to discuss, in a general way, how he did it. He even got his audience to laugh! He said that he was wined and dined and treated like a celebrity the whole week and had some great conversations with like-minded folks. I would like to publicly go on record right now and say, Jeff- I hope you get a dollar for every time I told you to "Get off the computer !!!!!!!!!!" For some reason this mother completely missed that computers were to be your vocation!

Here we see Greg pouring himself a cup of coffee after cutting, splitting, and stacking a pick-up truck full of firewood to heat his house, on his day off! He chopped down a huge, tall dead tree last week and this second load he cut, finished it off. Although it wasn't a cherry tree, it could have been- Greg is pretty much "George Jr." Because of the high esteem in which Greg is held by both the doctors and nurses at the hospital where he works, his Grandma V. is being given the VIP treatment. She is getting excellent care and has been given a suite because of her many visitors as she is seriously ill (your prayers for her would be most appreciated). After his short coffee break, Greg headed home to be with his bride, Cindi. But not before I had a chance to snap this picture:

A very grateful mother knows that "These are the good old days..." How sweet it is.
Tim and Kristy, you were missed but not forgotten. We'll hassle you next time!!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Book-It Pizza

After our monthly Homeschool Activity Day, Aunt Nancy said that her family was going out to lunch with the Book-it coupons provided to kids as an incentive to read by Pizza Hut. Coincidentally, we had planned to go to Pizza Hut's lunch Buffet in the near future using a gift card that our neighbors had generously given to us for Christmas.What a treat! The youngers used the coupons for personal pan pizzas and the older ones enjoyed the buffet on the gift card.

While there, I  overheard  a businessman on his cell phone say "Pardon me, I didn't catch that. They're having some kind of kid's party here." Nope, just some cousins having lunch together! Next time, let's bring the rest of our homeschooling cousins. Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you so much for the great gifts of food and fellowship.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Heat Wave!

      50 degrees felt like 70 degrees today after all the bitter cold weather.Here's how we enjoyed it...

The girls in green gallop off to the barn

The guys with the little "G-money" go to gladiate in the park

                            and jolly Jubee jumps for joy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Plan For Success

 I am a person who cannot function without a plan. Spontaneous? Not one bit. Each morning when I get up, either before or after my prayers and my first cup of coffee, I write down my list for the day. I have been doing this for over twenty years and I am not exaggerating. Small yellow pads are what I write my To Do items on, one page per day. If I plan to do it, I write it down so that I won't forget about it. Whenever there is a lull in the action, I consult my list to see what I should be doing next.This includes schoolwork, phone calls that I need to make, appointments, the lunch or dinner menu, laundry, The Rosary, grocery items that we need, and any other errand or household maintenance task that needs to be done. Lately, the girls have put "Blog" on my list which is cute because it turns that  into a legitimate activity and not just a great source of fun for me!

The amazing thing is, that once an item has been written down on my list, it has a 99 % chance of being accomplished if not on that day, then on the next. If I don't get something that needs to be done crossed off, I rewrite it onto tomorrow's list. I have really found this to be a successful way of eliminating loose ends in my life. A number of years ago I started to save my daily list in a shoebox in the cabinet directly over where it sits each day by the phone.This is a record of my life. This is "How we spend our days...." I like to be active and I like to get things done. Checking things off makes me feel good about how I am spending my time.To be honest, I occasionally write "read" or "rest" on my list. Most people can figure this out by themselves, but I am happier if I am following a plan.This seems to keep me in what I perceive to be God's Will for me.When I am keeping my eyes on my own "page", some of the distractions and time zappers that would keep me from accomplishing my goals are eliminated. I have told the kids that at my funeral I would like them to bring my lists for the day. That is my life's work and  with God's help, I am trying  to do it well.

Mom's Book Club

        One of the more successful gimmicks that I've used to get the kids to do what I'd like them to do has been my Ice Cream Book Club.I started this past summer and it is still going strong. I purchased many boxes of good quality  ice cream treats that are much nicer than what we usually buy when this big family has ice cream.The deal is, if you read a whole book, you may help yourself to the ice cream treat of your choice.These are kept out in the garage in our big freezer (which has been in continuous operation for 49 &1/2  years!).So far, I haven't noticed these treats disappearing  without a book having been read.The older kids have to read a chapter book and John has read many Hardy Boys' adventures since this began. The 5 year old listens to me read to her, and after a good number of those, both she and I go get our Klondike Bars. Good Deal!   

Beater Woes

Apparently, we are hard on hand mixers.This is how many beaters are left from mixers that have burned up.The one pictured is starting to act up in that only one beater will spin and the other beater just falls out. I have never really considered  investing in one of the Kitchen Aid stand mixers before because they are so expensive, but this is ridiculous.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Venison Tenderloin

             Most venison eaters would agree that the tenderloin is the nicest cut of meat that a deer offers. This is my recipe for the tenderloin, which I call Sirloin Tips with Peppers. The secret for cooking all cuts of venison is to soak the meat in a bowl of salted water in the fridge for a day or so before cooking. After draining, cut the meat into chunks removing any fat or gristle (which is really non-existent on this particular cut).Put the meat aside and cut up one or two assorted colored fresh peppers, an onion,3 or 4 stalks of celery and the same number of cloves of garlic Tonight I happened to have some carrot sticks cut up already and I threw them in.                             Saute the vegetables in olive oil in a large skillet. When these are done, remove them from the skillet and place off to the side. Now, brown the meat in a small amount of olive oil in the same skillet. The meat will cook very quickly  (like 10 min.) and I leave the good juices in the pan. Add the sauteed veggies back to the pan and spoon in a large can of Cream of Mushroom soup (generic is fine).I like to season with black pepper.Tonight I thought to add about 2 tablespoons of  generic Heinz 57 sauce.That gave it a very nice golden color.Other times I have used a browning sauce to darken the color of the soup to more of a gravy color.I use a flat spatula to work the soup into the ingredients and heat it on the stove for 15 minutes or so.

Tonight I served this tenderloin sauce over brown rice,but it is just as good over any cooked noodles or mashed potatoes. After we had dinner, I combined the sauce and rice into one dish which will be great tomorrow.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Nightstand Dilemma

         I saw in the flyers this week-end that one of my favorite stores was discontinuing a line of furniture and that the white nightstand above would be on clearance at 30% off. Today, on the way home from Latin class, we decided to take a peek at them. Sure enough, the white one was very cute but the price was higher then I expected it to be despite the sale. In fact, they only had the display model on hand which could not be sold. No matter, the pink one above was available and the  price slightly less.We grabbed it. Then we headed over to the other branch of this same store across town which was almost on our way. There they did have the little white one in a box to be assembled.We took that one too.                                                                              When we got home, we spent about 30 minutes trying both nightstands in both of these girls' rooms. Of course we just had to imagine how the white one would look as it was still in the box. We had to discuss all the nuances and subtleties of which one should go in which room and why and what could be stored on or in each.When the older girls found out how much they had cost (59 and 69 dollars),they were shocked. They said that no way were they worth it and that I should go to a yard sale or Goodwill to get something for 20 dollars or less and paint it. I began to realize that if I took out that nightstand with the light attached (above right), I would then have to go out and buy a new lamp to place on the new nightstand. It began to dawn on me that my husband would have to work all day to pay for these nightstands that in 20 minutes would be so covered with clutter that you wouldn't be able to see them.                                                                              I thought that I would keep the small white one for the older girl and pass her small brown table ( made by hand for us by a friend about 15 years ago) to the younger girl, and take the pink one back. When Larry got home (from a two hour commute-not his usual- but kind of  pertinent when talking about the value of money), he quickly observed that he and I have had the same mismatched ,different sized and even different height nightstands for 20 years. In fact, we have NEVER bought ourselves nightstands, ever. We just improvised with furniture that we came upon that would do the trick. That settled it. We packed both of  these cute pieces of furniture into the van and returned them right then and there.When I got to the store, I took these pictures so that I could share about  how I almost wasted some money today on something that would be nice, but that we absolutely didn't need.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Chilly Horse Show


           Our day at the Horse Show was very successful in that we made it safely to and from, and the girls had a very good time.This trip required a 2 hour drive, a bit out of my comfort zone which  began at 5am. It was extremely cold throughout the day in an unheated barn. The girls had the foresight to pack many blankets which they were able to share with their teammates. They stayed wrapped up in these over their show clothes.We all commented on how professionally the show was run and how pleasant the Show Manager was as he kept the horses and riders moving in and out of the ring.The competition was stiff and this time they didn't bring home many ribbons but they did have a SAFE and fun ride and believe me, that was what I was praying for.Thanks be to God for allowing us to experience this beautiful, sunny, brisk winter day surrounded by so many nice people and graceful, majestic animals.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sanity Returns

 Upon further reflection, through family discussion and the wise counsel of others, the realization has occured to me that my last post was a bit too... ahem...rednecky and just plain wrong. I apologize for any offence given especially to dog lovers. A new paragraph has been added  to it which clarifies my thinking in the light that morning brings."Vengeance is mine ", sayeth the Lord. The worst part is, if ever my cause for Sainthood is opened up, it will be easy to prove that I was completely off track! If only that were the only evidence......

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mystery Solved!

            Last night at 3a.m., Meg came out of her room . She looked out the back door and noticed something moving. She ran upstairs and saw a big dog walking in the back yard. She loudly called for Dad and within minutes, most of us were up.  This is what we had been waiting for, a chance to identify the creature(s)  killing our pets. I glanced out  the window and saw a dog slinking through the yard. Larry, the girls and Sam began an armed watch that resulted in witnessing two big dogs walk all around the animal pens.Within 15 minutes, the dogs both took off to the left and immediately after that, a truck left our neighbor's drive way.The dogs were not sighted again, although three deer walked up the driveway.Everyone got back to bed by 4a.m.     

             This morning, Larry followed the dogs' footprints and they led to the house of our next door neighbor who lives to the left of our back-yard ,through the woods.Walking through the gully that separates the houses, he came upon the feathers that had been our third peacock, dashing our hopes that she had escaped.He knocked on the door and was told by the woman who answered that indeed, they  had two big dogs and had only been renting there for five weeks.Funny, her husband had told Larry that he hadn't seen any strange dogs in the area when he was asked, after the bunnies were killed.Larry explained that losing 7 pets was significant,  not to mention the violent damage done to all their cages. He pointed out that we are really afraid that these killer dogs might harm our young children  while they are in their own yard.She said that she would like to get rid of the dogs, but  that her adult children who live in the basement don't want to and they let them out of the house. She told Larry to do whatever he had to do.Hmmmmm.....Let's just say that those vicious dogs don't want to go for a moon walk on our property anymore.It would'n't be wise.
             It most especially wouldn't be wise for us to seriously contemplate this course of action! You know how crazy the law can be, it doesn't have to make sense.No doubt those dogs were just having a bad day ( can you hear me back-pedaling?)!!!!Any way, a great dog is a tremendous asset and an amazing tool for good,like when they save a kid's life or alert  homeowners to the smell of smoke and predators (yeah,predators stink.)A BAD dog however is a HUGE liability.It is a danger to society.We really don't want to have bad blood between ourselves and our new neighbors who may be very reasonable people who will deal with this situation in their own way and as soon as possible.Self defense is one thing, revenge a completely different one.Hopefully, our pretty pony will not have to suffer a horrible injury at the claws and teeth of these known attackers while all these semantics are going on.