Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quiz Rally

Today, we spent the day at a Pony Club Quiz Rally. It was a very well organized event. The girls competed on teams as they traveled to many different stations that tested their knowledge of all things horse related. Each station was timed. At some points they worked as a team,  at others  they were on their own. I volunteered all day in the Mega room. At the station that I sat at (to proctor the test), the participants had to identify  9 different pieces of tack. At other tables in that room, the participants had to label the anatomy of the horse's leg, the bones of the skeleton of the horse, types of feed, names of jumps, conformation questions, types of plants poisonous to horses, names of bits and other barn equipment. There was a classroom portion where they were asked to discuss diseases of the horse and the treatments for it. There were mock stalls with safety issue concerns and grooming questions.
Natalie's team with four members placed first in their division.Tori's team, with only two brains to pick, was being tested at a more challenging level and came in third. As a "Mom" volunteer, I received all the free food that I could eat delivered to the table that I sat at in lovely baskets! I was impressed with how professionally run the rally was and how much all the kids knew about horses. It was a wonderful day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bushy Tailed Friend

The recent Blizzard left so much snow on the ground for such an extended period of time, that the squirrels were beginning to look thin and desperate. Larry threw a few peanuts out the back door and made himself a new friend. This squirrel now comes to the back door daily to get his peanuts. He was not afraid of us sitting inside watching him and he retrieved about 10 peanuts, one at a time. Some he nibbled up in a tree and others he  took to a near-by hiding place. I'm not sure how much longer we want to keep feeding him, especially when I realized that there were actually two squirrels coming onto the deck!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Second Superstar Student Symposium

It is clear from the titles that I choose, that alliteration is my favorite only literary technique!!! It is fun though, just like the wonderful day that we enjoyed with our cousins. Today was the second installment of a  series of lectures on DVD on improving studying skills that our families are viewing together. The six High School and Upper Middle School aged students together with three Moms (all sisters) and Grandpa (who loves all things academic) watched two lectures on 1) Being prepared for exams and Testing Strategies and 2) Informal Writing. We all took notes and gave the DVD lecturer our focused attention.
Next, we snacked on cheese and crackers and homemade Irish Soda bread with butter and coffee.
The snacks were a big hit with the 25 family members in attendance!

Then, the Moms and Grandpa had a mini Homeschooling Conference on the strengths and weaknesses and the benefits and challenges of both providing and receiving a high quality education at home. There was a lot of discussion on balancing the needs of High Schoolers with those of students in the Primary grades, particularly with a nursing baby in the family! It was a lively discussion with much encouragement and many suggestions offered for the very real difficulties we face. Perseverance and praying for guidance along with sacrificial amounts of hard work were deemed necessary. At the end of it, we were happy to pick up our own crosses and thank God for the privilege we share pouring our time, talent and treasure into these kids and letting the Grace of God fill in the gaps.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the cousins had a blast!  It seems that they have even better costumes than we do!
Since there is still snow, some went sledding.
 It was another great day of spending time together and creating memories.Thanks be to God.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Steep Hill

At 4 o'clock it was time to get outside. The kids were heading to their new sledding spot so I went along to get a picture and to see how steep it really is. It is so steep, that you can't see the actual bottom from the top. We took the long way to get there and it was very scenic walking through the woods. We only stayed a short while before John's feet were too cold to have fun. He has been wearing rain boots instead of snow boots and that makes a difference. It was very nice to get outside.

Fun with the Guys

When I was a kid, there was no such thing as a" play date". If I wanted to play with my friends, I opened the door, walked outside and  selected  from any one or all of the 65 (no exaggeration) kids that lived on my street. There were both boys and girls in every age group. We had large outside games of cops and robbers, Hide and Seek  and Ghost in the Graveyard. We played Jump- rope, T.V. Tag and practiced hand stands and cartwheels by the hour. The girls played Barbie dolls and baby dolls. We danced to records, formed clubs of all kinds and put on many plays.We built forts in the woods and made pretend campgrounds. We played on the railroad tracks and on occasion rode our bikes to Daily Mass at the Convent down the street. With our friends,we walked to and from school every day, even through  a Vermont winter for all 12 years. There was constant interaction with friends and neighbors, most all of it good.
             Fast forward 40 years(ouch!) to today. Although our neighborhood is safe, and has beautiful natural features, there is a lack of playmates for our boys. Thankfully, we have been blessed with neighbors who are a homeschooling family with three fun and creative girls, now teen-agers.That has been great for our older girls. However, there is not another boy of any age in our neighborhood. Our boys do have each other, but at this point, I am seeing a real need for other boys for them to play with. Personality development is very  subtle and friends offer a great way  to discover who we are and how we need to adjust ourselves to become a better person.

          Which brings us to the "play date" which doesn't sound very masculine at all. I have overcome inertia in this area and have started to pick up the phone to arrange get- togethers  with a friend that the boys really enjoy. We are also going to continue to make a point to spend time with our cousins,  who are all  good kids. This is worth the time and  has become a high priority for me. My goal is to, with God's help, raise great men. In order to do that, these boys need to spend time with other boys in good activities and  just hanging out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cute in Costumes

Mothers love to see their children playing and using their imagination. Miss J. has so much fun dressing up in an assortment of costumes and we think it is so cute. In this picture, she is actually standing on a three -legged stool because the colonial dress is too long for her. I actually made this and two other colonial dresses for her three sisters in one week when she was a baby.
This is Our "Lil Orphan Annie" costume purchased for her 20 year old sister when she was in Kindergarten and taking Ballet lessons. Miss J. got the movie from Meg for Christmas and now dresses up and sings "It's a Hard Knock Life". I think we got our money's worth with this costume.

This is our Bunny costume which has been used by both boys and girls for Halloween over the years.

This is our Tiger leotard  purchased when Meg was in first grade and taking Jazz. We gave the Jazz lessons up because the lyrics in the music were not what I wanted my daughter to hear week after week but the costume has been a total success. In fact, we probably have a picture of each of the girls and younger boys wearing this one through the years.

This is Miss J.'s BFF. They have a wonderful time every time that they get together. They use their imaginations and usually put on a play complete with costumes for us to watch. 
Costumes are worth their weight in gold for the play opportunities that they provide.

A New Tool

After carefully weighing the pro's and con's,  researching the brands and features, searching for the best price and most important of all, being in complete agreement that this is something that this family actually needs, we purchased this brand new ATV with winch and snow plow. Larry drove almost an hour to get a better price and he brought it home today. He said the man had sold 5 of them this week-end. Now, we can all be sure that we won't get any significant snowfall  for the next 10 years!

We are impressed at the power this machine has and it is very clear that this is not to be driven by children. I am very thankful that Larry is willing to wear the helmet. We bought a second one for the kids to wear if they get a ride. He has spent the afternoon plowing the driveway. We are very grateful for this new tool and hope to get many years of safe plowing, deer hunting, and firewood hauling with it. We will keep it in our big garage out of the weather to extend its life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sock Sorting Strategy

My mother once suggested that a simple way to deal with sorting socks for a large family was to buy all white socks. This has been the ONLY bad advice I've ever received from her!!!!!! She must have started this after we kids had all moved out and it was just my father's and her own socks left to sort.
       Before doing the laundry, we separate the whites from the dark clothes so that we can use bleach and sometimes hot water for the whites.Then, the towels and undershirts are hung up to dry. The socks, washcloths and unmentionables are thrown into the dryer. After about 10-12 days, probably three such baskets of whites need to be sorted and brought to people's rooms.This job is too complicated to give to only young members of the family because they are not astute nor concerned enough to appreciate the subtle nuances of what actually constitutes a match! This becomes a project that may be undertaken in front of the T.V. while watching a movie. It is assigned to an older and a younger member of the family and then the piles are delivered to each person's dresser top.
          There has got to be a better way for socks to be sold. The little purple heeled ones are for Miss J. and the gray heeled ones are for the younger boys to share.The three older girls now wear more colored socks and remembering whose pair is whose is both an art and a science.Larry's and mine are the ones with the holes in them. You know how that goes! This pile is already matched. The much bigger pile on the couch is predominately white and is a daunting task. It certainly is a wonderful thing to have a large selection of clean white socks in pairs to put on while getting dressed for the day and it is something to be grateful for.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Switch to Spiral

About a year ago, I realized that I could pay 5.00 dollars/pound or more for sliced deli meat that would provide a lunch or two or I could buy a large spiral ham that would easily feed us for five meals or more at a fraction of the cost. The ham in this picture weighed 8.02 pounds and cost $12.67. It was $1.58/pound. Yes, there is a bone in this ham that impacts on the total cost per pound but this bone is the base for a wonderful soup for which I will share my recipe.
                  The great thing about spiral ham is that it can be served cold right out of the package for the first meal as it is sold, fully cooked. That is what we usually do. For me, the secret is to take the time to trim the small amount of fat and edging off each piece which can be done for large sections if I angle it right. Then, I lay it on the plate for sandwiches like in the  picture above. Covered with saran wrap, the whole plate can be warmed in the microwave for sandwiches which makes them even better! For a big homeschooling family, this is a quick and fantastic lunch. I will then serve this ham for the next few days and that reduces my cooking time in the late afternoon.

             When the ham is toward the end of the bone and is no longer spiral cut, I simply slice it by hand for more sandwiches or maybe as a main dish with potatoes and a vegetable. I'll just lay the ham on a plate and heat it in the microwave.We also serve these cut pieces of ham in omelets or macaroni and cheese. (Those are red onions on the plate in the above picture).When the easily usable ham is all gone, I have a choice. I can wrap the bone in saran and then aluminum foil and freeze it until I am ready to make soup or go ahead and soak a bag of dried beans to make a pot of delicious soup the next day.

Dried beans are so much fun for me!!!! They are dirt cheap, there are at least 15 kinds and when they are cooking they make the whole house smell delicious. I feel like a frugal pioneer woman while cooking beans that I have soaked. I keep three or four bags of different kinds in my pantry. A pound of these can be used for ham and bean soup or (after soaking) can be thrown into a big pot of Vegetable beef soup. The recipe for Ham and Bean Soup is on the back of the bag of 15 Bean Soup. Any kind of bean will work. In this picture are navy beans. As I blog tonight, a pot of Black-Eyed Pea and Ham Soup is cooking.

1. Soak the beans after rinsing in a colander in a bowl of water on the counter over night.

2.Put the entire ham bone (defrosted) and the beans in a pot, cover with fresh water, boil once and then simmer for about an hour or a little more until the beans are soft but not mushy.

3.Pull out the ham bone and cut off all the good meat from it, discarding the fat, gristle and the bone itself.

4.Cut up celery and carrots (I use a lot ), an onion and 3 cloves of garlic and throw these with the ham bits back into the bean pot with the broth.

5.Add a can of Diced Tomatoes, a teaspoonful of lemon juice, a little red hot or chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Cook another 30 minutes until the carrots are done. By the way, I process my vegetables so that they cook faster but that isn't necessary. If you think it is too sour, add a little sugar to the pot at the end.

6. Serve with crackers in a bowl. My husband likes to eat this over a couple of slices of white bread which was how his father ate it.My children will eat this and actually enjoy it because it is very tasty.

Bless Us O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive through Christ,   Our Lord. Amen