Summer Thoughts

Some summer thoughts one hour before school gets out (I've had the three older ones get out of school over the last month, these are the grade schoolers out in an hour and then everyone will be home!)

One down, five to go:
Isaac graduated and it was a long ceremony but a wonderfully beautiful day and he was so happy but it all went too quickly for him I think-he was thinking of all the people he never got to say goodbye to.  I love that he knew so many (most?) of the students in his graduating class. He moved out and came home the next day with just a small car load of belongings which I love.  He told me he must have inherited my throw-it-out gene because he only wants to keep the bare minimum.


It is always been an adjustment for me to do "summer".  Usually I end up lamenting to my mom on the phone about it all and begging for advice about my feelings of being overwhelmed.  I think it's just that hard and fast change, and then we eventually get into the flow. 

The last two summers have been so hard-the stress of managing the irresponsible and extremely late running contractors who had promised to be finished by May but were here till September two summers ago left me exhausted and then Jeff had major work stress last summer and they were both a blur and by the end of last summer I never felt so exhausted in my life, I felt like I was hanging on by a thin thread and that is NO fun most especially in the summer, my favorite time of the year.

This summer will be different-stressors all gone, good plans ahead.  Some years are just like that I guess-those are the hills and valleys of life, those hills sure make you appreciate the valleys.

I have two grade school kids who want to work and earn money and I have a weekly consistent straight-forward job list for them to complete each week with the promise of $10  (I usually don't pay for chores and don't do allowance but I'm trying this for this summer).  I also have a list of extra paying jobs to sign up for-window washing (mine are filthy!), garage clean-out, attic clean-out, etc. -things I haven't been able to get to since Janey has been born.  Some weekly jobs are: beds made, clothes picked up, rooms cleaned, house vacuumed, dog taken care, garage straightened, pots and garden watered-the things I can't keep up with by myself which sometimes make me overwhelmed and therefore crabby or a tad resentful I've handed off.  I'm giving 3 responsibilities to each, all summer long, to make it simple and easy.

They both have asked to do some short fun local camps with friends and I think it will work well this summer-they are excited about that.  Some years were "no way" to any outside commitments, and other years it just works so well to break up the summer with some socializing and planned activities. 

Two oldest traveling/working (Isaac will be in Europe backpacking most of summer and Abbey in August in Ireland) and Matt is working also.

Computer bare minimum if at all, Ipads all gone, TV is off all summer.  It just works so much better around here this way. Something about just shutting down that possibility and clearing out brains.

I am working out at 6:30 a.m. and getting my head/house in order then.

I have a few good books to read thanks to a friend whose mother gives her all her book club books, and they are always exactly my cup of tea.  We'll see if I even get to one, but I want to. 

I promised Andrew a mom trip (he's been waiting for this for years and years) to Chicago for an overnight. We can't wait!

I want to take each kid to breakfast or lunch this summer for one-on-one time.

I want to go to the darn farmer's market a few blocks away that I only hit once or twice in the last couple years!

I want to go "home" for a day and go shopping by myself at the outlets and see my parents and eat with my best friend at Guido's-the best pizza on the planet that I absolutely must have at least once a year (thank God I don't live closer, I'd eat it every night.)

I want to eat lunch with Jeff once every couple weeks by myself. (I am lucky to have an older sibling as a babysitter.)

I am prioritizing cooking  and meal planning all summer, simple and easy but want to try some new things. Since I want to use the computer only when totally necessary I am going to be using my good old-fashioned cookbooks and maybe a few more of those "magaziney-type" seasonal cookbooks to help me along and keep things fun-with the hope of compiling another of our favorites together in a Part Two.

I'm so over Whole30 by the way. I have slowly added things back in but am trying to be very cautious about how much I eat and snacking etc.  I don't want to gain the weight back (it was so good for that, and for "resetting" my system), but I want to eat "easier", if that makes sense.  Like a whole vat of fresh strawberries-a few weeks away from that!

And photos!  I am keeping my camera on the counter and I promised myself I would be better, it only takes a second.



Ordinary Days

Just some notes and things I want to remember and rambles:
Patrick had a great field trip at a farm with his class-his nicest teacher took pics and sent them on. I told him to bring me home a baby bunny, but thankfully he did not. (I believe that's a chick he is holding but the bunnies were to die for.)

He had track and field day the other day and came home with a bunch of first, second and third places. He had one purple participation ribbon and he said to me, "Mom I am going to throw this in the garbage because everyone got one so it means nothing,"    My heart leapt with joy! :)  He gets it! This generation might be saved!  Now we just have to eliminate the snacks after games/practices (which seem more rare nowadays?) and we might have just added a teeny tiny bit of common sense back into parenting.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the benefits of a large family-just how incredibly beneficial it is to the kids naturally. 

(That DOES NOT mean there are a not a whole lot of benefits to other sized families, it's just that I see it now more than ever especially in the culture of parenting today. And also big families are rare today, the drawbacks being the things that are pointed out-financial commitment, work and more work for the parents...) 

One day I want to make a list just for the fun of it.

I have a million examples, and yes maybe a lot of them are generalizations, but still they stand. I don't have the time, energy or brain space to over-parent, to coddle, to micro-manage, to baby (you are ok, get up, unless your arm bone is sticking out or you are losing massive amounts of blood you are ok-I tell this to my kids about sports-we don't stop games ever for God's sake, in this family, you know your brother has run into you harder than that and you got up with raised fists, plus we don't waste other people's time), "You get what you get and you like it", you are in charge of your own school work, uniforms, and entertainment, and eventually your entire life (and as quickly as possible because someone needs/wants your bed or room), work if you want money, work even if you don't because you need to be busy, save your money, you'll need to buy your own car/shoes/house one day, don't ask me to remind you about anything, my brain won't remember, it's too full.  If you want something bad enough (a team, travels, a school, a job) you will have to be self-motivated, because I don't have the time and energy to magically pull it all in place for you. And gosh, picky eaters?  Who notices picky eaters in a big family? They must be pretty hungry.

Natural consequences are big, BIG and I think SO important and something that just comes without effort or thought in a big family.  Gosh, there is no correction to normalcy like that of sibling correction.  For example, if you are making annoying sounds with your mouth, or talking too much too loud too early in the morning, or using all the towels, or eating all the cookies, or God forbid chewing with your mouth open, someone will let you know, and if you don't stop they WILL stop you somehow.  It might be a hard punch in the arm, but you know what? Maybe you deserved it. Dare I say that?  Yes I do.  I see some kids today that just might need a hard punch somewhere. I bet a lot of teachers would agree with me. This is how kids used to solve things before so much parental interference, before they needed to be taught to behave certain ways-siblings helped us parents tremendously.

I am reminded of a cousin, one of ten, who stood in front of his class as a high school teacher and said, 'I grew up with nine siblings, I've been called every name in the book already, so don't even bother."  Ha! Resilience, and perspective.

Image result for ralphie and the bully
I also remember the scene from The Christmas Story-that bully finally getting his due, and bawling after poor Ralphie just had had enough. What a lesson for both Ralphie and the bully! Nothing any adult could do would replace that lesson.

Earlier this year one son came home about some complaints about what was happening on the playground-an older kid picking on kids two grades younger during football games-hitting a little too hard being a little too rough.  I told my son, "Well you have some choices, don't play with him, avoid him, or show him that you guys can hit just as hard, or run faster."  (I might have also said something about The Christmas Story, to which my son smartly replied, "I am pretty sure I'd be expelled if I did something like that.")  I'm not getting involved with playground drama. (Eventually because of other parents the principal did and I LOVED the way he worked it out-making the kids work it out themselves while he monitored the meeting.)  

Natural consequences. And some kids need them, nothing else will work. And other kids need to know that there won't always be a rescue, to make their world perfect and easy, because the world is NOT perfect and easy.  Nothing ever really falls into place perfectly. They won't always get the cupcake they want, the nice teacher, the seat up front, the A, the trophy, the place on the team, the invite to the party. Kids are mean to each other sometimes, adults are also.  Life isn't fair.  I've said that statement so many times as a parent.  Some kids learn that little by little, some have really tough intense learning years, it's not always easy to watch, but our support, not our constant interference, is what is necessary. Our ears are necessary, hardly ever our fix-it skills.

Helicopter parenting? Smother-mothering?  It doesn't exist in big families. It just can't, we moms and dads of many kids just don't have enough time.  And what a gift, thank the Lord, one less thing I have to worry about screwing up :).

Do you know what I think? That this might be the one single factor in how things have changed over time. The Greatest Generation?  Maybe had a little to do with war and poverty but more to do with how big families shaped some incredible characteristics in people.  As families became smaller and smaller, things became a little crazier and crazier.  The problems that exist in schools today, maybe that has more to do with the decline of big families. Teachers having to jump through hoops to please every child and parent, constantly catering.  Kids being given everything they want, without having to work for it. (Entitlement!)  Every program imaginable for disorders that used to be personality characteristics.  Elimination of all struggle. (Which also eliminates drive, determination, strength and resilience, duh, the VERY things that make a person flourish!)  The quest for fairness, equality in all aspects of life, "I am special, I deserve....".  No you are not and your siblings would have told you and showed you in so many ways from the moment you were born.

And the stories-gosh that alone is worth it. We have some great neighbors who have been raised in huge families, and I can't get enough of the stories.  I swear you can't make these things up and they would make most parents today gasp in alarm and dismay at the utter neglect and danger of just about all of it.  I've heard so many hilarious stories from my aunts and uncles.  It gives me hope as a parent, it gives me a little reward for the hard work of raising a big family-all the incredible memories that sometimes even involve the hardest of times.  I bet there isn't a mother of a big family who doesn't pray, and pray often. 

So much more to say on that subject, but I have to get some laundry finished.

Andrew, once last in every cross country meet as a small child (he was so cute, he just could not understand why everyone was always ahead of him! we laugh so hard about it now) has progressed to doing pretty darn well in a class 2 mile run.  He has an incredibly nice class of kids, they have two more years together but everyone agrees this is one special group.

Dress like your favorite book character day. (Don't ask I don't even remember now.)

My parents back deck this last weekend. I would have cried.)

I have officially burned myself out of sweet potato chips. This was my last batch for a long long time.

Eating lunch with this sweet girl. 

I've been awful about taking photographs this last month, forgetting my camera everywhere, or not wanting to break myself away from the real moment by taking a picture. 

Isaac graduates this weekend from college, so excited for him. Praying that we all (well Janey especially) make it through the 2 1/2 hour ceremony-the fact that it's outside will help a great deal.

We are NOT ready for summer around here (heart-ready but not mind-ready) but next week I will only have the two boys in school for a few last days so I need to get on the ball and get my head into gear.


Ordinary Days

We've had a series of special events:
My sweetest best baby ever Matthew turned 17!
Gosh he was so good and I always tell him he had a double dose of baby smell.
It was heavenly.

I really wanted to try new things for his party. Finally I feel like I have more time and energy and guts to do this. I had so much fun with it.  Last year I was in a massive cooking rut and I thank Whole30 for getting me out of it.  

I made these little chocolate chip ice cream cups. I used my favorite chocolate chip recipe.
Next time I will use a full ice cream scoop of dough. I used cupcake liners and sprayed those and that worked well. The secret is really making sure they are just finished perfectly. (Mine were a little overdone.)

That recipe makes the BEST chocolate chip cookie bars, and that would have been much easier.

For dessert, a box chocolate cake, the cookie cups, a sundae bar, sugar cookies and a homemade apple pie (I taught Andrew how to make one this time, and then he was so sad because he never ended up with a piece before it was finished off.)

For the dinner:
Matthew LOVES Doritos so I made this excellent Dorito dip. I wish I had a picture of it but it went so fast I didn't get one.  

Here is the recipe (I will be tripling it next time and putting it in a 8x8 pan.)

Most Excellent Hot Dorito Dip
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz sour cream
1 small can chopped green chiles
1 small package of bacon bits
1/2 tsp garlic power
1 package shredded cheddar cheese

Mix all together.

I sprayed a loaf pan with non-stick spray and baked this for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
Serve with Doritos of course.

I also made 3 batches of soft pretzels and served those fresh out of the oven.  Those went fast! Andrew helped me roll them all out about two hours before the party and then we started baking them when everyone arrived.

I made my Asian Salad (I couldn't have any-too much sugar in the dressing) so I made a new salad knowing that was the one thing I could eat on my modified Whole30.  It was DELICIOUS!

I combined a bunch of different recipes and came up with this:


Strawberry/Raspberry/Pecan Salad
1/2 olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 TBS honey (must omit on Whole30 but this is one of two modifications I've allowed past my Whole100)
1 1/2 tsps garlic powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic salt

Shake well.

Romaine (3-pack) lettuce
Quart of strawberries, sliced
1 cup of salted pecans (I crushed lightly)
Pint of raspberries
2 cups of grilled chicken breast, chopped

I use one of those 3-packs of Romaine lettuce and slice them up small.  A large bag of spinach would work just as well with this recipe.

I put the rest of the ingredients neatly on top (it looked so pretty but didn't get a picture) and then topped with dressing.

I love how Patrick is looking at Matt!

She was so tired after the party!

I've been using guacamole for my salad dressings lately (I "water" it down with lemon or lime juice) and loving it. This is my "taco salad"-I use ground turkey.

This is a TERRIFIC recipe:One-Pot Dijon Roasted Chicken Thighs.  I subbed sweet potatoes for the red skin potatoes and at least doubled the vegetables. I will make this often as everyone loved it. We had this when Abbey invited her boyfriend over for dinner. It was a hit. (I tripled the recipe.)

Early morning run in the fog. Love hearing the birds in the morning. I made the mistake of running four days in a row and then could hardly walk (also because I never stretch which I can NOT get away with at 47 years old!)  I need to take days off in between I think or at least not so many in a row.

We picked up Abbey from college! Janey and I took the trip-she of course was an angel.  I can't believe her first year is over.  

We went to Cheesecake Factory on the way home because I love that place and we don't have one.
So many good salads and sweet potato fries! I'm also glad we don't have one, I would crave it too much.

This was funny-I got a call from the school secretary that Andrew needed to be picked up because he threw up. I was so surprised because none of my kids have ever thrown up at school (knock on wood.) That would horrify them and me. Well...
his class was allowed to go out on the new playground, and there is a twirly ride and all the boys pushed each other so hard and so fast and so long to the point of sickness.  
Andrew made it to the nurse's office garbage can thank the Lord. A few other boys had to go back to the classroom and endure the rest of the spinning day (they didn't throw up), but Andrew "got" to go home. (He loves school so he didn't especially want to but felt sick enough to have to.)
I said, "Why in the world would  you do that to each other? How could you ever think that was a good idea?"  His answer was "I don't know." But the real answer is "Because we are 6th grade boys." 

Matt finished a great tennis season. He started a clinic this winter so he could play on the team this spring and wow, these kids pick things up fast. It was fun to watch him.

Abbey started one of her two old jobs at the ice cream store, so we visit sometimes on bikes, in strollers or when we go for a "ride" in the car on weekend evenings.

On Mother's Day Patrick begged me to take him fishing so I did.  He caught nothing and broke his pole to boot and was a sad camper. Darn.

Isaac asked me to send him some pics of him and I for Mother's Day and I went a little crazy taking Iphone pics of old photos.  
Isaac and Abbey-they played together so well.

Abbey and I. (Notice the morning sickness wrist band I had on-gosh I remember those useless things-I was pregnant with Matt.)

Isaac and I before Abbey was born.  He was so big and chubby and such a happy baby, and is now a happy young adult graduating from college in two weeks.  Crazy.