"Anyone can have one kid. But going from one kid to two is like going from owning a dog to running a zoo." - P. J. O'Rourke

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm Exhausted!

Whew, what a busy day! Not only did we have Raelea's kid birthday party today,we also had a few families over for a bonfire tonight. In between times, the leaves in the yard got raked up and the kids built a very cool leaf fort. All in all, a very fun but exhausting day.

I would be in bed right now, but I thought I better make a post because my computer is going into the shop tomorrow. I will be computer-less for who knows how many days :-( I guess I'll have to finagle time on Chris' laptop.

Anyway, here is a picture of the lovely ladies who came to Raelea's birthday tea party.
I am pleased to report that all of my tea cups made it through the party intact (no small feat with a bunch of 4-6 year olds) and, yes, they did in fact drink real tea.

Well, I don't know when I'll be able to post again, but I will be back sometime.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Evan (2 days late)

Do you believe it? I forgot to post a happy birthday to Evan on his birthday! Bad Mama! And his 16th birthday at that!!!! Oh, no, I just looked back at last year's post and I was two days late in announcing his birthday last year as well! What is with that??

So, two days late, here is the happy birthday post for my 16 year old son. Instead of posting a baby picture of him (although he was an exceptionally cute baby), I will post a picture of him when he was ten.

Here is Evan at 10...
and here he is now...

Evan, I know you don't read my blog, but I'm sorry for neglecting your birthday greeting. I love you tons and am so incredibly proud of you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

From 8 To 12

For the next four days we will have the fun of caring for 12 children instead of the normal 8. I thought I better warn you all, since blog posts may be scarce :-0

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Photo Extravaganza - The Pennsylvania Edition

Here are the promised and long awaited Pennsylvania photos... prepare yourself, there are 34 of them ( which isn't too bad considering we took 408 pictures while we were there).

On our way through Pennsylvania we stopped to visit our friends, Judy & Pat. It was great to see them (after 18 years) and our kids became fast friends.Once we got off the turnpike, it was easy to see that we were in Amish country. Driving through one town, we drove by an Amish church and this is what we saw...actually, there were 100 or more buggies and horses hitched up around the church. It was very cool to see.Finally, we got to see baby Isabella, whom we drove 20+ hours to meet. Isabella is Nina's biological half-sister, born Sept. 6 (I think) to Nina's birth mom, Rebekah and her wonderful husband, Daniel.
Nina wasted no time in getting her hands on Isabella.
The next day, it was off to Gettysburg. Wow, hard to visit that place in one day! We only made it to a couple of sites there. This photo was taken at Little Round Top. As you'll see later, I didn't see this sign until we were on our way off the hill :-)
For whatever reason, people really liked touching this guy's nose!
There were many, many monuments at all of the battlefields we went to. This one was like a miniature castle, complete with turret.
There were also many, many rocks to climb on, around and under. We honestly didn't see the sign before this)

We also spent some time at Cemetery Hill. Here are the kids at the bottom of the hill, except for Zoe, who spent most of the day strapped to my back, and Nina, who spent most of the day fawning over Isabella.
Isabella enjoyed her first trip to Gettysburg.
We at a picnic lunch at Gettysburg. We were going to have hot dogs, but I forgot a pot to warm them up in (I remembered the stove, but not the pot), so we ended up having cold dogs. Molly didn't find that thought too appealing, so she had a Cheeto sandwich instead. Yes, nutrition really goes out the window when we go camping. My main concern is getting enough calories in them so that they have smiles on their faces :-) I'm very pragmatic that way.

Marcus opted for the hotdog WITH Cheetos on it.

Molly - reenacting the Battle of Gettysburg - okay, maybe not.
Marcus & Raelea exploring Cemetery Hill.
Cool cannon picture...
Aidan entertaining himself with a hazelnut.
Aidan entertaining himself with a cannon.
Zoe & Raelea entertaining each other.
Hanging out by the parking lot at Gettysburg.
The following day we went to a really fascinating place called Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site. The buildings weren't open when we were there, but we had a great time wandering around the site, reading the signs and petting the horses. Here we have Emily and the horse smiling at each other.
Raelea was pleased to see that they had an outhouse at the Hopewell site, although she was dismayed that it was no longer functional.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and the grounds around the furnace were beautiful.

This place is especially friendly towards dogs, apparently. This is the first time I have ever seen a dog water fountain (or bubbler for those of you from Wisconsin).

This is the lovely little, and I mean really little, house that the person tending the fires to make the charcoal lived in. Looks more like a gnomes house to me. It looks especially little when compared to the mansion on the site where the family that owned the furnace lived.

This is the building that houses the furnace. In the background is the structure over the water wheel. The water wheel (which is still functional) caused to large pistons to move up and down to blow air onto the fire to get enough heat to melt the metal. This is fascinating stuff folks!

Okay, enough of metal-working and history...

here we have my lovely Emily.

Adorable Isabella - apparently having happy dreams.

On our last day in PA we went rock jumping in St. Peter, PA. It was an old mine town and the mine people left all these giant boulders of granite (I think) laying around just for us to climb on. Okay, I don't think we were supposed to be climbing on them, but there were no signs telling us not to (at least I didn't SEE any signs saying that).
Raelea was my faithful dishes helper. She always wanted to rinse the dishes so that she could stick her hands in the warm water.
Our friend the swan, who you met in a previous post...And last, but not least, the drive home. Now folks, you should know that it costs a small fortune to take our clan out to eat, even to McDonald's. So, to avoid that expense (and the gut-rot feeling that goes with eating fast food), we decided to cook our lunch at a truck stop. With just a little preparation ahead of time, I was able to serve up a warm and relatively tasty lunch in a matter of minutes, all cooked on the top of the camper.
Doesn't she look happy to be eating home cooking even while on the road?

There you have it. The picture extravaganza of our vacation. Hope you enjoyed it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here We Go Again

Apparently something has died inside one of our walls while we were on vacation. This time it's in the wall of the school room, which makes doing school a rather smelly affair. Some more squeamish mother may let there kids have the day off, but not me! No! We will do school even if it means we have to wear clothespins on our noses.

Let's see, last time it took about a week for the smell to go away...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Camping in 30 Degree Weather

- It's cold!
- It's hard to set up camp when you can't feel your fingers.
- It's REALLY hard to get out of your roasty, toasty sleeping bag to take a child to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- It's REALLY hard to get out of your roasty, toasty sleeping bag to get up in the morning.
- Food doesn't stay warm very long, so you end up eating cold food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

- No bugs
- No shortage of children who WANT to do dishes, so they can put their hands in the nice warm water.
- No one complains when it's time to go to bed.
- You pretty much have the campground to yourselves.
- The ice in your cooler doesn't melt very fast.

So, there you have it. It's a tie! Even still, I think we will go earlier next year. Not too early though, because we ran into the same sort of weather over Memorial Day...


I finally finished it and, Jen, you were right, it was worth it. What a wonderful book about human nature, desires, goals, perceptions, motivations and relationships. Wow, it gave me a lot to think about! I highly recommend it to anyone who has a little time on their hands for entertaining and enriching reading. I was thinking about this book this morning and it occurred to me how well-written fiction books can drive home truth so much better than some non-fiction books.

Anyway, Middlemarch has, in my opinion, one of the best last sentences I've ever read in a book, so I will share it with you, my blog readers, to ponder as well...
But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Wow! On our trip to PA we drove by many very old cemeteries, and it strikes me now that those grave markers mark the lives that shaped this country as much or more so than the often visited markers at Gettysburg.

Thanks again, Jen, for the recommendation. Now I'm off to read Jewel, which was recommended by another faithful blog-reader :-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Things I Learned

This was a highly educational trip to Pennsylvania. Now that we are home, I've thought of several more things I learned this past week (20 hours in a car gives you a lot of time to think - well, that is when you are not mediating "issues" among the children)
Okay, here we have More Things Barb Learned Last Week

1) It costs $60+ to travel the tollways from Illinois to Pennsylvania (that is when you are towing a camper). Despite the steep price, we did opt to do the turnpike because is was much faster than any other route.

2) It takes twice as long to get someplace in PA than it does in MN. I kid you now, it takes an hour to go about 20 miles there!

3) The have GIANT millipedes in Pennsylvania and I have the picture to prove it!
Btw, that's Molly's hand holding that disgusting thing. We found him under a boulder in St. Peter, Pennsylvania which was one of the cutest towns anywhere despite their disgusting bugs.

4) French Creek State Park is home to the friendliest swan I've ever seen. Not only did he swim over to us, he got out of the lake and stood about three feet from us (all nine of us) and proceeded to clean his feathers.
5) French Creek State Park is also home to a LARGE quantity of stink bugs, most of whom found our camper to be an ideal resting place. Upon returning to our campsite at bedtime on Wednesday night, Chris and I spent about 30 minutes ridding the camper of, oh say, about 100 stink bugs. Thankfully, they are rather docile and harmless creatures, but that did nothing to placate the girls who had to sleep in said camper. Truth be told, our home is now home to about half a dozen stink bugs who decided to come home with us in our stuff.

That's all for now folks, stay tuned for future vacation posts including "The Pros and Cons of Camping in 30 Degree Weather" and "Photo Extravaganza - The Pennsylvania Edition".

Time for beddy-bye....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Greetings From Pennsylvania

My one and only post from PA; only because there is no internet connection in the park :-)

I thought I would share with you a few things I've learned this week...

1) Hazelnuts will occupy children for an indefinite period of time. If you drop them the pod cracks open into four nice little parts, exposing the nut (at least I think that's what it is).

2) Dish soap and vegetable oil coagulate at about 40 degrees. They go back to a normal viscosity once the temperature rises.

3) The bugs stay away from you until the temperature reaches about 60 degrees.

4) It's really hard to get out of a warm sleeping bag when the temp outside is in the 30's.

5) The Gettysburg battlefield is way more impressive and sobering in real life (as opposed to just reading about it).

Oh, dinner is ready, I have to go. If I don't post again until we get home, please pray for our journey back. We are departing from PA tomorrow morning (Thursday) and will be driving straight through.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lest There Be Any Doubt

I know from time to time, some of you are apt to think that we are a relatively normal family. Tonight, I will remove all doubt that we are indeed a bunch of lunatics.

You see tomorrow we are going camping...for a week...in the cold...in Pennsylvania. Not too abnormal there except that I've never gotten ready for camping while the snow is flying outside. What's with this "fall" weather, anyway? So, along with all the normal camping paraphernalia, I need to remind my kids to bring things like gloves and long underwear. Oh, this should be fun!

Why, you might ask, don't you just cancel the trip? Well, we are going to see Nina's birthmom and her new baby and we had to wait until after football season to go. They're worth it, trust me :-)

So then, you might ask, why don't you stay in a hotel? You see our family doesn't fit in one hotel room, and actually, at some hotels we wouldn't fit in two rooms either. So, instead of paying for two or three hotels rooms, we can camp for a small fraction of that price.

So, you see, we're not so crazy after all - oh, wait, I was supposed to convince you that we ARE crazy...I get so confused.

Anyway, while you are snuggling up in your warm beds this next week, think of us and say a prayer that God would send balmy weather to Lancaster County, PA. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baby Pipes

Evan's bagpipes had a baby...

Okay, maybe not, but aren't these little things cute? They are Irish small pipes, a cousin of the great highland bagpipes (which Evan normally plays). A friend in the band loaned Evan her small pipes and he has been playing them whenever he gets a chance.

They are much less strenuous to play (thus the lounging in the chair) and they are MUCH quieter,which is why he is playing them in the living room right now at almost 10:00.

Funny Evan story...

A couple weeks ago, Evan did a presentation about the bagpipes to our old homeschool co-op. He was all garbed up in his kilt and such and he played his bagpipes for the kids and told them all about the pipes. Well, we found out today that one little five year old boy who heard Evan that day was completely enamored with the bagpipes and Evan. His mother said that this little boy talks about Evan every day, every single day. Things like, "I wonder what Evan the bagpiper is doing now?" and "Do you think Evan eats this kind of cereal for breakfast?"

It's just too cute! This little boy has found a hero in a bagpipe playing 15 year old!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The End of an Era

Most good things must come to an end, especially when they are worn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So it is that Aidan's beloved Longhorns hat has reached the point of being, shall we say, less than ascetically pleasing.

So, after MUCH waiting (and with a special thanks to Grandma & Grandpa), Aidan is now the epitome of fashion in his NEW Longhorns hat. Notice the very cool Longhorn on the front...From the back...
and the very cool "T" on the sides!

All in the lovely shade of black which is a very good color for something worn every waking and sleeping hour.

Thanks, Grandma & Grandpa!!!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wedding Weekend

Just a few weeks after our previous wedding weekend, we once again spent our weekend involved in wedding festivities. This time, it was Chris' brother Darren getting married. The wedding was beautiful and very fun and we are so happy to welcome Monica into the family.

The only down-side to the wedding is that all of my children were there and now they have been exposed to and become accustomed to fine dining, fancy hors d'oeuvres, and swanky bathrooms (they liked the bathrooms the best). I'm not sure that it is beneficial to teach a 3-year old how to eat sorbet out of a little dish :-) although she seemed to enjoy it immensely. She also enjoyed the toasts, where she could sip bubbling cider out of a fluted glass.

My pictures of the ceremony didn't turn out well, so you will have to put up with the few pictures I have...

Here's Darren and his lovely wife, Monica (who has the nicest family in the whole world)
Evan & Molly
They clean up pretty well.
Nina, entertaining herself while pictures are being taken.
Chris & two of his favorite girls (he cleans up nicely as well)
Evan & Me (I'm the one on the left, I know it's hard to tell sometimes).