Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's good to be one!

We took the babies out to dinner on their birthday to a real restaurant (not McDonald's). They were such big boys, sitting up in their highchairs, eating chicken nuggets and french fries like the rest of the kids. For desert, they shared an apple tart and they liked it very much. Then we went to mass to celebrate their birthday and get blessed by the priest. In the morning, they enjoyed watching birdies and squirrels out the window for a long time, giggling with each other while playing with a puzzle, and having leisurely naps. It's great to be one!

Yesterday we had a big party for them with lots of family and a few friends. I made them two ducky cakes and a bunch of chocolate cupcakes. Yummy!! They played with their little friends Evan and Adelyn, enjoyed opening their presents and seeing all their new toys and clothing, and charmed all the relatives with their sweet demeanours. I am so blessed to have such adorable little babies. I don't want them to grow up!!

Today daddy and the kids are off to the local historical park to attend Train Days, and I am enjoying a quiet afternoon cleaning up the house and playing with the twins without all my 'helpers' running around. The smell of fall is blowing through the open windows, and I'm about to start a second batch of crab apple jelly.

It's amazing how one can be so happy and feel so blessed with so little sleep. God gives me so much grace to be able to live my life with such fullness. Thank you, thank you.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Babies!!!!

Many would say the events around the birth of our surprise twins one year ago were miraculous... and I would be the first to agree, but the real miracle here is that I have lived to tell the tale, one whole year later!!

Oh babies, you add so much joy to my life. You have taught me to slow down. You have shown me that I am capable of so much more than I thought - especially when I have people helping me, you have given me a chance to truly give of myself, even when I feel I have nothing left to give.

You are miracles, and we love you. Thank you, dear God, for blessing our family with such an abundance of new life. I'm not sure how I will survive the next few years through toddlerhood, but I'm willing to try, one day at a time.

For a memory of that exciting day when the babies were born, here is the email announcement my dear husband sent out when they were born:

Greetings Friends and Family,

I finally had 5 minutes to send you a note about how our lives have changed dramatically in the past 48 hours.

I'm sending some pictures along as well...hopefully they make it.

Mel and I had really no idea that there were two little
boys inside, but fortunately our midwife did - but only when Mel started
measuring bigger than she should have about 2 weeks ago. So, we were
slated for a "rush" ultrasound, which we ended up getting done on Monday

When the ultra-sound tech told us the news, all I could do was laugh -
mostly out of Joy for how much God wants to Bless us with life, but partly out
of shock.

My next thoughts were why didn't we listen...

About 2 days after finding out we were pregnant for the
fourth time, I was riding home on the bus with much joy in my heart and a smile
on my face...God then put the idea of twins in my head, and I remember chuckling
quietly to myself "That's a good one, God.".

Easy enough to pass off, right?

Mel did the same thing when I told her, though with a little more
"trepidation" (sp?) In her voice. However, we should have at least
investigated when that night at the dinner table we were sharing the news with
our other kids and asking what sex they thought the baby was - I think Elizabeth
went for a girl - I thought a boy...but imagine our wide-eyed wonder when Zach
said with all confidence: "I'm having two brothers!".

Again, we nervously laughed and looked at each other with wide eyes, but, silly us, chose to ignore it.

Now, fast forward to this Monday night when we are we
are scrambling to come up with another boy's name (we knew at least 1 was a boy
after the ultrasound). I go to bed trying to calculate how best to fit all
the car seats in the Van about 11:30. Then the fun began.

Mel taps my shoulder at 2:30 in the morning saying that she is having mild
contractions that were enough to "keep her awake". So, we call the
midwife, who is just coming home from another birth. The contractions
seemed mild enough at the time, but based on previous experience, I started
packing for a trip to the hospital, called the Grandparents and got them going,
and then Mel got up. Contractions started to kick in hard, and within
about 3 minutes, she had the urge to PUSH!

After calling Joy (the midwife) again, she changed direction from going to the hospital to coming to our house, and said call 911.

So, Mel went back to the bed, I had 911 on the horn and went to unlock the door.

By the time I got back, Peter was already on his way out! I caught him as Mel pushed him out with one contraction (he was tiny!). He was crying right away, so I wasn't worried about him.. He was on Mom's tummy right away, and I scrambled to find my shoes to get a shoelace to tie off the umbilical cord. By the time
I was back, John Paul was on his way - feet first. But, being as small as
he was, within two pushes he was out as well. He didn't cry right away so
I gave him a vigorous rub on the back and that got him mad enough to get things
started. Right about then, 2 paramedics and a fireman came into the
room. We wrapped them up quick, and then Joy our midwife came about 5
minutes later. All was well, though JP was having a little trouble with
the breathing. Grandpa and Grandma were on the scene, so Grandpa watched
the other kids while Mel and I and our two new bundles of Joy got a free ride in
the ambulance and Grandma followed us to the foothills.

And that is where they are. Peter came in at 4lbs 11oz, but is the more alert one (the word "scrappy" comes to mind) and JP at 5lbs 7oz is the more laid-back of the
two...but he's had a lot of work to do getting his breathing in order, so I'm
sure he'll be more energetic soon.

I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all your offers of help and assistance and your congratulations. Mel and I have a long road ahead of us, but are confident we can handle this fine with our friends and family surrounding us as they

Please pray for a speedy strengthening for these two little tykes so we can get them home soon with their siblings who so dearly want to be with them.

For those who may not have seen yet, we are on the cover of the Sun today!!

Thank you for sharing in our Joy,
and God Bless you all!

To anyone who has helped us over this past year... for meals, prayers, clothes, diapers, time, love, cards, gifts, cleaning, holding babies in church, smiling at me in the mall... THANK YOU!!

Monday, September 24, 2007

preschool history

I have started a wall timeline for the kids. So far, it's pretty boring. A long line on the wall, with creation written at the beginning.

I guess Z wanted to make his own because I found him working very hard on this in the office this afternoon:

The world is at the beginning, and then the stick figures are as follows from left to right: Noah, noah's boat, Moses, David and Goliath. Cute!! (he told me he though that he was drawing Goliath first, and then david, but when he looked at them the second guy looked mean, so he is goliath.)
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here's Es picture of the mystery bird

We think it's a house finch.. but we're not sure.
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birds birds everywhere!

We've been enjoying more birdwatching as the days get cooler here in alberta. The kids will sit for 10 min at a time, silently watching the feeder out our front window. I love seeing their curiosity and attention span develop. They have even made their own birdfeeder (from a taco box with some pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed... I asked her if she wanted to paint the box, but she said that then the birds wouldn't know it was for food because the taco picture wouldn't be on it)

Today, I was greeted with 'shhh's when I came downstairs because they were 'watching the nuthatches'. Sure enough, there were 3 nuthatches at the feeder. I'm so excited they are learning to identify the different birds.
Each day we've been watching the blue jay, the nuthatches (red breasted), the chickadees, some sparrows, a black squirrel and a grey squirrlel come and go. Today we were treated to a new suprise: a flock of new birds we've never seen before... the males had red heads and breasts, and the females were white and brown striped along their tummies.

Looking through our bird books, we think we have identified them as house finches, although my guide says they don't come this far north.... we showed them :-)

Last week, we were lucky to have a butterfly land on the windowsill to warm it's wings when the clouds came out. He sat their long enough for E to identify him on our butterfly poster, and then draw a picture of him. Beautiful! We even learned what the catterpillar looks like.

In science, we are reading about the desert, and E has been busy drawing pictures of desert toads and tadpoles (did you know that some of them hibernate for 11 months of the year and only come out during the rainy season?? now that is quality sleep!!).

I love all these extras of schooling. The spelling and the math are oh-so-necessary, but the science and the real learning that happens throughout the day are really fun.

I won! I won!!

If you see me walking about and don't recognize me, because I am wearing a sylish bag on my shoulder (instead of the clunky diaper backpack) I won't be offended. I am just thrilled to have won a blog contest from Amy over at Fresh Vintage. Thanks Amy!!

B is for...

Blogging: I have really enjoyed keeping up this blog over the past few years. It has become a wonderful chronicle of our familie's life, and our homeschooling adventures. I don't have a lot of time to scrapbook, so this is my own version of the family album.

Babies: who doesn't love 'em? Cuddly, cozy, soft... and I have two of them all to myself! Their innocence and dependence always calls me back to God, and brings out the best in me. (it's the toddlers who bring out the worst LOL).

Bedtime: my favorite time of the day, besides early in the morning before anyone else has woken up...

Busy: My life since having kids. But, I love it. I am hardly ever bored.

Brown: my hair and my eyes. Well my eyes are more like hazel, like my daddy, and I do have a handful of grey hairs sprinkled throughout my hair, but who's counting?

Bread: My little secret-- I love baking homemade bread, and I've always imagined being able to bake all of the bread our family needs. I think I have about 4 bread cookbooks and I love reading them, and imagining the feel of the dough in my hands. Last week I actually made 3 loaves, but in this house, that only lasts about 2 days. I want to start learning how to bake sourdough because I like the texture better, but that's a whole other ball of wax :-)

Books: My favorite things, just about. I love kids books, encyclopedias, cookbooks, craftbooks, and fiction. I think I have paid the library enough fines to stock an entire row of shelves with books. Maybe an entire floor :-) (ask my mom and my husband.. they can tell you). Currently I am obsessing over which books to buy from the Usborne book party that I recently had. I love buying kids books. Come to think of it, maybe that's one of the reasons I love homeschooling so much.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

the latest artwork

We are still moving along in our art curriculum that we started last fall. This past month we have made some clay tablets and carved pictures into them, made a clay cup and painted it with black paint like the ancient greeks, and then drew some profile pictures on the wall (shining a flashlight onto paper and tracing our shadows).

The first picture is E, (why an american flag in the background I don't know).
The second picture is of Z... he looks so cool!
The third picture is yours truly, drawn by the resident artist of the family, E. I think I look like some eighties rock star LOL. She certainly is creative.

I am amazed at her how long her attention span is for drawing, and how short it is for math. If I could only harness it!!
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Friday, September 14, 2007

Nature notes

Now that we live in an established neighborhood (read: big trees) as opposed to our old fancy new neighborhood (read: barren wasteland sprinkled with lots of pristine green lawns and annuals), we are excited to be in the midst of a bustling community of critters. We have seen all sorts of them, and are having great fun learning to identify different species.

This month, we have been busy setting up some bird feeders and a bird bath outside our school room window so we can keep an eye on our new friends. Today we were treated to quite the show:

A black capped chickadee (we love these little guys)

A mystery bird that is probably another chickadee but has an orange belly and a black 'mask' across it's eyes like batman... maybe a nuthatch?

A big black squirrel

And, our favorite so far, A big blue jay. He is the funniest, because he pecks and pecks around in the feeder trying to pull out the peanuts. He also has a very loud call to announce his presence. He looks like a giant on the feeder compared to the little chickadee. I hope he sticks around through the winter. We are going to have to buy some more bird seed.

We hung the feeder in the big spruce tree that was planted waaay too close to the front of the house 30 years ago. I was contemplating cutting it down, because when you look at it with the eyes of one who is coming from a pristine new community, it's quite the eyesore.. but now that I have seen it in it's true light (a beautiful part of the habitat in this community of wildlife). I think maybe we can keep it. It provides a great hiding place for the birds, and lots of branches for them to perch on... and it hides the big mess of seeds and shells that the birds toss on the ground below the feeder.


Speaking of nature and the fall time:

There is a lovely new online magazine that is available for free through September called Seasonal Delights. It's billed as a magazine for young ladies and their mothers, (although it could be enjoyed by anyone really), and it's filled with craft ideas, recipes with great photos to accompany the instructions, and poems. It's the kind of magazine you want to curl up on the couch by the fire with a blanket and browse through, dreaming of all the fun you could have with your kids this fall. I am looking forward to reading it myself.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Learning... fun when your brothers and sisters are doing it alongside you!!
Yesterday we spent the day fishing with grandma J and grandpa Ed (both of the older kids are great at casting... we were so impressed with them... pictures to follow shortly).
Today, we are having a concentrated school day at home:
-fast math for E (6yrs old):
I gave up on calculadders for now, and made my own math sheets with a free program online. She gets two minutes to complete the page (9 questions) and then gets a smartie if she gets it all right in time. This is working so much better than the sheet of 25 or 30 we were working on before. Now she gets it done, learns her math facts, and feels a great sense of accomplishment. Slowly but surely we will teach her to increase her concentration time. Today she did all the +2, +3 and +4s. (One sheet for each... so the first sheet had in random order 2+2, 2+3, 2+4 etc..). The only problem I can see is that I need to invest in some more smarties because with fast math, and potty training, I'm giving them out all the time!!
-MathUSee for E: lesson 22 -- subtracting 8. Great job on this one too!!
-Z (4 years old): He is learning about the numbers and how to write them. I'm using the kindergarten teachers guide from handwriting without tears, the Stamp-and-see screen (like a little magnadoodle.. it's REALLY good) and some worksheets I printed off for free from A kids Heart. com He is really starting to love learning, and his fine motor control is improving every day.
-E read to me two stories out of her little angel reader.. she's doing so good. She can read long sentences like the following: "Jean and Lee did not feel like helping mother. But they put down the dolls and ran to her." (that story is a keeper!!)
-E also did some writing exercises, adding -ed and -ing to words, and spelling words with ai and ay. She does really well at reading.
Science:-we spent a long time watching the chickadees outside our window, and a big black squirrel. We also looked at two wasps who were trying to fly through the glass window, and a big white moth on the porch.
We had a snack of yogurt, and a good breakfast of eggs and toast. Now they are just finishing up a lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches, and are about to go play with one of their friends in the neighborhood who is also home schooled. I'm doing laundry, snapdragon is learning to go on the potty, and the babies are being babies. A lovely day.

Happy Birthday Mary

A big feast day around here always calls for a special meal and desert.

We celebrated the birthday of Mary (september 8) with homemade pizza (yummy!) and spice cake with maple fluff frosting.

I was feeling especially domestic that day. We had high tea for lunch with triangle pbj sandwiches, kiwi fruit, and hot chocolate (and chicken nuggets LOL), and then we made the pizza dough in the breadmaker.

The smell of fall in the air always lures me into the kitchen to start baking again.
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Friday, September 07, 2007

We Got a Kitty!!

Well, for one day, anyways.. that was long enough for me :-) This is Moto.. what a cutie pie! The kids found her sitting on our front door step, one morning looking very lonely for attention. She didn't have any tags, stayed around all day, and even ran inside once.

None of the neighbours were missing a cat, and since she didn't have any tags we didn't know what to do, so I went to my trusty-fix-all solution: Google. I found a really cool pet lost and found service online called PetLynx, and I posted a picture and matched up a description of the kitty, and then was automatically emailed matches of lost cats that fit my description. Sure enough, one of them happened to be moto's mommy.

They came over at once to retrieve her (she had been gone for almost a week), and we were all happy with the reunion... especially mommy and daddy who are allergic to the little animals.
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Five kids and a laundry basket

Here's how we entertain our kids after dinner without having a TV in the house: give them a laundry basket and two babies to play with.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dinner with our priest

Brave little me decided to invite our parish priest over for supper this week, and it happened that he could only come tonight. He told me this yesterday, so I had to scurry around the house cleaning all day, while thinking of something good to make for supper besides our normal 'mom with five small children' fare ( chicken nuggets, tacos, pizza, pasta).

Here's a short summary of the night:

1. Father comes early... (AHHH! I"m not ready!!). The kids are giggling upstairs hiding from the doorbell. The babies are still sleeping. I"m trying to make homemade biscuits and pudding cake at the same time.

2. I try to entertain father while reading my two recipes at once (bad idea) and keeping tabs on the three small children running around loudly at my feet. Daddy isn't home yet (where is he??)

3. ooops, that was one TSP not one TBS of baking pwd..(scoop, scrape, dump)... uh, which bowl did the salt go into?... oops! (no problem, I can multitask, I have twins!)

4. Speaking of twins, baby 1 wakes up crying, while i"m trying to put the carrots and potatoes on, take the chicken out, roll the biscuits and stir the pudding cake. Oh, and there's baby number 2 crying now.

5. Snapdragon the toddler runs by with her shirt off.. (why is she naked?? Where is daddy?) The kids are climbing up a shelf to get at the pictures they drew for the priest.

6. Uh-oh... they knock over a statue of St. Joseph, and in the process, his head falls off (again, but that's another story). Why do these things always happen in front of the priest? I'm still trying to cook the biscuits and I ask E to bounce P for me because he's crying for milk.

7. Finally, Daddy is home!! yay! He brings father into the living room for some grownup chat, the kids go wash their hands and we sit down for dinner: Fresh baked biscuits, carrots, peas, mashed potatoes and Salsa-chicken. For desert, pudding-spice-cake. Little snapdragon is very happy with our guest, and continually tells him to 'Watch ME!!' and pulls on his arm to make sure he's actually doing it. When he leaves she says 'Bye Bye Water' (she can't say F yet).

8. He leaves with a smile, telling us he's encouraged to see a loving young catholic family... daddy was happy to have a nice dinner complete with tablecloth and desert, and the kids are still running in circles through the house giggling.

9. "we should do this more often", says Daddy.

"Right", I say. "after I have a few months to recover... and we get St. Joseph's head fixed".

We're Famous!!

Well, not really, but I'm so excited that Storynory wrote about us on their blog. How exciting!!
We're also listed on the Math-U-See blogroll too, and just last week a newspaper man called and wanted to interview us for a story on large families (if you're in my city, look for us in the Neighbours section mid september.. unless of course they thought everything I had to say was just not cool enough to make the newspaper).

Maybe I should go get my hair done, because I'm sure next up, Oprah will be knocking on my door. (maybe I should go clean the kitchen instead of blogging!!)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

School today...

While the rest of the world is starting school again today, (and I need to remember not to speed through school zones again), we are still living the same old homeschooling life we've always led.

No stressful back-t0-school shopping trips, fighting over what clothes, shoes, binders, pencils, backpacks, and other assorted items that they just HAVE to have.

No rushing out the door in the morning, and rushing out the door in the afternoon so as not to be late.

No tired kids complaining about homework, after they've been at school all day. No papers to lose, no books to drag back and forth in a heavy backpack, no fancy lunches to be made to compete with the other kids.

No money to fork over for school fees, lunch fees, bus fees, school supplies. No time spots to sign up for volunteer time, committees to join, or field trips to supervise.

Just the normal chaos of us.

Here is how we spent our day:

7:00 am sharp: snapdragon the toddler wakes me out of a deep sleep, kisses me on the forehead and crawls into bed with me. I try in vain to go back to sleep.

7:30 am: Z the preschooler wanders in, and climbs into the other side of the bed.

7:45 am: Breakfast for the 3 of us... yogurt and granola.

8:00 am: Baby number 1 joins us.. straight to his highchair for breakfast.

8:15 am: Baby number 2 is awake, and E the 6 year old is now awake too. Breakfast all around. E helps feed the babies. Z and H pull out the 'ball game' and convince me to sit and play with them for 30 min, learning about colors, numbers, shapes and letters (or how to take turns without crying, and how to lose gracefully).

8:30 am: the kids unload the dishwasher, clean off the table, and we start school.

8:45 am: Speed math. E practices her math facts. (addition) Z and H fight over toys in the other room, the babies are still eating breakfast in their highchairs.

9:15 am: Math-U-See lesson 21: Subtraction with 9s. We all watch the math lesson on the laptop, (well the babies wanted to watch, but they couldn't see, so they just pulled on my legs and tried to pull the computer down off my lap, so we moved into the kitchen and watched it at the table, while I distracted the babies and changed their diapers.

10:30 Wow, that took longer than I wanted... hard to get math done when the babies and H are underfoot. Must teach E how to be more self-sufficient while doing her work pages. Now we have 'break': snack (yogurt and applesauce and raspberries), and a short 10 min play session. Both babies went for a nap.

11:00 phew! Is it really almost lunch?? Time for reading: E reads to me a story in Little Angels book 2 about Duke and Luke catching crabs in the sand dunes, and then does a few workbook pages on long-u vowels. She is really getting better at reading!! Meanwhile, H has removed her diaper, and I take the opportunity to have a short potty-learning lesson. She is excited to get smarties if she can pee pee on the potty. We pull out the plastic potty from the basement and she sits on it for 5 seconds.

11:20 reading is done. Recess!! Kids run off to play. Meanwhile, baby number one is crying in his crib. Upon investigation, I find him standing buck naked in his crib, cold and wet. He had apparently taken his own diaper off before he fell asleep (I wondered what he was playing with when I heard him gibbering in his crib before he went to sleep... at least it wasn't a yucky one). Anyways, he woke himself up in the middle of his nap time because he had peed and got cold.

Baby one comes downstairs to help with teaching H how to use the potty. Maybe he could use a lesson too?

12:00 Lunch time: leftover pasta and meat sauce, frozen peas, frozen blueberries. I read aloud from our latest Little House book, Little House in the Highlands (the unabridged version of course) H gets up and down from her chair 30 times, sits on the potty 5 times, and eventually goes PEE!! She celebrates with a hand full of smarties. Baby number two wakes up and joins the party. He eats chicken pasta soup, frozen peas, leftover pancakes.

And that is our school day. At least the stuff that we routinely do. Of course the rest of the day is spent playing, reading science and history books off the kids bookshelf, creating elaborate stories with the Little People toys, playing dress up, running around outside, watching the birds and squirrels in our yard, listening to Storynory, and drawing pretty pictures.

All in all, I enjoy our life a lot. It is a bit crazy at times, with so many littles around, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A is for....

As promised last week, I am slowly going to fill in an Encyclopedia of Me. A collection of posts all about me, my life, and my loves. Hopefully this will help me take the time to really appreciate who I have become, where I have come from, what I have been blessed with, and where I am going. I rarely have a moment to reflect on anything these days, so this will help me carve out a small scrap of space in my mind (and blog) for me.

A is for...


I have been blessed with an abundance of many things:

Grace to get through each day
Love from my darling husband
Children (my five precious sweetie pies)
Bedrooms (thank you God!!)
Family (and almost all of them live within babysitting distance)
Clothes (in various sizes, seasons and genders... oh, and the maternity ones, the transitional-after-baby-ones, and the "surely-I'll-fit-back-into-this-one-day" ones)
Socks (both the paired and non-paired variety)

the only thing I lack is sleep (but that's a whole other post).

Saturday, September 01, 2007