Wednesday, 30 December 2015

My Locket Her Locket

 Having 21 grandkids is pretty much amazing. They seem to me to each possess remarkable character....some speaking eloquently at a young age, some with a sense of humor that surprises me, some are kind and sweet and some quiet and self assured and others are feisty and wild. I find it harder to not be biased toward my grandkids than to my own children. Maybe the freedom to just enjoy them rather than having to worry whether I  was doing everything right. Or maybe I'm getting old enough to worry a little less in general. 
All of this is to say that I really like them all - greatly.

 Leah, grandchild number 18, lives right across the street and we see each other every day.  She has always loved my heart locket and told me that she wanted me to get her one for Christmas and she wanted my picture and hers inside.



Okay - grandmother melting right there.  So of course I got it for her.






Merry Christmas to Leah and Grandma Kate.


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

WOW Samuel - You Stink!

  Samuel, being the 11 year old youngest of this very long-large family, has the distinction of doing everything for the last time. This is the day he outgrew his car seat. His oldest sibling is 42 and so I am often very very very glad to see the end to a phase of parenting.
 Today while heading out to town we all smelled something. Something evil and wretched. 
It was Sam. It was B.O.


 I almost cried, both from the smell and the realization that my baby needed deodorant. 
Aahh. Another rite of passage.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Coming Clean about Going Gray

 So, truth be told, my profile picture is a lie. Not exactly a lie...I'm not really a 45 year old male plumber from New Jersey or anything.. it's just that the picture might not exactly represent how I look today, or yesterday, or for a while now. When turning 60 in March I decided it was time to stop dying my hair brown. 
  It was hard for me to make the decision to go gray. Being this old and having an eleven year old son can be a bit awkward - Jeremiah had a substitute teacher one day tell him that his "granny" was at the door when I showed up. Plus, inside, I'm still just this cool.
  
  The kids and I read a verse in school from Proverbs 16 that said, "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life." I've lived a few godly moments and quite a few not, but apparently enough to get a really full head of gray.
  
  Now when this verse was written, woman started having their kids around age 12 or 13 probably.  By the time they were in their late teens they could have four or five toddlers running around the tent or cave or whatever they lived in. Which you can imagine changed the dynamics of parent teen relationships. You didn't have to worry about your daughter texting guys or secretly meeting them for the usual reason.  Your teen daughter's conversation with her husband would be more like, "Not tonight - I've been chasing Ezekiel, Daniel and Hosea around all day and the camel gave me fits and can I just have some alone time?" For these woman to get to gray hair stage was nothing short of a godly miracle I'm thinking.
  
So I'm embracing the real me. 
Actually, I just got sick of dying my hair every month and I'm getting used to my "crown of glory".

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Head Trauma

 Isaiah is the oldest boy in the house these days and so what he does  or loves or is into, holds great sway over the crowd. Which made his decision to have me shave his head a little worrisome.  
  
  His reasoning was that he's had a dent in the back of his
skull for as long as he can remember and he wanted us all to see it clearly.  He was also curious to see if there were still scars on his head from Elijah's teeth at some earlier time of their lives. I for one, have never thought about re-living my past by examining the nicks and dings on my body, but there are many things that he and I think differently about.

  Last night after a few deep breaths (his and mine), I shaved off all his hair. It was great entertainment for the night and although we could make out a few bumps and lines, the story of his head injuries was not nearly as exciting as the sheer courage of his decision.


  And thankfully  surprisingly, none of the other boys decided to follow his lead.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Not a Post for Vegans

  Last weekend there was a beautiful summer/winter day and we headed to the mountain house.  We got a lot of work done... well mostly James did,  and we played and hiked and enjoyed the get- away.  
  





But the cherry on top, the icing on our cake was stopping at the  oh so amazing 

Beef Jerky Outlet.  The sign has been enticing us for months as we drove by, and this time we headed off the exit into jerky heaven. 

  Not only was there jerky from most of the mammal class, hot sauces with names that indicated death, there was also every type of insect embedded into lollipops and candies and boxes of flavored dried crickets and worms.
  This is the kind of store you must experience with 6 boys.  It nearly brought them to tears of joy.

  I was impressed and disgusted at the same time by Isaiah as he casually munched his sour cream crickets.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

One Very Long, Very Good Year

I spent last evening with my daughter Molly ( the 3rd from the right with the beautiful smile) and an amazing group of people. A year and a day ago I dropped her off at a rehab center, after many months of watching her nearly destroy her life with drugs.  It was hard leaving her there, not knowing if I would ever have her back.
  Molly made a choice that day - a choice she's still making every day since and that is to stay clean. The dinner and meeting afterwards was a celebration of that.  
One year. 
She has had a large group of people walking with her in this hard won victory. These kids are literally fighting for their lives. I was struck by their willingness to share their pasts, their struggles, their hopes and fears. 
  As I hugged Molly I cried with gratefulness for answered prayers and for the sweet joy of holding my girl again and seeing a way ahead for her.
  A friend once comforted me when I was worried about my kids when he reminded me that they are on a journey that has years to go.  
This was a very very happy stop along that journey. I am so proud of you Molly.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

A Lot to Like


   A few weeks ago our family had our- not so easy to get everyone together- picture taken.  We managed to have 16 of our 18 kids come, which includes 18 of our 21 grand-kids.  





The wonderful photographer,Michael Viands , titled our album, "Acly Thanksgiving" because it was taken the day after. 
  Looking through the pictures, I realized that it was a thanksgiving picture. Never did I think that James and I would be so blessed..so incredibly blessed to have this many kids to raise; to have so many grand-kids to love; to have my Mom and Dad living right next door our whole life. 
  There have been some really hard times, the kinds of hard times that make you feel like you can't do this any more. 
But I'm thankful. 
Thankful for James who is still my best friend after 43 years. 

Thankful for walking through the hard times and getting to the other side.
And thankful for the bad and good and joy this family has been.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Boys not Girls

  There was a time when my little homeschool consisted of all girls. It was a sweet time.  We talked about the characters in our favorite books and how they really felt.  Every missionary story ended in tears...actually only I cried.  We read poetry and worked on lovely crafts. It was all happiness and sunshine and I felt I had control.
  That was then. Now my days consist of teaching a large pack  of boys. I have one daughter still here, but she is deft at escaping. I don't fault her for that, it's called survival. Their eyes glaze over when we read poetry; they twist their bodies into strange shapes when I read to them. They assume that the only feelings that book characters have are the urges to wrestle and punch, which is their deepest desires. Now my want to cry comes only from the varied and numerous smells they emit. I KNOW I don't have control.
  As a good teacher I realized that our curriculum might need a little tweak - or a shove.  
  Now, we shoot rubber bands at targets on the wall to decide who goes first.  Our journal topics consist of superheroes and gross bodily stuff.  Science has moved from the book to outside, encompassing anything that pops, fizzes and bangs. This week we spent a long time mixing vinegar, baking soda in ever increasing amounts to see just how big an explosion we could generate. 
What did we learn?  A little about acids and bases and lots about why learning isn't terrible. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Jesus Like a Cigarette

  I recently began thinking about this when my son prayed for about the millionth time, "Jesus, please help us have a lovely day." There's nothing actually wrong with the prayer and goodness knows I love lovely days, but that's all he prays. 

Like ever. 

Upon further questioning he revealed that our family prayer time in the morning was the in-total of his conversations with Jesus. Okay. That's not good.  So what should this talking with Jesus look like? And then it came to me....

It should be like a cigarette.

I don't smoke....anymore.  I haven't actually had one since Grace's adoption day - 20 some years ago, but I remember it all. If you've never smoked you'll just have to take my word on this. And if you do smoke, you should quit but not till you're done reading this.

First thing in the morning. You MUST have a cigarette.  It's been all night with no nicotine. It starts the day off right and makes your breath smell so great when mixed with that first cup of coffee. 

Within seconds of waking I realize that the day ahead will bring people and problems and I already feel tired. Whisper to Jesus, "Help me get through this day, doing what you need me to do."

Right before you start a big project you light one up and think through your plan. Smoking gives you that little break time to figure things out.

A friend has sent me a message on facebook and wants my advise on something she's dealing with and I have no idea what to tell her "Jesus, what should I say that would help?"  I listen with my heart and begin to type.

When you're stressed-mad-hurt and ready to explode, you light a cigarette and it calms you down. Although cigarettes kill people, I believe there are an equal number of people who are still alive because of the a fore mentioned soothing properties of smoking.

I am so sick of explaining how to add fractions to them again for the hundredth time and  they're not even listening and I'm so mad.  They'll never get this and they have a bad attitude! I should just walk out and slam the door. "Jesus, I really- really am done with this. Can you give me patience with them one more time?  Can you help me not injure any of my kids?" (slight exaggeration)

And then there's all the in between times. When you sit back and relax and just enjoy life for a few minutes.  That's one of the best smokes of the day.

"Thanks Jesus for letting me survive this day.  This really is a beautiful place you let me live in and thanks for my family and  their strange little lovable quirks and for someone inviting us over for dinner (this is my story and I can add that in too) and for loving me again."

Smoking is bad but Jesus is a glorious addiction!


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Mountain Top

Recently we purchased some acreage in the middle of no-man's land, top of a mountain, West Virginia where the kids could run and explore and shoot guns and ride 4-wheelers and not mess anything up. There is an old, old, very yucky house on the land and we decided to strip it back to the stud walls and start it over.  Friends came up a couple of weekends ago and helped us work.  It was awful - not the friends, they were amazing. Shoveling insulation from the walls and ceiling into a giant dumpster...in the rain. We were tired and sore by the end, but the work is bearable when you walk the woods and see the stream meandering along its path.
 I have visions of the boys off on their adventures and I'm in a hammock in the shade reading book after book after book.
Thanks Buster and Frank for all your help!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

God Speaks in the Garden

For the third summer in a row, we've planted our couple of tomato plants close to the back door for easy picking.  Easy for us and harder for the deer.
Each morning for most of the summer I've walked out and God would say "Here's your one beautiful big tomato for your egg sandwich today." There is nothing like slicing a tomato and eating it while it still thinks it's on the vine.
Some days God would say, "Here's your tomato and another for your mom and dad".  It was all really wonderful.

Then a few days ago I went out and He said, "SALSA." 

There were tomatoes everywhere!  You can't ignore 30 tomatoes sitting on your counter no matter how hard you try. We picked all the jalapenos and I got to work canning. The salsa is delicious although the onions and peppers give it and your breath a kick!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

I'm Sure I Am



Do you know the moment when you realize that you might have a compulsion or two or three......? 

Maybe you've eaten cheese puffs for lunch every day for years weeks and the orange finger tips and smears on your book pages don't bother you any more.  

Maybe you have five unopened packs of black- already sharpened- Ticonderoga-the best pencil in the world, hidden in your desk.  And you want more.

What if your collection of "I've been there magnets" has outgrown every metal surface in your kitchen?

Or you might have stacks of 4 x 6  unruled index cards       (not 3 x 5 ruled-NO!) near you at all times so that you can write grocery lists and assignments and math/science cards and labels. 

That might all be weird. 




Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Harvest Time


 Harvesting the fruit trees is my signal that summer is on its last legs and fall is creeping in. (The other sign is that the kids refuse to go swimming. You can't keep them out of the pool in April, but by August they act like I'm asking them to go into a vat of acid.)

The kids got to climb our incredibly tall pear trees which made me more than a bit apprehensive. 

I think pruning their height for next year might be advantageous to life and limb and prevent my having a heart attack.




Elijah took the top and handed down to Emma while the three littles held the ladder down. To make the entire event even more dangerous, the ground slopes away in the orchard and the ladder wasn't touching the ground on the high side.



 We ended up with a couple of baskets full of pears - most with some blemishes. 


I hauled out the canner and we now have some caramelized pear butter to try later. Side note...I thought these jars were strange but some how appealing. 




Monday, 10 August 2015

Love that Lets Go

  About once a year, we get together with three of our boy's birth mom and their little sister.  She lives a fair distance away, but I promised her a long time ago that she would always be part of their lives.  Patty made the decision to let the boys grow up with us and I am always amazed and thankful for her unselfish decision. Life is still hard for her but she loves her boys completely.

  After lunch we headed to the park and the kids got to play and visit and catch their mom up on their lives. We headed home with bags of goodies and sweet memories. 


She's a hero kind of 
mom to me.



Monday, 6 July 2015

He Likes It


























  One of the things I love to watch as the kids grow is what their special talents and interests are.  I have some that live for anything that involves a ball and winning and others that sit alone for hours playing the guitar or keyboard.
  Recently I've noticed that Jeremiah has a little farmer in him.  He plants all the pits from the fruit he eats (does that ever work for anyone?)- he has a pine tree that he has tended for years and was thrilled when it reached beyond the wire cage that protected it.  He enjoys nothing more than going up and down the isles in our local nursery and somehow loves each flower more than the one before.
  Today we planted some cute pink flowers that I don't remember the name of but he probably does, in our window boxes. He hauled potting soil, gathered tools and gently planted each box. He told me when we finished that it looked "so amazing" and that we did a good job.  
  I like this boy and his dirty little fingernails.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Not Following the Crowd because We're Lame

My daughter  asked me the other day if I had ever tried coconut water.  She, at age 16, wants to know about everything happening on the internet. If everyone is doing/using/liking something, it must be good. Right?
Come on....you remember 16.

Back to her question - I might have tasted coconut juice at some point in my life. I've seen plenty of people on t.v. shows like Gilligan's Island,  sticking straws in coconuts and sipping happily away, but I really couldn't say if it was good or not, which prompted me a few days ago to pick up a box of it as I was checking out at C.V.S. Pharmacy.  It was warm in the car and I was glad to have a cool drink for the ride home. 
My response to this health fad is NO. 
Ginger and Mary Ann had nothing else to drink apparently, because it tasted like dirt. I saved it for the kids to try and the opinions ranged from disgust to mild yuck. One child claimed it tasted like spit and another was sure it tasted like something I hope he has never really put in his mouth.
So once again - we're the uncool-unhealthy family that will probably choose the Lebron Sprite Remix (yes, there is one and my children drank it) from the 7/11, and they will pick Marco Polo in the pool instead of Yoga on a mat.  
We are so yesterday.


Friday, 29 May 2015

Tossed by the Waves


 The ocean has a mood for every day that we're here. One morning the water is so cold that you have to just plunge in and let the icy numbness take over.  Sometimes the waves hit you so quickly one after another that you loose track of the sky.
Today, the water was warm and gentle and shallow out for a long- long way.  Some current deep under the surface decided to come ashore and it brought secrets we hadn't seen before.  There were jellyfish with bright red tentacles lazily floating onto the sand and commanding great respect from all.  Also making an appearance were beautiful shells that the  waves dumped at our feet for a few seconds before snatching them back out again. I grabbed a few and was thankful for these surprise treasures. 
The jellyfish and shells were gone after lunch....the ocean must have changed its mind.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Smoke this Art

  We spent the afternoon today wandering around Manteo, NC, one of my favorite towns anywhere.  Lunch by the water watching sailboats rock in their slips, little shops full of seashells and driftwood and sea glass.  
My favorite stop was the local art gallery.  We watched artists turn canvas into paintings, marveled at sculptures and each person had to choose the piece of art they liked best and tell why.

And then I found an Art O' Mat machine.  They are re- purposed cigarette machines filled with tiny pieces of art for $5 and a pull of a knob.  You didn't quite know what you would get (which made it even more exciting).

I scored an adorable mermaid painting from K. Larabee mounted on a wooden block which is immensely better than a pack of Kools. ( which I haven't smoked in 18 years, but when I did that's the knob I would have pulled.)

Monday, 25 May 2015

Things That Go Bump in the Night

The first morning we woke up at the beach, Jeremiah showed up to breakfast looking like this. 
My first thought was some brother had duked it out with him.
Not the case. 

He had no idea what happened. 

When I kissed him good-night, he didn't have a mark.  After some investigation our best guess is he fell from the top bunk onto the end table, as everything on the table was on the floor. He said he woke up in his bed and his two brothers sleeping in the bed under him never heard a thing.  I think we'll file this one under Beach Mysteries - sure to become a family legend.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

It's Your Birthday

A few days ago our family celebrated two birthdays - my Dad who is 93 and my granddaughter Abby (his great granddaughter) who turned 2.
The presents ranged from princess dishes and sheet sets to an iphone 6 car docker. (Yes, my Dad at 93 is that cool) There was a beautiful Barbie cake for Abby and a delicious Dairy Queen ice cream cake for him.  I sat and thought about the things he had seen in his life and what the future would hold for her. Between the two there are many years and a love that spans them sweetly.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Bon Voyage Bethany

A few days ago we had a going away party for one of our friends.  It was supposed to be a bonfire, but the weather and our weird kids morphed it into a pool party.
It's hard saying good-bye to Bethany and her family, because they are our people.  We all homeschool and somehow God has arranged us into a strange, strong, safe family.  We differ on pretty much everything...what we eat (vegan to Chik-fill-a addict), what we collect (chickens, dogs, kids and quilts), and how we school our kids, but it works - together.


You will be so missed Bethany...you leave a colorful, crazy hole in our hearts.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Once Upon a Time.....

  I love a great many things about homeschooling - being the one there when they "get it",the relaxed schedule, the closeness that takes place when you spend your days working, learning, and fighting struggling together, and the great education that I get by teaching it all over again.

 But the best- best- best of all is reading through book after book as a family. We have read the history of the world through exciting fiction books, cried over missionary stories (okay, I'm the one who cries) and been inspired by great men and woman who have changed the world.  Our list of favorites goes on for a mile and we talk about them often.
The sweetest times we have are sitting outside while the neighborhood is quiet and reading ourselves to another place.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Sometimes Less is Good

 In our house, you can't get a cell phone until you drive, and driving is a privilege given to those who are trustworthy and mature.  At the moment, only one of our six kids at home has the much coveted phone. Two are working on getting their license. 
And yes...just like they think, they are the only kids in America who don't have any devices that go online. 
Which means that when Emma got her much needed graphing calculator yesterday she was very excited. She said it was almost as good as a phone.
That makes her a science/math nerd and she still can't text.  I'm okay with that.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Education is a Process (slow one apparently)

  One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that you can begin and end your year according to what works best for your family.  As we always go to the beach in late May, we choose to start school earlier in August, not take time off for many of the holidays that the public schools do, and never lose a day for snow.  Our curriculum has 35 weeks and we just finished up week 33. YES!!!


I came home today to find this note on the board.  

Maybe I should reconsider.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Whale There You Go


  I do love the Awana program at my parent's church.  I love filling my van up each Wednesday night with my kids and the grand-kids, a few neighborhood kids and my mom. I drop them all off, spend the evening ALONE  shopping, and then return and pick them back up. It's noisy and crowded but nice.
  Tonight was Hawaii night and my grand daughter Lauren won the prize for the best behaved. So along with all the kids and my mom, and the great deals I found at Goodwill, we also stuffed this very large, very amazing, prize whale into the van. 
  Luckily I only had to transport.  My daughter Lane gets to deal with it after we docked!

Monday, 27 April 2015

A Gentleman Must Always Changes His Underwear

I do the laundry around here....lots of it.... and I know stuff.
I know how many pairs of underwear are sent to the laundry hamper each week by each person.
Recently I have noticed an extreme lack of underwear from certain little boys.
My threat motivation to insure my little darlings put on clean under-garments each day is that I would gladly post each person's underwear count on my blog if it seemed too low to me.   This appears to have worked, as I am getting underwear that I haven't seen in weeks - probably pulled out from behind the dressers and other nefarious places.
Things should be smelling a bit better around here.


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Mom's Day Off

  Our family has Uncle Kevin.  He came to us in an unusual way and we're all so happy he did. He is crazy fun with an emphasis on crazy.
  
A few weeks ago the littles got a letter in the mail from him. In it he challenged them to make a complete meal for me.  They had to think up the three course menu, get the ingredients and cook it.  Without my help. YES!  

The boys would have been happy just to do it, but Uncle Kevin sweetened the pot with $150 award upon completion. 

They got to work and came up with Roast Chicken, Spicy Baked Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Corn on the Cob with a lime-honey butter.  



Cooking day was busy and with a little advise from their three year old niece Leah, they presented me with a delicious meal!

Thanks Uncle Kevin...the boys are happy and so am I!!