Sunday, April 29, 2007

Independence Day

Betsy finally managed to get those training wheels off her bike! She did extremely well, rolling off alone after just a very few attempts with me clinging to the backside of her seat. Here she is enjoying her new-found freedom.

She calls this a deep turn...

John Michael and David are *not* ready for no training wheels!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Adora's First Riding Adventure

Adora has joined the ranks of horse back riders in our household. Here she is atop of Blondie enjoying her first real riding experience. She's pretty good at grooming too! Meanwhile, Strider was babysitting the wee ones. I put a blanket on the ground for Nathan and Nehemiah and Strider decided it looked like a great place to take a nap. He didn't leave much room for his charges and he wasn't very good at keeping track of them either....

And as soon as the twins learn how to use those crops, they'll be on the back of a horse too...

Jr. LAX Dude

Davey wants to get in on the sports action in the worst kind of way. He decided to try out the lacrosse gear while he waits for his gymnastics class to begin in a few weeks...

Aviary Adventure

Monday, April 23, 2007

JR T-Ball

John Michael finally got in the sports fray with his first official sports practice - t-ball. He's now in a YMCA t-ball clinic for 3 and 4 year olds and, let me tell you, I had forgotten what fun this age can be at these things! The sport was all new to them and I'm not sure who was more fun to watch - the tots or their 20-something moms.

They started off the practice with a little glove work. JM got very frustrated very quickly when he realized he couldn't throw the ball with his left hand because he had a glove on it. I have since rectified that and bought him his very own lefty glove. The right-hander glove lasted all of about 3 and a half minutes before he threw it on the ground in frustration. Having a left-handed athlete is all new to me!
After about a million and a half whacks at that tee he finally sent the ball sailing about 8 inches across the grass and got to run. He was one of the few who actually knew to run to first base. Most of the other wee ones were told to run and run they did - on and on and on and on......

T-ball can get tiring and sometimes it's more fun to just sit and play with the cones. I missed a great shot when they were both wearing them on their heads...

Saturday, April 21, 2007


The girls have started t-ball. They are all on the same 5/6 league team. I figured Miriam would be happiest playing with her sisters and she is really enjoying it. They are the only 3 girls on the team, towering over their male 5 and 6 year teammates. I think they have decided the best thing about t-ball is wearing UNIFORMS! They love those matching orange socks and clunky shoes...

Betsy at bat. Her first swing at the ball only clipped the top third of the tee - pretty good, huh?!

Ruth's idea of playing 2nd base. She learned this technique from her teammates and then actually improved upon their methods. You might note that she is in an upright standing position and there is no dirt pouring out of her glove!

Miriam in the outfield is another step in the right direction. She is actually watching...well, something.

I'd say I'll keep you posted about their standings this season but they don't exactly keep score in this league. They get as many swings as they need, no walks or outs and when they hit 5 runs it's time to move on in the inning. You gotta start somewhere and I forgot how much fun this league is to watch!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In praise of A Little Cow Music

My brother-in-law has done it again. Alden has come out with his second self-produced album of children's songs and this one is fantastic! He struck a deal with the local dairy stand which sports a large fiberglass cow in the front. He would write a song just for the dairy stand and they would play it on endless loop and sell his CD's at the counter. It's a wonderful marriage of music, ice cream and plain silliness. His tunes are so singable I've been singing them in my nauseum...I actually have video of David sitting on his potty singing:

My Mommy's a pirate
oh what can I say!
She's out on the high seas
almost every day
She may be a scoundrel
and a flea biting scum
but I still love her
because she's my Mum!

The actual words are "sea-going bum" but we all know by now that David has his own take on life. My favorite moment with the album though was the day I was driving down the road talking to Alden on my cell phone at the very moment his voice was belting out:

Blah Blah talking
at the wheel or when she's walking
We need towing
oh please watch where you're going mom was talking on her cellular phone

The almost Twain-esque social commentary found in songs like Video Games All Day and Daddy's Got a Tattoo is completely lost on Philip who does a very funny muppet-like dance as he hears video sounds ringing in his head and dreams of the day when he can actually play video games all day. As far as he's concerned, Uncle Alden is his biggest ally in the video game war he's waging with his mum (in which she really does seem to him to act remarkably like a vicious pirate).

All 3 of the big boys suddenly take on that competitive edge around their eyeballs when the title song comes along. Each one is mysteriously compelled to become the first one able to recite every word of the long list of ice cream flavors and add-ins with the same remarkable speed with which Alden plays and sings. Listening to that song always creates a frenzy of competition with lips flying and ears glued to the speakers. We can never play that one just once - we have to repeat it again and again in hopes of increasing the number of words per second escaping from their lips at each go 'round.

Oh, I could go on and on about this album. We love everything about it. But for now I'll stop here and post his website as soon as he gets it up. That way you too can do what we do - buy 10 copies at a time and hand them out to every poor kid who invites one of our brood to their birthday party....

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What a Treat!

We've had a really rough month or so what with the puke plague, Ruth experiencing her first sickle cell crisis and, most recently, a complete mental health breakdown for one of the children all of which has Philip so out of whack he doesn't know what's coming and going...I've been ready for something really good to happen and tonight it finally did! Two weeks ago I went to the charity auction and got myself four tickets to any show at one of the local colleges. I decided to take the girls on a date to the Celtic Festival and...WOW! What a fantastic event!

The evening was emcee'd by a fellow named Charlie Zahm who is obviously a regular on the Celtic music circuit. His performance highlighted his beautiful baritone voice and his two sidekicks, a fiddler and a percussionist. I really enjoyed that, while he obviously has a lot of performance experience, he lead the audience through the evening with a tremendous amount of humility and joy. It's refreshing to see truly gifted individuals who aren't full of themselves. He was the perfect choice to play at host and his little trio really had Ruthie tapping her toes and clapping her hands.

The girls got their first look at a couple of new instruments as well. A 20 piece harp symphony graced the upstage area. They played an independent performance and were then joined by Charlie Zahm's singing and served as instrumentalists for one of the two dance troupes there. The first dance troupe brought along a piper so the girls got to hear some bagpipe music as well.

The dancers were wonderful as well. There were two groups - one Irish and one Scottish - and I must say we were most impressed by the Scottish group. They featured a boy about Ben's age who is the National Grand Champion and recently won 6th in Scotland competition as well. These kids were fantastic! They were so quick on their feet, in perfect synch with one another and I can't imagine the amount of discipline and hard work that has gone into their training. The girls enjoyed the dancers the most.

It always does my heart good to see good art and this truly was art at its finest. It was really wonderful that the whole event had a sense of local and ethnic pride which usurped the usual self-aggrandizing pride of most perfected performing artists. I was sure ready for a little break and this evening was a very pleasant surprise!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

There's Always Tomorrow...

John Michael seems to have waged philosophical war on the Potty Training process. I know he knows how to do it. He has all the signs and wonders - dry at night, tells me when he poos, can control his bladder, shoot he's even changed his own diaper. He began to tell us in the evening "I will use the potty tomorrow!" The next morning we would wake up and announce "John you said you would use the potty today!" He would get a glint in his eye and a smile on his face and say, "No, I said I would use the potty tomorrow. This is today." So yesterday's tomorrow is always today and never actually tomorrow...and he knew it all along! Stinker.

The other day I took off his jammies and put him in underpants under great screamings, whinings and protestations. "I don't care! Scream all you want! You are going to use the potty!" A couple of hours later he came to me and said that he was cold. I knew what that meant. I've walked through grocery aisles before with the chills while trying to cross my legs, push a cart and select the right grade carrots all at the same time. I didn't give in...Two hours after that he began to scream and cry. He'd been holding it for so long that his belly was sore. I got him to sit on the potty, then I got him to stand in front of the potty, then I got him to sit on the training potty but nothing could get him to stop screaming, relax and let loose. We read books, chatted, paraded the Philip Movie Lines show in front of him but all to no avail. Finally I pulled him off the potty and put a diaper on him when I began to seriously fear for the health of his bladder. John Michael curled up on the sofa, stopped screaming, fell asleep and managed to...relax.... Oh well, there's Always Tomorrow....

Monday, April 09, 2007


David got some sunglasses in his Easter basket which he just loves. He wears them everywhere. Last night he put on the Batman mask and then the glasses over it and announced, "Hey! I'm Vacation Fatman!" (for some reason he's always referred to Batman as Fatman). It was too cute - I had to take a picture!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

DOD - An Easter Moment

We were sitting at the dinner table on Easter Sunday happily sharing our ham and yams when David suddenly lifted up his shirt, reached into his pants, pulled out a foil-wrapped chocolate egg and announced, "I found one!". I asked him if he laid that egg for the occasion and he said plainly, "Yes" then unwrapped it and ate it.

Happy Easter!

A Blessed Easter Season from our household to yours!
(Hey, it was freeeezing cold! That's the best I could do...)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Play Ball!

Ben's flying solo in the boys' baseball this year. JT's doing lacrosse and Phlip is signed up for basketball which is much more his sport. Ben had his very first practice of the season today. He's getting geared up for some fun and Adora is putting her softball experience into practice with daily catch sessions in the yard.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Day in the Life


8:15 AM Fr. Joel arises and rouses JT for his first lacrosse game

8:30 Fr. Joel leaves the house, drives Adora to the college and gets JT to the field
Mary rouses herself out of bed and showers

8:45 Both babies are being fed while the rest of the crew forages for breakfast

9:00 Mary gets 9 children in the van and they travel to cheer on JT's game

9:15 Mary circles the parking lot looking for a place to beach the big, red dog. Fr. Joel jogs up from the field, unloads the van (2 babies in the double stroller, a couple of toddlers and a gaggle of older children) and rescues Mary from Parking

10:30 The game over (we Won!), the family splits up between two vehicles and heads home

10:45 Mary throws together a snack, distributes two pieces of cheese to each child for a road snack and everyone re-shoes and heads back into the van

11:15 We're off for an hour drive to the day's entertainment

12:15 We arrive at the UPS Millenium Celebration. Back out comes the double stroller, an umbrella stroller for one toddler while the other perches on Daddy's head and the gaggle of older children follow along. 12:15 - 2:15 A couple of hours of fun involving posing next to Dale Jarret's 44 car, making UPS paper airplanes and a painful wait for the balloon sculpturers to craft something for 4 out of 10 children. Mary takes 12 meals tickets, JM and JT into the free food line where she scavenges for something on the family Diet. The three make it out with 9 plain slabs of hamburger, 5 bags of Utz pretzels, 4 bags of Utz potato chips, 3 sodas and a bottle of water.

2:30 The family travels the hour home while snacking on slabs of beef, pretzels, lollipops and water

3:30 We are greeted in our lawn by a neighbor bearing a chain saw. Said neighbor agrees to cut down anything resembling a bush he can find around the house while Fr. Joel strikes up a deal with his son - hard labor filling holes with dirt in exchange for a computer upgrade.

3:35 Mary showers and dresses for the evening. Fr. Joel heads off to Lowe's, taking the van and leaving the chain-saw weilding neighbor, his dirt-digging son and Adora spoon-feeding two babies.

3:36 Mary runs out the door to leave for a charity event and realizes her purse is in the Van...drives to Lowe's, fetches the purse and drives on to said charity event

4:30 Mary arrives at charity event where she spends the next 6 hours on her feet (in heels - bad choice!) convincing people to donate money so her children can continue to ride horses for another year. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Fr. Joel plants some grass seed and checks off a few projects from his "Honey Do" list

6:30 - ?? Fr. Joel and Adora feed, bath and jammy 10 children, get them to bed

10:30 pm - Mary arrives home to find Ruth reeling in sickle cell pain. A series of text messages on the ride home kept her up to date on the treatment given so far. Fr. Joel gets a call from Fr. Rob who has been stricken with the plague and asks Fr. Joel to take over his sermon slot tomorrow.

11:00 - The sickle cell vigil begins as does the sermon preparation. A call is placed to the hematologist who agrees to allow us to handle the pain management at home.

2:45 am - Ruth is finally settled and sleeping, sermon and Sunday School lesson are almost prepared

3:00 am - Both make it to bed

5:30 am - Nathan awakes and is nursed, Ruth gets more pain meds

8:15 am - Fr. Joel awakes and realizes he is an hour late in getting up. He heads for the shower while Mary rallies the troops

8:30 am - Fr. Joel and 3 children make it out the door to church

8:45 am - Mary and the remaining members of the household make it out the door (Note: that's 13 people dressed for church, fed and out the door in half an hour! I think that's a new record for us!)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Plague's Last Stand

We got it...the plague, that is. It hit last Thursday afternoon just as Fr. Joel and I were preparing to head out for a quiet weekend alone and leave Adora with half the kids while the rest were scattered about here and there. In the midst of packing up 3 girls, 2 adults, an autistic boy and a baby, David threw up on...well, something. I chose to smile at Adora and go about my business. I really didn't want to lose this bonus trip away and I figured as long as she wasn't complaining too loudly I would just pretend everything was ok and ignore the pathetic little figure on the sofa huddled under a pair of receiving blankets and sucking on a popsicle. We finally managed to sneak out and all went well until the next morning when the calls started coming in. Ruth had a stomachache...(well, she did recently swallow a quarter for Pete's sake and she has been sickling into her abdomen lately...), David was sick again and he had a play date with Deacon's kiddo-s and, the call to beat all calls at 3:00 am - Nehemiah is in the ER puking his little guts out and trying to stay hydrated. Just as we sat down and began to pray for some direction about whether we should return our own selves into the fray, the phone rang yet again. Adora called to say that she and Nehemiah were headed home, some church friends had helped cared for the children and all would be "o.k.". I love that woman!

We had a wonderful weekend away and got lots of time to discuss a pet project of ours. The only drawback was that Nathan didn't seem to understand he was only along for the ride so that he could follow the food source. He seemed to think that we had forsaken all the other children and driven him to this parent paradise so that we could both spend untold hours entertaining...him...Ah well, it was a nice change and equally as nice to return home and see the kids who we actually did a miss a bit after 3 days away from it all. Unfortunately by the time we returned we had managed to infect Deacon's family, the wonderful couple who helped Adora get Nehemiah to the ER at 3:00 AM and a couple more of our own progeny. Nothing like a bit of healthy guilt to finish off a wonderful weekend!

We all seemed on the mend but we were out a sitter by Tuesday and we had been hoping to go on a field trip to the local Jewish Heritage Museum for a Passover Study. The boys were disappointed the night before that we had gotten our sitter sick and they were going to miss the opportunity to create their own plague as part of the museum's planned activities for them. Somehow that sounded like a great idea. Well, I got up in the morning full of optimism. "I can do this!" I said to myself. "I *can* take 10 kids (so what if 4 of them are 3 and under) into the city on a field trip at a moment's notice. This can *work*!" I marched myself down the steps and made my announcement. "We can do this people! Let's go!" I barked out orders like a military captain and my troops jumped into action. This one was packing the baby's bag, this one feeding the toddlers, this one packing lunches and another spooning mushed bananas into Nathan. We were running like a well-oiled machine and my optimism grew. "We *can* do this!" I repeated to myself and to my troops as a hope-inducing mantra. It was all coming together. The day was going to be a glowing success....until Betsy walked down the hall, leaned over and vomited all over the rug. Ok, so we can't do this. Our production line came to a screeching halt. By mid-day Fr. Joel informed me he wasn't feeling so well either and he arrived home 3 hours early looking rather green about the gills. He straggled up the stairs and buried himself in bed. I marched in and asked him to do me just one favor. He groaned that he wasn't up to any favors and I asked him to kindly at least *attempt* to hit something porcelain. "Well you better get me a trashcan then" was about all he could reply.

By Wednesday evening the plague had burned itself out and claimed as many victims as it was going to get in our household so I decided to make an all-out attack on the germs which had been marching through my house uninvited since the week before. All kitchen, dining room and bathroom surfaces were going to get a good scrubbing. It was like traveling through a time capsule, that scrubbing. First I came across about a pint of ice cream which had splattered on the wall and door and clung there in drippy strands, remnants no doubt of some Sunday dinner gone by. There was a nice round, sour lump of goo under the china cabinet. I wiped down a substance smeared on the wall which resembled bloody poo and actually *spoke* to me. "Don't even ask, " it proclaimed, "you just don't want to know." I found a small puddle of dried puke under David's chair. He must have forgotten to inform Adora of that one... On the hallway walls a series of blobs of bluish sticky stuff dotted with bits of paper reminded me that I had never thoroughly wiped down the walls after John Michael decided to glue his artwork to them. Apparently tape just wasn't going to get that job done for some reason. The hallway rug was still flecked with remnants of Betsy's untimely spillage and I could feel the germs jumping off the bathroom hand towels as I tossed them into Mt. Laundry. By 11:00 that night the cleansing was complete and I felt like a new woman. My household was restored, I had battled the Germs and won! The next morning I completed two final tasks. We ordered some nice flowers for the lovely couple who had born our infection like a badge of honor and Adora earned herself an iPod. That done, I finally felt I could put the whole ugly thing behind us and move whatever the next day may hold for us!