grape juice and homeschool

grape juice-5Our grapes are finally starting to ripen somewhat in bunches – at least there’s more than one or two ripe ones per bunch…. And if we can manage to gather a sufficient amount before the squirrels, birds and little fingers get them and eat them, we actually can collect a good bit and, you know, make something.

grape juice

My favorite is to make grape jelly, but the kids started picking grapes the other day and were insistent that they were going to make Grape. Juice. So, they gathered and gathered, and gathered some more. They roped the neighbor girls into helping them pick and after a good forty-five minutes to an hour they had a nice size container full (maybe four or five cups worth, I didn’t actually measure). Anyway, they put them in the fridge, again, insisting we they were being saved for Grape Juice.

I let them sit until Wednesday when I decided that I *could* go ahead and make the Juice, and turn it all into “life experience” and call it “homeschool”. Baby N was sleeping and the neighbor girls who had picked the grapes with them were back, so it seemed like the right time. (Not to mention, grapes straight from the vine don’t keep *that* long in the fridge before they start getting really bad.)

I don’t have pictures of the process, there were seven kids in my yard and boiling grapes on the stove so, no free hands to photograph…

grape juice-6

But, anyways what we did:

  1. Boil grapes for about 5-10 minutes, no water, no sugar, just on their own. Until they released their juices and were soft-ish and mashable with a spoon. (I did this part on my own)
  2. Put them through a food mill. All the kids took turns doing this. They thought it was great fun and I didn’t have to actually turn the handle over and over and over and over and……..
  3. We tasted it. Sour. and a little thick as I didn’t have a finer sieve or cheesecloth to push it through again.
  4. Opted to add a bit of sugar (maybe 1/2 cup? I didn’t measure) and a glass of water (<8 oz). (I put it back on the stove for this part, just until all the sugar was dissolved.)

grape juice-8

And that was it. It was enjoyed by all. It didn’t really make enough for everyone to have their thirst quenched (not when divided amongst eight people, while saving some for daddy, so really, nine people), but it was nice.

grape juice-9

I’m glad I did it. I feel like many times I just put off the kids ideas because they seem like too much work or I just plain don’t want to do it. It really helped me to actually include the kids in the making of the juice. Their excitement and enthusiasm for a “project” or activity sometimes can be infectious. 🙂

grape juice-10

And as a side note to our homeschool, I was thinking of making a notebook of life “experiences”, where we jot down “educational” (big quotation marks here) things we do. Not because I have to submit anything at the end of the year, but more to see how much learning we do outside of our more traditional school work.

grape juice-4

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Pictures are of the grapes being picked that eventually ended up as juice.
Linking up with Coombe Mill (tomorrow) for our non-Country Kids post 😉
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My Sunday Best {1}

My Sunday Best

Sorry folks, I have absolutely no details on my outfit. I know I picked up my sweater at Savers a few months back. Ant the skirt and shirt are maternity clothes that have had their first and possibly only wearing this round of pregnancy/post-partum. They still fit, but they’re on their way back into the big storage bin in the attic.

Johny was my photographer of the day. I actually had already changed from Mass (since… cold)… But then I remembered I wanted to make this post this week, so I quick changed and had him snap the photo during nap time (he was glad to “not nap” for a few minutes).

~~~

I mentioned above that my maternity clothes are heading back into storage soon. And some of the baby clothes are already too small (hello 3-6 month clothes!) so they’ve been put away too. Put away for what?

Well…. a potential future baby.

Every time I’ve put an article of clothing away, I find myself thinking “…until next time”, then I’m like, wait! What? Next Time? You mean, I’m going to use these again?

And while I don’t know 100% for sure if we’ll have another baby (I’m not God), it seems likely given my age – I’m all of 30 years (plus 137 days) old and we’re Catholic and open to life (also open to spacing, so no babies right away, unless God throws a curve ball) but, we also just like babies. We like kids.

Yes, they’re a lot of work, but I think we’re finally getting to the point where for some of the kids (the older three), the hands-on work part is getting a lot less. There are other things we’re doing now, but the physically exhausting part is not quite so much with them now.

{Side note: I was at Mass a few weeks ago, by myself with the older kids and the baby. Someone else was holding the baby, Katherine went to Childrens Liturgy and the boys were writing on the bulletin without squabbling over the pen and I felt like I had a nice little break to listen to the homily. That doesn’t seem to happen all the time, but Mass felt “easy” for the first time in a while.}

But back to my train of thought…

The thought of having more kids used to make me really nervous. Not the actual having more children (the number of kids has never really bothered me), but the being pregnant aspect of having more kids. It’s always been hard for me. Physically the pregnancies have been not so bad, but mentally/emotionally they’ve been a lot harder, especially the last two.

One thing that really helped me to be much calmer about the possibility of more children was being part of a few Facebook groups where the mamas there were on baby #6, or #7 or… #10. You know, like…solidarity. But more than a “if they can do it I can do it” thing (because I don’t think I’m called to just have as many babies as possible), but more of a “other mamas have done it and survived” sort of thing. Other mamas have lived their faith and it’s been ok. And it gives me peace of mind for an eventual next baby.

Plus…. Katherine still wants a sister. 🙂

~~~

Linking with Rosie and her new Link-Up My Sunday Best

little things that are helping {feb 2016}

little things

What’s keeping me going these days? I honestly hadn’t thought much about it until a post popped up from Modern Mrs Darcy – The things that are saving my life right now… And while I don’t know that I would classify these as lifesavers per se, they seem to be saving my sanity at the moment, so maybe that’s what it means?

Little recap of where we’re at right now: Homeschooling 1st grade (the early grade kids just aren’t getting any official school work right now, no energy from me); 32+ weeks with baby #5, mild-ish winter (with the exception of a few days). Hubby recently on a *hopefully* short lay off from work…

~1~
Coffee, first thing in the AM

Now, I know many people use coffee as a “wake up/stay awake” vice, but not me. It doesn’t keep me awake nor make me less tired. (In fact if I drink too much I just get shaky). So I know this is a cliche among mothers, especially mothers of littles (of which I most definitely am), but I really just like to have a nice hot cup of coffee when I first wake up. Mostly because I like it.

~2~
Quiet in the AM

To go along with the coffee. Doesn’t happen every day, but when it does…. definitely makes for a bit calmer me.

~3~
Cup of tea mid-morning

I mentioned above I can’t really drink a ton of coffee, but I do still enjoy hot drinks in the winter time. I was 99% sure tea was out of the question because it was really making my stomach hurt every time I even tried to drink it. But… then it was recommended that I try an herbal tea. I had conveniently been give some just a few days prior to that conversation so I tried it…. And it wasn’t horrible. Maybe not my top hot drink ever, but, good enough to help get through the school morning. {Again, not because of the caffeine, but just having something nice and warm in my hands while trying to get through the math lesson…}

~4~
School work getting easier

Maybe it’s just that we’ve finally managed to figure out how to work together, but school seems to be getting just a little bit easier to manage with Katherine. Maybe it’s her reading skills (which have GREATLY improved since the start of the year) or maybe it’s that she hasn’t been dragging her feet so much about math or maybe it’s that I finally figured out a way to make the history book we’re using work for us…. Whatever it is, I’m glad.

~5~
Nap-time

For the kids and for me. Rest time for the big kids and nap for Zachary, who finally may be getting on roughly the same schedule as the bigger ones, which is helping so, so, so much! I’m really needing to have the time to be able to sleep in the middle of the day and it’s been so nice to have that chunk of time available.

~6~
Car Seats

Have found out that we probably won’t have to spend quite as much as we first thought we would on new car seats for the kids. (We’ll need them once baby arrives). Pretty sure we found a booster option that’ll work. We’ll still have to pay more than I’d like, but not as much as we initially thought. Which is bringing financial calmness to me.

~7~
Hubby helping with dinner dishes

This is probably one of the biggest things that makes me calm inside. I can’t stand having a dirty kitchen (which you’d never know if you visited my house, because I’m such a *super-fantastic* housecleaner…) But, having it cleaned up while I put the kids to bed, leaves it with a nice clean place to start to make the coffee for the morning.

~8~
366 Project

I know I forgot to post last weekend. But really, having a little photo project for the year is just something that I really enjoy. And it’s been about all I’ve posted on the blog in recent months. But I still like that it gives a little year-in-a-glance and also makes me feel like I accomplish something (or part of something) every day!

There you have it. Little tiny things that make my day run just a little bit smoother. Nothing huge, but stuff I definitely look forward to. What’s been helping you along in the middle of this winter?

{I’m linking up with MMD at the above link.}

Simplify {TT}

Simplify. Something I’ve been trying to do lately mostly as it relates to “clothes in the house”. There’s just so much. Clothes that are too small. Clothes that are too abundant. Clothes saved for some sewing or craft project (that most likely will not get done… or even if it will, has 10x the amount of scraps of clothes needed to accomplish said project).

I have been slowly going through old baby girl clothes to donate. I thought it would be harder. I thought I would be more sad. I thought I would be sentimentally attached to everything. The first box was the hardest. But I saved only the special things, like Kat’s baptism outfit and a few things that belonged to me (or my mom or MIL) when we were little. It amounted to half a dozen outfits. The next boxes have been even less saved.

It’s been so freeing. Seeing the bags leaving. Seeing the space on the shelves open up. Having it be easier to just walk in the attic… Mentally not having to deal with the stuff. Simplify. Such a beautiful thing.

…Which I was thinking about in terms of photography too, at least a little bit.

I don’t do very well with planning ahead. I mean, I wrote the prompt down on the calendar – because, checking the phone for it just doesn’t cut it at all – and I still wait until “day of” to do the pictures for the weekly Theme Thursday at Michaela’s

Today’s prompt: Simplify.

Should be easy, right?

Right?

I took a look around the house, this is basically what I saw…. errrhmmmm… everywhere:

Simplify-5

{This is just daily living guys.}
Believe it or not you can see examples of me “simplifying” in this photo.
The coloring pages: saved from last summer for no good reason. Brought out this past weekend, and have been being used up ever since. I plan to not return them to the school shelf.
The candles: broken rejects from the Advent wreath. Burning them at breakfast (and sometimes dinner) just to add a little more “ambiance” to our meals.
{See, simplifying.}

But moving on….

So, instead of cleaning (because who wants to do *that* just to take a few photos?) I decided to see if I could maybe, possibly get something “simplified” out of this chaos.

Miss K. was first:

Simplify

No edits. Exposure set for her face which {nearly} whited out the background.

Johny was quite a bit more difficult due to where he was sitting (both photos edited a little):

Karl’s was my favorite of this little impromptu photo-shoot:

Simplify-4

No edits.

Anyway, there you have it guys. A blog post with a few more words than pictures, a rarity these days.

What “simplify” photos or things do you have this week?

One year later…

But wait, you say. Wasn’t Zachary’s birthday a few weeks ago? Yes, it was, but this is celebrating his coming home from the hospital, one year ago yesterday (Nov 3).

I think most of you know he spent 11 days in the NICU after he was born. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a long time. Neither was his stay there life threatening. But it was probably the longest, hardest 11 days we’ve had since he was born.

On the day after he was born, right after lunch I think it was, the nurse came in and said they’d need to have Zachary examined by one of their (the hospital’s) doctors because our doctor hadn’t been able to make it in yet. I agreed because I didn’t really think anything was wrong.

But, then the “doctors”, two ladies (who turned out to be Nurse Practitioners) came in. They were wearing matching dark green scrubs with something stitched on them. (Basically, these weren’t those cutesy pastel nurse scrubs, no… these guys girls were no nonsense). I got a bad feeling at that point. Anyway, they did their exam, said he had a slight temp (which I guess he had had for the last few times it was taken, but no one ever told me), and was breathing rapidly – both clinical indicators of an infection. They said they would discuss with the resident or neonatologist, I don’t remember who, and let me know what they decided they needed to do. My nurse suggested I try some skin-to-skin to try and calm his breathing in the meanwhile. So I did.
NICUstay

They came back about 20 minutes later and said he’d need to be admitted to NICU for care and observation. I think I asked “right now?”, she gave me about a minute or two (I was still holding him), then she took him.

There’s something completely different about having someone take your child against your will. And even though I knew it wasn’t permanent or too serious, it ranks up there among the harder things I’ve had to do.

NICUstay-2

Our NICU stay was uneventful. As much as I didn’t care to be there, it is actually set up quite well. All the rooms are private and there’s a “couch” that’s at least big enough to sleep on (and there’s showers and family rooms, etc..) Ours also allows siblings to visit, which was so super nice.

So what’s the point of this post? To share our experience and maybe to offer some thoughts for other mamas/families that find themselves there.

NICUstay-6

Get to know the nurses. Ask questions.
We ended up having the same four or five nurses the entire time we were there which was really nice. I got to know them and they got to know me. Dare I say? It felt like we almost became friends. I have before really noticed/seen nurses “in action” before. I’ve never seen them be right there to hand you a box of Kleenex when you loose it after the doctor says “not today” (after indicating that it could be “today”). Or to advocate taking him off all the monitors to literally just observe him and see how he does (in hopes of getting him home a little quicker). Or to take a picture and give you a hug as you’re leaving. To be truly happy and excited that you’re going home. I’d never seen that before and it has greatly increased my respect for them and the job they do.

NICUstay-4

Bring the other kids to visit.
I thought the other kids wouldn’t be able to handle going to the hospital and seeing Z hooked up to everything with wires and needles here there and everywhere. But they really didn’t seem to mind. They kind of accepted that “this was how it was”. And once they figured out the family room (where they could color, watch the fish and read books) and cafeteria, they were all set. 🙂

Develop a routine that includes taking a break.
I know not everyone may be comfortable leaving the hospital while the baby is there, but honestly I think it’s super important to take a little break from the alarms and pages and constant in and out of…. everyone…
To me, it’s one of the harder things to do. To leave. We live close by (five minutes… maybe) so it wasn’t hard to get back and forth. But I found that I really needed to come home and be with the other kids for part of the day. Trust me, if they need your permission for something they’ll call, even in the middle of the night {that was with John, that freaked me out… and I was mad because all they wanted was to ask permission for something that most likely could have waited until morning… but I digress…}
My eventual routine, if interested went something like this: Eat breakfast with the kids; go to the hospital by 8:00 for rounds (important to be there for that!), feed Z one or two times depending on when he’d last eaten; come home for lunch and spend the afternoon/evening at home to take care of house things, give Jared a break and take a rest myself; get the kids ready for bed (if not in bed) and head back to the hospital in time to give Z his next feeding; spend until after his midnight feeding at the hospital; come home and sleep.

NICUstay-7

Ask for help (or accept help offered)
Its completely exhausting keeping up the kind of schedule listed above. Mostly I found it hard to get to the grocery store or prepare meals. Jared was off work (mostly because he had a gout flare up) so he was able to watch the kids, but he had a hard time doing a lot of walking around. I was so grateful to the people who just gave us meals or helped with the kids.
After we got home I took mental inventory of everything we’d been given (food, time or… whatever) I almost started thinking about how I was ever going to repay everything, when I realized that I wasn’t; that God had shown me, us, his Church in action. He had shown me how good He was, is, and how big He is and there is no way for me to match that. I can only accept and pass on as I’m able.

NICUstay-8
~almost ready to leave~
~home~
~home~