Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Week, Briefly (Thanksgiving Holiday)

We took the week off school to prepare for Thanksgiving.  Each day we still had morning devotional, personal scripture study, and evening family scriptures and prayers.  On Sunday through Wednesday and then again on Saturday we had family evening read-aloud time.  Other than that we cooked.  I'd thought we'd so some crafting, too, but we didn't. 

We planned, shopped, and made strawberry freezer jam and cranberry sauce.

Mashing strawberries

Stirring cranberry sauce.  She said, "This is easy, but it's taking forever!"

I3 helps stir the berries, pectin, and sugar together.

Bottling up the final product
We made pie crusts, gingersnaps, a cheesecake, and cranberry bread.

The four oldest get their first pastry-making lesson.

Learning that pastry takes a "light touch"

Completed pie dough disks--ready to refrigerate until tomorrow

Cranberries are wiggly things--prone to escape the knife blade!

Zesting an orange for the cranberry bread--we always put in extra orange peel.

Cranberry bread is almost ready for the oven.

Stirring up the gingersnap dough

Preparing the graham cracker crust for the cheesecake

These gingersnaps have 5 inch diameters!

The cheesecake came out perfect!

 It was this day that I realized that my youngest 3 had no idea about any of the history behind the first Thanksgiving.

E14 was shocked, "You mean you haven't read A Lion to Guard Us, or Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, or The Thanksgiving Story . . .?" and she ticked off a list of read aloud books that were part of her learning.

"I guess I forgot that they were either too little to remember or not even born back when we read all of those!  I'll be pulling them out and rotating them into our reading schedule right away,"  I answered.  In the mean time I found a cute little fill-in-the-blank printable book about the first Thanksgiving that I printed out for A7, H5, and I3

We turned the pie crusts into pies and prepared a green bean casserole and a sweet potato souffle.

We made fruit salad, cooked carrots, stuffing, ham, and steamed asparagus.  We helped the littles fill in their booklets about the first Thanksgiving, then read the story aloud together.  Dad had worked all night Wednesday night, so after he had a bit of a nap, we packed up the van and headed north to my sister's house to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh!  We also made deviled eggs.

I3 models the costume he found in cousin K4's room.  Surprise!  He and Auntie R gave it to I3 as a belated birthday gift.

Cousin K4 eats part of his Thanksgiving dinner in a special nook.

I3 loves, loves, loves his cousins' train set.

All 12 kids are gathered around Uncle M to watch funny Studio C videos.

Most of the dessert bar.

Hi Grandma and Grandpa!!!

The little boys read a Thomas the Train book together.

It was a good day.

We ate leftover dessert for breakfast, cleaned house, took H5 to the eye doctor to have her eyes checked (she's terribly disappointed to find out that she does not need glasses!), had friends over for the afternoon (6 of mine plus 4 friends, kids ages 5-15, stayed as a pack the whole time {I3 stayed inside with Dad and me}.  No one was left out, everyone had fun.  They used some scrap lumber and had a chair-building contest!), ate leftovers for dinner and sent Dad and the oldest 3 off to the church to join the rest of the church youth to clean the church and play games in the gym.  J10 and I played games--just the two of us--on my bed once the 3 littles were tucked in.

This picture is my favorite because the biggest kids are consulting with one of the littlest kids about what they should do next.

As temperatures rose to the 60's, Dad took the kids to the park, while I took care of some Christmas planning and errand running.  The leftovers finally ran out, and that's a blessing, because the plethora of sugary, rich foods has taken it's toll on our good manners and general well-being.  Treats are fun, and all of that baking was a great learning experience, but simple foods are best.

Dad caught A7 mid-jump!

We've counted our blessings this week, and we've had a week of very joyful family experiences.  It's going to be terribly hard to get back into the academic swing of things on Monday morning.  Actually, we probably won't truly do a full academic schedule for a while.  We'll assess our progress on Monday and set some reasonable goals, but we'll really turn our attention to Christmas preparations.

My first priority in our Christmas planning is to continue to help the whole family count our blessings.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Week, Briefly, (#14)

The promised snow never came. 
We made it to all of our church meetings all weekend long.
Then I crashed.

We started the week on a sour note.  I was still so tired from the weekend that even the simplest routines seemed like mountains to climb.  The kids were ornery, too.  We had tears over school and bad attitudes over helping.  Somehow we did all of the chores, all of the school assignments, saw Dad off to work, and made it to bed a little bit early.

The second day of the week was better.  Perhaps the early-to-bed was what we needed--perhaps it was my fervent prayers--because it was a whole different household on Tuesday.  Smiles, kind words, and helping hands came back. 

J is for Jellyfish.  We watched a video online about jellyfish, then we made this jellyfish craft.

I3 was kind enough to let A7 and H5 join him in his "Little Kid School"  The subject of jellyfish was so interesting to them that they played with these crafts for the whole week.  For the first two days they didn't even let them out of their sight--keeping them near while eating, sleeping, and even putting them on the bathroom counter at bath time.

School work was completed efficiently, so M12 and I had some time to complete some sewing assignments.  She was commissioned to make a baby gift for a friend to take to a co-worker's shower, and I had 2 dance dresses to finish mending for Thursday's performance.

Sewing buddies

M12's finished gifts--the giraffe is a jingly rattle, and the lion is a crinkly toy/jingly rattle.  She bagged them up and put on the special "Made By . . ." stickers that her auntie gave her.  The final gift looked like it came from a specialty boutique.  Her friend was delighted with the results.
We've been housebound due to extreme cold, so we pulled out an exercise DVD a couple of days this week.  I'm trying to be careful not to overdo it, so I only do part of the video, but some of the kids love the exercise and work their way through the whole hour.

It was an Explorer's Club week, so we packed ourselves up and made the drive north to explore the wonderful world of outer space.  The older girls have covered this topic a number of times, and as there was no new information to be presented, they opted to work as assistants.  What a blessing!  The activities were difficult for small hands, and we needed every hand those big girls had to offer.  The kids acted as planets in the solar system--H5 was Pluto (and we covered the debate over whether to call Pluto a planet or not), and A7 was Mars (I think?).  They made sort-of scale models of the solar system with beads and a very long piece of curling ribbon (this was the hard part).  They also got to cut and paste and decorate their own solar system picture.  The very smallest children made cut and paste rocket ships and then got to be dressed up in yards and yards of aluminum foil to become either astronauts or aliens (this is another place all of those teen and pre-teen hands came in handy).

It was a just-right activity for A7, who has spent the rest of the week asking for solar system coloring pages and books.  She taped all of her projects to her bedroom wall with a homemade label, "I love space."

The older girls logged another 90 minutes of service for one of their Personal Progress projects.

We ran errands and then spent a quiet afternoon at home so that we could manage to get through a night of lots of activities at the church. 

Games at home on a restful afternoon.
 The older girls went on a shopping trip for 2 foster children their youth group adopted for Christmas.  The smaller ones played in the church gym.  I had a Relief Society presidency meeting that went terribly long while I endured contractions that must be Braxton-Hicks, but hurt far more than any Braxton-Hicks contractions I've ever had before.  I could get through them without stopping to breathe carefully, but I wanted to stop and breathe carefully.  They came and went for 2-3 hours, but finally stopped when I was able to get to bed, which is a good thing because I'm still not quite 32 weeks along.

This was our big performance day!  We were all so tired from our late night at the church that I let go of my plans for a half-day of school.  M12 and J10 made cookies while E14 made our sandwiches for our dinner that night.  I spent time looking up Christmas crafts with the other kids and hoping the achiness in my back wasn't contraction-related.  When the cookies and sandwiches were ready we put them in the cooler along with some tangerines, carrots, veggie chips, and lots of water. 

We kept the morning slow and quiet for all.

Then it was time to get dressed and do hair.

Suddenly we were all packed up and in the van.

Then we got really busy!

For the next 4 hours we rehearsed and set up all of the costumes, props, and accessories needed. 

After a dinner break it was time for the show itself.  The kids were marvelous.  The audience at the nursing home was really responsive to the kids' upbeat, energetic song-and-dance numbers.  The songs spanned over 100 years of classic American folk songs/patriotic songs/show tunes that the elderly audience could appreciate.  The girls noticed that people were singing along with "I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

J10 and S12 had the privilege of presenting and honoring the veterans in the audience that night.   They were nervous, but they did a great job.

(I took quite a few pictures, but most of them include other people's children, so they'll stay private.)

The little girls keep busy while the older girls have a turn rehearsing.

At least the group shots of the little girls' dance group came out cute!  This poor shot is the only one we have of just the two of them.

E14 and M12.

J10 and S12 before the show
I3 got to spend the afternoon with Daddy at home (hooray for a flexible work schedule!), but when we realized we'd left the cooler full of our dinner at home, they came early to make sure we were fed.  He fell asleep on the way to the nursing home, but he was as good-natured as any 3-year-old can be expected to be while waiting in a non-kid-friendly location for hours on end until well past bedtime.

9 hours after leaving we returned home to eat a bedtime snack and talk over the exciting day. 

E14 woke up on time to go to seminary, and the rest of us slowly came to life.  By the time E14 came home at 7:25 am, I realized that we were in no shape to have a school day.  M12 couldn't walk on the ankle that she'd twisted while performing, I was fighting a debilitating headache that had kept me up for much of the night, E14 was sniffly and exhausted, I3 hadn't slept well, and we were generally just plain tired.

We ate a hit-and-miss sort of breakfast, stayed in our pajamas for a long time, and recovered.

I actually napped for a little while, so did E14.

M12 resting on the couch . . .

 . . . and then entertaining the littles while she was unable to help in other ways.
I3 sliced olives for the pizza.
On the spur of the moment I decided to get a couple of kids in to have their eyes checked and run some errands at the same time, so we did that (hooray for 20/20 vision) in the afternoon.  Dad cleaned out the gutters because rain is expected all weekend.  We ate homemade pizza, put on our pajamas, read books and went to bed early.

Today is Saturday.  Our plans are to do some chores then have a family powwow about Thanksgiving preparations.  We'll make a list of our favorite Thankgiving treats, figure out what we are and aren't going to prepare, assign who's going to cook what and when next week, do some shopping, and perhaps watch a family movie.

But I'm hungry to attend the temple . . . and I'm having more contractions this morning . . . so we'll see what we really get done . . . or not.