Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Come Back Spring!!

Hello everyone. Sorry, I didn't mean to disappear like that! We've been outside a lot enjoying warm spring weather. Then, suddenly on Mon. we got a snow storm which had us all inside fighting depression, LOL! Yesterday we made swimming suits to try to keep our minds off the blowing snow outside. Anyway, today I decided I needed to update while there's nothing happening outside to distract me.

 Holy Week this year was very relaxed and casual. Despite our late night attendance of the Easter Vigil mass Sat. night, we made it to the Easter morning Mass with time to spare! Easter morning Mass thrills me like no other service. You can just feel the presence of tons of giddy little angels filling the church. Donna was a total button, sitting on Mom's lap in her little white Easter bonnet. We received many kind comments on our sweet little darling baby, to which we just had to sigh and agree. "Yeah, I know, she's adorable... What's a'body to do?" The boys had the privilege of serving for the Mass and I must say, I thought they looked very nice up on the altar together--a matched set. And Johnny was very handsome in his little black suit and tie (first time wearing a suit--very exciting!). We had a delicious brunch when we got home, with plenty of good food, desert and our traditional dried fruit treats. Later, we had some friends over for awhile and the kids had a fun little Easter egg hunt. Then, from about five o'clock to dusk we played in the back field. Mom and Dad took Donnie for a stroller walk down the road. Though, if they had wanted a nice quiet walk I think they would have had to go pretty far. I do believe we make enough noise for a family twice our size at times. We played two games of football against the boys (to which we girls lost both times, 10-4 and 7-3. Eek, we're out of practice! but then, it would embarrass them so bad if we ever did beat them... we would simply have to revel for weeks afterward! ) After that we just played around... While the boys had fun tackling each other over and over again, we girls practiced silly stuff like cartwheels, flips and different ways to quickly mount a piggy back ride on one another. The night was beautiful and we exerted ourselves until our sides ached, or was it all the laughing? I'd been checking my spring flower bed daily for a sign that spring truly was here. Well, on Easter a lone little yellow flower bloomed. It was so cute and I just had to grin to myself when I saw it. Someone upstairs must be aware of my love for flowers. Now, several more little purple and white flowers have added to the scene. We had our baby lambs born over the Easter weekend, too. Three little black bouncin' balls of hair. Two were born real easy, but the last one I had to help and finally pull the poor thing out. Thankfully, she came around and is just as bouncy as the rest. We have one boy and two girls. Any name suggestions?

We had a very productive Easter week with really beautiful weather. We finished cooking down the last of our deeelicous maple syrup. A total of six gallons which is enough for us to have a syrup meal once a week for a whole year (!!). The guys dug out, cleaned up and set up the bee hives. The fuzzy little creatures arrived on Sat. night and Andrew installed them yesterday. I sheared Danny (our ram) on Tue. He lived, lol! Theresa also got all her rabbits sheared last week. Andrew's been working on an old plow he found in a junk pile. He made handles for it. We've been doing a lot of work with horses, too. Jumping the creek.

I'm working with the mule in hopes that she'll be ready to plow our field this spring (this will be very interesting...). I also got my mare's hooves trimmed. Her feet are soo hard! A big difference from those little pony feet. I'm also working on getting the filly ready for her first trim. We got fences built, more garden beds made, and a lot of yard work done. The guys also finished installing the cabin floor the other day (a cabin update post is in the works). The kids already got the volley ball and badminton nets up for evening play. (Though my favorite thing about evenings is the sky!)
We managed to spread a few loads of manure on what will be our new garden field this year before the storm came and it got wet again. It was surprisingly hot while we worked on that chore and not two days later it was snowing! We got about four inches. (Very blue skys after the storm passed.)
It's okay though, because we have warm weather coming later this week and we really needed the moisture in the earth. It was dry for spring this year and rain tends to run right off our clay soil so melting snow is actually ideal... but I'm still working to convince myself of that. Once I've smelled spring there's no turning back. Now when I go outside it smells like Christmas! I feel like going to bed until the grass comes back again. But making swim suits and planning garden beds certainly helps to keep the hopes for spring high. Mom ordered a ton of seed and we've been planning and plotting where everything should go. The girls' swim suits turned out really nice, I think.
I have yet to make mine and Lizzy's (ran out of spandex material and need to make a run to the thrift store to get some). Donnie is growing like a weed. Every morning there's a declaration from somebody that she's grown since yesterday. Her gurgles and squeaks are starting to sound more like giggles and belly laughs when someone gets her going. It's so cute! She'd been really enjoying the warm outdoors and animals before the snow came. Going for a walk with Annie in the carrier.
"Come here, titty titty,"
Donna loves kitties. She loves to pet them... (isn't that precious?!)
...She loves to get kissies from them...
...But most of all she loves to sit on them!Isn't it funny how, if a cat crawls under a babies legs, their first reaction is to sit down?! LOL!

Anyway, that's about it... God bless you all!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Zest for Life!

This morning as I sat holding baby Donna and watching outside as everything slowly lit up from the rays of the rising sun, I was pondering new life and all that it entails. I think it is the surest visible sign that we have of Gods great love and mercy toward our human race.

I think lots of things probably added up to this feeling, but to name a few...

 Maybe it was because I was looking down at our new infant with immense gratitude, thinking over the changes that her new life had made in our family.

Maybe it was because I was watching the sun rising, wondering which snowbank it would take down today.

Maybe it was because I'd been thinking about how much I love spring. How every animal and child has been reacting in giddy anticipation of the incoming warm weather.

Maybe it was because we've been planning our gardens and greatly anticipating the taste of fresh new growth from the soil.

Maybe it was because we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of new baby animal life in several of the pens.

Maybe it was because I'd just yesterday noticed the tans returning to the sun kissed cheeks of my siblings.

Maybe it was all the renewed energy that I've been witnessing in the kids and animals. How the projects are all getting completed with energy enough to still run around and play at dusk.
Maybe it was because I saw the other day that my early spring flowers are coming  up, their hardly little green stems forging their way through the dead growth.

Maybe it was the way I recalled Johnny running up to me yesterday to tell me in great detail the awesome somersault he was practicing in the yard.

Maybe it was the funny memory of Stephen last night, taking on a dare to ride Buttercup, our old cow, who had a bad case of spring fever.

Maybe it was the kids working with their ponies and the rewarding satisfaction they've been experiencing on their ponies first rides in the pasture.
Maybe it was the lingering sweet taste in my mouth from the fist batch of maple syrup that we had enjoyed on our pancakes the previous morning.

Maybe it was the soreness in my muscles as they, like I, have to readjust to the physical spring work.

Maybe it was the aftereffects from the leisurely pony ride I had enjoyed on a calm Sunday evening.

Maybe it was the anticipation of learning new things, as we certainly are with all the new projects going on this spring. From bees coming in the mail, to a rusty plow, unexperienced mule and an open field, to a large cow hide awaiting tanning.

Maybe it was a share in the excitement Mom had enjoyed while placing a large order for garden seeds yesterday.

Maybe it was the gorgeous sky last night as the sun sank behind the trees or the huge bright full moon that rose on the other side of the pasture.
Maybe it was the new garden beds being dug and the fresh smell of soil along with the first sightings of little wiggly worms.

Maybe it was the all the plans floating around in my head, yet a strong underlining  peace about everything needing to be done.

Maybe it was little Donnie's bare toes that I was playing with in my hand, remembering her birth and the great excitement I had.

Maybe it was the thought of Easter coming and my great thanks toward Him, for all He did and does for me and for His promise of new life that He showed us in His resurrection from death.

Simply, maybe it was the promise of a new day by His allowing the sun to rise yet again and the promise of a new spring by His allowing new life to cover the earth again.

Lord I just wanted to say, thanks for the grace You gave me this morning and thanks for today.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Homemade Toys

 We decided a few years ago that we wouldn't buy toys for Christmas and birthdays any more. It had always been a goal and we weaned off the purchased gifts slowly, going down to one simple gift per child for birthdays and doing Kris Kringle for Christmas. I want to emphasis how exceedingly well this fits the bill wherever gifts are needed. Not only is it a money saver but it also gets the creative juices flowing, leaves the creator feeling satisfied and the receiver feeling loved. Over the years the kids have really come a long way on this... The fun in gift getting now comes from finally being able to see the cause for all the strange noises coming from the workshop or sewing room.

Here are some pictures of some simple gifts we've made over the years!

 These are a fairly new invention... the kids call them 'knittles' after their series of 'woodles'. Theresa and I have had as much fun making them as the kids have playing with them. They're small (only about 3in.) so they work up really fast and it's fun creating the different characters.
Here we have my 'mini marvels' series of super heros and villians that the kids requested and Theresa's Incredibles set (as you can see, Violet (middle) isn't completed yet).

Here's the kids harried mess of 'woodles'. This is an ongoing collection of people from various movies and books that the kids get into. They either implore an older sibling to draw the character or they find a picture online or in a book to copy. Then they trace them onto wood, have an older sibling cut them out on the scroll saw and then color them with different things. Here we have some Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Garfield, Wallace & Gromit, Indiana Jones and plenty of etc.

Here are some super-hero dolls we girls have made for our brothers for birthdays or Christmas. Spider-man is the biggest and I made him following a simple pattern that I've had forever. The webbing is fabric paint squirted on which worked really well because it's raised (like the real one) and went really fast. His eyes also glow in the dark. Iron Man and Hulk were knitted by Annie and I. I originally used the pattern to make a doll for Donna but the boys immediately wanted action figures so when their birthdays rolled around... Oh, and the last one is Stephen's favorite super hero (rolling eyes), himself! LOL. As kind of a gag gift I made him a Moses plush toy from the movie we made (where he played Moses). He says he's really good at doing the voice for the doll.

Here's a nice easy one for a boy to make: a rubber band gun. I bet any boy would admit that there's little else that's as fun as shooting their sisters with a rubber band. Michael made this one for Johnny's last birthday. He made it so fast that he had time to put together the target to go with it before his birthday party.

Here's a bunch of dolls that the girls and I made for an All Saints' Day party. They're all different Saints. They were made from a downsized version of the same (heavily used) pattern that the Spider-Man doll was made from. I love that pattern, it's so easy! Let's see, here we have the saints Barbara, Paul, Genevieve, John Bosco and Rose of Lima.

Here are some dangerous weapons that any boy is sure to love. The light saber was made on the lathe and, as you can see, you can choose to be either good or evil by the color of blade you choose to stick in the handle. The sword is PVC piping wrapped with foam and duck tape (black electrical tape makes the fancy handle). The foam inside allows them to whack their brothers and have an excuse ready for Mom.

Here's another new series coming out, "whittles." They're actual 3D animals that the kids have been whittling. The new whittling hobby has been taking over the living room with its constant shedding of wood chips. Johnny and Lizzy have been practicing their whittling on soap for now. Right now, they're trying to get some map tacks for the eyes and decide whether or not to paint any of their animals.
Here's Stephen's donkey and goat. (They need eyes and shellac varnish yet).

Theresa's dog, pony and calf. Her attention to detail amazes me sometimes.
Here's Michael's pig, fawn and bull. Check out the horns on that big guy!
Here's a big project that we did as a family for Theresa years ago. It's a cabin doll house complete with furniture and people.

Finally, the doll that I made:
And the doll that Mom made: Okay, I'll admit that she did a little better job than me. Yeah, she's a keeper.

Aside from the toys mentioned above, not being near the exposure of a big city has driven us to make a lot of the normal entertainment devices on our own, such as movies, (okay, so they're not full length feature films, but they're still fun to create!), books (Annie's written two series now that the kids have positively devoured, I guess she knows their tastes!), comic strips (the boys are all good at cartooning and have been talking about doing a daily), coloring books (everyone--but me, LOL!--can draw really well - Annie had been drawing coloring books on the lives of the Saints to accompany my Saint dolls), and board games, (the boys have created and designed at least two board games now, with tons of little pieces like tanks, trees, brigdes and turrits).

It's hard to remember all the things we've made. We usually go through phases where we get into different things, like stilts, for example, and everybody has to make their own set of stilts and compete at both making the best pair and being the best stilt walker in the family (of all the useless achievments! LOL!).

There are some more pictures of homemade gifts on my 'share in our Christmas' post back in the archives, if you're interested.

Anyway, hope this post inspired the creative juices in you or your children.