Family Life

January 30, 2019

Who Would Have Thought?


Not sure about everyone else, but it seems like we spend a lot of time questioning many of our parenting moves. Should we be more strict? Less strict? What should curfew be? Should we block all TV? What time should they go to bed? Do we feed them enough vegetables? Do they play too many sports? Do they not play enough sports? The list goes on and on.

We also often debate our school choices. We debate with each other and then, of course, we debate with those “well meaning” family, friends, acquaintances, the parish Priest, former teachers, and STRANGERS. For anyone that homeschools – you know what I mean. EVERY one has an opinion. If you are lucky you will find one or two people that share yours; most often we have found that the vocal ones are always questioning us. We have been known to defend our position and we have been known to refuse to engage.

Once in a while things happen that really reinforce our abilities. For example, J1 is a sophomore at Truman State University and J2 is a freshman at Missouri S&T. Both of these schools are challenging to get into as well as to progress on schedule. Hmmm…..maybe we did something right after all?

truman st

Of course, we still deal with the occasional difficult class (true disclosure J1 has even had to repeat a class); we still wonder if their career choices will work out; we still ask ourselves if we can make this work out financially and avoid mountains of student debt.


Then, out of the blue, J2 texts us and informs us he met with the football coach and has made arrangements to start working out with the team. Shocked? – A little; nervous? – A little; worried? – Nope; excited? – Quite; proud? VERY!

Who would have thought that our little homeschooled boy could get to college and interview with a football coach and be given a chance to earn a spot on the team? We knew J2 had potential in sports (if he would apply himself) and we know he is a people person (the kid can talk to anyone). We didn’t know that he would get the opportunity to showcase his skill or desire for someone else.

While we don’t know if he will even make the official team; or if he will make the team and not really ever play; or make the team and play but not perform well; or become injured; or any other number of what ifs, we do know that we are proud of him and are definitely excited to see where this journey leads.


For now we can just say “Who would have thought?”


January 22, 2019

Brown Bagging EVERY Meal

No, this isn’t our saga about cutting expenses and eating PBJ every meal. This is relative to our new strategy of menu planning. Starting in December we labeled 3 brown bags (breakfast/lunch/dinner respectively) and began “drawing” meal choices from each category.

A full month later, our “new” menu plan has been working. We have cycled through lunches and breakfasts and still have plenty of dinners to pick from. It is funny to hear “We haven’t had that forever”, “I love this”, “When can we have…”, “Is it my turn to draw a slip of paper?”

In full disclosure we have made some “executive chef” manipulations – like Christmas day menus and “Boys going back to school menus” and “We haven’t had tacos in FOREVER” menus. But, mostly we stick to what gets drawn from the bag. It has made life easier in terms of choosing menus and grocery shopping. It has gotten us out of our routine meals.

Overall this is a success in our house. I am not sure if this will work long term – it is really hard to figure out how to fix certain meals when evening activities pick back up. But, I think we will give it a shot. Who knows, we may be able to figure out a tweak for the system by then. Until then we will just keep “Brown Bagging It”.

Trying Something New – December 10, 2018

We are always up for something new in the kitchen. It seems we get into a rut without even trying. Now in the past we have utilized monthly menus with some success – but, with the return to work and the purchase of bulk meat (side of beef and whole hog) our needs have changed. The monthly menu needed an overhaul.

Which brings us to our “new idea”. Everyone wrote down their favorite breakfast/lunches/dinners. We then listed them individually on slips of paper and placed them in bags labeled breakfast/lunch/dinner. Then the kids took turns reaching in and pulling out a menu item until we had enough for our week. MrTB4M and I then strategically placed the meals into our weekly meal plan based on the individual daily schedules.

We did make a few changes as the menu was picked. For example, we ended up with 3 different pasta type meals for one week (pasta con broccoli/pasta with red sauce/lasagna). So we picked one to keep for this week and re-drew the other two. At the end, the menu was a pretty good variety – everyone had at least one thing they really liked; and most had at least one menu choice they weren’t thrilled about. But, if they are hungry – they will eat.

Next up, a grocery list and an excursion for J4 and J6 to the grocery store. J4 was less than interested in helping out and J4 had a hard time remembering that in order to push the cart, his feet needed to stay on the floor.

Somehow we managed to make it out of the store with only a couple of bumped ankles.

Not sure if this process will be the answer to our menu needs or not – and we haven’t figured out how to deal with the times we “really want tacos” (do they come out of rotation or do we just have them again when they are pulled from the bag?) – But that is for a different week.


Together Again – November 16, 2018

November 16, 2018 – Thanksgiving is next Thursday. For many people that means long lines at grocery stores picking out the perfect turkey with all the trimmings. For others it is long hours of cleaning in preparation for hosting the traditional meal. For others it is preparing for the chaos of travel to visit family/friends.

For us it is filled with anticipation of the “homecoming” of the college boys. As silly as it may sound, we were all anxious for J1 and J2 to come home. This would be a full week with our entire family of 10 together. The “Littles” (J6, J7, and J8) were excited, but I am certain that MrTB4M and I were equally (if not MORE) excited.

J2 rolled in first, somewhere around 1:45 in the afternoon. He gets dropped off by his roommate and in he comes carrying a duffle bag, a backpack, and a storage bin – he is quite a minimalist and believes most in functionality. The storage bin easily transported all his needs for the week, AND he didn’t need to fold anything neatly to make sure it would fit. His stuff ended up in the living room (and stayed there for nearly a day). Formalities over (“how was your trip?” “Do you have much work to do over break?” “Any plans for the weekend?”) And he sits down to enjoy a plate of…….LEFTOVERS. But, to him, these were not just leftovers – they were the most amazing leftover spaghetti and homemade meatballs he had eaten in a LONG time. J2 loves to eat, but is not really fond of dorm food – LEFTOVERS were a blessing for him.

Then it was off to the world of Candyland and Legos with the Littles. I don’t think they even gave him time to answer their questions in their rapid fire approach. To see him smile at them and listen to them laugh together was quite a treat.

Of course “life” didn’t stop just because they were coming home for break. I mean we still had other kids that had practice for basketball or play; and dinner; and pesky things like the trip to Costco (which we purposefully saved to coincide with basketball practice because they are in the same area). In fact, we were in the midst of these things when J1 made it home. I felt slightly guilty that I left him chicken fingers and homemade mac and cheese to reheat AND that he had to text us to let us know he made it because we were out taking others places. But, he was totally fine with it. By the time we got home, he had unloaded his car, eaten, and been attacked by the Littles.

It is funny, when I walked in and saw him it was like he had never left. His hair needed to be combed (and CUT); his face needed shaving; his clothes were a little wrinkled; and his empty plate and cup were STILL sitting on the dinner table. By grace, these were not the things I said to him. It was all about how glad we were he was home and his trip and plans for the week. This truly shows how happy I was that he was home – because he KNOWS better than to leave plates on the table…..we have NEVER had a maid!

Seamlessly the old “routine” fell into place for the family. The older two were helping out a little (or at least when we asked them to) and there was this peace about the house. They even accompanied us to a soccer game for J7 Saturday evening – pretty sure that had to do with the promise of food afterwards, but J7 has no clue about that. He thinks they WANTED to watch him play. It is a little strange when people ask what we did when they got home – we didn’t do anything, it was just that our family structure was “right” again. Of course, in mom mode I am secretly wondering if there should have been more to their homecoming. The realistic part of me says “no way!” If there were more to the homecoming, it would be missing the “home” part. AND I think they would agree.

The best thing was when we accidently found out how J6 really felt about the boys coming home. Bear with me here – J6 is 7 and is currently really asserting his “grown up ness”; translation is he is getting into a lot of trouble over his mouth and back talking, name calling, disobedience, and a few other assorted boy things that need a little positive modifications. It was one of these moments that actually led to the discovery of the sweetest thing. Sunday evening we were all in the basement, some watching a movie, some playing games, MrTB4M and I were working on a puzzle – nothing out of the ordinary. One of the Js decided they were going to get J6 in trouble (really he needs no help in this, but they insisted) so they are playing back some voice recordings he made to show us the “words” he shouldn’t say. In the course of this, a recording comes through “So… is Friday and my brothers are home…..2 just got here from college (giggle)…..and it is PRETTY COOL AWESOME”. We replayed it several times just to make sure we heard it correctly. We did, and it was!

At the end of the week they will load up and leave again – that is how it should be. It won’t really be easy, I do hate good byes. But, in a month they will come home for winter break and our family will again be whole. For many people the coming and going of college kids is routine or “part of life”; for our family it is bittersweet to say good bye and “PRETTY COOL AWESOME” for them to come home.



Time Flies – October 29, 2018

Thursday, October 25th! Means different things to different people. There is the “Thursday is the day before Friday” group; the “Oh, my – it is two months till Christmas” group; the “Halloween is next week” group; the “So what, it is just another day” group. For our family it meant the beginning of a busy weekend.

October 25th is my birthday. Of course, at this point in my life I am not hung up on birthdays – the years are changing whether I want them to or notJ More importantly it meant that our “baby” J8 would turn four in two days, October 27th.

This year October 25th also meant we were traveling, minus the two college boys, to Evansville, IN for the National Homeschool Soccer Championship. J3 was playing and MrTB4M is the coach. Last year they went as well but, I kept everyone else home. This time we planned to all go. So I cleared the calendar for everyone else (no practices/no games/no activities). Maybe a little bribery came into play when I mentioned the hotel had a pool – but everyone was mostly on board.

The forecast was dismal. Cool temps and rain the entire first day; followed by cool temps and wind for game 2. Like all good soccer families, this meant you pack extra layers/umbrellas/blankets/and plastic bags (to pack sports bags in for sitting on the ground – there is nothing like the sight of an entire team walking across the field carrying white trash bags).

Two games Friday and two games Saturday resulted in a second place finish in the Division 3 bracket. Not a bad showing. The boys were disappointed – but they had played well. No we had just about 2 hours until the closing ceremony – which is just enough time to load everyone in the van and head to DQ for a birthday cake for J8. I mean after all he is 4 today! So why wouldn’t we buy a cake, sing to him, and share it right in the middle of a fast food place? Festivities complete we head back to the fields for the awards ceremony.

The opening speaker was phenomenal! He really engaged the kids and was “real” about the struggles they may face and how they look on the other side. Then there were the team awards and then the all-star team announcements. Each division named an all-star team based on recommendations from the coaches of opposing teams (criteria was sportsmanship and skill). Competition was tough and there were only 11 spots – Division III had 10 teams…..that meant at least 140 choices for 11 spots – and J3 was selected! Talk about being a proud Mom.

Closing ceremony was over and we loaded up to head home; pulling in our driveway at 11:15 pm Saturday night. Which left just enough time to sleep, bake birthday cakes, go to church, go to the grocery store, clean the house, do laundry, unpack from the trip, and cook for 20 people by 5:30 pm. Remember, it was J8’s birthday – so the family party was happening.

By 9pm we had everything picked back up and were tucking littles in bed – and quite honestly I was ready for bed myself. Of course, I had a few things left to do (prep for work/prep for school/prep for the weeks cooking/talk to the college boys) before getting some much desired sleep. The next thing I knew it was 4:30 am Monday and the alarm was going off. Oh, how time flies!


What Happened to the Weekend? – October 14, 2018

We’ve already covered that we have 8 kids – so I am sure no one expects us to write about being bored. We may have not mentioned that we have 8 kids that are very involved in many different things – and since the only two that can drive and get themselves from point to point are away at college, MrTB4M and I are very busy chauffeurs. Before you read any more – yes, we signed up for this and we agreed to all the activities.

First of all, this weekend was not as busy as most. What it was, was the third weekend in a row with ZERO down time. The weather was lousy, temperature dropped Thursday and Friday and rain moved in Friday morning – and stayed. Now most of the time it wasn’t heavy, but it was still rainy and cool. That made weekend activities even less appealing.

In a nut shell here is what we had going. J2 came home from college for the weekend – it was so nice to see him. I am sure he wanted to see us, but truth is he came home because he was going to a concert with a buddy on Saturday and had a ride this direction Friday afternoon. He also squeezed in a couple of lawns to make some cash for the next month at college. Then his ride was going back EARLY on Sunday – so MrTB4M volunteered to drive him back so he could stay for dinner. Unfortunately, by the time Sunday afternoon got here and MrTB4M had already had 2 driving lessons, he really didn’t want to make a 3 hour round trip drive in the dark.

J3 had basketball practice Friday evening. Mr. TB4M took him to this. Then he had soccer practice Saturday morning. Practice is two hours long and about 40 minutes away from our house. Three hours and twenty minutes total. MrTB4M coaches, so he is pretty obligated to go. During this period J2 cut a lawn; the other Js and I did some housework (cleaned bathrooms, did laundry, mopped the kitchen, and went to the grocery store).

J4 had a low key weekend, one soccer game and that was it. She played Sunday morning at 9. In general we dislike Sunday games because they have the ability to interfere with church. Normally, we try to choose a mass that we can attend as a family and Sunday morning games tend to mess this up. Well, this week the bigger problem was that MrTB4M and I planned a date night – that took Saturday evening mass out of the equation. At any rate, she played. I saw the second half and she was playing well.

J5 had soccer games – she loves soccer and can’t get enough. She is even pretty fun to watch – but it can wear you down. Friday night I took her to the game, just the two of us. Here is how her team rolls – get there 30 minutes early for warm ups and then play a one hour game, 5 minute half time, and 2-3 minutes of coach talk at the end. This set of fields was 20-25 minutes away and translates to nearly two and a half hours per game. It was rainy and in the 40s – not very pleasant weather to sit outside in at all. Saturday J5 had another game in the afternoon – this time it was me, J4, J5 (obviously), J6, J7, and J8. It was in the low fifties, overcast, and breezy – but dry. Sunday morning she had another game- at 8am, which meant we had to leave our house by 7:10. Short night for a weekend. Worst thing was that there was another game at 4:20 in the afternoon, and that was about 40 minutes away. Luckily, I found her a ride for this one.

Now, not only did we have a conflict with mass for Saturday but Sunday morning is pretty tight too. We could have easily divided up and not had any stress at all – but we try to go together. With just a bit of luck, the girls and I slid into the pew beside the rest of the family with a minute to spare. Unfortunately, as soon as mass was over we had to leave as MrTB4M had two lessons scheduled.

J6 was supposed to have two soccer games and I am happy to say they were canceled. J7’s team was off this weekend and J8 is all about being a fan!

Now, here it is 9:25 on Sunday night – we have accomplished 1 basketball practice, 1 soccer practice, 5 soccer games, routine household stuff, 2 family dinners, made 2 homemade pies, made a double batch of banana bread for the week, taken the kids to the fall festival, went to mass together, and MrTB4M has taken J2 back to school. Oh, and MrTB4M and I did make it out to dinner last night. As I started writing I was asking where the weekend went – and as I typed it all out it is pretty clear. The weekend was spent doing a lot of necessary things, like cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. It was also spent doing a lot of shuttling for the kids. As crazy as it was, it was also rewarding to see the accomplishments they each made in their activities and the smiles on the littles’ faces when they got to play at the playground for an entire hour straight tonight.

There are certainly parts of the weekend I would have changed – the weather, a time for mass that was less rushed, a few more activities that included all of us instead of the divide and concur approach. But, overall I spent the weekend doing what I was supposed to as a mom and wife; and I am grateful for that opportunity EVERY day.


A Day in Our Kitchen

As you can imagine, in a house of 10 – well 8 right now, the kitchen gets a lot of use.  On most days it feels like the proverbial hamster wheel.

We make breakfast and ….

Clean up and then…

Make lunch and then….

Clean up and then…

Make an afternoon snack and….

Usually don’t clean up and….

Make dinner and…

Clean up and…

Have a bedtime snack and…

Then during nighttime tuck ins I swear one of the littles ALWAYS asks “what’s for breakfast”!

One positive is that our grocery budget of $175/week has gone down since J1 and J2 have gone to college.  I KNOW there are people out there already typing that $175 is too high and should be so much lower……and I wish it was.  But, our reality is that this is what it is.  We shop around, we use discount stores, we cook from scratch, we limit pre-packaged and pre-made items, and we are not hung up on name brands.  There are weeks we are well under $175 and on weeks that our freezer supply of meat is low we may go over.  It is the average.

I shop weekly – again, this is what works for us.  We don’t have the space to store everything we need for much longer than a week.  Plus, there are some things that we just don’t like to use after they have been frozen for storage (like sandwich bread and hot dog buns)……and that is our choice.  So, once a week I sit down and plan a week’s worth of menus; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (I also have monthly menus which are great for long term planning; right now those just aren’t working for us due to what we have available in the freezer and time constraints on certain days).  Next I make our grocery list and head off to the store.  Depending on the time/day I may or may not have helpers; actually, having the helper isn’t the question – it is how many helpers I have and what I define as a “helper”.  When I have helpers that can read and that are old enough to be away from my sight without getting lost, tearing a display down, or playing hide and seek I can often tear off a section of my list and send them to gather items.  A section of my list works well because I make my lists by aisle – as long as I shop at our usual Aldi’s or Shop N Save my list is money!  Spot on, it is written in order of appearance in the store and makes for very efficient shopping.  When we are forced to shop at a different location my efficiency is gone.

Then it is home to put everything away and by then it is usually time to spin the wheel for some snack or meal.  Of course, in about 7 days I know we can do it all over again.