Outside Chores and Inside Chuckles

Today we set about doing the second (and, hopefully, final) major leaf-raking of our yards. We have far too many trees and the leaves are EVIL. Early in the afternoon, Em and Kathy took a turn raking up piles and then jumping into them, taking pictures of themselves, and generally being total goof-balls.

keleaf1

After Kathy left for church and was replaced by her sister, Allie, I conjured up a team pile raking contest. Em and Anna were Team One and Nate and Allie were Team Two. They worked their bums off, and Nate was the only one who pooped out before the job was done.

I got a bit of raking in myself. Not nearly as I’d expected, though. I had put tape on my hands to keep down blisters, but had a strange allergic reaction to something in the tape adhesive.

While I was raking (in my pajamas, no less) and stopped to take a deep breath, Annie caught me with the camera.

leighleaf1

The yard was cleaned up fairly quickly, then Dave decided he was going to try something new and use the ladder to go up to the roof and rake off the leaves that were piling up there.

This might have been a good idea. He got things cleaned up nicely on the bit over the screen room where the roof is fairly flat.

Things got a bit more dicey when he decided to try the bit of more-tilty roof over the garage.

See, my husband is a very organized and strong man. He’s also a very determined man. He rarely backs down to a challenge, and he’s not afraid of many things. I used to think that spiders were his only weakness….

But now I know he’s NOT SO GOOD AT HEIGHTS.

Dave got onto the roof and did a bit of raking, but he had a scary slip in the beginning and I noticed after that happened that he had backed himself to the wall and wasn’t moving away much.

daveleaf1

Notice where I’m standing to get the above picture. Yep, INSIDE the house. I was watching him rake the roof with great trepidation when he gave me a sheepish grin and suggested that I might want to go to Nate’s room and open the window.

My strong, martial arts trained, incredibly capable husband was NOT going to try to go back down the ladder.

So I hoofed it up to Nate’s room, opened the window, removed the screen, and stood back to take pictures…~wink~

daveleaf2

Notice that he was nice enough to remove his boots and gloves at the window before scrunching inside between the bunks on Natey’s bed.

He swiftly re-shod and went back outside to climb a few rungs and retrieve his rake from the high place.

I’ve been giggling about it off and on all night. Sometimes seeing that really strong and capable people have weak spots can make my own weaknesses more tolerable.

All in all, we got a lot accomplished today and had fun in the process. And there will be no more raking till next fall…YAY!!

A Little Friendly Competition

We spent most of today at the dojo for the annual Autumn Inter-Dojo Tournament. Dave was competing for the first time and Em was competing in Kumite for the 3rd (we think, we’re having trouble remembering) time.

This was a rare opportunity to grab a couple of pictures of Em at the Dojo. Our Sensei is a very, very traditional Master and he has incredibly strict rules that include no photography or video inside the Dojo unless given specific permission.

The rules were still pretty tight. Cameras only allowed during juniors competition, and all photography equipment must be put away as soon as adults stepped into the competition area.

Em, as usual, started the day with a belly-load of trepidation. She’s prone to nerves.

emdojo1

Then she managed to get in a little stretching to focus and prepare for her Kumite.

emdojo2

There’s a lot of bowing in the dojo.

emdojo4

I did not get any photos of the actual match. Sparring for points moves incredibly quickly, and I was really focused on actually WATCHING her without the camera between us.

I grabbed a photo of her afterwards, though, and she was very happy with her 2nd place metal and relieved that it was over for another year.

emdojo3

Junior competitions were mostly finished by lunch, so the kids were having their lunch and then playing around while the adults went through their competitions.

I caught my kids being NOT FOCUSED ON THE TOURNAMENT. Lego at the Dojo is one of their favorite distractions. They do not have Lego at home, and show no interest in starting a collection, but they love this ragged old bunch of Lego bits and pieces that get to be occasionally pulled out for quiet moments.

kidsdojo1

Ok, here’s where I admit that I was sneaky and grabbed a few pictures of Dave in his Gi while it was still allowed. It was certainly in the gray area…he was an adult, which means that photography was less encouraged, but he was not competing and it was still during juniors…~laugh~ I didn’t cheat, I just worked creatively.

And, yes, Em comes by her performance anxiety naturally. Here’s a picture of my husband in full-concentration mode. He’s trying to calm the inner turmoil…~grin~

davedojo2

Dave also came in Silver during his Kata competition. His was actually the largest single division at the tournament and he had some very tough competition. He did not place in sparring, and is already trying to figure out how to better his standing for the next competition. Sparring is tricky, though, because everything happens so fast and it really is part skill and part lucky timing. Even the best fighter can have a bad match and lose really quickly.

We’re very invested in our Dojo. Somebody’s there 4 nights a week, nearly every week. I have a feeling that Karate is going to be part of our regular schedule for a long time to come.

Oh Baby, it’s Cold Outside..

It’s been super cold this week. The snow just keeps getting a little deeper each day, and the kids get more and more cabin fever symptoms hanging out in the house. I’ve been forcing them out for fresh air on any day in which they’re remotely perky.

Anna is not super excited at the prospect of getting “outside in the cold air”. She spends a lot of time tucked up under the eaves of the house in the only snow-free space.
null

The big kids love the snow. They have been trying to roll a record breaking snowball. Thus far, they’re making some decent sized attempts, but no real MASSIVE record breakers have been managed to date.

It’s very early in the winter season, and I’m already beyond tired of the cold. I’m not a lover of the long, cruel winter. I’d love suggestions from folks who have beaten their seasonal depression and developed a love of the cold.

Old Friends, New Year

We were lucky enough to get to spend the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 in the company of friends and adopted family.

Our Goerlich friends came down from Rochester on Wednesday and spent two night with us, hanging out and playing games, before leaving on Friday afternoon. There was lots of Nerf battling, plenty of board game awesomeness, and some goofing off in the snow. We had a wonderful time playing with Steve, Heather, Tyler, and Emma. Poor Emma was out of her element, though, and spent a great deal of her sleepover refusing to sleep and voicing her displeasure.

Emma perked up on Friday and everybody got to play out in the snow for a while. I was so happy to get to shoot pictures of the Goerlichs out in the winter wonderland that is our yard.

Here’s Steve getting ready to launch a snowball:
null

Emma wasn’t sure whether or not she was having fun outside in the cold, but she looked incredibly cute toddling around in the snowy yard.

Tyler built an interesting snow wall with an old flower pot as his “bucket” for making blocks. He also got a couple turns on the sled, and threw a few snowballs. He did not, however, wish to have his picture taken.

It had been a long time (including the birth of two kids for the Goerlich family) since Steve and Heather had a chance to come visit at our house. We get to visit them every couple of months or so when we’re hanging at the GrandChen’s place, but it was fun having them in our space.

I’m hoping we will get to do it again in the spring when the weather is more cooperative.

Like the seeds dreaming beneath the snow…

Like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, OUR hearts dream of Spring.
-Gibran (paraphrased, thanks Khalil!)

It’s become tradition to spend a bit of our Christmas holiday outside. Typically with the traditional burning of pillows of sugar on the ends of sticks over a bonfire and sledding down snow-covered hills. This year, though, we decided we’d switch it up a bit and do some hiking and communing with nature.

Our first stop was a Mendon Ponds park, where we offered up a Christmas time feast to the local feathered friends. Birds at Mendon Ponds enjoy company.

Uncle Ryan and the kids started out cautiously kneeling on the ground outside the woods, trying to look non-threatening.
Kneeling Chens

It quickly became apparent, however, that the birds were not threatened.
Em and chickadee

Emily loved the little Chickadees who perched so lightly on her fingers or palm.
Chickadees

Anna was also a bird whisperer…she was thrilled with all the tiny feathered friends eating from her hands.
Anna and Chickadee

Some of them were happy to just sit around for a moment and enjoy the sunflower seed bounty in her tiny cupped hands.
Chickadee closeup

Our boy Nate, honestly, is not into Nature. He reluctantly agreed to feed the birds for a bit before declaring himself, “bored, cold and, oh, did I mention…bored?”.
Nate and bird

We walked the paths in the Wood for a bit, and found this absolutely lovely bench tucked deep into a cove next to a small stream.
Bench

It was a fitting place for a group portrait.
Group Shot

We walked back to the van after our group picture. There was a bit more bird feeding. We said goodbye to the chickadees, the cardinals, the titmouses, and the bluejays.

Our next stop took us from flying creatures to swimming creatures. We were off to Powder Mills park to feed the fish at the trout hatchery.

There were hundreds, possibly thousands, of trout in all sizes at the hatchery. They were divided by age and ranged from tiny to impressively huge. We talked about how lovely they’d be…IN OUR FRYING PANS!!! It was only pipe-dreaming, though, since you can’t fish at the hatchery for obvious reasons.

Nate Hatchery

Fish food pellets were available for a quarter per small handful at machines around the outer rim of the hatchery. The fish would jump up out of the water when you tossed in the food pellets.
Em Hatchery

When I got too cold to stand outside holding the camera, we piled into the van and headed back to the Kinnally homestead to warm our noses and toes while drinking hot cocoa and snacking on S’mores in front of the fireplace. It was a gorgeous, relaxing, and beautiful way to connect with each other and the promise of a coming Spring.

First Friday: Growing Up Artsy…

((*apologies in advance for the rough photography taken via Em’s p-n-s with one hand, while the other hand juggled bags and babes))

Taking five children under age 10 on a historic trolley tour and a gallery walk on a busy Friday night means that you’re either brave or crazy…or just homeschoolers who love to try something different on a regular basis.

Tonight’s adventure with the folks over at Mind Games involved taking advantage of our city’s First Friday activities, many of which were themed for the holidays this month.

Our first activity was a guided history and architecture tour of the city aboard a lovely old-fashioned trolley.
Trolley Pic

The tour guide, a member of the local Preservation Society, was gracious and full of information. Some of us learned how many bridges are in our city (8 major ones), what the almost-triangular architecture on the doors and windows of a church was called (gothic), and the names of the different kinds of Greek columns used in building design (the ones we enjoyed most were Ionic or, if you’re Nate…IRONIC).

Others of us were…less involved.
Sleepy Jos

After the trolley tour, we decided to grab dinner at a local cafe that was featuring a live jazz band. Dining out with gluten-free Anna requires some care and planning, but the Lost Dog Cafe has a great gluten-free menu, not to mention some excellent cafe atmosphere.

We had a bit of a wait for our table, so we grabbed seats next to the band to enjoy their set.

After our buzzer did it’s thing, we moved off to our table to enjoy dinner. Waiting for a restaurant meal with 5 kids involves a bit of creative thinking if you don’t want a hungry riot on your hands. In our case, there were thumb wars, a game of trivia for Smarties candies (one handed out to each child, in turn, for answering a question correctly), and some passing around of the camera at the table for creative photo taking.

Handing the camera to the kids gives you some of this:

And a little of this:

And maybe a little of this:
null

Then the food came, and there was a little bit of this:

When we had finished eating, we decided to explore a couple of galleries. First stop was at Orazio Salati Gallery, where Anna signed the guestbook (half a page high, in all caps) to “let the artists know I came to see their work”.

Then KarateKids made his Mama sniffle by using all of his saved up money to buy her a fancy pottery piece from Fern Lynn. He was so very grown-up throughout the transaction. Finding the right person to approach about the piece, conversing with the adults along the way as we slipped off (he wasn’t carrying his money around tonight, so I “helped” a bit on the financial end so his Mama wouldn’t have to be involved in the buying) to make the purchase, and then presenting the gift to his mom with such innocent grace that we all wanted to squeeze him senseless.

We made a quick, end of the night stop at Cooperative Gallery and Anna decided to make her first independent gallery purchase.

Em bought a small pottery vase for herself, but she’s made art purchases before so she requested that I not photograph her transaction. She’s hitting the “no photographs please” stage of development.

We trekked back to our car, stopping briefly here and there along the way to talk about various buildings or store windows or interesting things we passed. One of the most fun windows of the night was filled with trains.

The business was closing, the sign had just been turned off, but the proprietor saw me taking a picture and pulled me inside because she thought I should take a picture of the kids looking INTO the store.

She stopped me as I was leaving the building to tell me how absolutely precious our children were…how beautiful they were standing there together in the night.

As we walked away, I got a giggle from hearing an older artsy man comment that “they look like a little, walking Benetton ad”. That’s us…a wee little United Nations.

We hopped into our car, came home to our menfolk, and then divided up to head to our respective resting places. My kids crashed immediately after teeth were brushed and now I’ve blogged. Mission Complete. It was a beautiful, beautiful night!

Even the Sun was Gold’n’Delicious….

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Today’s Muffin Tin Monday theme was apples. We live in apple country, and the kids are always up for a field trip, so PisecoMom and I loaded up our herd of happy apple pickers and moved our way out to the local You-Pick farm.

We started out picking in the rows of filled-to-overflowing trees. My kids were very anti-tart apples, and Pisecomom and her crew liked them on the sour side. Mostly, though, ALL of the kids liked running around the orchard and trying to avoid the camera. But, hey, I’m sneaky and I caught them all at least once!

Emily:
Emily in Orchard
Nathaniel:
Nate in Orchard
JediBoy:
Jediboy in Orchard
Anna:
Anna in Orchard
BabyGirl:
Babygirl in Orchard

I even caught the PisecoMama snacking while we filled our bags.
Pisecomom in orchard

After we paid for our harvest, we lunched on our Muffin Tins full of apple slices, lots of dipping options, and crushed walnuts for sprinkling. Thank goodness that PisecoMom was in charge of the apple dippers, since I managed to run out of the house with the wrong bad, so I had disposable bowls, forks, napkins, and some coughdrops instead of the gluten-free pretzels, cheesesticks, and juice bags I’d meant to bring along.

Nate was brave enough to try the Ginger Gold apples again…and they were STILL too sour for him.

Sour Apple Face

When they were finished eating, the kids spent some time looking at dragonflies and trying to find more wildlife down by the irrigation pond (squishy, slimy green pond!).

Kids by Pond

After eating, we hung out with the farm animals for a while. Lex and I mostly just relaxed. She used my camera for some pics while I was making multiple trips to the potty with various combinations of children.

Since I put a picture of her at the top, I’m going to be brave and crazy enough to post one of myself. A completely unflattering one, but I have to say I was having SO much fun that I don’t really mind. I really was as happy as I look in the picture!

Leigh and Jos feed animals.

We managed to leave the orchard before anyone melted down. BabyGirl crashed in the car, and we hopped out at home to send the PisecoPals back to their house for some rest before Karate and Gymnastics.

It was a great day. The very best kind of sunny, funny, best-friends-and-best-fun type of day.

Baby Got a Brand New Haircut…

and I got the pictures to prove it!

Despite feeling half-dead (maybe 3/4 dead in some of our cases), we managed to drag out to the hairdresser yesterday to sheer the boy sheep and institute phase 2 of Anna’s hair-repair “Back To One Length” plan.

She was too blah to get pictures taken post-cut last night but managed to ham it up a bit for a couple of quick snaps this afternoon during one of our “Advil’s Working” moments.

Anna got a haircut.

Princess Snarky requested that I get an additional pose of her Evil Genius (trademarked, I’m sure) pose for The Internet People.

Evil Genius Anna

I enjoy the cute, short bob but she’s fond of longer hair. We’ve got at least one more bob in the future, probably around the winter holidays, before we get back to one single length with no visible bangs.

Our house is still full of semi-sick people who are primarily just laying around resting. Once we recover, the catching up is going to be insane. We’ve put off or put aside so many things while we’re sick that it may crash and cover us all in an avalanche of things left undone.

~L

Who needs the beach?

My kids were in the mood for some time outside, and Dave was conveniently participating in an office tennis tourney at the court across from our house, so we loaded up bags and neighbors and bicycles and headed off to the park.

I was attempting to scout some new portrait shots for an upcoming Not-Back-To-School mini-session event while also chasing kids and (sort-of) watching Dave play tennis. Because I wasn’t focusing on ANYTHING, I walked into the trunk of a massive willow tree with the camera up to my face. I heard my toe crack and knew it was not going to be a good thing. Yep, less than 10 minutes into the playing saw me limping and crying through the anguish of a newly broken toe.

But I’m the Mama, so I sucked up and kept shooting pictures. While I had been whimpering into my water bottle, the kids decided that the best place in the whole park today was the sand volleyball court. I got to shoot all kinds of “beach” pictures as they built and then destroyed a sandy version of the city of Atlantis, complete with King Triton’s castle.
Sandy Bottoms
Nate Playing Sand-Mover.
Anna in Sand.

The big girls (Kathy and Emily) grabbed some ice cream and got in some serious “no little kids allowed” girl-talk on the swings and in their own corner of the sandbox.

Beautiful Kathy
Em on the Swing

I got enough shots of the little folks in the potential snap spot that I determined it would be great for what I need. Of course, my kids were only partially cooperative, so the pictures I got of them are full of their personality.

Here we have a prime example of Nate’s “let’s get this done and move on” face.
Nate on Bridge
He totally has the same look on his face that Dave gets when he is humoring me but thinks I’m being silly.

Princess Anna had some trouble standing still.
Pretty baby girl.

Eventually, she managed to calm her body, but her eyes kept dancing.
Anna on Bridge.
Why, yes, she DID cut her own hair a couple of months ago and leave us to deal with “growing out the bang syndrome” again. She’s cute even when she’s got one of the world’s worst hairstyles. Of course, it looks fine when she wears clips, but clips never survive a trip to the park.

My favorite shot of today is this quick snap of Allie G., whose smile absolutely screams “I’m 7…and mostly toothless!”. She’s so full of joy, this picture just makes me grin every time I look at it.

Allie Urban Fence

I hobbled home tired, sand-covered, and completely happy even though the pain is excruciating. On the upside, having too much pain to sleep comfortably means that I had time to blog tonight instead of waiting for some unknown future moment of peace.

Summer Time, and the Living is Easy!

Our friend Heather was kind enough to invite our family and the Piseco/Jedi Family out to her home in the country to enjoy some lunch, playing, and a splash in her pool.

Some of the kids had fun making their own pizzas.
Jamie making Pizza
Jossy making pizza.
Annie making pizza.
Ben making pizza.

And at least one of the kids just enjoyed eating it.
Nate having Pizza

After pizza, the kids hit the pool. The big kids spent their time in the Howell’s awesome big pool, and the little girls were in a baby pool on the deck.

Ethan spent some time lounging like a lizard on the deck.
Ethan resting

Em didn’t leave the pool till we practically dragged her out.
Emily on raft.

There was lots of watermelon eating, and plenty of sticky faces and fingers.
Campbell eating watermelon.Ben eating watermelon.

Wee baby Jillian sat for ages in her little pool, splashing happily and soaking up the sun.
Jill in the water.

All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon full of fun, friendship, and a whole lot of love.
Girls hugging.