Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Creativity, Recycling and Stuff

There is a randomness to creativity that shapes something wonderful into being from where there was once only stuff.  One never knows what may trigger a creative impulse to spring forth.  Part of the beauty of creativity is that it isn't only about the finished piece.  Instead, it is mostly about the act of doing, of following the ebb and flow of ideas, trial and error, and ultimately to finish with a sense of completion.

Creativity abounds in our house!  Imagine the multitude of things that can come into being when there are so many busy little minds whirling with ideas.  ALL the time.  It truly is a beautiful thing.  However, there are times that the creative juices just overtake the house, and not in a good way.  But that is all fixed when we have clean-up time and things go back where they started and are ready for the next round.

We have an overstuffed craft corner where the boys are free to paint, cut up paper, play with play dough, glue, colour, stamp, whatever takes their fancy.  I add things as I find them knowing that someday it will be just the perfect bit for someone's something.  I love it.  It is where a lot of this creativity is brought to realization.  But I hate it too; it's always a messy mess with the bits spilling on the floor where they are left.  Believe me, they are not limited to only the stuff in the craft corner.  As long as they ask, they can make use of most things that inspire them.

Morgan has discovered the art of recycling.  Not putting cans and boxes into the recycling bin to be recycled, but instead using the cans and boxes from the recycling bin to re-create into some thing.  I have said many times "Morgan, sometimes recycling just needs to be recycling!"  However, I was quite impressed with his use of recycling for this project. I'm not sure I can say he has "re-purposed" the box, but he certainly re-created it.  He was so proud of his pinata!

Despite all the mess and bits and stuff, I wouldn't change a thing!  Creativity is such a part of who my boys are and I embrace and encourage it in each one of them.  After all, what would our house be without all the stuff?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Finally FIVE!

Waiting is not easy when you are four.   And yet it seems there is always something you have to wait for - wait your turn, wait for your little brothers, wait for mommy to finish, wait for your big brothers and daddy to come home.  Probably the hardest is that you have to wait until your birthday so you can become the magical age of FIVE!
Evan and his "cake"

Evan has been waiting a really long time for the day to finally arrive.  Sometime during the night of November 23, while his eyes were closed, that magic happened.  In the morning when he opened his eyes and said good morning to mommy he was no longer a little boy of four, but was instead a big boy of FIVE.  He giggled with giddiness when I said "Happy Birthday" to him and kissed his sweet cheek.

To make it even better, we made it "the weekend of Evan".

Birthday Fun!
Saturday was the birthday party day when he invited four of his little friends and Nicholas to celebrate with him.  Of course, when you have four brothers all of them are part of the fun.  However, Evan was very specific that Nicholas was an invited guest.

Cupcakes and Christmas ornaments

 All of my boys love making stuff so I wasn't surprised when Evan asked to decorate cupcakes at his party.  I think all of them enjoyed the glittery-gluey mess of decorating the ornaments too.  It took the promise of snacks to stop the running, but once they started it was also fun making a lovely birthday party mess.

November 24

Sunday, November 24, was his actual birthday.  We followed our family tradition of having the birthday boys' choice of supper (Evan chose pizza) and giving him our gifts.  After the big party the day before, we spent the cold, wintry day watching movies, playing in the snow and eating popcorn.

Although the ground was covered with a thick layer of snow the day he was born, I told him that not every year will have enough snow for sledding on his birthday.  I clearly remember bundling up in snow pants that barely fit and pulling not-quite-2-year-old James and Morgan in their sled during the days before Evan was born.

Five years can bring so many wonderful things.  Evan has brought joy, laughter and sweetness to our lives.  He is my little buddy and I am so blessed that he is my son.  You made it Evan!  You are Finally FIVE!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lazy Eggs

Just in the dining room there is a lovely selection of recipe books handy for me to peruse anytime I feel compelled to try something different.  Some of these books tell a story of familiarity as they fall open to pages marked with splatters and notations that transform a recipe from just a dish to a delectable dish.  There are others though that have only scribbles of disappointment.

I love cooking.  I love recipes.  I especially enjoy trying new recipes.  There is gratification in presenting a mixture of ordinary ingredients made wonderfully different than how we've had it before.  But I have noticed that I am leaning more toward recipes and food choices that allow me to simplify.  I am truly appreciating easy preparation, fewer steps and basic ingredients.  In this transition from complexity to relative ease, I am surprised to find our meals are generally better as they are less stressful to get on the table.

Recently Sunday's pizza night could not be when Luke had a workshop to attend that evening.  Instead, I tried this recipe and it has become a favorite in our home.  We call them Lazy Egg since I saw a similar one on Pinterest named that.  It's easy and fairly quick using whatever ingredients are on hand.  The ingredients are layered in a sprayed muffin tin and baked in the oven so that the eggs are all done at the same time.

Ready for the oven.

Lazy Eggs Or Muffin Tin Ham & Eggs

Ham - 2 slices per muffin cup pushed down to make a well
choice of chopped veggie: spinach, mushrooms, tomato, peppers, onion, or whatever else you have on hand
optional: grated cheese or bacon bits
egg - 1 egg per muffin cup cracked and poured in the center of the well
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.
Place ingredients in each muffin cup in the order listed above. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes until done to your taste. 
Pop them out of the muffin tin and serve with toast.

I made as many as I had slices of ham here.  This left a few that weren't consumed so I stored them in the fridge and they warmed up nicely the next day.

Ready to eat.
Sunny-side up eggs for a family of seven are not the most timely egg choice since I am only able to cook a few at a time.  I have yet to succeed in getting enough to the table for everyone while they are all still warm and the yolks soft.  Yet we all enjoy a dipping egg and eating together.  With this recipe, my timing issues are of no concern since every egg comes out of the oven cooked perfectly at the same time. I take them out of the oven when the whites are set but still slightly soft so they are perfect by the time they get to everyone's plate.

I believe the boys all agree this recipe is a keeper.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Sleeping Baby

His face is transformed from mischievous cutie to that of an angel.  His cheeks are soft pillows for his long, blonde eyelashes to rest on.  His even breaths in and out are rhythmic.  His hands are pliable in their relaxation; fingers gently curled.  His warmth seeps through his sleeper into my skin.  There is tranquility in holding my sleeping baby. 

From the moment I hear him awake in his crib until I finally place him there again at night, his motion is constant.  He is 15 months of energy and life and love and kisses.  He has four big brothers to keep up with.  He has so much world to explore.  He has conquered the climbing-of-the-chair, so he stands on them triumphantly.  He touches EVERYTHING his little arms can stretch to grab; if he can't reach it, he simply climbs up to get it.  He thinks what he does is ever-so-funny, so he does it again, and again.  He sits in the middle of anything his brothers are doing; literally in the middle.  He empties the recycling bin onto the floor repeatedly.  He helps.  Oh my, but he loves to help.

And then finally, at the end of the day when he has tired from touching and climbing and laughing and doing, he lies still on my lap for a moment.  Sometimes he is still long enough to fall asleep.  In that moment I don't care that the dishwasher still has to be filled and put on, or that the floor still needs to be swept, or that lunches still have to be finished, or that a load of folded laundry still needs to be put away.  I just sit.  I watch him sleep.  I absorb his baby warmth.  And every challenge of the day is forgotten because I am holding my sleeping baby.  I am content.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Halloween night finally arrived!  Morgan and James had been counting down for weeks as October 31 approached.  Four boys were excited to go trick-or-treating so they could bring home candy and refill their treat boxes.

Like many parent's in southwestern Ontario, we had been watching the weather and cringing at the forecast of strong winds and rain.  And they were right.  The strong winds didn't start until later, but the rain came early enough to make it a wet, albeit warm, Halloween.  But we added a plastic-bag-fashioned-into-a-shirt layer under the costumes and they all dressed up and were ready to go.   

A Power Ranger, a tiger, a ninja and a black Spider man.

Earlier in the month when I asked the boys what they wanted to dress up as for Halloween, it was quite a relief to me that they all picked something from our dress-up box.

A little monkey.  Yes, the picture is blurry. He would not stay still.
                                                                Our little monkey was quite well suited in his monkey costume.  Oh my, the way this boy climbs EVERYTHING!  It seems to me I am continually lifting him down off something.  Even taking this picture was quite an ordeal as I followed him around, tried to get his attention or had to put his monkey head back on.  I never did get a good picture.  At least he wasn't crying here like he was when we tried to take a picture of all five boys together.
Halloween Tradition

Pumpkin carving!
The final result.
Morgan and James
Nicholas and Evan
The dress up part of the Halloween experience didn't seem to be nearly as exciting for them as I expected it to be this year.  Maybe that's because these boys dress up all the time!  It's not unusual to have a bunch of super heroes or ninjas running through the house.  My personal favorites are when they appear in some mishmash of costumes including some that might even be too small or short.  But the beauty of the odd looking outfits is that they are bringing their imaginary world into being by putting on the persona of what they have created in their minds.  In the summer they often take the roleplay outside and run through the bush.  It's such a creative and fun part of their development. 

I'm really not sure what they were here.
But I'm pretty sure they were some type of tree-people here.

 It is definitely their imagination gone wild!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kettle Corn

My family loves popcorn!  I mean like REALLY, REALLY love it.  It doesn't matter the flavour or form, if it's in the house it will be consumed.  And quickly.

Kettle Corn was the one treat we would always buy at Keady Market or anyplace else we saw it available.  And usually the largest bag they had!  But, now we can just leave it on the table to be purchased by somebody else because I have learned how to make it myself.     

It really had never occurred to me that Kettle Corn could be made at home!  A friend of mine mentioned making Kettle Corn for a Ladies outdoor movie night we were going to and I was intrigued.  I sat at the computer and started roaming recipe sites and blogs until I figured it out before I began.  Suddenly the kitchen was overflowing with bowls full of Kettle Corn.  Since popcorn does not last in this house, the bowls were empty by the next morning.

This is an unbelievably simple recipe I found on It was the first and only one I have tried.  I did some additional reading and tweaked the method slightly from the original.  I have it pinned under Kid Food - snacks and lunches on Pinterest although it is far from just a snack for the boys.  I pulled it up just last night because it is a tradition in our house that we eat popcorn while we watch a family movie together.

For anybody else that wants to make this for yourself, here is the recipe I use.

Kettle Corn
makes about 10 cups

   1/4 cup vegetable oil
   1/4 cup sugar ( I use a little less)
   1/2 cup popcorn kernels

Heat oil and 1 kernel of popcorn in large pot with tight fitting lid. When kernel pops, quickly dump in sugar, popcorn and sprinkle with salt. Stir immediately.   Cover.  Shake over burner until popping slows down to once every 2 or 3 seconds when you should remove it from the heat.  Continue to shake until popping stops.  Dump into a large bowl and stir.  Stir again when cooled to break up clumps.  Or, just be like us and dig in as soon as you can touch it.

Warning:  this has to be shaken continuously on the burner so make sure your stove top will accomodate the method.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Autumn Bounty

It's become a tradition in our family.  Every year that the apple trees are loaded with fruit we collect our bushel baskets and start picking.  It's time for making juice!

Nicholas, James, Evan, Morgan and Dylan - eating what they were gathering

Friday was the perfect day for apple picking. The boys were all home from school for a PD day.  (Yay!  we also got to sleep in!).  The sky was a beautiful clear blue.  The day was warm enough James and Morgan were in shorts.  Even I didn't need a sweater.  But Nicholas was still in his favorite Spiderman shirt (long sleeves) and camo pants.

Dylan and Nicholas loaded and ready to go

Luke is home from work shortly after lunch on Friday's so we gathered up baskets and empty feed bags before we loaded up.  Everyone was happy to get going.

The boys were ground crew, picking up any apples already fallen or the ones we shook down that were beyond our reach.  Luke was mostly up the ladder, but I got up in amongst the really high places.  Whichever one of us was on the ground spent our time picking apples we could reach or retrieving Dylan from a ladder.  Or, we held him while picking one handed.

Evan was a trooper at helping today.  I was very proud of how he stayed focused on the task. 

The collected bounty!

Well, we got the required eight bushels we need to take to the press.  There are also a bunch designated for apple pie filling and apple sauce.  And still more to simply eat.  That is, after all, what Simple Bounty is all about.

Apple Picking 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Mom

My mom celebrated her birthday last week.  We didn't get to see her so we gave her a call and everyone took turns wishing her a Happy Birthday.

I love my mom.  She has nurtured me and taught me.  I don't think I have ever clearly expressed to her how I truly admire her.  Today I want to change that by paying tribute to the woman that helped shape me into the woman I am.  She has probably been the single most influential person in my life; not just because she is my mom, but because of the woman she is.

My mom was raised in a family that had little more than each other.  She was only 11 when her dad was killed in a car/train accident.  At 18 she married my dad and became a mom the following year.  Together my parents have lived in four countries and travelled across Canada, through much of the United States and visited countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. 

Living through a tornado was one of many events that seriously impacted her life.  My parents first home and a lot of their belongings were destroyed when the tornado picked up the house and moved it from its foundation.  My mom was in the house with her mom, her younger sister and brother, and her own two baby boys when it struck.

Nurturing and caring for others is who my mom is.  She has raised four of her own children, fostered children and has had a hand in raising other children including some of her grandchildren.  Our home was always open for us to invite our friends over for meals, sleepovers, movie nights and some of them even moved in for awhile. Over the years there were also a variety of animals she helped rescue, hand-raise, keep as pets or had on the farm. 

My mom knows what it is to love and be loved.  She knows how to care for others and celebrate the joys of family and life.  She knows what it is to say good-bye to parents and grandchildren.  She knows what it is to watch a grandchild fight a life-threatening disease and to watch her children suffer the loss of their children.
What I have written here are just some of the snippets from her life.  But it is from all of this rich life experience that my mom has been shaped into the woman she is.  She is dependable, resilient, bold, kind, loving, helpful, hard-working, gentle and caring.  As we were growing up she could always be counted on to listen to our worries, gave us space to make our own decisions and help when we asked for it.  She is loyal and proud of each one of us.


This saying is so true for me.  I hear her in how I talk, the words I choose and how I parent my boys.  Sometimes it makes me flinch; always it makes me smile.  I am pleased that I can claim to be a little like the strong, courageous woman she is.  And I hope that someday my boys will be able to say that I, too, am a mom they are proud of.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A New Beginning

It's been a long time since I've been here.  What can I say, life got busy.  A big part of that busyness is the newest addition to our family.  Meet Dylan - our fifth wonderful son who is now 13 months old.

Dylan riding his favorite toy.

For a long time now I've been wanting to get my fingers back to tapping on the keyboard; putting in print these fabulous musings I write in my head each and every day.  Yet, I don't think it is befitting to continue to write something titled Michelles4boys.  Still, the overwhelming need to get this started can no longer be denied.

There is a chaos that comes with a large family.  I am the first to admit that organization, routine and scheduling are probably my weakest traits.  Let me tell you, chaos is magnified many times over when a young family like ours is left to run according to its whims.  However, we are on a mission to change that.  Out of the chaos we want to initiate some very necessary changes that will bring more harmony within these walls.  For me, part of that is taking some time to reflect and chronicle my view of this world in which I live.

I keep telling myself that I will begin writing again when I get that done or this sorted.  But I no longer want to wait.  I am ready NOW to begin something new, even if this isn't the best time to start something else in my already busy life.  While I accept that our lives will always be full with so many little people to care for, I am hopeful it will be a little less tumultuous as we move forward with our quest to redirect the ways of our family.

And so I welcome you to my new home, Simple Bounty.