“I’ve never had this kind of fun before!”

Usually our backyard fills up once, maybe twice a year because of heavy rains. In Lexington, our average April rainfall totals hover in the 4-5″ range, but this year we’ve had nearly a foot of precipitation with a few days left in the month! Add that to a higher-than-average snowfall from the winter, and there’s no doubt that our ground has a lot of moisture. So, instead of seeing our backyard “puddle” infrequently, this past month we’ve had it appear probably a handful of times. Earlier in April, we had frost around the edges, and on a couple cool mornings, we’ve come out to see fog and mist covering our lakefront property.

I think all that is to say that up until a few days ago, I’ve instructed the kids to stay away from the water that accumulates back there. It just seems icky to me to want to go into it, but these are boys we’re talking about. There’s only so much they can take before the “call of the wild” must take over, I guess. This past Monday, my precedent seemed to melt away. The pond was back, and though not at record levels, it was high. Temps were warm and close to 80 degrees. The sun was actually out and shining for a while.

During breakfast earlier that day, Todd had informed the boys that once they finished their school work and their chores that they would be allowed to jump on the trampoline, which was on the edge of the water. They were ecstatic. They worked hard, finished their jobs in almost-record time, and began the process of begging me to go out there. I was still hesitant, so it wasn’t until Todd stopped by the house in the afternoon that they actually got to make their way out to jump. They started out simply jumping–and jumping high and hard–trying to get into the water below the net and get their feet wet. That lasted for a while before one of them tried to get out of the trampoline and fell into the water. (“Oops! I tripped! However did I do that, Mom??” the one who fell in asked innocently.) We had been watching them from the kitchen and it was then that Todd gave them the go-ahead to get in the water. While I was still working through the gross factor of the whole thing, the boys were absolutely delighted. They had so much fun.

It wasn’t long before their hoots and hollers woke up the napping Chloe, who instantly wanted to join her brothers. (Hannah was not home at the time, but enjoying her class party with her friends. She came home later and was sufficiently grossed out that her siblings were in the backyard water. I think it’s safe to say that she will not be in it if we have future pond parties.) Chloe, on the other hand, unencumbered by thoughts of cleanliness or worries of ickiness, enjoyed being out with her brothers. At one point, she ran back to me and exclaimed, “I’ve never had this kind of fun before!!!”

We have a pond again this morning, but since the temperature is a nippy 50 degrees, for now, I think I’m off the hook. I’m still not crazy about letting them out in that water, but those kids will be talking about “the times we swam in the backyard” for a long time to come. And maybe if it ever stops raining, we can return to using our yard as a yard and not a pool.

Here’s a video of the kids romping and enjoying.

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink…

On the whole, I love our house. We’ve been here for almost nine years now, and despite the fact that the two bathrooms on the main floor desperately need updating and some outside work that apparently isn’t going to fix itself, and there are always projects and other things that need to be done, it’s a great house in which we have a lot of memories. The one thing none of us likes, however, is that usually once or twice a year, the backyard turns into a giant pond where rain runoff collects. Thankfully, the first (or one of the first) things Todd did to the house after we bought it was to have a dry basement installed. The B-Dry people came right after Ben was born and jackhammered around the entire perimeter of our basement for a couple days. This is memorable not only because for the two days that there was a jackhammer (with an average decibel level of 130), it prevented us from carrying on normal conversation, but also Ben the newborn would sleep for as long as the jackhammer did its work and would wake up in a start whenever it quit. Not humorous at the time, but nine years later, it’s quite funny to think about.

In any case, that temporary discomfort was well worth it so that now when we have the water in our backyard, the dry basement does its job. Other than one episode over Memorial Day weekend in 2004 (which I’ll save for another blog post), it has performed marvelously. Every time I hear the water pouring into the sump, though, and the pump kick on, it still makes me nervous. I’m happy to report that it seems we made it through one more water event unscathed, though. Earlier in the week received almost four inches of rain in the Lexington area and, since the ground was already saturated from earlier rain, it just couldn’t keep up. Here are some pictures of what our backyard looks like:

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As of last night, the pumps had slowed way down and the amount of water they had to kick out had reduced dramatically. The water level in the yard had gone down a bit this morning, but it still almost reaches the trampoline mat. There’s a lot of water to get rid of out there, and the weather forecast is calling for almost 2 more inches of rain to fall tomorrow! I guess we’ll get another chance to hear the wonderful sound of the pumps in action yet again.

Here’s a shot of the pump on the corner of the house (which is housed under the stairs to the basement) in action. Imagine all of that water in our library and throughout the entire basement. Astounding and heart-wrenching to even think about.

One of the “benefits” of having a pond in the backyard, however, is that wildlife is almost instantly attracted to it. We usually have lots of ducks swimming out there, but this time we got to enjoy a gaggle (how many exactly does it take to make a gaggle!?) of geese (or goosen, as my kids now call them thanks to Brian Regan’s hilarious skit that you can watch if you click here. He actually talks about moosen, so I have to give the kids credit for branching out to other animals.) swimming while we ate dinner. Here’s a video of the kids throwing bread to the goosen:

Easy Ravioli Lasagna (…and when I say easy, I mean *easy*!)

When going through some older photos yesterday, I came upon some of this recipe that we tried a while back (as in…Labor Day weekend last year). For whatever reason, I didn’t get around to posting it then, although this recipe is definitely worth doing so, both for its ease in making and the response I got from my family. It is a simple variation on lasagna and one that was a lot quicker to make. It also allows for you to modify it easily to suit your own tastes. You can use either spaghetti sauce from a jar or homemade, ground beef, turkey, or sausage, and whatever variation of ravioli your family prefers. The next time I make this (which will be sometime within the next week–the pictures have put it back on my menu radar!), I plan to add a layer of fresh spinach to add color and an extra veggie. It is definitely a recipe that is easy enough that you can play with it and make it your own.

Let me show you just how simple it is. Here’s a picture of my trusty Pampered Chef pan with a layer or two already put in. And looky there…I’m cooking on top of my mail. What a great example to put all those nasty rumors to rest that I’m an organized person.

Here is the pan almost ready to go in the oven.   Looks yummy already!  (I’m almost postive that there’s more than 6 paltry oz. of cheese on that baby.  Use your best judgment.  I won’t tell anyone if you use more!)

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And lastly, here it is hot out of the oven.  I would recommend letting it sit for a few minutes, much like you would for lasagna, for ease in serving.   If you can wait, that is.  Serve with a lovely green salad to mitigate all the cheese.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I’m so glad today is my day to go grocery shopping!

Ravioli Lasagna

1 pound ground beef
1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 package (25 ounces) frozen sausage or cheese ravioli
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a skillet, brown ground beef and season to taste; drain. In a greased 2 1/2 qt baking dish, layer a third of the spaghetti sauce, a third of the meat, a third of the ravioli, and a third of the cheese (6 oz of cheese may not be enough!). Repeat layers. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover and bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Yield: 6-8 servings.

**IMPORTANT NOTE** When I made this today, I noticed something that I had suspected yesterday when writing this post. I used that 9×13 pan again and even used a 32 oz. package of ravioli, but had to dip into my second bag to have enough to finish the dish. The same thing happened with the sauce; one jar was not enough. Unlike the cheese, which I openly use too much of, I don’t think I was too generous with either the ravioli or the sauce. So….if you have a small family and adjust this to an 8×8 pan, you won’t have any trouble, but if you have the time and freezer space, it may serve you better to make two pans and use 3 jars of sauce and extra ravioli accordingly. Or just know that you’re going to need those additional ingredients and use the leftover sauce for something else. I like to think ahead, but it doesn’t always work out. OK….now my conscience is assuaged. I couldn’t bear the thought of you, in your kitchen, cursing me out under your breath when realizing you don’t have enough “stuff” to finish this meal. Phew.

Tighe Family Photo Shoot

Last fall we finally had the chance to get some family pictures. We had been talking about it for a while, but just let one week go into another, one season pass into the next, and even years go by. Sometimes it takes just doing it, though, and that’s what Todd and I had to do. Thankfully, we hired the one and only Sarah Galvan, photographer extraordinaire, to capture these wonderful shots. To see more of her amazing work, go to Sarah G Photography.

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Put a little kick in your dinner

I have been craving a new soup recipe without really having much idea of what exactly I wanted. Since everyone else around is coming along for the ride, so to speak, especially when it comes to meal planning, I went looking on one of my go-to websites. After searching for a while, I came across one that looked promising and we tried it out tonight. It is incredibly easy and quick, and fairly inexpensive, especially if you (like me) make your own chicken broth. Next time I make it I will be more diligent about separating the thawed spinach with two forks, however, because although Patrick liked the flavor, he was turned off by the texture and amount of spinach. His review went something like this: “Next time halve the spinach and I’ll be happy.” Hannah has a mild palate and didn’t like the kick from the italian sausage, so another possible modification is to use either a milder flavor of sausage or even bratwurst. Much of this soup’s tasty flavor comes from the sausage, though, so be warned against too much mild-ification; I think it would render the soup as a whole too bland. Another good addition would be some type of small noodle, such as ditalini (but of course I’m not following you home so you throw whatever pasta in there that appeals to you). Todd’s review was simply “Yum. That’s really good.”

Tuscano Soup
taken from this amazing website

1 pound Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced, 2 1/2 ounces
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional

Remove the sausage from its casings, if necessary. Brown the sausage in a 4-quart soup pot along with the onion and garlic; drain fat. Add the broth and undrained spinach; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add the cream and simmer a few minutes until the cream is heated. Season to taste. Sprinkle a little parmesan cheese over each serving, if desired.

Makes six 3/4-cup servings or 5-6 cups
Can be frozen

Tropical Storm Tighe takes on Meijer

Patrick recently (as in Monday) got a new Air Soft gun. He’s been hankering for this bad boy for months and worked really hard for the privilege to own it. (As far as I’m concerned, the real test is yet to come; I’m not crazy about the thought of five other kids running around anywhere near him when he’s shooting, but at some point we have to let him try to show us his responsibility factor….right?)

Since Monday, he’s been hounding (is there a word stronger than hounding, perhaps? Pestering? Badgering? I’ll let you choose the best strong verb to insert here.) us to go complete the outfit with AirSoft BBs, because really, what good is any weapon if it just sits there, unable to do anything? It’s taken us a few days to get over to the store–or get up the courage, however you want to lay it out–but this afternoon’s schedule seemed to allow for it. Hannah was babysitting her cousins and I needed to take everyone else over to the allergist for their weekly shots. After a bit more badgering, Patrick convinced me that we could squeeze in a quick trip to Meijer after the shots and before Chloe’s nap. No problem. Besides, I needed a couple grocery items, so we could get it all done in just a few minutes.

Except for rare occasions like the time they had to reformulate vials for all four kids because of a timing problem while we waited, getting shots at the allergist’s is pretty cut and dry. I like that. Thankfully, today was no exception, so we got our injections and scadattled on out to Meijer. I was feeling pretty good when we even managed to get a parking spot close AND next to the cart return. (Wow…I sound really old to be excited about such things, and yet, here I am, proclaiming it to the blogosphere….) Before we got out of the van I quickly reviewed the rules with the kids–look with your eyes, not your hands; stay close to me; I’m not afraid to pile you all in one cart if you get out of hand…the usual. It’s only as we walked into the store that I realized that in order to get to the BBs, we have to walk past the toys. The toys. I avoid walking by the toy aisles like there are communicable diseases on every shelf. I loathe the toy aisles. I even avoid them when shopping alone. Love kids, hate the toys. It’s just the way I am, and I’m OK with that. But we were there to get the blasted BBs and I knew the kids would understand if we couldn’t lounge in every aisle with thoughts of Christmas lists-to-be. I also know I’ve got “older” kids now, so B1, B2, and Andrew had permission to look through the Legos while we got the BBs. I figured with their regular (and loud) shrieks of delight, I’d be able to keep an ear out for them.

Patrick was already at the sacred spot by the time I caught up with him, and he had the hallowed canister of BBs in his hands. He looked over them happily, as if he were inspecting every little blue sphere, so thrilled to finally be holding all 6500 of them safely ensconced in the plastic container. And then, without warning and seemingly without cause, he reached to put the prized posession back on the shelf, holding it by the yellow cap. Instead of setting them on top of the shelf, however, he hit the side of the container against the shelf, which inexplicably caused the top to come off. In an instant, the entire six thousand and five hundred beads escaped from their prison-like vessel and ran free throughout the aisle, rolling here and there and jumping into far-away spots in the time it took Patrick and I to groan in unison. The poor boy was at once both embarrassed and angry. He immediately dropped down and tried to collect the uncollectable. Chloe kicked her legs and shouted “You spilled them, Patrick! Awesome!!” but we (namely, me) were not amused. After trying in vain to pick them up, I had Patrick go and find a friendly Meijer associate whom I thought would surely be grateful for a cleaning project to carry him or her through the next little bit of the work day. Who likes to be bored with nothing to do, right? When he arrived, he was very polite and we were very apologetic. I collected everyone, had them stay close to me, and we scurried away, off to see what trouble we could stir up in the frozen food aisles. I bet those frozen peas are a bear to collect…

As an addendum, while I was checking out, I gave Patrick four pennies to let Chloe and Andrew ride the pony twice each. For some unknown reason, Chloe came unhinged at the thought of *only* getting two rides. Lovely. The woman in front of me tried to hand me a stack of pennies, but I had to politely decline them, explaining that even if I took them, I couldn’t let her ride now that she was having a redheaded moment. (It was nice of her to try and help, though.) It just reinforced my don’t-go-grocery-shopping-at-naptime life goal. I guess I had gotten out of practice….

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