Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter in the "Catholic Playground"

Happy Easter, my friends!

I'm eating jelly beans while I wait on coffee, we're still in celebration mode here!  It's the Octave of Easter!  If I have learned one thing this Easter season (so far), it is that Catholics know how to celebrate.  It brings to mind:
"Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground." -G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy
This faith gives us true freedom, and with that freedom such supernatural joy!  He is Risen!  What better cause for great excitement and fun?  What could possibly be more worthy of all this commotion than the love of God, freeing us from sin, and giving us eternal life?  Wow.

Easter Vigil at our new was amazing.  No mass has quite taken my breath away like this one.  The candles, the incense, the bells, the flowers, the reverence, the amazing amazing amazing music, the readings, the sacraments...all of it infused with the divine, all of it bringing hope and joy.  The mass itself was all of three hours (after getting there an hour early to get seats), and the children were so good (for the most part...some had their moments).  The people sitting around us were so gracious and offered much commentary about how well-behaved they were, which is balm to a weary mama's soul. (To be fair, I must disclose that the children requested Easter Vigil, knowing full well that it's very long.  Oh, and that there's fire.  I think that helps.)
the guys

the girls (there was no way to get a family picture all together!  Sad day!)
 After the Vigil, the parish hosts a big grill out/picnic/party that is rumored to go into the wee hours of the morning.  We only (ha!) there until 2:30 AM.  It was such a blast to get to know more of our fellow parishioners, chit chat with our pastor, and eat lots of delicious food as we broke the Lenten fast together.
you want noodles and cake and a soda?  sure honey.  happy easter.  (but enjoy it because this is not happening for another year!)

2am selfie in the parish hall

visiting with new friends

joe endured through the whole mass, and didn't crash until about 2am

 we didn't actually get to bed until about 3:30, because mama's have the responsibility of setting up for easter morning!  the children got some sweet easter baskets from mama and daddy this year!  you can bet they were up by 7 to check them out.  I'm still recovering from that sleep deprivation.

Easter morning fun started altogether too early for these tired parents, but the children's excitement was contagious, so we dragged ourselves out of bed, making the littles wait to open their easter baskets until at least the coffee had been brewed.

the lenten sacrifices bean jar was replaced with jellybeans

our friend Tommy came to spend the day with us, he arrived right on time for a simple breakfast, boiled eggs & coffee cake

joe with some of the contents of his easter basket, we try to keep them largely candy-free, since there is already a massive inevitable easter sugar high

easter basket fun

coloring in her dover unicorn coloring book from the easter basket

one of my beauties with her basket

so super excited about origami paper

breakfast on the back porch

sweet girlies in their new summer outfits from aunt cindy and uncle gary

enjoying the glorious morning reading about saint helen and the true cross (this book was in her easter basket, we love this series of books!)
In the afternoon, Joe took a nap and I began preparations for our lunch.  We decided early on to keep it simple, leaving more time for visiting and less time for cooking/cleaning up.  Trader Joe's had some fabulous spiral hams that we picked up, and added roasted broccoli & candied yams.  The yams are something I've made over, and over and over in my life.  I learned how to make them at the feet of my grandmother for holidays, they're just one of those things that taste like "celebration."
You can imagine my shock when I looked in the oven and they were ON FIRE!
The menfolk were so sweet and scraped off the burned marshmallow part, and we were able to eat them anyway.  But.  Fail.
After lunch we played outside some more, and had an egg hunt.  I think the confetti eggs were the biggest hit.

we got hit with confetti eggs

the egg hiders

dinner outside

the men saving sweet potatoes

 For the evening, we were able to visit some new friends from our parish for their big Easter party, followed by dessert at our dear friends' new home (which included me getting to hold their brand-new two week old there anything more wonderful than a new baby???).  It was such a blessing to spend time with friends! (I have so many cute pictures, but I really try not to put my friends' kids on my blog!)

barn kittens.  when we couldn't find our girls for a bit there, we should have figured they were in a barn full of kittens!

menfolk watching over easter egg hunt round two
What a glorious Easter Day!  Praise be to God!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Yes, I'll Play: On Boggarts and Barbies

I really hate to post two link-ups in a row, but let's face it, I didn't have the brain energy necessary to make up my own post today.  Due to Charlie's travel schedule for work, I was on my own with five young children for one of the longest Masses of the liturgical year.  I'm glad to have my husband home and Holy Week in full swing though!  Enter: Answer Me This, a new link up from one of my newest favorite bloggers, Kendra at Catholic All Year.  I came across her blog when I purchased her new book to use with my girlies and have gleaned so much of her wisdom and enjoyed her posts a lot.
Kendra offers some questions, and we all get to play along to answer.  Here is my attempt at a late night, Palm Sunday posting.

-What time to you prefer to go to Mass?-
We go to 11:15 mass.  It takes us 35-40 minutes to get there, so I appreciate that we don't have to leave very early.  And, it's the Solemn High Mass, with the prettiest music and the most details, so I don't care what time it's at, we just want to be there!

-Would you rather be too hot or too cold?-
I'd rather be too cold, because it's easier to warm up.  That said, I still really despise the cold.  I feel like I'm still cold from living in Wyoming for two years.  I need a few more Texas summers under my belt to finally warm up!
I do not miss this.  Death by icicles, followed by 5 weeks of springish-summer, followed by more cold.  No.
This is much more my speed for April, rather than snow.  See how I threw in an obligatory bluebonnets picture?!
-How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?-
I am the oldest and I have a brother 2 years younger than me.  I also have four sisters still at home with the parentals, they are 16, 13, 10, and 8.  Yes, we have the same parents.  We get asked that a lot due to the age gap.  The oldest of my sisters was born when I was 15 and the youngest was born only a few months before my second daughter!  
Here we all are with my mama.  This picture is like a unicorn. Very, very rare indeed.
-If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn in to?-
This is so easy for me.  It would be a lake.  I know that's not a "creature!"  But y'all I am terrified of children and natural bodies of water.  I have dreams about children drowning a lot.  They started before I was even a mother, the first one was of my sister Caty (up there in the black, sweet sweet beautiful girl) falling off a cliff into the ocean.  Put me around non-chlorinated bodies of water with children and I turn into a raving maniac.  Just ask my poor in-laws who have to deal with me!  hahaha  If it were just me, I'd be fine!

Two of my girlies tubing on the lake last summer.  You can safely bet that when this picture was taken, I felt like I was going to throw up.  In fact, looking at it now makes me nauseous and my heart rate just increased...
-Barbie: Thumbs up or thumbs down?-
I have four young daughters and made the choice early on that we would avoid Barbie.  We don't have any.  Not-a one.
I don't love seeing naked full-grown women all over my house.  I don't like the Barbie "message."  Their eyes and makeup and facial expressions creep me out.  Their clothes are not something I generally condone, and I don't have sewing skills to make our own.  So, no Barbie.
None of my daughters seem to feel like they've missed out.  They have a beautiful and well-made wooden doll house, and they all have American Girl historical dolls.  They play with those a lot, and if they're naked laying around my house, guess what?  They're little girls with little soft bodies that don't look just like the ads for unsavory places of business all down I-45 in Houston.
Love American Girl dolls.  Don't love Barbies.

-If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?-

I think I'd just share advice from my parents.

Dad: Don't pet burning dogs & don't take wooden nickels.

Mom: It is better to look good than to feel good.

Yup.  I do live by their advice, indeed.

Wishing you all a blessed Palm Sunday!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lenten Spring Cleaning (Five Favorites)

I wasn't planning on posting Five Favorites today, as I have broken my own rule and worn yoga pants all day.  Why?  Well, because I'm Spring Cleaning.  Do not fear, tomorrow I will go back to my regularly scheduled getting dressed & putting on makeup standard, but today there was literally no point.  At least they're my cute Lulu pants.

Anyway.  Spring Cleaning.  Is it me, or is buying cleaning supplies so super fun?  I hit up HEB with 5 kids in tow this morning to do such and once we were finished with our school work, the cleaning commenced.  We're not done yet, but we got a lot accomplished!  Very Lenten, indeed.

In honor of that, here are five of my favorites for getting clean!

OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set

I keep these in my dish drainer, in my sink.  They are so effective at getting little crevices clean.  The next time (God willing) I have a baby, these are going to be an essential and crazy part of nesting.

Viva Paper Towels
These are simply the best.  They are spendy, but they last longer because you can use one piece for an entire job, rather than spinning through an entire roll in an afternoon of cleaning with kids.

Homemade, Safe Cleaner

There's no picture for this, because there's no pretty way to display a reused cleaning bottle with my chicken scratch that says "vinegar & tea tree cleaner, girls' bathroom."

When Felicity was a toddler, I went on a search for safe cleaning products (which were not yet all the rage) because spraying toxic chemicals around her to aspirate just didn't quite sit well with me.  Enter: vinegar.  I haven't used this concoction for years because I forgot about it!  (Method spray from Target was my go-to for a while there.)  Today, I needed to put spray cleaner in two little girl hands, and so I whipped it up and my house smells like old times, and very clean!  (It's a good all-purpose cleaner, and also makes glass/mirrors shine!)

2 cups water
1/2 cup white vinegar
20 drops tea tree oil
20 drops lavender essential oil

You can do your own quick Google search to see how very much more effective vinegar and tea tree oil are than caustic chemicals.  It's amazing.

Trader Joe's Handsoap
 This lemon kitchen soap is the bomb.  And affordable.  And smells delicious.
As much as I enjoy the kitchen hand soap, this one I like even more.  The linen scent is heavenly.  It smells so clean and the container is adorable!  Win win!

Everyone Products
Once we're done cleaning, it's bath time.  I've been meaning to share these products for a long time now.
First, is EO Everyone Soap in Coconut and Lemon.  It smells like Summertime in a bottle.  I put this in the kids' bathroom because it is a safe product, and for ease of use.  I've discovered that bath products with a pump work best with my kids: two pumps for hair, one pump for body.  (It's for both!  Or bubble bath!)  Once I stopped being in charge of everyone's bathing (I only bathe the 2 year old now, everyone else can take care of themselves), I discovered that the expensive bath products I was purchasing were getting utterly wasted.  This was the perfect solution, and a fair price, in my opinion.  These bottles are huge!
The whole thing started when I was on a search for a lotion that I would like.  I don't love the chemical-laden, fake-smelling options, and I'm very, very picky about how a lotion will feel on my skin.  After pouring over the reviews, I treated myself to Everyone Lotion for Everyone and Every Body, Lavender and Aloe.  It was everything I was hoping for and more.  I use it for everything, including my face and my babies.  It is very moisturizing, and still has a light feel.  And so very relaxing...

For more Favorites, visit Hallie at Moxie Wife!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beethoven Doesn't Give a Damn*: Classical Music is for All of Us

The vinyl records' covers were burnt orange, olive green, navy blue, honey-mustard yellow, engraved with gilded names: Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Schubert, Bach, Vivaldi, Chopin, Bartok, Beethoven.  I grew up immersed in books and good music.  The screeeeeeech of the needle across the record, followed by the static sound of Chopin's Nocturne No. 2...that's what I want to give my children, except now we are blessed with high tech headphones, speakers, and Spotify!  So, while I know that of my readers and friends, I am not the most knowledgeable about classical music, I do have a deep-seeded love for it.

This post began to take form in my head the other night after my children and I had dinner with my parents and sisters in Fort Worth.  We were all getting in the car, the windows were down, and music began to play in the back seat (from someone's Kindle).  I turned around and exclaimed, "What is that music?!"  A tiny voice replied, "Vivaldi!"
I had to laugh, and make a joke to my mom about what nerdy homeschoolers we are, but nerdy is totally in, so let's all fall in love with classical music, no?

It can all sound the same, if you don't know what you're listening to.  So, how do you know what you're listening to?  Here are some of my favorite ways:

  • Listen to your local classical music radio station
My local station in Houston is such a treasure.  They tell back stories on composers, explain pieces, and play a lot of what I love.  There have certainly been times that I've just sat in the car to listen to a radio show (like when they had an hour on Russian Music for Cello and Piano) or when I've been probably the only person in the area singing along with Rachmaninov (thank you, prior choir-girl life!).

  • Listen to Pandora Radio
We leave this on during the bulk of our school day.  Pieces begin to become familiar this way, even though it is passive listening.  My favorites are the Baroque channel, Mozart channel, Chopin channel, & Gregorian Chant channel.

  • Go to the Symphony
One of the things my parents did so very right was taking me to hear lots of live music.  Children can appreciate the symphony and other concerts of the like!  Often, they enjoy it even more because they can see the instruments and as we all well know, live music has a different quality.  My town has several events that are free to the public, which we all enjoy so much.  I try to find out what they will be playing and familiarize the children and myself before we go.
The girls all geared up for the Dinosaur-themed symphony last Spring.

When the above conversation about Vivaldi happened, Felicity was listening to an mp3 of Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery on her Kindle.  These CDs/mp3s narrate a captivating story along with familiar and beloved classical music.  We have borrowed some from the library and purchased some.  They are quite engaging for the children and when they hear pieces on the radio or Pandora, I often hear, "Hey! That's xyz-composer, I love this song!"

I'm going to get the girls this one for the Easter Season.

*Commentary from this podcast inspired the title of my post, please forgive the language, but it conveys a point about Beethoven!  I LOVE this podcast that explores different composers and pieces of music with expert information.  It is akin to getting yourself a personal docent at the art museum, except with classical music!  When I have more knowledge, I can convey my enthusiasm to my children, who also become more interested.
I listened to the following episode the other day and I'm pretty sure I looked like a little girl in a candy shop the whole time:

  • The Story of...
We have enjoyed The Story of Mozart in Words and Music and others in the series.  These CD's have been nice over longish car rides and the children stay pretty engaged.  I enjoy the information as well!  I'm excited to see that they have them in mp3 as well now.

There are many ways to come to know and understand classical music, I think enthusiasm is key!  Do you have any others that your family enjoys?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Hazardous Playroom, "Fall Down Guy," Thrifting Deals, and More: A Daybook

~Outside my window...~ is painfully humid, and rainy.  Pine pollen is everywhere, tinting our cars green and settling all over anything that stays still for more than a millisecond.  It is Spring in Houston!

~Giving thanks...~
...for ThreadUp (an online consignment/resale shop for women & children)!  Something compelled me to finally use my $10 coupon to pay for Easter dresses for myself and Felicity, so I posted it on Facebook and had several friends join & buy, which gave me quite a lot more money to work with for some new pieces that I have really been in need of (all of my pants are laughably large on me).  So, the other day, I got myself 3 dresses, a skirt, 4 shirts, a pair of jeans, and a dress for Felicity all for less than $20 (all name brand clothing that I know I like).  I'm so humbled and thankful for people who joined through me.  You know how mamas can's hard to spend money on clothes for myself (even though I do seriously need them), especially when there are a million ways to spend our dollars on the children/family.  I really am so thankful.  If you haven't visited ThreadUp, I'd be humbled if you'd click through my link to check it out.   
My Easter dress, from Mikarose.  I've had my eye on this dress for quite a while.  I was so excited to find it on ThreadUp.
~We are learning...~
...geography in 2nd grade.  One of my new additions this year for Gabrielle was Tour a Country: Learning about Other Lands and Peoples from Catholic Heritage Curricula.  I kind of chose it on a whim, and I am SO glad.  Toward the end of the school year, I think I'll do a longer post about all the fun she's had with it.  For now, we are wrapping up our study of Italy, so I think this weekend she and Charlie are going to make a working model of Mt. Vesuvius and I'll make lasagna for Sunday night dinner.
Geography can sometimes not get as much attention as I think it should.  An understanding of culture and people is such an integral part of being human.  As a teenager, I was able to travel internationally twice (and since then, I have not, since I've been having children for 10 years!), which opened my eyes to a reality I would have missed otherwise.  I hope my girls will have similar opportunities as they grow.

~From the kitchen...~
...caprice salad is on my mind.  

~At the gym...~
...a stomach virus and a trip to Dallas this week totally threw off my training, which is epically bad timing because I'm running a 10K next weekend with Charlie and my sister-in-law.  I got back on track today with an hour of lifting weights and a couple miles on the treadmill, but this coming week will require some serious dedication.

~Out of the mouths of babes...~
A few weeks ago we went to the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show.  It was a long day, and at some point before the rodeo, Joe fell asleep in his stroller.  He awoke just in time to watch the bronc riding, which he was massively excited about.  He woke up yelling, "FALL DOWN!  FALL DOWN HORSE!"
Ever since, he has been riding his rocking horse like a crazy man, throwing himself off, and declaring himself a "fall down guy."
He's too fast, I couldn't get a shot that wasn't blurry!
gratuitous rodeo shot...
~I am working on...~
...Easter basket fillers.  We have some lovely books.  I plan on the requisite bubbles and sidewalk chalk.  I'll pick some other little treasures up at Learning Express (my favorite local toy store).  We'll have a chocolate bunny.  An egg hunt with Trader Joe's jelly beans.  Oh....and.  AND.  The other day on my 7 Quick Takes I shared all about the awesome Dover coloring books I got the girls.  Well, they got here last week - massive warning: the ancient Greek coloring book is very accurate.  As in, naked men at the Olympics, in wrestling matches, and luxuriating at the baths.  Apparently, there is a topless woman too, but I didn't see that.  So....that will not be going in the Easter basket!  hahahahahaha  (We're going to go with Early Americans - puritan influence, much more likely to be dressed!)
I seriously could not. stop. laughing.  Epic mom fail.

~I am reading... ~
...Holiness for Housewives.  This has been an excellent little book about how to sanctify daily life and thrive in happiness within this vocation.  One of the sweet ladies from my homeschool group hosted a book club for this book, and we had our final meeting last night.  The discussion bore so much fruit, and gave me a lot to think about.
"...Catholics do not merely obey the Church because Her demands are wise and reasonable.  They obey because they love God.  Obedience is not the acknowledgment than an unintelligent being gives to an intelligent one.  It is the compliment that a lover pays to the beloved." Pg. 52, emphasis mine
I still need to wrap up my re-read of Searching for and Maintaining PeaceTherese: A Life of Therese of Lisieux by Dorothy Day before the end of Lent.  I'd also like to read Characters of the Passion: Lessons on Faith and Trust by Fulton Sheen (which is tiny).  If I can get all that done, I have some great books ready to go for the Easter season.
On the topic of books, it's Friday evening, and Fridays mean ballet for Colette.  It's become one of my favorite parts of the week because I get to talk about books with one of the most beautiful souls I know, my sweet friend Lauren.  All thanks to her, I *also* have a large chunk of my summer reading decided upon as well.

I read Fina a Winnie-the-Pooh story today for the first time, and she loved it so much that she is seen here begging Felicity to read her the next one about Eeyore.

~I am praying...~
...for two very specific special intentions for my family.  For the Lewis family.     

~The Liturgical year...~
...Lent is rolling along.  I need to do better with some of my Lenten sacrifices, but, true to form, God has sent me some of His own choosing.
Also, we need to do better with Stations with the children.  I thank God for friends who gently encourage, maybe not even realizing that they are doing so! (Even though tonight was a total bust...sigh.  We'll try again though.)
We love to use Holy Heroes The Stations of the Cross on Friday nights with the children.
~I am hearing...~
...thunder, rain, and the washing machine.

~I am struggling...~
...with my Lenten promise to do night prayer and an examination of conscience.  It's not burdensome, I'm just distracted.  By the end of the day, I feel like the meme below, but really, that's no excuse.

~Clicking around:~
...I really enjoyed this talk from Meg Meeker, "How to Raise Strong Catholic Families in a Difficult Culture."
I didn't fully agree with her flippant attitude about nursing babies, and sleeping arrangements, it felt like that was tossed in there because it's a soap box issue or something.  But, the rest I found very valuable and encouraging.

~Around the house...~
...a major playroom overhaul is in order.  Hmmmm....maybe I'll take pictures and make a post of it, may as well make a mammoth-sized job fun.  The status of that room right's a hazard.  We will rectify this situation!  Sadly, that usually comes with tears.
Detachment.  Detachment is the name of the game.  

~This week on Instagram:~
I haven't done a daybook in a few weeks, so here are the top 3 most liked pics from Instagram over that time period:
"Did a full running/cycling brick today.  I did everything I'll have to do in the tri other than the swim.  I totally have this.  A huge confidence booster this afternoon!
Followed up with a cold beer...yeah.  That's the best. #ammitri14"
I was surprised and touched that this picture got so many likes!  This non-athlete appreciates the encouragement.  :-)
My little guy and me cheesing it up at the St. Joseph's alter at our parish.
Sweet toddler making "soup" for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Such a tender heart.

~A few plans for the next week...~
...this weekend we have *no plans*!!!!  (Yayyyyyyy!!!!)  I am looking forward to working out, cooking good food, reading books to and with my children, and doing some needed work around the house.
Next week, we're going to the zoo with friends, Felicity is spending the night with her great-grandma, Charlie's sister is coming in to town for our run, and his brother and his sweet family are visiting from California.  We have tons of school work to do, and I need to hit the gym a LOT.  There is much to look forward to!

And now, I'm going to go ignore the playroom, plug in my headphones, and listen to Tchaikovsky's Symphony #6, "Pathetique."  I think hot tea, too.