Friday, November 21, 2014

Elizabethan R2-D2, a "Rule," and Soul-less Math: 7QT

Good morning my friends!  It's Friday, it's cold, next week is a holiday, and I'm up in the dark with a cup of delicious coffee, a little earlier than usual, while I wait for my family to arise and the bacon to start sizzling.

All week long, "Blog" has been on my "Remember the Milk" app that I use for my daily to-do list.  There have been several things that I've wanted to sit down and write or share, but for now, on the brink of a new day that probably won't have time for that sort of brainpower on my part, I share Seven Quick Takes.

Many years ago, when I was but the mother of two toddlers and on the brink of a third pregnancy, I read A Mother's Rule of Life.  At the time, I found it expressly unhelpful because absolutely nothing in my life was under my own control, nothing was predictable, and frankly, I was still just learning how to manage household basics like cooking & cleaning (I came to marriage with literally no housekeeping skills, those first years were tough).  In addition, the author's emphasis on taking breaks away from home was disheartening to me because at the time, my husband often worked weekends, I lived with no friends or family around, and I was in a season of life where I was literally constantly in demand.  Setting aside hours of time for prayer was out too.  Impossible.
I chucked the book.
 This week, I revisited the idea of a "Rule" and looked into purchasing the new print.  However, the reviews reminded me of why I was annoyed with the book and I chose to save my $10 and turn to my trusty Evernote.
I created myself a loose "Rule," but only for me, not my children, because what they are doing so often is tied to what I'm doing.  My life runs in a more predictable pattern now - Ballet on Monday & Tuesday, Errands to Mass and the Library and Trader Joe's on Wednesday, school and chores during the same time of day, rest time, etc.  I know my personal needs: time for prayer and spiritual reading, workouts, time for rest and creativity and good books and taking 10 minutes to catch up on my favorite blogs or news.
Naturally, I'm a tradition person, a predictability person, someone who likes to repeat the same routines and rituals each day.  But God has seen fit to pair me with a man who is spontaneous, who surprises me, who sharpens me, as iron against iron, to be balanced in this regard.  I have learned from him.  So while I naturally need to plan to take time to care of myself and my family with a plan, I'm not ever going to be able to live by a rigid schedule.  It's good to come to peace with that, but to also lay out a hope for meeting the needs of all - and as I'm seeing as I get older and more experienced, meeting my own human needs for nutrition, sleep, rest, prayer, and interests without sacrificing my vocation.
I've scheduled it in...because I was doing it anyway!  1:30 is naptime for the toddler, so I sneak away to the cozy couch in my room with my 2nd cup of coffee, a snack (usually more healthy than this one!  haha), and my favorite book of daily meditations.
It takes 10 minutes and recharges both spiritually and physically.  And hopefully prevents me from taking a nap - which....I AM pregnant, so sometimes I just need that!
My current schedule will probably only realistically last me until the baby's born.  But after she comes and all routine flies out the window, and I'm ready to start again, I will.  (And it's so much easier these days with Evernote than the early days of mothering when I put everything together on paper!)

I didn't add much to my "rule" that we weren't already doing.  However, upon writing it all out (instead of an hour-by-hour rule, I tied everything to a certain time of day that is predictable or a meal: Early Morning, Breakfast Time, Morning (9-12), Lunch Time and Break, Nap Time, Early Evening, Dinner Time, and After Dinner), I realized that my early morning before breakfast is under utilized.
You know that timeless mom advice of "get up before your children?"  I've never been able to accomplish that!  It seems that if I'm up, my kids get up and start harassing me for food, which defeats the point.  Not to mention, I want to greet my sweethearts each morning with a genuine smile.
A friend of mine who is much more experienced in motherhood with her eight angels (and I mean it, angels, these children are so so wonderful) shared with me the other day that she uses noise machines to handle this!
I think I might get one for at least Joe (my almost-3-year-old!) and the littler girls' bedroom.  Any suggestions on brands?
Now, I realize here that I'm totally eating my words.  I created a baby registry on Amazon because I always do to keep my new baby needs organized and I can get a discount toward the end, but also because one of my dearest friends is hosting a baby shower for me next month (I'm so humbled...y' have no idea).  Among the "suggested" new baby gear that Amazon was pushing on me was a noise machine, which I thought was just stupid.
I stand corrected.
I'd love to have my early mornings to myself, so, white noise, here we come!

Here are some links I've been wanting to share!

~ A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post that had been long brewing about how I loath the word "busy."  Several people sent me links to similar articles, and it was edifying to see that other people are thinking along the same lines.  Here's one a reader left in the comments about The 'Busy' Trap.

~ Do you love BBC and hot tea and all things British?  Do you like superheroes?  Charlie sent me the link to Elizabethan Superheroes the other day and I laughed until I cried (R2-D2, I'm dying!!!).  But seriously, those costumes are amazing.

~ I feel strongly that I need to maintain myself as an individual not just a mom.  Even though I say "just a mom," I don't mean it like *that*.  I consider motherhood my greatest and highest calling.  Even so, pursuing my talents and interests that are separate from motherhood are valuable to my humanity and my vocation, even if I can only invest a little bit into them as I raise children.  God made me me, not only as a mother, but one who loves to read good books, beautiful music, writing, creating, running, exploring pretty makeup, cooking, visiting with friends, etc.  So this article about Our 'Mommy' Problem spoke to me.  "The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time."  I think she's referring to something that culturally affects us, but I think it can go deeper too.  Not to mention, I hate with other adults call me "mom."  I live in the South, if you don't know my name, ma'am works for me.  haha

~ This post about Christmas Cards on a Budget provoked me to check Groupon to see if I could find a deal for this year's cards; lo and behold, there was a perfect one for me!  The past two years I haven't sent cards because I didn't want to spend a fortune on them, but I was so happy to find a good deal on photo cards this year.  I feel conflicted about sending the family photo as a Christmas greeting....but that's another post for another day.  And it was more economical than buying boxes of folded cards.  So, I'm happy.  Smiling faces and Advent/Christmas greetings will hit the mail soon...

~ I've been thinking a lot about Christmas gifts lately, and trying to simplify.  This year, the girls are getting "experience" gifts from us (Joe can still use some boy toys).  I'll probably still slip in some books as well (I'm thinking book sets for the girls, probably Anne of Green Gables Box Set for Felicity, the Little House Box Set for Gabrielle - though we have several of these, and Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories Boxed Set for Colette, I'm unsure about the littles), and maybe a group gift.  Plus there's Christmas books on St. Nicholas day and stockings and gifts from family and friends.
It was great to find a post in my Feedley this morning from Kendra about Seven Reasons My Kids Don't Need Toys This Christmas.  My sentiments exactly.  But she's a lot funnier than me.

My love affair with Saxon Math continues.

Just over a year ago, I attended a day long workshop by Andrew Kern.  It was wonderful, amazing, enlightening....I gleaned so much from his words and the conversation shared with my friends who went as well that have benefited our homeschool.
But, while discussing math, he said something along the lines of "Saxon math is the only math curriculum without a soul."
That may be so, but Saxon Math has revolutionized our homeschool and brought joy and relief to both my face and my students' faces.
Just for kicks, I averaged Felicity's grade yesterday (I don't actually grade anything, except math - because I know if my children are mastering their subjects, we don't need a number to show that) and she's making a 97 over-all average.  Thrilled.  Thrilled.  Thrilled.

Speaking of school, I'm ready for a break from school.
I can't wait for Thanksgiving.
My favorite part is homemade cranberries.

It's no secret that I love baking bread.  I'm thinking about taking the next step and purchasing whole grains to grind myself (I had some fresh spelt bread at my friend's house last weekend that I have literally been dreaming about), and taking over all bread production at our house.  Sadly, my stand mixer (which I adore, by the way), unlike the Kitchen Aid mixer, does not have a grain-grinding attachment, so I have to figure out how to get one of these on the cheap.
I can't wait though.
Making bread is one of my greatest joys.

A new Costco is opening up down the street from me this weekend and I'm planning to go get a membership even though I've only been in one one time and I was chit-chatting with a girl friend the whole time, and therefore, was not paying attention to what items they had since I wasn't shopping.
I'm thinking the investment is worth it for paper plates after the baby's born, at the very least.
I kid.
But really, I need suggestions!  When Trader Joe's opened in my town almost two years ago, I had no idea what to purchase there and turned to my Facebook friends to tell me their must-haves.  Now that I've shut down most of my social media, I can't turn that direction for Costco suggestions, so tell me, what are your favorite products to buy there?!  I can't wait to go check it out!  (Of course, now I feel like I couldn't live without Trader Joe's!  What would I do without their inexpensive produce and seasonal items, the treats, the lemongrass sticks, the dish and hand soap, the raspberry jam, the yogurt and crackers and eggs and wine and coffee and tea and and and....????)

Linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Nine: Strawberry Pie, Chipmunks, and Fishing in the Cold

On Wednesday morning, the day after Gabrielle's ninth birthday, our family was headed down I-45 South toward the coast, for a little birthday celebration trip.  On the way out of town, we stopped at our local dance store, where I typically walk in with big, wide, fearful eyes and sweet ladies step in where I am completely not knowledgeable about things like "split sole canvas ballet shoes" and "transition tights."  This particular morning, being a homeschool kid, Gabrielle was the only child in the store which drew attention.  Among her birthday gifts, she received from us an IOU for the ballet bag of her choice, something for which she has been longing.  In typical non-dance-mom style, I had no idea which one she would want, so I gave her cash and a promise for a trip in to Jazz Rags.  We went in, picked out her bag, and as she checked out, the lady discovered that it was Gab's birthday.  As a little gift, the sweet lady gave her a poster of a lovely ballerina in action in New York City.
Her comment to me as she opened it with a gasp was, "this is beautiful!  I can hang it up in my room next to my dinosaur poster!"
This little story sums up this child.  All at once feminine, graceful, athletic, beautiful yet never one to shy away from being the one to catch a rogue lizard in the house, or dig for earthworms, or giving some boys a run for their money in a three-legged-race with her friend.
Gab and her new bag
Gabrielle is our resident dog-whisperer, and took Bree's death the hardest.  All she really wanted for her birthday was a dog, and while we've been searching for just the right friend for our family, we haven't found the right one yet.  When we asked her what else she'd like, she gave some gift ideas (most of which she did receive, such as: this Folkmanis Chipmunk Finger Puppet and porcupine - all of the children are going to get these in their Christmas stockings this year, and a beautiful eeBoo Sketchbook that came with matching oil pastels, & Headphones to go with her Kindle for Audible books).  But to celebrate on her big day, she requested spaghetti, strawberry pie, and the presence of her Nana & Papa.  She also wanted to go fishing.
Helping make Strawberry Pie in the morning - she LOVES to cook, and to serve others in general

Opening gifts with Nana - who gave her some wonderful treasures, including one of the neatest books I've seen in a long time!

Gifts from Mom & Dad, Nana & Papa, and friends

During the Happy Birthday Song

Gab enjoying her new headphones while Papa tried out Charlie's
The day before her birthday, we all pushed through and worked hard to get school work for both Monday AND Tuesday completed so that we could take her birthday day off of school.  During the day, she drew pictures (she loves to draw, especially things from nature, and has some beautiful artwork that I really need to frame), played outside with her siblings, had birthday mani/pedis (where I painted 100 nails!), and went to ballet class.

Playing Outside

After ballet class!
Wednesday morning after her birthday, we headed out to the beach house Charlie had secured for us to enjoy a couple of days of fishing.
We had a lovely time, even though it was FREEZING cold.  They caught several large and beautiful fish from the gulf, we played games, made s'mores in the fireplace, enjoyed breakfast out at our favorite local dive, visited with a few friends, and read books.  It was a peaceful and restful weekend to celebrate sweet Gabrielle.
Fishing off the pier: several fish were caught including redfish and drum fish, and they spotted some others, including jellyfish.  

Hot Chocolate stop on a cold day

The first fish she caught!

Family dinner!

Gab's picture of the fish she caught

Out to eat for breakfast at Hesters!  That Challah french toast is to die for.

Learning about producing music from Mr. Dave

Playing Scrabble
It was quite the celebratory week as we all thanked God for His creation of Gabrielle.  She is such an important and treasured part of our family.  I am so thankful to be her mother, and to get to know her more and more as she grows and gets older.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Leibster/7QT Mashup: Currently Reading, Waxing Poetic about Marriage, and Saxon Math

I'm going to be a copycat of Blair's 7 Quick Takes/Leibster Award mashup from last week!  Thank you for tagging me, my friend!

Here are Blair's fun questions:

1. What are you reading now?
Right now I'm reading quite a few things.  A digital conference from Wellness Mama prompted me to check out a whole load of paleo/health related books from the library (though, I can't imagine that I can actually take on paleo) that I'm enjoying.  
I'm also reading Come Be My Light by Mother Theresa on Kindle, still working my way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and finishing up Paul of Tarsus.
Recently, I finished Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids as well as The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful.
Around town, the children and I have been listening to audio books from the library.  We are going through the Chronicles of Narnia again, starting with The Magician's Nephew (I know that is so controversial to start with!  hahaha But I've already read them the first few anyway.), and now we're listening to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.  We took a brief break to listen to Mary Poppins.  Wow, I had never read that one!  It's so different from the movie - she's so snooty!  No matter how stuck up and vain Marry Poppins is, the story is magical and wonderful.  We loved it!

2. What are you most looking forward to during the upcoming holidays?

 I'm most looking forward to fires in the fireplace, a break from teaching school, pulling out the Jesse Tree and Advent Candles (these are my favorite - ours should arrive today!  yay!), our beloved yearly Advent and Christmas traditions, Thanksgiving stuffing and cranberries, choosing gifts for the stockings, and a surprise gift/experience we're giving our three biggest girls this year during the Christmas season.

3. What's your favorite spot in your home?
My bed.  I love my bed.  It's beautiful.  I feel safe in there.
It is definitely where I retreat when I need to hide.
a pic I texted my husband on one particular, very overwhelming, evening

4. What's your favorite Halloween candy?
My favorite Halloween candy is Snickers, but if an illusive York Peppermint Patty or Heath Bar shows up...well, those are a tax for mommy taking you trick or treating.

5. What was your favorite song at your wedding?
Our wedding mass music was rough.  They gave me zero say over what I wanted, but the reception music was good!
My favorite has to be our first dance to "At Last" performed by Etta James.  Truly, it was an "at last" sort of wedding!  We had known for 5 years that we would get married "someday," we just had to wait to "grow up" (is 20 grown up?  probably not!  haha) to finally tie the knot.  (Here's a fun fact: toward the end of our first dance, the DJ turned on, of all things, the bubble machine.  Children flooded the dance floor and were all around us.  Providential?  I say yes.  :-) )

I love to reflect on those early, beautiful days.  Days that seemed so long, years that finally ticked by, just waiting for the day when we could finally get married.  If I ever want to be reminded of how it felt to wait and wait and wait, all I need are the opening guitar chords in Iris.  Oh wow.  God has truly granted me an incredible love story.

"And here we are in Heaven....for you are mine at last..."

6. Which of your children had the most creative costume this year?
I'll probably give this one to Gabrielle's Halloween costume this year, she was Lucy from I Love Lucy.  They all created their own Halloween and All Saint's costumes, I'm just not gifted at that stuff. (Oh! And they crafted their own trick-or-treat bags.  They totally refused my offer to just buy them some!  They got to use glue and scissors and stickers.  That trumps store bought.)

7. Who is currently your favorite saint?
St. Josemaria Escriva.  He really blew into my life suddenly about 7 years ago and rocked my world with The Way.  

8. What was a special homeschooling moment you had recently?
This is maybe really dry, but one of the greatest ongoing "moments" is a "click" with Math.  I switched Felicity and Gabrielle to Saxon Math this year, and while many people don't like it for it's repetitiveness and dryness, I have been SO happy with how well my girls are grasping and remembering the concepts.  It's a little time consuming for me, but they are both acing their tests with high A's, so I am thrilled to pieces.  
Gab's awesome math binder cover.  "I Love Math" with a dinosaur peeking in the school room window!

9. Do you have a pet?
We do not have a pet.  We had a wonderful, sweet Goldendoodle, who passed a few months ago.  Since then we have been in talks about getting another dog, but Charlie and I can not agree on a breed.  I agreed to Bree because doodles don't shed very much and have a very sweet temperament.  The local breeders are all asking way more money than we paid for Bree, or are willing to pay now, so a Goldendoodle is probably out barring some miracle.  It's too bad, he was a nice dog.  And I don't really like dogs that much.
Bree and Fina at the Grand Tetons several years ago

10. Do you have a favorite TV/Netflix series right now?
I like Downton Abbey; we've been watching it online along with the UK.  Waiting until January is lame.  This season isn't as good as the past, but I like it nonetheless.  Other than that, I don't really watch TV.  Sometimes, I'll watch a nature documentary with the kids!  That's fun.  :-)

Linking up with Jen for 7 (+3) Quick Takes!

So for the Leibster award, I will tag my lovely friends Crystal at Hoyt, Hoy, Hoey, Wendy at Ora et Labora et Maternitas, and Stephanie at One {Very Blessed} Woman.

Here's a mashup of some of Blair's questions, Cate's questions, and a few of my own:

1. What are you reading now?  And what is your favorite book of all time?

2.  What CD or album would define your high school years?

3. Which do you enjoy more: cooking or baking?

4. What is a personal goal you have over the course of the next year?  Next 5?  Next 10?

5. How do you preserve your precious family memories?  (Scrapbooks, photo albums, the blog, etc?)

6. What do you do when you legitimately need a mama break?

7. What is your favorite way to spend quality time with your children?

8. What is a skill you don't have that you'd love to learn?

9. What's your favorite side dish to go with Turkey on Thanksgiving?

10. Christmas cards: yea or nay?

Friday, October 31, 2014

All Hallow's Eve: Seven Quick Takes

These are three of my most favorite days in the Liturgical Calendar: All Hallow's Eve, All Saint's Day, and All Souls day.  The wisdom of the Church touches my heart every year - we contemplate our death in a profound way, and then before we know it, there is Advent; the arrival of a Savior.

Here are Seven Quick Takes about what's going on for us as we celebrate these special Fall days!

Last weekend we attended our homeschool group's All Saint's Day party.  It was such a time of fellowship and fun for the children AND adults!  My sweet friend Blair has some lovely pictures of all the socializing that went on, but here are a few of my crew:
Gab (St. Bernadette) and Joe (St. George) decorating sugar cookies at "St. Martha's Baking" booth (which was manned and prepared by my dear friend L. and me! It seemed to be a hit with the children, but next year MORE sprinkles!)
Colette dressed as St. Giana.
More pics to come...hopefully I can put up an All Saint's post later, as we have another big party and Mass to celebrate tomorrow!

Wednesday night we observed our yearly family tradition of watching The Nightmare Before Christmas, followed by Jack-o-Lantern pizza from Papa Murphy's, apple cider (some years it's hot chocolate), and pumpkin carving.
What I've learned from past experience, however, is that pumpkin carving isn't really that fun for my young kids.  So, Charlie and I carved pumpkins and the children painted mini pumpkins.
After all the carving fun, we roast the seeds with Worcestershire sauce and kosher salt.
We also watched a funny documentary about Honey Badgers, just...cause we felt like it.  haha

Today we took the day off of school in observance of All Saint's Day.  Errands were run and the girls helped me clean up the house (which is surprisingly fast these days).  Now they are watching the DVD from Colette and Gabrielle's ballet performance in May (which totally makes me cry!) while I cook up a storm with little breaks in between to blog.
On tonight's menu: Rosemary Beef Stew and cornbread (which we'll be slathering with Kerrygold Butter - a subject I found my Instagram followers to be very passionate about! Wow!).  I'm also cooking lasagna sauce so that I can put together a lasagna tomorrow to take to the All Saint's party (oh, and pumpkin pie!).  It smells amazing in here!
Don't you love Autumn cooking?  Thankfully it's actually NOT hot today.  What joy.

I'm registering for the Thanksgiving Day 3 mile run here in town again.  I had hoped to do the 5 mile run, but we really must be realistic.  By then I'll be almost 25 weeks pregnant.  I just hope I can run a whole 3 miles, even if it's really slow.
Anyway, this race has a special place in my heart because when I did it last year, I realized that all of my work had been paying off, and it gave me the courage to bite to bullet and register for my first triathlon.  That tri was huge for me, and it continues to be (being the non-athlete, perpetually pregnant woman that I am) because thinking about doing another one after little Adelaide is born is what prevents me from stuffing my face with cookies.
Next Fall I plan to go for it again, probably an easier one, and then my first half marathon in January 2016.  That seems so long from now.  But my choices now will dictate what happens after the birth of this baby.  I hope I can do it again.
I miss seeing this gear in my laundry room!

Here's a gratuitous photo of part of today's lunch.  Seriously easy (thank you Pinterest search, "Healthy Halloween") and a total mom win.  Yay.

While we do go out trick-or-treating, Halloween is not my most favorite of holidays to spend money on, so costumes largely come out of the dress up box.  This year we have:
- a ballerina (yay!  another use for very expensive recital costumes!)
- a knight
- Nancy Drew
- Lucy from I Love Lucy
- a ballerina/princess/pretty pretty girl mashup.

The girls were asking me what I dressed up as for Halloween as a girl.  I honestly don't remember for the most part, but I remember being once a baker, a ballerina, and trick-or-treating in my pajamas.

After we take a turn around the neighborhood, we'll watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which is honestly my favorite part of the whole day.  I love you forever, Charlie Brown.
my favorite knight
So, is it actually OK for Catholics to engage in the Halloween fun?
My take is yes, with a little bit of scare (case in point: the movie choices above, some fun reading, a healthy dose of "yes we're gonna die") but very little gore (save stories of the martyrs, there's plenty of gore in there).  Nothing that can be construed as part of the occult.  We won't touch that with a 10-foot-pole.
BUT, if you're wondering more about why I find it harmless to visit our neighbors, eat lots of chocolate, and prepare ourselves to be very grateful for our friends, the Saints, in Heaven, here's a great article entitled, "The Long, Twisted Story of All Hallows Eve."

When it comes to the “pagan origins” of Halloween, it turns out there is nothing there. Halloween is a product of Christian culture — and mostly American Christian culture — through and through. Where it is most ancient, it is least pagan — and most deeply Catholic.
Have a fun night, friends!

(Visit Jen for more Quick Takes!)