Sunday, October 19, 2014

Big Breakfast + Big Nap = Big Sunday Bliss! {WIWS}

Happy Sunday, Friends! 

Today after Mass we decided to head to the local cafe to enjoy their hearty breakfast fare. Squished together at the narrow table, watching the boys devour pancakes, biscuits and gravy and three hogs worth of bacon made me thankful for the joy and leisure of Sundays.
I found this pic of me with Andrew hammin' it up at the cafe last year on Henry's birthday.

One of my favorite memories from my childhood was when my dad used to roll up his sleeves and help my mom cook breakfast in the kitchen after Mass on Sundays.  My mom is an amazing cook and kept us all very well fed during the week, but Sundays were special, because dad jumped in to help. There was something so grand about seeing him whip up a big batch of scrambled eggs or dance around my mom to flip the pancakes just in time.  I took great delight in watching the two work together, and delighted even more in the delicious results of their teamwork!

All these years later, the tradition of the Sunday breakfast continues.  Even though it's nice to eat out on occasion, I really do love making breakfast for the boys with Steve. We turn up the praise music and just take our time, sipping coffee, and chatting while we cook.  It's the little things, really, that I hope our children remember and treasure about our life together.

Do you have a favorite Sunday tradition? 
I'd love to hear about it!
I haven't linked up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday for several months now. But, thanks to Bonnie's encouragement, I thought I'd give it a go this weekend.  I feel like my wardrobe is a bit limited, since I'm still trying to wiggle my way back into my clothes post baby #6.  Thank goodness it's sweater season! Sweaters and jackets can hide a lot of pancakes!
 Skirt: T.J. Maxx
Jacket (Silver): Maurices
Tank: Target
Boots (Bjorn): Zappos
Necklace: Maurices
Earrings: Anthropologie

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When You've Had Enough of the Dark Side ~ She Reads Truth Scripture Study

Well, here we are livin' up Wednesday, and have I blogged yet this week? Nope.  I hate to blame le bebe Joseph for my absence here, but he's totally dominating the hours of my life from 8 p.m.-1a.m. (the time when I usually blog). A fussy teething baby simply must be held, and his arms of preference just happen to be mine!

Anyway, I am giving the boys an "extended recess" this morning so that I can take a moment to tell you guys about something wonderful that I've found.  It's fun to share great findings here on the blog, and since I've pretty much maxed out my cocktail recipes and running shoe recommendations, I figure you can handle something more uh, shall we say, noteworthy?
{Love this print! Find it here.}
I woke up this morning with the old Amy Grant tune in my head, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path, which I thought was funny since I've recently experienced a deep desire to get back into reading the scriptures on a daily basis.

Lord knows I need a light right now, because as I shift around in the sometimes difficult, dark days of motherhood, I keep tripping over things like self pity, frustration, exhaustion and ingratitude.  The big crippler in that list, the wicked little stabbing Lego in the arch, is ingratitude. And, you guys know that without gratitude one can only see the imperfections of life, and that's not exactly a sunny vantage point from which to view your vocation.

A deficiency of gratitude causes a slow kind of blindness that, over time, can really handicap the heart. Instead of living freely in God's love believing in His truth and trusting in His grace the heart is bound by anxiety, fear and pride. Pride and fear don't really motivate me to seek out God's truth, they just drive me to higher levels of whining and swearing (yes, I confess.)

Read it like this: I get sick of myself.  Does that ever happen to you? Or just me?

Do you know what I mean? It's when, at the end of the day, you realize you've frowned more than you've smiled, criticised more than you've praised, complained (even if only in your head) more than you've expressed gratitude, mulled over the negatives of life instead of taking pause to ponder all the good stuff, and you just feel like - well, you feel like crap.

I can say all of this, because I've been in both the places of darkness and light.  Light feels good, light feels right (despite circumstance - despite circumstance) and darkness feels narrow, suffocating, exhausting and poopy (pardon my lack of adequate adjectives - the boys are brainwashing me.).

Last week, as I was wondering around on the dark side, feeling a little bit kicked around by a teething baby, missing my husband, who had been working very loooooong hours, fibromyalgia flares and a few other things, and I just knew deep down that something had to give.

I think sometimes I try to take care of everyone and everything on my own and forget that there's a good and gracious God who wants to help me. The perfect, real, tangible reminders of this very truth are in in the Word, in the light.
While I can't help but long to attend a group bible study, there isn't one being offered in any of the parishes near by.  And, I'm the kind of person who needs a guided study.  My Daddy knows this about me, so He worked a little Facebook intervention on me. Call it Providence or coincidence, but one afternoon, while folding laundry and guzzling down another cup of joe, I took a pause from the day to scroll through my news feed.  The first thing that popped up was an invitation from my awesome friend, Stacey, to join her in  - get this - a bible study.

Yayes!! I rejoiced amongst the non-listeners of the house.  Sign. me. up.  Without even blinking, I found the She Reads Truth resource online and ordered the current study on 1st and 2nd Peter. The day it came in the mail, I jumped right in, and must say that (so far) I am loving it.

The study is simple: Read the scriptures. Write out your thoughts, compose a prayer, put the verses into action (it's all mapped out in the study guide), and read upon the online reflection if you like.

The study is really perfect for those of you (us) who, for whatever reason, cannot attend a study outside of home.  You don't have to worry about starting late or falling behind, because you can begin anytime and go at your own pace.
If you order the study packs, they send you these lovely watercolor prints, which is a major bonus, because, for me, pretty things are a motivational force.

So, what do you think? Have you heard of She Reads Truth? Do you need this little light, too??  
Let me know your thoughts....I'll be checking back after recess, um, I mean school. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Joseph is 3 Months!!

Happy Friday, Sweet People!!

I really believe that you guys really are the kindest readers on the planet.  When I find comments such as "You have the sweetest boys!" and "Your boys are so handsome and so good!" in the comments, I must say it truly warms my heart.
{Chess and quesadillas over lunch is how I sneak into the pantry and shove chocolate chips in my mouth while they're distracted.}
But, I have to be honest with you: Don't think for a second that it's all Mary Poppinsville around here. I'm pretty sure that if you could be a little ol' fly on the wall for just one minute in our house, you would see that woven in between the lines of all the positive posts I write about the boys are an equal amount of stories that could be composed on the chaos and dysfunction of every day life.

That being said, I'm sure that as mothers, our hearts are much the same in that we may have the worst day ever with our children, fall into bed at night feeling a bit beat up, and still our are hearts are able to look past the struggles of the day and reflect more on the goodness and beauty in our little people. Yes?

Steve and I can hardly believe that our sweet Joseph is already 3 months! (Well, 3.5 to be exact.) We love to stay up at night and talk about him together. Actually, he's probably developing a serious ego from hearing us chatter on and on about him, since he's not willing to go to bed early with the rest of the gang.
Having a newborn brings a quite the roller coaster of highs and lows.  These past three months haven't lacked once ounce of intensity.  I must confess to feeling pretty overwhelmed at least seventy-two times a day.  One minute, my heart is bursting with love and affection for our babes and the next minute I'm trying to come up with subtle ways to discuss the topic of perpetual abstinence or how to squeeze a three week hiatus from this gig into the budget with their daddy.

Let me share with you a brief testimony of the precious experiences I have on a minute-to-minute basis here in our testosterone flooded home.   A sampler from Thursday:

As I was trying desperately yesterday morning to get Joseph, who is teething and prefers NOT to call it a day until 12:30 or 1:00 a.m, to go back to sleep at 7:00 a.m., I hear a boisterous:
You got mud on yo' face
You big disgrace
Kickin' your can all over the place
We will we will rock you!
We will we will rock you!
 Queen was booming from the kitchen.  After begging my husband to shut down the jam session, (Boys, your mom is trying to get Joey to sleep, so take it down a notch), there is a pause of silence. Ahhh.  Then, just seconds later a melodious version of John Denver's, "Sunshine, on my shoulders, makes me happy..." comes rolling through the house at 800 decibels. But, you know, they were "singing him to sleep."

Later that afternoon....
Charlie was laying down beside Joseph with his pointy finger hovering over Joey's crossed eyes.  I get a little closer to see exactly what he's doing when I realize he's showing him his booger.  "Hey Jofis, see my booger? See it? See it?? It's a reawy big one, Jofis.

Oh, the life, the life!!

Well, between Queen, John Denver and the "show and tell" booger sessions, I must say that I feel quite relieved that our sweet Joseph has survived 3 months with 5 big brothers and one frazzled mama. Since the past few months are a bit of a blur in my memory, I feel a need to write just a few things that I don't ever want to forget about Joseph at this stage of his infancy, as he is growing much too fast.
He has the sweetest disposition.  I wish I could put into words just how expressive those bright blue eyes are.  He loves to be spoken to in the many charming and affectionate voices of his family, and always "talks back" to us with the most precious babbling you've ever heard.  He also loves to be tickled right under the chin, and most of all, he just loves to be held by me.
{I snapped this pic with my phone during one of our early 4 a.m. parties. I love his toes!}
{No matter where I'm at in a room, Joseph has to find me. I took this pic last night as Steve was holding him while watching the Royals battle it out with the Angels.}

This stage of the game is personally, for me, where having a baby gets really fun.  Mostly because I'm starting to feel like I have a pulse again, but also because Joey is easing into a schedule, and is becoming easier for the boys to entertain, so that I can do things like brush my teeth or shave both legs.
Steve and I take so much delight in hearing the boys talk to Joseph, their little conversations are truly endearing.  They also like to ask a lot of questions like, "Did I do that when I was a baby?" Were my legs ever that chubby? Did you really kiss me that much? Can I feed Joey some my chips? (Yeah, that be Charlie).
The 7 Quick Takes of this post was supposed to be seven pics of Joseph, but I only had time for six, because you know, there's a boxing match going on in the living room and I have to find my whistle.

Have a great weekend, everyone!!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Picking Adventures - and - A Recipe That will Double Your Love For Fall!

Oh happy fall!! Isn't this time of year glorious?? Several years ago, I read this quote by William Cullen Bryant: 
Autumn, the year's last loveliest smile.
His words seem to capture every pure and perfect joy of the season.  Last week several families from our homeschool group met for apple picking at a local orchard.  When I saw the announcement for the excursion on our Facebook page, I was beyond excited, and couldn't wait to spend a few glorious hours outdoors in nature with the boys.
The day was cool and overcast, even sprinkling at times.  The crisp air and light precipitation made the apples on the trees sparkle, the lanes of deep, dense foliage glow.  Steve and I both noticed that there was a lovely feeling of calm, a sort of gentleness to the orchard that was so inviting and wonderfully relaxing.
The very kind and generous owners of the orchard gave us permission to eat as much as we wanted, which filled the boys with an eagerness to try each and every variety.  We were all very tickled at Charlie, who must have eaten a dozen apples, biting into one after another, juice dripping down the curves of his little chin, and stuffing the cores deep in the pocket of his hoodie.

Oh, sweet innocence!
It was quite a site to stand under the arching branches and look up into the boughs of twigs and leaves weighed down with great masses of fruit.  I loved the way the boys took their time carefully scanning each tree for the perfect piece of deliciousness, then strategically shimmying the apple picker beneath their fruit of choice, tugging gently until it popped off the branch.  Victory!!
A few of the varieties we enjoyed picking and sampling were Braeburn, Pink Lady (very crisp with a tart, lemonade like finish), Gala and our favorite, Criterion.  I had never heard of that variety before. Criterion are green, like a Granny Smith, but sweeter and very crisp and juicy. I wish this variety was available in stores, because I would buy them often.
One of the great highlights of the outing was that Steve was able to come with us.  This is such a rare occasion, as his responsibilities with work don't afford him many daytime opportunities to join us for school events.  
The boys loved having him along, and I did too! Holding Joey for the entire morning, he gave my arms a much needed break, so that I could walk freely along the lanes with the older ones.

As we strolled out of the orchard to the owner's homestead to pay for the apples, Andrew mentioned to me that his experience at the orchard made him want to grow all of his own food, because it would be much more fun than going to the grocery store.  All of the boys chimed in then, and eagerly requesting that Steve and I fill the yard with fruit trees so that they can pick and eat all they want!
We all tried to guess just how many pounds of apples we had picked.  Henry's guess was spot on - twenty pounds!  The owner let little Charlie stand up on the scale, too, which he thought was quite fun.
On the drive home, the boys laid out all of their requests for baking with the apples - pie, muffins, applesauce and most of all our family favorite, Warm Apple Cake with Cinnamon Bourbon Sauce. We make it every year, and always say we should have it more often.  I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The GREAT BIG Surprise on Henry's Birthday and How My Boys Came to My Rescue

When I started blogging a few years ago, I really just wanted to chronicle the life of our family, especially our children, as best as I could, so that I could share our happenings with family and friends who lived far away.  The blog has become our virtual scrapbook.  Sometimes I'll find the boys scrolling back through old posts, reminiscing together, their favorite stories being of sporting events and birthdays, so writing about those two things is really important to me.

I love our birthday traditions, which always include birthday breakfast and a homemade cake of the special boy's choosing.  It's so much fun for all of us to celebrate the life of the honored person for an entire day, and while we don't throw big themed parties with pin-worthy goodies, we try our best to make the day as special as possible for the birthday boy.
A couple of weeks ago our son, Henry, turned 7 and, because of a series of events and personal struggles I had faced throughout the week leading up to his birthday, I was truly unprepared for his big day.

I mean it when I say that I really had NOTHING ready - no gifts, no cake, no ingredients for a family dinner - nothing.  Every attempt I made to shop and plan seemed to be snatched up by shuttling children to football and piano lessons or trying my level best not to drown in this new homeschool program we're navigating, then there was a day given to attend my cousin's funeral, and most of all our poor little Joseph, who is suffering from the inner workings of a tooth trying to break free, needing to be held all of the time.

I know deep down that for every mother, birthdays are not about the things, the cake, the presents, the parties, but they are about what those things collectively represent, and that is the LOVE we have for our child. I cannot help but want to wrap all of that love up into something wonderful that says, "Hey you! Do you know how special you are? Do you know how you have changed my life and made it more beautiful than I could ever imagine??"

The week slipped away from me, and I soon found myself at Friday, the night before Henry's birthday, slumped over in exhaustion and frustration at the supper table wondering what I was going to do to make tomorrow special for him.

I've procrastinated from writing about his birthday, because my heart is still a bit guilt-weary over my lack of preparedness for Henry's day.  But, after pondering it all in my heart for the past couple of weeks, I believe that God is calling me to a particular conviction of heart, that being that I surrender the idealistic vision of motherhood that I have set for myself. Because, in the surrender and acceptance of my limitations, other individuals, namely my children, can help, can share, can shine.

This letting go is not a giving up, but rather it's letting others in, those who may benefit from being allowed the opportunity to love, to act virtuously, to discover strengths and gifts they didn't know they had, and to feel places in their heart that they were unaware of being stretched with generosity.

When I post about the boys' birthdays, I try to write in detail all of the things I want to remember from their special day.  This year, on Henry's birthday, I thought everything was going to be an utter failure because I had not done all of the things I usually do for birthdays.
{Thanks to my friend, Mary, for sharing this with me so many years ago!}
But, to my wonderful surprise, it was better than anything I could have planned, a birthday I hope never to forget, because it involved all of the boys in such a beautiful way.  I couldn't see it then, because I was so blinded by my own unwillingness to look past what I wasn't able to do for my son, but it was my very own limitations that allowed the boys to step in and shine, to share, to love, to give, and that is something my perfect cake or party or diner could never replace.

The night before Henry's big day, Steve came upstairs after tucking the boys in and said to me, You're not going to believe this, honey, but Ben and Andrew actually want to pool their savings together to buy Henry a go-cart.

Wait.  What??

He continued, Ben has a classmate who is selling his mini go-cart.  It's used and needs some work, but they really want to buy it for him.

I didn't know what to say.  I knew Henry would love such a gift.  And, I knew that their generosity would rescue me from a late night trip to town in search of something I could only hope Henry would enjoy.

The next morning, everyone was up early, eager to dive into the birthday breakfast traditions.  I was so busy scurrying about the kitchen, I had hardly noticed the two gifts that were thoughtfully placed by the "You Are Special plate" just for Henry.
As we ate, I couldn't stop wondering where the gifts came from and who had placed them there. Even though I usually take the boys shopping so that they can each buy something small for the birthday boy, I believe that they saw how overwhelmed I was last week and really wanted to step in on their own and help.

When it came time for Henry to open his presents, the first surprise was from George.  Earlier in the week he had set out for the library on his bicycle but, along the way, made a detour to the local gas station to buy Henry a pop and some candy! I had no idea!
The second gift was from Andrew, who has a wonderful collection of Hot Wheels, something Henry admires very much.  Andrew bought Henry is own Hot Wheels case and a few cars to go inside, so that he can begin his own collection.  The two of them have a very special bond, and seeing Henry's joyful expression upon receiving Andrew's gift was priceless.
After birthday breakfast, Benedict snuck up behind Henry and blindfolded him announcing that he had one more surprise for him. As Ben led his little brother outside, we all gathered around anticipating Henry's reaction to his BIG gift.
I think the entire neighborhood could hear him squealing with delight! 
While buying the go-cart was a truly generous gift on the part of Ben and Andrew, the greater sacrifice for those big brothers was one of pride. They have been asking Steve and me for the very same gift ever since they were Henry's age, and we've always said no.  They are saving every penny for a four-wheeler to share, but were willing to give up a chunk of their savings so that a younger brother could receive something that they themselves had only wished for.

Steve and I were incredibly touched by their love. Witnessing Ben and Andrew's delight in surprising Henry with such an amazing gift is something I will never forget.
The boys spent the rest of the morning tinkering around on the new "toy," and took turns driving it around the neighborhood.  I had hoped to get Henry's cake baked before we had to leave for Andrew's football game, but Joey and his swollen gums kept me out of the kitchen.

After the game, Steve must have felt, through my silence, all the disappointment stirring inside of me. (You know, Mom guilt, it's the very worst kind.) He gently took my hand and said, "You're a great mom, Honey, and today has been a great day. Don't worry, Henry is very happy."

So, I set my expectations free.  I let the presents and the party and the cake and the dinner all go.  We went out for burgers with Steve's family that night and, in lieu of a cake, Steve took Henry to a local bakery and let him pick out a cupcake for everyone to enjoy after supper.  He loved it.
After supper my birthday boy came came around the table to sit on my lap.  Holding him close made me feel so much better.  I whipsered in his ear, "I'm sorry I didn't get your special cake made." He turned around, put his nose up to mine and said, "That's okay, Mom, you can just bake me a cake anytime you want, and I'll love it, because your cakes are the best!"


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Somebody 'Round Here Needs Some New Duds! - 5 Favorites For Joey

You know what I love about Wednesdays, besides the fact that it means we're halfway through the week? I love Five Favorites! FF is where I discover fresh new finds in every category of life from ways to organize your home and tail gate recipes to great books for kids and natural remedies for whatever ails you.

Last week I was sorting through a tote of hand-me-down clothing for Joseph (he's growing so fast!) and found that almost everything was either stained, faded or falling apart.  Time for some bargain hunting! Now that I've made my shopping list for our handsome fella, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite finds!
Football Beanie
{He's in that, "Hey! I found my fist!" phase. *love*}

Okay, so this is one hand-me-down that has actually survived the big brothers and made it all the way down to Joey! We're pretty big football fans here, and although I'm not sure where I snagged this cute little beanie, I'm glad I bought it! If you're on the hunt for one for your little tike, there's a lot of links on Pinterest.

Bibs from Whole Parenting Goods  
Now that Joey is teething (already.... oi, oi, oi) he's in 24/7 bib mode. If not for the bibs, he would literally bathe himself every day in drool. I love these bandit bibs from Whole Parenting Goods. They are so stinkin' cute (and so are her sweet babies)! If you haven't already found Nell's blog and Etsy shop, you are missin' out! I also have my eye on her blankets which are made with the love and the loveliest materials!

Mocs from Freshly Picked 
The minute I saw these sweet slippers on Shark Tank I added them to my baby wish list.  They're on a "wish-list" because, um, well, at $60 per pair we would have to eat beans for a week before I could cough up the cash to buy them. The abundance of colors (especially for girls) and patterns to choose from is delightful! Dream, dream!

Baby Boy Tie Body Suit from Antsy Pants
After you get over the yumminess of those adorably squishy legs, check out his shirt! I've bought two tops from this shop (one for St. Patty's day and one for Valentine's day) in the past and love them. They are so cute for every day, but are also great for church.  Throw on some khakis and some jazzy shoes (like those mocs!) and you're good to go!  

In our little community, Halloween is a pretty big deal.  The town is small enough that the kids can stroll about anywhere and everywhere to gather loot. I missed out last year because I was at home trying not to yak (first trimester fun). Since Steve and I will be out walking with the kids, I thought it would be fun to dress Joey up, too!

Do you have any favorite baby boy must-haves??
- Do tell! -