Thursday, October 31, 2013

When You Want to Be the Mom You Think That Everyone Else Is

After early morning mass today, I had decided to skip blogging, instead I opted to sit and enjoy my cup of coffee, catch up on some news, and collect myself before school.  While checking one of my favorite Pro-Life websites, I came across a link to a video (below), that truly softened my somewhat hardened perspective on motherhood, on myself. (So, you know I HAD to share it with you!)

The one thing I prayed for at Mass this morning was the grace to see what is most important in life, to accept my imperfections and to be the best I can be for my children (according to the Lord's calling for my life, not the world's standards and expectations).  Yesterday was one of those days where I was really struggling with self-doubt and discouragement.  I confess to fighting a daily temptation of critical self-analysis, and I have a feeling that I'm not the only mom out there who fights these feelings.

It's that little relentless voice inside that says, "I wish I was funny, I wish I was more creative, I wish I could write better, cook better, craft better, I wish I could teach with more enthusiasm and less frustration, I wish I had the hormones I had in college, I wish, I wish, I wish."

But, the truth is, I'm not that perfect-in-pictures "Pinteresting" mom.
I'm not the most entertaining mom.
I'm not the most social mom.
I'm not the most glamorous mom.
I'm not the most athletic mom.
I'm not the most funny mom.
I'm not the most patient mom.
I'm not the most intelligent mom.
I'm not the most generous, sacrificial mom.
I'm not even close to being the mom I sometimes think everyone else is.

And, they don't want me to be anyone else.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

LIttle Delights for Droopy Days ~ Five Favorites

Happy Wednesday, friends! Here's my 5 (fast) favorites for today! 
Thanks, Jenny, for hosting this week!

 For my tired heart....
1.  Charming Charlie
This entire house is smitten with Charlie these days. I keep waiting for those "terrible twos" to creep in and kidnap all of the cuteness, but so far, nothing.  "Oh, Fank you, Mama!" and "Pease, Mom?" in the sweetest little voice never gets old.  He can pull me out of a funk fast with his sweetness (and the pink sparkle slippers?? Robbed right off my feet!)!

The other night Steve was noshing on some steak and taters that he had brought home from our date night last Saturday. Leftover steak? I's a rarity. Because, Lord knows if you can't finish your din-din, I am always ready to lend a fork. But, this place we dined at serves up elephant size portions, so neither one of us could polish our plates. Steve was enjoying the leftovers, Charlie shimmied up to the table to mooch a couple bites. Daddy thought it would be funny to teach him to say filet mignon (please pardon the mouth full).  We've been giggling over it every day this week!

For my tired hair....

2.  John Frieda Luxurious Volume Shampoo
{Hello. You had me at luxurious.}
Since the texture of my hair is very fine, without great volumizing products, my mane is flatter than a pancake. Paying big bucks for the fancy brands burns a hole in my budget, so I am happy to have found this little wonder. I use the shampoo & conditioner as a set, and they give my hair the perfect amount of poof.  Another bonus: it makes your hair super soft.

For my tired feet...
3.  Yoga Toes
Supper time and story time with the boys are, for me, sacred time to SIT.  In fact, I'm standing and typing right now, because I know if I try to park it, someone will fall down the stairs or the doorbell will ring, so why bother, right? Yoga Toes are awesome if you are on your feet all day, especially if you wear heels of any kind.  They're also awesome for long distance runners. I wear them for 15-20 minutes at night while I read or chat with my lover (wildly attractive, I know), and my feet feel amazing afterwards!

For my tired tastebuds...
4.  Pioneer Woman's Beef with Snow Peas
Do you ever get in a rut with cooking?? With 72 cookbooks and a Pinterest page full of recipes, you would think my family would be overwhelmed with vittle variety, but, sadly I'm a repeater. There are times, thought, when I walk the wild side of the kitchen and whip up something new. When I want a really good recipe that's easy to prepare and I know my family will eat it, I head over to the Pioneer Woman for the answers to my ambition.  Her beef with snow peas recipe has now entered the repeat list.  It's that good!

For my tired soul..
5.  Watermark on Pandora
We've got a nice little collection of musical numbers on the Mac, and while I love listening to all of it, most days, I just want to hear the words that will help keep me on track with life.  A few weeks ago, I met a truly awesome woman, who texted me this song from Watermark.  I hadn't listened to Watermark for years, and am now back in the groove.  Plug it in on Pandora and it makes your ora et labora life a little less labora

Have a great day!! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Thanksgiving ~ Teaching our Kids Why We Celebrate

Since I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year, and the holiday is less than a month away, I can't help but think of all of the little details I want to create to make it a special time for our family.  For our family, preparations for Thanksgiving go far beyond the menu and the table scape.  Preparations really begin with the kids in the classroom, as we strive to learn about and appreciate the roots and meaning of the holiday.  Last year I wrote a post specifically on that topic, and thought I would share it again this year...

A couple of days ago, I was suprised  irritated to see a Yahoo headline that read, "Thanksgiving is no longer a Christian holiday, but a secular one...." Oh, really? Who decided this? Every American is thankful for something, and so now is there really no substantial reason to recognize the fact that the holiday is rooted in the celebration of religious liberty? Well, I'm pretty sure that every American loves presents too, so why don't we just dissolve the whole "Jesus is the reason for the season" idea and chalk Christmas up as being secular too? (Oh wait, we're already doing that.  Another rant for another time...)  

I don't know about you, but I not only want my kids to celebrate our nation's traditions, but I want them to KNOW and to UNDERSTAND the meaning behind the holidays that we honor and the purpose for which they serve. A couple of years ago, I came across an audio version of an historical account of the Pilgrim's courageous journey to a America and the first Thanksgiving meal that they celebrated in honor of their new found religious freedom .  The story was very well presented, and a wonderful listening experience for the whole family.
You can order the cd and accompanying story book here:

In our classroom this year, I have decided to use spend a little bit of time each day the week prior to Thanksgiving listening to a segment of the story while the kids color or work on activity pages that I have assembled for each of them in their own little book using a clear sheet cover with plastic binding (you can find these at office supply stores, Wal-Mart and Target).  Here is the simple cover page that I created for their booklets:
If you would like to create a Thanksgiving activity book for your own kids, and would like to use our cover page, you can view a Printable Version Here(Thank you for Pinning!)
After listening to the cd, I went online to USA Printables and found several coloring pages that matched up with the story's timeline.  Just print the pages you prefer and place them in timeline order in the booklet. Then, to enhance the lessons, I added several additional activity sheets for the older students. Here are just a few of the pages that I was able to print (for free!) from ABC Teach:
Crossword Puzzles
Venn Diagrams
Themed Essay Paper
Word Searches
Memory Games
Word Scrambles
(There are so many more!)

In addition to our booklets this year, we will be viewing a You Tube clip from the Plimoth Plantation website on the early Pilgrim settlements. (Note: "Plimoth" is spelled correctly.  We often see it spelled "Plymoth," but not in the case of this historical venue. I'm trying to avoid a slew of comments kindly informing me of my spelling errors, can you tell??)
Here's the link to their website: 
Virtual Field Trip at Plimoth Plantation.
If your children enjoy listening to recorded stories, they will love the dramatic representation of Squanto from Focus on the Family Radio Theatre.  The recording can be purchased in CD form from Focus or Amazon, or you can upload the MP3 version from Focus or iTunes.

After a little browsing on Pinterest, I found a few ideas that I think will help make this Thanksgiving an even more memorable one for our kids:
Indian teepee cupcakes from These Are a Few of My Favorite Things. Aren't they cute??
This is one of the most unique ideas I've seen for Thanksgiving yet! My boys will love making these Mayflower dinner bread boats from Moore Minutes.
 These Pilgrim Hats from Woman's Day are fun and easy (strong emphasis on easy).
I love the idea of creating a Thanksgiving Tree from Simply Vintage Girl .  A simple, yet lovely way to display your family's notes of gratitude.
Don't you just love all of the free printables being created by so many fabulous bloggers out there?  I'm going to frame this one from Craftily Ever After and use it to spice up my buffet on Thanksgiving.

How will you be spending Thanksgiving this year? Do you have any special family traditions that you enjoy? Please share!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

When All My Tights Runneth Over - What I (Had to) Wear Sunday

Happy Sunday, ya'll!! I'm sitting in the sunshine, with my feet propped up, enjoying an afternoon va-cay from the kitchen as the boys pull KP for me, post mega-brunch, which included a finale of donuts (compliments of dad)....donuts I should not have eaten but couldn't resist dunking in my cozy cup of joe.  Mmmmmm!

One of the boys made a "boys tunes" playlist on the computer, and whenever a massive chore is due, they crank it up, and cleaning gets kicked into high gear.  I love it!  There's nothing like seeing your sons slop suds while jamming out to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" - it's quality entertainment!

I hate to admit it, but I was the reason Steve had to break all the road rules to get us to mass on time this morning.  Rising early as usual to get the Sunday morning routine prepped, I had planned to throw together a skirt, tights, heels or boots combo and call it good, but wouldn't you know, almost every pair of my tights had holes or runs in them.

Oh, holy HELLen.

I must have been suffering from temporary visual impairment last year when packed them all away for the summer.

After four lightening speed outfit changes, the holes in my tights were wearing holes in my patience. I needed another shower.  It's like an aerobic workout getting in and out of those suckers. The only pair that wasn't shredded was a black and grey argyle pair, circa 2004, that probably should be demoted to the Halloween costume box. Finally, I conceded to wearing pants, which I'm not a big fan of wearing to church (no judgement, ya'll, it's just my personal preference).
We still made it to mass on time. Thanks be to God, my husband can maneuver our wagon like he's behind the wheel of a Ferrari on the Audubon.  For good measure, I gave the chillins a healthy splash of holy water on the way and prayed for our guardian angels to ward off any sirens. We screeched into the parking lot with 3 minutes to spare!
 Blouse: Maurices
Trousers: Ann Taylor Loft
Cardigan: Marshalls
My Favorite Shoes Ever: Anthropologie 

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Campers, The Shredder & The Snuggler - 7 QT Friday

Hello, Friends! How has your week been?? Great, I hope.  I haven't been blogging much, since we're having internet connection issues, so today's 7 QT's is a nice little summary of (most) everything that's been happening in our neck of the woods.  Have a wonderful weekend!!

- 1. - 
Three Flew the Coop to Go Camping 
Last Saturday, Steve, Benedict, Andrew and Steve's Dad headed to a remote location in Colorado to go camping.  I was very excited for them, but let's just say I wasn't thrilled.  And, that's only because I'm afraid of bears and mountain lions and anything that could chew on my children. But, I sent them out the door anyway, hoping that maybe they would come home a day or two early, hungry and tired, needing my arms, a hot meal and a warm bath.  Dream on, honey.  They not only survived the cold and the bears and feeding themselves, but they wanted to stay until Saturday.  The second they came in the door last night, all of the boys tackled each other. Literally.  Then came all of the crazy stories and the souvenirs....

- 2. -
Let me tell you how much fun it was to stumble into the kitchen and find the remnants of a squirrel parked by the coffee maker this morning.  Uuggghhh.  Really? What are we going to do with that thing?? I'm just waiting for one of the boys to tack it to the living room wall. While Ben and Andrew would have preferred to hunt deer and elk, they didn't have their hunter's safety licenses, and so their hunting ventures were reduced to little critter quests.  Ben was so proud to bring home a squirrel pelt for Henry as a souvenir, and Henry was so thrilled with the gift you would have thought it was Christmas morning!

- 3. -
Leafly Love
Every fall I look forward to the day when I can grab a cup of tea, a cozy sweater and a lawn chair and sit and watch the boys play in the leaves for hours.  We have a nice sturdy oak in our front yard, but it's been slow to give up it's leaves, so yesterday, George grabbed a big bucket and robbed the neighbor's yards theirs, just so Charlie would have some to play in. And, play he did!

- 4. -
Pink Polka Dot Perfection
Getting a surprise package in the mail is always such a huge treat - especially when it's from your sister and her family - AND that surprise is a brand new pink polka dolt fleece blanket from Lands End.  It's butter soft ya'll.  It's also a big baby magnet.  It took an army of kids screaming "MOM!!! The toilet is overflowing, and I think it's poop!!" to peel me off of that couch. Sadly, that's how it happened. C'est la vie.

- 5. -
Praises for Panera
While Steve and the oldest two were off searching playing Man vs. Wild in the mountains, the boys and I tried to have a little fun of our own here at home.  One day for lunch I hung up my apron and let Panera Bread cook for us.  The boys were especially polite that day.  They walked right up to the counter, greeted the cashier, placed their order with pleases and thank-you's and sugar coated it with some adorable toothless grins.  While they skipped off to the soda station, the cashier says this to me, "Your boys are so incredibly polite and gracious.  Would you like to have a free cup of coffee on the house?" This was a hallelujah moment, people!  After years of drill sergeant stare-downs and threats in the car moments before waltzing in to every restaurant finally paid off.  Best cup of coffee EVER!!

- 6. - 
The Shredder
This is our 5th copy of Go Dog Go.  Seriously, every time I go to Sam's Club, I scour the tables for any copy of this little gem, because out of the 100's of books we have in the boys' library, this is the one they read over and over again as toddlers, and it always ends up shredded.  Charlie will not to sleep without a pile of books in his bed, but, unfortunately, he likes to rip out the pages, throw them over the rail and watch them flutter down to the ground. I don't have the heart to take them away from him, and one can only have so many board books.  So, I just buy a lot of tape and let him "read" 'til his heart's content.  I love that he is fascinated with books. Every day I find him in some corner of the house with a pile of books pouring over the pages.  And, every day, one of the boys yells, "Mom! Charlie is shredding!" Due to the uncontrollable shredding, we are currently in library/bookstore exile.

- 7. -
Sad to See the Season End
Tomorrow will be the first Saturday in weeks that we won't spend a good part of the day on the sidelines watching Ben and Andrew play Cougar football.  I'm a little sad to see the season end, as it really was such an incredible time for our entire family, and a great opportunity to get to know many of the wonderful people here in our new community. (More football season photos and highlights here!).  But, something exciting is always around the corner - basketball and wrestling are up next, and I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Football is a Family Affair ~ This Season's Highlights

Can you hear me sniffling?? I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but last Saturday Ben and Andrew played in their final football games of the season, and I'm still feeling a wee bit sad knowing it's over. I know it's pitiful, but you have to believe that my emotions are NOT stemming from some crazy love for the game itself or for the fact that my heart swells just seeing the boys out on the field.  The reason for my sadness is that the past 7 weekends have been so dad-gum much fun, I don't want it to end!

The simple truth is I was surprised at the unexpected way that something as ordinary as youth football, an activity that we almost did not let the top two participate in, has brought our family together even closer, and it's THAT VERY togetherness has filled my heart with so much joy!
Sometimes it's really difficult for kids to be involved in various activities, especially sports, without those ventures causing separation within a family.  Parents and children are split up, running like crazy in different directions at different speeds with different goals and ambitions (For me, personally, that's not my idea of fruitful family life.).  I have written in the past about youth sports - everything from balancing schedules to dealing with over-zealous coaches, but more importantly how sports, with the proper guidance, can be a great opportunity for kids to learn virtue, to develop strong self-esteem, and to appreciate the value of hard work and dedication, all things that we hope will transfer into other areas of life outside the sporting world.
One of the blessings of our recent move is that we live just a few minutes from the high school where Ben and Andrew had practice each week. While they practiced, Steve and I had time to play with the rest of the gang, or to sneak in a quick jog around the track, while the younger ones were content to dig in the long jump sand pit or ride their bikes around the bleachers.

On game days, we were able to attend nearly every event together as a family.  The little ones were thrilled at the chance to run around carefree with their friends, and on occasion would also help Steve move the chains during a game, or tag along with me while I took pictures.
The sweet sound of Henry, George and Charlie cheering on their big bros never got old.  To top off their endless enthusiasm, after every game, they would bound over to Ben and Andrew shouting, "Way to go! You played awesome!"  Being outdoors in the beautiful fall weather, watching each boy relish in all of the fun to be had, feasting on snacks, making new friends and celebrating victories made this season's journey a positive experience for our entire family.

The whole thing may sound a little bit idealistic, but of course it wasn't.  There were plenty tear-your-hear out tantrums, mad-dash searches for lost uniforms, and healthy doses of whining (most of which happened just trying to herd the crew out the door to get to the games on time). But, what I remember - what I choose to remember - and what I want the boys to look back and remember about the season, are the moments that were overflowing with goodness, and those moments were many.
I always have great intentions to take with each new season of sports, but I keep running into the same problem - you have to hold still to to capture the perfect image - this is a issue for me, especially when the boys are sacking the QB or leading the charge into the end zone! This is the best of what I captured this season:
Benedict played several positions on the defensive team, and ended the season with a record of 5 - 2. He enjoys everything about football on and off the field.  If I have any questions about the game, he's my walking encyclopedia of football facts. I see him in a suit one day anchoring at ESPN!

Ready to block.

Ben's got Mr. Miyagi Focus. Wax on, wax off. Hello? Karate Kid? Long live the 80's.

Andrew's team also finished the season 5-2.  He held the outside linebacker position on the defensive team for the entire season, but was also great sub on the offensive line, and even had the opportunity to run the ball a few times, and he ran it well, most of the time right into the end-zone! Andrew is convinced that he will play college football for K-State after which he'll become a chaplain for the Green Bay Packers. Football and the priesthood, right on.
Takin' it to the end zone!
I wish I would have counted Andrew's tackles this season.  He had so many. 
Blitzing the QB was his favorite.
Blocking the pass.

A.K.A. chief snack coordinator/consumer and cutest cheerleader ever.  This kid can go with the flow like nobody's business. After a couple of games he knew exactly what to expect.  The moment very moment we stepped out of the parking lot and into the stadium, he would start to cheer, "Go Andrew, go Andrew!" or "Go Ben, go Ben!"
One of his favorite moves is to get down in the three-point stance and shout, "Down, set, hut-hut!" Unless, of course, he's holding a ring-pop that was purchased for him illegally by an older brother at the junk stand, which tends to throw his charisma off a bit. The cute factor is still pretty high, though.
Popcorn is the babysitting boss.  It usually keeps Charlie occupied until half-time, therefore any brother who steals the popcorn is subject to permanent snack shack suspension.
It's possible he gets his chugging skills from his mother. Bottom's up! (The hot chocolate drool is too much!)
I have to lump these two together, because they were two peas in a pod at every game.  I think they watched approximately 8 minutes of football the entire season. Both preferred to socialize with other kids and seek adventure outside the bleachers, which was a-okay with us. Just one of the perks of living in a small town with the most amazingly good and kind people.  I can actually relax just a little bit!
One of Benedict's games was played on a field that lied adjacent to a milo field.  On the edge of the field was a path of soft brome grass that had just been swathed - the perfect place for a mama bunny to nest her babies!
As soon as the boys discovered the nest, all of the children came running, and everyone wanted to take one home, including George.  I just hope the mama returned to the nest and did not abandon the babies after they had been held by the kiddos.
Now that football season is over, we have a couple of weeks to catch our breath.  Then, it's on to wrestling and basketball! Ready or not, here we come!


Friday, October 18, 2013

How I "Accidentally" bought a Machete For My 11 Year Old & Other Random Confessions

Oh my, oh, MY!! Where did this week go?? I don't know about you, but sometimes I would actually love for a week to feel long or at least long-er than this week, so that I don't feel so robbed of my life by all of the crazy business.  I'd like to just sit and savor instead of sprint. How about you??

Here's my "Seven Quick Takes" for the week:

- 1. -
On Sunday, Steve and the older boys went to Cabela's to pick up a few things for their big camping trip.  After being gone for over FOUR HOURS they finally called me to say they were finished.  When we met up that evening for supper (because they were starrrrving and exhausted from pushing a heaping cart around all day), I just looked at them all and said, "Mmmm, hmmmm.  Just a few things, huh?" (You know I'm envisioning a little "few things" shopping opportunity of my own, yes?) After I listened (unsympathetically) to Steve groan over how exhausting it was to compare products, search for the best deals and keep the kids together the entire time, I realized he was having a revelation about how difficult it's been for me all these years to shop with kids. Poor guy, his idea of shopping is running into Quick Trip to grab a bag of sunflower seeds and a bottle of water!  Afterwards we were laughing about how funny it would have been for a Cabela's associate to come over the intercom and announce, "Mr. Husband, you have reached our 4 hour and 6 shopping carts limit.  Please report to customer service immediately."  {Snicker}
- 2. -
After the big four hour trek around Cabela's, Andrew, who is an avid pocket knife collector, came to me and asked if he could order a knife from the Cabela's website.  He very politely explained that the store did not have the knife he wanted for the camping trip in stock, and that DAD said it would be OKAY if I ordered it.  Sure. No biggie.  Andrew found the knife online, handed me his hard earned money as payment, and skipped off. In an inattentive hurry, assuming he had already shown the knife to Steve, I placed the order.  Three days later a very LONG box from Cabela's appeared on our door step.  Hmmmmm, I'm thinking that's not a pocket knife in there.
When I placed the order, what I failed to investigate was:
 1.  The description of the knife - Gerber Gator Jr. MACHETE.  I just bought my son a MACHETE. {Scream}  And,
2. The actual dimensions of the knife.  "Jr." my fanny!  What a misleading description.  THIS is a JR. Machete??
I intended to snap this photo for comparison sake with just the machete and the bunny (poor bunny). Then, Charlie bounced into the pic, and, well, now you can obviously see how enormous that thing is AND that ordering the machete/saber/sword/scythe was a slight parenting oversight on my part - which is why the knife is currently still in it's package and hidden in our gun safe. Our son, Ben, tried to ease my anxiety over the whole situation by trying to convince me that it would be prudent to keep it for a future camping trip to the Amazon.  Oh, Nelly.....

- 3. -
Are you tired of the camping stories yet? Okay, good.  I actually love to camp, but this time it's boys only. Steve has always dreamed of taking the boys adventure camping, where you basically set up camp out in the middle of no-where and go into survival mode for several days. The time for them to do that is finally here.  I'll be staying home with the little ones and praying that the bears stay far, far away from the rest of the crew. A few weeks ago, Steve and I stumbled across this clip of Jim Gaffigan talking about camping.  He made us laugh so hard, I had to share it with ya'll!

- 4. -
Now for some other random stuff.  Does anyone else out there have a child who refuses to wear underwear? I've got a Mr. Commando in my house.  He only wears underwear when he puts on his Wranglers (can you say chaffing?? Yikes!).  Otherwise, everything else seems to be completely comfortable for him to wear with buff buns. If I catch him without undies, he will usually put them on upon request, but not without a major eye roll and some huffing and stomping to his room to grab a fresh pair of Lego Ninjago briefs.  Yesterday, I overheard this little conversation between Henry and George:
Henry: Life was so much better when I was a baby, 
because I could just be naked all the time.
George: Well, Henry, you never wear underwear, 
and that's kind of the same thing as being naked.
Henry: Yah, but Mom hates it when I don't wear my underwear.
George: She gets so mad at you. She calls you Mr. Commando.
Henry: I know. One of these days I'm going to have to give it all up and just put the stupid underwear on.

- 5. -
If you don't already read Kathryn's blog, Team Whitaker, you really should go and visit her sometime. She shared a very personal post this week about embracing another baby after enduring a difficult medical journey with their precious son, Luke.  Her words are beautiful and inspiring!

6.  What am I going to do while the boys are camping? I started making a list this week, which includes: Go apple picking with the younger boys, take naps when they nap (woo-hoo!), creatively arrange a wall of family pictures, and bake lots of bread.  I have a mega BOSCH bread machine that mixes the dough, and then I simply divide it, shape it and bake it.  Would you believe me if I told you that I can literally make 6 loaves of bread in 30 minutes (minus baking time)??  I'm thinking that I might have to blog about this, and the wonderful bread recipe book that I use to bake all year long.
7.  Saving the best for last.....I have GREAT news about my mom's breast cancer prognosis! This week she learned that she is NOT a carrier of the BRCA genes (hallelujah!). Her lymph nodes test also came back very positive.  She has only a very, very tiny speck that has metastasized in the lymph nodes yet can thankfully be treated with radiation and oral chemo, which she will take over the course of the next five years. Knowing that she will not need to endure chemo or a mastectomy is an enormous relief.  We all have a tremendous amount of hope that he will beat this!

Thank you all for your prayers and loving concern that you have shared with me and my mom over the past few weeks. She is strengthened and encouraged by your faithfulness!  I thank God every day that the cancer was discovered at such an early stage and that Mom is being cared for by a team of amazingly talented and compassionate physicians. We are truly blessed!!

Have a great weekend, everyone!!