Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What We're Reading Wednesday ~ When My Eyes Are Open

Well, hello Wednesday! We're half-way through the week, and I am so happy to finally wake up this morning liberated from the curse of this crazy sore throat/ear-ache thing that's had me down and cranky for the past few days.  Since teaching, really talking period, has felt like I have a lawn mower in my throat, school work has been kept to a minimum, and reading taken over as subject of necessity. Despite being somewhat handicapped in the teaching department, I am pleased to report that my sign language and facial expression skills, as an effective means of communication, are sharp as ever - particularly the eagle eye/stone cold stare/eye brow arch, karate chop combo.

The fact that our troops are great readers, really does make me very happy.  I, too, love to read, I'm just in this awkward phase right now (is a phase really a phase if it's lasted for four years?) where reading works like NyQuil plus hypnosis on my brain. I open the book, ready to be inspired and enlightened, and before I can turn the page, I've turned into a bobble head rapidly spiraling into taco neck, and the kids are shooting paper wads at me (or sneaking gum from the pantry). Bandits.

Long gone are the days when I could stay up until 2:00 a.m. reading A Tale of Two Cities under the covers by flashlight. I miss those days. I really hope they come back.  Perhaps after these children stop needing me and my mad laundry/culinary/refereeing/trampoline skills.
Since reading is the topic for the day, I thought I'd share with you our current literary picks.  First up, Andrew.  On any given day day, if you're looking for this boy, more than likely he's reading a book somewhere quiet.  Books are to Andrew as chocolate is to his mama - meant to be devoured. Last weekend, at his wrestling meet, while most kids were playing video games or listening to music on their Beats headphones, my guy was reading to pass the time between matches. He is loving the The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which he says is far better than the movie, because it has so many more interesting details that he can't believe Hollywood "forgot about".
As a Kindergartner, Henry is just beginning his reading journey.  Teaching our children to read is one of my greatest joys. The experience never gets old.  Every time their faces light up with delight, realizing that they have just mastered a new word or phrase, is as exciting for me as it is for them.  Henry is cruising through the BOB Books by Bobby Lynn Maslen, a supplemental reading set that I use to enrich our kindergarten curriculum.  His incentive to master each box of books is, at the completion of each one, a trip to the quick shop for a treat of his choice.  As of yesterday, he wants beef jerky and an Icee. Delightful.
I wish I could say that George's heart beats like mad for books, but that would send me to the confessional. Once he gets into a story, he's good to go. The challenge is getting him to park his bottom somewhere long enough to get past the first page.  This duty has been lessened given that the cold temps have kept the kids inside snuggled up around the fireplace playing games and reading. Some days wrestling a steer seems easier than holding down George's attention to a focus, but  The House on the Cliff, by Franklin Dixon, one of the Hardy Boys series, is doing a pretty good job of it here lately.  Isn't his robe a scream? If you know my George, the flames are a totally appropriate expression of his personality (thank you, Grandma!).
Now that our oldest son, Benedict, is going to school, I really do miss seeing him in all of the pics that I snap of the boys during the school day.  This is the boy that rises at the first sound of his alarm in the morning, makes his own breakfast, and allows himself just enough time to read - yes read - before it's time for me to take him to the bus stop.  He's actually my alarm - it's the crash of the toaster banging on the kitchen counter like a gong that gets me going in the morning. I'm so thankful for him!
As a thoughtful, contemplative soul, Ben is very particular about what he reads. He has really enjoyed all of the books in The Youngest Templar Series.  I don't think they are as challenging as many of the books he has read, but the story line, for him, is quite captivating.
You didn't think I'd forget Mr. Chuckles, did you?  Without fail, if we're reading, he's reading. His cute little routine is to cha-cha-cha down the steps to the boys' library, drag up as many books as his chubby fingers can grip and wherever he lands, scan every page 1,000 times.
Now that Henry is reading aloud to me, Charlie likes to sit next to him and repeat every word as if he's reading too.  And, of course he must be praised as well.  When he's finished, he bursts into cheer, clapping and shouting, "Good job, Henry! Good job Charlie!" (Preciousness!)
I love to watch the little ones as their pudgy little fingers work so hard to turn the pages, making sure they only turn one at a time.  Then, just as they find a page that looks familiar, their eyes light up as if they have just discovered a dear old friend.  

Books can be like that, can't they? Like dear old friends?

As for me, when I can keep my eyelids propped open, the boys and I are really enjoying Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as our afternoon read-aloud.  It's is a curious combination of Chinese folklore and fantasy, a story that keeps the boys asking for me to "read on!"
In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.
{Summary taken from The Book Smugglers}
A couple of weeks ago, I finished The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts.  If you are drawn to biographical works that are inspiring and uplifting, this one will not disappoint.  Letts successfully weaves Henry de Leyer's present life as a Dutch immigrant and his relationship with an unlikely show horse, Snowman, with his past memories and experiences as a victim of war.  A documentary of Snowman is due to be released sometime this year.  You can see clips of Harry and his champion horse on You Tube.

Do you have a favorite read aloud that your 
kids have enjoyed? Please share!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What I Wore {to the Emergency Room} Sunday

Earlier this afternoon, I had taken a break from writing to go unearth a book from our library that I knew contained a quote that I just had to include in this post.  Seconds into my search, I heard a *very* loud thud, followed by a blood curdling scream, followed by four more screams and shouts of "Oh, NO!" and "Charlie, Charlie" and then, "MOOOOMMMM!!!"

Steve and I broke through the house with urgency, and found our sweet Charlie lying on the carpet, blood streaming down his forehead, surrounded by a teary-eyed team of frightened brothers.  I knew, without looking, that we were heading to the E.R.  Despite the chaotic emotions of the moment, Andrew managed to explain that Charlie ran through the middle of a pillow fight and a poof of flying fluff propelled him forward - smack into the corner of our buffet.
Sleeping sweetly in daddy's arms, waiting for stitches.
We scooped Charlie up in our arms and rushed out the door leaving behind a sad and worried bunch of boys who would wait anxiously all afternoon for our return.

There was a moment during the stitching process, when the nurses tried to comfort me, unable to ignore the teardrops that rained down from my cheeks on to the sheet wrapped tightly around such a brave little soul.  They kept saying how lucky we are to have five sons who have never had any broken bones, who had only seen stitches twice. If they only knew how my heart failed miserably to accept their words, thinking only of how every little wound my children endure hurts me a thousand times infinity.
Two hours and eight stitches later, we were home and, to our surprise, Charlie was back to being his sweet and silly self, requesting to be dressed in footie jammies and black dress shoes so that he could go outside and play with the troops who had sent him to stitches.  Boys are so forgiving, so forgetful.  I love that about them so very much.


Downton Abbey and a splash of wine tonight? Yes. Yes, please.

So.....What I wore today....
Hallelujah, baby!! We're half-way!!
 |  Dress: Old Navy  |  Scarf: The Feathered Nest  |  
|  Boots: Franco Sarto from Zappos  |
|  Earrings:  Francesca's  |  Bracelet:  The Buckle  |

I was very inspired by the readings today.

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great LIGHT; 
Those who live in a dark land, the LIGHT will shine on them.
~ Isaiah 9:2

The Lord is my LIGHT and my Salvation. 
~ Psalm 27:1

...the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, a LIGHT has risen. 
~ Matthew 4:16

The beautiful connections between the gospel, psalm, and the old testament reading, for me, was a confirmation that the Lord is speaking to my heart (with repetition!), not only at Mass but also through a scripture study, hosted by A Holy Experience, that I started last week called The Jesus Project .
This was our memory verse for the week.  Perfect for Steve and I to tuck into our memory, as we take each day in faith, one step at a time, navigating a dark and uncertain time in our lives.

God is so good.  Even in the darkness, he does not leave us to wonder alone.

I encourage you to make the Jesus Project a part of your week.  This Wednesday Ann will post a new memory verse and reflection for week #3.  Let's be inspired and encouraged together!!

Have a great week, my friends!

Friday, January 24, 2014

I Love it When Running and Jesus Meet! {7 Quick Takes Friday}

Earlier this week, I began writing a post for today, just something simple, as basketball games and doctor appointments had left little time for me to construct anything relatively enlightening, and potty training has hijacked my sense of humor until the tighty whities rule.  Practical posts aren't necessarily my favorite to author, but because there are about 2 or 10 of you, my dear readers, who actually dig the practicals, I'm your gal!

Thanking God that I can still run...farther than the mailbox or away from the male offspring most likely to nail me with a Nerf Gun (it's their way of saying, "I love you"), I thought I might whip up a lil' list of running essentials for the post, a few good things that keep me cruisin' all year long.

But then.....

My sister-in-law forwarded a beautiful post to me from A Holy Experience (she knows me well!), and it literally left me on my knees.  Thanks to her, I've been thinking about this man for a good day and a half now:
{Photo and story can be found at A Holy Experience Blog}
And, I've been praying even harder about Ann's inspiring reflection of Cliff Young, a 61 year old farmer and his unlikely, unexpected victory in a 544 mile ultra marathon competition (that he signed up for just for fun, to see if he could finish. Without having trained. Lawd, Lawd.)  It would be pointless for me to summarize such an incredible story here, when Ann has already mastered the art of story telling. I shy away, as well, from the attempt at an articulate expression of the impact that this magnificent account of courage and humility has had on my spiritual life...and on my "running" life as well. Perhaps later.

Investing a few minutes of your time into Ann's Post "How to Get Through The Dark Places" will either leave you scouring the internet for a great pair of muck boots, or it will bring you back here to Pin my list of essentials, because you've never wanted to run ever before in your life....until now. (I hope it's now!)  Either way, I promise you'll love it...and want to share it with your family and friends, whether you're a runner or not.

If exercise is already part of your weekly routine, you probably already have a nice little stash of tops and bottoms that can easily cross over into running, so, for that reason, I haven't included any specific apparel on my list.  
Amphipod Hydraform handheld water bottle is the bottle I use on my shorter runs (4-8 miles).  Being well hydrated before you run is extremely important, but unfortunately, most of us head out the door without even considering hydration.  A handheld bottle is a great insurance policy. For longer runs, I like the Nathan Speed 2 Waistpack . Since your muscles are 80% water, you can bet that taking a few sips along the way will ensure a more energized run.

Nuun electrolyte enhanced drink tabs are all that I use for electrolyte replacement, which is important for everyone who exercises at a vigorous level for at least an hour or more.  Gatorade, Powerade and similar drinks aren't an option for me (a few reasons why).

Asics Gel Nimbus 15 running shoes have been my shoe of choice for the past 10 years, because it's the shoe that fits my foot the best.  Finding the right shoe is imperative before you begin any sport.  Remember, when it comes to running, it's fit over fancy.
* You can read more about how to find your perfect shoe here.  *
Remember that your running shoes are for running, and aren't meant to be worn all day long and then to be run in.  The mid-sole of your shoes need at least 24 hours to decompress between runs.  What shoes do I wear when I'm not running? Asics Gel Lyte33 are my ultra comfort shoes for cross training, walking and for long days of football games and wrestling tournaments.

Wearing a hat when you run is a great way to keep your hair out of your eyes and to give your face a bit of sun protection as well.  I am so glad that many companies are making hats with reflective material for early morning/evening runs when there is little sunlight. Brooks High Visibility Running Hat is my favorite so far.  It's light, comfortable, moisture-wicking and easy to throw into the washer after a sweaty run.

The Garmin Forerunner might be a bit of a splurge, but I cannot imagine training for any race, or staying motivated to meet a PR without it.  When I'm not training, it's nice to be able to run free in any direction without having to mentally calculate the miles, since the watch does it for me.

Whether you're a runner or not, wearing protective eye wear whenever outdoors is very important for long term eye health. Over the years I've worn everything from Oakley's to the inexpensive C9 line from Target.  The better lenses are often pricier, but they also afford great clarity and eye coverage, allowing the eyes to relax in sun exposure. Optic Nerve Omnium PM sunglasses are an affordable brand that perform well. Although I've never owned a pair myself, I have heard great things about Tifosi who also makes an affordable line for runners.

Next to finding your perfect pair of shoes, wearing a superior pair of socks is the best way to protect your feet from the pavement pounding. Thorlo Socks are my absolute favorite.  They are soft, durable, hold their shape, and best of all they are made right here in the U.S.A.  Added bonus: you can try a pair for FREE!!! Check out their website for more details.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

They're Not Afraid of a Little Snow - March On, My Friends!

If you watch the news at all today, or catch the headlines online, more than likely you will not hear much, if anything at all, about the March for Life being held at our nation's capital, and at many state capitals across the country.  Coverage of this incredible event will be minimal at best, and historically the coverage is completely inaccurate (yawn - surprise). Reporters may tell you that the number of pro-life and pro-choice representatives are the same, giving preferential coverage to the small number of pro-choice marchers, while completely ignoring the sea of pro-life marchers assembled joyfully and prayerfully behind them.  I know this from first hand experience.  I've been there, I witnessed it all, I've marched and I cannot describe how awe-inspiring it is to participate.

In a 30 second "news" bite, reporters manage to make their horribly inaccurate visual calculations sound legitimate (because no one really cares anyway, right?), reporting the pro-life numbers to be in the thousands, but despite their fact-checking failures (what they need is a reality check), truth always manages to surface above the bias that the numbers are not in the thousands, but hundreds of thousands.  During my college years of participation, the estimated number was somewhere around 650,000 (!!!!) and I can only imagine that it has grown since then.
I am so proud of the Benedictine college students from Atchison, KS, who are leading the march this year in memory of the 50 million babies who have been aborted since Roe vs. Wade became law in 1973, and for every single baby who waits in the womb of his mother to be welcomed into the world.

I am inspired by these students, who think nothing of weathering hours in the cold after a 25 hour non-stop bus trip. Amazing.  I remember that bus trip well! Long, uncomfortable, exhausting, and unforgettably wonderful at the same time.  I made life-long friends along the road between Kansas and D.C., and, like so many others, those friendships were forged in one united flame - the flame of the fire for life.  Steve and I stayed up last night and discussed the possibility of taking our family next year, something we've always dreamed of doing....I think the time is near!

I hope that you will join me today in praying for them, in praying for the the people of our nation and our government leaders.  In the end, it doesn't really matter if the law favors abortion, what matters is that women feel free in truth to make the decision, uninfluenced by the law, to say yes to life.  What matters is that we establish a law in this land that is far above the written law, and that is the law of love.  A love that that WE as Americans live, a love that supports all pregnant women with compassion, prayers, encouragement, financial assistance, authentic friendship and an unwavering dedication to help them see their decision for life through.

Want to see how the pro-life movement has been working in the defense of life over the past 40 years, and how they are growing in number and strength?? Leave it to the great people of Texas (man, I love 'em!) to show us:

"I have come that they might have LIFE and have it to the full." 
- John 10:10

More Resources:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Motivate Me Monday Vol. 2 ~ Breaking Bad(ly) Needed

Catchy title, eh?? Since the series Breaking Bad was all the rage for a while (maybe it still is?) , I decided to give in to cyber peer pressure and give it a whirl, but the whirl wound down fast, and I only made it through 5 episodes before I decided to take up another Jane Austen novel.
Today's MMM post was written in response to a request from my long time friend, Jolynn: Here is what she shared:

How `bout a post on when it slows down! There are only 3 little people under this roof and I find I NEVER sit. If I'm not prepping a meal (read slapping together a PB&J), I'm cleaning up after one, changing a diaper, prepping for the next meal, gluing a broken toy back together, finding something for the little ones to play with that doesn't involve a "he took my toy" fight, all the while checking the clock on the countdown til the hubby's home.....just to name a few. You know the drill.

Whether you have one child or ten, every mother has experienced moments in her life when she's felt like waving the white flag of surrender. No doubt about it, there's nothing easy about being a mom, whether you stay home or juggle a career on top of it, and finding time for ourselves can often be as difficult as tackling our daily list of daily duties.

With five little guys constructing a laundry pile that would fill the Grand Canyon each week, their non-stop aerobic activity tapping out my energy reserves, and their innocent boyish boogers 'n grunt habits grinding my nerves down to a pulp, I know how important it is to make time for breaks here and there, just to ensure I stay more Mary Poppins than Cruella-ish.
But, as you know, finding time for yourself is easier said than done.  Over the past 14 years, I've discovered how to squeeze a little quiet time into each day as well as let go of the guilt over getting away for a few hours each week, or at least a couple of times a month.  Do thoughts of an escape signal the guilt march? We all do that guilt thing. The "I'm a bad mom if I leave my child for five minutes" thing.  Yeah, let's just go ahead and get over that, because it's pointless.  You need a an occasional break, and that's not unreasonable, in fact it's wise. Here are a few of my best suggestions for making time for yourself and gaining peace and confidence, rather than guilt, along the way:

- 1 -
First and foremost, sit down and talk to your spouse, one-on-one, about your need (yes, this is a need, not just a want) to have a time during the week (or as you see fit) that you can count on to have alone to yourself. Be honest with him about your feelings, but don't whine about all of the things you have to do, or why being covered in spit up and finger paint all day doesn't make you feel much like a princess. And, please, don't compare his schedule/demands to yours. That's a no-no, and it will get you nowhere.  In fact, I suggest putting on some lipstick and holding his hand while you share your needs, all the while reminding him that you are so happy that he can help you make this little scheduled vay-cay dream come true (are you following me??).

Note: At the end of the day doesn't matter if your husband understands this particular need or not. (I don't really understand why my husband needs to go out with the guys to rehydrate himself with beer after he plays basketball with his buddies, but I'm his cheerleader, right?)  Remind him that you just need his love and support in this matter.  When you come home more cheerful, energized and interested in HIM, he won't need any other explanation!

Perhaps your spouse would be willing to take the children for a few hours during an evening once a week, or every-other-week, if his schedule permits.  If so, try to have the house picked up and supper ready when he gets home (a great time to whip out the crock pot), so that he can have quality time with the kids while you're gone.  Remember, the more enjoyable the evening is for him, the more enjoyable it will be for you, and the more likely you will be to count on it as a repeat success, which is your goal, right?

- 2 -
If your husband's work schedule or outside commitments does not allow him to help you out, discuss with him the possibility of hiring a babysitter if your budget allows.  If you are able to find someone whom you have confidence in, set up a consistent scheduled time for them to come to your home.  This will help eliminate last-minute cancellations and disappointments.

If you are nervous about having a babysitter watch your children, and if the individual is someone that your children have spent little or no time around, there are a couple of things you can do to help make the experience more positive for everyone.  First, invite the babysitter over for lunch and some play time with the kids.  This will give everyone a chance to get to know each other better, and the children won't feel as though they're being left with a stranger.  Second, before the babysitter arrives, have a special craft, activity or game planned and set it out for the babysitter to do with the children while you are gone.  This will help eliminate the possibility of the television becoming the babysitter.

- 3 -
If hiring a babysitter isn't an option, consider approaching a friend about doing a child swap. Several years ago, when we had three little ones, I did this once a month with a good friend of mine.  We took turns watching each another's children while the other person had the entire afternoon free - a fabulous four hour break! Be considerate and stick to the agreed time out, and offer to bring a snack for all of the kids to enjoy while you're gone.

I really prefer the "child swap" option over asking a grandparent to babysit.  We love, love, love our grandparents and want them to have as much time as possible with our kids, but we never want them to feel that they are only wanted if they can be helpful by watching the kids.  If the grandparents in your family insist on watching the kids for you, to give you that much needed break each week, then be sure to reciprocate their generosity and show them your sincere thanks with dinner invitations or spontaneous visits just to say "hello" and "I love you" during non-babysitting times.

- 4 -
If none of the options that I've offered so far are a possibility for you, consider calling your local high school (or the most reputable one in your area), and asking if the students may obtain community service hours through volunteer child care.  If so, begin asking around in your social circles, bible studies, and community organizations if your friends might know of a top-notch student who is great with kids and might be looking to earn a few service hours.  You might be surprised by what a little effort in this direction might lead you!

Six years ago, this was the route I chose, and we ended up having the most amazing high school senior come and help after school for three hours once a week.  She has remained a very dear friend of our family over the years, and will be staying with us this summer to help us as we prepare for the arrival of #6!

- 5 -
No matter what you decide to do with regards to making time for yourself outside of the home, I believe that it's possible for every mom to have a few minutes during the week to herself inside the home as well.  This is much easier for me, now that I have older children at home, but even when they were little, I began a routine of having 30 minutes to 1 hour of quiet time after lunch each day.  For those children who weren't napping, they were to find a comfy spot somewhere in the living room where I would read aloud to them for 15 minutes or so, just to get them settled down. Then, I would give them the option to read on their own, color or draw pictures or rest for at least a half hour.  If they remained quiet during this time, they earned a little treat (Dum-Dum sucker, box of raisins, or points toward something bigger that they really wanted).

This routine has worked for many, many years, and I look forward to having that little bit of quiet time each day (if possible).  It's important that you use this time to sit and relax! Don't run off to do laundry or dishes or make phone, pray or rest.  This is your time to recharge before the remainder of the busy afternoon.  Part of gaining time for yourself means giving up having a perfect home.  Things may seem a little messy for a while, but as your children get older and can help with more chores, this inconvenience will be lessened.

- 6 -
Whatever time you have to yourself outside of the home is precious time indeed.  Use this time to do something that you ENJOY, not to conquer the list of errands that need to be run. I'm especially guilty of giving in to this temptation, because I really don't like to haul my kids around town for any type of shopping. But, trust me, you won't feel rejuvenated when you get home if you've spent an hour of your outing standing in line at the Wal-Mart check out.

If solitude suits you, go where you can truly have alone time alone. If social time is what you crave, plan ahead and invite friends out for lunch (wine, anyone?), join a class that teaches something you've always wanted to learn (community colleges are a great resource), one where you can meet people, or even volunteer somewhere that interests you (serving others outside the home can be surprisingly energizing!).

- 7 -
Pencil opportunities for exercise into your break if it's possible.  When we lived in a larger metro area, my favorite afternoons were ones where I could visit our church's adoration chapel for an hour of quiet prayer, then I'd seek out my favorite coffee shop and find a quiet corner to catch up on my latest book or to write, then I'd finish my time out with a jog somewhere scenic.  For me, that combination of leisure was the most relaxing and restorative.
- 8 -
I've said it once, and I'll say it again. Don't feel guilty about taking a break.  For most of us, guilt is the #1 hurdle in motherhood to get over.  We feel guilty about so many things, from not baking our kids' birthday cakes from scratch to wishing we could heal their every ailment. We feel guilty, because we want to be the best mom possible to our kids, but usually that looks a little something different than the world's ideals, than perfection.

I see my vocation as a mother as a privilege.  For me, giving my life to my husband and children is my pathway to heaven.  How can any journey toward heaven be sanctifying without suffering? Without struggle? Without sacrifice? Paradoxically, it is those very things, the crosses we bear, that make this journey of love rich, meaningful, and strong.  That being said, as moms, we must also be willing to exercise the virtue of prudence, knowing what our limits are, to have the humility to ask for help, and the courage to share our struggles with others.  Making time for ourselves, offers us not only a break from the physical demands of life, but more importantly, the much needed mental and emotional peace we need to return to our life at home with a positive and cheerful disposition, which is a precious gift to our families!

Is there a matter in life that you would like a little encouragement or motivation in?? 
I'd love to hear from you!! 
Please feel free to e-mail me, or leave your requests in the comments!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The {Unexpected} Moment That Gender Mattered

To find out, or not to find out?

That is the question of the moment.

A question that may or may not be answered tomorrow at our first sonogram. My vote is no, let's wait and let it be a surprise! Steve's vote is, let's go for it!  We're still in debate....

Whenever the question of gender comes up during any of my pregnancies, I've always responded with the conviction that Steve and I are just so thrilled to be having another baby that we happily accept the gender, the health, the entire life of the baby, in whatever way he or she comes to us. We believe that every child is a gift, just as they are, meant to be in the world, meant to be in our family, meant to be loved by us all.

I will always believe that, whole-heartedly.

But, I would be pretending if I didn't admit that there's a great part of me that wonders what it would be like to hold a baby girl in my arms.  To hear her sweet voice, and see her twirl around the room to her favorite songs, to watch a house full of boys, rough and tumble, be softened by the freshness of her feminine qualities, a mysterious wonder to a home completely dominated by testosterone.

Three years ago, at our 20 week sonogram of Charlie, Steve and I were both grinning from ear to ear, ready to see the first glimpses of our precious one.  We had agreed to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl, and waited patiently for the black and white image on the screen to declare the news.  But, I wasn't prepared for the feelings that would flood through me when the tech announced that we were going to have a boy.  I had heard those very words four times previously, and never once felt anything less than thrilled. But, this time was different....and I wasn't expecting it.  Tears came rising up, and I tried with all my might to regain some composure, hoping my emotions might go unnoticed.  Part of me was grateful, deeply grateful, that everything in the picture told us that our baby was growing healthy and strong, but this other part of me, the part that came out of nowhere, felt something of sadness and loneliness, and I couldn't understand why.

For the rest of the day, I went about our normal routine, cooking and cleaning and schooling away the lingering ache in my heart. Then, that night, while lying in bed, I rolled over toward Steve and finally felt free to let the tears flow.  Instinctively, he knew what was coming...

"Why do I feel this way? I feel so much shame right now. How can I love this baby with all my might, and yet, at the same time, feel sad that he is not a girl? That's not fair to him. He deserves all of my love and excitement and anticipation, just as the others have received it. I wasn't expecting this....this feeling of disappointment, nor the terrible feelings of guilt for feeling disappointed."

It's okay if you're throwing things at the computer right now, calling me selfish and ungrateful. Trust me, that's how I felt about myself at the time.  But, when I think back to that experience, I really wish I wouldn't have been so hard on myself.  I wasn't willfully choosing to feel disappointment, it was something I needed to work through, and in the following weeks, I found a peace within all of it.

As much as I love being completely engrossed in the lives of our boys, their wild hearts, their passion for sports and hunting, their need to be rough and loud and feisty and dirty and messy, in my feminine nature there are limits to what I can understand, enjoy and share in common with boys. It is natural then, for one to long for someone with whom they can connect, someone who shares a similar nature, and to enjoy the fellowship, the communion, the "likeness" of being with one who's nature is familiar to them.

I'll admit, there are times when I do feel a little lonely in this house.  The boys plan hunting trips with dad, they want him to throw the football around with them, and conversations about guns, tractors, trucks and other "man stuff" around the supper table is an education for me at best.  Even though I'm not one to sit on the sidelines - I'll happily get out there and play football, shoot the gun and hop on a tractor - truthfully, that's where the boys bond with their dad, it matters little to them whether I tag along or not.

There is no shame in my desire to receive the experience from the Lord of having a girl.  It's quite natural for me to wonder what it would be like to have a little princess in our family. The only shame would be if I retreated interiorly, closing myself off to my little village of boys, because I want someone besides those whom God has given to me. Thankfully, not for a split second, has that ever happened....
In fact, the very instant that Charlie (and every single one of our sons) passed from the hidden place of my womb into the visible world, I fell ever deeper in love with him.  Not a day goes by, that Steve and I don't look at each other and say, "Is it possible to be any more crazy about this kid?"  Even the older boys say that they can't help but smile when he comes into the room. Our love for him, for each of the boys, is what spawns a desire for more children - love multiplied!  Charlie charms us every day with his sweetness, and his the way he cha-cha-chas his little bottom when he runs is hysterical! We are convinced he was sent to remind the older boys to mind their manners.  He keeps us all on our polite toes! As a two year old his favorite sayings are:
No fank you.
Oh, fank you, Mommy!
Yes, pwease.
That's nice.
Of course!
Good Morning! Did you sweep good?

Being the mother of 5 boys is a rare privilege, one that I am deeply grateful for, even in the midst of the challenges and adventures.  I can't imagine my life being any other way, and I wouldn't change it for the world.  I believe that God may not exactly give us what we want, but he always gives us what we need.  These boys need me and I need them.

We'll see who wins the great debate tomorrow.  Either way, we'll be keeping the news under wraps until June.  Sorry! You'll have to wait until then to find out whether Husband #6 will come home from the hospital in pink or blue!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Motivate Me Monday: Treating Colds & Coughs Naturally

Hello there! Welcome to the first edition of Motivated Me Monday, a new serious of posts that are written to encourage our readers in positive ways in the area of healthy living.  I hope you'll leave a comment and let me know what you think, what you'd like to hear about, or with your favorite healthy living tips! Thanks for being here!
A couple of years ago, when new agencies were reporting severe warnings to parents about the use of over the counter cold and cough remedies for children under the age of 6, I really woke up and paid attention.  Often times, it's all too easy trust a product on the pharmacy shelf without actually knowing what's in it, or what sort of side-effects it may have.

One thing we can all agree on is that taking care of sick children is never easy.  It's hard to watch your little ones suffer, to see them struggle to sleep and eat, let alone play or take on any normal level of activity while feeling under the weather.  A natural response, for us as parents, is to seek out a quick fix, one that will relieve our child's discomfort and ease our own heart ache as well.

One thing I've learned over the years from experts in chiropractic, homeopathy, and nutrition, as well as from my own experience, is that the body is an amazing machine, and it has the capacity to heal itself if we give it a chance to fight by offering it a few "helpers" to boost it's power against the bad bugs.

Last week our entire family (except for my husband) was down and out with a cold, sore throat, and cough. When the symptoms for these conditions start to show, I immediately reach for my go-to cold cold and cough task force. For us, it's a regimen that really works. In a couple of days, everyone was on the mend and back their normal routine.

Note: I am not suggesting that these formulas are for everyone, nor are they your only options when it comes to easing cold/cough discomfort.  They are also NOT instant cures.  Natural healing requires consistent dosing and patience, but the effort is worth it in the end!

{The following products are not listed in any particular order.}

1. Winter Breeze Vapor Rub is one of my favorite remedies for our entire family when anyone has a cold or cough.  I prefer this natural version over Vick's, because it doesn't contain petrolatum (processed crude oil) or turpentine (a toxic chemical), and it works as well, if not better, than Vick's.  Rub it liberally on the chest, the back and the bottoms of the feet (then put socks on) before bedtime.  It's amazing!

2.  Did you know that the powerhouse of your immune system is in your gut? Keeping a healthy flora balance in your intestinal tract is one of the key essentials of vital health.  I give my kids Probiotic Power from Nature's Sunshine (there are several good brands you can buy at your local health food store or online) on an empty stomach once a day.  Taking a good probiotic is especially important if you have ever given your kids an antibiotic, or have taken one yourself.  I use the adult version of Nature's Sunshine probiotic.

3.  Zinc is a fantastic immune booster.  At the first sign of the sniffles, or even if you or your kids are feeling run down, try sucking on a zinc lozenge.  Zand Herbal Lozenges are my favorite so far. The boys also enjoy this Chewable Version from Animal Parade.  Be sure to follow the proper dosage.

4.   A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to medicinal teas as a way of improving comfort and healing during colds, coughs and sore throats.  I've been hooked ever since. The Breathe Easy formula from from Traditional Medicinal Teas is my favorite. Their Throat Coat version is also very soothing.  You can find their teas in most major grocer chains and many health food stores, which is so handy! Check out their website for teas formulated just for kids.

5.  Homeopathy is medical system that originated in Europe and is used, but not popularly accepted/practiced in the U.S. today as it is in Europe.  You can find more details online if you care to do your research, or read this short summary for a simple explanation of what homeopathy is.  I appreciate homeopathy, because it is a natural way of treating symptoms, one that doesn't interfere with your body's own ability to heal itself.  Hylands Nighttime Cold & Cough is a must for any of our kids who are suffering from cold/cough symptoms at night.  It soothes their symptoms and helps them to rest well.  They also have a daytime formula, which works wonderfully, too.

6.  Everyone knows that vitamin C is a fantastic immune system booster, but most of us don't take enough of it. There are cancer clinics in the U.S. that actually dose Vitamin C intravenously to the tune of 10,000mg. per dose! When I'm really sick, I double (sometimes triple) the recommended dose on the bottle, if it's just pure vitamin C without any other added vitamins (I prefer the Ester-C brand). The Emergen-C brand is popular in our household and a fantastic way to get more fluids while you take your vitamin C. They make a great tasting kids version that my boys love. Most pharmacies, health food stores and Wal-Mart carry it, but if you're looking more flavor and formula varieties, is a great resource.

7.  This is seriously old medicine, but drinking plenty of water every day, and especially when you're sick, is vital to the aiding the body's healing process.  When anyone in our family is down with a bug, getting them to drink plenty of fluids isn't an easy task.  I like to set out a clear glass pitcher filled with cold water and orange slices to help remind everyone to drink as much as possible.  You can read more about water's importance and also find more "flavored" water suggestions on this post.

8.  Echinacea is one herb that most of us are pretty familiar with, and if used at the onset of cold/cough symptoms can be an effective way of speeding up healing.  I like to give my kiddos Echinacea Drops formulated just for kids straight out of the bottle.  I believe it to have a remarkable effect on colds, but only if used consistently for the duration of the cold, and at the very first sign of symptoms.

9.  Did your mom ever make a homemade cough remedy for you growing up?  Mine did! I remember loving the sweet honey and lemon flavor, because it never tasted like medicine.  I make a similar version for my kids today, and it immediately calms their cough, soothes their throat. There are a lot of great varying recipes on Pinterest (ones that also include ginger, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar and more), but if you're wanting to keep it simple, this Homemade Cough and Sore Throat Relief recipe is what I use.

10.  Just being able to breathe clearly when you have a cold is a offers a huge feeling of relief. Eucalyptus Oil is the perfect way to clear nasal passages naturally.  One way to use it is to fill a bowl full of steaming hot water, add several drops of the Eucalyptus essential oil (and Peppermint Oil, too, if you have it).  Hold your head over the bowl with a towel covering your head to trap the steam and breathe deeply.  Another way to gain relief is to add several drops to warm bath water, or shake some on the floor of the shower. The vapors will help clear your sinuses.  Finally, the oil can be diluted in jojoba or olive oil and rubbed on the sinuses and/or the neck, concentrating on the sides of the neck, rubbing from the base of the head down to the trapezius muscles. (Never apply eucalyptus oil directly to the skin.)

11.  Colloidal silver is a a fantastic immune system booster that can be taken safely by adults and children every day. I love the Silver Biotics brand, because it is highly recommended by doctors and has been scientifically tested.  In addition to taking it orally, you can also add it to a nasal irrigation for added benefit. We also use it topically for ear infections, mouth sores, eye infections and more.  It is a wonder!! (While the Silver Biotics brand is formulated to make over-dosing virtually impossible, please keep it out of the reach of your children.  Because it tastes and looks like water, kids are more likely to think it is harmless to drink.)

Do you have a favorite natural remedy to share? 
Please feel free to shre your tips in the comments!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Picture-palooza Day - Also Known as 7 Quick Takes Friday

Happy Friday, everyone!! Does anyone else out there have spring fever, or is it just me?? Our entire household has had their turn enduring colds and sore throats over the past week.  Between that and the cold dreary days, spring cannot get here soon enough!!

Now a picture-palooza peek at this weeks totally normally crazy life...

{Andrew holding Mr. Pink Socks in the very uncomfortable cradle position.}
If you're new here, you might have some catching up to do when it comes to my emotional stats toward this sport.  In a nutshell: I told my husband that wrestling was the one sport our boys would NEVER do. I meant it when I said it.  I meant it so much that we are now in our fourth year of this glorified game of Twister, and I love it.  Although George decided to try his hand at basketball this year, Andrew is sticking to what he knows and loves.
Last weekend was his first tournament, a small local one, a warm-up, if you will, and he took first. We'll be up and at 'em early tomorrow, snacks packed, camera charged, deodorant twice applied for another round of excitement!

Benedict is no stranger to the game, and is having a really fun season playing for his school (more highlights to come!), but for George, everything is new to him.
I miss watching him wrestle, but I love the way he puts his heart and soul into every single game, and he's having fun along the way, which is most important at his age.

Okay, we didn't exactly take this field trip this week, but I wanted to include our adventure to the World Treasures Museum in the blog.  During the holiday vacation mommy we were in need of an outing (translation: the walls, the carpet and the furniture area beat to hell and they cannot be fixed with beer or wine), and since it was up to me where we should go, I was of course going to choose something educational! (Yay! Applause!)
Every boy (except Charlie, he was busy sneaking off) participated in the treasure hunt, where they are each given a list of questions that can only be answered through careful observations and reading throughout the exhibit. They did a great job answering all of the questions!
Henry mission was to basically find all of the artillery in the entire museum and ask me to take his picture beside it all.
Because I forgot to bring a stroller (I'm so new at this kid thing), and there was nothing to strap the squirmer into, we lost Charlie twice.  Thank goodness there were only 4 people in the entire place since it was a blizzard outside.
I hope you don't need to know a lot about dinosaurs to get into some reputable college, because I have zero interest in prehistoric anything, so making that a part of our homeschool curriculum is never. going. to. happen. I'm praying (fingers crossed) that the kids' 3.4 minute zip through this section of the museum will stick with them forever.
 "Okay George, pretend you're about to be eaten by a t-rex." 
Wow, just call this kid Hollywood.
Say, "I love it when my mom makes me go on educational field trips over Christmas break!" Or, you can just say "cheese" because that's what we are.

Tomorrow, will mark the 18th week of our little one's life.  I feel very blessed to be sharing this journey with so many other amazing bloggers out there who are also expecting.  It's funny how we've crossed cyber paths, and once we realize another "friend" is expecting, shared joy and the promise of prayers is always shared in the comments. We have been blessed to have carried every single one of our babies to term.  Yet, I know, that there are many moms out there who pray, every day, to see their child to full term.  Dwija at House Unseen, Life Unscripted shared Maria's story with us this week, and I hope that you will add her to your prayer intentions, as she and her husband live an extraordinary faith, hoping that their sweet little angel will reach full term.

Speaking of babies!! Did you know that there is a pro-life runner's league out there? I didn't until last spring, when a family friend introduced me to Life Runners.  I have FULL intention of starting a chapter in our area this summer, and am excited about all the possibilities that venture holds.  Many Life Runner members are currently participating in the A-Cross America Relay, where volunteers sign up to run a leg(s) of the distance from coast to coast all the way across U.S. These people are amazing!! They run in all conditions, and seeing their smiling faces as the trek through the rain, cold and snow is truly inspiring!! If you're a runner, and are interested in joining a chapter, you can find more information here.

Having a household full of sick kids means that everything and everyone has to slow down.  Initially, when the boys are sick, they ask if they can watch a movie, it's a very temporary comfort for them. But, television gets old quickly, and they always end up playing games, reading or taking an interest in each others' toys together.  I love to watch our boys play together, to listen to their conversations, to enjoy their interactions and to see their creativity bloom.  This week, they've been all about building Lego vehicles.

I'm venturing out and trying my hand at writing a new series of posts focused called "Motivate Me Monday."  This is the time where I'll share little tips and ideas that I have found, or ones that others have shared with me, over the years on the topic of healthy living.  I hope you'll join me!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kings Crowns and Treasure Seeking

"Hey, Daddy?? Can you get me some d-nuts, pwease?? Pa-wease, daddy??"

Last fall we developed a bit of a {bad} habit of swinging by the local gas station after Mass on Sundays for donuts.  I blame Charlie for this dietary fall out.  Who can say no to a two year old who's all dressed up, hair combed, cheeks rosy, grin adorable perched in his little ol' car seat, rockin' the charm and pleading for a donut?? We can't. We can't. We can't. We can't!

Last Sunday was like no other, two seconds after being buckled in, Charlie's request came forth. The brothers rallied behind him with their unwavering chants of support. Have you seen the first Hobbit movie? The scene where the Hobbits overtake Bilbo's kitchen?? (No?? See clip blow!) That's our boys when someone mentions donuts (or Chipotle or Dairy Queen). They morph into hungry Hobbits.

Anyhoo... just as we were about to make the famous turn toward the quick shop, Andrew spoke up and reminded us that there's really no need for donuts today because tomorrow is Epiphany, and Mom always makes homemade donuts - better known as "Kings Crowns" - on Epiphany.
My heart is secretly happy when the boys remember, without prompting, the little details of our family traditions, ones that honor particular feast days on the liturgical calendar.  Sometimes I feel like there's really an unspoken let down after the Christmas season passes, the weather is cold and dreary and the next major holiday to look forward to is Valentine's Day (which seems forever away).  But, Epiphany, being the finale to Christmas, offers us a little glimpse of goodness, one that reminds us to carry our joy for Jesus into the new year and beyond.
When we celebrate any feast day with treats, the boys NEVER let me forget exactly what to make. I've been sick for the past few days, so thankfully, George volunteered to assemble the donut ingredients for me. He did a great job! 
While I went on a hunt for my camera so that I might photograph the donuts, one of the boys thought it would be funny to put the three wise men around the plate "adoring" the treats.  Gotta love it!!

On Monday, the day we celebrated Epiphany, Ben's school was cancelled due to the weather.  We all had a little bit of cabin fever and wanted to escape the fort, even if just for a little while. Coming up with special hands-on lessons outside of the house to reinforce a particular teaching is one of my favorite aspects of homeschooling.
On a whim, I had an idea that I thought might really bring the lessons surrounding Ephiphany to life. With the boys bundled up, we braved the cold and ventured out to a large antique mall just a few miles from our home. On the way there, we talked with anticipation about what treasures we might find.
When we arrived, each one of us was overwhelmed by the amount of nostalgia layered all around us on shelves and in special display cases.  I'm always immediately drawn to the vintage dishes, books and furniture, but the boys were absolutely enamored with the old historic guns, knives, swords and tools.  

{Hello! This is 2014, may I help you??}
I was thrilled to follow them around, watching the wonder in their expressions as they discovered new old treasures, discussing their findings with one another in detail.
Our adventure to the antique mall was the perfect way to set up a little chat about the deeper meaning of Epiphany.  Once home, over hot cocoa and donuts, we chatted about our favorite discoveries of the day.  Everyone took their turn sharing about the things that were most interesting to them. They recalled an impressive list of valuables, everything from Civil War memorabilia to old model cars. Then, came the most important series of questions....

How old do you think the oldest antique was in the store today??
What makes some of the items in the store more valuable than others??
Will those items last forever, longer than you and me??
Since they will outlast our family on this earth, are they more valuable than we are??
Why not??
{This is where you hope that one child will say that people are more valuable than any material treasure because people have an eternal soul.}
Were the Wise Men treasure-seekers?
They were seeking the greatest treasure ever to dwell on the earth, Jesus Christ.  We are called to be treasure-seekers, too, just like the Wise Men.  Every single day.  We honor Him through the offering of the gift of ourselves, our praise, our prayers, our talents, our struggles, our successes, our failures. And, we receive, in Him, the treasure of His graces, His love, His mercy, His blessings.

Our "day off" from school turned into one of the best "educational" days we've had in a long time. One simple field trip offered us a look into history, science, mathematics, and religion....with a sweet reward at the end, for both the tummy and the heart.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:21

Hobbits in the kitchen.  
Our boys strike a remarkable resemblance....Just say donut!