Monday, March 31, 2014

In Honor of Spring - Chase Infinite GIVEAWAY!!

Doesn't it feel good to say that spring is finally here?? The earth is just waking up, giving us glimpses of green - budding trees, baby bulbs soon to bloom and carpets of grass ready to be kept.
The change of seasons not only gets me revved up to run, it also gets me excited about gear! I've been writing a lot lately about the spiritual, emotional, physical and mental benefits of exercise (check out my favorite busy mama workout!), so I hope you feel encouraged to get moving this spring. But if you need a little boost beyond reading my posts, how about the chance to...

Isn't half the fun of working out getting to slip on your favorite shoes, top or shorts? Last spring while running the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, I saw a gentleman running in cut off jean shorts.  I may have said ouch out loud. He must have missed the memo on chaffing, poor guy! Don't do that. Don't wear denim.  Denim hurts.  Choosing the right workout clothes isn't just about looking good, it's also about feeling comfortable throughout your workout.

I love it when I find apparel that runs double duty - function + style = comfortable performance. Discovering a fitness apparel company that believes in giving back makes my purchase even sweeter! In honor of spring, of and in honor of you, my awesome readers, I'm giving away your choice of tank from Chase Infinite!

$1 of EVERY tank purchased is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation!

2.  Stronger Than Every Fear Tank (in pink or purple)
$1 of EVERY tank purchased is donated to the Wounded Warrior Project!

Signing up for a chance to win is on of these awesome tanks is super-easy, just follow the prompts below.  

Are you training for a race, or have you set some new fitness goals? 
I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a comment!!
- Best of luck!! -

Have a beautiful week, everyone!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

State Bound....But Barely! 7 Quick Takes & A Little Prayer Request

Happy Friday, everyone!!

Here's a little wrap-up for the week, short and sweet, since I've got to start stuffing suitcases for our weekend adventure....

/1./  State Bound
After winning 1st place at districts last Saturday our son, Andrew, earned the opportunity to wrestle at the state tournament which will take place this weekend at the capital city.  Unfortunately, on Monday, he came down with some crazy bug and has been sick all week long, which means he hasn't made it to even one practice or eaten anything substantial until yesterday.

Steve and I try to take a very balanced approach to sports, especially while the boys are so young, but I must admit, we've all been a little down this week, and have felt Andrew's disappointment in being sick right along side of him.  We gave him the choice to stay home or fight it out....and he's chosen to fight it out (Really?? Can't we just stay home and eat soup and watch movies?).  Please say an extra prayer for him this weekend, if you would!

/2./  Funny Bun-ies
Since the weather has been so nice lately, the boys have been running crazy over every square inch of the yard.  Yesterday I caught a glimpse of Charlie and George sword fighting on the trampoline.  I noticed Charlie had something orange stuck to his bottom, and when I went out to get a closer look, discovered that someone had stuck two sticky foam words to his sweats that said, "boo - boom."  George was the man behind that plan, explaining to me that it was supposed to say "boom - boom" but one of the m's fell off during battle. I hope our boys never stop being ornery.  I love it!!

/3./ Future Architects
Now that we've moved our school out into the little shed in our backyard, trips back and forth to the "library" have been a slight interruption to educational progress. The boys' solution: build an outhouse. No girls allowed (thank The Lord). I have been informed that this modern convenience comes complete with a cardboard box (recycled from the recycling) for #2 emergencies.  Ahem. 

/4./  Facebook Funnies
I'll admit I'm a sucker for quotes, especially funny ones. My Facebook page is a personal bulletin board of sarcasm, humor and a few endearing quotes as well. This was definitely my favorite post of the week:
Best description ever!

/5./  The Homestretch
These past few weeks have flown by!  I can't believe we're on the home stretch - just 10 weeks away from meeting this precious life that's been karate chopping my ribs like a boss for the past month!  

/6./  Weekend Reading
 This is the VERY BEST post I read this week.  Encouragement for all of us striving to live faithfully and fruitfully during these early years of parenting.

/7./ Just one More 
And, this is what you read after you've soaked in Jenny's post. This couple - wow, what a testimony of love, a tremendous affirmation of the openness to life and of faith in the fruits of sacrifice.  Get out your tissues.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

You Had Me at Conception ~ My First Love is Officially a Teen!

Every Sunday at church, I can't help but glance down the pew, sometimes to see that the little ones are behaving, but most times to catch the precious profiles of 5 little (and big) boys lined up, cleaned and combed and squished together between their father and me. And, my eyes always linger a little longer on the tallest boy...
The boy who turned 13 on Monday. The boy who who is the reason I wear heels to Mass on Sunday. Heels to make me feel taller, the kind of tallness that makes me believe that I still have all the time in the world with him.  Heels to make him seem shorter, the kind of shorter that whispers to my heart, he still needs you, he really isn't so big yet.

I remember when Benedict was just a baby perched on my lap at church, drooling down teething toys and tossing every board book on the floor over and over again just to watch me pick them up. I looked down the pew back then too, and wondered what joy would come if one day God would fill up such an empty space.

And, oh, how quickly He has done this great thing in our lives. He has heard my heart, the place that speaks of a longing desire for lots of little ones to love. And, in His Mercy, He has allowed me to struggle through every weak moment of whining, of feeling overwhelmed, of wishing I could just sit alone for a moment at church, knowing such moments are only temporary, only human. He knows me, oh how he knows me, and I trust that.  And, He's not done filling us up with His love. Soon, we will scoot down and make room for one more sweet breath of that awesome love.
I wish, at times, that I could go back and savor just one day of Benedict sitting solo on my lap, just the two of us.  I wish I could retrace my footsteps and catch up to the girl who wasn't paying attention to time, and how easy it is to take it for granted. Stop worrying, stop fussing over things that don't matter, I would say to her. Sandwiches are okay tonight, dust and clutter can wait. Just be. Just be with him.

The Chesterton quote rings in my ears, Why be something to everyone when you can be everything to someone?" Thirteen years later, I'm still challenged by this truth.

Now, this teenage boy stands beside me at the stove.  I season soup and he talks track, explaining which events he wants to try this year. My heart pounds with pride when he says "I might try long distance." He speaks of one of my great joys, as if it might become one of his.

He doesn't know how hard I'm listening, enjoying every word, so content to know these plans, these ideas, these goals he's chosen to share.  Don't stop sharing. What you have to say is important to me. YOU are important to me.

I try to keep up with him, keep eye contact, hoping he doesn't intuit my attention slipping in and out of memories of when he was so much smaller and would stand close beside me, arms reaching up, eager to see and to know what what was happening in my world up high.  Soup stirred with one hand. Table set with one hand.  Life conducted with one hand. Hands give pause to hug with two.

Thank God I can still hug you.  Thank God you'll still let me!

When did he stop reaching? Stop needing to be buckled in, having his hair combed, shirt buttoned, tucked in at night, lifted up to shoot the basket?? Without being asked, he gave up his spot on my lap, in my arms, beside me at story time so that the younger one could have his turn. And then, the younger one gave up his spot for another, and so this is how the story of growing big goes.

You have led the way, you have set the example, you have shown them how this is done.
I would never interfere with your independence, or minimize how accomplished you are now, as a young man, just so that I can feel some sort of security of being needed, of believing that my time with you isn't running out, that my heels will always be high enough to preserve my current perspective.

No, as hard as it is, the apron strings have been loosed. Your dad has helped me with that - helped me let you live a little on your own. If anything, I probably expect to much of you, depend on your helping hand a bit too much, assume you should step in and know how to handle life on so many levels. And, I'm sorry, if my expectations are too high, we're growing together, aren't we?
There is great joy for your father and me to watch such an incredible soul grow into the man God is calling you to be, to be right beside you just where you are in life. But, as a mother, I confess to searching for and hoping to see glimpses of the boy in the man, and I can't help but miss your littleness very, very much.

Now, here we are! You're officially a teenager!
Benedict's birthday initiation into "teen land" began with paintball wars with his buddies from school and ended with a no-fuss, no decorations chocolate sheet cake (his request - I couldn't even get him to agree to sprinkles!), decked only with 13 annoying re-light candles (which the younger ones were happy to show off their lung capacity to help extinguish), home-made ice cream and heaps of razzing from his brothers....
Brothers who love and look up to him, who, every single day, count down the moments until he's home from school. Especially Charlie:
Charlie is the one who waits at the window for his biggest brother, who hasn't missed a day of greeting him with a great BIG, "Hi, Ben!! You're home!!"
Not a day goes by that I don't think about how blessed I am to be this boy's mama, to have the privilege of sharing another birthday with him, and to walk through all of the days between this birthday and the next with him.

Happy Birthday, Benedict!  We love you!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Birthday To Our Sweet Charlie!!

Every mom believes that their babies are the cutest and the sweetest and the most precious and the best.  It's our privilege to love our little ones in this way, one of my favorite motherhood perks!
Charlie really is the cutest and the sweetest three year old little guy on the planet.
Honest to goodness, he really is.

Yesterday we celebrated his big leap into three year old territory.  Steve and I were up early, sipping coffee, catching NCAA basketball highlights, pressing wrinkled pants and cuffs and collars for Mass attire, when we heard the faintest little squeal from around the corner of the kitchen...

You were on your hands and knees peeking in on us, flashing your tiny teeth smile, rosy cheeked and bright-eyed.  You had no idea it was your birthday, I'm not sure you really understood the idea of birthday until your big brothers woke up and smothered you with hugs and big happy birthday cheers.  Then, you knew that March 23rd was special, it was your day.

Many moments throughout the day, I was really caught up in an emotion of gratitude, thankful that it truly was a day of joy, a celebration your life, of remembering the feelings of elation that we all had over your birth, and every moment since as you bless us all with such deep down goodness. I really needed the infusion of happiness into my heart, the kind of happiness that is strengthening.  With a little more than two months to go before your new sibling arrives, I'm beginning to struggle a bit to get through the days as the dreaded sciatic pain, leg aches and swelling has arrived earlier than usual. You, and the blessing of your life to our family, remind me to keep going, that the present pains - every little sacrifice, every little discomfort will be more than worth it when the day you become a big brother arrives.

We kept your birthday simple this year, a home cooked meal, family around the table, little gifts and lemon cupcakes for dessert.  You aren't much for television or movies, but if Little Bear is on, you are in heaven.  I love the way you sing along to the songs.  You like to tell anyone who will sit beside you the names of all of the characters: owl, duck, cat, mama, papa.  And, oh how you well up with excitement when you know just what will happen next!
All afternoon, you climbed up and down from the table, at least a dozen times, just to point to the cupcakes and ask me, "Did you make those Lil' Bear cuppy-cakes just for me?" And, when I would affirm your question, with great enthusiasm your response was always, "Oh, fank you, Mommy!"
Everyone around the table wanted to see you take a huge bite.  We were convinced that you would try to conquer the cupcake in one big chomp, like you usually do when something tastes sooo good.  But, you didn't.  You took your time and asked us all between bites, "Is it good? Do you wike it?" nodding enthusiastically after each question in agreement.
Each one of your brothers bought you some small gift.  George was the most proud to give you his present.  He bought it weeks ago and miraculously kept it hidden in his room until your big day. He also insisted on wrapping it himself and helping you unwrap it, too.
Although the battery-powered bubble gun was a big hit, your favorite present, by far, was your new very own Hot Wheels case and a few shiny new cars.  
You've given your older brothers plenty of grief by sneaking into their Hot Wheel collections, accidentally losing a few of their favorites and scuffing up too many to count.  We could all see how proud you were to finally have your very own set.  
The one person whom you wanted to share the excitement over your new cars with the most was Benedict.  You two really are like peas and carrots, so similar in your temperament, your sweetness, you even look very much alike.  I remember how disappointed Benedict was that you weren't born on the same day as he was.  We missed honoring his requests by 12 hours.  I guess you and I just couldn't wait!

This morning I found you sound asleep with your little case resting securely right beside your pillow.  You give me so many reasons to smile.  
After breakfast, we found you perched up on a stool in the kitchen looking through the stack of cards you were given yesterday.  You sat for the longest time enjoying each one. I felt like you were savoring the memory of yesterday. 

I was savoring it too.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Our Flash Trip to Kansas City For Spring Break - So Much Fun!

It hit me this morning when I opened the door to the family wagon: lingering odors of beef jerky, Dr. Pepper bubble gum and stale coffee.  Remnant reminders of our super-fun, three day spring break getaway. (I know, yum-yum, right? The men tend to get a little Quick Shop crazy when we road trip it.)

When I say getaway, I don't mean long, faraway restful excursions to exotic places, you know the ones where your Christmas card friends without kids make a point to go on at least 3 times a year just so they can share their relaxing, romantic, care-free, stress-free, whine-free photos with you??? What I mean by getaway is anywhere within a 172 mile radius of our front porch.  We've tried 173. It's a no-go. Total failure. With five boys and another set of buns on the way, 172 is actually pushing it.  

Honestly, most days, when I really need a break, calculating the risk vs. reward efforts of taking the boys to Orange Leaf or the zoo is my vacation reality.  I know, you're veins are pulsing with envy right now. 

But, with the recent expansion of my abdominal area, the "in 12 weeks there will be no freedom to go anywhere without an 800 pound diaper bag and spit-up on your shoulder" clock is ticking loudly in my head, and therefore despite my toes being swollen together, I'm hungry for some travel time.  That and enchiladas. This week it's enchiladas.
{Pre-party Charlie, shakin' his vacation shamrock.}
Last weekend, I managed to talk my soul mate into chauffeuring his family to Kansas City for a couple of days.  Everyone voiced their itinerary desires, and we came up with a plan that included swimming at the hotel, eating out at a few of our old faves, taking in the St. Patrick's Day parade, visiting friends, and by mom's request, something educational, which ended up being the National WW1 Memorial Museum.

Here's our reel of stellar pictures, shot by mom, who can't understand why everyone raves about the i-phone's photo capabilities, because she has yet to capture a single moment in a snapshot that isn't extremely underwhelming. You can sympathize, right? I mean, just the thought of packing a baby in the belly and a Nikon on the bosom for three days can trigger contractions, so logically, I settled for underwhelming.

Here we go!...

Zee St. Patty's Day Parade...
Even though I packed green shirts for everyone, I didn't consider the fact that the weather was forecasted to be 45 degrees that day, given the joy that 60 degrees and sunny has been the dominant weather pattern here at home.  Sadly, our St. Pat's spirit is buried beneath those sweats.
To remedy the possibility of us getting pinched all day, dad went all out and bought some bling for everyone from one of the many vendors selling everything from beer mugs to leg-warmers.
I love him for that. And, for my earmuffs... 
...which kept my ears warm and also ever-so-slightly muffled the constant two hour annoyance of Andrew's "spirited" support of the parade:
That is, until my green silencers/warmers were robbed right off my head by Mr. McHenry: 
 ....who is also clearly annoyed by the green horn.  Either that or the glaring sun, which gave us all the squints.  He's clutching an empty coffee cup from the hotel, which he had high hopes of filling with candy, because every parade should have candy throwers, right? Negative. I'm still listening to the groaning saga of the empty cup.
I tried to convince Henry that seeing the Irish dancers, bagpipe corps, and historic Irish family floats would be sweeter than a cup full of candy.  He didn't believe me.  
Maybe that's because 90% of the parade was politicians riding in vintage autos (snore) and row after row of gangster cars fully decked out with shamrock rims, boosting a bass loud enough to drown out my beloved bag-pipes. Grrrr.....

This isn't the parade I remember from our good ol' days of living in Kansas City.  No one was more disappointed in the show than mom, the one who is deeply proud of her Czech-German sauerkraut and stout heritage but secretly wishes she was just a wee bit Irish. So, we took an emotional break from the procession, and went to noon mass at my favorite church, so I could pray for Irish dancers and more bagpipers to miraculously appear.
 After a beautiful feast day mass, we returned to the parade with renewed spirits....
....and made our official departure about 20 minutes later when the boys (and mom) decided that our pathetic little faces could no longer hide such supreme parade disappointment.  The last round of "boom-shaka-laka" dancers and motorcycle gangs sent us over the edge:

 National World War I Museum:
I didn't take many pictures of the boys inside of the museum, because keeping our entourage together in such a huge place took skill and speed.  My skill, Steve's speed.  But, despite the lack of photo ops as proof of what an amazing experience it was to be there, I really can't encourage you enough to visit the memorial if you have the opportunity.  The museum was designed by the same company who created the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C.  Our boys (except for Henry and of course Charlie) all said it was by far the best part of our getaway. 
The quote on the wall says:
The glory of America goes deeper than all the tinsel, goes deeper than the sound of guns and the clash of sabers.  It goes down to the very foundation of those things that have made the spirit of man free, happy and content. ~ Woodrow Wilson
Andrew is looking through a magnifying glass that can be moved vertically as well as horizontally along a sliding track so that patrons may view photos of some of the regiments that were sent overseas from the U.S.
Ben and Andrew were fascinated by the scale of global involvement.  We all kept saying how trying to conceptualize the number of people involved in the war was simply impossible.  This is part of a chart that captured the calculations of soldier deportation by state.  Kansas: 63,428 of the 4,743,826 total U.S. participants.
One could easily spend an entire day exploring the museum, but after 2.5 hours, our troops were in need of nourishment.
The unanimous choice: Oklahoma Joe's BBQ.  BBQ is a passionate topic of debate amongst Kansas Citians, and trust me, everyone has an opinion.
When KC was home to us, we sampled the fare at nearly every BBQ joint in town, but Oklahoma Joe's clearly won our tummies over.  Those people wrote the BBQ gospel.  Hallelujah, it is gooood!! So, good, we stood in line for 45 minutes anticipating the yumminess!  Your clothes and hair will smell like smoke and sauce afterwards, but it will be totally worth it!

There was but one event that did not get checked off of the itinerar: Legoland.  When we arrived at Crown Center to purchase tickets, the wait to enter was 2 hours.  Not good. The tops of my feet were already swelling over the sides of my ballet flats.  

Thankfully, we encountered another mom who was more than happy to inform us that Legoland just isn't worth the ticket price.  There are no exciting exhibits, interactive games or building competitions. So what do you do there? Build. (Or, buy more Legos - no thank you.) Well, they can build all day in my basement for free.

I was, however, thankful for the Lego statues that entertained Charlie just long enough for me to prop up my puffy peds while the others made 47 trips up and down the escalators.  Charlie was just so cute with this Lego guy, he really couldn't get enough of him...  
 "So nice to meet you, Mr. Lego guy!"
 "Forget the handshake, let's just bring it in for a hug."
"You're so awesome, Lego Guy."
"No, Chuck you're awesome."
"My mom - the one over there with the fat feet - is also awesome."
(Okay, maybe my mind-reading is a little fuzzy, kind of like these pics.)