The Year In Review

(My favorite calendars (yes mark my word I refuse to go digital!) are Susan Branch's)

2013 just about did me in.  Honestly, that is the first thought that comes to my mind when looking backwards over the year.  Heck it was busy.  Heck I was tired-Janey is sweet as pie but wasn't and isn't "easy" as far as babies go.  I had to push myself physically and mentally and emotionally every day to attempt to meet the needs of my family with all the different ages and stages, and I had to do that on little sleep.  I feel like there was very few days when I felt on top of it all.  I feel like I could count on two hands the days I did my hair, or put on makeup.  I am still wearing the same yoga pants I wore after Janey was born-and she's 16 months old!  I still have baby weight to lose, and still nursing, it seems like it's been forever.  I haven't left this house for more than two hours without a child with me.  I cooked, and cleaned and straightened, and solved and helped, and scolded and snapped and hugged and talked to teenagers late into the night and nursed a baby early in the morning, and wondered if I was doing enough ever.

I know things will get easier, I just know they will, that is the good part of aging.  You see the ends to the beginnings and know that the middle won't last indefinitely, and one day soon the hard stuff looks sweet and loses it's sour.  I also know that with each addition to my family there has been a period of uncomfortable but necessary growth-growing pains aren't just for children.  I've had to shed some part of me that needed shedding, and gain new "skin"-new knowledge, new ways of doing things, a new normal.

Janey is growing so fast, and it hurts my heart to put outgrown baby clothes away.  I have them boxed up, and there they sit.  I say I am going to go through them and sort and five times I have sorted and then just put them all back in.  I am not going to push myself.  She might move out one day with ten bins of her clothes, dolls, books and mementos and think, "My mom has gone a little crazy."  It shocked me to write her 2014 birthday down with the number two after it.  I was shocked when I wrote each of the brithday's down, mine included! :)

Isaac is a sophomore in college and we just sat down before break and planned out the courses for the next two years, now that he decided on a major and minor.  I know how fast two years fly by.  I am so happy that he is happy and thriving in college and growing up (literally!) into a great adult.  We had a nice talk late Christmas Eve night and I told him how proud we are of him.  I should tell him that more often I've decided because I don't say it enough.

(I don't know if I blogged this already, but I documented Abbey's announcement just to prove to her that she once said "I hate shopping" one lovely day, music to my ears!  I also have a note in my purse when she begged me to buy her a pair of heels she "had" to have and promised/vowed/signed away her life saying that she would never ever ask me again to buy her a pair of heels for anything ever the rest of her life if I bought them-I did buy them and she did sign on the dotted line.)

Abbey and I also sat down and planned out some important junior year pre-college events.  Testing classes and then the ACT/SAT, college visits during spring break.  I know this is overwhelming for her, but I promised her that one day she will thank me for knowing that it is worth it all in the end.   And it seems to me that just yesterday I had the same blue binder out that Isaac's wonderful high school supplied us, going through each month's checklist.  I feel so much more confident now and understand this (somewhat crazy!) process even more.  We've had many heart to hearts this year, and boy, it's a hard world out there for teenage girls.  I hope I've helped her, I have learned so much about parenting teenagers this year.  They need us, desperately, just to listen.

Matthew is graduating from 8th grade this year, and also being Confirmed, and there were lots of important deadlines to mark on the calendar.  He will attend the same high school Isaac did and I know he will thrive there.  Matt has helped me tremendously this year-he put together the most complicated Christmas present that would have taken me days, and hooked up our new printer just today.  He is as smart as they come and I can always count on him for a laugh.  I think he is ready for the bigness of high school, but will also always miss his nice little class that he has grown with for eight or more years.

Andrew and Patrick have both grown so much this year.  They tried so many new things, like the swim team, and I am so proud of them.  They are nice boys and are well liked in school and have nice friends.  They play nicely together most of the time (not always!), and are right smack in that really easy stage of parenting that is purely enjoyable.  Busy and messy and active, but enjoyable.

I am looking forward to 2014.  I always look forward to a new year.  Is it weird that when I start to fill out my new calendar I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about how exciting and challenging and beautiful life is?  As I was writing down all the important dates, I said to Abbey, "I don't ever want to die! I want to live on earth forever!"  I love the calm days of January, and the fun of Saint Valentines Day and March with it's thawing earth and foggy cold air and April with the excitement of outside play and sunshine for all of us withered up moms and cabin-fever kids.  And on and on...

I feel so much gratitude for my lovely life.  I live in a cozy house I love, with a devoted, loving, hard-working husband, and six healthy children who are growing and thriving.  I could count blessings from the minute I wake up till I go to bed and still not cover them all.  I couldn't ask for one thing more.

Catching Up

Patrick turned six!!! and was so excited he woke up three times in the wee morning hours asking if it was his birthday yet!

He asked for pizza and an angel food cake for his birthday dinner and dessert.  His birthday was also the last day of school before Christmas break so he had double the celebration that day.  

Our Christmas:
I put this Christmas Eve after Mass dinner together with the help of Jeff, because Janey was so darn fussy I couldn't put her down for a second the days before Christmas. (Why molars now, this week???:)
I burnt two things I was excited to make....like to a crisp, throw out the pan burnt.
But we had way more than enough and most of us were too excited to eat much anyways.

Santa came!

7 a.m.  

Patrick's eyes popped out of his head when he unwrapped his Mitch McGary uniform.  He has worn it every day since, and was by far his favorite present ever.

 A poker game with a big pot.

And I thought this was hilarious, if not a little creepy.

 We had a great Christmas, I hope you did also!


Merry Christmas!

We had an early (I felt like a slept an hour on Christmas Eve!) fun-filled busy messy wonderful day.
Is it awful to say that I'm a little relieved that I have 364 days till the next Christmas Day?
Well, awful or not, I am relieved-I always feel like I pulled off a grand event and need a week or two to recover.
Right now we are seeing movies, putting together Legos, eating leftovers, playing games, organizing and reorganizing piles of presents and attempting to keep some semblance of order in our home (that's me) and
having a nice winter break. I am excited about the New Year and love making my plans and resolutions.


Never Ordinary Days

Oh, how I would love me an ordinary day here or there.  It seems like they are far and few between anymore.  I know I have to establish a "new ordinary" in my head-a way to accept/come to terms and even love the fact that my daily life will almost always be somewhat unpredictable with all the variables that six children bring to it.  I am finding my way, but not very successful.  So often I found myself working toward deadlines, or rushing through ___ to get to ____.  And meanwhile like sand through the hour glass....

(Isaac home=laundry basket on dining room table.)
My wonderful father picked Isaac up bright and early from his campus and then dropped him off at the bus station (after filling his stomach with a much appreciated breakfast).  I picked him up a few hours later and he is home and boy is it easy when we don't have to make the drive.  I know the kids are excited to see him tonight and he is very excited for exams to be over.

Speaking of exams, Abbey's last ones are today and I am sure glad those are over.  Isn't it funny how you can't really "win" as parents when it comes to exam weeks?  I'm not sure who is worse, and I've had both at times-the kid who treats exams week like any other week, which makes you nervous and a little naggy, and sometimes downright frustrated and panicked, "Should you really be doing that, don't you have exams to study for?"  Or the kid who is so worried about them that she (sorry Abbey I just gave you away) takes out all her tension and stress and misery on everyone around her, herself most of all.

I was the first type of exam kid, I'm sure, so it's just now, as the emotional sounding board/investor in education, that I am experiencing the elation of having the week behind me, excited for the worry/tension/stress/naggyness to be gone from my heart.
I made this peanut butter fudge the other day-so easy and so good.  I just tried that one piece.  Oh, no I didn't.  Maybe a row.

After a massive wrapping session, I reread this chapter just to remember that once upon a time, things were simpler. But then I got to thinking about it, and no they weren't.  Maybe less gifts to wrap, but I wasn't baking my own bread, and making my own fires, and rationing sugar so I couldn't make fudge when I had terrible cravings.  I wasn't worried about whether my husband would make it through the woods while a screaming black panther was chasing him, or scaring bears away from our milking cow during snow storms.

Things might have been simpler and some (me) could argue better for human nature all together, but they weren't easier.  I think we traded panthers and bear and sugar rationing for a whole other set of issues, but that's another post for a day when I've had more sleep than I've been getting lately.

A few years ago for Christmas I bought myself the complete set of hard-covered Little Houses and I still love them so much.  So many sweet lessons and reminders.


To Love Somebody

I love a good commercial.  I am sure that most of the world has seen this one already, I always seem to be ages behind this way, but I can't help but share in case someone needs a good chuckle today.
Thank you Rachel, for the link and the laugh! 


A Few Things

We have snow!  How exciting!  Last year I don't think we had an inch, and I don't think it will stay for Christmas. But it's so pretty outside.  I remember snow for Christmas almost every year when I was little.  I grew up in the snow belt, so it was pretty much a sure thing.   Most of the time the snow piles were bigger than us.

(It was obviously a little bright out that day for my sister and I.)

Janey is finally feeling like her sweet happy self again and what a difference that makes.

And I love this message I received in my in-box the other day, and it seemed like perfect timing for me to hear-

"One of the great values of Advent is that of quieting down, of being still, of being awake and alert, so that we might prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord, and that we might hear his voice when he comes to us. There is no substitute for this preparation. No other way.

It would be a shame to be distracted and miss out.   Hence, this is why in Advent we hear John the Baptist tell us, in no uncertain terms, that we must prepare the way for the Lord-make straight his paths. John tells us to get rid of anything that hinders us from meeting God.

If John would to come to us now in this modern day, perhaps he would be speaking of shutting things off, turning down the volume, putting the gadgets aside, to quiet down, be still, and listen for the voice of God. And, perhaps also, he would also mention going to confession, reading the scriptures, expressing your hunger for God in your prayer. Telling God that you truly want to see his face, that you need him, and that you want to serve him.

John uses a special word for "repent" and "repentance." It's not just simply about being sorry for your sins. The Greek word used [metanoia] means "to go beyond the mind you have." That is, change your attitude, change your way of thinking. Go beyond how you view the world. Not letting the world or the media shape your vision or your values, but rather, more and more, to see things as God sees them, and to walk God's path - not our own. Seeing as God sees changes everything for the better. How we see life and what it's about, how we see each other, how we see ourselves."

The promise of Advent is that God indeed is coming, and that he wants to speak to us, be with us, and through his Holy Spirit, help us to live. But we must say "Yes," and want this. And so, we listen, we prepare the way, we make straight his paths.   This is the challenge of Advent; this is the promise of Advent. God is coming to us, and we joyfully prepare the way.
Msgr. Marvin Borger

"It would be a shame to be distracted and miss out."
My life is so busy right now-not just the day to day parenting and household duties, but the preparation that comes with Christmas.  Layer on top of that the assault (because it really is) of the materialistic messages that dilute it all, and I have to admit, there are times when I am most definitely not feeling any Christmas spirit. But being still, and quieting down, to remind myself what it's really all about is always the answer.  If I don't do this, the season will be gone before I know it, and I will feel like I missed the special-ness of it all.


Our House At Christmas

Every year I find myself drawn to a simpler Christmas all the way around.

My mind seems so full these days-I hate that little panic feeling that can creep up--it's creeping up right now. For me, it's not getting "it" all done...I know I can eventually.  It's getting it done and enjoying doing it, instead of feeling out of sorts and frazzled.  I think it's because last week was a complete wash around here-poor Janey wasn't feeling well, and I ended up taking her in to the doctor's office-what I thought was just teething was also an ear infection.  And then the medicine I have to give her makes her have an awful stomach ache.  EEEK!   It is funny how much things change from when I had a baby nineteen years ago.  I just wanted the plain pink amoxycillin!!!, none of this fancy new stomach-ache inducing antibiotic which just trades one problem for another.  Anyways, she is feeling so much better ear-wise and finally, finally, took a good nap today.

Here is our tree in the upright position.  The needles are pouring off of it already.  Not for lack of watering, just because it was probably cut down in October.  Everything is so plain but I love it.



The winner of the Third Day Naturals give away is #16 comment:

I would love to try some of these products! The scents sound yummy!



Ordinary Days

I only have three photos this week, and both of them crack me up.

Andrew made this Rudolph with his Rainbow Loom!  Yes, it's completely made out of rubber bands, and has a little paperclip inside it to make it stand up.  Andrew amazes me.  He asks me first if he can go on the computer for the tutorial, and then I see him working for awhile, and then he has some new crazy bracelet, or in this case, figurine.  I really wanted him to keep it and give it to me for the tree-what a cute ornament, but he is giving it to his teacher.  He promised he would make me something later.

Speaking of the tree...

About an hour into yesterday morning, I heard a crash.  Yes!  It happened.  I put the tree up, so it's my fault.  
All I could do was laugh.  I don't know why it is so funny to me, but it just is.
I told Jeff I was thinking about leaving it like this till December 26.

It has been a doozy of a week ... Janey is cutting quite a few teeth all at once-she has been sleeping awful, short restless little bits, and I can't put her down for a second.  It has to hurt like heck, but oh these teething weeks...they aren't easy ever.

It was a scrambly-type of morning with the kids, and then this happened.
OF COURSE it happened.
When it rains it pours.
I find since I've had Janey, that my "skating through life" days (those easy, everything goes right, I'm all caught up, ahead of the game days) usually fall one after another with much less frequency than they ever have before.  Some new surprise always bursts into the scene and can throw me off kilter.

I have also found that for that reason alone, I strive more than ever to keep my life as simple as possible.

I hiked this baby back up and used a screw driver to wedge it into the stand.  Nothing was broken, mostly because there is nothing breakable on the tree.  Or in that room.  Or in the entire house.   :)


"Lay It On Me Again, Will You?"

I posted this column three years ago and thought it was worth another post.  This month can be an overwhelming time for moms, especially those with many children.  I love this little reminder...oh boy, I need it this week!  It always makes me cry-and gain some new much needed perspective.

An Erma Bombeck Column:

A young mother writes: "I know you've written before about the empty-nest syndrome -- that lonely period after the children are grown and gone. Right now, I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry and muddy boots. The baby is teething; the boys are fighting. My husband just called and said to eat without him, and I fell off my diet. Lay it on me again, will you?"


One of these days, you'll shout, "Why don't you kids grow up and act your age!"

And they will.

Or, "You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do ... and don't slam the door!"

And they won't.

You'll straighten up the boys' bedroom neat and tidy -- bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you'll say out loud, "Now I want it to stay this way."

And it will.

You'll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn't been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you'll say, "Now, there's a meal for company."

And you'll eat it alone.

You'll say: "I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?" And you'll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti.

No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms.

No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps.

No more clothespins under the sofa.

No more playpens to arrange a room around.

No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent.

No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathrooms.

No more iron-on patches, wet, knotted shoestrings, tight boots, or rubber bands for ponytails.

Imagine. A lipstick with a point on it. No baby sitter for New Year's Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn't ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.

No PTA meetings.

No car pools.

No blaring radios.

No one washing her hair at 11 o'clock at night.

Having your own roll of Scotch tape.

Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste.

No more sloppy oatmeal kisses.

No more tooth fairy.

No giggles in the dark.

No knees to heal, no responsibility.

Only a voice crying, "Why don't you grow up?"

and the silence echoing, "I did."


Third Day Naturals Giveaway

I'm hosting another give away from a sweet little company that sells beautiful soaps, balms, and lotions.
The company is called Third Day Naturals and you can read about how it was started here.  (I love reading about how someone gets an idea and has the gumption and passion to start a business.)

All of their products are high quality, hand made, and natural.

I loved trying their body butter-it's not that light fluffy sort of body butter (aka cheap)-it's very thick, long-lasting, and silky, almost like a balm, and really moisturizes well.  This jar will last me forever, because just the tiniest bit works wonderfully.  It comes if four scents-Citrus Sunshine, Lavender, Mint-Rosemary, and Vanilla.

They'd like to give away a body butter, soap, and lip balm as a little giveaway package to 1 winner.  All would be the winner's choice of scents/flavors.

Enter by leaving a comment, I will draw a winner by Saturday.  Thank you!

(If you are in need of a few gifts, they have a special- a 15% off, free shipping deal good through December  31, visit here!)


Some of Our Favorite Books

It would be impossible to name every one of them, but if you are in for someChristmas ideas, these are a few of our tried and true, mucg loved books.  Quite a few of them are activity/drawing books...sometimes I think those are best for the stages kids go through when they don't really want to pick up a big old book at the end of a school day.

 Someone always gets the new year's edition under the tree.
They are filled with amazing (and gross) things.

My mom got this for Andrew for his birthday and he loves it.  It's a super thick book that has pages with half drawn sketches that you can finish off.

 Matt and Andrew both love this book.  
A big book and very good with step by step easy to follow instructions for the 6-12 crowd.  

Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes
 All my boys love this.  I found it on Andrew's floor one morning with about 10 airplanes laying around everywhere.  Apparently, when I thought he was snug in the bed for the night, he was up working away at aircraft.

 When you just can't eek a book out at bedtime, these are easy and fun.

Manners Can Be Fun
 I love, love, love these books-there are three of them.  Manners Can Be Fun, How To Speak Politely and Why, How To Behave and Why.  

You all know about these I'm sure.  Andrew was excited to get the newest one.
 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Book 8

These are all really well written.  My boys really like the sports guys.  

 Do you know about BOB books?  They are great for teaching reading, and building confidence.  I learned about them with my first (got them from the library) and then eventually bought them all.   They really helped each of my kids learn to read.  They start out really really slowly, with very simple pictures and lots of repetition and progress up per set.

 Matt had read and reread this series.  Abbey and Isaac have read them all also.

Matthew who is fourteen loved this series this year:
Beyonders The Complete Set: A World Without Heroes; Seeds of Rebellion; Chasing the Prophecy

Abbey LOVED the Beacon Street Girls.  Good wholesome tweenie reading.

The same with this collection-Catwings.

The Daring Book for Girls-filled with fun activities and facts.

Matthew, my science guy, loves this collection.
(Maybe I should read them and relearn what I never learned in any of these classes because I was too busy passing notes.)

I love the National Geographic series for kids.  ALL the books are great but these are our favorite so far.

Here are some more of our favorite National Geographic books:

National Geographic Kids Quiz Whiz: 1,000 Super Fun, Mind-bending, Totally Awesome Trivia Questions

This Star Wars book is SO worn out-it's been taped up quite a few times.  Patrick and Andrew love it.

They also love this one:

This year I started buying one hardcover picture book a month to freshen up my collection.   (My favorite ever is old Harry the Dirty Dog.)  On my blog's sidebar is a link to more of our favorites.

I think Santa might bring a few of these this year for Janey: