Ordinary Days-September

Tidbits of our life in September:
My favorite month and it's gone till next year.  We had the most beautiful weather, but the last few days it has felt like fall-chilly and rainy, not the warm, sunny days of September with the cooler evenings. I wish it could have lasted forever.

We visited Abbey on her birthday. (Matt had to work at the last minute.:(  We had fun!  Ate at a taco bar, and it happened to be half price appetizers so the bill was refreshingly low.  The baskets and baskets of chips helped also-sometimes it's embarrassing really, you'd think we hadn't all eaten in 48 hours. I can't blame it all on the boys.;)
I love the way Janey is looking at Abbey, she will say randomly "I miss my sister!"

Girls pic, Janey was fascinated by the strange ducks.

After work one day Janey decided to make Isaac her patient and gave him a few shots.  He is a good sport, and will be a great Dad one day.

Patrick, after watching the Olympic track events this summer and then running a cross country race. It's cross country season, my favorite sport.  
Nothing makes you tougher than cross country (Abbey would argue crew) I always say.
Andrew added it's not just the running it's the nervousness before the race. I thought that was a great point. 

Janey and I fell in love with these little figurines at Hobby Lobby and there were enough of a variety to get six and we had fun picking out our "family".  She was so cute about choosing them.  (There is another one-must have cut it out of the pic.)  We can't wait to decorate for Halloween!

When Andrew saw this picture, he look horrified and said, "Why do I look like I'm dying?" 
I am so proud of Andrew's drive and determination to constantly improve and work hard. He sets his goals and works towards them and is hard on himself when he doesn't make them, but doesn't give up, even when something doesn't come easy to him. 

She's wanted jeans for so long and finally we found a pair that fits. She is so proud of them! But they do make her look older.

Eating lunch with this guy.  Janey loves doing this...this day she sat next to him and rubbed his back a little-it was so cute. 

Afternoon "nap" time. (Usually no sleeping involved.)  Janey is home all day now-we decided to delay preschool another year because she was having so much worry/angst about going the first couple weeks.  It feels like the right decision-we'll try again next year when she's a bit older. 

Love the moon peaking through.  These will be the last days we use our porch.

Kendama lessons.  Oh boy.  Does anyone else in the world know what a kendama is or is it just our nerdy family?  Isaac is a master.

Playing restaurant.  (Recently found that old phone at a garage sale-it's the same one we had growing up. I had to dial our number just to see how LOONNNGGG it takes.  Refreshingly long.  Appropriately long.)

Cross country watching.

Fog on an early morning run.  I saw a skunk about 2 feet away from me in the alley one morning and ran the fastest sprint I've run in 20 years.  I love the quiet, and the dark.

Soccer, soccer and more soccer.  Both Andrew and Patrick decided they could handle running cross country and playing soccer-so far it has worked out great.  I think that is because it seems SO easy to me without a toddler/baby in tow.  It's nice to sit and watch the games.

Gorgeous clouds.  My kids have to be so sick of me pointing out the clouds but I will never get sick of noticing them.

Working on finally hanging some portraits upstairs.  I wish I had the kind of decorating mind that can just pick something out and KNOW it will look good. I always have to bring things home and test them out.  Which turns something that I think will be quick and easy into a bigger project than intended.  (I am going with the matted frame on the right.)

Beautiful sunset over the river.

Picking up Matt from the golf course one evening and doing twirls while waiting.

Janey and I made Abbey these cupcakes-she was homesick so we took a road trip together and did lunch and dinner and shopping.  Janey was SO excited to see her.

I had to take a pic of these signs in a dorm-it is over the cafeteria. I laughed so hard. 

Cheesecake factory for dinner-a favorite.

No explanation needed.

And again.

How smart is it for the church on campus to offer a free spaghetti dinner after Mass on Sunday nights? SMART.  Abbey texted me this pic.  Yum.

October here we come!


Encouragement For The Week


Encouragement For The Week: Words Of Wisdom on the To-Do List

"As a former perfectionist Mom, weeks from being an empty nester, let me give one concept to think on that will bring immediate balance. At least it did for me…but later than I wish it had. Imagine an empty house with your kids all grown. All of the have to dos and perfectionism flies out the door when your focus becomes the moments you have left to hug them close as often as you want and be together as a family. In a couple weeks to get my daily hugs the shortest drive I would have to take is two hours. The other child is already three hours away. Obviously not feasible daily. 😉 I am enjoying the extra time with my husband now but I wish I knew years ago just how much it would pain my heart not to have them close daily. I would gladly tear up my precious to do lists for more of that time back. We all know an empty nest comes one day but we put the thought out of our minds to protect our mama hearts. My suggestion would be to keep an empty nest mindset from the start so that we will appreciate the moments more as they happen. Locking in on more play time and less extra nonsense. I hope that helps someone from feeling the regret I feel now. It went too fast and perfectionism stole too much of that time."

From a comment left on this lovely post which was written by my friend Sandy.


Book of the Week

Well I did it!  Two weeks in a row with my weekly book!  (I just know this is not going to last.)

The book I read this week was on the recommendation of my friend Stephanie, whose book-taste I trust like no other.

When I first saw the title I was not too interested-it seemed extreme and just some made up idea to write a book about.  But something about Stephanie's review drew me in and I ended up with this book on my big stack, interrupting my WWII binge.  

And I loved it-is was nothing like I thought it would be.  She is an ordinary person (meaning lives a normal, non-extreme way of family life when it comes to food) and after watching a You-Tube video (this one-it's long and I didn't make it all the way through but far enough) she decided she wanted to make some changes. She also LOVES dessert and is a baker-her description of herself when she was little I could just totally relate to. Once she did something naughty and the worse things her parents could think to punish her with was no desserts for a month.  She described it as torturous.  Chapter 1 is titled, "I Love Sugar."  

She chronicles the year, the exceptions she made (which gave me some great guidelines for myself) and the things she observed.  The book is also super informative but not in a boring way.  She is so funny. 

Sugar is added into almost everything.  If you want to be frustrated, go to the grocery store and look at most ingredients (I had to remember to bring my glasses) in all packaged food.  Sugar in pesto? Sugar in all bread? Sugar in spaghetti sauce?  Sugar in all snack food but one type of pretzel (Snyder's Hard Pretzels) and plain potato chips?  Sugar in soup?  Sugar in "healthy" yogurt? EVERYTHING.  Maybe one or two types of cereal?  HELLO!!! It's gross, seriously gross.  And sometimes it is disguised by a bunch of different names, but it's still the same old sugar.

Add on top of all that the obvious desserts-this is not even considering the sugar-laden fast food and pop-and here we have the health crisis we are facing today.

TWO AND A HALF POUND OF SUGAR per WEEK is the average amount ingested per person. I picture cutting the 5 pound bag we buy in half and spooning that into each of our mouths-double gross.  

Another eye-opening thing-how much our kids ingest-how much is given to them in treats every day at school, at every function, at every holiday.  (I think I have written on this before-just general overkill in every area of raising kids today-'a cupcake and juice box after a soccer game, don't forget your Gatorade syndrome' it could be called.)  

"My sugar-distant vantage point was giving me a unique view of the holiday season, and I was shocked at what I saw.  I realized that is had become SO cheap and SO easy to hand a child a treat that inflation had set in. No longer is it sufficient for the teacher to bring the kids each a doughnut-there had to be a pile of candy next to it. No longer is it sufficient for kids to get a single treat at each house, now many houses go to the trouble of packing little paper candy bags full of several treats each. No longer is it sufficient to have a treat of two (or fourteen) from the candy bag that night; we have to provide dessert on top of that. Because what else do you do?  It's Halloween! Or Christmas! Or Valentine's Day! Or somebody's birthday! Or you're just feeling depressed! Or happy!"

If our body processes sugar like it would a poison, are we not poisoning our kids (and ourselves) slowly?

The cool thing with this book, believe it or not, is I didn't walk away feeling panicked and like I had to start tossing everything in our cupboard and freaking my kids out, giving away all their Halloween candy and never baking cookies again.

Our sugar consumption as a country has risen  dramatically-when sugar was once a very occasional treat, is now us dumping it down our throats every day...  

Image result for graph of sugar consumption in the US
...and I wanted to get back to the "treat' stage after reading this book.  Taking it out of every day things that weren't even meant to be sweet, and making it something to look forward to occasionally with something very special.  

And then maybe when we lose the constant sweetness in our diet we become more sensitive to that sweet taste like the author and her family did, so we don't need so much of it (cups and cups!) in the cookie or the banana bread or the cake, which is also a great way to cut down.  The author did such a good job describing this-how her taste buds changed and how she came to think of that special treat she allowed them once a month as something really special-not some store-bought cookie, or junkie piece of candy, but took the time to make it "worth" it-

"I had come to understand that while sugar is fun, it is nutritionally expensive-why would I want to waste my allotment of it on vending machine candy or breakfast cereal?  Why not save it for something truly special?"

So that is what I am doing here.  I have a set of rules for myself that still allow me to have my special treats, just very occasionally on holidays and birthdays, (back to a modified whole30 after August wreaked havoc) and I'm reading labels at the store and searching for better alternatives for my family. I keep giving the kids little facts that I've read in the book and they are working with me to get even more health conscious than ever.  I still have a few transitions to make (Jif and grape jelly) but I feel like we are heading in the right direction.


To The Mom Who Apologized For Being A Mess

I saw a mom, much younger in her years than me, in a store the other day.  She had three little ones with her, oldest maybe four, youngest maybe 6 months (of pure lovely irresistible baby chub, I had to do the leg squeeze).  We met each other briefly before (so leg squeeze wasn't super inappropriate?). She was juggling a cart with two kids in it-a late morning run to get something essential I am sure.

And the baby was starting to whine, and the toddler was asking again and again for something (those darn candy aisles!) and trying to crawl out and she was a little frazzled and she apologized.  And I told her how cute the kids were and off she went to start her day.

But I wish I would have told her that she didn't owe me an apology.  In fact, I think she is awesome. I think she is EXACTLY what motherhood in that stage should look like.

Because she is doing the work.  She is doing hard selfless 24/7 work.  And sometimes I find that rare today.  She isn't decked out for an expensive exercise class sans kids, she didn't spend the time it takes to do her hair all up and apply makeup, she isn't dressed up, ready to start her day, the children tucked away elsewhere conveniently.  She is WITH her children.  She is probably pinching pennies and wearing what is in her closet, because she is making the sacrifice to find a way to be present. She looks nothing like the latest celebrity mom, and I bet she has to search hard for the "comrades in arms", the friends that give her support because they are doing the same.

And she is tired.  She has circles under eyes. She was up at night with the little one, who wasn't left crying in his crib, and then up again with the older ones at the crack of dawn I am sure.  She threw her clothes on (maybe the ones on the floor from the day before) and started her day, knowing where her priorities lie. Yes, she is disheveled because she put little people first before herself and there is NOTHING wrong with that, it's admirable, despite what she will be told today, it is darn admirable. It is the way it should be.

But she doesn't know it.  She doesn't know it yet, but she will some day.  She probably feels like she is doing it wrong, she doesn't "have her act" together.  Maybe she has feels she baby weight to lose, she should snap back, take care of herself, put herself first.  She shouldn't let her career slip, or her fashion sense take a back seat.  Maybe she wonders what "the secret" is, when it seems everyone else has seems all put together.  She must be doing something wrong? She is told she should ask for help, lots of it, raising kids is hard work and requires "a village".

I wonder if she feels lonely today, I hope she doesn't, I hope she knows deep in her heart the difference she is making in those children, her incredible importance in being there all those days, every day, putting herself aside and finding joy in those little ones even just a glimpse in those hard days.  I hope she knows how much her children are learning being with her, their mother, at the store, or wherever she goes and how much she is strengthening that bond of trust. I hope she knows how fast this stage will be over, and how plentiful the rewards will be knowing that she gave it her all and saw every stage and sweet moment.  I hope she knows she will look back on the tight budget with nostalgic fondness, wondering how she did it and feel pride that her and her husband made it work.  I know she will not regret one thing that she couldn't purchase or had to put off till later-she traded that for moments that can't be bought.

I know she will figure out "the secret"-that we learn as we go and we learn as we do the work, and the more we are there, present for our children, the easier it gets.  The more we embrace the "mess" and stop looking for the answer outside ourselves (where we will certainly get every answer but the right one) and do the work at hand-dive into the work at hand, surrender to it all and heck squeeze those baby thighs, she will hit a stride and come up for air-and maybe go under for the next one, yes, but she is smart and she will learn to trust herself.  She will figure out that the more we embrace the need for unselfishness and sacrifice, the more we stop wanting something "else" that we are told we must have to be happy and whole as mothers, be it a career, or a sofa, or a body shape, we will finally mother with joy instead of resentment, instead of being inconvenienced by our children.

What a beautiful thing to embrace-our children's childhood-fleeting, precious, and never to be seen again-there won't be second chances to live it all over again .What a beautiful thing to find joy in. The truth is, that "secret"? "The mess", the work, is what gives the greatest reward, no other accomplishment or life experience will compare, and it needs no apology.


Book Of The Week

I've set up a goal for myself to read a book a week-quite unrealistic, but it keeps me reading.  I am on a WWII binge.  Last week I highlighted a book I ended up buying I loved it so much.

This week I read:

I loved this book!  Each chapter starts with lots of history but I skipped that part (not that it's not interesting just that I wanted to get to the good parts before I nodded off) and then was full of letters written by sons and daughters, and grandchildren of veterans, or veterans themselves in response to Tom Brokaw's first book called The Greatest Generation (which I want to go back and reread now.)

SO inspiring, and also tissues needed-these incredible sacrifices made by these women and men-mothers, wives, children, and the men and women veterans themselves.  So many lives lost.  I turned down a few pages of little quotes I wanted to remember.  I also found myself even more disillusioned at the present state of our political race.  It's a shame really-an utter shame considering the lives and sacrifices made for us to live in this wonderful country, all the son buried all over this world, never to be hugged by their mothers again..  The words 'embarrassing', 'ignorance', and 'circus' and 'shameful' come to mind to describe it all from the candidates to the media covering them to all the ridiculous talk and outright immature games being played to the money to the scandals-it's basically the opposite of every value this Greatest Generation embraced.

Anyways, here are a few little excerpts from various letters I wanted to remember from the book:

This one really encompasses so much and I want to write more on this later-things I am seeing that made me so angry when it comes to parents as role models, and a short conversation I had with a grandmother about honoring parents with good dutiful responsible behavior for LIFE.

"The Depression was a leveler too. I grew up in what was considered a middle-class family-by today's standards we would be considered poor, but nobody came around to tell us so.  Everyone was in the same boat, and extended families helped each other. I wore many clothes that had belonged to one of my cousins or my big brothers.  Getting some bit of clothing of your own that was new was a big event.  There were many people who had much less than we did, but they never let on and we never knew. The community sort of stuck together and family was very important. Parent were role models. I remember getting into a lot of mischief when I was growing up but nothing really bad.  In the back of my mind was always the thought, "Don't ever do anything to bring disgrace to your family." I never thought of "me first" or "do your own thing," and neither did anyone else. I am sure that these traits helped us in combat to stick together and look out of each other."

This little series of letters was heartbreaking, but it stood out to me because of the young young age these men (kids really) left their homes to fight the war.  Most of them seemed to be married young by today's standards-early 20's.  Wonder why that has changed and if it is for the better, especially after the last book I read, it really has me pondering all that.  It seems like these couples built a life together early on and were "grown-ups" must quicker than happens today and were so much more grateful and satisfied with their own small home and food on the table and a decent job and their children.

"Dear Mom-You shouldn't bake cookies with tears in your eyes, Mom, you know that isn't good for you.  Charlie and I will be all right, so don't you worry.  When we are back in town you'l never even know we were away.  And how are you doing Dad? You had better watch out when they get you back in the army, I'll admit that they do need a lot of guys like you that know their stuff, but the army has changed.  See you all later, Good nite, good luck and God Bless You, Art."

Another written by Art:
"Dear Mom and Dad-
Bettie and the girls left on Sunday nite too, but they should have gotten there sometime this morning because nothing could move as slow as the troop train we're riding on. I don't know just how she is going to like the place, but if it's very bad, I'm going to send her home. I'll hate to see her go because since she's been out here with me, I've had the happiest time of my life. I know that I got the pick of the lot when I got married, and you should see me, I've changed a lot.  Did you know that this is the longest I've been away from Bettie since she's been out here. That shows you how much we've been seeing each other. We've been married for seven months, two weeks, and four days and I'm just as much in love now as I was the day we got hitched.
Good nite, good luck and God Bless You All Art."

There are a few more letters from this collection, written by a boy that sounded just like all of ours do-excited to be young, excited to see the world, missing home and you can sense the heartbreak and worry and pride his parents are feeling.  And then there is this:

"My Dear Mrs. Nicholls-
With profound regret I have learned that your husband, Second Lietuenant Arthur Herbert Nicholls, missing in action on May 13, 1943, has since been reported killed in an engagement..."

How many thousands and thousands of letters like this were sent back and forth?  It is truly heartbreaking and humbling and we must be filled with gratitude and a sense of duty and respect but it seems to me like we've forgotten it all and certainly haven't done a great job of teaching it to our children (I know I could do better!).

This one little sentence by a veteran summed up so much of The Greatest Generation:

"Coming of age during the great depression and the Second World War united us with a common purpose and common values: 
love of family and country,
and responsibility for one's self."

There you have it-and there is what we have a duty to uphold and what I would call our country's values of yesteryear that we have lost or are losing or feel like we must fight for from WITHIN, which is terribly frustrating and plain wrong.

Another excerpt written by a veteran:
"I agree that a majority of those who endured the Great Depression, World War II and helped rebuild this country, were folks, inculcated with a deep sense of honor duty, patriotism, loyalty, work ethic, and respect for God, country and self. I do respectfully disagree however that we are the "Greatest Generation".  I tip my hat the generation preceding us, our parents and grandparents, who instilled in us those principles of honor, duty, loyalty and patriotism and respect as well as the work ethic. They taught us to "make do" and to get our joy from out companionship and loyalty to and from our friends."

A video worth watching:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.


The Cake

I forgot to tell the story about this cake, and I want to remember it.  I have a history of cake stories-nightmares/terrible cake turn-outs/toddler stepping square in center etc. and here is one for the books,.

I found this gem on Pinterest and knew it was perfect for Jeff.  It ended up being a little bit of a hassle because my normal grocery store wouldn't do it-something about no free-hand drawing (which would apply to the underwear?)  I had to stop at another store and show them the pic I wanted and all the bakery ladies cracked up and said, "Sure we will do this."  I am not picky about colors etc, just wanted it off my list!  When I went to pick it up (with kids) they had forgotten to write Happy Birthday Jeff and I asked if they could do it then.  The only person working was not someone who looked like she wanted to be working anywhere, and she scribbled it quickly and it looked awful (this is from me who is NOT picky at all!)  I went to leave (I hate complaining) but then said, "Heck I'm having it redone, it looks awful and costs a pretty penny."  I found a different bakery lady because I didn't want to hurt the original "scribbler/no effort" girl's feelings and this nice older lady fixed it up so it matched and one could read it. I had to wait another 10 minutes though.

I'm thinking, "All for a darn cake, I have a million things to do!"  such as make an entire dinner for 50 people.

We finally got home and I took in the groceries and someone is relaying a phone message to me and it's all chaotic and I hear a little voice at the screen door in the garage saying, "Mom, mom, can you help me?"  And I peer out the door and Janey has the entire HUGE sheet cake in her hands and is trying to set it down while she opens the door and climbs up the steps to come in.  She actually managed to finagle the box out of the trunk of my mini-van and walk all the way from the driveway into the garage with it.  It was twice her size!!!

I said, "Oh no no no no no.  Mommy will do that."  I said it quite energetically I am sure.  She said, "Mom I'm just trying to help!" in an exasperated tone.

The cake AMAZINGLY was NO worse for the wear-maybe a little side-smudging on one side but I was thanking my lucky stars.  This one will go down in my cake history as my lucky break.


Happy Birthday Abbey

I always have the intention of reminiscing on each of my children's birthday about the day they were born and what they were like as babies and beyond.  But sometimes the festivities of the day put a cramp in that plan, and before I know it the day is over and we are moving on.  My intentions are good, but celebrating the day takes precedence over nostalgic reminiscing, but I love it when I get a chance, and I want to try harder to do that-I think as time passes all the babies births begin to blend together in my memory and I want to hold those days dear.

Abbey turns 20 today, and I DO remember little things about her birth.  I remember I cried when I found out I was pregnant again-not because I was at all disappointed but I was so afraid of the hyperemesis, and I had an extremely difficult birth with Isaac and I said to Jeff, "I don't know if I can do it again!"  And he said, "Yes you can, it won't be that bad and maybe you won't get sick."  Well of course I did get sick so he was wrong on that, and of course he was right on the birth-still posterior, still difficult but not crazy awful hours and hours of pushing, just a couple and so much better managed.  I found an awesome midwife near me and she took such good care of me through the sickness and through the birth. A funny little side note to that is that my sister-in-law was pregnant also, but we both hadn't told anybody (or maybe just I hadn't told anybody?  I don't remember) and we JUST missed each other coming into and out of that very same office!  We still laugh about that.  Her little sweet baby girl was born a month earlier than Abbey.

I remember being certain she was a boy.  I thought that was just perfect, and Isaac would have a brother close in age and I knew what to do with a boy now-had all the clothes and toys and how perfect.  And what would I do with a girl?  That would complicated things, maybe I wouldn't be a great girl mom.

Her birth was easier than Isaac's, but still posterior and still a lot of painful pushing.  My midwife was awesome, I do remember her reassuring me so much during it all, and I also remember a stubborn anesthesiologist coming in and tempting me without even being asked (must have wanted to get all his epidurals done at once or something?) and her pointing her finger at the door and telling him to "get out right now, we will call you if we need you."  He did rather quickly, I laugh about that and love it too, because she knew what I wanted and was willing to make people mad to carry it out for me, that's a sign of an awesome midwife.

And when she was born on a beautiful sunny September day and they said, "She's a girl!" I was filled with the most joyous feeling ever.  I think I told Jeff, "I always wanted a girl!  I'm so glad she is a girl!" and he probably just thought I was a tad bit crazy for all my boy talk before.  It was just this overwhelming excited beautiful feeling of "this is awesome."

I remember it took 2 days to choose her name-Jeff liked Gabrielle and we both liked Abbey and it took us awhile to decide, but we didn't care much about the indecision.  She was just here and beautiful.

Abbey was so so sweet.  I remember being shocked and grateful that she only nursed every 3 hours, what a break!   Something about 2 hours or less vs. 3 is such a difference sleep-interruption wise.  I do remember she was very very sensitive with sleep-well with everything, which Janey was also-minded being wet, minded scratchy clothes, minded being hot or cold, so different than Isaac (and the rest of the boys.)

The thing about Abbey I will also always remember is that to me she seemed like her brain didn't match up with her physical development.  Like her smarter brain was trapped in her baby/toddler body-she just had that look about her that already "knew" everything.  She figured out things fast, she observed closely, she studied things, she knew what was up.

And also how she wouldn't sleep without me laying down next to her even though I read every book on sleep, everything majorly failed (and I so regret the crying out thing I tried once, and vowed to never do it again and never did) and I remember that was a big lesson for me.  Every child is different and basically (sorry) *screw* what the "experts" say, or anyone else, I'm doing what is right for my child.  She taught me that.

And oh how sweet she was!  She was very easy, she loved her big brother, she played and played and played with everything as she grew.  She loved packing purses and bags, stuffing her drawers full of little things, empty little cereal boxes, basically pieces of what anyone would call garbage, I 'd open her desk drawers and think, "What IS all this stuff?"  Anything little she loved.

As she grew she loved creating-she played with dolls, but not babies like Janey. She loved her American girl dolls (started with Felicity for a long while) even into junior high she would sew clothes for them, her and Mary and Kate her little friends, would just play and play with those things.

I remember as a toddler when she would get upset, which was very rarely, maybe when she was scared or nervous, she could NOT settle herself down. She'd do the gasping, hyperventilating thing, and I'd have to hold her and rock her and tell her to breathe.  She still did that a few times quite older-get herself worked up about things.

When we moved to Second Street (the house we moved to here from and the one she still wants back :) we lived only one house beyond rail road tracks and the trains were loud.  I trained myself to jump out of bed when I heard a train far away, and run to her room, because she was petrified of those trains for months and months after we moved in.  Finally she was used to it, but she was very sensitive especially at night time.

I will stop there, as we have to get up and moving, we made lots of sugar cookies with plenty of frosting, her favorite and are heading out for a day visit on this beautiful sunny cool September day which is exactly like the day we were lucky enough to have you come into our lives.  Happy Birthday to our Abbey.