"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Quick Takes - Volume 8


--- 1 ---

First of all, yes, I am still alive. barely. I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I've posted anything. It's amazing what a sick kid or two can do to one's schedule -- any precious minute of free time I may have had disappeared in a flash. This, combined with a crazy goal I set for myself, and the fact that my DH is working overtime on his dissertation (read, we never see him) and ... well, I'm sure you can figure it out. Right now, The Baby is in bed, the other three are watching a Backyardigans movie (BTW, I LOVE the Backyardigans), and my DH is on a train headed home -- he was in Milwaukee meeting with his director. So, though I have a ton of work to do, and I'd really rather be watching the Backyardigans, I thought I'd catch up here first.

--- 2 ---

Last Friday, after being cooped up in the house all week with a sick son, I was ready to fly the coop. I decided to pack a picnic lunch and head to Wild River State Park for a winter picnic and a walk in the woods. It was in the thirties and perfect weather for getting rid of some major ants in pants around our house. My sister and her three (ages six, two, and three months) joined us. After PB&J at the trail center, near a blazing fire, we headed to the trail head. The ranger at the front gate had suggested a loop trail I'm pretty sure she said was a mile and a quarter in length. Either I heard her wrong, or we did not take that trail. As near as I can tell from the trail map, we ended up walking at least three miles! with seven kids under eight! And we made it back to the vehicles for hot cocoa and cookies with only about fifteen minutes of daylight to spare! At least one husband was getting a little nervous. But I, at least, had a blast. It felt good to get outside and to get some exercise (although my shoulder was pretty achy from carrying The Baby). I love the quiet winter woods (although there wasn't a lot of that with all those kiddos). And my kids said they want to do it again, so they must have had a good time, too. Really, there wasn't very much complaining. until we got to the ginormous hill at the very end. after they had already trekked two and a half miles. And I'm not sure my brother-in-law will be too keen on letting his wife and kiddos join me for a "walk in the woods" again anytime soon. Next time we'll pack a flashlight.

--- 3 ---

My best friend has a son The Boy's age and started a Blue Knights Boys Club for the two of them and two others. They had their first meeting a couple of weeks ago. At the meeting, the boys were "knighted." The Boy couldn't wait to tell us about the sword and the blue cross on his cheek. He learned about St. Peter and made a shield. And I have been quick to remind him these two weeks that he made a promise to be a protector of the true and good!

--- 4 ---

We finished studying Leonardo da Vinci in art and moved on to Michelangelo, but I wanted to share the kids' self-portraits. They worked on these after we studied the Mona Lisa. You can't tell from these pictures, but they texturized the backgrounds by applying salt to the wet watercolors.

The Boy painted himself wearing his pirate costume and his Lightning McQueen T-shirt. What amazed me is that he knew to just draw a little bit from his shirt -- "because you can't see the whole thing."

The Younger Girl

The Older Girl

--- 5 ---

The Kids got a snowman kit for Christmas last year and we never seemed to have the right kind of snow last winter. They finally got to use it for the first time last week. These photos were taken by The Older Girl.

--- 6 ---

What do you do for your sick kiddos that are too little for cold medicine? I've learned that Vicks BabyRub works pretty well. And on the bottoms of their little footsies it appears to help with coughs (don't ask me why). I tried these cold tablets (recommended by a friend) with The Baby, but haven't tried the cough syrup (recommended by my sister) yet. But I'm ready to go when the next round hits. I also bought another humidifier -- what's your opinion -- warm or cold?

--- 7 ----

I long for a vacation. My parents just returned from here and looking at their pictures of warm sand and sun was torture. Two years ago they took us on a Caribbean cruise ... Where's your favorite place to escape the winter cold?

Dreaming ...

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Monday, January 18, 2010

My Daybook - January 18, 2010

For Today... Monday, January 18, 2010 - Martin Luther King Day

Outside my window... it's dark, twenty-six degrees, and foggy. The January thaw is upon us.

I am thinking... about how tired I am.

I am thankful for... an evening with my son. Friday night Daddy and The Girls were gone, so I asked The Boy what he wanted to do. He wanted to watch a movie and eat a TV dinner (I don't know why he likes these, I think they look disgusting, but I digress...). He picked out a Veggie Tales video (Gideon, Tuba Warrior) from the library. We played this Memory game and Mancala while The Baby was finishing her dinner. After we put her to bed, we had root beer floats while watching the movie. Trusting God has been a big theme in my life as of late. And do you know what the lesson of this movie was? "If we're doing what God asks us to do, He'll meet all our needs. If we're doing what God asks us to do, we can trust Him with the outcome." Hmmm.... Good choice, Son.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. And do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do. And he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6
From the school room... We're finishing up the second quarter already! The Girls chose their third quarter language arts study: Shiloh. I'm not at all familiar with this one.

From the kitchen... I made a scrumptious ham dinner last night -- spiral cut ham with glaze, cheesy potatoes, green beans, apple sauce, and cinnamon buns. We enjoyed the leftovers today.

I am wearing... black warm-up pants, a T-shirt, and a gray fleece hoody from Old Navy that I bought in the boys department on clearance about ten years ago!

I am creating ... plans for our Little Flowers meeting tomorrow.

I am going... to go to bed.

I am reading... I finished O Pioneers! last night. Yes, it only took me a week. I think I'll wait until Shiloh gets here later this week before I start anything else. Has anybody read any good fiction lately?

I am hoping... that The Boy doesn't give his drippy nose and cough to anyone else in the family. Here we go again!

I am hearing... the space heater under my desk.

Around the house... most of the Christmas decorations are down. I left out a few pretty winter things though. The house always seems so bare after taking the decorations down, and less cozy and warm without the tree and its pretty lights.

One of my favorite things... When the kids decide on their own to be extra loving and kind. My DH has been missing dinners lately because he's working late on his dissertation. Last Tuesday evening I told the kids that Daddy would be home for supper. They immediately started planning what they could do to make the evening special. The Boy and The Younger Girl made him cards, thanking him for all his hard work. The Older Girl made sure the kitchen was spotless -- "because that's usually Daddy's job after dinner, and he won't have to do it." They had a glass of water all ready for him when he arrived, because they know he gets thirsty on his walk home. So sweet. Saturday morning The Girls decided on their own to clean the schoolroom, including my desk, for me, because they saw that my chore list for the day was much longer than their own. Thank you, God, for small blessings.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Nothing out of the ordinary: tin whistle lessons, Little Flowers meeting, dance classes. It is a week of birthdays though: my brother-in-law on Wednesday (the BIG 30!), a goddaughter on Thursday, and my mother-in-law on Friday. Happy birthday all!

Some picture-thoughts I am sharing: The Girls went with Daddy to a Little Flowers Father-Daughter dance on Friday night. They loved dinner at the malt shop, their pretty rose wrist corsages, the face painting, the treats, the limbo, the chicken dance, and, especially, a whole night with Daddy!

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Prayer Request

Please pray for my brother and sister-in-law and their unborn babe. The baby is due in February and he's their first. Please pray for health for Momma and Baby, and peace for the new parents as they await their little one's arrival. Thanks much!

Sooooo Big!

The Baby learned her first trick this week. Soooo big!

She's also entertaining us (and especially Father and the other daily Mass goers in the small chapel) with her tongue clicking -- I'll have to try and get that one on video!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holding Fast

This morning I read from the Office of Readings for the day:
My son, hold fast to your duty, busy yourself with it,
grow old while doing your task.

Admire not how sinners live,

but trust in the Lord and wait for his light.

God's blessing is the lot of the just man,

and in due time his hopes bear fruit.

-- Sirach 11:20-21a, 22
This reminder comes at a good time. Our family is in the final stretch of what has sometimes seemed an endless project: graduate school. Yes, it is my husband that is the student, but graduate school is a family endeavor -- an endeavor we began before having children!

For my husband, this final stretch means working like a madman on the final chapter of his dissertation until he starts teaching again in two and a half weeks. Unlike a certain priest friend (you know we love you!) who was "released from his [other] duties" to focus on writing his dissertation, a husband and father cannot be so liberated. I am so proud of him. It is extremely difficult for him to leave us -- as difficult as it is for us to be without his presence -- maybe more difficult. He's gone each morning by about six, and he leaves again after dinner for a few more hours. And the work won't stop when he does begin teaching again. And this spring he is teaching his first graduate course. He is "holding fast to his duty" and has said he will complete the dissertation by March 7 -- "or die trying."

For me, this final stretch largely means being a single parent, which is hard enough, but also maintaining the house and our school. I am proud of me, too. It is a lot of work. I was thinking of this passage from Sirach this evening as I wiped off the counters for probably the sixth time today, as I asked (!?!) one of the kids to sweep the dining room floor for probably the fifteenth time, as I watched The Baby enjoy her bath (while fretting about all the things that needed to get done before bed). But, really, I love my duty. as hard as it gets some times. and I find great JOY in being with my children as much as I am. And while I would like to be leaving for Mexico for a much-needed vacation, as my sister is doing tomorrow, I will instead busy myself. happily. with my duties. I will hold fast. This time of trial will pass.

This reading from Sirach I think is a good one to reflect on as we begin a new year, the first week of Ordinary Time. When one thinks about it, most of our time is ordinary. Learning to hold fast to our duties, growing old while doing our tasks, trusting in the Lord and waiting for His light is a way to sanctify the ordinary and, thus, make it extraordinary.

The goal is fixed. The end is in sight. And our hopes will, we trust and pray, bear fruit.

New Smile

The Boy has had two kind of loose teeth for quite a while. That all changed last night when he ate a none-too-soft pear for a snack after dance. In fact, I was a little worried he might swallow one of them, it was so loose. But he didn't want me to touch it.

This morning he pulled it out -- his first lost tooth. My Boy is growing up way. too. fast.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Daybook - January 11, 2010

For Today... Monday, January 11, 2010

Outside my window... it's still dark, but there's going to be a heatwave in Minnesota today -- it's already fourteen degrees and it's supposed to get up to 21!

I am thinking... about prayer. How do you other mothers pray? I'm not talking about with your husbands or with your children, but you yourself with our Lord. When? Where? How? And how do foster a constant awareness of His Presence throughout the busyness of your day?

I am thankful for... warmer weather this week -- the kids will be able to spend their recesses outside again.

From the school room... I'm really enjoying our art lessons this year. We're using Artistic Pursuits. This year the topic is "Stories of Artists and Their Art." So far we've studied Cimabue, Giotto, the Limbourg brothers, and Van Eyck. I've found some great books for our book basket on the artists themselves. We've just started learning about Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. Last week we looked at da Vinci's interest in the proportions of the human face and body. This week we'll study the Mona Lisa. Here's what the kids did last week:

"Cowboy" by The Boy

"Farm Girl" by The Younger Girl

"Horse Champion" by The Older Girl

From the kitchen... a simple winter snack (or breakfast) that I grew up with and now my kids enjoy -- warm buttered toast strips dipped in hot chocolate. (If you try this, make sure to tell your kids to dip quickly because the toast strips get soggy REALLY fast and then fall apart in one's hot chocolate -- something The Boy was REALLY frustrated with until he got the knack of it.)

I am wearing... my jammies, robe, and slippers.

I am creating ... a menu for the week. The month of December got a little crazy and it's time to work this back into our routine -- the evenings go much more smoothly when I know what I'm making ahead of time and have all the ingredients on hand -- especially since our new dance routine involves one of the girls dancing from 5-6:30 and the other from 6:30-8 -- no more overlap -- so eating together means eating at 4:00!

I am going... to go grocery shopping, stop at the library to pick up a request that's ready, return a DVD to the nearest Red Box, and take the girls to whistle lessons and all three older kids to dance.

I am reading... O Pioneers! Yes, a novel! Even if I only get to it on Sundays, I am going to start reading for pleasure again. And Willa Cather is the perfect place to start as she is one of my favorite fiction writers. I read four chapters yesterday. in bed. with a cup of tea. in the middle of the afternoon. And the Older Girl joined me with her book and a cup of tea. It was an extremely enJOYable way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

I am hoping... to make it March 7 -- my husband has said he will finish his dissertation by then or die trying, which means I will largely be a single parent until then. Pray for us!

I am hearing... the refrigerator humming and my fingers on the keyboard. The Girls' alarm clock will be going off in about two minutes, though.

Around the house... Ordinary Time begins today. It's time to put the Christmas decorations away for another year.

One of my favorite things... quiet. Ahhh ...

A few plans for the rest of the week: Tin Whistle lessons this afternoon. Dance on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Little Flowers on Tuesday. Get some groceries. Take down the Christmas decorations. Lower The Baby's crib mattress.

A picture-thought I am sharing:
The Cousins on My Side at My Nephew's Baptism Yesterday

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Here She Goes Again

Look who I won't be able to leave alone in her crib until my DH lowers the mattress again.

This is how I found The Baby when I got out of the shower this afternoon.

Field Trip to the Zoo

It is FREEZING (actually colder than freezing) here in Minnesota. And my kiddos are driving me crazy with their pent up energy. It was time for a field trip -- somewhere with lots of room to move. So, after Mass and Science Friday with Papa, we picked up Subway and went to the Minnesota Zoo yesterday.

This was The Baby's first trip to the zoo (that she was awake and alert for) and, after the initial shock, she seemed to really like the aquaria (thanks for the Latin grammar review, Father B!), both the one in the tropics area ...

... and, especially, the dolphin tank.

My older kids love the Ocean Trail and spent quite a bit of time trying to touch the sharks and rays.

By far the coolest thing we saw was a new animal to the Minnesota Zoo -- the leafy sea-dragon.

Thanks, Papa, for joining us for a fun afternoon at the zoo. (Seriously, this is the best picture I could get of these five at the end of the day! Mission accomplished.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

On the Move

Mom has been dreading this stage since we moved into this house before I was born. Why? I'm not sure. I think it's great.

She says the house isn't really baby-proof, whatever that means. She complains there's not a lick of carpet anywhere -- what's carpet? I do know that it hurts when I lose my balance and bump myself on the floor. And it's really easy to find every little thing I can to test in my mouth. For some reason this freaks Mom out and she's constantly putting her finger in my mouth to see what I'm testing -- I don't particularly enjoy this. There are no doors at the top or bottom of the stairs, so now Mom's complaining about climbing over a gate that she uses to make sure I don't fall down these, although I'm very interested to see what stairs are about. I also hear her complaining about the old baseboard heaters in every room -- I guess I haven't gotten close enough to those yet.

Right around Christmas, I finally figured out how to move this body of mine wherever I want it to go. I especially like to help out in the kitchen around dinnertime -- Mom is especially busy then and she's fun to watch.

Can I get that drawer for you, Mom?

Are we broiling anything tonight?

Let me help you unload those pretty Christmas dishes.

Mom seems to want me to play with the magnets on the fridge. I put a few on the floor, but that doesn't seem very helpful. I can't understand why every time I want to get the cookbooks out for her, this stupid stool is in the way. Well, I guess I'll just help unwrap these ramen noodles instead.

I'm so proud of the big girl I'm getting to be. Soon I'll be helping my Older Sisters.

If Mom will stop putting me in this cage just when I'm being most helpful!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ten Whole Hours!!!

Those cute pictures I posted before I went to bed last night ... The Baby slept for ten. whole. hours. in a row!!!

And she was all smiles when she woke up.

And that means that Mommy slept for eight whole hours in a row!!! And that means I'm feeling pretty good this morning.

And there's a new dusting of pretty white snow on the ground.

And it's almost the weekend.

And school's gone pretty well this week.

Life is good.

Enjoy the little things.

My soul, give thanks to the Lord,
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings.
(from Psalm 103)

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Daybook - January 4, 2010

For Today... Monday, January 4, 2010

Outside my window... it's FREEZING -- it's supposed to get around ten below zero tonight, not including the wind chill factor. I don't really like it when it's THIS cold because the kids can't get outside for very long in the afternoon for recess, which means they have extra ants in their pants, which means I'm going crazy by three o'clock. Man, I miss my large finished basement!

I am thinking... about what 2010 has in store for our family. It will likely include a difficult move away from friends and family and familiarity. We're still praying for the miracle it appears it will take for us to stay where we are. I am also praying that I can be open to whatever the Lord has in mind for us next.

I am thankful for... a return to routine after weeks of Advent and Christmas activities.

From the school room... Today was the first day back to school -- enough said.

From the kitchen... The refrigerator is still pretty full of holiday leftovers, so we worked on making room for new stuff today. Last night we had our friend Father B over for dinner. I made the Corsican Beef Stew he spied in my Italian Cooking Encyclopedia on one of his recent visits. It was scrumptious -- perfect for a cold, wintery night.

I am wearing... black warm-up pants, a T-Shirt that reads "I'd Rather be in Italy" (wouldn't I!?!), and a gray hooded fleece.

I am creating ... plans for the rest of the school year.

I am going... to go pick up The Older Girl from dance. And then I am going to catch up on some work while I wait for my DH to get home from an Evening of Recollection.

I am reading... work-related stuff. always.

I am hoping... I get a good night sleep tonight. I need to catch up after a weekend of partying too late.

I am hearing... The Boy race upstairs to brush his teeth "in a timely fashion" so that he can look at books while I go get his sister instead of going right to bed.

Around the house... one more week to enjoy the Christmas decorations.

One of my favorite things... surprises. Bishop Sirba was in town last night and stopped by to say hello.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Get back into the school routine. Catch up on work stuff. Stay warm.

A picture-thought I am sharing: Father B is worse than an uncle! (Or better according to the kids!) I was ready to throw him out in the backyard in the snow with my super-wound (thanks to him) kids last night.

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