Sunday, June 21

Answer Me This: Father's Day!

I haven't blogged in a while because I feel like I'm suffering from a bit of writer's block.  We've finished up our 2014-2015 school year and started swim lessons at the YMCA.  We went to a lake with friends and wound up having a crazy time (more to come on that soon).  As for now, I thought it would be easy enough for me to link up with Kendra, one of my favorite bloggers, for "Answer Me This" and simply answer a few questions in honor of Father's day. I sorta have an amazing father of my children, and my old man isn't half bad either!  

1. What's the best thing about your dad?
The best thing about my dad is that he's always trying.  I didn't understand that when I was a kid, but as an adult I see that he's always trying to grow, learn more about his faith, please his family members, stay healthy, and make amends for past errors.  He's taught me that when we get stuck, we don't give up.  And he's taught me that sometimes it's super hard to apologize, but it's something that we just have to do sometimes, because none of us are perfect. ;-)

And I truly love watching him be a grandpa to my children.

2. If you've got kids, what's the best thing about THEIR dad?
Ryan is simply amazing.  I know that because I'm married to him, but I hear it all the time from other people as well so I know it's not just my bias.  He's so fun with the kids, always trying to make them laugh but knowing when it's time to be serious and learn virtue or discipline as well.  I appreciate his mild manner and understanding that they're just kids, with expectations that are reasonable, and that he's not afraid to shower them with love or silliness (depending on what they need).  He's just so intuitive.  (Okay I think that was multiple things but I just couldn't help myself!)

3. What's the best advice your dad ever gave you?
My father told me that we have to respect people even if we don't get along with or care for them all that much.  As an adult, I see that playing out in my life all the time when I run into people that I don't really mesh well with but try my hardest to see the positive and give them the benefit of the doubt.  But it's really helped me with people in positions of authority that I don't agree with.  Instead of arguing and being demeaning, I've learned to speak truth in charity and take other people's feelings into consideration.  I try to be very empathetic. Even though I didn't understand what he meant long ago when he said that to me, it's been something I've incorporated and expanded upon in my life to this day.

4. What's something you have in common with your dad?
My dad and I are both hard workers.  We like "projects" and to keep busy.  We both love the Lord above all things, and we both get super bright red faces when we work out for a long time!

5. What's the manliest thing you know how to do?
Me?  Ha!  Um... I used to know how to change a tire and check the oil in my (college) car.  I can build bookshelves and mow the grass.  I roughhouse with my boys and like to fish.  But I don't like "potty" humor and I can't burp on demand!

6. Who is your favorite fictional dad?
I have no clue so I'll change the question to who else has been a fatherly figure in my life?  My father-in-law has provided much healing to me as I've seen him model a functional relationship with my mother-in-law, and be interested in my life in a different sort of way than I was used to.  Growing up, I looked up to several of my uncles, admiring their love for their wives and dedication to God.  And I also had a few high school friends with dads who were very kind to me, and will always appreciate their involvement in my life during some difficult times.

Saturday, June 20

May: A recap

I didn't get around to posting much in May, but we had quite a few big activities and events!  I'll post some highlights that I don't want to forget.

Those math timed tests...

Bananas are her favorite breakfast

Finishing up his kindergarten math book
1. May 2 was our last day of soccer for the season.  Beth, Luke, and Jack all had great seasons.  Beth's team was quite amazing this season, they had been together for a couple of seasons already and they were really good.  I honestly looked forward to and enjoyed watching her games every Saturday.  Luke's team was coached by Ryan again, and these kids were pretty good too.  Luke definitely scored more goals this season than he has in the past.  Every season Ryan gets SO MANY compliments on what a great coach he is, how great he is with the kids, and I believe every one of them!  He really is a fantastic coach, probably because he's such a good dad. ;-)  Jack's team was pretty fun to watch.  There were a couple of great players, but Jack had fun watching his shadow as he ran and being silly with his teammates!  He scored a few goals throughout the season too.

Waiting for his game to start

2. May 3 was the May Crowning at the farm.  This was our second year and just as fun as the first year.  We always enjoy driving out to the farm, and praying with our friends and family in honor of Mary was a beautiful learning experience for the children.  I love showing them that our faith isn't something we just do alone, or just on Sundays.  We live it in a truly real way.

3. Later that week we were invited last-minute to a small family retreat with some members of our parish.  This was an event that had been planned for many months, but a last-minute cancellation opened up a spot for us.  Our family spent two nights in a cabin, having fun in canoes, playing frisbee golf, swimming, and making s'mores.  Ryan and I spent quite a bit of time chasing Caeli around, but the opportunity to get to know other members from the church on a more intimate level was a great pleasure.  (Let the record show that while playing frisbee golf, each team had the chance to deduct a point from their score by scoring a free throw at the basketball court.  I stepped up to the free throw line and totally sank one, nothing but net, and everyone was shocked but I think I was the most surprised person there!)  Our priest celebrated mass outside on the front porch of a cabin on both mornings, and I won't soon forget the sunrise and the swallows and the elevated Host.  It was breathtaking.

She felt like such a big girl in her on kayak.

Ryan had the pleasure of taking everyone out for a spin!
My sweet friend and I sharing bourbon...Because it's Thursday.

7:30 am mass on the porch
4. We left  the retreat to go straight to Ryan's parent's house to celebrate Mother's Day weekend.  On the way there I fell asleep and spent literally all day on Saturday in bed.  My body had picked up a germ and I was trying to hard to fight it off, but everyone else had fun playing with Grandma and Grandpa!

Playing with all the treasures at Grandma and Grandpa's house

5. Sunday was Mother's Day and I felt better!  We went to mass at our parish and Ryan prepared two feasts for me that day- a huge brunch and a fajita dinner.  I got a nap, and all was well!

At the end of the day.

6.The following week we left on Thursday afternoon to drive to San Marcos for my brother's graduation.  However, the night before we left my fever had risen and I felt the worst I had felt in years, but I desperately didn't want to miss the graduation and family reunion.  I drove myself to an urgent care facility right by our house and was given antibiotics by a doctor who was clearly upset that I denied a chest x-ray.  On Thursday afternoon, Ryan gathered our stuff while I still felt pretty miserable, and we all left.  I'm so happy I went, though my body was clearly still needing to recover. I pushed myself probably too hard but oh well.  I wanted to see everyone and be there for my little brother!
Matthew and Me

This is the second time we've rented this farm house.  It's amazing.
Nope.  She's going to be an Aggie.
Beth and Matthew after the ceremony
We had a long afternoon of hosting a party at our rented farmhouse!

Sweet girl.
Most of my side of the family, we're missing Michael!
The S. family women
At the Alamo!
We woke up to some crazy rain on Sunday morning, the boys watched airplanes take off through the crazy lightning!

We visited a beautiful parish in San Antonio.

7. I still felt pretty rotten the next week.  I went to see my primary care doctor and he prescribed a different antibiotic for bronchitis and a sinus infection.  We went to a friend's home to pray a rosary that morning, and I pretty much laid on her couch all day while the kids played!  I finally started to feel better by the following Thursday, though my cough definitely took a solid three weeks to go away. 
Playing some checkers with a cowboy.

The first time we tried pigtails!
Luke (and Beth) had their first piano lessons!

 8. Memorial day weekend was mostly relaxing- Sunday we had a picnic at our parish and Monday we lounged at the pool most of the day before coming home to barbecue.  But Tuesday afternoon, Ryan left for San Diego.  He rarely travels, which is such a blessing to me, but it means I was unprepared for three nights without him.  We actually did really well!  We stayed busy during the days and I managed to stay on top of chores and dishes.  We went to a different friend's home to pray a rosary and Ryan's parents came over one afternoon to help out as well.  So while I don't want him to pick up the habit of traveling frequently, I was relieved to know that him traveling now was not the same experience as him traveling four years ago.  It's so very different to have older kids!

Memorial Day dessert, with blackberries from our garden and homemade whipped cream.
One of Ryan's amazing views during his travels.

Thank goodness for Facetime.  Pretty awesome.
Running errands to keep busy- we went to Whole Foods just to check it out.

Praying a rosary with friends.

And thus ended May, with Ryan coming home and everything seemingly back to normal.  Only June's been pretty busy too, but I'll write more about that later. :)

School's Out!

I battled an illness for about three weeks in May, but when I finally felt better I kicked it into high gear so we could finish up school!  It provides great relief to me to "officially" end school and declare that we are DONE!  Even though we will be continuing with math for probably most of the summer, I feel like I can close that folder in my head and move on to thinking about the pool, summer drinks, and next year's plan (which I actually enjoy!).

I asked Beth a few questions to gauge how the year went in her mind and I wanted to share some of her answers!

1. What was your favorite subject? Math
2. What was your favorite part of ancient history?  The stone age people
3. What was your favorite field trip?  The aquarium
4. What are you most proud of learning? Multiplication, 10 x 5= 50
5. What are you most excited about for summer time?  Swimming!

Luke's year was pretty tame for a kindergartener.  He's very close to reading, and can sound out a few words but he's lacking confidence to just sort of take it over.  But boy, this kid is also an artist.  And a mathematician!  We will work on building confidence over the summer and I think he needs some new building sets!  (I'm considering venturing into the world of Legos...)

Jack will be in kindergarten next year and I'll admit I'm a little nervous about teaching three in the fall!  But for both of the boys, at this age I am just not concerned with having them sit and "do school" for three hours a day.  It's much more important to me to instill in them a love of reading (by reading to them!), an inquiring mind, appropriate social skills, and most importantly- virtue.

I hope to take a slightly different approach to our lessons in the fall.  I'm hoping that Caeli will be a little more compliant in letting me sit down to read to everyone (now she immediately climbs into my lap, kicks everyone else away, and wants to nurse), and I hope to put together some toddler busy bags for her to play with when I need her to play alone.  (Realistically I know this probably will rarely happen.  #fourthtimemomwisdom)  Beth will be doing some more work on the computer, we will be adding Shakespeare to our literature (!), and I want to plan out more official field trips and community service.  I'm considering joing 4H, we will stay in our co-op, and Beth and Luke are also starting piano lessons, finally!  I'm so excited to start planning our fall!

Monday, May 11

In Need of Some Extra Love

Every now and then we go through a phase in our house where Ryan and I get busy, burnt out, or somehow become oblivious to the specific needs of each of the kids.  Lately, a combination of all three perhaps, has left one little boy feeling a little off.  How do I know he's off?  The usual sweet, chipper nature of this goofy little guy has disappeared, and a whining guy who has been the root of many arguments and "accidents" has appeared.

I might blame it on his age.  I might blame it on an upcoming growth spurt.  I could very easily blame it on him being a boy.  But when I start trouble-shooting bad tempers around here, I start with his basic needs and how I'm meeting them.

  1. Has he been eating well?  Well, this one has always had strong preferences for food.  He likes only a few things and I don't think I'm feeding him enough fats and proteins, so I'm going to try to let him have more control over his own diet.  (He's always been the kind of kid who needs to choose his own path in his own time- apparently he needs to fill up his own plate too.)  
  2. How has he been sleeping?  I don't think he was meant to be an early rise like his brother.  He's been sleeping in more lately (since Luke has not been waking him up!) and that seems to help.  So we need to positively encourage and remind Luke to honor his brother's sleeping habits.  (Luke's the kind of kid who responds 100x better to positive affirmation rather than correction.) 
  3. How is his health?  This I'm not positive about.  I need to get a weight on him and check his growth on the chart.  I feel like he's not as big as his brother was at this age, and that he'd a little pale and slim.  But it's been winter and he hasn't been eating well, so maybe some sun and ice cream will do him some good!
  4. What else is going on?  This year he's adjusted to having a baby sister.  Initially it wasn't a big deal, but I feel like as the first year went on I could tell he needed some extra Mommy time.  I'd try to fit in some extra cuddles, extra one-on-one reading time, and game time while the older kids are listening to an audio book.  He's still a little kid while Luke has moved up to the older kid realm in some senses.  I've pushed him through his toddlerhood and pre-k years, not intentionally, and he's probably just fine because he is a little precocious in my opinion. ;-)  But I can't push him into growing up.  He needs mama time, and I can't deny him of that.  He needs to know he's safe with me.  These past few months we've had a few incidents of him trying to be independent where he clearly still needs adult help, and it's not gone over well.  I still need to coddle him, baby him, and tell him I love him in a sappy voice- even if he giggles and says, "Mom, stop it!" with smiling eyes and his long lashes.
He's a kid who needs to forage his own path.  He has strong preferences about food, clothing, what books he likes, and when and how he will play or learn.  I really can't make him do anything- it's got to seem like it was his idea.  He likes to tuck in his shirts (even t-shirts into basketball shorts) and he likes to dip everything into mustard.  He REALLY wants a baseball-themed birthday party even though the kid has never played or really even seen a baseball game in his whole life!  He absolutely refused to ever go to Sunday School until one day he said, "I want to go today," and he's been every day since then.  I've known since the moment of his conception that God has great plans for him.  It's my job to take these traits and quirks of his and help mold and shape them into something for God's greater glory.  And right now, at 4 years and 10.5 months old, he needs to be a little boy for a bit longer.

I've re-committed myself to babying him.  To pay more attention to what he's feeling, how he's holding up when we're having long days, making sure he's getting the time and attention he needs, and making sure he's eating well and enough.  I can't put a time period on it but I think about a month of some intense Mommy attention will do this boy some good.  Then, the boy will be five years old, I'll probably cry some big fat "Where has my chunky baby gone?!" tears, we can have a fun summer, and we can start talking about kindergarten!

Swinging very high on park swings can turn anyone's day around.

Thursday, April 23

20 Things About Me

I posted this on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and decided I wanted to share it here for the sake of preservation. :-)  I did edit to clarify and add a little bit.

20 things about me... 

1. I don't have many pictures of just me on my phone, because I'm very self-conscious about myself and selfies are extremely unflattering on me. The picture of me on my blog is beautiful to me and represents me better than a photo of me probably does because frankly, if I could "be" any person who has ever been painted, it would be her. This picture spoke to me the first time I ever saw it. 

2. I could eat Tex-Mex every day for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. Because, fajitas and margaritas.

3. My love language is quality time. If we haven't spent quality time together lately, I'm probably feeling like we aren't friends. (If we live more than an hour apart, there's an exception.  Bonus points if you pursue spending time with me!)

4. When I'm with my sister, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins- even though we are all in different places doing different things- I feel like I'm with my "tribe." 

5. I make really good gumbo. 

6. The first time I ever really felt good at saying I was good at something was a couple of years ago when I became confident that I am a really good doula. 

7. I've dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety and I'm not embarrassed to admit it. 

8. My dream as a child was to get married to a tall dark-headed man and have babies. Pretty much living my fairy tale! 

 9. Trader Joes chocolates are my favorite desserts! 

10. I hate it when someone talks about my body. I'm not too big or too thin. All I want is to be healthy and strong. 11. It's a dream of mine to take voice lessons and sing this one beautiful song that's not even in English- it's from an opera but I don't even know what it's called, lol. 

12. All I want, more than anything, is for my extended family members to come to know the healing that is found only in Jesus, and that those who have been hurt can find peace. 

13. I lived a double life in high school and was a genuinely good kid, but wouldn't relive those years for a million dollars. 

14. I hate it when I don't serve a good meal to my family. I hate it when it's stuff that's just all thrown together. Ugh. 

15. I want to be a farm girl but if you know me in the slightest you probably already know that! 

16. I'm a behind the scenes kind of person. I like to help, so if I offer something to you, know it's completely genuine and never just to be polite.

17. I'm fiercely loyal. But I don't hold grudges.  Grudge-holding has been very hurtful to me in the past so I'm very sensitive to it and pray with all my might to forgive those who have hurt me and move on with life!

18. I hate confrontation and get my feelings hurt easily if it's something personal. 

19. I hate shopping for myself.

20. Becoming a member of the ordinariate of the chair of St. Peter- a branch of the Roman rite of the Catholic Church- has been the best thing to happen in my spiritual life since really learning to own my faith as a 16- year-old.

Monday, April 20

Waiting for Spring

This winter seemed very long.  The days were so very short and every year my body seems to crave the sunshine more and more.  I was sluggish and lazy, I just wasn't able to get myself motivated to work when my house was so dark.  The windows in our house face East and West (we have none facing North or South!) so we usually have amazing sunlight streaming into the kitchen and living room in the mornings, and the hot evening sun heats up our playroom in the evenings.  In the winter, it's overcast and dreary.  And my soul just feels uninspired.

It rained a lot too, at least it seemed that way.  Maybe because it's those rainy days when you crave the sun the most, and they just seem to slap you in the face with cold rain... and those are the nasty days you remember.  Everyone is cooped up inside the house, anxious to get out.  Everyone's a little sad and I know, just know, it's because these children were meant to be outside.

We did have some unusually warm days, and they were extra-glorious because the beauty is just so beautiful after being surrounded by the ugly.  We always took the chance to go to the park or just even play outside all day long, calling a "good weather day" off from school because when you homeschool, you get to do that!

As February ended and we had a break in the rain, I knew I had to get my plants in the ground while I had the chance.  We grabbed jackets and drove to the nursery to pick up some plants and seeds, and even though it was misty outside my heart was joyous to walk through that beautiful nursery surrounded by the lush greens and spring color that my yard lacked.  We picked some tomatoes, peppers, basil, lavender, and some seed packets of  carrots, lettuces, radishes, and summer flowers, and came home.

 We had lots of weeds to pull because those suckers start growing before anything else will, and I wanted to reposition a garden bed.  We tossed grubworms in a bucket, let earthworms wriggle in our hands before returning them to the soil, and pulled weeds to make space for our our flowers.  We even found a tiny hibernating snake! We kicked over and stomped crawfish chimneys, because we really hate those things and they make the yard look ten times worse than any weed ever could.

It's this time of year that I always feel like Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden, pulling back the overgrown to find a bit of beauty in a bit of earth.  Find something pretty fills me with hope; joy is coming.

It's always so appropriate to me that it's this time of year, when I crave green and beauty the most, that we enter into Lent.  Jesus was in a desert but I feel stuck in my own desert of sorts, searching for something to give me hope.  And then finally Easter comes, the joy of the resurrection, and all of the sudden the earth rejoices and bursts into bloom!  Everything wakes from their winterly sleep; the azaleas and lillies burst into bloom, buds linger on my rose bushes, orange and lime citrus flowers that smell of heaven, and tiny lettuces, all seem to shout with joy to the risen Christ!

 That's what I feel like I miss the most during a dreary winter.  Hope. Tiny blossoms, life buzzing around me.  I miss my hummingbirds.  I know that the spring will eventually come, but these long nights that drag one and on beat me up.  I love the way Lent is always timed with the end of winter in Texas. 

 So we worked the earth a bit, pressed some seeds into the ground, and I moaned that my back hurt from leaning over so much.  I gave my gloves to the kids because I didn't mind dirt under my fingernails.  It was worth it, just to be outside and feel the hope that I was creating something that would hide during Lent and bloom and blossom as the Spring came. 

My helpers were happy to be outside again, and anxious to see what would happen.  They're always eager to please and very hard workers, I think they are going to be excellent homesteaders one day!

Now that it's April and I can look out the window and see the green grass, small green blackberries growing larger each day, my Samuel's rose bush in full bloom and my Mother's Day yellow rose bush about to bloom, and a garden bed full of green tops of vegetables, my soul rejoices because I know that it is through Him that we will reap what we've sown.  It really feels to me like these plants are growing for Him, their Creator, and that it's my job to rid the beds of the weeds and make sure they're tenderly watered and cared for. Day by day, we watch them grow... Then one day soon, we will enjoy a feast, a beautiful salad of mixed greens and veggies, with a lemon basil chicken homegrown by us.  And I pray that in the same manner, we raise our children: eliminating the weeds that pull the life out of them, provide tender care and shelter from the unpredictable world, so that one day we can all enjoy the Heavenly feast together with our Lord, to whom we've been growing and reaching for our whole lives.

(All but one of these photos were taken by Beth!)
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