Saturday, November 15

Renaissance Festival

The local Renaissance Festival hosts "school days" during the week during which they tame down the bawdy acts and make the whole thing a little more kid-friendly.  We heard it was a fun family activity, so Ryan took a day off and we all went together!

One rainy, cold day while we were dating, Ryan and I went together.  I don't remember why we decided to go, but it was our first time and we were poor college students, so I remember not having a lot of fun!  Upon walking in, a man with an accent called out to Ryan (who was wearing a visor), "Did you pay full price for that half cap?!"  Ryan still says that anytime I put on a visor.  That's my biggest memory from that day, probably 11 or 12 years ago!

I think it's fun that over a decade later, we went back with four children and a little money in our pocket this time.  I think we made up for not spending any before!  The first thing we all did when we walked in was all got our faces painted!

After that we walked around a bit while we made a plan.  We knew we had to see the joust, and we wanted to hit up a few booths for demonstrations.  The first thing we saw was a blacksmith.  The kids were pretty interested in watching him make a tool for turning steaks on a grill.

Almost right after that was the joust.  We wanted to get there early enough to get a seat in the front. 
Jack chose to have a dolphin painted on his face!

Luke kept asking if they were really hurting each other.  As you can imagine, this was his favorite part of the day!
Luke was enamored with all of the knights he kept seeing.  Statues, men dressed as knights, swords and chainmaille in the shops.  He kept asking if everything was real.  We stopped to take lots of pictures.

In this shop, the man demonstrated how sharp his sword was- he said it could cut a person in half! (I don't think the kids picked up on that delightful tidbit.)  Yet it was very light-weight- he let Luke "hold" it!
They started begging to play games so we found some bows and arrows to shoot.  The kids had practiced with the bows and arrows that PawPaw had made for them over the summer, so they looked like professionals in my opinion.

The second show we saw was a man who showcased his skills with a whip, then because that wasn't impressive enough he also lit it on fire!  We didn't get an up-front seat for this act... Which, halfway into the show, I realized I was completely okay with that!

At this point we stopped to have lunch.  We had packed a lunch and left it in the car, so Ryan went to grab it while the rest of us slowly meandered to a table.  Everyone was getting pretty tired but we hadn't accomplished nearly everything yet!  But after lunch it started to rain!  Luckily we had our umbrella and stood in a covered area for about 15 minutes until it passed.  While it got everything muddy, I think a lot of people left at this time because the place seemed to clear out after the rain.  We found some more games for the kids, shopped around for cheap souvenirs, then left for home around 3:00.

Everyone really enjoyed themselves!  I am sure we'll go back next year.  Ryan really wants to dress up, too, so if you see any Robin Hood men's costumes on sale, let me know! 

Friday, November 14

7 Quick Takes... Thoughts about Thinking

Being a friend is complicated.  Sometimes I get stuck in situations with certain people where I just fumble on my words.  I gush about myself or endure awkward silences when I'm secretly desperately trying to think of a new conversation topic.  It's always the same people too- they must think I'm an idiot!  I get myself worked up and then the words just don't come, or I wind up saying something totally dumb, or blabbing on about myself when I sincerely want to hear about them.  I hate that feeling!

I don't know why I let things bother me so much.  Like today I was on a country road and came up behind an older man in a truck going 50 mph in a 70.  He slowed down- I thought he was going to turn right- so I slowed down behind him.  He started waving for me to go around him but there was oncoming traffic and I didn't feel comfortable doing it since I would have had to cross over into the other lane.  He got really mad at me!  He had his window down, yelling Lord only knows what at me, waving his hands frantically.  I'm only happy he didn't make a specific one-fingered gesture but he was clearly ticked off at me and I can only imagine what he was thinking.  I was so confused!  He was doing something nice for me, but then got mad at me?  I let this incident eat at me off and on all afternoon.  I prayed for him after it happened but why did I dwell on it?

I guess I'm a thinker.  I do think about things for a long time, and I have to read as much information as I can before I make a decision.  I replay moments in my head over and over again, hoping I'll do better next time.  We've been thinking about something big over the past couple of months and it's taken some time for pieces to fall into place, but I've needed to gather all the facts.  This is difficult because sometimes you just can't gather everything; sometimes the facts don't exist.  Sometimes you have to pray and just trust God, and trust yourself to make the right decision even when some of the puzzle pieces are still missing.  But as I tell my clients- we make educated decisions with the information we have in this moment so we have no "what ifs" later.  We made part of our decision and although it's not originally what we'd wanted, we did gather as much information as we could and put the rest in God's hands. 

The good news about making a big decision is we've experienced a bit of relief knowing that it's officially Not An Option anymore.  Crossed it off the list.  That's always nice, don't you think?

Well, I guess we've made two decisions recently!  We also made a decision to say "yes" to a new church home.  We have become members of a parish that is right for our family. There are so many aspects of the parish and the liturgy that I just love.  We can truly say "yes" to God in so many new ways here.

It reminds me of the way we educate our children.  We don't buy literature that has been abridged or brought down to their level; we give them something of beauty and something to strive to understand, something for which to reach. Our faith life should be no different!   Here, we are all reaching, yet we are all nourished.

I'd have to say that I have a decent understanding of my role as mother, wife, and daughter of the King.  But it's hard for me to reach deeper sometimes because... I am a mother and wife! I've read the books- I know it's about prioritizing and coming outside of myself and self-donative love... And I have a missionary spirit. I am constantly being reminded that the best (and seemingly only) thing I should do right now is to love and raise my children.  I do agree!  Whole-heartedly!  Still, sometimes I struggle with the feeling that I should be doing more for God's kingdom.

Ahhhhh... God's kingdom.  Cuddling with this sweet, cuddly, ball of love.  The kingdom of God truly belongs to such as these, and I'm convinced she was given to me as a gift to help me heal from a lot of past hurts.  But have I mentioned she'd 10 months old?  It's starting to get a little complicated during the days!  She wants me so much, and the others want me so much too.  Then there's school work and chores and cooking to be done... Imagine my surprise when I went looking for this post for the first time since Caeli was born.  Gosh I knew exactly what I'd be thinking right now!  Time to take my own advice!

Sunday, November 9

Caeli is 10 months old

 She is so very close to walking!  She gets herself into a squat, then pushes straight up into a standing position and "surfs" for a minute before lowering herself back down.  I think it's only a matter of days before she gains the confidence to take those first steps!
She loves to climb stairs and the kid-sized rocking chair, and she loves to hold one of our baby dolls.  She also loves to chase a ball and to play with a blanket!  And everyone still says she looks like Luke.  What do you think?
 She has three teeth and two more breaking through the surface right now.  So far her upper right tooth has yet to make an appearance!

No she's not sleeping through the night, but I'm totally okay with that.  I haven't let that sort of stuff worry me this time!.  I enjoy sleeping with her so very much, my heart still melts when I look into her huge eyes, and I just really don't want this one to grow up!!!

Saturday, November 8

Q&A with... Me!

My sweet friend Andrea tagged me!  I'm not sure what a Leibster Award is my friends, but apparently I've been asked to answer some fun questions so I'm doing it!

1. What are you reading now?  And what is your favorite book of all time?
At any given time, I have about six books on my nightstand- more or less. :-)  Right now I'm actively reading Searching for and Maintaining Peace (by Father Jacques Philippe), The Discernment of Spirits (by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV), and Beyond the Birds and the Bees (by Gregory Popcak).  I think I might need to read something light next!  
My night stand last fall.  Oops, I'm still reading Beyond the Birds and the Bees... But for real this time!
I can't say I have a favorite book of all time.  I don't really have a favorite anything- color, song, animal... Those questions always stumped me!  In recent years, the book that's had the biggest impact on me was A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot, because that book sort of molded the way I live my life by helping me create a routine that allows time for everything that we need and want. 

2.  What CD or album would define your high school years?
Ugh, high school.  I listened to a lot of things but had only a few CDs; Goo Goo Dolls, Michelle Branch, and Vertical Horizon were probably my favorites!  But I have to say that every time I hear Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, or Symphony No. 5 by Shostakovitch, I'm transported back to some of my happiest days in band, where I was a part of something bigger than me.  I still get lost in those two pieces of music.

3. Which do you enjoy more: cooking or baking?
I enjoy both!  I still don't feel like I totally understand gluten-free baking, and usually baking makes a bigger mess, so I'll say I enjoy cooking more.  I definitely feel more at ease with cooking because I'm an excellent multi-tasker: I move swiftly, time perfectly, and can arrange and present a yummy plate of food.  It's like a dance.  Most days that's not what happens because, you know, life!  We love to entertain and host events so that's when I have the opportunity to really enjoy cooking, baking, and entertaining.  I love sharing meals with family and friends, that's one reason I love December so much!

From Christmas a couple of years ago.  I love it.
4. What is a personal goal you have over the course of the next year?  Next 5?  Next 10?
I have to say this is the hardest question for me to answer, because "personal" is difficult for me.  I haven't really thought about goals that I have for myself- family goals, yes, but personally?  I guess I should think more about this!  I would love to run another race to lose this last bit of baby weight and get to a point where I feel strong and happy about my health again.  I want to do something musical (see question 8).  Recently I've considered becoming a certified lactation consultant.  I'm always seeking to be a joy-filled, peaceful woman of God, but how do you measure that?  Other than that I don't really know.  What are some of your personal goals?

5. How do you preserve your precious family memories?  (Scrapbooks, photo albums, the blog, etc?)
So far, this blog is the bulk of our preservation.  I do keep my photos backed up, and I used to be good about making photo books based on the text and photos from my blog.  That was back when I had time to search the internet for free coupon codes!  These books are very well-loved by my children, I blogged about the books a couple of years ago.  I should really create some more books so Caeli will be included!

6. What do you do when you legitimately need a mama break?
Hmm this could be a long answer... I didn't realize I had characteristics of an introvert until a year or two ago.  The truth is, in a group of close friends I can be very loud and outgoing, but when it's just me and the kids I definitely crave my alone time.  I used to get touched-out pretty easily when they were younger, but now that they're older it's the constant NOISE that usually drives me to my closet to seek a moment of silent peace!  We utilize a daily rest time, where the kids are expected to be quiet upstairs for an hour and a half, so I can be alone to either get some work done or rest.  (This doesn't work out so well with a baby who doesn't necessarily nap when they rest, but it's better than nothing.)  
This is me, literally hiding in the closet with my feet up.

I've also recently come to understand that I have to use my time in a manner that leaves me feeling recharged, and so I'm trying to figure out what that is for me.  I know that it's NOT social media.  It's not walking around Target aimlessly alone and without intent.  I don't really watch TV so I don't waste time with that during the day.  I'd love to say that reading recharges me but usually I wind up dozing off!  But I hate to nap during the day because chances are high that one of the kids will wake me up, and I turn into Super Grumpy Woman when I am awoken from a mid-day, five-minute nap.  So it's better to not even try!  
Staying active at my gym helps me keep my peace, as does my doula work.  I also crave date nights with my darling husband for a chance to re-connect after a busy month or two (we don't get out enough!).  I desperately want to attend another silent retreat- it's been 6 years since I've been on one- and my spirit really needs to be recharged like that again.  Girl's night outs definitely don't happen enough either.  But, I'd say the absolute fail-proof way to recharge for me is to meet the Lord in Adoration at a local church.

7. What is your favorite way to spend quality time with your children?
Cuddling in bed or on the couch, one-on-one.  I don't do it often enough because I am usually so tired in the evenings, but I find that's where some of our best conversations take place.  I just let them lead the conversation and talk until they're talked out.  Sometimes they ask questions but usually they just talk and talk and talk... It usually gets pretty silly too!

8. What is a skill you don't have that you'd love to learn?
I'd love to learn to play the piano or take voice lessons.  I've considered doing both over the past three years and when we finally enroll the kids in music lessons, I hope to join them.

9. What's your favorite side dish to go with Turkey on Thanksgiving?
My mom's sweet potato casserole!  There's nothing healthy about that dish but it's so good!

10. Christmas cards: yea or nay?
We send out cards every year and we love to receive them!  The kids love checking the mail during December!  Last year though, I didn't send out Christmas cards because I was waiting for the baby to be born so we could do a Christmas Card/ birth announcement combo.  I noticed we didn't get as many cards last year- I'm guessing we were on a lot of people's "B" lists, and since I didn't mail them a card, they didn't mail us a card!

Saturday, October 25

The Exhibit that Brought Me Back

When I was in high school, 16 years old, my parents did something crazy.  They let me go to Rome.  With a wild group of girlfriends.  Practically alone.

Okay not practically alone, but looking back I do think they were sort of crazy to let me go like that.  I was escorted by a consecrated lay member of Regnum Christi, and I was with a group of girlfriends- yes, we were wild!  What seemed like a non-stop whirlwind behind-the-scenes adventure lasted only a few nights, but at 16 years old I was pretty sure I could do it all!

I remember the boxed lunches, sleeping on the floor of a school room, feeling like the bus driver could have cared a little more for his driving skills, singing and chanting JOHN PAUL TWO, WE LOVE YOU and squeezing our way into St. Peter's Square to wind up being only inches away from him as he drove by in his pope mobile!  Pentecost '98, mass and confirmations at St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Trevi Fountain, gelato, so many basilicas, wearing skirts the entire trip, and the COLD showers!  Talking to the Swiss guards, the bright green grass at a seminary we visited, relics and incorruptible bodies, and the Pieta at St. Peter's.

I remember popping into a convenient store for some Tylenol and just thinking- so this is what it would be like to live in Rome.

That was 16 years ago but I remember the sights and feelings and the emotions like it was yesterday.

I'm so happy my parents put me on that plane.  So grateful they trusted an amazing woman, a woman who changed my life, to take care of me for a few days, halfway across the world.

Pope Saint John Paul II will always have a special place in my heart!  John Paul the Great, Pray for Us!

Friday, October 24

The Busy Season is Here

I've always joked that October is the start to my "busy season" in our household.  To a certain extent, it's true; between October - January we now have three birthdays, several major holidays, Advent, and preparation for all of the little holidays that I wish could be so much more grandiose.  I always imagine that things could be so much bigger, so much grander.  If only I had more time or energy.  If only I was able to sew their own costumes or plan ahead for the major liturgical holidays.  Those are so important to me, but I can't even get those little things done!

I was flipping through my Kindle while waiting to have the oil changed on my van a couple of weeks ago, and I re-read a few pages from a book I read earlier this year.  It was about how we have to accept the current state of life we are in, or we are missing the whole point.  I think I've read multiple variations of that theme over the years of motherhood, but sometimes things just hit you in a new way every now and then.

I've found myself forgetting that THIS is the point of it all.  Handling the day-to-day tasks with joy, embracing my cross.  I have no real cross to complain of right now, my hardships are relatively little.  It's just the typical busy-ness of life- but I think that's what God's demanding of me right now.  Prioritizing- because I'm totally failing at that in this moment.  I've been despairing in a way- what's the point in folding clothes when they're just going to toss them on the floor anyways?  Why bother putting the toys away when they're going to be strewn across the floor in a matter of fifteen minutes of them waking up?  So I've been lazy.  Like, really lazy.  And I know someone might tell me that I need to cut myself some slack, but it's one of those things where you just know yourself and what you're capable of.  And I'm capable of more and I can assuredly tell you, I've been lazy.

I enjoy my moments of playing with the baby on the floor instead of doing dishes, because those moments are fleeting and she won't be a baby forever.  That's not what this is about though.  I've spent plenty of time on the floor and now I can accept that certain things just don't get done.  Now,  I'm talking about giving God the better part of me, giving my family everything else, and taking pride and joy in those little moments when no one else is looking. 

A new realization for me is that I'm so preoccupied with planning for the future that I'm missing some of the now.  The opportunities for sanctification by actually doing my work without giving up or cutting corners.  The chances to offer it up in prayer for family and friends who need my prayer, instead of being so flippant.

Yes. I'm overwhelmed most days, but good grief, who isn't?  You know?  We're all busy! I just have nothing I can complain about right now,.  Lots of things to pray and think about, but nothing bad or totally life-changing.  I guess I'm just now realizing I've been feeling a little sorry for myself, and it's painful to realize how long it's taken me a couple of months to figure this out!  

I'm going to re-commit myself to taking pride in my homemaking and realizing that these moments are the ones that count.  Not the moments in a month or two, but starting tomorrow.  I will take into consideration all of the things on our schedule and be realistic, but be present in the moments and stop fretting about the future.

Will you pray for me?

Thursday, October 23

Luke is Six!

Today is my Luke's sixth birthday.  I thought it would make me feel older, but somehow I missed that feeling this time around!  (Maybe I'm finally getting used to all of the birthdays?)  But, six does seem way older than five.  Five is pretty much an older four-year-old, but six... That's like going on 10.  Am I the only one who thinks that?!

I wanted to do a birthday interview with him today but my poor love was sick.  Yesterday he had a 102 degree fever in the evening, but it was gone by morning.  Classic Luke.  Several times a year he'll get a high-ish fever for only about 8 hours, then he's up and going again!  I'm not sure why his body works that way but I always feel confident he'll bounce back soon.  Today was no different- well, his fever was gone, but his voice got hoarser as the day progressed and I could tell by dinner time that he was wiped out.  So we fast-tracked through his special hamburger, beans, and salad dinner (his choice!), sang and ate brownies, and opened a few gifts.  This year we gave him a boat that he saw at a consignment store and just HAD to have- I stuck it in the closet for two weeks and gave it to him this morning. :-)

The boat was $40 at the store, and being in the crazed state I was in while shopping with the children, I didn't double-check the price on Amazon like I usually do.  I knew he'd be super happy with it and I thought $40 seemed like a good price for a birthday gift... Well, today I got curious and checked out the original price- $150!  Holy cow!  He and Jack played together with it for several hours.  I'd say it was worth it!  He also got a nice crucifix and a box of jacks from us.  And I think he was pretty excited about the $10 from his great-grandma too. :-)

We talked today about what he expects from the upcoming year.  He hopes to lose his first tooth- very important stuff for a 6-year-old, I think. He still wants to be a worker man when he grows up; he wants to operate the crane and build a bridge or a tall building.  I'm expecting him to grow another couple of shoe sizes and several inches... He'll probably be taller than me by the time he's seven! The boy is all legs, imagine that!  He's still so proud when people tell him that Caeli looks like him, and he's also proud when I tell him that certain things he does are like me or Daddy.  He's a hard worker and a great artist, I'm anticipating an engineering degree from Texas A&M!  He also told me he wants to marry me when he grows up. When I explained that I'm already married to Daddy, he said he wants to marry Caeli because she's so beautiful.  Such a sweet guy!

 Happy birthday buddy, Daddy and I love you!