Monday, December 31, 2012

My Conversion Story - Part 2

I was ten years old the summer between my fourth and fifth grade year.  That summer I went to spend a few days with friends of my family who lived a few hours away.  They had daughters my age and their town festival was going on, which meant carnival rides!  It also happened to be the same week the Baptist church they attended was doing vacation bible school.  I always attended VBS back home and so I tagged along with my friends to their VBS.  The pastor must have given a talk about asking Jesus to live in your heart because I remember thinking about it and then telling my teacher that I wanted to ask Jesus to be in my heart.  She immediately sent me straight to the pastor, who talked to me for a bit and then led me in a simplified "sinner's prayer", at the end of which I dedicated my life to Jesus and asked Him to come live inside me.  That was it, I didn't feel any different, I didn't see any lights shining down from heaven.  But I did feel good about my decision and tried to pay attention better in class, because now I was doing it for Jesus and I wanted to do well.

The next morning everything changed...and I do mean everything!  I woke up around sunrise and everybody in the house was still asleep.  I decided to get up to get a drink of water and it was surreal, everything around me looked and felt different.  It was like I was looking at everything from the perspective of the Holy Spirit, who was now residing inside me.  I was looking at the beautiful sunrise outside the kitchen window, I was amazed at how gorgeous God had made the colors of the morning, I was just speechless.  Then I heard a bird singing outside and the thought came to me that God had written the tune it was singing and it matched the sunrise perfectly and how wonderfully made all of creation was, that it all gives glory to God.  Everything I felt, or saw, or heard reminded me of my heavenly Father.  The closest way I have to describe it is from the movie The Wizard of Oz.  When Dorothy first opens the door to find herself in Oz and the picture shockingly moves from black and white to color.  It was like I had lived my life in black and white up until this point and now everything was in brilliant color.  Everything was the same and yet it was all different and brand new too.  Having the Holy Spirit live inside me was like having an additional sense, a God sense, if you will.  It gave me a way to see and appreciate things from God's perspective.

I found out later that day that it also gave me a new conscience.  A few of the girls at the bible school were behaving badly and wanted me to join in.  Now I could hear the Spirit speak to me (inside my head), warning me that what they were doing was grieving God.  I could refuse to join in and it didn't matter so much to me if they didn't like it or made fun of me because I felt the pleasure and comfort of the Spirit living inside me.  He was pleased with me and so they didn't matter as much.  From this point on in my life I would always feel the Spirit in this manner, He never left me (except for a brief two month testing period as an adult, which was truly a dark night of the soul for me, I never realized how much I depended on Him until I went through a period where I could no longer feel Him, it was agonizing).  The Spirit would open up passages in the bible for me.  I found it a joy to read and study the bible because the Holy Spirit would expand upon what I was reading, teaching me to view things from God's eternal perspective.  I'm ashamed to say there were times when I would try to tune Him out, especially if I was purposely sinning and doing something I knew was wrong.  It was in those times that I was "grieving" the Spirit of God, I could tell He was saddened by what I was doing and I would eventually repent and ask God for forgiveness, make any reparations I needed to make and move on.  Granted, I wasn't Catholic at this time so I couldn't go to confession.  How I would have liked to have had that sacrament when growing up!  I think it would have kept me from sinning more, if for no other reason than to have to confess it to another person.  In those times I prayed to God and asked Him to grant me His grace to help me overcome my weaknesses.  In His abundant mercy He granted my request.  Another example of how God is not bound by His sacraments (my life, in particular, seems to be full of them, God is good)!  Many catholics do not realize what a treasure they have in the sacrament of reconciliation.  That is the avenue God has chosen to pour these types of graces out on His people, if they would only humble themselves to receive them!  The beginnings of wisdom is knowing that you are not God and that you cannot do everything on your own, that you need Him.  All of us are born with tendencies to sin, some are harder to overcome than others.  His grace is sufficient, His power made perfect in our weaknesses, for that is where we are able to radiate His glory the brightest.  Others in our life are perfectly aware of our failings and when we use Jesus' power to overcome we bring glory and honor to God.

Three years after I received the Holy Spirit I was baptized on Easter Sunday at my home Presbyterian Church.  It was the same Sunday I was received as a member into the church and I was also allowed to take my first communion.  Our church only celebrated communion four times a year, so it was a big deal.  I remember how eager I was for that communion, and for all communions after that.  I think part of it was the idea that it was a right of passage, that now I was considered old enough to receive it.  I now know that part of it was the Holy Spirit preparing me for when I would receive Jesus' actual body and blood when I was received into the Catholic Church.  The idea of the Eucharist, that it was possible that the bread and wine was actually Jesus on the altar, is the first sacrament that drew me in.  If it was true, and it really was Jesus, then I had to be there.  Presbyterians, of course, do not believe in transubstantiation.  My home church viewed the Lord's supper as a memorial to Him and His work on the cross, the pie crust and grape juice were only symbolic of Jesus' body and blood.  I do not want to make light of it, communion was a serious ceremony and it was always repeated that you would eat and drink judgement upon yourself if you received it in an unworthy manner.  That is why my home church did not allow young children to partake of it, they required you to be a member of our church or a member in good standing at another church to receive communion.  We did not go up to the front of the church to receive, the pie crust first was passed around and everyone held their piece until all had been served.  Then we all ate it together.  Immediately after that little cups of grape juice were passed around and we held it until all had been served and then drank it together.  At one point Doug and I attended a First Christian Church.  They receive communion every week and also do not go up to the front but instead pass it around.  The ushers would start at the back and work their way up and I remember when it got to me I took the cracker and grapejuice and held it.  The usher looked at me a bit strangely but moved on.  Then I watched the people in front of me take it and eat it right away!  It shocked me at first, it seemed so irreverent, but as I watched others doing the same I realized that was their custom.  The idea to not receive communion all together had never occurred to me.

While we attended there I wondered if taking communion every week would lessen some of the specialness of it.  Maybe I only craved it because I previously had only received it four times a year.  But my draw to the Lord's supper did not lessen, in fact it seemed to become stronger the more often I partook of it at that church.  I attended Mass for three years before being received into the Catholic Church.  One of the hardest things about the wait was to be in the Lord's presence but not be allowed to receive His Holy communion.  Through His presence at Mass I received the grace to endure the separation, but it was bittersweet at times.  One of my greatest joys was to be able to finally, finally receive my Lord in the bread and wine at Easter Vigil.  It seemed like I had come full circle to the time I first received the Lord's supper as a 13 year old youth.  I finally physically received my Savior as I had spiritually received Him so many years before.
My awesome sponsor Ann (holding 6 week old Toddler Boy)
and me after Easter Vigil Mass 2011 when I joined the Church

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself in the story, in my next installment I'll write about what first opened my eyes to the Catholic faith and what brought me to step foot into what was to become my new Catholic home ten years before converting...

Conversion Story - Part 3 (NFP)

Read Part 1 here

Saturday, December 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Christmas 2012

I thought I'd use my quick takes this week to post what our family did during the holiday season this year.  Christmas in review...

1.  We always kick off the Christmas season by going by the open house of a family who belongs to the church Doug attended when he was growing up.  She blogs at Christmas Notebook and has awesome pictures posted here from this year's open house.  The kids love going to see all the beautiful Christmas trees and eat all the yummy treats.  Doug and I love seeing all our old aquaintances from his hometown in one place.  I always consider it a major accomplishment if we manage to get out of there without breaking anything (or spillling punch on something/someone)!

2.  We normally put up our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, but since we were out of town that did not happen.  The following weekend we did yard work due to the unseasonably warm weather.  Right after that I was in bed with a fever so Firstborn decided to put the tree up solo this year.  He did a really good job with it, when I got up he was busy untangling Christmas lights.  I finished up the house decorating the weekend the boys went camping.

3.  One of the more frustrating things, for me, about this Christmas was the aforementioned tree.  Today it is looking pretty bare because Toddler Boy could not keep his hands off the thing!  It was not unusual to see him walking around with a glittery object in his little hands.  I'm glad I went out and got some cheap dollar store ornaments to put on the tree this year (I must have had a premonition or some Holy Spirit inspired warning).  I think I redecorated that thing a million times over the last few weeks before I conceded the battle.  Toddler Boy - 1, Mom - Zip.

4.  One thing I think we did right this year is hit the after Thanksgiving sale at Wal-mart.  We actually went out Thanksgiving night (I know, I all think we're terrible for shopping on the holiday and we should have just boycotted the whole thing on principle alone).  This is the first year we've done anything like this, we normally just stay home on "Black Friday" because I hate fighting the crowds.  However, we pretty much got all of our Christmas shopping done in that one night (read...wee hours of the morning).  We finished getting the kids' gifts on our anniversary / shopping night out.  It was nice to have it done early and not have to worry about buying any more gifts.  The Black Friday shopping trip was kind of a spur of the moment thing and we probably spent too much money, next year we'll plan a bit better.

5.  Normally I would include some holiday pictures but believe it or not, I actually do not have any.  Why?  Well, my darling children lost temporarily misplaced our digital camera a few days before Christmas!  I searched everywhere for it, even threw in a few prayers to St. Anthony in my desperation.  My hubby found it yesterday but the batteries are now dead.  Once I replace them I'll probably take some pictures of the kids playing with their new toys.  Not having a camera this year actually turned out to be a blessing.  I was able to be fully engaged with the kids while they were opening their gifts instead of watching it from behind a camera lens.  However, I am very happy to have it back.

6.  SNOW!!  We now have a gorgeous 1" blanket on the ground outside my window as I type.  We were supposed to get 6 to 8 inches of the stuff Christmas night, but lo and behold, the huge blizzard stayed south and missed us by about 40 miles (curse you, weatherman)!!  The boys were very disappointed in the non-white Christmas.  However, it DID start snowing yesterday evening so they were happily sledding this morning.  All is now right in their world...maybe I'll add some sledding pictures to this post as soon as I get those batteries.

7.  Last but not least, we went to the Christmas Eve service at our Protestant church this year.  It was very nice, the church has grown so big we actually had to have tickets to the service.  There were three services and this year we went to the earliest one.  I understand the logic behind it, there are only so many people that can fit into the building.  It did seem odd to have to reserve a seat at our home church (the tickets were free, in case you were wondering).  I am ashamed to admit I did not make it to either the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Mass at the Catholic church.  This is probably me just making excuses, but I had alot going on over those three days...

a.  My grandmother ended up having emergency surgery the night before Christmas Eve (she pulled through fine and spent the holidays in the ICU)
b.  I stayed up really, really late that night wrapping the kids' Christmas gifts, making cheeseballs for Doug's office party the next morning, and praying for Grandma (of course)
c.  We had to get the kids up ungodly early the next morning to attend Doug's family office party (which they always have Christmas Eve morning before the business opens).
d.  Did alot of baking that afternoon to get ready for Christmas dinner the next day.
e.  We had ALL of the kids stay with us during the church service.  They did great, but Doug & I did have to juggle a little bit to keep them happy.  Whoever at the church had the idea to put small coloring books and crayons in the back of the seats...lifesaver!

I was so exhausted that evening there was NO WAY I was going the the midnight (10:00pm) Mass.  Our kids opened their gifts Christmas morning and then we were heading out of town for dinner with my folks so I couldn't make the morning Masses either.  I probably could have made the 8:00am Mass, if I would have set my alarm (which I didn't).  Like I said, it's all just excuses on my part.  The complications of living in a religiously mixed marriage!  I pray Jesus is happy that I made it to the Protestant service and leave it at that.

That's it for the holiday wrap up, head over to Jen for more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Adventures

Our Advent Wreath
This is actually the first year we're doing an Advent Wreath so I went out and bought one at the local craft store.  I didn't want to get a really big one because I wanted something I could sit on our piano.  I think I paid $4.99 for it plus the candles for $2.00 more.  We have a pine tree in our yard (technically, the neighbors have one in their yard that they don't trim well) so we have pine needles and cones in our yard because the limbs hang over the fence.  I don't complain because it comes in handy this time of year.  I can send the kids out looking for pine cones to decorate flower arrangements and art projects that I create Doug's mom arranges for Christmas.  You can see she added them to the wreath the last time she was here.

I kind of envisioned us sitting around the Advent Wreath during our family bible story time in the evening, the soft candlelight, the quite peacefulness and family harmony, etc, etc...I must be delusional.  I'm not sure whose family I was picturing, but it certainly wasn't ours.  Our Advent time usually starts with our kids arguing over whose turn it is to light the candles or hang the Jesse Tree ornament.  Princess keeps insisting that she wants to light the pink one and doesn't understand why she has to wait two more weeks.  Once that is settled the remainder of the time consists of me interrupting the bible story at least 6 times with "Don't touch the candles!" or "Leave the flame alone!" or my personal favorite, "Sit back before you catch your clothes on fire!"  Toddler Boy is especially drawn to the glowing ball of light.  He fusses and whines so bad I've sometimes resorted to doing the family bible time after putting him to bed (surely Jesus understands).  Doug or I then quickly finish the story and prayer time and blow out the candles before we have to call in the fire department.  And this is when we are lighting just one candle!!

We're also doing a Jesse Tree.  Currently, there are only 5 or so ornaments on said tree.  Not to worry, we homeschool so I can do catch up ornaments during our morning family bible reading time after breakfast.  Our Jesse Tree was super economical, I just sent one of the kids out to the yard to find a stick with lots of little branches on it and stuck it in a vase with a ribbon.  Easy, peasy (my kind of art project).  The kids did the ornaments too, I found them online at Michele Quigley's site, here's the link.  You just print them, cut them out and glue them.  For us non-crafty types you can modify the original by just hole punching instead of gluing the ribbon.  I love that the bible verses are actually printed on the ornament so you don't have to look them up separately while juggling five kids during the devotions (I only have so many hands)!

There are so many other great ideas for Advent out there.  We're signed up to receive the Holy Heroes Advent Adventures, a daily devotion for kids, but honestly I haven't really incorporated them.  I love the concept but I'm trying to keep things really simple this year because Toddler Boy is at that one year old, get into everything age right now.  My hands are full enough, since we already do a family evening devotion the Advent Wreath and Jesse Tree were easy to add.

I have come to appreciate and love the season of Advent.  The nation of Israel waited thousands of years for Christ to come, and we as His Church are in a season of waiting for Him to return.  Advent connects us in this period of anticipation, of patiently waiting for God to unveil His plan for us.  I have really tried to relay that to the kids, that many people throughout time belonged to Christ and were longing for His coming both then and today.  May the season of Advent draw us ever closer to that mystery.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Camping Style

I'm getting in on today's Quick Takes by the skin of my teeth...posting with only hours to spare...

This is my kind of camping!!
1.  Tis the be going camping!!  That's right, here in the Midwest we go camping any month of the year (or, at least the boys do).  Unreal, I know.  But Soccer Boy wants to earn his Arrow of Light award with the Cub Scouts before he crosses over in the Boy Scouts.  Which means he needs to go on a campout before February...which means camping in December!

2.  Since our Boy Scout troop has rules about "no women on the campouts" it meant Doug would have to go with him (since he needed an adult partner on this one).  Doug is not a camping person, I think he said something to the effect "I pay money for a house and an electric bill to keep it warm too, why would I want to sleep in a tent in December?"  To which I reminded him they are planning a January campout too, if he'd rather do that one instead.  He just gave me a blank stare to that, so I think not...

3.  It's just one night, but getting them ready for it was insane.  I stress out on stuff like this, I want to make sure they have everything they need.  I thought we'd pack early this morning and do our homeschooling in the afternoon.  Well, we pretty much packed  I'm glad we got an early start or we would have been rushing at the end.

4.  Funny what things you need to remind boys to take to overnight events.  Things like toothbrushes appear to be totally optional, who knew?  Flashlights and pocket knives are necessities, but toothbrushes...not so much.  I suppose those are only important to the people who pay for the dental visits.

Best seats in the house!
5.  Doug & I celebrated our 14th anniversary this past week, woo hoo!  My mom & dad kept the kids while we went out on a date and finished our Christmas shopping.  We went to see a movie at the recently opened bistro theaters down the street.  The seats are leather recliners that have a table attached.  Then you can push a button and have a waiter come out to take your order and serve you.  You can order the traditional popcorn and soda or you can order off the restaurant menu, we had a burger and fries.  We had the entire theater to ourselves (since we went to an afternoon showing of a movie that has been out awhile).  It was a cool experience, but we found it a bit tricky to eat "real" food in the theater   One, it's dark so you can't see what you're eating.  Two, it's a bit distracting to try to eat and watch the movie at the same time.  Eating popcorn is more of a mindless activity, I guess.  But still really neat, Doug is planning on taking the older kids there to see The Hobbit.

Princess' Go to character
6.  The kids have really been getting into the Skylanders video game on our Xbox.  I haven't played it much, it seems mom doesn't have time to play video games like the rest of the family.  The game is a marketing genius because it has lots of different characters (each one purchased separately, of course).  They all have different abilities and can open different levels of play, so it keeps the game interesting.  The game is simple enough for the younger ones to play too.  Recently, I asked 4 year old Princess which character was her favorite?  She answered Sonic Boom and when I asked her why she replied "it can shoot out lots of babies just like you"!!

7.  I was nursing Toddler Boy at the time of the above conversation, so I asked if Sonic Boom could nurse her babies too.  Princess just rolled her eyes at me and said, "no, mom, dragons don't nurse their babies"...guess I should have known that.  I should mention that Princess recently "upgraded" her character, so now Sonic Boom can have 4 flying baby dragons instead of just 3, how cool is that.  It is amusing to watch Princess play because she is always backtracking in the game to go get one of her babies (the babies don't always do what they're suppose to and stay close to mom, sometimes they get stuck behind doors).  It annoys whoever is playing with her.  Her brothers tell her to just keep going and "hatch another baby" but she refuses to leave any of her babies behind (a good mom in the making).  Another cute thing is to hear her yell at the screen "attack babies, attack" when she wants them to get the bad guy.

That's all for this week.  I sent the camera with the boys so assuming it survives and they remember to use it I might have some pics to post next week.  Go check out more Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fall Weather Fun

It's December in the Midwest, but the weather outside last week seemed more like spring with temperatures in the 70's.  I was planning on decorating the Christmas tree but instead Doug roped me into helping him and the boys rake the leaves outside.  Knowing that the nice weather couldn't possibly last it seemed like the logical chore to cross off our to do list first.  After all, Christmas tree decorating is an indoor, climate controlled activity.

We decided to give the little kids an early Christmas / St. Nicholas Day present in honor of the beautiful scooters!  Princess was absolutely thrilled with hers and spent the rest of the afternoon going up and down the hill practicing her skills...

A pink scooter for Princess!

Practicing scooter skills

Game Boy got one too, in blue

Happy that he no longer has to borrow Soccer Boy's scooter!

It was so cute watching the older boys teaching Princess how to ride, balancing on one foot.  She went up and down that hill countless times trying to master that skill alone.  Sadly, my camera battery died before I got a shot of them giving her scooter lessons.  Two early Christmas gifts with good timing, it kept them busy while Doug and I finished bagging the leaves the older boys raked up for us...

Our idea of how to spend a nice weather day!
Ahh, the joys of home ownership...

The one chore I am so happy we no longer have is picking up crab apples.  See the beautiful tree at the top of this post?  Yeah, those blooms are gorgeous and last for about a week, so not worth the hassle of picking up ornamental crab apples all...fall...long.  If we didn't pick them up quick enough they get smashed in the driveway and then tracked into the house on people's shoes.  Not to mention the ripe fruit draws flies and insects to the yard.  I don't know whose bright idea it was to plant not one but TWO of those terrible trees in front of our house.  It was impossible to rake the crab apples up because of their small size.  The solution was taking a shop vac out and sucking them up.  My neighbors use this little trick too (thrown in to validate the strange idea, you know, so I seem less crazy).  Yes, I did look somewhat ridiculous "vacuuming" my yard, but it seemed to be the best alternative.

Dora & Diego have excellent upper
body strength!
A few years back we had an early frost during spring that devastated the peach crop.  All the blooms on my crab apple trees fell off early too...which meant no fruit that year!  It was so nice not dealing with them we decided to cut those two trees down earlier this year.  The boys were upset because they do make great climbing trees, but we reminded them they have trees they can climb at grandma's house.  I think Doug may have ended up promising to rig up a zipline somewhere to compensate for their lost trees.  My memory is a bit fuzzy on the details, although I'm sure the kids will set me straight.

To review, boys helped with the lawn chores, little kids got to ride new scooters and the adults managed to get all the leaves raked and bagged without having to deal with crab apples during the process, which all adds up to fall weather fun at our house.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wedding in Nashville

We headed out of town the weekend after Thanksgiving to attend the wedding of a dear family friend in Nashville, TN.  The older kids stayed with grandma and grandpa in the country with the horses while we took Toddler Boy with us.  It was about a 5 hour drive, but thankfully we had snagged a new car DVD player at the after Thanksgiving sales.  Our last one had a good life, but died on us this year and I've been using my Kindle Fire as a substitute on long car trips, but it just doesn't do the job that well.  Videos tend to drain it's battery pretty quickly and the car charger adapter just can't keep up.  The new player worked like a charm and I brought three or four videos with us so I could switch them out when he got bored.  Happily, he is also a good car sleeper so that occupied some of the time, plus McDonald's french fries ( don't feed your 1 year old unhealthy fast food to keep him occupied on long car drives)?  Hey, I figure it's a step up from dramamine, which is what my mom used on my sister and me when we were kids (in her defense, we did suffer from car sickness, I still have to take it on plane flights or when we drive in areas with a lot of hills or curves).
Favorite video on trip

Even though it was only going to be an overnight trip it still took major amounts of packing because I had to pack everyone since the older kids would be spending the night at grandma's.  I also had to have stuff ready here at home for our "dogsitter" ( a.k.a. our kids favorite babysitter who lives nearby and agreed to stop by and walk our dogs for a couple of days).  Of course, I also wanted to have the house clean for our return because I always like coming home from a long trip to a picked up home.  It was a busy Friday getting it all pulled together.  Doug actually took the kids to his folks' house that evening and I took the opportunity to clean while everyone was out of the house.  When he came back we went out to eat with Toddler Boy at Chili's...I must say you got to love those little touchscreen games they have on the tables.  For a $1 added to our bill we let Toddler Boy play the games while waiting for our food (admittedly, Doug & I played a few too).  Then we did a bit more Christmas shopping and headed home to finish packing.  I ended up staying up way too late packing and cleaning, but it turned out ok since I could sleep in the car ride to Nashville.

As usual for us we were running a bit late getting out the door Saturday morning but made it to the hotel with about 20 minutes to get dressed.  Our room wasn't ready but lucky for us my folks came down the day before so we used their room to change and head to the wedding.  It was beautiful, of course, and it was nice to see old friends.  Toddler Boy didn't do too bad, I ended up taking him to the cry room in the back, where there were lots of babies and mostly dads (because their moms were in the wedding party).  Kind of different, since I'm used to seeing only women in cry rooms.  They did a superb job keeping the little ones entertained and quite during the service, not a small feat in a room that small with so many people!  Hats off to them.

I lived in Nashville for a brief period of time in college and I've got to say, what is up with those traffic lights!!  They have traffic arrows for all directions.  I always hated being the first one at the light because I was never sure when (or what direction) I was supposed to go.  I'm used to seeing green arrows going straight, left or right but they have stuff that looks like this:

Ok, maybe not quite that bad.  Seriously, they have arrows pointing southwest, northeast, every which way but backwards!  I suppose it's because of all the hills but it's downright confusing for us out of towners.  I guess it's a good thing I wasn't driving on this trip...

After the wedding we rode with my Dad in his car straight to the reception.  Toddler Boy was a bit antsy in the very short car trip over so I let him play with the camera to distract him...

His antics made the car ride seem much, much longer than it actually was...

The reception was fabulous, the food excellent and the company was the best.  I got to visit with friends that I just don't get to spend much time with these days.  You know, the type of friends that you could have not seen in years and yet it feels like no time has past when you finally get a chance to catch up.  My parents and sister and her husband were there too, I got some great pics:

My family, BIL Greg, sister Julie, Dad & Mom

Great pic of Mom & Dad
(notice upside down Toddler Boy in background)!!

Julie & Greg

My awesome groom & me!!
Weddings always bring out the nostalgia

They had a great band playing, we stayed until Toddler Boy started getting really cranky and decided to call the shuttle service and call it a night.  We probably waited a bit too long, because Toddler Boy was not happy in the shuttle to the hotel.  He was fine once we got him to the hotel room and settled.  We woke up with stiff muscles the next morning (note to self, make sure to adjust the bed at the hotel to soft instead of firm mattress)!!  Toddler Boy was fascinated by the mirrored closet door at the hotel...

It kept him occupied enough for us to get packed and ready to leave for the drive back home.

We ran into traffic issues on the way home so it took an extra hour to get back.  Doug commented that he was glad we hit the traffic coming home instead of on the way down or we would have missed the wedding! The kids had a good time at grandma's...overall a good weekend for everyone.  Congratulations to Mel & Ben on their marriage and thanks for inviting us!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Thanksgiving on the Farm

I realize I am a wee bit late in posting this but I managed to snap a few photos of our Thanksgiving spent at Doug's folks house in the country.  The horses made for some beautiful pictures that I thought I'd share...

Toddler Boy and Grandma's dog Rudy
Princess & Toddler Boy feeding
horses with Grandma

More horse pictures!!

Doug's brother, who deployed a week after this photo,
and daughter.  God watch over him.

Kids & cousins practicing their archery skills

We had a great day on Thanksgiving.  Doug's entire family, all his siblings and their children were there to celebrate the holiday and to see his youngest brother off before his deployment.  It's rare for all of us to get together so it was great to see everyone in one place.  Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

Friday, October 19, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Doug's 40th

Paintball, his favorite pastime
1.  Today is my hubby's 40th Birthday!!  Happy birthday to my wonderful high school sweetheart and soul mate.  I'm still a couple years away from entering that club, but I'm wondering if I should start to feel "old" now that I am married to someone in their 40's!?  Doug is making 40 look really good and I find myself making all these resolutions of what I want to accomplish before I get there.

What we were doing on 12-12-98!!
2.  Speaking of our earlier times, I thought Anabelle over at Written By the Finger of God had a great idea in posting how we met and fell in love with our future spouses.  She has a link-up here for people to share their Catholic love stories.  Who doesn't love a good old fashioned courtship story?  I know I wasn't Catholic when Doug and I were dating but I still think ours is an awesome story just the same (admittedly, I could be a bit bias).  The idea is to show how God's hand was moving behind the scenes to knit your hearts together.  Plus, I think it's a great idea to have a record that our children can read.  I've had mine written now for a few weeks but I haven't posted it yet because I need to add pictures.  Back in the day we didn't have digital film so I have to find and then scan our old photos...and our scanner is "temperamental" (which Doug discovered a couple nights ago when he was using it).

3.  Doug and I were gifted with tickets to last night's Game 4 of the playoff series between our beloved Cardinals and the Giants.  Really great seats, we were five rows behind the dugout!  Even cooler is the fact our team more win and we're heading to the World Series, woohoo!  Unfortunately, someone forgot their camera, so I have no really cool pics to share.  I've decided that baseball games are meant to be watched in October.  It can be miserable going to games in the middle of a summer heat wave, but I can easily go when it's in the 50's.  It's much more fun eating nachos when you're not sweating your tail off.

4.  Toddler Boy has been particularly fun these days, getting into everything.  I see him carrying his little yellow fisher price chair all over the house so he can stand on it to reach things he's not supposed to (guess he hasn't learned that there's a reason we put things out of his reach).  I have to admit that teaching him sign language has been sort of fun.  I am amazed at how advanced his mind is, having raised four kids before him I thought I understood the mind of a toddler.  He is the first one we have used sign language with and it has really helped cut down on the temper tantrums.  For example, he may want a drink of water after eating some crackers.  Before, I wouldn't know if he wanted:
     a.  more crackers
     b.  a drink
     c.  to finish eating and get down from his high chair

If I couldn't figure it out fast enough he would get frustrated and resort to screaming and batting things out of my hand until I finally got it right.  Not fun for anyone.  Now he can sign for "more" or "drink" or "all done" so that takes the guesswork out of it.  Plus, he knows I understand what he needs so if I can't do it right away (say, I have to get him a cup and fill it) I can tell him "hold on" and he is learning to be patient and wait.  Toddler Boy knows I'm working on it, and as long as he knows I understood he can wait for a short period of time.  Honestly though, I had no idea people this young could be so expressive and so clearly understand what they want and be able to communicate that to another person.  It opens up a whole new world into the mind of a toddler!

5.  Along those same lines the women's bible study group I attend has been studying the book "Loving Your Kids on Purpose".  Actually, I haven't read the book yet but we've been watching the video series that goes along with the book.  It follows the "Love and Logic" principles that I've heard a lot about but haven't actually practiced with my kids until this point.  It's always nice to add some new tools to the parenting bag.  I got to use some of their stuff this past week at McDonalds when one of my older kids was impatient to get his food and while grabbing his happy meal accidentally knocked over a tray with a soda on it, which then spilled all over his brother's seat and the floor under the table.  In the past, my reaction would have been an angry lecture "if you were being more patient and wait for me to hand you your food then this wouldn't have happened" and then frustration because my food would have gotten cold while I went to find something to clean up the mess.

As I felt my blood pressure start to rise I realized that "this is not my problem" and immediately felt my sense of calm and peace return.  I turned to my son and calmly said "well, we need to get this mess cleaned up"...the look on his face was priceless, I guess he was expecting me to start lecturing him.  I told him it was probably too big to do ourselves and so he needed to go to the workers and ask for something to clean up the mess.  He was surprised and responded "can't you do it?" and I said "no, I didn't make this mess so it's not my job to clean it up but I'll help you if you want".  His brother offered to help too and between the three of us we had the job done within a few minutes, no big deal.  Crisis averted, score one for family harmony.

6.  I realize I'm a bit late to post this, but have you been praying with 40 Days for Life?  We're over half-way through the fall campaign and we had a twin save at the women's clinic I pray for, exciting stuff!  Sadly, this particular clinic has been in business since the 70's, so there have been many countless abortions performed there over the years.  Plus, because my state does not have the parental permission or waiting period requirements that the neighboring states have there are many girls that are brought here across state lines to have their abortions, sometimes by their older "boyfriends", and her parents are not even aware of it.  This January marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, making abortions legal here in the United States.  May God have mercy on us!

7.  Did you all see Mrs. Fulwiler's take on not answering the phone?  I loved it, my friends and family say the same thing about me.  Maybe it's because I became a stay at home mom before the Do Not Call list came out.  I swear that thing was a lifesaver, we were getting 10 to 15 soliciting calls a day, I kid you not.  I had two under two and had to unplug the phone during nap time so it wouldn't wake the kids up.  I grew up in a more "disconnected" generation.  I remember a time without cell or cordless phones (you know, when you went to answer the phone and then were stuck there until the call ended because the cord wouldn't reach anywhere else)!  I remember when nobody had a computer in their house and I took a typing class in high school on actual typewriters.  E-mail was a new thing when I was a freshman in college and the internet didn't happen until after I graduated, and even then it was a few years before people had enough sites up to make it worthwhile to search for anything.  Don't get me wrong, being connected is nice and I like being able to keep up with my friends and family, especially those who have moved away or ones who I don't get to see on a regular basis. But I have my I really need to know what you're up to every. single. second. of the day?!  I put up with Facebook but I have yet to venture onto Twitter, there's only so many hours in my day.

8.  I added in a Quick Take near the beginning and forgot to fix the numbers until I went to post, so this is going to be QT #8 (you get a bonus this can thank me later)!  When I was working on number 7 above my computer kept crashing while I was trying to upload the links.  I took it as a sign that God wanted me to get off the computer and start paying attention to my family, who are starving patiently waiting for me to fix them breakfast and get our homeschool day going.  (Actually, they're not that hungry, they're playing video games, but still...)  The computer angel strikes again to get my attention.  Does God do this kind of annoying stuff to anyone else?  Hmmm, probably just me then...

Have a great weekend and go check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weight Cycles

I mentioned on my last quick takes post that I seem to be stuck in a weird weight gain / loss cycle.  This pattern has repeated itself with my last three babies.  I start with pregnancy, which I gain very little weight (I totally acknowledge that it is not from anything I do).  I just have been very blessed with good genes in that department.  I usually feel great when pregnant after the first trimester morning-all day sickness passes.  I tend to eat much healthier and drink more water than I do not pregnant, which is probably why I feel better.  I make a great pregnant person (maybe that helps explain why I've done it five times).

After the baby is born I am usually back down to my pre-pregnancy weight by my 6 week check-up.  Again, the loss is thanks to the genes, dropping water weight, and breastfeeding and not from anything I'm doing beyond that.  I usually lose a bit more, maybe 5 to 10 lbs. beyond my pregnancy starting point.  Then my weight stabilizes and holds at that number.  About the time the baby turns a year old I start gaining weight, probably because I continue to eat like I'm nursing a newborn when I'm now nursing a one year old.  Within the next 8 or 9 months I will gain back everything I lost plus 5 to 10 lbs. more than my original starting point!  Yuck!  Of course, I feel horrible and frumpy and finally get fed up with the extra pounds and decide to get with the program and lose weight.  I start exercising more, join some gym classes and cut back on my food intake.  I start to lose the extra weight, dropping 5 or 10 lbs. and putting me near my original weight.  I start feeling much better, fitting into smaller clothes and I'm getting more sleep at night because the newborn is now one going on two years old and is usually not doing many nighttime feedings.  Around the time the new baby turns two I find myself expecting again and the cycle continues...

Since Toddler Boy is 18 months old I find myself in the disgusted-with-the-extra-weight-definitely-going-to-do-something-about-it phase.  Lucky for me, Doug is also wanting to start a new diet so we'll be able to do it together, which is what we did three years ago.  Last time around I lost about 20lbs. before my pregnancy.  Toddler Boy doesn't have all his immunizations so I don't really want to go the route of joining a gym, which means putting the little ones in daycare because my oldest aren't old enough to babysit quite yet.  I love going on early morning walks but I need to bump up the calorie burn so I'm considering doing one of those couch to 5k programs to take it up a notch.  Mind you, I've never, never considered myself a runner (or jogger, for that matter).  This should be interesting.  Learning how to run has always been one of those things on my bucket list.
Too bad I don't live anywhere near a beach
I'm thinking this picture will probably be more true to life for me:

Laying on ground, gasping for air and
calling for Doug to come pick me up in the van!
I'm praying that's not the case, we'll see how it goes.  I figure the first thing I need to do is get more into the routine of walking every morning.  I'm a morning girl, so I love going on early morning walks in the neighborhood but I've gotten out of my schedule.  I'll blame it on the two younger ones getting up earlier and not the fact that it's a bit darker and colder in the mornings.  So starting this week I'm going to get back into setting my alarm and laying out my workout clothes the night before so I can just get up and go.  I'm posting this to hold me accountable.  I figure if I put it out there on-line that should make me somewhat more likely to do it than not.  Right?  Right.

Friday, October 12, 2012

7 Quick Takes - Random Stuff

1.  OK, so Jen is doing a 7 Quick Takes Appreciation giveaway (and I was planning on doing a short quick takes today, truly I was).  Doug was up early to go to work today and being the good wife that I am I got up early to visit with him while all the kiddos were still in bed, so I figured I'd put something truly "quick" together for you.  ("You" being my Mom and Uncle, who are the only ones I'm aware of who read my blog on a regular basis).

2.  Referring to #1, I might be stretching it a bit with my Mom.  Occasionally, when I ask her if she read my latest post she responds "well, I haven't been on the computer lately" in other words "No".  Not that I'm at all upset by that, I blog for myself.  It has become an easy way to scrapbook my crazy busy life without all the mess.  I am not a crafty person either, not by a long shot!  But I can type and post pictures, so there you go, blogging is right up my ally.

3.  I went to my annual check-up last week, I'm only a few months late in going.  I was putting it off until I felt "healthier", in other words, started a new exercise program and lost 10 lbs.  I seem to be stuck in this cycle that has repeated itself with the last three babies (that's a post to itself).  After procrastinating for two months I finally just made the appointment to get it over with.  I have a great doctor so he didn't crucify me over the weight I gained this past year, but he did prescribe me some meds for issues that are not a big deal for me.  In other words, I don't have to take them, it might improve the quality of my life if I did, but I can elect to forgo them.  Is this making sense to anyone?

Why, oh why, do I ever read the pharmacy disclaimers that they include with the drugs.  You know, the ones that say "this drug can cause blood clots and other serious issues, so you should only be on them for a limited time, yada yada yada..."  I start thinking, "do I really, really need to take this, I think I like my odds better without it".  Honestly, I have scores of prescription drugs that I purchased but never took, at some point I could start my own pharmacy.  Maybe I'm being overly sensitive to this one because I have had friends die from blood clots, so I know they're nothing to mess around with.  Does anyone else do this to themselves?!

4.  In response to #3 my Mom would tell me to go back to the doctor and get a prescription for some anti-anxiety meds.  She'd say something along the lines of "you're becoming like your Grandmother".  Lucky for me, my Mom doesn't always read my blog (refer to #2).  As a test, I'll wait and see how long it takes for her to mention this to me...

5.  Disclaimer to #4, I have a wonderful Mom, really I do.  I consider myself blessed in the parentage department, they're the best.  My kids can attest that they make awesome Grandparents too.  You can see a picture of my folks in one of my earlier posts where I talk about their love of motorcycle riding.

6.  When I was a teenager my parents hired a woman we knew to come over and clean the house about once a month.  Mom would always make me and my sister clean the house the day before the cleaning lady was scheduled to come.  We would always respond, "why are we cleaning when someone is coming to clean the house"?!  Mom would tell us she wanted her to be able to focus on the deep cleaning stuff, like windows and cabinets, that we never get to instead of stuff we could do ourselves.  As an adult, I understand what she's talking about, but as a teen I thought it was ridiculous.  I think the same could be said about my avoidance of the doctor.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this, why do I feel the need to get all my ducks in a row before going to the doctor?  Isn't that what I'm paying him for, to advise me on the best way to take care of my health?  He actually did have some suggestions that I hadn't considered (go figure).  And it ends up I was worried about nothing, the appointment went well.  I had geared myself up for him telling me I had some sort of issue that would be fatal if not taken care of immediately, but that did not happen.  Did I mention I love my general practitioner, who, bonus for me, is also an OB/GYN.  He's delivered my last three babies, can read NFP charts and is extremely pro-life (and Catholic to boot).

7.  If this 7 Quick Takes seems totally strange, please remember it is really early in the morning and I haven't had any coffee or tea yet.  That is next on the agenda for the day!

Go visit Jen to see more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Friday, September 28, 2012

7 Quick Takes - City Museum Style

We went on our annual City Museum field trip this week, so I thought I'd post a 7 Quick Takes on it.  If you've never been it's a really neat place, everything is made out of recycled material.  Enjoy the pics!

1.  This makes our 5th year homeschooling, and also the 5th year of belonging to the area christian homeschool group.  They've taken a field trip to the City Museum in St. Louis every year and we've gone to all of them since we've joined.  It's becoming a tradition at our house, and I always take some group shots of the kids.

This year's group shot
2011 group shot
2010 Group Shot
They're sitting in almost the exact same spot, in the same order...and no, that wasn't planned, that's just how they happened to sit down.  But you can really see how much the kids have grown over the past couple of years.

2.  Toddler Boy is not included in that 2011 picture because he wasn't born yet.  We went to the City Museum twice in 2011 because of the way the field trip dates fell.  I was very, very pregnant with Toddler Boy on that field trip!  I have pictures of me, but they're not particularly good so I'm not posting them.  In case you've never been there, the City Museum has a lot of stairs.  Which meant lots of exercise for the 9 month pregnant mom that year.

3.  This is the first year we got to go ON THE ROOF!!!  In past trips it was raining or snowing so we couldn't play on the outside stuff.  Last year we made it outside for about 1/2 hour before the rain started so the roof wasn't open.  It was really neat...

That's Game Boy and Firstborn climbing to the praying mantis
Boys riding ferris wheel on top of the roof

4.  I discovered Princess is a bit afraid of heights because she wasn't too keen to climb any of the roof stuff or get anywhere near the edge (I don't particularly blame her).  I did get one shot of her in the clouds while we watched the boys ride the ferris wheel...
Princess holding her stuffed doggie

5.  I also discovered that Soccer Boy is the least afraid of heights in our family.  The first thing he wanted to do on the roof was walk out on the bus (you know, the bus that hangs halfway off the roof...yeah, that bus).  Then he proceeds to bang on the bars by the front door...what sensible person wants to test to see if those will actually hold?!?!

I don't have a shot of the boys going on the bus because, frankly, I didn't let them stay on it long!  I do have a shot of Soccer Boy walking across the fountain walkway that happens to have the bus in the background.

6.  Since this post has too many shots of the boys I'll throw a few in of Princess...
Riding tiger on this trip
Riding tiger almost 2 years ago
That tiger was one of her favorite things on both trips.  The cute thing about it, because she's so young she doesn't remember going the previous years.  So everything is new to her every time we go.  But I remember the things she really enjoyed so I make sure to take her back to those things.  I then get to see her excitement as she experiences them new (to her) all over again.  It is in times like this that I'm reminded of what a privilege and sacred honor it is to raise these children and get to share their life with them.

7.  Just wanted to throw in some more pictures of past years and fun time at the City Museum...
Dad & Princess in the ray tank
at the World Aquarium (inside City Museum)
Game Boy letting nurse fish nibble fingers at World Aquarium
Princess & Game Boy riding train 2011

Game Boy & Soccer Boy riding train 2010
Soccer Boy swinging in the ramp room
Game Boy climbing bars
Second 2011 group shot
Dad & Toddler Boy in World Aquarium
Boys sliding on the roof
Family shot from the roof

That's all for this week, go check out more 7 Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary