Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

First off, I want to start with the fact that Memorial Day is a holiday we have to honor and remember all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today.  I saw this post from last year floating around on Facebook and she says it better than anyone I've heard so far...

Memorial Day vs Veterans Day

My family has been blessed in that Doug and I do not personally know anyone who has given their life in combat.  We both have family who have, distant relatives we have never had the blessing of meeting face to face but whose memories live on in the people we love.  We spoke of them yesterday and prayed for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, especially the ones in our own family.

And then we honored their lives by spending time with our families this weekend, both immediate and extended...

Enjoying ice cream at Doug's folks' house

Shortcake was my sole contribution to
the menu...but it was great with strawberries!

Princess spent the day with her cousin at
my sister and brother-in-law's house

Pool time!!

Dominoes, a family favorite

My Mom & Dad's new grill, those are the kid's burgers
we had steak!

We had a wonderful weekend, it only rained for a brief period on Monday at my folk's house.  Firstborn got to take his first horseback riding lesson with Doug's parents' horses.  No pictures from that because I was watching the little ones inside the house, maybe I'll get some from the next lesson.  I cantored Sunday morning at Mass and then had cantor practice while Doug took the other kids to our Protestant church solo.  For some of the kids this was their last week in their Sunday school class, next week is "graduation" week when the kids move to their new classrooms.  We still haven't got the family logistics totally worked out yet.  Firstborn will probably attend the adult worship service with us for awhile until we get it figured out.

I imagine if our fallen loved ones were with us and they got to choose how to spend their time, that this is exactly how they would spend it.  Enjoying the love and fellowship of their families.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Home Improvement

Yet another late edition of Quick Takes, I used to be on my game around here...

1.  I'm a bit behind in my blogging record due to having 4 kidlets birthdays in an incredibly short span (whose plan was that anyway)?  I was thinking of starting a "Throwback Thursday" theme around here to justify a shameless photo dump from the celebrations.  However this week took a turn at crazy and I didn't have time to implement that plan yet (insert diabolical laughter).  That can start next week!

2.  This is what has been going on at la casa...

Downstairs bathroom remodel
I was going to put this in a quick take and realized the saga deserves a whole post unto itself.  I'll post it next week and link it here.  Long story short, we've had to have the water to the entire house turned off on random days and at random times for the last three days.  Home ownership for the win!!

3.  Normally, stuff like this happening can throw me into a stressful tailspin.  Especially when it's not in the plan.  This week was one of those weeks where I looked at the calendar going into it and realized we had way too much stuff on it but nothing could be rescheduled so I was starting out in a sort of "survival mode".  Then my brother-in-law came over to help us with what was supposed to be an easy project that turned into a beast!  So I'm glad God had my back on this one...

4.  Firstborn sat for his IOWA testing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  We did this through our homeschool group and I was one of the proctors.  This meant that I had to find a sitter for the other kiddos for those three mornings.  My mom graciously drove up Monday and Wednesday and Doug took Tuesday.  I was testing Firstborn's group, which was 4th through 8th grade.  I took some reading material with me on the days they had 30 minute blocks of time.  The first two days I brought along Something Other than God, I've already read it but I wanted to re-read some of it because I'm loaning my copy out to a friend next week.

5.  On Wednesday I took this book...
BE Joyful is the one my bible study group is currently doing.  I realized Wednesday morning that bible study was scheduled for Thursday and I hadn't done my homework for chapter three.  This was not the book I had wanted to study.  There had been a few books the group was looking at and another woman in the group had really wanted to do this one.  I was sort of leaning towards a different book, but we went with this one.  I have since come to discover the the word JOY is the word God has chosen for my theme word this year.  I don't always feel like I have a "theme" that God is specifically targeting but this year He is making it very clear.

Previously, I had read the first two chapters and nothing had jumped out at me.  No underlining, I didn't even answer the questions because it seemed like stuff I already knew.  I had been praying while reading it, asking God to show me what I needed to hear, but I got nothing.  On Wednesday I read chapter three and BAM...things started to really pop.  I found myself underlining large chunks of text and writing in the margins.  All the questions were relevant to what was going on in my life.  I then went back and re-read chapters one and two and the same thing happened.  It was like God had opened my understanding and I was absorbing everything like a dry sponge in need of water.

This led me to the conclusion that sometimes it's about God's timing.  I always thought that if I hadn't gotten anything from a sermon or bible reading it was because of some fault of mine.  Maybe my heart wasn't in the right place or I wasn't being open to hearing God at the moment.  Treating God like my personal servant or something, if I ask and am honestly seeking answers and God's truth or wisdom then He should would be overjoyed at my interest and give me what I want right this second, like today, in the moment.  Now I realize that sometimes it's about God's timing.  He needed me to hear what was said in that book on that day.  He even arranged for my bible study to meet on that Thursday (not our normal day) to give me the incentive to read the book on Wednesday.  Chapter three focused on your circumstances, and how God can use what you think are negative circumstances in your life.  They may be negative in your eyes but it might be precisely what God needs to happen to further His goals.  For example, Saint Paul spent a lot of time in chains.  As a missionary he probably was really wanting to be out preaching and starting new churches, but God had different plans.  Instead, he spent time writing letters to all of the churches, which would later become the majority of our New Testament.  If Paul had been out in the field he may not have had the time to write those letters.  He was in chains for our benefit, and for the benefit of Christ's worldwide Church.  That Wednesday afternoon was the start of our plumbing problems (see take #2).  God needed me to be open to what He needed me to do and to be able to lay aside the stuff "I" had planned for His greater purposes.  I found that when I did that there was an incredible amount of peace there, and also His grace for the ability to do it.  Lesson learned.

6.  Tuesday night was the awards banquet for Soccer Boy's team.  I've got to say, I do not look forward to these things.  Since Doug was coaching he sat with the team, which left me with the rest of the kids in the back pew of the church.  It's a loooooong time for them to sit and be good, and the announcing of the teams takes at least 1/2 hour.  By the time the program actually started they were pretty much done.  They have games and contest on the stage, but the soccer teams are who participate, not the audience.  We sat where we did on purpose because I knew that was the door closest to the bathrooms.  The bathrooms that have the huge waiting room and an automatic door with a switch on the wall that the two year old loves.  Of course the kids needed to use the restroom about three times.  Did I mention this church also has an indoor play area that rivals the ones at McDonalds?  But obviously they don't want families to use it during the awards banquet.  Some parents of little ones caved, and I totally do not blame them one bit.  I just decided it would be better to leave early and try to salvage the rest of the evening and get the young ones to bed.

7.  The pool opens this weekend!!!  Glory, Hallelujah and all of that.  Soccer Boy starts swim team this coming week, which is a first for our family so we'll see how it goes.  Today is opening day and the kids are chomping at the bit to be there, even though we know the water will be a bit chilly.  We'll probably go for an hour and hang out and let the little ones who want to freeze take a dip.  This week also marked our last official school week for our homeschool (also Glory Hallelujah)!!  We'll still do math and reading this summer, but now I can officially refer to my kids as "preschool, 1st, 4th, 7th and 9th grades"...oh my we actually have a high school student now!  Always an adventure...

That's it for us, go check out more 7 Quick Takes with Jen at Conversion Diary!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

8th Grade Graduation

We attended Firstborn's eighth grade graduation last night.  The parents of the graduates in our homeschool group got together to create a wonderful ceremony to honor our students' accomplishments and give them a send off into their high school years.  Again with the photo dumping...

Firstborn with Dad

He's taller than me now (and I was wearing heels)

Doug's parents came to the ceremony

Toddler Boy slept thru almost the whole thing!

Firstborn with my folks

Princess all dressed up!

Princess with me

Princess with her Grandpa

Centerpieces & Program

Family shot

We got there early to grab seats (or in our case, an entire row) and to snap group pictures.  Firstborn was happy that both sets of grandparents were able to attend.  I was happy that Toddler Boy fell asleep on the drive to the church, I carried him in and he laid down in the pew and slept.  He stayed that way through the rehearsal beforehand and almost all the way through the ceremony.  He woke up just in time for cake and punch!  I was happy we all made it on time and in one piece.  It is always tricky getting everyone dressed up and ready by myself (Doug came straight from the office), but we made it!

Congratulations on finishing middle school...looking forward to what high school has in store!!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day on the Farm

We spent Sunday visiting Doug's folks at their home in the country.  Lots of pictures of kids with horses so I thought I'd photo dump...

On the way (only picture of myself
from that day)!
Doug's Mom set a beautiful table

Of course, oldest three boys went fishing!

Princess is going to outgrow
riding on Daddy's head soon...

More fishing

Princess loves to run everywhere!

Toddler Boy LOVED riding his favorite horse Joey

So did Princess!

Game Boy got a ride too

Toddler Boy loved riding the horse.  He kept wanting to go around again and again (which irritated Princess, who was waiting her turn).  I didn't get any pictures of myself, I think I would rather be holding the camera than leading the horses!  Doug's mom had sandwiches and made cheesecake for dessert.  It was a sunny day out but there was a breeze that kept it from being too hot.  I wore a sleeveless shirt and ended up getting a bit of a sunburn on my arms, nothing terrible.

We made it back home before suppertime and then Doug and I hit the gym to work off the cheesecake!  A beautiful day to celebrate the privilege I have in being called Mom.

Monday, May 12, 2014

7 Quick Stoplight Selfies

I realized the other day that I've been in the van more often than usual.  Typically I'm at home, where I am happiest.  Homeschooling a group of kids means that I spend most of my time at my own house.  The introvert in me is perfectly fine with that setup.  I started taking a few stoplight selfie shots in the car to document what I've been up to lately, apologies to all the other drivers who probably think I'm incredibly self absorbed.  Wait, taking portrait pictures to post on a public blog, maybe they're on to something...

1.  Soccer practice chauffeur

I could have taken this type of shot a few times over.  Soccer Boy has practice on Thursdays and Game Boy goes with him.  Doug is coaching the team so I don't have to drive the entire 30 minute drive to the fields, only the 15 minute drive to Doug's office and then he takes it from there.  I usually leave Toddler Boy at home with Firstborn when I do this because he tends to throw a fit about not being allowed to go with Daddy (see unhappy expression in above photo).  I think on that day I had to get out of the van and rebuckle him in plus threaten with consequences if he didn't leave his seat belt on while we were driving.  His newest discovery on how to work the seat belt has it's advantages and disadvantages.  He can get out on his own, which is nice when we arrive someplace I don't have to crawl into the backseat to unleash him (or, let's be real, usually one of his siblings does it for him).  On the down side, there have been times when he startled me by casually walking up next to me while I'm driving down the road!  This is the second car seat we've had him in, he figured out the buckles on the last one too.  At this point it's not such a problem that it warrants purchasing another (expensive) child seat, since he'll be in a booster seat in the not too distant future.

I should note I didn't include a selfie from the drive to the soccer games, but I do have a multitude of game pictures to choose from that deserve their own post.  Coming soon!

2.  Play dates

Note much happier Toddler Boy
Princess has been going on more playdates at her friends' houses, usually once a week.  Since her friends' moms are also conveniently my girlfriends I get to go on a playdate too (read...getting some adult socializing time in my life).  Social time is important for everyone, but I think it is especially important for stay at home moms.  I sacrifice a little bit of my homeschooling day for this but it helps me keep my sanity.  Sane mom = happy family.

I learned a long time ago that Doug cannot meet all of my social needs.  He is a wonderful husband, but he makes a lousy girlfriend.  When I chose to quit my full time job for the home front 12 years ago (has it been that long?!) my social sanity became one of my priorities.  I had worked in an office full of mostly women and came home to a very demanding not yet 2 year old and newborn.  I found it was difficult to find other stay at home moms in my community.  Our neighborhood appeared to be a ghost town during the day.  I quickly plugged in to a local moms group and found myself working to build up a "network" of girlfriends.  We went to indoor playlands in the winter and outdoor pools in the summer.  And of course we would shoot for a kid free "ladies night" or activity once a month.  Sanity saver!

3.  Weekend Family Time

Mother's Day...look at that pie!!
I am blessed to spend time in the van for short trips to my parents' and in-laws' houses.  We spent Mother's Day with Doug's parents.  We will frequently drive down on Sundays to see the extended family.  We make the 20 minute drive to our Protestant church every Saturday evening and the 5 minute drive to my Catholic church every Sunday morning.  Lots of family time in the van, plus Doug usually does the driving because he is a front seat awesome driver.  Bottom line, I get to enjoy the ride!

4.  Gym Dates!

We've been hitting the gym three times a week for some quality couple time.  The gym is just a three minute drive down the road, we could practically walk there but then we couldn't enjoy the sunroof in Doug's car!  We really like working out together, we do weights and then Doug usually hits the elliptical (I loathe that machine).  I usually spend time with my ipod jogging on the treadmill.  Then we stretch and go home.  Win win.

5.  Wait Time

Occasionally we'll go somewhere and I'll end up sitting in the car with some of the kids while Doug runs in to grab something.  This picture was taken on Firstborn's birthday when we got to the restaurant a few minutes early (that almost never happens) and we were waiting for Doug and my parents.  A few weeks back we arrived at a soccer game and discovered it was way too cold for the littles to sit outside.  Lucky for us the parking lot was right next to our field.  So I watched the game from the van while the younger kids played on the iphone and ate snacks in the back seat.  All of this to say I do spend a fair amount of time just hanging out in our van.  This is not necessarily a terrible thing and can lead to some great family discussions and fun memories.

6.  Trail Life

Monday nights are scouting nights at our house.  The three oldest boys are active in our homeschool group's Trail Life troop.  This means Doug or I make the 20 minute drive to the meeting and the 20 minute ride home every Monday night.  We'll be making the three hour drive to the summer camp in August too.  Trail Life is getting ready to start the summer schedule, which means scouts will only meet every other week.  This will leave us time for the swim team, which involves driving Soccer Boy to daily practice and twice a week swim meets, half of which are away meets (only 6 weeks, I keep telling myself).  No wonder I look forward to starting homeschooling again in the Fall!

7.  Reading Time

I will often use my car wait time to catch up on reading.  I love to read but I have to make time for it in my busy life.  If I want to get through something like this book I have to make it an intentional priority or it just won't happen.  The right type of books can be very uplifting and relaxing (who doesn't need that) so I'm also intentional about the types of books I read.  This carries over to the types of books I want my kids to read.  I have been known to veto library books they pick out if it looks like junk.  This may be more about the fact that I'm usually the one doing the read alouds and I hate reading junk.  It makes me feel like I'm wasting my time, I'd much rather read great material (like Little House on the Prairie vs. Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

In all the craziness I did manage to do something for myself and finish my book.  Something Other Than God is one of those "cannot put it down" type of books.  It totally lived up to my very high expectations, book review coming soon.

That's it for my late, late takes.  Click over to Jen @ Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

7 Quick Takes - The Book has Landed!!

I knew there was a reason for good hair day
1.  Yes, Something Other Than God has arrived!!  It came yesterday, two days ahead of schedule (I love you Amazon)!  We were heading out the door to soccer practice when one of the boys grabbed the mail and shouted "we got a package"!  Happy, happy day.

As Soccer Boy is putting on his shin guards in the car "Mom, why are you taking a selfie when we're running late to soccer?"  I reply "I need the picture for my blog".  I mean, priorities, you know?

2.  Speaking of that, the whole early arrival is giving me problems.  I have things planned for today, like homeschooling and three kids' annual checkups.  I do not have time to read.  I am trying to figure out how to squeeze some reading time into my day.  #netflix  #homeschoolholiday

3.  Fridays are our light schoolwork days anyway, right?

4.  OK, guess I'll be "responsible" and save it for Saturday afternoon.  Saturday evening I volunteered to sing with our choir at Mass because it's First Communion and we have some choir members out.  I'm a cantor, but I can't be a regular choir member because I can't commit to attend 10:30a.m. Mass.  I flex my Mass schedule around my family's protestant church attendance.  The Catholic Church has three weekend services, the protestant church has five (but only two have the junior high youth group).  My family occasionally flexes around my cantor schedule, if needed.  Right now it seems to work best if the family attends Saturday afternoon/evening service and I attend early Sunday Mass.  The choir practice was this past Tuesday night.  I really enjoy singing in a choir, more I think than I enjoy being solo.  I'm always so nervous when I cantor, I remember feeling nauseous when I first started.  I've calmed down a bit now that I've had more experience, it's not like I've never sang solos.  Singing in Greek or Latin in a Catholic Church can take it to a whole other level!  Also, singing/chanting the psalms took some getting used to, at first it felt like singing a cappella (which I had never done in front of an audience)!

5.  I got to go to lunch at a friend's house Wednesday afternoon.  I took the three younger kids with me because she has younger ones too.  A playdate for both me and Princess, so win-win.  The kids ran around and we had somewhat minimal interruptions to talk.  It was really nice, I need to make seeing my girlfriends more of a priority in my life.  You would think summers would be an easier time to get together with friends but everyone's schedules seem busier.  I can feel more "lonely" during the summer months, even when surrounded by people and activity.  I may have to start scheduling "girlfriend" outings the same way I schedule date nights with my hubby.  Something to think about.

6.  More pictures!  The kids finally got that Easter egg hunt at Grandma's house...
Blooming lilac bush in background!

He did not want to be in same pic
with siblings!

Not sure what to do with eggs...

I liked Princess' expression in this one

My mom in background
directing traffic

7.  Kelly from This Ain't the Lyceum did a awesome post this week titled Why I Suck at Homesteading that I thought was really good.  I left a too long comment over there, but in summary...do you see the above pictures?  That's at my folks' house, they live in the "country" about 40 minutes from where we currently live.  That is a lot of grass to mow, and that is just part of the backyard.  Even with their high power riding mower I think Dad told me he averages about an hour a day during the week in the summers, I may be overestimating a bit.  They used to haul water every week too, for just the two of them (last year the water company ran water lines out there, so that is a thing of the past).  How many water trips would it be for a family of seven?  My point is that Doug and I have talked about moving out of town in the past.  Our kids love the open spaces, to be able to run in and out, no neighbors to worry about.  The country living idea is very romantic...we could have chickens for all those eggs we buy, we're up to 2 dozen a week!  (We technically can have chickens where we live now because our house is not inside the city limit).

However, the advantages of staying where we're at are too good.  Doug only has a 10 minute commute to work, he frequently comes home for lunch hours.  We're minutes away from the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor's office, the hospital, all our homeschooling activities, soccer and both churches.  The kids have friends in the neighborhood and play basketball and ride bikes.  Not to mention our family friends live nearby.  We're busy enough raising five kids without adding more to the workload.  We still like the "idea" of living in the country, maybe Doug & I will consider that when we retire.

Have a wonderful weekend and check out more 7 Quick Takes @ Conversion Diary!!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex

Ok, so this is Jen's book release week and the blogsphere is bursting with that subject, which is awesome!  I love reading everyone else's posts about Something Other than God.  However, my copy will not be arriving until Saturday (according to Amazon).  So to amuse myself in the meantime I am going to throw out this post about christian married sex.  Let me reiterate, I'm talking about conjugal relations between a husband and wife.  Maybe there's some unwritten rule about blogging while in a state of aggravation?  I read a post on-line yesterday that has been getting lots of "likes" that just fired me up.  I'm not going to link to it, because it's the same thing I've seen over and over in the evangelical christian community.  It goes something like this...

  • "You need to be having more sex"
  • "It's your duty to make sure your sex life is spontaneous, passionate, and fun."
  • "If you're having problems in your marriage, it could be your sex life is off.  Your spouse's sexual frustration could be causing friction.  Try having more sex to see if that fixes the issue."
  • "You should have sex everyday for X number of days." (The "X" varies, from 30 to a whole year...I'm not even kidding.)

The basis for all this advice comes from very well quoted bible verses:

"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband.  In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.  Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.  Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control"
                   I Cor. 7:3-5, NIV

First off, the above verses are usually taken out of context.  The verses preceding talk about how "it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman" (verse 1).  The verse immediately following mentions "I say this as a concession, not as a command" (verse 6).  It is true that you give your spouse the gift of yourself (body, mind, and soul) on your wedding day.  A gift, by definition, is something you give away.  If you retain the rights to take it back it is not truly a gift.  In our fallen human nature it is impossible to give yourself perfectly, but through the sacrament of marriage Jesus helps us and gives us the graces we need to become a better spouse.  He uses our marriage to sanctify us, to transform us to become more and more like Him, and more and more like an authentic version of ourselves...who God created us to be.  The conjugal act is a renewal of our marriage vows, it is holy and sacred.  That doesn't mean it can't be fun and spontaneous, but it should never become desecrated.  You must always remember that your spouse was created to be an eternal being.  They are a son or daughter of the King, He loves them with a fierce and jealous love and He entrusted their well being to you.  They were never intended to be just an object for your sexual pleasure.  This is the meaning behind the verse "the marriage bed should be kept pure" (Heb. 13:4).  It is a hard teaching, and we fallen humans are a generally selfish bunch but thankfully God didn't intend for us to do this marriage thing by ourselves.  That's why Jesus is a part of our marriage union, His graces help us root out and overcome the selfish parts.  Marriage can act like a mirror, so we truly see our faults in the reflection.  Then we allow Jesus to help us transform into the image He wants to see.

What I noticed the above advice never mentions?  Birth control.  I suppose it's just assumed that either the couple is using some sort of pill/surgical sterilization/condom, or they're trying to become pregnant.  Because that is usually what happens when you have lots of sex.  Also, I don't know a whole lot of women who appreciate having sex during the heaviest days of their period.  Just saying...

What about those couples who are truly having difficult issues in their marriage (abuse, infidelity, addictions).  Will just "having more sex" fix those, or will it do more damage?  What about the couples who physically can't do this?  What if your spouse is in a wheelchair, or recovering from illness, or just had a baby, or deployed?

The biggest issue I have with this blanket advice is it places your struggle with sexual frustration on your spouse.  The christian community expects sexual abstinence from a whole host of people.  Those who are too young to be married, singles, widows and widowers, people who are married but not physically able to be with their spouse (see above paragraph).  But it appears once you have a ring on your finger you no longer need to develop self control over your sexual appetite.  I mean, that's why you got married, right?  Now it's your spouse's job to take care of your sexual needs.  There is such a thing as "marital chastity" and it goes farther than not looking at pornography.  It is being in control of your own sexual needs and placing them at your disposal.  There's even a bible verse on this...

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified:  that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister...For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life."  ~~ 1 Thes. 4:4-7 NIV

Just like there is a difference between being "anti-abortion" and "pro-life".  Anti-abortion means just that, you do not agree with abortion.  But being pro-life takes it a step further, that all life is a gift, even if it was unexpected or doesn't fit within our timeline.  Sexual abstinence is good if that is your station in life.  But it is not the same as chastity.  Everyone is called to live a chaste life, no matter what state of life.  Whether young or old, married or single, male or female.  What better way to teach our young people how to live chaste lives than to live out marital chastity in our own lives?  Lust is never a good character trait, even if you are "lusting" after your spouse!  Even children can distinguish the difference between love and lust.  It's like the difference between "hot" and "beautiful".  If you had a friend comment to you that your daughter looked beautiful in her Easter dress you would take that as a compliment.  How would you feel if they said she looked "hot"?  At best, you would have one less friend.

Sorry, post is really long and has no pictures.  Just my little big vent and ramble, take it or leave it.