Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Real People Behind A Blog: Meet The Martins

I've talked about it enough, you know, THE TRIP. I know you've been waiting.

Colleen is the best and has already posted her version. Really, hop over there. Her version is probably way better and thorough and well, she just writes better than I.

What happened when I arrived back home was that my computer crashed while I was away and hubby had gone out and bought a new one. Problem is, I'm not good with change and there's a learning curve to this Windows 8 thing.

The other thing that happened was that I haven't felt 100% since the day after I arrived home. Suffering and pushing through homeschooling, back to home life, Halloween, and 40 hrs devotion/adoration/All Saints/All Souls day things with my church job last weekend was my goal. Then Monday hit and I wasn't any better. A quick trip to my doctor friend (truly, she's the best) got me meds for sinus issues. It still took almost two days to get out of the clouds and back to daily living.

Which, by the way brings new meaning to these photos I took while on the plane to Colleen:

Let's get started, shall we?

I wish I could explain Colleen in words that could even do her justice. I can't. All I can say is that sometimes in blogging you run across some really amazing people. Actually, lots of times you do. 
There are those bloggers that for one reason or another you cling to, gravitate toward, and suddenly they become real. One day you take the leap and assume they are not serial killers or wackos and give them your address and eventually your cell number and you begin texting. 

You talk about them like they are the bees knees and you've been forever friends. Then you realize that's a little weird to all your friends and family IRL and talk about them a little less. The bond is there though and that place in your heart is forever written with their name on it. 

Nearly seven years ago, God blessed me with stumbling upon the Martin Family Moments. Over time Colleen became a role model in so many ways to me. I was in awe of her family, her amazing husband, her growing family through her self proclaimed 'super fertility', her faith, how she worked full time and mothered so well, her genuine awesomeness that could not be explained, and the sweetness she exuded.

In time, she also became my prayer partner, cheerleader and personal trainer. She inspired me to be more physically active and make working out a priority, including taking up slow granny running. I knew she was a real person and I knew that if God ever saw a way for us to meet, I'd take it.

Last year I began entertaining the idea of a visit to casa Martin. I waited too long and the cost of flight tickets jumped, which only fed my fearful self and therefore I pushed the trip to the back burner. This past Summer I began watching flights after I had saved my pennies and Reed had encouraged me to take the trip. One day I leaped and bought the ticket.

I'm so glad I did.

In the midst of our back and forth text conversations prior to my trip, Colleen kept asking what I wanted to do. Even when I was there, she'd ask. I truly didn't know. My one and only expectation and thing I really wanted to do was to meet her, hang out with her and the Martin crew. That was it. In my mind anything additional was just fun stuff to do with her. 

The only other two things I also wanted to do was meet up with Marijanna (this trip was also about being a two-fer and getting to meet another blogger whom I met through Colleen online) and her sweet babies, along with seeing the ocean. 

Being that I'm so behind with getting this post up, I'll make a feeble effort to recount just parts of my trip. There's just too much to share all of it (again, Colleen did a great job with her post and you can read more there). I've picked out a number of photos to share with you all so hopefully you'll enjoy those too.

It was smooth sailing on the airplane, I survived security checks, a layover in Detroit and then my final landing in Providence, Rhode Island. Much to my delight, just outside of baggage claim my eyes finally caught sight of the real, in person Colleen. 

That moment began the fun and the surreal experience of a weekend with the Martins. 

After a short evening getting to meet the Martins and finding my place, I hit bed fairly early. I had been up since 3:30 am to make the drive to the airport, plus the full day of traveling was tiring. 

I think I was exhausted every night when I went to bed during my visit. It somehow seems that traveling and having fun all day is more tiring than being a mom on my feet all day. Or maybe the Martins are just crazy fun people who really know how to entertain their guests.

The next morning I was quick to learn that Colleen had indeed done her planning. Most everything we did over the weekend she'd reply with "I've got a Groupon for that" or "I have a gift card." She's thrifty that Ms. Martin.

We hopped on the bus that first morning and headed to Boston for most of the day. I enjoyed the BIG city and sights I hadn't ever before beheld. 

Everything from arriving at South Station, to the trolley ride with the driver with the killer Boston accent, pizza lunch at a little spot in 'Little Italy' and walking the freedom trail together.

There is so much history in that city. I only wish I was better at historical facts and remembered things. Reed (a history major) would totally love Boston!

I loved that we could take the trolley tour and then venture out on our own two feet to take in more of the sights. Good exercise (to make up for all the yummy eats and treats during my visit) and good conversation with a good friend.

We hit the shops at Feneuil Hall, walked in Copp's Hill and saw the Old North Church.

Along the way as we were walking, there suddenly was a courtyard with beautiful greens and old statues outside a Catholic church. You know me, I had to stop for photographs. 
It was beautiful and so serene. 

The other major point of interest that we simply had to stop at (per Phil's request that we bring home cannolis) was Mike's Pastry

I only took a photo of one small section of the goods. There was a huge display counter filled with this stuff and people galore. Busy place. 
Being ever the tourist, I chose an authentic Boston Cream Puff which I ate later that evening. Of course by that point we clearly deserved the treat after all of that walking earlier. 

The next day was my birthday and the Martins were bound to help me celebrate. The four oldest were off to soccer in the morning, but they took the time to capture a photo with the birthday gal.

I know, really, how cute are the kids??!! The weekend really made me appreciate even more large families and also the value of a really good husband. Phil is amazing and like my husband, of a genuine and generous variety. Phil and Reed were the untold heroes of our visiting weekend and surely earned some extra merits in heaven. I cannot even tell you. 

You know what? Being with these great kids all weekend also made me totally get why Phil and Colleen keep having them. They are really good at what they do and are raising some amazing kids. Each has their own personality and place within the family and it was so fun watching that. Again, so well displayed on the blog but equally evident in person. 

We were then off with Xander and Declan to visit Marijanna. You know her, right? If not, you must. 
Kid you not, God bless that woman. She has Ava who is 3 and Clara who is like 20 months.

And then she has those twin babies in that belly right there. She's a saint. Those babies are like full term, 7 lb each boy and girl. Yes, she's still up and walking around with them like a real person. 

Even crazier, in the midst of that her husband works crazy hours and she manages to be a really great mom. Again, I learned so much from her even in our short visits during my weekend. 

Marijanna is a chatty woman, has an opinion, smiles a ton and really is just the cutest. She's even taller than me, which says something because apparently I'm "tall" (5'9"). She embraces her faith and the gift of her vocation so beautifully that I couldn't help but be encouraged.

Her girls, her girls, are really like the sweetest things ever. I cannot even say how darling they are in person. 

As you can see, Ava and Xander had a little breakfast date while we visited.

Afterward, we rounded up the Martin troops and headed to a pumpkin patch/corn maze/hayride place. Declan was my van mate during my visit. If I could have rationalized it and it were legal, I probably would've smuggled him home. 

He helped with my baby fix. So precious and like the happiest baby you've ever seen. EVER. 

That evening we headed to Mass, Colleen and I hit a local store to get small tokens of love for my kiddos, and we grabbed Five Guys for supper (or dinner which is what they call it). Having never been to Five Guys and to top off another great day, it was the perfect ending for my (29 and holding) birthday.

Sunday was my last full day with the Martins and we had plans.

I was going to finally run an entire 5K without wimping out or walking. Yes I was! And I did.

WE did. I was able to do my first "official" 5K from start to finish with my Best Bloggy Friend. For years this was my goal, to one day exercise with Colleen. I was excited (but tried not to show it) and nervous. Thankfully, Colleen made me feel like I was actually running, encouraged me all the way, and kept up a good course of conversation to keep my mind busy. 

I wasn't the fastest runner ever, but as Colleen chided it was about finishing the race 

In the afternoon we headed to lunch with Marijanna at a local restaurant. Another excellent round of food (local haddock with a pesto cream sauce served with rice and veggies that pretty much made Colleen display a serious case of plate envy) and great friends with enjoyable conversation. 

Sadly, after that it was time to say good-bye to Miss Marijanna and the babies. While for their sake I'm glad they were still inside growing, there is a little disappointment that I didn't get to meet them in person. Perhaps one day. 

Afterward, we picked up two of the boys from altar server training and headed home. We had decided that we'd go to do one more touristy thing that afternoon and chose the Cape.

For fun, Miss Maggie joined us that afternoon. I really enjoyed the one on one time with her because she is so sweet and obviously I kind of understand girls. The other reason is that I've kind of been a big Team Maggie fan for all these years. She stole my heart early on and as she stands alone in that house full of boys, I find her even more endearing. Sweetheart.

Off to the Cape we drove, hitting up the beach where the Martins go in the summer, seeing the ocean once again, checking out the amazing houses along the way, and walking along the Cape canal.

Pretty awesome.

Colleen even drove across the bridge to Cape Cod, drove around the rotary (Minnesotans, think large roundabout) twice for me to get photos and we headed back over the bridge. At least I can say I was technically to Cape Cod.

Before heading home, Colleen took my past some more beach houses on the way to this lighthouse. I know, stereotypical, but I wanted to see a lighthouse while out East. And we did. 

That evening the Martins had two priests over for supper and they were a hoot! I can see why Phil and Colleen have included them as Godfathers for two of their children and why they fit so well with their family. So much fun! They made me think of a couple of our priest friends who joke and feed off of one another the exact same way.

Best and most hilarious part of the evening was when the conversation came to how Colleen and I knew one another. We'd discussed this several times during my visit and how awkward we felt when we tried to explain our oddity of a relationship to other people prior to my visit.  Everyone was like, so you're friends but you've never met? You only know each other online? 

So, when this point came up that evening, we looked at one another and giggled, neither of us speaking a word. Phil was totally reveling in it and was so gonna make us admit to two priests that essentially we were 'strangers'. I think the priests said random things that perhaps made us connected and we answered 'no' to each one.
Looking at one another confused, Fr. Dave's eyes suddenly shot open as he shouted (in an accent, of course) "FROM THE BLOG!!??" I almost died laughing and still do every time I replay it in my head.

Yes, we were two dear souls who met on a little obscure place called a blog. That little place became a bigger place where we shared our lives, our families, our joys and sorrows, our struggles, our realities. Those little blogs formed a safe place for a friendship to blossom and grow. 

I am so glad that God put us both in those little places so that we could meet.

Since my return home a couple of people have asked if Colleen was what I thought she'd be. I wholeheartedly reply with "YES!" She turned out to be the wonderful woman portrayed on her blog. A unique, golden hearted woman, wife, mom, and friend who is definitely changing the world one diaper at a time. 

I promise, she really is. 

I am honored to call her friend, to have shared life in her shoes for a few days, to have conversed in person, and to have hugged her. 

I truly hope that each of you who longs to meet some of those computer friends of the heart, one day that you do. It is like a balm to the soul and a completeness that God gifted me with being able to experience.

Don't forget to read Colleen's post because hearing both sides of the story is always good. If you haven't already read over there or met Colleen, you really should. You'll soon see why she became my Bestie and how she blessed my life from over 1,000 miles away for all these years.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Hallows' Eve Recap

I've somehow managed to fall into the pit of no blogging. I want to do it, really, I do.

After taking pretty much one of the greatest.trips.ever. and returning over a week ago, I'm just treading water. I came down with a wonderful sore throat and cold after the three hour plane ride, so that has been a damper on the last week. Hello, recycled air and germy people.

You'll wanna hear about my trip, I know you will. I've got photos and stuff to say, but no time to blog it. Maybe it will be more photos and less words.

Maybe doing it that way will also make me cry a little less when I post it because it really was that great. I mean, it totally would've been WAY better with my family, but it still was a blessing.

That will be another day.

Until then, let's entertain you with Halloween photos, shall we?

My kids had picked out pumpkins a few weeks ago and were super eager to carve them. Which of course meant that I freaked out a little over actually getting them to turn out like the kids envisioned.

Enter daddy and a power tool to the rescue.

He pretty much went from zero to hero in a matter of mere minutes. He also saved me a bunch of time.

Jonah chose a Lego minifig face for his carefully selected pumpkin.

Lily chose an owl. Everyone seemed impressed with the results.

The next morning I traced a cat face stencil for the girls to paint the while pumpkin we had picked out.

Being that it was probably the first time I recall painting a pumpkin with two toddlers, it went swimmingly. The girls really enjoyed it and thankfully were ok enough with holding on to my hand as we painted together.

Small successes turned into cute and wonderful creations on display.

Which I somehow managed to forget to photog in the dark with the candles inside. Now that we're after the fact I'm just lazy to do it. 

I bet you would like to see the costumes after the sneak peek, right?

Finished products included an Elsa, Anna, and Olaf. Store bought Spiderman.

As you can see, they were pretty much super excited with their costumes. I think they were really sweet and totally fit their costumes this year.

Jonah has a new found interest in Spider-man so when we stumbled upon it on sale and in his size, he was sold. Phew. 

He did a great job protecting the Frozen girls of the town. In our town, there were A LOT of them. Like a bazillion Elsas. For real. Not many other Annas and no Olafs that I saw. 

One last one. 

This one successfully opened my eyes to the reality that the kids are once again growing up way too fast. Hello, I have a tween. A tween!! And an in between boy sandwiched at the end by little girls, not longer babies.

Hope to be back again next week with a trip post. Until then, Happy November!

Did I just say that?!

Let the holiday shopping freak out fun begin.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Week Of Crockpot Goodness

I'll admit it, I'm a Crockpot Lover.

Being from the Midwest, I think we just naturally gravitate toward the crockpot. With the change of seasons and some busier weeks, I was ready to embrace the crockpot after a summer break.

In my new quest for pleasing crockpot meals, I turned to Pinterest (of course). I found that chicken crockpot pins were in abundance, but finding really good ground beef recipes was a different story.

Until I found a good one with a lot of great recipe links. Because I like you a lot, I'll share it with you.

The Crock-Pot Ladies know their ground beef I tells ya.

In the interest of not boring you to death with step by step photos of each recipe, I just took a couple to share with you.

Here's a number of the crockpot recipes we've been feasting on lately and they come with our 5 star approval. Which, in a house of 6 people, is pretty amazing to be in consensus every time.

Crockpot Hamburger Soup

I've only had the chance to try one of the hamburger recipes so far, but I intend to try more. I've got the Pizza Noodle Toss and the Crock-pot Cowboy Casserole  next on my list.

Cheesy Crockpot Chicken

I had put this one together on a day when we had piano lessons and errands in the afternoon. I wasn't home when the meal was taken from the crockpot, so no photo with this one.

I assure you it was presentable both to the eyes and the tummy.

I didn't have any canned condensed cheddar soup, so I made my own following this recipe. I'd definitely do it that way again. I liked this recipe so much more than the canned stuff.

I served the cheesy chicken over a bed of jasmine rice and served it with a fresh slice of homemade bread.

Crockpot Chicken And Dumplings

Making a homecooked meal as great as chicken and dumplings is tough and time consuming. I found this one to be super easy.

Put a bunch of ingredients in the crockpot for several hours, take the chicken out and shred it, toss it back in the crockpot.

Cut up a can of biscuits, turn it on High for another hour. Now that I can manage.

Crockpot Chicken Bacon Ranch

This one was great for Saturday supper when I spent time away from the house and we were enjoying the outdoors. Put a handful of ingredients in for the afternoon, prepare some pasta on the stove, and toss in just before serving.

It made it look like I had spent a lot of time at the stove to prepare this delicious meal.

Ready to try some dessert in the crockpot?

I found that a seasonal favorite, Apple Crisp, is even crockpot friendly. This recipe was great since I was running short on time and only took a couple hours in the crockpot.

Crockpot Apple Crisp

My only variation is that I used SIX  ('Sweet 16' variety) apples for our family. It ended up being the perfect amount in one crockpot for all of us to fill our bellies. With it being easy and quick, this will certainly become a fast favorite around here. What a comforting, warm dessert for the fall and winter months.

Creating tasty and family friendly homemade meals is possible. A little bit of planning, a crockpot, and a handful of ingredients is usually all you need.

I hope you give some of these a try and enjoy them as much as my family did.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From The Mouth Of My Babes


When I get bigger, I'm not going to be married with a ring.

Concerned Mom:

Oh really? What are you going to do instead?


Water plants.


When I be big, I'm going to put stuff in the crockpot.


(Overheard conversation while the girls are eating chocolate covered raisins)

It's like we're eating baby poop from a diaper.

*giggle* *giggle*

Baby's poop......


Guardian angels don't poop in THEIR DIAPERS!!!

*snort, snort* *hilarious eruption of laughter*

Oh dear. Oh my. What's with the crazy humor? That fourth child just may be my trouble maker after all.


Needing Validation Mom:

Gianna, are you going to miss me when I'm gone for a few days?



But I'm sure gonna miss daddy when he's gone to work!

Well I guess everything will turn out just fine while I'm away.

Gianna won't miss me and Margaret will get the chance to be a big girl and use the crockpot to make supper.

**My secret hope is that Margaret will decide to be a 'big girl' and start using the toilet while I'm gone. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

 Thinking About...

....preparations. I'm getting ready to hop on a plane exactly ONE WEEK from today.

This is kind of a big thing for me since :
a) I haven't traveled on a plane since BC (before children), which means it's been over 12 years.
b) I rarely travel in general and never alone.
c) I really don't recall the last time I left my kids and probably not my husband either, for several nights.


You know what makes the unsettled feelings about the trip better though? I'm going to meet someone really awesome. She's kind of an inspiring woman and amazing friend. Best yet, we've NEVER MET. You may know her, she's over here. Yes, I get to meet the Martins IRL in ONE WEEK. (insert happy dance) I also get to meet Marijanna who I met through Colleen. (double happy dance)

The other thing is knowing my family will be ok without me. My parents will come and take a day shift and then Reed will handle the other days plus all other loose ends. He's even planning on taking the kids on a field trip with the homeschool group one of the days I'm gone.

Preparing to leave for a long weekend takes more planning, thought, and preparation of all things random. You know, because I'd like to believe that they really need me around to do laundry, make meals, clean up the house, keep them on task, be their teacher, keep their calendar, keep them clean, brush their hair, and you know, just be around.  They'll be ok without me. (I think)

I also know that the time away is good for me too. I had initially hoped to make this trip a year ago. I waited too long to book a flight and rates went up, but then I slowly also wimped out. A few months ago I jumped (poor Colleen, she didn't even see it coming) on a decent rate and let the Martins know I was on my way. It will be good to finally meet two of my bloggy friends, run a 5K with Colleen for a great cause, hang out with one of my favorite bloggy girls (I kind of crush on her daughter Maggie), and in turn long to be reunited with my family (that's a good thing).

Since this is a rare occasion, it will be a good thing for all of us. I think I'll come home ready to dive back into my vocation and appreciate what daily becomes the monotony.

A few photos from the last week:

We met up with my bloggy friend Marie and her sweet gals last week. It was a great day to enjoy an apple orchard field trip and all of the animals they have there. The kids all had a great time and it was so good to catch up with Marie and visit again. Bonus: I got to hold her little Katharine and take in the baby sweetness. 

If we were to have cattle (Reed's dream), I think I'd want one of these. 
How cute is that shagginess??!!

The baby goats were a huge hit! I think they equally enjoyed the girls. And their clothing to chew on.

The leaves are falling....falling.... And the kids have had a lot of chances to enjoy them this year. 

Jumping in leaf piles is one of those wonderful childhood memories.

My attempt at a selfie with the hubs on our way to our nephew's wedding last weekend.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Costume Sneak Peek

In my free time over the last few days I've had a little project I've been working on.

Since time here is moving ahead at rapid speed, I thought I'd get a jump on this one.

I also have a fun out of town trip coming up next week and I knew I was going to be pressed for time.

Halloween usually creeps up on me too quickly and my kids have crazy-big-amazing-creative ideas that I cannot fulfill without the proper amount of prep time.

Wanna take a look?

Any ideas what the girls are dressing up as this Halloween?

I found the idea for the no sew tutu/dress over here. Then I headed to JoAnn's and Walmart to see what color tulle I could find and brought a bunch home. Lily helped make the final decision on what colors were most true to the characters outfits. We hacked out both her dress and Gianna's in a couple of hours.

Honestly, Lily's took WAY more time. Mainly just because it's that much bigger and had three colors in it. Gianna's took me maybe half an hour or so. Either way, the no sew was definitely the way to go.

I have a couple more details for these costumes yet that shouldn't take much time, but will involve another trip to the store.

The inspiration for Olaf came from a picture I found on Pinterest, but there were no details or patterns. I had the organza dress from a wedding Lily was in several years ago and it was just getting dusty sitting in the closet. I figured I'd save money and time by re-purposing the dress and making good use of it. That definitely made the costume easier.

I struggled to find a pattern online for Olaf's face that was size comparable for my use. I ended up using this download  as a general guideline, but enlarging it. That took a couple trial and error cuts, but I think it worked out fairly well.

Sure, it took a bit more work to do the costumes this way, but I figure it was worth the money I saved. So far the girls all seem pleased with the way their costumes are turning out.

Total spent on three costumes thus far: $17.13

As for Jonah, we're still working on him yet. I've set a deadline and he needs to decide. We'll see if I end up splurging and buying a ridiculously overpriced costume or depending on what he chooses, maybe I can make something yet.

Only time will tell.

I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Early October Daybook

Outside my Window...

Blustery winds and cold have scattered leaves throughout the yard. The line of sight from here, out my patio door, and toward the lake has become more clear. In time, I will be able to see the frozen lake all winter long.

Thankful For...

Moments of peace within my home, my heart, and my soul.

A cozy home to nestle in during the upcoming colder months.

Thinking About...

A number of projects that need my attention this month, including some Halloween costumes. There is another little project I need to get to for a gift in the next couple of weeks as well. We're also heading into a busier liturgical season, so that means more planning and work for my part time job is upon me as well.

I am Hearing...

A blissful silence during 'naptime at the zoo'. (Yes, I really do call it that)The little girls are napping and I'm spending the time on the computer. In the background, I hear the sound of father and son working on a project in the basement.

What I am Reading...

After reading about Well Read Mom on numerous blogs in the last year, I was only semi-interested. Fast forward to a month ago when Margaret mentioned it on Facebook and it struck a chord. I decided I'd jump in on my own to start with  the hopes that perhaps I'd find some friends to join me in the future.

I'm a little behind and just finishing up the September read, Hannah Coulter, before diving into Pride and Prejudice for October.  I'm really enjoying this light read and the commitment to actually make the time to sit and read. Even just being accountable to myself to finish each month is still enough inspiration I need to stick to the program.

Daily encouragement comes to me these days from Blessed Is She. Are you a subscriber? I don't even recall which blogger I stumbled upon mentioning this new community of women. I get the email every day with the daily readings and a short motherly/womanly meditation. It's been the spiritual encouragement I've needed lately and a rich blessing.

From the Kitchen...

I've gotten a little off track again with my meal planning. Perhaps the at home, around the hearth, days will get me back to good cooking once again. I think the crockpot may be calling my name again and it's about time to put it back to good use.

If we are around home, many afternoons find me with a cup of coffee with just the right mixture of french vanilla creamer and pumpkin spice. So cozy this time of year.

Pumpkin is the seasonal ingredient and while not my most favorite, this year it seems especially enticing. Recently I've made a Pumpkin Dump Cake and also a two ingredient Pumpkin Muffin and we enjoyed both recipes. I'd still like to try this Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread or maybe Jamie's recipe while we are in the autumn season.

On Tap for this Week...

The usual lessons (speech and piano) a couple of days, while preparing for an orchard visit with the B family later this week. We also have another nephew getting married on Saturday, it is sure to be a big family hoop-de-do!

Around the House...

With the gifting season nearly upon us, I'm taking second glances at unused items (toys) here and there. After doing a big Thomas the train purge late summer, I'm feeling at least a bit more breathing room. I could sort through some of those bottom-of-the-toy-basket items and the usual smaller items that just end up scattered wherever there is floor space.

It also seems that we are in for some readjustments in daily duties/chores again for the kids. We seem to go in a rotation and ever few months we need to revamp our system. I wish we could find something that consistently works. We have found that with the kids' ages, stages, moods, and commitment changing, so does the responsibility (or sometimes lack thereof) level. Mama can't do everything and it's time to get everyone back pitching in again.

Picture to Share... 

Flashback one year ago:

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