Monday, July 13, 2015

Hazy Days Of Summer {Daybook}

Out my window... hot and humid. My flower gardens are in full bloom and looking great, but only due to the help of the garden hose last week. The vegetables are just starting in the garden and to keep everything thriving some nice soaking rains would be most welcome. Last night's downpour of rains, hail and strong winds may have done some damage to my plants, but I haven't been out to check it all over just yet.

Yesterday evening a bad storm rolled through that had us in the basement for quite a while before bedtime. Earlier, as the winds and weather started to switch, there was quite the cloud display.  We called them 'bubble clouds'.

Thinking about... making plans and baby names. I'm taking a look at what is left of the summer calendar and trying to fit in a couple more outings and to do projects, but feeling the weeks closing in. There's a lot still on there and a few more opportunities to make plans if I'm feeling up to being out and about in the coming weeks. As for baby names, I think we're set and we're trying the names out here and there. I find it most fun to hear the girls say the names and my heart melts. We found a new baby girl name to fall in love with recently, but since most votes are that this is a boy I guess it won't matter any way.

I am hearing...the sounds of electricity in full use around the house after a night without power. The washer, dryer, tv, refrigerator, etc are going full speed. It's funny how quiet the house can be without electricity juices keeping things running.

What I'm reading... a few books I recently ordered from Dynamic Catholic. After struggling to get into the last several books from the library, I was inspired to try three titles from DC. So far they are good reads to pick up when I have a few minutes while I get a chance to put my feet up.

From the kitchen... with the summer heat plus the pregnancy lack of ambition and appetite, I have been in a kitchen slump once again. Last week I made up a menu plan and went out to get the groceries for some meals so I can at least be ready to provide some good meals for everyone.

Here are a few meals on the menu:

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

Pork Chops O'Brien

Ritz Cracker Chicken

Chicken Cheese Rollups

The county fair test kitchen is once again open for business and taste testing. Lily was first up with her Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies on Friday. They were quite delicious and probably aren't doing a thing for the pregnancy weight gain. Next up, Jonah will be trying out a S'mores Poke Cake recipe for his fair entry. I'll have to keep you posted on how things go and share the end results.

From the schoolroom... school books have started to arrive. After spending over a month flipping through catalogs and looking online, Reed and I sat down last weekend to finally decide on which books to order for the kids and I got them ordered. Now once they are all here I can move on to the next task of lesson plans. I normally don't mind this process, but it's tough with the summer schedule and having a good amount of time to devote to them. Planning will be a little bit tricky this year too figuring in baby's arrival and newborn demands.

I also need to sit down and come up with what/how much preschool I want to do with the little girls. They were pretty interested last year and eager to be doing school like the big kids. I figure if I at least have things prepped and ready to go before baby it will be a whole lot easier to pull things out for them. I'm not going to push them a lot or over plan, but I do want them to have sit down school time at least some days each week.

Baby belly... 31 weeks. In some ways it's like "whoa, we're already this far" and in others more like "I still have to go through about nine more weeks?!" I humbly applaud you moms of many and those in the "advanced maternal age" category. I really don't know how you do it since this pregnancy seems determined to be my hardest and physically wearing despite me being in the best shape prior and during. I blame summer.

The toddlers are enjoying the baby and taking much more notice now that they are at just the right height for belly. They think feeling the baby move is a hoot and take advantage of hugging, poking and 'waking up' their sibling. I fully anticipate this fascination will last once he or she is on the outside as well.

The belly and toddler shot from up here:

Coming up this week...

- VBS for Jonah and Gianna. Lily will also be a helper this year. Margaret is about six months shy of the youngest age so that means mornings with mom this week.

- Lily's name day (St. Kateri Tekakwith, Lily of the Mohawks)

- 16 new baby chicks are due to arrive early this week

- Getting together with Jamie and her kiddos, plus hopefully other friend meet ups this week

Photo to share... I'm just  a little bit smitten with the four year old stage right now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June In The Rearview

Sometimes looking back makes me realize we did more than I thought and somewhere in the crazy there were memories. Here's a look back at June since the calendar pages turned and I barely recall all the moments until I look back at the photos.

Take a look, shall we?

Earlier in the month was a mommy-son date Saturday. Months ago, Jonah and I signed up for a 4H photography class that was held at a local state park. We spent the day learning simple photography tips and tricks, analyzing photos and taking walks around the scenic landscape to see what beauty we could capture. It was a good day with my boy and we both had an enjoyable time learning.

June we became determined potty trainers and set into full potty training mode. Heck, we even survived! It must have finally been time and the little Miss was ready. Having started and stopped a couple times in the last year or so due to issues that came up, I was hopeful this time around. We're now wearing big girl undies without issues, but we're still working on that #2. It takes time and this one has some constipation issues at times as well, so it will take more effort. Having gone through this three times already, I've had to accept it can take a while before perfection is attained. I'm just so excited to have her eager to go, knowing when she needs to do it and getting there in time. 

From the Baby Files, I'm currently 29+ weeks, but last week's doctor appointment had me measuring at 23 weeks. No, this is not a miscalculation leading to an October birth, but confirmation that I've got another low settled baby. Here's some photographic evidence from a week and a half ago:

From the Cuteness File, my Gianna all smiles and letting me catch her in one of my favorite toddler phases of sweetness. 

As for the big kids, they've spent the last month wandering around wondering how to fill their days without schoolwork. ha! That was part truth. I guess more like they've been enjoying their new found freedom which I happen to think sits on the brink of laziness at times. At least the first couple weeks it was that way and now we're settling in a bit more. Or maybe I'm too tired to care half the time and have adjusted to their lack of schedule. 

They did both have their first round of community ed classes last week and both participated in an Art Class. Being that I'm not really good at the arts nor painting, this is the first class for them to follow the knowledge and instruction of a local artist. They both enjoyed it and it was a good creative outlet for four mornings last week. 

They each did a canvas at first that was guided by the teacher, adding in details as they went along as a class. The last day, they each brought in their own photos from home to do a freestyle painting themselves. Both of them chose photos from our trip to Duluth last fall to recreate. 



Lily is now eager for her second painting/art class in August and Jonah will be a part of a Lego class then as well. What was I thinking making plans in the last weeks before baby?? Oh well. I won't be going that early, I can guarantee it. 

With the big kids at classes, the little girls and I kept busy with other things like errands, trips to the park and a walk along the bike trail while we waited for the kids. It gave us opportunities for extra girl time and selfies. 

We also took in a movie matinee last week as well. It was our last outing as a family (minus the tween who wasn't feeling up to it at the last minute) with our parish priest and it was his suggestion. We went to see Inside Out and it was Gianna and Margaret's first theater movie. You guessed it, they (and we all) loved it! I think I only took the newly potty trained gal to the bathroom three times during the movie. I highly recommend the movie. I'm kind of sentimental and like Margaret with the memories. I'm also a big Pixar movie fan, so it was another good hit and the outing created another memory of time with our priest for us to lock away.

Just this past Monday, Reed took the day off work for us to take a short day away. We've tried I think three or four times in June to make plans and each time didn't get to do what we'd planned due to uncooperative weather. So off we went on Monday to Brainerd, which as any Minnesotan would know leads to Paul Bunyan territory. We enjoyed the day with its own sets of highs and lows as any family day has, plus I had a couple kids with nuisance colds bugging them. 

On the way home we stopped by Camp Ripley and the military museum there since the big kids seemed intrigued as we passed by on the way to Brainerd. Camp Ripley is a 53,000 acre military and civilian training facility where many National Guards train and enlisted MN military go periodically or monthly for continued training. 

The end to our June came with the saddest part which was our parish priest's official last days. It's been a tough month as we prepared our hearts for his leaving. While change and a new pastor are inevitable, this one is a little more difficult because he wasn't set for a move this year and only recent diocesan developments even put his name on the list. We're also having a tough go of it since he was near and dear to each member of my family's hearts, even down to the toddlers. I wish you could hear how the kids talk about him and the girls draw pictures of him, color him pictures and always wanted to talk with him after Mass. Hopefully we'll be able to make the effort to plan visits (he'll be over an hour away in his new parishes) with him and remain in touch.

Now we're sailing into July and the calendar slots are more full than I anticipated. Part of that is just life activities and added to that is my now every other week prenatal appointments. We're full steam ahead!

On schedule for this month:

* piano lessons continue every other week with a new teacher for a trial period over the summer

* two prenatal appointments with my new midwife (my regular doc recently stopped delivering babies, so I needed to switch for now leading up to and including baby's delivery)

* baby's 32 week ultrasound to check growth and development

* 16 new baby chicks are set to arrive at our house in less than two weeks

* library story hour for the toddlers

* VBS for Jonah and Gianna, plus Lily will be a helper this year

* a parish festival or two that we hope to attend at a couple of our priest friends' parishes

* a farewell/We Love Jamie party that Christine and I are putting together

* patron Saint name days for Lily & Jonah

* 4H project prep for the county fair next month

I hope that your summers are going well and you have a great 4th of July weekend!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Weekends Are For Celebrating Fathers, Old And New

How was your weekend? Did you get to celebrate your father, your children's father or other fatherly role models in your life? I hope so.

Since time and brainpower seem to elude me so far this summer, I'm throwing out a little peek at our FATHER weekend. Essentially, we were surrounded by Fathers and that made for a very fulfilling and blessed weekend.

You see, Saturday was Ordination Day for a couple of really great guys in our diocese. One was ordained to the priesthood and two others ordained as transitional deacons. Thankfully, we've been blessed to get to know two of those guys over the past years as they've studied and discerned priesthood.

Besides being swarmed by many priestly Fathers that day, my own Father (and mom too) was with us in the crowd and we spent a good part of the day together. Fathers, Fathers, everywhere Fathers!

Saturday morning we loaded up the van and headed to the cathedral just over an hour away. We've done the ordination gig before and we're survivors. We just had to do it again and the kids were so into it that it makes it totally worth it.

Wanna know what else helps? One small snack bag per toddler, sitting in a pew with grandpa and grandma, sitting in just the right spot so the kids can see but also making escaping to the bathroom possible, and lastly, an inexpensive camera.

For real, the three year old was smitten with it most of Mass. Sure, I had a bazillion blurry photos and about as many of the backsides of the people in front of us, but she also did some selfies too.

Again, I'll point out this endeavor was also roughly two weeks into potty training mode. We're actually getting out without accidents and staying dry, so the ordination was kind of another monumental thing. Go US! 

After the Mass, our hearts were full, our bellies were nourished with lunch at the reception that followed and we received our family blessing from the newly ordained. 

Our newest father, Fr. Gabriel:

And yes, he is just as sweet, witty, fun-loving and amazing as he looks (psst...he was also home schooled for at least half of his school years). He's a keeper and we're blessed to have latched on gotten to know this young priest.

The second half of the weekend was spent still celebrating Father on Father's Day. 

Before we headed out to Fr. Gabriel's first Mass in the morning, there was just enough time for the toddlers to have a tea party picnic with dad.

Everyone indulged mommy with photos and some smiles.

Thankfully, this father didn't mind what our plans were just as long as our family was together. There wasn't any home cooked breakfast or elaborate dessert or putting up his feet, but he was still content. 

I know, he's also a keeper.

Once again, there were more blurry photos taken of church ceilings, stained glass windows and rear ends of unknowing strangers at Father's first Mass.

Among them all were a treasured few of the Father we came to rejoice with and celebrate his Yes to his vocation. This Marian vestment was a gift for him from his home parish, Mary of the Immaculate Conception church. It was beautiful and he'll offer many a Mass in it. I so wish he was assigned closer to us so that we had the chance to join him for those Masses....

Jonah got this one snapped with the Father all on his own. He was pretty excited and of course, kind hearted Fr. Gabriel was so generous to oblige. 

He asked for one more photo with our family along with his new vestment and he was the first to crouch down with the toddlers. We all followed the Father's lead and got down there with them. 

These are the weekends that bless the soul, we see the fruit of our prayers and witness a vibrant Church, a hopeful diocese. Being surrounded by good and holy men, Fathers of all sorts, who lead us both inside and out of the walls of a church structure. These Fathers are all of the ones that I want as support in my own vocation, but who foster a love and greater understanding for the Church for my family and children. I am grateful that we as parents get to share these faces of faith with our children. 

With the joy, so comes the sorrow. This week will be the last with our own current parish Father. 
Our journey this week will contain many 'lasts' with Father for our family, for our parish. Some Fathers have a lasting imprint they leave on your heart. Some are there only for a short while because in that time this Father is exactly who your family needed to minister to them. 

So many earthly Fathers we honor and are grateful for. So many we continue to pray for because they will always remain attached to a piece of our heart, our story.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Most Randomly Put Together Post You'll Ever Read + Favorite Posts This Week

If you can follow this post at all, you will win an award. I have sat at the computer nearly a dozen times today (Thursday) to write this thing. Being that no full thought has ever come together yet, I'm going to be human and just throw it out there.

These are the days, my friends. THESE are the days.

Right now in this house we're doing normal things, summer things, survival things and chasing our tails things. I incorporated a new list of daily chores and another of 'you-live-in-this-house-don't-forget-you-need-to-contribute' things for the kids this week. They all seem easy to me, but then these are all daily tasks that I naturally pick up and just DO.

I'm not sitting around (see photo above...not me) soaking in the sun and enjoying the summer day. I am also not blissfully happy being pregnant and loving my chicks gathered around wandering around with nary a thing to do. Well, not the little girls. They rarely gather, but their path of destruction behind their every move is of epic proportions. They are like twins I'd guess or to which I liken them "more of a handful than five small boys."

Throw in the fact that we're in full blown potty training with the three year old and the last thing I've been up to is resting.

And, I've been complaining and miserably not myself at times.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised then when this prompt for the day popped up on Blessed Is She today:

I had plans for today. You know, the stuff that needs my attention and time. The things I need to do while I have the energy to do them.

But then I saw that prompt this morning.

It really should've been glued to my forehead or maybe tattooed to my arm.

When I find myself inspired by the words or insights of others, I better be prepared to be given plenty opportunity to heed them.

Like when I put this printable in the frame and set it on the kitchen windowsill as my summer reminder:

You get the point. A lot of times though others say it better than I, which leads me to the other point of this post. These were a couple of the goodies that popped up in my feed this week and kept me thinking:

Mothering Spirit: There Is Another Way

Surviving Our Blessings: The Mess Is The Thing

Martin Family Moments: Maggie With An e

Finally, a couple photos to close this out and wrap the scattered.

Somehow in the excitement of the early summer I neglected to share this ultrasound photo from two weeks ago. I've never had the 3D ultrasound availability with any of the other kids and I was so hoping they'd turn it on so I could see the baby in 3D. They did!

Mr. or Miss Smooshy Face at nearly 25 weeks:

Baby was being super uncooperative again (super low rider baby here) this time around, but at least they got the measurements and views they needed. I've got orders in for another ultrasound at 32 weeks since they want to check out the kidney to bladder measurements that weren't quite in the normal range. Usually these things resolve themselves.

I'll admit that every look at this little person reminds me of the outcome and blessing of all this. Pregnancy is not my thing and with so many extra changes (painful varicose veins in one leg and recently diagnosed hernia + let's not even discuss the chest measurements that are so not me), there's that part of me that forgets the generosity of God and that at one time five children would have been hard to imagine possible.

In case you want visible proof that we are surviving, occasionally we smile and we're doing our best, here you go. This was taken last Sunday at the 20th ordination anniversary party for our dear priest friend. A mom of many walked up as the kids were hanging around and I was just debating taking their photo. She came in like Super Mom and asked if we'd like her to take a family photo. Why, yes please. While these moments are rare, they do exist. Even if my weekdays feel overwhelming and scattered, I know that grace abounds and we make it through.

God's got this. He does.

Thankfully, even in spite of my cranky, complaining, human self.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Photos

We're winding down our first official week of summer time here at our house. 

It was kind of a rough start for a number of reasons and too many random things going on. 

I'm looking toward next week to iron out some summer guidelines 
and perhaps more restful/peaceful days.

Some of us were quite ready for the official school calendar to close (see above). Teacher included.

In ways it does seem that the new year had begun not that long ago, but that was WAY back here

Here are the students and little helpers on the last day of school:

How do they grow up so much during the school year??

Next year we'll have a seventh grader, fifth grader, preschoolers x2, and a newborn. 

I'm gonna need more grace and patience. 

And coffee.

Happy Summer Days!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

School Days Wrap Up {Daybook}

Outside my window... peeks of sun and clouds after the rain today (Memorial Day). My perennial gardens are greening up and beautifully lush. The vegetable garden is making progress with beans, carrots and potatoes poking out of the ground.

Thinking about... summer days and summer plans. With the baby due just after the summertime, it's hard not to wish away these days in anticipation of the new little child. These are the days we long for all winter and I want to enjoy them as much as possible. With them come many activities, opportunities for enjoyment and projects that need time (money too). I'm trying to sort them all out to find what's manageable, but also serves each of the needs/desires of everyone in the household. Realistically I won't be able to fit it all in, but I'll do what I can.

Changes... the big kids will continue piano lessons every other week this summer with a new piano teacher. We'll be on a trial period with her and have the understanding that the fall schedule is a little up in the air and will depend on baby. We've been looking to leap to a different teacher for a while and a couple things fell into place to make that possible. Our hope is that the new "older" teacher will help them enjoy playing piano, along with both challenge and encourage them.

The other big change that is on the horizon in July is that our beloved pastor will be leaving us. We've known this for almost two weeks, but he just announced it over the weekend. To say that our hearts are saddened is an understatement. I'm trying to sort my way through the emotions and feel like I'm going through the stages of grieving. So far, I'm still in the denial stage. He has become a good friend to our family. blessed each member in a different way and was what our family needed these last three years. He will be greatly missed. We haven't explained his leaving to the little girls yet. Since they think he pretty much walks on water I think the task may prove to be difficult.

I am hearing... the washer spinning out numerous loads of laundry amidst some early morning quietness. Another benefit of restless sleeping and pregnancy induced early mornings.

What I'm reading... currently I'm trying to get into the 'Miss Julia' book series, without much success. I thought it sounded like a good series and there are plenty of titles, but the story line isn't grabbing me just yet.

Suggestions for good, easy summer reading? I enjoy lighthearted, Christian based, page turning fiction that doesn't require a lot of brain cells that I can pick up easily when I have few snippets of time.

From the kitchen... Saturday morning was muffin baking morning. I made at least ten dozen mini muffins that serve well as additions to breakfast and snack time around here. I made the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Cranberry (Craisin), and Oat Bran muffins. On Monday I canned ten pints of strawberry rhubarb jam using my MIL's steam canner for the first time. That just may be the way to go instead of the old huge boiling canner method I've always used in the past.

From the schoolroom... we made it through the CAT testing last week along with other lighter school work. This week we'll finish up what needs to get done and I think one student will have a few math lessons to finish up in June with dad. I'm hoping to get in a field trip this week, but it will depend on weather, location and free time this week to make a trek.

Around the house... the new basement bathroom project continues to make progress. Reed expanded his credentials and now knows how to cut, install and grout tile.  Next up is the flooring and painting before we call the plumber to come work his magic and get everything all hooked up.

After reading the book, I started the KonMari method mainly in my clothes and some drawers, but hope to keep working through tidying other areas around here as well. I find it oddly gratifying, which should pretty much explain yet another new level of my organizing crazy.  I know you are suppose to dive right in and keep on until you are finished, but right now I don't have the time or energy. Perhaps I can get into it in a few other areas once we're done with school work. 

Baby belly... we're at 24 weeks. I'm feeling pretty well, but find myself tired by evening time after being up on my feet all day. I'm still sticking with a good, healthy diet in addition to almost daily workouts or some length of walking fit within my days. I have another ultrasound later this week to see if baby is more cooperative to check heart and kidneys that they couldn't view a few weeks ago.

Sorry the photo isn't the greatest and clearly black is just tough to photograph. It wasn't intentional to be deceiving, but happened to be what I had on today.

Coming up this week... last piano lessons for the school year and perhaps the last with this piano teacher; piano recital; another baby ultrasound; hopefully a field trip with the kids; new bathroom painting?

Photo to share... last Friday:

beautiful spring weather + ice cream treats + the park = the perfect afternoon.

Have a wonderful week! 

(Be sure to let me know if you have summer book suggestions in the comments)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Easy As 1-2-3: Apple Dump Cake

Do you have these three ingredients plus a crock pot?

Then you can make this easy dessert, a great fix it and forget it!


1. Apple Pie Filling

2. Yellow Cake Mix

3. Stick of Butter

I sprayed my crock pot with cooking spray first, but I bet one of those handy crock pot liners would be great too. 

Pour in the apple pie filling.

Sprinkle the dry cake mix over the pie filling and then toss a stick of butter on top.

Turn your crock pot on Low for about 4 hours until the top is golden brown.

Ta-da! That's it.

I served it up warm with a scoop of ice cream. 
5/6 family members were pleased with the result and agreed we should try this recipe again.

This recipe brought to you by: Living-the-life-no-time-to-create-thoughtful-blog-posts-mama.

I think Margaret said it best yesterday. I've gotten used to it knowing this is what happens when spring arrives in Minnesota and homeschool blogger moms are trying to wrap up the school year. 

Happy Tuesday to you!

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