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!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

 I am thinking about....Baby Names.

Anyone else struggle with deciding baby names? As we look ahead to add another child to our humble abode and family, we feel so blessed. The thing is, as we've added more children I also feel the urge to find the "perfect" name that suits baby and our family. I really want to LOVE the name, which is a little silly because I'll love the child and the name falls into place. I find myself toying with names and then coming back to a certain name or two just not quite able to let some of them go. I get a little name crazy, especially when I think "this MAY be our last baby (I have thought that with the last three pregnancies), what names do I think are cute/meaningful and want to be sure to use?"

But then, it's not just about me. I have a husband who needs to try on the names for size too. And then, so as not to be too exclusive, we try the names on with the kids as well. Any ideas how hard that is in a house full of stubborn, determined human beings??!!

I'll tell ya....VERY.

Last night in an attempt to really troll through the deepest, meaningful names that would strike my heart and mind as the.best.names.ever., I pulled out this book:

My bestie sent it to me in the early weeks of this pregnancy. She must know me well, huh?

I sat down and perused every single page of that book and logged a short list of possibilities. There were perhaps eight names for each gender that made it.

With plenty of wonderful names on both sides of the family used, it kind of cuts down the list you know?

Well then, how about Dagobert? Maxellendis perhaps? (Kidding, of course)

But then, then! I took it to the higher court of baby naming specialists and tried them on for size. 

Do you have any idea how sweet some of those names sound when a toddler says them? Melt my heart with the preciousness. I then ran them by the big kids. I think they could only agree on two names for each gender. Lily gasped as some of her most liked names were poo-pooed by her brother. Inside, a little part of me did too realizing this is going to be harder than anticipated. 

Lastly, we took it to the patriarch. I should have known based on past experience this would be my toughest sell.

Pregnant wife: "I want to run a few names by you and see what you think."

Unaware husband: "I thought we already decided which names we already liked and chose them."

Hormonal person: "Well, sure, but what if there's another REALLY GREAT name we haven't thought of?"

He humored me for two minutes. 

And we came right back to the names he felt we had already settled on. 

Well, I tried. At least I'm settled on the middle names for each gender. 

Now I just need to look at this latest photo of little one and decide whether or not carrying the baby plus going through labor and delivery trumps everyone else's votes.

Who knows, maybe it will be Eutropius or Madalberta after all?

We'll see in September. Until then, our lips are sealed and we'll all have to wait for the final reveal.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

From The Kitchen: Fudgey Brownies

Let's pretend I'm not keeping track of my calories and trying really hard to eat healthy this pregnancy. Weekends tend to be a little less 'off the grid' and I don't keep track as hard. That doesn't mean that on Saturday and Sunday I'm eating everything in sight or horribly awful foods in ridiculous proportions. Oh no, I still have limitations, but I do give in to the sweet tooth just a bit.

Last weekend I felt ambitious in the kitchen and did a Pinterest search for quick and simple brownies. After a few clicks I found one for Fudgy Brownies. Based on the fact that the pan was 2/3 eaten  right after lunch, I was pretty sure it was a keeper recipe and worthy of sharing. You are just eight ingredients away from fudgy goodness!

Fudgy Brownies

1 cup Butter, melted

3 cups White Sugar

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

4 Eggs

1 1/2 cups Flour

1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

1 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

In a bowl mix the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla together.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. 

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into your greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Allow to cool before cutting. (I know, it's so tempting smelling that chocolate goodness)

I'm mixing this recipe up again today and we'll take it to our diocesan seminarians at the seminary when we visit tomorrow. I figure we can work our way even further into their hearts through their stomachs.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Weekend Scenes: Spring Play, A Birthday & Weekend With Boys

I'm tired, my friends. How about you? It was one of those good weekends with family time, crazy time, but at home time. Semi-busy, but it still feels wearing. These are the type of weekends that begin to fill the calendar as the snow melts and the sunshine lingers. The memory maker weekends.

As I mentioned last week, we had planned that the weekend would be for celebrating Jonah's tenth birthday. While I had plans to be intentional about making a big deal over his turning double digits, he ended up just wanting to keep it simple. He wanted to have two of my brother's boys over for the weekend, so that's what we did. 

Which, if you are a mom with three girls and one boy, turns out to be a revealing weekend. One in which I thought many times "I get it now why I'm a 'girl mom' and wasn't blessed with a treasure trove of boys." Not that ya don't love 'em, but they are busy. And loud. And slightly destructive.

The boys came on Friday afternoon so they were able to join us for the kids' spring musical play that evening. Both sets of grandparents were also able to venture out to join us in watching the kids' first ever performance. It was a musical timeline portraying parts of American history. It had nearly 30 kids from our home school group that played historical figures from Christopher Columbus to a 9/11 survivor. Each of the characters lines were actual words they spoke or those wrote in their journals. Sprinkled within the musical were catchy short songs that even my toddlers and myself can now sing after hearing them practiced so many times in rehearsals. It ended up lasting only 30 minutes, but the cast did amazing performing and the historical costumes were great. I wish I could post more photos for you all to see. After the musical, several of the home school students also participated in a variety show/musical performances for us. So much fun.

A quick photo with my nephews before casting call:

Lily as Clara Barton (she was so excited since that's who she was hoping to get cast as) and Jonah as William Bradford (the first governor of the Plymouth colony):

After all the hard work and two weeks of rehearsals, we all enjoyed the final production:

While the work was grueling and the drives to rehearsals 20-50 minutes away, in the end we were happy with the outcome. With this being the kids' first debut in acting and working with other cast members, I'm pleased to say it was a wonderful experience. We are already looking forward to more theater opportunities in the near future.

Saturday turned out to be at-home day. The weather was misty and gray in the morning, but thankfully cleared up enough for the kids to head outside. Thank you, Mother Nature. While our plans had been to take all the kids out for pizza in the afternoon, turned out that wasn't their plan. They just wanted to hang out, run around like hooligans and play like crazy people. 

We gave in and scrapped our plans.

I needed to run to town for groceries and ended up also picking up pizza for supper. Gianna joined me on the outing and it turned out to be a good time away for the two of us. It's rare that I have just one kid along for an errand and she seemed to really enjoy herself as well. I labeled her my new 'errand girl' and she called herself 'a good reminder girl' since she kept track of the things we needed that I didn't have on my list. I look forward to more outings like this now that I know it turned out to be kind of a big deal to her.

Thankfully, Reed is a trooper and held down the fort with all the other kids. They ended up staying outside burning up energy at the park next door and walking in the woods. Everyone survived despite several mishaps and boyisms that seem to happen with more males around. 

Finally, on Sunday we went to Mass in the morning, had my parents join us for brunch and then both sets of grandparents celebrated Jonah's birthday along with us. The kids took advantage of every moment they could to be outside running around. It was glorious outdoors. 

My parents drove my nephews to meet up with my brother and go back home. I think I managed to get the house back in order and now this week we'll be back on track with schoolwork. My mom will join me for my 20 week ultrasound on Tuesday since she's never seen an ultrasound in person as it happens. That should be kind of fun and a chance for grandma to experience some of that same excitement we get each time we see our babies.

May your spring week be beautiful, the sunshine bright and life in full bloom wherever you are. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Easter Is A Season

We just love our liturgical seasons, don't we? Some of us who are super behind on photos that felt like they were cute like say, two weeks ago, still feel the need to post. But heck, we've got our liturgical seasons and it's still EASTER. Catholic seasons for the score!

Truthfully, I don't even know if anyone cares or wants to see the billionth post with photos of my kids...move on if not. In case you do, I'm wrapping up our Easter weekend that followed the Seven Churches Visitation from Holy Thursday.

Good Friday was a bit more quiet, somber and at home, besides going to Good Friday service. We did make pretzels again, which were delicious. Perhaps too much so for Good Friday?

Holy Saturday it was a bit chilly, but we still had our annual family Easter egg hunt with some of Reed's family. Another successful one that resulted in sweet treats and many smiles.

In the afternoon we did some baking and food preparations for Easter Sunday at our house. This year I didn't forget and the big kids helped make the Empty Tomb Rolls. Last year I forgot, all Easter season long, and had some disappointed kids. Mom fail. It's funny how they remember seemingly 'small' things that are a really big deal to kids. Interestingly enough, I find that a lot of those things are food related. That's SO my family!

Speaking of, my grandma used to make and create so many homemade goodies when I was a kid. Since her passing, I find myself longing to keep those tradition and recreating her recipes. I hope to keep on recalling those special moments and holidays where she poured so much love into creating a feast for her family. Slowly, I am trying to continue on with those things for my kids.

One of her goodies was a soft molasses cut out cookie with a marshmallow pastel colored frosting at Easter. It might sound funny, but even recreating it so that it's the same shape (a simple rectangle cut out from a Spam or coffee creamer tin) is essential to complete the memory. It's just one of those things. The recipe for these cookies is in my recipe box and handwritten by my grandma the Easter after I was married. I've used the recipe each year for Christmas molasses cut outs, but this was only the second time making them for Easter. Thankfully, Reed was willing to help out so the frosting, which is a little tricky, could be made just right.

They were perfect and left my family asking for them sometime again soon.

Following a (seemingly) sometimes long-ish Lent, good eats and treats taste even better. 

Easter morning came with early risers prepared for the Easter basket hunt. As always, this has to be done quickly before dressing up and heading to morning Mass. Mission accomplished and happy morning bed-head kiddos.

For posterity....the four kids after Mass in their Easter finery.

The whole crew. No matchy-matchy like some of you amazingly talented fashionista moms, but something that worked just right for each of us. Hello, maxi dress that works with pregnant belly (For now).

How's that for an Easter wrap? 

I've enjoyed seeing all of you in your Easter pastels and reading your springy posts. 

Keep on celebrating the season and enjoy the sunshine whenever it comes your way.

Monday, April 20, 2015

April Days {Spring Daybook}

Outside my window... the perennials are uncovered and the flowerbeds show promise of a blooming season ahead. Now if we could just get more rain, that would help the buds pop out on the trees as well.

Thinking about... summer plans. With baby due to arrive just as we've finished summer and started school up again, I'm trying to figure out how much we can pack into the summer months. I don't want to overdue it, but I do want to make some plans for small special day trips/projects/fun things together and separately with the kids. I'd like to get in a little retreat/getaway for myself, perhaps a day or two away with Reed, some time with Lily (she'll turn 13 later in September, just after baby arrives), plus Jonah time (being he's the only boy stuck with all the girls), in addition to the other family outings and little things with the little girls too. With half a pregnancy left to fit it in and the usual summer busyness, I'll really need to be intentional about my planning and start getting things penciled in on the calendar.

I am hearing... Reed in the kitchen making pizza for supper (I'm writing this Sunday evening) and the little girls skittering about gathering up items to head outside.

Praying for...  moms and their families who need prayers: Annie and her family; Ann Coakley and her new baby Blaze; the Rogan Family; healthy baby and pregnancy; those who have asked for my prayers.

What I'm reading... following Sarah's recommendation and review, I picked up this book heading into Holy Week. I haven't had near enough time to pick it up and read, but I'm nearing the end. I wasn't sure if I'd be a good candidate for the Biblical historical fiction, but thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did. I'm really enjoying the author's writing and look forward to checking into the other books in the series.

From the kitchen... I'll be winging it again this week since I neglected to menu plan. The pantry and cupboards are well stocked, so I should be able to pull together a few meals. The crock pot may be my best ally again this week with a heavier schedule and cooler outdoor weather temps.

From the schoolroom...we're heading into the homestretch and our last six weeks of the school year. We'll be doing the CAT testing mid-May and I'm hoping that will help us best assess how to proceed with curricula for Lily as she heads to seventh grade in the fall.

Around the house... the windows were open last week to send out the winter air and bring in the springtime freshness. In a fit of crazy, nesting pregnant frenzy, I cleaned out/sorted and organized some of the girls' toys. I may need to do some more in the coming months, but at least for now I feel like there's less 'stuff' where I don't need so much stuff. Reed is working hard and plugging away at that basement bathroom each weekend he can. With the help of the resident interior designers, a paint color was chosen and we should be able to get it on the walls soon. The next tough part for Reed will be tiling the shower and putting down the faux tile linoleum squares. We're hopeful that the project won't hit a complete standstill once the weather turns really nice and outdoor work demands more of our time.

Baby belly... we've made it to Week 19. I'm able to feel more baby movements now and the little girls are eager to feel baby move too. Margaret seems to be most fascinated by my growing belly and pokes at it while asking me baby related questions. Gianna is also full of questions, but mostly wide eyed at the size of my belly, especially after suppertime. Jonah just keeps on mentioning that he really hopes baby is a boy and Lily is mostly concerned with logistics like arrival date, baby names, Godparents, etc.

Coming up this week... Lily and Jonah are in a short historical spring play/musical with our homeschool group which means another three days with two hour long rehearsals. Jonah turns double digits (10 already!!) on Tuesday and we'll have my older two nephews overnight on the weekend. Play performance is on Friday evening, so that will kick off our weekend.

Photo to share... My brother's family welcomed another little boy just before Easter. We were happy to join them and share in little Lewis John's Baptism last weekend.

Have a wonderful Spring week!

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