7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 17: One Crazy Summer

I thought this summer would allow me to slow down a bit. This conclusively proves that I have learned exactly nothing from being a parent all these years. Here is a small sample of what is going on these days:

1. Gymnastics – We added two gymnastics classes a week for the summer and now I hear “Watch this, mom!” about a thousand times a day. Usually someone is about to show me their bridge, cartwheel, or splits. It has been a lot of fun for all of us and I have never in my life seen my kids so happy to just be moving around.

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Molly wants to be an acrobat.

2. One More Bird Flies the Nest – My son James took off for his first real long term adventure away from home. He will be working on an organic farm in Alaska (!!!) for an undetermined amount of time. I am excited for him, I think this will be such a growth experience for him, but at the same time my heart just aches to have him so far away. With one child in France, one in Alaska, and the rest of us in Phoenix, we are truly spread far and wide.

He left on a plane on Tuesday with just a few suitcases and his guitar. Gus may be only 2.5 years old, but he knew what was going on. He woke James up the morning he was leaving by stuffing his teddy bear between James’s arm and face and telling him, “I love you so big James!” over and over.

Contact me for his address if you would like to write to him.

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Some brother snuggle time.

3. The Time Puzzle – I am trying so hard to figure out how to mange all of our activities and schools next year. We added gymnastics, which will continue once a week during the school year. Lily moved up a level in ballet, which means she will have a lesson twice a week. Max was promoted to Town Choir with the Phoenix Boys Choir which will now meet three times a week. Molly will probably be going to Kindergarten in a nearby preschool. Both Lily and Max finally got into our school of choice, which is still 18 miles away because we haven’t had any luck finding a rental that meets our needs over on that side of town. (Ballet, Gymnastics, and School are all in the same area, the preschool is near our current house.) My extra drivers are all gone or employed, and Jay works very long and unpredictable hours, so it has to be possible for me to do all the driving, even if I may sometimes have help. This is the puzzle I have been trying to work out in my head for the last couple weeks. I still haven’t come to any kind of conclusion.

Being on the other side of town would help, but I can’t count on that. (Know any investors who want to buy a house for us to rent-then-buy? We won’t be able to purchase another house until we have owned our business for another year or so, and we hope to move out of this house to sell it, because keeping a house ready to show with this many people living in it and this much craziness going on is a recipe for, well, craziness.)

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Lily before her ballet performance.

4. More Dietary Restrictions – Poor Molly has still been having constant belly pain. Trying her with gluten was an obvious fail, and even with a new med regimen her pain still wasn’t going away. Back to the G.I. doc we went and were given orders to strictly avoid milk and eggs as well as gluten. She really thinks that Molly’s issues stem from a food sensitivity (or two, or three) and we just have to figure them out. In the mean time, this has eliminated a good portion of the foods that Molly was able to eat before. Ever try to shop for gluten free baked goods? Almost all of them have eggs. I have to rethink my meal planning, I have to pack snacks when we go places… I know many have it much worse, but it’s just complicated.

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Miss Molly in the treehouse.

5. A Quiet Getaway – Last week Jay and I got away by ourselves for two whole days. It was so nice! We stayed in the city, in a pretty little resort with great summer pricing and spent time talking and relaxing and stuff.  We even put a puzzle together. It is so seldom that we have the time to really unwind and get past dealing with the day to day business of family and living and enjoy each other’s company like we did last weekend. The kids were in good hands and had a good time of their own, and the house was only mildly trashed when we returned.

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Our puzzle

6. My Morning Study – Since I have been trying to slow down this summer, I decided to take a different route for my morning quiet time. Instead of my usual Bible study I am gong through the book “Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace.” I am well aware of the fact that I am no longer a homeschooling parent, and, as I mentioned above, our kids are finally all into our school of choice, so I have no plans to go back to homeschooling. But I think that every parent can benefit from taking a homeschooling perspective on how they approach and teach their children. We are our children’s first teacher and what we do at home matters more than what happens during the hours our children are at school.

But let’s face it, parenting is exhausting, and when I am exhausted, I don’t act like a very good teacher or parent to my children. This book has been a refreshing look at setting priorities in our family and has helped me to take a calmer look at all of the needs of little people that surround me every day.

Plus, she put together a little study guide/journal to help you think through the ideas, and I am all about writing and journaling.

7. VBS and Other Summer Activities – We are finishing up our week of VBS, which the kids have loved so much, but which meant we had to go back to getting out the door at an early hour. Tessa took a few voice lessons and has had some extra work with her gymnastics coach as a helper for some classes. My dad has generously been teaching the kids piano. Max has been taking a geography course that involves the game of Minecraft. Ben has been active in his band and needed a lot of rides. We still haven’t found the time to take him for his license. Jay has been extra-busy with work and some choir events. We have moved around a lot of possessions with James moving out and we have gotten rid of about 10 yard size black trash bags worth of clutter. We can almost park the car in the garage again, which will be very nice because it means that Gus will stop whining all the way through every single car trip. I can’t believe June is nearly over, I know July will tick by just as quickly and then we will be preparing for school again. We haven’t even had time to be bored.

 

Don’t forget to check out my latest Catholic Stand post!

That’s all for now, go see Jen for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 16: School Year Countdown

It’s after six pm on Friday and I am just now starting my quick takes. So much for having them as being a “High Priority” task for Thursdays, right? Anyhoo… here goes.

1. Concert week. Holy School Concerts, Batman! There were 4 this week on three days. The kids did beautiful work, as always, but I can definitely say that the one when we didn’t have to take the younger kids with us was the most enjoyable. Gus (2) spent most of one concert upset that he couldn’t clap as loud as daddy. We also discovered that Molly (4) has a penchant for cat calls. Who knew?

2. Max (9) finished the whole Harry Potter series. What a great reader! We’ll be discussing more of the plot points and watching more movies in the weeks ahead!

3. With all the extra running this week, laundry has reached epic proportions. I just thought you should know why this is such a half… done quick takes.

An old picture, but it looks just like this right now.

4. We received some special surprises this week from Posy in France. She sent Gus a wooden sword with a scabbard, Molly got some Hello Kitty jewelry, Lily received French children’s books (which she did a decent job reading!), Max got a pocket watch, Tessa got a music box and a bracelet, and we all got some yummy candy!


Action shot as he draws the sword out of the scabbard

 

5. Back to Harry Potter, since the movie is on right now. I read somewhere this week that Delores Umbridge is actually the scariest character in the books/movies, because she embodies an evil we run into every day, that pseudo-justice seeking, willing to hurt anyone, evil disguised as niceness or normality. Evil that is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is. I mean, I hated Delores before, but I thought she was just straight up terrible (and so many pages were dedicated to her terribleness). She was a slippery kind of terrible though. What do you think? Who is scarier, Voldemort or Delores Umbridge?

6. The clock is ticking away the rest of the school year. One more week for the little guys. While I have loved their school, this particular blend of schools for my kids has been the hardest yet. I have had years where I had kids in four separate schools, but this year’s three schools was so hard. They were far apart, and the amount of driving made it hard for me to be involved in any of the schools. But we are almost there, almost to the end. Next year we should hopefully have most of the kids on one campus, with maybe a preschool as our second location. Next week will be a difficult one, with crazy school schedules, but it is just one week. Tick tock, tick tock.

7. Now, to repeat a take (sort of) I am going to go and fold all that laundry. My kids have had empty drawers all week, which was torture to my fashion-fickle four year old. (But probably resulted in less laundry for me to wash.)

Go fetch more quick takes. Next week maybe I will have my brain back and can write something worth reading.

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 15: Gluten and Citrus Colored Couches

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I haven’t been sleeping well, and I’m totally not feeling the logging love right now so this will hopefully be a quick quick takes.

1. I was all excited for Gluten. Molly has been off of gluten for a year, and for the first time all her symptoms seem to be under control. Since part of her problem was constipation, and that has been dealt with, we decided, at the prompting of her allergist to trial some gluten.

One cracker…. wait two days… NOTHING!

Another cracker… wait two days… NOTHING!

One more cracker… BOOM! Her poor tummy blew up like a balloon and she looked about 7 months pregnant. Hard-like-a-drum belly.

Then there was a GI appointment, and we were told that was our sign. No more gluten until further notice. Sigh. And I was all ready to take the poor baby out for a cupcake.

no cupcake

2. I got to go antique shopping! With no kids! Just me and a friend!

I found a lot of the usual stuff. One store was clearly and “Antique” shop, not an Antique shop if you know what I mean. But OH! The cute kitchen stuff! All sorts of things like this:

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Next time I need kitchen stuff, I’m heading here instead of Target. Nice glass dishes with lids, for not much more than Rubbermaid. And so much cooler!

3. I confess that I may buy my next couch there too. They had a lot of them that looked like this:

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And while they were nearly as ugly as sin, and yellow is almost my least favorite color (next to brown, unless the brown is chocolate, or brownies) the couches were in great shape and cheaper than ikea couches. Which is saying something. And if someone throws up on a couch like this, it doesn’t really wreck it. Right?

4. More about couches.  When I first met my husband, he had 4 younger brothers who were in the 4-10 year old range. They were a force to be reckoned with. Over the course of the first couple years I knew him, his parents went through about 4 couches. People would just give them the couches they were getting rid of.

My family, on the other hand, bought our furniture in a store. And I always wondered why his mom didn’t want to get a nice couch.

Now I know. Smartest. Woman. Ever. (Love you!) The thought of a newly bought couch gives me hives now. These little people would wreck it SO FAST.

5. We looked at a rental house this week. We almost jumped for it too. Great neighborhood, great location, great kitchen. Oh, I salivated over the kitchen. It had one of those deep drawers for pans. How awesome is that? BUt when we got home and I kind of took inventory of our furniture, just the furniture the we HAVE to have, like the bookshelves and our “office” cabinet, I couldn’t figure out how we could work it. So we took a great leap of faith.

We started the day thinking our leap of faith would be grabbing this house and moving before we thought we ever could, but in the end our leap of faith was believing that something better is out there for us. I do hope we can find something. Pray for us, please!

6. Another confession here, I kind of hate Mother’s Day. This Buzzfeed pretty much explains why. I think they should put Mother’s Day back in September when I’m all on top of the world and managing all the school stuff like a Boss. Not in May when I just sent my preschooler to school this morning with out even brushing her (curly, and therefore very unruly) hair and her t-shirt was so short her belly stuck out. Oh, and there were knee holes in her pants. This is my little prissy girl. She doesn’t even care anymore at this point in the school year. By May I just kind of feel like a fraud as a parent. I’m just the babysitter here, ordering up the pizza (oops, gluten.) er, Chick Fil A again. Veggies? French fries count, right? Or watermelon?

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7. What I am really craving right now are slower days and  little more sleep. Ahhh sleep. How I have missed you all these long months. We will be together again soon, I promise.

Go see Jen for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 14: Summer Plans and Chalk Poetry

I’m so excited! It is finally May! I didn’t think I would ever survive this school year, yet here we are, in the home stretch. May is always busy, even though we don’t even have anyone graduating this year. While it kind of breaks the rules and the idea behind the whole quick takes thing, (which I think is supposed to be about 7 things that aren’t quite a post in themselves.)  I’m going to do an end of the school year post in seven sections. So SUE ME.

1. I listened to the younger moms today. It is always a mistake to do so, at least for me. I had to wait for a few kids in tutoring, and I saw a whole bunch of the kindergarten moms sitting together, so I went and joined them. Nice ladies, all of them, truly! But most of them had their oldest child in kindergarten, while my kindergartener is my seventh child. See a difference there? Our kindergarten children are currently working on a “Country Project” where they pick a country and do a report and then make a project – like a poster board that shows the things they learned about the country they studied. If your oldest child gets an assignment like this you get all excited and go buy craft supplies and glitter and make multiple trips to the library. If you are me, you lock yourself in a closet and compose an imaginary email to the teacher about how you are too old to have to do homework like this. Because that is what it is – parent homework. One of these moms went on and on about the country she picked and all the things she was going to put into the project. Do you see a problem here? It’s not a big deal, really. Let her have her fun. She said she would let her son glue the letters on the board after all, so it would still be his project. My poor kid. I may show her how to put a matte on a photo or two… nah, I’ll be honest, I won’t even do that. My husband is the official “project parent” in our house. This is his job.

Then the last day of school they will have a Country Party, where each kid will bring a food from their assigned country. And did I want to help out with that? Sorry. that is the same day that Preschool ends, I will be running like a chicken with my head cut off that day to get everyone at the right time. Whew, I just inched out of that one. (Lily is doing South Africa, since her sister went their last year. Posy mentioned that there was a lot of ketchup. So I guess we can bring that to the party.)

2. Spring Program Season is upon us. We have 7 to attend, two of which are happening at the same time. Anyone who tries to add things to my calendar in May generally gets their head bitten off. But it will be okay. I keep telling myself that. The busyness will end so very soon and then we will be stumbling out to the pool each morning and after dinner, wearing the kids out (and reducing the need for regular baths, Ha!) In the mean time we have nights like this when there was an extra practice, after having to wait around after school and so dinner was nachos with leftover chicken thrown on top. Not ideal. They were all looking at me like What? Is this dinner or the bedtimes snack? Did we skip dinner? Have you lost your mind? Whatever, it didn’t kill them. Get used to it, kids, there are more nights on the run ahead of us!

3. Looking at possible summer plans – and it is so hard not to do All. The. Things. But so far we have 4 things to go to per week. gymnastics on Monday and Wednesday, ballet on Tuesday and Thursday. That is not too bad. None of them require us to get out the door first thing in the morning, which is SO AWESOME. We may even go to the library if they will let me in the doors. I should have my own personalized parking space there for all the money I give them.

4. I bought some stuff, to help keep us busy and do some learning activities during the summer. I always end up getting too much, but I have been pretty restrained this year. We already had a bunch of good activities for the after school things we did during the school year, so we will just keep using those plus these:

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51rPJQ23P7LCrayola Activity Center – because you can put worksheets in this little baby and then they use dry erase markers, So I think it will be very helpful! Which also meant we got extra markers – all the reviews said to ONLY use the Crayola dry erase markers, so I got plenty of those.

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We always need more of these.

A journal for Molly, with room to draw. (Since we had 642 things to write about, after all.) The other kids get regular composition notebooks, although I might go back and get one for Lily.

And while I was shopping for those, I found a really good deal on these:

and these:

which always provide some hours of fun.

5. And speaking of sidewalk chalk – I just discovered a new use for it: poetry practice. Actually my kids figured this out when their school let them graffiti up the place with dry erase markers on the windows and chalk on the sidewalks. Their school was filled with poetry and beautiful quotes during a special even last week. So Monday night when I came home from a meeting, I was greeted by this:

photoIt was an appropriate choice for my day, too, when I had certainly burned my candle at both ends.

6. In other news, my second article was posted at CatholicStand.com this week. My Lazy Conversion. Go check it out!

7. I am still waiting for my copy of Jen’s book Something Other Than God to arrive. Shame on Amazon for taking so long on this one. Next time I want to get an Ignatius Press book on the first day I will order it straight from them! ( I just want to add that if you search on Amazon, and enter “something <space>”  Something Other Than God is the first specific item on the list, and Something Wicked This Way Comes is the second on the list.)

That’s all for me! Go see Jen for more Quick Takes!

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol 13: What I’m Reading and an Easter Picture Dump

Jumping right in…

1. I already posted about how Lent is over, Hooray. So I won’t extend that whininess here. I am happy that we are in the Easter season! So many flowers! So much to be happy about! Jesus is risen!

Oh, and we get to wear new clothes to celebrate too, so that is extra awesome. I don’t have pictures of my outfit for Easter, but I have to say that I may make my whole outfit entirely out of coral colored items from here on out. I was all in coral for the Easter vigil, or mostly so. Bright coral drapey cardigan, white cami, the same bright coral for a pencil skirt, and even coral shoes. And I tell you what, I never have gotten so many compliments in one night. Even my two year old said, “Momma you’re so pretty!” (I even went all out and wore jewelry. Whoa.)

I’d tell you about the kids’ clothes, but I don’t want to spoil the next Take.

2. I had all kind of fun taking and editing photos on Easter. I am trying to teach myself Lightroom and Photoshop, so forgive any egregious errors. Some of these turned out great.

This one is maybe my favorite picture I have ever taken, it really didn’t need any more editing than the exposure and cropping.

A Little Easter Photo Bomb

The 5 Youngest

The 5 Youngest

I had some other great ones, but the upload from my computer is being a little weird, so those are the ones I posted on Facebook. For some reason the ones directly from my computer came out looking really green – same uploads that I used for Facebook. I dunno. I guess you just aren’t supposed to see them. I’d work harder on getting them on here except…

3. Time is limited. An amazing thing has been happening in my household lately. The 4 and 2 year olds have been napping at the same time at least a few times a week. I have a whole hour to myself some days! (They still aren’t very long nappers, but at least they are doing it at all!) Annnnndd…. there they are. Only 45 minutes today. Time for the electronic babysitter to do her work.

4. Where has this book been all my Catholic life? Our wonderful priest has a recommended book each month, posted in the bulletin. When the same book stayed on his list for three months running, I figured it was time to check it out. (I’m not one for subtle hints.) I love this book!

Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry A. Weddell is an excellent book about all the things I have been missing as a Catholic. When I was protestant, it was so easy to stumble into any church and plug into a group of people who were on fire for Christ and were eager to support you in your own spiritual journey. It is so hard to find that kind of community in a Catholic parish – at least in my city. The people are there, they just aren’t very expressive or easy to find. The group of friends I found who are helpful in my own spiritual walk are a wonderful support, but we are a tiny group and generally not advertised. Because of the changes in my own schedule, I haven’t been able to be as much a part of that group anymore this year. (Oh, how I miss it!) But this book isn’t just about what is wrong, its focus is on how to fix it, and how to become an intentional disciple yourself. I look forward to seeing how this book effects our parish, I know a lot of people have read it so far.

5. Speaking of “My Catholic Life,” this year is my 20th Easter as a Catholic! I came into the Church at Easter 1994. How can that possibly be 20 years ago?

6. Intentional. I keep running into that word. When I picked my word for the year, that one wasn’t even on my radar. The word I picked was “Presence” meaning, for me, to be present to my family and to dwell more consciously in Christ’s presence. So “Intentional” isn’t too much of a departure, but I feel a little guilty just switching words in the middle of the year. I mean, that isn’t supposed to be how it works. But then that’s me getting locked into my own expectations and plans for what *I* decide God will be teaching me next. Maybe I will just have two words this year.

7. It seems we are not moving. Yet. We had a truly nasty surprise in our taxes this year. Our first year as business owners has had a lot of lessons to learn but this one was by far the most painful. We ended up needing to fork out more than 4 times what we had planned on, which wiped us out and then some. It was a little financial spanking, let me tell you! We will recover, and Thank God that we had nearly enough to cover it, when that particular amount would have crippled us in the past. So instead of moving this summer, we will be struggling to catch up on our taxes, and planning ahead for when we can move, sometime… soon? I hope. It was a depressing reality to face up to in the days leading up to Easter. But I’m calmer now, trusting that God has another plan for us. I’d truly like a peek at what it is, though. <Hint, hint.>

Brought to you today by Conversion Diary. Go see Jen for more Quick Takes.

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7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 12: Lenten Failure, 52 Days, and a Sword!

1. So it would seem that summer has arrived in Phoenix. Spring was about 2 weeks long and now we are back in the 90’s. The nights are still cool enough that I can turn the air conditioner off during the night and morning, but by 1pm it’s pushing 83 in here and I just don’t do 83 degrees inside. The nice thing about summer is the end to allergy season. Since my youngest two kids have terrible allergies, I have actually begun to look forward to the first few days of 100 degrees with anticipation. We go through allergy medicine like you wouldn’t believe around here.

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When this stuff goes on sale, I buy multiple boxes of it.I think the last time it was on sale was January or February and I bought 3 boxes (That is six bottles, each with 8 ounces.) And I just opened the last bottle this weekend. So COME ON, 100!

2. With the warmer nights we (my husband, actually) planted some grass and flowers, so maybe we will have a yard to look out the window at during the blazing summer, or to see from the pool. In the mean time, the kids can’t play in the backyard because it is all muddy and they would kill the baby grass. Add in the above craziness-inducing allergies, and they are bouncing off the walls! I probably shouldn’t complain since half the country was stuck inside all winter while we were out hiking, playing in the grass, and riding bikes, (and sneezing!) But this is tough! I want to kick them all outside, but I’m way too lazy to drive them to a park. It’s all for the sake of the grass.

This is where I hang out while the kids have tutoring after school. And yes, It looked this gorgeous ALL WINTER.

This is where I hang out while the kids have tutoring after school. And yes, It looked this gorgeous ALL WINTER.

3. I gave myself a little challenge. And I am burying it here in the middle in hopes that you have already gotten bored and quit reading. Last year I tried this, with some success. Instead of setting a goal for myself of a certain number of pounds to lose or whatnot, I selected a number of days – 52 in this case, and will just try to follow a set of guidelines each day for those days. This will take me from April 10 until the end of May. I’m not saying I will quit these guidelines for healthy living at the end of May, just that I can’t stand the idea of making a decision for my whole life. But I can do this for 52 days. I just wanted to post about it since I am sure it will affect my writing – I seem to lose weight in my brain first. You can follow my journey if you want at Mommy’s Diet.

4. My Lenten Failures: We were going to do Ann Voskamp’s “The Trail to the Tree” devotional again, since the kids enjoyed it so much last year, but so far we have only done two of the readings. It’s a sad little display that only has two of the pictures hanging from it, mocking me day by day. We were going to all memorize the 23rd Psalm, but we stalled out after 2 verses. But I think most of us have made it to confession, so yay.

5. This whole moving thing is so overwhelming. Both Jay and I are kind of dragging our feet, not wanting to get the ball rolling. Dreading to leave our neighborhood and closeness to friends, but also knowing that to be really invested in our kids’ school, we can’t really live a 45 minute drive away. I think we will be making some more final decisions this weekend.

I think the most overwhelming part of it is the idea of fixing up our house. This house is well loved, friends. There is not a single place where we haven’t left our mark. I do believe that more than 50% of the drawers in the kitchen are fully broken. Jay fixes them and they are unfixed in half and hour. Everywhere I look these is just so much stuff to fix. For now we are just decluttering to the best of our ability while we figure out what to do.

6. This post has been really boring so far, it’s mostly me venting, so here are some gems from Molly, who at four and a half can make people outside the family think she never talks at all while those of us inside the family are wondering if we will go insane before she gets out of the “What If” phase. Most of her what ifs involve having the whole world or just certain parts of it be pink or rainbow, and ALWAYS with glitter AND sparkles. I dread the day when this child discovers jewelry.

She loves to draw, and the other day made this picture of Anna and Olaf, with no help whatsoever. As her biased mother, I think it is pretty good for a 4 year old.

Molly, age 4 drew Anna and Olaf

Molly, age 4 drew Anna and Olaf

She also drew a paper bag puppet that was an anatomically correct male.

(No pictures of that one!) We had a little discussion about what we should and should not draw, and I am reconsidering letting her be in the room when her little brother is in the bath.

In one of her non-stop stream of consciousness conversations, she asked me if newborn babies could talk. I told her that they had to learn to talk. Then she asked why they even had mouths if they couldn’t talk.

So you see, she is not the silent wall-flower that some may perceive. She has decided that there is not point in having a mouth if you can’t talk All. The. Time.

7. I told Gus the other day that I would take him to Target and buy him any toy he wanted if he would just POOP IN THE POTTY. He immediately said, “I will get a sword!”

The boy is two and a half and obsessed with his swords. He has two (mostly nerf type) swords right now, one we call the Knight Sword, since it is long and straight and looks like something a knight would carry. The other one is pirate sword, shorter and curved. Gus named the pirate sword his Morning Sword. Since the other one is for the night…

Molly likes to tell me with numbers just how much she loves me. She will tell me that she loves me twenty nine and a thousand and four and a million.  She just comes up with what she thinks is the biggest number she can imagine. Gus will try to top her by saying something like  he loves me nine and a hundred and a thousand and a sword.

Well, there are my quick takes for the week. Next week is Holy Week, which is super crazy for us, since my husband is in the choir and I am working with the RCIA, so I’m not sure if I will make it in to write. But I will try!

Go see Jen for some more Quick Takes!

 

7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 11: Lost and Found, Getting Things Done, etc.

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A day when no one could find shoes.

1. My poor children. They have inherited my ability to look for lost items, which is to say, no ability at all. I joke that when my kids are looking for their shoes (which happens at least four times a day, per kid) they walk around staring at the ceiling saying, “I can’t find my shoes anywhere!” Just now, Max, age 9, was tearing apart his room looking for his backpack, which was hanging in the front hall – exactly where it belongs.

My husband, on the other hand, can find anything, anywhere. He really works at it. He looks in obvious places and ridiculous places, and then he looks again. He keeps going until he finds the thing. I tend to be more of the mindset that if I can’t find something I am just not meant to have it. This is why I always put my keys, purse, and sunglasses in the exact spot, every time I get home. If I didn’t I would never see them again.

My arriving and leaving routine is so fixed in my behavior: keys in hand, purse on shoulder, glasses on head, or the reverse: keys clipped to purse, purse on hook, glasses in basket, that I often leave the house with sunglasses on my head even when it is already dark. You know, just in case. And once I am out, I can’t take my sunglasses off my head, because I can’t put them in the basket and I would never find them again, and that would be tragic. Really tragic.

2. Herding cats; that is bedtime around here. Just getting everyone into pajamas is half a nightmare. Who needs a bath? No, a shower? Then there is medicine. All of my kids have terrible seasonal allergies, so we have to track them all down and med them all up every night. The other morning Gus still woke up with his face swollen: the joys of wind in Phoenix. As each one is given their medicine, they scatter to the far ends of the earth house and we have to round them all up again to get the teeth brushed. On and on it goes: gather them, they scatter, gather them, they scatter. The full bedtime rundown is this: homework (Gus-2 and Molly-4 also have to be given their own homework, so they aren’t throwing fits for being left out), bathing, hair combing, meds, teeth, books, oh wait – we forgot a snack and that is child abuse, so snack, teeth again, put the girls in bed, put the boys in bed, go put the girls back in bed, one of the boys is missing now… on and on. I’m pretty sure it takes us at least 6 hours to get them into bed. At least it feels like it. By the time we are through we look at the clock in shock and say to each other – How can it only be 7:45? It feels like at least midnight!

I used to get things done after the kids went to bed. Now I am pretty much useless. The most taxing thing my brain can handle at that point is setting up the coffee maker.

3. Why is that as soon as I sit down to write I forget about everything that has happened to me or that I have learned or done, ever? Not fair. I’m trying to do better about this, I discovered Getting Things Done by David Allen. I started with a dumbed down version of a simplified version. (Both are very well done, by the way!) Now I am reading the simplified version. I’m excited because I already do this a little bit, I just need to refine some of my habits.

One of the things it stresses is “ubiquitous capture.” Any time I think of something I need to buy, or do, or put on the calendar, or an idea, I need to get it in writing – virtual or paper, in some way. Then once a day or so, I can organize all those things I have captured. So I have a running to do list (I’m experimenting with different apps for that.) My shopping list, which is held on Plan to Eat, my google calendar, and something to grab ideas on, which is usually whatever is closest. I keep a notebook in my purse and I have my phone to jot some things down. Which reminds me, I should declutter my purse a bit so I can actually get the notebook out…

There are, of course, other parts to this, but that is the habit I am working on right now, if only because Ubiquitous is such and awesome word.

4. I’m Published! (and somewhere besides here.) My first column was posted on Catholic Stand this week. I was so excited and nervous! It is actually the whole reason I wrote this weeks post on Who Do I Think I Am? Because I was terrified that someone was going to find me out for being the jello-brained, disorganized mess that I am. But no one came out and actually said those things yet, so I’m calling it a success for now. Thank you to all of my friends who shared the post for me! It was such a great feeling!

5. We are teaching the kids the 23rd Psalm this Lent. Our other plans have mostly gone in the toilet, but we are really doing this one, and the kids seem to like it so far, even though we are only three verses in. Gus-2 even does his best to say it,”The Lord is my shepherd, blah-blah-blah want.  Green pastures! Water!” And when the other kids try to say it he finishes their sentence any time they pause. Drives them crazy!

6. I’m trying to get back to shopping the sales and using coupons, but it seriously stresses me out, especially when I forget my coupon box and I see something on sale and I know I have a coupon at home. It is just one more thing to work into the routine right now. The other part of shaving back our grocery budget is going to have to be eating more simply. My family is so spoiled! I have been in the habit of making a meal plan and the going shopping for whatever I needed for those meals – usually some new recipe each week too, whether or not they were on sale. No more. Once upon a time I shopped sales and then planned from the pantry. This is where I need to get again. The other way made for too high a grocery bill and too many wasted leftovers.

I just got back from two stores this morning, and while I saved a ton of money, I have the sinking suspicion that I bought things I would not have otherwise bought. I feel like I’ve been tricked!

Then I picked up Molly from preschool and saw my haul through her little eyes. Almost everything I bought is full of gluten, her nemesis. I have to scramble to make some matching foods so that she doesn’t feel left out. How is this helpful? So I chalk this one up to another learning experience, and the other kids will be happy with a few of my finds. It is so hard to find a balance between saving on the things that we need and prowling with coupons for the sake of saying I saved some money.

7. Now ‘m just going to publish this and go read some of the other people’s Quick Takes. My brain is empty. Go see Jen @ ConversionDiary and find the link up!

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7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 10: Stepping out of Normal

1. I wasn’t around last week because we took a little vacation! Just three days, but for once all the kids had Spring break at the same time. We piled into the van with our six youngest kids, and went for an Arizona Road Trip.

Montezuma’s Castle was our first stop. There isn’t a ton to see there but the kids were relatively interested and it was a pretty walk.

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Then on to Tuzigoot, which is more fun because you can walk in the ruins.

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The next day we hit the Grand Canyon. Both days of driving, every time the kids would see a mountain they would ask, “Is that the Grand Canyon?” and every time we would tell them that the canyon was more like a hole than a mountain. They were very impressed when they finally saw it. Tessa (age 12) said she expected it to be like 20 feet across. There was a lot of fighting over the binoculars, and a little bit of Gus trying to get through the fence, but we had a nice time. The kids lasted a whole hour there before they were saying, “Is there anything else to do here?”

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2. Staying in a hotel, is always kind of treat for me. It’s just so nice to have a clean room, with very little clutter (just what I bring with me) and a made bed, it’s just a different scene that is cozy and comfortable. I think I could go on a vacation and never leave the hotel room, except when there are a whole bunch of kids along. They liked it too, and although we were split up into two rooms, it worked out very well. We took a lot of walks around the halls, though. Lily said that the hotel was the best part of the vacation. I guess the Grand Canyon isn’t all the grand when you are six.

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3. What to do? On our second evening at the hotel, we were trying to figure out an activity that we could do that wouldn’t make us crazy trying to corral Gus and Molly, but that the bigger kids could enjoy. There was nothing worth seeing in the local theater, and we ruled out the local observatory which sounded really cool, but we just didn’t want to bring our already squirrely kids into a place where there was expensive, fragile stuff. The pioneer museum was unanimously voted down, so we hung out in McDonalds for a while to let the little guys run off some steam and then went to Target. We bought some yummy snacks, and a couple of games we don’t have at home (Apples to Apples Junior, and Don’t Spill the Beans) and went back to the hotel to order pizza and have a game night. Aside from a little drama from some sore losers, this was a huge hit.

4. Changes ahead. We have been planning to move closer to the kids school, which is about 20 miles away, but our timetable has been about two years. We figured that it would take us that long to save up a down payment, clean up and fix our house, and then sell it. But just the other day I talked to my favorite realtor, who is also a wonderful friend, and she suggested we rent for a year or two while we do those other things. This will get us closer to the school, and save me a lot of time in the car, and allow us to sell the house while not being in it. I about have a heart attack while thinking about living in the house with all these monkeys while trying to keep it clean enough to sell. And it turns out there are a lot of houses that fit our criteria for renting that I had not seen on my own web searches. Yay for realtors! So I think that we will be moving in June.

5. Which means I have to declutter. Hardcore. I have to look at every last thing in the house and ask myself if I want to move it. Twice. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I wanted to declutter, but this adds a deadline and a purpose to it that I didn’t have before. I am optimistic. I think this will be very good for our family, but I’m also a little stressed. Every time I open a cabinet right now I think about how many boxes the contents will fill.

6. To encourage myself to use my creativity, I signed up for Adobe Creative Cloud. This has also inspired me to take more pictures on my real DSLR camera instead of just whipping out my phone for snap shots. Phone pictures are great, and I will still take a lot of those, but I’ve been really lazy about relying only on those for events and times when I could use my real camera. I am having fun learning photoshop and lightroom, although I am sure I am making tons of mistakes. But this is how I learned how to use the computer – punching buttons, changing settings, finding out what things do. I like doing these things, and I feel challenged by them. If you know of any good sites or guides for these programs, feel free to send them along.

7. While I was in my fit of creativity, I redesigned the blog here. What do you think? Even when I made the old design I didn’t like it a whole lot, it just felt too much like a 90’s website. Maybe I was retro or something. But the new design feels cleaner and lighter and less distracting to me. Do you think it’s too pastel-ish baby colors?

Head on over and see Jen @ Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes!

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7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 9: Goodbyes, Problem Cookies, and Chaos

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1. Tell me all about it! I really had intended to write another post this week with real, non-list, non-link up content. But this week was just kind of terrible. Have you ever had one of those weeks when you keep working and working and only end up farther behind than you started? Tell me about it! No seriously, tell me about it. I need to feel like I am not the only person with my proverbial tires spinning in mud. And then we can all laugh at ourselves. Because sometimes if you can’t laugh, you’re just going to have to cry.

2. The Terribleness. Here is what my week entailed, and I told myself I wasn’t going to post about it since I already had one long post this year about things being terrible. But since I asked for yous stories, I should tell mine, right? This week entailed, among other things: my husband out of town, lots of throwing up, bloody noses, a 2 year old with a mysterious limp-causing foot injury, packing up one child’s whole bedroom, sending that child (Okay, I admit it, she’s an adult.) to the other side of the planet (almost) for the next 6 months, homework meltdowns, extra extracurricular activities (not a typo), and the usual chaos. All of this is, thankfully, very temporary. Still, it made for an exhausting week.

3. She’s gone. My little Posy left for her job as an Au Pair this Wednesday. Let me tell you, that was HARD on a poor mama’s heart. While she may come back to live with us again, or may not – she has some other plans for when she returns – it will never be the same. Trust me, I’ve had one bounce back home and leave a second time. It’s just never the same as before, when they had only been with you, only been the child of the house. There were tears all around as we dropped her off. And I stayed to see her walk all the way up to security, excited and scared about her new adventure. I’m happy for her, but I mourn for the part that is over.

4. Some of the Goodbyes.

Tessa holding Gus, Max below her, Posy holding Molly, Lily in back

Tessa holding Gus, Max below her, Posy holding Molly, Lily in back

 

Ben said goodbye at home. He's not so much her "little" brother anymore.

Ben said goodbye at home. He’s not so much her “little” brother anymore.

 

5. Ugh.

posy plane 2I’m glad we got a picture with Posy, but this is one of those pictures that I looked at and immediately thought, Ugh, how far have I slid? I mean, I know it has been a hard year and all, and I haven’t really been physically on top of things since November sometime, but I really need to stop cutting myself slack and get my act together. It is time to get out of the yoga pants!

6. Right after these cookies. I’ll eat better/exercise/do all the things.

DO YOU SEE WHAT THE PROBLEM IS? I do. Now I need to figure out my approach. Any ideas for a stressed out, time crunched mama?

7. Pondering… If you were me would you want the piano where it is super easily accessible, but in an active area of the house or in a more out of the way spot where they can’t play it if the two year old is napping, and there will be less distraction for practicing? Maybe I will remember to keep you posted on what we do.

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol. 8: Being a Grown Up, Lenten Focus, and a Cleanse

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1. I’ve read a lot of books about getting my act together. Or maybe I have read a lot of parts of books about it. It’s pretty much the same thing, right? And then there are helpful blog posts too, on the same subject. I finish reading almost all of those I see. What I am coming to discover though is that they all have the same idea at their core. Grow up. Act like a grown up. Be all self disciplined and stuff. Prioritize everything – your time, your things, your relationships. And I think to myself – why haven’t I got this figured out yet? Why haven’t I grown up? It really annoys me about myself to be honest.

I think there is something more to it though. I do act on my priorities. I am just not as good at spelling out what those priorities are, for myself or others. I set my priority tasks every morning, but I so often miss those things entirely, that it is more than just not doing anything – I’m doing things all day. I just do something other than what I set out to do. For example, this morning I put “mop wood floors” on my list. It has been a shamefully long time since it has been done. Then when I went and looked at my list later I thought, Nope, not going to happen.

I need to figure out how to put the things I will actually think are important during the course of the day on my list, not just the things I know need to be done while I am sitting in my pre-coffee stupor.

Just thought I would share a little of my self discovery with you…

2. Things I didn’t give up. I spend a good deal of Lent thinking of things I probably should have given up instead (or even thinking that I should have given up All The Things) and being tempted to forget about the things I did decide to work on during Lent. Mind Games, people! I did not give up fast food, sweets, blogging, coffee, facebook, or a lot of other things, but every time someone else says they did I think, Yeah, I should add that to my list.

Then I remember that I have some legitimate issues I am really working on (giving up on goofing off on my phone and managing our grocery budget better to name a couple) and if I try to add in a bunch of other things I will fail at all of them.

I seriously had a few hours yesterday when I was telling myself that I should just go fully Paleo and workout every day for Lent. I should be tracking my calories and not eating any sugar, and, and , and. I realized that this would lead me to use my phone a lot and was probably not a good idea right now – even if it is a good idea in general (and even that is debatable.)

All I have to do right now is put the phone down, and plan the meals carefully. That is a list I can remember.

3. Poor Molly is having a cleanse. Her GI doc recommended we fully clean her out and then start on a regular regimen to keep her, um, moving. Hopefully this will help her constant stomach pain, but I feel so bad for her. How do you tell a four year old she has to poop all day and can’t eat any solid food? Unlimited popsicles and movies, that’s how.

4. I made it to mass on Ash Wednesday. I just have to say that I am really proud of myself. I was feeling very overwhelmed by the orchestration it would take and all the things that are starting to pop up all over our calendar these days. I just wanted to hide. But I contacted my fellow carpool mom, she was okay with me taking her kids to mass and then late to school. Then I called my mother in law, since my car was full of my little kids and carpool kids, my mother in law came and picked up one of my older kids and brought her to mass and then to her school, which is quite far. But we did it! Between us we got 8 children to mass and to school on Wednesday. What a relief.

5. I am finally reading Pride and Prejudice. I feel like everyone else in the world has read it. Part of my “Act more like a grown up” plan was to select a short list of books and give myself a deadline. The only other Jane Austen book I have tried to read is Mansfield Park, and that was such a snore-fest I never finished it. This is much better. I really like it so far, but every time I look up the house is a little bit messier. I solve that problem by reading more.

6. This is the Best One. But I’m burying it down at number six so I look all cool about it and not freaked out at all. I get to write a real column, for a real website, with a real deadline. Now I’m reading articles and columns online and feeling like I am not a Real Grown Up at all and am so not ready for this. Don’t worry, I’ll post a link when it’s a published reality.

7. My Baby Leaves Next Wednesday. I’m so happy her her, but we will miss her terribly. Posy is going to be an Au Pair in France for something like six months. She is perfect for the job, and can handle the kids easily. How many 19 year olds do you know who can take 3 children with them to the store and act like it is not even a big deal? I don’t even do that! I know she will do great and will have a wonderful adventure while she is gone. This is new to me, though, having part of my heart half a world away. Bon Voyage, Posy!

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