7 Quick Takes (vol. 6)

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My Lenten sacrifice already needs a jumpstart.  And this is where I get to brag about my awesome husband: who forced encouraged me to snag a morning workout for the last two days, even though it cuts into his work day and doesn’t fit perfectly in my “ideal” schedule.  Which still isn’t written on paper yet…  I’m getting to that!

Interesting historical fact - the term "jumpstart" comes from having to literally jump while cranking this style of car

Interesting fact – the term “jumpstart” comes from having to literally jump while turning the car’s crank

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Michael has been chatting non-stop about his favorite videos and games this week.  Currently on his favorites list are Angry Birds Star WarsPudding Monsters and Yoda.  It’s so cute how he explains the games and the movie story lines.  We can’t seem to catch his best moments on film though.  If I can manage to get a cute video out of him, I’ll make sure to post it for your viewing pleasure.

Yoda

Watch your back, Count Dooku

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I realized why Michael is so drawn to the Yoda character.  It’s because he is currently in the developmental phase that delights in small things wielding great power.  My Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes keep reiterating this concept for children aged three to six.  That is why so many of the works focus on smallness and God using weak/insignificant subjects to highlight great truths.  Last week Michael’s class learned the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  What is a better example of God’s power than the smallest seed growing in the largest of plants?  Now I am seeing Michael’s natural inclination toward the small manifesting in other ordinary situations – like playing Star Wars with Daddy.  I find it fascinating to watch intellectual concepts play out in real life.

Did you know a Jerusalem mustard seed is significantly smaller than our American mustard seeds?

Did you know a Jerusalem mustard seed is significantly smaller than our American mustard seeds?

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Michael and I had the most amazing Pazcki (Polish Fat Tuesday dessert).  The dough was moist and chewy.  The powdered sugar so light and airy, with just a hint of sweet.  And the custard inside… to die for!  I’m still dreaming about it three days later.Pazcki

Pazcki

The child is pleased

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There was a lot of Valentine’s love going around yesterday.  Ryan bought me beautiful roses.  Then Michael and I decided to make Valentines for his friends and family.  (What else am I going to do with 32 wallet photos from his four year portraits?)  We also ate (more) doughnuts.  Who could ask for anything more?

Valentine's Day

Nothing says “love” like pink heart stickers

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Speaking of love, my sister is engaged!!!  Isn’t her ring totally sweet?!

Holly's ring

Holly's ring

Not sure what is that crazy thing behind her hand…

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My poor husband is nearly finished with stressful work week (not including weekend duty hours in the dorm).  Say a prayer for this hardworking guy!

Frazzled husband

Yes, he said I could post this pic

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Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Sporting rockin’ ashes & my favorite apron

As a child, one of my favorite “holidays” was Ash Wednesday.  Not only did we get to have a half day at school – but the entire day was named after me as well!  I had to laugh this morning when Michael fell under the same childish impression.  He wondered why is this day named after his mama?  Is there going to be some sort of party, like last night with the special desserts?

Speaking of Michael, I was quite impressed with him at mass today.  He was remarkably calm and even seemed to be soaking in some key phrases throughout the service.  “What is pity?” he asked after the first reading.  Then he nearly jumped out of the pew when he heard Father mention “video games” during the homily.  That sure caught his attention!  Today was a far cry from the typical whining and squirming that attending mass generally provokes.  I think the novelty of receiving ashes (the one time of year a four year old actually participates in the communion line) and spending time with daddy midday improved Michael’s behavior.  Although I wondered where my real child went, the peaceful mass experience was such a lovely gift.  I hope this is a positive behavioral shift instead of an anomaly.

The rest of my day was less peaceful.  Ryan and I learned of a financial hiccup that will inevitably increase our stress levels.  I’m having a difficult time getting a handle on household chores this week.  And fasting is hard to do!  I’ve come to realize that I am super-out-of-practice in the fasting department.  Previous Lenten seasons have given me a pass for pregnancy, nursing or health issues – and I’ve finally run out of excuses.  But at least I ate the really dark chocolate (you know, it’s slightly more palatable than bitter) when I finally caved to my sweet tooth this evening.  That’s got to count for something, right?

I’ll let you know how it goes on my voluntary Lenten sacrifice (making a schedule and sticking to it).  Right now, eh…  I need to put a plan on paper.  Did I already mention I’m having a hard time organizing my life right now?

7 Quick Takes (vol. 4)

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This blog is back from a rather long hiatus!  I’m not sure why it’s taken two months to sit down and hash out my thoughts.  There was Advent, Christmas and post-Christmas chaos to be sure.  I was reintroduced to the FlyLady, which inspired me to focus maximum time/energy on providing a tidier home, if not an updated blog.  Honestly, however, I think I was under a serious mental block.  My last post spoke about trying to follow God’s will – and it took me nearly all this time to finish a task set before me in early December.  Now I am able to think freely again.  What a relief.

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What sort of task would hang over my head for months at a time? C’mon, admit it.  You want to know.  I think the prompting started with this blog – and wanting to share the story of my unborn children.  I felt compelled to introduce them into random conversations and public forums.  Throughout December I spoke of them to anyone who happened to ask about the size of my family.  Then I decided to include their names on the signature of our annual Christmas card.  If I was already telling perfect strangers about the hidden details of our family size, why not be open with the rest of our friends and family too?

As it often happens with promptings of the Holy Spirit, human plans go awry.  I ordered the cards early, but they arrived late – at the onset of holiday festivities.  They sat untouched until the New Year, waiting for an explanatory newsletter to join them.  For several weeks I wasn’t in the appropriate frame of mind to write the letter.  Then January drew to a close and embarrassment outweighed procrastination.  I cranked out the letter, stuffed the envelopes, and shoved the whole lot into a mailbox.  Too late to turn back now.

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It takes me forever to express my thoughts in words.  What made me think blogging would be an easy hobby to keep up with?!  Journaling seems to speed my pen along at warp speed.  But people on the other end of a computer might notice the grammatical and spelling errors – not to mention my crazy interior thoughts.  I should have foreseen the timing problem, as writing college papers also required an inordinate amount of time and energy. C’est la vie.  I still desire to finish this post!

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 Our family took a ski vacation last weekend.  Ryan used to ski in high school and has always wanted to share this sport with Michael and me.  So we gathered random gear from family, packed up the car and headed north to the “mountains”.  It turned out to be a super fun challenge.  I got the hang of skiing during my first afternoon (despite some unexpected adventures on the more advanced blue slopes).  Ryan used a harness to guide Michael, allowing him to gain experience on the real slopes from the start.  He also seemed to take to the sport quickly.  We closed our second day on the bunny hill so Michael could try skiing without the harness (his favorite part of the trip).  It was amazing to watch our son glide down the hill with confidence and ease.  I have a feeling that skiing will be a cherished family activity in the years to come.

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 Photos from our weekend:

Ryan and Michael

Daddy and Michael

Michael and mama

Michael and Mama

A very tired boy

A very tired boy

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 Ever heard of Cake Wrecks?  Go there.  Laugh.  You know you want to.

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Another fun website for your Friday Saturday night: Downton Abbey Facebook.  Episode 4 spoiler alert for Downton fans.  But seriously, if you haven’t already gone online to hunt down the rest of season 3 before it’s USA air time, can you really call yourself a fan?!  Just sayin…  This episode can also be legitimately found at Masterpiece (for a limited time).

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Lazy Sunday

Thought you might enjoy a few photos from our weekend.  Michael got “new” bunk beds yesterday, since he has outgrown his toddler bed.  One nice thing about living in a dorm – furniture available at your whim.  Thankfully, he doesn’t seem to notice the flower motif on his comforter.  We had to drag out my old college bedding until he receives gender-appropriate sheets for his birthday in a month.

Showing me his favorite part in his favorite book of the week.  This is the exciting  part.

Below is a look at Michael’s room revamp.  I don’t know if I quite have the eye for decoration (we shall see when I have a real house to work on), but I love the challenge of a reorganization.

The lamp was a casualty of the move.

Loads of new storage under the beds, right in time for birthday & Christmas gifts.  Yay!

The only “before” picture I could find was several years ago (yes, that is Michael as a baby).  You’ll have to imagine most of it.  The little art desk and large storage shelves used to be in the spot his dresser currently resides.  The dresser was under the window, as you can see in the old photo.  And a tiny toddler bed was tucked in the corner, left of the dresser and window.

That’s all for now.  Hope you enjoy your lazy Sunday!

7 Quick Takes (vol. 3)

It’s been a hectic week around here.  Thought I’d share some of the fun we’ve been having.

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Saturday was devoted to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training.  This month’s class was focused on presenting The Prophecies during Advent season.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel. – Micah 5:1

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel. – Numbers 24:17

We spent nearly five hours pondering these three verses, attempting to describe the exact moments of presentation – not to mention determine our direct and indirect aims for the children who will receive them.

A particular pattern has arisen during my monthly catechetical training.  At first, I find the required level of detail tedious during our discussions.  Just go ahead and tell me the exact words you want on the album page!  However, my brain eventually rises from the fog of everyday life and snaps to attention.  And I have suddenly returned to my undergrad theology shoes.  Diving into the underlying Montessori philosophy and psychology stirs up a desire to know more.  I always thought a bachelor’s degree was the end of my education, but now I am not so sure.

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Recipe for a relaxing Sunday: chocolate, babies and rest.  With Ryan working on another app deadline, Michael and I took the opportunity to snuggle our favorite baby friends and indulge in my most-favorite brand of dark chocolate.  It is an amazing conglomeration of cocoa products, cane sugar and vanilla.  Apparently I didn’t just stop at the good stuff though.  My food journal (more on that another day) holds me accountable for cookie dough, pudding and milkshake consumption as well.  Which leads me to the next point…

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As of Monday, I am back on the healthy-eating wagon.  An appropriately-timed appointment led to my healthy lifestyle “prescription.”  Remember that wonderful doctor I’ve mentioned before?  He also happens to own a holistic practice that heavily encourages good diet and stress-free lifestyles.  His philosophy is not to require perfection, but to encourage following a reasonable baseline.  Basically, what is the least amount of effort one can commit to that continuously yields results?

It was quite humbling to sit before this man and admit that my will-power is basically non-existant.  I keep making excuses for my bad eating habits, justifying myself the pleasure because I have suffered so much in other ways.  And yet, my unhealthy habits directly correlate with the cause of my suffering.  Endometriosis causes fertility issues – and endometriosis worsens when eating sugar, grains and alcohol.  I can’t afford to eat these products, but I haven’t trained myself to say no to them either.  So, we made a plan of attack I will actually commit to following (pitiful though the effort may seem to my perfectionist eyes).  In two weeks, reevaluation of progress occurs.  Here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping the least painful option works!

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We checked out a ton of new library books on Tuesday.  This one is Michael’s favorite over the last couple of days.  Doesn’t everyone love a good high-diving horse story?  One of my favorite childhood movies featured a girl determined to soar through the sky on her trusty stead.  Reading about Atlantic City also saddened me to think about hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the historic town, especially the boardwalk.  A piece of history is no longer with us.  My heart aches to think of the loss.

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Inspiration took over on Wednesday, and I’ve been cooking up a storm ever since.  For some reason, knowing that I can have one utterly unhealthy dessert each day gives me the motivation to cook Paleo for the rest of my meals.  I also really, really wanted to make strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  So yummy!  Thus far we have been partaking in recipes such as:

  • Cajun sweet potato fries
  • Turkey meatloaf
  • Strawberry shortcakes
  • Tomato basil soup
  • Cauliflower pizza crust

My go-to cookbook has been Make It Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason.  Every recipe includes a gorgeous photo (hence my inspiration) and tastes awesome.  The authors also strove to keep their recipes simple with minimal ingredients – which means I tend to have most items already stocked.  The only challenge for me is time management.  Late dinners have been butting up against Michael’s bedtime, and that makes for a slap-happy child at the dinner table.  He seems to enjoy the food as much as his parents, between all the wiggling.

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Thursdays are gymnastics days!  A friend of mine hooked us up with the local gymnastics club this fall, and it’s one of the best activities we have invested in for Michael.  He’s definitely not on par with the gal in the above photo – but he learned how to “stick the landing” today.  It was exciting.  The kid has been doing great, especially since I threw him in the four-year-old class with no previous experience.

Week 1 was all about balance beams.  Michael had an intense expression of concentration that first day.  He had never touched a balance beam in his life, but he jumped right in, wobbles and all.  I couldn’t tell if he was having fun until his eye accidentally caught mine and a huge grin invaded his face.  “This is so fun!” he exclaimed before resuming his serious attitude.

Week 2 focused on bars.  I couldn’t believe how brave my little boy can be.  One of the stations required him to jump from a three-foot high mat and grab onto a bar located higher than his head.  It was like an extra-long monkey bar, with his feet dangling above the ground.  After initial help from his coach, he didn’t even hesitate to jump alone on the second round.

This week introduced trampolines.  Few things are sweeter than watching a child bounce with total abandon.  They are so joyful.  Michael is not coordinated enough to do more than travel up and down, but I can envision his potential.  The poise gymnastics naturally facilitates will help him in future athletic endeavors.

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Thanksgiving approaches, so I share with you Michael’s thoughts on the subject.  My favorite is his gratitude for dinner every night.  I’ve been working hard to provide good meals this week (and wash all the dishes by hand, as we have no dishwasher in our tiny apartment).  It’s really nice to be appreciated.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes (vol. 2)

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Better late than never, right?  I woke up this morning with the writing muses swirling in my head.  So many wonderful ideas were pouring forth, in that moment of calm before my preschooler was allowed to walk through the door.  But then life happened, and now it’s technically Saturday morning, and I’m determined to write something anyway!

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Good things this week: I am back in the gym post-surgery.  Ok, let’s be honest – it’s been much longer than a month since I’ve graced the doors of an athletic facility, recovery or no.  Being in the weight room is awesome.  But shimmying into workout clothes and walking out the door (even though a gym resides a mere 400 feet away from said door) is not so pleasant.  Luckily I have an efficacious husband who recognizes the value of exercise.  We made a deal last Sunday – I will workout three times a week if he puts it on the schedule during Michael’s bedtime.  Now I am very motivated.

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Efficacious (adjective) = capable of having the desired result or effect; effective as a means, measure, remedy, etc.: The medicine is efficacious in stoppinga cough.

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Bad things this week: Being woken up at 1:30am Wednesday morning to discover our country still under the tyranny of an anti-Colonialist, narcissistic president.  I might have cried and raged into the night for an entire hour.  That might have happened.  Then I succumbed to sleep’s siren call and healing powers.  All of Wednesday I pondered the election results.  How can so many of my country-men fail to recognize the terrible plight our country is in?  I was literally shocked to discover the veil covering so many eyes when reality is so black and white to me.  However demoralized my day began, the feeling just wouldn’t stick around.  It dawned on me that I don’t even really like Romney – and I’m actually glad he’s not going to be the one to step into the void.  I had put so much energy into supporting his campaign because there was no other option and, taking a step back, it’s clear that I swept quite a few concerns into the recesses of my mind.  Next time I want a truly conservative candidate.  I’m tired of lowering expectations to deal with the greater evil.  I am tired of settling for what the Republican machine spits out.  I don’t want a lukewarm option, or a slightly better than average option, or even a good option – I want a GREAT option.  And so I will trudge on for the next four  years.  But I don’t deserve what was voted into our country, and I refuse to accept it.

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On a lighter note, I’ve decided that pants are overrated.  Who wants buttons and zippers and the squeezing of internal organs?  Not me.  Oh no, sir, I prefer the comfort of a stretchy waist band.  Which is why I am considering going “pants”-free this winter.

What about yoga pants with the stretchy waist, you ask – aren’t those excluded from your options, being part of the pant family?

And I return the question to you – can we even categorize stretchy cotton and spandex as real pants?  They are the illusion of pants.  Is it not perfectly acceptable to pair a dressy shirt and cute shoes with black yoga pants and still maintain one is pants-free?   I might even be persuaded to combine leggings with boots and a long sweater (so long as my backside is well covered).  Because everyone knows that leggings are most certainly NOT pants.

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It is getting late and my husband is calling for me to shut off the computer.  Me thinks that is sensible, as I am no longer sure the last paragraph is comprehensible.

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A little treat from last week: Michael’s Halloween costume, Cat in the Hat:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes: Family Edition

As this is my first every Quick Takes (and a brand new blog), I thought it might be fun to introduce my family. Here goes!

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Our wedding was June 10, 2006.  It was the most wonderful, joyful day of my life when I married my best friend, Ryan.  You see, the two of us grew up together in the same small town, same Catholic church, and same group of family friends.  However, Ryan and I didn’t really become close until high school.  He was my best guy friend, the one who listened to all my teenagery woes – until he wasn’t just my best friend anymore.  We survived five years of dating, a year apart in college and 20 months of engagement before this happy day could occur.

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Ryan is a man of many hats.  Six years ago he started out in grad school.  I, the ever dutiful wife, followed him into student housing and bided my time until we were blessed with a child.  Four years ago Ryan applied for a hall director job at a nearby college.  We have been living in a dorm apartment ever since! (It was a step up from the student housing, let me tell you.)  Two years ago the stars aligned and Ryan began an app development company with two buddies.  Last January he decided that it was time to walk away from grad school and dive into his quickly expanding company.  Between his jobs as hall director, app developer and computer consultant on the side, my husband spends his remaining free time in husband and daddy mode.

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The second most amazing day of my life occurred when Michael entered the world, December 19, 2008.  I spent his first few weeks just holding him, staring at his darling face and wondering where in the world did he come from?  Michael was a super chill baby who I carted around everywhere with me.  He was an instant favorite with the college kids, grandparents and aunties alike (not terribly difficult when you are the only baby on both sides of the family).  I also noticed rather quickly that he tended toward a flair for the dramatic.  After nearly four years, that personality trait still holds strong.  So does his love of companionship…

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What do I do with all of my free time?  Ha!  When you are a stay-at-home momma for a quality-time child, there really isn’t a lot of time to spare.  I keep busy with the general household duties, pathetic attempts at homeschooling and a couple of ministries around campus.  I am also training as a catechist for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  It’s so exciting to watch Michael experience the atrium while I am simultaneously learning the ropes as a future catechist.

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What is the most awesome part about living in a dorm, you ask?  Well, free rent and utilities definitely top the list.  Oh, and free babysitters – college girls love kids!  And there tends to be a lot of free food as well.  Free stuff.  That’s great.  Plus, if I want to get all serious on you, it’s so good to have easy access to daily mass and weekly Adoration.

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Since this is the family edition, I have to give shout-outs to our extended family too.  We are blessed to have a lot of our family living nearby.  Michael’s grandparents are all within an hour’s drive of our home – which means we get to see them a lot.  One of his aunties practically lives down the street (two more aunties did live across the street, but have since graduated from college and moved on).  Having extended family in town was a dream for me as a kid (everyone lived five hours away), and I am so pleased to make it a reality for Michael.

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Finally, our most recent family photo:

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