Monday, January 4, 2016

When Advent and Christmas need a Do-Over

This was supposed to be my Advent...

(P.S. I totally painted this picture at one of those "paint while you drink wine" nights. 
Super fun! Still in shock that the instructor can make me appear to be an artist.)

My heart and mind completely focused on the birth of Jesus, which meant that I was calm and collected through the entire month of December and not a psycho "Martha" who was overly concerned with her "To-Do List" or with buying gifts. Each night we would gather in front of the Christmas tree to read Advent books and have a peaceful family prayer time. And when the children were all tucked in their beds and sound asleep, the Mister and I would relax on the couch while gazing into each other's eyes as we sipped our hot buttered rum without the constant interruption of a child sneaking out of bed for one last sip of water.  Sounds so dreamy, and right out of a Pottery Barn magazine, right?




Well let me tell you about the Advent that my family actually got...

Psycho Martha. No, psycho, FORGETFUL Martha who couldn't keep a day or activity straight to save her life. Do you know why I wasn't overly obsessed with buying Christmas presents this year? Because I was so busy and scatterbrained that I could barely remember to buy groceries. Mama didn't have time to go present shopping! In order to preserve my pride, I am going to count that as a parenting "win" in the "don't be too materialistic" category. But trust me, I don't have room to be cocky. I won the "Worst Parent of The Year" Award... I forgot to show up to our child's class Christmas party! And to make matters worse, I missed it because I was attending a parish Christmas cookie decorating activity with our mom's group and their children. Did you catch that? I missed my kid's Christmas party because I was at a different Christmas party with other people's children. Oye! There I was sipping hot chocolate thinking I had all the time in the world. Only to find out that my child's party was almost over AND my other son's party was later that afternoon! Wait, what?! How the heck did I mess two kids' parties? I felt like such a failure as a mom. Thankfully, our boys were quick to forgive me (probably because they're used to their mama not being "with it").

The month of December ended up being a blur of multiple illnesses. In between Christmas functions, school functions, homework, etc. Don't get me wrong, we had a great month full of fun activities. However, I really struggled to get done all that I need to in between all the fun. Looking back, I can see that everything felt way worse than it was simply because none of us felt well. At the time I couldn't see past feeling overwhelmed and the guilt I felt for being a grouchy wife, mom, daughter, friend, etc. Then of course the guilt doubled as I thought of all of the awful things going on in the world, all those I know who are enduring major hardships and here I am complaining about first world problems.
The closer we got to the Holidays and talk the "New Year" approached, I started to feel more burdened by all that I did not accomplish this past year. By the time I reached Christmas Day, I found myself sitting at Christmas Mass feeling a little depressed. 

I listened to my husband lector as I did my best to wrangle four misbehaving children, who were acting like having to sit up against the wall was more difficult than Mary and Joseph's 80 mile walk to Bethlehem right before Jesus was born. Seriously... soooo much whining AND dying of hunger when they had eaten RIGHT before walking into church. 
Just when I was about to lose my mind, the Mister was done lectoring and joined us at the back of the church in the standing room only area. But it was was too late. Anger over the way the kids were behaving, anger over me feeling angry and overwhelmed, guilt and the worry that I had ruined Advent (and now Christmas) took me over. Despair flooded my heart, tears ran down my cheeks and I silently asked God, "Why is this so hard? Is it supposed to be this hard? What am I doing wrong?"

The choir began to sing Away In a Manger... a favorite song of our children. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Instead of recounting all of my perceived failures of the past month (and year), I began recalling my blessings: all the times when I heard the kids upstairs sweetly singing this song and acting out The Nativity (in full costume). Or the time when our rambunctious, independent 2 year old (who's been in a total daddy phase) let me rock him to sleep and didn't want me to let him go. Or the time when our kids asked to visit the rehabilitation center that my grandma stayed before she passed away- just because they wanted to say hello to her friends who are still there. They asked to do that all on their own. I was so proud. I didn't read a single Advent book. Not. one. But when I couldn't read to them, the big kids took time cuddle up together and read to the little kids. They played with their saint dolls and prayed the prayers on the back. 



(These adorable felt saint dolls are from the Saintly Silver Etsy Shop)

Our oldest two continually acted out The Nativity (in full costume, with props). 



They wanted to draw pictures of Christ's birth and share them with everyone they know. Those sweet souls were sharing God's love with others, even though I felt like I was failing to be an example of Christ's love to them. Clearly He was at work in the hearts of our family even if I was too blind to see it. More tears fell.

And then my children looked up at me in a panic, all at once, shout-whispering, "WHY ARE YOU CRYING?! Are you okay?! Are you hurt?! Are you sad?! Is this that thing you call 'crying tears of joy,' Mom?" 

"SSSHHHHHH! Everybody please CALM. DOWN." (I was saying that to myself too). ;)

I hugged the kids and wiped my tears. I thanked God for reminding me of my many blessings and placed every feeling of inadequacy and guilt in the hands of Jesus. I didn't receive a profound answer to my question of "why is this so hard?" Nor did I expect one. I mean, I am assisting in raising human beings, not raising a gold fish. Of course parenthood is going to be difficult from time to time. I have been entrusted the job of nurturing the mind, bodies and souls of our children and making sure those souls return to the hands of their Creator someday. Ain't nobody got time for a pity party, amiright?! As my prayers concluded and communion ended, these words flooded my heart... "You always have a do over. It's never too late to choose better and do differently." 

I have been pondering this in my heart since Christmas. With the New Year upon us- last year's broken resolutions and my disappointing Advent season are gone. I have another opportunity for a do over and I want this year to be different. I don't want a resolution list that feels like a one more to do list gnawing away at my sanity all year. I simply want to be more present to those I love most, by being more aware of Christ's presence throughout my day. And if I mess up and have a really hard day of parenting, or a personal goal still unmet or an item on my to-do list that's still unchecked, I want to remember that I always have a do over- there is always an opportunity to serve others more joyfully and love more patiently.









Friday, August 14, 2015

Family Mini Vacations: Visiting Oregon

It's been a busy and exciting summer! We've pretty much been out of town every weekend from the end of June until August. Duuuude, I'm exhausted!!! We've been having so much fun, however, all this traveling has made me painfully aware of what a homebody I am. I'm the gal who loves wearing jammies and hanging around the house with the people I love. If you add in a few good friends who are willing to hang out with me (double fist pump if they bring wine and are also wearing their jammies) then you've made my day, week, month and year. I am incredibly thankful that we've been able to make many memories with family and friends this summer. Now that our summer traveling is over, it is time to get our family back into a routine and our home back in order.


Speaking of the house... It's a complete wreck! Laundry piles and messy rooms for daaaayyys. I have consistently been avoiding taking care of the household in between outings/parties/play dates/trips, etc. What can I say? I like living in denial. I've heard many (tidy) people say "Never leave your house messy before going out (whether for a short or long time) because something could happen to you. Then people will have to come to your house to take care of things/your affairs if you're in the hospital (or if you die) and then they'll find out just how big a slob you were." Yeeeaaaah... our family doesn't live by the rule. I desperately want to, and wish we'd care more about improving in this area, however, most days it's like this: "If we all get into an accident and die and people have to come to our house to handle our affairs, then they'll finally know our secret... that a small army of hoarders lived here and that our clutter would have eventually taken over the planet. Therefore, it was probably a good thing that we passed on. Godspeed and I hope y'all make it out of our house alive." Oye! St. Martha, intercede for me. I need all the help I can get! 

Anywhoo... Here are a few pictures from the first mini vacation we took this summer- a super short, crazy, trip to Eugene, Oregon to visit friends and to see our sweet Goddaughter bapized. We drove there and back in three days with four little. See... CRAAY-ZAAY! Thankfully they did much better than we anticipated although I would have preferred that they slept longer than 20 minutes on the way up. We had the best time staying with our dear friends and being back in one of our favorite cities! While we love living closer to family in California and wouldn't trade it for anything, we truly miss living in Oregon. We miss all of our friends there, the feel of a college town (which definitely  bleeds green and yellow), the community, the beautiful surroundings and the simplicity: life feels slower there- you can exhale, stop to appreciate the river, take a walk or a bike ride and no one is going to get after you for not rushing off to be somewhere more "important."  A piece of my heart will always be in Eugene and I look forward to visiting again soon. 


Here are a few pictures from our weekend. Enjoy!


Oh heeeeey, Oregon! What's that? Is that water falling from the sky? 
Been a looooong time since this California girl has seen rain. 
The kids were totally freaking out in the back seat by the way, shouting,
 "OH MY GOSH!!! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT THE RAIN?!?!?!" 
We had to remind them to calm down and that the liquid falling from 
the sky is in fact just water and not toxic waste or something.
Also... I didn't pack the appropriate clothing for this kind of weather. For ANY of us. 



We arrived safely to our friends' house on Friday evening and stayed up late catching up while the kids played. 
It was like no time had passed at all. I loved every minute of it!
Matthew did too...


 On Saturday we decided to hit up Papa's Pizza for lunch. They have good pizza but more importantly, they have a neat play place for kids (think McDonald's play place but bigger and with a few more things to do, plus an on duty chaperon. Though I wouldn't rely on said chaperon too much. Matthew walked up the Skeet Ball machine several times while the "chaperon" was staring off into space in his direction). Either way, this was exactly the kind of place you need to go to when you are you are meeting up with friends for lunch and there is a total of eight kids (six of them boys) that need to eat and run around. 


Later that day we headed to the church to see our sweet Goddaughter baptized! 
Welcome to the church, little one! You are so loved!
[insert pause to die from cuteness overload of Matthew in his outfit, 
hamming it up for daddy and the camera. That kid knows how to work it.]


On Sunday we got to have one last with meal with our friends before heading back home
(like I said, it was a super short trip). It was very hard for me to say good bye. 
We have been tremendously blessed with INCREDIBLE friends that span from coast to coast. 
My heart often longs for all of my close friends to be together in ONE place. 
Then I can soak up their friendship, make more memories, smother them and
then maybe hug them all to death. Ohhh that would make my heart so happy! 
That also sounds like a fantastic idea for my next birthday party. Just sayin'... ;) 

Okay, forgive me for daydreaming and getting off topic. 

Anyway, we had to leave beautiful Eugene, but not before stopping by to show the kids The University of Oregon and Autzen Stadiumand making a quick trip to The Duck Store.
I can't believe that the last time we were at Autzen Natalie was about a year and a half.
Good grief, I miss that stadium. There is nothing quite like it.   


Yell ((OOOOOOOO!!!))



Because... I LOVE MY DUCKS!!!





Mr. I'm Not Going to Take a Picture and You Can't Make Me. 
In his defense, his allergies were bothering him and he was miserable.
Poor kid.









And then we were finally back on the road. Doesn't this picture of Mt. Shasta 
make you want to sing songs from The Sound of Music?




The Mister brought me back a little something from my favorite winery:





That's all for now. 
Until next time...



Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hello, FitBit... Meet, My Laundry Piles {FitBit humor, why we chose one and why you might want one too}



The Mister and I broke down and bought ourselves FitBits! Now that I need steps maybe my housework, namely the laundry, will finally be done on a consistent basis! (nevah!)

Why we chose a FitBit (if you're anything like us, you might want one too): 
  • Because we need to move more
  • Because we're a bit lazy and need to be held accountable
  • Because we're busy/tired parents and holding us accountable to said moving more is rather difficult
  • Because we like techie things
  • Because we especially like techie things with cheesy positive reinforcement (how old are we?)
  • Because it came in my favorite color (that was a biggie, duh)
  • Because I need to move more, or else the only other way this "Over-30-and-had-four-babies-in-7-years" body has any hope of "burning" calories, is if someone sets me on fire 

Hellloooo sloooooow metabolism! Meet, FitBit. She's gonna whip you into shape! 


(Can you believe that someone took a picture of their dining room table without wiping it off first?!

Isn't she cute?! Yes, I am referring to my My FitBit as a girl because I'm a girl, I love hot pink and she is hot pink (don't pretend like you didn't know what color I was going to choose). I'm not one to name items but I have desire to name my FitBit. If you Google what people name the Aria scale (which is an accessory for the FitBit) you will find some hilarious names! I don't remember what we named the scale but my FitBit shall officially be called: "Fitney Spears!" While Ms. Spears has gone through her own stages of appearing to have an ahem, loose moral code, I think we can all agree that the women has maintained amazing abs over the years! Maybe a future post will be "How I adopted Britney Spears' exercise schedule." Said me, never. Baby steps, people. Baby steps. 
Okay, now that I've gotten waaaaaayyyy off topic...

Here are my thoughts after wearing FitBit (aka Fitney Spears) for a week:
  1. It is comfortable and I don't mind wearing it 
  2. It doesn't get in the way of my daily activities (doing housework, taking care of kids, running errands, typing on a laptop, etc.)
  3. I like the little "lights of progress" that move across the band as I meet my goals. Honestly, it is almost stupid how much more I move just to gain a dot of light 
  4. It's fun to find your friends on the FitBit App and cheer each other on
  5. You can set an alarm and it will wake you up. Seriously... who wants to reach ALL THE WAY ACROSS a nightstand when you don't have to?!  
  6. It has interchangeable wrist bands and more jewelry looking type bands. I'm an accessories girl all the way so versatility is very important to me 
I will let you in on a little secret that I discovered... you can take the sensor out of your wrist band and stick it in your bra, specifically, under one of your gals (TMI? Very sorry) and the sensor works fine, still tracking all your movement. I am sure the good people at FitBit are cringing as they read this (who are we kidding? They aren't reading my little ole' blog) and are going to write me and tell me that is NOT the correct way to use this product! And that they even provide a model that is meant for wearing under your clothes! What can I say? I am such a rebel! All I'm saying is that once in a while you might want to take your FitBit husband on a date but the band really clashes with your fancy outfit. And what if you didn't think ahead by purchasing one of the interchangeable Tory Burch bracelets for four thousand dollars so that it matches your ensemble? Okay I am being dramatic. They aren't that expensive. I guess it depends on what you consider expensive... they start around $200 and they're really cute! I may or may not be suggesting to the Mister that he should get one for me on a whim (or for my upcoming birthday). I'll keep you posted if I ever get one. *Spoiler alert: he's going to tell me what I am about to tell you... JUST STICK THE DANG SENSOR IN YOUR BRA for a few hours! No one will ever know. Except, now you all know where Fitney Spears is when you see me not wearing my band. Awkkkwaaaard.

My only two complaints: The clasp on the Flex model is hard to fastened (which is absurd because the design couldn't be more simple). The band doesn't always cooperate and sometimes I am stuck fiddling with it way longer than I care to which is slightly annoying. Had I chosen the next (cooler) model up like my husband did, I could have had a much better "wrist watch" style clasp. However, that model doesn't allow for the sensor to detach from the band, therefore I wouldn't be able to switch out the band for a cuter one (or stick it in my bra once in a while). Decisions, decisions...

Using the FitBit App on my phone has been a lot of fun. In hind sight, I've probably looked at it too much this past week. Thankfully I have calmed down a bit as the novelty of having my every move counted has worn off. The app syncs with your device and it can show you things like: how many steps you took, how well you slept, heart rate, exercise, etc. With the basic Flex model you have to tell it when you go to bed and wake up. With the next model up that band tracks that for you. I should have thought more carefully about that since I've only managed to tell FitBit about TWO nights of sleep. My "Weekly Progress" email from the App says, "Congratulations! You've burned a bunch of calories this week and you haven't slept at all!" Meh, who needs sleep anyway? 

You can also track your calories and water intake. The Mister and I have been much better about drinking enough water since tracking in the app (again, so simple it's ridiculous but yet effective). Speaking of water intake, our 5 year old son decided to add some creative flair to my husband's water bottle...


Overall, we're extremely happy with our purchases. We're moving more, our kids are moving more (because we are making them), we're eating a lot better (so important!) and feeling good! I can truly feel the affects of making better choices and living a healthier life style. Stay tuned for a follow up post next week when our FitBit's magically make our bodies looks like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's, overnight... ha! 

I'll end on this note: Our daughter said to me last night, "You know how you wear that thingie on your wrist that tells you if you exercised enough? Well, I don't think kids will ever have to wear one because we move a lot because we are crazy and hyper and like to play. I bet if you just be hyper all the time like us then your band will tell you that you exercised enough."

7 year old genius. 

Be crazy. Be hyper. Play more! ;)



(If you'd like to be FitBit friends so we can help to cheer each other on, you can find me at: https://www.fitbit.com/user/3J5V7N)






Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Semi-Wordless Wednesday {Summer Shenanigans Edition}

I was going to stick to a wordless post but I'm feeling a bit chatty this morning.
Here's our summer (okay, technically it's end of spring and summer) happenings so far...


MAY:

The month dedicated to Our Lady



The crowning of Mary at church. 



Mother's Day Tea at school- Each kiddo made their mom a princess hat.



Mother's Day morning. Sick baby and sick mama. But the snuggles were perfection...




JUNE

That one time (I believe it was the first day of summer vacation) 
when I rolled over to awake from a lovely slumber and saw this next to me. 
Nice one, kids. Didn't scare the day lights of me at. all.




We went to see Matt Maher in concert (our favorite)!!!



Little Miss only made it about half way through the concert...



Father's Day with my love.
 They have my heart and seriously... aren't they the cutest?!



Our littlest man got tubes last week and he was a total champ! 
He also, ahem, flirted with every nurse that walked by him. Sigh.



Post surgery: 
Blankey, check.
Thumb, check.
Favorite turkey, double check.



Morning family walks. By the way, that is our THREE year old on his bike. 
He rode 3.5 miles without making a single complaint while his two older siblings 
RODE IN THE BIKE TRAILER! (I'd be embarrassed if I were them). 
The Mister told them they had to get out and walk. 



Evidence of said walking/running.



Summertime and 108º-110º weather means eating ice cream while IN the pool!





Until next week,



Monday, May 25, 2015

Creating a Family Politeness Plan



A "Politeness Plan"... have I lost my mind? Why yes, yes, I have! I LOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEEE our children! However, I do NOT love they're lack of manners lately. I assume everyone is burnt out on school and is eagerly awaiting summer break (1st gradeitis and junior kindergartenitis... I'm sure those are both a thing, right?). Either way, emotions are high and attitudes are quite hot in this house. This mama reached her limits a few days ago and was in desperate need of a solution.  

So I did what every good/angry/panicked that they're kid is going to turn out "bad"/exhausted parent does... I turned to Google and Pinterest. I like to think of Pinterest as my personal  "on call doctor" for every aspect of my life. There isn't anything that you can't find on Pinterest! I entered into the search: "How to get your 7 going on 17 year old, Bored 5 year old, Threenager and Tantruming 2 year old how to listen?" Ok, I didn't really type that but I seriously considered it, to better convey to the Internet the specifics of my problem. Naturally THOUSANDS of ideas popped up, none of which I had the time (or energy) to read because, duh... AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT in the middle of child meltdowns! 

Just when I felt discouraged I remember a little gem of a book that we had lying around upstairs. It took a few minutes to find the book in the abyss of toys and dirty clothes (because our children are "allergic" to putting their worn clothes in the laundry shoot. It's a serious condition). Anyway, after a little digging, my daughter finally found the book. 

Who remembers this?

The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners 


Yeah that's right, mama pulled out the BIG guns! 


(Are a good portion of you currently hanging your heads in shame like I am, thinking back to your childhood days when your mom or dad had to whip this book out?)

I flipped to the page where Mama Bear shares her wisdom:


"Mama didn't like what was happening to her family. Not one bit. Something had to be done. But what? The best way to fight bad habits, she thought, is with good habits. Then she thought of a plan. She got a big piece of cardboard and a marker. At the top she wrote: THE BEAR FAMILY POLITENESS PLAN."


**I would like to pause here to give my own mother a shout out. This is not the first time I have heard of this idea. She has suggested it on more than one occasion and knows that it works. Why? Ohhh maybe because she knows a thing or two about raising 4 kids since she has done it! What can I say? I'm stubborn and also very lazy. Love you, mom!


We had. to. do. this. So the Mister and I created checklist on poster board Evernote (because we are lazy, the app is conveniently on our phones, I didn't want my hand to cramp from all that writing, and none of the kids would be able to read my handwriting due to said cramps). We made some modifications to "Mama Bear's list" since we don't have cellar and I would never let our kids clean the attic. We focused on the areas in which our kids struggle most. Just when I was super pleased with the final Politeness Plan I remembered that I did in fact have to write it down somewhere so our kids would have a daily visual. (dangit!) 

I posted our "McDonald Family Politeness Plan" on our almost never used white board (because we're also unorganized) that hangs in our laundry room. Never mind how long it took me to write and re-write this list to make it legible. Also never mind my spelling errors, which I have yet to fix. I really should go do that.


Our Politeness Plan:

Forgetting to say "please," "thank you,"      –--> Tidy family room
or "excuse me"
Pushing, shoving, hitting, or kicking           ---> Hold hands above head (for a few minutes)
Tattling                                                     ---> Wipe walls & baseboards
Talking back                                              ---> Clean a bathroom (see checklist)
Interrupting                                              ---> Tidy the play area
Rude noises, whining, "baby talk"               ---> Wipe down cupboards & appliances
Not following directions                            ---> Pull weeds 
Grabbing something from someone else     ---> Tidy the person's room whom you took from
Not completing your "penalty" task            ---> Silent time out for 10 minutes


We presented this to the kids. They're reaction was somewhere between SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR! and AREYOUFREAKINGKIDDINGME? It's been day 2 of using this idea and lets just say that our house is much cleaner than it was a couple of days ago. We will either have well mannered children or we will have an extremely clean house (and yard)! On a more serious note though, they truly are doing better. They are more mindful of their words and actions towards each other and even after a couple of days, they're beginning to catch themselves before they choose to follow through with a rude action. By default, their responsibilities have increased. Which provides more structure to our day, a sense of accomplishment and that we are a team. Our days are always less chaotic when the kids have a little more responsibility. My mother has also suggested this to me before... I really need to do a better job of listening to her. ;)

So far our Family Politeness Plan is proving to be a win-win for all!