Monday, October 20, 2014

Til Death Do Us Part

My "All Things Bridal" week continues! Image result for bridal cartoon pictures

In only 5 more days, by sister-in-law, Julie, will tie the knot!  Very exciting!!!

And speaking of marriage......

This showed up in my Facebook news feed this morning.

82 years!  Wow!

I "shared" the pic and tagged Jay with the message...
"Here's our competition!  And only 16 great-grandchildren...that should be easy!;)

We have been blessed to come from families that have had strong, faithful marriages.  Their "Until death do us part" vows were lived to the fullest.  I think that living your life together as husband and wife...working through the "bad" times and enjoying the "good" times, taking advantage of the healthy years and caring for each other during times marked by a beautiful thing.  It isn't easy!  But, seeing elderly couples that have a deep love and respect for each other after spending a lifetime together is just as romantic as a young couple saying their 'I do's'!

My Dad's parents were married close to the 50 year mark when my grandfather passed away.  My Mom's dad passed away in her late teens but her parents had been married over 25 years.  Then, my Memere remarried two years before I was born.  The man she married, who has always been as much of a Pepere to me as my Mom's biological father would have been, had lost his wife of over 25 years as well.  Memere and Pepere were married over 30 years before she passed away.  Pretty impressive to have 2 long-lasting relationships!  Even though it has been over 10 years, I don't think I will ever forget the sound of his voice calling her across their house!  They were both French Canadian and didn't pronounce their 'h's in words so his, 'Hey, Sweetheart' sounded like "Ey, Sweeteart".  So cute!

Jay's Maternal grandparents were married over 55 years!  His Paternal grandparents were married over 65 years!  Those are some pretty impressive numbers!

Our own parents are working their way to their own Golden Anniversaries!  My parents celebrated their 44th Anniversary and Jay's parents celebrated their 42nd Anniversary this past June.

Jay and I got married young so, in theory, with God's grace to have good health, we might have an opportunity to attempt that record for America's longest married couple!

Regardless, when I think of our grandparents looking back over their lives and knowing the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that are in the world because of their love and God's grace, that's got to be a pretty awesome feeling.

Jay's paternal grandparents, in particular, have a lot of people in the world because of their love.  They have 11 children, 30 grandchildren(if I counted right!), and 18 great-grandchildren.(and there are still many grandchildren that are newly married, unmarried young adults, a few teenagers, and one in elementary school that will add to that number in the future!)  Jay's grandfather is in his early 90's and still going strong.  Who know's....he might even be blessed to hold a great-great grandchild!  (and Grandpa loves holding babies!)

Just this summer there was a Hamel family reunion and pictures were taken with all the family members that could be there.  Even though there were quite a few missing, that picture was pretty impressive.  You could just see the happiness and pride all over Jay's grandfather's face!

Jay frequently jokes that one day when we are old we will sit in matching rocking chairs on our front porch holding hands together.  (Of course, we will have to have a different house because this one has no front porch!)

Front porch or not, I hope that we will be surrounded by our children and their families...with lots of grandbabies!...with smiles on our faces and prayers of gratitude in our hearts to God who has blessed us so abundantly!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All Things Bridal!

Well....there is one week left until my sister-in-law becomes a Mrs.!  It's also 6 days until my 22nd wedding anniversary(!) I think I will dub the next seven days as All Things very own theme week!:)
Image result for bridal cartoon pictures

Later on this morning, I am taking Sarah and Ellie for the final fitting and to pick up our bridesmaids dresses.  Being a part of the wedding party has given me incentive to get in better shape and to lose some of the baby weight that has taken up residence over the course of birthing 9 babies in the last 21 years!  I've always been a person with curves...even at my thinnest and healthiest as a high school swimmer I was only a size 10.  But, over the course of belly expansion and nursing and way too many cravings for chocolate(!), my body doesn't have quite the same shape as it used to!  Most days I'm ok with that....I look at my stretch marks as marks of pride and sacrifice for the little lives that I was blessed to carry and nurture until they were ready for the outside world!

Sometimes, though, I wish my "shape" was closer to resembling that of my former teenage self.  And while I lost weight at times in the past, it always seemed to be followed with another pregnancy!  It's hard to lose weight when you have that thought in the back of your mind, "Why bother since you will just get pregnant again and gain it all back!"

I think losing weight after Kate has been harder because I'm..ahem..a little older and because of the constant sleep deprivation I experience.  A big obstacle for me is nursing as well.  I know some women lose tons of weight when they are nursing.  Not me!  I must have more "primitive" genes that are still programmed to keep on as much fat as possible in case there is a time of famine.  Since I didn't wean Luke before I had Kate and am still doing night time extended nursing with her as well, weight loss is an uphill battle.  (and for those of you trying to figure out the math, I have nursed a baby and/or toddler every day since August 7, 2009!  Some call it crazy...some call it heroic...I just call it something that works for us.  Although I can honestly say I am just about done..I think.)

Anyway...I had a goal to lose 10 pounds before Julie's wedding.  I started about 7 weeks ago.  I used the Livestrong app to track calories and scheduled in 4-5 days of exercise each week.  That was key for me-scheduling the exercise in.  Wanting to exercise and finding the time to do it are two different things entirely!  It's always tripped me up in the past.  Even though I like it best when I can exercise in the morning, that frequently doesn't work for my schedule.  Giving up "perfection in my head" and just exercising whenever the heck I can fit it in the day was an important perspective change for me.

Like the Nike commercial says, "Just Do It!"

10 pounds was the goal and I've fallen short of it.  Last week, I hit a plateau at 6 lbs.  That was really frustrating for me.  I could feel that disappointment and feelings of failure welling up inside as soon as I stepped off the scale last Friday morning.

That "" thought was rearing its ugly head!
I was praying to not let it ruin my day and find an attitude of fortitude and not to just give up and start eating all the chocolate in the house!

I picked up the Bible for some inspiration, and I ended up reading about the woman hemorrhaging.  That woman must have felt so desperate and so discouraged after suffering so long with her condition.  She could have just said this will never work and never had the courage to get close to Jesus.  I wonder how often she wanted to turn back and hide in her bed, (or eat whatever comfort food she could), in the time she heard Jesus was somewhere close by and while she tried to get through the crowd to get close to Him?

She tried to do it quietly...without ever being noticed.  Maybe she felt like she was unworthy and didn't deserve to be healed.  Obviously, she desperately wanted to be healed and she knew all the stories about Jesus healing people and believed He could heal her.

In Matthew's Gospel(9: 18-22), Jesus was actually on the way to heal a ruler's daughter....
"While he was thus speaking to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, 
"My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live."
And Jesus rose and followed him, whit his disciples.
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; 
for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well."

..."If I could just touch  His garment"

How hard it must have been to get through the crowd! How often must she was tempted to give up!  I imagine in my head her fingers stretching out, reaching around the people flocking close to Jesus... finally reaching, touching the very edge of his clothes with just the edge of her fingertips...completely unnoticed!

And yet, He knew! ("And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my garments?"Mark 5:30)

Who touched me?  The disciples saying, Well..everyone is!  "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?'"(Mark 5:31)

The woman was close enough to hear the exchange!  Mark tells us that she "came forward in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth."

Can you imagine after feeling such fear to look up and see the gentle gaze of Jesus' eyes and the gentle tone of His voice as he says, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well."(Matthew 8:22)

Can you imagine her joy and peace!

That woman's story encouraged me.  It made me feel better. It helped me to have fortitude and not just give up and eat anything and everything I wanted!  It helped me not to give into despair that I would never reach my goal to lose the weight.  It turned my attitude around that day...instead of spiraling downward and being cranky and miserable to my family all day, I felt at peace.

I didn't reach my initial goal...and there's another 15 lbs. after that I want to lose.  But, I am getting healthier, my muscles are starting to reappear after a long hiatus, and I went down a whole dress size.  I might not be where I want to be, but thank God I'm not where I was.(Joyce Meyer)

Like most things, it's all about perspective and what I choose to focus on!

If you are struggling with something today, I hope that this story gives you courage and fortitude, too!  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Say Cheese!

This week was such a crazy, exciting week after a busy long weekend!  I haven't really had a chance to catch my breath!  I'm hoping this weekend will give me a chance to decompress and process a little!  (Although, it is Jay's weekend to work and they have been really busy this week so I'm not quite sure how that will work out!  Sigh)

Besides trying to decompress, I'm hoping to get some items checked off the to-do list!  We still have air conditioners to clean and put away for the winter and an awning to take down.  On Saturday, Sarah, Ellie, and I are going to pick up our bridesmaids dresses for my sister-in-law's wedding next weekend!  That special day is almost here!

Even Andrew has been asking me why I haven't posted our weekend, without further ado, here are some of the highlights from the weekend!

#1:  Godfathers & Godchildren
One of the special things about having multiple children quite a few years apart is that the older children are able to be Godparents to their youngest siblings.  I think it's a really special bond.  (Jon and Sarah frequently request "just one more baby!" so they could both be godparents. ....I tell them that their siblings will happily supply them with Godchildren at some point in the not so distant future!;)
Andrew with Kate

Love caught with the camera....:)

Mike with Luke

Mike's love is obvious...and Luke is being Luke!

....but Luke totally adores his big brother:)

#2:  Family Photos 
There are lots of times that I go into a day, specifically holidays or special outings, when I tell Jay that I really want to get a picture with all the kids together.  I've learned that if I don't get a picture at the beginning of the day then it just won't happen!  Our apple picking outing was no exception!  Getting 8 people to actually look at the camera at once, (I don't even expect everyone to smile!), is!  Add into the equation that I have a couple of sons that don't enjoy having their picture taken and I might get 30 seconds of cooperation!

I had these grandiose plans of getting the perfect shot to go on our Christmas cards this year....

....guess I need to keep trying!
The sun is not cooperating!

Nor is Kate!

This was probably the best pic...and Peter isn't looking and Mike is eating an apple! can't stop eating for the 30 second photo session?!?

Like Godfather, like Godson....
 #3:  Daddy and Daughters

Yep...he's wrapped!

#4:  Sibling Time

Kate wasn't interested in picking apples....only eating one and "standing in the trees":)

I made sure I got in at least one pic!
#5:  Taste Testing
Luke took care of that all on his own..."Like a boss!"

#6:  The Fruits of Our Labor
(pun intended!)

An apple pie, a large apple crisp, and a small gluten free apple crisp for my dad:)

#7:  Random Pics from the Weekend
Mike surprised Jay and I with Assumptions sweatshirts.
 Luke felt left out so Mike let Luke wear his;)
Jon was complaining that we don't have any Halloween celebrations...I'm a Fall decoration person, not Halloween.  So, Jon ordered his own skeleton.  It arrived while Jon was at school and Peter was very excited!

He was hugging the skeleton and giggling!

Jon dressed it up, (it even had underwear!).
The skeleton has been dubbed Napoleon 'Bone'aparte!
Last but not least...
Mike wanted to take Kate and Luke to the zoo on Monday afternoon before he left.(Mike always loved going to zoos when he was little...and now he loves taking his little siblings.) 
I love how much they love each other:)

The zoo is decked out with Halloween decorations for it's annual 'Boo at the Zoo' event.
I was hoping to get there last weekend but we didn't have time...maybe this weekend!

My oldest and my youngest....
Thanks for sticking with me for my plethora of pictures!  I hope you have a great weekend!:)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What a Crazy Day!

Wow...the last day and a half has been C.R.A.Z.Y!

Late on Tuesday night, I wrote a post lamenting my children growing up and out and how last weekend was a bit emotional at times.  When I finished it about 11:30...already way past my bedtime, (10 is best but 10:30 is the usual), I received an email from the school alert at Assumption saying there had been a bomb threat and that police and administrators were on their way to the college to determine the next step!

Needless to say...sleep wasn't an option.

I texted Mike and Andrew and they were both in their rooms.  I told them to keep me up-to-date with any new info.

At midnight, Mike called me and told me they were evacuating the school.  Andrew texted me at the same time saying he might have to drive all the way home.  Thankfully, Mike's room mate's girlfriend lived only 20 minutes away and her parents graciously took in Mike, his 3 room mates, and Andrew.  (Sometimes having a big brother on campus is a good thing;)

The phone had woken up Luke, so I went to lay down with him and get him settled with the house phone and the cell phone right next to me.  I was a little stressed to say the least...praying for their safety...and waiting to hear that they got off-campus.

A little while later I got a text from Andrew that Mike had picked him up.  About 12:45, I got a text from Mike that they had arrived at the house they were spending the night.  It took a while to get to sleep after that!

What a crazy night!  With all the worries in the world right respiratory viruses, Ebola(!), bomb threats, etc....I just want to put my family in a bubble!  So stressful!

I was completely bleary eyed Wednesday morning!  Wednesday was a busy day, too.

In the morning, I walked with Luke's class to the local park so the kids could play and collect leaves to make an autumn wreath with.  I like being able to help with Luke's class, especially since Luke is quite...ahem...busy!  I had to laugh though when his teacher, (who I love!...she is so patient with the kids and always doing lots of hands on projects), sent me and my friend, Laura, an email thanking us for sharing our time and talents with the class.

I laughed because I feel like I spend a lot of time "herding" my own young children...particularly Peter, Luke and Kate.  So, helping to walk a class to the park is certainly right up my alley!

If moms wrote up a job resume and included all our specialties on it, what a comical list it would be!

Kate came with me in the morning, so she was tired after spending time at the park.  She took a nap, which was good since last night was the first Momnipotent Book Study meeting and it is easier for Jay if she stays up later on the nights I am out.  She still wants just Mommy at bedtime so it can get ugly!

While Kate was napping, I convinced Luke to snuggle on the couch with me and I put in "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" that we rented from the library.  I got a cat nap in that I desperately needed!  Then it was time to make cookies for the meeting, start on dinner, and try and do a little clean up.

I have to say a big thank-you to my family, because to say the house was less than stellar when I left for the book study would be an understatement!  They all worked together and got multiple rooms cleaned up before I got home!  I know it's not an easy task and I really appreciated it!

The first book study went great!  We had 8 participants plus 6 small group leaders.  I think that everyone enjoyed the video component of the evening and we all encouraged each other in our motherhood journey during the discussion times.  It was great to have a moms' night out and I'm enjoying getting to know new people and getting to know the participants I already knew on a deeper level!

I can't wait until next week!  (note to self:  bring tissues:)

And just so I don't "leave you hanging"....
The Assumption story conclusion...there was no bomb, (thank-you, God!), but the kids were not cleared to move back into the dorms until after 6pm last night!  A whole lot of craziness and expense for someone to play a foolish trick!

Hopefully, the rest of the week will be nice and boring!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Catch Up...Sort Of

It always amazes me how fast weekends go by....even when we get an extra day!

It was great having everyone under the same least when they were all actually here!  I think we could make up some great math word problems:

If Jon is out with his girlfriend from a to b, 
and Andrew is out with his friend from c to d,
and Mike needs to work on his paper from e to f,
and Jay, Luke and Kate all fall asleep on the couch at 8,
at what 10 minute interval can mom experience family time with all her children?

OK...that is partly an exaggeration, but not completely!  I had all these possible ideas in my head for "family time" but I did need to work around friends, a girlfriend, homework time, a youth group meeting, a pizza tour in Boston for Andrew and Jay, and, of course, bed time!  

In the end, there were pockets of 'small group' family time, and our one 'whole family' apple picking outing late Sunday morning.  The apple picking was fine, don't get me wrong.  It's just with the kids getting older, there isn't the same level of enthusiasm that used to be there.  This was the first year that I had to tell them we needed more apples...they used to pick so much I worried that I didn't bring enough money to pay for it all!

(It didn't help that Luke spent most of the time taste testing the apples either!)

It made me feel sad....because it's a reminder about how things are changing.  I want so badly to have special family time and make more memories all together because I see the writing on the wall as clear as day:

What seems silly to some of the older boys, has so much meaning for me.  Being all together, making memories, having traditions is so important because we are at a point when the boys are splitting off and making their own memories with friends and, before too long, they could find "the one" and start families of their own.  And while that is normal and will be exciting and a huge blessing for our family as a whole, it will change the way our family looks forever.  

I guess I'm just not quite ready to let go of our "little" family filled with children that aren't quite so little anymore!

Idk...maybe I just put too much pressure on myself, but for a while now, I just feel like I need to soak all these family times in and try to create opportunities to make as many family memories as I can.  It's not easy with so many different ages, personalities, and tolerances for each other!  The lack of time, the difficulty of coordinating so many different schedules, and the frequently present lack of funds, makes planning family time incredibly difficult!

Yet, the words from Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Cinderella" keep popping in my head....
"'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight, 
And she'll be gone."

And, even though my sons might read this and say, "What the heck, Mom!  That's a song about a girl!", the same sentiments hold true for sons.  (And just so you know, Jay cannot listen to that song without tearing up!  He probably teared up just reading those 2 lines!  We are seriously going to need to tranquilize him when the girls get married!)

So, as you can see, I might be a tad emotional right now.  I've also been having really weird dreams lately so I'm a little sleep deprived.  And, writing this at 11:17 pm is probably not the best choice...but sometimes it's the only quiet time I get!

Anyway...change is hard is all I'm sayin'.  It makes me want to just keep Luke and Kate little forever!  (maybe that will make me feel better when they end up in my bed any minute!)

 I promise the weekend wasn't just full of emotional blubbering!(only the occasional moment!:)  I took lots of pictures this week and have happy/funny things to share with you!  I will upload them all soon!  

This week is just busy, busy, busy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hooray for Long Weekends!

Long weekends are the best!  I love going to bed on Sunday knowing that we get to do it all again on Monday!

1.  Everybody's Coming Home!
With a long weekend, both my 'away at college' sons will be home.  I'm looking forward to some family time.  Of course, it won't be a weekend full of family time because the older kids have plans with their friends, too!  But, it's always nice to have everyone sleeping under the same roof...even if it is only for a couple of nights.

2.  Trying to Plan
There are so many things I would love to squeeze in this weekend!  Unfortunately, I have things to schedule around.  Jon is planning a get together here with his friends Saturday night.  The Patriots game is on Sunday afternoon.  There's a youth group meeting on Sunday night.  On Monday, Jay and Andrew are going on the Boston Pizza Tour. (This is Andrew's VERY belated high school graduation present!...I know *horrible parent alert!*)

So....I don't know how much I will actually do outside the house this weekend!  I know that we are planning to go for our yearly apple picking/tractor ride/pumpkin picking outing on Sunday once the older kids get back from breakfast with my grandfather.  That means there will be apple pies and crisps being made Sunday afternoon!

I'm thinking about doing a big corn maize with whoever is around on Monday.  I have to see what the interest level is for the older kids first.  Whatever we do, I hope it's something outside because I love this time of year!

3. Surprise Package
The other day, Jon was complaining that our house is "the most boring on the block" when it comes to Halloween decorations.  That doesn't phase me...I'm not into Halloween.  I like Fall decorations:)

Well, yesterday Jon asked if he got a package.  I thought he meant his girlfriend was sending him something but it turns out Jon ordered something online. was waiting for me when I get home today....

 ....Peter is very excited about it!

4.-7. Field Trip Fun

Today I chaperoned Luke's field trip to a local farm.  Luke and his cousin, Brayden, are in the same class.  It's great because they are best buddies...and it makes for good photo ops!

...When I can get them to actually look at the camera at the same time!!!

Kate had a rough night last night...she was overtired so she woke up quite a few times.  She was super clingy and grumpy this am.  The plan had been to leave her with our babysitter, but I was afraid it wouldn't go well so I brought her with me.

Luke pretending to be a farmer and driving the "hay tractor"
 They have different kinds of farm animals....Kate's favorites were the baby goats..

Brayden with my friend Laura's son, Josh.
The three of them play Transformers together most recesses:)

Love these two little guys!

I hope your weekend is filled with family and sunshine!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Out of My Comfort Zone!

I'm happy to report that Peter's stomach virus was very short-lived!  His fever was gone by Monday afternoon and he was completely better on Tuesday.  Of course, I kept him home, but he was eating anything and everything....making up for lost time, I guess!

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Laura and I set up a table with our principal's help at Ellie's school to try and get more sign-ups for the Momnipotent book study we are planning on running for moms at the school.  This whole thing is way outside my comfort zone!  Doing a small book club made out of close friends in my living room is one thing....trying to run it on a larger scale with more components is quite another!

But, ever since I read the book Momnipotent by Danielle Bean over the summer with 6 other women and a gaggle of children running around(seriously there were about 20 kids age 13 and under!), I couldn't shake the thought that it would be a great book to read with a larger group of moms that could use some encouragement and a faith boost!  It wasn't my intention to run anything big.  I thought I would just be that idea person that handed off to another woman more qualified to run it!

Sometimes, though, God has other plans!

I was so glad that Laura could go with me yesterday.  I knew setting up the table so women could see the book and the people running it was a good idea(plus I brought cookies...nothing wrong with some tasty bribery;)!  But, when I was heading over to set up, the fear gripped me with thoughts of, "What if no one even talks to me...I'll just be standing behind a table in a crowd of parents feeling like a guppy in a fish bowl!"  My prayer and focus from the beginning has been that if God wants this book club to run, then He will provide the women that are meant to be there.  I just have to do my part to invite and help get the word out.  Of course, that focus feels much better when I'm behind a computer screen drafting an insert for the Friday folder and not in the middle of a crowd!

I'm happy to say that Laura and I spoke to quite a few women.  Some were interested but had schedule conflicts, distance issues, or babysitter woes.  We did get 5 extra women to sign up which brought the total to 12....and that doesn't count my "little book club" friends who are participating as small group leaders!

I think 12 is a great number to start...and maybe we will get a few more women who are on the fence before it starts next week.  Our principal, who is super supportive and even joining in herself(!), is going to order a few extra books/journals just in case.  The line from Field of Dreams, changed slightly to fit this situation keeps floating through my head,
"If you buy the books, they will come."

lol...I need more sleep!

That's all the excitement for today!  Now I'm off to prep dinner, finish folding laundry, fill the dishwasher, and "encourage" kids to start doing some clean up!  You know....all the normal 'mom stuff'!