Friday, December 26, 2014

Somehow Or Other...It Came Just The Same....

To say that our Christmas celebration was one big moment of bliss would be a lie.  My nephew's run- in with the flu forced a 'Plan B' for Christmas Eve since my sil usually hosts.  Then, when I started feeling ill myself on Christmas Eve afternoon, Plan C was put into place.  Basically...we quarantined ourselves.  That was a big disappointment to Jay and the kids.  We tried to make the best of it, but it was certainly not the same!

Earlier on Christmas Eve, when we heard about my nephew's fever and plans changed but I was still feeling ok(a.k.a. still on Plan B), I was working in the kitchen as Sarah walked by singing "Christmas Like a Child" by Third Day.  The line from the song that stuck in my head was, "I want to see Christmas like a Child".(If you don't know the song, take a minute to listen to the youtube link!)

That got me thinking...what do my children think about Christmas?  I think it's about all the wonder and excitement!  I know that in lots of ways Christmas is too commercialized.  We try to keep a balance in our house but we certainly aren't perfect.  What I do love is that, no matter what my kids receive, they are thrilled playing with what they have and, at least so far, their focus has never been on what they didn't get!

In fact, I have tried to simplify more in the last several years.  I find that I am the one that gets caught up in buying too much, doing too much, baking too much....and that "too much" does not equal "more meaningful"!

This year, I tried really hard to have more pray more and only do what "felt right"... To be aware within myself when the thought of buying something, baking something, or committing to something felt like "too much" and to not buy, bake, or commit!  I wanted to live more in the moment and actually enjoy the moment rather than just try to get everything done!

If I have learned anything this year it's this, I.have.limits.  (and when I try to push past those limits, things get ugly!)  I mean, in reality, things always get ugly when we push past limits.  There have been many past moments over my 22 years of marriage of falling into "too much" and ending up stressed to the max, melting down, yelling at everyone that

But this year!  Well, this year has been a doozy!  Now that I'm, ahem, a tad older...I mean, seriously, I get to just shy of 40 and all hell breaks loose, (God was sooo gracious in showing me that I am certainly not invincible).....and months of stomach bugs, strep throat, fifth's disease, hand-foot-and mouth disease, a couple of horrible migraines(for me), bronchitis(again me:), walking pneumonia, and probably other things I've forgotten.....seriously, if it was out there, someone in our house got it(!)...I have been FORCED to work on simplifying and learning to let go of the "too much" or face the ugly consequences.  It's one thing to have a meltdown and quite another to be incapacitated by a migraine for days!

So, simplify is a lesson that God is not allowing me to ignore!  I know that is a blessing, but it's still a huge challenge, especially when it comes to Christmas and all that entails!  As moms, there are lots of super busy moments in the Advent Season!  Being so aware of my physical limits was key this year...avoiding the "too much", knowing when to say when...(I promised myself that I would bake only 2 cheesecakes and 4 types of cookies!)...and using what's in front of me that God provides.  Even when God providing means sending....GASP! bought cupcakes leftover from the family party to Ellie's class Christmas party!  (I know, the "dessert snob" strikes again!)

To get back to my thoughts about "seeing Christmas as a child"....
I thought of the Grinch quote
 But this... this sound wasn't sad. Why... this sound sounded glad. Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing, without *any* presents at all! He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming, it *came*! Somehow or other... it came just the same.

I was thinking how Christmas comes whether I baked everything I want,
cross out everything on my list, or not,
clean every nook and cranny, or not,
whether everyone is healthy, or not.....
you get the idea! do you make Christmas special, especially when you're on Plan C?!?  Oh, and we also had the joy of some family tension erupting at one point...but, what's a holiday without drama, right?!?  I was thinking  in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve that everything might crumble and we would all end up going to bed in foul moods...either angry or discouraged!  I mean, if it wasn't CHRISTMAS EVE, I would have just suggested that we just give up and try again next week!

Thankfully, we were able to pull it together(for the most part) and end the night on a more positive note. We did it for the kids...well, most of the kids, not the one we were aggravated with!  Oops...did I say that out loud?!?....

I have all the details of our day....lots of pictures....some warm, fuzzy moments and a few moments we would have liked to do without(!), to share......

I still have the pictures from Kate's birthday party from last weekend, that I haven't even uploaded, to share.....

I still haven't written out bills or attempted to balanced the checkbook......

Our house looks like a complete and utter train wreck as the little kids have gone from room to room playing with their new toys and making messes as they go......

I'm still functioning at 65%....(but that's better than not functioning!)....

And we have a little over a day to get ready for some very special family time that I have just barely
begun preparing for......

But, you know what, that's ok!  It won't be perfect...because nothing ever really is!(Especially in a family with a whole bunch of kids with some special needs sprinkled in!  I gave up on perfection years and years ago!!!)

Our Bishop recently came to celebrate Mass at our Parish.  One of the things he said stuck with me.  He talked about each of us having a mission.  Not mind-blowing....but it really touched my heart that day! (Plus, he said it a lot more eloquently than that, but I'm a sleep-deprived mama with limited brain cells after all those pregnancies!)

My mission is my family....and all that matters is that I get to be a part of it and try and create, with God's grace, the symphony we were meant to be!  It's loud and noisy, (and often off-key!), but it's all mine!

So, while I immerse myself in all kinds of family moments for the next 12 days, I will probably be neglecting my little place in the blogosphere!  Since I've written such a loooong post today....(kind of like when our priest has 3 separate sermons rolled into one on the day our kids are the most wiggly and you don't hear much of what he is saying because all you can think is, "Please, God, let him finish", because the pew has become a torture chamber!)....maybe this will make up for it!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your families!  I hope your memories were mostly good....and that you will be able to laugh at the "not so good ones" very, very soon!

I will leave you with a funny pic from Kate's birthday.  Someone in our house, who shall remain nameless, blew out Kate's candles before she got a chance to......

Sometimes.....things don't go as planned!  At least sometimes, all it takes is Dad re-lighting the candles to make it all better!  

I hope that we all have eyes to see those "re-lights the candle" moments that God gives us in 2015!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Guess Who's Three!!!

Happy last Friday of Advent everyone!  There's certainly lots of excitement this time of year and ours ramps up starting today!  Here's some goings on of our family of late and to come!

#1: Happy Birthday!!!
Today is a most important day in the Hamel house!  Kate turns 3! 

I have no idea where these 3 years went!  I cannot believe that my baby girl is 3!  It's exciting and bittersweet all at the same time!  Kate is a sweet and sassy, pinkalicious princess!

Birthday breakfast of french toast and her favorite juice, orange mango tango:)

Present time
We got her more princesses for her princess castle and the Cinderella Coach.
She loved it.
Luke's thoughts:  "These presents are boring, Mommy!"
(He's such a boy!)

Birthday dance...spinning around chanting "I'm three!"

I love this sweet little face!

#2:  The Return
...and I don't mean gifts!  

Andrew and Mike arrived home this week!  They are officially done with their semester.(Jon, too!)  Mike sweated it out with lots of work and stress over maintaining a certain GPA so he can student teach next semester.  He did it....Thank you, God!  It took lots of blood, sweat, and tears...and that was only on our part!  Let me just say that parenting young adults is not for the faint of heart!

#3:  Reaching Vacation
All the kids are starting their Christmas vacations on different days!  That makes the baking for teacher gifts a little confusing!  Today is Peter's last day.  He has 3 teachers, a bus driver and aide, plus some therapists, so the last day of school for him is quite labor intensive!  I did manage to get it all together! down and 3 to go!

#4:  Family Christmas Get-Together
Tomorrow, my Dad's side of the family will be getting together at our house to celebrate Christmas.  That means that today my older boys may regret that their classes are done because they will be my cleaning minions!  The to-do list is on the island just waiting for their sleepy eyes to adjust!  Actually, Mike's still asleep so once I'm done writing this I will be dragging him out of bed!  I need all hands on deck....and I'm hoping they are in "helpful moods" today!  I will be cleaning and baking:  2 apple crisps, cookie dough brownies, and crusts for Sarah's lemon meringue pies!  I will be prepping some cookie dough, too, since we need to bake Saturday night for some friends we will see at Mass Saturday morning!  Busy, busy, busy!

#5:  Birthday Party
Ellie has a Christmas concert at school tonight, so we are having Kate's birthday party on Sunday!  Party weekend at our house!  Kate's favorite is lasagna so that's what we're having for lunch!  So, sometime after Saturday's get-together and 11 am on Sunday morning I need to make homemade spaghetti sauce for the lasagna!  At least the house will be clean from Saturday's party!

#6:  School Christmas Parties
Ellie's Christmas party is on Monday, so we have to do some baking on Sunday night for that!  Luke's Christmas party is on Tuesday and that's also a half day for Sarah and Ellie.  Then, everyone will be home for Christmas break!  The girls can't wait!  Sarah is especially jealous that all of her brothers are home relaxing all day while her teachers are cramming in everything they can by Monday!

#7:  Christmas Week!
And then the real excitement begins!  There will be more baking and cleaning to get ready!  Christmas Eve is at my sil, Jackie's, and Christmas Day is here with a smaller crowd!  What's on my dessert menu?  Reese's peanut butter cheesecake, caramel cheesecake, apple pie, and more cookies!:)
(I have to get everyone's favorites in!;)  

At some point I have to finish up the last of my wrapping and fill the stockings to make sure I didn't forget anything!  That will probably happen on Monday during the day....the bonus of having my older boys home so I can lock myself in my room with some Christmas music and wrap away!(and then run out to grab anything I need!)

That pretty much sums it all up!  I have to say I am not at all least not yet!  My goal is to do enough to make things special for everyone but not so much that I become a Grinch! 

Enjoy the weekend! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Little Throw Back Thursday!

Wow!  The days of December are just flying on by!  Here's a little pause for Throw Back Thursday!

This first pic was taken in Epcot at Norway.  Ellie was 5, Sarah 9, Jon 12, and Andrew 13.  Jon is using his shield to hide his crutches!  (He had sprained his ankle the night before we left for Florida in a basketball game!)

Tomorrow we will have a little pause amongst the Christmas prep to celebrate a very special day!

Someone in our house is having a birthday!

Someone in our house is turning 3!

Yeah....I can't believe it either!

Stay tuned for a special birthday post tomorrow!:)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Card Mishap

Way back in October when my sil got married, the one thing I wanted more than anything was to get a family picture that I could put on this year's Christmas card!  Thirty + attempts after the wedding ceremony yielded 2 contenders...and I was so happy!

Fast forward to mid-November.  My friend, Laura, told me about a great Group-on deal for Christmas cards from Staples.  So I got it.  Four days later I had my Christmas cards in hand.

Fast forward again to yesterday.  I mailed out about 40 of our 50 cards and handed a few more out to my book club friends.  In fact, I ran short and had to order 20 more from CVS.

Well, my sil, Jackie, noticed something I didn't....Jon had gotten cut out of the Christmas card!!!(He should be right next to Luke.....)

I have no idea how it happened!  I was sure I double checked about the picture when I originally ordered it because I was afraid it wouldn't fit because we have a lot of peeps in the pic!  I went back looking for my original order, but I had tossed all the paperwork and couldn't find my order number to check whether it was my mistake or Staples!  Either way, it didn't really matter since I had already mailed/given out almost all of them!

Jon (thankfully) thought that the whole thing was hysterical!  Anyone that knows Jon understands that teasing and joking are stamped into his personality.  The need to tease falls just under his need to eat, drink, and breathe!

As soon as he got Jackie's text that he was MIA...."What happened, Jon, didn't make the cut for the family Christmas card?lol"....he couldn't stop laughing and planning his next move!(Guilt us into an extra gift....get a special photo shoot for next year's card...etc.)

His siblings thought it was hysterical!

Jon decided that he would create his own card to give out to some of our family and close friends.  It was made, of course, in a way that was meant to tease!(shocking, huh!)  He laughed the entire time he was creating much so we had a hard time getting a pic to use!

So here it is.........Jon with his "friend" and wearing his 'ugly Christmas sweater'!

Here's what he had printed at the bottom:
"Since I was left out of the family Christmas card, I decided to give you all what you really wanted this Christmas season:  a picture of me.
As you can see from the photo, I still haven't gotten over being left out of the family Christmas card.
Merry Christmas everyone."

This is a story that, I'm sure, will live forever!  One day, Jon will be telling his grandchildren or great-nieces and nephews about the time his mom accidentally cropped him out of the Christmas card!  

Ironically, the cards from CVS had everyone in the shot!  

When Jon saw the new ones.....he was actually a little disappointed!  He always loves extra attention!

So, if you're feeling a little blue and discouraged about your own recent parenting mishap....I hope this makes you feel better!  At least you didn't leave your kid off the Christmas card!;)

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Consistently Inconsistent

I don't know about you, but the days seem to be rushing right on by!  There seems to be so much packed into each week, with lots more to plan in the next few weeks!  My lack of posts certainly shows my inability to balance all the 'extras' of this Advent Season! 

Here's what's been keeping me busy...besides laundry, dishes, and cooking!

Momnipotent Wrap-Up
The 8 week Momnipotent study that I ran though our school had it's last meeting this week.  I really enjoyed the video segments of the study!  We switched up the small groups every week, so it was great to get to know everyone.  All of the moms that participated are amazing ladies.  Everyone brought unique perspectives to the group.  

I'm going to miss this weekly gown-up time!

A Visit From The Bishop
We have a new Bishop in our diocese that arrived in September.(I think)  Bishop Da Cunha celebrated Mass on Wednesday at our Parish on our Patron Saint Day, St. Francis Xavier.  Msgr. had most of the alter boys present to serve Mass.

While I am all done with all of my Christmas shopping, my Mom and I had gotten a bunch of 'Loft bucks' on Black Friday.  Not wanting them to go to waste(!), I asked my friend, Laura, to go shopping this past Friday morning.  It was so much fun, we got some great deals, and it reminded me how much I love shopping with friends!

Tis' the Season
Our weekend was filled with lots of seasonal activities!  Sarah and I were invited to attend a tea that my mil's garden club puts on.  The sandwiches and pastries were yummy and we sat with some very personable women.  

Saturday night, Jay and I got to go on a double date with our friends!  It was so much fun to get together with grown-ups!  We went out for an early supper so that we could all get our toddlers to bed.....#eatingwiththeelderly.  Then, we went back to their house to visit for a bit until I got the text from Andrew and Sarah that Kate was nearing meltdown mode.  It was pouring all afternoon/evening, and when we went to leave our van was stuck in their grass!  Ugh!  Despite our husbands' valiant efforts and help from their neighbor's 3 teenage sons, we could not budge the van!  AAA was called and all was saved.

....except their grass!  Sorry Phil and Colleen!  We will help you re-seed in the spring!

Sunday was my work's Christmas brunch....then family time and football.  Thankfully, the Pat's pulled off an ugly win!

I just can't seem to fit in the blogging in any consistent way this month!  With some exciting changes happening this week and the ramp up for holiday happenings starting as well, I think I'm looking at much of the same for the next several weeks!

Thanks for bearing with me!:)  

Here's to hoping that we all take advantage of the joys of the Advent Season! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Long Weekend Wrap Up

Happy Monday!

What a whirlwind of a weekend!  It was so sad to see it come to an end!

We celebrated Thanksgiving at my Aunt's Dad's youngest sister.  This was the first Thanksgiving without my grandmother.  Last year, my grandmother had been close to the end of her battle with cancer, but had a grace-filled "rally" on Thanksgiving Day.  She had a seat in the middle of everyone and was able to eat all of her favorite foods and desserts!  It was such a blessing for her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to have that wonderful memory.  Because everyone knew she was dying, everyone except for one grandson (who lives in NC) was there last year.

This year, it was a much smaller gathering, but still nice to see two of my aunts and uncles and one of my cousins.  (Since we are a family of 10 everything becomes a large party whenever we are invited anywhere!)  It felt strange without my Grandma being there.

Later on in the weekend I took out the basket with all our Christmas cards from last year.  I looked through them on their way to be recycled, and found one my Grandma sent last year.  It was special because she passed away right before Christmas.

....That card didn't get recycled; it's still in the basket!

After Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt's house, we visited Jay's parents and his sister, niece and nephew.  Luke and Kate had fun playing and the rest of us sat around visiting.  Eventually we made our way home for a bit where I cooked a lasagna I had made for Andrew the day before.  (He doesn't like turkey, so he was "thankful" for lasagna!)  Then, we went over to my parent's house for a while to visit with them and my sister and her friend.

It was a full day!

On Friday, I went Black Friday shopping with my mom and sister.  We don't go crazy early like many people....we didn't leave the house until 7:30am.  We also didn't come back until 7 pm.  It was a lot of fun, we got a lot of great deals, and I am now completely done with all my Christmas shopping!

Jay had his own craziness on Black Friday!  He took the senior youth group shopping for 2 needy families from 5-8am.  Then he headed to work.  He buzzed through his day and was able to get home a little after 2.  Then, his mom, sisters, nephew and niece came over for the annual pierogi fest!  They spent several hours making cabbage and potato and cheese pierogi's from Jay's grandmother's recipe.  Because they got such a late start, they didn't make as many as they usually made....only 7 dozen.  They were delicious and we still have plenty in the freezer!  Good family memories but no pictures bc Jay forgot to take any!

On Saturday, we just hung out and worked on little things around the house.  Jay had bigger plans but cut his thumb on a broken bowl when he was finishing the pierogi fest clean-up in the early am.  His cut probably could have used some glue...but I have a very stubborn husband!

We picked out our tree on Saturday afternoon but saved the decorating for Sunday after lunch.  It went well!  Then, we went to my parent's house for dinner and helped them put up their tree and wrap presents.

I have some pics from our tree picking/decorating that I will share later in the week!

It was really hard to leave "long weekend mode" and get back to regular life!  I felt really sad when Mike and Andrew left to go back to school last night.  They only have about 3 weeks until they will be home for winter break, but I wish we could just all be together.  Sometimes I just miss my kids!

 I hope your long weekend was filled with lots of great food and family time!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Make-Up Monday! this entire month seems to be getting away from me!  It's my second week of missing 'quick take Friday'!

Since I can't seem to get my act together, I guess I'll just make up my own rules and do a 'Quick Take Monday'!  I'm not sure if there will be 7 items or not since I'm winging it, but I'm making it all up as I go along!

#1:  Too Much List, Not Enough Friday 
On Friday, I took my mom to get an injection in her knee.  I forget what it's called, but she's trying to hold off having to get her 2nd knee replaced for a little longer.  After the doctor's visit, we did a little Christmas shopping.  (which is always fun!)  Then, I had to pick up Kate from my sil's, get home to meet Peter's bus...and Ellie's and Sarah's bus..., then I took Ellie and Kate grocery shopping, picked up pizza for supper, and arrived home at 5:30!  

So that's why I didn't have time to blog on Friday!

#2:  Saturday:  The List Continued
Saturday was a full day, too.  We did some cleaning in the morning.  Then I took Ellie to her CYO game in the early afternoon.(They was a tough game!  But all the girls played hard!).  Then, Ellie and I picked up a few things from the grocery store, exchanged a winter coat at Dick's, and hit Toys R' Us to do some Christmas shopping for Kate and Luke.  I also stopped by our local homemade ice cream store to pick up the 1.5 gallon ice cream containers that I had ordered a couple of weeks ago to surprise the fam.  Originally I ordered 3...Coconut(Jay's favorite), Pumpkin Patch(Sarah's favorite), and Coffee Oreo(Mike and Jon's favorite).  After a week, I felt guilty that I didn't get chocolate for I called and ordered that, too!  

Good thing we got that big new fridge!;)

#3:  A True Day of Rest
Sunday was a  For the first time in a while we didn't have things to do and we got to just hang out as a family, rest, nap a little(ok, that was me!), watch football, and play with the little kids.  It was one of those days that you just don't want to end!

#4:  Knit one, pearl two
Actually, I don't knit....but I have tried my hand at crocheting a time or two.  We enjoy watching Shark Tank in our house, and last season they had a company called Grace and Lace.  The woman knit boot cuffs....which I thought looked really cool!  What wasn't cool was the price...most were upwards of $30!  Yikes!  In the back of my head, I wanted to try and make them.  

Well, fast forward to last week and Sarah mentioned the boot cuffs.  Again, not wanting to shell out $30+ for such a small Christmas gift, I decided to try and make them myself.  After a Google search, a couple of youtube videos, a trip to Michael's.....and this is what I accomplished this weekend.

Two and a half pairs of boot cuffs.  The first pair I did was the larger one.  I like the way it came out, but once I was halfway through I realized that they would be too big for Sarah.  So I tried another pattern (with the scalloped edge) that were for someone with a smaller leg.  I liked the way they came out so I started on a gray pair.  Jon asked what I was making and Jay blurted out that it was a present for Sarah, (while Sarah was in the much for a surprise!), but she really seemed to like them.  

I really enjoy crocheting.  It makes me think of my grandmother, who passed away last December.  She would always knit and crochet for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Maybe I inherited at least a tiny bit of her talent!  

Every chilly night I put one of the blankets my grandmother made on Kate when I put her to bed and say a prayer for all of our grandparents that are no longer with us.  I figure I might have a few grandchildren of my own one day(!), so maybe crocheting baby blankets will be in my future!  

#5:  A Short Week
With Thanksgiving on Thursday, (how the heck did that happen!!!), this is a short school week for everyone!  I.cannot.wait to have all my kids in one place come Tuesday night!  Andrew should pull in around 3, Jon will be home at 5:30, and Mike should get here about 7.  Even though it's only been a couple of weeks since I've seen them, I found myself missing them a lot the past few days!  (Of course, by the end of the weekend when everyone's fighting and sick of each other I might be ready to miss them again for a couple of weeks!)

#6:  A Quick Look Ahead!
There's a lot of special family time to look forward later on this week.  We have Thanksgiving with my Dad's extended family, second dessert with Jay's parents, Black Friday shopping for me with my mom and sister, perogi-fest for Jay, the kids, my mil, and sil and her kids on Friday afternoon, getting our Christmas tree, decorating our Christmas tree, and helping my mom decorate her tree!  That's a lot of memories to cram into one long weekend!  #allgoodthings.

#7:  Gotta Pace The Cheesecakes
Since I'm not responsible for the meal on Thanksgiving, I get to concentrate on what I like best:  desserts!  I'm planning on making an apple pie, a gfcf apple crisp, a chocolate chip cheesecake, and, per Jon's request, I'm attempting a Snicker's cheesecake.  Sarah will be making her famous lemon meringue pie!  

I have to keep reminding myself that there is a lot of dessert eating come late November and through to go slow and pace myself!  

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's All About The Memories

I'm attempting to get a post in before Tuesday gets away from me!  We had a full, but fun, weekend, that included, but was not limited to:  a little cleaning, birthday party for Jay's mom, Ellie's first basketball game, our Parish Variety Show, Mass, a walk in the woods, Jay taking the youth group to a nursing home, and watching the Patriot's game!  Phew!

The weekend certainly flew by.  So did Monday!  Now Tuesday is 3/4 over!  Anyone know a way to slow time down?  No?  Well, if you figure it out please email me!!!

Here's a few picture highlights from our weekend:)

Ellie and her classmates from the team:  They won:)

Luke and Daddy

Kate caught up!

Luke has to climb on every rock he sees!

Me and the littles

Loving the 'walking together' shots!

Daddy showing Luke and Kate different things about the pond.
He told them stories about fishing with his cousin Jeff when they were kids.

Daddy with his youngest son and daughter!

It wasn't a long walk because it was brisk here on Sunday.  But, the little kids had fun and the four of us got some fresh air..and some together time!

After's all about the memories!;)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Enjoying and Planning!

It's Friday!!!!

I'm looking forward to the weekend!  Things are revving up around here as we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving!  Here's a little snapshot of things in our little corner of the world.

#1:  Getting Ready For Winter
Last weekend, we finally had time and good weather to get some yard work done!  There were soooo many leaves in the backyard!  The awning still needed to come down and patio furniture needed to go away.  We still need to do some toy pick up but we did get a lot accomplished..with a little help!
You can't see them in this pic, but Kate was wearing her princess shoes!

Luke actually worked really hard!

Kate, well, not so much!

Everyone needs a break for fun!

#2:  Just Living In The Moment
I feel like we have been so busy for the last few weeks that some extra family time, by way of a professional day and Veterans Day, was a much needed break.  Here's one of those moments....super sis reading to her siblings.:)

Snuggles on the couch

A goofy Peter...he isn't sick.
He just refuses to wear a shirt and stays huddled under a blanket to stay warm!

#3:  School Anyone?
In the last few weeks, Luke has had a huge cognitive leap.  He is always asking us to read things to him, is writing letters just for fun, asking us to spell words so he can write them, and drawing lots and lots of pictures!  He has also started playing school with Kate....which is incredibly cute!

Even raising her hand!  Love it!

 #4:  A Little Santa Stress
As a parent, I totally use the "you better be good or Santa won't bring you a toy" fear with my kiddos.  Moms only have so much leverage and if I can get a little more this time a year then count me in!  Luke was being an over-exuberant boy(again) the other day, and I began the 'be good spiel'.  Big eyes and a thoughtful face...and a gazillion questions....let me know Luke "got it".  Maybe a little too well....

Last night, I had gone to my mom's to do some book keeping for their business.  When I came back, Luke was in tears.  Turns out that Jon had bought poster board for the act he is organizing for our parish's variety show on Saturday and left it out on the family room counter.  Luke has been obsessed with drawing lately(see #3), you can guess where this is going.  Jon wasn't super angry with Luke because he realized it was his mistake to leave the poster board within eyesight and reach of his little siblings.  (Jon actually felt bad that Luke was so upset about it!)  

But, Luke was still bordering on hysterical.  So I hugged him and he spurt out, "Does this mean I won't get toys for Christmas?!?"  Picture giant tears and the saddest puppy eyes you have ever seen!

I assured him that it was just a misunderstanding and Santa still had him on the nice list! Oh boy!

#5:  Say Cheese
Thanks to my Dad taking a family pic at Julie's wedding 3 weeks ago, I was all ready to have Christmas cards made this year.  Thanks to my friend, Laura, I got an awesome deal on Groupon for Christmas cards from Staples.($10 for 50 or $19 for 100!)  I picked them up today and am very happy with them....especially for the price!  There's 10 hours left if you want to get in on it....but only the deal for the 50 cards is available.  The deal for 100 cards is sold out!

#6:  Shopping!
I try to get all of my Christmas shopping done before the start of Advent.(which is coming up quick!)  It's something I've been doing for several years.  I feel like it gives me more peace and a little more time to focus on the spiritual side of well as family traditions and lots of baking.  I want to try even more this year to enjoy being in all the moments this special season offers and not  just look at things as being checked off a to-do list!  That's the goal anyway!

I have done some online shopping, went to a vendor fair, ordered gift cards through a program our school runs every November, and I am happy to say that I am 70% done with my list!  Mostly it's just our kids that are left and my godchildren....but I like to do some shopping in stores, too, so I have to save some things for black Friday shopping!

I have lots of ideas for Sarah, Jon, Luke and Kate.  Mike, Ellie, and especially Andrew, (when he was 4 he asked for brown socks for Christmas!), are much more challenging to try and come up with something least on our budget!  I am praying and looking for well as having Sarah and Jon listening for any helpful hints the three toughie's might drop.  I have to say that making the lists and trying to come up with surprises are fun for me!  I love trying to make my kids feel special!  I especially love when I'm successful at it!

#7:  Gearing Up To Bake!
I am almost ready to start looking through my cookbooks and recipe box to come up with this year's menus for Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts as well as the list of different cookies to bake for friends and family that we give away as gifts.  I love doing this!  I love making special treats and I love having a reason to make lots of desserts!  I'll let you know in the coming weeks what I come up with....multiple cheesecakes will definitely be on the menu!

I hope that thoughts of holiday plans have you getting excited...and not running for a paper bag to hyperventilate into!

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

I have been M.I.A. from blogland this week!  Life just seems to be happening a little faster than I can keep up with!  We've had lots of playing and cleaning going on around here...and there's lots more cleaning to be done to get ready for winter!

With the holiday season fast approaching, I've been spending some time with my Christmas list and some online shopping.  I know it's still a little while before Christmas, but I try to have all my shopping done before Advent starts so I can spend a little more time (attempting) to focus on the spiritual side of Christmas.....(and lots of baking)!

I grabbed a photo from the good ole' bin o' pictures for TBT!  This is a pic of Mike and oldest and youngest (at least at the time it was taken in the spring of 2004).  Ellie was 1 and Mike was 11....(the same age Ellie is now!)  Time sure does fly!  sniff, sniff

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

So What Do You Think.....

I cannot believe that it is already November!  November!?!

It just seems crazy to me!  What seems even more crazy, is that you-know-what is right around the corner.  I don't know about you, but November always speeds on by and December, with all its special and busy times, is right on November's heels!

The thought of Christmas...I'm sorry, I know, I said it out loud!...brings up lots of warm fuzzies for me on the one hand:  decorations, the warm glow of lights from the Christmas tree, special baking, perusing cookbooks for special meals, trying to find thoughtful, special gifts for the people I love.

On the other hand.....Christmas evokes some unsettling feelings, too: the hours and hours of planning for the gifts and special meals, the pressure I put on myself to try and make everyone feel special and loved in my family, and the thought of finding homes for all the thoughtful gifts the kids will receive from relatives.  While I try to do some purging of 'stuff' in the fall, I feel like I can't really purge much more of the little kids's toys. (Well, I probably could a little more!  You know, ever since watching the Toy Story Movies it's harder to get rid of toys!  In the words of Rex, "Now I have guilt!")

Our challenge, as for most families, is space.  With 8 children spread over 19 years we have a lot of toys that appeal to different age levels and a limited amount of storage space!

Then, there's my own conflict of wanting to surprise my kids with gifts they will be excited and surprised about.  This is especially true of my older boys...who are much more difficult to excite and surprise than the little kids!  For me, the little kids' excitement brings up a whole other level of conflict for me:  it can be hard to stop buying because just about everything I see is something the littles would be excited over!

Yet, I know first hand what too much stuff can create.  Some kids are more prone than others to the "Galloping, Greedy Gimmes"....(that's a Berenstain Bear reference in case you're wondering!;)  After Luke's birthday this year and lots of presents plus trips to the store to use some gift cards, he struggled with the green eyed monster for a while.  I don't do much toy buying aside from birthdays or Christmas, but even the occasional trip to Walmart, (or any other store with a toy aisle that was hard to avoid), with me had to be curtailed for a while.

My grandfather, who just turned 92, will often talk of the much simpler birthdays and Christmases of his childhood.  Without much money, one gift per holiday was the norm.  I have a feeling that they probably cherished that gift a whole lot more than my kids who get multiple gifts at every gift-giving occasion.  I think there's a very fine line between my kids enjoying the gifts they get and just getting an emotional high opening present after present after present.

I'm not saying I want to revert back to the Little House on the Prairie Christmas of a peppermint stick in the stocking and a homemade scarf under the tree.  (Although that simplicity does appeal to me in a lot of ways!)  I just want to make sure that there is balance between enjoying a few special surprises and leaving room for the more important part of Christmas.......cheesecakes!  Just kidding;)

 Faith and family

So...where am I going with this?  I have no idea really.  It's just a thought that's swimming around my head.  It seems that the thought is making a lot of noise, though, so I'm trying to pay attention to it.  I've been doing some internet digging into "non-toy" gift ideas and other mommy blogger thoughts on making Christmas more special and meaningful and less stressful.

As my kids get older, I don't think they remember most of the gifts they have received over the years.  They do remember our family's holiday picking out a tree, baking lots and lots of cookies, and special food and time together with extended family.  

I just have to remember that when I'm walking through the store and spy that "just one more little thing"....and keep right on walking!

How about you?  I would love to hear the ways your family makes the holidays special in a non-consumer way!  Please share!:)  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Round Up!

Happy Monday and Happy November!

I can't even believe that it's November already!  This Fall has gone by so fast!

I'm going to start our weekend round-up with a little pre-weekend catch-up!  Luke's class went to the fire station on Thursday.  They were all super cute.  Here are a few pics:)
Looking like such a big boy!

Love the way he loves his sister!

with my nephew, Brayden. (love Luke's happy smile!)

Being one of the big kids!

Loving his turn:)

I have more pics of Luke not looking at the camera....!

On Friday, Luke's school celebrated "Holyween", since All Saints Day fell on Saturday this year.  Almost the whole school dressed up as saints!  They looked super cute walking to Mass together!
photo op

Kate was St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Luke wanted to be St. Luke again this year!

The kids made St. puppets in class.  Luke made St. Anthony.
His teacher, dressed as St. Isadore, asked Luke to share something he knew about his saint.
Luke:  "I pray to St. Anthony when I lose things and he helps me find my toys."
Love it!

An up close shot of Luke's puppet
We had a brief afternoon photo session with their cousins.... case you were wondering who was who!
I thought for sure that Kate would choose to be a princess,
but when she saw Luke's Optimus costume, all she wanted to be was Bumblebee!
 Friday night was trick-or-treating...and my Grandfather's 92nd birthday!
Jon and Peter.  I failed to get a shot of Sarah and Ellie....a pirate and mad scientist respectively.

 We forgot to get candles!  Pepere was a good sport and played along....

Luke with Pepere...Luke's middle name is Arthur, named after Pepere,
 so they have a special bond!
Saturday was filled with first Saturday Mass, some fellowship and donuts after Mass, then cleaning and organizing projects the rest of the day!  Sunday was made up of church, food and football and family time!(Great job, Patriots!)  The fact that it snowed in the morning for a while(;/) made staying warm and toasty inside even better!  

I hope you had a great weekend and that Monday is treating you nice!