Friday, January 30, 2015

Our Own Winter Prison...Oops, I mean, Wonderland

#1:  Juno
As I posted on Wednesday, The New Arendelle continues to be covered by lots of snow!  Up until Monday, we had almost no snow all winter!  Juno more than made up for that...and threw us into...

#2:  A Crazy Week
Because of the storm, everything came to a stand still for several days!  Driving bans lasted all day Tuesday.  My kids' schools were cancelled Tuesday, Wednesday, and even on Thursday!  So much snow makes Jay's home care job SO much harder and slow-going.  He is not having fun!  Everyone was back in school for Friday just in time for the weekend.  This Winter madness may continue....

#3:  More Snow?!?
Because 8-12 inches is being predicted for Monday!  Ugh!  Hibernation is sounding better and better all the time!

#4:  Broken Records
So, all anyone has talked about all week is the snow and "Deflategate"!  I hate controversy and, I have to say, it's ruining some of the excitement about the Patriot's being in another Superbowl!

#5:  Superbowl Sunday
Image result for patriots logo
I'm still pulling together a menu for Superbowl Sunday!  I'm definitely doing piggies in a blanket and a meatball sliders recipe I made a few weeks ago on potato rolls.  I'm planning on making a cheesecake, too.  Honestly, I'd rather just eat dessert;)

#6:  Super Bowl Stress
I will probably sound like a traitor, but I actually don't like it when the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl!   There are a few people in this house that tend to get a little worked up when the Patriots don't do well!  The further the Pats get in the season, the more stressful the games become!  I get in trouble all the time for saying, "It's just a game...." which several men in the house answer, rather loudly and forcefully, "It is NOT just a game!  You just don't understand!"  

Obviously not!  I mean, I love it when the Patriots win, don't get me wrong.  But we don't bet on the game....our livelihood is not anchored to the game's outcome... so, no, I guess I just don't understand.

The only good part about all this guy emotion is that, when the Patriots are struggling during the game, Jay can't stand to sit there and watch it.  So he goes and cleans all the pans from our football fare food in the kitchen!  #win for me;)

#7:  Purge, Purge, Purge
I think being inside so much with everyone is making me claustrophobic.  I feel that, (very occasional), desire welling up to do a complete and total clean from corner to corner of every room in the house!  I need to purge...organize....something to add a little order somewhere!  

Plus, we are probably looking at a room swap soon!  We will be giving the girls our "master bedroom" because their room is too small to fit Kate in and she can't stay in a crib in our room forever!  Thinking about the effort that switch will take...especially taking a bunk bed apart and then putting it back together(!) not motivating me!  I'm not looking forward to giving up my space...especially my closet!  (Sigh)  I keep telling Jay we should just move but he isn't seeing my vision!

Happy Weekend....Go Patriots!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The New Arendelle

Winter storm Juno took it's sweet time blowing through our area Monday and Tuesday!  The results were lots and lots of snow!

sledding down my parents' driveway

tasty snow

Luke in his "Hoth Base" that Daddy and Jon built for him
It was hard to measure because of all the wind and drifts but we definitely got close to 30 inches when all was said and done!

....It looks like someone ticked off Queen Elsa!  Guess we're the new Arendelle!

The kids have enjoyed the extra time off!  I'm very grateful that we never lost power....but Jay made sure the generator was ready to go just in case we did!

Honestly, I think bears have the right idea!  They get to eat anything and everything they want for a few months bc gaining weight is a good thing(!), sleep all winter, and wake up nice and thin in the spring and miss all this white stuff! (No worrying about finding snow boots that fit everyone, snow pants, hats, gloves...why we have 6 left hand gloves with no match is mind boggling!).

Can you tell I'm more of a book reading, hot chocolate drinking, sit by the fire kinda girl!;)

Stay warm and drive safe all of my Northeast friends!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hooray For Weekends!

Quit Growing Up Already!
Sarah took the PSAT's in the Fall and apparently did really well on them!  All of a sudden, she is being inundated by college letters!  What the what?!?  I am NOT, repeat,  N.O.T., ready for this!  It's bad enough I have to let the boys get older, now Sarah, too!  This whole growing up process is soooo not easy on the parents!

Quick Trip
Jay took most of the high school youth group, including Sarah, Jon and Andrew, with a group from our parish to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. this week.  Everything went well but I don't have many details because they got home at 1am!

Luke asked why they were going to Washington.  Trying to think of an age appropriate answer he would understand, I came up with, "They are going to Washington to help remind people that babies are very important and need to be protected."  That satisfied "Mr. Questions"....he is curious about everything!

Quiet Time
While they were gone, I stayed behind with the younger half of our family.  Kate was running a low grade fever so we just hunkered down for 2 days snuggling, watching cartoons, and playing with princesses. (Honestly, it was kind of nice to be lazy!)  It felt SO quiet..and a little lonely...with only 5 people in the house!  Who knew?!?

All Things Star Wars
  Luke is obsessed with all things Lego Star Wars right now.  He got a snow speeder Lego for Christmas and now it's all he talks about!  He builds his own Star Wars ships, too.

At lunch yesterday:
Luke:(sounding so grown up!)  So, Mom, what do you want to talk about?
Me:  I don't know....what would you like to talk about?
Luke:  Um....Star Wars?(with a giant grin on his face)

Yep....he is officially obsessed!

Horsey Rides
We were at my nephew's 5th birthday party last weekend.  While there, Jay did what he does best:  get suckered into playing games with the littles!
Jay with my niece, Mya, and Kate

He would have had more takers, but a couple of the little boys were eating ice cream cones and decided they didn't want to risk parting with them to get a ride!

Brothers From Another Mother
My friend, Colleen, and her husband, Phil are some of our "couple friends".  We have a lot in common....especially our husbands!  Jay and Phil are both tall and thin and very laid back.  They both dress very casually in very "quiet" colors.  They are both awesome husbands and dads...very involved and always willing to pitch in even after they have done "their part".  They both love to talk religion and sports and kids...and ways to keep their wives happy!  It turns out that they both listen to faith talks when they exercise...Jay listens for the youth group and Phil bc he's the Department Head in Theology at Sarah's high school.  They even have the same ring tone on their phone!

Colleen and I have laughed about this for several weeks now and Jay always brushed it off.  Well, Jay gave a couple of talks on the bus while traveling to the March For Life in D.C.  Even though he put them together for the teens, the entire bus ended up listening to him.  After one of the talks, a parishioner he had never met came up to him and asked if he was going to do any more of the adult ed talks at the parish like he did last year.  Jay told her he had never done any talks at the parish before.  The woman insisted that "Yes, last year, I know your demeanor and voice, etc."  Jay asked if the class was on suffering.  She said, "Yes, that was you!"  Jay said, "No, that was Phil Martin."  She said, "No, I could swear it was you." 

So now Jay believes us...he has a "brother from another mother"!  

He Said
I have a bunch of funny things the kids said on I figured I would start sharing!:)

Walking from the pool area of our hotel back to our room(less than a 10 minute walk, but Luke was really tired that day!):
Luke:  Something's not right....someone's gonna need to carry me.
Jay:(after 3/4 of the distance):  I feel like I'm running the spartan race and I just can't do it anymore! Andrew:(who was carrying ice cream for Sarah that was melting all over his arm) I'll trade!
.......about 20 steps later
Andrew:  I've made a terrible mistake!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Day to Reflect

“America you are beautiful…and blessed…. 
The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless.
If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life.”
-Pope John Paul II 

I have been blessed to carry 9 children within me.  I didn't always feel that way with each pregnancy.  I was more prepared emotionally for some pregnancies more than others.  

I have nothing but compassion for the women who find themselves feeling trapped and devastated by an unplanned pregnancy.  That emotional turmoil is incredibly hard to work through.  I thank God all the time that He gave us the grace to choose life when we were unmarried, 18, and our first pregnancy derailed the direction we thought our lives were going in.  The new path was not like we had planned....but it has been blessed with many little, (and now not so little), people that He had planned all along.  

This little guy....

and now not so little guy...
...started our parenting journey.

This journey has been no merry-go-round!  It is not all angels singing every moment of every day!  There have been lots of growing and stretching that I have gone through as a person, (Emotionally and spiritually even more than physically!  And I think that's impressive...9 babies have certainly provided me with quite the stretch marks!  I carry them proudly...they're my baby badges!)

Each of my children has a mission.  Even our fourth child, Therese, who was born with a genetic disorder that was "incompatible with life", had a mission.  Her mission was just much shorter than the rest of us...and her eternal life is much more powerful because she is perfect and innocent as she gazes on God every day of eternity interceding for her very imperfect family here on Earth!

Even Peter, who is severely affected by Autism, has a mission.  Even though in the world's eyes he will never, ever fit into society's mold for the "perfect" child, in God's eyes he will be more perfect than any of us because he will always live life with the heart of a child.

Maybe my adult life didn't start out the way that I had planned it, but God worked it all out so much better than I ever could have.

Today, my prayers and thoughts are for the millions of mothers and fathers that carry hurt from abortion.  I hope they find the healing they need.  I pray that love guides our actions to care for all the weakest and defenseless in our country and in our communities and in our own families.  While that includes all the unborn, it also includes those with special needs, the sick, and the elderly.  I hope we always find the care and compassion to help everyone placed in our paths.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Food Glorious Food!

One of the best parts of vacation is getting to eat out at restaurants and not have to worry about meal planning, grocery shopping, or washing dishes!  Disney has a ton of great places to eat!  Here were a few of our favorites!

#1:  Downtown Disney
We visited our second favorite restaurant on our first night in Disney.  Raglan Road in Downtown Disney is an Irish Pub that serves terrific food and has a really fun atmosphere.  During our meal, Irish step dancers performed intermittently.  The little kids especially loved it!  The young women that were dancing were wearing elf costumes.  We passed one of the dancers on the way to our table and Peter went as close as he could get and waved his hand and yelled, "Hiiiii" with an enormous smile on his face!  (Oh brother...he's definitely a teenager!)

It is super strange to have a son old enough to order beer!
 Also a favorite in Downtown Disney is the Rainforest Cafe.  The kids love the atmosphere....and the giant fish tanks are a good distraction while you wait for your meal!

The Earl of Sandwich has some really great choices!  Jay was disappointed we only got to eat there once!  T-Rex is a fun place if you have dinosaur lovers....we took Luke to "visit" the dinosaurs, but we didn't eat there this trip!

Arguably the best stop in Downtown Disney.....Ghiradelli's!  What could end a day better than a salted caramel and hot fudge sundae...or a dark chocolate espresso sundae...or a chocolate frappe...or a brownie sundae?  Yeah, we couldn't think of anything either!

#2:  Dinner At the Polynesian
Over the course of our trip, we ate at two different restaurants at the Polynesian Hotel.  The first was O'hana's, which is a family style restaurant that had awesome marinated steak, pork, and shrimp on a skewer.  They have delicious pineapple bread and these awesome dumplings and chicken wings!  Yum!
A "mostly smile" on Andrew!

My parents

It's a super family friendly restaurant and they have a couple of short kid activities:)
The other restaurant at the Polynesian, "Kona's Cafe", was really good, too!  They had small loafs of homemade sweet bread.  Most of us had steak that night and it was soooo good!  Kona's also had a lot of great allergy choices for people with gluten, dairy, and peanut allergies!  My dad, who is gluten free, had an incredible chocolate lava cake that he really loved.  All Disney restaurants are great about catering to people with food allergies, but Kona's is part of a pilot program that offers specific allergen free menus for all 3 meals.  If food allergies are a part of your family, I would highly recommend it!

 #3:  Poolside

While the food is certainly more of the sandwich, burger, chicken finger variety, eating lunch by the pool is always such a treat....especially in the middle of winter!

#4:  Prime-Time 50's Cafe
One of the restaurants in Hollywood Studios is the Prime-Time 50's Cafe.  It's a theme restaurant, and as you can see in the pics, all of the tables, chairs and decorations look like a 50's family dining room.  They play short snippets of famous 50's tv shows....which my mom enjoyed telling the kids about.  I really like the food here....especially the meatloaf.  The kids like the food...especially the milkshakes...but they don't love the restaurant.  I think that's because of the "family rules".....the servers call you brother, sister, mom and dad and if you have your elbows on the table or don't eat your vegetables you're likely to get scolded!  (On one trip many years ago, Jay had to stand in the corner!  My dad has that on video somewhere!)

#5:  Snacking

I know there's nothing super special about them, but I love those Mickey ice cream bars!  I may have shared a few with Kate while we waited for everyone else to get off a "big kid" ride!  (And it wasn't always after lunch;)

Andrew joined in sometimes, too!

Some people were a little addicted to the frozen coffees......
 #6:  Sampling From Around the World
Epcot is a favorite park for Jay and my older kids.  (My favorite is the Magic Kingdom:).  We spent multiple days in Epcot during our trip, and for lunch one of the days and dinner of our last day, we just ate our way around World Showcase.  We shared and sampled...and indulged in some desserts!    
The littles wanted hot dogs and fries in the U.S.

Peter, too!

There were stops in Germany for Bratwurst, apple strudel and a beer for Jay and Mike.


Not pictured are stops in England for fish & chips, China for honey sesame chicken, nachos from Mexico, and a Japanese beer just to round things off a bit!  On our last night, we got gelato and tiramisu from was soooooo good!

 #7:  Via Napoli

Our absolute favorite restaurant was Via Napoli in Italy.  It has incredible food!  Their pizzas are incredibly good!  We also shared some chicken parm, fried risotta balls, and spaghetti and meatballs!  Even their salad was awesome!  It was, by far, everyone's favorite meal!  It think we all overindulged a little at that meal...but it was our last day in Disney so we didn't feel too badly about it!  It was unanimously decided that on our next Disney trip, we need to eat there at least twice!

Everyone was so excited to eat at Via Napoli that it inspired some silliness!

Look at the size of that pizza!

Andrew and Kate sharing a dessert!
It was one of the few restaurants that we shared desserts after the meal!

 Hungry, yet?!?

If you're planning a Disney trip, make sure that you make your dining reservations 180 days in advance.  It's even hard to get into some restaurants making them the day you are able to!  We tried to get into Belle's castle and couldn't get a reservation!  Of course, we are a party of 14 so that's an extra challenge!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Melting Hearts with Some "Frozen" Songs

I finally downloaded our vacation photos.  I took a few...or 636, but who's counting?

Actually...I took even more than that because a bunch of pics are on my phone that I still have to upload onto my computer!  Yikes!

I don't want to miss any of the great memories....special family time doesn't happen every day!

I'm so behind on blogging, that I'm honestly not sure where to even start!

I think that a vacation through a mother's eye is probably a lot different than the way my kids perceive things.  After all, they spend a lot more time just enjoying the moment....(I have tried to learn from them!)  Of course, they don't have to worry about packing everything that everyone needs during the day, (i.e. sunscreen, Advil, snacks, changes of clothes for the littles, diapers, wipes, etc., etc.!), or worry about anyone getting lost, or pay attention to the quieter signals that it's time to go back to the hotel and give everyone a swim break and time to recharge so meltdowns can be avoided and the optimum amount of fun can be had!

So while my perfectionist self would like to chronologically go through the vaca from start to end, I'm just going to jump right in!  My friend, Kim, asked me what my favorite memory was when I spoke to her shortly after our vacation ended.  It didn't take more than a few seconds to come up with this:

On the Friday of our trip we spent the day in Hollywood Studios.  It was a really fun day that I will share more about soon, but one of the shows we got to see will always hold a special memory.  With Mike's help, we were able to get a Fast Pass to the Frozen Sing-Along Show.  Frozen is pretty popular in our house among the girls...and Luke is pretty fond of it, too!  The older boys opted out of the show and went looking for snacks....(shocking that hundreds of girls singing "Let It Go" held no appeal!;)

The theater was filled to the brim with Frozen fans.  The show itself is narrated by the two newly appointed historians of Arendelle...who were hysterical.  They told the story of Queen Elsa and there were lots of special appearances from many of the Frozen characters.

So, other than a very entertaining show, what made it special was the reactions of a few of my family members.  First, there were the older girls.  They were absolutely giddy sitting in their seats waiting for the show to start.  Sarah begged Kate to come sit in her lap to watch the show because she wanted so much to have this Frozen experience together as sisters!  They huddled together as the excitement crackled between them, (and the hundreds of other girls(and boys)),  as we waited for everyone to find a seat.

Ellie and Sarah stayed huddled together and Kate climbed on Sarah's lap moments after the picture was taken...and that was her seat for the whole performance!  The love they have for each other was just oozing out all over!  I felt so grateful that God blessed us with these three beautiful girls and that they love each other so much!  To see 3 sisters, separated by over 12 years from the oldest to the youngest, be so excited about one thing was just incredibly touching! 

It was one of those 'living in the moment' times when you just watch in awe at the gifts God has blessed you with...when you soak in their faces with your eyes and their voices with your ears and you just want to absorb every little possible detail and never forget it because you know it's extra special!

Jay chose to come with us to the Frozen show....and he was very glad he did!  Seeing our girls so excited to share the experience together really touched him...and although I did not get a picture, there was a tear, (or two), glistening in his eyes!  Afterwards, he said he was so glad that he got to see the reaction of our girls.  Hearing the reaction of the crowd amazed him, was an incredible moment when the lights went down and a single note begins and an entire theater bursts into song at the same time!  Simply amazing! I should have written down exactly what he said at the moment, but the gist was that seeing the way the theater full of females reacted to this one movie was beautiful and nothing that he really understands.  It was visual proof of the concept of Feminine Genius...(Jay always loves to work JPII into a conversation!)

Towards the end of the show, our girls were totally into it, belting out "Let It Go" with gusto!  Although the lighting was poor and I had a bad angle, I had to catch a little of it on video!  I've never tried adding a video in a blog post before so hopefully it works!

Kate sang Frozen songs all.the.time for the rest of our trip!  I documented one such moment!(again, hopefully it works!)

After the show, Disney made Wandering Oaken's Trading Post.  Along with a gift shop(shocking), there was a play area with snow...which was more like ice shavings....but kids got to dig in it and build snow castles.  Such a super cute idea!

Note the "Anna" braids the girls are sporting!

digging fun!

Our "Frozen" experience at Disney melted our hearts with the love we have for our daughters!  It was without a doubt one of our most special memories from our vacation!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I know that I'm a little late!  I hope that 2015 has been kind to everyone so far!  

I have been very neglectful of my Normal Chaos blog space!  I did warn everyone about my post Christmas hiatus.....but now I'm back!  

I mentioned some special family time....and that was what we had!  Ten whole days in sunny, warm Florida!  It was wonderful having that glorious sunshine and daylight that lasted past 4 o'clock!  There were lots of special memories made!  I may have caught just a few of those memories on my camera!;)

Stay tuned over the next week for lots of pictures and tales about our time away!

We got back on Tuesday night to a house still overrun by Christmas decorations and gifts that have yet to find a home!  I spent yesterday trying to conquer Mount Laundry!  Today, I took down the Christmas tree and that has helped with the clutter!  I'm hoping that after tomorrow and Saturday, I will have the house in some kind of order!  

Going on vacation was so surreal!  The trip has been planned for about a year....but it always seemed so far away!  Since it followed so close to Christmas, all my focus was on celebrating that very special holiday and all of the packing was saved until the two days after Christmas before we left!  

I don't know about you, but when we go away for more than a couple of days, I lose track of time and feel like I'm in a whole different world!  It was VERY strange seeing all the decorations and listening to Christmas music while we were wearing shorts or swimming in a pool!  (But oh so nice!)

I will leave you with a picture of Luke with my parents on our trip. My parents are very generous Disney lovers...(my Mom is a fanatic!)...who love to share that Disney love with their children and grandchildren!  We spent those beautiful 10 days as their guests and we are all very, very grateful for all of the memories!

Stay tuned for lots more pics (and Christmas catch-up) soon!