Friday, November 22, 2013

What a whirlwind of a week!

I'm feeling uninspired this Friday afternoon, so I thought I'd share picture highlights of the week. 

Raking leaves with Dad.  This picture epitomizes how the world must feel to a 2-year-old.  He's working soooooo hard with that little rake, and he feels like he's not making a dent.  

Jane in Philip's glasses.  I think it's a good look.

Just hangin' on the floor with the comforter and pillows while Mom and Dad make the bed.


Fun with pons

Happy Harry

Matching Doc McStuffins characters.  We found this Doc McStuffins Tot Pack on  1Plus1Plus1Equals1.

Sorting poms and doodling while Mom makes dinner (Well...sorting is kind of a loose term...)

Janie, singing lullabies, and Harry, flirting right back.  Oh, that smile!

Harry's saying, "Come a little closer.  Let me grab your nose!"

"Jingle Bells!"  These cluster bells came in the mail the other day.  We're going to have every member of the family ring them when we get to the words, "REJOICE!  REJOICE!" in "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" while we're around the Advent Wreath.  I have a feeling the bells will be jingling more than that, but that's okay!  

Rapunzel in her Minnie Mouse sunglasses and post-nap hair in all its glory

Very exclusive Brother-Sister tea party in the princess tent.  "Do you want to meet Mr. Teapot?  Oh, I guess he's in the potty.  He'll be right back!"

More Doc McStuffins matching (see above for the link) 
Philip let me sleep in this morning while he got ready and kept the kids entertained.  When I woke up, I found this note on the kitchen counter.  He had "interviewed" the kids with the question, "What do you love about Mommy?" and recorded their responses.  What a guy!

We're looking forward to a weekend of family time since Philip has an entire weekend off!  Hip hip hooray!  Kindly forgive me if I ignore any form of communication from the outside world until Monday.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happiness Project: November Resolutions Progress Report

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read about Our Happiness Project.

Here's Our November Happiness Project Resolutions Progress Report:

October Resolutions Update

  1. Exercise
    • We both completely fell off the bandwagon with this resolution.  I've been battling a sore throat for a few weeks, and Philip's work schedule has been crazy.  We're hoping to find a solution and get into a habit before the Christmas season is upon us.
  2. Sleep
    • We are in bed and almost always have the lights out by 10:30
  3. Faith
    • The nightly family decade of the Rosary & nighttime prayers around the dinner table is a well-established part of our routine
November Resolutions Update

  1. Couple prayer time right when we go to bed

    • We are reading Day by Day With the Catechism by Peter A. Giersch.  It's a great little book with a daily excerpt from the Catechism followed by a reflection.  This book has been a great way for us to get our feet wet with couple prayer time.  After Philip reads the daily excerpt and reflection, he leads us in impromptu prayer followed by a Hail Mary or Our Father.  I follow with some impromptu prayer of my own and close with a Hail Mary or Our Father (whichever one we didn't pray after Philip's prayer).  Having this dedicated prayer time together before bed is helping us to grow in intimacy and learn more about what is on each other's hearts.
2.  "You can do anything for 15 minutes."  Work for 15 minutes daily on these 4 things
  • 1 Shutterfly album
    • I've had a few technological difficulties in getting our 2012 photos back on to the computer, and I've spent most of my time so far just figuring out how to work the program.  I'm slowly making my way through our 2012 pictures.  I probably won't have the album ready to order by 11/30.
  • Add & edit recipes to Paprika (recipe organizing app)
    • I have all of my miscellaneous computer files on Paprika, and I'm halfway through my random Excel doc of recipes.  
  • Return/Draft E-mails
    • I'm learning to stop letting "the perfect be the enemy of the good."  My mentality used to be that I wouldn't bother writing an e-mail if it couldn't be a real update.  Now, I'm slooooooooowly learning that a quick check-in e-mail is better than nothing.  I love having little correspondence with faraway friends and my mother-in-law throughout the week.  Seeing their sweet notes in my inbox are such a pick-me-up.
  • Decide one & prepare activity to do with the kids for the next day
    • We have quite the arsenal of activities, and we've been having a great time!
3.  Do at least 1 of the following activities daily with the kids, and do each at least once a week:
  • Craft
  • baking
  • library
  • outing
  • play date
  • enrichment/homeschool-esque activity
  • write letters
Zacchaeus craft (trace hand and arm on brown paper, glue to blue paper, make leaves with thumbprints, and glue Zacchaeus in the tree).  Walt abandoned this one to play with trains.

"M" is for Mouse.  Walt also abandoned this one!


"1, 2, buckle my shoe..."  (I put the printables into a file here)

Playing dress-up on a play date.  Walt didn't want his photo taken while he was playing with (surprise!) trains.
We've only gone to the library once this month.  We delayed that trip since we had such great books still out on loan.  Now, we have 17 great books (most of them about numbers since that's what we're working on) that we read over and over and over again!  We have done plenty of crafts and homeschool-esque activities as well as outings and play dates, but we still need to write letters and do some baking.  Perhaps some cupcakes are in our future this afternoon.

4.  Family thankfulness
  • It wasn't working to record what we were thankful for at dinner since that was such a chaotic time.  Instead, we've been recording what we're thankful for on looseleaf before our family prayer time, and I store the paper in our Family Prayer Binder.  We've missed a few nights, but having it right before family prayer time helps us to remember.
5.  Budget
  • Hasn't happened yet and needs to before we start holiday shopping!
6.  Will
  • Also hasn't happened yet
7.  Philip's Resolutions  (I'll rewrite them here, but I won't evaluate them for him.  If I had to guess, I think he'd say that it's been a wild month at work and that he hasn't done as well as he'd like, but he's made a great effort!)
  • Eat four salads a week for lunch 
  • Do 10 pediatrics boards questions a day
  • Put away all electronics from dinnertime to kids' bedtime (for both of us)
  • Read 1-2-3 Discipline book
Sum It Up
We've completely tanked on a few resolutions this month (exercise, budget, will, letter writing), but we've done pretty well on most ("you can do anything for 15 minutes," variety of activities with the kids), and even nearly mastered some (family prayer time, sleep by 10:30, couple prayer time, and family thankfulness).  

We are still enjoying our Happiness Project.  I think it is bringing more positive structure and purpose to our days since we are trying to reach all of our resolutions.  Even though it's been a rotten month in terms of Philip's wild work schedule, the month is flying by and has been relatively peaceful.  I attribute  that to our improved prayer life and our well-structured days.  Everyone is more well-rested, we are spending more quality time together without electronics, and I am choosing family time over housework.  

I am so grateful for my devoted husband who is working doggedly at my side to make these changes for the good!  Here's to a successful end of the month to our Happiness Project! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What We Had for Dinner: Beef and Bean Chile Verde, Skinny Cilantro Lime Rice, & Clementines

I thought I'd share our easy weeknight dinner from last night.

We had Beef and Bean Chile Verde 

over skinny cilantro lime rice (you know, like that fabulous burrito joint makes?).

We always double the rice recipe to make equal amounts of the chile & rice.

Meal planning is much more fun with adventurous eaters.  Hooray for little ones that will actually eat this kind of stuff!

The kids' plates
The Feast of St. Nicholas is almost here, so you know these have to be back in season!  

Really, what is the Feast of St. Nicholas without a clementine (and some gold coins) in your shoe?  Anyway, we feasted on some clementines as well.

What's on the menu at your house tonight?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Keeping the Christmas Season Organized

Last year, I created a Christmas Planner and shared it on my blog here.  I thought I'd share the information again in case anyone would find it helpful.  Why do all of that work if you're not going to share?!


My Christmas planner includes the following categories:

  1. Budget 
    • divided by categories: gifts, charitable giving, decorations, Christmas cards, etc.
  2. Master gift list 
    • recipient, where purchased, whether it has been purchased/delivered, cost, wrapped, running total
  3. Stocking stuffers 
    • recipient, where purchased, cost, running total - this helps to make sure things are "even" among everyone
  4. Room-by-room décor 
    • item, where placed, where stored
  5. Menus/Recipes
    • Listed here (stored on Paprika)
  6. Our Holiday Traditions
    • List of activities and dates we do each year 
  7. Advent Wreath 
    • Booklet with reflections, lyrics to songs we sing, etc.
  8. Jesse Tree 
    • reflections to read for each ornament
  9. Ornament Journal 
    • the place to write down who give us our various ornaments and what they mean to us
  10. Holiday Favorites 
    • books, movies, music, wish list
  11. Recipes to Try
  12. Craft Projects
  13. Entertaining 
    • buffet lay-out ideas, cocktail recipes, bar set-up, Pandora stations or playlists, Christmas Minute to Win it games, etc.
  14. Christmas Card 
    • archive old favorites, keep list of recipients & addresses, shopping information for cards & stationery
  15. Post-Holiday Debriefing 
    • Write down what went wrong, what went right, and what you want to keep the same or change for future years

If you are interested in making your own Christmas planner, feel free to download any of my files via a shared Google folder here.  

Today, I discovered on Catholic Icing that Lacy (the creator) made an ebook called "The Advent Christmas Planner."  I'm planning on buying a copy myself because it looks fantastic!  I'll let you head over to Catholic Icing to read her description.  Some of the planner looks like mine (forms for budgets and that sort of thing), but she also has a ton of great ways to celebrate the season with activities and pictures.

From Catholic Icing
If you're interested, "The Advent Christmas Planner" is on sale for $10 for two weeks (reduced from $12).  I supposed I should mention that I did not get paid or endorsing this planner!!!

As I wrote last year, I made my Christmas planner to relieve stress and keep things more organized.  I am so glad I have this information archived in one central location.  Remember to make the Christmas planner work for you and your family.  If it's becoming too much work, it might not be your style!  Remember, the goal is to reduce your stress around the Christmas season and focus on "the reason for the season."  If this binder and organizing is your sort of thing, then great!  If it's not, then fuhgettaboutit and step away from the label maker!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Impromptu Fall Photo Shoot

Our photographer for our family portraits had to cancel due to weather, and we are rescheduled for this Sunday.  It's not looking too good weather-wise, so we decided to do an impromptu photo shoot a few nights ago.  Harold was taking a snooze in his swing, so we snapped a few shots of Jane and Walt (aka "the big kids") in the backyard.

I had to include this adorable shot I snapped on the couch the other day while Jane was at preschool.  How adorable is this love between the brothers???

Monday, November 11, 2013

I'm Gonna Miss This

While doing the dinner dishes last night, I realized I had a choice:  I could empty the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and load the dinner dishes, OR I could join Philip and the kids in the family room for some play time before bed.  Before our Happiness Project, I probably would have opted for doing the dishes so that I could have a clean kitchen before bed.  Last night, the new and improved me chose to leave the rinsed dishes in the sink and the clean dishes waiting to be unloaded until morning so that we could hang out as a family.

I brought the camera over and started capturing the moment.  I said to Philip, "I'm gonna miss this."

"What?" he asked.

"This.  Before we know it, we'll have kids in evening activities, kids staying up until 9 working on homework, and we won't have this time anymore.  We won't get to just hang out as a family after dinner, and we won't have our hour of couple time before bed every night."

So, the dishes waited.  And, you know what?  It's mid-afternoon the next day, and the dishes are still waiting.  It turned out the kids wanted to learn about numbers today.

There was great music, lots of dancing, sunglasses, headbands, a tutu, and some trains.

Harry slept through most of it, but he woke up happy and giggling to the show in front of him.  (Those sweet little baby giggles are the best!)  

In the midst of the dance party, I noticed that dust was collecting on the entertainment center, the sliding glass door was covered in our pup's nose prints, and the walls could use a good scrubbing.  I know this sounds silly, but I was so proud of myself for allowing these things to accumulate.  It meant I was learning to let a few things go in exchange for more quality time as a family.  Things are still fairly tidy, but more often than not, I'm picking family over housework.  The balance is increasing everyone's happiness.  If I'm gonna miss this, I better keep choosing this.    

To transition to sleepy time, Philip read Jane and Walt a few of their current favorites from the library.

Then, it was off to the dinner table for sharing what we are thankful for, our family decade of the rosary, and prayer time.  My favorite part of this time is hearing what the kids have to say as we gather around the table.  They don't know it, but the things that they say make Philip and I have to cover our faces in laughter or raise our eyebrows in surprise.  The emotional pendulum swings from sentimental and sweet to absolutely hilarious every single night.  

One of our November Happiness Project Resolutions is to share what we are thankful for each day.  I record these items on looseleaf and store them in our family prayer binder.  When Philip asked Jane what she was thankful for last night, Jane said, "Being loved by God."  Hearing my little one say something like that in her sweetest, most sincere little voice instantly brought tears to my eyes. 

Right on cue, the emotional pendulum swung from sentimental and sweet to hilarious.  After everyone shared what they were thankful for, Philip announced that we were praying the 4th Sorrowful Mystery - The Carrying of the Cross, and he displayed our laminated image of the mystery.  Jane looked at the picture of Jesus carrying the Cross, and she said, "Aw, poor Jesus.  That looks like it is too hard.  I think he needs more practice!  Where is his friend, Simon?"  

I'm gonna miss this.

The days are long, but the years are short.  

If I'm gonna miss this, I need to keep choosing this.  

I'm gonna miss this if I don't keep choosing this.     

Friday, November 8, 2013

Keeping Score--No More!

This is going to be one of those posts where I reveal that I can be a pretty lousy person--especially to my husband.  So, if you thought I had it all together and want to keep living in fantasy land, get ready to have your world rocked.  (By the way, I think it's the job of all of us "mommy bloggers" to keep it real and reveal how we deal with the less than glamorous aspects of marriage, parenthood, etc.  It's the stuff that makes us saints in the making!)

Alright, on to why I can be rotten...

After five years of marriage, Philip is learning that choosing the right moment to address these kinds of things is crucial.  God bless the man!  Two nights ago, after our couple bedtime prayer time (one of our November Happiness Project Resolutions), Philip decided it was time to discuss one of my terrible habits:  keeping score.  

When I started staying at home, I began to notice and pay closer attention to the goings on around the house.  I began to see all of the things that were left undone, the projects that hadn't been put away (or hadn't even begun!), and the general messiness of a house that's occupied by a family.  Being surrounded by all of these things that I thought should be different stressed me out.  

If I came across something that I felt I was responsible for or that the kids had done, I worked my hardest to finish it on the spot or circle back to it later in the day.  By day's end, I usually felt that I had accomplished as much as I possibly could.  If I didn't, I'd let myself off the hook for not getting around to that extra load of laundry or the wet diaper that didn't make it to the diaper pail.   

If I came across something that Philip said he would do or I thought he should be responsible for, I either added it to my mental grudge list, or I'd let out a big 'ol sigh and do it myself, gosh darn it.  I make a really good martyr.  I'd routinely have these kinds of thoughts:
"Why couldn't he pick up that glob of toothpaste he dropped on the counter?  Does he not see the glob of toothpaste?  Why does this not bother him?!" 
"Is he ever going to repair that curtain rod that's ready to fall down from the kids pulling on it, or should I just do it myself?  He said he'd do it last Thursday!  Ugh!  Nothing ever gets done around here unless I do it!" 
"Really?  You couldn't just walk the extra ten paces to the hamper?  You had to leave your work clothes on the bed?  Oh, maaaaaaaaan!  That brand new shirt has a huge coffee stain on it!  Why can't he be more careful?"

After a bunch of sighs and silently adding each item to my mental grudge list, Philip would eventually come home from work.  If he was unfortunate enough to have all of these strikes put against him on what was already a rough day on the home front (say, a teething or sick child), his wife transformed into Mt. Vesuvius.  I'd be ready to erupt at any moment.  Unfortunately for Philip, he didn't know about my mental grudge list and all of the things that I'd uncovered during the day at home.  

We'd have our usual evening at home.  We'd be in the midst of our usual evening routine when we'd hit a hiccup.  It could be something as simple as Philip getting in my way while I'm trying to make dinner and him accidentally spilling Jane's cup of milk across the counter.  

By that point, the mental grudge list reaches its limit, and Mt. Vesuvius explodes.  "OKAY!  Thanks!  I got it from here!  Just go and play with the kids in the family room."

Being the sweet guy that he is, he usually returns my eruption with a nice voice and says, "Sure, I'd be happy to give you a break.  I'll take the kids downstairs while you finish.  Let me know if you need a hand.  Otherwise, we'll be downstairs."

I know, I know, I'm married to a saint.  I mean it!  Instead of returning his thoughtfulness with an adoring gaze, I'd focus on the task at hand and think something like, "Isn't that great?!  Now I get to be the bad guy because I'm grouchy from dealing with his messes all day, and he gets to be the fun parent.  Great.  Just great.  Ugh!  Now the vegetables are burnt because I was too busy dealing with the spilled milk."

When the evenings go like this, we're usually too busy with the kids to work through whatever is going on, so we say, "Let's talk later."  I proceed to be a brat toward him until the kids are in bed.  Once the kids are in bed, I end up rattling off a laundry list of all of the things I noticed around the house that ticked me off during the day.  "You didn't pick up this, you made a mess with that, you haven't even started this, and when are you going to ever do this?!"  

Philip, sweet man that he is, usually listens.  He listens, and listens, and listens.  When there's a pause, he sweetly asks, "Is there anything else you'd like to say?"  If I'm being a brat, I add a few more things to my laundry list if something else comes to mind.  Even if I'm being 99.999999% irrational and he's done a great job around the house and with the kids, he always starts with, "I'm sorry."  He goes on to say that he hears me saying whatever I'm saying, offers ways that he can be more helpful, and he promises to do the things I point out.  

Two nights ago, we finally had our chat about my tendency to keep score.  "Can we talk about something that's been bothering me?"  When Philip says that, you know it's serious.  

"Yes," I said, waiting for the bomb.

We talked about how it bothered him when I rattled off a bunch of things he had other done "wrong," hadn't finished, or made a mess of around the house.  He made me realize that he doesn't have the opportunities to circle back to things the way I do since I'm home all day.  If he's in the middle of some project and I need him to watch the kids while I finish making dinner, he'll gladly oblige--immediately, no questions asked.  This means whatever he was working on takes a backseat.  When things are left undone, it doesn't mean he's being careless--it probably means he was being caring by taking care of the kids or helping me with something else.  

This conversation made me realize that I can't keep trying to change Philip and his habits that I find annoying.  Sure, he did start tri-folding towels the way I like a few years back, but he'll probably crack his neck forever.  

Tri-folded towels.  It's a beautiful thing.

If I keep trying to ask him to do things or change, he won't feel the respect that I should have for him as my loving husband and fabulous father to our children.  Instead, I can only change what I can change--my heart.

The next time I see the glob of toothpaste on the counter, I need to change my heart.  I need to take that opportunity to be humbled, clean it up if I have the time (who doesn't have the time to grab a tissue and wipe it up?), and say a prayer.  It could be something as simple as:

  • Do small things with great love.
  • Lord, please bless Philip as he works for our family today.
  • Work is prayer.
  • Bless this mess.
  • Blessed Mother, please give me a dose of your docile spirit.
  • I am blessed with work.
  • Humble me to serve my family.
I'll probably start getting hate mail that says something along the lines of, "No, girl!  You're not a doormat!  You're nobody's maid, and you shouldn't be cleaning up after your husband!"  But, you see, I'm not a doormat in our marriage.  In fact, just the other week, one of my girlfriends said, "I know Philip is a prince," when referring to all that he does for our family.  I'm a lucky girl!  Philip really is the best when it comes to helping out and giving his life for our family.  If anything, he is the one who could be called a doormat.  (Ugh.  That's painful to write and admit.)  

Philip understands his call as a husband from Ephesians 5.  You know, that's the reading that a lot of people huff and puff about and love to nudge their spouses over when you hear it at weddings.  If us ladies think we got the short end of the deal when we hear we should "be subject" to our husbands, we need to hear what our hubbies are called to.  "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...He who loves his wife loves himself."  Husbands have the waaaaaaaaaay tougher job!  They are expected to sacrifice themselves completely for their wives--to the point of giving up their lives for them.  I am proud to say that my husband is doing a heck of a job.  I, on the other hand, need to work on changing my heart.  

There's my hunky husband in his scrubs after a 28-hour shift, hanging out with the kids and wearing our baby in a floral print carrier.  What a guy!

Lord, please help me to resist the temptation to keep score.  Help me to serve joyfully.  May I follow St.  Therese of Lisieux in her "little way," doing small, unseen acts of service for love of others and God.  May I stop seeking "gold stars" for acts of service and instead only seek an eternal reward in heaven.  May I be a better example of self-emptying love.  Humble me through these acts of service.  May my small life as a wife and mother glorify you with the graces you give me.  Mary was "only" a wife and mother, too.  Blessed be God for the gift of our Blessed Mother and her perfect example.  

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."  (Luke 1:38)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"M" is for Mouse

You know how they say, "The good borrow; the great steal"?  Well, I always applied that to my time as a high school Spanish teacher, and I'm definitely applying that philosophy to my time at home with the kiddos.  No need to reinvent the wheel with so many fun ideas out there!

Remember how I said I wanted to do more homeschool-esque activities with the kiddos as one of my November Happiness Project Resolutions?  The kids are very into letters these days, so I decided to get back into making alphacritters (letters that look like animals).  

Today, we made an "M" that looked like a mouse.  I stole the idea from The Measured Mom.  If you've never checked out that blog before, do yourself a favor and head over there for some great preschool crafts!

Back to the "M" Mouse...

First, I made my own mouse model while Jane was at preschool.

Then, I laid out my model with two blank "M"s for Jane and Walt.

I gave each kiddo a glue stick and a few pieces at a time to glue to their "M"s.

As I expected, Jane was super into attaching the pieces to her mouse while Walt preferred playing with the glue stick.  He quickly lost interest in craft time and decided to play with his trains!

The ears and the nose...

The whiskers...

We couldn't resist pretending we had whiskers!

Final touches...


Silly monkey always smiles better when she can see herself on the iPhone!  

Our mice creations are hanging together on the kitchen wall.  Jane says, "They're mouse friends!"

I like Jane's "M" Mouse better.  It has character.