Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Birthday Boy

With each passing year I realize more and more just how quickly these kids grow up. My oldest, J1, turned 11 years old this week. It sure seems like just a couple of months ago that he was born in the middle of a raging Minnesota snowstorm. Now he is teetering on the bring of becoming a full-fledged "young man."

I see so many different stages of childhood - newborn (first 6-8 weeks), baby(until they walk), toddler(walking to about age 3), young child(3-6), boy/girl(6-11/12?), young man/woman (12-16/17?), man/woman (17+?). Obviously I'm not so certain on when the older stages begin and end, given my oldest just turned 11! But, I'm sure that you all know what I mean - sometimes you just look at your child and sense - "wow, he's not so much a baby anymore," or "wow, he's almost a real boy now!" Does anyone else do that? My youngest, who is 5, he's getting on towards just being a boy, rather than a young boy. My J1 - he is definitely growing from a boy into a young man. It is truly awesome to see. And bittersweet, like so many things in parenthood. The years we have left to have him in our proverbial little nest don't seem so very many right now! And the milestones loom - in 2 years he'll be a "teenager"! In 5 years he could be driving! In 7 years - 7 years! - he can vote and move out if he chooses to do so! He's only 10 years - 10 years! - younger than I was when I got married! The mind just boggles...

And I am just so proud of him. He is just such a good kid. I felt so bad for him on his birthday day. We were all sick, which I knew was going to happen (thankfully he felt a little better, though), and we planned to have a "light" birthday, with a second day for cake and activities when everyone felt better. But, on his "real" birthday, he opened one present in the morning, and then he waited patiently all day for dad to be done with work so we could have cupcakes and he could open the rest of his presents. Finally, it was time. I drove him nuts, snapping a few pictures.

Well, about 3 seconds after I snapped this picture, both N4 and A2 started throwing up! S3 ran and hid from the sights and sounds of it all - we couldn't even find him for 10 minutes! Dh and I were frantically trying to clean everyone and everything up, and J1 just sat patiently at the table, a bemused smile on his face, laughing with us at the absurdity of it all. He could have easily freaked out about it, threw a fit, cried and been disappointed (I sorta wanted to, myself, lol!) - but he didn't, not in the slightest. He was worried about his brother A2, who got the most sick and felt really REALLY bad about the timing of it all, and was desperately afraid he would miss the unwrapping. I was just so very proud of J1 for handling it all with such aplomb.

And that is really just indicative of him and how he is. He has his moments, don't get me wrong, we all do! He whines a bit still sometimes, he is prone to becoming very stressed out (I blame myself for that one!). But he helps me so much, mostly without complaint. He is kind to his brothers, and respectful of his parents. He loves the Lord and his faith astonishes me at times. He truly enjoys life, and he seems to get along with just about everyone he meets. He is smart, and funny, and we all just love him so much!

Happy Birthday, J1. I know that your 11th will be one you won't ever forget!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One more funny!

Ok, this one's funny, too - everything a mom says in a day, put to the tune of "William Tell Overture" in 2 1/2 minutes. LOL!

Crazy funny!

Check this out! But don't drink coffee or tea while you do! :-)

h/t: Wittingshire

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote of the day

N4, "Mom? Why do we wear skin?"

Winter colds and other obstacles...

My poor, pitiful children! They've all got a nasty winter cold. It sounds like a sick ward over here - sniffles and hoarse voices, and awful coughing. My throat's sore today, so I'm going to be the next one down. And poor J1! His birthday's this week, and it looks like we're all going to be under the weather. We've agreed he'll have cake and presents, and then when we all feel better he'll have a second birthday day, where we go to the movies and do a couple other fun things we had planned. Plus, I don't think we'll get much schoolwork done this week.

I'm awfully frustrated with how our school year is going. It just seems like one obstacle after another. Two weeks ago I had yet another early miscarriage. Even though it was super early, I was barely even pregnant at all, in fact - it still makes me feel all hormonal and yucky. Then I saw my doctor, and she wants to increase the dosage on one of my medications, and it's the one that makes me feel just horrible. Tired, depressive, like I'm walking through water all day long. Unfortunately, there are no better alternatives to that medication, given that I still hope to get pregnant, so I realize that I just need to learn to cope with it. The doctor also suggested I have a thyroid ultrasound, which determined that I have "multiple small cysts". We're not sure what that means - could it be the reason why I feel so awful all the time? Is it something serious? From what I can determine, it's most likely that it's probably nothing, but we're waiting for the endocrinologist to call so I can get an appointment to check things out.

Basically - I have not felt well, both physically and emotionally, all year long. Every time I think things are going to start going better, something happens. A miscarriage, a cold, or something.

And you know what? I've decided - it's OK. This is life, we'll push through, we'll do as much as we can do. I get frustrated sometimes, because my best is so much better than this. But, I'm just not able to give 100% right now, so I'll simply do the best I can. I was feeling really down about it all, but my dear husband pointed out that discouragement and despair are not what God wants of me. I think it's more important for the kids to see me happy, with a good attitude despite the difficulties. And it's better for me, too, of course! Being cheerful is sometimes a challenge for me, though, I'll admit. (Prayer helps!!)

But honestly? We are very, very blessed, and I know it. Dh finally has a stable job after years of illness and career interruptions. My kids are happy, they are secure, they love me and their dad, they love each other, they love God. They have occasional attitude/character issues - but it's rarely more than very minor troubles. They are just great kids! Despite the occasional cold, they are healthy. They're smart, they're capable, and they will be fine.

I just refuse to get too discouraged when I have such great kids, a husband who loves me, and the strength of my faith.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And it just keeps snowing!

We went back outside after dinner - it felt like the whole neighborhood was outside, enjoying this "once every few years" occurance.

Notice the socks on the hand? A friend of mine (thanks!) recommended that for those who don't have gloves, and since we could only find two of our four pair (because we almost never use them, ya know!) we tried it - it worked out pretty well. But what a horrible picture of N4 - here's a better one!

We got out an old rubbermaid container lid and used it as a sled - the boys had a *blast*!

They tried to make snow angels:

They turned out pretty well, considering we only have about 1/3rd of an inch of snow, lol!

Alas, it's starting to turn to sleet and rain - I don't know if any snow will be left by morning. Which is just how this former Northern girl prefers it, but the kids are a wee bit sad at the thought! We'll just have to wait a couple of years and have some more fun for a few hours!

Southern Snow!

The boys are SO excited! We've only seen snow once in the almost 4 years we've lived here. It's awfully pretty - but I sure am glad it won't stick around for long!

Poor boys - we don't even own winter coats! They still had a lot of fun running around in the flakes. I do NOT miss boots and snowpants, though!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Such timely little creatures!

Guess who I saw today? Oooh - I'm so excited! You have to guess! :-)

My bluebirds are back! Well, actually I only saw one. And alas, I was not quick enough with the camera to get a picture. But he seemed to be checking out the bluebird house I got last year. That thrilled me to no end - I would love, love, LOVE to get a nesting bluebird pair!

And the weird thing? Guess when I first saw them last year? On Friday, January 12. I find the fact that today is Friday January 11 to be absolutely amazing! They only stuck around for about 3 days last year, so I figure that perhaps I have a little window of opportunity to convince them to stay around here.

I am going out this afternoon to the bird feeding store and getting myself some live mealworms. Yes, it's true, I will keep little worms in my fridge for my precious bluebirds. Last year I shied away from getting the live ones, but the bird feeder store lady insisted that bluebirds love their food moving. If I have a house and wriggly wormies for them, maybe this year they'll stick around! I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Books! Books! Books!

A dear friend of mine pointed me to this book challenge. Eight books in eight categories in 2008. Wow! Other bloggers I respect are also talking about their book reading plans this year, and quite a few reviewed their reading for 2007. Quite honestly? I love to read, but I have gotten into very bad habits of reading nothing but fluff (modern mysteries, romance, that sorta thing). The idea of having a plan for books I want to read is totally new to me. Silly, I know! I lost many brain cells having 4 children in 6 years (lol!), and then the years of stress since my dh's stroke left me with little motivation to stretch myself mentally. But, like I mentioned in my last post, I am determined this year to really start living and stop just surviving. So, dh and I spent a great deal of time over the last several days developing our 888 reading plan. It was SO much fun! We've already got a 9th category and lots more books we want to read in 2009! I'm embarassed to admit that I had no idea there were so many fascinating books out there to read - I mean, I did, but I didn't, kwim? Dh and I are doing 7 of our 8 categories together, which should make for some interesting discussions and help our motivation. It's quite an ambitious plan for me - just about the only thing I'm being ambitious about in thinking about 2008, to be honest! In choosing books, we put in plenty of classic books we've always wanted to read, plus lots of more current books, especially related to our faith, in areas that we're truly interested in and really looking forward to exploring. Some books were chosen because we already own them yet haven't read (or only one of us have read). I also put in more than a couple that are against what I believe, and a few in subjects where I'm not sure where I stand. I want to challenge myself to understand opposing viewpoints and differing ideas. Not everything is classic and difficult, but it's all about things that interest me and my dh. I am SO excited!

A star after an entry means it crosses categories (you're allowed 8 cross-overs, though we didn't take them all). I reserve the right to make changes to this plan! :-) If you have a plan for reading in 2008, please let me know in the comments - I am so fascinated seeing what other people are reading! In no particular order, here is my list!

Category 1: Classic Fiction

1. A Tale of Two Cities/Charles Dickens

2. Sense and Sensibility/Jane Austin

3. Gone With the Wind/Margaret Mitchell

4. Fahrenheit 451/Ray Bradbury

5. Lord of the Rings (at least #1)/J.R.R Tolkein

6. Screwtape Letters/C.S. Lewis

7. The Three Musketeers/Alexander Dumas

8. Far From the Madding Crowd/Thomas Harding

Category 2: Current Events/Non-fiction

1. The Cube and the Cathedral/George Weigel

2. Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life/William May

3. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam/Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Marcello Pera, Michael F. Moore, and Benedict

4. Architects of the Culture of Death/Donald De Marco and Benjamin D. Wiker

5. Origin of the Species/Charles Darwin *

6. The God Delusion/Richard Dawkins

7. Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China/Peter Hessler

8. Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State/ G.K. Chesterton and Michael Perry

Category 3: Biographies

1. Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles/Raymond Arroyo

2. Madame Curie: A Biography/Eve Curie

3. Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II/George Weigel

4. God’s Choice: Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church/George Weigel

5. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Benjamin Franklin *

6. Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season/Jonathan Eig

7. The Joyful Beggar: St. Francis of Assisi/Louis de Wohl *

8. Ginger: My Story/Ginger Rogers

Category 4: Spirituality

1. The Joyful Beggar: St. Francis of Assisi/Louis de Wohl *

2. Mere Christianity/C.S. Lewis

3. Orthodoxy/G. K. Chesterton

4. City of God/Augustine

5. Introduction to the Devout Life/St. Francis de Sales

6. The Interior Castle/St. Teresa of Avila

7. Papal Encyclicals (all of Benedict’s, and at least 5 of past encyclicals – will list when chosen)

8. The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why/Lawrence G. Lovasik

Category 5: Political

1. The Servile State/Hilaire Belloc

2. The Outline of Sanity/G.K. Chesterton

3. The Crisis of Civilization/Hilaire Belloc

4. Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times/George Crile

5. The Republic/Plato

6. The Prince/Niccolo Machievelli

7. The Communist Manifest/Karl Marx

8. Capitalism and Freedom/Milton Freedman

Category 6: History/Historical Fiction

1. The Peloponnesian War/Donald Kagan

2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Benjamin Franklin *

3. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization/Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

4. 1776/David McCullough

5. Janson’s History of Art: The Western Tradition/Penelope J.E. Davies, Walter B. Denny, Frima Fox Hofrichter, and Joseph F Jacobs

6. The Guns of August/Barbara W. Tuchman

7. Angels in Iron/Nicholas C. Prata

8. Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church/H.W. Crocker III

Category 7: Food&Nutrition/Science

1. Good Calories, Bad Calories/Gary Taubes

2. The Dirt on Clean: An Unsantized History/Katherine Ashenburg

3. A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature/ Benjamin Wiker, Jonathan Witt

4. Origin of the Species/Charles Darwin

5. Darwin’s Black Box/Michael Behe

6. Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design/Thomas Woodward

7. Real Food: What to Eat and Why/Nina Plank

8. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle/Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, and Steven L. Hopp

Category 8 (Jen’s) Hobbies/Crafts/Home/Parenting/Homeschooling

1. MaryJane’s Stitching Room/MaryJane Butters

2. Christian Courtship in an Over-Sexed World: A Guide for Catholics/Thomas G. Morrow

3. Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook/Martha Stewart

4. The Family Manager Takes Charge: Getting on the Fast Track to a Happy, Organized Home/Kathy Peel

5. Beyond Survival: Abundant Life Homeschooling/Diana Warring

6. The Underground History of American Education/John Taylor Gatto

7. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity/David Allen

8. Holiness for Housewives/Dom Hubert Van Zeller, Hubert Van Zeller

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year's everyone! Hope you all are enjoying your Christmas season. We are doing fine here at Aquinas Academy. Looking forward to getting back into a more regular routine of school-ish things after the Epiphany, that's for sure, but thoroughly enjoying this beautiful season.

I do have to admit that this time of year makes me feel very awkward and out of step. Our liturgical season begins a new year at the beginning of Advent, and I sort of feel like, as a Catholic, I should make my "New Year's" resolutions then. But, the world pulls at me, and I put it off until Jan. 1. Then, Advent begins, a season of pentinence and preparation for us, and yet the world is joyously whirling about in a frenzy of Christmas - music, advertisements, parties, etc, while worshipping all things material in preparation for their feast of greed on Christmas morning. Then, Christmas comes, and to the world, the holiday ends at around 7pm on Dec. 25th (have you noticed some radio stations start playing Christmas music the week before Thanksigiving and stop around 7pm on Christmas Day??) Meanwhile, we put our tree up on Christmas Eve and leave it up, celebrating through the Epiphany on Jan. 5th. I always feel sort of drained and awkward in this brief period between Jan. 1 and the Epiphany - we should still be celebrating! But, the world marches on. Anyone else feel this way?

I actually haven't made any New Year's resolutions this year. I feel so depleted from all that's gone on in 2007 (really, since 2001, the year of my husband's stroke) that I don't have the mental or physical energy for grandiose promises.

Instead, I am doing two things. One, when I plan - I am planning baby steps only. I am good at creating elaborate plans that promptly fail when I become overwhelmed. And thus, I feel like I have done nothing but survive for almost 7 years now. It's time for me to start living, not surviving!

So, for example - when I plan for school, I am continuing to plan only what is essential. I've come to realize that I'm just very busy because I am teaching three young children to read - that is a LOT of work. I think part of the reason I have not done much school-work this year is because I'm just overwhelmed with the needs of all my kids at this point. Well, that and all that added stress of dh's unemployment, of course. So, I'm re-arranging my priorities a bit. I am now going on the belief that my oldest, who has gotten almost all my attention so far, can fend for himself for awhile - he is so far ahead it will not negatively impact him in any way. He'll do his catechism, math, some writing, a lot of reading, and whatever else he decides. That will free me up to really focus on those 4 r's with his younger brothers.

Another thing I need to focus on is my health. We really hope to have more children, and I'm not getting any younger. I simply must lose weight to have any hope of having a healthy pregnancy (or, any hope of another pregnancy at all). Rather than start out with the idea of "I have to lose 50+ pounds," my dh and I are talking about taking it in chunks. It is fairly easy (relatively! ;-) for us to go low-carb (the *only* way I can lose weight in my pre-diabetic/PCOS state) and lose 15-20lbs. Then, though, we get tired of it, and discouraged, and we go off low-carb, re-gaining all the weight quicker than we lost it. So, we've decided we're going to focus on losing those 15lbs, then, if we're feeling tired and discouraged, we will work to simply maintain that loss for a month or two, before gearing back up for another round of hard-core, losing another 15-20lbs, hopefully. I suspect that perhaps that's more realistic for us than losing all the weight we need to all at once. And I know that if I lose 30-40lbs, I will be at a weight where, in the past, it has been easy for me to get pregnant. I am contemplating starting another blog about our weight-loss efforts, and doing low-carb while feeding our children in a healthy manner (I believe children can go low-*er* carb and be *very* healthy - but obviously not as low as dh and I need to go to lose weight.) In the past, it's been difficult for me when we go low-carb because I feel like I'm fixing two different meals every time we eat, and I am focusing on how to work more efficiently, and be healthy for all of us.

Two, I am making one grandiose plan, but it is for something I am excited about, not something I look at with dread. It has to do with books, and I'll post about it in a little bit.