Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nine is Fine

(photos by Mary Clare) 

Early this morning our sweet Ellie girl turned nine.

Ellie is a lover of all things beautiful...ballet, art, crafts, jewels. 
Her room has things hidden in all sorts of places.

Ellie also loves the good things in life.  Good food, good fun, good clothes, good candy.
What she really wanted for her birthday was money
(she got inline skates and a charm for her bracelet).

Ellie has hair of gold and a heart of gold.
She hardly ever gets in trouble for hurting a sibling.
She will help me with the little ones, even the annoying ones :)

Today she made up a cute dance with the boys.
They always want to participate in the girls' dances but rarely do they get to.
I was proud of her for including them.

It was a fun day.
Early morning donuts and presents.
Scrapbook kit from NeNe.
Skates from the family.
A crocheted doll hat and doll dress made by MC.
Ballet friends over for a playdate.
And an evening dinner with dozens of church friends.
Cupcakes and singing.

Last night she got her ballet costume and we got to watch them practice their dance in costume.  Here's a little clip:

And some snapshots from this morning..

Happy 9th Birthday, Elizabeth Ann Marie.
I look forward to many more days with your sweet smile and kind heart.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Greetings! (Answer Me This and What I Wore Sunday)

Happy Easter!  Hope you've all had some happy and holy days!  We enjoyed our "unplugged" family weekend and are motivated to work on a plan for our family's electronic usage.  We went to Stations and a potluck on Good Friday, on a hike to the National Seashore, the big kids and daddy went fishing on a friend's boat, we cleaned and cooked, grocery shopped, read lots of books, went to the park, to Easter Sunday Mass and brunch at church, and then had a family visit to the beach!  It was a full and fruitful weekend :-)

Tonight I'm joining Kendra's Answer Me This and Fine Linen & Purple's What I Wore Sunday link-ups!
1. What did you and your family wear to Mass on Easter Sunday?

Our (mostly) happy family after Mass

Had to include this one of Katie in the "daddy hold" with the big man in his shades!

I tried to convince the kids for one last picture when we got home.  I only had one willing participant, and one who was forced to be photographed.

But here's a happy smile from our princess!

2. Easter Bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?
I say thumbs down. I don't think I mentioned his name once this weekend, but the kids brought it up here and there with the little ones.  They had a few discussions about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy today, but we didn't join in the conversations!

3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or at someone else's house?

I like to be with our big extended family for the crazy chaos, but Steven would love to just be together with our family.  Today was the first time we didn't go back "home" for Easter, and we had a great day topped off by a trip to the beach and out for ice cream!  I imagine with five kids now we may be doing more and more holidays at home.

4. What is your favorite kind of candy?

My all time favorites are sour balls, the ones with a hard-ish shell and gumdrop thing inside.  But my favorite Easter candies are Starburst jellybeans.  Somehow they've all disappeared already and I'm a little disappointed.  Not that I didn't eat any last night...

5. Do you like video games?


6. Do you speak another language? 

I speak a little Spanish, I think I took about four years total in school.  I can understand most of what my friend Veronica is saying to her boys when we talk on the phone!  I'm slowly learning Latin with the girls, although they aren't the most willing participants right now...

Speaking of homeschooling, I better print this week's checklist and get to bed!  Have a great Easter week, friends!

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Blessed Triduum

Little Katherine Maria Grace is wishing all of you a Holy Triduum and Blessed Easter! She's waving and wearing her sweet lamb outfit. May we spend these days pondering the Lamb of God. May He be ever close to your heart!

Good Friday Reflection

Well, I'm typing this up on Holy Thursday because we are about to have a family technology fast for the Triduum.  I think this will be our first Easter to be away from our family in Houston, so there will be a lot of time to hang out together and just live these holy days with our little family.  We hope to make some beach visits and make it to Confession and the other services at church.  And hopefully it will include some good lessons for all of us as we are "unplugged" from the technology that threatens our family on so many levels.

I have learned some good lessons this Lent.  I think my main lesson has been how to grow as a mother.  I think I have a vision for how I will succeed at it now.  It seems daunting, and I know I can only do it by the grace of God.  I've read a book about Back Talk, am reading one called Siblings Without Rivalry, and have pulled out Simplicity Parenting again.  I also have Mitten Strings for God on order.  Hopefully I will make a dent in these this weekend.

The overriding lesson to me is...less is more (as pertains "things" and outside activities), and I must be WITH the children in the midst of our days.  I need to let them cook with me, I need to sit with them throughout school time, and we need to clean up and do chores together.  I have a tendency to send them away so that I can do my chores and care for the baby without small people on top of me.  But that is where they want to be, and my kind heart towards them is what they need.

My speech is another main problem that I need to correct.  Words of affirmation, kindness, smiles...these are all things that have gotten harder with the number of children we have.  But these are all things that set the tone for our family and the way they treat each other.  If I'm snapping at them and always critical, that's the way they will treat their siblings.

We are at the point where I have some very good helpers.  The girls can cook, clean, and care for the baby.  I had a very long night with the baby last night.  Steven took her early this morning as he got up for work around 6am and then put Mary Clare in charge of her.  I woke back up at 7:30, a little frantic about where the baby was!  The girls were taking care of her and I was able to go back to sleep until 9:00!  What a gift.  My workload has decreased, so now I need to step up in my emotional offerings to the family.

I think we also need to come up with some goals for how our home works.  We have this tendency to hang out in the master bedroom, where the computer is, but it is very overwhelming for me and I don't think a healthy habit.  I want to work at spending more time "living" in the living areas together and encouraging play with them in the playroom too.  The boys hardly play upstairs at all, because they don't like being there alone.  Outdoor time with them is another major goal, which we have done pretty well with in the evenings.  One night this week we took a nice family walk together which I'd like to continue.

I put some alarms on my phone for daily prayer...a Morning Offering at 9am, the Angelus at noon, and the Chaplet (abbreviated) at 3pm.  Night prayer together is an area where we always need growth.  Really our whole nighttime routine needs work.  We tend to just send the kids to bed, which doesn't work with the boys and they end up in our room and sometimes (peeing) in our bed!  These are all good goals, but we must work in baby steps to get to them!

So here is my list of goals, and hopefully I can revisit it every few months, even adding progress to my Monday Motivation lists...

-Continue reading these parenting books
-Little prayers throughout the day
-Do work and chores WITH the children
-Start days in living room together with lots of reading, then move to schoolroom.
-Kind speech
-More smiles
-More time in kitchen, living room, and playroom together
-Night prayers as a family
-Night routine (baths, prayers, books, tuck them in)
-Less technology (keep phone away most of the day, no computer time until schoolwork and chores are done)
-Better chore plan for the family
-More consistency with discipline, especially backtalk and violent outbursts (hitting, etc) 

I'm hopeful that having a vision will help us to reach these goals.  And I'm also realistic that they will be very hard and I cannot reach them without relying on God in prayer.  With a large, homeschooling family, we have many more emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.  I always wanted many children but didn't realize the work it would take.  I'm grateful for this season of Lent where I could reflect on the issues that were plaguing our family.  May this upcoming Easter season be filled with joy and with the resolve to be a better mother every day!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Three Beautiful Daughters

We are so blessed to have these three beauties in our life!

Mary Clare (11)

Elizabeth (turns 9 next week!)

Katherine (8 weeks)

I was working on "garage light" photography, where the subject is placed at the edge of the garage for nice light on their face and a dark background, like in the first two photos.  Katie is in her rocker with a blanket draped over it.

Family Fun

Some memories with my brother's family during our time in Houston, April 7-9, 2014.
Playing at NeNe and PaPa's house and at the Woodlands Children's Museum




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