Wednesday, August 31, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

~capturing the context of contentment in everyday life~ 
Every Thursday at Like Mother, Like Daughter

My pretty girls are growing up!  Here they are after their first day of our homeschool co-op.  They really enjoyed it, as you can tell!

The preschoolers were so happy to be a part of things too!  Here they are happily dancing to Tchaikovsky music with scarves!

Can you find Steven Joseph in this photo?  He's slept through the last two afternoons at the dance studio.  Too funny!

It's still REALLY hot here in Texas.  It's been a scorcher of a summer for so many people.  I cannot wait for the days when the kids can play outside again!  My house has been home to restaurants, vacations, ice skating shows, dance classes, toilet-paper-roll "phones" taped around the house, and crafts galore!  I'm thrilled that my kids are so creative and enjoy their days at home, but it will be nice when some of their energy can be spent outdoors!

Thanks for hosting, Deirdre!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wow! Nearly a week!

Haven't blogged since last Wednesday! It will probably be sporadic over the coming weeks as we're trying to get into our homeschooling routine, our new fall activities, as well as plan for a major surgery and a big move. My body and my brain are utterly exhausted. And I can't seem to get the baby off this schedule where he takes a late 2nd nap and then stays up until after 11pm! I'll do a quick update on the kids, so I can remember this crazy little season of our life!

And now that I tried to start a kid-update and load some pictures, I've realized it's too much to do tonight after a big day. I think I'll need to do an individual kid-update on each child. I've got a bunch of random photos from my regular camera and iPhone, plus some videos too!

Today was our big appointment with the heart surgeon. It went as well as could be expected. We'll hear back in a week or so to find out when they can schedule the surgery. We'll also be visiting our new town soon to do some househunting! Here's to hoping that we have some good results there!

And bed before midnight!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Astros Game!

In late July, the kids got their prize bags for the summer reading program at the library. We've done it a few other summers, but this was the first time we were motivated to get our free Astros tickets! Since our church is next door to the baseball stadium, and we'll be moving later this fall, we knew we should take advantage of the opportunity!

What a fun afternoon we had! All sorts of yummy, chicken fingers, cotton candy...

and french fries!

It's so weird seeing the baby with shoes on. I figured they might be needed for this adventure! But when we took them off, his poor ankles were purple from the elastic! Mr. Chubs needs some bigger shoes, or at least longer elastic on the shoes he has!

I really have no interest in sports whatsoever. Pretty funny since I'm married to a true sports fan. He loves watching them all, from baseball to golf, to fishing or horse racing or even billiards! I'm thinking I only watched a handful of plays during this whole game. But I love watching my kids' faces and just being together!

Some nice man took our picture :) They gave free t-shirts to the kids at this game...score!

Love seeing daddies wearing baby carriers!

We walked down to the playground. I didn't even know the baseball stadium had a playground! I still have shin splints from walking down those ramps. This outdoor adventure really did me in, but the kids had fun!

Can you see Mary Clare?

They were trying to beat a big wooden mechanical baseball player!

SJ tried about 5 times, but wasn't quite fast enough!

This makes my back hurt just looking at it.
But it also makes my heart swell.

Here Daddy was negotiating with the girls. He and I were ready to leave, but they were crying and insisting on staying until the end!

So, the girls won. We moved to a vacant area that wasn't quite as far a walk for the last couple innings, and extra inning, before we left. I laugh thinking back at these last few minutes. I was *done* and playing around on my iPhone, but Steven was making funny jokes with the kids. He claimed that the Astros always trade players who have beards. Mary Clare would see a new player come up with facial hair and ask why he was still on the team. Daddy said that we only trade guys with full beards to the Giants! I think she still believes him :)

You can tell the eyes are getting tired here...

So we made it back to the car and on the road before the Astros lost! Always easier to be listening to the lose on the radio and not watching it in person :)

We had considered going to a local musical on the same afternoon, just me with the girls. But I'm so glad we had a family day instead. We needed something to keep our minds off of the stress surrounding the next few months.

Now we're moving through our first week of homeschooling. I won't say it's going smoothly, but we're surviving. And I think that's what we're going to be focusing on this fall...surviving one day at a time. Trying to make some fun memories and look forward to the fun things to come!

Go 'Stros!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Piano playing baby!

The girls will sit with Thomas on the piano bench and let him play, but when they put him down, he starts screaming! He can play a bit from the floor, but is still frustrated and wants to see the keys. So one day we moved his high chair to the piano and he had a grand time!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to Homeschool Fall 2011

Tomorrow morning starts our new year of homeschooling! This year we have a 3rd grader, 1st grader, preschooler, and almost-toddler (he's starting to take steps, pointing, possibly saying a few intelligible sounds/words, and eating books...which we need to work on!).

These are photos from our co-op orientation last week, and hopefully I'll get some more pictures this week of our fun activities! I just uploaded a bunch from the Astros game today, but they will have to wait for another time, because the teacher must go to bed!

Praying for a successful new school year for everyone!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A new home

So, like I said, a positive post would come next! Here are the things I am excited about regarding our move.

1. We'll be near the beach! The other day when I mentioned our upcoming move during introductions at the co-op, Steven Joseph yelled out, "and we're moving by the beach!!!" It was really cute and a good reminder to me to see the positives :) The beach down there is definitely a step up from what we're used to. Texas beaches still aren't "all that" compared to the white sand and clear water of say, Florida, but we love the beach nonetheless and I foresee spending many fun days there next year.

2. We get to move homes! This was the thing I was most desiring this summer. I still have that longing in my heart for a change of scenery in our daily living, and I think that the change will be good for us. Until this house, we stayed in most of our homes only a year, so I haven't been this "grounded" since before college! I really want to go through all our stuff, purge a lot of items, and simplify our daily living. This will be so much easier with a move!

I'm also starting to get excited about decorating a new home. Even though we'll be renting initially, it will be fun to try new accessory colors and furniture configurations. As the time gets closer we can start to look a little more seriously at houses, which should be lots of fun! In fact, this week I spotted a rental home I really liked. Chances are that they won't want to wait a few months for renters, but you never know! I'm really hoping for a soaking tub this time; we only have a shower in the master bath. And an updated kitchen would be awesome!

3. New friends. Although we are so close to our friends here and I'm going to miss them terribly, I know that we will meet people easily through the homeschool group and other activities down there. I am a social extrovert by nature, so I enjoy meeting new people and making friends near and far. I am sure the girls will do the same. We have already met a few families down there and we fit in just fine!

4. The job opportunity. Obviously this is the reason for our move. Both Steven and I felt like the opportunity was something he couldn't pass up. Steven should have an easier commute, better hours, and a less-stressful job in an industry that is booming. We'll be more secure financially and he'll have greater advancement potential. And he has a great boss! What more could we ask for?

5. Extras. Being in the Houston area we do have a lot of great opportunities for outings, classes, and extracurriculars. This will be on a smaller scale, but we'll have a great aquarium with homeschool enrichment, other museums, dance studio options which perform classical ballets like The Nutcracker, and lots of nature opportunities being on the coast. And in a smaller city, everything is more accessible. You can get almost anywhere in 20 minutes!

6. Family growth. Even though we will be leaving our friends and pretty much all our family behind (unless my parents follow us!), we will still be together as our own little family. I know that we had so much growth and peace during our year that we spent back in Aggieland when the girls were babies and Steven was finishing school, and I don't doubt that we will find the same kind of family bonding and growth when we leave our hometown again. One of our big goals is to work on our healthy living choices and exercise! Hopefully at this time next year we will be back in shape!

7. Spiritual renewal. This might be the most important! I think we've gotten in a little rut here the past few years. After I left the lay movement in 2009 I haven't had a very good prayer life. I want to be an example to our kids in prayer, in faith, and in my daily walk with God. There is a wonderful Catholic culture there, with many, many Catholic churches, so I know we'll have more opportunities for things like Daily Mass and other spiritual enrichment. I hope and pray that I can recommit myself to my spiritual life in the coming months.

8. Our move will likely mean we are past the open heart surgery for Steven Joseph! Thinking about being there, having made it through that difficult journey, makes me feel happy. Knowing that his heart will be healed at that point brings me much peace.

And I pray that all the little holes in my heart, places where I am leaking out sin and sorrow, all my bad habits and failures will be closed up like Steven's ASD. May the coming months bring about healing, growth, and peace for our family. Will you pray that for us? Thank you!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

(Warning to grandmas and other sensitive souls...this is kind of a depressing post, so you may not want to read!)

Our fall activities are in full swing, and we plan to start our official homeschool year on Monday. But now I feel like the clock is ticking. Every day is one day closer to the heart surgery and to moving, and now it's real and it's getting hard.

I spoke with our cardiologist yesterday, and the MRI confirmed his previous findings regarding the hole in Steven's heart and some blood-flow involvement with his pulmonary vein. So the hole will be patched and the vein will have some reconstruction, through open heart surgery, and we are being referred to the surgeon to discuss that in the coming weeks. And so my dream of a miracle closure is foiled, now I just have to be grateful for the "miracles" in modern medicine and heart surgery.

Today we had orientation for the wonderful classical co-op we'll be doing using the Classically Catholic Memory program. We are really excited about it! Then we had lunch with friends, some playtime at my parents' house, and then went to the girls' first ballet class of the new school year. They were thrilled! Ellie had her leotard on about two hours early :) Tonight I scheduled a last-minute mom's night out, which was great fun!

But as we start the new school year and enter into all these activities, I feel very guarded and like the clock is ticking. We have to tell everyone that we won't be here long, that we're getting ready to move. I'm welcoming new families to our area and the homeschool group while trying to find peace with our own moving plans. And I sometimes end up explaining that we're facing this surgery with our boy. None of it sounds fun, and all of it feels overwhelming.

Six weeks ago I was ready to up and move, pack up my house for a new adventure. My soul felt ready for a change and we had been praying for a new job opportunity and felt this was it. Now I'm having a harder time. I knew that moving in the middle of the year was going to be hard for all of us, but it's the way the cards fell and so we'll make due. Once we get into the swing of things, hopefully we'll just enjoy them without always thinking about tomorrow. But that's my nature.

I remember getting ready for a minor dental surgery when I was a preteen. I was so worked up about the whole thing. Everything I did in the days before the surgery felt like the last time on earth I'd be doing them. I was so anxious and worried about it all. And then all of a sudden it was over without a complication. Life was normal again and it was just a little bump in the road.

I know that's how this will be. We'll get through this surgery even stronger. God will teach us a lot through the experience of allowing our child to be operated on in this way. He is asking so much trust of us right now as we face these two big bumps in the road. I pray that I have that trust and peace as we make the decisions about the surgery, and as we all prepare to say goodbye to our friends and family and this comfortable area we know and love, to embark on a new journey in an unfamiliar land.

I'm sorry to be a Debbie Downer tonight. But it's how I'm feeling. I'm trying to find the positives in it all. It's hard to find positives in open heart surgery, but I know God can show us his goodness and providence through it. I know that the move is going to bring about good change in our family. And so my next reflective post will be about the exciting things about our move! There are fun things to look forward to and we need to focus on those to get us through this time! Thanks for following our journey :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Painted faces

I thought it was going to be a low-key week, but it's turned out otherwise! We're getting ready to start our co-op and ballet on Thursday and should get Steven's MRI results by the end of the week. I plan to "officially" start homeschool next Monday, so I'm trying to organize and prepare in the midst of some playdates, babysitting, and other visitors! Soaking in this last week of summer! And trying to get my camera to work better; it's being temperamental.

Last weekend was an animal-themed birthday party at our local children's museum. So the 3 big kids all got their faces painted, while this little guy's face was just painted with a smile :-)

Loved all the toys at the museum!

And really loves climbing stairs!

Steven and Steven checking out the fish

I snuck some vaseline in his hair to spike it a little bit. I love it long! Hopefully Daddy doesn't buzz it too soon. He actually claims to want to grow it "long like Mommy's."

His favorite was this water play area with the fishing rod!

Three cute wolves

and one scary...


Being buried in the tire shreds!

Somehow we made it home without too many clothing stains! What a fun party!

Friday, August 12, 2011

a Beautiful Baptism

Last weekend was the beautiful baptism of our friends' baby girl.
We've been to a lot of baptisms, but I have to say that this one was really moving. Something about the way we started at the back of the church by this big crucifix,

and then moved into this very small baptistry where we couldn't all fit, but somehow I managed to lift my camera and capture the moment. "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Finally we moved to the sanctuary for the final prayers and blessing of the mother and father. I loved how the children congregated on the kneelers to watch, with girls on one side...

boys (plus MK) on the other!

I can still smell the oil of chrism on her sweet forehead.
Oh the sweetness of the purest little soul!
God's grace and salvation revealed.

I cannot look at this photo of the smiling children without starting to tear up, grateful for the happiness of sharing these most special occasions with some of our closest friends. How will we move on to these new adventures without them? We are going to miss them so, so much.

But we have much to be thankful for. Namely, a Faith that allows us the opportunity to receive Christ's saving grace at baptism. A community of homeschooling friends who are so dear to us. A parish that allows us to feel, see, and smell the essence of Catholic Tradition. And a new adventure around the corner where God sees fit to send our family on the newest leg of the journey...

Congratulations to one of the newest little Catholics,
A.M.N. and her family!
May she always know the love of Christ.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

MRI Tomorrow

**EDITED**to say thank you for the prayers. After a crazy drive getting stuck in the HOV lane, some confusion at the sign-in desk, and lots of waiting, he got the IV (hardest part) and was asleep and back for the MRI by about 9:20. He was back in recovery in an hour, during which time Thomas fell asleep in the stroller. He came out of the anesthesia just fine, and was back to himself after a McDonald's Happy Meal! We had a quiet night with the girls at NeNe and PaPa's house. We won't have the results until next week or later...

"Swimming away the stress!"

They were able to fit Steven Joseph in tomorrow for his sedated MRI due to a cancellation. So we'll be heading to the hospital early in the morning. It works out so much better than next week since Steven finished his old job yesterday, and the girls start two of their fall activities on the day it was initially scheduled next week.

We have been enjoying lots of pool time the past couple weeks, trying to soak it all in before the local pools are closed during the week. At the end of a long day, relaxing in the cool (or warm) water helps the worries to float away! Relaxing, that is, except when we're frantically chasing after Steven Joseph who has no fear in the water. He can't swim more than a few feet but is still constantly leaping off the side, jumping off the steps, and doing flips underwater. And he and his sister below like to spend much of the time fighting over pool toys and floats!

Lots of big things going on right now with this possible heart surgery, new job, moving away...And some of us are having a harder time than others with it. Namely, myself and the sweet little mini-me pictured below who unfortunately tends to take on stress like her mama does. She has been through a sedated MRI and knee surgery herself, so I know that she is worried for her brother. And she just really does not want to move away.

We definitely covet your prayers right now as we are forced to trust God to work out lots of little details of things we don't have much control over. Our littlest guy helps to lighten the mood and keep things in perspective. He gets the biggest grin when we step into the pool. He starts laughing and splashing and is just the sweetest little thing ever. But of course he also keeps us on our toes all day while he finds every crumb, bead, pencil eraser, crayon or mini foam sticker to eat. He's starting to stand for short periods of time, but mostly just race-crawls around the house. He loves being in houses with stairs and starts giggling when we chase him down!

I know our faith is tested through times like these, and I pray that I can be a good, calm, patient, and most of all, prayerful mother through it all. That I can show the children that I trust God to answer our prayers in the way He sees fit. And that I can support the emotional and educational needs of each of my precious blessings. The school year is upon us, too!

May St. Clare, on her feast tomorrow, intercede for our family. May she ask Our Lord to bestow the grace we need to live out our calling. May He bring clarity and peace to our minds and hearts during this time of change in our family.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old...

I got to spend time with several old friends over the past couple weeks. First it was a playdate with these lovely ladies, close friends from high school. One was visiting from Virginia! It was so great to hang out and see each others' growing kids!

And our friend who was hosting has a pool! Fun, fun!

Tommy was content with water toys, so mama didn't have to get in the pool!

A group shot of the kids minus Mary Clare and 2 of the little boys.
Steven Joseph had so much fun playing with these big boys!
Look how he's grinning at them!

The next week, I had a wonderful meet-up with my closest friends from childhood,
since one was visiting from out of town.
We've known each other since we were about 5!

(I had to crop this one; I looked like a whale next to these skinny minnies!)

We met up at my parents' house so that we wouldn't need to corral our toddlers in a restaurant! Good choice!

SJ was the "big boy" at this playdate!

Even though I only see these friends once or twice a year, and our families have all moved different places and taken different paths, it's SO nice to get together and feel like things are the same again. We have a history that none of my current friends, or even my husband, have together. And it's beautiful to see how God is blessing their families in their own little adventures! It's also neat to see the growing kids and how they look (or don't look) like my friends and their extended families.

Karyn, Michele, Amanda, Melissa, and Elizabeth...I'm so grateful for our time together and happy to still call you friends. I hope we can continue to meet up over the years as we watch each others' families grow and change. How time flies!

"One is silver and the other gold..."
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