Thursday, September 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes

iPhone photo dump:
 L-R from top: each of the kids at the park on Friday night when Steven was gone (we went to the park, Little Caesar's drive-thru, and Petco!), next row is Thomas at Petco, him holding his new helicopter, his favorite thing of climbing on the potty with toilet paper then getting right down and flushing (no success yet), and again him with his bday treats (including a lollipop), 3rd row is me reading Pride and Prejudice eating Oreo bark, Ellie doing her Spelling in the closet in her PJs, T with his shades, and E at a park.  Last row is Javelina at that park, T at the park on his bday night with moon behind him, SJ biking at that park, and the list of all the hawks seen there since August I believe.  The park we visited yesterday hosts hawk-watchers from all over the country!  We can't wait to go back again!

Oreo Bark
 I saw this somewhere online this week and made it the other night using this recipe as a guide.  I used less Oreos (maybe 10 altogether) and white candy bark instead of chocolate chips. YUM! It was eaten up quickly by the girls and me!

Camera Bag
Wow, a camera case made for a DSLR makes carrying a camera so much easier!
 I know my Cammie is safe in there, and aren't the polka-dots so cute?  Bought at Walmart!

 Some favorite recipes the past few weeks/months:
 I have probably linked these two before, but at least they will all be in one place, since my "Main Dishes" board on Pinterest is filling up!
Calabaza Con Pollo--We make this dish with rotisserie or chicken roasted in the crockpot, and serve with yellow rice and fresh tortillas.
Skinny Chicken Broccoli Alfredo  is a favorite, for Mary Clare in particular!  She loves broccoli and is our most adventurous eater!

Okay these others are probably way high in calories and a major reason of my huge midsection issues at the moment.  But oh so good!
Crescent Roll Chicken--Made with shredded crockpot chicken and used my homemade cream of chicken soup.  A big hit; should've used two cans of crescent rolls!
Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken--Again, another artery-clogger, but you could use low-fat additions and add it to healthy pasta or rice, or one of those other healthy grain options that I'm not familiar with.  We did use my homemade cream of chicken, so I'm sure that negates all the cream cheese, right?  I made enchiladas with this chicken the next night!

The girls have been excited about the Nutcracker Ballet since we moved here.  Their previous ballet school didn't put on this performance, but our current one does, so all year they have looked forward to it.  The auditions were held last weekend.  Cue: Bad memories of screaming toddler during the "mandatory" parent meeting.  All eyes were on me, so yes I walked out of that meeting!

So, they had their hearts set on being Party Girls or Polichinelles (Mother Ginger Children), but they found out that they were both cast as mice.  To say they were disappointed would be an understatement.  "Horrified," is how Mary Clare described it.  Now, keep in mind the mice are like the villains in the scariest scene of the production, and they run around without really getting to dance much.  It's just not what they had in mind for their first Nutcracker experience!

But as the day went on, they calmed down, and Mary Clare has even said that she "knows it's the right part for her!"  She is handling it with grace and has decided that no, she won't quit ballet or refuse to perform in the show.  We've come a long way this afternoon.  And it's been a loooonnnng day!  As wise Daddy reminded me, this is a great character-building experience.  I agree.  But it's still hard.

MY tongs!
Some toddlers have pacifiers.  Some have "lovey" blankets or stuffed animals.  Our son carries around metal kitchen tongs!  I guess it's a compliment that he wants to grill like Daddy and fry bacon like Mommy!  He's actually asleep holding them right now.  Silly, silly boy!

I've read 2 books this past week (Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice), and just started Emma!  I'm on a Jane Austen kick!  Also still loving episodes of White Collar and the newest season of Downton Abbey, found in various places that are probably not very legit.  But SO happy it's back on.  Oh how I've missed Mary and Matthew!

From my friend who is a true Jane Austen fan, and who found out I was starting to read the books.  
Her movie recommendations:
'Pride and Prejudice' - (a wonderful 6 hours) BBC 1995 - Colin Firth Forever!!
(Just say no to Keira Knightley (2005 version). But, many may argue that point.)

'Sense and Sensibility' - (3 hours) 2008 BBC. My favorite Austen movie. The older version with Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson (1995) is okay, but those two have NO chemistry, and Emma Thompson is just too old for the role. AND it's too short.

'Emma' - (4 hours) BBC 2009!! Just about perfect!

'Persuasion' - I prefer 1995, but the 2007 one is good, too. '95 is truer to the book, and a little longer.

'Mansfield Park' - 1999 takes some liberties that I do NOT like, so I guess I'd the 2007 one. But the 1999 one is probably a better film in general.

'Northanger Abbey' - 2007, but one of my least favorite Austen movies (and books)

FYI - 'Jane Austen Regrets' and 'Becoming Jane' are mostly fictitious. 
Have a lovely weekend, friends!  We have some fun surprises up our sleeves, can't wait to share!

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

round button chicken
~Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life~
Every Thursday at Like Mother, Like Daughter


I do love the trees on this side of town.  As we continue the house-hunt, with no exact neighborhood in mind, it's interesting to take in the advantages of all the different areas.  This side of town has the trees and large yards, while the newer side of town is bustling with families and light, bright homes.  Out in the neighboring towns/suburbs, there are hills and parks, and then there are also homes near the bay and the beach.  There is definitely quite a variety of areas, and although none feel quite right for us and are so much more expensive than what we're used to in Houston, I'm sure something will come up one day that suits our fancy (Can you tell I've been reading/watching British drama recently?).

Also, one of the pretty places in our life right now is the Atrium.  Steven Joseph participates in this beautiful Catechesis of the Good Shepherd every Friday morning, where they learn about Jesus who loves and cares for us.  He enjoys singing the songs, and telling us about his class later in the day.  Last week they worked on pouring.  Everything is done quietly, methodically, and carefully.  I was able to go in for just a couple minutes last week before I was needed outside again.  I hope I can join him more and more as the months go by.  I would love to be trained in this program at some point.

My happy biking boy!  He's doing great now, but is still learning to get started himself.  The bike is a tad tall for him, but I'm sure he'll grow into it soon enough!

Also happy here are the boys when allowed to play with the pastels outside.  I admit they made a huge mess and I still haven't gotten the crayons packed away in this case again.  Right now they're spread throughout the laundry room.  Sigh.  But they had fun for a few minutes!  Also notice Thomas' favorite toy behind him...the metal kitchen tongs!  He begs for them and cries if they're in the dishwasher.

 These two little ones are funny as can be.  Thomas is always picking on little M, and this day they were both conspiring about how to get back at me for continuing to leave them in the swings while retreating to the shade for a few seconds!

I still need to post the rest of the t-ball photos and a video, but here are a couple funny ones...
Well, this one may be more sad than funny.  He just wanted to go into the dugout with his big brother so badly!
 I think he was manning 3rd base here.  Poor child was chasing the runners over and over again, even though he didn't have the ball.  Looked like he was playing tag!  One of the runners was much older and just gave him the strangest look, like "what in the world are you doing?"  He was having fun, though!


 I thought these were some real shots of the seriousness of making paper mache masks for El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
 Oh, that paper mache was messy!  Just look at those faces!
 Here are the girls painting their mask.  Both of their actual masks weren't in condition enough to paint them on Monday, so this was a mask that the instructor had made which they painted it together.

And of course little brother wanted to paint something, too!  He was so proud to write his brother's name at the bottom.

So those were some moments of our week.  Hope to see some of yours, too!  I'm going to try to be back with 7 Quick Takes tomorrow.  We'll see!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Outdoor Expo

Last weekend, Steven Joseph's t-ball game was canceled due to an unkempt field.  It just so happened that there was a big Outdoor Expo at the same park.  And it was FREE!  We all had a great time!

Started with the bouncy houses and slides...

Then we walked around a bit...

And decided on paintball guns

The girls did great at rock climbing!

And then we all (except Steven) got a chance to ride horses! 

They loved the bow & arrow booth

And the boys were thrilled to get to shoot some inflatable wild animals with foam darts!

I love the way Steven Joseph was helping Thomas and was so excited for him!

We finished off with some time playing putt-putt golf while the girls had a last chance to rock-climb.  What a fun morning!  We had to drag them away!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I've been in a bit of a melancholy mood this weekend.  A few different things have been on my mind.  Today was one year from the date of Steven Joseph's open heart surgery.  I've been thinking about it all week...the emotions I felt during those days leading up to the surgery, the way it felt to say goodbye and hand my baby off to the medical team, and the days of healing in the CVICU and cardiac floor.  My boy is as rowdy and boyish as ever, and I am grateful that this huge hurdle is behind us.

Right after surgery, and during the move out of the CVICU and down to the cardiac floor of the hospital:

 Doing a fun craft our friends gave him, and doing some artwork in the playroom at the hospital, almost ready to go home!

 And here he is this week, a bike-riding big 4 1/2 year-old, with a heart as good as new :-)

Another thing on my mind this weekend is the passing of little Hans Weberling.  As we were celebrating Thomas' 2nd birthday on Friday, the Weberlings were saying goodbye to their sweet boy.  Hans was in our church playgroup when Mary Clare was a toddler, and was diagnosed with cancer a few years later at age 3.  He spent almost 6 years fighting stage 4 Neuroblastoma.  He went through every type of treatment you can imagine from chemo, to radiation, to stem cell transplants, to radioisotopes.  This family always kept a positive attitude, finding the bright side in the midst of a very brutal treatment plan lasting so many years.  This child was a fighter, and each time the prognosis seemed bleak, he would forge through with a miraculous healing.  I kept up with them on their blog and Facebook, and was so saddened to hear that his fight had suddenly ended.  Still we have hope that his active 9 year-old body is fully restored in Heaven where he can be an advocate at the feet of Jesus for his family and friends, and all those little cancer-fighters who need that bravery that he had.  Please offer a prayer for Hans, his family, and all who mourn his passing.

I've been reading my first Jane Austen books this weekend, which may have attributed to a bit of my melancholy attitude.  My energy seems gone in the afternoon, and I just long to spend hours in bed reading.  Much of that was probably due to the fact that it was a hard week for me with Steven gone so much, and then he went on a hunting trip this weekend.  I had to take all 4 kids to a t-ball game and a Nutcracker audition, which was quite a spectacle!  Thomas fussed through the entire game and screamed and ran away from me during the 5 minutes I was in the Nutcracker meeting.  Steven Joseph was pretty funny in the t-ball game, but I'll try to get pictures up to share that soon.  I'm over a week behind posting pictures, but I have started Thomas' baby book, so that's one big accomplishment.  Unfortunately it kept me up until after 2:00am one night, so that lack of sleep has been affecting my attitude and my energy level!

We haven't been back "home" since early July, and I'm also feeling homesick.  Now with our baseball and Nutcracker activities, I'm not sure when we'll be able to have a weekend in Houston again.  The girls and I are definitely missing our family and our friends.  We have nice friends here, but it's just so different from the lasting friendships we have in Houston.  We miss being close to family during times of need and times of joy like birthdays and sports events.  And our friends there are almost like family to us.  One complaint of a bad day or sick child, and Beverly would be over with a meal, often inviting us over for special feast days and impromptu dinners.  Christina was always around to talk, to inspire us in the ways of craftiness and hospitality, and our kids are almost like siblings.  Jessica's kids and mine have been friends since they were newborns, and we miss seeing them so often.  I'm still able to talk to Veronica almost daily, but I miss our getaways to their farm and our girls' lunches with her and Marie every so often.  My BOL mom friends all knew me and accepted me for who I was, and we shared many a laugh and tear at LaMadeleine with Shannon, the Julies, and so many others.  I can't help but feel a bit detached and self-conscious with the ladies here, which is odd for me as a total extrovert who usually makes friends very easily.  I'm being challenged in ways of humility and patience, and I'm continually re-assessing my visions of our homeschool activities as well as our plans for where to settle with our family in a city that still feels somewhat foreign.  Hopefully the coming months will find us in better spirits, settling into our routines and activities, and enjoying the company of our homeschool friends and close-knit parish.  I know it will get better.

My health is not what it was a few months ago.  I haven't been able to find a time to exercise regularly, so I am gaining weight and my clothes aren't fitting.  I am determined to find a way to exercise twice weekly, but haven't found the right option yet.  No, with all this talk of hormonal emotions, lack of energy, and weight gain, I am not pregnant!  But it is surely on my mind now that Thomas is two.  I can't believe that two years have passed since he was born.  Like they say, "the days are long but the years are short."  So true.  As I look back at the photos and birth story from his early days, I am gripped with fear at what a future pregnancy and 5th c-section could mean.  We have yet to find (or thankfully, need) any medical doctors here in town, but I know it should be done.  We had such great doctors in Houston, I am worried I won't be able to find anyone who compares.  The last time I found a new OBGYN, I got pregnant just a couple weeks later.  I don't think I'm ready for that yet.  The girls, on the other hand, are constantly begging for a baby sister.  Mary Clare admonished me the other day, saying that God wasn't going to give us a baby if I wasn't praying for it!  I told her that I still have a baby; Thomas is still nursing and I'm not quite ready to move on from this stage.

I really am happy with our progress in homeschooling, and our family life balance is better than it has been in the past.  We do have several activities, but they don't feel overwhelming.  I'm more overwhelmed with going to the grocery store and cleaning my house!  Steven's job is going well, and we have the hope of being able to purchase a home here in the coming months.  Our kids are healthy, our needs are met, and that is all I can ask for.  Our family and lasting friendships will continue over the miles, and I know I'll find another exercise option and "get my groove on" again!  I am always in better spirits in the morning; tomorrow morning brings a little outing to finish an art project, so I had better get to bed!

Must write out my goals first, though...

Goals from last week:
1. Continue deleting random iPhoto images (not sure if it got a virus?) and start Thomas' baby book
2. Plan a family celebration for Thomas' 2nd birthday.  Gift and cake.

3. Schedule well-checks
4. Visit local teacher supply store and/or order final schoolbooks
5. Sort boys' clothes
6. Daily prayer

7. Daily Mass on Friday
8. Meals: Grilled steak, pancakes, rotisserie chicken wraps, chicken nuggets, spaghetti

Goals for this week:
1. Well checks for boys
2. Daily prayer (Universalis, daily readings app)
3. Shirts for 4-H
4. Write plan for nature club, purchase materials
5. A waaaayyyy late birthday gift that needs to be completed and mailed
6. Daily Mass on Friday
7. Bills and budgeting update
8. Meals: Grilled ribs/chicken, Leftovers, No Peek Stew, Baked Chicken Tenders, Pizza, Breakfast for dinner

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday, Thomas William!

Pancake breakfast this morning!

New books from Grampatti and BopBop

Some time at the church playground while big brother was in the Atrium and sisters were having an art lesson

A helicopter from NeNe and PaPa!  He loves his "He-tah-ter!"

Trike, a lollipop, and a helicopter.  Toddler heaven!

A shiny new red trike!  I think I had this one when I was little!

I can hardly believe that my baby is two!  Happy Birthday, precious Thomas!  We love you!
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