Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Monday Motivation

 He may be awake at 1:00am, but how can you be mad at this kind of face?

It's been quite awhile since I've done a Monday Motivation post!  And it's technically Tuesday already, but I'm up with a toddler who took a nap from about 4pm-6pm, which means he is just about ready to hit the hay.  We've done the same puzzle over and over again, had some snacks, and watched some "first dental visit" YouTube videos. 

What a day!  I ended up canceling my own dentist appointment (I'm going to enough appointments as it is!), had lunch guests, naptime, did some co-op planning, and we all experienced a scary choking incident for Daddy.  Thankfully he's okay!

Now that we're just a couple days from August, it's time to get organized and get back into a routine. Let's see if I can jot down some plans and goals for the week.

1. All 4 kids to the dentist first thing Tuesday morning! 
2. Another OB visit this week, get labwork faxed.
3. Visit homeschool convention's vendor hall and purchase some of the last few books.
4. Pay bills and update budget.
5. Email co-op group and plan workshops.
6. Mail the kids' artwork to Steven's aunt suffering from cancer (Please pray for Aunt Katie).
7. Read a bit in photography book and take some "posed" pictures.
8. Confirm last Disney meal and start making some daily plans.
9. Research a few purchases for the trip...kids' lanyards and pins, shoes for everyone, purse for me.
10. Daily prayer

We'll having various overnight trips this week, and we have a lot of leftovers, so I'm not going to worry much about meals.  Right now my biggest issue is just getting out of bed and trying to muster the energy to be a happy mom, do some housework, and feed the kids.  I'm not feeling my best, but this little baby is worth it!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My little man

Before the day is done I have to share two photos here. I went to some garage sales this morning and found a pair of rollerblades for Steven Joseph. He has always wanted his own, and the look on his face when I brought them in the back yard to show him was priceless!
He got a bit discouraged with them after awhile, but he'll learn!

And this was a funny moment where he was pouting because Tommy got to go on some errands with Daddy. I was resting in bed and he just came and sat on my side. I get no personal space with these boys!
But they did sleep the entire night in their room last night so I can't complain much.  We'll see if they can keep it up!

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 226)

I'm determined to stick with my blogging each day program for the week, but it's now 11:11 and I don't feel like I have much to say.  Let's see if I can come up with a few random thoughts...

1. Bedtime!  All 4 kids are sleeping snugly in their beds right now.  Well, so is #5 :)  This is a big deal.  We'll see how long the boys last.  They have been taking over our bed and I'm already having a hard time sleeping with my nightmares about doctor offices, head shavings, snakes, and scorpions.  I always have vivid dreams during pregnancy.  Last night I went ahead and moved down to the floor bed because I was too lazy to move the boys (we have a memory foam mattress topper doubled on the floor so it's actually comfy).  Then another child came in to that bed with a nightmare, so I moved to the foot of our bed.  Not gonna work.  Please sleep well, boys!

2. Doctor drama.  I still don't know what in the world I'm going to do about a doctor.  Everyone has different recommendations here and it's hard because most ladies in my homeschooling circles prefer a hands-off doctor for a natural birth.  But this current OB is quite old and only comes into the office a few times each week, so he doesn't even see patients until the last month of pregnancy!  He's also already suggested tying my tubes and jokingly said, "You're going to kill me" about doing a 5th c-section.  Oh, and I was at the office for at least 2 1/2 hours for an ultrasound and "quick" OB consult. Thanks Dr. S, but I think I'll be moving on now.

At least that office helped in getting me this medicine I need.  
Only took about 15 phone calls and 2 trips with this crew to a grocery store 
way across town, but at least I've got it!  Like a bag of gold here!

3. Disney!  Disney planning is in full swing.  We were able to find PLANE TICKETS this week.  That wasn't in the plan at all because of the cost, but we were really dreading the 4 days in the car with 4 kids.  Southwest came out with some amazing deals last week, and when we looked at the savings, it was only going to be slightly more expensive to fly.  We're also getting an extra night in Florida now, which means another day of FREE Disney dining!

4. Disney Food.  The Disney message boards and websites are filled with loads of helpful information about restaurants at the parks and hotels there.  You can look at menus, see photos of the actual plated food, and get advice about the best use of the dining plan.  We have already made our meal reservations, but now need to add one more!  Steven and I have been enjoying looking at menus and reviews online each night.  I am getting so excited about this trip, and am hoping and praying that everyone is healthy and feeling well when we travel.  Once we finalize our meal plans, then we can start reading more about the rides and plan out our days a bit.  The planning is part of the fun!

5. Boring.  The kids have been really good sports, but it's hard when we seem to spend days at a time without leaving the house.  I haven't felt that great and honestly we haven't had anywhere to go.  I mean I could take them to the store or the library, but I just don't have the energy for that most days (see photo above in the grocery parking lot to understand why).  This week we did take a beach outing one morning, and I think that wiped me out for the rest of the week.  That and the forever-long OB appointment.  I'm looking forward to starting back with our activities in mid-August and can't wait until August officially begins next week so we can renew our pool membership and enjoy some fun days there before it closes (we opted to skip this month because it's so expensive).

beautiful morning at the beach
Photo: A few hours at the beach were good for this mama's soul. #rockportbeach

6. Funny dreams.  I meantioned that I've been having vivid dreams about things like missing my OB appointment, or being attacked by scorpions and snakes.  But other family members seem to be having interesting dreams, too.  One night this week I was still awake, and Steven (Sr) yelled out twice asking for his police stick!  Tommy mentioned today that he had a dream he was singing in front of people wearing underwear.  I didn't realize that toddlers would have dreams about only wearing underwear in public!  While we were in Houston he had this funny dream he recounted to me about being Daddy's age and driving Daddy's car into the water, but then the car was a submarine, and this was all happening in his tummy (we'd been talking about the baby in my tummy).  Here's the video!  Excuse the tired and yucky looking mommy, please.

7. I'm proud that I made dinner every weekday this week (Steven made our entire anniversary dinner on Sunday), even though I didn't feel so great!  On Monday we had leftover grilled steak and chicken quesadillas, Tuesday was leftover grilled chicken in a stir fry with green beans, Wednesday was my new favorite baked chicken (using my Bulgarian yogurt to coat and then rolling in bread crumbs) with roasted broccoli, last night was Cream Cheese Crock Pot Chicken (a favorite in this house) with salad, and tonight was King Ranch Chicken with rice and corn.  I don't think we ate out once this week.  Go us!  Now I just need to get back to ballet so I can work off all these yummy foods.

Alright, well those were the boring-est quick takes, but that's what's going on over here.  Hope everyone has a glorious weekend!  Adios!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

round button chicken 

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

{pretty} and {happy}

On Sunday we celebrated our 12th anniversary!  I had lovely visions of a quiet evening spent at the beach watching the waves while relaxing in a lawn chair.  Instead, we ended up deciding to use the free mini-golf coupons the kids earned through the library summer reading program.  The evening wasn't quite what I had in mind, but it was all about what our anniversary means right now...family, kids, chaos, fun!

This kid is obsessed with the ride-on vehicles!  He loved this racecar, and loved a ride-on tractor inside the arcade even more.  He doesn't really care if we pay for it to move or not, he just loves sitting in them!  We did pay for him ride the tractor one, since his siblings got to drive the go-carts.

fun and funny kids on the go-carts!

I was really, really nervous today.  I felt sick all day and I think it was just nerves.  It took the ultrasound tech a long time to find the baby.  In the beginning it did not look optimistic at all.  It just looked like an empty sac to me.  After some more measurements of other things, she went back and there was baby!  With a little beating heart.  So, so grateful.  Thank you so very much for your prayers. 

I'm also really grateful for Auntie Leila's words on her blog today.  They had a get together in the DC area and she was encouraging moms to find friends and make a community.  Such good reminders, and just what I needed to hear...

"Find the people.  Make them dinner. Throw them a baby shower.  Watch their kids while they go to the doctor."

"Finding your pocket of friends, because yes, we do need kindred spirits: Worship somewhere with the most beauty that is the closest geographically that you can manage. Do you know what I mean? Your own parish is best if possible. "

"Want a list of some fallacies?  The fallacy of thinking that everyone else already has friends.  The fallacy that you can't break into a group.  The fallacy of pre-conceived ideas (that you
think that you can only be friends with a person who thinks just like you or looks just like you).  The fallacy that everyone who is your friend will be your best friend."

"Be generous, be virtuous, be welcoming, be hospitable, be kind, don't worry too much if you need to work on these things, but rather, join the club.  Oh, and pray! Ask God, "Who is my neighbor?"
And He will add best friends unto you...."

If you read my post earlier this week you might be laughing at the timing.  Did Auntie Leila read my blog?  I've been believing these fallacies, thinking that everyone has friends already, or that I have to find best friends that have all the same interests as me.  It's okay that my best friends may be in another city.  I can still be a part of an uplifting community here.  I can continue to invite families over for dinner, host tea parties, coordinate co-ops, and make some meals (This is a hard one for me, every time I make a meal for someone there seems to be a big catastrophe!).

I have friends who will watch my kids while I go to the doctor.  And I've gone to the doctor a lot recently!  Thanks, M, and the others who have offered.  I have local friends who have reached out in kindness to me this week (I hope it's not because they felt sorry for me after reading my sob-story, whiney blog post!), and I have friends back home who I know will be there for me no matter what.  I am blessed to have a local community and a home community of lovely families and I need to be grateful for that. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Natural Family Planning Week


The day is almost done and I have yet to do my once-a-day post!  I just got back from a late night grocery trip and am anxious about my doctor appointment tomorrow, so why not ramble about something?  I'll hopefully share some fun weekend photos tomorrow if you're not in the mood for more of my long wandering thoughts...

So this is NFP Awareness Week.  I'm not sure if I've ever written about NFP on the blog.  I'm not sure I even knew what NFP was until I was in college.  NFP stands for Natural Family Planning, which is not the "rhythm method" but a medically proven method of pregnancy planning which is approved by the Catholic Church.

Growing up, I knew a couple big Catholic families, as well as some wonderful large Mormon families.  One of my good friends was the oldest of 11 kids and my Catechism teacher and Confirmation sponsor was the mother of 7 boys.  I was always fascinated by their families.  At some point around high school, I realized that the Catholic Church didn't condone artificial contraception.  Of course that didn't have much importance to me at that point in my life, but I did always hope to have a large family, so it seemed to fit in with my aspirations for family life and motherhood.

During college and through my involvement at St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, I started to learn more about my faith and more about the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I began to understand how the teaching Magisterium of the Church balances with Holy Scripture to transmit the teachings of Jesus Christ through the centuries.  The Catholic Church took a stand in 1969 when Pope Paul VI released the encyclical "Humanae Vitae" (of Human Life) which lays out the reasons why the Church does not believe that the artificial regulation of births to be a morally acceptable choice.

The encyclical explains it beautifully, but the gist of the teaching is that married love is a uniting of souls, a total self-giving, faithful, and fruitful.  It represents the love of Christ for the Church.  Children are a blessing that comes forth from the love of a husband and wife.  "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare." 

Pope Paul VI goes on to explain the need for responsible parenthood, while observing the natural law, and still being faithful to God's design for marriage without the use of unlawful means of birth control or sterilization.  "If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system..."

Finally, he lists some of the possible consequences of the use of artificial contraception.  "...Consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards."  A man may forget the reverence due to women and disregard her emotional and physical well-being, reducing her to a mere object.  Public authorities may impose the use of certain contraceptives on their citizens.  (China?)  It's quite an eye-opener to realize how these predictions have come true.  

So back to Natural Family Planning.  When Steven and I met through involvement at St. Mary's and began dating and discussing marriage, we both knew we wanted a large family.  We both placed great importance on having a mother at home to raise the children.  We knew we wanted to follow Church teachings against artificial birth control and wanted to be sure we were prepared for the possibility of children coming soon after we were married.  We attended a talk on NFP, and later took a course through a friend going through training to be a certified instructor. 

What has ended up happening to us is that we've never had the need to use NFP as a means to space children.  It has helped us to understand my body and the cycles I go through.  It helps us to recognize when we could likely conceive a child.  But we don't have a great need to use it since our babies have been naturally spaced through extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, as well as the fact that we don't get pregnant right away.  Each time my cycles return, it still seems to take about 5-10 months for us to conceive.  This has spaced our current children 28mos, 32mos, 33mos, and possibly about 41mos apart.

I know many Catholic couples struggle with this issue.  They may have children back-to-back and have a hard time finding an NFP method that works for them.  Many may undergo long periods of abstinence.  But there are also couples who suffer from infertility and even with the means available to help couples achieve pregnancy (the prominent one being the Pope Paul VI Institute), they may never have biological children.  In each of those situations, these couples carry a very difficult cross.  

We never know what crosses God might give us.  We don't take our fertility for granted and we also try not to take this natural spacing for granted.  We have experienced two early miscarriages and are currently in the vulnerable days of early pregnancy.  Facing a possible 5th c-section, I am well aware that my body may not be able to handle that many more pregnancies.  We never know what tomorrow may bring and if we may have a very serious need for the conservative use of NFP in the future.

But what I do know is this.  Parenting is hard.  Parenting a large family can be very hard.  In our case, parenting a family and homeschooling the children is a great challenge.  It forces us to rely on the grace of God.  It forces us to pray.  It forces us to be self-giving and put others before ourselves.  Whether another couple has no children, 1 or 2 children, or 10 or more children, is of no importance to us.  What is important to us is following God's design for our own family.  We pray that we will form a community of love and life in our home.  We pray that our children will be blessed through their siblings and have a wonderful support system as they grow older.  We will welcome new life lovingly and pray that God gives us the continued health and ability to raise the children he sends us.

I am grateful to Christ and the Church for this difficult yet beautiful teaching, and I pray that following it in our own family will bring about great fruits for our marriage and for our children in the years to come.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Homeschooling Review 2012-2013 and Plans for 2013-2014

(with peppered photos of our smallest little mohawked-learner from a few weeks ago)

We had a good school year.  Mary Clare finished the 4th grade and Ellie 2nd.  I can hardly believe that Steven Joseph will be in Kindergarten this year!  I'm not going to add all the curriculum links here since it takes forever and it's so easy to Google, but if anyone has questions, let me know.

We're going to stick with most of the same things we've done before, but as usual I always add in a few new options each year.  We'll also be participating in our local Classically Catholic Memory co-op that I'm spearheading here, and we'll continue to have our monthly St. Francis Nature Club days at the Botanical Gardens.  If all goes well, we'll be welcoming a new little one around February, so I need to keep that in mind with my planning.  I imagine we'll have to work into the summer a bit next year if we take a big break for baby.  We'll see!

I'm looking at the possibility of enrolling with the Mother of Divine Grace school in the future, maybe around 7th grade for Mary Clare.  So some of my current book choices are reflecting my current thoughts about getting back on the MODG "train" in the coming  years.

This was Ellie's First Confession and First Holy Communion year.  We used both Faith & Life and the New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism.  Mary Clare used Seton's Religion.

For this next year, I don't plan to do a formal religion program with Steven for Kindergarten, but just read some saint and bible stories, celebrate feasts, and I'm sure he'll listen in on some of his sisters' lessons.  I am also hoping he'll get to participate in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program at church, and Ellie might be able to participate as well!  I need to check and see if we have Faith & Life's 3rd grade book for Ellie.  I am actually considering just using the Baltimore Catechism for both the girls this year, possibly doing some copywork from it too.  I liked that the Seton book was independent but I also didn't keep up with what she was reading, and I'm not sure that I like the format with the questions at the end which seemed to be difficult for her to answer.  If I decide to choose a textbook, I plan to use Faith & Life.

This past year we continued with Math U See, which we've been using since Mary Clare was in Kindergarten.  Ellie finished Beta and Mary Clare finished Delta.  I considered switching her to Saxon this year but ended up sticking with MUS It works for us, but I'm afraid that we'll want to switch to Saxon at some point and I've heard that sooner than later is better!

Next year I will definitely have Ellie and Steven Joseph using MUS, but I have yet to decide whether to change Mary Clare to Saxon.  If you have any advice, please share!  I'd also like for them to use an online or iPhone app for math fact drills a few times a week.  Steven Joseph hasn't finished the kindergarten Abeka Math yet, so I'm not sure if we'll finish that before moving into MUS Alpha a few months into the year.  MUS Alpha is technically their 1st grade book, so I don't mind working slowly through both Alpha and Beta like I did with the girls.

All 3 of the children have been using Seton's Handwriting for Young Catholics series, and I plan to continue that.  They also each have a Phonics workbook from Seton.  The girls each have a Seton English grammar book as well.  I have considered trying out Intermediate Language Lessons, but Primary Language Lessons didn't work well for us, so I'm not sure it would be a good fit.  I'd like to start the IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Program with Mary Clare sometime soon, but right now I'm thinking we'll wait until 6th grade.

I was so happy to find All About Spelling this year!  Ellie started it last August, while Mary Clare tried out IEW's Phonetic Zoo for Spelling.  By January I decided that AAS would be good for her too, so we dropped the Phonetic Zoo (not a great fit for her) and they're both working through the 3rd book of AAS.  Steven Joseph started All About Reading Pre-Level 1 in January and loves it.  I plan to continue that with him for reading, and move into Level 1 when he finishes the Pre-Reading program.  I'll probably wait until 1st or 2nd grade to start All About Spelling with him.

I would like to improve our literature choices and amount of reading this year.  Both girls are now able to read chapter books, and Mary Clare definitely needs to be encouraged to try some more challenging books than the American Girl series or Nancy Drew.  She's hoping to read The Hobbit soon, and I know I just need to invest in a good number of juvenile fiction books.  Ellie is at the beginning chapter book level, so it can be hard to find good selections for her.  I'm hoping she'll try the Little House series and a few others that we have on our shelves.  I'd like to continue reading chapter books to them, but unfortunately this hasn't gone over very well.  They complain when I want to read to them, but they do enjoy books on CD, so I guess we can focus on those.  They still enjoy when I read picture books, at least the younger three.

This year we covered Texas History.  Mary Clare used Texas History by Splash Publications which was great for her level.  Ellie used a little workbook I found at the teacher supply store that included the basic facts about our state.  We also read some from a book entitled "Catholic Texans: Our Family Album," and did a little writing project using a fun picture book called "L is for Lone Star." We finished out the year with trips to Goliad State Park and the Alamo, both Texas missions.  It was a low-key year for History, which was good for all of us.

This year we'll go back to American History for the girls.  Ellie will use the Abeka 3rd grade book, hopefully peppered with some literature choices.  Mary Clare will use From Sea to Shining Sea (Catholic Textbook Project), and we plan to use some of the extra reading choices that go along with that book from the list on the Mater Amabilis website.  Steven Joseph can listen in on the lessons but I won't do formal History (or Science) with him until closer to 2nd grade.  I may also read (or find CDs for) Story of the World.  I'd like them to have at least a little exposure to World History before middle school.

We have been studying Human Anatomy using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology.  This is a pretty in-depth program compared to other science texts we've used, so we didn't make it through the book and will continue over the next few months.  We have enjoyed using their lab kit, with the materials for each experiment bagged and ready to use!  We also like their notebooking journals as a fun way to review what they've been learning with mini-books, worksheets, and coloring pages.

We'll finish up Anatomy and then I'm thinking we may into Apologia's Botany program after that.  I know many Catholics are hesitant because of the Young Earth and Evangelical Protestant perspective in these books, but I read them aloud and can skip or explain things and I do like the Christian perspective when considering God's hand in creating all the amazing things that we learn about in science.  Steven Joseph will listen in on the girls' science, but won't have a formal program.  They'll all do some nature study at our St. Francis Nature Club.

This year the girls used Map Skills for Today books.  I'm not overly opinionated about Geography but I do like the kids to work through a book throughout the year.  MODG recommends the Abeka Geography that goes with their History (Our American Heritage) for 2nd grade, so I will probably use that for Ellie.  For 5th grade they recommend "The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide" which looks interesting but includes a lot of printables and games, and I'm not sure I'll be up for that this year.  I may just move into the next level of Map Skills for Today for her.

Both girls will continue with ballet training, probably twice weekly.  They'll likely participate in the Nutcracker Ballet again, too.  Ellie will keep up with her piano lessons, and Mary Clare will probably continue the church choir with me (Ellie comes too but doesn't really sing).  I'll be helping with the Fine Arts in our twice-monthly co-op, where I'm planning to use the program Artistic Pursuits.  We may do some of that at home too.  I'd like to purchase some more Music Masters CDs for music appreciation.  They'll do some nature study and artwork at our monthly Nature Club as well.

Mary Clare has almost finished the Prima Latina Latin book from last year, and I am planning on doing Latina Christiana with her this coming year.  She's not looking forward to more Latin, though, so I'll need to really promote this program and its importance!  I've always wanted to do the Rosetta Stone Spanish program with the kids, but it has never quite fit in the budget.  Maybe we'll be able to fit it in sometime later this school year. 

The kids will learn some poetry, along with Latin songs and prayers in their co-op, but I hope to do some of this at home, too.  And the girls will learn some Latin chant in our church choir. 

I'm always grateful to finish another year of homeschooling with the knowledge that our kids are gaining academic knowledge as well as good social skills and family relationships.  We are learning together as a family as we hope to help each other reach Heaven.  This summer has been a time of recognition for me about various aspects of the childrens' formation that has been enhanced by our homeschool.  Each of them excel in different areas and have challenges in other areas, and we all have discipline issues to work on (me most of all!).  But I'm confident that this is where we are called to be right now, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve my family in this way, on the good days and the bad.  Thanks be to God!

Monday, July 22, 2013

It Takes a Village

I'm going to try to take up the challenge of Jen at Conversion Diary to blog every day for a week.  I have a lot of thoughts running through my head (not all about pregnancy!), and would also like to do a review of our homeschooling year and a plan for next year.

Today Jen has written a beautiful piece called How we built our village about the amazing community that she and her husband have surrounding them to support their growing family.  They have grandparents and babysitters, good friends, a close-knit Catholic parish, as well as a thriving community of Religious Sisters nearby.  It is admittedly an ideal situation in which to raise a large homeschooling family, and brings about a host of thoughts as to how others might or might not be able to replicate something similar for themselves.

I know some people who've been successful at this, or are in the process of making it a reality.  I had some acquaintances here in our new city who had bought land a few years ago in a thriving community around a Catholic college in Virginia.  They have great parishes, homeschooling groups, Catholic schools, and part-time cottage schools/homeschool academies nearby.  They just left to go start their life there after leaving his military career.

We also have friends who bought acreage in the country and moved overseas for a few years to save up to build their dream home and farm.  Now they are living the farm life and are looking at the possibility of grandparents living in a home and acreage next door, and they have another family member with young children hoping to eventually move out there, too.  They've been able to find a Catholic homeschool co-op at their lovely historical church, sports opportunities, and even inexpensive and ideal music lessons there, even though those weren't part of the discernment of choosing that land out in the country years ago.

Steven's side of the family has some of this community aspect.  He's the youngest of seven children, and as of this month, five of his siblings and their families live in Houston.  Four of his sisters live within a few blocks of his parents.  His parents ended up buying a home just four houses down from his sister who was having triplets!  And another sister moved to the neighborhood at the same time, partly to help with the babies.  Although most everyone works full-time, they are all close-by to support each other and help when someone is in need.

Reading and reflecting on those who have this network of friends and family nearby admittedly makes me envious and discontent with where we are now.  I miss having our close network of homeschooling friends so close by, my parents within 25 minutes, and Steven's family about 45 minutes away.  We have a great parish here that is small and close-knit.  Families step in to help each other often.  But we don't have our family or a support network of friends like I'm used to.

We've been here about a year and a half, but I still don't feel like we fit in.  Some of our friends have close family living nearby and have support from them.  Others have large families and don't seem to have the time to foster new friendship.  None have children right at similar ages as ours.  Others are "in the trenches" just like us,  and we can help each other a little bit.  But I don't share interests with many other moms, and we don't have a history like my friends back home.  I'm trying to work on this, I really am.  But I also think God has just been asking us to focus internally right now.  To spend our efforts on our own home life and re-focus our priorities.  But I miss those mom's nights, those great talks with the ballet moms, our fun homeschool group events, that reverent Latin Mass, those visits to play with cousins, and those meals and outings with my parents. 

I think it's beautiful when you can find our make that wonderful community life for your family.  But I also think it's not practical for everyone.  Some may be military families who move a lot.  Some may need to pursue employment opportunities away from their family and ideal community, for the greater good of their family.  Some may have extended family with their own host of issues and dysfunction that isn't really healthy to have the children around on a regular basis.

But it does seem like a good idea to have a vision for your family life and make little steps to get there.  Maybe we'll never have both grandparents within blocks of us, or a vibrant and faithful Catholic parish a few minutes away.  Maybe we won't have that supportive homeschooling community where we live, or the city resources we'd like to take advantage of.  But if we make sure we have some kind of local support, it can ease a lot of the burden on isolated moms.  Even when we lived near friends and family, I struggled greatly during my pregnancy with Thomas.  My saving grace was our biweekly housekeeper.  Just taking that off of my to-do list made a huge difference in my mental well-being.

I have a dear friend who is very good at knowing her limits and when she needs extra help.  She often hires teens or young adults to come and help with her children throughout the week.  She challenged me to figure out how I'm going to handle the coming year, and figure out what help I'll need for myself.  If we are blessed with a continued pregnancy, and Steven continues to travel often, and we continue to live here, how can I make sure I have the support I need to be a happy mom?  I'm not sure I know the answer right now, but I do know I need to pray about it.

What do you love most about your current community?  What is something you dream about having in the future?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What I Wore Sunday

Happy Anniversary to us!  12 years today!  

This is one of my favorite dresses.  Well, one of my only dresses.  I think I only have about 3 dresses in all, since I'm generally breastfeeding, and dresses don't work so well with that.  I rarely wear this kind of fabric dress or skirt here, because we have quite a coastal breeze that tends to make short, flowy dresses fly around.

(iPhone photography by Mary Clare)

But it worked for today, and I survived choir practice and mass and a little bit of visiting with church friends, which was good for my soul.  Now I'm exhausted, and Steven still has that nasty sore throat illness, so hopefully we'll still be up for an anniversary outing this evening.  I'm needing some sand and sun...we'll see if the weather cooperates! 

Find more Sunday outfits over at Fine Linen and Purple!
What I Wore Sunday linkup

Friday, July 19, 2013

Early Pregnancy Musings

aka "A long whine"
aka "No reason for worrying grandmas to read this rambling post"

So my life has changed dramatically in the past two weeks.  There's a new little soul with us and for that we are so grateful. But the early excitement about the new baby was quickly overshadowed by fears about his or her health.  I was on a weight loss kick, was sick with tonsillitis, took 2 different antibiotics, many doses of Tylenol/Advil, wasn't taking pre-natal vitamins, and had an ultrasound to check on a concerning pain all in the very early days of pregnancy.  Then I had a dropping progesterone level and it took nearly 2 weeks to get the bloodwork, get results, get into a doctor, and finally get the medicine.  What a whirlwind!

Now I'm in the waiting period, hoping we can see that tiny heartbeat on ultrasound this week, so I can breathe a little sigh of relief. But then will come a host of decisions relating to doctor choices and delivery locations. I'm honestly scared out of my mind. I think it's a mix of the early pregnancy hormones combined with the extra hormone supplements I'm now getting that are making me feel incapable of much more than resting in bed all day. Pregnancy is a time when I usually feel very vulnerable and scared as I have faced 4 pretty traumatic deliveries. This last time with Thomas was a bit better than the others since I didn't go through an entire labor before I ended up on the operating table. But it was still scary in other ways as it was my earliest delivery and I was the most coherent since I wasn't exhausted at 10cm when they started the surgery!  Cesarean deliveries are no walk in the park, I mean who really wants to be awake while you're having major abdominal surgery? And living several hours away from my trusted doctor, close friends, and all of our family adds another level of stress to the mix. 

As you can tell, I have a lot of emotional baggage relating to delivering my babies, and now with each subsequent pregnancy I have a higher risk status during pregnancy and delivery, too. The fear has set in and I'm hoping that each day I can gain a little more confidence and hope. If I can focus on the best part of all of this, the baby, I will be a lot less anxious. Once my babies are here, things get so much better. Newborn care is usually a breeze for me. I've had easy breastfeeding experiences and am not all that affected by the lack of sleep. I've always said I would love to just care for tiny newborns every day. They're so innocent and easy!

These days of struggles and worries are nothing compared to the joy that comes from adding another precious child to our family. And I know God will give me the grace to handle whatever comes my way in the coming weeks and months. I ask your prayers, too, for the health of the baby and me, as well as the confidence to handle this pregnancy and delivery with grace and hope. Thank you for all the congratulations and prayers thus far. We are truly grateful!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

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

Before we went out of town, I hosted two informational meetings for the new homeschool co-op, and then we had overnight visitors.  It felt good to get the house cleaned up with so many visitors and guests between May and early July!  I'm not sure if I've posted a pic of our bedroom with my new cute little throw pillow.  It's all about colorful poppies!  I think I was also hoping to add these to Theme Thursday at Clan Donaldson last week since the theme was "rooms."

And here's the clean-ish living room ready for the guests.

kids and books being silly and happy

Little man only likes his picture taken when he asks.  And especially not when he's throwing a fit.

Also, funny right now because it's so frustrating...
I have taken part in about THIRTEEN phone calls relating to the ONE prescription I'm trying to pick up today!  Seriously, this shouldn't be so complicated.  Except that initially they wanted me to get the medicine at a compounding pharmacy which doesn't take insurance.  Then the regular pharmacy said it wasn't covered.  Then the insurance company said that it would be covered with pre-authorization.  Then we realized pre-authorization takes up to 2 weeks.  Then they switched the prescription.  Then the pharmacy said they didn't get it.  Then the NP said she sent it.  Then they actually did get it, but needed to fill it.  Oh but let's see if we actually have it.  NO.  Then I plead that I'm just trying not to MISCARRY MY BABY, and then she offers to call every pharmacy in town.  Then she calls back and found a place that has it.  Then I call them, and they have received it but need to fill it.  And it's way across town.  And Daddy is on a "work" (fishing) trip.  And so I'm about to venture out with the kids just HOPING and PRAYING they have this medicine ready and I only have to pay the co-pay amount and not the hundreds of dollars it actually costs.  Because we pay thousands and thousands in premiums and I don't want to pay out of pocket for medicines!  Thank God they gave me the medicine in shot-form yesterday, but I was supposed to have 2 doses today and I have yet to get any.


I'll end with some fun videos.  This first one is the girls' last day of summer ballet class, and the other is the firework show on the Woodlands Waterway for the 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Home Again, Home Again

We had a fabulous 11 days in Houston, so it's no wonder that we're all on a post-vacation low right now.  It doesn't help that I'm in the midst of trying to work through my doctor situation and am dealing with a concern about one of my bloodwork levels.  Please keep us in prayer.  I'll be seeing an OB here tomorrow and hopefully seeing a little heartbeat on ultrasound!  Normally we don't share our news this early, but one of the kids overheard me telling a nurse and started telling people without me realizing she knew!  Well, it's good to celebrate a little life regardless of how long it is, and to be covered in prayer during this vulnerable time for us.  Thank you.

The highlights of our week:

~4th of July Parade on Market Street, LaMadeleine lunch, visit to the pool, dinner at Goose's Acre, and Fireworks on the Waterway
~Finding out about a new little life on July 5th and having dinner with friends
~A little pizza party with the cousins and seeing the rest of Steven's side of the family on Saturday
~Sunday Mass with new pastor downtown, and farewell party for old pastor.  Pizza lunch and pool time
~Monday morning with friends while I had bloodwork done
~Frozen yogurt place and pool with my parents and some friends on Tuesday
~Meeting an old friend at the park on Weds morning who was visiting from out of state, then a last-minute pool party with another old friend.  Steven Joseph went to the pool again with my parents that evening!
~Thursday playdate with backyard water play and pizza with friends.  Then more bloodwork where the kids got lots of compliments on their behavior at the lab!  Went to mom's Charlotte Mason book club with old friends while my friend's husband watched the kids.  We stayed at their house that night.
~Friday morning watched horseback riding lessons for our friends, I took a lunchtime drive with Thomas, and then the kids all put on an adorable circus!  Then we went out to the farm and Daddy met us there that evening.
~A quiet Saturday at the farm
~Sunday downtown mass again, lunch with my parents, and then a visit with Steven's parents before driving back home!

And now I think I'll just do a photo dump, otherwise it will take me forever to get all the pictures up!

I've already shared some of these, but I'll just start at the beginning...

Got to Market Street Parade just after 9am after leaving home at 5am!

Culver's Frozen Custard.  Mmmm!  Should have gotten some of that while we were there.  Sounds really good right now!

I loved that the "Senior Living Residence" bus drove around with the parade.  All the old people were waving from inside!  Too cute!

And you just gotta love the Mr. Rooter float with the giant toilet!

Tommy wouldn't get close to the parade.

Cooling off afterwards.

Mary Clare and I shared a salad at LaMadeleine.

Then some pool time

Trying to find a restaurant without a 2hr wait


You can see the huge crowds down there by the fountains

It took us an hour to get on the highway because of all the traffic!

The next morning....

 Painting at friends' house that evening

A quiet sunny morning, time to clean up!

Did not want to leave the pool

Some shots for "Window" for my Facebook photography group

This kid.

Sprinkler time!


Silly boys

Tired boys

Me and my crew while meeting my friend at the park

Haven't seen her since college!

 He spotted this across the mall!


New Rainbow Loom cases from NeNe and PaPa

Cute 2yr olds.  He wanted me to take their picture!

Stringing beads around 11pm at a mom's book club

Watching the horseback lessons, he was enthralled.  "I'm gonna ride that one next!"

And we were so grateful they let them ride around twice.

Starting to cry because he didn't want to get off.  I had to go and pull him down!

The "NBC Circus!"

Out at the farm...
Gathering the kids for...

Gun safety lessons

and then they got a turn!

He fell asleep on the tile stairway

Lots of cards were played

And finally the sun set on the farm, and on our wonderful trip!

Even with 11 days there, we still didn't get to see everyone.  We spent most of the time with my parents, just hanging out and watching TV!  We had lots of fun, but lots of time to relax, too.  Thanks to all who put together fun events for us...dinners, and lunches, and playdates, and those who even watched the kids while I was getting labwork and attending the book club.  We are so blessed and we'll be back again soon!
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