A Little Update – 7QT

Goodness, it’s been so long. My blogging has really lacked in the past several months. Sorry about that. It’s not that I don’t want to blog. It’s that I also want/need to do so much other stuff! And then when I do sit down to write, the words don’t seem to come out the way I want them to these days. So anyway, blah blah… Here’s a little post about what we’ve been up to, with lots of photos, in Seven Quick Takes form.

ONE

Easter was wonderful. We were able to take the girls to Mass on Holy Thursday, evening service on Good Friday, and Mass on Easter Sunday (after an Easter egg hunt and resurrection rolls for breakfast). My husband and I sponsored RCIA candidates again this year, so we went to the Easter Vigil but didn’t take the girls to that one. I just love Holy Week. Love. It. I was so exhausted after all the late evening services and staying up until almost 1am after the Vigil to hide Easter eggs and baskets and run yarn from girls’ bedroom doors to their Easter baskets (I hide each girl’s basket and eggs in a different room so they aren’t fighting each other over the eggs, and the yarn on their door handle leads them to their baskets) that I didn’t blog it, in spite of wanting to, but here are a few photos:

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^Family foot washing after the Holy Thursday Mass^

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^Holy Saturday egg dyeing^

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TWO

I also lost my bid for Mother of the Year by neglecting to blog my youngest’s fourth birthday. It was the day after Easter, so I’m going to stick with the “man-I-was-exhausted-after-all-that” excuse. It was really fun though. We had a few friends over and it was laid back and easy and she had a great time. She wanted a Star Wars-themed party, so I bought a few decorations at Party City, used up some leftover plates from Miss’s Star Wars birthday party, found some fun light up foam “light sabers” on Amazon, and it was good.

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^She got all goofy when we sang “Happy Birthday” to her^

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THREE

School has been going well. We’ve almost completely ditched the boxed curriculum that we purchased for the year (I’ll write a post soon about what we’re going to switch to for next year), but we seem to have found a good groove and we’re working it.

FOUR

We recently spent a week visiting my parents in Kentucky. The weather was kind of chilly there, but it was fabulous compared with the way-too-cold-for-April temps that were happening up here, along with snow. So we took advantage and had a great visit, complete with lots of antiquing and girls’ lunching.

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^At the Jefferson Davis Monument^

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FIVE

Baby Boy seems to be gestating quite well. He is measuring on the big side, and I seem to be on the large side too. The drop-jawed stares I get when I tell people I still have six weeks until my due date are kind of comical. This has been occurring for many weeks already, and I really don’t take offense. I know I look like I’m about to go into labor any minute. People don’t mean anything by it. Even my dear, wonderful husband lovingly informs me that I’m “freakishly big” on occasion.

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^At 30 weeks^

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I have been gradually getting things ready in the baby’s room. Since all my girls were born after their due dates, I think I’ve been mentally disregarding the possibility that this baby will be here before May 31st, but in the last few weeks I’ve started feeling like I really need to get going to finish the last few things that need to be done before he arrives. I have my fabric, washed and ready to make crib sheets with, and I’ve been getting his clothes washed and diapers ready to go. I’m almost there. I even started packing my hospital bag the other day. It’s a little surreal to think that we’ll have a newborn again in a few weeks!

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^Fabric for crib sheets^

SIX

We have been embracing our sudden and glorious spring for the past few days. Our new backyard has so much to do and explore. My husband has been cutting tons of wood, but I think we have convinced him to leave a few of these huge rounds from the tree he cut down for playing. I may have coached the girls on telling their daddy that they really like to play on them, and could he please not cut them up? This ain’t my first rodeo.

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SEVEN

There have been some great field trips lately in our little school. Most recently we went to a local art museum where the Godmother works. She is The One Who Knows All Things Art, and even though she wasn’t working on Friday when I planned to take the girls to see a watercolor exhibit, she came and met us there and it was so fantastic! I think the exhibit would have been great either way, but it was infinitely better with her there to tell us all her cool tidbits about the watercolor artist, the paintings, and the rest of the art throughout the historic museum. The girls were begging to do some watercolor painting, so I threw in a watercolor lesson yesterday morning.

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And coming very soon is the last of our girls’ road trip field trips for a while. We have been to Chicago and Louisville so far, and this week we’re going to Minneapolis. I’m so, so, so excited because we will be getting together with dear Nell and her littles, as well as going to the aquarium at the Mall of America, the science center, and possibly even making my very first ever trip to IKEA. Hopefully I’ll get in a quick post about it, but if not, I’m sure I’ll share at least a few pics on Instagram.

So, there you go. Seven Quick Takes, better late than never! Check out the rest over at Kelly’s.

Country Living

I’ve mentioned before that I was raised a definite city girl. My Dad is kinda country, and so I grew up knowing a little about camping and fishing, and had a dead animal hung in my garage for a few days each fall (which I think gives me some major country cred, if there is such a thing). But overall, growing up in a suburb of Detroit left me pretty citified.

My husband, on the other hand, is a born and bred country boy. I think he has been longing to live in the country forever, and now that we’re out here, he’s like a pig in slop. Me? Let’s just say, it’s growing on me.

Country living is pretty different. We have satellite internet out here and no more TV (which has actually worked out just fine). My husband went out back a few weeks ago and chopped up an old tree so we would have some fire wood. Now we have mornings like this:

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We’ve even been doing our morning homeschool reading in front of the fire.

It’s so quiet and peaceful here. And dark. Man at night it gets dark here!!

This is my view out my bedroom window every morning (though usually not so gloomy):

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The girls and I have watched eight turkeys walking across in front of those trees back there, and I’ve seen a coyote heading into those same trees.

Today a stray dog wandered into our yard and just hung out on my back patio for the better part of four hours while I tried to track down someone to come and get him (and while my own dogs howled from their kennel, because I wouldn’t let them out while the stray was here).

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Country government moves a bit slowly, for sure. I had to call the town chairman at his house and he wasn’t home. His wife said she’d have him call me, and when he finally did he gave me the home phone number of the town dog catcher. I was surprised, and pleased, that the “dog catcher” was a little old lady who has her own set up for taking in lost and/or stray dogs.

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It’s kind of nice having no visible neighbors, but a bit isolating too. I mentioned in an earlier post that we really aren’t that much farther away from most of the places we frequent, but somehow I feel like I’m so much farther from everything and everyone.

I suppose I’m just getting used to this new normal.

It really is so amazing here. I feel like I need to start canning and chasing chickens around or something. I guess that will come soon enough once we plant our garden and get chickens in the spring. Before you know it I’ll end up just like Ma Ingalls.

Country living indeed.

 

Answer Me This – Summer!

For the summer, Kendra is back with her Answer Me This link up. Yay!

Here are her questions, and my answers:

1. Any big plans for the summer?

We’re putting our house on the market, and building a new house. That’s pretty big.

Also, I’m going to Edel, with Super Friend! That’s definitely big.

And we’re going to a wedding at the beginning of August, where I will be singing many songs for the reception afterward, along with the band that consists of my husband, his brother, two of his cousins, and a family friend. Big.

Other than that, we’re at the Farm for the rest of this week, we’ll be going to the pool a lot, the girls have a few weeks of YMCA camp, and we’ll be soaking in the gloriousness of summer in Wisconsin.

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2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

Well, I think I’ve mentioned before that I had an imaginary friend named Banny. At some point in my childhood, I guess I no longer felt the need to have Banny around. My explanation for his departure was that I accidentally killed him by jumping on my bed without realizing he was taking a nap between my mattress and box spring (which was where he slept?). You’d think this would have been traumatic for me, but it wasn’t at all. Perhaps I should be disturbed by that, but I’m not at all.

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride? (can be a specific one at a specific park or just a type of ride)

When I was a kid, I used to go to an amusement park called Boblo Island.

 

They had a ferris-wheel-type ride there that I don’t remember the name of. As I recall, it started out flat on the ground and you got into these little cars that started to rotate around the wheel and rise up off the ground. It went very fast, and in addition to that, there was a steering wheel inside the car that you could turn as fast as you wanted to make your individual car spin around. It was my favorite ever.

Beyond that, I always like pretty much all roller coasters and fast rides.

4. What’s on your summer reading list?

Surprisingly, I don’t actually have a summer reading list this year. Right now I’m finishing Confessions by St. Augustine.

After that, I think I’ll read Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us and A Dark Lure, which are on my Kindle waiting to be read (the latter of those was a free download). I also have a lot of other books at home that I want to read, like 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, St. Rita of Cascia, The Heart of Motherhood: Finding Holiness in the Catholic Home, and Therese, Faustina, and Bernadette: Three Saints Who Challenged my Faith, Gave Me Hope, and Taught Me How to Love

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

Yes, on a plane. I don’t think anywhere else.

6. What is your favorite smell?

New baby. And a very close second is newly baptized baby/chrism oil.

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That’s it for this week.

You can see Kendra’s answers to these and check out others’ posts/answers here.

 

On Becoming a Runner. Again.

My husband came to visit me once when I was in graduate school, in the very early days of our courtship. That was back when I used to smoke, and stay up until three or four every night, and hit the bar scene hard, and sleep until noon most days, and so forth. At one point during his visit to my apartment, he got himself dressed in exercise garb and said he was going for a run. I blinked a few times at him while I took in such a foreign notion, and then told him to have fun while waving and lighting up a cigarette from my spot on my couch.

A few years later, I went to DC with him and cheered him on while he ran his first marathon. It was such an exciting event, and I decided I wanted to run a marathon myself.

So I did. Twice.

We did the Grandma’s Marathon in the summer of 2007

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Standing in Lake Superior after the race made our feet and legs feel so good!

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It was really cold.

And we did the Disney World Marathon in January 2008.

I did not much enjoy the Disney World Marathon, so after doing it I decided to take a break from running for a while. I had no idea it would be for over seven years.

Within five months after the DWM, Ben and I got married, and then I got pregnant. I then ended up being pregnant and/or nursing for the next five years, and though my husband has continued to run various events, during that time running just wasn’t on my radar. I had zero interest in it. I was focusing more on survival than on going out for an “invigorating” run when someone was available to watch my kids for me.

After I weaned Sis, I started to toy with the idea of running again. But it was really hard to get back into shape after my third baby in so many years, and I just couldn’t seem to get myself in gear to do it.

I even made a specific goal for 2014 to run some sort of event. Even if it was just a 5K, I wanted to do something. And then I got pregnant. And then I lost that baby. I had gained a lot of weight during that brief pregnancy, and I just lost all motivation to think about races, and training, and running in general.

Actually, if I’m really honest, for the past two years I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a run but not going through with it  in part because of thinking, “But what if I get pregnant?” I’ve been avoiding signing up for any sort of race because of this possibility. Registering for such a long race is a bit of a commitment, and I kept thinking maybe and what if? and this could change things.

Well. A few months ago, my husband told me he wanted to run the Dam to Dam Half Marathon again in his home town area of Des Moines. He challenged all of his siblings to run the race with him, and he casually mentioned that perhaps I’d like to do it too.

I debated. I thought (again) about the what if? of potentially becoming pregnant. I told myself I wouldn’t have time to train because of the girls. I thought about the logistics of the race day and how it might be difficult to have someone take care of our girls and our dogs while we ran the race.

And then I decided to stop making excuses.

I realized that, if I did get pregnant, I would only be out fifty bucks or so for the entry fee. And that would not be a big deal.

I acknowledged that I wouldn’t be able to spend hours running every day like I used to. And then I decided that I could commit to doing enough. I knew that might not get in lots of long training runs (the longest I managed to do was seven miles), but I would still be able to train enough to finish the run.

I reminded myself that, of course my in laws would help with the girls and the dogs and it would be fine.

So I signed up for the run. And then I started running.

The majority of my runs were only about two or three miles, because that’s about as much as I could stand to do on my treadmill at one time. I did one four, one six, and one seven mile run (all outside). I did CrossFit to help strengthen my muscles and get my lungs in shape.

I knew I would be able to finish the race, though I would probably be slow and it would likely be painful.

And I did. And I was. And it was.

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It was hard and it was painful, but it was also fun and very, very rewarding, just like my first two marathons.

This time, I had a few new strategies for getting through. Throughout the two and a half hours I was running (yes, it took me that long to run 13.1 miles, I got passed by a speed walker at one point), I focused intently on the fun of the experience and the beauty of the run and the people around me. I laughed at the antics of some of the other runners. I said “Thank you!” to the spectators. I offered up every ache and pain that I could (the stitch in my side, the ache in my thighs because I did too much of a squat workout three days before the run, the blister forming on my left foot, the pebble in my shoe for six miles, etc.). And I thought every. step. of the way. about my girls waiting for me at the finish line.

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Maybe at some point, I can use my running as an example to them of how we can do hard things and have fun doing them. Or of how it’s okay to do something for the simple joy of accomplishment. Or how you can have fun doing something and not feel embarrassed even when you aren’t the best or fastest at doing it (did I mention I got passed by a speed walker??).

After I completed the run, they all asked me if they can run with me when they get bigger. And that’s the best motivation I could ever have.

Why Fog Reminds Me of Prison

This morning it was foggy. Fog always makes me think of when I used to work in prison. “Why?” you ask. Because every time it was foggy when I drove to the prison where I worked as a psychologist for three years, I knew my day’s schedule would be shot, since I would have to start out the morning on fog watch.

Almost a decade later, and fog still makes me think of fog watch.

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During the first few years of my “time” in prison, fog watch annoyed me, because it threw off my carefully planned (though frequently derailed) schedule for the day. I had appointments to keep. Inmates to meet with. Interviews to conduct. Interns to supervise. Rounds to get done.

I didn’t get overtime, and I had a lot I was supposed to accomplish in a 40-hour week. It was stressful, and fog watch messed with my cram-packed calendar.

But after the first few years, I grew to kind of welcome fog watch. Sometimes anyway. Fog watch meant that for that morning, I didn’t have to meet with the inmate who was going to complain about his housing assignment. I didn’t have to see the inmate who was extra needy or the one who was extra angry or the one who was extra demanding. I’d probably have to find time in my over-planned day to meet with those inmates later, but for the morning, until the fog cleared, I had a reprieve.

Many, many times, I’ve been asked what it was like to be a prison psychologist. I have been asked more times than I can count what a typical day was like when I worked in prison. I never had an answer for that question, because there was no such thing as a “typical” day. When I walked onto the compound every day, regardless of what I had written down in my very detailed daily planner, I never really knew what was going to happen.

I’ll give you some examples of things that did happen, with the disclaimer that these are either composites of events or very vague descriptions, not any one specific event in any detail (so I won’t break confidentiality).

In the four different prisons where I worked, I dealt mostly with medium- and high-security inmates. Most days I spent a lot of time just checking in with mentally ill inmates. I assessed mental status and medication compliance and side effects. I handled lots of complaints and requests for changes in housing or job assignments (which I almost never intervened in). I frequently assessed risk for suicide. I did individual and group therapy. I made attempts to make life better for the inmates I worked with in the small ways that I could.

Lots of people have asked me how and where I met with inmates, assuming I always had bars or a door between myself and the offender. In some cases, I did speak to inmates either through the doors of their cells if they were in segregation (the housing unit where inmates are placed in cells alone and locked in for 23 hours per day) or, with especially high security inmates, in a special divided cell with a barred door between him and me. But the vast majority of the time, I simply scheduled an appointment with the inmate and he came to my office. There was a window in my office door and special, well-known procedures in place for me to call for help if I needed to. I never did (other than on one occasion, described below).

I did, however, fairly frequently have to respond to a fellow staff member’s call for help. Whenever another prison employee was in some sort of trouble or if there was a disturbance, all available people in the prison stopped whatever they were doing and ran to the place of the problem to help. I did this many times.

I was often called to segregation to speak to an inmate who wasn’t cooperating with the correctional staff, either by refusing to “cuff up” (place hands in front of the food-tray opening in the door and submit to being placed in handcuffs), refusing to give up some contraband item, or otherwise wreaking havoc. Sometimes the inmate was threatening to hurt himself. Sometimes he was breaking things or flooding his cell. Sometimes I was able to convince an inmate to comply. Sometimes the correctional staff had to “suit up” and go into an inmate’s cell using force (this was rare in the prison where I spent most of my years, though fairly common in some places I worked).

On more than one occasion, I was contacted and asked to come to the segregated housing unit where there was an inmate who had smeared his own feces on the wall of his cell. Sometimes the inmates who did this were mentally ill. Sometimes they weren’t. Often when they weren’t, they were trying to convince someone that they were. Sometimes I could get the inmates to clean up, or at least to come out of the cell so it could be cleaned. Sometimes I couldn’t, and then the officers had to decide whether they wanted to deal with the smell until the inmate couldn’t stand it anymore, or whether they wanted to go into the mess and pull the inmate out. Ew.

Another common question I get is about whether I was ever afraid. The answer is yes, but rarely. On a few occasions I had to speak with very mentally ill inmates or very angry inmates, without the benefit of a locked door to shield myself. Of course, most mentally ill individuals are not violent, but in a few cases I had to deal with guys I knew did have a history of violence when not taking medication. And a couple of times I came face to face with inmates who were very angry with me and ready to show it. Fortunately I was always able to extricate myself safely, in one case calling on an officer who I knew was standing right outside the door, before the inmate could get to me.

Ugh. It makes me feel a little ill just writing about it.

After the first few years, I was burned out on prison. I had been lied to, cursed at, stolen from, and nearly attacked, all by men whom I had sincerely been trying to help. A job I had initially found to be exciting and challenging was no longer the least bit enjoyable. I developed insomnia and lost a ton of weight from being stressed. I nearly wept every Sunday, knowing I had to go back “inside” the next day. After many months of planning, a fellow psychologist and I left to start a private practice, and it truly felt like we were getting out of prison!

Leaving prison work was one of the best career moves I ever made, second only to leaving work entirely to stay home with my kids. I no longer identify myself as a prison psychologist, or a forensic psychologist, or really even as any kind of psychologist anymore. But lots of people still ask me what it was like to work in prison.

I didn’t intend for my answer to the question to be a big downer! I do have some good memories of my years in the “joint.” I think I did really help some inmates, and I met some good people whom I worked with.

That job obviously wasn’t the most enjoyable one I’ve had. It wasn’t even the hardest one. My current job holds both of those distinctions.

Lent, Two Weeks In

This year is my second Lent. I love Lent.

It helps me learn about myself. It intensifies my faith. It makes me more humble.

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So far his year, I’m doing a lot of reading and reflecting and praying every morning.

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I gave up Facebook, which has been surprisingly not hard. I don’t really miss it, except for the interactions with blog readers. I suspect a lot of people come to this little site from my Facebook page, and I like getting comments over there. I also like seeing other bloggers’ Facebook comments and interacting that way. I miss the occasional fun updates from friends and family, but other than that, I think I just wasted a lot of time on Facebook. I tended to look at it out of habit or boredom more than anything, so I don’t really mind not having it.

That said, I’d like to add that Facebook is a wily temptress. I logged out of my account on Ash Wednesday eve, but I did not think to turn off notifications. So I keep getting emails with subject lines like, “Motherhood and Miscellany fans want to hear from you!” or “You have 39 notifications, 27 friend updates, 12 messages, and 2 pokes.” (What in the world is a “poke”?) I haven’t opened any of the emails, but they keep on coming, almost every day. Dear Facebook, I will not be led astray.

My other big penance is that I am not spending money on things other than food and gas (and babysitting). This seems so simple, but I have learned that I have a tendency to spend way more money than what is necessary, on a regular basis. For example, the first time I went to Target after the start of Lent, I got the things on my list (all grocery/pharmacy items), and then I noticed myself beginning to veer off to something else, probably in the crafting, school supplies, or kid’s clothing sections. I didn’t need anything else, but it is such a habit to just grab other things that would be nice to have or that I might need later. I do the same thing on Amazon and at places like Hobby Lobby. I’m really quite embarrassed about this now that I realize I was doing it (talk about a large dose of humility!).

Another part of my not spending money unnecessarily and trying to simplify things during Lent is that I have been making myself clean out the foods in my pantry and freezer whenever possible, instead of buying other pantry foods at the store. My kids are eating whatever is in the cupboards for snacks and lunch side items. I made chili last week and we were out of saltines. I started to go down the cracker aisle at the grocery store when I remembered that we had lots of other kinds of crackers in the pantry. So I served chili with Cheez-Its, Breton whole grain, and round sesame crackers. No one even seemed to care. Check out the before and two-week shots of my pantry:

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So far Lent has been so beneficial for me. I’m paying more attention to the ways I have tended to spend my time and money, and why. It’s been quite a learning experience, and I’m able to invest my efforts on more important things instead, like prayer and service and almsgiving.

How has Lent been for you??

 

 

 

 

What’s in My Bag?

I don’t need a diaper bag anymore. But I do love a pretty and functional handbag. Nell is hosting a link up/giveaway today for a Lily Jade bag, which is probably much too big for my needs, but you never know. Maybe someday. . .

Sooooo,

What's in my bag

 

Aren’t you just so interested?

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Ready?

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Prepare to be dazzled:

  • Carpet samples for our basement
  • A pack of hand wipes
  • Some paint sample cards
  • A pack of tissues
  • Two lipsticks (why??? I don’t even wear lipstick)
  • Lotion
  • Two rosaries (the silver one is mine from my husband, the blue one was given to the girls by a nice lady at church on Sunday)
  • A bunch of paper = receipts, coupons, and a coloring picture from Sis’s gymnastics class on Tuesday
  • More paper (pink) = three copies of the Children’s Worship Bulletin from church on Sunday
  • A business card from a car salesman
  • My wallet
  • A Decision Point CD that our priest gave me yesterday

I would just like to note that all of the paper items went straight into the recycling after this little exercise.

Want to play along and try to win a bag? You don’t even have to have a blog, you can use an Instagram or a Facebook pic. Check out Nell’s bag and the link up here, and check out more Lily Jade here.

Good luck! (notreallyIwantthatbag)

The Kindergarten Birthday Party Dilemma

Miss’s sixth birthday is in about two weeks. I’ve been thinking about what to do for her party for weeks. Okay, months.

There are so many different philosophies out there about how to handle kids’ birthdays and birthday parties. They range from family-only small gatherings with no presents to all-out huge bashes with party planners and dozens of guests (and gifts).

Of course, there’s not just one right way to do it. We’ve never really set a firm birthday policy in our house, but mostly just determined, with each birthday, what seems like the best thing to do. When Miss was little, since we always have a trip to Iowa planned on or around her birthday, we’d just do the family-only party, and she was always thrilled with that. In fact, last year, for her fifth birthday, was the first time we’d ever done anything beyond the family birthday party for her by having a gathering at our house. She had a Brave-themed drive-in movie party, and it was really fun.

I’ve discovered that I like putting together birthday parties for my girls. I enjoy getting into the theme and decorations when we have parties at our home. I like combing Pinterest for ideas and coming up with creative things myself. I know it’s not necessary for them, but I have fun doing it.

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As for the guests? For previous birthdays, I’ve never been in a situation where I felt the need to invite many other people to our parties. Until this year, our girls didn’t go to school, so there was never a question of inviting lots of kids. Except when we have parties in Iowa and invite all of my husband’s family, we never have more than two other families come to a birthday at our home. For Lass’s zoo party, only the Super Family could make it, and that was just fine.

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Since my girls didn’t attend school, I’ve never had to think too much about whom to invite, and my girls have never felt that their parties were anything but wonderful with the few close friends we included.

But now, with Miss having part-time-away-from-home kindergarten this year, things have changed. She has been invited to the birthday parties of at least five of her classmates so far. For all but one of them, all of the little girls in her class were invited (and one even had all the boys too!). I have mixed feelings about having a huge party, so I’ve spent far to much time debating what we should do for her birthday this year.

Do we invite all the girls in her class? This seems a nice way to go so that no one feels left out, but that’s a lot of kids. She has 11 other girls in her class, plus we will always of course invite the Super Family, along with the sisters of one of the little girls in her class whose family we are friends with. And she also wants to invite the little girl who lives across the street. Lots of kids = lots of presents, which I feel kind of weird about.

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Do we keep it small and only invite a few friends? If we did this, there would be a few more people invited than we’ve done in the past, because she does have some new friends from school, but it would still be considerably smaller than if we invited all the girls in her class.

I went back and forth about this in my mind for quite some time. Initially, I thought we’d just invite a few close friends. Then I thought it was important to teach her to be kind to all the other kids and invite them all. Then I thought it’s unrealistic to tell her she needs to invite all the girls if she doesn’t want to, since she’s not going to be close friends with all of them, and she might not have much in common with some. Then I thought we should really invite all the kids who have invited us to their parties, since it’s rude to not reciprocate. Then my husband pointed out that she shouldn’t feel pressured to invite anyone if it’s only for the reason of reciprocating an invitation. . .

I worried about having a lot of kids because that means a lot of presents. I’m cool with birthday presents, because we pretty much only get our kids new toys on their birthdays and Christmas, and a few things on Easter. But I’m uncomfortable with them getting a lot of presents. If all of the girls in her class came to the party, plus the Super Family and the family across the street, that would mean she’d get about 13 presents, not even including those from her family! Not only do I not want that many more things in my house, that just seems so excessive to me. We went to one party where I watched the little birthday girl open present after present, announcing the contents of the package, and then literally tossing the gift aside to move on to the next one. There were barely any “thank yous,” and none that involved eye contact and sincerity. I was cringing inside the whole time.

So what will we do?

Ultimately, what we decided was to ask Miss what she wanted. I was kind of hoping she’d choose to have her party here at our house, so I could really have some fun with decorations, crafts, and games. But she chose to have it at the gymnastics center where she takes lessons (and she’s attended two other birthday parties in the past month). She wanted to ask all of the kids in her class. I told her she could only invite the girls (I could not handle the idea of that many more presents if all the boys came too). She chose, no surprise, a “Frozen” theme for the party.

For this year, this first year of school experience, I’ve decided I’m okay with the big party. The gifts make me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ll just make sure we have a discussion about the importance of saying “thank you,” making eye contact with the gift-giver, for each present. And of course we’ll have her take the time to write thank-you notes afterwards as well.

I know this isn’t the one “right” way to do a party. But after much (over)analysis of the issue, it feels like the right way for us this time. We’ll probably change things again next year, but for this year, a big birthday party is fine.

I still remember the birthday party I had when I was in kindergarten. It felt like a big deal.

I also remember that after that one party in kindergarten, I didn’t have big parties anymore. I had outings with a few close friends or cousins, or sleep-overs when I got a little older. Maybe that’s how we’ll do things after this year. I’m sure I’ll start thinking about it around October, so I’ll let you know.

12 Photos from 2014

I’m really enjoying all the end-of-the-year posts I’m seeing around the internet right now. I’d like to join in with another one. Dwija from House Unseen (Life Unscripted) has a yearly link up with 12 photos from the year.

12 in 2014

Photos? Yes please. Here we go.

January

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One of my goals for 2014 (which I failed miserably on, I’ll write more about that later) was to get back to having fun with cooking and trying new recipes. The first effort toward this goal was the above pictured attempt to make gnocchi from scratch. It wasn’t my first attempt at gnocchi (with the first one, the potatoes never got cooked through, and I had to abort the plan entirely in order to throw together something my people could actually eat). This was a better recipe, but I didn’t realize that by allowing the girls to help, we would be over-kneading the dough and making it into an ugly mess. The gnocchi were more like dumplings. Fail.

Shortly after that photo was taken, we experienced Flumaggedon, a different type of ugly mess. Happily, we rounded out the month of January with a trip to Florida to visit my Grandma, to enjoy the warm weather, and to go to Disney World.

February

February was a bunch more sickness and freezing cold, with a skiing trip and a five-year-old’s Brave-themed birthday party thrown in the mix to keep it from being too awful. I even made cars out of cardboard boxes for the party.

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Going through these photos and posts from last year is making me shudder for remembering all the sickness and COLD that kept us inside all winter long.

March

In March we began our first experience of observing Lent. I met the bishop, and we tried our parish’s fish fry (a lot). We were finally able to get outside, and the snow started to melt.

DSC_0141This girl ^^ turned two! (and I turned 38)

April

We spent a week with my parents, Damma and Tuppa as Sis calls them. We went through our first Holy Week. The big event was that I was received into full communion in the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass.

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^^ The water was really cold.

May

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We planted a garden, celebrated six years of wedded bliss, and visited my parents again.

June

June was a full, full month. We went to the Farm, I ran a 5K for SMA, we visited family in Minnesota, and I started my Baby Catholic Answers All the Things series (which I have neglected terribly recently, sorry!).

DSC_0182July

We had friends over for dinner, went to a 4th of July parade, and had our annual trip to the Dirty Weird Zoo. Super Friend and I went to Edel. And we broke ground on our new home!

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August 

Okay, I’ll be honest. July and August basically sucked. I tried my hardest to make it not suck, and we did have lots of fun raspberry picking, eating ice cream, cooking out with friends, and going to the Iowa State Fair. I got stuff ready to start our homeschool year and for Miss to start her part-time kindergarten. And then the big day happened. My big girl started school! And my sweet middle child turned four.

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September

Much better than July or August, September was full of homeschool field trips, soccer, hay rides, our first Michaelmas celebration, and of course, the Labor Day Party.

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October

We decided to get some puppies, played in leaves, had fun with my parents, and went on more field trips. I made cupcakes for Miss’s school Halloween party, we trick-or-treated, and had lots of fun outside during the height of my favorite season.

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Outdoor dance party ^^

November

Ah, November. November saw a sharp decline in my blogging (I only wrote five posts!!). Also in my everything-elsing. I went and got our sweet little puppies, and they have been sucking the life out of me ever since. They are good dogs, and I’m so happy we got them, but they aren’t quite house broken yet, so the hovering over them and taking them outside frequently has eaten into my time to do anything else. See? I can’t even remember what else we did in November!! Oh yeah, we went to the farm for deer hunting. We had an awesome Thanksgiving dinner with our friend-family (The Super Friends).

DSC_0166December

As usual, December was full of holiday fun and activities. I took the older girls to see The Nutcracker, we went to see Santa and met the Sugar Plum Fairy, and we’ve had lots of sicknesses, travels, and celebrating. We celebrated my husband’s birthday with our tradition of having the girls select gifts for him from the Dollar Tree. I promised to write about it, but then I got the stomach flu the day after his birthday. Here’s a precious shot of Sis giving love after he opened her gifts of a “bouncy ball,” a piggy bank, some scotch tape, and a pack of thumb tacks.

DSC_0022Lass selected a basket for collecting produce from our garden next year, a pack of pens, and a shower sponge. Miss’s gifts were a pair of scissors, a small mother-and-child figurine which she determined was Mary and Baby Jesus, and a pair of fuzzy orange (ladies) socks.

12 photos from 2014. I tried to select pics I haven’t posted before. It was fun to look back over the year in photos and posts. 2014 was a year of very high highs and very low lows. I’m looking forward to 2015.

Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading and particularly for sticking around through the past few months of minimal posting. I truly appreciate each of you. May you have many blessings in the new year!  

Diary of a Grammar Geek

I freely admit that I am a big nerd when it comes to my love of proper grammar. I can’t really help it. I just really like it. It makes me happy.

I don’t mean to say that I think I am always perfectly grammatically correct. I’m not, in either my writing or my speech. I tend to write this blog the way that I speak, so I know it doesn’t always make the A+ grade for grammar. Sometimes I use sentence fragments if it helps my flow. I often start a sentence with a conjunction, though I almost never end one with a preposition. And (see?) sometimes I say things like, “I’m good” in response to the question “How are you?” *gasp*

I think what makes me a grammar geek is that I actually care about things like the correct use of adverbs and adjectives. Even though I don’t always do it perfectly (see what I did there?), I am always trying to make my grammar correct. And I love learning new things about proper grammar. For example:

I bought a book recently called “It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences,” and it’s fascinating.

It was only just recently that I learned the rule about when to use “who” and when to use “whom.” I thought I knew it, but I had only understood part of it. I was so excited. Truly.

I kind of can’t wait until my kids are old enough for me to have them start diagramming sentences in our homeschool. It was one of my favorite things to do in English class.

See?

There are some things that drive me kind of nuts, like improper use of apostrophes.

Or lack of apostrophes when they should be there.

I mean, one of the reasons Super Friend and I are such good friends is because she knows when to type “you’re” and when to type “your” in a text or email.

Just kidding (sort of).

BUT, though I freely admit to being a nerd, I don’t consider myself to be a “grammar Nazi.”

I don’t ever correct someone’s grammar, punctuation, or spelling unless they specifically ask me to. Except in my head. And when I do it in my head, it’s not malicious. I just can’t help myself.

My thinking as I scroll through Facebook posts:

“‘Should have’, not ‘should of’.”

“‘Too funny’, not ‘to funny’.”

“‘Couldn’t care less’, not ‘could care less’.”

“Quotation marks do not mean emphasis.”

AND:

What’s my point? I don’t have one. I just like thinking about and writing about grammar. I do wish people would pay more attention to using it correctly. But I’m a nerd. Here’s a take home message if you want one:

Truth.

And even though some of this song is kind of mean spirited, I do enjoy this Weird Al Yankovic remake of “Blurred Lines.”