Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Craft challenged

Have I mentioned that I am completely challenged when it comes to arts and crafts?  I'm just not very good at them... they rarely turn out the way I intend, envision, or wish... most of the time they go into the garbage because I'm so disappointed!  I have been a little afraid of the time when my kids get to the age where they enjoy and want crafts... well - that time has arrived!

As "luck" would have it, I was put in charge of the Christmas craft for Karen's preschool party coming up on Friday.  Nothing like trial by fire to help you grow outside of your comfort zone!!  I have been perusing Pinterest all week in the hopes of finding the "perfect" craft to bring to the classroom on Friday. 

My current plan is to bring salt-dough ornaments for the kids to decorate.  I cringe revel at the thought... the mess fun! the imprecision joy of 10 preschoolers applying paint, glitter, decorations... (you can tell I don't have much experience just letting my kids do their own thing, type A control-freak personality here... I'm working on it!) ...  

I followed the recipe from Crystal at Little Bit Funky.

Salt-Dough Ornaments
4 cups Flour
1 cup Salt
1 1/2 cup warm Water

Mixed in my kitchen-aide mixer with my paddle attachment until the water was incorporated into all of the flour/salt mixture.  Changed to the dough hook and mixed for several minutes on medium until the dough was well kneaded and soft.

On a well floured surface, rolled to 1/4in thick (it was a little thicker in some places and thinner is better - the ornaments tended to puff up with the thicker dough).  Cooked at 325 for 1 hour.

It's hard to tell, but I used two different sizes of cookie cutters.  The first cookie sheet has smaller ornaments and the second set are bigger ornaments.

I am please and surprised with how well the cooked ornaments look.  Yay!  Here is my attempt at decorating a couple of them just to show a finished product.  I don't have any fun decorating stuff like glitter or shiny paint (or any paint for that matter)... so I used Sharpie markers... guess I might have to get over my craft-ineptness and get some supplies on hand!
 With the left over dough, I made three rounds and tried hand impression ornaments for the girls.  I'm trying to decide if I'm going to decorate them more

I'm trying to decide if I'm going to let the girls decorate theirs, or decorate them more myself, or make their hands into snowmen like this craft I found on Pinterest

Besides the ornaments, I have two back-up crafts that I might change my mind and do...

Snowman Pops

Making this wall hanging with more of a Christmas background or changing it slightly to make a Christmas Ornament

Monday, December 17, 2012

Called to Pray and called to act

As I'm sure it is with everyone, the events of Friday are still with me.  I am still hugging my kids tighter, still unable to wrap my heart around 20 little ones never coming home, still praying and wishing that I could do something.  

I was reminded this morning that God, in His infinite goodness, has the ability to draw good from this tragedy.  Not good that it happened, please don't misunderstand... but good from this point forward - and it starts with me, and you.  The graces He will and can unleash as a result of our prayers would overwhelm us if we understood the magnitude.  The families he will draw together in their sorrow.  The person led to conversion of heart because it was finally reached by these horrible acts.  We cannot know what good He will bring but must trust that He will.

Called to Pray - 

A priest friend of mine was commenting how sad that the name of the killer is known - but how little the names of the victims are mentioned.  His thought - find a list of the victims and pray a prayer specifically for each and every one and their families.  A good suggestion.  I would like to take his suggestion one step further. 

Starting today through Christmas Day are nine days.  Nine days of prayer makes up a novena.  I will pray specifically for each victim with a Hail Mary asking for her intercession for the comfort and consolation of their families each day through Christmas.  A novena of prayers for the victims - it's one of the few things that I can offer.  Maybe after nine days of saying their names I will remember them.  Will you join me?

Called to Act -

Mel at The Larson Lingo laid down a challenge in her blog today - 26 Random Acts of Kindness.  She will be attempting to accomplish this by Christmas.   We can all participate - even if it is not 26 or 27 acts ... one small act done with love accomplishes more than having done none at all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Little Bean!

My baby turned one on Saturday!  I cannot believe it has already been a year since Lauren, aka Little Bean, joined our family.  Time has gone way too fast!  I blinked and she went from newborn to toddler!

It was a busy weekend. We had planned to do Christmas shopping today, but looking at the weather realized that there was a huge storm coming in Saturday night through tonight.  So, at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon, we loaded up the kids to do our shopping. Luckily Lauren is to young to understand or care that her celebration was pushed back a day!  Her birthday dinner? Costco pizza at closing time... :)
We made up for our crazy day out with a fun day at home.  Carl's parents came over for dinner and his sister's family came over for cupcakes and ice cream.
Me and my girl!

She was pretty tickled to be sung to!

Very daintily eating her cupcake.

When you're the third, you don't get much space to open your own presents!

Friday, December 14, 2012


My heart was sick as I watched the news this afternoon.  I prattled on this morning about my "favorite" things little realizing the tragedy that had taken place.
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered ... I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. John 16:32-33
There are no words that express my horror or sorrow. The reality of 20 kindergartners never returning home to their parents is honestly more than my mind is willing to process. My daughter came home from preschool and all I've wanted to do today is sit and hold her.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
The only comfort I can find is in prayer... prayer for the families that don't have little ones at home with them tonight, prayer for all those students and teachers that are traumatized by this, prayer for the family and friends of the person responsible as they try to understand, prayer for the souls of those who died today...
Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.  Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:17-19
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord;
And let perpetual light shine upon them.

Buttery Sweet Chex Mix

I first had this recipe at a holiday party when I was a kid.  I don't remember who brought it but know that they shared the recipe because it has been a holiday staple for me ever since!

I didn't take any pictures of the process of making it because my brain has been a bit tired these days... but the recipe is worth sharing and easy enough!

Sweet Chex Mix
18oz box Golden Grahams
18oz box Chex (Corn, Rice, Bran, etc)
2cups Coconut Flakes
16oz Slivered Almonds
Mix together in a large bowl or cookie sheet.  I usually use my 18quart open roasting pan and spray it lightly with non-stick cooking spray before adding the ingredients.  I also usually buy a box of Corn Chex and a box of Rice Chex and use half of each.
1 1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 cups Light Karo Syrup
Boil to Soft Ball Stage (134degrees).  I use a candy thermometer because I've found that going under the 134 temp leads to soggy chex mix and going over, even by a little, leads to brittle mix.

Pour candied syrup over chex mixture and mix thoroughly.  Allow to cool and then gently break into chunks into serving bowl, holiday bags, etc.

My Favorite Things Friday

Since it 'tis the season and only twelve day left until Christmas... I thought I'd share twelve of my favorite things right now

1.  The reason for the season... Jesus!  I have several nativity sets and several statues of the Holy Family.  Here is my most recent addition that I picked at a gift exchange!
2.  The girls... ok, I know that they aren't "things" ... but how can they not be in my list!

3.  Carl... again, not a "thing" but how can he also not be in my list?! But in the interest of humor... how's this for a great picture? Taken this summer at Hoopfest...

4. My "new" jewelry. I had gotten out of the habit of wearing jewelry except my wedding ring. Last year about this time I went to a jewelry party and bought a few pieces. I've added to my collection since then. It is amazing how much better I feel, even if I'm just in jeans and a basic tee if I put on a pair of earrings... I feel like it looks like I made a bit of an effort.

5.  iPhone... love it! Email, Texting, Pictures, Music... all of it.
6.  I got Brooks Adrenaline shoes earlier this fall and have loved every run in them. They don't give me blisters on my arch like my Asics did.

7.  Sole treadmill... ok, I would take running outside over my treadmill any day of the week, but for the schedule I have right now with the three kids that just hasn't been happening and I am so THANKFUL to have this treadmill!

8.  My rosary - nothing brings as much peace as meditating on Jesus' mysteries while praying my rosary.  This is the rosary that Carl & I got while visiting Rome the year before we had Karen.

9.  Running skort - I only have one but wish I had more. I used to make fun of people when I saw them in running skirts, now I realize how comfortable it is!

10.  My new washer and dryer - we got this set for our basement. My first front loaders and I have loved them. I'm sure it will wear off, but I've been keeping up with the laundry better in the last month than I ever have!
11.  Christmas sweets... I made sweet chex mix and chocolate crackle snowflake cookies this week for my book club Christmas party. These aren't my only favorites, but they are the ones I currently have on hand... lol!! (recipes forthcoming!)
This chex mix has been the "death" of my healthy eating this week... It is so yummy I find myself snacking on it constantly!  I need to get back on my healthier eating band wagon!

12.  These books... in the last year these three books are hands down the best books I've read!
  • Fabiola - Cardinal Wiseman
  • Lay Siege to Heaven - Louis de Wohl
  •  The Family that overtook Christ - Fr. M. Raymond

A blessed Advent wish from my house to yours!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I've Been AWOL...

A dose of honesty... I'm struggling with my little blog.  I feel a bit adrift without a focus.  So I'm trying to figure out what I want to be saying instead of the random mish-mash that I've been doing. 

Don't get me wrong, I intend to continue to post snippets of life, but I would like them to be inter-mixed with a clearer purpose for why I spend my time here... This is necessary for me because I'm not the best at putting words to "paper"... I wish I had my sister's gift for doing this - but I don't. 

Anyway - I'm working on it, it is just slow.  Especially during this busy time of year.  I also find that a break from posting tends to lead to longer breaks from posting because I keep waiting for something "more interesting" to share when I start writing again... this is where a clearer purpose for my little space here would help.  Please bear with me - I'll get it figured out.  I promise it will be a change for the better.

In the meantime... a funny picture to share.  Christmas shopping today at Walmart - Carl and I stopped to look at some things and turned to find both of our girls making themselves comfortable on the floor watching a big screen that was playing "Brave"... they got lots of grins from passing shoppers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Playing Catchup - mostly {Wordless Wednesday}

Has it really been two weeks since I posted??  Wow... time goes by fast.  Well, to be honest, the last couple of weeks kicked my behind.  I had a terrible head cold that turned into bronchitis for starters. yuck!  My sister-in-law had some medical issues and so I as helping with some of her kids off and on for a few days.  Then, for several reasons, we decided to host Thanksgiving at our house for her family and Carl's Grandma. It was a fun time, but also my first time hosting and making Thanksgiving dinner... that is a lot of work!  Finally it was visiting with my folks who were in town for the holiday weekend. 

Life is just now starting to feel like it is returning to normal and I'm trying to catch back up!  I will post a recap of my Thanksgiving (hopefully tomorrow).  In the meantime... my wordless Wednesday picture... my new do!  I got a cut and color yesterday (it had been waaaayy to long!).  Am loving the fresh look!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My little Big girl {Wordless Wednesday}

I am fighting a cold (and losing) and have had little energy to think of anything interesting to share... But considering I think my kiddos are always interesting and worth sharing, here's one for Wordless Wednesday...

Karen's school picture... She is just so stinkin' cute!!!!  And she looks so grown up!!  I'm not ready for my little girl to look like a big girl!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Treadmill running with kids

Most of my workouts lately have been happening after kids go to bed.  I'm happy to be getting them done, but it has been taking a toll on my sleep quality.  I've been getting done with my workouts, on average about 9:30 ...

One of the things holding me back from exercising earlier was that I just have not been comfortable having my little ones around while I'm on the treadmill.  Over the course of the last couple of weeks, my two older ones have seen me on the treadmill and seem to understand that they need to stay back to be safe.  So, this week I attempted my workouts earlier in the day... here's what it looked like:
Thank goodness for all the baby clothes I have... those bins came in handy creating a barrier to keep Lauren back.  Karen and Megan had fun crawling on them.
Saying hello when I hopped off to do some pushups...

She might look happy, but she's actually screeching at me.  She was ready for me to be done.  

And in case you think that Karen wasn't around... she was.  I just have a hard time getting a picture of her as she doesn't like to stop and pose for me.  I was lucky to get this cute one of her!
Overall, I like getting my workouts done earlier.  It is more challenging in the sense that there is parenting and refereeing that "interrupts" my workouts, but teose were good challenges.  I like the idea of my girls seeing me workout and be healthy.  Hopefully it encourages them and plants some seeds for when they are older!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pray and Smile...

My heart is heavy and saddened by the outcome last night.  I have struggled all day for the words to share what is in my mind and heart.  Ultimately... I still don't have it.  I have not yet found the peace to share my thoughts with grace or charity... so they will wait.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a note from my Dad this morning that made me smile.  The subject was: Pray and Smile
It is not a good day for America but it is a good day for us. We are here and we are able to give God glory and praise and enjoy each other and look forward to the glory that Jess is having.  We will be ok, so I pray that all of you keep your head up and be proud of where you are spiritually in all of this. We will survive and will do ok. I know now that prayer is more needed than ever as we always knew. So smile and enjoy the day.
Love, Dad

I love my Dad!

It reminds me of the other things in my life that make me smile...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I voted - Please Vote!!

We mailed our ballots in last week, so technically I voted last week.  I like our system of mail ballots, although I can only imagine what a mess it would be if we lived in the east.  All those affected by Hurricane Sandy have been in our prayers and I thank any who find the time and will to Vote amidst their chaos and grief!

This has been an election year of negative campaigning- it saddens me to see how divided our country has become!  The only way to really change that is likely through prayer.  Prayer and exercising our civic duty and privilege of voting. If you are interested in a great article read:  What Does it Mean to "Vote Catholic" Even if you are not Catholic, it speaks very well to voting your conscience and being a witness of love regardless of which "side" you are on.

I am not the most articulate at stating my objections or support for one candidate over another.  But I do know that there has been one clear choice.  Our country was founded on Christian principles and to be honest, those very foundations are currently under attack.  We have legislation in place today that calls into question some of the fundamental religious freedoms that our founding fathers set to establish for us.  Legislation that infringes on our rights to hold and maintain certain beliefs by claiming that access to certain services is a "right"... I argue that (right or wrong) those services are a freedom in our country but most certainly not a right!!

That issue alone would have led me to vote the way I did.  But there are so many others - pro-life issues being foremost on that list.  But, enough said.  The decision is in my hands and your hands...  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Potty-training - take 2!

As I mentioned, my Mom came up this weekend to help with my second attempt at potty-training Karen.  I originally tackled it this summer with both girls when the weather allowed us to spend most of our days outside.  It was successful with Megan, but not so much with Karen.
Our attempt this summer...

The struggle has been understanding how much of the lack of success was due to motor-planning issues - which is common with speech apraxia, or due to sensory processing problems, or plain old stubborn resistance to the status quo!!

In recent weeks, we had several successes that Karen initiated prior to going to bed or into the bath.  She was also starting to show awareness of bowel movements by hiding behind a chair to go (something she had NEVER done before).  I was talking to my Mom last week and mentioned in passing how nice it would be to have help when I tackled it with Karen again since we would be stuck indoors and there would need to be a significant amount of vigilance watching her to help minimize the "mess" from accidents (especially since we have brand new carpet!!).  My Mom took my words to heart and made it work to come and help me for a long four day weekend!

We started the process when Karen came home from preschool on Friday.  The pullups were put away and we told her that we were all done with them.  She heartily agreed but just as heartily protested sitting on the potty.  I set my timer for 50 minutes and forced encouraged her to sit on the potty at those intervals.  To put it mildly... it was a battle.  The only way she would agree to sit there was if she got to play on the iPad... but experience has shown me that she will sit there for a half hour (or more) and not do anything.  So I always limited her time with the iPad to 5-10 minutes and then we were done.  We had no successes and accidents galore either just before my 50 minute timer or halfway between after an unsuccessful attempt.  Color me discouraged Friday night.

Saturday morning Mom and I took a short break and left Karen and Megan with Carl while we went to Mass for First Saturday and enjoyed a cup of coffee with some friends.  Potty-training with Daddy was not any more successful.  The day was filled with accident after accident, fit after fit.  The attempts to get her to sit on the potty were becoming more contentious and both Mommy and Karen were frustrated.

I got online and read an article about potty training resistance.  One of the things they recommended was transferring all responsibility to the child.  Telling them that you were no longer going to remind them or make them sit on the potty.  But also that it was not okay to be wet, so if they had an accident they had to go in and change themselves.  To also heap on the praise for successes and continue with prizes or treats if that has been what you were doing.  Not knowing what else to do, I gave this a try.

Two and a half hours went by - no accidents and suddenly Karen came running to me saying and signing "potty"... we went in and she had her first successful potty trip in two days.  This was immediately followed by two accidents over the course of the next hour.  But my attitude and reaction to it was much different from what it had been earlier in the day.  I asked if she wanted to sit on the potty to finish but did not force her.  After her bath, before bed we had another success where she (on her own without telling us) went in and had a successful trip - I suddenly heard the little potty chair say "hip-hip-hooray"... went in and she was grinning ear-to-ear!  I was much more hopeful going to bed on Saturday.
A happier girl now that she's "in charge"
Sunday started with Karen in a dry pull-up... a successful trip on the potty before church and came home with a her pull-up still dry.  Yay for progress!!  I was a little slow getting her out of the pull-up and into undies and we had a small "accident" in the pull-up, but Karen alerted me as soon as it started happening and headed for the bathroom.  We had a mix of accidents and successes - but the overall attitude of both me and Karen was SOOOO much better.  It is really hard for me not to remind her and ask if she needs to go (partially because Megan needs some of that encouragement and partially because of my type A personality...) but Karen seems to do better without it.

Bedtime has been a little bit of a circus (both last night and tonight) - I think she was getting signals that she had to go and maybe also needed to have a bowel movement... she was up four separate times saying that she needed to potty... the fourth time she came to me she had a wet pull-up... but I'm still encouraged by her enthusiasm!

Today - we only had one small accident and it was again in a pull-up.  We had to run a few errands and she was in one for that time and I had again been slow in getting her into undies when we got home.  I'm a little amazed at the difference in our progress from Saturday until today... especially considering I was so frustrated on Saturday I almost threw in the towel!! 

Yay for Karen!  I know that potty-training with apraxia is a challenge for most kids and I'm thankful we're making progress!  More importantly, I'm so thankful for the animation I see in Karen.  She seems to understand that she is accomplishing something and in control of it and her excitement about it is wonderful to see!

To be honest, back to my earlier question about her delay... our lack of success this summer I think was due to sensory processing delays.  I really don't think she had figured out how to read her body signals and understand what she was supposed to do with them.  Ironically, watching her younger sister, I think, has helped.  Now we seem to have overcome the stubborn, stuck in the habit of having her diaper changed portion... the only piece left is the motor planning and whether that is a problem or not will become more apparent as we continue to progress!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Visit with Mom

I'm a lucky girl.  Today (as most days of my life) I'm thankful for my Mom.  She drove up for a long/short four day weekend to help me with a second round of potty training with Karen.  Let's just say it's been an extremely challenging round two... details of that in another blog post.

But having my Mom here to help me keep it in perspective has been priceless.

I love you Mom!