September 22, 2011

Cookie Monster

It's official: his grandma, Tutu, has spoiled him rotten.  She is the reason why he got his first taste of an oreo.  And, as is pretty clear in the above photo, he's a fan.  Oreo's #1 fan!

We're just gearing up for first birthday cake fun over here.  It's only a little more than a month away.  I cannot believe it.  {sniff, sniff}.

September 19, 2011

The {Almost} Perfect Sister

Last night I got to accompany Sean to a cocktail party that's thrown at the beginning of this annual convention they do in the insurance world each year.  I was excited to go {in the minority for sure!} because I like to get dressed up, I like an open bar, and I like talking to other adults, even if it is a lot of awkward small talk.  Is stay-at-home mom written all over my face?

Thankfully my sister, in the kindness of her heart, agreed to watch the kids.  I love her for her readiness to spend time with her nieces and nephew.  I love that she lives close to us.  I love that my kids love her and think she's so fun.  Problem #1 for the night to happen - finding a sitter - solved!

Problem #2 - what the heck am I going to wear?!  Being the stay-at-home mom that I am, I hardly have anything in my closet that even resembles a cocktail dress.  But really, even when I wasn't a stay at home mom, I hardly had anything in my closet that resembled a cocktail dress.  One of my biggest strengths and weaknesses is that I am so practical.  The core of who I am just will not allow me to spend $100+ on a dress that I am hardly ever going to wear.  I just can't do it.

But my sweet, kind, fun, twenty something year old sister loves to get dressed up.  And her budget and inner core are very different from my own, so I got to raid her closet.  And even though she is 2-3 inches taller than me, and we are built very differently, as we analyzed while I went through her closet hours before the cocktail party, I found a dress that worked!  She even provided the matching shoes - my feet are still paying the price of those heels! - and jewelry.

Problem #3 - my hair.  I have a hate/hate relationship with my hair.  It's just blah dark brown, hasn't been cut in over 6 months, has no body, and I just plain have no idea what to do with it.

About a week ago while surfing pinterest, I found a hairstyle I wanted to duplicate.  It had a step by step video, it seemed easy enough, and the girl seems to have similar hair as me.  So what if she's a hair-stylist and went to school for this and does hair for a living?  I could totally figure it out and make it look just like hers.

I tried for an entire hour to fix my hair in this do.  I think the video is slightly over 4 minutes.  Sean was being very patient, feeding the kids and getting everything ready before my sister came over and we had to leave.  I just needed to be alone and concentrate.

I finally got the hair done to my liking.  I thought it looked pretty good if I did say so myself.  And I did.  To myself.  In the bathroom mirror.  Now I only had 20 minutes left to do my makeup and put my dress on, but that's double what I normally have, so that was fine.

When my trendy, fashionable sister walked up the driveway to babysit, I pranced out in my her heels and dress, wanting her to say how fabulous my hair looked, that she couldn't believe her practical, plain sister could do her own hair outside of the regular down, flat, drab look she normally has and have it come out looking so great.

You have two bald spots in the back of your head was what she said.  Brutally honest, trendy, fashionable sister.  Apparently I hadn't pinned the back properly and had pushed the pins up in such a way that showed two bald spots on either side.  The front looked so pretty and perfect, but there was no way I could walk around all night with two bald spots in the back of my head!

There was no time to fix it.  We were already running late, and Sean's patience was thinning by the second.  So I pulled the pins out, ran my fingers through my hair, tsked at myself in the mirror, and was ready to go.

Running low on patience husband was not so keen on taking a picture before we left, so I quickly gave Hattie my phone and said snap it!
The only photo of my fancy-shmansy night out :(.

I had to go with the regular old flat, I obviously don't know what to do with this mop, hairstyle.  But the silver lining is Sean decompressed in the car, and I got over myself.  We had a good time! 

And I need to make a shout out to my seeester!  I am so thankful for her.  Thankful she was there to spend time with my kids while I got to have a night out on the town with my husband.  Thankful she loaned me a pretty dress and stilettos and earrings to match.  Thankful when I called at 8 (when we said we'd be home) and asked if it was ok if we stayed out later, she said yes, even though she was tired and had to go to work the next day.  And, most importantly, I'm thankful she didn't let me walk out the door with two bald spots in the back of my head.

I am now on a quest to send her to beauty school, so she can learn to fix hair {particularly mine!}.  Then she would be the perfect solution to all of my date night problems!  Because, you know, that's her ultimate goal in life. ;)

September 16, 2011

Serving Others

I am starting my second year in a young mother's group at my church.  It has blessed and enriched my life more than I could have hoped.  The group is the answer to a prayer I've prayed for a long time, a prayer for the 3 C's, as I'll call them - community, connection, and communion with other Catholic mothers of young children in my area.

This year we are studying and discussing God's Plan for Marriage and Family by JP 2.   Last night, the key phrase I walked out the door of our first gathering with was to serve, not to be served.

What a beautiful marriage would be in store if my husband and I could just live by those words daily!  If we would decrease, HE could increase.  

Living out the gospel every day is so hard, isn't it?  Selfishness is such a nasty seed that can be planted in the heart.  It leads to ugly things like anger and resentment.

The answer is humility.

If our God, our Prince of Peace, our King of Kings can humble Himself to become a man, to come down to this earth from the paradise He created and SERVE mankind out of LOVE, why can I not joyfully serve the ones I love the most!  I am called to do that.  I am called to do much more than that.

This is why marriage and motherhood are so hard and so necessary to the transformation of my soul.  Nothing has challenged my motivation or put my soul under a microscope like marriage and family have.

The ugliness of self-centeredness was there all along, but I didn't see it as often or as strongly when I was single and allowed to live according to my own desires and will.

To serve, not to be served.


And it doesn't take marriage or children to live this way.  We are all called to be His hands and feet on this earth.  We each have our own vocation.  And the seasons change, but the words never do.

To serve, not to be served.


Sometimes we are our biggest obstacle in doing His work, right?  And it's hard to see because our society is so me! me! me! focused.  And life is so clogged with sin and hurt.  Our bodies are so weak and tired.  Disappointment is ever-present.

But He is here.  Still serving.  Giving us the strength and grace to keep going.  To keep doing His work. Being His hands and feet.  Serving.  But we have to humble our hearts to accept His Work.

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

And, just on a lighter note, imagine what driving and traffic would be like if we lived by these words!?  Ha!  Who needs marriage or kids to see our ugly selfishness?  Just get in the car and drive.  Next time someone is trying to cut me off, which happens often now that I have a mini-van (but that's another post for another day), I think I'll roll down my window and scream at them, Be humble!

Or maybe not.

We have to be His hands and feet to show His heart.

September 8, 2011

My Little Man

He loves to grunt and rough-house.  He's SO LOUD all the time.

At 10 months old, he already gets into way more than the girls ever did.

He lights up when we go outside.

Anything in the shape of a ball is his favorite toy.

Pillows are not for sleeping; they are for tackling.

He gets angry and throws fits that little girls just don't make.

He eats just about everything.

And has an obsession with the broom and vacuum cleaner.

A rough and tough mama's boy for sure.

Daddy's pride and joy.

Having a little boy is so much fun!

September 6, 2011

31

My better half turned 31 today.  I texted him this morning and reminded him that he's now closer to 40 than he is to 20.  Not very nice of me.  But, the truth is, being closer to 40 looks way better on a man than 20.

Exhibit A - We're both 21-22 in this picture (*sigh*) -
It feels like so long ago.  We were such babies.  Already engaged babies.  Sean was about to leave for Mexico to study abroad for 3 months.  He was so skinny.  A young wuss, as I remember his older brother calling him.  Of course I thought he was hot.  And he was. :)

BUT

Today, at 31 years young, he is way hotter :) -
And that's just the icing on the cake, because with age (and 3 babies), comes maturity.  That 21 year old boy is now a man.  10 years ago, he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life.  Today, he definitely doesn't have all of the answers, but he works hard to provide for his 3 children and enables me to stay home doing what I absolutely love doing, mothering full time.  And he's good at what he does, so he's climbed the ranks, made a name for himself.  A name I'm proud to belong to.

He has a big, tender heart.  He's witty and sharp.  He's good with words and patient with me.  These are a few reasons why I fell in love with him to begin with, and now, ten years later, all of these personality traits I love so much about him are refined and stronger.

This weekend, we got to steal away for a date night to celebrate his birthday, thanks to his mom who offered to watch the kids.  We went to church together, alone, with no hooligans distracting us.  I heard one of the best homilies I've heard in a long time, but I wonder if it's just mostly because I actually got to hear it ;).  It was nice to just be together, worshipping, with NO KIDS.

Then we went out with Sean's aunt and uncle for Mexican food because in our house, nothing is a celebration without a good margarita.  And Sean's new found love, tres leches, was his birthday cake of choice.  We had a good time.

And the festivities will continue tonight when everyone is home for a more child friendly birthday dinner for Daddy!  You bet there will be balloons and streamers, homemade cards and singing, and sticky hands and lips as we celebrate 31 years of the coolest (and hottest) man we know.

Happy Birthday, honey!
You're like a fine wine that just seems to get better with age.
Lucky me. :)

August 31, 2011

Sugar and Spice

The other day Hattie came home from school very excited to show me a drawing she had done in art class.  Her art teacher asked everyone to pick their favorite place "in the whole wide world," and then they had to draw a picture of that place.

And what did my sweet Hattie draw?
Her house! :)
I was beaming.

"You picked to draw our house as your most favorite place?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.  "Some kids drew a picture of the zoo or the beach or the mall, but I just love to be at home the most."

Baby girl melting my heart.

That right there is better than any raise or bonus or promotion that anyone could ever give me to tell me I am doing a good job.

Then she explained her picture.  We were all inside watching her pick a flower outside, and Ben was crying (as Ben tends to do these days - teething!).

"And the tiny little house next to ours is Mimi's house, but it's far away, so I had to draw it small," she said.  I thought that was pretty amazing for her to add depth like that to her picture.

Definitely a work of art to be forever cherished by my heart.

And the picture's pretty good, too.

August 26, 2011

7 Quick Takes

I'm linking up for 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary for the first time.

      ~1~
Kindergarten ain't not joke!  Hattie has matured so much this first week in kindergarten.  She has to like walk herself to class and like tie her own shoes and open all of her food packets without any help whatsoever!  Who knew my child was so capable!?!

I am quickly realizing that our church preschool is a sheltered environment, and I WANT TO GO BAAACK!  I miss it.  I am having a hard time with the letting go thing.  I can NOT imagine how I will leave my child in College Station, Texas (WHOOP!) for her freshman year of college in t-minus 13 years and just drive away.  Thank goodness for baby steps!

~2~
We had well check-ups Tuesday after school.  Who plans doctor appointments on the 2nd day of school?  I was already stressed and tired, and then I had to be at the doctor at 4 pm.  We waited in the waiting-room for ONE HOUR before they even called our names.  Ben was a teething, miserable mess, and the girls teetered back and forth from being hyper to hungry.  It was a hard, hard afternoon, BUT I could still see the silver lining: my kids are well, on-track growth and developmental-wise.  They are healthy in every way possible.  An occasional hard afternoon that wares on my patience is nothing to fuss about......... so I tried not to.  Still, I was glad to put everyone to bed early.

~3~
 This is my current favorite show.  Seen it?  Most of their experiences are so similar.  In the 3 episodes I've seen, the people who died all saw light, except one.  That one was enveloped in complete darkness but still felt safe and warm and "home."  I just find it so fascinating and a little bit scary.  

~4~
I just love this picture!  Hattie is so tender and maternal with him.  I love. it.  This picture speaks volumes of why siblings ROCK! :) 

~5~
Sean bought me a sewing machine two years ago for Christmas, and I just opened it up this past week to try and figure it out because I found something that I both want and feel like I could sew.  I spent about an hour with that sewing machine before I got frustrated and walked away (gave up!).  This common theme of not being able to follow written instruction just keeps popping up in my life.  When will I ever learn!?  I'll tell ya when: when someone who knows a thing or two about sewing machines comes over to my house and shows me how to thread it and use it.  Any takers?  My learning style = reflective observation.

~6~
I am going to see The Help this weekend - can't wait!  Did you read the book?  I did.  It was good.  I am in a book rut right now.  Any suggestions?

~7~
She spent all day on Tuesday being a kitty-cat.  She told me early in the day that she was a kitty-cat, and her name was Rose, and that was the end of it.  She wouldn't break character for anything.  It was a loong day trying to figure out what her meows meant.  I finally got to a place where I could tolerate all of the licks "kisses" I got on my arms and legs.  Her brother was amused atleast :).  She is a mess!  Such a performer, this one is!  I love almost every minute of it!

August 22, 2011

At Summer's End

I will miss my girls for sure.  And kindergarten feels like the big leagues - I feel like a small fish in a big pond.  BUT I am so looking forward to spending some one on one time with my sweet, squishy baby.  And the girls could use some time apart from one another, fo sho!

This morning when I walked in to wake them up at 6:45, they were both sitting at the edge of their beds. Nervous, no doubt.  Hattie couldn't eat much breakfast.  Her tummy hurt.  Mary Ellen ate all of hers.  I don't think she fully understood what was coming.
 By the time I got Hattie to school, she had lightened up, and her nervousness turned to excitement.  The halls of the school were packed and overwhelming, even for me.  However, as soon as she walked in her classroom and spotted a friend who she had met at a kindergarten social recently, she left my side, and never looked back.  Her teacher had them sit in a circle and asked them how they were feeling.  My Hattie, almost the smallest kid in the class, was the first to shoot her hand in the air.  She answered, "I was nervous this morning but not anymore."  She's going to do GREAT!

My bear, my sissy, my sweet Mary Ellen had a harder time.  She always does with leaving my side.  She's only 3!  But I know she will soon be asking me every day if she gets to go to school today.  She's only going 3 mornings a week this year.  And that's plenty for her right now.
It's going to be a great year!  And I know by the end of it, they are going to seem so much bigger and look like such babies in their first day of school picture to me.  This whole growing up thing just is not fair, I tell ya!  Can't I just freeze time?

August 19, 2011

Great Gift Idea

For Hattie's birthday, she got a butterfly garden.

I would say it is one of the best gifts Hattie has ever gotten.  It costs less than $15 at Walmart.  It's fun and easy.  Both my girls checked on the caterpillars and/or butterflies several times a day.  And the whole kit comes with a great informational guide about how the caterpillars turn into butterflies and why they do the things they do while transforming.  Sean and I even learned a few things.  And, most importantly, it pacified the hankering that Hattie has for getting a pet right now ;).

Last night, we said goodbye to our two friends, named Rocky and Sleepy.  Rocky because Hattie thought the caterpillar looked like a rock all curled up.  Sleepy because the caterpillar never really moved, so I told her it was resting when I really thought it was going to have the same fate as caterpillar #3 who, sadly,  never got to spread its wings and fly.

Here's a picture of the girls watching the butterflies fly away.  I love the look on M.E.'s face :).
 It was bitter-sweet for Hattie, but one actually sat on her finger for quite a while, long enough for me to run inside and grab the camera and snap a shot.  That was special for her and eased her goodbye blues.
We definitely plan on doing this again some day.  Probably around the time someone starts begging for a dog or cat :).

August 15, 2011

It's Been Too Long

This summer has been the best and busiest summer I've had since I became a stay-at-home mom.  I think it's been a combination of my children's ages and the fact that I, for the first time ever, hired a sitter for two mornings a week to keep Ben while I spent those morning doing anything and everything with the big girls.  I remember when Mary Ellen was a baby and needed that morning nap, the mornings were so long trying to entertain Hattie while her sister slept.  I wasn't looking forward to that when summer was nearing, and I knew the girls would be home all day, every day.  Our budget allowed for me to either put Hattie in a summer camp of some kind 2 days a week or for me to hire someone for Ben while I took the girls out on "adventures."  Thanks to a friend who gave me some great recommendations for sitters, I'm glad I chose the latter and got to enjoy the fun things of summer with my girls while Ben napped comfortably at home and was well cared for by his baby-sitter, who happens to be a very sweet, beautiful college girl, so I'm sure he didn't mind :).

And now we are nearing the end of summer, and it's true that I am sad to see it go.  In just six short days, we will be back to having to be somewhere at certain times and carpool lines and packing lunches.  I am looking forward to having some time alone with Ben again while Hattie goes off to kindergarten and Mary Ellen goes to preschool 3 mornings a week, but it will be an adjustment for all of us.

As we close on Summer 2011, here is an update on my kiddos and what they've been up to:
Hattie turned 5 on July 4th.  She is ready for kindergarten and is so excited!  We have "meet the teacher" this Friday, and she is ready.  I am nervous.  Most of her summer at home has been spent playing barbies and littlest pet shop with her sister.  They have played so well together all summer.  They fight, yes, of course, but Mary Ellen is finally at an age where they are good playing partners, and she's pretty easy-going about allowing Hattie to boss her around while they play.  That's their dynamic.
 Hattie's favorite place to be is at the YMCA pool.  She worked really hard all summer perfecting her swimming skills.  While she's not a strong swimmer yet, she can definitely swim.  And I'm so proud of her for just kind of figuring it out herself while watching and playing with other kids at the pool.  We did no swim lessons this year.

Hattie has become a fairly good writer and reader.  Sean or I can tell her to write a word, something easy that she can sound out, like cat or dog, and she can sound it out and write it, and it's legible!  I'm so proud of her.  She's always just wanted to learn and do well and please.  I think she's going to be a shining star in kindergarten!
Mary Ellen just turned 3 this past weekend.  At 3, my middle child is in love with all things girly and prissy.  She loves her barbies, dress up clothes, jewelry, purses, and makeup.  Just this past Sunday, she was enjoying her new birthday presents while Sean was watching her and her brother.  Hattie and I went school shopping.  One of her presents from her grandparents was makeup.  Sean went in the bathroom to shave, and when he came back to the playroom he found this:
Poor Ben!  The things he will be subjected to because he has two older sisters are endless.

Mary Ellen has always played well by herself.  I guess it's a second/middle child thing because I've heard other moms say this about their second child.  She is just more independent and has no reservations about doing what she wants, when the thought comes to her mind, like putting makeup all over her brother.
If you've been around Mary Ellen at all this summer, you have probably witnessed her obsession with swimsuits and braids.  Not a day goes by that she doesn't request to put her swimsuit on and demand that I braid her hair.  She is very conscious of being dressed to impress at all times and wants to get out of her pjs almost as soon as her feet hit the floor in the morning.

Mary Ellen has a very tender side to her, too, though.  She still cries when we leave her in nursery on Sundays, probably because we aren't consistent with it, but she goes often enough that she knows the women there.  I know the first day of school will be hard for her.  She will definitely shed tears.  She is very close to me, and does not like when I leave the house without her.  And when I return, she always runs up to me saying, "Mama's home!!!!" like it's the best thing ever :).
Ben, or my Benny-boo, as I so affectionately call him, has grown and grown and grown.  The secret is out: this boy loves to eat!  It took him a while to warm up to solids, but now, he devours most things I give him.  I am finally bumping him up to taking solids 3 times a day.  With that, he eats about 22 ounces of formula.  He is much bigger than the girls were at this age, take it from me and my aching back!  At 9 months, he is still not crawling, but that is due entirely to the fact that he learned to go from his tummy to sitting.  So anytime I put him on his tummy, he almost immediately sits up.  And his sisters have been too kind with giving him something to play with when all of his toys are out of reach.
I love having a son and I love the age he is right now.  I really think 9 months is the best baby age.  He has finally dropped that 3rd nap and is taking two solid naps a day.  He is teething his top two front teeth, which stinks, but he's also processing and learning so much.  His babbles and squeals are to die for.  And the way he says "mama" when he sees me, melts me.

I guess the biggest difference between him and his sisters at this stage in the game is how mad he can get.  If I take something away from him he protests much louder and with much more force than his sisters ever did.  The girls have always backed off fairly easily, but he challenges me more, already, and he's not even a toddler yet.  Also, he is way more into Sean than the girls were at this age.  If Sean is around, Ben can't take his eyes off of him.  He watches his every move.  It's funny to me how when Ben says "dadda," it's always so happy and playful.  When he says "mama," it's usually in a whiney voice, like he needs or wants something.

So that's what the kiddos have been up to.  Growing and ever-changing and developing.  And for that, I am so thankful to my God who has let me borrow and love these precious lives He's created.

February 24, 2011

The Evolution of Facial Hair and My Iphone

Do you like my title?  The two are related.  To prove it, read on.......

Sean got me an iphone for Valentine's Day.  Nothing says love like an iphone :)!  I am currently addicted to Words with Friends, though I totally suck at it.  Do you wanna feel good about your verbal abilities; then play a game with me!  I do it all in the name of elevating others' self esteem.  I'm not really trying to beat you ;).

I love the fact that I can take videos and photos of my kiddos so easily now, too.

The other day I was downloading pics and videos that had piled up on my phone.  Upon the completion of my download, I realized that I had not been the only iphone photographer in the house:


Yes, my husband is very much obsessed with his facial hair.  It is forever evolving.  And I have just learned to turn a blind eye and ignore the mustache when it pops up, which usually occurs around the time he is getting together with some guy friends he wants to impress.  I don't understand it.

And although he may look like a total weirdo, creep, I can assure you that I am the lucky one in the marriage....... not quite sure what that says about me, but there you have it!

February 12, 2011

On Love and Motherhood

Everyone who is familiar with the bible at all knows it.  1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 is one of the most popular passages:


     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 
I just recently sat down with this passage for the first time in a long time.  It hadn't changed.  I still remembered it well, but what had changed was me.  I was now studying it through the eyes of a mother.  That's how long it had been since I had opened my bible and actually read this popular passage.
What struck me the most when I read it this time around was the sequence of the definitions of love.  First and foremost, love is PATIENT.  
There is meaning behind every little detail of the bible, so surely this is significant, I thought.  And this sent my mind thinking and dwelling on my mothering and my love for my children. 
The definition of patient is: bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.
After I read that, I immediately thought back to a photo shoot I had just tried to accomplish that day with the children.  Valentine's day is upon us, and I wanted to capture a cute, perfect image of my children for a Valentine's card for the grandparents and special people in our lives.  But of course, a perfect picture with 3 children is a hard task to accomplish:
My picture taking efforts were fierce, but I came back with nothing.  
The lighting was terrible because my day had been so full with diapers and meals and cleaning and carpool lines and naps and nursing and crankiness that I wasn't able to do the photo shoot in perfect lighting.
No one would cooperate and look at the camera.  
And smiling?  Forget it.  Any smiles I got looked fake because no one was having a good time while Mommy barked orders for the "fun" picture I was trying to achieve.
The baby didn't last long before he started crying.  
Mary Ellen ripped her heart in half almost immediately.
Hattie wouldn't sit still.  She wanted to get down, run off and play.
I was left with a lot of frustration and a bunch of non-perfect pictures.
 This is just how motherhood is a lot of the time, isn't it, especially when one has many small children.
But love is patient first.
Ben has never slept through the night, and he is over 3 months old and almost 16 pounds.  For the past week, he's been getting up every 2-3 hours all night long.
But love is patient first.
I am potty-training Mary Ellen who never wants to stop what she's doing to relieve her bladder before it's too late.
But love is patient first.
Hattie has to be reminded over and over and over again to clean up her messes.  And most of the time, my reminders are followed with whines and frustration and sometimes even tantrums.
But love is patient first.
The girls fight constantly over anything and everything.
But love is patient first.
Motherhood is much about bearing and enduring pain.  In fact, it begins that way with pregnancy and then the child's birth.  And it doesn't stop there.
It is filled with difficulty, on almost a daily basis.
Raising children can be very provoking.  My nerves have never been so challenged.  I recently told a friend that I never even knew I could get so angry until I had children.  They can annoy me so. 
And yet, I am called to endure all of this with calmness.  Because love is patient first.
I can't stop thinking that I probably don't do a very good job of putting patience first in my love for my children.  I think God brought me to this passage and had me focus on the fact that love is patient first for a reason.
I think the message I walked away with was this: My children will not feel my love if I'm not patient with them.  In the midst of all the chaos, I must stay calm for them to be secure in my love.
And them being secure in my love is very important to me.
Because I do love them so.
So I pray, that, starting today, as we near a day that celebrates love, I can learn to always be patient first with my children. 

February 8, 2011

Me Gusta Leer

I like to read.  What I don't like to do is fold and put away laundry:
That's about 4 days worth of laundry there.  It never ends, and just when I get caught up, children need baths and to be put into jammies and dirty clothes in the hamper, and the cycle starts all over.

And I know I should say I'm thankful to have clothes to wear, and I'm thankful to have a washer and dryer and electricity and the money to buy nice smelling detergent that cleans our clothes, but I'm not.

I need to change my heart about the laundry, but until that happens, I just hate it, and I hate the fact that it never ends.

This particular mountain, though, was not overcome by my hands.  Yesterday evening I left the house to workout, and when I returned, my sweet husband had folded it all and put it all away.  Isn't he romantic??!  I think so!

And the most romantic thing about it is he didn't even mention it when I came home.  He didn't fish for a thank you.  He just did it for me because he knows I'm a bit overwhelmed with the chores at home and the 3 little children who need me so.  I love him!

But back to the love of reading........  This past year I read some really great books.  God has blessed me with some women in my life who love to read as much as I do and then pass their books onto me.  And of all of the books I borrowed and read in 2010 (totaling probably 8), three in particular stand out as really great books that you must read for yourself.

So in no particular order, here are my 3 favorite books of 2010 with a summary (from Publishers Weekly via Amazon b/c I don't have the time to write my own):

1.)  Starred Review. What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it. (Feb.) 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
2.) Seventeen years after being forced into a polygamous marriage, Jessop escaped from the cultlike Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints with her eight children. She recounts the horrid events that led her to break free from the oppressive world she knew and how she has managed to survive since escaping, despite threats and legal battles with her husband and the Church. Though sometimes her retelling overflows with colorful foreshadowing and commentary on how exceptional she is, the everyday details she reveals about this polygamous society are devastating and tragic. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
3.) Starred Review. Freelance writer Walls doesn't pull her punches. She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she's "overdressed for the evening" and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, "rooting through a Dumpster." Walls's parents—just two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual book—were a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn't conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had "a little bit of a drinking situation," as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom's great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonus—they'd "pick up a little Spanish without even studying." Why feed their pets? They'd be helping them "by not allowing them to become dependent." While Walls's father's version of Christmas presents—walking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a star—was delightful, he wasn't so dear when he stole the kids' hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn't show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn't long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. "Why not?" Mom said. "Being homeless is an adventure." Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Now that I've shared my favorites for 2010, share yours.  I always morn the end of a really good book because I don't want to be done reading it.  And for the past month or two I pick up books and can't get into them.  I need recommendations please!  I need my next fix from a book I just don't want to put down at night.  I'm a book junkie.

February 3, 2011

Ben's Room

I never did get around to posting the final product of Ben's room.  That last month of pregnancy wiped me out, and then once he actually arrived, forget it.  So I thought I'd share them now.

First, we had to make room for Ben's room in our 1700 square foot house.  We moved the two girls together into Hattie's room, and what once was Mary Ellen's nursery became a blank slate.  I was nervous about moving the girls together.  I had to work up the courage.  Then when I finally did, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be - as most things aren't in the milestones of parenting I'm finding.

Of course the girls keep each other up at night past bedtime, but eventually they go to sleep and generally stay that way until morning.  They have become so much closer now that they share a room, and I have to admit, I do like hearing their giggles and squeals, as long as they don't continue past 8:30 pm.  If that happens, Monster Mommy emerges!

Mary Ellen is still in her crib, but I hope to get the girls bunk beds this spring/summer and then spruce up their room a bit.  Man, bunk beds are expensive, though!  And because they are so expensive, Sean thinks we should just put them together in the full-size bed we already have.  I think, while that is economical, it's also disastrous.  I can imagine the fighting and mischief that would go on if they were in the same bed.

But Ben, being the only boy in the house, has the privilege of having his own room right now.  I enjoyed decorating a boy's room after having two girls.  With our tight budget, I didn't have a lot of money to spend on furniture and bedding and such.  I call his room the "wedding tradition" room.  There's quite a lot old, borrowed, and blue, with just a few things new.
See my little man sittin' on that poang chair?  He and I spend a lot of time on that chair together.  I would say it's his favorite place to be in the whole house, especially in the middle of the night!

I'm not really sure if the wooden Texas flag works in the room, but it was something that was sitting in our garage and filled the space for free.  Free looks good to me!  The poang chair was also free, as it left its twin in the playroom to be a nice, comfortable nursing chair.  

And one last picture, just to prove how happy being in that chair with Mama makes my sweet Ben:

February 1, 2011

Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken

This dish is probably the best chicken dish I make.  It is a favorite in our house by all, even the littles.  And I like the fact that it only takes about 20 minutes to put together.  Then I can stick it in the oven and forget about it.  Plus, it's great for company because who isn't impressed with a beautifully golden roasted bird on the table?!

Ingredients you'll need:
- a whole chicken - mine is usually about 4-4.5 lbs
- one lemon
- fresh rosemary
- garlic - both whole and minced
- sea salt or table salt (but sea salt is better!)
- fresh ground pepper
- olive oil

1.) First you want to clean up your bird.  If it came with all of the giblets and yuckiness in the cavity, stick your hand in there and fish it all out (you can do it!) and toss.  Now rinse your bird with cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  This is important for crispy skin.

2.) Stuff the cavity of your bird with: - the lemon (sliced in half)
                                                           - a clove or two of garlic
                                                            (you don't even have to peel the skin off)
                                                           - a few sprigs of rosemary

3.) On the outside of the bird: - rub with olive oil
                                              - sprinkle sea salt, ground pepper, minced garlic and rosemary over the entire bird and rub in.  I pay close attention to every nook and cranny of the bird and even lift up the skin in places where it gives and stuff some seasoning underneath there for added flavor.

4.) Now your bird is ready to cook!  I don't have a roasting pan, so I just stick it in an oval shaped corningware dish, drumsticks down.  No need to cover.  Cook your bird at 350 degrees for an hour and a half to two hours, depending on size of bird.  Your house will fill with heavenly aromas!  To make sure it's done use a cooking thermometer on the breast.  It should read 160 degrees when done.  

5.) Once done, take out of the oven and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes to ensure moist, tender meat before you cut it up.  Plus you will burn your fingers trying to cut that chicken up straight out of the oven!

6.) Now for the best part:  While your chicken is resting use the drippings to make the best gravy ever!  First drain the drippings, getting rid of big chunks of rosemary and garlic floating around.  In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon or more of butter (more is always better!).  Add some flour as the gravy's thickening agent.  Stir butter and flour together until mixed.  Now take a whisk and slowly add drippings into the pot with butter and flour.  Allow the mixture to slightly boil, whisking occasionally; then turn down to simmer.  You're done.  Serve the gravy over rice or mashed potatoes with some bread for dipping for best results.

January 27, 2011

A Sissy Bear Update

As promised, here is an update on our sweet Mary Ellen . . .
- She is on the road to being potty-trained.  She is so ready.  Just not completely there yet on account of her overwhelmed mama.  She totally gets it and can go tee-tee in the potty when I remember to take her.  However, we are still working on the business of #2, but I think with some effort and consistency on my part, we will be a house of only one child in diapers in no time.  YES!
- She is quite the character.  I liken Mary Ellen's personality to the taste of one of my all time favorite candies - sour patch kids.  This little girl is both sweet and sour and oh so delicious.  Sean and I both agree that at 2.5 years old, Mary Ellen has reached her cuteness prime.  We can't imagine her being any cuter.  She loves affection and is the first in line for kisses and hugs.  Her dance routines she performs nightly for us are hilarious.  She loves to help and even loves to share most of the time.  But man, if she gets worked up about something, there is no turning back.  Her tantrums make two year old Hattie's tantrums look like minor complaining.  Mary Ellen knows what she wants, and if she doesn't get what she wants, like RIGHT NOW, everyone within a two mile radius will hear about it.  This is especially lovely during Ben's naps.
- Mary Ellen's favorite book at the moment:
We must read this book atleast twice a day - naptime and bedtime.  She is obsessed with being the Heart Princess in the book.  I think it's cute.  Sean wants to burn the book.  Reading it often leads to arguments between Mary Ellen and Hattie about who, in fact, is the Heart Princess.  Because, keeping with true form of sibling rivalry, if one wants it, the other must have it.

- Mary Ellen is in the midst of her language boom.  She is talking up a storm and often surprises me with what she says.  I can understand most of what she says, too, and what I can't understand, Hattie can usually translate.  Her all time favorite phrase at the moment is: I want different kind.  She says this ALOT.  Like when you put a dress on her, and she doesn't like it: I want different kind.  Or you give her cereal for breakfast when she really had a hankerin' for a waffle: I want different kind.  Or, even though you plan on staying home all day, because getting out with 3 kids is still mostly undoable, she insists on putting shoes on.  You finally comply and put shoes on her feet.  She lets you get them all on and buckled or zipped up.  You start to get up off the floor with your aching back and have a sense of mission complete.  Then, and only when you are fully up, she whines, I want different kind.  It's true, she has a mind of her own........... and she likes to play with mine occasionally.

- She spent the entire month of December saying No likey Santa.  Before Christmas, we took the girls to have breakfast with Santa one morning.  And for Mary Ellen it was hate at first sight.  She wouldn't sit with him or talk to him.  She wouldn't look at him unless she was in the comfort of her daddy's arms.
Man, I look tired in that picture.  I had a four week old, so I'm pretty sure I was.  Don't much remember. The months of November and December are one big blur.

So after that day, any time Mary Ellen sees a man with a white beard, she freaks out and screams, No likey Santa!  I'm kinda glad Christmas is over for this reason.  Any other time of the year, white bearded men don't really cross our paths, thank goodness.  I know this is a common issue with two year olds.  Hopefully by next year she'll connect the dots between Santa and presents.  Surely by the time she's four, her pretty blue eyes will quickly turn to greedy green when she sees the white bearded man.  I guess I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the guy, too.

January 26, 2011

A Hattie Update

She................
got her first real haircut.  I have trimmed her hair in the past, like when I was in labor with Ben ......... but refused to believe I was in labor with Ben ............ so I trimmed her hair to take my mind off of the contractions, which weren't real contractions because I wasn't in labor ............ but it didn't really work.  They just kept on comin'.  And then I realized what I was feeling were real contractions and I was, in fact, in labor and needed to go to the hospital pronto, but now I had to finish cutting Hattie's hair before I could go because I had already started the job.......... not the best idea I ever had.

So, like I said, I recently took her for a real haircut.  To a cheap place close-by.
The haircut was $11 which was awesome, but then I had to spend 20 minutes improving upon the $11 crooked haircut with my own haircutting skills, which aren't really that skillful.  Moral of the story: splurge for a better haircut or recruit Aunt Laurel, who is the official hair-cutter in our family, for future haircuts.

- will be starting kindergarten in the fall.  We are in the midst of deciding where she's going to go.  Public school is an option, as long as she gets into a good program.  In my heart of hearts I want her to go to Catholic school, but that can be expensive.  Luckily there is scholarship money and financial aide out there for middle class people like us.  We are in the midst of all of the paper work and testing and interviews and application fees - oy!  Who knew starting kindergarten would be so much work?!?  We should know something by March or April.

 I can't believe we are already at this point.  She will be a young 5 when she starts kindergarten, and I know it's popular to hold summer babies back, but even at the beginning of this school year, her teachers, who have been working with her since she was 2, so they really know her abilities, have assured us that Hattie is ready for kindergarten.  So we are going to trust their judgment and our own and send her next year.  We'll have to go through this in another 2 years with Mary Ellen who is also a summer baby.  Luckily Ben is a no-brainer fall baby.

- has her first real crush.  His name is Gabriel.  He's in her class at school.  The first time she ever described him to me, she said he had brown beautiful skin and I'm going to marry him, Mama.  One of the Catholic schools we are currently looking into, is an all-girls school.
- is learning to ride a bike.  Santa brought her a princess bike for Christmas, and weather permitting, she enjoys riding it down the street with Mom or Dad.

- says her brother is a boy because he has a hangy ornament on his bottom.  There's your anatomy lesson for the day =).

- is a perfectionist like me.  She needs things to go her way precisely, or she crumbles.  If she can't do something perfectly, she immediately gives up or doesn't try it at all.  I am displeased that she inherited this trait from me.  She's got a loooong, hard, imperfect road ahead of her.  I know.  I done been down it and still struggle down that road.

- is social and makes friends easily.  She will go up and talk to anyone.  Whether she really knows the person or not.  This is both good and scary.

Stay tuned for a Mary Ellen update.  Because, contrary to how it may seem, I am not trying to deepen her middle child complex.

January 25, 2011

I Can't Promise......

I can't promise that I'm ready to be a regular blogger again.  I have high hopes; I know you have all missed my posts :).  But  I've been a bit busy.  Really busy, actually.  Adding a 3rd bambino has nothing short of ROCKED MY WORLD.  This whole being outnumbered thing isn't for the faint-hearted.   I have loved becoming a mother to a son, a son who has truly and completely captured my heart.  Managing 3, however, ages 4 and under, has been quite the challenge, quite the chaotic challenge.  As we close in on 3 months of Ben's life and me being a mother of 3, though, I feel like things are starting to fall into place, and I CAN DO THIS.

I thought before I delved any further into blogging again, I should introduce my small little blogging world to the other man in my life.  
Meet Benjamin Patrick:
Isn't he just scrumptious?  

I can't get enough of him, and he can't get enough of me.  Or rather, he can't get enough of the body parts that God gave women to feed their babies with - i.e. the boy loves to nurse.  And he would truly do it all day long if I would let him.  Many other moms of both boys and girls have assured me that their boys loved to nurse more than their daughters ever did, too.  True dat!

Have I mentioned how much this boy loves to flirt?!
This boy loves to flirt.  We are in big trouble.  He is a cooing, googly eye makin' maniac.  And not only does he carry his daddy's good-looking genes, but he also inherited his mama's dimples.  I haven't been able to capture them on camera yet though.

Ben is cooing and smiling like crazy.  He still cries a lot, too, though.  He loves to be held, and thank goodness he loves his swing, but he has to be in the mood for it.  That means most of the time, if he isn't sleeping, he's in my arms. 
Next to nursing, Ben loves his sisters.  It's amazing how he lights up when he hears them.  He loves to watch them play and dance.  He loves when they give him attention.  Both Hattie and Mary Ellen are genuinely nice to their baby brother.  They are both little mamas to him, Hattie more so of course, but Mary Ellen has her maternal moments, too.  Just yesterday I was in the bathroom, and Ben was screaming in the other room.  I heard Mary Ellen tell him, It's -kay.  Mommy be here soon, Benny. =)
Sean of course is the proudest papa ever.  He and Ben have already spent hours watching the Aggies have their best season in a long time.  I am so blessed to have married a man who is truly involved in parenting beyond bringing home the bacon.  Now, don't get me wrong; that's a BIG job in and of itself, but he also helps fry that bacon, AND he occasionally cleans up the kitchen afterwards, too.  I am one blessed gal.

Like I said, I hope to be more diligent with blogging.  Ben deserves the same blog attention that the girls got.  It's just been crazy.  Crazy hard.  And when things get crazy hard, some things have to go on the back-burner.  You know how it is.  But here is my first attempt at making room at the front of an already very crowded stove for the blog........... stay tuned.......... 

Wisdom From the Pope

“The inalienable dignity of every human being and the rights which flow from that dignity - in the first place the right to life and the defense of life - are at the heart of the church's message." Pope John Paul ended his address, saying: "In spite of divisions among Christians, 'all those justified by faith through baptism are incorporated into Christ...brothers and sisters in the Lord.'" Pope John Paul 2