Wednesday, November 30, 2011

O Come, O Rod of Jesse's Stem

I love the season of Advent, especially when I'm expecting... which has been the case for three out of the last five Advents! I really feel like I can share in Mary's anticipation and expectation in a concrete way. What a beautiful gift! This year is the first that Max is starting to get the idea of Advent. He knows that he is waiting for Christmas, and when all of the candles on the wreath are lit, it will be here!

Of course, at this point in his life, awaiting the coming of Jesus is about equal in importance to awaiting the coming of his Christmas presents. So to re-emphasize the real reason we're celebrating, I decided this year to do a Jesse Tree for the first time. Max is kind of hit-or-miss when it comes to projects, but something about this one really caught his fancy. Each day in December, we will read a story from the Bible and then make an ornament for our poster board tree that represents the story. Max loved the story of creation, especially the fact that "God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves..." (Gen 1:21, RSV) Sea monsters? Awesome!

I have tried to put Max in charge of as much of this project as possible, and he has taken it very seriously. So far, he has chosen the symbol to represent each story and I draw a simple ink outline for him to color in. For the creation story, he chose a sun and moon. For the story of Adam and Eve he wanted two stick figures holding hands. And for the story of the fall, he asked for a tree with a snake on it. Pretty good, I think!

This is our Jesse Tree so far, colored by Max and... uh... drawn by me. Hey, I never claimed to be an artist!

I love the fact that the Jesse Tree gives us the opportunity to learn about salvation history in the form of a fun project! If anyone wants to make their own, we used this site's recommended Bible verses. Your tree and ornaments can be as complex or simple as you want. We opted for simple this year, but I'm hoping to make this a yearly tradition that can change and grow as the kids do!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

Sunday evening was a rough one, so after dinner I tried to rest on the couch while the boys played with their toys on the floor. Silly me, I thought I could be in the same room with them and not have them climbing on me! Within seconds of curling up under a blanket, I was joined by two little wiggly bodies. When I'm feeling well, I love cuddling with my boys! But when I'm sick, I just need my own space.

So I retreated to the bedroom and barricaded the door with a clothes hamper. I heard Paul outside trying to explain to Max that Mommy wasn't feeling well and needed to rest in quiet. This was not acceptable to Max, who immediately started banging on the door and yelling, "But I want to pre-tect her! I want to pre-tect her!" I started giggling and tearing up simultaneously. I love my little protector.

Paul managed to distract them with some videos for a short while, but he was in the middle of a home improvement project, so he brought them downstairs and (I found out later) put up a baby gate to block the way to the upstairs.

I was finally able to drift off for what seemed like a few seconds, but I was awoken by more banging on the door. "Mommy! I want to be with you! I want to be with you!" over and over and over again... and as the fog cleared I also began to register hysterical wailing coming from downstairs. I got up, moved the hamper and let Max in to cuddle with me. I was just beginning to think I should go check on Louie when I heard Paul come to the rescue. He brought the poor guy upstairs, and when he saw that Max had already made it through the barricade, snuggled Louie in on the other side of me.

It turns out that when Paul had run outside to the garage for something, Max had managed to move the baby gate, get around it, then put it back in place to keep Lucian trapped downstairs! I guess Max needed me all to himself... so Lucian was left stuck behind the gate while his older brother got to go up and find mommy. Traumatic! 

In the end, everyone got what they wanted, at least in part. I got a little bit of a rest, and the boys eventually got their mom back. Poor kids, it's hard for them to have a sick mommy, especially when they don't understand why a kiss can't fix it! Oh, how I wish it could...

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Case of the Missing Pineapple Pork

I am a huge fan of Rachael Ray's recipes. When we lived at my parents' house and I was pregnant with Lucian, I watched her show almost every day. The interviews I could take or leave... but the meals she made! Oh yum... and she made them look so easy! So for Christmas a couple of years ago, my mom gave me a Rachael Ray cookbook- which I love! It is not my cookbook for last-minute "What in the world can I throw together for dinner??" meals, but if I plan ahead and pick up the ingredients I don't usually keep stocked, her recipes are generally straightforward and always tasty!

The other day I was making a grocery list to go shopping (Yes! I went grocery shopping!) and I took out my handy-dandy "Rachael Ray's Book of Ten" for some inspiration. I flipped through for new recipes I wanted to try, but I also thought I'd glance at an old standby I've made a few times: Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Pork. The book usually falls open to that page or a few others, so I was slightly surprised that it didn't show up this time. I didn't think much of it, deciding on some other recipes instead (Both major successes! Spicy Shrimp Bok Choy Noodle Bowl and BLT Soup).

Mmmm... Shrimp Bok Choy Noodle Bowl
That night, Paul and I got into a discussion about meals and cooking. I remarked to him that he generally doesn't have strong opinions about my food, and I'd love to know what he really likes and dislikes. I've picked up on a few things over the years, but unless I ask him point-blank, he generally eats what's in front of him without comment.

His response threw me off a little. In a joking tone he said, "Yeah, I figure if I really don't like something you make, I'll just rip the recipe out of your cook book."

Wait a minute.

"Did you....? No..."

Yes, he did. Paul actually ripped out the recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Pork!! I went back to the book, looked up the recipe in the index. Page 60. I flipped to where Page 60 should have been... there was 59, there was 62, but no page 60!

It turns out he did it mostly to see how long it would take me to figure it out (One day! Take that!), and to have the pleasure of seeing my reaction. I guess it's not as much fun to just say "I don't really like this recipe". Needless to say, I will not be making Pineapple Pork EVER again.

You think you're sooooo clever...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's for dinner?

At our house, food has been a little hard to come by for the last month. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I have not been to the grocery store in over a month. The moment that morning sickness kicked in, the last thing I felt up to doing was wandering aisles filled with rows of foods that may or may not make me lose my lunch.  I even planned a day to go grocery shopping- I brought the kids to Sara's house in the morning, but I never even made it to the store. I ended up at home in bed. And to top it off, my worst "morning" sickness tends to hit shortly after Paul gets home from work, so he goes on kid duty while I crash and burn. Dinners around here have not been pretty.

So hungry, mom...
Thank God for my mom, who came over last week after Max's tumbling class. It happened to be one of my very bad days, and we literally had no food in the house. After running across the street to pick us up some lunch, she told me to write a grocery list so we'd at least have something to eat! We didn't even have bread or milk to speak of. She then took Max with her to Cub foods and I was left with only a napping Lucian to care for. Ahhhh...

Those lifesaving groceries lasted us a week, but the list I gave her did not include much in the way of dinner items. Needless to say, I've gotten pretty creative! Did you know you can make a casserole with only canned chicken, salsa, rice and shredded cheese? It's not a showstopper, but hey, it fills tummies.

But on Tuesday, it finally hit the breaking point. I was out of bread and milk again, we had no pasta, no meat, no vegetables, we were even out of condiments like soy sauce, barbecue sauce and ranch dressing... you know, those things that it seems you can always dig out of the fridge if you really need them. So I wrote up a massive grocery list and I psyched myself up to go shopping when Paul got home from work.

But then, of course, the "yucks" started to kick in. Before I knew it, it was 5:00 and I hadn't left yet. "After dinner," I tried to convince myself. Thankfully there was a frozen pizza left from my mom's grocery run, plus a can of corn in the back of the pantry. That'll do. After we ate, I realized that I really couldn't make it through a shopping trip, but I was not about to let my family go hungry again! So... I sent Paul instead. He's so wonderful. He even used the coupons I'd clipped!

When he came home with bag after bag of groceries, it finally hit me how deprived my children had been! They stood in the kitchen in awe and examined every bag as it arrived, holding each item up to me and asking if they could eat it. Grapes, apples, carrots, cereal, bread, cheese, crackers, they were in heaven! I let them snack on virtually whatever they wanted as I put away the piles of beautiful groceries. Now our home is fully stocked, we've had great meals the last few days, and I have vowed never to let my cupboards get that bare again...

Well, at least I'll try.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Learning Curve

I had a great discussion today with a friend about schooling. Her oldest is one month older than Max, so we're pretty much in the same boat when it comes to looking toward the future. It was fun to think about where he will be spending much of his time in the years to come. Will we homeschool? Will he go to St. Joseph's? Charter school? There are so many good options.

Then I had to take a breath. When did we get here? When did Max get old enough that we need to think about school? Wasn't it just yesterday that he was a tiny baby in my arms?? You seasoned moms are laughing at me- "it only gets faster"... I've heard it a million times. But wow! I mean WOW! Where does time go?

And every day he is soaking up information like a sponge. Right now he has a love of letters and spelling- he likes to list off an assortment of letters and asks what he just spelled. "What does A-Z-O-X-Q-R-T spell?" And I am left trying to pronounce the non-word that he has just spelled for me. Occasionally, he'll stumble upon a real word, which he loves! "I-O-N" was the latest, although trying to define the word "ion" to a three-year-old is no easy task.

He has also become quite an artist. Give him a pen and a notebook and he is content for an hour. Nine times out of ten, he draws a pirate ship... but he's starting to branch out a little. He also likes to draw people, houses, rockets and animals, and often the pictures are recognizable! It still astounds me. I think he's taking after his Uncle Tony in the visual arts department.

 I always knew there would be many rewarding things about parenting, but I realize that one of my favorites is watching my kids learn! It's fascinating to see them engage with their world: taking in new information, processing it, sorting it, and using it. How exciting!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Spirit Rejoices...

Someone once told me that if a woman ever says she enjoys pregnancy, she's lying.

I've since learned that's not quite true- there are actually a few women out there (keyword "few") that really do enjoy being pregnant. But I can tell you with certainty that if I ever tell you I enjoy pregnancy, I am lying.

I know I just posted about our joy in welcoming a new baby into the world, but man-oh-man if I could deliver a strong, healthy baby tomorrow I'd do it! The fatigue, the nausea, the endless symptoms yet to come... it really can be killer, I tell you.

I spent too much of my first two pregnancies wallowing in misery and self-pity as I fought to be a functioning human being. There were many "why me?" moments sitting on the bathroom floor, and my morning sickness was not even in the "severe" category. This time around, I felt more prepared to face the dragon, but in the days leading up to Week Six, I started to remember... and I started to get nervous. Then like clockwork, it hit. Six weeks on the dot, same as both previous pregnancies. And it all came flooding back. "Why is this happening to me?" "How can I be a good mom when I feel like this?" "Can I just sleep for the next three months?" "Make it go away!"

Then I read a beautiful article by a woman who is currently pregnant with her fifth child and who suffers from hyperemesis gravidarum- severe morning sickness all day for nine months- with every pregnancy. In it, she wrote about offering her body for the new life it was carrying. She wrote about how hard it is, and how she's had to rely on God every step of the way. It made me think a lot.  I realized that I would lay down my life down for this baby in an instant if I was called to do so, just as I would for my two boys. But instead God is calling me to lay down little pieces of my life- my health, my energy, the ability to eat some foods that I really love- for the sake of my child. It's not easy, it's not fun, it is a sacrifice. But it's a sacrifice that I am willing to make in order to bring a healthy baby into the world. And in offering those small sacrifices back up to God, He can use them to make me a more holy, more selfless person, more fit to care for the child that he is entrusting to me. And that I am happy to do.

So if you ask me how I'm feeling in the next couple of months, you may get more than you bargained for. I've always had a tough time suffering in silence. But I am trying to be mindful that my body is currently being used for a greater purpose than any that I could imagine for myself. If you think to remind me of that, I'd be grateful. Remind me that it's ok if the dishes don't get done, the laundry sits in the basket, the boys have a little more computer time than usual because I can't get off the couch. There is truly something amazing happening, and I have a front row seat!

Pregnant me... in the calm before the storm

Friday, November 4, 2011

Oh Joy

Today I'm thinking about joy. Do you know what brings me joy?

Surprise flowers from my husband, delivered to me by my youngest son while I'm napping in bed.

Watching my bleary-eyed boys wander down the stairs for "morning snuggle time" on the couch.

Max telling me, "You're pretty" when my hair looks like a rat's nest and I'm laying around in sweatpants. 

Seeing a little black-and-white flutter on the ultrasound monitor that means the little baby I'm carrying has a strong, healthy heartbeat!

There's Baby- the little white blotch within the black eggplant-shaped thing
Yes, that's right, Paul and I have been blessed to assist in the creation of another amazing, unique human being- our Baby Number Three! We couldn't be more thrilled. As you can probably tell from the scenarios above, my joy as of late has been of the quiet, sleepy variety... but it is joy nonetheless! We'll be welcoming Baby sometime around June 19, which will be a completely new experience for us. A summer baby? You mean we won't need a snowsuit and three blankets to come home from the hospital? 

I ask you to keep our family in your prayers, that this pregnancy continues on as uneventfully as possible. Our babies have had a tendency to want to come into the world a little too soon, but with the help of wonderful doctors, we've delivered two healthy, nearly full-term boys. I know that my amazing doctor at Aalfa Family Clinic will be watching us like a hawk as we approach 27 weeks, and I trust that God's hand will guide us through every step of the way.  

I hope that you will share in our joy, we have so much to celebrate. God is so good to us!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


All you holy men and women, pray for us!

Today is the Feast of All Saints, a day to celebrate all of the holy ones in Heaven, even those whose names we don't know. I love this Feast, it's a reminder that sainthood really is attainable, with God's help. We just returned from a beautiful (prayerful! undistracted!) Mass with our awesome new priest, and I'm flying high. The boys are still battling colds, so we left them with John and Sara so as to not infect the rest of the congregation. Thanks guys!

But since there are no photos to share from today, and I know everyone's dying to see some cute costumed kiddos, on to yesterday's fun and feasting.

We celebrated the eve of All Hallows by trick-or-treating around the neighborhood and displaying our pumpkins that were so artfully carved when two of our seminarian friends came to visit this weekend. I've learned one thing: a seminarian will never turn down an opportunity for a meal, even if the fine print involves having to scoop out pumpkin guts.

Planning out a dinosaur pumpkin pattern
For about a month before Halloween, Max has been talking about his costume choice- a "Pirate Dinosaur". Leave it  to him to never be predictable! And then it was left to me to come up with how to make said costume. Me, the one who doesn't own a sewing machine. The one who had to go to K-Mart to buy a needle and thread in order to finish the costume. But all things considered, I think it turned out ok! Sadly, you can't see his awesome dino tail with dino spikes in any of the pictures, but I swear to you, it's there! And of course, Lucian did his part looking adorable in his bee costume.

We took off into the neighborhood as soon as the sun went down. My parents had come up and brought us dinner, and they decided to take turns trick-or-treating with us and manning the door back home. They couldn't pass up the chance to see their grandkids in costume!

Being a little under the weather, Max was in a bit of an ambling mood last night. He was in no hurry to move from house to house, taking more interest in the Halloween decorations along the way. Lucian, on the other hand, was a man on a mission. After realizing the result of ringing a doorbell and holding up a pumpkin-shaped bucket, something clicked! We could barely keep up with him, and when his bucket became to heavy to hold, he opted to drag it on the ground rather than let anyone carry it for him.

We covered approximately two blocks in total, leaving us with more candy than we will ever know what to do with! Then Lucian began to slow down to Max's pace, and finally allowed someone to carry him. That's when we knew it was time to head home to warm up with some apple cider and examine our loot. A fun time was had by all. Happy Halloween and a blessed All Saints Day to you!