Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gratitude Journal

Many months ago, I read an incredible books called One Thousand Gifts (by Ann Voskamp), about a woman who feels overcome with busyness, a tragic past, life in general, and depression. A friend encourages her to write a list of 1,000 gifts; the process of writing them down brings her out of her depression and refocuses her on God and all the amazing gifts of life we take for granted. I highly recommend the book.
She also has a blog here:
I've been meaning to make my own list for ages, but haven't done it yet.
Last week, my devotional book (Small Steps for Catholic Moms, which I also highly recommend, whether you are Catholic or not) had the assignment of starting a gratitude journal. I've been working on a little bit here and there for a week, and I am now going to be incredibly vulnerable by sharing it here.

That's right. Brace yourself.

1.   God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit
2.   Jesus’ death and resurrection
3.   The promise of eternal life
4.   Chad
5.   Ethan
6.   Benji
7.   Fiona
8.   Three successful vaginal deliveries (one at home in water)
9.   Never miscarried
10.                 Two living parents who are still married and still love each other
11.                 Chad’s parents, who are still living and married and let me call them “Mom” and “Dad”
12.                 Benji’s face when he tries not to enjoy me hugging and loving him, but you can tell he secretly likes it.
13.                 Dressing Fiona in adorable pink and purple and girly outfits
14.                 Fiona’s ponytails. When I do two ponytails, they stick up and look so cute. They make me so happy.
15.                 I’ve successfully nursed three children. What a special time in life.
16.                 When Ethan gives me a kiss in the morning before he goes to school
17.                 Hot coffee in the morning with milk and sweetener in it
18.                 Drinking said coffee in the quiet of the morning before kids are awake
19.                 Watching shows with Chad after the kids are in bed
20.                 Autumn leaves
21.                 The way I feel after I run 5 miles
22.                 Cool, crisp autumn weather, especially if there’s a light breeze
23.                 Warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies
24.                 Cooking healthy, creative, delicious meals for my family (Chad always appreciates them, the kids mostly don’t)
25.                 Fiona’s laugh when she’s being chased
26.                 That one engagement picture of Chad and me where we’re kissing and we look truly happy, and my hair looks perfect
27.                 Central air
28.                 Central heating
29.                 A roof over my head
30.                 A very comfortable mattress that has lasted 10+ years
31.                 Wedding pictures, especially the one of me in front of the stained glass window
32.                 Mary and her example
33.                 Windows (and window blinds in case I don’t want light)
34.                 Naps
35.                 Snuggling up with blankets and bedspread when it’s cold
36.                 Thick, warm socks
37.                 My vintage chest of drawers from my grandfather’s house
38.                 The hundreds of dollars worth of freebies and hand-me-downs we’ve received from others
39.                 A closet full of clothes
40.                 A chest of drawer full of more clothes
41.                 The fact that Chad’s mom and my mother have bought almost all the kids’ clothes, and I very rarely have to buy them clothing
42.                 Carpeted house
43.                 The ten minutes after my house is freshly cleaned before it gets dirty again
44.                 A hot, relaxing bath and hot showers
45.                 The fact that we have running water
46.                 The fact that we have two flushing, working toilets
47.                 A house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms
48.                 Our covered back porch
49.                 When Ethan and Benji play well together and encourage each other
50.                 When Fiona gets hurt and the boys are gentle with her
51.                 The way Fiona loves her stuffed puppy. She pets him, kisses his nose, and says “A puppy. A puppy. A puppy.”
52.                 Our parish
53.                 The fact that I can type over 60 wpm, I use this skill daily
54.                 Trying new recipes
55.                 Our couch
56.                 The fact that we have three book shelves filled with books
57.                 A healthy family: no disabilities, no severe illnesses or diseases, no special needs children
58.                 A healthy, “normal” reproductive system
59.                 The way I look in my favorite pair of New York & Co jeans
60.                 The temperate climate (at least comparatively)
61.                 My sister
62.                 My two brothers
63.                 Two sisters-in-law who are also my friends
64.                 Chad’s brother and sister and their spouses
65.                 Having nieces and nephews

I challenge you to start a gratitude journal of your own. It's good for us to reflect on our blessings and the things that make us happy. No joy should be overlooked. If you do start one, share some of it with me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What I Love About Autumn

It's that time of year again! Autumn is my favorite season (I can't say it's my favorite time of year because Christmas is my favorite time of year, but Christmas is not a season, so this is all logical to me). I love, love, love autumn. When I go outside in the morning and the air is crisp and cool and there's a tiny bit of a nippy wind ... mmmm! I love it! It makes me feel blissful. It makes me want to start dancing in the chilly wind, but don't worry, I won't embarrass you by actually dancing.
Here are my favorite things about autumn, in reverse order; you gotta save the best for last.

10. Hot drinks. Hot chocolate, tea, and coffee simply taste better when it's a little chilly outside.

9. Wearing warm pajamas
 Isn't this picture hilarious? Can you imagine buying his 'n' hers matching footie pajamas?

8. Thanksgiving. A holiday dedicated to eating ... I mean, to being thankful for all we have: yes please!

7. Snuggling up under a blanket and bedspread when I go to bed

6. Pulling my cool-weather clothes from the closet: those cozy long-sleeved shirts, fabulous scarves, adorable jackets, and fashionable close-toed shoes.

5. Soups. I really enjoy eating hot soups and chilis when it's cold outside, especially with some nice crunchy bread. And there are just so many soup and chili recipes and variations, it'll never get old.

4. The smells: pumpkin-scented candles, and winter berry soaps, cinnamon, nutmeg ... mmmmmmm

3. The fact that Christmas is just around the corner.

2. The weather. (Now, admittedly, since I'm in Alabama, the weather really is nice. If I lived in Minnesota or Canada, I'd probably be miserable). I can't say how much I love that crispness, the coolness, the drop in humidity, that little bit of cold.

And the number 1 reason I love autumn is:
1. The leaves. Oh, I love the leaves. They are so beautiful. Literally, when I'm driving down certain roads and on the freeway, I say (repeatedly) "Oh my gosh, that's so beautiful." (The kids started tuning me out after the first eight times I said it). I love the red maple leaves. There are lots of maples around here, and they are, quite simply, gorgeous. There are several oak trees, and their leaves get yellow. I love to see them changing. The colors are so, so beautiful.

What are your favorite things about autumn? Share here!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Homemade Monday: Homemade Playdough

Originally, I had this fabulous idea of making something homemade once a week and blogging about it. Like so many of my other amazing ideas, this one has fallen by the wayside ... like, really far down the wayside. Not because it's hard to making something homemade; I do that all the time. But who has time to upload pictures, sit down at the computer, and make a post? I have other priorities.
Except for today! Today, I'm going to do it. And today's super-fun homemade project blog post is about homemade playdough.
Seriously, this playdough is WAY better than store bought playdough. This stuff is just right amount of squishiness.

Here are the ingredients you'll need:
2 cups water
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup salt
4 Tbsp cream of tartar
food coloring
Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until mixture forms soft ball. Remove from heat and dump the dough onto a countertop. Let it cool only a few minutes (not too long). Then knead the dough until it is smooth. Store in a ziplock bag. Ours usually lasts a few months.

Here is Benji kneading our orange dough.

Have fun!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes

1. Today is the start of seven days of no sugar, no white flour, and no processed foods (or at least foods with no more than five ingredients). I did this a few months ago and I made it for seven days I think. I'm going for seven again.
2. I have registered for a half-marathon. It's exactly in 12 weeks, so today is the start of my 12-week training program. Thank, Hal Higdon! I can run 3 miles without too much trouble. Also, since I have finally decided to do another half-marathon and paid for it, it is likely that I will get preggos within the next few weeks. That would be my luck.
3. I do want another baby, and life would always be welcome in this family. So when I say just my luck, I am only saying the timing wouldn't be fantastic. But, heck, I'd run it anyway. Or well, I'd walk it.
4. Fiona has been vomiting for 5 days. I'm so doggone tired of doing laundry!! I took her to the doctor today, and he said it was a virus; it is just taking her a long time for the "lingering effects" of the virus to go away. I haven't slept well in a week. At night, every noise or movement by Fiona made me think "Is it time to get the vomit bowl?" And many of those times I didn't get it quickly enough and she threw up on our bed. And she's thrown up on 4 pillows. One just needed to be tossed; the others were washed. Oh boy, such fun.
5. I love coffee. Oh, I love it. I have turned into the exact person whom I used to judge so harshly. I wake up in the morning, my eyes burning with lack of sleep, and I think, "As soon as I drink a cup of coffee, I'll be okay." I stumble into the kitchen, pour a cup, sugar it up, and add some milk. Mmmm, yes, I love it.
6. Some of you may know that I have been avidly watching Downton Abbey, season 2. Just sign up for a free 1-week free trial of Hulu Plus (Swagbucks has a link to this, so you can earn swagbucks for doing it too!), then you too can experience such joy. This show has sucked me in, heart and soul; I've spent many "spare" moments watching it (which means I've put off laundry, dishes, and cleaning). I want to get my hands on season 3, but it doesn't even air till Jan 2013 (yes, that's right, I wikipedia-ed it).
7. Ethan likes math (I'm really surprised by this), being read to (right now, we're on Hank the Cowdog, book 1), building Lego cars, making Fiona laugh, and sometimes playing well with Benji.
Benji likes making Lego armored vehicles with treasure hidden inside, watching Phineas and Ferb, playing with Fiona, going to preschool, eating snacks, and playing in the sandbox.
Fiona likes puppies, puppies, and puppies. She likes cuddling her stuffed puppy, she likes stealing her brothers' stuffed puppies, she likes looking at real puppies, and she likes looking at pictures of puppies on the internet. She also LOVES to sit in laps and be read stories.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Okay, I know it's a little late because summer ended three weeks ago, but better late than never.
Here is how I spent my summer (which hasn't been a vacation in 6 years):

1. Spent 3 months going to the chiropractor three times a week. (Most of these visits were WITH the kids. Poor things. They were so good and patient though through all those appointments. And yes, it helped significantly).
2. Took a road trip to Texas. If you missed that post, it's here.
3. Not working out (started off because of back pain, then I was out of the habit, and I haven't been able to get motivated since!!!)
4. Planted a vegetable garden. You can read all about it here. It has been a sad failure except for the 1 zucchini we've gotten out of it.
5. Having playdates. We got together with several friends so our kids could play together. I love playdates as much as my kids.
6. Reading Magic Treehouse books. (I love these! They are chapter books that tell a story but teach kids history and nature facts at the same time. And both Ethan and Benji enjoy them. It's a win-win. There are somewhere around 50 books, and we got through a good 25 during the summer).
7. Took a road trip to Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Good times.
8. Went swimming. (Sadly, the very first of the kids' swim lessons, Benji got out too far, swallowed water, and then was traumatized till near the end of the summer. So no swimming was learned for Benji. We spent most of the summer trying to get him not afraid of the water anymore. Ethan got even better than he was before. He's a little fish now. We hit up the public pool twice and friends' pools several times).
9. VBS-hopped. (Hey, don't judge!) The first one was at our church, where the theme was "The Mass Comes Alive." The second one was the very next week at the church where I teach children's day out. The theme was "Daniel's Courage in Captivity." The kids attended, and I worked in the baby room. Needless to say, by the end of the week, we were all Vacation Bible School-ed out!
10. Got older. I tried to turn 29 again this year, but it didn't work. I'm now .... 32.

And so, three weeks ago, half-excited and half-sad, I sent my boys off to school.

Ethan was excited about going to school; he was just annoyed that I wanted to take a picture of him:

Benji was definitely excited: 

And then I got to spend some quality time with this little pumpkin: 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Road Trip, Part III: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Road trip, Part II: Charleston, South Carolina

Next up was Charleston. I LOVED Charleston. I'd love to go there again some day and see more of it; I could even live there. Around the city, we law lots of beautiful buildings:

This is an old prison: 

After touring a famous, historical house, we went out to the back porch, where the kids enjoyed bouncing on this joggling board: 

This is the Edmunston-Alton house that we toured: 

We got to go over this impressive bridge: 

Fort Sumter is where the first shot of the Civil War was fired: 

Benji with a cannon at Fort Sumter: 

This is Angel Oak, a 300-year old oak tree. It was truly impressive and beautiful: 

I mean, look at those gorgeous branches: 

We went to the Children's Museum, which was AMAZING. It was a lot like Pretend City (oh, how I miss thee, Pretend City). The kids were happy here for nearly 3 hours, and even then, the only reason we left was because they were closing. Their favorite was the water room: 

Benji made a dam, then a flood: 

And Fiona played with golf balls in the ball/science room: 

Then a little splash time in the fountain outside: 

We got to see REALLY old fire engines at a historical fire station. These two are from something like the 40's: 

And this was from even earlier. It was a horse-drawn fire engine. Where did they put the water? I don't know! 

If you ever go to Charleston, EAT HERE! Jestine's Kitchen was the best dining experience of the trip: truly excellent Southern food, hospitality, and a great mom 'n' pop atmosphere. 

A church: 

And another one: 

Middle Place Gardens and Plantation was our final activity in Charleston. It was genuinely beautiful: 

Look at this amazing tree! 

It was miserably hot there though. The kids were not impressed, although they did enjoy chasing the guinea fowl down the path. Too bad I don't have a picture of that. 

So long, Charleston. You are beautiful.