Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year via Mariah Carey!

Fun version of Auld Lang Syne performed by Mariah Carey.

(Be sure to turn off my playlist at the bottom of my blog.)

Happy New Year's everyone! Wishing you a blessed, peace-filled 2012, surround by those you love and beauty throughout the seasons!




Friday, December 30, 2011

I'm a Card Counter...

...and a domino counter...puzzle piece counter...game pieces counter...

You get the idea.

I am obsessed with maintaining the actual number of pieces that accompany any game, puzzle, or activity that my children receive.

This drives my husband (and me!) nuts.

He doesn't understand how I can walk by a pile of breakfast dishes in the sink...all day...only to obsess over finding that one missing puzzle piece.

Me neither.

It's a sickness I tell ya!  And it's been with me all my life.  Obsessing over finding little things.

So what does this have to do with the holidays...everything!

First off, my kiddos are fortunate enough to be the recipients of many creative activities from generous aunties, uncles, and grandparents who shower them with gifts for both holidays and birthdays.  And second...it's almost New Year's Day.

And that means getting my clean on!

So, since I/we have still been recovering from this nasty bout with the flu (I think we got Influenza, not stomach) I have been going stir crazy and decided to start my New Year cleaning/organizing/decluttering early.

This, of course, is what lead to today's all-day project of tackling the linen/game closet.

Let me tell you...I did not take a before pic because, after all, a girl's gotta have some pride!  You could not even open the door without tons of games, puzzles, bath towels, bed sheets, etc. flying out at you.  It was beyond ridiculous and made me look like we belonged on that TLC program Hoarders.

Really, it was just a disorganized mess.  And maybe a bit of hoarding.  :)

I threw out tons of trash...including board games with missing pieces...and I am donating a stack of old bath towels to our local animal shelter.

Here's a pic of what's left...

Can I just say that the light bulb stash on the top shelf is driving me insane?  I hate that messy cluttered look...I'm thinking of purchasing a large wicker basket (on sale at Michaels!) to hide those in.

Where/how do you store light bulbs?

And I'm so ready to reclaim the linen closet for...well... linens!  I only put the most recent additions of family and toddler games on the bottom shelf, but they're taking up valuable space.

I removed all of my table linens and will have to find room for them in the shelving in our dining room hutch.

And don't even look at our nasty bathroom towels!  Doesn't matter how nicely one folds ugly towels...they're still ugly.  Most of those sets are 18-years old.  Seriously.  Hubby and I decided it was time to invest in some new ones.  We've added a couple new sets here and there, but everything is mismatched and it's driving both of us nuts.  While I would love to have all white bath towels...this doesn't seem very practical for our family.  Jury's still out on what color to invest in.

Any suggestions?

Anyway, that's what I've been up to this week.  I've already tackled all of my drawers in our triple dresser that hold my, ahem, delicates (no photos of those!) and our master bathroom linen closet.

Loving the feel of organized closets!

Kitchen cabinets are next on my to-do list.

How about you?  Do you declutter/go into organization overdrive for the New Year?

Just one example of a game that had to "go away".

Sorry Dora and Boots.  It wasn't personal.  Mama just felt like we were missing too many colorful playing cards, as well as Backpack, and it was driving her nuts.  Perhaps we will replace you...but with the original model?!!!


And you, Baa Baa Black Sheep...

How dare you hide your bag of wool from me!

But I found you.  Yes I did.  Hiding among our towels for boating...and Snuggies that were the "it" item for Christmas last year.


And what were my kids doing while all of this "cleaning" was going on?

Well, the older two were making huge messes on the first floor (for me to clean up) and the baby...well he was figuring out how to do this:

Apparently, Luke's now mastered the art of climbing on stairs...time to get the gate!...and how to remove an ink pen cap.  Here's our little Picasso in all his glory!

Wishing you a fabulous Friday night!  I'm going to reclaim our first floor living spaces from child Christmas clutter and enjoy the sounds of Seasonal Music that are still being played on channel 933 on digital cable.  I can't even tell you how much I appreciate still being able to find Christmas music since we just couldn't get into the Christmas spirit last week!

Holiday Blessings to All!

Valerie

Monday, December 26, 2011

Candid Christmas

"Christmas just doesn't work out for me.  Never has."  (Billy, the lonely little boy from the movie The Polar Express.)

Sort of felt like Billy this Christmas Eve!

Not that Christmas hasn't worked out for us before.  It most certainly has.

(And the beauty of Christmas is that Jesus still comes...whether it "works out for us" or not!)

But unfortunately, the flu bug hit our family this past week and it just wasn't very merry around our household. 

As my girlfriend Shannon has shared with me...some Christmases are just like that...and it will be one that you never forget!  Thanks Shannon for reminding of what's really important in life!

Still, we did manage to open a few gifts and find some holiday cheer.  Here are just a couple photos of Christmas Eve and Morning...

This is Luke...opening a Little Tykes "Fire Station" on Christmas Day afternoon.  First time sine last Wednesday that he was wearing clothes and not footie jammies.  He's been running 105.3 for a couple days now...pediatrician said he had clear lungs, but might be on the edge of croup.  Just thankful it didn't turn into pneumonia or RSV.



This was a Christmas gift from Benjamin...a tiny key chain that he bought for mommy at the St. Paul School Christmas store.  He picked it out himself with the aid of student helpers...the preschoolers 3rd grade buddies. 




Another gift from Benjamin...this one for Daddy.  An insulated ice scrapper.  Daddy was pretending to use it as a razor blade which Ben thought was just hilarious.




Our Daddy loves Mountain Dew.  As in...I think it runs through his veins.  Totally unhealthy.  But, he's a grown-up and all my nagging has gotten me nowhere.  I've let it drop for now.  After 18-years, I don't think I can be the one to convince him to give up the habit.  So, when Mary and I saw this graphic t-shirt while out shopping, we knew we had to get it!



I've pledged to the kiddos that we are going to be better about keeping Family Night on Thursdays around here.  So, it was a board game Christmas for all three.  Benjamin received the classic Operation. (As you can see, fever had set in with bright rosy cheeks to show for it.)


Mary received Sorry.  This was my favorite game when I was growing up! Mary and I started to learn the rules last night.  That game has a ton of rules!


Other gifts included a train board for Benjamin, "Just Like Me" American Girl doll for Mary, and a brand new car seat for Luke.  He's thrilled I'm sure.  :)

Can't wait to try out my new gift from Santa...a bread maker!  Yippeee!!!  The kids helped daddy pick it out...it's stainless steel from Cuisinart and it's a beauty.  So, I'm off to make my first loaf.  Perhaps homemade bread will lift everyone's spirits around here!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!



Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Little Ways" to Keep Advent

If you search Pinterest for Advent Calenders (which I actually think are better referred to as "Christmas Countdown" calenders) there is no shortage of beautiful and creative displays.  I, myself, have pinned many for future reference!

Credit Here

Credit Here

But, in keeping with the title of this blog, I thought that I would share with you just a couple of sweet ways that my children, husband, and I have been keeping Advent during this beautiful liturgical season.

First...




...who can resist a sweet handmade interactive Advent wreath made by their favorite preschooler?!!!

This wreath was created by Benjamin using construction paper, toilet paper tubes, and tissue paper.

To assemble:  trace hand prints on green construction paper to form the base of the wreath on a paper plate..  Using 4 toilet paper tubes, paint three purple and one pink.  Cut bottoms of tubes to adhere to the wreath using Elmer's glue.  Finally, scrunch 4 small pieces of yellow tissue paper and insert one piece into each "candle".

Each Sunday morning during Advent, our little guy was beside himself with excitement to pull up a flame.


Not to be outdone by her brother, Mary Catherine also came home with an Advent wreath created at school.



Using dried peas and glue, our first grader mixed and fashioned a wreath.  Before hardening, her classroom teacher provided each child with 3 blue (purple) and one pink birthday candle(s).  This adorable little wreath is lit each Sunday night during dinner.

Another Advent keeper that Mary created is this little manger crafted from a brown lunch sack that she fills with "straw" cut from yellow strips of paper.  Each piece of straw that forms the bedding for Baby Jesus represents one act of kindness or prayer offered up on behalf of the Holy Family.


And finally, there is our family Nativity set. This set belonged to my grandmother and was passed on to me after she passed away in 1993.  I have lovingly display it year after year.  This year, we have added a new twist...instead of displaying the whole Nativity Set at once, we have only placed Mary, Joseph, the animals and Shepherd boy.  We are waiting until December 24th to add Baby Jesus and then the Feast of the Epiphany to add the three Wise Men.



While our Advent altar may not be made up of buckets or burlap & buttons, it is fashioned by the love of a family representing many generations...with hands and hearts that love and honor our Heavenly Father through the simplest of ways.

Wishing you a Blessed Sunday night as we enter into this last week of Advent...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Breakfast with Santa

Last Sunday, Mary and Ben's Catholic school parish hosted a "Breakfast with Santa".

I wasn't really expecting much...but was truly "wowed" by the event.

For a "free will offering" participants enjoyed eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and biscuits & gravy. Cinnamon rolls, orange juice, and coffee were also available. The event was hosted by the Knights of Columbus and the 7th and 8th graders of the school provided table service.

In addition to the food and, of course, obligatory picture with Santa (FREE too!), a gentleman of the parish provided live Christmas Carol karaoke. He was incredibly talented with a rich baritone voice.

Breakfast with Santa, December 2011

 As you can see, Chris and I are also in the photo. While we hadn't planned on being photographed with Santa, Luke had other ideas...he was not about to sit on the lap of some stranger with a white beard and red suit!  In the free photo of just the kiddos, Luke is going hysterical. 

Why do we do that to our children?  ;)

Wishing you a peaceful Friday night!

I'm Back..For Real!

So excited to be back in the world of technology! 

It ended up taking our IT people a bit longer to "repair" (read:  replace internal hard drive) my computer than expected.

The good news...all of my data was recovered including pictures.  The bad news...I feel like I've lost touch with everyone.  :(

Promise to be back later this morning to update our family blog and start making the visiting rounds.

Blessings,

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mary Catherine in the Nutcracker!

I know...I know...I've been MIA. 

You don't even want to know why!

Let just say this...Girls, I have got to stop Googling...or at least get better virus protection for my computer!  Seems that I infected myself with some "Russian Thanksgiving" computer virus and am at the mercy of free IT help.  Which is blessedly FREE, but means the IT guys get to my personal computer when they're not officially working. 

It's made for a "bah humbug" start to our December.

And I have so much to share...Benjamin Boy turned FIVE the week before Thanksgiving; we kicked off the Holiday Season with a wonderful trip to historic St. Charles, Missouri with my mother, sister and nephews; and, Mary Catherine performed in a local Kansas City production of The Nutcracker last night.  We're exhausted!  :)

Until I get my own computer back, I have to beg, borrow, and steal a few minutes on hubby's laptop.

Of which, he is fiercely protective.. 

...considering I've screwed up my own computer twice in as many months! 

So, I leave you with a few pics of our little ballerina.  She did so great performing on the huge stage at Shawnee Mission West High School. 

Hope to be back soon!  Enjoy!!!


"Angel"


"Chinese"  I thought Mary looked amazing in these colors!

"Gingerbread Girl"

Christmas Roses from Mommy & Daddy
Again, I hope to be back soon.  Maybe the IT guys (from hubby's part-time job) will have my computer ready and back to me tomorrow?

I hope...

...pretty please!!!  

Miss all of you and hope to be back to blogging soon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hug Your Kids!

I know that for most of us this is a no-brainer...

I know that for most of us cherishing our children and seeing them as blessings is second nature...

but I also know how easy it is to become busy with the day to day of living and that sometimes...

just sometimes...

we take for granted these little lives that are with us.

It's times like these...when a story like this one hits home especially hard.

This afternoon,

while in our small-town Dollar General

I noticed a disheveled-looking Black man, in camo, with red-rimmed eyes, paying an inordinate amount of attention to my two older children.  I moseyed towards the coloring books and toy aisle to overhear this gentlemen telling Benjamin that Matchbox cars were his favorite, too, when he was little.

No harm.  No foul.

Then, at the checkout counter, he was behind me.  
Talking to Luke, trying to get him to smile.  

And although his breath didn't smell like whiskey, I couldn't get over those watery eyes.

And it was then that he said to me...

"Ma'am, your children sure are beautiful.  Make sure you hug them a little bit tighter tonight.  You see, tomorrow, I'm burying my 4-week old grandson.

My heart stopped for just a moment.

Crib death...

3:00 AM...

Every mother's worst nightmare...

And then I felt my cheeks, burning hot with shame.  

For making assumptions...

child-molester, kidnapper, drunk...

...grieving grandparent 

never crossed my mind.

And while it is true that we must be constantly vigilant with regard to our children's safety...we must never let our "fear" of those that are different from us stop us from interacting and forming relationship with others. 

Tonight, I ask that you keep this family, grieving deeply over the loss of their precious grandson, in your thoughts and prayers.  I pray that our Heavenly Father might console them as only He can.

In Christ,


Monday, November 7, 2011

Tooth Fairy and the GPS

Finally.

After YEARS of waiting...

...the Tooth Fairy gets to add our DeSoto address into her GPS system.

Yes, it's true, Mary Catherine FINALLY lost her first tooth!

She's ONLY 7-YEARS OLD for pete's sake! :)

She is beyond excited about tonight...and tooth #2 is about to fall out as well...although she won't let me pull it.

And can I tell you a little secret...I was so happy that it fell out today.at home. The kiddos are off of school for teacher in-service. Yay!

There's something magical about losing that first baby tooth...and can I say she just "looks" so much more grown up!

Happy Monday! 

Just a bit shocked...

Now we're all smiles!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Should Have Been a Cowboy...

I should have been a cowboy...

It's never a party unless someone's a cryin'...
I should have learned to rode the ride...


Look, I'm all better...my mama gave me chocolate!
Wearin' my six-shooter, ridin' my pony on the cattle drive....

Cutest calf around!

  
About a half-hour into it...my husband and I decided that someone should go back to the house to hand out candy...our neighborhood was inundated with kiddos...obviously more than those that live in the subdivision.

(Can I just say that my parents NEVER took us to a strange neighborhood...besides the safety issues, they raised me to believe it was bad form.  And so today, I just can't do that...we trick or treat to a few of our neighbors' houses and call it a night.  Not to mention, most of us have 1-acre plots...and that's a lot of walking for little ones in costumes.)

Anyway, I volunteered to return to the house, switch on the porch lights, light up the pumpkins and hand out candy with my sidekick, Moo Cow. 

Be prepared for a series of cute photos...  :)




Dig-a-doo (that's my silly nickname for Luke...he tries to talk and I swear he says "dig-a-doo") was all about my the candy basket...boyfriend knows the good stuff, too...he wasn't happy about the left-over pixie-stix...he wanted chocolate!  :)

And so we've turned the calender to a new month...one of my favorites!  My precious Benjamin is soon to turn FIVE...and of course Thanksgiving.  Love it!


Little things I am thankful for...
1.  Benjamin sharing with me at bedtime that he never wants to grow-up...he wants to stay 4...forever!  (Me, too, sweet son!)

2.  Luke's new favorite past time...giving big, fat wet kisses at bedtime.  He smooches up his mouth and makes a cute little noise to go with them.

3.  Baking bread with my little ones...and waiting in anticipation for that first slice.

4.  A Catholic-school community that takes seriously it's job in catechesis.

5.  Neighbors calling to let me know that my garage door was still up (earlier this week) at 11 PM!  YIKES!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Giddy Up..It's Time for Trunk or Treat

Mary Catherine and Benjamin's school principal instituted the first ever St. Paul School Trunk or Treat.

As we have never been to one, I had no idea what to expect and didn't get the memo that we should have decorated our car! I think some large white paper spots on my black mini van would have made the perfect cow!

Anyway, here's some pictures from last night's festivities. Can I just say that I LOVED the little priest...he posed for me all night long. Unfortunately, the lighting was bad and you can't see his cute little black biretta.

So...

Introducing Cowboy Ben, Cowgirl Mary and Luke the Calf...





Mary's classmate, Ella, and her family went all out decorating their minivan.  The theme was "Boo at the Zoo".  I loved how even Dad got into the spirit wearing footie jammies!  :)




This poor student just can't seem to get herself graduated...

Here's the little priest...only he's not wearing his biretta...it's in his candy bucket!

And another one of my favorites..."Lucia Santos, 1917) (for those not familiar...one of the three shepherd children that the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Fatima, appeared before in Fatima, Portugal).  Her siblings were Lucia's two cousins, but I couldn't get a group picture as those three little ones were all about the candy!


And finally, Mary with her classmates.  She loved every minute of the evening.  Next year, I am so decorating the car!!!

Mary's new BFF, Caroline, adopted from China.  My girl is now obsessed with all thing Chinese! 

Happy Saturday!  Enjoy the weekend with all your little spooks!