Friday, March 6, 2015

7 Quick Takes: Too! Much! Fun!

Joining Kelly this week...

I have been having way too much fun lately.

WAY too much fun.

But, it can't be all bad because I've found lots of good things to share with you!

1) Gratiae Cosmetics.  Don't pull "a Mary Kate" and get suckered into a package "deal" at a mall kiosk, but do order some of these products on Amazon. My favorites are the exfoliating salt scrub, the body butter, and the facial peel.

2) Trader Joe's dark chocolate peanut butter cups. 

Nuff said.

3) Will turned 3 this past weekend and three of his gifts were a themed set. 
We gave him this book:

Along with this costume:

And this costume:

So far, it's been a hit with all family members.

4) Kyle also had a birthday on last Friday. We got him a new waffle iron. 

I promise there wasn't a selfish motivation behind that purchase. ;)

5) We have some of the greatest friends. For Kyle's birthday, we took him to a Fish Fry at a local Irish Pub. And quite a few of our friends and their families joined us. We had the best 3 hours eating, drinking, and laughing hysterically. It was a great way to celebrate Kyle's birthday AND beat the winter doldrums.

6) We have the greatest kids, too. Some seasons it's easier to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Lately, Kyle and I have both been graced with that kind of season. We have spent more than a few evenings marveling over the beautiful qualities that are unique to each of our 7 kids. And, it's clear that these qualities are God-given gifts, not anything that we can credit to awesome parenting.
We have seen older kids cement their relationships with each other, with the promise of lifelong friendships. We have seen them model grace and generosity for their younger siblings -- some days, they are doing a better job of that than we are. We have seen younger kids show a genuine concern for and tenderness towards family members who were feeling upset or ill.
God has been so good to us in allowing us to be their parents. 

7) In the near future, Kyle and I have the rare opportunity to sneak away alone for a couple of days, and we couldn't do it without the help and cooperation of my parents and siblings. They are so good to see the value in a couple spending a little time renewing their relationship and being generous enough to take on the care and crazy schedule of so many kids. I hope that, one day, Kyle and I can be generous enough to return the favor, as well as pay it forward to our own kids.

Well, we have one month left of Lent, and I hope you're all being more penitential than I! ;)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WWRW: Guest post!

Linking up with DJ Jazzy J for this month's WWRW!

Since I haven't been reading a lot lately, I asked my brilliant, handsome, and well-read husband Kyle (of vlogging fame) to write a guest post for me. 

And he actually complied!

For your reading pleasure, I give you my beloved's review of Sackett's Land:

2015 - The Year of the Sacketts

In case you are not familiar with Louis L'Amour's work, the Sacketts are a fictional family who emigrated from England to America in the 1620's and then proceeded over to continue a western migration across America over the next 250 years.  Over the course of about 18 books, L'Amour tells the story of the settlement of America, life on the frontier, and the continuous push to the West.  I have read several of these novels over the years, but in 2015 I set the goal to read the complete saga, in order, from start to finish.  The books are good, short reads perfect for a weekend - and most importantly, in paperback form they fit perfectly in the back pocket of your jeans!  Over the years these books have been made into TV Mini-series and even several films.

Sackett's Land begins the story of this fictional family in 1620's England with the introduction of Barnabas Sackett, a free man with a small patch of land who through a series of events finds himself drawn to the New World.  Set against the background of class struggles, the novel tries to delve into the motivation that would cause certain people to pack up and emigrate to an unknown land while others remain content in their homeland.  There is plenty of action and adventure with pirates, Indians, battles, escapes, and sea battles.  The author does tend to repeat himself quite a bit, but all in all it is a good book.  L'Amour brings in historical characters and events and uses them as the backdrop for Barnabas and his friends who make the journey and eventually settle in America.  The reader is led from the English countryside to 17th century London, across the Atlantic to the Carolina coast with Barnabas and his friends always fighting for justice and sticking up for each other.

Stay tuned for further reviews of To The Far Blue Mountains which continues the adventures of Barnabas as he settles in America with his wife begins to build up a life in the wilderness, and The Warrior's Pathwhich starts the tales of their children, particularly Kin Ring Sackett.

Monday, January 5, 2015


If you haven't already done so, please check out Jen Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator and choose your patron saint for this year!

It's 2015! 
Happy New Year!! 
How is this possible?!?

It's true what they say about time speeding up as you grow older. In fact, I think that if you add in some kids, the trajectory increases. 
My Crazy Y2K Baby!

The fact that I can say things like "15 years ago, I was expecting our 3rd child." signifies that I am officially geriatric. Which means that I had ---FINALLY!-- better get my act together.

In fact, a couple of years ago I matured enough to stop poking fun at people who chose a word of the year for themselves and I asked the Holy Spirit ("HS") to help me focus on a word that would help me improve during the coming year. (Those of you who knew me in high school will have already passed out from the shock of this, so....thanks for reading!)

I, also, jumped on the bandwagon for Saint of the Year because who does NOT need some extra intercessors sitting at the Throne of God? Not this girl!

The Saint thing was made easy by using the Saint Generator. Last year, I received St. John Bosco on my first try, and that dude was PERFECT for my 2014. (He's probably taking a well-earned heavenly nap right now) My first result for 2015 was St. Guntramnus, the patron saint of divorced people and reformed murderers.
When I told Kyle he said "yeah. Choose another one.". 

So....St. Charles Borromeo is the lucky winner!! And, among other things, he's the patron saint of spiritual direction which is something I desperately need. It's also tricky to find a good spiritual director, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Moving on to the Word of 2015...

In past years, it was really hard to quiet my head and my heart enough to hear the whisperings of the HS. This past Advent, I spent a lot of time tuning out the "extra" noise and more time focused on preparing my heart and my home for the Infant. And, on the Third Day of Christmas, the HS gave to me: Beauty!

This one was loud and clear. I need to look for beauty --God's beauty-- in all things. His design is perfect and beautiful. It is just that my human imperfections make it very difficult to see a lot of the time.

Especially (gulp), the ways that God made me beautiful. Inside and out. In truth, that is the one aspect of this that scares me the most. But, it's not me trying alone. I am asking for God's help to try. And, as a very helpful priest told me the other day: His graces are there even if I fail in the trying.

So, what saints and/or words are part of your 2015? 
I'll pray for you. Will you please pray for me?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

12 in 2014!

Linking up with that genius, Dwija for 12 pictures of our 2014!

January brought a trip to Florida for Killian, Will, and I so Killian could check out a possible transfer to Ave Maria University.
They convinced him.

February brought more of the Polar Vortex in all it's beauty and strength. Some of us enjoyed it a little more than others.

March was the month that brought a late birthday celebration for Kyle's 40th on Will's 2nd birthday (March 1st is your birthday when you are a Leap Day baby!). We all made the trek up to the Wisconsin Dells for a night at the waterparks!

April was still chilly and snowy (!) but a late Easter meant that some of us could wear our Easter Bonnets with more springlike apparel.

May was the month that Mother Nature finally decided to play nice and we found a fun little splash pad at our wonderful zoo!

June brought about another big change in our family: Maeve graduated 8th grade.

July was slower and lazier than usual, as Kyle had to take off some time to help me recuperate from my hernia surgery. But, that meant lots of fun excursions for him and the kids. I did get to tag along on a day-trip to the beach where we met up with Kyle's oldest sister, her husband, and 7 of their 8 kids. Will was very pleased to get some extra attention from his cousins!

August was a huge month of flux. Joe started back to school as a junior and Maeve began her freshman year. At the end of the month, Kyle, the 4 youngest kids, and I made the 20 hour drive down to Naples, Florida to drop off Killian and most of his worldly possessions. Saying goodbye was hard, but it really felt like Killian was making a step in a new and great direction.

September was the month that, for the first time ever, all seven of our kids were enrolled in school! Will began attending the Toddler Program at our beloved Montessori school for 2 mornings each week. He hasn't looked back!

October was the month (along with September and November!) that Kyle and Joe ran a weekly basketball camp for the 2nd through 8th grades at the same Montessori school. Jack and Eamon both attended and it was awesome to see the fun and learning take off for all of the campers!

November brought us Thanksgiving and a joyous reunion with Killian. We tried to pose the kids for a Christmas card picture. They had other ideas. 

December has been hectic and filled with various illnesses, but the joy and love that overflows amongst us during this time of year far outweighs any inconveniences! And miracles do occur! Look at this before and after from Christmas Day:

Wishing you a most blessed and peaceful 2015!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Five Favorites: Fine! I will embrace Autumn.

Thank you to Heather for asking me to help out this week by hosting Five Favorites! And, welcome, to all of you who haven't been introduced to my brand of crazy!

We had a horrendous winter this past year, followed by a dismal spring and a very short summer. I feel shortchanged. 

Yes, I'm sulking. Whatever. 

Buuuuuuuut, because I don't like missing out, I'm ready to play nice and acknowledge Fall's arrival. (Also, it's a good lesson for the Mother Nature to learn: I can be just as fickle as she.)

So, here are my five favorite items for Autumn!

1) Pumpkin-all-the-things! Yes, I'm that girl. Truth be told, I would eat pumpkin-flavored anything all year round, but this is the time of year we get smacked in the face with all of it. And no one does it better --or more thoroughly-- than Trader Joe's. Here's my standard TJ pumpkin fave along with my new TJ pumpkin fave:

The bread is insanely good and I have never tasted another pumpkin bread that struck the correct balance of moist and dense without being gummy and heavy. 
The crackers are awesome, especially when paired with Brie cheese and an inexpensive Pinot Grigio. (Don't be jealous of my fanciness).

2) Break out the comfy slippers! These Isotoner slippers are my constant companions during Fall and Winter. They keep my piggies toasty without overheating. 

3) Holy Cow! Have you guys tried Kindle Unlimited? You should! They're running a free 30-day trial right now and it's awesome! My only problem is not remembering all books I have been wanting to read. I'm hopping over to WWRW to get a few more ideas. I know lots of people read beach/poolside, but my little guys still need a watchful eye, so my reading picks up when the weather turns colder and we play indoors more. 

4) Halloween!! I'm a Christmas Crazy girl married to a Happy Halloween boy, and his enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. We are back to hosting our Halloween party this year and are adding in prizes for best costumes in various categories. I can't wait to see what people come up with! Enjoy some contenders from past years....
My brother and sister-in-law. Don't ask. Please.

The infamous Housewifespice and family as the Malfoys.

5) My firstborn is coming home! Fall also means Thanksgving and yesterday we booked Killian's flights for Thanksgiving weekend (a.k.a. Faith's birthday weekend). I can't wait to see my boy and feed him some non-cafeteria food! 

Now, please distract me from the thought of the Next Season That Must Not Be Named and link up your five favorites below!

Friday, September 12, 2014

7 QTs: School, Schedules, and Schports.

Joining Jen this crazy-busy week...

1) All the schools for all my kids are back in full-swing this week, and it makes me feel like a drunk on a nonstop roller coaster. So. Many. Things. All. The. Time. 

(Possibly related side note: we are out of beer AND wine.)

2) Will is in school and loving it!! Our kids attend a Montessori school through 8th grade and all of them have started at the ripe old age of 2-2.5 in the Toddler class. Truly, it's more like a twice-a-week play date for them; especially for Will because his cousin is also in the class and the teacher is our good friend. The mornings that he isn't scheduled to go are quite painful for him as he watches his older sibs exit the car: "I wanna go to 'cool!!!". 
I like the 2 mornings a week schedule because it gives me just enough time to get errands run alone but still have all that time with my little guy. :)
"Look, Mama! I Kristoff! I Sven!"

3) My high school kids' schedules are ramping up. Between play practices, prolife club, French club, SciFi-Fantasy Club, retreats, discernment programs,  homecoming games and dances, they have me scrambling to remember pick-up/drop-off times and who is going where with whom. Their schedules, alone, have turned my whiteboard organization on it's ear and it's been replaced with reminder "pings" from my phone. But, they're happy and involved and that's exactly what we want for them!

4) From the scarce communications, I believe Killian is enjoying Ave Maria and his classes there. Again, if he's thriving, happy, and involved, I am totally OK with the big pauses between communications. 

5) A few years ago, Kyle and another dad from our grade school ran an after-school basketball camp for the 2nd through 8th grades. It was fun, but life got more complicated for both families and they had to put a hold on it for a while. The last couple of years, we've signed Jack and Eamon up for the park district basketball camps, but last year's camps were a 6 month long fiasco of parent coaches who were living vicariously through their 1st graders and parent referees who would unashamedly ignore fouls on their kids' teams in order to ensure a win. (Don't bother complaining to anyone in our village; most of the coaches and refs were directly related to trustees and heads of departments.) So, Kyle and I decided that we would start up the old basketball camp at our grade school and Jack and Eamon are so excited! We are, too!

6) Faith is trying to convince me that she "is really REALLY interested" in gymnastics and will happily go to a class every week without complaining. "REALLY!". She does need her own "thing", so I'm trying to make it work with the rest of the schedule and budget. 
Caught in the act of Chair Vaulting.

7) This year, I feel like Fall rudely intruded on what was a simple, sweet summer and I will admit to being a little miffed. But, having a routine is good for me and the change of seasons always forces me to take stock of where our family is "going". I don't know about you, but that's always a good thing! 
Requisite First Day(s) of School(s) picture!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 5, 2014

7 QTs: College Road Trip!

Hitching my wagon to Jen's  wagon train (get it? Road trip? Wagon?)

1) Waaaaaay back in December, my mom mentioned to me that Ave Maria University had decided to lower it's tuition by $5000 for the following year. This school had been on the very furthest edges of our periphery during Killian's senior year in high school, but, for various reasons was eliminated early on in the decision-making process. Given the fact that we were in the throes of a polar vortex and Killian wasn't having the most fun living at home and attending UIC, Kyle and I suggested to him that we visit Ave to "just check it out". (Yes, I was dying to get the heck out of Siberia)

2) Much to our surprise, Killian was on board with the idea and my dad generously paid for the airfare for Killian and myself (and lap-child, Will!) to visit at the end of January. Long story short, we were very impressed with the gorgeous, brand new campus and encouraged by the enthusiastic and well-educated faculty. Killian decided to apply.

3) Fast forward to this past May: Killian was accepted, all his credits transferred, and was awarded 2 scholarships! All-in-all, it was only $1500 more a year to live at and attend a better school! Winning!
The Indianapolis Speedway

The Grand Ole Opry!

4) And, so, we decided that most of us would make a week-long vacation out of the trip down to Florida to drop off Killian. (Joe and Maeve stayed with my parents, as their high schools had already begun the year. I hated that part.) You learn so much about your family on road trips. Things like, some kids are good at going long stretches without using a bathroom and some kids are good at sleeping for long stretches. Both of these qualities are seldom combined in the same child.

5) Killian's dorm suite is IN.SANE. 6 guys,  4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 huge study room. Pretty sure he's on vacation with a side of academia.

6) WE SWAM WITH WILD DOLPHINS! Apparently, a couple of the public beaches in Naples/Bonita Springs have regular visits from wild dolphins and manatees. We didn't quite understand how intensely cool this was until we were playing in the water with the kids and a pod of dolphins came to play with us! They got as close as 2-3 feet from us and splashed with their tails, swam around us, and played hide and seek! I am not ashamed to say that I had tears streaming down my face. 

7) Our last night in Naples, we took our oldest baby out for a farewell dinner. As good as we feel about Killian being at Ave and as much as he seems to be loving it there, it still wasn't easy to hug and kiss him goodbye. Some of the younger siblings really struggled with their emotions. Huge change in their very small worlds. 

We are so happy for and proud of Killian as he takes this really big step in his life!