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! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

WWRW: Divergent

Joining Jessica because I actually read something!

Always late to the party, I finally read Divergent by Veronica Roth. In a word: underwhelming.

Since this book (and it's series) has been out for a while, I won't waste much time giving a book report. Basically, it's another young adult novel set in a dystopian future-Chicago. Some nameless war in years past has caused the society to split into 4 factions based on certain personality traits, and in Amish fashion, when a person reaches 16 s/he can choose which faction in which s/he will live out the remainder of her/his life.

We good?

The main character, "Beatrice/Tris", is revealed to be "divergent" when she undergoes the customary testing at age 16. This means she exemplifies strong characteristics of more that one faction and this is viewed as "bad". 

Blah, blah, blah. Fast forward past where she is advised to hide her "divergency", chooses a new faction, and is forced to abandon her parents and brother. 

This is where it began to lose all touch with any kind of reality for me. The violent and brutal initiation rites of the new faction, the quickly-formed rock-solid friendships, the ever-present references to physical sexual feelings (not overt, just overdone) did not feel "human" or "realistic" to me. 

For me, a story can be as far-fetched as Harry Potter, but still be "real" because the conversations between characters and the development of the characters themselves are true to human beings and our nature. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer is a good example of a plot that is far-fetched made even worse by poor dialogue and an unwillingness to "act human" on the part of the characters. This was never more evident as when the book was made into a movie and most intelligent people could easily hear and see the odd way the characters acted and conversed.

So it goes with Divergent. When I spoke some of the phrases out loud, I was faced immediately with the idea that no 2 people would ever really speak this way to one another. 

Divergent was a big "meh" in my opinion and I have no desire to read the rest of the series. And, I have even less desire to watch the movie. 
What is the fascination with this book?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Five Favorites: Road Trip Lifesavers!

Joining the gorgeous Heather this week!

Last night, we arrived home from a week-long road trip to drop off Killian at Ave Maria University. (More on how he came to the decision to transfer in my 7 QTs on Friday.) It was an amazing trip; long, bittersweet, and filled with beautiful memories. 

But, let's back it up a bit to the word "long". 

Chicago to Ave Maria, Florida is a 21 hour drive. 

We chose to break it down into a 2-day drive each way. That makes it just bearable. Our 2 high school kids had already started back to school, so they stayed with my parents, while the 4 youngest (and Killian!) came along. Knowing that I would have those younger kids to entertain without the help of fun older siblings, I began furiously pinning road trip ideas back in April, and I found some real gems!

I would love to share my 5 favorite sanity-saving road trip ideas with you today....

1) The dollar store is your BFF. I bought small cookie sheets for each child to use as trays for snacks and activities. This idea proved even more ingenious when I found magnetic games for the 4, 7, and 11 year old. But, what about 2.5 year old Will? Read on!

2) Magna-Tiles are from Jesus. I have sung the praises of Magna-Tiles before, but I have never loved them more than I have this past week. Will can play with them for long stretches of time, and because they are magnetic, the cookie sheets were the perfect "play table" for them: no dropped pieces! They also were a nice, quiet toy to play with in boring hotel rooms.

3) Pack intelligently. We knew that the first couple of nights we would be moving from hotel to hotel to hotel. I decided that I would pack a couple of outfits for each person into a smaller suitcase, so we could leave the bigger suitcases in the car until we arrived at the hotel with the longest stay. And, always include swimsuits on top! Hotel pools were the perfect way to get kids to work off the restless energy they had built up all day in the car.

4) Take the free breakfast! No matter what, choose a hotel that serves a free breakfast! Aside from the money-saving feature (we figured we saved $42 each day), it's super nice to stumble down from your hotel room to a ready-made breakfast (some of us may have dined in our PJs...).

5) Ain't no shame in bringing a potty chair and a roll of paper towels! Will was at a crucial point -- no turning back! -- in his potty-training when we embarked on our trip and hadn't yet mastered "holding it". Having his little potty chair in the car saved us from having to stop eleventeen-hundred times that first day. And, the roll of paper towels sure came in handy as poor Will puked his way through Atlanta on our return trip! 

I learned lots of other tricks -- as well as, some ideas that did not work so well -- and I'd be happy to share those if anyone is interested! Just ask away in the combox!

More on the decision, the trip, and beautiful Ave on Friday!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Theme Thursday: Google Me

Cari chose today's theme to prove that my name is as common as my face...

Kidding. (Right, Cari? You didn't, did you?)

Anyway, I googled my name, clicked "images" and got this:

Nope. Not me. And, no offense Other Mary Kate Dempsey, but I don't want to look like you.

A few more pics and I got this:

Strike dos. Although, I would love to have a room that looks like this.....once the kids are grown and moved out and bring the grandkids dressed in hazmat suits. 

Soooo, where the hel-eck-eck-HECK am I? 

There I is!! 

8 pictures down. I'm so famous.

And, for the promised bonus points, here is the screen shot:

(As you can imagine, googling my name
also elicits a lot of Olsen Twins images. I liked Full House, so I will forgive Mary-Kate Olsen's use of a hyphen, but Ashley? As my husband says, "she's a no-talent hack.".)

Happy googling!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Five Favorites: Do You Have Hello Kitty Weed?

Linking up with the perfectly perfect Heather for a round of Five Favorites.....

A little backstory first:
Last Friday, I had my scheduled abdominal hernia surgery. It's been something I've been happily avoiding since Will was born, nearly 2.5 years ago, but it was time and we really like our general surgeon, so I scheduled it.
 It was supposed to be same-day surgery, which was a huge relief to both Kyle and I, but it very nearly ended up not being that way. 
Apparently, I wasn't very cooperative about lying still while under heavy sedation and kept asking for Kyle, so they put me under general anesthesia. Also, the hernia was pretty large. 
After recovery, they gave me the option of staying for a day or two, or going home. You bet your sweet bippy that I got as dressed as fast as I could and made Kyle take me home!

Some interesting things happened during recovery and over the last few days, and they are fast becoming my favorite stories to share ---- also because I'm home-bound and this is the only material I have.

1) As I became more awake and lucid during recovery, my nurse leaned over and asked me "do you remember what you said to me when you were first coming out?". Of course, my answer was "um, no??". She gave me this huge smile and said, "you said, 'Did you guys give me Abs of Steel?'".
credit here

2) Since I've had 7 c-sections, I know a little bit about recovering from surgery, and I tried to have as much of my surroundings planned out and prepared beforehand. Staying hydrated is really important, especially when you are taking painkillers, but it can be difficult to move your body in order to actually consume beverages. That's where this comes in handy:
The "Catholic" part is optional, but why take the chance?
3) Kyle generously took a week's vacation to stay home and care for me and the kids, and I tried to have a few things planned out for them, so they wouldn't go stir crazy. In all of my preparations, I forgot about entertaining me! Fortunately, my awesome youngest sister showed up the night before my surgery with an armful of magazines and bags of bite-size candies! 

4) Kyle has been doing all the jobs I normally would do this week and that includes a lot of driving. In Illinois, you are required to use a hands-free device with your cell phone while driving. So, Kyle has been using his voice recognition texting to send messages. The technology may not be perfect. Here is a sample of his texts to me:

And my sister texting me after receiving his texts:

Joe was working at the pool's concession stand and Kyle wanted to ask him about the funnel cakes. This is the text Joe received: "Do you have Hello Kitty Weed?", to which Joe replied, "No, we don't have weed of any kind. Sorry."

5) One final not-so-favorite: a prayer request for me. Apparently, I have contracted a staph infection in the vein where my IV was placed. I'm on heavy-duty antibiotics, but staph in the bloodstream isn't anything to mess around with, so prayers for a quick healing would be very much appreciated. I promise to offer up any discomfort for your intentions!