Saturday, December 31, 2011


For 2012, I will spend every day "as if." 

I will not waste time wishing I could be somewhere, or someone, I am not. I will love every moment, enjoying time with my God, children, family, friends, and sometimes... just with myself. 

In 2012, I will appreciate what it is to be alive and here for a little more time.

This is my prayer for each of you as well. Enjoy every minute. 

My crew...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Focus

In my best "Mom" years, I start planning all the birthday parties and holiday events in September, right after my own birthday and Labor Day weekend. This year, is not one of my "best Mom" years. We have done birthdays lightly, with simple family dinners and (unexpected but joyful) time visiting with Grandpa.

In missing the organization boat this year, I think we've actually managed, however inadvertently, 
to have a truly spirit-filled holiday (holy day) season.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Birthdays Abound - Bruiser Turns Seven!

This time of year is "busy" for almost everyone, I know, but we have the added benefit of birthdays and our anniversary in between all of the holiday fun! So by now, we've run through Maestro's birthday, our anniversary/Thanksgiving (they are often within a day or two of one another), and Buttercup's birthday last week - this week is Bruiser's birthday. Our boy turns seven and is already so very excited! His excitement is infectious. He has asked about having a "pre-birthday" dinner, a birthday party with his friends, and (several) "after-birthday" get-togethers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Buttercup!

Happy Birthday, Buttercup! 
Purple: a stunning color on you, and your 2nd favorite, after blue
Buttercup is dictating the color choices on the post today because today our "Lonely Only" (Girl) turns 3. She is so spunky, smart and articulate - and such a great joy to have in our lives. I wrote her birth story out last year, so this year, I'm writing a letter - mostly of advice - but really just in a vision of the kind of Lady she'll hopefully one day be.

Dear Girlie,

In spite of not watching TV, you get your "screen time" in by doing "Letters" on Microsoft Word, watching Starfall or Netflix videos or sneaking off to steal time on your brothers' Nintendo DSs. It cuts down on how many commercials you see, but somehow "princess" has started to creep into your vocabulary. We're working hard to change princess into Queen

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Devil is in the Details

Jeff and I were talking tonight about ways to be an encouragement to our boys - ways to help them become good men. A parenting article I read recently suggested that the way to really effect change in children is to comment more on practicing skills ahead of time - before a troubling situation arises. In the article, the example used was how to handle tantrums. Before a tantrum occurs, practice self-control with the child and praise him for the little successes. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Story of a "Baby" Boy - Happy Birthday Oldest!

This post is about our oldest. Nana, Grandma Jo, Beth - feel free to link me to some early pictures if you have any digitized, otherwise they'll have to come later.

Maestro turned 12 this past Friday - every day we look at him and see the signs of a man emerging. We see him trying to take on responsibility for himself, taking charge of his own schedule. Makes me a little sad in a way. Sad in the same way that I felt when he was five or six and crossed the street by himself for the first time. He was going to play with his friends, and didn't even look back. My "baby" was leaving me behind, letting me go. Wow. What a moment.

What a stark, difficult, happy moment.

My Boy.
All the years that he's been in the back seat of the car, his face rising steadily higher in the rearview mirror as he's grown taller and taller, my mind was filling in the future years. I could - can - so easily picture the way he'll look as an older teen, as an adult, leaving Mom behind for a lot longer than an hour across the street.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Be an Encouragement to One Another

Today we were able to give Bruiser hearty celebration after listening to him read a book entirely on his own. In fact, he read it quickly enough that even Buttercup was sufficiently engaged! Such moments are a true "win" in any home and should be wildly - and widely (hence the blog post!) - acknowledged as special.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is it My J.O.B. or J-O-Y?

At 16, I never thought I  would be a stay-at-home mom. Heck, I never really thought I'd be a mom of my own at all. I was sure that my calling was to adopt a bunch of children and raise them. My thinking was, "Why should I have children of my own when there are so many other children out there who need help?"

Well, fast forward a loooong time (about 20 years or so) and I have my wonderful five now, and adoption might still be part of my calling, but is by no means all of what I am called to do in my life. And staying in the Navy for 20 years was not part of the calling either, though I once thought it would be. But staying home, nursing babies, teaching pre-teens, and keeping house for twenty years (and a lifetime beyond) is part of that calling.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

20 Min. Meal in Pictures: Southwest Stir Fry

While making this meal the other night, I began to take snapshots of each step with the idea that maybe I can put the recipe on here in pictures. This meal is kid-friendly, versatile, quick, and delicious. Enjoy!

(For ease of grocery buying, the ingredient list is below the  pictures - Would love opinions on this style of recipe sharing!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On Truth and Trust...

A "pijamie"-clad Buttercup came up to where I was sitting on the top step last night and laid her head down on one leg, and then put her legs across my other leg, with her body hanging across the gap between my knees. Considering that she and I took a very fast trip down the stairs just a few months ago, resulting in stitches for her and four hours on a fetal monitor for me (I was still pregnant at the time), it was a pretty trusting position to take!

In looking at the successive ages of my older children, I see, of course, decreasing levels of that overt trust. It got me to thinking about trust... As we age and begin learning about the world and all the evils that are out there, who and when to trust gets ever more complicated. Should I take you at your word when you say you'll show up for something? Does my trust require a contract be signed? Do I instill trust in others? Do I make my word my bond?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Living Intentionally and a Link to a Giveaway

I have goals and dreams, most of us do, I suppose, but I seldom write them down. I sort of take it for granted that the events taking place in my life are leading me, slowly but surely, through and to those things I am meant to achieve in life. When I was younger, all I ever wanted was to join the military and get a pilot's license. I joined the military at 18, married at 22, left the Navy at 24 and largely feel like my life has been an every-day gift.

Having that attitude doesn't require anything of me really, except that I show up and be open to going along for the (sometimes wild) ride. But that attitude also means I am not living my life intentionally. If I don't live my life with a thought to my goals and dreams, then I am not really living my life to its fullest potential. In short: I am letting big chunks of life pass me by as I float down the lazy path of the slow part of the river. 

There is nothing wrong with taking the come-as-it-may route, I get to see the forest for the trees that way. Heck, I even get to see the leaves of the trees that way - and the occasional Leaf Bug hiding in those leaves!

But this post is about changing that dynamic somewhat. This post is about making a "bucket list," but since I am not fond of that term, I'm using one I saw on another blog: "Life List"

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Easy Recipes: Crusted Tilapia with Blueberry Gastrique

What to do when you look in the freezer the night before grocery-day and see frozen fish fillets, blueberries, and little else? Try out a new little experiment, that's what! Maestro looked at my Google search and said, "Blueberry fish?? YUCK!" But it's been a while since I put a recipe on here and this experiment turned into a real winner!

If you try it out, I'd love to see your critiques and comments!

Walnut-Crusted Tilapia with a Blueberry Gastrique 
accompanied by 
Coconut Rice

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rethinking Standards for Acceptability

There is something that has been weighing on my mind for a while now - and subconsciously I suppose I have been responding to the urge to make a change. As my children have grown, I've become increasingly aware of the objectionable content we are unwittingly, and sometimes un-willingly, exposed to, and the refrain has been:

If I protect my children from these images and ideas, how good are they for my own soul, development and moral compass?

Monday, October 3, 2011

30-Day Fast: Final Week Check In

Well, we're in our final week. I don't feel like 30 days has been long enough in some ways. Both good things and struggles have come from our time of screen-free living, and I'll do a sort of final tally here...

First, our oldest dog, Joker, whom we had with us for thirteen years, and who was about 15 years old died this last month. That was a blow. As we watched various struggles surface in his health, and thought they were only attributable to old age, we determined that we could handle it - he went deaf, then incontinent, then blind... soon after the blindness became apparent though, he began to have seizures and they showed the vet that he was in advanced stages of brain cancer that could not be cured. At that point, we gave him relief. The seizures were coming around every 3 to 5 minutes at that point and he was exhausted. As painful as it was to put him down, we knew it was right when his face showed the relief he so desperately needed.

Our old boy just last April - still pretty spry

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Checking In - 2 Weeks

It has been two weeks since I signed off of most of the more recreational things that I do on the Internet. Things like streaming TV shows via Netflix, FaceBook, FaceBook games, my blog... But some of the things I've noticed bear comment so I've decided to do a sort of "check in" post. I still want to leave my last post about Ray up for the duration of September so I am writing this on the 14th, but won't post it until October 1st.

One thing I had planned to "leave behind" more was e-mail. I meant only to check on my e-mail once a week but quickly discovered that it just is not that easy in our society today. I would like to let it all go for the whole time, but I've had requests for information to be sent that just couldn't wait (homeschooling stuff, church stuff, scheduling, etc.)

So much easier is the "do as I say not as I do" aspect. The kids have not watched a show or played a video game. Maestro has been online a few times to work on the Computer Science badge he started for Boy Scouts. He started the badge before we started out "fast" and I decided at the beginning of the school season that I wanted to try to incorporate his badges into his every-day school work so he's been allowed to keep up with his badge work.

The kids have started asking how much time is left in September - or how much time is left before they're not "grounded." But I really don't see it that way. I don't look at it as a grounding at all - more of a ... break. A fasting period. It's good for us as a family.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Remembering A Great Man - and Tillie is Temporarily Signing Off

Yesterday I attended a military funeral for a former "First Shirt" (aka First Sergeant) who was a great man. This post is primarily about him and his leadership. But I'm putting in a side note first...

Lately, I have not been using the Internet and computer as the tools they are, but instead more as time-fillers, and the kids have been looking to watch "special" family movies or play video games almost nightly, creating somewhat of a nightmare in our lives together. Screen time is not what we want for our children or our family dynamic. Personally, I have three work projects to complete now, in addition to the projects we're engaged in as a family (like refinishing the basement!) and I want to reset the way we spend our time. SO, I'm taking a break from the engaging-but-time-wasting activities that I perform on the screen. For the next 30 days, we have put away the Wii and Nintendo DS's; we've unhooked the TV; we're limiting our time on the computer to work- and school-related projects and activities. I get about 150 e-mail a day from various sources - so I'll check those for one hour a week on Fridays.

Otherwise, if I'm needed more urgently, it is best to use the old-fashioned methods of communication: call the house or the cell phone, or hearkening back to even darker days: come knock on the door.

Now on to the funeral - because I cannot think of a more fitting way to pause my blog than to leave a note of remembrance for someone who was truly a stand up fellow.

SMSgt Ray Tudino was Jeff's "First Shirt" for several years and has made the round as First Shirt for a few other local units as well. We arrived ten minutes early, maybe a little more, and the parking lot was already filled with cars - we parked on the street, and walked up the hill to the chapel with friends we've served with who had flown in from Texas, Germany, and other points on the globe. That's what kind of man Ray was, people respected him and want to honor him, so they came from wherever they are stationed, no matter how far. 

At the front of the chapel, was a pair of military boots, standing empty. Where the boots meet at the heels, was a military-issue rifle, stiffly upright, a set of dog tags hanging down in front. On top of the rifle was a military helmet, empty, chin strap hanging down: the symbols of a military man lost. The ceremony started with the Final Roll Call...

"Sergeant Rollins..."
"Present." 'Sgt. Rollins' stands ready.
"Airman Phebes..."
"Present." 'Airman Phebes' stands ready.
"Senior Airman Blake..."
"Present." as 'SrA Blake' stands ready. 
"Sergeant Tudino..."
...  ...  
"Senior Master Sergeant Ray Tudino..."
...  ... 
"Senior Master Sergeant Raymond Tudino..."
...  ...
"I regret to report that SMSgt Raymond Tudino is not present..."

Rest in Peace, Ray. You will be sorely missed. 

And so, I will post again in a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Creating an Atmosphere for Exploration *Edited*

Bruiser received a new kiddie-camera for his last birthday. All of the boys have long held interests in photography and drawing. I have tried to be as supportive as I can - and this has been made easier by the use of digital photography. Gone are the days of having to wait to develop the film to find that none of the pictures are worth keeping! While a part of me - the old-fashioned part - laments the loss of "real" film (the old 110 or 35mm film, you know), allowing them to use a digital camera has been a blessing as they explore new methods of seeing the world and new areas of interest. Increasingly, I am finding some pretty good shots, and almost always from an angle or perspective I would not have considered.

One of the best aspects of homeschooling is the freedom to allow our children to explore these new interests and try out new things while still "getting it all in" on the school front. This freedom comes from the fact that their interests are usually easily incorporated into their schoolwork.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Show Review: "Heavy"

As I mentioned in a previous post, I know a few people who struggle with their weight and so I am coming to our relationships from a few angles: First, I am trying to be supportive myself by eating a healthier diet (i.e.: more water, healthy snacks, etc., less sugar) and secondly, I am working to better understand the thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. that my loved ones struggle with in their efforts to become healthier people. To that end, I've begun watching shows on Netflix to get ideas and understanding. SO... Without further ado, here is my first TV show review...


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Corn-Quinoa-Basil-Lime Soup:
A Simple Summer Soup

This soup is a mix of two recipes that I have from two different cook books - it is a 20-minute or less type recipe, very easy for even the non-cook types, healthy AND tasty (yes, the two CAN go together!) Pair this with a salad (suggestions below as well), if you want it to be the main part of the meal or if you want it as a starter, follow it up with a chicken breast topped with fresh bruschetta and a side of steamed kale or spinach (recipes for another day and post!) Beyond tasty!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Encouragement in Getting Healthy

No pictures on this post for now, I just don't have a good one yet. This post is a little out of my normal realm but I hope readers will forgive me. I am feeling really pressed lately to start working on posts that are encouraging and helpful in this area of life. I hope to make this only the beginning.

Like so many others in our society right now, there is someone that I love that is clinically labeled "morbidly obese." I have watched her for many years as she struggled to get healthy and get fit... again, and again, and again. I saw her during the "Phen-Fen" years, where she dropped more weight than I remember her ever losing; I watched all that come back after the medication was no longer available. In truth, I'll take the "larger her" than the scary medicine. I've known this person all my life and love her deeply and want to see her succeed in her quest to be healthier and to regain  herself in the process.

Let's be clear, this person is, in so many ways, amazing - and she is wonderful, but this is an area of struggle for her. She is at the end of raising six children. Of those six, all of them talk to her pretty frequently, and only one lives farther than two hours away from her. She has worked two jobs at a time to make ends meet for years and years. She is wonderful with babies and newborns - they adore her (and sleep for her, God bless them!) I'd say that makes for a lot of positives in life!

Up to now, I have watched people in society make nasty, jeering comments; laughing when they thought she was not aware that they were looking; whispering to one another over what food, or how much, was on her plate... Though she puts on a pretty good face of self-confidence, I know from other events that have taken place in her life that she struggles with that. Her weight is one symptom of that. The number of negative, snarky, unsupportive people she surrounds herself with is another: She doesn't feel worthy of being loved or of being fit and healthy. And she is absolutely worthy of both.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Primer on Larger Families

Our oldest two boys have been in Colorado visiting the 'Grands for about two weeks now and boy what a difference it has made in our house! It is easy to think that temporarily going from five children to three might make my life easier, if only because I am cooking for and taking care of fewer people overall. However, I have to give credit and kudos to my oldest two boys. Bruiser is doing his very best to try to help hold back the "creep" on the house and the Clutter Within. But he's six. He wants to play, he wants to watch shows, he wants to do games with Mom, he wants to hear stories - and rightly so! He's six!

Giving credit to my Exact-Center son, he has moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer and even figured out where to set the timer so it would run long enough to get everything dry. Please trust me when I say that that is a big deal. I've found more laundry left slightly damp in the dryer than I care to remember! On top of that, when it became clear that he was not going to be able to help me mow the back lawn, he saw another need and took care of it - Mr. Magoo was crying in his stroller off to the side and so Bruiser took him into the house and kept him entertained for the twenty minutes it took me to mow. There are other things he's helped with as well, but these are just two big ones from today.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Burst Tomato Recipe - a 20 minute meal

It's been quite a while since I put anything food-based on here and tonight's meal is a great one to share! This meal took me 20 minutes to make, start to finish, is healthy, and delicious!

So, here is what you're looking at: to the left is couscous topped with burst tomatoes, behind that is home made pita, following around to the right is hummus, then kalamata olives and cucumbers from Spinster Beth's garden (Thanks, Beth, they were delicious!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Scenic Sunday: Washington DC Folklife Festival

I realized after last week's post that if my pictures were going to be taken on Saturday, the actual "Scenic" posts would be Sunday! So continuing on with what I started last week, here are some photos taken yesterday while attending the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington DC with my family and friends. I am using these posts as a way to encourage me to look more closely at the beauty - and sometimes oddity - in the world around me. I am not always the most observant person in the world, largely because I am busy keeping a head count to make sure all of the children are accounted for. Enjoy the story of our day!

Each year the Smithsonian Folklife Festival focuses on three things: a country (Columbia), a type of music (Soul/Blues), and an organization (Peace Corps.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Scenic Saturday: Leakin Park, Baltimore City, MD

Welcome to my first Scenic Saturday!

"Time together as a family" seems to be our theme lately. We've been working hard in our family to cut down on our spending, our clutter, and our screen time (the irony of being on a computer to type this notwithstanding). In the process, we've made our time together count for so much more. Saturdays on my blog are dedicated to increasing our attention to seeing and sharing new and interesting things throughout the week as a way to slow down and enjoy the ride of life! 

Saturday, we walked down to Leakin Park at the end of our street. There is a trailhead there and we wanted to take it out to the old Crimea Estate House, which is about 1.5 miles from our house, by foot. Here are the scenes of the day...

The crew at the beginning of the hike: Smeagol at right, then Bruiser, Maestro, Buttercup and Pop (Mr. Magoo was in the sling and behind the camera with me!)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Living Life Backwards - A Different Perspective

I posed this thought to my children the other day:

What If...

parents knew how old a child was going to be when that child was born 
as a result, we counted our years down instead of up.

Would you live your life more fully, knowing that your days were "numbered" and life had a clearly-defined ending? Would you live in fear of what was coming and try to play it safe - perhaps in the effort to "escape" the inevitable? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

40 Day Blessing - Welcome to the Church

Jesus Presented in the Temple
 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

In commemoration of the events described in Luke 2:22, the Orthodox church has a special set of prayers and a blessing to welcome new babies into the Church and to bring Mama back into the Church. SO... for the first time in nearly two months, I went to Liturgy yesterday and for the first time ever, Little Mr. Magoo went to church as well. After being gone for so long and missing most of the Lenten services and all of the Paschal (Easter) services, being here and smelling the incense and hearing the prayers sung and chanted were truly blessings to enjoy. The incense hit me the strongest - it is such a unique smell and it really affects me strongly. 

In this post - just some pictures and brief explanations of what's going on... 

This is a shot from way in the back of Annunciation Greek Cathedral in Baltimore, MD. The icons in this church are beautiful - to the left is Christ breaking the gates of Hell. In the back center is Mary with the Christ child - it is my understanding that outside of an icon where she is pregnant, Mary is never shown without Christ. I don't know what the proportions are, but I don't think most Orthodox churches have organs. This one does and you can see it and the choir up in the top left - just to the right of the icon on the wall. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

We American Hoarders...

{Let's face reality, shall we?}

Many. Americans. are. hoarders.
{and there's a good chance you're one of them!}

There have been a few posts on my little bloggety-blog here about decluttering and getting rid of stuff. Of curing "stuffitis" - and my struggle with it. Well, this is another one, but one with a twist as opposed to more pics of my house-in-progress (as much fun as that can be!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning

This post is actually just a link to another person's blog, but the article is well written and so very important for all to be aware of. 
Please spread the word far and wide as we enter swimming season and summer fun!

The link is to Mario Vittone's blog. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Surrounded by "School"

Maestro - motivation for several blog posts lately - has mentioned a curiosity about classroom-based education a few times over the years. It seems his primary motivation has been because of the social aspect: a mistaken notion that going to school will mean being able to talk to and interact with his friends more often. As a result, I've tried to point out where things that we're doing anyway are things that I can frequently "count" as part of our schooling. My intention is to get him to think more along the lines of a "count your blessings" mentality, as opposed to a "count your curses" mode of thinking.

One of our many "alternate" home school activities

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Letter to Our Oldest Son

Yesterday our son came home from his friend's house across the street and was clearly upset about something. The short version of the story is that he had used his Nintendo DS "for 30 seconds" while waiting for another friend to come out. His friend said that he was "obsessed" and ultimately decided to go inside. There are, of course, other details that he wanted me to consider, but in my mind that is what it boiled down to. I told him that she was right and he had been rude.

In a bit of a pre-teen huff (meaning, as he tried to leave the room and escape downstairs), he said, "(You were)... the one person I thought would back me up!"

~ ~ ~ ~
Dear Oldest,

I want to tell you thank you for being part of my life; you and your siblings are what make me mom. It is with a mother's love that I write this note to you.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Giving "Permission" to My Mom

This is a post of a story told backwards. It begins at the end... and ends at the beginning of the story. It is the story of Mini-Haha and my attempt to give the story back to my Mom.

Now on our fifth child, and having had a chance to reflect on my own childhood, I see now that children are God's way of giving us a chance for redemption. And of teaching us to laugh at ourselves. As children, we did things that hurt our parents, whether intentionally or not. Now as parents, we are no more perfect than our parents were.

The youngest photo I have access to that is digitized. About 11 or 12 here. 

One of the things I used to get so angry with my mother for was her delight in telling a story of my earliest years. We parents love to catalog the foibles and amusing events of our children's lives, don't we? Already I watch my own children and find myself telling others of this or that amusing thing that they've done. God bless them  - but I can't help it, they're so often just so funny! And in another five or ten years, we won't be laughing together over the events in question. Instead, I'll be wondering what happened while my child gets angry at me for sharing stories we'd always laughed at together in the past.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Arrival of Mr. Magoo

Now I can fast-forward to the birth-day itself. We were a week past the "official" due date, which was not particularly cause for alarm since the baby was still very active and my weight had not dropped any. When you hit 41 weeks, they have you come in for a low-stress test and an ultrasound to check your fluid levels. I did both. The stress test was fine with a good, active baby. At the office for the ultrasound, she made her notes with an increasingly quiet countenance. She asked us to wait while she had the doctor look at the results. When she returned, she said that we needed to talk to our midwives and called them right there from the ultrasound office.

The midwife explained that we needed to return to the birthing center because "the average woman has fluid levels of 10 to 20." He continued, "We like to see a baseline number of at least 5. You have fluid levels of 3." 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Week Before Mr. Magoo

If you read Part One of this little birth story, you know that we were suddenly in need of a last-minute doctor's appointment. This was due to the pinworms that we discovered 2-year-old Buttercup had. In looking it up, we discovered several things that amounted to a pretty good health and science lesson for our homeschooled children: 1) pinworms are spread by not washing one's hands well enough and then putting those hands in our mouths; 2) pinworms are annoying but relatively harmless; 3) they are gotten rid of by taking two pills, two weeks apart; 4) the medication needed is not "indicated" for pregnant women by the FDA.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mr. Magoo

I'm going to add a bit of detail to Mr. Magoo's story before I forget all the crazy things that happened in a span of two weeks. In the two weeks just prior to the "official" due date of April 15th, we had several issues we were dealing with in our house... Including:

  • a basement toilet (called a "flush" here in Maryland) that ran constantly (and therefore needed to be repaired immediately)
  • a run of sick children - each taking turns at throwing up
  • Jeff going away for a two-day business trip
  • a new car that had temporary tags about to expire that needed to be renewed - down in Virginia, an hour away if there was no traffic
  • having to get to a government office before they closed to renew another temporary paper, in conjunction with the temporary car tags

Saturday, April 30, 2011


The last two posts were about how much I appreciate the little moments with my older children. This post is to introduce our newest joy - I am so happy to find that all of our other four are excited, happy and loving toward the new baby brother in their midsts. The full birth story will come in the next few days, but here is the snapshot info for now!

Born at 0009 (that is 12:09 a.m.) on 
Saturday, April 23, 2009
weighing in at a scant 6 lbs., 15 oz., and 19 inches
 is our fourth boy.

With his proud Papa

And with Smeagol, Maestro, Bruiser, Buttercup and Grandma

Until his personality kicks in, he'll just be "Mr. Magoo." Already he brings us joy - can't wait to see what comes next!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Appreciating the Smallest Moments...

Here I continue the appreciation and recognition of my four wonderful children. The first part is posted here.

Smeagol was looking over my shoulder at some pictures I had e-mailed to the Grandparents. Maestro was labeled a "handsome boy," Buttercup was "Pretty Girl," etc. and then there was his picture in which he was labeled, "Goofy Boy" with the follow-up that I hoped it never changed about him.

He asked why he was "goofy" and enjoyed my answer when I pointed out that his shirt was a church shirt, partly tucked into Spiderman shorts, but only in front, and he had a huge goofy grin going. He takes some small delight in being goofy still. I know that will change as he gets older. It did for my brothers, it will for him.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Enjoying the Small Moments

The other day, Buttercup came to me while I was making dinner. She's two, and at a point where helping "make" dinner or pretending tea party is of high interest to her, so it was not unusual that she took out our smallest cutting board and wandered off with it. Until a short time later, when she returned, very pleased with herself, to show me her creation:

Crayon washes out - eventually - and it was only a cutting board,

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Little Moments of Domestic Memory

Not pictures from my childhood - but of memories my own children may one day have of our "little" family!

I don't have many memories of my earlier childhood years, and what I do have are foggy and more like dreams than reality. Sometimes I question whether or not a "memory" really happened or is something that my mind made up somewhere along the way. I'm not sure what that says about my mental health, but for now I'll keep doing my Sudoku puzzles and learning new things and making new friends to help "strengthen" my brain. But this is a post about the force and power of one of my memories and how small moments from our childhoods can affect the courses of our lives.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Smeagol's Birthday Story

How terrible! I got so wrapped up in making an awesome birthday party happen for Smeagol's ninth birthday that I didn't put his birth-day story on here the way I did for Buttercup, or the way I had intended. So though this is a bit late, I am putting it up now. As I mentioned for Buttercup, these posts are largely for my children way down the line, but I am happy to share them, as I remember them, because some day I may not be able to tell the story any longer, for whatever reasons.

The earliest digital shot I could find of Smeagol - all the rest are on hard copy! He's about 3 here.

Our Smeagol is the only one of the four children that was born in a hospital with a "regular" Obstetrician (as opposed to a midwife) attending.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Make-Ahead Mother's Day Gift

You might think it too early to start putting together a gift for Mother's Day in January, but what better to do (well, okay besides de-clutter your house!) during the remaining cold winter months than put together a gift that will help you know Mom better? Not only that, but this week there are fourteen weeks before Mother's Day. With this project, you need to come up with, and write out, 52 questions for Mom. If you start this week, that comes out to about two or three questions a week, and still give you time to get to the post office to mail it out. Work a little faster to make a second jar for your sweetheart!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In Appreciation of Mom

Not too long ago, I was yanked from a sound dream to my name being called, "MOM!"... "MOOOOOM!"

Grumble... grumble...

"I need to go potty."

Okay, so he is old enough that he doesn't need his hand held for this any more but for whatever reason the boys have all looked for that late-night (early morning!) reassurance that I'm still there when they need me - even for going to the bathroom. (Truthfully, by now, I go stand and wait, remind them to wipe the seat, put the lid down, flush the toilet and wash their hands...)

Monday, February 21, 2011

10 Ways to Support a Military Spouse (During Deployments)

This morning I saw one of those videos that people make up now that has two cartoon-type characters chatting in robotic voices. Usually, one of the people is ignorant (meaning "uneducated" vs. "stupid") about the issue being discussed and the other person is rather caustic in getting the point across. Sometimes, these are very funny... I love the one where the two women are talking about having lots of children.

The one I saw today was about a military wife answering stupid questions. The writer said in her comments that she would never actually answer people's questions that way and that some people were offended by her caustic tone; many military wives found a laugh in it and a bit of "letting off steam," if you will. From that, it occurred to me to write a post about how to best support military families (more specifically, spouses with children) during deployments. I write these in no particular order, because the reality is that what one spouse finds helpful, another spouse simply may not need. I've tried to include things that many spouses would find helpful.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Motivation on a "Blah" Day

This morning I actually woke up and had to really think about what needed to be done that day. Yesterday the whole house was vacuumed and dusted, kitchen cleaned, bathrooms cleaned... now we're getting down to the "little" stuff. The decluttering, the deep cleaning, the "extras" that don't get hit as often.

So I made my way downstairs... and I tanked.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cleaning Up MY Act

Jeff's tidy little bedside table

When it comes to housekeeping, I have long been more of a "stasher" than one who puts. every. thing. in. its. place. A terrible habit and one I have so far (thankfully!) not passed on to my children irreparably. The past two weeks I have been very interested in following blogs that have cleaning schedules, ideas for organization, ideas for keeping areas straight, etc. On top of that, I am in a semi-annual phase of getting-rid and so am determined to declutter as much as I can while the mood lasts.

I would chalk more of this up to "nesting" and the whole pregnancy thing, being that I'm in my 29th or 30th week, but I really do go through this phase is truly something I go through at least a couple of times a year, regardless of whether or not I'm pregnant. On top of that, each time, a little more sticks and the house is getting easier and easier to keep clean with minimal efforts. Eventually I'll even hit the point where I can get into the deep-cleaning of the curtains, etc. and keeping dust off of everything!

Well... One step at a time, there, Tillie!

So about a week ago, I landed all over Smeagol and Bruiser for their room. It was a wreck - things stashed in the wrong drawers so they wouldn't even close, broken toys everywhere, papers in drawers instead of in school folders, a desk that was largely unused other than to... what else? ... stash things. SO they spent the morning "cleaning" it on their own; needless to say, they didn't get very far, otherwise I would not have had the idea for this post. I went up and helped them finish going through every toy drawer/cubby, their desk, desk drawers... all but their clothing drawers and their bookshelves, which we'll get to later. So far, they have kept it fairly well clean.

This got me to thinking... how come I can't crack that same whip on myself to get my desk straight and kept tidy, keep my "clutter areas" of my room clean, etc.? Here's what has happened in the last two weeks to that end:

  • I started on the kitchen. It is now at a place where I don't struggle to keep it up and where I get the dishes done (hand-washed!), counter clean before 9:30 every night - a HUGE accomplishment for Midnight Mel.
  • We get at least one load of laundry washed, dried, folded and put away each day as part of our bedtime routine.
  • The dining room gets picked up and cleaned up after each meal and several times during our school day so it remains fairly tidy.
  • The living room is similarly kept up, with toys being regularly policed and put away, broom being taken to problem areas for a quick sweep, etc.
My goal for each area is to be able to "fix" it in ten minutes or fewer, thereby making it easy to do housework and then get to let the kids go free, try new recipes, read a book or just relax and play games with the kids for a while.

So today I am tackling my second-biggest "problem" room: my own bedroom. (The biggest is the storage room. I am having to do some internal talking to get worked up to that one!) The pictures you see in this post are largely the "before" shots of problem areas in my bedroom - with one shot of my dear, sweet, fairly tidy Jeff's area beside the bed. He is more of a "natural-neatnik" than I am.

We have been good for one another that way - he is less sticky about everything being exactly in place, and I am less of a stasher. As suggested on several of the other blogs I mentioned earlier (Clean Mama, Angel Navy Wife, A Heart Like Water) I have made it a "rule" to finish each area of a room entirely before moving on to clean the next. Sort of a FlyLady thing I guess but I can't keep up with all of the stuff she does just yet!

Tally for the Day

So for today, I got half my bedroom done, but my dining room, living room, kitchen, bathrooms and den are largely in order before Maestro has a friend over to spend the night. Oh yeah - and I broke the "rule": I did take time out to organize the boys' bookshelf. I got in there to put a couple of books away... and couldn't figure out where they were supposed to go so I had to fix it.

Right then.

I'm happy with the day and ready to make pizza crust for dinner tonight while Buttercup takes a (unfortunately) late nap.

My newly-tidied bedside table

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And Something to Think About

In today's economy, it is no doubt that we all either know - or are - someone in need: of a job, love, human friendship and company, food, clothes, shelter, warmth... Not all of these needs must be financially-based or job related. Sometimes just having someone come out and shake your hand and offer friendship and caring can help us continue to forge ahead even in the toughest of circumstances otherwise. I have said a few times that we are working on two major goals this year: becoming debt free and getting rid of the excess stuff that we have in sitting unused in our home.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Something Nice to Start Your Weekend

I have three or four posts started, but none quite ready to put up yet. As we've just passed the day of the March for Life, I would like to share a quote that my mom gave me around the time that I left home for the Navy. I happened back across this little gem while cleaning the bedroom today. She said (if I recall correctly) that she wanted this little scrap of paper back sometime, so I will duly share it here and then return it.

Before you were conceived I wanted you
Before you were born I loved you
Before you were an hour I would die for you
This is the miracle of love.

~ Maureen Hawkins

I hope being reminded of a mother's love helps start your weekend off in a good way, as it has mine.

This post is linked with:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Cheating" Your Way Through the Kitchen...

Tips and Tricks When You Have to "Do Without"

A couple of notes on measuring ingredients while cooking...

It is best to use a wet measuring cup for liquid ingredients - milk, juice, water, etc. - and get down at the level of the measuring device to make sure your measurement is accurate to help avoid the mix coming out wet, which will then take longer to cook inside.

And use a spoon handle to level off a dry measuring cup for all other items that take more than a few Tablespoons - flour, sugar, dried fruit, etc. Or gently shake it down to make the item more-or-less even with the top of the measuring cup.

** "Cheating" Your Way Through The Kitchen **

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Home Made Doughnuts - Yum!

Recently, Smeagol and Maestro decided to earn some extra money by selling home made muffins and doughnuts. The math and methods for selling are in this post. I posted about it on Facebook and have had a request or two for the recipe. Here is the recipe - remember that you can use the food processor to make them quickly and easily for a good Saturday-morning treat!

Friday, January 21, 2011

First Flight - Video Review

My mom works in a small shop in Tacoma, Wa, called Chirp & Co. When we visited at Thanksgiving, the boys did all kinds of cool home school stuff. They made their own walking sticks, helped with stocking and customers, painted their own birdhouses, etc. There were actually several more workshops upcoming that we would have loved to attend, but alas, the vacation ended and we were pulled back to "real" life back in Maryland.

BUT one of the last things Mom gave me to pack and take home was a lovely little video sold in her shop called First Flight: A Mother Hummingbird's Story by Noriko and Don Carroll. We didn't get around to watching it until just this past Tuesday. What was just a 45-minute video for me, turned into an impromptu science and art lesson that lasted several days! First, here is a brief synopsis from the back of the video box:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: Wild Things

I am not usually impressed by parenting books - not any more. I've had too many children and seen too much in life to put any real stock in their advice. But every now and again I come across one that is easy to read in my very limited free time, that seems worth completing and that has some useful words of wisdom. Not only that, but in a house with several hundred books already on the shelves, space is at a premium for books I intend to keep around!

The book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas is a book I am only about 1/4 of the way finished with and am willing already to recommend it to every parent of boys that I know.

Whether your boy is a toddler or a teen, you are likely to find something of value in this book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Overcoming Frustration

What to do with a six-year-old who is frustrated from learning to tie his shoes? Make him do it again. Grit and Grin and tie it again. And again. And again. OR end up tying shoes for a 30-year-old man (???) Yeah. No.

Each of my three older children are different in this way. Maestro has had a lot of experience at things coming relatively easy for him. With music, he has never had to really press through frustration because he "gets it" on the first or second try. It's just his thing. Smeagol, on the other hand, has long had to work for every. single. step.


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