It Was Like Christmas Morning Over Here…

I managed to wake up before the kids this morning. I willed myself out of bed to wish M off to an early start for the day and see if the snow forecast had been accurate. After looking out the window, it was clear that the weather man had been right. A white layer of powder covered everything, and it was still coming down.

I sighed, trying to brace myself once again for six months of cold, snowy weather (please, let that be an exaggeration), and got dressed. I shuffled in my slippers to the kitchen, and started to get my coffee brewing. M and I greeted each other, and he hurried to get out the door.

I had about 30 minutes of blissful morning quiet over my coffee and breakfast before the first little feet came plodding from the bedrooms. “Mommy,” a sweet little girl voice said, “May L and I get up and play?” I told her that they might, and that they would need to get dressed soon. “I looked out the window and saw white!” she exclaimed before running back to her room. I could here them both standing at the window, giddy about the fresh snow, making plans for playing.

Once G and L were dressed and eating breakfast, anticipating snow play after our morning school time, I went to get up two year old F. She first asked about her grandfather who had left just two mornings before after a visit. I got her dressed and as soon as she walked into the living room, she saw the snow out the front window. She went to the window and stood there for about five minutes, staring and saying to herself, “Snow….snow….snow…”

School was more of a struggle than I had planned, but we managed anyway. And they were all excited to bundle up in their snow gear and head outside. Their mother, on the other hand, has been a bit of a wimp about the cold, and decided to stay inside and do a few chores.

As I peaked from time to time out the window to make sure everything was okay, I discovered that my children are perfectly okay with cold weather. They also taught me that the slide on our swing set is good for winter use as well. There is nothing like a snow suit to pad the landing after flying down a wet, snowy slide. They threw themselves on the ground in glee making snow angels. They ate handfuls of snow. They slid down the little hill that ends at the neighbor’s garage. They had a good 20 minutes before it started to sleet, and that was too cold and wet for them.

Maybe if we stay get above 10°F most days this Winter, the kids can actually play outside everyday. I don’t think they will tire of the snow anytime soon. Further, once we get their super warm water proof mitten in the mail, I would guess that they will stay out even longer.

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, August 28

1. I am trying not to lament the end of summer vacation for M. It has gone by too quickly with a 17 day trip to Georgia, Ohio, and Michigan, a 5 day visit from my sister and her family, and our 9 day trip to St. Louis, plus everything in between. It has been absolutely lovely here in Minnesota, which is more that I can say for our winter weather. Our garden is still producing well, and we are taking in the last week and getting ready for a more scheduled school year.

2. August flew by without a trip to any fairs, and while I know the kids will miss seeing the animals, it did not fit into our schedule or our budget. We did however make a visit at the end of July to the farm in Wisconsin to visit our cousins, aunt, and uncle and see their animals. Hopefully the girls won’t be too sad when they notice we missed out on the State Fair this year. While it is a big deal in Minnesota, we have only been Minnesotans for two years so maybe we can be okay missing it.

3. Two years in Minnesota! I can’t really believe it. Time has flown by since we got here. The kids are so much bigger than they were when we moved here. We own a house. We have survived two winters. M is thriving at and loving his work. And we have found an awesome community of Catholic families to be a part of. We are really starting to feel at home here.

4. This video was going around Facebook this week about how this winter is going to be worse this year, especially compared to last Winter. But this guy, Joe Bastardi, specifically said “it may not be as bad further North and West, as in Chicago, Minneapolis…” Maybe we are getting a break this year in Minnesota. However, I am not going to count on it, and am mentally preparing for at least 100 consecutive days of sub zero morning temperatures…

5. We are getting monster cucumbers out of our garden. These things are like miniature watermelons.  Here is one L picked today with a pen and with my lame phone.

 The girls keep on picking them and bringing them it. But seriously, they are bigger than G’s arms!

6. And speaking of lame phones. I am trying really hard to not feel embarrassed everytime I pull my phone out in public. Last week at the baseball game everyone was using their phones to check the weather and take selfies and I was like, it would be fun to get a picture… but my phone there it is… tiny. It does have a fun keyboard that slides out underneath. But really it is much better for my soul and for my children than I have not upgraded to a smart phone. I waste a lot of time online as it is…

7. I was thinking of writing a post about how I organize my life and schedule and then I saw my desktop.

Who left all those files on my children?
I need serious help here, guys. Or I  need to spend about five minutes getting everything into folders or the trash. My first tip is to clean before things get messy… then things will not look like this.

That’s seven!

I am linking up with Jen and her Conversion Diary. Head on over for more quick takes!

In the Desert

Last night, on an impulse, opened a scrapbook I had made for my, then, fiance in the nine days between our engagement and Christmas. I made a beautiful record of our relationship starting with our first semester of college through when we became engaged a little over two years after we had met. What struck me about it was that on every page I had put a meaningful passage from scripture; back in college I spent time reading scripture everyday. After we had kids, and since I have been blogging, I have focused my reading on other things. In the short ten minutes of prayer time I set aside, I have been reading spiritual books or lives of the Saints. While, my husband and I have gotten back into praying our breviaries for morning and night prayer, my daily encounter with scripture only happens if we make it to Mass, and that only happens if we get out of bed in time for 7:30am Mass. For past week some child has been running a fever or had a nasty cough, so we have been trying to let the kids sleep. But it is not just the past week, the whole of the Winter, we were always making excuses of one or another not to go to Mass.

I am perfectly aware that daily Mass going is certainly not required of a family with three small children, but I know that when we go to daily Mass, we are a happier and better family.

We have a strong family prayer routine, with morning prayers, meal prayers, and bedtime prayers, but I feel that I have been missing something. I miss going to adoration, which I was able to do daily when I lived in Steubenville. But now we live two minutes from a perpetual adoration chapel, and with the kids going to bed at 7:45pm every night, there is no reason I can’t take time at least once a week to go and pray, to bring my Bible and sit and read and pray and journal.

I am realizing that I need a change, and trying not to be frustrated with myself for not realizing this sooner. I realize now, that the emptiness I have been feeling lately, my desire for more companionship, is a need for growing closer to God. That is what is missing now. I am highly dependent on a life of routine, and when I don’t have a routine, things tend to fall apart mentally. I can’t focus, I can’t plan, and I hang on to the semblance of routine that I do have, spending the rest of my day in aimless activity.

But the great thing about being human is that there is always room for improvement. Now is the time to improve, to pray, to trust, and to seek guidance. I am not sure that I have a conclusion here, and I am going to resist my need to wrap this up in a perfect ending, because I have no more to say. I guess I am in a good spot for the Triduum.

Thoughts for a Wednesday

I do not really have anything in particular to say, but I just need to do some writing. I have had a few deep thoughts in the past 36 hours, and even started a few posts in my head, but they are now all missing. It is funny how the daily care of a home, children, and husband can do that to you. I am also thinking about the mail box, because I heard the mailman come while I was getting the kids down for quiet time. I would check it, but yesterday a very excited three year old decided to check the mail and found it empty. I am going to save it for her.

I need to work on dinner a little bit this afternoon, because I have worked out a system of having the older two do a workout video with me on Wednesday afternoons while F is still napping. It has been working well, but that means dinner will need some prepping soon. We are having a mushroom, feta, and spinach quiche. I am pretty excited about it. I will let you know if it turns out as amazing as it sounds. The same three year old go very excited about the prospect of pie for dinner, when I answered inquiries into dinner’s contents. And speaking of food, I have some really yummy leak and potato soup sitting in jars in the refrigerator. I am going to resist it. Maybe we will eat it with lunch tomorrow. It was last night’s dinner with grilled cheese. Alright, enough about food.

We really need to get more planning into our gardening this year, but there is still snow covering our garden, plus where we plan on building a garden box. I really have no idea when planting is supposed to happen in Minnesota. Someone once told me that county’s have a publication that recommends when to plan what. Does anyone in Minnesota know where I can get my hands on some guidelines? That would be really nice. I actually just want a lesson in gardening or a great book to get me through the first summer.

It is supposed to snow tomorrow and Friday, so I think I am going to push back my outdoor Spring plans longer, and just do inside things. I have gotten pretty comfortable with our inside routine. Throwing outside into it all, just throws me off, especially for the non-walking 17 month old who wants to play. I am not going to let her scoot around the yard and ruin all of her pants. She will just have to learn to walk or stay inside and watch her big sisters play outside.

And now I have some pie crust to make.

Pondering the Long Lived Snowman

First of all, if you follow me through facebook normally, and are not using Facebook during Lent, you can follow me in two ways, add me to your RSS feed or sign up to receive email updates!——>
I have a lovely view outside my front window.

To the left is the three month old snowman and to the right is the two month old snowwoman. They were once young and beautiful, and now they are shriveled heads. Their grotesque look makes me think that they are more appropriate for October along with the skeletons and goblins people put on their lawns, but then I think that maybe they area appropriate for now. Lent starts tomorrow, and if they were human persons and could go to church, they would get ashes and be reminded that they are dust. They are not dust, though some dirt has mingled with their once pure white snow. But they will return to the earth eventually. But how many snowmen survive all of Advent and make it to Lent?

Here in Minnesota we must persevere through the rest of this severe Winter, and join it to our Lenten penances. I was explaining to G (almost 5) this morning about what penances our family is doing for Lent together, and then suggested she might like to do something herself for Lent. She thought for a moment and said, “We should make a cheesecake!” I think maybe someone is not able to distinguish between feast day celebrations and penitential seasons. She also declared that she loves Ash Wednesday because she really likes getting ashes.

We Spencers had a Shrove Tuesday Feast of bacon, creamy potato “risotto”, and sauted strawberries baked in crepes with ice cream.  Have a happy Fat Tuesday, and tighten your belts for the Lenten season!

No, that is not my sippy cup.
I need to figure out how to make my camera make food look as good as it tastes…
Yes, yes, that is my wine…

Seven Quick Takes Friday, February 28

1. In your charity, please continue to remember my dad in your prayers. His recovery from surgery is still slow going. Specifically, he is having trouble with nerve damage in his left arm from his surgery. This is particularly difficult for him since he is left-handed, and playing the piano and guitar with his hands is a major part of his life. Please pray for complete nerve healing for him. Also, please pray that he has more of an appetite and is less fatigued. We are so thankful that he was able to have his life saving surgery, that a full recovery should happen, and for everyone’s prayers and material support.

2. One encouraging part of dad’s recovery is that he is allowed to travel. I think he is having a hard time resisting visiting his first grandson that was born to my sister earlier this month. I am excited to have a nephew; now I can peruse the clearance racks for cute boy clothes! After six granddaughters, my parents have a grandson. My brother-in-law probably thinks he is all that for having the first boy, but he is just giving us a chance to pull ahead in the girl department. I think we will try for 10 girls and then maybe have a boy.

3. I still can’t believe that people settled Minnesota. What were they thinking? I mean what kind of restriction is this?

A St. Paul winter parking ban will go into effect starting Saturday.
The city says snowbanks have grown so large that there’s not enough room for emergency vehicles to squeeze down some of the streets.

I am pretty sure that this is God telling us to all move to the South. It is time for a mass migration… We can bring our jobs, homes, and businesses with us. Let us just all move to the same place…

4. Look at our poor snowmen. They are going on 2 months and 3 months:

It is so cold, I feel a little bit sorry for them.

We went out when it was 2°F this morning to a friend’s house, and when we left the house around 1pm it was a balmy 13°F. What a difference! My nose was ice crystal free and I did not care if the one year old took her gloves off!

5. I was making pancakes for the kids on Tuesday for lunch, and M came home after his only class of the day to eat lunch and work from home the rest of the day. G and L were begging for “Nickey Mouse” pancakes with a round head and ears and chocolate chip facial features. M then requested Socrates smoking a pipe while riding on a dolphin. I gave it my best shot:

You see, since he is smoking,
that is a cloud of smoke off the side of his head…

6. Dolphins in our home are often called “dolphinium,” from the brilliant Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Little Pig Robinson. Our favorite passage:

After another hand, two sailors left the cabin and went on deck. They noticed something having the appearance of a large black beetle in the distance. One of them said it was an enormous cochroach, swimming with it’s hind legs. The other said it was a dolphinium. They disputed, rather loudly. Captian Barnabas, who had had a hand with no trumps at all after the cook dealing–Captain Barnabas came on deck and said:
“Bring me my telescope.”
The telescope had disappearedd; likewise the shoes, the sealing-wax, the compass, the potato pot, the straw hat, the hammer, the nails, the bucket, the screwdriver, and the armchair.
“Take the jolly boat and see what it is,” ordered Captian Butcher.
“All jolly fine, but suppose it is a dolphinium?” said the mate mutinously.

Go get the copy from your library today to find out more about the pig from the song “The Owl and Pussy Cat.”

7. Finally, home schooling, even preschool has been a bit of an adventure with a non-morning napping, teething one year old. She wants to get into everything, and when I strap her in she fusses until I let her have the crayons. Any tips for entertaining pre-rational children while trying to instruct older ones? I know I have home schooling readers… some cousin-in-laws perhaps?

There are worse things she could be doing…

Head on over to Jen’s Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes! Also, a bunch of bloggers linked up with her to post everyday this week. I could not commit this time around since I spent a bunch of time writing for Truth and Charity this week, but there are some pretty great bloggers posting out there!

Seven Quick Takes: Winter Songs Edition

As the billionth blizzard of the Winter passed through the Midwest overnight and I am sure the whole East is thinking they would love another storm. I think that maybe some Winter songs to cheer everyone up would be helpful. We pulled out our favorite snowy songs from our Christmas albums during Monday’s blizzard, and are still enjoying them today.  Maybe even ones that remind us of December cheer. So, sit back and enjoy a few Winter songs.
1. Favorite Things sung by Andy Williams. My parents have this on record. We always listened to it on the vintage record player that belonged to my great grandmother.
2. Let it Snow sung by Captain Picard. I just found this today, but seriously it is amazing (I do not endorse or not endorse the advertisement afterwards):
3. Winter Wonderland sung by Dean Martin:
4. Winter Winds by Mumford and Sons. You know a romantic one to celebrate the octave day of St. Valentine’s Day. They really should be running through fields of snow:
5. Jingle Bell Rock sung by Billy Idol; “Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun!” I was thinking jingle bells, but blowing snow is the thing today:
6. Winter by Vivaldi. I like the sense of doom the beginning gives.:
7. And our family favorite, Marshmallow World. We have just Bing, but you can’t go wrong with Ella Fitzgerald:

And as always, I am linking up with the lovely host of the Seven Quick Takes, Jen at Conversion Diary.

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, February 14

1. Happy St. Valentine’s Day! I once had a miserable St. Valentine’s day. It was about nine years ago and the man I really, really, really liked, like had a huge crush on, was supposed to be a priest. He clearly liked me, too. Well I thought he did, but it was really annoying because we were both continually acting like we liked each other, but he was in the pre-theologate (pre-seminary) program. So I talked with some newly dating friends, and they advised me to get everything out in the open and then tell him that we need to put distance in our friendship. We happened to discuss this while going for a walk in the rain on Valentine’s Day. He eventually left the program, we dated, we broke up, he discerned some more, and then got back together again nine months after our first time dating. At any rate, we are married now and he is spending Valentine’s Day at a department meeting… And tomorrow he is planning on watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with some seminarians. I guess I still have to share him with the Church sometimes?

2. Today the girls and I went to our home school gym co-op and did a card exchange with the other kids. I got my act together about three weeks ago and planned ahead for once, and we did a craft!

G’s handiwork.
L’s inspiration with lots of mom help (I squeezed the tube, she moved the hand).

Each girl completed 20 after eight half an hour spurts on eight different days. I cut the hearts and the cards, and the girls each signed their names on the back of the cards, glued the hearts, and then decorated them. (L traced letters I wrote for her). I really should post on my blog everytime we do a craft and then you can all see how big of an accomplishment this craft was… Oh, and attached to each card is a packet of artificial dye free fruit snacks that I found at Aldi! The fruit snacks are even free of the evil HFC, just corn syrup and sugar… that might be evil also. Does anyone know?

3. We almost did not make it to co-op, due to an annoying stomach bug we had at the beginning of the week. Thankfully we were all recovered, and the entire house was sterilized before today. I even cleaned the light switches. Maybe stomach bugs are natures way of reminding us to clean light switches…

4. I mentioned the other day that the hardest part of my days is keeping the 15 month old out of the preschool work of her big sisters. I think maybe I was wrong. I am pretty sure the hardest part of the day is the reading lesson with G. Some days she loves it and we do it easily, but other days she gets frustrated and just does not want to do what I ask. Then I try not to get annoyed. And we are not very happy about it together. Then this week I read this post from Kelly, a home schooling mom. I have been keeping in the back of my head all along to not force G into her reading lessons or push her too hard, and I am wondering if we have hit a point where she is not ready to move forward yet. We maybe need to step back or just do the lessons when she is up for it. I guess I will tread more carefully in how I approach her reading.

5. I took this quiz and got this:

I have never even been to Wyoming. The thing is that on most of the questions I answered the only thing that I had actually heard of, so yeah… But maybe I should’ve encouraged M more when he wanted to try to get a job at Wyoming Catholic College…

6. Look at these highs we have next week!! (Look at the lows!) Some other co-op moms and I were discussing how we need to make sure we really plan something for outside on those 30s and sunny days. Knowing me, we will stay inside all day and then it will be 4pm and I will send the kids outside as the temperature is dropping. Maybe the Como Zoo? Woohoo!

7. Lastly, don’t forget to enter my first GIVEAWAY! I reviewed a short chapter book for kids by my cousin-in-law’s sister-in-law about a girl in a Catholic family. Click here to read the review and enter the giveaway! It ends next week. 🙂

And many thanks to Jen for link up, Seven Quick Takes! Sorry I can’t make your Edel Gathering. 🙁

The Slow Rhythm of Now

I am up and writing because lately at night I have been laying in bed for at least a half an hour with my mind wandering and not able to fall asleep. It probably has something to do with the baby not waking around 11pm anymore. I really liked that nursing session that gave me just enough of a hormone boost to get sleepy and drop off. It meant that I woke up a few more times at night than I do now, but there was not that struggle to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. Alas, I have resigned myself to less sleep than I think I might need since I don’t seem to be getting it no matter what schedule I try.

I am finding myself wanting to hold onto this time of life forever, or at least a bit longer. I don’t really mind the bitter cold days, as long as we have nowhere to go. I think about Ma Ingalls in her house by Plum Creek and her three little girls cooped up all Winter with blizzard after blizzard outside. They did not go crazy; they just did their lessons and chores and were together.

I feel like life is not going to be the same after this school year. We are doing about 40 minutes of school a day, and it is preschool work. There is no set curriculum, and things do not have to be that serious. I have an easy one year old, and a three and five year old that will happily spend the whole day playing with each other. I have so much time to do housework that I am continually checking Facebook. I know my time can be put to better use, but the leisure is nice.

I think my favorite time of babyhood is when the baby stops the morning nap. Since M started his new semester I have been doing grocery shopping on Saturdays, which totally frees up my weekdays. We have a nice rhythm at home with the girls, and the hardest part of a normal day is keeping the baby from climbing into chairs to chew on her sisters’ preschool work. I get her to sleep for a long afternoon nap before her sisters take their nap/quiet time, and have two quiet hours to myself. If M is home I run on my treadmill, if he is not, I try to read or write. Then dinner, and then bedtime for the kids. And after bedtime is more leisure time until I can’t fall asleep. But I probably should turn in now and try to sleep.

Life is good.

If on a Winter’s Afternoon Three Girls…

It is a late afternoon in the Spencer house. M is still at work and expected home for a late dinner, the girls request a CD of traditional folk music. They are finishing a snack and L (3) decides to get down and begins to dance. “I am the dancing girl,” she tells me as she twirls around, her arms outstretched. G (4.5) finishes her snack and they move to the living room to continue their dancing. F (15 months) crawl-scoots her way after them to join in the fun.

When I peak into the living room I see F standing and squealing next to the couch and the older two wearing paper moose antlers that they made at a library story hour holding hands and spinning themselves around the room. Since they all seem content, I grab an article I want to read and sit down in one of the wingback chairs. G, excited by my presence, says, “You are the one watching our dancing! See the way my shirt swirls out so cutely when I twirl!” L and F are interacting next to the couch. F had been wearing a large wooden Rosary around her neck, and now L is holding it in her hands. She lunges towards F in attempt to put it around her neck, but F moves quickly to her hands and knees and crawls away to the bedrooms squealing with her big sister in pursuit. L comes back in without the rosary, but the baby has found something else to do in her sisters’ room.

“When the Saints Go Marching In” starts to play, and L sticks her legs out in a wild fashion, asking, “Is this marching?” I get up from my reading to demonstrate marching, and soon both older girls are laughing and doing something slightly resembling marching around the room. G then sticks her head on the floor and does a somersault. “Did I just do a cartwheel?” she asks excitedly. And I tell her she did not, but that she had done a somesault. L is curious and asks how to do it, but then decides to show me her version of skipping instead. It resembles a gallop. F crawls back into the room and sees me. She climbs onto my lap and thwarts any attempts I make at reading. My phone rings and it is my mom. I get up with the baby on my hip and answer the phone, leaving the older two to their world of imaginative play.