Sunday, August 31, 2008

A new beginning.

It's not an end, I know.

But still.

Farewell, old friends.

I'll miss you.


Friday, August 29, 2008

A post without a point.

Darren and Dylan are out running some vitally important errands for me this morning, namely refilling my inkjet cartridges (oh happy day!), replenishing my supply of coffee creamer, and hopefully, hopefully, procuring a stash of safe allergy relief medication. I am dying here. How in the world I can forget year to year the debilitating effects of seasonal allergies is beyond me; perhaps it's selective memory? Kind of like childbirth, I suppose. I'm always caught off guard by how excruciating that can be, too, even having been through it a fair number of times now. Anyway, about the allergies. I used to joke that I was allergic to school because every fall, without fail, I would be absolutely wiped out by allergies right around the start of each school year. For about a week now I've been enduring eyes so itchy I want to gouge them out of my head, a nose that won't stop running, sneezing, sneezing, sneezing, horrible headaches...and this morning when I woke up I felt so light headed, and sort of buzzed (not that I'd know, I'm just totally guessing here) and I couldn't really catch my breath...I managed to bathe Caitlyn and then felt so exhausted that I had to lay back down again to recuperate. Pathetic! Right now my girls (two of them, anyway) are prancing around, in and out of my walk-in closet, retrieving relics such as the maternity bathing suit I haven't in worn in, gosh, how many years? Caitlyn is wearing it right now, and to be honest, I don't think I've worn it since she herself was still in utero! They crack me up, those girls. Kristen's asleep on the bed behind me and I thought I might tackle the mounting pile of laundry but really have no desire to do so. Instead, I'm watching the beautifully eloquent Gov. Sarah Palin speak on Fox News and I just can't stop smiling. I am utterly thrilled with Sen. McCain's selection for Vice Presidential running mate! What awesome news. I had to call Darren as soon as I heard the announcement.

Time now, though, to wrap up this entirely random post because, in all seriousness, that laundry really should be addressed or we'll have no clean clothes this weekend. I'm working tonight but I'll sleep tomorrow and then--and oh, I can't wait for this!--I'm going to be baking some fresh bread and chocolate chip cookies to pack up for the mountain excursion we've got planned for Sunday. I'm praying the weather will hold out for us. Storms are expected, but you just never know.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Room (Again)

Assembling the crib in our bedroom necessitated the relocation of our aquarium to Dylan's room, a change he readily accepted despite the fact that it meant the removal of his own workspace. I was, I think, a bit more apprehensive than he about the arrangement, but it was really the least complicated solution to our lack of space. Now I sigh every time I walk past his room. I love it so much, but it suddenly seems like such a mature retreat...sort of "Little Boy Bedroom" meets "Gentleman's Study". (And I just really have to hand it to Darren here...he stayed up with me until one o'clock in the morning a few nights ago, sorting through every single book on these shelves, systematically categorizing them in a much more logical manner than I ever could have. I knew I made the right choice in marrying my bookstore guy!)

I made sure to leave plenty of the endearing little boy traits that are so characteristically Dylan: a bulletin board to display his artwork; the big stuffed cow I bought for him just before his first birthday, for snuggling on the floor with books; a resalvaged book case to house his many treasures...

I wonder if there will ever be a day when I'll regret allowing my young son unlimited access to my Calvin and Hobbes collection? I'm sure that those who know us in real life might call me crazy (you know, for providing such devious inspiration), but what can I say? I love Calvin. Dylan, I'm proud to say, does too. :)

I pray that these next two cuties will always have a home in Dylan's bedroom...Mr. Snuggles, the irresistibly adorable bear brought by Santa three years ago, and Mikey, the feline "brother" Dylan loves more than just about anything in the world.

God, I love my boy. Thank you so much for the gift of perfectly wonderful him.

A last, perhaps.

I knew these days were numbered, but I'm sad, nevertheless, that Kristen has finally outgrown our bedside bassinet. I brought the big girl crib into our bedroom a couple of days ago and I'm hoping that tonight, Darren will be able to help me set it up. While she was napping a little while ago it occurred to me that this might be my last chance to photograph her sleeping in the little bed she came home to when she was such a tiny newborn. I couldn't imagine then that she'd ever be big enough for any other sleeping accommodations! How quickly she grows.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sixty years.

May the Lord bless you from Zion,
all the days of your life
That you may share Jerusalem's joy
and live to see your children's children.
Psalm 128:5-6

Four generations gathered together last night to celebrate my Nana and Grandpa's 60th wedding anniversary. My mom is the fifth of their nine children, and, although she (and twenty three more of us!) were unable to attend the dinner held in their honor, we still filled the room to capacity!

I just love when so many of us are able to be together like this. Some of my happiest memories are of past family gatherings, where old and young alike joined together in games of Trivial Pursuit, or Uno, or, as I was recalling for my own children recently, brutal volleyball matches out on my Aunt and Uncle's wide back lawn! Holiday gatherings were joyous occasions, remembered now with a sweet sense of nostalgia, tinged with just a bit of disbelief that it could really have been so many years ago that my brothers and cousins and I were the same ages our children are now.

So much of my early faith formation can be credited to my grandparents. My childhood parish, where my Grandpa was one of my first CCD instructors, is the one to which they still belong. Right to Life rallies and marches were attended together, and they have been to me an exemplary model of "openness to life". Small acts--a Hail Mary and a Glory Be prayed together at the outset of shared trips in their big green van, family friendships with parish priests, grace before meals, my Grandpa's colloquial "See how the Lord provides!"--demonstrated a living faith that Darren and I fervently hope to impart to our own children.

Eyes alight, my Nana recounted for me details of her wedding day as if it was only yesterday that she and her handsome young husband exchanged their vows. She remembers it all: the early morning Mass, because they'd been fasting since midnight; wearing her wedding gown all day long as they visited family and friends; the simple evening reception; the two day trip from St. Louis to my hometown, where she and my Grandpa established the strong and sturdy roots of my growing family tree.

I pray that Darren and I will continue to be as richly blessed in our marriage as they have been in theirs, and that we, too, will live to see our children's children. Happy Anniversary, Nana and Grandpa!

Monday, August 18, 2008


I've been giving a lot of thought over the summer as to how I can help cultivate a sense of responsibility and accountability within my children. I considered a simple chore chart, but couldn't really find one that I liked. I saw mention in several places of the PEGS System and was quite intrigued by the concept, but it was priced well beyond our budget and I just couldn't justify the expense. I planned to confiscate the dry erase board from Dylan's room to use as a sort of family planner, but it didn't really suit my purposes, either. I finally found a cute chart available from One Step Ahead, but to have one for each of the three older children would have cost more than I was willing to spend, too. Then, a few nights ago, I made one last stop in the kitchen for a drink of water before bed and was struck by the realization that a large and very convenient solution lay right before my eyes...the refrigerator! Here's a peek now at the end result, with which I have to say that I am very well pleased, but I also want to share the specifics of exactly what I love so much about our new system.

Isn't it beautiful? :) I just love how bright and colorful it is, and as you can see, it dominates the entire side of our refrigerator! It's perfect. Perhaps the best part of all is that it utilized supplies that we already had in our craft cabinet! I'm so glad now that I keep a well stocked stash of card stock and foam, and that I still had so many self adhesive laminating sheets and magnets left over from last year!

Basically, I just divided the entire surface into a giant grid with colored tape, then made magnets (each about the size of a business card) that name a specific duty. This way they are interchangeable and the children can have rotating tasks as appropriate for their age. As each task is completed, they are marked off with smaller magnets that I made by simply adhering small strips of magnet to the backs of foam stickers which we also have in abundance.

Here is a closer look at the top half of our chart. I chose to call it a "Responsibility Chart" instead of a chore chart because, in addition to helpful tasks, this system also includes certain behaviors that Darren and I feel deserve extra attention. We're trying to emphasize to our children that they are responsible for the way they behave, and that they can choose to make good, charitable decisions over impulsive, mean, disrespectful, or selfish ones.

Each child has their own name magnet and a unique day of the week lineup, beneath which they add individualized place markers as they complete their duties. Darren and I help them decide at the end of the day whether they've earned a marker for their behavior expectations.

We'll have a goal each week for the total number of marked boxes we'd like to see by the end of the week. It won't demand perfection, but will allow for a few slips. My hope is that in having a combined goal to work towards, the children will encourage and help one another to fulfill each of their tasks. A new privilege will be revealed each week, something fun or special that they will have earned if they meet their goal. I could have just as easily called this a "reward", but I wanted to be clear with the children that we are not rewarding good behavior; rather, good behavior is our constant expectation and special activities or treats are a privilege, not an entitlement. Darren and I are brainstorming fun, inexpensive ideas to use here: a picnic in the park, for instance, or a trip to the free museum...and I'm totally open to any suggestions here!

Clearly we're still very much in the early stages with this system (we began midweek, which explains why these photos, taken last night, suggest only half-filled weeks.) But so far, I have to say I am loving how it is working. And I am so proud of how seriously the children are taking their responsibilities! I really hate having to nag them all the time about the same struggles, day after day after day...hopefully, this will help eliminate those battles!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Feast of the Assumption

Happy Feast of the Assumption! Due to transportation troubles, we were sadly unable to attend Mass today, but instead honored Mary with our own humble offering of flowers, prayer, and song.

Dylan had patiently and repeatedly asked me yesterday if we could please make some popcorn, but sadly, I forgot until after they were already asleep last night. Happily, though, he was eager enough (and so sweetly forgiving) to make some this morning! Which was maybe just as well, because we called the popped kernels "miniature clouds" and talked (after reading Tomie dePaola's lovely account) about the assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven.

I was sent home from work tonight to be available (as sometimes happens when we're over staffed), which will do absolutely nothing to ease recent financial frustrations, but which afforded me the pleasure of snuggling in bed with my children before bed, listening to a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria. I much preferred the latter scenario; who needs a paycheck, anyway?

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Aren't they cute? And fascinating, too. My children and I very much enjoyed reading more about them this afternoon. (We've been a bit Olympics obsessed around here lately.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mikey's First Birthday

This post was written by Dylan in honor of his best buddy.

This is Mikey. It's his birthday! Today he is one year old.

This is the party food and drinks. We made some toast fishes with tuna and pickle relish as scales and pimentos as eyes, Kool-Aid, and a chocolate cake.

Here is the chocolate cake. Do you see the cards? The one that says "Happy Birthday, Mikey!" is a pop up card that I made. Meghan drew a picture of Mikey with red crayon. Caitlyn made the cat with the present and party hat.

Here we are singing "Happy Birthday" to Mikey.

Here is a piece of chocolate cake. Yummy!

Mikey had a lot of fun with his ball of yarn we made him.

Here he is tired out with the yarn in his claws.

Happy Birthday, Mikey!

Friday, August 08, 2008


Seriously, sometimes I want to just eat her up!

I have this absolutely scrumptious diaper-only photo that I was going to post, too, but you know...there's the modesty factor. I'd really hate for her to be embarrassed one day down the road because her mother had the nerve to post such adorable evidence of her ever growing cuteness. She is positively plump now...tipping the scales at a whopping 14 lbs, 1 oz! So much sweetness!


We had a rare opportunity yesterday to witness such a strange and amazing occurrence.

Darren had told us the night before about the unbelievable number of sphinx moth caterpillars he had seen swarming the highway between work and home, moving in quantities so large that it seemed, in some places, that the ground itself was actually alive! Curiosities piqued (to say the least!), we were intrigued to see further reports of this infrequent invasion on both the evening news and in the morning newspaper. And having already arranged to take the day off to attend appointments with both Kristen and Meghan, Darren gamely decided that it would be so fun to take the children with us out into the desert to see for ourselves this fascinating phenomenon.

Wow. Really, what else can I say? I have never seen anything like it. (Wait, no, there was the tarantula migration in, like, 1991? 1992? I'll never forget that, either.) But from the moment we disembarked from the van, each and every footfall was a carefully selected placement of steps, a delicate choreography necessary to prevent the untimely demise of any of those fat, beautiful creatures.

Beautiful? Yes, I do suppose that is a word a would use to describe them. Quite striking, aren't they?

The children, with their Daddy's help, collected a bucketful of caterpillars to release in our garden. And, you know, I didn't really recognize it at the time, but looking at these pictures as I transferred them to the computer last night...Caitlyn reminds me an awful lot of myself at her age. My best friend and I still laugh now and then about how it always took us twice as long to walk to school because I was forever stopping along the way, hunkering down to investigate any interesting objects in our path, hair held back with one free hand while she tried to hurry me along. Once, after a night of particularly heavy rain, we attempted to count every single snail that we saw, and when her Daddy passed us in his car on his way to work, he admonished us that we had better get moving if we wanted to make it to school on time! I see my daughter now, so much like me, and my heart can't help but smile to see myself in her.

Of course, I couldn't resist taking an additional few dozen photos of the landscape while we were out. It was just such a beautiful day; in fact, as soon as we finally got back into the van, the gorgeous clouds that I had been admiring just moments before finally unleashed the torrent of rain (and hail!) they had been politely withholding while we explored.

I just love our skies. I love our desert. I love our mountains. I love my dear, sweet, naturalist husband, and our darling children, with whom he desires to share the beauty and wonder of our environment. We are blessed.