Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Pre-Dawn February Daybook

Outside my window...
Dark and cold.
It's 5:45 a.m. and I've got to start getting things ready to pack into the car.  But I just need a few minutes of quiet first.

Thankful for...
You.  And your response to my request for prayers.  I cry just thinking about it.  I hemmed and hawed about posting anything and sometimes struggle with what is too much to share.  But you know the best thing about social media is that it brings us together and lets us be the Body of Christ in a totally new way.  So I'm glad I asked and I'm even more grateful for all the prayers.  It's going to be a rough few days and the fact that there are people I've never met praying for a man they don't know...ah, there I go again. 

And so thankful for my generous sister who offered us their van to use for our trip out for the funeral.  I've never borrowed a car before like this and it feels weird but do you know that just a few hours after learning about Bill's death, our transmission decided to stop working on the way to Mass?  We packed ourselves into Brian's truck and got there but I have no idea what we're going to do about a car when we get home.

Thinking about...
What to do about our van.  It's not worth saving because there are so many things wrong with it (we still have to hit it with the special umbrella to get it to start...) but we do very prudent things like buy family tickets to Rome instead of save for a car ;)  Seriously, one of these boys NEEDS to learn how to fix cars in a few years.  I have plans for each one of them to have some sort of specialty to help out the family.  One could be good with cars, another with house repairs, another with landscaping...

Oh, right.  And the squirrels.  Still an issue.  I'm hearing one right now scratching around inside the living room wall.  Yay.

How to take help.

From the kitchen...
Let's skip this one shall we?  No one really cares about my meal plan, right?  Right now there's coffee in there and that's all I need.

Our plans for Rome.  It's overwhelming and thrilling all at the same time.

To be gone for a few days.  It'd be lovely to post while I'm gone but I highly doubt it.
I'll try not to hyperventilate when I see the pages of posts in my reader due to Jen's challenge.  

And I'll try not to feel guilty when I have to delete.

 Stories of Don Bosco - Still :)
Terrapin - I haven't read anything like this in a while but I got it free through an online order.  I'm on the fence.
Love and War - A re-read, actually.  It's the Eldredges book on marriage.  Highly recommended.

For Bill.
And for Brian.
For Michael as he prepares for his First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion.
For Colleen, Janelle, and Nicole as they prepare to meet their little ones.  Anyone else want me to add them in?
For our new little niece or nephew who was just announced a few weeks ago!  We're so happy for them!
For those grieving children.  So many.  I pray for those of you who email or left me comments all the time.
For those struggling with infertility, those in crisis pregnancies, children who are abused.
For teenagers and young people.  Sometimes I think about how HARD it must be to be in middle school or high school these days.  I'm not sure I would have survived and my heart hurts for so many of those little kids pretending to be big kids.

Around the house...
I've been doing a bit of reorganizing of files and photos and it feels good even though it's a tedious task.  I started a bit late and should have been using January and February for more of those things I always say need to be done but I never want to just do.

And our laundry room!  It's almost done and it's so different.  It's wonderful!

Worth a click... 
I love sharing links worthy of your time here and I know there have been a few recently but gosh, my mind is drawing a blank and I'm hearing the sounds of waking upstairs which means I need to start moving.  I'll get better at saving them...

A picture thought to share...

Just another one of Grumpy.  This time with Michael.

Have a lovely week, friends!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Will You Pray?

The plan today was to post something I've been working on for Weekends With Chesterton.  

Instead, I'm asking, or really begging, for prayers.

We got a call this morning that Brian's dad died last night.  Wednesday would have been his 60th birthday.  Please pray most especially for his soul.  He was never a believer but wrestled with the God he couldn't admit existed for most of his life.  His life was a hard one, one that made it difficult for him  to understand that kind of Love.  We lifted countless prayers for him throughout the years.  For his healing of both body and soul, for his conversion, for his peace.   We always hoped for some sort of deathbed conversion.  We're begging God that there was one.  In his deepest self, he was good.  He wanted to believe.  We pray that he is now at peace with the One who's been wanting to love him for so very long.

I would be so indebted to you if you could add your prayers to ours for Bill's soul.  A Chaplet, a Mass, a Memorare, whatever you can do, we so appreciate it.  Thank you so so much.

The day Grumpy met his first grandbaby.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Chair of St. Peter for the Chair of St. Peter

Today we crazy Catholics celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter which, of course, isn't exactly for the chair itself.   We ain't that crazy.  But we do like to recognize how Christ handed over the keys and authority of the Church on earth to St. Peter and his successors and remains with us here in that way.  Because that's neat and Christ was pretty smart.  The chair simply represents that authority as it has in so many cultures throughout time.  It's a feast that has been celebrated since the fourth century!  You can read more about it here, if you like.

Anyhow, in order to celebrate we whipped up our own chair of St. Peter which we will indulge in tonight and if you promise not to laugh, I'll show it to you.


Oh, wait!  First, fancy ingredient shot:

Plus a dash of milk, one jelly bean, and a white Necco wafer.

And now a shot of the real chair which I have to tell you because I don't want you to accidentally mistake them:

And our spot-on, carbon copy, how-in-the-world-did-they-do-it replica:

Uncanny, right?

(Stop laughing.)
Can I blame it on the boys helping?  The fact that Brian was literally gutting a turkey behind me as I decorated?  The fact that I decided this morning I was going to do this and was using things scrounged out of the cupboard?  No?  
My kids will be able to say a lot of things about me when they're grown but at the very least they can never say I didn't try...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Five Favorites {The Somehow Staying Healthy Edition}

It seems like everyone has had several awful run-ins with illness this winter!  And the stuff going around seems ugly and long and I feel so sorry for all those who have been dealing with it and I've been praying for you.  I know it's exhausting and so very hard to deal with when these ugly things make their way through each little person.

The last two years we've had lots of sickness during the winter.  It seemed like we'd get a brief two or three week respite before the next bug hit us.  So this year I decided to try my hand at doing a better job at being a bit more proactive and preventing the germs from taking hold.  And...I think...maybe...it's worked.  We haven't gotten sick since last November and that was just a minor cold.  David is right now finally struggling with a little cold but besides that, we have been so blessed.  Who knows, maybe it's just luck or grace but I fully intend on continuing the following regimen next year because if it is this, then it is SO worth it.  

Wellness Mama's Elderberry Syrup

I started making this a few months ago when everyone started posting about flu trials.  The ingredients are simple:  elderberries, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and raw honey - all great at helping your body battle sickness.  Mine turns out a more liquidy than syrup but I don't think I cook the berries down long enough.  It's still fine.  For a while I was having us all take a straight shot at bedtime but Michael didn't care for the strong taste (to me, it tastes like very very strong grape juice).  Instead, I decided to put a few tablespoons into a purple smoothie every 1-2 mornings during breakfast.

I bought the elderberries on Amazon here.  I'll be able to make about six jars with that amount so it was definitely worth it.  You can buy elderberry syrup at the store but it's pricey and goes quickly when you're doling it out to so many.

Purple Smoothies

So rainbowy!

That brings me to our purple smoothies.  I was going to call them green smoothies but it would be a lie.  The blueberries make them a much more appealing purple.  I don't measure anything but in a pitcher I combine:
frozen blueberries and strawberries that we picked over the summer (about a cup each?)
 chia seeds 1-2 tablespoons
1-2 bananas
spinach - about 2 cups
elderberry syrup - about 2-3 tablespoons
 water enough to make it blendable and drinkable

Sometimes I'll throw in other crunchy healthy things if I happen to have them and think about it:  coconut oil, soaked goji berries, even dried nettle that I saved from our yard!
    Blend away and then portion out to all of us.  The kids love them and they're so full of vitamin C and iron and all sorts of good things that they must be playing a role in helping us out this winter.

Trader Joe's Chewable Oranges and C

Every few days I've been having the boys take some extra vitamin C in this form.  They taste good and are chewable.  If we've been around someone who's been sick or after being out, I sometimes have them take an extra.  I have some gross non-coated pills from the drugstore (belch.  Don't buy the non coated pills!) that I've been gagging over but using the same way myself.  


A friend of mine sells Doterra essential oils and after trying some of her samples and learning how susceptible David seems to be to colds and especially cough and croupy stuff, I ordered the Breathe blend.  It's pricey but it lasts a long time since you're only using a drop or two at a time.  When you realize that some of these preventative or healing measures are a lot cheaper than a trip to the doctor and they work, it certainly puts it in perspective!  It works nicely rubbed on the chest or feet when dealing with a cough or congestion but I especially love to put a few drops in the humidifier.  The peppermint and eucalyptus permeate the whole room and make it so much easier for him to breathe and sleep (which, in turn, lets us sleep and stay well!) and he heals quicker.

They have another blend called On Guard which is for immunity support.  I have a sample of that from another source and may invest in some of that next year as well.

In equal parts - Handwashing, Prudent Plan Making, and Homemade Stocks

I've also been more careful this year about washing hands when we get home from places and avoiding places where I know there are sick kids.  I've learned my lesson once too many times that as much as I may want to go to that get together or get out of the house and take my (our) chances hanging with another family that has or has recently had something, that few hours of social time is just not worth the days or weeks of illness and sleepless nights that follow.  It's usually for me that I want to get out and that isn't fair to one of my little ones who will inevitably end up suffering for a week because Mama wanted to see her friends.  Thank God for email and phones :)  I've also had a goal this year of using more homemade stocks from our beef and turkey bones and we have been.  So full of good nourishment and I feel like that has played a role in keeping us well, too.

It sure will be wonderful when we can all breathe fresh air a whole lot more, won't it?  It's getting all the way up to FORTY-FOUR DEGREES today and I actually see the icicles melting!  Must must must bring us all out for walk today...

What are your tried and true tips or lessons in keeping or getting well?  I'd love to hear them!
And if you'd like me to add your family to my prayers for healing, please let me know.

Linking up with Christy in lieu of Haley for Five Favorites!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Oh, You Were Hoping For Another Rodent Post?

Well, I aim to please.

On Sunday, this happened:

Not another flying squirrel.*  A mouse that was found scrounging in Maggie's food bag in the mudroom.

And evidence why I haven't bothered planning science in years:

John Paul immediately began building.  I had flashbacks to my brother helping me construct a maze for my pet rat (mouse? hamster?  I can't remember which critter of many that it was.) for the school science fair. 

Luke woke from his nap and decided that he would help by pouring out its water and then letting it out of the maze.  We caught it easily.  The poor thing was slow and likely stuffed from all the food the boys were offering.

It eventually made it through to the sound of great rejoicing.

*Although we learned this wonderful fact the other day after hearing more nighttime noises and it's proving true:  "Flying squirrels, unlike their earthbound cousins, are nocturnal, they are also extremely sociable and love to live in a colony – which means if you have one flying squirrel you most likely have a lot more."  And, yep.  We do.  Seriously, historical home PLUS infestation of endangered rodent?  People should be paying us to live here.  Stay tuned for more riveting rodent tales from the Better Than Eden household.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

More Silence :: Weekends With Chesterton {4}

I read this a few weeks ago in Orthodoxy, highlighted it and then promptly forgot about it.
It has me thinking again, though.  Mulling around lots of things:  the attitude of our society toward real labor and our unprecedented amount of time for leisure, the noise of social media, the echo of the saints throughout the centuries who stressed the importance of keeping your mouth shut and the danger of an idle life, God's own praise of silence in His word, the example of the holiest people I know who aren't chatterers but listeners, always thoughtful and meaningful and slow to respond, how quick we are to choose the path of least resistance.  So much to dig into.

Of course, I can't help but smile at the reality of Chesterton's own penchant for verbosity and that just maybe he could've used a more strenuous honey-do list from poor Frances. ;) 

That's it!  
This episode of Weekends With Chesteron brought to you again by Sarah.  Click on over for more!

And now off to more strenuous things I go...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

This Month in Boys - February 2014

John Paul

-decided that Revelation is his favorite book of the Bible.
-asserted, "The way to find joy and peace is just to take everything with a good humor."  
Me:  "Oh yeah?  Where'd you learn that?"
JP:  "Experience."
-just finished reading Eight Cousins with me and we're now onto Little Women.
-has been spending lots of hours skating at the neighbor's ice rink.
-played A Short Story in the winter piano recital.
-has been sending secret letters to his cousin who is also a member of the S4KDA (in case you're out of the loop, that's the Secret for Kids Detective Agency).
-made a little treasure hunt for Michael and David to find their valentines.  At the end they were each awarded a paper heart and forty two cents.
-this was in response to a previous plan falling through.  He was so very upset when they unintentionally and prematurely discovered the anonymous valentines (mysteriously signed, "Love: ???") he had hidden from them.
-almost always is "thankful for all the fun things we got to do today" during our evening prayers.


-has been learning Italian with Papa each night before bed.
-has also been learning some beginning piano from John Paul (at my request...here's hoping we can at least do the beginning lessons ourselves and save some dough?).
-was fascinated by the figure skating and keeping track of the countries.
-was spotted the other day snuggled up in a chair reading to David and nearly made my heart burst.
-has unfortunately inherited his Mama's dry winter skin and eternally chapped lips.
-is preparing for First Reconciliation and has the Act of Contrition down.
-remembers to pray for our sponsored children every night.


-loves to help cook dinner.
- asked, "Mama, what side do you want to be?"
"You're going to be heads so I can be the eagle."
-was very helpful in giving Papa the hint about what to get me for Valentine's after our trip to Trader Joe's...where he may or may not have been told extremely specific information.  He felt very important to be privy to such information and has been excitedly examining my new tulips and noticing every detail and calling us over to show us.
-must have four almonds as he goes up to bed.
-while wearing a navy blue shirt asked, "Mama, do I kind of look like a blue jay?"
-also loves listening to the saint stories on CD.
-declared that he wanted to give all his money to the poor and then asked what chores he could do to earn more money to give.
-very often prays at night "for all the people stuck in the snow."


-chases Maggie around calling her "Precious" and wanting to love on her.  I think this may be one of the funniest things that ever existed.
-is still into everything.  There's always a moment of panic when I realize it's been too quiet.  And often it's justified.
-prefers to have the only two stuffed animals we own in his bed at night.  A dog ("woof-woof") and Bear that were mine when I was younger.
-is talking and repeating so much!  I love it and I love learning what their voice is going to sound like!  When we were driving to the Olympics he spent a good five minutes just repeating the word "Bob (pause) sled" like he was practicing and so thrilled to hear his own voice able to say it.
-says "Day-Day" for David", "Ma-til" for Michael, and "Ba-pull" for John Paul.  His "k" sounds like a "t" so when he wants to nurse, he asks for "mitt."
-needs to have O, Holy Night, Silent Night, and Joy to the World (in that order) sung to him by Brian before going to sleep.
-doesn't much follow along with night prayers but says "Jesus" as adorably as can be.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Queens, Dentists, Crafts, and Forts {phfr} - vol. 42

I don't know, I thought the royal attire that Michael dressed me in so that I could be Queen Cedar and play Mistmantle the other day was very {pretty}...

(Kudos to Brian for his stealth camera skills.)

And David asked that I get a picture of him with his {happy} tooth...

A local dentist office was offering *free* cleanings to kids last Friday and since the last time we made a trip to the dentist was in 2009, I thought it a good opportunity.  There were crafts and games and treats and people dressed as Scooby Doo and about forty eager dental students ready to pounce when we walked in the door.  It was like a dental carnival.  I was pleased that they didn't lecture about this parental negligence of mine nor did they get weirded out by my declining the fluoride.  The dentist even knew what Luke's teething necklace was!  (And I was happy to prove my suspicions true that pre permanent teeth dental cleanings aren't all that necessary for us.  Everyone's teeth looked great!)

I was also {happy} the other day about my off the cuff idea for some leftover fleece in my fabric bin:  

The rectangle I used was about 10 x 22 inches and the strips for the knots are one inch apart and about 2 and a half inches long on either side but it's obviously a very adjustable pattern depending on the size of head you're making it for.

It's meant to be worn like this:

Perfect for little boys about to be sent out to shovel.

But...you can also wear it like this:

and think you're {funny}...

We were going out the other night and I attempted to make these gummy wine hearts to bring.  Don't they look fun?  Except that I didn't have gelatin and attempted to just use pectin and double the amount.  At first I thought it was working but, alas, it turned into a wine jelly, which wasn't horrible but not what I was hoping for.  I put it on some cream cheese and pretended it was a fancy wine dip.

A+ for presentation at least?

And this is what our house looks like today on another {real} cold and {real} stir-crazy day.

I am determined to let this happen and not go into mom freak-out mode.  
Pray for me.

Linking on up with the other contentment capturers at LMLD for {phfr}!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Sunday at the Olympics

On Sunday we had a fantastic time at the Olympic games organized by another homeschooling mom.  She did a spectacular job pulling it all together and we had a blast.  Each family was responsible for choosing a country to represent, bringing a dish to share from that country, and organizing an Olympic activity.

Waiting for their country to be announced in the parade of nations

Team Italy representin'

How neat is this?

Then it was time for the games!

Speed skating

Team snowball fights!

One family even made a biathlon!

Skiing in shoeboxes is harder than it looks...

Awesome, right?

Olympic ring toss

Luke tries his hand at the curling.

Brian suggested we sign up for bobsledding.  We talked briefly in the days before about something with a sled and a cardboard box.  Which turned into this:

Because that's what Brian does.

Heading out for the races

There was also the skeleton, relay races, hockey, and a dress-the-olympian event.  

I think my favorite part was getting to sample all the different dishes...Korean, Indian, Thai, Russian, German...  So fun but I was far too distracted putting things in my mouth to take any pictures.  Part of the appeal of picking Italy, besides the fact that we've already been studying it and I'm lazy like that, was that spaghetti was totally a valid dish to bring.

I did manage to snap a pic of this, though:

My fantastic fruit and, um, licorice tray.  Fruit and licorice.  Totally a thing.

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