Friday, September 19, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Calendars, Freezer Cooking, Consignment Shopping


I Instagrammed this picture this morning:

Photo: It all makes sense why Lewis gave Eustace his name now, doesn't it?

Because hey, St. Eustace!  We just finished reading The Silver Chair so Eustace is fresh in our minds and I never knew that he was the patron saint against fire!  Makes SO much sense that Lewis named him that, considering the whole dragon thing, right?


And then I remembered how awesome our calendar is, so I wanted to toss the link to you in case you like calendars with awesome sacred art, traditional AND new feast days listed, and little fish on Fridays to remind you not to eat meat (and to remind you when Solemnities mean you CAN eat meat on a Friday!).  Soooo if you're looking for a calendar for 2015, check out the options here!


Then a friend of mine who works at Catholic Extension pointed me to THEIR 2015 calendars, which also look lovely, although not as detailed - apparently lots of parishes buy these to distribute to their parishioners for free, soooooo you should send the link to your pastor or whoever purchases those for your parish, because they look WAY better than the ones we get from the funeral home!


I had my 32 week appointment yesterday and baby is head down and doing awesome and ohhhh yeah, coming our way in like, 2 months!  Whoa!  I've been slowly preparing the freezer - right now I've got 4 jars of pesto and 8 jars of tomato sauce in there, and I just made a pot pie and a couple dozen cookies (oatmeal chocolate chip, because raisins are GROSS) to stick in the freezer this morning.  Oh, and a gallon of bone broth last week!

Edit: Make that 3 jars of pesto...  One of them was sacrificed for tonight's dinner because this lazy pregnant lady didn't want to go outside to harvest enough basil to make a fresh batch.

I've got a big long list of stuff to make to stock the freezer, but my major problem is making these things and not eating them right now...  And then I realized that I'm not exactly having twins again, so cooking once baby arrives probably won't be such a huge deal for the first few months because hi, baby wearing!  But it can't hurt, right?

Just in case you're curious, here's my pinterest board with ideas - we'll see how much of it actually happens.  Big long post with ideas to come soon!


We're reading Farmer Boy now and John Paul ADORES it, to the point where he continued reading it out loud to the girls when I had to stop to make lunch. Melt my heart, why don't you?

Do you see a glimpse of the playroom floor?  That's why I was able to get a pot pie and cookies made today ;)


Cecilia drew this picture of Andrew and I about died of the cuteness.  Then she drew another picture of him and told me that it was "Dad pooping" soooo that one I didn't take a picture of...

I love love LOVE the preschool stage, have I told you?  When they start getting super-creative and you just get to watch how it all unfolds?  John Paul decided HE wanted to draw a picture of Dad too, but then he got side-tracked and glued two pieces of paper together to make a "folder" and drew a picture of "Me as a teenager wearing a bandanna" on the front.  I don't even know, but I love it.


Tomorrow I'm headed to the HUGE fall consignment sale that my Mothers of Multiples group runs, and I'm pretty psyched.  The twins don't really need anything but leggings, since Cecilia has always been attired in way more than she could ever need and it's all getting handed down.  But Cecilia needs pretty much everything, and it is SO FUN to shop for little girls when everything is super-cheap.  John Paul needs pretty much everything too, but it's really hard to find boy stuff as they get older, so most of his will probably have to be bought new...

And then I remembered!  Baby!  November baby who is only getting hand-me-downs from a July baby!  He needs stuff, too!  Let's hope I can restrain myself once I'm confronted with all the adorable baby clothes...

Linking up with Conversion Diary - go check out more awesome posts!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Kids These Days {Photo Dump}

It's been forever since I did a general update post, so here's what life is like for each of the kids these days:

John Paul, age 5

- Has gotten REALLY into board games this summer, so he spends a lot of time in the basement setting things up and then getting upset when the twins ruin it all
- Learned to pump on the swing set and is SO happy to be able to go super-high all by himself!
- Adores jokes of all types.  Two of his favorites?

What do you get when you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole?  Hot Cross Bunnies!


Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the poopy diaper!  (Yeah, he made that one up himself)

- Loves roughhousing with Andrew, and tries to get his sisters to wrestle with him but they rarely will...  Hopefully his baby brother will fill that need soon!
- Has crazy bedhead no matter what we do... 
- Likes to identify with antagonists in stories because he knows it's annoying :(
- Best frenemies with Cecilia - they hate being separated, but they fight ALL the time
- Has been "composing" a lot on the piano, which mostly means he records himself banging all over it, but has started being more thoughtful about the intervals he combines, and tries to pick out familiar melodies
- Likes dictating stories to me - mostly stream-of-consciousness with a lot of "AND SUDDENLY!" and "ALL OF A SUDDEN!"  Nothing happens gradually in the world of a 5-year-old.

Not a mullet, her hair just looked really weird at that moment...
 Cecilia, age 3.5

- Still changes her outfit at least once a day because she gets bored with what she's wearing
- Loves to pretend to be Mary, St. Therese, and St. Bernadette
- Tells me that when the new baby is born, she will hold him forever and maybe he would fall asleep in her arms!
- Told me her heart was a bone.  Yikes.  So we looked up some anatomy diagrams on my phone and now she wants to know EVERYTHING about her body!

- Still wants to be a mommy, a nun, a princess, and a REAL mermaid when she grows up (but also wants to be a kid forever and grow up in Heaven with Jesus, Aslan, Prince Caspian, and Mr. Tumnus.
- Is SO sensitive when she has to be corrected for bad behavior (which is rare) and usually starts crying as soon as you start using a stern tone of voice with her.
- Frequently thanks God for making her so beautiful and giving her golden hair.  Not the least bit vain, this one...
- Climbs like a monkey.

- Loves roping the twins into whatever crazy game she's come up with lately - mostly it's their most recent obsession with sliding into each other outside.  Everyone has many bruises and scrapes as a result, but they seem to be having a blast so I allow it...  Do you see the progression of their facial expressions in the pictures below?  It's hilarious.

Elizabeth, 22 months

- THE most exuberant child there has ever been.  She loves EVERYTHING and loves to make jokes.
- Favorite joke?  "Cupcake poop!!!" Yup, she made it up herself.
- Runs everywhere, and spends a lot of the day practicing her jumping and spinning.
- Is finally starting to have actual hair, but it's filling in slowly!
- Throws pretty epic tantrums, but gets over them quickly when she has to spend time in her crib.
- Loves getting tucked in with her baby blanket every nap and nighttime

- Lifts up my shirt and blows raspberries on "Baby Brudder" whenever she can
- Generally the more cautious of the twins, she only *just* started going down the slide facing forward instead of on her belly
- VERY picky about what she wears, so she usually gets her choice and Mary Claire gets whatever's left...
- Not even close to being potty trained
 - Adores her Dad above all other people!

Mary Claire, 22 months

- Still eats dirt pretty much every time we go outside
- Gets really excited about "Baby Brudder" every time she sees my belly
- Wants to be picked up ALL the time, and generally throws a fit whenever we refuse
- Usually prefers to eat the opposite of whatever Elizabeth likes, so they eat their meals and then I switch their plates so they can finish each others leftovers
- Seriously regressed in her potty training once we returned from vacation, so we're taking a break
- Talks. So. Much. Complete sentences, thoughtful conversations, tells me what she's pretending to be and what she's pretending to do - it's adorable!
- Sings so well!  Perfectly tuneful and clear, you'd never guess she was as young as she is.
- SUCH a daredevil. Goes down the slide as fast as she can and bumps triumphantly at the bottom every time.
- Keeps trying to shove her way into Cecilia's reading lessons - she's a little smarty, but I don't want to let her try to learn because I know Cecilia will be upset if she learns first!
- Loves to talk about all the Little House characters as if she knows them personally
- Still looks almost EXACTLY like Cecilia when she was that age

So there you have it!  I'm sure my mom enjoyed this post a lot ;)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Our Homeschool Goals: 2014-2015

Can I just say how laughable this post title is?  I started thinking about this a while ago with this exchange via Twitter:

And, joking aside, it's not far from the truth...  We just sent in our "letter of intent" declaring that we're not sending John Paul to kindergarten this year.  He would be a disaster emotionally, and sooooo bored academically.  So it should be an intimidating year for me because HELLO, first year homeschooling + new baby due in November + twin terrors + Cecilia, the adorable but high-strung 3.5yo.

Just call us low-stress over here!

Ah, how stressful it would be if I were going to try to accomplish anything tangible this year.  That is, anything tangible according to what school records would state.  Writing?  He's got it down.  Math?  All the way through 1st grade level, mastered.  Reading?  Last summer I tested him at somewhere between 5th and 8th grade.  Religion?  He's better catechized than I was through at least 8th grade.

So what's the point?  He knows everything, right?

This kid LOVES his workbooks.  He wants to learn everything and he wants to learn it now and if I'm not throwing SOMETHING at him, he'll make trouble on his own (as evidenced by the numerous "science experiments" I find lying around the house).  So he's got random workbooks (including his new favorite) and is working through them as fast as he possibly can (and I need to find a good source for more because they get expensive!), and I signed him up for a Magic School Bus Young Scientists Club (thank you, Amazon Local!) and am doing whatever I can to keep him busy...

Photo: John Paul is NOT a coloring fan, but apparently if it's math-related, he'll do anything... #weirdo
Hates coloring.  But not if it's a graph?

Cecilia decided she wants to learn how to read, so I grabbed everyone's favorite book from the library a couple weeks back and now she's sounding out and writing 3-letter words and it's adorable!

Photo: A certain 3yo is learning to read and clearly we've got another dummy on our hands :P
It's weird having to actually teach this skill this time around, since John Paul pretty much taught himself...  And she sees John Paul doing his workbooks and wants to do the same thing, so she has a little Brain Quest Pre-K Workbook that she loves, although she needs a lot more coaching through it than John Paul, since she can't read the instructions...  But he's been reading them to her (and correcting her mistakes, a little too harshly...), so that actually works out well if I'm busy with the twins.

So, in a nutshell, what do we actually want to do this year?

- Read a lot. Get lots of new books from the library to keep things fresh, and read to EVERYONE, not just the non-readers.

- Create - the big kids love "writing stories" when they can dictate to me, and I love their creativity.  And they adore playing with art supplies and trying to draw new things, so I need to be willing to get the bins down more often than I usually do.

- Get outside!  Mosquitoes kept us inside for quite a bit of the summer, because everybody was getting eaten alive.  They're not totally gone, but we're just getting a few bites, so I'm trying to enjoy the weather with the kids as much as possible before we're cooped up indoors.

Photo: Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful day! Are the mosquitoes finally gone, you think?
Wouldn't you want to be outside all the time if you were them?

- Pray. We still don't have a lot of daily prayer incorporated, and the kids crave that kind of structure, and I need it too!

Are we doing a preschool curriculum?  Or any sort of kindergarten curriculum?  No. Not even close.  John Paul told me the other day that it was his first day of kindergarten, and I didn't even take a picture...  So I guess we've begun our school year?  And it's not gonna look a whole lot different than what we've already been doing!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

WIWS & My Fall Staples

I woke up this morning to a VERY chilly house (the windows were all open last night) and saw that it was only like, 50 degrees outside!  And while I haven't been anticipating fall quite so much as many others seem to be (pumpkins are pretty but taste nasty, and I want summer to last so we can get a few more tomatoes from the garden!), I was pretty excited to break out some of my fall favorites!

I think I've had this shirt dress for the past 3 pregnancies, and it's served me well!  Not the right color/weight for summer, but with cooler weather starting up, it's perfect now.

So you'll see me wearing a lot of dresses with tights or leggings (mostly leggings, because maternity tights are ridiculous.  Seriously, these probably have an extra 5 inches in the legs that I had to pull up!)

Scarf: Amazon (exact - and I'll note that Elizabeth ADORES it and gave me about a trillion hugs so she could stroke it, so it's totally worth the $7 or however much it cost...)
Booties: DSW (similar)
Bangs: In serious need of a trim...

And of course, I had the camera out so the girls wanted pictures!

"CHEESE!!!" Said Mary Claire.  "Crackers!!!" Responded Elizabeth.  Oh these twins - comedy at its finest ;)

Cecilia had already changed out of her Mass clothes into a more suitable ballerina dress.  Because she's 3.

It was so nice to be back at our home parish this week, in no small part because Mass is always on the short side so I wasn't physically exhausted by the end!  Plus Andrew stayed home with the babies because he goes to a later Mass, so there was no real wrangling that needed to happen - we're still not at the point where we can make it to Mass as a family 100% of the time, but we'll get there eventually!

Linking up with Fine Linen & Purple for their 100th week of What I Wore Sunday!

And continuing on the fashion note of this post...

Let's say you're putting together a fall wardrobe but you don't know where to start or what staples to add to your closet - what do you do???

Have no fear!  Here are some of my favorites to take you through fall and beyond!

1. Maxi Skirt

This is such an important basic piece for any closet - I strongly suggest you at least go somewhere and try on a maxi skirt, even if you think one would never work for you!  I thought for years that maxi skirts and maxi dresses would look stupid on me because I'm so short, and I was wrong!

Styled for Fall

Styled for Summer

Styled for Maternity!
My Gap Maxi Skirt is the perfect length for me, and I'm 5'2" - I think it would work for anyone between about 5'0" and 5'4", and they have it in Tall and Petite for other heights.  There's also a similar skirt on Piperlime that's on a 5'9" model, so that would probably work great for you taller girls too!

2. Denim Jacket

I know, is it the 90s again?  But denim jackets are back, and so versatile because they go with everything!  I lucked out and got an awesome J.Crew jacket for a great price from Twice, but I spotted a few others for good prices at other stores.

Maternity (although WHY this would only work for maternity is beyond me...)
"Retro" (Okay just...  No.  But when I was searching, I couldn't resist!!!)

3. Scarves!

I love it when it's finally cool enough to wear a scarf with every outfit (and I DO end up wearing one with every outfit, too...), and they're one size fits all!  Here are some of my favorites from around the internet right now:
Forever 21
Old Navy

What are your go-tos? Boots? Skinnies? I want to hear what your fall essentials are!

And as a side note, thank you so much for reading these posts and clicking the links - I've been trying out a new affiliate program through ShopStyle, which I LOVE for their easy clothing searches.  Every time you click a link I get a few pennies, and I think soon I might be able to fund a new pair of boots, so hurray!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why I Worked, Part 6: My Last Year in the Classroom

Part 1 here, Part 2 herePart 3 herePart 4 here, Part 5 here

Going into my final year of teaching, I didn't exactly know it would be the last year...

But the summer alone with the kids gave me confidence in my ability to take care of all 4 of them by myself without going insane.  We had settled into a routine, and things were going well!  And then, of course, it was time for school to start again.

For the first time ever, I wasn't entirely excited to go back to teaching...  I'll be the first to admit that I don't enjoy the baby & toddler stages as much as many moms.  But now I was starting to have big kids, and parenting them was more challenging but also a lot more fun!  And after a whole summer with them, I knew that staying home full-time wouldn't drive me as batty as I thought...

One of the best things about being a teacher is having the summers off to enjoy your kids.  

One of the worst things about being a teacher is that once you've finally settled into the routine of being a stay-at-home mom, it's back to work.

Who wouldn't miss those smiles?

We found an awesome sitter on, and knew immediately that she was perfect for our needs - she had worked in the infant room at a daycare (taking care of 4 babies at a time!), and was working in the preschool room currently because her boss thought she was too creative to be "wasted" on babies!  And since our home was practically a daycare, it was an ideal situation.  Gone was the old sitter, whose issues keeping the house picked up and arriving on time caused no small amount of stress for us...

We were up front about it to begin with, I was probably going to stop working this year or next year.  But I still kind of thought I had one more year in me after this one - we were planning on homeschooling John Paul, but he didn't really *need* anything academic from me, so that could wait until he was at least 6.  So two more years of teaching would be fine, right?

And baby plans were kind of on the horizon - the twins were almost 1, my fertility still hadn't returned, and 2.5 years seemed like kind of nice spacing, right?  So I figured I'd teach this year, get pregnant next fall, and finish off my teaching career and then have a summer baby!

Ah, plans...

The year started off really well - I was SO glad to be back with my students, back with adults, back to using the bathroom by myself...  My choir girls sounded GOOD.  And they were so sweet!

It was tough to leave scenes like this every morning, but I had signed a contract, and I had to stick with it!

But the end of November came and things kind of fell apart...  My dad passed away suddenly, so I was left helping my sister plan the funeral while also trying to do last-minute prep for a big assembly and our winter concert.  Oh, and grieve...

It was at this point that I think being at work really got me through things - I worked with amazing people who helped cover my classes, and being away from my foursome at home made it easier to grieve because when I'm upset I need to be alone.  So I think it really saved my sanity being able to kind of escape from things.

But I still wasn't healed, and I just wasn't all there with my students anymore...  And I didn't feel like I was all there at home.  There wasn't enough time to do all the paperwork at school, to take care of all the purchase orders, to enter the student data into our system, to file the music in our library, and I just wanted to teach.
And at home it was always such a rush to get out the door, get people dressed before the sitter was there, try to find a way to shower, get lunch made, etc.

Then on top of it all, we had a record number of snow days that year.  Every time we got into the rhythm of things at home or at school, another late opening or snow day messed things up AGAIN.

Life was just a constant cycle of hanging on for dear life and trying not to fall down on EITHER job!

Not to mention a change in administration at the school had led to a classroom management nightmare - the new principal decided that now cell phones were allowed everywhere in school, and couldn't be confiscated by teachers in the classroom.  No, we had to write kids up and let the administration deal with it if it became a serious problem.  Who exactly has time to add all that paperwork to their already-full load?  Cyber bullying became a more and more obvious problem because kids were writing nasty comments on each others Instagrams during school and letting the drama into the classroom.  And instead of talking to their friends, they were sitting around with earbuds in listening to music or watching movies.  Or maybe watching movies together, sitting there and not talking.


Staying home full-time began to seem like a more and more attractive option.  But health insurance.  How in the world were we supposed to pay the $1200ish/month that it would cost if we went off of my work plan?

A friend mentioned that she had just enrolled in Christian Healthcare Ministries, and we met to discuss how exactly the program worked and what the costs would be - suddenly staying home seemed possible!  I had no idea that programs like this existed (basically you cover preventative care and the first $300 of any incident, and your "premiums" go towards sharing healthcare costs with other members - really, look it up because I can't explain it well yet!), and it would cut our healthcare costs down to about $300/month, which is what was already coming out of my paycheck.

The only catch?  Maternity coverage wasn't included until you were enrolled in the plan for at least 300 days.  And my fertility had just returned.  I did a quick cost analysis in my head - I already knew we weren't pregnant this month, but if we got pregnant this month it would cost the same amount to pay for a few months of COBRA coverage to reach the due date that it would to start CHM coverage.

Shocker, we got pregnant.  And realized at that point that another year teaching wasn't going to happen!  We were in the middle of a super-busy time at school, so I didn't want to shake things up and add more stress to my already overworked high school counterpart (and department chair), so right after we finished up with our next set of concerts, I let him know that I wouldn't be returning, in the hopes that they could find a replacement for me soon so that I could tell the students I wouldn't be back while also saying, "But hey, look, this awesome person is coming to be your director!"

Weeell, public school bureaucracy being what it is, they couldn't actually hire the person they wanted to hire until the school year was over.  And it was only March.  And I was only like, 6 weeks pregnant or something.  So I dressed to hide the bump, and avoided the awkward questions from students (some of whom were definitely catching on), like, "When are you having another baby?" "I don't know, sometime in the future..." "No but WHEN? Like, what DAY???"  #subtle

I was ready to be fully present at home - sure, I was getting it all done, but at what cost?  I'm not one to get stressed easily, but this was a really trying time of getting everything done at work and also trying to give the kids everything they needed at home.  John Paul's behavior was suffering, there were tantrums every morning when I left and every afternoon when I came home, and I was ready to be done.  The decision was made, but I still had to finish out the school year!

I went to work and acted like I'd be back next year, because I wasn't going to check out and leave them to coast for the rest of the year.  I maybe overcompensated with some seriously difficult music when they should have been coasting...  I finally announced the pregnancy on the blog, thinking eventually they'd find it and start asking even MORE awkward questions, but nobody took the bait!

Actually, some of them DID find it, but were too polite to say anything because they didn't think it was any of their business.  Seriously, these girls are the BEST.  They give you hope for the future of girls everywhere!

We went on our end-of-the-year trip to an amusement park and the next week, now that ALL our concerts were over, I finally let them know that I was pregnant.  And not coming back next year.

"But you'll be back the year after that, right?"

"I'll have 5 kids.  So...  No."

Thankfully, they were not too shaken up about it - one of the nice things about teaching middle school is that it's only 2 years worth of students, so either they'd only had me for a year and weren't too attached, or they'd had me for 2 years and were moving on to high school.  Not earth-shattering news for these sweet girls!

A few weeks later school was out, and I packed up all my things and left without a tear shed - it was time, and I was ready!

No more missing the awesome sibling bonding going on all day while I was at work!

Up next: Thoughts on why it took so long not to be afraid of staying at home, the transition to staying home full-time, and why teaching in public schools made me more committed to homeschooling
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