To Bring the Joy of Christ!

Ut gaudium Christi! To bring the joy of Christ! Today we enter our fourth and final week of this Advent Season! For Linda and I, this has been the most memorable Advent we have ever experienced because this year we dedicated ourselves to embracing this most holy season as a family with our boys to teach them about bringing the joy of Christ to others!IMG_4667_MOD

 Our home schooling group were planning to go Christmas Caroling at a local nursing home. Christmas Caroling is a  lost tradition so it was something I was very dedicated to doing with the boys and what better place than at a nursing home. We practiced for two weeks, learning all the traditional Christmas songs such as The First Noel,  Silent Night, and the boy’s favorite, Hark the Herald.  We discussed with the boys what a nursing home was and why  people where there and how a lot of times the residents were not happy to be there, mainly because they do not  get many visitors hence why we were going to Christmas Carol there. The boys couldn’t have been more  excited to go!  Once we arrived, they did wonderful interacting with the residents by handing out St. Nick prayer  cards and other presents and of course singing! This is something I would not have done well at as a kid but because we talked so much about what to expect and why we were going, it really instilled in them their purpose of bringing joy!

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They have enjoyed caroling so much we have continued to do it by going to friends and family houses to sing as well! The Binggeli Brother’s will be performing their last concert in Wichita next week! What Linda and I have loved so much is the endless singing of songs throughout the house! Their favorite song is Hark the Herald which they sing constantly now!

We also went and visited my Grandpa, Noah’s Great Grandpa last week.  He currently is in a nursing home as well and usually just my dad and I go but I wanted to take Noah this time because I knew it would bring my Grandpa much joy to see and play with him and it turned out to be a wonderful visit for all of us! Noah played cards, tic-tac-toe, and puzzle games with Grandpa.  It was amazing to sit back and see how well Noah interacted with him. The nursing home setting didn’t phase him a bit, saying hi to the residents there and the workers! I asked him if he wanted to come with me to pick up lunch at Wendy’s to bring back but he said no, he wanted to stay behind and help with Grandpa! Although he has only seen Grandpa a few times, he acted like they were long life friends! Besides all the games, they both enjoyed chocolate covered cherries together!

 

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We also brought much joy to a very poor family in need.  As I was reading my National Catholic Register, they had a small write up by Food for the Poor, an organization that helps families throughout South and Central America and The Caribbean. Many families they help live in terrible, make shift houses, usually made from rusted out metal, wood or other scrap material. The article featured a family with a single mom and four small children. The woman’s husband had died unexpectedly, leaving her with the four children, whom were about the same age as our children.

A family of 3 lives in this shanty.

A family of 3 lives in this shanty.

The mother’s only prayer was for a safe house for her children who were currently living on the side of a mountain in a tin house. After Linda and I read the article we were immediately moved by the Holy Spirit to provide a home for a family like this in desperate need; a way to give back for all that God had blessed us with with our new house for our family.

Linda and I decided that we would contribute enough money to cover the cost of a new home with working water and sanitization as a Christmas gift to one of these families. We showed pictures of these houses and the people who lived in them to the boys and they were very intrigued about what they saw.  We didn’t tell the boys what we were going to do but after we sat down and read the article to them, we asked them, “What do you think we should do about this?” and Eli was the first to say, “We need to get them a house!”, which Linda and I replied, “You’re right! And we will get them a house for Christmas!”

A new, safe house with working water provided by Food for the Poor donors.

A new, safe house with working water provided by Food for the Poor donors.

I hope that each year Linda and I will have the financial resources available that every Christmas we can buy a house for a family! I encourage anyone who reads this to go to Food for the Poor’s website to find out how you too can help the world’s poorest among us.

While this Advent has been so special it has also come with much struggle. Isaac is barely sleeping and has gone weeks now with just 4 or 5 hours a sleep A DAY! This has been very physically hard for Linda and I and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  Noah has also been struggling with focusing on his school work which has been draining emotionally on Linda. We do our best to keep carrying these small crosses, for Mary and Joseph too suffered on their long journey to Bethlehem, Mary being 9 months pregnant having to ride a donkey, being left to stay outside in a barn. Our crosses seem so small compared to what they went through! Like Mary and Joseph, God will see us through our struggles and reveal to us the greatest joy!

I started this last week of Advent by going to Eucharistic Adoration and Noah wanted to go with me. I always hesitate for some reason but I usually let him come along. He enjoys coloring while I am there so I told him to color a picture of us all around the Christmas tree. He told me, “Wow, that’s going to take me awhile!” Good I thought, it will give me some time to pray without him hassling me. I am on my knees praying for God’s help and relief from these past weeks of no sleep, aching muscles, rebellious children and other bitterness that had crept into my heart. Pleading for guidance I sat back in my chair and just said, “God, I will just listen, tell me what I am suppose to do.”

On the other side of the wall, the piano and organ started playing and a multitude of voices started singing Hark the Herald.  Noah and I both looked up at each other and smiled. He put down his crayons and started conducting and singing! I joined him and together we sang our song together! I just sat and smiled as big as I have smiled in a long time. My eyes couldn’t help but water and Noah just kept conducting and singing! What immense joy that came over me!

Noah singing and conducting Hark the Herald

 

 

Noah then finished his picture, which he had worked on for 45 minutes! It was our Christmas Tree, surrounded by the Nativity and our family.  He asked me, “Daddy, how do you write Merry Christmas to all of you”, so I typed it out on my phone and he copied it on to his drawing and then signed his name. My heart just bursting with love and complete joy at his picture. I told him I loved his picture and that we would laminate it when we got home because I wanted to keep this picture forever! I tried to tell him that it was simple gifts like this that are priceless, no other gift can compare.

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Ut gaudium Christi! To bring the joy of Christ!  We had brought it to many others this Advent but in the end, I too needed it and through the sounds of a familiar song, a picture and my own son, God showered me with joy, the joy I longed for and needed.

- Michael

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Homeschooling Trials

Last week was hard! We started our homeschooling year off to a great start, but the last several weeks Noah has lost interest in all things academic. What normally takes an hour to complete, was literally taking all day. He showed no interest in completing his worksheets and he suddenly didn’t know how to complete basic addition and subtraction problems. It was an utter mess. The only subjects he was gravitating to were Catechism and history.

We even had a week break from all things school during Thanksgiving. I was hoping everyone would come back ready to go; rejuvenated again. Instead it was actually worse. Eli and Levi continued to do great, which I’m grateful, but Noah still wanted nothing to do with it. He was just completely loopy, giggly and whiney! I would have his worksheets in front of him and immediately he’d whine, “I have to do all of these?!?”, “Why do I have sooo many?”, among other complaints.

A worksheet that literally takes him a couple minutes to do, would take an hour. He’d be putting his head down, laughing, messing with his pencil, anything and everything but the work at hand. It was painful…extremely painful. I thought, maybe he just needs more breaks, so I’d let him go play and have him come back, but his attitude and productivity were no better.

Finally, last week I had enough. I put him in black out. He spent the entire day sitting in my bedroom (not his, as he does have a few toys and many books in there). I literally packed up every army, camo-related toy he had, including his beloved soldier costume. I informed him school is to be taken seriously; we always do our very best work because that is what is expected at all times and because he made poor choices the consequence was black out. At first he didn’t even care. I brought his lunch to him to eat alone, after that it was starting to get to him. He finally knew I was serious and meant it. He kept asking how much longer and when I explained he wasn’t leaving the room until it was time for bath and afterwards it was straight to bed, he was devastated. He wailed, I hated it. But I knew this had to be done, he had to learn a hard lesson. I ended up letting him out of the room a little before dinner (yes, I caved!), where he had a small set of blocks to play with alone, no brothers.

His behavior seemed to improve, so I hoped the next day would be much better. I was wrong! I was so upset that by lunch I just went to my bed and cried. I felt like a failure as a mom, as a teacher, just everything, plus I was just so tired, my eyes were literally burning. Michael gave me a pep talk, reassured me that going into this we knew it was going to be hard, and just because we homeschool didn’t mean things were harder. Noah could easily act up or have issues in a traditional school as well. Dealing with everything that comes with a traditional school isn’t all roses either. We had to push through. Noah was still having issues up through yesterday. Michael gave him a stern talking to and today school went great! I’m hoping and praying we are on the way to getting back to normal.

Noah still has yet to earn back any of his toys that I packed away and surprisingly he’s only asked about them a couple times. Goes to show they have way too many toys to even miss the ones they love. We really need to work on the overload of toys around here :/

The two hardest things about parenthood: sleep deprivation and discipline. Discipline is even harder because of the sleep deprivation. Your well-rested, fully energized children can break a tired, exhausted mama down in seconds. They know this because they happen to be too smart for their own good.

Hoping for better homeschooling days ahead!

Oh, How I Loathe Costco

It’s frustrating! Every time I go to Costco, it’s packed! On any weekday morning, in the afternoon, whenever it doesn’t matter! I don’t get it! You’d think the majority of people would be working, but no they’re all frolicking at Costco. Some would say, “oh, it’s because of the holidays.” I know that’s not helping, but it’s been busy way before that!

I hate going and not having my parking spot. Yes, I have a “spot”, right next next to the landscaped curbed area with a tree with the cart holder right across the way. This is key because when you have any number of small children easy access to carts is essential every time!!! So it’s never good when I get there and the lot is packed because no one works anymore! Or maybe lately I just have impeccable bad timing. Or God is working on my virtue of patience and loving thy neighbor or something to make me a better, holy person. Can you tell it’s working? I’m guessing more bad experiences at Costco are in my future.

Other things I hate about Costco:

  1. One hour photo, but no not really…it’s more like 8 hour or 24 hour photo. ANNOYING! Don’t say one hour photo when you can’t deliver, let’s give everyone realistic expectations.
  2. Returns!!! Seriously, it must be a level in hell to go through a return at Costco. And if you don’t have your receipt just forget it! I rarely keep receipts because I hate having to keep track of small pieces of paper that my son, who is a paper hoarder, just ends up finding and taking for his own “office” use, so when I do need it they’ve completely disappeared. Why must they look up the item at another terminal?!? Can’t they just scan my membership or debit card?!? They really need to invest in that technology. I mean who doesn’t love returning items at Target! Don’t have your receipt, they swipe your card and it’s there…done, boom!
  3. People who shop at Costco. I’m so glad the people at Costco have nothing else to do but to be at Costco and look at every single awesome item and try every available sample. I don’t have that kind of time people! I either have a cart full of boys to contend with or a small window of time before I need to rush back home to most likely a screaming baby because he hasn’t been nursed in the past hour. So Costco shoppers with all your free time, park your cart off to the side and take your sample to enjoy off to the side, NOT RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE SAMPLE or the middle of the aisle!!! Most shoppers are completely oblivious…huge cart right in the middle of the aisle as they look at a product and you politely say, “Excuse, me” yet they’re so entranced on the product they don’t hear you or they’re ignoring you and after the fifth “excuse, me” they finally look over at you like you’re in the way. Let’s keep moving folks.
  4. Product Availability. I see a product, not on my shopping list, but immediately think, “Oh, I really need that!” Then I start a discussion in my head on whether I really need it or not and determine it’s more a want, not a need and then I reassure myself I can always get it next week if after further contemplation I decide it’s a need. So of course days of thinking about it at home, I decide it’s a necessity. All geared up to purchase the item when I’m there again, it’s gone. Apparently within that week period, everyone in the metro area decided they needed it to. So now I reason that if I even have an inkling that I need it, to go ahead and buy it because I can always go through the lovely, easy process of returning said item :)
  5. Food Court. I like to get there right when they open and sometimes the boys are in tow and for whatever reason they love to eat there in the actual food court. I think they finally now take debit card, but in the past it was cash only. That was always frustrating because I never carry cash and so when I do have cash it’s specifically for purchases at the Costco food court.  Anyways, by the time we check out, it’s usually close to 11 and the boys always ask to stop eat there, which at the time sounds like a great idea. Cheap lunch without me having to prepare it or cleanup…win-win! But it never fails that they have one person working the register and getting the food. Lunch time people! Get back up. It’s like they never realize that it’s lunch time and a slew of people are going to show up for $1.50 hotdogs!!!

There’s my rant on the necessary evil that is Costco. And I feel much better…way cheaper than therapy, although I could probably use a good therapist because normally Michael has to listen to this, so I should probably just blog more and give him a break. Of all the great things for me to blog about, I chose this…lame! Wait til you hear my post on how awesome my homeschooling journey is going, we’ve hit a brick wall…I’d almost rather spend my days at Costco.

 

Isaac is 5 Months Old

Isaac is 5 months old today and he’s getting so big! He’s rolling all over the place, grasping at toys, laughing, playing in his exersaucer and just taking everything in. It’s been exciting to see him interact more with his brothers. How lucky this baby boy is to have three big brothers that love him so. Noah is a great babysitter, he does a great job watching him and getting him to sleep. Eli is also great at keeping him amused and is able to get him happy if he starts crying. And all three are great at making him laugh. All of this is a huge help to me when I’m trying to prepare dinner or do things around the house. I love hearing his sweet laughter as he watches his silly brothers’ antics.

He’s enjoying baby food. Not so much when I give it to him, but he devours it for my mom, sister and Michael. He also did a four night stretch of sleeping 8-10 hours; that was awesome! Although, I honestly didn’t feel like I slept an 8-10 hour stretch, but after months of sleep deprivation I can’t expect to feel great because of 4 good nights. We’re now back to waking every 3-4 hours…such is life with a baby!

Isaac is now rocking the awesome bald area on the back of his head. He looks like a Franciscan monk.

We set out the Fisher-Price nativity and he loves the angel. He just gnaws on it; it’s his favorite toy at the moment and he’s so darn cute when he does it.

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Isaac loving his nativity angel (photos taken by Noah)

He looks more and more like Eli everyday. And he loves grabbing his cute chunky feet when rolling around on the floor.

Lots of cuteness!

Lots of cuteness!

Milestones:

  • Rolling over from back to tummy.
  • Grabbing and holding objects.
  • Still teething (lots of drool and gnawing, along with some fussy days).
  • Started baby food. He likes peas and bananas best!
  • Grabbing his feet.
Happy 5 Months!

Happy 5 Months!

He’s growing up so fast, he’s already outgrowing my arms :( But he’s so happy and smiley and sweet. My heart bursts with love for him and those chunky thighs!

 

Happy Advent 2014

Advent is now upon us. How I too love this time of year; preparing for the birth of baby Jesus. Michael and I kicked off Advent with confession. Michael is so disciplined about going monthly, whereas I struggle. I always feel so much better after confession, but it’s always so nerve-racking to go. However, with Michael’s nudging I was able to start my Advent with a clean soul and that’s never a disappointment.

This will be the first year that we’ll be involved in service projects pertaining to Christmas. I’m excited to see that we’ve reached this stage where the boys are old enough to truly experience giving to others. We’ll start by caroling at a local nursing home and presenting a gift to one of the residents. The boys have been practicing Christmas songs every night to prepare, they’re super excited! Noah has already started wrapping gifts by finding things around the house and placing them under the tree for his brothers to unwrap. I’m happy to see the boys embrace the spirit of giving.

Our Christmas tree and Nativity

We’ve been deep in discussion about Christmas being the birthday of baby Jesus and how St. Nicholas is a great example of kindness and giving. This of course has brought up the secular Santa Clause and the North Pole and his flying reindeer and elves. Noah asked us about the North Pole and the elves making toys there, as my parents had told him about this. Michael proceeded to tell him the truth, that it’s just a fun story, the true Santa Clause is St. Nick. My parents and sister somehow think we’re cheating the boys out of Christmas by not having the boys believe it. I’m completely okay with the boys knowing these stories, but I don’t want them believing any of it’s real when it’s not. Our boys ask so many questions, especially this year, that to try to pass off the North Pole and elves was creating one lie after another…honestly, they’re too smart for that. Children seek truth and we didn’t want to confuse them in trying to make them believe in a fairy tale. So this is why we focus on the true Santa Clause and the birth of Jesus. Matt Fradd wrote an excellent blog post over all of this, which helped assure me that I wasn’t robbing my children of Christmas :)

The boys still experience the magic and spirit of Christmas….they love the lights and decorations, hot cocoa, wrapping gifts, singing Christmas Carols and lighting the Advent wreath. The boys are also enjoying the Advent calendar this year and have Christmas lights in their bedrooms…exciting stuff around here! Every year, we participate in visiting St. Nick at our local Bass Pro, but they’ve always known him as someone pretending to be St. Nick as the real St. Nick is in Heaven. They still wake up on Christmas morning with gifts under the tree and finding our baby Jesus to place in the manger (one of my favorite traditions). But most importantly they’ll know Christmas is baby Jesus’ birthday, which is the greatest gift of all.

Happy Advent!

Thanksgiving 2014

I thought October was crazy busy, but then November arrived with just as much to do and is now already over!

Our November started off with much excitement. The boys’ photo from All Saints’ Day happened to find its way to the Official Swiss Guard Facebook Page, with 5,559 like and 8,222 shares, there are not enough words to express the excitement we had and still have!!! I mean the actual Swiss Guards saw the photo of our boys dressed up as Swiss Guards…speechless! I have no idea how they even got the photo and didn’t know they had until a friend had told me about it. The power of social media! Strange this connection we seem to have with The Vatican; first with Pope Benedict XVI answering my tweet and now the boys.

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I still plan to write up my very undetailed post on how I made the costumes, even though I didn’t have any time to document or take photos during the process unfortunately.

Since deciding to make our formal dining room our schoolroom a couple months ago, we finally got the wallpaper removed and had it painted a nice light, fresh color. It really brightens up the space and makes it feel larger. We hope to find a new light fixture and curtains in the coming months.

Before (or during the wallpaper removal process) and After

Before (or during the wallpaper removal process) and After

It’s still in need of much organization, but we’re working through it for now, as I haven’t had the time to really plot out what we need. This is my inspiration though, but I’m really trying to think it through to make sure I’m not just caught up in the fact of how pretty it looks, which is great, but we also need it to be functionable.

We spent most of November preparing for Thanksgiving, which included an impromptu break from school to prepare for the big day. We learned a lot about the first Thanksgiving by reading books from the library and our history book. I even came across this great article about Squanto being Catholic! Which I had wondered about since we read that he was rescued by friars. Thanksgiving is truly one of my favorite holidays because it’s just about taking the time to be grateful for all of the Lord’s blessings and spending the day with family and eating delicious food. We hosted a large family gathering that included fried turkey, sangria, lots of tasty sides and chocolate pie.

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Our Thankful Board

Our Thankful Board

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Isaac's First Thanksgiving

Isaac’s First Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving included a game of Monopoly and several rounds of Bingo and the boys’ putting on their first pageant. Michael led up the pageant, helping the boys practice their parts, while I made the props with the boys – a paper turkeystage curtain, pilgrim hats and tickets to the show. The boys did a great job on their performance! They have even started working on their own Christmas pageant now!

Our First Thanksgiving Pageant

Our First Thanksgiving Pageant

Hoping your Thanksgiving was as blessed as ours!

Isaac is 4 Months Old

Isaac is 4 months old today. He slept all night…yay! He’s doing much better at night, usually only waking up once or twice, with anisaac_teether occasional sleep all through the night. I feel like he might as well just wake up every 2-3 hours because I still feel just as tired. After 4 babies, you’d think my body would have adjusted to lack of sleep by now. I really need to pick up a coffee habit. It seems like every mom has it together! I’m just a hot mess over here; tired all the time, living in lounge wear, my house looks like a mess ALL. THE. TIME! I love order and organization and when I can’t keep up with the house it drives me crazy. I’m just trying to accept that this is the season of life I’m in right now, but I do find it frustrating a lot of the time. When I’m nursing the baby, I think of all the million other things I could be doing, so I have to deliberately tell myself to enjoy this time with him, as I know it is short. Then I look at his sweet face and he wraps his little hand around my finger and all is good! I think God just wants me to be still at times.

He’s wearing size 9 months now and some are even 12 months! His brothers still love smothering him in hugs and kisses, although Levi has started showing his love and affection a bit overenthusiasticlly. It reminds me a lot of the Tiny Toons character, Elmyra, who would take her pets and squeeze them, saying, “I’m gonna hug you and kiss you and love you!” Poor Isaac! We all like trying to get him to laugh; Isaac really makes us work for it!

Eli saw Isaac roll over for the first time yesterday. He was super excited, yelling and screaming how he’s a champion and a baby genius! Apparently, Eli is easily amused :)

Showing off his rolling over skills

Showing off his rolling over skills

Milestones:

Weight: 15 lbs, 3.5 oz
Height: 25.75″

  • Rolling over from tummy to back
  • Grabbing objects
  • Teething (lots of drool and gnawing)

Likes:

  • Loves to talk. Noah will chat with him and he always responds. It’s fun hearing their baby conversation.
  • Squealing! He loves to hear his own voice! And wants everyone else to hear it too!
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Happy 4 Months!

Just look at how much he’s grown and changed since he was a newborn!!! He looked so much like Levi and now is looking more like Eli.

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