Journal: Family Update {A Novel} by Erika Marie

As I start this journal, it is Tuesday evening. We’ll see if I can get this nailed on the same day…(update: Nope, it is now Thursday so be prepared, I get a little wordy when I realize how long it’s been since I’ve shared a family update)

Outside:

Today (Tuesday) was a windy and warm day but I hear a cold wind is a coming so I’m trying to mentally prepare myself – and my wardrobe – for another seasonal change. I’m excited for cooler weather but hope winter doesn’t come too quickly. (Thursday – it is so beautiful out today! Why can’t it just stay like this all the time?)

Around the House:

I’m feeling incredibly accomplished around the house lately. The past few months I’ve been doing a lot of clean-up work – getting rid of big things that have been taking up unnecessary space.

So far we have sold our ping pong table (it was fun while it lasted but didn’t fit well in this house), our stinky old fridge/freezer that we inherited when we moved in (it was old and ruined my meat several times so I stopped using it), some old bunk beds that we didn’t need anymore (we have 1 set and didn’t really need 2 for now), a big box of doorknobs and other house furnishings we took off when we replaced everything with oil-rubbed bronze instead of the brass. I found a discount housewares Habitat for Humanity store to donate it all to so I felt better than just dumping it all in the trash.

I also cleared out a bunch of old bills and papers we’d been saving over the years and didn’t need anymore as well as other odds and ends. The fun part was going through all the various greeting cards and lovely snail mail I can’t bear to throw away. Reading through many of them was a true blessing – God has truly blessed our family abundantly with good and caring friends and family. All those letters are probably my most valuable possessions in the house.

I can now walk into our sewing/crafting/junk room without stepping on stuff. We could even use it as a bedroom now if we really needed to. Oh and I reorganized our basement storage area so there aren’t all sorts of random seasonal decorations all over collecting dust and spiders. I can now say that everything in our basement has purpose, a high potential for a future purpose, or it has no purpose but I’ve decided to tolerate it for the time being anyway.

Watching:

Forgot to mention in last week’s Reading/Watching Journal that my husband and I watched Dances With Wolves, hadn’t seen that since waaaayy back when I was maybe 10/12? All I had remembered of it was there was a scene with a naked butt and Indians chasing buffalo. Now, in my thirties, I appreciated it much more. It was really a good story, very interesting. We did have to split into two nights (especially since we accidentally got the extended version).

What we’ve been up to:

Weekend Surprises: For our weekend family surprise last weekend we used the kids’ Library Reading Program prizes and took everyone out for a rousing round of mini golf! It was a beautiful day and everyone had so much fun – even the two-year-old with his cute little mini golf club and ball that he kept picking up and throwing into the hole over and over. He was only sad when the ball didn’t come back after the 18th hole. I love my family.

Microscope fun: My husband and I decided it was time. Time to bring out…the microscope. We didn’t want to get it out until we felt they could really appreciate it…or at least not break it. The look on their faces when we got it out was classic – like we were bringing out a treasure chest filled with gold.

It came with a few slides with some organisms that we weren’t familiar with. We eventually decided it would be fun to see what boogers look like up close so we cajoled one from the two-year-old who seems to have an endless supply. He wasn’t as enthusiastic as we were but he eventually relented in the name of science. ;)

Music

The most exciting family update is about a new addition we added to our family this summer (after our dog) – a piano! My sister’s friend and her family were moving and gave it to us (only hard part was getting it here, thanks to my husband and two strong friends!). It’s amazing how much having a piano in our home has changed our family – in good ways! Turns out my husband is a musical genius and our kids are following right along.

He, and our older two, listen to a song they know/like and then try and play it on the piano by ear. They don’t have the right finger placement but are amazingly good at hitting the right notes. He even taught the 4 year-old Mary Had a Little Lamb - which he “plays” pretty well. I love hearing them play on the weekends and while I cook dinner, it brings me great joy hearing them discover the beauty of real music together.

The piano also came with a junior guitar that I had re-strung and tuned so that’s been fun for me to play around with that again and our daughter starts band this year and has chosen the flute – which is what I played! She’ll start lessons with that soon. We’ll probably start piano lessons soon for the kids – and my husband! Then I’ll be able to say I’m married to a super awesome astro-photographer pianist. I knew I chose right when I picked him for my husband and future father of our children. ;)

The Kids

10-year-old daughter started middle school this year! I can’t believe I just typed that. But I guess it’s the truth and I have to accept it. ;) She loves everything about it – the lockers (although we had to switch her to a bottom one since she’s too short to see the combo on the top ones!), the switching classes and having 3 different teachers during the day, and feeling grown up.

We’ve been having great conversations with her about topics related to growing up, you know the type of “talks” that make you look at your little girl and realize time suddenly hit the turbo speed and you wonder where your little girl went? Sigh, it’s good…a little hard on my emotions but I’m feeling good about entering into this new season. ‘The other day she said to me, “I feel like I’m really growing up now…and I don’t feel so afraid of it anymore.” Heart melt. Oh my dear daughter, how I love you and wish time didn’t have to go so fast.

I’ve been trying to spend more intentional and focused time with only her. The three younger boys are loud and seem to always need my attention when she’s trying to talk with me. And she isn’t as fond of the same things as them – bugs, poop, and other gross matters. Soon, she’ll be all grown up and off to start her own life and I don’t want to miss the time I have with her while she’s still sweet and innocent.

We had a fun shopping trip together last week (cue the modesty teaching opp moments!) and I’m planning a Girls Movie night to watch the old Parent Trap with Haley Mills (who I thought really did have a twin for the longest time.) She recently finished The Chronicles of Narnia and loved every book.

After she slowly closed the last book she let out a satisified sigh and said, “I don’t think I need to read another book ever again – these are the only books that really matter.” LOL, from a girl who literally devours every book in sight, I’d say she really liked those. She’s back to reading again but I’m afraid no other book will give her quite the same satisfaction for a while.

7 year-old

So far the school transition hasn’t been nearly as bad as I feared. He actually really thrives in school and seems to need the structure and routine. Yesterday he said to me, “Mama, I just LOVE school! My teacher is SO nice!” I was so glad to hear it. He’s definitely growing up, making his own breakfast in the mornings well (for the most part when he gets enough sleep and no one bothers him or looks at him), and he’s doing an excellent job making his own lunch the night before. I got him a new lunch bag and a Rubbermaid LunchBlox set and he loves snapping them together and I guess all his friends love it too. He gets excited about making his lunch so he can use so it works!

It seems he, too, is hitting a growth spurt in many ways. Last year he had .00001% interest in reading and I was slightly afraid he’d never like it – which would break my book-loving heart. It seems he’s gotten over the hump and is finally starting to enjoy it. I have a hard time knowing what books to get him though as the selection for boys is…different than it is for girls. Usually the popular books for boys his age are about gross stuff like poop, boogers, farts, bugs and pretending to be a ‘superhero’ in your underwear [snobby eye roll and snort]. However, I hate to say it, but if that’s what gets him into reading, I’m going to have to be ok with it..for now. To give you an idea of his refined reading palette, some of his recent favorites are:

Parts – Wherein a boy suffering from anxiety issues imagines all his body parts start falling off him…

I Spy Fly Guy! – Wherein a boy and his best friend – a fly – play hide and seek and end up…rummaging through town dump!

Ok, so he does also love reading books about animals (particularly of the amphibian variety), and anything to do with the Earth and Space (gee, wonder if my space-loving awesome husband has anything to do with that. ;) ) I’d like to get him into chapter books but he didn’t care for them a few months ago (said they were too boring and long) but I picked this one up the other day and casually left it in the library basket for him to hopefully find:

Space Taxi – anyone heard of/read these?

A day later I found it in his closet with a bookmark! I asked him about it the next day and he said, “I LOVE chapter books”! I take it he likes it.

The 4-year-old (a.k.a Bug Boy)

Started preschool! Another milestone I thought was in the distant-but-not-real-future. And he LOVES it. It’s only been a couple weeks but it’s been wonderful for him. I will admit I’ve enjoyed a couple hours of only one child but, more than that, I’m glad to see how much he likes it. I think it will be a good thing for him. He said he’s making new friends and loves playing on the playground. He has some great teachers – who I need to find out how they get so much energy!

Outside of the formal preschool, he is turning out to be quite the little explorer and is the boy of boys – especially when it comes to bugs! We call him our bug boy. He has a bugbox we got from the dollar tree and he catches at least one or more different bugs in there a day. I’m not much of bug person but he’s slowly softening me…as long as they don’t touch me or get in the house or our food. ;) He’s caught caterpillars (one turned into a moth!), grasshoppers, preying mantis, a bee (I drew the line at wasps, he’s already been stung but I’d rather not have to worry about that), and I think there is a Katydid in there now. My husband caught a black widow in our garage and – much to my motherly paranoia – kept in a jar for a few days on our fridge. (It’s still in a jar on the top of our fridge, drowned and floating around in the water-filled jar along with her leftover grasshopper dinner.) Generally, I tell them not to harm bugs outside of the house but when they come in – and especially if they have the potential of injecting lethal poison – they have to die. I know, tough love.

This morning, he found a toad at church. Of course he had to catch it and wanted to take it home. On the first day of preschool, he put a butterfly in his bookbag…but forget it there, and he brought about 10 cicada shells in a baggie for show and tell. He also loves catching flies and today he proudly showed me all the dead flies he’s caught in the garage. Yup, he’s definitely earned the title “super bug catcher! I’m just glad he isn’t eating them…yet.

Oh and my favorite thing he does lately is shower me with compliments. He’ll come up to me or yell or across the room and declare loudly, “Mama, your SO pretty!!” He even asked for my hand in marriage the other day; too bad I am already smitten and taken by another older man.

The Baby Two-Year Old

After his birthday, I can tell he too is entering into a new phase. He’s still very sweet and his personality – and opinions – are coming out more! He loves – LOVES – playing with his brothers and sister. I love watching him romp around the yard with them, eagerly trying to catch up and be just like them. He doesn’t always appreciate their way of playing but I can he’s trying hard to toughen up and be part of the club. I know soon, my time with him as a baby is slipping by so I’m trying to relish the last of the “baby” moments – nursing, hand holding, rocking and cuddling and all the wet open-mouth kisses and random leg hugs. We have introduced the potty to him – he was excited and interested for a few days and then totally rejected it. So we’ll take a break and come back to it and continue leaving that bathroom door open.

He’s recently taken to carrying blankets and stuffed animals with him – it’s super cute. He loves holding things in his hands while nursing, it’s real fun nursing him while he uses my neck and arms as a train track. ;)  He’s been sleeping nicely through the night for the most part. I thought of moving him in with his brothers but then decided not to yet since they would wake him up too early and I can’t deal with a cranky baby in the mornings and get everyone else and myself ready and out the door for school on time – without going ballistic. My husband is a tremendous help with him and I’m beyond grateful for how great of a husband and daddy he is with the baby and all of them. God is good.

The Dog – Well we’ve had her 3.5 months and still love her! She’s been really wonderful with the kids and aside from the initial “marking” in the house she hasn’t done it since. We need to figure out a plan for the upcoming colder months so are thinking of kennel training her…just have to figure out a good spot for a large crate in our house.

A picture to share:

A boy and his toad (frog?)

Alright, well now that I’ve spent THREE days writing my first novel about our family update – that’s what happens when you don’t journal frequently enough – I will finally end and let you go back on living your lives once again.

Adieu, till the next, hopefully sooner, time.

A Better Way to Apologize, Gratitude and Generosity, the Truth about St. Therese {A Food for Thought Round-Up}

Simplemama's Food for Thought Round-Up

Happy Saturday! I’m catching up on a few nuggets of food for thought I’ve been stashing away until I had enough to share. En-JOY your weekends!

A Better Way to Say Sorry -

This is excellent advice! Teachers, parents, friends, spouses, this is a very simple yet highly effective way to apologize. I’m definitely teaching this to my kids. Oh and the first sample dialogue was almost verbatim to what I say to my kids to “make them” apologize.

Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt -

This is a great one. I love how she flipped her perspective and looked at her “messes” in her house as the great blessings they are instead of burdens. I have been walking around my house and trying to look at my “messes” through with a more grateful eye. If you don’t like looking at blogs that only show the “perfect” side of living, you’ll appreciate her very real and honest pictures.

How Missionary Life Has Blessed Our Family

And on that same note, here is a great post from some friends who recently sold everything – EVERYTHING – and became a missionary family in the Philippines. They share here how this has blessed their family. 

Depose the Diet Demigod – This is a good reminder to keep food in it’s place. Even though I agree we should always try to eat healthy and not put real junk into our bodies, I feel like we – as an American culture especially – sometimes take the healthy eating a tad too far. Food is important, but…it’s not THE only thing that matters, it too is only a temporal good necessity. 

14 Kid’s books I could read 14 times a day - A lovely little round-up of some of my friend’s favorite children’s books that are tolerably read over and over and over…

Censoring St. Thérèse 5 things you didn’t know about the Little Flower. This is a very important read about St. Therese, especially if you are prone to comparing yourself unrealistically to the lives of the Saints – or at least to what we think we know about the Saints. It is a few pages long but well worth the read. I appreciate knowing that St. Therese suffered from the same “darkness” that plagues me with my own Faith and life. Most people just assume she always believed and was never troubled with doubts but it’s not so – everyone has moments of doubt, even the greatest of the Saints. I also felt relief knowing I’m not the only who struggles with “aridity” of faith when it comes to praying the basic “rope” prayers.

“I feel then that the fervor of my Sisters makes up for my lack of fervor; but when alone (I am ashamed to admit it) the recitation of the rosary is more difficult for me than the wearing of an instrument of penance. I feel I have said this so poorly! I force myself in vain to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary; I don’t succeed in fixing my mind on them…Sometimes when my mind is in such aridity that it is impossible to draw forth one single thought to unite me with God, I very slowly recite an “Our Father” and then the “Hail Mary”; then these prayers give me great delight; they nourish my soul much more than if I had recited them precipitately a hundred times.”

And, the information about what a rotten toddler she was gives me great hope for my trying children, especially our little 4 year-old…

Elsewhere, St. Thérèse provides examples of wonderful things her mother had to say about the toddler-turned-saint. Her mother clearly loved her dearly. But, there was always the acknowledgement that this was a particularly trying child at times. Her mother wrote of St. Thérèse and her sister Celine: “My little Celine is drawn to the practice of virtue; it’s part of her nature; she is candid and has a horror of evil. As for the little imp, one doesn’t know how things will go, she is so small, so thoughtless! Her intelligence is superior to Celine’s, but she’s less gentle and has a stubborn streak in her that is almost invincible.”

Recent Reads and Movie Watching Update

Happy Wednesday! It’s been a while since I’ve journaled so today seems like a good day for it…we’ll see if the kiddos cooperate with that idea. (They didn’t so it might be Thursday when you read this.)

I’ll start with the watching/reading updates since I haven’t done that in a while.

Watching

We’ve seen a few good ones lately.

1. Finding Neverland

I discovered this little gem at the library and it was quite lovely. I had never heard the story of how Peter Pan (the original play) came to be.  It’s a captivating story that takes you on an adventure into the the writer, J. M. Barrie‘s, vivid imagination as well as on a journey through experiences and events that occured in his life and others around him that eventually formed into the story we know as Peter Pan.

I was impressed with the role played by Johnny Depp in a way I’ve never seen him before (a non-flighty pirate!…though he did act the part of a pirate at one time during the movie in a much more dignified way than his more recent films.) 

This movie spoke not only to my childhood nostalgia but also to my writer’s heart. If only I could sit and write the pictures that dance in a constant stream through my mind, oh the books and stories I’d write! 

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” J. M. Barrie

2. Saving Mr. Banks

We watched this a while ago but I couldn’t remember if I had shared about it or not. Watching Finding Neverland reminded me of Saving Mr. Banks in that they are both stories about how two of my favorite childhood movies came to be. It’s always fascinating to me to hear more about all the work and thought that goes on behind the scenes before a great movie/play even gets to the stage. I’d recommend both these movies.

3. 12 Years a Slave

My husband put this on our Netflix queue and we weren’t sure how it would be and it turns out that it is quite exceptional. I’ve been thinking about this movie for several days now and am even more keenly aware again of the atrociousness of this very ugly part of our American (and human) history. I’d like to try and read the book sometime, but I’m afraid also of what horrors I will read about.

The thing about this movie though is that it’s not a “good” movie because of the horrible crimes against humanity portrayed. What makes this movie great is the resiliance – the perseverance – this man and his fellow captives portray. Despite the inhuman treatment endured, they continued on. Though their dignity was stripped, slashed, shoved, and spat on – they kept on. This movie made me feel both shame and hope. I could say more but don’t want to give too much away so I’ll just say – watch it.

Any other movie recs you think we should try out?

Reading:

1. Momnipotent: The Not-so Perfect Guide to Catholic Motherhood

I was given this as a gift in exchange for an honest review and because I will be part of the Momnipotent Book Club hosted by CatholicMom.com. It was a pleasant read and I really enjoyed it. It’s got a lot of practical tips on how to survive motherhood and it’s full of friendly and wise encouragement for all moms and women.

The thing that surprised me the most about this book is how honest and real Danielle is about motherhood, the joys and the struggles. I didn’t feel so alone in my struggles.

You can read the interview with Lisa Hendey and Danielle Bean for more info.This was my favorite part about why Danielle said she wrote the book:

What I hope more than anything is that women will learn that they are not alone. I have such a heart for struggling moms because I have been there myself. Motherhood is hard, and the worst feeling in the world sometimes is feeling like you have to put on a happy face and that you are alone in the struggle. We can only benefit gathering together and sharing honestly about the blessings of motherhood, but also the very real challenges of our vocations.

And I couldn’t agree with her more on this –

We women need each other. We need the kind of unique encouragement and support we can only get from one another.

It’s not too late to order Momnipotent if you’d like to join the online book club at CatholicMom!

2. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box

My husband got this book from work and asked if I’d like to read it with him which was just about the most romantic thing my non-book lover husband could ask of his book-a-holic wife. It’s written for those in working environments but a lot of the concepts can be applied to parenting and marriage and all relationships. I’m only into the first chapter so we’ll see how it goes.

3. The Nanny Diaries: A Novel By Emma Mclaughlin, Nicola Kraus

My mom and sister watched and recommend The Nanny Diaries movie and I enjoyed that a lot so thought I’d give the book a shot. So far it’s fun and interesting and may even give me some things to ponder about parenting. Has anyone else read this or seen the movie? What did you think?

4. The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living

This is Lisa Hendey’s newest book set to release in November and she generously invited me to read a pre-release copy in exchange for an honest review. I’ve only just started it and already am feeling more generous and trying to say “Yes” more to God. I’ll share a full review once I’m done but I can already tell it’ll be a good one so go ahead and reserve youself a copy!

5. In the School of the Holy Spirit

Still plugging away at this one slowly. Every time I pick it back up I think – why did I stop reading this? This is exactly what I need to hear and think about right now! Here’s a good excerpt I read recently (last word is difficulties) –

Ok, that’s all the Reading/Movie updates and now I’m tired and you’re probably bored so I’ll come back with other non-book/movie updates another time.

What books have you read recently that you’d recommend that I can add to my “To-Read” Shelfari?

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