Thursday, November 30, 2017

On the Eve of Her Tenth Birthday

My dear Maggie is turning TEN tomorrow.  Double digits is a big one in our house and instead of choosing a "friend" party, she went with the Kindle and pink case gift, like most of her brothers before her.  She is also very excited because turning ten means she gets to read the Harry Potter series that she's heard so much about from JP who has read five times.  She has been planning her meals for about two weeks and finally decided on banana chocolate chip muffins for her class, pizza from a local joint for dinner, and ice cream sundaes with Gammy's homemade hot fudge for dessert.  She actually went around and polled her brothers to aid in her decision making.  It was a close one between pizza and tacos, so I am making her tacos tonight :)

Maggie is my holiest child so far, or at least the holiest outwardly (I think Eamon's interior life is a humble holy light).  She was St. Jacinta for All Saints Day this year, and upon reading her story (saints books are her favorite...see what I mean?) decided that she wanted to say the Rosary every day.  We are hit and miss with our family rosary as our lives get so busy in the evenings, but I do play it every morning in the car on our way to school.  Maggie reminds me to start the rosary as soon as she gets in the car so that she can hear as much of it as she can and constantly shushes her brothers when they talk and/or yells "Be quiet we are praying the Rosary!"  She's holy but feisty ;)  When she gets out of the car at school, she makes sure exactly which prayer she left off on to be able to continue it by herself.  If you try to talk to her while she's praying (unbeknownst to you) she will get frustrated and announce that she is trying to pray.  Again, that holy feisty personality.  She asks us all the time to take her to Confession, she loves going as often as possible, and she begs her "godsister" Haley to take her to Holy Hour where she can easily adore Christ in the Eucharist for 60 minutes.  At night she has a whole litany of prayers she has to say, and I can often find her doing somebody else's chore as a good deed for God.  Seriously, she puts me to shame with her piety game.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dumping the Junk: A Lesson From Fitness to Faith

Back when I read Born to Run (and loved it!) one of the most important lessons I learned was just one sentence in the book where the author is ready to start eating better in order to run better.  He has been carrying around some extra weight and his trainer tells him that as he keeps increasing his miles, his diet will work itself out, but the author wants to start making dietary changes now.  He decides to start eating salads for breakfast as a first step in his transformation.  He writes:  

"I have a cyclist friend who dumps his water bottles before riding uphill; if twelve ounces slowed him down, it wasn't hard to calculate what thirty pounds of spare tire were doing to me."

12 ounces!  Such a tiny amount and something that a less skilled cyclist wouldn't even worry about.  And salads for breakfast!  That sounds extreme to my eggy ways.  But he was determined to make a change, and he did.  I think about this little lesson all the time when I'm running.  How much easier would it be to run without carrying around this baby weight (can I still call it that even though my baby is 15 months old?) It's not that I'm berating myself, I really wonder what it would feel like to run at 10 to 15 pounds lighter.  I think I could go much longer and faster and I want to be in that body already!  But, what am I doing about it?  I'm not eating salads for breakfast.  I'm not denying myself that third dessert on Thanksgiving.  How badly do I really want it?

I follow this mom on Instagram, Biceps After Babies, who is super fit and inspiring and smart.  One of her posts really struck a chord with me.  She said people come up to her all the time, saying that they want to be able to do pull ups like she can.  Great, she thinks, but what are you doing about it?  Such a simple truth that makes you think.  I have literally said that I wish I could do pull ups, wish I could run at a faster pace, wish I could do 50 push ups in a row.  But then I don't actually do anything to get me to that goal.  How can I want to improve physically yet not want to do the work that's required?

I was telling all of this to Phil and he (because he is the best) pointed out that it is exactly the same with our spiritual life.  We can desire to become holier, kinder, more generous and loving people who end up as saints in Heaven one day, but what are we doing about it?  Are we taking the baby steps required to move forward or just sitting with our bag of sinfully delicious Doritos wishing for a change?  Are we willing to dump even the smallest conveniences from our life to earn the next?  

I think this Advent is a great time to look inward and truly ask myself if I'm on the right track in ALL areas of my life.  And then instead of wishing for a different outcome, actually make the changes to get there.  There's a reason we are called practicing Catholics, because much like elite athletes, it takes a whole life time of practice and training to make it to the glorious finish line.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Breaks are Good for the Soul

Ahhhhhhh Thanksgiving break, which is exactly 4.5 days, is such a perfect amount of time to relax, enjoy, and get stuff done.  We had such a great time with family at my sister's house.  Food was good, kids had lots of cousins to play with, and my older nieces were so amazing at keeping the littles entertained so that Phil and I could actually sit and eat and converse like real adults.  My brother-in-law brought over his poker table and we played in family teams.  It was so fun to see my mom get into the game and win the scratch ticket at the end of the night.  There's a funny video of her winning, my Dad dancing behind her, and me blaring the song Poker Face from my phone...but some things can't be unseen so I'll spare ye!  You can get this blurry poker selfie instead:

I shopped online that night and got the majority of my shopping done.  Alleluia!  If you were thinking about the Dude Perfect Nerf Bow and Arrow set that my boys love, it's super on sale today!  I almost bought another one just because of the good price, but we don't need two huge bow and arrows, right?  Right?  Right.  Also my favorite Tiny Saints are on sale for 30% off today (no affiliation, I just love them).  That means each saint charm is only $3.50!  Can you say stocking stuffers?  I am in the process of making a couple of presents this year, and since the crafty gene was not given to me, it's been frustrating and tiring but it's the thought that counts!  I'm gonna call my imperfect creations "rustic" or "vintage" or something cool like that.  I'll definitely share once they are given to their intended recipients :)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wintery Weather Wedding Weekend Wrapup

I'm still dreaming of the Salisbury Steak and mashed potatoes I made for dinner last night.  Do you know my family eats 3 lbs. of ground beef and 5 lbs. of potatoes for ONE MEAL?  And I only have two teenagers!  The chilly weather is finally upon us which means cooking those big comfort meals is back in style.  Summer can be so judgey when I try to make meatballs and marinara and beef barley soup, but not winter.  Oh no, winter's like the perfect combination of huggable grandmother and stretchy sweatpants that just makes you want to sit down, enjoy a nice meal, and add body layers for warmth to get you through until judgey summer comes back again asking you what happened?!?!

Speaking of good food, this past weekend we went to a wedding, which I was VERY VERY excited for and it did not disappoint!  We were running late to the wedding and had to do the walk of shame from the front door of the church to our pew because we couldn't get in the back entrance where the whole wedding party was all lined up and waiting.  Fashionably late is still a thing, yes?  The Nuptial Mass was beautiful, so extra Catholic in the songs, homily, and little teachings in the booklet.  The reception was so much fun!  They had a macaroni and cheese bar, where you got served mac n cheese in a martini glass and then added toppings of your choice.  I made mine buffalo chicken mac n cheese and Phil was all about the bacon!  Dinner was delicious, I had chicken, Phil had prime rib, and the dance floor was rocking all night.  They had wedding cake and a sundae bar for dessert!  I have so many funny/happy memories from the night:

Friday, November 17, 2017

2017 Big Family Shopping Gift Guide

Well well's time to think about Christmas shopping which can be fun but stressful if you're the one in charge of making the magic happen!  Here's a list of some of our favorite gifts to help you get started.  As usual, I'm trying to focus on getting the shopping done now so I can try to have a less harried Advent.  Advent is only three weeks this year, so I want to make it count!  Good luck to all you elves out there and happy shopping!

(List contains affiliate links, which don't cost you anything extra but help us get a teeny tiny kickback if you shop through my links - thanks in advance!)

Big Boys

Pull-up bar (I can't recommend enough!!  Perfect energy burner!)

Kindle fire and case (So cheap right now)

Knee pads (short) or the longer knee pads

Rubik's Cube (Andrew is obsessed!)

Football cards

Pop Socket (for the phone age group)

Nike Elite socks (They can't get enough colors!)

Fleece hoodies (for the boys who hate coats)

Ripstick (seen in photo above)

Laser Tag Set (such a winner this year!)

Girl's choices

American Girl doll (A WellieWisher is a less expensive alternative)

Shining Light Dolls (great Catholic present!)

Tiny Saints Charms

Dice to play Bolo

String for making bracelets plus a clipboard to help hold bracelet in place

Leap Pad (seen in photo)

Crystal Growing Kit

Younger Boys

Scooter (crowd pleaser!)

Pogostick (We make them go out and jump when they're getting underfoot)

Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry DVDs (Huge faves here)

Disgusting Jelly Beans (Fun stocking stuffers)

Ice age DVDs

Boogie Board (re-writable board - great for car trips!)

Joggers (so great for skinny boys)

Easy Bake Oven (bought this for my daughter but the younger boys love it more)

Walkie Talkies

Little People Nativity 

Plasma Car (seen in photo above)

Magformers (good price right now)

Baby slippers

Mens Picks

Fitbit (We both wear ours everyday!)

Hair Clippers (for the price of ONE haircut)

Family-sized griddle

Copper Pans (he likes his nonstick!)

Running shoes for him

Ice ball maker

Joggers (the "skinniest" pants he'll wear!)

The Complete Fr. Brown Stories

Scratch Tickets

Whiskey or Specialty Beer

Gifts for the Lady

Fitbit Blaze with changeable wristband

My favorite daily water bottle (so easy to clean)

Running water bottle (Handheld and I don't run without it)

 Running shoes for her

Favorite mom running pants (only $16 right now!)

Garment steamer (For the gal who hates ironing...which is like everybody, yes?)

Fiestaware plates (I'm adding to my collection)

Willowtree Nativity Set

Catholic tees (I'll take any of these :)

Family Gifts

Boxing Gloves for adults, kids, and mitts (so fun to spar together)

Krypto (the BEST math game for all ages)

Connect Four

Bose Bluetooth Speaker (how we dance every night!)

Groupons for bowling/ice skating/rockclimbing

Movie tickets (AAA has good prices)

Pajamas for everyone (see photo from Target website above)

A vacation getaway (even just an overnight with an indoor pool!)

A pet (may I suggest a fish?) or Greenies for your pup :)

And that's all for now....hit me up with your fave gifts in the combox and I'll try and add them here :)  I'd love some new ideas for what to buy this year!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

First Comes Love

I love having big kids.  I love hanging out with them and chatting, watching them play sports and develop their skills, and seeing glimpses of the adults they are quickly becoming.  They are helpful and smart and funny and kind and they warm my motherly heart.  I love having little kids.  They are cute and cuddly, delight in the little joys in life, and keep us all smiling from their crazy antics.  They are sweet and clever and funny and affectionate and they also warm my motherly heart.

I just wanna smooch their little faces!

But do you know what I love even more than all my kids? 

Well, yes, God. 

But in between God and my children?  My husband. 

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes babies in a baby carriage.  Without the love between husband and wife, there would be no baby, yet sometimes I forget to flame the fire of our marriage.

It's hard enough keeping all the balls in the air between work and home and all the kids and all their activities.  The marriage ball is an easy one to put down, knowing our spouse is our teammate and together we are working towards keeping everything afloat.  When my husband is trying to talk to me, but the 3 year old yells that he needs help in the bathroom, obviously I need to tend to the three year old.  Kids are needy and their needs are more immediate, so that also makes it harder to save a little space for the needs of our spouse.  Pretty much every day, Phil or I will say to each other "I need to talk to you about something later" just to remind ourselves to check in with each other at the end of the day, after all the kids are in bed, after all the house chores are done. 

But every once in a while, we must  put our spouse first and not as an afterthought at the end of a long day.  Phil needs to know that I like having him around for his sense of humor as much as his child-wrangling skills.  For his patient wisdom as much as his jar opening capabilities.  So each day, we try and take some time every day to reconnect and just be us.  Taking the dog for a twenty minute walk every night has become a date of sorts as we can reconnect and talk without little ears trying to hear our plans.  Going for a run on the weekend together, or grocery shopping alone, eating out for a quick meal while the kids get to hang with their favorite babysitter.  These things make us both happy and we can come back home ready to tackle the demands of our busy life.  I want to try and make time (and save money) for little overnight getaways every once in a while too...and as the kids get older, it will be much more doable.  I think.  I hope!

For this upcoming Advent, I'm going to focus on our marriage.  I'm constantly focused on the kids - their needs, their wants, filling their love tanks.  While I'll continue that, because momming is my vocation... I'll also use this season to focus a bit more on my holy husband, because wifing is my vocation too.  I want to pray together more often, especially for our kids future marriages (if that is their calling!), spend more time talking and laughing instead of watching tv, and  perform little acts of kindness towards the man whom I'm lucky to call mine.  I would love to welcome Jesus' birth feeling like I've given my all to the ones who deserve the best of me, not the worst of me, and making sure my family feels loved and happy and at peace.  And first comes love.   

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Tale of Two Fitness Trackers (Garmin vs. Fitbit)

Quite a few years ago, Phil bought me a Garmin Forerunner 110 for a birthday gift to help me track and record my runs.  I was training for my first half-marathon, and when the training schedule called for, say, an 8 mile run, I would have to drive a route to figure out the distance I needed to run that day.  Having a fitness tracker that could not only figure out my distance while running, but also give me my pace was amazing.  It seemed so futuristic!  I could plug in the Garmin to my computer and it would download my run complete with pace per mile, map of the route I just ran, and I could keep track easily.  

A few years later, Phil bought me a Fitbit Charge for Christmas (can you see a trend in his gift giving prowess?) and I loved it.  It was sleeker than the Garmin, and tracked my steps all day long, as well as my heart rate and calories burned, even my sleep!  It was fun to have access to more information about my body, and I liked being competitive with myself each day.  The band on the Fitbit Charge eventually broke, and Fitbit sent me a coupon for 25% off my next Fitbit, so I looked around and chose the Fitbit Blaze.  This one is really great to use and I love everything about it except it's a little large, much like the Garmin.  

OK, Colleen, we've heard enough about your fitness band experience, what's your point?

Geesh, Colleen, I'm getting there.  Have patience, have patience, don't be in such a hurry.  For when you're impatient, you'll only start to worry.

Anyway....I've been wearing said Fitbit Blaze daily (I actually forgot to put it on one day and felt so naked and wanted to leave work all day to go get it) and whenever I go for a run it says my average pace is about 10:00 - 10:20 per mile.  I was very sad by how slow I'd gotten, but I chalked it up to having a seventh baby, turning 38, having baby weight to lose, etc.  However, I could run a lot faster on the treadmill went I did my interval runs and whenever Phil and I ran together, both wearing our matching Fitbit Blazes (aren't we cute?) his would always track a longer distance than mine.  So if mine said we ran 5.5 miles, his said 6 miles.  We were running together a lot (thank you teenage babysitters!) and so I just went by what his Fitbit said was our mileage.  Then one day, I fell and scratched up my knees and hands pretty bad, and after that felt nervous to run alone.  It was starting to become an anxiety trigger so I knew I needed to start running alone again before it got to the point where I couldn't do it.  In an effort to push myself out the door alone, I decided to dust off the old Garmin to be able to track my mileage more accurately than my Fitbit does.  

I started out my run and when my Garmin beeped, I looked down and was pleased to see an 8:57 mile.  The second mile clocked in at 8:38.  I felt so great running at this pace, and decided to make it a long run because Phil was home, the little kids were napping and it was a gorgeous running day.  Plus I had on my new (maybe favorite?!?!) running pants that completely hold in my mummytummy and stay in place.  Life was good.  

From Veteran's Day
The miles continued to clock in at just under a 9 minute mile pace according to my Garmin.  I ended up running 8 miles at an 8:52 pace and then took Lucy Goldendoodle Martin out for a cool down walk:

How many things can I fit on one wrist?  

My Fitbit, however, only clocked me in at 7.34 miles at a 9:49 pace:

Which one is correct?  I'll take a longer run with a faster pace for $200, Alex.

So what's a runner to do?  Well, I guess this runner will continue to wear the Fitbit all the time and also wear the Garmin during a run.  That way I can keep track of my steps all day long on the Fitbit but also have an accurate record of my runs in case I want to start training for a half-marathon again (spoiler alert...I do!) .  Maybe there's a product out there that is more accurate and also user friendly for daily wear, like this one?  But I really don't want to buy yet another fitness tracker, I think two puts me on the certifiable level already!  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Advice Needed: Vacationing with a Big Family

This is not a post where I tell you how we manage to take our seven kids on a family vacation each year that is affordable, fun for all ages, and relaxing for the parental unit.  Nope.  This is a post that where I seriously consider how to make a family vacation like that happen.

Me, every other day lately.

So here's our family all lives around us.  Some very close (hello parents who live downstairs!), two sisters 15 minutes away, a sister and a brother an hour away, and one brother who is about 2.5 hours away.  I am so lucky that they are closeby even though life gets busy and we don't see each other as often as we should.

 Phil's parents, and all of his siblings, live far away from us, but within an hour or so of each other (except one sister who is currently living in Texas).  So most of the time, when we have a week off, we end up going down to where Phil's family lives.  It's about an 8 hour drive, our kids get to hang with all their cousins on that side of the family, and we can catch up with family and friends who live nearby.  Our visits to Phil's side of the family have become our "family vacations" because we want to see everyone (and I think they want to see us!) and our kids love going.  

I'm with ya, buddy.

Yet, every once in a while, I dream of having a true family vacation.  You know, one where you plan and save and go somewhere warm when it's cold at home, or somewhere with lots of family activities so everyone is satisfied.  But this just doesn't look like it will be reality for us anytime soon or possibly ever?!?  Activities that I would love to do with the big kids (like skiing) are too difficult for the little kids to keep up with, and anything that makes the little ones happy (like a kiddie pool) are boring for the older kids.  I know Phil and I could split up and do separate trips with different age groups, but then the parents are not having a fun vacation. It's supposed to be a FAMILY vacation.

Forced family fun time :)

 I'm not trying to get pity here, I wouldn't trade my family for the world, but I am trying to get advice.  So what's a good family vacation idea or a specific location for a family with a wide spread of ages (almost age 15 down to 1) that won't break the bank or cause us to get on a plane (we live in the Northeast)?  Does it even exist?  Should I be postponing vacations until the littles are older (but then the bigs will be in college?).  How do big families handle this?  Help a mutha out!  Thanks :)

Friday, November 3, 2017

7QT: Saints, Shots, and Shirts

Happy First Friday in November!!


We celebrated All Saints Day on Wednesday, and the elementary school kids got dressed up...

...and pretended to be holy ;)

They went to Mass at school and then came back to a Trunk or Treat celebration in the parking lot, it's always a favorite day of the year.