Monday, December 18, 2017

Where Oh Where Did Advent Go?

I know time flies around the holiday season, but with Advent only being three weeks long, this time seemed faster than ever!  I had made a couple Advent resolutions this year and wanted to check in with how it's going.  You probably don't care about my Adventlutions at all, and I don't blame you one bit!  But for this tired old mom's memory sake, here we go:

1) Pray the St. Andrew Novena

This started on November 30 and runs through Christmas Eve.  It's a prayer you say 15 times a day and so far, so good??  I totally missed yesterday's mark, but I think I've made every other day.  I think it's been so helpful to have the prayer as a screen saver on my phone and hanging on my wall at work.  I went to Confession last week and the priest was awesome and basically told me that if I can just make time to pray more everyday, all of my other struggles will become smaller.  You can't {fill in the sin} if you're too busy praying, right?  I know it's true and this 15 times a day prayer is a good start!

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Comparing Down (for a Pick Me Up)

It's easy to forget to count your blessings sometimes, especially in times of hardship and stress.  The holidays are known to provide these in abundance.  The grinch had wormed his way into my heart this last week or two and I found myself worrying about buying Christmas gifts and making preparations, packing to go visit family, cooking special treats for school and work.  It's all just too much!  Life is crazy enough without adding all these things to my to-do list.  I'm sure you moms, in particular, can understand.

Each of my kids has an "Advent Family" assigned to their classroom at school, this is a family in need that each classroom buys gifts for.  It's a beautiful thing, to think of others in need at this time of year especially, but as I purchased gift cards for these families, I found myself wondering if we will ever qualify to be an Advent Family.  How close we must be to the requirements, I think, with seven kids and two small salaries from working at a Catholic school.  We don't spend our money on anything crazy, no vacations, no nice cars, no big house even though we could fill it.  We juuuuuust barely get by, between our mortgage, medical insurance, grocery bills, car payment, school tuition, daycare and all the other daily needs required for this family of nine.  We aren't saving for our kid's college - we aren't saving much for retirement - we haven't even been saving for Christmas presents!  How on earth am I supposed to make it all happen?  

Last week, I was driving Andrew to a basketball game and, having come straight from church, he hadn't eaten yet.  I stopped to get him a quick bite at McDonald's and he wanted a breakfast sandwich.  They were 2 for $5 so I bought two, knowing that someone in the house would eat the other one when I returned home.  But do you know what happened on my way home?  I saw a homeless man begging in the street (sadly there are far too many of them around) and I put down my window to ask him if he wanted a sandwich.  He said "Yes, I'm starving" and I handed him my extra sandwich.  Now I don't share this story to brag (in fact, I purposefully haven't shared it thinking it would earn me bonus points for doing a good deed unnoticed!) but I share it now because here I was, thinking about  how little we have, when I could easily give this man a sandwich from my excess.   From my excess.

It's disheartening sometimes to look around and compare yourself, your family, your life, to those who have more than you.  You can feel unhappy and wonder why life is so unfair.  But what if you only compared what you have to those who have less than you?  Suddenly, all the gifts and blessings in your life come into full view and you can see with clarity how much you have to be thankful for.  My husband will often remind me to "compare down" when I can get dramatically hopeless about our financial state.  He will remind me that among our friends and family we may feel that we have the least, but among most families throughout the world, we are rich beyond belief.  And almost all of our riches aren't even the kind you can buy at a store, they are better than anything, they are priceless.  This attitude of gratitude can sometimes be hard to feel, but try comparing down when you're tempted to compare up, and hopefully one day we won't be tempted to compare at all, but instead be happily content with all the goodness in our lives.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Christmas Letter from The Martins

I only have received about ten Christmas cards this year.  I know it's only December 14, but opening Christmas photo cards and reading Christmas letters is my favorite.  I love seeing photos of how kids have grown, reading about a family's adventures through the year, and connecting with friends from long ago.  I'm not on Facebook, so Christmas cards are sometimes the only way I stay connected to old friends.  We have sent out our photo cards but I was wishing that I would have included a letter and then I remembered that I have a blog!  So what follows is our Christmas letter, electronically :)

Dear Friends and Family Near and Far,

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  2017 has been a busy, full year at the Martin House with no notable big events, just lots of flurry of daily activities.  With six boys and one sporty girl, you can bet on any given day of the week that somebody is playing a sport somewhere!  But let's break it down individually...

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Fading Birthmark

When Alexander was born, he had a huge red birthmark all over his face:
Fresh from the oven

Jaundiced Newborn
I was used to seeing stork bites on my other babies, but they were tiny on the eyelid or back of the neck.  I was worried about his marks, and asked around for what we could do about it.  My midwife said it occurred because of the position his face was in as he grew in utero.  The consensus was to just wait it out.  My sister, a dermatologist, said that we could try a laser option but suggested to wait until he was a year since it was a minor surgery.  And so we waited...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Me, NFP and Technology

I've written about our journey with NFP (Natural Family Planning) before, so please don't hate me for bringing it up again, but much like a woman's cycle, the topic comes up monthly in our house and there are always new things we are learning. 

It seems to me that the first year after a baby has been rough in terms of knowing thyself for NFP.  Recovering, breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and weight loss/gain, they all wreak havoc on a woman's hormones and make a cycle unpredictable at best.  Even though I give up on breastfeeding around 5 months (or should I say, breastfeeding gives up on me) things still don't get back to normal until my baby is around 13-14 months old.  These months in the first year of a baby's life can be scary if you're trying to avoid pregnancy in the short-term, and I am always interested in any new fertility advances made since my last go-round at using NFP to avoid pregnancy.

We currently use the Marquette Method, which seems to be the best for us after having tried them all.  It's a simple method that uses an ovulation monitor to detect the LH surge that happens when a woman ovulates.  The monitor gives you a reading each day (after using a test stick) that lets you know if you are experiencing Low Fertility, High Fertility, or Peak Fertility:

I've been using the same monitor since 2011, and it's been pretty straight forward for us.  There is a more updated monitor here.  The test sticks can add up, but we feel the cost of them is cheaper than having to buy baby diapers, so...yeah!  

Disclaimer: We have conceived two babies while using the Marquette Method, so I won't say it's fool proof, but those babies were conceived when the monitor read Low Fertility later into the cycle (like Day 12) when I should have been abstaining anyway, but decided to chance it because the monitor hadn't read High yet.  

Soooooo now we start abstaining at Day 6 and wait it out until all signs point to go (and then usually wait some more!)  "All signs" meaning the monitor reads Peak, then wait 3 more days until the monitor reads Low and all other fertility signs are gone.  I know, TMI, but I need people to share like this with me, and we're all adults here, right?  

{Kids - get off the mom blogs!}

In addition to the Marquette Method, we also have two new tech savvy tricks up our NFP sleeves.  They are:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Super Quick Takes on the 1st Friday in December

Linking up LATE on the First Sunday of Advent with Kelly and Friends!  TGIF!

Calling all bloggers who love to read!  I am starting a Blogger Book Recommendation page up there at the top of this site, and if you would like to send me a list of your favorite (and clean/wholesome/PG rated) books, I will happily add your list there and link back to your website.  Email me your list at collmart at gmail dot com.

My beautiful girl turned 10 on Friday...

She had swimming lessons (she says she's a good swimmer because she was born underwater.  True story!) and then it was pizza, sundaes and presents.  'Twas a great evening, her "Best birthday yet!".

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

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!)

Also, I always shop through EBATES to earn extra cash (they send a check!) while I shop.

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)

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)

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

Football Winter Hat

Marble Race Track (for our 2 year old this year!)

Monkey finger toy (stocking stuffer)

Mini Trampoline

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

Cast Iron Skillet

Pizza Stone

Scratch Tickets

Whiskey or Specialty Beer

Fire Stick

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 :)

Fire Stick

Catholic Journaling Bible

My favorite scented Mrs. Meyers

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)

Fire Stick

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

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

Subscription to Covenant Eyes (to keep the internet safe!)

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.  

Friday, October 27, 2017

Thoughts on NFP: Fifteen Years and Seven Kids Later

 Oh Natural Family Planning... I have such a love/hate relationship with you.  Mostly hate if I'm being honest, and I especially struggled with it during the early years of our marriage.

You see, to me (and Phil) using NFP basically means abstaining for long periods of time, being vigilant in checking signs, testing hormonal levels, charting temps, and then still somehow getting pregnant while we were trying to postpone another baby's arrival.  Blame long, irregular cycles, blame faulty body signals, blame this gift of super fertility, whatever you want, just don't blame us!  We are really actually trying here!

So when those babies come so unexpectedly, they come with a huge dose of fear, shame, and uncertainty.  I wish I could take a pregnancy test and exclaim joyfully that we got the answer we were praying for, but I'm usually being comforted by Phil instead.  I hate that.  I hate that to the outside world, we are living totally open to life, but then when pregnancy happens against our will, we aren't exactly on board with this openness.  I hate that even though we got married wanting a huge family...I feel like we've white-knuckled our way through each announcement.  Why couldn't I have just rejoiced in the Lord's plan and timing.  We wanted lots of babies!  He gave us lots of babies!  Why couldn't I live more relaxed about it all?

I felt like I needed, no deserved, a better way.  I wanted the church to figure out a method that was fool-proof.  I wanted to feel supported, both physically and financially, from the church who proclaimed that being open to life was the only way to live a Catholic marriage.  I wanted like-minded moms to talk with openly about the struggles of raising a huge family.  I wanted to live in a way that encouraged younger couples to use NFP without scaring them away with all our unplanned blessings.  I wanted to stop being jealous of couples who made NFP look easy.  I wanted to stop viewing children as a failed result of NFP and see the blessings which they truly are.

Time has a funny way of settling down Type A folks like myself.  Years and maturity and grace have helped me realize some major lessons when it comes to NFP.  So I thought I'd share :)


God is in charge.

We may want to be able to control everything in our lives, but we can't.  And if we really think about it, who would want the responsibility that would come with that control?  Not I!  God already knows the bigger picture and knows what chances and circumstances we need to gain eternal life with Him.  That's all that matters.  I don't need to worry about another couple's family size or the perfect timing of my own.  It's freeing to finally feel this way.  Also...

Monday, October 23, 2017

Growing up in the 1900s

When my kids get to that age where they find it interesting to ask people's birth year, and all their siblings respond 20xx and then they ask me and I say 1979...and they say WHAT?!?!?!  You were born in the 19somethings?!?!?!  Yes, and proud of it!  Growing up in the last few decades of the 1900s meant...

~ Nobody had cell phones.  If you wanted to call someone, you had to use your home phone and have your Dad pick up and yell at you to get off because he needed to make a business call.  It was so embarrassing that you thought you might die!

~ When you wanted to talk to a friend on the phone, you had to call their house and risk talking to their parents first.  We had to learn polite manners and how to converse with adults.  "Hi, uh, Mr. Smith.  Is Sarah home?  Could I please, um, talk to her?  Thank you Mr. Smith!"

Friday, October 20, 2017

7QT: Stuff and Links to Blogs I Love

Linking up with Kelly and T'ing G It's F.


We've had a head cold and cough passing through the house this week.  I think all of the kids have been hit, some more than others, but so far Phil and I are still standing.  I've found through the years that the kids get something, we take care of them, and then we get it once they're better.  It's a very practical, if not depressing turn of events.  Mary's been through the sickies lately too.


Speaking of kids, one of mine told me that when he grows up he wants to have children, but definitely not seven.  It made me sad that he feels this way, although I do not believe everyone should have a big family (or a small family!), and that God uses our personalities, temperaments, and talents as He sees fit.  I just was sad that maybe he feels like his life, being one of seven kids, is not making him content.  That maybe the negatives that come with so many kids are outweighing the benefits in his mind.  Or maybe it's just a lack of maturity and he will appreciate it more as he gets older.  Jenny sure does.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Alexander the Great (and Wild)

Alexander is our wild one, and keeps us all laughing even when we shouldn't encourage him.

Enablers R' Us.  

Every day after school, we have the following conversation:

Me: How was your day?
Xander: Well, I didn't get spoken to!  Can I have a treat?

Declan was wearing a 24 hour heart monitor, and every time the clipped part fell off his pants, Xander would yell "He needs help with his phone!"

When we go to a party, I tell the kids they have to make a healthy plate of food to eat and then they can go back and get two small treats.  Xander always begs for more.  Nope, "Two and you're through!" I tell them.  Xander told me that his teacher from last year used to say "One and done".  I told him I should use that one instead.  He said "Nah, yours is way better!  Or we can say 8 is great! or 9 is fine!"