Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Christmas 2022 Recap

Let's start back on Thursday, Dec. 22.  Phil and the high school kids had the day off so I also used a vacation day and the littles had school, as their break started the next day.  While the teens slept in, Phil and I drove to Providence, Rhode Island to pick up a cake we ordered for our Christmas Eve party.  We walked around Federal Hill (Providence's little italy) and ate lunch at an Italian place called Angelo's.  Great chicken parm.  Then we drove back towards home while Phil chatted with his doctor on the phone to get results of a CT scan and bloodwork.  These clots are just causing problems six months later and he's still on Eliquis for them and now he needs to get some more testing done and see a vascular surgeon.  They also found a cyst on his kidney which is probably nothing, but he needs to get an ultrasound at the beginning of January for that.  He's still working and running and living life, but we just want to get him all back to normal :)

On Friday, December 23, everybody was home for break and we had a stormy rainy windy day, so we used it to clean and prep for Christmas.  Kinda perfect to be forced to stay inside and prepare.  As some people know, Dec. 23rd is CHRISTMAS ADAM (the day before Eve) and our family does the Sibling Secret Santa Swap on this day.  Each kid spends $5-$10 on the one sibling they picked from a hat earlier in the month.  The littles have a Saint Nick workshop at school (a fundraiser for the 8th grade) where they can buy their gifts, and the older ones go shopping.

They mostly get each other their favorite treats, though Xander was the lucky recipient of a bag of reindeer food (from the first grader) and Maggie received an unusual bracelet from the 3rd grader.  The older kids are very gracious receiving these not-necessarily-wanted gifts from the little kids who try so hard, but our youngest guy had to get a timeout talk about the way he reacted when he opened a stuffed animal toy that he didn't like.  Lessons abound all year round!  JP received Home Alone 1 and 2 so we had a family movie night:

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

(Almost) Merry Christmas

Turns out I was crankier than usual because I was fighting a sore throat and conjunctivitis.  Eew.  Feeling better now, especially since I don't have to work again until after Christmas.  Looking forward to enjoying the break with my family and friends, and I hope you are too!  And if not, at least these videos will make you smile :)

Her robe is my fuzzy socks.  Every year, without fail.

Cheers to all the tired parents everywhere.

Merry Christmas to you all, see you on the other side!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

New Saints and My New Inspiration

When I think life is hard, it is so helpful to remember stories from the past to turn my whining into gratitude.  Just look at this example of holiness...

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of a married couple with seven children who were killed by the Nazis for hiding a Jewish family in their home in Poland.

The pope signed on Dec. 17 a decree on the martyrdom of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who were executed along with all their children in 1944.

The World Holocaust Remembrance Center has honored the couple as Righteous Among the Nations for the sacrifice of their lives. With the recognition of their martyrdom by the pope, the Polish couple can now be beatified with the couple’s seven children (including one unborn).

Early on March 24, 1944, a Nazi patrol surrounded the home of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma on the outskirts of the village of Markowa in southeast Poland. They discovered eight Jewish people who had found refuge on the Ulma farm and executed them.

The Nazi police then killed Wiktoria, who was seven months pregnant, and Józef. As children began to scream at the sight of their murdered parents, the Nazis shot them too: Stanisława, age 8, Barbara, 7, Władysław, 6, Franciszek, 4, Antoni, 3, and Maria, 2.


Monday, December 19, 2022

Christmas with the Crank

I need a team of elves.  It's hard being the magic maker in a large family.  I'm trying to take care of everything "behind the scenes" (shopping, wrapping, planning) that they don't see and then plan "in front of the scenes" activities for them to get us in that holiday feeling.  You know how disheartening it is to have just bought and wrapped the perfect gift for a child who then complains when I ask them to fold the laundry?  So yeah I may get overly emotive in my responses at this time of year.  

I have such good intentions to make this season special and fun.  I envision cocoa in travel mugs while we see the lights at Lasalette, or even just at the park in the city next to us, but do you think we can find time to do it with everyone at home?  Nope.  I want to bring the little kids to the Enchanted Village that's about an hour away from us, but the thought of driving two hours just to stand in a long line and walk through a five minute display seems like a waste of time when there's still so much to be done.  Then there's photos with Santa that my little kids have never had done.  At least they don't know what they're missing?  

Looks like crankiness runs on the X chromosome

I am dreading the little kids' Christmas concert that is happening on Wednesday because sitting in a very crowded gym right before Christmas, as illnesses are running rampant, seems like an unwise idea.  But how do I break it to my little third-grade shepherd and angelic first grader, that the nativity play they have been practicing for is causing me anxiety to attend?  If we get sick, then we can't attend the Christmas day party for my side of the family, and then we can't travel to Maryland to visit Phil's side of the family over the break.  I'm sure worrying about getting sick is a recipe for getting sick, and yet I can't stop.  Is my throat starting to tickle?

This weekend, one of my brothers texted about a free piano he could get us from his in-laws.  Xander plays piano, and we have a large electric keyboard that he uses, but a real piano would be better for him in the long run.  However, do you think I could make this decision in a timely manner?  Not at this time of year, apparently.  Any unnecessary change just seemed overwhelming.  Phil and my dad measured places it could fit in our house, but then that meant moving some other piece of furniture to make room, and soon our plan to fit the piano included moving furniture from the living room to the family room to bedrooms and why is there so much dust behind that furniture yada yada and I was just like I Do Not Have Time For This.  I'm sure I'll regret passing it up, but my brain retired at that moment.  

I'm constantly running through lists of people in my mind and figuring out what to get them and trying to recall if I sent a card to the person whose card I just received in the mail.  I have a spreadsheet with names and gifts, a spreadsheet with card addresses, a spreadsheet with menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Christmas in MD, a spreadsheet with grocery lists, and I love me some google sheets but yikes how can I make this simpler?  I fell asleep at 8:30 last night and on the couch during the movie the night before that.  I'm just so tired.  Not to mention that life goes on leading up to the holidays with work and sports and lessons.  On top of that, my kids still want to eat everyday.  Can you believe the nerve?  And now my side of the family has an email thread about what kind of gift swap we should so this year - funny? regifts? new items? adults only? kids included? and I think we all just need one person to tell us what to do.  A dictatorship at Christmas works for me.  Brainpower is elusive.

I am so cranky and I know it.  Please send some Christmas magic my way, or at least a housecleaner.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Weekend Wrapup: A Comedy Show, Gift Wrapping and Celebrating Feast Days

Phil and I went on a date this weekend (early Christmas gift to each other) and saw The Play That Goes Wrong in Boston.  We are fans of these British humor plays and besides some scary moments when I thought the actors were going to fall from the second floor stage (it was all part of the act, but still) it was great.  However, we both decided that we are not really go-to-show type people and are just as happy to stay home and watch a movie in our pajamas.  But getting out and getting cultured is good for us every once in a while :)

On Sunday, I spent time in my parents living room opening boxes and sorting presents into piles-per-kid.  I like to do this early so I can make sure I have everything and it all looks pretty equal.  Each kid gets three gifts (like Jesus!) but we certainly pack a lot into each gift, if that makes sense.  Like "clothes" is one gift but they get a few articles of clothing in that gift.  Then Phil came down and wrapped them all, which was a welcome respite for me this year, and something we need to make an annual tradition.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Week in Review: Christmas Card Fail, Gingerbread House Win, and Dancing Like Nobody is Recording

Google Photos is at it again, showing me this picture from 10 years ago today:

JP was 9, Andrew was 8 and Eamon was 6

I really liked Ellen's comment from last week where she replied to the google photos making me feel sad:

I watched a minimal mom where she talked with a psychologist about decluttering digital photos. It was fascinating and I'm not sure I'm all on board but the idea was that we take way more pictures than at any other time in history, that pictures are a fairly recent thing, and that our brains are not equipped to handle frequent visual trips to the past. That we are meant to live more in the present. The speaker said that when he cut down on having his kids' baby pictures all over or on a screen saver he felt more able to love them and be present to them in their current adolescent stage of life.

Interesting stuff for sure.

Andrew (age 18) got his first college acceptance!  With a wonderful scholarship and financial aid package to boot.  It literally pays to have two kids in college at the same time.  Well, then we also have to pay them, but you know what I mean.

Now for the Christmas Card Fail.

I designed the Christmas card late this year, so I ordered them from Walmart's 1 hour option.  When we picked them up, the 5x7 cards were really 5x8 so they didn't fit in the envelopes provided.  Phil brought them back and they cut the extra inch off the cards so they would fit.  Then we realized that they did not give us 80 envelopes for our 80 cards, so he had to go back to get more envelopes!  And finally, the writing on the bottom is so miniscule that it looked like it was written for ants:

Seriously though, I'm embarrassed and know I'm going to hear about it from everyone.  Get your binoculars out when you see our card coming!  I do feel better when I remember that my good friend, mom of eight, accidently cropped one of her kids out of the Christmas cards one year.  Classic.

One final note about Christmas cards.  We have only gotten TWO so far and I'm wondering if everybody is a little late like me this year, or are people not sending them (the cost!).  I have some extras so if anyone wants one, email me your address :)

My team unofficially won the gingerbread house contest at work.  It wasn't really a competition, but I didn't agree with that and ours was the best!  

Look at Santa in the chimney!

Look at the bears having a snowball fight!

We also had the cookie exchange and then I served up a smorgasbord of cookies for the next two night's desserts which made my kids very happy.

Eamon (age 16) has been pretending to be on his phone but actually recording Brendan (6) dance, and it's just the best.

I hope everyone has a productive and relaxing weekend, make sure to plan time for both!

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Missing in Action

 We have two children that seem to identify as slobs.  I love them but man, they are constantly leaving their stuff all over the place and losing everything.  Both of these kids are also very smart and get caught up in books for hours while tuning out the real world and I think those types tend to be more careless with physical objects.  

Anyway, I wasn't going to name names but one of them just got home from an extended  European vacation his fall semester in Austria and was able to misplace the following items along his travels:

This burnt orange sweatshirt:

Not so bad, it's easily replaceable with similar variations.

But then while heroically running through the Florence airport in seven minutes (they were about to miss a flight) while holding up his pants because he didn't have time to put the belt on after going through security (!) they got on the plane and he realized he didn't have his apple watch anymore.  Seen on his wrist here, in a different airport:

An apple watch is too expensive to just replace.

And then, when he was so close to home at the airport in Washington DC, he lost (or maybe had stolen though I doubt it) his wallet.  Luckily he had his passport, credit card and debit card in his pocket but he lost cash, gift cards, his license and his social security card.

He spent his first day home getting replacements for his license and SS card, but unfortunately you can't replace cash of gift cards.

I always told him if his head wasn't connected to his body by his neck, he would have lost that too.

Good thing he's cute.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

He Came!!

Berchtesgaden, Germany

That's their school in the background in Gaming, Austria where they lived for the past 3 months



Mallorca, Spain

Vatican City, Italy

Pollone, Italy

Linz, Austria


Santorini, Greece

Lake Bled, Slovenia


Assisi, Italy

France/Switzerland border

Athens, Greece

After all that travelling, we are so glad to have him back safe and sound.  For be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

St. Nick came last night too :)

Monday, December 5, 2022

Weekend Wrapup: A Banquet, A Dance, A Dinner and A Reminder!

We had plans every night this weekend, which is thrilling and exhausting because I'm a 43 year old introverted mom of seven.  On Friday night, most of us went to Maggie's end of the (high school) season Volleyball Banquet.  She was somehow convinced that she would be receiving a Varsity letter because she practiced with them and played in most of the Varsity games, but she technically had made the JV team and so no letter for her this year.  That's ok, she still has three years of high school left.  

It was Christmas pajama themed, we normally wear clothes out of the house.

On Saturday morning, Brendan (age 6) had basketball practice, Maggie (age 15) had basketball team photos, Eamon (age 16) had basketball practice + team photos, and Andrew (age 18) went to watch USA Soccer lose at a friend's house (he didn't make the Varsity basketball team as a senior and was disappointed after having played since age 6 but it's a competitive team!)  We all went to Mass at 4 pm then I made Ernie's recommended One Pot Spaghetti for the kids - a hit! - and headed out with Phil and Alexander (age 11) to drop off Xander to his first Middle School dance:

{Side story - Xander looked for those shoes for ten minutes, and a bunch of family members got involved to help, but no luck.  I prayed to St. Anthony out loud Tony, Tony, come around.  Something's lost that can't be found and then I said "It's in Maggie's shoe box"...and it was, even though Phil had already looked through there!!!  The power of prayer man!}

Phil and I ran out to have a quick appetizer and drinks at a nearby restaurant and then we went to Lessons and Carols at our friend's parish.  Stonehill College's choir came to sing and it was absolutely beautiful.  There was one part where children came out to sing Matt Maher's Gabriel's Message (song at end, I had never heard it but now I can't get enough), and four of them belonged to our good family friends!  We had no idea they were involved and it was sooooo sweet.

Then we picked up Xander who reported that the dance was wicked fun and his feet hurt so much from all the dancing.  "At one point, I sat in a random chair, and it felt so good to rest for a minute".  That kid cracks me up.

On Sunday, Phil had to give a talk to the parents in his Religious Ed program, I brought Xander to his piano lesson and Eamon went to his vocations group at the high school.  Maggie had her second day of tryouts for a winter volleyball league, I meal planned and made Crockpot French Onion Soup for this week's lunches while Phil grocery shopped.  I went for a 45 minute run (still following this 8 week plan!) and Phil attempted to fix the outdoor Christmas lights that stopped working.  Declan, Maggie, Phil and I finished his windsock project.  I hope we all get an A!  Then a friend called and asked us to dinner, so I made the kids chicken fried rice (my teens are on such a fried rice kick) and we went out to eat and it was lovely.

I've been listening to Station Eleven after Suzanne recommended it.  Fun fact, I listen to audiobooks at 1.25 speed...do you?  Tell me you're a New Englander without telling me you're a New Englander (we talk fast).  Here's another fun fact, every night I ask Phil to feel my biceps because I workout hard and I need that to be appreciated by someone.  He always reminds me that there are other parts of my body he'd rather be feeling, so then I tell him he can rub my feet or back, his choice.  Aren't I nice?!?  

And now you've seen my "house glasses"

You guys, I saved the best for last because JP comes home tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  His fall semester in a gorgeous old monastery in Austria is over and he has so many great memories, just as Phil and I did from our time dating over there.

I haven't seen his smushy face since August and we already made plans:

But really, we are all so excited to see him.  The little boys have prayed for him every.single.day since he's been gone and we are having homemade meatballs and spaghetti for dinner to welcome him back to America.  We cleaned his room, and put on some cozy flannel sheets and can't wait to hear him talk about all of his european adventures.  Of course he won't be able to tell all of his stories because we also have to shuttle kids to three different basketball practices, a doctor's appointment, and a violin lesson but JP should feel right back at home with all of the hustle and bustle of big family life :)

 *** Here's your friendly reminder to leave out Saint Nick's gifts tonight!! ***

Friday, December 2, 2022

Week in Review: Advent Already + 15 Years Old + Work Festivities + Google Photos Hates Me

Happy Advent, can you even believe it??  Just a friendly reminder that St. Andrew's Christmas Novena started on Nov. 30 (his feast day) and you are supposed to pray this prayer 15 times a day until Christmas for any special intention you have.  The Halo app will play it for you fifteen times while you're driving, if you're a busy bee.  We are praying for Phil's blood clots to be healed since he got them six months ago but they are still there and causing issues, poor guy.

Some people, like my children, get a chocolate countdown calendar starting on December 1, and some people (me) arrive at work on Dec. 1 to find 24 scratch tickets in their purse from their indulging husband.  Hope I get lucky!

Speaking of December 1, Maggie turned FIFTEEN!!!  Sadly, the flu is going around our house and she's been hit for the past few days so it was a lowkey celebration with pizza, a chocolate sheet cake, and ice cream.  We got our athletic girly some new basketball shoes (she made JV!), volleyball shorts (she was pulled up to U16 in the winter league!), flare leggings (how are these in style again?) and a long sweatshirt.  She also received very nice gifts from her godfather and grandparents and had a lovely day despite being sick.

She hates this picture but is allowing me to post it :)

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Chili - Willy Nilly

 For years now, I have been making a big pot of soup on Sundays and then portioning it into ten glass containers so that Phil and I have a grab-and-go lunch to take to work Mon-Fri.  I'm not the greatest wife in a lot of ways (Can you just hear Phil nodding vigorously??) but doing this simple task is an easy way to feel like a wifey superstar.  One of my go-to soups is a chili because I can use tons of veggies and some protein (leftovers can sneak in here easily) and as long as you season it correctly, it's a delicious and nutritious meal.  Here's the version I made this week.

If you think "Colleen, that's a lot of chopping!" I say "Thank you for noticing!"


2 pounds lean ground beef

1 TBS olive oil

3 zucchinis, chopped

2 onions, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

2 big (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes

3 TBS minced garlic

1/4 cup chili powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or chipotle pepper or red pepper flakes - as much heat as you can stand)

Salt + Pepper to taste


In instant pot sauté ground beef until no longer pink.  Remove from instant pot.  Add 1 TBSP olive oil and then all veggies.  Sauté for about 10 minutes.  Add back in cooked beef, cans of tomatoes and garlic/spices.  Set for stew setting for 40 minutes.  When finished cooking, release steam and let cool before portioning into individual bowls.

Easy peasy!

Note: You can make this in a crockpot or stovetop as well.  We don't use beans because Phil doesn't like them, but go ahead and add them if you prefer.  Ground chicken or turkey would work well in place of the beef also.  Add or subtract veggies to your preferences, throw in leftovers, whatever you want, it's Chili - Willy Nilly!