Friday, March 24, 2023

Week in Review: Dinner for Eight, Shop Talk and Trips with Friends

Thank you all so much on your kind and encouraging comments on my last post!!

Favorite dinner of the week was a Southwestern Chicken Salad with a loaf of store-bought french bread:

Phil just sprinkled some rotisserie chicken seasoning on top of the chicken breast and grilled them (above was only the first batch of chicken).  I set up a salad bar with lettuce, black beans (made the kids take their ages in beans), corn, cheese, scallions, fritos, bacon, and I added some smoked paprika and chili powder to a Peppercorn Ranch dressing to make it a little more southwesterny.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Big News!!

We have been keeping a secret...

Coming this May....

Friday, March 17, 2023

Week in Review: St. Patty's Celebrating, Almost Dating, Game Winning and Grateful Healing

Happy St. Patty's Day to ye!  Our Bishop gave a dispensation to allow us to eat meat on this Friday in Lent and while I think that says a lot about how weak we are, I will indeed be indulging in the meats to celebrate my Irish heritage.  But not corned beef, nope, blech, ick.  

I wore my lucky sneakers to work today (dress down day!) that I wore when I ran my last half-marathon on St. Patty's Day.

We will be having homemade Shamrock Shakes for dessert, following this recipe:

And remember, even if you're not 100% Irish like me:

We are known for our hospitality after all!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Laundry Talk

One would think that a girl who grew up in a house with eight people in her family, then went on to marry a boy who grew up with eight people in his family, and together created a family of nine would have a good handle on How to Do Laundry in a Big Family.

Surprise!  It alludes us.  Still.  After *almost* 21 years of marriage and 20 years of child-rearing, we have yet to get our act together about the laundry.

Over the years, we've tried many things.  In the beginning, I would do the laundry (located in our scary basement) and fold and put away everybody's clothes.  When I was pregnant, Phil would take over laundry duty because going up and down two to three sets of stairs, holding a big hamper of clothes while pregnant is not the best idea.

Now you know why I kept myself pregnant for all those years ;)

We finally moved the laundry upstairs to the second floor, where all the kids bedrooms are located.  This was much better than the scary basement, and Phil and I continued doing the laundry in the same fashion - everything that was dirty from the day gets thrown in together.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Week in Review: Squishy, Jumpy and Broke

Last Friday I left work and headed to get my yearly mammogram, which came back fine, thanks be to God.  Also this photo made me remember to schedule a haircut, which is also an annual appointment!

Guys, there are so many funny mammogram memes, not all super appropriate for this blog but here's a few to tickle your Friday funny bone:

Smashing :)

Fun fact - my brothers went to high school with two of the New Kids on the Block!

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Ask Me Anything: Altar Servers and Two-Family Homes

Life seems particularly heavy lately and I felt like I had nothing to write about, but then I remembered I still have lots of unanswered questions from you guys! 

 Tricia asks "Can you talk more about the summer Altar Server Bootcamp? Hoping to do something at our parish and looking for more ideas how to fill the days. Thanks!"

Sure Tricia, we love our parish's altar server program.  I will give you the breakdown below from last summer's ABBC and I hope that helps!  I think it is very important to note that only boys can be altar servers at our parish, and there is a similar program for only girls who become sacristans.  A place for everyone and I think it's a reason why it's so successful.  Many parishes who use boys and girls for the same roles are desperate to find servers, and yet our parish is overflowing with these boys and girls clubs.  It builds a sense of comradery and ownership in their roles and has proven success.  

Bootcamp is held at the end of June after school gets out and is open to anyone who has received First Communion.  Breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided and the kids have a LOT of fun.  The pastor runs the program, and though we have had three different pastors during our time at this parish, they have all continued the program with help from seminarians and older altar servers.  Once the new kids are trained to be servers and sacristans, they are put on the schedule for masses.  At first the new altar servers don't do much, they just learn from the big guys until they are comfortable, which doesn't take long.

Altar Boy Boot Camp Schedule:

Day One
9:00am Holy Mass 
9:30am Breakfast & Talk 
10:00am Serving Practicum 
11:00am Sports activity 
12:00pm Lunch Break 
1:00pm Serving Practicum 
2:00pm Sports activity 
3:00pm End of Day 

Day Two
 9:00am Holy Mass
 9:30am Breakfast & Talk
10:00am Game: Running with Bells
11:00am Game: Fainting Servers
12:00pm Lunch Break
1:00pm Serving Practicum
2:00pm Sports activity
3:00pm End of Day

Day Three

This field trip always starts with something spiritual, like a tour of a beautiful cathedral, and then something really fun - trampoline park, go-carts, etc.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Week in Review: Forty-Four, A Snow Day and Violin Twins

Let me just start out with a big THANK YOU for the prayers and shares and donations for my brother-in-law, Will.  He is still in the hospital but they are hoping to get him into a rehab hospital soon, once he's stable enough for therapy.  Will and Maura (my sister) have been together their whole lives.  We all grew up in the same little village on the Cape, and I was friends with Will's sister since elementary school.  Maura and Will officially started dating in high school but he kissed her in preschool, so he's truly more than just my brother-in-law...he is family since way back.  He WILL get through this and you are all making a difference that they feel and appreciate so much.  Thank you.

Last Saturday I turned the big FOUR FOUR which is really not a big deal at all, since I can never remember my age anyway and oftentimes rely on Phil to tell me how old I am.  It's partly because of old age and partly because I still try to lie about my age (29 forever!) that gets me all confused.  Do you not just love Brendan's MOM poem he made for me, with "O" standing for Oldest?  Good thing he's cute.

Birthday Irish Coffees

Phil made me the most delicious pastrami sandwich for lunch.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Prayers for Will

Last weekend, we had a terrible accident in my family.  My brother-in-law, Will, fell from the top of a 24 foot ladder while cutting a tree branch.  He sustained tons of injuries and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance (he should have been medflighted to Boston but there were no available helicopters).  He was in the ICU for four days as they tried to control his pain and figure out all of his injuries.  

The surgeons say he is so lucky to have survived this fall.  

Thankfully, Will was moved to a rehab hospital yesterday to receive intensive therapy before he can have the surgeries he will need.  He is the main breadwinner for the family and he will be out of work for a long time on his road to recovery.  My sister, Maura is a nurse (luckily!) and so strong and their three kids are handling this the best that they can but their world has been flipped upside down.

 I set up a GoFundMe for their family because so many generous people have asked how they can help.  Please feel free to share, donate or most of all PRAY for a speedy recovery for Will.  Thank you all!

Friday, February 24, 2023

Week in Review: February Vacation, Double Birthdays and That's What He Said

After eating my way though the last few days before Lent, I really felt this meme:

Phil and I took the youngest three kids to a hotel on the Cape for a night.  They had some fun activities for kids like a make-your-own sundae bar, bonfire with roasted marshmallows, big indoor pool, scavenger hunt and a huge breakfast buffet.

The teenagers were able to keep themselves and the dog alive for 24 hours, so that was great. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Fat Tuesday Thoughts About Lent

 Ugh, Lent starts tomorrow.  

So of course that means I've been adding cookies to my morning coffee and indulging any other food craving this past week, knowing that soon I'll be giving up these treats.  

And you know what?  

I feel gross.

I feel physically gross with the added sugar and lack of healthy eating.

I feel mentally gross with the loss of any semblance of willpower.

I feel spiritually gross with the laziness accompanying my prayer life.

So why do I think that indulging in junk food, staying up late to watch *one more* episode, working out less, and praying half-heartedly is living the good life?

It's actually quite the opposite.

Choosing the hard things and staying disciplined is actually what brings me true joy.

Eating healthy makes my body feel light and lean and capable.

Working out gives me an energized high and a good attitude.

Praying keeps me calm and centered and allows me to reflect on all of my blessings.

Working hard for my family and then spending time with them makes me feel so accomplished.

~ Hard doesn't equal bad just as easy doesn't equal good. ~

We know this!  I know this!  And yet the temptation is always there to choose the easy way out.  Our world loves to give us permission to do what feels good; just binge-watch a season of a show, just eat the fast food, just drink and smoke to stop the feelings.  But where does that leave us?  Feeling gross.  Feeling empty.  Feeling lazy and unfulfilled. 

Great achievements only happen through great sacrifice.  Think of any professional athlete, they continually choose to do the hard work to get to their goal.  Parents choose to put their kids needs before their own.  Service men and women give up everything to fight for the freedom of others.  

If my goal is to become a saint (which it is!) then I need to take the steps to get there.  Every unselfish action done for another, every offering up of a want, every struggle met with prayer all adds up to make a more worthy saint.

Lent is actually a gift.  It's our annual training program for Heaven.  A time to refocus on our weaknesses and strengthen our spirits.

This Lent, I want to try and remember that a life of service, a life of sacrifice, a life spent loving others is what will truly bring happiness, if not in this life then definitely in the next.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Week in Review: Super Bowl Sundaes, Valentines, and Marcia Brady

It feels like it's been awhile!  Hi!  How are you?  It's been equal parts busy + nice weather + sickness + sports + fun around here.  Let's recap, shall we?

On Friday, the high schoolers had a winter pep rally and Eamon played in a few minute to win it games.  Here he is (with his cousin Tommy) in the game he won:

Maggie is a happy girl because she got up the courage to tell the Varsity basketball coach that she wanted to stay on the JV team for the rest of the season.  The Varsity coach totally understood after this drama-filled year.  The JV coach was fired (quit?) and the assistant AD is taking over as coach.  He used to be the girls JV basketball coach and he is the Varsity Soccer Coach and all my kids love him, so she is excited to play for him.

Om Saturday, the little kids got their valentines ready to pass out in school.  Brendan couldn't write his name small enough on each treat so he wrote his initials, which are unfortunately, B.M.  If you know, you know.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Week in Review: Yummy Ramen, Basketball Drama, and Finished Stairs

 Happy Friday!!  Can you believe the Super Bowl is this Sunday?  We are still trying to tighten up the menu for game day, which is the most important part of the day, obviously.  I tried a new recipe this week that was delicious, but it doesn't make the game day menu because it's too messy...  

Thai Coconut Curry Ramen

Maggie has been playing up to Varsity Basketball, which should make her proud and happy but instead is making her wish she could stay solely on JV.  She doesn't know the plays and feels like an imposter on this team.  There has been lots of coach and player drama and she really wants to quit next year.  It always makes me sad when they stop playing a sport that they have played for so long because I regret quitting violin and ice skating, but it's her life so we shall see.

Age 15

Age 6

Monday, February 6, 2023

Ask Me Anything: Morning Routines, Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks, Oh My! and Small But Mighty Marriage Advice

Lots of curious inquisitions about our morning routines and what we eat during the day, and I am here for it!

Tana asks - How do you do breakfast at your house? and Berna asks - What school week breakfast ideas do you have for the kids?

Hi Tana and Berna! We are very lucky that our children's Pre-8th grade Catholic school qualifies for the city's free lunch program. This means that each student who attends the school does not have to qualify individually, everyone is eligible. So we take advantage of this perk, and our children eat the free lunch AND free breakfast each day. They each pack two snacks a day in their lunch box (one fruit and one other snack) and that's all we have to think about until they get home from school.

The high schoolers (we have three this year) are not part of the free lunch program anymore, and lunch at their high school is very expensive so they pack a lunch just about everyday. If they want to treat themselves to some chicken tenders and fries from the cafe, then they can use their own money for that. One of our boys always packs a ham and lettuce sandwich with snacks, one boy packs leftovers from dinner, and our girl packs a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with snacks most days. They typically grab a protein shake for breakfast and drink it as they run out the door. Their favorite protein shakes are these and these.

On the weekends or in the summer, we make a big breakfast once or twice a week, like the sweet bread french toast and bacon we made this past weekend:

The other 5-6 mornings a week, they are eating cereal or "cookie oatmeal" which is just oatmeal with some peanut butter and brown sugar and milk mixed in.  The teens will cook themselves eggs a lot, as they are always trying to eat lots of protein.

Theresa C asked - Whenever you take pictures of food, I can't help but notice your Fiestaware. Do you collect certain colors? Do you ever add to your collection?

Hi Theresa! That red plate up there is Fiestaware, good eye. We have four different color plates (three of each) in red, orange, yellow and teal. You can see the other colors in this old dinner picture below. The little boys were using plastic plates with dividers that they liked. I keep thinking we will get rid of the plastic plates and just let everyone use the breakable plates but I haven't brought myself to do it yet!

Which leads me to a question Elisabeth asked - If you could give a new married couple just one sentence of advice, what would you say?

Elisabeth, I would say that they should buy a king sized bed (my number one marriage advice!) and don't bother registering for china.  Just get some good everyday plates and you won't feel guilt everytime you look at that expensive china you never use.  I bet you were expecting some deep answer and feel I owe you a refund ;)

Back to the food questions...

From Berna - Do your kids eat snacks when they get home from school?

So Phil does the afternoon pickup of kids from school (I do the morning drop off) and I get home about an hour after them so I'm not involved in snack time. He gives them a small snack, usually a fruit and a protein like apple slices with peanut butter or grapes and a cheese stick. We eat dinner pretty early, between 5-5:30, so they don't need much.

Kate asks - What do you and Phil pack to eat at work everyday?

Hi Kate! On Sundays I make a big pot of soup - this week is Chicken Tortilla Soup and I made the corn tortilla strips in the air fryer to be healthy.

I made it in the crockpot and threw the bone broth in there frozen.

Air fryer tortilla strips

We divide the soup into ten glass bowls with lids and each grab one of those in the mornings plus a greek yogurt. We keep kashi peanut butter cereal in our offices to add to the yogurt. Phil makes coffee and a breakfast smoothie for us each morning, that we take to go. The smoothie has protein powder (or greek yogurt), almond milk, fruit, collagen, and chia seeds. So I drink my coffee at work at 8:00, then my protein shake around 9:30. I eat my soup for lunch about 1:00 (I walk on my lunch break) and have the yogurt as an afternoon snack around 3:00 before I head home at 4:00.

Finally from Tana - Do you have tips to get out of the house on time?


We have the elementary school kids lay out their uniforms the night before (including socks, underwear, belt), pack their snacks and fill their water bottles. In the morning, they just have to get dressed and grab their backpack which is ready to go.

The teens are on their own, but they have learned from their younger years and they pack their lunches the night before, pack their sports bags, charge their laptops, and get their backpack ready to go. They do laundry at night if they have a game day uniform they need, etc.

Phil wakes up and will make the smoothies and coffee, then help the little guys get dressed and wake up the teens. He leaves first by 7:00 at the latest and takes whatever teen is ready to go with him to the high school where he works. I need to leave at 7:15 so I start yelling reminding the youngest boys to get in the van at 7:05 which takes them ten minutes usually). I drop them off at 7:30 and drive to work for 8:00. The teen driver takes another car to the high school with whomever else needs to go with him (that didn't ride with Phil) about 7:25.

The doggy goes out to pee and then gets the place to herself :)

Friday, February 3, 2023

Week in Review: Brady, Birds, Basketball and Bluey

 Shall I start with the biggest news of the week?

Just kidding, saw that one coming.  Kraft seriously wants to rehire him so he can retire as a Patriot...that...I didn't see coming.

It's been Catholic Schools Week and the kids have been dressing up (or down) each day depending on the theme.  The highschool had a Dress As Your Favorite Teacher Day and Maggie (and her cousin) chose to dress as the Campus Minister, who is also their Varsity Volleyball Coach.  

Too bad the photo cut off their shoes because they are all wearing Crocs, her signature style!

The elementary school had a Crazy Hair and Socks Day and the three little boys had some fun, with help from Dad and Maggie:

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Ask Me Anything: Ages and Stages

I received quite a few questions along the line of "When do you allow {insert activity} or how do you handle {insert stage}?" So here's a guide to the ages and stages in the Martin house.  Please remember to take this with a huge chunk of salt as I am raising my kids and you are raising your kids and that was by design and not by accident.

Age 3 weeks - Introduce the bottle to my breastfeeding babies.  There will be a time you are away from your baby.  There will be a time said baby gets hungry.  Ain't no stress like a hangry baby who won't take the bottle.  We learned this lesson the hard way with Baby #2 and the rest of them took the bottle just fine.  Phil gives a bottle feeding once a day and I breastfeed the rest of the feedings until I have to return to work, and then I pump until the wells run dry.  After that, it's formula until their first birthday.  This is what worked for us, as a fed baby is a happy baby, and none of it is worth the heartache and stress I used to put myself through.  As my friend, a nurse, used to say "A bottle a day keeps depression away" and trust me, when Phil would do that bottle feeding and I could sleep for a 3 or 4 hour chunk of time...that did indeed keep my baby blues at bay.

Age 1 - Pacifier and blanky (or whatever their comfort item is) lives in the crib now.  Gone are the good old days of sucking on a pacifier willy-nilly.  The baby uses it for sleeping only, and is excited for nap time and bed time to get their precious items.  We find this very helpful to create good sleepers and good talkers.  Also the bottles go away and it's sippy cups only with whole milk or water.  Bedtime is at 7 pm and naptime is only once a day now, after an early lunch, from 11:30 - 2:30 if we're lucky.

Age 2 - Say bye bye to the crib and hello to a big bed.  We do not do the whole toddler bed thing, we just put them in a twin bed with a wall on one side and a bed rail on the other.  My kids still think they are stuck in a crib with this setup and call for us to come and get them when they wake up.

Age 3 - No more pacifiers.  Two of my kids were thumb suckers and thumbs are not easy to throw away ;)  We had them wear a glove to bed that would remind them to try and stop sucking, but honestly they sucked those little thumbies for a lot longer than they let us know.  Our 3 year olds also go to preschool at the same Catholic elementary school their siblings attend.  It's so much cheaper than daycare, so as soon as they are potty trained (which happens in the summer before they attend preschool) off they go!

Age 4 - Ummmm just my favorite age ever.  Soccer starts as do swimming lessons and I feel like you can kind of really see their personality start to shine.  

Age 5 - Chores begin!  I'll do a seperate chore post another day, but Kindergartners are great at wanting to help!  Even if it means I have to do the chore for real after they "try", I still let them try.

Age 6 - Basketball starts.  First graders can pack their own snacks for school, fill their own water bottles, be responsible for getting their homework done, with our help when needed.  

Age 7 - First Reconciliation and First Communion! Bedtime moves from 7 pm to 7:30 pm after their First Communion.  I know, we're wild and crazy over here ;)

Ages 8-9 No major changes that I can think of.  We usually assess the kids interests and talents, move them to a more competitive league if they are showing more skill.  If they are interested in starting an instrument, sometime before age 9 is typically when that happens. Xander started piano lessons at age 6 and Declan started violin lessons at age 8.  Brendan wants to start piano really badly (he's 6) but the teacher thinks he should wait until age 7.  The kids move from baths to showers in these years, though sometimes I make them take a bath when I think they really need to soak a little longer than they scrub.

Age 10 - Double digits baby!  Bedtime moves to 8 pm.  They get a tablet on their birthday.  In truth, they can choose between having a friend birthday party or getting a tablet.  They have all chosen the tablet option except for Eamon, who had the party then bought a tablet with the gift money he received from that party!  He might be our sharpest tool in the shed as he figured out a way to get it all :)

Age 11-12 Bedtimes can get a little later depending on their middle school homework or sports practices and games.  Deodorant appears in stockings and daily showers happen!  Braces are consulted upon and put on if necessary, with the hope of being removed before high school starts.

Age 13 - They receive a Gabb Phone on their birthday, or another smartphone that we dumb down by taking away data and password protecting the app store.  They can babysit younger siblings now.  When they graduate from 8th grade, they receive a laptop for high school (it's required so we turn it into a gift).

Ages 14-15 High schoolers!  No more bedtimes, they just go to bed when they're homework is done or their sports are over.  These are tough years because they need rides everywhere and they want to do everything!  They also need to get a job at age 14 which is when they can get a work permit.

Age 16 - Friend party for their birthday. Open a checking account and get debit card.  Get their driver's permit, having started driver's ed around 15 years 9 months.  Sweet sixteen means they are allowed to date when they have a JOB and a CAR.  Basically, we will not be driving our kids around on dates or financing them.  If you want to take a girl out to dinner, you need to be able to pay for both of your dinners and pick her up and drop her off.  Of course, we talk a lot about the purpose of dating, which is to find your spouse, and encourage them to be friends with the opposite sex and hang out in groups.  When you are sixteen you most likely are not going to start dating your future spouse (though it did happen to two of my siblings!) but you should be dating someone with the qualities you hope to find in your future spouse and stop dating that person when you realize he/she is not the one.  If we could have it our way (insert maniacal laugh) we would prefer they wait until college to date seriously.

Age 17 - Just the same as 16 really except that now they are licensed drivers and their "chore" becomes helping us drive around siblings which nobody seems to mind as it's a chance to drive.  They also get data on their phones since they need to use Maps and check emails, etc.  Once senior year starts, we allow them to sleepover friends' houses as a sort of gateway between living at home and college.  I feel like we are used to them not being home more often than being home between work, sports and social activities now.  It's sad but necessary!

Age 18 - Birthday gift is luggage for college.  For a graduation gift from high school - the boys get a new suit to use at prom and then for college/job interviews (not sure what to get for Maggie yet).  Then they go to college and we just pray we did enough right in raising them and let God take care of filling in the cracks.

Age 19+ Parenting never ends.  Just a friendly reminder :)  And then hopefully, the grandkids come and you can watch your children get their payback become parents themselves!

Monday, January 30, 2023

A Hospice Care Package

Thank you all for the thoughtful advice on what to put in a care package for someone who has entered hospice care.  I thought I would compile the list in case anyone else is in the same position.

Warm fuzzy blanket

Comfy socks

Hanging window prism

Neck Wrap

Wind Charm

Paper Products and snacks for the caregivers

Biotene mouthwash


Case of water

Soft pillow cases

Audio book subscription

Music subscription

Playing cards

Projector and white noise player


Candle warmer

Oil diffuser plus essential oils


Window bird feeder

Puzzle books

Stamps (for sending thank you cards)

Ginger candies

Easy to hold water cup

Here's what I ended up putting together quickly (as, sadly, time is of the essence in these circumstances).  The care package included a homemade card from each of our kids and the following items: