16 Pictures to describe 2016

By | Posted January 3, 2017

Posted in pictures, Year in Review | No Comments »

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My sweet boy and I ringing in the new year.  Lance out of town and everyone else asleep.

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After completing a Whole30 for Lent, so really a Whole 46, I was so happy to indulge.

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No explanation needed.  What a night.

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Few things make me happier than hanging in Chicago, staying up late drinking and just being with Paul.

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My friend makes the best iced cookies ever.  Last year at Christmas, she made a plate for us and when I mentioned that we had four before leaving her street, she offered the leftovers.  We turned around and got them.  It was a ton.  Since then, we’ve ordered about three more times including these amazing First Communion cookies!

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I can’t say how proud I am of this girl.  She works no matter how tired she is and is literally a beast.

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It was the year of Mercy for most of 2016.  I think we needed it.  We took advantage of all those Holy Doors as we travelled the country.

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This book is amazing.  It should be required reading for every single person in this country.  Most especially our president elect.

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Officially homeschooling.  8 years of prayers answered.  It’s only Mari for now, but I’m happy.

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Lance and I both love plays and musicals.  So do our kids.  We end up budgeting a lot for sports and shows.  This particular photo makes the cut because Lance purchased tickets for 9/14, Mason’s birthday, the day we left town.  (He was so proud of this because he did it as a surprise for all of us.)  Instead of letting my mom take the kids, we ate the money on the tickets and purchased six more the following week.  Lance had purchased great seats for the 14th and did the same the following week.

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His cursive is really nice, right?

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Who didn’t see this coming?

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Or this? From this girl?

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I can’t leave my mom out of my top pictures.  She is so generous with her time.  She watches the kids every time Lance and I leave town.  I have loved having her on our road trips.  This was taken on her birthday at the Holy Door in Galveston.

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Christmas Eve dinner~all of us together which is so rare now that Drake has moved out.

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And this guy?  Taken on my birthday after being on the road for a week without him. He makes this life so worthwhile.

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Year in Review 2016- Kick Ass Cities, Michelin Stars, Running and Kids

By | Posted January 3, 2017

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Thinking about the new year always makes me excited.  There’s a new planner to fill which I’m anxious to use.  I had to purchase a new brand because my other one was stolen in San Fransisco.  I’ve yet to let go of that incident despite telling the story at least 20 different times.  I took a lot of time researching a new planner, and I’m not sure I even like this new brand.  Regardless, filling it in with birthdays and Saint days and trips and other special events always gives me hope for the new year.  Even my kids know how much I depend on my planner.  Mason asked me today if I had ordered a new planner.

Before I start writing in that new planner, I wanted to try and reflect on the past year.  Everyone has been saying how 2016 needs to end, and well I’m just as anxious as the next person for the new year to start except that whole new president part.  2016 hasn’t been my favorite year, but it’s hardly been the worst year ever.  That said, the recent deaths of childhood actors and singers makes me sad.  Life is short.  Too short.  It’s too short to stay mad at people, too short to focus on the negative and too short not to find the good in people and for today, in the outgoing year.  So for my memories, here’s a long recap of the year, things me and mostly the kids did all year.

January- I started 2016 working on a puzzle and my first kid moving out.  As in he literally left the house 12/31.  Staring at that empty room was hard.  Harder because Lance was out of town.  It was me and the younger four all trying to stay up.  The night ended with me and Mason taking pictures and Alec passed out on the couch.  That puzzle?  Never finished it, (was that a sign for the year?) finally had to put it away and am actually taking it out again if I ever finish this post.

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A hip injury really screwed with me last year.  It started in November of 2015.  I was able to run the Houston half, but by May was sidelined for six weeks.  This is my favorite picture.  Lance thinks my parents look like they are in jail.  No matter what, they are always there to support me.  Even getting up and driving to see me off on what really isn’t that big of a run to me.  But to them?  It’s a big deal.

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February- The kids all play basketball at the YMCA.  I’ve tried different leagues but they are all about the same.  Mason is turning out to be a pretty good player.  This buzzer beater was awesome.  The fact that another parent filmed it has let me relive this shot over and over.

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Hit link to see Mason’s shot!

I also ran the Austin half with one of my cousins.  I decided after that half that I won’t be running the Austin full.  Ever.

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March- The only thing I really remember from this time was Lent.  Sure it started in February, but March was where I grew.  Or rather tried to grow!  I did a Whole30 for my sacrifice which was really 46 days.  46 days of NO SUGAR.  Forget the rest of whole30.  There is only one thing that matters in my life outside my family.  And it’s sugar.  Every. Single. Day. I thought of sugar and when I could have some.  Specifically cookies and cake.  Easter Sunday, you could say I indulged.

Alec made me so proud this Lent.  He gave up Big Snoopy.  I don’t even know how he did it.  Giving up alcohol and even sugar, reading labels nonstop, that was nothing compared to his sacrifice.  He also served Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.  I have never been so proud of him.

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img_0886April- Lance works really hard at his regular job as well as for the NFL writing up players entering the draft.  Its a lot for him.  And me, because he’s gone all the time.  As an end of season and thank you, we take an NFL trip.  When he asked where I wanted to go and started giving suggestions that weren’t NYC, I stopped him. There was only one thing I wanted to do and that was see Hamilton.  And we did!  Everyone always asks us how we managed to get tickets to the hottest show in the country.  We paid.  We paid a lot.  IT WAS WORTH EVERY SINGLE PENNY.  LMM created an amazing show and I can’t wait to take the kids one day.  But last April was for us.  And I’m so glad we spent the money and went.  I still get giddy thinking about the show and the cast,the original cast.  We also managed to snag dinner at our first Michelin star restaurant of the year.

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May- Three weeks later, we left for Chicago and the Draft.  Lance worked and I tagged along so I could eat and see Paul and Brian.  My favorite meal of 2016 was at Grace.  We’re into tastings and Lance had seen the documentary about this chef and made arrangements to go months in advance.  Poor guy got diverticulitis and couldn’t really eat.  I was fine.  And I ate.  And it was incredible.  A few days later, the chef won the James Beard for his region.  I spent the rest of the weekend with Paul and Brian with Lance joining when he could.  We had donuts, more Michelin stars, saw a play and just enjoyed each other’s company.  It was a near perfect trip.

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We also had a birthday in the family.  Drake turned 21.  Yes, I have a 21 year old now.  And you know what?  He’s living on his own and doing pretty well.  He doesn’t always do what I want, but he’s living his life.  He’s paying his bills and making memories.  And now he’s 21 and can drink.  Sure, he would have before then, but he didn’t and I’m glad.

Lance and I left town again for the wedding of a law school friend.  It was so much fun seeing him and another friend from law school.  It was a short weekend but I’m so glad we went.

Also, my mother?  Seriously, she is amazing.  Three trips in 7 weeks.  Only one of those for a Friday morning to Sunday morning.  The others were Wednesday to Sunday.  And that doesn’t count what she did in the Fall.

June – Snax received his First Holy Communion in June.  It was so special.  This kid is hilarious.  He’s just Snax.  He’s loud.  Really loud.  I wondered what he thought of this sacrament because he’s just so out there at times.  He took it very seriously.  I was so proud of him when he went up there and received Jesus for the first time.  And to this day, he takes it seriously.

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Mari started swim team in June.  She got two first place ribbons at her first meet.  I knew she was pretty fast, but didn’t know how good she would turn out to be.  By the end of the season she was invited to finals which meant she was one of the top 12 swimmers in the league.

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July- Two more birthdays, Alec and Snax, 12 and 8.  The sweetest thing was Alec insisting on having lunch with his uncle who shares a birthday with him.  I think my brother liked it too.  All Snax wanted for his birthday was a donut cake.  Not one to refuse a request like that, he got a donut cake.

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We took our summer vacation in July.  My mom and I drove the kids West to San Diego and Lance and the rest of my family met us there.  We had the best road trip.  We stopped in Roswell, the Petrified Forest, Phoenix, Sedona, The Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Los Angeles and finally arrived in San Diego on my birthday.  My favorite stops were the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon.  I’m the only one who liked the Hoover Dam.  The kids loved the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.  I’m dying to go back to Sedona and do a Pink Jeep Tour.  The week spent in SD was pretty awesome.  It’s a great city and we just chilled.  My favorite touristy thing was Seaworld.  I should probably feel bad, but I don’t.  It was awesome, and I’m so glad we went.  The zoo was great, but it was a long day there.  And Legoland?  I wish we had just gone to Disney instead.  I think our favorite thing was the beach.  The water was freezing, but we all loved it.  I still remember the joy in Mason’s face while running around and riding the waves.   On the way home we went to San Juan Capistrano and Cadillac Ranch.  Sure the kids fought and fussed at times on the road, but overall, they are really good on road trips.  And I’m learning to let go when things don’t go my way or we miss something.

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August- We enjoyed the heck out of August since school started at the end of the month.  I hated sending the kids back to school, but I’m so thankful to be homeschooling Marianna.  She is such a great little student and really, how hard is K?  It’s been a great year so far and unless something changes this second semester, we’re in for next year.

September- Mason turned 10 this month and we left town on his birthday.  One of the worst things I’ve done as a parent.  And boy did karma get me.  As we were leaving for the airport, we got a call that our flight had been cancelled.  They put us on a flight leaving much later and caused us to miss our dinner at Crenn.  We got charged 600 per couple for missing that meal.  Yes, 600.  The next day, our car was broken into while we ate lunch and they took one bag.  Mine.  I lost brand new running shoes, workout clothes, my straightener, and three other pairs of shoes.  And my planner.  I can’t explain my anger over that incident.  We drove to Sonoma with a open window and cancelled our plans for the night.

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We did manage to have dinner at The French Laundry.  Total bucket list place.  It was pretty amazing and the service was just incredible.  Then the next day we went to watch the Texas game.  They lost.  Total shit show of a weekend except for one meal.

October- I ran the Chicago marathon.  I love being in Chicago.  I wish we could move there.  I cherish the time we spend with Paul and Brian.  I was sick.  That part sucked, but we still had a blast and I saw another good friend who happened to be in town that week as well.  I  was happy with my running time and felt really good running except for the last 5 miles.  Those stunk.  But my favorite was afterward.  I love seeing Paul after I do something good.  I can’t explain it, but it means the world to me.  Having my three favorite men cheering me on and giving hugs along the route made it all the better.  Lance said one of his favorite things from this year was running around Chicago with Paul and Brian trying to find me on the route.

November- Ah November.  You sucked.  What can I say?  Almost 3 million people voted for HRC and we are still stuck with a POS for our incoming president.  The only positive?  I can point to him and tell my sons how not to behave, how not to treat women, how not to treat other people.  I am still upset with this election.  It truly makes me sick.  It kills me that someone like him actually received votes from people I know.  From Catholics.  I cried.  I never cry, but him winning made me that sick.  I actually cried three times about it.  Did I mention I don’t cry?

Thanksgiving kind of stunk- Mari got pneumonia, Mason got bronchitis and Alec had flu like symptoms.  Lance ended up getting sick and couldn’t make it to Austin to celebrate with my family.  We turned around and came home to spend the day with store bought food that was awful.

December- This year Advent was four full weeks.  We sang almost daily and read nonstop.  I love this time so much.  Mari turned six and handed out sleeping bags and her birthday money to the homeless.  That girl?  She is something special.  Then we got a stomach virus.  That. Wouldn’t. Stop.  Everyone caught it including Drake who doesn’t even live at home anymore!  With the exception of Drake not being able to come over on Christmas because he was puking, the day was great.  Alec served at mass, we came home and opened presents and then my family came over to celebrate with us.

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A few days after Christmas, we had dinner with old friends.  Lance has known these guys since fifth grade.  It was fun catching up and a reminder that we need to see them more often.

I was supposed to take the kids to Atlanta to see my friend and her family, but it just didn’t work out.  Her grandfather got sick and then her husband could’t move the morning we were scheduled to leave.  I can’t imagine him having to deal with my kids while being stuck in bed.

So tonight I’m here again.  But at least, my better half is with me this year.  And so are my kids.  We all just toasted to 2017.  Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Tomorrow I write my goals for the year.  I did that last year and actually did all but two.  It was such a great list (long) and it kills me that I never took a picture of it.  It was in the planner that was stolen.  The top five items all complete except one- take kids to Disney, see Hamilton, run Chicago marathon, spend time with family, pray the rosary more.  We’ve yet to take the kids to Disney, one year it will happen.  But you know what?  It really was a fabulous year.  We went to some amazing cities, had some great meals at Michelin star restaurants and had fun being together.  I love our time on the road, but mostly I love reading to the kids and playing games and when one of them says “can you snuggle me?”  That’s the life I love.  Off the top of my head, my goals for 2017 are to read more, travel, eat and spend time together.  Tomorrow we start a 31 day reading challenge, I’ve got dinner planned for Lance’s birthday and we have our SF redo set for February and Atlanta rescheduled for the Spring.  But whether we eat at the top rated restaurant for the year or take a big family trip this year, it will be okay.  We will be together and that’s what makes my year.

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Summer’s End

By | Posted August 22, 2016

Posted in Family Life, Summer | No Comments »

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I’m sitting here at the roller rink watching my kids fly by with smiles on their faces.  It’s our last skate day of the summer.  I’m smiling thinking of today only.  Not tomorrow or next week when they go back to school.  Just today.  And when I think of just this second, I am  happy.

It’s been a great summer.

A happy summer.

And while I hate for the kids to return to school, I don’t have that same feeling I always have in August.  Yet.  I’m sure it’s coming.  I’ve already had the yearly argument on why I’m not homeschooling the kids.  But hey, at least it’s pretty much a once or twice a year thing as opposed to one that affects my marriage nonstop.

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I still use a planner.  I record everything we do in it.  Meals, my workouts, daily activities, feast days. etc.  At the beginning of the summer I wrote a list of things we wanted to do together.  I do the same thing at the beginning of each year.  We did everything we wanted to do this summer with one huge omission.  But I’m okay with that, we will take care of that before this year ends.

My first goal was to spend time together as a family.  We did.  We laughed, we fought, we read, we swam, we played lots of games and had field trips during the week.  All together.  One of the good and bad things about the boys’ school is that it’s not a neighborhood school.  We don’t live close to any classmates so we don’t socialize outside of school with anyone besides a couple of families.  Like I said, good and bad.  I wish my kids had other playmates at times, but I love that they rely on each other.

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One day the kids made swords out of boxes from Costco.  It was awesome.  Snax started it, but soon the art boxes were out and everyone had a shield and sword, even Mari.  I love that creativity.  I can’t believe how much fun they had with those swords.

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We swam so much my kids all ended up with swimmer’s ear.  Mari was our swimming beast, but the boys all improved and tried their hardest to beat her.  They still can’t.  The Olympics have been great for our family, probably most families.  Watching history being made with the swimmers, runners and gymnasts is just incredible.  We’ve all loved watching the competitions.  Last night Alec stayed up watching beach volleyball.  He said he really likes it.  No word on whether its just the girls he wanted to watch.  The kids even had their own family olympics in which they all completed an IM at the pool.  It was nice to see the kid who came in last keep going.  He had no chance to win, or even make third place, but he swam until he was done.  And Mari, the best was her doing butterfly the entire length of the pool despite the fact that she really can’t do butterfly arms for more than five strokes.  But she kept trying, never putting her feet on the ground and her arms would come out of the water just a bit.  Alec even made a medal for her and had an entire presentation where we interviewed her.

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Mari was definitely the one to shine during June because of swim team.  I was so proud watching the boys cheer her on at each meet.  They were so excited for her to win.  Her swim coach even came to a meet to watch her.  You could say we were a bit obnoxious about Mari’s swimming.

We had lots of lazy days.  I was put on rest due to my hip in late May.  I was so bummed about it wanting to workout and start running.  But in the end, it was awesome.  We didn’t have anywhere to rush and that really set the tone for the summer.  Normally, I’m all about my workouts and the kids have to get up and play at the YAC.  Staying home in June meant lots of late mornings in our pjs playing legos or whatever else the kids came up with to play. Some days, they just watched television or played on the computer.  And while I don’t allow that during the year or even much in the summer, I’m grateful we had those days.  Even though the shows they watch are mind numbing, they need the rest.  They need to do nothing.

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We took a trip to SA and NB to start off the summer spending time with cousins in SA and going to the Riverwalk with my friend’s daughter and husband.  I took the kids to Ripley’s Believe or Not and we had to leave early because Snax couldn’t handle it.  We didn’t get to do all I wanted, but that was ok.  We can go back.  We met Lance in NB and just enjoyed my in-law’s house.  We had the best lunch and DQ on the way home.  Maybe that was what set the tone for the summer.  Just being laid back.

We went back to NB to spend time with my in-laws and cousins.  I’m pretty close with most of my cousins and as we get older, our relationship gets better.  The kids see their cousins from Indy about twice a year, but one visit is usually very short.  This visit was nice and the kids had a blast.  I love how easily the kids just pick up with each other.

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Our family vacation was just awesome.  And again, we didn’t do everything I wanted and hopefully, one day I will actually record those memories.  But it was great.  Andrea came along with us and I worried so much that she wouldn’t like it.  She’s an only child and I figured the kids would be just too much for her.  I mean, they always get along, but a car ride across the country is much different.  I worried for nothing.  She had a blast with us and told my mom she can’t wait for next summer!  I think the best part of the trip was that I didn’t freak out when we didn’t do all I thought we would.  Maybe I’m finally mellowing out with my expectations.  I’ll never be someone who wants to just do nothing, but I’m okay that we didn’t finish my extensive list.  There is always another trip around the corner.

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We were gone for two weeks and as we drove home, I realized there were only three full weeks of summer break left to enjoy.  I didn’t get sad.  I enjoyed it.  I’m grateful I have finally realized to live in the moment with my kids and enjoy what we do.  Our days are far from perfect.  My kids fight and are super loud.  But then I can take them to daily mass and they don’t complain or fuss.  There are hurt feelings and tears, but there is laughter and requests to sleep in a siblings’ bed.  It’s a great life and a great family.

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I am sad for summer break to end and for the kids the return to school.  I’ll always think I should be homeschooling these kids.  But for today, I’m ok.  I’m content that we created memories without rushing around in an attempt to fake memories.  They just happened.  I’m grateful I can realize the joy that was our summer.

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Life

By | Posted April 22, 2016

Posted in Random | 3 Comments »

Hi, my name is Nicole, I also go by Nikki, Mom, and Nik.  And I have a serious addiction to children’s books. Serious.  Easter was just four weeks ago, and the kids all received new books in their baskets.  I only got two books a piece because I was trying to be good.  Right now my Amazon cart stands at 96 bucks for 8 books.  That amount is after I moved some to the ‘saved for later’ section.  It all started with Hamilton, yes, the musical.  The kids and I are so into it, we listen daily, our favorites change constantly and we want to know more about Alexander Hamilton.  So in my quest for more knowledge, I decided to search for some children’s books on Hamilton.  I found two fabulous ones, one about the duel!  Another just about Hamilton, the man.  Add to cart.  It got worse when I started texting a friend and she randomly mentioned a cool book about the white house.  (I cannot wait to get that one!)  And then I found one about Thomas Jefferson’s library.  I literally can’t stop myself.  From then on, well, I just kept clicking and clicking.

Today the kids got into the car and immediately requested Hamilton.  I told them no, today we were listening to Prince.  We were stuck listening to the radio because I only have a few Prince songs on my phone.  It was random because I was just telling the kids about Prince yesterday.  I liked Prince, he wasn’t my favorite.  I’m not devastated by his death like some people, but I definitely enjoyed his music.  So much so that I went to a concert of his on New Year’s Eve once.  At least, I think I did.  I can’t recall who I went with or what year, but I’m convinced that I went down to the detail of him leaving the stage at midnight and that totally annoying me.  It’s driving me crazy not to remember, mainly because I want to know who I went with and two, because I always remember random things.  Does this mean I’m losing that ability???

Next week is teacher appreciation week at our school.  I was talking with a friend on how we think it should be done.  I can only say that our way makes so much more sense.  But alas, nobody wants to change anything so daily food it is.

Next week I leave for Chicago to visit Paul and Brian while Lance works on the draft.  Apparently, we are hitting some three star Michelin restaurant our first night, then I’m a tourist the rest of the time.  I’m really excited.  There is a VanGogh exhibit at the Art Institute and I’ll hit the Robie House and the Botanical Gardens, as well as see a play and eat whatever I desire.  I cannot wait.  It’s just me and Paul on Thursday and Friday, just like old times.  I can’t say how excited I am for this.  I am so grateful for my mom who is taking care of the kids again.  I’m trying to plan something fun for her and I during the summer. I have a few ideas, I just need the time.

Today Alec got into the car and asked about OJ Simpson.  It was so random.  He had no clue about him.  I just realized that I never even asked why he brought him up.  He didn’t realize what a great football player he was, and how everyone adored him.  I loved giving him the details of what happened, remembering being at law school, watching Rockets in the playoffs and how the game was sent to the corner of the screen so we could watch the white bronco.  We had a great talk about our sports heroes and how they can disappoint us.  Lately, Alec asks some good questions.  I love how curious he is and often its something from my past that he wants to talk about which makes me happy.

Yesterday Snax had his First Communion interview.  The guy interviewing him was a seminarian.  Snax was super hyper the entire time, couldn’t sit still and shut up.  He would answer questions, then randomly start talking math.  The guy was great.  I think he really liked Snax and ended the interview by asking Snax to pray for his vocation.  Actually, both of their vocations- that he be a holy priest and that Snax do whatever God called him to do.  My favorite part of the interview was when Snax told him that the gospel from Sunday about the shepherd and the sheep was a metaphor because clearly we aren’t sheep.  But that when Jesus said you must eat my body and drink my blood…that was NOT a metaphor.  He meant it.  Talk about getting the True Presence.  I loved it and the seminarian liked it too.  I guess that kid is ready for his first communion despite acting like a little stinker most of the time.

I’m registered for the Chicago marathon in October and am so thrilled that I know three other people running also.  It’s going to be a fabulous weekend!

Alec is doing a kids’ trialthon Sunday.  I’m really nervous for him.  We haven’t even bought him a helmet for the bike ride, and I’m not sure of the rules.  He swims really slow, but he wants to do this.  So Sunday morning we’ll be out there cheering him on in what I hope will be the first of many races for him.

NYC?  It was amazing.  How can it not be?  But really, that trip was just great.  Maybe it gets it’s own post.  Hamilton?  So glad we spent the money and went.  Now if only I could take my kids.

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Five For Friday

By | Posted April 1, 2016

Posted in Five For Friday | 1 Comment »

Lance and I leave for NYC next week!  I am so psyched to see Hamilton.  The kids and I have been listening to the music nonstop for 8 days.  We have our definite favorites, and all of the kids can rap/sing the majority of the songs.  It is just so good, I can’t wait to see it live.  When we were planning the NFL trip, Lance asked if I wanted some place different or new, and I pretty much said it had to be NYC because I was seeing Hamilton.  This spring.  We’ve got some other fun stuff planned, a kickass hotel and time to just walk the city.  Seriously, why can’t my husband work there?  Why can’t we just live there?  I love it.

The kids love the music from this show so much that they are asking when we are taking them to see it.  Hmmmm, when prices go down.  Way down.  Maybe when I run the NYC marathon.

Lent is over.  Over!  Whole 46 done.  No cheating at all.  No grains, dairy, legumes, soy, lots of label checking.  Oh and no sugar or alcohol.  The hardest part was probably checking labels.  I don’t care much for grains or dairy and I can live without legumes.  I like vegetables, meat and fish.  I don’t like chicken.  After the first ten days, it was fairly bearable, then got bad again at day 30 because I realized how much time I had left.  By the end it was more of the spectacle of getting a drink and a sweet.  Now, I’m fine without the alcohol.  The sugar?  Not so much.  I could eat sweets every day of my life, and I have never lost that craving.  I literally thought of sugar every day during Lent.  That said, I’m not eating sweets until our trip.

I’ve tried to really think about my relationship with food once I got over myself early on in Lent.  I love to eat.  I love to workout which basically maintains my weight.  I’m always going to want to lose “10 pounds”.  I’m just that annoying girl.  But reality is that since the year after Snax was born, I have gained way more weight that I realized.  So even if I was too skinny after Snax, I have some weight to lose.  I ended up losing two pounds.  Two pounds.  I mean, what the heck?  How does one give up all that without cheating and not lose weight. I’d like to say it’s because my body is where it wants to be, but really, its just that I eat a lot, healthy or not.  One day, I ate 2000 calories of raw (compliant) cashews.  Who does that?!  I’m thinking its gluttony like that that keeps me from losing weight.  So Lent is over, and I’m off whole 30, but I’m trying not to lose it over food.  Though Easter did see me lose it.

Speaking of Easter, We had an amazing Triduum.  Alec served at all three masses of the Triduum as well as Easter Sunday mass.  I’m so proud of him.  Friday we went to confession waiting for an hour, outdoor stations at the Grotto and then the Liturgy of Good Friday service.  It was really a special day except I felt like I needed to go back to the confessional within an hour of leaving it.  Sometimes, my kids can make me feel like I have no control.  And I hate not being in control.  So back to confession I’ll go this weekend.  Alec even served at the Easter Vigil mass, the long, long mass.  (As if the other two weren’t long.)  It was really cool and our priest was proud of him, giving him hints about having a vocation.  Fine by me.

Lance and I have been talking all year about Mari and school.  I toured a couple of private schools because I honestly didn’t think she would qualify as GT and just wasn’t happy with the direction of the classes at the boys’ school.  I never felt comfortable at the private schools so we discussed other options.  Pretty much by November, Lance was on board with homeschooling Marianna.  But since he’s said that for each kid, I tested her.  Turns out, she did qualify as GT, (seriously, I have four kids who have qualified as GT–what does that say about GT qualifications in HISD???)  So she qualified and got a spot at the boys’ school, and we are declining.

Honestly, it was a total pride thing.  As much as I mock the GT standards here, and they are low, I would have been a bit flustered had she not passed the test.  I mean, I’m the one who taught her to read.  And while our teaching right now, is very minimal, (we are still in preK and just having fun), I’m the one who has taught her whatever she knows.  So my pride was saved.

I’ve had several parents ask what will we do when we don’t want to homeschool anymore.  The short answer, send her to school.  We will lose our spot at Rogers, but oh well.  The reality is that the school has never been to me what it is to others.  I’ve known that since the first month Alec started K.  I never did anything about it.  Now I can.  Assuming my husband doesn’t change his mind.  (Please don’t change your mind, Lance!)  But even then, I think I want a better situation for my kid.  When teachers tells you they wouldn’t send their kids there, even for elementary, that says something.  Right?  Having to drive to two different schools?  Not an issue, I’ve already done that.  I know people who drive to four different schools.  So that’s where I am on Mari and school.  Fingers crossed that my husband stays on board with me.  Oh and best question I received was, “will you homeschool all the way through?”  I’m just trying to make it to day one of Kindergarten!

So middle school has kicked my ass this last nine weeks.  I’d like to say all year, but really it was just recently.  The work has been nonstop all year long including weeks with several tests and big projects due.  In the first half of the year, Alec did fine, I would have preferred more A’s especially the 89, but he was doing well.  Then he lost his mind in January.  I started getting grade alerts…I needed to pay more attention.  I did, and he worked hard and got all his grades back up.  His lowest grade was a low B, but I was fine considering what had been going on earlier in the 9 weeks.  Two days before the grades were due, he called me from school saying his art teacher wanted to talk to me.  Art teacher?!  Turns out that 100 I had seen on grade speed was wrong.  He was failing.  Badly.  First, off, who fails art?  Second, my kids love art- to make it and look at it.  We go to the MFAH a lot and study different painters, I have 7 different picture books on painters plus kids’ coffee table art books that I catch him studying all the time!  We know art in this house, damnit!

She actually told me she would give him a 75.  I refused that grade, telling her to give him what he earned, but that maybe next time she could update her grade book so I would have accurate grades before they were due.  I wasn’t rude, promise.  I was furious at him, annoyed that the grades weren’t updated, but just so mad.  I had made sure he was studying and checking work and then this?!  He came home and I made him finish everything he hadn’t done.  He turned it in and managed to pull off a 97.  I’m not thrilled with the lesson he learned, but I wasn’t thrilled with him failing art either.  He has art again this 9 weeks, and I can promise I am now asking daily what he needs to finish in art!

Best new ever?  School is almost over.  38 more days!  I can’t even tell you how excited I am!

Do I have summer vacation planned?  No, but I do know we’re going to relax quite a bit around here.  Probably study a bit of Shakespeare.

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Lessons in Detachment

By | Posted March 14, 2016

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Marianna turned five in December.  Five.  Seriously, how did that happen?  First, I can’t believe I haven’t been pregnant since then.  I love babies.  Love, love, love them.  But even though I love them and would gladly accept more, Lance said he loved the babies we had.  And that unless God wanted us to have another, we wouldn’t be actively trying for more.  Now that didn’t mean we wouldn’t be a couple.  But considering that we don’t have problems getting pregnant, just staying pregnant, I kind of thought maybe, just maybe we’d have another baby.  Here’s where I say NFP works.  It really does.  It’s not always fun, and we certainly aren’t the poster couple for it, but it works.  And I’m happy that when we got married we decided to follow the church.

But back to my five year old.  And the fact that I don’t have any more babies.  That five year slept in a crib until last night.  I know, weird, right?  Even weirder, the sides were bolted in, so it’s not like I turned the crib into a daybed.  Now, this happened partly because I only had three rooms for the kids, Drake had one to himself, Snax had another and then the other three were stuffed in one room.  I had bunk beds and the crib.  Another bed wouldn’t have fit, and I didn’t want to buy her a toddler bed.  And she still fit in the crib.  And she didn’t mind the crib.

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But Drake moved out December 31st, and I finally moved the boys and their beds to their new room a few weeks ago.  It was time.  We picked up a mattress on Saturday at Texas Mattress Makers.  (We also had a small field trip while there because it is so cool to watch people make mattresses.  And yes, I’m dead serious.) My little girl found a bed fit for a princess that is due to arrive in a few weeks.  We set up the mattress and frame and moved in the singer sewing machine to use as a dressing table, showing Mari how room will come together.

Then I told Lance he had to take apart the crib.  I had each kid come say goodbye to it.  All except Mason because he slept in the yellow crib.  Why?  Because Alec was still sleeping in this one- because apparently, I never move my kids out of their cribs at normal times.  Lance argued that we should donate it, but I reminded him that places don’t take cribs anymore, so he put it outside for the trash.

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I was a little sad as I drove off this morning seeing it stacked up outside, it pulled at my heart.  My babies had slept in that wonderful crib.  Don’t people save those things??

Nope, I’m not a hoarder.  Say goodbye and move on.

I was happy I was able to get rid of the crib and even have plans to donate the yellow chair I have in their room, (having been convinced that recovering chairs is a waste.)

Simplicity and detachment.  Score for me.

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Then I went to swim and was sharing my story with a mom who said she can’t get rid of hers and is having it made into a bench.

For a second I wanted to scream.  Really, she needed to share the bench story with a picture to someone who just got rid of their crib??

But I’m fine.  Detachment.  Simplicity.  I got what I needed from that crib, and I’m happy and grateful and have the pictures to prove it!  I don’t need a bench.

And I don’t need a crib sitting in my garage until I find someone to build a bench for me.

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Lent

By | Posted February 20, 2016

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Two Fridays into Lent and here I am sitting alone on the couch with unfinished Stations.  What the heck is going on?  How can our favorite family devotion be falling to the side?  Last week time just slipped away and the kids fell asleep and there went our family prayer time.  Then we didn’t pray on the way to Austin or the way back home.  I felt guilty all week long.  I knew we should have done it, I was ruining Lent by not starting off on the right foot.  BUT this week, it was going to be different.

It was different, just not in the way I thought it would be.  It ended with me sending the kids that were still awake to bed after losing my patience.

I’m still mad at them.  But the guilt has set in..the Stations I told them I’d just finish alone, those Stations are still not done.

We are less than two weeks into Lent, and I’m feeling like an utter failure.  I’ve complained daily about my sacrifice, that whole don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing?  Well, they know what they are doing, or rather not putting in my mouth and you can bet everyone else does too.  That’s not really my style.  Usually, I keep my Lenten sacrifice to myself, but this year, it was big and to avoid any confusion, I figured I would just tell people so I wouldn’t have to refuse alcohol, sweets, dairy, grains, legumes, soy and anything else resembling good food or drink.  I didn’t want to have to search food labels at someone’s house, kind of rude, I think.  So I let it be known that I was attempting a Whole30, but really more because of course Lent is 40 days, but even more because under the Whole30, you can’t cheat, so Sundays do indeed count.

Honestly, if I see you and talk to you, you know.  The people at Starbucks know, the swim coach knows, all my friends know, my parents know…why?  Because I can’t shut up about how much I hate it.  Which of course, I’m not supposed to do.

(By the way, over ten days in?  NO MORE ENERGY.  Or any other benefits.)

But back to my family.  What is it that is making this Lent so hard to embrace?  The things we enjoy the most aren’t happening.  We’ve read only four of our books.  Four!  Are they bored with them?  Too old?  While we definitely read our share of chapter books, picture books still hold a special place for all of the kids.  My children have made amazing sacrifices.  Goose gave up his beloved Snoopy for Lent.  This is literally the only thing that makes me shut up at times.  He misses his Snoopy so much, even at 11 years old.  But he wanted a good sacrifice because “Jesus died for me.”  Does Jesus really care if he gives up Snoopy?  No, not really.  But he’s learning discipline and doing something he doesn’t want to do as a sacrifice.  Marianna gave up television which isn’t hard during the week, but she’s committed at age 5 to make it through Saturday mornings without her usual television.  My most obstinate kid finally decided what he would give up two days after Lent started, finally realizing it was okay to give up something a little late.

I’m not sure what’s happening.  I finally sat and prayed about my own sacrifice.  I know Lent isn’t just giving up chocolate or wine or whatever, it’s more.  Jesus doesn’t really care if I have chocolate.  But I am called to make a sacrifice.  And pray and give alms.  All three.  I am praying more and attending more masses, and we give.  My kids give, that Snax is so sweet, always rolling down the window to share the money he has with others.  I’m not sure what the disconnect is with feeling like it’s Lent in my house.

I always pride my family with living the liturgical year well.  We’re not in Catholic school, but we celebrate Saint Feast Days and any important day in the church.  We’re always learning.  We take Advent seriously as well as the 12 days of Christmas.  Lent is no exception.  But this year has been hard.  Really hard.  I could blame it on Lance’s long hours, Goose’s ridiculous amount of work, my inability to make our calendar.  I don’t know what it is, and right now, it doesn’t really matter.  I’m just glad we have 40 days to think about this walk we’re called to take.  Its not an easy one.  I can say that Lent hasn’t been what I hoped it would be so far for my family.  But I’m letting go of the guilt and moving forward.  I’ll pray those Stations tonight.  Tomorrow is a new day.  To apologize for throwing a fit tonight.  To hit confession.  To try again.  The journey doesn’t end, not even with Lent.  I’m glad for the chance to start again.  To make this Lent one that changes our hearts.

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Daybook~joy

By | Posted February 3, 2016

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For today:: February 3, 2016…seriously, 2016?  How did this happen?  Time seemed to stand still when I was growing up.  Now that I’m a mom, it won’t slow down no matter how much I pray.

I’m wearing:: workout clothes.  Some things will never change.

I’m listening to:: my daughter.  This girl never stops talking.  Even when she’s sick.  Generally, I love it.  She’s a bit obsessed with death now.  Specifically, me dying and what happens if I do.  And Liz Phair.

I’m grateful for:: the time I have with Marianna.  I think back to the day she was born, five years.  Never could I have guessed it would be like this.  She’s pretty attached herself.  But she’s just fun to be around.  She is funny, sweet, has the biggest heart and is a beast.  I hope she always wants to be around me.

To be fit and happy:: major sigh….I ran the half and had a fairly decent time, 2:02.  But it wasn’t my goal.  I wanted to run the full and honestly, running for two hours isn’t that hard for me.  I should have never said that to anyone else because the week after the half, my hip started hurting like crazy again.  It’s miserable, and I don’t think I can run the Austin half in 11 days.  So damn frustrating to me.  I really enjoy running, have goals to raise money and have a spot in Chicago full next October.  Trying to figure out what I need to do about this hip.  (Posting my picture across the finish because I love how different it is from the full finish.  My feet actually leave the ground in this picture while I was barely moving last year.)  Meanwhile, what else can I do for exercise?  I’m kind of over the new spin instructor.  I’m fit, but in pain and not happy.

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I’m praying for:: my dad, he is having some tests run this week.

I’m reading:: Searching for and Maintaining Peace.  It’s a tiny, tiny book and it’s taking me forever to read.

My resolutions:: spend more time with Lance and the kids, completely redo my kids’ rooms with one finished by the end of the month, read some books from my list, learn Spanish, see my family, see my friends, lose those extra 8 pounds I carried all last year, go to confession, blog more than three times in a year, invite a priest for dinner and enjoy life at home and away.  This year, nobody is stealing my Joy.

Movies:: I’m so behind on movies.  It’s the same every year.  I have seen The Big Short and Spotlight, both amazing movies that really make you hate people who have control.  One of the things I love about these two movies is how well cast they are.  There is nobody who does a poor job.  Just so good.  I’ve also seen Brooklyn and Room.  Fabulous acting, but I really wish I could get Room out of my head.  I’m really interested in seeing Carol, The Danish Girl and The Revenant and then the documentaries.  I’m alone this year for the Oscars, damn Combine has Lance and then my friend Barry just moved to NYC.  I am super bummed about this.

On the menu::  I am so bored with food with right now.  I am scouring old recipes and looking for new ones to get a groove.  I’m cooking, but not liking what I’m making.  So this week, I’m hoping that changes- we had soup and Irish Soda Bread (for the feast St. Brigid), today we are having Chicken Fried Rice, tomorrow is homemade gyros then Shrimp tacos on Thursday and Salmon on Friday.  Hoping for something super yummy or just margaritas on Saturday.

I love these two:: they got up extremely early to be there for the start of the half.  I love the support I get from them!

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Living the liturgy:: ah, ordinary time, how I love thee.  It gets us back into a nice rhythm and focus.  But time is running out, Lent starts next week.  Need to order the book we are following for Lent today and make some other plans.  I think I know what I’m giving up this year.  February also gives us some favorite feast days.  St. Brigid was yesterday and we made our crosses, today is Candelmass and tomorrow is the feast of St. Blaise- we’ll be heading to mass for the blessing of the throats.  Gotta make sure my voice always works!

Planning:: well Arizona lost last week which put an end to a SF trip.  That’s fine, it would have been awesome to be with family for another Super Bowl, but it wasn’t in the cards this year.  Instead, we’re off to NYC to see Hamilton.  I can’t wait for this show.  We’re hoping to go before the draft or is that just wishful thinking.  I’ve got a wedding to attend in May, the daughter of a law school friend.  This will be the second wedding of a friend’s kid.  What the heck!  Random, both are law school friends.  I’m trying to actually plan our summer trip before school ends this year instead of waiting for the last minute.  Nobody seems really interested in helping me though.  Basically, I’m planning the rest of the year.  I can’t stop myself.  I literally can’t.

Around the house:: kids’ bedrooms.  I have an extra room now that Drake moved out and need to fill it with two kids.  Then I need to buy new beds for Snax and Marianna.  And then clean out some rooms, donate some toys and clothes and make some magic!  Goal for one room is two weeks which means I might want to finish the doors and clean the paint off the floors this week.

One of my favorite things:: planners.  It may seem silly in this day of smart phones, but I love using a planner.  I got rid of my EC and found a planner I really like.  It’s pretty fabulous with planning pages for Birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.  Each page also has things to check off daily, mine are prayer, abs, stretching and read aloud.  Want to know what I miss the most?!  My only quibble is that it’s a bit too small- I don’t write neatly, I use my planner to record all activities plus Marianna’s work so more room would be nice.  But I’m sticking with it for now.  My cousin also loves planners so we go back and forth about them.  I think she’s now convinced me to try a page a day planner next year.  We’ll see, I’m not good with change and not seeing a week at a time is hard for me, but maybe I need to use my monthly pages better…BUT…If I homeschool Marianna next year, then I definitely need a page per day.  Seriously??? I could talk planners all day long.

A few plans for the week:: swim lessons for the beast, nature class, story time and reading.  Lots of reading.  Fingers crossed, but we’re finally in a good groove again for reading.  And I like it.  Want to hit Galveston this weekend, but not sure it will happen.  I do know margaritas are happening.

A photo to share::

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A picture from the anniversary of our first date.  I commented on IG that our first date was incredible~ two Oscar nominated movies, overpriced dinner, cheesecake at Copelands and talking in the parking lot for an hour without even a kiss goodnight.  Best date ever.  This year we had overpriced food at the Texans game, saw an Oscar nominated movie and went to have a drink.  I got the kiss.

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NYC and Philly, September 2015

By | Posted February 2, 2016

Posted in Catholic, Family Life, travel | No Comments »

I have to say hands down, this trip was my favorite of 2015.  I feel horrible saying that because I had an amazing year with the kids and without them…NYC with Lance, Chicago, the road trip with the kids and mom that ended in DC with the entire family.  Plus, just the relaxing trips to Austin and NB.  It was a great year.  I was spoiled.  The kids were spoiled.

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But this trip was IT for me.  Sharing NYC with my kids and seeing the Pope with them?!  I’m not sure it gets better than that!  My mom accompanied us on this trip and again proved to be the best travel companion.

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When the Papal trip was first announced, my cousin who lives in Philadelphia said we were welcome to come stay with her.  I never forgot that offer.  So for over a year, I’ve been planning.  I got tickets to Newark months in advance, but had us departing too early the Sunday of the Papal Mass.

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School started for the year and I realized that the kids had a holiday the day before I planned to leave.  Our original plan had been to go to Philadelphia only.  But then this summer we discovered Something Rotten.  The kids loved the music as much as Lance and I loved it.  We talked about taking them to see it one day.  When I realized we had an extra day, I was on a mission.  Begging, pleading with Lance to let me take the kids to NYC for the day. We were already going to have to change the plane tickets home as it was, so we would be paying an extra $200 per ticket anyway…let’s make it count.  I’ll use my secret stash of money.  I won’t use my secret stash to pay for the change if you don’t let me go.

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After much pleading, Lance okayed the day in NYC.  And then he surprised me with tickets to Something Rotten.  When I travel I want to see as much as possible.  I’m not a “live like the locals” when I travel.  I wanted the perfect trip for the kids with sightseeing and time to relax since they aren’t me.  NYC is my favorite place, and I wanted to make sure my kids loved it as much as I do.  They did.

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We left on a 5 am flight and thankfully, the kids fell asleep right away.  For a little bit.  Due to timing, I couldn’t take any xanax, but did manage a strong drink by 5:30 am, a first for me.  It allowed me to settle down and fall asleep for a bit.  We landed early enough to have a full day in the city.

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We went to the American Museum of Natural History and did the Night at the Museum tour.  We walked Central Park and played for a few hours, we went to Rockefeller Center and the Lego store and then busted ass back to the hotel to get ready for the musical.

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We met Barry for a quick dinner and then I watched my kids watch the musical.  They know the entire thing by heart and know when to cover their ears.  They were so excited.  They behaved so well.  And then Barry got us a pass to go backstage.  We met Alec’s favorite guy in the musical immediately.  Took pictures, asked questions and just reveled in  being there.

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Afterwards we waited outside for the two stars of the show.  The kids and well mostly me told them about the reason for the trip, the pope, and how this was their surprise.  Brian D’Arcy James was so cool and sweet to us.

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The next day, we took the subway to the Staten Island Ferry so we could see the Statue of Liberty, came back and walked the Brooklyn Bridge, went to see the Little Chapel That Stood and the 9/11 Memorial.  We caught a glimpse of the Empire State Building and then it was time to leave.

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I have to say the kids loved NYC and are ready to go back.  Me too.

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We picked up our car and headed to Philadelphia, an easy drive.  We managed to get downtown in time to see Independence Hall and Liberty Bell.  We barely made it to Liberty Bell; we had five minutes to see it.  Then we went to my cousin’s place.

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My cousin has one daughter who was a month away from turning four at the time.  The kids played hard.  They had such a blast with her.  They live in a beautiful area and have wonderful property.

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I am pretty close to my cousins, and I love watching my kids play with my cousins’ kids.  They played all morning Friday and then we went apple picking.

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Mason and I have been dying to go apple picking since our magical pre-school year.  It was everything we hoped for except we couldn’t take as many apples as we wanted.  The night ended with my mom making us drinks.

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Saturday was full of waiting.  Once we got into the city, we scouted areas to sit and wait.  We waited and waited.  But this was where the fun happened.  We met so many people while there.  We exchanged pictures and numbers.  My mom met someone who has a street named after them in Barton Springs.  We talked to a high school teacher who listened to me talk about all my trips with the kids and told me I was doing it right!  I loved hearing that!  We met people who had driven across the country and were sleeping outside.  All to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father.  This holy man who brings so much excitement to Catholics and non Catholics, he brought all of us together.

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And then the Holy Father came by- and wow!  It was just so special.  Sure it was quick, but I will never forget seeing him drive by so close to us.

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Sunday it was just my mom and the kids.  Another day of waiting.  This time though we knew when the Holy Father would be driving by and the time of the mass.  Thank God we left early because we waited at security for over three hours.  And my kids amazed me.  They were so good.  They didn’t complain at all.  We had snacks, books, music and each other.  We made it inside and managed a quick lunch before heading to find a spot to catch the pope before the mass.

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I have to say the mass was so well done.  And listening to the Holy Father speak on family was beautiful.  He’s just so wise.  His words make me think.  I want to be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and person.  I’m such a diehard for social justice so this pope really speaks to me.  The fact that he spoke with that nut job doesn’t phase me.  I want his words to touch everyone.  They aren’t just for people who agree with him.

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I’ve seen another pope twice before and I cherish those memories.  But this trip, sharing the Holy Father with my kids was completely different.  Something about being a parent just changes everything.  I am so grateful we had the chance to take this trip.  I really hope my kids remember that time mom took them out of school to see the Pope.  And Something Rotten.

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I told my FlL that the goal for the trip was not to lose any kids, I didn’t, and not to cuss too much.  Alas, Texas lost in the last minute, maybe 90 seconds of the game.  I had been following on the phone.  Texts came streaming in…and seconds before the Holy Father drove by, I lost it.

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Days of our Lives

By | Posted November 18, 2015

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It’s been one of those long days where I just want some space.  I’m not sure why I feel that way.  I had a hair appointment then went to physical therapy for my hip.  Maybe it’s the lack of answers on my hip that is leading me to the bedroom alone.

I just know the evening felt like it took forever and ever.  We even ate dinner early, a real meal with a protein, vegetables and even a starch.  We usually don’t do starches because my kids don’t eat rice or potatoes.  They would eat bread with butter every evening if I let them, but I won’t.  Tonight I roasted some potatoes because BH and Sunshine have taken a liking.  So a real meal.  Early.  And still I’m exhausted.

I’m mentally just tired.  Today I got an email from Goose’s technology teacher.  Seems he had a project to present today.  He didn’t present.  Why?  Oh, it’s good.  He told his teacher we wouldn’t let him work on his project.  In all honestly, he was told he couldn’t work on his technology homework until everything else was finished.  This was after we caught him playing video games while doing homework.  But just last week, he used that same line with me regarding homework for that class.  I reminded him that he could work on it after he was done with everything else.  I don’t know what he was thinking with this project.  A project!!!  This kid…he’s so smart, but does some really stupid things.  And I don’t do stupid well.

Speaking of stupid…Snax’s second grade class…all three classes have been on silent lunch with assigned seats and no recess for five days so far.  Tomorrow should be the last day.  During recess they walk/run the track.  Supposedly this has been done with the approval of the counselor and principals.  It’s beyond comprehension that they would think this is acceptable for 7 year old kids.  The reason is that the majority of the students aren’t behaving.  Snax has had all E’s in conduct since school started.  Amazing, but true.  I know of another child with the same conduct.  Another with a couple of S’s.  Yet they still have the same punishment.  For what?  Being in second grade?  Snax came home last week complaining about it, but the punishment sounded just so outrageous to me that I didn’t think it was true.  I asked another parent who confirmed with her non-complaining daughter.  The kicker?  The teachers didn’t think that this behavior needed to be brought to anyone’s attention until parents started asking questions.  They ended their letter asking that we all work together on this.  Fuck that.  I told Snax to keep doing what he’s been doing since thus far, he’s making E’s, but that if this ever happened again, he needed to tell me immediately.  That will be the day I bring all the kids donuts during lunch.

After the kids finally crashed, I figured I’d read some of my open tabs on the computer.  I have a really bad habit of opening articles and not reading them.  The one I settled on tonight?

50 memorable moments from Days of Our Lives.

Yes, 50 moments from a show I don’t watch.  Except I know all the characters because way back in college-over 20 years ago- I used to watch DOOL.  Bo and Hope!  The plantation!  Alice!  The Christmas Ornaments.  I was hooked watching these clips.  I was embarrassed to admit it, but guess what?  I could finally relax.

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