7 Quick Takes (take 9)

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Big news of the week – Violet has plumped up nicely in the last six weeks! You may recall in my last update on Violet we were a little concerned about her weight gain (or lack there of), so we stepped up nursing, added a substantial amount of table food & additionally started offering 4-6 oz. of formula per day and the little peanut gained 2 full pounds in 6 weeks!! Looks like we are in the right groove now and we should be able to coast into her 1-year appointment. For the record books, she weighed 17 lbs. 10 oz. at her 10.5 month weigh-in.

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So last week I wrote about teaching the girls Spanish and we’ve been talking about how to do that. JR has always wanted to learn, too, and even talks about getting a Rosetta Stone program for himself. It’s definitely still on my mind as we’ve had workers here fixing up the house. They are listening to Spanish radio stations and talking amongst themselves in Spanish and I’ve been conversing with them about what we want done and how the work is going. Livy is really intrigued by their Spanish and has shown more interest today in repeating Spanish phrases. In case you were wondering, the work on the house entails replacing some siding and trim that has rotted, followed by painting (we’re sticking with the same colors), and a new roof (thanks to the hail storm in March). After this work is complete, we will start talking about landscaping again, but that project got put on hold when we got substantial hail damage to the roof & both vehicles.

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Every time I go out to chat with the workers, I am shocked at how quickly I start sweating and how unbearable it must be to work outdoors everyday. I mean I’m sure they’ve acclimatized to some extent, but this is the hottest July EVER in Texas with 41 days this summer over 100 degrees and many of those closer to 105. Thank God I was pregnant the last two summers, but not this one!

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Last week I mentioned the 5k I did, but JR noted that I neglected to mention my time. It was 36:11 (just over 11 minute miles, which was my goal). Not bad for the first one. I was happy that I met my goal of not stopping to walk. Speaking of exercise, we toured a Lifetime Fitness just up the road last night and they had a 30-day free trial so we decided to give it a go. We were mainly interested in a place to take the family swimming, a place to work out, and perhaps a place to where I could go to get a little leisure time (put the girls in the kidcenter & lounge by the pool or something). We’ll see, it wasn’t everything we were hoping for, but it could be good. Mostly, we were disappointed that there isn’t really anything that our girls are old enough to do except swim and the pool has a sloped entrance, but not gradual enough that our little ones can play without very close supervision (which is hard for one Mama with a baby, a toddler & a preschooler). They also cannot take any floaty things in the pool so I cannot just put Violet in her water walker and have hands for the other two. The indoor rock climbing wall was really cool and JR could probably really get into that. As for me, the group fitness classes seemed a little intimidating, but are probably really effective. We decided we’d go all out for 30 days and then evaluate how much we really got out of it. The biggest hurdle for me will probably be getting comfortable with the kidcenter (and actually leaving Molly & Violet, which I haven’t done yet). My plan is to go during non-peak times so it is not so busy and they will get more attention and everything will be cleaner. They have a pretty nice toddler area where all three of ours can play nicely (the setup is pretty similar to our living room), but the ratio of kids to adults can reach 12:1 which seems awfully high for my aged children. Any tips for making the most of gym childcare?

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We went to Sea World last weekend and it was HOT (see #2 above) and crowded, but the girls loved it. Molly was especially enchanted this time and learned two key phrases that she has been using ever since – “Mama, look!” and “Did you see that?” Pretty darn cute. Everything Molly says lately is awfully cute, though. My favorite word this week is “boobabies” (blueberries). Even made my first batch of blueberry pancakes with fresh blueberries tonight. I thought they were really good. But back to the girls, I have been asking them every night for awhile now to choose the prayer we sing before bed. Livy always picks the Hail Mary. Just this last week, Molly started saying, “R Fodder, Mama!” And she knows what she’s saying and expects to hear her prayer. Of course, I indulge both of them and we have a lovely little chorus going. And Molly singing is 10 times cuter than Molly talking (if that’s possible). She sings the ABCs (doesn’t miss a letter), Twinkle Twinkle, and several others she has heard enough times on her children’s CDs. Livy is really getting quite good at singing. Yesterday she was singing, “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream . . .” all in key, all very pretty. Oh yeah, back to Sea World. The cool thing this year is that if you go once, it’s a season pass so it is like half price this year. Livy’s already planning to spend her birthday there (in December – and it’s fabulous in December), so we figured what the heck. Next time we’ll pack swimsuits for the girls because there is a sprinkler park that they can do in the kids’ section. That would’ve really helped to beat the heat (they are too young for everything in the water park). Oh, and Liv rode her first roller coaster – the Shamu Express!

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I have been reading A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul. There is a lot of good stuff in it. A little overwhelming if you try to do it all at once, but I think little by little we will all be happier if I can get a routine down. This week, my goal was to get comfortable, consistent nap & meal times. Looks like we’re going with naps for Violet at 10 & 2 and Molly at 2 as well. Livy is to the point where she isn’t really sleepy enough to take a nap until 3:30 or 4:00 and by that point if she naps, she won’t fall asleep until 9 or 10 at night. So no more naps for Liv, but I think we will start doing “quiet time” where she sits on the couch reading stories while the babies are napping. We haven’t had overlapping naps for months so it has been heavenly this week to have time to regroup while the babies are BOTH napping! I’m also going to start looking through the on-line resources for the book.

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We are starting to plan a trip to Nebraska in late September. I’ve been thinking about what we kind of fun things we could do with the girls and grandparents, cousins, etc. And that gets me to thinking about weather. Will it be too cool for swimming? Too hot for a full day of fishing? It has been 7 years since we were in Nebraska in September (it was shortly after Sept. 11th for Jane & Drew’s wedding) and despite the fact that we both grew up there and spent 23 Septembers there, I cannot really remember what the weather’s like in September. I have a suspicion that’s because the weather is pretty variable at that point. My friend, Livy, said that one son born in early September needed only onesies and one born in late August needed long sleeved newborn clothes so who knows. For you Huskers, what do you like to do in late September?

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes (take 8)

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After a long hiatus, something tells me this is the week to jump back into

7 Quick Takes . . .

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Today I hosted our bilingual playgroup. I started hanging out with this group when Olivia was around a year and a half old, I think. She was one of the oldest children, so none of them were talking and it didn’t really matter that the other ladies spoke Spanish almost exclusively to their children and I didn’t use hardly any Spanish with Olivia. We’ve attended sporadically since Molly & Violet came along, but have stayed on the rotation for hosting because I do enjoy visiting in Spanish and there are some really fun gals in the group. I have not, however, taught my girls to speak Spanish and today I realized that I am going to have to re-think things a bit. Livy was excited for her amigos to come (she knows which group it is if we use that one Spanish word), but found it disconcerting that the children were talking to her in a language she found completly foreign. As a result, she took extra long to warm up. When she did, everyone had to play in English to accommodate my girls even though it is supposed to be a playdate in Spanish. No one gave us a hard time or anything, but it made me realize that I haven’t really kept up with what I thought I’d do when I joined the group. It’s not that I don’t want to teach the girls Spanish, it’s just that . . . I haven’t gotten around to it. But I see that with Olivia, my window is closing. In two short years, she will likely head off to school and my ability to influence her on language (and all manner of other things, but that’s another post) will start to diminish. So if this is my goal, I better get on it. “Research shows that children need to hear a language at least 30% of their waking hours to become fluent” (source: WebMD magazine – specific research not cited but it sounds about right). Am I up for speaking solely Spanish to the girls for two full days out of the week? Part of me thinks, wow, that’s all it would take? And part of me thinks, holy cow, that’s how much it would take?! Guess it comes down to how much I really want it . . .

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That same WebMD magazine had a little blurb about sexual report cards that I found very interesting after working at The Medical Institute for Sexual Health. Apparently, “the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Internet Sexuality Information Services partnered to launch inSPOT.org, a website designed to prevent and control sexually transmitted diseases and to increase the notification of partners. InSPOT’s email service allows users to send e-cards to sexual partners – and even remain anonymous if they prefer. Every e-card includes links to information about how to get tested.” My first thought was holy cow – can you imagine getting one of their e-cards? What does it start with – “Thinking of You”? What kind of artwork do you put on an e-card like that?? But then I got to thinking, you know, it’s not such a bad idea. Knowing that 1 in 4 people over the age of 16 will be infected with a sexually transmitted infection sometime in their lifetime (with two thirds of those infections occurring before they turn 25); and STIs are highly asymptomatic; and people who do know their status are reluctant to admit such infections; it is probably better for the people who were exposed to get an anonymous e-card than to go on unknowingly infecting others (and missing an opportunity for treatment). When I was leaving MI, the doctors on staff were just finishing up what we called The STD Wizard, which was a 5 minute survey people could take to see if they were at risk of infection. Looks like it’s still running! In case there is any question, there are only two primary methods of prevention – abstinence prior to marriage and fidelity within marriage. Period. This is the only method of prevention that is 100% effective. Condoms are really only effective against HIV and even then only reduce the risk of transmission by 85%, which is a significant reduction, but still leaves a fairly large gap for a deadly disease. For other infections like Chlamydia and Gonohrrea, the risk of transmission can be cut in half, but for something like HPV (the most common STI), there is no evidence of risk reduction with condom use. Go read about What Happened in Uganda to learn about what a country can do when they focus on primary prevention – they are the only country to see dramatic reductions in HIV infection and they did it through abstinence & fidelity.

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About a month ago, I ran a 5k. I am not a runner, but two of my brothers were quite successful at Cross Country and with JR training for the marathon, I figured I’d give running a try. JR knew a great trainer who was running a 12-week program to prepare for a 5k, so I signed up and started meeting weekly with other beginning runners. There was a fairly large group with a lot of diversity. Here’s the biggest lesson I learned about running – you cannot make any predictions about how fast someone is by the way they look. There were several people I sized up ahead of time and thought, oh, I’ll be faster than her, only to be humbled shortly thereafter as older, skinny, younger, larger and every other kind of runner ran past me. JR keeps telling me running is an individual thing – you’re just trying to beat yourself. It wasn’t natural for me, but I’ve come to see the benefits in that way of thinking. And to be honest, I actually enjoyed training for something, challenging myself, meeting a goal, celebrating my success. For several weeks after the race, I was “on a break” from running, but have finally decided it’s time to get back on the horse and took Red for a morning run before JR went to work twice this week. Surprisingly, it still feels pretty good.

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JR & I have been talking about going on a vacation. We haven’t been on a real vacation for a couple years now and since our girls are getting older, it seemed like this would be a great time to get out and do something/go somewhere. Afterall, we won’t have a nursing baby and the girls are so much more mobile. So here’s the dilemma – where do you go on vacation with children who are 3, 2, & 1!! It feels like we have reached this great plateau with all toddlers and there should be some magical vacation perfect for us, but when I google vacationing with young children, all I get is where NOT to vacation with young children! So here we are ready for a big vacation and wondering what we could do that would suit our family. Here are my criteria:

be together
change of scenery
relax
have fun
new experiences

Any ideas? We’ve considered the beach, and the mountains, and the staycation. At this point, the staycation might win out as it is easier on the girls to be in their own environment & there are plenty of cool things we could do in Austin that we never seem to get around to doing. I have to admit that the “change of scenery” was highest on my list of criteria, though!

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I’m on a big oatmeal kick lately. I read at KellyMom that oatmeal can help to increase milk supply, so I figured with Violet’s weight gain issues, I might as well give it a try. Don’t really know if it’s helping, but I am realizing that I love oatmeal. Just the little instant flavored packets – super easy, filling & tastey, too! There are all kinds of other things related to nursing that you can find on KellyMom including basically every answer to the most common nursing question – Is this safe while breastfeeding? I highly recommend it. Thanks, Laura, for directing me there.

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My sister, Rachel, just became a Tupperware dealer (is that how you say it?) Need some tupperware? Go check out her website and order to your heart’s content! I’m excited to host a catalog party soon, so if you want to help me get free tupperware, order through me instead!

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Don’t miss the updates on the girls I wrote over the last couple weeks. Updated photo album coming soon (and I mean it this time!).

Violet

Molly

Olivia

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes (take 7)

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For those who would like a glimpse into the mind of a mother with three girls – 3 & under, I share this story. I got an email from my aunt this morning wishing me a Happy Birthday – I thought excitedly, it’s my birthday? I smiled. Slowly, the questions started forming, but I wasn’t convinced it was not my birthday until I looked at the calendar and saw that there are still 2 weeks to go. The good news is that y’all still have plenty of shopping days left. :)

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This week I learned that dentists (okay, just one dentist) are like car salesmen. I chipped my front tooth biting a fork (not my best moment) and asked my dentist if there was anything he could do about it. At first, he said it was best to leave it alone, but on my next visit he suggested we put some bonding on it. I decided to go ahead and do it when I got a filling on Monday since I would have already met the deductible. After supper on Tuesday night I looked in the mirror and the bonding was gone! So today I went back to the dentist to discuss things. He wasn’t surprised at all that the blasted thing didn’t last 24 hrs. His response was, “I said no guarantees. It’s a high stress area.” Nice. I told him that under no circumstance did I think I was signing up for something that wouldn’t last a day. Based on what he said, I understood that it wouldn’t last forever, but I was expecting a few years. He actually laughed when I said that and said that he knew it was only going to last a few weeks or months! In fact, he said that the first time I bit into something it would fall out! Needless to say, we had a MAJOR communication breakdown!! The good news is that besides the money I’m out (which is not a terrible amount considering what my insurance covered), I’m actually back where I started. I came home frustrated and related it all to JR and complained that my “medical professional” didn’t do what was best for me – that he was just looking for a way to make money. JR’s response, “You never noticed his Viper in the parking lot advertising Invisalign?” Wouldn’t you know it, he did say that my only alternative at this point would be to use Invisalign to pull the tooth down so that it could be sanded off (that or buy two porcelein verneers – either of which would run me $3000 smackeroos)!

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Sometimes reading blogs is really uplifting and sometimes it makes me freak out for my inadequacy. Lately, a lot of women are writing about their Spring Cleaning plans. I am still trying to get my head above water and balance life with the three girls so it seems like I should get a pass on Spring Cleaning this year (not that I’ve ever done as extensive a job as some of the lists I’ve seen lately). The trouble is that my house could really use a good scrubbing. It’s been so neglected in the last year. Maybe I’ll save my birthday money and hire a housecleaner! I got that for a gift before Molly was born from some of my dear friends and that was the best gift ever!!

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So yesterday I took the babies shopping while Liv was at school. It actually went rather well, all things considering. And we stopped for a snack at The Kolache Factory. Yum! While we were sitting enjoying our treats, a group of students (I would guess nursing school or pharmacy school) came in and were having a snack of their own. They proceeded to have a very interesting conversation and I’ll be honest, I listened to the whole thing. Hey, we were in this little kolache shop and I was just standing there eating a kolache with nothing to do but listen. Here are some snippets:

One girl says to another, “Hey, I heard you talking about having a baby with him – you need to check yourself.” (that was what first thing to get my attention, but I didn’t hear the response)

Later, the girl who needed to check herself said of the recent octuplets, “I’d never have 8 babies – I’d do that reduction thing.”

And to my surprise, the first girl said, “You’d systematically whack some of them?”

The first girl then told a story about having worked in a pediatric unit and taking special care of one baby in particular. “He really loved me and only quit crying for me,” she said. “Then he pooped on my arm.”

At that point they started talking about an upcoming exam. There were to be questions about cancer, but not the drugs to treat cancer. Somehow they started talking about people who use drugs. The first girl said “smoking crack should make you infertile. I think I am infertile, or maybe my boyfriend is.”

The girl who hadn’t said anything yet said, “I wish I was infertile.”

The first girl said, “My friend wonders why people on crack can have babies and she can’t. She’s had four miscarriages.”

The girl who was supposed to ‘check herself’ for wanting a baby said,”I’d want a boy and I’d probably get girls. Girls run in my family. My grandmother had 5 children – all girls! My dad had 3 girls. My sister has a girl. I just want a boy.”

As we were leaving, the first girl said of Molly, “Oh, my gosh, what a cute baby – what’s her name? Isn’t she cute?” I’m not sure they noticed Violet was also in the double stroller.

I really couldn’t stop listening. It was fascinating to hear this group of people (probably about my age but not at all in the same space of life) talk about the things that have been the focus of my life in recent years – fertility, babies, and girls, especially. So strange to hear it all rejected in one sense, but still a desire for all of it was there.

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I actually worked out on my elliptical today – woo hoo! The first week of my new fitness regimen, I was able to workout during overlaping naps every other day. Then last week I did not get a day with overlapping naps so after a week of no exercise except my training session I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I’d have to get up at the crack of dawn if I was going to exercise (and let me tell you that for a mother who hasn’t slept through the night in many, many moons, that is not an attractive option). Anyway, today I was able to work out during Molly’s nap. I had to put a movie on for Liv and get off the machine a few times to help Violet do something different, but it did work okay. And a disrupted workout is better than no workout at all. Anyway, I’m hoping that working out will become a regular part of my daily routine and will try to be flexible & creative in order to make that happen. JR helped me brainstorm and we came up with some really good options (including pushing the little two in the double jogger while Liv is at school, doing a class at the NI gym after work, and childproofing the garage so that the little ones can hang out with me for 30 min on the elliptical). How about y’all – what has worked for you? I’m really hoping to be more active for the long haul, not just to lose the baby weight, so I’m hoping to get into some really good habits here.

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In today’s 7 Quick Takes, Jennifer talks about Meetup.com as a potential for forming playgroups, finding an exercise buddy, etc. I looked around to see what they have in Austin. Surprisingly, I didn’t find a group for baby bunching, Catholic at-home mothers with mild to severe amnesia who enjoy discussing politics & religion. I was, however, intrigued by The North Austin Baby Hikers. We might have to check them out sometime.

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Tonight we watched our friends‘ two girls so they could go out to dinner. They are returning the favor in a couple weeks when we leave our big girls with them and go to a wedding. For three hours, we had 5 girls in the house – and Livy was the oldest (at 3)!! It actually went rather well and I was impressed that adding a couple more to the mix really didn’t change things all that much. I do think I will be more sympathetic toward mothers of twins, though (their youngest is 4 months & Violet is 6 months so it was pretty much like twins) because when both babies were hungry, things got a little tense! But all that was quickly forgotten when they showed up with cheesecake when they came for the girls! Yum!

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes (take 6)

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Well, I am officially on my own for the weekend. JR is off on a crazy adventure (the Texas Independence Relay which will take him over 200 miles between Gonzales & Houston in the next two days). We have two birthday parties this weekend for a couple of sweet little friends so that will give us something to do. The girls have been awfully high maintenance this week so I am just hoping we make it to bedtime Sunday without a major incident.

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So a few Facebook fans have been working on me since my last critique. My sister has given me the most food for thought. I was giving her a hard time for not reading our website and told her that if she really loved me, she’d read my website! She retorted “if you really loved me, you’d be on Facebook.” Touche. And the next time she talked to me on the phone, she said she’d been to the website and gotten caught up! So with JR gone this morning I logged into his Facebook account and looked at my siblings’ pictures. My sister also has a Picasa album so I had seen most of hers, but my brother doesn’t and I realized I was missing pictures of my sweet little niece. I also went through all 400 of my littlest brother’s photos. That kid is a nut – but always surrounded by pretty girls! So yeah, while I prefer blogs (see a nice explanation here – the comment by Melanie B. provided more food for thought), I accept that not everyone is doing that and Facebook might be a way for me to get to know my siblings better. It’s already been almost 8 years since I moved to TX – a lot can happen in that time – especially if you were only 12 back then like my littlest brother!! Crazy thing is that my parents both have Facebook pages, too, and lots of cousins and a smattering of aunts & uncles. And extended family is something I really do miss being down in TX. I’m not saying I’m ready to sign up, and I certainly couldn’t spare the internet time during Lent, but maybe someday.

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My tag line in emails for the last year has been “we’re just busy with babies.” It’s still true, but Livy is 3 and it’s not as descriptive to call her a baby anymore so I’m thinking of a new tag line involving “my bunch”. I’ve got a site in my RSS reader about ‘baby bunching‘ (having children within two years of each other). Somehow a friend of mine has a friend who is a friend of one of the writers’ friends or something. Anyway, it’s kind of a fun site where people get what it’s like to have this bunch of babies all close in age (though most of their bunches have just two and they are closer to 2 years apart than one – I’m what one might call an extreme buncher!).

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Jen talked about how many people are shocked that she would consider having more children (she has 4 now) in her 7 Quick Takes. Not only is her number getting up there, but she has bunched them much like me. I bet she gets a lot of looks! I get comments like that, too, and last week at Costco, one lady just stopped dead in her tracks, stared at us and muttered, “WOW!” When I walked away she was still staring with her jaw dropped. More than anything, though, people ask if they are all girls, and I usually get comments to the effect of “Oh, poor Dad!” or “Were you disappointed?” People are actually quite shocked when they discover that we don’t consider Violet a missed opportunity to have a boy. While I’m sure boys are wonderful, we’re quite happy with our bunch of girls and haven’t felt disappointed in the least. I hope that people will mature by the time Violet is old enough to understand their questions and not burden her with such ridiculous ideas. And for those who ask if we’re afraid to “try again”, like Livy says – we do still have one more seat in the van and we wouldn’t mind a bit if there was one more princess to sit in it!

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I’m already behind on my homework, but I started a program through the gym at National Instruments called Eating Healthy Every Day. There are five main goals:

  1. Eat more fruits & vegetables.
  2. Eat more whole grains.
  3. Eat more dairy products.
  4. Decrease Fats.
  5. Balance Calories

I like that 3 of the 5 start with “Eat more . . .” :) That’s probably why I have issues with the last two, huh?

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Lent has been interesting this year with Livy old enough to start some good discussions. Topics of interest include: heaven, crosses, Jesus, sacrifice, love, dying, etc. Usually, the conversation goes pretty smoothely, but sometimes I get hung up a bit trying to explain these mysteries to a 3-year-old. As we were driving in the van yesterday, I told Livy that Jesus died on Good Friday to save us from our sins and help us get to heaven. Her response “well that was nice.” Yes, it was. How did he die she wanted to know. On the cross I told her. And how did he get on the cross she asked. He was condemned to death by people that didn’t like him. Her response, “well that wasn’t very nice.” No, it wasn’t. But on Easter Sunday, he rose from the dead and went to heaven I said. Now we can go there with him. Her response “when are we going?” Not until we die I said. And then here’s where it gets interesting. Last week Livy said, “Look, Mom!” I turned to see her with a plastic grocery bag pulled tight over her head! I rushed over and pulled it off and without really thinking about it told her not to ever do that again because she could die because she wouldn’t be able to breathe. So yesterday after I say that we won’t go to heaven until we die Livy says, “I know how to die, Mama, I’ll put the plastic bag over my head. Then I will go to heaven and play with Jesus.” Yikes!! That is NOT what I had in mind. So I said that we cannot die for a long, long time, and God will decide when it is time for us to go to heaven. It is our job to be good little girls and not do anything dangerous like put plastic bags on our heads! Yikes!! I have hidden all the plastic bags.

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We had a landscaper come by the house this week to talk about a fairly major backyard makeover. It was really exciting. When we bought this house (almost 7 years ago) we fell in love with the trees in the backyard and the almost complete shade coverage they provide. However, we don’t spend a lot of time out there because we haven’t been able to get grass to grow (even after JR laid all new sod). We also have drainage issues that need to be addressed and are in desperate need of a new fence. On top of the necessities, we are considering a plan that would include a nice grassy play area for the girls (with a sprinkler system to keep it alive), a picnic area, a little prayer corner with a statue of St. Francis and plants that attract butterflies, perhaps a dry creek bed to give the girls a place to explore and maybe a raised garden bed to grow some fruits & veggies . . . the options are endless. We want something low maintenance with native plants that is super durable. Have any of you done anything great with your backyard? Anything you think is just beautiful or super functional? Let us know!

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes (take 5)

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We had family in town last weekend! JR’s cousin Tricia & her beautiful daughter Clara from CO were visiting a friend a little over an hour north of us in Killeen. We jumped at the chance to take a drive in the country and see one of our favorite Andrews cousins. The girls were fast friends and we enjoyed hamburgers & Cokes & the warm hospitality of Tricia’s friend Amber and her sweet kiddos. It was great to see y’all – come back soon!

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The girls & I played outside for a good while this afternoon. We finally decided to go in because it was getting awfully hot. This was especially evident when viewing Molly’s sweaty little head. The curls were dripping with sweat. Molly might have a long summer – it was only 80 today!

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While folding clothes this afternoon I tried to catch up on some old episodes of Lost (I’m still 2 weeks behind, though). In one flashback, Sawyer saw Claire giving birth to Aaron on the island. Kate was there to assist. I found the scene quite humorous. Here’s what I’d like the Lost writers to know about natural labor. When you don’t have any pain medication during labor, you do not need someone to coach you to push. Kate’s counting “1, 2, 3″ and yelling “push, push, push” were completely unnecessary. If Claire had really been laboring naturally, she would’ve told Kate to shut it! The whole point of natural childbirth is that the woman’s body naturally progresses through labor (making it easier on mother & child) and there is only need for support (not direction). I suppose the Lost writers shouldn’t feel so bad for their ignorance – even hospital staff on a labor & delivery floor feel the need to coach a woman through labor. The only coach I’ve ever needed or wanted was JR and he has always done a fantastic job of providing emotional support, assistance with movement & communicating with hospital staff. He really does a good job running interference.

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I got my HS alumni newsletter in the mail last week. There was an article about the tuition having reached $1,000 per child per year (there was only a book fee when I attended – I think it was around $250). A new Catholic HS is opening in north Austin where the tuition will be $8,000 per child per year! Another reason to move ‘home’ . . .

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I met for the first time with a personal trainer this week. It is part of a 14-week program I started at NI’s gym that has a physical fitness portion & a healthy eating portion. It was really cool to work out with a trainer who could give me encouragement, tips & answer questions. I was inspired to try to reach his goal of working out for 30 min three times in the next week (he suggested we start with a day of rest between workouts since we are coming from a point of not having worked out for awhile). So this morning during the babies’ morning nap, I actually went out and spent 30 minutes on the elliptical in the garage. It worked amazingly well and felt GREAT! I’m excited to make it a regular gig.

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We went to an informational session at the local REI last night on family camping. It was fun to get out and there were some useful packing lists and stuff, but we realized that we are a bit unusual when it comes to camping. We tend toward the primitive and we have 3 kids under 3 and we take them with us! We’re weird, we know, but we have so much fun!! Read here and here and here to see what I mean!

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Last Sunday I went to an informational session on the Catechisis of the Good Shepherd at our parish. I am so excited for Livy to participate in this program next year! It is Montessori-based religious education for preschoolers. They introduce the children to the Bible & the Liturgy in such creative & inspiring ways. My favorite was the miniature altar complete with a tiny chalice & paten – adorable! I think this program will be right up Livy’s alley, too. “The Atrium is a prepared environment set aside for the children to worship God. It is characterized by soft lighting, candles, quiet voices, freedom of movement, meditative work, and careful handling of materials.” The child who walks around the house singing Kum Ba Yah will feel right at home!

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes (take 4)

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I’m thinking I could really use a beer “Friday”. This is something JR enjoys as one of the perks of working in a Fortune 100 Best Company to Work For (and they’ve made the list for the last ten years, no less). Yes, every Friday around 4:30pm JR decides whether or not to attend “beer Friday” where he &  a bunch of his coworkers sit in one of their common spaces and share a beer before heading home for the weekend. I’m glad he has the opportunity to unwind with his buddies after a long week’s work. I think I’d enjoy something similar, although my “coworkers” don’t seem like the type to handle that sort of thing responsibly.

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I love dictionary.com. I like to think I have a fairly good vocabulary and I enjoy using precise & descriptive words. However, I sometimes think I have an understanding of a word only to learn that I am actually a bit off – usually because JR is laughing out loud or looking at me completely puzzled. So I love looking up what I think a word means (especially when blogging) to make sure I am saying the right thing. It has saved me more than once from an embarrassing misuse. And I swear that my word confusion (and for some reason, especially phrase confusion) is even worse after studying abroad for a year. Completely changing my language for a significant amount of time (10 months) seemed to rattle things pretty good and still 10 years later (yes this year it is 10 years since I was in Uruguay – wow!) it is not all resettled!

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I know I said that I love Carters brand children’s clothing, but I have discovered that I do not love this year’s line of polyester pajamas! They are so soft & smooth in the store, but get them home and wash them a few times and they are not soft at all and sorta slimey, too. Yuck.

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I am very grateful for my Catholic education (K-12) in a small country Catholic school. However, not everything was perfect and some things were downright odd. For example, I studied the same social studies textbook for two years in a row (covering South America – imagine that!). Our classes were small enough that there were two classes in the same room. So in 5th grade, I had a first-time teacher who decided she would teach all of us from the 6th grade Social Studies textbook (South America). When I was in 6th grade, my super cool young teacher had moved on and we had an old, crabby teacher who had always taught the 6th grade textbook and was not going to teach the 5th grade textbook (United States). So we did the 6th grade book again. Looking back, I can’t believe that was acceptable to anyone, but that’s the way it went and I never learned the US states & capitols, but did end up studying for a year in college in South America. Weird, huh?

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Does it seem like this is a quicker read than the last 3 takes? I’m working on it, but I am such a natural rambler (just ask my parents or my husband), that it does take work to make QUICK takes!

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So Lent is just around the corner and I’m trying to get my plan in place for prayer, fasting & almsgiving. I am trying to turn a new leaf and have my ducks in a row BEFORE Ash Wednesday this year. I think I’ve got a pretty good plan and wanted to share the almsgiving portion with you. I got the idea from my friend Sharon. She has been making goody bags for the homeless for quite some time. She keeps them in her car and when she sees a panhandler (which we have a lot of in Austin), she passes out a goody bag. Her daughter, Therese, is especially devoted to this good work. They inspired me to give a little extra during Lent (and hopefully, we’ll keep it up all year round, just like they do).

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Tonight I had one of those humbling moments where you realize how foolish you were to pity yourself. JR & I took the girls on our Friday night date – pizza & shopping at Costco! While shopping, we came across a woman who had three little boys just like my girls. We got to talking and sure enough, her boys were each within a couple months of our girls. I suggested we exchange emails and meet at the park sometime. Well, turns out they live in Killeen . . . near Fort Hood . . . because her husband is on a 15-month tour in Iraq. Wow. My sorta rough week seemed pretty pathetic all of a sudden. As we continued our shopping, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sandy and her boys. By that point, JR had gotten a second cart for the groceries (the first was full of girls) and I was calling off items from the list so that he could collect them. I knew Sandy was shopping on her own with the boys and when she got home, she would bathe them and put them to bed on her own and when she got up, she would feed them breakfast and start her Saturday on her own. God bless her! And God bless all the military wives (and husbands) who give so much. And, of course, God bless her dear husband & bring him home safely to Sandy & those boys.

I want to add that I read a very inspiring post about not comparing our crosses this week and while I think there is a ton of wisdom there, I also think that from time to time we need a little sobering up to realize that while we may be struggling with something, we are so richly blessed in so many ways. I expect I’ll be thinking of Sandy and her boys often in the coming months, and I’m glad for that because it will remind me to pray for them and thank my husband for all he does for us.

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes (take 3)

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I’ve had a roller coaster of a week, emotionally speaking, and decided on Wednesday that what I really needed was to sit in the presence of God for a bit (sounds nice, doesn’t it?). So I proceeded to the Adoration Chapel at St. Helen’s in Georgetown with all 3 girls. I’ll admit I didn’t think it all through prior to departure, but looking back, that is probably a good thing as I probably would not have even attempted it if I had actually thought it all through! The thing is that Adoration Chapels are SILENT places of worship and my girls are almost never SILENT (especially not all at the same time)! Well, we arrived at the chapel (thanks to my friend Jennifer’s on the road directions since I also neglected to print msyelf a map prior to leaving the house) and entered to find only one other person quietly praying. It was a grandpa figure who smiled warmly at us as we entered. I picked up a rosary for each of us from the table of prayer materials and the girls quietly played with their rosaries for about two decades. At that point, Violet wanted out of her carseat, Molly wanted out of the sling & Livy wanted to walk around! With a good deal of bouncing, reminders to be quiet & chasing of the toddlers, I managed to wrap up my rosary in record time. By that point, two grandmas had entered and were also smiling sweetly at the girls. It wasn’t exactly the oasis I was hoping for, but it was good to be there and good for the girls to be there, too. I believe there are graces flowing where the Holy Eucharist is present and I, for one, fail to take advantage of the opportunity all too often. I was also encouraged by the smiling support of the older folks who had come to pray – there were no stern glances or sighs of disgust – it was just the opposite. All around, I consider it a success (though I hope to get back sometime on my own for more in-depth soul searching).

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On that same trip, we stopped at two Hallmark stores to look for a Baby’s First Christmas Ornament for Violet. Yes, I am a little behind (okay A LOT behind), but I am definitely one of those better late than never people and I figure that Violet has no idea whether she had her ornament on Christmas day or not (I’ll have to delete this post before she can read, I guess). Well, I was quite proud of myself for having all three girls in two Hallmark stores without an incident and then it happened. As we were buying our ornaments at the second store, I heard a crash behind me and turned to Livy who immediately said “It was an accident!” She had been admiring a Precious Moments figurine and it toppled over and the head broke off. I turned it over – $45!!! Whew – not really in my budget right now, especially knowing that it would surely never survive since it had already broken before even purchasing it. I took it to the counter and explained that my daughter had broken it. I asked what their policy was and said I was willing to purchase it if need be. The manager said that wouldn’t be necessary – what a kind soul! We had a good talk on the way home about not touching things in the store, being especially careful with fragile things, staying close to Mama, and admitting it when we make a mistake. We also talked about how nice it was of the store manager to forgive us and not make us buy the statue. What a “teachable moment”!

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Is it just me or are JR’s posts so much more entertaining than mine? I thought at first that it was because he had better subject matter (camping, for example), but then I really enjoyed the technology one he posted last night. I have always thought it was quite impressive that he has this incredibly gifted left-brain/analytical/logical side of him, but he is also incredibly creative (how many kids did both science fairs & playacting). I guess it is that combination that makes him a natural engineer. And lo & behold, I found this definition in Wikipedia which states that “Some consider this profession (engineering) to be the link between art and science.” There you have it. I am married to a renaissance man (he didn’t make the official list yet, but he is only 30, give him a few more years)!

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I don’t have a Facebook account. It’s just not me – I mean, it all seems so superficial. I don’t mean that as harshly as it sounds – I just mean that you don’t really know people if you read their status updates and see their pictures. JR has an account and has befriended a good number of my friends (some current and some from way back when) and so from time to time, I look through their pages and I am always left wanting – in many cases, more than before I even saw their pages. I really want to know the story behind it all – who are those folks in the pictures, what does it mean that so-and-so is “wishing today were over” – what happened? I guess I’m saying I’d rather have the whole story than just a headline. And especially with regard to “long lost friends” from high school or beyond, I’d be curious what kind of person they are today, but don’t really need to know that some random classmate is dying to see the next episode of Lost. And I just have to add my two other complaints while I’m at it – what does it mean to have 800 ‘friends’? You can’t possibly have a relationship with that many people nor be interested in what these 800 people have to say to all of their friends (since you get notice every time they write on someone’s wall as I understand it). And additionally, why is all of that communication public – I mean if I have something to say to my friend, why do my 799 other friends have to eavesdrop? Anybody with me, here?

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So the fitness center at National Instruments has started this program called Healthy Eating Every Day with an exercise component. It is a 14-week program with the goal of nutritional and physical fitness education. There is a weekly meeting on nutrition (including a textbook!) and a weekly workout with a personal trainer. It is only $35 and you don’t have to join the gym! So I signed up. I figured it would help me lose the last 20 lbs of baby weight (yeah, that much still to go and 30 lbs already gone!) and give me a better foundation for understanding what makes us healthy so that I would be a better role model for my family. They had a pre-assessment last week where they measured height, weight, etc. and then did screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol (they will repeat all the tests after the 14-week program). I was surprised to learn that my “good” cholesterol was low. The nurse suggested I google “raise my ‘good’ cholesterol” and start adding some new foods to my diet (she mentioned salmon & flax seed). So apparently, this little program is actually going to require that I change some of my behaviors – yikes!

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Liv had some funny stuff to say after preschool yesterday:

I’m a good eater.

She must have said this 20 times yesterday afternoon. Her teacher told me that she ate more pizza at the Valentine’s Day party than any other kid – 3 pieces!

Brittany & Blair are the same . . . except different.

Brittany & Blair are twins. She also has twin boys in her class of 10!

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Didn’t JR do a super job sprucing up the website? I am especially fond of my new Shared Items box to the right. I’m sure you’re dying to know what I was reading last October, so feel free to click the “Read More” link and scroll through the history of my shared items. I will fully admit, however, that for the longest time, JR was the only one reading my shared items so I would just put personal notes to him in the notes section (I know, I know, that was a completely inappropriate way to use this technology) so some of it comes across really random. Now that I have “people” reading my shared items, I will try to be more professional!

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes Friday (take 2)

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Sorry for leaving you hanging last Friday. I was going on an all day retreat on Saturday and spent Friday getting the house & the girls ready for a fun day with Dad. They all did great together – JR took the girls to the library & the park, they all 3 took good naps (Olivia, Molly & Dad) and had a ball together! Violet & I faired well at the retreat, too. It was called Trinitarian Faith Renewal and focused on our relationship with each person of the Blessed Trinity. The first person addressed was God the Father, drawing heavily from the story of the prodigal son. I have heard many reflections on this powerful story before, but got a better understanding of the older brother from the retreat leader. It had always kind of bothered me that even though the older son had been a loyal, devoted son, he was never celebrated like the younger son. Our retreat leader said that the reason the father had never “killed the fatted calf” for the older son was that the older son had equal ownership of the family’s property. There was no need for the older son to be offered the fatted calf – it was his for the taking. I had never thought about it like that before. The next portion of the retreat focused on Jesus’ life, death & resurrection and it was a good refresher, though I admit that most of my understanding of God comes from the New Testament revelations about Jesus. The last portion was the most thought-provoking for me. The retreat leader said that it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to make Jesus our Lord. In other words, it is the Spirit that brings the gifts necessary to live a good Christian life (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord). It occurred to me that it is my relationship with the Holy Spirit that is most in need of improvement and I’ve decided to focus myself there for the time being. This will surely help me to develop the fruits of the Spirit I have been seeking (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity).

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I have often wondered how I would answer the question when it presents itself – “Mama, where do babies come from?”

I loved how Danielle Bean explained to her two-year-old how he was created:

That day, when I told Daniel that God made him, saw that he was good, and placed him inside of me to grow, his brown eyes glowed. When I told him that he stretched and moved and grew until at last he was big enough to come out of the darkness and meet us, he beamed. When I described what a joy it was for us to see him, kiss him, and hold him at last, he wriggled with delight.

Every child likes to know how he began. And he especially likes to know that his beginnings were rooted in love.

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So this week it is typical Texas warm again, but last week, my goodness was it chilly! Not once, but twice in the same week, I had to bundle up my babies and head out in the bitter cold to take Olivia to preschool and pick her up. And once, I even had to scrape ice off the windshield! The horror!! It occurred to me that as much as I miss four seasons, as much as I long for cold winter days during our unending summer, I have to be honest – winter must be an awful chore. Seriously, having a bunch of babies that need to be bundled in coats, hats, gloves, boots, etc. every stinking time I need to go somewhere would probably be more than I could handle. So here’s my hat tip to all you northerners – wow, I really don’t know how you do it!!

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I must say, I found this little bit of on-line reading fascinating:

Reboot Your Brain with a Caffeine Nap

I intend to give it a try following this post (since I have foolishly spent nearly the entire time the girls have been unusually simultaneously napping writing this silly post)!

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There is a new meme that started over at Faith & Family Live called Small Successes. I admit I’m tempted to participate, if for no other reason than to remind myself each week that I am making some forward progress (even if my To Do list never gets any shorter). For this week I would have put:

1. Got Livy a really good book about going to the dentist that set her up for success (though, I would have to add that it was Daddy who actually took her back to sit in the dentist’s chair and built up her enthusiasm to the point that she happily participated in a full dental cleaning and exam – way to go Daddy!). Oh, and by the way, no cavities (for Liv & Daddy, that is, can’t say the same for myself)!

2. Maintained a fairly orderly email Inbox for the past week (and started the daunting task of sorting through 200 unread emails I’d collected over the past year).

3. Actually spent time enjoying the children for a bit of time each day instead of worrying about how much was not getting done during that hour.

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Since I’ve been writing more, it has occurred to me exactly how real this blogging thing should be. And just so y’all know, I’ve decided that while I want it to be real, I also want it to be positive. It won’t do me any good to wallow in my misery on-line and it won’t do you any good to read about it. So that’s that. The blog is a place to gather treasured memories, pictures & stories – a place to remind myself of our blessings – a happy place. Okay, group hug!

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JR set me up with my own shared items box on the right-side column (thanks, dear). So if you just can’t get enough and are dying to know the most interesting things I’ve read on the web lately, go check it out. There is a really good one in there from Jennifer at Conversion Diary on taking your kids to Church – a must read for young families. Here’s one statistic that I copied & pasted and then forgot to note the source, but trust me, it was a good one so I’ll share anyway!

Exercising for only 30 min a day, 3 times a day reduces the risk of natural death by 55%!

Isn’t that amazing? I’ve got to get myself moving more . . .


Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Have a wonderful weekend!!

7 Quick Takes Friday (take 1)

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1. Yesterday and today have been unseasonably warm, even for Central Texas. Yes, we’ve reached highs of 78 or better. You northerners may be green with envy, but consider this – if it is 80 in January, what will July or August look like? Oh, Lord have mercy!

2. Molly has learned how to say “yes” and it is like having our own personal Magic 8 Ball (remember those?). So far our 8 Ball has the following responses:

  • “yesh” (uttered in hushed tones with a bashful head tilted)
  • “no” (sometimes screamed, sometimes stated matter-of-factly)
  • “yeah” (said in a rather uninterested manner, usually without even looking at you)
  • “UH-UH” (rudely grunted in a very disgusted, angry tone)

3. Here are some really good articles I’ve read recently that I think a lot of you mothers (and fathers) of young children would appreciate:

Pre-school Learning Plans – Homeschooling Series Part 1 (these are really good tips for any mother of preschoolers, not just homeschoolers)

Every Single Stinkin’ Thing I Ever Learned About Potty Training

4.  With three girls in the span of 3 years, I have the benefit of using and re-using (and re-using) their clothing. The hand-me-downs have worked really well so far, with the exception of some minor variations in the seasons. What this means, however, is that I must be on top of my game when it comes to stain removal, organization and storage. I’ve learned a few things along the way – like store shoes separate from clothing in your attic as some shoes will melt in the TX heat! I consider it quite a victory that Violet will be wearing most of Olivia’s clothes, which means I’ve only purchased slightly more than one girls’ wardrobe so far. At some point, it is possible that two of the three will share the same size for awhile or something, but it sure is nice to know when I buy something that it will get a lot of use. That also means that I like to buy clothing that will withstand many wearings and washings and still look good. My favorite clothing brand is Carter’s and I like to go straight to the source – the Carter’s store (basically an outlet). I sincerely recommend checking to see if they have one in your area (unfortunately their on-line shopping is seriously limited). The prices can’t be beat for their clothing (keep in mind that the exact same items are sold at department stores; Carter’s also has a  line that they sell at discount stores like Target & Wal-mart, but in my experience, these clothes are of a little lesser quality – I’d say they’d last through 2 kids as opposed to 3 like the ones directly from Carter’s). Also, please note that Carter’s sizes run large, and especially pants run long.  Livy is wearing some 5T shirts, but still looks just fine in a pair of 3T capris (worn as long pants)! But don’t get me started on the randomness of children’s clothing sizes!! I got quite confused with the last round of Livy’s clothing purchases – she is some mixture of 4T/5T/4/5! The clothes I bought for our trip to NE this year all ended up too big, but I think we’ve got it figured out now and I guess she’ll just wear those clothes to NE again next year. Who needs long sleeves with weather like this anyway!

5. One of the most beautiful things in my life is watching Olivia play sweetly with her younger sisters. This morning, she laid on the floor with Violet telling her stories, teaching her to hold a rattle, and saying “God bless you” when she sneezed. She was so gentle & sweet. Yesterday, she took the time to teach Molly to do a puzzle we got from Grandma Kane for Christmas. It makes the animal sound when you get the piece in the right spot. “What’s this Molly? It’s a horse. Can you find the place where the horse goes? Right here, Molly. Good job, Molly, you did it! Great!” she said. These are the times when I think I must be doing something right!

6. If you read my Daybook, you saw that we started tracking points in Weight Watchers again. I really think it’s a good idea to do this on a regular basis because every single time I realize how terrible I am at guessing what’s going to make me gain weight. This week’s worst guess was sour cream – what was I thinking loading up my enchilada with that stuff? And nuts may be nutritional, but they are no weight loss food – 1/4 cup of pistachios was as many points as a meal replacement shake! I guess that’s why people calculate points BEFORE they eat things . . .

7. When we received two containers of Bubble Tape from Grandma Andrews for Christmas, I was not so pleased. What just-turned-3-year-old & not-even-one-and-a-half-year-old need 6 feet of bubble gum apiece?? We managed to get it home without anyone noticing it, but in the last round of unpacking, Livy came across it and wanted to open it. Since it is a present from Grandma, I decided to let her have the equivalent of a normal stick of gum. She, of course, loved it. And realized there was a lot more where that came from!

Before I get to the punchline, the other half of this story is that we went to a parenting seminar before Christmas where they suggested that a young child receive a daily chart with 8 spaces. The first 3 spaces are free spaces and the next six name a privilege that can be lost for misbehaving. Each time the child misbehaves, a square on the chart is marked out and whatever privilege is inside the square is lost for the rest of the day (they start fresh every morning). Livy has been pushing the limits a lot lately and we have started using some of this thinking in her discipline (in fact, I think I’ll print out some charts after posting this).

So here’s the punchline – thank you, Grandma, for giving us a very effective privilege that can be lost. The mere threat of losing the precious Bubble Tape is usually enough to make Livy do (or not do) whatever we’ve asked. And thankfully, at this point, she is so ecstatic to carry it around and talk about its many wonderful qualities (“isn’t it fancy, Molly?”) that she hardly even asks to consume any!

Update: Molly, on the other hand, is not fooled in the slightest by the fanciness of the Bubble Tape and much prefers to eat it over carry it around. Yikes! It can’t really take 7 years to digest, can it??

Hope you enjoyed my 7 Quick Takes – be sure to visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for links to more 7 Quick Takes Friday! Have a wonderful weekend!!