Life. Love. Family. Our Perfect Imperfection. Living life as a Catholic, homeschooling family with three amazing, unique boys, a too-oft serious, frustrated and anxious but also loving momma, and a fun-loving, hardworking dad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

365 Happy Days Growing and 365 Growing Kindness

With both Thanksgiving and the start of Advent fast approaching, Christmas and 2015 are right around the corner. That's got me thinking about what I'm thankful for. What I've achieved this year.

Earlier in the year, I participated in a challenge known as 100 Happy Days. I really enjoyed taking a picture each day, stepping back and finding something - anything - that put a smile on my face or brightened up the day. Sometimes it was something as small as cup of coffee, other times as big as one of my boys or my husband.

Time to turn that challenge up a notch. Starting Sunday November 30th (because it's the start of the Liturgical year for Catholics and the first day of Advent), I will be doing "365 happy days". I'm titling it 365 Happy Days Growing. Each day I'll share on Instagram and Facebook. Once a week, I'll write up a little post with the previous 7 days' photos. If you want to join in, either on IG or FB, just share with #365HappyDaysGrowing. Don't forget to tag me in the picture on Instagram too!

I'm also planning to do a family challenge: a year of random of acts of kindness called "365 Growing Kindness" in honor of the blog and also in hopes it will, quite literally, GROW. Just a small act for others each day, by one or all of us. Follow #365growingkindness.

Does anybody know how to make a cool picture with an explanation that I can put on IG? Something like the photo-a-day lists people make to share with others?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Staying busy

This weekend went very fast. Friday evening, while Jack-Jack and I took Ethan to Choi, Jason and Alex attended a Cub Scout/Boy Scout activity at a local fire station. They worked on the Readyman activity badge and learned about first aid techniques including the Heimlich maneuver! I was surprised with what Alex was able to tell me when they got home. He's excited by all of the activity badges they've been working on lately, and we are looking forward to some coming up in the next few months.

His den leader is also the Popcorn Kernel, and was able to give almost all of his popcorn order to us the same night. Alex is very proud of himself, as he not only met but exceeded his goal, selling over $1000 of popcorn. He and I spent part of yesterday trying to deliver the product and collect the rest of the money. I say "try" because many people weren't home. We went to about half of the homes we needed to deliver to, and only a handful of them were there. Thankfully all but one of those had cash, and the one check written to me is for a very small amount. This Saturday (if not before) we plan to deliver the rest in our neighborhood, and today we are delivering to 4 school employees as well as 3 instructors at Choi.

The older boys each had Catechism class on Saturday. Alex's is in the morning and this week it was "Family Advent Workshop". I figured with the word family in the title it would be a fun-filled learning experience for the whole family - well, the 3 boys and I at least. Not so much. While there was some learning, and there were a couple of fun hands-on activities, it was really just planned for the students themselves to do the activities with help from a parent. Personally, I would have called it "Parent and Student Advent Workshop". I wouldn't have dragged E and Little J along. Jack was being a typical preschooler, getting bored, wanting to do everything, talking loudly, etc. E learned a little but for the most part was bored. Next time, it will be just Alex and I or Jason.

Ethan had his confirmation class in the afternoon, and they are required to stay for Mass, and usually youth group. After dropping him off, I had a couple things to return to the store before picking Alex up to attend Mass with E. By the time we made it back to the church, we had about 10 minutes till the start of Mass. We saw Ethan standing up and singing with a little girl by the couple who run the music ministry and the piano. He saw me, finished the song, and came out into the entrance area to have a quick snack and let me know he was singing during Mass!! I knew they were going to be having the Confirmation students take on different roles in Mass, from music to altar servers and other needed areas, and it was nice to see E was chosen or volunteered. Throughout Mass, I could hear him singing the hymns loud and clear.

New shoes were needed for both Ethan and Alex, as they outgrew (and Alex managed to destroy, in 4 months...) their old shoes. After finding them each a new pair yesterday, we decided to go to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner. I ordered something different - chicken chimichangas - and OH MY GOODNESS, were they so delicious!

We got home fairly early and the boys wanted to play Minecraft, and for the first time in a while, they actually played survival mode. I liked watching how they cooperated and were trading items. I learned a few things, and Jason and I both noticed how much they do get from this game, compared to so many others out there. After all three boys were in bed for the night, I decided to go read in the bedroom for a bit while Jason watched football. Nearly an hour later, I realized it had gotten very quiet (as in no TV noise), so I went to check on him. I thought for sure he'd fallen asleep or something. Nope. He was sitting there playing Minecraft in creative mode. I just laughed. He looked up and said "What?!" Nothing, nothing at all. Just kind of neat to see him playing it, without the boys even. I love that it's become a way for them all to bond, too.

A few other things: Ethan and Alex are still loving Choi, taking 3 classes a week. We bought a few private lessons (1 free each and 2 additional per), and they are taking their second this week. I noticed a huge difference after their first one last Thursday. They stayed for the 5pm family class, and normally E would have been getting upset over perceived mistakes, and Alex would have let his form slip. Both were on point and doing their absolute personal best!

They both know their highest pattern and yellow belt speed drill, and are possibly testing this coming Saturday for their GOLD belts!! Not quite 4 months in and they are just about ready for their second belt test! That's amazing. They are not the same kids, especially E, that started there all those months ago. Both of them have really blossomed, and are really more self-confident.

I asked them a couple of days ago to practice some push-ups for me, and they just said "ok, how many?" and busted out 10 like it was nothing. And I mean, pretty great push-ups! 4 months ago, heck, ONE month ago, you would have been hard-pressed to get them to do one without getting upset. They impressed me. They also practiced both their patterns and speed drills in each stance.

Ethan has been more communicative lately at home, expressing himself, asking more questions. Things like "I don't understand why anyone would WANT to go outside when it's cold out." He's been more clear on his opinion and how he feels when certain things happen, or why he doesn't like such and such. I've also caught him saying hi to other students that I've never met, and USING THEIR NAME! He's always had the tendency to not remember names, or just say hi after being prompted. But lately, he catches that they are talking to him, and responds appropriately or even initiates it. Another boy from school attends our church, and we saw him Saturday, and Ethan and I stood talking with him for a few minutes before Mass. He was looking forward to hanging out with E at youth group, which unfortunately got cancelled. Luckily they have class together and seem to have quite a bit in common. The other boy also attended the summer social skills camp Ethan did, and so I suspect he's on the spectrum as well. I like that because they have even more in common and "get" each other. E even asked me about emailing the young man a couple of weeks ago, and at the time I wasn't sure who he was talking about.

This week we have Choi classes on Mon, Tues and Friday, as well as private lessons on Thursday. Alex's pack meeting is on Wednesday with a flag retirement ceremony. Saturday, if they are ready, is belt testing. We signed up to help sort and distribute Thanksgiving food boxes at our parish on Sunday evening from 4-7. We decided on that before knowing that E was required to help either at that on Sunday or Monday or at the Christmas giving tree gift sorting/distribution in 3 weeks, for his Confirmation Christian Service hours. I'm glad we had already signed up, and that he wanted to before he knew he had to. He chose to give his time to help others. And now it's still going for his service hours :) We may try to sign up for the giving tree sorting too, but it's on Mon/Tue/Wed which are all usually super-busy. It's already been decided that we are each taking a tag to buy an item though.

In two weeks, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we are attending Mass to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance with Ethan for his Confirmation. I remember mine, 9 years ago (Alex was just a baby at the time!) and my sponsors, fellow RCIA candidates and I when to the Basilica in Washington, DC. It was absolutely beautiful there. I've always wanted to go back and attend Mass as a Catholic Christian, but never made it before we moved from Maryland.

Last year, Alex wanted to sign up to light the Advent Wreath before Mass one weekend as a family, and we didn't. I've already signed us up this year, for December 7th. I'm hoping to dig out our personal Advent wreath and light our candles at home each Sunday as well. It's just a matter of finding it and the candles.

I'm taking this moment to remind myself that while we are busy, and this is the busy season of life - when kids are young, in school and activities, learning about life - it doesn't have to wear us down. WE have to be the ones that make the busy-ness of it enjoyable and fulfilling. While that's not always easy, and I've been failing miserably at that lately by complaining, it's a good goal to reach towards. Today is a new day, and even though we will be tired at bedtime, we will have enjoyed our time, and done something productive. At the end of it all, we will have a delicious home-cooked meal, and nice, warm beds to sleep in. So no complaining about being busy, it's a life we choose, Crystal. Enjoy it. Watch them grow, and learn, and live. Get out there and grow, learn and live with them. It's your life, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Plug your nose?

Not sure where to start. I don't know if I should be grateful or embarrassed. Or a combination of the two?

Yesterday, we had 2 extra little boys at the house, since we were going to cub scouts, and I offered to take both of them with us. I thought they could just come over and play for a while before and have dinner with us. The visit went great. The 4 older boys (ages 9-12) played together, and included little J for the most part. That's not what I'm "concerned" with.

It was the comments made upon first entering the house.

Guest 1: It smells weird in here.

Guest 2: Yeah, it does. It takes a while to get used to it, too.

Umm. What does that mean? I mean that in a totally innocent way, not accusing or irritated, just curious their meaning?

I said something to Jason, and he told me that everybody's house has a different smell. Then he proceeds to tell me that our towels, even the clean ones, have a sort-of musty smell. REALLY??? After nearly 14 years, you are JUST NOW TELLING ME THIS?!?

You see, I have a very off sense of smell. There are many things I can't smell at all, and some things very faintly. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. Jason doesn't really believe me I don't think, because sometimes I can smell when the toddler has pooped and other times I can't. Usually I can smell it when I'm actually changing him and it's a particularly putrid smelling mess. I can smell gasoline on things, but not cigarette smoke unless I give Jason a kiss and catch a whiff on his shirt, but not every time. I can smell certain foods really well, others not so much. I think that's why I like garlic and onions because they are very pungent.

So that means, I can't smell things around the house if there is an odor. If the bathroom or kitchen drain has a musty smell, or the towels smell off - even when clean. Our house could be the stinkiest house in the world, and I might never be aware of it!

Our house isn't spick and span from floor to ceiling but it's fairly well-kept. Some times it's messier than others. I also have no idea if our dog smells bad, as dogs tend to do (so I've been told...)

I'm tempted to have a friend come over and smell my house, and tell me if it smells weird, and if it's a good/neutral weird or a bad/stinky weird, and where the smell may be coming from!! As silly as that may seem. Now I'm paranoid that I'm living in a very smelly house...

Jason tells me it's probably nothing. But he also didn't tell me about the towels...

Yeah, I'm embarrassed. And grateful. Because now I know. My house smells weird and takes getting used too.