Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent: When Plans Change

(Facebook cover: image source)

Advent... a time to prepare, a time to look ahead, to start anew... the perfect time to make plans.

And then God laughs.

Makes me wonder why I even put plans to paper.

Then, I think of Mary and Joseph. I'm sure they had nice plans to settle in quietly at home, awaiting Jesus' birth. But no... Caesar jumbled up their plans big time, and they found themselves traveling.

Did they complain? By Biblical accounts, no, but being human, I find it hard to imagine there wasn't a grumble or two along the way, or at the very least, a long, heavy sigh of weariness. Traveling is hard. Traveling while pregnant is even harder. Traveling on foot and by donkey while pregnant? Forget it.

All my plans are just that... plans. While it is nice (and sometimes even fun) to make plans, the most important aspect is the end goal. The goal isn't achieved because you make a plan and stick to it. You achieve the goal by adapting and adjusting, by continually having faith that you'll reach that goal, by doing the best you can right where you are at in this moment of life.

I wish I could say I was as mindful of that during these past few weeks as I am today.

I love Advent. I love sharing it with my children. Yet, Advent is also one of the darkest spiritual times of the year for me. I have so much to be thankful for - and I truly am thankful - but to live in a faith-divided home is so very difficult, especially around Christmas.

I know for many that this time brings grief and longing, a spiritual emptiness, and even physical sufferings.

But Christmas is a time for miracles as well.

Give me faith to believe in miracles, faith to heal the hurting, faith to share in God's love, faith to live my life in a way pleasing to God, despite those around me.

O Mother of our Advent, be with us and see to it that he will remain with us in this difficult Advent of the struggles for truth and hope, for justice and peace: He, alone, Emmanuel.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent Preparations

And so Advent begins, as do our preparations.

The Advent Wreath... Mr. D helped cut greens to make our wreath. Our dining room smells wonderful. I bought pillars last year. I was tired of ordering and replacing tapers.

A Storybook Advent... I usually wrap up books for each day of the Advent and Christmas season, but this year, I decided to turn our homeschool upside down with a little seasonal fun based on the books. The books line our dining room walls. I plan on blogging about this.

The boys are really into puzzles and such at the moment so I ordered these Advent "guides" for them from Pflaum Publishing.

Other to-do's today... Start the Jesse Tree, our Advent Wreath song, our van's bumper "sticker" to go on, and lights to go in our front windows -- to remind us of the light of Christ.

You can see all our past Advent plans here.

And now, let us put our minds and our hearts in the proper place for this season.

Dear Lord,

When I become harried
and impatient,
when I think I have too much to do
and not enough time,
when I feel burdened
by obligations,
activities and
please, Lord,
give me the grace to remember,
always to remember,
that my obligations,
activities and busy-ness,
spring from
an abundance of blessings,
enormous, ineffable blessings,
help me to see my busy days
and busy ways
as the privilege and the gift
that they are.

Help me to remember, pray for,
and tangibly support
those who are not "burdened"
by too much to eat,
too much to bake,
too much to decorate,
too many books to read.

Help me, Lord, to see the Advent of Your birth
as a time to remember all of these things,
to drop to my knees and thank You,
always to thank You,
for so much undeserved Love.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: Live Fit Mama

A little over a month ago I stepped on the scale... and that was it. I needed to do something. I needed a change. I was feeling yucky and flabby with no energy.

Within days, a Facebook post came across my timeline. Another mom had participated in a Live Fit Mama challenge and wanted to share her love of the program.

I checked out the website, and decided to take a risk and try it (it started the next day!). It was only 30 days, cost $20, and included "live" help and accountability.

And you know what? It was a success.

You know this is pretty embarrassing for me to post up, but it's real results. Not amazing results, but real ones. I was mostly consistent with the exercises, drank water, and started to mess with my diet toward the end. Considering that I was doing NOTHING before, I am happy to feel firmer and more energetic now.

Really, my #1 goal was exercise consistency. I had no expectations of losing weight, and truthfully, I didn't. However, I did lose an inch and a half in my waist and an inch in my hips and a bit in my thighs! More importantly, I feel stronger, and excepting a few days at the beginning of the challenge, I have done all the exercises. I am happy with the results and look forward to doing another challenge, which will take place after the holidays.

Until then, I will continue with exercising, adjusting my diet, and remembering this thought:

The first month you feel the difference. The second month you see the difference. The third month others see the difference.

And I did figure out a few things... my best exercise time is NOT first thing in the morning but during our mid-morning school break. My afternoon slumps are nearly gone (on a "normal" tired day)!

...water, water, water! This is so important to me in keeping appetite at bay and keeping up energy. I like water and I found it hard on really busy days to drink enough. I struggled with a daily goal so this last week I decided to have a weekly goal and it made a huge difference. Drinking from a bigger cup with a straw helped as well.

...I had to take a rest on a few days, but on other days where I felt kind of headachy and somewhat tired on waking, I found that the exercise banished the would-be headache and energized me. (On those few days where I was really wiped out, I rested or if I attempted exercise, it was slower and while it made me feel a bit better, it wasn't as amazing a cure-all as the other days.)

...I feel really good a month out, and am excited to keep doing it. That alone says it all.

Ok, so how does Live Fit Mama work anyway?

After signing up, you take before pictures and measurements. Then, once a week an email is sent to you with five days' worth of exercises. You submit three goals for the week and plan for the week. My goals had to do with exercise, water intake, and diet. Through the week you do the exercises and post to the Facebook group once you are done each day. You can also post to help with motivation or other questions.

On the weekend, extra "power plays" are sent to you as an optional bonus exercise. At the end of the week, you submit your goal results (i.e., my goal was to exercise 5 times = I exercised 6 times!!!). Each week a winner is chosen to receive a prize based on effort and weekly goals met.

You repeat this for four weeks. At the end of the challenge you submit your review (if desired) and monthly results (before/after pics if desired or changes in measurement or weight or whatever else you care to share).

So, here are my pros and cons of Live Fit Mama:

  • The exercises are usually around 22 minutes (sometimes a little more).
  • Accountability -- I posted daily in the Facebook group when I had finished my workout (or didn't, as a few days attested to).
  • $20/month is cheap.
  • The exercises themselves were simple to do -- challenging, yes, but all you needed was your body and occasionally small hand weights. I went a little easier on the squats to ease my knees into it. Thankfully, there were very few lunges, which my knees hate.
  • I liked the strength/cardio blend of the exercises.
  • The others in my group were mostly moms (some homeschoolers) like myself -- busy with life, kids, school, and everyday tasks.
  • The ladies who run it are real moms with multiple kids. They get it.
  • If you're pregnant, you can still do it. They have an exercise regime for pregnant ladies. 
  • Communication is still being worked out, I think. The program is run by moms and naturally everyone runs into a snag now and then. No big deal for me but something to be aware of.
  • Another communication note -- some messages were sent through email and some through Facebook. Again, not much of an issue, but when only one post can be pinned, I had a hard time finding certain exercises. I would have liked to have seen that all in one email to keep it accessible or on a "secret" page through the website to access easily.
  • The exercise videos... I followed well enough, but after some moves there wasn't much time to get into place for the next move (due to rough editing of the clip). Also, it seemed as if the count was off sometimes. Again, it was a basic amateur clip so I was ok with it, but considering it was filmed a year or two ago, I think that this could be redone.
Overall, a really good experience!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thankful Thursday: trick-or-treat and more

This week has been so busy! Yet, I hope I am never too busy to give thanks to God.

Before I do, say a little prayer for this sweet kitty? I know it's a small, silly thing, but it's big to Mr. A (and the other kids) and my mom. Gigi was outside playing with her sister, Mimi. When my mom went to bring them in, Gigi was missing! These two kittens are never apart. Mimi is very sad, searching for her every time she goes outside, and she won't let my mom out of sight.

It's been two days now, and it doesn't look good. But miracles happen every day.

I am THANKFUL trick-or-treating is over, and that the costumes were made in time. I am THANKFUL the yellow pants came on time!!! It was definitely a close call.

And I love how Mr. D's tails turned out. So cute!

I am THANKFUL we weren't as cold as I thought we would be. After all, it kept spitting snow off and on all day. I had the kids out of coats for pictures but we definitely bundled up.

I am THANKFUL for celebrations with family.

And for cousin loving. (Mr. A is very good with little kids. His cousins love him.)

I love all their poses.

I am THANKFUL that our cat is doing well. He's been pretty stressed between a stray cat showing up, the kittens visiting, and the dog moving in for a few days. 

And yes, my cat (his name is Sirius) is a bit of a fancy cat at times. He will not drink from anything other than a cup so I have to give him his own cup so he leaves ours alone. Crazy cat.

I am THANKFUL for sleeping little ones.

I am THANKFUL that LiveFitMama seems to work well for me. I am on week 4 and keeping with it! (Review next week.) Miss L likes to join in on the exercises - sometimes doing the moves but mostly being my timer and checking off each set.

I am THANKFUL for this eager learner. This month, we are reading Goodnight Moon, and doing related activities as well as learning about saints and how we can be good helpers. Here she is hanging mittens to dry by the "fire." The older kids want to do her activities more than their own.

And oh my goodness, she is just growing too fast. All of them are. I am THANKFUL for these gifts from God.

And for pudding faces. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday Morning Reflections (22): accomplishment

Yes, I did it. I blogged for 31 days after deciding on a whim when Ana Maria mentioned the challenge on Facebook. And you know what? I'm glad I did it! 

I do plan to blog more, especially the "themed" days like Thankful Thursday or Saturday Morning Reflections, to help keep me more regular around blogland.

Blogging every day did take a big chunk of time most mornings so having a bit more free time will be nice to catch up on other blogs as well as some school and liturgical planning. (It's November!!! Advent is soon!)

So this week...

School Time... We are all getting back on track. We have to if we want to finish quarter two in time for Christmas break. The kids moaned a bit (I did a little inside too), but the week turned out fairly well. Miss Z was left hanging a bit as I played catchup with the other three. Thankfully, she was ok with just playing and doing her workbook for "school." Really, she just colors in things, scribbles ("writes") and draws lines from one thing to another. Just so you all know, I am a homeschooling mom who believes later is better. Miss Z is undoing all that.

This week is more of the same, but we have our fun co-op on Friday. I am a little stumped for what to do with my chemistry class. We had an epic slime fail last time, but the kids still had fun. I was thinking of making these glow in the dark bouncy balls. What do you think?


Outside My Window... It is cold and dark. The wind is blowing, most of the leaves are down, and it was even spitting snow/rain through the night. I am glad to be snuggled inside with slippers and a glowing computer screen. ;)


...for a personal intention -- to have peace about something I cannot control.

...for a husband and father who is very sick (and peace and comfort for his wife and children).

...for all those unnamed souls in Purgatory.


Health News... It is all good this week! Ok, a little tougher breathing on some days, thank you people burning stuff in the fall, but really, a good week. For once, I surpassed my exercise goals for LiveFitMama. I am very excited about that. I love that the exercise is 20-30 minutes of intensity and then I am done. I will definitely post a review on this experience after next week.

My November goal for only three weeks is to eat very cleanly (Paleoish), no sugar or obvious high-carb foods (though I am eating some squash and sweet potato occasionally). It is going to be tough but...


Today... Is trick-or-treating for the kids. It is going to be COLD. Ah well. Maybe that means it won't last as long. I have some last minute costume work first though. I am also prepping some meals for this month. My worst days eating are those where "I don't feel like cooking." Yep, still working on that discipline but I do find it tied closely in with how I am feeling physically (I can get very antsy days before a bad migraine or feel extremely "blahish" due to hormones or even for days of more pain where it's hard to motivate myself in the kitchen.) So hopefully it will help.

This Week... Really, just more of the same old, same old. There is election day and homeschool co-op. And of course All Saints today and All Souls tomorrow. I am so bummed about having no All Saints Mass. It is one of my favorite Masses of the year. We'll listen and pray along with Litany of the Saints at the very least. I have a few games we can pull out, but I will see how the day goes. Tomorrow, I do plan on stopping at the cemetery after Mass with the kids to pray.

A Final Thought...

It's all about the baby steps forward.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Inspiration (4)

This post is the final post of my 31 day blogging challenge!

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Thankful Thursday: Fall 2

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Giving thanks to God in everything.

I am thankful for these lasting fall days, so soon to change into winter. I am thankful for heat and warm food.

I am thankful for easy fall crafts. The girls did this one. Cut a tree trunk out of brown construction paper and glue to a white sheet of paper. Using fall paint colors and wine corks, paint the "leaves" on.

I am thankful for fall fun times. Raking the never-ending leaves is so much more fun with a ride at the end.

I am so thankful when these two get together to play and spend time together. They enjoyed each other so much on this day they wanted to have a sleepover.

Which meant this child was in my room for a bit. I'm thankful that he doesn't hesitate to still snuggle up. (But he has such a hard time going to sleep. Ideas?)

I am thankful for imagination and games. The boys came up with their version of Pictionary. I like their categories.

P = person, place, or animal
D = difficult
T = transformers
C = cooking

I am thankful for crafty, inspirational days (October has been full of them). My mom let the girls help paint her wooden carved flowers. Miss L is ready to be a little helper. I used to help my own grandma with things like this so it's such a nice sight to see.

Gosh, these kittens. Nothing gets done around them. But I love to see Mr. A's sweetness around them (the others too). I am thankful for the love of all God's creatures.

Even this one. I am thankful at least one of my children really loves the outdoors.

I am thankful my first attempt at a quilt towel turned out fairly decent. The lines aren't the most straight but I think it lends to the charm. This towel makes me happy when I see it hanging up. Now, to make more!!!

I am thankful for sunshine. Every sunny day I glimpse the rays of the sun coming into our fireplace room. It's so beautiful.

I am thankful for silly dance parties.

And this sweet, sweet girl (mostly, she is 2.5 after all):

I am thankful for fun and educational field trips. This was The National Museum of the Great Lakes. It was rather a smaller museum but it was filled with information - more than one can grasp at first - as well as a tour of an actual ship. Pretty neat.

I am thankful for easy and fun science experiments. We are studying bats and learned how a bat's large ears help it hear better.

I am thankful for fun hands-on school. We (finally!) wrapped up Medieval Times with a feast. It was far from authentic, but it was full of fun. The kids loved it. 

Miss L wants to know when we are going to have another feast.

Again, I am thankful for the sunshine. Hopefully the winter is not too cloudy. I took this shot on the way home from the dentist. (I had to fix a small crack on a molar.) I wish this picture showed what I saw. The glow and rays of the sun mixed with the brightness of the remaining trees and flowers was breath taking.

And I am thankful I have one more day to this 31 day blogging challenge. Really and truly I have enjoyed it. I questioned blogging at the beginning of the month, and these past 30 days have shown me that it is something that needs to continue. For now anyway.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Look to the Saints

So I did not put up a post yesterday. Instead, I spent some much needed time with my husband, who has put in a crazy number of work hours (for his "real" job and for a side project) since the 4th of July.

Sometimes, we need to know when to say, "No." More often, we need to know when to say, "Yes."

Last night at CCD, I had the kids playing games for All Saints and All Souls day to learn more about the saints as well as Church tradition and teaching. The night went really well. One thought kept popping into my head: saying "yes" to God.

For some, I think it is all too easy to think of the saints as "other" and not as real people, with real difficulties, and to feel as if they could never, ever be a saint as holy or patience or helpful as a particular saint was.

Mostly, I believe this comes from a young faith, and from not studying the saints. It was certainly a feeling I shared when I first joined the Church. I did not understand who the saints were or how they could be so very useful in our own path to holiness.

But we are all called to be saints. As our own Pope Francis said:

"To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone."

All of us are on the path - or not - to sainthood. We can look to the saints, not to copy their life, but for guidance in how to pursue our own path, our own conversion. We should help each other to achieve sainthood.

When you read of the saints, you hear their "YES!" to God. Sometimes it is a very quiet, almost reluctant yes, but you hear it nonetheless.

It took many years for St. Augustine to convert, but when he did, watch out!

St. Martin only wanted to live a monastic life, but ended up as Bishop of Tours.

Blessed Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, initially wanted to pursue religious life, but ended up married with nine children (5 to survive to adulthood, all girls, all who entered religious life).

St. Paul the Apostle actively persecuted Christians until his conversion. Imagine if he had said no?

All the saints were human. All had their struggles, their own paths to holiness. So do we all. We must keep our eyes focused on God, keep putting one step in front of the other. Here are two articles that may help you along your path:

And remember:

This post is part of my 31 day blogging challenge:

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