Siblings Abroad: My wild European Adventure

I have been sort-of persona non here-a this summer, sorry about that!  But I have a lot to share!  I DID take my Mommy trip (sans family but avec my littlest brother) to Europe at the beginning of August.  And it. Was. Fabulous.  I plan to write a more detailed set of posts all about it soon, but here are a few highlights:

DUBLIN, IRELAND

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This is me and my brother outside the gates of the Guinness Brewery (or, as I like to think of it,  “Disneyland for ale-drinkers”)

THE HARBOR AT COBH, IRELAND

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Most likely, if you have Irish ancestry, your forbears left from this port.

COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND

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It was a dreary, wet, rainy day but Ireland was still magnificent.

LONDON, ENGLAND

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but when we heard Big Ben chime the hour it was one of the last times it would chime for the next couple of years!  They are going to be doing extensive repairs on it through 2019 and the bell (which is the actual “Big Ben”, not the clock) will be out of commission.  It was lovely to hear!

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON

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I love these Tudor windowpanes!  This is at Shakespeare’s Schoolroom/ former town Guildhall.

WARWICK CASTLE

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I’ve been slightly obsessed with Warwick Castle and “Warwick the Kingmaker” since I saw the Starz miniseries The White Queen.  Both my brother and I really thought seeing this fabulously maintained and imposing historical structure a highlight of our trip!

PARIS, FRANCE

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This was my second trip to Paris and it is still my favorite city in the whole world!  A lot has changed since 1999, but Paris still had all of its old charm in abundance.  Je t’aime, Paris!

THE LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE

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Chateaux country!!!  I think I may retire here…there are so many chateaux to choose from, and a dilapidated one probably wouldn’t cost too much, right?  One of my favorite things about the Loire Valley are the gorgeous gardens and flowers everywhere.  (This is the Chateau du Langeais, isn’t it delightful?)

NORMANDY

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The World War II sites at Utah and Omaha Beaches were poignant reminders that we owe so much to those brave young men (and women) who gave their lives to stop Hitler.

BELLEAU-WOOD, FRANCE

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This World War I battle site and village were of special interest to my brother and me for two reasons: our great-uncle fought here and was permanently blinded by German mustard-gas; and US Marine Corps history was made here when those men held the line and kept the enemy from advancing toward Paris.  My brother (a former Marine) was honored to see where the men who came before him fought so bravely.

More soon!!

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{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash: Vol.13

Good day to you!  I am sitting at a local coffeeshop – by myself (doesn’t that sound scandalous?) – and I am happy to get my 7QTs in today!  See more at Kelly’s!

ONE

Hubby got back from a business trip yesterday.  I was really happy to get him back.  So were the kids.  He was only gone 5 days, but it was a LOOOONNNNNGGGG 5 days.  (See below Quick Take)

TWO

Stomach bugs while (temporarily) single parenting suck.  Stomach bugs while single parenting especially suck when they only hit said temporarily single parent while the children being parented are their own boisterous, exuberant, curious, and healthy selves.  I am glad that I was not having to parent sick kids while being sick myself, but….still.  I’m a complainer.  Edit: Bellie came home from school sick today….so….this might be the beginning of a fun weekend.  At least Hubby is home!

THREE

Six months to EUROPE!!!!!!!  I am feeling like everything is falling into place and can barely contain my excitement.  I need to work on the guilt feelings, though.  I mean, I can hardly sneak off to a coffee shop by myself on a Friday morning for an hour leaving Hubby with the two little ones without feeling like a complete worthless human being who is shirking her family responsibilities!  I will have to explore this idea more in future posts.

FOUR

Loving Victoria on Masterpiece.  I do think Jenna Coleman is a bit too pretty to play the illustrious queen, but oh well.  I am slightly obsessed with the Victorian Era, so the costumes and the hairstyles are completely thrilling to me.  Plus I think Victoria (who interestingly enough, was against women’s suffrage) was one of the most influential and fascinating women in the history of our modern world.

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Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria at her coronation.  (Courtesy pbs.org)

FIVE

My mom is doing better.  She came through her surgery (to repair her leg) just fine, and is currently on the mend.  Talking to her on the phone nowadays she seems to be back to her old self.  It will still be weeks before she is permitted to put weight on her leg, but she seems to be wheeling herself around her house just fine, and other than being confined to the ground floor of her home, is doing well.  I have taken the suggestion to call her often – and I have been touching base with her via text daily, calling every other day.  If nothing else, I hope that this whole experience has convinced her that her children really do care about her.  We were all forced to break out of our mental business to actually reach out and make an effort to keep in touch.

SIX

I’ve got a dear friend who is going through a divorce.

There has been a group of us who have been friends for a long time.  We did a Bible study about Catholic Apologetics several years back together; it was so enlightening and educational for us, plus it brought us closer together as friends.  It definitely ranks as one of the best experiences I’ve had, and I have always felt that those of us who participated share a special bond.

Our families have hung out often, our husbands have gone out for beers together and helped each other with home improvement projects.  Each year we go to Bear Lake, Utah camping as a group and traditionally spent Super Bowl Sunday together.  Our kids are all friends.

Over Christmas, one of the couples split up under tense circumstances.  We are friends with both of them.  We like and respect both of them and want what is best for their kids, and their family as a whole.    But my friends and I are having a hard time wishing them a DIVORCE.  Especially in light of Catholic teaching, which we studied together in detail all those years ago.  We are not privy to all the information about the circumstances of their separation, of course.  There seem to be some seemingly insurmountable obstacles for them to stay together.  But….still……ugh.

It’s a sad situation all around.  We have tried to be supportive of our friend without bashing her husband.  We have been praying for them.  A lot.  And I truly believe that God has a plan for their family.

Still, anyone have any words of wisdom about supporting a friend (couple?) who is going through a divorce?  What are our duties as Christian/ Catholic friends?  Friends who believe in and confess the sanctity of marriage, especially when both parties in a divorce proceeding are convinced there is no hope for their marriage?  I am struggling here!

SEVEN

Well, as I type this, I can’t avoid the obvious:  my cuticles are a horror.  Winter wreaks havoc on my hands!  The air is so dry here in Idaho that dry skin is a matter of fact, but in winter it takes it up a notch!  My poor kids have inherited my problem; Bellie’s hands are dry and red ALL WINTER LONG unless she remembers to always always wear gloves when she goes outside (which doesn’t usually happen).   All of my kids seem to suffer from excema (particularly on their cheeks) during the winter.  My solution: Eucerin is my friend.  I buy an industrial size of the tub at the beginning of the winter.

 

 

I hope all of you are keeping warm and protecting your skin this winter!  Have a delightful weekend!

{7 Quick Takes} Weekly Mismash, Vol. 9

A day late on these, but better late than never, right?

Linking up with Kelly et al again…

{ONE}

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Helping me clean the bathroom before Grandma & Grandpa get here.

My in-laws are here.  This is always a little bit tough for me.  I am just so used to my own routine, my own way of doing things and it is challenging to have visitors who come in and “move my cheese” so to speak.  They are good people and they love my kids.  And since my father is no longer around and my mom doesn’t isn’t super-involved with the whole grandmother thing, I appreciate that my children have the regular opportunity to get to know their paternal grandparents.  We live so far away from family that we are not able to see our relatives very often.  I really need to focus on the good, rewarding things about their visit and downplay the frustrations.  Nevertheless, it is hard!

{TWO}

School starts here in a little over a week.  I will have a fourth and first-grader this year.  Where does the time go?  I feel like my summer went way too fast, but we actually did A LOT this vacation.  Of course I always intent to accomplish more – like work inch by inch throughout my storage room decluttering.  Ha, with a curious toddler and boisterous older kids…like that is a realistic goal!

{THREE}

I am going to attempt to do home school preschool for Spike this year.  He could technically go to real-live-preschool because he is three but….*he is not potty trained*.  That, and I have a strong aversion to driving the 1 hour round-trip to a brick and mortar preschool twice a week.  So I am going to see what I can do at home.  I am excited but worried that I will lose my motivation right away.  I attempted the same with piano lessons for my older two and never went more than two weeks!

{FOUR}

And while we’re talking about piano lessons, I should mention I am going to try to jump on the homeschool piano lesson bandwagon again.  I figure if I confess this here, you all might keep me accountable to actually setting a time and sticking to it.  I’ll let you know how both teaching endeavors go.

{FIVE}

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Love. This. Mystery.  Broadchurch starring David Tennant is my new favorite Netflix show.  It is a BBC drama-mystery (surprise surprise…I love me some British television) but I just think it is so well-done.  I finished watching the second season and I think both the acting and the writing are superb.  Obviously the content is somewhat disturbing (especially for me, as a mother) in dealing with the murder of a teenage boy, but the complex emotions and relationships between a community are presented so realistically and grittily that I truly was gripped.

{SIX}

Visiting the set of Antiques Roadshow Salt Lake last weekend was fun but we waited in line a long time.  I went to the actual event with Bellie.  I’ll admit, there weren’t many kids there (and, hey, there weren’t many in the under 50 crowd either!) but she did really well.  My great-grandmother’s pocket watch turned out to actually be worth less than I thought it would be, but the appraiser was super-nice and made a point of telling Bellie how lucky she was that one day if she was very lucky, this priceless family treasure (that, monetarily wasn’t worth very much but who cares?)would someday be hers.  I thought it was cute that he involved her in the appraisal.  But no, we did not get selected to appear on camera.  Unless they decide we are cool enough to feature in the “Feedback Booth” section at the end.  Will keep you posted on that one!

{SEVEN}

My baby girl said her first real sentence last week!  She’s barely 19 months old, so I figure that’s pretty OK.  Her big brother fell asleep in the car and she said, “He is seepy”.  Which, aside from the fact she needs to work a little on her enunciation, I believe counts!  I am just loving this age.  She can repeat most of the words we say, although Grandma and Grandpa haven’t been in the same room when she’s said their names.  Both sound kind-of like “Gumpa”…

HAVE a GREAT week!

{7QuickTakes}Weekly mishmash, Vol. 6: School’s out for the summer edition

Today is Day One of summer vacation in this house.  So far, so good….but it is only 7 am.  While I listen to the sweet silence of my children getting along for the last few minutes before all hell breaks loose for the following three months, you can read along and hear about what we’ve been up to lately.  (Stop at Kelly‘s for more cool happenin’s)

ONE

As we walked through the garden the other day and I attempted to weed, Bellie and her little brother were inspecting their plots.  Noticing that a few areas had teeny tiny sprouts growing, Bellie said, “Be careful, Spike!  Don’t touch them!”  Spike paused thoughtfully, then said, “Right.  Because we don’t want them to grow back down.”  It made me think of the Wizard-of-Oz when the Wicked Witch of the East got crushed underneath Dorothy’s house; her striped legs rolling back up under it like a party horn.  Definitely hope that doesn’t happen to our vegetables!  The kids do like to “see” with their hands.

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 dusty, dusty garden patch

TWO

Bellie was making a card for her friend’s birthday party and wanted to know how to spell said-friend’s name.  “P-A-I-G-E” I said.  “What?” she said, incredulously, “I don’t think so.  Isn’t it  ‘P-I-G? [she says, trying to sound it out] ‘”  Now, she is a newly graduated kindergartner and I generally encourage her to use “kindergarten spelling” where she sounds out words and comes up with the spelling herself, but I think on this occasion I will just spell that one for her!

THREE

Little Evvie is getting to be quite the explorer.  Running off during school programs, deciding she’s had enough at church and marching down the aisle.  Making friends of other similarly-aged babies and deciding to join their families at library story time.  Also the bathroom and kitchen drawer spelunking.  I have been trying to avoid putting those annoying child locks on the drawers but I think I might just have to pretty soon.  Especially after every single one of my feminine products found their way on to the floor of the living room and Spike is joining in the fun by adhering them to my bookshelf and asking if “these things are airplanes because they have wings”.

FOUR

They just cut the alfalfa field behind our house.  Mmmmm…one of my favorite smells.  I love how everything is so green around here right now – we just got done with several weeks of unseasonable rain and it has made our normally-desert dry neck-of-the-woods a verdant paradise!  At least for a little while longer.  Since we have moved some of our trees to the opposite side of our yard and put up a bird feeder, we have seen so many more birds in our yard and I love it!  We showed the kids a robin’s nest in one of our pine trees and I always forget how brilliant blue the eggs are.  I love early summer.

 

FIVE

I am trying to come up with a system for Kid Media Time this summer.  Ugh.  I hate hate hate hate hate having to deal with this.  I would be content if our tv and computer just broke (well, not my computer, I need some sort of lifeline to the real world!) and the kids would be content to just be kicked outside and play in the dirt all day.  And I guess a Media Moratorium is a possibility for the whole summer, but I fear a mutiny and occasionally rain and 2nd-degree sunburns necessitate a day or so indoors.  Being “SOOOOOOOOOOO bored”.  My issue is that I find difficulty policing the actual time spent on media.  The computer isn’t a big deal.  Junior gets an hour/day based following completion of household chores.  It’s the TV.  Because the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines say “Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content” I am trying to only allow another hour or two for television/tablets.  My kids obviously do not like the same TV shows, being vastly different ages.  So what happens when Paw Patrol is on for Spike, but Junior is in the same room passively watching it?  Do I count this against Junior’s Media Time?  Does each kid get his/her own quota for time?  Or do I just say TV can be watched from 8-10 am and each person gets to pick a show?  What happens if we watch a movie in the evening as a family?  I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on this; particularly what worked or didn’t. 

SIX

As my shoulder saga continues, I think we may have made a discovery:  I HAVE BAD POSTURE.  After holding babies (incorrectly, I wager) for nine years and lugging around car-seats and other miscellaneous child-rearing paraphernalia akin to a pack animal, my normal posture resembles that of a hunchback.  I have to constantly remind myself to sit up straight, shoulders back.  My chiropractor recently tried using this kinesiology tape on my shoulder, mainly to remind me to keep my posture healthy and it has made a difference!  So going forward we will see if this makes a lasting impact.

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It’s a good look for summer.

 

SEVEN

Hubby and I are set to celebrate anniversary number 12 on Sunday and I am so excited for the gift I am going to present to him!  Twelve years of marriage is traditionally celebrated with linen or silk apparently but what the heck do you get a guy that’s either of those things?  I thought silk boxers but they sound somewhat impractical and hand-wash only.  So I got him this gorgeous handmade fly box for when he fly fishes.  It is customized with his favorite run and the “river” is inlaid with turquoise.  I really love it, I hope he does too!  Thanks Mike at Snake River Nets for the fabulous box!

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Ta ta for now, have a great weekend!

{7QuickTakes} Belated weekly mishmash, Vol.5

My kids are watching The Good Dinosaur while I attempt to get something actual contributed to this blog!!  I haven’t abandoned it.  But y’all – May. Is. Crazy.  And I only have two in school.  But the programs, and the field trips, and the catching-up-on-everything-academic-because-the-school-year-is-almost-done-ing.  Plus, the kids are all antsy to be foot-loose and fancy-free and have all this pent-up “school’s out for the summer” anticipation and it is making me batty.  But…..I am sure I am not alone on this one.  Check out more moms (and dads!) who are probably going through this exact same thing at Kelly’s bloggin’ linkup.

ONE.

Hubby is back on shift work after a blessed hiatus.  The overnights are the worst.  The days (14 hours gone from home) are pretty bad also.  It is, for me, like being a single parent the days he is working.  He basically comes home, eats, and goes to bed.  Trying to focus on the positives…like, he does have a job.  This is a big plus.  And also, he does get to have 4 days off after his 4 days of work.  Which is nice, so we can do things together, like have a conversation.

TWO.

Two of my brothers came for a visit this week.  It is always nice to see family, particularly when we live so far away.  My youngest brother is moving back to the Midwest after his Active Duty stint in the military and my oldest younger (got it?) brother flew out to help him move back.  We are located conveniently half-way from California.  My kids get such a thrill seeing their uncles [aunts too]when they come visit.  Plus it helps that my brothers are really, really great with kids.  (PSA: Youngest brother is single, ladies – he will make a great dad someday!!!)

THREE.

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Current drama streaming obsession: PBS’s Poldark. (Find it on Amazon or DVD) What a great costume drama!  What a great love story!  What fabulous scenery!

mv5botq3nzm1mzq0ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjazntqxode-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_ Current comedy streaming obsession: Fox’s The Last Man on Earth.  (We watch it on Hulu).  I absolutely love the character of Carol (Kristen Schaal).  I think she is my favorite part of the whole show…Will Forte is good, too, but I love Carol.

FOUR.

We were at the local indoor-kids’ play gym (thanks to torrential rain and a Hubby sleeping off his night shift) yesterday and Evvie completely ‘imprinted’ on this other mom who was there with her twin boys.  It was somewhat amusing for me, because baby Evs can be pretty choosy about people she goes so far as to smile at.  But this fellow mom must have been magical to her, because she kept toddling around after her and her sons and would walk right up to her and look up at her all longingly.  The other mom, blessedly, did not find it annoying or creepy like I might have in her place, but just laughed and told Evvie, “You’re so cute!”  Then, my oldest, Junior, said (loud enough for everyone to hear), “I think Evvie wants a new mom!”  Yeah, I must be totally rocking this parenting thing…

FIVE.

I have 5,954,256 items on the floor in my office right now.  When I started writing this blog post, there were zero.  My children love me so much that they feel the need to be close to me at all times, particularly when my attention is not 100% devoted to them.  They take this opportunity to helpfully pull out every available book, crayon, office supply, piece of garbage, sticker, plastic baggie, craft item, and toss it, tornado-style on the floor of my workspace.  And Hubby thinks it would be a “breeze” for me to work from home!  Well, maybe, but at the end of the workweek the house would need to be condemned, pretty sure.

SIX.

Been seeing the chiropractor for my shoulder for a few weeks now.  It is helping, but slowly.  I find it is less painful (surprisingly) when I am well-hydrated.  And I am awful about drinking water.  I was a water-drinking champ when I was in college, or working, or pregnant.  But now that I am none of those things I find it difficult to get the requisite ounces in every day.  My main issue is that I fill a glass or bottle with water but through the course of the day, I am running all over the house and/or the car and I forget where I’ve left my water.  I think I just need to fill my Camelbak backpack and wear that all day so I don’t lose my water.  Where’s my Water? is one of the kiddo’s favorite games.  I should have invented it.

SEVEN.

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French fries?  They put me right to sleep.

 

That’s all folks, have a great week!

 

 

First post: wine, birthdays and cult classic tv

So, it should probably be said I have had a few glasses of Cabernet. But it is Thri-day (a.k.a Friday-on-a-Thursday around here, with much of our engineer population off on Fridays.) Hubby is watching Twin Peaks on Netflix. The 1990s version. I can’t help but recognize the soundtrack from one of my high-school-era Pier One meditation music CDs. And is that Kyle McLaughlin? He looks so young.

Anyhow, I have been meaning to get back to blogging for a while now. I started one several years ago but it really didn’t take off because… children. We’ll see if I am more up to the task this present moment. I have always loved to write but get distracted easily. My lovely sister and sister-in-law have inspired me to start blogging again.

This weekend is my oldest daughter’s birthday – and subsequent party. She is so excited. I absolutely adore this gorgeous girl, but she is so different in personality from me. For one thing, she is completely and utterly an extrovert. I took one of those personality tests ages ago and forget the alphabet soup-type label they awarded me with at the end but I am most certainly not an extrovert. Oldest Daughter wanted to invite her whole class to her birthday party. I, on the other hand, feel awkward about getting RSVP texts from parents I don’t know. She wants to have play dates with Ella and Mackenzie and Lily and Morgan and Madison and Lindy and Annabelle every single day of the week and I want to ignore the texts from their mothers and pretend we are on quarantine with pandemic flu. But I will try. Because it is her birthday. And you only turn six once. So I will be brave. And I will be pleasant. And I will be fun. I will not ruin my sweet well-liked daughter’s glory day. But I will most certainly blog later about how completely goofy I felt! Tune in for more…are you so excited?

OK, Downton Abbey. I am ever so sad. I almost cried at the finale. Literally, I really was not impressed with seasons 3, 4, and 5. (What the heck? The Bates couple are like piggy backing in prison. It’s like, jump, jump, jump.) But season six? It is tied up in a nice little beautiful bow. I love Lady Mary. She is so cold, yet so real. I wish I could be like her (see previous paragraph – how would Lady Mary respond to young George’s requests for his whole class to attend his birthday party? Probably not as ninny-ish as I.)

Update: Tuesday, March 15, 2016: Made it through the party! It was actually not so bad. About 13 little girls at our local art/children’s museum. They played. They made crafts. They ate cake. I chatted with their parents and the world didn’t end. And Oldest Daughter (heretofore known by the alias of “Bellie”) had an absolutely fabulous birthday weekend. I just love her. Pretty much every single day she goes to bed saying, “This was the best day EVER!” I pray that she will always be an optimist.

I am writing as hubby finishes watching the series one finale of Twin Peaks. The info page says that in this episode we will FINALLY DISCOVER WHO KILLED LAURA PALMER. All I know is that the creepy red-headed lady with the eye patch seems pretty darn suspicious to me. Of course, I haven’t really been watching, just eavesdropping from the next room. However, I am betting this conclusion is going to be EPIC.

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A birthday party? I think I need to SCREAM!!!

Tune in next time for Netflix binge-watching updates, another edition of the best day ever, and possibly a chance to catch me slightly tipsy courtesy of Bota Box! Toodles.