Thursday, July 29, 2010

Almost As Good As Bobby Flay

"When my husband, John, and I were first married, his Mom and Dad sent us a bit of money for his birthday.   As poor newlyweds, we were thrilled to use the extra cash to purchase a simple charcoal grill, a gift we both wanted and knew we would frequently use.  I remember driving to the Home Depot, holding hands as we went, and selecting the cheapest model we could find.  Shelling out a total of $50, we brought home a no-name brand that was black in color.    
And we wore that sucker out."

Read the rest of our grilling adventures here and even pick up a few new awesome recipes!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Soap Scum

Well, kinda anyway.

You may remember that we've recently implemented a new chore system.  For the last couple of weeks, the kids have fulfilled daily household tasks according to their age and ability (bathtubs haven't made the list yet,  but they do clean toilets while we assist).  Our system is simple (anything complicated and I can't keep track) and at the end of the week, each of them has the potential to earn a bit of money.

It's been a great way to keep things running smoothly around here.  All of them still complain and whine when it's time to work, but they know if they don't do their chores, they won't get rewarded.  The money motivates them, as it does most people, and Patrick and Meaghan both have items for which they are already saving.

The best part of the system, however, is the fact both the two older children have realized how painful it is to clean something only to have someone else completely destroy the effort/work.  This evening, for instance, Meaghan reminded me she washed the windows just yesterday.

"Well, why are there hand prints on the window, Meaghan," Patrick inquired.

"I don't know," she answered, very puzzled.

"Because Christopher bangs on the window while you guys play outside and he leaves his marks everywhere," I explained.

"Can't you get him to keep his hands off the window," she asked.

"No, Meaghan, I can't.  Besides, he's just a baby.  He doesn't know what he's doing."

"Can't you move him to the other windows that I haven't cleaned and he can play there," she demanded.

"No, Meaghan, I can't do that either.  Cleaning the windows, even when they are going to get dirty again, is part of what we do to run a household.  It's also part of our job as family members--we help clean the mess even when we didn't make it."

As they walked away to finish their chores, she was so dismayed about her hard work being "ruined" by someone else.  I've also heard Patrick complain of the same thing.  This new chore chart puts making messes in perspective because they realize they will be responsible for assisting in cleaning it up.

I'm marveling at the sheer awesomeness of the system.

John should have thought of this sooner.  :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Easy Does It

Mary Bernadette is sick which is always a challenge when three other very active and lively kids are healthy and ready to play.  I've been attempting to keep her quarantined so she doesn't get everyone else infected.  By the way, this is also a monumental task as the older kids insist on sneaking in to my room to "check" on her.  (Don't be too impressed:  it's a feigned effort to "comfort" her while they make themselves cozy in front of PBS Kids.)

Still, the older children are worried about her; they aren't just out to seek personal gain.  They don't want her to be sick anymore than I do, which I realized yesterday as they performed a series of charitable deeds for her.

I also realized (for the millionth time!  Man, I'm slow!) that I can be so hard on them.  (Perhaps though, I'm the hardest on myself ...)

Sometimes I expect the children to behave in ways far beyond their years.  Sometimes I get frustrated because they do very normal things (like leaving little unflushed gifts in the toilet in which Christopher loves to play).  Other times, I'm annoyed because they are simply disobedient and I must discipline them so they can learn the right way.

This parenting gig is tough stuff and if someone told me how simultaneously exhausting and rewarding it is, I don't know if I would have believed them.  It's hard, really hard and the constant level of demand leaves me so distracted, I don't always appreciate how awesome my kids really are and the good things they do to show each other love.

But this morning, as I was lecturing Mary about the importance of staying in bed all day, the older kids skedaddled to collect a few things to keep her company.  Later,  Patrick insisted on bringing Mary Bernadette her buttered toast and water.  Meaghan made her a card AND she let her use her brand new Disney Princess charm jewelry making kit.

They didn't make a big deal out of these things.  They just did them.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, the members frequently use the phrase, "Easy does it."  The slogan reminds people to quiet the internal demand for instant perfection, whether that demand is about working the AA program or being with our family, work, or any other area in our lives.  A great example comes from this story, some of which I have quoted from below.  Due to various issues and time restraints, Marilissa, a busy wife and mom, was prevented from grocery shopping and meal preparation.  Since she had several hungry mouths to feed, she scrounged up some food from her nearly empty fridge to feed her ravenous family.  The meal was simple, but it did the trick and she did not agonize about whether or not it was inadequate.  She writes:

 "I know that if I had done things in my old stinkin' thinkin' ways, I would have felt guilty about making only a few sandwiches for supper. I'd have made that meal and been a grouchy and miserable. To satisfy my inner superego driven taskmaster, I would have made myself and everyone else unhappy. The voices in my head would have been telling me that I was lazy, pandering to whims. My rationale, ego-balanced mind knows that I'm a good parent. My guilt-driven superego second guesses and undermines me every step of the way.
'Easy does it' confuses people who are accustomed to over-achieving because they aren't happy with themselves. 'Easy does it' sounds like an excuse for slothfulness (God forbid we rugged pioneers be thought lazy). But chronic over-achiever mentality, heavily laced with guilt and shame, is a emotional Molotov cocktail. Guilt, depression and anxiety kill people in heart attacks, hypertension and stress related illness. And the saddest part of all, is that chronic over-achiever, based on shame and guilt, is a black hole. The afflicted person can never let up on himself and see that good that he does. Nothing is ever good enough. 

I certainly can benefit from the concept of "Easy Does It", both with my kids and myself.  Though I did praise them for their consideration of Mar Bernadette, I need to be careful not to expect perfection from them all the time.  They are, after all,  human.  They are also, after all, just kids.  Ever mindful of the good they do,  I must not fixate on the negative in them or in myself.

Because at the end of the day, I have really good kids.

And I'm a good mom.

Going at it nice and easy, I am

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friendly Fun

My friend, Marie, once told me, "Sometimes you have friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime."  Our former neighbors, Jennifer and Jared, qualify, in my book, as friends for a lifetime.  Not only do they share the same state in life as us (they have four kids like we do) but the wives and the husbands get along. (I find it rare to have a husband/wife combination where everyone is compatible.)  

Jenn and Jared have seen our family through the good and the bad times and they still love us--that's saying a lot, isn't it?  If the truth be told, we love them to pieces.  Cheesy as it may sound, I think the old adage is true:  good friends are hard to find.  They're it--to us, anyway.

John had to work in their neck of the woods this week so he brought me and the kids along with him.  On Thursday evening, the adults 'snuck out' for a date night.  We ate at this awesome hibachi grill and then hit the casino for some dessert.  Though the food was superb (no, really--I could eat at that hibachi place on a weekly basis), the company was even better.  

And if you thought we had fun, just look at this bunch of cuties:
Me thinks our good time paled in comparison.  These kids play so well together.  They didn't stop the entire time we were there!  Don't they just look like they are having fun?

Confession:  fun would not be the word I would choose to describe our evening in the hotel.  

After dinner, the adults returned home to the children who were all well past their bedtime.  They were, however, fed, jammied up, and ready for sleepy-sleep.  Loading the Duggan children into the van, we headed to our destination.  Several of them fell asleep on the way.  After we checked into the room and tucked them in, I settled into the soft bed myself only to jump out several seconds later to rescue a vomiting Patrick from his own pool of sickness.  

As he proceeded to throw up in his sleep, I held him up and shook his shoulders to wake him. While I bathed him, he told me he ate twelve chicken nuggets, five cookies, and a slice of brownie.  No wonder he puked--the kid practically ate his way into a comma!  

When I finished dealing with the vomit, I then realized the air in our room was not working.  Since sleeping without any ac was not an option, we awoke our darlings again to move to a different room. All the activity from the day had left Christopher over-tired and hyperactive.  At half past midnight, he finally fell asleep.

But we Duggan's laugh in the face of danger and we certainly don't let anything disrupt our good time.  So, the next morning, we arrived bright and earlier at Casa de Watson and the kids played, played, and played some more.  Jennifer and I visited but I can't tell you what it was about because it was very important and involved solving some of the worlds biggest issues.

We could tell you but then we'd have to...well, you know how that goes.

Thanks to our constant friends!  You are the best!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Patrick's Wish

We passed a fountain filled with coins.
Patrick: "Why do people throw coins in the water?
Me (Dad): People make wishes and then throw the coins in.
Patrick:  Do the wishes come true?  Dad, can I have some coins to throw in?
Me: Distracted, did not answer.

Later that afternoon we are alone in the car and I pass an apartment complex with a small fountain in front.  I pull over, give Patrick some coins and tell him to make a wish.

Patrick: (Back in the car) I just know it will be in my room when I get home!
Me: Remember that God answers wishes in His own time and in His own way.
Patrick: What does that mean?
Me:  God will answer your wish the way He thinks best.

Two weeks later while kissing Patrick goodnight...

Me: What's wrong?
Patrick: My wish never came true!
Me: Remember what I told you?
Patrick: I just knew it would be in my room!
Me: What was it that you wished for?
Patrick: A superman action figure

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I guess everyone is good at something, right?

Though I was born in California, I think God knew my heart would always be in the south.
This is kind of twang is why.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Fruit Of The Loom Battle

One word can be used to describe Sunday mornings around my house:  chaos.

We tend to invest more time preparing a more elaborate breakfast on Sundays than on other days.  This morning, coffee, juice, homemade waffles, bacon, and eggs were on the menu, which inevitably slowed us down.  By the time I finished cleaning up the kitchen,  John and I were scurrying to get  the kids dressed in their Sunday best and out the door for Mass.

Since I didn't want to be late for church, I felt frustrated when I was forced to stop what I was doing to attend to a physical brawl ensuing between Meaghan and Mary Bernadette.

As I pulled both of them apart, I asked, "What is the problem?"

Meaghan replied, "Mary Bernadette is wearing my Jasmine underwear and I don't want her to!"

"Well, I don't have any clean ones left," Mary Bernadette defended.

(At that particular moment in time, I didn't know if MB's statement was accurate.  We have approximately 500 pairs of girls underwear around here.  How she didn't have a single clean pair in her drawer is beyond me, but I went with it.)

"Meaghan," I started, "do you think you could help me out this once by letting her wear them?"

"No, they are mine and I don't want her to have them on."

I attempted a few more kind pleas.

I had no luck.

Finally, in a conciliatory effort I asked, "Well, could she at least borrow another pair that you pick out?"

Meaghan nodded her head 'yes' as Mary Bernadette looked at me and confessed,

"Well, OK, but I've been wearing this pair for years."

Go Gators!

Swim Team is officially over for the summer.  The kids' team came in first place at the City Meet so they all got medals and trophies.  My children were over the moon with excitement.  Trophies are big around my house; my brood loves them.  (This may seem like a no-fun-mom question,  but what should I  do with all these trophies/medals once the novelty has worn off?  Patrick already has a full shelf off of them and he's only six.  These things could easily overtake my house in a number of years... ) 

Their official race photo 

Here are my swimmers with their coach.  Surprisingly, MB wouldn't get in the photo.  She, to, got a trophy.  We've already adopted the coaches as babysitters.  

Here's a little clip of the kids in action at the meet:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Loving the Netflix

For Christmas, my generous brother gave my family a Wii game console.  My children, my husband, Grandpa Murphy, and even Aunt Meaghan, love it.  It's entertaining and challenging.  It's been such a great gift,  we've been content to use it for it's original purpose--which is to play games.

However, as you all know, technology is an ever changing beast of burden.  I love it because the possibilities are endless.  Yet,  it's a pain because new gadgets and gizmo's usually require a significant learning curve. (Just ask me about my new computer.  I don't even know half of what it does!)  I'll confess, this is the reason it took me a few months to motivate myself to stream Netflix videos to my Wii console per my brother-in-law, Brian's, recommendation.  

This past weekend, however, John and I renewed our subscription to Netflix (we are on-again, off-again users of this particular Internet service) and the company kindly sent us a disc to help us get started.  Yesterday afternoon, as the kids begged to watch their third video of the day sought some wholesome family entertainment, I caved and fished out the start up disc.  After about an hour, I had successfully streamed Netflix films onto my television using the Wii. 

And it's AWESOME!!!

Not only will our children love the family friendly movies available, John and I have loaded a few of our own favorite films into the instant que for our viewing pleasure.  I'm totally excited and it was fairly easy to install.  If I can do it, anyone can.

Then, last night a friend of mine posted this list of good Catholic movies available on Netflix.  Bonus!  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lacking the words and the willpower

1.  In case you can't tell, I'm in a bit of a blogging slump.  There are many reasons for this and I'll share just a few with you:

-->I'm 32 weeks pregnant (although the Doc told me yesterday I'm measuring like I'm 34 weeks.  I wish I could say I'm big because I'm going to have this baby early.  Alas, the reality is that I'm just big.  Really big.  By the way, after a certain number of kids, I decided it's impossible to be cute and pregnant. Right now, cute is not the first adjective that comes to mind when people see me.)

-->When John travels a lot, I go into survival mode and unless inspiration (and a great big burst of energy hits me), the likelihood of me posting is slim to none.  He's been traveling and I've been surviving.

-->I can't remember what I plan to write about.  You can call this dimwittedness or forgetfulness.  I call it pregnancy brain.  It's as if this baby is zapping every last cell from my already questionable intellectual abilities.  I just can't remember a thing about anything.  And that's the truth.

Often, inspiration to write comes from my family life, which comes in waves throughout my days--as I clean the toilet, bake the chicken, and read books aloud to the kids.  While I have an abundance of inspiration, I seem to lack the time sit down and compose my thoughts.  Furthermore, when I actually do have a minute to write a little ditty,  I stare blankly at my computer screen as I think, "I got nothing. Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch."  Isn't this called 'writers block'?

--> It would seem that now that I have my fancy new computer, I should have no excuses to keep me from banging away clever and pithy posts about life.    But, you remember this kid, right?  Well, let's just say, he is very much an impediment to my blogging abilities.  He's cute, but he's dangerous.

Praying for flashes of insight and brilliance,
(oh, heck, I'll even take a deep thought about potty training), I am

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Wanna Grow Up

MB:  I hate being whittle.  I want to be a big kid.

Me:  Why?

MB:  Because when I'm big Patrick and Meaghan will play with me and they'll let me climb up onto the bunk beds.

She tries so hard to keep up with them and in moments of weakness, she realizes sometimes she just can't.

Red, White, and BLUEBERRIES!

Have you ever read the book Blueberries for Sal?  It's about a little girl who goes blueberry picking with her mother but she eats more berries than she picks.  Her mother wants Sal to collect berries to can for the winter but little Sal's appetite is bigger than her desire to can.   Sal was the perfect character to refer to when encouraging my own little blueberry pickers to stay focused on Sunday, July 4.  

I must say, they did a pretty good job indeed.  

The biggest blueberry picker of all.  

Even MB did a great job.  Granted, she did dump half of my bucket on the ground when she was 'helping' me but still.  Give her a job and she gets it done.

The kids loved eating the berries too.  

A terrific blueberry picker.  

Christopher was a bit high maintenance.  I eventually took him back to the car to cool off and play in the grass.  He was much happier.

Trying to get cool.  It was really hot and there was no reprieve.  The van was my refuge for about twenty minutes.  MB took a break, too.  Christopher and MB are still really little for these kinds of outings.

Me and Meggie.

Blueberry bushes.  We picked 12 pounds total.
We've already made blueberry cobbler and homemade muffins Martha Stewart style.  Delish!

Tuckered out.

Later that evening, we hit the levy to watch fireworks.  MB found a small tree frog.

Then she let it go and was mad because she wanted another one. Oi!

The Capitol at night.

My boys

The wild gang.  Do you see the string hanging from Patrick's neck?  Ear plugs.

Hope you had a terrific 4th!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Calling All Blog Readers

I know you are out there.  Can you stop by here and offer your suggestions for good summer movies?  I need some help and so do others so your comments will be greatly appreciated.

OK, thanks, bye.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mary Bernadetteisms

Me:  Please go wash the chemicals off your hands.
Her:  I don't have any tentacles.

Me:  Because I'm the boss, that's why.
Her:  You're not the boss of everyone.  Jesus is the boss of you.

Elbow Grease

My husband is a genius.  No, really, he is.

Yesterday morning, we took it easy since it was our last day of vacation.  We didn't rush out of the house anywhere or even load everyone up to go swimming.  We slept in, the kids played, and we ate homemade blueberry muffins.  John and I chatted as we watched television.  It was perfect.

Around 11:00 am, John gathered all the kids and gave each of them jobs.  Over the course of the next hour, the kids dusted every piece of wood furniture, wiped down the banisters, cleaned windows, and organized our video cabinet (which is no small job, by the way).  I spent time cleaning the kitchen and putting various household items in their proper places.

By the time we finished, the downstairs was sparkling.  (Note--in the past couple of months we have started hiring someone to come every two week for a few hours to help me with deep cleaning the floors, bathrooms, kitchen, and sheets.  This is definitely a luxury but I also feel like it's evolved into a necessity for us to survive.  I just can't get the house clean on my own and when I do, it's because I've spent a significant amount of family time on the weekend taking care of business items.  The extra help has been a lifesaver.  But I digress....)

Pulling John aside, I told him, "You are a genius.  I mean it.  I haven't been able to get them to work together to clean the house like this like, ever!"

He smiled and agreed, "We need a new chore chart."

Since the beginning of summer, I've been struggling to keep a balance with providing entertainment for the kids and giving them responsibilities to complete each day.  For instance, I want them to read everyday either with me or on their own but it's been tough to implement it consistently.  The same goes for chores.  I want them to help around the house everyday but most of the time I find myself frazzled and simply doing the work on my own.

We've had chore charts in the past and they seemed to work for a time (as long as we implement them) but we are in need of a revamp.  Patrick and Meaghan are no longer toddlers or preschoolers.  They can do more to help me around here.  My tendency is to do everything myself instead of delegating.  This gets old and tiring.  (I'm sad to tell you I just realized they both are perfectly capable of bathing themselves.  If they can swim across an Olympic size pool twelve feet deep, I think they'll be OK to get in and out of the tub by themselves.)

After the house was cleaned, we grilled hot dogs and ate lunch.  John and I brainstormed on how to get more work out of our little darlings.  He even typed up a system with a simple rewards program.  For now, let's just say I feel a brand new sense of relief because it incorporates all the areas I've been worried about--prayer, reading, and chores.

Several factors are key to the implementation of the system:
1.  John's involvement--even if it's just asking me if everyone did their chores.
2.  Consistency--doing these steps everyday (or at least most days).
3.  Refraining from nitpicking--I need not badger the kids for not doing things they way I want them.
4.  Prompt reward of the incentive if and when they earn it.
5.  Delegate as much as possible instead of doing everything myself.
6.  Praise, praise, and more praise--when earned and appropriate.

To prove it is possible for my children to break a sweat with work, I've included some pictorial proof.  Doesn't it just warm your heart?  

Give her a Windex bottle and she'll clean for hours.

She even used a little bit of elbow grease.

Unfortunately, I didn't get one of Patrick in action.  He is, by far, my toughest to motivate but he worked like a champion yesterday.  He'll do anything for quarters in his piggy bank.

Monday, July 5, 2010


John's greeting to me this morning, "Good Morning, Sunshine!"

Meaghan's greeting to me, "Good Morning, Bowling Ball!"

Later, John instructs her to refill the toilet paper in our bathroom.

"Why," she inquires.

"Because Mom goes to the restroom a lot and uses all the tp."

Overhearing him, I indignantly yell, "Hey!"

Meaghan, as she makes her way up the stairs, leans over the banister and replies, "Well, it's true, Mom."

Getting no r-e-s-p-e-c-t,

We Are Family

One thing is guaranteed when Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Meaghan come into town: a week long fun fest that includes a heavy dose of treats and overall effort to spoil all littles in the house rotten.  At least in my opinion.  This past week was no different, but we did enjoy the company.  John even got to take off of work.  Fabulous.

Upon their arrival, Grandma and Grandpa whipped out a few bags of gifts.  MB was particularly pleased because at 10:00 am that morning (they arrived at 4:00 pm), she informed Grandma she wanted a Tinker Bell t-shirt.  Not only did she get one, she also received a TinkerBell dress.  "Your wish is my command, my darling."

My Dad tells me he thinks we're gonna be in trouble when Mary is a teenager.  He suspects the blond hair and blue eyes are going to be a problem with the boys.

New Buzz Lightyear bathing suit.  He loves it.

As John was mowing the lawn he found a cricket the size of Chernobyl.  He and the kids dragged us to the window to determine it's make and model.  

They were totally intrigued.  I was rather disgusted.

Sister in the morning.  We roll hard around here and keeping up is a full time job.  She's always a bit off kilter when she goes back to her scheduled life.  Poor thing.

MB insisted my mom put ten braids in her hair.  Again, Grandma complied.  She wore her hair this way all day long.  The dress she's wearing is the Tinkerbell variety I mentioned .  Ahem...

John, Me, Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Meaghan arrived at the pool every morning at 7:30 am for swim practice.  Apparently, my Dad wanted to get some action shots of my routine.  In case you can't tell, this is me lugging a combined 60 pounds of baby--half of which is Christopher.    

Warming up.

This is what keeps me busy at the pool--keeping Christopher busy.  It's no easy task,  especially since I can't bend over.  I did have help this week which was heavenly.

He is cute, though.

John and I escaped for a few hours to the movies.  When we returned, we learned there were a few behavioral problems.  This is MB in timeout.  I won't share her infraction publicly, as one day she will read this blog and probably be annoyed with me for all the things I've written about her but I will point you to the toilet paper confetti.  She had to keep herself entertained somehow, I suppose.  I also will point you to her protruding tongue.  Grandpa took the picture.

The whole fam also went bowling.  This is indeed one of Patrick's favorite past times.

Pep talk.  I think this is after Meaghan hurt herself.

She runs everywhere.  I wish I had her kind of energy.

My Dad took most of the pictures so of course, he's not in any of them.  We need to fix that for next time.

Mary Bernadette did have a few token words of wisdom for him, however.  Upon his first morning here, she knocked on the door when he was in the bathroom and gravely reminded him, "Gwandpa, don't come out here naked because you'll be embarrassed."  Wise words for all of us to reflect upon.

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