My Beamish Brood

My Beamish Brood

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Paul and Little Paul

Since I have not been on top of writing lately, I sadly allowed Lucian's birthday to go by without a mention! But as Paul just celebrated his big day yesterday, I thought it might be fitting to talk about the two together.

Often it's customary for a firstborn son to take his father's name, but for a variety of reasons, Lucian was the one to receive the middle name of 'Paul'. Little did we know at the time just how fitting that would be!

Lucian takes after his Daddy in so many ways. Neither is quick to crack a smile, but when they find something worthy of exercising their facial muscles, they can light up a room. They are both sporty and competitive, two traits that I most definitely am lacking. They have spent many hours bonding over watching football and hockey, and playing chess and soccer. Being married to Paul has expanded my horizons so that I can sit and watch a game on t.v. and somewhat understand what is happening, but I think he is thankful to have some family members who really get into the games... instead of just tolerating them.

They also share a love of the outdoors. Lucian took his first trip to the Boundary Waters last summer, and I think he would have been happy to never come home! He is always the first one out of doors when I say it's time to play outside. One of the greatest compliments I can give him is to compare him to Dickon from the Secret Garden, a young boy who spent so much time outside that he made friends with the animals! 

If you look closely at our features, you might say that Lucian has more of me in him than Paul. But take a step back and you can see exactly why his mannerisms and body language earned him the nickname "Little Paul" from his grandma. I love to see them standing side by side, hands in their pockets. There's no missing the similarities. And if our Little Paul turns out anything like his daddy, we have absolutely nothing to worry about!

A Pokeball birthday cake

Birthday Feast: sushi, shrimp, hot dogs, apples, carrots, chips and salad.
All specifically requested by the Birthday Boy

Friday, January 20, 2017

Halfway Done

A friend pointed out a terrifying thought to me; as of December 25, Max is halfway done with his childhood! In another nine years, he will be a legal adult, able to vote... and drive... and... leave. Oh dear, my mommy heart is not ready for that, not at all.

He has been maturing at a breakneck pace; each day he surprises me with new insights and new behaviors. Recently, after trying to come to an agreement with his brother about what game to play, he came to me and informed me, "Mom, sometimes when you really want to do one thing and someone else really wants to do something else, it's better to come up with a third thing to do. That way, you both don't get to do your first choice, but you get to do something together!" We had a good chat about compromise and cooperation, and while he's still working on a full understanding of those concepts, he seems wiser every day.

As he grows, his powers of observation have matured as well. In the past, he hasn't had much time to stop and notice how his behavior affects others. His brain and body just moved so fast that he was a bit oblivious to surrounding circumstances. Recently his ability to empathize has sprung up seemingly out of nowhere! When all the other kids are yelling at me for one reason or another, Max can sense when I'm about to boil over and often will begin trying to call off his siblings. If I have to remove myself from the room so I don't lose it, he's the first to come find me and snuggle next to me to apologize, even if he was not the reason for my frustration.

He has always been terribly affectionate; I know that the quickest way to his heart is to snuggle with him on the couch under a soft blanket. No matter what has happened between us, no matter what I've made him do (or not let him do), he will simply melt into my arms. I am so thankful that this has yet to show any signs of waning. I don't know what I would do if someday Max didn't want to be hugged. I wouldn't recognize him!

And thankfully, he still has that joie de vivre and unbounded curiosity that make him who he is. I have often thought that I'm thankful it's Max who has a Christmas birthday. He doesn't feel overshadowed by the holiday, in his mind it's the more the merrier! More celebrating, more food, more presents for everyone, more decorations, more chaos, more attention, more excitement! As you can see, he insisted on dressing up like an elf for the day.

This little man has been such a blessing to me. I hope to take time and sit back to soak in his last year of single digits! His first decade will be done before I know it!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Party of Seven

I don't often sit back and think about the size of my family. I mean, sure I think about it in numbers (Five kids! Seven people!) but I don't feel like I have a big family. We are together all the time and it can get overwhelming, but even when they are all vying for a place on my lap during story time I never think, "Oh my gosh I have so many kids!" I simply have all of the children that I have, no more, no less. 

But looking over the family photos that my good friend Jessica Shurts took for us this winter, it suddenly struck me... I truly do have my own brood! For some reason, seeing us all together in one photo as a nicely coordinated family of seven gave me a brief glimpse of what our family looks like from the outside. And for some reason the jump from four to five was a big one, visually, even for me.

At Audrey's ballet class last week, I was chatting with one of the dads there. He was commenting on how cute and smiley Blaise was. I talked about his colicky early days, how much his big sister loved him, and then came the inevitable question: "So is he your second baby?" 

After a moment of inner turmoil I attempted to respond nonchalantly, "No, our fifth. He has two big brothers and another sister." 

"Oh. Wow." the man responded, and he was off like a shot. 

Another day, I took all of the kids to Caribou coffee for a treat before our library visit. We all trotted in and I ordered drinks while trying to keep Edith out of the chips, rock the stroller back and forth to keep Blaise happy, and direct the big three to some chairs by the fire. We got looks from everyone in the place; a mom with her five kids out in public is something to notice! I tried not to feel self-conscious. 

My natural inclination is to take offense when someone comments on (or reacts to) my family's size. I assume they are judging my lifestyle choice, and I feel the need to show how well behaved my children are. "See? I can handle having five kids! Watch me!" I figure they are having all sorts of thoughts about my irresponsibility or religious indoctrination or some other hogwash, and I get mad. But looking at our family photos this year gave me a lightning bolt of a realization.

I have a big family! It's just a fact. 

The reality is that when people see or hear about the size of my family, they are probably just reacting to the fact that not many people have five kids anymore! It's surprising and unusual. But since when is it bad to be surprising and unusual? 

Strangers don't see the individual children that I see; they simply see a horde of little kids or hear a big number, and react to that. I have been given the blessing of being able to raise these five little souls, and I know them better than anyone else on earth knows them. I see each as an irreplaceable individual, but I can't expect any random person to have that same ability. 

My goal for myself this year is to proudly own the fact that I have a big family. I will revel in the surprise that it causes when people find out. I will assume the best when I encounter those who see us as unusual, and I will continue to love on these five gorgeous children that God has blessed us with!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ready the Way

Every year it seems that Advent comes along and I have a list a mile long. Not a list of things I need to get done for Christmas, no, those seem to take care of themselves in due time. My list is of the things I want my children to do and learn during Advent to get the most out of this beautiful liturgical season. Inevitably, though, my list becomes more of a hindrance than a help as I attempt to cram in as much preparation as possible. When I don't get to everything, I feel like I let my kids down. I don't know why it is, but I treat it as if this is our only chance to get to know Jesus! In part it is because the church has so many beautiful traditions during this season, but mostly I think I see what other families are doing to prepare and I want to do it all.

But this year, I finally realized I am totally missing the point. The reason we wait to decorate for Christmas, the reason we avoid bringing our kids to crazy shopping malls, is to instill a sense of hopeful, peaceful wonder as we approach the coming of Jesus. My frenetic attempts to make them experience these things is exactly the way to ensure that they will not experience them. "Come on kids! Hurry up and ponder the mystery of the coming of Jesus! Now!"

So I revamped my plan for Advent this year. Actually, I didn't change too much, but I drastically changed my approach and attitude. And I added one very important thing.


Our family is a story family. If everything is falling apart around us, if every child is screaming, I can sit down on the couch and open a book and soon peace reigns again. I realized this year that the missing piece of our Advent preparation was stories. This is where we find our peace and our inspiration! Not in workbook pages or coloring sheets, but in stories. That is why the Jesse Tree is a tradition that works so well for us; the kids decorate and cut out ornaments while I read from the Bible about salvation history.

This year, I decided to go a step further with our stories and choose one book for each day of Advent. We read the book in the morning, then the kids look through a box to find an envelope labeled with the title of the book we just finished. In the envelope is an activity that is somehow (sometimes distantly) related to the story. Some activities are super simple (paper snowflakes, video clips) and some are a little more involved. This way, I can choose which activity I want to do on a given day, depending on how much time we have and how the littles are doing, and then choose the book to read accordingly. Then they still have the joy and surprise of opening the envelope to discover the day's activity.

This being my first year, I used the random assortment of Christmas books we already had on hand, added some from the library, and picked a couple of gems to add permanently to our collection. In future years as we continue this tradition, I hope to replace some of this year's stories with others from the seemingly endless trove of beautiful Christmas books. (I am open to suggestions!) While it may look like a lot of work, in fact planning these daily stories and activities has simplified my days. If we get nothing else done, my goal is to read one book, do one simple activity, and put up a Jesse Tree ornament. That's not so overwhelming, and the kids really enjoy it!

Mainly for my sake, so I can access this list next year, here is our list of books and activities:

Who is Coming to Our House, by Joseph Slate: Make a sacrifice manger (our is simple construction paper and yarn, but the link gives you an idea of what it is)
The Friendly Beasts, by Tomie dePaola: Telephone Christmas Caroling
The Nutcracker, by Vladimir Vagin: Watch the Nutcracker Ballet
The Miracle of St. Nicholas, by Gloria Whelan: Make a list of blessings
The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola: Make a paper poinsettia
Mortimer's Christmas Manger, by Karma Wilson: Set up children's Nativity set
Christmas in the Manger, by Nola Buck: Make tinfoil stars
Reindeer Wish, by Lori Evert: Make ice candle holders
The Clown of God, by Tomie dePaola: Make "juggling ball" cookies
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers: Make paper snowflakes
Three Wise Women, by Mary Hoffman: Bake bread (probably banana or zucchini... something easy)
Charlie Brown Christmas, by Charles Schulz: Make pom pom pinecones
God Gave us Christmas, by Lisa Tawn Bergren: Make a popcorn cranberry garland
An Orange for Frankie, by Patricia Polacco: Make orange pomanders
Cobweb Christmas, by Shirley Climo: Make pipe cleaner spiders
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski: Soap carving
Lucia, Saint of Light, by Katherine Bolger Hyde: Bake Lucia Buns
The Twelve Days of Christmas, by Jan Brett: Color 12 Days coloring pages
The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden: Listen to the Christmas carol The Holly and the Ivy
The Lady of Guadalupe, by Tomie dePaola: Make paper bag tilmas
The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg: Drink hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane
Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck: Make a card for someone and send it to them
The Little Drummer Boy, by Ezra Jack Keats: Watch the Claymation Christmas Little Drummer Boy video clip

Feel free to use all of these ideas if you feel they will help your family prepare for Christmas, or none of them if it seems like just one more thing to worry about. If you have any Christmas favorites, or simple activities, I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tiny Dancer

From the moment she was born, she was built like a ballerina. We kept waiting, but her long, skinny fingers and long, skinny legs never filled out into that chubbiness we expect in babies. As she grows, it seems as if every pound she gains goes directly to her height; her arms and legs just keep getting longer! And she carries herself with a gracefulness that I don't see in her siblings... and I don't remember having as a child.

I didn't set out with a mission to make her fall in love with ballet. I want my children to discover their own interests and pursue them at their own pace. When she wanted a Thomas the Train birthday party when she turned three, I was all about that. When she was all about princesses at age 4, so be it. But then she discovered ballet and my heart leaped! Ballet was one of the joys of my childhood. I only took a few years of intensive training, and I was never the top of the class, but it has stayed in my bones all these years. 

In our family, we read basically every (good) book we can get our hands on, exposing our children to lots of big ideas and lots of interesting activities. We just finished a novel by Linda Sue Park called A Single Shard, and the kids have been making pottery out of clay for days on end. This is what happens; they read about something, become deeply interested, and then move on when the next thing comes along. But Audrey...

I don't even remember the first ballet book we read to her. I think it might have been one of those boring informational books with a sentence per page and outdated photographs. Whatever it was, it lit a fire in her! She suddenly wanted to know everything about ballet. We started watching clips of famous dances, she began requesting library books about ballerinas. She discovered Misty Copeland. She asked me every day to put on the music to the Nutcracker so she could practice her dance routines.

I adore watching her twirl around the room. Her natural grace and uninhibited movement brings me so much joy. I look forward to the day I can watch her from the audience as she lights up the stage!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Yantes Inn is Open for Business

For the weekend of Blaise's baptism, we had a house chock full of family! Paul, Maureen and Liam made the trip from Rapid, Monica and Glenn's family came from Wisconsin, and even Patrick and Anne came down from North Dakota! I was reminded what a blessing our new home is as we found places for everyone to sleep and still felt that we had room to spare! (Next time we'll have to squeeze in Megan and the Wards too... hint, hint)

Glenn and Monica arrived first on Friday, bringing with them a huge container of Glenn's delicious smoked meat to serve at the Baptism reception. The cousins settled in and began to play together while we relaxed and caught up. Everyone else arrived later that night after the kids were asleep. The boys were thrilled to wake up to Patrick sleeping in their room and Liam on the couch downstairs! It took every ounce of self-control they had not to jump on them and wake them up the moment they saw them.

Saturday was a beautiful day, so we decided to hike Dodge Nature Center, the beautiful nature area near our house. The kids had a great time exploring the woods, the farm, and a boardwalk through the swamp. They even got a closeup look at some turkeys! Speaking of edible birds... Paul batter fried chicken and french fries for dinner, which was deee-licious.

Most of us went to Mass Sunday morning, but those who had gone the night before stayed home with the smallest of the children. When we got home, the house was spotless! My amazing mother-in-law and brother-in-law had whipped the house into shape while watching three little children! How come I can't do that? Then Monica, with her cake decorating mad skillz, turned a plain white sheet cake into this beauty:

We spent the day watching football and making last minute preparations, and then in the evening got ourselves over to the church for the big moment! The baptism was beautiful, the reception was a blast, and everyone stayed up around the bonfire late into the night... except me. I was totally beat. Blaise chose this weekend to become quite needy, and after a day of rocking and bouncing him, I was ready to crash when he was.

Monday morning most everyone headed home, but we got one more day with Monica and Glenn. It was another gorgeous day, so we spent it outside in the backyard watching the kids play... and doing some playing ourselves. I made it two whole steps on the slackline! Lucian was very proud of me. (Monica maybe might have made it even farther than I did but who's counting anyways...) Then we enjoyed Chin Chins Chinese for dinner, because apparently where Monica and Glenn live is a black hole for good Chinese food. And Chin Chin's is probably the best in the nation, so there's that.

Tuesday morning was a snap back into reality as I hustled the kids out the door for Catechesis as the last of our visitors hit the road. It feels like we haven't stopped going since then, but it sure was great to have a long weekend break to enjoy time with family!

They caught a woolly bear caterpillar on our hike


No babies were harmed in the making of this photo