Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell 2011

When I was in First Grade, I remember my teacher telling our class that after Christmas vacation we would be back in school in a new year.  She said, "we say goodbye to 1979 forever."  Her words left me feeling very sad - the idea that we say goodbye to something forever.  New Year's Eve still conjures some of those same feelings.  I'm not sure if it's because today is a day I take a moment to reflect on the year or if it's because I finally feel confident in writing the number 2011.  Either way, I say farewell to a wonderful year and say hello to a hope-filled one, whose potential is boundless.

As I reflect on 2011, family and traveling is what stands out the most to me.  Sweet Potato made his First Communion, Monkey Toes and I renewed our wedding vows for our 10 year anniversary, we gathered for 9 days to pray and celebrate the one year anniversary of Milly's passing into new life.  We witnessed the beauty and grace of the adoption of Peanut Butter, as well as his baptism.  We camped at Higher Ground Music Festival.  We traveled to California for a reunion and I met family I had never met before.  We experienced the "magic" of Disneyland.  We traveled to Canada for my niece's wedding.  We were blessed to spend all of  the holidays with our families and round out the year of celebrating without two of our loved ones (which I believe they were celebrating with us in spirit).  Yeah, 2011 was a pretty great year. 

So far on our calendar for 2012, Honey Bunches will be making his First Communion on April 29th.  Since Higher Ground has disbanded, we have our tickets for Joyful Noise in June (Toby Mac, Go Fish and Mandisa - I may be more excited than my kids!).  We will have a Kindergartner, a 2nd grader, 3rd grader and 4th grader in the house.  There are a few other surprises on the horizon that I will share as their time draws nearer.  No major travel plans in the making, but then again, home is my favorite place.

Tonight, we will celebrate as we have the last 5 years.  We'll go to mass and come home to dinner.  We have sparkling juice chilled for the kids (they get to drink out of real champagne flutes), lots of snacks, board games, and silliness.  We all camp out in the living room with sleeping bags and try to stay awake to watch the ball drop.  It is the one night of the year that bedtime is not enforced.  We have a theme of balls tonight - cheese balls, meat balls, popcorn balls, fondue (o.k. not a ball, but we will be dipping round things into it).  It should be a fun night. 

Happy New Year to everyone.  May 2012 be a year of grateful and joyous hearts.  God's blessings to you!
The kids enjoying the snow  - finally a little snowfall in 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Merry Christmas!  Our household and extended family had a lovely Christmas celebration.  We shared many laughs, ate lots of delicious food (yep - I pretty much drank my weight in Egg Nog), and enjoyed the thoughtful gifts that were exchanged.  We attended Mass, took long naps, stayed up late and admired all the twinkling Christmas lights around our neighborhood.  The only thing that would have made the weekend a little better is to have had a little snow.  It just seems strange to have bare ground this late in the season.

Although the actual Feast Day of Christmas has past, the Christmas Season lasts for twelve days, until the Feast of The Epiphany.  This is one more reason why we wait to decorate our home, because we keep our decor up until the Season is over.  Here is the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  I enjoy reading it each year.  I posted this last Christmas and think it's worth sharing again.  Enjoy!

THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS  Here is the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas. In England between 1558 & 1829 it was a crime just to be a Catholic. Even a scrap of paper with Catholic teaching written on it could have dire consequences. Catholics devised “catechism songs” with nonsense lyrics having a hidden symbolic meaning to teach the faith to their children. This is one of them.  The Twelve Days are the days between Christmas and the Epiphany, Jan. 6. The True Love in the song refers to God; the “me” who receives the presents is the baptized Catholic. And here are the gifts:  The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on the tree of the cross. The mother partridge, when her brood is threatened by a predator, will pretend injury to draw attention away from her helpless chicks. The partridge also recalls Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem, & all who ignore his gift of salvation: “Jerusalem how often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not!” Two turtle doves are the Old & New Testaments of the Bible. Three French hens represent the Trinity, three persons (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) in one God, as well as the theological virtues of faith, hope, & charity. Four calling birds are the four evangelists who wrote the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John.  Five golden rings are the first five books of the Old Testament. Six geese a-laying recall the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming bring to mind (a) the seven sacraments; (b) the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; (c) the seven corporal & seven spiritual works of mercy. Eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing represent the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, while ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments. Eleven pipers piping are the eleven apostles (excluding Judas) who proclaimed the Gospel to all nations. Twelve drummers drumming are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles Creed. As you sing The Twelve Days of Christmas during this holy season, remember its story. And teach its meaning to your children or share it with your friends.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Egg Nog

Soon after Monkey Toes and I began dating, I realized a stark difference between us:  I love Egg Nog and he does not.  I was raised in a family who boldly proclaims that much of our anticipation of the holidays is due to our favorite creamy and delicious holiday Egg Nog beverage.  I tease you not!  Growing up, a special place was reserved for Egg Nog.  We had a charming, built-in oak hutch in our kitchen.  My mom would nestle the crystal punch bowl within greenery and lights.  We awaited Christmas Eve until that beautiful bowl would be filled with Egg Nog and dallops of real whipped cream.  Once ladled into our cups, we would add just a pinch of nutmeg.  Perfection. 

The first Christmas I celebrated with Monkey and his family, I asked his mom what I could bring to the celebration.  She said I didn't need to bring anything.  So I offered, "Then I'll bring the Egg Nog."  I remember her saying, "umm (long pause) o.k."  I was unsure about this exchange and so I asked Monkey if I had said something wrong.  He just replied, "Egg Nog is gross.  No one in my family drinks it."  Heaven help me!

Here is the scenario in my family.  My sister hosts our family Christmas.  She now has mom's punch bowl, which sits on a section of granite counter top for our celebration.  It has the greenery and lights surrounding it, with the cups and the little nutmeg shaker close by.  Then, we gather around it and drink.  You'll hear at least a couple of us say (after our second glassful) "I probably shouldn't have anymore."  But then again, we remember it's Christmas and we won't have this treat for another 365 days.  So we merrily drink our way to the bottom of the bowl with a satisfying whipped cream smile to boot. 

Merry Christmas to all of my fellow Egg Noggers!

Our Christmas Playlist

2011 Top Favorite Christmas Songs in Our Household

Monkey Toes:  Christmas Time (Charlie Brown)

Me:  Silent Night & Silver Bells

Sweet Potato: Jingle Bell Rock

Honey Bunches:  Feliz Navidad

Gummi Bear:  Joy To The World

Cucumber:  Last Christmas (her favorite version is by Wham!)

Sweet Pea:  Away in a Manger   

Pumpkin:  Jingle Bells

A list as diverse and as lovely as those who enjoy to belt out the lyrics whenever we hear them played.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And the Music Plays On

Gummi Bear has been taking piano lessons since September and tonight was her first recital.  Her performance was beautiful and I could not be more proud.  Afterwards, I asked her how it felt to play in front of a lot of people and she said, "I was a little scared."  I couldn't tell.  I just kept thinking that my little girl is growing up. 

I took piano lessons for 8 years, beginning when I was in 4th grade.  My parents had "rescued" a baby grand piano and signed me up for lessons.  I loved it, but after 3 years, I decided I wanted to quit.  I shared my thoughts with my mother, who very wisely responded, "You can quit, but then you have to tell your teacher yourself."  It took me 5 years to muster up enough confidence to tell my teacher I wasn't going to continue.  Recitals were very difficult for me, as I was extremely nervous to have to perform in front of others.   So to see my daughter play tonight, well, my heart was brimming.  My hope is that she will continue to love to play and want to share that gift with others.

Friday, December 16, 2011


As the third week of Advent draws to a close, our Advent wreath and creche are still the focus in our home.  We've decided that we will put up our tree on the 4th and final Sunday of Advent.  The kids are excited, to say the least.

It was just a few years ago that I was a mad-woman during this season.  I baked 13 varieties of cookies and sent out a bazillion Christmas cards.  My house was cleaned and decorated, presents wrapped and menus planned.  The only thing missing - true joy.  Although everything looked perfect from the outside, I wasn't joyful in my tasks.  I was more worried about being the perfect homemaker than being present to my family and the season.  Last Sunday, our priest during his homily talked about how Satan loves this time of year.  It's so easy for him to move in and push Christ out in all of the chaos and busyness that we allow ourselves to get caught up in.  How true.  So this year, I made a conscience effort to not get overwhelmed by the different elements of the season.  I baked one kind of cookie for an exchange - something that I'm doing more for social reasons than to have a plate of cookies.  I wrote a Christmas letter that has yet to be sent out, and not one present has been purchased as of today.  I'm not totally reformed, as I do have a plan for next week, but everything has been simplified, which equates a happier, more loving home.

This morning I heard on the radio a woman talking about Mary's Yes to God's call.  Saying yes to things is important, however, learning to say NO is also valuable.  She shared that by saying NO we are preserving our YES to those things we are already committed to.  For me, simplifying my life means that I am saying yes to my faith and my family.

So as the final week before Christmas approaches, I hope everyone allows themselves time to breath, to relax, to spend more time in prayer, doing so with a joyful spirit.

P.S.  I'm not sure how appropriate this story is for sharing, but what the heck.  Last night as I was changing Pumpkin's diaper she said, "my bellybutton butt hurts."  I said, "your belly button is on your belly."  She replied, "then my butt button hurts!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Heavenly Hosts

I think I have catechetically failed my child (not to mention he's a Packers Fan in Vikings Land).

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Gift of Life

My Dad was an organ donor.  Yesterday, my mom received a phone call from the Donor Center, letting her know that 61 surgeries in 7 states across the U.S. have been performed using tissue, bone, ligaments, etc. from my Dad.  As she shared this news with my siblings and I, we were moved by the mere miracle that even in death, my Dad continues to help others.  I am proud of my Dad for being a donor.  I am proud of my Mom for honoring his wishes.  I am thankful for the medical world which can perform these procedures to enhance the quality of lives.  I am humbled knowing that Dad not only lives on in our hearts, but also through those who have never met him, yet have benefited from his generosity.  Proof, once more, of the dignity of human life in all of its stages.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prepare Ye The Way

Whenever I hear these words, the song from GodSpell immediately fills my mind.  And so it was this morning at Mass, the second Sunday of Advent, that these words were spoken and the song began playing in my head.  I'm still singing it as I drink my coffee and type this post.
Each day during Advent, our family reflects on the question, "How are we preparing our hearts for the Lord?"   To help us, we have borrowed the following activity from the website, catholicicing.  We have put up our Manger, but left it empty.  The Baby Jesus figure is attached to his crib, so the kids and I constructed our own for this activity.  We used an oatmeal container, cut it in half, and painted it.

Each evening after Family Prayer, the kids tell us the good things they did that day (helping someone, doing a kind deed, saying something thoughtful, etc.)  For each good act, they place a piece of straw in the crib.  The goal is to have a crib for Jesus (and their hearts), well prepared by Christmas. 

I catch my kids looking for ways to earn their straw.  Yesterday, Sweet Potato poured Gummi Bear's cereal at breakfast (and then quietly asked me if that task was straw worthy).  Honey Bunches began his chores without being reminded.  Cucumber helped her little sisters get dressed.  Gummi volunteered to help me make dinner.  Sweet Pea and Pumpkin - well, they're a little young to grasp this concept, but when they see their siblings do good, they want to do good too. 

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
                                                                Isaiah 40

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Child's Philosophy

The conversation on the way to school today:

Sweet Potato:  Did you know that reindeer don't live at the North Pole?  They live in Europe and Northern Asia.

Me:  Really?  (I have no idea if this is correct information or not)

Gummi Bear:  Then how does Santa get them to the North Pole?

Sweet Potato:  Well Santa doesn't actually live at the North Pole.  Nothing can live at the North Pole.  I think he vacations until Christmas and then they all get together up there.

Honey Bunches:  Yeah 'cause Santa is a big guy and if he lived at the North Pole he wouldn't have anything to eat and then he'd just be a skinny guy and Santa can't be a skinny guy.

Gummi Bear:  Yeah.

Makes sense to me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Toilet Paper Tubes

I keep a large craft box in our home, ready to be used whenever the creative juices flow.  It contains construction paper, beads, craft foam, paper lunch bags, stickers, etc.  I also have a collection of toilet paper and paper towel tubes.  Tonight, Cucumber took two toilet paper tubes to make a telescope.  As she was collecting supplies, Sweet Pea swiped the tubes and took off running.  Cucumber screamed, "Stop her!  She took my potty sticks!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We Wait In Darkness

Happy Advent!  I love this Liturgical Season, but really, who am I kidding - I love them all!  Advent is a time that I take FULL advantage.  My family does not rush into the hype of the season.  As much as we look forward to Christmas, we also understand the importance of Advent.  This past Sunday, our priest encouraged us to wait with our decorating and busyness of the season, in order to grow in anticipation of Christmas.  Our kids have been asking to put the tree up and hang their stockings.  Monkey Toes and I explained to them why we are waiting.  Advent gives us the opportunity to prepare our hearts for Christ.  As a sacrifice during this time of preparation, our family has agreed to limit our "screen time". 
The focus in our home right now is our Advent Wreath.  The wreath (typically circular and evergreen) represents God's everlasting love.  Each candle represents a Sunday, leading up to Christmas.  Purple symbolizes repentance.  One of our previous priests explained that the purple represents the color on the horizon before the sun rises.  We are waiting in darkness before our great light comes (Jesus).  The pink candle symbolizes joy and hope.  As the wreath grows in light, our wait in darkness decreases.  The Light of the World is drawing nearer and nearer.

I am really proud of my kids during this time.  They have demonstrated such positive attitudes.  Each night before supper, they take turns leading our Advent prayers and lighting the candles.  They haven't fussed about limiting their use of the the WII or computer.  All in all, we do this in order to keep Christ in the center of our lives and in the center of The Season.  Hopefully it will lead to a richer prayer experience in our home and within each of our lives.

Blessing of the Advent Wreath
God of Wonder, send down your blessing on our family's wreath.
May all of us who use it prepare a special place in our hearts for Christ's coming.
May this wreath and its light remind us of Christ's promised coming.
Send down your many blessings on our family during this holy season.
We ask this in the name of Christ, your Son and our Brother.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Day to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving, hands down, is my favorite holiday of the year.  The entire day is centered around family and togetherness, sprinkled with good food, a little football, and possibly some physical activity.  It is not an overly-hyped up holiday (in my book that is a bit unfortunate), and although there is much planning that goes into the meal prep, the day is always a satisfying success, which demands little mental recovery from the festivities.

Monkey, the kids and I have two days of Thanksgiving, which allows us to spend ample, rushed-free time with both of our families.  Thanksgiving Day is spent with Monkey's side of the family, and the Saturday after is spent with my relatives.  Both serve traditional meals and both are very fun get-togethers.  I always leave these celebrations with a full tummy and a happy heart. 

Last night on our drive home, the kids had fallen fast asleep, allowing me time to reflect quietly on the day. Home has more to do with the people who surround us, than the walls that contain us.  At the top of my list of blessings this year, I am thankful for our home, which canopies my family and loved ones.  No matter what life deals me or where life takes me, home is where my heart will always be.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

39 and Holding

My 39th birthday was November 11th and today my sisters decided to take me out to celebrate.  The only problem - they forgot to pick me up.  So here I was, waiting outside in our driveway and nobody showed.  Sister 1 went to Sister 2's house and apparently they looked at each other and asked, "who was suppose to pick up Sissy (that would be me)?"  They both hopped in the car and came to pick me up.  We then went to the movie, The Help, did a little shopping and out for dinner.  Despite the wait, I had a wonderful day.
"Blessed is the woman who has a sister, and thrice blessed if she has more than one"
A few months ago, I expressed to Monkey Toes that I did not want a surprise party for my 40th birthday and I really didn't want any of the "over-the hill" themed gifts (such as black roses, etc).  He decided to throw me a surprise party this year to compensate.  He was successful in doing so!  On 11/11/11, Monkey gathered our families and a few friends to help us celebrate.  He pulled it off beautifully!  (Thanks also to Silly - his cohort).  Monkey Toes and I spent the entire day together, while Silly came to babysit.  We were audience members at the Twin Cities Live show, then we went out to dinner, and then out for ice-cream.  I was itching to get back home (it was 7pm and I wanted to see the kids before they went to bed), but Monkey said we should just enjoy being out while we had a sitter.  True, but I still wanted to spend part of my birthday with my kids.  While we were driving home, Monkey received a phone call saying that a private party at the Country Club needed his assistance in fixing their PA (something he does frequently in the area, so I didn't give it a second thought).  I was a bit annoyed with having to turn the vehicle around.  I was soon humbled as I discovered the party was for me.  It turned out to be a really fun night - and I was truly surprised. 
There were a number of people at the party who assumed I was turning forty - probably because of the surprise factor.  I even received a "40 is a magical number" birthday card (by far the most entertaining card of the evening.  It contained $40, to which I mailed back $1 in the Thank You card).  Growing older doesn't bother me, nor scare me.  My birthday isn't something I dread each year.  I don't lie about my age and "over-the-hill" jokes are wasted on me.  I have the beautiful women in my life to thank for this outlook.  My grandmothers aged gracefully, as is my mom.  Vanity was never part of their character.  Age, to them, was just a number.  And so it is to me.  I may be almost 40, but those around me keep me feeling young.  Next year on 11/11, I won't be burying my head in the sand, I will be thankful for another year on this amazing journey we call life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kindness Still Exists!

This morning, I was the recipient of two very thoughtful and generous acts of kindness.  Both were very unexpected.  It is days like this that I am reminded of the goodness in others.  I am reminded that it is in the simplest of gestures that I tend to find the greatest treasure.  I am reminded of how God uses each of us to show His presence, His love, His grace, and His mercy everyday.

I attended morning Mass at my children's school.  It was the 2nd Grade Class Mass and Honey Bunches read one of the Prayers of the Faithful.  After Mass, I was flagged down by the dad of one of Honey's classmates.  He said he noticed that I have been driving the last few weeks with a burnt-out headlight.  In his hand he was carrying a new headlight.  He changed it for me - right on the spot.  I asked, "Can I please pay you something?"  He said, "No.  I just ask that you pray for me and that my business will pick up." 

Before returning home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some apples.  As the cashier rang up my order, I was .20 short.  I had no change because I had just cleaned out my wallet and put all my spare change in the kids piggy banks.  So I asked the cashier to take a few apples out to bring the price down.  She said, "No, no.  I want you to have these apples."  She dug in her own pocket and payed the difference. 

I am so greatly touched by the genuine thoughtfulness of these two individuals.  I am humbled and I am blessed.  Now, I pay it forward.  What do you have planned today?  Be vigilant on opportunities to be Christ to someone.  Let His light and His love shine!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things Part II

Cucumber wanted to play WII this morning.  I gave her permission, but said I would put the timer on so that her sisters could take a turn as well.  The littlest ones were very impatient and began to push the buttons on the T.V.  I commented, "you girls need to sit down.  It's a zoo in here!"  Cucumber responded, "Well welcome to my world!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stolen Identity

As I approached a STOP sign this morning while taking my kids to school, this was the conversation that took place:

Sweet Potato:  So and So are behind us.
Honey Bunches:  No, that's not them.
Sweet Potato:  Yes it is.
Honey Bunches:  It can't be.  That doesn't look like their Mom or their Grandma driving.
Sweet Potato:  That's because it's their Dad!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kids Say the Darndest Things

My kids like to make me laugh.  Some days they try to be sillier than the last.  In their attempts at comedy, they usually ask the question, "Is that funny Mom?"  And I usually answer, "It was a little funny."  Last night, Sweet Pea was dancing around crazily and asked, "Am I funny Mom?"  As usual my reply was, "You're a little funny."  To which she asked, "What do I have to do to make it a lot funny?"  Well talking like that is one way!

Playing "wedding" is still a big hit in our household.  This past weekend, Peanut Butter stayed with us and Cucumber claimed that she was going to marry him.  She dragged encouraged him to go outside with her to re-enact a wedding.  As I was checking up on them Cucumber said, "I'm charging people at my wedding, so if you want to watch you have to pay."

The kids and I were cleaning out our DVDs and we found The Berenstain Bears - one we haven't watched in a very long time.  So this morning, the girls asked if they could watch it.  After awhile I asked, "How do you like this show?"  Sweet Pea responded, "I'm getting a kick out of it!"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Near Heartattack

We keep the garbage can under our kitchen sink.  Today, as I was changing out the bag, I noticed some scraps had spilled over.  So I cleared some things out from under the sink and began to clean up the mess.  Then I touched something that forced me to look twice.  It was a small, grey mouse lying with its feet up.  I jumped back and began to scream, except that I lost my voice last night and so no sound was coming out of my mouth.  I was jumping up and down hysterically, trying to scream when Sweet Pea walked into the kitchen.  She thought I was trying to be funny and began laughing and saying, "mom, you're so silly!"  I rushed to the sink and began to wash my hands profusely.  Then I brought my vacuum in and sucked everything up, including the mouse.  At this point, my heart was racing, my face felt hot, and my hands were trembling.  I am a complete wimp when it comes to rodents.  Our vacuum has a clear canister, so I investigated what I cleaned up.  I definitely had a mouse in there, but I discovered that it wasn't real, it was a rubber toy.  I am still recovering at this time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

School Girl Crush

As I was checking my son's homework a few days ago, I found a note wadded up in his backpack.  It was from a girl in his class, declaring her crush on my son.  My gut reaction was, "who is this hussy girl?"  I was pleasantly surprised that Sweet Potato was willing to talk about it. "She's just this girl who likes to be by me and tries to hug me at recess," he so innocently explained.  I had to ask, "Do you like her?"  "Well yeah, because she's my friend."  Whew.  I'm not ready for "relationships" yet!

Since finding the note, I have, of course, tried to catch glimpses of this girl while picking my kids up from school.  Actually, I didn't have to be very sneaky about it, as the child approached me yesterday and asked, "Can you tell Sweet Potato to wave at me when you drive by?"   Brazen little bugger, isn't she.  I complied and told Sweet Potato that "girl" wants him to wave at her.  "Give me a break" he replied.  I reminded him to be nice.  "Well I'm mad because she got in my way when I was trying to play football at recess.  I'm not waving at her!"  Well prioritized my son.  Well prioritized.

Enunciation Please!

Poor little Sweet Pea is battling a cold.  She has lost her precious and innocent little voice to one that makes her sound like a lounge singer holding a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other.  This morning as we were playing, she approached me with a notebook and a pencil.  "Mom, can you draw Clifford umming?"
Me:  What do you want me to draw?
Sweet Pea:  Clifford umming.
Me:  I am so sorry sweetie, but I don't understand what you're saying.
Sweet Pea:  Mommy pleeeeeeease draw Clifford umming.
Me:  O.K.  I understand you want me to draw Clifford. (This would be Clifford the Big Red Dog).

After a few minutes of this conversation, Sweet Pea began to run around the kitchen.

Sweet Pea:  Now do you understand what Clifford is doing?  He's umming!
Me:  Yes Sweet Pea.  I understand that Clifford is running.  I'll draw him for you.

I drew her a picture of  Clifford running and she said, quite disgustedly, "you drew Emily Elizabeth."
I give up!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Good Ol' Days

Recently, Monkey toes and I tackled the job of cleaning out our storage shed.  Our goal is to park our vehicles (well at least mine) in our garage.  A novel idea, I know!  We began by making piles.  One was a "keep" pile, one a "trash" pile, one a "donate" pile and one a "family members" pile.  In the very back of the shed were three boxes with my name marked on them.  What I unveiled took me on a walk down memory lane.  These boxes were originally stored at my parent's home, and once we bought our own house, my parents gave them back.  I haven't seen many of these items since High School. 

Box number one contained my Letter Jacket and my first Bible - it was given to me at my First Communion.  Box number two was filled with items from my dorm room in college - one of which was a Lego set that Monkey Toes gave to me.  It was a gift that he mailed to me at college my freshman year.  I had shared with him a long time before then, that one toy I had always wanted as a kid but never received was Legos.  To this day, it is still one of the most thoughtful presents I have ever received.  The third box really brought me back to my childhood.  It contained notes from my elementary crush, Homecoming buttons, letters from Monkey Toes, birthday cards from my parents and grandparents, and a note that my friend Rhea gave me in 7th grade.  I spent HOURS scouring through these boxes.  I brought them all into our living room, poured myself a glass of wine, and started reminiscing.  I also brought along a garbage bag, thinking that I would condense these items into one box.  What I discovered, is that it was more difficult to throw items out than I had imagined.  Why is it so important for me to hold on to a Homecoming button from my youth?  Why am I holding on to an old prom corsage?  I'm not sure where my internal struggle stems from, but I wound up keeping the 3 boxes and placing them back into storage.  Maybe they will be a project for another day.

As I was looking through the boxes, I had a smile on my face from the many wonderful experiences I've had in my life.  Although some of those keepsakes are over 30 years old, the memory seems like just yesterday.  What I've learned is how short life is, how fast time passes, and the impact simple gestures and acts of kindness imprint upon my life.  Maybe that's why letting go of the past seems so difficult.  It is a reminder of how blessed I truly am, with my faith, family and friends.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I know this post is well past October 31st, but better late than never.  We began the tradition last year of meeting up with Silly and her family on Halloween.  They live in a development and it makes Trick or Treating very easy!  We start with supper, then get into costume, and then hit the streets.  Halloween isn't exactly my favorite holiday, but having a plan and getting together with family makes it much more fun for the kids and bearable for the adults.

This is Sweet Potato who fell asleep on the way to Silly's house.  



Peanut Butter
The Loot

The title of this entry is credited to Sweet Pea.  Halloweenie is how she pronounced the Feast of All Hallows Eve.  It put a smile on my face each time she said it.  My favorite moments of the evening were watching Pumpkin gallop to and fro at each home.  I thought it funny that both my boys were ready to leave after visiting just 4 homes.  Cucumber insisted on wearing these hard, plastic shoes that came with her Belle costume.  I packed tennis shoes for her, but she declared that she loved her sparkly shoes and was not going to spoil her outfit with sensible shoes (well she didn't actually use the word sensible, but that's the gist of the situation).  I found it endearing that the head to Sweet Pea's Tigger costume continued to fall lopsided.  And Gummi had an unceasingly amount of energy.  She probably would have continued long into the night had we allowed her.

The candy is quickly dwindling, the costumes are packed away in the closet, and once again we have sweet memories of a fun filled night. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Press "Re-Do"

Yesterday was a day that I wish I could press the "re-do" button, or the "rewind" button, or maybe, even possibly, the "delete" button.  My morning began great.  I dropped the kids off at school, the little ones and I walked to the park and played hard, we came home and had hot chocolate.  Then the day started getting tough.  I checked messages on my computer and found out that the father of a high school friend passed away.  My heart felt heavy for her loss and brought back all the memories of my own dad's passing.  In the afternoon, when I went to pick my kids up from school, my son's teacher met me at the door.  My son has been having some disciplinary issues, and yesterday was a problematic day.  The news left me feeling deflated.  It felt like all the wind had been knocked out of me.  I know he'll get through this, but right now, I feel a weight on my shoulders.  I'm just trying to figure out why these situations arise.  He is such a great kid and I'm fearful that if his behavior doesn't improve, that he'll be labeled at school for years to come as a trouble maker among his teachers.  Finally, as I was preparing supper, Pumpkin cried out that she was stuck.  As I investigated, I found her foot stuck in the spindles of a chair.
I thought it would be an easy fix, just slide her leg up and out, but it was wedged tight.  Normally, I wouldn't take a picture of such a situation, but as you can see, she really wasn't in distress, she was just stuck.  Upon numerous attempts to pull her foot out, I was ready to get either a saw or hammer and bust the chair.  My other children thought that was a horrible idea.  So I walked next door to our neighbors and asked for help.  Mr. Pat came over, opened up some petroleum jelly, lubed Pumpkin up and removed her foot.  This, however, was done to the tune of some good screams and many crocodile tears.  Once freed, she gave Mr. Pat a hug - a remarkable gesture seeing as she doesn't hug many outside of the family.  After our neighbor left, I shed a tear or two of my own - mostly because I felt a bit overwhelmed from the day.

The evening was truly a grace for me.  Monkey Toes returned home from a business trip, in time for us all to snuggle together and watch Heffalump (Winnie the Pooh Halloween Movie).  The kids went to bed, Monkey and I talked for awhile, and today is a new day.  The sun is shining, Monkey took the four oldest to my nephew's football game, the little ones are playing quietly, and I am enjoying a hot cup of coffee.  This new day brings a new perspective.  What is done is done.  I can't undo anything that has happened, but I can do my best at this moment.  My friend and her family will remain in my prayers for a long time.  My son will suffer consequences for his behavior.  Monkey and I will remain firm, but loving.  I am confident that he (and us) will get through this - whatever "this" happens to be, and we will offer it all up to Christ.  As far as Pumpkin, well, I'm actually laughing about it today.  This, I have no doubt, will be one of many predicaments she finds herself.  She is a stinker (I say that with all the love in my heart!).
This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it! 
                                                                                                            Psalm 118:24

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Favorite Time of Year

I think I was meant to grow up and live in the mid-west.  I  love seasons.  I love how each change in season brings about a little excitement and awe.  Now let me be clear, I don't LOVE winter, but there is something magical about the first snowfall and the glistening of the trees when they're frosted.  But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here.  My favorite season is fall.  I only wish that it stuck around a little longer than it does.  Leaves changing colors, the crispness in the air, the crunch of the leaves underfoot as we take our walks - I enjoy it all!
This is the time of year when I enjoy cooking and baking the most.  I love squash, pumpkins, apples, the scent of cinnamon and cloves, warm comfort foods at supper-time and wrapping my hands around a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. 

This is the time of year where the air feels a little fresher, food tastes a little better, my heart feels a little more grateful for the blessings in my life.  Autumn is a beautiful time of year, both inside and out!

P.S.  My smile today is sponsored by Sweet Pea, who on the way home this morning from dropping the kids off at school said, "Mom. What word is on the STOP sign?"  I said, "STOP."  She replied, "Well that's just silly."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Know You Have Kids When. . .

- your house is identified in the neighborhood as the "house with all the toys in the yard."

- sippy cups outnumber water glasses.

- you're in need of a pen or pencil and the most convenient utensil is a crayon.

- your vehicles sacrifice their place in the garage in exchange for balls, bats, bikes, golf clubs, roller blades, etc.

- the only band aids in the house are "themed" - Toy Story, Dora and Disney Princesses.

-there's enough crumbs in the van to put together a 5 course meal.

- no matter how clean you think your clothes are, one of the little love bugs inevitably has swiped their nose across your sleeve or drooled on your shoulder.

- the Veggie Tale's theme song continually runs through your head ALL DAY.

- you see your  heart outside of yourself each and every day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Redemptive Suffering

When I was in college, I was assigned to the read the book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold Kushner.  The book left me asking more questions than it gave me answers.  I believe it is part of human nature for all of us, at one time or another in this journey of life, to reflect on that very question.  Why do bad things happen?  I am giving this some thought today because my prayer list seems to be growing by the day with names of people who have requested prayer for themselves or their loved ones.  There are so many people who are hurting right now - physically, spiritually, emotionally.  How do any of us make sense of this?  I am grateful to have my faith to guide me, because without it I would find myself in a hopeless place.

A few years ago I took a Bible study which was led by Jeff Cavins - a Catholic author and speaker.  One evening he spoke about the topic of Redemptive Suffering.  This was a new concept for me; one I had never heard of.  And although I have done some reading on this topic, I am still challenged to fully understand it.  I am beginning to believe that it becomes more clear as one grows in wisdom of life and as one encounters suffering in his or her own life.

The idea of Redemptive Suffering is this:  One offers their suffering in union with the passion of Christ, for the redemption of the world.  Jeff Cavins explained it from the viewpoint of a parent.  When my child is sick, I sacrifice my own health in order to restore my child's health.  For example, I sacrifice sleep and sometimes nutrition, in order to help my child regain his health.  In doing this, I may get sick, but in order to restore wellness, I make this sacrifice out of selfless love.  And so when this concept is applied to suffering, I can offer my suffering, with the suffering of Christ, for the redemption of the whole world.  Although suffering is still difficult, it helps to know that one can find purpose in it.

I have encountered difficult situations in my life, but I don't believe that I have ever truly suffered.  I have watched loved ones battle cancer.  I have cried with loved ones over the loss of an unborn child.  I have witnessed neighbors losing their homes or who struggle to have enough to eat.  There is no simple explanation to any of this, but there are truths that I cling to.  We never walk alone.  Jesus is with us, holding our hand, and if we don't have the strength to hold His, He carries us.  There is purpose in suffering, even though we may not see it.
"It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up for all that still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church."
                                                              Colossians 1:24

Monday, October 24, 2011


Thanks to the kids uncle, we have two bags of cheese balls in the house.  Today after homework, they were the snack of choice for everyone.  Cucumber asked me, "Mom, what do you call these things again?"  I said, "cheese balls."  She replied, "Yep.  This is my favorite kind of cheese."

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Naturally, my girls are role playing wedding, since my niece's wedding last weekend.  They put on pretty dresses and place dancing skirts on their heads for veils.  Barbie Dolls are used for the bouquets (a little strange, but very unique).  Yesterday, Cucumber was the bride.  As the girls began to walk down the hallway she shouted, "Wait, wait, wait.  In MY wedding, I walk down the aisle first.  All you other girls in those dresses (referring to the bridesmaids) walk behind me!"  Well, if nothing else, she is a girl who knows what she wants.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Do, Eh?

Our family traveled to Winnipeg, Canada over the weekend for my niece's wedding (my brother's oldest daughter) .  The weather was perfect for a fall wedding, the bride was radiant and the groom very handsome.  It was a fun trip, but we are all battling colds since our return. Overall, the trip was much better than I had anticipated.  I told Silly last night that maybe I need to be less pessimistic, since I tend to go into situations expecting the worse.  I am thankful that I usually wind up being pleasantly surprised at how well everything turns out.

We traveled by coach bus, courtesy of my brother.  Knowing that the trip would be a minimum of 6 hours, I had some anxiety about my children being cooped up for that length of time.  The bus left at 6 A.M. and we did not arrive at our hotel that evening until 7 P.M.  I was very proud of my children and how they conducted themselves.  No major melt-downs, at least not the first day.  As a well deserved reward, we let them swim that evening and then ordered pizza.  We all fell into our beds, exhausted, but excited about the upcoming events.

The wedding was lovely.  I love fall weddings - the crispness of the air and the vibrant colors all lend themselves to the beauty of the season.  Pumpkin was the flower girl (she is my niece's goddaughter).  I really didn't think that Pumpkin would cooperate (there goes that pessimism again!).  She is only two and tends to want to be held by me in new situations.  Not only did she walk down the aisle by herself (she kinda left the ring bearer in her dust), but she waved to everyone as well.  Truly precious!  My boys each read a scripture passage and did an amazing job.  After the ceremony, the pastor sought them out to thank them for reading so beautifully.  Again, a proud momma was I.
Pumpkin after the ceremony
My boys - the Readers
My brother and my nephew - I absolutely adore this picture!
The reception was fun - it was football themed.  The food was delicious and the kids danced to their hearts content.
Sweet Pea

Gummi, Cucumber & Pumpkin dancing with my nieces
A few of my treasured memories of the weekend are:  1.  On the bus ride, Cucumber was sharing a seat with my sister, who happened to fall asleep.  I asked Cucumber how she was doing and she said, "I wanted someone to sit by me, not someone to sleep by me!"  2.  My brother cried as he gave his daughter away.    3.  Sweet Potato danced a slow song with me and even placed one hand on my hip and held my other hand. 4.  No one could get Honey Bunches out onto the dance floor, but then the song All Summer Long was played and he came out, grabbed my hands and smiled through the entire song.

So another fun and memorable time was had by my family.  I wish the newlyweds all the joy in the world.  They are a delightful couple and we are all blessed to have such a wonderful addition to our family.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bathroom Shuffle

We have 2 bathrooms in our home for 8 people to share.  There is a bathroom on the main floor and one in the basement.  Even with the 2 johns, there are days when a couple more would come in handy.  Before and after school seem to be our bathroom hot spots of the day.  I can always tell when someone is put out by the "Oh man!" that resounds from the hallway when it is discovered that a body is already seated on the throne.  Upon our arrival home each afternoon, a race ensues for who can get into the door first.  The winner usually gets the main floor bathroom and second place goes downstairs.  Third place dances in the hallway.  I have encouraged my children to use the restroom at school before I pick them up, but it doesn't seem to matter.  I think deep down it's their way of antagonizing one another.  On rare occasions, I win the race.  But truly, it is anything but ideal.  I lock the bathroom door behind me, but for some reason, it is an invitation to rattle the handle. Apparently, one try isn't enough to convince the perpetrator that the door is locked and no matter how many times they attempt, they're not getting in!  I will forever refer to this song and dance as the Bathroom Shuffle.  To my kids, flushing is music to their ears!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Feasts & Miracles

Our Liturgical Calendar is filled with feast days, which I happen to love.  It helps to remind me of life outside of myself.  Last Friday was the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  As Catholics, the most perfect prayer we have is the Mass and the prayers associated with the Mass.  The next most powerful prayer we have is the Rosary. As I was listening to the radio on Friday, people were calling in, sharing their experiences of the Rosary.  Some stories were quite remarkable.  It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own "miracles" of the Rosary.  One experience stood out for me.

One evening, last winter, Monkey Toes came home from work and said that we had no money until payday, which was still two weeks out.  Knowing that I would need gas and groceries, I felt a bit panicked.  I went into our bedroom and prayed my Rosary.  I asked our Blessed Mother to pray for our situation, but most of all that I would not lose faith that God would provide for us.  The next morning, I loaded the kids in the van to take them to school.  When I turned the ignition, the gas light came on.  I turned to my kids and said, "we need to pray that we will not run out of gas today.  Let's say a Hail Mary."  I needed to drive 40 miles round trip.  My kids obliged (they're quite used to me making requests such as this).  As I drove to school, everyone was very quiet.  At the ten mile mark, Gummi Bear whispered from the second row, "Mom, the gas light went off."  It truly did.  I felt relieved, but still was worried about having to make the same trip later that afternoon (go ahead, call me a Doubting Thomas!).  However, upon my return home, I picked up the mail.  There, sitting in our mailbox was a check.  It was money we knew was coming, but weren't expecting it for another ten days and it was for a greater amount than we had anticipated.  It was enough to get us through payday.

I could probably attribute this experience to a number of factors, but in my heart of heart, I believe that God worked a miracle.  I went to His mother for help and He held and carried my family.  "Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen!"

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Soul Mates, Schmole Mates

There is a long running joke between Monkey Toes and I about the term "Soul Mates."  A few years ago I told him that the term actually kind of bugged me.  I mean, I get the idea behind it, but it sounds just a little bit over the top for me.  Now if you are a soul mate to someone, please don't take my views personally.  If you are happy and in love and that is a term you enjoy using, by all means don't let my simple mindedness offend you nor stop you from using it! 

In 1996 when the movie Jerry McGuire came out, so many people coined the phrase, "You complete me."  In the movie, in was a romantic notion, leaving some to consider if their significant other really "completed" them.  It may also have left many single people wondering if they would ever find their missing piece.  Hollywood struck once again in planting the inadequacy seed among throngs of people.  1996 happened to be the time in my life when I was making it on my own.  I didn't have a significant other, nor an active dating life.  What I did have was a full time job, my own apartment, a loving family and amazing friends.  I never felt like I needed anything to complete me.  With my faith and life as it was, I was whole. 

I don't quite recall how the whole soul mate topic ever came up between Monkey Toes and I, but once I shared my views with him, he in turn (in his usual joking, a bit dramatic and unceasingly teasing way) has never let me forget it.  He'll make comments like, "I believed in soul mates until you crushed my dreams of me being yours!" or, "You would understand me better if we were soul mates."  Blah, blah, blah.  Please don't mistake me for a pessimist.  I like romance as much as the next.  I love my husband very much and daily I thank God for him.  I believe that it was God's hand that directed us towards one another and I don't want to imagine my life without him.  Monkey has enhanced my life. 

From a faith standpoint, our marriage is much more than just a promise to love one another forever.  It is a covenant, which goes beyond any verbal commitment I could ever make on my own.  Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote:
There is a special love required for marriage.  It is different from the love between friends, or between parent and child, or between us and God.  It is called marital love and is characterized by a man and a woman who give themselves to one another in faithfulness, permanence, and openness to the begetting and raising of children.  (Apostolic exhortation, "The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World."
 In addition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church.  It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life.  (cf. Council of Trent:  DS 1799)
 Monkey Toes is more than my best friend.  He is more than the father to our children.  He is more than all the other qualities that make him unique.  And, he is more than my soul mate.  He is my spouse.  That to me encompasses more than any coined phrase ever could.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Feast of the Archangels

September 29th was the Feast of the Archangels.  It is a tradition of the Church that dates back to the 4th century.  There are 3 Angels that are named in Scripture.  The first is Raphael (Book of Tobit), then Gabriel (Daniel and Gospel of Luke) and Michael (Book of Daniel and Revelation).  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that, "[T]he existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls "angels" is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition."  Angels are pure, created spirits. The name angel means servant or messenger of God. Angels are celestial or heavenly beings, on a higher order than human beings. Angels have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence or activity. They are distinct from saints, which men can become. Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast multitude, but each is an individual spirit. Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. In ascending order, the choirs or classes are 1) Angels, 2) Archangels, 3) Principalities, 4) Powers, 5) Virtues, 6) Dominations, 7) Thrones, 8) Cherubim, and 9) Seraphim.
 To celebrate this Feast Day with my kids, we had a special supper - Angel Hair Pasta, of course!

For dessert, Berries on a Cloud (Angel Food Cake would have been the obvious choice, but the kids liked the idea of making a cloud dessert).
While the kids enjoyed their meal, I presented a lesson to them on the Archangels.  Here were my props:

Gabriel is known as the announcer, thus the microphone.  Raphael is known to guide.  He was represented by the Road Atlas.  And finally Gabriel.  He is the Protector and Defender.  I used a light saber for him.  It's a little 21st century, but it was effective in getting the point across to the kids.  They thought I was goofy, but they giggled a lot and I think they learned something.  The proof came the next morning when I quizzed them on the way to school.  They remembered the angels names and the tools that represented each of them.  It was fun to celebrate with my children and teach them something about our faith.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


After dropping the kids off at school this morning, the girls began to share their favorite memories of summer.  It was really fun to listen to, as the accuracy of some of their stories is questionable.  Cucumber said, "I remember when Auntie and Cousin took me to the lake and Cousin touched a boobie."  I was shocked and seeing as my nephew is in his twenties and in college, I was also disturbed.  Here's how the conversation played out:

Me:  What did you just say?
Cucumber:  I said Cousin touched a boobie.
Me:  Cucumber, I need you to tell me exactly what happened.
Cucumber:  Cousin went in the water and swam to the boobie and touched it.
Me:  Oh my darling, darling girl.  He swam out to the BUOY and touched it.
Cucumber:  Yeah, that's what I said.

Praise Jesus.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mundane Day

Monkey Toes was quick to point out that my last post really wasn't irony in its truest form.  Correct he is and for those of you who are literary scholars, I apologize for the misuse of the term.  Now, onto other things. . .

Today was a day filled with mundane tasks.  I had a long list of things that should be done.  It was difficult, as the weather was amazing  - the sun was bright, the temperature was around 76 degrees, and the kids were itching to get outdoors.  None the less, I knew I had to get a few things accomplished.  First off was freezing sweet corn that our dear friend Donna dropped off to us last night.  The girls were a huge help in husking the corn.  They dressed for the occasion.

Next on the agenda was to clean out the fridge - not just go through our leftovers, but to actually scrub the entire refrigerator.  I probably would have saved this job for a rainy or very cold day, but one of the drawers was a bit sticky from a mystery substance. 
It is a tad bare, which grocery shopping is on the to-do list Friday.  Until then, we will get by with what's in our cupboards and freezer.

Finally, I had to make laundry soap.  Both my liquid and powder detergents were completely gone.  I'm thankful that Sweet Potato likes to help me. 
Grating the bar soap

I still have a few things on my list (laundry and the skeleton of a fall craft project that I have been promising the kiddos for the last week) that will just have to be put off until another day.  It is challenging for me to let things go.  In my crazy mind, completed projects and a tidy house equate peacefulness.  However, today I was able to experience some truly joyful moments, because I let some projects slide.

The first joyful moment came right before lunch.  I was pushing the girls on the swings and they were telling jokes. 
Cucumber:  How do you make a tissue dance?  You blow a little boogie in it. (Yes, another booger joke).
Sweet Pea:  Knock Knock (who's there?) Banana (banana who?)  I took the banana for a walk to the park (laughter erupts from her sisters).
Pumpkin:  Naw naw (knock knock) (who's there?)  orange (orange who?) Orange on the swings (again, belly laughter which could hardly be contained).

I love pure silliness from my kids on days like this.  It comes from such an untainted and honest place.  I may not have laughed has hard as my girls, but I certainly had a smile on my face and embraced the moment.

The second joyful moment was this evening.  Monkey Toes returned from a business trip to Chicago and the kids were really excited to see him.  As he laid down on the sofa to rest a little, some of the kids crawled on him and Cucumber begged him to read a story.  He read A Fairy Ballet and used different voices for the characters.  The kids laughter was contagious.  It really was a very precious gesture.
On days like this I try to remember that it's the little things that can make the biggest impact.  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote, "It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters."  
So whether I'm working on laundry, mopping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, or pushing my kids on the swings, my attitude towards these things is what really matters.  Do I go about my day grumbling at what needs to be done, or do I offer my entire day to my Father in Heaven?  I may not always be successful in doing so, but I strive for the latter.

I am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything, even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God.
- Saint Dominic Savio

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The universe is full of irony and today, I experienced a little piece of it.  Honey Bunches, whom I recently referred to as "a man of few words," got in trouble at school for talking too much.  I actually had to re-read the note sent home from his teacher at least three times to make sure I was understanding it correctly.  Well, if nothing else, my kids keep me on my toes. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Boogers & Broccoli

Our household had such a lovely day on Sunday.  I was up before anyone else and snuck off to early Mass.  I had this awesome experience at Mass, where everything just really came together.  It is difficult to find the words to describe it, but after receiving the Eucharist, I went back to my pew, knelt down, closed my eyes and felt this overwhelming sense of peace.  Even the communion song tied in to my experience (although I can't tell you today what song it was!)  So I left church feeling re-energized.  When I returned home, the kids shouted "surprise!"  They had set out breakfast, even pouring me a bowl of cereal (they didn't wait for me to get home before adding the milk.  My cereal was a tad soggy, but the thoughtfulness of the gesture was grand).  They also made coffee, which they have greatly improved.  Then Monkey Toes took ALL the kids to late Mass.  I told him to leave the younger ones with me, but he said I could have a little more time to myself.  So I was able to have another cup of coffee, get lunch made, load the dishwasher, and play on my computer. 

The weather was absolutely perfect, so after lunch, Monkey took the boys golfing and the girls and I took a long walk around town.  We ended up at a park, where the girls ran themselves exhausted.  So home we came, took naps, watched some football, and had spaghetti for supper.  During our meal time, Gummi said she had a joke to tell us.  "What's the difference between boogers and broccoli?  Kids don't eat broccoli."  I know - yuck, however, it is funny.  (By the way, this joke is courtesy of the Okie Dokie Brothers Kids music CD). 

After the kids went to bed, my nephew stopped by and we visited for a long time, just catching up.  We also cut into an apple pie I made, which hadn't been ready to eat after supper.  It was a nice way to end our weekend.  The weather was beautiful, I had fun with the kids, and I was able to relax.  It was another weekend I wish I could bottle up and keep on my shelf as a reminder of my many blessings.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Tender Hearted Boy

Honey Bunches is sick.  He has laid on the sofa all day, curled up in a ball, sipping water, nibbling on saltines and sleeping on and off.  He looks so frail and my heart aches for him.  I wish I could make things all better. I would gladly take his sickness if it would mean good health for him.

Honey Bunches is a great kid, but not in the obvious sense.  He is a man of few words and tends to go about his day quietly.  Last year, his teacher asked Monkey Toes and I if Honey was enjoying school, because she couldn't read him, he was very quiet and didn't display much emotion one way or the other.  The truth is, he likes school, does well academically, and loves playing with his friends.  He doesn't like homework and tends to do just enough to get by, but I too was guilty of that a time or two growing up.  As a mom, what speaks volumes to me are his actions.

This past week, I caught him doing such good and kind things.  One morning, as everyone was getting ready for school and I was running around frantically, he helped his baby sister by pouring her cereal, getting her a cup of milk and then pushing her chair in for her.  That same morning, he got down on the floor with Sweet Pea and helped her put her shoes on the correct feet.  Yesterday, my mom came over and was helping with laundry.  She brought some clothes into his room and he asked if he could help her.  A few days ago, Pumpkin had climbed onto the top bunk in the girls room and couldn't get down.  He went into their room to help and I heard him say, "It's o.k.  Just climb down slow and I'll catch you if you fall." 

What has touched me the most about his gestures is that he did all of these things without being asked.  He recognized a need and just pitched in to help.  I often think that is a true sign of genuineness - when a person can do good, whether or not others are watching. 

I've always considered Honey to be my tender-hearted boy.  Others may see him as apathetic, but deep down, he has an enormous heart, full of love and passion for life.  And hopefully, very soon, he'll be up and running around, back to his old self.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Flu is for the Birds

Each year I take my kids to get flu shots, and each year I vow that I will never take them again.  I will gladly turn the reigns over to Monkey Toes to get this job done.  However, each year I see the little ad in the paper and I schedule all of us to get our shots right after I pick the kiddos up from school.  This year I even saved some mileage by taking the family to our in-town clinic.  So yesterday was all about mentally preparing for this feat.  I'm sure that sounds a bit over-the-top, but past experience has taught me that children are unpredictable in situations that involve shots.  I can never overly prepare.

When I scheduled the appointments, the receptionist asked if we wanted the shot or the mist.  I said we all would like the mist.  We showed up at 3:30, along with my mom (I needed her for back-up).  While the kids sat in the waiting room, I began to fill out the paperwork - all 14 pages.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I had to complete, sign and date 2 pages for each person.  Personally, I think the process could be a bit more efficient, but really, who am I to say?  So after the 14th signature, I met up with my family and soon we were all called back into an examination room.  There, lying on the counter, were 7 needles.  The nurse asked, "you requested the shots, right?"  I replied, "no, I asked for the mist."  By the look on her face, I gathered that switching over to the mist would cause a time delay.  So I told her not to worry about it.  We would take the shots instead.  Immediately following my reply, children began to cry - not just tears, but cries of agony in the anticipation of what was about to take place.  The nurse asked, "Who is going to be first?", in which every child pointed to someone else.  Honey Bunches scrunched down on the floor between the chairs, Cucumber's body was convulsing with sobs, and Gummi Bear was crying, "NO, NO, NO."  The two babies were looking around, not knowing what was happening.  I looked at Sweet Potato and told him to be first.  Reluctantly, he sat on the table.  Next was Pumpkin, who said (not cried), "ouch."  Then there was Sweet Pea, who looked a little worried, but never shed a tear.  Next I looked at Gummi Bear who planted her feet firmly on the ground and wouldn't budge.  I had to pick her up (not an easy task), while she kicked and screamed.  At this point, sweat began to run down my back.  I have no doubt that my face was red.  Gummi shared a piercing scream that made even the nurses flinch.  I then called upon Honey Bunches who insisted that I promised him that he could go last.  Lastly was Cucumber, who I think truly believed that I was torturing her.  Even after the shot, and after we were back in the van and buckled in, her sobs continued.  She claimed that her arm was hurt and she would never be able to use it again.

While in the exam room, I had hoped that the walls were sound proof, but as we exited, I could tell that those in the waiting room heard it all.  Our neighbor was standing there, a big smile on her face, confirming that every scream, cry and holler were clearly detected.  So with my pride in tow, we left the building.  I felt like I had just run a marathon.

Once again, I have vowed that I will never do this again.  We'll see if I remember this promise one year from now.  Oh, and an update on Cucumber.  Her arm is working splendidly today.  So well, that she was capable of slugging her little sister for the remote control before lunch.  And so it goes that our life, as usual, continues.

Monday, September 19, 2011

One of My Favorite Days

Yesterday was our Parish Fall Festival.  It is one of my favorite days of the year.  I look forward to spending a day with my family and supporting our church.

Our festival is nothing outrageously spectacular.  We don't have a carnival or a concert series.  It is a typical rural parish gathering.  We have a roast beef dinner with homemade pie, a country store, cake walk, silent auction, kids games, quilt show, a raffle, and of course BINGO.  It is a place where my kids feel safe and Monkey and I feel safe in letting our kids run.  I love how our parish pulls together at this time of year.  We work along side one another, volunteering to work shifts, baking pies and cakes, and donating items from our harvest.  Rain or shine, it is always a fun day.

I consider my parish family exactly that;  an extension of my family.  I've met many through worship, befriended  many through councils I've served and through volunteering, and I genuinely care and love so many who have shown kindness and care to my own family.  As much as I love the Church, I also love my parish.  It is a place I consider part of my home.  On the third Saturday of September each year, we gather to celebrate all together and to give thanks to God for all of our abundant blessings.  Yes, we are truly blessed!

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's Just Hair

I recently had my hair cut and it's causing some interesting responses from folks.  Many have told me that they like it (thank you to all - you're very kind!).  However, some have also expressed shock.  Two people have asked me, "What does Monkey Toes think of it?" and one gentleman volunteered his opinion that, "I really prefer long hair on women."  I have also been asked if I changed my hair to correspond with the change in seasons.  My favorite one yet is, "are you going through some sort of crisis?"  O.k.  Here it is - the honest scoop. 

A few days before our family vacation, I went to the salon to get a couple of inches cut off.  My hair was beginning to feel really heavy, and I wanted it lighter for our trip.  As I was sitting in the chair, the stylist mentioned that I would probably have enough to donate to Locks of Love.  Without a second thought, I told her I would love to make a donation.  Out came the ruler (you need at least 10 inches to donate) and 11 inches later, I had a short do.  There was no crisis involved and I didn't need Monkey's permission.  His reaction, if you're wondering, was, "nice haircut", upon his return home from work that evening.  Yes, the seasons are changing, but I am waaaaay too busy to coordinate styles with seasons nor anything else.  I have had long hair for 5 years, so I welcomed this change.  It feels great and it has been no more or no less work than my longer style.  To me - it's just hair.  It is my crown, but certainly not my glory!

Meditations Of A Stay At Home Mom: Take Up Your Cross

This is a blog that I follow from time to time.  I enjoy reading Colleen's thoughts, because her life seems to reflect my own in so many ways.  Her post today is simply brilliant.  I wanted to share it here, because I needed to read this as much as I need to practice it.

Meditations Of A Stay At Home Mom: Take Up Your Cross: When he throws a book in anger because he doesn’t understand or because he simply doesn’t want to work and I so badly desire to just react to his poor behavior and tell him what I really think of him, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

When the toddler is on a rampage, turning over pint-sized chairs and pulling books from the shelves because we’ve been too long in the learning room and I feel my blood begin to boil, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

When I enter the kitchen and I see what they’ve left—the uneaten food, the spilled milk, the uncleared plates and crumbs—and I want to bark at them to ‘CLEAN IT UP ALREADY!’, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

When it’s quiet time and I’ve doled out instructions to keep silent so the little ones can rest and so I might have a moment of peace myself and still they carry on with games too loud or interrupt me 1001 times, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

When the baby is screaming that annoying scream while someone continuously bangs on the table and another runs in crying with hurt feelings, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

When the laundry has over run me –again—and I can’t decipher the clean from the dirty pile and I have no clue exactly when it will all get folded and put away, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

When it’s dinner time and five cranky, hungry people crowd my personal space, asking me questions about what we’re eating and when it will be ready and I so desperately want to call it quits and escape into a hot bath, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

When it’s time for bath and books and prayers and bed and someone wanders down the stairs with just one more request, I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

And when day has faded into night and I feel the tiredness in my bones and I drag my sluggish body up the stairs, I must not skip prayers and visiting with John but I must remember the invitation:

“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.”

I will not die the death of a martyr, hung upside down on a cross for all to see.  But if I accept his invitation, I will most certainly die from a cross.  My death will be from thousands of little crosses hand carved daily just for me, invitations to nail myself—my pride and my vanity, my haughtiness and impatience, my selfishness and my ego, my dreams and hopes, my comfort and my plans to a piece of wood and drag them to the altar for Him.