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.