Saturday, December 22, 2012

Loss of Innocence

I had my first baby ten years ago.  After giving birth, I gazed down at this tiny new life and was overcome with great emotion.  I laughed and I cried.  The idea that Monkey Toes and I had been entrusted with this child was almost too much to comprehend.  The fist night, I kept Sweet Potato in my room and just stared at him (and kissed his head and held him close. I didn't want to put him down).  I had never imagined love like this; so effortless and so completely encompassing.  I imagined what life would be like for this child.  We would provide a loving, happy, enriching, educational, faith-filled and safe home.  This dream just enhanced with the addition of each gift of life to our family.

There is a part of me that wishes my kids were still babies.  Life at that stage seems so simple and uncomplicated.  But as we all must do, they grow up and they grow up fast.  I've been warned about that since the day I had Sweet Potato.  As much as I want to protect my children's innocence, life happens and one way or another they learn of topics/issues/problems of this world that I am not always prepared to explain.

This past year as our country geared up for a presidential election, our church prayed each day for the protection of life and the end of abortion.  One Sunday after Mass, I was asked by Sweet Potato, "what does abortion mean?"  Another day, as we were praying for some friends of ours, Cucumber asked, "why doesn't the mommy and daddy live together anymore?"  A few weeks ago, the kids and I were listening to the radio and a Christmas song by the Carpenters was playing.  Honey Bunches asked if they were still "making music."  I told him that Karen Carpenter had died a long time ago.  "How did she die?"  "Well, she had an eating disorder."  "What is an eating disorder?" he asked.  And then there are the horrific events of last week; the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

I have to ask; how do I discuss this event, let alone explain it, when I don't understand it myself?  The entire week, I couldn't bring myself to turn on the t.v. or read a newspaper.  It's not because I don't care, it's because each time I even gave a thought to this, my heart ached to the point of pain and I couldn't catch my breath.  I hugged and kissed my children, feeling spoiled or undeserving of these gifts, as those moms and dads had their hearts torn from their chests.  I have prayed and will continue to do so, as the community of Newtown attempts to pick up the pieces and heal from this tragedy.

This morning we decorated our Christmas tree.  The kids found such joy in this activity.  They couldn't grab the ornaments fast enough as they rushed with excitement to adorn our tree.  Once finished, they stood back and stared.  Somehow, those twinkling lights and shiny ornaments hold a sense of magical wonderment.  This whole holiday season has been one of simplicity and awe, "magic" and innocence.  From the first snowfall of the season to the Feast of St. Nick.  From lighting the candles on the Advent Wreath, to racing to the Advent Calendar to see what is hidden behind the little door.  It is these moments that I want to capture and hold close for a life time.  It is these little moments of happiness, of contentment, that I want to keep in my heart forever, to be reminded that there is good in this world.  It is these memories in the making that I desire for my children to hold close, as well.  I want them to carry these experiences with them, wherever life may take them, if for no other reason than to remind them that they are treasured, they are blessed, and above all, they are loved.

As undeserving as I often feel of the blessings in my life, I will not take them for granted, not even for a moment.  And in the end, I believe with my whole heart, that good will conquer evil.  I will place my trust and my hope in the Lord, for He is my refuge; He is my rock.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

St. Lucy

Today is the Feast of St. Lucy.



To learn more about this lovely saint, go here.

In a last minute effort to do something to commemorate this feast day, I made this.


I made a pretty little cinnamon braid on my pizza stone.  A few words of wisdom;  Do not put wax candles in the braid while it is still hot.  They will melt from the bottom up and leave only a wick.  I am admitting to nothing!

Bail Out

Last night at about 7:00 PM, Sweet Potato began to panic as he came to the realization that project materials were due today at school for a reading assignment.  He needed copies made of some research he down-loaded and also a tri-fold display.  If these items were not turned in on time, he would have to submit a written report.  With tear-filled eyes, red cheeks, and the weight of the world on his shoulders, he asked me for help.  Maybe "asked" is too passive of a word.  He sobbed and begged for me to go to the store for him.  He was also distressed because we don't have a printer at home, so how was he going to get the necessary pages together?

My gut reaction was to let him suffer the consequences.  Isn't that what good and responsible parents do?  Exactly how long did he know this assignment was due and why would he procrastinate?  Maybe a written report would teach him a lesson.  But then I began to get a little selfish.  WHO would have to help him with this report?  WHO would have to sit and listen to him fret and stress out?  Well, that would be me.  So here were my options.  Let him sit and stew over being irresponsible, or take about 40 minutes of my evening to drive to the store, pick up necessary supplies, and drive home and be done with the whole thing.  I chose the latter.  Once the kids were in bed, I headed out.

On the trip to the store, I thought about how my parents may have handled a similar situation.  I was a pretty responsible youth, but time management wasn't always my strength.  I pulled some late nighters and there were times I just met a deadline.  My mom and dad would remind me how much easier my life would be if I didn't wait until the last minute.  And had we 24 hour stores "back in the day" like we do now, there's a good chance my parents would have driven to the store to bail me out as well.  However, with that being said, I am certain they would not have done it with joyful hearts and smiles.  I'm pretty sure my dad would have cursed a little and then grumbled on the drive about the problems with school today.  When he was in school, they believed in oral reports.  None of this tri-fold nonsense.  My mom would have warned, "I will do it this once, but don't count on it again!"

Within 40 minutes, I was home once again.  Uncle saved the day by printing the pages at work that Sweet Potato needed.  Off to school this morning he went with a happy-go-lucky demeanor.  When I returned home after dropping the kids off at school, I saw Sweet Potato's snow pants hanging on the hook.  Sorry pal, I won't bail you out of this one.  You'll just have to stay in at recess today.  But hey, look on the bright side;  You can get a jump start on your project!

On the way home from school yesterday.  How could I not cut the kid some slack after this?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe


Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  In the not too distant past, I really didn't know much about Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I had seen countless images of her before, but I never took the time to understand the history nor the symbolism of these images.  The story is beautiful and definitely worth the time to read.  You can find one of the many accounts of Our Lady here.  Her appearance to Juan Diego in 1531 is credited to converting millions of Mexicans to Christianity.

This morning I had the privilege of accompanying grades K-6 of my children's school to a neighboring parish to celebrate Mass for today's feast.  I had no idea what to expect.  The church was beautiful and the children were excited to be visiting someplace new (during a school day).  While sitting in the pew and looking with awe at our surroundings, the sound of a drum began to resonate throughout the church.  A dozen or so Hispanic youth danced down the aisle, wearing red vests, adorned with sparkling images of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  A lump formed in my throat, as I watched these young people dance with both reverence and pride.  Once all of the dancers and Father Tony were before the altar, they all fell to their knees and the drum went silent.  Honey Bunches was sitting next to me, but my other children were sitting with their classes.  I desperately tried to find them to see if this was making an impact on them (like it was on me).

During Mass, the story of Juan Diego was told, and the lovely imagery of Our Lady of Guadalupe explained.    Father also shared how throughout the evening last night and early this morning, people came to the church to pray and present roses at the foot of the altar.  Father shared that he greeted a young man very early this morning, who came with a bouquet of roses.  He said that his wife was going to have a baby girl today and they are going to name her Guadalupe.  He came to the church to ask Our Lady to pray for his wife and daughter; that all will go well with the delivery and to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for his great blessings.

Mass ended the same way it began, with the drum sounding and the youth dancing.


(I apologize for the poor quality of the video.  I took it on my phone and had great difficulty in downloading to my blog).



I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to witness such a beautiful celebration today.  I am also grateful for a faith tradition that is deep and rich; expanding far beyond the depths of my imagination.

I know many who struggle with the concept of our Mother Mary and even find her as a stumbling block of faith.  What was very evident today in participating in this Liturgy, was that it isn't about Mary, so much as it is about her holding our hands and leading us to her son, Jesus.  The devotions people have to Mary always lead to Jesus.  Juan Diego's experience with the Blessed Mother didn't convert millions to Mary;  it converted millions to Jesus Christ.  And so it is with great joy that I celebrate these feast days, giving thanks for a spiritual mother who holds our best interests in her heart and helps to pave the way to a better, more loving, and deeper relationship with Jesus.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Feast of St. Nicholas

Today, December 6th, is the Feast of St. Nicholas.  Here is a little excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia about this saint.

The absence of the “hard facts” of history is not necessarily an obstacle to the popularity of saints, as the devotion to St. Nicholas shows. Both the Eastern and Western Churches honor him, and it is claimed that, after the Blessed Virgin, he is the saint most pictured by Christian artists. And yet, historically, we can pinpoint only the fact that Nicholas was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.
As with many of the saints, however, we are able to capture the relationship which Nicholas had with God through the admiration which Christians have had for him—an admiration expressed in the colorful stories which have been told and retold through the centuries.
Perhaps the best-known story about Nicholas concerns his charity toward a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters of marriageable age. Rather than see them forced into prostitution, Nicholas secretly tossed a bag of gold through the poor man’s window on three separate occasions, thus enabling the daughters to be married. Over the centuries, this particular legend evolved into the custom of gift-giving on the saint’s feast. In the English-speaking countries, St. Nicholas became, by a twist of the tongue, Santa Claus—further expanding the example of generosity portrayed by this holy bishop.

As a family, we celebrate this feast day.  On its eve, our children place their shoes outside of their bedroom doors.  In the morning, they spring from their beds to see what St. Nicholas has left them.  In the past, he has filled their shoes with bags of goodies and snacks.  This year, however, being open to Grandma's suggestions, he gave the kids new pajamas.





At school, the kids placed their gym shoes out for St. Nicholas to find.  This morning when they walked into their classrooms, they discovered their shoes filled with candy, blessed medals and prayer cards.

Whether the stories told about St. Nicholas are accurate or not, what is important to us are the lessons of charity and generosity that exceed this tradition; one that we embrace and love.  Happy St. Nicholas Day to all of you.  May your blessings be many, and the love you share be great.


 St. Nicholas, glorious Confessor of Christ, assist us in thy loving kindness.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Advent Crazy Lady

Have you ever begun a project, only to wish you had never started?  That was my sentiment on day 2 of an Advent craft project that I had only predicted would take an hour or so of my time.  It didn't just take me 2 days either. Three.  Three days of agonizing over what I was hoping to be a meaningful, fun, and educational experience for my family.  Three days.

Let me back up, however, and start from the beginning of this crazy adventure.

As I posted earlier, Advent is a time that I try to take full advantage.  As a family, we attempt to slow down, despite all the hurrying that happens around us.  I encourage the kids to be more thoughtful, more conscientious, more prayerful.  So when it comes to Advent traditions, I'm all for anything that helps us along our journeys.  Enter Advent tradition number one:  The creche.




As a family, we have been celebrating this tradition for the past 5 years.  When Sweet Potato was in pre-school, his teacher did this with the class.  I loved the idea so much, that we adopted it.  Each night during family prayer, the kids tell of the good works/kind words they shared during the day.  For each one mentioned, they get to place a piece of straw in the crib.  The goal is to have a full, soft bed for Jesus by Christmas.  The "wreath" is made out of my kids hand prints.  The crib is made out of an oatmeal container.

Tradition number two:  The Advent Wreath:


Our Advent Wreath has taken many different shapes over the years.  This one we received as a gift last year and I love it!  The hardest part about the Advent Wreath is finding the purple and pink candles each year.

So far, so good.  Everything is in check and I am doing well.

For a few years, I have been intrigued by the Jesse Tree.  It was never a tradition of my family while growing up, but I love all of the symbolism and tracing the ancestry of Jesus that it entails.  This is the year that we adopted another Advent tradition.


I  know a Jesse Tree probably shouldn't have Christmas lights on it, but this little tree is so sweet, twinkling in the night.

Putting up the tree was no big deal, but the ornaments; well, they were more difficult than I had imagined.  Monkey Toes printed ornaments for me, but they did not contain the scripture verses, which would have made this project a whole lot easier.  So I spent much time looking up passages, matching up pictures, cutting, pasting, hole punching, tying, then accidentally gluing a couple together, and then winding up with extra (?)  I had to implore help from my children.


Look at those angelic faces.  Aren't they just joy-filled?  (note sarcasm.  Their faces illustrate my attitude at this point in the project).

The completed ornaments

As we neared the end of this fun night, Sweet Potato asked if we were going to have an Advent Calendar this year.  Well, I hadn't given that much thought.  In keeping with my "thriftiness" of the season, instead of purchasing an Advent calendar, I decided to make my own.  Really, how hard could this be?  I found a pattern on-line and thought this would be a fun craft for me and the little ones to do while the older kids were in school.  About an hour into the project, I second guessed my decision to hand craft and Sweet Pea and Pumpkin disappeared from the scene.

At this point, you may be wondering why I would even consider doing yet another project (you may have been asking that question at the beginning of this post).  Here is my answer in a nutshell.  I love traditions.  I love catechesis.  I love passing on my faith to my children;  it is a responsibility I take very seriously.  Participating in these projects brings our family together.  Our experiences may not always portray the romanticized ones in my head, but we're making the effort and doing the best we can.  And yes, sometimes I find myself in over my head.  O.K.  Now onto the calendar.

I decided to use tag board for the calendar.  My thought was that if it turned out, we could re-use it each year.  The cover of the calendar was created out of old Christmas cards.  I laid them out as a collage.  The next step was to cut out little doors for each day of Advent.  I had no idea how hard it would be to cut through tag board and card stock.  I don't have any fancy tools, but I found a box cutter in Monkey's tool box.  Truth be told, I cursed a lot in my head during this step.

Once the doors were all cut out (it took me the better half of an afternoon and into the next one), I was going to cut out and paste symbols for each day.  Then I had this brilliant idea.  Why not match up the symbols of the Jesse Tree to be revealed behind each of the doors on the calendar?  Then all of our "activities" would be intricately connected.  Did I mention that I don't have a printer at home, and because I have the patience of a new puppy when it comes to crafting, I went ahead and free-handed each of the symbols.  A day and half later, the Advent Calendar was complete and I was thrilled that these projects were done.


Here is how our Advent reflections play out each night.  At the beginning of supper, we light the appropriate candles on our wreath.  After we eat, we gather in the living room and one of the children opens the door on the calendar and tells the symbol.  Then Sweet Potato or Honey Bunches reads the scripture passage.  Another child finds the ornament and hangs it on the tree.  We then talk about how the symbols represent the  scriptures.  We conclude with the straw in the creche and prayers.

As I look around at these "traditions" in our home, I am glad that I saw these projects through completion.  Although we are only on day 5 of Advent, my kids have already picked up on the routine.  There are a few altercations when deciding who gets to do what, but once we get passed that part, it flows pretty well.

Was all of this worth it?  Only time will tell if any of it makes a difference in the lives of my children.  My hope is that it does bring them closer to Jesus and cultivates a stronger faith within.  I do these things with the best intentions of my heart.  Hopefully that is one point my children will remember in all of this, and not just memories of "that crazy crafting lady" during holy seasons.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Exasperating

During this Advent season, the kids are given daily challenges in school.  Today's challenge was to look at people in the eye when spoken to and to smile at them.

7:20 AM this morning:

Honey Bunches, Gummi, Cucumber and I stop in at the grocery store before school.  As we were checking out, the cashier said, "Good bye kids.  Have a great day."  Not one of my children acknowledged her, which greatly bothered me.

Me:  Do you realize that not one of you returned a smile to the cashier?  She was being very friendly and all of you ignored her.  I have to say that I am disappointed.

Gummi:  But Mom, that's our challenge in school today.  We don't have to do it yet.

7:40 AM this morning:

Honey Bunches had command of the radio on the way to school.  He chose to listen to Christmas music.  A song from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra began to play.

Honey:  I like what they do to Christmas music.

I, in turn, begin to share a few things I know about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  When I had finished, Honey responded, "Did I really need to know all of that?  I was just sayin', I like their music."

At 5:00 PM this evening:

Sweet Potato:  Mom.  I have big troubles with Daylight Savings.  

Me:  What's up?

Sweet Potato:  By the time I get home from school, do my homework, and practice piano, I don't get the chance to play outside because it's too dark.  Daylight Savings does not work for me!

5:30 PM this evening:

Me:  Sweet Pea and Pumpkin - you cannot come out of your room until all of your doll house toys are picked up.

About five minutes later, Pumpkin emerges from her room.

Pumpkin:  My legs are too tired.  I can't clean up anymore.

Me:  Well, it's a good thing you don't need your legs to pick up your doll toys.  Now go back into your room and clean up.

Pumpkin turns around with her head down, shoulders slumped over and drags her feet.  A few moments later, she returns to the kitchen.

Pumpkin:  My hands and arms are too tired.  I don't think I can clean anymore.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Comedian

After school today, Cucumber was cracking jokes; one right after the other.

Me: "You are quite the comedian."

Cucumber: Hey! I'm not Canadian!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Confession

We had a lovely get-together yesterday at Silly's house.  The food was good and time spent with family is always great.  We drove home in some treacherous weather, so imagine my surprise when my mom greeted us at the door with, "will you take me shopping tonight?"  WHAT??

If you know me at all, you know how against my grain this request was.  I am completely anti-Black Friday shopping, let alone shopping on Thanksgiving Day.  However, it was my mom asking for my assistance, so I agreed to drive her once the kids were in bed.  Do you know what my biggest fear about "door buster" deals was?  It wasn't the crowds.  It wasn't the fear of being trampled to death.  It was the thought that one of the 8 public followers I have on this blog may see me and think I'm a hypocrite.

So here is why I agreed to go shopping with my mom.  She was looking to purchase a big ticket item.  The item she wanted was on sale at 4 AM on Friday.  So here was my choice; 1)  take her at 8 PM to buy the item at $50 more than the Black Friday deal, or 2) drive her at 3 AM on Friday to save $50.  I supported the former.

Upon arriving at the store, I instructed my mom that we would remain calm no matter what.  We would not get upset if we were unable to purchase the intended item.  She told me she would follow my lead.  We arrived at the store at 7:56 PM and this was the line.


There were probably 20-25 people ahead of us.  At 8 PM sharp, the doors opened.  We found the item Mom wanted, we grabbed a tag and stood in line.  In order to get the advertised deal, Mom had to open an account.  Once at the register, we informed the clerk that Mom wanted to open a credit line.  He said, "this is a really bad night to want to do that."  At that, I was ready to storm out exit politely.  However, he added that if we could be patient and allow others to go ahead of us, he would assist us in our request.  So we stood by and waited (and waited, and waited, and waited).  Finally, a different clerk (we later found out that she is the owner of the store) helped us.  Not only did she treat us like we were the only customers in the store, but she honored the Black Friday deal and gave us the ticket item for $50 less than advertised.  We were home by 9:30 PM.

Have my views of Black Friday (or night of Thanksgiving) shopping changed?  Not really, even though I had a fun night with my Mom. I still have no desire to shop this early in the season.  After all, tomorrow is another Thanksgiving celebration for our family.   I can only handle one holiday at a time. For those of you who are die hard shoppers, I hope you had a safe and successful day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Age Is Only a Number?

The past few days, Honey Bunches has complained about a sore toe. Last night his big toe was about double the size of his other big toe. First thing this morning, I called our doctor with only a slight hope of getting an appointment to see her. It turned out she had a cancelation and could see Honey in the afternoon. I had no choice but to bring all six of the Love Bugs with me. We all crammed into the examination room and thankfully our doctor joined us in a very timely manner. She was excited to see everyone, as she has delivered each of my kids. One by one she asked each child how old he/she is. Afterwards she asked, "do any of you ever forget how old you are sometimes?" In unison the kids shouted, "nooooo." Then Honey Bunches added, "mom sometimes forgets. Ya know she's forty now."

In Thanksgiving

I am posting this a day early since tomorrow I want to stay focused on my family (and uh. . .food).

I have mentioned before that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  A day dedicated to being grateful for all of life's blessings, mixed in with some great food and a little football;  what is there not to love about that?  It saddens me, though, to see our society jump right over this great day and use it as a mere stepping stone to Christmas.  It seems to me that by mid October, Halloween and Christmas are practically "have beens" in the retail world among other places.  So as a family, we choose to live counter-culturally and take our time in celebrating first, Thanksgiving (which for us spans the course of 4 days), and then we humbly enter into the season of Advent.

I keep no secret in that my family and I are abundantly blessed.  If I get to the heart of it, I truly long for nothing.  Sure, there are things I sometimes think would make life a little easier or maybe even more enjoyable, but being a necessity?  Nope.  My life is full and any struggle I encounter just reinforces the faith I have and the love I share.

Reflecting on my own gratitude, there is much I could tell.  Today, however, I decided to reflect on one particular blessing in my life that drives me to my knees in thanksgiving every single day; my marriage to Monkey Toes.

My life would look and resemble something very different if it weren't for my marriage to Monkey.  And so as thankful as I am for my children and the life we lead, I have to recognize that it all began with the covenant I entered into with Monkey.  Little did we know 21 years ago when we went on our first date, that our journey would take us to this point in life (11 1/2 years of marriage, 6 kids, 3 job changes, 2 apartments and a house in my hometown).   Tie in each of us losing a parent and my mom moving in with us, and I can honestly say that I can't imagine walking this path with anyone else.

Here are a few reasons why I love this man (no particular order):
~He is a hard worker.
~He has passions.
~He never thought me crazy when I shared with him my dreams of wanting a large family.
~He leads our family in prayer each night.
~He was the one who invited my mom to move in with us.
~He keeps a sense of humor in almost all situations (I sometimes find this inappropriate at times, but all is well in the end).
~He allows me to hog the bed, and when I won't budge, he sleeps on the couch.
~Our home is far from the quiet retreat one may desire after a long, hard day at work, and yet each night he comes home to the kids and I with a smile on his face and a light heart.
~He holds my hand (literally and metaphorically).
~After 11 years of marriage and 6 kids, he still tells me I'm beautiful.
~Every night before bed, he tells me I am a great mom, even if I am extremely undeserving of that title.
~He says, "I love you" everyday.
~He treated his own mom with great respect, love and honor.

When I was single, I prayed that God would lead me to my future husband.  I was specific in my prayer when asking for certain qualities and characteristics. The list I just mentioned contain many of those "specifics".  Is he perfect?  Naw.  After all these years he still can't read my mind.  Life would be so much easier if he could!  Monkey wasn't a dream come true for me, but rather the one chosen for me.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Happy Thanksgiving!  


Our Thanksgiving craft, using rafia, pine cones, wood chips, twigs, and pony beads.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Last post on 40. . .I promise!

As I was looking through pictures on my camera, I discovered a few photos that I took with the intention of writing something about them.  Better late than never. . .


The morning of my birthday, and after Mass, my kids presented me with this lovely package;  a few of my favorite treats.  I very rarely drink soda, but when I do, I enjoy root beer.  The candy bar, which happens to be my favorite, is something I eat 3 times a year;  my birthday, Mother's Day, and only if the kids bring one home from Halloween.




After supper (which my mom prepared), I was treated with a red velvet cake and these lovely flowers.

I was joking with a friend not too long ago, about how Monkey Toes doesn't give me flowers for my birthday, but rather shows his love by gifting me with technology.  He kept tradition with this:


I now have a new phone that I can access my e-mail and internet AND it takes better pictures than my camera.  The problem; I have never been tech savvy, so it is taking me awhile to get accustomed to this machine (???).  Monkey did show me how to take video on this phone so I could record Gummi reading at her class Mass.  I was successful in getting a picture, however, the placement of my thumbs prevented me from recording any sound.  Since then, Monkey has given me an in-service on its use.

All in all, being 40 doesn't feel any different.  Although, a few days ago I was curled up on the sofa, reading a book.  Sweet Pea was putting a puzzle together on the floor and asked me to help her.  As I stood up, my ankle cracked.

Sweet Pea:  Are you o.k. Mommy?
Me:  Yes.  My ankle just does that sometimes.
Sweet Pea:  Because you're falling apart?

I think I need a Butterfinger.


Friday, November 16, 2012

The Gift That Keeps On Giving


How about some sensible footwear for the new 40 year old?  Yes, this is a picture of my feet, however these are my mom's SAS shoes.  I wore them for a whole day and I must admit, they are comfy.  Seriously.  I may consider a pair when it is age appropriate.  I borrowed these for a Mystery Tea that I was invited to.  I played the role of a distressed 80 year old maid.  I thought they fit the part nicely.

Since my last post, I received many encouraging messages of how people were inspired to pass along some Random Acts of Kindness throughout their days.  Here is one of the messages I received from my dear friend.  When I asked her if I could post the message to this blog, she replied as long as I gave her a cute nickname.  I've been trying to come up with something befitting of such a beautiful friend.  Two names keep coming to mind:  Nutella and Merlot.  Both are very relevant in my life.  I care to not elaborate much more than that at this point, but lets just say both products are in my home and both have been consumed within the last 24 hours.  Sorry friend.  I promise, I will come up with a fantastic name once my mind is off of chocolate and red wine!

She writes:

Being inspired by you as I always am, I decided to do a few random acts of kindness in your honor.  Here they are...
 
When at Target and I have a pharmacy rewards card (5% off entire shopping day) I find a person coming in and give it to them.  Only one man has said no so far.
 
Today at one of my schools the social worker was going through the HUGE pile of lost and found stuff from the beginning of the year.  There was some really nice stuff in there (like a North Face jacket, LL Bean...).  She was donating some items to a family at this school who does not have much.  I asked her if I could take the rest to one of my schools in North MPLS where the kids are not so fortunate.  I have a large box and bag of winter stuff to bring there and give to kids in need.
 
I also decided that I would donate 5 turkeys to families at my school in N. MPLS as well and contacted the Social Worker about that.
 
I WILL clean out my closet this weekend and donate it to my friend's non-profit.
 
I will sponsor a family again for Christmas this year from my friend's non-profit.

Today is give to the max day and I will be donating to Paws for Learning.  They bring therapy dogs to my school and work with kids with emotional disorders.  They are amazing!

I hope this brightened your day!  It did mine~~~!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

40 for 40

First off, I want to thank all of the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country in the armed forces.  In addition, thank you to the families who love them and support them.  I am forever grateful for all of the sacrifices that have been made, allowing us to live in this great country.  May God bless you all.  Happy Veteran's Day!


One week ago today, I sent out a message to the women (and children) in my family.  In preparation for turning 40 years old, I asked them to help me complete at least 40 Random Acts of Kindness over the course of a week.  Not only were they willing to help, but their kindness and generosity surpassed anything I could have imagined.  Tonight as I write this, my heart is overflowing and I am greatly humbled.  Here are their stories, in their own words.

My beautiful "Canadian" niece (and Goddaughter)

I think it was so cool of you to set a challenge for yourself to help out others and make them feel special for YOUR special day! I was really inspired by this, and wanted to help. The random acts of kindness I did this week included:
1. When at Tim Hortons drive through, I paid for the cars order that was behind me.
2. I'm really bad at returning my cart to the cart return at the store, so everytime I was at the store this week I returned my cart, along with others that were near me not returned.
3. I have a bad cold, so I went and purchased a kettle at the store (plug in ones). Before returning home with it, I ran into a friend at another store. She told me that her son was admitted into the hospital the previous night for a high fever. She was picking up supplies for their stay at the hospital. She wasn't sure how to go about getting/making coffee in their hospital room. I gave her my kettle I just purchased with instant coffee so they would be able to make coffee. I really needed that kettle for myself, but knew that they were in a worse situation.
4. I donated art supplies to the church that were needed for their religious Ed classes.
5. My daycare was going to be closed Friday (yesterday) for the holiday. One family had to still work regardless, and had no where to bring their son for the day. So I opened for the day for them.

My beautiful, "college-student" niece
After I read this last Sunday I went to Church that night and the sermon was on love and how we need more agape love; more unconditioned love for others. This was a sign that in participating in this 40 Random Acts of Kindness was perfect. So last week I was able to think of ways to help and love others throughout my days. 1.  It started off as my roommate caught a bug on Sunday and was laid up all week. I was able to be there for her. My days consisted of going to the store and stocking up on cold aides and remedies. Cleaning constantly to make sure that our house was disinfected at all times. Lastly making her feel comfortable so she was able to get plenty of rest.  2. On Tuesday, I helped out my neighbor with studying for his test. He has a learning disability so helping him to memorize and help him with many different learning techniques.   3. Also, on Tuesday my other roommate's (Not the sick one) mom was having mastectomy in treatment of her breast cancer. I was able to sit and pray a Rosary for her and her family as they are going through a hard time. 

My "public high school teacher" sister #1

1.  I payed for the person behind me at Caribou.

2.  I picked up trash in the hallway after school.
3.  I paid for a student's food order on a field trip who had forgotten her wallet at home.
4.  I donated Bert's Bees products to "Operation Nice", which supports our troops.

My "RN" sister #2


Happy Birthday!! Wow - 40 years old!!  

Doing 10 Random Acts of Kindness is really difficult!

1.  Bought lunch for my favorite sisters and mom.


2.  Mailed a donation to New Beginnings in honor of my sister on her 40th birthday.


3.  Sent a card to a dear friend who is recovering from cancer surgery.


4.  Baked cookies and delivered them to a friend recovering from surgery.


5.  Kept my nose to the ground and picked up everything from paper to someone's wet gum off the floor (whenever and wherever I saw litter).


6.  Volunteered to go with the head Election Judge to the court house after the election to deliver the ballots at 9:30 PM.  No one else volunteered to go.  When we got there, we realized we had mis-counted by one signature and then ended up recounting over and over 700 signatures until things matched up.  I got home at 11 PM and had to be up 5 AM for work.


7.  Made my Sweetie and son a venison dinner and waited on them like a restaurant.  I served them and then I watched them eat.  I chose to fast from this meal.


8.  Went to daily Mass to hear my God-daughter read for her Class Mass.


9.  Volunteered to head up or help at a few Council of Catholic Women events.


10.  Donated a centerpiece for our Healing Mass and will give it to one of the volunteers for their Thanksgiving table after the event.


**This is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Thank you!!!



My Beautiful Mom

1.  Delivered a meal to someone who is sick.

2.  Helped prepare a meal for a family who has a loved one in Hospice.

My lovely Sister-in-law


Here are my random acts of kindness:

1.  I was in line to use the microwave and I let someone else, who was also waiting go before me.

2.  I was in line to get a fountain drink and I let two other people go before me.

3.  I was in the store at work and there was a young lady purchasing some things and was going to use her debit card; which the store does not take.  She didn’t have cash so I paid for it.  I was then immediately blessed as the owner gave me my York Mint Patti J

4.  I made and brought my husband a cup of coffee each morning (I do this every morning).

5.  Hubby and I have been car-pooling so I drove home each night; which allowed Hubby to take a little nap (I also do this every time we car pool).

6.  Last Friday we went out to eat at TGIFridays and had a 15% off coupon.  We gave it to the couple sitting across from us.

That’s about it.



My Household



1.  Delivered food to the Food Shelf.

2.  The kids made Veteran's Day cards and sent them to Veterans in our community.


3.  Gummi refilled everyone's water bottles and placed them in the refrigerator.


4.  Gummi wrote a letter to her Grandpa.


5.  I went out for a drink with my sister and a friend and Monkey Toes snuck over to the bar and paid our tab.


6.  Cucumber let Pumpkin write in her journal and taught her how to draw a candy cane.



7.  I paid for the car behind us in the drive-thru at McDonalds.  I had the cashier give them this note.

8.  I sent an encouraging/supportive letter to our Bishop, thanking him for his vocation and service to our diocese.


9.  Gummi was invited to a birthday party for a classmate where all the gifts would be donated to the Children's Hospital.  We bought extra gifts to donate.


10.  We sent a letter to our sponsored child in Honduras.


11.  I baked cookies for our Council of Catholic Women meeting.


12.  Gummi helped the two youngest get ready in the morning, without being asked.


13.  I volunteered to help prepare a meal for the Blood Mobile workers.


14.  Sent a card to a friend.



15.  Painted and donated gourds to our local nursing home/assisted living apartments.

16.  Donated diapers to Birthright.


18.  Sweet Potato is making the effort to befriend a child at school who is struggling to be there this year.

___________________________________

I have very little "want" in my life.  Everything I need, I truly believe I already have. 

~faith
~family
~a roof over our heads
~warm beds to sleep in
~food on our table
~shoes on our feet
~running water
~the kids have health insurance
~education
~a vehicle to get us from point A to point B each day
~we have our health
~we have our faith
~we have love

These Random Acts of Kindness were not to show everyone how good we are, but rather to use the gifts we have been blessed with to touch the lives of others.  No matter how small or seemingly insignificant the action, no matter what walk of life a person is on, everyone can spread a little kindness.  I try my very best, each and every day, to live my life for Christ.  Many days I fall short of the goal, but I will never give up in trying to bring the love of Jesus and His light to those around me.

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."                                Matthew 25:35-36

 My 40th year is off to a pretty great start.  Thank you to my mom, my sisters, my in-laws, my nieces, my children, and my husband for all of your love and for your willingness to celebrate my birthday by sharing your hearts with others.  I love you all!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mommy Brain

I have found myself in a few situations recently that I believe qualify me for "Mommy Brain."  It's the scattered thoughts, forgetfulness, not being able to connect all the dots in my life.  I am someone who tries to stay on-top of things and keep organized, but lately it has been an up-hill battle.

A few weeks ago, I was grocery shopping in the neighboring town.  It was in the evening and I was by myself.  I purchased my groceries, bagged them, loaded them, and returned the cart.  I drove home and as I walked through the door, Monkey Toes greeted me with, "the store just called and someone found your purse in a cart in the parking lot."  I have two things to say about that:  1.  Thank God for good Samaritans, and 2.  Thank God we live in a small town where we know one another.

Second incident:  This is a picture of my coat and Pumpkin's coat.



A few days ago, the two youngest and I had a few errands to run.  I took my coat off the hook and put it on Pumpkin.  She yelled, "this is not my coat!"  Her words did not register with me.  I kept attempting to put the coat on and zip it up.  As I looked at the sleeves dragging on the floor, it hit me that this definitely was not my three year old daughter's coat.

Incident Number Three:  This morning before leaving for church, I was cleaning out my purse.  I realized that my bank card was missing.  I emptied all the contents out and still no card.  I started my family on a hunt.  They were looking in cushions of furniture, searching through the garage, tearing apart the van.  Still no trace of the card.  I retraced my steps from yesterday.  The last place I used it was at our local gas station.  On our way to church I stopped in to inquire.  They hadn't seen it.  The kids and I prayed all the way to church, calling upon Jesus, Mother Mary, and St. Anthony - all the big guns of lost things.  We came home after Mass and I remembered going to Walmart (after the gas station) to pick up pictures from the photo center.  My photos, however, had not yet been ready, and so I never used my card.  But I called anyway and sure enough, they had my card.  I drove back to Walmart and went to Customer Service.  I knew the woman working behind the desk.  She just chuckled and shook her head when she saw me and said, "it doesn't get any easier the older you get!"

A dear friend of my mom once told me that this mindlessness shouldn't seem unusual.  Many days I am thinking for 7 and sometimes 8 other people.  So I'm going to go with that.  I'm not losing my mind, I'm just loaning it out!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween

I don't get overly-excited about Halloween.  I think I've been that way my entire life.  As a kid, my parents NEVER spent money on a costume, and my mom didn't spend time or energy on making me an outfit.  So if I wanted to go Trick-or-Treating, it was usually in whatever I could piece together from around the house.  I do have a few good memories of Halloween from my youth.  Growing up in the country, I depended on my parents to drive me from home to home to gather candy.  So one year, I was able to meet up with my cousin who lived in Minneapolis.  I think I was about 7 years old.  Her mom gave us pillow cases to use as our treat receptacles.  After walking around the block, we could hardly lug the things around anymore.  I remember staying up late with my cousin, sneaking those sugary snacks throughout the night.  My cousin woke up with a chocolate "ring" around her mouth.    The last few years, we have met up with Silly and her family.  We've begun the evening with supper and then walking around their neighborhood.  It has been fun to do that with Peanut Butter.

This year, Sweet Potato and Honey Bunches announced that they did not want to go Trick-or-Treating.  In response, I suggested we all stay home, dress in costumes, and have our own little celebration.  Thankfully, the kids were all on board with this idea.

Two days before Halloween, Grandma & I painted gourds with the little ones.



The next day, everyone carved their pumpkins.  Not to be a Halloween Scrooge, but I dreaded this task.  Mostly because my kids are still pretty young to be maneuvering knives.  But with a little patience and a couple of small carving tools, this activity went very well (dare I say I actually had fun).






The morning of the 31st, the school aged kids dressed in black and orange (a uniform free day).


After dropping them off at school, I came home and whipped up these adorable little treats.

Rice Krispies shaped into candy corn.
Our after-school snack was hot apple cider, roasted pumpkin seeds and our candy corn treats.


For supper, we had Jack-O-Lantern pizza.


Then it was time to put on costumes.

Sweet Pea as Belle, Pumpkin as a Lady Bug, and Cucumber as Jasmine.

Honey Bunches as a Football Player, Gummi as a witch, and Sweet Potato as a Cowboy.
Then we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Until finally the doorbell rang and our first customer was at the door.  Oh yeah.  I don't have any pictures of my children handing out candy, because I was trying to maintain order.  Each time the doorbell rang, all six kids would race towards the door, grab a handful of candy (dropping much of it as they made their way) and then kind of shoot it into the Trick-or-Treater's bag.  It was chaotic.  I tried to encourage a more disciplined way, but I failed.  So basically I held the door open in order that my children would not run through it in trying to pass out candy.

In between business, we attempted to watch two of our favorite movies.

"All I have is a bag full of rocks!"  Classic.  I love that movie.



This morning I asked my children if they had fun last night, even though we didn't go out.  They said they did, but all agreed that they wish we would have had more people stop by our home.  I loved our night together.  We didn't have to bundle up to go out.  We stayed in the comfort of our home, all nice and cozy.  And here's proof that we didn't miss out on anything. . . . . . .

What the kids brought home from school and a little left over from our  "passing out" bucket.

There's plenty of treats to go around (and around and around).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Amazing

Our days are getting shorter, so when we leave for school in the morning, it is still dark.  The positive side to this is that the kids and I get to see the sunrise each morning.  Yesterday was one of those mornings where God's orchestration of creation was perfect.  The sunrise began with deep hues of purples, turning into hints of pink.  Everything against its backdrop was silhouetted.  Very soon, the horizon turned to gold.  At that moment, hundreds - maybe even thousands- of birds flew up from the cornfields, spanning as far as we could see.  This moment commanded silence within the van and Honey Bunches leaned over to turn the radio off without being instructed.  All of us just watched in pure amazement.  Eventually the silence broke and Gummi said that was one of the prettiest things she has ever seen.  To make the morning even more perfect, was attending the all school Mass.  The offertory song was "Amazing God."  Tears began to stream down my face as we sang,

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God

God's grace in its finest.  



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Life Changing

This post is about how Pinterest has changed my life.  O.K., maybe not changed it, but it certainly has aided in my creativity and organization.  If you're not familiar with this site, it is a giant on-line bulletin board.  I look at it as a tool to keep all of my ideas and discoveries from the internet in one place. For example, if I am looking for a dinner idea, I simply go to my Recipe Board, and there are recipes I have pinned.  I also have boards for kids activities, crafts, organization, home remedies, catechesis, and books.   Here are just a few of the ideas I have implemented within our home.

Cowboy Muffins:  mini-meatloafs "frosted" with mashed potatoes.

I bought this bean-bag cover at a discount during Back To School sales.  Instead of stuffing it with beans, it holds all of my girls stuffed animals.  This way, they keep their furry friends all in one place AND have a chair to sit on.

With nine people living in our modest sized home, we have tried to utilize every possible space.  This is a closet converted into my office.  

I don't own a jewelry box, so I keep my necklaces and bracelets organized on this bulletin board which hangs in my closet.

Again utilizing Back To School sales, I bought this magazine holder for $4, and now it neatly keeps my storage bags above my stove.

One of our favorite craft activities:  we used painters tape to "write" each of the kids names on paper.  Then the kids painted over the tape.  When they were dry, we peeled the tape off.  By the way, this is NOT one of my children.

Strawberry treats for the Fourth of July.  Ours didn't turn out quite as pretty, but they were still delicious.

A homemade cough remedy.  I used this a few weeks back when my throat began to feel a bit sore.  It worked for me!

A favorite hot summer idea.  We cut up sponges, tied them together and the kids had water wars.


Another July 4th treat.  Hawaiin Punch on the bottom, then blue Gatorade, and diet Sprite to top it off.

I gave this to my friend on her birthday.  It was just as much fun putting it together as it was to give it to her.

A wrapping paper table runner.  Gummi and I used this idea for her last Tea Party.

Essential Oil to replace the harmful chemicals in air freshners.  After filling with my oil of choice, I plug it in and it lasts for days.


You know I utilize this site often when almost everything I do is questioned by my children, "did you get this idea from Pinterest?"  I just wanted to give credit where credit is due.  As we de-clutter and attempt to make our home more efficient, Pinterest has offered me numerous ideas and solutions.