Wednesday, April 25, 2012

While The Husband's Away . . . . .

When Monkey Toes travels, I usually conjure up grandiose plans of all the things I will accomplish before he returns.  In the past, I have redone the bathroom, painted bedrooms, rearranged furniture, cleaned out the shed, organized closets, etc.  This week's trip is no exception.  He left Monday morning and I began with projects, in hopes that all would be complete upon his homecoming on Thursday.  I am pretty close to completing my mission, but not without a few bumps in the road.

For starters, I am painting.  I have been painting for the last 3 months - NO LIE!  Sure I have allowed a week to pass without picking up a paint brush, but for the most part, I have been painting - walls, trim, encasements, furniture, touch-ups.  If you have seen me during weekdays the past 3 months, you have noticed my same adornment of paint clothes - dark blue sweatpants, white t-shirt, and gray-hooded sweatshirt.  I am quite the sight.  In this final room I am painting, the windows are requiring much more work than in previous rooms.  I also splashed a bit of paint on the walls (by accident of course!), which will require me to pull out the appropriate paint color that I had already stored away. 

This weekend, Honey Bunches will be celebrating his First Communion.  He only has 22 children in his class, and the last two days, 10 of his classmates have been home sick.  Today, 10 students plus his teacher stayed home.  The school contacted us to say that First Communion is a priority.  If any child is showing symptoms, we need to keep them home.  Tonight we had First Communion rehearsal and there were a handful of parents in attendance without their child.  Although Honey Bunches has maintained health, Cucumber ran a fever on and off all day.   Being a bit over-bearing, I think I checked Honey Bunches temperature about every 20 minutes.  So far - so good.

Earlier today as I was painting, I happened to be kneeling on the floor with my back to a window.  Pumpkin came running towards me, arms wide open.  As she wrapped her little arms around my neck, I reveled in this snuggle moment.  It was, however, quickly interrupted by her scream of, "I see a mouse!"  She was pointing towards the egress window.  As I turned to look, this is what I saw.

A little rabbit had fallen into the window well.  Of course my girls thought it was adorable and begged me to rescue it so we could keep it as a pet.  As I pondered how to get the little bugger out, Cucumber exclaimed that she saw a snake too.  Well that announcement put a kibosh on any rescue plans I was making.  No way am I going near a snake.  So I did what any sensible person would do.  I posted my dilemma on Facebook.   One of my Facebook friends replied that by morning, only one of the creatures will probably remain.  Good Heavens!  I am leery about what I may find in the morning.  But then again, my Knight in Shining Armor returns tomorrow.  I'll just add this small task to my Honey Do List. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daily Conversations

Sweet Pea:  I want to watch The Fresh Beat Band (kid show on Netflix).

Honey Bunches:  I heard Sweet Pea say she wants to watch Fwesh Beat Band.

Gummi:  I heard her say she wants to watch Fresh Beat Van.

Me:  I think the two of you should be a little nicer to Sweet Pea, seeing you are the older siblings.

Honey Bunches:  You heard her say all that, Mom?

During our morning coffee break, Cucumber was teaching her little sisters the days of the week.
Pumpkin:  Tuesday, Frensday, Freezeday, Sunday!

Overheard from the kitchen . . . . . .
Sweet Pea:  Look how pretty the neighbor's yard is.

Pumpkin:  Yea.

Cucumber:  I wish our lawn could have all those pretty yellow flowers too! (dandelions)

Sweet Pea:  Yea, our grass isn't very pretty.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Mall

It was recently discovered that Pumpkin was in dire need of a new pair of tennis shoes.  Hand-me-downs are split between the two youngest, as they are currently the same size (actually Pumpkin weighs 3 more pounds than Sweet Pea).  Grandma suggested we go to the Mall in search of new shoes. 

The Mall - I shudder at the mere idea.  I have never really enjoyed shopping.  When I do venture out into the wild (aka Mall territory), it is usually due to necessity.  I don't find those trips "fun" and I NEVER go there to just kill time.  My ideal Mall experience (just trying to stay positive here) is finding some hot coffee to drink and maybe a muffin, and then searching out an unoccupied bench in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.  Then I kick back and amuse myself with people watching.  It can actually be quite entertaining.

Grandma, the 3 youngest and I went to the Mall on a Wednesday.  The parking lot didn't look too intimidating, as not many people were there at that hour.  We walked into the first store and there was a sales woman anxiously waiting to help us.  She only had two styles of shoes in Pumpkin's size - which I was actually thankful.  I'm all about simplicity.  We left the decision up to Pumpkin - either the white shoe with a pink swoosh or the bright pink with orange accents.  Can you guess which one the two year old chose?  Of course the brightest.  She was thrilled, as was I.  I think we spent a total of 15 minutes in that store.

It was getting close to lunch time and Grandma suggested we head to the Food Court.  The girls were loving the Mall environment.  Each store we passed, one of them would squeal at something displayed in the window.  We passed the venue where some lady has some sort of secret.  There was a display of a scantly clad woman.  Cucumber exclaimed, "Mom - look at that pretty lady!"  Ugh!!!  I think at that point I started to get hives.  Each store we passed had a different song blaring through its door.  Everything seemed magnified and over stimulated.  Luckily, we found a nice quiet spot in the Food Court and shared a lovely lunch together.

My shopping venues have greatly simplified over the years, as have my shopping needs.  I no longer have a closet full of shoes.  I no longer buy a new outfit for each upcoming event.  When I am out in the stores, I generally think of what the kids need.  It's actually more enjoyable shopping for them.  My favorite places to shop are Thrift Stores.  There are two semi-local ones that I frequent about once a month.  I have found school uniforms for .50.  I bought myself a brand new pair of tennis shoes for $5.  Last summer, I bought all of my vacation clothes for the grand total of $9.  One of the stores has a .25 kids clothes day - yippee!  To add to my excitement, there is a Thrift Store opening up in our town this Tuesday.  It might be dangerous to have one so close.  Part of the fun is in the find.  I don't always walk away with something in my hand.  However, when I do find deal, it is very edifying. 

With raising four girls, I'm pretty sure The Mall will be an inevitable destination in the future.  Thankfully, we live a distance away from the wild.  Hopefully my girls will catch on to my people watching skills and find that more enjoyable than actually shopping.  Then again, they do have a couple of aunts and cousins who love to shop.  Maybe I can promote that as "family bonding". 

Pumpkin sporting her new shoes

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Poor Sweet Potato.  He had a rough start this morning.  He didn't wake up early enough to shower.  Today was a non-uniform day, as the school is taking spring pictures.  Although we aren't planning on ordering any pictures, I instructed the kids to look nice.  Sweet Potato didn't hear those instructions and wore his "You are what you eat.  Eat Metal" t-shirt.  During breakfast he remembered that he had a writing assignment due today, but he forgot his penmanship paper in school.  As our departure time drew near, I announced we were leaving in 5 minutes.  I grabbed my coffee and purse and went out to the van to wait.  Sweet Potato was the last one out of the house.  He had one pant leg tucked into his socks.  He forgot to put on his glasses, and he had alfalfa hair (I do find that a bit endearing on most days!).  As we proceeded to drive to school, Sweet Potato shouted, "Mom. Where's my Mass reading?"  Tomorrow is his class Mass and he has a part.  I told him I hadn't seen it, to which he dumped out his back pack, frantically looking through his papers.  In the midst of this, he also inquired about a permission slip that I had signed, due today, that he forgot to place in his folder.  The kid was stressed out!

I love this child dearly and his disorganization is part of what makes Sweet Potato, well, Sweet Potato.  As his mom, I'm trying to set boundaries as to how much I should bail him out of such situations.  I know he needs to learn responsibility, and the boy is far more intelligent than I, but I have a soft spot in wanting to help manage his stress levels.  What I did manage to do this morning was to not make any comments about his appearance.  I suggested that he complete his writing assignment on a piece of notebook paper, which although isn't what he was instructed to do, at least it would show some initiative.  We found his Mass part on the floor in the back of the van (cargo area).  I suggested he request another permission slip from his teacher if he can't find the original.  I'm pretty sure tonight we will be discussing the responsibility trait. 

I know Sweet Potato means well, he just needs to slow down and focus.  As for me, putting out these little fires is part of the job.  Being older and wiser, I know that these mishaps don't mean much in the realm of life and what matters most.  But to my kids, this is their world right now.  So I guess all I can do is love them up and help keep them grounded.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Our Easter Memoirs

Today was life as normal (normal being the operative word).  The kids went back to school after having Thursday through Monday off for Easter Vacation.  Monkey Toes is out of town on business. The washing machine has yet to take a break after running all day, and I am sitting here, reflecting on the beautiful weekend we all had together, while sipping a delicious red wine that my good friend brought over last week. 

Holy Week was busy for us, but it is what we prepare for during the Lenten Season.  Tuesday night our church hosted a Seder Meal.  I brought the three oldest kids, while my friend (Miss Gina) babysat the younger three.  I felt it important that Sweet Potato, Honey Bunches and Gummi experience this meal and hear the history of the Passover.  Last year, this year and next year, we will be celebrating a First Communion in our home.  The celebration of the Eucharist is rooted in the Passover Meal.  The kids did great at the Seder Meal.  They were willing to try all the foods and enjoyed hearing the symbolism of each.

Wednesday night, Gummi Bear and I worked with my sisters in catering a meal at a neighboring church.  Gummi is a great and willing helper.  I was glad to take her along to work beside me.  In between courses, we were sitting down and sampling the pie which was going to be served later in the evening.  It's called "Daffodil Pie", and it happens to be our family's traditional Easter dessert.  It is light and fluffy - made with the zest of lemons and oranges.  Delicious!  However, I digress.  So I am sitting down at a table in the kitchen and Gummi is standing next to me.  She took a large spoonful of the pie and wound up choking, causing her to cough in my direction, which resulted in the left side of my body being sprayed with gelatin pie filling.  GROSS!  It was in my hair, on my glasses, all over my shirt and lap.  My sisters thought it hilarious.

We attended Mass on Holy Thursday and service on Good Friday.  Friday, on the way to church, the kids were talking about their Grandpa.
Sweet Potato:  Grandpa's not Catholic. 
Honey Bunches:  He's not Lutheran either.
Sweet Potato:  I know he's not Baptist.
Honey Bunches:  He's non-abama, non-abama, non-abominational!

Saturday was spent with Monkey Toes side of the family.  We gathered for brunch, which was exceptionally good.  There were two kinds of egg bakes, cheesy potatoes, bacon, ham, caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, fruit, coffee and juice.  The spread was lovely.  I should have taken a picture!  After we ate, the kids were suppose to participate in a Survivor Egg Hunt.  However, due to cold, rainy conditions, the hunt was moved indoors.

Victory by partners Sweet Potato and Sweet Pea!

Partners Grandpa and Pumpkin pleased with their 5th place finish

The winners received chocolate bunnies the size of their heads

All participants received a prize

The proof of Cucumber eating her entire chocolate prize
After all of the games that day, Pumpkin was playing nearby on the floor.  I smelled something so I whispered to her, "Did you poop?"  She whispered back, "No.  My diaper pooped."

Sunday morning we were busy getting ready for Mass.  I was giving myself a little mini-pedicure, using the Ped-Egg (As Seen on T.V. product).  It really works on my dry feet.  Well Sweet Pea was watching me and  she eventually asked, "When I'm older and have gnarly feet, can I use the Pet Egg too?"

We attended Mass and then spent the day with my family.

Our annual family picture on my sister's steps

Our kids in birth order.  Monkey Toes calls them the 6 Dwarfs.  Can you guess which one is Grumpy?  He simply does not have patience for getting his picture taken.

The Egg Hunt

The kids received the movie Hop, from my brother and his family.  On the way home, Sweet Pea and Pumpkin continuously called the movie, Grasshopper.  Completely exhausted from a full and active weekend, the two youngest fell asleep while I prepared dinner.

Easter Break provided our family with 5 wonderful and very full days.  We didn't color eggs or visit the Easter Bunny.  My kids never asked to do these things, so I left those topics alone.  Actually tonight during supper, Sweet Potato asked me if the Easter Bunny is real.  Before I could reply, Gummi answered him, "Who cares Sweet Potato?  Easter is about Jesus and him rising from the dead."  Perfectly stated my sweet, sweet child!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Triduum: Good Friday

The events of Good Friday changed humankind and the course of the world forever.  It is the only day in the entire year that the Catholic Church does not celebrate Mass.  It is a day like no other and it is remembered and celebrated like no other. 

On this day, the water fonts are dry.  On this day, the altar has been stripped, the sanctuary is barren.  The only "environment" is a red cloth that has been draped around the Crucifix.  The service begins with the priest laying prostrate before the altar, which is at the foot of the cross.  The Passion from the Gospel of John is read.  Then one by one each person comes forward to venerate the cross.  This is the most moving part of the service for me.  People of all ages, from so many different walks of life, genuflecting before the wood of the cross and reverencing it with a kiss.  It is more powerful than words can explain.  As a community we then pray intercessions - for our Church leaders, for our world leaders, for the unity of all Christians, for the Jews, for those who do not believe in God, for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ.   We then receive the Eucharist, which has been consecrated the night before at our Holy Thursday Mass.  The service has ended and we leave in silence.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is unfathomable.  For God's Son - the second person of the Trinity, to humble himself to come to this earth as a baby, to be born in a cave, to learn the skills of a carpenter, to proclaim the Kingdom to sinners, to be condemned for crimes he didn't commit and then to die the most horrific death.  His love is so great and I am so unworthy.

This is the Man who is talked about every day in our home.  This is the Man whom Monkey Toes and I love.  It is for this Man that we are trying to nurture that same love within our children.  This is the Man who has changed my life.  This is the Man who is the light in the darkest of days, the most trying of times.  This is the Man who offers hope to the hopeless, mercy and grace to the sinful, sight to the blind.  This is the Man whom everyday I choose to live my life.   

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Triduum: Holy Thursday

Lent has come to a close and today we entered into the Easter Triduum.  This is the pinnacle of our faith; the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.  This evening we celebrated Mass, emphasizing the institution of the Eucharist.  We read the history of the Passover from Exodus.  We then read the recalling of the Last Supper account in Corinthians.  The Gospel of John was Jesus washing his disciples feet.  The Mass of Holy Thursday is filled with history, tradition and symbolism.  It is absolutely beautiful!

Lately, I have heard or read comments from a few people who think that a relationship with Jesus and participating in religion are two separate entities.  That somehow religion is unnecessary.  While participating in Mass tonight, I was thinking about this argument.  During the washing of the feet it struck me that the Church exists because Jesus commanded it so with the commissioning of the apostles.  Religion exists because of Apostolic Succession (begun by Christ) and Tradition. 

I agree that certain practices will not guarantee us a place in Heaven, but their intention is to guide us on our paths towards holiness.  Many practices are disciplines (the Rosary, The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Stations of the Cross, etc).  They won't save us, but they can assist us on our journey.  For these gifts I am humbled and grateful. 

The conclusion of Mass was the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  As I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament with my family, I kept hearing the words, "Come to me all who are weary and I shall give you rest."  I have experienced the "desert" a number of times this past Lent.  I came to Mass this evening, tired and feeling a bit overwhelmed with some unrest in my life.  Christ's message for me was to let go and "Let Him."  Not easy for a Type A personality. 

Tonight I am challenged with Christ's example to serve others.  Each day is another opportunity to serve others out of love and selflessness.  With Christ as my strength and my relationship with Him renewed through the Eucharist, I am equipped with the tools necessary.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Art of Food

I just returned home tonight from working with my sisters in catering a Seder Meal.  This is the third year we've done this particular dinner and each year we talk about going into a catering business together. Sister One is the chef.  Actually, she is a High School Consumer Family Science teacher and a High School Culinary Coach.  Her culinary team is competing at Nationals in Baltimore, MD at the end of this month.  She is a talented teacher, coach and cook.  Sister Two is a nurse, but when we cater dinners, she is the decorator and dish-washer.  My job is to help plate the food and serve.  It is a lot of work, but it is something that I enjoy doing and I love working with my sisters.

We've thrown around the idea of going into business together for the last 15 or so years.  It began when I was working at my first parish ministry job.  At the end of each school year, I was responsible for the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.  At that time in my life, I didn't cook, so hosting a dinner posed quite a dilemma.  That first year, my mom and sisters made the 3 1/2 hour drive to help me host this dinner.  We had such a great time doing it, that it became our tradition for the next 4 years (I then resigned my position to move closer to home). 

This interest of wanting to work in the food industry stems from my love of food.  I don't think it has so much to do with my enjoyment of eating good food (although I absolutely love that part of it!), as it has to do with my appreciation of good food.  Trying new foods and combinations of flavors excites me.  Although I am no chef, I have come a long way from when I was first married and really didn't know how to cook.  With some practice and a bit of kitchen confidence, I can hold my own.

I admire Sister One who is a food artist - truly one of her gifts in life.  She creates and executes divine dishes.  Not only is her food extremely tasty, but it is beautiful to the eye as well.  I have learned from her to enjoy the preparation of the meal, but find that it is equally important to be able to take the time to sit and partake in it, especially with others.  My most memorable meals are those shared with loved ones.  Often times, I can't even recall what we ate, but I can remember the mingling of relaxed conversation and contentment.   I love when I have the opportunity to sit down at a table with family and friends and not have to rush, but rather to lose track of time as we sip wine and break bread together.  What I have discovered is that the significance of a meal is so much more than the food that is served.  It is about relationship.

Although we may never start a catering business, it is fun to dabble in the possibility.  I also look forward to the day when my kids will want to linger a little longer at the table, enjoying each others company (that's not a far-fetched dream, is it?).  For now, I'll keep reminding myself to revel in the family-meal-time experience.  It may not be perfect, but it is intended with love.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hog Tied

Question:  How many adults does it take to administer 2 immunizations to a 5 year old who will be entering Kindergarten in the fall?

Answer:  FIVE.  That's right.  Me (the mom) and 4 nurses. 

The 3 youngest had appointments this morning.  It was discovered that 2 of my girls received their Hepatitis B shots too close together (They must be administered at a minimum of 3 months apart.  Theirs were given at 2 months apart).  This makes the immunization invalid. So to Cucumber's surprise, she had to have 2 shots.  While I held her in my lap restraining her arms, one nurse was kneeling on the floor, restraining her legs.  Then two nurses - each with one needle in hand - gave the shots in each of Cucumber's thighs.  The 4th nurse stood nearby with band-aids ready, trying very enthusiastically to distract Cucumber.  Seeing this fiasco,  Sweet Pea began to cry and then covered her ears and shouted, "she's hurting my ears!  She's hurting my ears!"  As I attempted to reach out to Sweet Pea to comfort her, she jumped back, scared that she would be next.

Once everyone calmed down, the head nurse said, "You did great Cucumber.  Here's a little treat for you."  She gave Cucumber a coupon for a free small fry at McDonald's.  My mouth must have been hanging open, because the nurse asked me, "Was that o.k. that I gave it to her?"  Well, I wasn't about to snatch it out of the poor girl's hands, but being deserving of a treat after that display?  Hmm.

Currently, we are back home and the girls are napping.  I am exhausted too.  Who knew that Cucumber had such strength - both in her muscles and lung capacity.  For being so little, she sure put up a good fight.  Small and spunky.  That pretty much sums up my Cucumber.