Saturday, October 27, 2012


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.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Politics and Such

You know the old adage, "never discuss politics or religion"?  Let's just say that if my family embraced that notion, we wouldn't have a whole lot to talk about!  We love those two topics and it makes our gatherings very lively and enjoyable.  Our children are accustomed to hearing such exchanges, so it comes as no surprise that Sweet Potato (who happens to be 10 years old), is showing great interest during this election season.  He wants to know who Monkey and I will be voting for, but more importantly, he's asking why.  He has listened to some of the debates, pays particular attention when he hears something regarding the election on the radio or T.V., and has gotten into a few discussions at school with his teachers and classmates.  

Although I can answer with certainty who will be getting my vote on the national level, I'm still unsure about some of the local races, particularly our city council.  Sweet Potato has asked me many times who I will be supporting, and each time I have answered that I do not know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision yet.  While reading our local newspaper a few days ago, Sweet Potato came across the announcement that there would be a forum at City Hall, sponsored by the League of Women Voters.  He said, "I think we should go to this to learn more about the candidates."  I couldn't argue with that, so last night, we headed over to City Hall to hear what the candidates for Mayor and the City Council had to say.

More than what we heard at the forum last night, the most valuable part of the evening was on our walk home. Sweet Potato asked how to respond to those people who do not agree with me (politically).  Basically he was asking how I get along with family and friends who differ from my views.  I explained to him that no matter what a person's beliefs, we are to treat everyone with dignity and respect.  We never resort to name-calling or vilifying (actual policies are a different story).  This, of course, becomes more challenging if others do not reciprocate the same respect.  I gave Sweet Potato a few examples of people who I care about very much, but we do not see eye-to-eye politically.  I don't care for them any less, but I explained the whole "agree to disagree" relationship.  

This morning on the way to school (have you noticed how much conversation is had between me and my kids in the van?  I am extremely thankful for this time with them), Honey Bunches asked what will happen if the people I vote for lose.  I told him I will be disappointed, but I will never be hopeless.  I can only put so much faith in government.  The key for me is keeping my eyes on Jesus, because in the end, He is the only one I will have to answer to, and with Him, I will never lose hope.

Sirach 1:27:  For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction, and he delights in fidelity and meekness.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thick Skin

I learned very early in the journey of motherhood that moms need thick skin.  Kids in all of their glorious honesty can be brutal at times.  I've heard, "mom I think you're pretty when you don't wear your glasses" (I wear my glasses 99% of the time), to having them pat my tummy and ask, "do you have another baby in there?"  My cooking and driving get criticized almost daily.    I have been told, "I liked your hair better when it was long," and "I like your hair when it's shorter (than it is now)."  I have heard my children say I am the meanest mommy in the world.  Yep - thick skin comes in handy.

Tonight as my family was feasting on roasted chicken and rice, seasoned broccoli, and homemade apple crisp, Monkey Toes asked our troops, "who is the best mom in the world?"  The kids chanted in support and approval, "mommy is!" all except Sweet Potato who amidst the shouts said, "Amanda xxxxxxx!" (his friend's mom).  And then with his sly smile said, "I mean you are mom."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside my and misting.  We have a tree that hasn't lost its leaves yet and it's golden in color.  Simply beautiful.

I am's probably time to get out of my pajamas.  The kids are home for MEA and only Sweet Pea has gotten dressed for the day.  

I am thankful...for restored health.  Everyone is feeling better.  Thank you Jesus!

In the a pot of coffee with my name on it.  I've actually had two cups thus far this morning and I'm enjoying every bit of it.

I am pajamas and sweatshirt.

I am creating...our meal plans for the coming week. 

I am going...eventually to the grocery store.

I am reading...Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West.  I'm studying it with four other women.  The book is beautifully written and is ever so pertinent to our upcoming election.  

I am hoping...that Pumpkin and Honey Bunches stay healthy, as they were the only two who did not "catch the bug."

I am looking forward afternoon get-away with a friend.

I am Jamie Grace, Once Song AT At A Time.  I triple dog dare you to listen to this album and not dance or smile.  We've been listening to this disc multiple times a week since last Christmas (it was a gift for Sweet Pea).  We all love it.

Around the house...a couple of the kids are watching a movie, a couple are determined to sharpen all 300 of our pencils (maybe not 300, but we have a lot of pencils), and two are making instruments out of oatmeal containers and Grandma's old pill bottles.

I am to spend this day of vacation (besides the grocery store outing).  The use of my time during these free days can be overwhelming.  I know - it's not a bad problem to have, I just want to use my time wisely.

A favorite quote for today..."Joy isn't found in the material objects surrounding us; but in the inner recesses of the soul.  One can possess joy in a prison cell as well as in a palace." 

                                                 St. Therese of Lisieux

One of my favorite things...popcorn, movies, and snuggle-time with my kids.  That is definitely on my agenda for tonight.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Cucumber has been invited to her first "friend" birthday party on Saturday.  Monkey is working some extra hours, so the Love Bugs and I will certainly come up with something to do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dropping Like Flies

Yes, a virus has whirled through our house, sparing no one.  Actually two of the nine have been spared, but its latest victim has been bed-ridden since this morning.  As I steal away a few moments here and there to put my feet up, I've been reflecting on how to find blessing disguised as the flu.

1.  I am grateful that I was well enough to nurse two of my children back to health.  Then when I was struck down, my mom was here to help care for me.  I have to say this, not much has changed since I was a kid.  I still like to have my mom around when I am sick.  She knows what I need before I do.

2.  It was planned that I would accompany Monkey Toes on his last business trip, which happened to be over the weekend.  I am grateful that those plans fell through, as there is no other place I would rather be when sick, than at home.  Also, I would not have been able to enjoy myself, knowing that I could not be home, caring for my sick Love Bugs.

3.  Monkey happened to be sick on his trip, but returned home healthy, ready and willing to jump right in and help.  I am grateful for a husband who is willing to make these sacrifices for his family.

4.  I am thankful for our beds.  Monkey sent me to bed early so I could get well rested, while he slept on the love-seat, so Gummi Bear could have the couch when it was her turn to be down for the count.

5.  I am thankful for the beautiful past few days we've been given.  Even though we have been cooped up, we still opened the windows to allow the sunshine and fresh breeze to permeate our home.  It immediately helps everything feel a little better.

6.  I am thankful for Raman Noodles, Gatorade, and Saltines.  We probably should buy stock in these companies.  Although I wouldn't serve these items on a regular basis in our home, they tend to sooth and nourish sick little tummies.

7.  I am thankful for time spent together.  I realize that these are not ideal conditions, but none the less, we were all at home, with no desire to go anywhere.  This gave us the opportunity to simply rest.

8.  I am thankful for our over-all health.  These viruses may slow us down a bit, but we always recover back to full health.  I know there are so many who carry the cross of terminal illness or disability.  I am humbled by our blessings.

9.  I am thankful for our faith and that our children rely on it in times like these.  They asked to be blessed with Holy Water and anointed with oil while they were sick, giving me the opportunity to pray over them.

10.  I am thankful for these few moments of rest.  It may not be much, but it is enough to keep me going for the day.

"You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love at which we do them."
                                                                                  St. Therese of Lisieux

Friday, October 12, 2012


Last night, Monkey Toes and I attended Parent-Teacher Conferences for our 4 school aged children.  To be honest - I have a love/hate relationship with conferences.  I do find them important.  I do think it is vital to touch base with my children's teachers.  I do think it is helpful to make sure we are all on the same page.  So all in all, the efforts made to ensure my attendance at these conferences is well worth it.

As a parent, at least for me, I find it difficult to hear when life in the classroom isn't just hunky dory.  I am flawed in taking things quite personally, and when my child is troubled, so am I.  Hearing criticisms of any of them - well lets just say my stomach turns a bit.  And yet, I believe that my kids need to be held accountable for their actions.  I just sometimes wish it was only me having to hold them accountable and no one else.  But that is not reality, nor would I truly want that to be the world we live.  So, I attend these meetings with my head held high and sometimes my fingers crossed!

I am happy to report that all my children are doing well thus far (big sigh).  Their grades are good and they all like going to school.  Visiting with the teachers was insightful.  There were times I silently wondered if they (the educators) were talking about the same kids that live in my home.  Monkey and I heard words such as, "helpful" and "organized" (two behaviors I tend to nag my kids about frequently).

It was pointed out that one of my children has two areas of behaviors that need to be resolved:  trying to discreetly read a library book while the teacher is teaching, and visiting with "his neighbors" at inappropriate times.  These two areas of concern I can handle, in great part due to the teacher.  Here is what I admired about her last night.  She was able to separate the behavior from the heart of the child.  Although my kid shouldn't being doing these things, she was quick to point out his strengths; that he is smart, kind and sincere.

My kids were excited for us to return home and hear what their teachers had to say.  They each had a glint of pride in their eyes when we reported back to them.  I was proud too.  I can only hope that each day I send them out my door and through the doors of the school, they will demonstrate those virtues we instill at home.  If and when they falter, Monkey and I will be there to help them back up, to love them and support them.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Apparently mid-quarter is upon us and this week Monkey Toes and I have Parent/Teacher Conferences to attend.  I could have sworn school just began yesterday!  I feel like we are still adjusting to the whole school routine.  I mean, just take a look at my kids. . .

Cucumber asleep on the way home from school.

Sweet Potato falling asleep after homework.

Poor Gummi, having a bit of a melt-down over the game TROUBLE.  

Honey Bunches feeling a little exasperated during homework.
And then there is the amount of paperwork that comes through our door each day.

One day of paperwork from 4 kiddos.
Over the summer, I made the rule that nothing could be hung on the refrigerator.  After one week of school, this is what my fridge looked like.

But not everyone is struggling with this new routine.  When asked how they like having their siblings in school, Sweet Pea and Pumpkin responded like this. . .

Monday, October 1, 2012

Football, Faith and A Fall Festival

 About a month ago, this was the scene in our kitchen.  We have 8 guys (my husband, sons, nephews and brother-in-laws) with 8 computers, making their picks for Fantasy Football.  This little gathering lasted the better of two hours, with about the same intensity of an interrogation room (assuming from what I have seen in the movies).  AND, it didn't end here.  My guys are frequently checking stats and making trades.  They're keeping track of points and lots of other things I don't claim to understand.  'Tis the new season of football in our home.  Please note that this is not a complaint on my part.  It turns out that my nephews come over on Sundays to watch the games with us.  It's one of the highlights of my week!

Now, fast forward a couple of weeks.

Our parish celebrated its annual Fall Festival.  As I have noted before, I love to celebrate this day with my church.  It is one of my favorite days of the year.

In addition to baking my pie (actually apple crisp for I have yet to perfect a pie crust) and dropping off my cakes for the Cake Walk, we decided to donate the bead crafts the kids made in August.  We turned them into magnets and ornaments.  Monkey and I also put together a few baskets for the Silent Auction.  A corner of our kitchen was designated, "Fall Festival. Do Not Touch!"

The morning of the Festival, I loaded up the van with all of our items and dropped them off to their appropriate sites.  The building was abuzz with activity as volunteers were setting up in preparation.  The aroma of a homemade roast beef dinner drifted throughout the area.  I was filled with such gratitude for the many hands that work together for the good of the church.  I left feeling very proud to belong to this community.

The three oldest kids and I signed-up to work a shift in the dining room for later that afternoon.  Earlier in the day, Sweet Potato approached me with a concern.

Sweet Potato:  Hey mom, I don't think I can work my shift today.
Me:  Why not?
Sweet Potato:  Because the Vikings are playing and kick-off is at noon.  


Me:  I'm sorry, but we made a commitment and it is important that we follow through with our word.
Sweet Potato:  But do I have to work?  Why can't you and the other kids just go and I can stay home and watch the game?
Me:  Because that's not how this works.  We all agreed to help today, and ALL of us will be working.
Sweet Potato:  But why is it so important that we help our church out so much?

At this, I wanted to choose my words carefully.  There are numerous reasons why I love the church and want to give of my time.  It is a place where I am spiritually fed and my relationship with Christ is renewed.  Within the context of the Mass, I am challenged to live the life God has created for me and then encouraged to go out and live it.  My church community supports me, inspires me, and helps me see beyond my own little world that I could so easily live.  My list could go on and on.

My response went something like this.  Do you remember when Grandpa Beno and Grandma Trinie passed away?  It was our parish family who showed up to support us.  They brought us food so we wouldn't have to worry about cooking.  They offered child care as Dad & I were busy with funeral arrangements.  They prayed for us and showed us their love.  After each funeral, a team of people came together to serve lunch for those who came to pay their respects to Grandma and Grandpa.  Our parish blessed us through prayer, words of encouragement, flowers, and more food.  (One fellow parishioner even dropped off extra toilet paper and coffee since we were housing so many out of town family members).

Our church is part of our family.  When we are called upon to help, we need to show up and give our very best.  

I don't know if what I said made a real difference or not, but Sweet Potato decided it would be best if he attended the Festival with all of us.  He was glad he did, because after his shift, it was time to play.

Sweet Potato crawling through part of the obstacle course.

Honey Bunches aiming for the hoop.

Here comes Gummi Bear.

Cucumber and Sweet Pea playing the ring toss.

Sweet Pea sprinting towards the finish line.

Pumpkin struttin' her stuff.

It was a beautiful day.  The kids worked hard and played equally as hard.  We came home with 3 cakes from the cakewalk, a basketful of homemade goodies, and happy hearts from a fun and successful Fall Festival.

Pumpkin conked out about 10 minutes after we arrived home from the afternoon.