Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Reflections 2013

On this second day of Christmas, the Love Bugs are still flying high from all of the celebrations.  We have had a lovely past few days.  Christmas Eve began with us going to Mass and then returning home to host Monkey's side of the family. Sweet Potato, Gummi and Cucumber entertained us with their piano solos and duets, and Honey Bunches serenaded us with Tom Petty's "Free Falling" on his guitar.  Christmas Day we stayed in our pajamas as long as we could before heading over to Sissy #1's house for a prime rib dinner, gifts and games. Ah yes, and the ever loved eggnog station. We played "Balderdash" which had us laughing until we cried.  We pretty much all collapsed in our beds last night.  Today was about recovery for me, as I think if I had been afforded, I may have slept the entire day.  As I am writing this, Monkey is ice-fishing, the boys are gone overnight, Cucumber is reading on the Kindle, Pumpkin is stickering on a stack of papers, Sweet Pea is coloring and Gummi is working in an activity book.

A few minutes ago we gathered for our evening family prayer, continuing with the Jesse Tree symbol and reading.  Tonight's scripture was Luke 2:8-20.  There are many passages I hold dear, but my two favorite scrpiture passages are Psalm 139 and this one from Luke, "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."  These words never fail to move me.  They are simple, yet beautiful. They are full of wisdom and love.

This reading is so timely, as I sit and reflect on the Christmas season.  There were so many moments that I wanted to freeze time.  I desperately want to remember certain conversations and funny stories.  I wanted to capture feelings of contentment, joy, and gratitude.  These reflections I never want to forget.  I want to hold them in my heart forever.  No other time during the year seems to remind me more of the preciousness and fleeting of time, than Christmas.  It is a season where my heart aches for the absence of those loved ones who have passed, and increases my home-sickness for those who live far away.

For Mary, she held close the message that had been revealed to the Shepards about the Christ child.  As a mother, I can only imagine all the thoughts and emotions racing through this gentle and faithful woman at that instant.  I have often wondered, that as she held Baby Jesus in her arms and gazed into his eyes, did she too long to remember that moment forever?  Did she too want to freeze time and keep Jesus "little" for awhile longer?  As she knelt at the foot of the cross, did she think back to that time in the stable?

As our family continues to celebrate these days of Christmas, I will continue to challenge myself to hold close all that is dear, with the Holy Family as my model.

With all that being said, here are a few fun comments from my kids.

Before Christmas, we were at a gathering where there was a drawing.  Someone got up and announced, "We'll now be drawing for the door prizes."  Sweet Pea asked, "What kind of prizes does a door give away?"

Pumpkin needed a bandaid for a small cut on her finger.  Since she is a "big" girl, she wanted to do it herself. After I had watched her struggle with the application of the bandaid, I asked, "Can I give you a hand with that?"  Pumpkin said, "No.  I've got it under control."

A few Saturdays ago we were attending one of Sweet Potatoes basketball games.  The girls had packed a tote bag with "essentials."  Honey Bunches had offered to carry the bag into the gym for us.  Half way there he said, "Did you girls really need to pack so much?  Just remember, there are people in this world without water bottles, snacks and boardgames!"

Well said, my little philanthropist.

On our way to Christmas Eve Mass
The Eggnog Station
My favorite Christmas decoration this year; Gummi posed as an elf.
The "warm-up" after playing in the snow.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent, Feast Days, and Yoga Pants

Welcome to Christmas vacation!  It was a bit of a thrill this morning to wake up without an alarm.  It's the little things in life, isn't it?  I haven't written anything for almost a month.  So much has taken place and life's busyness has occupied our time.  Here's a quick review of the last few weeks.


Monkey and I hosted Thanksgiving for 33 people at our home.  We were a little nervous about space, but in the end, it all worked out well.  It was a day that had my heart brimming with grace and gratitude.

The boys are playing basketball through Community Education.  They practice twice a week and play games on Saturdays.  Beginning in January, we will have to divide and conquer, as the boys have different game locations.

We celebrated the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th.  The kids left their shoes outside their bedroom doors and the next morning they discovered small gifts within them.  On the 13th we celebrated St. Lucy with braided sweet bread, adorned with candles, and reading about her life.

Last year at this time, I was so busy trying to make sure that we were making Advent meaningful, that I think I missed the mark a bit.  I'm a big fan of the concept, "don't reinvent the wheel," and so this year we are using a Jesse Tree Kit.  It has simplified our lives and is giving our family a really beautiful and meaningful reflection each night.  We pray, we read scripture, we learn about the day's symbol, we pray some more and then we end with singing a verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

Our Advent table with our Wreath and Jesse Tree
Today is December 21st and we still do not have our tree up or cards sent out and not one cookie has been baked.  I haven't purchased any gifts, with the exception of gift exchanges the kids had in school.  I am at a point where I have to be o.k. with "not doing it all."  So with 4 days until we host Christmas Eve, we are being very intentional with what gets done.  Sometime today the kids and I well erect our tree.  Monday, the Love Bugs and I will make some gingerbread.  And as for gifts?  Well, we have scaled back.  I've been teasing the kids by asking, "who gets presents on your birthday?"  They reply, "We do."  "And who gets presents on Jesus' birthday?"  If nothing else, it gives them something to think about.   I did attempt a group photo the evening of the kids school Christmas program.  I asked Monkey if he could doctor it up for a card.  This is what he came up with.

There's just something not quite right about Wise Men and camels walking on the back of our sofa.  We're going to keep this one for ourselves and our own amusement for years to come.

Yoga Pants
A little over a week ago I threw my back out.  I was retrieving something from the refrigerator and fire shot down my legs and across my lower back.  I managed to shuffle to a chair and wait for Monkey to get home from work.  I was panicked because Monkey was leaving at 5 a.m. the following morning on a 4 day trip and I couldn't imagine handling our household with feeling the way I did.  I was blessed in a few different ways.  1) Thanks to Sweet Potato's confidence in the kitchen, he cooked supper for the family that night.  2) Due to a snow storm, school was two hours late the following day.  I was able to get into the chiropractor within that time frame.  3) Upon my return home from the chiropractor, we were notified that school was closed for the day.  That was a huge relief.  4) Getting dressed was difficult and so I relied on my yoga pants which transitioned from day wear to lounge wear (pj's) with ease.  Gummi helped me get dressed, which was humbling, yet necessary.  She may never fully realize how much I appreciated her help.

In other news, Sweet Potato, Gummi Bear and Cucumber had a Christmas piano recital which was lovely.  Sweet Pea had a touch of the stomach flu, but has already bounced back to heatlh.  Honey Bunches is excelling at guitar and Pumpkin LOVES being the only child home during the day.  I'll share more about that at another time.  So I think that brings us up to date.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas celebration.  Take time to live in the present and savor the little things.  God's blessings to you all!  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Keeping Up

My kids like to listen to the Oldies station on the way home from school.  Friday, this station was already playing Christmas music.  What what what???  Had I been by myself, I probably would have been annoyed, however, my kids were belting out the lyrics and I found it endearing.  Christmas music aside, I'm just not ready for the rat race of the holidays.  I feel like we're still adjusting to the start-up of school!

As I have mentioned before, I love fall and I love Thanksgiving.  If I could extend any season, this would be the one.

I love the warm, bright colors.  I love the smell of pumpkin, cinnamon, and the roasting of harvested vegetables.  I love putting on a big sweatshirt, breathing in the brisk air, and warming my hands around a hot cup of coffee.  Most of all, I love that we are mindful of our blessings, especially in preparation for Thanksgiving.

At school, Cucumber made a list of things she is thankful for.
I am thankful for:  my fish, Jesus, family, love, food, school, home, my life, candy, the world, my class, Grandma, Grandpa, Mrs. E (her 1st grade teacher), church, saints.
I adore the simplicity and honesty of this list.  And guess what?  I'm thankful for all of these things too, even the fish!

Side note:  Freddie, the fish, has been with us since Labor Day Weekend.  Merlot predicted his demise within two weeks.  I am happy to report that he is just as spry today as the day we welcomed him into our home.  

Although the world is buzzing all around and pressuring us to "keep up" with the mecca season of retail, our family is choosing to move at a slower pace.  This week, our main focus is making coffee filter turkeys with the kids and finalizing our Thanksgiving menu.  Saturday evening we'll pack away our fall decor and put up our Jesse Tree and creche, in preparation of Advent.  Our goal:  to make sure that our beliefs are not just a lip service, but that we truly live our faith.

I recently read the article, Jen Hatmaker - The Christmas Conundrum.  It is very thought provoking and definitely worth the time to read.  It certainly has me thinking about simplifying our lives and the way in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.

I hope these days leading up to Thanksgiving finds your hearts abounding in blessing.  If you are a Black Friday shopper, be safe, be smart, and please be polite!  And if you find yourself in a bad or cranky mood, make a coffee filter turkey.  I promise; it will brighten your day!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Celebrating 41

November 11th is dear to me for a few reasons.

One.  It is Veterans Day.  A very heartfelt thank you to all the men and women who have served and are currently serving our country in the armed forces.  Thank you, also, to their families who sacrifice so much.  You make our country great and allow my family to enjoy the liberties and freedoms you fight to preserve.  God bless you all!

Two.  It is the feast day of my patron saint; St. Martin of Tours.  Martin was born in 317 to pagan parents.  Later in life, he became a soldier in the Roman army.  One evening, as he was traveling back to the city, he encountered a scantily clothed man who was cold and hungry.  Martin dismounted his horse, shared what food he had, and took his sword and cut his cloak in half, giving half of it to the man.  That night as Martin slept, he had a dream that the man he shared his food and clothes with was Jesus.  Jesus told him to become His follower.  When Martin awoke, his cloak had been restored. Shortly after, Martin was baptized.  St. Martin is the patron of the homeless and soldiers.

Three.  It is my birthday.  This year I turned 41.

I celebrated my birthday over two days.  On Sunday, my sisters treated me to a benefit outing in downtown Minneapolis at "The W."  Sissy #1 is a culinary coach, and her team had been invited to serve at a fundraising event for Pro-start.  It was an elegant gathering, the food and wine were divine, and I rubbed shoulders with some big-wigs in the restaurant/hospitality industry.  It was an absolutely lovely evening. When I went to bed that night, I found this on my nightstand from Cucumber.

On Monday, the kids woke up and shouted, "Happy Birthday!"  Later in the day, I had a lunch date with Monkey's sister, Silly.  We were gifted with a few hours to just catch up on life.

Honey Bunches and Gummi helped prepare my Birthday supper:  salad, pasta and Italian bread.  For dessert, Grandma treated us to Pumpkin Pie Blizzards at the DQ.

Serious deliciousness in a waffle cone. 
My gifts from the Love Bugs:  scented lotion, an angel plaque, a fairy headband (this actually belongs to Sweet Pea), and a travel Scrabble game in which Gummi spelled out, "I love you Mom."
One silly photo at the end of the evening.

My most treasured part of the day was a message that Monkey posted on Face Book.

A bunch of years ago, God put into motion His plan for me. I still do not know what the outcome will be, but He sent me a gift to help along my way. I was not a Christian at that time, I was not thinking that I would be sent this Gift, and as a matter of fact, I was not even born at that time. Besides his son, Jesus, who I am Grateful everyday for his sacrifice for my salvation, it was a gift just for me!

I did not receive this gift until about 13 years ago, give or take a couple of months. This gift has guided me to becoming the father, husband and disciple of Christ I am today. I strongly believe that some 20 years ago, this gift was presented to me, and I chose not to notice it at the time.

Today is the day I celebrate my wife, Shelly's Birthday. She has given me 6 beautiful children, a lifelong companion and she is my best friend. "Soul-mate" if you will (inside joke). I am thankful every everyday that God chose her for me.

Happy Birthday Shelly. I Love you, and love the person you inspire me to be!

I read this message with tears streaming down my cheeks as I waited to pick my kids up from school. I was moved by not only Monkey's honesty and testament to God's plan, but it also reminded me of all the blessings in my life.  My life is not perfect and it is not always easy, but I too have been gifted with a faith I hold dear, a loving husband, beautiful and creative kids, and a wonderful and supportive family.  Sprinkle all of this with a lovely circle of friends and I feel like the richest person in the world.  For me, celebrating my birthday is a celebration of life and all of its beauty.  God is good all the time!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marathon and Halloween

I no longer have a computer of my own, thus I am restricted to the use of Monkey Toes computer and working around his schedule and the availability of his laptop.  Since it has been awhile since my last post, I decided to do a little update of tid bits of our life over the past few weeks.

The School Marathon
Each year, the Knights of Columbus sponsor a marathon for non-public education. Students collect money and prayer intentions.  The marathon begins with an all school Mass (the prayer intentions are written on a large mural and prayed over during Mass), followed by lunch, and then the marathon. Grades K-3 walk through town, and grades 4-12 walk 4.2 miles around Winsted Lake.  This year, the students raised over $46,000.  The day was filled with fun and lots of school pride.  I feel blessed that my children belong to this amazing community of people who support Catholic education.  A huge "Thank You" to all who sponsored these students!

All Hallows Eve
I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, but my kids look forward to dressing up, getting candy, and watching the beloved, "The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown."  

Pumpkin as "Belle"
Sweet Pea as a Cowgirl.  I have to give a shout-out to JillyBean for this adorable and durable outfit.  It has clothed 3 of our 4 girls and is still looking great!
Gummi as "Jasmine"
Cucumber as "Mother Teresa"
Our Halloween Crafts; bats and ghosts made from egg cartons.

Pumpkin watching Charlie Brown.
The kids had a non-uniform day and could wear black and orange to school.
Our daily life has been pretty routine lately.  The kids go to school, they practice their instruments, the boys play basketball and Sundays are basically Mass, crock-pot dinners and football.  I'm very content these days, which is a pretty great place to be.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

License To Anywhere

This morning, Sweet Pea was looking through the Bible.  She looked up at me and with all the innocence and sincerity a 5 year old can muster, she asked, "Mom?  If I die, will you drive me to Heaven?"

Oh do I love this child!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Firm But With Love

Parenting is a tough job.  Period.  The good far outweighs the challenges, but the path is sometimes (or oftentimes) a bit bumpy.  Monkey and I have been entrusted with the lives of six eternal souls whom we are hoping to raise as responsible, compassionate, contributing, and faith filled people.  As the saying goes, there are no handbooks that get delivered with the baby.  So we find ourselves muddling through the often murky waters of child rearing, praying that our kids won't need therapy someday on our account!

In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, the kids have shirked many of their responsibilities at home.  Their rooms have been nothing less than disastrous and household chores have been practically nonexistent.  I had been pretty lax with all of this until about 3 weeks ago.  I asked the kids to complete a few tasks and my pleas were adamantly ignored.  When I confronted my children, I was met with groans, arguments, and a few foot stomps.  This behavior, which I find unacceptable, led to my frustration, which led to a ban on all electronics within our home, "until further notice."  No computer, no WII, no Netflix, etc.  The next day, while the kids were in school, I collected all remotes and devices and locked them away in a super-secretive location.  I then set out to create a new chore list for our home.

Basically, the Daily Chores are the sole responsibility of each child and, needless to say, are expected to be done everyday.  The other chores are on a rotation with the Love Bugs taking turns or working in pairs.  I am not looking for perfection, but I do expect their best effort.  I've come to terms, long ago, that our house will never look like a magazine, and in that rare occasion when all seems to be in place, I have learned that it does not last long.  Chore Charts have come and gone in our home, but for now, this is what we're enforcing.

The Chore Chart goes hand-in-hand with certain privileges.  Electronics are privileges.  Extra-curriculars are privileges and so are friend birthday parties, sleepovers, eating out and musical instruments (piano, guitar and trumpet).  So if my children work together to help around the house, they can do much that they desire.  It is a simple concept, but the consequences can be difficult.

A few weeks ago, Cucumber was invited to a birthday party after school.  Monkey and I said she could go, as long as she did her chores.  She was so excited and began counting down the days until the party.  She even spent some of her own money to buy her friend a gift.  As the date of the party drew closer, Cucumber became almost defiant in completing her chores and her resistance was accompanied by a few tantrums. The final straw was when her teacher talked with me about Cucumber's behavior in class being less than stellar. That night, in our "Parent/Child Meeting Place" (it happens to be the garage since it is the most quiet and private spot in the vicinity) Monkey explained to Cucumber that she had lost her privilege to go to the party. In addition, she had to write an apology note to her teacher and deliver it the next morning with a spoken apology.  It was also explained that if she wanted some of her privileges back, she would need to adjust her attitude.  The lesson really hit home, when after school on that Friday, she saw her classmates leaving all together to attend the birthday party.  Cucumber sat in her seat in the van and cried.  I cried too, because I felt her anguish and deeply wished she could have attended.  Since then, Cucumber is making progress and as of today, she has earned a sleep-over at a friend's house this Friday night.

We are going on the 3 week mark of no electronics, with the exception of my sole use of my computer. Hey, don't judge.  I've kept up with my chores!  At times over the past few weeks, it has been tough for the Love Bugs, but Monkey and I are sticking to the rules in place.  Unfortunately, Honey Bunches was fed up with the ban and he took my computer and hid it in his closet, deep behind his clothes.  When we thought he was going to his room to play with his Pokemon cards or his Lego's, he actually was playing on the computer. So back into the garage Monkey and I went to meet with Honey Bunches.  When he was confronted with the issue, he hung his head and cried.  My heart ached for him for making the choice he did.  He said he was sorry, but our family believes in penance.  We gave him the option of coming up with his own punishment, or selecting one of three options we gave him:  1)  No trick-or-treating.  Instead, stay home and pass out candy to those who come to our door; 2)  Donate all of his Pokemon cards; or 3)  Being grounded for 1 week (a ban to his bedroom with the exception of bathroom breaks and mealtime).  He chose to sit out from trick or treating.

Since the electronic ban, we have experienced some really positive outcomes.  The first is that the kids are being creative in their play.  They spend more time with each other and the fighting between them has decreased - not dissipated completely, but certainly diminished a bit.  As a family, we play more board games together, the kids are practicing their instruments more and they are reading more. Win, win and win! Don't get me wrong, there are times when I think it would be easier to just give in and let them have everything back, but then the lesson would be lost.   So for now, we will stand firm and love our Love Bugs through the lessons of responsibility, accountability, and all of the other lessons life has to offer.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mammograms and Root Canals

I'm not sure what I was thinking.  Grandma offered to watch Pumpkin and the other Love Bugs were in school.  I needed to schedule two appointments, so why not have them both on the same day?  I guess some may say that is being efficient.  Others may claim craziness.  Call it what you will.

As I draw closer to the 41 year mark, my Sissy #2 has been hounding me to get a mammogram.  I haven't been ignoring her, it's just the logistics of setting up the appointment, finding child-care, etc.  I finally decided to heed her advice and I scheduled this test.  Leading up to my appointment, I was in conversation with Sissy #1.  According to her, a mammogram is like. . .well, pretty much death.  She wished me "good luck" with a tone that indicated, "I hope to see you on the other side."  Gulp.  

Here is a summary of my mammogram.  A little squish here, a little squash there, botta bing, botta boom, done.  It only took 5 minutes.  The hardest part for me was small talking with the technician while I was topless and she was adjusting the machine for the other side.  For a modest gal like me, it was slightly awkward.  So I am pleased to tell Sissy #2 that I can check "mammogram" off my list of things to do in the next year and that my scans came back normal.  Yeah.

Once I "recovered" from my mammogram, I was off to the dentist for a root canal.  Let me preface this by saying that I like the dentist.  I actually LIKE getting my teeth cleaned.  I don't find the experience painful or uncomfortable.  I have even had a cavity filled with no Novocain.  I was very much at ease going into this appointment.  Beforehand, I of course researched the details of a root canal and decided I was open to taking whatever drugs they offered.  I have had six kids.  I don't need to be a hero in the dentist chair.

I laid back in the chair, I selected classical Mozart and Bach for my headset, I easily accepted my shot of Novocain, and then took the mask of Laughing Gas.  At this point, I was in a pretty good place.  Then I opened wide and shriek!  When the air hit my exposed nerve, well lets just say that I'm thankful my mouth was occupied, or else there is a good possibility that some expletives may have escaped.  My toes curled and I shut my eyes.  I'm not sure how long I was in that chair, but I was more than thankful when the time came to leave.  This procedure was divided into two parts, so I still have to go back in a few weeks to finish up. I'm  hoping the worst is over.

My bar for pain is set at childbirth.  I have never experienced anything more physically painful than giving birth, so I use that as my scale for pain.  Once my babies were born, my pain subsided and I was good to go.

Now apply this to the mammogram and root canal.

On a scale of 0-childbirth, my mammogram ranks a 0.  It was a little uncomfortable, but certainly not painful. It was over and done with in a short time with no after-effects.  As for the root canal, it wasn't as painful as childbirth, but the discomfort didn't subside when the procedure was completed either.  For 2-3 days after, my teeth/gums hurt.  It was a constant, dull throb.  That is something I was not prepared for.  A root canal, most certainly, would have killed Sissy #1.  I should call and warn her about the importance of good oral hygiene.  I'm just happy that I'm still alive and kicking to share my tales.

Here's to good health on all fronts!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sweet Potato is 11

Sweet Potato turned 11 years old. . . . . . .23 days ago!  There have been numerous times I was going to sit down and record some thoughts about his birthday, but I always wound up doing something else.  So tonight, I sit here, by myself (the kids are outside playing, Monkey is working in the garage, Sweet Potato is at his uncle's house watching football, and Grandma is in her room viewing EWTN).  No more excuses.

Sweet Potato's birthday fell on a Friday.  I woke him up that morning and he smiled at me very sweetly.  As I was preparing breakfast for the Love Bugs, Sweet Potato came into the kitchen and announced, "Hey everyone.  Today's my birthday!"  Yes, I will admit that this little fact escaped my mind that morning, however, I DID remember to order treats from the bakery for his class.  I think that redeemed me!

One of our birthday traditions is to let the honoree choose a special dinner.  They can pick whatever they want (all carbs, all the same color foods, etc).  Sweet Potato had a difficult time deciding, so he asked if he could just dig around the kitchen and make his own supper.  Of course I allowed him to do this.  He found some spaghetti, sauce, and garlic bread.  His birthday dessert was Ice Cream sundaes.  He was allowed to stay up as late as he wanted (he made it until 11 PM).  His "real" celebration took place the following Sunday.

Sweet Potato shared with Monkey and I that for his birthday, he wanted all of us to watch football with him.  He asked if we could have Godfather's pizza, hot wings and chocolate cake.  He was pretty easy to please.

Vikings colors, of course!
Birthday gifts included The Game of Life, Apples to Apples, a loaf of banana bread, strawberry rhubarb jelly, cash and 4 tickets to a Twin's game.
The Twin's game tickets were for the following week.  Sweet Potato agonized over who to invite.  I think he felt obligated to ask me and one of his cousins.  Monkey and I told him that he didn't have to invite family. He decided to bring Monkey and two friends from school.  He was thrilled!

Sweet Potato is a great kid.  We often tease him about his coordination challenges and the fact that the two messiest chairs at the kitchen table belong to him and Pumpkin.  He may not be the best at everything, but no one can accuse him of not having heart.  His passion definitely shines through in all he does.  He loves to be involved.  This year he is participating in football, band, piano, school patrol, altar serving, golf and basketball.  We have had to set some limits to his enthusiasm, or else he would have also signed up for 4-H, Boy Scouts and guitar lessons.  He loves to "host" gatherings and few things make him happier than when he is surrounded by all of his family - Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins.

One of my favorite memories of Sweet Potato (not favorite at the time it occurred), was 5 years ago.  Sweet Potato was six years old and I was working as the DRE for our church.  It was the morning of First Communion Sunday and I was a little anxious about the happenings of the day.  As I was getting ready to leave for Mass, I received a phone call from my sister-in-law, wanting to know what I wanted her to bring for dinner.

Me:  What do you mean?
SIL:  Aren't you hosting dinner at your house later?
Me:  Well I have to work today and I wasn't planning on having anyone over.
SIL:  Really?  Sweet Potato called us yesterday and invited us over.

I soon discovered that he had called all the family and invited them over for a BBQ.  How, you may ask, did a six year old accomplish this?  Well, hung on the wall by our telephone, were family members phone numbers.  Enjoying a good party, Sweet Potato decided to throw a gathering himself.  The family just assumed that Monkey and I knew about this.  I left for work that morning with a list of instructions for Monkey Toes:  tidy up the house, go grocery shopping for meat and other items, and stay calm.  Needless to say, we had a party at our house later that day.  Spontaneity worked well for us, or rather, it worked well for Sweet Potato!

Sweet Potato bar tending with my cousin at a family reunion camp out.  Ever the host is he!

So to my oldest Love Bug, Happy Birthday!  You are such a blessing to us.  I am proud of the young man you are becoming and the heart with which you do so many things.  Know that you will always have a piece of my heart.  I love  you!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hall of Fame

One week ago tonight, my Dad was inducted into his high school Alma mater's Athletic Hall of Fame.  Our family attended the perfect fall evening's football game, at which the Hall of Fame honorees were introduced at half time.

Pictured above are Fr. Gross (one of my Dad's classmates), Sissy #1 and my mom. Those three accepted the award on my Dad's behalf.  The following was read aloud as the award was presented.

"Duane Benoit was a 4-sport participant at KHS participating in football, basketball, baseball and track.  Duane was a right tackle in football, center in basketball and threw the shot in track. In baseball, he played first base.  He was a letter winner in 4 sports for 4 years.  Duane served as football and basketball captain, was the team MVP in basketball and football his junior and senior seasons.  He was also selected to the All-District team in 1948 and 1949 seasons.  He averaged 19 points per game and had a high of 37 points his senior season.  He was also one of the leads in the junior class play, "Little Men."  He also participated in FFA and 4-H.  After high school he continued to play basketball for the National Guard 147th infantry."
Sitting in the bleachers, listening to my Dad's accomplishments, was emotional for me.  Yes, I am extremely proud of my Dad, but what struck me the most was how many of his accomplishments I was unaware of.  I knew my Dad played basketball and a little football, but the rest was a surprise to me.  Proof once more of my Dad's humility.

Dad's display at the Hall of Fame reception.

Dad encouraged all of us to be involved, join teams and clubs, play honest and play hard.  He never placed pressure on us to be the best, but he did watch to see that we gave our best and played with heart.  That is what made him most proud.

I wish Dad could have been here to receive this honor himself.  But then again, he would have been slightly embarrassed and certainly emotional (for a big guy, he had a very tender heart).  And so, we celebrate his accomplishments, but more importantly, the character of the man being honored.

Dad, #19

Dad, #41
Dad, 1st in bottom row.  National Guard 147th infantry.
My lovely Mom.
The plaque that hangs in the KHS Hall of Fame.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sweet Pea's First Day of School

Our #5, Sweet Pea, began her first year of school today as a full-time Kindergartner.  She has been asking, "when does school start?" since January.  

After a lecture to her siblings having to do with acknowledging Sweet Pea during school hours (give her a wave or a smile or even play with her at recess), everyone paused long enough to stand for a picture (in birth order I might add!)

I watched this small child of mine, walk confidently into the school, hang up her backpack and find her seat, with little more than a flash of a smile over her shoulder towards me.

I tried to stay out of the way as her teacher explained a few things to her.

Sweet Pea's teacher walked away, yet I remained.  Why do I find it so difficult to leave each of my children on their first day of school?  I know they are in very capable hands, and yet, a great emotion stirs within me each time.  They're excited.  I'm excited.  But there is that little piece of surrender that gets me every time.

A lump formed in my throat and I figured I better see myself out before I erupted into an ugly cry.  I gave my little girl a long hug and hung on longer than I normally do.

I counted the hours today, until I could pick up my Love Bugs.  This is how I was greeted in the parking lot - big smiles and even bigger hugs and the reassurance that Sweet Pea wants to go back tomorrow.

Her work sheet above says it all.