Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Travlin' Man (Er. . . Woman): Part I

Within the time period of 14 days, I was traveling for 8 of those on two separate trips.  One trip had been planned for over a month and the other was a "fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants" type of get away.  From the day we made the reservation to the day we left was just a little over a week.

Part 1:  Seattle
My friend, Merlot, sent me an e-mail one day saying that she had been wanting to go to Seattle for a long time.  Ticket prices had been outrageous, but she found a round-trip airfare that was too good to pass up.  Had her request come a day earlier or three days later, I would not have been able to commit.  But with Monkey's full support and certain resources made available to us, I was able to go.

Merlot and I had 4 grand days of seeing this amazing city.  We visited Chuhuly Garden, the Space Needle, the Public Market. We did a wine tasting, took a ferry to Bainbridge Island, ate delicious food, rode the Monorail, and of course, drank lots of coffee all while driving a Fiat!  This trip was the perfect balance of seeing the sites and relaxing.  When I think of Seattle, I now think of coffee, yoga, and music.  Seattle is the home of the first Starbucks and is also home of the "velvet foam."  There was a little coffee house we found called Uptown Espresso.  The coffee, more specifically the foam, was so delicious that Merlot and I were licking the inside of the cups (classy, I know!).  As for the yoga, well there are studios all over the city and everyday we saw countless people walking around in their yoga pants, carrying their mats.  So much so, that it obviously had an impact on me.  We also saw many musicians on various street corners and all over the Public Market.  They have collection boxes throughout the city where one can contribute to independent artists.  Downtown they have pictures of Jimi Hendrix, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and  Foo Fighters, to name a few.  The people were very friendly and willing to direct us.  Both Merlot and I agreed that it felt like home.  Few of the folks we met were born and raised in Washington.  Most were transplants who simply fell in love with the city.

My favorite part of the trip was visiting Chuhuly Garden.  Here is a link to learn more.  It was the fist stop on our trip and the most memorable.  I had goosebumps the entire time we walked through the museum.  I had never seen anything like it before and I was in awe.  In one area as I sat on a bench, taking in the beauty surrounding me, I reflected on how God has blessed this world with amazing artists who share their talent and vision with others.  No matter the genre, whether glass, painting, music, etc, their art has the ability to transcend.

A 15 foot sculpture, inspired by the sea

I loved this exhibit and how he found inspiration from his mom's garden.

A few more pictures from around the city.

The Gum Wall

View from our ferry

A Short History of Me and Merlot
Merlot and I have been friends for over 20 years.  We met our freshman year in college and truth be told, we didn't like each other very much.  My first impression of her was that she was loud, abrupt and a bit abrasive.  She thought I was meek and ignorant.  When she asked me what my plans were for the future, I told her I wanted to someday be a high school religion teacher.  She smirked and thought that the kids would crush me.  She told me she was going to be a nurse and my first thought was, "Good Lord help those poor patients."  But then we continued to hang out due to mutual friends.  I started to see a side of her that wasn't so bad.  Our friendship bloomed and today, she is one of my best friends.  We mutually decided on the nickname "Merlot" for the purpose of my blog.  The name is really quite fitting.  My thoughts on a merlot wine is that it is full flavored, has depth and after some time with it, I get happy.  By definition, merlot is from a thin-skinned variety of grape.  Because of this, it is prone to ailments.  It is adaptable to cool climates and is best enjoyed with simplicity.  If you know Merlot (my friend), I think this describes her well.

Thank you to my husband who supported me in my travels.  Thank you to my kids who cried until they pulled my heart strings as I was trying to walk out the door.  It's nice to know that I was missed.  Thank you to my Mom who helped to tie up loose ends in meal prep and helping with child care.  And lastly, to Merlot who made this one of the best trips I've taken.  Happy 40th Birthday Girlfriend.  Here's to cold McDonald's, lounge wear by 4 PM, lots of delicious coffee and of course, red wine.  Love you!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oxen and Floaties

There are a few conversations with my kids that have come to mind lately and I'm afraid if I don't record them, I'll forget them.  I don't want to forget, since they bring a smile to my face each time I recount them.

After Cucumber's latest birthday supper, she opened cards and gifts.  She has become quite the reader and wanted to show us all by reading each of her cards aloud.  She read the card from Grandma that said, "You are a bright star in my life Granddaughter.  Happy Birthday.  I love you Ox Ox."  Cucumber looked up from the card and said, "I don't get it."  So I asked if I could take a look and it read, "I love you.  XOXO's."  (Since this incident, Monkey now tells me, "I love you Ox Ox."  Quite the romantic, no?)

The following weekend, Monkey was driving Cucumber and a classmate to a birthday party.  Monkey kept calling the little boy, "Tim-O-thee".  After a few times pronouncing his name that way, Cucumber shouted, "Dad, it's Timothy with an "A".

The kids just received a game called, "Let's Talk."  It contains cards with questions meant to start a dialogue.  Tonight after supper, the girls and I sat in the living room answering some of these questions.  Gummi asked, "What is one thing you wish you could do or accomplish?"

Each girl answered:
Gummi:  I wish I was really good at gymnastics.
Sweet Pea:  I wish I was a singer.
Cucumber:  I wish I was a swimmer in the Olympics.
Pumpkin:  Yeah, me too.  I wish I could swim in the Lympics, cept I don't go in the deep water and I would have to wear my floaties.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A 4 Year Old's Theology

While making laundry detergent this morning, Sweet Pea began to chatter.  When she starts to talk, well, it often is a one sided conversation.  She talks in LONG sentences, stopping only to take a breath.  She saw the perfect opportunity to "chat" it up as I busied myself with soap making.

"Jesus lives in Heaven and so does Grandpa Beno and Grandma Trinie and Jesus is in our hearts too, like when we play and sing and cook and go outside and when I play on the easel (breath) because Jesus wants us to be happy, hey Mom, why are you drinking coffee when you're making soap?  Is it because you're a mom and moms drink coffee?  I think Jesus drinks coffee too."


Friday, January 11, 2013

Cucumber Turns 6!

Some of my favorite days of the year are my children's birthdays.  These are days where I can freely give the child of honor unsolicited (and sometimes an obscene amount) of attention.  Within a large family, it is not possible to do that everyday, so I focus in on this one special occasion for my children.  I want each of them to know how much they are loved and valued by all of us.

Yesterday was Cucumber's sixth birthday.  She decided to "cash-in" a non-uniform pass that she had earned earlier in the school year.

Thank you Nino Marc for the new outfit!
After school, she battled her siblings in a dance off.

Sweet Potato helping Cucumber celebrate her victory.
Then Cucumber snuck away for awhile and when I searched her out, this is what I found.

I let her sleep while I prepared the dinner of her choice.

Angel Hair Pasta, Corn and French Bread.
Then it was time for cake - also her choice, and singing Happy Birthday.

A "homemade" DQ ice cream cake.

Cucumber has some characteristics that I wish I had when I was a kid.  She is uninhibited and marches to the beat of her own drum.  She is opinionated, loud, silly, and theatrical.  At times, she is completely fearless. She loves school and truly considers her 18 classmates to be her BEST friends.  She likes dressing up; the fancier, frillier, and sparklier the better (those are all fashion terms, aren't they?)  At the same time, she likes Power Rangers and trouncing around with her brothers.

She falls asleep everyday on the way home from school.

She likes to pretend that her little sisters are dolls and dresses them up too!

She lost two teeth over Christmas break.  While I was cleaning one day, I found this.

She had gifted her tooth to Baby Jesus, instead of the Tooth Fairy.

This child of mine is unique for sure.  I love her, I give thanks for her, and I treasure her as a precious gift from God.

Happy Birthday Cucumber.  I love you with all of my heart!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas Reflections

Our 12 Days of Christmas

Day 1 - Christmas Eve
Two of my lovely nieces picked me up in the morning and took me to breakfast here.  It's one of my favorite places.  While I was enjoying some much needed "catch-up" time with the girls, my family was busy getting our house in order for Monkey's family.

Monkey and Gummi Bear
We attended Mass, had a soup supper, opened gifts, and played late into the evening.

Day 2 - Christmas Day

The kids were up early and excited to continue the celebrations.  The little ones woke Grandpa up and begged him to paint their nails.  Monkey was convinced to help out as well.

After naps we headed to my sisters for dinner and more gifts.

Day 3 
Recovery day.  I stayed in  my pajamas ALL day.  Literally.  And so did the Love Bugs.

Day 4
Back to reality.  I got dressed.  The kids cousins came over for the day and we began the serious business of potty training.  THAT did not go very well at all.

Day 5
The cousins came over again for the day and the kids spent almost the entire time in the basement building with Lego's, playing Dance Party 4 and playing Monopoly.  

In a very last minute plan, my sisters and I went out to dinner and then took my mom to the musical Nunsense.  It was a fantastic evening.

Day 6
Is it possible the kids are tired of their new toys already?

Day 7
Mass and playing outside.

Day 8 - New Year's Eve
Besides Christmas, this was my favorite day.  After breakfast, Monkey and I took the kids ice-skating (skates were gifted by Grandpa).

We ordered pizza, went to Mass and returned home to play games (NFL Monopoly and Dance Party 4).  We rang in the New Year with my nephew and niece and toasting with sparkling grape juice.

Day 9
Recovery day.  

Day 10
Great effort made at getting back into routine.  The kids went back to school, Monkey went back to work, and I did laundry.

Day 11
Found solace in knowing that there is only one more day until the weekend.  

Day 12
We played non-stop Christmas music, knowing that soon we would pack it away until next Christmas.  The kids were excited to be home for the weekend and were very content playing with one another.

Beyond the 12 Days
We took down our Christmas decor, except for the Nativity.

Monkey does much work in his robe.

We attended Mass.  We shared in an awesome pancake breakfast, sponsored by our KCs.  We prayed our traditional house blessing.
Epiphany blessing we mark above our entrance doors and our bedroom doors.

In the afternoon, Monkey and I took the kids to "Wreck It Ralph" (it was playing at the cheap theater).  It was a great movie and a wonderful way to wrap up our weekend.

In addition, we have potty training success!  Pumpkin is very confident in this life skill.  Congratulations Pumpkin!  Although she still wears a diaper at night, she no longer needs one during the day, including nap time.  This is a huge milestone for all of us.  We have had kids in diapers for 10 consecutive years.  

So that's it.  Our Christmas season in a nutshell.  In my humble opinion, this was one of the best holidays to date.  The kids are at a great age where the over-stimulation is handled pretty well.  In years past, we have had major meltdowns by the time Christmas Day evening rolled around.  Not this year.  We celebrated with more smiles than tears.  We spent much time with family, ate terrific food, worshipped together, had a couple of jammie days, ate popcorn (more than once) for a meal, played together, and enjoyed some much needed time off.  Although we're back into the swing of things, these Christmas reflections bring much joy to my heart.  And once again I say, "I am truly blessed!"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Feast of St. Basil

Today we lept back into routine.  O.K., maybe we didn't leap.  It was more like a slow motion, agonizing job to wake up unnaturally (that would be to our alarm clocks), take unusually long showers and silently ride to school with heads propped up against the windows.  Vacation turned routine has kicked our behinds.  However, at the end of the day, the kids admitted to being happy in seeing their friends again.  To help make the day more tolerable, I told the kids that I would have a surprise for them after supper.

Today is the Feast of St. Basil.  He was a Bishop in the early church - 4th century -  from Caesarea.  Basil was know for his compassion for the poor.  One of the stories attributed to him was when he went from house to house collecting jewels and gold coins to help pay the taxes of the poor to the governor.  After presenting this collection, the governor took pity on the people and demanded that Basil return these treasures to their rightful owners.  The problem was that Basil didn't keep track of what belonged to who.  So he baked cakes with the jewels and coins hidden inside.  The miracle took place as he distributed these cakes.   Each person received the exact items they had given.

To celebrate this Feast Day, I made a St. Basil cake.

Sorry about the messy plate.

A picture of the "jewels" within our cake
This idea (and directions for the cake) came from here.  It was easy to make and the finished product received many "oohs" from the kids.  It really turned out pretty.  Cucumber felt the need to sing while the cake was being passed out, so she led the family in a "Happy feast day dear Basil."  Very sweet.

Although I loved our time off, I am grateful that Monkey has a job, the kids can attend school, and I can return to the daily tasks that help make our house a home.  I will admit though, I am grateful for a short week.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The New Year

Happy New Year to all of you!  Another year has come and gone and is often the case we ask ourselves, "where did the time go?"  For my family, 2012 was a good year for the most part.  Some of my family and friends suffered great heartache and pain and I hope 2013 brings restored faith, health, and brighter days for all.

I am not a big "New Years Resolutioner".  The Liturgical Calendar gives me countless opportunities throughout the year to make improvements in my faith and family life.  However, there is something nostalgic about making a resolution for the new year.  

A few months ago, this sign was hanging on a gas pump at one of our local stations.

When you buy from a mom or pop business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home.
You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college.
Our customers are our shareholders and they are the ones we strive to make happy.
Thank you for supporting small business.

In this new year, I resolve to shop locally and support our hometown businesses as often as I am capable.  This doesn't mean that you won't see me in a larger market retailer, but it does mean that I will consider first what I can purchase locally.

So that's it.  It's not earth shattering nor extremely life changing, but it will cause me to be more conscientious about the products I buy.

Blessings to all in this new year.