Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why Catholic School

This past Friday was my children's last day of the 2012-2013 school year.  It wasn't even a full day at that.  There was Mass and awards and then we took them home.  Summer vacation has officially begun, and emotionally, we....are....ready!  The past week has been full of all kinds of sassiness emotions.  I have shared with many that we have been in marathon mode.  There has been field trips, class picnics, end of year projects, recitals, altar servers training, Kindergarten graduation, and one sick child.  My kids "checked-out" about a week ago.  Their schedules have just now caught up.  I welcome this break with arms wide open.

Our children attend a parochial school outside of our district.  It is 20 miles from our driveway to the school parking lot.  I have been making this trip, at least twice a day, for the past 6 years.  The drive doesn't phase me as it has become apart of my daily routine.  If you've read previous posts, you know how much talking and sharing goes on between my Love Bugs and me in our van on these trips to and from school.  I also use this drive time to pray.  I find it time well spent.

Monkey and I get asked frequently why we take our kids so far away to school.  The schools in our district have won national awards and are arguably the heart of our community.  A few years ago, Monkey and I were told by an individual, to our faces (in a public school forum we were invited to), that we were anti-education because of our choice to send our kids to parochial school.

My dad was a public school employee at one point in his life.  My sister is a public school teacher.  My brother drives bus for the district.  Both Monkey and I are products of public education.  We are not anti-public education.  We made, what we believe, is the best decision for our children and for our family.  So instead of focusing on why we don't send our kids to public school, I want to share why we do send our kids to Catholic school.

The school year begins and ends with the celebration of the Eucharist.  The kids attend Mass every Friday and Holy Day during the school year.  They start and end each day with prayer and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  Instead of holiday parties and Secret Santa's, they have Advent Angels and learn about God Emmanuel.  When two of the school faculty were diagnosed with cancer last year, the school assembled in the gym to pray the Rosary.  Classes often participate in Lenten projects in order to prepare their hearts for the Resurrection of our Lord.  Classrooms have a crucifix above their whiteboards and there is religious artwork hung throughout the school.  There is an Adoration Chapel in the High School.  Prom began with Mass, as did Kindergarten Graduation.  Class sizes are small.  The school's motto is, "Partnering with God to Create the Whole Student."

We send our kids to Catholic school because it is an extension of the Domestic Church:  the family.  The values we are trying to instill within our children are reinforced by their school.  We take the education of our children very seriously, especially in the handing on of our faith.  Our school supports us in this effort.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it is the right "fit" for us at this time.

Each night as our family gathers for prayer, we thank God for our school and the education our children are receiving.  We are thankful for the freedom to have a choice in education.  Although we cannot protect our children from everything in this life, we have faith that we are giving them a firm foundation.

Field trip to Mill City Museum.  Grades K-6 attended and I was able to chaperon.  It was a great trip and the Love Bugs and I want to go back.

4th Grade Science Project - a wearable model of the six systems of the body.  The tie represents the esophagus and the bike helmet the brain.
Sweet Potato and Gummi's last piano recital of the season.  They both received Superior Ratings at Junior Festival.
Honey Bunches receiving his Certificate of Completion for 3rd Grade.
Cucumber's Kindergarten Graduation.

Fr. Paul, Fr. Tony and Fr. Patrick with Cucumber.  Fr. Patrick is from Nigeria and has a very thick accent.  While he was proclaiming the Gospel during Mass, Pumpkin whispered in my ear, "he speaks really good Spanish."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gummi's Eighth Birthday

Gummi's birthday was last Thursday, but due to Monkey's travel schedule, we decided to celebrate a little on her actual birthday, and a little this past Saturday.

Here's our Birthday Girl.  She woke up ready to jump-start her day.  She cashed in a non-uniform pass and brought some pretty fabulous looking cupcakes to share with her class.

Dinner was a Papa Murphy's pizza with a giant cookie and ice cream for dessert.

Saturday, Gummi was ready to celebrate with the birthday dinner of her choice:  grilled hamburgers.
This beauty of a cake was made by Silly.
Gummi asked for a "spring" looking cake.  Well done Silly!

After Gummi opened her gifts (she received a couple varieties of cereal, nail polish, and a Lego Friends book from her siblings) we followed with tradition of retelling her birth story.  All the kids love hearing about the day the world met them.  We shared with Gummi how her Auntie (also her Godmother and also a nurse) happened to be working that day in the hospital.  She would sit with us in-between seeing patients, hoping that Gummi would soon make her appearance.  About ten minutes after Auntie had left to return to work, Gummi was born.  Auntie couldn't believe that she had missed her birth.  One of my favorite pictures was taken that day.  It was Auntie in her scrubs with her just growing back fuzzy hair (she was in remission from ovarian cancer), rocking Gummi, who had a head FULL of dark hair.  That picture has always brought a smile to my face as it represents for me the sanctity and beauty of life.

Gummi is growing up fast, as kids do.  As much as I want to slow down time, I'm also curious as to where life will take my little girl.  She is a beautiful daughter and a great sister.  She has a very tender heart and is sensitive to the happenings within our home and family.  She loves Jesus and likes coming to Adoration with me.  She wears her scapular everyday.  She shows some natural athleticism (which I'm keeping my fingers crossed in hopes she will love basketball).  She has the most contagious giggle out of all the Love Bugs.  She wants to be a teacher and a mom when she grows up.

One day last week, I was frustrated with how the kids had just dropped their backpacks, shoes and jackets right inside the door.  I stepped on Gummi's backpack and threw my own little tantrum.  I went on and on to Gummi about personal responsibility and blah, blah, blah.  When I had finished, Gummi very calmly stated, "that's not my backpack.  I already put mine away."

Yesterday on our way to school, the kids were talking about Cook's Choice.  Since this is the last week of school, the cooks don't announce the lunch menu.  The kids find out what they're having as they walk through the lunch line.

Gummi:  Ugh!  I do not like Cook's Choice.
Me:  I think Cook's Choice sounds kind of fun - you know - the mystery and suspense.
Gummi:  Mom, I don't think I like your kind of fun.

Gummi - I hope you had a very Happy Birthday.  You bring such joy to our lives.  Dad and I love you as big as the universe!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day Review

My lovely niece graduated from college this past weekend.  My mom, sisters and I all rode together to the commencement and stayed overnight.  Our plan was to attend Mass on Saturday evening and have a leisurely Sunday morning; sleep in, go out for brunch somewhere, and take our time getting back home.  Despite our best efforts, our bodies woke up well before we had hoped, and we found ourselves back on the rode by 9 AM.  I had made the comment, "for what reason are we rushing home?"  No sooner had I asked this question than I received a text message from Monkey Toes.

My children were all lined up in front of the grotto at our church.  I couldn't get home fast enough after that.

When I arrived home and walked through the door, my kids went ballistic.  They were jumping up and down and shouting and hanging on me (keep in mind I was gone for one night).  Cucumber grabbed my hand and led me to the kitchen table, which was filled with small treasures, all waiting for me to unwrap them.

Here were the gifts from my children.

Sweet Potato gave me the heart frame.  Honey Bunches gave me the Holly Hobbie "Mother's Day 1974" decorative plate, the vase and the pitcher with a chipped spout.  He also wrapped up the Christmas tin and the loon tin.  Gummi gave me the square foam blocks, which she painted happy faces.  Cucumber gave me the angel ring holder and a Precious Moments mug that reads, "Congratulations Graduate."  Sweet Pea and Pumpkin each gave me a kitchen timer - one red and one white.

I had to ask, "So where did you all find such lovely gifts?"

Honey Bunches:  Our neighbors had a garage sale yesterday.  When I saw the plate I knew it would be the perfect Mother's Day gift for you.

It's not possible to love my kids, or my gifts, more.

The Love Bugs had also been busy in school making Mother's Day gifts for me.

Sweet Potato made me the paper vase with the coffee filter flower.  He wrote down some of my characteristics.  Honey Bunches class put together a cookbook.  Each student submitted their favorite recipe in their own writing.  Gummi made me the clay angel, the watering can card, which contained a flower seed packet, and the begonia.  Cucumber made me the bracelet and a coupon book, good for hugs, kisses, foot rubs and chores.

These gifts warmed my heart.

Continuing on with our day, we headed to a neighboring town for a little shopping, a little playing, and some good eats.

Shopping at Menards

Playing at one of the two playgrounds we visited.  All six are on the tire swings.  
This contraption got a little carried away, as children were bouncing off of it.  It didn't help that Monkey was the main culprit.

We ended our day by going out to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings and then to the DQ for special treats.

The only thing that could have made the day more perfect, was if I could have attended Mass with my family.  That, in all honesty, is the highlight to my week.

Mother's Day would not be complete without a shout-out to my own mom.

My mom is a beautiful woman, who has taught me so much in this life.  She has led and nurtured by example.  I count myself blessed to spend the time I do with her and to have my kids growing up knowing and loving their Grandma.

Thank you Mom for all you have done and continue to do for us.  We love you!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Celebrating Motherversary

Twelve years ago today, Monkey Toes and I were married.  It was a beautiful, sunny and breezy day.  We stood before a church of 300 people and declared our love and commitment to one another.

"I take you, Monkey, to be my husband.  I promise to be true to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and I will honor you, all the days of my life."

And then I placed a ring on his finger.

"Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Twelve years later, those vows are more powerful and meaningful than ever before.  We have shared an abundance of joys together.  We have struggled through some trials.  We have grown in our faith together.  I am walking this journey in life with the husband whom I believe God has chosen for me.  I thank God everyday that He chose me to be Monkey's wife.


Today is also Mother's Day.  When Monkey and I set a date for our wedding, we were asked many times over, "Why do you want to share your anniversary with Mother's Day and opening fishing?"  I'm going with the answer, "I'm efficient."

Becoming a mother has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.  It is far from being a "walk in the park," rather, motherhood is more like a roller-coaster ride.  It is a joy and it is a challenge.  It can be entertaining and it is exhausting.  It can be blissful and it can be dirty.  I am certainly not perfect, but each day gives me the opportunity of a fresh start and a new beginning.  I thank God, everyday, for my six Love Bugs and our one little soul in Heaven.  I will never regret answering my vocational calling of marriage and motherhood.

"Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of our family.  Enlighten our hearts and minds that we may live more fully this vocation to love."
"In our daily life and work, may we reflect the self-giving love which you, O Father, eternally show with your Son and the Holy Spirit."
"Let your love be evident in the peace that reigns in our home and in the faith we profess and live.  May our family always be a place of generosity, understanding, forgiveness and joy."
"Kindly give us the wisdom and courage to be witnesses to your eternal design for the family; and grant that the Holy Family of Nazareth may always guide our path to holiness as a family."
"We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen." 
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.  
I love you with my whole heart Monkey, Sweet Potato, Honey Bunches, Gummi Bear, Cucumber, Sweet Pea and Pumpkin!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Today's Gems

While traveling to school this morning, Pumpkin said, "I'm thirsty!"  Honey Bunches responded, "Hi Thursday, I'm Friday.  Do you want to hang out on Saturday and get a Sunday?" Ba da bomp.

Tonight during supper:

Gummi:  How old will you be on your next birthday Grandma?"
Grandma:  75
Gummi:  Whoa! 

After supper, while cleaning up the kitchen:

Gummi:  Does Grandma take baths?
Me:  No, she usually takes a shower.  Why?
Gummi:  I just thought old people would sit in the tub to soak all the years of dirt off.

Before bed tonight:

Honey Bunches:  Hey mom - would you like me to teach you how to make paper tulips?
Me:  Yes!

After creating a lovely bouquet:

Me:  Thanks Honey for helping me make these flowers.  I love them!
Honey:  I guess kids can teach adults things too.
Me:  More than you'll ever know.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gummi's First Communion and May Crowning

Gummi made her First Holy Communion on April 28th.  I prayed for decent weather, as just a week before the kids had a snow-day from school.  The weekend turned out beautiful and we had 70 degree temps on Sunday.

This was a day that Gummi (actually all of us) had been anticipating for a long time.  Although our two boys have received this sacrament already, there was something different about the experience with my little girl.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but just that it was different (and different in a very good way!)

Silly graciously volunteered (or did I beg?) to do her hair.  I really should learn how to do hair, especially with four girls.

We arrived at the church early to take some pictures in the Sanctuary.  Here is Gummi with her Godparents: my sister and her husband.

Gummi and Grandma
The day was emotional for me.  Seeing Gummi so happy and excited filled my heart with such joy and blessing.  As she put her dress on and bent over to buckle her shoes, I wiped away a tear.  As she walked down the hallway from her room to make her grand entrance to the family, I swallowed back a lump in my throat.  As we approached the Table of the Lord, my eyes began to mist.  Once seated back in the pew, Gummi gave me a little hug and the tears flowed freely.

Gummi's preparation for First Communion was more than picking out her dress and finding the veil and shoes.  It was more than sending out the invitations and ordering the cake.  It was more than cleaning the house and planning a party.  Although all of those things were important and took the time and cooperation from many, they were just small steps leading up to the most important part of the day:  Gummi asking Jesus into her heart through the Eucharist.  It was about her expression of love towards Jesus and accepting the gift of His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  And the most beautiful part, is that she will continue to accept Jesus and renew her relationship with Him, each and every time she goes to Mass and receives the Eucharist.

Gummi looked lovely on Sunday, but not just because she is a pretty girl, but because she was transformed on April 28th.  There was a joy and a light present that only comes from Christ.  As Father said in his homily, "Let your outside appearance today reflect what is happening in your hearts and share that with all you meet."

We had a wonderful celebration at our home after Mass, which went late into the evening.  As Gummi took off her dress she commented, "do I ever get to wear my dress again?"  She quickly added, "I had a great day today mom and I feel really happy."  And then yet another tear was shed.

May Day

May began with the threat of a mix of rain and snow showers and cold temperatures.  We weren't going to let the forecast get us down, so Sweet Pea, Pumpkin and I decided to craft for May Day.

Tissue paper sun catchers
I love how the girls hand print/footprint flowers turned out.  It was a messy, messy project, but loads of fun.  

Later that day, our church was hosting a parish picnic (held indoors due to the weather), with the evening beginning with a May Crowning and Living Rosary.  May is a month dedicated to our Blessed Mother.

The First Communicants were invited to process forward with roses to make a bouquet.  Gummi was able to wear her dress one more time.

Following the crowning, we gathered to pray the Rosary.  As each person took a turn reciting a prayer, their candle was lit.  The lights were dimmed and it was lovely to see how the light increased as we progressed with the Rosary.

After a delicious Filipino meal, we returned home with full tummies, feeling very blessed.  May is off to a great start and we're looking forward to warmer weather, longer, leisurely days, and time to simply be together.  Happy Spring!