Sunday, June 30, 2013

Relay For Life

Almost two years ago my Uncle was in hospice, dying from liver cancer.  Sitting in a waiting room, feeling saddened and completely helpless, my sisters and I decided to form a team for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.  Cancer had already struck so many of our family and friends.  My sister and father-in-law were both cancer survivors, but cancer had already claimed the lives of Milly and her sister, and my sister's father-in-law and her sister-in-law.  We needed to come up with a team name and decided to incorporate the names of some of the different cancers that had hit so close to home.  Thus the birth of our Relay team;  Team Liver and Onions.  In case you're still in question, the onions represent ovaries.

This was last year's team.  Sissy #2, Silly, Peanut Butter, Jessica, Me (taking the picture was Silly's husband and Sissy #1 was manning our food booth).  Sissy #2 wears a purple shirt, signifying that she is a cancer survivor.

Last year we served popcorn and non-alcoholic margaritas from our food stand.  We had a handful of people who walked for our team throughout the night.  This year, we decided to have an Americana themed booth.  We served homemade apple crisp with ice-cream, hot and iced coffee.  Once our booth was set-up and decorated, we realized that it was also Flag Day.  I love when those "coincidences" happen!

Monkey brought the kids out to enjoy the early evening activities.

Pumpkin won this thing

Pumpkin has named her clown Crunchy.  Sorry if this image gives you nightmares, but just remember;  I have to go to bed with this thing in my house each night!

Sweet Potato wrote out a schedule for those who were helping us walk.  Sorry for the poor quality of these pictures.  It was night and I only had my phone.

Shift #1:  Silly, Gummi Bear and Cucumber

Shift #2:  Sissy #2 and Honey Bunches

Shift #3:  Sissy #1 and Sweet Potato

Shift #4:  Me and Cucumber

Cucumber loved carrying the torch
Shift #5:  Sissy #1 passing the torch to my nephew
We continued walking until 5:30 AM.

Those of us who still remained at 5:30 AM

Days leading up to the Relay were very full in preparation.  Driving home from Sissy #1's house at 11:30 PM the night before the event (we had just baked 6 pans of apple crisp), my feet and my back ached, I was tired and hungry.  Earlier in the day I was asking myself the question, "why are we doing this?"  But in my van that night, I had a moment of clarity as I glimpsed the lives of Milly and my Uncle and my sister.  I remember the suffering they endured.  I remember how thin and frail each of them became.  I remember days when they were too sick to do anything, but to simply lay.  I was reminded of the fact that cancer does not sleep.  Cancer does not take a break.  Cancer does not give up.  And yet here I was, taking for granted my health and sulking because of the little bit of tiredness I was experiencing.

Two of my favorite parts of the Relay For Life is when the survivors walk their lap and when the luminaries are lit so as to light the path we are walking.  Both create such great emotion.

As I walked around the track, I took time to look at each of the luminaries.  There were hundreds of them.  Each one tells a story.  Each one represents the fragility of life.  Each one demonstrates the heroics of the one it was lit.  These are true heroes.  It is for these whom we walk.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My Master Chef

I love watching cooking shows and, more recently, have become a fan of Master Chef.  I could never be on a show like that and yet I am intrigued by those who can face such criticism from judges Gordan, Graham, and Joe.  Sweet Potato is actually the one who suggested we start watching it.  One of the few routines we have established this summer is that while the girls are napping, Sweet Potato and I settle in for an episode of Master Chef.  What I find endearing, is that Sweet Potato has begun using descriptive food phrases from watching that show.  I purchased some homemade bread and Sweet Potato said, "This has nice density."  During supper one evening he commented, "I like the layers of flavors in this dish."  And what always brings a smile to my face is when he reacts with, "This is amazing", no matter the simplicity of the dish.

Since he was very young (this child is only 10), Sweet Potato has shown great interest in cooking.  Like little ones oft do, he would wander into the kitchen, see me cooking and then push a chair up to the counter to see how he could assist me.  Not much has changed as he has grown up a bit.  Many mornings I find him sitting at the table, scouring through cookbooks, making meal and grocery lists.  I have to reign him in some, as his tastes can be a little more than my purse strings can spare.  However, last week, he had his heart set on a Lemon-Dill Chicken that I couldn't say no to.

He made out his grocery list and off we went.

I'm pretty certain he only took me along so that 1:  I could drive him; and 2:  I could push the cart.

I was allowed to assist, only when he requested my help.  So my job consisted of trimming the chicken, chopping the onion (he said it was dangerous for him to attempt to chop through tears), and then removing the chicken from the pan, as it would spatter.

The end result was delicious!  It was tasty and pretty.

His siblings devoured it (I question if they would have eaten it if I had made it).  There were a few leftovers, which we sliced and tossed with angel hair pasta the next day.

I don't know if a cooking career is in Sweet Potato's future or not (right now he has his heart set on either playing in the NFL or being a priest).  Cooking is a skill he will have for a lifetime, so I will do my part to nurture that interest.  And who knows, maybe someday I'll be watching Sweet Potato on t.v.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I have not been very diligent, lately, about posting to this blog.  It certainly is not due to lack of content.  By the time the Love Bugs are in bed each night, all I want to do is sit on our deck with a glass of wine and put my feet up.  Isn't that what summer is all about?  I think so!

The kids have been out of school since May 24th.  One would think that we have this whole vacation gig down pat.  We certainly do not.  I don't know if it is because "summer" took so long to descend upon us, or if it was my lack of preparedness for all of this down time.  Around here we thrive on routine and schedules, both of which have been lacking thus far.  As a result, I'm most certain, the kids have been arguing and whining to new levels.  Dare I share that just two days ago I was asking the question, "How many days until school begins?"  But then we had a day like today, where the weather was absolutely beautiful (just a tad windy), the sun was shining and the kids spent much of the day outdoors.  We attended story hour at the library, the kids checked out new books, we went to the local Farmer's Market, the kids played with the neighbors, they rode their bikes, and we even watched an episode of "Master Chef" during nap time.  These are the kind of days that I fully embrace.  This is the kind of day that screams "summertime" to me.  It is this kind of day that reminds me of how blessed I am to be a stay-at-home mom, having all of my Love Bugs with me.

I can't believe that the end of June is upon us.  July will be a much busier month with Summer Rec activities.  The boys are taking golf lessons, two of the girls will be in gymnastics, five of the kids will be taking swimming lessons, and the boys will be participating in a football camp.  Then, come August, we will reclaim our vacation days once more.  When that time is here, we will be preparing for the start of school and asking the question, "where did summer go?"

There are a few past events that I want to write about, so I may be back tracking a bit over the next few days.  I participated in a Relay For Life event, the kids participated in two Vacation Bible Schools, our parish has a new associate priest, we celebrated Father's Day and I have had such lovely and enlightening conversations with some very random people lately.  So maybe I'll start pulling out my computer (on the deck, next to my wine), and recording some of the thoughts that race through this head of mine.  Happy summer to all of you.  Here's wishing you leisurely and memory filled days!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sweet Pea Turns 5

My little Love Bug, Sweet Pea, celebrated her golden birthday on the 5th.  For the past few months, she has been asking regularly, "when is my birthday?"  Our reply has always been, "your birthday comes after Gummi's birthday."  A four year old translates that into, "my birthday is the day after Gummi's!"  So everyday (no exaggeration) Sweet Pea would state, "Today's my birthday because we've already celebrated Gummi's birthday!"

Here's Sweet Pea on the morning of her actual birthday.
As is becoming the norm, we waited to have her Birthday dinner on the weekend.  However, we still tried to make her actual day special.

Here is Sweet Pea sporting a Birthday hat that Pumpkin made for her.
I made one of her favorite snacks;  kale chips.
She made her own birthday cake (one of two cakes she had this year), with just a little assistance from me.
The day of her Birthday dinner.
Birthday dinner of her choice:  grilled steak, macaroni & cheese, and dill pickles.

Cake of her choice:  Strawberry Angel Food with whipped strawberry frosting and actual strawberries.

Sweet Pea's gifts:  a bicycle helmet, fruit snacks & roll-ups, a book, a wand & crown, socks, a bunch of pictures drawn by her sisters, jewelery made by her sisters, a gift card, and one of our old cameras.

Sweet Pea was completely delighted in the celebration of her special day.  One of our unwritten traditions is the day after a birthday, me and the child of honor sneak away and share the last piece of birthday cake together.  We use one plate and one fork and we reminisce about the previous day.

Our Sweet Pea is what I would call our most fragile child, in both size and emotion.  She requires a bit more attention than the other Love Bugs, as her feelings are easily hurt.  She takes great pride in her accomplishments, whether it's riding her bike with speed, drawing a colorful picture, or learning to spell a new word.  She LOVES to help around the house (except when it comes time to cleaning her room!)  She changes her clothes/outfits multiple times a day (because that's what princesses do).  She talks about Jesus everyday (i.e. "Jesus likes when we help each other," and "I think that's what Jesus would do."  When she grows up, she wants to be a paramedic - yep, she knows what that word means.


The day that Sweet Pea was born, our family rejoiced in this new and precious gift of life that we were blessed to call our own.  Sweet Pea is bright and friendly.  She is helpful and funny.  She is sweet and talkative.  She shares a special bond with Grandma.  Often times I find her curled up on Grandma's bed, watching t.v. or playing games.  She eats healthy (salads, kale chips, spinach smoothies), and she likes to help me cook.

Sweet Pea, we love you very much.  You add a brightness to our family, as only you can.  We thank God for you, each and everyday!  Happy Golden Birthday Sweets!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Three years ago today, my Dad was praying the morning Rosary with Mom when he drew his last breath.  Some days it seems as if he has been gone longer than just a few short years.  I still think about him every, single day.

Monkey's mom, Milly, passed away just 18 days after Dad.  On our way home from planning Milly's funeral, I was looking out the car window and I saw my Dad.  At first I thought I was losing my mind because of the grief I was experiencing.  But I saw him sitting in his Ford pick-up in front of City Hall, wearing his favorite shirt - his red, Knights of Columbus polo.  I didn't share what I had seen with anyone.  Later that night, Monkey said, "I know this may sound crazy, but I swore I saw your Dad today when we drove through town."   

In my Dad's "retirement", he mowed lawns for local rental properties.  Last summer, a friend of my parents shared with me that she had been thinking of my Dad lately.  She thought she saw him on a riding mower in front of an apartment building in town.

Were these "sightings" real?  I don't know if they were true or not, but they're real to me.  I believe that my Dad is in Heaven.  I also believe that God uses signs to show His infinite love and mercy to us all the time.  So for me, seeing my Dad was possibly a way of God letting me know that Dad was o.k. and that I would be o.k. too.

Happy Heavenly Birthday Dad!  I love and miss you!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sisterly Love

After I announced, "nap time!" this afternoon, Sweet Pea began to sob.  She carried on this way for quite some time.  She even marched into the bathroom, left the door open (while she did her business) crying/howling the entire time.  In an effort to help calm her, Pumpkin said, "I'm going to play her a lullaby."

The following is Pumpkin's serenade.  If you listen closely, you'll hear crying, a toilet flush and hands being washed in the sink.

Needless to say, Sweet Pea wasn't soothed.  

No worries.  

By the end of the day, Sweet Pea and Pumpkin were once again the best of friends.  

As much as they sometimes fight and attempt to annoy one another, they love each other more.

Thankful tonight for sisterly love.

"Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister."  ~Alice Walker