Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Work of Hands

Our family was at Mass.  Pumpkin, our youngest, was seated next to me.  As Father shared the homily, Pumpkin reached over and grabbed my hand.  She began to trace my fingers with hers and then ever-so-gently turned my hand over and followed the lines on my palm with her fingertips.  I remember doing the same thing to my Mom when I was a little girl.  I wondered when I would be big enough that my hand could match hers in size.  My hand always felt so small in hers, and even more so when holding my Dad's hand.

My Dad joined mine and Monkey's hands on our wedding day.  Overcome with emotion for the Sacrament and being surrounded by those we love, tears began to fall from my eyes.  Monkey caressed my cheek and wiped the tears away with his hand.

With each of our babies, I remember their beautiful little fists tightly gripping my finger.  When they would sleep, their hand would relax and I would hold it open and trace the palm, dreaming of what this small little hand could and would do one day.  I would lay their hand in mine and wonder how long it would be until our hands would be the same size.

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but our hands help to tell our story.

We work with them.  We serve with them.  We love with them.  We protect with them.  We discipline with them.  We teach with them.  We create with them.  We pray with them.

When my child is scared or anxious, I hold his hand.  And sometimes, it is he who holds mine.

Our hands help us to work; one way of honoring our human dignity.

We are called to use our hands to love and serve.

photo courtesy of Tina Fisher Photography

We use our hands to pray.

photo courtesy of Tina Fisher Photography
photo courtesy of Tina Fisher Photography

At the end of each day, our hands can tell a story.  What is your story?  How did you work and serve? What did you discover and learn?  How did you love?  How were you the hands of Jesus?

"God wants to reach out to others through your hands. He wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look into your eyes and see Him... give God permission."
- John Cardinal O'Connor

Friday, November 21, 2014


Recently, if you had been a fly on our wall, you may have overheard. . .

Cucumber:  How do you spell wolf?
Me:  W-O-L-F.
Sweet Pea:  Are you sure you didn't just spell "waffle"?

Me:  Can I show you how to load the dishwasher in a more efficient way?
Honey Bunches:  I may not be efficient, but I am agile and accurate.

Gummi Bear:  What is a fife and comb?
Me:  I have no idea.
Honey Bunches:  Don't you mean a fife and drum?
Gummi Bear:  I don't think so.
For the record, it is fife and drum.

Monkey Toes:  Whoa, this is crazy.  Did you know that Maria Sharapova is 6'2?

Pumpkin:  I need the launchers to get my bagel out of the toaster.
Here, Pumpkin is referring to the kitchen tongs, which has me questioning what exactly the tongs are used for when I am not around.

Cucumber:  Who knew the Tooth Fairy was Catholic?

Sweat Potato:  Is Breaking Balls on tonight?
Monkey Toes:  Do you mean "The Big Break"?
Sweat Potato:  If it's the golf show, then yeah.

Me:  Please don't use your sleeve to wash the table.  That is what we have dish rags for.

After discussing our favorite Junie B. Jones quotes. . .

Sweet Potato:  I think "Aloha-ha-ha" was the last book in the series because she dies.
Sweet Pea:  Junie B. dies?
Me:  No, the author Barbara Park passed away.
Honey Bunches:  And that is why you need to speak with commas Sweet Potato.  It's the difference between "let's eat, Grandpa" and "let's eat Grandpa."

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Art of Culinary

For the last two years, I have had the opportunity to attend a lovely event called "Stars of the Future" at the "W" Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.  It is hosted by the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation, with proceeds helping to defray expenses for high school students traveling to the ProStart National Invitational Competition next April in Anaheim, California. Sissy #1 is a high school culinary coach and her team has participated in this event for the past 4 years.

A little about ProStart
According to their website, ProStart is a two-year "hands on" career-building program for high school students interested in pursuing a career in the restaurant industry.  About 50 high schools in Minnesota currently teach the ProStart curriculum.  Each year, only two teams in the state win spots to compete at the national level.  For the past seven consecutive years, Sissy #1's team has earned one of those spots.

Sissy and her Team with their mentor for The Stars of the Future; Chef Tuan Nguyen of
Parasole Corporate.

Everything We Ate
Students who executed and served these plates are only juniors and seniors in high school.

Maple Braised Pork Cheeks with Savory Bread Pudding

Albondigas al Chipotle with Avocado Crema

Salmon Tartar with Tropical Fruit Chutney and Avocado Mousse

Lamb Barbacoa Tacos with Mint and Lime

Lobster "Rich Boy" with Emily's Homegrown Fried Tomatoes

Zen Reflection Asian Meatballs with Carrot Cilantro Slaw
Chickpea Croquettes with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Bunuelos with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Fall Harvest Topping

Chocolate Hazelnut Whiskey Mousse Cake

Sissy #1, me and Sissy #2 after sharing in wonderful wine and delicious food!  

There are many things I love about this event.  For starters, these young people are goal oriented and driven in their passion for food and their hopes of breaking into the hospitality industry.  To talk with them and listen to their ambitions is inspiring.

Secondly, I am over-the-top proud of my sister who is not only known in this industry, but is well respected.  I was visiting with one gentleman who is a retired GM for a large golf course and served as a food judge in the ProStart competition.  He said that the first time he met Sissy #1 and her team, he wasn't just amazed, he was astonished.  Hearing that, my heart swelled.  As with any of my siblings, when I hear nice comments about them and their character from others, I believe it is a direct reflection on my parents and the home we were raised.

At the end of the evening, Sissy's team was invited to create a six-foot gingerbread house to be displayed during the Christmas season at the Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis.  Sissy confided to us that she doesn't even know where to begin with this project, but her students didn't hesitate to accept the challenge.  What an exciting adventure!

I've included a YouTube video about the culinary program at Sissy's high school, produced and edited by high school students.

Thanks for bearing with me as I rattle on and brag a little about my sister.  I love her and I am proud of her!

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Mary Garden

Since I was a little girl, one of my favorite places to spend time in prayer and reflection has been the Grotto at our parish.  It is a place that is not only beautiful, but also peaceful.  The Love Bugs and I frequent the Grotto during the summer months.  We often visit to pray our Rosary and then the Bugs play in the wooded area in front of it, running and climbing the trees.

The Grotto was also a special place for my parents.  They both had a loving devotion to our Blessed Mother.  My Dad served on the Maintenance Committee and would volunteer to help with its upkeep. During the warmer months, my Mom would sit in prayer at the Grotto. 

The day of our wedding, Monkey and I requested a photo be taken here.


A few years ago, the idea of creating a Mary Garden around the Grotto was presented in our parish. This project excited my Mom, as she envisioned its potential.  When Mom was sick and wanted to plan her funeral, she requested that memorials be used towards the Mary Garden Project.

Through the generosity of family, our parish family, and friends, enough money was donated to complete the planting of the garden and purchase a memorial bench.

The Planting

The Love Bugs and I volunteered to help plant the Mary Garden.  I told the Bugs that if they became hot and tired and wanted to quit, to remember that we are not only doing this as a way to honor Mary, but also to honor Grandma.  The Love Bugs were troopers and stuck it out until the end.

The end of a long, hard days work.

The "after"

The Dedication and Blessing

Our beloved Priests, Deacon, and Bishop

From Mary,
We Learn to Surrender
To God's Will in All Things.

From Mary,
We Learn to Trust Even
When All Hope Seems Gone.

From Mary,
We Learn to Love Christ,
Her Son and the Son of God.

St. John Paul II 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tomato, Tomato

Honey Bunches:  Name a holiday that starts with the letter "M".

Sweet Potato:  Memorial Day!

Me:  Mother's Day!

Gummi Bear:  Monica!

Everyone confusingly stares at Gummi.

Honey Bunches:  Wait.  What?

Gummi Bear:  (snapping her fingers and shaking her hips) You know, that Jewish holiday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Parenting Faux Paux

When my Mom moved in with us, she was forced to downsize quite a bit.   There were some items that she really loved and did not want them in storage, so she incorporated them into our home decor. One such item was a purple vase, crafted by my nephew in pottery class.  The vase sat on a cart at the bottom of our stairs, accompanied by another piece created by my nephew, and a floral arrangement.

Now, before I go any further, allow me to preface this story.  A short time before the vase situation took place, we had the mishap of a chewed piece of gum stuck to our deck.  I asked the Love Bugs who it belonged to and nobody would own up to it.  A few of them even rationalized that maybe it was one of the neighbors who did it, or the UPS or FedEx man.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I let it go.  The very next day, however, I found yet another piece of chewed gum stuck to the floor in our van.  I said, "We can't blame this on someone outside of our family.  Someone needs to fess up!" 

Their silence angered me.  I know the kids were scared of being in trouble, but as Monkey Toes and I have explained before (many times), lying will always get them into more trouble than simply coming forward with the truth.

No one was talking.

As a result, a gum ban was enforced.

A few days later, I was putting some laundry away, and as I walked past the cart that holds the vase, I noticed it was not in its place.  Actually, the vase was no where in sight.

I summoned the Love Bugs.  

Me:  The purple vase is gone.  Where is it?
Honey Bunches:  What purple vase?
Me:  The one that sits on the cart at the bottom of the stairs.  It's gone and I want to know what happened to it.

Blank stares and tight lips.

Me:  At this point, I am not angry.  I just want to know what happened to the vase.  If one of you broke it, that's fine, but I want to know exactly what happened.

Continued staring, although some of the Bugs were beginning to look nervous.

Me:  O.K.  If no one is going to talk, then I'm going to start assigning chores.  Maybe some hard work will get you to tell me the truth.  The longer it takes, the more mad I will become.  So if you know where the vase is, I advise you to tell me now.

Pumpkin begins to cry.

Me:  Do you have something to tell me Pumpkin?

Pumpkin:  (Completely balling)  I don't even know what a vase is!

The Love Bugs then began an assigned chore list.  They were wiping down cupboards, cleaning the refrigerator, washing windows, vacuuming, etc.

Monkey Toes comes home from work.

Monkey:  Whoa.  What did you kids do now?

Visibly upset, the Love Bugs explain to him that they are all being punished for someone not telling the truth about the missing vase.

Days go by and I still did not know where the vase is, nor can I find any trace of it.  

A week or so later, we are hosting a gathering at our home.  As I'm sitting at the table with my sister, I begin to explain to her about the vase.

Sissy #2:  You the mean the purple one that my son made?
Me:  Yes.  It has just disappeared.
Sissy's Son - My Nephew:  (Sitting in the other room)  I took that home with me the last time I was over.  I told Monkey Toes I was taking it back.  Didn't he tell you?

Me:  Monkey!!
Monkey:  Oh yea, I guess he did tell me.  Sorry about that.

Yet another parenting faux paux for the books.  I did apologize to the Love Bugs, as did Monkey Toes.  This parenting gig is a pretty humbling act.  

The gum ban has also been lifted.

Carry on.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lost Vocals

One week ago this morning, I woke up with no voice.  I have not been sick.  I have had no sore throat, no fever, no coughing; nada.  I just don't have a voice.  As a few have kidded, it must be from yelling too much at the Love Bugs.  As a result of no voice, I had to relinquish my lector responsibilities last weekend. I can't sing in the car (that's my own personal studio where I belt out my favorite songs), and I couldn't yell and cheer for my boys as they celebrated their first football victory.  I'm not a fan of these scratchy vocals.

At supper:

Honey Bunches:  I like the way you sound Mom.
Gummi:  Yea, me too.  Your voice makes you sound a lot younger.
Honey Bunches:  I think she sounds like Adele.
Sweet Pea:  Hey mom has a Dell computer.
Pumpkin:  I know A Farmer in the Dell.
Honey Bunches:  You girls Drive. Me. Crazy.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Buoyant Heart

Thursday night our boys had a football game, in which they celebrated their first win of the season.  It was a late game, getting us home after 9 pm (bedtime around here is 8-8:30).  Despite the late hour, the kids were bouncing around on adrenaline, not only because of their victory, but also in anticipation of their school marathon for non-public education the next day. Miraculously, everyone made it to bed before 10 pm.  It had been a fun night and all of us were looking forward to the next day.

Friday morning arrived.

We all crashed and burned.

There was fighting, crying, whining, pouting, searching for misplaced items, and more crying.  Then as we attempted to back out of our driveway (15 minutes late), one of the Love Bugs realized that she had forgotten her backpack in the house, which resulted in more fighting and crying. 

I yelled.

I was sarcastic.

I was not my best self.

In a not-so-soft-spoken nor warm-loving manner, I said, "One way or another, we are going to start our day with Jesus."  I played my Catholic Devotions CD the entire trip and demanded silence. 

We made it to school.

The Love Bugs jumped out of the Pilot and ran inside without even a glance back nor a little wave in my direction.

I sat in my vehicle, feeling very defeated.

I decided to surprise the Love Bugs by eating lunch with them that afternoon.  I had the opportunity to sit with each of them, whisper, "I'm sorry" and "I love you" in each of their ears, and then give them a little squeeze.  It was just enough redemption to help me get through the rest of the day.

As we were getting ready to leave for home after school, my friend Tina waved me down,  She had just purchased a sweet, little gratitude journal that she wanted to show me.  I liked the idea of it, but to be honest, I was thinking "I don't need that.  What I really need is a nap and a boat load of patience." (Sorry Tina!)  

Now lets jump ahead to this afternoon.  I decided I wanted/needed to go to Confession.  After my confession, Father shared some insights and scripture with me.  Then he said. . .

Father:  I think you should keep a Gratitude Journal.

Hold the phones and shut the front door!

Father:  A grateful heart is a buoyant heart.  In times of difficulty and trial and even resentment, a heart that is grateful will keep you afloat.  Journaling your gratitude will help you keep sight of your blessings.

After we left the church, I decided to get myself a pretty little journal. The girls picked this one out for me.

I will keep this on my nightstand as a reminder to take time to reflect on the day.  I know that I am blessed, but I think there is great value in writing down specifically that for which I am grateful and thankful.

Tonight I wrote:

1.  Monkey Toes
2.  Sweet Potato
3.  Honey Bunches
4.  Gummi Bear
5.  Cucumber
6.  Sweet Pea
7.  Pumpkin

Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Newest Addition

When Monkey Toes and I first got married, we each owned our own vehicles.  I was driving a Ford Focus and Monkey drove a Toyota Tacoma.  I grew up in a Ford loving family and Monkey did not. When my Dad learned that Monkey drove a Toyota, well he had to have a look at it himself. After walking around the Tacoma a time or two and kicking the tires, he quite honestly told Monkey, "This is a pretty good lookin' truck.  You just put ten Americans out of work, but it's a nice truck."  

When we brought Sweet Potato home from the hospital, we rode in the Focus.  A few, short months later, we discovered we were expecting Baby #2 and the Focus was starting to look a bit too cozy for our needs.  We then purchased a Ford Windstar.  I loved that van and it served us well until 2007 when the alternator went out while on our way to pre-school on the coldest day of the year.  We determined it was time for a newer and more reliable vehicle.  We then came home with a Honda Odyssey.  

You can imagine the horror my Dad was feeling.  

We have had this van for seven years.  Again, it is a vehicle that has served us well with one exception; it only seats seven.  Anywhere we have wanted to go as a family for the past 5 years, we have had to drive two vehicles.  For shorter trips, it wasn't bothersome.  However, there were a number of times when taking two vehicles hindered our decision to go places.  Much of our time is spent inside our vehicle and when we can't all be together, it means some are missing out on good conversation, crazy sing-a-longs, and simply, uninterrupted time together.   

Our van is a 2002 with 207,000 miles, and has a sliding passenger door that continually falls off its hinges.  It is truly lived in and holds many fond memories.  As much as the Odyssey has been a part of this family, the time has come to replace her.

Meet Honda Pilot.

She is a 2008, 8 passenger crossover and I love her.

We brought her home on Friday.  In a sporadic moment, Monkey Toes yelled to the Love Bugs at 7:30 pm, "Get your coats on.  We're going for a ride."  I think I had a smile on my face the entire 40 minute road trip.  

The kids are excited to have a "new" vehicle in the family as well.  They were giddy about riding in it to school today.  I was too, so much so that when I drove into the pick-up lane this afternoon and a few of the teachers commented on it, I got flustered and accidentally put on my wipers with a few splashes of washer fluid.

I am also enjoying the "new car" smell.  We were running a little behind schedule this morning and both Cucumber and Sweet Pea asked if they could finish their breakfast in the Pilot.  I told them no.  I would rather have them be a few minutes late for school than to eat in the new vehicle.  I know - that's an awful thing to say, but I just want to enjoy the cleanliness for a few more days before the newness wears off and she begins to looked lived-in.

So there you have it.  The simple pleasure of owning a vehicle where my entire family can ride together and create more fun, long lasting memories.

Oh, and Dad?  If you're looking down on us and shaking your head, well please know that the Pilot is exclusively manufactured in North America.  And I promise, that when my babies are grown, I will once again be a proud owner of a Ford :) 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Back To School

First Day of School 2014-2015

We are off and running with the new school year.  "Running" pretty accurately describes our lives.

Take into consideration that our summer was completely ours.  Other than a family reunion in early June and then one week of Vacation Bible School, the remainder of summer was spent lounging and playing, mixed with a little bit of work (Monkey Toes is the exception here, as he supported our lounging and playing by actually going to work).

We chose to not sign the Love Bugs up for any Summer Rec activities, which resulted in an almost non-existent schedule; pj's until lunchtime, afternoons at the lake and plenty of rest and relaxation. The boys spent a decent amount of time on the golf course and our yard was frequented by neighborhood kids looking for a pickup game of football.  Yeah, summer was pretty great.

Now, we are back to routine and schedules.  Our calendar looks like a pen exploded on it, when actually it is our list of activities and commitments.

As busy as our lives are, I have a very full and grateful heart.  I am thankful for healthy kids who love to be involved.  I am thankful for this often crazy life with a rock-star husband and great kids. Sometimes overbooked and often sleep deprived, I wouldn't trade this House of Eight for anything!

Sweet Potato - 6th Grade
Piano, Trumpet, School Patrol Captain, Football, Altar Server, Youth Group

Honey Bunches - 5th Grade
Guitar, Saxophone, School Patrol, Football, Altar Server, Youth Group
Gummi Bear - 4th Grade
Piano and Art Club
Cucumber - 2nd Grade
Piano (and an actress at heart)
Sweet Pea - 1st Grade
Loves school, reading, and crafting

First Day of School for Pumpkin - Pre-school

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Holy Field Trip

For three years, I have accompanied the 4th Grade Class from my children's school on a Holy Field Trip to the Cathedral in our Diocese.  It is an event for Catholic elementary school children to see the Cathedral, spend time in Adoration and pray the Rosary with our Bishop.  Not only do we pray for the needs of our church and our world, but more specifically for the intentions of Families.  Of all the field trips the Love Bugs take, this is by far my favorite.

After the Benediction, our group walked down the street to spend some time with the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus.

We were given a tour of the convent and then were split into smaller groups to eat lunch with the sisters.  The kids were encouraged to ask lots of questions.  My favorite question came from a boy who asked, "Is being a nun fun?"  To which sister responded, "It is a blast!"  She expanded her thought by explaining that when we strive to become the person that God created us to be, then we will find joy, peace and happiness beyond our dreams.  These sisters are truly joy filled people, so much so that one can't help but smile when being in their presence.  Their joy is contagious.   One other remarkable fact is that Mother is only 35 years old.  The sisters presence within our Diocese is a blessing and treasure.  My hope is that when my own daughters discern their vocations in life, they will prayerfully consider the Handmaids.  You can learn more about them here.  Their website explains their Charism and also contains their daily schedule.

After our visit to the Handmaids, we walked the Way of the Cross and then made a quick trip to a park for the kids to burn off some energy for our trip back home.  It was a great day!

A few days ago, Monkey asked if I was giving up blogging.  The answer is no.  As we settle back into the routine of school and activities, I hope to be more mindful of recording our family life.  I may be a little slow in getting this up and running again, but life is happening everyday around us and there is much I want to remember.

Here is one little teaser.  Pumpkin is now in preschool.  Her class went to a nearby park last week.

Me:  How was your visit to the park?
Pumpkin:  It. Was. Awesome!  My favorite is the tater-totter.