Wednesday, December 30, 2015


The lights on the Christmas tree twinkle through the dozens of small, glitter-filled ornaments, each in their own way representing something special to someone. We were going to be selective in which ones we chose to hang this year, because of the sheer volume of ornaments each Love Bug claims.  But when the time came to decorate, out flowed memories, stories and love that it was just too difficult to be selective.  Thus many of the branches are burdened by multiple ornaments.  As I gaze upon this tree which the Love Bugs have declared is "the most beautiful tree we have ever had" (it is the same artificial tree we have put up for the last 10 years), it is representative of what is swirling around in my head and heart, made evident especially during this time of year.  As we attempt to live and celebrate within the absence of our Loved ones, we still cling to the ways in which we know - our traditions.  They unite us to our past and draw us close within the present.  They are often the foundation of the stories that get re-told over time, and no matter how often one hears them, we never tire of them.  

Our Jesse Tree
About 4 years ago, we decided to incorporate a Jesse Tree into our family prayer during the season of Advent.  The symbol of the Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11: "The royal line of David is like a tree that has been cut down; but just as new branches sprout from a stump, so a new king will arise from among David's descendants."  The tree is named after Jesse, the father of the great King David. Beginning with the Creation story, and each night thereafter, we read from scripture and hung an ornament which represents a person or event in salvation history. By reflecting on salvation history, we see how God prepared the world for the coming of His Son.

In addition to our Jesse Tree, we also lit our Advent Wreath during meal time and continued with adding straw to Jesus' manger for good works completed each day.  I thought maybe the older kids would have found the straw activity to be a bit "young", but they looked forward to adding their straw each day, helping to prepare a bed for the Baby Jesus.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I love Advent.  I love that the Church has this time of preparation and reflection.  I love how our faith teaches us that Christmas has little to do with decorations and holiday prepping, and everything to do with preparing our hearts.  In this ridiculously fasted paced, secularized world we live in, we need more of the latter.  

As the world around us was asking, "are you ready for Christmas?", really inquiring if our tree was erected, cookies baked and cards sent, my answer, truthfully, was twofold.  No, according to the world, we were not ready for Christmas.  Liturgically, however, we were a work in progress.  Our family focused on reflecting on salvation history and trying to do more good works.  We celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We celebrated each Sunday of Advent, especially Gaudette Sunday with great joy.  We didn't skip Advent, we tried to live it.  Trust me, it wasn't always easy.

Our Christmas Tradition
The Christmas season began on Christmas Eve and will continue through the Baptism of our Lord - the first Sunday after Epiphany.   We put our tree up and decorated it on Christmas Eve morning.  It will stay up the duration of the season, as will our Jesse Tree, a reminder of where we have come from, pointing us in the direction of where we hope to go.  Now that Jesus has come, our lives will hopefully be a reflection of who He is:  Wisdom, Lord of Israel, Flower of Jesse, Key of David, Radiant Dawn, King of the Gentiles, Emmanuel - God with us.  It is not enough to just celebrate these traditions, but to embrace and live them, not only during the Christmas season, but throughout all time.

May this season be one filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Today marks the last day of summer 2015.  Our family had a great summer.  Actually, not just great, but I would dare to say exceptional.  So many times I considered sitting down and recording our experiences, but I wanted to hold these memories close - just keep them for myself.  I considered that by sharing our happenings, they would somehow be tarnished.  I'm not sure why I felt that way, but I was intentional in choosing not to post these last three months.

And then this conversation happened.

My girls and I were sitting in our living room one afternoon.  Cucumber asked, "Do you remember when Grandma Char use to make us buttered toast and hot chocolate?"  Gummi Bear added, "Grandma said it tasted best when it was white bread, dunked in the hot chocolate."  Sweet Pea shared, "She would give that to us on really cold days.  I miss her."

At this point, Pumpkin began to cry.  I held her on my lap and asked what was wrong.  She said, "I'm forgetting Grandma and all the stuff she teached me."

These words hurt and my heart broke.

When I began this blog back in 2011, I was very uncertain of the direction it would take.  I had just resigned from working in parish ministry and was deeply searching for a creative outlet.  Writing about my family and sharing adventures proved to be very satisfying to me.  Pretty soon the stories were coupled with a little advice and many lessons learned.  I began to look at this blog as a letter to my children; something that they could later in life read as a journal and hopefully discover the "good" intentions of their mom and dad to raise them with integrity and morality. And now, in this place, at this moment, I am reaffirmed to continue to tell the stories of our life, characterized by the ones who raised us and passed on their legacy. I want my children to know and love their Grandparents and all those loved ones who have passed from this earth, if only through the telling of their stories. It is these stories that connect us through generations and across miles.  The ones that unite us as family.

My dear friend Mary gave me "The Storyteller; Singing Mother" from her travels to the Southwest.  She said she thought of me when she found it, as there are six babies in her arms and on her lap.
We have some wonderful storytellers in our family.  My brother has a gift for telling stories, especially from what he refers to as "the good ole days."  He recalls growing up on the farm, all the hard work involved and memories of neighbors that would pull together as family in any number of situations.

The Love Bugs enjoy listening to Monkey's side of the family, especially the uncles, tell stories of growing up in a large family and being raised in a small house.  One can't help but smile at the enthusiasm for which these memories are told.

Storytelling: an integral part of life and rich in tradition.  It is a way of passing on life's wisdom, from generation to generation.

Tonight, turn off the screens, sit together and share stories.  Let's reconnect with who we are. Blessings to you all!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gummi Bear's Birthday

Gummi Bear's Stats
Birthday:  May 16
Age:  10
Birth Order:  Third
Grade:  4
Color:  Pink
Food:  Ice Cream
Subject:  Art
Book:  Winne Dixie
Game:  Uno
Holiday:  Easter
Season:  Summer
Past Time:  Reading
Singer:  Toby Mac
Prayer:  Prayer to St. Michael

What she wants to be when she grows up:  A Ballerina

A Note to Gummi Bear
Written by Sweet Pea

Gummi, you are my sister and I like you because you jump rope with me and because you do my hair.  I will love you forever because you are my sister.

Chicken Enchiladas and Rice was Gummi's dinner of choice on her actual birthday.
S'mores Ice Cream Sandwiches for dessert

Heading out for their Dad/Daughter Date.
Dinner at Applebees
The Paint Factory

Sparkling Sea Turtles
Home for Ice-cream cake with family

Gummi received French Toast Cereal, Widgets, her name to paint/decorate, modeling clay, pens, headbands, an ITunes gift card, and cash.  She also had two shopping outings with two different aunts, and another aunt who brought her to see Mary Poppins at a dinner theater.

Gummi is a sweet child.  She is at an interesting place in life; still a little girl, but teetering at a point of more independence.  She loves crafts and desires to learn how to sew, knit, cross-stitch, and crochet (unfortunately I do not possess these skills).  She enjoys being outdoors, riding her bike, playing jump rope, and going to the park.  Gummi has a heart of compassion and likes to help others. She enjoys school and considers all of her classmates friends.  She loves Jesus and often asks for us to pray for those in need.  She is a take-charge person at home, and I know I can depend on her to run things when I need help.  Gummi is beautiful, inside and out.

I love you Gummi!  I am proud to be your Mom.  Happy Birthday.  Love you always!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Toilet Paper Love Story

Today, Monkey and I celebrate 14 years of marriage.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I were gathered for coffee.  We began to share how we met our husbands and of our marriage proposals.  As I was telling my story, one of my friends commented on how she was surprised that Monkey and I had so many ups and downs in the beginning of our relationship.  Truth be told, Monkey and I do not have one of those love stories that can be wrapped up neatly and tied with a pretty bow. It wasn't a "love at first sight" type of tale to tell.  It wasn't a "at the end of our first date we knew we were going to be together forever" story.  The early part of our relationship wasn't pretty.  It is a story of two young, immature kids who really liked to spend time together, but really stunk at dating.  It was a 10 year period from when we went on our first date until the day we were married.  Yes, we have been a couple, for more or less, 24 years.

The year was 2000 and I was renting an apartment by myself in the Twin Cities.  I had invited Monkey over for dinner one evening.  Before he came, he called to see if I needed anything.  I was out of toilet paper, so I asked if he could pick some up.  When he arrived, he had two big packages of toilet paper tucked under each arm.  Without having to ask, he purchased the brand that I liked.  I remember making the comment, "you even bought the kind that I use," to which he replied, "Of course I did.  I pay attention."

It might be hard to believe, but at that moment, I knew we had a future together.

You see, I began to reflect on all the times Monkey had paid attention.  Like when we were talking about our favorite childhood toys.  I shared that I had always wanted Lego's when I was kid, but I was never given them. Weeks later, a small package arrived in my mailbox from Monkey, containing a Lego's set.  Or the time he overheard a conversation I was having with a friend about how I like to sit through all of the credits at the end of a movie.  He has never rushed me out of a theater since.   Then there was the time I had complained about never receiving any "fun" mail (you know, that time before e-mail and the Internet), and then for 7 days in a row, I received a hand written letter from Monkey.  The most meaningful gift he has ever given me (but it has never been mine to claim), was when I told him that I could only marry a man who knew and loved Jesus, and could share my faith with me.  In 2000, Monkey was welcomed into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil.  He, nor us, have ever been the same since that night.

In our married life, he has learned that a piece of chocolate can remedy almost any woe of mine.  He knows my favorite wine, my favorite candy bar, my favorite movie, and when I just need a few hours to myself he graciously takes the kids for an afternoon.  He understands that there are times when I just need to hang out with my sisters.  He has accepted and never complained about my "I do not cook on Sundays" rule.

If there is any wisdom I can impart to my children from our love saga, it is that God's timing is not always our timing.  When we are open to His will and guidance in our lives, things have a beautiful way of working out.  I recently read the quote, "when things seem to be falling apart, they may just be falling into place." And so it was with Monkey and I.  In God's time, we found our partner for life in each other.  In God's time, our relationship became a blessed experience.  In God's time, our story made sense.  In God's time, we said our vows to one another; "I take you to be my spouse.  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."  "Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity."  In God's time, we found us.

So does Monkey have me all figured out?  Naw.  I don't even have myself figured out.  But he continues to learn and to try.  Years ago, I learned from a priest that true love in a marriage is to help your spouse get to Heaven.  The path is not always easy, but I am thankful and blessed that I have Monkey to walk this journey with me.

Happy Anniversary Monkey!  I love you!


The night we announced our engagement.

May 12, 2001

Adventure in Chicago

Monkey's Class Reunion

Saturday, May 9, 2015


To the women who have raised me, loved me, influenced me and greatly inspired me; to the women whom I have been honored to call Mom, Grandma, Great-Grandma; for the love, joy and faith you have shared with me; I love you and I thank you.            

Grandma Frances

Grandma Elodie

Great Grandma Isabel

Monkey Toe's Mom

My Mom

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cucumber's First Communion

On April 19, 2015, Monkey Toes and I brought our fourth child, Cucumber, to the Table of the Lord.  It was here that Cucumber welcomed Jesus into her heart and received Him for the first time in the Eucharist. It was the first of a life-time of opportunities that she will renew her commitment and love for Jesus each and every time she participates in the Liturgy.  It is the greatest gift in our faith, and in our life, that we can offer her.

First Eucharist Rehearsal and Scapular Investiture

Receive this Scapular. 

Full of faith in the love of such a great Mother, 

dedicate yourself to imitating her and to a special relationship with her.

Wear this sign as a reminder of the presence of Mary in your daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in your life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity, 

and to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity.   Amen.

Reception Preparation

First Communion Sunday

Cucumber's Godparents

First Communion is such a glorious and significant celebration in our faith life and in our family.  There is great anticipation as each of our children have begun their preparation to receive this sacrament.  The Mass was nothing short than beautiful.  With the first note sung in the Liturgy, I had tears welling up in my eyes. There was a radiance within each Communicant that was visible to all.

As Monkey Toes, Cucumber's Godparents and I surrounded her as she received the Eucharist, I think it is safe to say that we were all overcome with emotion.  I held it together until we made our way back to the pew, then Cucumber wrapped her arms around my waist and whispered in my ear, "I am so happy."  

And then the tears fell and I could not stop them.

We returned home to a houseful of friends and family who celebrated late into the evening with us.  It was a joyous occasion; one that Cucumber will hold in her heart forever.


Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Confessions from "One of Those Parents"

The alarm clock sounds at an early hour on a Saturday morning.  It's cold and dark and a part of me wants to bury myself deep in the blankets and drift back to sleep.  I hit the snooze button once and claim just a few more minutes of peacefulness.  The alarm sounds a second time and I know we must all arise.

I get out of bed and begin the Saturday morning routine.  I pull on my maroon and gold and tie my tennis shoes.  I start the coffee pot and rouse the troops.  Quickly the kitchen fills with activity as kids grab breakfast and hurriedly making cold lunches, grabbing snacks and packing an activity bag for the youngest Love Bugs.  We double check schedules and ensure we all know the plan for the day.

We depart, miraculously on time, and head to our destination.  We arrive with our brood and all of our bags. With a hot cup of coffee in hand, we enter our home for the next few hours (and in some cases, the day).  I can smell the freshly polished floors.  I hear the squeak of shoes, the echo of balls being dribbled and the occasional "swoosh" of the net.  This environment awakens a passion within me and I am now wide awake and excited for the day ahead.

We have 3 kids on 3 different teams with 3 different schedules.  We have had to rely on family and friends to assist us with this season.  Monkey and I divide our time the best we can among the 3.  This is basketball and this is our life for 4 months.

I can honestly say, that just a few short years ago, if you would have described this scenario to me and said this would be my life, I would have scoffed and said, "no way."  Monkey and I knew families who did this and we thought it was ridiculous.  We even agreed that our kids would not participate in organized athletics at least until 7th grade.  Those parents who ran their kids all over creation were, for lack of a better word(s), nuts.  Crazy.  Loco.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when we considered allowing our children to participate in organized sports.  I cannot tell you the exact time when Monkey and I said, "okay, let's sign them up."  What I do know, is that  it was not an easy nor quick decision for us, nor has this decision come free from guilt.

How I Sleep At Night
Disclosure:  I am fully aware that the following is a list of justifications.  

1.  Mass is our first and foremost priority of the week.  If anything conflicts with Mass attendance, then IT will lose out.  We will never choose basketball (or any other activity for that matter) over our faith.

2.  Family trumps all extra-curricular activities.  If we have a family commitment; a birthday party, a special dinner, etc., we will choose the family activity.  Hands down.  The kids missed a handful of practices this past season due to family gatherings.

3.  School trumps all extra-curricular activities.  If homework is not completed, there is no practice or games.  If grades begin to fall, there will be no basketball (kinda catchy and a little corny, but very effective).

4.  Music trumps basketball.  We have kids who play piano, guitar, sax, and trumpet.  Lessons, concerts and recitals take precedent.  We did some rearranging of lesson schedules to permit basketball practice, but if that was not an option, then basketball would have been reconsidered.  Music is a life-long gift.

5.  Since there are some sacrifices involved for the entire family in allowing a few to play basketball, those few had to make some sacrifices as well; for example, giving in to the little Love Bugs in any number of situations (choosing games to play, giving them control of the remote, reading to them and helping them with their homework, etc.).

6.  Our winters in Minnesota are long and cold.  We are not outdoor winter enthusiasts.  Basketball gave the kids an outlet for their energy and an opportunity to exercise.

7.  The kids love to play basketball.

Even with our priorities intact, there were times when I felt guilty for doing something I was convinced we would never do.  I would even ask Monkey Toes the question, "are we ruining our kids?," to which he would jovially respond, "I don't think we can mess them up anymore than they already are."

So here's my confession.

I love this game.  I have loved it from the earliest of times when my parents would drag me to the gym to watch my older sisters practice and play.  I loved it when my Dad would take me out to the driveway and feed me balls and then would show me some of his "moves", in particular his hook shot.  I loved that I always had at least one fan in the crowd cheering me on (usually my Mom and Dad and least one of my sisters - they never missed a game my senior year in high school).  I loved playing and being a part of a team; contributing to something greater than myself.  I love the lessons I learned at home, which were reinforced on the court; commitment, discipline, hard work, good sportsmanship, and good character.  I love that I can share these same qualities with my own children.

We have turned into the parents we swore we would never become.  We are a basketball family.

“Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball” – Phil Jackson

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Sweet Potato, my 12 year old, came barreling out of the bathroom this morning shouting, "this is one of the worst weeks of my life!"

Me:  Sweetie, you realize it is only Tuesday.
Sweet Potato:  Ugh!

After inquiring the problem, Sweet Potato says that for starters, he had a cold shower because Honey Bunches used up all the hot water.

Me:  I know it's hard to do, but why don't you offer it up?
Sweet Potato:  I don't know how to do that.
Me:  Well, first think of all the people in this world who don't have clean water, let alone a warm shower to take.  Be grateful that you have the resources to keep your body clean and healthy.  Then, you say a prayer and tell Jesus that you're offering this small suffering up to him for all those who don't have this luxury.
Sweet Potato:  Well that's not the only thing that is making this a bad week.

He then shared with me that he scored very low on one of his tests.  It happened to be in Religion.

Sweet Potato:  The questions weren't even fair.  I bet you couldn't even get them right.
Me:  So did you ask your teacher to explain the answers to you?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  So how did the rest of your class do on the test?

Hanging his head, Sweet Potato answered, "I scored the lowest in the class."

Me: Have you ever failed a test?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me: Would you say that you're embarrassed by your score?
Sweet Potato:  Yes.
Me: Do you think it's fair to blame your teacher on something you didn't understand?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  Do you really think the test and its questions were unfair?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  Sweet Potato, you are a smart kid.  Your Dad and I don't expect you to get perfect scores.  In this situation, your score isn't the issue as much as the way you're choosing to deal with it.   Never place blame on someone or something else, when you need to take responsibility for your part.

Sweet Potato:  I'm mad at one of my friends too because he wanted to talk to me when I didn't want to talk.

This poor kid really is having a bad week!

Me:  And why didn't you want to talk?
Sweet Potato:  Because my team got annihilated at recess during our football game.
Me:  So did you tell your friend you were in a bad mood and you would talk to him later?
Sweet Potato:  No.
Me:  Do you think your friend was just concerned about you and wanted to help?
Sweet Potato:  Maybe.
Me:  Should we call it a day and just go back to bed?
Sweet Potato: (With a little smile on his face) No.

Part of being a parent is to help our kids keep life in perspective.  Their problems may seem like "no big deal" to us, but to them, they look daunting and impossible.  As easy as it was for me to give quick solutions to Sweet Potato, I don't always heed my own advice.

This Lenten season has been one of a struggle for me.  It has nothing to do with my penance and alms giving, but prayerfully, some of the days have been more difficult than others.  My mind just doesn't shut off during times that I am desiring reflection and quiet.  There are some outside challenges in my life too, that I rely on friends and family to help me see the bigger picture.  Along with that perspective often comes a very scary reality of surrender; to be able to let go and let be.  It means giving up control and stepping aside to allow others, allow God, to take over.  It means exposing my vulnerability and reliance on others and on God. Not being in control means having faith.

These 40 days have me working on surrender; in looking at the bigger picture and not doing my will, but rather God's will for my life.  It has less to do with the small sacrifices I attempt to make and more about growing closer to Christ on this journey.

I continue to keep my Gratitude journal which, in our priest's words, has kept "my heart buoyant."  At the end of each day I can't help but smile about the things my kids and my husband say and do, or the kind deeds shown my way.  It certainly helps me keep life in perspective.

If you set your heart aright
and stretch out your hands toward him,

If iniquity is in your hand, remove it,
and do not let injustice dwell in your tent,

Surely then you may lift up your face in innocence;
you may stand firm and unafraid.

For then you shall forget your misery,
like water that has ebbed away you shall regard it.

Then your life shall be brighter than the noonday;
its gloom shall become like the morning,

And you shall be secure, because there is hope;
you shall look round you and lie down in safety;

you shall lie down and no one will disturb you.
Many shall entreat your favor,

but the wicked, looking on, shall be consumed with envy.
Escape shall be cut off from them,
their only hope their last breath.

Job 11:13-20 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Honey Bunches Birthday

Honey's Stats

Birthday:  February 6
Age:  11
Birth Order:  Second
Grade:  Fifth
Color:  Red
Food:  Pizza
Sport:  Basketball
Subject:  Art
Book:  Hunger Games
Game:  Master Mind and Rubik's Cube
Holiday:  Easter
Season:  Summer
Instrument:  Guitar
Activity:  Neighborhood pick-up Football Game
Prayer:  The Lord's Prayer

Honey Bunches Bio
Written by Sweet Potato

Honey Bunches is my younger brother by exactly 17 months.  He is a good brother.  Sometimes he gets into trouble, but he still helps my sisters and me with chores.  He enjoys playing video games, card games and basketball. He likes reading books like the Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings.  He loves playing his guitar and saxophone.  He enjoys playing football with me and our neighbor.  Honey Bunches is an awesome brother!

Heading out for our date.

Honey Bunches cashed in one of his Mother/Son Date coupons on his birthday.  He wanted to go out to eat at his favorite restaurant - Buffalo Wild Wings, and go to a movie of his choice - Sponge Bob Sponge Out of Water.

The restaurant was very busy, so we were seated in the bar area.  Midway through our dinner, the bartender came over with a microphone and announced that it was Honey's birthday.  Everyone sang Happy Birthday to him, including a rowdy table of 40 somethings sitting next to us who whooped and hollered.  Honey was slightly embarrassed.

The following day, we had ice cream cake with our family and Honey opened his gifts.

Gifts included a Rubik's Cube, the game Master Mind, a swim shirt, a Mind Craft shirt, cereal, cash and a stuffed animal (given by Pumpkin)

He also received this cookie bouquet from his Nina & Nino.

Due to travel schedules and basketball schedules, we decided to wait until the end of the month to celebrate with family and then also include his cousin Peanut Butter, whose birthday is 2 days before Honey's.  We went snow tubing at a semi-local ski hill.  

It.  Was.  Awesome.  

The adults had just as much fun as the kids.  

Unfortunately, we have no pictures of anyone tubing.  Both Monkey and I left our phones/cameras in the warming house.  Here is a picture of a few of the boys, enjoying hot chocolate while they warm up their cheeks and toes.

Afterwards, we had pizza and cake.

As Sweet Potato stated above, Honey is a great brother.  He does get annoyed by his sisters, but he still reads to them and helps them clean their room when asked.  He loves being outside (more so when the weather is nice) and riding his bike and playing football.  He could spend an entire day playing video games if we allowed it.  He is pretty social at school, but he does enjoy alone time with his guitar and Lego's when at home.   There are times when Honey challenges every ounce of patience in me, but at the end of the day, he will still give me a hug and say "I love you."  

Happy 11th Birthday Honey Bunches!  Always know how much I admire your gifts and talents.  They help to make you who you are and whom God created you to be.  Share them generously with others.  I love you forever!