Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Memories

Christmas Morning- taken by our five year old.

We had a wonderful Christmas and are still basking in the luxury of extra time together before school officially starts again.  Here are some memories and traditions of our Christmas of 2011.
amid the chaos

On Christmas Eve, we let the kids open their Christmas presents from grandparents and aunts and uncles so as to distinguish who-gave-what.  It's hard to be thankful when all the presents are torn open at once, so we really tried to slow things down and help them remember who gave them which presents.  This would have been easier had the gift givers been present, but since we don't live close, it's not possible.

Working around my husband's shift work is always a challenge during the holidays, but thankfully he got off on Christmas Eve and we were able to drive up to Maryland to visit his parents and enjoy the traditional "Harkins Family Christmas Meal" via P. F. Chang's.  Here's our best try at a family Christmas photo that evening:

We drove back home that night and Eric and I finished up the last St. Andrew Novena before heading to bed.

In the morning St. Nicholas came (trying to get away from the fictional 'Santa Claus' and incorporating the actual saint into gift getting). Here's Jude with his only Christmas present from Saint Nick. Keeping it simple since they already get so much from everyone else!

Then we headed to Christmas Mass at 8:30am.  Liam talks about how much he enjoys this Mass all year long, so we opened the church doors to reveal the lit Christmas trees and Christmas decor and baby Jesus, he exclaimed, "Wow, this is going to be so much fun!"  Fr. L. thought it was pretty funny too. 

After Mass, we decorated the Christmas tree. This is our kids' favorite tradition on to opening Christmas presents, of course!

It's hard to keep the FRAGILE baby Jesus away from this one!
I tried to start a new tradition of continuing the Christmas celebration with the 12 days of Christmas (incorporating the feast days and the Catholic meaning of the song into spreading Christmas joy to others in a sort of 'Works of Mercy' theme) , but it turned out to be a lot of work and the kids didn't seem to care, so I decided to wait until the kids are a little older and they can participate a little more. Maybe I'll try again next year.

While they are all so young, the simple joys of beholding the new born king is enough for them.  Children know the meaning of Christmas so much better than us adults anyway!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Not What You Think

My husband snapped this highly incriminating photo:

Honestly, we were innocently reading a Christmas book! The wine glass in the child's hand- well, that was a little taste testing after Mommy was done.

Hope you are all having a nice close to your Advent season! We have been taking it very easy.  No traveling for us this year. I've spent more days at home- not going anywhere- than I have all year! We are really getting used to this homebody thing. It's the best time of year for it.  Not rushing anywhere has really made it a blessed time to prepare our hearts.   Trying to keep it simple this year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Art Appreciation Made Easy

I love fine art. I just don't know how to talk about it and really "appreciate" it without someone interpreting it for me.  I remember going to an art museum in Sacramento with my Polish friend and realizing this very fact. She could go on and on about each painting- how the light hits this part and makes this statement or how the artist used this color to show this emotion and or not. I was amazed at her ability! I got so much more out of that one trip to the museum than I ever had from all the art museums I had ever seen.  From that point on, it's always been on my mind as something I would like to learn how to be able to do.

With my Magnificat subscription, there is at least one piece of art that is explained in light of the Catholic faith.  They talk about all the elements of the painting and how it conveys what the artist had in mind.  I love to read this and have learned so much. I decided to share one of these articles with my group of boys that I teach for coop. They got into it much more than I thought they would and made me see that this art appreciation skill just might come in due time. 

Now for Christmas, I dug out a book that I've had for many years by the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled The Christmas Story.  So far, we've looked at a few of the artworks and it has not only enriched our Christmas season, but also our Jesse Tree reflections. I took it out today for the story of John the Baptist.  We talked about the painting while rereading the Bible story.   I read a little about the artist and what the artist was trying to convey.  It held Liam's attention much more than if I had just read from the Bible.  Note: the only bad thing about this book is that it uses the King James Version for the Bible verses.

On a different day, we took it out to look at a picture of the Annunciation.  We talked about symbolism, colors, setting, and perspective.  Then I read a little about the artist and what the artist was trying to convey.  The kids enjoyed it so much! They were searching for the symbols, examining all the details, and giving their opinions- it was better than Where's WaldoFun fact: Did you know a monkey in art symbolizes sin?  I've never liked monkeys...  And it was so effortless.  I felt like I was reading a picture book.  If you think about it, looking at a book of paintings is kind of like a picture book on steroids.

Two months ago, I would have never thought I'd be teaching art appreciation with such ease. Now that I'm doing it with the help of books such as these, I am seeing how it might be a possibility how I could walk in an art museum and start talking about the painting like Sister Wendy. Ok, maybe not a professed Sister Wendy, but maybe a novice or at the very least a postulate!

I would to get some more of these art appreciation aides for the rest of the year too. I'm going to try out this one for saints and this one for and Lent/Easter.

Baby Love

I am so in love with this baby. He's 14 months now and a real handful, but I can't resist kissing his sweet cheeks or kissing his good smelling, soft hair ALL THE TIME. 

 He really loves this silky blanket for chewing on. Not sure what that's about, but with this special blanket, he will easily lay down in his bed for naps and bed.

He's at that squirmy age where he doesn't want to be held very long at church or in public or really anywhere where he can't crawl around. He squirms and screams until he gets his way to be put down so he can crawl around.  Good times. I was dreading this time as I remember having a hard time doing anything in public with Liam when he was about 9 months to two years old. Liam was also a bolter, so I always had to hold his hand, strap him in or chase after him everywhere.  Girls are so different!

He also has super hero senses that know when Mommy is trying to get some homeschooling done.  He knows that if he throws a big enough fit, mommy will be forced to pick him up, thus every attempt at homeschooling will be foiled.  I'm really trying hard to figure away around this super power of his. I think I may need to develop a super power or two of my own...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Project Detox, Part 3: Small Successes and Much Confusion on Grains

....Continued from Parts 1 and 2

Project Detox took back seat while the grandma's took their turns visiting, but we're back into the swing of things now.  Even throughout visitors, I held fast to my rule that no concessions shall be made for individual preferences.  On the whole, implementing this rule was much easier than I thought.   Once I established it as the new norm and put up with temper tantrums and bad attitudes for the first few days (and occasionally now and then), things have been going better than before.  The kids still complain about meals they don't prefer, but they know now that this is all they are going to get.  They don't expect to get whatever they want for lunch so when I serve them left overs, it's not the end of the world. 

Taking away the sugar, processed snack foods, and most of the grains from their diet was a good way to strip away all the ways they fill themselves between meals and during meals so that what remained was protein and vegetables and dairy.  They had to eat them in order to survive because there wasn't going to be anything else to eat!  I took the cue to take away grains from Wellness Mama.  However, I have been serving whole grains in moderation because I am not convinced that all grains are bad for everybody. 

Another good thing about detoxing from sugar and grains and processed foods was that I was able to get a clearer picture about what artificial flavors, colors, excess sugars and perhaps even too many grains do to my kids.  I have noticed that my son has a hard time concentrating and the kids get really wound up when they had something that was out of the detox diet.  Case in point: my son just came out of his bed and said his tummy hurt from eating too much cake (the only sugar food that was allowed just for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception). From now on, I will be strictly limiting and/or banishing these from their diets.   The best advice that I have read was from Sarah at The Healthy Home Economist when she says, "There is no substitute for listening to your body and noticing/observing the effects of a food on your own personal biology."

However, I'm still confused about the grains thing....I am led to believe that the USDA's recommendation for grains is unhealthy.  A friends suggested that there be some political motives behind their recommendations.  In any case, even in my worst eating days, I've always thought that 6-11 servings of grains a day was atrocious.  My husband and I have read the South Beach diet book and have had much success with that diet which cuts out all carbs for the first two weeks, then gradually introduces them in a whole grain approach while watching the glycemic index of starchy foods.  But I never thought it was nutritionally appropriate for kids to go without grains.   I'm not trying to make my kids lose weight, I just want them to be healthy.  Wellness Mamma seems to think that no grains (including beans, corn and potatoes) is the only way to go for everyone, but I'm not convinced about that either.   I did a bit of research from her blog and from the internet at large and I came up gasping for air.

Information Overload!   

Trying to move out of a state of confussion, I ignored all the extremists and paleo dietititions and went with my gut.  Until there are more studies done on that, I am not totally eliminating grains.  If the kids have one meal a day with grains, I think that's perfect. I'm going to try not to stress about it any more because the more research I do, the more confused I get. Everyone has a different spin and I just want to get off the tilt-a-whirl!

In conclusion of detox week, our lifestyle is now reflecting a more organic, non processed, whole food look.  I hope I don't backslide, but from now on, I will be cutting back on whole grains (to about a third of what we were eating), eliminating processed grains, banishing sugar (except for special occasions) and striving toward an organic, whole food diet including grass fed beef and free range chickens. 

The kids are still not lapping up their food like Farmer Boy, but I know things like that don't happen overnight.   I have seen enough small sucesses to believe that we are on the right track.  It's all for the glory of God.

If you have any good nutritional books or websites to suggest, please let me know!

The "Secrets" to a Happy Couple

A member of my homeschool group and my children's pediatrician was on an ABC news report on the "What Makes Couples Happy".  This mom is one of those incredible women who exuberate joy and is so filled with serenity and poise that you wonder how it is she can do all that she does so beautifully.  She is so in love with her Catholic faith which she shares with the children at my son's school every Monday.

It's a very good little clip that is rare to find on national television because it shows large families in a very positive light.  A couple of the most important parts that were left out of Dr. Canady's comments were that "all happiness comes from God" and "our Catholic faith brings God's blessings to us throughout each and every day". 

I was a little surprised by the first statistic that 65% of couples are more unhappy AFTER having children.  I don't see how this could be possible except if your idea of happiness is a shallow misinterpretation of what true happiness is.   My husband and I often say how we are more close to each other and love each other more after children.  In fact, every aspect of our relationship has improved since having children.  It really saddens me to see couples putting off children and even marriage in favor of more money and more time for themselves and their dogs!  It's unfortunate that they don't know what they are missing.

Thank God for wonderful examples of the joy that comes from a life of true sacrificial love such as seen in the Canady family!  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Giveaway Winners!

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! Today's winners for the giveaway were generated by  The numbers that won were number 3 (Noreen) and number 9 (Natasha). Congratulations! Thank you to everyone who entered!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bracelet Giveaway!

Like I promised, I am having a little giveaway!  Here are two bracelets I am giving away. I will pick two numbers from  You can win one or both bracelets.   Just leave a comment with your email address if you don't have one that goes with your comment name.  I can ship overseas.  Winners will be chosen on December 8.  Good luck!

Handmade Clay Music Beads with pewter spacers (sized for a female adult)
"Jesus in My Heart" Handmade clay heart beads with glass and pewter spacers and Virgin Mary medal (sized for kids or small wrist)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That "Crazy-Religious" Relative

I sent out my Christmas cards very early this year- two days after Thanksgiving to be exact. The reason is because I am that "crazy- religious" relative- or that is what I'm sure everyone is thinking right now. 

Last year was the first year my family did the St. Andrew Novena which starts on November 30th and not-so-coincidentally, it was the most meaningful Christmas I've every experienced.  I wrote about it here.

Ever since, I've been trying to spread this special devotion to everyone I know. So, naturally, I included little novena cards with every Christmas card this year. I had to get them out early before the novena would start.  All the while, I second guessed myself thinking: is this too tacky? What am I- a religious order?? Only religious orders send prayer cards in the mail... I'm not even consecrated!

I'm pretty sure everyone already knew I was a "crazy-religious" person,  but just in case they didn't- the cat's out of the bag.  It might be a little strange to include something like this in a Christmas card, but in the end, it's not about me.  If one relative reads the prayer and has a more meaningful Christmas, it will all be worth it.

In case you are not on my Christmas card list, here is a link to a beautiful printable prayer card that Lena from Joy Filled Family made for you.

Also, here is the story that I have shared before of Julie Cragon's powerful testemony of the St. Andrew Novena.  I know there are many other miracles out there associated with this prayer- maybe there is even one waiting for you this year.   Have a blessed Advent!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Feeling Thankful

As the sun is setting on a great visit from my mom and sister, I am thankful for all the memories that my family and I will hold on to until we see each other again. 
  • For the laughter of the kids as they played silly games with Katie
  • For the help around the house and always having a clean kitchen!
  • For shared joy in the 12 month old's constant cuteness
  • For warm walks outside
  • For good food shared with good company
  • For watching old movies and eating popcorn
  • For the unconditional love that only a mom can give
For all these things, I am feeling thankful.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mary's Shelter Fundraiser

Thank you to Mary who took pictures and posted this great article on the Mary's Shelter Fundraiser (and added pictures of the stuff I made as well :-) 

I still have some things left over from from the fundraiser (if you see in the pictures, I made a lot of stuff!) so I am thinking of having a blog giveaway in the coming week.   

BTW: I scored some great handmade things from local artists as well including the cutest handmade little boy's (wool?) sweater made by Mary Gildersleeve.  I love owning handmade things! So much more special than something made in China.  This sweater will be treasured for generations. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am feeling very blessed to have my mom and sister at my home.  Here is a picture from the Turkey Trot this morning in Fredericksburg. It was Eric and my sister, Katie's first 5K.  They started the day off right and had a great time! Now back to helping Mom cook up a fabulous feast...

Happy Thanksgiving to  you and yours!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project Detox: On Hold for The Holiday

Grandma's in town!! I guess this candy/sugar/carb/junkfood thing will go out the window while Grandma's here. You can see why...

Gifts from Grandma

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What You Did to the LEAST of These...

Lord, when did I see you naked, hungry, sick, needing a hug, help with a craft, help finding a lost blanket, needing a book read or a help putting together a puzzle? When Lord, when?

This week for Pondering in My Heart Monday, I'm thinking about Sunday's Gospel.  Mathew 25: 31-46

After I spent most of Sunday lamenting my loss of 'rest', I went to Mass in the evening to hear Jesus say that I actually could have been doing all those things for him if I weren't doing those with such a scowl.  It really put me in my place and I asked Jesus once again to change my heart of stone and give me a new one.

My husband has to work on Sundays, so I don't get his help to make Sunday a day of rest.  No, I spend all day chasing after three kids as they gallivant around the house, making messes where ever they go.  So much for NOT working on Sundays. With young kids (ages 1, 2 and 5), you don't get a choice. Everyday, all day is hard work.   They don't care if it's the Lord's Day.  They will still need every meal and snack served to them and cleaned up for them, still need someone to help them get changed, change their dirty diapers, wipe their butts, noses and faces,  read their books, play their games, clean up their games, break up their fights, wipe tears, make all things right, help them all day with everything and care deeply about them.  You want to spend just 15 minutes of quiet time reading the bible, praying, and resting today, momma? Good luck with that!

I really shouldn't have been complaining about how I never get a break or giving harsh scoldings about how I have to clean up all their messes all day long.  Sure, they could have been a little more careful and clean up after themselves a little more (at least the five year old), but it should have been an honor to do unto the LEAST of these as I would have done unto Jesus.  I just thank God I get a new day to try harder to be a more generous servant so I can hear Jesus say, come, you honored servant. You saw me naked and clothed me, you saw me needing breakfast and fed me, you saw me sick and wiped my snotty nose, you saw me needing a kiss on my boo boo and kissed it- even if it was my dirty foot...come into my Kingdom.

Lord, help me not be a begrudging servant. Help me to serve you in the little people around me with all gentleness and love.  Amen.
Join Heidi for more great Ponderings!

Matthew 25: 31 - 46
31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
37 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
40 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
44 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?'
45 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'
46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Project Detox: Part 2- The Search for Hunger

...Continued from Part 1

The breaking point that lead me to Project Detox was the second day my husband left.  Usually when my husband leaves, I don't even put up a fight for dinner. It's a meal that they like because I don't want to fight that battle alone. So the first meal looked like this:

Day 1: Breakfast: regular concessions- meaning I make what they order: a.k.a waffle house, mommy style
           Lunch: normal convenient food for lunch- with plenty of concessions. I usually make what they kids request.
           Dinner: pizza followed by smores.

Day 2 Breakfast: regular concessions for breakfast
          Lunch: Mc Donald's chicken nuggets and fries- not a regular occurrence, but probably once or twice a month.
          Dinner: tortellini and broccoli for, which I thought was a safe food until it was left untouched even after a full hour and half of a little boy sitting in front of his dinner plate.

At that point, I knew it was something I had done.  I knew I had spoiled their appetite with too much convenience foods. Their taste buds had been spoiled to the point that they didn't even recognize a good meal when they saw one.   What boggles my mind is how they would rather go hungry than eat the healthy food in front of them. Which is exactly what they have been doing since I stopped given them what they want. Going hungry. Amazingly they don't seem to mind all that much- so maybe they just aren't hungry enough?

After identifying the two main reasons why they don't eat the food in front of them, I decided to start what I call, Project Detox.  I am detoxing them from convenience foods and foods that they normally would love to gobble down.  Including sandwiches and bread.  Some people think these are not healthy anyway, so I figure it can't be bad to leave them out all together if it's going to kick start the hunger gene in my kids.  I know it's buried some place in their DNA!

Along with foods that they normally like, I'm trying not to give them any sugar. No juices, no chocolate milk, no cookies, crackers, or any snack foods laden with sugar.  Sometimes I give them a snack between breakfast and lunch, but it's never anything more than a piece of fruit or a cheese stick. Once I gave them a snack before dinner. It was steamed broccoli with lemon.  I think it fit well into the theme of Detox week!

However, right now the point is not how healthy the snack is.  I just want get them hungry enough to eat their meals.  So if it means skipping a snack, even though they may be hungry and it may be healthy, I am trying not to give it to them if I think they don't need it.  I know it sounds harsh, and believe me I hate doing it, but I keep reminding myself that they are never going to eat their dinner if they don't experience true hunger!

We've been reading Farmer Boy and we're hearing about how Almanzo looks forward to his mom's cooking.  There is nothing processed nor convenient about they way she cooks. It's honest, good food. It's healthy and hearty and that boy laps up every bite. He even looks forward to his mom's meals!  He has a real appetite, which is something I don't know if my kids have.    Reading Farmer boy has made me see how my situation is not normal.  Kids should like the food put in front of them, or at least be hungry enough to eat it.

The other major component to Detox Week (or however long it takes) is to not give any concessions.  After tortellini night, I gave the kids a long lecture about what the rest of the week's meals would be like. It went something like this: tough love, baby.  You get what you get, and you don't pitch a fit.

 Stay tuned for Part 3- The Hunger Saga Continues and New Food Choices? (with a question mark because I am confused).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Project Detox: Part 1

I don't know if it was my husband being gone for a week or the inspiration of Farmer Boy by Laura Engels Wilder, or the late night reading of a certain crazy health blog. Maybe it was just the perfect storm.  Whatever the case, an untouched plate of tortellini and broccoli was the last straw.

The kids have been driving both hubs and I nuts for about their food pickiness for years, but I kept thinking it was going to get better if we just persevered.  Their pickiness is not the cause of some serious health or mental issue, and it's not so serious that they can't eat good food- it's just that they won't unless there is non stop coaxing/threatening/rewarding or fork feeding involved.  Dinner time is utterly exhausting for my husband and I.  It's pretty ridiculous when a two and five year old would rather be fed by an adult than pick up their own fork and eat what's in front of them.  Whatever happened to having an appetite for food- real food? Not just for chicken nuggets, pizza, french fries, and sometimes spaghetti.  It's not a healthy appetite if they only eat these processed, nutrient stripped foods willing.  This just can't be normal!

So after "persevering" for years with no signs of improvement, I decide something else needed to change. I realize that this is probably my fault they don't eat well. Not that I haven't tried every trick in the book!  But it has to be something that I did or didn't do, since most other kids I know have healthy appetites and eat the food that's front of them.  Sure, everyone has a few foods they don't like, but with my kids, it's almost every healthy meal!  I don't know if kids through out all of history have ever had a problem with eating the food's that given to them until the dawn of processed foods.   It seems that this is sudden epedemic that is baffeling many parents now.  There has to be a reason and my hunch is that convience foods are spoiling our kids' appetites.

My husband is a huge relief in this food battle and without him at the table, I just feed the kids whatever is quickest and most convient so they eat without a hassle.  So that means for breakfast and lunch, my kids get all their favorite foods. Pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheese on toast, oatmeal, cereal (sometimes all in the same meal since concessions were always made for each child). Then for lunch it's a PB sandwhich, ham and cheese sandwhich, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwhich or tortilla stuffed with cheese and beans.  The only meal of the day I will not give them what they want is dinner.  Does this sound like it might be part of the problem?  It does to me.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Project Detox...

Customer Support and Inspiration

As you know, putting aside my artistic pursuits and business opportunities hasn't been easy these past 6 months.  However, the support and encourage I have received from people who express interest in my work is unbelievable.  Whether they are past or future customers, people have come forth and shared their words of wisdom and given some much needed pats on the back.

One such person recently shared her story of putting aside her work for the good of her family. Here's the encouraging and inspirational email I received from her:

Hi Sarah,
I understand how hard it is to do everything. Art requires so much focus and uninterrupted time. I chose to put my art aside while I homeschooled my six children.I knew for me that when I was involved in an art job, I did not like to be interrupted, including having to stop to make dinner! So I set it aside because I didn't want my kids to feel like they were an interruption. Now I have only a 15 year old at home and even with just one I have to be careful not to get too absorbed in my work. It was a sacrifice because it was the one thing I excelled at and being a mother and teacher at home was not something that came naturally.
In the end, I knew that my children were more important than anything I could create with my hands and I was shaping and molding them into something beautiful for God with eternal value.  ---Jill
 Jill's story speaks to me about how sacrifice is undeniably related to motherhood.  Sometimes I try to hide this component with the rest of the world for the sake of the showing the joy and blessing of children, but I think it's also good for the world to see that in sacrifice, there also is joy.  A lasting peace and joy that the world cannot give.  Thank you Jill for sharing your story with me!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Break Out Session

Nothing like friends and crafts! I'm taking my friend, Chance's lead and hosting a craft night for a few friends to make these fun accessories:
flowery necklace

Girl's hairband

These were so easy to do (and quite additive!)   Just follow these directions for your own fabulous necklaces, hairbands, clips, broaches, you name it.  I can't wait to make some more!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Changing Friendships- For Better or Worse

I usually don't share blog posts, but this time, I just have to share this one by Susie Lloyd. It's like she crawled inside my head and wrote down what I was thinking about more friends in my past than I can count.  It makes me see how us women are all made out of the same stuff.  Just when I think no one could be having the same problem, or thinking the same way I do about something, I realize that it's not just me thinking this way- we are all connected- especially us women in a deeper way than I realize most of the time.

As far as those friends in my past go, if I could crawl inside their heads, I would see and understand and forgive.  In heaven, we will all be able to understand each other perfectly.  For now, I need to give the benefit of the doubt and love as Christ loves.

Because really, what is friendship all about, but a pal to lead you to heaven? If I make it all about me, that's when I start to take offense about all the little things. But if the friendship serves a deeper purpose, I shouldn't be too concerned whether or not the person wants to continue being my friend or not. I am not the point- it's really all about Jesus.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Receiving the Eucharist Like Mary Did

Yesterday as I went up to Communion, I looked up and saw the Mary statue.  For awhile now, I've been praying the simple prayer, "Immaculate Heart of Mary, make my heart like yours" per the suggestion of a priest at confession.  Immediately after doing so, I thought about how receiving communion was much like Mary receiving the Lord at the Annunciation. I tried to think about how Mary must have felt to be called by God to receive Jesus into her and then how it felt to have our Lord within her human body.  Now that I'm home, and have a few less distractions and more time, I recall the exact words of Mary and how she felt. It goes like this:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever. 

(Lk 1:46-55)

Next time I receive communion, this will also be my prayer and I will again try to receive our Lord like Mary did- with a humble and lowly heart, full of praise and thankfulness.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One already!

Happy Birthday to my little pumpkin today!  I can't believe it's been a year and he's already one.

His first cake
We had his birthday party last week in Maryland with my husband's family. He ate some yummy chocolate pumpkin cake and we got some great pictures. 
Catching snowflakes in mouth

We even got to see the snow in Maryland. It didn't snow here at all.  The kids were super stoked!  Liam screamed at the top of his lungs, "It's snowing!!" over and over again.  Can you tell which of my kids was born in Colorado?? Yes, that would be my snow-loving Liam.

Jude looks so much like Liam was he was this age.  He's at such a fun age right now. Next year, I'll be pulling out my hair, I'm sure.  For now, it's all cuteness.
Jude kept licking this plant..I think it was edible!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Lot of Saints

It seems like almost everyone I know is going through a rough spot in their lives- and as one friends said today- "there's a lot of need".  The homeschooling group I belong to and the mom's group from Church is very good about getting out meals to those who just had a baby, are going through some kind of physical disability, or other extreme circumstance.  Making one meal, though, just doesn't seem like enough for these families who are going through hard times. I want to be there for them in a more substantial way to ease their burdens.  But how can I- when I am already worn thin, barely able to put together an extra meal, help out another who is in even more need?

Today, on all Saints Day, I am reminded of how God, in his infinite wisdom, already thought of this.   There's a cheering squad in heaven willing and ready to help each of us, no matter how desperate the case.   It gives me hope to think of the multitudes up there sending their speedy help in the form of prayers.  They are my special friends who know what I'm going through and are encouraging me in ways more powerful than I will ever know.  I may be in the shadow of the valley, but my friends next to God are cheering for me to continue on.

Today I am reminded I am not alone and neither are my friends in need.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pondering in My Heart Mondays: Psalm 51

Psalm 51 spoke to me yesterday as something I had been struggling with since school began. I seem to either glory in things I've accomplished, or wallow in self pity when the day hands me thorns instead of roses.  Either way, making myself a martyr for my own cause or glorying in the accomplishment of a clean floor (for the first time in three days) is all vain.

A pure heart create for me, Oh God,
put a steadfast spirit within me....

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn

The only thing God wants is my heart. Whether it's a good moment or not. The circumstances of the day don't matter. Whether my house is clean or dirty, the kids are crabby or good, I feel happy or not, I get the history lesson finished or not, someone was nice to me or not- in the end- it's what I've done with the good or the bad that matters.   It's what I give or don't give to God from the depths of my heart.

Visit Heidi for her Pondering in the Heart- she has a beautiful post today as always!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Love!

hard at work painting the house with hired help

At only 28, he's managed to be the best husband and father ever. What a blessing he is! Happy Birthday Eric!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Best Kept Secret in Fredericksburg

When I moved just around the corner from Gari Melchers Museum at Belmont in Virginia, I had no intention of ever visiting the museum until my children were at least 10 years old.  What I didn't know until over a year later, is that this estate isn't just a place for your toddler and preschool aged kids to experience instant boredom and troublesome behavior inside a museum full of irreplaceable art; it's also home to 27 acres of what I call, an enchanted garden.

This place hordes some of the best views of the Rappahannock as well as many little streams and springs.  Since we only live a half a mile from this place, we've been coming to explore these trails at least once a week since our home school year began. This week alone, we've been here three times.   It's the best recess I can provide for my little students.  Here's some pictures of our trip on one of their trails.
Eating an apple in back of the house where famous artist, Gari Melchers lived.

Beyond the gazebo, where we sometimes enjoy a packed lunch, lies a sweet little path that winds down across a pretty stream and eventually to the rocky river's edge.

Analee loves to 'read' all the signs as she goes.  Each time she says: Do not sit here eva' eva' 'gain.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the first time were here and I pretended to read those words from the sign after she tried sitting on one and nearly breaking it.  Now she doesn't believe me when I try to tell her what the sign really says (bad parenting 101).

a wild hydrangea turned bright red.  there's my little girl reading another sign...sigh.

Here's the pretty little stream.  I don't know what the stone wall was for- maybe an old damn?  I should ask next time we visit...
Better than any jungle gym!

Finally, we make our way down to where "the Native American Algonquian speakers of the eastern coastal plains and the Siouan speakers from the western Piedmont met." (taken from here)  I love that this place is so full of history! Later on, this part of the Rappahannock also "brought European settlers to the area; they used the water to power mills and ship their goods to Europe from the bustling harbor in Falmouth," (also taken from here).  Some time after that, thousands of slaves from the south used this part of the river to cross over to a safe house called the Conway House, which is just below our own house.

I could watch the river all day on this rock.  So peaceful.

Except that after 5 minutes, I can't take any more of my kids running around on this rock that touches potentially deadly river. 

So we move to a safer location to throw rocks in the water.

Or play in our own private 'beach'.
Analee pretending to eat the fish she caught with her stick.
Or even 'go fishing'!

My kids could spend all afternoon here, but lunch and nap times soon beckon us back home.  Maybe someday I'll have the courage to attempt a real museum visit, but for now, we enjoy the freebies and nature.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What To Do About Night Time Fears?

The minute the light turns out, my two year has suddenly started being terrified by anything and everything.  It started with a need for a night light (which we got her), but now she's still afraid of the dark plus her "scary bed", the "bug that wants to eat her", the "dinosaur that bites her", and the "other side of the room that has a monster in it".  I've tried 'Monster Spray' (to spray at those monsters so they'll disappear), stuffed guardian angel doll, stuffed Mary doll to cuddle, plus all her other comfort pillows, blankets, toys, books and water.   There's hardly room in that bed for her!

I've always thought if you just let your child know that their guardian angel is there to protect them and that God is always with them, that's enough to give them a good night's sleep in their own bed.  Not this girl.  She won't be convinced by any of that.  I've told her so many times that God is bigger than anything bad, but she still screams the minute I turn to leave her room at night. 

It's escalated so bad in the past week that if she can't sleep in my bed, she'll scream bloody murder until her voice gives out.  She will not give up!  I don't mind her sleeping in my bed, but my husband does.   He says he is a magnet for little feet.  If the kids sleep in our bed, they always end up kicking him all night.  Poor guy.   Plus, I don't want this to become a habit.

Anyone got any advice on things to try? Should I just let sleep in my bed until she grows out of it?  I'm sure there are plenty of people who have been through this...right??

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Little Girl Says to Me...

"Mommy, I love cutting!"

As she sits on top a chair with paper scraps covering the floor around her.  The joy of learning a new skill! Just so she keeps that scissors away from hair...her brother already took a chunk out of her head of hair a couple months ago and it still hasn't starting looking normal.  You can see it on the left side of her head.

The Best Decision is Often the Hardest One

I heard a friend say this recently and right now, I know this is true for me.  I would love to pick up my clay and make a beautiful Madonna, a new St. Andrew bead, some new symbols and string a dozen more rosaries.  But what I really need to do is reply to another email to say, "No, I can't fulfill your request. Here's a link to a friend or another person who makes rosaries."  *sigh*

How to say no to a person handing you money to do something you love to do:
Quickly say the words as fast you can while simultaneously running in the opposite direction before you change your mind.

So now I go back to what I have been doing and what I need to continue doing (which is also very enjoyable and fun, just in a different way!)

Homeschooling, cleaning, cooking, taking care of kids, a baby and loving a husband too.  I do love doing these things and I need to focus on them right now.

Thank you for your understanding!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pondering in my Heart Mondays

I'm joining my friend, Heidi, again this week for Pondering in My Heart Heart Monday

This week I was struck by Sunday's Gospel. I just love these "Kingdom of Heaven" Gospels. The more I learn about what is meant by them, the more I can appreciate the message Jesus is trying to send through them.  I used to think this one was about not putting on the right clothes for Mass!

Father explained this week's Gospel, Mathew 22: 1-14 as a call for gratitude.  The one thing he said that really struck me was that ingratitude is the hinge for many more sins.  So often we get focused on the gift that we forget the Giver.  How true is that in our world and especially in my own life!  For me to be thankful, sometimes I have to imagine what life would be like without that gift. For instance, what would life be like if I didn't have food every day to eat or decent clothes to wear, or children or a wonderful husband or even the love of God.  We don't know what life would be like without the love of God because God's love is everywhere.  Even people who don't believe in God or who are terrible sinners don't know what it's like to be truly without God's love. They won't know until they die and then it's too late. That's what Hell is.  The complete absence of God's love.  The very thought makes me grateful for His love and mercy.

In my Magnificat this week, they also laid out what each line of the Gospel meant.  It was very enriching. Here's what I got from it- The guests of the wedding refuse to come to the banquet.  All that is asked of us, his guests, is that we be with him. How many times have I refused to be with God just by refusing to give my presence to Him in prayer and through my those I am called to give my presence to.   Also, it makes me think of how just the simple act of accepting God's love is sometimes the hardest to do.   Just stopping and allowing myself to be loved should be the easiest thing since I'm not really doing anything.  But I guess receiving a gift especially the gift of love is doing something- it's being humble.  Humble enough to acknowledge need for it and be truly thankful. 

Lastly, the refusal to put on the wedding garment is a refusal of the accepting the grace of God in my life.  I also see it as a refusal to put on Christ. How many times have I refused to put on Christ, and followed the wide path of the world instead by not practicing patience, humility, and charity. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scrapped Plans

Don't you love those days when you get nothing you had planned done, yet it turned out to be so much better than you could have planned? Today was one of those.

So thankful for a delightful days of family and friends.  Open minds and caring hearts.  Laughter and joy coming from hearts full of love.  Today I am reminded that we are all one family and caring for my neighbor is the same as caring for my sister or brother.  There are no strangers in God's family.