the beginning and end of our days

This is how we have been starting our days lately.

I love it.

After I get home from running, I pour myself a nice yummy cup of chocolate truffle flavored coffee, and sit myself on our very comfy chair. I pray, and then read. A while later, two sleepy eyed children come and join me. I started noticing that I would say to them, "get back to bed, it's too early..." rather sternly. It dawned on me what a terrible way to wake up that must be for them. The person who they wake up and want to see is telling them -"go back to bed, I don't want to see you yet." I've just gotten over the fact that my children wake up early. It's really nice during the school year when we MUST get a early start to the day in order to make it to school on time. So, instead I try with all my might to say first thing, "good morning Thomas, good morning Annie, I love you. How did you sleep?" And then give them a good old squeeze to let them know that I truly am happy to see them and that I do love them. I'm noticing that they are in such a better mood, as well as myself.

So, anyways, they come out on the porch and see me and proceed to plop down next to me. They grab a book or two and we all squish together and read. Sometimes we're quiet, other times I get a slew of information or questions about what they are looking at. I've started to just leave a bunch of books out there on the stand. I look forward to this ritual we've established.

And this is how we have been ending our days, with a walk around the blvd. or just wandering around outside with the last of the sun. I get weeds, I mean, flower bouquets by the handfuls. I love it. I love them for thinking of me.

The beginning and ending of our days are by far my favorite. There's a lot of good squished in between there as well, it's just harder to see it sometimes.

And here is my poor, lone, peony. Sad little thing. Driving around town I see gigantic bushes filled with pink and white peony blooms. I have been wondering to myself for the past three years why are my peony bushes NOT GROWING. I thought they were supposed to grow and multiply each year. I had envisioned a thick, solid peony wall going alongside our driveway. This is now the fourth year since planting them and they still look like this. One single solitary bloom. We had some friends over the other evening and they commented our our silly looking peony. He asked TJ if he put down fertilizer or a preemergent (don't know what that is) in the spring. TJ said yes, and we finally realized that my lovely husband has been stunting their growth each spring that he fertilizes.
Good to know.


wonderful world

This morning Thomas says to me, "the worst thing about summer is that you won't let me get up early, and ticks."

Oh my son, I know you are like your mother and actually like getting up at the crack of dawn, but it's OK to sleep in a little in the summer......geesh!

The FIRST DAY of SUMMER! It was truly a beautiful day today! The weather couldn't have been any nicer, and my children were excited for our new daily routine. I could tell. It went all too smoothly!

Last year we did "Summertime Tickets" with Thomas and Annie. The gist of it is that I have a list of things they can do to earn one ticket. So when they come to me saying, "I have nothing to do....." I can show them the list, they pick one, they are busy.....presto. These are not things they have to do by any means, just ideas to keep their little brains working instead of me just turning on a movie. After getting so many tickets, they can redeem them for prizes. It works pretty well.

Here are some ideas on the list:

-picking up trash on our boulevard

-calling a relative and asking them three questions

-copy writing a poem, draw a picture to go with it, and then recite it at dinnertime. (we came up with the idea of getting to stand on their chair while reciting it! They thought that was pretty cool!)

-sketching something in their sketch book

-going through math addition and subtraction flash cards once

-writing a letter to a friend or relative, addressing it, and sending it in the mail

-reading a book to a sibling (for 15 minutes)

-playing 5 songs that they have already learned on the piano (this is in addition to their regular piano practice for the day)

-hanging up or putting in the laundry ALL the clothes that are scattered on their floor.

-playing a game of chess together

-putting together one state or content puzzle

- memorizing a new prayer

-reading a book for 30 minutes

-pick a saint and write a five sentence summary of their life and draw their picture

By 8:00 in the morning, I had two eager children sitting at the table copying a poem, by 9:00 they were all ready to go out on the boulevard to pick up trash. I hope this enthusiasm will last through summer.

I know it won't, but today was fun!

I love how she is wearing her old size 4 flower girl dress!

And Thomas picked up a bug or two!

As we were walking, and I was watching my children, I had this overwhelming sense of how much I want to teach and inspire them. I want them to wonder about the wonderful world God made for them. I hope to instill in them the desire to explore, read and learn. I want them to always ask why. I want them to explore the world (even if it is a few feet from our home on our blvd), to go on adventures through the pages of a book, and to learn by researching. I love having field guides. Bugs, birds, and fish field guides are what we have now, and I hope to get lots of other ones soon. Whenever they ask a question and I have no idea what the answer is, I'm honest and say, "well, I don't know, but lets go look it up either in a book or google it.) We have a great book called, "The Big Book of Tell Me Why." It's awesome. The kids love looking through it. We use it a lot too! I want them to be free this summer to soak up as much knowledge as their little brains can hold.

We don't make it to the library as often as I would like to during the school year. So when I told the kids that we can go as often as we like this summer, they cheered! We went the very next day. Thomas picked out Star Wars books and Annie picked American Girl. I LOVE to see my children walking out of the library with a pile of books. The book Thomas picked out is a little advanced for him to read by himself, so I am reading it to him. I actually enjoy these Star Wars adventure books! But what gets me every time is how he will ask me ALL DAY LONG to "please read mom" and if I make a motion like I'm going to put the book down and stop, he orders me to "keep reading."

I have two toats filled with art materials so they can create whatever, whenever they want to. I leave them out on the table in the computer room. I will often walk by and look in and see two (now three, George has taken a liking to coloring these days) heads bend downward, working on something.

I'm going to challenge myself this summer to use movies and TV as a last resort. I love to get things done, checked off my list, you know. There have been times when I turned on a movie for them and it runs ALL DAY. I don't want that.

Notice that George is soaking wet. His new game is to stand underneath our hanging baskets as we water them. He says, "I'm taking a shower!!! As he dances around under them giggling. I don't have the heart to stop him, and I figure if were not going anywhere, who cares? He'll dry.

I want to enjoy watching my children grow, learn, and explore. Thank you God for the gift of this summer! What a wonderful world You have given to us.


hello summer

Well, hello summer!

We're so glad you're here......after the long, cold, snowy winter we had, you're a warm welcome!

Now begin the days of........water balloons, sunblock, hauling out the water slide, riding bikes in swim suits, stocking the freezer with Popsicles, sidewalk chalk, bags (library bag, swimming bag, nature bag) more parks to play at, fishing, water bottles, picnic lunches, picking strawberries, making jam, children's zoo, summertime tickets, later bedtime, bird watching, boys choir, piano lessons, swim lessons, art class, Wednesday's summer with the saints, totus tuus, and (drum roll please)......baseball. Whew.

Summer will be a little different this year. This is the first one where we have "organized activities" other than swim lessons. This is big for us. We have waited and waited as long as possible to begin sports with our children. We know they love them. TJ and Thomas have been playing baseball together now for years in our front yard, as well as running plays for football down in our basement as a Packer game is on in the background. We wanted to let our children "play" at home for as long as possible before the demands of practices began. But this summer we felt ready. So, we dove into baseball, piano, swimming, and art lessons. We'll see how it goes!

Today was the last day of school. We decided to have a "summer's here!" party. Our good friends came over to celebrate with us. We made ice cream sundaes, set up the water slide, and threw water balloons........well sort of. (note- Annie and I spent about an hour filling two packages of water balloons so they would be all ready to go when Thomas and the kids got home from school.) Unfortunately, two, two year olds, found the tubs of water balloons in the backyard and proceeded to throw every balloon, minus three, onto the ground. What took one hour to prepare was over within one minute. Bummer. I felt like I was going to throw up! I felt bad for the other kids who had gotten a glimpse of the joy that two tubs filled with water balloons brings. They were told to go inside and put on their suits and sunblock first, and then they could fire away. To see their sad (and mad) little faces when we all discovered what the culprits had done, was priceless. Oh well, a lesson learned in "going with the flow" I guess. (for me too!)

After George and Evie were in bed, we let Thomas and Annie make another sundae. We sat at the table and as they ate we talked about what we expect from them this summer. We've never done this before, and I think it was good to talk about all the fun things we will get to do, but to also remind them that they will need to help us out. I told them what I heard from Msgr. the other morning at mass. He said, "Do you want to have a joyous summer? Then you can't leave God out. He has to be a part of your summer, if you want it to be good." How right he is. We are going to focus on Him in the midst of all our activities. Daily mass as often as we can, morning prayers together, visits to the Pink Sisters, chaplet at 3:00, decade of the rosary at night, are all things we are going to make sure we do.

I think God was giving me a gentle reminder about "going with the flow" this morning with the water balloon incident! Although we do have a lot going on this summer, and I have an idea of what I want to do each day, I realize that I must be flexible if we are to enjoy these next eleven weeks.

Thanks God, I got the message!


pie everyday

Ahh.....pie. My favorite. I don't really care what kind it is, I love it all. Although I do have some kinds that I'm rather partial to!! Blueberry with lemon zest, apple of course, pecan, and peach.

I've had my mind on pie ever since last week. I was checking out at the grocery store, and the cashier picks up my wooden rolling pin that I'm about to purchase and says, "so.... do you make pies?" "I do." Was my answer. I had wanted to tell her of my aspirations of making one pie every day for the rest of my life....but I thought that might be a bit over the top. She proceeded to tell me how much she hates to make pies and how her pies NEVER turn out. I'm sorry.

My great grandma Elsa, my dad's grandmother, could make pies. "She made the BEST pecan pie," my dad has always said. I remember hearing that she would make a pie everyday. EVERYDAY! And even if that was stretching the truth, I often think what a lovely way to end the day, having pie every night before going to bed. And think of all the possibilities....

The first time I made a pie was the first year I was married. For Christmas Eve we always go over to TJ's grandparents house for dinner. I thought, "maybe I could make a pie?" Why not? I had just gotten a lovely Martha Stewart book on the art of entertaining. I found a recipe for an apple pie. It looked simple enough. One problem though, I didn't have a food processor which I apparently needed to make the dough for the crust. But, I did have a brand new Kitchen Aid Mixer! And so, I gave it a try.

I think I have made that Martha Stewart apple pie probably 50 times in the last nine years. (all using my Kitchen Aid Mixer!)

After having Thomas, I spent that first summer baking, a lot. I remember making my first blueberry pie.....oh.....my. I was so proud of myself! It even had lemon zest mixed in so you saw lovely bright yellow strips entwined with the dark blueberries. I tried my first peach pie and brought it in the car with me as I travelled to stay with a dear friend of mine. She was at her parents house. I was meeting her there for a few days. Little did I know that her dad's favorite pie was peach! I'm sure glad it turned out!

I've begun a tradition that each Thanksgiving, we bake extra pies and take them down to Matt Talbot Kitchen. I bring the kids with me, so they can see who these people are that are going to be eating them. And to help remind us of how much we have to be grateful for. This year we also brought two pies to the Pink Sisters for Thanksgiving. When one of the nuns opened the door and saw the pies wrapped in cellophane with a bow, I think she was speechless! They sent us a card in the mail thanking us for those pies. It thrills me to make a pie for someone, especially those holy Pink Sisters!

I got a book for myself and my children. It's called, "How to make an Apple Pie and See the World" by Marjorie Priceman. It's darling! It starts off by saying, "Making an apple pie is really very easy. First, get all the ingredients at the market. Mix them well, bake, and serve. Unless, of course, the market is closed...." It then goes on to say how you have to travel to a different country to get each of the ingredients....the apples, the cinnamon, the wheat to be milled into flour, and so on. It's cute.

I hope to pass on to my children a love for making pies.
I hope they will tell their friends when they are in high school, "my mom's pie is the BEST!"
And I hope to fulfill my aspiration of making one pie every day.

Oh, and you can bet that I will be wearing an apron too!


ordaniary miracle

I believe they happen every day.
Am I aware of them?
Probably not.

Until this one. This miracle I got to see unfold, and it's.......well, lovely.

This miracle is Andrew Gerard .

My sister and her husband have been married for five years and had desperately wanted children. Upon learning that their chances of conceiving were very slim, they dove right into the adoption process. They were picked by a young girl who was going to have a baby, and she chose them to be the parents. They were thrilled! They got to be at the hospital when he was born, feed him a bottle.....begin the bonding process. That's why they were so crushed when going up to the hospital to bring him home, their case worker told them the birth mother had decided to keep the baby.

The nursery was ready.
The car seat was in the car.
Bottles were washed.....

They needed time to adjust to what had happened. So they drove to Colorado. They had a wonderful time there together, but wondered what exactly did God have in store for them, if they were not going to get this baby? Why, God? I remember just praying and praying for them. "Please God, please give them a baby. You can do anything, please. Mary, you are our mother, please let her become a mother too." My mom began praying the rosary each day for them.

God did have a plan, and boy was it even better! They found out that they had conceived while in Colorado! And nine months later, they have a son. A perfectly wonderful, beautiful, little boy. They BEST gift ever.

Think of how many women give birth in the United States alone in one day? I often think of the nurse who is working her shift while I am in labor. How many babies will she see today be born? How many times has my doctor brought a baby into this world? Lots. Hundreds of times probably. Is in ordinary for them? I would think so. My doctor is a very holy man, and he truly realizes the sacredness of life. When I am in labor, I will see him standing back, off to the side of the room, hands folded. He's praying. I see him once a week at Planned Parenthood on the day that they are performing abortions. He's walking, head down, praying. Praying for life and the lives of those babies inside that cold, brick, building who are going to die. What could be extremely ordinary for him, is miraculous every time. He always holds and stares at my new baby as if it were the first child he has delivered.

Ordinary miracle. Yep, that's what he is. Having a baby happens thousands of times a day, but it so very precious and life changing. It was for my sister and brother-in-law, and for us.

Thank you God, thank you for reminding us that You can do anything.

Ephrem Paul's baptism

TJ and I were asked to be the godparents of Ephrem Paul! What a glorious day it was. I'll never get over how ordinary a baptism seems. Nothing really appears to be happening. Nothing changes as his little head becomes wet with water.......other than his head is now wet! But our faith leads us to believe differently. We believe what truly is happening as Msgr. pours the water over his head and recites the words......

That little soul is now bright and shining, and pure. Original sin, gone. Msgr. once described how deceiving it is for us to look at a newborn baby. They are the epitome of goodness, and pureness, how could anything be wrong with them. But if we could see into their soul before they are baptized, we would find it black, and dark from original sin. We would never want that for our child. Thank goodness for the sacrament of Baptism!

Ephrem is now a member of the church. Praise God! We are so grateful that we get to be a part of his life, and pray for him daily. We hope to help him always turn to God. And then to listen to his parents, because they love him, they gave him life, and they love God.