Thursday, July 23, 2015

Nine Years of Marriage: A Tribute to My Husband

Our attempted selfie
Yesterday was my anniversary.  I've been married 9 years.   Nine. Straight. Years. To the same person.   To someone who is the opposite sex, (because God made it that way) to compliment my femininity.  Someone I didn't live with before I was married.  Someone I didn't do the things that only married people can (with God's permission) do.  Someone God brought into my life, when I was wasn't sure exactly which was the right path I should be taking.  I've been married 9 years to someone I said "I do" with, for better or for worse.  Someone I've spent both the special moments, hard times, uncertain and fearful of the future situations, and silly, laughable occasions. 

So to commemorate 9 successful years of marriage, I've chosen 9 reasons why I think this marriage has lasted.  You often ask why I don't post anything on Facebook-you know-about how great a husband I have, or how wonderful a carpenter you are when you make yet another piece of furniture we need in the house, etc.  Well, I'm not one to make a show and I'm sure you understand a little better now that (2) of our children are the same way-we really don't enjoy the spotlight.  If I'm going to post something for the whole world to see, I feel more comfortable informing, making the world a better place by what I have to say or share.

So, honey, this is for you-you get the spotlight, you get the fame.

But, its also a little bit for me-I get to share with everyone how great you are and hope that others will learn from you about what marriage and love and sacrifice really are.  

1. You have a passion and love for life

So often, I can take life too serious and I need you to help me smile, be spontaneous and joke around.  You look for the best in others and get to know know others so well, you give them a suitable nickname.  You can make light even in the most stressful of situations. You know how to make people laugh,  roll their eyes, ease awkward moments, or bring a little joy when there is complete sadness or devastation all around.  I remember the puppies you bought when your cousin died and the funny memories you shared about your grandpa when he passed to make everyone laugh.  And I'm sure your family can't deny, that you had a part in the starting over after both fires of the business.  
2. You have a generous and loving heart

One of the first things I remember you telling me after we met
is the Christmas gifts you were going to give your family members. You are always ready to give of your time and your talent.  If you're not mowing our lawn, your mowing the neighbors, Father's, or the Church's.  When someone needs your help, you are there even if the other party always has an excuse to never come to help you. You don't expect payback and in fact one time you said to me that you would rather have someone not return you a favor instead of you having an obligation of owing someone for something.  That's living the Gospel, and that's what I consider a REAL man! 

3. You're a Great Dad

Tessa dancing with Daddy
First, I love how you are open to life and try to figure out what God's plan for children are in our marriage.  I love to hear the kids say, "Dad, let's play."  And you can be sure to be found wrestling on the floor, playing ball, giving piggy back rides, dancing to the music, or helping build something.   

Joanna and Dad
4. You teach me to love and to be grateful 
I'm not a touchy, feel y person.  I often put up a wall that sometimes is hard to break down.  But you have taught me to open up, to surrender to what God has in store, that its ok to be afraid of getting hurt by someone you love, but to hope for the best in another person. You have taught me to be thankful for life's wonderful gifts.    

5. You always have a wink or a kiss, or tell me you love me, or that I'm beautiful. . . 
even when I know I'm not.  Like when I haven't had a chance to shower for days or I've been up all night with a sick kid.  You can see past all that.  Even when I'm not the most lovable person, you bring me flowers or wine, or another surprise for no reason at all.  

6. You are loyal

I can always count on your help.  Early on in our marriage when you helped in the classroom to now with situations with the kids or events that take place in our lives.  You always step in to help, even when you don't want to.  Even when you shouldn't be the main one helping me, and even when no one else will. 

I truly admire your loyalty to those who are meant to protect and honor you, but instead call you names, talk behind your back, say you don't work hard enough, assume things that may or may not happen or be true, blame you for their faults or when things aren't going smoothly.  Not too long ago someone said something about you in front of others that was completely rude and inappropriate.  It upset you, but that same person, without apologizing, texted you the very next morning, asking you for a favor. You left earlier than normal before work, to help them out.  I don't know if I could be so Christian to do the same.   

7.  You are a hard worker/provider for the family
I know that when you come home from work, you'd much rather sit in the recliner, take a nap or watch a show.  But, almost always, you have more work-taking care of the animals, the yard, the garden, helping me in the kitchen or with the kids.  Or, you are off to another job just to make ends meet.  And its not because you want more money or think we need more money, but it's truly for the sake of the family, so I can stay home with kids.

And those times you come home from work and give foot rubs-knowing you won't get one in return-I hate feet! 

8.  You put God first
Not only do you go to Mass every Sunday, but you make sure we give God His share.  When money is tight and we're not sure how we're going to make ends meet, you never skimp on tithing.  I know I've said several times, that maybe we could not give as much and try to make it up the next time, but your answer was always, "no."  I know you have been overwhelmed at times with life and our situation and not know where to turn, but you ALWAYS have trust in His plans for us and try to help me to see as well.  By putting God first, it makes it easier for you to make people and family more important than things, your wants and desires, and "your" time.  
Advent Prayer Time

9.  You are Genuine
In a world where there's unceasing drama and people are continually two-faced (two of my biggest pet peeves), you are honest with me.  You don't sugar coat anything.  You can point out my weaknesses, but my gifts and talents as well. You are quick to give compliments and suggestions of how to make things better or become a better person.    
Dominic wants to be just like Dad
It's been a really long time since I've written a post and I can't think of a better reason than this to post another one.  I couldn't have asked for a better spouse to help me reach Heaven!  Thank you and I love you!  

Thank you for the latest project that I was a little insistful about, which you had very little time to complete and probably spent too much time on something for me instead of working.  I love it-it's one of my favorites!  Thank you!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

To Have Walked In the Midst of a Saint

This year I've been trying to choose a saint a month for the kids to learn about.

January was St. John Bosco        excerpts from Dominic's saint book

   February was the 3 children of Fatima         March was St. Joseph         coloring by Joanna

I am so excited about the saint I have chosen for April!  St. John Paul the Great.  Yes, you heard right!  This Sunday, April 27, Pope Francis will canonize his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.  Sunday also happens to be Divine Mercy Sunday, a day that PJPII "established" in 2000, died on it's vigil in 2005, and was beatified on this day in 2011. 


 Here are some activities I plan on doing with my 2 older kids to learn about this soon to be saint and His relation with Jesus:

  • talking about forgiveness 
  • this Divine Mercy Jesus craft  
  • since my kids like dressing up and I got a super good deal on this felt at a garage sale today  (I know, I know-Divine Providence!) we will make this zuccetcho  (pope's hat) 
  • coloring the Luminous Mysteries and talking about how the rosary and Mary lead the way to Jesus
  • update 4/27-my children had fun coloring the Pope on this page
  • making it a 3:00 habit to recite the Divine Mercy message given to St. Faustina from Jesus: "Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy on us and on the whole world."  
  •  I'm sure they will also thoroughly enjoy a homemade Divine Mercy Sundae!
I look forward to reading or rereading various works written by this saint as well as new books that have come out recently about him.  I'd love to hear your recommendations! 

For those of you wondering why we put so much emphasis on saints, I'd like to compare this to remembering a loved one (whether one who has died or is still alive). Who wouldn't want to share the story a person they respect so much?  This might mean commemorating them with pictures, an item they used, enjoyed or gifted you or honoring them by telling stories and sharing memories.  So this week I've put pictures and other memorabilia of this man who has brought me closer to Christ to share with my family in a special place of honor.  

For you, dear reader, I go on in sharing with you why Pope John Paul II is dear to my heart. Often times, Rome seems so distant.  I remember being so impressed when a classmate of mine went to Denver in 1994 to see the Pope.  I couldn't believe that he actually came here.  I never imagined I'd have a similar opportunity to "meet" the Pope, but five years later I was able to go to St. Louis when he visited.  No words could fully describe the atmosphere of the huge Kiel Center filled with thousands of youth  and the celebration of Mass in the Trans World Dome of people all because of one man-one man so close to Christ. I do not remember the words he spoke nor a theme he inspired, but I do know the depth of his silence in prayer.  That spoke a thousand words-center your life on Christ.  He was so full of the Lord!  

Again, I had the chance to be in his presence in 2003 during a short college study/pilgrimage to Rome.   Here is my closest and best picture I took while attending a Wednesday Papal Audience.  

My two encounters with this man have made Rome not so far away, but at every doorstep in life-every Church, every person, every experience. It was here that the 4 marks of the Church (one, holy, catholic, apostolic) came to light for me.   Because it is here that Christ chose to establish His Church deep in history and tradition from the Apostles until now in the men we know as bishops.  If each person could have experienced the joy in being with this man, whether meeting him face to face, encountering his deep love for God through his many writings, or being revealed to him from one from the JPII Generation, I truly think this world would be a better place.  For me, being in his presence was a little glimpse of being in the presence of God.  

When I think of this man, I admire his great love for life-from conception to natural death and all stages in between.  I thank him for his love for family and human love in his gift of Theology of the Body.  I desire his great love for Mary, Christ's mother and ours and his gift to us in the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary.  I stand in awe for his love of God's mercy and forgiveness- considering the era he lived and served a midst and the wonderful example he gave us in forgiving the those who sought his life.  I marvel at his love for the Church-the number of saints he canonized and the precedence he set for us all in so many ways.  And most importantly, I want to share his love for Christ-how he lived and died the Gospel.   

When looking at some pictures of the Pope, Joanna wanted to know about him.  When told that he was in Heaven, she informed me she wanted to go see him.  I told her I did too.  Let us recall some of the very first words he spoke as Pope:  "Be not afraid, open wide the doors for Christ."  If we "arrange our life so that everything praises God", as he once said, then we, too, will be able to share the joy of Heaven.  And as my son said as he looked at a framed photograph I have of him while he is deep in prayer, "He looks so happy!"   

By no means do I want to leave out another wonderful man who will also be canonized this Sunday-Pope John XXIII.  Here is a photo I took while in Rome.  His body had been recently exhumed in preparation for the process of to see if he should be indeed canonized.  As you can see, he is incorrupt.  To me, that speaks wonders of God's will.  God is good!  

Have a blessed and holy Divine Mercy Sunday!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm an Aunt!

The day my first nephew was born (3 months ago already!), it seemed like forever before my brother called to tell us his name and all the other fun details. I was super pumped-and it didn't help that I had to wait A WHOLE WEEK TO MEET HIM.  Until a few months ago, I couldn't quite explain that squeal of excitement (Kristen) or the leap thingy a midst a round of applause (Katie) when we announced our bun(s) warming in the oven.  But now that I'M an aunt, I know that feeling. That overly excited emotion you just can't fully explain-except with some gesture that all you non-aunts aren't quite able to figure out.  

I'm really looking forward to this new role I have.  I remember the fun times I had with my aunt who was the big sister I didn't have.  Some of my earliest memories are times spent with her.  (In fact, one of my very first words was "Ne Ne" for my Aunt Kendra.) Auntihood is a unique relationship-a motherlike bond with discipline on the down-low.  I mean being an aunt is kind of like being a mom-just with no strings attached.  You know-- 

no 2 a.m. mealtimes or diaper changes
no Two's Company when you need a bathroom break
no 4 handed typing, or cooking, or folding laundry. . .  
no one-handed pecking or cooking or laundry. . . while holding a babe
no wondering whatever happened to TGIF
no  puzzling over the fascination of trash cans, toilets, mud pies, and house plants

I could go on, but hey, I don't want to give Tony any ideas.  For now the only thing I have to worry about is giving lots of snuggles and what I shall be called. . . Aunt Danielle, or Aunt Nellie, or maybe Auntie Nell. . . .


Tony, I promise we weren't trying to hurt you.  We were just getting you used to a wild bunch of cousins and  your future siblings. . . lots and lots of siblings!
                             Dominic, Tessa, Joanna, and Tony at Thanksgiving at Great-Grandmas
 Tony at Christmas 

    Tony, you have a special place in my heart.  You are perfect-just how God made you.  You have a good Mommy and Daddy who will raise you, not in the ways of this world, but in God's light so we can spend forever in eternity.  We pray for you every night in our "God Bless" prayers.  Remember those saints whom you were named after and follow in their footsteps.  I look forward to watching you grow-physically and spiritually in the years to come.  Your aunt loves you! 

To My Brother and Sister-In-Law: 
How to Raise a Child

Raising a child is not an easy task.   
Learn, love, forgive, and grow- now that's quite a feat  
whose secret recipe is hard to unmask. 

Advice you find from family and friends,  
the media, a book, or folks on the street  
about how to raise your child, or so its penned. 

But I've discovered the best aid around! 
Help you can seek day or night, in calm, storm or sleet; 
anytime and anywhere it can be found.  

 Inquire the best sippy or catechize birds 'n bees.  
Such a treasure shouldn't be put on the back seat.  
Where might be this place you ask?  Why, upon your knees! 

Congratulations on your new baby boy! He'll bring much love and hope and joy! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Musings of a Mom: New Year's Resolution, Firsts At School, and More

Newsfeed: Someone told me its been awhile since they've seen a post.  Yes-it's been over 4 months!  My answer- I've been busy!  I could give you a whole list of things-you know the piles of dirty AND clean laundry, all the cooking, cleaning, nose wiping, diaper changing that I've been doing, but I'm sure every mom is in that same boat.  And besides, that just makes my life seem stressful, overwhelming, and each little detail just another chore.

I've been reflecting on the my New Year's Resolutions (the new church year started yesterday-the 1st day of Advent-in the Catholic Church). All these things I've been doing are more than just work. It's part of this totally awesome vocation I have called motherhood!  Raising saints for God-it's my ultimate call of duty.  Now that's busy like nobody's business!!  Not only is every detail-work and play-to be dedicated to them (and ultimately to God), but you're also working on attaining that sainthood yourself. 

So my new year's resolution is to first remember this responsibility as I arise each morning and second to ask for God's grace to fulfill it in a loving, cheerful, and totally surrendering fashion so that I might not loose sight of my mission.

I think it's time to change my voice mail message: "Hi, its Danielle.  I can't come to the phone right now; I'm busy raising saints.  Leave me a message and I'll get back to you when our halo shining lesson is finished!"  

The greatest honor God can do a soul is not to give it much, but ask much of it.
-St. Therese of Lisieux

And tell me, do you play with your children? Do you waste time with your children?  The free gift of a parent's time is so important.  
-recent words from Pope Francis

I'm Reading:  Patience and Humility by William Ullathorne (for advent)

From the Kitchen: Canning season is over and my kitchen counter top is a little less crowded.  I'll be honest, I don't particularly like to can food-it's not a simple task especially with little ones. Every winter, however, those long, hot summer and fall hours spent in the kitchen seem to dissipate when you see all the food lined in the pantry and freezers knowing that you won't have to buy 'that' or make 'this'.  

With 173 jars of pickles, saurerkraut, tomatoes, salsas, beans, peaches. . .and numerous ziplocs of various fruits and vegies in the freezer, I'm feeling like a squirrel with food all stored up for winter!  (Thanks mom for teaching me how to scavenger and prepare!)
Here's my last fresh produce from our garden-a batch of fresh salsa.  For some weird reason, I always get excited about eating the last of the tomatoes from the garden around Thanksgiving time.  We just finished it last night! 

The Kids:

                                         Dominic's 1st day of Kindergarten

No, I didn't cry his first day-he was ready; I was ready.  After awhile it was getting pretty hectic in the mornings making him a snack and lunch for school, cooking breakfast, reminding him every 2 minutes to get ready for school, dressing the girls, not to mention getting myself at least out of my pj's.  I told him it was time to walk to school on his own. "Couldn't we just wait until I turn 6?" he asked. I knew he wasn't ready yet and told myself I could stick it out for a few more weeks.  
                                                    Dominic (and mom) happy for his birthday

His first day to walk to school by himself he cried; I teared up watching him sniffle and then wipe away his tears.  But I knew I couldn't give in because then he'd never do it on his own. We talked about making sure we look both ways at the Church driveways.  We talked about his special friend that God gave just to him.  So you see, he really isn't walking to school on his own.  He's got a faithful friend EVERYDAY for the rest of his life. 

 And you know what, he hasn't cried or even bemoaned the fact that mom doesn't walk him to school.  Since then he seems to accomplish new things everyday: tying his own shoes, riding his bike without training wheels, reading books, and writing up a storm. 

Putting her into words is not so easy.  Dominic calls her a "yak". She is shy if she doesn't know you, but look out if she does!  She is full of energy and spunk.   She's quick in defending herself and her 3 year old logic has caused some power struggles. Contentious is a good adjective for her.  

She has become my big helper now that Dominic is gone during the day.  She likes to vacuum and help fold washrags and socks.  I'm sure one of the highlights of her year was the gymnastics class she took.  She loved it-from getting to go somewhere (she's always asking), to exerting some of her energy, to gawking at the other girls there.  
                         Joanna is second from left in the back row  (thanks Dad for taking picture)

She got her second haircut this fall, mainly to help manage her wound  (see previous post)  The scar where she received 4 staples is hardly noticeable and is well hidden by her hair. The wound that should have had staples caused a roller coaster ride.  It's looking much better, no longer hurts her, and we're praying that hair will grow once again.

                                                               before her haircut
                                                                                                    after haircut

It's hard to believe Tessa is nearly a year old!  She loves to mimic, watch her big brother and sister, and join in on the fun.  She is a loving little gal-full of hugs and kisses-she'll even go up to her brother and sister to kiss them when they are crying.  She loves for you to play silly with her and her latest thing is to throw herself backwards when you are holding her if she thinks its play time.  She constantly pulls off her socks-what a game!

Her latest words are "uh oh"  and newest signs are "all done' and "bye".  Sign language for "more" just makes her laugh.  She loves singing time and prayer time.  Before bed, Dominic reads a short story from his early reader book, then Joanna gets her turn at "reading".  Last night, Tessa pulled down a magazine and was "talking" right along as if she knew what to do.  

Her other pasttimes include flushing the toilet (ummm, really anything that involves the toilet), getting into cabinets-favorites are the ones filled with games, underneath the kitchen sink, and her ultimate-getting in the coconut oil bucket that is supposed to be hidden!  She keeps me on my feet!

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!

Look for my upcoming post: I'm An Aunt!  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Speak Lord: A Listening Lesson

Sometimes it takes a hit to the head to truly take a good look at what's going on in your life- literally.  I was a freshman in college, at an indoor track meet carrying my starting blocks toward the starting line when I was plowed over by another sprinter.  It knocked me out-concussion, bruises all over from such force and from the huge metal blocks landing on top of me, and a tooth they said I'd have to get pulled. I was told I was walking the wrong way around the track; that I wasn't paying attention, but I SWORE I was.  But you know what, I was walking the wrong way and I wasn't paying attention. . . to my life; to what God was calling me to do.  

Fast forward 12.5 years.  Loud crash.  Crying.  Search one room.  No kid.  Panic. Search second room.  Bench on top of daughter; lift it off her and ask if she's ok.  "Yes."  Lift her up. Blood. . .  and lots of it.  Things get a little crazy and time seems to stand still, but after a trip to the ER and 4 staples to the back of the head later, Joanna is her busy, boisterous self.  

That night, I tried putting all the events in order.  I can't remember exactly what I was doing at that moment, but I had planned to start cleaning my house that day for an upcoming party I'm hosting.  In the midst of me thinking if only I'd have. . . or thank goodness this. . . ., Psalm 46:10 kept coming to me. God was telling me over and over  "be still; be still; be still."  Be still and know that I am God."  

In the months leading up to the birth of Tessa as well as in labor, two bible verses soothed my soul: Jeremiah 29:11 and this one.  I found great comfort in contemplating God's words as well as listening to one of my very favorite songs: Be Still My Soul sung by Katie Gustafson.  Listen to the song here.  (My kids like to play it over and over for me-it's catching!)  

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I need reminders to keep on the right track or to find meaning in everyday life.  God is always speaking to us these same words He spoke to David long ago: "be still." Unfortunately for my daughter it again took a knock to the head for me to listen.  It seems our lives are anything but still.  When I'm busy, distracted, or overcommitted, I might miss God.  When I'm under pressure, anxious, or in a hurry I might not hear Him talking to me. 

Now I'm not saying this axcdent (as Joanna would say) wouldn't have happened if my long list of "things to do" wasn't on my mind, but it made me slow down and put things in perspective.  For God says in Matthew 6:34 "do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." Or like St. Martha whom the Lord tells, "you are anxious about many things, but only one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the better part." Jesus wasn't telling her not to serve Him, but that at that moment he was calling her to be with Him-worship and adore Him.  

                                         [painting of Saint Martha]

The Martha and Mary story reminds me of the Benedictine motto: ora et labora  (pray and work).  This balanced way of living that St. Benedict, (whose feast we celebrated July 11th,) lived and taught isn't an obsolete practice, but something so needed in the modern world.  By giving God prayer time, He leads us into a deeper union with Him.  Fruits of prayer are peace and the capability to do His will for Him.  By putting God first, all else will be ordered in our lives: our work, play, relationships, etc.  In a disordered lifestyle where God is second, last, occasional, or not there at all, our lives are basically a downward spiral of overwhelming disasters.  As Celeste at Sacred Sharings for the Soul puts it, we create a god out of work and the fruits of this "devotion" are not able to sustain us or satisfy our needs. The often ignorant idea of what obedience to God entails or may ask of our lives can keep us prisoner to the world and unable to attain what we are truly striving for. It keeps us slaves to something that does not provide for what we truly need.     


 Sometimes (for me as a mom) it's easy to know the next task at hand: e.g. a crying, hungry baby, a dirty diaper, or the beans boiling over on the stove.  But at other times seeking God in our actions (simply the next task at hand or a major life decision) may seem blurry.  It takes discernment; prayerful discernment.  If we seek God in our work or ask God what He is calling us to do next, our work can become a form of prayer.  By embracing the Rule of St. Benedict, we can live a harmonious life of prayer and work so, as again Celeste writes, " that we are not slaves to our tasks, or victims of empty and burdensome rushed prayers."  

The Martha and Mary story also reminds me that I am most definitely a Martha!  I dislike last minute plans (in fact, at times, I loathe them!).  I am a planner, and although I know things rarely go as planned, I still like a schedule and a heads up of things that will be happening.  I've got a list-if not on paper, for sure in my head and usually both!  I'm also a perfectionist.  I've got it all fashioned how it "should" be and when its not I'm bound to be disappointed or in need of taking it all in.  It's hard for me to 'let go' and surrender.  Like Martha, I am anxious about many things, but even anxiousness and worries can be given to the Lord.  The rewards of putting our complete trust in Him are far greater than we can ever imagine!  I seek, (although not often enough) St. Martha's intercession to be still and to desire to do a wife's/mother's work with a joyful heart.  All things happen for a reason and God is shaping my heart by the circumstances in my life.  In prayer and work, I can experience peace and joy despite upset plans, deadlines, disappointments and the unexpected turn of events. 
And so to my guests for this Sunday:
*My floors may not be clean, but I did play catch in the rain with my husband and kids.
*I may not have dusted, but I was busy watching homemade confetti fireworks.  
*I may not have the laundry folded and put away, but we've been trying to "teach" the baby to crawl. 

Let us strive to be like Samuel who says, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening" (Samuel 3:10)  For knowing and doing God's will gains us a spirit of peace and joy beyond our wildest dreams.  It gives the hardest or most mundane tasks purpose.  And our actions become prayers themselves.  It's amazing that when we give all to God, He gives us much, much more!  If we fail to listen to God, we might just miss some of life's greatest moments.  I'm glad I didn't miss. . . 

celebrating Joanna's Baptism anniversary  (July 11),

making castles,

and making bubble mustaches.

What is God saying to you?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Do Bombs Kill People Too?

Sometimes I wish we could live in our own little bubble and protect our children from all the evil and violence of today.   All the recent shootings, the Abortionist Gosnell story, and today's Boston bombing, just add to the atrocities of our day.  

Is there a solution to all these mass murders?  Is the answer in tighter restrictions-so called gun control?  Will this reverse the feelings of anger, sadness, and revenge?  Will this replace violent tendencies?  Or will they find another way to kill others or themselves?  

The hands behind the guns kill.  

And what about these shooters who are behind the guns?  Do we ignore the fact that so many-recent and not so recent-shootings have been linked to psychiatric drugs-those that list violence, homicidal tendencies, and suicide as their side effects?  (source) (source)  (source) (source)   The reason for being on those drugs can be numerous, but it makes me wonder, did God really intend for us to use such things that are supposed to make us better but can cause such horrific things?  

What's the story behind today's bombings?  Can we take away all the makings of a bomb and expect things to get better? What took the lives of innocent people today and injured numerous more?  

The hands assembling the bomb kill.

What about each heartbeat within a mother's womb that begs to be given a chance at life?  Is it the tools and instruments that kill an innocent babe's life?     

The hands of an abortionist kill.
The mothers and fathers kill their "unwanted" one. 

There is a solution!  Our hope is in the Lord!  We NEED God in our lives-in our schools, at the dinner table, in our relationships with others.  We NEED to see God in those we encounter each day.  We NEED to know God in order to seek forgiveness when we've gone astray.  We NEED to love God so we can grow in holiness and virtue.  We NEED to serve God, bringing God to those who do not know Him, do not love Him, or do not serve Him.  We NEED God to reverse the state our country and our world are in today.  Where do we begin??  It starts with YOU!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Musings of a Mom: Toy Story 3/17/13

News Feed:  Habemus Papam!
For me, as I am sure for many of you who witnessed the white smoke and revealing of the Catholic Church's 265th successor to St. Peter, words cannot fully describe emotions.  From the moment he appeared on the balcony, I could see his newly chosen name shine forth-such simplicity in poise, gesture; such humility in praying first for Pope Benedict and then asking our prayers for him before blessing us.   This is exactly how I would envision St. Francis of Assisi standing there.

 And each day as I learn more about our Holy Father, I see hope for our future.  Jesus is speaking to him like he told St. Francis: "rebuild my Church."  Of course, being guided by the Holy Spirit, he will carry on the teachings of the Church, but in a way the Church hasn't seen for awhile.  I see change, but a change that is needed for the good of the "ordinary" person, both in the Church or those fallen away from it.  How I love the gifts of faith, theology and philosophy of his predecessors, but I believe Pope Francis will teach us how to live in such a way to avoid the great scandals, corruptions, and heinous crimes of our world today.  We do not have to have taken the vows of poverty to be poor in spirit as Jesus says in Matthew 13:44
(Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.)  To be poor in spirit, means nothing is more valuable than God; nothing will get in our way of knowing, loving, and serving Him.  By learning to love the poor and learning to live in poverty, we can be rich in God's gifts.  Being stripped of luxury helps us to see ourselves as we truly are and our neighbor as a child of God.   (please read Around the House section below for a more in depth reflection of being poor in spirit.)  

New Popes are like new children-before they are here you wonder how you could love them as much as the others, but when they finally come your heart overflows with love.  I've spent the past days falling in love again.  Thank you God for your Church and the leader you have chosen for us!

Cheering on Pope Francis with a "terrible towel" blessed by Pope John Paul II during his  1999 Papal visit to St. Louis

I'm Pondering: The 13th of March also marked the 34th birth/death anniversary of my big brother.  There have been many times that I've wished he was here for a shoulder to lean on and guidance in time of trial. I've asked myself why I had the weight of being the role model for 6 younger siblings; however there have been so many times that I have felt his intercessory prayers on my behalf.
Joanna and Tessa are lucky to have a big brother!

I'm Praying:  praying for my 2 Lenten souls-the 2 men discussed in my last Musings post and for Pope Francis

We're Praying:  Stations of the Cross (read my last post for 20% off Holy Heroes website)

I'm Reading: Victory Over Vice  by Archbishop Fulton Sheen (I could read this every Lent!)

Around the House:                                TOY STORY
Toys at our household have been "cleaned up" and organized.  Between being a busy mom, I've been working on this section.  Please note that all in red are my reflections after the election of Pope Francis.       
The house has seemed more cluttered due to the craziness a new baby brings to a household.  It gets crowded, unorganized, chaotic, and overwhelming.  Sometimes you wonder where all this stuff came from-and where your sanity (and patience, orderliness, etc) went to. Matthew Kelly states in Building Better Families, that "our lives are suffering from modern complexity.  We never get enough of what we don't really need."

It's true.  Today it seems that the more we have, the more we want.  We have to have the most, the best, the latest, or what our neighbor has.  Archbishop Sheen in his chapter on Gluttony in the aforementioned book, says this is a basic problem of life.  "Should the soul do what the body wants, or should the body do what the soul wants?  Each has its appetites, and each is imperious in the satisfaction of its wants.  If we please one, we displease the other, and vice versa.  Both of them cannot sit down together at the banquet of life.  The development of character depends on which hunger and thirst we cultivate"

 There's no better time than Lent to focus on "letting go and letting God."  Letting go of our desires -denying ourselves-purging- in order to grow spiritually and remember we depend on God.  Letting go of material goods (excess) so excuses "to have" aren't so inviting, but the invitation to let God into our soul is.  We must discipline ourselves to transform our whole person: body and soul to become more like Him.  "Becoming by grace what God is by nature" as St. Athanasius said.  

In a small house it's easy to get congested and in each other's way, but for me it makes purging easier. (Oh, yes, there are still times it's hard to let go.) There's a great sense of relief to see that pile to get rid of, to donate, or to trash. A burden is lifted for materialism weighs you down-your focus is not on God, but rather on stuff.   We need to get rid of excess, learn to say no, and simplify our lives.  The devil likes chaos and disharmony.  With all the toys, gadgets, media, and "stuff" we get caught up in-watching, listening, playing, attending to, etc, the devil can easily disguise himself and get into our lives.  Simplifying helps us to truly, honestly enjoy what and who God has created with order and true beauty so we can praise Him.

There's also no better time than Lent to teach these virtues to our children.   Dr. Raymond Guarendi, a Catholic clinical psychologist and author of Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime: The Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids, says that "materialism can be a forerunner to self-centeredness, endless demands, ingratitude, and boredom."  "I have seen," he says, "few children lacking for character because they lacked for material perks.  I have seen quite a few who lacked for it because they were indulged."

Toys are meant to be fun for children.  Playing is their work-this is how they learn.  Mary Reed Newland says "there are two kinds of things a child learns from play: the character things and the joy things.. . joy is a reflection of our Father who is in Heaven.  Early childhood is the time to connect play with God and the joy of eternity." 

 Learning who they are as God made them should begin at a very early age.  It is so important for you to nurture their inherent qualities.  Girls act like ladies, are modest, nurturing, open to all that is good and holy, and recognize goodness.  Toys that encourage all things girl are important like kitchen sets or dolls or dressing like a princess.  Boys respect others, are honorable, disciplined, and trustworthy.  They are protectors of all that is right and good.  Boys like toys with wheels, fixing things, and slaying the dragon! (Don't get me wrong- tractors and trucks can be good for girls and boys ARE allowed in the kitchen!)
Each family and individual is unique and has its own gifts and personalities that must also be fostered.  Some may be musically or artistically inclined while others prefer the competition of playing ball or games.  Others prefer hands on approach and might favor science kits or want to be just like daddy and play with the farming set.  

Toys are fun for adults too-don't we normally give a gift not because we have to, but because we love to see their faces light up and the joy they have in playing with them?  To a point, there is nothing wrong with this.  However, many toys quickly lose their luster.  Kids become bored, want what other kids have and like us, become overwhelmed with "stuff".  The trend at our household is that the kids always play with or do not tire easily of the traditional toys.  It is funny how they will turn to those things they relate to best.  These are the things that have been around for generations and in fact, items I'm sure our grandchild will play with.

lessons purging toys can teach

1.appreciation/gratefulness for what they do have
2.generosity-sharing with others (giving is better than receiving)
3.God can never be outdone in generosity-We had a good example of this last week.  As I was working on this post, Tessa won a raffle basket at our parish/school's dinner.  The kids were excited to receive a storage box with dress up costumes, accessories, and other pretend play items. 
4.responsibility-a say in what to keep or not to keep, but also help in organizing and clean up
5. moderation
6.  simplicity-"Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven."  Matthew 18:3   Children too, must learn to have a relationship with others, ultimately Christ, and not be attached to earthly things.
My St. Francis statue, once on my bookshelf, now stands on my china hutch.  It's a good visual reminder of simplicity and not complicating things that I can see each time I enter my kitchen.  I bought this while in Assisi in 2003.   

 "rules" I've used while purging

1. Trash/Recycle
*broken*dangerous*not working properly*missing pieces

2. Donate/Get rid of if  prayerfully reflect on who is most in need or who would most benefit from those things you are no longer keeping 
*toys haven't been played with for quite some time or child doesn't 
remember the toy exists 
*you have 5 gazillion and you really only need 1 or 2
*toys that make more clutter than it's worth-Do I want to pick this up everyday?  Do they really play with this?  

3. Reconsider
*toys that cost more in the long run  e.g. battery operated toys or toys that parts are not included or have to buy more when they run out
*toys that may be dangerous; especially those a small child may put in his/her mouth
            -plastic toys may contain dangerous chemicals such as the estrogen mimicking/hormone disruptor BPA or it's equally dangerous sister BPS
         -polyvinyl chloride (PVC): chemical plasticizer that leach, flake, or off-gas over time which can cause risks from asthma to cancer.  It is known that those toys containing PVC which are sucked on cause damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys.   
         -pthalates is another chemical used to make toys flexible that are endoctrine disruptors 
*toys may also contain such chemicals lead-toys that limit a child's imagination or cognitive skills-my motto is "the more    a toy does, the less the child thinks"
Mary Reed Newland in her book, How to Raise Good Catholic Children says of play:" Play relates to the whole child, his whole body, all his members, his senses, his imagination, his will, and in his joy after happy play or his discontent after the unhappy, it touches his soul."


Staying organized aka: sane

1. Everything has its place (and no, it isn't always where it's supposed to be, but it helps!)
*label if necessary
*store in an appropriate accessible, logical place
*don't expect kids to know-give them a "tour" and simple reminders where toys belong when picking up

2. Schedule a "pick up" time each day
*ours is before Daddy comes home  (most days-3 times a week counts right??  At least it helps!!)
*any teacher knows that routines are essential to maintain classroom discipline-there is no true learning when the environment is chaotic

3. Help (younger children) pick up
*usually gets the job done faster
*can turn it into a fun game
*they aren't as likely to give excuses like " I didn't get this toy out"  OR "I didn't make this mess"
*easier to give reminders of where toys belong 
*model helping our neighbor 

4.  Put Away in Storage
*consider age and level of maturity; some toys are not age appropriate (e.g. baby toys are away in container until needed so they don't become unnecessary clutter)  
*rotate toys if needed (switch toys out every so often so they are like "new" toys)

5. Stick to your guns
*go through toys every so often, remembering your own rules
*remember your rules and motto when purchasing toys
*just because other kids have it doesn't mean yours needs it
                -opportunity cost: (a great way to teach economics and sacrificing all in one) sometimes figuring out how many hours dad has to work to get this toy or if your family does allowances, how many hours this toy equals
*softness can be a form of sloth (laziness) 

Wow!  I could/should have done a whole post just on toys!

In the Kitchen:
-Homemade Chicken Broth: 4 quarts to freeze plus more used for Italian Lentil Soup. I think I'll be set for a month or so before needing to make more!
-Homemade Vanilla: First attempt at this; takes around 6 weeks before ready to use.  Can't wait! Nothing beats the smell of REAL vanilla!
-Interesting!  I've never cooked with beer before and I've used my husband's home brew in two different recipes this week!

Most Important Tasks: 
-write letter to Grandma

I'm Working On: cleaning my closet

The Kids:

Dominic:  Kindergarten screening was canceled because of the snow and he was quite disappointed.  He finally was able to "go" to school and again is a little disappointed that he can't keep going back. Only a few more months-he thinks he's ready and I couldn't agree more!
 He's been listening to his Gingerbread Boy and Other First Tales he got for Christmas.  He likes the story of The Little Red Hen the best and will repeat it for you.  I need to have him make his own storybook for it-he loves to draw!   

Joanna: loves dressing up both in the 'costumes' box and out of her own drawers.  It seems she changes multiple times a day.  Her "shopping" outfits, as she calls them, sometimes get pretty interesting!
She is so proud of the castles she's been building.   The colors of the rooftops have to match the columns!

Tessa:  2 months!!  It's so funny what little ones will do to get attention.  She is in the fake coughing stage.  It seems to work-  someone will always go talk to her or pick her up!  It makes her so happy to be talked to-she smiles and coos back at you.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We are having shepherd's pie and blarney stones to celebrate this saint of Ireland and our possible Irish heritage. . . that's another story!