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Caution: 5th Birthday Party Ahead

15 Dec

This little man?  Recently had a pretty rad birthday party, if I do say so myself. 

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James literally counted down to his birthday for about two months.  He was just so excited to be turning five because in our house that means you get to have your first birthday party where friends come on over to celebrate. It’s a pretty big deal. 

And so, for the first time ever, I hopped on Pintrest and gathered up ideas to pull off a super fun, all boy, 5th birthday party under the theme “trucks” per James’ request.

(For anyone who knows me…Pinterest and I?  Yeah….no.  That site makes me twitchy, hyper, and completely over stimulated.  I am no crafty Martha.  This is an indication of how much I love James and wanted to make his birthday a special and memorable day.  I would be perfectly OK never going back on that site.  The end.)

As one would expect, Pinterest did not fail in getting the creative juices flowing.   In the end?  This party was a complete success, and I may have found my inner-Martha Stewart—maybe).

Guests, 22 friends ranging in age from 3-11, with the few older ones serving as amazing little helpers, were greeted in our mudroom and asked to put on their uniforms and report for duty.

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The dining room and kitchen were transformed:

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We cleared out our living room of our regular furniture and set up stations. 

“Building Zone” aka Lego kits, building blocks, and various car construction kits.  There were activities for all ages of kiddos:

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“Painting Zone”  aka the Tattoo zone—because all construction workers need to get tatted up, am I right?

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“Hammering Zone” aka Pin the Nail on the Hammer (don’t look too closely at that hammer…remember, I’m not crafty!)

“Construction Zone” aka a pretty sweet construction kit (complements of Home Depot) that required a whole lotta pounding, gluing and patience from Jason and my dad and a few other dads who jumped in to help.

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“Wrecking Ball Zone” aka the truck Piñata.

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And, most importantly, the “Refuel Zone” where kids snacked until they were stuffed.  (I had so much fun with this…pictured below are a few of my favorite selections)

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We ended the afternoon with cupcakes and gifts.

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James’ love tank was over flowing after such a fun-filled afternoon.  He hugged each of his guests tightly and thanked them all for coming, for sharing in his special day and for bringing gifts that were so very him.  These family and friends that we have been blessed with, who know our kids so well and love them fiercely, I am so grateful for them and for the chance to share these special days with them.  I am confident that this day will be remembered for many years to come.

And because a birthday post wouldn’t be complete without our yearly interview, I bring you James, age 5 with all of his deep thoughts as he enters another year of being our spunky, spirited, and intensely loving little boy:

What is your favorite color(s)?

Well, I have a lot:  black, red, yellow, and orange.

What is your favorite sport?  Why?

Well, I haven’t done a lot of sports, but I want to learn how to do tennis.

Who is your favorite friend?

Owen, Colin, Seth, Evan and all my friends.

What do you like to do during your “free time?”

I like to build Legos and color when I’m inside and when I’m outside, I like to ride my bike and play in our play house.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A construction worker who get to drive the thing that bangs down houses.

What is your favorite and least favorite meal?

Favorite is pizza or burrito bowls

Least favorite is stir fry

What is your favorite dessert?

Ice cream and cupcakes.

What is your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

Favorite=handwriting and Explode the Code and coloring

Least Favorite=any time I have to cut out stuff

What do you like to do with Annie and Jonah?

I like playing with Jonah’s Lego sets and with Annie, I like it when she reads to me.

What do you like to do with your family?

Go on vacation and go to Cat Chat concerts.

What are your three favorite books that you read this year?

Freight Train, The Little Engine that Could, and the Beatrix Potter set and Winnie the Pooh and Homer Price and Ginger Pye and …. (he could have listed for hours!  The boy loves books!)

What are your favorite movies?

Chugginton and Thomas.

What is the most important thing that you know about God?

He is so great.  He died for us.

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Happy Birthday, sweet boy.  Here’s to another year of loving fiercely, living wildly (because you are a bit of a wild child), and growing into the little boy that God is calling you to be.  I love you so very much, buddy!

tough conversations

7 Nov

A few days ago, James snuggled into my lap and fell asleep.  I truly cannot remember the last time that happened.  He cuddled and slept for over an hour.  It was awesome and sweet and amazing confirmation that I really, really miss having wee little ones to snuggle and to cuddle.

Apparently the kids do, too, because every. single. day. they make a point to tell me or Jason or God during our petitions that they wish that I could have another baby.

“Momma, I wish you could have another baby in your belly, only I want it to live so we can meet it now.  I don’t want it to die like the other ones did in your belly.  I don’t want to have to wait until we get to Heaven some day to meet it; I want to be with it here on Earth right now,” Jonah lovingly told me during our morning time.

My heart longs for the same thing, Jonah.  You have no idea how many hours I’ve spent before the Blessed Sacrament talking to God about this very thing.

Annie’s used-to-be daily declaration of “Mommy, do you have any idea how much I wish I had a little sister?”  is slowly becoming less frequent. 

I think she is starting to accept God might just have other plans.  “I don’t understand why so many of our friend’s families have so many babies, but we only have the three of us.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  You and daddy would love to have more babies.  Why won’t God give you more?”

I know, sweet Annie.  God’s will is holy, perfect, and completely beyond my understanding. 

“Momma, I wish you could have more babies.  I know then I wouldn’t be the baby, but that would be OK, because I love babies.”

Yes, James, you are almost five and you are still our baby even if you are willing to give up the title. 

You guys, seriously, daily conversations like this with the kids are just hard.  I remember talking to my spiritual director about this a few years ago when we got the news that more biological children was probably not in the cards for us.  At that time, it was just Annie asking when God was going to send us another baby.  Father suggested gently telling her that God had other plans.

In theory, that sounds reasonable.  Except kids, well, they just don’t always except reality.  I’ve told them countless times that momma’s body, it just doesn’t do this pregnancy thing well.  But, the kids, well, they hold on to the hope. 

I think I do, too, sometimes.

an observation

9 Jul

Why, o why, is it so much easier to do what makes me feel awful at the end of the day than it is to do what I may not initially want to do, but know is right?

For example, chocolate chips.  They taste so dang good … and so I eat them.  A lot of them.  And then have a massive stomach ache later.  Moderation—not always my thing.

Or, helping the little people brush their teeth.  It is so much easier to  do everything else than it is to pick up that darn toothbrush and take the 2 minutes to brush their teeth.  Because, seriously, there is facebook to check.

And, what about making dinner.  That one kills me just about every day.  I try so stinkin’ hard to have dinner on the table at a reasonable hour.  For me, the only way that can happen is if I make a plan first thing in the morning and stick with it.  If that means throwing something in the crockpot right away, than I must do it in the morning.  Or even at lunchtime.  But, I can’t do it at 4pm (even cranking the crockpot on high, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best—yes, I’ve tried it too many times and am speaking from experience—it just doesn’t work).

But somewhere all of the things that encourage my procrastination, my morning walk, and making breakfast and cleaning it up….and so on, I loose my will to get to that crockpot dinner prep. 

And, alas, the day slips away from me and we are stuck eating eggs for dinner…again.  Or pasta.  This week it has been an alternation between the two.

In so many areas of my life I am incredibly self-disciplined…what we eat, how we school, the order I need in my house, etc  But man, my time management skills are TERRIBLE.  Just terrible. 

I need to be better disciplined.

Because what ends up happening more often than not is that I will run around like a crazy person, throw together dinner only to have my kids offer to help and then back away and say, “Do you just want me to go and play” when they see the crazy mom eyes popping out of my head and the steam coming from my ears, as I yell, “Get out of the kitchen.  We are going to be late for x,y, or z.  I need to finish this NOW!”

Ugh.

Doing the right thing at the right time…in all areas of my life.  It is just hard.

cleanly perspective

5 Jul

Something about the end of the school year brings about this intense need to purge, clean (and I mean gut out, scrub, and go all Martha Stewart clean), and organize every single room in the house.  And, the garage.  And, the detached workshop. 

It’s quite a project and one that I own with intense joy and determination.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that this is my type –A personality attempting to regain control over the house and the inevitable “letting go” that takes place during the school year.  So much letting go.

But, I’m telling you, something therapeutic happens in the scrubbing and the gutting.  God speaks in the quiet of my work, providing me an opportunity to process the whirlwind of a year that we just had.  With each room I purge, I feel like the view of the forest slowly returns and the fine details of the trees that were at the tip of my nose no longer seems so big and so daunting. 

I’ve determined that there is something about letting go of what is weighing you down physically that can lead to a freeing of the heaviness of life and to-do lists.  I’m living that now. 

I just finished the last room yesterday—the office—the room that was busting at the seams with my filled to the brim files of ministry work.  That work that I decided to take a year off from.  Projects are now ready to be handed over.  So much letting go.

I ended this 6 week purge by sleeping in until 9AM this morning.  Apparently gutting my house and my will is exhausting work.

[day three and four]

Half way to 18. What?

25 May

Dear Analise,

A few weeks back, I was chatting with Auntie Mi-Mi about your birthday and she reminded me that nine is half way to 18.  And at 18—you’re an adult.  And, you can move out, go to college, get married, become a nun…go and do whatever it is that God calls you too.  If the last 9 years goes as fast as these nine years has, well, that reality completely and utterly leaves me stress paralyzed.  I want the pause button in a serious way. 

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As I look over pictures from the last year, I am a bit speechless.  You have grown at least 3 or 4 inches—this was proven when you recently put on a pair of shorts from last summer and they fit like tight, short work out shorts instead of the bermudas they were intended to be.  We all got a good laugh out of that. 

And, just as your body continues to grow, so does your confidence in being  you.  One of the many things that I love about you is your complete and utter, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me” attitude.  You are you.  No explanations.  You aren’t afraid to express your opinions, your likes, and your dislikes.  You laugh at your own jokes, loudly crack up at others, and have developed a witty sense of humor (sounds a little like you dad, am I right?).  You never try to be like anyone else.  You are just you—perfectly made, authentically you. 

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And with all of that you-ness, well, that means there is a lot of me-ness going on because you and I?  We are a lot alike.  And that sometimes is a lot of personality in one room.  If all is well, there is a lot of awesomeness going on.  When I’m stressed or crabby, we tend to feed off of each other’s moods and that can just be down right painful.  Let’s just say we have had a lot of opportunities this year to say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”  For that kind of unconditional love, I am grateful because truly, you are my earthly reminder that our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally and there is no sin that He will not forgive.  I’m so grateful that you love me even when I totally stink at this mom gig.  Thank you, dear daughter.

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This year, you have begun taking horseback riding lessons and that has been such a source of joy for you.  You are an animal lover and I had no doubt that you would fall in love with anything that allowed you to call a sport something that involves animals.  You have also enjoyed earning badges and being part of a wonderful group of Catholic friends at your American Heritage Girls group.  You are also so excited about your Performing Arts camp this summer.  That’s one quality I’m glad you got from me.  You continue to rock out your piano lessons, and more than anything, it is a lovely opportunity for you to learn from your daddy.  We all know the gift that he has with music and it warms my heart to see you two sitting at the piano together. 

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For your birthday this year, we had the lame-ist of days with James still down with influenza and daddy and I barely functioning.  We managed to pull together a birthday meal and ice cream pie, that only you and Jonah ate.  You have taken a rain check on your party and we will celebrate in a few weeks with the extended family. 

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As you are now officially in your last year of single digits, my prayer is that you continue your walk with the Lord, falling deeper and deeper in love with Him as you seek answers to the questions that are forever toiling around in your mind.   And, I continue to offer prayers that you know deeply how wonderfully and perfectly you were made and just how much God loves you and so does the rest of your family.

I love you sweet girl and am forever grateful for the gift that you are to me, our family and those around you.

All my love,

Momma-lou

::And, now for your annual birthday Q&A::

 What is your favorite color(s)?

Pink

What is your favorite sport?  Why?

Horse back riding lesson because I love horses, riding them and learning all kinds of cool things about them.

Who is your favorite friend?

I have too many to choose just one.

What do you like to do during your “free time?”

Play with Samantha and Lily (American Girl doll and horse), play board games and pretend we are going on many different adventures with Jonah and James.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A veterinarian because I love animals.

What is your favorite and least favorite meal?

Favorite is Beef and Noodle OR pizza

Least favorite is stir fry

What is your favorite dessert?

Ice cream pie

What is your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

Favorite=history and writing

Least Favorite=I don’t have one.  I really like all of the subjects.

What do you like to do with Jonah and James?

Play games and pretend all sorts of things.  I also like to go outside, play at the park and read to them.

What do you like to do with your family?

Read good books, play games, go to the park and ride our bikes.

What are your three favorite books that you read this year?

The Eleanor Estes, Edward Eagers, and Boxcar children series.

What are your favorite movies?

Frozen and Tangled

What is the most important thing that you know about God?

That He died on the cross to save us from our sins and then rose from the dead and opened the gates of Heaven so that we can be with him in Heaven.

Education as Imitation

13 Apr

Education is the art of imitation.

I think that I have made it clear in previous posts that my desire in educating my children is to lead them to truth, to goodness and to beauty.  And, so, if educating is imitating, it leaves me pondering an essential question:

Am I worthy of being imitated?

Repeat that question slowly, friends:  Am I worthy … of being imitated?

Because if we open our minds to the truth that education is about so much more than textbooks, workbooks, and tests, we are left with the painful, yet liberating truth that life is education.  So, how am I living my life?

Am I worthy of being imitated?

For me, that question begs a lot of other questions about what that really looks like on a daily basis.

What have I placed as priorities in my life?  How are my habits of rest and work?  Is there an ordered balance that reflects biblical teachings of honoring the Sabbath?  After all, we were created for the Sabbath.

Have I spent time valuing things that do not pass my Litmus Test of truth, goodness, and beauty?  How have I modeled a pursuit of these truth? When have I allowed the world to lead me instead of God?

What about my words and attitude and body language, especially towards the little image bearers of God who are named Analise, Jonah, and James—how have I treated them that is worthy of imitation when they interact with me, Jason, one another or friends and family outside of this home?

Education is about being a living, breathing human being created with a soul that longs to love and serve the Lord.  Our minds, bodies, and souls are intricately connected, incapable of being separated like the three persons of the Trinity.  Am I recognizing and honoring this truth?  Am I modeling that?

In taking this all to prayer and mulling over these questions in my sub-conscience, I’m left with the painful realization that I have a lot of work to do.  Soul formation is not for the faint of heart.  It takes work and continual abandonment of oneself and our fallen nature and resting in the Lord’s hands, begging Him to carry us, to change us,  to sanctify us.  Simply, it takes prayer and the sacraments.

And, the truth is NO ONE can do this work for me.  Only I have the ability to swing the pendulum to a resting place that allows rest, work, prayer, and true soul formation to be in their proper balance.  Only I can do the work of taking the time to nurture my mind, body and soul.  And, that job—well, it takes a hefty dose of courage and trust.

I know that I write about this quest often—finding a better balance to my workaholic ways.  Obviously, I still have a lot of work to do because it hasn’t been until recently that I have been able to step back and truly access the ramifications of leading a life that is not oriented towards balance.  When I reflect on my own upbringing and my own education, it’s no wonder that I am wired the way that I am.  And, I know that I am not alone, for our culture screams the rest is for the weak and that education equates to standardized test scores.   And while I know those sentiments are lies from the evil one, I also know that every day I have to make the choice to focus my attention and energies towards orienting myself to truth, goodness and beauty.

Christ gives us countless reminders of His desires for us in scripture.  At the Wedding Feast at Cana, for example, we know that the bride and groom ran out of wine.  We know full well that Jesus could have snapped his fingers, and from nothing  filled the pitchers with wine.  But, that is not what He did.  Instead, He instructed the servants to first fill the jugs full of water.  And from that, He performed his miracle of creating wine for the honored guests at the banquet.

So what does this mean for me?   I’ve come to recognize that He is asking me to fill my jug, my soul, brim-full, and from that He can work His miracles as He sees fit because *I* am one of his honored guests.  He desires to work a miracle in me.  What an amazing truth to ponder.

When my children reflect back 20 years from now, I pray that they don’t remember me as a crazy mom, short on patience, high on unrealistic expectations, and overflowing with too many days burning the midnight oil to get just “one more thing” done.  Rather, I want my children to know that they have a mom who sought balance and respected herself enough to take time to read a book, to go on a walk for the explicit purpose of enjoying the beauty that surrounded her.  I want them to remember a mom who enjoyed seeking knowledge and growing in truth through her own studies and development of skills through having hobbies that brought her joy—a joy that comes from a place of rest and peace.

I want them to imitate these practices and beliefs so that one day they, too, can educate their own children by living a life that is worthy of imitation.

That is certainly no easy task.  But through His grace, I know it is possible.

goal dreamer

22 Feb

Do you all have life goals?  You know, those things that you’d like to have accomplished by the time you are 35 or 40 or 50 or whatever age seems like you should have accomplished important things.

Like having kids, buying a house, having a certain amount in your life’s savings or going on trips here or there? 

Because I don’t. 

I never have really. 

I guess I’ve always taken the, “I’m going to prayerfully discern what God wants me to do and let Him make those big decisions for me” kind of an approach. 

I feel like He has blessed me with a successful teaching career, work in ministry through NFP and the CGS program, and the blessing that is my family and friends.

But lately…well, I’ve been spending a lot of time in prayer, and I’m beginning to recognize the importance of having and working towards a specific goal in my life.

For me?  This goal does not equate to monetary gain or career aspirations.  In fact….well, no.  Just no.

So this lofty goal that I have—it’s simple, but dang, is it hard to achieve. 

It is peace.

It is happiness.

It is choosing order in my life over to-dos.

It is making the really, really, really difficult choice to walk away from something that I love because of circumstances that are robbing me of that joy that I desire. 

And I know that the Lord wants me to have this peace and happiness.

So, yeah, it is Lent.  And my Lent this year is about bringing order and peace and *joy* back into my life.  It’s about saying, “no” to a lot of things so that I can say, “yes!” to a lot more important things.

That’s really the only goal I have.  To be a follower of Christ Jesus so that all that I do, say and think is to glorify Him. 

It’s not about climbing the ladder of success in the world’s eyes.  It’s about being, and loving and caring deeply for what matters most.

My relationship with the Lord.

My amazing family.

My blessings that are friends.

That is my goal.  Call me crazy, but I’m confident that if I put my energies and prayer into being the woman, mother, wife, friend that God wants me to be, that I will blessed.

And I will have true joy, peace and love.

What else is there to want?