Sibling Bonds Forged in the Car

A few weeks ago, we pack our van with camping supplies, a few changes of clothes, and our little family of eight and we hit the road.  We said we weren’t stopping until we hit the ocean.

We made some stops, but we finally dug our toes in the sand and looked out across the vast Pacific Ocean.

Packing our family in a van and not looking back may have been one of the single best parenting decisions we ever made.

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Paradoxically, when you stick them all together with only each other – no other friends, no social media – they realize that they actually like one another!

We encountered very little bickering, but a car load of laughing, joking, and general goofiness.  It was a real blast and a great renewal for a family that is seemingly always running in a hundred different directions.

It takes a lot of team work for a big family to camp for two weeks straight.  It also takes a lot of patience.  I was thrilled to see both grow out of this crazy adventure.  We drove most days, stopping at National Parks as they came along, and then camped each night.  This required a lot of effort in set up and tear down of camp each day.  By the end of the weeks, routines had been established, making this a pretty slick production.

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One key to this success was a very intentional abandonment of social media.  As a bonafide addict, I take no credit for this wonderful decision.  We had no distractions and were able to fully immerse ourselves into the trip and each other.  Social media has it’s place and is a fun tool and toy, but real life always trumps it.  And real life is meant to be lived, experienced, and loved.  Not posted in pictures and snippets.

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The west US is some of the most beautiful land on earth and we were able to share it with our favorite people.  Nothing can beat that.  Our life experiences are what shape and form us into the people we will become, especially for children who are still growing and learning at an incredible pace.  Being together without distraction enhanced the growth and learning that was available in this amazing experience.

I was a bit nervous when we set out, that the kids would bicker and argue.  I’ve never been so happy to be wrong!  They rose to the occasion, deepened friendships, and discovered a greater appreciation of the wonderful people they are so lucky to grow up alongside.  Sibling are such a gift.  I’m glad that my kids had the chance to be reminded of how lucky they are to have one another!

Blessed in the Fruit of Thy Womb

I don’t know if there is a plethora of books out there about the spiritual sides of miscarriage and infant loss.  I haven’t checked.  But when this one fell into my lap and I was given the opportunity to review it, I jumped.

Losing a baby, at any stage, is tough.  It feels lonely, although I must say, I was touched and surprised by the out pouring of love and support.  I think part of the lonely is the feeling of emptiness, because it’s quite literal.

Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb made me stop for a moment a reflect on the fact that we aren’t alone.  Mary knows, full well, the sadness of loss.

We are only human; who better to turn to for help and support than the woman who gave her only son for us? Peace comes in knowing She is mourning and holding you while She joyously welcomes your child home. —Sonia in Minnesota

Redemption was given to us in the most human way, so that, no matter our suffering, we know it’s relatable.  If you’ve lost a child, be it an early miscarriage, still birth, or a fully grown child, you aren’t alone.  Mary lived through it, as well.  Cling to her and she will shower her love onto you.

This book walks you through the rosary – Mary’s prayer!- and offers step-by-step reflections and anecdotes.  Heidi’s story is far more complicated and heart  breaking than my own, but she willingly opens her heart to her readers.  Her candid retelling of her personal story, as well as those of various contributors, reminds us that we aren’t on this path alone.  Tragically, there is a tribe of understanding women out there and this book serves as a hug from each and every one of them, as well as Or Lady herself.

No matter how long a child lives, it is an incredibly beautiful and important thing to participate with your spouse in the creation of new life. The kind of love that led to the creation of your child can also carry your child and yourself to heaven with the grace of a happy death.

It’s easy for us to wallow when we are burdened by a cross.  I love that Heidi challenges the reader, with each mystery, to step beyond yourself and pray for others.  At the end of each reflection, is a suggestion to pray for another mother – the one who just found out she’s expecting or the one who will deliver her little one today.  Whatever it may be, it serves as a reminder that motherhood and prayer connect us all and we should never forget one another.

Prayer carries us through the hard times.  The rosary is Mary’s gift to us and Heidi uses this gift to remind us that Mary hold our lost children now.  They’re home.  And now, with Mary, they pray for us here.

Streamline the Chaos

Our days have been crazy lately.  Nothing earth shattering or different than any other family of active kids.  You know how it is: calendars filled with more activities than hours, a car filled with wrappers and ziplock bags, because you’re basically living out of it, a to-do list longer than your toddler is tall.

Last Tuesday was a day of all days.  We had school runs, homeschool catch-up (that’s perpetual), regular school pick up, late pick up, baseball games, and birthday parties.  My house was sporting its favorite “Tornado Chic” look.  I wasn’t sure how to pull it all of, along with the expected level of birthday happy.IMG_7631

Birthday’s here are special, but nothing earth shattering – family comes by for cakes and ice cream and possibly a light meal, depending on the timing and schedule.

I knew we’d all be at the ball field right at the height of the dinner hour, so I really felt like a meal of some sort was in order.

Add “Cook meal for 20” to the to do list.

We have gluten free eaters and I have *never* purchased a cake before.  I generally bake two (with Bella’s help!), one regular, one GF.  And the birthday boy wanted cupcakes for his whole baseball team!

Add “Bake and decorate two cakes and a dozen and a half cupcakes.” to the to do list.

Remember “Tornado Chic”?  Must remedy.  Bathroom can’t smell toxic.  Check.

Then I had an epiphany.  I threw all pinterest to the wind.  Guys.

I ordered cupcake from the sweet local bakery.  (Buy Local!  Shop Small!)

I was able to get cupcakes for the entire baseball team AND our families AND some were gluten free.  All I had to do was lift the phone and then have my husband pick them up.  WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG FOR THIS GENIUS??

Dinner.  Still looming.  The plan was pizzas, but then my mom pointed out that it was taco Tuesday!  Fifty empanadas to go, please.  (Support Handmade!  Eat Local!)

Paper plates.  A few beers.  A party that cleans up with a couple trash bags.  It was magic.

With a little help and elbow grease, we assuaged the “Tornado Chic”, but no one went inside anyway, because the evening was gorgeous.

Pinterest is overrated, guys.  The mommy wars of party perfection aren’t worth the stress.  Life is going to be crazy.  But if I don’t intentionally find the joys, streamline to ebb the storms, and embrace this wild ride, then the only real crazy is me.

I’m also embracing “Tornado Chic”.  Who’s with me?  Maybe I could start a Pinterest board.

(My shirt is from Brick House in the City, Earrings from Happy Nest Home Goods, Necklace from Say it with Your Heart)

Lessons from the Garden

It’s been a busy spring on the homestead.  We’ve been starting seeds, building garden boxes, turning earth, raking, and mulching.  And that’s just in the garden!  It takes a team to accomplish all that we need to do.  I love when we are all working as a family and I know that the kids will take away so much goodness from that time spent together.

It’s more than simple work ethic that kids learn when they have their hands in the soil.  They’re learning about life, God, and all that He provides.  Our Pope has called us to share the beauty of the earth and its gifts with our children.  He tells us: “Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” (Laudato Si,159)

Our food sustains us and that life source is a beautiful gift.  It is an incredible life lesson to watch a seed sprout, grow, and bear fruit.  It’s a gift for our children to learn how a seed holds the miracle of the food that feeds us.  In God’s design, everything that the seeds needs to grow and bear fruit is held right there within it.

Early this spring, while it was still cold outside, we scooped soil into peat pots and gently planted tiny seeds.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and so many more.  We have a huge set of south-facing, sunny windows, so we set our little pots there in the sunshine.  As the seeds sprouted and little seedlings started to grow, the weather started to turn warmer and the days became longer.  We were thrilled when it was finally warm enough to prepare the garden for our little seedlings!

We have a large garden, which takes many hands for prepare and maintain.  The younger kids help daddy build boxes while the bigger, stronger kids help to turn the soil and haul the mulch.  A large garden certainly is not a necessity in teaching young children to work the soil and grow the seeds.  A potted tomato on the sunny back deck or a small plot of radishes (they grow like magic!) in the corner of the yard is enough!  Let the children get their hands dirty and maybe dump too many seeds into the pot!  

It’s always thrilling to sit down to a meal which includes food you grew with your own hands!  Children (and grown-ups!) love to eat the, literal, fruits of their labor.  Family dinners are important, but family dinners with food you all grew together, will never be forgotten.  

Finding God in the Nutella Jar

There’s nothing like a strong parenting moment to help you more fully understand the Fatherhood of God.

Kateri wakes up each morning demanding “a piece of bread with butter all around it”.  By which she means, lightly toasted bread with butter spread precisely on every particle of the surface.  Anything less is tantrum inducing.

Horror of horrors, we were out of butter this morning.  Could you hear the tantrum?  It was amazing.

When she calmed down enough to hear me, I offered her Nutella in place of the butter.  “NOOOOO!!!  I WANT BUTTER!”

I adore butter as much as the next gal, but guys.  Nutella.  I offered her something far superior to butter and she would have nothing of it.  She had a plan.  She dug her heals in the ground.  She was a girl who would not be moved.

How many times have we done just this?  I know I have.  I pray, I hope, I beg God for whatever it is my heart desires at that moment.  He says “No, but…” and I don’t even wait long enough to hear the rest.  I dig my heels in and become a girl who will not be moved.

His plan is ALWAYS better.  He’s our Father and wants the very best for us, even more than we do with our children.  But, like children, we throw fits when we don’t get what we want.

It’s Nutella to butter, but if it’s not what I had envisioned, I cast it aside.  I need to step back, quiet myself, and realize that prayer isn’t asking for what I want, but asking to be open to His will.  That’s a whole lot more difficult than begging for my hearts desire.  It’s not magic.  It’s prayer.

Ask for butter, but be open to the Nutella He offers.

(In the end, Kateri saw the light and enjoyed her Nutella on toast.)

Creativity on a Sunshine-less Day

Life is messy.  And overwhelming.  Day after day, filled with the same mundane tasks, repeated ad nauseum.  And where on earth is the sun??

That’s depressing.  Life is beautiful, joy-filled, and colorful, to say the least.  Despite the fact that the calendar says April, we have had cold days, filled with clouds and rain for an exhuastingly long stretch of time.  Every mom I know is feeling the strain of the long, dreary days.

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We are called to see the beauty in this vocation of motherhood, but it’s certainly never easy.  It’s hard to see the silver linings when the sun refuses to shine.

Creativity is a lifeline for mothers, sometimes.  Creating is a something we can do with a clear cut beginning, middle, and end.  Sometimes, the finished product even stays beautiful and functional.  Unlike that laundry you just washed, folded, and put away, only to find it back in the hamper.  Sometimes even un-worn and still folded.  (And always under a wet towel.  Why children, why?!?)

The other day, after  lovely (albeit cold and damp) hike, I found a tick on one of the girls.  Life can’t just be a happy day.  Nope.  The ticks have to find us.  I find ticks to be really disgusting, but I’m also terrified of Lyme.  A bug that transmits an evil disease by digging it’s head into my kids skin?  I have no words.

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But I have fabric!  I whipped up a few cute head scarves for the kids, in hopes to at least keep the ticks off of their heads.  Maybe it is futile, but at least I feel like I’m trying.  And I am exercising my creativity on this otherwise dreary day.

It’s not like the girls will be heading out into the woods today, but I think sunshine is somewhere in the forecast.  We will be out basking in it, heads cutely protected from ticks, as soon as the sun shows her face.

Go find your silver lining.  Your little bit of sunshine, even on the dreary days.  Dust off the sewing machine, pull out the mixer, unearth that sketchbook.  We all have something.  What’s yours?

Beauty and the Beast – one mama opines

For weeks, months even, my girls have been eagerly awaiting the new Beauty and the Beast.  They acquired costumery, reviewed the 1991 animated film numerous times, and literally counted down the days.

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They weren’t disappointed.

True to the Disney of late, this was a visually beautiful, well cast film.  It was also very true to the original, which will please any girl of the early ninties!

I went into the movie with my guards up.  I’d heard chatter that there were a few off color scenes.  The internets were abuzz with moms boycotting the movie, boycotting Disney, they probably boycotted Wal-Mart, just for good measure.

I had my suspicions.  We do love to get riled up.  We love a good boycott.  We live to overreact, get offended, and generally flip out soley based on a Facebook headline that we didn’t even click through to read!

Blood boiling click bait is the new white collar drug of choice.

Anyway.  The movie.  I did my due diligence and googled the meaning of “Le Fue”.  Turns out, “fue” means madman.  Interesting!  I’m pretty certain this character was not one written to make kids everywhere want to emulate him.  He was the bumbling town fool, the comic relief, the pudgy sidekick.

I think the relationship between Gaston and La Fue was more akin to the relationship between Screech and Zack Morris (hellooooo ninties!).  The cool kid and the nerdy kid who are best friends, simply because they always have been.  And now that they’re older, that nerdy kid will do anything – hero worship – to keep his friend.

I’m not all out defending Disney.  It was definitely over-the-top and the movie would have been perfectly excellent without this Gaston-La Fue dynamic.  But children, without an adult’s cynical, sexually charged, anti-friendship outlook will miss all of the innuendos that are there.  They’ll see a silly friendship, a goofy scene, and characters dressed up to make you laugh.

The scene with La Fue showing a bite mark on his stomach was gross.  But the line in the song?  It was “in a wrestling match, no one bites like Gaston!”  I’ve seen enough living room wrestling matches to know that bites happen.  Flaunting the mark?  That’s a little weird.

Oh, but wait!  Gaston and La Fue weren’t even the main story!  Why do we let them distract us so?

The old songs redone were delightful.  The new songs, charming.  The castle, incredibly beautiful.

I really missed Angela Landsbury as Mrs Potts!  (Follow that link.  You won’t be disappointed.)

I wish that Maurice had come out more strongly at the end.  I don’t like the foolish dad characters and he was definitely portrayed as one.

Emma Watson is always so lovely.  I love her simple beauty and sweet voice.  She was strong and independent, but still deeply devoted to her father.

In the end, we give it two hearty thumbs up.  Yes, there were scenes that would have been better left on the cutting room floor, but I think the good and beautiful trumped the slightly weird.