/> Raising Angels: October 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Score One For Daddy

After picking up Mackenzie and friend from a girls’ only class activity Friday night, we pulled into the garage.

"Mama, can we stay up late tonight?"

Looking at my watch I replied, "You're already up pretty late."

"But Mama," she begged, "can't we stay up REAL late since it's a spend the night?"

"Let's go inside and talk to Daddy about that," was my safe reply.

Mackenzie turned to her friend with a big grin and large eyes, "Oh goody! My Daddy is SOOO cool!"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Much Better Afternoon (For Morning See Below)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

It Was A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Morning...

I took a children's literature class in college and loved it. My favorite story was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I left class, went straight to the book store and purchased it to put in my hope chest to read to my children one day.

I've read this story to all of the kids and they love it. In fact, they love it so much that they helped provide me with and walk through Amy's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Morning this morning.

I woke early with Dawson, took him in my arms to the kitchen where he begged for chocolate milk. I opened the door to discover that the chocolate syrup I turned upside down had not been closed and consequently leaked down the side of the door, into every condiment shelf and was now dripping on the kitchen floor that I mopped last night.

"Arrgh," I said knowing this would be a busy day preparing for Dawson's birthday party while watching two of Mackenzie's friends. I hopped in the shower to cool off and went back to the kitchen to clean up the mess.

As long as I'm in here, I thought, I'll make his cake. I mixed it up while the oven preheated. I opened the oven to put the cake in only to discover the tray of leftover cupcakes I had placed there to keep out of reach of the cat. The cupcakes… in their wrappers… along with the Saran wrap that covered them.

"Oh no!" I said grabbing the mess and replacing it with the cake. I was washing the fridge and the plastic covered cupcake pans when Aiden, who was now eating breakfast, dumped over his entire glass of juice (remember that newly mopped floor?).

Add mopping to the list of clean ups.

I finally got the fridge clean, pans scraped and cake baked. While it was cooling I made the icing and tasted it only to discover that Crisco does indeed expire. I was dumping that batch into the trash can and calling Nelson to beg him to stop by the store on his way home when Dawson walked in, found one of the girl's juice cups and proceeded to dump that on the floor.

Second mopping for the day.

I decided to send the kids outside to eat lunch to try to avoid any more messes in the house. I served up corn dogs with BBQ chips and went back for the drinks. When I delivered them, Mackenzie promptly dumped her plate over into the driveway and smeared ketchup and mustard all over the party grounds.

Is it possible to mop a driveway?

Back inside I was rushing around doing a last minute pick up before vacuuming. I bent over in the boys’ room to pick up the puzzle they had knocked over for the fifth time that day. On my way up I managed to punch myself in the eye on the arm of the rocking chair.

No more mopping. Just vacuuming…and icing the eye.

Now the boys were down, the house was clean, and Mackenzie was quietly watching a movie. I ventured back to the kitchen of horrors to frost the cake. I opened my red coloring bottle to find it had all dried up. Elmo, I feared was going to be a horrid shade of pink complete with dark red spots from the dried coloring I tried popping in the microwave to "loosen" up.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad morning. Some mornings are just like that. But the afternoon? Well, look above and see for yourself.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy Birthday Dawson!

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was looking into your sweet little face for the first time? Is it really possible that it's been two years already?

You came into this world in a much different way than your sister and brother. You were the first one to have a doctor present for your birth and the first time I got the chance to experience labor with an epidural. For that I will be eternally grateful to you.

Having my third baby in four years and considering that the first two came so fast, I was kind of a legend around the hospital. The staff, who all still remembered blonde Mackenzie and red-headed Aiden, all shouted in surprise when you came out with such dark hair. Daddy had to clear his throat and point to his head to remind everyone that he did have a little to do with your genes as well. I simply thought it was your way of letting us know that you were an individual, different from your two siblings.

I brought you home from the hospital to two ecstatic siblings. I was a nervous wreck. I had no idea how I was going to manage a new four-year-old, 15 month old and newborn. Somehow you must have known because you were a fantastic baby. You were the first one to start sleeping through the night at such an early age. You were content to sit in the bouncy seat while being bounced rather high by baby Aiden. You were mild-mannered and peaceful. You were just what I needed.
And now, look how much you’ve grown. The dark hair has turned light, the dimples have deepened and the smile widened. No longer so mild mannered, you are all boy. You take your licks and keep right on going. You love to play rough, pick up rocks and throw anything that even resembles a ball. Your language skills are amazing and you’ve been counting for months. Of course I would expect no less from my third child genius.

You get so very tickled by Mackenzie and Aiden and always beg them to, “Do again!” You have no fear. You jump off diving boards into deep water. You climb up the biggest slides. You want to go the fastest speed possible. You think you can do whatever Mackenzie and Aiden are doing and, more often than not, you’re right.

I love everything about you Dawson – your overly dramatic responses to correction; your sweet, sweet hugs and kisses that you so willingly dish out; your polite way of always saying, “Tank Choo,” “Welcome”, and “Please agive me Mama. I sorry”; your kind heart and your deep voice.

I love you Dawson simply because you’re you and I just don’t know what I’d do without you!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rome Trip: Day 4

If you don't already know how we spent this day go here to find more details. The short of it was that we awoke before dawn after very little sleep, walked miles and waited in the rain to see the Holy Father. This picture shows you where waking up that early and running your heart out will get you. This was us waiting for the Pope with total anticipation that this would be the day I would finally shake his hand.

Look closely or click on the picture to see a bigger image. On the far left, you'll see me(trying to hold back the tears), Mackenzie, Nelson and my brother Kevin. You should see the shot Kevin got of the Pope at this moment! It rivaled many professional photos I've seen.

After the audience, we went to the Vatican Museum. No pictures can do this place justice and in the one place we really wanted to take pictures, the Sistine Chapel, no cameras were allowed. It was beautiful and inspiring in spite of the hundreds of people sharing the room with us.

After that, our faithful seminarian friend, Pablo gave us a great tour of St. Peter's. It's amazing what you can learn from someone who really knows his stuff. For instance, did you know that St. Peter's is so big that you could stand the Statue of Liberty up in the center under the dome and she'd still be enclosed? Also interesting is that St. Peter's is not the Pope's church, his is St. John Lateran. St. Peter's Church is designated for the people.
We ended the night at one of Aaron's favorite places to eat. It was truly Italian. No one spoke English, there were no menus and the owners served the food. We ate outside and at the end of the meal a young man came by playing the guitar and singing. He was terrible. Really, I'm not exaggerating. In fact, we were all laughing discretely when the owner came out to shoo him away. Instead what he saw was sweet Mackenzie dancing her heart out to the musician's unusual sounds. The owner let the guy stay and then he joined Mackenzie in the dance.

It was another very late night with an early morning to follow. Aaron was not with us because he was at the seminary preparing spiritually for the ordination the next day. We could not join him, but we did say a family Rosary when we returned to our apartment. We were all anxiously awaiting the event we had come to Rome to witness.

Monday, October 23, 2006

One Night With The King

I have always enjoyed the movies. In fact, as a little girl I dreamed of being in them (okay, still do). I love to use them as an escape. I let myself dive totally into the story. I let them entertain me.

Sometimes, though there are movies that really move me. Ones that test me. Ones that make me want to be a better person. And every once in awhile ones that build my faith.

Tonight I went to see this and loved it. Tomorrow I'll read the book of Esther and see how true the movie was to the story. As far as I can remember from reading it in the past, it does a good job.

Before the movie started we saw a preview for a movie coming out in December called The Nativity. I can't wait.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Balloons in Heaven

Lately Aiden has been talking a lot about Great Grandpa. Questions come up like, "Where's Great Grandpa? He died?" and "How come Great Grandpa died?" come up often.

My kids have been exposed to a lot of death at a very young age. This, I think has been a positive thing. It has offered me many teaching opportunities about how we should think about death. Of course, having a hospice nurse as a mom has helped tremendously. Even I think about death as a much more positive thing now.

After all, isn't that the means to an end? What are we striving for? Heaven. How do we get there? Death. Kids at this age have an unshakable faith and they think about it perfectly. So perfectly in fact that it scares me sometimes. "I want to go to Heaven too Mama. I want to be with Jesus right now. I want to see Great Grandma and Great Grandpa."

Last night as Mackenzie and I were making pizza, the boys were drawing pictures at the bar. Aiden, ever the talker, started in. "Mama I'm going to draw Great Grandpa."

"Okay Aiden," I said as I wondered how this might turn out.

A few minutes later he shouted, "Look Mama! It's Great Grandpa! Look!"

What was on the page at that point was the figure on the far right. Notice. He's in a rectangular box, the last way Aiden saw him. "Wow Aiden! You're right. That looks just like Great Grandpa."

He went back to busily drawing. After many more look and sees he had filled the page. The art, although not perfect is pretty good for a three year old little guy. The meaning however might teach many adults a lesson.

The two figures at the top left are me and Aiden. Aiden is the one holding the balloon. The larger, square figure on the left toward the middle of the page is, "Great Grandpa's Mama", which means his wife who passed away almost two years ago. She's standing with an unnamed figure. Great Grandpa is surrounded by balloons.

What more appropriate subject matter for the month of October with All Saints Day and All Souls Day so close? Shouldn't we all see death as a happy end? Shouldn't we celebrate souls as they enter into Heaven?

I hope when I die, sometime very, very far from now, the saints in Heaven will be there to celebrate my arrival into Heaven. And, I hope they have balloons.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Angel Mom...and No It's Not Me!

Last week, when we returned from Rome, I expected total fallout with the boys. I had never left any of the kids for longer than 5 days before and with Aiden and Dawson experiencing some serious separation anxiety lately, I expected to really pay for our absence.

Much to my surprise, last week was fantastic. They were happy to see us when we stepped off the plane. I took them to school two days later and neither shed a tear. We went to the Y - nothing. I even left them with a sitter Saturday night and still - nothing.

Hallelujah! I rejoiced and thanked God profusely. This was nothing short of a miracle. It seemed as if God was really rewarding me for all those prayers overseas.

Then came Sunday. I took Aiden to the nursery at church and it was a knock down, drag out battle. He was kicking and screaming and throwing himself everywhere. I threatened to no avail. I stood outside and was late for mass because I couldn't leave the building until I knew he settled down. And within five minutes, if not less, he did.

It would be one thing if he was scared of these places. He's not. I could understand if he didn't like going. He does. I would get it if he had been injured or hurt in some way. He hasn't. Fact is when I pick him up, he is always happily playing and having a great time.

Today he did it again at the Y. Now that I don't have the trip guilt hanging over my head, I see this for what it is - a battle of the wills. And, boy, does he have a strong one.

I refuse to lose this battle. Yes, I at times feel defeated. Yes, there are often battle scars to mend. And yes, I think long and hard about giving up completely. But I will keep the faith. I will fight the good fight. I will NOT give up.

This is my duty as his mother is it not? It's my God-given responsibility to mold his little soul. Part of that is learning the lesson that you do not always get what you want...especially when you're three. I have to assume that it's easier to deal with it now than when he's a teenager. Even though these battles wear me out and often lead me to tears, I do not want to lose him, now or ever. I love him too much.

Today, I am convinced that God sent me an angel to confirm this message. I was standing out in the hallway by the nursery at the Y listening to my child scream and knowing that all the other mothers going in and out must be thinking that I'm terrible to leave a child like that, or even to have a child like that. I was defeated and humiliated. Then she came.

I swear to you that she came out of nowhere. I did not see her go in or come out of the nursery door. I have been a member of this Y for 6 years and have gone faithfully three to four days a week the whole time. I had never seen this woman before. Just as the tears were welling up in my eyes she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Just go exercise. He's going to be fine."

I turned to see a radiant face framed by golden hair. She had a baby in her arms and looked at me with complete empathy and compassion. I started to explain my battle and she nodded knowingly and said again, "It's going to be okay. Go ahead and exercise. He'll be alright."

I know that in the future, I'll probably see that mom again. But I'm telling you, even if I had seen her every day for the last 6 years, I would still swear that God sent her as an angel to me today.

I needed that warm hand, those kind words, that compassionate face. I needed that right then and there and God knew it. Today I have a new resolve to stand my ground on the battle field and I know it’s because of God’s grace and the angel mom he sent my way.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Rome Trip: Day 3, Part 2

The Basilica of St. Francis was incredible. It was enormous and contained many treasures and works of art. Among the most notable were frescos of the most famous image of St. Francis as well as one of St. Clare.
The art was fantastic but the most meaningful thing there was the ability to pray at the sarcophagus containing the bones of St. Francis. I know the whole Rome trip is beginning to sound a bit morbid with all the bones but trust me, there is something very powerful about being that close to saints.

We also visited the Church of St. Clare where we knelt in front of the San Damiano cross. It was this cross from which Jesus spoke to Francis and told him to rebuild his church. We also saw the incorrupt body of St. Clare.
The last stop of the day was the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, which was built with the primary purpose of protecting the tiny Church of the Porziuncola. I wish I could show you a picture of this because although it's the tiniest church in Assisi, there is something very special about it. It is here that St. Francis began his rule. Here that St. Clare took her vows to follow that rule. Here that Francis wanted to be brought when he thought it was time to leave this world.

It is an amazing, wonderful place. So, when you have saved your money and make your pilgrimage to Rome, take a day out and take the train to Assisi. You won't regret it.

Rome Trip:Day 3

Our third day we had all planned to make a day trip to Assisi. However after three long days, the night before the trip everyone started to bail on us. Aaron, understandably was getting nervous about the ordination and worn out so he decided to get some rest. Brian, Heather and Kevin were all exhausted and the 6:45 a.m. leave time did not appeal to them. Mom was having trouble with her knee and so Dad said that they too would stay behind.
Nelson and I decided that even if it were only us, we wanted to make the trip. Luckily for us, Fr. Justin, who was traveling with us and had been a student in Rome for four years, volunteered to make the journey with us. He had spent plenty of time in the little town and knew it well.

Assisi is absolutely gorgeous - notice my inability to keep the photos limited on this entry...in fact two entries. We were not disappointed at all with our decision.

These first two photos are taken at Rocca Maggiore, or the big rock. It was a fortress for the city. It was a serious hike to get up there. I'm talking legs shaking, heavy breathing, want to stop kind of hike, but we made it. Just look at these! Our efforts were well rewarded. You could see all of Assisi from up there.

The whole city is a refreshing break from the busy and rather dirty city of Rome. It's so quaint that it feels as if you might turn a corner to see Francis himself walking towards you. As a matter of fact, we just happened to be there on the anniversary of Francis' death, the day before his feast day. There were Franciscans everywhere.

The nice thing about traveling with someone who knows the territory is that he was able to lead us to the perfect place for lunch. Forget that the food was delicious and that it felt wonderful to sit down after all that walking - Assisi is very hilly terrain - the view was breathtaking.

One of the churches we visited was the Cathedral, or Church of St. Rufus. In it was the baptismal fount where both St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized. We're turning our rings into second class (or maybe third, I don't remember how it works) relics here.

The city is beautiful but it is also very spiritual. That's why I just have to show you a few more photos. Bear with me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ignoring Movie

Mackenzie had the day off from school today. We planned a zoo trip but the weather didn't cooperate. Instead, we went to the library to pick out books and a movie and then to McDonald's for lunch.

The boys went down for a nap and Mackenzie asked if she could watch her movie.

"Sure," I said and popped in the video. As the opening credits rolled out, I asked, "Do you want me to fast forward these so the movie can start?"

"Oh yes," she replied in her ever dramatic and animated tone, "this is the part that always just ignores me."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rome Trip: Day 2

Ahhh, Roma! You could stay in this city for an entire month and still not experience all of its history. We, however, tried to squeeze as much as possible into the seven full days we were there. Monday began with a tour of ancient Rome with our own personal tour guide, Pablo. He is a seminarian who is from our diocese and just happens to have a degree in history. His knowledge and obvious love of this city enriched our experience.

I know there's no need to point this out, but that's the Coliseum behind us.

This is Constantine's Arch right in front of the Forum. The history lesson we heard here was fascinating but much too long to write about.

From there we went down into the Mamertine Prison. This is the cell where both Peter and Paul where held before their deaths. You can actually touch the stone to which they were chained. It was a very powerful experience. Peter was only held here about 24 hours, but in that time he managed to convert his guards. While he was praying for them and the ability to baptize them, a well sprung up through the prison's stone floor. It's still there today. That's what I'm dipping my hand in. Amazing!

That afternoon we went on the Scavi Tour, led by my brother, who has been giving these tours for the past three years. Let me say that if you do get to Rome, and you should, you need to put this tour on the top of your list. It takes you down beneath St. Peter's Basilica. You get to walk the same ground the saints did.

The tour is a spiritual CSI episode explaining how the church found Peter's bones. The whole story is fascinating but I can't give it away. You'll just have to go see it yourself. If it helps, I'll tell you that the tour ends right in front of the bones of Peter. Talk about some powerful prayer time! It's a truly spiritual experience - one that doesn't allow you to take any pictures.

On the way out we did sneak a photo with a Swiss Guard. They're not supposed to pose for pictures with people but they were very kind to stand still in the background for us. The coolest thing of all was that as we walked out, they saluted my brother. They do that to all priests and seminarians.

And here's an interesting fact about Rome. The city has water springing out from all kinds of things like walls, columns and statues and almost all of it is potable. It comes from the mountains and is cold, clean and refreshing after miles of walking.
That night we went to Aaron's favorite pizza place in town and then walked that off by visiting the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Legend has it that if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi, you'll come back to Rome. So far, it's worked for me every time. And, I had to try it again because I am determined to kiss the ring of the Pope one day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Siren Prayers

When I dropped Aiden off at school today one of his teachers asked me if the other teacher had told me what Aiden said on Wednesday.

"Uh oh," I thought, "here it comes."

"It was just so cute," she said as I heaved a sigh of relief. "We heard a siren go by and Aiden said, 'Jesus please help whoever's in trouble. Amen.' I wasn't sure if I had understood him so I asked him to say it again and he did. I liked it so much that I had him teach it to the whole class. Now whenever we hear a siren, we all stop to say that prayer."

Sometimes the littlest things you do that you think go unnoticed are the things that stick. It's so nice when it's something as positive as a prayer.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rome Trip: Day 1

We landed in Rome around noon local time and arrived at the apartment just in time for Nelson to join the guys at the only non-spiritual activity (although my brothers may beg to differ on this point) planned - a European football game (okay, soccer for all you Americans).

Since Aaron thought it may not be the best atmosphere for Mackenzie, she and I stayed behind and hit the streets of Rome. After window shopping and our first, and unfortunately nowhere near out last, gelato, we walked into Saint Peter's Square. I held her hand and made her close her eyes until she was standing directly in front of it. When she opened her eyes to see St. Peter's Basilica for the first time, her response was a very dramatic, "Oh my!"

While waiting for the guys to meet us, she had fun chasing some pigeons while I gave away my Southern accent and ended up talking to two guys from Louisiana who had rented bikes to see Rome. And, after seven full days of walking the cobblestone streets and hills of the city, I think they had the right idea.

I love this picture. I call it BIG CHURCH, little girl. It speaks volumes to me.

After meeting up with the gang we headed to the Pontifical North American College (the seminary where Aaron lives and hereafter referred to as the NAC) for mass and a trip to their roof. How's this for a daily view?

This is from a different angle. We could see all of Rome from up there. If you look over Aaron's left shoulder, you can see the Victor Emmanuel Monument, referred to by the locals as the wedding cake because of its shiny white marble.
After the priest who was traveling with us said mass, we did something that no other women are allowed to do barring family members on the week of ordination. We got to see Aaron's room. I felt very privileged to sneak a peek into the life of the seminarians. To tell you the truth it looked like a lot of college dorms I've seen except that every one had his own room, there were a lot more religious pictures hanging among the college banners, and, oh yeah, you can watch the Pope’s bedroom light go off at night.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Divine Ordination

Aiden was sitting with me while I was at the computer today uploading some pictures from our trip. I got to the ones of the ordination and I stopped to show Aiden a picture of Aaron in his vestments.

"Look Aiden. Do you know who that is?"

"That's Uncle Aaron. He's God in that one."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Papal Dreams

My life time dream has been to kiss the Pope's ring. We got up before dawn, waited in the rain and raced to these seats. Look closely. That’s us behind his right shoulder. We were as close as our tickets allowed.

I just knew that this would be my moment. I knew he was going to reach out to me. I knew it until the end as I watched him drive down the stage and turn in the opposite direction to shake the hands of the people sitting on the other side of the square.

It was the closest I have ever been and may ever be to the Holy Father. It was very exciting, even though I was very disappointed about the whole kissing the ring thing. I guess when you dream big, you crash and burn sometimes.

But then, I was in Rome. I was within an arm's reach of him. I cried when he drove by and waved. And I was one of literally thousands there to see him. Those who say the Catholic faith is dead have obviously never been to a Papal Audience. How blessed I am to be a Catholic.

Our last night in Rome, we walked one last time through St. Peter's Square to look on the grandeur that is St. Peter's. We looked up to notice that the Pope's bedroom light was still on. The three of us stood under that window and yelled at the top of our lungs, "We love you, Your Holiness! Good night!"

Mackenzie wasn't convinced he had heard so we yelled it again. He never looked out but I'm sure he felt the love. As we were walking away Mackenzie asked if we could bring the Pope some gelato. To prove that I am always the eternal optimist we actually stopped by the Vatican gate and asked the Swiss Guard if we could bring the Pope some gelato. He didn't let us in but he did get a good laugh.

Maybe one day I'll get to meet him up close and personal. If I do, I'll probably bring him some gelato.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Postcard After Rome

Thanks for the prayers. We made it home safely. The journey ended about 38 hours after we began it, but that's another entry.

Rome is amazing. We were within an arm's reach of the bones of Peter, the cross of Christ and the Holy Father. We ate lots of pasta, pizza and pastries. We walked and we walked and we walked. We did very little sleeping and a whole lot of praying in some of the holiest places on earth.

Stories and pictures will follow me catching up on some seriously needed sleep. I am SO VERY TIRED. The emotional and spiritual high of the week's events has kept me going...until...now.

Bona sera. Ciao!