/> Raising Angels: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Love You for Who You Are, but Sometimes the Things You Say Sure Do Help

Mackenzie did a service project with her youth group after school today. When she got home I asked her how it went and what she did.

"Well, we were split into four groups and went to different houses to clean," she included in her summary.

"That's a nice service," I noted. "Whose house did you clean?"

She fired off the list which included the house of a woman who just had surgery, one who just lost her mother and two young mothers. Then I teasingly interjected, "Hey, how come you didn't come and clean our house?"

"Mom," she said as only a middle-schooler can, "what would we possibly do here? There is nothing to clean at all."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mission Accomplished

Look closely in this picture. Do you see it? All we did was plug it in and there is was - the glow. Isn't it pretty?

Today was one of those weird Georgia weather kind of days. I took Max for a run in the morning in shorts. The skies were threatening rain and the wind was blowing but it was a warm 70 degrees.
By noon it was raining and the temperatures were dropping fast. Forty degrees later, we had the perfect tree decorating kind of night.

We put the Christmas channel on the TV, made some hot chocolate and popped some cookies in the oven.

As we all opened our individual boxes of ornaments and began the decision-making process of which one looks best where, Nelson turned to me and said, "Do you think anyone else has a tree like this?"
What he meant is that our tree is a visual history of our family. Each Epiphany I give everyone a new ornament. More times that not, the ornament represents a significant moment of the year. Nelson has a handy man I gave him when we started building the house. Mackenzie has a ballerina for the year she took her first dance lessons. Aiden has a basketball for the year he got his first basketball goal. Dawson has a gigantic three-dimensional star he made last year in Kindergarten. And, Max, well his story has just begun so his current favorite is the Superman ornament he got last year.

So really it's not the glow of the lights that calls to me. It's us. Staring at the tree reminds me of the places we've visited, the hobbies we love, and the effort that goes into each handmade (regardless of their enormous size) ornament.
It's a picture of our loves, talents, and silliness. The love I have for this beautiful, silly, talented family of mine explains the love I have for the tree that symbolizes it all. And that, lights on or off, is what makes that tree glow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Beauty of Advent

We've made a family tradition out of trying to get the house decorated for Christmas at the beginning of Advent. I love this season and shooting for the start of Advent means we get to enjoy the soft glow of the tree lights for the entire season.

Friday I had a few precious hours to start pulling the decorations out of the attic to begin the process. I managed to get most of them down the stairs by the time I had to leave for the next event. Unfortunately, I was mid-project...meaning the house looked like it had imploded.

It went from the spic and span after Thanksgiving house, to a veritable maze of boxes, lights, and garlands. Needles were strewn from one end of the house to the other. Bubble wrap littered the dinning room. Piles of boxes were stacked in the family room and kitchen (dude, I have a ton of Christmas decor and I love every stinking bit of it).

When we got back home from the events of the night, I plopped down on the couch to relax and I just couldn't. I'm crazy like that about messes. It totally messes with my mo-jo. But as I was feeling a bit depressed about the current disaster, I heard God speak to me.

He reminded me that life is a bit like my house. Sometimes, in order to achieve beauty, you have to make a mess.

I thought about this as I headed off to the quiet (and clean) sanctuary of my bedroom. It didn't take long for me to get God's message. Relationships with people are messy. When you hurt someone and need to ask forgiveness, it's because you've managed to make a mess of things. Even worse is when someone hurts you and you have to tell them in order to move on. Messy. Sometimes life gets busy and stuff piles up because you can't find the time to deal with it. Yep, messy.

When you finally find the time, courage, and/or strength to deal with your stuff, beauty ensues. When you forgive someone, the dirt is wiped away. When you ask for forgiveness, the light finds a way out. When you deal with your stuff, you get a clean slate. Light, new beginnings and clean slates are all beautiful things. It is often these things of beauty that we appreciate so much more because we know first hand the mess from which they originated.

So tomorrow I will haul the last of the empty boxes back to the attic. I will sweep up the glitter and vacuum the needles. And I will sit on my couch and bask in the glow of my tree. I will drink in the beauty that surrounds me and thank God for it.

May your Advent be filled with beauty, and may you not have to make too many messes to achieve it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Alma Mater

We spent a large part of this weekend at a homecoming/fundraising event for my high school, which just happens to be the school where I taught for seven years as well as the one my kids attend today. It's a very large part of what makes my life so wonderful.

Friday night was filled with alumni basketball games and lots of memories shared in the stands. Saturday there were meals for all of the former athletes and a championship basketball game. The winning team, by the way, was coached by the most talented coach I've ever run across...my dad. Good job dad! It was so very fun to see you in action again.

My graduating class of oh so long ago was made up of a whopping 13 students. Needless to say, we were pretty tight and, for the most part, still are to this day. When I entered this school in the ninth grade I had a senior girl as my big sister. Her job was to make me feel welcome and teach me the ropes. She saved me many times as I got used to an entirely different school system. We laughed a lot this weekend remembering those days.

At our luncheon the guest speaker was another dear friend who is now an assistant principal at a local high school. She spent most of her talk thanking teachers and coaches who not only did their jobs well, but changed her life. "Amy," she said in the middle of it, "be sure to thank your dad for me. Thank him for my college basketball scholarship. Coach Killips taught me the one-handed jump shot and I'll be eternally grateful to him. Please make sure you tell him that Amy."

Here's an aside: My dad is a rock star basketball coach. He is at his best when he's teaching kids to shoot hoops. I recognized that when I was a kid and totally appreciate that now.

My school...our school is a hidden treasure. At one point, eight of the last ten valedictorians at Augusta State University, were Alleluia Community School alumni. Our graduates are surgeons, lawyers, educators, business owners, public servants, published writers, priests and religious to name a few. We have high academic standards, high test scores, and a high graduation rate.

The intellectual aspects are top-notch indeed but that's not what I love most about our school. Someone asked me recently why I send my kids there and I told them that even if the academics lacked a degree of excellence, I could fill in the gaps at home. What is irreplaceable is the fact that if the school was burning to the ground and my child was the only student left inside, any one of those teachers would run through the flames to save him or her. Of that, I have no doubt. Those teachers are some of the most intelligent, self-sacrificing, creative, devoted people I have ever met. They love our students almost as much as their parents do.

Thanksgiving weekend, it seemed more than appropriate to spend time celebrating and supporting a place that has made such an impact on so many lives. I am thankful, so thankful, that my parents made the decision to send me there. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pay it forward by teaching there. And, I am so appreciative that I can send my own children there to experience what I did.

I know that I have many, many blessings to count, but this weekend I spent some time focusing on one of my favorites and it was very, very fun.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we are spending time with family counting our many, many blessings. We are grateful, so very grateful and realize that every good thing we have comes from God. We are thankful for the sacrifices of the men and women who made this country a reality and we pray that none of us forget why it was founded in the first place.

We are being grateful, but we are also having (albeit a tiny bit irreverent) fun. Simple, easy entertainment. Hope you enjoy.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Crafting Away

I did a little crafting over the weekend. I see things in magazines and online all the time and think, "Hey, I could do that." Only problem is I almost never do.

I have loved arts and crafts ever since I can remember. In fact, most of the things I still love doing today have some element of creativity to them. As I've gotten older, it's been harder to allow myself the time to be creative. I've also become a bit more practical and look at cute things and think, "Yes, I could do that...but what would I do with that?"

Well last week I found out I had to contribute a few things to the school's Christmas Festival, so in a way, I was forced to craft. Right, twist my arm.

Here's the project. I picked up some canvases, chalkboard paint, puff paint and felt from Wal-Mart. Then I primed the canvases with some primer we had.

Next, I rolled on some chalkboard paint. Okay, we rolled on some chalkboard paint.

Max was more than thrilled to lend a helping hand with the paint and I'm happy to report that it all stayed on the canvas.

If you don't count drying time, so far time invested is 20 minutes.

The next step was adding the puff paint border. After all, what chalkboard doesn't need a little bling? I also cut out the felt pennants and sewed them onto some glittery rope.

I simply tacked the pennants to the back, wrote a Christmas message on the front and tied it up with some twine. And...tah dah - cute Christmas chalkboards!

I love this craft because I can really see someone being able to use this as a cute chalkboard in the kitchen for the grocery list, near the phone for messages, or by the desk for homework.

And to think I still have almost a whole can of chalkboard paint left. The wheels are turning.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making Room at the Table

Since Nelson and I have been married, we've invited various people to eat dinner with us on a regular basis. For whatever reason, they've all been single men. I laugh to think about all the years I begged God for a sister, wondering why, oh why, I only got brothers. Now I’m beginning to think God was just preparing me for this.

We're on single guys numbers 4 and 5. The first three stopped eating with us after they got married and had families of their own. In the last two months, numbers 4 and 5 have jumped on the bandwagon and gotten themselves engaged.

As a matter of fact, the second of our current guys got engaged the night we threw that giant couples shower for the first one. When Nelson and I climbed into bed that night I had that excited, happy and sad all at the same time emotion and told him I felt as if we were losing our boys.

In case I've never mentioned this, I come from a long line of Italian matriarchs who were happiest when they were feeding people. Consequently, this desire of mine to feed people runs through my veins. When you eat at my house once or twice, you're a guest. After that, well, you're family.

All of our guys hold a special place in our hearts and are still dear friends today. But the current two have been with us longer than any of the others and have become part Parris.

We've watched them date other women and given a bit of guidance here and there. Flannel shirt for Christmas? Definitely not. Writing a song for her on your second date? Also, not a good idea. Flowers? Okay, now you're getting it. The guys have actually tailed the first one dating just to find out who the secret girl was...I know, so bad, but like I said - brothers. We were in on the proposal plans and got to see both rings before their brides-to-be. I even got to try one on!

Lately the table has expanded to include the fiancés when they're available. We've had after dinner dance lessons to get them ready for that oh so intimidating first dance at the reception. We think they've both done a stellar job choosing a mate.

Last night as I was cleaning up the kitchen and Nelson was tucking in the kids, the two of them bellied up to the bar, grabbed a drink and started delving into the some of the deep waters of the Catholic faith. Two hours later, the four of us were laughing together and teasing each other just like siblings.

I looked around that table and realized that I love those guys. We didn't necessarily choose them; they kind of happened into our lives and never left. It's not always easy to have extra people for dinner. Life gets hectic and putting on a nice meal in the middle of the week is not always seamless. It's an investment and investments cost. However, they also...almost always, have a big payoff.

Come January and June we'll get to witness a big payoff. We'll get to participate in the biggest moment of their lives and that will be very sweet indeed. We'll be both excited and a little sad that our lives will change.

We'll also be looking for God to send us some replacement diners.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Running the Hood

Hit off on the alarm this morning at 5:30 a.m. Some days, I just don't have it in me...especially the days when I know I can squeeze in a run at some other time.

I hit the road with Max in the stroller much in the morning and the weather, although gorgeous, strangely resembled spring more than fall.

I've given up thinking of these outing as runs and refer to them as a cross-training day. Pushing those jogging strollers with a not-so-little tike is not-so-easy.

On mile one we passed a sweet lady who lives somewhere in our neighborhood. I'm guessing this because I run into her a lot on my runs but I've never actually seen her go into her home. We chatted briefly. Today we acknowledged the beautiful weather.

Mile two I ran past another more familiar neighbor stretching on her lawn, babies asleep in her stroller. She had just finished. We talked about running with babies, getting back to running after having babies and decided we should try to run together sometime.

Mile three we ran past several friends in their yards and cars and simply smiled and waved.

Mile three and a half brought us past my dad's office. I was trying to run without Max seeing it and asking for the candy my dad always has for him. We were easily distracted by the woman coming out of the office who commented that she needed a ride in the stroller. Max told me, after she was gone thank God, that she was WAY too big for the stroller. In the meantime, dad spotted us and brought candy to Max curbside.

Long about mile four I was thinking that even though I despise running in our neighborhood (it is HILLY and I'm not crazy about people seeing how slow I am...stroller or not), I love it too.

Who else can run for four miles and claim that they personally know almost every person they pass as well as who lives in every house along the way? I can. I've said many times that I have the best friends in the world, but I've not often mentioned that I live in the best neighborhood in the world too.

Why it's the best neighborhood takes more explaining than I have time for right now, so you're going to have to trust me on this one. Or...you could come visit and let me show you. I'd love to show you.

Seriously, I have a guestroom.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Funny What I Take For Granted

Things were clipping along at their usual pace this morning. Kids were quizzed during breakfast, hair was combed, teeth brushed and prayers said. Off they went.

Round two began with me getting a jump start on dinner prep and then getting Max ready to go to his Catechesis class. We jumped in the car to go and it wouldn’t start. I tried again with no luck. Suddenly the morning changed.

First order of business was to get Max to his class without being terribly late. No problem, I thought. It was raining so we couldn’t walk, but I know several people around whose kids go to the same class so I got on the phone. The first three calls yielded nothing helpful. I saw my neighbor across the street pulling out and ran to catch her except it was her high school daughter, who was most definitely not on her way to Catechesis. I finally caught her next door neighbor, who agreed to not only take Max to Catechesis, but also drop me off at my prayer group.

Crisis averted...for the moment.

One of the moms at my prayer group picked up Max and gave us both a ride home. I called my dad (which is the person I still call first whenever I need anything). He came over right away, used his jumper cables and had the car up and running without any problems...except that I didn't need to go anywhere.

Ten minutes before three I loaded Max up to pick up the kids from school. The only problem was that the car wasn't going anywhere. One more call to a friend enabled my kids to have a ride home. Then I made another call to my dad. What do I do now?

Did I mention Nelson was out of town? I say this lest you think he's neglected me.

We tried to jump the car again to no avail. Driving it to the shop was not an option and it was too late for a tow.

No worries. I'll just call for the tow in the morning. Except that in the morning the kids have to get to school. I have to be with them because they fully expect me to be there for the Veteran's Day program. Max has to get to school across town in the middle of that program and I'll have to get back to the shop and get my car before I have to tutor and pick the kids up.

Funny how a normal day can get complicated so quickly. A day like today makes me exceptionally grateful that I live in a place where I know my neighbors well enough to ask them for help. It makes me grateful that I have a dad who seems always to be at my beck and call when I'm in need. It also makes me grateful we have AAA.

I'm also very aware of how one little thing going wrong can change your whole day... your whole outlook. It's amazing what I take for granted.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I Love My Husband!

I had a great weekend. It was busy. It was overwhelming. It was wonderful. As I sat in our beautiful church Sunday morning waiting for mass to start, I could not muster a petition. All I could do was to thank God over and over for the amazing life He planned for me.

I could spend time talking about all the little details of the weekend like how I was literally running around the house Friday night right up until the first guests arrived; or how the shower was a fantastic success that was shared with at least 60 other people who came; or how my son baffled me with his spectacular pass completions in his game on Saturday; or how we had another 15 people here for the big football game Saturday night; or how I let Mackenzie play with my hair for an hour Sunday afternoon just because she wanted to. I could go into details about all those things, but the reality is that none of those things were responsible for the uncontrollable smile on my face all day Sunday.

No, my smile came from a much deeper place, an all-consuming place. It came from the unfathomable love I have for my husband. I have never doubted this love, but lately its power has overwhelmed me and I’m loving it.

In the weeks leading up to the shower, we decided to take on some major house projects we had shoved to the back burner. We decided on them together and we worked on them together. We have fun working together. Shared goals make that easy.

The day of the shower I felt we were at our absolute best. We were seamless. Like when I actually said the words, “I don’t have time to feed the kids,” he totally got it. He said nothing and the kids got Krystal’s for dinner. I love that man.

We love parties - both attending and hosting. He tended the bar. I met the guests and grabbed the gifts and coats. Between the two of us we managed to give tours of our home, keep the food and drinks refilled and mingle around the party with an occasional high five in the hallway as we passed each other.

When it was over, I found myself feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I am certain that I must have been the envy of every person at that party. Sure I have a beautiful home and people noticed. And yes, the food was a hit and people commented. But what really sets me apart is that I have a marriage that is strong.

Sunday, while the kids were in Sunday school, we skipped our adult class and went to a local coffee shop. As we sat across the table I knew that I had fallen in love all over again. During our little summit we discussed our little family, our goals, our schedules, and our life.

It was the best hour of my week so far and let me tell you it will take a lot to top it. You see, if given the choice between spending time with anyone else and my husband, I will choose my husband every time. I love that about us. I love us. We’re good together.

My goal is not to gloat or make you jealous, but rather to challenge you. If you’re married, you shouldn’t be jealous of my marriage, you should be proud of your own. What I hope is that you feel the same love in your heart for your spouse that I do for mine. Wouldn’t it be great if every married person was this in love with his or her spouse? Wouldn’t the whole world look like a different place?

Bottom line is that I think my husband is the greatest earthly thing that’s ever happened to me. Because of him I have a beautiful family. Because of him, I have confidence. Because of him, I feel loved. I love him for all of these things but mostly I love him for being the man God created him to be and sharing his life with me and I want the world to know it.

You hear that world? I love my husband! Take that.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Things Change

I'm finding these days that I have a lot of big and meaningful posts in my head that never quite make it to the blog. Unfortunately, the moments those thoughts hit are not the moments I have the time to stop and write them down.

It's kind of like the shower we hosted this weekend. It was beautiful. The turnout was tremendous. The only thing I had out on the counter was my camera so that I could take a photo of the beautiful table and the guests of honor. It didn't happen because I was too busy enjoying the party.

And, why I don't want to miss recording these precious memories, I don't want to miss making them.

Hopefully, someday soon, I'll find the balance.

I'm thinking it may have something to do with not much down time around here these days. No more having all the kids napping at once. No more 7:30 bedtimes. No more quietly watching the afterschool comings and goings of neighbors. I'm too busy coming and going myself.

It's a different season for sure...one that merits many posts all on its own...once I figure out how to eek out some time to write it all down.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Kid's Got His Place in this Family and He Knows How to Use It

We have a few food rules around here. The first of which is that the kids have to try everything...every time we serve it. The second is that if you don't eat dinner, you don't get anything to eat after dinner. Easy.

Tonight, for whatever reason, Max decided he didn't want dinner. It wasn't that he didn't like it; he just didn't feel like eating it. I had made some cupcakes earlier in the day so I tried to bribe him by telling him he could have a cupcake if he finished, but he responded, "I don't want a cupcake. I'm full."

As the kids filed into the kitchen to trade their empty plates for a cupcake, Max looked a little jealous. He stood and watched the boys devour their cupcakes as I washed the dishes.

I felt a tug on my leg and looked down to see Max's baby blues the size of saucers (think Puss 'N Boots from Shrek...seriously). "Mama?" he asked in the sweetest tone he could muster. "May I please have a cupcake," and then there was the pause for dramatic effect, "because you love me so much?"

Tonight, that kid got his cupcake.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Happy All Saints Day!

Every year we attend the neighborhood All Saints Day party, I find myself secretly wishing we could just go trick-or-treating. It's not because the party isn't fun; it's just that you can't exactly find a saint costume on the rack at Wal-Mart and I don't sew.

However, watching the kids pour over the saint books discussing who they want to be and why makes me think that this is exactly what the All Saints Day party is about. It makes me happy to have discussions about the lives (and deaths) of these holy people. It's what passing the faith down to the next generation is all about. These costumes make an impression on them that lasts a lifetime.

This year the choices were (l to r): Aiden as John the Baptist (when I texted my friend to ask her about a costume I thought I remembered one of her boys wearing, she sent me back this idea and everyone loved it. It also won us second place! Many thanks Rach.), Mackenzie went as Kateri Tekakwitha for the third of fourth time (I was proud she still wanted to dress up), Max as "the Pope" (aka John Paul the Great), and Dawson as Jesus (who I'm also proud to say won FIRST place! Amazing what a little red and brown paint in the right places will do. I must say I think he impressed everyone with his willingness to be so scantily clad on a rather chilly night).