/> Raising Angels: May 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer Start

We're barely into summer break and I'm wondering what happened that it's been a week since I've been here. There was all the end of school activities that needed to be chaperoned, an ordination celebration, and a graduation with accompanying cake (and wait ‘til you see the cake) that filled the week and flowed over into the weekend. 

Monday we took pause, played games and just spent time together. It was wonderful.

This week we struggled a bit with the adjustment to summer. What this means is that about every thirty minutes or so someone asked, "What can we do now Mama?" I responded by suggesting four or five things that got shot down immediately. It took me about three times through this routine to remember, "I'm not the cruise director for this summer break. You have a house and yard full of things to do. Figure it out." 

Today it was better. There was a Monopoly game upstairs, Play Dough on the kitchen table and Mackenzie out helping a young mother with several small kids. We ended the day by hitting the library and that was followed by an hour of blissful silence in the house. We're settling in.

All of that was coupled by the fact that Nelson got out of the car in the garage one day last week and pointed out that he borrowed a steam cleaner for our carpets. Three days of back-breaking 4 to 5 hour sessions later, I have managed to steam clean the carpet (note this is not plural) in one (yes, also not plural) room. What I have is a very clean carpet and a strong resolve to never do that myself again. Whatever it costs to higher someone to clean them for me is worth every single penny.

So there you have it: a busy week, a time of adjustment and a lesson learned. Pretty good start to summer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Things That Make You Say, "Eww!"

After spending the morning helping with Field Day and joining the kids for the big end of the year cook-out for lunch, Aiden ran up to me on his way back to class, "Mama, I, uh, found this yogurt in my back pack and it had been there for like a really long time and when I found it, it busted open all over the inside of my bag. Can I bring it to you so you can take it home instead of me?"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Season of Summer

The end is near. No worries though, the sky is not falling.

School ended for Max two weeks ago and Friday is the big kids last day before summer break. There was a time, not so long ago when the arrival of this season made me start to hyperventilate just a bit. Three months with no planned outside activities and three kids under 5 made me a little nervous. Those were the days when I packed all three of them up and went to the pool almost every day of the summer...even though only one of them could swim.

These days it's more of a mixed bag of emotions. I still get a little nervous because I have to take all four of them to the grocery store which always takes more time and money. It's amazing what we "need" when the helpers are involved. I get weary thinking of the days that are so hot that no one can go outside.

Mostly though I'm relishing the idea right now. I love not rushing everyone out the door in the morning. I totally dig eating dinner a little later and letting the kids play outside after we're finished. Vacations are actually fun and somewhat relaxing these days. We can take the time to stop and smell the roses, read bedtime stories and stay up late to watch a movie. Summer is time for home cooking class, library visits and art projects.

I've got some major projects on my own "to do" list that require the freedom of summer to accomplish. It sounds like an oxymoron to say that I'll have more time but I think this will be true to some extent. This, in large part, is due to one very important factor. I don't volunteer during the summer.

Don't worry, I still do the run of the mill meal for someone in need and little acts of kindness here and there; but, I don't take on big projects or tasks. When they ask for volunteers for Vacation Bible School, I duck my head. Shoot, I don't even attend the adult Bible study that occurs during the time the kids are there. I don't organize parties (except for the numerous summer birthdays we have), don't fund raise, and don't put myself in charge of anything. There, I said it! During the summer, I am a bum.

It's not that I'm lazy. It's not that I don't love to serve. Quite frankly though, by the end of the school year, I'm just about all served out. I don't volunteer during the summer for sheer self-preservation. Like the kids, I need some time to recuperate, relax and refresh my spirit. This decision enables me to do what I do the rest of the year.

I have friends who seem to be in charge of everything...all the time. I don't know how they do it. I am tempted at times to follow suit, but I have learned my breaking point and when I miss it, it ain't pretty.

We have a full agenda for the summer. There are camps, weddings, vacations, trips and activities, but they are our choices. We will have lots of time together and it will be good.

And when it's done, I will be ready for schedules and time apart, and that will be good too. To everything there is a season. This season is summer and I have my flip-flops, sunscreen and grill tools ready.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Swimmingly Good Boy

I had to go shopping for a one-piece swimsuit today (required for me to chaperone both of the boys' end of the year pool parties). I have come to love the tankini for their ease, style, and the fact that the majority of them are actually more modest than many one-piece suits I've seen advertised. I own one one-piece suit but I've had it for about ten years so when I pulled it out, it looked threadbare.  One bad move and it would be in pieces. I had today only to remedy this situation.

I'm not sure why but I actually thought I'd just run to Target, pick one up and be done with the whole thing. Apparently, it's been awhile since I've shopped for a swimsuit. At Target I found one bathing suit in my size and it was barely worth trying on. I did though because of the afore mentioned optimistic attitude. Unfortunately, it didn't look any better on me than it did on the hanger.

Thank God Max is a good sport because when I told him we were headed to the mall he said, "Yes! I love the mall."

"Why do you love the mall?"

"It's fun! You can throw a penny in the fountain. They have an elevator AND a cabininagor (or escalator). Hey! Can we eat there?"

Man I love that kid. I promised him lunch and that I would look at the swimsuits and nothing else. He happily trailed along. Here's what I found as I shopped for the elusive suit: apparently, they think no one under size 14 wear the things; the ones that are cute are upwards of $120; and the ones that are a bit more affordable look like something I wouldn't make my grandmother wear.

We wandered through stores and perused through racks and racks of suits. "Here's a one piece," I would tell him.

"Okay get it and let's go," he offered.

"Oh buddy, I wish it were that easy, but girls never buy bathing suits without trying them on."

Three pennies in the fountain, five escalator and two elevator rides, lunch and six stores later I finally found a few I was willing to take into the dressing room. I put the first one on and said, "Hey, I kind of like this," in a bit of odd wonder.

"Great, let's take it out of here and go home," said Max.

Here I had to explain to Max the wonder of shopping with women. "That would be great, but I don't want one that's just okay. I want to really love it."

"I love it," he tried.

Thankfully Max is Max and this caused no tantrum or even complaining. He simply entertained himself by making faces in the mirror and asking me a myriad of questions that I'm sure were very entertaining to the other women listening in.

In the meantime I tried all the other suits on and loved a few more. "Okay, take that one and let's go home," he offered again.

Of course, I had to try the ones I liked on again. Finally I settled on one I really liked that had a price tag I could live with. "Alright," celebrated Max, "we're going to leave now right?"

At the end of the day I walked away with a very satisfactory suit and the knowledge that I have been given the best four-year-old boy on the planet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Talk Analysis

Thank you for praying for my talk on Saturday and for all your encouraging words. When it was all said and done I had written 20 pages to turn in to the organization. I can honestly say that I've given numerous public addresses throughout my life, and I've never put as much time, thought, prayer and effort into any of them (and folks, I put a lot of effort into pretty much everything I do so that's saying a lot).

Last Saturday as I hacked away at my keyboard, I actually got choked up. Writing about your own life is a great exercise. I know I have been blessed and I have a great appreciation for all that God has done for me. Sifting though it all, writing it down, and seeing the big picture for a moment, well, it was overwhelming.

I have had the benefit of spending time with people I know in my heart were actual, living saints (one of them, Mother Teresa, is already on her way). These people have given me the kind of wisdom I now pass on to anyone who will listen. They changed me. I also appreciate how blessed I am to have been raised by parents who love the Lord and have passed that love on to me. They are both full of great wisdom. Without them and their decisions, I wouldn't be who I am.

So how did it go? It's hard to judge your own talk. The high notes were that I stayed within the time limit, didn't read those 20 pages I had written, and allowed room for the Holy Spirit to lead me to say a few things I didn't write at all as well as leave a few things out I had planned on saying.

On the negative end, I cried. This is something I've struggled with as long as I've done public speaking. My first engagement was to do a reading at my First Communion Mass. I was crying so hard before mass began they all wondered if I would make it. I'm happy to say I did the reading without any trouble (seems I cried out all the tears before hand). I have been in a number of plays, television commercials and shows and I have never cried during one of them...unless it was called for of course. Where I struggle is when I have to get personal - when it's me up there talking about myself instead of me in character. I've gotten better because I no longer cry out of nervousness. What happened Saturday was when I was talking about something that really moved me, changed me, I became so overwhelmed by the scope of what had happened I was moved to tears. In fact, I made several people in the crowd cry along with me. I've mentioned before that even though I don't have it all together, I certainly do whatever I can to appear as if I do. Crying definitely does not help me achieve this. God keeps me humble.

At the end one of the ladies came up and asked me to be the keynote speaker at her next youth retreat. That was definitely the highest compliment. The opportunity to share what God has done for me with young people is an amazing opportunity.

When I got home Saturday, I walked into an empty house. Nelson was in a golf tournament and my dad still had the kids out at the park (Thanks Dad!). I sat down on the couch to collect myself for a moment and promptly fell asleep. I was exhausted. Seems that taking a look at so many years takes a toll on me. That and I had a really tough week with very little sleep.

In the long run, I'm glad I did it. I'm so very honored I was asked. I felt very special with my name on a reserved parking space and a place at the head table. I look forward to any opportunity to publicly thank God for all He has done for me.

I was debating about putting the talk up on the blog but decided against it because of its sheer length. Funny this post is pretty lengthy anyway isn’t it?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baby Love

Max was sitting on my lap tonight admiring the cutest red-headed baby. She is barely one and was smiling and waving at him and he was doing what he could to get her to continue. He leaned over to me and said, "Mama, when I grow up, I want a baby like that."

I thought this to be a profound four-year-old thought so I engaged. "If you get married I'm sure God will give you a child like that, maybe even better."

He looked at me with real concern, "But how will he give me THAT baby  because won't she be older too?"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ancient History

Dawson and Max were in the bathroom this evening disrobing for their shower. Pointing to the surgical scar on Max's nose, Dawson asked, "Is that thing on Max's nose permanent?"

"Yes it is," I answered.

"You mean it will still be there his whole life?"


"You mean it will be on my nose when I'm as old as you Mama?" Max wondered.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Little Piece of Heaven

When I was a kid my picture of Heaven looked like something out of that song about the Candy Man. You know the one where someone is basically singing about Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? Trees with lollipops? Heaven for a kid don't ya think?

As I got a little older and read the Bible for myself, my image morphed into the whole mansion in the sky, streets of gold, and angels with harps kind of place. I had numerous conversations with God about how He just had to let me paint a sunset when I got there. That would be Heaven, painting the sky with colors I can't even imagine.

Somewhere in my young adulthood, someone told me that Heaven would actually be a place where we praised God all the time. Hmm...compared to the golden streets with the trees I could eat, that image didn't sit well with me. I mean, that would be kind of boring and repetitive right? I'm ashamed but honest enough to say that that picture of Heaven wasn't even slightly appealing to me.

Let me step to the side so when the lightening strikes, it won't hit you.

Lately though, I have had brief moments of Heavenly experience. I guess they would be categorized as mystical experiences but I hesitate to call them that because those seem to be reserved for saints and, um, well...you read my blog. Regardless of those facts, they have been real, physical experiences of Heaven. They weren't visions of Heaven or thoughts about it, I was transported there. I realize full well that this may make me sound totally crazy and alienate every reader I've ever had, but all I can do is tell you that it happened...to me.

Tonight I had one of those moments. I was at our weekly prayer meeting, standing and singing a praise song. The song followed a period of about thirty minutes of silent contemplation, which let's face it, when you have small kids, this in and of itself is quite Heavenly (When we have the Quiet Prayer Meetings, the kids have their own gathering in a separate room so nobody needed me in that moment). We had been meditating on the joy that God can bring to us. And, just like God, He delivered and the praise was especially joyful.

The music began to crescendo and the people around me sang a little louder. Then it happened. I was there in Heaven surrounded by a host of saints praising God. And get this, the feeling it brought me was not boredom at all. What I felt was pure joy. An uncontrollable smile crept across my face and I knew I was in the presence of God. And honestly, smiling and being swept up in that extraordinary moment, I thought if this is what Heaven is like I think I'm going to like it just fine.

It was a matter of seconds. It was transforming. Then it was over just as quickly as it started. I'm not going to even try to guess what it all means. I'm not going to ponder why it happened. I can't explain any of that. What I do know is that it happened. It was a gift. And, God meant it for me.

How can you not love a God who gives you gifts like that? How can you not marvel at someone so great taking time to bless someone so insignificant? How can you not live your whole life trying to show that same God how much you love Him?

I think God gives gifts like this to keep hope alive. He offers us the carrot we need to keep moving forward. He reminds us that He put us here for a reason and that He loves us more that we can ever imagine.

Seriously, how can you not love a God who does that?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Waiting for Inspiration

I've been asked to be the speaker at a local gathering for Catholic women called Magnificat. When the lady in charge called and asked me months ago I was so blown away/shocked/honored/stunned that like a mesmerized teenager meeting her idol in person for the first time, I smiled, nodded and said, "Of course, I'd love to."

Never mind that it was scheduled for the end of May (Remember May? Busiest month next to December. Sometimes it actually tops December because its events are not squished into one big day but spread out across a month of big, busy days. But I digress.). Never mind that it would come on the heels of helping with the Glory Run, hosting a shower, and getting no sleep. Never mind that the talk had to fill an hour with nothing but my "testimony". I said yes because it felt like the right thing to do and it was three months away and I had plenty of time to prepare.

Fast forward to yesterday when I called that same lady to ask how many women I get to invite to sit at my table. She told me the number and then informed me she needed their names, like yesterday. Oops.

In that same conversation she also said something along the lines of, "We need a copy of your talk by Thursday." Next Thursday, two days before the talk? No problem. "No this Thursday." Oh, you mean like an outline of my points? "No the whole talk typed out for review." Yep the hour long talk - typed out- for review. Oops.

Now don't worry. I've got it under control (at least that's what I told her). I have been thinking about this talk since she asked me. I wrote that talk for Belmont Abbey that I never got to use (long story...maybe next year) so I figured I'd start from there. Except that talk wasn't an hour and it wasn't my testimony, and it wasn't for the same audience.

I've actually sat down to write the talk several times over the past few weeks. Last Sunday in church I even got an opening from God. I typed that up. Yep. That's it. Sigh. So far, the Holy Spirit has left me hanging. That's okay. It's kind of how he rolls with me. I prepare, get a great outline, practice a talk and then he usually takes over the day of the talk and reconstructs the entire thing. Marvelous really seeing as how he's the Holy Spirit and all. He does much better than me. I count on that.

It just seems that he doesn't really work on the deadline of an organizer who needs every word typed out, like yesterday. Sigh. Still I sit...and pray. I've done a lot of praying about the talk. And thinking, I've done a lot of that too. Not a good time for writer's block. And anyway is that even possible? To have writer's block when you're supposed to be speaking? Maybe it's really speaker's block. Nah, that has no ring to it. More like writer's block of a supposed speaker who has to write out a talk before the inspiration truly hits. Well, that doesn't really have a ring to it either. Kind of like this talk.


Truthfully, it's not about having nothing to say as much as it about having too much to say. How can I possibly shrink all the amazing things God had done for me into one tiny hour? How can I condense a whole lot of life experiences into actual words? How can I move people closer to God as I share about what He's done in my life? Yep. That's the real problem.

And here's the thing. I can't. I can't do any of that. I don't have the words. I don't have the skill set. I am not able to make that happen. But....God can, of this I am sure. God can do all that by simply using me as His vehicle. I am confident in this because every good thing in my life comes from Him. He is the reason I have anything to say at all.

Whew! That makes me feel a little better. And I say only a little better because I have this whole time line thing that God doesn't seem to be too concerned with right now. Like all things, He knows His time and His will is best. This I will concede.

You here that God? I trust you. I have faith in you. Now could you please do your thing?

*If you're free next Saturday, May 19th, please come. The event will be in the parish hall of St. Mary's Catholic Church. Catholic or not, I'd love to see/meet you there. Now that you've been privy to the process, wouldn't you love to come and hear what God is going to say? After all this it's bound to be good. Call the church office for more information.

Monday, May 07, 2012


Here's how the fiesta went in photos.
 It started like all good parties - with a fun invitation. These are just a few of the color combinations I made. Definitely set the mood.

These little guys were the hit of the party. They are Southwestern egg rolls. The filling has about 50 different ingredients (I may have exaggerated here, but only slightly), and the rolling of 70 of these bad boys took a couple hours. Then, of course, they all had to be fried. This was the point where I almost hyperventilated. You see, I've never made them before and I suddenly thought, "What if they're terrible?"

I let Aiden be my taste-tester and his exact words were, "If you are worried about them tasting bad, you don't need to worry." He was right. They were delicious...not healthy, but very delicious.

This is Southwestern burrito pizza. And yes, I asked myself, "Who makes homemade pizza crust for a shower?" It too was worth the effort, although in the end, it tasted a little too similar to the egg rolls. Next time, I'd do something different...hmmm add lettuce maybe. I don't know.

I admit that I don't know much about Mexican party food by the end of this day I decided that it's kind of all the same. I just made it in several different forms.
 Mexican dip was a nice, fresh alternative to the other fare.
The bacon and cheese quesadillas were the kid favorite. Okay, my kids were the only ones there and they had to take it upstairs with a movie. This, they thought was totally awesome, since eating is allowed in the kitchen and dining rooms only.
I had some Mexican wedding cookies for dessert along with fried ice cream. This was a fun surprise for the shower as well as an attention getter. So many people had never had it before.

I did cheat on this one and skipped the fried cinnamon and sugar tortilla for the bottom. I mean I've got to have some limits right? Seriously though, this is one is easy.
The decor was festive too. Mackenzie helped me by making loads of tissue flowers and I borrowed some Mexican guys (the small paper mache type, not the real ones) from a friend. They added a nice touch.

 Of course, there had to be sombreros too.
 These simple streamers really transformed the place.
Now I'm going to give you a few tricks of the trade.

1. I hired my kids and one of Mackenzie's friends to clean up the house for me. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than I had time to do myself. I'm telling you, they were pretty amazing. They cleaned bathrooms, mopped and vacuumed. I have great kids who will work hard if the price is right. Actually, they would have done it for free; in fact, they thought they were. I decided to pay them since they're trying to save up for some summer activities.

2. My husband set up a fry station in the backyard to keep the mess at bay and the house from smelling. He also brought in tubs of ice, loads of beer and mixed up the margarita punch. And, I should mention, weathered one crazed outburst and one meal of frozen pizza from me. Love ya babe!

3. And a great big shout out goes to my mom who told me to call her if I needed any help Saturday. Then, knowing I wouldn't call and ask her for help since she wasn't even invited, "just stopped by" that morning and stayed for several hours mixing, chopping and even making some tissue flowers. Thank you Mom! I couldn't have done it without you.

4. Of course, none of this would be possible without God. And believe me, a lot of prayer went into this project. God always comes through!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

To Shower or Not to Shower, That is the Question

Sometimes I marvel at my ability to overdo things. I tend to say yes too much. In fact, I find myself actually biting my tongue in moments that I want to say, "How can I help?", when I actually can't do one more thing. I'm getting better at this but not good enough.

To add insult to injury, when I say yes, I don't do it the simple, easy way. At least, not most of the time. Let's take for instance this shower I'm giving Saturday. In the crunch before Glory Run I realized invitations had to go out. This is a relatively easy task except I couldn't find what I wanted and decided to make my own. I also hand delivered them.

I thought Cinco de Mayo would lend itself to an obvious theme for the shower, except for the small fact that I have not one iota of Mexican blood in me. Other than tacos, nachos and a mean burrito casserole, I had no idea what to make for fancy shower food. I could have ordered cheese dip from the local Mexican restaurant, put some chips in a bowl and called it a day. But seriously, I can't bring myself to do that.

Hear me out; I don't think less of people who go that route. In fact, I 'm kind of jealous of their ability to make it easy. I'm just admitting that I can't do it. I sometimes try to blame this perfectionism of mine on my mother but she's not having it. I did it to myself. Every time I think I've moved beyond it, I host a shower and realize it's not gone, it just manifests itself in different areas, now that I'm no longer in school.

Today I was trying to come down on myself for this character flaw when I realized something. I love to entertain. When it comes to throwing a party, it's no holds barred (well, okay, maybe some holds). Throwing a party combines several of my favorite things: a clean house, good food, and great decor. I pour over the party pictures in magazines and dream of having the time, money, and space to do what they do. I could so do that.

Interestingly enough, I don't do this for a living. Consequently, I don't have the motivation of a great paycheck. Speaking of which, we won't even talk about the cost of hosting one of these things (and if I could, I would spend much more than necessary). And there's the whole, I have four kids who need me, a husband with Shingles (at the moment having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic - been there done that and it's awful) whose birthday was also this week, and things like blinds for my family room that have been on my to do list for a year now.

Therein lies the rub. I still try to make it perfect, when I don't really have the time. I'll get it done, but I'll lose sleep (lots and lots) over it. Sometimes I can multi-task, like tonight when I offered to make an oatmeal bath for Nelson to try to relieve his itching. I realized that I really needed to clean the tub before he got in and thought, hey at least something is getting clean for the shower. Crazy. I often go into survival, get-er-done mode which consists of one of two things: 1) letting the kids do whatever will keep them out of my hair - Wii for two hours? Sure. Sprinklers on the trampoline? Okay. Cereal for dinner? You bet. Or 2) I run around like a drill sergeant making everyone work with me while barking at anyone who breaks my stride.

In my dreams I create a 1950's atmosphere of total calm. I see myself wearing the cutest apron over my darling dress while I pull out homemade goodness from the oven spinning around to put it in the window to cool after greeting my husband with a smile and a kiss and patting each of the children on the head while dishing out a good dinner to them with my other hand. In my dreams I am June Cleaver.

Reality is much scarier. I don't watch much sci-fi but I'm guessing those aliens have nothing on me when I'm in party prep mode. I am truly scary. See? I can admit it. That's half the battle...right?

The lesson here is to never throw another shower during any holiday month or May, which might as well be December except it's much hotter. I should also wait until I have an empty nest and am retired until I expect a perfectly clean house for such an event. And, I might wait until I can give myself ample time to plan as well as some ample sleep to prepare. Perhaps I should also consider hiring some help.

Basically, I won't throw another shower until I'm around 65. Of course by then I'll have another list involving why I'm too old to be doing silly things like hosting showers. Maybe I could do some when I'm fifty. Except, then I'll have a bunch of teenagers and I'll have all the reasons to wait that I did while they were young except that I'll probably be more frustrated by the fact that they are big enough to help but don't want to anymore.

Based on this analysis, there will never be a good time in my life to host a shower. So, I have a choice. I can stop offering to do them. Or, I can buck up, throw my hat in the bucket and do the best I can with the time and resources I have available.

Guess which one I choose. Fiesta baby!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Happy Birthday Nelson!

Fifteen years ago today, I took Nelson to a remote little place on the lake for a picnic dinner on his birthday. We were mere months away from engagement (of course, I didn't know that) and that night was full of possibilities, a fun dinner and homemade apple pie.

We ate and lingered over easy conversation, blue-skying about the future. I remember Nelson telling me that he was definitely going to retire early, at 30 hopefully. I'm sure he talked about how he was going to make this happen but I was too doe-eyed to pay too much attention to that part. However, my ears  perked up when he said it was his dream to build his own house some day. This was not something I expected to hear from the man I had fallen in love with. I couldn't wrap my mind around the picture of this preppy, clean-cut, white-collar boy getting his hands all grubby and calloused. I couldn't see it, but I wanted to be there to experience it. Oh how I hoped he wanted me to be there too.

Tonight, as we took turns honoring him over some hot caramel apple tarts, I saw us in that moment so very long ago. We were younger with fewer responsibilities then. And yet, tonight there was so much more to honor him for as we sat in this beautiful house he built. Each year has unveiled another gift and a deeper understanding of his motivation.

Every challenge we've faced, fear we've conquered and goal we've achieved strengthens a foundation more important than this house. Together we have done so much more than build a house. We've created a home, a family and a way of life.

Nelson, I'm so glad you were born. I'm so grateful you chose me. I can't wait to see what the future holds. Happy Birthday!