/> Raising Angels: February 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

On the Retirement of Pope Benedict XVI

Today, as our now Pope Emeritus retired, I was remembering this moment.
Do you see us there on the front row, far left?
It was one of the best moments of our trip, and one of the most exciting of my life. I had seen Pope John Paul II on several occasions but never quite this close. 

Look at us! If he would have just turned around, I could have touched his hand. As it was, I could have jumped over the barricade and given him a big hug, but I decided those guys in the black suits would probably put a quick stop to that.
Your Holiness, thank you for your, "Yes" to Jesus. Thank you for the wisdom you brought and the care you gave. Thank you for your sacrifice. I pray God blesses this new phase of your life with good health, peace, joy and some much deserved rest.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Push On Peeps!

I have been both tired and sore from this weekend. Between Max's 5th (!) birthday, the parties, my brother being in town and the half marathon, I'm just plain tuckered out.

Since the race, the other kids have been begging to begin training. Something about seeing their brother being cheered for, having that medal put around his neck and receiving all the free stuff, inspired them.

Yesterday was a cold and rainy day so a run would have been the end of the training. I know I should have tried for a recovery run but to tell the truth, my idea of recovering from running is, well, not to run.

It's been hard to do many things. Bending down is almost out of the question and the stairs? Oh I never, ever hate my house...except the day or two after a race when it feels like fire to climb those stairs.

Today, however, there was finally a little break from the rain so we went for it. What a sight we must have been, the five of us heading out. It would be short since three of them hadn't run since last year and the little guy, he's all about the long hall until he runs for 2 minutes.

We did it though, a mile and a half of rolling hills at a very reasonable pace. When Max tired out, the other kids were passing us on the way back so I carried on while he turned and joined them. That's when I was able to pick up the pace and keep running until I turned around and caught back up with them.

Those few moments of running were the best my legs felt all day. Turns out there might be something to this whole recovery run thing after all. 

Tonight as the muscles tightened back up, I thought about the run and how instead of increasing the pain, which, by the way, it absolutely did for the first few minutes, it took it away. Pushing through and hitting a stride was worth the brief inconvenience.

How many times in my life I do this very thing? How often do I put up with the pain instead of pushing through to relief? The push is often scary and uncomfortable but it's always better than just enduring.

Push on peeps!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dawson's First Half Marathon!

Today I ran side by side with my favorite 8-year-old for 13.1 miles! Best race EVER!

Stories and more pictures to follow when we're not busy celebrating and basking in the glow of such a mammoth accomplishment.

Way to go buddy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Only a Boy

"Mama, how come nobody is taller than Jesus?" Max asked me this afternoon.

"Well, Jesus is God and nothing is bigger than God," I said, pleased with my simple but sound answer.

"So how big do you think His fingernail is?"

Friday, February 15, 2013

Let's Here It For The Girls!

* What you are about to read may not appeal to all readers...particularly the male gender. Consider yourself warned and then read at your own risk.

Today I did something that I realized in the middle of doing I had never done before. I got fitted for a bra. I can remember thinking I had done this before one time but after today I learned that I had indeed not been fitted at all.

I've worn bras for most of my life and been just fine...then I got pregnant and that was a game changer. Of course, that was followed by breast feeding which, shall we say, increased the girls (and from here on out I will refer to these bodily parts which bras are designed to hold up as "the girls" so as to not further offend anyone and because there are only so many times one can type the word breast before it gets awkward).

I would also like to inform those who are not mothers that nursing bras are from the devil. They are not pretty, they are not supportive, they are purely functional...at best and I'm being as nice as I can to the makers of these contraptions. They are so unattractive that I tried using my normal bras as nursing bras, which in turn stretched these bras out so that they began to resemble the hideous nursing alternatives. Oh the joys of being a woman.

I did this four times. Then...I stopped breastfeeding. At this point the girls rebelled from overuse and retreated. I mean it. They ran for the hills, leaving me with, well, not even hills to hold up. This called for my first "bra fitting" during which some young teenager (okay, I may be slightly exaggerating here) tried to measure me without touching me and told me I was a size that I hadn't been in since I had my first bra. She was as perky in her demeanor as her unused girls were. I resisted the urge to slap her for accusing me of such a size as well as yelling, "You think you're so smart? You try having four kids, breastfeeding them and see where your girls end up!"

Instead I purchased the tiny bra and sulked out of the store. I may have also made a stop at Cinnabon to console the loss of these before largely unappreciated family members fearing they were gone forever. Sigh.

I mentioned my loss to a friend one time and she consoled me by telling me not to worry. The girls will be back, she promised. I clung to those words and eagerly awaited their return. And waited, and waited...and waited.

At my last doctor's appointment, I asked him about the likelihood of their return, relaying my friend's promise to me. As the words were coming out of my mouth, I could see the nurse behind him sadly shaking her head to negate the hope I had left. I also resisted the urge to slap her. I have loads of self-control.

My doctor mentioned that when his patients come in with this problem, he will often send them to the plastic surgeon for help. "You don't need that," he assured me. "You are self-confident and in shape and you'll do just fine the way you are." He was very believable so I did not need to stop at the Cinnabon this time.

I moved on with my life and forgave the girls for abandoning me. Who could blame them? I had worked them hard and given them little if any attention over the years, placing them in such homes that I am ashamed to say, sometimes came from the likes of the Target clearance rack. Oh, if I had to do it over again, I may have taken better care.

Over the past few months though, I have noticed that the girls were sneaking back into view. I did not make a big deal or throw a party for fear of scaring them off for good. No, I was going to let them come back on their own terms and give them a heartfelt thank you when the time was right.

However, as they emerged on the scene, they began to let me know that if they were going to come back and stay this time, they were not going to put up with being ignored. They began a mutiny against the home I had welcomed them back to because it was, well, the same home they had been in when they left.

They tried to throw it off themselves by causing my straps to constantly fall down so that I was adjusting my bra with every move. This however, was ineffective so they began to try to escape. Although this was better than the aforementioned retreat, it was certainly not convenient to have them run away every time I leaned over. Try as I may, the bras of days past, were not going to cut it for the new and improved girls. These girls are true divas. They wanted it their way and they wanted it now.

I began to seek the advice of friends. This is something else that had never occurred to me. Seriously, who buys a house without first speaking to someone wise in these matters? This, I had learned over time, is a serious issue in need of sound advice. Also, I finally made the decision that it was worth investing in something that really worked. You know? Build your house upon a firm foundation and all.

Today I humbly went to seek the advice of an expert. I told her of my saga and begged her to help me. She stood and patiently let me get it all out...and take it all off. She took one look at the girls' current home and shook her head. "Oh my!" she gasped loud enough for the whole store to hear. "Honey, you are in the wrong size. I understand why you've been having such problems," she consoled me as she pulled out her trusty tape measure and began to size me up in a way that made me certain she knew what she was doing.

"What size is this?" she asked of my nicest home. I told her and she shook her head.

"Darlin' you're measuring____".  I can not reveal the details of this part of the story. Some things are still sacred you know. Suffice it to say that my current band was four inches too big and my cup four sizes too small.

I kid you not when I say I nearly passed out when she gave me the news of my true size. This time I had no urge to slap the messenger but I did have to slap myself to bring me back from my stupor. "Seriously? No WAY!" I let fly loud enough for the next store over to hear.

"I'll be right back," she said with sheer determination to get my girls precisely what they needed.

I stood and looked at myself in the mirror dumbfounded. Then, because I knew he would be the one person completely thrilled with my new discovery, I sent Nelson a text.

She came back with several new homes for me to examine. "Okay, let's try one on."

She helped me fasten it in the back as I admired this new abode. I had determined that with my new, ahem, larger size, I would be destined to a very perfunctory looking place for my girls to rest. I was wrong. This place seemed to be the perfect combination of beauty and support. I was still gazing at how much happier the girls looked in this new home when my assistant shoved her hand in it and pulled the girls to attention. Don't say I didn't warn you.

For anyone else this might be off-putting, but for me, sorely in need of help and guidance to care for these long neglected girls, it was a means to an end. "You have to pull them into place like so," she said as she did just that.”See how much better that is?"

She was so right and I was so grateful that this fitting had come after I had delivered four children. There's not much that bothers you about things like this after you've given birth in front of a crowd of people.

The session went on from there as she helped me into several different homes. She would get me adjusted everywhere and make me put my shirt back on to see the difference. Oh - my - gosh - the difference!

In those few moments in that little dressing room with that woman who showed me the way, I had been completely converted. Before I had always (well, except when I was a newly wed) felt it was unnecessary to spend a fortune on something most people never see. What I discovered through this woman's wisdom and seeing it for myself, was that a firm foundation makes everything look better. No one sees it, and yet, EVERYONE does and when it's not working, it's not pretty.

I walked out of the store with new homes in hand. I texted my friend who had told me about this wonderful fitting experience. "I'm walking out of ____ and just wanted you to know that my world has been changed...and also my wallet!"

I was serious. It was no small price to purchase the homes of their dreams, but I had never been so happy to spend such a chunk of change. I had seen the light and realized it's worth investing in something I use every single day. I witnessed first hand how when you build your home upon a firm foundation, good things happen.

Now I could wrap this around a spiritual experience because there are several great life lessons in this story, but honestly I want to tell you women out there that if I had the money, I would take each of you to this store, get you fitted and buy a new home for your girls too. That's how much I loved this.

 It is true what they say, some things are worth the investment and today I found one of them.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lost in Translation

We began this week talking about sacrifices and what we could all give up during Lent. Of course this always starts with ideas like giving up broccoli, baths, homework and the like, but it usually ends in some very serious decisions for such little people.

Today all the kids were in school for a little while so I took the opportunity to steal away to mass before I had to pick Max up.  I must say that the placement of ashes is an art. Some go for the small and ever so understated cross which ends up looking like a giant smudge. This is what I almost always end up with. This year however, I got an actual cross. It was larger than my normal ash mark but I appreciated that you could actually tell what was on my head.

Max was a bit stunned when I entered his class though. "You went to church without me? When am I going to go?" Then he got distracted and quickly went to the, "What do you mean I can't eat this lollipop? I didn't really give up candy. I gave up sweets." Technicalities are very important when you are four, on your first day of your sacrifice and in possession of the one thing you decided to do without.

"Buddy," I reminded him, "you did give up sweets and candy. Remember last night when you said you wanted to go to church every day? Then this morning, when it was time for church, you decided absolutely against that policy and moved on to sweets. Remember that?"

You can imagine (if you've ever had a four-year-old) what the rest of the whiny ride home sounded like as the sounds of the plastic lollipop wrap crinkled through the air.

Tonight, as I was showering him, he looked up again at my forehead, still emblazoned with the ash cross. "Are you going to go to bed with that?"


"Why not?"

"Well it would get all over my pillow and sheets. It's okay to wash it off of your face at the end of the day."

"Okay. When can I go to church and get sacrificed?"

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's the Little Things

We took the kids out today for an early Valentine's treat. It was a rainy evening so the movie and dinner we had planned seemed perfect...except for the whole getting wet as we went in and out of places.

As we were piling out of the car, Max asked me to hold him. He stood in the car and held out his arms. "Hold me Mama," he asked so kindly I couldn't say no.

He wrapped his legs and arms around me and held me as tightly as I held him.  "I love you Mama," he purred in his sweetest voice. "You're so dry."

Friday, February 08, 2013

Enchilada Casserole - It's What's for Dinner

A few years ago I stumbled onto what has since become my go to recipe when cooking dinner for friends. It's tasty, easy, and popular with both adults and kids.
Because I love you, dear reader, I'm going to share it with you. This ladies and gentlemen is not rocket science and it's easy to make for a crowd and freezes great too.
 I should tell you that I've never made just one of these so you'll have to half it, if all you want is one pan. However, to me it's just as easy to double and I love having something in the freezer for those nights when I don't have time to cook.
This is what you’ll need:
*Ground beef - I use 5lbs to make 3 9x13 pans
(This depends on if you're going to add beans and how meaty you like it. If you're only doing one pan, I'd recommend at least 2lbs)
*Sour Cream - the amount is up to you but I go through about 2 of the big containers on 3 pans
 *Flour tortillas - each pan takes about 10 of the smaller tortillas
 *Enchilada Sauce - I like to mix the green chili sauce with the hot or medium red sauce
 (Here too you have to use your judgment because one can is really enough for one pan)
*Shredded cheese - cheddar or fiesta mix, whatever you like best
*Taco Seasoning - one package per pound of beef
*Black Beans - I add one to two cans per two pounds of beef depending on my mood
Is that clear as mud? Good. You read it right then. Now watch and learn.
First cook the ground beef and drain it. Add the taco seasoning and water and cook according to the package. Then take a can or two (or none) of black beans and drain them. Stir those in with the taco meat.
This step does not merit a photo op as if you can't cook taco meat, you need more help than I can give you. Don't cry though, I didn't mean that. I will help you. I just can't help you online. You're going to have to make a road trip.
Take the tortillas and line your pan with them as if you were making lasagna. You can pile them on top of each other but I'm not crazy about a super thick layer of these so I cut them to size like so.
 Spread the tortillas with the sour cream as if you were frosting a cake. Can you see now why my measurements are not precise? And did I just say cake? Yep, I'm already thinking about dessert.
 Take half of the meat and bean mixture and spread it across the sour cream like so.
 Take a generous amount of the cheese and cover the meat with it. I'm sorry but I don't measure the cheese. All I can tell you is that the giant bag is enough for three pans.
Take your choices of the enchilada sauce and mix them. In this photo they are not yet stirred but I thought this was prettier than what they look like all mixed together. See? I'm always thinking of you.
 Drizzle half of your sauce over the cheese and try your best to spread it around.
Then repeat the layers: tortillas, sour cream, meat and beans, cheese and enchilada sauce.
Pop the casserole in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Everything is already cooked so you're just warming it up. I take mine out when the cheese is nice and bubbly.
It serves better if you let it cool a bit before you cut it. However, it takes me so long to serve up plates and cut food for kids that I usually don't wait too long. This way I can eat a nice lukewarm meal instead of my usual cold one.
 Unfortunately, this is definitely not one of the most eye-appealing dishes I make. All I can tell you is that nobody cares what it looks like when they ask me for the recipe.
I like to serve the pieces topped with sour cream and salsa.  I'm all about adding calories wherever I can because I love having my jeans be too tight the next day.
 Seriously though, I think it tastes better this way. I just serve it with a salad because as we all know, eating a salad cancels out all the bad calories of whatever else you're eating. My kids like to eat it with tortilla chips but I didn't show those because I like to give the illusion that every meal I serve to my family is well-balanced and healthy. Notice the vinaigrette dressing I used for my salad.
Oh who am I kidding? Let's face it, this stuff is gooey and tasty and when I'm eating it, I'm not thinking about calories or much anything else except how to prevent the kids from eating so much of it that there are no leftovers.
 That, my friends, is why I exercise.

 Happy eating!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

My Knight (or Redneck) in Shining Armor (or a beat up pick-up truck)

This evening I picked up nine (yes nine and no not all for me) pizzas. When the lady at the counter put them out for me she asked, "Want to take half now and come back for the other half?"

That would have been a very practical solution. However, I knew that the six other people crammed into that tiny waiting area were looking at me thinking, "SHE's the reason my pizza is not hot and ready in five minutes like promised." Besides, I figured, how heavy can nine pizzas be?

I managed to grab the tower of pizzas with my keys in hand and purse over my shoulder without dropping one single cheesy pie. When I turned to the door, I realized my dilemma. It was not going to be so easy to open that door with the tower of pizzas in my arms.

At that very moment, before I even reached the door to contemplate this problem further, a woman standing next to it held it open for me. "You must be having a party," she smiled. I thanked her profusely and went on my merry way...until I reached my car.

Hmm, I really should have listened to that young lady behind the counter. That's what I was thinking as I so deftly unlocked the back of my car only to discover that I could not pull the door open with the pizzas in my arms. I tried leaning them on the bumper so I could free one arm to pull it but then it wouldn't open because the pizzas were in the way. I tried to pry it open with a finger I could get free while holding the pizzas but one finger does not even budge that back door.

I was seriously contemplating placing the pizzas on the ground (not sure why I felt this would be disgusting as they were actually in boxes and not simply laying in a sloppy mess across my arms), when I heard a voice. "Hey! Do you need a hand?"

I looked up first because I figured on the side of town I was on, the only helpful hand I would get was from Heaven. Then I heard it again. "You really look like you could use some help."

This time I looked around at ground level because I totally did not want to miss the white knight on his stallion that I was sure was coming to rescue this poor damsel in distress. What I saw instead was what we here Southerners refer to as a redneck. And yes, he was jumping out of his beat-up old pick-up...not off a handsome stallion. Before I could refuse him, and let's face it, how could I possibly refuse him when he had obviously been watching the whole comical this girl has bitten off way more than she can chew scene, he was at my side opening the door for me. He held it while I put the pizzas in the back and then, get this; he closed it for me too.

I thanked him and then stood it total awe as he jumped back into his truck that he had pulled over in the line of traffic just so he could help me. No matter how he was dressed or what he drove, he was a knight all the same to me. In one simple but selfless act, he had saved me.

I took off in a very cheesy smelling car with a big grin on my face thinking about how these simple random acts of kindness had blessed me beyond measure. These people had looked outside of themselves for a moment and had seen me. Without knowing who I was, they placed my needs in front of their own. It had a very powerful effect.

And then I thought, isn't this the way it should be? In fact, isn't this the way it used to be? What has happened to us as a society that such simple acts of kindness blow me out of the water?

I've shared recently about the prayer either Nelson or I pray over the kids every night, so it won't surprise you to know that these kinds of events also get me thinking about how I can train my children to be people who hold doors open for others. How do I teach them to do random acts of kindness for total strangers with no promise of reward?

I think the answer lies in exactly what happened to me today. When someone held the door for me when I was pushing the double stroller with one hand and holding Mackenzie's hand in the other, I noticed it was almost always a woman...no doubt a mother. I would always thank them and then ask God to allow me to remember what that was like so that when my hands were finally free some day, I could hold the door for someone whose hands were full. When a man offers to carry something or reach something that I can't, I pray I can raise up sons who will do that for another woman some day.

The way I can teach is by doing it. Children tend to follow our examples. They see what we do and imitate it. When I do something nice for a stranger and my kids are there, we talk about it. I tell them how I knew that person needed something that I could help with and  how much I love it when someone does the same for me.

We start by modeling. We continue by teaching. We follow through by training. There is indeed only one of me; however, I am raising four souls. That's quadrupling my opportunities to pay it forward!

So many times we see the big problem so we look for the big, change the world solution. What we forget is that it starts with one. It starts by making a decision to look up once in awhile and notice the people around us.  If we're watching, we'll catch opportunities to help.

If we think about how much our actions might bless someone instead of how inconvenient it is to us, we might not change the world.  We might, however, change that person. Who knows? That might just be the start of something big.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Superbowl Sunday Breakdown

Free weekends around here are like pure gold. I was elated to look at my calendar last week and see what was shaping up to be a wide open weekend.

I had signed up to bring dinner to my brother and his wife on Friday and had to take Dawson out on a long run Saturday morning but after that there was nothing. To tell the truth, I don't make announcements like that for fear someone will pencil something in for me. However, basketball season ended earlier in the week and that alone made me feel like a free woman.

Saturday turned out very nicely with a frigid 11 mile run followed by brunch with friends. The rest of the day offered nice chunks of time for some household projects along with some fun family time (we're currently on a Rocky kick and the boys are loving every single, black-eyed moment).

It took a bit longer than I had planned to get one chore finished so I got to bed much later than I had hoped, but it didn't bother me because I knew that I had absolutely nothing (other than mass of course) planned the next day and I was comforted by the thought of lounging around in pajamas and watching movies.

Then the phone rang...and, gulp, Nelson answered. "Sure!" I heard him offer. "You can bring her over to watch it. We'll probably invite a crowd."

Funny, he didn't see me jumping up and down, waving my hands frantically and shaking my head.

You see, I take the whole Sunday is a day of rest thing very seriously. Sunday is for church, family brunch, movies, leftovers and sometimes even a nap. I hold my Sundays sacred and actually cringe when I get invited to Sunday events. It's not that I don't like to do things; I just don't want to have to do them on a Sunday.

That little phone call turned into a massive invitation sent out Sunday while we were at our favorite coffee shop. "So I'm inviting some people over for the game," he said, bracing me for impact.

I took a deep breath and thought, you know, it's just a bunch of guys. I'll throw together some chili, we can tell them to bring a snack and some beer and then I can sit and watch the game.

That was all fine...except my husband thinks big. So he didn't just invite guys, he invited families and all their children. This meant I spent my free Sunday cleaning my house, making food and getting set up for a party I didn’t prepare for.

I like to throw parties. I like to have lots of people over. I'm not so good at spur of the moment parties for 30 on the one day of the week I strive to do a whole lot of nothing.

However, I love my husband and wanted to placate his edginess over the fact that this, "is the LAST game of the season and then there is a VERY LONG hiatus until football starts again."

Cue the violins.

We did it and it turned out that even though I couldn't have cared less who won the game, I watched the whole thing because my goodness at least they made it interesting. And, other than the whole prep and cleaning, I actually enjoyed the event itself because most of the people were there to watch the game anyway - that and I won 10 bucks in our betting pool.

In the end, I guess the lesson here is that life often does not go the way you plan. But sometimes, that's okay because what you plan is often not as fun as what occurs when you just let life happen.