Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Baptismal Anniversary, Harold!

Today was Harold Fulton Boucher's 1st Baptismal Anniversary!  Yay!  

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from his Baptism Day:

He was so itty bitty!  
Harold Fulton
September 15,  2013
Beth O'Brien's cookies stole the show at the luncheon reception.  Aren't they adorable?!

One year later...
I wanted to do something special for Harry's baptismal anniversary.  During our "special time" this morning, Walt and I made some white cupcakes with white frosting.  (Do you like Walt's bandaid?  His head met the pavement last night.  I'll share pictures of his shiner another time.)

September 15 is also the anniversary of my Grandpa Gene's death.  Walt's middle name is Eugene after Grandpa Gene.  Grandpa always loved his desserts, and he would definitely approve of us celebrating Harry's baptismal anniversary with cupcakes!  
Notice the two bare cupcakes in the carrier?  Apparently Walt and I were a little too liberal with the frosting and ran out before finishing the job!  Oops!  After dinner, we displayed Harry's baptismal garment, lit his baptismal candle, sang "Happy Baptism Day, Harold," and gave him his little presents.  Harry has never had his own stuffed animal (isn't that awful?!), so we got him a stuffed bunny.  Our original copy of Jesus and the 12 Dudes Who Did got destroyed a few years ago, so we got a new one for Harry.  It's already one of his favorites!
Harry was SO HAPPY about his cupcake!  Look at that smile!
Baptismal anniversaries rule!
Happy baptismal anniversary, Harry Barry Boo!  We are so blessed to call you our son.  Love you!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Special Time With Walt

I apologize for the blog silence.  September has been a busy month with the start of the school year and other activities.

Now that we're starting to get into our groove, I'll be blogging again on a regular basis.  

Jane and Walt are LOVING preschool!  They have a fabulous teacher, and they come home with tales of their adventures everyday.  As much as they love preschool, they equally love their one-on-one time with me in the mornings while the other one is at school and Harry is taking his morning snooze.  As an added bonus, they are excited to see each other at preschool pick-up.  "Tell us about your day!"

Walt is especially fond of what he calls his "special time with Mommy."  I thought I'd share a few pictures from one of our mornings of special time.

Walt was helping me water the new mums on our front stoop.  When I stepped inside to refill the watering can, Walt said he would wait for me outside.  When I returned, he was yelling next door to the workmen coming out of their van.  "Hey!  Guys!  I'm Walter!  I'm THREE!!!  I go to preschool.  I live in Lincoln.  What's your name?"  He is quite the social butterfly these days. 
Walt loves to expand on whatever he's doing at preschool.  Since they were doing several activities and crafts about apples, Walt asked to do an apple craft with me at home.  He was so proud of the finished product!  Walt is a pretty big fan of the jumbo glue stick, but he most definitely DOES NOT like having sticky fingers. 
Whenever he finishes a craft, he likes to display them on his bedroom door.  I snapped this pic after we hung up his jellyfish.  This is the pose he made when I asked him to give me a thumbs up.  "Is this what a thumbs up looks like, Mama?"
Last week, Walt helped me purge & organize the toys.  Ever since the morning we organized the toys, he keeps asking me, "Can we organize toys during special time?  I love organizing!"  He's definitely my boy! 

As much as Walt loves doing things with me, I think his favorite thing to do is just have quiet snuggle time with me on the couch.  Physical touch is most definitely Walt's love language.  He is always asking to be held, trying to hold hands while we read stories, or running over for an impromptu hug.  

I love knowing that whoever is at preschool is having a ball while I'm getting to have quality time with whoever is at home with me.  There is a great temptation to use that time to be more efficient since I "only" have two kids at home, but I've resisted that temptation whenever possible.  When I fill the kids' love tanks (especially Walt's), everyone is happier, and we manage to get more accomplished than if I put them in front of a screen or ask them to play independently the whole time.  

My friend, Kim, shared this quote on Facebook last week.  It's my reminder to keep my priorities in check.  The days are long, but the years are short.  Our children are "the most important work" because they have eternal souls that we are helping to form.

Enjoying these years is a common theme among my friends lately.  Another friend shared this poem, "The Last Time."  

It is so true that we don't know when it will be the last time we will get to do all of the little things that we take for granted during the day--holding their hands to cross the street, kissing a boo-boo, or singing them their favorite lullaby at bedtime.

So, this year, I am making it my goal to soak in the "special time" with Jane and Walt while I have them home.  It's the only thing I'll do that will have an eternal reward.    

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Prayers For Our GodTeens Family

When Philip was in high school, he participated in a fantastic program called GodTeens, and he always talked about it being his favorite part of high school.

A small group (12-15) of high school freshmen meet their Godparent couple in the fall.  They meet at the Godparent couple's house once a week throughout their time in high school, talking about the Faith, praying together, and asking questions.  The hope is to build up the Body of Christ for our Church's young people within the context of a family.

Philip and I were asked to participate as Godparents in our parish this fall.  It's a 4-year commitment for the Godparent couples who are expected to remain with the same group throughout their time in high school.  After praying about it, Philip and I agreed that we thought God was asking this of us. 

As we've been told, the windows of opportunity to participate in GodTeens seem to be when your children are really young or after they have left the nest.  Otherwise, after school activities quickly take over your evenings, and it's tough to make the 4-year commitment.  So, we embark on this journey with our oldest, Jane, being a 4-year-old preschool.  When we "graduate," Jane will be finishing 2nd grade as an 8-year-old. 

We are meeting our GodTeen freshmen tonight at the parish, and we are so excited!  When I looked at today's readings this morning, I laughed.  God has this way of making me read exactly what I need to hear.  From today's 1st Reading from 1 Corinthians:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.
Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything,
but only God, who causes the growth.

That is EXACTLY the passage our parish director of religious education chose the year I taught the 8th graders in preparation for Confirmation!  So long as Philip and I remember that our job is to plant the seeds and water them carefully, the Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting by causing the growth.

Please join us in praying for our GodTeen freshmen.  We are so eager to meet them and start becoming a part of their lives on a regular basis.  Also, please pray that Philip and I can somehow be a source of strength, peace, and encouragement throughout their high school years (and beyond!).  Please pray that God can make their hearts fertile ground on which to plant these next four years.  Please pray that we receive the gift of wisdom as we pray with and for these kids.  Please pray that our own hearts will be transformed and grow closer to God through the process.  Please pray that being a GodTeens family is a source of blessing for all of us--the GodTeens, the GodTeen families, our own children, our marriage, and our family.  

We are so impressed with the level of involvement at our parish, and are so excited to participate in this awesome ministry. 

God, we'll plant those itty bitty mustard seeds these four years and water, water, water.  Please cause the growth!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Feeling Like a Sham

Do you ever have days (or weeks, months...) when you feel like a big sham?  Everyone else seems to think that you've got it all together, but you feel like you can't do anything right.  I've been in "sham mode" for the past two weeks.  "Sham mode" is when I feel like a huge fat failure at life.  

Harry developed an ear infection a few weeks ago, and he took awhile to recover around his birthday.  Just about the time Harry was feeling better, Jane and Walt started preschool.  Then, they both came down with bad cases of preschool hangover.  The exhaustion from adjusting to school made them extra whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny, impatient, irritable, and irrational.  Early this week, Harry developed a high fever that lasted 24 hours, and I saw that he was starting to cut his top front teeth.  

I like to think of myself as a loving mama, but there's comes a time when this mama reaches a breaking point.  The combination of whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny, irrational preschoolers and a sick and/or teething baby over the span of two weeks was too much.  

Every evening after we got the kids to bed, I would tell Philip (often through tears) that I was struggling.  I felt like a big failure for:
  • Jane and Walt's behavior (epic tantrums, ignoring me, fighting, etc.)
  • Feeling more like a referee than a mom
  • Not being able to console sick Harry
  • Yelling at the kids more than I care to admit
  • Getting way, way, way behind on housework because I was only putting out fires with the kids
  • Being lousy company for Philip because I was so exhausted and grumpy 
That's what was going on when Julie Nelson sent me a message inviting me to come on the "Catholic Women Now!" radio show.  When I read her message, I thought, "Oh, man, if she only knew what a train wreck things are like around here lately!"  Nonetheless, Philip convinced me that I'm a great mom and that I had a lot to contribute on the show.                      

Unless you count the time I called call Rush Limbaugh at age 13 to chat it up about President Clinton, I had my big radio debut this morning.  Oh my goodness, it was so much fun!  I am so grateful to Julie for inviting me on the show, and I am so glad Philip convinced me to do it.  

The kids were pulling out all the stops this morning to make me feel like a sham before I went on the air.  Before leaving for Walt's preschool dropoff, I noticed some new artwork on Jane's bedroom wall.  

Of course it's in ballpoint pen and not pencil
Apparently she was busy drawing behind her closed door when I thought she was getting dressed. 

It was sprinkling outside this morning, so I put the kids in their new raincoats.  I bought them a size too large in the hopes that they would last for two years.  Walt wasn't thrilled that he had to keep pushing the sleeves up and started sobbing.  It was a serious production to get that kid to school!  

Jane, Harry, and I got back to the house, cleaned up from breakfast, and got a few things done before my sister and precious goddaughter arrived to play with the kids.  As my sister walked in, she pointed out that Monty had pooped in the living room.  

"Uh...(looking over to the evidence on the floor)...yup!  He sure did!  Come on in!"

We played with the kids for awhile before I went on the air.  As it turns out, today is the Memorial of St. Augustine (infamous wild child of St. Monica turned saint).  While I was on hold, I listened to Julie and Chris talking about the power of a mother's prayers and that our entire mission as mamas is to get our babies to heaven.

YES!  YES!  YES!  That is why I am doing this stay-at-home mom thing.  That is why I created the whole Happy Saints Reward System in the first place.  That is why the crazy weeks of preschool hangovers and a sick/teething baby matter--they (can) make saints.  

Mothering is tough stuff, and I'm the first to admit that I let it get the best of me these past two weeks.  I allowed myself to feel invisible, unimportant, and like a doormat with the kids.  I had stopped keeping the bar high for the kids, expected the worst behavior from them, they delivered, I got sick of fighting battles, they acted out more to get attention, and I'd usually yell in return.  They needed a St. Monica instead of a Poor Me Mama these past two weeks.  They needed a mama who would put her own pride and need for gold stars aside long enough to realize that she's in the business of making saints.  

The radio show seemed to go well, and I had a great conversation with Julie and Chris.  Do you ever have moments when you're talking but feel like the Holy Spirit is moving your lips?  Everything clicked for me today while I was on the air, talking about how gaining a saint in heaven through miscarrying Thérèse propelled our family to take this becoming saints business seriously.  

Something fantastic happened after I got off the radio show.  I remembered that I was uniquely called and qualified to help them become the saints they're supposed to be.  I remembered to ask for help, and I said a little prayer before rejoining them.  The rest of the day has gone well.  I stuck a bunch of saint coins in my pocket, and I gave them to the kids as I caught them being good or helping with their responsibilities around the house.  I used a calm voice to empathize and talk them through their frustrations.  I was consistent in my discipline.  I gave them specific praise.  Heck, we even got the playdoh out after lunch!  Today was gloriously peaceful and different than the past two weeks.  

I know I'm a sham on my own, but He can change all of that.  I write this blog and share advice when people ask for it, but I keep screwing up with the yelling, the impatience, the pity parties.  My kids write on the walls and they have epic temper tantrums.  As our pediatrician in Omaha loved to say, our kids "are developmentally appropriate," and I need to remember that.  

Raising our children to become saints won't happen overnight, it's not always pretty, and it certainly won't happen so long as I demand perfection or forget that preschoolers are naturally irrational.  So long as I keep sending myself to the confessional to admit that I'm clearly not able to do it alone, it's not a sham.  

"There but for the grace of God, go I."  

I'm only a sham when I forget Him and think, "I've got this."  I'm a sham when I abandon my personal prayer time out of being "too busy," when I forget to punctuate the day with little prayers, when I don't pray for the kids, when we don't pray with the kids, when Philip and I don't pray together, when I stop asking for the communion of saints to intercede for us, or when I say I've had enough of this "take up your cross and follow Me" stuff.  He's teaching me daily to see how Philip and the kids are precisely the souls I need to get me to heaven, and that I can somehow do the same for them.   When I remember that, remember Him, and remember to carry the crosses as they come, I'm not a sham.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two things: 1. Simcha liked my review 2. I'll be on the radio tomorrow

1.  Simcha liked my review

Yesterday, I wrote a review of Simcha Fisher's fabulous book, The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning.  Simcha saw it, and she shared it on her Facebook page today!

It was a total Catholic geek starstruck moment.  One of my favorite Catholic writers read something I wrote and called it "great."  Alright, I know, it was just a review of her own book, but, whatever!  It's my screen shot of my favorite author liking something I wrote, and I'll share it if I want to!

2.  I'll be on the radio tomorrow

What?!  What are you going to talk about, Catherine?

One of my favorite parts about blogging is connecting with fabulous, inspiring people around the world.  Julie Nelson is one of those fabulous, inspiring people.  Julie co-hosts a radio show with Chris Magruder called "Catholic Women Now!"  "Catholic Women Now!" broadcasts from Des Moines, Iowa through Iowa Catholic Radio (1150 AM, 88.5 FM, and 94.5 FM).  As their website says, the show is a "weekly feature by Catholic women talking about the things that matter most to Catholic women."  

Julie invited me to come on the show to talk about reward systems and apps for children.  I told her I'd be happy to talk about our Happy Saints Reward System and Family Store.

I'm always discovering more apps for the kids to play during their reward screen time, and I'll be talking a little about the ones we love.

Anyway, I wanted to be sure and let friends and family know about the show in case you'd like to tune in.  The show airs tomorrow morning at 9 am CST.  I'll be on around 9:15, and my segment should last around 7 minutes, so it'll be quick.

I had the opportunity to chat with Julie and Chris last night on the phone, and they are quite the dynamic duo!  I felt like I was sipping coffee with them in my family room.  I'm looking forward to our conversation tomorrow on the air.

If you miss the live broadcast, you can listen when the show re-airs at 9 pm CST.

Iowa Catholic Radio is on 1150 AM, 88.5 FM, and 94.5 FM.  You can also tune in using iheartradio or listen live via the Iowa Catholic Radio site.  

Big sis Jenny is coming over for a playdate and will be wrangling kiddos while I'm on the air.  That way, we can keep pretending that I've got it all together over here!  (Thanks, Jenny!)  

I told Julie and Chris that I would come on the show so long as they understood two things:

  • I'm not very smart or original.  I borrow/steal 99.9% of my ideas.
  • I can wax poetic about all of this parenting stuff in theory, but in practice, we're always just moments away from an epic temper tantrum.
So long as everyone is clear on those 2 things and knows that I'm not putting myself out there as a model mama, we're good.  Hope you can tune in tomorrow and tease me about it next time I see you!  Any and all prayers are appreciated!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher

I first discovered Simcha Fisher over at the National Catholic Register, and I've been following her blog, "I Have to Sit Down," for a few years.  I'm always sharing her stuff on social media and insisting that everyone I know read her stuff, so I knew I'd love her book, The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning.

Cover photo from Amazon
I love this cover!
The book was published in October 2013, but I didn't get around to buying the book and reading it until last week.  I absolutely loved it!  Now, I'm doing what I always do with Simcha's writing, and I am insisting that you read The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning.

She had me at the intro:
NFP boosters tend to paint a rosy picture because it's a hard sell, persuading people to turn their sex lives over to God.  And so, not wanting to scare anyone off, they emphasize the benefits while glossing over the sacrifices that often come along as a matched set.
I understand why they do this.  You're not going to convert the masses by saying, 'Hey, everybody!  Who's ready for some redemptive suffering?'  But so many couples launch into NFP expecting sunshine and buttercups and are horrified to discover, instead, the Cross.  
Unprepared to make any changes, they end up resenting their spouses and the Church in general--or else they feel guilty and ashamed to be struggling, like there's something wrong with them for not lovin' every minute of it.
That's who this book is for.   
FINALLY!!!  Thank you, Simcha!  Thank you for your honesty, your wisdom, and especially for your humor.  Thank you for admitting that NFP is hard and that it isn't always glamorous.  After reading your book, with all of its honesty about finding the Cross through NFP, you'd think I'd be looking for the quickest escape from NFP.  

Yet, I walk away from The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning more determined than ever to keep sticking with it.  The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning affirmed that: it's normal for NFP to be hard, it takes most couples a lifetime to figure out this stuff (hooray for lifetime monogamy!), we are soooooooo not alone, prudence and generosity aren't at odds after all, Love is always better than fairness, and that we've "chosen the better part" by dealing with the effects of sex head on in our marriage.  

Six years in, we still don't have this NFP or Theology of the Body stuff down.  God willing, we will move forward day to day, month to month, and year to year, propelled with the sacramental graces of marriage to keep learning more about how our marital union reflects Love to the world.  

In the meantime, we are grateful for the gift of our fertility and married life.  Despite that, we'll keep stumbling clumsily, we will undoubtedly hurt each other, and we will end up in the confessional like the couple on the cover.  (Hopefully, for Father's sake, we will be clothed!)  Fortunately, as Fulton J. Sheen wrote, it takes Three to Get Married.  Any problems in marriage will always be on us, and we get to turn to Him for strength, forgiveness, trust, perseverance, and the grace to do better tomorrow.  He'll make us into the spouses we are supposed to be if we let Him.  

Thank you for this book, Simcha.  I wish we had it to read during our engagement, and we plan on gifting it to married couples in the future!   

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Paint Chip Clothespin Color Matching Game

I'm trying to build up an arsenal of fun, educational activities for what I affectionately call "pseudo-homeschooling."  Since Jane and Walt alternate the mornings that they're at preschool, we're spending some of our one-on-one time while Harry is napping doing school-esque stuff.  The activities come in handy when I'm looking for things that will keep their hands and minds busy while I'm prepping or cleaning up from mealtime, too.  

Yesterday morning, I put together this paint chip clothespin color matching game.  

Yup, that's my own picture and text overlaying the picture, folks.  In addition to posing as a real crafter, I'm pretending I'm a fancy blogger, too!
I got the idea for this game from Pinterest last year, and I finally put it together.  It's an easy craft and educational game for poser crafters like me.  

To make the paint chip clothespin color match game, you'll need:
  • 2 sets of identical paint chip samples in varying shades.  (I like the wide, 4-color samples in bold, rainbow colors.)
  • Clothespins (I found mine at the Dollar Store)
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick  

Easy-peasy instructions:
  • Cut out a rectangular piece from each color sample
  • Attach the color sample to the end of a clothespin with the gluestick
  • Wait for glue to set
  • Voila!  Kids are ready to attach the clothespins to the corresponding samples