Monday, September 29, 2014

Picture Perfect Visit to Roca Berry Farm

Last weekend was absolutely GORGEOUS!  We decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and make a family trip to Roca Berry Farm.  

Map of Roca Berry Farm
What a fun day!

Photographic evidence that I was actually there
Jane, getting in touch with her country side
Jane and Walt loved riding this pedal-operated cart with Philip
These bouncy "pillows" were the kids' favorite part of the day

Jane and Walt in "Candy Land"
I love the gingerbread man's cheesy smile
Flirty Harry, waiting for lunch in his stroller
Screaming at the ghosts in the "Moon Light Hotel"
Jane struck this pose and said, "Mama, take my picture!"  She thought it was her senior photo shoot.
Goofballs posing with the ghosts
Poor Walt!  A chicken pecked him through the fence.  Fortunately, Daddy was there to swoop in with a big kiss.  Every time we moved on to a new activity, Walt would ask, "Will the mean chicken be there?!"
I think I took 50 pictures of them in front of this tree.  This was the best one.  It's got Christmas card written all over it, right?! 
On the lookout for "the mean chicken" on the hayrack ride
Posing with their pumpkins on the porch before nap time
There is a huge pumpkin patch nearby with all kinds of attractions.  It's like the Disney World of the pumpkin patch world.  All of you Nebraskans know the one.  My goal in life (or at least for the next few years) is to keep that place under wraps and keep enjoying the smaller places like Roca.  If one of you tells our kids about this fabled other pumpkin patch, our friendship is over!  

I loved that we only paid for admission, the kids were able to lead the way throughout the farm without fear of losing them or having them find something not age appropriate, we didn't wait in lines, and there were only a few "really spooky" things.  

My favorite part?  On the ride home, the kids declared that it was "the best day ever!"    

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Sometimes All It Takes Is An Invitation"

As we prepare for "The Little Flower," St. Thérèse of Lisieux's feast day on October 1, I am THRILLED to share a beautiful resource and initiative with you!  

Imagine Sisters is dedicated to introducing the world to the vocation of religious sisters with a combination of media and face-to-face evangelization.  Imagine Sisters wants to show the world the truth, beauty, and goodness of the religious life.  

Imagine Sisters invite all of us to participate in the "One Rose Invitation 2014" to encourage and inspire more vocations to religious life. 

From Imagine Sisters
The One Rose Invitation is simple:  
"This October 1, Feast of St. Thérèse, invite a young woman you think would make a good sister to consider the religious life by offering her a single rose.  Sometimes all it takes is an invitation.  One sister can change the world.

You can print off this invitation from Imagine Sisters to give to the young woman:

I love this idea!  "Sometimes all it takes is an invitation."  Perhaps you see God working within a young woman in a way that she has yet to discover.  Help introduce her to the beauty of the religious life and the possibility that God might be calling her to uncover "the deepest desire of her heart: to follow Christ in a life-long adventure for the Glory of God and the Salvation of Souls."  Encourage her to visit Imagine Sisters to learn more and find resources to help her during her discernment process.   

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Preparations for Preschool Picture Day

Last year before Jane's first school pictures, I decided to do an impromptu practice photo shoot in the family room.  Jane and Walt loved standing in front of the blue paper and hamming it up for the camera.  

Walt has always been good at giving a grin on command--just not always looking in the right direction.

And then there's Jane.

Silly girl!

One year later, we're on the eve of picture day at St. Joseph's.  Only this year, Jane and Walt will get to have their preschool pictures taken.  Instead of preparing with a practice photo shoot, Jane and Walt decided independently to get their own boo boos.

The exhaustion from the start of the school year is catching up with them.  On the days that they have school, Jane and Walt take turns having epic temper tantrums.  I think their little brains are overloaded by the time they get home.  Heaven help whoever gets in their way!  

Jane was having one of her epic temper tantrums yesterday after school while I was trying to make lunch.  When they reach the point of no return, they seem to do best when they are sent to their rooms to work it out away from everyone.  The only trouble with this method is that their bedrooms are upstairs, and the kids are getting tougher and tougher for their 5'3" mama to get up there.  

Yesterday, Jane was being especially squirmy on our journey to her room.  She squirmed out of my arms and fell on the stairs.  She landed squarely on her right brow and outer eye.  Poor girl!  Her ouchie had a little rugburn and instantly turned purple. 

The startle from her injury took her out of her temper tantrum.  I laid her down in her bed, got her an ice bag to hold on her boo boo, turned on some lullabies, and let her cool down by herself until lunch.

Then, Walt decided to get an equally impressive injury of his own after dinner.  Jane and Walt were playing in the basement while I was making dinner with Harry at my feet.  I heard a BOOM, Walt screaming, and Jane came running upstairs.  "Mama!  Mama!  Walt is BLEEDING!  It's BLEEDING EVERYWHERE!!!"  

I think my heart stopped beating for five seconds.  I scooped Harry up and ran downstairs to find Walt sprawled next to a ride-on Thomas engine.  He had fallen off the back of it and the engine reared up, smacking him in the mouth, and he had bitten down on his bottom lip with his front teeth.

Fortunately, he didn't bite deep enough to need stitches, but he has a big fat lip to show for his run-in with Thomas.

My prizefighters, nursing their injuries and playing with Photo Booth

As you might remember, Jane goes to preschool M/W/F, and Walt goes T/TR, so Walt showed off his swollen lip today, and Jane hasn't shown Mrs. King her eye.  It has turned a beautiful, deep eggplant color.  

As I was folding laundry this morning and Jane was coloring at the kitchen table, I casually asked, "Jane, what are you going to tell Mrs. King when she asks you about your ouchie?"

Jane didn't stop coloring or even look up from her drawing.  "I'll say that Mama threw me on the stairs."

WHAT?!  Mama THREW you down the stairs?!  Visions of CPS knocking on our front door flooded into my head.  Deep breath.  "Uh, Jane, let's not say I threw you down the stairs.  Mommy dropped you when you squirmed out of my arms."

"Yeah."  She was still looking down at her drawing, not understanding why I was kinda sorta freaking out.  

Instead of preparing for picture day with practice photo shoots, we were practicing with our rehearsal of the picture day "What happened to you?" conversation.

"Okay, Jane, let's try that again.  Let's pretend I'm Mrs. King.  'Jane, what happened to your eye?'"

"I had an accident with Mommy on the stairs."  

Crap.  She sounds like one of those women on a Lifetime movie about domestic abuse.  "Oh, this huge black eye?  I had an accident with the kitchen broom."  Don't overreact, Catherine.  Keep it casual.  

"How about, 'Mommy was carrying me to timeout and I fell?'"  

"Okay, Mama."  Two second pause.  "Do you like my silly unicorn picture?" 

I made a deal with Mrs. King at the beginning of the year that she'll only believe 50% of what the kids tell her, and I'll only believe 50% of what they tell me.  Let's hope the deal still stands tomorrow when Jane tells the tale of how she got her black eye!  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Would they miss the kind of mom I was today?

I'm reading a fantastic book called Momnipotent by Danielle Bean.  In chapter 7, Danielle talks about the natural strength us women have to multitask.  On the flipside, she says, the quality of our work and our relationships suffer when we try to multitask too much.  

Now that we're fully into the thick of the school year, I'm feeling the temptation to multitask almost constantly throughout the day.  While it's sometimes necessary to multitask to get the things done that need to get done, more often than not I'm usually unnecessarily overburdening myself.  As Danielle wrote, I don't give myself "permission to do one thing at a time."  

Doing only one thing at a time can feel lazy or self-indulgent.  The Devil likes to whisper to me (usually when I'm scrubbing the bathroom floor), "All of this work you're doing around the house is so beneath you.  You might as well be getting as much of it done as quickly as possible so that you can get on to doing bigger, more important things."

Next time that happens, I need to remember Danielle's response to the Devil:  
"If you have trouble just 'doing what you are doing,' ask yourself, in moments where you are tempted to distraction, 'Does my vocation require that I be (fill in the blank here) right now?'   
No matter how small the task, if the answer to that question is yes, then it is enough.  There, in that moment, you are giving 100 percent of yourself to the work God calls you to, and you do not need to be thinking about or doing anything else.   
Repeat after me: 'This is enough.  I am busy enough.  I am doing enough.'"   
One one hand, there's much to be said for an efficient mama who works "smart, not hard."  For example, waiting for the clothes washer to fill with water is a perfect time to sort laundry, pre-treat stains, or turn on the iron.    

On the other hand, there's much to be said for laser like focus on the task at hand.  When was the last time you allowed yourself to just fold laundry in silence?  What about the last time you enjoyed your deck as you read a great book?    

It's a blessing that we have all of these gadgets and gizmos to make housework so efficient, but we feel miserable and worn out when we think we're not doing, doing, doing 'round the clock.  I sometimes envy the women of my great grandmother's generation.  While their work was hard and back-breaking, they didn't expect themselves to do it all in one day--the cooking, the baking, the cleaning, the laundering...In fact, I have some dish towels from my grandmother with a day of the week and a household task on each of them.  Aren't they adorable?

"Wash on Monday, Rest on Sunday, Bake on Saturday"
It makes me think of a blog Simcha Fisher wrote a few years ago.  She wrote about how she decided to give up electricity one night a week during Lent.  It sounded like a silly idea until I considered the implications.  Can you imagine an entire evening after sunset (which is pretty early around these parts during Lent!) without electricity?  I'm sure it would feel like an imposition at first since I couldn't get all of the nagging things I had left to get done.  A few weeks into the practice, I'm sure it would feel so deliciously simple!  Imagine spending the evening in candlelight, soaking in the family prayer time, the bedtime stories, the glasses of wine with your husband on the couch.  Maybe that's what our next at-home date night will be--Lights Out Night.  

Danielle's quote from the ever-wise and holy Father Benedict Groeschel's The Virtue Driven Life really hit home:
"Enjoy what's going on while it's going on.  If you go to the supermarket, enjoy it.  Don't make it drudgery.  Talk to the cashier.  Speak to the people at the fruit counter.  Chat with a neighbor.  Try to get to know people, get them to talk to you, and make your passage through life pleasurable...Slow down.  Smell the flowers as you go by, and then you won't need too much of this world's goods.  Enjoy your work and you won't need too much time off.  Enjoy being at home and you won't have to go away so much.  Many people are intemperate because they are miserable and suffering.  Their life is a big long misery, so they decide to brighten it up with mountains of potato chips.  They're addicted to potato chips or sweets or even beer.  Look at your own intemperateness and see if unhappiness is causing it." 

I need to stop feeling guilty for taking time to sit still, savoring time with my family, or "just" doing one thing at a time.  "In other words," as Danielle writes, "age quod agis.  Do what you are doing.  No excuses.  Start now."  

I liked that line so much that I scribbled it on a notepad, tore out the page, and have left it out on the kitchen counter ever since
There's still plenty to get done around here, but I'm working hard to view the work through a new lens.  When I follow St. Thérèse's example of doing "small things with great love," God sanctifies my day and makes me more productive--even when I'm "just" doing one thing at a time.  Starting my day with prayer, especially that powerful Morning Offering with its line about offering "all of my prayers, joys, works, and sufferings" of the day" for the intentions of Jesus' Sacred Heart, gives my work all of the purpose it needs.  Heck, even scrubbing toilets can be good for my soul!  

Perhaps my favorite thing about my new perspective is my attitude toward all of the stuff I don't get done each day.  I'm spending more time with the kids and Philip lately, so there's usually plenty left on the "to do" list when I go to bed.  That used to stress me out, but I've accepted that it's just part of this gig.  The work never ends.  There will always be phone calls to make, errands to run, laundry to wash (and fold, dry, iron...), meals to make, blah, blah, blah.  After reading this section from Momipotent, I'm  learning to be at peace with having plenty left on the to-do list.    

It took Danielle's tough love in this chapter to wake me up.  "If you died tomorrow, your family would miss you, not the sparkling toilet bowls."  While I enjoy keeping a reasonably clean and efficient home, but it's not what I want my kids to remember if I die tomorrow.  The test of a good day is the answer to these questions:  If I die tomorrow, would the kids miss the kind of mom I was today?  Did I give priority to the to-do list or their souls?  

Lord, please don't let me squander the gift of my family and this time I have with them.  Help me to be wise, remembering what work will have eternal rewards and what will become dust.         

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!