Monday, July 26, 2010

Living the Gospel

My sweet boy Charlie is turning 5 tomorrow~FIVE!

(waiting for my head to quit spinning, wondering where the time goes...)

Anyhow, we started celebrating a few days early as Godparents dropped by on Sunday to share some birthday wishes, cupcakes, a few spankin's and pinches, and a couple gifts as well.
He was thrilled with all the gifts he received...everyone was so generous. But one small unexpected "trinket" caught his eye more than any other. I cringed...cause it caught my eye as well...and my thoughts immediately turned (with a snicker at God's humor) to Sunday's gospel reading.

To start the story, I have to backtrack a couple weeks. As Charlie and I (and all the boys) spent some time cleaning out drawers and closets, I came across an entire dresser drawer devoted to "treasures." There were special matchbox cars, shiny paper valentines, a few holy cards and craft projects from catechism classes and VBS, and some other unexplainable odds-n-ends. Included in this treasure hodge-podge were 2 yellow plastic duck-bill whistles, that happen to make the most annoying "quacking" sound imaginable (to a mom, that is.) Alice and Emma had gone on a Duck Boat tour in Cinci last year, and had over time bestowed their whistles on Charlie. Now, I tried to respect the boys needs to keep a few treasures, but the duck whistles were chucked quickly into the trashcan. Charlie didn't cry, but without a word he started to reach into the trashbag for them, as I mumbled just loud enough for him to hear "Don't even think about it." He pulled his hand away, defeated, but didn't argue with me. I thought that was the end of the story.

Fast forward to yesterday...and Charlie's birthday gifts. Seems as though his Godmother and family had also done a Duck Boat tour while in Wisconsin this summer, and decided to share their whistle as part of Charlie's birthday gift. (Curses.) His face BEAMED with excitement as he whistled through the kitchen, shooting me a look out of the corner of his eye as he quacked by. It was as if his prayers had been answered. I wonder if he'd wished for those whistles back a hundred times or more since we'd pitched them...and God was listening.

As for my where did I ask for any noisy whistles (or 3 new giant bouncy balls, thank you very much Aunt Kathy!)...but God discerns our wants versus our needs. Charlie got what he, I got what I needed...another opportunity to grow in patience and humility. Touche.

Thank you God for a good laugh on Charlie's birthday...this little guy is a beacon of your Holy joy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

thanks mom.

I wasn't familiar with her nationally syndicated column while it ran. But someone gave me a book, a collection of her most loved articles, and "Forever Erma" made me an instant fan of her writing. Mom just e-mailed me one of her quotes and I had to share...

"Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle." ~Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Darned Socks

It is no exageration to say that we live in a completely "disposable" society. Remember when mom used to wash out ziploc bags and dry them over the kitchen faucet? or save and reuse aluminum foil? I gasp now to think about it. With paper plates, and swiffer dusters, disposable diapers...shoot we don't have to reuse a thing! I can remember when old socks became dust clothes, and washing out dirty diapers in my earliest babysitting jobs was par for the course. I find myself thinking that many products like clothing, and furnishings, and well, just about everything are made to be disposable nowadays...just not made to last for long.
When John and I were first married, he seemed shocked that I threw out a pair of his holey socks rather than mend them like his mom (mother of 12) would have done. I laughed and said...the only darning I'll do is when I throw them in the trash and scoff "Those DARN socks have a hole in them!" He didn't much see the humor.
As mom to 10 now, my thinking has changed slightly over the years. You see, having this big family has done many things for me, not the least of which is foster a keener awareness of the value of a dollar, and how far we can stretch it. Don't get me wrong...there are times when I'd rather throw an extra 10 pack of socks in my Walmart cart, than sit and take the time to darn socks...but sometimes, time wins out. Other times it has nothing to do with money, but about the effort and love that goes into it.
Tonight Sam was gearing up for his tournament baseball game. He walked through the kitchen with his game shirt tucked neatly into his belted baseball pants; hat just so; tall black socks; a total look that said this boy means business...except wait...what's that?? A big toe peaking through the end of his sock, and about to be tucked into his cleats. (sound of screaching brakes!) Hold it right there!! I asked him if I could fix them for would just take a couple minutes. He grinned from ear to ear. "Really? You can do that?" he asked. Of course, I'd be glad to. (okay, so I briefly cursed under my breath about the fact that this single pair of black baseball socks cost more than the 10-packer of white sweat socks from Walmart...and that they just don't make things to last nowadays. But, I digress.)
He pulled off one sock, and in just a matter of minutes he had a mended sock that could corral even the wildest big toe. All the while I stitched, little Lucy watched and asked "Why mom? Why?"
"Because we love Sammy," I said.
"And darned socks means love."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

thought for the day

Why is picking away at wallpaper so much more fun (and inviting) when you're NOT supposed to be doing it??

For the last 5 years I've "lived" with the wallpaper in our front hallway. After experiencing the joys of wallpaper removal in our previous home...from every room, I decided one short (only slightly hideous) hallway of paper was livable. Now that we're looking at our home through the eyes of potential buyers though, the paper has GOT TO GO! Especially now that my kids have had 5 years to pick their way down the seams, and crayola a whole new pattern. Yup. I decided to go for it today...soaking it down with a mix of warm water/fabric softener in a mist bottle, scraping, and repeating. Not horrible work, just tedious. And where are my pickers now?? Grinning somewhere else. (And I can't say I blame them.) This is not much fun at all...ah but even just 1/3 of the way through it, it looks better already. I keep wondering why we didn't do some of these projects sooner. I'm afraid if I keep at these little projects, we may just decide to stay awhile longer. Hmmm.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Falling back in with Family this Fourth

What a wonderfully exhausting holiday weekend it was!
My brother and his family drove in on Friday from Knoxville, TN. Their homecoming is always reason to celebrate, so beginning Friday evening already we did just that. John was scheduled to work his usual Friday evening shift, so the kids and I headed over to mom and dads for a pizza and cold beverages on the patio, along with a few mean games of kickball for young and old to enjoy. Saturday brought us all back to mom and dad's for more visiting, backyard games, and even a late-night campfire after the kids were in bed. So nice to catch up and enjoy conversation and good laughs.
In addition to hosting my brother's family, mom and dad were also preparing their home and yard for a Fourth of July family reunion. It's a long story, with more than one, more than simple explanation, but Dad's side hasn't kept in touch well...hardly at all over the years. In fact it's been over 15 years since I've seen or talked with any of my first cousins on that side, and for Dad and his cousins, it may have been longer. Much too long overdue! On a whim, my parents planned for and threw together the reunion to be held at their home, and to their surprise more than 5o folks were able to make it. Just wonderful! I met so many incredible people, some I'd met as a small funerals, or weddings; reunited with cousins my kids didn't even know I had, shared stories and tales of my great-grandparents that even my Dad hadn't heard before. Just awesome! I'm so grateful for the day, and for a full weekend of family bonding. The saying is true, "better late, than never." Dad sent me a picture from the weekend...several came later and missed sitting for the pic. Glad to say that my family circle just got bigger.

“The love of a family is life's greatest blessing”

Special Prayer Intentions for the day...

For the return of a Loved One(s) to the Church:

Lord Jesus, I know that you give everyone the grace to seek and to find you in their lives; so I want to pray for someone who is very dear to me, someone who was in the church but who has turned away.
Grant your grace to this person, Lord that he (she) may come back to full union with you in the church. Grant him (her) the eyes of faith to see that only in your true church the fullness of life can be found.
Let my life and the lives of all the faithful be so truly Christian that they may be a sign and an invitation to reconversion for this person and for all who may have fallen away. I ask this, Lord in you name and through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church. Amen.

Friday, July 2, 2010 it was a "little white one."

I promised I was done, but I do have a bit more to elaborate on with regards to Niagara.

I got so caught up in talking about the details of the trip, that I nearly left out the best part...the Falls in all their awesome-ness. (Is that a word?) It is breathtaking. The power and force behind the water, the shear volume (and I didn't even pay attention to the numbers of gallons that fall per minute...but someone has figured that out), it leaves you feeling so in awe of all that God is capable of. This same creator of birds and flowers, the Author of Life, the Master of our Universe didn't settle on anything...right down to this massive flow of water. Just AMAZING!

I had to smile while at mass at the Basilica that Sunday the reading would be about what else? water! From Zecharia's first reading about God cleansing us with his Grace, and sending down a huge fountain, to the mention in the second reading about being clothed in Christ through the waters of Baptism. Even the psalm response was about our souls thirsting for our Lord. It was one of those humbling little God moments, helping to remind me of His prescence in all things small and great! Certainly if we thirst for Him...he will quench us with His love...shower us with his graces, bless us in ways we cannot fathom.

The week after we arrived home a friend sent us this e-mail with rare pictures of the Falls back in 1911...when the Falls were frozen, and folks actually were able to walk across the ice. Can you imagine? This same God, capable of creating such a force of nature can just as easily calm it. Incredible.

How great is our God!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Niagara Falls

In Pictures.
(and the last time I'll bring it up....promise.)

The 12 of baby bump to be. That's the American Falls just behind us, and I believe (tho we didn't travel it) that is the Rainbow Bridge beyond which connects the U.S. and Canada.

Story of any young man's life...wishin' he was a little bit taller. Little John can't see NOTHIN' from this darn thing!
Sam posin' for his mom. Can you say "CHEESE!" It is really amazing to think that just a few feet...very few feet, and one tiny little railing seperate my babies from this raging falls. (Breathe Jamie, just breathe. This is only the first evening.)
Cutie pies Lucy and Rose, grab a quiet moment, and each other while they wait for the rest to "move on." Too sweet.
Rosie and Frank (and Grace in the background) trying to buck the wind and the mist in their fun ponchos. The Maid of the Mist boat ride was a must do! Even the little ones LOVED it. (and we big ones had fun too!)
Just after the Maid of the Mist, Grandpa poses with the grandkids who made the trip.
Okay, this looks like a really great photo-op...sweet smile, rocks, nature, calm waters...but my heart was pounding to snap the pic, and get her OUT OF THE WATER!!! Just a few yards beyond are the raging rapids that in a matter of seconds could sweep my baby girl down the Horseshoe Falls. And nope, no railing. Nothing to keep us from being silly and wandering out there....nothing. (Gulp) I couldn't get the kids away from here fast enough. This was taken on the 3rd (and tiniest) of the Three Sisters Islands, which are actually a great little spot to check out...tiny islands connected with foot bridges overlooking the rapids that lead to the falls.
17 cousins, posing on Three Sisters.
This was one of many stops for the little trolley that took us around the State Park. I think adults ride for $2, kids a buck, and ages 6 and under are free. Top of the Falls restaurant was at this stop...and the Falls were at our backs.
Too sweet Cousin Katie, with her Uncle Steve. Ahhh... if we could all be little kids again. I felt like collapsing just like this a couple times. (unfortunately, nobody would be willing or able to haul my big hiney around quite like this. Darnit.)

Niagara Falls

(part 2 in a series about our recent vacation adventure)

For us, traveling as a large family means one thing...attempting to have a plan, and then being willing to throw it out the window when things don't go accordingly.
Things started out well. We met at Dad's and after joining hands in prayer for safe travels, and a few kids car-swapping for the first leg of the trip, we were off. Cell phones and walkie talkies kept lines of communication open, allowing us to learn from one family traveling ahead of us that the rest-stop we were planning as our lunch stop was closed...the first (and maybe simplest) in a series of adjustments to the "plan." (Walkie Talkies for the kids in the caravan would be my first fun travel tip). We mapped out another rest-stop and met up with 2 other cars. There would now be 6 cars in our caravan, and 2 others well ahead of us.
There are only so many things I can try to predict and plan for when much food to bring, how many changes of clothes, what sites we plan to try to visit, and sometimes even what we'll do for a plan B if weather (or kids) are rotten. One thing I didn't factor on was the CROWDS of people that come to visit the Falls. Hundreds, thousands maybe. My life seems to be a constant head count the way it is, and with crowds as they were, it was magnified.
Often as we walked, it was with our entire group (39 people.) The kids loved hanging out with their cousins, and aunts and uncles, and I'd often find more than one of mine enjoying a shoulder ride through the park. This was wonderfully reassuring, and at the same time incredibly stressful to not have them constantly at my side...within head-count range. Throughout the entire trip (and in my sleep even) my mind was constantly at work...Alice, Emma, Sam, Grace, Mary, John? John? John? white shirt? okay there's John, Charlie, Frank, Rose? Rose? Rose was with cousin Jessi right? Yep, there's Rose...and Lucy (usually with John or I, and easiest to keep count of.) Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It was unsettling. Note, my second tip, this time for SAFE traveling: Dress the entire family in a matching color, preferrably something neon. I say this only half-jokingly. Definitely dress alike, even though I laugh when I see it on tv...Duggar style, but neon is optional. Alice and Emma wore matching neon yellow camp shirts one night, and they were the easiest to locate, despite the fact that they were most often apart from the crowd.
We spent our two nights there at the Holiday Inn Niagara Falls (NY side), which turned out to be a perfect location...walking distance to the Falls, and lots of great little sites within the State Park...and yes, State Park spells cheap (and in some cases, for kids 6 and under, FREE). There were lots of walking paths and trails, access to the observation tower and viewing sites for both the American and Horseshoe falls, trolley rides on Goat Island, 3 Sisters Islands, and lots of other little gems. What we didn't even realize until we were leaving on Sunday, was that a block behind us was the commercialized part of the Falls...a section of town that was nothing but t-shirt stands, carnival-type rides, street vendors galore...certainly something enjoyable for some families, but nothing that we had budgeted for in our trip, and something we were tickled pink to have blissfully avoided all weekend. There are fireworks over the falls on Friday and Sunday nights thru the summer months, and they were well-worth staying out late with young ones. We could view them perfectly just across the street from our hotel. Perfect!
Most of the rest of the family ate at and enjoyed Top of the Falls restaurant (on Goat Island?), which had prime dining with a view of the falls. We were planning to join them, until all 10 of the kids, while reviewing the menu during our wait outside, chose Cheese Pizza as their entree from the kids menu. At $8.95 per kid, we opted to return to the hotel and order in pizza pool-side with a few of the others who also opted out. The view sounded really nice, and I was told the food was excellent, but when feeding these masses, we have to be budget-realistic. No pizza is worth $89.50. My days of fine dining have come and gone...and will be back before I know it, but now is not the time. Tip #3, relating to group traveling, sometimes you just have to break from the crowd. For me, ordering pizza poolside was so much more relaxing than the thought of hushing my wild bunch after a hot day of long walks along trails. And vacation is about relaxing (at least a little bit, right?!) Do what works for you and your family.
On Sunday, everyone broke to go their seperate ways. Some had actually left early Saturday evening to be back home for other plans, some were going to be staying over longer in Cleveland on the way home, and still others wanted to spend a bit more time at the Falls. We opted to go to mass at The National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, just 10 minutes north of the falls. Unfortunately, we had one sick little one (a stomach virus), and the Basilica where mass was held was HOT, steaming HOT. So while we managed to make it through mass without event, we didn't get to stay and tour the beautiful grounds. It did have a life-size statue garden with many (50 or more?) statues of the saints. It was beautiful from a distance as we passed by, and wish we could have spent the afternoon wandering around there. It was the perfect end to and ready-to-end mini vacation. I recommend a stop there if you're in the area.
Overall, it was a WONDERFUL trip. I'm so glad we went, and enjoyed traveling (for the first time I think) with family in such a large group. I worried unneccesarily beforehand about how group-travel would be...and turns out it was great. I hope it becomes tradition. John's dad turned 80 earlier this year, and none of us know what time will bring. I'm glad to have these memories of a family vacation with him, and think he might have enjoyed it too. I'm certain he was glad that his days of head-counting his 12 kids are over, and could relax a bit...though it was no "walk in the park" for him, I'm sure. I think it's safe to say we ALL slept better in our own beds when we got home.
Happy, safe travels to all of you this summer.