Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vacation Bound!

out trip to the Outer Banks last year

Just a quick post to let you all know that things will be pretty quiet around here for the next couple of weeks while my family and I enjoy our annual trip to the Outer Banks! Looking forward to feeling the sand between my toes, the sound of ocean waves and eating plenty of my favorite: seafood! :)

Wishing you all lots of summer fun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Four Thousand Suppers

Four Thousand Suppers

At the kitchen table
at six o'clock.
Dark winter evenings
with my father in his
winter underwear,
quilted like an astronaut.
Blue summer evenings
after my mother called my name
on the lilting breeze
which reached me
at far corners
of the neighborhood,
her voice known
among the others.

We ate
four thousand suppers
in that small room together.
What did we discuss?
Linoleum and carpet,
casement windows,
the wild McElroys,
the loud Mrs. Supportas,
scenes from the fifth grade,
my problems with bushels and pecks.
Four thousand suppers--
oceans of tea.
The man and woman
at the table
grow grey.
I grow up--
feet finally
reach the floor.

--Anne Higgins

I've heard it said that life is what happen when we're busy making other plans (John Lennon, I think?). And isn't it so true? For several years I used to be a liturgical musician, a time during which I played the organ and sang at literally hundreds of funerals. Over the years I've had the unique experience of hearing many a eulogy. And what always struck me about each one was how it was always the little "ordinary things" about people that resonated most in the hearts of loved ones. It wasn't the grandiose achievements, promotions, awards or special titles, but the little things. Things like, "she had a way of stroking my hair that made me feel so loved," or "Grandma's canned pickles tasted like none other." (one of the things I most cherish about my own grandma!). The things we treasure and hold dear in life are those everyday moments; the glorious smell of pasta sauce bubbling on the stove and sitting around the table laughing with family and friends.

We spend most of our time going about these everyday moments, though sometimes our minds might be too tied up in far-away dreams and goals to allow us to really take in the beauty of these ordinary moments. Take time to pause and consider the little things you hold dear, your four thousand suppers. What comes to mind? What are the sights, the smells, the sounds, the tender times that are uniquely precious to you?

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Raising Homemakers

Friday, June 17, 2011


Joining The Gypsy Mama again today for another "Five Minute Friday." Five Minute Friday is where we write for 5 minutes only on a given subject. It's so much fun--give it a try! The prompt for this week is "home." Here goes:


I step over the plastic shovel and cracked pail and pause to admire the front flower beds in full bloom. Little hands and big hands digging and planting together to create this beauty.

I climb the old crumbly cement porch steps littered with errant soda bottles that didn't quite make their way into the over-flowing recycling bin.

I turn the chipped gold knob of our old weathered kitchen door in desperate need of paint. Fifty-plus years of comings and goings evidenced by bits of turquoise peeking through bubbled and splintered layers of beige.

The door hinges squeak as I make my way through, greeted by a flurry of little hands and bodies dashing toward me, "Mommy's home!!"

Plaintive daughter cry of "mommy, mommy, mommy" both a request I pick her up and a scolding for leaving in the first place.

I scoop her up in my arms and feel the tension leave her little body as fragrant fruity breathe steadies, little chest rising and falling against mine.

Husband smiles a smile full of warmth and relief at my return:

I'm home.


Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grace on a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The other day I was having a truly awful day. This day could've made Alexander's "terrible horrible, no good, very bad day" look like a slice of heaven. It was your everyday run-of-the-mill bad day in the life of a frazzled stay-at-home know, one of those days where the kids wake up too early, bickering and just. stay. that. way. One of those days with seemingly endless sibling squabbles, a list full of too many to-dos and fantasies of a hot bubbling bath of Calgon coming to mind every few minutes.
Well, this particular terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day also happened to be a church day. And so, with frazzled mind and tired, sweaty cranky children, we piled into our van and shuttled off to Mass. I wish I could say that once we arrived at church things miraculously pulled a 180 and fell into place, but...alas, they didn't. The boys had ants in their pants , Megan fussed on my lap, Luke had to use the bathroom, Adam kept dropping things causing a loud reverberating thump and making my face grow redder and redder by the minute as my blood pressure shot through the roof.

At one point during the Mass I happened to glance behind me and caught the eye of an elderly woman. Her face was sternly set, and, I, in my frazzled state assumed she was gawking at our sad display of poorly behaved and out-of-control children. This only made me feel all the more stressed and I could not wait for evening of kids-in-bed peace.

We muddled through the rest of Mass and as we were about to leave, there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned to greet the face of the same elderly woman whose eye had caught mine earlier on. She greeted me with a warm gentle smile and said, "I just wanted to tell you what a lovely little family you have here. I see your family every week and I'm always struck by how nice and well behaved your children are. I know managing little ones isn't easy and you certainly have your hands full, but you are doing such a wonderful job here." I dang near burst into tears right there! I felt completely taken aback and immediately grateful for this sweet little old woman who took the time to tell me exactly what I needed to hear at the precise moment I needed to hear it. An earth angel with heaven-sent timing.

And immediately I realized in a classic lightbulb moment that I was (once again!) being way too hard on myself. I was making all of the wrong assumptions about my children's behavior. I was expecting the impossible from tired kids that were trying their best. But the truth is that God doesn't care how many times the hymnal is dropped or about the volume of toddler whimpers. He only cares that we show up, we try our best and we seek Him. Sometimes we Moms put a lot of pressure on ourselves, don't we? We expect the impossible from our children at times when they are just not able to be at their best. I'm often reminded that we, too, are like cranky toddlers in the eyes of God on the hard days, and it's at those times that He only asks that we turn to Him.

I'm so grateful for the lesson in grace, and for sweet little old ladies with kind assuring words.

"Come to me all who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Weekend Reflection: I Thank You God

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e.e. cummings

This is one of my absolute favorite poems of all time (and, incidentally one of my favorite poets as well!). In all we do over the weekend, take a moment to give thanks to God for this most amazing day. Take time to really notice the "leaping greenly spirits of trees and a true blue dream of sky". There is a feast for our senses all around us if only we are willing to walk with the "ears of {our} ears awake and the eyes of {our} eyes opened."

I want to share with you a gorgeous musical setting of this poem, by a very talented composer Gwyneth Walker. (It makes me cry every time I listen to it!) Music just has a way of stirring my soul and making words come alive to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Friday, June 10, 2011


I'm participating in another Five Minute Friday this week with The Gypsy Mama! Five Minute Friday is where we write for 5 minutes flat on a given subject, no editing no fretting. Just enjoying the process. It's so much fun-give it a try! This week the prompt is: backwards.


When I was a little girl, my absolute favorite ride at the local amusement park was a wooden roller coaster called the Thunderbird. And the best part of this little old coaster: it went backwards. There was just something so incredibly thrilling about not being able to see what lie ahead--not seeing the big drops as they approached, the twists, the turns and bumps in the road that jostle, catch you off guard and leave you feeling off-kilter. But to just enjoy the drops as as they came was so freeing,!

Oh, as an adult to be able to enjoy riding backwards! To delight in the unknown path ahead, trusting it'll be a fun ride, a thrill, nothing to fear. There's something beneficial to being able to ride backwards, to not look ahead but instead just enjoy the moments as they come. To not get bogged down by planning and fear and mistrust. But just riding, whizzing through life with your eyes closed tightly in joy and hands waving carefree in the air.


Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

An Evening with Immaculee Ilibagiza

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing woman, Immaculee Ilibagiza. Her story of perseverance and faith in the midst of horrific circumstances is very inspiring. If you're not familiar with Immaculee's story, you can read more about her on her site: She is the author of three books: Left To Tell, Led by Faith and Our Lady of Kibeho. If you haven't read any of them yet, you must go and read them, now. Really, they're that good. (And I'm not in any way sponsored to say this--her story is really just incredible.) After finishing her first book in 2 evenings I immediately went out to purchase her others.

To briefly summarize her story, Immaculee is a survivor of the 1991 Rwandan genocide that left over 1 million people brutally murdered in a matter of 3 months. She lost every single member of her family, save for an out-of-country brother. She survived by hiding in a 3' x 4' closet with 7 other women for 91 days. To say the conditions were horrendous is truly an understatement. In her book she details the conditions of her hiding quarters where food was scarce, speaking strictly prohibited, odors pungent and physical conditions utterly stifling. Throughout her months of cramped, odorous confines she could hear the battle chants of her pursuers, while being tormented by questioning the the fate of family and friends. The physical and psychological torture of her circumstances really go beyond words.

But perhaps the most striking feature of her story is the strength of her faith through it all. As a way to cope with her conditions and make peace with the murder and torture, she prayed 15-20 hours a day. She speaks of the transformation that took place in her heart as her mind underwent a total and blessed union with God. She felt the real and true presence of the Lord in a way she had never before encountered--an experience that changed her life forever and saved her time and time again when her pursuers drew near. I wish I could adequately recap the depth of her faith and the sincerity of her heart but my words just can't go far enough. You just need to read her story for yourself.

But what I can say is that Immaculee is on a mission. Through her experience she is convinced that we have but three simple purposes here on earth: to love one another, to forgive and to pray. Throughout her books and her talk, she comes back to these simple yet profound truths time and time again. She articulates how she was able to forgive the slaughter of countless family members and friends through the healing power of the holy spirit. She speaks of the hold that hatred had had on her, and how it had begun to eat away at her soul. She speaks of her ability to let go of the anger as the Lord's healing love washed over her. She articulates the spiritual wrestling that had taken place inside of her and how the Lord had come to her aid when she felt like giving in to the darkness. She eventually arrived at a place of peace--so much so that she was even able to visit the man who had brutally tortured and murdered her most beloved brother. While this murderer was in prison, she looked him straight in the face and offered her most sincere forgiveness. The depths of her anguish and the power of saving grace are truly awe-inspiring.

Though one might not think her message love is nothing "new" per se, her unique trials and endurance of faith speak volumes to the power of this message. It's a message that sometimes fails to touch our hardened hearts, as we grow weary of human failings and tired of opening ourselves to hurt and heartache. In this post-modern time of individualism and self-fulfillment Immaculee's message to reach out to one another in love is so desperately needed. We must hear stories like hers in order to stir our hearts and be reminded of our purpose here. Immaculee's experiences transport us as readers from our hum-drum worries and remind us what really matters in life. Through her endearing, child-like, innocent and magnificent voice, Immaculee speaks directly to our hearts, imploring us to listen with our faces turned toward God.

I am so grateful to have met this incredible woman and to have had her story touch my heart. Through the testimony of her faith I am inspired to love more, to open my heart further and to never forget the healing and transforming power of prayer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

One Thousand Gifts (part 13)

Inspired by Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, I am making a list of 1000 things I am thankful for. Everyday miracles, gifts from above. Here is my continuing journey:

232. Wild goofy sweaty heart-pounding dancing to oldies with the kids

233. paper airplanes with the boys and the wonder of making flight from folding

234. roasted garlic

235. antibiotics for sick children

236. son wearing floppy bike helmet

237. peonies in bloom

238. day at the flea market and appreciation of hard labor

239. planting vegetable garden

240. night out with husband at mexican restaurant

241. 2 hour nap

242. son bringing me wild flower

243. watching bunnies out the window with daughter

244. daughter eating her first taco!

245. cooking with fresh garden herbs by the handful, fingers lingering fragrant aroma

246. smell of summer in the air

247. summer veggies on the grill

248. homemade honey butter

249. back pain healing

250. new friendships

251. the happy homey mess that comes from baking

252. the renewed optimism and hope of a new day

253. warm, kind encouraging words from woman at church when I needed them most

254. first nectarines of summer

255. beautiful sincere simple love letter from husband

256. bright red bug against bright green leaf

...more to come

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Weekend Reflection: Transforming the Ordinary

An Ordinary Task

Like a handmaiden devoted
to her duties I begin my task,
mindful of every moment.

Hands comforted in steaming suds
I grasp the slender stem of wineglass,
dinner plates, cups and saucers.

Each dish is laved, rinsed, and dried,
my kitchen counter like an altar
covered with holy vessels.

--Helen Fahrbach

This weekend as we go about our daily tasks, the mundane necessary things, let us try to do so with minds fully present and hearts light. To be able to see a bit of heaven present in the perfectly ordinary is a special type of sight--dirty dishes vessels of daily bread, messed counter alter of abundance. Any task done well, even simple things such as washing the dishes, is pleasing to the Lord. We spend a lot of our time occupied by the tasks of daily living. So let us seek to cultivate that special sight so that we may transform the perfectly ordinary into something extraordinary.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Every Day...

Participating today with Lisa-Jo for another fabulous Five Minute Friday! Five Minute Friday is where we write on a given topic for 5 minutes only. It's so freeing, so fun! I love how I never know what might come out, and how each post linked up is so different. Give it a try!

The prompt for today is "Every Day." Here goes!


Every day something small can happen and something colossal can happen. New lives begin and lives end. Breakthroughs occur, breakdowns occur and breakfasts, too.

Every day we make plans of what might happen, giving ourselves the illusion of control and organization, but we never really know what will happen, because only God knows that.

Every day we cry and we laugh and we worry and we hope and we pray and we try our best to do what we think is right, believing in ourselves as best we know how.

Every day we learn something new—a fact, a discovery, acquired wisdom, new insight. Every day is a chance to grow a bit more—to love more, to be more patient, more giving, more kind.

Every day we are forgiven of our failings through His endless mercy and grace and are given another chance to fulfill our unique purpose here. Each day preordained, precious hairs counted.

Every day we are being stretched and broken and repaired, wounded hearts healing and fresh hearts being broken.

Every day we are loved, loved perfectly as we are.

Every day.


Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ascension Thursday: Kid Craft

As a fun way to celebrate Ascension Thursday with the kids we put together this cute "Ascension up"craft! I got the idea courtesy of Lacy over at Catholic Icing (thanks Lacy!). These were simple to make, the kids loved doing them and they came out great. An all-around success! Here's how ours came out:

Adam's cup

(Note the perfectly rectangular clouds! :p He couldn't be bothered refining the aesthetics of his cloud formations when there were much more exciting things ahead like-- GLUING!!)

Luke's cup

(Luke was much more into making perfectly puffy cumulus clouds! See, there's a science lesson built right in! Bonus for homeschoolers!)

These are really pretty self-explanatory to make just by looking at them. We used glue sticks to affix the clouds and pipe cleaners to attach Jesus to the cup--super simple!

Happy Ascension Thursday!

Are you doing any special activity today? I'd love to hear about it!

"As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
(Acts 1:9-11)


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