Thursday, April 29, 2010

Good Shepherd's Garden Party - Week Four

We celebrated our Garden Party early this week because of our plans for Adam's birthday this weekend. The theme for this week was, "The Wind and Sea Obey Him." We added a boat to our poster, including mast and sail. We also added nets, fish, a Leviathan, and a "barbecue" where Jesus cooked fish for his friends after the Resurrection. We talked a lot this week about Jesus' friends who were fishermen and what it means to be "Fishers of Men."

This week's dinner party menu included:

1. Banana Boats with Pretzel Masts and Fruit Roll-Up Sails (These included a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some blueberries and mandarin oranges in addition to the bananas. We had these for dessert.)

2. Net Shaped Pretzels

3. Goldfish Crackers

4. Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches (for Jon and me)

5. "Octo-Dogs and Shells" (for the boys) This "lovely" recipe came from this book:

(Photo credit:

6. "Sea" Water with Goldfish Ice Cubes

We are still enjoying the Garden Parties each week. Tonight the boys were already asking what the next theme will be. I'm starting to wonder what we'll do once the Easter Season is over!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday Adam!

This Saturday, May 1st, is Adam's 4th birthday. It's hard to believe my baby is four already. Granted, the first two years of his life are a real blur in my memory. (Ray is only 17 months older.)

Thank you, God, for the amazing gift of this spirited, imaginative, loving, creative child.

Here is one of the first pictures of Adam in the hospital. After Ray (8 days overdue) weighed in at 10 pounds 11 ounces (thank you, God, for c-sections), I was just so happy that Adam weighed in under 10 pounds. He was 9 pounds 15 ounces (at 39 weeks)! When they laid him on the examination table in the OR, we all laughed at how he loved stretching out his arms and legs.

Here is Adam right before his first birthday. You have to love the hair!

Here he is at age two, so proud to be into everything and always exploring. He has always been so confident and active.

Adam's zaniness and creativity definitely blossomed when he was three. He is strong-willed and also very fun-loving, adventurous, and creative.

As Adam has approached four, he has dived into what he calls his "imaginary world." He loves to pretend and conjure up games and stories. I am continually amazed by the things he says and does.

Four just seems to be a magical age. To Adam, the world is absolutely amazing and full of possibilities. He thinks he is "undefeatable." Tonight at bedtime he asked me if God could look down from heaven and watch him while he sleeps. When I assured him God did do that, he shook his head and said, "That is so incredible. I love it!"

I hope to truly enjoy and nurture his sense of awe and wonder this year.

We have already been celebrating his birthday for several days. We had a fun party at my mom's last weekend...complete with a smashed cake (because I dropped it in the driveway) and a SpongeBob pinata (which was whacked with the most gusto and delight by the ADULTS).

One day this week we met Adam's best friend Ryan and his family at Magic Mountain for a mini-birthday celebration. (Sorry, I forgot my camera.)

This weekend we will be celebrating with Jon's family.

So, it's a birthday marathon... but we are so thankful for this little boy and all of the excitement and joy he brings to our lives. Please say a prayer for Adam today.

Reflections on Pitfalls and Real Life

Lately I have been thinking and praying a lot about a pitfall into which I often fall. It is the dangerous habit of comparing myself and/or my children with others. I know that this is a significant challenge I face as I begin the homeschool adventure with my boys. I could easily drive myself crazy by comparing what I'm doing and teaching with what other moms are doing and teaching.... and more dangerously, by comparing how well my boys are learning and developing and behaving with what other children are doing.

I really enjoy reading blogs and I get a lot of inspiration and encouragement from them. I find myself in awe of what other moms and children are doing. The problem is that when I read these blogs I often pile expectations and a sense of inadequacy on myself without even realizing it.

I have been praying for the graces to be able to embrace my own calling and situation, to do my best to discern what I need to teach and do each day, and to love my boys unconditionally and take them where they are and help them learn and grow at their own paces. For me, a particularly challenging aspect of parenting and teaching is knowing when to push hard and challenge my children to do things they may not want to do or may be afraid to do.... and when to let go of my own issues and timelines and "let things slide" for a while, giving them more time to develop skills or confidence. It's harder than it sounds. It's a lesson that needs to be learned and practiced over and over again.

And so, I'm praying hard and trying to be fully present to my children each day. I'm trying to keep my planning and goal-setting in the proper perspective. I'm trying to allow God to be the Teacher and Leader of us all.

I think I need to find or write a simple prayer to help me avoid this pitfall. I need to post it at my computer, in our schoolroom, and many other places around here. I'll let you know if I come up with something helpful. (Your suggestions are most welcome!)

Finally, a few comments about the purposes and realities of blogging... Several of the mom-blogs I read were commenting on this last week... emphasizing that blogs don't really show the full picture of family life. Yes, the posts and pictures often show wonderful family moments, events, or projects. However, they don't usually show the nitty-gritty realities and challenges of daily life. Honestly, who would want to read or write about the perpetually-dirty kitchen floor, the incessant whining of a five year-old, the disgusting detritus living in the mini-van, or the grueling daily event that is bath/story/bedtime? We all have pull-our-hair-out, wish-I-wouldn't-have-screamed-about-that moments. Blogging is not meant to be a tell-all expose.

The purpose of this blog is to share reflections and insights on our family life, particularly our life of faith. I also share many of the projects, events, and interesting (?) anecdotes that happen around here. For me, this blog is a journal. I really enjoy recording thoughts and events of significance to me. I gain insight and save memories in the process of recording thoughts and images here. I love sharing these things with my family members and friends, especially those who live far away. I also welcome the opportunity to reach out to people I haven't met, but who share this same journey of life and faith with me.

And so, dear reader, I am glad that you are here. Please pray for me and my family and I will pray for you and yours. Please don't feel inadequate because you don't do the things I post about here. (Only crazy people plan six weeks worth of Easter Garden Parties that include making about 8 different kinds of cupcakes! ;) ). Please know that our family is very far from perfect. Also, please don't judge harshly what you read here. I am trying my best to do what I'm called to do and I offer my thoughts and experiences with sincere humility. May we travel together on this journey of family, faith, and life.... helping one another avoid pitfalls, grow in holiness, and embrace the blessings and graces of each day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Good Shepherd's Garden Party - Week Three

Tonight we celebrated our third Good Shepherd's Garden Party, continuing our celebration of the Easter Season. This week's theme was, "The Heavens Tell God's Glory."

I made pinwheels as table decorations. Below you'll see our artwork display for this theme. We used sunshine and rainbow projects that we already had and made some clouds, lightning, rain, and hail to go with them. Ray even came up with the idea to use the fan from his room to represent wind and make the rain and hail blow in the breeze.

Ray was a great help with the preparations this week. He loved making the sunshine cupcakes!

This week's symbols were:

1. The Sun (Sunshine Cupcakes)

2. The Cloud (We used mashed potatoes for this. We also served kielbasa sausage, sauerkraut, and green beans.)

3. The Rain (We made "rain drops" using blue "jello beans" -- made in an Easter mold I have.)

4. The Lightning (We taped "lightning bolts" to our water glasses.)

5. The Hail (We used mini-marshmallows to represent hailstones.)

6. The Wind (We enjoyed windmill cookies.)

7. The Rainbow (Rainbow Fruit Kabobs)

We really enjoyed this week's theme, readings, and symbols. They fit in so well with our Earth Day discussions and activities too! We find ourselves anxiously anticipating each week's Garden Party. It's a special family time for us! Thanks again to the ladies at "Shower of Roses" and "Waltzing Matilda" and "Catholic Cuisine" for these wonderful ideas!

The Bubble Lady

We had such a cool visitor today! My mom's cousin Margie lives in Baltimore. She and her brother Mike (who is also cool of course) came to Columbus for the weekend to visit relatives. Margie is one of those people who can't quite be described in words. She is wild and loud and full of crazy stories. She's always worked with children and knows just how to engage them. She does bubbles.... seriously. She has "bubble gigs" all around Maryland.

So this morning we had an awesome bubble party in the front yard with Margie. We just beat the rain. If I had known she was coming, I would have invited all of my friends and their children. It was amazing! I almost forgot to take pictures because I was having so much fun! Half the fun was seeing the looks on the faces of people who drove by and saw these gigantic bubbles. Here are a few of the shots I did get:

Check out Ray's face! It's so typical of him.... trying to figure out how this works I'm sure!

What a great way to start a Saturday! The boys were completely amazed and so excited. Margie told them about the water balloon sling shot and lots of other crazy toys she has at her place. So now we're apparently planning a trip to Maryland to play with Margie the Bubble Lady!

Our First Lapbook

This week, as part of our study of insects, we made our first lapbook. A lapbook is basically a compilation of facts and ideas on a particular topic. It uses file folders as its base and includes a series of mini-books, activity pages, pictures, notes, maps.... Lapbooks are a creative way to compile and display information on a theme. They are very popular with homeschoolers.

The lapbook we made is very simple. Most of it came from a "Funtastic Folder" kit I found online at It was a fun project that we worked on all week. Here are some pictures of the finished product:

This is the cover. It opens in the middle to display the following:

The dragonfly picture actually flips up and there are several more activity pages underneath.
The page on the far right (with the green and yellow yarn) is a matching activity.
This is the back of the lapbook.

It is great to have this lapbook for the boys to look at and review what they've learned as well as for them to share what they've learned with others. I'm sure we'll be doing more lapbooks on many topics in the future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inniswood Gardens

It was a beautiful day today. After lunch my mom and I took the boys to Inniswood Gardens Metro Park. It is truly the most beautiful park here in Columbus (in my humble opinion). We especially enjoyed the myriad of flowers in bloom and the pond life (we saw two snakes, a mama turtle with two babies, and LOTS of frogs and tadpoles.) The boys were literally shrieking with delight as they "tickled" the frogs with twigs and made them jump. Miraculously, no one ended up in the water.

Also, the boys are thrilled that we are studying insects this week. They pointed out many insects at the park. At one point Ray told my mom that we are so lucky to be homeschoolers because we can study insects any time we want to.... not just when a teacher says to do it. Apparently plans to study insects quite a bit. He's been searching for them in the yard and carrying around a guide book. Neither of the boys has any qualms about touching and handling ants, spiders, beetles, worms, snails, or anything else they can find in the dirt! Aggghhh!! I still can't believe God gave me boys!

It was a pretty terrific Tuesday for us.... hope yours was good too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The World According to Adam

Adam has had quite a few great insights and funny comments lately!

On Sunday we attended the First Holy Communion Mass for one of our homeschool friends. As the first communicants processed in, looking very fancy and holy.... walking two-by-two.... girls paired with boys, I pointed out our friend to Adam. He very non-chalantly asked, "So, who's Christian marrying?" I wanted to laugh out loud. I thought I had prepared the boys so well for this special celebration. It reminded me that they don't always completely understand what's going on or how things work. I think the funniest part was how non-interested he sounded.... like he witnesses marriages of eight year olds all the time. I'm sure part of his confusion came from the fact that we were telling the boys that we got married in this particular church. Oh well.... same church, different Sacraments. No big deal to an almost four year old.

Adam has also been telling us that he isn't afraid of anything. He is very brave. When he grows up he wants to be "a defeator." He can defeat anyone or anything. My sister's home was broken into this weekend. Adam has repeatedly told me that he will catch those "badgers" (bad guys) and DEFEAT them! Today I asked him how he will defeat bad guys. He told me he will use the very powerful (flashy, noisy) gun he got at the circus. I love his confidence and innocence.

The boys have also recently discovered "grafitti." When we drive downtown, we see several bridges, train cars, and buildings that are colorfully decorated. The boys are fascinated by it. They search it out. We've had many conversations about how disrespectful it is to deface other people's property. They think the word "graffiti" is hilarious. They use it all the time. On Sunday Adam came to me in the kitchen and said, "Mommy, I am sorry about this but Ray and me did graffiti on the back porch." Ugghhh!!!! Sure enough, they had written with chalk (thankfully) on the carpet or our screened-in porch. Hopefully, the consequences they paid will deter them from further artistic exploits.

Finally, Adam thinks he is a monkey. He wants to climb all the time. Today we went to the park by our house. The boys like to have me lift them onto some big branches on a tree there. They lay on the branches and pretend to be sloths. Today Adam swung around and attempted to hang down from the branch. He scraped his belly, cried for a minute, then got up and walked away saying, "I really didn't think that would happen."

He is so funny.... and such a challenge sometimes as well. He will turn four in a few weeks. Several of my friends and I subscribe to the theory that SOMETHING goes on in a child's body, mind, and spirit during the weeks before and after their birthday. They just seem to be "in an upheaval." Could it be a time of transition or development? Do any of you notice that dynamic as well?

I love this precocious little boy so much! He is certainly entertaining and fun to be with every day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Good Shepherd's Garden Party - Week Two

We are continuing our celebration of the Easter Season by adding to our Good Shepherd calendar each day. This week's theme was, "Welcome to the Lord's Table." This is what our chart looks like now:

We had our Garden Party at dinner time on Saturday. We had read all of the Scripture passages and put the stickers on during the week. We celebrated all of the symbols of this theme as follows ---

Table: We set the table beautifully with a fancy tablecloth, flowers, candles, and some fancy dishes.

Chairs: We decorated our chairs with ribbons.

Bread: We made "Lamb of God Bread" using dinner rolls and arranging them to (sort of) resemble a lamb.

Honey: This was the biggest hit of the evening! We put butter and honey on the rolls.

"Wine" --- We used berry-flavored juice mixed with Sprite and drank it from fancy glasses.

Fruit: We enjoyed a delicious fruit salad.

Milk: We are still anticipating the most-anticipated part of this celebration.... ice cream sundaes!

(We added chicken and vegetables to the items listed above and were planning to enjoy the ice cream sundaes after taking a walk. Well, the boys were fighting with each other on our walk and we decided to postpone the dessert. We didn't get to it today either. So, hopefully tomorrow we will enjoy the grand finale of this celebration!)

I am really enjoying planning and presenting these Garden Parties. Perhaps it's the girl in me wanting to have tea parties! I am enjoying getting out special dishes that I haven't used very often. We are trying to use these opportunities to work on table manners with the boys. We are all enjoying these parties as special family time. We are already eagerly anticipating next week's symbolic meal.

Happy Easter! Keep the Alleluia's ringing!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Recovery Mode

We are SO HAPPY to have Jon back! He finished up tax season around 6:30 on Thursday evening. We greeted him with lots of hugs and kisses, some posters and balloons decorating the house, and a nice dinner including his favorite strawberry cake for dessert.

It's always a bit of an adjustment when he finishes tax season and is home with us more. First of all, he is exhausted. I am trying to let him decompress and catch up on some sleep. At the same time, there are lots of projects and "agenda items" that have been on hold for some time.

Jon has been amazed over the last few days at some of the things the boys are doing and saying. He didn't realize how much they've been learning and how they are getting more independent every day.

This morning I had the great privilege of sleeping in AND being brought breakfast in bed! Jon woke me up and immediately told me how impressed he is by what the children are learning from me and/or their Montessori class. He told me that he and the boys were watching birds at the bird feeder and Adam told him he had an "hypothesis" about why the black birds like our bird feeder so much. I let Jon marvel at my wonderful teaching abilities! Later, I asked Adam about it. He told me, "They talk about 'hypopeseses' all the time on Dinosaur Train!" So funny! Thank you God for PBS or Disney or whatever channel is teaching my child so well. :) *Note -- I really don't let them watch THAT MUCH TV!

Anyway, we are in recovery mode here.... enjoying being together as a family, re-examining some routines and discipline approaches, getting ready for birthday celebrations and some family trips, shoring up our to-do lists of projects, and planning some date nights too!

Yeah Jon! I am so proud of all the hard work you do. Thank you for supporting us so well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Easter Art Lesson

On a recent trip to the library, one of the boys picked up this book: Henri, Egg Artiste by Marcus Pfister (the author of the "Rainbow Fish" books). It was a really fun surprise that launched us into some discussion and study of famous artists.

In the story, Henri is in charge of painting Easter eggs, but he wants to be more artistic and creative rather than using regular Easter egg designs. He paints eggs in the style of several famous artists (including DaVinci, Warhol, Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse and more). He paints rabbits instead of people in his versions of the Mona Lisa, the Scream, and Van-Gogh's Self-Portrait. The best part of the book is the fold-out section on the back flap. It shows the original paintings on which Henri's eggs are based and tells a little bit about each artist. It's a great survey of some of history's greatest artists. My boys are fascinated by it. We're going to get our own copy of this book and keep it on our shelf all year.

So, if you have young kids... or even if you don't... check out this clever book!

True Love

One of my darling boys drew this lovely picture on the easel this morning.

Who do you think it is? 1. A giant pig-man 2. The troll from The Three Billy Goats Gruff or 3. Me? If you guessed me, you're a winner! It's "great big mommy!" Yeah!

Which of the features most truly resemble me? 1. The pig nose 2. The fork hands 3. The sparse hair or 4. The ginormous belly? Don't answer that! At least I don't have a double chin or flabby neck in this picture. That's right, I don't have a neck (or feet or clothes) at all.

Which of my adorable, lovely, kind children drew this picture? 1. The older one, who later fell at the park and couldn't move his neck and had to be taken to urgent care where he proceeded to suddenly be healed and talk nonsense to the doctor and stick his hand down his pants..... or 2. The younger one, who threw a monster tantrum for over an hour this morning about a toy that he didn't even want to play with anyway and who then proceeded to not listen and/or disobey me for the rest of the entire day? The answer to that question would be 1.... my first born, whom I love with all my heart. I kept repeating to myself all day that I love him with all my heart, so it must be true.

I love them both and they love me and we all love daddy, who will return to our world tomorrow after completing 578,264 more tax returns. Now that is true love.... still loving one another after a day like today. I was SO HAPPY when they went to bed tonight, but I'll be happy to see them again in the morning too. This is true love. This is the domestic church, love in action, for better or for worse. It's where I'm called to be and where I want to be. It's where we're all four learning to be saints, to love God and one another. It's way harder and way better than I ever dreamed it would be. Deo gratias!

*Note 1: Thanks a BILLION to my mom who came to my rescue. She watched Adam and made a delicious and healthy dinner while I took Ray to urgent care. I love you mom!

*Note 2: Ray is fine. He pulled some muscles in his neck.

*Note 3: Ray thinks the picture he drew of me is beautiful. He explained that I have lots of babies in my belly in that picture. I thanked him for the lovely picture and assured him that there are no babies growing in my belly. Thank God I've already started a diet and exercise program! This picture will be my motivation!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Taxed to the Max!"

Tonight I am missing Jon and our "normal" life as he is working so hard to finish up this tax season.

My mother often told me I needed to marry an accountant (when I'd come crying to her about unexpected bills or mystifying interest rates or unbalanceable checkbooks). I followed her advice and the benefits have been great! (Jon takes care of all those headaches for us.) Most of the year we are so blessed because Jon works less than a mile from home. He leaves around 8:30 and comes home around 5:15.... and often stops home for lunch as well.

But tax season is another story. He has been working very very very long hours. Every day. It really wears on him and on all of us. Fortunately, now that the boys are a little bit older, it's easier on us. We have our own routine that is tiring, but do-able for me. The saving grace of this grueling season is that Jon really loves what he does. He loves finding ways to help people save money. He is a hard-working, honest man of integrity. He is brilliant with numbers and codes and forms and all of that accountant stuff. He is the ultimate tax man.... and he loves the "Tax Man" song by the Beatles too! I am so proud of him!

I know that there are lots of other "tax widows" out there tonight. Please join me in praying for all accountants and their families as this tax season comes to a close. May God give all of us the grace and strength to perservere through this challenging time. May we remember to be thankful for our jobs and for the benefits that the taxes provide for us and for all who live in our country. May our work and our lives always reflect our values and morals as faithful followers of Jesus.

Saint Matthew is the patron of our parish and the patron of accountants. Here's a prayer to him as well: "Dear Levi, now known as Matthew, your were first a publican, a tax collector, and then a gatherer of souls for Christ after immediately following his call. Later you wrote wonderful accounts for your Jewish brethren of what Jesus, descendant of David, said and did as Teacher and Savior. Make all accountants imitate your example in giving careful and honest accounts. Amen."

P.S. Don't forget to get your taxes in! We're at 50 hours and counting! (Of course, as always, we're filing an extension!)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Good Shepherd's Garden Party - Week One

For the second year, we are using this Easter Season calendar by Tomie dePaola. It includes a Bible passage and corresponding sticker for each day of the Easter Season. It is arranged by weekly themes. We got a slow start this year, but now we're all caught up through week one. (I'll post a picture of what the actual sticker scene looks like soon.)

Last year we put the stickers on at dinner each evening and talked about the symbolism of each one. We tried to read most of the Scripture passages. The boys were very young and much of it went over their heads. This year they are much more into learning all of the symbols and stories.

This year, in addition to the daily stickers and discussions and Scripture readings, we are celebrating each weekly theme with a "Garden Party." The ideas and menus for these weekly parties come from one of my favorite bloggers, Jessica at (She also has links to printable versions of this entire project.)

Tonight we had our first Garden Party at dinner time and it was so great! We began by talking about all of the symbols and reading the Scripture passages (since we hadn't done this during the week as planned.) Here is what the table looked like (I apologize for the dark picture) -

Here are the boys checking out all of the food and listening to Daddy read some Scripture about the Good Shepherd -

And here's the yummy food we shared. It's not the normal meat/potato/veggie/fruit dinner we normally have, but it was a really fun and festive meal. (I did add peas and carrots to our plates!)

1. Mini-shepherd's pies (The Good Shepherd)
2. Shepherd's staff-shaped breadsticks (The Shepherd's Staff)
3. Popcorn (Sheep... the bowl represented the Sheepfold)
4. Graham Cracker "Gates" with peanut butter and pretzels (The Sheep Gate)

5. Lamb Cupcakes (Ewes and Rams)
6. Mini-Marshmallows (Lamb's Wool)
7. Wolf Paw Cookies (The Wolf)
I'm sure you can guess which foods were the biggest hits! The boys are already looking forward to the next Garden Party.... and so am I! This is such a great way to celebrate the Easter Season in our home and I am so thankful to the ladies who have come up with and shared this idea.