Sunday, May 30, 2010

Summer Fun!

Summer is definitely here in Central Ohio! It was 90 degrees by noon today!

We had a great day yesterday. After doing some yard work in the morning, we headed to opening day at the pool. One of the best features of our home is that we are three doors down from our community pool. It is so easy to just walk down and jump in! The boys love the water and are really swimming well for their ages.

In the evening we hosted a cookout for some of our friends. There were four families total.... eight parents and eight children. We had such a nice time hanging out and eating and playing in the yard. One of the families a foam rocket launcher as a birthday gift for Adam. It provided awesome entertainment!I think this is the most kids we've ever had in the sandbox!

We love having friends who are "at the same spot" in life, raising children, growing in faith together. I kept thinking, "This is what it's all about! This is what I want for our family." In addition to being really nice people, our guests were quite distinguished....

We had a birthday guy! Happy birthday Chris!
We had a newly-to-be-published author, our resident philosopher. Congrats Mike!

And my gorgeous Goddaughter, Lucy.... with her parents!

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

After the children went to bed...

...Jon and I stayed up way too late PLAYING WEBKINZ. For the past TWO nights! It's been a very pathetic weekend! :)

Just before we went to Florida we succumbed to peer pressure and allowed Ray to purchase a Webkin Rooster. Basically, this is a stuffed animal that includes a code for access to a website. (His cousins have loved playing with Webkins and have told him about the cool website that comes with them.) Although it's a neat concept and probably very fun for older kids, this purchase was a mistake for us I think.

Ray is now obsessed with playing Webkinz on the computer. The problems are that the site requires more reading than he is capable of doing independently... AND the games are too hard for him (and me)... AND you have to earn points to buy everything for your Webkin (including food, furniture, toys, exercise equipment, etc)... AND Ray is limited to 30 minutes computer time per day.

I was thinking that this is actually a good exercise for Ray to learn to save points and choose carefully what he "buys" for his rooster. Then, the rooster got sick. It turns out he needed exercise (for which we needed to purchase equipment AND a back yard) and certain food and God only knows what else. So, I decided that Jon and I needed to try to get more points for this crazy rooster so he wouldn't die.

We tried to play a few games, but it was taking us forever to get the points. Eventually, at around 10:30 last night, we called my sister, who has sheepishly admitted to liking playing these games. We begged her to teach us the tricks. She was amazing! We had wasted so much time with the hardest games. We found out how to send our rooster to the spa. That's right, the spa. For only 285 points, the stupid bird got healthy and happy in a matter of seconds. I was thrilled and disgusted at the same time. We learned how to win prizes and play easy games and take quizzes (designed for children) to earn points. AND my sister, who seems to have endless Webkinz points, sent us a gift of lots and lots of points. It was crazy how happy we were!

So we went to bed feeling very relieved that the rooster would "live" to see another day and excited to show Ray and Adam all the points we now had. This morning Jon and the boys had a blast "tricking out" the Rooster's home and playing games.

I'm laughing about all this AND scratching my head at the same time. Is this what our marriage has come to? We have about 2 seconds to spend together without children and this is what we do? No wonder we haven't had any more children! Is this need to care for a cyber-rooster an indication that we need another being to nurture? Or that that's all we know how to do now? We need to relax I think! Don't call us tonight! ;)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May Crowning

We love belonging to our local Catholic homeschool group. Several of the families with young children have formed a sub-group which we call the Little Saints Club. We get together frequently to pray and play and learn and celebrate the liturgical year. These families have become our close friends. They are such a gift and treasure. The moms learn from and support one another. The children love playing together.

Yesterday we had a truly awesome blessed day together. We gathered at one family's home for a May Crowning celebration.

We gathered in their beautiful backyard to pray a decade of the Rosary.

This was not just a regular Rosary. It was an "M and M Rosary!" Each child had an egg carton. They placed a marshmallow in the first and last spots (for the "Our Father" and "Glory Be") and 10 M and M's in the remaining spots (for the "Hail Mary's"). The families took turns leading the prayers and after each prayer the children got to eat the candy! It was a big hit!

After the Rosary, we formed a procession from the back porch to the Mary statue. Each child carried a flower and we sang, "Immaculate Mary." It's a shame that Ray and his friend look so somber in this picture because they were actually thrilled to be the leaders. Ray waved his flower the whole way!

We placed our flowers in the vases in front of the Mary statue.

We honored Our Blessed Mother with a beautiful crown of roses. We gathered around and prayed another Hail Mary and sang, "Hail Holy Queen."

Then we took pictures of each Mother with her children next to the Mary statue. We attempted to get a group picture of all the children. We had seven families with a total of 22 children!

Next, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, including this cookie rosary!

After lunch, the children had a great time running around and playing in the yard. Each family took a turn making a Mary garden. We planted flower seeds in gold pots. We added beautiful pictures of Mary (laminated and affixed to paint sticks inserted in the soil) and blue and white ribbons.

At the end of the day we were all tired and hot and holy and happy.

Thank you God for your Blessed Mother, whom we love and imitate as we try to grow in holiness. Thank you for beautiful friends in faith with whom we share this journey. Amen.

Testing Out the Pool

Last night we were preparing to participate in our "Pee Wee Sports" class in the field behind the YMCA. Ray noticed that the outdoor pool was filled with water and he ran over to the fence to check it out. He came back and reported to me that, "the pool is ready to go and people are swimming in it, but we can't go in yet because it's just the mechanical people they put in there to test out the water." Hmmm??? A few minutes later, when we ran our laps around the field (yes, we run laps), I saw that the swim team was practicing swimming laps in the pool. In Ray's defense, they did look quite synchronized and mechanical. He has such a funny view of the world at times.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good Shepherd's Garden Party - Week Seven - The Grand Finale!

While we were in Florida we missed celebrating week seven of the Easter Season with our Good Shepherd calendar. After completing all six prior weeks, we couldn't just skip the grand finale. So, we celebrated our last garden party on Tuesday night..... better late than never, right?

This week's theme was "The Heavenly Zoo." We talked about all the wild and wonderful creatures God created to be part of the Garden of Eden and part of our lives here on Earth. Here's what our table looked like:

Here are the symbols and foods:

1. Water (All living beings drink from the fountain of life.)
We had a nice pitcher of refreshing ice water.

2. Deer
We had these awesome deer cupcakes!

3. Lion
We were SUPPOSED to have "Lucky Lion Lemonade" (which involved making a frozen concoction of ice cream, lemonade, soda, etc and then topping it with whipped cream and making a lion's face with chocolate chips and sprinkles). Well, for a variety of reasons, that just didn't happen. I thought we'd have a lovely scoop of frozen yogurt and make the lion's mane on it. Ha! This is what we had....

It was delicious and we all "ROARED" with laughter about it! :)

4. Beehive
We were SUPPOSED to have "Beehive Baked Pears." Very complicated. Very gourmet. We opted for a very sophisticated substitute.... Honeycomb Cereal... dry.... served on a fancy plate. The boys loved it! :)

5. Pelican
We had "Pelican Toasties." I apologize for not getting a picture. These were a hit though! Basically, you slice a piece of French bread to look like a pelican's beak. Toast it with cheddar cheese on top. Open the "beak" and put a goldfish cracker inside. Fun and yummy!

6. Peacock
We had beautiful peacock feathers as our centerpiece.

7. Phoenix
I enjoyed shrimp cocktail.... all to myself! Jon is allergic to it and the boys wouldn't try it. They had baked fish instead. I enjoyed every bite of shrimp.

8. Dove
The symbol for Pentecost was a dove, of course. We enjoyed yummy pieces of Dove chocolate.

Although I felt a little burned out and was not able to pull off the fancier parts of this week's suggested menu, I am so happy with the way this meal and all the others turned out. This was a wonderful way for our family to celebrate the ENTIRE Easter Season. Each sticker, story, and meal was a learning experience and a treat for all of us! Thanks again to Jessica and Charlotte for putting together such unique menus!

Here's our finished poster:


A Weekend of Inspiration and Celebration

Throughout this past Pentecost weekend, I really felt the presence, passion, and prodding of the Holy Spirit in several ways. In the midst of the post-vacation settling-in process (which of course involved laundry and mowing and grocery shopping and all that fun stuff), there were some special events that touched my heart and drew me closer to God.

On Saturday I had the privilege of attending the Dayton Catholic Homeschool Conference. It was nice to get away for the day, to spend time with some good friends, and to be encouraged in my vocation as homeschooling mom. I was so excited to meet and listen to Danielle Bean (Check out Faith and Family magazine and if you don't know who she is.) Her talk was great. She focused on several very simple truths that we all need to remember. Why is it that such simple things can often strike us so profoundly? Some of her points about which I have been pondering and praying:

"When you keep score, you always lose."
God wants us to discern and act in relationship with HIM, not in comparison to others.

"Our most successful days are not usually the days when we check everything off the list."
Our biggest goal is "GTHBYB" - "Get to heaven. Bring your brother."
At the end of the day, did I get myself and my family closer to this goal?

"Remember: GOD is in charge!"
Our children are not our projects. They belong to God. We are to take care of them for Him and give them back to Him. When we give the worry and responsibility to God, He gives us peace.

"Faith comes first."
We are starving if we don't have Christ at the center of our lives. Ask God to show you where He wants to come closer to you.

I have found the Holy Spirit reminding me of these things all week. It is such a challenge for me to let go of worry and checklists and comparisons. I know that I am being drawn more closely to prayer.... to fixing my gaze on God and opening up my heart and my ears to Him in a more intense way than I've experienced in a long time. Challenges from others and from within myself have pulled my attention away and left me feeling insecure and afraid, especially when it comes to parenting. But I feel God's presence calming and empowering me in new ways. Sometimes it takes feelings of insecurity, being hurt, or being burnt out for me to re-focus on what's important and put my trust back in God again.

On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost by wearing red to Mass, making a "Gifts of the Holy Spirit Windsock" (inspired by Jessica at "Shower of Roses"), and having a special dinner of chicken parmesan and red velvet cupcakes. We sang "Happy Birthday" to the Church. We took down the Easter decorations and decorated our prayer table with a red cloth and lots of candles. It was interesting and fun to talk with the boys about the Holy Spirit. They definitely have an understanding and appreciation for God dwelling within them and empowering them. I was impressed that they remembered quite a bit about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit from their Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes. They enjoyed discussing the dove, wind, and fire as images of the Holy Spirit. And I think the Holy Spirit must have played a big role in helping them behave so well in Mass too!
Sunday afternoon we had great fun attending a "Cat Chat" concert at a local church. We have listened to "Cat Chat" cd's and enjoyed them. (They are stories and songs about the faith and the liturgical year.) The show was put on by the family who makes the cd's. It included a giant talking cat (or a guy in a cat suit if you're a literal-thinking person like Jon), a guy playing a guitar, and several children singing/dancing/playing instruments/riding unicycles/juggling. Ray loved singing along and doing the motions. Adam cracked up at the antics of the cat. We all enjoyed an afternoon of praise and worship with so many of our friends. It seemed like a perfect celebration for Pentecost!

During last week's vacation and this weekend's happenings I have had moments of deep peace and joy that I know have come from the Holy Spirit. I have also felt "tapped on the shoulder" by Him, as He has reminded me (through Danielle and others) of some simple truths I had forgotten. I have been drawn more deeply into prayer and have even received some surprisingly direct "answers" to some issues I've been praying about for a long time. I am renewed in my devotion and so thankful for God's powerful, faithful love.

Thank you Jesus for sending the Gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and again and again in our lives! Amen.

The Love of My Life!

The first picture was taken during our Disney trip in May 2002, while we were engaged. The second picture is from our recent trip to Disney. Some things just don't change. I did manage to "lose" the t-shirt.... but he's still REALLY GOOFY!
I love him to the moon and back!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Florida Fun... The FINAL Chapter!

This will be the LAST installment of the "vacation chronicles." (I apologize for being so drawn out about it. This blog has several purposes, including being a family scrapbook and a way to share our life with friends and relatives who live far away from us.)

We spent the last day of our trip at Green Meadows Petting Farm. I cannot speak highly enough of this place! It was a wonderful experience! We took a very hands-on tour of this super-clean, super-fun farm and we loved it. The tour included learning about and interacting with many farm animals, a hayride, a train ride, pony rides, playing on two playgrounds, and milking a cow. What more could you ask for? It kept striking me as odd to be on a farm that included lots of palm trees. Fun!

The final thing I'll say about our vacation is that our two flights on AirTran both went so smoothly. We arrived EARLY both times. Also, our experience with Enterprise Renal Cars was awesome! We were so blessed to be able to take this trip together and we are very thankful that things went so smoothly.

Florida Fun...Part Three

Our day at the Magic Kingdom was great!

Even the tram and the monorail were exciting rides for the boys!

We are ALL ABOUT Buzz Lightyear! This picture was taken in the Buzz Lightyear ride, which Adam rode six times. Somehow I didn't get a picture of any of the Buzz Lightyear souvenirs they picked out. They got shirts, figurines, and light-up-whirly-Buzz-things! Meeting the "REAL" Buzz Lightyear was definitely a big highlight of the day! This is a picture of the talking, moving trash can that absolutely baffled Ray. He was almost angry because he couldn't figure out how it worked. I finally broke down and showed him the man in the red hat in the background. He was controlling it remotely. For the rest of the day, Ray noticed and inspected trash cans all over the park. So funny!

This boy totally ate his way through Florida!