Sunday, February 27, 2011

Maple Syrup Day

Today was a beautiful, warm day here in Central Ohio. It was the perfect day for our planned visit to Dawes Arboretum to learn about the process of making maple syrup. We have recently read about maple syrup making in Little House in the Big Woods and the boys were very excited to witness it first hand. The sap was really running on this sunny 50+ degree day.

Among the many things we learned are the facts that:
(1) It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
(2) The syrup we usually buy contains ZERO percent of real maple syrup.
(3) It takes a lot of work to make maple syrup. That's why real maple syrup costs so much. BUT, the taste is amazing... so it looks like we'll have to find room in our grocery budget for the real thing from now on!
(4) Modern technology has helped make the syrup-making process easier than it was for the pioneers.

 In addition to learning about maple syrup, we had a wonderful time exploring the beautiful arboretum. It felt so good to be outside and feel the sunshine. The boys were so happy and free... running and playing outside! Here are some pictures from our fun family field trip:

Dawes has an amazing nature center for kids! In this picture the boys are looking at a beehive.


Deer tracks!
The rain boots were DEFINITELY a good idea on this muddy day!

We actually got to sit and relax here for a long time while the boys played hide and seek among the trees.

We brought home a half pint of real maple syrup, made in Ohio!

Even though we had a different plan for dinner, the boys convinced us to make pancakes so we could enjoy the syrup. Jon is the BEST breakfast maker. He loves the new griddle my mom got him for Christmas!
Hooray for a great family day!

Sweet Anniversary Date Night

Yesterday Jon and I celebrated an anniversary.... It's been 100 months since we got married. We're silly like that. Jon is actually the one who reminds me every month on the 26th that it's our "anniversary." 100 months just felt like a big deal.

We pulled a double surprise on one another. Jon came home from work around 4:00. (It's tax season... so Saturdays are work days.) He brought roses. I acted surprised and asked him what the occasion was. He thought I forgot! When he reminded me what day it was, I told him, "I guess that's why we're going on a date in half an hour!" Early in the week I had arranged for a babysitter. Jon and I were able to go out to a favorite restaurant for a leisurely dinner and a glass of wine. To top it all off, we had a gift card! (Thanks Mom!) We really enjoyed it. I think the element of surprise made it even better than a planned date.

It's hard to believe that Jon and I have known each other for almost ten years already. Time flies when you're having fun... and having kids and working and maintaining a household.... We have another anniversary coming up on Tuesday. March 1st is the day that Jon proposed to me, using a great big box of "gifts" to "pop the question." It contained something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue... and a bag of carrots (as a joke... play on the word "karats).... and a beautiful diamond ring.

Sometimes I still can't believe how God brought us together at exactly the right time... after many years of discernment, heartbreak and loneliness for both of us. I still thank God for the gift of Jon. We continue to learn and practice how to love one another faithfully and fully. Marriage is truly an awesome and challenging adventure. It is our vocation to love one another and allow our love to mirror God's love, to reflect God's love to our children and to all we meet. In these days when the Sacrament and vocation of marriage is being more and more disparaged and desecrated, the call to marriage feels like a radical challenge. Yes, it can be difficult and full of sacrifices, but it's also grace-filled and joyous and intimate and fulfilling. I pray tonight for all marriages. May all married people tap into the lavish graces of the Sacrament so that they may live faithfully and fully their commitment of love, especially during the times that may feel dry, difficult, boring, lonely, or tiresome. May we remember God's faithfulness and may we have the courage to love our spouse through all of life's ups and downs.

It may seem silly to celebrate 100 months of marriage, but it's little things like that that help keep our relationship going. Day by day, month by month, year by year.... it's the adventure of a lifetime!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kicking the Habit

Well, I'm 10 days Diet Coke-free. (Applaud here please.) 

Yes, I listed it FIRST in my list of favorite things in this post. But I've FINALLY given it up now.

I honestly can't remember a day since I had Adam (almost five years) when I didn't have Diet Coke. It makes me sick to think of all the money spent on it over the years. And that's nothing compared to what it has done to my body and my metabolism. And the landfills too, I suppose.

I've never even tried coffee. I'm just not a "hot drinks person." My routine is was starting the day with a big glass or bottle of Diet Coke. Another one around 10:00. Another one at lunch. Another one late afternoon. And sometimes more in the evening. I completely relied on the caffeine jolt. It moved beyond a preference and a habit into a complete addiction. I had to have it on hand at all times.

I knew it wasn't good for me. I wanted to stop drinking it, but it had become the "elixir of life" for me. I just couldn't imagine a day without it. Then, one day a few weeks ago, a big bottle of Diet Coke appeared on the news page of my internet provider. The headline warned of a 48% increased risk of strokes for people who drink diet soda every day. I couldn't even bring myself to read the full article. (My brother-in-law has declared that the study had to be done by the orange juice growers just to take business away from the cola giants.) I knew that I needed to stop. The boys were doing schoolwork at the table and saw the picture. I told them about it. Adam immediately made it his mission in life to make me stop drinking Diet Coke. (I think one of his motives was that he hates the way my breath smells when I drink it.)

And so I stopped. I took a few days to wean myself, waiting later and later in the day to drink any. And then, last Thursday, I didn't drink any Diet Coke. And I lived to tell about it. (More applause please.) I did have headaches for almost a solid week. I bought Gatorade and Propel Water and went for Cherry Limeade at Sonic. I'm sure I was grumpy. I just had to keep myself distracted. I've now gotten to the point where I'm fine with water most of the day and I have a glass or two of iced tea in the afternoon.

I feel free. I don't even have the desire to drink Diet Coke at this point. However, I know that another way I've coped over these past ten days is by eating more sweets than usual, especially chocolate. So now I need to bring that under control. (Lent is quickly approaching, so that will be my Lenten resolution.) But the most significant thing for me is that I KNOW I CAN DO IT. I AM DOING IT. I have trudged through so many years knowing I SHOULD stop drinking Diet Coke and that I SHOULD eat better and exercise more and lose weight. I feel like I am now finally taking steps in the right direction. I have made it through 10 days without Diet Coke and I have not only survived, but I feel better. (My sister has also given it up. We are planning to buy keychains or something when we get to 30 days... just like AA!) And so I feel free and confident and proud. I am happy to be taking some steps toward better health.

As much as I am jokingly asking for applause in this post.... and telling you my coping strategies, I have to note that it's only in trusting in God that any of us can get past our human struggles and addictions. It's humbling for me to realize that I have gone days without REALLY praying, but not a single day without Diet Coke. When we get out of balance and our habits start to "own" us, we are not putting our lives in God's hands. We are choosing to do things our way, clinging to the things we have power to control, instead of living as people of faith with Jesus as the center and control of our lives. I know that an addiction to Diet Coke may pale in comparison to struggles many people face, but I came to the point where I realized it was controlling me. And I had to turn my heart back to God.

Please pray for me in this endeavor. And if there is a similar habit/addiction holding you back from living fully and freely, take a step today toward letting it go. Know that you are not alone. Let's pray today for one another as we embrace the call to be God's mirrors.... reflections of His image.... the people God wants us to be.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Friend!

Nineteen years ago I met the COOLEST lady I know! As a student teacher I was assigned to her third grade classroom. We had a wonderful time teaching together and dreaming up big, crazy projects to do with the children. She loved teaching and loved her students. They had fun everyday. She really became my mentor and role model.

Since then, we have been on many crazy adventures together. Even though she was retired and had raised her own children, she came to service camp with the youth group I led. She drove a great big van (and loved every minute of it), short-sheeted beds, and sang and danced and whooped and hollered a bunch! We've been on holy retreat together several times. "What happens at "Saint Meinrad's stays at Saint Meinrad's"... ;) We've put green stuff and cucumbers on our faces as part of "spa night." (I can't believe I lost that picture.) She gave me my famous "GANGSTA" ring on my 40th birthday. She wears sequins and big fancy rings to lots of special events. Her favorite holiday is Easter, when the "DFEB" comes for a visit! But most significantly, she is a "GOSPEL VALUES" gal!

She tries to appear very refined, but she is a wild and fun lady and I'm so happy to call her my friend. Today she celebrates a BIG birthday! The boys and I blew up a whole bunch of balloons. We went with another friend and surprised the birthday girl. We had a fun little visit, including birthday donuts.

There are some people who really celebrate and enjoy life. They remind us of God's great, wild love for us and the preciousness of each day. Join me today in wishing one of them a happy, happy birthday and many more years filled with blessings, surprises, and fun!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A New Phase!

Last night Ray read Goodnight Moon to Jon before bed. It's very exciting to hear him read to us, especially this beloved story which we read so very many times to him in his first years. Ray has really taken great strides in his reading abilities in the past several weeks. He gets it! He's doing it! He's loving it! He's finally starting to show interest in reading all the written words around him... signs, cereal boxes, magazines, and story books. I feel like we have a "really big boy" in our family now. I'm very proud of him and I'm looking forward to all the reading we'll continue doing together.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

He Really Is a GOOD MAN!

We enjoyed such a treat on Friday night! Our friend - and former pastor - starred as Charlie Brown in a production of "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown." It was a dinner theater production by adults at his current parish to raise funds for a program called "SPICE" (Special People in Religious Education). I cannot say enough about how great the evening was. We enjoyed being with some wondeful friends, had a very nice dinner, and absolutely loved the performance. We were amazed by all of the decorations and special touches that made the night so fun. Both nights of the performance were sold out! What a great event it was.

I apologize for this blurry picture, but I just had to show my three great friends -
Sara, Mary Lou, and Mitzi.
They were our "table mates" for the evening.
Now seriously, how many priests do you know who would agree to go onstage as Charlie Brown? Think of all of the hours of rehearsal. Think of the costume, the singing, and just the humility it takes to be a Charlie Brown. Well, Father Leo was PERFECT for this role! He is so generous with his time and talents. He's a great singer. And, with great love I say this, he is quite Charlie Brownish in real life! I absolutely love that he did this. He is a wonderful priest who is ALWAYS there for people when they need them. AND he knows how to have fun.

Father Leo was the pastor at the school where I taught and then I became his pastoral associate for faith formation. We worked closely together for four years. I learned tons from him. We went through many tough experiences together, but we also had many great adventures (including taking tons of kids to camp in the summers and acting as ADVENTURE RANGERS every week for the school kids). Many of my my family members frequently laud his diverse talents when remembering my wedding day. Father Leo not only presided at our Wedding Mass, but also sang "American Pie" at the reception AND apprehended a would-be purse thief. He visited the hospital when the boys were born. He baptized them. We are truly blessed to call him our friend!

Here is Father Leo with our boys at the end of the performance:

In this picture the boys are so tired they can hardly stand up, but they really enjoyed the evening. They loved seeing Father Leo on stage being funny. Ray intensely studied every scene change and special effect. Adam has been pretending to be Snoopy all weekend.

Hats off to Father Leo..... You are truly a good man! :) Thank you for your friendship and your witness and ministry to us and to so many.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Field Trip

Our enrichment class is studying Science topics this month, so yesterday we went on a field trip to COSI,  our awesome science center. We attended a great workshop all about FORCE. We built our own rollercoasters! We ate lunch with our friends, played in the KidSpace, and visited some exhibits. We were there for five hours! Now THAT was a fun school day!

LOVE the disco ball in this robot exhibit!
The robotic arms put up the disco ball and then "dance."

Learning about force in our workshop

Adam and his friend Ryan work on their "roller coaster."
Ray tests out his roller coaster by sending a marble through it.

Another group shows us their completed roller coaster



Same Day, Different Year

It's such great fun living in Central Ohio! We've been enjoying a very welcome respite from the cold, snow, and ice. Today we even had 60+ degrees! We've traded snowsuits, hats, and gloves for MUDDY jackets, shoes, and jeans. No complaints though! We are loving every minute of this Spring preview.

Tonight Jon reminded me that last year at this time we were socked in with a big snowstorm.

February 17th, 2010

MOUNTAINS of snow!

Almost 15"!
Sledding in the back yard

                                    February 17th, 2011

Riding bikes at the park with our friends!

Big excitement... watching a rescue attempt.
Can you see the cat in the tree?

A fresh air stroller ride for Noah... he TOTALLY loved it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My First Blogaversary!

I can hardly believe it's been a year since my first post here at Being Mirrors. Thank you very much for reading along... and for all of your positive feedback. I have really enjoyed chronicling our family adventures as well as some personal reflections. I have learned a lot about technology along the way too! I have some additional features I'm hoping to add to the blog soon.

I continue to be inspired and challenged by 2 Corinthians 3:18... "we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord." Am I spending more time looking (critically or vainly) at myself in the mirror OR am I striving to BE a mirror? I want to reflect God's image and His glory to all I meet, but especially to my children. I want them to love GOD with their whole hearts and to see His presence in all things.

And so I really enjoy turning all the mirrors I see into reminders of this mission. And my favorite mirrors are still disco balls! I felt God winking at me through the disco balls when I felt crabby and tired at yesterday's roller skating party. I was reminded of  the patient and joyful person I want to be.

On this blogaversary I pray that I will continue to grow as a disciple of Jesus, that I will humbly reflect HIS love and power more than my own ambitions, successes, or opinions. I thank you for inspiring and helping me in this mission. Let's all take a moment today to look lovingly in the mirror, to try to see ourselves as God sees us. Let's open our hearts to receive God's wisdom and love so that we may reflect it to others in ever new and beautiful ways.

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Love

My mantra for today - Valentine's Day - seemed to be, "THIS is true love!" I laughed to myself a lot as I thought about the first few Valentine's Days Jon and I spent together. I remembered roses and romantic dinners and such feelings of love and joy. We did exchange small treats and gifts today. We do love each other even more than we did ten years ago. BUT life is definitely different now!

Today was a fun, but challenging day for both of us. It wasn't "romantic" in the ways that society seems to mandate, but it was definitely a day of "love in action."

TRUE LOVE is....

...three hours at a roller skating rink with 5,847 homeschoolers (SLIGHT exaggeration). I could go on and on about the details of how many times I put on skates, took off skates, held children up as they shuffled around the rink... how loud and crowded and chaotic it was. I could tell you all that, but I won't. It doesn't matter. The boys had a wonderful time. They spent this evening pouring over the bajillion valentines they received. They felt so happy and loved.

TRUE LOVE is.... 
...sweet new pillow cases made with love by our awesome seamstress MaMaw AND so many beautiful cards and little gifts from friends and family far and near. We are so blessed to have family and friends to teach us how to live and love.... through their examples and everyday love and support.

A NEW LOVE discovered today....

YUM!!! Rita's Italian Ice! Cherry Gelati. Must. Get. This. Again. Soon!
Thanks Tamara for treating us!
Thank you God for fun treats and great friends!

...sharing (a very simple, un-romantic) dinner with Jon's wonderful co-workers. Today was a VERY busy day at the office. There was no end in sight at dinnertime. Since we wanted to have dinner with Daddy, we picked up food for everyone and made it a little party! Jon works so hard to support us, especially during tax season. That's TRUE LOVE in action.

TRUE LOVE is.... living and learning everyday together. It's the little things that really stretch us and make us grow in love. We continue to thank God for the awesome opportunity to homeschool. This morning, before the skating party, we enjoyed reading this awesome Valentine story:

It reminded us of how important it is for everyone to know that they are loved.
We talked and prayed about how we can show love for others everyday.
We made these beautiful Saint Valentine mosaic hearts:
(inspired by the book Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda)

We did some counting and graphing using candy hearts.

I hope that you have experienced true love today... whether in simple or special ways. As the day comes to a close, let us thank God for His faithful love. Let's re-commit ourselves to recognizing and celebrating the amazing blessings of each day, especially when the blessings don't look or feel the way we think they should. After all, love is not really about roses or romance or warm-fuzzy feelings. Much of the time it's not outwardly beautiful or even inwardly peaceful. It involves sacrifice and work and self-gift. It brings joy and satisfaction that remain after the roses wilt and the memories fade.

"Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a)

This is more than a beautiful passage recited at weddings. It is God's explanation of what TRUE LOVE looks like. You can replace the word "love" with God's name. Can you replace it with yours?