Sunday, May 29, 2011

OK God... You have my attention!

Ok... ok... ok.... I'll stop running around so much. I'll sit down and relax a bit. I'll let go of my crazy agendas. I'll spend more time with you in prayer. You give me no choice.

Here's the story:
I took the boys to the park on Wednesday afternoon. I pushed Ray on the swings and then turned to walk away. I twisted my ankle as I stepped from the padded playground surface to the mulch. I fell. Completely sprawled out. SO embarrassing! (Of course my boys were so busy swinging and playing that they didn't even notice.) Several moms came over to see if I was ok. I sheepishly got up and sat on a bench and thought my ego was the most damaged part of me.

I was wrong.

As the days have worn on my ankle has become more and more sore. I've wrapped it and propped it up and iced it. But I've also stubbornly clung to my do-lists and plans. I've walked on it and done six million things around here.

Today I went to Urgent Care and had it x-rayed. The doctor suspects a hairline fracture of the fibula (the small bone on the outside of the leg.) She wants me to see an orthopedic doctor this week. In the meantime I have a fiberglass splint and crutches and I need to stay completely off of it.


I'm trying not to freak out. I'm trying to look at the positives. School (including activities, classes, field trips, etc) is basically over for the summer. My boys are not babies or toddlers. It's my left foot so I can still drive. I have an AMAZING helpful husband and lots of support from family and friends. It's just an ankle, not a serious illness, etc.

But still, YIKES! What about all the things I planned to do and want to do? Strawberry picking. Going to the pool. Planting vegetables. Vacation. Cleaning the basement...... (add about 100 more agenda items here).

Yet, somehow I know there is more going on here than just recovery from a silly accident.

I realize this is skewed theology, but I feel like God sometimes has to literally stop me in my tracks to get my attention.

The "Back Story"

Ten years ago God used a very similar situation to get my attention and the results were life-changing for me... in a good way. I was a neurotically busy single working gal. I worked as a Pastoral Associate. I loved my job. But I needed to "get a life." I wanted to so desparately to fall in love and get married, but I just couldn't get beyond several issues (including workaholism, perfectionism, and self-esteem  issues) and move forward.

To make a long story a little bit shorter.... I ended up with a stress fracture IN THE SAME ANKLE. I stubbornly refused to give in and rest it. I kept working . It wouldn't heal. Eventually I ended up having to take a leave from work and stay with my parents so I could stay off my ankle and let it heal.

God used that time to work in my mind and my heart. I prayed a lot. I re-evaluated some things and did some serious discernment.

AND.... I tried online dating.... and met Jon!!!!!! I am convinced that we would never have met if I hadn't broken my ankle.

So, here I am again. My life is VERY different now. But I can't help but think that perhaps God is trying to speak to me and I know that I have not been listening very well. I'm afraid of slowing down and thinking too much.... but I do trust God, ever faithful and loving.

So I'm trying to open my heart while I rest my leg. We'll see what surprises God has in store.

And I think this will be a great opportunity for the boys to become a bit more independent. I know we'll get through this road bump together. Perhaps we'll do a lot more reading and board games and crafts together! We'll see.

Thanks for your prayers and support! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Plant Study

We've been spending these May days learning about plants and beginning some gardening projects.

The boys received gardening tools, seeds, and starter sets for Easter. We've got lots of things growing and ready to be planted outside soon.

We just completed plant lapbooks:

 A peek inside the flaps of Ray's lapbook:

A peek inside Adam's lapbook:

 Much of our planting had been put on hold because of the crazy amount of rain we've gotten. However, we have almost completed a special family gardening project. We are making a Mary garden!

The boys scrubbed the Mary statue while Jon set the border stones in place for our Mary garden.

The boys worked together to prepare the soil.
Tonight we moved the statue and planted some flowers in our garden. I was so into the fun (and the dirt) that I forgot to take pictures! Tomorrow we're going to go pick up some more flowers and stepping stones to complete the garden. Here's what it looks like so far:

We plan to have a May Crowning later this week and I'll post pictures of our finished garden then!

Next we'll move on to our little vegetable plot! Happy Gardening!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Father/Son Campout

Jon and the boys had a WONDERFUL time participating in our homeschool group's Father/Son campout last night! They left around 1:00 yesterday afternoon and set up camp at a local park with about 15 other families. They had a great time fishing, grilling, making S'mores, playing.... We are so very blessed to have such a wonderful group of families and such fun opportunities! This was definitely a memorable experience for the boys and for Jon as well. I was glad that Jon had time to meet and visit with other Catholic homeschool dads. And it was great for him to have a fun adventure with the boys!

The camping adventure actually began for us earlier this week when we bought a tent. We just HAD to test it out before the trip, so we set it up in the living room!

 The boys actually slept down there on Wednesday night. Check out Jon's VINTAGE Star Wars sleeping bag from his days as a Boy Scout.
 And here's Ray relaxing in the tent at the campsite.
 Ray discovered a great love.... FISHING! He caught three fish!
 I don't have many pictures of Adam. Apparently, he and his buddy Ryan were running around the campsite playing superheroes the whole time.

They had a nice shelter where they ate their meals.
 Roasting marshmallows was big fun!
 Here is one of MANY shots they (Ray) took of the fire. There were more fire shots than people shots! ;)
Here's my favorite picture. At the end of the evening, the men and boys gathered around the campfire and prayed the Rosary together! How awesome is that?!?! OK, so Ray fell asleep by the third mystery and Adam told me it was just tooooo long. But what a great witness for them.... what a great thing for them to experience prayer in this setting with their friends and their dads.
 Here's a morning shot of Adam, Ray, and Ryan. Amazingly, Ray was not the first awake in camp. I think Ryan won that award!
 Ray was back to fishing first thing in the morning!
 Jon even got a fish before they left!

So, you might be wondering.... "What in the world did Katie do with 24 whole hours to herself?" Ha! It was FANTASTIC! (Can I register the boys for next year's campout now? Shouldn't it be a quarterly thing?) I did a little shopping.... took a nice long walk... read... completed a thought or two... straightened up the house... took a leisurely shower... watched a chick flick... slept in.... and then missed them!

It was wonderful to hear their excitement when they got home. We are so thankful for such a nice experience. Perfect weather. Wonderful companions. Lots of fun. I am especially thankful for all the dads... taking time off work and away from the comforts of home to be with their sons in this very special way. There was definitely a different kind of bond and comaraderie between the boys and their dad when they got home. I hope that bond will grow as time goes on and I pray that the boys will become men of integrity like their dad!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reading the Classics

Some of my favorite parenting moments take place snuggled up with my boys on the couch or in bed with a good book. We really love reading together. We are so blessed to have an OUTSTANDING local library (ranked #1 in the nation) AND a great collection of books here at home (many from my collection as a former teacher and from my generous sister-in-law who has shared her collection with us). We've got many favorites that we read over and over again, but we are always checking out new ones as well.

Some of the boys' current favorites happen to be ones that I have fond memories of reading as a child. Adam has been poring over this one everyday and practically has it memorized:

The Giant Jam Sandwich (Sandpiper Book)

Ray really likes this one:

The Funny Little Woman (Picture Puffins)

Some of our other favorite "oldie but goodies" are:

Tikki Tikki Tembo

The Little House Board Book
The Five Chinese Brothers (Paperstar)

Tonight we just finished reading The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjorie Williams. The boys absolutely loved it... and so did Jon. It was his first time hearing this beautiful classic story.

The Velveteen Rabbit

I like to use a few different criteria to select our books for reading together. Our homeschool curriculum is partly based on the Core Knowledge Sequence, which includes the "What Your ____ Grader Needs To Know" books. We read all of the books recommended by that great resource. I also follow the suggested reading lists that our library publishes by age group. Finally, we are working on reading all of the Caldecott Medal and Honor books.

According to the Association for Library Service to Children, "The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." The award began in 1938 and you can find a list of all of the award-winning books here. A few years ago I printed out the list and put it in a binder (where I also keep a running log of all of the books we read aloud). As we read each book, I highlight the title on our list.

Let me just say that this Caldecott reading challenge has been very fun for the boys and for me. We love spotting the shiny silver and gold "medals" on books as we browse at the library. (I usually bring a list and look for some specific titles as well.) We enjoy the old stories as well as the new ones. We like talking about the artwork and whether or not we think it "deserves" the honor. We have read such a great variety of stories and seen such a wide variety of art styles.

At this point I think we've read more than a third of the Caldecott books. I highly recommend taking on this challenge. It prevents you from getting in a rut with reading the same types of books and it keeps the children from wanting to read only books with characters they've seen on TV.

I am really happy with the interest my boys have in books and I look forward to many more years of reading with them.

On a similar note, I have just taken up an American classic that I sadly have never read: Gone With the Wind. I am embarrassed to say I've never even seen the movie. It seems like a great book to kick off my summer reading (since we have a more relaxed schedule and I actually have some time to read).

So, what are you reading these days? What classics do you and/or your children love? Leave me a comment!

Also, if you want to embark on the Caldecott challenge (and you're local - Central Ohio), let me know. I have copies of lots of them. I'd love to lend them to you.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 16, 2011


For some reason I'm still awake... 11:30 on Sunday night... listening to peaceful snores.... my mind still full of thoughts and not ready to succumb to the sleep that will give way to the beginning of another week.

The past week was one of those up and down sort of weeks for me.

I rejoiced with my dear friends who gave birth to their third child, a beautiful baby girl whom Jon and I will be privileged to companion as Godparents. I relished every second of holding that sweet new gift from God.

I felt like I was fighting a war with my children all week about schoolwork. They are mentally done. Ever since Easter break and the change in weather, they want to be outside all the time. The quality of their work has regressed. However, I still have several things I want to cover and do with them. I don't feel comfortable just stopping school at this point. So, I pushed them along as best as I could. We did, however, really enjoy the good weather - FINALLY! Every morning we did some schoolwork and then headed down to the park for a 40 minute recess. They rode bikes and played and I walked.

That's right, I EXERCISED every day this week. And what a difference it has made. I have spent months feeling out of sorts and out of control when it comes to my body and my weight. I finally took a deep breath and signed up for Weight Watchers Online. After the first week I already feel so much better and am happy about the results I am seeing. It's just good to finally be doing SOMETHING. I will post more on this soon. But in the meantime please pray for me and the changes I am trying to make in my life. And if you are interested in joining me on this adventure, let me know! I really want friends and support for this process. (Giving up the Diet Coke a few months ago was a good first start for me. Posting about it here really helped keep me accountable. Hopefully I will have the same success with this endeavor. Thanks for your prayers and support!)

At one point this week Adam told my mom that I have been "a great big blob of grumpy." That was definitely true on Wednesday. I'm sure that several factors contributed to my mood: the HEAT (We refused to turn on our air conditioning.... it was 84 degrees in the house.), the new diet (although I really felt more motivated than deprived), hormones, the ongoing battles with the boys about schoolwork and listening and chores and video games, the never-ending laundry, dishes...... I really was a bit of a mess. But I felt so loved by the boys and especially by Jon as they put up with me and helped me through it. Amazingly, that night I received a whole series of phone calls that lifted my spirits.... especially one from my dear far-away friend who just always seems to know when I need to talk. (Thanks Sus - love you!)

I also found great inspiration in a few blog posts.  Kate Wicker recounted her own "horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day" and I was touched by her ability to have a grateful heart in the midst of some crazy momma sagas. She included a link to another really great post at Conversion Diary called "Life doesn't have to be easy to be joyful." I was reminded that God is with me in ALL OF THIS and that THIS IS RIGHT WHERE I WANT TO BE. I took a deep breath and felt the joy that is in my soul... even when I'm out of sorts and/or not "happy." I was brought back to that place of gratitude that brings me to my knees.

And so, as this new week begins I place my whole being at the feet of the Lord. I ask him for grace and strength.... and mostly patience with myself and the boys. Many of our classes and activities are finished for the year. I want to end our studies happily. I want to transition to a slower pace. To enjoy our days together. To be gentle with myself and with them. To keep my goals and their needs in proper perspective.

And finally... as I yawn and look at the clock.... I have to show you this:

A work of art! Jon replaced the knob on the door that leads to our garage. Now the boys can open it themselves. This may seem like a little thing, but it will make my life easier every single time we get ready to leave and every single time we come home. It's those little things that can make a big difference in the flow of the day.

May God bless you in all of your comings and goings this week and always!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


This morning Ray played in his last soccer game for the season. Due to rain, illness, and travel he's only played in three of the six spring games. He also played six games in the fall. He's on a rec center team for 6-9 year olds and he is the youngest child on the team. He was only five when the year started, but we decided to put him with "the big kids" because our friend is the coach and Ray knows lots of the kids on the team. In retrospect that may not have been a good idea. He has had a difficult time learning the game and keeping up with the older kids.

Let me just say that Ray gets his athletic abilities from his dad and me. Those of you who know us know exactly what that means. Add that lack of athletic prowess to his challenges with attention and you'll get an idea about how these games have gone. The coach and parents have often been heard yelling things like, "Ray, pay attention.... wrong direction... get on the right side of the field..." Here's a shot from the first half of today's game:

 He's studying the plants on the field. (Hey, we are doing a plant study at home right now!)

However, he did get more into the second part of the game today. He kicked the ball a few times and even turned it around to face the correct goal. Very late in the game Ray and his friend Joseph were close to the goal. Joseph passed the ball to Ray. Ray kicked it. It deflected off the goalie and dribbled into the goal. HE SCORED A GOAL! He was so proud! The parents were all exclaiming, "RAY scored a goal!" Of course I didn't have my camera on at the time, but I did manage to get this shot of Joseph and Ray after the goal:

 Joseph was so sweet as he put his arm around Ray and congratulated him. I LOVED seeing the look of pride and excitement on Ray's face. It was a great moment and a great way for him to end the season. He received lots of praise and he really felt happy to be part of the team.

I am proud of Ray for scoring the goal, but I am mostly happy for him to gain some confidence and experience some success. I think it will help him try harder next year. I want to give  both of my boys lots of experiences to explore a variety of sports and activities and discover their true talents and interests. I'll never be a parent who pressures my children to excel at all costs or makes our whole lives revolve around sports, but I do want them to push themselves and be the best they can be.

Here's a shot of Ray's team, the Flyers:

Fun at the playground after the game:

After the game the players and their families went for an end-of-the-season celebration pizza lunch.

 Ray is so proud of the trophy he earned!

Ray carried the trophy around all day. At one point he asked me if it was made of real gold. Part of me wishes I would have lied to him. He has spent the afternoon lamenting the fact that the trophy isn't real gold! Go figure! 

We called the grandparents and told them all about the goal. A budding soccer star? Probably not. But he's definitely a happy, proud boy today and for that I am most grateful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Delicious Field Trip

This week's Monday field trip was a yummy one! We visited the Velvet Ice Cream Factory in Utica, Ohio.  We enjoyed a wonderful tour and we FINALLY actually had a beautiful warm day so we could enjoy the lovely grounds as well.

Our tour guide taught us about the ingredients that are used to make the 60+  flavors of Velvet ice cream. She showed us a video about the history of the company.

Next we headed to the Old Mill and learned about the process of making ice cream.
The water wheel is still a functioning part of the factory. Ray was fascinated by it.
Here we are peeking in at the factory in motion.
Fun friends! Giant scoops of ice cream on the walls.  I won't name names, but one little one was actually licking the walls.
Of course the tour included ice cream samples. Yum!
We spent lots of time playing on the playground and also hiking along a river bank and chasing ducks and geese.
And then we discovered this creekbed. The children had a great time exploring and throwing rocks. Adam, of course, was soaking wet. He just can't resist water.
After playing for a few hours, we were thirsty and wandered inside to the cafe for some water bottles. We ended up "sampling" another ice cream cone! (Two in one day... such a treat!)

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We really enjoyed our visit to Utica! (And we even tried out my new mother's day gift - a GPS - and didn't even get lost!) We hope to take daddy for a yummy visit to the ice cream factory this summer.