22 December, 2011

What Kind of Bird Are You?

Kevin and I were laying in bed the other night talking and at one point he said to me, "You just don't like to fly in formation when the rest are lagging behind."

This comment has really gotten to my core. At first, there was a guilt - why can't I just fly in formation? Why can't I just go with the flow? My husband can just put his head down and get through, why can't I just put up and shut up? My life would be so much easier...

Then my husband reminded me, "Sometimes we need people who march to the beat of their own drum."

Two very mixed analogies and so in jest I said, "No, I'm not a goose like everybody else. Geese just all fly together making a lot of noise and soiling all over everybody else's stuff. I'm a hawk. A solitary bird that sees what I want, watches quietly but actively for awhile, and then swoops in to get it."

But then I thought about it - that's too agressive. I'm not that way either.

As I laid there in the dark I continued to think. Finally, I rolled over and said to Kevin, waking him, "Nope, I'm a hoot owl - a barred owl to be specific. Solitary, noctural, and thoughtful. I speak loudly when necessary and take decisive action when it comes to my hungers and the hungers of my family."

Yes, I am a hoot owl.

What are you?

Matthew 6: 25-27
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?"

16 December, 2011

Song of a Sick Day

Well, it's not been the most wonderful time of the year in this house for the past 4 days. We've passed a stomach bug, tips and tails, through all four of us. Clara got it first and seems to be the last to shake it. She's not really had an illness in her 18 months and I just don't think her body knew exactly what to do with it.

Suffice it to say, we've learned first hand that sick days as parents are no longer about getting well, just getting by.

Reality aside, we learned a very important family lesson. There we sat (I laid), two busy parents in the middle of the holiday season, huddled up in the fetal position bribing each other to care for the bare necessities of childcare. For an entire day our children took turns cuddling up with us both in billowing piles of blankets. By the end of the day my son was the most pleasant and content he's been in weeks and my little Miss Daisy had foregone her usual sassy, independent self in favor of a snuggly little lamb.

Our children had been craving some undivided attention and it took a massive sick day effort for us to realize it. While initially I felt like a terrible parent, I have come to believe that it was just me discerning some priorities in the midst of crisis - or finding God's silver lining!

The work on our basement is likely to be finished by this weekend, but you won't find me down there staining or painting. We're taking this final weekend of Advent to enjoy time as a family doing all the things I put off every year like gingerbread houses, light viewing car trips and holiday video viewing. I am going to cook like a madwoman for no one other than my family and spend lots of time snuggling with the kids and my sweet husband.

12 December, 2011

Searching for a Voice

Where to look?
In a book?
For a sound.

To a colored house or a shape of five?
To people of red and blue, but half alive?
It cannot be found.

No! Seek the truth, the faith, the way!
Find it here, the saints all say.
Even here, my voice is drowned.

I hear it here, right here inside.
Crying to get out alive.
Screaming from the inner self,
to be pulled from the shelf.

A voice discerned,
a heart concerned,
a soul with blessings which abound.

Two small heads entrusted there,
two small hearts taught to care,
My voice, perchance sent heavenbound.

I hear it speak to their small ears,
even through the mindful tears.
Their lives of love and laughter be,
hope for my dying voice eternally.

05 December, 2011

Funeral Regrets

I recently had the opportunity to attend the funeral of one of my co-worker's fathers. He was a gentle man with a big heart. Though I had never met him, his love and devotion to his family was legendary. When I heard the stories of he and his wife, they were the small and warm gestures that any woman hopes for in her later years. Hand-holding, slow walks, and daily rituals marked the memories of his loved ones. He raised 12 children including a lovely woman with Down Syndrome.
However, all of these things could not get me beyond my fear of funerals. I know that death is a part of life and I believe in heaven, but something about funeral masses that seems so final. I know it is supposed to be a ritual release and celebration, but it seems so sad and the black seems anything but celebratory.
Kevin says that it is one of the greatest signs of respect and care for a person and their family. No amount of my believing this could get me out of my office chair that day. I regret it. I really do, but I just don't know if I would do it any differently if presented with the opportunity again.
I don't have an answer. God and I have to work on this one. In the meantime, I cooked a big meal and left it in the freezer for my co-worker's family.
Notes for future reference: No black at my funeral and no sappy "go with God" music. I want praise and worship and guitars...yes, guitars.

28 November, 2011

My little man is 3 today. Time for the annual post!

Lover of all things branded...Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, Cars, Angry Birds (yes, thanks Daddy), Spiderman, and Curious George.

Boy for all feelings...happy, sad, mad, concerned, loving, angry, anxious (oh, so anxious), excited, and jealous.

The little boy who can make any toy fit the purpose. The little people ambulance becomes the Mac Hauler from Cars and the nightlight (yes, removed from the wall) is Guido from Cars. The photo above is of him "tractor tipping".

This year was the one of the Tag Reader which was easily confused in a 2-year-old brain with a basal thermometer. It was the year of bikes, sandboxes, and helping daddy dig in the dirt. This year marked his first plane ride, his first batch of sugar cookies, and his first video game (Angry Birds).

He talks from waking to sleeping and I swear he uses some of my daily ration of words.

John Ross, may you never stop asking questions. May your love of all things action-packed sustain your imagination and may your sweet sleep keep your heart and mind well-grounded in your dreams.

Happy Birthday sweet boy. Mama loves you.

25 November, 2011

From Gratitude to Generosity

Now would seem like the most appropriate holiday to show you my completed art project. This is the wall in our dining room. Our family tree. Finally, this room is beginng to become uniquely ours as in our last.

I'm grateful for the each breath I take and the gift of each day I wake. I'm grateful for my husband who has become my second breath. I could not exist as the woman I am today without him. I'm grateful for my intelligent and energetic children who daily amaze and inspire me. I'm grateful for my sisters who will always know me better than anyone else (and for those women who've become like sisters to me and will spend the rest of their lives getting to know me despite myself). I'm grateful for my family. I'm grateful for a warm home and the great joy of cooking tasty food. I'm grateful to live in a free country where I can work, live, and play for the benefit of my family.

But gratitude is not enough. These amazing gifts require more from me. Not only am I to accept them grateful, but I must nurture them warmly and responsibly, I must share them with love, charity, and justice, and I must seek to return them to God abundantly.

"What return shall I make for all the good the LORD has done for me?" Psalm 116:12

15 November, 2011

Questions Before 30: To Conceive or Not to Conceive?

Time for a new series. I will call it, "30 Questions Before 30". There are just somethings that one feels compelled to ask as they approach that middle-aged number and I think it is time to start asking them out loud.

Question 1:
To conceive or not to conceive - did I make the right choice to have my babies so young? Should I have seen the world and enjoyed my 20s with the rest of my peers before diving headlong into the first 18 years of parenthood?

Always in luck, today's answer came before the question. Here's a fascinating article for women who want to be mothers - don't wait to read it until you're "ready". While you may think that science is more on your side than the Church, it may not be...

Fertility math? Most women flunk, survey finds

12 November, 2011

A Miracle in Our Midst

For those of you who follow my family and their stories of foster care, check out this blog. It is the blog of the beautiful, holy people who adopted our precious little Luke. They arrived to pick up Luke this weekend and the video of their first meeting is posted a little ways down the page. Grab the tissues as we are truly witnessing a miracle in our midst.


Please keep Luke and his new family in your prayers as well as my family as they say goodbye.

29 October, 2011

October 2011 Daybook

Outside My Window ...
The parish courtyard and picnic table. My new office offers a much larger, quieter, and more picturesque view. I'm so grateful for all that God has done in our life recently, but am content with where things are now. It's a bit gray and breezy, but fall is in the air. I can smell it and it stirs my soul in a powerful way.


I am listening to...
Well, I'm not listening to it at the very moment, but I am reflecting on the fact that all of the songs played on our local country station this morning seemed just perfectly suited to my state in life today. From married life, to college memories, to my favorite "Good Morning Beautiful" song I just felt like God was blessing me in the words.


To Live the Liturgy…
I took a sabbath for myself recently. I have not been away by myself since John Ross was about 6 months old for anything other than work. I went a few hours north of home and spent the weekend resting my soul and getting right with God. On Sunday I took my coffee out into the wind and spent my morning cup with God. The gusty lake wind blew through my hair and the sun came up on my back. The sound of the waves just rushed over my battered soul and the smell of the water intoxicated me. I came home feeling clean, calm, and clear. It very much reminded me of how I feel after confession, but in a very tangible way.


To be Fit and Happy…
I had my annual appointment a few months ago and was told that even after 6 weeks of caffeine withdrawals I could continue to feel fatigued for another 6 weeks. I'm so glad I made the choice to wean myself off all but my morning cup of coffee, but it's been rough with the transitions that have been going on in my life and in my routine.


I am thankful for ...
My husband who has been so helpful and supportive as we've been making these transitions in our routine. Besides the HUGE basement finishing project, he hasn't complained about my working nights or my unusually quiet nature. He's been thoughtful and considerate. In fact, we have gotten up early the past two mornings for breakfast and coffee together.


From the kitchen ...
Swedish meatballs. Fall is here and with it comes some of our favorite recipes. The hearty produce that comes at the end of the season, plus the need to keep a little warm from the inside out lends itself perfectly to an aromatic kitchen and a freezer full of soup! I often make my own meatballs, but I have found that Alton Brown's sauce recipe is a most appropriate match for store bought meatballs on a work night. Pour them over a bed of egg noodles and cut up a few local apricots and dinner is served!


I am creating ...
I am not creating anything in particular. I am always knitting something and I am contemplating some really cute fleece robes for my sisters, but until recently I haven't had much time to consider what I am creating, I just create it. If anything, I am trying to create peace in my heart and in my household, which is quite a challenge in an of itself.


I am reading…
I've got a couple of interesting biographies and non-fiction pieces about cultures and upbringings. I am really trying to define for myself the definition and type of "culture" I wish to raise my children in and I am finding so much joy in the beauty of traditions. I really do believe that it is important to make a specific decision about the environment in which you wish to raise your children or today's society will just sweep you away.


Towards a real education ...
Hate this one every time...no good answer. No direction right now. The farthest I've gotten is Prairie Home Companion tonight...if anything, it is good for at least a bit of the comfort of my childhood.


Bringing beauty to my home ...
I'm working on a wall mural for my dining room. I really want to visually play off of the scripture about the wife being a fruitful vine in her home and the children being like olive plants on the table. I am working on a large olive tree that incorporates all of our family photos. I still have to put leaves on the highest branches and add the colorful little olives, but I am quite pleased.


I am hoping and praying…
That I can maintain my sense of calm even when the balance is off a bit. I know this fall is going to be full and busy and stressful, but I want to maintain Christ's peace. My sense of anxiety typically rises, I've found, from my belief that I am supposed to feel anxious about something instead of actually feeling that way. I'm trying to shut out some of those imposed constructs and instead focus on discernment between God and I. Not having a whole lot of luck on this one, so I ask prayers.


Around the house ...
It is really starting to feel like our home. We've mounted our pot rack and replaced some lights. The fact that the laundry is all put away for the first time in a month and tomorrow's forecast is for rain means a warm, slow, dare I say perfect, Sunday before a really busy week. Good, but busy.


One of my favorite things...
I have been wearing my keys on the same green Cabella's cotton lanyard for almost 4 years. With kids and a forgetful mama brain, it is really the only way to carry and keep track of keys. The lanyard recently snapped and I tied it back together. While on my sabbath weekend I found the most lovely silver chain from Brighton that is designed as a ID tag holder, but is also perfect for my keys. It was definitely more than my last lanyard because the last one came wrapped around a t-shirt and hat promotion, but if it last as long or longer than the previous one, it will be well worth it!


A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
My sister and brother-in-law are making a mid-week trip to town. We are going to trick-or-treat with the kids in our new neighborhood for the first time, take a day off mid-week to visit Lambeau, do some vintage shopping, and just enjoy their visit. I am so blessed with my very close family and always look forward to whatever time we have together.


In Pictures...

10 October, 2011

Pro-life in a Foster Family

I am a foster sister and although I've mentioned it here from time to time, I offered a more thoughtful pro-life perspective on my journey over here. Please enjoy.

07 October, 2011

Kids at Mass - Part 2

I have a great follow up to the post that I wrote about a month ago about kids at Mass.

We were asked to be the Godparents to a wonderful little gal who has a special place in my heart. We celebrated the baptism recently and we were so blessed to be with her family that day. However, when we walked into church the community may not have felt so initially blessed to have us.

Picture this...big echoing church, 7 children ages 3 and under, 8:30 Mass...Suffice it to say, our families hair color did not match the majority of those in the congregation for this Mass.

As parents, we were sweating it. I was just praying that mine didn't decide the throw her head back in protest in the middle of the baptism and konk her head on the font...I do believe a comment was made in jest about repeating the other kiddos baptisms (which isn't canonically sound, by the way, once you're baptized, that's it!) or perhaps considering an exorcism!

There were a few outbursts and a few anxious moments, but overall the kids did beautifully! After a particularly long Mass (1.5) hours we didn't have anyone giving us the stink eye and we had a new member of the Church!!!

After Mass we were taking pictures. After all, how often are our two families actually dressed to the nines with our hair done??? As we were heading down the aisle with the priest to take our photos we were both commenting on how well the kids did and the priest looked at us and said,

"Your kids did wonderfully. Kids are our future. We cannot be a pro-life church and complain about how much noise they make or how they need to be breastfed at Mass. We can't speak out both sides of our mouth. As for me, I can always talk louder than they can. And that's the end of my sermon." And he said it all with a big smile.

Wow...what an affirmation. For a couple of families that regularly struggle with our beautiful children in Mass there couldn't have possibly been a more powerful statement made.

Frankly, I'd considered driving 45 minutes each weekend to be a part of that priest's congregation.

25 September, 2011

The Potter Dilemna

Check out this post from Catholic Mother's Online all about the Harry Potter series. While I've been wanting to post one of my own, I just don't think I could say it any better than this lovely lady!

21 September, 2011

Step it UP!

Our lives are very full, aren't they?

I love my job, but I hate the stress. Being of a generation that is known for their lack of commitment, it is hard to stay committed to the work that I do. However, I had parents that instilled in me a work ethic and a perserverance that is unique to my generation.

God did not make us for work, but God did make work for us. Work is an activity meant to fulfill the human need for productivity. Work is meant to feed the human soul and it comes in many forms.

Everything you do may not be your passion or utmost interest. Everything you do may not be life-giving. I have some news for my generation: LIFE IS NOT PERFECT. But we all must get through. We all must provide for ourselves. We are called to use our giftedness (not just our passions) to care for our families and our world regardless of how wonderful it makes us feel. Your gift may be for multi-tasking which you love to apply in your passion for cooking, but if you can't find a job as a chef, you can most certainly still use your giftedness as an administrative assistant.

Waiting for perfection is not an excuse for laziness and it gives our generation a really bad reputation. Find a way to use your gifts. Find a way to better yourself and your community. Make a commitment and stick to it. Follow through. It is through hard work, follow-through and accountability that most successful people make their way to a vocation that they love. And for those of you who fall back-end into your dream job, earn it - don't just take it for granted.

And even then, even the most perfect vocation will always require sacrifice.

11 September, 2011

My Love of Farm Eggs

I have fallen in love with farm eggs.

I have been assured that a photo of chicks is not sadistic when discussion the consumption of eggs because these chicks are not the ones sacrificed for the sake of my eggs, but instead will grow up to lay my beautiful wonderful eggs.

The sweet, variously shaped, beautifully brown, and curiously rich product of local hens.

I keep a dozen in my fridge along side my cheap, white, mass-produced variety.

You may ask: why use more than one kind?

Well, here's the thing. I have a family and I do a lot of cooking. The concept of two kinds of eggs runs along the same lines as the whole CSA and Sams Club membership paradox. A lot of my baking recipes call for eggs as one of many ingredients which makes the recipe a perfect candidate for inexpensive eggs. However, I have come to LOVE homemade carbonara where egg is pretty much the prima donna of the dish. That would be a recipe that seductively beckons for the rich subtlty of a fresh farm egg.

God has given us so many wonderful gifts in our world from the simplicity of a laying hen to the technological complexity of mass agriculture. Each has it's place and supports a delicate web of beneficiaries, just as each type of egg can have a place in my kitchen repetoire.

While we're on the subject, anyone want to teach me how to poach the perfect egg? I'm feeling a round of perfectly pink steak and eggs...

04 September, 2011

Praise the Lord that Singing is Like Praying Twice!

We had company a few weekends ago. My best friend and college roommate came for a quick visit to see us, although I do suspect that her adorable Godson was more of the motivation. We shopped, we ate, we relaxed on the back deck.

Before bed on Saturday night I said to my dear friend (who happens to be the daughter of a United Methodist minister and of the denomination herself), “Say Jess, would you be willing to watch the kiddos tomorrow morning so Kevin and I can go to Mass without them?”

I am not one that believes in not bringing your children to church when they are young, but quite frankly it is virtually impossible to establish any focus with our two monkeys climbing all over us.

Well, being that she has spent nearly as much time learning the Catholic tradition as the Methodist due to the nature of her schooling and is in a searching state at the moment, attending various churches and denominations, she replied, “No, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d really like to go. I can help with the kids.”


The only good things about that Sunday Mass were the facts that we arrived on time and the church didn’t have air conditioning. Arriving on time allowed us to sit in front so that the only poor soul watching our children was the priest and the fans, which lack any effective cooling properties did effectively drown out most of our children’s chatter, whining, and admirable attempts at singing. We only had one removal and one sickening thud of head against pew.

As I dripped sweat and seethed over the dirty looks the priest had given us (didn’t Jesus say “Let the children come!” – and I bet those kids weren’t exactly quiet either!!!), and my blood pressure sky-rocketed. We hadn’t even peeled our thighs off the pew after the closing him when my dear friend turned to all of us and said, “Next time, I’ll keep the kids.”

While that statement alone is enough of a punch line, I’m working hard at looking for the bright side. Perhaps God is in fact SO GOOD that my song (the only thing I can do wholeheartedly at Mass anymore) counts as praying twice!

UPDATE: We've been having a debate over here at the parish office about appropriate behavior/parenting at Mass. We had an older parishioner scold a young mom for letting her little one pace the pew. This is not a new mom, but one with some seasoning. What are your thoughts? Leave me a note. Is welcoming children a matter of hospitality or is it inhospitable to the others around them? I'll weigh in with our opinion shortly...:)

28 August, 2011

Why I Envy Runners

Let me clear something up. My title may have implied that I have a desire to run. I do not, have not, and will never have a desire to put on short shorts, a tight top and a pair of expensive running shoes. Running shoes in my world are best for long days at the office followed by a teaching night on my feet. They are light and they breathe. Beyond that, they serve no purpose in my life.

That being said, my best friend from high school is a runner. She loves to run and becomes distraught when time or injury prevents her from doing so. I’ve been keeping up with her over at her blog and I can honestly say that the other day I envied her passion for self-mutilation.

As I read her post I couldn’t help but envy the fact that her hobby, her passion, is something that allows her such an amazing stress relief. As I read her post I could feel how the pressure just melted away and I wished I had something in my life that gave me that physical and emotional fulfillment.

I actually packed my running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt into my work bag for the next day. Sadly, they are still sitting in my work closet mocking me because, oh yeah, I hate running.

It is what it is. I will never be a runner, but I love to walk and it is almost fall in Wisconsin. There is nothing more wonderful than an after dinner walk on a cool fall night in Wisconsin. I guess it is more about making it a priority (there’s that word again), than it is about what you do. My friend runs because it is a priority. It is something she MUST do and just does. It is a very part of her and as such is so healthy for her.

One thing I can do that most runners do is cook. This particular recipe came upon recommendation from my dear runner friend and it is AMAZING. Don’t be fooled. It is the easiest and most perfect end of summer recipe full of wonderful fresh produce and herbs. A quick stop at the farmers market and about an hour and you’ll have yourself a beautiful corn and tomato pie. (I have just revealed to you my newest obsession the Smitten Kitchen blog – why couldn’t you have come into my life at the beginning of my relaxing summer instead of the end??? Oh, and someday I have to tell you all about my homemade ricotta experiment…my heavens, it was as smooth as my baby girl’s cheek!!!)

20 August, 2011

The defininition of insane...

…is doing something more than once and expecting a different result the second time.

So why is it that my 18 month old daughter continues to open the drawer in the coffee table and then slam her fingers in it?

Oh yeah, she’s 18 months. And a girl. And my daughter.

Three strikes and this little girl is out her independent own!

John Ross was such a mellow little guy compared to this one. She screams, growls, and pushes. She’s either all in or all out. Even at 18 months she’s yelling at the kitty and demanding her birth-right time with her daddy. She throws diapers and calls them footballs.

And yet…she is sweet, loving and completely obsessed with shoes!!!! Anything that shimmers or shines is “pittee” and her eyes are the dictionary definition of sparkling.

I can’t wait to see how the Lord uses this one. I harbor some early fears that being this perfect storm of her papa and me, she will actually try to accomplish some of the daring things I only dreamed of in my younger years.

More on that later…intervention is necessary in a train track bludgeoning…and the antagonizing suspect is not male!

04 August, 2011

Forever a Bridesmaid

I recently came across some photos that my sister had given me from her wedding last year. There were photos of she and her hubby and photos of the wedding party, but there was also a photo of myself waiting to walk down the aisle as one of her bridesmaids.

At the time I had just stopped nursing Clara and was feeling a little down on myself. I was back to work, over my ideal post-baby weight, and I had just cut my hair because a lot of it was falling out post-partum.

Yet, I remembered a comment my sister had made when she first gave me the photos. She said, "Look at these photos of you girls walking down the aisle. In the pictures of you and Jenny (her sister-in-law) you can clearly tell that you are looking at your husbands."

I remember that moment. I looked down the aisle and finding the gaze of my husband at the altar. It was a very sacramental moment for me as I recalled my own journey down the aisle and all the things we had already been through. My heart filled with love and peace and my eyes welled up with happy tears. Walking down the aisle became a testament to the power of a God-filled marriage. We were "leading the way" for my beautiful sister and her husband. I was truly to be a handmaid, serving her by example and presence.

In a world where weddings have become a greater focus than the marriage this comment really made me reflect on the role of the bridesmaid. Sometimes it seems as though a wedding and a bridal party is all about an opportunity for adult dress-up. Yet, the beautiful ritual that is the Sacrament of Marriage prevents us from becoming too caught up in it. We are reminded that the old traditions of the bridesmaids, dressing, carrying, and leading, are not just folly. We stand as witness to the marriage, but more importantly as servants and guides.

My wedding day was one of the most powerful and sacramental days of my life. Moreover, standing up in my sister's wedding with my husband was one of the most powerful renewals of our vows and our vocation that I have experienced to this point. I am reminded that marriage is a journey and it is a journey that we do not take alone. We travel with God, our three in One. With God we co-create, we sanctify, and we serve our marriage and our world and while we do that we lead the way for other holy men and women who are watching our example.

All that from a wedding photo and a 20 minute drive to work...

08 July, 2011

My Little Red Blessings

Moving was stressful. I somehow got it into my head that after an 18 month selling/buying process that once we signed the papers it would all be over. I saw our closing date as a finish line. OOPS!

The transition to our new home, while wonderful, has been quite challenging. Daylight savings had our children rising at ridiculously early hours of the morning and constant pleas to "go home" kept them from wanting to sleep at night. We invested in a color-changing clock (to indicate time to get up) and room darkening blinds and that seemed to remedy the waking times, but we still heard a lot of "go home".

On our way to church one morning as we sat on the exit ramp which also leads to our old home we heard John Ross whiny quietly in the back seat, "home, Scoopy's home, go home" while pointing out his window. It nearly broke us...

We've continued to work hard to explain old home and new home and discuss the benefits of our new home. The kids love to be outside all the time and now have a place to ride their bikes. They both have their own rooms were they can play toys and store their stuff. We are a short walk from the shoreline of Green Bay and have a much bigger, less stressful kitchen/dining area. They regularly voice their joy in these new things so I know that it is just going to take time.

Amidst all of the stress and transition there have been a few affirming moments that have reminded us that this was GOD'S plan even if we are still working through the human struggles. From the beautiful bay breezes to the wonderful neighbors we know that this is where God meant for us to be.

The most recent example of this was a little surprise that we discovered in our back rock garden. While trimming, Kevin thought he recognized strawberry plants. Yes, even after Kevin hacked half of the patch back (not realizing what they were at first) we had at least 5 pints of little red strawberries! What a treat to take the kids out and let them discover all the beautiful little red surprises in the patch! Except for one batch of strawberry shortcake, we ate them right out of the garden and indulged gratefully in our little red berries. In fact, my sweet little Clara has added the word "berries" to her vocabulary just to celebrate!

I've always wanted fruit plants and trees, but we've never had the space or the sun. What a gift to this black thumb to find thriving, sweet produce ready for the picking!!! These little sweet packages have done worlds of good for my tired soul and aching body. Who would have thought that such a small little thing would bring such joy and peace?

And, as an added bonus, they've gotten me out to care for the garden. My husband has finally realized (or accepted) that the best way to motivate or satisfy me is by attaching a food experience! To quote him, "If I'd have known that all I had to do to get you out to the garden was plant a few strawberries, I would have done it years ago!"

01 July, 2011

The Tale of My Wedding Dress

I recently read a beautiful tale of two wedding dresses over at Falling Upward blog and it got me to thinking about my own wedding dress. I thought I'd share.

Kevin proposed to me 3 weeks before I was laid off. If we hadn't been engaged our story may have been very different. I was alone in Green Bay with 18 months of work experience in a field I had no education in and I was locked into an apartment lease. My unemployment payments barely covered my rent and my meager savings would only have lasted a few months. If it hadn't been for our engagement, I very well may have moved back to Ohio where my parents were living at the time.

Instead, unemployed and engaged in a strange city, Kevin paid my other bills while we looked for another job. I was laid off right before the economy turned and so the market was already beginning to slow. I spent the entire 7 months we were engaged looking for jobs and doing decorating projects on Kevin's house. Two months before our wedding my landlord was able to lease my apartment to someone new and I moved into the upstairs bedroom at Kevin's house. While you most certainly can insert judgements here, it was the reality of our situation and I don't believe in making up stories to keep people reading.

Suffice it to say, our engagement was a joyfully cautious time. Without a job it was hard to make decisions about a wedding that would cost money. We kept things very simple. Our guest list was 40 people and we hosted a dinner at a local restaurant. Because it was so small, there was some frustration and hurt from others who assumed they would be guests. So, instead of being happy for us many of our family members voiced upset and anger.

When it came to the dress, while I wanted to look beautiful on my wedding day it didn't really seem to matter at the time. My mom was in a place in her life and my sisters were at an age that they were not able to come and be with me as I made the decision on a dress. I set a very modest budget and knew that I couldn't EVER justify spending more on a dress that I would wear for a few hours. My future sister-in-law and niece went with me to try on dresses. That in itself is slightly amusing because my sister-in-law is pretty far from a girly-girl.

I tried on several that I thought I would like and didn't and finally settle on a simple, no train, strapless beaded gown with a sweetheart neckline. I would have prefered to wear something with straps for Mass, my budget didn't really gift me that option in a style that otherwise flattered me. I didn't have it lengthened because I wore flats and I didn't want a veil. I bought a corset and jewelry and made my clutch to match. Since dinner was scheduled for before the ceremony I also made an ivory cocktail dress to wear for dinner.

By the time the wedding day arrived I had gained a few stress pounds and was grateful for the corset and the relief of an a-line gown. We were running late and I dove into my gown and slapped on some fresh lipstick about 10 minutes before Mass.

I didn't feel stunning or show-stopping. I don't even feel like it was the most beautiful day of my life.

Against my dad's recommendation, I didn't carry flowers. He was worried about my hands shaking from nerves and needing something to hold onto.

But in the end, the second I took my dad's arm and look down the aisle at my future I felt loved. Knowing that we had already thrived despite one of the hardest experiences in life gave me a sense of confidence and security that overcame all of my superficial insecurities about my appearance.

As I took that first step all of the worldly things that tradionally mattered didn't any more. I was beautiful and I was loved. I was marrying a man that was going to stand by me and love me no matter what I was wearing or how pretty my hair looked. I was marrying a man whose only care was to see me wear a smile.

Today my dress hangs in my closet. I have every intention of wearing it again. I am currently on the hunt for a seamstress that will convert my simple a-line gown into a cocktail dress for our 5th anniversary. I plan to hold onto the extra fabric to incorporate into my children's wedding garments. At the time the dress didn't really matter, but today it is symbol of our fidelity, our perserverance, and the simple beauty of our love. It is a symbol and dare I say a"sacramentary" to be passed on to future generations in love and fidelity.

26 June, 2011

An Explanation of Grace

I recently had grace explained to me in a very beautiful way and I wanted to share.

God is perfect. God is like the highest rung of a ladder.

We spend our entire lives practicing perfection and trying to be Christ-like. We reach the first rung, the secong rung, and maybe the third rung. Sometimes we go down a rung.

Grace is the space between the rungs that God takes care of by reaching down and taking our hand. Grace is when we do our best and God makes up the difference.

10 June, 2011

Daybook June 2011

Outside My Window ...
A bit of a dreary day. Good for this mama since my kiddos are not begging to go outside I can get some more work done unpacking and nesting in our new home!


I am listening to...
Screetches! To be more exact, little girl screetches. Clara's lunch is kicking in and she is a very happy, very loud little girl! She's actually trying to stand on an end table...


To Live the Liturgy…
I just got a new book series from 23rd Publications about Fergie the Frog. It is a series that focuses on Fergie's experiences and the leasons he learns. At the end of each book is a little connection to faith practice. We're enjoying each new story over here especially with a 2.5 year old!


To be Fit and Happy…
Today not so much, but the new house has given us so much more space and time to spend outdoors. I don't have to worry about the kids so they can go out on bikes in the front. It is a lot easier to walk around here too and I can't wait to get my rollerblades out and start whipping this body back into shape!


I am thankful for ...
A general sense of calm around here. We have a beautiful new home, it's summertime, and work is in planning mode. It makes for a happy mama!


From the kitchen ...
Real meals!!! That was the hardest part of moving. Family meals are SO important to us and during the move we ate a lot of convenience food and fast food. It is so nice to smell a roast in the crockpot and spiced chocolate pecan bars in the oven!!! This is my home!!!


I am creating ...
I am repurposing a 50-year-old vanity that I inherited. It belonged to my great-grandmother. At one point many years ago it had a beautiful beveled mirror in it, but that has long since shattered and been replaced with a flat mirror. In the old house the mirror portion of the vanity was in storage over our wings because we didn't have the vertical space for it, but I needed the vanity portion. In my new office I still needed the vanity, but now have the vertical space for the mirror portion. Yet I found myself not wanting to gaze at myself while I worked so I am padding the back and covering it with a pretty upholstery fabric and some ribbons and buttons for a french photoboard look. I hope it will be a good place to keep notes about my various ongoing projects!Pictures when I have some...


I am reading…
I finished A Year in the Life of Food and LOVED every moment of it! Now I am working on the book Fall On Your Knees. Although I do not find that it has a great deal of depth, the plot moves and the writing style is quite unique. I am finding that the pages go by quickly.


Towards a real education ...
I am considering taking some steps toward my masters degree. I hestitate because my children are only young once, but a slow start might be good. I am also trying to learn a lot more about produce gardening and whole foods to better feed my family.


Bringing beauty to my home ...
While not everything is packed up and put away yet we are going to try to get some art on the walls this weekend! We need to get rid of some of the echoes and start making it seem like OUR home again.


I am hoping and praying…
That our contractor is going to be able to help us make some prudent choices about finishing our basement. We don't know exactly what we want to do with it and we need some guidance.


Around the house ...
It is so much easier to keep this house clean it seems! It is easier to put things away and keep it tidy, which leaves a lot more time to sit on the porch and watch the sun set.


One of my favorite things...
My new stovetop which can boil water SO quickly! It's not convection, but compared to our old stove (40+ years) it goes so quickly! I am also in love with my full size dishwasher, which I only have to run every 2-3 days!!!! I could wash dishes for an army!


A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
A weekend with my family. Shopping, eating, recreating. Hopefully the weather will clean up it's act a bit so we can get outside and maybe have a picnic. I am also hoping to get the rest of my office and craft room unpacked and squared away.


In pictures...
Two of my favorite features of our new home - our fireplace and our back deck!

06 June, 2011

I'm Back! And Still Unpacking...

I know it has been a month since my last post. As many good intentions as I had about writing and scheduling posts to appear during our moving month they went out the window as I taped the first box...more on that and SO much more later, but for now here is a link to my most recent post over at Catholic Mothers Online about being a working mama!

My Scoop on Working Mamas

Though our basement still currently looks like a pawn shop watch for some great new posts this week! I just can't keep my fingers still any longer no matter how hard my internet service provider tries to thwart my efforts!

05 May, 2011

27 Reasons...I Love Him Too

For our 4th anniversary my hubby created a lovely letter with the 27 reasons he loves me (we were married on the 27th of April). While I would love to share those reasons with you because they were truly blessed there are boundaries about what I share online and love letters are not within them. That being said, I felt called to share with all my readers the 27 reasons I love HIM.

1. I can't remember my life before we were one.
2. I can't imagine any more beautiful children.
3. The way we feast upon our experiences, whatever they are.
4. Road trips.
5. You have kept cleaning the litter box even though I am not pregnant.
6. "We don't pull the kitties' tails. God gave us kitties to take care of."
7. You have taught me about discipline and joyful housework.
8. You make coffee for each morning.
9. Schweetie french toast.
10. The best steak dinners by candlelight.
11. K2 wings and cajun fries and Sgambati's pizza.
12. Rabbits!
13. Our bedtime prayers.
14. Squishes!
15. Your support of my career and my passions.
16. Your patience with my redecorating bugs...
17. Having someone who appreciates my cooking even when it undermines your weight-maintenance efforts.
18. Caribou Coffee pit stops!
19. Family date nights.
20. Ghosts and Goblins.
21. All the things you teach me about the world.
22. Conversations about philosophy and theology (even when we don't agree).
23. Travelling the world and dreaming of travelling with the kiddos.
24. Saturday morning market days.
25. Juicy Lucies at Groveland Tap.
26. Snuggly snow days and schweetie naps.
27. Knowing that we are committed to being together for more years of our life than we were apart.

This man is my life. My heart is his heart. We rely fully and completely on each other. While that may not be okay by the world's standards, I don't so much mind being set apart. It means that we are seeking to live a holy and God-filled life.

03 May, 2011

The Last Bottle...

Clara will drink her final bottle at lunch today while I am at the office. It is a very bittersweet moment for this mama.

As a pro-life Catholic family we are regularly discerning our family size. With two children 2 and under we are at a place in our co-creation where we believe that God agrees that we need, at least, a break.

Clara is 1 and my cycles have just returned to normal (telling me that physically my body is just now ready to consider the option again) and I am still 15 pounds from my healthy weight. It is important to us that I always start another pregnancy from a healthy physical place since carrying another life for 10 months takes a toll on even the healthiest body.

Moreover, I believe that my vocation in life is three-fold. My vocations are as a wife, a mother and a lay minister to the church. I have just taken on the role of lifelong learning coordinator at my parish which will see my hours increasing in service to our faith community. While this does not come before my call to family life, it is definitely a part of who God calls me to be. I need to spend some time answering that part of my call as we discern when and if God, Kevin and I are called to adding another life to our family.

I often wonder if I/we are open enough to life. Just using NFP as a family planning method doesn't make a family open to life because NFP can be used with as much contraceptive mentality as artificial contraceptive methods. While we know that we would always lovingly accept a new life, planned or otherwise, it does not excuse us from evaluating our perspective and use of NFP. We must pray and discern regularly and consistently about how we are supporting and accepting life in our marriage. This includes considerations like new life, quality life, support of our extended families, and participation in our community.

How does this all connect to "the last bottle"? Well, my deep sadness over my sweet little girl's last bottle tells me that I am in fact still open to life. If I found myself celebrating and rejoicing that I would never have to make or wash another bottle I would have to really examine my feelings about adding life to our family. It is in my melancholy that I find God's affirmation and in that I take great comfort.

28 April, 2011

My Baby Bear Turns One

My sweet little Clara Ann turned one on Monday. Sadly, the last weeks have been so busy that I am quite delayed on her birthday post. Delayed but not forgotten.

Clara got a double dose of fire in her personality. Compared to my even-tempered little man, Clara has no patience, no tolerance, and a stubborn streak that could get her an oceanside view in Arizona.

She is not the marathon sleeper that her brother was and spent many a night bonding with daddy well into the second half of her first year. Though she resists sleep, she needs it and is so much more pleasant when she wakes up from a good rest.

She only has 4 teeth: the two bottoms ons and her fangs. She really looks like a tiny little vampire.

She talked a lot sooner than John Ross. She has a very raspy, deep little voice which usually cracks people up when they first hear it. While she spent the first many months growling, her first word was "gentle" which comes out sounding like "GEN-toe". It is quite amusing when she actually growls the word. While we were in FL this spring, her auntie bumped her head on the stroller while putting her in and she softly whined "GEN-tooooeee". Her second word was "touchdown" which everyone worked very hard on prior to the Superbowl seeing that she was born in Green Bay.

She is a SUPER-eater! She does not gag on her food or resist anything we give her which makes her a joy compared to her brother at that age. She loves bananas and graham crackers and is learning to use a spoon. Unfortunately, right now that means using her fingers to eat things off the spoon, but every painter starts by fingerpainting, right?

She inherited mommy's chin and thunder-thighs. She hates wearing dresses because she can't power-crawl in them and she doesn't look good in pastels. She is bright and bold and a ball of love. Her best feature is her dusky blue eyes and pink little lips and they are best when her cheeks are rosy and she's giving kisses. I love every padded, pudgy inch of her.

We've called her Scrappy from the time she was in the womb, but she also goes by Beara, Clarie, Clarita, Scappa, and Clara-bear.

She is my snuggler and the best birthday gift she gave her mama was an hour of snuggling in the baby wrapper at Easter Sunday Mass. She lays in my arms and gazes up at me lovingly no matter what her size. Her sweet little wistful smile always leaves me wondering who this beautiful little girl is going to be.

She will take her first steps this week and who knows where those little feet and fiery personality will take her. All I know for certain is that God has BIG plans for my LITTLE bear and I pray that God shows me exactly what maps she needs!

09 April, 2011

A Home for Nuthatches

I'm sitting in my dining room this morning working on an assortment of tasks from bills to parishioner welcome cards. One of my sitters likes to pull back the sheer curtain on our front window so that the kids can watch the cars while they eat lunch. Yesterday she didn't put it back and so I'm looking out onto our front yard and the busy street.

A couple of years ago, Kevin decided to overhaul the landscaping in our front yard. His dad is in the landscaping business and has a large nursery of various plants not too far from here. During this particular project, Kevin decided to transplant a less-then-thriving weeping mulberry that he had rescued from his grandmother's home before they sold it. It has since taken root and thrived in our front yard.

It is a small but beautifully melancholy tree. Most people wouldn't give it a second thought and we both fear as we try to sell our house that the new owners won't appreciate it's history. It really wouldn't survive another transplant and so we must reluctantly leave it behind.

As I looked out at our mulberry today I spotted two new residents: a pair of nuthatches. As they bopped and hopped their way around the small tree I felt a deep sense of sadness that they were moving in just as we are (hopefully) moving out. I watched them poke their bodies into a knot as they cleaned out a little space of their own.

As I watched them diligently go about their task and heard them peep cheerfully, I realized that God was sending me a sign. No matter where we go and when we get there, we too will carve out our little space in the world. We too will create a safe and soft place for our family to grow. And while we may not be able to take it with us, our mulberry tree (and its residents) are part of our legacy of love at this home. We hope that our love of this place will bless the new residents.

Please keep our family in prayer as we wait for a buyer to secure financing for our home. We are living in limbo since we can't make decisions about a new home until we are certain that someone can buy this one. We ask for patience and peace, but are also so grateful for this experience. It has allowed us to more fully enter into the season of Lent and the waiting for new life at Easter.

04 April, 2011

Recent Weekly Menu

John Ross looks so little here! Since they could eat solids my kids have not stopped eating. Meals come every 3-5 hours no matter what other work needs to be done or how long the day has already been. As much as I love fast food, it needs to remain a treat for both our the health of our bodies and the health of our checking account. That takes some planning.

For the busy women out there, here is my weekly menu! Mix, substitute and complement as necessary! Good stewardship of the body is as easy a little bit of whole wheat and a container of fresh spinach!

Monday: Crockpot Beef Roast Over Whole Wheat Egg Noodles

Tuesday: Family Date Night @ Chili's

Wednesday: Crockpot Vegetable Vindaloo Over Brown Rice and Chicken with Naan

Thursday: Sausage Potato Soup (but I leave out the heavy cream and use turkey sausage - swiss chard also works in place of kale), Spinach Salad, and French Bread

Friday: Fish Fry @ Church with My Family

Saturday: Raspberry-Chipotle Shredded Pork Tacos, Black Beans, Tortilla Chips and Salsa

Sunday: Whole Wheat Spaghetti and Meatballs, Spinach Salad and French Bread

My favorite spinach salad right now is fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, and shredded cheese topped with some basil olive oil and freshly cracked pepper! Mangia!

20 March, 2011

Living Lent Through a Slice of Bread

Image by premus on Flickr

The next time you pack lunches or make yourself a sandwich snack, I invite you to think about this!

Slice of bread - Just as you eat a piece of a loaf of bread, you are a piece of the Body of Christ and the Resurrection community. May we live a welcoming life that leaves none lonely or hungry.

Knife - The Christian life is not always easy. Lent is a great time for us to cut away some of our bad habits by way of prayer, fasting and sharing of resources. May this trimming make more room for God in our hearts.

Spread - There are as many spiritual journeys as there are toppings for bread. We are all called to spread the message of Jesus to those around us and more often than not, we do so by the way that we live.

Beverage - Just as Jesus was anointed with the perfumed oil and then poured himself out for us upon the cross, may we pour ourselves out in service to others, those we love and those we may not even know.

Napkin - We all make mistakes, but Jesus was the first to offer forgiveness to the sinner. May we seek and offer forgiveness regularly and allow God to wipe our hearts clean!

16 March, 2011

Our Vacation in Photos

We had a fabulous vacation with my family in Orlando this weekend! I really think we couldn't have spent any more time by the pool or in the sunshine. It was amazing and we are SO grateful to my generous parents for giving us an experience that we will never forget!

John Ross in the Green Bay airport

Clara Ann sporting her new sippy at the airport

John Ross climbing his first palm tree

My little girl is SO big!

My sister and brother-in-law!

Fire dancer at the luau

My brother at the luau...

John Ross loved my sunglasses!

The boys watching cartoons in the family dining room while we ate in peace!

Clara wasn't sure what to do with the sand

John Ross loved the mess!

Fabulous picture of my focused little swimmer!

John Ross never stopped eating and insisted upon eating EVERYONE's food. Here he is sharing with his "Sissy"

The guys in the family spent a lot of time at the Universal theme parks and this was Kevin and my dad hanging out at Hogmeads in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

14 March, 2011

Women in the Church

I was recently asked to reflect on the importance of women's spirituality opportunities from my role as a speaker and facilitor for Catholic women's events. This was the testimony I wrote for a parish facing questions about the importance of their women's events.

As Catholic women, I think we are in a unique time. In society today, more and more women are taking on the role of the spiritual head of household. They are hungry for time in the Red Tent; time with other women, time to grow, and the nourishment to feed their souls. From a Catholic standpoint we’ve spent a lot of time trying “not to loose” our Christian women because we need their service and their gifts instead of trying to inspire and offer opportunities for growth in our uniquely CATHOLIC faith. Many women are finding support in other ways like online communities and evangelical Bible studies. I believe that women who call themselves Catholic deserve more attention than we as a church are currently giving them.

From someone who has seen HUGE response to Catholic women’s programs here in Green Bay, I can say that everything we hear from women is that they need community and formation that comes from the other women in their community. There is no one who understands the experience of a woman better than another woman. In a world where we don’t have our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts as readily available to teach us about the faith journey of a woman, our parish community has become more important, not less, in our life journey.

When we ask women to evaluate their experiences after an event, most of our women indicate that they are still hungry. They want more. They want opportunities to learn about women in the Bible. They want evenings to gather and discuss relevant books. They want regional pilgrimages, weekend retreats, and mother/daughter opportunities. They also want to see the men in their lives be offered similar experiences. There is no lack of need in the lives of the women I serve, but a lack of supply of Catholic speakers, parishes, and dioceses that are willing and able to provide these experiences.

The women at the Red Tent event at your parish said all that needs to be said about experiences like this. At the beginning of the event each woman shared their unique reason for being there, but all of them indicating a need for growth and understanding. One woman stopped me at the lunch hour and said, “I can’t believe it’s noon already! I thought I was going to go home after lunch and get some of the stuff I thought I “needed” to get done, but I have realized through the morning that this is what I need.” And another said, “It is nice to have someone else tell me that my spiritual life is important and someone who makes time to help me grow.”

For a Church and religion that puts such an emphasis on the role of our mother Mary and relies so heavily on the day-to-day contributions of women we cannot simply leave our unique spirituality and formation to adult formation and catechesis. We need significant experiences of Christ and Christ’s community of women to continue to motivate us and by extension our families to live holy lives.

From a more practical standpoint, while there are certainly women in the local community that could be called upon to offer reflections and retreat days, it is often important to bring in speakers who are from beyond your community. Just like children are more likely to listen to the advice of adults other than their parents so are women who believe that the message being offered them isn’t tempered by the needs of their parish.

Most certainly, speakers cost money. Having spent time talking with other women who speak like I do, we do our best to balance the financial needs and limitations of the communities we serve and our need to help support our families. When you pay a Catholic speaker, you are not simply writing a check to a faceless corporation for a material or service. You are often writing a check to a Catholic family that uses the money to further support the mission of the Church. For my family, the stipend for the presentation I gave this weekend will allow my husband and me to take an extra day off this summer in order to stop and stay a day at a pilgrimage site on our way to a family vacation. It is the first of what we hope will be many trips for our young children that will define the national and international reach of their faith family.

Working for a parish I know as well as anyone the annual back and forth of balancing a budget. I know the cost/benefit analysis that surrounds every good thing that we do. I do encourage you to continue having meaningful conversations about the spiritual growth and priorities of the women in your community. John Paul II called us to a “New Feminism” and there is no better time than now to embrace that call and empower Catholic women in service of the Gospel.

10 March, 2011

Daybook March 2011

I'm feeling a bit of the winter blues and decided it was time for a daybook entry!
Outside My Window ...
Darkness. I love the feeling and quiet of darkness.


I am listening to...
Chatter. All day long I hear chatter even when no one else is talking. It is hard to turn the world off!


To Live the Liturgy…
I am yearning for a week of family meals. My work schedule has taken me away from my family table over dinner many nights in the last month and I miss that daily aspect of the liturgy.


To be Fit and Happy….
Not enough, but when it gets to that point I fall back on drinking lots of water. It is the least I can do.


I am thankful for ...

My supportive and active husband. Without him I couldn't do the things I am gifted to do. Without him, my dreams would remain just that.


From the kitchen ...
Not much. We've been eating a lot of soup because it freezes and warms again easily. I'm looking forward to the culinary challenge that is our Lenten practice. Check it out here!


I am creating ...
Homemade play food for Clara's birthday. I've got the material for pancakes, waffles, and tacos cut and the base for my chocolate chip cookies painted. I'm also working on pretty little tea biscuits and cherries to go with some wooden tea bags! At the rate I am going, I am just grateful her birthday is at the end of April!

I am reading….
Still working on A Year in the Life of Food by Barbara Kingsolver. I get about 5 pages each week...:)


Towards a real education ...
This week I am just allowing myself to be educated by daily life.


Bringing beauty to my home ...
We have committed as a couple to looking at the next day in a positive light instead of stressful countenances. We are working on smiles and laughter and not so many tears.


I am hoping and praying….

That the uncertainties in life settle themselves a bit so we can have a few moments to adjust to our new normal. The warmer weather and sunshine can't hurt the process either...


Around the house ...
We are keeping up and I am so grateful for my go-getter baby sitter who sweeps the floors and loads the dishwasher without being asked.


One of my favorite things ...
My teacup. 10 minutes for boiling water, 3-5 minutes for steeping and 10 minutes for drinking = 25 minutes for ME!


A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Working, working, working...even my playtime this week is working! I am going on my 3rd of three dual-purpose weekends of women's ministry and parish ministry. They are wonderful and I am so grateful, but I am looking forward to a weekend to spend with my sweet, small little family.


In pictures...

07 March, 2011

My Most Recent Therapy Session

Now, now, before you skip over this post in fear of some strange Freudian reflection, my therapy happens in my very own kitchen and my therapists include various flours, spices, and chocolates.

Yesterday was my birthday and I worked all morning at the parish. I love my job, but a birthday spent working leaves a bit to be desired. After spending the last 26 days working at the parish or being on the road for speaking engagements, I was ready for a break. I told Kevin that the one thing I really wanted to do today was spend some time in the kitchen.

I have a lot of opportunities in life to be creative, but there is nothing quite like being creative in the kitchen. Chinese healers have long believed that things like bread and noodle-making is the perfect treatment for stress because of the demanding physical manipulation. For me it is the sights, smells and sensations of digging your hands into a good dough that makes all the difference in my mood. I also love the joy that it brings to those who walk through my home or eat my food.

This birthday was a lot about feeding my soul. After an unbelievable meal and bottle of red wine at a local italian restaurant last night (an all-plans-made-surprise from my thoughtful and generous husband) and an afternoon in the kitchen, my soul is warm and satisfied. My muscles are loose, my mouth is watering, and my house smells like my home. It doesn't get much better than this.

Today's recipes included: lemon tiramisu (but I used Lemoncello liquer in place of the hazelnut liquer and substituted blueberries for the chopped hazelnuts), chocolate-chip scones, rum-raisin scones, hot wing dip, chicken and dried beef and raspberry jello salad. (The final two being my favorite meal from my childhood and my birthday meal!) You can find the base scone recipe here and the wing dip and dinner recipes to follow!

Wing Dip
5 oz. Franks Hot Sauce
2 - 8oz packages of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup of finely chopped celery
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix hot sauce and cream cheese together until smooth. Mix in celery, cheese, and chicken and place mixture in oven safe dish. Bake dip in oven for 20-30 minutes and serve warm with crackers, chips or celery.

Chicken and Dried Beef
6-8 Chicken tenders or 3-4 sliced chicken breasts
1 jar of dried beef (found in the canned tuna section)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of sour cream
splash of milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap your chicken in the dried beef and place in an oven-safe casserole dish. Mix the soup and sour cream together and add milk until the mixture is a saucy consistency. Pour the sauce over the wrapped chicken. Cook in the oven for 50 minutes until bubbly on top. Serve over cooked white or brown rice.

Raspberry Jello Salad
1 cup boiling hot water
1 small pkg. raspberry jello
1 cup applesauce
1 bag of frozen raspberries

1/2 container of cool whip
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of mini marshmallows

In a large bowl, pour hot water over the jello powder and stir until jello is completely dissolved. Stir in cup of applesauce and raspberries. Put in refrigerator to set. If using topping, wait until the jello is set. Mix together the ingredients and spread over top of jello.

03 March, 2011

Deafening but Deepening?

Our home is far from the center of marital bliss in northeast Wisconsin. The combination of the winter blues, a overscheduled calendar, 2 children under two years of age, a state budget crisis and two stubborn, pigheaded spouses just begs for some kind of chemical explosion. Ours happened on Kevin’s 38th birthday…over a cup of tea.

Actually, it was the spilling of foresaid beverage that prompted the explosion. And it wasn’t so much the spilling, but a disagreement about who was to clean up the carpet.

Who started the fire, or the parameters are not important. Nor is the fact that one of us ended up locked in the bathroom sobbing.

The real issue at hand is that each person has their breaking point. Each person has a moment where the oatmeal hits the floor, the pot boils over, or the diaper breaches. There are just some things in life that are too much. For us, it just happened at the same time.

We had it out, but in our hearts we both just wanted a pass. We both needed someone to step up and give us a break. And neither did.

And our hearts hurt. We hate being mad at each other. We just wanted to make it better, but neither of us was willing to extend the olive branch.

By the time an early bedtime rolled around for the kids, we were both ready to just have the whole thing be over. It was as though we couldn’t get to “I’m sorry” fast enough. We talked, we listened, we cried. We didn’t solve all the problems, but we went to bed committed to being kinder to one another.

And that is the best that we can do some days. We don’t worry that it happens. We’ll worry when we no longer see it as an opportunity to communicate and grow. We’ll worry when the deafening sounds or silence no longer lead to depth.

28 February, 2011

Super Powers? I Don't Think So...

"Mom needs her coffee Sis. It's where she gets her powers."

My 5-year-old brother knows how important my mom's coffee is to her in the morning.

My son also understands and pays reverance to the magic, caffinated elixir that is my morning cup of joe. He knows not to touch it, blow on it, or fuss at me before I've poured it. In our marriage, there is never a fight over who makes the coffee because we just have an understanding that it gets made. There are days when I am near certain that the coffee fairy makes it.

My cup is the start to my day and the splash of heavy cream that I add to it is the small mama luxury that gets my day started off right.

No one need elucidate me on coffee's many flaws and disadvantages (nor the cream I put in it). I gave it up in some degree during each of my pregnancies and have sacrificed it during Lent a time or two. Having worked at a coffee shop to put myself through college (both financially and physically) brewed coffee with cream is my stepdown from the harder stuff like flavored lattes (and the daily donut that is now represented around my mid-section).

Someday I'll swear off of my caffinated crutch in favor of my other dear friend decaffinated tea. Someday, when I have a beautiful house overlooking a lake where I can sit and watch the sunrise while waiting for my grown children to call and give me the latest update on the grandchildren...Someday, when all that is on my plate for the day is cooking and reading.

Until then, this is my place in life. A place where the rich smell of roasted beans in my nose instantly clears away the cobwebs clouding my mama brain.

25 February, 2011

With One Voice...

We've been having a rough week over here. Politics have not been kind to the hearts of our household this week. It seems that an awareness of our very lives has been sidelined for the sake of an issue.

My heart aches for my hard-working husband who spent years waiting and working for a position in higher education that promised a stability for our family that had eluded him in the private sector. His hard work paid off for one short year until the recent budget crisis has once again placed him smack in the center of cuts, shrinking benefits, and the rumors of layoffs. He's gotten to the point where he seriously believes that perhaps it is him and not the flawed systems.

We've spent a lot of time wondering "why?". Why have the faces of our beautiful children been stripped from this issue? Why have our voices been ignored in favor of faceless "taxpayers" that should, in fact, include us?

We know, fully appreciate and support the need for budget reform. We deal with it on a daily basis in our own household. We are regularly making sacrifices of things that are in concept good, but are beyond our financial ability. We all make sacrifices even though our youngest members don't realize it yet. Shouldn't that be the case in politics? Shouldn't we all share equally in at least a portion of the sacrifice? We'll give what we need to under the circumstances, but don't strip us of our voice and our ability to gain back that which we have sacrificed when the tables turn for the better.

Ultimately, as we've cried and prayed over our situation this week, there is only one thing that is clear. We cannot rely on any force, organization, or leadership on this earth to provide for us. God is the only being in which we can place our trust.

Moreover, everything we have, big or small, is simply a gift entrusted to our care for a short time while on this earth. Even our paychecks, the things with our name on them, do not belong to us. The money in our checks is a gift from God for which we are called to be caretakers, or stewards.

God gives us gifts not because we deserve them, but because we are loved and because we are His children. We are called to receive that which we have been given gratefully, nuture it responsibly, share it justly, and return it abundantly to our Father in Heaven.

While we seek justice in solidarity with others, our voices are not to be one with any human. Seeking dignity for all, our voices are to be one with the angels and saints guided by the wisdom of the Spirit. We are called to trust in something unseen and look upon the darkness of the world with love and hope in something greater.

For all of you facing the darkness this week, be it loneliness, addiction, unemployment, underemployment, fear, infertility, anger, homelessness, heartlessness, incivility, silence or overscheduling, know that as the communion of saints we stand in solidarity with you. We pray that God's light will guide you through the valley and that together we will continue our journey to God's just and glorious Kingdom.

One day we will all find perfection in God.

Until then, I'll find my hope for innocence and perfection in the eyes of my children.

19 February, 2011

Welcome Women Celebrate Readers!

I spoke at a lovely women's conference today called "Women Celebrate" at the beautiful Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI. The beautiful women who joined me there for conversation and fellowship brought great joy to my heart and I am deeply grateful for their openess and hospitality!

For those "Brides of Christ" who are coming here for the first time, welcome to my little corner of the blogosphere! I am so glad to be with you!

I've highlighted some of my favorite posts below and hope you'll visit often for new ideas, thoughts, and random ramblings! I write in this space, but more importantly, you read in this space. If there is any question, situation, or current event you would like to see me address, leave a comment and I'll do my best!

Tradition, Movies, Burgers and Spoons

I do not propose to be an expert or even a wise woman. Perfection is far beyond me and I look to the day when I am made perfect in Heaven. Here on earth, I just do my best to honestly share my experiences and my beliefs as a wife, mother, lay-minister, and friend.

You are welcome, you are blessed! This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

13 February, 2011

Down but Out-of-Town!

We just found out that we will likely be taking a large pay cut due to legislation being proposed which will affect state workers. My husband works for the university system and without getting into politics, we are talking a yearly loss of nearly $5,500 for a position that is already paid about 30% less than the private sector (for which we are equally compensated by the nature of our additional benefits which have also been proposed to be reduced). Those is just the facts.

How did we celebrate this unfortunate proposed turn in our family affairs? We took a family "Get out of Dodge" vacation! We needed some time away from the daily doings and something to perk up our tired, winter spirits. We drove to Madison on Friday night and ate a late dinner at our favorite irish pub chain "Claddaugh". Beer was good, food was better and we laughed ourselves sleepy watching John Ross flirt with the couple next to us and dance to the live band. We checked into a beautiful mid-range hotel where they proceeded to upgrade us to a suite with a fridge and microwave for FREE. Yeah!

We woke on Saturday morning to a lovely, hot hotel breakfast and a swim in the pool which was equipped with a water play area just perfectly suited to our two small children. We went to lunch at another local favorite while we watched the Badger basketball team beat #1 Ohio State. Naps were in order and then we were off to drop the kids with their old nanny who lives downtown and offered to watch them so we could have a night out. All dressed up, we walked down State Street to a beautiful local and seasonal fine dining restaurant for a light meal of mussels and fresh pasta before attending a performance of the Madison Ballet. The second act of the ballet consisted of a local jazz artist and her band performing as the dancers interpretted. We had a lovely night's sleep and headed for home.

For my hubby, the whole situation mentioned above has left him (and by extension me) feeling powerless about our political life, our empolyment situation and our financial well-being. This seemingly insignificant trip gave us back a sense of having some input in our family life. More importantly it reminded us about what is most important in life and that is each other. We are not ultimately in control of our life, but must treat each other with love and compassion trusting that God's plans for us are for good and not evil.

***We didn't make the situation go away and we will keep fighting for our financial well-being. This is another one of those situations where a political leader is unable to serve the fullness of pro-life: both our moral values and our economic circumstances. It is not as clear cut as many make it out to be.