Thursday, June 30, 2011

Giveaway....and some thoughts....

      Two weeks ago, I wrote this post that was a mixture of things. It was a review of the wonderful frame that I received from DaySpring, but it was also a story about a child. A child on another continent who we feel deeply connected to by faith. By love. By God. I hope that her life continues to be blessed.....She certainly blesses us.

     And so....the winner of the giveaway is.... Misty! She will get a code to spend $20 in the DaySpring store. Yay! (And hey, if you have a moment, please be sure to check out her blog. You will be inspired!)

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     Today is just one of those days. One of THOSE days. I look around and see what needs to be done. Oh I see it alright. I just don't really have the complete motivation to DO it. (I was in the middle of vacuuming, and just wanted to write for goodness sakes!) This is what I have been meditating on (from Psalm 145):

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

In thinking about my post on gentleness...
This is where I want to be today to really feel that Psalm:

On the kitchen floor.
Playing with Max.
Creating a cacophony of sounds.
Laughing like silly.
(...and.....when there is a free moment....scrubbing under the counters. Wow. It's different down there.)



How fleeting these moments....
These precious times of innocence and exploration of the world....

I suppose that this is what my husband would call one of my job perks. Playtime.
Listening to the rosary being prayed as we play.
Reading (well, when Max isn't chewing) board books about Mary, the saints, and our God....

Yes indeed. My life is full. It is blessed. And my house, well, it can just wait a little to be cleaned....

Will you excuse me?
 I have to go play.  :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Small Steps Together: Gentleness...

    
     When some people blog, I read their words like I am thirsty. I drink them in, allowing the words to work on my world-weary heart and soul, and wait for the parched land of my spirit to be renewed. I know what I am feeling, I just appreciate it when some else is able to beautifully explain it in prose.

     Last week, as I read Elizabeth Foss and her post about gentleness, I felt as if she was speaking directly to me. For you see, I have found lately that I am not as gentle with my husband. With my children. With myself. I recognize that some of it has to do with just the wildness of the world. The busyness of life. The ever-complicated dance of balance....

     When I look at my husband, I mean REALLY look, I see a gentle, generous soul who made me fall so quickly in love. He truly believes in the goodness of everyone, and as we journey together on this path of life, I recognize what he has had to deal with. How hard must it have been for him when we were having trouble conceiving? Years of infertility that in time, changed my personality. Together, we endured thoughtless words of well-meaning people.... things such as:

So don't you WANT children?
Didn't you agree to have children in your vows?
You aren't being a good Catholic.
Why are your babies so far apart?
Don't you think that it is a little selfish?

    Even today, I can still hear the words and a little piece of my heart is still being mended. I feel my temper rise, just like it did then. Usually I would feel the need to defend ourselves, other times, the tears would come uncontrollably hot and fast. Sometimes, I didn't recognize myself when I would just scream into the void my anger. My frustration. My misplaced guilt. And yet, my Tom would simply enfold me in his arms, whisper words of love and understanding. Allow me to scream and wail. And his gentleness was more powerful than anything I often tell his that what I love about him is his gentle strength. Oh how I pray that I can repay that gentleness....

     And what about Joe and Max? Well, truthfully, the baby is easy. His laugh and grin help me to slow down and see the beauty of life so clearly.

     Ah... and then... there's my Joe. I suppose that when I think that he should know something, or do something that we have told him thousands of time before, I do get a little hot-tempered and the frustrated sighs and words happen faster. But really? He is still a child. My child. The one that came when all hope seemed lost. So why can I not take a deep breath, say a prayer for knowledge, and gently help him through it? For isn't this is my job? To nurture and guide and teach? Well, this gentleness is my goal. Truly. Especially since our whole lifestyle is changing and he is going to be home with me....

     So as I reached the end of Elizabeth's post and these powerful words of hers.... this is what struck my heart:

Whether we are growing closer to God or growing closer to people, it's not about checklists. It's about relationships.
Relationships beg coming alongside, walking together.
School is finished. Now begins the real work of cultivating a teachable spirit.
It's about listening.
It's about serving.
It's about nurturing. 
It's about loving.
It's about a gentle spirit.
All the time.
      As I pray for gentleness, I also thank God for the ability to learn from my mistakes. For the grace to continue on despite things that I may have done before. This struggle, this .... life ..... is about so much more than getting. It is about giving.

     How grateful I am to the three special people in my household who make me so glad to be alive, and who love me beyond measure despite my brokenness. And oh how I hope to give them gentleness in return.....

    Today, I am gratefully linking here:




Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer List ~ 15 Actively fun ways to enjoy our world

    


     Joe is in camp this week. Yesterday, he came home exhausted and happy, thanks to the swimming, canoeing, horses, and fishing. He smelled of sunscreen and summer sun. And it brought back a flood of memories of my sweet childhood....

     Previously, I wrote about ways to spend some quiet time this summer, and now, I want to share with you some of the active ways that we will enjoy nature and life.

1 ~ Ride Bikes~(how many times did I call up my friends Liz, Carol, and Lisa and simply say, “Wanna go ride bikes?” We were gone for hours until the sun set or we heard someone’s mom calling us in.) I plan on allowing Joe to ride in our neighborhood in longer and longer stretches. I am tired of being so fearful!
2 ~ every week, explore a new park in the area (or just go to the ones that we love!) walk the trails, splash in the puddles, observe the natural world
3 ~ take advantage of our Busch Gardens passes…lots of walking, visit the horses, ride the train when we get tired…
4 ~Water fun~ backyard pools, the rivers, the ocean…. Any body of water that allows us to cool off and practice our strokes. In the meantime, set up a slip-n-slide or wading pool. If you are handy, try this "kid wash".
5 ~ a good old-fashioned game: tag, Duck-Duck-Goose, croquet, badminton, backyard soccer, tossing the baseball
6 ~ Fishing ~ for us, we need to get out the gear, visit Pop Pop and fish from the pier. Crabbing with chicken necks was one of my favorite things to do with my sisters....
7 ~ Ghost in the Graveyard ~ do you remember this game? The interesting thing is that when we were growing up, we lived right across the street from a fabulous old graveyard and we actually played this in a graveyard. (We always said a prayer for the people that we passed by, however.)
8 ~ Sidewalk chalk ~ break out the chalk and draw a hopscotch board; draw chalk outlines around each other and then draw silly faces, hair, and clothing; draw a compass (where is north at YOUR house?) and review the cardinal directions; write a word and then see how many words you can make from that word.
9 ~ Sense-it ~ go on a nature walk and see if you can use all 5 senses to experience the world... Hear the birds and forest animals. See the birds and bugs. Touch the bugs and feel the textures of acorns, pine cones, leaves. Smell the herbs, flowers, and trees around you, wherever you are. (Taste can be tough, but if you have a garden, have them taste the herbs or even the veggies that you've grown together.) If you haven't created a garden yet, it's still not too late to do that. Even if you are in an apartment, try potting herbs in containers. Lavender, mint, rosemary, lemon balm, and basil have strong scents that will help create connections between you and your child.
... And for those rainy or it's-just-too-hot-to-move days, here are some ways to get the sillies out inside:
10 ~ Hide-N-Seek ~ I am always amazed at the places that kids can find to hide in! (I'm still not sure who's better, though.)
11 ~ Camping ~ Yes! Indoors! Set up a backpacking tent and crawl in for spooky story time or play card games.
12 ~ Sensory Table ~create a sensory table (especially for little ones). Use a shallow plastic tub and fill with sand, water, or rice. Then bury things that might go together i.e., toy dinosaurs, small shovel, rocks.
13 ~ Art ~ fingerpainting; watercolors; using found/recycled objects to create a robot; shrinky dinks; stained-glass windows (use an old cheese grater to shave old crayons, sprinkle on wax paper, add another layer of wax paper, iron...voila!); how many pictures can you make with handprints and thumbprints; play-doh creatures
14 ~ Tag ~shoes off, race around and see who gets to "base"
15 ~ Games ~ Wii, Monopoly, Battleship... drag out those board games and enjoy!

     I hope that you have a great time trying some of these out, and be sure to check out Misty's list. Linking up here today:

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*** OH! And would you like to win $20? Don't forget to comment on this post! Contest ends on THURSDAY!

Monday, June 27, 2011

"God Sightings" and gratitude ~ #281-314

     We are beginning to settle into summertime. Well, as much as you can settle in. The schedules are relaxed, the days sometimes wide open with possibilities of sun, water, and friends. I look forward to pool days with friends, romping in the park, and walks at twilight (watching the fireflies of course). I recognize that I need a schedule and checklists, but sometimes, it's nice when the schedule is simply "pool with Jen" or "Joe to camp"....
     Last week, we were blessed to be a part of Vacation Bible School. We are still walking around singing the songs and doing the motions. "God Sightings" are now what we are currently looking for in our little corner of the world.... Here is what I am grateful for:


zinnias in bloom
drippy sweet watermelon
Feast of Corpus Christi
Kristie and her family
Danny's bear hugs
Max "walking" while holding onto me
Joe saying "Glad Uncle Dan is home safe!"
9.1 pounds down (total)
savoring a Krispy Kreme glazed confection
sauteed zucchini (mine)
Max "reading" books
summertime laziness
tomato red fresh off the vine (mine)
barefoot through the wet grass
reading Misty of Chincoteague with Joe
remembering how much I loved Misty
"God Sightings" around me
children singing songs of praise
Baptismal promises renewed
watching Yvonne's Confirmation
loving faith community
blowing bubbles with Max
Max's "kisses on demand"
saving a spider (so she can get the bad bugs)
fresh sage
vines and vegetables intertwined

calls from mom
free curriculum helps
Youth Apostles faith community
connectedness with old friends
Joe singing loud in the back seat
watching Harry Potter and screaming with Joe
Tom working 2 jobs for us...
...allowing me to wake up to my job and this face:



So what are you thankful for? Share your gratitude list here:




** Please, if you have a moment, please, please say a prayer for our friend, Tom Duesterhaus, who has been missing since last Thursday. He is a beautiful person of God and we just want him home....Along with all of my prayers to God, I will also look to the community of Saints, and most especially, to Saint Anthony, known as the patron saint of lost things and missing persons :
 
Prayer to Saint Anthony of Padua
O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and Charity for His creatures, made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were ever ready to speak for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I implore of you to obtain for me the safe return of Tom Duesterhaus. The answer to my prayer may require a miracle, even so, you are the Saint of Miracles.

O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the Sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms; and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours. Amen.

(Then say the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be)
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sticks and stones, forgiveness, and grace...

*photo courtesy of clericalwhispers.blogspot.com
  

    Today, I was supposed to blog about fun and active activities that we are going to do this summer. However, my heart isn't into it because of a situation that happened at the end of last week. It has to do with words. Remember that old saying, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me?" Well, I never believed that. I believed that words can break your heart. Your spirit. So I need to process this situation. I need to pray about it. But I need to write about it because sometimes that is how I do both of those things.... 

     So last Thursday, Tom and I took a blessed few hours to ourselves. We headed to The Virginia Holocaust Museum to view the Blessings tour. It is a beautifully done tribute to our dear Pope John Paul II and his relationship with our Jewish brothers and sisters. (Check to see if it is coming to a town near you. Simply profound.) As we are looking at the pictures, reading the words, listening to the sound bites, I was struck with not only the horror of the treatment of fellow human beings, but I also felt such sadness. How could this happen? Name-calling. Spitting. Hitting. Active, ugly actions that wound and tear at the human spirit. And then my phone rang.

     It was Joe's teacher. Taking a deep breath in, I wondered what in the world he could have done two days before the end of school. (See, I always fear the worst. That MY child has hurt someone else. That MY child has not done what he should do.) But no. This time, something ugly was done to him.

     All year long, Joe has waited for his yearbook. He loves going through them and remembering fun times with different teachers or students. It was finally time to sign with the usual greetings like H.A.G.S. (Have a good summer), See ya, You are cool, etc. But he noticed that when one of the students was writing in his book, there was a group gathered around. And they were laughing. What was being written was that he was weird, (something else that I don't want to repeat), and that she wanted to kill him. The other children were LAUGHING. Thank God for one who knew that it wasn't right and took it to the teacher.

     So here I am, staring at the picture of our dear Pope, remembering the ugliness of words said long ago, and experiencing the ugliness first hand with my child. Have we learned nothing? As his teacher and I cried together, and as my heart broke, the usual rush of emotions ran hot. Anger. Sadness. Empathy. Profound sorrow for a child who doesn't understand how words can wound. What had happened to her heart along the way? My mother heart was torn and wounded and weeping. For my son and for the offender.

     As I have processed this over the last couple of days, I agree with Tom that it has probably affected me more than it has Joe. After all, he got a new yearbook with new signatures of those friends that he wanted. School is over for the year. And he has forgiven her. Oh yes. When I really sat with him and processed the situation, he said, "But mommy. I DID forgive her. She said she was sorry and so I accepted it." We have always said that in order for forgiveness to happen, it has to be accepted. To him, it was simple. She did wrong. She said she was sorry. He accepted.

     I know that I need to let this go.... That grace needs to enter in. This is my prayer this week, for I am having more trouble than my child. This growing up stuff is harder for me than for him! I know that I cannot always be there to protect and defend. Life happens, things get said, and wounds happen. But maybe the greatest lesson learned is the beauty of forgiveness. Of healing.

     As I entered back into the exhibit, and looked at the beautiful pictures of our dear Pope in the Holy Land, I was struck with the power of forgiveness. The tour ended with the opportunity to write a prayer and to place it into a small reproduction of the Weeping Wall. The prayers are then taken to the Holy Land.  Tom and I took some extra time to pray. To allow the words that we had heard, the stories that we had experienced to work on our hearts. Leaving the tour hand in hand, I felt blessed. Although I knew that we were going to go home and face what had happened to Joe, I also knew that we were renewed.

     I am often amazed at how many times I am in the right place at a given moment. To be at the Blessings tour when I heard about Joe....well....it just fit. Past, present, and future blended together and were knit in such a way that I could both grieve and take comfort.

     Oh for continued grace... And as Pope John Paul II said,

“As Christians and Jews, following the example of the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world. This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews, to first be a blessing to one another.”
     May we all be a blessing to one another.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays ~ Father's Day ~ #257-280

    


Tom and Joe reading

     How truly lucky I am. For my life is filled with incredibly wonderful men who show guidance, love, and faith. I thank God that my dad, my husband, my uncles and brothers-in-law are men that I can turn to, rely on, trust. Before they passed on, my grandfathers were, too. Wishing, still, that I could have known Tom's dad...

     And oh how I hope that my sons follow in the steps of these wonderful people in their lives and become men of virtue. Of faith. Of honor. It is my most fervent wish.

     I am grateful for:

Joe trying to get Max to say "mommy"
lazy Monday summer mornings
watching Harry Potter with Joe
Kahlua brownies
Mass as a family
prayers whispered with Joe
a teacher who understands my child
books in the mail
crisp white sheets (dried on the line)
play dates with friends
handwritten notes
"How Great Thou Art"
breakfast with Kristin and Sarah
golf with Whit and Stacy
laughing at Tom's silly expressions
"six-ish" as a golf hole score
that perfect drive down the fairway (rare!)
finding the ball in the woods
singing at the top of my lungs
"Closer to Fine"
Joe laughing at Calvin and Hobbes
new car with a sunroof
drawings from Lindsay
dad's voice

My dad and Max

    
Come and see what others are grateful for here:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Count Your Blessings ~ Review and Giveaway!

     
     The words came softly whispered through the phone. He was taking a quiet moment out of his busy day to call me and let me know what was in his heart.

“Honey. I am so proud of you for taking such wonderful care of our boys. I just don’t think that you know how very much I love that. How much I love you.”

     And there. There in those few short sentences, my heart was filled. How did he know that I needed to be encouraged?
    
     Sometimes, to be quite honest, I do ask him, that dear husband of mine. I ask if what I am doing is enough. For the boys. For him. For God. Oh how I hope! Because sometimes it all just feels so overwhelmingly tiring. The how-in-the-world-can-I-do-this kind of tired. Where cocooning under the sheets is blissfully tempting and you have to physically drag your body out of bed. So it is so perfectly life giving, life sustaining when someone we love can lift us up with just a few words.

     As Mother Teresa so wisely said, To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.
We are asked to give of ourselves…
            To share what we have…..
                        To do unto others…YES….

     But we need encouraging too. Listen to those beautiful words from Isaiah 43… “I have called you by your name, you are mine”. Oh how we are loved. We are cherished. We are counted. We are blessed
    
     Not long after I received such encouraging words from my husband, I received this frame from Dayspring. Count your blessings. Where do I even begin? One of the first pictures that I chose to put into it was the one of Tom and me at our wedding. For I thank God for him every day and I count him as one of my truest blessings. However, as I continued to think about counting my blessings, I naturally wanted to put in a picture of our two miracles. Our two boys. Our blessings.
But no….

     For also in the mail that day was another special package. A reminder of what this life is all about. Counting our blessings yes, bu also... Encouraging others. Here is the blessing who now adorns this frame:


     This darling child is Maria, our adopted child through CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children and Aging.) We are lucky enough to receive letters in which she tells us how our small donation each month has helped her and her family.

She can attend school now.
She and her family do not go hungry.
She thanks us and tells us how she is praying for us.

     So this lovely frame now sits proudly on our prayer table, nestled up to the basket of books about the saints, prayer cards, and of course...The Word. We thank God for our dear Maria, and we pray for her every day.

     Among our many blessings, we are lucky enough to count her as one. By her life, we are encouraged.



     Whom do you count among your blessings?


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This month DaySpring is celebrating encouragement. If you’d like to make use of the special deals they are running to celebrate the gift of encouragement, please take a look at the items featured on their {in}spired deals page.
And, to enable your desire to encourage, DaySpring would like to give one of you a $20 credit towards any item in the DaySpring store!!!
Giveaway details:
1. This giveaway is open to all. No need to have a blog to enter, just some way I can get in contact should random.org select your name.
2. Please leave your name and a little bit about who encourages you in the comments section of this blog post.
3. After perusing the DaySpring store, come back here to tell me what you would apply your $20 towards for a second chance to win. (**Please note that the $20 cannot be used towards shipping costs.)
3. Additional entries for facebooking, and posting. Please leave an additional comment indicating where you shared.
4. One winner will be selected using random.org and announced Thursday, June 30th.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Count Your Blessings ~ 4x6 photo frame from DaySpring to review for {in}courage. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Schoolroom (and Heartroom) prep work....

     As a teacher, I don't think that I have ever really felt that my classroom was ever truly ready for my kids. My students. I would labor over exactly where to put that bookcase, that lamp, that map. What about the rug? The rocking chair? How about the desks? How should they be configured? It all begins to swirl together.....DEEP BREATH.

And then...
When I really thought about it....
When I truly prayed about it...
This is what I remembered....

"A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love."
-Mother Teresa

     What I always wanted to teach my students was that no matter how they did in my classroom....that I adored them. That I thought that they mattered. That indeed...I loved them and their hearts.

     So one of the quotes that I put front and center above the board (and the date, so I knew that they would see it)... was this:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
~ Mother Teresa

      Once that quote was up, I could go on with my planning, arranging, and setting up. They knew that they mattered to me. They knew that they could come to me for anything. And I mean...anything. And they did. Because first and foremost, they were children with huge hearts, not just minds needing to be filled. Confession: I'm not so sure that I do well in the traditional setting of education. I want to play and laugh and run in mud puddles because that is where education starts....where it lives and breathes. Only then, can you buckle down for the hard stuff. So even in third grade I would read silly stories on the carpet. Sometimes ten minutes was all that was needed before I saw the tension start to drain.....their hearts could be refilled.

     So now, as I prepare our little school room for Joe, I know that I am also preparing his "heart room". If nothing else this year, I want him to know how much he is loved. By us. By God. I want his heart to be at peace, for I can see the struggle going on inside and it pains me. (Really, when is the heart of a mother not pained?! I look to Jesus' mother for guidance on that one. No way can I do that on my own.) Academically, we are truly lucky that he is on target if not accelerated. The academics of the heart and soul. Well... That's the major focus.

     Here is a little glimpse of how things physically are shaping up:
~Joe's desk ~

Prayer chair ~ Joe's thoughtful spot
~ Simple prayer table ~
 
~ My magical book cabinet ~

~Looking in...towards the piano with comfy couch on the right~

     Oh yes, and the Mother Teresa quote will be up as soon as Joe copies it down for us.... And the walls, except for a crucifix and a plaque of Saint Anthony (patron saint of lost things...like my mind sometimes...) are blank canvases ready for artwork, maps, and other inspirations. The cuckoo clock should be up soon, too. :0) We hope that like the walls, our hearts will be filled with love, wisdom, patience, and understanding.

     I *know* the job ahead. It is daunting. But oh. I can't wait.

  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summer schedule and opportunities ~ or something like it

    

     Many mama's out there are absolutely fantastic about being organized and scheduled. I YEARN to be one of them. I try. I do. But then again, I have a baby who wants to pull all of the books off the shelves, a nine year old who pulls out all of his Highlights and National Geographic magazines to find "that one reallllllly cool picture" and a husband who....well....it's a complicated dance. A dance where both of us are not always in sync and we lose the rhythm. So there are often simple looks that convey the meaning. The there-is-the-laundry-basket-please-please-for-the-love-of-me-please-just-put-your-socks-in-there. Oh. and then, because he's a handy helper kind of guy, there are always random screws, nails, tools, and various garage-type things strewn about. And then summer comes. And the waltz of laziness slowness can quickly become the hip-hop jump around messiness.... Oh how I want the slowness, the easiness, the gentleness of summer. 
     So as I read my friend Misty's post this morning, I got all giddy and found myself nodding my head in agreement. I, too, remember what it was like growing up in my little town. Riding bikes until mom (mine or someone else's as it really was the first "neighborhood watch") called us in. Then after dinner, riding AGAIN until we couldn't see the bike in front of us.  Climbing that perfect tree with the perfect arm branches to read in. Having quiet time with mom as she would read to us great classics with some silly stories thrown in. Spontaneous art projects to let the creative spirits out. Catching fireflies and housing them in a mason jar. Special times on almost a zero budget....

     I hope to continue the tradition by doing some of the same things with my boys. Following Misty's lead, here is a list of some of the quiet activities that I want to schedule in this summer:

1 ~ reading time in the tree house or hammocks

2 ~ taking our projector outside to have an outdoor movie night
       (project it on a sheet and snuggle up to enjoy...)

3 ~ begin Science a little early with a Nature study ... I love the ideas on   
       this website, and the challenges...Exploring the outside world helps us to
       be closer to the whispers of God. Truly.

4 ~ write to our adopted child, Maria, from CFCA and maybe send her
       something that Joe has drawn

5 ~ spend more time in prayer ~ say the rosary, listen to stories of the saints,
       memorize some scripture

6 ~ quiet activities that are already favorites: puzzles, LEGO's, Play-doh,
       summer skills workbooks

7 ~ read and listen to great stories that make us wonder (Two that I have
      planned are: Misty of Chincoteague and The Trumpet of the Swan. These
      are books that my mom read to me and my sisters. Of this are memories
      made!)

8 ~ take a walk where no one is allowed to speak. (This is WAY harder than it
      sounds, by the way. Especially when you see something really fascinating.)
      Then, when you come home, try to remember what you saw and share.

     So what quiet activities are you planning on? Next week, I hope to share some of our active ideas. And if you haven't read Misty's blog yet, please be sure to do so. She has some wonderful ideas to help you on the way to being more organized. Trust me. (My clean kitchen today is thanks to her Simple summer cleaning list. It's good stuff.)

Linking up here as well:



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Monday, June 13, 2011

The beginning of summer ~ gifts #236-256


     As the school year winds to a close, I can feel my muscles relaxing and begin to really enjoy the sights and smells around me. Catching up with friends, pool dates, playing in the park, and roadtrips are just some of what is in store for us this wonderful time of year. Harvesting vegetables from my garden is such a delight. Well, not that we could ever survive on what I grow..but...it's a start, right?! Oh, and what fun it has been to show Joe the process of it all....

     And so I continue to count my blessings and joys:


Can you see the baby squash!?

baby squash
home school convention with wonderful speakers
conversations with Kevin and Jody
laughing at Tom's silliness
"Weaving Women" church group
sweet ice cream treat
losing 6.1 lbs (in one week!)
Katie's sweet 2 year old hugs
coconutty smell of sunscreen
sun on my face (and shoulders!)
fresh cucumbers
fresh mint (spearmint) in my tea
vegetables continuing to grow
walks with Cleo
Tom's shrimp on the grill



curlicue tendrils from the cucumbers
smell of warmed earth
wicked thunderstorms
full rain barrel
rainshowers that quench the thirsty garden
flowers kissed by the sun


Come to Ann's place and see what others are thankful for:



Friday, June 10, 2011

Backwards ~ Five Minute Friday

Take direction from the Gypsy Mama :

Take a deep breath. You made it. It’s Friday.
Got five minutes? Let’s write. Let’s write in shades of real and brave and unscripted.
Let’s just write and not worry if it’s just right or not.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Get a little crazy with encouragement for the five minuter who linked up before you.


START

     As I take a deep breath at the end of this wonderfully and  overwhelmingly beautiful day, I take a look back at what transpired and smile. And also want to weep uncontrollably. As I perused curriculum at the local Home Educator's convention and chatted with wonderful homeschooling mama's (and dad's!) I feel that I have stepped backwards into my shell of self-doubt and "whatintheworldamidoingLord?". ... I know that it is sensory overload (and realize that just like my darling son, Joe, I, too, get overwhelmed with tons of noise and lights and want to just retreat. Go backwards.)  ... But i KNOW that I need to keep going forward. To go toward the light of fulfillment instead of sinking into the darkness of doubt.
     And so, for comfort, for strength, I look back to what has brought me here. To parenthood. To the care of other human beings. To marriage. To Tom. To the other half of us, the other half of me. And I realize with a rush of gratitude that I am not alone. It really amazes me how much I rely on his encouragement and support (and by rely on, I mean cling-to like a life-raft)... He has not only listened to me and talked with me, but has decided that he really wants to teach Math. (Insert applause track here...as Math is my least. favorite. subject. ever. Go for it, darlin'.)
     So really, looking backwards at all this doubt and worry? I'm going to give it one last look, breathe a prayer of thanks for my husband, grab tightly to his hand and his heart, and then turn around and face forward. For together, I realize that it makes walking on this rocky uneven path so much more comforting. So much more life-giving. And I can focus on the dawn of what's to come....

STOP

*~*~*~* Ok, so looking at the grammar above, I am glad that it is just a free-write and not being graded for elements and style. Whew... :)  Kind of interesting, too, that I wrote this at the end of my day when I usually rush to write in the morning.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Daybook ~ Tuesday morning

Outside my window...the sun is shining hot and the humidity gives a misty glow. Birds are a little quieter today, and my dog just wanted to come in a lay down instead of going for a walk.
I am thinking...that I need to take it easy on myself. There are so many things that I would like to have accomplished and yet as I look around and see crumbs, piles of paper, and yes, laundry, I have to remember how important it is to take care of those things as well. If I take care of them first, I will have more peace about doing the things that I want to do. If only it didn’t take so much CONSTANT energy…. I am thankful for... naptimes…I am able to get in some writing, bathroom cleaning, laundry, and just…breathe for a moment until the craziness fun starts again.
From the learning rooms… Joe and I are reading Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is based on the historical account of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1973. As I read, he tells me the words that he doesn’t know, and we write them down to look up. In the meantime, he narrates back to me what we have read and talk about any questions that he has. (Also, he is still taking practice Virginia S.O.L. tests on the computer.)
From the kitchen... SIGH.  I have joined Weight Watchers and am learning how to tweak my favorite recipes. Luckily, it is summer, so there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from. Today I will make a brown rice and black bean salad with lots of cilantro and garlic.
I am wearing... linen pants that I bought in Moab, Utah years ago and a royal blue polo. On top of my head are sunglasses that are attempting to hold back the crazy curls…
I am creating... a mess as I go through the boys’ clothes and switch out things for summer. Max is only 10 months and is already wearing 18 month clothes b/c he is so long.
I am going...to my last book club meeting at church tonight. We have finished up our book (The Faith Club) and will have a lovely Muslim woman join us to talk about faith, family, and culture.
I am reading...  For next year: homeschooling magazines, homeschooling blogs, homeschooling groups on Yahoo…. For fun:The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton … For inspiration: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. (by the way, this is a book that is meant to be ingested slowly, savored, and allowed to grow in your soul. Pure loveliness.)
I am hoping... that the bees have pollinated the flowers and vegetables in the garden. I hear that there is a shortage of them this year…
I am hearing... the classical music from the monitor in Max’s room as well as the whirring of the ceiling fan where I am sitting
In the garden… I am seeing lots of growth! Daisies, cosmos, and Black-eyed Susan's are showing their sweet faces. The male zucchini blossoms have fallen off and I am waiting for the female fruits to swell… Several of the tomato plants have fruits and I am still marveling at the “Topsy-Turvy Tomato Planter”. It really is pretty neat.
Around the house... toys are scattered, laundry is waiting to be folded, but there is peace and comfort as well.
One of my favorite things...phone calls from Tom in the middle of the day “just because”.
A few plans for the rest of the week:  Thursday, Tom and I are hoping to go to the Virginia Holocaust Museum to see the exhibit about dear Pope John Paul II. Then, we head to the home school convention for some much needed encouragement and information. Hopefully, I will make it to the Catholic home school convention in D.C. as well.
Here is picture for thought I am sharing…
Tom and I went to Hot Springs last Memorial Day, when I was pregnant with Max. I just love the greenery against the spray of water....

Sharing with others at Simple Woman's Daybook

Monday, June 6, 2011

Multitudes on Mondays ~ #201-235

     It really is rare. True friendship. When you find one, make sure that you cling fast to it. It is such a gift. Such a balm for the spirit. Having a friendship like Whitney's creates a peaceful place in my heart.... And now, here we are over 10 years late. Our husbands are friends, too, and our children have become playmates....Times spent together are easy. Joyful. Playful. Wonderful.     
     This past weekend, we were lucky enough to go camping with them (and others!) and enjoy just being together.... Here are some things that I am grateful for:


pink sky sunrises on the lake
Max's first camping trip
Max sleeping soundly in the tent
sleeping on a cot overlooking the lake
dreaming in the hammock
watching Tom play with the boys
dogs romping in the sand and water
laughing at Cleo who takes our chairs...

the friendship of Whitney, Stacy, and Zach
Sara and Brad
Tara and Clark
finding the dog of the campers next to us (we said that we would watch him....and he escaped....)
making new friends
riding bikes with Joe
old-fashioned ice cream stand

(*photo courtesy of Whitney!)

traditional S'mores
S'mores made with Ritz crackers (now that's yumminess!)
Whitney's laughter at the silliness of Brad and Stacy
the smell of impending rain
lightning on the lake
the sound of raindrops on the tarp
the safety (and dryness) of a tent when the rain comes
stories 'round the campfire
showering optional
nap times are encouraged
dinner from the grill
watching Max eat watermelon
cool breezes
swimming with Joe
watching Joe and Zack "fish"

sunsets over the water


new crescent moon


friends who watch over your children
hard-won friendships that stand the strains of this life...



Sharing gratitude with others here:

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