Saturday, October 11, 2014

Afternoon at the Arboretum

The Minnesota Arboretum is a truly gorgeous retreat.  Last weekend, we took GG with us to explore the Arboretum for a day.  We loved it so much, we left with a membership!

T took a picture of us all stopping by the fish pond to take in the gorgeous view:

What a relaxing place.

So serene.

The arboretum herb garden was filled with monarchs.

We were all so excited to have the chance to explore:

 At the Learning Center, J-Bear had a great time playing on the outdoor stage.  By the way, where is J-Bear?

Oh, THERE she is!

We also took time to explore the corn pit (a giant pit filled with corn kernels), the hedge maze and the three mile drive.  Afterwards, we stocked up on apples at the Apple House.  Yum!  We're set for fall.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Early Fall Moments, 2014

There have already been so many special moments for us this fall.

As of October 1st, T, my brother and I are owners of this lovely piece of property:

We were able to get up to the cabin one last time with MoMo and Papa before the boats came out of the water.  The weekend was a gem.  I love sharing moments like this with my growing Bears:

We've harvested most of our garden to beat the frosty nighttime temperatures.  Our potatoes plants were our favorite this year:

From one sprouting spring potato, we ended up with 6 plants and 2 baskets of potatoes!  

Cuttings from our window box vines have made a great centerpiece in the dining room,

as have the flowers from my overgrown oregano:

Our tomatoes didn't quite get enough sun this year to make red tomatoes, but after a week by the windowsill, several of our heirlooms turned lovely autumn shades:

We tried tomatillos for the first time this year and raised a HUGE plant!  Next year, I'll give it even more sun to ensure a bumper crop.  The tomatillos are fun for the kids.  The flowers and budding fruits are gorgeous on the vines.

Finally, we're getting ready for a family wedding next weekend.  All the Bears will be in the wedding.  These two look ready, don't they?

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, October 5, 2014

First week of October Feasts

The first week of October is filled with wonderful Feast Days.  The celebratory gauntlet begins on September 29th with the Feast of the Archangels, followed by the Feast of St. Jerome (who translated the Bible into Latin), the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Feast of the Guardian Angels, and the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.   Thank goodness, because I have been feeling ready for a Feast Day.  Church holidays seem like a distant memory this time of year, and Advent still feels a long way off.  What is more, discouraging news and tragic happenings seem to be everywhere in the news.  Thank goodness for the ministry of the Church: although we are called to daily sacrifice and cross-bearing, we can almost always find a good feast to celebrate.
I am a big fan of both St. Therese and St. Francis, but because I couldn't make special celebrations happen everyday during our busy week, we planned to celebrate the Feast of the Archangels and Feast of the Guardian Angels on Saturday at home together as a family.   Below are five reasons and five ways to consider celebrating these Angelic Feasts, either sometime this week or in the years to come.
Five Reasons to Celebrate the Feasts of the Arch and Guardian Angels:
Number 5:  Who doesn’t love a celebration?   Like I said, I feel ready for a little celebrating.  Around Oct 1st, the newness of school has worn off, dark Halloween decorations seem to be popping up everywhere, major liturgical holidays feel far away and I could use a little boost of positive energy to face daily discouraging news.  Plus, my kids don’t need much convincing to join in a celebration, and Feast Days are a wonderful way to teach them truths about our Faith.
Number 4:  Begin a season of celebrating the Heavenly Hosts.  At the end of the month, we’ll celebrate All Saints and All Souls days.  The feasts celebrating the Arch and Guardian Angels help set the stage for acknowledging and thanking God for the Heavenly Hosts, the great Cloud of Witnesses.  As we plunge through the last few weeks of Ordinary Time, we have these chances to direct our attention Heavenward and gain strength to carry our daily crosses.
Number 3:  There is real evil in the world.  As much as our society  may mock this idea at times, let’s not forget that the Devil is real and so is evil.  Our Holy Father recently called on the Faithful to weep over the tragedies in Iraq and Syria. On the Feast of the Archangels, the Holy Father spoke of the ongoing battle between the Devil and mankind and called on us to pray to the angels charged to defend us.  Even secular author Camille Paglia wrote in Time this week about the failure of American campuses to comprehend the existence of real evil.  When Camille Paglia’s message begins to echo Pope Francis, something is afoot.  I want to help my young children appreciate that the Devil and evil are real, even though the world around them may seem safe.  Celebrating our celestial defenders gives me an opportunity to do just that.

Number 2: We have real heroes to celebrate. All of my kids love a good superhero.  Plus, with the Halloween season fast approaching, characters of all kinds are receiving increased scrutiny and attention as my kids search for the perfect costume.  The Angelic Feasts are a great way to bring angels to the forefront of my kid’s attention and imagination, for they are, as this great article pointed out, the real superheroes of our Universe.  Already this week, after my husband and I described the Archangels to our children, my sons have been running around with capes and swords, declaring themselves the “Angel Protectors” of our family.  These feasts, along with the approaching Feast of All Saints, give us the opportunity to teach our kids the truth about super-powers, heroism, and real heroes that we can look up to and pray to for protection.
Number 1:  God’s love for us is Great.  The heavenly host of angels points to the majesty and awesomeness of our God. The fact that He would send any of these celestial beings to our aid points to his boundless love for us. The angels serve Christ by serving us, always pointing us toward Him.

Five Ways to Make the Celebration Special:
I used rainbow carrots for our glazed carrot recipe.  Delicious.
Number 5: Treats make a party.  Angelfood cake, a traditional Scottish St. Micheal Bannock for breakfast, or cookies cut with that Christmas angel cookie cutter would all suffice.  We hosted a big breakfast with MoMo and Papa.  Our menu included a St. Michael Bannock with whipped cream, Angelfood smoothie (T's favorite from our days near SmoothieKing in Alabama), bacon and eggs, and glazed carrots, a traditional Scottish food for this feast day.

Number 4: Heavenly host decorations.  Our dress-up swords and shields on the table along with printed classical artwork of archangels and guardian angels made great, simple decorations.  My hope over the course of the month is to make a “Heavenly Hosts” wall in our dining room, beginning with angel artwork this week, adding artwork depicting the saints leading up to All Saints Day and pictures of our deceased loved ones in time for All Souls day.  Over the course of the next month, the decorations will hopefully draw our hearts heavenward and inspire some additional prayers.
Our Heavenly Host wall for the months of October and November.  We'll add saints for All Saints Day and family members throughout the month of November in honor of All Souls Day.

Number 3: Prayers for the long haul.  Speaking of prayers, I am thankful that these feast days give me the opportunity to learn a few new prayers, specifically the Prayer to St. Michael and the Prayer to the Guardian Angel.  G-Bear learned a Guardian Angel prayer herself and taught it to the rest of us at breakfast, which was a real treat.  These are prayers we need in our daily arsenal.
St. Michael carrot spears for the kids, and cards with our Angel prayers.  

Number 2: Stories of victory.  The Bible is filled with stories of angels visiting and aiding God’s people.  These feasts are a great time to get out these stories and share them together.  An angel was with Daniel in the lions den and with Shadrach, Meshach and Abendnego in the fiery furnace.  Angels announced Christ’s birth, were at the empty tomb to tell the women that Jesus was risen, attended to Jesus after his forty days in the desert, and of course, Gabriel appeared to Mary at the Annunciation and later to Joseph in a dream.
Our place cards at breakfast, from Catholic Icing

Number 1: An activity for the day: For our younger children, a craft was our big activity of the day.  We made this angel craft from Catholic Icing together, something my kids can hang on their wall as a reminder for the day.  We also made the above angel cut-outs from here at Catholic Icing to serve as place cards at our feast table.  In future years, I may challenge myself and my kids to find another way to remember our Guardian Angel throughout the day.  Saint Jose Maria Escriva was especially known for his recourse to Guardian Angels and I have heard it said that he would often pause in doorways and briefly gesture as a way of acknowledging and inviting his Guardian Angel to go first through the door.  Whether we pause to thank God for our Guardian Angel in a doorway, pray the Angelus three times during the day, or choose some other special remembrance, these activities are all intended to draw our hearts closer to our Lord.

My greatest prayer, as we celebrate feast days like this together, is that God might bless us with a deeper love and trust in Him.  Jesus, may your angels draw us ever closer to you!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Encouraging the Family

"Today more than ever, we need witnesses who live out the Gospel of the family to the fullest and with joy, and who show the world that it is a beautiful and fascinating way of life, a source of happiness for spouses and children. Here there is enormous scope for the prophetic mission of our laity. In the lives of Christian couples today it takes the courage of prophets, the courage to stand up to the dominant culture."
~Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko
President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity
October 4, 2014

The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family is about to begin.  Let's pray for the Light and Encouragement of Christ to guide the Bishops and His Church.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Little Girl at the Piano

Look who we find at the piano, playing away, hoping to be just like her big sister.

Sweet J-Bear, we love you.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, September 29, 2014

Our Tour of the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour

A few weeks ago, we joined over 6,000 bikers for the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour through the neighborhoods of St. Paul.  The Tour is easily one of the highlights of our month, a perfect capstone to our big summer of biking.

The Tour is not a race, but a ride, through the lovely River Road and Summit Ave vistas of St. Paul.  There are 15, 30 and 45-mile loops.  This year, as novices, we wisely choose the 15-mile loop option.  This was wise for another reason: G-Bear and E-Bear decided to bike their own bikes for the Tour!  We weren't sure if they would be able to bike the whole way, so I pulled our Chariot Carrier behind my bike just in case and T had room to spare on the Mundo.  But, to the great credit of E-Bear and G-Bear, they persevered.

The weather for the tour was spectacular this year.  We enjoyed two rest stops along the way, complete with live music, fresh fruit, drinks, pastries and cookies to ensure we were well nourished for our ride.  We invited another family of good friends to join us, which meant that we were all motivated by friendly conversation and camaraderie to finish the trek.

G-Bear riding the River Road during the St. Paul Classic

As a family of six with four kids and two riders ages seven and under, we received a lot of attention and positive feedback.  G-Bear and E-Bear were the youngest kids biking that we saw, but with the right motivation the ride was definitely doable for them.  Many kids could be seen tagging along in trailers or in peanut seats.  We only saw our Mundo, but hopefully we will see more in the future. The Tour was a wonderful family event, and the Yuba makes the ride so easy with kids.  We can't rave enough about our bike investment.

Our crew and friends at the end of the Classic

We finished the tour around noon, for a grand time of just under three hours.  Then, with tired legs and hungry tummies, we hosted lunch in our backyard with our friends.  What a perfect way to welcome the coming fall and celebrate a wonderful summer!  Classic, we'll see you next year.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Everyday Wisdom from Blessed Alvaro de Portillo

On Saturday, a man named Fr. Alvaro de Portillo was Beatified in Madrid.  
This is one of his often repeated short prayers to Jesus, perfect for everyday life:

"Thank you, 
forgive me, 
help me more."
~Blessed Don Alvaro de Portillo

Thank you, Lord, for Your many servants who help to show us Your Way.
Help us, too, to follow Your lead.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Me Bags

During the second week of school, both G-Bear and E-Bear had to fill "Me Bags" to bring to school.
This was a class activity to help the students get to know each other.
It was just as fun for us as a family to see what each of the children chose to put in the bag.

E-Bear was first to decorate and pack his bag.
His directions were to choose three things to help describe himself.

He started by making a lovely picture of our whole family to bring in lieu of a photograph.
Our Family, by E-Bear
To his family picture, he added his newest, most beloved Lego catalogue 
and his favorite monster truck toy.
All in all, these were great choices, impressively representative of things that remind me of E-Bear.

E-Bear's "Get to Know You Bag" items.
G-Bear was next.  
Her instructions were to choose 3-5 items to help describe herself.

G-Bear also did a great job choosing her items.  
She asked E-Bear if she could bring his picture of our family and he happily obliged.
She also choose a bookmark that she stitched herself (because she loves to read),
her piano lesson book (because she enjoys playing piano),
and a green dress up necklace (because she likes to dress up and play make-believe).

We even included Buddy Bear in on the fun. 
I gave him a bag to fill with objects that he enjoys.
He choose his racing yellow school bus and his crimson visor.

J-Bear didn't get to fill a bag, but she didn't want to be left out of the picture :).

What a crew!  I am thanking God for each of these precious, perfectly unique Me Bears.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, September 26, 2014

E-Bear on the sidelines

Guess who go to watch from the sidelines with Dad for the first time on Friday night?

E-Bear was a great helper for his dad.  He even got compliments from the team's athletic director.
They had to stay until the bitter end of the game, (and there were fireworks!), so our little guy didn't get home until 10pm.  Although he fell fast asleep on the ride home, he quickly woke up enough to tell me all about his exciting night.  We're so glad you had fun, E-Bear.

G-Bear, Buddy Bear and I had watched our favorite PBS shows together and at chocolate cake after J-Bear was asleep to make up for the fact that only one kid could go with dad.  G-Bear and Buddy Bear were pretty thrilled with their deal too.  For that, I was truly thankful.  

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Happy Birthday to Johnny Appleseed

From Grraphics by R.Ritchie
Today, so far as I know, is the birthday of Johnny Chapman, who is better known as Johnny Appleseed.  I can't vouch for the authenticity of the above quote, but I thought it appropriate to the American folklore surrounding Chapman and fitting for the spirit of the day that I would like my kids to remember.  Increasingly, I am asking God to help me see His great things in the small, whether in small acts of faithfulness, within little people, or within the seemingly small details of everyday life.

G-Bear was making applesauce in school today in honor of Johnny Appleseed's birthday.  So, the boys and I had a special apple lunch and then made Johnny Appleseed hats.

Johnny Appleseed was known for wearing a pot on his head, so we combined that theme with the above quote in the making of our headwear.

We could have easily substituted the "Appleseed Prayer" on our hats, or simply written "Oh, the Lord is good to me," or something of the like.

Our Johnny Appleseed hat

I can remember my dad singing the Appleseed Prayer to me as a child.  My kids already associate the prayer with Papa, so it has special sentimental value in my heart.  This was our prayer at lunch and dinner today:

"Oh, the Lord is good to me,
And so I thank the Lord
for giving me the things I need:
the sun and the rain and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me.

 This was such a beautiful way to spend an autumn day!  

Happily Ever,
Queen B