Sunday, July 20, 2014

Prayer Intentions

"If God seems slow in responding, it is because He is preparing a better gift. He will not deny us. God withholds what you are not yet ready for. He wants you to have a lively desire for His greatest gifts. All of which is to say, pray always and do not lose heart."

- St. Augustine

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Weeding the garden

There are a lot of weeds in our garden.

Our little introduction to home owning has blessed us with the chance to maintain several little 
garden spaces.  I have been excited to try out my green thumb and take care of these spaces in hopes of making our home and backyard a beautiful, welcoming place for our family and neighbors.  

But the weeds, oh the weeds, how they crop up and constantly threaten to take over.

There are weeds in the grass,
weeds in the vegetable beds, 
weeds in the shade,
weeds in the sun,
weeds under weeds!

There are so many ways that gardening is similar to parenting.

During the summer, when we are all spending our days together, I more easily notice weeds creeping into our lives as well.  These weeds, too, are always threatening to take over, but they have different names than the weeds in my gardens.  They are:


Somedays, I see the mess of weeds outside and want to throw up my arms in despair.  Where will I find the time and energy to tackle the weeding?  As a parent, somedays I want to throw up my hands in despair over the weeds crowding our lives.  Is there hope for us?  Where will I ever get the time and energy to weed out these behaviors?

It takes a lot of time to weed the gardens, whether the gardens outside or the gardens of our souls.  But weeding is worth it.  At the end of a day of weeding, everything looks fresher, our flowers and vegetables are growing more vigorously.  We see the same rewards when we tackle our sinfulness  and help our children grow in holiness.  Our family life feels fresher, our lives grow more vigorous as weeds are replaced by virtue.

I am more and more aware, however, that no day of weeding is complete without examining the weeds in my own life at the end of each day.  A nightly and weekly examination of conscience is a powerful weeding tool.   Confession avails my soul to the merciful hands of the Perfect Gardener.  Christ is able to uproot even the most persistent, threatening weeds from my soul and fill up remaining holes with the rich, healing soil of His grace.

Indeed, this is hard, worthwhile work.
Our gardens are a beautiful, fruitful blessing this summer.
My Little Flowers are even more precious, and their souls are eternal.
May we all bear fruit that lasts and blesses.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Difficulties of the Day in Perspective

Have you set out to do something good today?
Felt thwarted at every turn?
Is everything suddenly harder or more frustrating?
I needed a reminder today:

"We no sooner begin a work for the honor and glory of God, than the world at once becomes uneasy, or the devil throws obstacles in the way."

- St. Ignatius of Loyola

Lord, today help me offer every moment, every action up for you.  And when I meet resistance or challenge, help me rise to the occasion and glorify you all the more.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Another Little Swimmer

Tonight, at the pool with MoMo and Papa, 
E-Bear took off his life jacket and swam by himself for the first time.  

We knew he had it in him.  By the end of the night, he was swimming all over the shallow end.

Way to go, E-Bear!  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fabulous Fourth

What a crew!
What a Fourth!

This Fourth of July we were up at MoMo and Papa's cabin.  My Seattle cousins were also visiting with their children -- more cousins for the Bear crew to enjoy!  So many treats were in store.

The biggest project of the week was the arrival of a new playset. 
Cousins R and K and T worked overtime to put it together for the kids.  
There were many pieces.....

...but they were undaunted by the task and persevered. 
What a treat it was for the kids to wake up to the completed swing set!

Uncle C was also in attendance, having traveled all the way from Arizona for the holiday weekend.
As always, he was the cool uncle, arriving with fireworks for the crew to enjoy on the night of the Fourth.  In MN, our fireworks are pretty tame because of the laws banning large fireworks for private use.  But, the kids thought each one was better than the next.

 There was always great anticipation as Uncle C announced the name of the firework and lit the fuse.
A hush inevitably fell over the crowd.

But the squeals of delight were unmistakable!  They loved each one more than the last.

The weather was lovely, so of course we spent plenty of time down the path at the dock.

Aunty Cindy's paddle boat was a favorite, especially when Papa played "Good-bye and Good Riddance!" 

On Sunday the boys joined T and me for a paddle boat ride across the lake to the other shore.  It was a gorgeous day and the water was so blue.  The boys and I just had to slip in and swim to shore at the end!  Papa jumped off the dock to meet us out in the deep water.  The boys were so delighted.  What fun!

In the end, this crew went home exhausted, filled full of s'mores, dilly bars and lots of wonderful memories of a special week.  God, thank you for these special days.  Bless America and our families this Fourth of July.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A child's thoughts on the Declaration

For our young crew, Fourth of July is already synonymous with fireworks, flashy parades, and fabulous summer food (s’mores!).   This year, I have modest hopes of instilling in them a nascent appreciation of what the Fourth of July really means for our country, as well as some of the principles that it represents.  I bought a few vintage books at a used book fair to read to them this week, including The Story of the Declaration of Independence by Norman RichardsThe First Book of the American Revolution by Richard B. Morris, and Uncle George Washington and Harriot’s Guitar by Miriam Anne Bourne.  So far, we have read The Story of the Declaration of Independence.
I was impressed by the conversation that arose among the older children when I described the Declaration’s assertion that “All men are created equal.”  As it turned out, this was a confusing idea for them.
Mom, does that mean that all people are the same?”
No, I replied.  We know that all people are not the same.  We would not want all people to be the same.  All people are different, and that is good.
So, does that mean that all people get the same stuff?”
No, I replied.  We know that not all people have the same things, we don’t all receive the same things, and not all people get to do the same things.
MOM, this is confusing, can you please explain this in another way?”
Again, I was impressed by the confusion and consternation that this foundation statement had caused, an understanding I certainly take for granted.
I explained that the statement “all men are created equal” means that all human beings are created by God and because of this, our lives are all important.  Whether we are big or small, old or young, rich or poor, no matter our talents, no matter what we look like: no person is more important than another.  
It occurs to me that the practical implications of this assertion are things that I work on everyday with my children:  we treat everyone with respect, everyone is important and deserves to be treated fairly, we are kind to everyone no matter what they look like.  But I also realized that these concepts are easily misunderstood, and misunderstanding can breed cynicism, indifference and even disbelief later in life.  Our country is founded on beautiful Christian principles that are tied to the basic tenants of our faith.  We owe it to our children and to our country to teach these ideals and pass them on.

Have a happy Fourth of July week.  May God bless America.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 2014 in Review

I can always tell when we've had a busy month because the number of blog posts dwindles.  This has been such a wonderful month, filled with wonderful adventures.

Week One: Chicago Land

Lincoln Park.  Yes, that is the John Hancock in the background.

We skipped G-Bear's last day of school to accompany T on the long drive to Chicago for a course he was teaching.  While he was busy in the labs, the kids and I ventured to the Lego Discovery Center (worthy of a post of its own) and built with Legos, 

First Lego car, and yes, Mom helped.

Love that Millennium Falcon, E-Bear!

and more Legos in our hotel room.  
Surfs Up, with Legos, that is.

We also drank bottomless root beer with "Uncle" Tony at the Eleven City Diner and played with our friends at the Lincoln Park Zoo. We had a wonderful time. 

Weeks Two and Three: Swimming Lessons
Gertie the Guppie once again made an appearance in our lives for two weeks of swimming lessons.  Buddy Bear joined the Jellyfish group, E-Bear joined the Sunfish and G-Bear joined the Catfish.  The kids braved the 60 degree mornings like champions.  Everyone improved, both in following instructions and in their swimming skills.  I watched Buddy Bear come into his own singing to Gertie and even put his face into the water unprompted.  I watched E-Bear do under water bobs like a champ.  And I watched G-Bear backstroke across the pools and try a dive or two.   J-Bear spent her time toddling around the deck with me, holding my hand and trying her hardest to learn walk (thank goodness for those kneelers!).  She even learned the Gertie song too, and joined in by blowing bubbles with her lips just like the swimmers!

We celebrated at the end of the week by heading up to MoMo and Papa's cabin.  
MoMo was a champ and got the pontoon in the water.   

We all enjoyed our time on the water 

and in the forest. 

What a way to relax and revive.

Week Four: Catholic Kids Camp (Vacation Bible School)
When we got back, it was time for Catholic Kids Camp!  We all got to participate this year, G-Bear and E-Bear as campers, and Buddy Bear and J-Bear as un-official campers in a childcare class with me.  We did crafts, sang songs, enjoyed circle time and Bible stories and playground time each day.  All the kids were so proud of their hard work and had so much fun praising God with their friends.  Proud smiles abounded at the sing along at the end of the week.

I really must recommend Lacy Rabideau's Catholic Preschool Curriculum from Catholic Icing.  I used many of her ideas for Circle Time and for our crafts, all of which worked really well for our group of 1-4 year olds.  

In Between:  

In between our big events, we have had plenty of other little adventures.

We visit the visiting Handmaids nearly every evening. 

We even got to treat them to ice cream one evening.

We've played plenty of catch and ball.

We can't stay off our bikes. 
E-Bear asks to ride his two-wheeler every afternoon.

Day by day, we're growing a green, green garden,

From the front yard.
Our bouquet of front yard flowers.
The bouquet E-Bear picked for me.

and a new boulevard of green, green grass.

The kids have been a huge help to T, who reseeded our boulevard.  
It is hard to believe that only a few weeks ago it looked like a scraggly weed garden.

Everyday we make time for learning time, playtime and piano practice.

And each weekend you can still find us with MoMo, Papa and GG on the patio for brunch. 

These are sweet and wonderful summer days.  
Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful June!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Moved by the Spirit?

It is hard to be quiet during Mass when you are trying to learn to walk.  J-Bear successfully stood up and walked today during Mass, with her signature aplomb.


Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Heard Around the House, June 2014

E-Bear, after a playdate with a friend who is an only child:

"Mommy, I think I know why God made friends.  If someone is born and it is just them,
a friend can come and they will have someone to play with."

Buddy Bear, looking out the window on a long car ride:

*Sigh* "Mommy, sometimes I just like to look at the clouds."

J-Bear, ready for an early bedtime and waving to everyone as she's carried upstairs:


E-Bear, praying with T at bedtime:

"I am thankful that Buddy Bear is old enough to play play mobile with me."

G-Bear, whispering to T. 
They were admiring their newly planted grass along our boulevard, when a passerby walked off the sidewalk and trampled right over the grass in front of G-Bear:

"Daddy, that person just walked over the baby grass!"

"I know, G-Bear.  But it is more important to be kind to others than to have nice grass."

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Mothering, by J.M. Barrie

Todd has been reading Peter Pan to our children, the complete unabridged version. When I hear him reading, I love to peek around the corner and see our three little ones, hanging on his every word.   What a wonderful sight.

So far, this is my favorite quote.  Mrs. Darling has a way with her children, which so far, I admire.  I'd like to adopt a few of her ways myself.

"Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on."