Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy Birthday!

With all the family birthdays we celebrate in the month of April, I am amazed that I still have my own day.  But, here we are, today is the day!

A big hug to T for my birthday present, an amazing dinner at Bar La Grassa and tickets to hear Jim Gaffigan with a few of our close friends.  A big high five to MoMo and Papa who babysat so we could go out alone.   I laughed so hard, I almost cried!   

Today, I am especially thankful for MoMo and Papa, who brought me so far, and for their example.
I am thankful for T, the love of my life, and for our precious Bears.
I am thankful for God's amazing love and grace.

My prayer, as I look forward to the next year, is that God would continue to mold and shape me into a better daughter, wife, mother,

one like whom my daughters would someday want to be.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week 2014

 Holy Week has arrived!  We are all so excited.   Our bean basket is full of beans and our Jesus Walk Lent calendars are almost completely colored.  Easter is only a week away!

Over the past few years, I have found that there are many ways to make Holy Week special for young families.  Last year we had a wonderful week filled with special meals, crafts and readings that the kids still remember.  I am so excited to experience many of these with them again this year.

This is our plan for Holy Week this year.  Each night, in addition to the activities below, we do two Stations of the Cross after dinner so that we will finish them by Good Friday.

Monday~Preparation Day
*Craft: Making "Lamb of God" Easter cards (don't forget to mail them!)
Dinner:  Mushroom ragout and creamy polenta from Fine Cooking Magazine

A few of our "Lamb of God" Easter Cards

Inside we wrote: "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us!" and "Happy Easter!"

Tuesday~Preparation Day
*Craft: Make Stations of the Cross wheels to bring to Mass this week.
DinnerFettuccine with tomato-cream sauce from Cooking Light Magazine

Wednesday~Preparation Day
My Birthday!
DinnerVegetable stir-fry with basmati rice, potstickers and cabbage salad

~Maundy Thursday~
Remembering the Last Supper, Jesus' night in the Garden, Jesus' trial
*Craft:  Garden of Gethsemane Praying Hands from Sowing Mustard Seeds
(for coloring or writing in our Holy Week prayers)
Dinner: Remembering the Last Supper & Washing Feet
We'll read passages from the Gospels and wash each other's feet at dinner
Crackers and cheese (remembering the thirty pieces of silver)
Turkey meatballs (remembering the roast lamb) from Everyday Food Magazine
(these can be made ahead and frozen ~ perfect for a busy week!)
 Homemade pesto (remembering the bitter herbs and bread)
Praying Hands Pretzels from Catholic Icing  
(remembering the unleavened bread and Jesus' prayers in the garden)
Grape juice in "chalices" (remembering the wine)
Three spinach leaves (remembering Jesus telling Peter he would deny him three times)
Raisins (remembering the Mount of Olives)
Red Twizzlers and chocolate chips (remembering Jesus' arrest and Peter's tears after he betrayed Jesus)

~Good Friday~
Keeping Vigil at the Cross
Our centerpiece from Good Friday last year.
*Craft: Making Crown of Thorns by Catholic Icing
LunchCross Sandwiches from Catholic Icing
DinnerHot Cross Buns from Spoonful
Pineapple cubes (remembering how the soldiers cast lots for Jesus' garment)
Roasted Asparagus Spears (remembering how the soldiers pierced Jesus' side)
Carrot sticks (remembering the two robbers crucified with Jesus)
Jam & Water (remembering the blood and water from Jesus' side)

~Holy Saturday~
Awaiting the Resurrection!
Breakfast: Birthday Breakfast!
Lunch: Buddy Bear's Birthday Party!
DinnerCreamy carrot, broccoli and white bean soup from Finding Joy in My Kitchen
Resurrection Rolls from Eat at Allies

~Easter Sunday!~
Jesus is Risen!
Peep pancakes from I.E. Ice Cream (too fun to pass up)
Onion frittata from Martha Stewart Living
(A great way to use leftover eggs!)
Ham & fruit
Easter Dinner with Family!

Lord, bless us with a greater trust your His sacrifice and love this Holy Week!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday

"Hosanna to the Son of David, the King of Israel.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest." 
~Matthew 21:9

Our palms are ready.

It is time to tell the story.

The Lamb of God has arrived in Jerusalem.

He will save us from our sins.

Have a wonderful Holy Week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thoughts from Pope Francis for the end of Lent

I am so grateful for the practical advice and wisdom that Pope Francis shares with us.  In his general audience message on Wednesday, Pope Francis began a new cycle of teaching on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of God).  He began his teaching on the gift of wisdom.  His full message can be found here.  Below is an excerpt that spoke right into the heart of my daily life as a wife and mother:
“If we listen to the Holy Spirit, He teaches us this way of wisdom, He gives us wisdom which is to see with God’s eyes, to hear with God’s ears, to love with God’s heart, to judge things with God’s judgment. This is the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives us, and we can all have it, we only need to ask the Holy Spirit for it.  Think of a mother at home with the children, that when one does something, the other thinks of something else, and the poor mother goes from one place to the other with the problems of the children. And when mothers are tired and shout at the children, is that wisdom? To shout at children – I ask you – is that wisdom? What do you say: is it wisdom or not? No! Instead, when the Mother picks up the child and reproves him gently and says to him: “This isn’t done because …”, and she explains it to him with much patience, is this the wisdom of God? Yes! It is what the Holy Spirit gives us in life!  Then in marriage, for instance, the two spouses – the husband and the wife – quarrel, and then they don’t look at each other, or if they do look at one another they do so with a cross face: is this the wisdom of God? No! Instead they say: “well, the storm has passed, let’s make peace,” and they begin again to go forward in peace: is this wisdom? [the people: Yes!] See, this is the gift of wisdom. May it come to the home, may it come with the children, may it come with all of us!”
How beautiful!  Wisdom from the Holy Spirit isn’t some unattainable, impractical fountain of knowledge.  Rather, it is of inestimable practical value for the minute moments of my everyday life.  I also love how the crowd seemed to be caught off guard by the Holy Father’s example and question.  I could imagine a rumble through the crowd (or was it my own heart?): ‘What, surely we don’t need to be worried about shouting at our children?  Everyone does that!  Surely, the Holy Spirit is concerned with much bigger issues of sin than that?’  Sometimes I can be deluded by the banality of my sin, as if it has less of a poisoning effect on my children or the world because it is common or because “everyone does it.”  No way!  This is where I must start seeking God’s wisdom, right at the heart of my day.
As Holy Week approaches, I am hungry for the wisdom of the Spirit!  Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your Wisdom.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Musical Birthday

In December, G-Bear announced that she wanted to have a music-themed birthday party.
She was hoping for a piano and lessons for her birthday present.

A piano is a rather tall request.  
But, blessing of blessings, we had one in the family that was not being played.
Auntie Cindy was generous enough to agree to let my grandmother's piano come and live at our house.
So last week, on the day before G-Bear's 7th birthday, Grandma LuVerne's gorgeous Ivers&Pond piano came to live in our playroom.  

G-Bear was awestruck when she came home from school.  She and her brothers couldn't believe it!   

"It's SO BEAUTIFUL!" she exclaimed.  "I love the way they carved it!"

The new piano set the stage for a very magical, musical birthday.  

MoMo and Papa, Uncle C and GG and Miss K & Miss M joined us for the party.
I decorated with stripes and instruments from our instrument bucket.

I also purchased a few new blow-up instruments for added fun and effect.

They were a hit!  G-Bear, E-Bear and Buddy Bear loved rocking out to the music with the new blow-up accessories.

Our new party game tradition (that started with E-Bear's birthday last December) is a themed blindfolded pinning game.  For G-Bear's music theme, everyone was given a musical note, and we played "Pin the note on the Musical Page!"

The game is perfect for our age group.  It moves quickly, everyone can play, we cheer for everybody, and blindfolds make it just silly enough to make it fun.  

After the game, it was time to open presents!
G-Bear got dress shoes, piano lessons and a Muffy Bear outfit from T and me.
Aunty Cindy gave G-Bear her great grandmother's metronome and piano music books.
MoMo and Nana gave her dresses for her Samantha doll, with matching outfits that she could wear!

The outfit from MoMo was special to me, 
because it is the same one that I received when I was G-Bear's age. 

I was so happy to see G-Bear enjoy it as much as I did!

After presents, it was time for cake!

Happy seventh birthday to you, sweet girl!

Thanks to G-Bear for a wonderful party theme and to all of our family for making the celebration so special.  I can't believe that I have been a mom for SEVEN YEARS!

Thank you, Lord, for these seven wonderful years.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Grocery Bag

Could it be?  Has spring really sprung?  We have two more weeks of Lent and we're spending more time outside.   These are my plans to put dinner on the table this week.

Day One
Pasta with peppers, squash and tomatoes from Everyday Food Magazine
with spinach salad and pears
Photo and recipe from

Day Two
Beef and broccoli lo mien from Cooking Light Magazine
with clementine oranges
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
Broccoli chowder with corn and bacon from Everyday Food Magazine
with cantaloupe homemade rolls
Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Spaghetti carbonara from Sunset Magazine
with peas and crescent rolls
Photo and recipe from

Day Five
Tofu and broccoli stir fry from Everyday Food Magazine
with basmati rice and pineapple
Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Happy 7th Birthday, G-Bear!

Dearest G-Bear,

Happy seventh birthday to you, sweet girl!  I remember how, just a few days after you turned six years old, you announced to me that you couldn't wait until your seventh birthday.  Well, the past year has been a whirlwind.  Now, here we are, on this snowy April day, and you are seven!  

The view from our window for G-Bear's 7th Birthday.

We started the day with the traditional birthday breakfast: cereal, whipped cream and sprinkles.  You chose your bright pink dress to wear for your out-of-uniform day, and you brought mini roll-ups as a treat to share with your friends.  I loved trying the tongue tattoos on the roll-ups with you when we picked you up from school -- we giggled and giggled!  

These are a few of my favorite memories from the past year:

April....We weathered snow and sickness all month long, but that couldn't keep you down.  You are so excited for your baby sister to arrive.  You help decorate a birthday cake for my birthday and left a sweet message for the baby on the deck with chalk: "welcome home, new baby. Love, G-Bear and E-Bear."  

May....When you wake up in the morning, J-Bear arrives home to greet you before you go to school!  Oh, you were so excited to meet her.  You sat and just looked at her for so long.  You were thrilled to share the news at school, and soon you are sharing that your favorite thing to do is to hold your baby sister.  This month you are busy: you are helping Papa in his garden, helping me shop the consignment sales, helping us shop for plants at the plant sales, and helping Dad by cutting the grass with your scissors before he buys a mower.  You are a lovely butterfly for your Garden Party at school.  Your Mother's Day program made me feel so special.  We both beamed with pride as you sang "You are my sunshine" and sat next to each other for the sing along.  I am so glad that you love story time as much as I do.  

June....Time to say good-bye to Kindergarten and say good-bye to the half-day school day!  We start swimming lessons outside right away, and you are cheerful everyday despite your blue lips.  We have a wonderful time listening to our new Truck Tunes DVD and visiting construction sites around the neighborhood.  We weather the summer storms together, like the night you and Daddy got stuck in the garage together because of the pounding rain and wind.  Oh, how high the compost tree pile was the next day!  You look so lovely in your new summer dresses.  We're enjoying all the meals from family and friends as we get used to the summer routine with Baby J-Bear.  You are starting to read to me during story time, simple word stories, and my heart wants to leap I am so excited for you.  

July.... Fourth of July is at the Cabin with Cousins B, E and P, who love to take you canoeing, fishing and swimming.  Uncle S takes you for a tractor ride!  You are decked out for the fourth parade and watch fireworks with Daddy from GGs porch.  The University Quad across the street is like your backyard.  We're enjoying lunchtime picnics and evening trips to visit the fountain.  You love to chase Buddy Bear around and around as he giggles with glee!  In Boston with your cousins, you enjoyed visiting Plymouth Plantation, watching Mary Poppins, running and playing Badminton in the yard.  

August...We finish the fifth story in the Little House on the Prairie series!  By now, we are all hooked, but we'll have to read other books now until we get the next ones.  I love to hear you and E-Bear playing Pa, Laura and Almonzo together.  You enjoy our late summer walks through the neighborhood and to the river.  Our lazy August days are filled with fun, imagination, gardening, reading, and patio dinners.  Then, we're off to Hilton Head, where you loved riding in the back of the bike cart, digging in the sand, swimming and sleeping in the loft with your cousins.  You turn me down on my offer to homeschool this year.  You are too excited to return for first grade!

September... You take the State Fair by storm again this year.  Your favorites are the kiddie rides, the Pronto Pups, the Little Hands Farm and the Alphabet Forest.  Then, it's time for first grade!  You can hardly wait.  You jump right in with Mrs. Tracy and a new group of friends.  I can't wait for you to get home in the afternoon, so that we can read Stuart Little and do arts and crafts in the backyard sunshine together.  You always have a big hug ready for your siblings when you get home.  

October...There is a chill in the air, and most of your winter clothes no longer fit!  We are reading Charlotte's Web and harvest the last of our garden together before the frost.  You are an awesome speller so far and admit that you love to get 100% on your weekly spelling tests.  You don't know it yet, but you'll get all your words right this year.  It is hard to talk to Daddy in spelling code now, however, because you try to sound out the words!  It is a treat to have you home for a long MEA weekend, though, so we can enjoy outings like the Children's museum and the library as a family.  For Halloween this year, you make your own costume, a white cat, and break all candy records with your brothers racing with you through MoMo's neighborhood.    

November...It is a super All Saints again this year, as we color our Armor of God paper dolls and talk about heroes of the Church.  As we collect the last of the fallen leaves, you and E-Bear have a wonderful time running and jumping in to the piles.  You are a huge help at the compost site, dumping bags of leaves with me.  We had our first family outing to a Minnesota Chick-fil-a.  We had missed it so much!  We enjoy a new family tradition of remembering departed family members with special meals on Fridays in November.  You remind me that "Thanksgiving" is a compound word, and we have a very special Thanksgiving at the cabin, filled with crafts, cooking together, a Thanksgiving kids' play and fireworks in town.  

December...Advent arrives, and you and your brothers love sitting in the playroom to listen to the Cat Chat CD.  You are such a wonderful helper, whether helping your brother put on his boots at Chick-fil-a, reading a book to your siblings, stuffing envelopes with Christmas Cards, sprinkling Christmas cookies, cheering for E-Bear at his Lego birthday or helping your siblings turn on the music player in the playroom.  For Christmas, you asked for an American Girl doll, one without glasses.  You were so excited to open Samantha on Christmas morning!  It brought tears to MoMo's eyes to see you enjoy her the way that I had when I was little.  Christmas was also filled with lots of arts and crafts, dressing up and snuggling inside with the cousins to beat the cold weather.

January... We started the New Year with extra snow days off from school.  We love having you home from school, G-Bear!  E-Bear loves to have you home to play during rest time.  I love your cheerful leadership.  Buddy Bear loves to have your sweet, gentle encouragement.  You went to the dentist for the first time and LOVED it.  You wanted to go again!  No cavities, no loose teeth, but that will come soon.  On Tuesday nights, you and E-Bear get to try Basketball school with our neighborhood league.    You are a great listener and a very enthusiastic player.  Daddy loves giving you pointers.  You have great shooting form! We are reading Mrs. Pigglewiggle together, admiring all her good ideas.

February...What a treat it was to watch you enjoy Disney again.  This time around, you loved the rides and were shy when you met characters like Peter Pan and Wendy.  I got to read to your first grade classmates for Love to Read Month.  You were so welcoming to me and so excited to show me all your artwork in the classroom and hallway.  You have had so much fun digging in the snow during recess that your purple mittens have holes!  Way to make the most of the long winter, G-Bear.  You never complain about the cold.  

March...Hello there, Sport of the Month!  We are so proud of you!  You sure showed your sporty side this month.  You learned to ski the bunny hill for the first time in Lutsen.  On our snowshoeing trip, you were a real trooper running through the woods in your snowshoes and then waited patiently for us when you tired out.  You read our daily Lenten Bible verses for us each morning, which is a testament to your great reading.  Look out, because you have your first loose tooth!  You haven't lost it yet, but there is no mistaking a wiggle like that. :)

Darling, you grow more beautiful everyday, inside and out.  Your loving heart toward your friends and siblings makes your Daddy and me so proud of you.  You are thoughtful and compassionate, joyful and enthusiastic.  E-Bear is your best bud.  Buddy Bear adores you and you are so gentle with him.  You are such a dependable helper with Baby J-Bear.  You ask good questions.  Daddy smiles at the way you carefully explain yourself when you are frustrated.  We miss you so much when you are at school, but we know you are working so hard and leaning so much while you are away.  Thank you for brightening our lives with your smile and kind spirit.  We're praying that God will continue to bless your heart and mind with a love for Him and a love for others.

Happy birthday, G-Bear.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hold on to your (April) Hats!

April is here!
Nevermind that 12 inches of snow is in the forecast for Minnesota.
We're ready for spring and ready to celebrate!

In the next 30 days,
we'll celebrate three family birthdays, Holy Week, and Easter!
The long days of winter and Lent will come to an end.
So now, my dears, onto April!

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do."
- Blessed John XXIII

Monday, March 31, 2014

Retreat to the Desert

I feel like I don't have enough time in my day.
Either that, or I am not organized enough.

The laundry isn't put away,
the dishes are sitting next to the sink.
I am behind on my writing deadlines,
emails sit unanswered.
My desk is piled high with mail,
baby clothes need to be organized,
bathrooms need to be cleaned,
closets need to be purged.

Queen B, what is going on?  Isn't Lent the time for projects like these?
Not this year.  Not for me.

This year, I realized I needed to do something different for Lent.  
I realized that Lenten projects of past years-- cleaning, organizing, giving away--
had distracted me from what I really needed, more time with God.

This year, as I prepared for Lent, I reread a Gospel passage describing Jesus' forty day retreat to the desert.  He had just been baptized by John and was about to start His public ministry, spreading the good news of the Gospel.  But, after being baptized, Jesus didn't rush right out to get started.  First, he retreated to the desert to pray, and not just for a few minutes, a day, a week.  He was gone for forty days.  

I have very little free time these days.  Between school drop-offs and pick-ups, meal-times and abbreviated naps, I have very little time by myself.  The chores are constantly clamoring for more of my time, and I am constantly tempted to lay my babes in their beds and frantically tackle the To-Do list.  But this Lent, I am trying to set aside the To-Do list and tackle prayer first.  Everyday, it is a struggle for me to do this.  The biggest challenge for me is that when I get done with my prayer time the laundry is still unfolded or a mess is still staring me in the face, but it is school pick-up time or nap time is over or the kids are waking up or it is simply too late to do another chore.  

My house and email inbox look a bit more disorganized than usual this Lent.  But, I am hoping that my soul is just a tiny bit more organized, more centered, more patient, more peaceful, more loving.  I am also hoping that come Easter,  the Lord will bless these forty days of prayer, perhaps with a renewed sense of direction, a renewed energy to tackle the waiting projects.  Perhaps, as a result of this prayerful detour, my Easter path will be more clear.  

“Come now, miserable mortal, flee for a brief time from your occupations, leave for a while your tumultuous thoughts. Move away at this moment from your grave anxieties and put aside your exhausting activities. Attend to God and repose in him. Enter into the depth of your soul, exclude everything, except God and what helps you seek him and, having closed the door, say to God: I seek your face. Your face I seek, Lord.”  
~Saint Anselm of Aosta

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Daily Works of Mercy

Occasionally, I am tempted to feel overwhelmed by all the needs and hurting in the world.  The overachiever in me sometimes feels restrained by the demands of daily, family life.   Really, can I do any good for the wider, broken world in the midst of meal prep, laundry loads, potty training and nap time?

In those moments, I need to settle my restless heart with a reminder from Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta:

To help this needy, hurting world, I need to change the way I see the work in my day, not shirk my responsibilities within it.

Mother Theresa also once said,

Which reminds me of one of my favorite prayers from Saint Teresa of Avila:

Jesus has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. 
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people.

So, with new eyes I review the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we, as Christians, are called to bring into the world:

The Corporal Works of Mercy                                   The Spiritual works of Mercy
Feeding the hungry                                                   Admonishing the sinner
Giving drink to the thirsty                                              Instructing the ignorant
Clothing the naked                                                      Counseling the doubtful
Hospitality to the homeless                                            Comforting the sorrowful
Caring for the sick                                                         Bearing wrongs patiently   
Visiting the imprisoned                                                      Forgiving all injuries
Burying the dead                                                      Praying for the living 
                                                                                                       and the dead

When I reflect on these works of mercy with new eyes, they suddenly sound remarkably similar to many of my daily responsibilities.  God, grant me the mercy to complete these great works with great love.  Then I would be truly helping to change the world.