Friday, January 31, 2014

Ordinary Time

Ordinary time, you are here.

January is a good time to remember that God is awesome in simplicity, in littleness.

Our Christmas decorations have been slow to disappear this year.  This weekend marks the Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas, so hopefully our tree will finally be down and recycled and the last of the Christmas books stored away.  With each removal, however, I have been reminded that Christ is in our simplicity, not just in our decoration and feasting.  As we have been holed up for home days in the cold, as we have returned to routine, battled sickness and snow, I have savored His presence in the ordinary moments of our daily life.  Yes, this is ordinary time, where God can be extraordinary in our normalcy.

The readings at Mass these days have focused on Jesus' public life following His baptism.  Pope Francis has reminded the world that "the Lord walks the roads of our daily life."  No one, and no moment of our day, is beyond His reach.  He wants to fill all of us, and all of our lives, with His love. So, Lord, come into the ordinary moments of this ordinary time.  Reach into the cold, the routine, and fill us with your Love.  

“Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”

~Pope Francis, “Evangelii gaudium,” 20

Monday, January 27, 2014

Overheard in the house, January 2014

Overheard in the kitchen....

Me: "Buddy Bear, you can only play downstairs if you are ready to
cooperate with your brother and sister and follow the rules."

Buddy Bear: "Okay, Mommy.  I promise.  I cooperating."

Overheard at the grocery store between T and E-Bear......

T (putting another delicious item in the shopping cart): 
"Oh, E-Bear, we are getting a lot of extra food that isn't on Mom's grocery list.
We are going to be in trouble with Mom when we get home."

"Don't worry, Dad.  Mommy doesn't have a weapon."

Overhead in the car.....

Buddy Bear:
"Mommy, Daddy, sing! Sing with the music! It's more funner!"

Overheard in the playroom.....

"Bye, E-Bear, Miss Katie is here and I'm leaving now.  I will see you soon."
"Okay.  Ta-ta!"

Overheard after school......
"G-Bear, how did school go today?"
"It was sort of good.  I had a runny nose and my eyes watered a few times."
"Did you use the tissues that I put in your backpack?"
"No, I used Mrs. T's instead.  The tissues you gave me are actually E-Bear's,
and I want to be sure that he gets to use them."

Overheard in the garage....
Buddy Bear:
"Mommy?  You help me into my carseat?"
"Sure, Buddy Bear, I will help you into your seat."
Buddy Bear:
"You such a nice Mommy.  I love you so much."
"Thanks, Buddy Bear, I love you too."
Buddy Bear:
"But, say, I such a nice Buddy Bear!"

Overheard in the kitchen.....

E-Bear (hungry and ready for dinner):
"Mommy, is there anything I can help you with?"

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Beginning Anew

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.”
- Saint Francis de Sales

These words are a great encouragement for me today, 
spoken by a man whose trust in God was great.  

Lord, thank you for your abundant patience.  Today, help me to begin anew!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Happily Ever Reviews: Cat Chat Audio Shows

We have a small CD player in the playroom that the kids are allowed to use to play music.  On the shelf next to the CD player I have stacked CDs of various kinds, from VBS music to audio books, that the kids are welcome to peruse and choose to play.  The CD player has become a rather popular part of our playroom, because the kids love to snuggle in for an audiobook or choose a soundtrack for their playtime.

A few years ago, a godparent sent my kids a special CD to help them celebrate Advent.  The CD was called Cat Chat, and at the time, I had never heard of it before.  Now, we are devoted followers of the Cat Chat Audio Show series.  In fact, this year for Christmas, each of our Bears got a Cat Chat CD in their stocking.  Our house has been rocking with Cat Chat stories and songs ever since!

Cat Chat stands for Catholic Chat, and is hosted by Moses, the talking cat of a faith-filled family.  Each Cat Chat audio show features the family enjoying an event of some kind, such as an Advent dinner at their grandparent's farm (our favorite), a canoe trip in the wilderness, or an All Saint pizza party with friends.  The stories and conversations are great, as are the intermittent song breaks.

With the help of their Cat Chat friends, my kids are learning prayers, loving attitudes, and faith-filled truths.  Requests to watch TV shows evaporate when someone turns on Cat Chat.  I am grateful that at all times of day I find G-Bear, E-Bear and Buddy Bear curled up in front of the CD player listening, or singing along as they play with toys.

There are many more faith-filled resources from the Cat Chat company, which also look wonderful.  After I give our kids the last two CDs for Easter, I'll be hoping for more audio show editions too.
We are grateful to Cat Chat for helping us get the most out of our indoor playtime this winter!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Basketball pains of the younger brother

This winter, we have dipped our toe into organized sports.  It is basketball season, and the recreation center at our neighborhood school hosts youth basketball every Tuesday night.  E-Bear and G-Bear are both old enough to participate this year, so we decided to give it a try.   Basketball is open to five and six year olds, lasts for forty-five minutes, and ostensibly includes a brief practice/instructional time followed by a scrimmage against the (only) other team.  It is generous to call this an organized sport, which is precisely why it is perfect for us right now.

It is ironic that of our children, Buddy Bear is currently the most inclined towards sports.  Show the kid a ball, and he wants to kick it, throw it, hit it with a bat, or tuck it under his arm and run headlong into the couch.

So, it was no surprise that on our first night of basketball, Buddy Bear piled into the minivan with a ball in his arms.  When we arrived early to registration for G-Bear and E-Bear, Buddy Bear introduced himself to the coach, rummaged through the stack of t-shirts for one that was his size, and ran onto the court with his ball under his arm, ready to practice his skills.  When the coach called the participants to sit in a circle, Buddy Bear plopped right down too, and he proceeded to howl as I carried him out of the circle over to the spectator bleachers.  I could barely contain Buddy Bear on the bench during the forty-five minute practice.  I achieved only mild success by encouraging him to "watch and listen to coach" so he would "learn the basketball rules."  He skeptically passed the ball to me once or twice before realizing it wasn't getting him any closer to playing on the court.

Today is another Tuesday, and I'll be honest, I don't know what to do for Buddy Bear.  I want the basketball experience, however disorganized and laid-back, to be special for G-Bear and E-Bear.  But, I don't want to disappoint Buddy Bear so much.  It is hard to see the sporting sparkle in his eyes turn to disappointment when he realizes he can't play with the older kids.  I was the oldest in my family, so I never experienced the feeling of being the younger sibling unable to play, and my heart breaks to see Buddy Bear's sadness.  Surely, there is a way to ease his frustration and disappointment.  For now, I'll try the following:
  ~Pull out a extra t-shirt for him to wear as his "basketball shirt" 
when G-Bear and E-Bear get dressed.
 ~Drive our crew to the gym early so that Buddy Bear can run around
 for a bit before the practice really starts.
~Try to set better expectations by talking during the day about "sitting and listening to coach on the bleachers so that we can learn the game and play on the team next year."

Special prayers for Buddy Bear are in order.  I'll take all the suggestions I can get!  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Grocery Bag

I have noticed a few things lately.  First, I think my weeks are decidedly more frenzied when I haven't made a meal plan.  Second, when T does the grocery shopping (as he has done for me quite a bit the past few weeks), our fridge is filled to the brim with delicious looking food.  If only I could successfully combine my meal planning with T's shopping ability: meals would be amazing!  Here is my plan for the week.

Day One
Skillet rib eye steak from Martha Stewart
with cabbage cilantro salad, rolls and grapes
T can choose a lovely cut of meat.  It's my job not to over cook it :)
Photo and recipe from

Day Two
Ham and broccoli shells from Finding Joy in My Kitchen
with spinach salad and apple sauce
SnoWhite always comes through with a nice pasta dish.
Photo and recipe from Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Day Three
Sweet and spicy chili from T's aunt Patti
with crackers and broccoli slaw salad
A family favorite that tastes even better the next day.

Sweet and Spicy Chili
One pound lean ground hamburger or ground turkey
One onion, chopped
One large can diced tomatoes
One large can Hormel chili with beans
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup brown sugar

Brown the hamburger and onion in a large Dutch oven.  Add tomatoes, chili, chili powder and sugar. Heat over medium until simmering.  Serve with sprinkled cheese and sour cream.

Day Four
Spaghetti carbonara from Sunset Magazine
with steamed green beans and homemade bread

Photo and recipe from

Day Five
Curried lentils in tomato sauce from Everyday Food Magazine
with basmati rice and sautéed mushrooms

Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Smack, smack...

"Smack, smack.  Smack, smack."

This my new favorite sound around the house.  

Little J-Bear has started smacking her lips whenever she she nuzzles close to me.
Whether before nap time, bedtime, or when I wake her up from her nap,
she starts licking her lips and smacking her tongue for effect.

It is as if she wants to be sure I know,

"Mom, all this solid food is fine,
but the food I like the best is the stuff that only you can give."

Thanks, J-Bear, for making me feel special and for making me smile.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

First Trip to the Dentist

This week, G-Bear and E-Bear went to the dentist for the first time!

I know, I know, it is rather shameful that two doctors would take so long to get their eldest children to the dentist.  Fortunately, both kids came away with clean bills of oral health.  Aside from being encouraged to floss more (and really, who doesn't need to floss more :), both E-Bear and G-Bear got lots of compliments on their teeth.  Thank you, Lord!

E-Bear really liked "Mr. Thirsty," the tube that the hygienist used to remove the water from his mouth. 

G-Bear liked seeing her teeth on real x-ray films.  She hasn't lost any teeth yet, but we're thinking that by springtime she might have a loose tooth or two.  

All in all, it was a very successful visit.  Both G-Bear and E-Bear said as we walked out of the office,

"Mom, that was fun!  We love the dentist!  Can we come back tomorrow?"

I told them we'll be back in six months. :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happily Ever Reviews: My Dear Friend, Robie the Robot

I really like a clean house.  Obviously, this is a challenge with four kids ages six and under.  Right now, since we don’t hire any cleaning assistance, most of the work of keeping a clean house falls to me.  While there are many aspects of a clean house to which I aspire, dirty floors are my particular peeve. Nothing distracts me like crunching cheerios underfoot or soggy rice stuck to my socks.  

When it comes to cleaning our floors (a mix of carpet, hardwood and tile), I try to vacuum the whole house one a week, but unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  On a daily basis, the more pressing situation is in our kitchen and dining room.  We have a counter in the kitchen where our kids eat breakfast and lunch, but we eat all of our family meals in the dining room due to space constraints.  T was shocked earlier this fall when I told him that I was sweeping the kitchen floor 2-3 times a day (is there any end to the granola, bread crumbs and couscous bits that kids can drop on the floor?).  Sweeping the dining room is time consuming because of all the chairs that need to be moved.  Neither floor cleans well with our upright vacuum, because the vacuum tends to spread stuff around the tile kitchen floor and the wood dining floor rather than vacuuming it up. 

So this fall, T proposed the Roomba iRobot as a way to ease the burden of (and perhaps my perseveration over) the messy floors.  The Roomba iRobot is a robotic floor vacuum that comes in several different models costing anywhere from $300-700.  I’ll admit that at first I was skeptical and not very interested.  After all, we already had a rather inexpensive but fully functional vacuum, and we are not prone to routinely dropping a few hundred dollars on house cleaning tools!  Before I met the iRobot, I thought of it as an expensive gadget that would get in my way and be more trouble that it was worth.  The videos that T showed me always showed the Roomba cleaning spacious, semi-vacant living spaces with nary a toy, cluttered corner, or child in sight (all of which are omnipresent in my house!).  But, T persisted in his generous offers.  Finally, we made a family trip to Bed Bath Beyond with a “20% Off One Item” coupon in hand.  When the BBB sales associate assured me we could return the Roomba at any point if I wasn’t happy with it,  I finally caved.  What did we have to loose? 

T and the kids couldn’t wait to put “Robie” to work when we got home (they had already named it on our way home from the store).   The iRobots work with the help of light-sensor technology and have the ability to “learn” their surroundings over time.  At first, we noticed that Robie would run headlong into walls and chairs. Over time, the semi-random pattern of vacuuming became more methodical, and it started slowing in front of walls and encircling chair legs.  Robie has a spinning brush that helps move stuff from its margins into the vacuum, which helps it clean corners and other tight spaces.  I was impressed that Robie’s low profile (about 4” in height) allowed it to successfully clean under our beds, couches, and around our radiators, which are areas that I am unable to reach with our upright vacuum.  Robie even dragged out a few lost toys from under the couch!  It did a great job on the hard floors and was able to detect especially dirty spots that needed more attention.  When it finished, Robie found it’s docking station and went into sleep mode.  T pulled out the collection compartment to empty it, and we were both amazed at the amount of stuff it had picked up.  T pointed out that if I wanted, iRobot could be programmed to vacuum at specific times during the day.  Swoon.

Now, several weeks into our iRobot experiment, I have to admit I am hooked on Robie.
~ T now moves our kitchen stools and puts Robie to work in the kitchen as we leave for school/work in the morning.  It is such a treat to arrive home to clean floors. 
~If I set Robie to work at the start of afternoon rest time (it is quiet enough that it doesn’t wake the sleeping younger children), it can do a superficial clean around dropped toys and book piles in our living and dining rooms while I work on other projects or obligations.
~T will set Robie to work after dinner while we put the kids to bed, and by the time we arrive back downstairs, the floors are clean. 
~My favorite part is that T (my gadget lover) often offers to take over “Robie Duty” when he arrives home from work or on weekends.  I’ll take any vacuum that makes cleaning more appealing to my husband and kids.
~Robie successfully avoids falling down our stairs and has amazed me with its ability to avoid entanglement.  There is no need for me to watch over or attend to it like a wandering toddler!

In sum, I give our iRobot five stars.  Robie was certainly a splurge, but one that is making our daily and weekly life easier and more sustainable.  For me, it was a perfect Christmas gift.  Thanks to my sweet T for his great suggestion and gentle persistence.  And tonight, thanks to Robie for my clean kitchen floor.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mommy Mary and the Giant

Buddy Bear loves a good game of "David and the Giant."

But the other day, in a dramatic reversal of roles, Buddy Bear took on the role of the Giant.
Sweet Mommy Mary was so unsuspecting.  In no time, Mommy Mary and Daddy Joseph had fallen into the Giant's hands:

 "Mommy, wook!  I twapped Mary and Joseph under the CUPS!"

Buddy Bear was quick to assure me that Mary and Joseph knew how to call for help.

"Help!  Help, Baby Jesus!  Help us, angel," came their plea.

And, wouldn't you know it, 
the Angel of the Lord came to the rescue.
The Giant's cups were no match for the power of the Angel.

First Joseph was rescued,

followed by the greatly anticipated rescue of Mommy Mary.

"Hooray, Angel! You saved the day!" shouted the Giant.

The Giant turned out to be a pretty good sport after all :)

 Please tell me I am not the only one who still has all her nativity sets out in the living room.
Clearly, we're still having way too much fun to put them away.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Knights Need A Dragon

Overheard the other day....

E-Bear, studying his new play mobile knights carefully:
"Hmmm, I don't know who should fight against my knights."

T, overhearing his question:
"I guess you could set your knights up across the room from each other for battle."

E-Bear, authoritatively:
"Dad, knights don't fight EACH OTHER.  They fight DRAGONS."

Good old E-Bear :).   Good thing the play mobile set came with a dragon!  You better believe I ran to find that dragon for him. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

(Not) Back to School

We started the New Year with two extra days off of school.  Whoo hoo!  Frigid weather has its perks after all.  We've had a great time the past two days, tucked in our snuggly house, practicing math problems, reading stories and playing games.

By far, Buddy Bear has the greatest news to share.  He has sat on the potty twice, and has been successful both times.  I am not claiming full fledged potty training yet.  We are still a long way from that.  But, cold-weather home days are perfect for sitting on the potty morning, noon or night.  Buddy Bear loves to have me read potty books to him as he sits on the throne:

"Mommy, Mommy, please you read the potty book??"

Hopefully, we're setting the stage for the future, when I have more energy for potty training.

Tomorrow, we're officially back on the school schedule.  And we're off.....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Our Twelve Days of Christmas!

On the sixth day of Christmas, a treasured memory,
six eyes-a-twinkling,

These three are adorable.  
J-Bear loves her cousins' show-stopping smiles. We've enjoyed this trio so much this Christmas!

 ...five close-knit cousins! 
Four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

On the seventh day of Christmas, a bummer for me,
seven sleepy six days....

Sadly, the flu caught me this Christmas.  
It is no fun to be down for the count during Christmas break. 
But, I learned that I can get a lot of prayer time in the urgent care waiting room,
I learned how to play Quirkle with G-Bear,
and I learned that I need to count my blessings,
 even when holidays don't happen according to my plans.

...six eyes-a-twinkling, five close-knit cousins! 
Four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

On the eighth day of Christmas, a treasured memory,
eight arts and crafting,

MoMo and Papa's living room has been covered in rainbow scratch paper, dinosaur stickers, 
fairy jewels, scented markers, coloring books, felt paper dolls, water books and more.
These cousins have wild imaginations, love arts and crafts, and really enjoy working together. sleepy sick days, six eyes-a-twinkling, five close-knit cousins! 
Four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

On the ninth day of Christmas, a treasured memory,
nine planets sparkling....

Speaking of arts and crafts, E-Bear worked so hard on his planet sticker picture.  
He couldn't wait to hang it up next to his bed.  

...eight arts and crafting, seven sleepy sick days, six eyes-a-twinkling, five close-knit cousins! 
Four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

On the tenth day of Christmas, a treasured memory,
ten cheerios munching....

J-Bear decided to try Cheerios for the first time on New Year's Day!  What a way to celebrate eight months!  Since then, she's been stuffing cheerios in her mouth by the handful :)

...nine planets sparkling, eight arts and crafting, 
seven sleepy sick days, six eyes-a-twinkling, five close-knit cousins! 
Four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, a treasured memory,
eleven creative costumes....

We love


dress up,

dress up our friends,

and play the part.

...ten cheerios munching, nine planets sparkling, eight arts and crafting, 
seven sleepy sick days, six eyes-a-twinkling, five close-knit cousins! 
Four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, a treasured memory,
twelve hands Chick-fil-a-ing...

We are so thankful to have a new Chick-fil-a nearby.  It is the perfect lunchtime get-away.
We can all use a nugget now and then.  The kids always look forward to playing in the play place.  
G-Bear helps Buddy Bear get his boots off, and away they go! 

And yes, we caved this time and let J-Bear taste my IceDream cone.  

She loved it, of course. 

No wonder she won't eat baby food.  :)

...eleven creative costumes, ten cheerios munching, nine planets sparkling, 
eight arts and crafting, seven sleepy sick days, six eyes-a-twinkling, five close-knit cousins! 
Four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

We hope your Twelve Days of Christmas have been just a sweet!
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!