Thursday, July 31, 2014

Inspiration from the Beach

We're at the Beach.

We've been here before, and it is a blessing to be back again.

I found this inspiration while perusing the boardwalk shop windows.

It's a lovely memento to take home from the beach:

"The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change;
the realist adjusts the sails."
~ William Arthur Ward

Our view of the Harbor Town lighthouse in Hilton Head, SC

More to come from Hilton Head...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Boston Cousins Come to Visit

Each summer, we wait with bated breath for the arrival of our Boston Cousins.
Thanks, Aunt K and Uncle T, for making the trip once again this year!

We made chalk cities together in Papa's driveway, 
and shared Mundo rides around the block.

We splurged on sprinkle doughnuts and bacon,
carmel rolls and brats.

We joined generations old and young.

 With cousins around there are smiles for everyone.

Best of all, our days together solidified friendships that we hope will last a lifetime.  G-Bear and Cousin H were inseparable.  Cousin T fit right in with E-Bear and Buddy Bear.  Cousins S&S can wrestle and toddle right alongside J-Bear.

What a crew!
Sweet cousins S&S, H and T, we love you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cheerful Everyday

Sometimes I need the reminder.

I struggle to be cheerful amidst the obligations of everyday life.  The gospels and New Testament letters are filled with exhortations to believers to be of good cheer.   But, let’s face it, not every moment of the day is rosy and enjoyable, no matter our vocation.  A priest recently reminded me that a cheerful witness is easier when we unite ourselves with Jesus in difficult moments.  We can pray that “the joy of the Lord” might be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).  After all, Christ was not smiling and skipping on his way to the cross, but bore his sufferings and cross “for the joy set before him” (Heb 12:2). When the pot is boiling over on the stove, when the mess must be cleaned up, when baby is screaming and the bike ride is getting tough, I can offer a great witness to my kids if I offer a cheerful word or action rather than a frustrated frown.  Lord, may your joy be our strength!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July Sweets

What could be sweeter?

A precious little girl in her seersucker dress,
hugging her daddy, giving a kiss.
Points to the airplanes in the sky overhead,
 loves to read Brown Bear (and Pat the Bunny) right before bed.

What could be sweeter?

Two brothers discovering a new book in bed,
dreams of new legos filling their heads,
shooting bow & arrow in the yard is so fun,
playing soccer and tee ball 'till the day is done.

What could be sweeter?

 A sister who reads and one who enjoys;
these sisters prove company is better than toys.
One loves to tell stories, one loves to squirm,
They both remind me I have much to learn.

What could be sweeter?

Smoothies for breakfast with fresh summer berries,
these days are full but we still love to tarry.
Slow down, summer!  Don't go so fast!
These moments are fleeting. Make memories that last.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

He's Done! The Boards of July

Forget the Ides of March.

We've been wary of this month for several years now.

This week, T took his final Board exam for his specialty.
Oral exams are intimidating.  This one is down right spine tingling.

But today, thanks be to God, he is finished.

We won't know the results of the exam for several months.  Even so, there is plenty to reflect on this experience that we have weathered together.  I asked myself so many times over the past few months, 'how can I show love to T as this exam looms?'   T is so cool calm and collected, and leading up to the exam, he rarely complained.  Even so, the preparation for this one was burdensome and exhausting for both of us.  I am always tempted to misread exhaustion as disinterest.  My best plan and surest defense was to keep 1 Corinthians 13 at the ready.  I had to constantly remember that love is patient and kind.  My love must bear all things, believe all things and hope all things.   I could bless his longest preparation days by going the extra mile, lavishing patience and understanding and creating a welcoming, relaxing haven for his arrival home.  If my day had been crazy, it was just all the more opportunity to accomplish these things out of love.  

Exams are hard; so is love.
In the life that T and I have chosen, we must pass the exams. 
But we must excel at love above everything else.

Congratulations, T.  I love you and I am so proud of you.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, GG!

Our GG turned 93 this month!

We treasure our Sunday brunches, our Chick-fil-a lunches,
and our evening summer park dates, GG.

Happy, happy birthday from your loving Bears.

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.