Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving at the Cabin is always a special family time.

This year, our anticipation of Thanksgiving had been building for weeks.  Our decorations were hung.  We had enjoyed E-Bear's Paraliturgy.  We had ingredients on hand.  We had been talking about the many things for which we are thankful.  And, perhaps most of all, we love being at the Cabin together.

This year, as usual, our Thanksgiving meal was a feast.

We enjoyed the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry thanks to MoMo.  We enjoyed stuffing thanks to Auntie Sharon.  We enjoyed traditional fruit salad thanks to Auntie Cindy.  As a loving salute to T's family, I made squash casserole and sweet potato casserole.  At the beginning of our meal, the plates were as stuffed as the turkey.

By the end of the meal, it was our tummies that were stuffed.

MoMo gave us all a puzzle as a family gift for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We made short work of the puzzle.  After all, we had a multitude of hands working quite hard next to the warmth of Papa's fire.

We also had a great time enjoying the wintery feel of the north woods.  T and I took the kids for a hike on the sled.  T pulled the sled, and I took the pictures. :)

The lake was frozen solid.  

We ventured just onto the shoreline.  
T and I are still too cautious to go out very far.  

E-Bear made a great snow angel on the ice.  

Before we left, Papa let the kids clean out the ashes from the fireplace.  This ended up being one of their favorite activities of the weekend!  Just look at those little Cinderellas!

We said good-bye to the Cabin for the winter as we left.  Buddy Bear was in tears, and I couldn't blame him.  We love Thanksgiving at the Cabin!  Maybe we need to plan a winter snowshoe weekend.......

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, November 24, 2014

Saying Good-bye to Our Honda

Today, we said good-bye to our fourteen year old Honda Accord.  The transmission finally died, unfortunately, as T was heading down the street for work.  Used transmissions are expensive, and, as time and milage would have it, our Accord was not worth very much anymore.  So, we made the decision to donate it.

I was thankful that our disappointment could result in a blessing for others. But, as we dropped off the car, I couldn't help but feel a little sad and nostalgic.  I can't say that I was particularly attached to the car itself, but I realized how much of our life had included that car.

I bought the Honda used at the end of my first year out of college, after saving my earnings for the whole year.  In it, I drove off to start a new pre-med adventure in Alabama (where T was in medical school).  Four years later, T and I returned to MN with the Honda as our only car.  We were engaged and about to start med school and residency.  We brought our first two children home in the Honda.  Once we got our beloved Sienna minivan, the Honda took T to work and, due to its terribly sporadic engine, stranded him at the hospital numerous late, cold, January nights during residency.  We drove it to North Carolina for fellowship and back to Minnesota when T got his first job.  So many of my favorite memories involved the Honda in some way.

T saw the look on my face and the wetness in my eyes as we drove home.  Like any Knight in Shining Armor, he made the ultimate proposal:

"Who would like go to the coffee shop and toast the old car with some hot chocolate?"

My hero.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, November 23, 2014

E-Bear's Thanksgiving Paraliturgy

Last week, E-Bear made us all think thankful thoughts at his Kindergarten Thanksgiving liturgy.

E-Bear began the event by welcoming everyone.  
"We want to welcome everyone here today. Thank you for coming to celebrate with us."

"Mom," he declared later, "today is my first time speaking into a microphone!"

My little man was a little nervous walking in with his class, but he quickly warmed up when the songs began.  I could hear him singing from across the room.  Every time E-Bear's teacher made a sign that she needed the students to sing louder, I could hear his voice coming through loud and clear.

Each of the students had a chance to come up to the microphone and share something for which they are thankful.  I was so impressed by the ability of the five-year-olds to speak loudly and confidently in front of a large crowd.  E-Bear said he was thankful for his brother and sisters.  I couldn't have been happier to hear such a nice sentiment.

Aftewards, MoMo and I got to enjoy snacks and juice with E-Bear before he returned to his classroom.  After watching him perform so well, I was feeling thankful all day!  Thanks, E-Bear for helping me to remember so many blessings, especially the blessing of getting to be your mom.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

A Prayer on the Feast of Christ, the King

Happy Feast of Christ the King!

On this last Sunday before Advent, may Christ be King of all of our hearts, for He is Creator and King of the Universe.

Today, we celebrated with brunch with friends.  We have so much for which to be thankful, and it was a great way to kick off Thanksgiving week.

Below is the beautiful final prayer of the Christ the King Novena.  
(You can find this prayer and all the other prayers from the Novena at . )
It is a perfect prayer for today:
Christ, our Savior and our King, renew in me allegiance to Your Kingship.
I pray for the grace to place You above the powers of this world in all things.
I pray for the grace to obey You before any civic authority.
I pray for the grace to fervently bring about Your Kingdom in my family and community.
I pray that You will reign in my mind.
I pray that You will reign in my heart.
I pray that You will reign in my will.
I pray that You will reign in my body.
I pray that You will reign throughout the world.
I pray that You will reign in every area of my life.

O Prince of Peace, may Your reign be complete in my life and in the life of the world. Christ, my King, please answer my petitions if they be in accordance with Your Holy Will…
As I reflect on Your second, glorious coming and the judgement of all mankind, I beg You to show me mercy and give me the grace to become a great saint. I pray that not only will I spend eternity with You but that You may use me – a sinner – to bring others into Your Kingdom for Your glory.  Christ the King, Your Kingdom come!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Little Steps to being a Saint

"To be holy, it is not necessary to be Bishops, priests or religious. 
We are all called to become saints!"
~Pope Francis, November 19th General Audience

Today, Pope Francis reminded Christians that we are all called to be Saints.  May we all take the little steps toward sainthood that God offers us everyday, regardless of our circumstances.

The full translation of the Holy Father's remarks are available at

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A great gift of the Second Vatican Council was that of recovering a vision of the Church founded on communion, and regaining also the principle of authority and of hierarchy in this perspective. This has helped us to understand better that all Christians, in as much as baptized, have the same dignity before the Lord and share the same vocation, which is that to holiness (cf. Constitution Lumen Gentium, 39-42). Now we ask ourselves: what does this universal vocation to be Saints consist of? And how can we achieve it?

First of all we must keep very present that holiness is not something that we procure for ourselves; that we obtain with our qualities and our capacities. Holiness is a gift, it is a gift that the Lord Jesus gives us, when He takes us to Himself, clothes us with Himself, and renders us like Himself. In the Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul affirms that “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her” (Ephesians 5:25-26). There, holiness is truly the most beautiful face of the Church: it is to rediscover oneself in communion with God, in the fullness of His life and of His love. One understands, then, that holiness is not only the prerogative of some: holiness is a gift that is offered to all; no one is excluded, it is what constitutes the distinctive character of every Christian.

All this makes us understand that, to be holy, it is not necessary to be Bishops, priests or religious … We are all called to become saints! Very often, however, we are tempted to think that holiness is reserved only to those who have the possibility to detach themselves from ordinary tasks, to dedicate themselves exclusively to prayer. But it is not so! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face... No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gives us. In fact, it is precisely by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become Saints – and each one in the conditions and in the state in which he finds himself. Are you consecrated? Be holy  by living with joy your donation and your ministry. Are you married? Be holy by loving and taking care of your husband or your wife, as Christ did with the Church. Are you an unmarried baptized person? Be holy by doing your work with honesty and competence and offering time to the service of brothers.  "But, father, I work in a factory ... I work as an accountant, always with the numbers, I cannot be a saint there..." - "Yes, you can! There, where you work you can become a saint.
God gives you the grace to become a saint. God communicates with you." Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness. Are you a parent or a grandparent? Be holy by passionately teaching your children or your grandchildren to know and to follow Jesus. And this takes a lot of patience, to be a good parent, a good grandfather, a good mother, a good grandmother, it takes a lot of patience and this patience is the holiness exercising patience.  Are you a catechist, educator or volunteer? Be a Saint by becoming a visible sign of the love of God and of His presence at our side. This is it: every state of life leads to holiness, always!  At home, on the streets, at work, at church, in the moment and with the state of life that you have, a door is opened on the road to sainthood. Do not be discouraged to travel this road. God gives you the grace to do so. And this is all that the Lord asks, is that we are in communion with Him and serve others. If lived in communion with the Lord and in the service of others.

At this point, each of us can examine our conscience, we can do it now, everyone answering for himself, inside, in silence: So far how have we responded to God's call to holiness? But do I want to improve, to be a better Christian? This is the path to holiness. When the Lord calls us to be saints, he does not call us to something hard or sad... Not at all! It is an invitation to share His joy, to live and offer every moment of our lives with joy, at the same time making it a gift of love for the people around us. If we understand this, everything changes and takes on a new meaning, a beautiful meaning, to begin with the little everyday things. An example. A lady goes to the market to shop and meets another neighbor and starts talking and then comes the gossip and this lady says, "No, no, no I will not gossip about anyone." That's one step towards holiness, this helps you to become more holy. Then, at home, your son asks you to talk to him about his fantasies: "Oh, I'm so tired, I worked so hard today..." - "But sit down and listen to your son, he needs this." And you sit, you listen with patience... This is a step towards holiness. Then at end the day, we are all tired, but prayer... We must pray! That's one way to holiness. Then Sunday comes and you go to Mass and to take Communion, at times, a good confession that cleans us up a little. This is a step towards holiness. Then, Our Lady, so good, so beautiful, I take up the Rosary and pray. This is a step towards holiness. And so many steps towards holiness, little ones... Then I go down the street, I see a poor person, someone in need, I ask him, give him something, another step towards holiness. Small things are small steps toward holiness. And every step towards holiness will make us better people, free from selfishness and being closed in on ourselves, and open us up to our brothers and sisters and their needs.

Dear friends, in the First Letter of Saint Peter, this exhortation is addressed to us: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (4:10-11). See the invitation to holiness! Let us receive it with joy, and support one another, because the path to holiness is not traveled on one’s own, each one on his own account, but it is traveled together, in the one Body that is the Church, loved and rendered holy by the Lord Jesus.

~Pope Francis, November 19th General Audience

Monday, November 10, 2014

A wedding in Carmel

The beach at Carmel was a worthy reward for our last long day of travel.

We needed to unwind and air out after our last hours in the car.

Nothing makes for smiles and relaxation like sand and sand castles. 

Little J-Bear took in the ocean sites with her Papa.

It was hard to keep her out of the water, even though it was only 68 degrees!

We had a day to relax in Carmel before the big wedding day.  My cousin's wedding, by the way, was the whole reason we had come to California in the first place.  Thanks to T's fantastic planning, by the time we reached our wedding destination, we already had a week's worth of family experiences and memories to treasure.

One of the most exciting parts of the wedding was that all eight cousins were invited to walk down the aisle as part of the bridal procession!  Months before the event, MoMo took on the task of planning, coordinating and purchasing all the wedding clothes for the wee attendants.  Her efforts were gift to our families.  Moments like the one below were her reward for the hard work.

Before the ceremony, each cousin received a gift from the bride and groom.  Buddy Bear and E-Bear loved their watches.  The girls received lovely bracelets.

The wedding was held at a lovely hilltop winery right outside of Carmel by the Sea.  The location was stunning.

Finally, it was time to get ready with your escort!

Each of the cousins were given a pendant to carry down the aisle which ready, "Here Comes the Bride!"  The commotion of the procession hopefully attracted, rather than detracted, attention to the approaching bride.  In truth, the older cousins were a huge help in leading the little ones down the aisle.

After their procession, the wee ones joined us to the side of the guest area, to watch the ceremony.

After the ceremony, of course there were more pictures!  
We certainly had plenty of material with which to work. :)

As we enjoyed the reception, I couldn't help but reflect on the spectacular week we had enjoyed together.  I was thankful to my cousins for including us all in their big day.  I was thankful to T for his dedicated planning of so many wonderful experiences.  I was thankful to MoMo and Papa, Nana, Uncle T and Aunt K for making the commitment to travel with us.  Family trips are an investment in so many ways.  This one was most certainly worth it.

Happily Ever, 
Queen B

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Moments of Affirmation

Motherhood is not easy.  Moments like these give me hope.

"Mommy, I love you.  
I am going to pray to Jesus.  
Jesus, please come into my heart and make me more like you."  
~Buddy Bear

"Mom, today at school I was supposed to think of someone who is alive that I think is like a saint.  
Do you know who I said?  I said you." 

"Mommy, I love you so so so so so so so so so much. xoxoxoxoxoxo"  
~G-Bear's note to me after practicing her spelling

"Three cheers for Jesus!  
Hip, hip, HOORAY!  Hip, hip, HOORAY!  Hip, hip, HOORAY!"  
~Buddy Bear 

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, November 7, 2014

Onto Yosemite

When we left the glory of King's Canyon, we headed for Yosemite.

Along the way, we took a detour to see the Sequoia Graveyard near the Boole Tree.  At the turn of the twentieth century, a logging company had purchased this massive grove of sequoias to log them.  At one time, the once majestic grove was completely leveled.   Only one massive tree, now called the Boole Tree, was left standing.  

The Sequoia Graveyard.  The newly growing trees are 20-100 year old sequoias planted by forest rangers to replace the lost giants.
The saddest part is that the trees were so massive that when they were felled the wood splintered so badly that the wood could only be used to make matchsticks and other paltry product.  As we walked through the sequoia remains, the history lesson was not lost on our children (or the adults for that matter).  Thank goodness so many California explorers saw the value in protecting this land as National Forest.

Unfortunately, the drive from Kings Canyon to Yosemite was long and VERY winding.  Poor E-Bear was in the back seat and got car sick seven times on the trip.  "This is my least favorite day," he announced, and we couldn't blame him.  In spite of the travails of the day, when we pulled through the tunnel leading into Yosemite, we were speechless.  

So grand and splendid were the rock formations with the valley below.  Do you see Half Dome in the distance?

Our lodging at Yosemite was Camp Curry, where we were greeted by a flurry of activity and more foreign languages than we could count.  It was truly an international destination.

We opted out of the unheated tents (maybe next time) and splurged on a cabin room with a bathroom and a loft.  It was perfect for us.  The views from our cabin door were spectacular.

We ate all our meals in the dining room. The kids loved getting to choose their own food for all the meals in the cafeteria.

Even our rambunctious crew fit right in.

We took advantage of the 2 hour Valley Floor Bus Tour for our first morning in Yosemite.  It was the perfect way to get oriented and see the major sights of the Valley Floor.

We gaped incredulously at the rock climbers tackling El Capitan. 

Although we didn't see any of the infamous Yosemite brown bears, we found adventures around every corner.

Some of our favorite moments were wading by the shallow river, throwing rocks and exploring the puddles.  Nothing simpler, nothing better.

 We loved being explorers in Yosemite. I told T that I think it is a definite repeat!  But, we'll fly into Fresno next time ;) .  We were sad to bid Curry Village farewell.

Yet, there was still more fun in store!  We were off to Carmel for our family wedding....