Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Saying Good-Bye to GG

Last week, our family was tremendously sad to say goodbye to our beloved GG.  

GG passed away quickly and quietly at home, a few days after the kids and I enjoyed our last lunch with her celebrating my birthday.  GG left us so quickly that many of us were unable to get to her in time to give a final hug and good-bye.  But, as we joined all together as an extended family at her house that evening, the fruits of her long and beautiful life were evident in the strong family bonds and loving faces of the family she raised.

Did you know my grandmother?  She is someone to whom I have always been proud to introduce others.  As a young child, I knew her as a great gift giver, both in terms of material gifts but also in giving gifts of family time, individualized attention, and affirmation.  “Do you think my singing is really beautiful, grandma?” I asked her one day, after demonstrating, with characteristic self-confidence, what I considered to be my vocal prowess.  “Oh, definitely,” was Grandma’s unwavering and affirming reply, “you should be a performer.”  As I grew older, I was just as likely to ask my grandmother to take me on a desert mountain hike as I was to ask her to host a major life event for me.  She hosted countless sleepovers, my high school graduation party, several of my a cappella friends while we were on tour with our singing group in Minnesota, and even hosted T and me for our honeymoon (although she wasn’t home at the time).  I came to know and admire Grandma as a woman who was full of energy and adventure, continually engaging ideas of the times, and willing to meet others on their own terms.  These traits are easily recognized in many of my grandmother’s children and grandchildren.  It is no mystery who modeled them so admiringly for us in the first place. 

One wintry spring day in Princeton, NJ, a friend, who would one day become my husband, picked me up at the door of my dormitory to chauffeur me to the airport for spring break.  I caught him eying my outfit: a white fitted shirt, a long black skirt, and tall, crimson red, snake skin boots.  “You’re going to visit your grandmother?” he asked, eyebrows raised, sure that he had misunderstood me earlier.  “You don’t know my grandmother,” I replied.  When I got off the plane in Arizona, Grandma Bucky greeted me with her signature, enveloping hug. “Nice boots,” she said. 

Grandma showed all of us the beauty of a life well-lived.  Of all my wonderful memories with her, and I hold many, I am likely to treasure most my memories of the past three years of weekly lunches that my kids and I have shared with her.  My grandma had slowed down, there is no doubt.  She was unmistakably elderly, quite frail and often quiet.  Yet, in those weekly encounters, my grandmother revealed to me not only how to grow old gracefully but also the beauty and treasure of doing so.  My grandmother was so gentle and humble in her demeanor, never complaining, ever thinking of others rather than of herself, peaceful and serene in her countenance and ever welcoming and affirming toward others.  I found myself admiring her more profoundly than I ever had.  Even now, as I reflect on the attributes she displayed over the last three years, I find myself wanting to embody many of these qualities now, not just when I am older. 

The half-mast flag at lunch

GG’s funeral day was a beautiful family occasion that highlighted how much she meant to all of us collectively and individually.  We will all miss her.  I hope that little J-Bear will still, for a long time, call out “GG!” when we pass GG’s condo building.  I’ll be sad when she no longer does, as her memories of GG will surely fade.  I hope that my three older kids remember their time with GG vividly and fondly throughout their lives, as I hope I will.  The sacrifices of many late, post-lunch drives home with over-tired kids, and any other small sacrifice along the way, were worth the blessings of being with and learning from GG over chicken and French fries. 

It’s okay to be sad,” I told my kids on our way to GG’s funeral day.

It’s also okay to be happy,” E-Bear replied. 

And I thought,

‘You learned a lot from you GG, E-Bear.  
You just made her so proud.’

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring Smiles

This was the scene at a well-deserved cookie break after a wonderful spring piano recital.  Hooray for G-Bear and E-Bear for a courageous and lovely performance, and hooray to Buddy Bear and J-Bear for being such a well-behaved, supportive audience.  Thanks to MoMo and Papa for joining us! 

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, April 24, 2015


Today, I baked my first loaf of sourdough bread from a starter.  I have loved using my bread machine to make bread with commercial yeast since before T and I were married.  But, this was my first successful attempt at bread without commercial yeast.  I converted a Herman sourdough starter (that I received from a friend) to just flour and water over the course of several weeks, and then I used it as my starter for the bread.  Then, with the help of a Splendid Table tutorial, something magical happened, and a yummy loaf actually emerged out of our oven. Now I know why the Lord’s Prayer includes a plea for “our daily bread.”  I was amazed and incredibly satisfied to bake a loaf for myself for the first time.  I certainly won’t ever claim artisan status, but when it comes to satisfying the demands of soup night, this should do the trick.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Ninja Turtle Fourth Birthday

This year, Buddy Bear chose a Ninja Turtle theme for his birthday party celebration.  

Buddy Bear usually starts thinking about his birthday in the fall, around the time that E-Bear starts talking about his.  Poor Buddy then has nearly six months to pine for his birthday before it arrives, including the celebrations of two other siblings birthdays before his.  

So, as one might imagine, when we announced that his birthday was finally going to arrive, he was thrilled.  He had chosen the theme months before, and the big day was heavily anticipated. 

Buddy Bear choose hamburgers and French fries for his birthday meal, and turtle masks were a huge hit, both as decorations and as party accessories.

For Buddy Bear’s birthday game, we played “Knock the cup tower” with our bows and arrows, which was a big deal because the arrows aren’t normally allowed in the living room.  

Everyone got a turn to shoot the arrows, and it was so fun each time the tower came tumbling down.

Notice Buddy Bear providing any necessary back-up for his older brother ;)

Buddy Bear was so excited to open his presents that he could hardly make it through the game (we skipped the pinning game for this very reason).  

He received beautiful, thoughtfully themed pictures from his brother and sister, over which he appropriately ‘oohed.’  
Ninja Turtle pictures and paper airplanes from big brother and sister.

He was also excited to receive two great Lego sets from Nana, hockey sticks & balls, fireman rain boots and a turtle helmet from T and me, and a scooter and Ninja Turtle cartoons from MoMo and Papa.  Our little guy was over the moon.  He could hardly wait to get out his Legos and build with E-Bear, who in turn couldn’t wait to help him.

I got to make Buddy Bear’s cake, and he was so excited about it that my heart melted.  I know I won’t always be able to please :)

 We had one incredibly happy four year old blowing out his candles that night.  

I am so grateful for the enthusiastic, inviting little man that he is.  “Thank you MOMMY!”  he said to me, more than once.  And once again, this mom’s heart melted.  You’re always welcome, Buddy Bear, and Happy Birthday to you!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy Fourth Birthday, Buddy Bear!

Dearest Buddy Bear,

Is it true?!  Could you really be four years old?!  I know you have been looking forward to this day for sometime, but I can hardly believe it has arrived.  You are always delighted to be one of the gang, so it is perfect that your birthday falls in the midst of our April birthday mayhem.  I treasure the excitement with which you approach life and its many joys, great and small.  Your smile lights up our lives and any room.  You are so quick to make friends, so fun to be around, and your heart is full of love, all of which makes for many memories that I treasure from the past year.

May.....We are out in the evenings together, visiting the quad and riding bikes.  You can pedal the trike by yourself now and you are slowly but surely getting the hang of your new strider.  You are sweet to let E-Bear use it too!  You look great in your pink lady bug helmet that used to belong to G-Bear, mostly because you wear it so well with such confidence.  You are confident in so many wonderful ways, Buddy.  E-Bear even says of you once, "Buddy Bear is really brave.  He makes friends with everyone."  So true.  You are such a good sport to your little sister, even when she does things like wake you up from a nap or tackle you out of love.

June.....We don't see blue paci any more at night time, although it still makes an occasional appearance for nap time.  You love riding on the Mundo in your peanut shell.  When the bike falls over once with you in the seat, you are a trooper, never afraid to get back on again.  While on our Chicago adventure, you absolutely LOVE Lego Land and are over the moon to get your first Lego set for Pentecost.  You get to join your own swimming class for the first time this year at swimming lessons, and while you are hesitant with the cold water you love to sing Gertie the Guppy.  On colder days, you aren't so sure that swimming is a good idea :)  I love getting to lead your "class" for Catholic Kids Camp, something I did just so that you would get to join in this year as a pre, preschooler.  What a joy it was to watch you learn the songs and join in so intently and enthusiastically.

July....You love to play catch, baseball, soccer, really any outdoor sport.  You love to look for the Handmaids on the quad and have made great friends with all of them.  You are full of imagination, and E-Bear is excited to join in, whether reading books together, dreaming of Legos, shooting arrows or dressing up.  You are always ready to share a spoonful of your ice cream with J-Bear.  I love your smoothie mustaches at breakfast, you squeals of laughter with your cousins at the cabin, the way you are always inviting all the "guys, guys" to join in with your ideas.

August....At Hilton Head, you love building castles in the sand with J-Bear, boogie boarding in the ocean, swimming in the pool in your floatie, Jedi jousting with Dad, making friends on the see-saw at the park (do you have Wegos?), performing "Mr. Aligator" with your siblings before dinner, and riding horses with your cousins. You discover the bliss of root beer and find a slice of heaven with a golf ball and a root beer, lacking only a "golf stick".  Back at home, we enjoy lazy August days in the sandbox, dressing up together, eating picnics on the porch and popsicles on the steps.  I love watching you enjoy a good popsicle!

September....You love waving to passers-by while riding on the Mundo to the State Fair! I loved watching you walk hand-in-hand into the Fair with your siblings.  You were an eager farm hand, root beer drinker, pronto pup eater, bumper boat rider and sand digger at the Fair.  I loved getting to ride the rides with you at the KidWay.  We said goodbye to summer at the Cabin with GG, where you slept in a tent with MoMo and Papa and learned to fish off the end of the dock with Cousin B and Uncle S.  As school starts again, learning time is always fun with you: real tools hammering into styrofoam, mornings at the Children's museum, painting with shaving cream, Johnny Appleseed hats, and singing songs on our ABC mat with J-Bear are some of my favorite memories from the month.  You and I both miss G-Bear and E-Bear during the day, and I am glad that J-Bear and I still have you around for preschool at home.

October....Thanks for being my buddy at morning Mass each morning.  I can depend on you to sit in your seat, most of the time ;) You have many friends at Mass, both young and old, and you love to say hello to everyone afterwards.  You love watching the angel movie with Dad on the Feast of the Guardian Angels.  You are also enjoying one morning each week with MoMo and one with a babysitter while I am away teaching.  You always manage to convince everyone to play soccer, basketball or swords downstairs :)  While on our California adventure, you are unstoppable in DisneyLand, loving the Cars ride, all the characters and driving a "real" auto with Dad.  You never complain on our long car rides through the parks and you are so proud in your real suit at the wedding in Carmel.  For Halloween, you are one speedy Ninja Turtle, running from house to house getting candy with your siblings.

November...I loved doing candy math with you and E-Bear after Halloween, watching you recognize your numbers and count out your candy pieces. Thanks for praying for me and helping our family by leading our prayers.  You are always so eager to do that and your heart is very tender in prayer.  At the cabin for Thanksgiving, you loved hiking in the woods, doing puzzles with the family at the table, watching fireworks, snuggling into the back kids room and shoveling out the cinders for Papa.  You were so sad to say good-bye to the cabin for the season.  Meanwhile, I haven't seen blue paci in a while.  I think he may be gone for good, which means that naps are few and far between these days too.

December....You are always ready to watch a show, and you loved the St. Nicholas movie this year at the beginning of Advent.  You are a good brother to E-Bear on his birthday, a great gingerbread house and cookie decorator too.  It is hard not to lick fingers when you are making cookies, but you really tried your best.  You love listening the the Christmas Cat Chat CD during Advent.  You are so excited to open play mobile, duplos and a remote car for Christmas and have a wonderful time playing and sledding with your cousins.  You love waking up early with your siblings during break so that you can all join in assembling toys or playing together.  I have taken the railing off of your bed since you can get in and out on your own, and you love it.

January....It is hard to say goodbye to your siblings again in the mornings after break.  We take to skating, and you are standing and moving on your own now, which is awesome and has required quite a bit of persistence.  Still, the snow hill next to the rink is hard to pass up.  We have a great time reuniting with our cousins and Nana in North Carolina.  You love playing cards with Nana, watching shows with her in her room in the mornings, playing with your cousin's Legos in his room for hours and eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Back at home, we find time for our ABC mat, coloring with chalk in the kitchen, listening to Cat Chat and digging in the snow outside.

February.... You are swimming like a fish at our new swim lessons.  You are more eager than ever to follow instructions, you love the warm water, and you are improving by leaps and bounds.  By the end of the month, you are jumping in by yourself and almost swimming alone!  The new level of activity can be exhausting, and now that you rarely nap, you have been known to fall asleep at the dinner table.  You were so bummed not to have a classroom valentine party like your siblings that I gladly hosted a preschool valentine party at our house, with great ovation.  You were so excited to decorate your own bag, hand out valentines to your friends, make treats together and tell G-Bear and E-Bear all about it.  Your enthusiasm is ever contagious, even on Ash Wednesday, when you couldn't wait to get your ashes and see everyone else's too.

March.... Thank you for helping me with all the shopping for the Family Service Morning.  You and J-Bear are the best of friends during the day.  E-Bear can't wait to get home from school to eat PB&J with you (you favorite), play Legos or play mobile and dream up another adventure.  You two are better friends than ever, and you share a love of everything knights, Star Wars, and Legos.  By the end of our trip to Lutsen, you are skiing in a harness all by yourself with Dad!  Nana comes to visit, and you love playing Sequence, cards and watching any show I'll permit.  You do such a great job adding beans to our basket during Lent and you can't wait for Easter.

April....You love our events of Holy Week, especially getting to wash feet on Holy Thursday.  At the Easter Vigil you are a total trooper, decked out in your suit and asleep before the Gospel is read.  Easter morning is such a thrill with all the candy and eggs you find.  You are always one to thank me after you have enjoyed something, for that I am so grateful.  You love waking up early to play cards with your siblings, and you are so excited about everything hockey and Ninja turtles leading up to your birthday.  Of course, you love to involve E-Bear in both.

Buddy Bear, your excitement and energy are contagious to all those around you.  J-Bear loves to wrestle with you, E-Bear can't wait to play with you after school.  G-Bear loves your willingness to play along.  You can make friends with just about anyone with your bright smile and welcoming tone.  You love to be silly, to make people laugh with a goofy face, phrase or joke.  You love reading Bible stories with me and Dad, your heart is tender in prayer and you ask great questions, which shows us that you understand much and are hungry for more.  Daddy and I are so proud of you and I can't wait for all that this year has in store for you.

Happy birthday, dear Buddy Bear, happy birthday to you!

Happily Ever,
Queen B