Saturday, August 30, 2008

AJ, this plate's for you

Have you ever seen the circus act with the spinning plates? (Maybe you've seen it on The Tonight Show, or an old episode of Ed Sullivan.) The plate master carefully sets each platter on a long stick and starts it going, then races around to make sure nothing gets forgotten and falls to the ground. It's a breathtaking feat of stamina, balance, and finesse, tempered with a bit of good old-fashioned luck.

Being the mother of a large family is a bit like being that plate-spinning maniac. We moms of large broods are always racing around trying to keep everyone's plates spinning, and, more often that not, we're left sweeping up bits of china, without even a studio audience to cheer us on.

I fear I've let an important plate going flying these days. My eldest son AJ is not feelin' the love, so to speak. I looked back over my blog and realize he has a point -- he hasn't been getting much attention these days.

Oh, of course he gets my attention when he runs up a huge cell phone bill or forgets to wash the dishes. But he does plenty to deserve positive attention as well. With all the focus on the girls' weddings this summer, and with Joey going to high school, and with the little boys going from cute to needy on an hourly basis, AJ hasn't been in the spotlight much.

The truth is AJ is a great young man. He does so much for me around the house, and has for years. I came across an essay I wrote about him when he was nine, and I got a bit teary-eyed reading it. In it I share AJ's propensity for building things that begin to develop when he was very young. He is still building things for me, and is our family's resident handyman. This summer, for instance, he painted three rooms an hung more shelves than you could shake a stick at. (He was working off that cell phone bill, but never mind that.)

What I appreciate even more about my son is that he is interested in being good. I don't mean that he is obsessed with behaving himself, but that he earnestly seeks goodness and character. He told me the other day that he is considering several career paths, but that his main concern is providing for the family he will have someday. His real goal is to be a good father. How cool is that?

This is a boy who cares for his littlest brothers, (when Luke was born we called AJ "the baby nurse") goes out of his way to include Joey in his activities, goes to confession on his own every month, and is not embarrassed to be an altar server or go shopping with his mom. Yes, he's also a boy who runs up cell phone bills and forgets to wash the dishes. But I think the balance is pretty good.

It's been said that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child, and I feel bummed along with my son these days. I can't blame him if he's felt I've forgotten him lately. Since he's not too cool to read his mom's blog, I hope he now knows that's not the case.
AJ, I know you've always got my back. You know you're my right hand. Sorry I haven't posted cool pictures of you on the internet....what was I thinking?

I love you, son. Thank you for all you do, and for all you are working to become.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the best-laid plans

I spent a good deal of time over the weekend complaining to my husband about my anxiety.

I always feel like whatever I'm doing at any given time is not what I should be doing. I have a very hard time living in the moment.

The Big Man, being the Big Man, set forth to solve my dilemna, suggesting that I simply come up with A Plan. This Plan would allow me the freedom to enjoy my life, with all of its exciting challenges and all my varied duties. I would have A Plan for each day that would provide me with the ease and comfort of a handy Schedule.

I don't do well with schedules. When given one I tend to rebel. Like maps, they confuse me and make me slightly nauseous.

But the Big Man is a smart, savvy executive who does all sorts of important things each day. So I decided to give The Plan a whirl.

I didn't actually write down a schedule, but I had a very good idea of how my week would go. Each morning I planned to rise at 6:30, send Joey off to school and then go out for my walk. When I returned the other boys would still be sleeping, so I'd have some time to shower and have my breakfast, check my email and have some prayer time, and do some housework.

Since "formal" homeschooling will begin next week, I planned to set aside the hours from 10 am to 1pm to be with the boys. From 1pm to 3:30 pm would be "me" time. Fun! These blissful hours would be set aside each day for my writing and editing work, for blogging, researching and goofing off on the internet. I figured one or two (or three or four, if I could!) days a week I would sneak out to a coffee shop or the library to work alone. Ahhh....this Plan is awesome.

I'd have to be home to take AJ to work at 3:45, then pick up Joey from soccer practice at 4:30. Then it would be time to make dinner, followed by some relaxing time with the Big Man before getting the kids to bed and finishing up any housework that slipped through the cracks.

Isn't that an awesome Plan?

Monday morning I got up early, as planned, and headed out for my walk.

Then, as even the most dedicated do, I fell. I mean really, I fell, as in fell down. I hit a patch of uneven pavement, landed on my face, broke my glasses (something I've never done in 35 years of spectacle wearing) and really scraped up my hands. I fell, and the Plan started to fall apart.

Fortunately my fall occurred near my daughter's apartment. I woke up my son-in-law and he brought me home, and the Big Man insisted I go to urgent care. You know where this is leading. My morning turned into hours in a doctor's office (don't worry, I'm fine. Just scraped up, sore, and pissed.)

After that the Plan seemed to fade away, like a distant memory from some long-forgotten dream. I couldn't do the housework I had planned, as my hands were bandaged and sore. My house is a mess, with all the redecorating we're doing, and it just depressed me being here. I had dinner guests coming -- our pastor and his out-of-town guest -- and I'd forgotten all about that. Joey needed help with his homework, so time relaxing in the evening wasn't an option. Aaron had a meeting anyway -- forgot about that too!

So much for The Plan.

You know that expression, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?" I usually like cliches and over-used quotes, but I don't like this one. It seems I'm God's favorite source of entertainment these days.

I like the illusion of control. I like pretending that I am the master of my fate. But the truth is something else entirely.

I'm a wife, a mom, a writer, an editor, a teacher, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I've been blessed with many roles, and many people depend on me. The thing is it's hard to plan when someone will need me, and it's hard to plan how available I'll be.

Because I just might fall.

In fact, I most certainly will.

But hopefully like that just man in scripture, I'll get back up again, even after seven times hitting the pavement. I may have A Plan, but God's got The Plan, and once again I've got to trust Him.

So that's The Plan.

Prayers appreciated.

Friday, August 22, 2008

the woman who went up a hill and came down a mountain

I decided to explore the resort yesterday. I ended up on a two-hour hike that felt like it was uphill, both ways. But it was awesome!

My trek turned out to include lots my favorite things:
time to myself
things to write about on my blog!

It also included some of my not-so-favorite things: small insects buzzing around my face, and worse yet, maps.

When the nice lady at the entrance to the Art Legacy Walk handed me a map of the trail, I should have pointed out her error. I do not do maps. They are documents in foreign tongues that I do not speak. I didn't want to appear rude, so I took the map, and asked if they would come out to find me if I didn't return by dusk. She assured me that I would not get lost, and I set off, like Gretel, but with no Hansel and not even a cookie to crumble along the path.

It was pretty cool.

I felt wild and adventurous. I had been on a ski lift this week, for Pete's sake, so I knew I could do this.

Within minutes I had hiked up a VERY steep incline, knees clicking loudly all the while. It was harder than I expected, but worth it. The wooded mountainside was decorated every few yards with interesting works of art emphasizing the culture and history of Northern Michigan. It was a beautiful day, and although I didn't even have a bottle of water, let alone trail mix, I did have my cell phone and that helpful map.

I got lost. The sign at the entrance to the trail said it would take about 40 minutes to complete. Two hours later I immerged, exhausted but victorious.

It seems to be a week for adventure.

Here are some photos from my trip up the mountain.
my life story
oh deer! look closely
a welcome sight
handicapped accessible
roadblock fail
oh deer, part II
the old ball and chain
only you can prevent forest fires
I'd turn back if I were you
the Big Man and me (in tree form)
cool artwork
tragic flight
proof that I did it
the view from the top
gettin' twiggy with it
big, big amphibian
steeper than they look
I'm lichen it
leaf me alone

Do you have a mountain to climb today?

Get to it.

P.S. I went on the ski lift again last night. Twice. I was still scared, but the ride down on the Alpine Slide was pretty fun. And the Big Man now owes me jewelry.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

be not afraid

Last night, with a sunset in front of me and a mountain to my back, I set off on an adventure that the Big Man assured me would be exhilarating.

We're guests at a lovely resort in Northern Michigan, courtesy of the Big Man's employer. As we schmoozed with financial types on the patio, enjoying the free drinks at a reception, my dear husband decided it was time to escape the titillating conversation by making me an offer I REALLY wanted to refuse.

He offered to join me on a ride up and down the ski slopes.

Sounds like fun, you say? Who wouldn't enjoy a jaunt up and down such a scenic hill on such a pleasant summer evening? Who wouldn't want to see the expansive view encompassing three counties? Who wouldn't want to risk her very life, riding up a steep mountain, feet dangling yards above the earth, with only a lightweight bar in her lap and NO SEAT BELT?

Did I mention that I'm just a little scared of heights?

OK, that's an understatement. I'm TERRIFIED of heights. My husband's offer did not make me feel exhilarated. It made my palms sweat. It made me slightly naseous.

The Big Man assured me I would feel better if I worked on conquering my fear. He told me he would keep his arm around me the whole time, and he promised me he would not tease me or threaten to remove the bar.

Trusting my husband, I swallowed the wine remaining in my glass and said, "Yes, dear. I would love to accompany you on a chair lift ride. Sounds like fun!"

That's not at all what I said, not even close, but I did it. I rode up and down the mountain, and I lived to tell about it.

But I'm not exhilarated, and I'm a little sad.

Why am I so afraid? My rational brain kept telling me all the truths about the situation. I knew that the cable was sturdy. I knew that hundreds of people, including small children, rode this thing without fear all the time. I knew that I would not fall. But still I was afraid.

Could it be that I'm not really afraid of heights, but of something else? I don't have the time, money or inclination to spend years on the therapist's couch with this one, and I imagine that might be what it would take to help me unearth and conquer the fear. So we talked a bit about it, and I tried to let it go. So I'm afraid of heights, so what. Everybody's afraid of something, right?

This morning I woke up thinking about the experience and had something of an epiphany. I realized that it was not just being in a high place that made me feel uneasy. I was filled with anxiety for a much more basic reason: I had no control of the situation.

I'm a bit of a "type A" gal at heart. I am a hardworking perfectionist. I like things done well. (That is, done by me, of course.) I am also a "rule follower," obedient and loyal. When I can't follow the rules, I tend to walk away. Ever wonder why I home school my children? That's one of the reasons. I just didn't want to "jump through the hoops" so I brought the young 'uns home where I could do things my way.

Like everyone else on the planet, the truth is there are many things over which I have no control, but I live with the comfortable illusion that I am the master of my world. But when I am faced with situations that blantantly challenge this illusion -- like my little trip up the mountain -- I'm filled with anxiety.

If leaves me wondering what I might've done if it had been me instead of Peter called out for that little walk on the water. Talk about having no control! Old Pete, a regular type A guy himself, convinced himself for a moment that he really trusted Jesus, and that of course he could walk on water. Everything was fine until the wind kicked up. Then Peter forgot his intention to trust his friend, and down he went.

The sad truth is that often I have much less faith than Peter did. I don't even start to trust Jesus as I should. I'm not talking about my adventure on the slopes, although it wouldn't have hurt to trust that Jesus probably wasn't going to allow me to fall to my death. I'm referring to those opportunities I get every day to trust God with my life.

I need to work on letting go of this illusion of control. Feeling so anxious last night made me realize something about myself. I'll never feel safe and at peace in this world if I continue to feed the illusion of control. I must accept the fact that much of life is simply out of my hands.

But it's in God's hands, and that's where my fears, and everything else, belong. I'm still scared of heights. But next time I'm in a high place (tonight, in fact, when I take another trip up that mountain) I'll remind myself that no, I'm not in control. But Someone infinitely smarter, greater, stronger and more powerful is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

big yellow school bus takin' my boy away

Sing it with me, Moms.

Listen, early this mornin', I heard the screen door swing,
And a big yellow school bus took my boy away
Now don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got till it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

My little boy is going to school.

He's got new shoes, a snappy backpack, and a stash of number two pencils. His uniform is crisp, his hair freshly cut. He's off in the real world now, and I'm not sure I'm ready to let him go.

He is only thirteen, after all.

Joey, along with his three brothers, has been homeschooled from day one. His two sisters had a brief experience with "real" school when they were little, one attending kindergarten and first grade, the other coming back home after just a year in kindergarten. I stuck it out and homeschooled them all the way through high school, and I'm still at it with AJ, who's now a senior, and the urchins, who are six and nine.

But my Joey's off to high school, in a real building a few miles away, a building that is not our house.


He looked great this morning, blonde and tan, his shoulders broad, tying his tie, lacing up those new shoes. I know he was nervous and excited, and so was I.

But of course I'm a little sad, too.

For the most part, I've really enjoyed homeschooling him. It has been challenging giving him the structure that he thrives on, and that's one of the reasons we decided to send him to a tradtional school. That and his passion for sports in general, soccer in particular, gave us the push we needed to send him out the door and into a whole new world.

I realize most moms go through this when their boys are five or six. But my heart is still a little heavy today. I'll miss being his teacher, but one thing's for sure: I'm still his mom, and his primary educator.

I'll never stop trying to teach Joey what really matters in life: love the Lord, serve His people, use the gifts and talents He has blessed you with. I've learned a lot from Joey. I hope he can say the same about me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WKRP in Cincinnati

Les Nessman fans unite!

That was a fun show. It really has nothing to do with this post, other than the fact that I'll be doing a radio interview with a host of a show in Cincinnati tomorrow morning.

If you live in that area you can tune into Sacred Heart Radio (740 AM) to hear me chat with Brian Patrick on the Son Rise morning show. I'll be on at about 6:50 in the morn.

Actually anybody who's up and at 'em at that early hour can listen live at Sacred Heart Radio's site. Whether you listen or not, please send up a prayer for me as I share about Broken and Blessed and Celeste's message. (Remember? Every one of us is on a "mission from God.")

bring your own cotton candy

Everything else is supplied at the Catholic Carnival!

Good stuff, as always, this time thanks to frequent host Ebeth at A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars.

Enjoy, and if you haven't submitted an article yet, why not? There's a link on my sidebar. Follow it and join the fun!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

adopt an atheist today!

Sometimes, when you're goofing off on the internet, you end up some place scary.

Recently I googled "images" to find a photo for one of my projects, and I came upon, quite by accident, the blog of an atheist fellow intent on "converting" us all to his very sad point of view.

I won't send you there by link, my friends. It is not for the faint of heart, and I just can't direct you there without a good friend close by to hold your hand.

Anyway, I ended up on this site, with its black background and vulgar language, its vague profiles and disturbing imagery, and read a charming post about a parody of the song "Jesus Loves the Little Children." This one was called "Jesus Loves the Little Zygotes," and its primary purpose was to instruct believers that Jesus didn't really love children, He just loved to give them all sorts of sufferings and hardships to muddle through. It was simultaneously intriguing and nauseating.

I knew I should just ignore it and go back to reading the wholesome blogs of my Christian sisters, but I couldn't help myself. I also knew that I should definitely NOT post a comment, but I am not known for my prudence.

I didn't give it much thought, just a lot of emotion, and left his site in a huff. I did not intend to return, ever. I was so offended and sad, I swore I wouldn't come back.

Then one day I googled something else and found myself back at his site, where he had posted a response to my comment. Now I'd done it.

I took a deep breath before reading his reply to me. I knew it would offend and annoy me, and I told myself to punch myself in the gut before I read on. I can be a sensitive one, and I knew I didn't want to hear what he had to say.

I was not disappointed.

I read his reply and pondered what to do with it. I REALLY wanted to give him some more. I wanted to address his comments point by point, highlighting his ignorance.
But I knew that this was a tough soul, one used to debating with amateurs like me. Words from me would only fuel his passion for atheism, not convert him.

But I just couldn't let it go, so I decided to share it here. The following are my comments and what he had to say.

ME: OK, so here's a comment from someone who happened upon this blog for some unknown reason and will certainly never return again.

But I digress.

I had a daughter born with a heart defect. She died when she was four months old.

Did Jesus "give" her that defect so that you could mock her suffering, and His?

I'd explain it to you, but it is so far beyond your understanding that all I can do is pity you. Learn from your inevitable sufferings. Find joy in your existence. You have been given the great gift of life and appear to be completely clueless.

Thank God for those suffering children and the lessons they teach us. Learn up, my friend.

Time is short for each of us. If I am wrong, and there is no God, OK. But what if you're wrong. Hmmm...what if...

Then my dear atheist friend responded. Read on to hear what he had to say. The comments that I wanted to make to him are in caps.


You will demonize me for mocking a belief in an all-loving, all-powerful 'god' who either cannot or will not assist the smallest most helpless of his purported 'special creations', but in reality I am not the one who is deserving of pity, you are the one upon which much pity should be heaped. (WHEN DID I DEMONIZE YOU? WHEN I DISAGREED? AND DEMONIZE IS AN INTERESTING WORD CHOICE. DEMONS, ANGELS, HMMM. NO SUCH THING, RIGHT?)

You claim these are so-called "tests" (I NEVER USED THE WORD TEST!!! I DID NOT CLAIM THAT GOD CREATED MY DAUGHTER WITH A DEFECT TO TEST ME!!!) and they occur to teach us something but what kind deity shreds a mother's heart by giving her a beautiful daughter only to steal the child away a few short months later? (NO ONE STOLE MY DAUGHTER. HOW DARE YOU CALL HER BEAUTIFUL! SHE WAS DEFECTIVE, REMEMBER?) I am sorry but your claim of 'lessons from the lord' embedded in these tragedy is a psychological spin you put on the event to make it all seem to have a higher purpose.(I READILY ADMIT IN MY BOOK THAT IF I AM WRONG, I AM USING THE THOUGHT OF AN AFTERLIFE AND A FURTHER PURPOSE FOR MY DAUGHTER'S SUFFERINGS TO COMFORT ME. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?)

The truth is, what happened with your dear child is unfortunate and sad,(WHY WAS SHE DEAR? IF THERE IS NO GOD, NO PURPOSE IN LIFE, WHAT MADE HER SPECIAL?) she was lucky to have a mom who dearly loved her for the child she was (WHAT IS LOVE?), and she was not merely a pawn in some overseers elaborate game to 'test' a family.

It is much more comforting to think that all that was at play was unfortunate circumstances and not a maniacal 'guy in the clouds' deliberately torturing his 'beloved' creations. (WHY DO YOU THINK HER DEATH TORTURED ME? CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE THAT I AM AT PEACE?)

And your last part, it's called Pascal's Wager (, look into it.(OH, YOU'RE KIDDING. I'M A STUPID, UNEDUCATED CHRISTIAN WHO NEVER HEARD OF PASCAL. GOSH. THANKS FOR ENLIGHTENING ME.) "What if you're wrong" doesn't hold much water because much more can be said of what might happen if you are wrong than "so what". (HUH?)We both could be wrong and the Muslims correct, that would damn both of us(NEWSFLASH...THE MUSLIMS AND I BELIEVE IN THE SAME GOD), or the Hindus correct and where would that leave us?(MAYBE I'D BE A QUEEN NEXT TIME AROUND...OR A WORM, WHO CARES? I WOULDN'T EVEN KNOW...) Ultimately though, what if you're wrong? You have spent a life worshiping and bowing to the unseen, making excuses for the deity with your loved ones as examples, spent so much precious time on your knees idle when you could have been out doing some real good for humanity.(YOU PRESUMPTUOUS, STUPID SON OF A ....YEP, ME AND MOTHER THERESA, ON OUR KNEES, IGNORING THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD. ARE YOU CRAZY?!?)

Thanks for visiting.

OK, I'm sorry. I just had to vent, to share what he can't -- what he refuses to -- hear.

But I just can't forget him.

And I have a devious plan.

While he's posting on his blog, encouraging folks to worship the god of science, laughting at Christians, dressing in black, I'll be doing something that would drive him nuts.

I'll be praying for him.

I've been doing it regularly, and enjoying it immensely. I offered my Holy Communion for him today, and I just couldn't stop smiling. He's My Atheist now, and I'm hangin' on tight.

Lucky devil.

My goal is to meet him someday in Heaven. I'll be the one with the pink carnation, rosary in hand, silly grin on my face. He'll probably still be dressed in black, shaking his head, amazed that I didn't forget him.

It'll be a sweet reunion, one worth waiting for, much more satisfying than what I might be faced with on his nasty old blog.

My Atheist, this one's for you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

can you revamp my website?

Or do you know someone who can?

I'd like to do a make-over of my Broken and Blessed website. My daughter did a great job of getting things started, but she is so busy being a newlywed that I just can't get her to help me update it.

I'm up for renewal at my current host, but I'm open to suggestions. I'd like a site that is fresh and easy to navigate -- and one that I can frequently update on my own without tons of tech support.

Please comment here or send me a note at brokenandblessed at gmail dot com.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

more wedding photos!

I can't resist! Here are more great photos of my daughter's wedding, courtesy of my Canadian friend Kathy Ward. (I had to post them, especially since it was brought to my attention that no groomsmen -- or the groom, for that matter -- were present in the previous post!)

shrinking pains

I knew it would be an adjustment, with Lauren moving out and all, but I had no idea I'd feel something close to grief.

For months I've been saying I couldn't wait for this day. I was sick and tired of her leaving wet towels laying on the floor, borrowing my clothes without asking, and doing NO chores to help the family. I was totally ready for that bedroom to be cleared out so that the boys could split up.

Now the day is here, and I miss my daughter, the big loser.

When I get up during the night I keep checking to see if she's home. She'd been working midnights recently, so some nights her room would be empty, and that was strange enough. Now there are two teenaged boys bunking where she use to sleep. And she's off in Mexico on her honeymoon.

The family living in our home is down to "just" the six of us: my four boys, the Big Man, and me. It's shrinking. Soon they'll all be gone, I know. There will be no more legos for me to suck up in the vacuum, no more violent video games on the TV. My grocery bill will be less than my mortgage payment. I will no longer have conversations about $400 cell phone bills, late night excursions or undone chores. My days of serving as chauffeur and referee will be over.

Right now, even while I'm missing my daughter, all that sounds great on paper. I get sick of all that stuff. Who wouldn't? It's a pain.

But so is the pain of letting go. Of watching my babies grow up.

So today I have no answers, no advice. I'm hardly an empty-nester -- there are still four fat, needy chicks waiting for me to fetch them a worm. I'm just doing that thing we mothers do -- wishing it all away, wishing it wouldn't end so soon.

I wish I was better at living in the moment, at drinking in the joy and ignoring the inconveniences. Because that's really all they are, inconveniences. That's a small price to pay for the great gift I've been given: a nest full of precious ones ready to soar.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

wedding mania!

Well, we made it!

Our beautiful daughter Lauren married her love yesterday!

I'm so exhausted, but I just couldn't go without posting a few informal photos! The weather was magnificent, the ceremony glorious, the bride radiant.

Praise God!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

slippin' through my fingers

Time, that is.

In particular, time with my "little" girls.

Like Meryl Streep's character in Mamma Mia, today I'm singin' about my baby girl going off and getting married and leaving me. For the second time this summer, I'm letting go.

Last night my girls and I went to see the delicious ABBA-filled confection known as Mamma Mia, and while it is totally contrived (what musical is not?) and filled with moral mishmash and a nonsense ending, we ate it right up. (It did feature Pierce Brosnan, so I just could not resist.)

Yes, it was yummy, as were the large popcorn with extra butter, the box of sno-caps and the bag of reese's pieces. Not to mention the large iced tea, with no sugar, of course.

The three of us, alone in the theater except for one man (we figured he came to pick up women and were sorry to disappoint him), munched, laughed and sang our way through the 10:40 show, plus previews. It was great. I looked over at my girls, now beautiful women, and just wanted to capture the moment forever, like a photograph that could never fade.

Meryl's character sang about the same idea, and I got a little teary-eyed during the scene, especially when she was drying her daughter's beautiful hair. It reminded me of caring for my girls when they were little, and in one moment I realized I would never care for them quite that way again. I know they will always need me, but as I send them off to be wives, I understand my role will indeed be in transition.

I wiped away the tears and looked at Lauren. She was laughing at the screen. Meryl as mom was holding her daughter on her lap as she painted her girl's toenails. Lauren, who is of normal size, not waif-like like this actress, would make quite a picture sitting on my lap! Then in her typical fashion, Lauren leaned over to me and whispered something sweet and thoughtful in my ear:

"This is a boring song, Mom."

She was right. We had much more fun during Dancing Queen, which I intend to dedicate to my girls at the reception tomorrow.

My girls and I have had so much fun growing up together. I know things are changing, but I pray we will always be able to share, grow and laugh together.

I'm one lucky mamma.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

summer school

I know that summer is winding to a close.

I know that because all my annual flowering plants, the ones that I buy every year despite my "black thumb," are dried up and ready to be tossed. I know that because when I venture out for an evening walk, the sunset sends me home a little earlier each night. I know it's true because the stores have been selling back to school supplies for over a month now. Yep, it's almost THAT time again. Time to go back to school.

We're a homeschooling family, and have been for, let's see, sixteen years. Some of my friends insist on "formal" schooling throughout the summer months, but not me. If my kids weren't begging for lazy days around the pool with absolutely no textbooks allowed, I certainly would be. I love the summer days, the days without lesson plans, spelling tests, and that ever-present question: Did you do your math? Uggh.

We take the summer off.

But just because we don't crack open textbooks doesn't mean we stop learning. In fact, I sometimes think we learn more when we're just not trying to.

So here's a little something called "What We Learned On Our Summer Vacation," by Me.

It is really fun to go swimming at night, even with the mosquitoes.

You can fit approximately 1,798,322 legos on the dining room table if there are no school books hogging the space.

Italians like Jordon almonds, and throwing them at the newlyweds is a fertility ritual. (See this post if you are scratching your head.)

Reading books is fun, especially when you don't have to write a book report.

It takes 18 hours to drive to New Hampshire, not the 14 that is says on Mapquest.

You can survive eating cereal, sandwiches, or ice cream for dinner.

You don't have to travel far to see exotic, interesting creatures. Within blocks of our home we saw hummingbirds, weird moths, and squirrels in at least FOUR different styles.

Little boys can go for days without a traditional shower or bath.

It's important to take the time to make friends with a variety of folks, including your parents and grandparents, single people, and members of the clergy. People exactly like you are boring.

Regarding that last of my favorite evenings of the summer was spent at a friend's house. This friend is a single woman, a musician who doesn't have any children. She does, however, love the little rascals, and spending an evening at her house is thrilling to them. She has traveled all over the world and has all sorts of interesting artifacts and -- even better -- cool musical instruments. While visiting we spontaneously delved into some off-the-top-of-our-heads storytelling, with my six-year-old acting out the tale while the nine-year-old banged a GONG, shook a rainstick and rapped on several unique drums. Wow! It was amazing! What we would have missed if I had passed on the last minute invitation to bring the family over for dinner. What we would have missed if I had thought we should only hang out with families just like our own. What we would have missed...if we hadn't taken time for summer.

"Real" school will be starting in a few weeks. I don't intend to dread it this year, as I sometimes do. I plan to hold tight to some of the spontaneity of this season. I will remember that the best learning happens when we are relaxed, open, and well-fed on joy and ice cream (even for dinner.)

Now if I could just get those legos back in the box!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

carnival time at a great new site

All moms are special, but some are extraordinary.

One mom, the amazing Heidi Hess Saxton, is certainly above average. She is a very busy Catholic mom, writer, blogger, editor of Canticle Magazine and author of Behold Your Mother: A Bouquet of Love to Mary from Her Children.. (Bezalel, 2008.)

Her latest project is the new blog the Extraordinary Mom's Network.

Heidi defines "extraordinary moms" this way:

There are three main types of EMs: Those who are extraordinary in their calling — especially adoptive and foster mothers as well as step-mothers and others raising children to whom they did not give birth; those who are extraordinary in life’s challenges — those facing infertility and other reproductive issues, domestic violence survivors, and mothers of large families; and those who are mothers of extraordinary children — those with physical or emotional problems, or with chronic or terminal illnesses.

As a mom of seven children, one of them a child with serious challenges who left this world at an early age, I fit two of those categories. But the truth is ALL moms will find something of interest here.

Heidi kicks things off with a carnival this week. Stop by for a visit!