Monday, March 27, 2017

Life these days...

Well, according to the calendar (and actually outside lately as well), Spring has sprung. You wouldn't know it from our pathetic failures of seed starts in the basement (no light...I'm not that surprised) but it is definitely feeling more happy around here. Happy and antsy. We are in the depths of Spring fever at the moment. That's OK with me. We'll finish when we finish and have plenty of time left over. (I am so grateful for the gift of time spent in with parenting, you realize that some...or many things... just don't matter all that much). We're also back-loading the phys ed into the school schedule, like we do in the late summer. It's been working wonderfully.
Homeschool rollerskating! What a fantastic idea! (I love to skate)

These two are progressing wonderfully through lessons. I sense I will only have one little guy to watch this year :0)
Most important right now...we are gearing up for a major Sacrament in #3's life. Being the middle child, he is extra-special. He has a Godmother in St. Louis and a Godfather in Slovakia. Both will be present for his First Holy Communion. That's special beyond words. It's something we're anxiously awaiting next month. First things first, though.

This weekend we headed north to one of my favorite places in the world, Stockbridge, to visit the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Every time we go (this was the third) we find new and meaningful things (have you done Stations according to St. Faustina? Amazing). The purpose of our trip was to visit, pray, reflect, and get our family ready for the coming Sacrament. It was well worth the drive.

First, though, you know we have to use those passports (and who knew that dh hadn't been to the Falls? Well, he can't say that anymore!)

It's hard to miss God's majesty at a place like this

They could not tear themselves away.
After the short detour to Canada and back, we headed East and landed in our new nest. To say I'm thrilled with the new lodging is an understatement. Close to the cost of a hotel; ten minutes from the Shrine; walking distance to a cute little New England main street; perfect.

Plenty of games

and spaces

to keep everyone unplugged

and entertained (yes, we watched food/hgtv at's vacation after all)
I wish I had pictures to show you from the Shrine. It seems more and more these days that my camera is away and I'm enjoying a front-row seat to the lens to keep me from the wonderful life happenings. In all truth, I'm not sure when/how I would have taken a picture. It was 3+ hours of Adoration, Confession, Mass, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Benediction, and Stations. We walked out spiritually full and physically tired. What blessings we received from our day "on the hill". How grateful I am that we are able to travel as a family and share these experiences. I have a feeling we will all remember, even without the pictures.

We headed back to our nest and stopped short down the road to visit a wonderful Italian place (think our house made into a restaurant) complete with home-brewed root beer, creme, and orange soda.

A perfect way to finish our celebration - reflecting on God's gifts and grace - as we prepare to take another step in faith. We are blessed!

Oh, I forgot (because, again, no pictures!) that I even had my own personal "retreat" morning - breakfast with a sweet friend who drove an hour to meet me (personal time away from little people - I totally get that!). How wonderful to spend time catching up and discussing all the joys and challenges of Catholic motherhood. When I'm down on the Internet, I always think of this good woman and know that it's truly not all bad :0)
I did take a picture! "That is all" - how true :0)
Happy Second Half of Lent! Don't stop now!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Are you sensing a theme?

I do not fear anything in the world, but fear only lest I make Jesus sad (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 610)

What is most important?  Jesus, You created me in love. You redeemed me with Your Blood. Then why am I so full of fear? My life is ruled by fear of failure, fear of what others think, fear of losing the love of those around me, fear of being forgotten, or fear of being lonely. In the past, I’ve resisted giving You these fears. The most important thing in my life is loving You, so I freely give You these fears. Today I will look for ways to put You first. If I start to worry again, I will stop, give it to You, and then continue my day. May my constant acts of trust and surrender bring You joy.

Meditation by Fr. Leszek Czeluśniak, MIC

I have to say, daily visits with the Divine Mercy has been a balm this Lent. We are so blessed to be with the MICs in a very short while. We will be praying for you!

We are blessed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The greater the darkness

Most Holy Trinity, I trust in Your infinite mercy. God is my Father and so I, His child, have every claim to His divine Heart; and the greater the darkness, the more complete our trust should be (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 357)

Grateful for this reminder...especially on the dark days.

We are blessed.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


his sister should open a "spelling help" kiosk next door ;0)

Or maybe he meant physiatrist? Oh well, hard to tell with this one. All the funds went into the rice bowl so, whatever the issue, I'm glad he's "healing" for a good cause.

We are blessed :0)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Most exciting Saturday

A few weeks ago, #1 participated in, and won, the local homeschool spelling bee. It was exciting for her to win (having placed 2nd and 3rd in previous geography bees) and she got straight to work for the regional contest which was held this past Saturday.

I'm the worst mom ever because sometimes (almost always) I only read email 1/4 to 1/2 of the way through...especially if it involves things that aren't of immediate importance. Like the 1,500 words they should have been practicing since December, on the off chance they would make it to this point. Oh well, my bad.

Lucky for me, God has gifted us with a young lady whose mind is pretty solid with written things (don't give her verbal direction..write it down. seriously). She worked hard over the past few weeks drilling with her next younger sib and plowing through, I would say, 1,200 words at least. We all agreed she was prepared enough to give it a good shot for her first major bee.

I let DH and #2 go to cheer in the preliminaries. People think I'm being funny but, truly, I cannot stand that stress. Watching her and hearing the words's torture. I figured out it's because I'm such a horrific speller. I listen to them spell and think, "there's no way that's correct" when it actually is. So, I waited it out with the little people Saturday morning and when I got the call that she was in the finals, Grammy came and off I went.

I nearly passed out in the first two rounds but then I would strategically head to the bathroom or elsewhere and listen for the bell when she was up (the bell means the word was misspelled). I never heard the bell. I heard her spell guitar, then matinee, then this
I was absolutely sure that was bell (and, yes, that is Rick Sebak announcing)

Then came "backstein" and "embarcadero" and "ipecac". She made it through them all...about 17 kids of the original 30 remained. They were all hanging in strong so the leaders of the bee did the unthinkable...they went to the dictionary. The first was the "easy" round, she spelled "pedicure" but a few more kids were knocked out, I think because they received words that were unfamiliar (i.e. not on the memorization list).

Dear #2...oh that boy. He sat like an angel all morning but, it seemed, he needed to have just a bit more attention on himself. So, he tapped me
"Hey mom, my molar just fell out!". Seriously, kid? Do you see your sister up there standing with the other 15 kids, trying to spell these ridiculous words? He cracks me up. Truly.

Back at it with more words but not, sadly, "discalced" which knocked out the girl immediately after her. Afterward...
Me: You would have gotten that one, huh?
Her: Um, often helps to have faith (in this case, Catholic). 
"scandium" and "columbarium" and "grundyism" I'm not joking and I have no idea, even now, what most of these things are...except backstein. It's a cheese. I'm going to see if they have it at PennMac :0)

She ended up in the final 2 and lost on "ronin" which, after all those crazy ones, seems a bit anticlimactic. Still, it happened the way it needed to, the way God knew was right. Again, not reading the complete rules, you have to be in DC for an entire week to participate in the finals. Um, no, that's not happening right now. So, she finishes #2 in the state regional and that's just perfect.
Reflecting on the day, I have to say I have been finding lots of blessings that I couldn't unwrap during the competition...

- It's Women's History Month and we've just passed International Women's Day. Looking at the winner and runner up, both young women, I am so grateful to have this to show her later when things get sticky. It's not about wearing your heart (or other internal organ) on your sleeve (or on your head), it's about doing the very best you can with the gifts God has given you, specifically, to use. Women are amazing people and each one is given gifts by the Creator that are theirs. Living up to His ideal for us is the greatest way we can give thanks for this life.

- Siblings are the best gift you can give. My mom came over with 15 minutes notice to watch the little people and while I sat, neurotic, watching my sweet girl compete (and her brother rip his teeth out), Grammy and the little three were hard at work.
That is a genuine smile from someone who is usually weighed down by the world. There is nothing quite like coming home to make you feel truly appreciated.

- Competition, within reason. I was a competitive swimmer when I was young and did all sorts of sports in high school. I remember feeling terrible when I missed the last dig in a match or when I fell short of my previous record. I will do anything in my power to guard my kids from those feelings because, in my humble opinion, they don't mean a whole lot going forward.
When I talked to her the morning of the bee, I asked if she had said her prayers. "Yes," she said,"I prayed to Our Lady and all the major players involved." I knew what she meant but we went through the list anyway...St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Bosco, St. Katherine Drexel, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, all the doctors of the Church. "And," she said, "St. Jerome...because if you're rewriting the Bible, you have to know how to spell." Good point.

Yes, we drilled on the words for a few weeks but we also had school every day and she also read for fun, as she usually does, with a dictionary nearby to look up unknown words. In the end, she is gifted with remembering what she reads and I think she can appreciate that specific gift helped her to do as well as she did.

Ultimately, it's just another reminder that I'm overwhelmingly grateful that our Loving Creator has led us down the path to homeschooling.  There are so many gifts it brings, not the least of which is being the primary go-to for our children. I am amazed (in good and bad ways) daily at what these people can achieve (in good and bad ways). Just yesterday, I watched this little guy compose a love song to God.
He's not the speller his sister was at 4 ;0) But he's certainly cute!
My house is cluttered, we don't have the best of everything, and we can't do all the things we could if we lived on two-incomes. I don't worry about any of that because it's clear to me why God has placed me be with these little ones and guide them with my dh, to the best of my flawed ability, along His path for them. What an awesome responsibility. What a blessing and, at times, cross. How grateful I am.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lent continued...

I've decided to try to give up my will for Lent (in deference to His will, since that's always the better route). I have to say there have been moments of great grace and inspiration so far. Unfortunately, there are many times that I just can't say to my ridiculous schedule...all good things, promise, but still too much. So, here is our first week of pre- and Lenten activities in a quick burst, because I have to take kids to choir and deliver a meal, and drop off snacks for the homeless. (you can do too many good things, you know...I'm working on it).

Mardi Gras
It's always a fun day around here...burying the "A.....", making Lenten crafts (I like this year - short and memorable), eating and having fun. This year we were blessed by my amazing friend (who does too many good things) who packed up a load of fun Mardi Gras things and sent it off just in time to insure a good evening. So grateful that God has given me such an incredible friend.
pixie sticks...sugar in pure form ;0)

Singing one last time
 Part of the Halleluia chorus ;0)

Goodbye until Easter!  

We didn't do a lot of props this year but I really liked this activity - it even sorts them into categories.


A few days before Ash Wednesday I was still pondering what to do for these 40 days when, in a moment of solitude and prayer, Our Lady gave me a person for whom I should dedicate an increased amount of prayer time. It has been working well so far so I figured I would try to listen for those stirrings more during this time (along with prayer, fasting and almsgiving of course). 

Over the weekend, dh headed South to help with the cleanup of his mom's apartment and I felt very called to leave here on a specific pilgrimage. It would end up encompassing five different shrines but, ultimately, it was to visit Great Uncle Frank, my husband's 91-year-old uncle, and the last surviving sibling. He is in a home in New Jersey and I know he misses his baby sister a great deal. So, off we went to spread some Lenten love :0)

First stop...the shrine of St. John Neumann. What a beautiful space!

The crypt church. You can't see the altar well (I was trying to take a pic during a nuns' retreat...I know!) but this is what's there...

Yep, it's him! Incorrupt. So cool! (although Mr. G leaned over and said, "that kind of freaks me out.") lol.
One of many St. Michael statues...all the devils look different.

Stunning church

Next stop, the shrine of St. Rita of Casica. There were lots of Saint statues there, including our patron!

Bone relic and the pillow on which she rested her hands...see the picture above. Another Incorrupt Saint, btw.

Beautiful statue of St. Rita, holding the thorn - she bore the stigmata on her head.

Not St. Rita (her body is in Cascia), but the habit she wore

Because Saints are fun but so is lunch! A cheesesteak from the #1 (or #2, depending on who you ask) place in South Philly. Sadly it was freezing so we had to eat it in the car. Still tasted yummy!
Finally! We made it to Uncle Frank! The boys entertained with balloon animals

and puppet shows

We sat and talked and had fun. We went back the next day for more fun and distributed our not-Valentines-Day-but-still-love-and-prayer-cards. They didn't say that...they said, "We're praying for you" and "God loves you" and all sorts of nice things. The best part was spending time with the people. They love telling the kids all their tales.

How blessed we are to have this link to the past. How good it is when we can spend time.

 We headed out for home but there is always time for a few more shrines!
First up, St. Katharine Drexel. Another extremely wealthy person who dedicated her life to God and used her money to help the poor.

She lived so simply...amazing to think she was a child of privilege.

Her body rests in the lower part of the chapel. Sadly, the shrine will close at the end of the year (the last few Sisters are dying) and she will move to the Cathedral.

Amazing to me. We are so wasteful.

The family altar. G said, "Mama, can we have one like this?" I'm guessing the Drexel home was slightly bigger than ours.

The banner that hung in the Vatican during her canonization.

Simple, beautiful church.
Saint JP II welcomes us to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa!

Beautiful, beautiful tribute to Our Blessed Mother

The Stations were mosaic

Also mosaic - beautiful

The crests contained boxes of soil from all the major Marian shrines
Lourdes and Fatima

A rosary from a tree hanging in the grotto

Sweet Bernadette
Rosary garden/walk

The Nativity
probably a mile if you prayed all the decades!

St. Anne's chapel

The candle room...dh and I were here a year or so before #1 was born :0)

Last but not least...the Shrine of St. Padre Pio! (and our third Incorruptible of the trip!)

different colors but always ugly...go St. Michael!

One of the real confessional that St. Pio used in San Giovanni

Our Lady is prominent in his life...hmmm, I sense a theme :0)

A Nativity presepe...the entire village surrounding the manger. Like "where's Waldo, but with Jesus!"

Ahem...didn't we just see these two? God is good :0)
Whew, I guess we saw a lot in a few days. Don't worry, we also had dessert and watched Food Network every night before bed. Making these trips part of our lives is making them our "normal". We are blessed.