Wednesday, February 10, 2016

And So It Begins.....

What pops into your mind at the mention of Ash Wednesday? 

I'd like to say that the approach of Lent makes me feel like an athlete getting ready to train for a big race. You know...

...adrenaline going, focused with intent on a goal, feeling strong, accomplishing my goals.

This is how some of the people in my house are feeling today.....

Of course, this cartoon isn't 100% accurate since a Church fast is 2 small meatless snacks that don't equal a big meal and then a meatless dinner. But, as one of my kids said who shall remain nameless, "It's SUCH a long time until dinner." The Hamel "hangry" genes are strong with some of my kids!

I always feel a little apprehensive about Lent. I'm always worried about remembering NOT to eat whatever leftovers my littles leave around at snack. I worry about those involuntary sacrifices that God always seems to provide each Lent. (It's kind of like an athlete thinking they can make up their workout...but then their coach shows up and it's 10X harder!)

Then Ash Wednesday arrives and I know that Lent is truly a great opportunity to take a good look in the mirror and try and work on some of the areas in my life that could use some pruning!  

I came upon this article on Facebook that got me thinking in the days leading up to Lent. In particular #3- Don't look at your cellphone while you're conversing with someone, (which I will extend to computer use and multitasking...bc I know I'm terrible about listening(mostly) to what my kids are saying while cleaning/thinking about what I need to do next/laundry/fill in the blank.) So, really, I'm working on being more present and attentive to people when they are talking to me. 

#6-Only buy what is necessary. Not that I do a lot of splurge shopping(most of the time!), but I think that a conscious effort to only buy what we need would be a good way for me to simplify for Lent. 

#12 Pray More is always a good one for me. Jay and I are trying to focus on doing a family rosary each night with the kids. I'm also adding some daily Lent reflections that I will get in my inbox each day to my routine. I enjoyed Dynamic Catholic's Best Lent Ever last year, so I signed up again. I also was surprised to find this Ash Wednesday reflection in my inbox today from ReallifeCatholic.com, but I'm glad I did! It was a good reminder for me to offer up the sacrifices I'm making today, and through all of Lent, for the people God places on my heart. It certainly makes giving up snacks much more meaningful when a "rumbly tummy" reminds you to pray for someone you love..and feeling hungry is an opportunity to "offer it up" so that God's grace blesses those family members/friends that are on your heart!

Jay also sent me a really great short video on Lent by Fr. Mike Schmitz. He is one of Jay's favorite speakers right now to listen to when he's looking for material for his talks to the senior youth group he's in charge of at our parish. Fr. Mike is a young, very engaging speaker. His short talk on The Significance of Ash Wednesday was really good! It's only 5 minutes...so if you can, head on over and check it out!

Here's to all of us having a meaningful, God guided Lent!

Luke is VERY excited that it's Ash Wednesday!
 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things

We were spoiled by a mostly mild winter up until Friday! Now...not so much. Winter didn't want to pass by without leaving it's mark!

I can honestly say that winter is not my favorite season! The cold and the lack of daylight make me want to hibernate!

I've tried to make myself feel better by thinking ahead to summer months and trying to research a possible mini vacation to Story Land with our younger set. I've also been spending some time starting to outline our next Disney vacation at the end of the year that my parents invited us on! My parents are Disney addicts, especially my mom, and they love to share their Disney love with their children and grandchildren! (We are so blessed!)

Since I love to plan things and Disney is a place where you need to have pretty specific plans to make the most out of the vacation...meals planned 180 days in advance, fast passes, etc...it's a great outlet for me! Planning and anticipating the vacation are almost as fun for me as the vacation itself!

Last night, I was huddled under a blanket googling "best Disney restaurants" to try and come up with a couple new places to try on our upcoming visit. Trying to make a trip special for everyone and get in their favorites can be challenging...especially with an age range on the trip from 5-69! That's one of the BEST things about Disney....there's something for everything! Lots of family time....and lots of family memories! My two favorite things!

Speaking of favorite things....Late last night, I found out that Jamberry is coming out with a Disney Collection!! I was SO excited! I couldn't help thinking that it was a funny coincidence that the Disney Collection by Jamberry got announced as I was putting together our next Disney trip!

If your family are Disney fans...or you know people that are(!)....please pass on your favorite Disney restaurants! If you want to check out Jamberry's new Disney Collection, you can find it here on my website: https://hamel.jamberry.com/us/en/shop/shop/for/nail-wraps?collection=collection%3A%2F%2F1128#.VroqIfkrLct

Here are a couple of the shots from our last Disney vaca!
Sampling from around World Showcase is so much fun! 

Via Napoli is one of our favorites!


Some of my favorites from the new Disney Collection by Jamberry!




Friday, January 22, 2016

Reflections of a Mom



As I watch EWTN's coverage of the March For Life, I can't help but think of the ways that I have been a part of or witnessed Pro Life moments in my life.  For many people, the term "Pro-Life" brings up the topic of abortion. But, in reality, being Pro-Life is so much more than that.

When I think of Pro-Life.....
1. Lend a Hand...Or a Meal
We all need encouragement in life...especially as pregnant moms and moms of littles. A smile, a kind word, an offer to help a struggling mom stuck in a tough moment with multiple littles...all these things help to create a pro-life culture. Celebrating the announcement of a new baby...especially when the baby is a surprise(God's good at sending those) and/or baby #4,5,6 or #whatever in a large family when "God bless you" from people that hear your news sounds more like "You people are crazy"! Right, Colleen?!? (p.s. Colleen, your cheesecake to celebrate will be coming soon!)

I'm blessed to be part of an apostolate through my church that provides meals for those that are recovering from surgery/illness or just had a baby. I love helping other moms! It's tough work in the trenches of motherhood....and reaching out to a tired, overwhelmed mama can do wonders to give someone a boost of hope to get through a bumpy moment! When I was pregnant with Kate and very close to delivering, a woman from our church blessed us with a surprise meal...with enough food to last for three meals! It was such a loving gesture! When I was pregnant with Luke, one of Jay's friends overheard Jay say that he had finally finished scraping together enough money to pay the hospital copay that would be due when Luke was born. That friend wrote Jay a check for the amount of the copay...and we were able to use the money that Jay saved to make up for his per diem check during the week he took off to take care of all of us after Luke was born. Such a blessing.

Even though we're not able to give financial gifts like that...at least not at this point in our lives...giving a meal or offering to babysit so a new mom can get a nap,(or a shower), is right up my alley!  
Kate holding my friend Laura's new baby girl, Grace! Kate LOVES babies! :)

2. Respect of Life Through Natural Death
We have beautiful examples that our families have given us of caring for aging parents as they make their journey from this life to their Eternal Home.

~I think of my aunts and my father who cared for my grandmother in every single way as she was dying from cancer a little over two years ago. She died at home surrounded by the love and care of her family.
~I think of my father-in-law and his 10 brothers and sisters who cared for Jay's grandmother as she was dying from cancer a little over 5 years ago. The siblings that were close by all spent time physically caring for her, while the siblings farther away offered their prayers and their gratitude for the love that was being shown to their mother.
~I think of my mother and father-in-law who cared for my mil's mom at home as she was going through the end of her life. Although dementia had changed her personality, they showed her the love and care she needed 24/7 until she passed.
~I think of my parents and grandfather who were constantly by my grandmother's side in the nursing home through the end of her illness 12 years ago.
~I see the love and care our families give to our two surviving grandfathers....helping them to be as independent as they can be and to help them enjoy their 90's as much as possible!

Care is at home of elderly.

3. "Adoption is the visible Gospel." John Piper
I have been blessed to be a small part of our very good friends' walk through adoption. God's plan for them to become parents was through adoption. Their first daughter, Colette, is also our God-daughter. I remember the day that Bud and Kim received Colette's picture for the first time! They were SO excited to share their first glimpse of the baby girl that God had chosen for them! They brought home Colette at 10 months and about 2 1/2 years later, they brought back their daughter, Catherine. It was such a blessing to see Kim go through a "spiritual pregnancy" as they waited for the time when they were allowed to travel to China and get their baby.

In the words of Valerie Harper, "However motherhood comes to you, it is a miracle."

My beautiful Goddaughter, Colette, and her equally beautiful sister, Catherine!

4. What You Did For The Least Of These...
On August 21, 2011, my niece, Mya, made a much too early arrival into the world. My sister-in-law, Jackie, only made it to 23 weeks and 5 days in her pregnancy when efforts to stop labor by her doctors failed. Mya was only 1 lb 5 oz.  With low odds and lots of talk of all the possible problems that could happen, a 4 month stay in the NICU began. Miraculously, Mya had no major complications and came home the day before Christmas Eve....the best Christmas gifts her parents have ever received! Today, Mya is a completely normally developing 4 year old...and Kate's best friend! :)
Mya when she was born(top) and Mya at her 1st birthday
Mya and Kate


5. Welcome to Holland
Welcome to Holland , written by Emily Kingsley, is a touching story about being a parent of a special needs child. (It only takes a minute to read so click on over if you haven't read it before.)

 The joys and struggles of raising a special needs child is something that I've written about frequently in the past. Peter has challenged us in SO many ways...but he has also helped our whole family to grow in ways that we probably never would have without him in our lives. Raising a special needs child is probably the second most difficult "detour" in life that we have had to face. (Actually, it's probably the third most difficult detour if you count becoming parents the first time...but I will touch on that subject in a minute!) I say "detour", because no one plans on having a special needs child. No one during pregnancy prays that their child will have physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities. 

BUT.."My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."Isaiah 55:8-9

Even though we don't understand the "why's" behind having a child with special needs, I know the reasons are something I will only understand when I'm standing before God and see the whole picture...not just what I think I understand from my limited view! Until then, I will try to enjoy all the beautiful things about Holland!
Our goofy guy who LOVES water parks!

6. "And A Little Child Shall Lead Them"Isaiah 11:6
We became parents when we were still children ourselves. It certainly was not the easiest road! Being a parent defined us before we even knew who we were. It's kind of like buying shoes that are several sizes too big and having to wear them until your grow into them! Lots of awkward stumbling at the beginning! Eventually we figured it out to some degree...as much as any of us parents can actually figure anything out! Even though parenthood arrived earlier that we thought it would....God certainly sent lots of blessings to us as a family!

Specifically the eight shown here........



Plus one........................ 

7. "But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, 
where neither moth nor rust consumes
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." 

It's amazing that scenes from my life over a 16 day period, that happened almost 18 years ago(!), can still be so vivid in my mind! An induced delivery at 35 weeks for failure to thrive, a baby that doesn't cry after delivery, an ambulance ride shortly after delivery to a hospital with a level 3 NICU, baby on a vent, meeting with doctors to hear our daughter had some kind of genetic disorder, genetic testing, learning her genetic disorder was "incompatible with life", a crash course on morality issues like DNR, a rushed Baptism, the grace granted to us of a few extra days after storming Heaven with prayers, lots of love and support from friends and family, extreme sleep deprivation, dressing her for the first time, bringing her home, seeing her sleep in her crib for the first and last time, holding her in my arms as she took her last breath.......

Therese's life fits in a paragraph but the hole she left in our hearts will last a life time. The short 16 days she lived were not without purpose or meaning.  She touched the lives of people near and far. She touched the lives of people she met and people that were praying for our family and for a miracle from far away.

Babies with genetic disorders have a right to life, too, even if that life doesn't look like the one we would have chosen for them....

Therese lived the life that God gave her...and we were blessed to be able to care for her for that short amount of time. We are blessed to have memories. With at least one of our children, we successfully completed our most important job as a parent....we loved our daughter into Heaven!


Friday, January 8, 2016

Holiday Happenings!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas/New Year's/school vacation week! I'm having a hard time getting back into our "normal" routine! I enjoyed the more laid back tone of the kids' vacation time very much!

I wanted to share some of our Holiday Happenings! It was an exciting end of Advent/Christmas/New Year/Vacation Week! 
1. Visit With Santa
Jay's mom invited Kate and Luke to a Christmas Party put on by a local historical society. They do a great job! There are crafts, games(with prizes), and story and song time with Santa and Mrs Claus! Kate and Luke loved it! :)



Kate with Grandma

Luke(aka "shifty eyes") with Grandma

I LOVE how excited Kate is!



#2 Christmas Concert
This was Luke's first year in the school's Christmas Concert! Jay and I are convinced that he is part muppet! He is always making the goofiest faces and noises! Lucky for us, (insert sarcasm here), Luke was up front and VERY visible the entire time the group was singing! There were multiple people around us laughing at that "cute little guy in the front"...who was making goofy faces, only singing the first line, and picking his nose occasionally! Oy! My sil said he was the "funniest kid at the concert"..... Too bad it wasn't a comedy show!


 Thankfully, Ellie was a joy to watch as part of the Chorus! She did a great job in her duet!

#3: Kate Turned Four!!!

Kate loves watching Playdo Princess videos on Youtube, so that was one of her gifts!

She also loves dinosaurs! I was super psyched when Jon found this dino set at Toy's R Us.
It has a baby triceratops that is pink! Kate's favorite!

 #4: Family Christmas Party(a few days early)
Most of my dad's family lives out of town, so we celebrate Christmas the weekend before the 25th. It's always great to spend time with everyone! 



#5: Happy Birthday, Kate (part deux)
We had a family party for Kate the day after her birthday. Jay's mom always makes a cake decorated in whatever the birthday girl/boy wants. Kate wanted a Rudolph Kate. 








#6-7: Warm Weather + Crazy Kids= Necessary Outside Play!
It was so warm on the day of Kate's party, that it was a great opportunity for Kate, Luke, and their cousins, Brayden and Mya, to get rid of a little energy and their sugar rush outside! Since Jay wants to be considered the favorite uncle...he had lots of fun playing with them! Since I love to take action shots....I took way too many pictures! I will try to refrain from posting too manyhere...but I know I will so I'm apologizing in advance!!!

Such a cutie pie!

action shot!

goofy uncle shot #1

goofy uncle shot #2

more action

I saw this shot unfolding and I couldn't get my camera fast enough! Jay's in mid air!
 (And Brayden's face is pure glee!)
 
lol

Clearly having fun!

Love the sun in this shot!

2 on 1


Having lots of fun!

More crazy uncle time



action shot!
The girls practicing how to pump while they swing!

Kate wanted in on the fun with Daddy!

Daddy's Little Girl!

Happy Weekend!