Thursday, February 14, 2019

All About Love

Valentine's Day has certainly changed a lot over the years.

I remember being in high school, and on the days leading up to Valentine's Day, some group(that I don't remember) always did a fundraiser where you could buy carnations for $1 at lunch and the next day it would be delivered to the homeroom of the person you chose with your handwritten note. I received, and sent, a few flowers in my time there. Sometimes it was to show a friend you cared about them. Sometimes you received a flower from a "secret admirer" which always sent your mind and heart racing! (Of course, usually the secret admirer ended up not being the person you had hoped was doing the admiring!)

When relationships are new, there are lots of feelings and lots of love to go around. Those were days of bubble baths before dates with special scented soaps, lots of time spent in the mirror fixing my hair, and the dreaded struggle of choosing the perfect outfit!

Those days were all about love...

Then you get married and add a baby. Life changes quite a bit! No longer me or in we as a couple...focused, now life is all about this amazing little person who has taken over your world.

And then you add another...

And then another...

And in our case, another and another and another...well, you get the picture!

The love is still's just surrounded by so many other parts of everyday life and isn't quite as prominent as it was in the "bubble bath date" years.

Jay and I aren't a super romantic couple. We tend to be the predictable dinner and flowers/candy type of people in regards to Valentine's Day. In more recent years, my gift to Jay is making one of his favorite meals because restaurants are so crowded on Valentine's Day and the surrounding weekend. Spending time together with the children our love helped to create is totally ok with me.

Funny story....

Just this morning, Jay mentioned that he was going to text Jon and Andrew to make sure that they remembered to wish each of their fiancees "Happy Valentines Day" even if they weren't able to see them today. That made me laugh so much inside...he's trying to save them from trouble!

What trouble might you ask?? Well, on our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, Michael was one week old. It was a crazy time. We were both in college, Jay full time and me part time, very young, and first time parents adjusting to the needs of a new baby.

All day on that Valentine's Day, which was on a Sunday, I waited for Jay to surprise me with something. All morning I waited...all afternoon I waited...

Here is how Jay related the story to Jon and Andrew this morning via text message..
"We were sitting on the couch watching TV at night it was around 10 o'clock, and she looked at me and said, "So you really forgot?"...I thought, "Oh crap, what did I forget?" She said, "You really forgot Valentine's Day? I was waiting all this time thinking you were going to surprise me with something."

And some continued relationship advice from Jay to the boys...
"She didn't let me forget that for years! LOL And even now, sometimes I'll make a comment about not wanting to forget something and she'll say, "Oh like that time you forgot Valentine's Day?". LOL Even if they say it doesn't matter to them and act like it doesn't matter to them, to some degree it really does."

So, there you go. Life lessons from an experienced husband!

Jay loves me in lots of ways every single day. As he came in the house tonight with a truffle in one hand and a dozen roses in the other, (which he scratched the price tag off before he handed to me lol..see romance isn't dead;), I couldn't love him more.

P.S. And, just in case you're wondering, the way to my man's heart is definitely through his stomach! So homemade chicken pie and apple crisp is on the menu for tonight.

P.P.S. One of favorite things that Jay does, which is something my dad did for me and my sister, is that he gives each of our girls a rose or two for Valentine's Day every year! These girls are cherished by their daddy..and I hope that someday they will choose a man that cherishes them just as much!

Monday, January 28, 2019


My heart is overcome with sadness and sickened by the news that came out of New York this week, making abortion legal up to birth in that state.

How has our country become so without conscience that people can cheer and celebrate murdering a fully developed child in its mother's womb?!?

It's just unfathomable to me.

The only difference between a child in utero at 9 months and a child in its mother's arms at 9 months is location.

It just makes no sense. A mother that aborts a baby so close to birth still has to deliver the baby! What is it going to do to the mother's psychological health to have to go through all the pain of labor only to deliver a dead baby that she had killed?!? What is that going to do to the emotional health of doctors and nurses present in a delivery that ends in silence...because of them?

How is this something to be cheered and celebrated???

Even people that are pro-choice and support first trimester abortions....doesn't this go too far for you? How long can people just focus on the "right to choose" and not on the human being that is not being chosen??

At 3 months gestation, that baby is hidden in its mother's body. He or she is is not felt by its mother. He or she has not become a conscious reality.

But at 9 months....that little one has been wiggling and moving around for months! Moms have felt their arms, legs, hands, feet, and hiccups. At that point, there is no doubt that there is another person in your body. And how can a mother...who has to deliver the baby anyway...decide to kill that child? And how can any doctor morally and ethically kill that baby? And how can politicians push for such a horrible law that in no way protects or saves women?

It's just madness. The politicians have passed something evil that is in no way meant to protect women. It's been stated over and over by obstetricians that there is never any medical reason to abort a baby at the end of development to save a mother.

I keep thinking about Mother Teresa..."Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!"

We need to pray for the women that are vulnerable to this situation. Women contemplating abortion are overcome with fear and brokenness and deserve our love and compassion.

We need to pray for our country. We need to pray for these lawmakers and politicians...because one day they will stand before God with the blood of these babies on their hands. Our world needs mercy. The people that need mercy the most are the people that don't even know they need it!

I spent the first few days after hearing the news feeling such grief and shock. It's so easy to feel discouraged in the face of such darkness. But, we are not helpless or hopeless. My small part is to offer my prayers in love to God for these moms and dads, (because dads suffer, too), for the doctors and nurses, lawmakers and politicians...and then wait for his timing. I may be insignificant on my own, but God takes the little that I have to offer and uses it in big ways. My words or arguments aren't going to change a person's heart. It's God that changes hearts and minds.

In the waiting, I do my job and I work on myself. I live my life in the best way possible so that God's grace can flow through me and I can be a blessing to other people. And when I fail..multiple times a day...I ask for mercy and begin again.

In loving our families, in loving and supporting our friends and the people that God puts in our path, we create a culture of life that will allow light to break through the darkness.

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage:
I have overcome the world." John 16:33 

St. Mother Teresa, pray for us!

Friday, January 11, 2019

More Courage Than Fear

I always feel a bit of that "after Christmas let down". By the time we get to the Epiphany, I am feeling an emotional mixture of sadness that the lights and decorations are coming down and relief because I'm overwhelmed by all the extras that the Christmas season brought...decorations + gifts under the tree + new Lego creations on the end tables + new games and puzzles on the dining room table + Holiday platters, dishes, an extra table, and folding chairs hanging around waiting to be put away get the picture.

I think it's equal parts grieving over the warm, fuzzies of Christmas and the intense desire to minimize the visual clutter!

I found myself wrestling with discouragement over the last week. I've taken some baby steps this past year in the areas of finances, exercising more regularly, trying to declutter, and being more consistent with my prayer life, particularly stopping into adoration multiple times a week even if it's just for 10 minutes.

I'm certainly not anywhere near meeting the goals I'm hoping to reach in any of these areas. Change and growth is a process that takes patience, fortitude, and especially, time. With the start of this new year and all this talk of goals and resolutions for 2019, I've been listening to a lot of negative self talk in my head.  Words that try to take away my hope and my focus. Sentences that start with a lot of "You're never going to..." and having to fight feelings of giving up before I've even given myself a chance in this new year.

Change that lasts starts out small. Forming new habits and sticking to them takes time. Keeping my eyes focused on the little victories is important. When that discouragement strikes it's because I've taken my eyes off of the step directly in front of me and I'm looking at how far away the goal line is. It's when I look at something that seems just so.far.away that the hopelessness of ever reaching it creeps in.

I'm like Peter...I take that first step out onto the water but then I look at the storm..or listen to the lies...and I start to sink. (Matthew 14:28-33)

Another stumbling block for me right now that is leading to discouragement is comparison. It's so ridiculous that I can be perfectly content one moment focusing on taking the small baby steps in front of me...and then I read another blog post about someone with goals that are so much bigger and more advanced and it made the baby step progress that I've made feel pretty pathetic in comparison. Ten seconds later, those feelings of wanting to give up just grow exponentially! I feel shamed by my lack when I see other people's success in their journeys.

I was really struggling with these feelings this weekend. Living with a constant feeling of being "less than" made me grumpy and blue.

I went to Mass on Monday and spent some time afterwards praying and journaling everything I was feeling. I realized that I had my eyes on the storm but I just wasn't sure exactly what to do about it.

On Tuesday, I spent a short time in adoration. I read the daily readings while I was there. The Gospel
for the day was the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. (Mark 6:34-44) I felt like my small hopes and goals are my small offering of fishes and's my opportunity to give what little I have to Jesus and allow Him to make a miracle out of it.

I have been focusing too much on my own lacks and inabilities. I need to bring all these doubts and negative feelings to God to see how He will transform them. I need to trust in His plan for me and focus on the things He puts on my heart. I need to focus on my journey and my progress...not on anyone else's path.

Like the quote says....
Image result for don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle quote

I also like what Lisa Brenninkmeyer says in a recent blogpost....."Ask the One who loves you to give you just a little more courage than fear."

More courage than fear...sounds like a good thing to focus on in 2019.

How are you doing with the areas you are focusing on this year??

Friday, January 4, 2019

And...That's a Wrap! Goodbye, 2018!

Happy New Year!
I am always amazed at how the last 2 weeks of December just whip by SO quickly! As usual, those two weeks were filled to the brim with parties, baking, cooking, more baking, more parties, and, most importantly, some really great family time.

I'm linking up with Kelly today and sharing some highlights!

1. Adventures In The Big Apple
Ellie's Latin Class took a field trip and I went as one of the chaperones. I've never been to New York City at Christmas and felt a mix of excited, (about seeing all the Christmas decorations it's famous for), and dread, (I'm not a city lover, get overwhelmed(and lost) easily when I'm in unfamiliar places, and crowds are not my thing.) But there was no way I was sending my child to New York City without me and Jay was out of vacation there you go! We had to get up at the unGodly hour of 3:45am to get ready and be at school for 5. It took us over 5 hours to get to the MET. We raced around the museum for an hour and a half to see as much as we could. We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Then we walked around the city until our meeting time of 545. Our bus got stuck in traffic so we waited in the rain for an hour before we got to leave and I pulled into our driveway at just after midnight. It was a long day! Here are some of my observations:
~Art is not my thing. I just can't appreciate all the naked statues the way the artists would want me to appreciate them. I walked around those areas of the museum and all I could think about was what my older boys would rename the art pieces and giggling in my head.( I mature, right!?! My apologies to the art lovers reading this!)
~New York City is like being in Disney World on the busiest day of the year except it's dirty and no one is having a Magical Day. There were even people in creepy Minnie and Mickey costumes that tried(aggressively) to get you to take a selfie with them and then force you to give them money. 
~Rockefeller Center is much smaller than it looks on TV.
~I let the 3 girls that were part of my group that I managed to keep together...not a fan of mixed groups just being able to walk off on their own and "check in" by cell phone occasionally....choose what they wanted to see. After Rockefeller Center, we spent time in the Nintendo store, got some pastries bc we were exhausted and needed some sugar, and then browsed in the book store and the library.(SO thankful I had some book lovers!) 
~My favorite stop was when I made the girls go into St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's BEAUTIFUL in there...and I would have loved to spend more time but one of the girls clearly wasn't interested. In the church, I searched around until I found Jesus and spent some time in adoration because I was desperate for a few minutes of silence!
~I am definitely a country mouse!

2. Our December Baby
My baby turned 7!! It's making me a little sad that Kate is getting so big and so much older! Being a December baby is really special...and also a little challenging for moms to make sure they get to feel special when Christmas looms so big. We had a family party and Kate requested a Trolls theme. My mil made another awesome birthday cake and Kate had fun playing with her cousins and being the center of attention. This little girl is just so incredibly loved and I thank God all the time that He blessed us with our compassionate, smart, sweet with a side of sass, bonus bonus baby. (and that's not a typo because Luke is our original bonus baby.:) 

3. Christmas Concerts and Cookie Baking
Kate and Luke sang in their school's Christmas concert and Nativity pageant, which is always cute. Peter's class also was part of a Christmas concert and potluck luncheon, which is always really touching. This year, multiple programs from the collaborative he belongs to joined in and it was just amazing to see the work all the teachers and aides put in with these beautiful children and how much they are loved and cared for through all of their very apparent disabilities. There was one little girl in particular that was very disabled. Watching her teacher and then her mom and grandparents with her was so emotional for me. My eyes "leaked" a few times. I was overwhelmed by the loving way they cared for her, and I also felt very grateful that Peter does not have any physical disabilities. Peter certainly has lots of challenges, but I think it was good to be reminded that there are always people that have more struggles than I do. 

Peter before the concert:)

4. Family Celebrations

We had lots of family celebrations over the course of a week! The Sunday before Christmas we hosted my Dad's side of the family. My parents did most of the cooking, and we provided the venue. Kate and Luke had fun with my cousin's young boys and the adults enjoyed catching up and a very tame Yankee Swap!

Christmas Eve was at Jay's sister's house with his parents and his sister's in-laws. We had lots of great food, lots of shenanigans, good company, and the kids enjoyed opening presents from Grandma and Grandpa!

Luke picked out this Patriot's pot holder at a local fair and bought it with his spending money bc he knows how much Grandma loves the Patriots!

Poor Ellie caught between the two biggest teasers!

Christmas Day was a really nice day! The kids always wake up super early..we were opening presents by 5:45. We go to 8am Mass...since we are up anyway and I love going to Mass on Christmas morning..and then back home for some family time and lunch prep. My parents, sister, grandfather, great uncle, and Jay's parents all joined us. This year I made prime rib for the first time ever! Jay got me one of those special thermometers that stays in the meat while it cooks and I think that was the key for me. It came out really good and the homemade gravy made with fresh herbs was awesome! I am so happy with the way it tasted...I was SO afraid that I was going to ruin such an expensive cut of meat!

During Mass, Luke looked so cute in his alter server clothes.
At one point, he was standing on the alter waiting to help and singing and he looked so darn cute that I wanted to take a video...but since it was in the middle of Mass, I just took a picture with my heart.<3

The afternoon ended with opening presents with my family and then just hanging out at home. Jay and I both had the day off after Christmas and it was so great to go to Mass in the morning and just hang out at home being lazy. The little kids were busy playing with their new toys and art supplies, and Jay and I spent most of the day laying on the couch watching Hallmark movies and napping. It.was.glorious!

We had one more Christmas get together with Jay's parents and both his sisters at our house the Saturday after Christmas. We all threw in for pizza, I made a salad and Jay's mom made cupcakes and chocolate cream pie. It was fun to spend time together and it was even better because I didn't have to cook anything!

5. New Year's Eve and 6. New Year's Day
We spent New Year's Eve at home with everyone but Mike.(He had bigger plans:) Our future daughters-in-law, their parents, one of their sister's, Andrew's friend, and 2 more friends joined our festivities. We had a gingerbread house competition that was a lot of fun! I put the pictures of our creations on Facebook and asked all my friends to vote for their favorite until 11pm. It worked out great.

We also had a "Banana Madness" competition...think March Madness brackets with the game, Bananagrams. I got the game for Peter for Christmas and some people in the family got a little obsessed with it. (me included:) So we picked up a couple more Bananagram games and we had a fun tournament. It came down to Andrew and Liz...and Andrew ended up being "top banana". We also played an easy dice game called Left, Right, Center that I borrowed from my coworker. That was really fun too! 

The games ended at 11:55 so we watched the ball drop, said "Happy New Year", then everyone left by 12:15 and it was a race to see who could get to bed first!

9am Mass came really fast, and we dragged our tired selves out to celebrate a special feast day: Mary, Mother of God. Jay had to work for a few hours because it was his holiday to cover, but he was home by one to have a late lunch at my parent's house for yet another party! (And many of us played more games of Bananagrams!:) 

I'm all partied out for quite a while!
This super cute scene was not the winner...ignore the numbers.(they were for voting purposes)

The 2nd place creation

Jay, Jon, Luke and Kate were trying to make a gingerbread ATAT. It started out well..... 

but ended in a hot mess! lol

This pirate ship made by Andrew and his friend, John, was actually my favorite for their creativity!
Note the elf mermaid with a shell bathing suit and the devil dog whale breaching next to the ship!
Santa walking the plank! lol
Introducing the winning gingerbread house made by Sarah, our future dil, Marisa, and family friend, Julie...they did an amazing job!

Look at this cute "front yard" the trees and the polar bear!

This was the back of the winning house...hand piping was done by Sarah and that clock is super cute!
7. Resolutions
My New Year's Resolution is to not make a resolution but spend time praying about the areas I feel God is inspiring me to work on this year. I know I want to keep exercising regularly and eat healthier...I mean, who doesn't after all the holiday food we consume in such a short span of time! There are 9 months until Andrew and Liz's wedding(!!!!) and I would like to feel good about myself in whatever dress I'm wearing on that special day. (I can't believe this is will be the year that the first of our children starts another branch of our family tree! It's so surreal!!

I've spent the last 5 months of 2018 finally being more purposeful with our finances. It's been a positive experience and I want to keep stream lining and moving forward. 

I've also spent the last 5 months of 2018 reading more on minimalism and trying to cut down on the clutter that gets in our way but isn't used. I'm looking forward to more purging and organizing in 2019!

I want to read more in 2019. I love to read but don't spend enough time doing it. So, less scrolling on my phone and more time with books is definitely a goal I have! I placed two books on hold at the library and will be picking them up on Saturday!

Mostly, I want to spend 2019 trying to listen to God's still, small voice inside of me and live each day in the way that still, small voice is drawing me. 

Well...there was nothing quick about these "7 quick takes"! Thanks for sticking it out to the end!
I hope 2019 is off to a good start for you!


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Love Is What It's Really All About

This morning our Parish celebrated a funeral Mass for one of our beloved parishioners, Anne. Anne was a beautiful woman, inside and out. She was quick to smile and offer a kind word, always at daily Mass, in adoration multiple times a week, a Eucharistic Minister to the home bound, and just a kind, loving soul.

Being at the funeral today, seeing Anne's children and grandchildren wipe tears from their eyes and console one another was really emotional for me. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting it. I wanted to go to the funeral because of how kind Anne always was to me and how much I'm going to miss seeing her every week. When I saw her family crying, I started crying myself and had a hard time stopping.

I think the reason that the funeral was so emotional for me was because this same time 6 years ago, I sat where Anne's family sat today saying goodbye to my own grandmother.

Memories popped up for me, and I was thinking about the last time I visited my grandmother at the end of her illness. She was home on hospice being cared for around the clock by my aunts.
The last time I saw her was three days before she passed, which was the last day that she was conscious or spoke.

I had brought Kate with me, who was a couple days away from turning one. I held Kate in my arms as I stood next to my Grandma's hospital bed. One thing that I have held in my heart all these years is the way my Grandma reached out to Kate, looked up into her eyes, and touched her feet as she said, "I love you. I love you." over and over again. The tone of her voice as she said, "I love you", was one of anxiousness and insistence and only directed at Kate.

I have always felt that in that moment, my Grandma was trying to impart the years of love she wished she could have given to her littlest great grandchild in the very short time she had left. Grandma was trying with all she had to instill this memory of her love in a child who was too young to remember her.

Love it what life's really all about.

At the end of my life, what do I really want my family to remember about me? I want them to remember that I loved them well in my very imperfect ways.

Like most moms...dare I say every this time of year, I'm so tired. There's just so much jam packed into December. I love all the traditions and trying to make everyone feel special...but the amount of mom work it takes to plan, organize, and execute said traditions takes a LOT of energy. I've tried really hard this year to listen to my internal emotional levels and actually adjust my expectations and my to do list accordingly. I think I've succeeded for the most part. I'm honestly surprised at just how tired I am.

Today I left one of my Christmas lists unfinished. I nixed one of the desserts I had planned to make because I just wasn't feeling it. And I'm really ok with that. I would rather keep peace in my heart and have extra time with my family and enjoy making the multiple pies and one cheesecake I did make then to push myself past my limit and end up cranky and completely wiped out.

Reflecting on today's funeral and the memories with my Grandma reminded me to focus on the love I was trying to put into the tasks I wanted to accomplish and not just get wrapped up in checking them off my list. The timing was especially important as we enter into the festivities of Christmas week, which for me starts tomorrow with a family party we are hosting for my Dad's side of the family. My house will not be perfect...the floors never got washed and there are several Martha Stewart touches that I won't have time to complete...but I'm choosing to focus on making memories with my family rather than on the items that didn't get crossed off my list.

In the end, it's only love that matters anyway....

Wishing all of you a very joy filled (imperfect) Christmas! <3

John 3:16..."For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Thursday, December 6, 2018

On Sanity and Unfinished Lists(of the Christmas Variety)

I'm a list girl. If there's something that needs planning, you can be certain that I have at least one..and sometimes multiple...lists floating around to try and keep myself organized.

And I'm totally old lists are always on paper. There's just something I love about a clean piece of paper and writing in pen that makes me love list making even more! I love brainstorming on my for Christmas gift ideas or, my absolute favorite, vacation planning...and having lots of arrows and underlines and cross-outs and exclamation points for the really good/don't forget kind of ideas. I even love re-writing my lists to make a final working copy after all of my brainstorming is complete. Just to make things neater...and as an excuse to write out another list!

List making helps me to feel like I'm organized, focused, and have a plan to move forward. It brings a certain level of peace deep inside, even when I have a lot to do to accomplish whatever list I'm working on.

While I love lists, they are not my ultimate focus. It makes me feel good to have them, but my joy is not based on being able to cross everything off any particular list. This hasn't always been my go to sentiment. Getting to this thought process has taken a lot of growing and stretching over the years. As a younger mom, there where years when I felt terrible about myself when I couldn't get just the right picture for a Christmas card, or gifts didn't go over as I thought they would, or the tree fell down multiple times in one Christmas season breaking several precious ornaments beyond repair(I think our record is 3 "timbers"), or (shudder) a stomach bug or other illness makes Christmas less than the Merry I had in my head.

If I get caught up in looking at my list as something to check off rather than more of a wish list, I am literally sucking my own joy out of the Holiday Season.

I don't know about you, but I tend to over plan for the Holiday Season. What sounds good when I'm making my to do list in early December, sitting in pajamas on the couch under a blanket with a Hallmark movie on in the background, is usually completely different than actual life come December 20th. When I'm solely focused on creating Christmas magic on paper with all kinds of extraordinary ideas, I have to remember to consider all the real life "goings on" that will still be happening all December long despite all the extra projects and events that I want to add into my schedule.

For example, everyone still expects dinner every night...the laundry doesn't take a hiatus just because it's Christmas...there's still basketball practices and games...still men's group and youth group..still a regular work schedule. (You get the idea!)

"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages boxes or bags.
Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. 
Maybe Christmas(he thought) means a little bit more."
~The Grinch

I think in our heads we all know that Christmas isn't really about all the details. Does our attitude and choices we make during the Advent Season reflect this truth? I know mine often doesn't. I get too caught up checking off my list and not remembering the real reason I have the list in the first place:
To show my family and friends the love I feel for them in my heart. To show my coworkers that I appreciate them. To show my children's teachers and therapists and bus drivers how grateful I am for all they do for my children. 

I get so caught up in the to do list that I forget to reflect on the opportunity that God is giving me during Advent....the opportunity to consider the great gift that His Son was for me. There's so much to reflect on this time of year! We have Mary's yes that encourages us to seek and follow God's will, even when we don't know all the details. We have all the innkeepers who had no room for the Holy they were too busy checking things off their list!...that encourages us to to make sure we are ready when Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts. We have the shepherds and wise men who followed the signs given them that led to the most amazing grace of meeting the Savior of the world! 

There's so much that could keep my focus and actions from being a way to shower love on my family. It's not the perfect, Martha Stewart wrapped love that could grace the cover of a magazine that our family needs.(Although if that level of decorating is your God given gift, then you go girl! Being crafty is something I admire yet have no talent in!)  The "perfect" Christmas for your family is going to look different from my family that is going to look different from every other family around me! And guess what? Your perfect Christmas will be different for your family from year to year depending on the ages of your kids, #of your kids, and the circumstances of the months leading up to Christmas. Life is always changing!

The perfect Christmas is one where love and mercy are poured into our families, friends and everyone else God places in our paths. The perfect Christmas happens when we allow God's love and mercy to pour into ourselves first and foremost. 

We can't give what we don't have!

How does that work on a practical level? We HAVE to be willing to let go of things that don't work...even good things. Maybe there are gift bags instead of wrapped presents. Maybe the menu has less items on it than usual. Maybe Christmas cards get skipped this year or go out after Christmas... which is still the Christmas Season! Maybe you only bake 4 kinds of cookies instead of the 10 you wanted to. Maybe you don't put out as many decorations this year as you did last year(or will next year). 

If we focus on getting our lists checked off but are burned out, stressed out and cranky, we are just missing the reason for doing it all in the first place. We aren't spreading joy and we certainly aren't receiving joy if we are walking around aggravated and snapping at people and can't wait for Christmas to finally be over! 

Sounds like it should be part of 1 Corinthians 13...Love does not snap at their children for crying during the family Christmas picture. Love does not throw a temper tantrum because the house was not cleaned from top to bottom for company. Love does get discouraged because the pie got burned. 

(veteran mom tip: if the family picture just isn't working out, pick a photo card that had multiple spots and just choose different pictures that you've taken throughout the year of your kiddos. It doesn't matter if a beach scene or an Easter basket ends up on your Christmas card! Truly!)

So, go ahead and make a list...but give yourself permission to pick and choose what actually gets done. Reevaluate often during the four weeks of Advent. If something's just too much, come up with an alternative. If a heartfelt handmade gift just isn't going to happen without the wailing and gnashing of teeth, just punt and grab a gift card. Save the great homemade idea for someone's birthday or next Christmas.  Pick what you love and what you and your kids have the ability and tolerance to do. Pick what will give ALL of you the most joy!

Wishing you an Advent full of sanity and unfinished lists!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Dear, November...Thanks For The Memories!

November has just sped by way too quickly! I've meant to post at least three different times but there has been lots of life being lived around here! And what better way to catch up than with a 7 Quick Takes Friday! (And I apologize in advance if the 7 "takes" aren't so quick!)

#1 The Path To A Wedding

It seems surreal that two of my children will be married within the next 18 months! Since they got engaged in May and September, we've had lots of fun conversations about wedding and reception ideas. And two weeks ago, I got to be a part of not only one, but two(!), exciting pre-wedding moments!

In the morning, Marisa invited me, Sarah and Ellie to join her mom, sister, and grandma in her very own "say yes to the dress" adventure. It was sweet of her to invite all of us and we were so excited to share in such a special moment.

The whole group started the day with breakfast....nobody wanted to be hangry during such an important moment!...and then we all arrived at the dress shop to start the search. The store Marisa made the appointment at clearly adapted their own "say yes to the dress" flair to the popular tv show. The bridal section was huge...two of the three floors of the store...and we had our own private blinged out area filled with white and hot pink furniture. Marisa had a few ideas of what she was looking for, but has watched enough "Say Yes To The Dress" episodes to know that she should be open to trying different styles.

Marisa tried on about 10 dresses. They all looked beautiful on her, and with each dress you could see her narrowing down all the specific details until she got to "the one". The dress that Marisa chose was the last dress she tried on. She looked stunning-so classy and elegant. The salesperson helping us added a veil and handed her a bouquet and Marisa was all smiles as she said "yes!" to her dress!

I'm not sharing details because Marisa wants the dress to be a complete surprise for Jon, but let's just say that the open mind she had was important for her final decision because there were several elements to the dress that she chose that wasn't what she thought she wanted!

It was SO much fun to be a part of that special moment. It was a lot to take in- how beautiful Marisa looked, the joy and excitement of her mom, grandma, sisters and future sisters-in-law, all the beautiful dresses. So many thoughts were going through my head! It's just amazing that we are entering this season of life. That beautiful dress Marisa chose is for my son on the day she becomes his wife! It sounds like such a stupid sentiment when I write it out, but honestly it's!

The store had a fun picture wall which we took advantage of!
The Happy Bride to Be

Marisa Having Fun

Marisa and her mom

Marisa and her grandma

Sisters and future Sisters in law having fun

#2: The Path to (Another) Wedding

After all the excitement and emotion of the morning/early afternoon, I just needed to go home and take a quick nap.

And then....

It was time to take some engagement pictures of Andrew and Liz for their save the date cards. We went to a nature reserve right in our town and I took about 350 pictures in multiple settings of the park. Andrew, to put it mildly, does not enjoy taking pictures. Or dressing up. So I knew the photo session would be somewhat tortuous for him. I think the photo session...and the haircut for Andrew and trip to the mall for a new dress for Liz and a new shirt for him the night before...proves that he truly loves her!

The photo session went better than I thought it would! Out of the 350 shots, Liz narrowed it down to 11 favorites that she emailed to her parents. I think she had a favorite in mind, but she wanted to sleep on it. Liz's dad is a graphic designer and is helping her create the cards. There were a lot of shots that weren't perfect for the cards, but were cute shots to save as memories of a special day. And there were plenty of shots with closed eyes and ridiculous faces that made us laugh...and made Liz delete very quickly! :)

Here are a few of my favorites...

How Andrew really feels about pictures! lol

I love that they make each other laugh!

Andrew is smitten...
...and I think the feeling is mutual <3

So much joy...and so much to process..all in one day!

#3: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was SUCH a nice day with family. We started the day with Mass, watched a little of the Macy's day parade while I made some stuffing, then headed to my aunt's house with the chocolate chip cheesecake, apple pie and chocolate cookie dough brownies I had made the day before. It was great to see most of my extended family. The food was great and the company was even better! Luke and Kate had a great time playing with two of their cousins!

On the way home, we stopped by Jay's parents house to spend a little time with them.(and have a little more dessert!) Then we met up with my parents again at their house. It was a full day with family and great food!
Jon and Marisa ran the Turkey Trot race Thanksgiving morning

Luke with his cousins, Ryan and Paul

Kate and Pa

Kate with my Uncle Jim and one of their two dogs who Kate spent much of the day loving on!

Everyone hard at work!

My cousin, Karen, her husband, Mike and their son, Paul

#4: Black Friday

On Black Friday I always go shopping with my mom and sister. We do not head out until around we aren't the hard core shoppers that end up on the news! We got some good deals and lots of names crossed off our list. Most importantly, it was a good opportunity for time shared together.

Every year I have a goal to finish my Christmas shopping before Advent starts. Usually I get pretty close. Well this year, I have broken all my previous records! Not only do I have 97% of my shopping done, I even have at least 2/3 of it wrapped! I have to go over my list one more time tonight, but other than a couple small things I plan to order on Amazon tonight and one store I need to go to tomorrow because my "Olympia Bucks" start on December 1st, I am pretty much done! I even have stocking stuffers wrapped! 

It really helps that I LOVE to shop. And, since I haven't managed to grow a money tree in our backyard, I only get to shop in volume at Christmas. I love making lists and trying to figure out gifts people will love! 

So, if anyone wants help, I would totally love to be a personal shopper! I think it would be my dream job!

#5: Pierogi Fest

This was the 11th annual pierogi fest! It started when Jay's Babi was still alive and feeling sad that she was forgetting her special family recipes. The weekend after Thanksgiving, Jay's mom brings over cabbage filling and Jay makes potato and cheese filling and pierogi dough. Most of the kids join in and they make dozens and dozens of pierogis. This year was a record! They made 28 dozen!!(We have bags in our freezer!)

Love my mil's apron!

So nice to have 2 extra (almost) daughters join in!

Jay being silly

Jon looking devious!

#6: Looks Like The Grinch Visited

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had our kitchen and living room ceilings redone. Our house was built in the 70's and had popcorn ceilings.(don't even get me started!) Since we got some new lighting in the spring, we had several holes in our ceiling. Plus, there were spots of our ceiling that were cracked and peeling. It was also in desperate need of painting. 

I convinced Jay that it was time to replace them.(not an easy task for a man who doesn't like change!) My parents were very generous and helped us move ahead to get the last piece of our kitchen reno done.(Only took 5 years lol) 

On Monday, we emptied our entire living room. It reminded me of the scene from the Grinch when he empties the Who's House! It was several days of chaos but I know it's going to be worth it! I love our flat ceilings!!

#7: No Signs of Christmas!

Since we had to empty our living room, all of our Christmas decorations are still put away. Jay has to paint the ceiling, but we have to let them dry all the way. I was hoping he could paint on Saturday, but they aren't dry yet. We aren't getting our tree until next weekend when Jon comes home from grad school because he still wants to be part of the tree picking/decorating process.(which makes me happy) But poor Jay will be painting ceilings after work this week so that we will be ready to decorate next Saturday! Until then, I need to wait (somewhat) patiently...but I'm anxious to get our holiday on!

Have a great week!