Friday, April 29, 2016

On organizing the (emotional) Mess!

Quick Take Friday: On organizing the (emotional) mess!

#1: Organize
One of my friends, Ellen, has a jar filled with virtues, (written on paper). Around New Year's, she offers to pick a virtue for you and message it to you. This year, I got "Organize". Which is something I really need. Originally, I had this idea that "organize" was going to be a year of decluttering and,  (God Willing), the ability to FINALLY figure out how to print and scrapbook/put into albums the thousands of pictures I have in manila envelopes, on memory cards, and stored on my computer. Being the memory keeper is important to me and it's a sore spot for me that I can't seem to figure out how to start organizing all of these photos!  Four months into 2016, and I'm thinking God has more in mind. (Doesn't He always..and yet, I'm still surprised every.single.time!)

#2: How to Reconfigure and Organize Life
Looking for tips?, too! I think step one is accepting that you have an organizing problem. Trying to balance life is a continual see-saw battle!

Battle cartoons, Battle cartoon, funny, Battle picture, Battle pictures, Battle image, Battle images, Battle illustration, Battle illustrations

#3: Acknowledge the Un-Organization in Your Life
I've been a little lost lately.
Maybe more than a little.
I think it has a lot to do with turning 40 and being at a real cross roads of change in life. Some of the other smaller "issues" in life that were themselves manageable, all of a sudden morphed into much less manageable weights that make some days hard to function through normally.

You know those times when you think of all the things that have to be done, you calculate the time it will most likely take to do it, and you realize that even if you worked without sleeping for days that you could probably STILL not be able to finish it all? And you just want to give up before you even start?

There have been quite a few days like that.

Bill Watterson

#4: "Focus Danielson"
I'm picking a couple of areas to start on because a complete overhaul would just be too overwhelming! So...I think I'm going to focus first on getting our financial life more organized AND trying to add date nights into our month. That sounds counterproductive, doesn't it?!? While going out for dinner occasionally is a nice treat, I'm thinking that our couple time will be going for walks and grocery shopping together on Friday nights. (That counts, right?!?) AND...I need to come up with a plan to tackle the picture backlog problem and schedule time to implement it!

#5:  Just Start Somewhere
I know for myself, I want it to be the perfect scenario with the perfect plan mapped out from a-z before I even start something, That's all well and good, but some projects are so overwhelming that you just have to jump in and start somewhere. In the words of Maria Von Trapp, "Let's start at the very beginning... a very good place to start." (and not worry about how long it will take to get to the end!) All forward progress counts!

#6: St. Catherine of Siena
On a completely different note, today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena! She is one of my favorite saints! She was a total "bad butt"! Small but powerful! 

#7: He Said/She Said
Jay: (talking to Kate) Hi, honey, how was your day?
Kate: I went to the doctors and got a shot and it really hurt! Then, mommy took me out for lunch and we had chicken hands.
Jay: Do you mean chicken feet?
Kate: No. Wait a minute. I mean chicken fingers...we had chicken fingers!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Journeys Into The World Of A Teenager!

Birthdays are a frequent occurrence when you have a big family....but it's an extra special day when you get a new teenager in the house!

1. Not Our First Rodeo
Ellen is our 6th teenager! Of course, her three oldest brothers have wandered into the land of young adulthood..(shudder)..., so we only have 3 teenagers in the house right now. "ONLY 3"...seems kind of a funny thing today. We've done 4 teenagers in the house at one point, so 3 should be easy...Right?!?

2. Those Eyes!
Ellie has the biggest, bluest eyes out of all our children. When she was a baby, those big, blueberry blue eyes drew all the older ladies over to my shopping cart whenever we were out in public!

Considering Jay and I both have brown eyes, recessive genes made an appearance quite a bit in our family!  Mike had blue eyes until he was 12 and they changed into more of a green color. Andrew and Peter both had blue eyes until they were two and then they turned to hazel.  Ellie and Kate have blue eyes, although Ellie's are the truest blue. 

Ellie was SO excited that Kate had blue eyes! Ellie told us after Kate was born that she prayed and prayed for a baby sister with blue eyes just like her. So sweet!
Our very own Cindy Lou Hoo!

#3: Speaking of Sweet...
Ellie is one of the sweetest people I know! If I had to pick one word to describe her, "sweet" would be the one! Ellie has such a big heart. She loves and gives with all she has. Her big heart is right there in the open...which makes her a very sensitive person. Her personality is a lot like Jay's Mom. 

The "sweet ones" at Ellie's Kindergarten graduation

#4: Except On The Court...
One place Ellie is NOT sweet is on the basketball court! Basketball suits her well since she is 5'7" at 13 and the doctor thinks she still has several inches to go! It's good to be tall. :) 

Bending over so she doesn't tower over everyone!

#5: Daddy's Girl
Ellen is definitely a Daddy's Girl! She always has been! All of the girls have Jay wrapped around their fingers! 
Always a Daddy's Girl!

#6: The Little Sister, Big Sister, & Middle Child
Ellie is our true middle child. She's not as old as the "big kids", the little kids are quite a bit younger than her(Luke is 6 years younger, Kate is 8 years younger), and because Peter's cognitive/emotional age is so much younger because of his disability, Ellie is stuck in the middle!  Sometimes the older kids act more like parents than siblings...and no one wants that many parents!

In the past year, I've noticed a really big difference in Ellie's relationship with most of her older siblings. She has definitely started to be more connected to the big kids...especially Sarah. It's really special to see them together...or hear them talking and giggling in the bedroom...during their frequent "girl time". I hope they will always be close!

Of course, Ellie is frequently sought after by Kate and Luke, too! She is great with them. Kate loves to play "dollies" with her and both Luke and Kate love to play Legos with her. Ellie is "super sister"...she learned well from her older "super sister"!(Well done, Padawan!)


#7: Happy 13th Birthday, Ellie!
We love you bunches and can't imagine life without you! :)

Friday, March 11, 2016

All About Sarah

Sometimes Sarah will comment that she doesn't get mentioned much on the blog space. So every once in a while, I make sure to dedicate a whole blog post just to Sarah. (Of course, once the limelight is on her, I'm not sure she always appreciates it! C'est Le's tough being a teenager!(and the mom of a teenager!)

This has been an exciting week for Sarah!

1. Twitterpated

I'm probably going to be in lots of trouble for that pic, but I couldn't resist! Sarah has her first boyfriend! Dan is very nice and a good kid. The best thing is that Sarah is his first girlfriend, too! They both feel a little awkward trying to figure out all the "rules" of dating. It's really cute! 

#2. Puzzle
Sarah is a junior, but Dan is a senior. On Sunday, Sarah went to Dan's concert.(He plays viola in an orchestra.) Afterwards, Sarah went to dinner with Dan at his grandmother's house and got introduced to some of his relatives. Dan had a surprise for Sarah! It was a cookie puzzle he had baked. When Sarah put it together, this is what it said...............
...she said yes! (of course)

Shopping for a prom dress is going to be tough! Sarah got added to a facebook group at school where girls are posting the dresses they chose. 1/2 dresses are more like it! Thankfully, Sarah is very good about picking out clothes. I'm sure we will find a dress that is beautiful and classy...just like her!

#3. Award Number 1
There was a pro-life Mass for the diocese today with an awards ceremony afterwards to celebrate the pro-life essay winners for both the junior high and high school students and the John Cardinal O'Connor Youth and Adult Awards. Sarah won second place in the high school essay contest. The first and second place essay writers for each age division read their essays after Mass. I wish that I had recorded Sarah reading her essay! She is SO passionate about the pro-life cause, and she did a really great job on the essay. (I will share it at the end of the post in case you're interested!)

#4. Award Number 2 
 What Sarah didn't know was that she was also chosen to be the recipient of the John Cardinal O'Connor Youth Award! Jay and I knew, along with a handful of teachers, but they asked us to keep it quiet and surprise her during the ceremony. Well....surprised she was! 
I took this picture when the head of the prolife office for our Diocese mentioned her name!
Sarah is a very passionate person...and pro-life issues are one of the areas that mean a lot to Sarah. She is co-president of the Pro-Life Club at Stang(Dan is the other co-president. A perfect match!), she loves attending Pro-Life Bootcamp each summer, she has coordinated and participated in multiple drives to benefit pro-life pregnancy centers both through school and through our parish. It's a subject that is near and dear to her heart! Jay and I are very proud of her!

Sarah with Bishop DaCunha

with Jay's parents

Sister sass

Sister smiles

With mom and dad (and one of the little guys I babysit)

Sarah with Mrs. Tarentelli, who nominated Sarah for the reward.
Photobomb by Kate

Our Pastor, Msgr O'Connor, con-celebrated the Mass 

#5. Super Sister
Sarah was born into a gaggle of boys! Surrounded by three older brothers and then flanked by a younger brother 2 years later, she learned to hold her own. But she's always had a sweet and girly side, too. 

Sarah is crafty....and loves having girl time with her sisters. She's a great example to Ellie, who's another great super sister!

#6. Goals 
Sarah is a very smart girl(in the top 10 of her class) and is interested in learning about everything! We are frequently teasing her about being a nerd. (She reads a book on the brain for fun...she brought it on herself) ;) Science and Math are her favorite subjects and she often talked about being a biochemist or some other kind of scientist and trying to find a cure for Autism.

More recently, she has been thinking about going into speech therapy in order to work with special needs kids. Obviously, having a brother with Autism has made a big impact in her life. She is really good with all kids, but especially kids with special needs. Sarah has a very big heart, and she shares it with everyone!

One specific example that I witnessed happened during a grocery shopping trip a couple of months ago. We were at the check-out and there was a young high school boy working as a cashier who had a stutter, and the bagger was a mildly handicapped young adult. Sarah was just being Sarah...talking super nice and asking them questions. She waited patiently for the cashier to speak through his stutter and by the end of our 5 minute check-out, he was barely stuttering because she was so patient with him and made him feel comfortable and the bagger was beaming from the attention.(I'm sure the fact that she's a pretty girl had something to do with it, too!) 

Sarah and Pete sharing a goofy moment...

 #7. Blessed
We are so proud of Sarah...and so blessed that she is our daughter!

 (scroll down past the pictures to find Sarah's Essay!)

Sarah's Pro-Life Essay
Each life tells a story. Some are long, some are short, but each is valuable. You determine your own story, but you also influence others' on their journey. You are the main character, the supporting character, and the strange acquaintance. And every story you are in would never be the same without you.
Every life tells a story. Some span the length of a century; others last less than a year. Some stories cannot be told on Earth. Others are spread freely and often. No matter the story, each is worth telling and each is worth living. Every life is valuable; it is given to us by God for a purpose. We were not meant to wander aimlessly on the Earth, but to perform a certain mission, the path of which is already known by God.
Every story is worth telling because every life has value. We all know many stories, but we tend to appreciate those that are glorious and heroic. This is good, but not everyone can be like St. Joan of Arc or Martin Luther King Jr. With people such as this, the value of their lives is clearly seen, for they changed the world. But, is life only precious when it is well known or accomplished much? No. Life cannot be valuable for what it does, it is valuable for what it is. 
Mother Teresa once said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." Mother Theresa spent her life among the poor, serving them as Christ and loving them individually. In her every action, she sought to comfort the heart of Christ, to satiate the longing of His heart by loving Him in the form of Calcutta's poor. She experienced extreme spiritual desolation for years. Yet, she still loved every soul as if they were Christ and cared for each person she encountered. Mother Theresa's life is clearly important and astounding, though she was hardly a celebrity. But Mother Theresa's story tells more than just about the value of her life; it also describes and highlights the value of the life in every human being, even the sick, unborn, and dying. They are worth caring for, giving up out life for, and she did just that. One does not dedicate their entire life to something useless or valueless.
St. Therese of the Little flower is also well known for her deep love of Christ. She was not known for grand actions, but for her little way. She said, "Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them." A life lived to the fullest, then, is a life spent loving our Lord with a burning heart, longing to be ever close to Him and loving Him in others. St. Therese was known by very few at her death, but her writing filled with simple love is why she is a saint today and millions look to her for guidance. 
One of my favorite stories was very short. Therese Elizabeth Hamel was born on May 20th, 1998. She died sixteen days later. What did she accomplish? Not much. She never ran a marathon. She did not sway the hearts of millions. She never even spoke a word. Why is she important? She was and is my sister. 
Our world is not the end all, be all. We exist body and soul. My sister is in heaven. She is not here, but she never left me. I hold her name and she is my saint. I pray to her when I need help. Sometimes I just talk to her. She watches over me and my family and she protects us. I miss her. I miss her a lot, but she will always be there for me. 
Her life lasted less than a month, barely two weeks. But she still left her mark on this Earth. If life is only valuable for doing great things, then she is among the many useless bodies, but if life is an invaluable gift from God, then she is among the celebrated multitude who lived. We live. If we are alive, then we exist for a purpose. Some simply fulfill theirs sooner than others. Then God calls us home, and we run to Him, He who stands with open arms waiting to welcome us into His Kingdom and the wedding feast. Our loving God longs for us; He gives our life value, for we are created in His image and likeness. He considers us infinitely valuable, so who is anyone to detract from that? The intrinsic value of a life cannot be diminished, cannot be detracted, cannot be destroyed. The almighty, ever living, omnipotent God who loves us with a heart that burns for us, who suffers when we do not ask for His mercy and love, who died so that we may live with Him forever, this God has given us dignity and a human life. Who can say that any life has no value, has no meaning, or has no purpose? That was never ours to determine! God does not make mistakes; there are no accidents. Everyone was created for a reason that He knows, and to love Him. This is why the pro life movement exists, because every life is valuable and worth protecting from conception until natural death.
Every life is a freely given gift from God. He created us, cares for us, and holds us in creation by His infinite love for us. He sent His only Son to suffer unimaginable and incredible pain, to die for us, so that we may have life and have life abundantly. He did not suffer and die for some or a few, but for all, whether their lives lasted an instant of a century. We have been redeemed by a God who longs for us and wants nothing more than to have us love Him back. We do not choose whether or not our life means anything, for that is not up to us to decide but for the one who created it. And so every life is worth living because every life has infinite value given to us by our loving God and Father. We were made in His image and likeness; we were made to be like Him. He has a plan for every one of us, and so our lives are each great stories that are worth being lived out to their glorious conclusion, their final battle, and into eternal life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Being in the decade of the "fabulous forties" is still quite an adjustment for me.(I'm trying to practice positive thinking to change my perspective. I'm not there, yet, so feel free to insert a small amount of sarcasm when you read the word 'fabulous'! I certainly have not found my groove quite, yet. Maybe by the time I turn 49....)

My thoughts are still all over the place! I still feel like I have a 'deer in the headlights' look of "How the heck am I 41?". Then, there's the whole confusion of having kids that are "adults"(mostly) and kids that are still little kids. I've got one foot in the "I'm still young enough to have a baby world" and one foot in the "we could have kids getting married before too long and having babies world". It's a bit overwhelming.

Hitting 40 was like hitting a brick wall for me. All of a sudden, I felt like I had a shelf life. I'm more than halfway to being old! Which is scary...especially since the last 20 years seemed to speed by! Like I said before, I'm still trying to figure out how I could possibly be 41!

When I googled "definition of a mid-life crisis", this is what I came up with: "an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age." Yeah, that fits!

I have to say that I've felt a little lost lately. I'm trying to figure out where I "fit". After 23 years of having/taking care of babies and toddlers, I'm now getting a glimpse of what a life with kids that need less constant hands on, 24/7 care will feel like. It's not bad, just different.  I've given my entire adult life to having babies, nursing babies, and caring for my kids. Now that my "baby" is 4, all that is changing. Adjusting to change is hard for me.

That doesn't mean I want to go out and get plastic surgery, buy a sports car, or any other crazy thing! I am trying to exercise more and lose a few pounds to take better care of myself. And I do dream of the day that I can downsize to a minivan! But that's as wild as it gets!

It's about trying to live more purposely. I'm hoping to not be so shocked when the next 20 years go by! I want to fill my days with memories of loving my kids, creating a home that is a place my family wants to come back to at the end of each day, and becoming the woman that I'm supposed to be in this next stage of life. I want to have more goals in the next twenty years than I did in the last twenty. There were lots of life circumstances that created periods of time when Jay and I felt like we were working to survive in the first 23 years of our marriage. I know I certainly cannot control everything in life...lots of life experience has taught me that!...but I would like to feel like I have more goals that I am trying to work towards: individual goals AND couple goals AND family goals.

Problem is, I'm not quite sure what those goals are supposed to be! So, I'm praying on it. I feel like I'm floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean right now...but I know at some point I will land where I'm supposed to! This "in-between" moment that I'm in right now is unsettling, but I trust that I'm being stretched so that I'm ready for the stage of my life that I'm entering into.
 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,(Jeremiah 29:11-13)

There are some positives to this change. Jay and I have a room to ourselves for the first time in a VERY long time. And we both manage to sleep in our own bed most of the time for the whole entire night, too! Miraculous things around the Hamel household! My body is actually adjusting to getting 6-7 hours of straight sleep each night! It's amazing. This hasn't happened since 1992!

See...I told you I'm trying to practice positive thinking! :)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

When Your Day Needs a Do-Over(and it's not even 8am!)

Involuntary Penances is a topic I have touched on several times in the last couple of years. For Lent, I choose my sacrifices..sometimes with excitement, other times with trepidation. The sacrifices I choose are Voluntary Penances. But, then, there always seem to be lots of other challenging moments that pop up during Lent that I wasn't planning on! Those surprise "opportunities" usually grow and stretch me more than anything I gave up for Lent on my own!

Of course, sometimes I completely drop the ball when one of these "gifts" from God arrive! It's much easier to give up snacking/desserts/social media/(insert Lenten sacrifice here) than it is to try to give a positive response when a surprise rush of negative emotions, or a negative situation, catches me off guard!

This morning, I totally blew it. I just woke up "on the wrong side of the bed." It's been a challenging week and it's still.not.Friday. Luke woke up at 5 with a nightmare and never went back to sleep. Sarah made cookies for a friend at school late last night because his great uncle passed away, which was very nice. Waking up to a messy kitchen...not so much!

I was just in a bad mood. I was feeling frustrated and bored. I'm still getting over disappointment since we aren't getting a tax return this year because of the way one of the colleges reported scholarship information.

In reality, it's all small potatoes. I was just being grouchy about it all. I missed an opportunity to offer up some involuntary penances.

I joined Dynamic Catholic"s "Best Lent Ever"program. Today's short video talked about love...and who we lay our life down for. It was definitely a not so subtle nudge to remind me that I lost my focus this morning! If that wasn't enough, I also picked up a book recommended by my Spiritual Director...which I don't do often enough(!)...and the section I was on was "What to do when you are unable to abandon yourself." Umm...yeah.

After I was able to take a deep breath and organize a few things to make me feel a little more in control of the world around me, I was able to re-boot my day. The frustrations and disappointment haven't gone away, but thankfully I have been able to manage them in a much better way!

As they say in the Veggietales song from the Story of Jonah..."Our God is a God of Second Chances!"

Friday, February 12, 2016

Snow and Milestones!

Quick Take Friday as we get ready to jump into February school vacation week!  The last week has held a couple of big milestones for our family!

#1: Another Driver on the Road
Despite a snow storm, Sarah passed her driving test and got her license! It's an exciting achievement for Sarah! It's still a tough milestone for mom! It definitely increases my prayer life when my children get their license!

#2: Timber!!!
The snowstorm on Friday, brought about 8 inches of heavy wet snow. Our neighbor's tree fell down and fell into our yard......
 ....and onto our pool! :( It collapsed part of the side! Now we're in the process of getting quotes to have it repaired through our home owner's insurance! Oy!!

#3: Story Time
Our library recently relocated to a new space and I took Kate and Luke to story time on Saturday. They enjoyed it! Kate did the craft after listening to the stories and Luke got his first library card! He was so excited! Here's a cute "he said".
Luke: How long do I get to keep the library card?
Librarian: Your whole life!
Luke: My whole life!! Even when I'm 8, 9, and 10?!?

And these goofy kiddos on the way home from the library!
 #4: Birthdays!
Mike and Andrew were born on the same day two days apart! Their birthdays were on Sunday and our families came over to celebrate. Cakes ala Grandma Hamel!
Mike let Kate help 
Mike and Pepere
Andrew turned 21! It's SO strange when your child can legally having a drink with you! Andrew decided he wanted to try Jack Daniels and Coke...except he wanted RC Cola! Quirky kid! But, hey, it's his birthday! :)

#5: The Not So Super Superbowl
The Super Bowl was pretty boring, but we enjoyed hanging out with the kids, my parents, and a couple of their friends. Andrew was pretty psyched to save this Tostitoes blimp decoration from being tossed in the trash at work.... 

#6: More Snow
More snow and another snow day on Monday gave me a good reason to make pancakes for breakfast. I made snow man pancakes for Kate and Luke! :)  

#7: Valentine's Day Weekend
Jay and I usually do a pretty laid back Valentine's Day. Finding little ways to make each other feel special is our goal! :) So, Jay is going to make me dinner on Saturday night and then we're going to watch a chick flick together. I'm going to make him one of his favorite dinners and desserts on Sunday.  Sounds like a yummy weekend to me!  

I made some cookies with Kate and the kids I babysit this morning! They did a great job. (There were sprinkles everywhere!)

And speaking of Valentine's Day.....Sarah has a "friend" that has invited her on a couple of dates over the last couple of weeks. Sarah made cookies for Dan last night. Since they are both lactose intolerant, she taped Lactaid on top like a bow!