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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas! We've arrived at the celebration of the birth of Our Savior - - Jesus Christ! As a child I used to always look forward to Christmas. We weren't particularly religious or anything. We would visit Santa yearly - - I think my mom has pictures up until I was about 10 or so. More than the presents that I would receive, I think I looked forward most to the festive air of the holiday season. There were things that only came with the holidays - - tree trimming, decorations, the Christmas parade, the lights. Something seemed magical about this time of year - - like if you made a wish, it could come true. Not that it would, but that the possibility was there. You could practically see the virtues of generosity, charity, good will, and love dancing in the air. People seemed happier, brighter, more hopeful.

In Pittsburgh, my hometown, during the holidays, if you donated to the Children's Hospital fund you would receive a complimentary Farkleberry Star cookie. I parted with many dollars for these cookies during the holidays. I have fond memories of Parade Day and Farkleberry Star cookies. Often we would go tour the windows of the downtown department stores (Pittsburgh's Kaufmann's always told a story) with their magical displays - - never with toys that you could purchase - - just old fashioned dolls, cars and trucks, Santa, and elves busily working to get ready for Christmas.

Christmas now comes earlier and earlier for both the retailer and the consumer. Some places have their Christmas items out as early as July. Some start right after Halloween. Like Charlie Brown and Linus, I have lamented the commercialism of Christmas. I long for the days of the magic - - of storefront windows with whimsical displays, parades that I don't have to watch on TV, and Farkleberry cookies that came and went with the season. Perhaps it is not so magical when Christmas starts so early. Reading an article over the holidays, the author too lamented about the early Christmas "rush" leading to us looking forward to the end of the season. The ending comes earlier and earlier - - with many throwing out their trees soon after the new year.

As I have gotten older, I still look forward to the Christmas season. I, too, have changed. Having children, I look for those things that will make the wishes of my children come true. I try to make the magic alive for them, but I am not sure they perceive it. We have things that only come out with the Christmas tree - - the Polar Express train, the Playmobile Nativity playset, the various knickknacks, and more. We do our Christmas baking and yearly photograph. We do our Advent wreath, say special prayers at mealtimes when we are all together, have stories that are read during the season, and take off longer from home schooling. All of these things are special to me, and perhaps someday they will remember them as fondly as I remember store windows and Farkleberry Star cookies.

Traditions are important, even new ones that have come our way as we explore our faith more deeply and more deeply commit ourselves to it. We are still learning, still adding and subtracting to our Advent and Christmas traditions.

God Bless you all and may God bless you in this Christmas season and through the New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Advent

I hope this posting finds everyone doing well and having a restful Advent! In the past, we have done Advent many different ways. One year, we even delayed trimming the tree. This was harder for me than I thought. I have always loved Christmas time - - both the time before and after. It was always a time to focus a little more on others, and a little less on myself. As a young girl, one of the sure signs of Christmas was putting up the tree, which we did soon after Thanksgiving. I would lie under the tree and look up at the lights.

I thought delaying the tree would allow us more time for reflection and really focus our Advent on preparing our hearts for Christ. I have since come to the realization that for us, preparing our home can be a part of preparing our hearts for Christ, as well as our home for the company that inevitably visits during the holiday season. Stringing lights on the tree often calls for reflection and sacrifice. Reflection on what the lights mean and sacrifice for the many cuts and frustration of string lights that ensue. Putting up the ornaments, especially those special ones, gives us time to reflect on the years past. I have a few with pictures of the kids when they were younger. We also have ones that reflect the personalities and likes of our children - - like the flower-power VW bug or the ice cream cone.

And with the tree comes the tradition of putting up the train and houses beneath. A few years back, loving the movie and book, we had gotten the Polar Express train. So our tradition is to put up this train once a year. We also take the time to watch this wonderful movie again. While we don't do the Santa thing too much here, the movie reminds us a little about what Christmas is about. Not Santa, but belief and faith, trust and hope.

We also get to pull out our Nativity scenes. We have several. We have the traditional one that went up on the piano this year. I have one made of olivewood from the Holy Land that goes on the TV. We have the one made by Playmobile that comes out for the kids to play with at this time of year. There is also a cool German one. Unless, baby Jesus is glued in, we wait until Christmas Eve to put him in the manger.

I have found that the many preparations in our home, from decorating to baking cookies and making candies to reading stories with the children all lend itself wonderfully to traditions and to preparing for Christ's birth. Certainly preparing your home for Christmas can be a symbol for preparing our hearts. Hopefully, both will be beautiful for coming of Christ!

God Bless you all and I pray that all have a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Welcome Daniel!

As I get back to the blog, finally, I would like to introduce Daniel Louis! He weighed in at 7 lbs, 7 oz and was 19 3/4" long. He is dear in the eyes of his family and all the kids volunteer to hold him.

It's amazing how in tune to him they all are and how willing they are to step outside their comfort zone to care for him. They've all changed a diaper (some have changed more than one). They dress him and clamor to hold him.

As a mom, I've had to learn to let go a and allow them to fuss over him a little. It can get hard, but I know that once he starts crying or sucking on his hands, he will be back in my arms.

While I've been on vacation from blogging, sadly, Uncle Clint had passed away mid-September. Please pray for him and his family.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Midnight Blogging

Sounds like that should be the title of a song - - not sure how it would go . . .
Perhaps something like:
Midnight blogging, wish I could sleep
Midnight blogging, the house, so quiet, not a peep
Midnight blogging, what else is there to do
Midnight blogging . . .
Then again, I am not a songwriter, so what do I know. I do know that it is now 3:00 am and that I am awake, wishing I wasn't, and offering this time of restlessness up for others. Often I wake up in the middle of the night and get to thinking about my days ahead. Perhaps that is the planner and worrier in me.
On September 8th, the Blessed Mother's birthday, I will be going in to deliver this little one that I've been carrying around for the last nine months or so. We are really excited about his impending arrival. I guess that can be enough to keep someone up at night? Reflecting a little, perhaps my body is just getting ready for those late night feedings and all. It has been almost nine years since the last midnight feedings.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pretty Personalized Pillowcases!

How's that for alliteration! As part of school, I am offering electives to all of my kids this year. The girls are doing home economics (sewing, cooking, etc.) and the boys are working through some basic electricity lessons using Snap Circuits. I am hoping to have them design and wire a lamp as an end of study project.

The first project I did with the girls was to make these pretty pillowcases. Andrea was able to do much on her own - - except for the trim, which can be tricky. Jenna needed a bit more help, having never used the sewing machine before. Bless her, she thought she was going to have to hand sew the whole thing! Pillowcases are an easy first project. I allowed the girls to choose their fabrics (1 yard of the main, and 1/4 of a yard coordinating color). Then we selected some trim to match. If you can find fabric the fabric on sale, it also will not cost a lot.

Here are the directions:

Cut from 1 yard - - two rectangles measuring 21 inches by ++ inches. (Layer and cut both at the same time with a rotary cutter if you have one.

Cut from 1/4 yard - - two rectangles measuring 21 inches by 5 inches. (Again, layer and cut both at the same time.) Iron these in half, lengthwise.

Make two halves: Pin coordinating fabric to the main fabric (matching the long side of the coordinating fabric to the short side of the main.) and sew with a 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch hem. For ease, I used the hem guide on the machine for the girls to line up. Iron seam flat towards the main fabric. Do other side the same.

Add any trim if you are going to at this time.

Match halves, right side together, with coordinating fabric at top and pin. Sew both halves together with 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch hem around three sides (do not sew the top where the coordinating fabric is - - this is the opening for your pillow). Turn right side out and press - - you are done!

Note: If you have one available - you may wish to serge the seams after sewing so that they do not fray. Otherwise, trim with pinking shears or sew with a zigzag. If your kids are able to, they can serge without sewing on a regular machine first, but I found it easier for my oldest to sew first and then use her seam as a guide for the serger.

We also had cooking day - - Marshmallow Treats!

In memorium . . .

On August 4th, my mother's husband, Don, died of pancreatic cancer. He was 81 years old. True to the nature of many of the older generation of men, he was both humble and proud. Don and my mom met when I was 16 years old. He brought my mom to my high school, and later college, events and graduation, and thus, became part of my life as well. My children called him "Grandpap," and he was present at many of our family holidays and celebrations.
Don was a quiet, reserved type of person. One who didn't really talk much unless you talked first. This made it a little hard to get to know him - - since you actually had to engage him in conversation, but when you did, it was worth it. He was very generous with his knowledge. I remember Jeremy doing something on the history of airplanes and asking Don if he knew of a web site or something that could help. He sent on a whole page of links with pictures! He taught me the finer points of driving a stick so I wouldn't burn out my clutch right away. He told my husband a way to use tubing with water to make sure the drop ceiling he was installing in the basement was level.
For all that, there was so much that we didn't really know. I knew he was an avid balloonist, but didn't realize to what extent until I read his obit. I knew he did some kind of engineering for a living, but didn't know what kind or that he worked on the design of submarines. All things that would have been neat to talk about.
We will miss him dearly,

May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Friday, July 31, 2009

God's laughing

Did you ever start a sentence with, "I am planning to . . . . " And as you go about your day, according to the PLAN, you are suddenly hit with something that wasn't part of your original plan. This happens often to me. There is a saying that goes something like, "tell God your plans, and he will laugh." I am sure God laughs loud, long and often at me.

When it comes to most things, I am a planner. I don't like the feeling of flying by the seat of my pants. I like to know what I will be doing, though when isn't as important. The details can be sketchy, but the overall plan is important.

As a homeschooler, I spend months perusing curriculum, deciding on books, thinking about how to best utilize them. I plan out the beginnings of our school year, with the hopes that if I plan well, it will go well. (Can you hear God's chuckle?) This year has been especially important to plan well - - with the addition of a baby, I am sure that these plans are going to get off course. So planning has been a big part of life right now.

Since I am certain God's laughs at me often, I try to hide my plans. It only works if you tell him, right? Recently, we had a visiting priest come. Part of his homily was on prayer. He said that in order to have a relationship with God, we need to pray, listen, plan and then act. "What was that?" I thought. "Plan?" Then he focused a little on the listening part. I think, then, I realized where I went wrong. Sure, I pray, I plan and I act - - but how often do I listen? Perhaps if I was a better listener, my plans would be made in accordance with God's will and not my own. Perhaps God would laugh less, and send more graces to see my plans work. What a revolutionary idea for me! Rather than say to myself, "Does God really care how we plan our school day out?" Perhaps the answer is "how does God wish for our school day to go?" I have become certain that God does care. He cares about the learning my children receive or don't receive. He cares whether dinner in on the table. Sure, He leaves some of the details up to me, but He wants to be part of the planning, so then He can also be part of the acting. While I sure this doesn't necessarily mean that all will go according to plan, it probably means that I will be better prepared to handle it when it doesn't. And, if it really is His plan, He will do what it takes to see that it does work out.

God Bless!

Counting down, counting up

This last month of pregnancy plans to last longer than the rest. At least that is the way it feels, and I am sure many expectant moms would likely agree with me. Perhaps it is the sleeplessness as you toss and turn to try to get comfortable? I'm not sure. But like many, I am counting down the days as I get nearer to delivery. I look forward to meeting this new blessing to our family.

Also during this time, I have been counting up the things that are needed. Do I have enough clothing and diapers? Is the crib up - - where did we put those parts? Is the car seat in good repair? Did I wash the cover? What about the stroller? After all, it has been over eight years since we had a little one in the house!

My kids are also counting - - how old will I be when the baby is my age? They love this game - - especially my youngest. The older ones have already figured out that by the time this baby gets old enough to play baseball or Legos, most likely they will have moved on in life to something different. It really hits home when they start with the game, "how old will you and Daddy be when the baby is ten?" Then all of my almost forty years comes sharply into focus and I begin to feel each one of them.

As I close this entry, please continue to pray for Don, my mother's husband. He is not doing too well right now and is very weak. It has been almost four months since his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.

Thanks ahead of time, and God Bless!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Gift of Life

Each kick is a reminder of his presence in my womb, and I rejoice and thank God for the gift of life.

Each time I hear the voice of someone I love, who is suffering from illness, it is a reminder that they are still with us, and I rejoice and thank God for the gift of life.

Each time I pray and ask for the intercessions of those who have gone before us, it is a reminder that we are not forgotten, and I rejoice and thank God for the gift of Life.

Life is precious at every age and every stage, from the very beginnings forming in the womb to the very end. It seems we are reminded more often about the gift of life, though, at the beginning and at the end. In the middle, we don't often reflect much on the gift we have been given. Sometimes, we seem to wallow in our sufferings, without counting the blessings that they bring. Yes, I said blessing. Suffering reminds us of so much - - how blessed we are to be on this earth, how good God is to give us the opportunity to be drawn in closer to Him through our suffering, how blessed we are to share our suffering with the Lord, Jesus Christ, knowing that our suffering will never outweigh that which he went through for us. Some would choose not to suffer. I am there with them most of the time. But with each suffering we have opportunity -- we can either focus on ourselves and turn inward, or we can choose to focus on others, offering up our suffering for the good of others, using it as a chance to witness God's love and mercy.

This is what I try to remember when suffering becomes part of my life - - to be thankful for the gift of faith, that allows me not to always see through my own eyes, but to look at things from a more eternal perspective. It brings a whole new meaning to the Catholic phrase, "Offer it up!"

God Bless!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Home Schooling High School

I often think about why I am homeschooling - especially this time of year, as I peruse curricula, buy books and prepare for the next school year. I think about teaching in general, as this is what I went to school to do, but there is a big difference in schooling your children and teaching in a school - whether public or private.

Many school teachers teach a particular grade, or in higher grades, a particular subject. Sometimes, after many years of teaching a grade or subject, they don't really have to think too much about curriculum choices, or manner of teaching, they do what they have learned to do and many are good at it. I've had several inspiring teachers in my childhood.

Homeschooling is a different ball of wax. With my oldest, each year brings new challenges and options. We are starting high school coursework, and in doing so, I want to make sure I give him the best possible education to meet his ambitions. He wants to be an architect or some sort of thing like that. Actually, his dream job is to plan, design, and construct Lego models. Even now, he spends a lot of time building and creating with them (and yes, he is 14!). And so, that means he will be college bound eventually, which means preparing him for college. It means upper level math courses, sciences, technical drawing (where do you find curriculum for that?) and a myriad of coursework that I haven't even heard of - - yet. With most curriculum I purchase, there is an intent to use it with the younger ones coming behind. Lately, though, I've thought about their goals, and how I need to tailor their education to what they wish to accomplish, perhaps in their life. This means that I may be pursuing curriculum for one child, without the intent of using it for the next. Isn't this one of the beauties of home schooling? Sure, he could get all this in public school, but not only can I tailor the education to meet his desires, but I can also tailor it to meet his abilities - - and that is one of the goals of our home school.

I also remind myself of why we home school. I've made lists of reasons, that I refer to often, if I get a little discouraged or frustrated. It is particularly helpful on those "bad" days, when much doesn't seem to go well for us. It helps keep me focused and reminds me that the destination is more important than the bumps in the road that life hands us. For my son, his goal is to be an architect. As his parents, our goal for him is to do what God wishes of him and to obtain happiness in heaven. And if he is meant to be an architect, then he will be. He has a talent for drawing and building, and so, we will help him to build on that talent.

During these times, I think of St. John Bosco and the myriad of jobs he held while paying for his education to become a priest. In hindsight, God was preparing him to take his knowledge of the various trades he worked at and to teach them to his "boys." In the same way, God helped prepare Mother Angelica to build up EWTN and her nuns for their mission by her early education. Perhaps in this same way, the talents that our kids show early in their lives help us to prepare them for their future, of doing God's will in building his Church. I have no idea where this education will lead my oldest son, but I do know that it will lead me looking for curriculum on technical drawing (which, by the way, I have found one called "Practical Drafting") and other courses that will aid him in discerning his vocation.

God Bless!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Blanket, ball and stitches . . .

As promised, here is a picture of the baby blanket I crocheted this past week. It is a simple double stitch, with picot trim. The white really makes the yellow look very bright!
I made the ball with some multicolored cotton yarn my mom had given me, yellow from the picot and whatever white I had from the blanket. The pattern for the ball is on the website I previously noted.
Today, I was at the doctor's office crocheting granny squares while I waited. I was just about to finish a square when I noticed a serious flaw made several stitches ago. I contemplated allowing the flaw (it was really noticeable) or to rip it out and go back over. After a short consideration, I felt that it was too noticeable to just allow, so I started ripping out the stitches. Anyone who crochets, knows that in order to get to the mistake, sometimes you have to also rip out the good stitches. In the end, it was about 10 minutes of work that I had to redo, but it was worth it.
As I was ripping and starting over, I started to think about how I can be like that square. I, too, have flaws. I won't recount all of them here, as my vanity just won't allow for that, but, as an expectant mom of four children, there are times when I battle with impatience and temper. I am sure that is true of many of us. This is why I am so grateful for the Sacrament of Confession. When I first became fully Catholic, I didn't understand the vital role Confession has in a life of faith. It wasn't until I learned more about being Catholic that I have been able to embrace, and yes, even be thankful, for this Sacrament. It is like ripping out those stitches, even the ones that may be good, to get to the ones that are flawed, so that the whole can be good again.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In memorium . . .

Fellow home schoolers, and friends, lost their son to luekemia yesterday. The battle had been long, with every reason for hope. Throughout this battle, they remained constant in their faith and their love. My heart and prayers go out to them in this difficult time. May Jesus and Mary wrap them in their loving arms and comfort them in their grief. Please pray for them.

God Bless!

Free Crochet Patterns On-Line

I came across this website for some free crochet patterns:


Saturday, June 13, 2009

A word about crocheting . . .

As I mentioned, I learned how to crochet. I am in the midst of crocheting a bunch of granny squares to make a larger blanket and I have done a baby blanket in cotton yarn in double stitch. I think I am going to try to put a picot edging on the baby blanket to give it a more finished look.

Two resources I found that really helped are DVD's that I purchased at JoAnn's. One is called "I Can't Believe I'm Crocheting" and the other is called "Crochet Stitches in Motion". Both show how the stitches are done and have some projects you can try. Both were very helpful. Once I get the blankets completed, I will post pictures of them.

On a side note, I had previously purchased "The Art of Knitting 4 Kids". On this video, it starts out with a seven-year old teaching some basics. Needless to say, I couldn't get it. Perhaps I just didn't have enough patience at the time. I have shelved it for now and will try again later.

Bags and more bags!

How about these bags??? Before we went to the beach, I made bags for the kids to carry their beach towels and stuff in. These are simple drawstring backpack style bags. (Larger ones shown.) Today, with some left over fabric from the bags I made for the kids, I decided to make some lined tote bags. How cute did these turn out! Now I have a place to put my yarn and crochet hooks (Yes, I did learn how to do that, as well!). All of these took about an hour or less to make.

For the drawstring bags, I used a canvas or heavier weight of fabric, large eyelets, and cording. For trim on the pocket, I used some double-fold biased tape. You can purchase cording at the fabric store, but I would look at the clothes line stuff first. You get more and it is less expensive. In order to make it backpack style, you will need to make the casing for the cord twice as wide so that you can feed two pieces of cording in opposite directions. I can try to take some other pictures to show how it is done if anyone is more interested.

In order to make the lined totes, I cut the fabric the size I wished, sew the pocket on, and then surged the sides and bottoms, doing the same for the lining. If you wish to have an inside pocket, don't forget to sew one on there too. I sewed the handles on then put the lining, right side out, inside the tote, which was right side in. I sewed most of the way around leaving room to turn the bags right side out and stitched the opening close. I also stitched around the top of the bag and stitched the lining to the bottom of the bag to keep it in place. If you wish, you can also sew seams perpendicular to the bottom to give the bag a "standing" base. (I did that for the more girly of the two.)
It's amazing what can be done with scrap fabric!
God Bless

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stitches in Time and Place

Just a few thoughts - - I have started blogs before. Trying to be witty or impart some knowledge that I think others would like. It has always been difficult to keep up with that for very long, and many blogs have gone by the wayside.

Then I thought about what I do. I am a mom, and while I don't knit or crochet, occasionally, I will find time to sew. Recently, I started a quilt -- a quilt for my soon-to-be-born son (September). I bought a pattern, followed the directions as best as a novice could do and stitched the pieces together with my machine. When it came time to quilt the top, I decided that the imperfections in the quilt required perhaps being stitched by hand, rather than by machine. So, now I am in the process of hand quilting it. It is a work in progress, one that requires time and attention, but I find it relaxing and reflective.

Reflective, because as I stitch, I think about the children I have (four), the one I lost, the one that is to be born, and any others that may follow. And while I do stitch, I pray for each and every one of them. Our lives are like the quilt I am making. Each fabric chosen is a different shade, sometimes repeated. Each block is pieced together with care, some with more than others. And just as the quilt has imperfections, so, too, life has its imperfections. So, I reflect on these as I stitch and think about how lucky I am, and how much I am blessed and I thank God for the patchwork of life that makes it interesting, and even beautiful, with all of its imperfections.