Category Archives: Family

Finding Our Green Thumbs

Our little garden is growing! I am so excited and so are the kids. You may think this sounds silly, but honestly, we put a lot of hard work into tilling the soil, clearing the tree roots and prepping the area so that our plantings would grow.  And now they are growing!

Our past attempts at a vegetable garden ended terribly. First, I chose a section of ground that was too large for one gardener. Second, I planted whatever my children selected from the seed store. Third, I didn’t really spend any time reading what each plant needed. Fourth, I ignored the fact that bunnies and squirrels and birds lived throughout our back yard. Fifth, I didn’t see a need for fencing or protecting these plants, figuring there would be enough for the animals and us. Finally, my children were about 10 years younger and their patience level was much less, too. So I had no time to ponder and plan as they wanted to plant their seeds and right now! The concept of patience and waiting was not so well-developed in them at that time, as well as the concept of growth taking time.

The results of our first garden almost ten years ago was a small breakfast cereal bowl of lettuce with a few carrots–as in two. The rest of the lettuce was devoured by our bunny friends before it even grew much above the ground. The carrots were also uprooted. The pumpkin and squash vines grew all over the garden, making us guess that we would have a bumper crop. Somehow, pollination just didn’t happen. Our flowers never became pumpkins. Lazy bees? Sick bees? Who knows! But no pumpkins or squash. We also planted some sunflowers which the kids were certain would grow huge. Hmmmm, I don’t think they even started out of the ground. With all the work we did for that garden, the kids were not very enthused about a bowl of lettuce and a few carrots. In fact, I think I ate the lettuce!

Fast forward to today. We only planted herbs, but my tea has already been quite tasty with some fresh mint leaves. The kids are planning to make Signora Maria’s famous homemade Marinara Sauce with fresh basil from the garden. Only a few more weeks and we’ll hopefully have tomatoes. We have lots of other herbs that my “sous chefs” will find recipes for. It should be a tasty summer.

My youngest has been taken on official watering status. Although God has been providing a lot of rain, she stands at the ready to fill in when needed. Tiny weeds have started peaking through the soil. She and I will tackle those tomorrow, while we smile at the giant tomato plants that have already grown taller than their stakes!

 

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Is your marriage white, chocolate or lemon?

I traveled this weekend to say goodbye to the family farm. It has been in the family for over 150 years. My great-grandfather came from Germany and “pinned” the land. He gave each of his sons a farm. This gift meant a whole lot during the Depression. Our family didn’t suffer much because by then, we owned the land free and clear, along with the fact that growing food and livestock was part of the farm plans anyway.

Fast forward to the current generation of owners. My father and his three siblings jointly own the land. We have rented it to other farmers for decades. With the financial needs for medical care mounting for my elders, they have finally decided to sell.

So, we gathered for a “Farewell to the Farm” celebration. We also celebrated a 50th Wedding Anniversary, a 17th Wedding Anniversary, and a Wedding Engagement. Three generations of family celebrating the various states of marriage. My talented cousin whipped up one of her famous wedding cakes. It was a three-tier cake: white, chocolate, and lemon.

Isn’t that just like marriage? In the beginning, it’s white–pure and simple. Your love for each other helps you see just how wonderful that person is. Truly, your spouse is a gift from God. The white tier was the largest tier. That makes sense. Lots of people get married and love their spouse.

Then, as you progress through years of parenting, job changes, life changes, things can get a little murky. You begin to see your spouse’s faults so clearly, even while you ignore your own! But through this process, if God is the center of your marriage, love becomes much richer and deeper because it is a choice, not an emotion. This chocolate cake was the second tier and it wasn’t quite as big as the white cake. That also makes sense because many people don’t put God at the center of their marriage. When they finally see their spouse, warts and all, they want to divorce. Never mind that they have their warts, too! Yep, not as many marriages make it to the chocolate stage.

Finally, if you make it through the gauntlet, you arrive at the realization that you picked a lemon, but you managed to make lemonade! You’ve learned to take the sweet and sour of life together in stride. This was by far the smallest tier on the cake. Many people make it through those child-rearing years, only to find that they no longer know or care about their spouse. God was never the center of their marriage, and they were just getting through life, holding it together for the kids. Once the kids are gone, another portion of marriages end in divorce. Definitely, the smallest amount of marriages arrive at lemon.

All this to say that although “farewell to the farm” is sad, our family celebrates as it continues to grow and welcome new members with love. And yes, some marriages will not make it, but we pray that each couple keeps God at the center of their lives together and find that sweet spot called lemon.

Digging in the Dirt All Day

What could be more fun than digging in the dirt? My oldest son and I started tearing into a piece of ground that has been hounding me to make it into a garden. Almost 8 years later, I succumbed! Because of its location, there could be no roto-tiller action. This had to be hand dug with shovels. As an added bonus, the stump of on old magnolia tree was hidden beneath the rocks and dirt. Fortunately, it had already started to decompose so that much of it was easily removed.

After we tackled the first layer, my son mentioned he had to shower before piano lessons and disappeared. I asked him to send one of his siblings back in his place. My eldest daughter arrives. She is eating a peanut butter and jelly because she knows she is leaving for soccer practice soon. I beg a half hour of her time, and she gladly assists me. She and I dig a trench that is 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep and 6 feet long. She helps me with clearing roots and rocks. I am thrilled with her help. My husband/soccer coach calls to her that it’s time to leave. I beg her to send another sibling in her place.

My youngest daughter soon arrives on the scene. I have her change out of flip-flops and pull back her hair. She is the ultimate rock/root remover. We are making steady progress and starting to combine the hard clay pieces with fresh, moist fertilized garden soil, when my youngest son chances his way outside. I ask him to join us. He tells me he would rather not. I explain that someday he may want to know how to plant a garden and I may not be around to show him. Now is the time if he wants this life skill. He actually goes and gets his work clothes on and comes back outside. Unbelievable!

I give him the shovel and show him what to do. He starts digging away. He actually is enjoying this and says so. I guess he forgot all those hours he spent digging in our turtle-shaped sand box that now sits empty by the driveway. I knew he would enjoy this part. Then his shovel hits something hard. It is a root. He begins to excavate around it. It just keeps getting bigger. He decides he will try to cut it out. Whack. Whack. Whack. This goes on for quite some time. Now, my oldest son joins us again. He takes over the whacking. After 15 minutes, we were only halfway through the root. I suggest we leave that root and move on. There is plenty more dirt to dig.

This is the point where things were no longer fun. My youngest started singing songs which was annoying her brothers. The boys wondered how much longer this would take. I suggested my daughter should stop singing because when working with a crew, you have to be considerate of others. She asked what we should do then. I suggested, “Ora et Labora” which in Latin means pray and work. I told them this is the motto of the Benedictines, so we were being Benedictines today. I think they will choose a different order if they discern a vocation to the priesthood or religious life!

One by one, the children would disappear, but at least one would stay and help. This went on for most of the day. After about 6 hours, with two 15-minute breaks for meals, we had prepped the soil, planted our garden, and placed the fencing and netting to keep out all the creatures. It looks awesome and I must say it was truly a family affair. We are all pleased by accomplishing such a rewarding task. As we drove to the Snow Cone hut for a well deserved treat, we began to take guesses which critter or bug would eat our plants this time. I just hope the deer don’t want greens for a late night snack tonight!

Worry or Pray

I occasionally struggle with worry, especially when it comes to my dear ones facing problems that are out of our control. Today, a friend of mine shared this story:

A long time ago, a wise judge was faced with a room full of upset people. They all had many worries and wanted his advice. He asked them all to write down the one most important worry that they had in their life and place it in a large earthen jar. After everyone had placed their worry in the jar, he asked them to now draw one worry out of the jar. As probability would have it, each drew a different worry than their own. After reading their selected “new” worry, they all decided they would like to have back their own original worry!

As a Christian, I know that I am called to either worry or trust. It is that simple. But as a human, I find myself with my stomach in knots and my mind racing about how I can help. I get so caught up in the emotional side of the event, that I totally neglect the spiritual side.

This week, my family received heart-breaking news. It was so out of our control that we all felt helpless. Being physically far away forces me to simply pray because it’s all I can do. I realize now that it is what we should do first anyway! While my family scrambled to take action, I took to prayer. In my many sighs and tears to God, He revealed to me that the family member needed healing–spiritual healing. That’s when I took action. I made phone calls and helped arrange for a priest in another city to visit this family member. At first, I met with lots of barriers. But I have a not-so-secret weapon called “The Divine Mercy Chaplet.” At the hour of mercy (3:00 p.m.), I begged God to send me a holy priest. I was getting nowhere by myself and needed His help. Within 30 seconds of finishing my prayer, the phone was ringing and a priest was on the line. The ending of this Chaplet prayer is: “Jesus, I trust in you.” Such a simple prayer, yet so easy to forget, and even harder to do!

Sweaty and upset says “I do”

After 22 years of marriage, my husband is still a mystery to me. We are celebrating our wedding anniversary today and laughing about that day so long ago when we decided to marry forever. We both admit that neither one of us had any clue about how challenging being married and staying married could be. We look back and see all the marriages that ended in divorce, and are so thankful that we have made it through the gauntlet so far.

When we compared notes on our wedding day this morning, my husband recalls that he wasn’t nervous at all, until the entire church turned to look at him when he and his groomsmen proceeded out from the side altar. He was definitely unprepared for that!

I wasn’t nervous either. I definitely remember being hot. We were married in a church that had no air conditioning. It was an enormous structure and beautiful. It just happened to be unseasonably hot for mid May. I felt like a flower that was drooping. My lovely, professionally curled hair began to flatten like a mop. But that is minor compared to what happened before my husband and groomsmen arrived on the scene.

Like I mentioned, this church was enormous. The bride’s room was towards the church entrance, while the groom’s room was downstairs and towards the altar. When the organ began to play that was the cue for the groom and his groom’s men to come. The music started and duh, duh, da duh–no groom or groom’s men. The music continued. My father began to panic. He sent my younger brother to find the groom. My father started turning red all over. He actually accused my soon-to-be husband of leaving me at the altar! Now, I wasn’t only hot, I was angry! I couldn’t believe my own father had such little faith in my future husband. I began to argue with my father, telling him just how ridiculous his idea was. That’s when my brother arrives saying he cannot find the groom or any groom’s men. I seriously thought I saw steam begin blowing from my father’s ears! Oh boy.

As the organist was winding down the first song and my father is in full panic mode, in walks my husband and his groom’s men. Later, my husband explained that they could not hear the music from downstairs and were too busy laughing and enjoying themselves to realize they should be listening.

I whipped my veil over my face, grabbed my father’s arm, and put on the biggest smile I could conjure under the both sweaty and upsetting conditions of a moment ago. I think I dragged my father down the aisle. Everything was lovely throughout the ceremony and we were happily married. And then, there was the limo ride to the reception. That’s another story for another blog.

Are You Building Up or Breaking Down?

Have you have ever watched a home or a building being constructed? It can seem to take forever to complete. Digging the foundation is a big job. Weather conditions have to be just right for many parts of the construction. There is an order that must be followed or you will end up with an unreliable structure. All of this to say that building or unifying is hard work. It is God’s work and it is often beyond what we are capable of doing on our own.

On the other hand, destroying is quick and easy. A couple of well-placed explosives and some front-loaders and dump trucks can clear a building or bridge rather quickly as we witnessed recently in our neighborhood. It is relatively easy to take down a building or a family. Divisiveness or destruction is the Devil’s work. He is completely thrilled when he sees us giving into this temptation. There is no need for help when it comes to sin. We are perfectly capable of doing this all on our own. The real lie we often believe is that our personal sin affects no one but ourselves. Ha, ha, ha. That is a really great “whopper” of a lie. Because when we sin, we separate ourselves even further from God. We separate ourselves from each other. Our sin can divide our friendships, our church, and ultimately our family.

Keeping a family together demands God’s help. We must practice forgiveness daily. We must serve each other, not use each other. We must practice charity when we would really like to “give them a piece of my mind.” We must keep God at the center of our family— not soccer, not television, not money. Unifying your family is a real challenge in today’s world. When the media is screaming that we should want more, do less, and live a life of vice, you wonder where the truth has gone. I say we must fight this good fight and not allow Satan to have his way with ourselves or our family. And it starts with visiting the church of two-knees!

 

Looking Back at Missed Opportunities

At Mass today, I couldn’t help but notice her. She sat by herself, nicely coiffed, with her dark black curls fixed just so and her petite size 4 designer clothes immaculately pressed. Her posture reminded me of a ballerina, except that she had a humility that is hard to find in a dancer. I’m guessing that she is in her late 70s or early 80s.

The reason I couldn’t stop seeing her was because she was by herself. Many years ago, when my children were young and I was hopeful to attend daily Mass, she and her two sisters would always stop and talk with us. Over weeks and months, we got to know them better, and they each had their own sweet personalities. They had such a similar look and mannerism that my children may have thought they were triplets. It was like having three Grandmas cooing and adoring my passel of children. Even though they were not related to us, they knew how to love and my family basked in their warmth.

As life goes, we moved away and moved on. We haven’t seen these ladies in years. Today, we went back to celebrate Mass for Mother’s Day with my husband’s mom at her church. That’s why I saw her. So many questions I wanted to ask. Were her sisters still living? I hope they had just moved into a nursing home. Was she the youngest? Did any of them have children? What is life like when your best friends and also your sisters die before you?

As Mass ended, and we headed out the door, I turned to see if she was in the crowd. That’s when another friend and her family spied us and interrupted my thoughts. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she said and gave me a hug. I smiled and hugged her back. When I remembered to look back, my elderly friend was nowhere to be seen. I hope she has a lovely Mother’s Day and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

 

 

50 Years of Motherhood + 40 Grandchildren

I’ve been thinking about my mom and what an unsung hero she is. First of all, my mom may never have been born, if my grandma didn’t have tremendous faith. My grandma had at least 14 miscarriages. Her doctor told her that it was no use trying to have children, and that is was actually unsafe for her to continue. My grandma is a bit like me–when someone tells her “no,” she digs down deeper and busts through. That’s when she had my mom, and the next year, my aunt. Two women who would not have been here without a very strong-willed, faith-filled grandma.

A couple of decades later, my mom marries my dad and one year later gives birth to my oldest sister. The next year, she has my next oldest sister. A year and a half later, she has my next oldest sister. Then she miscarried during that next year. The following year, she has me. To sum up: 10 kids in 13 years, then a 7-year gap, and the baby of our family is born. That’s a 20-year range for the math challenged!

Here’s the kicker: my mom was having babies when everyone around her was “burning their bras” and “going to work.” She was home with preschoolers and toddlers and babies when the whole world was screaming, “Don’t let them keep you at home. You can be everything you want to be.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. My mom is a brilliant lady. She had a business degree and could organize the world. She managed to have us all fed, dressed and to school early with hair combed, matching socks, and complete backpacks. Laundry in our home was like a small business. There was no room for error because we actually wore all the clothing we owned. Shopping for food was a weekly exercise with two grocery carts full. Thankfully, the grandparents on the farm provided the beef. Home-cooked meals were all we could afford and the only thing my dad wanted. So, we ate together every night at 5:30 p.m. around a long kitchen table.

Because my mom stayed home, we had a huge comfort zone. We knew she was there for us. The other working mothers called her regularly to provide rides for their children to various activities and events. They never seemed to include her or befriend her for anything else. She did have a group of friends who were stay-at-home moms, too. They became the monthly bridge group. Although some of them ended up working part-time, mostly they rallied around each other. It was not a popular time to have a large family. In fact, the over population myths that are still around today started during that time.

My mom was telling me a few years ago when I was complaining about how much weight I had gained with my last pregnancy and that nothing fit that she only had 2 maternity outfits total. That’s all. Boy did I feel selfish. When my husband had to travel three days a week for a few months, I called her to cry on her shoulder a bit. She reminded me that our father traveled for his job for weeks at a time, even months sometimes. She gently helped me see that I would make it through this.

My mom is confined to a wheelchair now. I think all those pregnancies just sucked the calcium out of every bone. She has both knee and hip problems, and probably won’t be walking anytime soon. Her memory is starting to slip a bit here and there. She can no longer cook or plan family events. Much of what the world outside our family loved about my mom is slowly fading away.

But what I see is a lady who has been an amazing mom for the last 50 years, who is facing major changes in her life with grace. She has gently suggested that maybe my dad needs a break once in a while. She knows she will most likely need to transition to a care setting soon enough. Yet, while she can she still enjoys her grandchildren. The extended family gathers tomorrow to celebrate Mother’s Day with grandma and grandpa. It will be a large affair. And Mom will be there, sweetly smiling and loving on the little grandbabies, and thinking of names because number 40 is on the way!

 

 

Husbands Should Discover Secret to Best Mother’s Day Present

I wondered what searching the internet for these keywords, “Best Mother’s Day Gifts for 2014” would uncover. Fox News listed a Top 10 which was mostly comprised of ways to get mom in shape (5 out of the 10 items).  Glamour had 22 suggestions of comfort or vanity items from food to kitchen utensils. Real Simple offered 40 ideas focused on gardening, kitchen and clothing style. And here’s the real kicker, AskMen.com was the highest ranking website. They just listed a bunch of items you can buy in all categories that might interest women. Personally, I think they must pay some big bucks to a really great SEO optimization company.

All this to say that I feel sorry for husbands who are desperately seeking something to give their wife for Mother’s Day on behalf of their children and family. Although some women thrive on receiving “gifts” that are costly, deep down I hope and pray all women understand that there is no gift in this world that can even come close to truly affirming what being a mother means.

Here’s the thing: being a Mom is the most incredible gift our good God gave to us women. He allowed us, with our spouse, to be a partner in creation. When God created, He created out of love, not out of need. In fact, His creation is love. We, as wives, are called to be mutually self-giving with our spouse and to create with God. The result of this is a wonderfully amazing, compact gift from God called a baby. And that baby starts at conception. I have no idea how the sperm and the egg connect and create a baby. But I do know one thing for sure: I have never known an ape or frog or turtle that was naturally conceived in the womb of a woman. When I became pregnant with my first child, I did not have to wonder if I would have a baby monkey or a baby human!

God tells us in the Bible that we are made in His image and likeness. Can we understand this mystery? I’m not so sure. Can we appreciate that we carry this inside us? Can we fully understand the responsibility we have for caring for His children who are also made in His image and likeness? If you are a mother, this is the most important thing you can do while on planet earth. Period. God wants you to love and cherish and raise your children.

Think about it. God celebrated the first Mother’s Day when he put old Adam to sleep and made Eve from his rib. He understands what a gift a mom is for her entire family. If a husband wants to really honor his wife, he may want to start by acknowledging that he is incredibly thankful that his wife had their children. He should simply recognize what the world will not recognize–that motherhood is a gift from God and by his wife saying, “Yes” to children, she gave the greatest gift to him and the family. Finally, he should even be open to having as many more as God will provide. But that takes faith, of course.

Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever!

My son had to write his first college entrance application essay. The college gave him 5 choices of topics. As I read the choices, I wondered who comes up with these questions? He selected one of the topics and started writing.

About halfway through the essay, he called me to his room. He was wondering what I thought the folks at the college were wanting from these essays. It was a valid question. I re-read the topics and quickly realized that it really didn’t matter what they wanted.

I told my son that there could be all kinds of agendas behind certain essay topics that neither he nor I would fully understand or want to understand. I suggested that his best course of action was to write honestly and well. If what he wrote did not fit their agenda, perhaps it was a good thing that he would not get accepted into that college.

Later in the day, I asked my son what topic he chose for his essay. He chose this topic: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? Interesting, I thought. I asked him, “So what is the place where you are perfectly content?” Without blinking, he said, “Home.” And that, my friends, was the best Mother’s Day gift I could have received this year.