Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
"Madeleine went tinkles! Yes! Tinkles on the potty, all by herself!"
You see, it is only us insiders (the non career-oriented type) that know the value of my daughter's accomplishment. Yes ladies, thank you for your round of applause! You know the work involved here - spending an entire morning in a bathroom with a toddler. She says "Tinkles" and you jump from whatever you are doing to pick her up and put her on the potty. Then, without having conducted her business she exclaims "Done" and wants to resume her playtime. But first, she must flush the toilet, even though there's nothing in it worth flushing. So you let her.
Then, two minutes later you hear, "Tinkles" and you stop everything and head back to the bathroom to discover she's again "Done" before anything has been accomplished. And again, you let her flush the toilet.
This goes on and on all morning, the tinkle contractions surfacing every two to five minutes, and nothing gets done (in the bathroom or in the house, but that toilet must be sparkling after having been flushed five hundred times!).
And then it happens, yes, the real thing! Deo Gratias!!
The rest of the day your daughter has no interest in the potty, but prefers her old Pampers comfort zone. Sigh. But an outsider asks "Was it really worth it?" to which you reply, "Absolutely!" with not a doubt in your mind.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Our weekend getaway in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary was a beautiful marriage of the past, present and future. We visited picturesque Santa Barbara where we stopped at old favorite shops and restaurants, the historic Old Mission, the beautiful courthouse, and the special oceanfront spot where we were engaged.
I could write about the loveliness of Santa Barbara, about the hike we took in the canyons of Santa Ynez which led us to a waterfall, about our discussions on the beauty and significance of vineyards and grapes and wine, or about the beautiful anniversary gift my husband surprised me with - but this post would turn into a book! So here I will focus on the general highlights of the trip.
Thirty miles north of Santa Barbara is the Santa Ynez wine country where we spent most of our weekend. We had been to the wineries of Napa Valley before we had children, but this was our first visit to the vineyards of Santa Ynez. We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast there for the weekend.
Our favorite winery was Sunstone Vineyards and Winery. As you walk through a portal into a beautiful garden and picnic spot overlooking the Santa Ynez river, your eyes are drawn to the winery's stone arched exterior, reminiscent of a Tuscan villa. Then stepping inside you find a Provence-inspired tasting room and walk behind it to discover a cave-like interior dimly lit by votives set atop wine barrels, with stone caves built into the hillside for barrel aging, and a reserve library cellar for their finer vintages. Each of the seven wines we tasted at Sunstone was exceptional, and all of their wines are grown organically.
We stopped at a local market to pick up deli sandwiches for lunch in the lavender-sprinkled picnic courtyard at Sunstone on Saturday, and savored the experience and food so much that we secured the same lunch the following day to enjoy in the vine-surrounded Gainey Vineyard picnic spot. Before lunch we attended mass at the historic Mission Santa Ynez (Saint Agnes). Though the Mission boasted very little of its original structure, the mass itself on Pentecost Sunday was beautifully done (music excepted, if you don't mind me saying so) and the priest a reverent man and good teacher.
On Saturday night we ate at Trattoria Grappolo, a local Italian restaurant serving simple fare and reasonably priced entrees. In the middle of our dinner, who strolls into the restaurant but Giada De Laurentiis and a Food Network camera crew. We do not have television, so I have never seen her show, but I make many of her delicious Italian recipes. My husband had no idea who Giada was until I told him one of his favorite meals is her creation! That was just fun.
When we were first looking into possible travel destinations for our anniversary we considered various airplane getaways to faraway places, and then realized that all we wanted was a simple, brief and peaceful rest from the busyness of a usual day. This trip out into the country, where life involves the careful tending of God's creation in the form of vineyards, crops, and cattle and horse ranches, was a perfect choice. I left the Santa Ynez Valley relaxed and content, and ready to return to my duties. But more than that, I left with a new appreciation and greater love for my husband and all he does for me and his girls, and realized that he tends to us with even more care and protection than a winemaker does for his vineyard.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! We have something special planned for the weekend in honor of our 10th wedding anniversary last month. I will be sure to share it with you on Monday. God bless you and your families!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
When I picked up our garden statue from the nursery, I did not anticipate the graces Our Lady would bestow on us through this small cast-stone image of her. I did not realize I would repeat the words above every time I caught a glimpse of her through my kitchen glass patio door, through the window in the dining room where I eat all of my meals, or when I play outside with my girls. She is a constant reminder, with her outstretched arms, that every good and beautiful gift I have comes from her Divine Son through her own hands - the loving hands which held and nurtured the Savior and then surrendered Him to us so that we might one day join both of them in Paradise.
She makes me happy. When I wake in the morning with coffee in hand I greet her smiling, and ask her to help me through the day. When I am scrubbing my kitchen floor she watches me like a loving mother, reminding me that she once cleaned a home for her family. When I eat lunch with the girls we sit facing the window so that we can see her, and we will soon enjoy summer dinners outside as she watches over our picnic table.
Our Lady's garden was blessed by a priest the first day we brought her home. We had been planning to host a dinner last Saturday for two Norbertines, one a priest and the other a deacon. When I learned the statue arrived at the garden shop the day before we would have these holy men in our home, I made sure she would be there for dinner at six!
I knew I would love having a special garden in honor of Mary. I knew I wanted my girls to grow up planting special flowers for her, crowning her head in May, and bringing occasional gifts for her to enjoy (so far these have been toys and sandwiches!). But I never considered how much she would give back through this small space we have made for her. It makes perfect sense, though, for she is indeed "full of grace".
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Yes, I am still here. I have been without a computer for the last two days, and though normally I would have missed my good ol' friend, Mr. Internet, I accomplished so much in such a short time without him. The cleaning and yardwork were a given, but I also built a playhouse (okay, I just put the parts together - but it did take me twelve hours and my hands are blistered to prove it!), I tackled long overdue troubleshooting with insurance companies, credit cards and the like, purchased household odds and ends (small items I've been putting off for years and now on account of their convenience wonder why I waited so long) and I even got to work on this again, it's wool not having felt the warmth of my hands in months.
I do plan to post our Marian garden photograph tomorrow afternoon, and may I say how pleased I am with her beautitful patina. But alas, I must go now to catch up with my husband, whom I have not seen in two days, and welcome him home. (Yes, I did ask for the laptop as soon as he walked in the door. He did get a smile and a kiss, though - I'm not that terrible!)Until later, have a wonderful morning!!
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
"Jesus is like the prodigal son ready to return to His Father's house. For is not Christ the true prodigal? Thirty years ago He left His Father's eternal mansion and went off into the foreign country of this world and began to spend Himself, dispensing with infinite prodigality the divine riches of power and wisdom, and bestowing with heavenly liberality the divine gifts of pardon and mercy. And so now He sets back on the road to His Father's house." (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen - I don't recall the exact source, but please leave a comment if you do.)
Have a blessed and happy Feast of the Ascension, everyone!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
On top of the fact that the gardens are vast and landscaped with turns and niches, on Sunday they were also filled with people visiting for their annual Mother's Day Brunch. If that wasn't enough to make for a crowd the Garden's "Boddy House" was also the featured home for this year's Showcase House of Design, a yearly home renovation event which attracts thousands of visitors from all over. So, let's just say it was not a good day to lose a child.
Five seconds went by without Gianna in view, and the search began. She had been running and playing like a little fairy, fluttering from one flower to another, and then she just decided to flutter away. My husband was filled with fear, and we each ran in different directions in pursuit of the little nymph. At this point she had been gone for almost ten minutes. As I ran down one of the camellia paths, around the bend flew this blond-haired pixie heading toward me, smiling and laughing as though nothing had happened. She jumped up into my arms and out of my arms and twirled around a bit. I was almost speechless.....almost.
After Gianna got an earful of firm correction and discipline, she expressed her sorrow in the words of a little girl, but really, she did not understand the seriousness of the matter. Even explaining to her the possible consequences of her running off, it occurred to me that she has no idea about the realities of those consequences. The beauty of the innocence of a young child, unaware of the evils of the world really struck me. And it was then that I realized how vigilant I must be when it comes to protecting my daughters. You see, I tend to be a very relaxed mother and as an optimist, I am inclined to believe everything will be just fine. It is very difficult for me to bring myself to worry or to feel anxiety, about almost everything. But in this instance I realized that even if I do not sense fear, my bodily motions need to act as though I do. My little ones cannot be expected to think like an adult or fend for themselves. They need their mother - to run for them.
Thanks be to God that my Gianna is right here at the dining table drawing pictures of butterflies, instead of fluttering away like one. How grateful I am to Gianna's guardian angel, Saint Anthony and Saint Gianna, my intercessors on Sunday afternoon whose protection never left the side of my little four year old.
Enjoy your little ones today. Enjoy their hugs and their kisses, their disobedience and their temper tantrums. And give them each a kiss from me. :)
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Gianna and Madeleine were building sand castles with their shovels and buckets, and as is typical of my little ones they made their fun known to all around them with loud shouts of exaltation, running in circles around me and dancing. Enjoying the sunshine, sipping on lemonade and being spectator to the happy, living miracles before me, I had not a care in the world. Not, that is, until I was approached by a beautiful thirty-something woman who had been enjoying her day on a lounge chair in front of us.
This pretty lady kindly commented, "Your daughters are darling. You have your hands full over here, don't you?" to which I responded the way I always do when I receive this compliment, "Not as full as I'd like." Most of the time people smile at me and go on about their business. But this woman seemed to want more.
In her own words she expressed her astonishment at my wanting more children, and proceeded to explain that she and her husband had a two year old girl at home, and they were "done" having children. I was even more saddened to learn that her daughter was home with a nanny while she took a day off her job to spend alone at the beach. She explained that one was enough because she had given up her freedom already, and the demands of young children seemed enslaving to her. I held back my tears tightly enough that she wouldn't be alarmed by my reaction.
When children enter a family they begin stripping a parent of his attachments. I remember first giving up having my hair done at the salon or having my fingernails manicured. Soon after that my shirt sleeves became accustomed to a daily lacing of spit-up. I remember changing blouses three or more times a day, hence surrendering perfect personal cleanliness. Then my daughter entered toddler-hood and soon there were fingerprints on the walls, dirt on the floors brought in from outside, crumbs under the table and countless drink spills. It was during this stage that I gave up perfect household cleanliness. Since having had a second child I have surrendered a quiet household, time for needlepointing, errands run peacefully and absorbing the Holy Gospel at mass.
But you see, in married life, children are the very secret to freedom. Before I had my first daughter I spent six years living for myself. My hair was done and my nails were manicured. My dry-cleanable clothes were always clean and pressed, my living room walls were perfectly white and there were no sticky substances on any of my dining chairs. I could hear a pin drop in my home at any moment, crochet a blanket on my sofa with pleasant music resonating in the background, and I could go anywhere I wanted almost whenever I wanted. But was I free? Of course I wasn't. I was enslaved by my own attachments.*
Children freed me from worrying about what others thought of me. With my second daughter I learned to wipe the spit-up off my sleeve rather than change my blouse. Before children I would drink my cup of coffee at a certain time every morning, and had that routine been disrupted I would have felt overwhelmed. Now I am happy to savor my cup whenever I get a chance, and I no longer fret over such trivialities. I am now able to relax with guests in the home, enjoying their fine company rather than thinking about a perfectly clean house or a perfect dinner. If the roast is overcooked, I laugh. A few crumbs under the table and I smile, pointing them out to our guests showing what a fun day we had. I don't concern myself with impressing others. I have two beautiful daughters to raise in need of a mother who concerns herself with pleasing God and her family.
Today I can sit with my boisterous girls at the beach soaking in not the sun rays for added blush on my skin, but the happiness and love of two daughters playing and building and learning together. I don't concern myself with how I look in a swimsuit. And at the end of my day I may not have the tan or the physical beauty of the thirty-something lady who goes home to a warm bath, soft music and her child already asleep. I return home to draw a warm bath for my girls and sing them lullabies. And I cuddle with them saying prayers before bed which have the consequence of Eternal Freedom. Truly, every night I fall asleep with soft kisses still on my cheeks from two hours before, little arms wrapped around my neck and two little voices each still whispering in my ears, "Goodnight, mama. I love you." Now that's freedom.
*[Let me just say that I am speaking here of my own selfishness before children. Many holy couples without children sanctify their marriages by giving themselves in other ways and are not guilty of attachment as I was. This post is not for them, but for the sadness on account of many today who see children as a burden and a hindrance to happiness.]
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The players form a circle, and one stands in the center holding a handkerchief knotted into a ball. He counts up to ten, then throws the ball into someone's lap, calling out either "Earth", "Air", "Fire", or "Water". If he cries "Earth", the person in whose lap the handkerchief has fallen must instantly name some animal which lives on the earth; if the word was "Water", some fish must be named; If "Fire", something that can exist in fire; if "Air", some bird. If he allows the ball-thrower to count up to ten without his answering he must pay a forfeit.
This game can be simple for the small ones or can be increased in difficulty for older children by having them identify more particular species, such as "Vesper Sparrow", or "Clydesdale Horse". If your older children are versed in Latin nomenclatures this game can become quite challenging. Have fun!
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
I wake up in the morning,
My diaper's saggin' low.
Been sleeping all night in this crib,
Man, I had to go.
My room smells like urine,
As I rise with the morning sun.
Daddy won't you please
Get this diaper off my bum?
Saggy bottom girl, you know you rule my world.
Saggy bottom girl, you know you rule my world.
Saaaggy bottommm giiirrrlll.
*Forgive me, those of you who are faint of heart. :)
Monday, May 7, 2007
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Have a blessed Sunday, everyone!
*Update: Now it's green!
Saturday, May 5, 2007
These grapevines will soon take over
Friday, May 4, 2007
Many of us are aware of the lack of the sacred in modern fine art. It can be frustrating to try to find even a lovely Marian garden statue, formed with the time it takes to perfect a beautiful face or the delicate garment detail that would add so much beauty. It is refreshing to me to see an organization dedicated to bringing back true beauty to sculpture, painting, poetry, music and other arts for the glorification of God.
Included in the mission statement of the AASA are:
- The glorification of God
- Patronage of the Virgin Mary
- Concordance in society through infusion of the light of Christ into the cultural environment
- Artistic quality and spiritual insight, rather than quantity and shallow perception
- Spiritual refinement of the faculties and senses
In her third year of art study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Sister Mary Paula was commissioned to sculpt the founder of the Pallottine Fathers for the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., an intricately detailed sculpture. In her beautifully written Artist's Credo, Sister Mary Paula writes:
"Alas, the age of innocence still ebbs too soon. Though we long to see the face of God and feel His touch, we have grown tall; the clouds that surround us obscure His face and the layers of ice coating the sanctuary of our souls have a numbing effect. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis!
Come, Lord Jesus! Artisan who welcomes the poor in spirit, take our hands in yours and let us proceed together. Bless your creation with other hands now. Transform the world your Father made by giving your Body eyes to see beauty, balance and goodness....ears to hear clearly sounds pleading and pure. But above all, gentle Jesus, take our hands pinned to the cross the Father has chosen for us. Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem!"
I have a personal affection for Sister Mary Paula, not only because of her love of the pure and the sacred in art, but she also happens to be the cousin of my venerable grandmother ! :)
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Today is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. It is also a national holiday for laborers, and I found it humorously disappointing (you know, when you laugh at first but then become saddened on further reflection) that the local conservative talk show hosts did not know why. I will not be engaging myself in any form of labor whatsoever today, but rather spending time with a special someone in my life taking in the splendors of nature and beauty and good food. I hope Saint Joseph won't mind.
One of my favorite prayers, worthy of much more than the time it takes to say it ~ A Prayer for the Spirit of Work:
~~Glorious St. Joseph,
~~model of all who pass their life in labor,
~~obtain for me the grace to work in a spirit of penance
~~to atone for my many sins;
~~to work conscientiously,
~~putting the call of duty above my own inclinations;
~~to work with gratitude and joy,
~~considering it an honor to use and develop by my labor
~~the gifts I have received from God;
~~to work with order, peace, moderation, and patience,
~~without ever recoiling before weariness or difficulties.
~~Help me to work, above all, with purity of intention
~~and with detachment from self,
~~having always before my eyes the hour of death
~~and the accounting which I must render
~~of time lost, talents wasted, good omitted,
~~and vain complacency in success,
~~which is so fatal to the work of God.
~~All for Jesus,
~~all for Mary,
~~all after your example,
~~O Patriarch Joseph!
~~This shall be my watchword in life and in death.