Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I was talking to my mom on the phone Monday afternoon after having worked Sunday night.

"I hate myself today!" I told her truthfully. "I am the meanest Mommy in the world! I have absolutely no patience, I am yelling way too much, ..."

"You're not mean," she broke in. "You're tired. There is a big difference! You know that! And I think that if you explain it to your kids, they'll understand, too."

"Well, maybe," I replied half-heartedly. "But I sure feel mean."

She was right, of course. I was exhausted, with a migraine that no amount of ibuprofen or caffeine was able to help. But that was no excuse for my terrible behavior and short temperedness, so I gathered my babies close to me and loved on each one of them, apologizing for my grumpiness and asking their forgiveness. The day did get better (and not surprisingly, so did my headache), but I still felt sick at heart when I thought of how out-of-control I had allowed the morning to become. I couldn't escape the memory of their tears or wounded expressions. They had happily rebounded, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that I had failed them--particularly in light of my recent Lenten resolution.

Darren and I talked about it and prayed together for a long time last night after all the kids were asleep. And when we finally went to bed, I felt much better, more at peace, than I have in a very long time. I woke up this morning feeling so rejuvenated and optimistic about life, motherhood, homeschooling, and so in love with my dear husband and precious children.

Overcome with gratitude this morning, I said to my kids, "I am so, so lucky to have been given all three of you kids--exactly you!--just exactly the way you are. To have been given such gifts, God must surely love me very, very much."

"And us," Dylan responded. "And Daddy, too."

Indeed, son.

I know that I'm not a failure. I'm just an imperfect mother doing her best to, with the help of God's grace, perfectly love the incredible family with which she's been blessed.

Friday, February 23, 2007

An Easter basket for Jesus

I have been greatly inspired this past week by seeing the creative ways other families are celebrating Lent, and particularly enjoyed Celeste's delightful post full of wonderful ways to make Lent more meaningful for children. Dylan and Caitlyn are old enough now that I really wanted them to have their own special way of actively preparing for Easter, so we decided to make a special Easter basket just for Jesus. They helped me pick out a basket and then filled it with purple "grass". Next we cut out a variety of "eggs" from brightly colored card stock. We talked about little ways that we can be more loving and charitable towards others and now, whenever I notice them being particularly sweet or helpful, we write it down on one of our eggs and add it to the basket. On Easter morning, Jesus will have his very own Easter basket filled with all the kind words and small sacrifices that Dylan and Caitlyn have made during Lent. And they are being so sweet! They know that the fullness of the basket depends on their actions and behavior, and they want it to be full for Jesus! I pray that by the time Easter arrives, it will be filled to abundance.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Peer Pressure

As I was readying myself for Mass late yesterday afternoon, I could hear Dylan and Caitlyn in the next room, engaged in a rather spirited conversation regarding school:

: I just love school! I can't WAIT to go to school!

: Well, Caitlyn, I DON'T like school. And if I stay home and home school, then YOU have to stay home and home school, too.

: Well, I like school...

: Well, I don't! So you're going to have to stay home and home school with me!

Neither of them has actually ever been to school in the traditional sense, but clearly, they are developing strong opinions on the matter! And to tell the truth, my resolve to home school has actually been wavering in recent weeks. So, to hear the determination in Dylan's voice was actually quite a relief to me! (Although I'm not too sure where this leaves Caitlyn. Thankfully, we've got a few more years to work that out!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lent and Children

As they were packing up to head back to their hotel two nights ago, my brother casually asked me if I had any great new books that I'd read to the kids lately.

"OH!" I answered immediately. "YES! You have got to read this one. I get so choked up every time I read it that I can barely finish out loud. Take it! Read it tonight! You will love it!"

"Wait a minute," he said. "Is it sad? No one D-I-E-S at the end, do they?"

"No, no, no," I was quick to assure him. "This book isn't that kind of sad. It's just about growing up. It's sad like Love You Forever is sad. I can't read that one without crying, either."

And so they left, with my cherished copy of Let Me Hold You Longer tucked carefully in with the rest of their belongings.

Yesterday, they had no sooner arrived at my house when my brother demanded, with book in hand, "How could you make me read this?! I had to keep leaving the room just so I could compose myself!"

"I warned you that it was sad!" I responded. "But didn't you just love it anyway, though?"

In this poignant tale inspired by her own six children, the author, Karen Kingsbury, so beautifully captures the essence of childhood. She writes in her introduction that, "We spend our children's days celebrating their firsts. First steps, first tooth, first words. First day of kindergarten, first homecoming dance, first time behind the wheel. But somehow, along the way, we miss their lasts. There are no photographs or parties when a child takes his last nap or catches tadpoles for the last time. For the most part, it's impossible to know when a last-moment actually occurs. Nothing signals a mother to stop and notice the last time her little boy runs and jumps into her arms..."

This book is sad to me because it is so true. Because I can already see it happening in my own children's lives. Because some of these are things that I've already mourned the passing of and because I'm worried there are so many more "lasts" that I won't recognize or appreciate until long after they've come to pass.

This book makes me sad because it forces me, with each reading, to acknowledge how often I go through the day not really being "present" to my children. Of how often I hear their little voices without really listening to their words. And of how I serve them often in the most grudging fashion, selfishly, complainingly. This book makes me wonder how much I would have done differently had I known how quickly these days would pass.

My children truly are my greatest treasures, but I really have to wonder how often my daily actions reflect to them how precious they are to me. And so, as we enter into the season of Lent today, I am making a promise, to myself and to my children, to really be "in the moment" with them, cherishing them and savoring every tiny detail, giving of myself until it hurts. These next forty days of Lent, I want to learn how to truly "die to self", so that when Easter at last arrives, I, too, may "rise up", triumphant, and stronger than ever in my vocation to motherhood.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mexican Mardi Gras

When we discovered that my older brother's job would require him to be here in town for the entire week preceding Ash Wednesday (actually, through the 22nd), my sister-in-law and I wasted no time in planning a memorable Mardi Gras bash. Having lived in New Orleans for the three years he attended law school, we consider my brother our chief expert on all things New Orleanian, so my sister-in-law grilled him about any particular customs or practices we could incorporate into our festivities. It was decided that we would have our own "Fat Tuesday" party, but since both Darren and my brother will be working on Tuesday, we celebrated yesterday instead. We had originally thought of trying a true New Orleans feast, but ultimately decided that we just wouldn't be able to do it proper justice. My brother assured us that we could indulge in whatever we didn't have to be seafood or even southern fare. Greatly relieved, we decided to have an early brunch, followed later by an alternate dinner consisting of red chile beef enchiladas, green chile chicken enchiladas, chicken tacos, chile con queso, and frozen margaritas...resulting in our own unique "Mexican Mardi Gras"! My sister-in-law brought a bunch of beads, masks, and garland that my brother had stored up in their attic, and I found a few other decorations at Hobby Lobby that perfectly completed our decor--including some awesome chile pepper Mardi Gras lights that we hung with the garland from the ledge in my kitchen. (I wonder...where else but in New Mexico might one actually find Mardi Gras chile peppers?!)

Dylan was ever so helpful with decorating for the party! He cheerfully made banners for the dining room window and fireplace mantle, hung masks and beads everywhere, and drew a really cool "Mardi Gras Higglytown Hero" to which he affixed a small mask from one of the party sticks he insisted we buy at Hobby Lobby.

The morning began splendidly, with a delectable brunch prepared (mostly!) by my sister-in-law: apple and cherry crepes, egg strata, champagne salad, and, in our one small acquiescence to authentic New Orleans cuisine...beignets! From Cafe Du Monde! We ate way too much, but it was all just so delicious! Later, to get some exercise and fresh air, we walked two blocks to a nearby playground. The weather was beautiful, and I loved watching our little "leaders", my niece and Caitlyn, walking hand in hand with their matching ponytails adorned with Mardi Gras ribbons.

After relaxing for most of the afternoon, we enjoyed our huge dinner but, once again, ate way more than was comfortable! Dessert was going to be a King Cake, but I opted instead to make this delicious lemon pound cake. With frosting and sprinkles, (and a few strategically placed plastic babies!), we had our own version of a King Cake with just a fraction of the work.

We all had such a great time that we agreed we should try this again next year. The food and drinks were phenomenal, but even better was the fun we had together, cooking and feasting and lingering at the table long after we were finished eating. If this is our "last hurrah" before the agonizingly long forty days of lent, I'll take it...with pleasure.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

All's well that ends well

Thank you, all of you, who so kindly left comments of well wishes for my sweet little Meghan!

I am happy to report that her check-up went well this morning. She does have a nasty cold, but everything else checked out fine. She also got three shots, which in no way improved her demeanor! But we gave her a dose of Tylenol and Triaminic as soon as she got home, and in a short while she was down for a very long nap. Having been up so much of the night, I knew she was exhausted and was glad she was finally able to sleep.

While she was napping, I had a wonderful time celebrating Valentine's Day with Dylan and Caitlyn. Dylan was particularly adorable, and very creative today! He spent a considerable amount of time this morning drawing, cutting out, and taping together this paper "Valentine airplane", and I was so impressed with what a great job he did. His attention to detail just astounds me!

For lunch I thought I'd deviate just a bit from our standard PB&J's. It took such little effort on my part to present them with special Valentine sandwiches, and they were so happy with their special treats! I love this part of being a mom--the small ways in which I can show my kids how very much I love them, even with something as simple as a heart cut from the center of their sandwiches.

After lunch we made a batch of sugar cookies. Baking is always a big hit with my kids, and today was no exception! They helped roll out the dough and took turns pressing the cookie cutter, but their favorite part was eating the extra icing once we were finished!

Much to my relief and great surprise, Meghan was in a wonderful mood when she woke up from her nap. We all piled onto my bed and read The Valentine Bears, a sweet little book that Darren gave me on our first Valentine's Day together. I just love that, ten years later, here I am...snuggling our three little sweethearts, and reading to them that very same book!

Darren prepared a wonderful dinner for us when he got home from work, and for dessert, we made hot cocoa to sip with our sugar cookies. Dylan presented us with a card he made this afternoon, and I love it. I love everything about it! The hand of cupid in the top right corner, shooting an arrow emblazoned with Dylan's name; the block lettering; Cupid's tongue; the dimension of the cross; and--my favorite--the eyelashes on the lady heart! So cute! So sweet!

I hope you all enjoyed your Valentine's day just as much as we did!

Great timing

December was a busy month!

So I hope you'll understand when I confess that somehow, we overlooked Meghan's one year check-up.

By the time we thought to call the pediatrician's office in January, we were politely informed by the receptionist that the next available opening would be at 8:45 on February 14th. Would we like to make an appointment? I was dubious (what kind of mother takes her child to get shots on Valentine's Day?!) but seeing as how she'd already be nearing fourteen months old, I went ahead and took the appointment. And I've been feeling guilty ever since (it's Valentine's Day!)....that is, until the early hours of this morning, which were spent holding Meghan in the recliner in our bedroom, rubbing her back as she dozed intermittently between fits of horrible, strangling coughing. She's covered in spit up. I'm covered in spit up. But still, I let her sleep just a little bit longer before waking her for a bath.

And I am ever thankful that she so conveniently has a doctor appointment already lined up first thing this morning. (Sometimes procrastination really does pay off!)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Eternal Love

There is a framed picture that I keep in my bedroom of Darren and I perched high atop a rocky formation in the mountains, immortalized in a reckless embrace, photographed by my brother during a brief respite on one of the many hiking excursions we so enjoyed while we were dating. Young and in love, the sky was our limit, and we had lofty hopes and aspirations of a fairy tale life together...

Darren was thirty and I a mere nineteen years old when we first met at the university we both attended. I was a sophomore, still living at home with my parents, very active in the Catholic community, and had never been involved in a serious romance. Darren was a "non-traditional" student, having recently been discharged from the army after seven years of service (four of which were spent in Germany). He was divorced. And an atheist. And was, to this small town girl, deliciously sophisticated!

To some we seemed doomed for disaster. We were, however, inexorably drawn to each other, and it wasn't long before we were absolutely, irrevocably, head-over-heels in Love. And because I cared so deeply for him, I was troubled greatly by his thoughts on God. There has never been a time in my life when I didn't know God, and certainly I had never wavered in my belief. I desired, with all my heart, for Darren to know the love and peace that comes with believing, and trusting, and knowing God. Often we talked about our different beliefs. There came a point where, despite being a "cradle Catholic", I just didn't feel I had adequate answers or arguments to rebut his interrogations. So I began inviting him to Mass with me. He came, week after week, to the Life Teen Mass at which I was involved as a member of the Core Team. And then, after continued prayer and conversation, we began attending RCIA meetings together at my church, where he had the opportunity to learn even more about the faith he knew was so important to me, and which was beginning to mean more to him, too. His change of heart was gradual. It came with much prayer, many tears, intense periods of doubt and longing, but ultimately culminated with his full reception into the Church at Easter, 1998. He was radiant, transformed by Christ, and I had never loved him more.

As the season of Lent approaches once again, I've been reflecting on how far Darren has come in his spiritual journey...and how far I, along for the ride, have come as well. In the nearly nine years since Darren joined the Church, he has proved himself time and again to be truly devoted to knowing and serving our Lord. The man who once insisted that he didn't want children is the most incredible father to our precious children. He's a better husband than I deserve. He loves us and guides us and strives always to prayerfully discern God's calling for our family.

We really are living our happily ever after, but the sky is no longer our limit. We're working together now towards a destination much further, above and beyond, where we hope to enjoy an eternal reward long after we've passed through the beautiful light of this life.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Rock On!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Homemaking Meme

I feel so loved! Crafty Mom has tagged me for this meme. I've really enjoyed reading the responses of other bloggers who have already participated, and now, here are my secrets...revealed!

I do have a very cute Christmas apron which was handmade and given to me by a dear friend years ago (before I was married). I still display it in my kitchen throughout the holiday season, but have only managed to actually wear it on about two occasions. I think I'm afraid of ruining it!

Baking-Favorite thing to bake:
Cookies! Definitely cookies. They're quick, easy, and provide nearly immediate gratification. And my kids love to help by choosing the recipe and measuring out the ingredients.

No. However, I usually only partially dry our clothes, then hang them on the rack above the drier. It conserves energy and helps minimize wrinkles!

Donuts-Have you ever made them?
Once, a long, long time ago.

Every day – One homemaking thing you do every day:
Oh gosh, just one? :) Run the dishwasher. Sometimes twice!

Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?
Not yet. But! We're in the process of assembling a storage shed in our backyard, to which much of the excess "stuff" in our garage will be moved, thereby clearing a nice tidy space to house the freezer my mom is holding for us! And I am thrilled. That baby is going to be packed with green chile this fall! (And ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream!)

Garbage disposal-Y/N:

Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?
I look to my mom for a lot of my inspiration. When I was growing up, she was, to me, the personification of the "perfect" housewife. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I hope I've succeeded.

Ironing-Love it or hate it?
Love it if it relates to crafts, hate it if it involves garments of any sort. Luckily, Darren actually likes it! He happily volunteers to iron any clothes that need it (which aren't many).

Junk drawer-Y/N? Where is it?
Most certainly! We've got one in the kitchen, quite a few in our desk, and several more in an old desk out in our garage!

Kitchen-Design and Decorating?
Roosters. For a more detailed description, you can see it here in a post I shared last August.

Love-What is your favorite part of homemaking?
Nurturing my children and making my home a place of love and comfort for all who reside within.

Never with an actual mop. Usually Darren or I will get down on our hands and knees with an old rag and bucket of sudsy water. In between moppings, I try to at least wipe up spills or spots as they occur, so the floor at least looks clean!

Nylons-Wash by hand or in the washing machine?
Honestly? I so seldom wear them that I generally just buy new ones as the need arises.

Oven – Do you use the window or open the oven to check?
My kids and I like to watch the progress through the window, but I open the door to check for actual doneness.

Pizza-What do you put on yours?
I'm never consistent. Sometimes I like pineapple and ham, sometimes pepperoni with black olives and green chile, or, when we make it at home, I like artichoke hearts with extra cheese and black olives.

Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
If my kids are napping, I try to nap, too. If they're just quietly engaged in something, I'll steal a few moments of computer time or call my sister-in-law.

Recipe card box-Y/N?
No. I have a small cabinet above my oven that holds a wide variety of cookbooks and a rather hodge-podge assortment of loose recipes, some hand written and some printed off the computer. I keep thinking I should put them in some sort of order!

Style of house:
Ranch, maybe? I'm not sure what its official classification would be. Single story, three bedrooms, two baths, ~1400sq.ft.

Tablecloths and napkins – Y/N?
Place mats and paper napkins for every day, tablecloth for special occasions.

Under the kitchen sink – Organized or toxic wasteland?
Fairly organized, but in need of a good scrubbing.

Vacuum-How many times per week?
Once, on average. I really don't mind vacuuming so much anymore; usually it's just a matter of setting aside time to actually do it!

Wash – How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
About six, maybe? I don't really count.

X’s – Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Typically, no. But if there is a LOT to be done (say, we've got company coming), I'll make a list to help prioritize.

Yard – Y/N? Who does what?
My husband does all the yard work. My only job is to stand out there and crack the whip. (Kidding! Well, about the whip, that is. Darren actually loves working on the yard, particularly out in his desert garden. When the weather is nice we ALL like to be outside planting and tending, and we're all really looking forward to starting our very first vegetable garden this year!)

Zzz’s – What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
After tucking the kids into their beds, I like to make a final run through the house tidying up and replacing any stray books or toys, and getting things ready for the next morning.

Living and Learning

One thing I really love about teaching Dylan at home is the unique opportunity I have, every day, to see exactly how his little mind works. One such priceless moment presented itself just a little while ago, as I was sitting at the table watching him practice his letters in one of his favorite workbooks. The accompanying rhyme for the letter "N" read:

N was a narwhal
Whose tooth did not gleam;
He went to the dentist
Who polished it clean.

"Hmmmm," I said to him. "I've never heard of a narwhal before...have you?"

"No!" he replied. "Maybe it's a brand new animal that God just made!"

What a great answer!

(But because we really were curious, we searched online and found this fascinating page about narwhals. Mommy learned something new today, too!)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Even sweeter? Darren is chocolate chip!

You Are Strawberry Ice Cream

A bit shy and sensitive, you are sweet to the core.
You often find yourself on the outside looking in.
Insightful and pensive, you really understand how the world works.

You are most compatible with chocolate chip ice cream.

Monday, February 05, 2007

More Magnets

You see? I wasn't kidding when I said I was becoming addicted to magnet making! I had every intention of presenting these adorable "Love Bug" magnets to my children on Valentine's day, but after finishing them two nights ago, I decided I just couldn't wait another ten days! They were quite happily surprised to see them adorning our refrigerator door the next morning.

Now, I'll just need to find new gifts for the 14th. Hmmm....

Maybe...more magnets? :)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Heaven In a Bottle

Oh. My. Gosh. To die for!!!

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Last night I finally realized, for the first time in nearly thirty years of life, that January makes me depressed. I'm sure there are a number of contributing factors for this--the cold, gray days, the holiday weight gain, the slow return to routine--but at any rate, it was with great warmth and pleasure that, with steaming cup of coffee in hand, I greeted February like a long lost friend this morning as I flipped the calendar page in my kitchen.

And since my kids have been asking for the past two weeks when we can start making Valentine's Day decorations, we wasted no time getting busy this morning! I searched happily through our newly organized craft closet and found a few simple supplies. By cutting hearts out of assorted shades of tissue paper and then gluing them to the backs of white paper doilies, we created these beautiful decorations to adorn our back door.

The impact these few simple decorations have already had on my bleak demeanor is indescribable. Though outside it is still cold, and gray, and very, very windy, there is warmth and joy that emanates from these bright cheery hearts and inside, all is well.