Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lent 2009

We celebrated on Tuesday with our third annual Mardi Gras party! What began as an awesome event with my brother's family two years ago has become a favorite tradition, though on a much smaller scale and with our lonely family as the sole participants. No matter, though; we still know how to have fun! The children helped me decorate the dining room and we colored an assortment of masquerade masks. Dylan printed out an activity book he created by copying and pasting from various websites, which included the recipe I needed for our King Cake! He was so eager to help and made a wonderful assistant! My little Sous Chef, I call him. :)

I feel almost a sense of relief at having finally entered Lent. For a while now I've been feeling so stressed and overwhelmed, and it feels no nice to have a reason to slow down, simplify, and reflect. I printed out an archived Catholic Update from American Catholic called "Day by Day Through Lent: Fasting From Our Clutter" and I look forward to experiencing this personal "mini retreat" of sorts this Lent.

Upon a recommendation I read in Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler, we've also decorated our home a bit more for Lent this year. We've hung laminated Stations of the Cross along our hallway in the past, but this year, I just can't figure out where in the world they are! One would think it would be obvious, but sadly, around here you just never know. Why wouldn't they be in the logical place? See why I'm so eager to meditate on clearing the clutter as mentioned above? :)

Anyway, I really like what we've done instead. I discovered some lovely little black and white illustrations of the Stations of the Cross while searching online, and they are the perfect size to adorn our mantle. (The framed prints are special, too: they are copies of the Lord's Prayer and Profession of Faith that Darren received when he joined the Church at Easter in 1998.) We plan to pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday as a family, as we've done during Lent for the past two years.

The bookcase beside the fireplace has, over the last several months, become a focal point for seasonal displays. Having decorated it for Advent, winter, and Valentine's Day, I decided that it would be nice to arrange a few simple Lenten pieces here, too. I started with the most perfect granite sculpture, etched with three crosses, which had up to this point been sitting out on our back patio. I was determined to make a crown of thorns, too. I hadn't the faintest idea how, but figured a stroll through Darren's desert garden might provide a bit of inspiration. I was in luck! The sprawling branches of a small mesquite shrub bordered the walking path and I was startled by the size of their spines. I couldn't remember having seen it there before, so it must have been divine intervention! :) Darren agreeably helped me fashion a crown from two flexible branches, and it is amazing.

I've begun a Lenten Bible study with the children, borrowing from Jessica's archives at Shower of Roses, and I love it so much. We're not making symbols for a Jesus tree, but I've compiled just a list of the daily readings from the New Catholic Picture Bible and printed the corresponding coloring pages for each child. Jessica, thank you so much for sharing all your hard work!!!

Also, in addition to our daily morning prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Morning Offering, and Guardian Angel prayer), we're also saying an Act of Contrition because I really want the children to start learning it and Lent is the perfect time to start! I also have a list of specific prayer intentions for each day of the week. This is another idea discussed in Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler, and although it suggests making a large calendar to include these prayers and other activities, I decided to simply type them up and include them with our morning prayers and Bible Study. (Jessica, however, has posted a lovely example of her family's calendar!)

And of course, we just had to make another Lamb of God poster. I especially love this year's because it reminds me so much of the little lamb Kristen received in her Easter basket last year. We'll add a cotton ball each day and have a cute fluffy white lamb by Easter!

I feel like there's more I wanted to say but I can't remember what and Darren is sweetly reminding me that my computer time is up, anyway. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some Mardi Gras Cuteness

My children and I came across this silly video today while searching for Mardi Gras crafts. We found it at this site, where we, appropriately, were printing out our own mask templates! We've laughed through it several times now and hope you enjoy it, too!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Just a walk in the park, Kazanski.

I had been so worried about how we would manage all those doctor appointments on Wednesday, with the first being Darren's at 8:30 that morning. He hadn't yet been cleared to drive, and we had no babysitter, so it was up to me and the children to get him there in time. I wasn't really thrilled with the prospect of waiting for who-knew-how-long in the waiting room with four rambunctious little monkeys, however, so I decided to pack up a picnic breakfast and wait in a nearby park, instead. Darren called from the doctor's office when he was finished with his appointment (much sooner than we expected) and since we were having so much fun we we went back for a little while longer after picking him up. It worked out much better this way! Thank goodness I had my camera with me. :)

P.S. My brother is probably the only other person in the world who will appreciate the title of this post, but I think it's brilliant. It's a quote from Top Gun: "You up for this one, Maverick?" "Just a walk in the park, Kazanski". Because see, I had no idea how everything would work that morning and it turned out, both literally and figuratively, to be just a walk in the park.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Melissa is up too early.

Doctor appointments for everyone this morning, except me: post-op check for Darren, well child checks for all four children, hoping my sanity remains intact.

I started Facebooking this week after nearly a year of a mostly quiet account. I have friends now! It's funny to see these faces from the past. Lots of memories, there.

And speaking of which, I dug out my old souvenir box from high school to show my children photos and brochures from Ford's Theatre during our Presidents Day lessons. Some of that stuff I hadn't looked at in years! I had forgotten that I'd added many items from my much earlier childhood when their storage box was destroyed by a water leak in our old apartment. Stories and pictures I'd drawn in like second grade! Now that is fun stuff. Boxes may yet make me crazy, but that pretty much settled it for me: I am keeping our children's work! They'll be thirty-something one day, too, and I know we'll like to see it again.

Kristen's first birthday is less than one month from today. I have my mom to thank for that (un)kind reminder. Darren returns to work tomorrow and I miss him already. I've loved having him home.

Time now for that first cup of coffee, and then it's time to really get moving.

And thank goodness for spell check. Apparently I can't spell "brochures". Or "apparently".

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ugh, and GROSS.

Well, that was unpleasant. I just spent the last fifteen minutes removing half a dozen dirty comments from some fool in Taiwan who apparently has nothing better to do than sit around spreading filth through the internet. Happy Hearts at Home, I'm so sorry to see that you, too, were the target of such nastiness. (A quick look at my sitemeter shows that they apparently came to my page from yours; but selfishly, I just have to say that I was glad, at least, for the opportunity to discover your beautiful blog!) But still. Such a not nice way to start my day. :(

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm not allowed to shop at Target anymore.

Or maybe that's not entirely true, but I did spend ninety dollars there this morning and still somehow managed to return home without the one item for which I had gone in the first place: tomato soup. More accurately, the three remaining cans I found on the shelf there, because it was Darren's only request when I left with all the children to allow him some quiet rest while he recuperates from the surgery he underwent yesterday. I know I paid for them, because the evidence mocked me there in black and white on the receipt when I got home and checked, then double- and triple-checked, the bags. Irritation! Has anyone else ever done this, or am I uniquely talented in this regard? Please, I'd love to hear your stories. I mean, ninety dollars!!! And no soup!!! (Although I did, with great difficulty, abstain from purchasing the most beautiful bedding for the girls, with which I absolutely fell in love, and which also happened to be the last remaining in the right size, and which matched their current room so well I wouldn't even have to repaint, because, oh, did I mention? They want to trade rooms again!)

Darren's current nerdy reads, because it will make me laugh if we ever go through this again, but we better as heck not, because we just did this not two years ago: Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy and The Most Evil Men and Women in History. (But I have to say that even I am finding that second one fascinating. "Bloody Mary", for example? Wow, now that family had issues. Oh, and my other current read: Don't Know Much About American History. Perhaps there is room enough for more than one nerd in this family. Although, if I were truly a nerd or had ever at least paid attention in history class, probably I wouldn't even need such a book. There is just so much I don't know. Scarier, even more that I don't even know I don't know. You know?)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Friday Fun

I decided a while back that we would not have school on Fridays. With few exceptions, I work every Friday and the stress of worrying about school, getting the laundry caught up before the weekend, tidying the house, and trying to sleep before going to work was just too much. It's much nicer now having our Fridays off! And so, although it's technically now Saturday morning (it still feels like Friday since I've not yet been to bed) I wanted to share with you a bit of the fun we had today.

I was remembering a few nights ago how much my brothers and mom and I used to enjoy a soft pretzel and Orange Julius when we'd visit the mall. It's been years and years now since I've had an Orange Julius (that store is no longer even at the mall) but I thought I could probably whip up a similar concoction in the blender. I found this recipe and it tasted surprisingly close to what I remembered! The children didn't much care for theirs, so there was plenty for me. ;)

I had tried several soft pretzel recipes last year, and even shared a couple of them with Charlotte when she was requesting suggestions during Lent, but this time I tried a new recipe and I have to say that we were all very well pleased with the results. They were very easy to make and Dylan declared them "the best in the Universe"! I was all out of the salt with which I've topped them in the past, but this time the children actually voted for cinnamon sugar pretzels, instead, and I was more than happy to oblige. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to try out the nifty little sifter I received at Christmas from my thoughtful sister-in-law! I was also glad for the chance to use one of the baking stones Darren found for a steal at a yard sale last year. It worked beautifully!

We so enjoyed our uncommon lunch that we even let Kristen participate, too! I've said before that I'm paranoid about choking (if it was up to me I'd puree all their food until they're, like, five), but I broke off little teeny tiny pieces for Kristen to eat and she was so thrilled to be eating like such a big girl! And I know she really is becoming quite the big girl. I can't believe she'll be one next month!

Happy Saturday, friends! I hope you all have a delightful weekend!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Just so you know...

The kitty is not actually allowed on Kristen's high chair. But sometimes, instead of shooing her down, I just have to grab the camera first. :)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Thoughts on a Thursday.

The funeral for Darren's grandpa was held yesterday afternoon. Sadly, though, we were unable to attend. At a distance some seven hours away, the drive would have simply been too painful for Darren, who is scheduled to have surgery less than a week from today and who is miserable just driving to and from work each day.

I sure hope his grandpa would understand.

Darren's first book signing was also held yesterday at the museum, and as I type this, he is giving a lecture at the university to be followed by another signing. He'll have one more this weekend at our favorite bookstore, which I'm hoping to attend with the children, and there will be one more at Barnes and Noble later in the month. There was an awesome feature story about him and his book in two of our local newspapers, and I'm beginning to feel as though I'm married to a celebrity! I really am so proud of him. All of his profits are being donated to the Historical Foundation, which is raising money for a new museum building, and he has had such a positive response from the community!

I had a friend over for lunch earlier in the week and it was so much fun. I baked bread and cookies that morning (oatmeal raisin!) and we brainstormed scrap booking ideas. She's much more creative than me, and had some really great ideas! I hope to get together with her much more frequently in the future, particularly in the summer when her daughter, who was in school at the time, will be able to join us, too. She's Caitlyn's age and they have such fun together!

Darren and I are currently planning a major adventure. It was really my idea, but he loves me so much that he's willing to go along with it. :) I hope to share more about it at a later date, but for now I'll say that it involves a drive through five states with all four children sometime in May. I can't wait!!!

There's more I'd like to say, but it smells like someone is in need of a diaper change. Thanks for visiting...I needed a break. ;)

6 Things

Tina kindly tagged me for this one, but I'm too lazy to re-post all the "rules". If you'd like to play along, consider yourself tagged! Six things about me:

1. I'm seldom "Melissa" to family or close friends. I'm Liss, Lissa, Lissie, or Meliss...but never Mel, and don't even think about calling me Missy!

2. I'm terrible about keeping in touch. I hate leaving telephone messages and am embarrassingly slow at responding to e-mails. So if you haven't heard from me in a while, please don't take it personally!

3. When I was sixteen, my best friend and I volunteered at the hospital on the unit where I'm currently employed. I laugh now about how few responsibilities I had back then: pass ice, distribute and retrieve meal trays, make beds...we weren't really allowed to do much else!

4. While I love marriage and motherhood, I cry to my mom on really bad days that I want to run away by myself to a deserted island. But I'm not really as terrible as that makes me sound. ;)

5. I have a high tolerance for physical pain but easily shed emotional tears. I didn't cry when my appendix ruptured when I was eight years old, for example, nor did I cry during any of the subsequent procedures or week long hospitalization...except for the night when my mom left my hospital room after dark. I was sure she'd be mugged or murdered in the parking lot. See what I mean? Hugely emotional.

6. Unlike my husband, I don't much care for cooking—but I love to bake! So between the two of us, we're set! We dream of someday opening our own little diner. Wouldn't that be fun?!

I know there are many more little known facts I could share about myself, but these will have to do for now. I think I've embarrassed myself enough for one day. :)