Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day.

Congratulations, Mark! You survived your first year as a father.
You have proven to be a true blessing for our family.
It has been a joy to watch your relationship with each one of the kids develop this past year.
Thank you for loving and caring for this crazy bunch.

I hope you enjoyed your special day.
We love you!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Double Digits!

Another milestone reached! 
My children are no longer little.
All of my children are now in the double digits. 

He may not be so little anymore, but he sure is still cute!

Big brother making sure he was still the tallest 10 year old
of the house! Just wait, James. Lawrence may catch you yet!

Wonderful friends sharing in the celebration.

Yep... now I see why they all get along with Lawrence so well!

Lawrence, what a sweet, fun, funny, lovable kid you are.
Always remember, no matter how old you get, you will always be my
Teddy Bear!
We love you!

Goodness, Beauty, and Truth

"You have been told, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. Only to love goodness, to do the right, and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8

I have considered this verse from Micah as my "life verse" for many years now. It reminds me to look for the good and beautiful in life and in the world around me; it motivates me to do what is right just because it is the right; and it encourages me to keep my relationship with the Lord a top priority.

Last weekend (May 31 and June 1st), my husband and I attended the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference. I have attended the conference almost every year of my 15 years home schooling. Some years I get a lot out of the conference, some years just a little; but, every year I take away something new and beneficial. This year was a very fruitful year and I am feeling motivated. As I listened to the keynote speaker and the workshop presenters, my "life verse" resounded in my mind many times over.

Fr. Michael Schmitz was the keynote speaker this year. (EXCELLENT anytime you listen to him). Friday night's talk was titled "Being a Man After God's Own Heart." And even though the title leads us to believe it was addressed only to the male part of the crowd, Fr. Mike stressed the importance for each one of us to be people on a mission; fulfilling the mission/purpose that God has for each of our lives.

His talk on Friday night was great, but, I have to admit, even though I enjoyed it very much, it wasn't until his Sat. morning keynote that my "personal retreat" of sorts began.

I think the easiest and briefest way to share the insights I gained Saturday would be to simply bullet some key points I took away from each presentation.

The conference day began once again with a keynote address from Fr. Mike: Real Education

  • Philippians 4:8  "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
  • Modern culture seems to equate wisdom with experience
  • Modern education teaches and values that which is functional or useful (beauty is often considered UNimportant)
  • Real goal of education should be teaching TRUTH in order to live a life of EXCELLENCE
  • To become a person of EXCELLENCE we need three things
  1. Wisdom
  2. Discipline (gives us freedom... not the ability to do whatever we want, but the ability to do what we aught)
  3. Good stories (Education should include stories of true heroes. Those who did what was right simply because it was the right thing to do. Stories that give us something to strive for, virtues to desire.)

The presenter of the first workshop I chose to attend was Regina Doman (catholic author and homeschooling mother). The workshop was titled "Who's Prettier: the Disney Princesses or the Blessed Mother"
  • The current trend in film/tv is to make the "bad guy" attractive (mysterious, confident, active, dynamic,  powerful, seductive, and smooth) and the "good guy"/hero not so much (predictable, doubtful, reactive, static, weak, awkward, and stale)
  • We need to make what is good attractive. Show our kids the goodness and beauty of our Catholic Faith.
  • "When you sever the connection between goodness and beauty, goodness is in danger of becoming abstract and merely moral and evil becomes fascinating" Dietrich von Hildebrand
  • Beauty is the incarnation of goodness
  • children ages 3-6... experience good/evil through the senses... they need to see, feel, touch the beauty in the Catholic faith (beauty in the church building, family altar, good quality picture books, catholic art, fun and beautiful Easter and Christmas celebrations)
  • children 7-12... good catechesis, stores of true heroes (no wimpy heroes), good (older) church art, active and fun scripture stories   
  • teenagers... consistently joyful parents, variety in true Catholic worship (Latin/Traditional, Byzantine, Charismatic), encourage their personal creativity
  • Being good at what you do is an evangelization

Next I attended "The Well Read Mom: Why Reading Matters for Women" presented by Marcie Stockman (homeschooling mom of over 20 years).
  • Surveys show that 1/2 of high school graduates will not read another book (unless necessary for college)
  • When a woman reads she benefits herself, her family, and her community
  • Reading feeds a woman's heart 
  • Best way to raise a reader... read to them.  2nd best way...Be a reader!  Let your children see you read!
  • Studies show that those who read are more involved in society (vote more often, volunteer more often)
  • We have a TREASURY of wisdom in books (stories of what is good and beautiful)
  • Good stories encourage virtue.
I skipped that last workshop of the day. I chose to spend that time talking with a friend and walking through the vendor area. My friend mentioned to me that she was convicted throughout the day as well. She summed up her experience in three words... goodness, beauty, and truth. I really like that. It confirmed what I was already feeling as Micah 6:8 kept coming to my mind all morning. I have continued to think about that scripture and the idea of goodness, beauty and truth throughout the week and am motivated to examine some areas in our family and home to see how they can better reflect goodness, beauty and truth.

  • Go through each room of the house. Make a list of maintenance needs to be done as budget allows.
  • Declutter, organize, simplify.
  • Does each room reflect the beauty of our faith? Statues. Good art. Place a crucifix in each room that does not currently have one.
  • Do a better job changing the family altar to reflect the current season of the church year, day's feast, or particular family devotion.
  • Continue with music lessons. 
  • Make more time for arts and crafts.
  • More "living books". Good stories about true heroes in our history. Saint stories... heroic virtue.
  • Consistant prayer time (individual and family)
  • More frequent confession.
  • Consistent adoration.
  • More frequent daily Mass
  • Good catholic spiritual reading. (alone and aloud with family)
  • Finish online photography classes and get out taking pictures (my way of reflecting goodness in nature, in life, and most specifically, in my family)

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Mark and I share a devotion to the Sacred Heart. A couple months after we "met" online and spent some time getting to know each other through emails, instant messaging, and Skype, we were both starting to desire a face to face meeting. Considering it would require an 1100 mile drive for one of us and both of us knowing we didn't want to be in a long distance relationship that we didn't see the possibility of a long term future in, we decided to pray a novena and then decide if the timing was right for Mark's first trip to MN. We chose the Novena of Confidence to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. After praying the prayer for 9 days we both felt a sense of peace and planned Mark's first trip. His first visit went well. Throughout our two years dating, our devotion to the Sacred Heart grew. We even chose to be married on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, June 15th 2012. 

The Novena of Confidence to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

O Lord Jesus Christ, 
To your most Sacred Heart, 
I confide this/these intention(s):

(State you intention(s) here...)

Only look upon me, 
And then do 
What your Sacred Heart inspires.

Let your Sacred Heart decide
I count on it
I trust in it
I throw myself on Your mercy,
Lord Jesus!
You will not fail me.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
I trust in You.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
I believe in Your love for me.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
Your Kingdom come.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
I have asked you for many favors, 
But I earnestly implore this one. 
Take it. 

Place it in Your open, broken Heart; 
And, when the Eternal Father looks upon It, 
Covered with Your Precious Blood, 
He will not refuse it. 

It will be no longer my prayer, 
But Yours, O Jesus. 
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
I place all my trust in You. 

Let me not be disappointed.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Tonight's dinner!

Magdalene likes to cook and bake. Even though she is only 12 and has plenty of time to change her mind, she is considering a future career in the kitchen! To encourage her, we gave her The Everyday Gourmet DVD cooking and baking courses through Great Courses. I usually watch the lesson with her and then we get to cook together. Today, the lesson included Ratatouille!
It's a fun, colorful dish to make (unfortunately, my kids are not huge vegetable fans, but I liked it!)
But most of all, I enjoy cooking with my daughter!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day...

... from one crazy bunch!

Dinner! We had spaghetti. A family favorite around here.

But most spaghetti nights don't include the fancy dishes and special desserts.
But on special days I like to do extra special things.

We had poached pears on our honeymoon, and I loved them. I have been
wanting to make them myself and Valentine's Day seemed like the perfect motivation.
Not everyone liked them, but, Mark, Madison and I really enjoyed them. And I thought they made a pretty presentation.

I cut everyone's initial and little hearts from gum paste with my Mini Cake Cricut
which I found at Joann Fabrics on clearance for only $30. Quite a find :)
Everyone had a personalized cupcake for dessert!

After dinner my sweet children cleaned up dishes and Mark and I snuck away so
I could blog we could enjoy some quiet time alone together on our first Valentine's married.
So, maybe I should get off the computer now! :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate and Wine

 What a great combination!
Wine, chocolate, and friends.
With Lent just around the corner, I figured it was a great reason to get together 
with some friends and indulge a little!
Just a little... I mean, all the desserts were "little." Does that count?

These Rolo Brownie Trifles were delicious, but, very rich.
I think these little concoctions would have been enough chocolate all by themselves.
Ok... not really! Did I say "enough chocolate"?
One thing is for sure though, next time I will serve an even smaller version.

Peanut butter and chocolate just work so well together, wouldn't you agree?
It seems only fitting that peanut butter makes an appearance when this much chocolate is involved.

And fairly easy make.

Chocolate Cake Shooters.
This was my own design!
(Shh! Don't tell anyone just how easy it is to through something like this together.
Just tear a piece of cake into bite size pieces, layer with a complimentary pudding, 
cookie crumbs and whipped cream. Combinations are endless.)

A chocolate cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts. 
And this mini version did not disappoint.
The real danger is that now that I know how to make
a mini version, it is tempting to make them more often.

 And for the wine. Served in small "tasting" glasses
allowed for variety. I had to try chocolate wine... not sure I was all that impressed.
I think I preferred the LePassione with my chocolate.
And what would a night with friends be without some spilled wine!
(Right, ladies?? But it was all the dogs fault! 
So thankful for my norwex cloth. No one else will ever know!)

I really enjoyed making all the desserts. I like trying new recipes and making "mini" desserts
just means I get to try even more.
 It was a fun evening. Thanks, ladies, for the conversation, laughter, and friendship. 
I am hoping to do it again. Just have to wait until after Easter when Lent is over.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Canasta Dinner.

It all started over a couple decks of cards. We all decided it would fun. After all, we get together with Dave and Kristi fairly regularly. What better way to spend a couple hours then visiting over a competitive, full contact friendly game of cards? So we paired up guys against the girls... no problem! We ladies were doing pretty good, I must say, with the guys winning just often enough to keep them interested challenged. After a few months, we had won over 20 games, the guys somewhere in the upper teens. Well, someone(one of the guys, no less) had the great idea that we should start back at zero wins a piece and play for a "prize". The first team to reach 25 wins would get a special dinner made by the other team. "Great idea," we ladies agree. After all, it seemed as though skill rested in our favor :)

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Well, I would say it provides some pretty good motivation in cards as well. The tide turned! The guys pulled out ahead, and I believe held the lead through most of the round. We ladies would pull up from behind... possibly taking the lead by a game (or 2) here and there. But the guys would rally and come back in full force to pull out in the lead. In the end, they won 25 games to 22. 

Time for Kristi and I to plan dinner!

We decided on Italian. 

For drinks we served a strawberry margarita (great recipe),
a white moscato, and Le Passione (both my favorite wines).

For an appetizer, we served bread with garlic olive oil.
Kristi brought some venison sticks.
(Ok... some may argue that venison is not Italian. I say, "Who cares? They were delicious!")

Our first course consisted of an "Olive Garden Soup" copy-cat recipe that Kristi found.
(Thanks, Kristi, for leaving some leftovers. Perfect comfort food for this very snowy Sunday!)
She also put together a wonderful salad served with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Time to eat!

For the main course, I made Rolled Lasagna.
I tried a new recipe. It was good, but, needs a little tweaking. It seemed a little bland and a little dry.
We also had sautéed green beans.

For dessert, (thanks to some inspiration from Pinterest), I made
mini chocolate cheesecakes, lemon shooters, and mini tiramisu.
I must say, the tiramisu was a very pleasant surprise. I'm not always a fan of tiramisu. But this
 was delicious and the favorite dessert of the evening. Although I must admit, my personal favorite was
the cheesecake. I decided to try using ground oreos for the crust... YUM!!

Well, I do believe our dinner turned out to be a great success. And, I must admit, that
although I am hoping this round of canasta has a different ending, making dinner was a lot fun!
The guys even enjoyed it so well...


And, of course; the evening continued with a few games of canasta!
Dave and Kristi... so glad we are friends!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Grandma Tea

Today we had the privilege of all three Grandams over for tea.

G'ma Jan (my first husband's mom) surprised us all. Madison had called with a request
to "dress-up", and "dress-up" G'ma did. She wore a nice dress, long black gloves (from
her granddaughter dress-up box), about 5 or 6 necklaces, nice big earrings, and her little white hat.
Not having and make-up, she used a marker to give herself "rosy-red" cheeks. She came walking up the drive with a cane (which she does not need). And to top it all off, since she doesn't have a long dress jacket, she wore her pink bathrobe. When she arrived she explained, "I dressed like a little old lady going to tea!" We all decided we would have to have another tea sometime and we will ALL
dress like "little old ladies going to tea!"

The three grandmas.
(Nana, my mom; G'ma Jan; Grammy, Mark's mom)
Nana and G'ma live within a couple hours, but Grammy lives in TN.
We are enjoying having her here this week for a visit.

The tea table!!

Chicken salad on cucumber slices.

Chocolate teacakes.

Mini cream cheese and fruit parfaits.

Thanks, Grandmas, for a wonderful tea!
We hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did.
Love you all!!