Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Papal Mail: A letter from..........

...........the Pope! 

Yes, that is what came in the mail to Isabel on Monday.  Back in April we had mailed a letter, handwritten by Isabel to Pope Francis, congratulating him on becoming the new pope.  Isabel drew a picture for him, I looked up "how to send a letter to the Pope" on the internet, and we stuck it in the mail.

I had no idea we'd get a response!

Now, in all fairness, this letter is from Monsignor Peter B. Wells, Assessor of General Affairs in the Vatican's Office of Secretary of State. 

It reads:

"His Holiness Pope Francis was pleased to receive your kind letter and he has asked me to thank you.  The Holy Father will remember you and your family in his prayers.  He invokes upon you God's abundant blessings."

But how cool is that??  Officially Vatican mail sent through the Apostolic Nunciature to my own little Isabel!  She was just thrilled.  It included a picture of Pope Francis with his name and the date of his election.

Now this letter arrived on Monday, the first day that Isabel attended the vacation bible school program at our church, Totus Tuus.  Totus Tuus is a uniquely Catholic summer religious education program that includes catechetical instruction, daily Mass, songs, games, and recess.  They bring their lunch and are there from 9am-2:30pm for 5 days.  And that first day, I prayed that she would be blessed this week and that Jesus would make a special place in her heart for Him.  And when she got home that first afternoon, this letter was in the mail (!!!) and she also raved about Totus Tuus.

What a cool blessing!  To think that my prayer for her that day would coincide with a letter that says that the Holy Father is also praying for her!  And that he invokes upon her God's abundant blessings???  WOW....I was blown away.  God is so cool.

She tucked it away in her spiritual keepsakes box that she made at Little Flowers Girls' Club.

And I tucked away the entire experience in my heart.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Harvest time!

Here is our garden mid-July!

The potatoes on the far left row have all been harvested.
We got one in the shape of a heart!  It was so fun to dig for the potatoes, and they taste great!  Like, really great....I had no idea it would be that big of a difference from a store-bought potato.  I mean, it's just an old potato, right?  Wrong!  Fresh potatoes are soooooo much better!  I honestly don't know how many pounds of potatoes we gathered, but I have a big burlap sack full, and we've been eating tons of potatoes from a milk crate.

Corn harvest for the freezer!  Mmmm....I can already taste corn on the cob in December! We got probably 40 ears that first harvest.

And as you can see above, the squirrels have gotten the rest of it.  It has been a daily, mostly losing battle to keep the squirrels out of the corn.  Now I know why our neighbor planted 2 full rows for us.  Because you lose about 1/2 of it.

Okra is starting to grow!  I have no idea when to harvest okra....I guess when it gets to be okra-eating size.  That's technical, right?  And (above) to the left of the okra are our pole beans.  We pick a colander full every 2-3 days.  Enough to eat for dinner and have some leftover to freeze.

So, this vine below is a mystery volunteer that sprang up on it's own around the corn.  This picture is really not great because the vine is huge and goes on and on and on and has taken over the area.

Below is the "fruit" that is on the mystery vine.  We are thinking maybe it is a gourd?  What the heck can you do with a gourd???

Below is our 2nd brandywine tomato.  It is clearly the ugliest tomato in the world.  It has all those splits and the bottom is just as bad.  I brought it in to ripen in the window because I thought it might get eaten by bugs.  Will I still attempt to eat this, you ask?  Of course!  Just around the split parts ;)

All the green cherry tomatoes are *ahem* thanks to Ian.  Need I say more?  He has been very good about not picking things that aren't ripe in the garden, but these cherry tomatoes are on a plant in a container next to the house.  So clearly, the same rules do not apply. 
Ahhhh toddlers.....they are so literal!

The bottom of the ugliest tomato in the world.

Egg harvest!  Sunday through Thursday, our harvest has been 18 eggs!!!  You can see the bigger one below!  When they first start laying, the eggs are smaller and gradually get bigger. 
And they are delicious!

Below is our first watermelon and cantaloupe!

Cherokee Purple tomato...and oh, was this one sooooo good!

Another pic (for my dad). :)

And yes, just indulge me.  I've been having daily tomato sandwiches for lunch.

Made this recipe for okra and tomatoes the other night and it was really good.  I never knew until just a few days ago that you can take fresh okra and soak it in vinegar for 30 minutes and that will take the sliminess out of it!  I thought the recipe turned out to be a delicious new way to eat okra!  The only thing I did differently was to use fresh cherry tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes.

Green beans, carrots and okra!

The beans cooking southern style ;) with some bacon and cowpeas.  Slow-cooked them for hours and they were fantastic.

So we've really been enjoying our harvest.  There are still tomatoes, okra and green beans producing, as well as cantaloupe and watermelon.  Oh, and orange bell peppers!  We have about 6 pepper plants and they each have at least 10 peppers!  Considering I only spent $35 in seeds, I have more than earned back that money in the peppers alone!  Gardening is saving us soooooo much money!

Friday, July 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes #16

1.  I took the kids....yes, all three kids to our old neighborhood pool for a pool playdate today. 
ALL BY MY SELF!  Go me!  Everyone survived, although there was a bit of drama with Ian since we have potty trained him and this was really his first time in the pool since that, he was at first VERY unhappy that a swimsuit gets wet.  There was some screaming and crying, but eventually he got the hang of it and realized that the pool is like a big bathtub in which you only wear shorts.
2.  I got Isabel's 2nd grade homeschool curriculum today and I was just overcome with the blessing that homeschooling is, but the blessing too that Catholic Heritage Curricula provides in their materials.  And no, I was not paid to say that!  It is just such a gift to be able to use these materials to teach my children the educational lessons they need to know WHILE incorporating our faith into it all!
3.  Oh, so Ian is potty trained.  I kind of jumped the gun there in quick take 1.  We didn't do any pull-ups.  Just went straight from cloth diapers to underwear.  And now, he is becoming so independent, so fast, he doesn't want any help climbing up onto the big toilet (with the smaller potty seat that you put on a big toilet) and climb off the toilet ALL BY HIMSELF.  If he could just reach the handle to turn the water off and on to wash his hands, he would be able to do the entire toileting routine independently (well, except for wiping #2).  He gets one M&M as a reward.  And he has no fear of using a public restroom.  So excited it was just that easy.  I had in my head that potty training a boy was going to be a real challenge.
4.  I have 9-10 more pounds to lose before I am down to my pre-pregnancy weight!  And I've done nothing to lose it except breastfeed.  Awesome!  I lost 27lbs in the first 10 days after having Caroline, and then the last 13 were just hanging on for awhile, and now I've been slowly losing again. 
5.  We got a new dining room table and I am just in love with it.  We had a hand-me down for 10 years, and it was just time to get this piece.  Got a steal  great deal off craigslist.  It's just what I have been looking for....for, well years.  I'm hoping that this gorgeous table will motivate me to finish tearing off the wallpaper glue from the dining room and actually finishing it.

6.  Speaking of "years", Rob and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary on July 11th!  I'm so blessed to have him as my husband!  We had a delicious steak dinner and some fine wine at our new table.
7.  I'm in a book study that just started to read The Examen Prayer by Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V.  It's a spiritual exercise in which you reflect on your day and prepare for the next using 5 steps that draw you into a closer relationship with the Lord.  I'm excited to get through it and start applying it to my own life!
Read more quick takes at Conversion Diary!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

It's My Vocation.

In a few weeks it will be time for vacation.  We are going to the beach.  And like any mother of young children knows, vacation with little kids is not really "vacation" like it used to be.  Vacation used to be going to the beach with a cooler, and tanning lotion.  Lying out on my beach blanket and dozing off under the hot sun after drinking a nice cold beer, well several nice cold beers, and relaxing to the rhythm of the waves. 

Beach vacation now is trying to figure out how to discreetly pull down my swimsuit top so I can nurse a 3 month old, while encouraging the 2 year old that it is okay for the sand to touch his feet and making sure the 7 year old doesn't follow the seagulls so far down the beach that she becomes lost in the crowd. (And yes, that was a really long run-on sentence.  But really long run-on sentences come with motherhood!)

 I've traded out a good portion of the beer in my cooler for sippy cups, juice boxes, and enough snacks to make it three hours (because you know that no kid really lasts all day at the beach).  Beach vacation is now SPF 3000...multiple applications, and a bottle of water to pour over the kids' hands before they eat their snack, because all-of-a-sudden, at the beach, no child wants dirty hands to eat their snack.  Beach vacation is eyes on kids at all times, because if you look away for but an instant they could disappear.  And if they lose sight of you, well all those beach umbrellas really look the same when you are little.  Beach vacation is Adolph's meat tenderizer tucked into the beach bag just in case someone gets stung by a jellyfish.  Beach vacation is lugging 4 towels, two beach chairs, the cooler, 2 kids, the baby and a baby bouncy seat from the car to the sand and back to the car when you get tired of the sand.

I can't wait for beach vacation.  No, that is not meant to be sarcastic.  I really can't wait for beach vacation.  Because beach vacation is part of my vocation.  It is my sacred calling.  Motherhood.  And my calling follows me wherever I go.  It is a part of who I am.  So to the beach, to the grocery store, at home, at church...there is no vacation from my vocation.

Yesterday we made chocolate zucchini bread and Ian is really into helping in the kitchen lately.  Part of me smiles and part of me inwardly groans, because a 2 year old helping in the kitchen often translates into twice as much clean up for me!  But, it is part of my vocation, and as I helped Isabel on the step stool and Ian on a chair, I was standing in my bare feet in a pile of sugar that had made it's way to the floor.  And God gave me the ability to smile about it.  Not to sigh aloud, or roll my eyes, or yell at the mess....He led me to continue to teach them about baking with love. 

Ummm, and the zucchini bread???  Well, it's worth the bake!  Mmmmmm.....

Another day, one of the few days recently where it has happened that both Ian and Caroline managed to take their afternoon nap at exactly the same time, so that I knew I had a solid 2 hour window of "free time" (which we all know in the Mommy world really means "kid-free time").....I asked Isabel if she wanted to get out the sewing machine and work on her quilting project.  Of course, she beamed and eagerly ran off to gather her sewing materials.  And that smile, along with the time we spent together that afternoon was worth more than 2 hours of "free time".  No, I can not be called Mommy of the Year, the Holy Spirit was the one who put that thought into my head....the thought to be self-giving, instead of self-serving.  The thought to really live my vocation in that moment. 

Well, maybe not Mommy of the Year for that....but, we did continue the sewing excitement and attempt to make Kirsten a new dress!

Hey, who needs a pattern anyway?  Can't you just cut some fabric and piece it together??
Did I mention I really do not know how to sew.  Very embarrassing job, but the important part was that Isabel was thrilled...ummm...beyond thrilled!
OH, and this is why we use a pattern!  Mommy of the Year for effort, not for sewing skills. ;)
Today, the priest at Mass actually inspired me to finish this post which I've been sitting on for over  a week now.  He said that "vocation" and "vacation" are the same word except for just one letter.  And while I can go on vacation to try to rejuvenate, refresh and relax my life,
my vocation will come along too.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 3 on the 4th!

Happy 3 months today, Caroline!!  You are growing so fast!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Picture of the Day!

Isabel holding Mr. Glory