Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Help, St. Peter, & Admitting my Own Shortcomings

Last week, I briefly mentioned that I finished reading The Help and that I had some thoughts to share on the book.

Since then, I've avoided writing this post...not because I don't wish to be transparent, but rather because it is so painful for me to do so. Change is painful.  But true growth requires us to change. 

So taking a deep breath, here I go...



As I read The Help, I couldn't help but make comparisons of women in my life who seem fascinatingly similar to the main characters in the story.

Not in a "we've got domestic help" and "we're opposed to civil rights legislation" sort of ways, but rather "I've got strong opinions and I'm not afraid to share them" sort of ways or "I haven't formed my own opinions and I'll defer to yours" sort of way.

That would be me.  The latter.  At least all through high school and college. 

Now, as a 40+ woman, wife and mother to three, I tend to have more strongly-formed opinions that are my own...not of my friends... on all sorts of issues including politics, religion, and parenting.  But, unfortunately,  like Elizabeth Leefolt, one of the white women in the story, who to be clear, is a villain, I too am often fearful to go against the grain...to differ with the friend who speaks the loudest...even if she's the wrong-est...and so I seldom voice those opinions, even when I know that what I believe is the Truth.

Why am I like this...I'm sure there's some pop-culture psychologist that would love to dissect my personality, but suffice to say that after having lived with myself for 40+ years, I know that I aim to please...I am the great compromiser...I dislike conflict.

But what I am learning as I "grow up" is that sometimes, pleasing and compromising can be destructive...even detrimental to one's self...and soul,  and that conflict is sometimes a necessary evil.  Especially, when we are called to defend the Truth.

So what does all of this have to do with St. Peter?
Well, like St. Peter, I have a deep and profound love for our Lord.  And like Peter, I have lied to myself and our Lord that I would never deny HIM.

So what happened that would make me compare myself to both Elizabeth Leefolt (a wishy-washy white woman who desperately wants to fit in with the Junior League crowd, hiring help she really can't afford and fearing retribution from her "friend", Hilly, who she has seen unleash her wrath upon enemies) and St. Peter (who Christ himself called to be one of His own and yet denied knowing Him)?

A run-in with the parent of my 7-year old daughter's friend.

It happened last Spring.  And my cheeks still burn hot with shame when I replay the events of the day as they unfolded on our front porch and then kitchen.

My daughter, longing for a playmate, quickly befriended the daughter of a new neighbor that had moved in across the street.  The girls were in the same kindergarten class, and were in close proximity in the subdivision, so fast friends they became.  Over the course of Winter and early Spring, I began to suspect that the little girl's family was not religious or even believers in Christianity.  My daughter would often speak about Jesus or Mary or going to Wednesday night religion class and the other child would stare with wide-eyed amazement and sometimes ask questions.  I either let Mary answer them in her 6-year old speak, or I would simply respond with a statement to satisfy curiosity, but not "evangelize" her against her parents' wishes.

Well, one Spring afternoon, a very angry mama showed up on my front porch after walking my daughter home from a play date that had been cut short.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that it wasn't my daughter's behavior that ended the play date, but rather the fact that she had told her daughter about Jesus.

"And she was having none of that."

Gulp.

And what did I do...hold on to your hats...

I APOLOGIZED to her for Mary upsetting them and then told my daughter NOT to speak about Jesus when she played at their house.

I "went along" with the loudest, wrong-est person out of fear of retribution, and then went on to "deny" our Lord by asking my daughter not to speak of Him.

And then I cried.  For I knew the error of my ways.

And then I called my sister ranting and raving about the nerve of that woman.

And I cried.

And then I called my husband ranting and raving about the nerve of that woman.

And I cried.

And then I called...

Well, you get the picture.

So, how did I rectify this?

First, I sat my dear daughter down in our kitchen and explained to her that sometimes grown-ups make mistakes.

Even mommies.

And that while I had told her NOT to talk about Jesus over at her friend's house, I now realize how wrong and confusing that directive was and instead, wanted her to speak whatever she felt convicted of...in not so grown-up terms.  ;)

Then, I went to confession.

And I cried.

And I was forgiven for my shortcomings.

And while my soul was cleansed and absolution given and penance completed, my heart still felt heavy.

It still feels heavy.  But not as heavy.

For I am working on developing the confidence necessary to speak the Truth.  In little ways..

I am praying for courage...one of the Cardinal Virtues...

I am forcing myself to act courageously, even if I don't feel that way inside, in front of my children...

And I am praying for and forgiving the parent that caused me so much angst...and in fact thanking her for challenging me in my faith walk.

Because it is easy to be a Christian among other Christians when your biggest argument is whether your religion "worships Mary" or whether Christ is truly present in the Eucharist versus whether or not God exists and why secularism and relativism shouldn't be our new gods...

That my friends, is hard.  Especially, since we live in an era where tolerance is expected of everything, even the denial of Truth.

And so like Elizabeth Leefolt, who in the end still fired her black maid, but would not file charges of stealing against her (a small victory in terms of personal growth for Elizabeth),

and like St. Peter who, although bitterly sad and repentant, did not beat himself up to the point that he was no longer a follower of Christ, but rather rose to the occasion and accepted Christ's command to build his Church,

I too hope to grow and change...becoming stronger in my faith...not only by keeping His commandments and completing good works, but by allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to stir within me the courage necessary to speak Truth and model Truth for my children.

Because after all, change begins with a whisper and that might be the best place to start before I can yell it from the mountaintops.

Today I am linking up with Ann over at A Holy Experience
for her

 and Courtney
over at

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Water

Seems we are all under the weather at our house after our fun, if not tiresome, camping and boating weekend.

Going...

Going...
Gone!

(Sunset over Stockton Lake, Stockton, Missouri, August 2011)

We are also expecting some weather...fortunately not severe...this morning. I'm thinking it might be a good day to dive back in under the covers and listen to the pitter patter of raindrops while the pitter patter of tiny feet are still silent!

Up in the loft of the "Camper Cabin" we stayed in at Stockton Lake.

And speaking of "diving" back in I discovered the towel shelf in the kids' hall bathroom rearranged. It seems that there has been a bookshelf added.

So the question is...where are the rest of the baby bath towels?!!!



When I walked into the kiddos' bathroom this morning I saw this stack of "reading material"...1st grade level.  I asked our first born about the books and she says, "That's my reading shelf.  They're for the bathtub."  I explain that this might be dangerous...for the books...and she replies, "Well  you do it all the time."  *sigh*  How you you argue with logic?!!!

Hope to be back tomorrow when everyone is feeling better and not needing the mama quite so much!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Birthday...to Me!

Today is my birthday.

Number 42.

I'm not really sure how this happened...how I went from turning the "big 4-0" to actually being in my 40s, but I'm thinking it has something to do with Mary, Benjamin, and Luke! ;)

Feeling so very blessed today. I have good health, a strong faith life, a wonderful husband of nearly 18 years (wow...that sounds like a long time by today's standards!) and three beautiful children.

Life is good!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend.




P.S.  I have really been working on finding the beauty in everyday life.  Mary finds it simply in nature.  While blogging one early morning, I was struck by the beauty of the sunrise.  Needless to say, it stormed later that same morning!




Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Help



the Help.

Have you read it?

Have  you seen it?

I lost about two days of my life last week because I couldn't put it down.

I'm one of those people who needs to read the book before I will go see it on film.

Everyone told me it was a great read, and I wasn't disappointed.  But then, I love American Civil Rights history, Southern accents, and characters that are deeply complicated.

I have lots of thoughts on the book that I wish to share, but today is too busy of a day to do a proper post.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Brothers at the park.
School is going swimmingly!  Well, except for the part where Benjamin has to get up in the mornings...he's a bit of a bear, but to be fair, we do have to be up and at 'em by 6:30 or quarter to seven.  Not being a morning person, he's a grump.

And by afternoon...well let's just say that he cried no less than five times over ill-fitting soccer shoes.  He was fine at practice...it was at home that we felt the wrath. 

He will adjust...and maybe so will bedtime...as in earlier.

Snapped this picture at the park last week.  It was Mary's first day of school and I just had the boys home with me.  Benjamin asked to go to the park.  This was Luke's first time in a park swing. 

He loved it!

First time in a park swing.  He's so skinny, I was afraid he would slip out.

Joy.
Busy day around our house including packing for a weekend camping trip, house cleaning, meal preparation and Mary's Open House this evening.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fun & Sun Party Favors/Centerpieces (Price Breakdown)


For Mary Catherine's "Fun and Sun" pool party, I decided to have the party favors double as table centerpieces.  Since five families were invited, and each family had 3 or 4 children, I thought it would be most economical to do a "family gift" rather than individual party favors for 16 children.

I started with simple sand pails that I got from Michael's for $1.00 each.

Because I wanted the sand pails to double as table centerpieces, I went ahead and splurged on some floral foam to help in displaying the gifts tucked inside.

Included in each pail was the following...

The shovel from the sand pail @ $!.00/each
1 Pkg. of Water Bombs    @.60/each
3 or 4 Glow Bracelets @.1.00 per tube of bracelets (I think there were 15 bracelets per tube)
1 Large Container of Bubbles @.50/each
3 or 4 Bubble Wands @ $1.50 per container of wands (25 piece pack)
5 Pieces of Sidewalk Chalk @ $3.00 for a 52 Piece Crayola brand container
Several Pieces of Saltwater Taffy thrown into the pails @ $3.49 per bag
1 Giant Carnival Lollipop @ $1.50/each

I also spent approximately $3.50 on scrapbook paper to create the family label for each sand pail.


Assembly

Using the crafter/floral foam, I was able to lift up the "base" of each sand pail to about the halfway point of the bucket.  The floral foam also allowed for me to wedge in each large container of bubbles.  This created the base of my display.



Next, I lined the "bottom" of the pail with saltwater taffy.  This was one of my larger expenses...at $3.49 per bag.  I used a little less than 1/2 bag per sand pail.

To add some fullness to each bucket, I stuffed tissue in coordinating colors behind the large container of bubbles and floral foam.  The tissue helped to hide the foam and add some height to each centerpiece.

The "carnival" size lollipop was tucked into the floral foam which provided some stability for this treat since it was so heavy.


Sidewalk chalk and water balloon bombs were wrapped in clear packaging and tied with satin ribbon.  These packages were adhered to the sand pails using glue dots. 


Finally, I tucked three or four bubble wands, glow sticks and the shovel into the arrangements, securing with glue dots, and peeking out here and there.



My greatest finds were the sand pails @ $1.00 each, Crayola Sidewalk Chalk (52 piece container) for $3.00 and SUPER Miracle Bubbles (32 oz.) @ .50 each.  The water bombs, taffy, lollipops, glow bracelets and bubble wands all came from Michael's clearance racks.  The sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and tissue came from the Wal-Mart clearance department. 

The grand total spent on all 5 buckets was $38.78.  This divided out to $7.75 per family and around $2.50 per kid. 

I think that these turned out to be fairly economical party favors...especially considering that they included items for each child's age range.  Toddler love bubbles and sidewalk chalk while grade school-ers love water bombs and glow sticks.  Everyone wins and I didn't have to come up with individual gift bags that were age appropriate!!!






So...what do you think?  Economical?  This was our first "friends" party...so I've never had to provide party favors/treats in the past. 

But now I've got the party favor bug...I'm already thinking about Benjamin's birthday in November!!! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fun & Sun Pool Party

Good morning and happy Tuesday.  A little one that was under the weather kept me from blogging yesterday, but today I am back and excited to share with you Mary's "Fun & Sun" pool party that we hosted over the weekend.

Let me start by sharing that the heaven's were conspiring against us (wink!) this entire summer, but when life gives you lemons...make lemonade!

Our girl desperately wanted a "horse" party this year.   Unfortunately, Zimmerman's barn was destroyed in a tornado last Spring (allowing for an "indoor" venue) and a record-setting heat wave invaded Kansas in late July/early August prohibiting us from hosting an "outdoor" party at the Deanna Rose Farmstead.

So, we decided to beat the  heat with a "pool party".

And it rained.

With a predicted a predicted high of 78 for the day.  Seriously.

Only I would host a pool party on the coolest day of summer! ;)

I wanted to cry for my dear daughter, but instead put on a brave face and optimistic spirit and forged ahead with our scheduled get-together.  (And cleaned my house just.in.case...!)

And in the end...our party could not have turned out better!

To host an "after-hours" party at the local aquatic center would cost me $150.00 per hour.  This would allow for a private venue with lifeguards.  For $25.00 an hour, I could rent the "party room" during public swim hours.

I went with the 2nd option.

And because of the rain...we had a PRIVATE party for $50.00!!! 

In fact, the staff even offered to play the Caribbean music CD that we had brought for our portable CD player over the main sound system!!! 

Sixteen kiddos swam to their hearts' content in city pool built to hold a hundred plus...all the while to Caribbean Cruise Party Vol 1!

It was cloudy, overcast, spitting rain...but everyone had a great time.  I didn't have to "fight" the crowds looking for my party-goers, and Mary felt so special on her party day. 

Although my girl and I originally planned for a "beach" theme...we ended up doing more of a "pool party/summer theme" centered around our idea of "Summer in a Bucket". 

Here are just a few pics of the great time we had on Saturday afternoon with sweet friends, both old and new.

Table decorations included sand and seashells.


We went with an orange and blue color theme with our sand pails as centerpieces.


Paper goods (plates, napkins, utensils) complemented the sand pails.


Our "Summer in a Bucket" centerpieces/party favors were a huge hit!  Even the lifeguards wanted to take one home!




And finally..."Making a Splash!"





Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer in a Bucket

“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language"
~Henry James

Looking forward to celebrating Mary Catherine's 7th birthday with friends this summer afternoon.

We invited 5 families to join us at our local aquatic center...

...one last "hurrah" of summer!




Just a sneak peek at our "Summer in a Bucket" party favors.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Starfish Birthday Invite

Busy, busy weekend planned for us girls!

My mom is arriving from St. Louis today to help celebrate my birthday (early).

We are also celebrating Mary Catherine's 7th birthday with a small "friends" party on Saturday.

We are going with a "Beach/Ocean" theme and my crafty girl insisted that we make our own invites. (I think that she is officially beyond the "Little Mermaid".)

While I struggled to figure out printer settings and how to slide vellum through my printer, the birthday girl sorted out starfish and cut lengths of ribbon.

They turned out pretty cute and we hand delivered them to friends and neighbors that we invited.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!






Thursday, August 18, 2011

First Grade...at Catholic School

An apple for the teacher!  First Grade, August 2011



*NOTE*  This post has been amended to join up with Kelly over at Kelly's Korner to share our "Back to School Traditions."  And although this is only our 2nd year of school...if we discount preschool...there are a couple of things that we do annually.

One is to take an apple to the teacher.  As a former classroom teacher myself, I can't tell you how much this tickled me...an old-fashioned tradition in a sometimes crazy, modern world!

Kindergarten, August 2010
On the 2nd Day of School we take a small bouquet of flowers...typically roses...in a mason jar.  Again a touch of gentle "old-fashionedness".

Finally, on the last day of the first week of school, I send home a "These are a few of my Favorite Things" list for the teacher to fill out.  List includes items such as...
...My Favorite Cookie is.......
...My Favorite Body Lotion scent is...
...My Favorite Fast Food restaurant is...etc.

That way, throughout the year, I can pick up little gifts, trinkets, gift cards, etc. for Mary to take with her to show our appreciation for all the hard work it takes to love and educate our kiddos!

Hope you enjoy these "traditions".  I know I can't wait to read about what others do to celebrate this very special time of year!





Hot tears prick at the corners of my eyes as I drive down the highway...
...after I've promised myself that I wouldn't rain on her parade today.  

She's so very excited...



...to be a First Grader today.

Beyond excited to model her freshly starched and pleated uniform jumper while sporting a crisp, clean white polo.

And the shoes...

we can't forget to mention the shoes...or how hard it was to find "sensible" shoes that weren't "blinged" out or Twinkle Toes.



She's collected and sorted her school supplies on top of our dining room table...

...eager to place them into the backpack that morning.

It's then that I have a moment of panic.

Where's the pencil box...why do we not have a pencil box?

Did I miss this too...like the gallon-size ziplock with slide enclosure?  But it's not on the list...

We arrive at her "new" school and she's bounding out of the car, with enthusiasm, ready to dodge into traffic.

The principal and custodian greet us at the door...every single person who works and attends this school is valued... of equal importance...precious in His eyes...


In the foyer, the school nurse gives her a hug...and helps us find the First Grade classroom.

It's  not hard...2nd door on the left...located in the one and ONLY hallway...

We enter the classroom...


...to be greeted by her beautiful teacher...who calls her by name...as if she had attended Kindergarten here and already knows her..



...and my smart girl starts following the directions.  So confident...like she's been doing this school thing for years.

My heart races just a bit...all sorts of doubts and worries fill my mind...

Will they like her (the "new" kid)...Will she like them...Remember her manners...Miss me...Be able to keep up with her peers that attended All-Day Kindergarten???

She's one of thirteen...Nine Girls, Four Boys...She has a seat up front.




Signs of Faith abound everywhere...

The Blessed Mother statue on the bookshelf enveloped by bags of school supplies..but peeking out...as if She's saying..."This is a safe place, Mom...I'm here to guide and protect your little ones."  Crucifix over the "chalkboard"...bulletin boards with faith-filled reminders...



A few last hugs and kisses goodbye and I leave my girl in the arms of a loving and caring faith community...



At dismissal she bubbles with enthusiasm...telling me about homework...needing a snack...getting a compliment for being the only one to say "thank you" for a teacher-provided treat...my heart beams.

I think it's going to be a great year!

...And her teacher provided the pencil box.  :)