Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 year in review

angel at "Mary, Queen of the Universe shrine"

            2011 started out a little rough for me.  In January, my grandfather died.  I attended his funeral on a bitterly cold day in Pennsylvania.  I came home from that trip and found out a good friend’s husband who had been suffering from cancer was quickly losing his battle.  I attended his funeral in early February.  Then in March, I was shocked by the news of another friend’s husband’s untimely death, and attended a third funeral in as many months.  I was terrified of what the rest of the year might hold……

            Thankfully, things got better after that.  April brought the beauty and hope of Easter, my birthday, and a wonderful retreat with my husband and our “Teams of our Lady” friends.   In May, the children had their annual testing and did well.  Our middle daughter made her First Holy Communion.  We finished up our school year, and Tim found out his full time job in youth ministry was ending.  June was full of worry until Tim was offered a new job teaching middle school religion.   Then, a few weeks later my whole family came into town to celebrate my mom’s birthday and, except for a nasty bout of stomach flu, we had a nice visit with my sisters and brother, and their families.  We spent July moving our youngest daughter into her sister’s bedroom, and moving our oldest daughter out of the shared room and into her very own room for the first time in 8 years.  In August,  we started back to school, and this time so did Tim, both at his teaching job and taking online courses towards  a Master’s degree, a decision we came to during our weeks of uncertainty concerning his career. September we celebrated our oldest becoming a teenager!  October was busy, busy, busy but we did find time to go camping as a family, and Tim and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.  November was all about writing novels with NaNoWriMo.  And in December, we were blessed to spend Christmas with extended family and lots of joy!  

            Other highlights include-- A day at "Mary, Queen of the Universe" shrine in Orlando, home-made butterbeer, an impromptu trip to an old fashioned ice cream parlor, watching our all-time favorite family movie and laughing and quoting and laughing and quoting and laughing some more, a surprising e-mail and resulting three week visit from a box turtle, summer library visits all over town, postcrossing, Winter the Dolphin, trips to the zoo and science center, a special meal seat of juice pouches and nachos, meteor showers, star gazing, seeing the moons of Jupiter, Cub Scouts, Little Flowers, chocolate, chocolate,chocolate, gymnastics, art class, wood carving, our oldest son’s “weekend with daddy trip”, learning about British foods and slang terms and customs, new blogging friends, renewing our marriage vows, making movies, sunsets at the beach, catching fish and exotic sea creatures, math class, field trips, Starbucks book club, saying good-bye forever to Facebook, doll house fun with Chuck, Kia and friends, pen pal letters to Aunt Debbie, Great Expectations that left us cynical, “go away baggie”, swash-buckling and air bending, a different Jesse Tree snack for each day of Advent…

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

This morning we woke up to a few very special "gifts" under the Christmas tree.  No, Santa had not come a day early.  My children had decided, after hearing one of my favorite Christmas memories of sleeping under the Christmas tree with my sister and brother one year, that they had to do it too.  We had to talk Tim into it, but at his slight smile and nod, they all grabbed their sleeping bags and pillows and snuggled up beneath the festive branches.  He and I heard them talking and giggling for hours after we had gone to bed.  What a special treat it was for them.  

The last-night-of-Advent slumber party was only the beginning of the excitement and joy...
Today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow Christmas Day, of course.  The children are giddy with anticipation and I can practically see the visions of sugar plums dancing in their little heads.

May your holy-day be joyful and special and full of the love of God and family! 

From our house to yours....Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Can Catholic families survive public high school?

  This morning- I wrote this:
 When we first started home schooling and joined our Catholic home school support group we were invited to an opening school year Mass and pot luck dinner at the home of one of the families.   We showed up, with our four young children, not sure what to expect and probably looking a little shell-shocked, because after entering the house we found ourselves wall-to-wall with a ton of other people.  There were lots of families there, and it being a Catholic home schooling group, many of the families had lots of children.  There were people of all ages: babies, toddlers, elementary-aged children, middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults, crammed into every ounce of empty space in the average sized house, and spilling out into the backyard. 
If we had had any doubts, or been at all unsure about our decision to home school, that night put all our fears to rest. 
We celebrated Mass in the living room, again packed tight together with people we barely knew, who helped us with our kids and illustrated beautiful reverence even in that over-stuffed room.  Then we shared a huge meal with them and met so many kind, welcoming faces.  The older children doted on and helped out with the younger, the younger children played happily and safely together.  It was truly beautiful. 
I knew, in that evening, this was where I wanted to raise my children, as a part of this community, among these families.
            There were several other family events that year- hoedowns, an All Saint’s party, a Christmas caroling party- all just as well attended, all just as family-friendly and fun.
            Fast forward seven years.  My children are no longer the little toddlers at the home schooling events.  I am now thinking about how I will approach home schooling a high schooler (in only a year and a half!) and we now have 5 children in tow when we show up at events like the Christmas caroling party (like we did last night).  Lots of other things are different as well.  Those parties that used to be wall-to-wall people—have now dwindled to two or three families.  Last night’s party, an annual event which used to draw a crowd of close to 100 people, literally ended up being only 3 home schooling families- and one of them was the host family!  This happened at the All Saint’s party this year, as well.  And our opening school year Mass is no longer even planned as a family affair on the weekend, but a mom and kids event on a weekday morning. 
            “What has happened?” I can’t help but wonder.  Where are all those wonderful families I felt so blessed to be raising my children with?  Of course there is a simple answer to the question- I could easily list the families who have moved away, or the ones whose children have graduated and are no longer home, but what I really wonder is how the face of Catholic home schooling has changed in such a short time.  We still have lots of families on the list for our group, just as many as before, but now, like the rest of the world around us, they are pulled in so many different directions that attending family events seems to be a luxury they cannot find time for.  These fun family events used to be the priority and something everyone in the group looked forward to, but now these events are just another thing on everyone’s calendar and very susceptible to be rejected in favor of something else. 
I fear this is a symptom of not just busyness but a different attitude towards Catholic home schooling altogether, and a whole different reason behind it.  Now, instead of home schooling being a conscious decision made in an effort to raise children in a Christ-centered, family-focused environment, where they will grow up practicing their faith in all they do and sharing the beauty of it with others, home schooling seems to be just another educational choice.  It has become, I think, a somewhat trendy choice of late, at least in this area.  Lots of people jump into the home school ring for a few years and then jump back out when their children get to a certain age.  In fact, it is highly likely that in a year and a half when my oldest begins high school (at home with me) she will be the only high schooler in the home school group.  Home schooling, for many families, seems to be more about flexibility and educational freedom (really great things), but less about faith and family (even better things). 
             For Tim and me- it is still about God and about family and about raising our children to be strong Catholics, living lives that are counter-cultural and Christ-centered.  It is hard to do that, and especially because we no longer have a large group of families supporting us in this journey, but though it saddens and upsets me, it does not deter me.  We will march on, with the few families who feel the way that we do, and trust in God to lead us, and our children, closer to Him through the experience… 

Then, I debated whether or not to post it.  I was afraid it might come across as negative, or judgmental, or unsupportive of the other families in our home schooling group.  I do not want to hurt anyone, or judge anyone else's heart-felt decisions for what is best for their families but then I read this (please, please, please take the time to click and read, it is so important for us as parents to be aware of, no matter how sickening, disturbing, and disgusting we find it) about some of the things happening in the public schools in this country.  

So, to make a long, agonizing, discernment short, I am risking offending my friends because I believe so strongly in the importance of strong families and in the importance of protecting our children from the horrors of this culture we live in.   We have only one chance to raise our children, only a few short years to teach them right from wrong and give them a strong foundation.  I believe, without a doubt that the best way to do that, maybe the only way, is in strong families!  Clearly the state run educational system is doing nothing to build up families, and EVERYTHING possible to break them down.  So, I wonder.....why would anyone want to risk their children's salvation by throwing them to the wolves of public education?!?!?!?! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Searching the skies

            Back in August we heard about the Perseids meteor shower.  We had just started our science book for the year, Exploring Creation with Astronomy from Apologia.  We were in the very beginning of the book and had not learned about meteors yet but a meteor shower still sounded very cool.  My son and I were so excited, we vowed we would not miss it, even though the best time to view the meteors was about 2 am.  So, in the wee hours of the morning, on a humid summer night he and I sat out in our front yard watching the skies hoping for meteors.  We had to be very patient, the stars overhead were silent and blinking, and for the first twenty minutes or so, alone in the heavens.  Then all of the sudden, my son pointed excitedly, he had seen a bright line appear, then quickly disappear in the sky.  His first meteor sighting!  A while later we both saw another one, and before the wall of clouds rolled in, at about 3:30 am, we were both treated to one more.

            When we heard about Geminids, another meteor shower that sounded worth catching on December 14, all the kids were interested.  I told them we would go to their grandparent’s house for it (they live practically on the beach and the beach seemed the best place for star gazing).  

            As it turned out, the trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s (known around our house as Mama and Papa) did not work out.  Still, I had promised the kids a trip to the beach for star gazing, and since this meteor shower could be seen as early as 9 pm, it was an easy promise to keep.  I put the little one down to bed (daddy stayed home with her) then we piled into the minivan with blanket and beach towels and drove to a little stretch of beach to scan the skies.  

            We parked the van right on the sand, laid our blanket out and saw our first meteor of the night almost immediately .  A big white streak of light appeared, stretching over our heads across the clear night sky.  We only stayed a little while, less than an hour, but in that time we saw more than 10 meteors.  It was so much fun to be there, lying on the beach in the dark with my giggling, talkative children watching our science lessons come alive before our very eyes.  

It is in these moments I most love the flexibility and family-centeredness of home schooling.  What could be better than learning together all about God’s wonderful, beautiful world, all while lying on the beach on a warm December night?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"The Wreath Game"

            We have a lot of special Advent and Christmas traditions.  Most of them, Tim and I thought about and planned, thinking about the true meaning of the season and ways we could prepare for and celebrate the birth of Jesus. 

     One of my children’s favorite traditions this time of year, however, did not arise from calculated forethought.  Somehow, all on their own, they decided several years ago it would be fun to count wreaths.  They watched out the windows of the car as I drove around during December and started noticing all the festive decorations around town.  I do not know why it was the wreaths they decided to focus their efforts on but as I said, somehow a tradition was born.  It is known affectionately as "The Wreath Game" around my house.

This is probably the fourth year of wreath counting, and so far, it is off to a great start.  The tallies, marked on pieces of scrap paper retrieved from the floor of the minivan, are rising quickly.  “I have seen 24,” one child will shout and the others will chime in with their latest numbers.  I must remind them repeatedly that our wreath counting is just for fun, not a competition.  Yet, they seem to be trying to top each other’s numbers constantly.  We have, thankfully, had no real fights over wreath numbers though there have been a few claims that have been disputed.  “You did not see seven more wreaths in the last two minutes!”  So far, we have been able to handle all disputes peacefully, mostly by my reminding them again, that wreath counting is for fun and not a competition.  


 Anyway,  this morning alone, as we drove to math class and back, the children saw upwards of 140 wreaths adorning the doors and windows of our friends and neighbors houses.  We took the long way around two different neighborhoods to give them an opportunity to look for even more wreaths.    It is such a silly meaningless little thing, but they all get into it and enjoy it every year.  From the 13 year old to the 2 year old (who cannot really count at all) it is fun for all.  I’m hoping that people will keep their wreaths up long enough that the 2 year old will start counting properly any day now and maybe by next year she’ll be ready for adding and subtracting, maybe multiplying and dividing, maybe algebraic equations …. 


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Celebrating Mary

            December 8- the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which means today is the day we, as Catholics celebrate Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, being conceived without sin.   Today we honor Our Lady mindful of her peace, her meekness, her holiness, and her obedience.  

The morning found my house looking anything but peaceful, meek, holy, or obedient.  Mass was at 8 am and I had the job of rousing the children and getting them all ready- dressed, hair brushed, shoes on, and out the door in time.  My children, much like their mother, are not morning people.  I started the process of waking them at about 7:20.  “We have to leave for Mass in half an hour,” I warned pulling up the shades in their dim bedrooms and tugging at their covers to awaken them.  It was a frigid Florida morning with temperatures topping out at 43 degrees, so surely stripping them of their comforters would get them moving.  Yet, my oldest uttered not a sound, she simply pulled the blankets back up to her chin and went right back to sleep.  My second child yelled from his bed, “It does not take a half hour to get ready for church!” and also lay back down to slumber.  The 8 and 6 year olds did get up but for a few minutes wandered drowsily around looking lost, and the little one, my two year old, blinked her eyes in a daze as I took her out of her cozy crib and to the bathroom to fix her wild hair.  Two little ponytails, a bag of oyster crackers to take along for nibbling during Mass, ruffle bottom tights to go with her long sleeved shirt and green plaid jumper, little shoes buckled on her little feet and my toddler was all ready to go.  By that time, the three middle children had also found their way and gotten themselves ready.  It took three more tries and, I admit, a bit of yelling, to finally get my oldest up though.  She dragged herself out of bed threw on some clothes and yanked the hairbrush through her hair, presenting herself in the family room just minutes before we really had to leave.  The scowl never left her face, even as I thanked her for finally obeying.  

Mass of course, was beautiful- peaceful and holy and a true celebration to honor both Mary, and her son Our Lord, Jesus.   “Peace be with you,” the priest said (and with your spirit)..... and for an hour it was.

Back home to rush and get the children fed so we could get the oldest to her math co-op by 9:30.  Everyone needed hot chocolate to combat the “freezing” weather and everyone was staaaaaarving for breakfast,  so we tripped over each other in the kitchen to get something in our bellies before jumping back in the car and setting off for math.  We set off, steaming to-go cups in our hands, toast crumbs on our chins, to fight the traffic on the way to get one child to class, then back home for the rest of us for an hour or so of our own work before going back out to get their sister from her class.  

As I was contemplating the chaos of life, in light of the beauty of the Feast we celebrate today, it occurred to me how blessed we are to have the Queen of Heaven watching over us.  How, like Mass was a moment of peace and tranquility in the craziness of my busy morning, Mary is a beacon of peace in the world.  She is, for me, the perfect example of meekness and obedience.  Whenever I turn to her she always offers me a bit of peace and serenity.  When I go to her in prayer, she gives me rest and quiet stillness and her intercession, always leading me closer to her Son, the Prince of Peace.  When I pray the Holy Rosary, honoring her and remembering her in the prayers, she fills my heart with overwhelming peace.  

God knew we would need a mother interceding for us from Heaven, He knew we would need her example of holiness, He knew we would need her peace, especially in the madness of preparing for Christmas.   This feast celebrating Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is so perfectly timed-- a little reminder of peace and of what matters most, in the midst of the busiest (sometimes craziest) time of the year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

St. Nicholas visited our house!   The children were thrilled with their little treats today. 

After checking out all the goodies left in their shoes they all had a chocolate coin for with breakfast and tried out their new things.  The girls got the "toe socks" they had always wanted!

Then we colored in the beautiful St. Nicholas paper dolls I had downloaded from Paper Dali for the occasion.

They did a great job with their coloring.  

Feast Days are such fun! 

St. Nicholas, pray for us, that we may live our lives with as much generosity, humility, and faith as you did.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tending the Temple- a book review by my husband

The following was taken from my husband Tim's blog (Salvation is an Adventure).   My thoughts about this wonderful book mirror his almost exactly, so I thought it was worth sharing here as well.

When I found out about my good friend Shane Kapler writing a new book I was very excited! I had read Shane's first book, The God Who Is Love, when it came out. Tending the Temple: 365 Days of Spiritual and Physical Devotions is a devotional put together by Shane, Kevin Vost (Fit for Eternal Life), and Peggy Bowes (The Rosary Workout). This book provides a spiritual devotion for every day of the year. What is amazing about this devotional is that the authors were able to find a saint or a feast for every single day of the year! I have never seen a saint devotional before that had an entry for every day of the year. The well known and popular saints, like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Rose of Lima are represented as well as lesser known saints, like Blessed Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and his wife Blessed Maria Corsini-Quattrocchi, who in 2001 became the first married couple to be beatified together! Our Catholic faith is rich with wonderful saints, feasts, and holy men and women and this book provides an opportunity to learn more about them and discover new ones that we may have never heard of before.

In addition to providing us with spiritual food to enrich our lives, the book provides a unique second set of devotions--physical devotions. Each day the authors give the readers advice and suggestions to take what was learned about the saints and carry it out in some sort of action. It may be an exercise to assist the reader in becoming physically fit or it may be advice on how to live a life of holiness.

Learning about the saints of our Church means nothing unless you carry what you learn out in action. Tending the Temple provides us with an opportunity to not only learn about the saints but also gives us advice on how to take what we learn and carry out into some sort of action in our lives.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A little like Scrooge

            I have a confession to make.  I have not been really looking forward to Christmas.  Back in October, when the first realization of the upcoming Christmas season hit me, I felt a sense of mild dread.  All I could think about was:

·     the same old Christmas music on practically every radio station on my car pre-sets (does anyone else loath that upsetting song about the dying mother and her special Christmas shoes, or that inappropriate song about “Baby, it’s cold outside” as much as I do?), 

·     the crowded traffic I would have to fight and the long lines I’d have to stand in at Wal-Mart when all I need is a bottle of shampoo or a case of diapers, 

·     the stress of trying to find time to do some shopping when my children are with me ALL THE TIME,  

·     trying to find a better place for the Christmas tree but probably  having it take up all the space in my classroom, forcing the kids and I to be creative in where we do our work each day,  

·     to-do lists, and Christmas card lists, and the children’s wish lists, and junk mail asking for charitable donations for charities I have never and would never support, and special Christmas sale coupons and catalogs, catalogs, catalogs, etc. etc. etc. cluttering my countertops.  

I was feeling quite a bit like Scrooge as I thought about all the chaos and madness the season brings with it.

    Then, last week after Thanksgiving had passed, I started really thinking about everything I needed to do to get ready for the rapidly approaching beginning of Advent.  I had to get the Advent wreath out of the storage bins in the garage,  pull out our Advent prayers, find our version of “O come, O come Emmanuel” amidst my children’s recent MP-3 downloads on the computer, and get our Jesse tree ornaments ready.  As I thought about it, I realized-- I was not dreading these things at all.  In fact, the more I thought about praying our beautiful Advent prayers before our wreath with (this week) one purple candle glowing and our Advent music playing in the background and the scent of incense wafting through the kitchen, the more I was filled with joy.   When we went to Mass on Sunday and sang (just like we would later at home) “O come, O come Emmanuel” and saw the church all decked out in purple and listened as the priest blessed the Advent wreath and watched the lighting of the first candle, I was filled with even more joy.

     It seems a little silly because it should have been so obvious but it was not Christmas season I was dreading, it was all the distractions that come with the season.  I was dreading the busyness and craziness and materialistic commercialism-- not the joyful anticipation of our Savior’s birth, or the beautiful, peaceful preparations we make in our Church, our home, and our hearts.  It is the preparations that are spiritual and meaningful that I look forward to each year and it is all that other stuff that I sometimes dread. 

I still wish I could avoid the streets and the stores this month but since that is probably not possible…….  I guess I should just offer up those unavoidable trips to Wal-Mart for diapers and focus most of my energy on the stuff that really matters this time of year. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

We did it! and more....

I feel like I’ve been gone for weeks- busy in a sort of fog of accomplishing a life-long goal of writing a book.  But, today it is official—  I wrote a novel!  

I actually met the 50,000 word goal on November 17, and finished up the story on November 20 but today the NaNoWriMo website validated my novel and pronounced me a winner amid the cheers of the website staff!  Then I proceeded to enter my children’s novels (with their help, of course) into the system and hear the shouts of joy all over again-   because they too met their goals and wrote whole novels successfully in *less than* one month!  The experience required lots of prayer and lots of creative time management, but we did it!  It was quite a journey and SO MUCH FUN!  My son is already planning his novel for next year.  I am too busy editing, editing, editing to worry about that yet.

Believe it or not, life did go on in the midst of the writing and a few significant things happened between plot twists and character development.  

            So here is a sort of catch-up post on our November happenings….

            Tim and I renewed our wedding vows in a beautiful ceremony with our children and my parents present.  I have always wanted to do that and, as I suspected, the words meant every bit as much, maybe more, the 2nd time around!

            My oldest daughter decided to have her hair cut and since we were doing it anyway, we looked into Locks of Love and ended up donating her thick, curly, auburn ponytail to them to be turned into a wig for a child in need.

            Of course, yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving.  It was a lovely day that we spent with my parents and a few of their wonderful friends.  We got to try real English Yorkshire pudding for the first time.  My children took advantage of the gorgeous Florida day and went swimming in the heated pool for quite a while.  Then, too full to drive home, we spent the night there, which is always another super special treat for the kids!  The only down side to it all was that our oldest son woke up this morning not feeling too well. :(  I guess we can all be thankful his tummy did not hurt on Thanksgiving Day.

            Now, we are all looking forward to the beginning of Advent and the changes at Church on Sunday as we start with the New Roman Missal.    

There is just never a dull moment but, still mindful of yesterday’s day of giving thanks, I am grateful for the love of God and family to see us through it all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Show me the smile!

My little one, now 2 years old, is a very serious little girl.  She has always been very serious.   When she was about 2 months old I remember anxiously watching for her first real smile and trying many days to coax one out of her, only to be met with a stern glare or a curious stare.  Her siblings could do it without any trouble, but for me her smiles have always been fewer and farther between.  If it is difficult for me to get her to grin, it is impossible for people she does not know.  Little old ladies stop us in the store to tell me how cute she is and she glares at them.  Friends smile at her and ask how she is doing and she stares back blankly.  On Halloween, all decked out in her furry Elmo costume and receiving candy from countless friendly faces, she walked straight mouthed along not showing any signs of enjoyment.  

Last summer we spent a day at my parent’s house.  They had invited a lovely British couple who they had become good friends with as well, and we had a great day of swimming and eating and fun.  The woman, who had never had any children of her own, loved kids.  Really loved kids and spent as much time playing with my children as she did visiting with the adults present.  She tried everything to get my little one to smile for her.  She sang her songs and played crazy games with her but my daughter would not crack even the tiniest of smiles.  At best, she gave her a concentrated look of interest.  The man later commented to my father that something was wrong with our baby.  It just wasn’t normal, he said, for a child so little to be so solemn.  My dad assured him the baby is fine.  And she is.  She is not an unhappy child just serious and VERY wary of strangers.

I started playing a game with her when she was about 18 months old.  It was my sneaky way to trick her into smiles but don’t tell her that!  I would say, "show me your silly face" and we would, together, stick out our tongues and roll our eyes.  Then I would say "show me your scary face" and we would both make monster faces at each other.  Then I would say "show me your sad face," and she would stick her bottom lip out and look as though she had lost her best friend.  Then I would say "show me your happy face," and voila- 

                  A SMILE!!!!!  

She is a lot bigger now than she was then but it still works every time!  I wonder sometimes when I see those oh-so-rare, oh-so-beautiful toddler grins-  

"show me your.......shy face"
Is it wrong that I love this kid so much?!?!?!?!?!?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A quick word about the 1st 3 days

November 2011 is here!  In our Church this month, we remember the souls of the faithful departed and prepare for the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal.  In our country this month, we focus on thankfulness.  In my house this month, we write!  

We are on day 3 of the crazy novel writing endeavor my children and I have undertaken as part of NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month).  The goal is to write an entire novel in one month’s time.  The kids and I have been counting down to this month since late August.  We had originally planned to stay up and start right at midnight on October 31st, figuring the candy from trick or treating and the excitement of finally being able to start would energize us.  We scrapped that plan early on in the day on Monday.  I could tell that no amount of Halloween candy was going to sustain me through an all-night writing session so we went to bed about 9:30.  I did not sleep well, so at 6:20 the next morning I got up and snuck out to the computer to start.  The first two sentences had been written in my mind for weeks and I just had to get them down on “paper”.  Of course, from there I really did not know where I would go but the words have been flowing pretty well since.

            The kids and I are taking turns in front of the computer.  Most of our conversations become discussions of word counts and last minute character additions.  My 6 year old, feeling left out, has decided he will write a novel in December.  He now joins in when we talk about plot twists and turns.   I asked my 10 year old son this afternoon if he felt like he was only half here because his brain was focused half on his novel every minute of the day.  His answer?  “¾ of my brain is in my novel!” That pretty much sums up how our first three days have gone.

So far, it really is as much fun as we’d hoped but I keep warning the kids at some point it might start feeling more like work.  Still, we are committed to seeing this through and are here to support each other.  Now, I have more writing to get to and the 406 words here are doing nothing to get me closer to my 50,000 word goal…..

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Battling for the saints...

            Some days of my life feel like nothing but a battle.  It is a battle to get my 2 year old to eat anything healthy.  It is a battle to get my 13 year old out of bed in the morning.  It is a battle to get my 6 year old to focus on his school work.  And my 8 year old daughter and 10 year old son seem to constantly be in battle over something.  Ever hear the phrase “pick your battles”?  That has sort of become my motto.  The 2 year old and her picky eating habits are a battle I do choose to fight.  The 6 year old and his desire to play Lego’s instead of work on math is another battle that I fight.  I’m not fighting with the 13 year old about sleeping in, (she is responsible enough to decide if she wants to get up with enough time to eat breakfast and get herself dressed or if she wants to go to math co-op in her p.j.’s).  My ten year old son’s sloppy hair is another battle I just am not going to fight. 

            So, what else is important enough to fight for around here?  Well, Mass attendance is tops.  And not only attending Mass, but doing so appropriately dressed and as a family.   I used to let it slide if the boys came out of their room Sunday morning in a pair of nice clean shorts, or a neat, spotless t-shirt but lately they have been required to wear long pants and collared shirts.  The girls, including me, wear dresses or skirts.  I have a friend who shared her battle to get her kids to sing the songs and audibly pray the prayers during Mass.  I have to admit that is one battle I have never worried about.  I guess I have been too concerned with whether or not they were sitting still and being quiet to worry about the singing.  So, that is one I really have to think about….  

     When I was a teenager, I often skipped Mass.  I just didn’t want to get up early so I stayed in bed and missed Mass.  (yes,  I, like my daughter, am more of a night owl than an early bird)  I got away with it.  In Tim’s family, Mass attendance was expected but he would often go on his own to a Saturday Vigil Mass or a later Sunday morning one.  While that is very admirable of him, I want to do things differently for our family.  We will go to Mass together.  Our faith is something we share.  Our Church is more than a building. It is a community, it is the Body of Christ.  We will share the experience of worship as a family.

            Which brings me to another battle I have recently had to fight…. in our Catholic home schooling group we celebrate All Saint’s Day with a family party each year.  The year we started home schooling it was one of the first events we attended.  I was immediately impressed with the group.  The atmosphere of that wonderful family party full of strong Catholic moms, dads, and kids celebrating and enjoying the beauty of our faith together really hit me.  This was where we belonged, this was where I wanted to raise my children, amongst families who valued their faith, valued their families, and valued their time together.  Unfortunately, as my children have gotten older, they have decided they no longer love the All Saint’s party like they used to.  They used to get excited in October as we planned for the upcoming party by choosing which saint they would learn about and dress up as on (or around) November 1st.  Apparently, they are not alone in their new opposition to saint costumes and presentations.  It seems it is the age.  Saint costumes are for little kids, the older kids would rather just come to see their friends, and eat the yummy snacks and desserts, or not come at all.  
        I have really thought about it. Is this a battle worth fighting, really? Much to my children’s disappointment, I have decided it is.  

Here is why….   This is one of the only events throughout the school year specifically planned for families that celebrates our faith.  Our home school group has a ton of fun activities each year.  We have an opening school year Mass and picnic.  We have a May Crowning Mass and picnic.  We have park days every week where we have, in the past, prayed a Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy. We have a St. Valentine’s party and more, but none of those events are planned at a time that many dads can come.  So, though we have fun and share our faith at them, we do not do it as families.  We do have some fun family events each year.  We have annual family hoedowns that are a ton of fun, and family Christmas caroling parties.  These are wonderful too, but they are not particularly spiritual in nature.  The All Saint’s party is really the one event each year where we come together as families and share the joy of being Catholic.  The reason Tim and I decided to home school was to share the beauty of our faith and to make our life and family Christ-centered.  So, we will attend the All Saint’s party every year we can.  We will be there as a family and each of my children will learn about a saint, and present their saint to the group.  If they balk at the idea that is okay, it is a battle I am willing to take on….

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy 15 years!

Today my wonderful husband and I celebrate 15 happy years of marriage.  There is so much I could say about the life we share and the love between us, which is truly a gift from God, but this song by Brooks and Dunn seems to say it more perfectly than I could (it is almost our story exactly except my father is most definitely not a farmer and we got engaged in my tiny studio apartment instead of a field)...

Monday, October 24, 2011

"I would never..."

            When I was expecting my first child, I worked in a children’s clothing store.  In my oblivion about the realities of parenting, I often looked at the parents shopping with their small children and thought, “I’ll never be like that.”  There were quite a few parenting decisions I disagreed with, but worst of all, in my mind, was laughing at children’s misbehavior.  The store had a few little plastic rocking chairs that sat in front of a television set and, at least once a week, some child would pick up one of the chairs and head out the door of the store with it.  Most parents would react by laughing at their child’s antics.  Now, I would stand there and smile along with them as if I got it, but inside, I was wondering what was so funny about a child stealing a chair?  Their child had not done something cute or funny, or even original, and did they know they were only encouraging the behavior by laughing about it as though swiping a chair was a good thing?  I vowed when my child was born, I would never smile at stealing, or saying bad words, or hitting, or any misbehavior my child might attempt (of course, I was still under the delusion that I would be a perfect parent and my child would be perfect as well but if it came up, I would not laugh).
Of course, the first time my adorable little one decided to take something of her father’s or mine and run out of the room with it in an attempt to make it hers, what did I do? I laughed!  The first time she muttered a swear word (that she certainly had never heard from me), what did I do? I laughed!   Even with my fifth child, after years of seeing each of my older children make those first connections and try to get away with those minor infractions of toddler-hood, I still laugh at her misbehavior at times.  It is not that bad behavior is funny, it is that watching your own precious child discover the many choices of life and watching them try out new things, good and bad, is exciting and joyful and, well, sometimes funny.  I would never have understood that before I had children of my own though.

You'd think I had learned my lesson about saying things like, “I’ll never….” But alas, I had not…..
            When my first son was in pre-school I went to a talk at his school by a wise and wonderful deacon.  He spoke about family life and about not over-scheduling children.  He talked about the importance of down time and family dinners and a slower paced life for kids and parents alike.   I sat there thinking again, “I would never over schedule!”  You see, at that time our life was still quite simple.  We had four young children but did not have them signed up for sports or classes or any extra-curricular activities.  We did not have a full calendar but instead spent our time with each other at home most days.  I patted myself on the back for keeping things simple and went home feeling great about myself.
            Now, somehow I find myself eating my words again.  Though, we still do not have the kids signed up for any sports and we keep the extra-curricular activities to a minimum, somehow our calendar has filled up nonetheless.  Somehow, each day seems filled to capacity and each week is scheduled out way ahead of time.  We are so busy at times, my mind cannot settle and I feel perpetually rushed and overwhelmed.  I wonder how this has happened but I am pretty sure it is just life with 5 kids.  I honestly don’t feel I’ve over-scheduled things, the calendar is actually clear on quite a few days this month, but somehow, our life has ended up in overdrive anyway!
The good news is despite our busyness, we do still have dinner together almost every night.  And, I have finally learned to be VERY careful about saying, “I’ll never do that!”

Friday, October 21, 2011

To get where we're going

    It is still relatively early in the day and already today has been an adventure!   Friday is our busiest day, with the children all enrolled in classes at a nearby community center.  It is so nice that they offer a great variety of classes and we have found something for everyone at our house there.  The only problem is that the classes all start at different times.  My oldest son needs to be there by 9:30 for his 1st class, my oldest daughter starts hers at 11:15, and then all four older children have  classes at 1 pm. 
    The first week, the littlest one and I just hung out at the community center all day long, watching her siblings dart from one classroom to the next and admiring their work in between.  It was a long day of sitting around trying to entertain a 2 year old with very little to work with (how many times can you read the same Family Fun magazine before you start to go completely crazy from Kleenex box crafts and animal-shaped desserts?)  The next week we decided to drop off the older kids, run a few errands, and then come back to meet them in time for lunch and the afternoon classes.  This worked out much better, though it was a lot of back and forth and in and out of the car for my youngest daughter and I.  Still it was the best scenario and so we have kept it up over the weeks. 
    This morning, I pulled out of the driveway not even thinking and was halfway down our street before I realized I had headed off in the wrong direction.  Turning around would be more trouble than  it would be worth, we would just have to go the long way to our classes.  Then when we were almost there we reached a long line of traffic at a complete stand still.  It was much too late in the day for rush hour and though the “snow birds”, Florida’s winter residents, have started coming back there are not enough of them around yet to account for so many cars backed up.  I pulled off onto a side street to avoid whatever was causing the traffic jam and ended up meandering through a residential neighborhood that I was not quite as familiar with as I had thought.  I drove along, blindly following the car in front, assuming they knew better how to get back to the main street than we did.   Thankfully, they did and my son darted into his class right on time.  The younger children and I set off for our errands and drove right past the cause of the traffic problems, a big car accident at the main intersection closest to the community center.  At that point, I realized my wrong turn out of the driveway earlier may have been for the best.  Had we gone our normal way, we might have happened upon that accident as it was happening, we might have even gotten mixed up in the middle of it. 
    We were lucky to not be involved but only inconvenienced a little.  Our morning commute ended up taking twice as long as usual and necessitated quite a few detours and unanticipated twists and turns though.   At one point, a policeman directed us to turn on a road we had never taken, at another, we had to turn around and go back the way we came for a time before getting back on track.  As I drove, and tried to keep all the hassles in perspective, it occurred to me that my drive this morning was a lot like my journey in life.  
    Sometimes, as I try to follow Christ and find my way closer to Him, I end up running into road blocks, problems and obstacles that I cannot see the end of and that seem impossible to get through.  As I search for the right way, I end up following the paths of others, hoping they know better than I do.  Sometimes that works out, sometimes not.   Sometimes I am directed to go in new directions and must trust those in authority, again hoping it will get me where I want to go.  Sometimes, I feel like I am heading backwards and I wonder if I am making any progress at all.   Sometimes, days that start out with mistakes turn out to be God steering me away from dangerous situations. 
    The road to heaven is never a straight, easy path.  It always seems to be full of dangers, detours, and wrong turns but, like my little expedition this morning, if we follow the road set before us and trust in the One in charge all will turn out just fine and eventually we will make it to our destination….at least, I hope.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A peaceful Mother

    Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, Portugal.  Tomorrow, in our Church and in our home, we will remember and commemorate the miracle and we will turn our minds and hearts to Our Lady of Fatima.  I don’t usually share about our family’s celebrations of feast days for 2 reasons.  First of all,  I am not great about keeping up with them all.  Usually, I will remember that it is a special feast day at about 3 in the afternoon (if at all) and then I will casually mention it to the kids without any special celebrating.   Second of all, when we do remember to acknowledge the special feasts of our faith, our celebrations hardly seem worth mentioning to others.  They are not very significant, not very creative.  Yesterday, for example, to commemorate the Feast of Our Lady of La Leche, we drank milkshakes together before bed.  Will milkshakes encourage my children to be better Catholics or increase in them a devotion to our Blessed Mother?  Would other families be inspired by our idea of celebration?  You see why I do not share more often…..
    The story of Our Lady of Fatima is one of my favorites though.  I love the simplicity and innocence of the three little shepherd children.   I love that they never wavered in their insistence of proclaiming Mary’s message to the world.  I love the accounts of the Miracle of the Sun, witnessed by thousands in a little sheep pasture in Portugal.  It was an amazing event that changed hearts and brought about the conversion of many. 
    Earlier this week, I heard about a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Fatima, that was going to be traveling to different parishes in our diocese this week to celebrate the miracle and, hopefully, inspire greater devotion to Mary.   The statue would be at a parish very near to our home on Wednesday, but just for the morning and early afternoon.  I made the decision to take my children to see the statue, hear the stories, and pray before Our Blessed Mother.  But then yesterday, Tuesday, we had a very long and exhausting day.   Before bed last night (and before our nighttime snack of milkshakes) :) I told the kids I had changed my mind.  We would not attempt to get up early and out the door to attend the Mass and presentation.  It would just be too much. 
    This morning, (by the grace of God?) I had another change of heart.  Despite our busy, overwhelming week so far (or rather, because of our overwhelming week, so far), I really thought we should be there.  So, I woke the children early, practically having to drag them out of bed, and we made it to the 8:30am Mass, where Our Lady’s statue sat in silent peacefulness up front.  After Mass, we moved a little closer and listened as a woman spoke of the miracles that had followed the beautiful statue of Our Lady as "she" had traveled the world.  The parish priest joined us and added his own spiritual miracle to the list, sharing his own devotion and attributing his vocation, at least in part, to his connection to Our Lady of Fatima.  Then, the children and I got a few moments to pray before the statue while holding 1st class relics from Jacinta and Francisco, two of the young shepherd children Mary had appeared to for the last time almost exactly 94 years ago.  
    It has been one of those weeks.  A week, not only of busyness and chaos, but also of questioning myself and doubting myself and looking for God but not feeling like I was finding Him.  But, today,  as my children and I knelt in prayer before that amazing replica of Mary, the Mother of God, I was at peace.   Through the beautiful example of His mother, Jesus gave me just the renewal I was so in need of.   And He reminded me, once again, how important it is to trust, to let go of my perfectionism, and to believe in miracles, even little miracles like peaceful home schooling and a calm, relaxed mommy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On tolerance....

    “Tolerance is so important.”  I heard this this morning at Mass.  It is a sentiment one hears everywhere these days.  It is a sentiment I disagree completely with, however.  Tolerance, to me, is a problem.  It is not the answer to all of the world’s problems as it seems to be, to so many people. 

We are told that what the world needs is more tolerance.  We, as a people, are encouraged to tolerate people’s differences, tolerate the choices of others, whatever they may be, tolerate new ideas of good vs. evil (ideas which change and vary from one person to another).  Tolerance, it seems, has become synonymous with acceptance, and acceptance, synonymous with peace.  Tolerance is held up as the ultimate expression of morality.

    But, no matter what “the world” wants to believe or to preach, tolerance is not synonymous with love. To tolerate means to withstand the unpleasant effects of something, or to be willing to allow something to happen or exist.   It has come to mean further, to recognize other people's right to have different beliefs or practices without attempting to suppress them.  Whatever definition you prefer, tolerance is dealing with something, living with something, but it is not the same as embracing something, or for that matter, someone.

    Jesus loved but He did not tolerate.  He loved all people, called all people closer to Himself, reached out to all people, but never once did He tolerate.  He went way beyond acceptance of each person He encountered, He loved them.  He loved them right where they were, and just as they were, but He never let them stay there.  He called them all to something more, something better.  He called them away from their sinful ways and mediocre existences.  He pointed out their areas of weakness, of misunderstanding, of sinfulness.  He told them to rise above it, to turn to God and live a better life. 

Jesus would never have tolerated, nor preached a gospel of tolerance.  Because tolerance, especially in today’s definition of it means allowing, even encouraging, sinfulness.  It means leaving each other alone to do right or wrong (most often wrong it seems to me) without ever trying to help anyone to do what God wants of them.  Tolerance is not about helping others to heaven, or even helping others to happiness.  It is about leaving others to wallow in their weak, sinful ways without helping, without loving.

I think Jesus would be incredibly disappointed in a society that stops at a level of tolerance, that does not strive for so much more.  True love never stops at mere acceptance.  Tolerance is such a cop out in many ways. 

We are called to love and love means wanting what is best for others.  It means we must never tolerate the sins of others, sins that hurt and affect us all.  We must do all we can to lead our friends, family members, neighbors, and even strangers, if we can, to a life that rejects sin, not a life that celebrates it.  Jesus teaches us to love the sinner and hate the sin.  Our worlds seems to ignore the sinner and embrace the sin.   If that is tolerance, then tolerance is selfishness.

I would never allow my children to simply tolerate each other.  In our home, we strive each and every day to love one another.  It is not always easy.  There are all those little annoyances, all those petty disagreements, all those opportunities to criticize and tease and stir up trouble.  Maybe if my children could just tolerate each other things would be quieter at my house.  But quiet can be quite overrated.  Quiet is not the goal.   

Simple tolerance is not an option.  I expect love.  I want a family full of love.  Love, kindness, joy, and true feelings of gratitude for one another.  I am hoping for, praying for, real Christ-centered love that manifests itself in an enduring desire to help each other to a place of growth in holiness and virtue in my home.... and in the world around it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A novel experience

    Back in August, I heard about a website, and a contest, and a chance to try to fulfill a dream of mine.  I ran across a brief reference to “NaNoWriMo” on a blog I found and I decided to try to figure out what the heck it was.  As it turns out, NaNoWriMo is not a strange old Native American word.  It is a sort of abbreviation for “National Novel Writing Month.”  It is also a website, and a contest.  The idea behind it is to encourage members to write a novel, a whole novel, start to finish, in a month.  After visiting the website, I thought about it for a while. 

    I’ve always loved writing.  I’ve always wanted to write a novel.  I have always had stories weaving their way through my thoughts whether I’ve invited them or not.  Stories are such a part of my thoughts and my life and I’ve always wanted to get them down on paper and share them but I have never been confident enough, or had the time enough, to actually do it.  So, crazy as it sounds, I signed up. 

    November is national novel writing month.  So, on November 1st (and not a minute before) the contest officially begins.  The challenge?  To write a 50,000 word novel before November 30.  The website provides support, encouragement, and the official word count.  The participants must provide their own stories and their own time. 

    I am a home schooling mother of 5.  My husband works about 60-70 hours a week outside the house, and is pursuing his master’s degree in an online program that requires some 10-15 hours of work each week from home.  I am responsible for shopping, cleaning, cooking, educating, caring for, and chauffeuring to gym class, art class, cub scouts, etc….   I have trouble keeping up with the laundry and dishes.   Where I will fit in time to write 1667 words of original, interesting, coherent narration each day for a month, I do not know.  I am so excited to try to find out!

    I shared my goal and excitement with my children and they too were intrigued.  So, on November 1st the biggest challenge may not be whether or not my story is any good, or whether or not I can even find time to sit down and write.  It may be, whether or not I can get near my computer to do my writing.  You see, NaNoWriMo has a young writers program, too.  My two oldest children have signed up.  My middle daughter will join us in writing a story also, though not officially through the website. 

    The four of us have spent the last few weeks working on our story ideas, developing plot lines, and naming characters.  Everyday lately one of the kids will ask, “How many days till we start?”  Then we go check the countdown at the website and feel nervous and excited and anxious all at once. 

    I am not sure I will make it to 50,000 words.  I am not at all sure it is even possible, there just might not be enough hours in the day, or days in the month.  But, if nothing else, the attempt to complete a whole story in a month, with my children, will be such a novel experience, it is sure to be worth a try….

Monday, October 3, 2011

Another close call

On our latest camping trip….  As soon as we arrived, my oldest son jumped out of the car and ran quickly to our campsite to start exploring.  All of the sudden, he went from running excitedly to stopping dead in his tracks.   We weren’t sure why until he ran back to us and informed us that he had almost stepped on a snake.  Here is a picture of the “welcome committee” that greeted our son with a venomous smile! 
The snake at our campsite- alive and well

Thankfully, our slithery little friend showed no sign of aggression.  It also showed no sign of fear, and did not even flinch when my husband stood far away and threw sticks at it in the hopes of spooking it and sending it slinking back off into the woods.   Instead, the snake sat unfazed basking in the sun and “standing” his ground.  I, meanwhile, looked for the number of a park ranger who could come and help us out, while the children huddled fearfully in the back of the van next to all the yet unpacked camping gear.  All the children except for my oldest son, that is.   He stood on the picnic table nearby and watched his father continue to battle the snake.  My husband, armed with nothing more than a few sticks and logs, which he threw repeatedly at the snake, finally triumphed.   It was not until the poor reptile was already gravely injured, that it shook its tail warningly and reared up, opening its mouth to show sharp little fangs and hissing loudly.  A few more direct hits from the big campfire log and there was no more hissing, no more tail shaking, no more chance of danger.  Then, we were able to commence with the camping.   When we finally caught up with the park ranger and showed him the picture I had taken, he informed us that what we had seen was a pygmy rattlesnake.  I shudder to think what could have happened, and just thank God my son wasn’t bitten.  
Smashed under a log, no longer a threat to anyone
My son pointing out a picture of the snake he saw.
    This was not the first time he has had a close call in life.  My now ten year old son was born with his umbilical cord tied in a knot and wrapped around his neck.  It was at that moment, I figured he had not one guardian angel, but a whole army of them, all watching out for him, and somehow, keeping him safe. 
    At about 9 months old, he scaled a book case in the family room.  The shelves were the adjustable kind that just sort of sit on the case, not firmly attached, and the top one tipped up knocking my baby boy to the floor and dumping an entire shelf full of heavy books on him.  I was terrified.  He was fine.  So fine, that he was back to climbing up the book case almost as soon as I had put everything back together again. 
    At about 2 years old, he refused to go home with me and his sisters after a little walk around the block.  I tried that old, “If you won‘t come, I‘ll just have to leave without you” trick and I walked slooooooowly off, assuming he would follow as soon as he realized I was serious.  I was only about one house away when I glanced back to check on him.  He was standing on the sidewalk at the end of a driveway not paying any attention to me or anything else, when I noticed a minivan in the driveway starting to back up to leave.  Just before I was able to scream in terror, the driver happened to look back and somehow, though it doesn’t seem possible, see that short little toddler in the rear view mirror.  Once again, I was traumatized, my son was completely unscathed.  Needless to say, I have never tried that trick again!
    Leading up to the rattlesnake encounter, there have been other, thankfully less dramatic, moments too.  I’m thinking God must have some pretty big plans for this kid.  Plans that must surely require a lot of courage on my son’s part, a lot of trust on mine, and a whole lot of overtime on the part of the legion of angels watching over him!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The great outdoors

We bought a tent about 4 years ago.  Camping with the family sounded like so much fun.  Our first camping trip, though, was not exactly the fun we were hoping for, disastrous is probably a better word…..

We went to Orlando and decided to “rough” it at Disney’s Fort Wilderness “resort”.   We are not that adventurous and, e-a-s-i-n-g into the whole nature thing seemed like a good idea.  We arrived in the late afternoon.  After, pitching our tent and carefully arranging our air mattress, sleeping bags and pillows, we headed out to explore the campgrounds.  We checked out the huge pool, the horse corral, the restaurants, and the “general store”.  It was all so nice and clean and so Disney.  We heard there was a nightly campfire with Chip and Dale the chipmunks.  Along with a  beautiful big campfire there would be s’mores and campfire songs.  It sounded great to us!  So that evening, we anxiously arrived at the campfire ring a little early, excited for the festivities to begin.  But before Chip and Dale arrived, the rain did.  Lots and lots of torrential rain, pouring down in sheets, as we sat under a shelter by the pool.  Chip and Dale would not be coming-- instead we got a little old lady dressed in plaid with a guitar, who would lead us in camping songs.  Unfortunately, she was having a bad day.  She informed us that it was the anniversary of her brother’s death in Vietnam and she could not help but dwell on it.  I’m pretty sure if Walt Disney would have known what a breath of fresh air she was that day, he would have made sure to have given her the day off.  With all the rain hammering down around us, we were stuck.  So we listened to her sad story and watched the rain come down, down, down for about two hours.  Finally, the rain slowed, then stopped.  Finally, in the darkness, we gathered up the kids and set off for our campsite, catching drips from the trees but trying to make the best of things.  On the way back we got turned around and lost.   Hopelessly lost.  We wandered in the cool, wet night with our (then) four young, tired children wondering if we would ever find our way back.  We did, eventually.   Not surprisingly, the tent was soaked.  Everything in the tent was soaked.  Our sleeping bags, our pillows, our p.j.’s --dripping , sopping, wet.  Puddles collected in the corners of the tent.  After a quick snack of raw s’mores (from our own supplies) we put on the soggy sleep clothes, climbed under the soggy covers and laid our heads on the soggy pillows.   We lay shivering in our tent wondering what else could go wrong, when the frogs started.   It sounded like thousands of frogs, all surrounding our tent, singing and croaking loudly all night.  As we shivered and listened to our amphibious serenade we also sunk, deeper and deeper.  No, not in the various tent puddles exactly, but into the slowly deflating air mattress.  After a few hours, Tim decided we’d be better off just deflating the thing ourselves so he pulled the plug.  The rest of that long, cold, loud night we spent on the hard, gravelly ground.   It was a long night to say the least, but we survived, and amazingly, with our sense of humor in tact.  We all agreed that though pretty much everything that could go wrong did, we still had a good time.

On our second camping trip we were practically blown away by blustery winds, and just missed another rain storm, that hit full force in the morning, as we were pulling out of the campgrounds.

On our third, I was recovering from a bout of stomach flu so we cut things short and headed home to sleep.

Our fourth was cancelled at the last minute because of my grandfather’s death, and I spent that weekend at a funeral instead of in a tent.

We did have one successful, uneventful camp-out last February.  Two nights of family fun and games and lots of great memories.

This weekend we will attempt another trip to the woods for s’mores, scary stories, and sleeping among the wild animals. 

I guess, as it turns out, our family does have a spirit of adventure, or maybe we are just crazy…either way, we are ready for more.  Bring on the adventure!


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