Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's Berry Season! {focusing on what is lovely}

Leaving the grocery store yesterday I spotted a stand selling all kinds of berry bushes.  I had just been inside the store purchasing fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to make my triple-berry trifle later this week.  Inspired, I pulled my tiny digital camera from my purse and began snapping away.  My son, a bit exasperated to be seen with his mother photographing outside the grocery store said in a droll tone, "Let me guess, for the blog?"

His comment made me laugh ~ both at his sarcasm and at myself.  I guess I have slipped into a habit of seeing the world around me through blogging-colored glasses.   It's just that having created my very own tiny space on the web has reignited a fire in me for the beauty and majesty of the everyday world we all see but may have stopped noticing in our daily lives.  It has begun to feel like a privilege to bring my humble observations to my dedicated readers and those who accidentally stumble into Misty's Mornings.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.     Philippians 4:8 (RSV)

Isn't it fantastic to be commanded to focus on those things in life that are beautiful, true, pure and good for us?  Think about how rare it truly is to find sources in life that focus on these characteristics.  

It is easy to be fooled into believing that the world is full of mean-spirited people, that our environment is totally polluted or that it is Pollyanaish to simply enjoy life and live it happily.

But it's not.  I know because I see people sandbagging for strangers, donating money to churches and giving freely to people in need.  I hear beautiful music being made and see people whose eyes well up at the sound.  I see flags flying, families laughing and couples holding hands in church and babies being cradled by adoring mothers.

And when I see berries ripening on vines outside the grocery store I have to stop, to notice that which is worthy of praise.  And as I click my photos I think God is good, life is good and I don't want to miss any of it.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meal Plan for Memorial Day Weekend

You may not know that I also host a simple cooking blog called Bake Me Away.  I don't post as often as I'd like because all too often the food is eaten before I can even think about getting out my camera to take a photo.  

At any rate, this first weekend of summer vacation made me think about a few recipes I have on the blog that might make for a tasty Memorial Day menu.  

For starters:

For the main dish:
Paulie's Salmon

And for the all-American finish:
Easiest Apple Pie

In the next few days I will be posting a new recipe for sloppy joes, another great backyard party dinner option.  Enjoy your weekend and make something delicious!


Friday, May 27, 2011

A Benediction

Peace be with you.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

End of School Daybook 5-26-2011

A photo thought

Outside my window… 

Leaves and branches everywhere.  Two nights ago we experienced the closest thing I have seen to a tornado in our own backyard.  I do know tornadoes - I've seen one across the river in the distance as a child.  I have hidden in the cooler of the Mexican restaurant where I worked along with all the patrons as a funnel cloud hovered overhead.  But the other night I truly felt we might be in the actual path of a tornado at home.  Trees were bending at the most awkward angles and leaves were literally swirling overhead rather than simply falling to the ground.  The local news reported a doppler indicated tornado just blocks from our neighborhood.  The children began to cry.  Pasta boiled on the stove, the electricity flickered and my husband simply waved me away and continued his conference call!  Luckily his instincts were correct.  Now we just have lots of debris to collect from the yard.  In light of Joplin and all those suffering from tornado damage, it was a harrowing experience.

I am thinking…
Of my father-in-law whose birthday is today.  He's the kind of man who makes me feel very protected - especially having lost my own father when I was two.  I love you!

I am wearing...
Clothing that is going to be much too warm for the weather today but with the air conditioner churning day and night it is chilly in here.

I am hearing…

I created a Michael Buble'  station on Pandora and I am in love with the variety of music especially French singer Madeleine Peyroux.  Somehow these slow songs make me feel like the lazy days of summer.

I am thankful for…
All my family who made the trip to our home last week.  I am blessed.

I am going…
To pick up my boys at noon today.  Tomorrow is their last day.  Time to think summery thoughts.  Slip-n-slide has been purchased!

I am praying for...
~My son's second grade teacher whose two year old son passed away today after falling into the pool on Saturday.  Please pray for Charlie and his whole family.  My heart is breaking for them.
~All tornado victims.
~My family members who are sandbagging their home near the Missouri River.  Water stay away.
~The repose of the soul of my dear uncle and for the blessed baptism of his grandson.  A funeral followed by a christening has a beautiful full circle feeling to it.

I am reading…
Order in my home.  I have completely organized all boys' rooms, books, toys and closets. Now onto the attic in preparation for the neighborhood yard sale in June.  It was very well organized.  The sale is on a Saturday.  Anything left outside on Monday morning will be picked up by a Veteran's Donations truck they have pre-arranged.  Perfect!  One way or another the stuff will be gone!

I am pondering… 
What type of summer activities we will do around here.  I need the boys to have a schedule without days of endless video games.  Any suggestions are welcomed.

God is leading me…
To trust in the rightness of trying to lead a holy life.

In the kitchen…
Buttered toast with the BEST jellies I have ever tasted.  I found them at TJMaxx for less than you can order them here.  Might I recommend the Strawberry Peach?

In the garden... 

This gardenia bush just burst into bloom beside my deck.  The scent is delicious and the flowers remind me of starfish on the sand.

One of my favorite things…

Essie Smooth Trick Cuticle Oil.  This little squeeze tube can go in your purse without leaking and adds that finished look to dishwater-dried-out cuticles.

OPI Strawberry Margarita nail polish on my fingers and toes.  (That's it above.)  Now to get one in my hand!  :)


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Family (dis)Function

My second grade son received his first Eucharist last weekend.   Guests filtered in over the course of the week until there were a total of twelve people staying in our house.  With all the boys camped out in our master bedroom we happily made room for our family - some of whom had never been to our home before.

We spent time at the beach, burying boogie boards and boys, tossing a football in the waves and holding shivering little ones still afraid of getting wet.

Living so far from family does have its advantages.  There are no obligations to fill one's weekends with relatives' games, parties and needs.  No confrontations to be had over conversations mis-interpreted, no grandparents giving unsolicited advice on our parenting style, no one to have to help with their moving, painting, cleaning or even emergencies.

And yet I cannot help but wonder if such advantages have really improved our family functioning.  It appears that the more removed we have become, the more selfish and sensitive we have become as well.   We are out of the groove of making life work surrounded by those we both love and conflict with the most.  Maybe this individualist society has created less tolerance within extended families themselves.  

Still, as our family endures a painful loss of one such family member, we realize that despite our modern ability to compartmentalize our lives, we are completely intertwined across the miles.

Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family.  Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.  ~Paul Pearshall


Monday, May 23, 2011

In Memory

A flower from my garden in loving memory of my Uncle who passed away last night.
May he rest in peace and all his loved ones find comfort in God's abiding love.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Give Me Some Grace

One of the definitions of grace according to Merriam-Webster online  is "a temporary exemption: reprieve".   If I am around someone who is criticizing others I have often said just give them some grace.  Who knows what that person has experienced in the past five minutes or even five years that may have led them to be less than courteous or even self-aware?  

I think what I really mean when I say just give them some grace is so that I may also be given such grace.

It is much easier to judge, to criticize, to gossip.  The hard part is giving someone else a reprieve.  But when I stop and remember that: 

Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with the elect.
Wisdom 3:9

grace dwells within me ~ by grace itself.  Therefore I do have the grace to extend to others in the hope of creating a world in which grace will also be extended to me.  

Please stop over and read what others have written about grace.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shake and Pray

I have this snow globe on the windowsill above my kitchen sink.  My mother brought it back for me from her recent tour of several Christkindlmarkts in Germany.  Inside the the tiny glass bubble huddles the Holy Family.  One shake of the globe creates a miniature iridescent snowstorm.  

Christmas came and went and still this German memory resides on my sunny springtime sill because it has become a prayer habit of mine.  Every time I wash dishes in the sink I pause to shake and pray: for my boys at school, my husband at work and my family scattered coast to coast.  

Only after five months of shaking and praying have I really stopped to ponder the symbolism inside the globe ~ that together the family is safe amid the swirling storm.  There they stand, holding onto one another peacefully, not being tossed apart or looking off in different directions, but they stand as one firm unit, on a strong foundation, attention focused on a singular goal ahead.  

Now as I continue to shake and pray at random moments throughout each day, I will not only think of my own family unit, but be quietly reminded that we will make it, no matter what blizzard may come.   We two who first became three in one, then five in one will be forever all for One.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes on Friday ~ 2

These flowers amaze me!  I have never lived near magnolias before and I am stunned by how huge not only the flowers are but how gigantic a magnolia tree can grow if left alone.
I know these pictures are blurry.  I had to snap them quickly outside of Target while my three children were heading into the store without me!  One of these blossoms could be an entire bridesmaid's bouquet!


My new favorite thing to do is to go bike riding with my three year old son.  He has a tiny bike with training wheels and we pedal around the large loop of our neighborhood - his  feet spinning five times faster than my own.  He forgets to look up, he swerves into the middle of the road when he glances behind at me, he gets hung up, back tire spinning off the ground, when he goes too far up the curb.   Even hardened construction workers break into a grin when they see him coming.  


My husband and I actually had fun washing the windows last Saturday.  They were two-years-grimy with pollen and dirt and rain water since we only recently had gutters put on the house.  Who knew how much our spirits would lighten with the added brightness?  Beautiful.


REFRIED LENTILS = Yum!   Needing a side dish for some tilapia the other day I spied a can of lentils in the pantry.  Inspired, I lightly sauteed some scallions and garlic in olive oil, added the can of lentils (drained) and cooked and lightly smashed them in the pot.  A little salt and pepper and whamo - a new side dish favorite of my sons' was born.  Next time I will double it.  There were no leftovers for my husband when he got home from work.


Company is coming for my second son's First Holy Communion.  For the next ten days we will have between three and seven additional family members staying in our house!  I am so excited to have lots of time out on the deck, watching the kids play while grilling and chilling (pardon the cliche - I just couldn't resist).  In fact, in light of the recent shattering of my wine glass, I picked up some adorable plastic wine goblets at Target for $1.99 each and they look real!


Yesterday my parenting beliefs were put to the ultimate test (so far).  While walking out the door my third grader realized he had forgotten to do his homework.  The homework I asked him to do the night before.  The homework he chose to put off and do in the morning instead. The homework he had completely forgotten about until five minutes before he would be tardy for school.  He exploded in worried tears and hands-clasped begging to stay home and finish and then arrive to school late.

What would you have done?

Heart breaking for him, I sent him off to school to face the music.  I believe in natural consequences.  We believe in taking responsibility for our actions.  We do not believe in rescuing our children from every uncomfortable result of their choices.   He went, albeit tearfully and unwillingly.

I prayed for him all day.  When I picked him up after school I asked what had happened.  A bright smile split his face as he informed me that he had had a substitute and no homework had been collected!  In a way we both learned a lesson yesterday.  


Lilacs - my all time favorite flower.  It says childhood home to me.  We used to pluck each tiny little bud and sip the "honey" from the end.  I have never had a lilac bush of my own but now I have three.   Two Bloomerangs and one President Lincoln.  I had to order the P.L. on-line and the greenhouse advised me not to plant it in my zone - too warm for old-fashioned lilacs to thrive.  I didn't care.  I planted it and I am hoping that it will bloom at least enough for me to bring one heady bunch into the house to scent the whole room some warm May evening. 

Have a wonderful weekend!  

If you have time, stop over at Conversion Diary to read more 7 Quick Takes.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Declaring Peace in Our Homes

I have shared a bit about our family's desire to slow down our family life and I have to tell you how wonderful the results have been.  There is no re-doing of these early and elementary years and we feel like we are able to enjoy them much more peacefully since we cut out so many after-school commitments and general running around.

Much of what we have done around our home was affirmed if not inspired by the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim Payne.  Below you can hear him summarize his counter-cultural approach to rearing children today in an over-stimulated world.  

If you are feeling frazzled by family life and don't know where to begin to make things change, this snippet may leave you sighing with relief and recognition.

Simplicity Parenting from Kim Payne on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When Things Break

Lately, lots of things have been breaking around me.

First,  a rogue basketball flew up onto the deck and landed precisely on the top of  my special hand-painted wine glass from my Aunt, sending ice-crystal shards everywhere.

Then, my new all-time favorite coffee mug, (a recent find at TJMaxx that I loved so dearly I had planned to blog about it), was elbowed into the kitchen sink by a lanky boy hanging by the waist washing his after-school hands, splitting the ceramic- flower and bird decorated-no handle needed-insulated so it stays warm indefinitely- most.  perfect.  coffee.  mug.  ever.

These two fairly insignificant breaks seemed to be testing me to relinquish all love of material goods, no matter how precious.  No temper tantrums were thrown(ahem), no tears wept, though I may have been spotted a time or three wandering the aisles of a certain discount store hoping to find another coffee mug (to no avail).

But last weekend, my dear friend's four year old son broke his leg.  This was no insignificant break.  He is fully casted, immobilized for a month and a half, in need of constant care by two working parents with no family in town.  A scenario I am all too familiar with myself.  

This is the hard break, when life is put on hold and parents see their perfect little boy bear the first fractures of this harsh world.  No amount of love and protection can keep our children from colliding with real life.  It seems that so many things in life start out perfect but it doesn't take long before hairline cracks develop, tiny little fractures that threaten to give way under the force of this world in which we must live.

And we realize that things will break.

Break in,

         Break out,

                  Break up,

                          Break down,

                                  Break apart.

But we cannot.

We must learn to accept what has been lost so we may see more clearly all that remains. 


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spiritual Mothers

Must you give birth or adopt a  child to be considered a mother?

According to Johnnette Benkovic, author of Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life,
all women are called to bring life to the world, whether through childbearing or through their life-giving spirit.   She writes:

"Just as new life issues forth from our bodies in an awesome moment of mystery and wonder, so our every word and deed should be a conduit of grace and new life for others.  And just as we love our child from the very depths of our being, so God's love should flow through us to the world as a soothing and healing balm.  In this way our hearts and souls become conveyors of spiritual life." 

So, today, bless your own mother as well as those women who have been spiritual mothers in your life, whose nurturing presence has helped to raise you and your children in the spirit of love, beauty and goodness.

Happy Mother's Day to all women!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday Surfing

These are a few of my favorite posts from this week. 
Have fun surfing around!

1.  "Happy Mother's Day" by Katrina Kenison @ The Gift of an Ordinary Day
Get a Kleenex and consider writing you own mom a letter like this one someday. 
 Also, read Katrina's books asap!  They are soul food.

This relatively new blogger has become a favorite of mine.  
She writes so honestly and in this post she struggles with the choice to begin homeschooling.

3.  "If Only" by The Happy Mother @ The Happy Mother
This photo made me laugh out loud.

4.  "Best of the Nest"  by Nester @ Nesting Place
Because sometimes I wish my whole house was painted sea salt blue.

5.  "Family Friendly Fridays"  by Mommie Cooks @ Mommie Cooks
One word ~ yummy!


Friday, May 6, 2011

In Celebration of Usefulness

All three of our sons have had birthdays in the past three months.  Another year older, another year gone.  

While road-tripping over spring vacation, my husband and I were sharing laughs over those years now gone with our littler  - now - bigger ones.   I reached for this beautiful book and opened to the entries by my all-time favorite poet, Sharon Olds.  She spoke to my earnest collegiate heart in Contemporary Lit class and still resonates with me today.  

As I began to read this poem aloud to my  husband, tears welled and my voice cracked over the simple words that somehow evoked the sense of joy-loss each birthday brings.  I hope you find it as moving as I did.

Sharon Olds

I'll play Ninja Death with you
tonight, if you buy new socks, I say
to our son.  After supper he holds out his foot,
the sock with a hole for its heel, I whisk it
into the wastebasket.  He is tired, allergic,
his hands full of Ninja Death leaflets,
I take a sock from the bag, heft his
Achilles tendon in my palm and pull the
cotton over the arch and instep,
I have not done this for years, I feel
intensely happy, drawing the sock
up the calf --Other foot--
as if we are back in the days of my great 
usefulness.  We cast the dice 
for how we will fight, I swing my mace,
he ducks, parries with his chain, I'm dazed, then
stunned.  Day after day, year after 
year I dressed our little beloveds
as if it were a life's work,
stretching the necks of the shirts to get them
over their heads, guarding the nape as I
swooped them on their back to slide overalls on---
back through the toddler clothes to the one-year
clothes to those gauzy infant-suits that un-
snapped along the seam to lie
fully open, like the body first offered to the
soul to clothe it, the mother given to the child.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Worldwide Wednesday Linky Party {Mom}

What does "Mom" mean to you?  

For me, it is the essence of life. 
I am best friends with my own mother and depend on her wisdom and support daily.  Having lost my father as a two-year-old, Mom became the center of my childhood universe.  

She is the woman I most admire and aspire to be like.  You are so beautiful Mom. I love you the world!

Becoming a mother myself is the most fulfilling part of my life.  It taught me to draw on strengths I never knew I had.  It has also opened up a depth of love that cannot be explained or compared.

If you had asked me as a little girl what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said a teacher, wife and mommy.

Amazingly I can say I have accomplished my dreams!  ;)  

If you  would like to share a post about your own interpretation of MOM please link below!
Have a Blessed Mother's Day and be sure to celebrate all the moms in your life.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kitty Hawk Beach Blast

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