Category Archives: family

Laney Bugs Turns ONE!

Elena’s first birthday brought more tears than laughter for this mother. Much like the day of her birth one year ago, there was no time for fanfare. There was simply a red and white checkered ladybug dress and cupcakes to match.  A small homage in honor of the only “bug” in the world I love; our “Laney Bug.”

Her daddy and I knew the moment she was born that regardless of if there will be any more children for our family or not, she will always be “the baby.”

When she entered the world, things were a little dark for our family. Daddy was on the computer writing his thesis right up until mama was ready to push. We didn’t know where we would live, when daddy would graduate or if there would be a job for him.

“Every baby is born with a loaf of bread under their arm” the old saying goes, and our Laney was no exception. Her birth was the first in a domino effect of things falling into place for our family.

Continue reading

Budget Woes: Is Vacation a Necessity?

With the start of another year, many are reflecting on personal and familial habits that may need to be re-examined. For families, the top slot on this list is often the family budget.

The budget tends to burst at the seams comes January. December can bring, “It’s a little much, but it’s such a perfect gift for —-,” and, “We can’t stick to the grocery budget, it’s the holidays and we’ve got things to bake/cook and memories to make.”

Every January we sit down with the budget and cut the fat. It’s not that difficult of a job. We know what we’re comfortable spending in each category and it’s easy to see where we are falling short. We look at the numbers and plan out the next year for our family. We think about each month and what our needs will be and everything runs smoothly – until we get to the summer months and one budget category jumps out.

That category: Vacation.

Should we take a family vacation?

No matter how much (or little) money there is, we’re frugal. It’s just how we live. What we have we save because we know there’ll be a time of need. There are student loans that could be paid or a home that could be saved for. Do we spend a large chunk of money over the course of one week in the summer?

The answer for this family is a resounding YES! For us, a vacation is a necessity and something that needs to be budgeted into our lives.

A few years ago my husband, who struggles with a chronic health issue, had a complication after a surgery and I had to rush him to the hospital. There was a serious question as to if he would live or die. I called a few friends to sit and pray with me as the doctors worked and I waited. During that time I didn’t think of our budget, the student loans or if I’d gone over on cell phone minutes. Instead, I was haunted by something my husband had recently shared with me,

“My favorite thing in this world is when we’re traveling and you all fall asleep in the van. I love to drive my sleeping family.”

This memory was interrupted when the doctors came to tell me they had found the problem and that my husband would make it. My friends smiled and looked at me for tears or leaps of joy.

There were tears, but the only thing I could think of to say was:

 “I want to go on vacation for our anniversary.”

Our favorite things are important, especially if they help bond us as a family unit. For us, it’s vacations. They are the thoughts that haunt us when we are reminded that this life is temporary and they are the first memories of our very young children.

There is something to be said about cramming five people into a mini-van and living out of a cooler for five days every summer – if it’s done together.

We’re not millionaires over here, so vacations mean other sacrifices throughout the year. We can do vacation on a dime. My husband and I even play “fun games and challenges” to help ensure vacation is possible for our family. You can make dinner for five out of a cooler for consecutive nights and those “free weekend if you take our timeshare tour” trips are actually really fun – and they serve lunch.

Taking his three daughters to Disney World is my husband’s dream. Old age isn’t likely for him, so I’m determined to make it happen sooner rather than later. We even have a code phrase for the dream in our home. “Someday, when we go to the Mouse’s House” we say as we dream while attempting to not tip off the children. It’s a bit early to share our dream with them. We’ll wait until the vacation category in the budget can grow. Until that time, vacation will always have a place in our budget, even if it is a small one.

Does your family have a “Mouse’s House” dream vacation? Does your family have a favorite vacation spot you want to recommend?

Vacation: taking time to climb rocks

Are You a "Santa Family?"

We’re a “Santa” family. I understand the reasons behind some families choice to keep Santa out of their Christmas celebrations, but for us, it’s important to include him.

There is beauty in the “magic” of Santa. In the innocence in the heart of a child that can believe a man can make it around the world in just one night, solely to bless the lives of children everywhere. The story is appreciated and loved because of its wonder, sans the syndical and bitter questioning that sneaks its way into our hearts with age.

We use the Santa story to teach our children about the unconditional love that can be found in a gift that is given out of love, not earned like a sticker on a responsibility chart. Once a year, for just a few years, they will wake with the type of anticipation that only lives within a child. They’ll know that awaiting them under the Christmas tree decorated with holy cards will be humble presents, right next to the manger that’s present all through Advent. The gifts won’t be there because they have earned them or they deserve them, just because they are loved – similar to the baby Jesus who will be placed in the manger that sits under that Christmas tree.

Accepting unconditional love and unearned reward may be difficult later in their lives depending on their temperament. The “Santa years” are great practice for them to accept that they are loved just because. They are loved by us, by each other and ultimately, by Christ. They did nothing to earn this love, can do nothing to lose the love and need only accept it – like a gift on Christmas morning.

There is no “naughty” or “nice” list and Santa works in his workshop year-round making toys for boys and girls because St. Nicholas inspired him to be loving and kind to children out of the goodness of his heart.

There is no danger of our children learning one day about Santa and drawing a parallel to Christ –  thus dismissing the resurrection as a fable, myth or moral story. We talk about Santa from December 7th to December 25th every year. We talk about the baby Jesus everyday.

My biggest concern that comes along with being a “Santa family” is not a spiritual one. We’ve got three daughters in this home. Teaching them to sit on an old man’s lap, tell him their secret desires and then take candy from him doesn’t really coincide with what we generally teach our daughters about strange, odd looking older men! Then, on Christmas Eve, we’ll celebrate Jesus’ birthday and while we are sleeping he’ll sneak into our home and we’ll leave him a snack? It is rather amusing when you think about the details.

Seems my girls feel the same way, judging from the Santa pictures we’ve taken the past few years.

A blessed feast of St. Nicholas! May his goodness and generosity inspire our Advent and Christmas season in whatever way is best for our families.

Gold chocolate coins, an ornament to celebrate the year in the life of our family and a new book of stories of the Saints have appeared on our fireplace! 3 little gals are going to be so blessed by St. Nicholas’ visit in the morning.

Take Cover! Christmas Bells are Ringin’

The only people who think about Christmas in October are St. Nicholas, people who work in retail and sprinkle Halloween in one aisle and Christmas in the next and, of course, moms.

Although fall is by far my favorite season, a tiny bit of my autumn joy has been stolen since I got married and had kids. My fall to-do list has multiplied since becoming a mom. “Check out new fall TV line-ups” has now been replaced with less “fun” chores.

These tasks are dreaded all year by most moms I know. They include:

The “whose family are we going to for what holiday so everyone we’re related to can be happy and we can be miserable” traditional seasonal fight with your husband:

To be fair, we’ve got the cutest daughters in the world. Unfortunately, they are the only grandchildren in both mine and my husband’s family. So, we’re in high demand. And, of course, by ‘we’ I clearly mean the children. It’s very common for my husband and I to stay up all night packing everything we own so we can crisscross the state through a snow storm in the middle of the night with screaming children. We do this only to arrive at our destination and have our children snatched from our hands and swooned over while we collapse onto the couch without so much as a hello. Once we’re acknowledged it is with a well-meaning “You look awful. You really need to take better care of yourselves. You should get more rest.”

All this is done, of course, so that we can spend the night (if five hours counts as a night), wake up to share a meal with said family and then pack it all up, stuff it back into the mini-van and head out to a dinner hosted by the other side of the family—four hours away.

I have a friend who, in negotiations with her husband, traded every single major holiday of the year just so that Christmas could be spent in her hometown and she and her husband would never have to have this fight again. She should take that poker face to Vegas. I would’ve folded.

In order to please everyone and ensure you’ll still be married by Christmas, negotiations really need to start in the fall. Recently, our discussions on the matter took an interesting turn as we found we were each advocating for the other’s family to ‘get us.”

Shopping:

If there is ever a test of faith, it’s preparing for Christ’s birth in your heart while trying to find a parking spot at the mall. This is done to the soundtrack of car horns honking and people swearing at each other. Once in the mall, you can’t make a purchase without giving out your e-mail, phone number and zip code to the sales person, so you can be harassed and reminded of this experience all year long with ill-timed phone calls.

And there’s always those super uplifting human interest stories about humanity at its finest on TV. The one where people are willing to stampede each other for a $40 toy. Let’s not forget our favorite holiday dance: stretching that family budget to include buying gifts for people because they bought one for you/your kid last year and you were mortified they were not on your list and you were empty-handed.

The Christmas Card Picture:

Please tell me I’m not the only mother who turns into an insane beast of a woman when it comes time to take the photo for the family Christmas card. If I had to pick the worst four hours of my year, it would be taking the Christmas card picture. And, yes, it does take four hours. It is also the hardest workout I do all year, and for what? To capture the fact that my kids refuse to smile for a picture, someone is shoving their finger up their nose, the baby is crying and my make-up is dripping down my face with beads of sweat?

Between takes I scream, “Everyone shut their mouths, stop crying and smile or I’m canceling Christmas!” All of this just so we look like a big happy family in the photo card that has “Christmas blessings” scrolled across it. Last year, I attempted running this marathon while pregnant, and the whole thing actually put me into contractions. We’d already received cards form more successful friends who got their cards out the first week of December. Card after card made me wonder if all of our friends’ children had become catalog models or the face of dental offices.

If you look closely at our card from last year you can see me digging my fingernails into my husband’s leg because we were going on photo shoot hour three, and I was realizing that our photo wasn’t going to have the same fate as every other family we’d ever met. I was going off the edge. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a nervous breakdown over a photo card.

Enjoy the Season

This year I’m putting this on my list. Amid all of the stresses the holiday season brings to motherhood, our Church gifts us with the season of Advent. When everything around us defines Christmas by slapping a manufacturer’s label and price tag on it, our liturgical year builds in time for us to prepare our hearts for the real gift of Christmas, Jesus. We’re asked to quite our hearts and our mouths and prayerfully reflect on what this gift means to us.

We’ve decided that this year, no one is going to “get us” for Christmas Eve. You don’t have to travel to meet Baby Jesus. We’ll celebrate in our home and invite others to join us here. They can drive.

We’re not above bribes. We’ll use the kids to lure our families to our side of the state. We won’t tell them they’ll be sleeping on pink and purple twin sized beds in little girl rooms. They’ll also have to get up in the middle of the night to go out in the cold and create reindeer tracks in the snow to enhance the Christmas morning experience for our daughters.

Our daughters will receive three gifts from us. Because if it’s good enough for the baby Jesus, it’s good enough for us.

As for the Christmas card, maybe if I attempt to do a funny ‘out takes” type card we’ll finally get that Norman Rockwell family Christmas photo. It is baby Jesus’ birthday. If our Blessed Mother can ride a camel across her country while nine months pregnant, I think I can pack my kids into a mini-van and drive across the state to see family over the holiday season. I believe in Christmas miracles.

Now Thanksgiving, that’s another story. We’re still trying to work that one out……