Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday to Our "Someone"

Happy  Birthday,  Papa!
Every year, when your birthday draws near, the boys and I get a little giddy with excitement thinking of what wonderfully creative and surprising joys we can craft for you.  Usually, this requires a trip to Sonic and some driving around with our fruity, frosty over-flowing "think-tanks."  Or, we might hold a truly official meeting at our local office (kitchen) with official snacks (chocolate chip cookies), and follow official procedure (dunk in milk and imbibe freely to keep good ideas flowing).  

Every idea is freely expressed, considered, and debated (these were our recent inspirations): a homing device for your sunglasses, cell phone and billfold? A scope for your guns? A dune buggy (I coughed up a cookie on that one)? A football signed by Colin Klein? 

How wonderful for us all, your little tribe, to have someone to throw our arms and our hearts around every day, someone we treasure so dearly, so deeply that we get to experience the delight of the yearning to speak with clearest thoughts and to show with most sincere affection just how much that someone is loved.  You are our someone.

The pace of our life seems to be quickening, doesn't it? The birthdays come around and we are first to ask, "Where has the time gone?"  I have a deep desire for time to slow down, for our footsteps to be firmly anchored in moments, every moment, really, be it ordinary or extraordinary, so that I can absorb all of the goodness of you, you with our children, you with me, you on your own, not noticing how terribly much I admire you, from the strength of your arms to the tenderness of your soul and the courage of your faith.

Sometimes you are very hard on yourself.  I think that this is because you understand with great clarity the enormity of the mission of raising a family, leading us and loving us all the way to heaven.  And, we follow you, placing our little trusting feet in your giant footsteps, happy to feel so secure and so loved along the way.

Today, we wish you everything we cannot give - sweet peace, abundant health and deep-down joy, and we give you the best of what we can - our love, affection, affirmation and gratitude for being our "someone".  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sporting Clays - A New Thanksgiving Tradition

You know what they say, "The family that aims together, stays together."

Okay, so they actually happens to be my sister-in-law, but nonetheless, I think she might just be right.

It's traditions, actually, that have a magical way of bringing families together.  Traditions provide a common goal, a common experience and quality time together. For some, Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without a competitive football game in the backyard or a poker showdown after dinner.  This year for us, the holiday went something like this:

In celebration of our religious freedom, we prayed together.

In remembrance of the first Thanksgiving feast, we ate together.

In honor of all the other fine firearm families (the Remingtons and Rugers of course) we aimed together...

And, I have to admit, it was a blast.  (Just me and my girls!)
Now rewind a good two months before Thanksgiving, and just try to imagine what our dinner-time table talk has been. Being outnumbered 6 to 1 by males, the chance of it being about anything relatively feminine is slim to none.
All the buzz has been about pheasant season, deer season, gun lingo (which is totally a foreign language to me), camouflage and taxidermy (I know, it's just too much, the whole taxidermy thing. Just what I need is a bunch of creepy beasts on my trailer house walls staring at me while I fold the laundry. Eeeww.)

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Steve bought a clay thrower.  I always knew that the time would come when guns and ammo and testosterone driven activities would take over our lives, but really can any mother ever be truly prepared?
What could I do?
A.  Wear a set of ear plugs so I can't hear a dang thang thay say?
B.  Spend an equal amount of money on a machine of my choice for the house? I think a Hobart dishwasher would look splendid in my wittle kitchen!
C.  Put them in piano, chess, fencing and art lessons so there's simply no time for weapon mastery?
D.  Try all of the above, and if they fail, get out there and get my Annie Oakly groove on? (I was gonna say Sara Palin, but the only reason I would hunt an animal is if my family's survival depended on it. So, that pretty much means never, ever, ever, ever.)

Ya'll know by now that I chose D. Minus the lessons and the Hobart, but I'm still thinkin' about buying the Hobart.

When my dad was in Vietnam, he was awarded a sharpshooter medal.  It is given to those who earn high marks in weapons mastery.  I wish some of those sharpshooter genes found their way to my DNA, but alas they did not.

Almost all of the shooting I've done in my life took place during my youth when I went to 4-H camp at Rock Springs Ranch.  And, it wasn't pretty then either.  It takes me about a good five minutes just to load the gun, because I have to check every few seconds to make sure that it's still on safety and pointing away from humans or windows.  These things just take time.

The boys are so much faster and better than I am, but despite my lack of natural talent, they still smiled and acted happy that I was there.  And, in the end that's what counts.
I've always imagined that when my boys grow up, the things they will remember most about me will be our time homeschooling, great meals and laughter around the table, reading and singing to them, and cheering them on at all their activities. Now they can add our new tradition of sporting clays to the list.


"Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful day, for my new clay thrower and for my wife who can shoot the turkey and cook it too.  I'm a lucky man."
"Take some notes, boys, take some notes."
"I'm so good I can shoot from the hip. They don't call me Bulls-Eye Bob for nuthin'!"
"Another shell please, Mr. Ammo Assistant!"
Like mother like son??
Lock 'n load.
Just so ya'll know, she's the one who put up the "No Trespassing" sign in the front yard.
Charlie is the reason Steve's Browning Citori 525 over and under wasn't too heavy for me to hold.  I've had the little guy in my arms non-stop for the past 8 months.  It's all about the training, folks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Perfect Gift...

Every afternoon, at the very moment I'm reaching for that thirty-second cup of coffee and anything chocolate, that's when my four year old, Henry, always wants me to read to him.  Not one book, or two, it's usually ten.  Yawning, I slide my slipper sacheted feet across the floor, cutting a path through army men and cheerios to the boys' room where Henry carefully stacks his selection of picture book pleasures.
In the mix of literary favorites today was, Bear Stays Up For Christmas, a cute little story about a bear who forgoes hibernation's deep slumber to stay up and make Christmas gifts for his woodland friends.  I'm charmed by the endearing images of fresh baked cookies and parcels wrapped in garland and bows. 

There is something so irresistibly wonderful about handmade gifts.  They communicate thoughtfulness, love, admiration, friendship and sincerity.  A couple of weekends ago I went to a baby shower where the mom-to-be's older sister hand crocheted a baptismal gown for the baby that was simply breath-taking. All of the light up, plastic, Made in China must-haves, while gifted with love and purpose, will probably one day find their way to a Goodwill or garage sale, but not the gown. It will become a family heirloom.  How beautiful.

Reading the Bear Stays Up for Christmas reminded me of the days of my youth when my siblings and I would sneak around the house giggling and whispering about our ideas, looking for glue, tape, special paper and shiny things that could be crafted into gifts for our parents.  It also caused me to pause and think a little bit about my own plans for gift-giving this Christmas.

What if this Christmas, or even throughout the year, instead of buying 10 "affordable" Made in China things, I bought just one really nice gift, something homemade, something with character, something that has a story, a purpose, a history, a message or a meaning.  Something real.  Oooo, yeah, something real.
Real like the art my brother-in-law, Johannes, paints in is real home with his real talent for his real family and others to appreciate and enjoy.
These are some snapshots taken during the opening night of his exhibit at ARTichokes in Leawood, KS.  
Johannes brought his family all the way from Switzerland with the hope that showcasing his art at the gallery would give him an opportunity to share his talent with others and one day be recognized internationally. (Yes, his artwork is for sale!) It was a beautiful evening!
You can view several of Johannes' incredible pieces on his website.  He even painted a special piece for the boys, which hangs in our classroom and is enjoyed every day!
As the number of unemployed Americans remains discouragingly high, I wonder how many women have learned how to make soap or candles or jewelry to sell in gift shops or at craft fairs so that she can keep the lights on the the heat running.  Or, how many dads have spent their savings buying the tools to woodwork or mechanic in the late night hours to pay the piled up bills or keep their kids in college.

I am certain that there are many, so very many who are doing this: turning what was once a hobby or project into a career. They are making something homemade, handcrafted, unique and waiting for us to find them, to buy them, to give them, to keep them, to enjoy them.

What if this year you and I and our friends and family made our Christmas list (or at least part of it) with treasures that could be found at the local craft fair, downtown mom and pop shop, or even personal online sellers like instead of the big name chain stores??  Perhaps you have a friend or relative who makes quilts or jam, pottery or paintings, or mows lawns or paints houses....could we buy something from them??

What if this year we employed the unemployed? What if instead of bail-outs and bottomless tax hikes we boosted the economy by blessing our brother's business?? 

In ten minutes I made a gift list from  Here are just a few of the goodies that made me smile...

A beautiful hand knit scarf (who wouldn't love that?).
Charming screen printed flour sack towels from  Oh Little Rabbit. (Looking for a unique baby gift? Check out their adorable onesies.)
Lovely  botanical calendar (They also print personalized stationary!).
A groovy guitar strap (I have one from this company, and I love it!)
Simple bread boards made from old barn wood. (This idea came from one of my favorite blogs Our Vintage Home Love.)
 Personalized beer steins (someone I love is gonna get these for Christmas!).
Custom wine labels make an ordinary gift sparkle.
Fly fishing lures are super fun and affordable. If you know someone who fly fishes, that is!
Bath salts are not a boring gift.  Especially for a really tired, overworked person, like a mom for instance.
I've got my eye on this Floral Handbag. Always wanted a Vera Bradley but still suffering from sticker shock? Look no further! Etsy has many V.B. inspired bags for a fraction of the cost!
rosary bracelet is a beautiful gift for your spiritual sister.  Etsy has an incredible venue of spiritual and inspirational jewelry designers.

These hand stamped pencils with quotes from The Goonies and these
Clint Eastwood inspired notebooks are perfect for those who prefer to scribble rather than type. You really will make someone's day if you give them these! They are created and sold by one of Etsy's featured sellers.  I liked his quote:

“In a world filled with mass-produced goods, it’s nice to have something made with care by someone.” — James Partch

Before the buzz of Black Friday, the mayhem and madness of the mall, and superstore sell-outs set in, consider a homemade holiday. Gifts with tags that say "made with care, made with thought, made with love" instead of "Made in China."

Steve's name is gonna look great on those beer steins!

If you have a friend or family member who is selling their special products this Christmas season, or if you come across an irresistible product on Etsy please share it here in the comments portion, or send me an e-mail at, and I'll post it on Facebook!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Collin Klein - My Little Good News

I don't know about you, but I've had it with all the bad news.  From Penn State to political scandals, it's all a big fist coming down like a hammer on my house of happiness, an eclipse blocking the rays that light my day, a rock in my shoe breaking my optimistic stride.  The bitterness of life is begging to be sweetened and soothed by the balm of good news...

But, maybe we're all just getting used to the headline topics of lying, cheating, stealing, disaster, death, betrayal and blame.  If you can get used to wearing a hair shirt or taking cold showers, that is.  Ignoring the bad doesn't help either, it just lends itself toward cynicism and apathy.  Worse yet, it can place us in the danger of temptation, the temptation to lose hope in humanity, to abandon faith in virtue and it's victory over vice. So the only real solution is to take the good with the bad.  Even if you have to search for the good.

The good news is football isn't all bad...
Football is a top topic around here, and after the news broke about the heart-breaking situation at Penn State, I cringed, and through gritted teeth, moaned over the sad reality of yet another athletic power, one so many once looked up to, who devastated it's fans with unbelievable shame.

I look at my little boys who love sports and can make a list of the names of incredible athletic talents a mile long, and wonder what I would have said to them had they been Penn State fans.  I recognize that my little sprites do not live in a bubble, that they will embrace other people throughout their life, people whom they think or feel represent something admirable, something that they would like to achieve or obtain in life.  
Whether it be sports or academics or music - they will, by their very nature, witness excellence in others and be inspired by greatness.  Those individuals in the spotlight have a million eyes upon them, and they must know who the most precious of eyes belong to: the young people, my sons included.  
Someone to look up to...
This season, my son's eyes are upon one outstanding young man, Collin Klein, who is the quarterback for the Kansas State Wildcats.  A few months ago, we knew so little about this man of character.  But, as K-State gained momentum this season in the college football arena, our interest in the team's players, specifically Klein, peaked. Here are a few excerpts written about him:

Klein is K-State's version of Tim Tebow, in purple and white.  And he expresses himself in spiritual tones, never hiding his belief in God nor the bounties of that belief. 

"Just the thought of being mentioned in the same sentence with Tim Tebow is an honor,'' Klein said. "I'm unworthy of all that. But without speaking for him, I think the most important similarity between us is that we honor God for all that He has given us.''

Klein's faith is as much a part of him as his right arm.

Just as Tebow is held in high regard as a person first, then an athlete, so is Klein, who is always thoughtful and polite with fans and the media and is tenacious as a football player.

"I was raised with, to put it in the best words, a desire for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,'' Collin Klein said. "That was almost the most important thing for me.''

Call me crazy, but that's some good news, folks!  After reading it, I wanted to stand up and cheer and do some crazy cheerleader jumps (I never was a cheerleader, so it takes somthin' real good to get me to bust-a-move.).  I also wanted to jump in the car and drive right up to Mrs. Klein's front door and hug her, high-five her and get her autograph.  But, she lives a long way away, so I just did a couple of extra kicks in her honor.)

After talking with the boys about Collin Klein as a person and an athlete, I suggested that they write to him and tell him how much his Christian witness means to them.  I explained the importance of finding the good in others and affirming them. Andrew said, "Mom, I don't know where to start or what I would say to him."  I told him, "Just imagine having a conversation with Collin. Write what you would say to him if he were sitting next to you."  Quietly, he went to the school room, gathered a simple lined piece of paper and a pencil and wrote for a half and hour....

Dear Collin Klein,

Hello, my name is Andrew Husband, and I am nine years old, and I am in the fourth grade.  This year, I played football too.  I watch you play at every football game.  I look up to you a lot.  You are a great athlete and I love how you are very strong in your faith.  Thank you for being a good example for me and my brothers.  You rock!

Your Huge Fan,

Andrew Husband

(The news excerpts were taken from an article written by Bob Lutz from the Wichita Eagle. The photo of Klein signing autographs was taken after the long game of 4 over-times against Texas A&M.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How Doesn't She Do It

This post is for all of the young moms out there who faithfully wake up every day and give everything that they have to their families.  And, it is for all of the mom's who have said to me over the years, "How do you do it??" Those little words have placed a great weight on my heart.  A weight of worry, that we are waking each day perceiving other moms to have perfect homes, perfect kids, perfect husbands, perfect lives.  We all know those "other moms" who never struggle, can handle the many messes of life better than we can, breezing through the diapers and soccer practices and homework with a fit physique and culinary talents that could easily make her a star on Food Network.

This post is also an invitation for you to come into my home.  To see how little merit perceptions really have in the face of reality. To give you encouragement, so that you may know that we are on this journey together. A journey that does indeed have a purpose, a really deep, divine purpose.  Wherever you are, whatever your state in life, it is possible to be happy and to find joy in the midst of the muck, the mundane, the madness.  

In fact, I'm not sure that you can find authentic joy, authentic happiness anywhere else...
In The Beginning...
I have to admit, up front, that when Steve and I were first married and had two little ones rolling around at our feet, I enjoyed the challenge of making our small apartment homey.  I loved keeping it ordered and decorated, filling it with the comforting scents of freshly baked bread and cookies.  It was easy to do in a small space, and within the schedule of feedings, naps, daily Mass and play dates, I still had time to study, read, run or work-out almost every day.

Then, came the blessing of more children, and a bigger home and Steve traveling more with work.  Soon, the slow-controlled pace down life's scenic slopes suddenly sped up and and the whole "controlled" part of the pace was the first to crash.

That's when I had to let go of so very many things.  Yes, things, or better yet ideas and ideals.  Ideas of what I should be doing, wearing, who I should be being, where I should be going, and the ideal of making everything just right, or at least appear to be just right.  Motherhood from day one (I'm talking conception, here, after all once the baby is conceived you are a mother.), was not easy, it's never easy, it's not supposed to be easy, but the sleep deprivation and ten thousand diaper changes were all catching up with me.

As the messes and laundry and bills piled up, I was out of breath and out of time every day.  Time to do something for me, something I enjoyed.  And, suddenly the dial of sacrifice was being turned up and I squirmed fiercely with discomfort wishing for it to end. This vocation was just too hard at times, and I didn't like it and I didn't want to be in it.

I really had to hunker down inside my soul and get eye-to-eye with our Lord and tell Him, "Only for You, can I do this, can I be a wife and a mother.  And, only with Your help can I do it well.  But, you have to show me how, and then give me everything I need to do it, to be it, to live it.  And please, when I stomp my feet and fall on the floor and cry, please, please don't give up on me, don't go away.  Stay beside me, close beside me."

He heard me.  He always hears me, He hears you.  And, because His love for us is perfect, He wants us, all of us.  Not just pieces of us, our projects and our problems. He desires for our souls to be perfect,  not our homes, nor our yards, not our Christmas cards or clothing, just us. And, the way that we get there - to that place of perfection, of holiness - is not going to be through a long list of accomplishments.  It's going to be from a long list of "Yes's."  Yes to the moment, to the late nights and diaper changes and teaching and disciplining and forgiving and accepting how very weak and fragile we are. Yes to help, lots and lots of help.

Life in a box, Kids in a box, God in a box...
I've always had this special affection for monastic life.  The rhythm of work and prayer, silence and song, attention to detail and order, beautiful, beautiful order topped off with joy is so attractive.  At first, I tried to run my home and my school like a little monastary.  The boys were my little monks.  Then the lightening bolt struck and I tried to imagine 100 little boy-monks in a monastary, and realized that they would still pick their noses, miss the toilet and bounce off of the walls there, too.

I also found the Madeline series of stories hopelessly irresistable: 
“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines 
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines 
In two straight lines they broke their bread 
And brushed their teeth and went to bed. 
They left the house at half past nine 
In two straight lines in rain or shine- 
The smallest one was Madeline.” 

And, I wanted to move to Paris and have a home full of girls so that they could show the boys how to make straight lines and brush their teeth.

I was putting my life in a box, the box of my imagination -perfect, tidy, just as I think they all should be.  So, God, in His wisdom gave me five boys and a farm.  And, nothing in my home is straight and they sometimes forget to brush their teeth, and Paris is very, very far away....

Sometimes at the end of the day and in little moments throughout the day I look for lovely things and realize that I still have ideals, doesn't everyone??  I would be lying to you if I told you that I don't long for this:

A table perfectly set for a beautiful feast, everything in it's place.  But my reality is this:
A dining table covered with heaps of laundry that I fold while reviewing for a history test with Andrew.

If only I had the power of Mary Poppins to snap my fingers and tidy up my children's room for them, I would (my little imaginary room from Pottery Barn.) . 
But, I must be patient with the oldest four as they figure out how to share a very small space.  
Blankets hang from upper bunks, boots and books litter the floor.  I know I cannot hover - they must learn to be good stewards of what they've been given, and yet live in their space, and enjoy their little treasures.  I try to remind myself as I'm winding through the maze of toys scattered over the floor that their mess is evidence of creativity, constructing, dreaming, creating.  I can teach them how to clean up, I cannot teach the former.
Desiring order and beauty in iteslf is not a bad thing, it points toward the highest beauty the highest order, which is Heaven, and desiring Heaven is the whole point of our existence.  Keeping an orderly home is a daily endeavor always at the forefront of my mental list of tasks. The truth is we all function much better in an ordered space.  But, the boys are looking to me to show them the balance - the prudence to know when to do the dishes and when to run outside to catch the first snowflakes of winter on our tongues, when to organize the toy room and when to close the door and instead read our pile of library books or make something that will explode or take a nap.
Questions and Confidence...
Everyday I wrestle with the questions of raising our sons:  Am I teaching them in the right way? Are they growing strong in mind, body and spirit? Do they know that I love them? Am I a model to them of authentic feminity and modesty in a world so darkened by lies and deceptions? I fight the temptation of feeling inadequate for the task of forming them in all areas of life.  But, I know deep down that I am adequate if I am willing to cooperate with God's grace.  We all are.  No matter how things turn out.
There have been moments where I have been so overwhelmed that I have physically felt the weight of life compressing my chest, sucking the life out of me. Panic and fear settles into my bones and frightens me away from the front lines, where I am needed, where I am called to be. 

And, yet, I can say with full confidence that it is not my children who have made me feel overwhelmed. It was, and always is me. Gripping so tightly, clinging firmly to my ways of doing things, to what I think is best.  I am the problem-solver, the check-mark maker.  I can hold my list up like proof that I'm not failing, not a failure, not feeling like a failure.  

Oh how beautifully life comes undone at times, like a rope unraveled! Then, and only then, can God embrace our once tightly-wound selves and be the strength that holds us together.  I trust Him.
Breathing in the Beauty...
Then, like the flip of a switch, the light comes in, things become clearer. You cannot describe to anyone how beautiful your life is.  How seeing your child's face light up when you walk into a room brings you to your knees.  How catching one child forgiving another or giving comfort to a hurt allows an experience of greatness to seep into your soul, filling the cracks of doubt, negativity and resentment with something eternal. How receiving a spontaneous hug from someone so small can soothe old wounds, and freshly felt shame for all of our faults and failures.
It's all so terribly and wonderfully worth it - having children, one two or ten.  Don't ever let anyone make you feel or think any different.  And, if you are wondering if you can handle another, the answer is yes.  His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.
Perhaps the joy - the real true joy that we as Christian mothers often posess - is the decoy that throws others off target.  Perhaps they think that because we are joyful that we must not suffer, we must not struggle, we must not fail, we must not swear and pout and eat chocolate and watch movies.  That's not real.  That's not me, or you, is it?

Every week the UPS man comes to our house delivering some sort of package for our home or business. I know that he has peered into my home, messes everywhere, and myself, a mess to match, never a stitch of make-up, shoulder soaked with spit up, never mind the hair.  But, he always treats me the same, with kindness, with attentiveness.  That's when I realize that other people, in general, are okay with me.  Maybe I'm just not okay with myself.  Maybe the apologies that gush forth when an unexpected visitor arrives over the messy house and children duking it out in the background are not about the visitor, but about me, my insecurities.  A clean home and polite children say to the guest, "See, I can handle this, and I'm good at this motherhood thing."  

Perceptions, perceptions, perceptions.

Eye on the Prize...
What matters, my friends, what really, truly matters is that we recognize that this life and the vocation that we live is not about doing good or being good at anything or looking good while being good and doing good.  It's about the reception of the gift of motherhood, with everything it brings, and the handing it back to God, day by day, minute by minute and allowing Him to lead us, to help us, to love us.  To believe in His mercies and his blessings, and to begin again, and again, and again. 
Express gratitude. Even when your lists of wants seem to overpower any emotion of thanksgiving.  Gratitude helps us recognize that the little boy patiently waiting for you in the wagon for another ride around the yard is the voice of our Lord telling you that this is exactly what He wants you to do today, even if it doesn't look like much.  It looks like everything to Him.  Who cares what it looks like to anyone else.
I would like to share with you a wonderful story from a blog, written by a beautiful mother of seven who shares so many of my own experiences and sentiments.  I know you will feel encouraged by her words! My Child, I Love You

I would love to hear from you!  Please share your comments or contact me at

                                                      William Henry Davies (1871 ~ 1940): 

                                    What is this life if, full of care,
                                     We have no time to stand and stare?

                                     No time to stand beneath the boughs,
                                      And stare as long as sheep and cows:

                                     No time to see, when woods we pass,
                                      Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

                                     No time to see, in broad daylight,
                                      Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

                                     No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
                                      And watch her feet, how they can dance:

                                      No time to wait till her mouth can
                                        Enrich that smile her eyes began?

                                       A poor life this if, full of care,
                                        We have no time to stand and stare.