Friday, May 27, 2011

Pontifical Pursuit, the answers

Sorry for the delay in posting answers to my trivia game! Truth is, I completely forgot. I'm sure you've all been waiting with baited breath... today, finally, your wait is over. Here are the answers to (dun-dada-DUN!) Pontifical Pursuit!

1. This Italian doctor and mother, beatified by Pope John Paul II, chose to save the life of her unborn child at the risk of her own life.
A: St. Gianna Molla

2. To the closest whole number, how many trips to the moon and back could Pope John Paul have taken with the number of miles he traveled as Pope?
A: 2.5 (I would have accepted 2 or 3)

3. How many saints did Pope John Paul beatify: 200, 700, 1300, 2100?
A: 1300 (more than all previous popes combined!)

4. What Latin phrase did Pope John Paul use to describe his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary?
A: Totus Tuus (Meaning "Totally Yours")

5. Name six languages Pope John Paul II could speak fluently?
A: Among others (I lost my list...) Polish, Latin, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Croatian, Portuguese, and Russian.

6. What was Pope John Paul’s favorite movie?
A: Life is Beautiful (If you haven't seen it, go watch it. Now. Blessed JPII told me to tell you that.)

7. Which one of these four items does Vatican City make on its own for the Vatican household: Beer, Honey, Perfume, Butter?
A: Honey (yes, they have their own beehives. Apparently they decided to leave beer brewing to the Monks)

And the winner is... (drumroll, please)... A TIE between Megan and Maureen, with 3 correct out of 7! You've won... Carl Kasell's voice on your home answering machine! (Anybody else listen to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR? No? Darn, wasted that joke...)

Honorable mention goes to Holly for saying nice things about my boys. That will always earn you extra points in my book (we really need to get together soon!)

Thank you all for playing Pontifical Pursuit. Stay tuned, maybe I'll have a real prize next time!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Open House

I don't much like making beds.

But this?

I love this. Clean, white sheets on the guest room bed can mean only one thing: Visitors.

Around 3:00 on Wednesday, I got a call from Paul. "Guess what? Father Tyler and Michael are staying with us tonight!" On their way home from a fishing trip in the BWCA, they decided to shave off part of the drive and stop over in the Twin Cities before leaving for Rapid this morning. Good choice, I say.

They got in late and the men immediately commenced poring over maps and comparing routes, discussing fishing techniques and gear selection. It got me wishing I was in on Paul's big upcoming trip! We stayed up late, finally turning in after midnight. But like I've said before, why waste precious time sleeping when we have visitors??

In the morning before they departed, Father Tyler celebrated Mass for us at our dining room table, and oh, it was so beautiful! There is no more precious gift that a visiting priest could have given us than to bring such a glorious Guest into our humble space. I can't say it strongly enough; our home has been forever changed.

I have often told my mother-in-law that I hope to have the gift of hospitality like she does. Their home is always open, her own convenience is a non-issue. They joyfully accept visitors in the spirit of St. Benedict, and I know for a fact that no one has ever gone away hungry or wanting for company.

I am starting to believe that part of our family's vocation may be to keep open a space for visitors (especially of the Rapid City variety) who need a place to rest mid-journey. Part of it is a selfish hope on my part; I love the last-minute flurry of preparations before guests arrive, I love the late-night conversations, I love the chance to get to know people better than I would in other situations. But I really do feel that we can be of service, and there's no harm in enjoying the work that God has given us.

So if you are ever traveling through the Twin Cities, I hope you won't hesitate to call us. Our door is always open to you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Paul and Max were out in the garage (Max's new favorite hangout) the other day, doing all sorts of guy things that guys do in garages. It's a special treat for Max whenever his daddy is in the garage, because that space is off-limits at all other times. I have no desire to be in there, and I can only guess what he would get into if he explored the place on his own.

Eventually, it started getting close to bedtime, so my boys came inside. Paul had a funny smile on his face ... "Your son just ate two ants," he informed me.

Apparently, this is what happened. Max was riding his bike around the garage when he suddenly looked down and said, "I can eat those!" He jumped off the bike, knelt down and commenced to picking at the ground with two fingers until he got a poor unsuspecting ant in his grasp. Then without a second thought, he popped the thing in his mouth!

Back on the bike for another round, until he spied an even bigger ant. Off the bike, on the ground, and that ant was gone!

The third time this happened (are you wondering if my husband was doing anything to stop it?), he tried and tried and tried but couldn't get a grip on the ant. So my dear husband directed him toward an anthill- a veritable buffet of little creatures to munch! The anthill was so entertaining that he actually didn't try to rummage for snacks. He just watched the bugs work and "helped" them build their home.

After I heard this story from Paul, my first question was, "Where did he come up with the idea to eat ants??"

With a sheepish grin, Paul responded, "I may have told him one time that ants are edible..."

Oh, boys.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Little Artist

I'm going to take a moment to brag about my son, because I can.
The coloring page shown below was the inspiration for a work of art that Max just completed. He took a glance at this picture (an illustration of Jesus' analogy of the Vine and the Branches from Brother Francis Online), and decided he wanted to draw it on his own.

This is the first time I've seen Max try to recreate a picture, and I was pretty impressed with the result! It might need some interpretation, but it's all there:

The purple circles are, of course, the grapes. The lines coming from the grapes are the arms, the scribbles are the grape's hands, and the brown line from the arm to the vine stem is the saw. If you look closely, you can even see the big grape's face!
I solemnly swear that I did not alter, tamper with, or aid in the creation of this drawing in any way. I guess I have no clue what's developmentally normal for his age, but I was totally blown away! Up until now, he's drawn nothing but scribbles... and then suddenly this!
Let's all pause for a proud Mommy moment.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Well, bummer.

We had an exciting weekend in Wisconsin planned with my brother and his girlfriend, touring some great microbreweries. This trip has been in the works for over a year! We were waiting until Louie was old enough to stay overnight at the Grandparents house, and this was finally the big moment. But alas, parenting is full of surprises. Instead of enjoying a beer at Sand Creek Brewery right now, I am sitting at the computer and listening to a poor, sick Lucian sing himself to sleep.

Around 4:30 in the morning, I went in to check on a crying baby and found a mess. I will spare you the details, but it sure wasn't fun from then til about 11:00. Thankfully, he seems to be on the mend now; it was just a quick bug, and I think all that's left is lots of rest and rehydration.

I'll be honest, I cried a little when I had to make the decision to cancel the trip. Just the four of us, an open road, no concrete plans (yikes that sounded a little like a country song) ... I have been looking forward to this for a LONG time. But there is no predicting when illness will strike, and my baby needed me this weekend. Our plan is to reschedule for some time in June, and who knows? Maybe it will be 70 and sunny instead of crummy and stormy.

I knew when I signed up for this whole parenting gig that the needs of my children would always come before my own wants. It is still a disappointment when things don't go according to plan, but I am glad to be able to care for my little boy, and I'm savoring the snuggle time this sickness affords us. The cleanup? Yeah... no redeeming factor there. But this is motherhood at its finest. Love is mopping up puke and doing laundry at 5am.

And I sure love this little boy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I love surprises. Love, love, love, love them. No matter how big or small, the preparation and forethought that goes into planning a surprise makes me feel like a princess.

Last weekend, Paul and two of his buddies decided to surprise their wives with Twins tickets and a night downtown (no kids!) for no particular reason. I love my husband! Love, love, love, love him.

Here's how it went down. Paul went fishing Saturday morning with a work friend, and I expected him back around noon. At about 11:00, he called me and instructed me to put on warm clothes and pack two bags: one for the boys and one for me. He then gave me the specifics of what my bag should contain (clothes for dinner, toiletries, pajamas, clothes for Mass) but no other information.

So I packed. And repacked. And repacked. It's hard to decide what to wear when you don't really know what you're packing for! When Paul arrived home, we threw everything in the car and drove off. Halfway to Burnsville, I surmised that we were dropping the kiddos off at Grandma and Grandpa's house. An earlier interrogation had lead me to believe that our outing involved the kids, but it turns out Paul's cryptic answer had only meant that they were "involved" in the drive down to my parents house for a sleepover, then we were on our own!

We met up with the Ten Eycks and Cahills and carpooled toward Minneapolis. At this point, we started guessing Twins game, but the men were still elusive. ("I think they're actually playing in Toronto today. We're going to Itasca State Park. Oh, and dinner in Duluth.") Yeah.

Then... "We're here," said Luke as we pulled up outside a hotel in the heart of Minneapolis. The pieces were starting to come together! When we spied an envelope labeled "Twins Tix" we finally knew for certain. Target Field, here we come!

No matter that it misted for nearly the entire length of the game, no matter that I drank hot chocolate instead of ice cold beer, no matter that the Twins lost miserably in extra innings, we had a blast. We are Minnesotans, no amount of coldness and sogginess would keep us down! That is, until the twins were losing by 6 in the 11th inning and it was still raining. Dinner, anyone?

We went back to the hotel to dry off and change for dinner. Hell's Kitchen was packed when we arrived, so we crowded around a little table in the bar area and listened to live jazz until our table was ready. Dinner was delicious, the decor was... interesting...

but the company was spectacular.

We met up for Mass and brunch in the morning and then finally the spell was broken. Back to real life, back to parenting. We returned home to pick up the kids, and only then did I realize how much I had missed them! Overnight doesn't seem like much, but in an average day my only hours separate from my kids are when we are sleeping. So that's generally no more than five consecutive hours without seeing one or the other!

I cherish the rare time spent with Paul alone, worry-free and responsible only for ourselves. We need this time to recharge and reconnect, but every bit of me was rejoicing when the kids snuggled into my arms after a full day apart. I appreciate my children more now that I spent some time away, and I appreciate my husband more because of the beautiful children we returned to.

Everybody wins.

Except for the Twins.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Being Suzie Homemaker

I just accomplished a momentous task. Are you ready for this? (drumroll, please...)

I organized the toy corner!

It all started when Max was looking for his plastic pirate ship this morning. Apparently his pirates wanted to go on a voyage, but their vessel was nowhere to be found! He and I searched high and low, pulling toys out of bins, looking under couches, making an absolute mess. And still, no ship.

At this point, the living room was in utter chaos. Then suddenly it struck me: why don't I just go whole hog? I decided to organize the mess, and not "organize" it in the way I usually mean the term (throw everything haphazardly into a bin or box, out of sight and out of mind). No, this was Organize with a capital O!

I emptied every bin, sorting toys as I went. I saw the bottom of the toy chest for the first time since we bought it (Oh, there's the plastic monkey head Max was looking for yesterday!"). I moved all the furniture and found toy cars, plastic bugs, tennis balls, you name it. I designated a place for everything, and if there was no place, it got retired to the basement. This way, I can bring those toys out in six months or a year and they will seem brand new!

It. felt. GREAT. I have no Before picture, that would have just been too darn embarrassing. But here is the During

and After

(This is your cue to ooooohh and aaahhh)

I know it won't last long (actually, it has already started to come undone) but it is wonderful for the moment, and I am inspired to try to keep it this organized... at least for this week.

The one problem is ... I still can't find the pirate ship.

Warm Weather and Warm Welcomes

We have been looking forward to summer for a long time, and not just for the good weather it brings. Our summer is jam-packed with visits from (and to) far away loved ones. This past weekend was the kickoff, as Grandma and Liam came up for a family wedding. We had so much fun, I could write a book! But I'll try to contain myself and just indulge you with the highlights.

They arrived by car on Friday afternoon, and Max picked up right where he left off with Uncle Liam. It was as if they hadn't even been separated for a few days, much less several months. After a few rounds of hugs, we caught up on life over Chinese takeout, our ever-present standby for dinner with visitors. After dinner, we introduced Grandma and Liam to the hiking trail near our house. Paul was glad to finally have another soul who was brave enough to hike the steep passes with him... and (to my chagrin) they even convinced Max to join them!

Friday night we stayed up chatting WAY too late, but even though I woke up with Lucian at 6am feeling like I needed a coffee IV, it was 100% worth it. Paul made super-awesome omelets (breakfast is that man's speciality, let me tell you) and then we packed up and piled into the car for our overnight trip to Sauk Centre for the wedding. All six of us managed to squeeze into the Buick: Liam between two carseats in the back, myself between Paul and Grandma on the front bench seat. I would describe it as ... cozy? Oh but it was worth it to only take one car!

The wedding was beautiful, and the reception was a blast! Max fell head-over-heels in love with the bride, and at the dance he tried repeatedly to grab her dress to gain her attention. Poor gal. But it wasn't just the bride he was after; he danced with just about every bridesmaid and every little girl who would give him the time of day!

Believe it or not, even Lucian joined in on the dancing. He's got the moves, that kid. But while Max would have danced the night away, Lucian was ready for bed a little after 9, so we went back to the hotel. To bed, you ask? Ha! Liam, Paul and Max put their swimsuits on and hit the pool until after 10:00... why waste time sleeping when we have only a precious few days together?

Sunday morning, we went to Mass and got to witness a group of children recieving their first Communion. So special! Then after Mass we met the relatives for a very nice Mothers Day brunch at the historic Palmer Hotel. We drove back home for a quick rest before heading to Grandma and Grandpa R's house for Uncle Ben's birthday! Liam and my dad got to renew their long-standing thumb-war battle, and the rest of us got to sit around enjoying each others' company. Oh, and the food was delicious, of course.

Monday morning we had breakfast at my coffee shop (yes, I'm declaring ownership. Try and stop me.) and then waved off Grandma and Liam with wishes for a safe drive home. Thankfully this goodbye was easier than most, because we'll be seeing them again at the end of the month!

So good to see you, Maureen and Liam! Max and Louie miss you already.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gone Baby Gone

Our deck has a hole in the boards near the back door. It looks like this:

Last summer, it became a favorite hiding spot for many of Max's toys. It currently houses a duplo, two toy cars, a paint brush, and various other odds and ends. Today, Lucian joined the game, adding to the collection one of his prized possessions. What he didn't realize, however, is this: once an item is thrown into the hole, it is irretrievable. Gone for good. Buh-bye.

And what exactly was his donation to the abyss?

That's right, his bottle. He saw the hole and the urge was too strong to resist. When I came outside to put dinner on the table, he was crouched over the hole, staring in and crying. Didn't think that one through, huh dear?

Hoping that he would learn a quick and easy lesson from this event, I didn't replace his bottle right away. I gave him more milk in a sippy cup, which is a far distant second place option for milk consumption. He took a few sips, unhappily. Then he walked directly over to the hole, poised himself above it, and attempted to chuck the sippy cup down into no-man's land. I caught it just in time.

Lesson learned? Maybe.

Unwanted object disposal discovered? Definitely.

I imagine soon we'll start wondering where all the diapers are disappearing to.

**In other news: Recently a post that I wrote about our visit from Maureen and Liam was deleted from Blogger during some technical difficulties. They restored most of the posts that were removed, but it appears mine was lost for good. I'm in the process of rewriting it, and I'll try to get it reposted soon.**

Friday, May 13, 2011

Climb Every Mountain

Lucian is going to be the cause of my grey hair, I just know it. Does that surprise you? I know, when I've written about him, it's usually that he's so shy and reserved in comparison to his brother, but there is a mischevious side of him emerging that makes me think he will be a lot like his daddy as time goes on.

Like his daddy, you ask? Well, let me enlighten you- Paul was definitely a quiet one... he let Monica speak for him just like I let Tony speak for me. BUT he was super adventurous, loved fire and explosions, and climbing.


Max was never much of a climber. I mean, he didn't even walk until 16 months! He did some climbing as he got older, like any normal kid, but he never climbed higher than I was comfortable. In general, if he didn't think he could get down, he wouldn't try getting up. Lucian? Not so much. I was washing dishes today and glanced into the living room to see Max at the table coloring... Wait a minute! That's not Max, that's Lucian! And he's standing inches from the edge of the chair! How in the blazes did he get himself up there?

Yes, like the wonderful mother I am, I grabbed my camera and snapped pictures before coming to his rescue, but really he wasn't in any mood to be rescued. He was perfectly content to teeter on the very edge of the chair with a crayon in his mouth. What's the big deal?

Here's where I sigh loudly and add hair color to our budget...

Friday, May 6, 2011


I'm a little behind, but I'm finally getting around to posting pictures from two recent zoo visits. The season has arrived when we can wander the outdoor trails at the Minnesota Zoo once again! Now, let's just hope the construction gets done before next year...

The first visit was with four of my friends and our ten children (including one daycare kid)- we were quite a sight to be seen! Thankfully it wasn't very busy, so our four strollers didn't clog the walkways too often.

We checked out the Tropical Trail first. By far, Max's favorite part of the trip was the fish feeding at the aquarium. We actually got to listen to a diver give a presentation while she fed the fish! He was riveted. Then we trekked out to the farm to see the Farm Babies. We all squeezed around one table for lunch, and amazingly there were no major meltdowns! Max attempted to help himself to an over-sized rainbow lollipop, but we managed to grab him and return the pilfered goods before any damage was done (to the treat or to my wallet)

Max the Turtle

The little kiddos were entranced by the fish in the tank

"Maaaaaa!" says the goat. "Maaaaa!" says Ellie.

"Maaaaa!" says Lachlan.

And "Maaaaaa!" says Angela!

Then last Friday, we made it to the zoo with my grandparents on the only nice day of the week. We were able to enjoy the animals and the weather, and we stayed until the zoo closed. I vote they stay open longer than 4:00! On this trip, we made the whole loop (minus the farm), and Grandpa got the fun job of trying to keep tabs on Max while Grandma and I stayed with Lucian and the stroller. My grandpa said that he had a great time talking to Max and that "He just talks until he figures out what he's trying to say!" Yep, that's my boy in a nutshell. When we left the zoo, we went back to meet Paul at our house for what has become our tradition: Chinese Takeout! Yum, yum.

Here's to many more zoo visits this summer!