Saturday, February 28, 2009

Another Birthday! And a First One, Too

This marks Hannah's third birthday with us.

Wow! Has a lot changed since then. She came home unable to speak barely a lick of English and now is reading everything she can get her hands on!

She was only about 50 pounds and a hair over 4'6" then, but today at her check up weighed in at a healthy 85 pounds and 5'2", telling me in no uncertain terms that my daughter inherited her birthmother's BMI gene...which was a good thing considering the gourmet menu of sloppy joes, tater tots and carrot sticks (yes, she really asked for these) and cake she chose for her birthday meal.
No kidding, there were carrot sticks.

And little sisters to help with the present unwrapping

A side note about the cake. The first year she arrived home, her tastes (and her language) were very limited. So, rather than a lengthy explanation, I simply took her to the bakery and allowed her to select whichever cake she wished. She, in her typically unassuming fashion, selected a simple cake with--what she called--the most beautiful pink and yellow flowers gracing the top.

And she was happy.

The next year, for her Almost Sleepover Party, her cake-making diva of a Godmother created the 10 in a Bed cake to absolute perfection.

And she was happy.

This year, with a big grin she said to me, "Mom, can you just make my cake this year? You know, the kind not from a store.
And can you use the heart-shaped pan?
And can I have white cake?
And chocolate frosting? "

And, it probably goes without saying, but boy--- was I happy.

After the family party, she decided to have a few of her closest girl friend's over (and, of course, the sister contingent) for a wonderful beading party done by a lovely woman who came to my house to do the party, while Mr. T and Baby Girl snoozed happily upstairs. If you live in the Fox Valley, you should absolutely check her out! She even does parties for those of us grown-up girls who still like to get fancy and play with beads!

Since (according to the birthdate assigned to us), we technically missed Baby Girl's first birthday. So, we decided to pick a day and celebrate with her. But between holidays and hospitals, we never could find just the right day. But with Hannah's birthday on the horizon and a lone Valentines' Day cupcake sitting sadly on the counter, we decided it was now or never.

Unsure how she would feel about this novel idea, we proceeded with caution.

Turns out, we had nothing to worry about. She warmed up to her new BFF, Cupcake, right away. Now that she definitely inherited from me.

Yeah! Birthday! Yeah! Cupcake! Let's do this again real soon, okay?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Praying The Divine Mercy Chaplet Online

Finding yourself stuck at your computer during the day?

Looking for a simple way to follow the Divine Mercy Chaplet?

Want to encourage a tech-saavy kid to give this beautiful prayer a look?

Look no further.

This site is designed to pray the Chaplet right at your desk (or laptop)!

The Passion Companion

Check out this handy little booklet from Circle Press containing a Rosary Guide, Study Guide and Stations of the Cross---just in time for Lent!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Celebrating Snow!

I did promise more details on the "Snow Day" planned for the end of our Catholic Schools Week celebration, so here it goes...

There is nothing more fun than playing in the snow on a snow day! Unless...the temperature is hovering in the single digits and outside your door the prairie winds are making it feel even colder! This fun and educational (shhh...don't tell the kids!) day was great because it combined all things snow with the cozy warmth of indoors!

All of my girls (okay, maybe with the exception of Baby Girl) love to decorate. So, before the festivities began, I gave them free rein with winter colored (dark and light blues, lavender, white and silver) streamers, tablecloths and table glitter. They did a fantastic job setting the scene.

As our guests arrived, we sent a group of adventurers outside to collect a container (labeled in ounces) full of fresh snow.

How much water is in 32 ounces of snow?

Once inside, everyone put their science caps on to try and guess how much water would result when all the snow had melted. Can you guess? It surprised us all. (I'll put the answer at the bottom after you've had a chance to think.)

We created a funny Mad-Libesque "Snow Day " story found in the December/January 2009 Intermediate issue of Mailbox magazine (You can buy these to start your own collection, but your local library probably carries them for free!)

Then, on to the motor skills portion of our program. A few simple (and I do mean SIMPLE) games were planned. The first was the Mitten Relay. Teams were picked and equally divided (not all of the preschoolers on the same team) and two piles of snow gear were set across the room. Racing against the clock, each team member had to get fully dressed in the winter wear and then take all their equipment off and pass it to the next person in line. Such fun!

Naomi and Candace wanted to go first. Not that they're competitive or anything. They get that from their father. Ahem.

Then the big girls had a go of it. Although my Ethiopian born daughter has become well-versed in all things snow, the jury's still out as far as Mr. T is concerned.

Mr. T--and I'd venture to say all the other boys--were much more interested in the next two games: Snowball Throw and Snowball Toss. Rather than unleash a torrent of snowballs flying around the Ark (at least not at my coaxing), we purchased styrofoam balls in a variety of sizes to use as *fauxballs*. A simple line of masking tape on the floor and a similar "X" several paces away marked the first target. The object was to land your fauxball directly on the "X". Not as simple as it seemed, and several children cried foul claiming my floor was slanted.

The Snowball Toss was basically the same game (my creative juices had ceased flowing at this point) except that you had to aim through a hula hoop and then land on the "X".

Mr. T was quite certain he had died and gone to heaven. He was full of his standard sucking up.

After all of our playing, it was definitely time for a fun, winter inspired meal! The girls helped create a menu a few days ahead of time. We decided to serve tacos where each child created their own "snowflake" tortilla (unsweetened) and "snowmen on a stick".

Snowmen and fruit. Who knew?

And finally, for dessert, the girls found a super-cute Snowman Cupcake recipe. I should have better gauged the difficulty level based on the video tutorial accompanying the recipe.

After a valiant try, we decided that this Snowman family would be complete with six members. As for the rest of their family, I am sad to say, they met with milder weather and an untimely demise.

During the apres-party, we finished up with a reading activity using the book White, Wonderful Winter. After reading the book, we brainstormed verbs that might describe winter activities and put them into a poem template. We also crafted a few paper snowflakes out of blue construction paper and after applying a glue-wash, added texture to them with table salt. All of our work graced the "display" area (a convenient wall on the side of the fridge) for several weeks to come.

As for the snow melting? Only 8 oz. of water remained after the snow (with a little help from modern technology) melted. Taking it a step further, we placed the water in an open container and left it on the counter with a sheet for the family to guess how long it would take to evaporate. Mr. T guessed 3 minutes while Candace assumed 100 days. I can tell you it was somewhere in between.

Anyone have a guess how long it took 8 ounces of water to evaporate on the Ark?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Coloring Pages for the Upcoming Sunday Mass

I don't know how I missed yet another reason to purchase Jonathan Stampf's book, Hear My Voice: A Children's Translation of Gospel Readings of the Catholic Mass for 2009, but I did.

With your purchase, you can download a coloring page each week for the upcoming Mass! What a great addition to an already fabulous resource!

Monday, February 23, 2009


Why is it when I look at this...

I can't help but think of this.

Must be the sweatbands. Or his not-ready-for-prime-time sense of humor. Which ever it is, he's a box office smash on the Ark.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Not Even in the Top Ten

Is this for real?

Blessed Teresa must be spinning in her grave to know that even she beat out Jesus in this poll.

Are You Willing To Share Your Story?

The Christian walk is not an easy path. We may find ourselves facing trials and tribulations that test us to our very core. But, along the way, as we grow and learn; as we allow God to stretch us into the very specific son or daughter He has created us to be, we may find purpose in our trials. Sometimes we may know the purpose right away, other times not until many years later. And, many times, we may never know the purpose of our sufferings this side of heaven. But there is one thing, as Christians, we can do with our stories: we can share them.

Maybe your story will encourage someone else in a similar situation.
Maybe your story will inspire someone being tested right now.
Maybe your story will comfort someone who feels they will never have peace or joy in their lives again.

But, first, we need to share those stories. Read below about an encouraging new book from Jean at Catholic Fire. We all have a story. Pray about it and ask yourself: is it time to tell yours?

A Great Lenten Project

Are you married? Are you Catholic? Do you have a devotion to the saints? Have you and your spouse or a family member experienced hope and healing as a result of prayer to a saint or saint(s)?

This is your chance to evangelize and it makes for a wonderful Lenten project as well.

I am looking for dramatic conversion stories as well as stories of trials and tribulations (for example, financial difficulties, addictions, the birth of a child with a medical problem) overcome through the intercession of a saint or saints and the grace of God to publish in a new book meant to inspire and encourage married couples.

In order to be published:

Your story must name a saint or saints.

It must be at least 1800 words, but not more than 2000 words.

Email your submission to me no later than March 15, 2009.

jean.heimann at

Saturday, February 21, 2009

We're Back!

We spent the past few days on a lovely family mini-vacation in Wisconsin. I have a few pictures to upload of our trip, but I found a few emails from people when I returned saying that they were having trouble seeing/reading recent posts on my blog. Particularly when using the blog's main address (

Anyone else out there having trouble? (This is really a rather insane question, isn't it? If you aren't able to read my blog posts how will you be able to answer this question?)

I guess a better question is...Can anyone read this new post?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tote Meme

When Jen tagged me for the "Tote Meme", I thought I'd get right on top of it. Instead, I got right on with a nasty 48 hour flu bug that then swept through the house leaving me unable to do most things, but especially take a picture fit for public consumption...So, feeling quite a bit better (although you can still see the redness on my nose and the incomprehensible piles which accumulated on our family room side table while I was incapacitated.) I asked Beulah to snap a shot of me...and my tote. And here's what we got:

You did say, "blink", right? Like mother-like daughter...

Baby Girl is always doing something more interesting than my tote.

Okay, you guys distract her while I make a break for it.

The code is "the chubby baby always takes the attention away from the tote."

What good is a tote meme if I can't make this face for the camera?

Finally, a decent picture...but, wait--something's missing?

Oh right. The tote.

Here it is, but don't let its lovely and cosmopolitan exterior fool you.

The inside looks like this.

And it's only as big as it is to hold what The Captain calls my "George wallet".

But it could be worse, I could be toting this...

Hold on a minute. That's my summer tote.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Morning With Baby Girl

You again? With that funny little box up near your eye? What are you doing?

Well, as long as it doesn't interfere with my morning goldfish crackers, pester Mr. T, *re-arrange* family room decor, lather, rinse, repeat.

Ah, yes. All in a morning's work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When is a Giveaway Not a Giveaway?

Since the sound of chirping crickets met me when I logged in to check the guesses for this post, I'm going to assume that either everyone knew the who, what, where, when and why of the photo posted or no one knew (or cared?)

Maybe you've decided to play elsewhere today?

Or maybe, by some strange coincidence, everyone who reads here has it in for the Mt. Washington Scenic Railway (NH). Or you fear cog rail travel?

Either way, I still have the book...and back it goes on the shelf to wait for a commenter with less discriminating taste. Or a giveaway for a better contest.

Come and Play!

Let's play a little game, shall we?

Margaret is holding this fun book giveaway and I thought it a really easy blog post cop-out super fun and exciting to play along.

Here are the rules, then:
1. Choose the 4th folder where you store pictures on your computer.
2. Select the 4th picture in the folder, and post it on your blog.
3. Explain the picture.
4. Tag four people to do the same.
5. No cheating (cropping, editing, etc.)

Here's the picture:

I'm supposed to explain this picture (see rule 3 above), but instead I'm wondering who knows what this funny looking stand-alone caboose is, why it is precariously perched atop a hill AND where in the USA it can be found. To show I'm a good sport and not just some crazed contest monger, I'm giving away a brand new, autographed copy of Colleen Hammond's Dressing With Dignity for the person who guesses correctly by 9:00 pm CST tonight!

And, as an incentive to play, you can go here to preview the book and here to download a complimentary copy of the Outfit Guidelines.

Better Late Than Never

Although written many months ago, I can quickly recall the NCR article by Melinda Selmys teeming with anti-adoption rhetoric.
Some of you may recall my response to her (as well as many of your own eloquent articulations) as to the many fallacies presented in her column.
Well, in a random act of googling this afternoon, I discovered that my letter to the editor had been printed! As had another Ark reader---check them out here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Guess Where I'm Going This Weekend?

The Captain and I decided to celebrate a belated Valentine's Day this year. There's a one-day conference at our parish being given by...Scott and Kimberley Hahn!!! The tickets have already been purchased and we're planning to attend at least a portion of the day and a meal out together! Who knows...I may even find myself inspired to write the review of Kimberley's new (well, not-quite-so-new anymore) book Graced and Gifted for The Catholic Company. At a minimum, I'm sure the talk will be great and the company will be spectacular!

If you're in the area and looking to attend, a copy of the schedule is available here. To purchase tickets, click here.

Wasting My Precious Spare Time

Like I had nothing better to do this morning than clean up my inbox and related comments section from the attack of a spam-bot.

Word verification is back on. Sorry to my non-spamming friends.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

High School Decision Revealed!

Deciding which high school The Boy would attend was a decision that we have debated for about a year--maybe longer. Before I say anything else, let me say this: Before we made our final decision, at any given point and time, The Boy was *going* to each one of these schools...until nagging doubt about our decision took over and we were back to square one weighing the pros and cons.

A few details then about the decision-making process...

  1. The public high-school is 2 miles (read: The Boy could walk, if necessary) from our home. They have a stellar sports program and excellent academic opportunities. A certain Boy was quite impressed with one of their seniors (third in his class) this year who is attending Northwestern and will also play football there. The staff we met was extremely helpful and showed a true commitment to their work, calling each student they encountered by name. No small feat for a school of nearly 2000 students. And did I mention the facilities? We pay money to belong to a gym that is not as nice as the facilities at this school. And the auditorium! Is not of the cafetorium or cafeagymatorium variety. Let's just leave it at that. But, there's always two sides to every coin and in this case we had to consider--The Boy would be leaving an incredible group of friends--none of whom would attend this school and while it seems a very character-filled place, our Faith would not be taught. Students would not attend Mass together. And the character traits being taught would fall into the "be good for goodness sake" category rather than their Judeo-Christian etiology.
  2. The diocesan co-ed high school is about 20 minutes from our home. It would definitely necessitate additional driving next year to and from school, sports practices and friends' homes. Fortunately, The Boy has a good friend who lives close by who is planning to attend and his mom is a stellar car pool companion. The school offers (as did the public high school) block-scheduling allowing for The Boy to be finished with all of his advanced Math classes before taking the ACT. And freeing him up to take AP Biology senior year, which would help in his current calling to work in medicine. This is also The Captain's alma mater. Although he attended back in the day when the school was neither located in its present location nor housed in the brand spanking new building it is in now. Students participate daily in the Faith and are required to complete service hours each year in order to graduate. There are roughly 500 students in the school. 150 incoming freshmen took the placement test. Several of his friends will attend here--the remaining majority will attend the all-boys school....
  3. Which is also an excellent option. Firm in the faith and tradition, the school offered an impressive list of colleges where students are accepted. Having attended a single-sex college, I know first hand the benefits of this endangered style of education. In the same sports conference as the diocesan school, both offer similar options for sports and activities (A new building and grounds campaign is underway to improve and add to the outdoor facilities). And, this school is also located about 25 minutes from our house...again with the carpool. While I'm sure there are people in our neck-of-the woods who attend, we have yet to meet anyone currently there. There are approximately 500 boys in attendance. Being as traditional as it is, the school offers a standard seven-period school day rather than block scheduling. And as a former military school, it is well-known for its discipline. And in the past two years, they have sent a number of students to West Point (The Captain's other alma mater.)
While all of these things weighed heavily in our decision, they really are just pawns in the decision making game. The most important factors we needed to look at were those of The Boy--his personality, his needs, his future and helping him answer the call to become the man God intended him to be. When we looked at our son--the future orthopedic surgeon (if he has his way) who will do pro bono work on the side (he doens't know this yet, but as his mom I can see the forest for the trees), whose hands are always busy with productive, quality activities and work, who was born with his father's amazing self-discipline and motivation--we knew which school would be the best fit for him.

It took us a while, but when we knew--we knew.

Next year, The Boy will be entering here as a freshman.

And fortunately, we have four more years before we have to make this decision again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Last Minute Valentine Fun!

I smiled to myself as I read Barbara's recent post (chock full of great Valentine ideas, by the way) that this year, she was posting a little closer to the holiday than last year. I could certainly relate. Last year, I shared this post of Valentine's Day activities in late January--a full 3 weeks before St. Valentine's Day!

But, with my early posting I never found the time to actually do any of them!

This year, however, there will be no new Valentine activity post.

There will be a last-minute link to last year's ideas and then there will be pictures.

A few random shots of the supplies used for the Heart Hunt, Love Match and a new addition Roll-A-Heart!
(Just a simple game where a die is cast and players collect the corresponding number of hearts for each number rolled...up to a predetermined number. Could even be mathematically modified for older learners)

Because this year, we're spending more time celebrating Valentine's Day and less time blogging about it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

**Oh, and I'll let you know our high school decision over the weekend!***

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Headin' For High School!

We made a decision for high school for The Boy.


Some of you may recall my request from those who have high-schooled before me..
.It only took us, you know, almost until he was in high school to decide where he was going. We were faced with three choices--all very good, but all very different.

The local public high school.

The diocesan co-ed Catholic high school.

The private all-boys Catholic high school.

We prayed. We visited. We discussed. We attended open houses. We prayed some more. We even took Grandma and Grandpa to visit. Then, still more prayers.

But when our decision was made, we were at peace.

Is there anything more affirming than that?

Anyone want to guess which school we picked?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Rude!

Someone I know has a child with significant issues.

I'm leaving the particular details out of this post because in the end, they don't matter. The issues could be medical, behavioral, emotional, educational, physical, mental...the list goes on and on, but you're smart people, you bloggy friends, and you get the picture.

It's not even important to qualify the child in question with specifics. He (or she) could be any age, any religion or any race. It is sufficient to say that this child's story (or parent's story--depending on which side of the table you're reading from) is any child's story. Most likely you know a child who has struggled somewhere along their way, and many of you have probably parented one.

And if you aren't, let your knees hit the floor...quickly.

When I jokingly tell my mom stories about some of my more *special* (read: high-maintenance) children, she wisely tells me, "Aren't we all a little *special* in our own ways." Evidencing yet another cosmic truth: My mother is always right. Granted, some *special* needs may not seem as challenging to the casual onlooker, but to the parent dealing with the child who has tried on every pair of pants she owns and deemed them all "too scratchy" it can challenge the most patient parent. Trust me.

Which is why I was shocked at the implication, appalled by the audacity and saddened by the notion that someone should pose this question to my friend regarding her situation:

"Why did you even do this?"

You see, there is one important fact that must be a part of this story.

The child in question, who has struggled so mightily, was adopted.

So the question to the not-so-silent observer was obvious. Why would you have ever taken on a child who would cause you such pain, force you to make such sacrifices, and occasionally remove any sense of control you had from your life?

Horrified, I thought to myself, "Would anyone dare ask such a question to a mother whose biological child was such a burden?" On first thought, it would seem unlikely. The implication of the question my friend was subjected to bespeaks one of the tragic misconceptions of adoption:

Children raised by their birth parents never struggle, while adopted children always do.

But, as we who have parented the children we have birthed we know the fallacy of that argument. We understand the role God's grace plays in the lives of all our children--birth or adopted. Sadly, however, as I thought a little longer, it dawned on me that birth mothers are all too often asked this question as well. The only difference is in the timing. Mothers who are given a frightening prenatal diagnosis hear that same question when they decide to continue a pregnancy with a child whom the world deems less-than-perfect.

What would you have said to such an intrusive (and by intrusive, I mean rude) question? I'm finishing my thoughts on this but I'd like to hear what you all have to say.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count

Another great project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Make sure your neighborhood birds are counted for the 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count! Keep track of the birds you see for at least 15 minutes from February 13 through 16 and report the highest number of each species you see on the GBBC website. You can count in your yard, balcony, or city park­-anywhere you see birds. Watch reports come in from around the continent on the website, upload images for the photo contest, and take our new survey. Just by participating in the GBBC you'll be entered into a drawing for great prizes donated by the National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Wild Birds Unlimited, and Droll Yankees. Join the Great Backyard Bird Count this year and Count for Fun, Count for the Future!

Mistress of Hyperbole

Says Naomi to I about today's unseasonably warm weather, "Mommy, I am meeellllting."

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Was the Suspense Killing You?

Hopefully, it kept no one awake at night, tossing and turning wondering which of my little darlings was spouting off these phrases.

For the good of all those who couldn't stand the suspense...the aforementioned quips were brought to you by...

"Sure, Mom"

"No problem, Mom."

and my personal favorite...
"You're my best friend, Mom!"

I am in so much trouble, aren't I?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Helping the Welborn-Dubriel Family

As many of you already know, the Catholic community suffered a great loss this week with the passing of Michael Dubriel. Father to two small boys, husband to the wonderful writer Amy Welborn, and author in his own right he left a great hole in our faith community.

But as God has promised, when one part of the Body of Christ grieves, we all grieve and we work together to help those in the Body who are hurting. Faith and Family Live! has started a collection for the surviving members of the family. Our Sunday Visitor will be contributing to Michael's children's college fund by doubling the proceeds to his family from all of his books through the month of February. If you've not seen his books, make sure to visit their site to check them out. And absolutely, do not miss his poignant last column at Amy's blog.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Explaining Pro-Life Beliefs

If you've been reading here a while, you most definitely know where the Ark falls in its beliefs on the sanctity and dignity of life.

All life.
Little lives.
Big lives.
Old lives.
New lives.
Rich lives.
Poor lives.
Our lives.
Your lives.

You may share our beliefs, or, perhaps, not.

But, if you do and you've ever struggled to explain your beliefs to others, you'll definitely want to check out this wonderful free resource to help you share your perspective with others.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Welcome to Illinois!!!

In case you can't read the fine print..."Where Our Governors Make Our License Plates"


Top Three Disturbing Phrases Heard on The Ark

1. "Don't worry, Mom."

2. "No problem, Mom."

3. "You're my best friend, Mom."

All three phrases come straight from the same child.

Any guesses who it might be?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hear My Voice

Before it gets too much farther into 2009, don't miss the opportunity to share this year's (cycle B) Gospel readings with your children in an appealing kid-friendly book!

Author, Jonathan Stampf, has put together a wonderful tool for families with younger children to help draw them in to each week's Gospel story. Reading the story before Mass each Sunday is a great way to motivate little ears to "listen" for the familiar story. During Mass, with a little help from Mom or Dad, children can follow along as the Gospel is proclaimed. And finally, the story can be read again--perhaps at bedtime or family prayers throughout the week--as a review of the Sunday Gospel message.

You can find more information here, including reviews, sample pages and ordering information.

Lenten Adventure

From the same great people who brought you Advent Adventure, Holy Heroes is offering a similar program for Lent.

You can visit their website for more details, plus check out their announcement regarding new product testing and how it will affect their store. This may be their "going-out-of-business" sale! But let's hope it's not!