This is the first week I'm participating in something known as "7 Quick Takes Friday," started and hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary. The idea is that on Friday I'll post seven short items that might not make it into a full post but deserve some space. Let's see how you like it...
My favorite bring-home item at the end of the school year has to be the kids' classroom journals. I love the hand prints and paintings, the stories and homemade books, but nothing can compare to reading my kids' thoughts on a day-by-day basis. I find myself laughing, sighing, crying and, yes, sometimes cringing. This year Noah didn't do a journal, which makes sense even if it's disappointing. I can't imagine the junior high kids would be too keen on sharing their innermost thoughts for their teachers and parents to read. Olivia brought home her journal yesterday, and as I waited for dinner to cook, I stood there reading and smiling, wanting to read entries aloud to Dennis but knowing that he will want to sit down and read the journal for himself. I love the honesty, the imagination, the innocence and the really deep thought that is obvious in so many of the entries. It is that little glimpse into what's going on in my daughter's head. Those journals are like treasures to me. I have saved every one over the years, and some day, when the kids have passed through the self-conscious stage, I'll pull them out and let them revisit their own childhood memories. I so wish I had journals from my own childhood.
Ever since I read the book My Cousin the Saint: A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles by Justin Catanoso, I have been meaning to blog about it. Now that the book came out in paperback this week, it seems like an appropriate time to tell you to GO GET THIS BOOK TODAY. It is a wonderful book that will make you want to get on the next plane to Italy to find your long lost relatives. At least that's how I felt. It is like a tour of Italy and a spiritual pilgrimage rolled into one amazing book. You will feel like you can taste the food and feel the heat. You will wonder how it is possible that Padre Gaetano, the saint the book celebrates, was not known worldwide long before this book was published. From the scenes set in Wildwood, where my family vacations every summer, to the scenes around the table in Italy, where my grandfather was born, I felt a deep connection to this book. Here's one snippet that I just loved:
"There were now more than twenty of us in this kitchen, standing and sitting, in a space that would have been overcrowded with less than half as many. No one cared. Through the fish, the bread, the calamari, the bottles of red and white wine, and the baskets of fresh peaches, pears, and nectarines all picked on Catanoso land outside Chioro, the hand-waving and chattering din around the table, now completely in Italian, escalated to a pleasant roar. The words flowed over and around me in a comforting rush and I felt on the very edge of understanding everything that was said, like I was just a half-step away from fluency. But I wasn't. So I sat back and relaxed and listened one last time as if it were opera, the most beautiful opera imaginable on a stage filled with the liveliest characters."See, you need to read this book.
I am completely off track in my efforts to pray at least Morning Prayer every morning. I had been in a nice rhythm for a couples of weeks there, but now? Nothing. And I can feel the disconnect. Somehow, even with the three kids home for the summer and my work deadlines breathing down my neck, I need to make regular time for prayer. In fact, I need that time more than ever. Anyone have any pointers they can share for squeezing regular and meaningful prayer time in between the household chaos?
Somewhat related to that is my renewed commitment to yoga, something I first started twenty years ago but let go over the years -- except for the occasional class during pregnancy and such. Now I have found the energy to get up for 5:45 a.m. class twice a week with a third class on Monday nights. What a difference it is making, and it really is a natural segue into prayer. I need to harness that peace and serenity in my physical being and allow it to permeate my prayer life once I get home. Baby steps, baby steps. I'm trying to accept where I am in all of this without frustration or disappointment.
I am so proud of all three of my kids as the school year finishes today. Chiara, of course, has been off from school for a couple of weeks at this point, but she had a great first year of preschool and was amazing in her first dance recital. Noah and Olivia can make me crazy with their bickering and their inability to put away a pair of shoes or empty a lunchbox. But the reality is that they've accomplished so much over the past 10 months. Both have achieved high honors, meaning their overall averages are above 94. I haven't seen the final numbers yet, but they are usually well above that number. (Update: One got a 95+ and the other a 96+ overall.) On top of that, they juggled soccer and baseball, dance class and piano lessons, Boy Scouts and Brownies, flute lessons and service projects. We ran ourselves ragged this past month as everything wrapped up, but, overall, it was a great year.
Every spring into summer I buy soil and fertilizer, seeds and seedlings, pots and planters so that I can get back to the earth and grow some of my own food, despite a yard that is almost entirely in shade. I think this year is my agricultural swan song. Nothing grows. Except my basil, which, as far as I'm concerned is most important because otherwise how will I have homemade pesto in February when the snow is as high as an elephant's eye. I think with all the money I spent on supplies, I could have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), as we have done in years past, and had fresh, organic vegetables delivered to a nearby porch. Next year I think my money and effort will be spent on filling out my perennial beds, which are really my favorite parts of my yard anyway.
As we head into Father's Day weekend, I am at a complete loss as to what to get for Dennis. I know he usually feels the same way when Mother's Day rolls around. We have been so blessed. We have so much already. It almost feels silly to scrounge around for ideas just to have something to wrap up. Still, I'll head out to the store with the kids later today to do just that. Really, there is nothing I could buy that could adequately show my gratitude to Dennis for all that he does as a husband and a dad. He is truly my partner. Our relationship is a constant give-and-take, and no grill accessory or shirt or Apple gift card could show him how much he means to me, to us. OK, maybe the Apple gift card. Happy Father's Day!