writing wednesdays: success!

When the clock strikes 12, you will not turn into a pumpkin, but you will be privy to some great lessons on success and the winner of my first-ever book giveaway on Peace Garden Writer!

And if you’re sitting near your computer or radio from noon to 1 p.m. CST, join me on Real Presence Live (AM 1280 Moorhead-Fargo and 1370 Grand Forks), where I’ll be the guest talking about a variety of Peace Garden Mama-ish topics for the station’s "Spring Live Drive." If you’re really feeling brave, call in and talk with me live!

Peace to you, and as always, thanks for stopping by…

mama mondays: may crowning and mother’s day tea

I don’t typically post twice in a 12-hour period, but I had to make an exception this time. In just a few hours from now, I’ll be hosting a radio show on Real Presence Radio themed "All Things Mary," and one of my three guests will be Mrs. J. Eppler. Because I’ll be interviewing Mrs. Eppler and talking about the lovely May Crowning and Mother’s Day Tea she and her first-grade students host annually at our children’s parochial school, I thought it might be nice to write up a post that includes visuals for the listening audience and others to go to after the show. So, here’s an introduction to a Mother’s Day event that I have been honored to experience four times so far in my life as a mother. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

First, the invitation arrives:

Then the special day. Each mother walks down the long hall toward her child’s classroom, some of them knowing the treat that will soon unfold, others, experiencing it for the first time. She is greeted by her child, who is dressed in his or her Sunday best and holding out a rose. The rose is for her. She hugs her child. They go into the classroom together, where the other mothers are sitting in the darkened, candle-lit space in a large half-circle, their child at their knees. When everyone is assembled, the ceremony begins.

Children take turns doing their part — the part they’ve been rehearsing now for weeks just for this day. It’s all about honoring their mothers, and honoring the mother of all mothers, Our Blessed Mother, Mary. Without Mary, Jesus would not have come into the world. Without Jesus, we would not have a clear glimpse of who God is, as well as His abundant love and mercy for us. Yes, indeed, Mary is special, and all mothers are special.

The mothers are asked to place the roses in a vase below a statue of Mary. A priest says a blessing, then children continue with prayers and a song that they sing and sign in American Sign Language: "Mary Did You Know…that your baby boy…would one day walk on water…?" The mothers look down and see their sweet children carefully signing the song, a look of seriousness of their young faces. In the dark, they can see the other mothers wiping away tears, passing tissues.

It is a special moment as the mothers collectively realize their young children are just beginning their beautiful lives of possibility. Did Mary know all that Jesus would become and do? Do we know? Can we fathom the great things that are in store for our little ones?

After the song and prayers, after candles are placed by the children at Mary’s feet, after Mary has been crowned with roses, the lights go on and the tea party begins with tea and cookies and excitement from the children, who have more surprises in store.


Gifts! Gifts for their mothers — hand-written, hand-drawn cards to go with their gift of artwork on canvas.

Just when the mothers think they’re filled up all they can be, Mrs. Eppler announces that she has been taking pictures of the children the whole year, and now, the mothers will be treated to a slideshow with music of all that their children have been doing, and how they’ve grown in their amazing year of first grade. More tears, more tissues, giggles and singing from the kids on the floor as the songs and images that have come to be familiar play.

The lights go back on, photos are snapped, and the students and moms say goodbye for the afternoon. Children skip out the door because they’ve been released early. Mothers’ hearts dance with joy.

Thank you Mrs. Eppler! And thank you to our dear children who responded to her instruction with such grace, tenderness and love!


gifts from my children – mother’s day 2010

Breakfast in Bed

Menu: Omelet, oranges, cinnamon muffin, coffee with cream and sugar

Beth’s Mom’s Day Cupcakes Sleepover Project w/Gabby and Julia

(Topping includes Good ‘N Plenty candies and mini marshmallows)

Oops! This duck is busy looking for a snack of his own!

(Duck feet = Starbursts cut and shaped)

Adam’s Canvas Painting, Mrs. Eppler’s Class Project

Mother’s Day Card by Adam Salonen


Mother’s Day Reflection

(source unknown)

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She’s the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We’re related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s mom like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that mom didn’t have her thinking cap on.

Who’s the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn’t want to be boss, but she has to because dad’s such a goof ball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don’t do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she’s already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I’d diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I’d get rid of that.
2. I’d make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.


faith fridays: the lament

Wednesday was one of those days. Several emotional issues collided at precisely the same time, hitting me sideways and causing a torrent of tears. Once the faucet was turned on, it was as if the light of joy went out. It took me the rest of the day to locate the “off” handle so I could return to a semblance of normalcy.

The thing is, no one died. In fact, I remember having a moment of clarity, even as I wept, that my grief was not like that of losing someone. It wasn’t the empty kind of grief I had during my miscarriage, for example, or of learning one of my living children had been harmed. The grief of a mother who has lost something dear is particularly deep. But a piece of it did involve one of my children and a particular concern I’ve had that seemed to deepen that day, and there did seem to be an element of grieving within my strong emotions.

Knowing I had to get to my daughter’s science fair, I summoned all the get-it-together-ness I could muster and headed out, still wiping at my smeared mascara and puffy eyes. It didn’t work. I’m not good at being dishonest about my feelings. I recognized other moms and children there, and when they smiled at me, I know the pain showed on my face. One of them locked glances with me, and at the point of lock-in, the faucet turned up a notch – in a public place no less. I felt wholly embarrassed, for myself as well as for my daughter, who was obviously confused.

The minute I was back in the van, the dam unleashed. I was frozen at the steering wheel, no longer holding back. I just let it be what it was before daring to turn on the ignition. Eventually, I collected myself and went to a coffee shop to have a bite to eat and read a book. This marked the turning point.

The book, Never Give Up: My Life and God’s Mercy, is authored by John Janaro. I thought it rather ironic a few weeks back when I lost this book after a having read only a couple chapters. “So much for never giving up,” I’d thought then. But it turned up in a garage dig over the weekend, and when I opened it up to where I had left off, I quickly realized the reason it had been misplaced. I would not have appreciated the words before me two weeks earlier.

In his book, Janaro, who has suffered from several chronic ailments, including depression and the horrid effects of Lyme disease, makes a distinction between grumbling and lamenting (p.70):

“Both can express themselves as, ‘God, why are you doing this to me?’ But they mean two different things. The lament is a prayer; read the Psalms. It is a cry of pain – that pain that a creature feels under the weight of the transforming pressure of the divine Creator and Lover, who carries out his mysterious plan in my life via an incomprehensible suffering. The grumble, on the other hand, is a loss of trust in God motivated by my own misery. It gets me forty more years in the desert – read the book of Exodus.”

Powerful stuff, I thought, immediately recognizing my earlier outpouring as full-on lament, for there were no feelings of blame toward God within my cries, despite my anguish.

Soon after I started reading, I had a conversation that began to set things right even more. And then, a dear friend wrote some words in an email that brought me comfort: “I think you have a beautiful and important message for the world,” she said. “Don’t hold it back because your Devil Committee is having a party in your brain. Listen to the Angel voices.” She was referring to a recent post of hers entitled, “The Committee.” I knew exactly what she was talking about. Her words meant everything.

And then a card came in the mail from my mother with a message on the outside cover: “God’s grace will see you through.” The inside said, “Find strength in the promise that you are not alone, for God is walking every step of the journey with you.” And in the left-hand corner, a Scripture verse: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed…for Thou are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14)

The day progressed, and I was beginning to feel more whole, a healing in the works. But what really sealed the deal was when I curled up in bed to catch up on email messages with my laptop, and my sweet seven-year-old plopped down next to me, wrapped his arms around me, breathed in deeply, and said, “I love you, Mom,” with utmost sincerity.

“We must trust God to give us what we need to sustain hope and to grow in the capacity to respond to his mysterious love with our own self-abandoning love,” Janaro says later on in the chapter. “Let us trust in the inspired lamentations (of the Holy Spirit), by which we pour out our hearts so that God might fill them.” (My emphasis…)

Through my friends and family channeling His omnipotent love for me, God did, indeed, fill my heart back up. Thank you, dear Lord, eternal source of Love!

When has your lamenting turned a corner by God’s grace? What were the signs God gave to assure you He was with you in your sorrow?



writing wednesdays: spotlight’s on amy wilson of nyc

Peace Garden Mama’s monthly feature spotlighting a fellow writer-mama has now slipped over to Peace Garden Writer. You won’t want to miss NYC blogger and new author, parenting memoirist Amy Wilson, discuss her brand-new book, When Did I Get Like this?: The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer & Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be. In addition to reading some great insight from Amy, you can enter to win a copy of her fabulous book. See you over there!

mama mondays: my life with boys

The other morning on the way to school, Nick, 5, says to his brother in response to a comment he’s just made:

"This time I actually agwee wif you. My bref does stink.”

(Giggles erupt from the backseat…)

“What?! I’m sewious!" he says. "Smell it! It’s disgusting!"


I’ve known for a long time that male and female brains operate differently. But, having grown up without brothers, I didn’t have much of a chance to see this play out in everyday life during my formative years. Now, as a mother of three boys (and two girls), I’ve been duly educated.

“It’s not a ‘this’ it’s a ‘that.’ ”

It’s not a matter of intelligence but approach; the way in which the male processes what he sees, compared to how a typical female would process the same.

Even at the tender age of two, our firstborn was sizing up objects around him and finding uses for them that transcended their intended purpose. I still can’t help but turn a little red as I recall an episode from that time frame when he sneaked one of the cloth pads I was using in my nursing bra to prevent leakage from his baby sister’s feedings. When I wasn’t looking, he put the pad on his head, turning it into a cap. Though I can’t find the picture that was taken in the aftermath of this dual-use discovery, I can tell you he looked like a miniature pope, dressed as he was in his white “feet” pajamas, with that little “beanie” cap atop his blond hair and a gleam in his eyes as he bobbed around the house with his new head attire.

To further demonstrate, one might guess this object to be a lid to a large basket:

And they’d be right. But a 4-year-old boy would see something different. This isn’t a basket lid, after all, but a shield used to stave off angry, fire-breathing dragons. And although he’d come to understand that repeatedly swiping the basket lid would drive his mother crazy, her frustration would have little effect against the powers contained within that shield, the forces of evil that could be overcome with it extended mightily from his defense-ready body.

There are more – so many more – examples of objects that have been “transformed” from a this to a that through the years in our household alone, exclusively by the male species, of course.

Forget about being politically correct if you have boys in the house. In fact, I’d say the more attention you put into keeping them from turning just about anything into a weapon, the more likely they will be to fashion one from just about anything. Lego’s or old printer ink cartridges will quickly become machine guns; Popsicle sticks and cardboard rolls from wrapping paper will be turned into swords and machetes.

On the slightly-more-innocent side, a plastic Easter egg becomes a handy place to hold coins and other small treasures found aboard a pirate ship. A few more eggs taken from the same pile can easily be turned into alien ears, eyes and mouth, should the need for this type of thing arise, and you can be sure it will:

Got some safety pins and a towel? The boys in your life will transform ordinary pajamas into a Superman outfit with a little help from an adult. And yes, even the most ordinary bathroom towel or dish cloth can contain the same powers as an authentic, powered-up cape. When summoned to save the city, the wearers of said towels become true superheroes with these extraordinary pieces of "cloth."

I’ve learned to stock up on tape around our home (though I can rarely keep up with it). While a girl child will use tape mainly for its intended, utilitarian function, a boy child is more likely to see tape as a means to an end. A good roll of the sticky stuff can help fashion a booby trap, or, with the right placement, create a handy weapon from a couple straws or plastic utensils.

Think those are ordinary socks? Look again. They’re goofy, droopy rabbit ears. And that diaper? Forget it. That’s so last year. Now, it’s a stylin’ hat. And that ice-cream-bucket lid? It’s a perfectly usable Frisbee, didn’t you know?

Of course, boys can be just as enamored as girls with romantic sorts of things like umbrellas. The only thing is, more often than not, the pretty parasol quickly becomes a puffy sort of light saber designed to eliminate all traces of the Dark Side.

Boys and their toys

And here’s another curious thing about the male gender that seems universal: they really do seem to not just like but need their “things.” All of my sons have gone through phases in their youngest years when they could not bear to leave the house without having their special items in hand. Our firstborn seemed to sport “endless pockets,” through which he would produce an object of his affection to show to us. That would be followed by another, and another, and another. We still don’t know how all of those things fit in those tiny pants of his. He either had jeans with deceptively giant pockets, or was an emerging Harry Potter, capable of producing a Pokeman card, an agate, a nail stuck to a magnet, a bouncy ball, some coins, a miniature plastic dinosaur, a Hot Wheels car, a…well, you get the picture.

Even after outgrowing their collections, I’ve watched my boys come across their treasure boxes of “special stuff” and sift through them as girls might their baby pictures, their eyes coming alive in recognition of the items they used to drag around like a puppy protecting a chew toy.

But don’t just take my word for it. Today, I’m doing a tandem post with my writing-mama pal Mary, who is a MOB (mother of only boys). She likely couldn’t tell you the difference between a Brat doll and a Polly Pocket, but she knows well her K’nex and Tech Deck dudes. I haven’t read her post yet, since we were writing ours at the same time, but I can only imagine the treasures she’ll share from her testosterone-filled life.

Please head over to Mary’s blog, Play off the Page once you’re through here. But before you go, I hope you’ll  check out this video of our youngest, who, thanks to his new Star Wars umbrella, found a way (after a false male-type start) to tap into his gentler side. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking he needs a stage. (I apologize for the sideways view. Head tilting may be required.)

[NOTE: Due to limited options, Area Voices readers, please pop over to my mirror blog at Blogger to watch the video.]

Q 4 U: What objects have the boys in your life “re-invented?”