The Happy Jar – A Children’s Book of Memories

If you are looking for a great children’s book for the start of summer vacation – I recommend The Happy Jar, written by Jake Frost. I always love a children’s book that draws our little people into a deeper understanding of life and The Happy Jar is just that – a book about family and the little moments that help the world go around. I definitely recommend it! My eight year old daughter read it to my son’s kindergarten class and the children loved the book. It’s a great way to start summer vacation as a family – create your own happy jar.

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Photo Credit: DMHeckenkamp

I look forward to asking my children what they see in their own “happy jar”. Here are a few of my “little moments”:

Snuggles with my children

Kisses from the 19 month old

Drawings from my 8 year old

My husband as we walk together side-by-side each day of our lives

Date nights with my husband

Good friends who are always there for me

A warm and loving home – a secure place for my family

My parents and siblings who love unconditionally

Rainy days and books

Sunny days and sparkling water

The smell of freshly cut grass

Campfires and roasted marshmallows

LOVE

 

What’s in your Happy Jar?

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Photo Credit: DMHeckenkamp

A Mother’s Search for Hope

I found my vocation to motherhood along a rather winding road, but looking back, it was most definitely Divine Providence. God has his plan and sometimes it’s better not to get in his way. Looking back, I am grateful that I accepted this calling. Over the past eight years of struggling and laughing through my busy days, exhausting days, and happy days, I have learned to take each day at a time, but with renewed hope.

The endless love a mother has for each child cannot be explained – it is a gift. With each baby, my love for them grew and I am so very grateful for this love, it has helped me through the long days and short years.

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But I have found another very important virtue in relation to motherhood and that is HOPE. Without love, a family does not grow, but without hope, there is no faith in the future. As I spend my days with my children, I have attempted to remain far from the rambling terrors of the outside world. Yes, it is important to be aware of current events, but if these “events” become a distraction, then it is time to let them go. So, even though I have a love for the law and politics, I have determined that this phase of my life is not suited among that unhappiness. There is very little hope among the unrest in our world. My time is better suited with my family and their immediate needs.

I refuse to focus on the dangers, selfishness, and unhappiness promoted in our society. Instead, I look to the virtue of hope in a desire to have faith for brighter roads ahead for my children, future generations, and for society as a whole.

I recently saw a comforting memorial on Facebook where mothers, from all walks of life, were taking a moment to recognize not only their living children, but the children they have lost early. I’m not an emotional person, but seeing how many mothers have suffered through miscarriage or the loss of a child is astounding. We hide those pains deep within our hearts, because just as our love is overflowing, so is our hurt and pain. There still remains a stigma as women suffer alone through the loss of a child – it is difficult for others to comprehend. As I reflect back on my own three miscarriages, and one rather recently, I desire to focus on the good. I pray that those babies are sitting among the angels and saints in heaven and looking down upon their earthly family with smiles.

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I refuse to hide my loss and push those thoughts into a back corner. I search for hope that in the future, I may one day see those beautiful babies face to face. True hope can be found in the faces of my children each and every day and for that I am truly grateful.

I am celebrating Mother’s Day Weekend and my daughter’s 8th birthday on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima (because I’m Catholic and Portuguese, so this 100th anniversary is an extra special day for our family) with open arms and with prayers for all my children – the four sweet little faces that grace my eyes every day and the three faces that I am unable to see right now, but hope to see in the next life.

There is no one I can thank more than my own mother for her unselfishness love and hope for her family. Thank you, mom!

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Michelle Cascio Photography

I hope that you also have a blessed Mother’s Day

among the faces of your children!

Finding My Place As A Mother

I had a one-of-a-kind experience last week. For those of you who don’t know me well, I graduated with a BA in Political Science and then earned my Paralegal Certificate after college. I worked several years in the legal field, it was enjoyable, yet stressful all at the same time. After giving birth to baby #1, I made a career change and became a stay-at-home mom. Off and on, I still work for the law firm, but mostly by working at home on extreme part-time hours. Last week, I filled in for a paralegal who was on vacation. It wasn’t exactly full-time hours, but it was close and it was an experience I will never forget.

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I have not worked full-time since having children, and on the tough days as a stay-at-home mom, my mind occasionally drifts to a “calm” office environment – free of the tantrums, demands, and disturbances. Yet, after spending four days working busily at a desk, I missed being home with my children, even the demanding 18 month old. It was nice to have a break from the daily routine and to interact with adults for hours on end, but looking back, it wouldn’t be the best choice for our family long-term.

I can’t even tell you the loads of admiration I have for working moms, because I was barely making it through the day. I was doing pretty good, until I picked up my kids and my energy levels were suddenly depleted. I felt horrible that there was barely anything left for them. Everything became an annoyance, and it wasn’t their fault. They were only missing me. I admire the moms who work everyday out of the home and still run an effective house, while also keeping up with all the family activities. I personally know so many of you. You are truly amazing!

Looking back, I know that the right decision was made when I chose to stay home with the kids. Yes, I miss those moments of completing work assignments and interacting with adults on a professional level, but ultimately, I personally need to be with my children, because that’s what is best for me. We all make choices in our lives, and no matter what any other mother chooses to do (whether work outside the home, inside the home, or to be solely a homemaker), it’s a beautiful choice and I hope that every mom out there is able to truly understand and be appreciative for their role in society. Because, no matter your job, degree, or social standing, all mothers (biological, adoptive, step-mothers, or foster mothers) are remarkable. Mothers make the world a better place, and last week has taught me to appreciate where I am with my family, for it all passes away too quickly.

boysPhoto Credit: @dmheckenkamp

Thanks to that experience, I am more grateful for my role as a stay-at-home mom than ever before. It is truly a gift.

  • I am grateful that I am able to fold piles of laundry during the day, rather than after the kids are in bed.
  • I am grateful that I can change the dinner menu at a drop of a hat, because it’s easy to run to the store during the day. I hate crowded stores!
  • I am grateful that I can wake up and only get myself half dressed before dropping them off. I can always take a shower later.
  • I am grateful that I don’t have to drive the extra distance each day to drop my kids off at my parents’ house during a work day. The additional 2 hours of driving each day was killing me.
  • I am grateful that I can drop off and pick up my children from school. I can be involved in school and after school activities. It’s a luxury!
  • I am grateful that I can have a mini writing session for my book while the 18 month old takes a nap and the 3 year old watches a show.
  • I am grateful that I can do homework with my kids before dinner and then have time with them after dinner to play or read books.
  • But most of all, no matter if I worked in the home or outside the home, I am grateful for the gift of life – my children’s lives. I am blessed to have four amazing children who are so different in their own way, but each exemplify the beauty of God’s greatness through their daily actions, hysterical laughs, or tantrums. For they are truly my world and they are such a blessing to my husband and me. We could not imagine life without them and I am grateful to be at home with them – watching them grow through each milestone.

Grateful Beyond Belief

Thank you! Thank you to everyone who has touched my life, even in a small way. Too often we go through life wishing for the next best thing. That’s a tendency of human nature; the grass is always greener. It’s unfortunate, because we forget to examine our current situations and the amazing gifts we have been given. With the start of summer vacation and three months of wonderful one-on-one time with the kiddos, I thought it was perfect timing to contemplate my life and those who have made an impact on me.

This morning I was in an area of the city that isn’t the best, but I saw the most beautiful thing that almost made me cry. A father was holding his child (about 4-5 months old) and wrapped in a blanket with only his face showing, because it was chilly and rainy, while the dad was carrying a large bag, it might have contained the only items they owned. I didn’t know where he was going, but he looked like he was on a mission. The father was very lovingly watching the child to make sure he was o.k., while also trying to not step in puddles and slip. This might not sound like much, but it was such a beautiful sign of love between a parent and child. A love that is missing in this world or hidden. We are so used to a love that only shows itself when it is self-serving. It didn’t matter the economic or social conditions of this child and father, because they showed enough love and trust between the two of them.

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It made me think on the drive home, through the dreary weather, that the old cliche saying is true. “All you need is love”. I know, I know, me of all people who doesn’t care for the corny quotes. But I think we all have those moments in life when everything is going wrong, we aren’t able to control or solve the problems, and have to wait for slow fixes. Then suddenly, something happens to show how each of our lives are intertwined with one another. We don’t understand it all now and won’t probably until after we die. It leaves us in a state of pure confusion, but also relief, knowing that everything has a reason and purpose. It truly does, because if it didn’t, there would be no point to any of this.
Little does this father know that by walking down the street at that exact moment would create such a profound affect on another person. With that thought in mind, our every action is an example of good or hurt. How do we want to be perceived in the world?

After these deep reflections, in a quiet car before picking up the kids from school and the start of spring break… I knew that it was time to think more of others, and less of myself, which of course is hard with our natural self tendencies. To do more for others in small ways, ways that we won’t see the effects, or be able to promote on social media, but ways that will create a better world for all. Then maybe someday, those actions will be shown to us like a puzzle, many little jumbled pieces put together to create a wonderful masterpiece.

 

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I am grateful for a lot of things in life, but I am most grateful for my life and those near to me. The life that has been given to me with all the happiness, sorrows, thrills, adventures, friendships, family, and unsolvable problems. Because without each and everyone of these bits and pieces, it would not be my life. It might not make sense when I am going through the heartache or the celebrations, but no matter the event, each and every one of them have a sincere and utterly beautiful effect on my life and I am grateful that they have helped me develop a love and trust for myself, friends, family, and my children. Because what else matters in life than love?