Thursday, February 28, 2013

Papa Ben

I just finished watching Pope Benedict leave Rome as Pope for the very last time.  Am I the only one who cried?  I swear my kids think I am a bit too emotional about the whole thing . . . . I could not even see pictures of him yesterday without crying.

I have thought a lot about the time I met him, 5 years ago, in the last few weeks.  He was coming to the Archdiocese of Washington.  My husband worked for the archdiocese at the time and so I knew that we would be able to get tickets to the mass without much trouble.  But there was ONE problem . . . I would be 4 days away from my due date with A!  Now, I have not gone into labor naturally with ANY of my boys, but I figured that, with my luck, I would be at the mass and go into labor.  So, I knew the mass was out.  And I was very disappointed.

Luckily, there were a few people at the Archdiocese that understood our plight, and were able to get me a special ticket to the Shrine (my husband was invited because we worked for the archdiocese), when the Pope would be coming to address the US Bishops.  The Pope would walk through the upper church of the Shrine and greet people up there before heading down to address the Bishops in the Crypt church. 

I remember coming into the Shrine to find the section we were to sit in.  We were on the far left of the altar. I was disappointed . . . we could barely see the altar from where we were sitting.  I looked at my hubby and said, "These seats do not seem very good."  He then pointed to the doors about 10 feet away from us and said, "You see those doors?  The Pope will be entering through those doors."  I could not believe we were so close.

We sat for quite a while before his arrival.  The streets outside were PACKED with people.  Suddenly, I started to hear a lot of clapping and cheering outside.  The big screens in the Shrine showed the view from outside.  The Pope had left the USCCB building and was in the Popemobile to come to the Shrine.  The sound of the people outside was just incredible.  My excitement grew as I could see the image of the car coming closer to the doors of the Shrine.  Suddenly, he was outside those doors we were so close to . . . and they opened, and there he was! Pope Benedict!

The experience seems surreal now.  At one point,he was just about 5 feet away from me.  He donned a big smile.  And peace and joy just exuded from him.  Before that moment, I wondered if I would cry.  And as he stood before me and I could feel his holiness, the tears started to fall.  Maybe it was the fact that I was 9 months pregnant, but I doubt it!

Pope Benedict walked through the church, and then headed to the Crypt church with the Bishops.  We got to watch the proceedings on the screens.  It was so neat to witness, because he joked with the Bishops and they all laughed together. We prayed evening prayer with the Pope and the Bishops.

It really was an incredible experience. 

A VERY pregnant me next to the cut-out Pope!!

And, now, today, we say goodbye to Our Shepherd here on earth.  I thank God for him and the opportunity to meet  him. 

Good Bye Papa Ben!! We will miss you!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When homeschooling is hard

It must be that time of year when families begin to discern if they should homeschool or not because I have gotten, "Katie, I would love to ask you some questions about homeschooling."  a lot lately.

And, truthfully, I try to avoid the conversation.  I usually laugh and say, "I am probably not the person you should ask."  And I try to direct them to a more veteran homeschool who can give them some great information. 

I do this because I am afraid that if I really share what I think about homeschooling and my experiences, that these families will not want to homeschool. Because if a homeschooler would have shared a typical day like mine with me when I was asking that question, I think I would have thought, "I am NOT signing up for THAT!" and forgotten all about the idea of homeshooling. 

But, instead, I heard /hear . . .

- Oh, we are done by noon. 
- My (insert an insanely young age) son/daughter just finished the Chronicles of Narnia.
- We do unschooling.  I just leave books around the house and my kids teach themselves.  They LOVE to read!
- Look at this great drawing my son/daughter did . . .

I could go on, but you all get the idea.  While, I know it is true that we all tend to show and share our best and our triumphs, and it is good to do so, there is another reality of homeschooling that is HARD.  As with kids in school, not all homeschooled children will be accepted into Harvard by the time they are 12.  Some, most, are just average kids.  Average students.  And some have learning disabilities that make each day HARD.

And that is where we are at.  My oldest has a learning disability.  He cannot write.  He can verbally tell you a beautiful, well thought out sentence, but if he has to write it, he simply cannot.  And when he has to write, there are usually lots of tears (by both him and me).  Last week, as a part of a vocabulary assignment, he had to write sentences to answer about 12 questions.

3 1/2 hours later, he finished.  If someone were to look at it, they would have thought my 4 year old answered the questions.  J felt defeated.  I felt defeated.  3 1/2 hours! We do not do this every day.  I could not do that everyday.  I make lots of modifications to his work. We do lots verbally.  But, we frequently have days like the one above. 

My reality:
-There some days we are done by noon. These are infrequent.  There are many days we are still plugging away at 4PM. Homeschooling feels like it consumes most of our days.  And when we are done, I am TIRED and often worn out.
-If I leave the room during school, it is inevitable that all work will stop until I return.
- My oldest and even my middle son need LOTS of direction.  They need lots of one on one time.  Both work below grade level, for the most part.  And most days I feel like I am not giving enough time to K or to A (my 4 year old).

I am not sharing this, in any way, to put my oldest down.  The thing that hurts about this is that he is so SMART.  He has an excellent vocabulary and remembers details from books and history, that most people would not even know they had read.  He had the Gettysburg Address memorized in two days. 

So, I looked at these facts, and blamed myself for his failures.  And then when my 6 year old really started with school, he progressed faster than his brother, but he still had many difficulties, I thought, "Well, I am the common denominator."  And the self-blame became worse.  I MUST be the problem.  They would do better if I would just . . .

Then my 4 year old came along.  He has been begging me to do school.  And he is doing it.  He is doing math that his brothers struggled with.  And he reads.  He reads. With little effort.  He is easy to homeschool. And, suddenly, I realized, "OK, maybe it is not me.  This is just who they are."

So, for these past several years, I have struggled with a lot of self doubt. A lot.  And this is the first time that I feel like I need to be completely honest.  I need to let go of the self doubt.  I need to share that homeschooling can be HARD. It can be very HARD. And you may be doing everything RIGHT!

But, just like anything God calls us to, of course it can be hard.  I cannot imagine NOT homeschooling my children.  I would not want them anywhere else.  There is a beauty in it.  A beauty in the ability to help form your children spiritually and intellectually.  I can tailor my children's education to fit their learning styles.  For the first time in our homeschooling journey, I feel like I can finally let go of outside expectations or trying to fit into what other's find is best, and just do what we need to do.  For J. For K. For A.

A few weeks ago I talked to a veteran homeschooler who is years ahead of me on a similar journey with her own children.  At the end of the conversation, she said to me . . .

"Katie, when it is hard, remember YOU are the best teacher for your son.  No one will be able to give him the education that you can.  Because no one can know him and his struggles better than you."

These are words I will hold on to for years to come; those days when I feel like this daily struggle is hard and that maybe we are not hearing God correctly on homeschooling.  I am the best educator of my children. 

And, if God has called you to homeschooling, YOU ARE TOO!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day at the Derby

Yesterday we spent the day at the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.  This was our third derby and the first in which K was participating as a scout too.  When I say we spent the day there, I am mostly serious.  Our Pack is huge so the derby lasted about about 3 1/2 hours.

Cars lined up ready to race

All three of the boys made a car. J is a Webelo, K a Tiger, and there is an open category for siblings.
All three boys at attention for the National Anthem
Up first was K. His car looked like a Tiger for "Tiger Scout."  That was totally on purpose, since we are not a super derby involved, tool laden, spend months on the cars type of family.  Translation: our cars are not fast.  So we go for the other "awards" given to cars.  I persuaded K to go for the "Scout Spirit" award.
K's care, the orange car, 2nd from the left
Each car runs in four heats with the other cars made by scouts at the same scout rank.  K's car did well.  He finished 1st once, second twice, and third once.

J's group was one of the biggest groups and one of the last to go.  I really prepped him with the, "It does not matter if you don't win.  There are many cars at your rank ." speech about 10 times over the last two days.  Luckily, he painted his car as the American Flag and I figured he was a shoe-in for "Most Patriotic."
J's car is the one on the far right speeding to victory

J's car did really well.  It won two heats and came in second twice to the same car (that ended up breaking the track record).  Since there were so many heats at his level, I was hopeful he would place, but not certain.

A raced too . . . he made a pick up truck just like his uncle's.  His car was not super fast, but he did end up winning two heats!

Once all the races were done, they did the awards.  K, did indeed get "Scout Spirit" for the Tigers. And J did get "Most Patriotic" for the Webelos.
Then came the placings for each rank.   We were shocked when they called K's name for 3rd place!  He just BEAMED with pride and ran over to give me a hug after they came off the stage.
Then, I looked at J. He was patiently, not so patiently, waiting for the Webelos to be called.  At that point, I started praying. "Dear Lord, please let J place."  He would have been heart broken if K placed and he didn't.  I know that is just how life works sometimes, but J has come in 4th every year he has done the derby (they only get medals for 1-3), he has been so close, that I really wanted him to be able to place.  Luckily, his car was speedy enough this year and he did get 3rd!!
Look at that smile!
So, all in all this was a good derby year!  See you again, next year, Pinewood Derby!

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes - We're coming out of the fog edition!

Thanks, Jen for hosting!

1. Back to Life!
The illness that overtook us on Ash Wednesday seems to finally be coming to an end. Finally.  I got hit with it Monday and slept almost all day Tuesday, thanks to my loving husband.  The house is still full of coughs and sniffles, we have not been to most of our normal activities yet, and the boys are still sleeping over 12 hours a night, but I am looking forward to life getting back to normal.

2. Runs come and runs go
And because of the sickness, and me torquing my back last week Thursday during a speed workout on the treadmill, I have not run or exercised in over a week.  Thankfully, I got to see my chiropractor on Wednesday, I love that lady, and my back is better.  I think there may just be a run in my weekend plans!

3. Things I say in our homeschool that would NEVER be said at a normal school.
In light of the fact that a student got suspended for making a "finger" gun at another student at school, I do not think my boys would make it through a week. Just this morning I was trying to get the boys to settle down and get their work done and said,

"J, you cannot bring a gun to the homeschool table!"

Yep, homeschooling boys . . .

4. Funny article about the next Pope's Name.
If you have not read this article at the National Catholic Register, you totally should.  It made me laugh HARD this morning. And, I totally agree with the last statement . . . any name but Peter.

5. Hope for Anna to hear
I blogged about this fundraiser the other day, but today is the last day and I want to share it one more time.  Gayly, over at Quilt-n-mama is hosting a fundraiser to help defray the costs of a special surgery that Anna, a precious girl adopted from China, is having in ITALY in order to restore her hearing.  The shirts are super cute and there are lots of options!  Go check hem out!

The front says,
"Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me. For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke." Psalm 66:16-17

6.  Sprucing up the blog
Anyone notice that I am trying to spruce this place up?  After neglecting it for far too long, I am trying to update this space a little.  The info in the tabs will be updated, my blog list on the sidebar will be revamped.  I am actually excited about it!

7.  Loving the Lenten sacrifice
I gave up Facebook for Lent.  I still hop over there to answer messages and to post a link to my blog posts, but that is it.  And you know what?  I do not miss it. AT. ALL.  Sure, I have probably missed some pregnancy announcements, but I am hoping people will fill me in on things like that.  So, if I have missed anything earth shattering on Facebook, please leave it in the comments below!

And I know everyone has seen this (because everyone else is on Facebook), but I am ending with my favorite Cardinal!
Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Keeping Love in Lent: Praise Him- part 1

"I’m participating in the Keeping LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by
Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, Truly Rich Mom and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families. We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of link-up entries.”

As I sit down to write this post, we are on day #5 of the plague that has infected our house.  It started on Ash Wednesday and has yet to relent.  Today is Sunday.  I went to mass early this morning and my husband is at mass now. I just finished getting my two youngest out of the tub, and my oldest is taking a shower.  I am hoping that somehow the water will miraculously wash away this illness.  But I am not holding my breath.

This Lent has not started the way I wanted it to.  Not by a long shot. When I signed up for this Link up, I envisioned writing a cute post with lots of family pictures of us praying together. You know, attempting to look holy.  But instead, you can read my reality here and see it here.

Thankfully, God has different plans. And His ways are always better.  And so, I feel led to write about Praise.  Ever since going to Created for Care, I have been struck with my desire for Praise and Worship.  My NEED to praise Him.  And, how much better my prayers are, how much more clearly I hear Him, when I Praise Him before I enter into any other form of prayer.  

2639   Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory. By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God,121 testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. Praise embraces the other forms of prayer and carries them toward him who is its source and goal: the “one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.”122 (213) - Catechism of the Catholic Church (emphasis mine)
I love this quote from the Catechism.  Our spirit is united with the Holy Spirit when we praise HIM, simply because He is.  I do not just feel closer to God, I am closer to God and hear HIM better when I praise HIM, because I am united with the Holy Spirit when I do so.

So, I am working on praising HIM more this Lent.  And I think I get why this Lent has been so hard so far.  He is trying to make it real to me that I need to praise HIM simply because HE IS.  Not because HE has given me perfectly healthy kids,  that all love doing their school work each day and cannot wait to do our Lenten prayers (with a hint of sarcasm).  But simply because HE is a BIG GOD. HE is awesome. HE is holy. And worthy of my praise. 

That is where detachment starts.  Because, if I can get a bit better this Lent on focusing on the prayer of praise, I will be less shaken when things are not going the way that I want them to.  I will become less detached to the "rub"of the day to day trials and more focused on where HE is in those trials.

So, this post will continue in several parts because I really want it to be interactive and talk about ways to Praise HIM and why verbal praise can be so powerful.  Now, I would love your input . . .

What are ways you love to Praise God?
Thanks for visiting!

Check out the Lent reflections participating in the Keep LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013! We'll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE.

Discover new Catholic Blogs to follow!

Building Rocks(pending)


Monday, February 18, 2013

The Drop Box

The Drop Box is a documentary. And although I have only seen the trailer below, it hits me right in my heart.  It is about orphans, and one man in Korea doing what he can to give them life. 

PLEASE, take a minute to watch the trailer, you will not regret it!

From its website:
The Film
In December 2009, a Korean pastor named Lee Jong-rak built a wooden "drop box" on the outer wall of his home. But the box wasn't intended for clothing, food, or school supplies, it was meant to collect unwanted babies.

When "the drop box" "or "baby box" was constructed a few years ago, it flew completely under the radar of Korean government officials. However, as more and more children arrive in this box every week, the nation is starting to take notice.

Lee knows that his little wooden box isn't the best solution, but his plight points to a much larger issue of abandonment, both in Korea, and across the globe.

As a simple man, with little education and no public notoriety, Lee was voiceless, much like the children he has sworn to protect.

Soon, the whole world will know his story.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fundraiser to support!

Gayly over at Quilt-n-mama is hosting a fundraiser to help Anna's family raise the funds to cover a special surgery she needs in ITALY to restore her hearing.  Anna is a precious girl, adopted from China. 

They are selling these cute shirts in short sleeve, long sleeve and children's sizes to raise the funds . . .

The front says,
"Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me. For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke." Psalm 66:16-17

To order one and help Anna, go here!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A view of our living room

Three down . . 

They have not moved all day!

At least he is feeling good enough to read!

 . . . my hubby and I are the only ones still standing!

Seven Quick Takes

1. Valentine's Day drop out
Wednesday night, with two kids incapacitated on couches, I told my husband, "let's not do anything for Valentine's day."  And I held up my end of the bargain, except for a loving note.  Last year I made heart shaped pancakes with strawberry sauce, a heart shaped pizza and strawberries in the shape of hearts.  Small gifts were given.  Love notes and heart shape crafts were the theme of the day.  This year?  I had two kids passed out in our living room most of the day, barely eating anything.  We had no flour, no eggs in the house and, with the kids sick, no way to get to the store to get anything to make anything meaningful for the day.  I just pretended that Valentine's day was not really happening and yesterday was just a normal, average, ordinary day.

2. The Government knows best?

Have any of you seen this article?  Let me just share a small portion of it:

When it comes to education, Germany, Sweden and much of Eastern Europe and South America have outlawed homeschooling completely. Many other countries such as Austria and Iceland have placed burdensome restrictions on the practice. These countries refuse to give up control of the content of education and trust parents to teach their children. Much of this fear likely stems from the religious nature of many home educational programs and the refusal of homeschooling parents to engage in social indoctrination that is well under way at public and many private schools. This indoctrination often includes the normalization of homosexuality, explicit sex education, and endorsement of contraceptives and abortion.

A European Human Rights Court affirmed the German ban on homeschooling, saying that Germany has a valid state interest in preventing dissent from those who hold "separate philosophical convictions." In the United States, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law, recently proposed in a speech at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools that not only homeschooling, but all private schooling, should be made illegal. He claims that the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children is not absolute and can be overridden for the good of the state.

Am I the only one that finds that last paragraph disturbing? 

3.  Overwhelmed by the blogosphere

Is it just me, or does anyone else get overwhelmed by the sheer number of blogs out there?  I read very few blogs.  I have searched out Catholic family life blogs, running blogs, healthy eating blogs, and just plain pretty blogs and I follow MANY of them.  But, I rarely check most of them.  There are certain blogs I check into once a week, but that is it.  But, I want to really get into some blogs, but am overwhelmed by the sheer #.

So, tell me, if you could read just one blog everyday, which one would it be (beside your own)?

4. Running with consistency
I am so happy to announce that I am running regularly now!! Yahooo!!  I limit myself to every other day, with the exception of Sundays and Mondays.  I am still pain free. And loving it. 

5. Esther 4:14
This verse has been on my heart a lot lately. 
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Isn't this what we are all called to?

6. Notice I am avoiding saying ANYTHING about Pope Benedict resigning??
I have lots of thoughts on it, but nothing that has not already been said.  Want a fun "thought" post on the topic that will make you laugh? Check out Let Love Be Sincere.

7. No Little Flower Orphan Love to share . . .
I gave up Facebook for Lent, so I have NO pictures to share with you!!  But keep on praying for these little ones!

Have a great weekend everyone!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

A perfectly imperfect start to Lent

I have plans for Lent, you know.  The ways I want it to look.  The things I feel God is calling me to, things to draw me closer to Him.  To order my days.

Two days into Lent and my days have been far from what I pictured. 

Yesterday, I dragged lovingly got my kids out of bed to get ready for mass.  I had to call my oldest down repeatedly.  He finally came down stairs, layed on the couch and said, "I'm sick."

The "Mother of the Year" in me  determined he must be faking . . . he just did not want to get up and get ready for mass.  So I still got them all ready for mass and we headed out the door.  By the end of mass, my oldest looked horrible.  We went straight to the car, talking to no one, and headed home.  He proceeded to lay on the couch all day.  No school. No Lenten prayers.  Just lazily allowing the boys to watch Magic School Bus most of the day.

 J threw up around 4 PM and minutes later, my 6 yr old started throwing up too.  Cleaning up vomit was NOT in my plans for Ash Wednesday.  Maybe day #2 would be better.  I would wake up when I wanted to and be ready for the boys;  exercised and prayed up all before the boys bounded down the stairs.

But this morning was far from what I envisioned.  I awoke to the sound of the gag reflex . . . . this time from our DOG!  I cleaned up the mess and crawled back under the covers . . . maybe if I hid under the covers, the day would magically start differently . . .

About a 1/2 hour later, I heard the boys' bedroom door open and listened to little foot steps come down the stairs.  It was my 4 -yr old, A.  He climbed into bed with me and asked to be cuddled.  And we talked.  Well, really, he talked. And talked. And talked.  And I listened.  And looked at his face.  And I knew that this is exactly how God wanted me to start this day. Connecting with this little soul in a special way. This Lent was starting exactly as it should.  In service and love to the souls that surround me.

 So far this Lent has been not been pretty, it has been ugly and just plain not fun . . . but that may be exactly where God is asking me to meet Him and draw closer to Him.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday - German Style

One of the things that I love about my family growing up is that we always had reminders of our heritage.  Mostly though foods.  My mom is 100% German and my dad is 100% Polish (pretty much).  Growing up we were surrounded by ethnic foods.  And the Lenten season was not exempt from these food traditions.

So, today, I was determined to remind myself, and my boys,  of the hertiage from which we have come.  And I decided to do that through fattening yummy Faschnacht Kueckles (think: super yummy, rich doughnuts).  Faschnacht is German for "fast night" and Kueckle means "doughnut."

I pulled out the recipe, penned in my own mother's hand.  I was reminded of the years of watching my Grandmother and Mom making these in their own kitchens. 

The smells of the sweet dough reminded me of my own childhood as my 4-year old pulled up a chair to help mix the dough.   I hope the smells remind him of sweet memories too.

I let the dough rise, then formed the circles to let the dough rise once again.

I stretched them out, and cooked them till golden brown.

I dusted them with powdered sugar.

And got to watch my boys enjoy every bite. 

Just as I did as a child so many years ago!  Yes, this Fat Tuesday was about memories.  And making new ones!

Monday, February 4, 2013

My "crush" revealed (and the giveaway winner too!)

First, let me say, that I had lots of fun with that post.  I was going to give some clues, but I knew that would make it way too easy.  And I loved reading the guesses!  I was surprised by some; I had no idea that Ryan Gosling and Chris O'Donnell were Catholic!?!?  Mel Gibson . . . um . . . a little crazy for my tastes.  Eduardo Verastegui?  He is Catholic and he is handsome, but I do not know enough else about him personally to have a "crush" on him.

So, my crush:

- Is usually the "good guy" in the movies he is in.  Seriously, if you have seen many of his movies, he plays quality characters with a great deal of depth.

- Once he played the best "guy" to walk this earth.

- He has four brothers and sisters

- He grew up in the state of Washington

- He is married.  And, when researching more about him for this post, I found out one more thing that makes me like him even more . . . . he and his wife adopted a boy and girl from China!!

He is . . .

Jim Caviezel

Thanks for playing along!!

Now for the reveal of the giveaway items . . .

1. Dark Chocolate from Aldi!

2. A $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts

3. And a Brown Chunky African Bead necklace from Visiting Orphans!

And since you were all such good sports and made this soooooo much fun, I decided to keep all the entries in for the giveaway.  And the winner of the items above is (from . . .

Congrats!! Look for an email from me soon!
And thanks everyone for playing along!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Giveaway items preview!

Here is a sneak peek at the giveaway items . . .




Intrigued yet??  Entered yet?  I will leave it open until I draw the winner! Go here to enter!

Friday, February 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes- The Love Edition

Since I still have nothing of any depth that I want to share today; that retreat is still affecting me deeply and I just want to ponder it all to myself, therefore I felt a just plain fun post was in order.  And because we are now in the month of LOVE, I decided to share about things, products, stores I love.  No depth allowed here!

1. Aldi Love
Do you have Aldi grocery stores near you??  I have been in love with the store since my Steubenville days.  It is cheap, totally no frills and great.  I know people are scared off by the items in stacked in boxes, carts that  you need to insert $.25 to get and the lack of grocery bags and name brand items, but the prices are beautifully low.  And now, they are even carrying ORGANIC items!! Yahoo.  Our grocery bill has gone down even more now that I do not spend lots of money at my favorite organic grocery store right next to Aldis.

2. Chocolate love

I love chocolate.  Good DARK chocolate.  My favorite: 60%-70% cocoa. Throw in almonds or hazelnuts and I am blissfully happy.

3. Love of wine

Why, yes, I love a good glass of wine. Has to be red.  And the drier the Cabernet or Merlot the better.  I can blame my parents for this one!

4. Coffee loves

While my coffee intake is not what it used to be, I have to say that my favorite cup o' Joe comes from one of two places.  . . .  Can you guess which??

And when we travel up to the Buffalo area, no trip is complete without a cup of coffee from Tim Horton's! 

5. Orphan Love
I love companies and ministries that support orphans, and do so creatively.  And I love Visiting Orphans.  They sell really cute items.  They organize mission trips to orphanages.  And they have a great message.

6.  Catholic Christian musician LOVE
Her name is Audrey Assad.  If you do not have any of her music . . . go get some and support this GREAT artist. 

The song "Slow" is a song that has really spoken me over the last year.  Love it.

7. Speaking of love . . .
 . . . well, not really, but have you guessed who my "crush" is yet???  If not, head over here and read the post and guess.  You all seem to think you know who it is!! The surprise giveaway winner and my "crush" will be announced Monday.  And, the giveaway items are all somehow mentioned in this post  . . . so go enter and have a great weekend filled with HOPE and LOVE!

Any LOVES you want to share about???