Thursday, March 17, 2022

February Made Me Shiver

I was AWOL throughout the month of February.  So I thought I'd do a quick re-cap of the Pearl family goings-on during that extended hiatus from the blog.

In early February, our granddaughter Princesa (oldest daughter of son #3) turned six.  And her Papa and I decided that as a special birthday treat, we would take her out to dinner and then shopping at Target afterward.  We went to a fun brew pub-type restaurant, arriving early enough to beat the dinner crowd, and we had the most wonderful time.  

This restaurant had mac and cheese on the kids' menu; and better yet, they included an image
of the Kraft box right there on the menu to ensure your kids would love it.  (Ours did.)

That little girl was absolutely adorable throughout our "date night" together.  Her mom had warned us that she would be thrilled, but would probably be a bit shy on her own and not say a whole lot.  Nothing could have been further from the truth!  She was so animated and chatty all night.  It made us realize that this is something we need to start doing with all of our grandchildren when they get old enough to behave for it/appreciate it.  With 18 of them now, and another on the way any day, it's getting harder and harder to get good quality one-on-one time with each precious child.  When the whole gang is at our house for a family party, it's utter chaos (in the best way of course; but still...chaos).

Our second-born son also had an early February birthday, and we were able to celebrate it by having dinner with him at his house, with his wife and four young sons.  (I brought the cake!)

I LOVE the way Junior, his oldest son, is looking at my boy here!

I told you not too long ago that our oldest son and his family were moving away to Iowa, after living a stone's throw from us in VA for more than four years.  About a week-and-a-half into February, we drove out there to see their new digs and offer whatever help we could after the birth of their new baby girl, who'd been born two weeks ahead of schedule in late January.  This sweet little peanut has four older sisters, aged 10, 10, 8, and 6, and a 3-and-a-half-year-old brother.

My boy and his girl.  Is this not the sweetest?!

It was so wonderful to see all of them, of course, but also to see their new house and their new town, so that when I think of them I can picture them in their new surroundings. When we got there, the baby was still struggling to gain weight, but by the time we left two weeks later, she was doing great.  Her little cheeks had gotten visibly rounder during our stay.  And what a little angel she is!

One thing I did find out during those two weeks in February: five years of living in VA has made me SOFT!  Not that I ever liked being cold; but I did, after all, grow up in Upstate NY and raise my boys in NH, so I had to be tough.  I've survived many a brutal Nor'easter.   I am no stranger to snow and ice and below-freezing temperatures.  But yikes!  It was cold out there in Iowa!  Windy and cold.  BRRRR!

There was one mild day, however, and we took advantage of it by going for a walk with the five older kids along the country road on which they live.

Those fields will soon be full of corn!

It was sweet to see how much the older girls doted on their baby sister.  She has a lot of loving mothers dying to hold her, that's for sure.


We returned from Iowa on Saturday, Feb. 26.  And remember that chaos I alluded to earlier in this post?  Well, on Sunday, Feb. 27 we hosted a little Mardi Gras party for our VA gang: sons #2, #3, and #4, their wives, and their 12 kids aged 7 and under.  (We would have waited until the official "Fat Tuesday" on March 1, the night before the start of Lent; but it's hard to get everyone together on school/work nights.)  I bought all the paper goods and party favors well ahead of time, and I made a lasagna and a King Cake before we left for Iowa and put them in the freezer.  Each family contributed side dishes to the meal, so I had minimal work to do for the party when we got back home. We didn't have much time to rest up from our travels before the festivities, but I was anxious to see everyone as soon as possible after being away for so long.  

Even though my husband and I had never hosted a Mardi Gras party the whole time we were raising our family, we have now had three of them down here in VA.  So it appears that it's becoming a bit of a tradition for us with the grandchildren!

I guess that about wraps it up.  We've been busy since we got back from Iowa.  We go to daily Mass.  We've been having our twice-weekly playdates with son #4's wife and four kids (Braveheart makes the 35-minute drive on Tuesdays and Thursdays so the triplets can attend a Catholic pre-school in our town).

We've done a bit of babysitting here and there, and a bit of visiting.  One night last week, son #2 (who lives about 50 minutes north of us) and sons #3 and #4 (who live about 35 minutes south) met up to see the new Batman movie at the little theater in our town.  And afterward, they came by our house to say hi and grab coffees-to-go.  I cannot tell you what a joy it is for their dad and me just to have them around, to hear them talking and laughing.  We don't even care if we're part of their conversation; just having them hanging out together under our roof and listening to the sound of their voices makes us so happy.  (No matter how old they get, they will always be my boys!  Always.)

I miss our two boys from whom we are separated, geographically--so much that it often brings me to tears.  However, I know just how lucky a mom and grandmother I am.  It's such a blessing to have so many of our family members living nearby.  Our kids are our best friends, truly; but there's been a surprising  development in recent months: we've gotten to be good friends with a couple we met at church--a couple who moved here about a year ago and whose reasons for relocating are very much like ours.  It took almost five years of adjusting to our "new" life in VA, but we are beginning to make connections, and we have our wonderful little parish to thank for that!  But more on that later.

Until next time...

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Right?  Or so I've heard.

I have been wearing a headband to keep my long, straight (fine, limp, scraggly, etc.) hair off my face every day for DECADES now. It’s my signature hair do (or don’t?).

The night my second son was born in 1985, I went from 7 to 10 cm in an instant, much to everyone’s surprise, and had to be hastily rolled down a LONG and crowded hospital hallway on a gurney, from labor to delivery, trying to keep a baby in (“Don’t push yet!  Breathe!” instructed the nurses), and this baby most definitely wanted OUT.  I was frantically doing that "hoo hoo" breathing technique they teach you in Lamaze classes, for when you have the urge to push but aren’t supposed to, but it didn't seem like there was any way I was going to be able to keep that baby from making his appearance in the hallway.  So in the most dramatic moment of any of my five experiences with childbirth, I ripped the headband off my head and flung it, crying, “That’s it, I quit!  I’m not doing this!”  My oh-so-funny husband looked at one of the nurses and calmly asked, “Um, is that an option?”

When we got to the delivery room, my son came bursting into the world after two quick pushes.  (And I never got that headband back.)

So as I said, and as that story illustrates, headbands have been a part of my daily “look” forever.  For goodness sake, I even wore them during childbirth.

Apparently, it has not escaped my grandchildren's notice that headbands and Grammy go together.  A few months ago, my daughter-in-law Preciosa (wife of son #3) texted me a picture of her 2-year-old Hermanita, who had put a headband on her cute little still-practically-hairless noggin and announced, “I Grammy!” 

How hilarious is that?  She’s on to me!


If only I could look as good wearing a headband as that adorable little gal!

Telling my newest grandchild, #18,
"Get used to this headband, my wee one.  You're going to see a lot of it."

Other than the gold Miraculous Medal necklace that I wear always, a headband is my only must-have wardrobe accessory.  What about you?  What item will your grandkids see that will automatically make them think of you?  Please share!

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Inspired to Paint

I have been dabbling in the fine arts of drawing and painting for as long as I can remember.  I am mostly self-taught, aside from two art classes that I took in college (but honestly didn't much enjoy, because the professor was a huge fan of modern art—which is not really my cup of tea.  At all!).  So my work is not professional quality by any stretch of the imagination.  But I have a compulsion to draw and paint and these hobbies have given me an inestimable amount of joy throughout my life. 

In 2020, I was suddenly inspired—by a prayer, actually—to try to paint the face of Jesus.  I blogged about that painting awhile back, and included the prayer that inspired it, in a post called “Tears Become Pearls.”  

I was happy every minute that I worked on that painting, feeling very close to Jesus the whole time, and the hours flew. The first "finished" painting looked like this.

It was so finished that it was even hanging in our house...But after a while, the facial hair started to look wrong to me. I began to wonder why I hadn't connected the mustache to the beard.  I also wished I'd made Jesus' halo larger and lower down, closer to his shoulders (my husband admitted that he thought it might look better that way).

The facial hair was an easy fix.  But I didn't want to mess too much with the halo, since it had been a long time since I'd worked on the painting, and I was afraid I’d have to totally redo the background if I couldn’t match the original colors; so I opted to keep it where it was and just enlarge the circle. 

Better?  (You don’t need to answer that!)

Recently, I started to think about painting a companion for this portrait of Jesus.  His beautiful Mother, Mary, seemed like the perfect choice.

I wasn't sure how I wanted my Mary to look; but I didn't want to peruse all the famous images of Her, because I was afraid I'd just try to imitate them.  Then while scrolling through my phone’s camera roll, I came across this photo of me holding my granddaughter Hermanita, when she was in the PICU battling RSV back in December of 2019.  (The mask and gloves were RSV visitor protocol, not Covid-related!!) On a whim, I decided to use that photo to do the general sketch of Madonna and Child, and then I just went from there.

Day one, this is how it was looking.

And about a week later, this was the finished portrait.

Of course, I thought that painting of Jesus was finished, and then more than a year later I tweaked it.  This painting may get a little belated TLC, too, I guess.  But I have found over the years that if I try too hard to make something "perfect," I sometimes overwork it and ruin it altogether.  So for now, I'm going to leave well enough alone.

When I wrote Finding Grace and Erin's Ring, I was inspired to tell stories that would positively reflect our beautiful Catholic Faith, fight the dangerous messages the world was sending to vulnerable young readers, and bring glory to God.  I think any time we use our talents and gifts in this life, in every single endeavor we undertake, that should be the ultimate goal: giving glory to God, from Whom all blessings flow.  Forget money; forget worldly successes and accolades: they mean nothing.  I should have been using whatever artistic talents God gave me to do the same when it came to painting.  I don't know why it took me until I was in my 60's to finally become inspired to paint holy images, but better late than never, I suppose.

I am often brought to tears because of the state of our world, and I'm sure I don't have to elaborate about what I mean by that.  You know just what I'm talking about, if you've been alive the past two years.  And it seems as if things just keep getting worse.  I can become consumed by fear for what the future will bring for my kids and grandkids.  But creating these images of these beloved faces helped me to remember Who is really in charge and therefore, how pointless worrying is.  He's got this.  We just have to have faith that He knows what's best for our souls.  We need to pray unceasingly and take comfort in the fact that God loves us even more than we love our own children.  Hard to imagine, but true.

I will not find paradise in this life, even though I have been inordinately blessed.  But being surrounded by comforting holy images helps me to imagine what it will be like if I get there.  And creating them is a balm for my soul.

(I haven't blogged in more than a month!  Yikes, time flies these days--and so much has happened while I've been away.  I plan to do a catch-up post sometime this week.  Also, thank you to the wonderful readers who've left comments on my last few posts.  I have not gotten around to replying to all of them, and I hope to do a bit of catching up there, too!)