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 Whirlwind of Transitions

The past year has been a continue stream of transitions for our family. From the decision to prepare our house to sell last spring to now being in the final stages of building, it has been a total whirlwind. I am grateful for the many, many ups and several downs (as every situation is a learning experience), but through the entire process, I have come to one very concrete and meaningful conclusion for me. It was something that I knew all along, but sometimes (and only sometimes… kidding…) I need a refresher.

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Credit: DMHeckenkamp

Do you want to know my eye-opening experience? It’s really very eye-opening, but after learning to adjust our living style during the purging/packing process, the selling & “staging” process of our home, to the moving, and now the second purging/packing attempt before we move into our almost built home – yes, there has been a ridiculous amount of time spent “getting rid of stuff”. I have come to really dislike unnecessary “stuff” – the things that hold us back from what truly matters, our family and friends.  I have come to truly appreciate the time I have with my family and friends – shamefully, I took that for granted. I am grateful for the time we spend together as we laugh, play games, read, or even clean together. These memories make the days worthwhile even if it’s while we accomplish the most meaningless tasks.

I did have to laugh today as I was listening to the Jennifer Fulwiler Show on Sirius XM while she briefly spoke with Rachel Balducci about organizing and dealing with the “hoarders” within a  family. There are definitely a few hoarders within my family too. In fact, when my daughter was young we would call her the “bag lady”, because she would carry bags of clothes and toys around for fun. She even had a specific bag for her tissues, just in case her nose needed to be wiped (that was her idea, not mine…).  My children have reached a point that if they can’t find a toy, then they assume “mom gave it away”. (I honestly can’t remember everything I give away versus toys they misplace…) At first their comment made me sad, but they quickly moved onto another toy, just as adults move from “toy” to “toy”.

The moral to my rant is rather short and sweet. Through these many “transitional phases” I have experienced over the past 12 months, nothing in life is worth its’ value, except the hearts and souls of the people placed in our lives – particularly of our family and close friends. The purging and hoarding doesn’t mean anything if we continue to purchase more items to fill a void. Happiness cannot be found in this life among these growing piles of “junk”, the piles only encourage us to purchase books about cleaning, organizing, and purging. Then we end up with a mini library of such related books.

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Credit: DMHeckenkamp

 

Our society has become so absorbed with organizational skills, yet we honestly don’t have much to show for the past several years of these Best Selling books attempting to give advice. Instead of focusing solely on items, we need to focus on ourselves and what we are lacking – not in a material sense, but in a spiritual sense. Do we find solace in material goods due to our loss of personal relationships? Or maybe we search so long for comfort and peace that we fail to look inside ourselves. In a culture that is so self-absorbed, we have failed to examine ourselves in the most crucial way – within the confines of faith, hope, truth, and charity. I think it’s time that we put down the countless advice books relating to emptying our homes and start by reading a book that will let us open our hearts to those around us. For this world will continue to suffer if each one of us chooses to focus on our material items rather than our interior lives. So let’s agree to “purge” for the last time and instead, let’s create a home where we can grow together as a family and open our hearts to our neighbors and friends who search to fill a void with the useless “treasures” of this earth – for no everlasting can be found here.

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!