Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Kindness

"Well, this is going to be a fun flight."

I heard the sarcastic tone come from behind me whilst bouncing my overly tired and fussy 4-month-old on my lap.

"Excuse me, but he is just a little baby and he WILL fall asleep once we get moving!" I wanted to turn around and say to her (followed by a snarky comment about how my baby will get some sleep and be his normal happy self, but that her personality will always suck).

I bit my tongue... after all, this is probably the same thing I would have said or thought back when I was the perfect parent (pre-children, of course). As I figured, Gabriel did finally fall asleep once the plane began to move and I got a few uncomfortable minutes of sleep as well.

After a long 4 hour flight, we landed in Newark and scrambled to make it through customs, check our bags, and walk through the unorganized security check. Whilst standing in the never-ending line and being bombarded with requests to cut, my husband and I just knew that we were going to miss our connection (as our layover only lasted an hour). We felt completely frazzled and defeated, as our bag had made it on the flight but we hadn't.

We stood in the security line with our numerous bags, tired toddler, and wiggly baby for nearly an hour before finally making it to the terminal. At this point, we were walking at a snails pace and decided to just take our time, get the boys diapers changed, and grab some food before figuring out our plan.

"What flight are you on? Let me help you with your bags."

I turned.

It was a United flight attendant with a friendly smile and several bags of her own.

We thanked her for her generous offer, quickly explained out situation, and expected her to bolt to her next destination.

"I'm going to Denver," she eagerly told us, "and there are still plenty of seats available on my flight!"

She quickly grabbed the boys diaper bag from me, told us to follow her, and lead us to the Denver gate. The ladies at the desk were extremely helpful, but told us that in order to catch this flight, we would need to hustle to the nearest help desk, which Brandon did in record time.

He came back with the great news: we were on the flight. We would be going home (and only an hour later than our original flight)!

After feeling so sad and put off by such a rough day of travel, I had my faith once again restored in both the airline industry and in humanity... and all thanks to a caring flight attendant who went out of her way to carry a bag and get us on our way.

The whole experience reminded me of the importance of kindness and also made me think back to a time when Jackson was a newborn and I had a terrible Monday. I originally wrote and published the following post back in 2014, but wanted to share it again as a reminder to both myself and others to be kind to everyone, as you never know the kind of day someone may be having.

(The following post originally appeared on Annie One Can Cook on April 1, 2014):

Yesterday was definitely a Monday.. did you feel that way too?

I usually make it a point to not go out on Mondays--I have designated it as a day to just clean, do laundry & dishes, go for walk, and cuddle with Jax. However, with lots of errands to run and places to go, staying home yesterday wasn't an option. Shortly after Brandon left for work, Jax and I hopped in the car and headed out.

Our first stop was the bank.

Nothing bad happened there--in fact, the people I stood in line with were all very friendly and wanted to talk about Jax (which happens to be my favorite subject!). 

Next stop was Target.

Again, nothing too eventful--my cousin sent a gift card for Jackson so we picked up a few Easter related items  for him and some all-natural teething tabs his doctor recommended. We were in and out in about 15 minutes and all was well.. until I couldn't find our car. I kid you not, I carried our bag and Jax (in his heavy car seat) around that entire parking lot because I could not remember where I parked. 

After about 8 minutes, I finally spotted our car and we were off to Conoco to get gas. $56 later, it was time to head over to King Soopers to pick up a few groceries and mail some packages.  

Okay Colorado people, don't laugh at me.. at Dillons (which is King Soopers with a different name) you can mail packages, letters, and buy stamps, so I figured I'd be able to do that here, too. Not the case. I asked one of the very nice ladies working if there was a post office nearby and she gave me directions and sent us on our way. As we shopped around for a few groceries, a woman who wasn't paying any attention to where she was going nearly hit our cart.

"Oh, excuse me!" I said (politely, I honestly wasn't being sarcastic).

This woman looked at me and then at Jax and rolled her eyes.

Now it's one thing if you roll your eyes at me.. but when you roll your eyes at my child, it's a whole different ball park. I had to make a split second choice: do I make a scene and ask her what her problem is or do I take the high road and just keep walking.

I chose the high road--but I did mumble a few expletives as we walked away.

Once we had our groceries, it was time to head to the post office.. and that's when all hell broke loose.

At first, Jax was just fussing a little bit in the back of the car so I started talking to him and telling him we were almost finished and he calmed down.. but once we got out of the car and into the post office, he let loose and screamed. I tried to calm him in his car seat by rocking him but that wasn't working so I took him out and started bouncing with him (while I'm addressing/stuffing giant envelopes) but that just made him scream even louder--the entire line was staring at us by this point and I just wanted to climb in a hole and hide. Between the mean stares, the rude lady in the grocery store, and an inconsolable baby, I felt sad and defeated.. I was ready to curl up and start crying with Jax.

It was then I had three different people come up to me and offer to help--they were kind, understanding, and knew exactly what my heart needed. An extremely sweet, older woman ended up holding and rocking Jax for me as I addressed, filled, and mailed my packages--she was even able to get him to sleep! I wanted to hug this woman (actually, I did hug her) and invite her over for dinner; I don't think she realized that such a seemingly small gesture could mean so much to one tired mama. Her kind gesture turned my day around and I prayed for her and thanked God for bringing her into my life when I needed somebody the most. 

The moral of this story is to be kind to everyone you meet--you never know what kind of a day a stranger is having and how something as simple as a smile can turn their day around. I'm going to remember that the next time somebody rolls their eyes at me or seems completely overwhelmed at the post office and I hope you do too.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shrimp & Tortellini with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Lent has officially begun and the Church is observing this liturgical season through personal sacrifice, prayer, and -- of course -- by abstaining from meat on Fridays. If you still want to prepare a beautiful Friday meal for your family that doesn't involve mac & cheese or frozen fish sticks, take my advice and try this fresh and flavorful shrimp dish that is guaranteed to become a Lenten staple in your home.


Ingredients:
  • 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined & uncooked medium shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans basil, garlic, & oregano flavored diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup half & half cream
  • 1 teaspoon oregano 
  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook shrimp in oil until shrimp turn pink. Stir in the remaining ingredients (minus the tortellini and mozzarella), reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain tortellini; stir into shrimp mixture, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over top. 
(Recipe adapted from Taste of Home)

Monday, March 6, 2017

How to Throw a Movie Theater Birthday Party for Kids

My oldest son turned 3 in December and -- like most kids -- wanted to have a birthday party. (Well, maybe we pushed it a bit, too -- I'm not sure if he would have really known the difference either way!)

The previous year, we had his party at our local rec center (which included cake and ice cream, decor, games, and the gymnastics room for one hour), but since it was all booked for the month, we realized we needed to get a little more creative. My husband and I began brainstorming ideas of what all Jackson loves and came up with a number of different themes, including baseball, Mickey Mouse, and HGTV ("Since he likes Fixer Upper so much, maybe we can have the kids work on sanding down the kitchen cabinets for the party!" -My husband), but in the end we decided to go with something he had been talking about non-stop since going to one months earlier: Movie theater.

While I love a great paper invite that you can hold in your hand, it isn't always the most practical thing to buy and send, so I went through movie-themed templates on evite and invited several of Jackson's besties for a day at the movies!

Now, the beauty of hosting a movie theater birthday party is that you can go as laid back or dressed up as you want. Limited on time and have a budget to stick to? Pop some bags of popcorn, offer bottles of water, and maybe some other kind of movie-esque snack to share... easy, right?

Seeing as though I am crazy, read too many party planning blogs, and enjoy creating in this capacity, I decided that we would make a full-blown concession stand complete with personalized water bottles (because what toddler doesn't appreciate staring at labels you spent way too long designing, printing, cutting, and taping, right?), popcorn in adorable striped boxes, and an assortment of different boxed candies just waiting to be devoured. 

Here is how everything looked:

After the kids played for a bit and devoured the doughnut cake (which I HIGHLY recommend doing -- it is less expensive than a cake AND a huge crowd pleaser!), everyone grabbed a box of popcorn, water bottle, and candy before heading downstairs to watch Dory. 


This is seriously the easiest birthday party to throw together and one of my favorite aspects of it is that you can include both the kids and parents in the fun! Another plus to a movie theater birthday party is that you can do it up as much or as little as you like, which is great when you are throwing a party on a budget. (Jackson's party came in well under $100, thanks to the Dollar Tree, Amazon, and the fact that we already owned Dory!)

It has been more than 3 months since Jackson's party and he STILL talks about it nearly daily, which gives me the push I needed to both share and wholeheartedly endorse this simple and fun theme!  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reasons to Not Give Up Anything This Lent

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are upon us, meaning another joyous Lenten season is on the horizon! Do you know what you will be giving up this Lent? While many people may dread this time of year because of the sacrifices they may plan to make, it is a liturgical season that I look forward to each and every year.

Have you thought much about what you will be giving up this year? Like many of you, I have been pondering this question long and hard, and came to the decision that I will not be giving up anything.

Why?

Well, in 8th grade, I gave up junk food and pop so I could fit into my cotillion dress.


My senior year of high school, I started running a few times a week so I would look better in my prom dress.

My junior year of college, I gave up drinking on weekdays and cursing (partly for God; partly to break bad habits).

Does this sound familiar to you? If it does, you are in good company, which is why I come before you with this request: Don't even bother giving up anything this Lent. 

Now, before you begin sending me emails condemning my sentiments, just hear me out. Instead of giving up anything this Lent, consider taking up something that will teach you about your faith, evangelization, and/or deepen your relationship with Christ. 

Need ideas? Here are 5 things to take up this Lenten season:

1.) Adoration
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This is something that I did last Lent and absolutely loved! Each Wednesday, my toddler and I would make a special afternoon out of attending Adoration and would spend up to a half hour with the host (depending on how my 2-year-old was feeling that day) and then go to lunch to enjoy some special time together. As a work-from-home mom of two busy boys, I don't get to go to Adoration nearly as often as I would like (or should), so having this special time carved out to go made the Lenten season even more meaningful.

2.) Serve
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Whether you work in a soup kitchen only once these 40 days or do something for someone every day, go out and serve your fellow man without expecting anything in return. The world will not only become a better place, but so will your heart!

3.) Daily Scripture
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This is something else that I have done the last 4 Lents that I cannot recommend enough: Find out what the daily Gospel readings are (or download an app like Laudate), carve out some quiet time each day, read, and reflect. (Whenever I do this, I also check out the daily reflections on Laudate -- they are VERY helpful and make the readings a little easier to understand!)

4.) Bible Study
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Want to take your daily reading to a whole other level? Join a bible study! If you live in a bigger city, there is a good chance your parish already has a number of studies available -- take advantage of this! If you live in a smaller parish (like my parents do), form your own with friends and meet weekly for dinner, discussion, and fellowship. Need a suggestion? Check out either 33 Days to Morning Glory or Consoling the Heart of Jesus, both of which are by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

5.) 90/10 Tithe
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I had actually never heard of this concept until last week on EWTN, but the way it works is this: We are all taught that we are supposed to tithe 10% of our income pre-tax, right? But instead of tithing 10%, some people go WAY above and beyond by tithing 90% and living off the other 10. How cool would this be to do during Lent? Not only would you be helping your church, but you may also learn something new about yourself (like, maybe you don't need your daily $5 latte to get by!). Not quite ready to make that big of a jump? Try adding an additional $10 or $20 to weekly tithe during this Lenten season.

Now I want to hear YOUR suggestions! What are your plans this Lent? Will you be giving something up or adding something new to your routine? Let me know in the comments.