Life in Every Limb

Travel Made Cheaper with Groupon

OK, y’all, so I only JUST got back from a short vacation (about which more later!), and I’m already wishing I had known what I am about to share with you before I planned it!
I don’t know about you but when it comes to traveling, I am always looking for hotel deals.  Ever since I first discovered Hotwire several years ago, I have made it my business to find the best hotel deals I can.  That’s especially important when our whole family travels together, because the days are long gone when we could cram all the kids in one room.  We need three rooms these days and you can imagine how quickly that adds up.
So I have various sites I frequent, but one thing I had never thought of was Groupon.
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I’m assuming you’ve heard of Groupon (who hasn’t?).  I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never used it even though I’m usually pretty savvy about all things online and saving money.  I had some kinds of vague idea about two-for-one deals, but I had no idea that Grouon also had a large coupon code site.  Anyway, if you aren’t familiar, Groupon offers savings at over 9,000 retailers! There are over 70,000 coupons, promo codes and deals to choose from.
Here’s how it works.  Say you want to plan a trip and you generally reserve your lodgings through Orbitz.com (which is my usual favorite).
orbitz.com with Orbitz Promo Code Discounts & Coupon Codes
Don’t go straight to Orbitz–instead, click here.  That will take you directly to the Groupon page for Orbitz where you will find many coupon codes (including one for 15% off most hotels which would have saved me some money last weekend!).
I’ve already mentioned I’m a Hotwire fan.  Take a look here at the available deals.  Travelocity and Expedia are just a couple more of the many travel sites offering deals through Groupon.
I’m focusing on travel sites in this post because that’s where my mind is at the moment and because that’s what historically I’ve been most likely to search for coupons for, but Groupon offers deals for places like Walgreens and Target that it would never have even occurred to me to search for (until now).
Groupon is easy and free (and because I am a US Family Guide blogger, they are compensating ME for telling YOU how to save money–so we are all winning here!).  Check them out and if you have any other great ways to save money shopping online, please tell me in the comments.

Minnesota Memories

By the time this is published it will have been almost a year since our week in Minnesota–St. Paul, to be exact–where we stayed with our friends Renee and Erik and their daughter, Mikaela.
Some background:  Renee and I were roommates all four years in college.  Randomly placed together, we became the best of friends.  John was in her first French class so she’s known him longer than I have.  Renee started dating Erik the summer after John and I became a couple, so this is a friendship of very long standing.  Yet things being the way they are, the last time we saw Renee was when she and Mikaela flew into Knoxville to help me get my house in order before Lorelei arrived (that’s the kind of friends they are) and we hadn’t seen Erik since our last visit to Minnesota which was about 17 years ago!  So this was a much-anticipated reunion.
We could not have asked for better hosts.  They gave us a whole basement to stay in and took us shopping and bought food for the week, taking account of very picky William.  William had a hard time being away from home and routines for a week and they could not have been kinder or more understanding of his needs.  Some days they had to work–in fact, Renee had to go out of town on business for a couple of days–but they made sure we had places to go, things to see, and a home to return to.  We had so much fun!  And I’m going to share some of the highlights with you.
First on our agenda was Como Park, which was just down the road a piece.  First we went to the Conservatory.
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Next we went to the zoo.  Now we’d been to the zoo on our last visit and had joked over the years about how . . . shall we say . . . behind the times it was.  I am happy to say that conditions were vastly improved.  I didn’t take a lot of pictures but I can tell you that we especially enjoyed watching the gorillas and their baby.
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There’s a story behind that polar bear picture.  Last time we visited, the polar bear exhibit was much smaller, and the bear was obviously disturbed–swimming in a particular unvarying pattern over and over again.  We’ve never forgotten about this sad sight, so we were very excited to see that the polar bear exhibit was revamped and the bear was playing with toys and splashing and just having a marvelous time.
But then we learned the rest of the story . . . when we happened to move to the other side of the exhibit and saw that inside the enclosure the original bear was pacing, clearly as sad and disturbed as ever.  I guess the change came too late for him.
You’ve probably heard about all the lakes in Minnesota and we enjoyed several, going swimming in two that were nearby and walking around the one at Como Park.  I don’t know why I didn’t take more pictures.
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The following day we visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  We couldn’t see everything, and William has an interest in Asia, so that was the section where we started.   We never made it to the European exhibits. Again, I wish I had taken more pictures.  It’s an incredible museum.
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Teddy joined us midweek–he’d been working in Connecticut–and he came with us to tour the absolutely beautiful St. Paul Cathedral.  It was the perfect place to explore on a rainy afternoon.
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There’s never enough time to really experience a cathedral.  What with all the statues and side chapels and iconography and inscriptions I cold have spent hours there.st paul 3st paul 4st paul 6st paul 7st paul 8st paul 9
It wasn’t the best day for it but the windows were still pretty.

The main altar was stunning, and then behind it were wooden carvings, every one with meaning, that also cast these cool shadows.
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There was a mini-museum downstairs with some of the history of the cathedral, and after we took a look at that we headed out to drive around downtown St. Paul and look for some dinner.
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We ended up in a neat neighborhood with an Ethiopian restaurant and a cool used bookstore right down the street.  William had never had Ethiopian food, and he pronounced it “grand.”
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Our hosts thought we might like a trip to Duluth, which was a bit of a drive, so on one of the days they could accompany us we went on a road trip!  Duluth has lots of cool shops and restaurants so we started off by exploring the town.

Then we went swimming in Lake Superior–wading, really, because it was chilly and the waves were rough.  The kids had never seen a Great Lake before and I think they were pretty impressed.  We had fun chatting and watching them play.
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On our last day in Minnesota we did something I bet you’ve never done–we went to the Corgi races! Yes, you read that right.  We went to a nearby racetrack which was hosting a special event and it was just as cute as you might imagine.  The corgi races were interspersed with horse races, which is something I had never experienced in person so that was also pretty cool.
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That was our last day and the racetrack was actually along the road (the VERY LONG VERY FLAT ROAD) toward home, so we left straight from there.  I’ve left out tons of details from our trip–the non-photogenic ones like going to see the newest Star Trek film together, and shopping at the largest liquor store we’d ever seen, and watching movies together every night, and playing with their sweet elderly cat, and assisting Mikaela as she made homemade pasta–but I think you can tell that it was a wonderful trip with wonderful old friends who we probably shouldn’t wait 15 years to visit again!

Keeping Kids Catholic

When I was a little girl, I hated going to Mass.
My father wasn’t Catholic, and we all know how hard it is to take little kids to Mass.  So for the first six years of my life, I mostly stayed home on Sundays with Daddy.  Sometimes we’d drop my mother off and then go out for waffles at Krystal, or drive around the cones in the parking lot, or visit the Torchbearer statue.  Other times we’d stay home and watch Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Either option was way more fun than church, in my opinion, and I was resentful when it came time to prepare for First Communion when I was told I’d have to attend regularly from then on while my sister got to be the one to stay home and have fun.
So the very first thing I resolved upon having children is that they would attend Mass every Sunday from babyhood on up.  That way, I reasoned, they would be used to it and accept it as just what you do on a Sunday.
We followed through with this, starting about two weeks after each one was born and dressing them in a special “first day at church” outfit that was my husband’s when he was a baby.
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But we didn’t want to be the folks who just showed up for one hour on Sunday.  We wanted our kids to feel like a part of the community.  I joined–and later ran–the weekly Moms’ Group, which we attended weekly from the time I was expecting Jake until Teddy started kindergarten.  So my kids had friends to visit with at church on Sunday, just like I did.  We attended every parish social event.  John became very involved in the Knights of Columbus and our kids came along to Masses and picnics and even conventions.
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When it was time for school we enrolled them in the same parochial school I attended.  With an occasional break for homeschooling, my first three kids were in Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, receiving an excellent religious education, making mostly Catholic friends, and benefiting from the intertwining of Catholic values into every aspect of the school day.
Kids in uniform with baby William
But we didn’t leave religion for school and Sundays! I minored in Theology at Georgetown and our family thrives on continued education, conversation, and debate.  So we discussed the faith, explained it, answered questions.  We owned and used a Catechism.  We talked frequently about the importance of faith in daily life, and how our values should impact the way we live in the world.    I chaired the Deanery Respect Life Committee and wrote for the Catholic press.  John rose in the KOC ranks.  Both of us served long terms on our parish council. And our kids heard about it all.
We said morning prayers and prayers before meals.  We had an Advent wreath and a Jesse Tree.  Our house was Catholic in appearance, with religious pictures and statues in almost every room, complete with a kitchen Madonna on the window sill and a picture of Mary hanging laundry next to the washing machine.
In short, we took the job of raising Catholic kids very seriously indeed.  I grew up hearing about “fallen away” Catholics.  I knew big Catholic families where one of the kids had stopped going to Mass.  I often wondered what had gone wrong with those kids, since personally I could no more imagine leaving Catholicism intentionally than I could imagine willfully ceasing to breathe.
So there you have my tips for raising Catholic kids.  I suppose I could have done more, but most of my child rearing happened before I discovered the Catholic blogosphere.  I thought rigorously celebrating Advent was pretty hard core.  I didn’t know anyone who had in-home rituals for celebrating every liturgical feast.  If I’d known about those celebrations, I would probably have incorporated some of that into our family’s life as well.
Honestly, I’ve written this post in my head for months, ever since I knew this topic was on the CWBN agenda, and I’ve been dreading it.  Because today I have five kids, aged 12, 16, 22, 23, and 26.  From my own experience and that of others I know that young adults are not always regular in their practice of the faith of their youth, for whatever reasons.  Typically this resolves itself after marriage and children if not before.  But without going into great detail because at this age their stories are not mine to tell, there is a real possibility that despite all this Catholic upbringing at least one of my kids will be in that “fallen away” camp, and I won’t pretend that doesn’t break my heart.
Whatever happens, I’m confident that many Catholic values are imprinted on the hearts of my children and that they possess a Catholic worldview whether they realize it or not.
Click below for more personal stories on keeping kids Catholic from the other ladies of the Catholic Women’s Blogging Network.
keeping our kids Catholic
 

Everybody Has a Mission

Growing up, one of my most prized possessions was my Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.  One of those massive volumes you see (or used to) at the library, it was very expensive, and my grandmother bought it for me so that I could look up pronunciations for the words in my Spelling Bee book.  Before that my father had to go to the library and spend an entire day using their copy!
I lost my dictionary when my house burned down, but it had been years since I’d needed it, the Internet having taken its place as the ultimate reference tool.  But I still have that impulse to look up words, especially when I’m seeking inspiration in my writing.
As I sat down to write my piece on Mission, with many ideas already swirling in my head, I looked up the meaning and history of the term, to confirm what I thought I knew: that mission comes from a Latin word meaning “to send.”  Why do I know this?  Because many priests have mentioned it in the context of explaining that the final words of the Latin Mass: “Ite, missa est,” should be interpreted as a charge to the assembly, that we are being sent forth to do God’s work in the world.
You can read the rest here:  Everyday Ediths

Just Like That

I’m sitting here in my office working on bills as if it were any other Saturday even though a seismic shift occurred in my world less than 24 hours ago.  Because life does, in fact, go on.
Twenty-two-and-a-half years ago, give or take, we welcomed our third child.  This was our second baby in just over a year, and we brought him home to a 2.5 bedroom apartment and placed him in the cradle by our bed, which we hadn’t even bothered to put away between babies.
We named this 12 lb. bundle of joy Richard Theodore because I’d always wanted a boy I could call Teddy, and the name suited him well as he grew from big baby to roly-poly toddler who filled out 4T rompers by the time he was a year old.
Teddy and the Teletubbies 2
Teddy was my baby for six years.  I developed extremely toned biceps from toting around my 75 lb. four-year-old.  He was none too pleased about the arrival of his baby brother, but he was in kindergarten by then and already building a reputation as the smart, academic achiever that he would continue to be all the way through college.
Teddy Zorro Birthday 2
You know the rest of the story.  The days are long but the years are short and all that.
Teddy (or to use his preferred name, Theo) graduated from college in May.  Yesterday I dropped him off at the airport.  Now he’s in San Francisco, where he’ll start his first professional job on Monday.
Right now I feel like posting a comment on every baby picture I see on Facebook saying enjoy them while you can they grow so fast but that’s not a thing that anyone really understands or wants to hear when their kids are fretful infants or whining toddlers or stubborn preschoolers.  I’ve read many a thread and post complaining about the meddlesome old ladies who say those kinds of things.  But here’s the deal:  we aren’t trying to be bossy or irritating or to minimalize the work and stress of coping with small children–we just want you to realize what we didn’t; we want you to fully experience the joy of what you have, because we would give anything just to have one more day of it.
Because twenty-two-and-a-half years ago I brought a baby boy home from the hospital.
And just like that, he was gone.
Teddy Leaving for SF

Trusting in God; Giving up Control

Leaps of faith are a fact of life in our family.  Our family life has been built on radical acts of trusting that everything would work out one way or the other.
John and I had been married eleven months and had a baby on the way when we abandoned good jobs in Washington, D.C. and moved back to my hometown, where we had family but no prospects at all.  Oh, we tried to find jobs before moving, but our failure didn’t put a damper on our plans in the least.   In the year it took for John to gain resident status so he would be eligible for in-state tuition at the University of Tennessee College of Law, he worked at the UT Traffic Office by day and sold shoes by night.  I got a secretarial job just weeks before I could no longer conceal my pregnancy, which would have severely limited my ability to find a good job.
We had one kid by the time John started law school and the third was on the way by the time he passed the bar exam.  There were hard and scary times, uncertain times, and often it was only looking back at what we’d been through that we could see how our prayers were always answered.  Not necessarily in the way that we thought we wanted them to be, not always immediately, but always, in God’s time.
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

Unexpected Vacation: Harpers Ferry and the Baltimore Museum of Art

A little over a year ago, almost all our family (Jake excepted) took a short vacation together.  Going on vacation all in the same car was something we thought we’d sworn off forever, but this was a quickly planned journey.
John’s uncle was sick, and he wasn’t getting better.  John felt strongly that we needed to get up to Baltimore to see him, and soon.  It turns out he was right.
We had a wonderful couple of visits with Uncle Boh.  He’d been in the hospital right before we arrived, and had to go back almost right after we left, but he was home while we were there, and we were able to share meals and conversation.  It was truly a blessing, as he died less than two weeks later.
We couldn’t burden Uncle Boh and Aunt Barbara with our company the entire time we were in town, obviously.  So we took the opportunity to see some sights.
Even when you’ve spent as much time visiting one place (Baltimore) as we have, there’s always something new to explore if you look! We visited Harpers Ferry, West Virginia one day and the Baltimore Museum of Art the other.
John and I had been to Harpers Ferry close to 30 years before, but I had only the vaguest memories of that rainy day visit.  We were blessed with incredible weather this trip, which made for some beautiful pictures that I am excited to share here.  Unfortunately, my waiting so long to memorialize this trip means that this post will be long on pictures and short on explanations.
If you’ve heard of Harpers Ferry at all, it will be in connection with John Brown and his failed attempt here to abolish slavery via armed insurrection.  You’ll learn plenty about those events if you visit.
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That, obviously, is the man himself!  Below you’ll see the building where he and his men holed up.
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Harpers Ferry is full of history with displays in several of the buildings on the main street.

There are also shops and restaurants to explore along the main thoroughfare and side streets.  Harpers Ferry is a stopping point along the Appalachian Trail so there is some serious hiking gear available.
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There’s an historic home to visit and a church (and the remains of a church) to investigate.
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Situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, it’s also a place of extraordinary natural beauty.
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Looking back at this visit one year later, I still remember how beautiful everything was and how happy we were.  It was one of those perfect days.
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The next day we stuck closer to home base, and visited the Baltimore Museum of Art.  I can’t think why we’d never been there before.  It’s not because of the kids, because our kids like that kind of thing.
Here’s some of what we saw outside:
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Inside there were several sections to explore.  We saw sculptures and other three-dimensional expressions of art:
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The collection of the kind of paintings most people probably think of when they hear the words “art museum” was indeed impressive:
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But they also have interesting collections of art from Africa and Asia:
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They also had a great modern collection that we had to rush through because we were supposed to be somewhere.
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But that’s okay, because now I have a reason to go back there!
And don’t worry, we didn’t leave Baltimore without taking part in the essential summertime ritual:
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Why I Love My Catholic Faith

As I do every month, I’m linking up today with the Siena Sisters Catholic Women’s Blogging Network Hop.  You can see from the title of my post what I am supposed to be writing about.  And wouldn’t you think I’d have been brimming over with things to say?  Yet I’ve found myself struggling and wondering why.
I’ve written before about why I remain a Catholic, and reiterated many of those sentiments in a later post where I explained how intrinsic my faith is to my very identity.   And maybe that’s why this is hard.  Maybe it’s because being Catholic isn’t something I ever consciously chose.  Maybe it’s because it’s too much a part for me to see it clearly.  It’s like being asked why I love my mother or father.  I could tell you things I like or love ABOUT them, but that’s not WHY I love them.
It’s entirely possible I am overthinking this, but I’m going to change focus just a bit and write about some things I love ABOUT my Catholic faith.  Even that is hard, since there is nothing about it that I don’t love! But I’ll try to focus in on a few things, in no particular order.

  • The Church is not a cult of personality.  My feelings about a particular priest or even a particular Pope don’t affect my allegiance to the teachings and truth of the Church.  The Church has survived all forms of corruption and we have Jesus’s own assurances that the Church shall prevail: “And I say to you: That you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
  • The Church is a repository of incredible wisdom.  Just the other day, my husband I were discussing something we’d heard or read (I can’t remember what it was) and he said he wished that the Church had explained whatever it was.  And I just laughed at him and said, “You haven’t looked it up, have you?” Because I knew that of course the Church has written about and explained it somewhere because the Church has explanations for everything!  I take comfort in the fact that great minds have been exploring the mysteries of the universe and explicating the faith for centuries.  The Church doesn’t rest on one person’s interpretation.
  • Related to the above is that the Church has very clear rules, principles, and precepts, and they don’t change.  The Church rises to the challenge of the modern world with nuanced explanations or interpretations or the application of old rules to new issues.  It isn’t always easy to live up to the demands of the faith, but there is plenty of guidance available for those of us who want to try.
  • All of the above sounds dry and intellectual, but I also find great solace in the fact that the Catholic faith has endured for so long and that it is practiced by so many around the globe.  It is strengthening to know that I am united to so many other believers, past and present, especially the Saints, whose examples we as Catholics are blessed to be able to follow.
  • Finally, I love the Church’s engagement with the world.  I love that we are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and that the Church provides us with clear directions on how to do that through the instructions of our Bishops.  I love the Church’s commitment to social justice and its defense of life and human dignity from conception to natural death.

I’d love to hear from you! If you are Catholic, tell me in the comments why YOU love the faith, or what you love ABOUT it! If you aren’t tell me what you love about YOUR church! And if you’d like to read more reflections like this one, click the picture below.
why I love my catholic faith
 

Shopping at the Farmer's Market

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My mother used to take us with her to the farmers’ market when I was a little girl.  This is how I remember it:
We’d drive into a big warehouse on the way home from church.  We’d stay in the car while my mother got out to shop.  Through the windows we’d catch glimpses of old men in overalls offering their wares.  After a long and boring wait my mother would come back, her spoils in brown paper bags, and we’d drive away, the sunshine outside blinding us as we left the stuffy dimness of the market behind.
It wasn’t a whole lot of fun, although we liked the vegetables.  The farmers’ market my girls and I visited recently had the vegetables and much more.  Even better, it was outside in the sunshine.
Read the rest at my friend Ginny’s blog, where I’m contributing to her Summer Life Skills Bingo series.

Out-of-Control Mothering: Putting It All in His Hands

Last night I told my daughter I felt like I had lived at least a month in the past week or so.  Have you ever felt that way?
Because of all that I and my family have been through in the last twelve days, I find myself starting at my computer screen this morning praying for inspiration for the blog post I should have had ready to go last night at the very latest–last night when I was completing a 550 mile drive back from an unexpected funeral.
Wait a minute . . . inspiration is coming . . .
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths!

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