Your Name: Audra O’Connell
Children: Daughter, 2
Work: Lead Case Manager at The Guest House of Milwaukee
Favorite part of being a mom: Seeing my daughter’s eyes light up and her scream “Momma” when I walk into the room.
Least favorite part of being a mom: The feeling that I’m becoming my own mother.
Little known fact: My ancestors built a castle called Termon McGrath in Co. Donegal, Ireland in early 1600’s. I’ve been able to visit what’s left of it a few times.
Happy *almost* New Year! With 2011 screeching to a halt and 2012 around the corner I can’t help but reflect on the last year. It seems that with the exception of 2011, each year since I’ve been married has seen some amazing changes in my life.
2006 – My wedding
2007 – Graduated college
2008 – Found out I was pregnant
2009 – Had my beautiful daughter
2010 – Bought my dream home
2011 - ?
I did lose a good friend and co-worker this year; secured a promotion/raise at work; my best friend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy; and we headed back to California to visit my family. Other than those happenings, it wasn’t anything to write home about, so to speak. Maybe it’s because in the coming year I will be turning 30, or maybe just because it’s time, but I’ve decided that this year I’m going to begin a “101 things in 1001 days” challenge. Per the website here are the rules: tasks must be specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (i.e. represent some amount of work on your part).
Personally, I’ve never in my life kept a New Year’s resolution. The reason I like this challenge is because it sets more a more realistic deadline for my change. 2.75 years is a better time period as far as giving you leeway, organization, trial and error, room for freak occurrences that could cause you to be unable to complete something the first time around, and timing.
I’ve broken my list up into ten categories:
Growing Up/Financial Responsibility
Fixing Up The Place (all about stuff around the house)
Well-Rounded (think culture, literature, language, etc.)
Digging Deep (the really hard stuff you know you should do)
Giving Back/Getting Involved
In order to maintain balance I will originally only have ten tasks/goals per each category with the final one (#101) being a free-for-all of my choice if I’ve completed all the others. This alone has been difficult as it was super easy for me to find 10 for certain categories (such as arts) but really hard for others (like the growing up one)! I like this model for me because it causes me to really look at myself and make each aspect grow rather than weighing down one side of me and letting the others go free.
Just to get a taste of what I’m looking to accomplish here’s two tasks/goals from each category.
1. Take Rory on a walk every day for 90 days.
2. Finish the Hep B vaccine I never seem to finish.
Growing Up/Financial Responsibility
1. Go two months without shopping at Target (this one is a LONG shot in my world).
2. Have a will or living trust completed
Fixing Up The Place
1. Clean up/organize the basement
2. Buy a dining room set
1. Watch a baseball game in every ballpark (4/32 already completed)
2. Head back to Maine and Massachusettes in Autumn
1. Read 10 books I already own
2. Use my Rosetta Stone for 30 minutes each day until completed
1. Go a week without the internet
2. Stop cursing
1. Pray at every meal for 30 days
2. Go to church every weekend for three months
1. Make two items I've pinned off of Pintrest
2. Begin a Christmas ornament story book
1. Throw a fantastic St. Patrick's Day party for my dear friends
2. Complete a random kind act for each of my siblings and siblings-in-law
Giving Back/Getting Involved
1. Get invovled at the Irish Cultural Heritage Center
2. Volunteer at Elena's House monthly for 6 months
On the Day Zero Project website you can keep track of your list, find ideas from others and gain motivation.
Wish me luck and have a happy, blessed 2012!
With Christmas just around the corner, lots of family and friends have been asking me what to get my two-year-old for Christmas. The problem? She has everything. Every kind of toddler toy, ride on, art supply, book, everything. Everything she doesn’t have I’m pretty sure she’s getting already from someone else this holiday season (including a drum set…not a plastic one but the real deal; a digital camera; that obnoxious Elmo that’s on TV; etc.). It’s really rather out of control. So, when a friend e-mailed me the other day about what they could get Rory that she’d absolutely love, I responded with the list below:
1. Dirt/mud/water – This child could spend years of her life playing with any and all of those three. She loves splashing in puddles, going “fishing,” getting messy.
2. Toilet paper/wrapping paper/paper towel rolls – Again, I never realized how valuable those things are but the moment she sees one she instantly says “Arrgghh, matey” and we try to search the skyline for monsters and pirates and daddy’s that are monsters and pirates. We make binoculars to head into the jungle and we use them as telephones.
3. Sticks – She loves to write in the dirt with sticks. She uses them to play “baseball,” “hockey” and “golf.”
4. Yarn/string/twine – She seriously runs around like one of those ribbon-dancing gymnasts in the Olympics. I really have no idea what she’s doing when she has any of these but she has a blast.
5. Cardboard boxes – Typically they are ships, houses, cars and buses. She has also told me that one was a toboggan. She plays with them until destroyed and usually plays with them even after that.
6. Empty egg cartons/milk jugs/boxes of pasta – She LOVES to put them in her shopping cart and take them around or act like she’s cooking.
7. Bubble wrap – As an adult I still love laying it on the ground and jumping…apparently that gene was passed on to my daughter (although when she does it she says “farting!!!”).
Ah, the joy and simplicity of childhood. I wish I found anything as entertaining as my daughter finds toilet paper rolls. Obviously the person didn’t get the humor in all of this as they immediately ordered her some stuff from Amazon.
No, I’m not Jewish. My husband isn’t Jewish. I have a degree in Comparative Religion. In college I focused on Hebrew Studies, taking Biblical Hebrew language classes and writing my senior paper on Judaism.
For years, I studied scripture (of various religions and time periods), the history surrounding these religions and commentators. One of my favorites was the Jewish historian Josephus (he was writing around 94 AD). In regards to Hanukkah, Josephus tells the victorious story of Judas Maccabeus, and the yearly eight-day festivities he declares after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem that had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Hanukkah is also described in the Talmud (Jewish religious text) as well as in 1 & 2 Maccabees (although not specifically called by its name, the story is described). It’s a story I’m all too familiar with. It also happens to be a beautiful story and an amazing one. Jewish religion had been outlawed, idols to other gods erected in the temple, pigs being sacrificed at the temple, circumcisions stopped, and revolt ensued. He was successful and in 165 BC, the temple was rededicated. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed to burn the menorah throughout the night and there was only enough oil for one night. The menorah stayed lit for eight nights until a fresh supply of oil could make its way to the temple.
Hanukkah doesn’t have to be exclusive to Judaism. Although it does not appear in the Protestant Bible (which is a subject I could drone on about for quite some time), it does appear in the Catholic Bible as well as the Talmud and early Jewish texts. It’s a story for the masses; a miracle of the “little guy” over the “big guy”; “good” versus “evil”. Maybe it’s because my own Irish heritage has instances where my culture, heritage and language were outlawed, or maybe it’s because of the years I’ve spent studying this stuff; but I want Rory to know this story. I want her to understand that sometimes being you isn’t accepted and that means you have to be willing to put up a fight. I want her to know that these people were so passionate about their faith and ethnicity that they were willing to die to see it live. Most importantly, I want her to understand Christianity’s historic tie to Judaism. It’s unfortunate that often times in Christianity we separate ourselves from the Jews to a point that borders intolerance. I’d like to ensure that my daughter doesn’t continue that tradition. I’d like her to understand the beauty that is Judaism and respect the tradition that spurred our own religion. So, for these reasons (and many, many others), we will be lighting our menorah (yes, we have one courtesy of my Jewish convert brother and brother-in-law), saying the blessings and singing the songs.
As my previous post mentioned, I’m into the Christmas spirit big time this year. With that said I thought I’d show some of the recent Christmas crafts my two-year old and I have been working on. Hopefully, it helps give some ideas on things we can do now that we’re indoors and need some relief from Caillou and his whiny antics.
Rory's name in lights! String, glitter glue (or you can do the glue + glitter) and construction paper
Christmas handprint tree. Paint, hands, paper.
Gingerbread House. Via a Wilton kit from Michael's. With a coupon it was less than $5. I realize it's not "picture perfect" but nothing with a two-year old ever is! My little one is constantly asking to "go in there".
Foam reindeer. This was a $1 kit from Target. Rory LOVES it. Mommy had to do most of this one.
Rudolph toilet paper roll. Toliet paper roll, pipe cleaner, brown construction paper, eyes and glitter glue.
The most labor intensive (for Mommy). Salt dough ornaments. These ones are still a work in progress (Rory hasn't been able to paint/glitter them yet as they are still wet). Leave a comment if you'd like the recipe. These are going to be decorated, a ribbon added for hanging and given to family members from Rory for Christmas.
Foam snowman. Same as the reindeer--$1 kit from Target.
This is a nice filler project. Construction paper and anything you can find for little hands to practice gluing. We used pom poms, pipe cleaners and foam stickers.
One of my favorites. Thumbprint lights. Paper, sharpie (to make the strand of lights), different colors of paint and little thumbs. So cute!
Another filler. Construction paper tree, popsicle stick tree and anything you can find for little hands to glue.
I’ve got some major Christmas spirit going on, to the point that my co-worker thinks I need an “intervention”. If it had been up to me the Christmas tree would already be up in our household. Unfortunately, it has to wait until this weekend. The day after Thanksgiving I began decorating our fireplace mantle in anticipation. Anticipation? I know what’s going to happen in December—I’m going to run around like a maniac making cookies for this party and picking up a gift for that person and spending my nights writing out Christmas cards. I love doing all those things, but why am I so “into” it this year as opposed to last? Simple: my daughter can really enjoy it this year. She enjoys ripping wrapping paper off of presents; she’s been into singing “Jingle Bells” and notices the Christmas decorations and lights as we’re driving. She gasps at our decorations inside the house and enjoys making crafts now. She has given me the greatest gift of all- seeing Christmas again through the eyes of a child; the beauty and simplicity and amazement of a holiday that often times is associated with stress and worry. She reminded me how beautiful something as simple as Christmas lights or a single ornament can be. She is reminding me of a magic I lost so long ago.
As a kid, my mom bought my sister and I each little two-foot-tall fake Christmas trees for our rooms. We were thrilled because we got to decorate them EXACTLY how we wanted and I remember each night going to sleep staring at the lights and anticipating what the holiday would hold for me. I’d wake up each morning becoming more and more excited about the prospects that laid ahead—would it be cookie making or present wrapping or Christmas concert day? Christmas for me was more than just the gifts; it was an entire season made up of traditions that always warmed my heart and made me sad when December 26th rolled around. My little Christmas tree was the guide to all of this; each day I woke up and it was there was another day in the Christmas season; it brought me more joy than almost anything else each season. The other day I put Rory’s little Christmas tree up in her room and showed it to her when I was done (it was a surprise); the look on her face was priceless. All of the joy in this world radiated from her smile.
Thanksgiving is a time of family and celebrating the traditions that comes with one’s family. Perhaps it’s a special dish, or prayer at the dinner table or even going around said table and sharing what each person is thankful for. Possibilities are endless. Personally, I feel that although we celebrate these traditions with the loved ones that are here with us, we really use them to keep ourselves connected to our past and those we’ve loved and lost. After all, why would you care about making sure that great-grandma’s sweet potato recipe was used or her hand-embroidered table cloth? We do it to respect their memory and find a way to connect with them beyond death.
I remember that when I was growing up my mom had this huge set of china in a large, ornate china hutch. She would talk about how it was her grandmother Della’s and how thrilled she was that she was able to inherit it when she passed away in 1975 (my great-grandmother had five daughters, 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren survive her; she also had a son that preceded her in death). So, needless to say my mother was happy that she had this reminder of her grandmother sitting in our house. This is where I diverge from my mother. I only remember ever being able to use this china a few times in our childhood. It really didn’t come out much, and since it didn’t come out the stories and memories surrounding it gathered dust along with the dishes.
When I moved to Wisconsin and married my husband five years ago the china was sent with me as I was the oldest daughter. Unfortunately, we lived in an apartment for the first few years so the china sat in storage bins. When we bought our house a year ago, the first thing I unpacked was the china—lovingly placing each pin in the china hutches in our dining room and remarking about how lovely it looked. One day, I walked passed it and thought “What’s the point in having this stuff if it just collects dust?” It really doesn’t do any justice to the memory of my great-grandmother, Della, whom I never had the opportunity to meet, by sitting there looking pretty. I began to hear stories about the set; my second cousin, Kristi, told me last year how she remembered it sitting around her grandmother’s table and each holiday or special event the china was out for the adults to use. My great-grandmother obviously cherished this gift from my grandfather (her son-in-law), whom purchased it for her in 1956 while stationed in Japan. It was one beautiful luxury for a woman whom traveled to California with her young family during the Dust Bowl era and spent her whole life working hard on a farm raising six children, caring for her only son when he died at a very young age from cancer before eventually succumbing to her own cancer. I can almost imagine her painstaking effort to ensure that each piece was placed in the correct spot, the nervousness of hand washing to ensure that nothing was damaged, the way she’d lovingly store it until the next family get-together. It’s the way I’ve felt each time I’ve used it since we moved into our house. I’m of the belief that this tradition is one our family needed to bring back. To help celebrate a woman that I never knew and teach my daughter a valuable lesson that great-grandma Della apparently knew too well: time is fleeting; every day is worthy of a celebration; every day is worthy of the good china.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all; may you teach your own children about the people who came before them; the ones that may not be here with us in person but will always live on in the memories, traditions and stories of our families and therefore are never really gone.