Thursday, February 4, 2016

Beautiful Souls: A Series on Parenting Pt. 2~ Why Bother With Holiness Training?

if you missed it, start with Pt 1: 
in which I gave you a realistic glimpse into our day-to-day routine

Now, onto part two!

Pt. 2: Why Bother with “Holiness training”?

Holiness in the home is the source of much grace.  Even if you aren't Catholic, (or homeschooling, or having your kids attend Catholic school, etc.,) I think the thoughts I will lay out here can, will and should be helpful.  I have eight years of parenting under my belt, I've given birth to five babies, and I do this everyday. I have learned much of this the hard way, and some of it has room to grow. ;) If you're tempted to blow me off, consider that every word I write has been weighed, and weighed again, and comes from blood, sweat, tears, and sticky stuff on my pants. The trenches of parenting, literally. To see some of my other writing on this topic, several years ago, I wrote this post for Catholic Mom about entertaining toddlers/ keeping toddlers busy! Just one example; see more on my articles by subject page.

We, as humans are born in original sin. So, when we make an effort at holiness, such as attending Mass, participation in the sacraments, seeking out a fully Catholic education, teaching our children how to work and learn, preparing them for First Communion, and teaching our children about the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as other tenets of the Scriptures, we will, in turn, receive much grace. Yes! It's true! We receive grace when we give our lives away for the sake of our children!  My cooking, baking, reading, and writing has been transformed by motherhood, and not only because I have less time to do them in! My desire to grow in faith looks totally different now that I am in the midst of this parenting stuff everyday. 

I have a memory of when I first became Catholic. After being so, so, so involved at my Presbyterian Church when we were newlyweds (I'm talking on every committee, at every Bible Study, at every special dinner and planning meeting and book club and ... more...) I asked the women's ministry director at our Catholic Church in Maryland if I could help out with anything. To my chagrin, she looked at me like I had two heads.  "You just had a baby... " she emailed me later. '"Isn't that your ministry? Isn't that enough?" she said.

It was humbling. But it got me thinking. After reading the book Boundaries (read the reviews and raves on Goodreads) repeatedly in our first years of marriage, and then yes, Boundaries in Marriage more recently (at the urging of my counselor and a friend of mine), I realized that my husband and my kids were a huge ministry in my life.  I was carving out time I didn't have  in order to be so involved with my previous church.  Now, I try to see my family as my vocation.  Other than that, I am a writer. I love to read and write, and I do so as much as God wills. When I can't make the book club at church or the playdate with some friends from Church, I don't beat myself up over it... at all. Boundaries, people. They really do matter! Take care of yourself and pursue your own interests, and your own personal vocation, with a passion and a vengeance! Believe me... if you aren't making time for your creative endeavors, and your life is tied up with exhausting meetings and overloaded with demands , set some Boundaries!

With my last post, I ended with some questions. These were those Questions: and now I shall attempt to answer them one by one. If you get bogged down, you could always save it for later, or read part and then come back to this and read it later.  These are the questions I will flesh out at length in the e-book. For now, consider these the "short answers" to your burning questions. ;) Then below I will get back on topic for today... Mass attendance/attendance at Mass. ;)

Q. How do we live our faith in the midst of the dailyness of everyday?
A. In our home, we try to model a certain atmosphere of grace, in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit. Because we live in community, we shun the idols of greed and selfishness, and we put on the humility of the Divine. This gives us several beautiful gifts, such as honesty, pure and sincere love, perseverance, and dedication to one another.  (And one could say the overarching swath of accountability). This has nothing to do with the murderous desire to win, which is nothing more than the rotten fruit springing from greed and the pursuit of material possessions. Does that mean I'm a hermit and have everything delivered to my door? No-siree. I still have to run errands, like everyone else. ;) And if I only shopped at Target, I would go insane.

Q. Why bother with devotions after dinner, and they know the Catholic prayers and some terminology from Mass and Religious Education?  
A. They’ve heard theological conversations and discussions between myself and Stephen.  But they need consistency of a higher order. When they see us doing it and living it,  I would hope they are not only catechized, they are inspired to live for God, and not themselves. Holiness in a nutshell.

Q. If these are moldable, shapeable souls, how are we working to make them someday saints? 
A. Often, they have their own commentary to add in to our dialogue. Madeleine (our three-year-old) recently asked if Mary was helping us get to heaven! (Yes and yes!) We're not here to meet their every material desire. We need to meet their needs~ physical, spiritual, emotional~ but, after meeting our own needs, we also must confront and root out the sin that causes hardness of heart, tantrums, dishonesty, and ultimately, a lack of grace and a slothful nature.
They’ve observed the babies in our family getting baptized, and that's one example of a means of grace, which ultimately liberates us from the idols of culture and the sins of hearts and souls enchained to sin.

Q. How are we helping them along, so that they eventually become beautiful souls?
A. Each day, I’m patiently trying to teach them to dress themselves, find their own shoes, put on their own coats. The Montessori Method at work. I wrote more about The Montessori Method here (my first ever article for Catholic Mom!).   I would hope that as they see me and Stephen doing this, they will in turn treat their siblings with the same Golden Rule philosophy. Even as littles they can show Jesus to one another, and if/when they see it modeled, they will follow suit.

These questions are what I want to answer in this upcoming series.  So look for more depth on those issues in the future. ;)

Today, I want to talk about Mass attendance. the question is: Why bother with Mass/church attendance?

It’s simple.  Just a few of the things our children absorb by osmosis. Just by showing up, just by being there, they can:

You probably already knew that. but wowzers! That is a lot. Just by making a habitual practice of attending weekly Mass, the culture of your family, and the culture of kids’ lives 
changes completely.

First, they hear the Word of God.  Later in life, I hope the familiarity of the Scripture, Psalm, and Gospel readings will resound in their memory. I hope the things they need to know will pop into their heads when they need to remember it. When they're inspired to "practice hospitality," I hope that the words "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," will inspire them to bring the needy into their home, or give money to the poor, or give food to the homeless. I pray that as they do that, something special will happen to their hearts. When we show hospitality to others, little else has the power to give us the ability to empathize.  And isn't empathy one of the most powerful ways of loving that we can experience this side of heaven?!

Secondly, the heart of Mass is to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. “Church” is good, but “Mass” is better, because we have the real presence. While I do not have any children old enough to receive, we are going to be shepherding five (and maybe more!) children as they make a profession of faith and receive Jesus in their First Communion, and in every communion after that. So I'm sure I'll have a whole bunch more to say about that in a few more years.

Next, thirdly, we desire that they learn the prayers, hymns and creeds of the Church. Why? Our desire is their holiness.  We want to protect them and nurture them as they grow older. Ask Stephen, and I know -I’m sure- his desire is the same as mine. Deeply, we both desire that our children grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. While Protestants believe very often that "it is finished," means we need not "try so hard," or perhaps "strive" after holiness and good works, we believe that while justification was accomplished and the good news of the gospel means forgiveness, our salvation is ongoing. What does that mean, other than the very Protestant philosophy that "sanctification" is continuing to happen?  Well, "actual grace" from receiving Christ in the Eucharist gives us the energy and strength (and yes, even knowledge and self-awareness!) that we need to grow in Christ. It gives us the ability to live in keeping with the standards- the very high standards- laid out in Scripture.
On my way to visit my friend Libba in Atlanta this past weekend, I was following a car that had the license plate "Sista." For some reason I found this funny! ;) If you follow me on instagram, you might understand the other pics. 

Then, fourthly, we want our children to learn to tithe. Again, even if you are not Catholic, this should be a value you that you honor in your home and teach your children. Generosity and unselfishness must, must be learned early on. In such a wealth-infused, greed-informed culture, selflessness must be drilled into them from an early age. So that, when they are independent and grown, it is a natural habit. Just like attendance at Mass!!! Generosity is such an important trait and moral habit. In it, we will see our children blossom in love and discover the truly beautiful aspects of life on this earth. "He who is generous will be blessed," and AMEN! do I ever believe that with all of my heart.

Fifth, community and good works are the crown of Mass-goers.  This is the triple scoop, chocolate covered sundae with a cherry on top to people who are faithful to church. I know from experience, that having  great big group of people you know, love, and trust come and attend your wedding is a gift that little else can hold a candle to.  As our children grow, friendship and community should win out over competition and jealousy. When we have true community with others, our blinders fall off (or they should). 

“Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

We should have a "What, you too?" moment with our nearest and dearest, rather than comparison, bitterness, and greed winning the day.

Sixth, the culture of the Mass is absorbed, as I said, by osmosis. But when you bring that into your lives, you’re bringing it back into the home. Even if you cave to nursery, or (HORRORS!) you use the cry room, just by being there, the very culture of the home changes. Why?  Because you are making a concerted effort at being dedicated to the holiness of the Church. Your children are changed by being in a church.  Don’t believe me? I think you would gain wisdom if you asked any Catholic, especially your clergy.

Seventh, holy means “set apart.” As we absorb this culture, we shed the culture of greed, the culture of selfishness, the culture of pride, the culture of materialism, and yes, the culture of emptiness. Many in our culture have blinders on. They do not realize that a chase after stuff is a chase after wind.  They do not realize that the song lyrics of the nineties have made their home unchaste. "Vanity of vanities.... all is vanity." (Song of Songs). We exchange these things for the things of God. These are higher things. Not in a “I’m better than you” sense, at all, or even in a "Us vs. Them," but rather, a humbling participation in the work of God. (And I hope that as you read this, no one feels this is me putting myself on a high horse. If you know me in person, you know that I am a real person, with real struggles, real sins, real moments and seasons of depression, and someone who is medicated for Anxiety/Depression. In no way am I better than you or anyone else. :-) ;)
~taken in downtown Atlanta. An installation of earmuffs on a large stone.~

Holiness in the home. It directs our every word and deed! Perhaps we long to teach them a favorite hymn from our childhood.  Immediately, we are humbled! Because what do we think of first when we think of “Music” in the home? Perhaps it is Pop music on Spotify, and little girls dancing to Barbie music or Disney soundtracks!  “Higher” things, literally, are bringing us face to face with the difference between what they hear in Church and what they hear every where else.  There is nothing dirty or problematic about Sofia the First (I don’t think anyway…), but when you’re teaching them “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” you’re teaching them that material goods are just one way that God blesses us from above. When they hear "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee," music originally written by Beethoven, it takes their minds to higher things. Joy, the Divine, and Eternal Rest. When we are living by faith, we see things differently- literally

Some things I didn't address, but a question that all of this stuff brings up, is:

~How does mere church attendance lead to holiness in the home? (something to unpack even more on another day)

~Why is the real presence in the Eucharist so important?

~How will this impact the rest of my kids' lives?

~What if they rebel... and if so, why would they rebel?

As I write this book, I’m setting out to answer,
Why bother with….
(Let’s break it down, again)

*Attending Mass
*Participation in the Sacraments
*Seeking out a fully Catholic education
*Teaching our children how to work and learn in holiness
*Preparing them for First Communion
*Teaching them about the tenets of Scripture

Adding my Link to PHFR and 7 Quick Takes

Thank you for reading Beautiful Souls pt. 2. When I’m done with this series, I will make it available as an e-book. If you want to do me huge favor, see the share buttons below, follow along on Twitter, #beautifulsoulsebook, and don't forget to hit subscribe in your Feedly. Now, tell me: What do you think about this topic? Have anything to add concerning Mass attendance or holiness in the home? I want to know! ;)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Coming Soon: #Revisit Wednesdays

So, as many of you know, a few months back, my good friend Rhonda Ortiz made the (very astute decision, I believe) to shut down Real Housekeeping (real or @realhousemag for those of you who sub-scribed via Twitter).   It was a decision that had been a long time coming. After much discussion (and even consideration of someone else taking the reins!), she made the brave decision to shut it down.

Now that, although it isn't Middle March... it's Middle February, because I have the articles I wrote for the site linked on my "my articles by subject" page, I'm going to be reposting those here Wednesdays during Lent. I worked hard on those articles, and for the most part, I still have them in drafts folders hanging around in Google Docs. No better place for them than on this here ol' blog.;)

So I just wanted to let you all know that those would be coming back... Wednesdays in Lent.  I will be marking these on SM as #revisitRH

Monday, February 1, 2016

Beautiful Souls: A Series on Parenting Pt. 1 ~ A Day in the Life

Holiness in the home is the source of much grace.  When we make an effort at holiness, such as attending Mass, participation in the sacraments, seeking out a fully Catholic education, teaching our children how to work and learn, preparing them for First Communion, and teaching our children about the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as other tenets of the Scriptures, we will, in turn, receive much grace.

This blog series is written as meant to encourage converts and reverts alike to continue seeking out holiness in your home, with a special Parenting Concentrate added in for good measure! ;)

To start out, I want to give you just a little window into our day to day life. I am a mother of five. I just gave birth to my fourth girl and fifth child a little over 5 months ago. What does it look like in our home each day? Here's just a small picture! A day in the life as stay-at-home a mother of 5. ;)

1. Morning

This morning, I woke up, and got some breakfast after nursing our 4 month old.  I turned to the kids. I poured cereal for our five-year-old, Frances, answered questions asked by my eight-year-old Molly.  I sat down for a few seconds, only to be interrupted by my three-year-old Madeleine, who was asking for a snack. I hand her a banana, since she had only already eaten a donut, that we had bought for her sister Molly’s birthday.

I break up a fight over a toy, and sit down to my computer. Meanwhile, my eight-year-old is begging to play Minecraft, and my three-year-old is asking to watch Sofia the First.  I allow a little screen time while I sip my coffee and answer an email.

After a little while, it’s go time. Except I'm not ready to go. The baby wants to nurse again, and although Stephen has left with the one (or two) kiddos who attend school, that means I'm left with 3 under 3, as I usually am!  I run upstairs, coffee in hand, and I grab three pairs of pants, three shirts, and three pairs of socks. I know I’ll have to run back upstairs to grab their scattered shoes (which belong in the downstairs closet), unless I can cajole one of my kids to do it for me help me. I ask Molly- our oldest- to find her clothes for school. She dresses herself, and after I hurriedly pack her lunch and do her hair, she leaves with Daddy. I dress the younger three, and the older two can dress themselves. I go back upstairs to change the baby and put her in a fresh outfit.

We are all, eventually, dressed. I throw my clothes on, and tell them to sit on the stairs. They wait on the stairs until I can get myself together and put on a little make-up and spray my perfume.  In a line, I put their shoes on as they sit obediently on the stairs. We try to go potty, then I tell them to wait by the back door, so that I can find their coats. Eventually, we’re all ready to go. We do this everyday, because it seems we always have somewhere to go. Even if I rush around, doing dishes and shoving a load of laundry in, it seems to take at least 45 minutes before we're finally ready to head out the door to run errands.

 2. Midday 

After picking up medicine at the pharmacy drive-thru and returning some books to the drop off slot at the library, we are running to the Dollar Store, and a feeling of guilt settles on my heart. They've been fairly good today. Why am I so discouraged? It’s a familiar feeling.  I'm constantly wondering: “What does any of this- pottying, dressing them, running errands- have to do with raising beautiful souls?”

We run through the drive-thru and I see their face light up at the free Frosty’s I have procured for them at Wendy’s.  Although my three-year-old cries because I wouldn’t let her buy a toy at the Dollar Store, I know that those tears are part of a journey.  It was her sister Frances’ turn to get a special toy; she got one last time. Next time it might just be a lollipop or a treat that she picks out. I don't think it matters what/when/how/why/how much. She needs to realize something very hard for her age: She does not get a toy or a treat every time we run errands or go shopping. She can barely grasp it yet, but someday, she will remember this day (or what she learned therein), and hopefully her sense of entitlement will float away, evaporating into thin air by the time she is independent and on her own. (Hopefully;).

They play with their little treats and knick knacks. Then I give them their daily chores.  They have to pick up the living room before lunch.  After lunch, we read books, cuddling into a fresh pile of good reads, and honestly, it is my favorite time of the day. I grab a second cup of coffee and we settle into a stack of some of our favorites: the world of Babar, Winnie the Pooh, Frog and Toad, Angelina Ballerina,  or The Berenstain Bears.  We absolutely love books and reading. There is nothing better, in my personal opinion.

After books, it is rest time. Our two-year-old, Anders, always takes a nap. I let Madeleine have “room time, “ where she can look at books, play quietly, and rest in her bed. If Frances is home from Pre-School (which she is, today), she has the same routine, of rest time after lunch. Everyone tries to go potty, and then I sneak away. I curl up with a good book, or eek out a couple of sentences of writing.  I'm interrupted by the baby crying. I change her diaper. I write for a few more minutes. She wants to nurse. I oblige. Then, before we know it, it’s go time again.

3. Afternoon

I wake up Anders to pick up Molly from school. We wait in the car line, eat a snack, and as soon as we return home, Molly does her homework. She is learning how to borrow while subtracting. She is learning, but she still needs a lot of help, as this is a new skill. I stand beside her, holding the baby, while she tries to learn it. She finishes the front of the worksheet, and we both hold our breath, only to find out that there is another side. A full back of more problems. A huge sigh from me, and then the three-year-old has a potty accident. I attend to her, running upstairs for more pants. The baby is crying, I’m getting really hungry, and the two-year-old is acting needy and fussy from teething. “Hold muh, Mama… hold muh!!”

Molly finishes! They have about an hour of screen time, until Daddy comes home at 5:15, and I am trying to get a good healthy dinner on the table. I'm stirring, they're nagging. I'm trying to hold onto my patience. But... I snap. I’ve held it together until now, but I start to scream when Frances and Madeleine get into a fight over a toy. I give myself a Mommy time out, and fold some clothes in my bedroom, sans kids.  I was *done* an hour ago, and Daddy just started coming home earlier, believe it or not.

We gather at the dinner table to eat. A peaceful meal ensues. (Not always ordinary, but tonight we're having chicken noodle soup and crackers, and it's devoured in no time). Daddy quizzes them about their day, Molly makes us laugh with her jokes, the littles always say something hilarious, and we end the meal with a few catechism questions that Daddy pulls up on his iPhone.

4. Evening

After dinner, I go for a walk with my podcast. I take a deep breath, once again for a moment to myself, sans kids. which is so rare these days. I've been eager for this chance to be alone. I'm an INFP (introvert all the way), and mothering littles wears out my faculties in a way that's hard to describe. Picture me in a fetal position by the time I'm done with my day. Without this walk, I'd be toast, literally. Stephen does baths and the bedtime routine. The girls yell “Get Mommy!” and I come in their room and scratch their backs and sing them songs. Then, I read, pick up the house, sometimes do extra laundry, take a shower, and get in bed, around 10pm.

And I sigh. Tomorrow, we will do this all again.

Everyday, it seems, I am left with a question: Is our life simply routine, routine, routine?  Isn't there more to life? What is the purpose in all of this? What are my children learning every day? When will they be independent? When will Molly curl up with a good chapter book and when will Frances be able to read Dr. Seuss with no help?


Q1. How do we live our faith in the midst of the dailyness of everyday?

Q2. Why bother with devotions after dinner, and they know the Catholic prayers and some terminology from Mass and Religious Education?  

Q3. If these are moldable, shapeable souls, how are we working to make them someday saints? 

Q4. How are we helping them along, so that they eventually become beautiful souls?

These questions are what I want to answer in this upcoming series. 

A few things spring to mind, even now:

~They’ve observed the babies in our family getting baptized.

~They’ve heard theological conversations and discussions between myself and Stephen. 

~Often, they have their own commentary to add in to our dialogue. Madeleine (our three-year-old) recently asked if Mary was helping us get to heaven! (Yes and yes!)

~Each day, I’m patiently trying to teach them to dress themselves, find their own shoes, put on their own coats. The Montessori Method at work.

~In our home, we try to model a certain atmosphere of grace and consistency, in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit.

I hope to flesh these things out, and I am so deeply anticipating going through it all with you, my gracious, gentle readers.

unpacking these thoughts, and more… coming to a series near you!

Linking up with the ACWB and Tuesday Talk

Friday, January 29, 2016

Monthly Recap with Funny Things They Say and Links ~ January 2016

Every time I do a monthly recap, I always feel a little sad that another month has come to a close. It seems that time flies and babies grow oh so fast. This is going to be long, friends! It will be like jogging downhill and coming to those huge orange and white cones and veering either into the street or tiptoeing on the corners of asphalt that backs up to a huge hole in the sidewalk. You're fearing for your life. Actually... it will be nothing like that. But it will be long. So. You've had fair warning.;)

Links and Reading:

I'm a long-time fan of Jen Mackintosh, author of the blog Wildflowers and Marbles. A fellow Catholic recommended her right after my conversion, and I have been following her blog ever since. She is a faithful follower of the liturgical year, and was interviewed along with for Mystie Winckler's website along with a new-to-me but interesting blogger, Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight. Take some time and listen to the conversation about planning. They have so much spot-on wisdom to share with us/me/you!!!  (Especially if you are homeschooling, even if it takes a few goes, it is really, really worth listening to all the way through!;)

Announcing my new podcast What Should I Read Next @ Modern Mrs. Darcy
Schwat?! I'm so excited! And let's be honest, I've already listened to all of her episodes! #nopressureanne < that's a thing, right?!

New to me blog but really interesting for sure~ Michelle DeRusha and especially this post, Listening to the Woods on a Snowy Afternoon.  I like her perspective ~ what is God saying to me today? Sometimes, it isn't anything necessarily. But a good posture, nonetheless.

A Mother's Panic Attack @ Fountains of Home
Really enjoyed this post from Christy. Lots of spot-on wisdom, again!

As for reading, I'm sad to say Let's Pretend This Never Happened hit the recycle bin, and I was a little less than halfway through reading it.  The language was a bit much for me. Some of the sordid music I listened to in college came back as I was reading, and it hurts my ears now, to be honest. I don't really like my children having trashy influences with tons of dirty words. I'm sad to say even some of my old favorites such as Ben Folds, and some R&B just rub me the wrong way, and letting my kids hear those things really does bother me. (I have a CD with some of the stuff I listened to in college, and I am sorry, there is NO WAY my kids are listening to "Perfect Gentleman" by Wyclef Jean, because I will NOT be the one to explain what "I'm in love with a ho" means, to them).

I finished A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and because it is so sensitively written, I can say I completely loved it. If you haven't read it, give yourself a good chunk of time (maybe a long road trip?), and be patient. The whole thing is so sweet and beautiful, and really readable. It reminded me a little bit of Angela's Ashes (one of my all-time favorite books) and sort of an American Tolstoy, but Catholic.  So much beauty.

Of Kindle Deals, I downloaded The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner, and Make it Happen by Lara Casey. Two blogger-turned authors! Really enjoyed The Fringe Hours and recommend it to you. It will be a quick read and worth it.

A few notes about Make it Happen.  While I recognize the fine line between "laying into someone" and just giving a few honest critique (read: honest skepticism), I really hated this memoir/self-help style book.  I'm using that word in conjunction with the "three books you loved, one book you hated" trope.  I honestly, honestly felt that this book laid out exactly what bothers me about present-day American Protestantism.  In it, Lara Casey lays out her theories and philosophies for "making it happen." Truly, it was a journey. She lays out, memoir style, her experience of having a picture-perfect wedding, then seeing it destroyed by divorce, then running off to Vegas within the year to marry her new beau. She confesses to having marital struggles, mainly because her husband isn't a Christian (he's a Jew), but she also confesses to her desires for the fancy car and the pretty house.  She then starts "Southern Weddings," and the book is full to the brim of "Christian advice" about how to take your goals by the horns while also "following Jesus." You know the cliche: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart..." and then she unpacks it for a few paragraphs and explains how it fits in with her philosophy of life. "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed..." and then she unpacks it for a few paragraphs, again, tying it into her philosophy.

Friends, greed and Christianity too often go hand in hand in our materialistic culture, and unfortunately, I felt that "vibe" in her book. Her book has received rave reviews, and it is a quick read with some good ideas. She was a powerful NYC personal trainer, so she does indeed have the credentials for her topic. However, you can't just slap on a Bible verse and continue in a philosophy promoting sinful selfishness. "Southern Weddings"- that idol might just take the cake and Lord knows I had one and I'm guilty of the slam-bang picture perfect wedding philosophy. The culture at large is suffering from the Christian American dream. Or is it the American Christian dream? I wonder what our non-American friends think of books like this? I'm looking at you, Christy.

Note: I enjoy Lara Casey's website and I think her #socialmediafreeweekends idea is genius. I also recognize that her writing and many of her ideas are fabulous.

I'm currently trying to finish I finished The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith before it's overdue at the library and another month rolls around! yay for the library!!! ;)  That makes 4.5 books for this month! ;)

Funny Things They Say:

Madeleine: When the decorations go up (for Molly's birthday party), the house will be complicated and beautiful.

Molly: What are you doing?
Stephen: Reading a magazine. (Holds up First Things)
Molly: That's not a magazine. (Holds up American Girl catalogue) THIS is a magazine.

Madeleine: (Talking about some kiddos at Library and at Church) She talks like a toddler. (Almost spewed my coffee at that).
Me: So, Madeleine.... you're not a toddler?
Madeleine: Molly's a kid, Frances is a kid, Anders is a toddler, and Annabel is a baby.
Me: So what does that make you?
Madeleine: I'm a wittle kid.

Anders: (ruminating on his visit to Grandma's house) I wike Grandma's house. I play with her tows (toys)? Too cool... all kinds of fings!
Anders:  (to me) You look like Grandma (my Mom).

Stephen: (Smelling cats) I'm gonna light a ... bonfire.

Anders: Mommy...I have a jolly, happy soul... like Frosty the Newman!

Madeleine: (Looking at Annabel's paci) This paci has some really nice details.

Me: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.... is really good, and really long.
Stephen: Like watching a tree grow?
Me: Baha. yes!!!
(But really, seriously, guys- read it, because it's gorgeous).

Lately on the blog...

Did you see my New Years' Resolution post and my new Pinterest board New Year/New Me/You?
For some last-minute January inspiration, check it out!

I also waxed political for the second time ever.
Mr. Obama's Shining Moment

Church Calendar~ Did you know that Lent begins on February 10th? It's really coming up. What are you going to give up this year? So far, for my 'fast,' I am thinking I'll give up all dairy, as well as doing the #socialmediafreeweekend idea (and yes I see the oxymoron in that!).


just funny... actually, yeah. I laughed until I cried. I've tried to make jokes about Michael Buble, but I think this joke just takes the cake.

I've really been wanting to get into a good audiobook, but for now I'm settling for Podcasts galore. I'm listening to a whole bunch, so don't recommend any new ones! Actually, do! (audiobooks and/or podcasts that you love?) Tsh Oxenreider talked about how to "manage the internet" recently on her podcast "The Simple Show."

Speaking of podcasts, I'm loving the app PodCruncher. is limited in how many podcasts it downloads at once. Lots of other reasons to love it, but if you are interested, check out the reviews in the App Store.

I also need music to listen to by the by, so comment away! I finally found a good one in the "Veronica Mars" soundtrack. I'm a long time fan of OTR and the Once soundtrack. Peter and the Wolf. Anything with harmonica.... Go!

And JUST in case you've never heard my favorite song...
words and music: Bergquist
recording: Good Dog Bad Dog

I thought I'd go up Poughkeepsie,
look out o'er the Hudson,
and I'd throw my body down on the river.
And I'd know no more sorrow,
I'd fly like the sparrow
and I'd ride on the backs of the angels tonight...

Adding my link to This Ain't the Lyceum

Thursday, January 28, 2016

PHFR~ DIY: Redecorate the Girls' Room


Stephen bought this crucifix at the Basilica (National Shrine at Catholic U), and I love it.

My new Valentine mug for our red hutch. From... you guessed it!*

Dear Aunt Leila wanted us to share pictures of our bookshelves; it just so happens I very recently shared this picture over on instagram! Stephen ordered and put together these bookshelves from Ikea. It was a late Christmas present to us. :0)  I am graduaaaallly catching up with his massive book collection from St. John's College Annapolis and Catholic University in D.C. (Because the man happens to have two masters with plans to do his Ph.D... crazy, crazy I tell you!).


Molly made this adorable painting at her after school art class. 

I have been wanting to frame it since she brought it home.
I decided to stencil her initials in the same orange that she painted the cat. I then hung it in her room!
I love how it turned out!

If you want to make it:
~I used these stencils (from Amazon)
~I used the orange from this pack of pens to trace the letters. (I love pens!)
~I found the poster frame at Walgreen's.
~I used a basic watercolor set (we already had on hand) to fill in the letters.

Snow!!!! :-D

My parents got about 2 inches of snow this past weekend, so the kids built a snowman!

My brother got this shot of Molly throwing a huge snowball. He took about three or four all at once to capture this one. I love it! It's funny, the snowball almost looks like the beginnings of a snowman in the distance.

A funny moment!

My kids love our kitties so much. Although while Yo-Yo has been trying to run away ever since the day we found him after his 6-week jaunt around our neighborhood and a little beyond, white Sneaky hides under beds and Anders draws with marker on him. (ok, twice. But still).


It took me a couple of tries to get it right!

Working on a new one.

Working on one I can frame for Frances.

She actually made this in art class. I am kind of loving it right now. We'll see.

Add to the laundry list: MEB and ACB



There were never such devoted sisters.

Sigh, I'm so glad we had another girl. She is such a little pumpkin!

*AKA ahem, the Dollar Store of course :-D ;)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

DIY: Make a Great 5 &10 yr. Photo Collage

First off, let me say that home decor is not my specialty. I have no formal training, and I have no special gift in decorating. But, it has been driving me crazy how many pictures I have been wanting to display that I just haven't gotten around to buying a frame for. We had all of these lovely photos taken from our wedding, and most of them ended up in a brown leather box, where no one could see any of them.  I ended up blowing up two beautifully gorgeous black and white photos from our wedding, and framing those. Later, I replaced one of them with a photo of Molly.  And... you guessed it, never got around to displaying any of the others.

I mean, I did frame some photos for our little red hutch, but... other than that, nothing much.

Enter: five year anniversary.  Five years ago, when Stephen and I had our five year anniversary, my present to him was a collage of the best pictures from the first five years. I was really happy with it. It marked time in a really special way!

Fun fact: we got engaged the same Spring that I was graduating from college in 2006. We were married November of 2006. Thus, this year is not only my 10 year anniversary from graduating college, but it will also be our 10 year wedding anniversary.  In lieu of that, I decided to make another, even bigger collage of our first 10 years together.

It turned out really nice, and I couldn't be happier with how it fills the empty space on our downstairs hallway.

Here's how they look hanging on our wall.

To make these, I found a high quality poster frame at Walgreens.  I had a pile of pictures that I really, really loved, that were collecting in my closet.  I went through that brown leather box and pulled out some of our family that I had been wanting to display all these years.

And... done! Yay!!;)

If you do this, here are a few tips:

~Make sure the frame is high quality. I can tell the difference between the ones I bought at the Dollar Store and the ones from Walgreens. I'm sure there are even fancier ones somewhere... someday! Someday I tell you. ;)

~Lay out your favorite photos, then wait about a week. Don't rush it. A few extra ideas for what I wanted to display most from our first ten years popped into my head, after letting the project sit in my closet for a while.

~Always use tape when you're putting pictures into picture frames! (I know that is so obvious it might be painful to you, but hey... it can never hurt to have the reminder!)

~A photo collage makes a fabulous present... birthday, anniversary, what have you!

~Since gallery walls are becoming trite, this might be a fun alternative... maybe? ;)

Have fun!

Adding my link to Tuesday Talk

Thursday, January 21, 2016

PHFR~ Molly's 8th Birthday

I only have a few pictures of ~everyday contentment~ today, but I thought "Why not" and I'm joining the link-up over at Like Mother Like Daughter for a little pretty happy funny real.


Molly is 8. So hard to believe.

She is most definitely our artist. :-)

sweet friends... and siblings. :-)
I am not giving names, to protect privacy.
The gift she wanted, she received from Grammy! 

I took the littlest girls to see "The Good Dinosaur" and snapped this picture right after the show ended. Can you tell how happy and excited they were to be at a REAL movie? It was awesome. So much fun, you guys.


my sweet little helper:)

yummy, yummy, yummy. Recipe here (my recipe, btw)
There were really only three that looked "perfect enough" for instagram. ha. ;)

Hiding under a round glass bowl, because I didn't have a plastic cake holder!

joining Like Mother, Like Daughter today!

P.S. Stick around, for I have some State-of-the-blog news.;) woop woop.;)

What's coming up:

I really enjoyed writing the "Advent Week-by-Week" series, so I'm excited about two forthcoming series on this blog this winter! I really, really hope you follow along, friends!

~Next week, I will be rolling out a new series of DIY (crossing fingers, but I hope to do a little decor DIY around the house).  Yay!

~ Also, I am extremely excited to tell you that in February, I'll be doing a substantial series called "Beautiful Souls," all about Catholic Parenting.  I have some "deep stuff" to share with you, and a few apples concerning parenting, in particular, and I can't wait to share it with my awesome readers!

~I am hoping to eventually turn my writing for this series into an e-book.            
Stay tuned, and please share and subscribe to my blog in your feed reader of choice (I really like feedly), if you haven't already!!!

~Nota Bene: I now have "share" buttons down below, so do share (in the future)! {to be honest- I think following me on Twitter is the best way to not miss a post, if you are *not* inclined to do Feedly. The algorithms at FB bother me tremendously. Grrr....}

~Finally, I *finally* added a What I Read tab at the top of the blog. Click on it to see my book lists.

Phew! That was a lot. Thanks for sticking around, friends. ;)