Saturday, December 31, 2011

Venite Adoremus

This guy is a garbage man.  I found him like this last night.  It was so sweet.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

And On Earth, Peace.

Today I made a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament.  Actually it was a holy 45 minutes because I had to get home in time to take my kids to see Santa arrive in our village.  Poor Jesus getting trumped by Santa.  But not really.  Anyways, as you can tell it was a busy day during a busy time of year, but squeezing in that time with our Lord was a complete blessing.  I'm realizing that when I have no time to spare, that's when I really need to just drop everything and pray.

So I knelt down and thanked Jesus for His presence and promptly asked Him to unburden me from my busyness so I could focus on Him.  And as I prayed, I was again drawn to the pregnant virgin.  She is really helping me to grow this Advent.

Imagine the Blessed Mother radiant in her ninth month of pregnancy.  She has her hand on her belly.  I can almost hear her humming a lullaby.  And while everyone around her is running around keeping house, making food, hammering and nailing she is at peace.  She knows a great secret.  That Jesus, Emanuel, is coming.  She adored him as he grew in her womb.    

When things get too hectic, I can come back to this image.  I can share in Mary's secret; that all the preparations and day to day life are not the important thing.  Our Savior is coming.  I too can adore him in the midst of chaos.  After all, Advent isn't just about baking cookies and wrapping presents and decorating houses, it's about preparing the way of the Lord.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jesse Tree

It's December 1st!  Are you ready with your Jesse tree?  I wasn't.  But it's up now, so we're all set.  

This is what the kitchen looked like around 2:00 this afternoon.

You can't tell, but the dishwasher needed to be emptied, too.  When it rains, it pours.

I still hadn't cleaned up lunch, but even two hour old milk in a blue plastic cup couldn't keep me from my mission: to prepare the Jesse Tree.  For anyone who is wondering, a Jesse Tree is a "tree" that is decorated with one ornament each day of December leading up until Christmas (similar to an Advent calendar).  The ornaments have symbols on them that correlate to passages in the Bible, and the whole thing traces Jesus' lineage (from Jesse, hence "Jesse tree").  

Now, I was slightly prepared.  I had a branch for our tree out under the car port, but it was my "if I can't find a better branch" branch.  So I had to attack it with some loppers, but it turned out quite nice.

I found these in the garage-I didn't even know we had these ones-they are Craftsman!  My lucky day.

Here it is coming together

More of the mess in the kitchen.  Lots of Stuff to put away.  But first, the Jesse tree.

There are many reasons why I love this tradition, but mostly I love it because my husband and I made the ornaments.

My husband is not into crafting.  He is very artistic, but he doesn't craft.  But I convinced him to make these ornaments a few years ago when my son was a new baby.  We made them over the course of several nights.  My husband realized it was fun; it took him back to his Play-Doh days.  We made them from clay (probably Fimo).

There are many ways to make a Jesse tree-just paper ornaments taped to poster board, or felt on felt, or ornaments on a branch or mini-Christmas tree.  I like the idea of a bare branch, so that's what we use.  For some reason I decided to MacGyver our tree and it works, so I still do it this weird way.  I have an old bucket that I cover with purple tissue paper that I found down in my basement.  I didn't have oasis to put in the container and stick the branch in, so I got a cup and filled it with stones to hold the branch.  But it was tippy, so I filled the rest of the container with big potpurri (because it was the only thing I could find laying around the house):

Here it is with the branch stuck in it:

I just keep all these parts together and keep using them every year.  I probably should get organized after Christmas and get something more normal.  But in the end, I think it looks nice.

The white bow definitely helps.

Tonight we will add our first ornament and remember how God created the world out of nothing because of his great love for us.  I just love Advent :)

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

 Happy Thursday!


My aunts on Thanksgiving Day.  I'm so glad they flew in to eat turkey with us!


The cheeks, they are a-growin'!  


Father and son showing off their matching Thanksgiving attire.  Very handsome.
And silly.


This is why you shouldn't give children food in the car (or van in our case).  What a mess!  She's in an Oreo and Barney daze :)

Check out more {p,h,f,r} and join in at Like Mother Like Daughter. 

round button chicken

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Introduction to the Devout Life

A friend shared an amazing resource with me that I have to share with you.  Calvin College hosts the Christian Classics Ethereal Library where one can read the writing of many Christian scholars (for free!).  I had mentioned my desire to improve my prayer life during Lent, and my friend suggested I use the 10 meditations from St Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life found here.  I did the first meditation tonight and I can honestly say my prayer went from the usual boring laundry list that I can't even focus on to actual adoration from my soul.  Amazing.  I hope you'll also find it fruitful.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Said by a child who lost dessert because he repeatedly woke up his mommy in the night for no good reason:

"This macaroni is like a dessert for me!"


Saturday, November 26, 2011


I stood in my basement, staring at piles of laundry.  I was feeling overwhelmed.  I had a million things to do and not much time to do them.  And Advent was about to begin.  Now I love Advent (it's my favorite time of year) but it's very busy.

Somehow my mind wandered on to Our Blessed Mother.  How did she feel during Advent?  My snarky self pictured an overwhelmed pregnant lady who just found out she had to travel to Bethlehem:
"Are you freaking kidding me?!  You can tell Caesar Augustus to come to US if he wants our information.  I just got back from helping Elizabeth and now I'm supposed to hop on a donkey when I'm nine months pregnant and travel to Bethlehem?!"

Hmmm...that doesn't sound like Our Lady.  That sounds like me.

I know Our Lady lived a life without sin.  Which means she didn't complain to God and flip out on St. Joseph.  She discerned God's will, and she went with it.  Not begrudgingly, but lovingly.  Because she loved God and she wanted to do His will.

As I reflected on this, I realized I've been doing a lot of complaining lately.  Now my life is busy with three small children, but I must admit I've got it really good.  And even if things weren't going so well (and hard times are sure to come) wallowing in despair is not the proper response.  Not if I want to do God's will so I can live with him forever in Heaven.

This Advent I'm going to complain less and listen to God more.  I will spend more time in prayer.  I've decided to devote ten extra minutes each day to just get away from the grind and adore God.  To prepare myself for the birth of His son, Christ Jesus.

I'm also going to make it a priority to make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament each week.  This will take planning, but it's totally doable.

I made a good confession today, something I haven't done in far too long, to prepare for Advent.  I'm hopeful that God's grace will help me to seek Jesus.

Happy Advent!  And Happy New-Mass-Translation!  We are truly blessed.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

At this moment I was thankful to Macy's for their Thanksgiving Day Parade because it gave my husband and I  a chance to shower and get all dolled up for Thanksgiving dinner while the children sat glued to the tv.  Also, to the musical Sister Act because I think my daughter is more likely to consider a calling to the religious life after seeing nuns in glitter and sequins.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Last week I did a post on patience in which I realized I really needed to focus on the seven virtues laid out by the Church. I have some gaps in my Catholic knowledge, so you'll have to bear with me.  This week, I'm looking in to prudence.

Virtues with Turkeys

I had an inkling of a definition for prudence, but honestly I wasn't really sure about it.  

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, prudence is contracted from the Latin providentia which means seeing ahead.

Here's a definition from the Catechism:

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67

This seems like just the virtue for me this week.  I've been stressed out from traveling with small children last weekend, hosting company this week, preparing for Thanksgiving, and planning for Christmas. It should be noted that my hosting consists of people stopping over for a couple of hours and it isn't for meals, and my Thanksgiving prep is making one measly pie (nothing heroic here).

How do babies know when we're busy?  I've been anxious about getting things done and of course my daughter just needs to be held.  Today as I held her I knew God would rather I comfort his sweet child than dust the house.  That was the prudent decision (also obvious-she was crying).  But realizing it was prudence, and not a nuisance, allowed me to let go and enjoy the moment.  

This is so much better than dusting.

The CCC also says:
1835 Prudence disposes the practical reason to discern, in every circumstance, our true good and to choose the right means for achieving it.

My crazy helpers.  They stopped dancing long enough to dump in some brown sugar.  Sometimes we bake on the floor so as to avoid standing on chairs which leads to chicken fights and potential falls.

We can practice prudence in many ways big and small.  One must be prudent in deciding how to use his time.  Parents need to use prudence when making decisions about schooling for their children.  I try to use prudence in buying things for our family.  Some say it is the mother of all virtues because it can guide our decisions and actions.

Super Husband!  Headed out to buy some nutmeg because his wife was lacking prudence and didn't check to make sure she had all the ingredients ahead of time.  Also picking up beans to act as oven weights.  

1810 Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them.  (CCC)

With that, I'm off to finish the pie.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Family Rosary

Most nights before bed we gather around a candle for Family Prayer.  We sing a song, offer petitions and praises, and pray the Glory Be.  The kids alternate picking the song and blowing out the candle.  They also alternate throwing big fits or being goofy or running around.  Sometimes they wow us with a synchronized effort. But they are little and they are learning.

One goal I had for our family was to pray the rosary together.  But because of their often unruly prayer-time behavior, I figured praying the rosary was something we'd have to wait to do until at least the first ones were quite a bit older.

My parents gave me this rosary for my first communion.  I love it because the beads are pink hearts.  

Last month I read a post over at Our Mother's Daughters in which Leila clearly outlined how to begin praying a family rosary.  Not only was it very practical, but she gave specific advice about how to introduce it to young squirmy noisy children like mine!  You really need to go over and read it.

I told my husband about it and his reaction was just what I expected: doubtful.  But after I gave him the details he said he'd be up for trying it.  I just needed to gather up some rosaries.

My great-uncle, who was a priest, brought me this rosary from Medjugorje.

Well I put that little job off-making it out to be a much bigger job in my head than it really was.  Fast forward through the entire month of October and half of November to last Saturday night.  The night I mentioned where we were all on bad behavior from traveling and no naps.  There was NO WAY we were going to do family prayer.  Unless...

I grabbed the rosaries (it took 1 minute-why do I put these things off?) lit a candle and called the kids.  Just holding the beautiful beads in their chubby hands dropped the intensity in the room by half.  We prayed just the "tail"-everything before the first decade.  The kids already knew the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be so they could join in.  They felt very grown up because they knew it was a special prayer Mommy and Daddy prayed.  It was truly amazing.

So we've done it three times total.  It has gone so well that we're going to do the tail plus a decade tonight.  Last night when I pulled out the little bags that hold the rosaries they were so excited that they came running into the room shouting "Ro-za-ree!  Ro-za-ree!"

This rosary belonged to the same great-uncle who was a priest.  My dad gave it to my husband when he came in to the Church, but I took it over.  My great-uncle and his twin brother were both called to be priests-how cool is that?!

I realize the enthusiasm will wear off.  But seriously, it's possible to pray (at least some) of the rosary with little, crazy, wild children.  In the words of JP2: "Be not afraid."

I told the kids that at the end, after the sign of the cross, they could give Jesus a kiss.  My son gave him a zerbert (we call it a zurp).  But that's a sign of affection around here, so I bet the Lord doesn't mind.

{pretty, happy, funny, real}


This is the cake I made for my daughter's second birthday.  I really don't know how to decorate cakes, but this was super easy and turned out great.  Here's a link to the directions-only a little time intensive since I used several colors.


Here are the kiddies and my mom waiting for some pizza at the birthday party.


These two are wearing the container for the new bristle blocks on their heads.  He is the king, and she is the queen.  With a smushed up nose (although I don't think it shows up in the picture).


Has anyone seen my replacement HEPA filter?  Me neither.  Last year I put it away someplace safe so I'd remember where to find it.  I guess I'll just have to suck it up and buy another one.

Also {real} some of my pictures rotate wrong when I upload them to blogger.  I don't know why.  Here's a good example.  But since it's a filter, and not a person, it's ok to leave it sideways.

Check out more {p,h,f,r} and join in at Like Mother Like Daughter.  Happy Thursday!

round button chicken

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Present Prep

We just celebrated a birthday!  Our daughter turned two yesterday.

Along with the baking and buying and wrapping I've found another -ing that I do before the influx of gifts: purging.  And by purging I mean pulling out all the toys that the children have outgrown, washing them, and stuffing them in bins down in the basement.  Because we are a young family and I know someday another child will likely enjoy these toys.  I really should give many of our toys away because we have too many, but I'm not sure which ones are keepers (I'm still a rookie at this mommy thing) so I'm just keeping them put away for now until I can make a more seasoned-mommy decision.

A couple years ago I had a nervous breakdown (not really, but you know what I mean) when Christmas ended and we had mounds of toys and nowhere to put them.  I ran around to store after store comparing storage options and came home in a flurry and ordered my husband to put things together and in the end we had homes for our things.  Only it was a very stressful day with lots of flipping out by me and I'd rather not turn that into an after-Christmas tradition.

So now before we get gifts, I make sure we have a home for them.  I'm wondering how this will work out in the years to come as we acquire more things because I feel like we're nearing maximum capacity already with only 3.5 years under our belt.  But I guess I'll be even wiser then (imagine!) so I'll come up with something.

This is actually in our dining room.  That's why I got a nicer-looking shelf and baskets.  I'm just not up for a play-room.  I'm cool with people having them.  I just don't want one.  I guess most people wouldn't be as cool with toys in the dining room.

We are also trying to curb the amount of things coming into our home.  But that's a post for another day.

Can you tell the kids don't watch movies?

Anyways, now we're enjoying the birthday toys and I'm sitting on the floor looking around and trying to think of where to house Christmas gifts.

I'll leave you with a picture from that fated flip-out Christmas.  My parents got our son this awesome tent and tunnel.  It's super fun and super huge.  It took up the entire living room.  Grandparents.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Out Of My Funk

This weekend we took a road trip to visit some family.  It was a lovely time.  But, the kids didn't nap.  They were too busy watching DVDs in the van (spoiled children and spoiled parents who got to have an actual conversation for 1.5 hours).  They were overtired and didn't nap yesterday again and are currently not napping right now.

This all means that they are on bad behavior and so am I.  At least I was.  I'm trying really hard to go back to my better self.

This morning I was really dreading the week ahead.  We're getting ready to take a much bigger road trip to travel and visit my husband's parents, brothers...  I'm not dreading the visit.  Just the packing.  And I always get really nervous about the drive.  When I was little I was a major worrier and I've shed most of those worries but for some reason I still get nervous about wrecking when we travel.

Anyways, I was in a funk.  I read a really good blog post that reminded me I should be praying for help.  I don't normally feel this overwhelmed.  Perhaps I'm under some sort of attack.  Anyways, I offered up some prayers to my usual crew of saints and went back to feeding the baby.

Afterwards I checked my email and I had the best surprise waiting for me.  My husband (who has shouldered the bulk of my funk) sent me the sweetest poem to cheer me up.  I think only other poem he wrote me was when we got engaged 9 years ago.  So needless to say I was surprised and teary and happy.  Then I started to wonder if my saint-friends had played any part in this lovely consolation.  Shout out to St. Therese, St. John, St. Anne, St. Joachim, and Our Lady!

I had to get some groceries and decided I could use a little treat as an uplift.  I remembered Rachel Balducci commented on some peppermint mocha creamer, and that seems to be doing the trick!

I'm taking it easy today.  I have a hundred million things to do.  But it's not even worth it to do any right now.  There is a two-year-old birthday girl crying in her room because she'd rather play than nap.  Next door, the resident three-year-old is reading books instead of napping, so you know he'll be bananas tonight at the birthday party.  I think I'd better store up my energy for things to come.

I'm also planning a night out with myself tomorrow.  I've got ravioli in the freezer and some sauce thawing out so I can whip up dinner as soon as my husband is home and then run away.

I'd better wrap this up so I can fit in some extra prayers before I have to give in and let the children loose to tackle each other and scream and wake the baby and all that good brother-sister stuff.

I'm sharing this because I know we all have bad days.  Sometimes we need to take a break from life so that we can re-enter it with love and charity.

P.S. That list of virtues on the fridge is helping a little, too.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Tonight at dinner, my husband dropped a taco chip on the floor.  He bent down, picked it up, popped it in his mouth, and quickly retrieved the crumb saying "That's not my chip!"  Then he put it back on the floor.  Then we laughed.

I told you my house isn't "spotless."  I did vacuum after dinner.

I wonder if this negates my pro-many-children post.  As in, the woman who lives in the shoe clearly has so many children that her husband is eating crumbs off the floor.


Look at this face!  What is the first word that pops into your head?

Was it "burden?"  Or perhaps "expensive?"  Maybe "pity?"  No?  Me neither.

I'm thinking "joy," "blessing," "beautiful" -stuff like that.

I'm guessing many parents of large families feel the same as me and are baffled by the way others are baffled by the desire to have several children.  I'm also amazed that many people think three children is a lot.  I've been compared to Mrs. Duggar (mother of 20) several times recently.  I hardly think three children compares to 20.

I was just asked today "Are you going to have more?  I'm only asking because I know children are so expensive."   There are a million things I could say.  That this baby really doesn't cost much because we already bought all the baby stuff a few years ago.  Or that maybe we use our money differently than many Americans so it's not that much of a burden (we don't have cable, we don't have cellular plans, we don't spend a lot on clothes and toys and vacations... -not that there is anything wrong with these things, that's just not us).

The thing I mostly want to say is "Mind your business!"  I would never make someone feel small for having zero, one, two...twenty children because it's not my business.  That's between that woman, her husband, and God.  Also, I'm not asking anyone to raise these children or to chip in on the cost of groceries.  If I'm not concerned I'm not sure why everyone else is.

This past summer I was out grocery shopping with a big pregnant belly and two toddlers in the shopping cart.  A fellow shopper took one look at me and blurted out "Well aren't you a glutton for punishment?!"  Why yes, yes I am.

I'm also amazed at how much pity people have for me.  I've heard so many people gravely commenting to one another "It must be very busy at Mary's house."  Maybe they should go back and read what the good book has to say about children.

My husband and I were talking this over today.  He suggested that people hear other people making comments about the expense of children and so they just assume that's how it is.  That's probably true.  I shouldn't be so surprised that God's greatest gift (life) is under attack.  And I bet there are many people out there who'd secretly be ok with having more children only they won't even consider it because it's so crazy.

So just for the record, I love my children.  They are a blessing to my husband and I.  My only regret is that we didn't start having them sooner because they make our lives so much more fun.  And yes, I hope we'll have more.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I've recently noticed myself lacking patience.  I'm like the Right-Now Family from the old Netflix commercials.  You know, those ultra-chipper people who decided to watch a movie and said "Let's watch it RIGHT NOW!!!" and they could because they could stream it on Netflix?  Sometimes I feel like them.

I waited a long while to buy our new curtains.  I waited until we had settled in to our new house, and then I needed to think about what to get, and then I waited for the right time to ask my husband about spending some extra money for decorating, and when I finally got the go ahead, I wanted to do it RIGHT NOW!  As in I needed them on the walls in 24 hours or less.

I knew this was crazy.  Haste makes waste-right?  But it was making me anxious.  I was thinking about curtains non-stop.  And I still needed to find the curtains I was envisioning at the store and corner my husband at the right time so he'd mount the hardware, and then I had to iron them...  Very stressful.  Only it was a waste.  Why worry about curtains?  What are curtains in the grand scheme of life?

So I decided I needed to develop my patience.  Because there was no sense in getting rattled by every little thing that came my way.  I thought I could learn patience by making myself practice it.  Instead of running out to buy future curtains I could make myself wait for several days.  Or instead of feeling angst while making dinner because I'm in a rush to get it on the table, I could just stand in the middle of the kitchen for a minute and do nothing.

I think there is some goodness in this idea.  I did some research and discovered true patience isn't something you really learn.  It's a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Here's how I think it works.  We have to start with virtues.  There are 3 theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity, and 4 cardinal virtues: justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence.  Here's what the Catechism says about virtue:

1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

These are the things we must work on.  Then, we can receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Here's the CCC definition:

1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."112

While I was searching "fruits of the Holy Spirit" I came across this information at Loyola Press:

“Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:17-20)

This passage in Matthew's Gospel helps us to understand the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the observable behaviors of people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to be effective in them. 

I especially took note that I must allow the Holy Spirit's grace to be effective in me.  

Finally, I found this in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

But, with St. ThomasI-II.70.2, the word is ordinarily restricted to mean only those supernatural works that are done joyfully and with peace of soul. This is the sense in which most authorities apply the term to the list mentioned by St. Paul (Galatians 5:22-23): "But the fruit of the Spirit is, charityjoy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continencychastity." Moreover, there is no doubt that this list of twelve — three of the twelve are omitted in several Greek and Latin manuscripts — is not to be taken in a strictly limited sense, but, according to the rules of Scriptural language, as capable of being extended to include all acts of a similar character. That is why the Angelic Doctor says: "Every virtuous act which man performs with pleasure is a fruit." The fruits of the Holy Ghost are not habits, permanent qualities, but acts. They cannot, therefore, be confounded with the virtues and the gifts, from which they are distinguished as the effect is from its cause, or the stream from its source. The charity, patience, mildness, etc., of which the Apostle speaks in this passage, are not then the virtues themselves, but rather their acts or operations; for, however perfect the virtues may be, they cannot be considered as the ultimate effects of grace, being themselves intended, inasmuch as they are active principles, to produce something else, i.e. their acts. Further, in order that these acts may fully justify their metaphorical name of fruits, they must belong to that class which are performed with ease and pleasure; in other words, the difficulty involved in performing them must disappear in presence of the delight and satisfaction resulting from the good accomplished.  

If I want to be truly patient, I must practice virtue and be open to receiving the gift of patience from the Holy Spirit.  Moreover, I must delight in my patience because I know it is pleasing to God.  So when I'm out Christmas shopping in a couple weeks and I'm waiting in a long line in a noisy store when I just want to be home because I'm exhausted, I will need to delight in being patient or else it isn't really patience as far as fruits of the Holy Spirit are concerned.  

I also find this interesting as I quite often tell my three-year-old to have patience.  Obviously three-year-olds are not patient by nature.  But I'm realizing the real patience I long for my son to have will come as he develops virtue.  So while it's good to tell him "be patient" it's more important to instruct him and help him 
grow in virtue.

I'm going to stick a list of the "big seven" virtues on my fridge.  That's where I need to start.  It seems overwhelming, but I suppose we aren't called to master them but to strive for them.  I'm just glad the Holy Spirit is sending me fruits and gifts and graces.  I really need them.