May 9, 2018

Five Favorites

This morning started out okay and I was filled with hope. "I'll be able to work on some writing," I naively thought. "Tee and MJ will be happy as clams and I can get things done."

But pretty much all Tee and MJ did was cry and snot and cry some more when I wiped their noses.

Maybe it's the barometric pressure?

This afternoon has been better - long live nap time and Thomas & Friends streaming on Amazon Prime! - but even with Jofis home I've had to do a lot more parenting and a lot less creating. Oh well. I once heard a father say that when our kids are at their worst we need to be at our best. I accept that; I think it's true, beautiful, and hard.

But I still want to chat with you so we'll just keep it lighthearted, howsaboutthat?

Remember way back in the day when Hallie Lord posted her five favorites each Wednesday? I loved that so we'll go old school and I'll share my current five faves. Here goes!

- 1 -

These gaucho pants are thin and high waisted and super comfortable.  You will basically see me in them the rest of the summer. With heels and a blouse: they're dressy! With flip flops and a t-shirt: super casual! Do I look good in them? I don't really care! I'm comfortable, my butt and belly aren't hanging out, and they're not hot!

- 2 -

Cannot get enough of this new Mat Kearney song.

- 3 -

I made some wild violet jelly from violets the kids and I picked from our backyard. It was suuuuper simple and tastes delicious on some buttery toast. Resa also likes it on her PBJs. I used this recipe.

- 4 - 

Spring has come and I can send the kids outside to play for hours. They need baths at the end of the day but the weather is beautiful, their bodies are getting stronger, and my house is staying tidier longer. Everybody wins!

- 5 -
That after tonight's recorder concert we will be done with recorders for two more years. Peace.

May 2, 2018

Mary, Mother of the Church - a new feast day to celebrate

Have you heard? There's a new feast day to celebrate.

Pope Francis has asked that we celebrate Mary, Mother of the Church the day after Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.

I love this. Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ and we are the Body of Christ, therefore Mary is our mother, too. Now I know that some of this may seem so weird and overly pious and maybe even wrong. But think about when you were little and you became friends with someone at school. Once you met their mom, went to their house, and had dinner with their family didn't you know your friend so much more? Suddenly you understood things about them that you never would have even noticed just at lunch or recess. And because of that - because of the way their mom talked about when they were a baby, or displayed pictures from their toddlerhood, or called them by a special, family nickname - you were able to love your friend in a deeper, more whole way. So it is with Christ.

This feast day also reminds us of how the Church is our mother. She feeds us with the Eucharist, takes care of us when we are ill, washes us clean with Baptism, clothes us with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, and brings healing to our brokenness through confession. She teaches us right from wrong, forms us in Scripture, and brings us closer to Christ - just like any good momma would, just like Mary does.

Do you love it now, too? Good. To celebrate this new feast my friend Katie has created the sweetest craft which you can download for free from her website, Look to Him and Be Radiant. She drew Our Lady holding her parish and when you flip it open you find Mary's Immaculate Heart and surrounded by the people of the Church. It's so sweet, so pretty, and is a great way to explain this Marian title to kids (and maybe even adults). You can find the craft here.

Other ideas to celebrate include:
- Pray for your specific parish, your diocese, and the whole Church during night prayers.
- Display a photo of your local parish or the Vatican next to a statue of Mary and a candle.
- Cook a meal for your priest or invite him over for dinner.
- Cook a meal with food from all over the world - curry, refried beans, stir fry, and rice for example
- Pray the World Mission Rosary for the Church all over the world
- Sing a Marian hymn
- Pray a Marian prayer
- Attend daily Mass
- Get ice cream
- Buy or pick flowers and bring them to Mary, placing them near a statue in your home or church
- Do something kind for someone else
- Display an image of Mary in a prominent place in your home
- Read the story of Pentecost and meditate and / or discuss how it must have been for Mary to be there

So those are some of my ideas. If you have an idea please share it with us!

And if you want to learn more about this feast day, listen to the Catholic Stuff you Should Know podcast episode about the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church here.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

PS - Don't forget to enter to win a copy of Jennifer Fulwiler's new book, One Beautiful Dream!

May 1, 2018

One Beautiful Dream - a G I V E A W A Y

Today is the release day for Jennifer Fulwiler's new book One Beautiful Dream. (affiliate link)

Probably you have heard about it but if not let me tell you: it is SO GOOD.

Now, yes, I do know Jen, so perhaps there is a teeny tiny bit of bias. But really, guys, it is a really incredible book so even if you take away the 5% bump my friendship with Jen gives it we are still left with just an incredible book. Not too shabby, folks.

One Beautiful Dream covers the five years that Jen was building her career as a writer, having babies, and growing in her new Catholic faith. It is incredibly well written, very funny, and a powerful example of how we can pursue our passions while in the midst of family life.  Jen is relatable, telling stories about her life that are honest and funny, a sort of modern day Everyman. 

At times I was moved to tears as she recounted the lessons God was teaching her and the insights she had on things like accepting help and letting people into your life. At one point, Jen shares the story of how she let go of some great opportunities, thus making room for God to fulfill her dream in a different but more lovely way. When I read it I got goosebumps, and cried, and reflected on my own life to see if there were things I needed to let go of because God wants to do the same in my life.

It's like one part memoir, one part spiritual exercise!

I've been reading Jen's blog for years (a decade?) and so I had heard several of the anecdotes she recounts in the book but in One Beautiful Dream they take on more color, more depth, and it's like we have a behind-the-scenes look at what was happening in her home and in God's plans.

It's beautiful.

And on a far more personal level, I was so encouraged to read Jen's book. NFP is hard. Some Church teachings are hard. Growing in holiness (like true holiness that loves and cares and gets dirty for Christ's sake and the salvation of souls) is hard. Jen gets this and it's nice to find a Simon of Cyrene in a radio host / blogger / speaker / author who, with great empathy and honesty, will say, "I know, but it's worth it."

Although what she really said was, "It didn't seem like the perfect time for a baby to come along, but it never did... Yet when the child arrives, his or her life is instantly intertwined with yours in a way that feels so right that it's as if there were never a possibility of this person not existing. The minute you see that baby, the whole universe retroactively adjusts itself so that this life was meant to exist all along." Which is exactly how I would word it were I smarter.

Guys. I want you to read this book. I pre-ordered mine months ago but then Jen kindly sent me a copy to celebrate her launch week. Therefore, I get to give one away! To celebrate the launch of her new book Jen invited me to answer the question, "What's the secret to following your dreams?" in three words. Here's mine:

Enter to win a copy of One Beautiful Dream by leaving a comment answering Jen's question. What's the secret to following your dreams?

Please leave ONE comment only answering the above question.
Must be 18 or older and a resident of the continental USA (Sorry. I know and I'm sorry.)
Comment must be linked to or include email address.
Contest closes on Friday, May 4th at 12 o'clock noon CST.
Winner has until 12 noon CST on Monday, May 7th to respond with mailing address or a new winner will be drawn.

PS - Haley and Christy did a super interesting interview with Jen on their podcast Fountains of Home. Go listen!
PPS - You can read more about Jen, listen to her radio show, see if she'll be speaking in your area and more here.
PP the PS - You can buy Jen's first book Something Other Than God and / or One Beautiful Dream with my Amazon affiliate link here.

April 19, 2018

I'm not trying to sell you stuff, I just want you to know

You know how you miss announcements and then you're all like, "Well, I didn't know," and everyone's like, "Well it was on Facebook," and you're just like, "That stupid algorithm keeps changing and I never see what I want, just my family member who's political views are the exact opposite of mine so I was trying to stay off Facebook to improve my stress levels," and it feels like you just can't win?

Wow do I hate that. 

And so while this post does have a handful of affiliate links (denoted with an *) please know that I'm just trying to make sure you know about these things, in case you're interested. But let's start with some music:

But if you'd rather listen to a podcast you might like The Gathering Place or Certifiably Catholic, which are a couple of new podcasts I am loving.

Alright, first announcement: This coming Wednesday I am giving a workshop on Living Out Community in the Every Day and the Extraordinary. It's all about being the kind of friend you want to have and how we can support one another through seasons of crisis or survival but also when we're thriving. There is a $15 price tag to watch though it's free for BIS Members. You can register to watch here - let me know in the comments if you're planning on being there!

Up next: The Blessed Is She Academic Planners are on sale right now but the pre-order sale will be ending soon so don't put this off! The planners always sell out and this is the cheapest they will be. Plus, there are two versions now - the standard, 8x10" one and now a mini version! Both planners have all the liturgical info (prayers, feast and fast days, novena start dates, etc) and follow the academic calendar. They will be shipped this summer. Planners for the 2019 calendar year will go on sale this fall. 

This is a little glimpse at the Mini. It has a lot of the same features of the larger, original planner, but was tweaked with feedback from the masses. ;) You can pre-order yours here*.

You can bet your bottom dollar I will be getting another standard sized academic planner. This baby is beautiful but works hard. And the new one has a Grocery list I can remove to take to the store! #loveit If you have any questions about it please feel free to ask. It's definitely an investment piece but I use it almost every single day and it helps me stay organized like nothing else has before.  You can pre-order yours here*.


You can still get the four part study guide on the rosary, Mystery, here*. I know that I'm partial because I wrote Believe on the Glorious Mysteries and because I just love Blessed Is She in general, but these studies are so lovely.

Plus, the BIS / OSV Catholic Journaling Bible is still for sale* and is as awesome as ever.

That Eucharist sticker in the margin of my Bible was purchased from Look to Him Be Radiant Etsy Shop.

I also have started memorizing Scripture again and this time I'm trying to rope my kids in it with me. We're using the Encourage Bible Verse Cards* the first of which is pictured above.

My Love Like Therese / Serve Like Gianna / Fight Like Joan / Love Like Mary mug is from Sancta Bovina.

Oh! And I wrote the devotion today BIS. It's called Build that Bible Habit and it's a reflection on the interaction Philip has with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts.

And that's it! Now you're in the know. I hope something here was helpful, even it was just having some good Praise music to worship with.

Happy Easter, friends!

April 13, 2018

An illustrated post about yardwork

We have had exactly one warm, sunny, Spring day here in Central Illinois, which was yesterday. Turns out one day is just enough time for me to clear out a flower bed, transplant some day lilies, clean out a planter, trim a couple of evergreen bushes, and get a sunburn on the back of my neck.

It's windy and chilly today with a chance for rain so I'm daydreaming of all the things I wish I could do next in my yard. (Is my middle age-ness showing?)

Some of what I want to do can be accomplished this summer but some will take three to five years to get done. (Insider scoop: Travis got a new teaching job which is super exciting and such good news for our family but we will go one month this summer without any income. We've been Dave Ramsey-ing it for ten months and are trying to save money to cover all the bills and expenses that August brings so that means things like "making the yard prettier" and "swimming lessons" will probably not be happening this year.)

So here's what we've got along with some of what I want to do, if you're into that sorta thing. None of my in real life friends are so I have to talk about all this to someone. Lucky you!

First up, let's talk about bad first impressions.

This is the flower bed in front of our home. It's so welcoming, isn't it?! This Spring I will clean up the edge and lay down more mulch. The bare bush closest to the camera is a pretty hydrangea that I need to move to a shadier part of the yard so it can thrive. I'd like to add another butterfly bush in its place to balance the one we already have on the far end of the bed. We have some old stumps covered up with the mulch that Travis will start to work on clearing out. They go down deep but I'm hoping to get enough out so we can plant more flowers. Right now we have mums, black eyed susans, and some purple flower that I want to divide and spread throughout. I also want to add lavender and yellow yarrrow so there are repeating blocks of colors and textures throughout. I'm hoping we will find the money to buy two lavenders, one yarrow, and mulch. I'm also hoping Menard's will contact me to do sponsored posts for them. Probably neither will happen.

Eventually we'd like to add a sidewalk that runs along the first half of it, curves, and leads to the front door in the center. The other half we'd like to edge with proper stone edging but none of that will happen this summer.

Next up, the spot I worked on yesterday:

 I spent hours making this corner look this good, which seems so incredibly sad looking at the picture, doesn't it? Here I trimmed back the rosebush, shaped the evergreen, cleaned out all kinds of dead, dug up crab grass and weeds, and transplanted some day lilies from another part of the yard. There is a butterfly bush in this corner and clematis grows up the chain link against the porch. I will also plant some zinnia and morning glory seeds in this area. The concrete circle is the bottom of a busted up birdbath that came with the house. I plan to dig it into the earth for a stepping stone since we always step off the porch there. A ground covering takes over this little corner so much mulch isn't needed and eventually the proper stone edging in the front of the house will wrap around to here, too.

Next: the side yard!

I realize that right now this looks pretty trashy. There's dirt, rocks, and bits of a broken bird bath. But I've got plans, folks. Plan #1 - wait for the hostas, bleeding heart, fern, and peonies to grow in because then it'll look really lovely, which you can see here. Plan #2 - bury half of the bath part of the bird bath in the dirt and then plant impatiens on top. Since the ground slopes away from the house this should create a bit of a berm look. Plan #3 - readjust the pump so it is flat on the ground and redistribute the rocks to other areas of the yard.

Now that we've got a big 12 passenger van that won't fit in the garage I'd love to pour an extra big slab here with a sidewalk going off the end, connecting it to the patio around the back. We could store the kids' bikes and toys in the garage (right now they sit out 3/4 of the year, even in the rain which I hate) and we'd park the mondo van here, though all the lovely shade plants and landscaping would stay. I think there's just enough room for it to fit! But, of course, that much concrete costs a lot of money, even if Travis is doing the work, so that also gets moved to the three to five year plan.

Speaking of the patio:

Really our patio is pretty nice but there is a flower bed where the play house and bird bath sit which needs more flowers. We'll see what survived the winter and I think I'll put some cosmos in. Travis has a nice grill tucked back here and we bought a nice, on sale fire pit with gift money that sits by the two chairs. There's plenty of room for the kids to play but we really need to replace the chair cushions. The table and chair set was a hand-me-down - which I am not poo-pooing at all, I am so grateful to have them! - but the cushions are in rough shape.

We need to sand some rusty spots and repaint the chairs (which I plan to do this summer) and then I would looooooove to purchase these replacement cushions (affiliate link) because oh my goodness they are SO STINKIN CUTE!
But the almost $300 price tag for the six we need means we will have to find something cheaper and do that in another year. 

Last up, my sitting spot:

Again, I know this looks pretty bad right now but if things survived the winter after being transplanted last year it will be a very nice spot. There's a couple of bushes that have always been there, the Rose of Sharon we moved, some hostas I put in the area, and I hope to put the hydrangea from the front here. I've been meaning to re-stain that bench for three years but since I actually have the stain already it will get done this year! The kids' climbing tree is nearby this spot and our garden is just around the corner. This little nook is shady and lovely when everything is green, the perfect spot to watch the kids play or take a rest after weeding the vegetable patch.

Our vegetable garden will have asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, onions, squash, and a couple herbs. Our boys want to grow corn and pumpkins and the girls want to have a strawberry patch. And that's it. Flowers will be all around the house. I'll dig in the dirt, grow food and flowers, make hourly trips outside to pick Japenese beetles off my precious plants and mutter, "Die you bastards," as I toss them into a bowl of soapy water so they can suffer and die without harming all the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies I'm trying to attract. It's all so picturesque! I cannot wait. Can. Not. Wait.

Now off I go to snuggle on the sofa while it rains outside, daydreaming that we have the money for the mortgage so I can go ahead and buy those cushions...

March 28, 2018

Allergy Friendly Passion Lunch for Good Friday

Lacy at Catholic Icing created an incredibly clever interactive lunch for her kids to retell the story of Good Friday. I think it is brilliant but wanted to make a few adaptations so it would work better for my family. This one is safe for my kids' food allergies (eggs, nuts, dairy, sesame seed), has a hand out to help me remember what I'm doing without scrolling on my phone, and ends with Hot Cross Buns so I can include that traditional treat while adding the step of Jesus Being Laid in the Tomb.  

A couple of notes about the food:

- In the picture for the Crown of Thorns you can see that I used the Aldi GF cookies with their GF pretzels stuck in them because when I originally did this we were also a gluten free family. Now that we can have wheat again I'm using Lacy's original idea of Ritz crackers.

- For the silver coins I originally melted down the Enjoy Life chocolate chips and made round drops on parchment paper, let them cool, and then wrapped them in aluminum foil. This year I bought an Enjoy Life chocolate bar, will break it into pieces, wrap them up, and call it good enough.

- My kids don't love Sunbutter so the sandwich is butter and jelly cut out in the shape of an Easter egg. Egg salad sandwiches would work, too, but if you can have eggs I'd probably just stick with Lacy's hard boiled one to make it easier.

- Because we are dairy free I used strawberries to represent Peter's ear being cut off.

- For the Hot Cross Buns I use this recipe, shape them into rounds, and then ice them once they are baked. It is not a traditional Hot Cross Bun but it is dairy and egg free, my kids like them, and it works for us.

I hope this is helpful and I wish you a very holy, beautiful, Triduum. If you are joining the Church this weekend please know that I am praying for you!

March 16, 2018

Planning Ahead: Our Holy Week and Easter Baskets

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry but I've still got a few things planned for the upcoming weeks and I thought I'd share in case you're looking for any ideas, too.

This year my kids and my husband have Holy Week off and I am praying for good weather because we are hoping to:

- work in the yard, cleaning up some flower beds and catching voles
- clean the windows (I like to meditate on the Light of Christ while I wash my windows.)
- stain two outdoor benches

I should probably tell Travis about these things. ha!

We will also be fasting from all non-religious tv for the week. Old school Veggie Tales, CCC of America cartoons about the saints, and The Great American Bible Challenge on Netflix will be watched. We will also do a Family Movie Night on Wednesday where we watch The Prince of Egypt, also on Netflix. I think that movie, the Steven Spielberg animated film about Moses, is a great launch into Triduum. Travis and I will likely watch The Passion on Good Friday.

On Good Friday we will also be eating the symbolic Passion lunch that Lacy at Catholic Icing developed years ago. I make modifications because of our food allergies but the gist is the same. (Maybe I should blog about what we do? Would that be helpful to anyone?)

Our kids' Easter baskets are going to include the following

jump rope (affiliate link) - my kids are merciless on jump ropes and even the nice ones are failed us so I'm just going basic this time around

children's umbrellas (affiliate link) - I did this several years ago and the kids loved it. Three of them are still in excellent shape but two of them need to be replaced and Tee is finally old enough for his own.

bubble wands (affiliate link) - it's like Oprah: every body gets a bubble wand!

bubble refill (affiliate link) - to go with the wands and our bubble blower and bubble mower

pogo stick (affiliate link) - my kids have been asking for one for months. We are getting one for the older kids (not pictured) and the one pictured above still in its packaging (affiliate link) for the little ones.

water bottle (affiliate link) - each of my kids gets a Thermos water bottle when they begin Kindergarten. It serves as their cup ann that way there is no confusion of which is whose. L's Doc McStuffins one is old, faded, and a bit too juvenile for my almost tween, although she uses it without complaint. I'm excited to give her this pretty, more grown-up one.

Other great ideas from some of my favorite online stores are:

The Catholic Journaling Bible from Blessed Is She (affiliate link) - I love mine. It makes for great study time since it has all the footnotes and cross references plus room for notes, prayers, doodles...

Catholic Bible Stickers from Look to Him Be Radiant - my friend Katie makes these and I LOVE mine. As much as I wish I could doodle beautiful things in my Bible I am not artistic and so when she started selling these - they fit the margins of the BIS Bible perfectly - I immediately purchased some. I love that they add little touches of beauty next to my scrawling notes.

Custom Felted Bead Decade Rosary from Lily Joy Designs - I have one of these babies and I love praying with it. It would be a perfect companion to one the Mystery studies!

Madonna of the Blossoms print from Sleightholm Folk Art - one hangs in my living room each Spring and I love it. Absolutely gorgeous.

Strong Brave Loved t-shirt from Someday Saints Designs - so pretty and perfect for a teen or tween.

Gold Foil Sacred Heart print from Small Gifts Great Love - one hangs in my kitchen and I love it!

The new study series from Blessed Is She - Mystery - I wrote Believe! (affiliate link)

Now, I need YOUR help, please! My almost 8 year old boy needs a big gift for his Easter Basket and I can't think of anything to give him. He doesn't need a new umbrella, water bottle, helmet, swim trunks, or anything like that. Can you help me out?