August 19, 2016

Hiding Behind Excuses: the lesson of the cursed fig tree

"The next day as they were leaving Bethany He was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went over to see if He could find anything on it. When He reached it He found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And He said to it in reply, "May no one ever eat of your fruit again!" ... Early in the morning as they were walking along, they saw the fig tree withered to its roots."
Mark 11:12-14, 20

Thursday was the third day I went back to this passage in Mark during my quiet time. I read it and then read it again, each time more slowly. I sat with it on Tuesday, on Wednesday, and again yesterday.

It seemed like such an over-reaction from Jesus - from God - and it bothered me. "Lord, I don't understand. 'It was not the time for figs.' You made nature, You set the rules. Why should the fig tree be cursed and die just because it was doing what it was doing - it was what it was. 'It was not the time for figs.' It couldn't help the fact that it wasn't bearing fruit. 

The footnote said that the fig tree really represents Israel, which had stopped bearing fruit, that it is a "parable in action." It still seemed rather unfortunate for the fig tree. 

I sat with it longer and asked, "If I am the fig tree are You going to curse me? What fruit am I not bearing? But what if the only reason I'm not bearing the fruit is because it's not the time for figs! It's just not the season of life for me to be producing! That's not fair!"

And then I saw it. I saw how I was hiding behind the excuse, clinging to it, shoving it in God's face. "IT'S NOT THE TIME FOR FIGS!"

But God sees past the excuses.

Now I am not a theologian and I know nothing of fig trees that grow in the Middle East, but I noticed that when our Lord looked at the tree the only thing He found was leaves. Not remnants of fruit just harvested, not blossoms for fruit to come, just leaves. Lots of beautiful leaves. The tree looked nice, it looked like it should have something for Him, it looked healthy and lush. So maybe the tree thought it was doing well and others would even say, "Oh how lovely!" Maybe well meaning people would even tell it, "It's okay that you're not bearing fruit right now. It's not the time for figs. In this season of your life you can just be what you are - look you're even providing shade!"
And I saw myself in the tree and in all the excuses I use and all the beauty in my life that I hide behind, hoping that they will be distracting enough that no one will notice what I could and should have but what I lack instead.

Of course there are seasons of life. There are times when we have to step back, say "no," and things may even look barren to an outsider. But God should be the one to give us permission instead of us giving excuses to God. God should be the one to tell us, "It is not the time for you to do this. It is not the time for figs." God, who has our best interest at Heart, will lovingly care for us, protect us, and build us up. He will nurture us until it is time for us to go out again, bearing visible fruit. But in the meantime there will be growth. Our roots will deepen, our limbs with stretch, our trunks will strengthen. 

I guess what I'm trying to say with all this flowery language is that I think the fig tree had stopped producing figs and just become a tree. It was no longer being what it was intended to be. It may have been a lovely tree but it was a horrible fig tree and that was its failure. 

I may be a really nice person. My life my look swell and I may seem to have my stuff together. I may even seem successful. But God has intended for me to be a saint. If I am a lovely person but a horrible saint then I, too, am a failure. I may put on a good show - I may even be beautiful, happy, and successful - but in the end I will be withered to my roots for all eternity with only my excuses to still cling to. 

Going forward I know that I will turn this into a prayer - an inside joke of sorts between my Lord and myself. As I evaluate my works, my time, and my projects I will ask Him, "Is this the time for figs?" As I examine my days, my relationships, and my choices I will ask Him, "Is this the time for figs?" I'm sure that my stupid pride and stubbornness will mean I will continue to make excuses, but I am hopeful that I will listen more.

"The glory of God is man fully alive." St. Irenaeus

August 11, 2016

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and Fulton Sheen

Friends, I learned that August 19th is next court date for the case that directly effects Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's cause being reopened. Beginning tomorrow my family and I will be praying the Mary, Undoer of Knots novena for the entire situation and all of us involved in the matter. I invite all of you to join me in these prayers.
Holy men and women are declared saints for the glory of God and the edification of the faithful. It is time for Bishop Sheen's cause and all of us involved in the cause and this dispute to make sure that's what's happening. If God is not being glorified then shame on us.
You can pray with us on the AKL Facebook page where each day's novena prayer will be posted or you can sign up for the novena to come to you via email from the great website Pray More Novenas. I am wording the intention this way:  Fulton Sheen's cause, the court case, and the hearts of all involved.
Thank you for your prayers. 

August 9, 2016

A Song for Everything: A Little Home-School Pre-School for Resa

This year while my oldest three kids attend brick-and-mortar schools I will be doing a little homeschoolin to get Resa Rie ready for next year, when she will attend Kindergarten.

Now, most real homeschoolers I know don't do preschool, successfully covering pre-k curriculum in the first weeks of Kindergarten or just introducing their children to the concepts through life. When my oldest, L, was 4 we opted to homeschool her, too, but I was pregnant and naps quickly became more important. However, being a girl, the oldest, and the only grandchild meant that she still learned her letters, numbers, the days of the week, and a few other things - and that was mostly from books and conversations, not PBS Kids! When she went straight to Kindergarten she was fine. We knew that Ben would benefit from attending Pre-K4 and we were right - it was a good investment and really helped him do well in Kindergarten. JF, of course has been in preschool for three years, as that was how he received speech therapy.

Resa, though, is in a different place than her siblings before her and so we will do actual homeschool with her. But when I say that please know it will be super casual and laid back. 

She already can identify all the shapes, colors, numbers 1-10, and about 1/4 of the alphabet. She also sorta knows how to write her name and how to say most of her prayers. We'll need to solidify the Hail Mary, Our Father, and Glory Be, though.

My other goals - which we have a whole entire year to accomplish - are to teach Resa:
- the days of the week (we got a song for that)
- the months of the year (we got a song for that one, too)
- how to identify the letters of the alphabet
- how to write the letters of the alphabet
- how to write numbers 1-10
- how to count to 20 on her own, 100 with me
- her address (another song)
- my phone number (yet another song)
- how to writer her first and at least sorta write her last name

Days of the week song: the days of the week sung to O My Darlin'. It works in Spanish, too.

Months of the year song: Singing the months through to the tune of Ten Little Indians with "these are the months of the year. Good job!" at the end. 

The address song is our address to the tune of Ten Little Indians (the second half). So, for example and not my real address:
Two-Fifteen Oak Tree Avenue / Chicago Illinois!

My phone number is sung to Knick-Knack Paddy Whack. Is that what the song even called? Anyways, again not my real phone number:
123-456-7891 with a knick-knack paddy whack give my mom a call / her name is Bonnie.
It works. My older kids don't want to sing it to people but they have used it to remember my number so grown ups can call me. #winning

Other resources - books I'll be using:
Catholic Icing's Preschool Curriculum

This summer we had a pretty good run for going to the library and reading books. I'm hoping to continue that with Resa and spend some time reading classics with her. I think I'll make a list of A-Z books (like A for Alexander and the Horrible...Day - sorta like what Haley did here) and loosely try to follow that through the weeks. We'll see. I call myself a fake homeschooler (unlike the "real" homeschoolers I referenced) because my standards are loose and low and none of it quite feels legit, yaknowwhatI'msayin?

And I have changed up my shelves a bit to make things a bit more schoolish. We'll see how long this lasts but yay for mason jars, toys my kids were given, and Target dollar bins!

I figure two days a week for 30 minutes will be great. We'll probably start after Labor Day - once the big kids have settled in school and our home is off to its new rhythm. Honestly, I am really glad for this time with Resa. She is so peaceful and sweet, the middle child with no health issues or anything else to call attention to her, and so it's easy to let her be. It'll be good to intentionally sit down with her and work with her. One more year for her to be with me and be my little baby girl.

That got sappy so we'll wrap this up. If you have a favorite book for my list or another resource you'd love to tell me about please share!

August 5, 2016

Seven Quick Takes for Your Friday Afternoon

1 - Ahhhh... The Head and the Heart have a new album and this is the new single and I just love it all. (Remember the time Blythe interviewed her brother Kenny - the pianist in THATH - for my blog? It was a good one.)

2 - So who watched Kathryn's Blessed Is She workshop, Raising a Holy Family: Toddlers Through Teens last night? I was so excited to see it - Kathryn has spoken at my parish's mom group before and she was amazing. Her wisdom, her humility, her Texas twang - all of it! Unfortunately I had to miss it...

3 - ... because of freakin' Hand, Foot, and Mouth. Two of my boys have it now and I'm sure Jofis will come down with it, too. I'm holding out how that Baby Tee, the girls, and Travis and I will be safe. For some reason this strand is taking down adults, too, and with school and back to school events beginning next week for half of this household I really hope it's all said and done asap.

4 - But back to happier things and Kathryn... I'm throwing a Star Wars themed birthday party for the boys later this month. Basically I am just gonna do what Kathryn did for her Star Wars themed party. Why re-create the wheel, right? I did just buy this Darth Vadar costume (affiliate link!), one in small and one in medium. It will serve as birthday presents and Halloween costumes, and it will end hours of fighting to our days! My boys love Darth Vadar, not Han Solo, not Finn, not Chewie. Darth Vadar. Oh well.

5 - Here's a quick tip: Got beer you don't like? Use it to cook your stew meat or roast in. It has worked for us every time. In fact, the more we hate the beer the more we love the gravy!

6 - One perk of being a blogger is being able to send flowers for free to a friend as part of a company's incentive. It's true - and you can think what you want of me. I was so grateful
to FTD for sending me this gorgeous bouquet of flowers and letting me send some love to Nell with the same arrangement. She has been a great blogging buddy - she cheers me on and gently corrects and directs when needed. She has opened her heart and home to me and has done so much in service to Blessed Is She and Catholic bloggers everywhere.
So thanks, FTD, for allowing us to #connectbetter. ;)

7 - Last but not least, Kelly's 7QTs today is so good: What To Do When Your Child Won't Stop Staring at a Person in a Wheelchair. I thought it was super helpful.

August 4, 2016

Liturgical Crafting for the Non-Crafty Moms

I am not a crafty person. I wish I could do all sorts of sewing, embroidering, creating, molding, making, but I can't. I like to bake, I like to arrange things, but that's about it. I am not a crafty person, but my kids are. They enjoy cutting, gluing, coloring, and having a finished product. More than once Ben has taken a piece of paper, glued a mound of cotton balls, clipped paper, popsicle sticks, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners and called it a masterpiece. L and Resa both spend great amounts of time coloring and drawing each day. JF and JP looooove watercolors. All my kids enjoy making it up as they go along, but they also enjoy an official project. 

That's why when I first heard about The Mass Box I was intrigued. Each month / liturgical season they send me a box of crafts to do with the kids that build on the Sunday and Holy Day readings? Yes, please. They ended up inviting my kids and I to be part of their guinea pig program. The deal: They send me a Mass Box for one kid to be used during Lent and in exchange I give them feedback and possibly share about our experience on social media. We did it, way back in Lent, and we really enjoyed it.

I want share some more about our experience with The Mass Box because they will be officially launching this Advent and the First Sunday of Advent will be here in the blink of an eye. Seriously. It goes 4th of July, pumpkin lattes, Christmas music on the radio justlikethat! If you were considering signing up before then this can be your friendly reminder. :)
So let me break down how we used it. 

Depending on how on top of things I was we would either do the project Saturday before Mass, Sunday afternoon after Mass, or whenever in the following week. ;) On my own I would watch the video to get some ideas of what to discuss with my kids and how the project should go. I didn't stick to the plot line all the time, but we did what worked for our family and how I saw the Sunday readings applying to us. 

 Next, I would gather however many of the kids wanted to do the craft to the dining room table. We would read the Mass readings - sometimes just doing the Scripture that applied to the craft - and discuss them so I was sure the kids knew what was going on. I will confess that the only time I have ever actually done this - review and discuss the Mass readings - with my children was when we were using the Mass Box. The kid-friendly version of the Magnifcat. the Magnifikid, is included in each box.

Then we did the craft. We got the box for one child but it was easy enough to use the supplies they provide and either divide them up or use extra supplies from our own craft bin. Some of the crafts were easy for even my three year old but some of them worked best for my second grader. However, that's because I preferred to talk to them about it and then let them go for it - I didn't want to supervise each step of the craft.

Honestly I believe that using The Mass Box enhanced my family's Lenten observance. It helped me be intentional about discussing Mass, Scripture, and other parts of our faith the kids. All my kids enjoyed it, but  this was especially a wonderful experience for my super crafty and creative child who has to suffer with me as her mom. 

If you're looking for a simple, ready-to-go way to add some liturgical living to your home I really recommend this product. Or if you are, like me, a parent with a kid who loves to create and you want to give them intentional projects but you're a bit clueless as to how, well this would make a wonderful gift. 

Again, this isn't a paid post, just something that I helped with and wanted to share with you. If you are interested, they are currently taking subscriptions to roll out for this coming Advent. You can secure yours here.

July 25, 2016


Today is my birthday.

Mom + me. 

About two weeks ago my body sent out the memo that this birthday was approaching and automatically sent twenty new grey hairs. I know other women have gone grey gracefully and happily but it was a bit of a hit for me.

For awhile I thought I wanted a big party. Get a cover band, string up twinkly lights, buy a keg. But today was mostly normal. Flowers and cards and a bottle of wine from my husband and kids. Breakfast with my college chaplain. And then lots of errands, chicken nuggets for lunch, made a few phone calls, changed a few dirty diapers. So thirty-five has come with a couple of streamers taped up by L and ended with KFC for supper with my parents.

Nice and simple.

A few years ago I did a list of thirty-one things I wanted to do in my thirty-first year. (You can read the list here, and it's follow-up of how unimpressive I was here.) I wanted to do it again, with four more this year. So here it is:

Thirty-Five Things

1 - Read my Bible every day.

2 - Attend Adoration regularly.

3 - Forgive the slights and insults.

4 - Publish a book.

5 - Potty train my 3 year old.

6 - Eat more fresh veggies.

7 - Go on walks.

8 - Pull the weeds under the pine tree.

9 - Stain the benches that sit outside.

10 - Paint the bedroom.

11 - Transplant the ornamental grass.

12 - Weed the side yard and lay down mulch.

13 - Read more novels (one a month?)

14 - Pay it forward.

15 - Sleep.

16 - Vacuum twice a week for allergy-suffers' sakes.

17 - Stain the playset.

18 - Write more letters.

19 - Bake more bread.

20 - Mop once a week, as opposed to once a month... if.

21 - Attend a conference.

22 - Figure out what's going with my ears reacting to all my earrings.

23 - Have at least five speaking gigs.

24 - Lose the same 45lbs I wanted to lose four years ago.

25 - Make sure Resa knows here letters, numbers, shapes, colors, prayers, address, and how to write her first and last name.

26 - Let the kids bake more.

27 - Help Ben with his reading.

28 - Take L to confession once a month.

29 - Line dry the sheets.

30 - Wash the sheets once a week.

31 - Spend more time with my grandparents.

32 - Organize the pictures and save to discs or whatever.

33 - Help JF with his speech.

34 - Drink more water.

35 - Learn to make caramels.

July 21, 2016

Baby Tee's Baptism!

When sweet baby Tee was not even two months old we called in the troops, headed to the last Sunday Mass of the day, and had our son baptized.

Friends and family came for the event, which was really wonderful - to look out over the pews and see so many of our loved ones. It was laid back, with kids wandering and toddling about. But the deacon didn't mind one bit, and nor did we.

Resa got a good sniff of the chrism right before it was used on Tee's forehead.

Love this moment.

And here's the godparents, our good friends Justin and Ruth, the newest little Catholic, and hubby and me. We're a happy bunch. :)

We followed the Sacrament up with a cook-out at our house.

I ended up loving the little "tablescape" I set up. A sweet little gift from his mormor. Holy water from the baptismal font. Handmade namesake peg dolls: Thomas Aquinas and Fr. Emil Kapaun. A Hatch print that Katrina sent as a "Hello, Baby!" gift. His baptismal candle. A Fr. Kapaun holy card. A rosary from his godparents. And the baptismal gown that was handmaid by my friend Sr. Marie Noelle, OP. (It's too small for my big babies so we use it as the white garment that is laid on the baby instead of the felt thingy from the parish. 

 And, of course, we had to find a way to bring our man Fulton Sheen into the day. I thought this quotes was a good one.

It was a beautiful day. We are so grateful for our faith, our friends and family, and our sweet baby Tee.