Friday, August 22, 2014

7QT - Lip sync challenge, Lydia's a first grader, blanched corn, a crown cake, and Mary

1 - Here's my submission for Kelly's lip sync battle. The gauntlet has been thrown down! We win by the person with the most thumbs up on YouTube so please head over and vote for me, all ya'all!

2 - Speaking of Lydia, she had her first day of 1st grade on Monday. Look at my beautiful sweetie pie!
She's excited about the peanut butter cookies she made for her teacher.

 On her first day of kindergarten she wanted to be the Queen of all Butterflies. Now she wants to be a veterinarian like our friend Liz. She also wants to learn "to do math in the 100's."

Sitting in her desk, ready to learn. What  a cutie!

3 - I'm going to do a little shameless blog promotion here. Anna Hatke (@annamberto) gave some really beautiful answers in her profile in my Instagrammers You Should Follow series. One of my favorite parts is this:

I actually made a conscious choice to be a public account at one point because I realized that it was one small way I could open my house to the stranger at the door. American life is very private, unnaturally private even, and as a Christian I have always loved how Christ encountered people, usually on the streets in the midst of their normal lives, and always first as persons. We don't have a lot of opportunities for that, especially those of us who stay at home raising children. So for me Instagram is like a little commons, a piazza if you will. We can encounter people "on the street." I like that Instagram offers me a chance to show my faith in my daily life and in a way that is natural and uncontrived.

You should go read the rest. And then read Nancy's. And then come back here and finish these quick takes.

Also, I finally got around to making another video and this one has some basic information on Adoration and includes reference to the Yo Dawg meme so you know it's good.

4 - The other day I was super domestic and the kids were super good so I was able to make home made bagels and chocolate chip cookies. I also blanched and froze corn my grandpa brought us from his nephew's farm. It was actually kinda fun.


Cold water bathing

Cooling and drying 

Cutting the corn from the cob.

Freezing and ready for the winter. 

5 - Here's what I've been up to today:
 Went to the library to pick up Daddy Long Legs which is my book club's next pick. My library has a drive up window - how cool is that?

I also bought some new earrings at WalMart for $1 and then came home and made a giant rice krispie treat in the shape of a crown for today's feast: The Queenship of Mary.

Also, this happened:

6 - Just a reminder, folks, that Leila Lawler, blogger at Like Mother, Like Daughter and author of The Little Oratory, will be speaking in Washington, Illinois tomorrow, Saturday the 23rd. Hope you can come!

7 - Mary and Courtney.have been on my heart and mind a lot lately. I've been offering up lots of extra prayers and most of my sufferings for Mary and her family. For a very long time I could not read Mary's blog. Courtney, you see, is very much like what James should have been: blind, diapers, feeding tube, seizures, confined to a wheelchair. He was also supposed to have very severe cerebral palsy so that his body would be locked and contorted but the similarities were enough. Peering into Courtney's world was too painful for me and I felt nothing but guilt. Guilt that my baby was healed while Mary and Courtney suffered so much. For the longest time, every time I looked at Passionate Perseverance I felt like I needed to apologize. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that you're going through this and I'm not." I was still so afraid of the James who was supposed to be. I was still going through the grief of it all. Heck, every time I tell James' story I go through the grief of it all.

But then I started to notice something. Mary kept linking up with What I Wore Sunday. She was so cute and sassy and well dressed. She was vibrant and I stopped feeling guilty around her and started wanting to be like her. Her joy, her love, her passion - it was all so palpable. Mary's witness has done more to heal my heart than probably any other blog. God has used her and Courtney and their whole family to bring me closer to Him. I am so grateful.

Because of my gratitude for all Mary has done I am really, truly, sincerely asking you to pray for her, her husband, and children. Courtney's doctor have told them to prepare for the end. Lord have mercy on us all.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Finally! A new Knot Bad Video: Easy Adoration

The whole reason I make my Knot Bad Videos is to help people live liturgically - to bring the seasons of the Church into their homes and the every day lives of their families. I especially want to help people who are are just starting out but don't know where to begin.

Maybe that's you.

Maybe you are beginning RCIA so you can join the Church this Easter Vigil (that is so cool!) and you feel like you have so much to learn. So, so much.

Maybe you are a cradle Catholic but you're just now beginning to take your faith seriously. You kinda sorta know what to do but you're not sure exactly what and you really don't know the why or how.

Maybe you're someone who is looking for ideas but has been overwhelmed by Pinterest and other websites. Well, look no further because I have some bare bones ideas here, folks!

In this video I cover some basics like how to make the sign of the cross and how to genuflect. I also share some ways that I work Eucharistic Adoration into my busy life with little kids. If you're not used to making a Holy Hour, well I've got some tricks to hopefully make it less intimidating for you too.

The liturgical season of Ordinary Time, which we are now in, is the time to grow. Here's hoping this video will help us all do just that.

You can see all my Knot Bad Videos here.

Instagrammers You Should Follow: annamberto

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am a huge fan of Ben Hatke's. We own all of his Zita books, several other books he's illustrated, I'm planning on giving Julia's House for Lost Creatures to Teresa this Christmas, and I know more than one Chestertonian who will be happy to see his illustrations in the new edition of The Ball and the Cross.

One day I was looking at his Facebook page (not in a creepy stalker way, okay? geesh!) and he shared an image from his wife's Instagram account. I was smitten and a little later I literally sent her a fan email via Ben's email account. "Hi Ben. Could you please pass this on to your wife? Hi Anna..." I'm totally not a weirdo. I promise.

But that's the story of how I found and began to follow Anna's IG account. It's gorgeous and interesting and, well, I'll let Anna do the rest of the talking and you can enjoy her thoughts and her gorgeous pictures.

What images do you try to capture for Instagram?
I try to capture moments of unexpected beauty that I find in the midst of the mess of daily work, mothering, etc. I like showing those moments because they happen alongside the other moments, the piles of laundry, screaming children, etc. and its a reminder to me and others that they exist in the midst of all that. I like to see that.

Do you have any sort of plan or set of rules for how you use IG?
Not really, I initially joined because as a sanguine/choleric I knew Facebook would be bad news for me and a major distraction. Instagram offered a way to share photos and keep up with my family. My husband and I made a pact: he does Facebook and I do Instagram. It's funny though, because for me Instagram has sort of morphed into a way to connect with other people who share a similar lifestyle and culture, i.e. natural foods, homeschooling, breastfeeding. Many of the folks I follow live in the country and keep small homesteads, but are part of this new young generation of back to the landers with iphones. I have also connected with some of my husbands friends, author and publishing professionals, and that makes me feel a connection to his world as well.

Do you filter? If yes, which ones are your favorites?
Yes I do. I use an ipad, and it takes grainy photos. No iphone here, so I just use just whatever looks best, captures the mood of the photo and helps with the graininess. I never use Kelvin. I just don't like it. (shrugs shoulders), not sure why.

Do you see IG as an evangelization tool and do you use it as such?
Ha! I actually made a conscious choice to be a public account at one point because I realized that it was one small way I could open my house to the stranger at the door. American life is very private, unnaturally private even, and as a Christian I have always loved how Christ encountered people, usually on the streets in the midst of their normal lives, and always first as persons. We don't have a lot of opportunities for that, especially those of us who stay at home raising children. So for me Instagram is like a little commons, a piazza if you will. We can encounter people "on the street." I like that Instagram offers me a chance to show my faith in my daily life and in a way that is natural and uncontrived. I do see IG as an evangelization tool but it is not my primary reason for using it. Lastly I do think the old adage holds true for this issue, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

What is beautiful to you?
Oh gosh,where to start. . . Well, my husband is an artist so we talk about beauty a lot. I find beauty mostly in the natural world, in mountains and skies, in animal life and in the human body. And of course genuine human culture. I see beauty in the way a child plays and works when she is totally focused and absorbed. Children can be masters of play when we let them. It is beautiful to see that. I find beauty in books, in the sunlight on my morning cup of coffee, in my husband, in dear friendships, and in the high feasts Easter and Christmas in particular. Its everywhere! And now that we all have little cameras in our pockets we can share it constantly. Crazy huh?

What do you hope people come away with from looking at your pictures?
I hope that it changes, in whatever small way, the prevailing misconception that a woman who makes a home is somehow not empowered. I hope it makes the idea of a woman staying at home a more powerful image. A woman at home is not necessarily any one thing. She can be empowered by her home domain, or enslaved by it. It's all in how she chooses to use it. She can step back and let society tell her what to consume and how to behave, or she can take control and make her space productive and stimulating. It's an invaluable space that she controls. It is where the work of peace is begun. I think this idea applies to all women -not just those of us who stay at home. I hope my images paint life at home in an inspiring light.

You can find Anna...
on Instagram at @annamberto
You can find her husband, Ben Hatke at his website:

I hope you're having fun and maybe discovering some new favorites for your IG feeds. I've got a few more Instagrammers lined up in this series and if you missed the first, please check out Nancy's interview here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Instagrammers You Should Follow: therealnancyo

Every time I get on Instagram there are certain 'grammers I look for. I love their pictures, I love the way they capture their lives and the beautiful, every-day things they are surrounded by. I love the way they capture their lives.

I wanted to share my favorite Instagrammers with you  so you can add them to your feed and enjoy the beauty and fun! Starting us off is therealnancyo.

Q: What images do you try to capture for Instagram?

My images are typically slice-of-life, oftentimes domestic and occasionally more exotic.

As a personal exercise this year I’m participating in Project 365, a flexible photo-per-day concept and I’m posting my daily pictures on Instagram. The benefit to me is that no matter how routine my day, I have at least one small moment of creativity. My followers can expect a fairly steady rate of Instagram posts but there are no guarantees what exactly will show up in my feed. Frequent subjects include my neighborhood park, my 2 dogs, any church that I happen to visit, and sights from my travels.

I recently saw this quote from Boris Pasternak about writing:
“It is not the object described that matters, but the light that falls on it.” This describes my approach to the Instagram photos I shoot. I’m much more interested in how something looks – a pattern of light, interesting shape, or unexpected composition - rather than what it is. I’m not taking a photo of a chair but of the way the sunlight casts shadows on the floor beneath it.

At the local park;this park is in our neighborhood and figures prominently in my instagram feed.

Q: Do you have any sort of plan or set of rules for how you use IG?

No, my approach to IG use has been pretty scattershot. I’m not organized enough to integrate my social media accounts, so I don’t promote my blog via Instagram, or my Instagram photos via Facebook. Also I’m a fairly private person and whole segments of our lives are conducted strictly offline. At the same time, my children and all of my siblings are on Instagram so we all get a kick out of using photos to keep up with each other’s daily activities (and pets).

Normandy church;this was a cool 12th century church we saw in Normandy last month - it was used as a medic station on D-Day and the following days of fighting in June 1944.

Q: Do you filter? If yes, which ones are your favorites?

Filters are fun! Most of the time I use one of the Instagram filters (Valencia and Rise are current favorites) but sometimes I edit the photos with an app called Aviary instead.

Q: Do you see IG as an evangelization tool and do you use it as such?

Yes, I think Instagram can be a great way to evangelize, and I follow some accounts that do an amazing job of presenting the Catholic Church in an appealing way. My feed isn’t solely religious but I hope that I weave in enough images to show the centrality of Catholicism in my everyday life. When I post photos related to my faith I am aware that these images will appear in the feeds of a wide variety of people. My Instagram followers come from several different contexts, and not all are Catholics, or even believers. There’s no way to predict how someone will be touched by a photo – and I may never know how those seeds I plant with a little trepidation may bear fruit.

During Lent my evangelization was a little more pronounced. I participated in two different photo-a-day projects, with a different assigned Lenten theme for each day. I was a little concerned that so many religious-themed photos might be off-putting to some of my non-Christian friends, and I tried to hit the balance of being direct but not preachy.

Rosary; this was one of this year's Lenten project photos and I love how the texture of the stool contrasts with the glitter of the rosary.  By my feed's modest standards, this was one of the most popular that I've posted.

You can find Nancy... 
on Twitter: @nancyo
on Instagram: @therealnancyo
and at her blog: And The Rough Places Plain

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What I Learned in Kindergarten

In the next three weeks I will have three first days of school. Lydia begins first grade on tomorrow, Monday. The following Monday James will begin pre-k 3 and the week after that Bennet will begin pre-k 4.

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"
 If you can't tell from my mantel, I am looking forward to it.

Last year I was so nervous, so sentimental. This year I am so tired. But I also understand things now that I didn't a year ago, especially after some recent conversations, one with some friends and one with a priest .

In kindergarten I learned that I am definitely an introvert and often I am shy, even if I sometimes test ENFJ. Even so, I want a strong community of women of all ages and stages - real, Catholic women who celebrate feast days and go to confession and are embracing their crosses or just trying to because it can be so hard sometimes, dangit! I want women who laugh and drink and pray and I want to them to exist as a group which is full of mentors. I want the older moms to teach the younger moms and the younger moms to teach the youngest moms. I also learned in kindergarten that such a group does not exist at my parish and I have no idea what to do about it. I just learned that maybe that's my problem to fix and maybe it's not and I need to pursue that answer with real humility. (Lord, have mercy and help me with that one, please.)

I learned in kindergarten that I'm looking for whole families of fellow parishioners (I don't even care if your kids attend home, public, or the parochial school) who will walk with my family as we embrace our faith which is true, beautiful, sometimes weird, sometimes hard, and often very fun.

Wise owls.
I learned in kindergarten that I am not the only one wanting my children's school to be a place filled with the Holy Spirit, engaging kids academically and spiritually. I also came to understand that there are parents at my children's school who have chosen it because they went to private school, liked it, and want something similar for their kids. I understand that all of us are at different stages of life, grief, holiness... we are all doing the best we can with what we have.

Politically incorrect chalkboard, anyone? Yes, please.
More than anything, what I learned in kindergarten, after two years of pathetic attempts at super basic "homeschool" preschool (we're talking letter, shape, and number recognition here along with a little catechism), is that I need structure and I am really bad at giving it to myself. Our days ran so much more smoothly when the school day made us get up, get dressed, and be out the door by a certain time. Our home was immeasurably more peaceful following the school day routine. And perhaps most importantly I thrived with that schedule. Thrived.

I understand that through the next three weeks my life will be pretty rough. Grumpy kids, tired and worn out from new schedules, learning, playing, and new friends, will come home hungry and ready for a nap. I also understand that after those adjustment weeks we will hit a pace and we will all thrive.

Joseph's birthday present worked perfectly.
I was reminded recently that God called us to this school. He made it obvious that to me over the course of one weekend that my children should be at the parish school. Kendra told me recently that she thinks "some of us are called to a modified cloistered vocation and some of us are called to a modified missionary vocation within our vocation to motherhood. Both are good." Wow, I could not agree more and I'm so grateful for that perspective. Obviously because God has called us to our parish school there is some aspect of missionary work He wants us to do and to also be the recipients of. That's exciting to me and also a little intimidating but God is good and wants what is best for me.

In kindergarten I saw again and again how blessed we are and how good people are. In kindergarten I saw how wonderful a Catholic education* can be. Looking back at the last school year I can tell you confidently that this really is the most wonderful time of the year: school is starting and there are friends to be made, new learning experiences to be had, a little bit more quiet in my home. ;)


About my mantle:

My friend Amanda inspired my mantel with her awesome one:

I was so inspired that I literally pulled up her picture on Facebook and ran around my house, collecting things to use for my own.

I took some objects from other parts of my house - owl candle from the kitchen, books from the living room, chalkboard and alphabet toy from playroom - and put them all together. Not as cute as Amanda's but still pretty cute, if I do say so myself.


* I feel like I should make a disclaimer. I know that Catholic education is not an option for a lot of you. Some Catholic schools are more elitist private schools and they very much lack any sort of orthodoxy and faith. Some Catholic schools are just too expensive, have no scholarships or multiple-children discounts, or are too far away. This post is not to make anyone feel bad about not giving their kids a Catholic education. Public, private, or homeschool: you do NOT have to defend your schooling choice to me! No way! I support you! And salute you! And cheer you on!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (with lots of good clicks)

1 - I heard this song on the radio recently, looked it up online, and remembered seeing the video a long time ago. This girl is such an amazing dancer, though, that I wanted to share it, even though it was all over Facebook last spring. I mean, she does crazy, creepy in such an amazing way, huh? Wow.

2 - This is how you write charitably and truthfully, friends: Catholic Psych. (With a hat tip to Jenny, who posted the link on the book of faces.)

3 - Kate at The Rhodes Log invited me to be part of her series "Before I Had a Seven Year Old." Now technically I still don't have a seven year old but since Lydia can get the baby out of the crib, change the two year old's diaper, put the baby in his carseat, buckle everyone up, help with shoes, and is all around super duper helpful I thought it was fair for me to participate. You can check out my interview here. And thank you so much, Kate, for honoring me with the invitation.

4 - Wanna help rebuild the Catholic culture in America? Good! here's your chance: Call of the Void is a movie in pre-production coming from producer, Patrick Coffin. A Hitchcockian style film set in 1951, New York City, it's a suspense movie that explores our subliminal, destructive thoughts. Sounds promising, right?

Right. You can donate to the Kickstarter Patrick has going for the film. Also, if you love Fulton Sheen you'll want to check out the video if only to see how amazingly similar to Sheen Patrick Coffin looks. It's crazy.

5 - Thanks to those of you who gave me some podcasts ideas. I started with Catholic Stuff You Should Know and I love it! Highly recommended... based on the two episodes I've listened to so far.

6 -Last week Katie came over and helped Lydia make a crown from flowers from our yard. She ran up to show me just as her dad and I were on our way out so I snapped a picture super fast. Doesn't she look lovely?

7 - Next week I'm starting a little series on ye olde blog where I feature my favorite Instagrammers. Some of them you probably already follow but maybe you'll find a few new ones to love, too. I hope you come back to meet them. 

Have a fun weekend. Thanks, Jen, for hosting!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Writing out my heart

Gosh you guys, there are so many things swirling through my mind right now and I don't know how to articulate any of it.

My heart feels a little achy but I don't know why. Should I try to write about it anyways? Yes? Oh good, I was going to.

This morning I was in bed with three kids with two pressed up against me. They couldn't get comfortable and as I laid there at 5:45 in the morning - in my non-family, queen sized bed - I was done. Totally touched out. I felt claustrophobic under the sheets and I needed to get. out. now. Touched out before 6 am is not a good thing. It's the beginning of a long day.

My baby is crying a lot right now. Low grade fever, molars just peeking through, I know he's not comfortable. He is at the "I'll cry if you hold me and I'll cry if you don't" stage and while he is the cutest, sweetest baby most of the time he is really wearing on me now.

Last Friday I had to call 911 and ride in an ambulance with James because I fed him something he was allergic to. Did you know that he's like super deadly allergic to dairy? All this time I thought nuts were the worst but really, for him, it's dairy. Along with the nuts, eggs, wheat, soy, and tomatoes. I'm going to complain for a minute, okay? Each meal, each snack, each trip to the grocery store is almost exhausting. Reading the labels, substituting ingredients, trying to find food that will satisfy everyone and make no one complain.

And school. I love that my kids are able to attend Catholic school; I wish that I had some really strong friendships with other moms at our school. I also wish there was a group of moms who 1) had some middle school aged kids 2) where completely orthodox and followed the Church's teachings 3) joyfully loved being Catholic 4) were open to mentoring moms like me. I wish they would swoop in and invite me and other moms to afternoon tea and morning playdates, they and their husbands would chat with me and my husband, they'd make sure I knew - not the gossip - but all the ins and outs of what's going on at school. Making new friends is incredibly difficult as an adult, especially more so when I'm placed in a situation where we all should be on the same page but we're not and it's really hard figuring out where people are. (Updated to clarify that those moms probably are there, I just don't know them and I don't know how to find them. That's what I was getting at...)

I suppose right now I'm tired, though not really physically. I am not in a state of grace, I know that. It's really dark here, kinda muffled, not as joyful, and it makes connecting with God so hard, so exhausting. I'm scratching for peace but it's not mine for the taking right now.
poor Mary and her poor chipped halo

 I will be meeting with a priest on Friday afternoon for confession and a little bit of direction. I haven't had real spiritual direction in a long time and I know I need it. I'm hoping the meeting goes well and he's open to meeting again. We'll see. Will you pray? Will you please pray for me?

Also, I feel the urge to listen to some good, solid podcasts. What are your favorites?

Thanks for staying with me and letting me type it all out. Now to do some dishes, fold some laundry, and maybe bake a cake.