Monday, February 8, 2016

Best of the Web

Did you see that Abbey's blog had a little face lift over at Surviving Our Blessings? It looks so lovely.

Kathryn at Team Whitaker gets me. She just gets me. Our Catholic school experience has been wonderful so far and her 7 Reasons Catholic Schools Matter, along with the linked posts at the end, really rings true for me. 

Basically everything Jenny has been writing recently has been amazing. So here's the grand slam of links. Well done, Mama Needs Coffee. 

On a little lighter side, Haley's 9 Reasons the Weasleys are (Probably) a Catholic Family is solid gold for any HP fans. 

Oh! I don't know if you missed this, but Colleen Mitchell will be stateside this summer (instead of in Costa Rica, where she and her family run a mission that opens their home to indigenous mothers) and so she can join us as one of the break-out speakers for the Finding Your Fiat conference! I know she has some amazing words to share with us about saying "yes!" to God. I hope you can join us!
For more info and to purchase your tickets click on over

And on the Lent-is-almost-here-what-am-I-doing side 40+ Resources for Lent and February Liturgical Resources by Haley is good. So is Kendra's old beauty 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent. And let's not forget Meg's 100 Things to Do for Lent.

I'm still partial to cleaning my windows as a Lenten practice and using our kid-friendly Stations of the Cross box.

But I'm also excited to be getting the chance to be guinea pigs for a new company that is testing it's product: The Mass Box. The idea is pretty neat: videos are available online that will explain what's going to be happening in the upcoming Mass - be it a holy day or Sunday - and demonstrate the craft that will be coming in the mail. So then, after the kids (and parents) are prepped by the video the family can do the craft and have their own conversation about the liturgical season, special holy day, Sunday readings, and/or Mass. Like I said, we are testing the product, but you can check it out too. Here's the Ash Wednesday video and here's The Mass Box website for more info. 

And for moms there's the Blessed Is She Lenten Devotional Workbook digital download for $15 or the Waiting in the Word Scripture Study from Nell, Laura, and Nancy.

Oh! And on Instagram you can partake in an auction with the Zelie & Co. crafters and creators this Tuesday. The auction is benefiting charity so it's a win-win-win situation. You get something lovely, you support Catholic artists and small business owners, and people are helped through the charitable donations. 

And that's it... I think! Oh geesh - there's so much going on and I'm seeing it all but having a hard time sharing it all because there's still lots of snuggling and nursing going on around here, which took the place of much of the napping from my pregnancy, which had previously taken the place of my blogging.

God bless, you guys. xo

Friday, February 5, 2016

We were welcomed - How Catholics have welcomed my family in church

Last night Travis and I loaded all the kids into our van and drove across town to attend the weekly Thursday night adoration.

We had been meaning to go for a very long time and often one of us would remind the other on Wednesday, "Tomorrow is adoration and we should go!" Thursday Travis would come home from work and one of us would say, "Don't let me forget about adoration!" And then we'd both forget, remembering just in time for it to be too late to attend.

But last night we had an early dinner and the kids' homework was finished and we remembered and so we went.

There were ten or fifteen other people there, all adults, and they all sat with God in the silence. And we came bumbling in, with boots and coats and children's bibles, and one-two-three-four-five kids and a newborn. We sat in the back, hoping to be as inconspicuous as possible. The baby fussed until he latched on to nurse. The two year old took out hymnals and dropped a few with a thud on the floor. Both girls had to use the bathroom.

We made it almost thirty minutes. They weren't awesome, but I was able to squeeze in a some prayers and so was my husband and maybe so were my kids. Travis didn't feel quite as positively about it as I did but no one glared so I thought we could try it again.

And then Travis got a phone call. One of the women who had been at adoration with us went home, looked up our phone number in the church directory, and called him just so she could let us know that she was glad we were there. She was glad we brought our children. She thought he was a good father and doing a great job and she hoped we would be back because what a wonderful thing - for a family to attend adoration together.

And I realized that there have been so many stories of times we weren't welcome at church but not enough stories of all the times we were. Those who grumble have no place here, not in this post, because there are Catholic churches that are filled with people who are so glad families are there, who are so grateful for the presence of children.

That woman who called us last night was a great gift for us in our parenting and so are all the people - most of them empty nesters and grandparents - who have taken the time to greet us before or after Mass, to shake our hands, to meet our children, to compliment our kids, to reminisce about when they were raising their four-five-six kids.

Our fellow parishioners have told us about their grandchildren who live far away. They have thanked us for our generosity in being open to life. One woman crocheted us a baby blanket and hat. When I was missing from Mass after giving birth many approached Travis and asked about the baby. Each Sunday Judy slaps Travis' back and tells him what a good man he is and shakes our kids' hands. Each Sunday our priests chat with our children and converse with us.

We are welcomed at Mass. We were welcomed at adoration. We are welcome at church.

#wewerewelcomed #letthechildrencometoHim

Image by Stefan Kunze

If you have a positive story to tell of a time when you and your family were welcomed at church please feel free to share in my combox, on your own blog, or on social media. Use the hashtags #wewerewelcomed #letthechildrencometoHim so we can encourage one another and thank the Body of Christ. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My newborn and his backstory

Thomas Emil
10lbs 7oz
19.5" long
December 29th

If you follow me on Instagram or my blog's Facebook page then you've already met our new son, but here he is for the blogging world: Thomas Emil. 

Thomas, who I will now refer to as Tee on the blog, was born via a scheduled c-section the day before our 9th wedding anniversary. 

Travis chose his first name in honor of Thomas Aquinas. Honestly, the only thing I know about Aquinas is that he was a great deal smarter than I am so, while I will make attempts to learn more about the saint so I can instill a devotion in my son, I'm letting the bulk of that work fall to Travis. 

I chose the middle name Emil in honor of Fr. Emil Kapaun. I am still learning about Fr. Kapaun, whose cause is open for canonization, but the more I learn the more inspired I am. There are certain saints who seem to reach out to us at different times in our lives and Fr. Kapuan is definitely one of those cases. If you're not familiar with him, please take a minute to watch (or even just listen) to this video:

You can also learn more about him here.

But now back to Tee.

Look at those toes!

Tee's pregnancy was a surprise and one that sorta knocked us off our feet for a moment, while still making me really happy. And then, shortly after we announced the pregnancy, something happened. I mentioned it, but I am ready to tell the whole story now because of a comment our parish priest made to me last weekend. His words knocked me off my feet again, in a completely different way, and I felt like the story - which had been so painful and personal - should be told from this perspective that is filled with light. 

 One evening about half way through the pregnancy I started to feel a little ill so I went to bed early. In the middle of the night I woke up in pain - it felt like I was having a long, strong contraction. It didn't stop.

My womb, which reached the top of my belly button, was incredibly tender and tight. The contraction would increase in intensity, making me cry and feel nauseous, and because nothing made it improve and the contractions were time-able Travis took me to the hospital.

I was taken to labor and delivery and my midwife's ob happened to be the one who saw me. He had no idea what was going on. The high risk doctor came to see me and he had no idea what was going on. I was having contractions, it hurt like hell any time anyone touched any part of the lower half of my belly, and we didn't know why.

They started me on antibiotics and gave me and morphine for the pain, and the ob explained that they believed there was an infection in my womb, causing the pain and my low fever. Because of the infection they didn't know if they would be able to stop labor but even if labor stopped they didn't know how the infection would effect the baby. The doctor explained this and left. The nurse remained.

I asked her if my baby was going to die. She looked at me and told me that they believed I was in labor and had an infection in my womb. If the baby was born he would not be viable because of his gestational age. If the baby was not born the baby would probably still not survive because of the infection and the baby's gestational age.

She left the room and Travis and I called our parish to let them know that I was in the hospital and things were not looking good for our unborn child.

I began to drift to sleep because of the morphine and Travis left to find some coffee. The next thing I knew there were two nurses standing by me. They were talking over me, thinking I was still asleep and so I closed my eyes. My nurse said to the other, "I am having a hard time placing the monitor to find the fetal heartbeat. But really it doesn't even matter, you know." I opened my eyes just enough to see the other nurse nod and say, "Because of ... yeah." "We shouldn't even have to because it doesn't matter," my nurse said. She sounded annoyed.

And I knew what they meant. It didn't matter if they did fetal monitoring because the baby was going to die one way or the other. The morphine made me drift back off to sleep.

The next time I woke up Travis was in the room and I told him what had happened with the nurses. A sonogram and amnio had been ordered and so we decided to learn the sex of the baby so we could pick out a name in the time we had left. I sat and started to plan out the funeral in my head.

Shortly after our priest, Fr. W, arrived with the Eucharist. We explained the situation to him and he prayed over me and took the Eucharist out, held Him over my womb, made the sign of the cross, and then gave me and Travis Holy Communion.

The sonographer came and everything looked fine - our little boy (boy!) was kicking happily. They looked at my ovaries, appendix, and the whole of my womb - everything looked fine. The high risk doctor took a sample of the amneotic fluid (amnios hurt, fyi) and said the color looked good. Over the next 24 hours every single test came back normal, my contractions stopped, and the tenderness went away. They never figured out what was going on exactly but then it cleared up and I was discharged.

At home we quickly learned that if I did too much my contractions would kick in again so I was put on temporary bed rest and after almost two weeks of letting my body rest everything was back to normal. Travis and I just went on thinking it was this weird fluke. We were grateful that the baby was alive and well and we just fell back into the normal rhythm of life.

Tee was born (I'll tell that story another day) and, honestly, I didn't think of the illness and how we almost lost him except for one passing thought when he was a week old. But then last week, when Tee was two weeks old I saw Fr. W and he looked at my son and asked how he was doing.

"He's fine. A good sleeper and a really sweet baby," I said.

"You see," he said, "that's the power of the Sacraments! It's a miracle. The Eucharist did it. We thought he was in trouble but he's fine. It's the power of the Sacraments - and our faith!"

And I felt like an ass. A complete and utter ass. How had I missed that? How had I just assumed it was a fluke? My baby was likely going to die, but then my baby and my body were blessed by our Eucharistic Lord, and my baby lived.

Glory to God in the highest - my son lived. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Picture Perfect Holiday... or not

This post was originally featured on Mama Needs Coffee

When Jenny asked me to share with her lovely readers about the traditions and decorations and incredibly well-though-out reasons behind them that help define Advent in our home I thought, "I've got this."

Here's the truth: I don't.

I sit here 38 weeks pregnant and having contractions. I have pain in my my SI joints that is so bad I sometimes cannot move and usually walk like a zombie. I can fall asleep on the sofa at any time of day. Dinner tonight may possibly be cold cereal.

The plans I had for this year's fall and winter have all pretty much been laid aside for the advent of the baby in my womb. Even the things three weeks ago I thought we'd be able to pull off have fallen to the wayside.

For sure we'd still be able to cut down a Christmas tree on Guadete Sunday... or not.
For sure I'd be able to make the St. Lucy rolls and share them with my friend's family who just had a Lucy of their own... or not.
For sure my eldest child and I would be able to do the Jesse Tree together, reading the Scripture and discussing the meaning... or not.
For sure I could at least sit with my kids and re-enact the nativity story with them using our toy nativity.... or not.

But all of that is okay. This Advent we're doing what we can do and the little things still matter and still make a difference. This year's Advent is different than last year's, just as they will each probably vary for us. Our little traditions don't make or break the holiday season and since I'm not the liturgical living police I'm not gonna sweat what we have not accomplished this year.

But because this is a peak about what we are doing to keep Advent in our home I'll show you what we have accomplished.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care and St. Nick filled them on the eve of his feast day.
Also, the "Dad Zone" was marked out on the carpet.

Our nativities were set up (we have 4, two of which are kid-friendly). The "grown up" nativities are empty, waiting for the Holy Family to arrive.

Holy Mary, St. Joseph, and their donkey always hang out on the Advent wreath until December 24th. We have lit the candles almost every night at dinner, singing "O Come, O Come, O Come-O" as my three year old calls it. Then ensures a lively discussion of who got to blow out the candles last and whose turn it is this night. No child has been burnt and the two year old's hair was only slightly singed, once. 

The Wise Men are on the bookshelf, way off in the Far East, aka: the far side of the living room. After Christmas they'll move to the Advent Wreath, where we'll have a white Christmas candle for the kids to fight over. 

My living room's gallery has a couple of items that change for each season: the "chalk board" (actually foam board and white paint pen) and the Audrey Eclectic artwork.

The kids art gallery (rope + clothespins attached to the wall) was cleared of all Thanksgiving artwork to make room for the Christmas projects. The Jesse Tree has a few more ornaments (colored and hung by my oldest) but then that petered out. But it still looks nice next to the nativity, which the kids do play with, even if we don't have theological conversations about it. 

And while we didn't actually cut down the tree on the Third Sunday of Advent, we did drive to a tree place in the steady rain. I sat in the minivan with the little kids while my husband bought a pre-cut one and tied it to the top of the vehicle with the help of our 6 year old (it was adorable). It stands, sorta majestically, in the corner of our living room with a crooked star and most of the decorations on the top half.

It took our family a few years to find which Advent traditions work best for us, but even those still fluctuate a bit. At this point, St. Nick filling stockings for his feast day (and no Santa at Christmas) works well for us - making it easier for me and my husband to teach about a saint and generosity while keeping the emphasis a bit more on Mass and Christ than on the presents. Having the nativities out but waiting for Christmas and Epiphany to move all the figures to the stable is a fun way for the kids to interact with the nativity story and they serve as aides in my personal prayer life as well. Getting the tree, cranking up the Christmas music, and busting out any remaining decorations on Rejoice! Sunday helps my family to actually rejoice.

All together, doing Advent the way we do makes it feels like our home is preparing a bit more each week for Christ's birth. It's like nesting, but for the Infant Christ.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tickets are now on sale for the Finding Your Fiat Conference!

Along with already announced speakers and guests Jenna Guizar, Meg Hunter-Kilmer, Marie Miller, and Annie Tillberg we are really excited to say that journalist, blogger, and book lover Nancy Piccione will also be joining us and offering a Break Out. (Learn about all our speakers here.)

If your husband hasn't purchased your Christmas gift yet, maybe send him the link for the ticket info.

We hope you can join us June 24-25 in East Peoria, Illinois. It's going to be so much fun!

Purchase your tickets here or check out our website for more information.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Let's officially celebrate the unofficial feast day of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Today we will celebrate with french fries for James (his favorite) and a special coffee drink for me.

Dinner will consist of a hearty Midwestern meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Delish.

For some more fun ideas on how to celebrate you can check out these former posts:
A Sheen-azing Feast Day
Fulton Sheen Family Day

Plus the recorded broadcast of me sharing my son's story of his alleged miraculous healing through the intercession of Fulton Sheen.

And if you have a sec, maybe you can say the prayer for his canonization:

Father, source of all holiness, You raise up within the Church in every age men and women who serve with heroic love and dedication. You have blessed Your Church through the life and ministry of Your faithful servant, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He has written and spoken well of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and was a true instrument of the Holy Spirit in touching the hearts of countless people.

If it be according to your Will, for the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the salvation of souls, we ask You to move the Church to proclaim him a saint. We ask this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Happy Feast Day, all you Sheen lovers!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Announcing the Finding Your Fiat Catholic Women's Conference

Some friends and I have been working on something behind the scenes for a couple of months now and today is the day I finally get to tell everyone. 

This summer, June 24-25, Molly Walter, Abbey Davis Dupuy, and I will be offering a Catholic women's conference called Finding Your Fiat.

We really believe it will be great. We talked about what we wanted in a conference (a fun, come as you are night out + talks given by women we know and admire who can speak to our hearts about our lives + affordable!) and then we set out to make it happen. 

We kept things simple (no vendors, no swag bags, nothing too fancy) which kept ticket prices and our stress levels low. We focused on bringing in great speakers and a yummy lunch and booked a parish hall so we could have access to Reconciliation, Mass, and a quiet chapel to pray. 

Our speakers will be amazing! Jenna Guizar and Meg Hunter-Kilmer will be keynoting and our growing list of breakout speakers already includes Annie Tillberg and Marie Miller.

Friday night we're co-hosting a Girls' Night Out with Blessed Is She and it will be wonderful. So. Much. Fun.

Tickets will go on sale soon but we wanted to share the date and info with you now so you can make plans and possibly add it to your Christmas wishlist. 

You can learn more about the Finding Your Fiat conference at our website. And I hope I can see you this summer!