March 1, 2019

I have an announcement to make


I've wanted to tell you guys that for the last five years. And WOW, it feels good to finally say it.

What's it about, you ask? Well, it's the story of James' birth and (alleged) miraculous healing through the intercession of Venerable Fulton Sheen. If you don't really know what I'm talking about let me bring you up to date:

My son James was born eight and a half years ago, a planned homebirth. Everything was beautiful and perfect until James was born lifeless. Not able to find a pulse, my midwife began CPR; Travis performed an emergency baptism; our friend called 911; and I sat in a state of shock, repeating "Fulton Sheen" in my head, unsure of how to pray for my son and therefore calling on my friend and James Fulton's patron to pray.

James was taken to the hospital and when the ED team stopped working on him to call time of death his heart started again - 148 beats / minute. He had been without a pulse for 61 minutes.

The doctors expected massive organ failure or, at best, for James to be very severely disabled. But we continued to pray, begging God for a miracle and asking Archbishop Sheen to pray for a miracle, too. And by the time he was one year old it was obvious that James would not only survive but that there would be no significant residual damage from that hour he was dead.

The Sheen Foundation and Diocese of Peoria held a tribunal to investigate our alleged miracle and it was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for Venerable Sheen's beatification.

This book tells that story.

Almost six years ago I signed a contract with Our Sunday Visitor to write this book. We did things privately, wanting to be respectful of the Church and Sheen's cause. And when the cause came to a pause we set the completed book aside. We waited and hoped and prayed. Over the years we discussed if now was the right time, but it never was.

Until right now.

I'm not sure what will happen next with the cause but in the end we decided that James' story is a powerful one and it brings glory to God. So I found my old manuscript, cleaned it up, brought it up to date, and resubmitted it to OSV. I just got it back from my editor, ready for my revisions.

The book will be released in late August or early September and will be available for pre-order at the end of the school year. Over the years many of you have reached out online or spoken with me after a talk and asked "When will you write a book?" I always wanted to say, "I HAVE!" and now I finally can.

I will keep you posted with the title, cover, and all the details. I have wanted to share this excitement with you because - and I mean this so very sincerely - so many of you are a part of this book. You prayed for James. You also asked God for a miracle. You sent our family meals, gift cards, prayers, and cash. You carried us when we could barely keep our heads above water. Travis and I have never forgotten that and we never will.

Thank you for your love and support over the years and right now. When Travis and I share James story we always want it to first and foremost bring glory and honor to God. We want it to also inspire people to befriend Fulton Sheen so that his holy witness will bring them closer to Christ. We want it to give people hope. We hope that this book does that for you.


February 28, 2019

Getting ready for Lent

We're getting ready for Lent here.

All the hearts and garlands and twinkle lights are put up. Surfaces are dusted. The last of the ice cream is being consumed. We've begun to discuss, as a family, what we will do for Lent - the sacrifices and the extra works. There's burlap on our mantle because it looks like sackcloth (maybe? I have no idea what sackcloth looks like) and because I need something up there to cover those unsightly wires.

We've got some plans. Personally I plan to read The Life of Christ. And by "read" I mean start it and keep reading well into Ordinary Time. Let's be real here. I'm also looking forward to using the Blessed Is She Lenten devotional To the End. Having skimmed through it already I think it will be really good.

Usually the kids do our standard Lenten calendar from Catholic Icing. We might just do one this year instead of everyone getting their own, but we need at least one so I don't have to answer multiple times every day for 40 days "how many days until Easter?" Seriously.

I've been building this Lenten Spotify playlist and hope to add to it as I stumble upon more songs - so do tell me if I'm missing something.  In the past we've only allowed religious or PBS Kids shows and Christian music during Lent. I don't think we'll do that this year, but we'll see.

Since we usually do not eat meat on all Fridays of the year I like to add meatless Wednesdays to the Lenten meal plan. Those few extra dollars I save each week are then donated to Catholic Charities or our local parish at the end of Lent. In the past we've encouraged our kids to forgo different treats and purchases during Lent to add to that collection and that's worked really well.

We also usually incorporate the Stations of the Cross into our night time prayer. We tend to do it a couple times a week, using the Stations of the Cross Box I made years ago. The kids love it and I know that it's done a lot to make the actual Stations more meaningful. The kids pray the Stations every Friday after the School Mass and we attend our parish or Cathedral's Stations as a family at least once each Lent. This small catechesis, done sitting on the floor with my kids digging through a box, has been a great way to teach even my youngest kids the responses while also helping them to understand the story of Christ's Passion and feel sorrow and compassion for Him. I explained how we do the Box here, but I first heard about it from Kate Wicker and I'm so glad she shared it.

But you know what, you guys? I'll be 38 in a few months. I have seven kids age ten and under. I'm 30 weeks pregnant. I'M TIRED. If that rickety old grapevine wreath and a couple meatless meals each week is all I do I'm good with that. I have a feeling that God wants this Lent to be more interior this year than exterior.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling for you and for me...

Come home, come home
Ye who are weary come home
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling
Calling, O sinner, come home...

February 15, 2019

Our favorite books for liturgical living

One of the talks that I give is on liturgical living, and it's a favorite topic of mine to talk about. I think our Catholic faith is so beautiful and joyful and even, at times, quirky and I love sharing it with others through the seasons and everyday life.

When I present this particular talk I am sure to share lots of examples of ways our family celebrates throughout the liturgical year, along with examples of what our friends do. I also stress what a beautiful, easy tool liturgical living can be for parents and grandparents who are trying to evangelize and form their children, especially when it's done in a way that makes sense for each particular family's home culture, interests, strengths, and season of life. Finally, I make sure everyone knows that because this work of building up the Kingdom of God is vitally important satan will attack it, because he's a jerk like that, so be ready.

In my life books have been so helpful in sharing the faith with my kids and so when I gave this talk I brought some of my favorites to share with the audience. There was lots of note-taking and photo-snapping so people would remember the titles I had shared. But there were also so many books and DVDs I had to leave at home and I thought those should be shared, too, especially as my kids kept saying, "Oh I love this one! And this one! And this one!"

So below is a fairly extensive list of books and other resources we use throughout the year. The seasonal books are stored with their corresponding decorations and then placed in our family book basket for the duration of the season. Some books are read on a daily or weekly basis throughout the year. Some books stay on the bookshelf in our living room for easy access. We have a ton of other books, too, but I don't need to include How the Grinch Stole Christmas here.

I've divided the groups into books for kids, resources for parents / grandparents / teachers, Bibles, and DVDs. All the Amazon and Blessed Is She links are affiliate links, which means I receive a small payment at no cost to you when you purchase through my specific link. I have also built an Amazon page filled with these items so you can check them all out there, if you'd like.  You can find that here.

Take It to the Queen by Josephine Nobisso
The Weight of the Mass by Josephine Nobisso
Saint Clare of Assisi: Runaway Rich Girl by Kim Hee-Ju
Paddy and the Wolves by Steve Nagel
St. Nicholas - the Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer
Lady of Guadalupe by Tome dePaola
The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan and Judith Brown
On Easter Day in the Morning by Vickie Howie
My Happy Pumpkin by Crystal Bowman
A is for Altar B is for Bible by Judith Lang Main
An Alphabet of Catholic Saints by Brenda and George Nippert
Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman and Ben Hatke
My Superhero / Princess / Woodland Prayer Book  by Kendra Tierney
The Catholic Field Guide to the Liturgy by Michelle Chronister
The Story of St. John Paul II: The Boy Who Would Be Pope by Fabiola Garza
Saintly Rhymes for Modern Times by Meghan Bausch
The Chime Travelers by Lisa Hendey
I'm Bernadette by Emily Grace Ortega
A Little Book About Confession for Children by Kendra Tierney
I Walk with Jesus by Michelle Chronister
The Way of the Cross from Magnificat and Ignatius Press
Stations of the Cross box tutorial

The Little Oratory: A Beginners Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton and Leila Lawler
The Lazy Liturgical by Jenna Hines
The Catholic All Year Compendium by Kendra Tierney
Around the Year with the von Trapp Family by Maria von Trapp
Feast! by Haley and Daniel Stewart
Blessed Is She liturgical planner

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young
The Action Bible by Doug Mauss and Sergio Cariello
Catechism of the Seven Sacraments - Building Blocks of Faith Series
Catholic Journaling Bible

Nicholas: the Boy Who Became Santa dvd
Veggie Tales St. Nicholas - a Story of Joyful Giving dvd
The Day the Sun Danced dvd
Bernadette - The Princess of Lourdes dvd
Juan Diego - Messenger of Guadalupe dvd
The Prince of Egypt dvd

Also, if you'd like to bring me to your parish or event to speak I would love to! You can check out my speaking page and shoot me an email!