Sunday, October 20, 2013

Higher Thoughts

So, lately I've been really wanting to deepen and learn more about my faith (having a couple friends convert recently has shown me just how much I don't know about the Catholic faith), but have been a little lost on how exactly to do that.

I talked to a friend of mine, and we agreed that many of the books we know are for people still learning the basics of the faith, or are for how to enact the faith into your life. Now, these are wonderful, but I feel like I've got the basics down, and honestly, every book with the word "woman" in it seem to offer 10 ways to integrate your faith while changing the baby or vacuuming.

Pray while vacuuming, offer up your vacuuming, unite yourself to the nun across the world and think about how your vocations compliment each other while vacuuming. Got it. Enough with the vacuuming. What I'm looking for is Catholicism 201 or maybe 301. I feel more that I need actual information about the deep mysteries of our faith so I can fill my thought with them while vacuuming. (Oh all right, I'm a mom, there is no real getting rid of the vacuuming.)

About the time I started really wanting this, my brother-in-law lent me two books by Chesterton: "Manalive" and "The Napolean of Notting Hill." I'd not read much by Chesterton, and when I had, I hadn't understood them. But, these two were short and written in English, so I gave them a try. At the beginning of each book, I began to wonder if they really were in English - WHAT is going on? Are they supposed to be this zany? Or am I missing something? By the end I loved both. (Yes, they are supposed to be that zany - and with both - the whole point is that at the beginning you're missing something.)

These were not what I was looking for though. I wanted hard core facts about Roman Catholicism. These books were lovely, but more about man himself. But, they did give me a ton to think about, a new thoughts about the nature of man. So now I'm wondering if God is trying to teach me that maybe once you get the basics of the Church, you need to understand more about the people who God created the Church for to understand the mysteries in the Church. How can I better understand how Jesus Christ is both Man and God if I haven't thought enough about who Man is?

Of course, this leads me to what I'm going to read next, and my real reason for writing this post... What books/talks have you found that have deepened your understanding of Man, the Church, or God Himself? Basically - what's a good book that you'd recommend? I know there's got to be TONS that I haven't come across or would be good to reread. Please share!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

i have converted...

I asked my little monkey to show off his new cloth diaper, and this is the pose he chose:

After almost five straight years of diapering, I finally had the guts to research cloth diapers.  Yep, I had never even looked into it.  It seemed like unnecessary work; something that a busy mom of little ones does not need!

Nevertheless, I have a couple of close friends who love their cloth diapers, so I started asking them questions and was intrigued.  Once I really started researching, I found out that from birth until potty training, most people spend about 2.5K on disposable diapers.  A quick look at my budget definitely confirms this fact!

How much did I spend on my full-time set, wet bag, diaper sprayer and detergent?  $370 total (and this includes some beautiful, upgraded diapers-- you can do it for much less).  This means that with just a toddler, we would make up the cost in under 10 months, but since we are expecting a newborn in February (and will likely still have a toddler in diapers), we will make up our cost in roughly 6 or 7 months.  And then within three years I will have an extra two-thousand dollars (!) in my household budget.  Why did it take me so long to figure this out!

We have had our diapers for less than a week, so I am still very much a novice, but my husband and I have been very surprised with how simple and efficient the cleaning process is.  It isn't gross, even with a toddler, and it feels good to be making less trips out to the trash can.  All it really requires an extra load of laundry every other day.  Also, since our two-year-old is a very good communicator, it is reassuring to hear him tell us that he prefers his new diapers, because they are "soft and cozy".  

So here is to my new baby-rearing adventure... 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

why every parent needs a slow-cooker

I am obsessed with my slow-cooker.  I use it almost everyday (seriously).  In some ways, it has saved my domestic life.

I entered marriage with very little cooking skills and when our first baby arrived a little over a year later, I struggled to find ways to feed my family!  Working part-time in the late afternoons and evenings made it even more challenging to put food on the table at a decent hour.  Enter in my slow-cooker.  And some reasons why I love it so much I wanted to blog about it tonight:

With a slow-cooker, you make dinner whenever you want.  Morning, afternoon, naptime or whenever the kids are occupied for a few moments.  I don't know about you, but no small people in my house are in a good mood around 5pm, and to try to steal a few moments away to prepare food can feel impossible.  I love being able to prepare dinner when it works best for me.

Most recipes call to simply toss ingredients into the crockpot, cover it and let it cook for a few hours.  Simple, fast and easy.  It can also be a timesaver during dishwashing time, since you have but one pot to clean during that witching hour...

You can eat your meal whenever you want.  This is wonderful when you have young children who eat very early, a husband who works late, or a just a schedule that does not allow a slow for everyone to sit down together for dinner.  Everyone eats when they can, and nobody gets stuck with a cold, mushy leftover dinner.  I always plan my slow-cooker dinners on evenings when I work and get home after my little ones are asleep!

Cooking with a slow-cooker is also very economical.  Since veggies become pretty soft in most crockpot recipes, I usually use frozen vegetables, and this lowers our grocery costs!  Frozen meats also defrost well in the slow-cooker, which is very helpful on days when you have to improvise dinner.  No time to defrost that pork loin or those chicken breasts?  No problem!  Also, we eat a lot of soups and shredded meat that make great lunches for the following days as well.

Lastly, it is yummy!  And here is a delicious and easy comfort recipe for you to try:

Rosemary Chicken Stew with Dumplings 

2-3 chicken breasts or thighs (I like to use both, and frozen chicken works!)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery

1 tsp minced garlic
6-8 cups of chicken broth or chicken bouillon
1 tsp of dried parsley
1 tbsp of rosemary (fresh if possible!)
2 bay leaves
dash of pepper
1 bag of frozen peas and carrots (or any vegetables you want)
1 roll of refrigerated biscuits

Put everything (except biscuit dough) in crockpot.
Cook for 3-4 hrs on high, or 6-8 hrs on low.
During the last hour before serving, turn slow cooker on high.  Shred chicken.  Break apart small pieces of biscuit dough and add to the soup.  Give it a stir, put the top back on and cook for 1 hour before serving.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Watch Out

So, about 2 weeks ago my husband and I decided to change parishes. It may not seem like a huge move to many, but I've always felt very strongly that our Faith is to be lived out in a community and your parish community is a big part of that. (I'd love to have a conversation about how everyone decided on what parish to go to...)

Anyway, so we're now at the parish that is closest to our house (our physically "correct" parish). And I must say, as a cradle Catholic, I've heard a lot of homilies in life, but these are the most immediately usable. Since we are new to the parish, I'm not sure about the two priests' backgrounds, but I have a feeling that they are both late vocations. One has mentioned a former life on Wall Street, and the other I believe had some big-time financial job (bodes well for the building plan). But in any case, they take this insight into the working man's life and basically take the gospel and punch you in the stomach with it. (All of which I think is great.)

So last week they had the gospel of Lazarus and the rich man. Nice gospel... but you know... heard it before.

Well, so the priest's things was that each of the readings had a word associated with it that started with "W." The first was... I don't remember, and the second I don't remember either, but the gospel's was "Watch Out." I remember this because the priest said it about 12 times.

Watch out.

The rich man ended up in hell not because he was rich, or because he was murderer or even really that particularly bad. I mean, we don't know his whole story, but Jesus doesn't tell us anything THAT horrible he did "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day." Honestly, I dined sumptuously tonight. Brother-in-law's birthday party. It was bbq. It was good. Anyway, what he was was selfish. Selfish and bossy. Selfish, not a gangster or a bank robber. Selfish. Watch out.

We are selfish everyday! And it is very, very easy to be selfish. It is hard to be giving. And the priest made it very clear we were not talking about being giving with money (only) but giving with yourself. It's the morning and you're tired and all you want is that nice, big cup of coffee, but your kids are screaming about a picture they drew 3 days ago and can't you look at it (again). Watch out! You want to cut someone off in traffic. Watch out! You want to tune out when your spouse is telling you a story. Watch out!

Watch Out! Selfishness is very, very easy. It leads to very hot places. Watch OUT!

These words of his obviously stayed with me. This week, my patience and desire to give have really been tested. But I kept hearing these words: Watch Out.

So I thought I'd share them.

Must say, I'm interested what will be said today. (If it's good, you'll probably hear about it.)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

One "P" at a Time

When I started homeschooling 6 weeks ago I didn't think I needed a set schedule for our day.  I thought the schedule would just come naturally. Boy was I wrong! I am at times so scatter-brained.  I will walk around the house not even knowing where to start and then nothing gets done because I don't know what to do first.  It has been pretty bad.  Luckily though, I am trying to get my act together. 

Before school started a women approached me after Mass one morning and started chatting with me. After talking for a few minutes, she handed me a book A Mother's Rule of Life.  I wasn't really sure if the book was for me or when I would have time to read it, but I took it and thanked her.  Well, school started, the house became a disaster area, and I had NO free time to sit and read.  Finally one Sunday afternoon I did have a chance to read a little and I loved it!  The author, Holly Pierlot, is so funny and witty and this was only the introduction!  Anyway, the point of the book is to "bring order to your home and peace to your soul".  Mrs. Pierlot looks at the example of the Rule of Life religious live by that organizes everything that has to do with their vocation. It is basically looking at what you and each of your family members (husband and kids) need to get through the day.  The way she does it is to look at the 5 P's: Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent, Provider. 

I have only gotten through the first P, Prayer.  I looked at my day and set aside time to pray, whether it be formal prayer, scripture reading, reciting the rosary or chaplet, going to Mass.  This is an area I was seriously lacking in my everyday.  Now I have my little notebook and can refer back to it as needed.  I wrote down what prayers were important to me and when throughout the day I could prayer and have the kids be doing some other activity or praying with me.  I have been at it for a week now and have to say my prayer life has improved immensely.  It definitely takes discipline though, like when there is laundry to be folded and the kids are distracted it is tough not to just get the folding done and then pray.  Instead of doing this, I need to take the opportunity to pray then fold.
One of my favorite lines from the book is: "there is a time slot for everything" brilliant!  Don't worry about tidying up throughout the day, it will get done at 3:30.  This mindset has really helped me focus on the task at hand. Of course there is the exception when the kids need to be attended to. Holly says that her kids started to notice the house wasn't as messy when they picked up after themselves...imagine that! I am excited to see what the rest of the book does for me. I will for sure be keeping you updated.  I highly recommend you check out the book! Here is a link:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

the virtue in DIY

I greatly admire people with a Do-it-Yourself attitude (mainly because I struggle with this!).  My husband is terrific at looking up How-To videos on Youtube to teach him to accomplish house projects.  My mom is our family "handyman," who can also sew and craft together anything and everything!  I also have friends who garden, cook everything from scratch, landscape their own yards, homeschool their children, refinish used-furniture... What a great example these DIY-ers are to their families and children (and to myself)!

I cannot help but notice that many young people these days act "entitled".  My husband interviews college graduates trained to be CEO's, yet they rarely show the effort to attain it.  I teach ballet for children who expect to be showcased or to move up to a more advanced class without displaying enough discipline to work hard at their current level.  Why does it often seem as though the numbers of diligent individuals is dwindling?  How can I be sure that my children grow up with strong character, morals and zeal to work for what they want?

Years ago, life at home consisted very much of physical labor.  Children witnessed their parents working out in their farm fields, building furniture and home structures, baking bread, sewing their clothes, washing laundry by hand ect.  There were no microwave dinners, paper towels, and automatic tools!  If you ask a child today what their parents do, I guarantee that many have no idea.  It is challenging for a young person to understand why sitting at a computer is considered "work!"  Home has become a place for leisure and comfort in family life.  And though this is not the cause of entitlement (nor is it necessarily a bad thing), I believe that it is greatly affecting our newer generations.  Modern-day conveniences allow us to rest at home and spend more time together-- something I am very grateful for, however we cannot forgot to teach our children the value in working hard.

Lately, my husband and I are also brainstorming more ways to let them witness our work and to encourage them to participate when it is appropriate.  I have been trying to let my children help me with housework and cooking.  It takes longer, but I feel as though these life skills can truly help shape the people they will become.  Even handing a toddler her own shovel before doing some gardening can help instill in her the value and pride that comes with an accomplished task!  Lastly, I have also been reflecting about Apple Jacs' recent post about temperance, and about training ourselves to not always taking the easy-way-out, but to seek out ways to grow in virtue.  What a blessing that in working with discipline and diligence, we will also be setting a great example for our family!

Monday, September 30, 2013

St. Kateri Tekakwitha Costume

My daughter has her first school project due on Halloween (we get All Saints off to celebrate as a family) where she has to read a book about a saint, write a tiny report, memorize it, recite it in front of her little class, and wear a costume. Whew! Of course, I'm due with #4 less than a week before the due date so I decided to make the costume well in advance (and now it's Daddy's turn to handle the report).

I tend to get a little...elaborate...when I start making things so I forced myself to keep it super simple with minimal sewing and supplies. In the end it took about 1.5 hours to complete, but that was with three little "helpers" getting their hands all over my pins and fabric and stopping to take pictures.


  • At least 1/2 yard of brown/tan fabric for the dress. You can repurpose a t-shirt if it is long enough.
  • 1/3 to 1/2 yard coordinating brown/tan fabric for the poncho
  • Scissors, pins, chalk, coordinating thread
  • Optional: rag quilt shears, two yards of trim for poncho and headpiece, a small piece of elastic at least 1/4" thick, and a feather of any color
And here's how you do it:

I made a little prototype out of an old men's shirt and measured around it. The original was gray dress was skin tight (oops!) so I added plenty of extra fabric on the sides. Basically, the dress looks like a chunky necktie. Measure the width of your daughter's shoulders, add a couple of inches and that will be your width on top, then use your chalk to make that chunky necktie shape. Oh, almost forgot, the neckline is on the fold.

Make sure it's inside out then pin it down the sides starting four inches from the top to leave room for arm holes. If your daughter is older than 5/6 measure down from her shoulder to under her armpit for the length of the armhole.

Sew down the sides with a quarter inch seam. Next cut out the head hole. The beauty of buying knit jersey material is that you don't have to see the seams.

I folded the dress in half lengthwise and then chalked a line to make it a v neck on the front and back. Start smaller-you can always adjust and make the hole larger.

And here is the basic tunic. Fringe the bottom if you're up for it. That's when those rag quilting shears come in handy.

Alright next up is the poncho...and it is just a big ole rhombus. Fold your fabric into quarters and cut from corner to corner. I went from top to bottom. It's best to practice this and the next step with a piece of paper really quick.

Remember that corner on the fold? That will become the head hole so snip it off in the shape of a triangle. Start small! 

Here is what it looks like all opened up. I added some trim and fringed around the edges as well. You could also take sharpies and decorate it.

As far as the headband goes, I just measured a piece of trim that was about an inch smaller than E's head and then sewed a tiny piece of elastic onto the ends to make it a band.

And the feather was just hot glued into a little tiny crevice I found.

The final result:

I hope this helps inspire you to make a costume for All Saints Day!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Happy Feast Day of the Archangels!

In our family we have made a point to celebrate our feast days and the anniversary of our sacraments! Today is my son's, Michael's, feast day and my husband's confirmation saint's feast day! So we had special desserts after dinner!
Along with dessert you can sing "Happy Feast Day to You" (sung to the tune of Happy Birthday) or "Happy Anniversary of your ____" for anniversaries of a sacrament! It's a fun way to remember the major milestones in our spiritual life and also ways to celebrate our faith in our everyday life.
Although my kids are still young, I think it is a great time to start the traditions of celebrating their feast days and sacraments so as they get older it's something that is remembered as well as children remember their birthdays!

Being Catholic is so wonderful because the Church is always giving us so many ways to celebrate! We have feast days, sacrament anniversaries, and Holy Days! What a blessing! God is good!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Art of Temperance

This last year has been pretty eye-opening for me, with regards to studying the virtues, and just how intricate they are to perfect. One in particular, which is particularly lacking in our culture, is the virtue of temperance. How do we know? Because we are attached! At least I am. Think of all your routines, your creature comforts, think of how you lived before you had children (they are really good at forcing us to detach from things we never thought we could: sleep, food, showers ;-)). 

Temperance, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is the moderation of all desires and appetites. It is the art of tight-rope walking with regards to virtue. This week, my husband, myself, and our friends from our theology study sesssions, are challenging one another to grow in temperance. Before I take on how to grow in temperance, I'll break the virtue down further. 

The subvirtues of temperance, are:
Diligence = moderation of rest, doing your duties immediately
  • Should you really have stayed up until midnight folding laundry, or could it have waited until the morning?
  • Did you factor in the extra 10 min. to get the kids in the car to make it on time to the music lesson?
  • Do I say my morning offering the moment I wake up?
Meakness = the moderation of anger (this one's big with small children who throw temper tantrums)
  • Anger is the perceived injury with a desire for vindication
  • Our Lord, was justly angry once in his entire life, and it was for an offense against Our Father. Not even when he was crucified did he allow himself to be angry once. May we remember this when our children are acting out. There may be just punishment, but hardly ever is there to be anger associated with that punishment.
  • When someone cuts us off in traffic, does it do any good to hit the steering wheel or yell? Does it help us get there any faster?
  • When your 2 year old spills a cup of milk on the floor as you're walking out the door, are you disappointed at his lack of foresight, or just miffed that this means you have to clean it up?
Abstinence = the moderation of food; only eating as much as reason dictates
  • Do you decide how much you will eat before you sit down?
  • Do you eat enough? Or do you eat too much?
  • Do you go hours and hours without eating because you are "busy with the kids?" Fasting is a great thing, but don't let yourself get grumpy either because you haven't fed your body what it needs.
  • Does your tummy hurt because you ate those 5 extra candy corn? (What is it about this treat that makes it so hard to stop!?)
Sobriety = the moderation of drink so that it does not affect or inhibit the intellect (the ability to choose right and wrong)
  • The sin happens when you know you're at the tipsy point but you still decide to have just one more glass of wine
Chastity = the moderation of sex
  • Are you and your spouse completely open to life? Are you using NFP without grave reason, or doing anything else that might block the purpose of the marital act?
  • If you're single, are you spending too much time late at night with your significant other, or spending too much time alone?
Modesty = The moderation of the externals; stuff of the body that our emotions can act upon
  • Do you dress appropriately for mass on Sundays? This means dressing to meet the King of Kings, not just covering the parts that need to be covered with jeans and a t-shirt. 
  • For us ladies, how much do we listen? Do we speak too much? Yes, modesty applies here too! May we remember to temper our speech.
Simplicity = the moderation for desire of material things
  • When was the last time you cleaned out your closet?
  • Are the toy bins overflowing?
  • Do you really need 5 pairs of brown shoes?
  • On the flip side, there's a reason kings live in a castle. The virtue lies in the middle, so we should make sure that all of our material goods are appropriate for our state in life. A stay at home mom should have a nice set of pots/pans or functional cleaning tools if the family can afford it.
Any of these ring a bell? For me, they do. I can absolutely grow in this virtue, and boy, am I attached to certain things. So, how do we grow in temperance?
  • Detachment = When material things don’t move the appetite too much
    • Mortification = denying oneself something
      • Go without that afternoon coffee
      • Don't buy that shirt you think you "must have"
    • Penance = Taking on some sort of discomfort
      • start your morning shower with cold water
      • Kneel on the Church tile at consecration
    • Seek the Arduous!
      • Park further away from the grocery store
      • Instead of using your vacuum, sweep
      • Don't buy the pre-chopped onions and chop them by hand (I know, that's a major timesaver, but how did women do it for thousands of years???)
      • Wash your laundry in the tub; the kids will love this one ;-)
I think you get the picture. Have fun with this, and please comment with ideas of how we can all grow in the virtue of temperance by mastering these subvirtues and detaching from those things that sting a little bit to give up.

Happy tempering! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

a child's trust

I am so grateful to be the primary "caretaker" for my children.  Spending day in and out with them gives us the time we need to bond, the time I need to guide them, and surprisingly it I provides me with countless of opportunities to learn.

I am often struck by how carefree children are.  I have a strong melancholic temperament, and tend to spend (too) many hours anxious and worried.  But not my beautiful children. They do not worried that they will be fed, clothed, diapered, loved and cared for.  They do not spend wasted time worrying about their education, their health, or finances.  They trust their parents, and are learning to trust in God.  It is no wonder that children are closest to heaven!

Without a childlike trust, it is impossible to believe in God's providence.  It is impossible to hope that no matter what happens, we will be given the graces to pull through it.

Christ teaches us to "Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?... Therefore do not be anxious, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these things shall be yours as well" (Matthew 6: 26-33).

God promises that through prayer and work, we will be taken care of.  If we call of Him, he will answer.  And by praying and trusting our Lord, I will continue to be an example to my children of how they can learn to trust in him.

Praise God for the beautiful example of children to help lead me towards this point of complete trust.  Motherhood is truly my vocation!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Padre Pio, the Stigmata Superhero Saint

A modern priest (who died only 45 years ago), who beat up demons, bore the wounds of the stigmata with courage, bilocated, and read souls, St. Padre Pio is basically a spiritual superhero. Of course there's always that additional detail where he's incorruptible! If there's anyone for our boys to look up to who's lived in the last century, St. Padre Pio is it.

He carried crosses valiantly, as he focused much on the fact that as Christians, we must unite ourselves with the crucified Lord. He said, "In order to succeed in reaching our ultimate end we must follow the divine Head, who does not wish to lead the chosen soul on any way other than the one he followed; by that, I say, of abnegation and the Cross." 

Today, I used this superhero story to teach the kids about the different ways we can unite ourselves to the crucified Lord. At 3, and 5, they may not fully understand the concept of penance, or mortification, but as I often find myself threatening to call the "waaambulance," I can use all the help I can get in this department. One little way we honored St. Padre Pio, was with "Stigmata Sandwiches!"

It looked much more like a hand originally...

Now, I have to give this fellow Catholic mom a plug, because this was not my original idea. I got this idea from, Catholic Icing, a great site devoted to raising little saints, with all kinds of ideas for celebrating our Catholic traditions with crafts, activites, snacks, etc. The author has even created her own pre-school curriculum. It's just a wonderful place to pop in and check out when you're running low on creative juices and the kids are begging you to do arts & crafts time and you want something a little more meaningful than your go-to play dough & watercolor paint set.

Andi here. Yesterday at Mass, Father Cavana gave an amazing homily on almsgiving and generosity and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Lk 16:1-13

How do we interpret this unusual parable? Rather than focusing on the particular parts or the peculiarities of the players within the story, the larger picture might be easier to appreciate.

Consider what the word economy means. From the Greek, oikonomia - it points to the good management of a household or a family, to be able to look after everyone's needs, to be responsible making wise investments which will ultimately benefit and build up the community.

But if one's ultimate aim is to make money, and one's life is driven by the end goal of making financial profit, consider the effects. Employers, employees, workers, customers and clients are not valued on their worth as human beings, but only on their usefulness, their productivity. When we reduce a person to nothing more than a means of profit, a free man becomes a slave; it leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheistic thinking. (CCC 2424) In this line of thought, is it any wonder that future babies are put on hold or aborted because of the fear of financial burden of God's beautiful gift of parenthood. How many of the sick and elderly are quickly wheeled away when no longer seen as an asset? For this reason the lord warns us in the Gospel, "You cannot serve both God and mammon" that is, both God and money. Choose one or the other, but not both. There is only one God.

The Gospel parable should be an encouragement to every one of us to take our Catholic faith as seriously as the work we undertake Monday to Friday. Consider the amount of energy each person invests in their regular job, the planning, preparation, accountability, mileage, long hours, the investment opportunities, the paperwork, the financial planning - all for the future! But what if we would harness and ride on the wave of that energy and instinct to "succeed" and use it to the same measure but for our catholic Faith, then, maybe, instead of the fear, anxiety, anger and panic, we would instead witness a faith made stronger in times of trial, hope when tomorrow seems uncertain and charity in our love when instinct tells us to hold back. Out of our ingenuity can come forth compassion for our neighbors needs above our own. Greed gives way to generosity by the same measure.

This is why the practice of almsgiving is so important in the discipline of the Catholic and Christian character (Comp. CCC 301). Any economic favor given those in need, and prompted by charity, is almsgiving. It is not prompted by judging the person worthy or even trusting they will put it to good use. Nor does almsgiving come from giving something so that you can feel good about it, or because the recipient is judged worthy. No! If you can justify why you should not be generous or charitable, then that it more the reason why you should. St. Augustine recommends "give alms to all different types of people, then you will reach a few who will deserve it... let in the unworthy, in case the worthy are excluded." (Sermon 359A)

We came into this life vulnerable and with nothing, dependent on the strength and generosity of others. In the evening of our lives we will also be vulnerable with nothing to take with us. But in the economy of salvation we have undeservedly benefited from Christ's generous sacrifice. We have no excuse not to make the effort to repay even in small measure the blessings we have received in great abundance.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Absurdly Happy

"Jesus promised his disciples three things... 
that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble." 
- G.K. Chesterton 

I'm not sure if this is what Our Lord had in mind. 

Last month my husband saw an article in the newspaper about this little town in the middle of nowhere Washington State called Soap Lake. Basically, it's a town that was built around a lake long known for it's mud and mineral water. You're supposed to dig down to the thick mud in the lake and cover yourself in it. You let it bake on you in the sun. Then wash it off with the mineral lake water. It's supposed to be very good for you and tons of older Russian ladies love it. Also, the town is thinking about installing a huge lava lamp to attract visitors. 

My husband brought home the article and put it on the table in front of me. "We should go. It would be fun."

"Yes. It would be fun. Before we die, we should go."

"Yes. We should go while it's warm."

That was about 4 weeks ago. We just got back yesterday. And it *was* fun. It was a little crazy, but perfect. It was still warm (82!), plus, it turns out the lake is great for kids because it's only about 1 1/2 feet deep for as far as any kid (or adult) wants to walk. It also means that the water itself is warm which works for getting the mud off. By the end, we were driving back with a screaming 3 month old, sleeping 4 year old, and a smiling 2 year old with 2 lollipops (one in her mouth, one stuck in her hair) and we couldn't have been happier. Except the 3 month old, but he calmed down after a bit.

Really - it was just a great thing to do with my husband and small kids. And older Russian ladies.

No word on the lava lamp.

Pray Without Ceasing

Every new school year, I find myself re-examining my habits. The last few years I have been teaching religious education classes at our local parish. While I'm getting ready for the new school year, getting ideas together for how I want to teach my students the beauty of the Catholic Church, I often examine what I want to leave with them. I know that one of the things that I remember most about my teachers wasn't so much what they taught but the example they gave me when they taught. Knowing this, I examine myself and how I want to grow as a person, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, ect in my spiritual life. One thing I constantly find myself lacking in is daily prayer. I have found that if I have a certain action that I attach a certain prayer to I tend to remember to say the prayer. So, I'm coming up with some different actions that will remind me to pray throughout the day. Things that I do every day and offering up everything I do throughout the day and night to God through prayer. Here is how I will be trying to change my prayer life, obviously I will need a lot of work (so pray for me!) in order to make it an actual routine. I know I will forget and fall many, many, many, many times, but I think that it is important to make time to always pray, and to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Sometimes it will be joint with my husband and my kids, sometimes it may just be in my heart. This way our whole family can get in the habit of praying all the time while our children our still so young.
Most of the time my son wakes me up in the morning, so when he wakes me up, we can start our day with the Sign of the Cross and a quick prayer together. For example, Thank you God for waking us up to start a new day. Please be with us and guide us in everything we do and say today.
At breakfast we say our mealtime grace, at the same time as grace we always Thank God for our family and our Godchildren/people we have sponsored for confirmation each individually by name (for example, Thank you for Mommy, Daddy, Kid 1, Kid 2, ect, Godchild/sponsored confirmed by order that they received the Sacrament). That way we are always praying for each other.
During lunch and dinner time, we say the same grace with thanking God for everyone.
Throughout the day, if I'm driving around, playing with the kids outside, or taking my kids on a walk.I try to either listen to praise music or pray the rosary. Either way, I try to keep my focus on God and figuring out what He is calling me to do according to His will.
When playing with my kids throughout the day, I can thank God for the gift of my children and that I am able to stay at home with them.
When I'm doing the dishes or cleaning, I can thank God simply for the sacrifice (those chores are by far not my favorite part of being a wife/mother) of doing something for my husband and children that will often go unnoticed, until it doesn't get done of course.
While I'm cooking dinner, I can thank God for the ability to feed my family and pray for those who do not have enough to eat that day.
If I haven't driven around or have not said/finished my rosary, right before the kids go to bed we can say a family rosary. After the initial fight of making the kids sit down and focus (which can be very difficult for a toddler), saying the rosary before bed calms them down and gets them ready to fall asleep (if they don't fall asleep during the rosary...BONUS!)
And finally before finally closing my eyes, a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings of that day!

How do you pray without ceasing?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I saw a great link to the Woman of Grace Blog today. Check out what Pope Francis has to say about gossip:

This topic is definitely something that hits home for me as I'm guessing it does for most of us. Gossip is pretty much expected of women and from my observations we tend to use it as a way to bond with another woman. But when we get right down to it, to speak ill of someone is to kill their reputation, their good name. If someone went around telling people who didn't even know me yet that I was snobby, imagine how they would treat me upon meeting me. They would already have a negative image in their minds and it would be really hard for me to earn their trust and respect, most likely without even knowing they had a negative image of me in the first place! Just something to think about.

Another couple of posts I saw floating around today that I found interesting:

5 Tips for Young Parents and Large Families by Taylor Marshall

The Cross of Beauty by Jackie (Francios) Angel