7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 22: Posy, Paperless, Pinterest

1. Posy is home! We had a lovely homecoming last Friday night. Lily, age 7 had no idea that Posy was coming home. All through her time in France, Posy had told Molly, whose birthday is in November, that she would certainly be home by her birthday. At one point Lily, whose birthday is September 14 – last Sunday, asked if Posy would be there for her birthday too, and a plot was born. Posy told Lily that she didn’t think she could get back that soon, and that she was coming home on the day after her birthday. So Lily had made sure that any plans to celebrate her birthday were not scheduled until Posy was home. She didn’t even want to have cake on her actual birthday if Posy wasn’t going to be there.

Friday night after dinner, I told the kids that we had to go run some errands. Tessa (age 12) was in on the trick and had been helping the kids make some posters for “next week” when Posy got home. She smuggled those along with us in her purse. The kids all loaded up, none too curious because “errands” are always boring.

When we pulled up to the airport, a couple of them got the idea, but Lily didn’t fully figure it out until minutes before Posy came out of the gate, when Tessa handed out the signs. Her face was priceless. She had tears in her eyes when she found out that Posy had made these arrangements just for her, so that she could be here for Lily’s 7th birthday.

2. My Etsy shop, Tools of Grace, is open! I am still busy adding products and details, but it is open for business. My Mass Books, and Jay’s CDs are available at new lower prices. Please take a moment to check it out, favorite my shop and Like the Facebook page. There will be a lot more to come, including a giveaway sometime in October.

3. Paperless? I’m trying to move us towards a more paperless house, at least as far as office stuff. But how far do I go with this? I’ve already had one moment when the internet in the house was down and I really needed to get at the bill for our internet service so I could call them. Thank goodness I could get at it from my phone. It made me second guess myself though.

4. Pin all the things. I have dabbled in pinterest up to now and it just never really meshed with my brain. And then suddenly it did! I know, I’m like the last person on earth to figure out the joys of pinterest. I’m looking for ideas for handmade Christmas gifts, ways to simplify our home, and tricks & tools for evernote. There is so much to be found! Must. Pull. Away. From. Screen.

5. It’s one of those terrible decision times – go up a size or put the cookies down. I am a stress eater, and my stress usually tastes like sugar in some form. My body also declares that either I can give it energy by getting some rest or it will demand energy through carbs. I have to get a hold of this, but I am reticent (or making excuses?) about starting to count calories again. I think it must be done, though. Sigh.

6. I realized why I am fine about not having a dryer and maybe it is not such a good thing. I was kind of proud of myself, because I thought that I just didn’t want to spend the money on one because I was getting by without it just fine, but looking at the state of our checkbook, I see that I am not afraid of spending some money. I thought about it some more. Earlier this year, we invested in the 2nd biggest set we could find – matching! I would have a matching set again. Hi-tech! Top loader HE machine! A gas dryer to save money and dry faster!

I am really proud of this stupid set of appliances. I don’t want to “settle” for a dryer that doesn’t match. So even though I could have a dryer for cheap, I have been choosing to go without so that my set doesn’t look hobbled together.

Shallow much? I’m sure I can work it out, with all this time I have to think about it while I hang clothes to dry.

7. Cheers. In one of those weird spare moments when I had some free time and didn’t feel like reading, I put on the first episode of Cheers. Aw, I loved that show, and seeing the pilot (which I don’t think I had ever seen before) brought back all the storylines and spinoffs that followed.


What caught me by surprise though, we the nature of the show. It’s been so long since I watched a show taped in front of a live audience, and it had such a different feel too it – very much like a play. It was just a fun thing to see.

Have a great weekend everyone! Go see Jen@ConversionDiary for more Quick Takes!


7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 21: Hiccups, Houses, Laundry, and Etsy


1. I keep waking myself up with the hiccups. What the heck is going on with that? It gives me some time to get a little more reading done, since the hiccups are loud and violent, and I have to leave the room to let my husband get some sleep. (He doesn’t make me, I just think it is a nice thing to do.)


2. I had intended to get my quick takes posted last week, but I was on a Mom’s Retreat instead. We watched the video series “The Genius of Woman” by Katrina Zeno. (She also has a book on the same topic: Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey.) She weaves together teachings of Pope St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” and “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” to show how our identity is affected by our gender and how to live fully in the Body of Christ as a woman. She also talked about how Satan attacks us specifically as women and ways to combat that. Beautiful teachings! The best part of the retreat for me was getting to laugh and cry, to learn and explore beautiful parts of the faith with great friends, who I have rarely seen for the last year or so – when we switched schools. We also escaped the heat and went up to the cool pines to a cabin for our retreat. It was just wonderful and I can’t wait for our next one, next summer.


I’m the one on the far right in front.


3. Every time I try to bump up my posting schedule, I fall on my butt. Not literally, of course, although I suppose I shouldn’t rule that out as a future possibility. I’m sure it would be difficult to type much with a wounded behind. My plans are not His plans or vice versa or something. I also tend to think of blog post topics in the car and my brain flushes as soon as I open the door and they are *POOF* gone forever. So if I could just write while driving, this would be the most awesome blog ever. Until then… I’ll just keep forgetting what I meant to say. Maybe I could teach my 4 year old to take notes on my thoughts. That could work, right?


4. I have now lived for six weeks without a dryer, and it hasn’t killed me yet. I can’t hang the clothes outside, since my kids have terrible seasonal allergies. (Which I used to think was just a made up thing until I had kids who either couldn’t breathe or had murder-scene-equivalent nose bleeds because of allergies.) Therefore handing them clothes and sheets impregnated with pollen is a really bad idea. Thankfully, this house has a room that we are using as mostly a storage room. The middle of the floor is clear and the perfect place to set up drying racks. This one from IKEA is my favorite.

I also have this one from Costco, which is pretty awesome because I can hang lots of big shirts, pants, and towels at once. It also has a hanging rack up top. But it’s really tall, I have to be careful when I move it because I am forever whacking it on the ceiling fan.

laundry pic

Between the two of them I can dry two loads at a time. I actually own a very nice dryer, but it is a gas dryer and there is no hook up in this house. Because of reasons stated below in #6, we have not purchased a different dryer. I’m not in any big rush, this just hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be.


5. Okay, so I knew this year was going to be busy, but what the calendar looks like and what it feels like day after day are two totally separate things. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are, in fact, only so many hours one can be awake every day. What I am learning is that this year will require an intentionality heretofore unexperienced in our family. We have always been more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of family, in an organized sort of way. But there is much less room for error this year. Especially if everyone wants to eat dinner! (And they always, always do. Darnit.)

But as one child was falling apart this morning, after going to bed too late two nights in a row, I realized that I need to not just be intentional about when the work gets done and the cooking, shopping and meal planning, but also about the down time. I need to consciously set aside time for each of us individually, and all of us as a family to just be. I’m not exactly sure how to implement this – whether I should direct my children to something or just let them figure it out themselves. I’m sure we will fine tune it as we go. What works for our family?


6. I came literally down the mountain from my retreat this weekend and then was dragged figuratively down the mountain immediately after. We lost our buyers for our old house, then Sunday night/Monday morning, Phoenix was hit with an epic storm. Here in the desert, the ground is baked hard and dry through the summer, the water has no place to go. This is a picture of a major freeway:


We received and emergency alert on our phones at 3am Monday morning that there was a flash flood warning. My husband, Jay, immediately went to out house-on-the-market (it took him 40 minutes to drive 7 miles, the flooding was already so bad!) only to find water gushing into the family room. The one where we had just replaced the carpet. He spend hours pumping water away from the house, suctioning the carpet, and doing everything he could to stem any damage. Later in the day we had a restoration company come out and look at it, but we couldn’t afford their quote. (Reasonable quote, we have just been, well, sucked dry by this house; we painted it, repaired it, replaced carpet, etc.) The man who evaluated it was very nice, however, and he helped me set up our rented high power fans and told me the steps to getting it cleaned up and dried. It is coming along nicely, just with lots of work and it still cost a lot, in spite of us doing it ourselves.

It’s worth noting that while we lived in this house for 6 years, that room flooded twice. Once when I went to bed and forgot to turn off the water to the pool, and once from a storm. Since we moved out of that house in mid-July, it has flooded twice with freak-of-nature level storms.


7. Because of the above, I am opening up an Etsy store, Tools of Grace, where I will sell my mass books, handmade rosaries, and eventually baptism gowns. I have been making rosaries now for 8-9 years and have mostly just sold to friends. It is imperative now, though, to dig ourselves out of this hole. I will keep you posted and bug you in all sorts of ways when I open. The site is live now, but there isn’t much to see yet. Hang in there, lots more is coming! Keep your eyes peeled, and send a few prayers that this will help us out. Thank you!


Go see Jen@ConversionDiary.com for many more quick takes! God bless!


Prayer is Effective


I recently read a conversation on social media regarding the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. One commenter was complaining that she didn’t know what she could actually do about it, aside from praying. Another person responded, “Either we believe prayer is effective, or we don’t. If we do, we need to act like it.”

I realized that I often treat prayer as the thing to do when there is nothing left to be done, only when I am powerless do I stop and ask for help from God. But I think I have it upside down. No matter what effect I can have on a situation, prayer needs to be first.It’s not that I shouldn’t act to help these and other needs, but my help should be in addition to my prayers, not the other way around.

You know what that does? It reduces my self-importance in the equation. If I have a sick friend and I can help by watching her kids or bringing dinner, great! That is a good help to her. It is even more important that I pray for her or her family. When Christians are being persecuted across the world and I can send some money to a trusted ministry to help them, that is meaningful. The money is good, but the prayer for those who are suffering and for their oppressors is vital.

Wait, what? How can that be more important than dinner? Than needed funds for suffering people? Action seems to speak louder! That is just ridiculous. So I ask again…

Do I believe prayer is effective or not?

It is so easy to forget the spiritual aspect of our lives, of our very being when the physical, visible world is throwing itself at our senses everywhere we turn. The physical world begins to feel more real, more permanent. The spiritual world begins to seem like a fantasy.

Most of the time it is not for us to know exactly what the answer to or effect of our prayer is. We have to hand this little tiny piece of ourselves over to God and trust that He will know what to do with it. He told us to pray. Do we believe it is meaningful and effective or just a psychological exercise He wants us to go through on a regular basis?

Prayer is effective in connecting us to God. It reorients our faces towards Him when our natural state is to flit around like butterflies. Sometimes He allows our prayers to be part of a change in situation, and sometimes we are the ones who are changed. It is the very air our souls need to breathe.

Aw, who am I to talk about prayer? I am kind of terrible at it. I always feel like what I am not saying is more than what I am saying. I get distracted, I even forget what I am doing. Sometimes I forget to do it at all. This idea, though, that I need to act like I believe, specifically in prayer, is a game changer. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that complex. St Therese said, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” CCC 2558.

Since reading that social media comment, I have found myself asking, when I feel tempted to be in control of all the aspects of my life before me, Do I believe that prayer is effective? Do I believe God will hear me and respond?

I do believe. Now I am trying harder to act like it.

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 20: Take a Breath!

Lots of lists this week, but like I said in my 5Faves, I just want to get my blogging juices flowing again. A lot has been going on, so lists are a helpful thing.

1. We have added in almost all the activities for the year, just one more left to start. They conveniently started one per week for the first three weeks of school. Gymnastics, then Ballet, then Boys Choir. My head is swimming. Why did I think this was a good idea? Oh, right. Because we are having a ball watching the kids expand their talents. I had one friend tell me I was crazy last night, but she didn’t see the light in each one’s eyes as they do the thing that they love and which expresses their talent so well. So what is another night of crock potting? What did become apparent was that I really need to be on top of meals for those busy days (Mon-Wed). I’m not only going to have to come up with a plan, but also shop for it. That is the hard part. It is amazing to me how long I can go between full shopping trips with this many people in the house. But I’m afraid it is going to have to be done. (If you have any delicious crock pot recipes, send them my way!)


2. Gus is settling into preschool. My little baby, in school. I spent those hours this week just recharging my batteries, working on some other writing projects, running a couple of simple errands. Do you have any idea how quickly you can get out of the car and run into a store, buy milk and be back on the road again? I had no idea! An errand that would have been a major energy expenditure ended up taking just a few minutes. I was seriously driving away thinking, That was too easy! Surely I forgot someone!

3. When my first child started kindergarten, I was only 23 years old, easily the youngest momma in the bunch. That was a lovely feeling, although it seemed that no one took me very seriously then. Now I am on the older end. I went to curriculum night for our little kids last night and in my 1st grader’s room, I sat in Lily’s desk and met her seat-mate’s mom. Teeny-tiny, very young. Her oldest child was “so grown up now” in 1st grade. I felt old. And frumpy. And tired. I wondered what I looked like to her. I can’t really remember what I thought of the older moms back when I was the newbie. I sometimes think that older moms intimidate the younger ones (and sometimes the teachers, too) even though we don’t want to.

4. I was able to talk to a couple other moms like me at the event. (I’m going to stop calling us “older moms” now, I really don’t like that phrase now that it applies to me.) They had lots of kids, former homeschoolers, not really stressed about the whole school thing anymore. It was a breath of fresh air. For the first time I felt like maybe we fit in there. Switching schools has been rough on me socially. Last year, since we had some of the kids in a temporary solution (for us, it was a great school, just not our final destination) there was no way for me to dig in and get to know anyone. I have hope that is changing. Just remember, as you go about your school involvement, that some other parent may be feeling just as awkward as the new kids they just brought to school. For a thought on how to help that, see Dwija’s post on an easy way to break the ice, even if you are shy. Oh, and also remember that person who looks pissed off – may just be feeling really nervous and terrified. Ask me how I know.

This image came up when I searched for a picture for "shy". It fits well with awkward too, I think. And cuteness. Because we always need cuteness.

This image came up when I searched for a picture for “shy”. It fits well with awkward too, I think. And cuteness. Because we always need cuteness.

5. I started reading “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” by Richard Swenson. I have the older edition, which I bought about 10 years ago at a homeschool convention. It sat on my bookshelf beckoning me ever since. In a fit of insomnia I picked it up the other night. It’s a great book so far, even if he does spend a little too much time pointing out the obvious problem, lack of margin. After about half a chapter, I had to set it down and go hunt for something to start annotating and underlining. One thing that hit me was, “Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity.” The irony of reading this at the start of our busiest year ever (at least as far as kid activities goes) is not lost on me. It is helping me to take a careful look at those times in between things, or waiting times, or time in the car. I feel more motivated to grasp those times with intentionality and use them to slow down, connect, and breathe.

Another quote: “Food plus warmth plus health plus education plus affluence have not quite equalled Utopia.”
We need to live more like the Shire and less like Saruman’s war machine.

Now that I have recommended the book, I hope I can finish it!

6. A two year old’s storyMom, what if a dinosaur had a sword? And then a tiger had a sword! And what if they fought? And then superman came down and told them, “Hey guys! Stop fighting!” And then superman flew away.

Later that same day, we were walking into Costco when he stopped and looked up at the tall, outside wall. He caressed it a little and then said, “Mom, can I climb this?” I told him, “No, you aren’t Spiderman.” And he said, in complete awe, “Spiderman can do anything!”

7. Our house still hasn’t sold, which is certainly a stress, but for now the painting and repairs are done. And that is a huge relief. Keep praying for a quick sale to the right buyers.

Thanks for checking in with me! Be sure to tell me what you are up to in the comments, and go see Jen @ Conversion Diary  for more Quick Takes!

Five Favorites: Gus’s Favorite Books


This is my first 5 Favorites. I feel a little shy contributing to the link up here, but what the heck, why not? I want to get my writing and blogging juices flowing after taking an extended break while we bled money and fixed up a house. I’m afraid I’m not going into any cool beauty products today, because this topic was just so much easier. (And funner!)

So here are Gus’s (age 2.5) favorite books:

1. Where the Wild Things Are

6196EufH+uLWe have actually bought at least two copies of this book per child, it just gets so well loved. They carry it around, sleep with it, tear it apart, leave it outside. I can recite this whole book without any trouble, and I still think it is precious. To people who are offended by book damage, I am truly sorry. Just make sure you never lend me a book. I love books just as much as my kids do, and by love I mean I break the spines, underline, dog-ear, and everything else needed to just really enjoy the book. I allow my kids to do the same. “Where the Wild Things Are” has deserved every carefully applied piece of tape it has received. We will buy another copy soon, I am sure of it.

2. Pumpkin Soup


This one surprised me. The copy we have was one we got for free somewhere, and it just got shoved onto our bookshelf and forgotten until Gus found it. This is a truly adorable book. The pictures are beautiful and the story is engaging, without too much focus on a moral. (It seems to me that children’s books have gotten entirely obsessed with teaching a moral in every story and have forgotten what a really good story can be.) The only moral to this story might be something along the lines of “Let your friend be a jerk sometimes”, but it’s still not a bad story.

3. Zed and the Monsters


By Peggy Parish – you know, the one who wrote Amelia Bedelia? I have to admit, I am thoroughly tired of Amelia Bedelia, but this book is a nice change. It is a little on the long side for a bedtime read, but like Pumpkin Soup in #2, it has an actual story with a plot that goes beyond jamming a lesson down a child’s throat. You’re probably starting to think that I hate teaching my children morals at all, but that is not the case. I think children can learn from stories without having morals spelled out so carefully for them. Give the little buggers some credit! They are paying attention. Go ahead and try to tell me that your child hasn’t called you out on doing something wrong before. Leave the heavy handed morals in Aesop, where they fit so beautifully into an engaging story, and let the kids just fall in love with plain old stories too.

Anyway… Zed and the Monsters is about a lazy little boy, who runs out of money and goes to find a job. He stumbles upon a mayor with a monster problem and uses his wits to help him get rid of the monsters and get paid in the process. It’s a little gory in its ideas (one monster pokes his own eyes out) and it does have monsters who want to eat Zed, so a sensitive child might be bothered by it. But the illustrations are very cartoony and there is no blood, so if the child can handle Wile E. Coyote, he could handle Zed.

4. David and the Giant Goliath – Tess Fries

I don’t have a picture for this one, because it was a cheapy my husband picked up at Walgreen’s or something when he was out of town one time. It is cheap looking. But the adaptation isn’t terrible and it has swords in it, which are Gus’s favorite things. If he had a 5 Favorite list, he would probably list 5 different swords.

5. Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes


Pete the Cat is a big favorite. This is another one we will have to replace soon. My personal favorite Pete story is “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons” but Gus will have no other Pete book read to him now that he has discovered this one. There are predictable responses in all the Pete books, so the child can complete some sentences. When the book asks, “Did Pete Cry?” Gus loves to call out “Goodness, no!” The Pete books are just all around fun reads with good phonemic awareness and other goodies like counting or color recognition. See, I don’t hate ALL educational books.

And now, as a special bonus, Here is my sweetie-pie, Gus:



Next time I promise to post some fun Mama goodies, my daughter works in cosmetics, so you can be sure they will be good ones!

Go see more Five Favorites at Mamaknowshoneychild.com!

Phases of a Fiat


As an oldest child, and then later the mother of a crew, being in charge is just my natural state of being. I have always looked with awe on Mary’s answer to the angel, how she jumped headlong into what God asked of her even though she had big plans. How did she just let go like that? I know, she was full of grace but still, like I said, Plans.

So many others in the scriptures and throughout our faith history have done similar things. Abram dragged his family across the desert to an unknown land, Moses went back to Egypt (with plenty of attempts to negotiate first!) to free his people, David . . . he had his struggles with surrendering to God, but he really tried, and succeeded is some very big ways. St. Francis walked away from his rich life and began to put together a broken church with his own hands. The examples of those who have lived a life of “Yes” to God are really to many to list. I knew from early on this was an important part of living my faith.

Then there are the parts in scripture about anxiety. Having an “in charge” personality almost means that anxiety is part of the fabric of who I am. If I am not feeling anxiety about something, then I am probably ignoring or forgetting some major aspect that I should be worrying and scheming about, right? But over and over again, the scriptures remind us not to worry.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. (Philipians 4:6)

Those are just a few of them.

Recently I noticed that my efforts to follow in Mary’s footsteps led me through a few somewhat predictable phases of surrender.

Phase One: “Whatever.”

This is when I tell God that whatever He wants is good with me. During this phase I am comfortable and not afraid. I know that whatever happens will be used for good, even if not until heaven, and I am so thankful to have a break from anxiety that I just kind of toss my hands in the air. It’s like going out to eat and when the waitress comes to take your order you tell her to just pick something for you. (I’ve never been daring enough to try something like that.) But I can take deep breath in that moment and tell God, “Whatever. Just do your thing.”

Phase Two: “Bring It On”

When I’ve been riding on the “Whatever” wave for a while and some Stuff has begun to happen, I find my ability to live in a state of surrender changes a bit. Some of this Stuff is great, some is surprising, but some of it I am not happy with. My plans are shifting, we hit some crises as a family. At this point in the journey, I am starting to maybe feel a little bit beat up on. I begin to count the cost of living in a state of surrender, and I wonder if it might be more than I can pay. And this is when God and I get in a little fight. (I’m generally the only one fighting.) I start complaining and yelling and say, “You want surrender? You got it. Bring it on. Do what your going to do even though I will probably hate it.”

I never said I didn’t have an attitude problem. This is obviously not the kind of “Yes” which God is looking for, it’s more of a spiritual temper tantrum. But I take comfort that God is my Father and as a perfect parent, He will patiently wait while I fall apart a little. In these moments I can clearly picture Him holding me like a small child while I beat my fists on His chest and cry. When I have calmed down, He is still there, loving me, cradling me.

Phase Three: The Volcano

In the movie “Joe vs. the Volcano” (Spoiler alert!) Tom Hanks is Joe, a poor working stiff who is dragging himself through life not feeling well. He is convinced by a sham doctor that he is going to die. Another man offers him the business opportunity to jump into a volcano on a remote Pacific island for some various reasons. On the way Joe falls in love with Patricia (Meg Ryan), the boat captain. When they arrive at the island Joe and Patricia get married and then he tells her that he is still going to jump into the volcano. Since they have been through some very unlikely challenges already, she decides to jump with him and says a great line, “Nobody knows anything, Joe. We’ll take this leap, and we’ll see. We’ll jump, and we’ll see. That’s life, right?

Then they jump. At that precise moment the volcano explodes and they land safely in the water, because of course they do.

Phase three is when I feel like God is asking some really big changes of me or my family. It feels like jumping into a volcano. I struggle with fear during this time, trusting that one way or another God will allow me to land in the water, but I worry about how burned I will be before I get there. Did you catch the primary words in that last sentence? Fear and worry. When I am in this phase of attempted fiat, I am abiding in fear and worry and not in God.

I was trying. Trying to live a life of surrender and love for God, trying to let Him lead me, but I wasn’t all that sure that He wouldn’t go all crazy and dole out the kind of life that Job had; Job, who had trusted Him so deeply.

This phase is a little like a spiritual post traumatic stress disorder. Our intentions can be good, but we can’t get past ourselves, our own fears and plans. When I realized that this scenario of jumping into a volcano was playing in my head with regards to trusting God, I knew I was in trouble, that my view of God and my relationship to Him had somehow become skewed. The amazing sacrament of confession and extra time in prayer were balm for my soul and helped me to move on to…

Phase Four: “Anything”

There is a subtle difference between telling God “Whatever” and whispering “Anything.” I started with the intention of echoing Mary’s Fiat in my own life, but it was more like I had just kind of thrown it at Him and left Him to do the dirty work. Anything feels more like sharing these moments of my life with God in real time as they happen. Anything feels like walking hand in hand.

One of the primary things I realized as I pondered the problems and joys of surrender is that when Mary uttered her fiat, she was answering one question. She lived her life with the expectation that it was all for the glory of God, but in that moment, there was only one question asked. As I had stumbled through my journey towards surrendering my will and saying “Yes” to God, I kept trying to do it all at once, to make my “Yes” encompass my whole life when what I really needed to do was say “Yes” in the next moment.

I’m sure there are many more phases that a person can go through when it comes to surrender. I don’t think I have come to the end of my journey through the ones I have listed. I am sure I will circle back through them many more times in my life. Slowly I am learning what it means to set myself aside and trust Him, and to hold my expectations and plans with an open hand.

Originally posted on Catholic Stand 6.26.2014

7 Quick Takes 2014, vol 19: In Which I Try Not to Whine About How Busy I Am

1. First, let’s just get this out of the way. The busy: fixing up the old house, with all the mini crises and rabbit trails that come with it, unpacking and settling the new house, not having a dryer, school starting for six kids, husband working extra hard at all his jobs, a monsoon storm that ruins indoor carpet. And now, that is all I am going to say about how I am losing my mind and there is not enough of me to go around. But I just had to put this out there because, you know, OH MY GOSH I AM GOING SUPER CRAZY!

2. My baby started preschool. My baby. The youngest person in the house. The. Bay. Bee.

Molly and Gus start school

I thought that my heart would break, but… see number 1 up there. It will hit me someday. There are all sorts of things to talk about there, but that deserves a real post. He has done a great job so far with the perfectly appropriate amount of homesickness and missing momma. Everyone’s question for me is what I will do with “all that free time.” The answer is, aside from #1 above, I will do all the things I didn’t have time for, like cleaning the house, shopping the grocery sales, and maybe – I hope – a little blogging thrown in for good measure.

3. Game of Thrones. I succumbed. I gave in. I am reading the books. I just finished the 3rd one and am dying to start the 4th. I haven’t gotten sucked into fiction like this in a long time. He’s no Tolkein or Lewis, but he is a good writer and the story is epic. EPIC. I watched some of the shows, but I think I need to bleach my eyeballs after that. Tyrion and Arya are my favorites. (Arya is so exactly like Molly!) So for the ten minutes that my eyes can stay open after I crawl into bed, I am reading Game of Thrones. Two thumbs up.

4. I got my hair did. At a real salon, by a real stylist (for bonus, she was my bestest buddy in beauty school!). I really love it, it is still longish, but less, um, shapeless, I guess. The problem I am running into is that I have a hairstyle that can be a real style, but what I am spending my time doing is… sorry, back to #1 again. Anyway, physical work, moving things, cleaning things, chasing people (only my own children, I promise!), and always, always hoping for a chance to take a nap. And it is hot. SO hot. Do you know what that means?

Pony tail.

I have this great cut and I am still living in pony tail land, which is why you don’t get a picture of it.

5. Time budgeting. We have come a long way with our money budget in the past few years, and generally have an idea of where our money is going. We usually even have an emergency fund, since we are so great at generating emergencies. One of the things that I have learned is that if I plan to use every penny that comes into the house every month for a designated purpose, I will be over budget every time. There is always some crazy thing that comes along that we have to throw money at – sickness, repairs, field trips.

I realized the other day that I am not budgeting my time well. I have assigned every minute of the day, every day of the week. And when something extra comes along – and it ALWAYS does – I am left exhausted and overwhelmed, my time budget is overdrawn. My mission now is to have an emergency fund of sorts, with regards to my time. I don’t know how that will look or how I will get there. I think this will mean having some time when I plan to do nothing. That will help me to refill my always overtaxed introvert tank. In addition to that I think I will probably need to have some “time to be assigned later” when I will expect to work, but not know until later what that work will be, because there will always be some unforeseen things that need to be taken care of.

I’ve always been good at planning, but this is a whole new level I am stepping into now. How do you build in an emergency fund in your time?

6. The start of school meant bumping my wake up time a whole hour earlier. Yawn. I’m tired. Wait, this take is starting to sound whiny, what can I do to turn this around? You know, I have a choice, I used to be the kind of mom who would stumble out of bed just in time to get the kids up. No more. I have to have the time in the morning to drink my coffee in a stupor, to mumble out a prayer or two, and to do a really bleary eyed attempt at bible study. Lately I have even been able to take a super quick shower and, yes, throw my hair in a pony tail before getting the kids up. I just need to start going to bed earlier, which will make it easier.

7. Please say a prayer for our house to sell. This part always stresses me out. Thank you!

Go see Jen @ Conversiondiary.com for more quick takes!


7 Quick Takes 2014 vol. 18: Moving Right Along

I’ve been M.I.A. around here for the last few weeks. Something had to give and this blog was what gave… among other things. But I’m back and ready to tell you what I have been up to!

1. Once upon a time, less than three weeks ago, we were living here:


and thinking that we would probably be spending another few months there at least. Our search for a house closer (than our current 18 miles) to school was looking less and less likely.

2. Then there was this email. From our wonderful Realtor. There was a house available and it was actually bigger than our current house. Just about everything else that had come down the pike had been pitifully small, at least for a house where 8-10 people would live. So we went and looked and fell immediately in love. In a whirlwind of days we found ourselves packing up and moving, just 9 days after looking at the house for the first time.

Do you see why I haven’t blogged? Packing up a house and moving lickity split is no small thing. But we did it!

3. No I am not going to post pictures of the new place, yet anyway. The new place is halfway unpacked, but the bulk of our energy is going towards getting the old house ready to go on the market. That house was well loved, in the beat up looking teddy bear sense of the phrase. But the new house is great! We even have a play room! I am so delighted!

4. Painting is the main work right now. We are painting about 90% of the interior of the old house.


In our spare time.

Stop laughing. We are seriously doing this in our spare time. Sometimes someone can watch the little kids, sometimes they come along and “help”. A couple friends even donated most of a Saturday to come and paint with us. Thank you again, SJP!

Allow me to confess this: I am a messy painter. My husband cringes when he see me carrying the stuff. I am also a messy cook, so maybe those two are related. So, pray for my dear husband, please. Not only is he working tons of hours these days, in the blazing heat, but he is also dealing with whole house to paint and a wife who can be a little too expressive with her roller flinging. He’s being really awesome about it though.



5. Today we finished the master bedroom. Like really finished. There is no more painting to do in there, so I got to rip up the paper and plastic that covered the floor.


It was less satisfying than I expected. Sort of like unwrapping a Christmas present, but way more work.


And little stubborn bits of tape that nearly made me crazy. My knees are not as good at crawling as they once were. But we are slowly but surely making progress.

6. And then there was dinner. An old friend, who is kind of like a new friend, brought us a lovely dinner tonight. She offered to bring it when I stopped by her house to pick up the microwave she gave us when our new one blew up smoked a lot and smelled like it was burning. And with dinner were these:


Beautiful flowers (posed by the microwave, of course!) and gluten free, egg free cupcakes that even my husband could eat! Thank you TM!

7. And all this happened in the nick of time because school craziness begins this coming week! Bookstore, registration days, meet the teacher nights… so much. The last precious days of summer are slipping through my fingers as we speak. Even in all of this, it will be easier, we are closer to school and all of our activities. I am so thankful right now.

Thanks for catching up with me! For more Quick Takes, go see Jen@ConversionDiary!

I Forgot Myself


It seemed like a normal Sunday morning except I got up a little later than usual. I slept badly last night because I have a toothache, so my husband let me sleep in. When I woke up at 7:20am I pondered sleeping a little later but then decided that going to Mass this morning would be decidedly easier than in the late afternoon.

So I got up and got in the shower. I washed, dressed, moisturized my face, and then realized my hair was having a bad day of its own. I put it up in a bun. Done. Then I went to fuss with the kids. Jay had fed most of them breakfast already but then he had to leave early for choir. I sent the kids scurrying this way and that to get dressed and find shoes while I sat down for a peaceful cup of coffee.

Next I herded the girls into the bathroom to do their hair. Then I sent them in search of shoes. Again. I brushed my teeth. After one minor shoe related melt-down, we were off to church, only a few minutes past our usual extra early time. And I thought, That wasn’t so bad! I wished I had more time to sit with my thoughts in the morning like I usually do (I’m a slow starter.) but I could make time for that later in the day.

We arrived at church and I took everyone to the bathroom, washed their hands, and let everyone push the button on the hand dryer. That is always super important. Then we made our way to our seats and tried to settle in as best we could. The kids were a little extra squirrelly today, but nothing out of control. They were still enough for me to read the readings and listen to the homily, which is better than I expected.

The second reading today was a frustrating one for me. It was Romans 8:9, 11-13 and it talked about living in the Spirit and not the flesh. I pondered my weak willpower and how I would love to be able to step beyond the urgings of the flesh. Then maybe I could lose some weight. So spiritual, right? It did make me think a lot about how to set those desires aside and do the right thing instead of the easy thing, and how I needed to work on dying to self;  I always seem to come back to that theme. I thought again about my weak and broken will, and wondered about how to get the help I need, moment by moment, from Jesus. But that is another post for another day.

Mass continued, we went up and some of us received the Eucharist. This will help, I thought. But then I still found myself looking at the people who walked by while I was kneeling and supposed to be praying. I looked at their faces, their clothes, their toe-nail polish. Time to refocus. Unconsciously I brought my hands up to physically close my eyes. I was startled by what I found there.

I was not wearing makeup.

There I was, at Mass (the TV Mass, no less!), supposedly dressed up, and I had completely forgotten to put makeup on. How did this happen? I had been in front of the mirror several times that morning: brushing my teeth, doing the girls’ hair, helping the kids wash their hands… How had I not noticed?

I remembered that in the car before church I thought about putting on some lipstick, but when I reached in my purse I grabbed the tylenol instead (toothache!) and didn’t fuss with finding some lip gloss.

Part of me realized that maybe this was a good thing, that during the course of the morning I had set myself aside so well that I didn’t even feel deprived. My emotional response to this was not what I expected it would be. I felt alarmed and embarrassed. I wanted to dart out of the church right away, but Mass was nearly over so that wouldn’t help. Is my mind slipping? Is that how I forgot? No, I don’t think so. I took care of all the important things, my body was clean, my clothes were nice, my teeth were brushed, my hair was done, my vitamins were taken.

It not like I never go in public without makeup. I pick up the kids from school or run to the store without makeup sometimes. I wear makeup less often in the summer because I’m usually just a few hours away from a dip in the pool. It’s just… I was supposed to be dressed up for Mass. I was supposed to look pulled together. Without makeup on I tend to look tired and faded, not pulled together and ready for anything. When I am wearing makeup people say things like, “You don’t look like you have nine children!” Without makeup, I guess I look like I do, in fact, have nine children.

I felt humbled.

I didn’t think humble was supposed to be so uncomfortable. But I guess the truly humble part of my morning was over once I realized that I had left my self image behind for a little while. My Self came rushing back upon me, chastising me for imperfection. I confess that I didn’t stay around to chat after Mass like I usually would. I had had enough humility for one day.

I am sharing this not to say that wearing makeup is vain or to congratulate myself on a few moments of setting my self aside. I still love makeup and I enjoy that it makes me feel more confident. I am sharing this because for one moment my eyes left my Self and I didn’t even try to do it. I tasted the tiniest sip of not being “of the flesh,” the very thing I had been fussing about not being able to do. It was not of my own doing and I would not have chosen it, but I was gifted with this moment anyway.

Sometimes we are given the gift of stumbling into grace to remind us that it is not by our own will that we are changed to be who He made us to be.

Brothers and sisters:
You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Rom 8:9)


Garlic Shaming


I use minced garlic in a jar. I think you should know that about me. I once owned a garlic peeler and a garlic press and aspired to use fresh garlic, but what actually happened is that I stopped using garlic altogether.

A few years ago a friend introduced me to minced garlic in a jar and I was smitten. I had no idea such a thing existed. My cooking was once again infused with wonderful garlic. And we were happy.

Recently however, there have been little articles popping up like this one which says how inferior it is and a whole host of other things, like how it probably has added chemicals (Ew! Chemicals!) and how it is soaked in water, and how I can’t make things with sliced garlic because I guess maybe garlic in a jar and fresh garlic can’t exist in the same refrigerator. Or something.

I’m sure it is inferior to fresh garlic. I completely believe that. I also don’t care in the slightest. My family isn’t complaining (much) about my cooking, and I am really not aiming for gourmet here. Simple, nutritious, and reasonably yummy are my goals.

I completely take exception to the claim that “It only takes 45 seconds to mince a real, fresh garlic,” or “It only takes 2.5 seconds to push a garlic clove through a garlic press.” Those claims are complete hooey. On a TV kitchen set that might apply, or for someone who has a specific drawer for each specific tool and knows it will get put back there when the dishes are put away. But I don’t live in that universe. Here is how it goes for me:

I get out a cutting board, which is not where it usually goes, oh, it’s only on the other side of this cupboard.

I get out a knife. Who put these knives away? Were they trying to make me cut off my finger? Dig, dig, find the appropriate knife.

Now I have to find the garlic. It’s not on the door where the nice big jar of minced garlic sits, coaxing me sulkily. I dig through the drawers of the fridge, I dig to the back of the shelves. (This is the downside of having little people help you put groceries away.) I look in the freezer because you just never know… I finally call my husband into the room for the task because he can find anything. He found it. Oh there it is! Behind the coffee in the pantry! Of course, how silly of me.

So I guess this is when my “45 seconds” starts? I peel and mince the garlic, and put it into a bowl until I am ready for that part of the food preparation.

Then I have to wash all that stuff!

Or I could open a jar, spoon some garlic out at the exact moment I need garlic and then only be adding one spoon to the washing up. I will gladly sacrifice a little garlic flavor for that kind of ease.

But what about the allegations that this jar of garlic is full of terrible things? I was at a Pampered Chef show last week where the salesgirl told us that using fresh garlic would save us all sorts of money, because how much do those little jars cost? Probably a lot! And she was pretty sure they had terrible things in them like preservatives and formaldehyde.


First of all, my beloved jar from Costco (equivalent to 272 garlic cloves) set me back $4.19. I can guarantee you I couldn’t buy that much fresh garlic for that amount.

Secondly, the ingredients are garlic, water, and citric acid. See?


I am completely comfortable with every one of those ingredients. It’s even practically local!

But that is not my only confession. I also purchase non-natural peanut butter. The kind that doesn’t go in the refrigerator or need to be stirred. Again, it is about time and simplicity. Ain’t nobody got time for stirring peanut butter these days. Truth be told, I tried to switch to natural peanut butter. My family responded by completely boycotting peanut butter. Okay fine! I’ll buy the other stuff! And when another mom points out that she “would never feed that processed stuff to her family!” (That really happened!) I will shrug and take another bite of my sandwich, and make a mental note not to let her see my Honey Maid graham crackers and their high fructose corn syrup.

My point here is that I have picked my battles. These are some of the battles I did not pick. I’m okay with that now, but it took me a long time to realize that every time someone talked about a health threat, real or imagined, I wasn’t abusing my family if I didn’t jump right on their bandwagon. I am not a complete nutritional heathen to decide that some issues in the news are not worth the extra time or stress to deal with. If I find out later that they are more important, I will make the changes necessary.

In the mean time we will dip our Honey Maid graham crackers in organic whole milk.

What are some battles you didn’t pick?