Friday, November 27, 2015

Seven Color Me Grateful Takes

Happy (a day late) Thanksgiving!
How about seven things I find myself especially grateful for this Friday...

It still hasn't snowed yet.

Thank you, Jesus, for mild Novembers.

In breaking news in the world of Ben, guess who cut his first tooth on Wednesday?!? 
(See what I did there?)
And I had no clue.  
I'm fairly certain this is the earliest any of mine have gotten a tooth (but don't quote me on that) and while there were a few days last week when he wouldn't nap (not sure if it's related) he was still his happy clam self.  Besides some finger and random furniture chewing, there was nary a sign.   I've had very hard teethers and if this kiddo is not, then color me very VERY grateful.

Thank you, Jesus, for an easy teether.  At least for this first one anyway.

Our insurance company was trying not to pay our midwife's fee for all my prenatal care and being there for Ben's birth and the visits after.  Even though it was all preapproved and all that.  I don't know if the hospital transfer confused them but regardless they should have been paying.  Finally, finally, (after I called them out on social media...within 24 hours after I did I was contacted and had my own personal claim advocate) they are paying up.  We've gotten part of our fee back and now are working on getting the rest back (they accidentally charged us double the deductible) as well as fighting to have Ben's care covered.  But I'm so grateful to have this almost taken care of.

Thank you, Jesus, for healthcare and for burdens eased.

These ridiculous kids.  All week long they've been doing Thanksgiving crafts all on their own.
The did the ol' turkey handprint thing and then decided they need super authentic headgear.  Meanwhile, John Paul taught them about the first Thanksgiving and they learned what the feathers on the Native American headdresses represented which was quite...disturbing.

"We have to be serious because that's how they were back then."
These kids are so ridiculous and awesome.

Thank you, Jesus, for siblings and homeschooling and moments like these.

We had Thanksgiving at my dad's this year.  My stepmom made almost everything and it was delicious.  They even had crafts and a quiz game for the kids to do while we were there.

Chestnut roasting

And candy winning

Thank you, Jesus, for family and grandparents.

The soon to be four year old has been absolutely delightful lately.  He is my fireball and I try to soak in those moments when they come.  Just this past two weeks he's been SO eager to do his own lessons and has been teaching himself how to write letters.  He's been so proud of his writing and completely makes up spelling for words that he thinks he's writing.  It's been a gift in a whole lot of ways to see him grow in this way.

Thank you, Jesus, for this boy, for his spirit, for patience, and for (maybe?) corners turned.

 Just a little reminder that if you're doing any shopping on Amazon this year to use my (or someone's!) affiliate link.  If you go to Amazon by clicking here or on the link in the sidebar a percentage of anything you purchase goes to help me pay for keeping this blog up and for Christmas gifts and homeschool books at NO cost to you.  I'm so grateful for those that remember to do that.  In fact, just last week a pack of brand new, much needed underwear for a little boy's Christmas stocking was paid for by you :)  So thanks.  I really do appreciate it.
Thank you, Jesus, for all the ways You always provide for us and for those thoughtful people who help You.

Linking up with Kelly and Seven Quick Takes.
Thank you, Kelly!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Catholic New Year's Resolutions (with a free printable!)

Every year we do a little Catholic nerd thing and our family has a New Year's Eve party on the night before the first Sunday of Advent.  In the liturgical year, we are actually at the very end of the year and the new year begins this coming Sunday.  (And this coming liturgical year, Pope Francis has declared the Year of Mercy!  Woot!)  For us Catholics, that is a bigger deal than December 31 on the secular calendar.  Not that we won't celebrate then, too, because hey, why not?  (Also, #stillchristmas.)    

So at our house we have a party that Saturday night.  And by party I mean we have dips and dessert and maybe watch a movie and the kids drink sparkling cider.  (Except for that one who actually prefers to sip from my wine glass.  I like that kid.)  It's not anything extravagant but it's fun and gives a little nod of our familial head to time redeemed and the deference we have first to the movements and seasons of the Church.

This year I wanted to expand upon the idea a bit and we're going to incorporate some Catholic New Year's Resolutions into our celebrating.  Of course, these would also be great to do at the regular New Year's, too, if that's your preference.  Rather than the standard resolutions that focus more on losing weight, exercising, organizing and all that good stuff, these will be be the bigger soul changes we may feel called to work on.  

If we're really rockin' this Saturday, we'll make it to Confession before our party and then take some time to figure out on our own and together some ways we'd like to grow and change this liturgical year.  

I made a sheet for us to fill out and I'm hoping that this will become part of our little Catholic New Year's tradition.

The list includes:

One Virtue I Want to Grow in...

One Sin I'd Like to Eliminate….

One Book of Scripture I'd Like to Read Through…

One Other Spiritual Book I'd Like to Read…

One Way to Increase My Sacramental Life

One Saint I'd Like to Get to Know Better...

Any Special Intentions for the Year…

(Obviously, the kids will only be able to do this as much as they are able for their age.)

As a little gift I made it available for anyone who would like to print it out for your own use :)    And it certainly could be used as a 'normal' New Year's resolution list as well, of course.  Simply click on the image to open it in a new window, then right click to save/upload it to your computer.

Hope it can help!
Happy Liturgical New Year's!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When Your Marriage Wants More {A Review of Beloved}

Over a year ago my husband and I did something that turned out to be a beautiful gift to our marriage.  We knew we needed something because to put it bluntly, we were struggling.

Now, I'm sure your marriage never has issues so maybe none of this will apply to you ;)

But we struggle.
Sometimes it's just in the the little day to day ways but we've had some giant battles as well.  And to be honest. we felt a little lost as to what to do about it.  I mean, there just isn't a whole lot of practical help available, it seems, for those of us who want to make this thing work, who feel like things are supposed to better but feel like we're just making it up as we go along.  Heck, even if we weren't struggling, it's still a good and beautiful thing to want to be better and better at this marriage thing and to take steps to make that happen.

We ended up planning with some friends once a month to intentionally make that something happen.  Over drinks and snacks we went through a book that my husband and I had both read years ago (and greatly benefited from) and the DVD group guide that went with it.  It was a tremendous gift to our marriage, a turning point almost.  The simple act of intentionally making the time to work on our marriage and to do it with other like-minded friends in a safe environment?  It was huge, I think, in a lot of growth and healing and heart work that happened during those months.  

The program itself was good and fostered deeper discussion than we otherwise would have had but there was a lot it left to be desired.  It was a little bit hokey and some of the examples they used were a bit eye roll inducing.  Plus, it barely mentioned that little part of marriage and family called children.  So while there was a whole lot that was great about it, it was clear that the Catholic idea of marriage is a whole lot deeper and richer than what that series explored.  We left it wanting more.

I was given the fabulous opportunity of reviewing this brand new Catholic marriage series released by Symbolon and being distributed by Lighthouse and Ignatius Press.  It's called Beloved.  I haven't seen any other program like this available.

Similar to the program we previously used, it is a DVD based series however, it doesn't work off of previous reading.  The DVDs are the primary part of the program and the study guides work off of that.  The part I am most impressed by is that it is extremely flexible and it is designed to be used in a variety of environments.
It is set up so that it can be used for marriage preparation OR enrichment and in a variety of settings -
•Pre-Cana retreats and seminars
•Self-led study by engaged or married couple
•Marriage enrichment retreats or within a parish 
•Faith sharing groups/ study groups
•Within marriage counseling 
•One-on-one with a leader and a couple
We've previewed all the DVDs and I am so very excited that we are going to be putting the full program into practice firsthand within a group.  What I hope to do is first share my overall impressions with you here and then maybe give a few updates as my husband and I go through the questions and discussion more.  I'll share our deepest and darkest revelations and discussion just a little bit of the takeaways and thoughts from going through it as designed.

So here are my first thoughts after just watching the DVDs and giving a quick perusal of the books:

•The production quality is stellar.  Top notch.  A few minutes after my husband and I turned on the first DVD to preview, we looked at each other with the same thought.  "This is actually good."  (I'll be honest, I have a tendency to cringe at the many well intentioned but poorly designed or produced Catholic media.)  In fact, I would even go so far as to say that what Bishop Barron's Catholicism did for evangelization as a whole, Beloved has the potential to do for marriage catechesis.

•It is beautiful.  The way they talk about marriage and the visual and even the materials themselves are all beautifully and professionally done.

•The people they have working on this and in it are well known and respected - Edward Sri, Jason Evert, Leah Darrow, Matt Fradd, Teresa Tomeo, Curtis Martin, and more. But while that was a lovely surprise, the parts we found most engaging were the parts of normal married couples sharing their experiences.  Both Brian and I wish they had done even more of that.

•  It is centered on Christ.  Completely.

•  It is respectful of the privacy of marriage but opens the door for discussion on pretty heavy topics.

•  I wish we had something like this when we were getting ready for marriage.  We did the weekend Engaged Encounter retreat and while it was good, it glossed over a whole lot of topics that should have been addressed.  This program would be a huge asset to parish marriage preparation.

•As I mentioned above there are two tracts - one for marriage preparation, one for marriage enrichment.  The DVDs are the same but there are different books depending.  The first six sessions are more the Theology of marriage and the second six are more on applying it to your life, however there is a lot of good overlap.

•I was surprised that we found the first six sessions more engaging than the last six.  It seemed to us that the last six needed a lot more meat and we were hoping it would dive deeper into some topics.  We're hoping that the discussion and book will make up for that.  A few sessions were a lot of one person's experience and I think those ones could have benefitted from more of the off-the-cuff sharing that was in the first six.

The Mystery & Meaning of Marriage
EP1 // Does Marriage Matter? (34:19) 
EP2 // Entering the Story of Marriage (33:28) 
EP3 // Love Revealed (36:38) 
EP4 // Total Gift of Self (48:40) 
EP5 // A Sacramental Bond (34:32)
EP6 // Real Challenges, Real Love (48:07)

Living Marriage
EP1 // Christ at the Center (18:26) 
EP2 // A Deeper Unity (18:00) 
EP3 // Conflict and Communication (19:05) 
EP4 // Building a Thriving Marriage (18:30) 
EP5 // Protecting the Bond (20:41) 
EP6 // Sexuality and Authentic Love (20:22)

Listen, I know some people are very wary of programs and I soooo get it.  I am, too.  At least insofar as they become a replacement for the Sacraments or a conversion of heart and an overall cultural shift.  I am that person that sees what's behind a problem and wants to fix the cause not just the symptoms.  A program is not going to be the magic cure-all that fixes family brokenness that plagues so many families and then trickles out into the world and into the marriages of future generations.  But while I can pinpoint overall cultural wounds and know (or theorize) what will help be the fix on a larger level, that's not going to help us where we are right now.   

We are a wounded generation, in so many ways the casualties of the breakdown of the family.
But we are trying the best we know how to live this marriage thing and we need help.   This series provides a bit of that help.  A whole lot of us didn't have the modeling.  We don't have the cultural support and we are faced with threats to marriage far and above what other generations have fought.  We don't have a whole lot of practical support from our communities and parishes.  And quite frankly, we like to get together and talk about the stuff that matters and this gives us the backdrop to do so.  It has the potential to build good and life-giving community and support.
And that is a much needed and very good thing.  

So we're setting out to do this marriage thing we've been called to better.  To take some time and put in some effort and be more of what we know the Lord asks us to be for each other and for the world.  I hope maybe you'll even consider doing the same for your own.  I think something like this would make a GREAT Christmas gift for your spouse, your married (or soon to be married) children, or your parish library.

You can see more information by clicking on any of the images above or right here.

Please know that I don't take dedicated reviews here on the blog lightly.  If I don't feel comfortable recommending a product I've been asked to review, I simply don't write it.  I want my word here to mean something so if I write on it, I mean it.  I'm always nervous recommending things but I do feel strongly that this program is a gift to the Church and could really be a huge help to a few of you out there.  I hope it is :)

(And if you do decide to try it out, please tell them I sent you!)

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Six Months of Ben

Six Months!
How can that be?  For serious?

Ben, you are just incredible.  And I mean that literally.  I sometimes can't believe that you are real.
You are nearly always happy and you bring our family so much joy.  It's verging on ridiculous.  You're still so intrigued by the fact that you have hands.  Since two months old you will stare at them, ponder them, and study them for a good few minutes at a time.  It makes me wonder the things you'll do with them when you're big.  You vocalize and it is so sweet and mild.  No matter how awkwardly your brothers try to haul you around or when your naps are thrown off and what you really want is just to sleep, you still smile like you're choosing joy.  I love it and I don't deserve it.  I'm pretty glad God gave you to us even though I was a little bit scared to death of the gift.  He's like that, isn't He?  Just asking us to trust and then blowing us away with what He had waiting.

Thank you, sweet boy, for being you.

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