Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Every Week

I admit it.  Thanksgiving is sort of a ho-hum holiday for me.  It's beautiful and I enjoy the delicious meal and the family getting together and the extra nudge to be grateful for the countless blessings He has bestowed upon me.  All lovely and wonderful things.  But it's never one I've looked forward to with much anticipation the way I do others, you know?  Part of it I think is that it's not one of those feasts of the Church that feels so deeply stamped on my soul.  And in a moment of clarity last week, it dawned on me a much fuller reason:

I have Thanksgiving every week.

Every week (and sometimes more) I get to have THE thanksgiving feast.  The meal that literally means and IS Thanksgiving.  Every week I leave Mass with that same feeling I have when I leave late in the evening on that Thursday in November.  A feeling of fulness, of belonging, of having just partaken of painstakingly prepared and nourishing food.  The feeling of having just spent purposeful time with family.  Sometimes it even looks the same and it means grabbing the kids and hustling out the door as quickly as possible a bit harried and exhausted with a fitful toddler in arms.  But the feeling remains.  We belong.  We've been fed.  We are grateful.  We have consumed Thanksgiving itself.  And now we go back.  

So maybe that's why the secular Thanksgiving has never struck that deep resounding chord with me.  Because I get to do a much greater version of it every week.  

This Thanksgiving I think I'll be thankful for that.  That the One who has offered His flesh and blood for me sees fit to feed me with Thanksgiving Himself.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."
John 6:53-56

(Linking up with Cari for Thankful Theme Thursday)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baconified Sweet Potatoes

What, two posts in a day?  I know!  But Cari is hosting a Thanksgiving recipe linkup over here!  The big day is only a day away but maybe you've got these few ingredients on hand to whip up this amazingly awesome sweet potato side?  Or maybe you don't begin shaking and sweating at the mere thought of heading to the grocery store on the day before Thanksgiving to pick up ingredients like some people I know?  If either of those apply, consider these lovely baconified sweet potatoes for your feast.

My stepmother introduced me to the idea of combining bacon with sweet potatoes years ago at Thanksgiving.  And they were delicious.  As everything is when you add bacon.  And it was the first time the husband willingly ate sweet potatoes.  High five for that.  It takes a normal side and how do the pro chefs say it?  Kicks it up a notch?  Yes, that's it.  Several notches kicked here.  I think she used a bonafide recipe but like with all things cooking, I tend to just wing it.


(I used two bags and I'm a little worried that it's still not enough.  They were pretty wimpy sized.)
(Totally to taste and proportioned to the amount of your potatoes.  I used half a pack for my wimpy potatoes.)
(I used 2 tbsp. but again more potatoes, more butter.  You know how to do this.)
(To taste.  I like a lot.)

Roast your potatoes in the oven.  
(375 for I don't know, 30 minutes?  Basically, til they're nice and soft.)

While those are cooling, take out these friends:

I forgot the salt.  You know what salt looks like, right?

Dice up that onion and as much bacon as you think fitting for your bacon appetite and potato amount.

Fry those babies up.

While that's going and once the potatoes are cool, squeeze all that potato out of those skins into a mixing bowl.  I suppose you could peel them before roasting but the peels come off very easily after roasting.

Once the bacon and onion are nice and cooked, pour them into the mixing bowl with the potatoes.  Go ahead and add a few tablespoons of that bacon grease.  And you save that bacon grease, don't you?  Oh, please do.  We have an ongoing jar of bacon grease in our cupboard to use for flavoring and sautéing, especially for making scrambled eggs.  We're all snooty and buy the expensive uncured bacon so for us bacon is a rare treat and I like to make it go as far as possible.  The grease makes things taste like bacon even when there's no bacon.  And it makes your little boys very happy to eat their eggs and makes them squeal with a slightly disturbing enthusiasm.

Melt the butter if your potatoes are cool.  Otherwise, the heat from the potatoes will melt it for you. Now, add the several tablespoons of butter and whip it real good.  And wonder why your camera is rebelling and choosing to now make everything look blue.

Salt to taste and put in an oven safe dish.  About 20 or 30 minutes before your feast, simply throw those suckers into a 350 degree oven to heat them through.

And there you have it:  Unphotogenic but completely mouthwateringly savory baconified sweet potatoes.


Making Room for Him - Family Advent Plans

(I know, I know, I'm sorry.  I just couldn't help myself from writing on it...)

I'm so in awe of all the beautiful Advent posts going around this week.  So many deep and poignant thoughts on preparing our hearts and homes during this lovely season!  It fills my heart to see so many families seeking to reclaim this season of the Church intentionally and thoughtfully.

(If you're able, take some time to muse over Melody's beautiful reflectionsSarah's thoughtsHaley's post, Jill's encouragement, another post of Haley's over at Catholic Exchange.  All so good.)

The idea of preparing our hearts by simplifying our souls and homes and activity has been echoing in many of the blogs I read.  And it is such a good thing.  Steeping ourselves in the waiting and the silence we can make room for the Infant King and have hearts ready for the graces He longs to pour out upon us come Christmas.

For our part we'll be continuing on with some of our beloved traditions and finding peace and silence and contentment in that.  We've been doing most of them so long that there is no fretting or worry about getting it all together.  The supplies are packed away in the Advent bin and the rituals and movements have now been stamped on our hearts deeply enough that even more energy can be given to deepening their meanings within our souls.

Our Advent Wreath 
We'll be rolling our candles Saturday and putting our wreath together.  Then throughout Advent we'll be pray before dinner and leaving the candles lit.  I've yet to find Advent wreath prayers that resonate with us so this year I'll be simplifying and using the daily Jesse Tree reading instead.  Doesn't that make so much sense?  I'm not sure why I never thought of it before.  Of course, we'll light the candle to a rousing rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Our Jesse Tree
After last year's exchange organized by Jessica, I am good to go with ornaments and we'll simply let the boys take turns hanging the corresponding ornament after our family evening prayer.  The reading will already have been read at dinner, remember?  Simple and good.
(Sidenote:  Does anyone else feel a sense of neurotic satisfaction that Advent this year begins on December 1 and is exactly 24 days long?  No?  Just me?)

Gifts for the King
We began this one last year and the boys really got a lot out of it.  So we'll continue on with that.  For every sacrifice or good deed they do (or simply for doing their tasks without complaining and trying their best to live virtue) they'll earn a coin to put in their bag.  At Christmas they can then use the money they've earned to buy a gift for someone in need and thereby offer a gift to Baby Jesus.  ("Whatever you have done to the least...")  It was a beautiful reminder and one that not only solidified the real meaning of Christmas gifts in their minds but also gave tangible help to our brothers and sisters.  More on the specifics in this post.

Memorizing Luke 2
I'm unashamedly stealing this idea from Sarah because it makes so much sense.  We'll be doing lessons anyway for the first few weeks of Advent at least, preferring to take our time off during the Christmas season.  Why not use the time to etch these timeless words of God into the minds and hearts of our family?  Such a good good thing.

Personal Reading
I saw the book Come Lord Jesus, Meditations on the Art of Waiting by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. recommended somewhere and something inside said this was the one to get.  It's out of stock on Amazon but it is available in digital form.  Luckily, they have it at a local Catholic bookstore so I'll be able to start it on time.  It sounds perfect.

Afternoon Tea and Reading
In my ideal world the quiet of Advent will be reflected in an hour or two of daily cozy afternoon time with the boys with tea and read aloud time, screens closed, radio off.  I'm not sure if this will play out in real life but a worthy goal, right?

St. Andrew Novena
We'll pray the novena nightly during our family prayer, replacing the normal nightly Rosary decade.  It is such a beautiful, rhythmic, meditative prayer.  I've grown to love it.

(To my non-Catholic readers, I'd encourage you to check it out.  Despite the name, the prayer itself is not a prayer to the saint but rather a brief contemplative meditation on the power of the Incarnation and the timelessness of Christ's authority.  You can even omit the last words on the work of the Blessed Mother if they make you too uncomfortable.  We've found it really deepens the mystery of the Incarnation within our family's worship and strengthens our adoration of Christ.)

And the usual... 
I'll still attempt to keep up with my personal praying of the Liturgy of the Hours (just Morning and Evening Prayers) and there'll be at least one trip to the confessional.  We'll still do the whole no Christmas music, shy away from parties, wait on the treats thing that has borne so much fruit. within our family.  All of those little things really do deepen the season of quiet waiting and anticipation and Advent becomes something that permeates our very home.  Oh, and Saturday evening we'll celebrate New Year's Eve like we always do.  We've got to get rid of all the treats and special food in the house somehow, you know.

All these things, none of them new, I'm going to try to do without feeling the need to do that one thing more.  After all, even the most well-intentioned of Advent activities and traditions can become silly or even dangerous idols if we are seeking them for their own sake.  It's tempting to want to always try to do that one thing more that we think will make Advent so much more meaningful when really it's just a way to keep the noise and run from the quiet.  At least for me.  The Lord doesn't need that extra craft, the cute activity for your kids (whose work to benefit ratio is way out of balance anyway), or that new idea you saw on Pinterest in order to be pleased with our Advent.  In fact, it can distract us and we can miss the point.  Instead, He wants quiet, stilled, prepared hearts.  And so we will be content in the quiet and steep ourselves in Him rather than in activity.  Well, that's the aspiration, at least.

So this year I think I'm actually going to challenge myself to one thing less.  Each day.  I'm not even sure exactly what that's going to look like exactly yet.  But I feel the Lord putting it on my heart that every day I want to let Him help me let go of one thing be it in my heart, my home, or my life.  Making room for Jesus to bring the gifts that He so longs to bestow.  After all, that is the entire point of this whole Advent thing anyway.  Making room for Him.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Home Again, Home Again

Whew.  We got home late last night from our trip to Indiana.  In case you weren't aware, traveling with four little people for a brief trip is hard.  Worth it, but hard and lots of planning is involved.  It's two p.m. and I just recently got out of my pajamas (the piano teacher will be here any moment so there was my motivation).  Luke is still in his.  I've spent the morning playing queen of the laundry mountain and I am d.o.n.e.  Last night when we got home the temperature in the house was 42 degrees because our fickle little furnace sometimes thinks it's running even when it's not.  I was worried that would happen but at least the pipes didn't freeze and by the time we went to bed it was a balmy 56.  

We stayed in a sweet little cabin and were able to go a few days early to make the long trip a bit more worth it.  It was so quiet and so good to get some uninterrupted family time.  Cider.  Puzzles.  Games of pool.  A hot tub.  Lazy mornings.  Bacon.  And I only wanted to crawl out of my skin once or twice at the lack of wi-fi and the thought of the email that was piling up in my inbox.  I know.  I'm ridiculous.

Anyway, I shall treat the blog to most all of the mediocre and clumsy photography from the trip.  Not one of which was from the wedding.  The camera was put down in favor of wrangling boys in a crowd of 300+ people.  

Our cabin.  Much prettier in person.  If you ever need to take your family to the middle of God's country, Indiana, I know just the place for you.

Getting ready to explore outside our first morning there.

No fish caught.  I think it was way too cold for them by this time of year.  But the trying was fun.

Exploring the woods with Papa

The owner put up the Christmas tree (and a giant festive moose) for our stay.  Obviously, not a reader of the blog ;)

This scene appears much more tranquil than it actually was.  And look at me all shower-head!

I finally kicked out the older brothers and let him have his turn to play.  I think he was happy.

After watching the older boys, he knew right what to do, grabbing the white ball, racking the others and aiming to shoot.  Brian and I got a few games in, too, and I gave him a run for his money.  I think we tied in number of games won.  

The morning sunrises and stars at night were beautiful.

On our way home we stopped for Sunday Mass in Steubenville which was right on the way!  We got to go to Christ the King Chapel for the Solemnity of Christ the King.  Bam.  There's got to be some extra grace for that, right?  It was frigid cold so these stunning shots are our only proof that we were there.  

The place is so different from when we went there.  It's happy and bittersweet to see how much it has changed.  We ate dinner in the J.C. Williams and I did my best to watch the students without appearing too creepy.  And while the place has changed the people haven't.  I mean, we don't know anyone there anymore but I just love the people there.  The students are just so full of life and joy and zeal.  It's a pretty awesome place.   I'd be thrilled if our boys chose to go there.  And if they did decide to go there I might actually think about helping them pay for it.  (Take note, boys.)  

A long long late car ride home and we're home.  Onto Thanksgiving and that Advent thing that is creeping up quickly behind...

Hope you all had a lovely week!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sometimes You Just Gotta Be Abe

Sometimes you plan something for your nine year old to do for memory work and sometimes you look down as you're helping him work one morning and sometimes you do a quick little math problem and realize that THIS very year is the 150th anniversary of such a historical event.  And you had no idea.  

So sometimes you have to do this:

May God bless our country and may all those who laid down their lives for others find eternal rest in Him.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Problem with Sunday

I don't have much of a hard time believing in God as Father like the claimed feminists do.  After all, only a masculine identity could assert that we should be fruitful and multiply and then require that we devote one entire day every single week to...resting.  If God was revealed as Mother, certainly things would have made a bit more sense to us feminine folk, right?  I picture the Israelite women in the middle of the desert wrangling their passel of kids and babies looking at shiney-face Moses holding those sacred tablets with mouths agape.  "You want us to do what?!?"
I kid, obviously, but I know I can't be the only one who struggles with accepting and living the Sabbath as a day of rest, right?

I think it's amazing how the orthodox Jews and some of the stricter fundamentalists really do live in such a way that little to no work is done on Sunday.  It requires a laudable attention to detail and organization and a tremendous amount of piety.  My fancy oven even has a "Sabbath mode" that can be programmed in for just such people.  Have you ever read the Little House books?  The Ingalls children were not allowed to play outside or read anything but the Bible all day long.  Loud talking and less than solemn conversation was discouraged.  It sounds quite dreadful, to be honest, and according to Laura, it was.

There was a time when I dreaded Sunday, too.  Not because of Mass obligations or forced silence (that actually sounds quite lovely, I think) but because of the command to rest.  How in the world was I supposed to rest?  I felt it meant that we had to sit on our hands and stare at the laundry piling up or the floor needing to be swept.  Somehow I felt I was supposed to get a full Sunday-worthy dinner onto the table, have family time with my little gang of boys, and of course, get all of us fed, dressed, and to Mass on time all while somehow "resting."  It was a constant struggle between feeling like it was quite illogical and impossible and the frustration that I was missing the point anyway because it was so hard for me to not to dwell on the work piling up and the strenuous Monday morning ahead required to get back on track.  Add a generous helping of guilt for any work I did give in and do and Sundays were far from my favorite day of the week.  I breathed a sigh of relief on Monday morning that the weekend was over and I could get back on routine and catch back up.  So yep, I pretty much was missing the entire point.

What is the point?
The point (as I see it) is fundamentally to remember who we are.  The point is to see ourselves once again as children of a loving Father.  The point is to remember that at the very core, this life is not about what we do but rather about who we are and to Whom we belong.  It is a time when we can strip ourselves of the identities in which we clothe ourselves that seek to display our worth by the checked-off checklists and the frantic state in which we hustle from one activity to the next.  And we remember that when all is stripped away, anything we have or do is only from Him.  It is a time to be renewed and to recreate.  We can spend time doing the things that make us come fully alive - playing with our children, singing, crafting, praying, reading, dancing, loving, relating.  Time doing the useless things, the climax of which should be doing the most useless thing of all as we worship God in the liturgy.

"The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."  Mark 2:27

It is a day made FOR us, not to be a burden or a dread.  Do we think that God needs us to set aside a day to worship and rest?  He's just fine without that, I think.  WE are the ones who need it.  We need to be reminded of the Resurrection.  We need to worship and praise and play and rest.  We need to remember that many of these busy tasks we run around doing don't really matter all that much anyway.  We need to remember who we are because if you're like me, you'll probably spend the rest of the week forgetting.

So how do we reconcile that with the living breathing work of motherhood?  Part of our fundamental identity, part of who we truly are, is found in our relationships.  We are made for communion.  I am first and foremost a daughter of God.  But I am also wife, mother, daughter, sister, and so on.  Those are things that cannot ever be changed and they should not be viewed as competition with my Sunday rest.  After all, God is the One Who has called me to all.  The tedious tasks of motherhood don't magically go away one day a week.  The baby still needs to be diapered, the toddler dressed, and we do still need to eat, even on Sunday.  But these things, these necessary tasks before me, they are not distractions from who I am.  They are, rather, an invitation to be more fully myself.  I'll make the pop psychologists cringe as I find more of myself through giving myself to those He has given to me.  That is what I will try to remember on Sunday - that I am His and that I am made for love.  In that, I think, I will find rest.


Friday, November 15, 2013

This Month in Boys - November 2013

John Paul

(His favorite pastime - curled up reading on the window seat)

-in response to my direction to put whatever he is doing away because it's time for dinner:
JP:  Okay, I just need to collect a little bit more hydrogen.
Me:  Wait, what?  You're not going to like, blow the house up or anything are you?
JP:  (Dumbfounded look)  Mama.  Hydrogen is a stable element.  It has eight electrons.
Me:  ...
-has somehow picked up "Come on" as his newest phrase to express disbelief and is passing it along to Michael.
-can fix the furnace during the periodic times that it chooses to click on but not heat.  I have no idea what he does down there but it somehow works again.
-has been spending hours poring through encyclopedias trying to figure out everything from how to create his own gunpowder to how to build a laser.  
-has been working on something special to share with you this week.  (Not a laser.)
-is still writing plenty of songs.
-is thankful for baseball and getting to go to Mass.



-got 3rd place in the spelling bee!  We worked SO hard.  Oh, this was so so so good for him!!  He is quite fond of his medal.  It has a bee on it.  (Get it?!?  Yes?  Well, he thinks that is just hilarious.)
-asked and asked to begin stripping the wallpaper in the utility room and helped me all morning the other day to do just that.
-was thrilled that there was a dusting of snow on the ground a few mornings ago.
-is more than happy to remind a certain younger brother who is being stubborn about chores that "David, you can do ALL things in Christ who strengthens you."
-in order to stall show his love, he must give his younger brothers a hug and kiss before they all go to bed.
-and several times has said "I just wish I could snuggle with Luke all night long."
-is designing and building a wooden train with John Paul (that actually smokes?!?) to give to David for Christmas.
-is thankful that he got a medal in the spelling bee and that we get to go to ROME!


(I brought the camera over and told him I'd like to take a picture and, no joke, this is what he does.)

-has worked out a perfect plan for our trip since the pope doesn't speak English.  "We just need to get a cardinal who can speak both languages and we'll tell him what we want to say in English and he'll tell the pope and the pope will tell us what he wants to say back through the cardinal."  Our own personal cardinal translator for our personal papal audience.  Sounds good to me.
-is the best at reminding Papa to bless us before he leaves for work in the morning.
-has been doing "experiments" by putting random objects into the freezer.  Today it was a marble, a teaspoon filled with water and a penny, and a cup filled with water and a ball of foil.
-decided today that he would like to be pope when he grows up.
-still asks for his tractor and for Papa to find a worker who can build it for him while he is on his way to the office.
-comes into bed to snuggle every morning.
-is thankful for going to Rome and for not having ham at Thanksgiving (?).


(Finally with the big boy haircut!)

-loves playing blocks and trains.
-learned to jump with both feet and was quite excited about it.
-loves to march.  Don't tell him but it's currently a great way to get him excited to go upstairs to bed when he's reluctant.  
-can make the Sign of the Cross and say amen.
-will come over and dance whenever John Paul is playing piano.
-is rather fond of using the word no.
-will attempt to copy us when we ask him to use words and will try so hard and look so cute doing it even though they sound nothing like the word when they come out of his mouth.
-somehow has begun sleeping in our bed half the night. 
-expresses frustration with his toys with an exasperated "oh, mamA.." with the greatest tone and expression (emphasis on that last A syllable).  It almost sounds like he's using my name as a curse word and I can't help but wonder if he picked it up from my tone when he does something that frustrates me..."Oh, Luke..."  Oy.  Mea culpa.
-is thankful for a Mama who talks real big but is a pushover at the slightest middle of the night cry.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Spectacular Music, Advent Candles, Free Things and a Linkup Trifecta

First time joining in on Hallie's Five Favorites today!


Beauty can change the world, right?  The Love Good Music campaign is awesome and is using beautiful music to do just that.  There is nothing new about patronage.  In fact, lay people who sponsored artists were primarily responsible for many of the greatest works of art and architecture not only in Church history but in world history.  But now with modern technology, normal non-wealthy people can work collectively to sponsor great art.  For as little as nine dollars a month, you can be a part of the Love Good Music community and support music that lifts up the true, good, and beautiful.  And this isn't churchy, mediocre music either.  This is music that can rival anything you hear on the secular station as far as production quality and writing.  These artists are really, really good.  AND as a gift for your patronage, you get an album sent to you every month from one of their artists!  I've been introduced to new artists from a whole bunch of genres and all of them are talented and give me such hope that we CAN redeem this culture.

The last three free albums!  They even sent an extra one from a new artist with mine last week.

You know, it's easy to bemoan modern entertainment and the depravity that is much of current popular music but now you can actually DO something about it besides turn off your radio or submit to it under the guise of being "relevant."  And I think we as the Church should.  It's our responsibility to do so. Click on over to check it out and I really encourage you to think about becoming a sponsor.

The reason I got involved with the Love Good Music campaign was because one of their artists is Marian Grace.  If you haven't yet heard Colleen Nixon sing, you must.

My friend Becky introduced me to them several years ago when she encouraged me to go to a local women's conference where they happened to be playing.  After hearing them sing during Mass and throughout the conference, I had to buy their albums.  They were the first CDs I had bought in years and I am so glad I did.  They are some of my favorites.  My boys now know many of the ancient hymns that have been brought to life and beautifully produced by Marian Grace through listening to the CDs.

I've heard plenty of great singers in my day but Colleen's voice is set apart.  It is so pure, so in pitch, so crisp and she seems to do it effortlessly.  It sometimes takes my breath away.  There is something about it that is so beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes when I listen with my full attention.  Perhaps it is that you know she is worshipping in the songs and that her heart is being poured out to God as she sings.  You can hear the difference.  You can find some of their singing on Youtube if you want a preview.

Aaaaand...the newest CD I just got in the mail is Marian Grace's new Advent and Christmas album In the Bleak Midwinter!  I was so psyched when I suggested on the Love Good Music Facebook page months ago that they try for an Advent album and they said it was already in the works!  It was just released and, of course, it is beautiful.  The first four songs are Advent themed which makes me so so happy because of our strictness with not listening to Christmas music until Christmastime.  Their rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel is phenomenal and so powerful that the tears were flowing.  Again.

I didn't win Haley's giveaway for the Make Your Own Advent Candle Kit so I splurged at Toadily Handmade Beeswax Candles and got a huge pack of beeswax sheets to make into our candles.  It should actually last us through two to three years and I am excited to begin the little tradition of rolling our own candles before Advent begins.  I used beeswax for the first time last year and you really do notice a difference.  They smell clean and burn longer.  Supposedly they are much healthier for everyone but especially for people with allergies or sensitive immune systems.  They're also more liturgically appropriate since liturgical candles are supposed to be at least fifty percent beeswax so score!

The Advent kit

The sheets arrived yesterday within two days of ordering (they upgraded my shipping free!) and they are huge.  Definitely my money's worth for pure beeswax!  Head on over and check them out!

You know what's pretty great about the internet?  How many people are willing to share their work and ideas for free.  I mean, really, we probably take it for granted now that people will spend hours or days on a project and then hours typing it up and editing photos and text so that they can share it with people they don't even know, many of them never to even be thanked.  Pinterest especially has come to make us expect it, I think.  How many ideas and things we implement in our little homes and lives are the result of an internet search and some real person taking real time to share that with us and often times for FREE?  Next time you glean some inspiration from someone be it a recipe, a pattern, a photo, a tutorial, take a minute to drop them a comment and say thank you.  They'll appreciate it!

Right now I'm especially grateful for people who share their knitting patterns free.  I'm working on this gorgeous Holy Cowl from Hilary at Purls of Wisdom.  It is a simple and quick knit (my favorite!) but it really is stunning, I think.  I'm using a merino/alpaca wool blend called Toboggan in an oatmealish color that I treated myself to last year with thoughts of making myself a sweater before I realized that making a sweater for myself out of something like this would involve a second mortgage.  So a beautiful cowl it will be.  I probably would have shrunk the sweater anyway.  I'm envisioning perhaps a few more of these being wrapped up as gifts this Christmas.  She has some lovely patterns over there as well that I'm going to need to check out.

I just picked up my copy of Orthodoxy to dive into after a decade long hiatus.  I loved it back then when I was all intellectual so it'll be interesting to see whether my highlighting will look different now in this place in my little life.  I'm thinking that what I appreciate about it may look slightly different now than it did ten years ago?  Maybe?  On a slightly related note, do you think there will ever be a chance for Chesterton's canonization?  That would be pretty cool, I think.  Speaking of generously free resources, do you know that the Kindle edition of Orthodoxy is free at Amazon?  And the paperback is only like four bucks?  Another point for the internet.

I'd really like to also get something good to sink my literary teeth into this Advent.  Something hardcore from a saint or Chesterton or Lewis... Any suggestions for me?

And now with the link-up trifecta for the win:
Get on over to Hallie's for Five Favorites,
Ginny's for Yarn Along (you have GOT to see that precious newborn baby boy of hers!!),
and Jessica's for WWRW!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Veteran's Day Daybook

Outside my window...
Dark.  The sun isn't even peeking yet.  It seems these are the only few minutes of the day I can use to think and write lately and even that isn't panning out all that well what with the bane of my existence end of daylight savings time and all.  Seriously, people realize that we're NOT actually changing the amount of daylight, right?  And that we have things like alarm clocks and such now?  Can we please end the madness?

Thankful for...
A lovely anonymous reader who sent me a gorgeous gift from Mandi's shop!  I have no idea who you are but how sweet and fun are you?!?  Thank you so much!

A lovely date with my favorite six and a half year old.  Oh my.  He is a DELIGHT when you get him on his own and he was skipping around all day in anticipation of our big night.  He even took a two hour nap with nary a fuss so that he could do it.  Trader Joe's, George & Company (to buy some much longed for smoke bombs and snappers...), ice cream, and a stop to see Jesus at Adoration.  It was so great.

Eggs.  Our chickens have gotten lazy lately or something and we are only getting two to three eggs per day which doesn't even remotely cut it for our crew.  I really notice a difference in the boys' focus and my energy when we're able to start our day with them!  As much as I don't want to we're going to have to cull some birds because we just can't keep feeding them when they aren't giving anything back.

Thinking about...
So. Many. Posts.  I have so many posts I write in my head!  I just can't seem to get them out.  Which makes me frustrated, I admit, but also rediscerning how I spend my time and if and what God wants me to write.  

Our year has been going really well, I think.  No fancy plans but just learning that much of our success is really all about my discipline.  Buckling down and doing lessons even when I'd much rather be letting the boys off the hook while I tackle a new project or -ahem- blog in the morning.  

From the kitchen...
Last week I was so proud of myself for having several days in a row of what I consider good nourishing home cooked meals - beef stew, eggplant parmesan, chicken pot pie good.

I also participated in my first meal exchange!  I was nervous while cooking up my huge batches but coming home with six different ready made dinners to fill the freezer was such a treat!  The plan is to use them very intentionally.  I've also got a good amount of my own soups frozen and ready for those nights when I need an easy meal.  Oh, and we have half a cow coming in two weeks.  Half of an entire cow.  Which is a lot of beef.  A whoooole lot of beef.  And our EIGHT turkeys will be processed soon.  Have I mentioned that we have two freezers and that I love them very very much?  I do.  We won't need to buy meat for about a year and there is still room for some of our garden veggies, the fruit we picked over the summer, and my ready made meals.  It makes a grocery hater like me very very happy.

Oh, and last night I came home from a get together with my cousins, sisters and aunts to this:

  and this:

Brian's first pie

Brian made dinner and organized the boys into pie making as a way to thank me for everything I do.  
(Backstory:  Brian insisted on learning how to roast a chicken after I mentioned that I was going to put one in the crockpot that morning since I wouldn't be getting home until just around dinner time and apparently that is not as good as roasting.  Also key in the story:  I may or may not have spent a self indulgent few minutes the night before whining to Brian something to the effect of "(sniff, sniff) nobody in our family even likes or cares or appreciates that I try so hard to feed you well and poor me and I just don't want you to die and leave me a widow..."  It was quite the stellar wifely moment, I tell you.)  

Advent plans!  How about you?

From the archives:
An Intentional Advent
The Family Advent Plans (2012)
We Wait in Joyful Hope - Our Advent Traditions (2011)

I will try not to subject you to more posts waxing eloquent on Advent but no promises.  I just love it so. 

And Christmas lists and gifts!  We have ideas and they are fun :)

To reign in my slightly over competitive nature as we venture out to our first spelling bee today!  John Paul and Michael are participating and we have been working SO hard practicing.

And to Indiana in a few weeks for a wedding!

 By Love Refined by Alice von Hildebrand
Mom to Mom by Danielle Bean
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (to John Paul) - Not impressed.  I'll be glad when we're done with this series and can head back to things more classic and edifying.

For the Philippines.  One of our sponsored children live there and it makes it really hit home, you  know?

For my cousin Molly whose precious little girl died at 20 weeks in utero.  My heart hurts for them.  Please pray, would you?

For those who long to be parents.  For those grieving.  For those struggling to adopt.  For all the children lonely and scared in orphanages.  For children who are abused.  My heart is aching lately with all the hurt...

For Brian's parents.

For veteran's.  Especially those who are disabled and struggling.

For discernment for our family.

Around the house...
I'm a constant declutterer and have been doing even more lately.  I love how freeing it is.

Brian repainted several of the upstairs floors the last few weeks as a birthday gift to me.  They needed it badly.  Yes, my birthday was in August.

And now I cannot wait to get started on finally ripping out wallpaper in the "school" room which is really a utility room.  It is pretty atrocious in there.  Fake wood paneling, crumbling vinyl tiles covering asbestos tiles, yellowed wallpaper, blue painted trim, track lighting.  Oh boy.  This is going to be grand.

Worth a click... 
Obstetricians Change Definition of On-Time Delivery - Oops.
Stop Doing Start Being (Carrots for Michaelmas) - A super sweet reflection from Haley.
Infant Sleep Obsession (Mama Birth) - So good.
You are Poor (Bad Catholic) - Nailed it.  Again.
CDC Expert:  "We've Reached the End of Antiobiotics"  And yet another case where the "crazies" were actually right.

A picture thought to share...

Happy Monday!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} - volume 36

Nursing colds and doing lessons and raking leaves and just normal (busy) life have kept our days occupied lately.  That and realizing that ohmygoodness it's NOVEMBER and that means the next few weeks will be full with planning Christmas gifts and getting our Advent game plan put together.  Much to do on this end.  This morning I typed out the list of gift givees and major things to get done before Advent.  And that's about as far as I've gotten.  How are you doing with your planning?  Want some distraction?  Thought so.

Some moments from our week...

{pretty} {handsome}

Last Sunday David insisted that we take a picture of all the brothers under the doorway before going to Mass.

These two hams wanted another.


Pumpkin carving and adventures in knife wielding

This picture is kind of blinding, isn't it?  John Paul chose to decorate with an assortment of weapons, David with a happy face, and Michael with a self portrait along with an axe and sword...


They had a very elaborate leaf piling system going for a while.

We've taken care of about half of the leaves?  Not sure when and if we'll get to the rest...

Who has no shame about having to wear his mother's sweatshirt when his is in the wash?

This boy.


I've spent the last few days working on getting our passport information ready for our big trip next spring.  I decided to try my hand at doing our own photos.  Three hundred and seventy two shots later, I think I have something passable for each...

Brian will appreciate it if I don't show you his.  David actually already has a passport that I got when he was an infant so yay for doing one less!  I just realized that mine expired a couple of years ago so boo for having to do one more.  It'll be nice to have this done, though, hopefully after next week and then we can focus on the fun planning.  And just so you know, I'm going to need your help!

Now get back to that planning :)

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter once again!

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