Five Favorites – Kitchen Tools. Hand-Held. Non-Electric.

I love to cook, and I love me some kitchen gadgets. I have all sorts of cool things to make cooking easier and more fun. This is largely because my husband likes to buy me cool kitchen things for Christmas and birthdays. Check out what he got me for my birthday this year:

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A machine for cooking sous vide style!! I used it this week for the first time to cook pork chops, my culinary nemesis. And they were actually pretty good! By far the best pork chop I’ve ever cooked. And by that, I mean they were edible. I have some refining of technique to do, but I am so thrilled with my new toy (I’m going to try poaching eggs in there next!).

Now, as cool as some of my fancy gadgets are, most of them get used only occasionally. The things I use more frequently are usually much more simple. And today I’m putting them together here to tell you what my very favorite, used-almost-every-day, hand-held-and-non-electric kitchen tools are. Top five. Ready?

5. My garlic press

IMG_3856I really hate mincing garlic, and I also hate having noticeable chunks of garlic in my food. The garlic press is my very favorite way of dealing with garlic. I have had many garlic presses over the years. All of them were kind of hard to clean and got rusty or broke after not too long. This garlic press is the best. I’ve had it for many years now and it’s easy to clean and it gets the job done. Fave.

4. My measuring cups and spoons from Pampered Chef.

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They have little notches on the handles, so they snap together. They don’t get lost in the drawer, and I don’t have to mess with getting them on and off a ring. Plus the spoons are shaped so that they fit into a lot more spice jars. Measuring spoons here. Cups here.

3. My apple corer/slicer.

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My kids really love apples and pears, but they aren’t big enough to eat a whole apple each. I have an aversion to getting out my cutting board unless it’s absolutely necessary. So this corer thing is perfect. I don’t really even know what brand mine is or where I got it. Scratch that. I just googled it and found mine on Amazon. It’s this one. I probably got it from Target. I’d really like to get one like this that cuts the slices more thinly, because I always end up cutting each of my sections in half lengthwise. But the one I have is fine.

2. Paring knives like these.

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I have a choking phobia. I cut food up a lot. I love my cheap little paring knives for this purpose. When I use my apple slicer, I grab one of these guys, cut out any remaining core, and then slice the segment down the middle lengthwise.Quick and easy and without getting out my cutting board. These knives are small and versatile and dishwasher safe. The last part might be my favorite. I like not having to hand wash one of my fancy knives every time I need to cut something (which happens about 34 times per day).

1. My all-time favorite – the wooden spoon.

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I always cook with a wooden spoon. It doesn’t scratch my non-stick. It won’t melt. And I just love the feel of my wooden spoons. The only downside of them is they aren’t good for serving, because they don’t scoop up much. My mother in law has a handmade wooden ladle that I covet. I think she found it at some roadside market in Appalachia or something. I’ve never seen another one like it, but it’s a dream of mine to someday have my very own wooden ladle.

I’m inking up with Rachael from Efficient Mama for five favorites.

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Tell me your favorites in the kitchen!!

 

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 10 – The Real Presence

Very early in my process of conversion to Catholicism, I wrote a post about a sort of, epiphany, if you will, that I had in coming to understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. In the post, I described what happened when I was in my first meeting of my first ever Bible study, and we were watching a video with Edward Sri in it, and suddenly something about the Eucharist really being the body of Jesus just made sense. I had already believed in the Real Presence, but in that moment I gained a new understanding of it. I felt compelled to share my revelation in the group, much to my chagrin, since I made a complete idiot of myself in doing so.

Anyway, you can read all about my first attempt trying to explain the Catholic belief about transubstantiation and the Real Presence in the Eucharist here if you want to.

Today, I’m going to try to do a little bit of a better job than I did then, because I know that the Catholic doctrine that, during the consecration at Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus and are not just symbolic of it, is a hard one to believe for lots of people who aren’t Catholic. So, today’s Baby Catholic question is this:

Why do Catholics believe that the bread and wine contain the Real Presence of Jesus, rather than just symbolizing Him?

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Surprisingly, coming to believe that the bread and wine offered at communion actually become the body and blood of Jesus during the consecration by the priest at Mass was one of the easier things for me to accept in my conversion. Perhaps this is because I read the book “Rome Sweet Home,” in which Scott Hahn, once a very anti-Catholic Presbyterian minister, describes his discovery of the Real Presence and quotes several sources to support it. Or perhaps it’s because, after a few months of attending Mass regularly, I began to have the experience of intense longing to receive Communion, which suggested to me that it was much more than just a wafer and a sip of wine.

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Probably both of those things contributed to my fairly easy acceptance that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. Honestly, once I got past my initial doubting of all things religious and was able to accept that there is a God and that Jesus is His Son, transubstantiation wan’t too hard for me. It’s all a matter of having faith.

The Catechism of the Cathoic Church says this about the Eucharist:

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (CCC 1374, the quote within the quote comes from the Council of Trent)

And:

It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion (CCC 1375)

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We can also see that the early Church fathers believed in the Real Presence. St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the direct successor of St. Peter. He wrote in his letter to the Romans (c. 80-110 A.D.):

I have no taste for the food that perishes, nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood, which is love that cannot be destroyed.

But where does this idea come from in the first place, that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist?

The Bible, of course.

While they were eating, he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14: 22-24)

The gospel of Luke says almost the exact same thing (Luke 22:19-20), and these are also the words that the priest says to consecrate the bread and wine during the Mass. It comes straight from the Bible. Jesus does not say, “Take this bread as a symbol of my body.” He does not say, “This is like my body.”

This is my body.

Further, in the gospel according to John:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

Jesus was not telling us to symbolically take Him in, as in welcoming His Spirit into our hearts or something, because the verb used here for “eat” is more like the word “gnaw” rather than “consume.”

“My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

He gave it to us on Calvary, and continues to give it to us every time the Mass is celebrated.

In addition to the Biblical basis of the Real Presence, I can attest to my own experience of receiving Jesus during communion and being with Him in Adoration. It’s difficult to explain, but I can feel that He is there. When I receive Communion, I can feel myself being filled by the most incredible sensation and presence. It’s not just eating a cracker.

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As I’m typing this, I can’t help but think that this is sounding hokey. Corny. Crazy, maybe. To someone who hasn’t experienced it, it probably does sound that way.

Someone who does not believe might attribute my experience to some sort of placebo affect. As in – I believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist, therefore I feel something when I receive Him. I probably would have explained it that way before I experienced it myself. But that’s not a sufficient explanation. I felt a strong pull to receive communion before I believed in the Real Presence. Before I even really knew what that meant. That’s the first and most basic reason that I became Catholic.

Because when you realize that you are in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and that you can receive Him during Communion, why in the world wouldn’t you want that?

The Eucharist, the Real Presence, is Jesus’ incredible gift to us.

Homeschool Curriculum – Decisions, Decisions

Back in September, at the beginning of our school year, I wrote this post about how well our homeschooling was going. Of course it was the beginning of the year and all the things were new and we were having so much fun and doing so much cool stuff and going on so. many. field trips.

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Things are still going fine, but I must admit, our homeschool year has lost some of its shine. We’ve gotten a bit more into some humdrum-ness and haven’t had a field trip in months (though I’m planning some big things to finish out the year). I mentioned in the September post that I wasn’t really loving our math curriculum, Math-U-See. I tried to make it work for several months after writing that, but I have at this point completely abandoned it. It just wasn’t for us, so I’m now piecing together other sources to round out Miss’s math knowledge for the rest of this year.

This year was pretty much my try-some-stuff-and-see-what-works year. Because it’s just kindergarten, and really I’m not even officially homeschooling yet, according to the powers that be, who don’t require me to register my child until she starts first grade.

But next year is first grade.

So now I’m at the point of trying to decide what worked from this year and what didn’t, what I want to keep and what I want to change. Obviously, we need a new math curriculum. I posted on Facebook a week or two ago that I was looking for suggestions, and I got some really great responses. I narrowed down the options to Horizons or Saxon.

I think.

While I was looking at Horizons and Saxon on the Sonlight website, I found myself checking out the full package curriculum they offer and thinking that maybe that would be a good option to try for next year. This is really odd to me, because last year I was feeling pretty strongly that I did not want to get a “curriculum in a box” and wanted to be able to be flexible and piece together the things I wanted to do and determine the time in which I wanted to do them.

But check this out:

It’s the Sonlight curriculum package for first grade. Doesn’t that just look beautiful?

It has pretty much everything I’d need for the whole year to do pretty much all the subjects I need to do. I’d need to add some Catholic learning to the religion part, but other than that, this is pretty complete.

But I’m still not sure, so I started looking around for some other ideas of complete curricula, like the Rainbow Curriculum package, Catholic Heritage Curricula, and even this distance education school, the Mother of Divine Grace School.

Now I’m just not sure what to do. I’m either going to scrap what we did last year and get one of these packaged curricula, or I’m going to keep the things we did from last year that worked well, like our reading curriculum All About Reading and the literature-based package we used that we loved, Five in a Row, and add in one of the two math options I mentioned above.

On the one hand, I think it might be really nice to have a packaged curriculum that covers all the subjects I need and lays everything out with a plan and schedule so I don’t miss any of the important stuff.

On the other hand, the creative side of me thinks I would really miss the time that I spend looking for fun things to do, coming up with unit studies on things my girls are interested in, picking field trips to match what we’re reading about, finding art and science projects on Pinterest, and so forth.

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The problem with continuing with what we did last year, is that I feel like I might have been a little lax in the areas of social studies and science and art. We did some of these things, for sure, but I wasn’t really systematic about it. Five in a Row includes some activities for these subjects, but I don’t think it’s enough on its own as Miss gets older. So I guess if I stay with what I did last year, I’ll have to add in a science curriculum and a social studies curriculum and maybe art and religion (to improve what I’ve already been doing in those areas).

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OR, I could just get a big fat package and be done with it.

What’s a mama to do?

Help me out here dear readers. I’d love to hear what you do, what works, what you love, and why.

Pretty please??

Completely Unplanned Thoughts About Running and Spirituality and Writing

I haven’t really been much in the mood for blogging lately. I don’t know why. My head seems full of lots of ideas of things to write about, but then I come to type them out, and I’ve got nothing. Or I just choose to do other things instead of even sitting down here with my fingers on the keys.

So, I’m sorry I’ve been absent a bit lately. I decided this morning that I just had to sit down and start writing something, and I’m not entirely sure what this post is even going to be about at this stage of the process. But you have to start somewhere, and frankly, I miss blogging when I don’t do it enough, so typing, typing. . .

We had a wonderful week at my parents’ house. I haven’t mentioned it here, but my husband and I have signed up to run a half marathon at the end of May, which means I’ve been spending a lot of time on my treadmill lately. It’s a little strange, because for my past marathons (the last one was in 2008), I did all of my training outside. We lived in North Carolina and had mild winters and a few nice trails to run on near our home. And we didn’t have any kids, so it was easy.

I obviously can’t just pop out and run in the great outdoors whenever I feel like it anymore, so the treadmill during nap time it is. I’ve found an appreciation for the treadmill. I don’t hate it (anymore). I’ve found that I enjoy praying the rosary while running, or listening to audio recordings from Lighthouse Catholic Media. These things help me to not focus on the drudgery of being on the treadmill or the tiredness of my body. And of course they’re good for my soul too, so that’s a bonus :)

But really there’s nothing like going for a run in the great out of doors.

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I got to take my first long outdoor run while visiting my Mom and Dad last week, and it was so lovely. The Rosary (counted on my fingers) and an audio CD still accompanied me, but this time they were enhanced by the backdrop of God’s creation.

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I got chased a bit by some enormous dogs, and met a friendly donkey and a few horses.

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And I found myself even appreciating the hilliness of the road. It is utterly flat here, and I tend to only run flat on the treadmill (because the treadmill doesn’t have downhill!). But this run was wonderfully hilly. I never used to be grateful for the hills when I ran in North Carolina. I mean, who likes running uphill? But my husband mentioned how much he enjoyed running the hills in Kentucky, because without the uphills, there are no downhills. And I realized he’s right.

I don’t love running uphill. Often I walk up the hills, to be honest. But really, the uphill is so worth it to have the downhill. Running downhill is so fabulous. It feels like you’re flying! The ups and downs are way better than always staying flat.

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I think this is kind of the way I feel about life in general and spirituality too. I wrote this post a few months back about feeling frustrated by a spell of spiritual blahs. I think those times of dryness are like the uphills. I don’t like them. I tend to trudge through them without much excitement.

But when I get to the other side, when, through my effort and persistence I get myself to the end of the hard part, the reward is so awesome and so worth it and so much more appreciated.

The ups and downs have to happen.

I think it would become painful to always be running downhill. And I’m not sure if it is possible to maintain a constant state of being spiritually “on fire,” either. The fabulous cannot be kept up indefinitely.

But I would rather have the uphills and downhills than run flat all the time. I’d rather have some spiritual lows and wonderful highs than be in the middle and humdrum all the time.

Maybe blogging is like that too. Maybe I’ve been in a bit of a low, working my way uphill, only to come back with a renewed love and appreciation for blogging. Maybe.

Five Favorites – Grandma and Grandpa’s House

Life is always good when I’m at my parents’ house. My girls are happy to be with Grandma and Grandpa. My husband is happy because he’s fishing. My parents are happy because they get to spend time with my girls. And I’m just happy about all of it. Everyone wins.

Today, I’ve got five of my favorite things at my parents’ house:

1. This stove.

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My husband and I are building a new house, and we’ve looked at a lot of stoves over the past year or two. I have never in my life seen anything like this one anywhere else. This stove is older than I am, but check it out. It has double ovens. It has a little shelf at the back, and the stove top slides forward if you need to use more than the front two burners. It’s yellow, for pete’s sake. I have many happy memories associated with this stove. I love it.

2. And along with the stove, my Dad’s cooking.

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Don’t be fooled by that look. He likes cooking (though perhaps not having his photo taken). He was a firefighter and cooked at the firehouse for many years and got good at it. He spoils us by cooking for us all week when we’re here.

3. This bed:

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My Dad made it for me when I was little. This trip is the first time any of my girls has used it. Both of the bigger girls sleep in double beds in the same room, and this one was the last bed available for little Sis. She’s almost too big for it, but I’m savoring her in it for now.

I’m also (mostly) loving that my girls are all sleeping in the same room, which is a big treat for them. As I’m typing this, I can hear them laughing and talking and playing in their room, though they’re supposed to be winding down for sleep. They’re all exhausted, but it makes me happy that they’re having so much fun together.

4. The weather.

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Unless it’s the middle of summer, the weather here is always better than it is at our house.

5. The time.

Time together as a family. Time with Grandma and Grandpa.

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Time for me and my husband to go on an overnight date in Nashville. Time for me to be with my Mom.

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^ Her first ever selfie when we went antiquing this afternoon ^

 Being here makes my heart feel so full.

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Head over to Call Her Happy to see what things other folks are favoriting right now.

Easter-y, Mommy-ish Randomness

We are visiting my parents this week, and I don’t want to interrupt our family time to do a long, or even thoughtful post (you’re welcome?). But I do have a few cute Easter pics and some good ones of my girls having fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, so I’m going to get rambly and probably a bit photo crazy for a minute.

If you’re not my mom or my mother-in-law or my Auntie, you may want to just stop here. I won’t mind.

Here goes –

Last week, I had lots of fun Holy Week activities planned. Then Miss got strep throat and we ended up skipping a few of them, like the search for 30 pieces of “silver” (or quarters) on Wednesday and Holy Thursday Mass as a family (Miss was still contagious). Most of the things we did do I didn’t get photos of, like our “Last Supper” dinner (which Miss didn’t feel well enough to eat anyway) or the foot washing on Thursday night after my husband and I got home from Mass.

We did get to the Good Friday service at our church, and the girls did surprisingly well for it being such a long and late event.

Holy Saturday started with an RCIA retreat for me from 9:00 until about 1:00. Then I came home, boiled eggs for dying, put out Easter decorations with the two older girls, gave the dogs baths, and packed our stuff. After Sis got up from her nap, we dyed eggs and my husband and I got ready for the Easter Vigil Mass.

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She said the made ^^ that egg for Jesus.

The Vigil was beautiful, but I didn’t get a single photo from it this year. It was nice to experience it with a little less nervousness and adrenaline than I had last year. I realized that I hadn’t remembered much of the service from last year because of being so excited and anxious about being baptized and confirmed and receiving Communion for the first time (plus being interviewed in front of everyone). It was less exciting and emotional this time, but I probably was able to appreciate it more in some ways.

Sunday morning, we had our Easter egg hunt, I made resurrection rolls, we threw our things and our dogs and our kids in the car and hit the road for the drive to my parents’.

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I was determined to be on the road by 8:00 so we could get here by dinner time and have my family’s traditional Easter and Christmas breakfast of creamed eggs for dinner. We got going at about 8:20, and we made it.

My kids have been enjoying Grandma and Grandpa and the lovely weather and flowers and greenness here since.

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We have many lovely bouquets for Grandma of dandelions, or “Lellow Light-ups” as Sis calls them.

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IMG_4557Someone, who gave up coloring for Lent, is very happy to be able to do one of her favorite activities again.

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As a new Catholic, it amazes me how much Lent creates so much more appreciation of the Easter season and the celebration of spring, and life, and the Resurrection.

It’s Wednesday, but it’s still Easter. What joy. Happy Easter!

Embrace the Ordinary – Holy Week

Holy week is anything but ordinary. It is the most beautiful and powerful week of the year.

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“…there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” St. Josemaria Escriva, Passionately Loving the World

I found myself trying to explain its magnitude to my children so many times, hoping that they are understanding at least a little bit of it. I think they do. We went to the Good Friday Mass last night for the first time, which was haunting and lovely. At the point of the Mass when we kneel and stand repeatedly during prayers for various people and groups, the deacon chanted “Let us kneel” for the third or fourth time, and Sis loudly said, “He keeps doing that!” I quickly shushed her while trying not to chuckle, and found myself smiling at this shot of ordinary mothering in the midst of an extraordinary ritual.

Then my girls all took off their shoes as we went up together to reverence the cross. Touching that cross and seeing their little hands on it. . . It was impossible to hold back all of the tears in those short moments and after we returned to our seats to wait and watch the rest of the parishioners do the same.

As we waited solemnly, my girls saw some of their friends coming up to reverence the cross themselves, and they started jumping up and down and waving and trying to update them on the news that Miss’s first tooth is loose (my husband told me later that Miss was attempting to solicit a dental consult from our oral surgeon friend). Again we shushed them, but I was reminded that they are small and they cannot possibly fully comprehend the significance of the service and the day.

They get it, but they are little. Loose teeth and fairy houses are important too. Those are the things that make up the ordinary amidst the extraordinary in these mothering days.

Ordinary moments in the middle of this amazing week.

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Today is Holy Saturday, the day of the Easter Vigil Mass. Naturally I am thinking back to last year, when I was baptized and confirmed, and received Holy Communion for the first time.

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I’m sponsoring another woman who is entering the Church tonight. I’m so excited for her and for all those who will do the same this evening.

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Today I’m focusing on waiting and on praying for all the new members of our Church.

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And on enjoying all the little moments with my family.

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I hope you all have a happy and blessed Easter.

Thanks to Gina for the opportunity to host this link up during Lent. This will be my last time hosting, and next week you can find the link up back on her blog.

Share your ordinary moments below!

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A Tea Party Birthday

Sis loves tea parties. So much that she requested one for her third birthday.

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So, I invited a few friends, ordered some tea party accessories, procrastinated on making the food, and everything went wonderfully.

As part of the invitation, I suggested that our friends could come dressed in their finest for the party. I also ordered a few items so everyone could have some fancy additions to their outfits before we were seated for tea.

Pearl necklaces, tea-themed bracelets and purses, white gloves, and some hats they could decorate themselves created the perfect ensemble for each girl.

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For the table, I didn’t want to bring out the breakable tea sets I have (one was my mom’s when she was little, and one was my husband’s grandmother’s), so I found these cute little plastic coffee cups and drew a flower on each with some sharpies.

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I did use both of the tiny and fragile teapots (you can see one of them behind the cups above), because the grown-up teapot I was going to use (an antique) turned out to be not-so-nice-looking inside. I had to make extra tea in my measuring cups and keep refilling the little pots, but it worked out okay (note to self for next time, get a useable, reasonably-sized teapot!).

I found pretty flowered paper plates and napkins at Party City along with a plastic-meant-to-look-crystal sugar and creamer set. I even found sugar cubes at the grocery store, which seemed so much more fun (and less messy) than granulated sugar. I spread out a white table cloth (that really ought to have been ironed), put some fake flowers in a few cheap vases, and the table was set.

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I really procrastinated getting the everything ready, so after cutting fruit and taping hats together until midnight the night before the party, I quickly baked the cupcakes the morning of, and was still making flower-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when the guests arrived. Super Friend and Super Husband put together the last few hats, and then she frosted the cupcakes while I ran out of peanut butter and had to improvise with sun butter on the last few sandwiches, which were all really too small after I cut them into flower shapes.

No one starved though, and I found these adorable teacup molds for the cupcakes:

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Overall, I think it was a successful party. The kids seemed to have a lot of fun. I even have photo evidence of some of our friends tea-partying at home afterwards, so I hope they enjoyed it.

This was definitely my favorite of the birthday party themes I’ve done so far. Tea parties are just magical for little girls. I will definitely do this again. Hopefully with less procrastination next time.

Embrace the Ordinary – Three

Today we celebrate a birthday. What a perfect reminder of God’s miracle of life.

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“…there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” St. Josemaria Escriva, Passionately Loving the World

At this time three years ago, I was on my way to the hospital to be induced, so that our sweet little Sis could be brought into the world (the story of her birth here).

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I’m reflecting on the beautiful joy of that day. It’s making me kind of weepy, because that was the last time I held my own newborn.

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And look at her now!

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She is such an amazing, sweet, and funny little girl. She’s getting so big and so independent. It breaks my heart, and it makes me incredibly proud and happy.

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Today I will be embracing the extraordinariness of this precious little girl. I’m sure I will look at baby pictures. I’ll probably cry a little bit. But most of all, I will celebrate all that she is and all that she has brought to our family.

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Happy birthday, sweet girl.

Next week will be my last time hosting Embrace the Ordinary. Then, EASTER! and the link up will be found back at Gina’s blog.

What have you embraced this week?

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Finding My Mission

Lent is almost over.

I mentioned before that one of my Lenten penances was to not spend money. I’ve experienced an unintended benefit of this in that, instead of going to Target on Wednesdays when I have a babysitter for a couple of hours, I go to Adoration. It’s been wonderful.

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This Lent I’ve also been listening to lots of lectures, in person and recorded, and reading and journaling a lot. One common theme I’ve been hearing/reading during Lent this year is, “Don’t miss out on what God is calling you to do!” and “What is God’s mission for you? Are you embracing it?” and “What is it that God wants you to do that you are resistant to?

This has all made me feel just a bit self-conscious, as though there’s some grander plan that God has for me and I’m somehow not grasping it. I’ve been wondering what it is.

I’ve always felt like I’m embracing my mission pretty well, actually. I have been pretty sure that my mission, my vocation, is to be a wife and mother and a teacher to my children. Sometimes I’m not very good at it. I yell at my kids, and I slack off on homeschooling stuff, and my house is a disaster. But I’ve still been pretty certain that this is my thing. That I’m doing just what God wants me to do.

BUT, during this Lent, I have repeatedly I felt like maybe I’m missing something. Every time I hear a priest or other speaker talk about making sure that we say “yes” to what God is calling us to do. . . I feel a bit of panic, like I’m not hearing or not heeding my call. I search my brain to try to figure out what I’m missing. “Am I following God’s plan? Am I obeying Him? Am I blocking out His call??? What if I’m missing the whole point of what He wants me to do?”

I’ve been praying a lot for God to help me know what He wants from me. Yesterday was the completion of my 33 Days to Morning Glory Marian consecration, and I’ve been asking Mary to pray for me to “get it” too. I’ve been praying to be a better wife and a better mother. I’ve resolved to not yell at my girls. I really want to do a better job of juggling homeschooling and housekeeping and preparing our house to sell (and I’m failing miserably at this, but that could probably be another whole blog post).

I’ve been praying and praying all this stuff, and though Lent has been nice, and centering, and productive in certain ways for me, it has seemed like I’ve still been waiting on. . . something.

Let’s circle back around to the first part of this post, where I mentioned that I have been going to Adoration every Wednesday. Yesterday was the Solemnity of the Annunciation and the day I completed my Marian consecration. I went to Mass in the morning. I went to Adoration in the afternoon. As I drove there I prayed the joyful mysteries of the Rosary. I thought about Mary’s “Yes” to God.

When I got there, I got down on the kneeler and began to pray as usual, and then I tried to just listen.

I got my answer – the answer to all of my prayers of “What am I missing? What do You want me to do?” In the stillness of my heart I felt/heard one word.

Joy.

That might seem very anticlimactic, but I swear in that moment, a smile lit up my face and I felt like I had been given the answer to everything.

I try really hard to be a good wife and mom. I focus on getting things done and the results of my labors.

“Do my kids have good manners?”

“Are they eating good food?”

“Do they know their letters and numbers?”

“Did I get my husband’s laundry done?”

Check. Check. Check. And so on.

This is what I do. But I have been missing a huge part of my job, and that is they joy in it. I get so caught up in all the things I need to get done, that I forget to have fun with my kids. When they complain about a school lesson, I put my head down and focus on getting it done instead of trying to find a way to make it fun. I often clean dishes and fold laundry instead of playing with my kids. When they whine or misbehave in small ways, I bring the hammer down instead of calmly correcting or redirecting. Not always, but these examples are more the rule than the exception.

Yesterday I got it. God doesn’t just want me to be a good mom. He doesn’t need me to be a perfect mom. He wants me to be a joyful mom.

Smith Vows-217

As I knelt there in Adoration, my mind was filled with so many ways I can make my mothering more joyful, in chores, and homeschooling, and even (especially?) discipline of my girls. Most of this was stuff I’ve thought of in passing before, but it suddenly seemed so clear and so obvious and so necessary.

For weeks, I have wondered about what God wants me to do. All of these big, crazy ideas have crossed my mind. “Does He want me to write a book? Look into adoption? Start something at our parish?” None of these seemed quite right, and in fact when I prayed specifically about some of them, I got a definitive answer of “No.”

Yesterday, I didn’t ask God specifically, “Do you want me to have more fun?” I just listened, and He told me.

Be joyful.