Lent, Two Weeks In

This year is my second Lent. I love Lent.

It helps me learn about myself. It intensifies my faith. It makes me more humble.

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So far his year, I’m doing a lot of reading and reflecting and praying every morning.

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I gave up Facebook, which has been surprisingly not hard. I don’t really miss it, except for the interactions with blog readers. I suspect a lot of people come to this little site from my Facebook page, and I like getting comments over there. I also like seeing other bloggers’ Facebook comments and interacting that way. I miss the occasional fun updates from friends and family, but other than that, I think I just wasted a lot of time on Facebook. I tended to look at it out of habit or boredom more than anything, so I don’t really mind not having it.

That said, I’d like to add that Facebook is a wily temptress. I logged out of my account on Ash Wednesday eve, but I did not think to turn off notifications. So I keep getting emails with subject lines like, “Motherhood and Miscellany fans want to hear from you!” or “You have 39 notifications, 27 friend updates, 12 messages, and 2 pokes.” (What in the world is a “poke”?) I haven’t opened any of the emails, but they keep on coming, almost every day. Dear Facebook, I will not be led astray.

My other big penance is that I am not spending money on things other than food and gas (and babysitting). This seems so simple, but I have learned that I have a tendency to spend way more money than what is necessary, on a regular basis. For example, the first time I went to Target after the start of Lent, I got the things on my list (all grocery/pharmacy items), and then I noticed myself beginning to veer off to something else, probably in the crafting, school supplies, or kid’s clothing sections. I didn’t need anything else, but it is such a habit to just grab other things that would be nice to have or that I might need later. I do the same thing on Amazon and at places like Hobby Lobby. I’m really quite embarrassed about this now that I realize I was doing it (talk about a large dose of humility!).

Another part of my not spending money unnecessarily and trying to simplify things during Lent is that I have been making myself clean out the foods in my pantry and freezer whenever possible, instead of buying other pantry foods at the store. My kids are eating whatever is in the cupboards for snacks and lunch side items. I made chili last week and we were out of saltines. I started to go down the cracker aisle at the grocery store when I remembered that we had lots of other kinds of crackers in the pantry. So I served chili with Cheez-Its, Breton whole grain, and round sesame crackers. No one even seemed to care. Check out the before and two-week shots of my pantry:

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So far Lent has been so beneficial for me. I’m paying more attention to the ways I have tended to spend my time and money, and why. It’s been quite a learning experience, and I’m able to invest my efforts on more important things instead, like prayer and service and almsgiving.

How has Lent been for you??

 

 

 

 

Embrace the Ordinary – A Cure for Righteous Indignation

I tried to do a lot of embracing of ordinary things this week. I love finding the specialness in small moments, and I’m still hosting this link up for Gina all during Lent.

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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 ended up being filled with righteous indignation yesterday after a phone call with the not-helpful people at Sirius XM. Without my authorization, they reactivated the radio on the car I used to own, but because I was still using their service on my current car until this past summer, I didn’t notice it on my credit card statement. My husband caught it on our January statement, and it turns out they’ve been charging me for radio service on a car I don’t even own for three years. I thought I had the refund all taken care of when I called a few weeks ago, but it never happened, so I followed up yesterday. The supervisor I spoke to was rude and condescending and flat out refused to give me a refund of the money they charged me without my consent, which basically means they just stole several hundred dollars from me. So I was aaaaall fired up yesterday afternoon.

I have no intention of backing down from the jerks who stole from me and am determined to get my money back. But in the meantime, it helps keep my frustration at bay to focus on the little happy moments of life in our little world. So, here you go:

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Here’s to a lovely weekend with family. Link up your Embrace the Ordinary posts below (you can also add an Instagram link, as my friend Erika demonstrated last week)!

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A Sacramental Blessing – Thoughts on What Was Missing from My Marriage

When my husband and I first got married, we did it in the most secular way possible. We were outside, we had a judge officiating, and I specifically requested no references to religion in the ceremony.

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It was really wonderful, and remains one of the best days of my life. At the time, I didn’t think for a moment that there was anything missing.

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When I decided to convert to Catholicism, I realized that I really wanted for my husband and I to have our marriage validated in the Church. It took us a while to make it happen, but a few weeks ago, we finally had our sacramental blessing. A Catholic wedding, complete with full Mass.

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While we were receiving communion, Lass asked the priest, “Why don’t the little people get to have any of the good stuff?”

It wasn’t a big, fancy affair. Just us, our girls, our priest, Super Friend and Super Husband, and The Godmother (plus our babysitter and photographer).

We did the whole thing. We selected readings, and the priest gave a homily. We said vows and had our rings blessed. The priest said a blessing over us and we received communion, all standing around the altar. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.

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Our first wedding was also beautiful. It was wonderful and meaningful. It was a big celebration of our marriage with most of our friends and family. It wasn’t fussy, and it was fun. It was exactly what I wanted it to be at that time.

This time was so much the same and yet so, so different. Our first wedding was obviously important. But this time, this ceremony, felt sacred. I looked at my husband while saying our vows and there was so much more. We’ve been married over six years and have three children. We’ve experienced wonderful joys and terrible grief. “In good times and bad, in sickness and in health” took on a whole new meaning as I said those words again. It was different, because this time I felt the presence of God watching over us, blessing us, embracing us. I know now that He was there the first time too, but I didn’t bother to notice. This time, He took center stage, and it made everything so. much. more.

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There was even more joy. More love. More beauty. More grace.

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I used to think I knew a lot about marriage. I thought I was really good at being married. I thought my husband and I had a fabulous marriage. Here’s what I know now: I knew some. I was pretty good. We did have one.

BUT,

Since converting to Catholicism, since beginning to go to church with my husband every week, since instituting prayer in our home and faithful practices in our family, my marriage has improved in so many ways.

I’m a better wife and a better mom. I am less prideful and less selfish. I still have so much to learn. I am still striving and praying to get rid of all the yucky parts of myself: my pride and anger and selfish tendencies. But the love of God helps me to love my husband better. And just as He was the thing missing from our first wedding, God was what was missing from our marriage for the first five years. I didn’t even realize there was anything was missing back then. But now I do. Our marriage is so much better with Jesus.

Embrace the Ordinary – Link Up Here During Lent!

This week, and for the rest of Lent, I will be hosting the link up for Gina’s Embrace the Ordinary series.

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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 love the idea of trying to really embrace the ordinary moments and the holiness within them, so I’m so excited to be temporarily hosting this series.

This week actually hasn’t been all that ordinary. We had Mardi Gras, and a birthday, and Ash Wednesday, and a road trip, and we’ve been visiting my husband’s family, watching the Iowa high school state wrestling championships. It’s been quite full of things that aren’t part of our ordinary lives. However, there have been plenty of lovely, ordinary moments in there too.

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^^ Birthday feast on Fat Tuesday

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^^ No-meat road trip meal of pierogis (one of Miss’s favorites, since it was her birthday) and cheese quesadillas, for our travels on Ash Wednesday.

Wrestling:

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^^ A cousin reunion

More cousin time:

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After a busy day of watching wrestling yesterday:

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We have one more day of wrestling, and then we’re heading home. I have happy girls enjoying big family time.

This is my first ever attempt at a link up. Share one (or more than one!) way you embraced the ordinary this week. 

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Musical Reminiscing and Songs to Listen to When Cleaning House (5 Favorites)

A while ago, my husband and I began talking about music and the memories that can be associated with certain songs or artists. It’s a fun topic. I love thinking about how hearing a certain song can instantly transport me to another time and place in my memory.

Ben and I are both big music lovers. I have always been awed by the ability of a song to capture a feeling or experience perfectly, through its lyrics or arrangement, or both. I learned about my husband’s love of music the first time he came to visit me when I was in graduate school. He pulled out his guitar within minutes of his arrival and began playing and singing “Pencil Thin Mustach.” We’ve had a very musical relationship ever since.

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A few weeks ago, he and I got to talking about the music of our childhoods: the music our parents listened to, and when we got a little older, the artists we chose and songs we loved.

My mom had an 8-track player. The artists I remember her playing the most were Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Barbara Streisand, whom I called Barbara Susanne Stripe because of this album cover (which doesn’t look anything like I remember it):

And Johnny Mathis at Christmas, of course.

My husband has vivid memories of his mom playing the “Beaches” soundtrack. And of course:

As I got older and began making my own musical choices, I grew to love Michael Jackson, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and of course, the scandalous Madonna. My mom tried to shelter me from unsavory influences, so I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV or listen to the “hard rock” radio stations. I got a clock radio for Christmas one year that had a “Sleep” button so I could listen to the radio when going to bed at night. It turned off by itself after 30 minutes, which seemed sooo high tech back then. I was only allowed to listen to the “soft hits” station at night. I don’ t think my mom knew that that radio station had a Dr. Ruth talk show on every Sunday night, right at my bedtime, which made for some interesting listening for an eight year old. . .

Anyway, Ben and I were discussing the music from when we were kids and also the music that our daughters will remember, hopefully fondly, from their own childhoods. Now with digital music, and iTunes, and playlists we don’t usually listen to specific albums from one artist straight through. So our girls might have a bit more eclectic experience of music than what we had as kids.

Right now their favorites include “Achy Breaky Heart” (which Lass calls Knacky Bracky Heart), “Yellow Submarine,” “Red Solo Cup,” “Fishin’ In the Dark,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Love Shack.”

One day last week we rocked to Love Shack in the car, upon request, and they all yelled the “Bang, Bang, Bangs” right on cue. Then Lass said, “Mom, I think in the love shack they make lots of Valentines. And give lots of hugs and kisses, right?” Yes Sweetheart. Yes, that’s what they do.

It makes me smile that my girls love music and dancing as much as their Dad and I do.

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In my opinion, music makes all things better. Especially housework and home improvement projects. I love to put on my headphones, select my playlist of girl songs, and rock out while cleaning or home-improving. My favorite songs are those I can sing at the top of my lungs that lend themselves to dancing with a vacuum or using my paintbrush as a microphone (I’m sorry for the unfortunate visuals). Yes, I do sing at the top of my lungs while wearing headphones. My kids love it. Fortunately with my headphones on I can’t hear them whine-yelling, “Mo-om, stop singing!”

My favorite songs for this purpose? The top five, right here

5. All I Wanna Do – Sheryl Crow

4. Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna

3. Miss You Much – Janet Jackson

2. Love is a Battlefield – Pat Benetar (anyone else love the old shimmy-walk move?)

1. Cool Rider – Michelle Pfieffer

I used to really, really want one of those jackets.

Anyone want to take a guess at how old I am from this list? Haha!

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I’m linking up with Call Her Happy today for Five Favorites! What are your favorites?

 

Embracing the Ordinary – Including Some Fun News

I’m linking up with Gina again and embracing the ordinary today.

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The past week was lovely, but nothing exciting (except for a little birthday excitement yesterday).

I made one of my favorite sandwiches from childhood for my girls to try.

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That’s a pickle in there with the peanut butter, in case you can’t tell. They all thought it was okay, but the only one of them who actually liked it was my anti-sandwich girl:

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We did lots of Valentine stuff in school this week.

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Lass was having some trouble with her reading lessons, so I took her to have her eyes checked. It turns out she needs glasses.

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She’s pretty excited about getting them and I can’t wait to see how she responds when she can actually see well.

 

The girls played in their future backyard for the first time.

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We helped the Super Friends move a few things to their new house and then had a house-leaving party with pizza and Star Wars and Euchre. Super Friend and I smoked the husbands in cards, in case you were wondering. What a great way to spend Valentine’s Day.

 

Yesterday, we had a birthday party for my big girl, who is turning six on Wednesday.

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What a grace-filled, ordinary week.

And here’s some fun news: Gina, who hosts this lovely link-up, isn’t going to be doing it during Lent. But she’s letting me take over until Easter! I’ll be doing my Embrace the Ordinary post every Saturday, starting this coming weekend, and the link thing will stay open for a week. Check out Gina’s post and link up this week here (it’s still open until Saturday!) and like her Facebook page here, as she’ll be the one sharing these posts during my Lenten Facebook break.

 

Thoughts On and Plans for Lent – 7QT with Lots of Links

Last year was my first time observing Lent. I really loved the experience of simplifying, paring back, and making sacrifices for the purpose of preparing to be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil and to grow closer to Christ. Each time I felt a small amount of suffering as a result of one of the penances I took on, I just thought about Him. It was pretty awesome.

So this year, I’m truly looking forward to Lent again. Here are Seven Quick Takes on my thoughts about and plans for Lent 2015:

1.

First of all, I have to provide a link to a great article from Daniel Bearman – Acts of Idiot Praise. It’s about what to do on Sundays during Lent. It clarified for me the concepts of fasting and abstinence and penance and how these relate to what we’re doing during Lent and what we’re supposed to do on Sundays.

For my penances, I’m giving up a few things and taking on a few things.

2.

What I’m giving up:

Facebook. Though I love Facebook for keeping up with friends and family far away, it has become far too much of a time drain for me (if you usually follow my blog via Facebook, you can follow me with Instagram, Bloglovin’, or Twitter instead, or you can subscribe in the sidebar to get posts emailed to you, which is my preferred way of reading the blogs I follow).

Spending. I imposed a spending ban on myself in the fall, which was needed and it was great. I have a tendency to get far too much homeschooling stuff that we don’t need and Amazon Prime is my best friend/worst enemy. I lifted the ban for Christmas, but I will be taking it back up for Lent. I’ve been doing all of my birthday and Easter buying in advance (Miss’s birthday is on Ash Wednesday and Sis’s is in March). I’ll be limiting spending to necessities like groceries (see below) and gas and such.

3.

What I’m taking on:

Pantry and freezer cooking. In an effort to simplify and be less wasteful and more frugal, I’ll be limiting my grocery buying to primarily perishables like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. I got this idea from Kendra, and since we have a pantry full of food and a freezer full of pork and other stuff, I’m going to use it up. Wish me luck.

Lenten journal. I already do the daily scripture readings and devotions from Blessed is She. I got their Lenten journal too, and I’m excited to do it.

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4.

What we’re giving up as a family:

Ice cream. We did this last year too, and it was a great, basic thing for the girls to experience giving up something specific for Lent. I let them choose what to give up this year, and they chose ice cream over chocolate (a nearly impossible choice, in my opinion). We’ll have a big ice cream party on Fat Tuesday again, and include brownies this year in celebration of Miss’s birthday on Wednesday.

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What my girls are giving up:

I asked each of the older girls to give up something in addition to ice cream, and I love what they came up with, with zero guidance from me, I might add.

Miss chose to give up coloring. This is actually a big deal for her, as it’s one of her very favorite activities.

Lass chose to give up asking for toys. She’s in this phase where she asks to have everything she likes. I repeatedly remind her that she can’t have everything she wants and that if she really wants something, she’ll have to wait until her birthday (which is in August), so I’m super happy she chose this.

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Other stuff:

Last year we did the Lenten calendar from Catholic Icing to count down the days of Lent, and these printable cards from Team Whitaker to pick acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving each day. This year we’re combining these activities and doing this calendar from Traci Smith. We’ll put stickers on it as each day passes and we complete the activity to make it a fun countdown. I printed out the blank one she offers on her site, so I can choose the things we’ll be doing, using a lot of the ideas on the already prepared one. We’ll have various penances, prayers, and almsgiving activities to focus on for each day of Lent.

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Yes, I know I need to get going on this!

We’re doing the bean jar for Lenten sacrifices. I’ll let the girls put a bean into the jar for each little sacrifice they do, and then on Easter morning they’ll be replaced with jellybeans.

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Awesome Lent-related links:

Lent Cometh: Perhaps Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know to Have the Best Lent Ever – By Kendra from Catholic All Year – Kendra has so many good posts with ideas for Lent, and this one has links to all of them.

Simple Lenten Traditions for Families (With Little to No Prep Work) by Lacy from Catholic Icing

9 Ideas for Observing Lent with Kids by Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas

Walking Through Lent with Small Children by Sarah from Two Os + More

The Lenten Season in Our Catholic Home by Jessica from Shower of Roses

Or you can check out my Lent Pinterest board for a few more ideas.

 

What are you doing for Lent?

 

I’m linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes today (a day late).

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Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 8 – Orthodoxy

Wow. It has been a very long time since I wrote my last Baby Catholic Answers All the Things post. This was supposed to be a regular feature! I’m sorry.

Here’s what happened: I got a question from my friend Liz that threw me for a loop a bit (back in, *ahem*, August). I kind of knew the answer, but I wasn’t sure if my answer was the whole answer, and Google was not helping me find the whole answer very easily, and then once I did find the whole answer, I couldn’t manage to get the post written in a way that I liked. And I didn’t want to write it wrong, because referring to myself as the Baby Catholic who Answers All The Things is a lot of pressure!

So I didn’t write it at all.

And even though I sent a message to my friend Liz giving her the answer, I felt like I shouldn’t just skip it and keep doing other BCAATT posts without answering it here too (though I did do a few posts after getting THE QUESTION). So. Radio silence from Baby Catholic for (*gulp*) four months.

How’s that for a lengthy explanation?

Anyway. In spite of how long it took me to finally get around to it, I am not one to shy away from a challenge. This question and this post have been in the back of my mind for months. Today, I shall answer the question that derailed me for a while, but will not defeat me.

What was it you ask? This:

“What is the difference between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox? Or, when people refer to Orthodox Catholics are they simply implying more devout Catholics (like Orthodox Jews)?”

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Now, you may wonder why this stumped me. I think most Catholics, including me, know that the Orthodox Church is a different thing, separate from the Roman Catholic Church but similar. Often referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, though it is also called the Orthodox Catholic Church, it split away from Roman Catholicism in the East-West Schism of 1054. I learned about this in RCIA last year and also by reading Catholicism for Dummies.

Easy answer, right? So why in the world did this fluster me so much?

Well, I thought I remembered reading something in Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir, Something Other Than God about how she and her family had found an orthodox Catholic church to attend that they felt was a good fit for their family. I looked through the book, but I couldn’t find the page to reference. However, she mentions in this post her comment to her husband during one Mass, “I think we’re orthodox,” and then she received help from a reader to find an “orthodox parish” to attend. Anyway, because of all this, I was pretty sure that the answer to Liz’s question was “The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are separate but similar, AND “orthodox” is also a way of referring to more strict Catholics.”

However, when I tried to learn more about orthodox Catholicism, I came across the Orthodox Catholic Church of America, which is a whole different thing, not affiliated with the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox Churches. I couldn’t find much about orthodox Roman Catholic practices. I was frustrated.

Finally, I managed to string together the right phrase in a Google search to find some of what I was looking for. From my results, I read about the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement, led by some priests who didn’t agree with the changes made to the Mass and the Church after Vatican II. There were many changes that came after Vatican II, and I don’t know all of them, but a big one was the way the Mass was celebrated. Before Vatican II, the Mass was almost always celebrated in Latin, and the priest stood between the congregation and the altar, consecrating the bread and wine with his back to the people of the parish. This is called the Tridentine Mass or often just the Latin Mass.

Now, here’s where I get a little unsure. As I understand it, the powers that be in the Roman Catholic Church say that it’s fine to still perform this Latin version of the Mass, and I assume this is considered an orthodox practice. I’m not sure if there are other Roman Catholic parishes that would be considered “orthodox” but don’t conduct the Mass in Latin. My guess is yes, but I could not find any definitive information about just what makes a parish “orthodox,” or if there even are any rules. It seems as though this is not an official label placed on any segment of the Catholic Church. I suspect that orthodox parishes are more conservative and hold more strictly to the laws of the Church.

Just thinking about the parishes in my town, I can say that there are some that are likely considered more orthodox than others. Our parish for example sometimes includes more modern music in our liturgy, especially at the teen Mass. And up until a few weeks ago, we did not have a tabernacle in the main sanctuary of the church (it was in a small side chapel). Our church also looks more modern, and sometimes at the end of Mass the people involved in planning parish activities come up to the front and do silly skits or wear costumes while making announcements. Probably not terribly orthodox, but lots of fun for our family, and never going against any Church rules. I’ve never been to a Mass at a different parish in our town (other than Miss’s school Mass), so I can’t say for sure, but I’ve heard that some of the other parishes tend toward being more old school, though I don’t know if that’s orthodox or not.

So, what I’ve come up with for a final answer is this:

1. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox (or Eastern Orthodox) Churches are similar but separate.

AND

2. There are also some Roman Catholic churches that are more orthodox in their practices, though I am not sure exactly what would constitute calling a given parish “orthodox.” Perhaps they have the Mass in the Latin Rite. Probably their music mostly consists of traditional hymns, sung by a choir. Maybe parish members dress more conservatively and some might even wear chapel veils for Mass. Most likely they didn’t have a woman dressed in Mardi Gras garb dance up to the front of the church to announce the parish’s Mardi Gras dinner event next Tuesday in a weird accent (intended to sound Cajun?). Or maybe it isn’t really any of these things but simply a more firm adherence to all the teachings and rules of the Church and the pope (if anyone knows a better answer to this part, please share it!).

In my opinion, we are all part of the same church family, whether we attend an orthodox parish or not, whether we prefer the Mass in Latin or English. I love being Catholic, and I like seeing all the ways our Faith is practiced in accordance with the laws of the Church and under the guidance of our pope.

I’m sorry it took me so long to write this post. Send me more questions, and I promise I won’t take so long next time!

 

What’s in My Bag?

I don’t need a diaper bag anymore. But I do love a pretty and functional handbag. Nell is hosting a link up/giveaway today for a Lily Jade bag, which is probably much too big for my needs, but you never know. Maybe someday. . .

Sooooo,

What's in my bag

 

Aren’t you just so interested?

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Ready?

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Prepare to be dazzled:

  • Carpet samples for our basement
  • A pack of hand wipes
  • Some paint sample cards
  • A pack of tissues
  • Two lipsticks (why??? I don’t even wear lipstick)
  • Lotion
  • Two rosaries (the silver one is mine from my husband, the blue one was given to the girls by a nice lady at church on Sunday)
  • A bunch of paper = receipts, coupons, and a coloring picture from Sis’s gymnastics class on Tuesday
  • More paper (pink) = three copies of the Children’s Worship Bulletin from church on Sunday
  • A business card from a car salesman
  • My wallet
  • A Decision Point CD that our priest gave me yesterday

I would just like to note that all of the paper items went straight into the recycling after this little exercise.

Want to play along and try to win a bag? You don’t even have to have a blog, you can use an Instagram or a Facebook pic. Check out Nell’s bag and the link up here, and check out more Lily Jade here.

Good luck! (notreallyIwantthatbag)

The Kindergarten Birthday Party Dilemma

Miss’s sixth birthday is in about two weeks. I’ve been thinking about what to do for her party for weeks. Okay, months.

There are so many different philosophies out there about how to handle kids’ birthdays and birthday parties. They range from family-only small gatherings with no presents to all-out huge bashes with party planners and dozens of guests (and gifts).

Of course, there’s not just one right way to do it. We’ve never really set a firm birthday policy in our house, but mostly just determined, with each birthday, what seems like the best thing to do. When Miss was little, since we always have a trip to Iowa planned on or around her birthday, we’d just do the family-only party, and she was always thrilled with that. In fact, last year, for her fifth birthday, was the first time we’d ever done anything beyond the family birthday party for her by having a gathering at our house. She had a Brave-themed drive-in movie party, and it was really fun.

I’ve discovered that I like putting together birthday parties for my girls. I enjoy getting into the theme and decorations when we have parties at our home. I like combing Pinterest for ideas and coming up with creative things myself. I know it’s not necessary for them, but I have fun doing it.

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As for the guests? For previous birthdays, I’ve never been in a situation where I felt the need to invite many other people to our parties. Until this year, our girls didn’t go to school, so there was never a question of inviting lots of kids. Except when we have parties in Iowa and invite all of my husband’s family, we never have more than two other families come to a birthday at our home. For Lass’s zoo party, only the Super Family could make it, and that was just fine.

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Since my girls didn’t attend school, I’ve never had to think too much about whom to invite, and my girls have never felt that their parties were anything but wonderful with the few close friends we included.

But now, with Miss having part-time-away-from-home kindergarten this year, things have changed. She has been invited to the birthday parties of at least five of her classmates so far. For all but one of them, all of the little girls in her class were invited (and one even had all the boys too!). I have mixed feelings about having a huge party, so I’ve spent far to much time debating what we should do for her birthday this year.

Do we invite all the girls in her class? This seems a nice way to go so that no one feels left out, but that’s a lot of kids. She has 11 other girls in her class, plus we will always of course invite the Super Family, along with the sisters of one of the little girls in her class whose family we are friends with. And she also wants to invite the little girl who lives across the street. Lots of kids = lots of presents, which I feel kind of weird about.

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Do we keep it small and only invite a few friends? If we did this, there would be a few more people invited than we’ve done in the past, because she does have some new friends from school, but it would still be considerably smaller than if we invited all the girls in her class.

I went back and forth about this in my mind for quite some time. Initially, I thought we’d just invite a few close friends. Then I thought it was important to teach her to be kind to all the other kids and invite them all. Then I thought it’s unrealistic to tell her she needs to invite all the girls if she doesn’t want to, since she’s not going to be close friends with all of them, and she might not have much in common with some. Then I thought we should really invite all the kids who have invited us to their parties, since it’s rude to not reciprocate. Then my husband pointed out that she shouldn’t feel pressured to invite anyone if it’s only for the reason of reciprocating an invitation. . .

I worried about having a lot of kids because that means a lot of presents. I’m cool with birthday presents, because we pretty much only get our kids new toys on their birthdays and Christmas, and a few things on Easter. But I’m uncomfortable with them getting a lot of presents. If all of the girls in her class came to the party, plus the Super Family and the family across the street, that would mean she’d get about 13 presents, not even including those from her family! Not only do I not want that many more things in my house, that just seems so excessive to me. We went to one party where I watched the little birthday girl open present after present, announcing the contents of the package, and then literally tossing the gift aside to move on to the next one. There were barely any “thank yous,” and none that involved eye contact and sincerity. I was cringing inside the whole time.

So what will we do?

Ultimately, what we decided was to ask Miss what she wanted. I was kind of hoping she’d choose to have her party here at our house, so I could really have some fun with decorations, crafts, and games. But she chose to have it at the gymnastics center where she takes lessons (and she’s attended two other birthday parties in the past month). She wanted to ask all of the kids in her class. I told her she could only invite the girls (I could not handle the idea of that many more presents if all the boys came too). She chose, no surprise, a “Frozen” theme for the party.

For this year, this first year of school experience, I’ve decided I’m okay with the big party. The gifts make me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ll just make sure we have a discussion about the importance of saying “thank you,” making eye contact with the gift-giver, for each present. And of course we’ll have her take the time to write thank-you notes afterwards as well.

I know this isn’t the one “right” way to do a party. But after much (over)analysis of the issue, it feels like the right way for us this time. We’ll probably change things again next year, but for this year, a big birthday party is fine.

I still remember the birthday party I had when I was in kindergarten. It felt like a big deal.

I also remember that after that one party in kindergarten, I didn’t have big parties anymore. I had outings with a few close friends or cousins, or sleep-overs when I got a little older. Maybe that’s how we’ll do things after this year. I’m sure I’ll start thinking about it around October, so I’ll let you know.