An Old-School Baptism

In October, I went out of town for a weekend by myself. My husband watched the kids, and I booked a room in a lovely hotel in Milwaukee for a little bit of a vacation before the arrival of our little guy. I spent the weekend mostly reading, sleeping, and eating delicious food while it was still hot.

The other thing I made sure to be able to do while in Milwaukee was to attend my first ever Latin Mass. We do not live near a church that offers a Latin Mass, and my husband and I had been talking about trying to go to one for quite some time (the closest one to us is an hour away). I was excited to have an opportunity to attend one in Milwaukee, at a parish run by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

I had no idea what was going on for most of the Mass, but I loved it. It was beautiful and reverent and kind of indescribable if you’ve never seen it in person.

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After I attended the Mass in Latin, my husband and I tried a few times to plan a trip to the closest Latin Mass parish in our diocese, also run by ICKSP, but various circumstances (i.e. sick kids) got in the way of us making the trip.

In the meantime, we continued to try to learn more about the extraordinary form of the Mass. While perusing the internet on the topic, my husband came across some information about the traditional form of Baptism.

He sent me a link about it and casually mentioned that maybe we should think about having the baby baptized in the Latin Rite. I was hesitant at first. I thought it would be strange and confusing for us to have our baby baptized in a language we don’t understand. But I looked into it anyway and found that I loved the wording of the old rite. It is so much more beautiful and powerful than the newer version.

I liked it so much better that I asked our regular parish priest if he could do the old rite at our current parish but in English. He is a wonderful priest, and he actually looked into this for me, but said that the person in charge of such things from our diocese told him that if we wanted to have the old wording of the sacrament, it had to be done in Latin and done at the one Latin parish that we have in our diocese.

So, I decided to call the Latin parish and find out if it would be possible for us to have our son baptized there, even though we weren’t members. I called on a Thursday evening, expecting to leave a message for a secretary and get a call back the next day. I got a recorded message saying that the secretary is only in the office on Tuesdays, which I thought was kind of fantastic in a world of huge modern parishes with tons of full time staff members. I left a message and was shocked to receive a call back within about ten minutes from the priest! He had a heavy French accent, and was completely delightful, and told me that of course he would be happy to baptize our son, and asked if we could meet with him after Mass that weekend.

At this point, we still hadn’t managed to make it to a Mass in Latin as a family, but I told him that yes, we would meet with him, so that we would be forced to just buck up and go.

And we did. And we have never looked back.

That was the first Sunday of Advent. We have driven over an hour to that parish almost every weekend since then. We even took our girls to the midnight Mass there on Christmas Eve.

And yes, we did have our son baptized there. And it was amazing.

The priest started the Baptism outside the doors to the sanctuary, saying that this was because our son was not yet a member of our Faith. He informed us that our son is a little saint on earth, since Baptism washes away original sin, and he is too young to commit any actual sin yet.

Then he began. The words he spoke, some in English, some in Latin, were beautiful. The gestures and symbolism were so moving. There were some parts of the old rite, like when the priest breathes on the catechumen three times in the form of a cross, or when he puts a bit of salt in the catechumen’s mouth, that I thought might be weird. But these were not strange at all. In fact, they felt very laden with history and meaning and beauty.

(You can read the whole Rite of Baptism here, in Latin and English, side by side. The link also has the newer rite at the bottom for comparison if you’re curious).


After we all went into the nave, the intense feeling of the tradition and holiness in the rite continued. The priest said a prayer of exorcism, which was part of the reason we wanted to have the Latin Rite instead of the newer, watered-down version. I think the only mention of Satan in my Baptism or that of my other children was when the priest asked if we reject him, and we said, “I do.” This renunciation is present in the old rite as well, along with several other explicit prayers of exorcism. I especially liked when the priest said, “And this sign of the holy Cross, which we make upon his forehead, do thou, accursed devil, never dare to violate.”

Like placing a shield on our baby. The biggest, strongest, most impenetrable shield possible, the Cross.


The rest of the Baptism continued in a manner fairly similar to the Baptisms I have observed before. The usual symbols and sacramentals were there. The water, the fire, the white garment, the oil. But there was so much more.


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After the Baptism Rite itself, my husband and I were surprised that the priest instructed us to say an act of consecration to Mary in front of the nativity. He pulled the kneeler over, and we knelt to say one of the most beautiful prayers I have ever said (he gave it to us to read). At several points during this part, I got a bit choked up as I prayed the words dedicating my little son to our Blessed Mother.


It was the perfect ending to a truly sublime sacrament.


Welcome to the Church, sweet boy.

A Dramatic Entrance: Sweet Boy’s Birth Story

Birth story time!

I love a good birth story. This one has a bit of a crazy ending. Enjoy:


All of my first four kids were born after their due date. The third and fourth (Sis and Bubba) were induced five and one days past their due dates, respectively (you can read the birth stories for Lass, Sis, and Bubba here. I’m not sure what happened to Miss’s?).

So, I felt pretty confident that with this fifth delivery, I would be going to my due date once again, when I had an induction scheduled. December 29th was to be the day, I was quite certain.

What’s that saying about what God does when we make plans?

I woke up on December 28th at around 5am with some contractions. They weren’t too bad, but they gradually got stronger as I stayed in bed, half sleeping and procrastinating getting up for the day. Around 6-ish I started to time them, and they were about 7-8 minutes apart, lasting around a minute each. I decided to get up and take a shower, both to see if anything changed, and also, just in case.

Once I was up and moving around, the contractions got closer together and a bit stronger, more like 3-4 minutes apart, but they were shorter, only 30-45 seconds long. So I didn’t know what to think. My doctor always has told me that I should call if my contractions were five minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for an hour. These contractions weren’t fitting the prescribed pattern! I wasn’t sure what to do. It had been over seven years since the last time I had gone into labor on my own, but I figured I should still be able to determine if I was actually in labor or not. I did not want to be the fifth-time mom who came into the hospital in “labor,” only to be sent home.

My husband asked me if he should try to find someone to cover his shift at work. I thought maybe I should call a nurse. But it was early, before office hours, and I knew I’d probably have to wait a while for the on-call nurse to call me back if I called then, so I told my husband to go ahead and go to work. I said, “I’m going to go downstairs and put my feet up. These contractions will probably go away.” (If you have read Bubba’s birth story, you might remember that I started having contractions the morning he was born too, and they stopped on their own).

So, I woke up my Mom to chase Bubba around while I put my feet up and let the contractions go away.

Except the contractions didn’t go away. They gradually got a little stronger (though they never did get to the one-minute-long-every-five-minutes criteria). Since I have had a c-section (and for that reason a nurse once yelled at me on the phone for not calling sooner when I was having contractions with Lass), I figured I should call the nurse and see what she recommended. When I did, she said that my doctor (Dr. K) was off that day, but that the doctor who delivered Bubba (Dr. C, not my usual OB, but the one I went with for his delivery and also loved, because when I was pregnant with Bubba, Dr. K had taken a break from delivering babies for a while) was the back up on-call doctor and could see me that morning.

So, I called my husband and said he needed to come home from work, got my stuff together to go to the hospital, and off we went.

When we arrived, we went right in to see Dr. C, who checked me and pronounced that I was at 5 cm (already!) and that I was in labor and should be admitted. She said she’d come upstairs later that morning to break my water, and we went on upstairs to the L&D floor to have a baby.

As usual, the nurses assigned to me had me get in the bed for monitoring and to get my blood drawn and have an IV needle put in place in case of an emergency. My contractions weren’t too bad at this point, so I was talking and joking with my husband and the nurses throughout this time.


After this part was done, I got up and began to walk around the halls with my husband. We have done this together so many times before. So many laps on this same L&D floor. We talked and joked. He hummed Pange Lingua. Every few laps we’d stop and let the nurses do their monitoring. The contractions were getting a bit stronger, but not too much at this point.

I focused on offering each contraction for a prayer intention, which I had loosely planned out in my head, but had not gotten around to writing down (I was supposed to have one more day for that!).

On one of our laps when we passed the nurse’s station, our nurse told us that Dr. K had called (Dr. C must have called her), and said that she had an appointment that afternoon that she couldn’t miss, but if I hadn’t delivered but he time she was done, she would come in and do the delivery. How awesome that my two favorite docs were both willing to deliver my baby!

At around 11am, Dr. C came up and broke my water.

A few more laps after this and things started to get real. I started to feel like I didn’t want to walk anymore, but when I stopped in the room and sat on the yoga ball (my go-to position from my labors with both Sis and Bubba), things would slow down.


My husband said I needed to stop looking so cheerful when he took my picture

I was torn, because I really liked being more comfortable on the yoga ball, but I wanted things to keep moving, and walking was a good way to get things progressing. For a little while, we alternated between walking and sitting. By about 1:00 or 1:30 or so, my contractions got too hard for walking.


No more cheerful

I have a history of labor-puking, and I felt extremely hot and nauseated, so I made sure the puke basin was nearby, though I didn’t end up needing it.

At some point, I really don’t know when, maybe around the time I decided I was done walking, the nurse checked me again and said I was at seven centimeters. I suppose that was decent progress, but I  remember thinking that seven still seemed awfully far from 10.

Around 2:00 or so, I started having a lot of back pain and couldn’t sit on the ball anymore. I had my husband adjust the height of the bed and I stood up and leaned over onto the bed on my elbows, which helped a little bit. I had my husband squeeze my hips during each contraction, which helped some too. He was reminding me to get through one contraction at a time and to offer up the pain, which was also helpful, though I was beginning to really struggle to get through the contractions around this time.

The nurses came in, and I told one of them something like, “I think I’m starting to maybe feel a little bit of pressure.” I was definitely feeling pressure, but afraid to get my hopes up or to have my progress checked only to find out I had made minimal gains. I was experiencing a strong fear of the end-of-labor despair. The nurse asked if I was feeling pressure all the time or only at the end of my contractions, and I didn’t really know the answer to this, so I just said “only at the end.” She suggested maybe waiting 15 minutes and then checking my progress. I think she too was concerned about my reaction if I had made little change.

Within a few minutes of her saying this, I asserted a bit more confidently that I was feeling pressure and really felt the need to push. One of the nurses said something like, “Hop up on the bed then, and we’ll check you.” I remember thinking how ridiculous that idea was, and I said, “Okay! I’ll just hop right on up there then!” with the tiny bit of a chuckle that I could muster.

Then things got crazy.

The next few minutes were a complete whirlwind as I barely managed to get myself onto the bed between contractions (I think my husband and/or one of the nurses might have had to half lift me on there?), then I immediately said that I had to push. My nurse checked me, and told the other nurse to call Dr. C, and suddenly there were tons of nurses in my room, but no OB, and I remember thinking “Please don’t try to tell me I have to wait until the doctor is here!”

I noticed that my nurse was gowning up and there was a senior nurse who had come into the room who basically told me to just do what I needed to do, which was good because I had already been covertly pushing as everyone was hurrying and getting things ready.

A few minutes and a few more contractions later, Little Buddy emerged, delivered by the nurse, in a dramatic entrance to rival that of Sis (in which I did manage to wait for the doctor to come upstairs).



The doctor came in a few minutes later. Everything was fine. Baby was healthy, I was fine, we all had a good laugh about it. My two OBs had been willing to deliver the baby and neither of them made it in time.

The nurse who delivered him told me I did a good job, and I told her she did too. Then I asked her how many times before she had had to do the delivery. She said, “Technically, that was my first” (She had had one other situation when she could have delivered the baby, but she deferred to the more senior nurse that time).

And there you have it. My first ever delivery before my due date. My first delivery without an OB present. Not my first fast-ending delivery, but perhaps the most dramatic.

Sweet boy was 8 lbs, 13 oz (my smallest baby) and 21 inches long, born at 2:32 on Dec. 28th.


We are all soaking up the newborn days. The kids adore him, and we are happily (though sleepily) adjusting to life as a family of seven.


Mom Guilt: When the Baby Isn’t the Baby Anymore

I fully intended to write this post last week on Thursday, before my scheduled induction for Friday morning. Before the little Peanut arrived. However, little guy decided to be the first of my children ever to arrive before a due date, and Thursday found me in the midst of labor and new baby heaven, instead of here. That’s a story for another post, though, which I will write soon.

Last week, before Thursday, I found myself in a familiar, yet always slightly unexpected place. That place of, “I’m about to have a baby and my life is going to change drastically,” and more specifically,”My little baby is about to not be my baby anymore. I feel so [insert one] sad, nostalgic, guilty, afraid-he-will-never-forgive-me-and-be-scarred-forever-by-this.”


I’ve had this experience each time, in slightly varying ways, before giving birth to another baby. This feeling is always accompanied (and largely overshadowed) by intense joy and excitement for the upcoming birth of a new little person, of course, but these wistful/fearful feelings creep in a bit nonetheless.

This time, I found myself trying to spend a little bit of extra time with each of my kids. I tried to still do most of our holiday traditions:

Visiting Santa and having ice cream for lunch at the mall



Constructing and eating gingerbread houses


Baking and decorating Christmas cookies


Going to see the Nutcracker in the Castle and then having cupcakes and dancing with the Sugar Plum Fairy


I took each of the girls out for a one-on-one lunch with mom.




I tried to spend some extra time with Bubba too.


But in the last few days leading up to my delivery date (or what I thought was going to be my delivery date), I found myself feeling especially  nostalgic about the idea that my little man was about to not be my littlest baby anymore. I snuggled him extra. I read to him more than usual. I got all sappy about putting him to bed each night, rocking him longer and singing his song more slowly. I felt so worried that he might feel abandoned by me when I went to the hospital for a few days and then brought home a new little person who would take up a decent mount of my time.



The other day, I talked to Super Friend about this. I knew she would understand. Of course she did. And not only did she understand, but she gave me the most perfect reminder to help me not feel guilty or worried about Bubba (I think she said it came from her husband when she had similar feelings before her second baby was born).

She said, “This is the best gift you will ever give him.”

Of course I knew this. But that little reminder was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

And she was absolutely right.




He sure does love his little brother.

My girls are crazy about him too.




Plenty of people say things to me (and about me sometimes, I suppose) about how crazy they think I am for having so many kids. “Better you than me!” is something I’ve heard not infrequently.

I know I might not get to spend as much one-on-one time with each of my kids as I might if I only had one or two. But I also know that their relationships with each other are one of the best things I’ve ever given them. And by that I mean not just by physically birthing a new sibling, but also through encouraging and guiding them in their interactions with each other, helping them learn to value and care for each other, to compromise and problem solve and be loyal, so that they will have this group of people to always depend on, no matter what.


I’m so glad they all have each other.

Putting My Best Foot Forward – A Trip to Western Wisconsin

A couple of days ago I got home from a little road trip/field trip I took with the kids. I wanted to take them to Pepin, WI to visit the first home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the museum located in the nearest town to where she spent the first 4-5 years of her life. I was a huge fan of the Little House books and television series as a kid, and I have read (listened to) “Little House in the Big Woods” and half of “Little House on the Prairie” with my kids so far. This year we’re studying American history, so it seemed like a natural time to take this trip with them.

After checking out the town of Pepin online, I realized that there wasn’t much to do there besides the museum, and wasn’t really anyplace to stay there that would accommodate my crew (when I take these trips with them I always insist on hotels that have suites with separate bedrooms, so I don’t have to go to bed at 8:00 with my kids). So I decided to stay in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which is about an hour from Pepin, has a lovely hotel with two bedroom suites and a pool, and has a children’s museum downtown. Voila. Trip planned.


I’m pretty sure the hotel pool is always the favorite part of our trips


Three girls in their own bedroom = happy traveling mama

This is not the first time that I’ve taken a trip like this with my kids, though it was the first time since Bubba was born. You can check out our other trips here: Chicago, Louisville, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Every time I take a trip like this, I’m amazed by how much people comment on my family. Especially during the MSP and this trip (maybe because I was visibly pregnant for both), people have made so many comments to me about my family, my kids, my perceived bravery in taking trips with my kids, etc.


Eau Claire has a great children’s museum, and it turned out to be perfect  for a trip with Bubba, because he could get out of his stroller and have fun


One type of comment that comes up a lot, even when I’m just out and about (not traveling) with the kiddos is the family size comment. My girls are pretty close in age, so even when I only had the three of them I used to get lots of “You’ve got your hands full!” and similar statements from strangers. But when I was pregnant with Bubba, and especially now that I’m pregnant again, the comments go to the next level. “Wow! FIVE KIDS?! You’re brave/crazy/busy, etc.” “Are they all yours?!” “That’s a lot of kids!” “Don’t you know what causes that?!” “Better you than me!” And so on.


At some point, I realized that lots of people really do think I’m crazy or even irresponsible to have three, then four, now five kids. My family isn’t even that huge compared to some I know, but I still feel like some people view me and my children as some sort of weird freak show.


I decided a while back that perhaps I needed to make a conscious effort to try to be a positive example of “it’s-okay-to-have-several-kids-it-won’t-ruin-your-life-or-make-you-crazy-I-swear.” A large segment of today’s society seems to view people with large families negatively, and some people seem to even view kids as a big burden rather than as a blessing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had other women say to me, “You’re crazy. I have two (or one, or three, or whatever the number) and there is NO WAY I’d have any more,” or something along those lines. People also seem to be quite perplexed when they ask me if we’re “done” now (I got a lot of this after having Bubba, whom people perceived as our “coveted boy”) and I say, “Well, I don’t know. We’ll see what God has planned for us, I guess.” Many (most?) people can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that we might actually be willing to have more kids.



As a result of the reactions I have had from some people, I feel like I have to always put my best foot forward to show that a big family isn’t a bad thing. So I try to not look frumpy when I go out in public with my kids (I do still sometimes wear my yoga pants, though not as often). I used to go out without makeup and with messy hair all the time when I was in college or grad school. Now? I feel like that would just be somehow validating the viewpoint of some people that having more than a certain number of kids (usually one or two) ruins people, makes them stop taking care of themselves, makes then unable to parent as effectively, is harmful to the kids who don’t get as much attention, etc., etc. Furthermore, as a general rule, I try to always keep my cool with my kids and not lose my temper, but I feel even more pressure to be a “model mom” when I’m in public with all my kids. I worry that if I have a moment of weakness and snap at my kids or something, people will think it’s because I have too many kids, not because I’m a normal human who makes mistakes and is sometimes impatient.


Their favorite part of the museum was crawling around inside this digestive system model. Ew.

I should say that there have been many people who have made very wonderful, kind comments to me about my children and my family. I know of many people who have smaller families and would love to have more children but have not been able to. I don’t believe that all people with smaller families are judging me and mine (and I would like to be very clear that this post is not a judgment of people with smaller families). I know that not all people view large families in a negative way. But I’ve had enough experience of the judgmental and unkind people, both in person and through the experiences of people I know or things I have heard and read from such people, that I can’t help but feel like I have to try extra hard to show what a beautiful blessing a large family really is.


As I’m typing this, I can hear my three daughters downstairs playing with each other. They are the best of friends, and I know that they are so, so blessed to have each other.




I know this because I don’t have a sister (and I always wished I did), so I’ve never had that one friend who was with me, no matter what, throughout my whole life (though I do have my Super Friend, who is very much like a sister). And I know this because I’ve seen what wonderful relationships sisters can have (my Mom and Auntie are an example that come to mind right away, but I can think of many others). I think of my husband’s great relationships with his brothers, and I’m so happy that my boys will have each other too. I know how joyous it is to get together with a large family of people who have close relationships, and I pray that my children will always remain close to each other and support each other no matter what.


I know that my large(ish) family is a true blessing. I know that all children are blessings, whether they are in small families or huge ones or medium-sized ones. I know that I will continue to try my best to be an example of how great it is to have more than the culturally acceptable number of children (and I also know that I will sometimes fail at this miserably!).

And I’m sure I will continue to get comments from strangers about the size of my family. I just pray that those strangers will try to look past the simple number of children I have and see the joy they bring to each other and to me.


How I Stumbled into Receiving the Eucharist on the Tongue

When I went through RCIA in 2013-2014, we were taught how to receive the Eucharist and had to go through practicing it several times. I remember that during one class, someone mentioned that it is possible to receive the Sacrament on the tongue, but no one described how to do this or demonstrated it. It seemed to just be an obligatory mention of something that almost no one in our entire parish ever does.

So, I naturally began my days as a Catholic by receiving Communion in my hands. To be honest, receiving it on the tongue seemed weird. I was so awed by the simple fact of being able to receive Communion at all, I just went along with how everyone else did it and never thought twice about it.

Then one day, very early in my days as a Catholic, I received the Blessed Sacrament while holding Sis. She would have been two at the time, and I was holding her in the crook of my left arm so that I could reach around her, receive the host in my left hand, with my right hand underneath, as you’re supposed to, and then take the host with my right hand and place it in my mouth. I had done this successfully before. No big deal.

Except this time, after the priest (or extraordinary minister, I can’t remember which) placed the host in my hand, she quickly reached out and smacked her hand on top of mine, breaking the host and knocking it in two pieces onto the floor. I was horrified, and immediately knelt down, picked up the host, and consumed it off the floor. I felt sick that this had happened, and vowed to never again receive Communion while holding a child in my arms.

At that time, since Sis was two and easily mobile, it seemed like a reasonable thing to assert. I could just put her down before holding my hands out for communion. I could even hold her in place with my mommy knee vice (see here) if necessary.

What I didn’t count on at the time was that I would someday have another little one to hold while receiving communion, one whom I would not be able to just set down so I could receive the Body of Jesus.

About a year after the Eucharist-on-the-Floor incident, I read this blog post by Kendra at Catholic All Year. It contains her assertion that the best way to receive Communion while holding a baby is on the tongue, and her statement that she always receives it that way even when not holding a baby, and that the rest of her family does too.

I remember finding the post interesting, particularly the fact that even her children receive the Eucharist on the tongue, and always have. But I didn’t pay much more attention to it. The Communion-while-holding -a-baby issue still was not relevant for me, and I was not interested in receiving Communion that way just as a regular practice.

Fast forward to my first Mass after Bubba was born. He was a super easygoing baby, but he was never one of those newborns who would sleep in his carseat through Mass. As soon as the music started, he was wide awake and wanted out of his seat. So, the first time I received Communion after he was born, I was holding him, and I knew I had to receive on the tongue. I don’t think I really thought about it ahead of time, I just did it. I was nervous, and I kind of messed up (I opened my mouth and received the Eucharist without remembering to say “Amen”). But it wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be. In fact, after doing it a few times, I began to really like it. I realized that it felt more reverent to me to receive Jesus that way. My husband was intrigued when I told him this, but still a bit uncertain about trying it himself. So each time we would come to the part of the Mass when it was time to receive the Eucharist, if he had been holding Bubba he’d hand him over to me for Communion.

After many months of this, he finally decided to try receiving on the tongue, so he made sure to be holding the baby at the appropriate time and went for it (at the time it made it feel less odd to receive on the tongue while holding the baby, as if the baby-in-arms was a good excuse for the otherwise strange behavior).


Since I wasn’t holding him, I found myself going up to receive communion with my hands free for the first time in about nine months. I reverted to receiving in my hands.

I didn’t like it at. all.

I found that I did not have the same sense of reverence when receiving the Body of Jesus in my hands as I did when receiving on the tongue. Frankly, it didn’t feel right to go back to receiving the Eucharist in my hands.

From that point forward, I have received communion only on the tongue, whether I am holding Bubba or not.

When it was time for my oldest daughter to receive her First Holy Communion, we discussed with her that her Dad and I receive on the tongue and why, but we let her decide how she wanted to receive. The people in charge of First Communion at our parish did not even mention receiving the Eucharist on the tongue in any of the kids’ classes, the retreat, or the rehearsal. I was quite disappointed by this (and afterwards requested that they correct this omission, which they have said they will do for next year’s class), but I taught Miss how to receive on the tongue, using some unconsecrated hosts that we were able to get from the parish for practice at home. Miss was concerned that she would feel weird and be embarrassed about being different from the other children if she chose to receive on the tongue. She ended up deciding to do it anyway, though.

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It was an incredible moment that I will never forget (and I don’t think she will either).


I would like to point out that I do think it is possible to receive the Eucharist reverently in the hands. I have done it, and I have seen other people do it. I know people who do it. However, in my experience, it feels even more reverent and adoring to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue, and I think it is nearly impossible to receive it irreverently in this manner, as it forces one to recognize just Whom we are receiving (here’s some more info about receiving this way, with a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas that states that only consecrated hands should be allowed to touch the Sacrament). That’s why I do it.

I kind of stumbled unintentionally into the practice of receiving the Eucharist on my tongue. But now, it has become standard practice for my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For My Dad – A Photo Post

Today was my Dad’s birthday. When I called him to tell him happy birthday, he not-so-subtly commented on how I haven’t been blogging much anymore and he has missed seeing pictures of my kids. So here is a post full of summer photos, just for him (and anyone else who cares to see what we’ve been up to this summer).

Bubba loves the pool:


We’ve spent time at our friends’ lake cottage:




Bubba is cute:


I tried to teach the girls how to blow bubbles with bubble gum:




We went to the farm for a week and did lots of fun stuff:







My girls started taekwondo:


Bubba is still cute:


I realized when looking through my photos that I have not taken nearly as many photos lately as I used to. And I almost never get out my big camera anymore, so the photos I have are not as good. I will need to try to do better. Sorry Dad. Happy Birthday!

Three Big Things

I have not done a very good job lately keeping up with blogging. I used to write about and share pictures of all the big events in our lives, and plenty of the not-so-big happenings too. I haven’t managed to keep up with this very well in the past year (or two?).

Following this trend, I have failed to write about a few really big things in the past few months that I don’t want to miss. Three things. Big things that probably each deserve their own post. That’s not likely to happen, so I’m putting them in one post here. They aren’t any less important for having to share a title. See for yourself:

BIG THING #1 – Our eldest, sweet Miss, had her First Holy Communion.



It was really beautiful and special, and I was so happy to see how excited she was to receive Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist.

We had a wonderful day, with some family visiting and a great party afterwards with plenty of friends as well. She cried at the end of the day because it was over.

BIG THING #2 – Bubba turned one!


He turned one on the first, which made this his golden birthday, so the girls and I had fun getting him some gold decorations, and I ordered him a golden cake.




He was a bit unsure at first…




But that didn’t last long. This may have been the most major cake destruction of any of my kids thus far. I think he liked it.


On his birthday, he was starting out with very new walking skills, taking only 2-3 steps at a time. About a week later, he was walking much more confidently, and is now walking everywhere. He’ll be running soon, which means I’m in trouble, especially considering the next big thing.

BIG THING #3 – Or maybe I should say #5


Arriving in late December (or more likely early January). This is a really poor photo of a handheld ultrasound image, but you get the idea.

Remember when I was pregnant with Bubba and shortly after he was born when I was writing about how he was most likely my last baby? God had other plans for us!

This is why, even though I am 41, and we struggled for almost three years to get pregnant with Bubba, whenever someone asked me if we were “done” after Bubba was born, I always said something like, “I doubt we’ll have more because of my age, but we’ll accept however many God decides to give us!”

We are surprised and thrilled. And I must admit I’m slightly terrified to have two littles under two again. But terrified in a good way. In the best possible way.

God is so good, and we are so very blessed.

Yes, I AM Blessed (and That is a Correct Use of the Word)

A few weeks ago, someone I know posted a link to an article titled “I Used to Say ‘I’m Blessed,’ Until I Asked These Two Questions.”

Although this wasn’t the first time I’d read something with this idea that saying, “I’m Blessed” is somehow a bad thing, it was the first time I had read something that seemed to have the intent of shaming and ridiculing people who utter this, or similar phrases.

You can read the article here.

When I first read it, I was angry. I was shocked and appalled that anyone would feel the need to write something so hateful, to put down those who choose to express their joy by sharing their blessings. I was also frustrated, because I could see that the author of the article, and most of the people commenting on and sharing it, truly do not understand what it means when someone says they are “blessed.” I immediately began formulating a scathing response in my mind, debunking, one by one, the incorrect statements and assumptions made by the author of this article.

But then I stopped and remembered that writing responses in anger is not generally a good idea. So I waited for a while, and thought about the article, and decided that, while my response needn’t be angry, it still needed to be.

It needed to be, because there are so many misconceptions about Christian people. About what we believe or don’t believe. About how we act or should act and why. The article linked to above is a good example of how Christian belief and action can be twisted through misunderstanding. How something with intentions and origins that are true and beautiful and good can be misrepresented and turned into something worthy of scorn or ridicule or disgust.

The author of the article I linked to says that people who say they are blessed are basically saying they are lucky, but adding an emphasis on the idea that God had something to do with their situation. And so, when someone says he is blessed, he is saying God has helped him more than others, which is arrogant and disgusting. This argument is based on the idea that when someone says he is blessed, he is making a comparison to others and saying he is better, and that if there were no others to compare with, saying one is blessed would be pointless. He suggests just dropping the God reference and just using the word “lucky” in order to be more accurate, humble, and inclusive.

However, there are several significant errors in this line of thinking. Namely, when a Christian person says she is blessed, it has absolutely nothing to do with saying she is lucky, and she is making no assumptions about or comparisons with another person at all. Even if she were the only person on earth, it would still be completely appropriate for her to proclaim, “I’m blessed.”


^^A couple of my many blessings^^

Saying that one is blessed is not a way of rubbing one’s specialness in others’ faces. It is not arrogant or egotistical (both of these are words used by the author to describe the act of saying, “I’m blessed.”). It is a way of sharing one’s joy and awe and wonder at the awesomeness of God and the many ways God can work in one’s life. It is giving credit where credit is due. It is the ultimate humility in saying, “I am not worthy of this. I do not deserve this. I am not so special. And yet… look at the many ways God has showered me with blessings.” Note that this does not imply that in saying that God has showered me with blessings, He must like me better than you. It is not a comparison. It is an acknowledgement of the goodness of God. Period. It is, in part, an expression of intense gratitude.

However, this takes me to the author’s second main point, which seems to be that when people say they’re blessed, what they really mean is that they’re grateful. Further, the author suggests that “grateful” is the better word because, “Saying you’re blessed doesn’t clearly describe the context of what you’re feeling.”

Think of this. If I say, “I’m blessed,” and someone says to me, “No, you’re not. What you really mean to say is you’re grateful. That’s a better description of what you’re feeling,” who is being arrogant? Am I not a better judge of what I am feeling than the author of this article or any other person? The author writes, “You’re not stupid, you chose the word ‘blessed’ rather than ‘grateful’ for a reason. Why?” In this statement he is absolutely correct, though he doesn’t seem to actually be interested in the “why” of the matter.

True, I am not stupid. Nor are the other people who choose to use the word “blessed” rather than “grateful.” The reason for this is that the word “blessed” actually does more clearly describe the context of what I’m feeling. To say I’m grateful for something is fine. I tell my husband I’m grateful that he did the dishes. I tell my children I’m grateful for the dandelions they bring me. And yes, I tell God on a regular basis that I am grateful for all that He has given me. But that does not encompass the fullness of the term “blessed.” To say one is blessed includes gratitude, but also joy, awe, wonder, humility, and more, all in reference to the greatness of God.


^^More of my beautiful blessings^^

At another point in the article, the author expresses doubt about the sincerity, or intelligence, of some who say they are blessed because he happens to know that these people have experienced recent inconveniences and/or hardships. He seems to be saying that it is not possible for people to experience difficulty and feel blessed at the same time. He fails to understand that, because of knowledge of the goodness and mercy of God, Christians can often find blessings even in suffering. Many are even able to see suffering itself as a blessing. This is part of the beauty of the teachings of the Catholic Faith, though for the sake of not making this post into a novel, I won’t get into this particular issue more here.

I do want to give an example though. I know an amazing woman who lost her oldest daughter this past year after a painful struggle with cancer. In spite of, or maybe even because of, this tragic loss, my friend’s faith is still rock solid and is a beautiful example of God’s grace in action. Every time I speak to her, either in person or in an email, or even just to see a Facebook status update from her, she is radiant and humble with her love of and trust in God. She expresses gratitude and describes the many blessings she is able to see in the aftermath of her daughter’s death. She almost always expresses herself in part by using the word “blessed.”

Can you imagine someone telling her that she can’t really mean that because she has experienced tragedy? That her statements of being blessed are insincere because she has suffered?

I cannot.

The thing is, when one has faith in God, one can find true, deep, abiding joy, in good times and in bad times. This is different from feeling good in the world. It is not dependent on moment-to-moment surface happiness. This joy is what it means to be “blessed.”



I want to clarify that, in writing this post, my goal is not to ridicule the author of the other I linked to. It is simply to point out the errors that occur when one assumes that they know another’s heart on matters that they just do not understand.

It is very common in our world these days for people to attribute all sorts of ugly intentions to Christians, to mock and deride beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that they do not take the time or the care to learn about. Calling it “arrogant” and “egotistical” and “disgusting” for someone to simply say, “I’m blessed,” is a pretty good example of this.

My hope is that people will just ask if they do not understand. If you don’t get why someone says, “I’m blessed,” ask her. Or don’t, that’s fine too. But if you choose not to seek to understand, at least please do not shame and disregard her as ignorant just because you cannot grasp her meaning or intent.

I hope that this will go beyond this one example and extend to other areas of misunderstanding as well. More specifically, I offer a gentle challenge those who mock and dismiss Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular (including many who attend Catholic parishes), to actually learn about what you are rejecting **


I have been so truly blessed (yes, blessed) to have been led to the Catholic Faith. I know that God led me and my family here. At times we experienced suffering on our way to conversion/reversion, but we now see these difficulties as the beautiful blessings they were, as they brought us to the true Faith. I want to share this blessing with anyone I can. I pray that you are open to experiencing God’s blessings in your life too.


**I have stated this in previous posts, but I will reiterate it here: if you have a question about the Catholic Faith, if there is something you disagree with or even hate about the Catholic Church, feel free to ask me about it. If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you.

A Lesson on Charity from my Kids

For quite some time now, I have been thinking about taking my kids to visit some elderly folks in a nursing home. I thought this would be a wonderful way to practice the works of mercy together and to nourish a spirit of charity and service.

However, each time I have considered doing this, I have fairly quickly talked myself out of it, because of thoughts about how my girls will think the home smells funny, or they won’t feel comfortable talking to the residents, or they’ll mumble and no one will be able to hear them. This has always quickly led to imaginings of myself, in such a situation, being forced to try to make small talk while shushing complaining kids, and the idea would just shrivel and die, right there. My little introverted self does not like small talk.

So, I have resisted doing this good deed. Repeatedly.

About two weeks ago, I got an email from coordinator of pastor ministry at our parish, asking for volunteers to take flowers and Easter gifts to elderly and home bound individuals in a local nursing home. I decided that this was my chance to just get over myself and do something with my kids to serve others, and I quickly replied to the email, before I could talk myself out of it.

I’m so, so glad I did.

When I told them that we were going to visit a nursing home to take gifts to some of the residents, they immediately began to cheer happily. I thought they might be nervous and/or reluctant. Instead they were excited and eager.


Before we went to the nursing home, I talked to the girls about what to expect and coached them on how to behave. I warned them that the home might smell funny and told them not to complain, or pinch their noses, or otherwise draw attention to it. I reminded them to speak clearly and not too fast (one of my girls is a super speed talker!), and that some of the people might not hear very well so they might have to speak a bit loudly. They said, “Like we do with Grandpa?” Yes. They know the drill. We talked about things they might bring up in conversation. I was pretty sure that they would be tongue-tied, and all the conversation would be left to me.

When we go to the home, they were poised, polite, and articulate, and so kind and loving towards the people we met.

I was humbled by their unselfconsciousness and their easy manner with the residents we spoke to. They weren’t uncomfortable at all. They weren’t tongue-tied, or mumbling, or complaining in the slightest.

In fact, they wanted to keep meeting and giving to more people. On the first day we visited, we were only able to deliver the gifts we had brought to two of the four residents we were assigned. The other two did not answer our knocking. I was fully prepared to take the two gifts we had left back to the coordinator of the project, tell her we weren’t able to make contact, and be done with it.

The girls wanted to go back the next day and try again.

So we did. And we got a few extra names in case we still weren’t able to deliver the gifts to those on our list. We managed to deliver both of our remaining gifts and when the coordinator asked us if we wanted to make one more visit, my girls excitedly exclaimed that they did.

Five encounters. Six elderly people (we delivered one gift to a married couple). The smiles on the faces of the residents and the care that my girls showed toward them just warmed my heart.

The girls felt a special affinity for one elderly lady we met, and asked if we could go back and visit her again. I told them that we didn’t want to just keep going to someone’s home without being invited, but that we could write a letter to the lady, and maybe visit her again if she invites us. They have been talking about her daily since we met her last week, and they are so excited about the idea of potentially going back to see her again.


^^ This was their excitement after we finished delivering the gifts ^^

I learned a lot about my kids (and myself) during this experience. A few of the high points:

Small talk isn’t quite as horrible as I make it out to be in my mind in anticipation of it. I’m not good at it, but I can manage, and when it’s in service to someone else who is lonely, I need to just get over myself.

Also, my kids are so much more capable, caring, and giving than I sometimes give them credit for. I know that they are these things, but sometimes I forget how mature they’re getting. And maybe I underestimate them. I certainly did in this situation.

The biggest take away from this experience was for me to remember not to put my own insecurities onto my kids. I’m self-conscious in situations where I need to make small talk with strangers. They are not. I’m nervous about cold calling at someone’s door, even if it is to deliver a gift to him or her. They are not.

They are confident. They are well-spoken. They are kind. They seem to have become even more of all of these qualities as a result of this experience.

I need to just get out of their way.


Sometimes, I am awful. There are days when I yell at my kids. Days when I snap at them for small mistakes. Days when I even make them cry.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how horrifying I find this. How much I hate this about myself. How hard it is to even type these words.

I was never an angry person before having kids. I almost never yelled. Which makes it all the more puzzling and frustrating to me that I do it now.

I understand some of the triggers for this anger and ugly behavior. Sleep deprivation. Hunger. Being hurried. I have made some progress and improvement by trying to manage these triggers. Getting more sleep (sometimes, though this is really, really hard for me), eating well, making sure that we have plenty of time to get ready to go somewhere, etc.

But still, I fail.


So. At the beginning of this year, I decided to really focus on this as an area of improvement for myself. I wanted to do the “word of the year” thing, with this as my focus. I was trying my best to come up with a word that I could try to think about each day, especially in tense times, that would remind me to chill out, slow down, and not be a jerk. I thought of a few words that seemed promising, but noting that really seemed to be just right.

One morning during prayer time in early January I was wondering about why in the world I get so angry with my sweet kiddos, when I was never a person to get super fired up about stuff before having kids. I was praying that God would help me to have some insight on this. Then, literally the next day, I got an email that gave me what I asked for.

Haley Stewart is one of my favorite Catholic bloggers. She writes Carrots for Michaelmas and she is just a lovely person. I signed up for her blog newsletter some time ago (you can sign up for it here, or on the right sidebar of her blog, and I highly recommend that you do). In January, I received her newsletter email with the title “What My Priest Taught Me at Confession This Week.” I got the chills as I read Haley’s words about discussing the very same question with her priest that I had just discussed with God the previous morning in prayer. Why do I lose it with my kids??

Her priest gave her the most amazing answer (it’s moments like these that you just know these men are filled with the Holy Spirit). He told her that she gets angry because she is afraid, and that her fear comes from a lack of control (which can be terrifying for us moms). The idea of anger being the external manifestation of fear immediately rang a bell in the part of my brain that stores all the info I used to use when I was working as a professional psychologist (it’s a bit rusty these days).

“Of course!” I thought, mentally smacking my forehead. I realized in a rush that I definitely try way too hard to control all the things. That I stress out about my kids behavior because of fears of what might happen if I don’t make sure they learn everything perfectly now.

My subconscious thoughts most likely go something like this, “If my kids don’t have good manners now, they will turn out to be slovenly, ill-mannered adults!!” or “If my kids are disrespectful or break a rule today, they might end up being rebellious or even criminal someday!!” or “If they forget or don’t do a good job on chores as kids, they might grow up to be lazy and unable to take care of themselves!!!”

I don’t necessarily think these things consciously, and when I type them out here, of course they sound ridiculous, but at the same time, they resonate with fears that I hold deep down. They strike a chord in my mama heart where I just want everything to go right now, so they will be okay later.

Anyway, that was my first big realization after reading what Haley’s priest told her. Then I read on to what he told her to DO about this.

Pray for surrender.

He told her to stop struggling in all the situations where she cannot control everything and just surrender that control to God.

I’m pretty sure my jaw must have hit the floor at this point. Because all that control-freakishness up there? That is a lack of faith. And it was like God was speaking directly to me, giving me an answer to a question I had just asked Him, through Haley’s priest, through Haley, straight to my inbox. Whoa.

I had my word for the year. Surrender.


Then, I began doing what the priest told Haley to do, asking God to help me surrender control. At first I was just praying that I would let go of the need to be so in control of all the things in my life, the stuff my kids do, the possible outcomes twenty years down the road of all the little things my kids do today, etcetera, etcetera.

But that wasn’t all. God gave me another insight into just how far my surrender needs to go. I had to surrender control of my own anger too.

I realized that I have tried many, many times to make myself stop being angry and stop losing my temper with my kids. I’ve prayed for God to help me do things differently. This time, through the act of sitting silently in prayer and asking God what I should do about this (instead of pleading with Him to do what I thought I needed to do), He let me know that I needed to give up my anger completely to Him. He helped me to see that controlling my anger, or changing any sinful behavior, is not fully within my power to do by myself. I need Him.

So, instead of praying, “God, help me to stop getting mad,” I now pray something more like, “God, please take this anger from my heart, and fill it with Your love and mercy. I surrender all of my anger to You, for without Your grace, I can do nothing.” It may seem like a subtle change, but it was huge for me, and the benefits of this have been many.

All of this occurred before Lent began, and I decided that my main resolution for Lent this year would be to give up all yelling at my kids. I was amazed at how the change in my prayer and thinking was helping me with this. I have certainly not been perfect (just a few days ago, I snapped at Sis about something), but I feel much more peaceful in general and have experienced great improvement.


Amazingly, my insights with this issue did not stop there.

About two weeks ago, I listened to a podcast of a conversation between Elizabeth Foss and Sarah Mackenzie that is part of the Repent and Restore program for Lent that Elizabeth offers. It was the first podcast from the program that I listened to, and I chose it because I really like Sarah Mackenzie. The podcast turned out to be the perfect complement to what I had already been learning and practicing through the idea of surrender.

First of all, in the podcast, Sarah and Elizabeth talked about the idea of surrendering to God’s will (it’s probably not a coincidence that I chose this particular podcast to listen to!). As part of this conversation, Sarah revealed that she needed to learn about letting go of her carefully laid plans and schedules for everything and realizing that, if these perfect plans get interrupted by something during her day, that she needs to understand that the interruption is where God wants her to be. And as such, she needs to remember to just be in the moment, surrender to what He is asking of her right then, and make the best of it, instead of getting all upset that things didn’t go the way she planned them to.

I absolutely love (and very much need) this perspective. The day after I listened to the podcast, I took all the kids to Mass by myself. As I struggled to keep Bubba in the pew as he squiggled in my arms or tried to crawl under the pew and up the steps to the altar (we were sitting in the front row), I was feeling distracted and frazzled and struggling to feel connected to the beauty of the Mass. Then out of the blue, the words from the podcast came back to me, and I realized that I could be so perfectly connected to God if I just realized that the beauty of that moment, of having my four beautiful kids in Mass to worship Him, of managing my 10-month-old who has been such a precious gift in my life, THAT was what I was supposed to be doing. That was what God wanted me to embrace, to accept, and to offer up to Him. So I did, and I had one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced in a Mass.

All because I let myself be where He wanted me instead of lamenting the fact that I was not having a calm, reverent, peaceful worship experience (which I’m not likely to have very often for the next few years!).


All of this, everything I have written about today, has come about, I believe, as the fruits of spending time a bit differently in prayer most mornings. I have been trying to spend at least a little bit of time just being silent and trying to listen to what God wants for and from me. Though I don’t always get an answer immediately, I do always get an answer. And the benefits of asking and listening have been incredible.

I am excited for Holy Week. This is the most intense and beautiful week of the year. Every year I learn and grow so much during this final week of Lent. I’m leaning into it with eager anticipation tonight and prayers for even greater union with my God. And I’m looking forward to continuing these practices and reaping the benefits long after the Easter celebrations.