A Spiritual Funk

We are about 5 months into RCIA this year, with a little over two months until the big day (Easter Vigil).

Monday night at our weekly meeting, this question was asked by the instructor: “Where are you in your faith journey compared to where you started this process?”

She went around and many of the candidates answered the question. Then she turned to me and one other woman, as the new sponsors who just went through the process last year, and posed the question, “Where are you in your journey now compared to where you were at this time last year?”

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^^ Me. Last year. ^^

Though I didn’t want to admit it out loud, my response was basically to say that I’m floundering a little bit this year. Right now, I’m not living my faith as zealously as I would like to. I told the group something like this:

“Last year at this time, I was on fire. I was devouring all the Catholic reading I could get my hands on, I was spending lots of time in prayer and reading my Bible. I was learning so much and loving every minute of it. This year, though my faith hasn’t declined, my fire seems to have.”

I hate to admit this. I hate that this is so. I’m striving to get back to the place where I was. Or maybe even to a new place that’s even better. But I don’t quite know how.

One of the things I have struggled with in particular is prayer (this is not a new struggle for me). I feel like my prayers are boring and repetitive. Though I don’t say the exact same things every day, and I do add in new things or people to pray for as they come up, I am almost always praying for many of the same intentions, day after day. I’m asking for forgiveness of the same sins, day after day. I pray for my husband, and my children, and my godson, and my family, and my friends, and people I know who are pregnant, and people I know who are trying to get pregnant, and people I know who are sick, and the pope, and so on and so on. There are more things, and they’re all things that are important to me, but I feel like I just keep saying the same things over and over. My prayers are heartfelt, truly, but they also kind of bore me.

Ugh. What a horrible thing to write! But it’s true, and as a result my prayer time has diminished. This makes me feel so sad and a little lost.

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Monday in our RCIA meeting, our young Associate Priest happened to be sitting in on our class. After my admission, someone asked him of how he deals with the ebb and flow of faith and zeal and energy for his vocation. For me, his response boiled down to one statement, “We are not the same today as we were yesterday. Things are not the same today as they were yesterday.”

I thought about those words all the way home and how they relate to my troubles with prayer. I realized that, no matter how much my prayers seem to be repetitive, to be the same day after day, they aren’t. They can’t be.

When I said my prayers this morning, I was not quite the same as I was yesterday, or the day before. I was a little bit different. My prayers were a little bit different. And the situations and people that I prayed for were a little bit different.

Although I pray often for the same intentions day after day, it is not the same prayer every time. It is a new prayer. It is a new conversation with Jesus. How can that ever be boring?

I am actively working to pull myself out of my little spiritual funk. To reignite my zeal. To spend more time in prayer and study again. Everything is definitely better when I pray more.

I think maybe it’s normal to have periods of being relatively less “on fire.” But I want to be on fire again. I do not want to be lazy about my faith and my relationship with Jesus.

I need to remind myself of this:

Prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed toward Heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

Amen

Sheenazing!

Last year around this time I learned of the Sheenazing Awards. Each year, the lovely Bonnie of A Knotted Life (yep, the same Bonnie who helped me revamp my blog), organizes this fun and fabulous award thing for other Catholic bloggers. She does this in honor of Venerable Fulton Sheen (if you haven’t read her story, you must). When I checked out the Sheenazing Awards last year I found a list of wonderful Catholic blogs, many of which have since become some of my favorites (like Catholic All Year and Carrots for Michaelmas). There are tons of great blogs to check out again this year. And guess what? Motherhood and Miscellany was nominated in two categories! 

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If you haven’t voted, you really should go do so. Here are the categories and my thoughts on some of my favorites (though I’m not telling whom I’m voting for).

Funniest Blog

This Ain’t the Lyceum and Mama Knows, Honeychild are two blogs that make me laugh out loud on a regular basis.

Best Looking Blog

I was nominated for this one. And while I love the new look of my blog, I have been checking out some of the other nominees for this category and they are just beautiful: To the Heights, In the Heart of My Home, House for Five, and all the rest. I’d like to say, “It is such an honor just to be nominated…”

Most Inspiring Blog

Passionate Perseverance, Molly Makes Do, Carrots for Michaelmas… There are many unknown-to-me blogs on this list, so I’m excited to check out some new ones. I can always use more inspiration.

Best Lifestyle Blog

I’m going to go back on what I typed above and just to tell you, I’m voting for Catholic All Year for this one. I have gotten so many ideas from Kendra for everything from Liturgical celebrations to recipes to homeschooling. I steal her ideas all the time.

Best Under-Appreciated Blog

I’m nominated in this category too!

Smartest Blog

This one is going to be tough with Mama Needs Coffee, Carrots for Michaelmas, and Amongst Lovely Things in the running… Again, I’m going to need to check out the other blogs on this list that I’m less familiar with too.

Coolest Blogger

I can’t even. . . I don’t know. There are so many fun nominees in this group, Kate, Dwija, Hallie

Miss Congeniality

This is another fabulous list, but I have to say, from personal experience, Nell from Whole Parenting Family. Hands down.

 

I am not familiar with most of the remaining categories. I don’t really listen to podcasts or watch vlogs. I don’t know any of the Non-Catholic blogging nominees (yes, I do read non-Catholic blogs, just not any of those nominated!). I do like Daniel Bearman: Acts of Idiot Praise in the Best Blog by a Man category.

** Edited to add that I somehow missed Blessed is She in the Best Blog with Multiple Contributors category. Love me some Blessed is She.

Anyway, the list is impressive and I’m looking forward to finding some new blogs to read. Thanks to Bonnie for hosting such a fun event! And thanks to everyone who nominated me. You’re the best.

A Flexible Meal Plan – Week Eats

I’m linking up with Nell again with my meal plan for the week.

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My meal plans always start on Wednesday, so let’s backtrack a bit.

Wednesday

My husband had requested a Spanish dish with seafood in it.

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I made scallops in garlic cream sauce with tomato jam from this cookbook. This recipe might be similar. I caramelized some fennel bulb for a side dish.

Thursday

The older two girls have gymnastics until 5:15 on Thursdays now, so I have to go with a slow cooker recipe most of the time. This week I tried one out of one of the cookbooks I got for Christmas (many of the recipes are also online):

Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker

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It was pretty good, though the breast was dry. I got a bag of organic microwavable green beans to make with it. My girls love them.

Friday

We are beginning a new effort in our house of going meat-free on Fridays throughout the year, not just during Lent. Also, our FIAR book this week was Papa Piccolo, set in Venice, so I found a recipe for Venetian Fish Soup.

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So, so yummy. Especially with a little pat of butter stirred into the bowl.

As an aside, for lunch on Friday the girls had meatless spaghetti in keeping with the theme of the book,

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and, except for Sis, who is going through a very picky phase right now, we all tried sardines. The girls said they liked them!

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I had recipes planned out for Saturday and Sunday, but I forgot that my husband is working this weekend, which means Vigil Mass on Saturday, which means we go out for family dinner after. And then we got invited to watch the Packer game tomorrow and have dinner with friends. So I changed around things around mid-plan (am I the only one who frequently does this??) and what I had planned for Sunday will be on Monday.

Monday

Fish tacos. This was the dish Lass requested. We’re having a very seafood-heavy week! I bought frozen fish things to throw in the oven, flour tortillas, and some avocados. I have some cabbage leftover from my Beef and Beet Borscht, and I’ll make some yummy sauce with mayo and chile powder and maybe a little lime juice. Done.

Tuesday

Nachos. One of my girls’ favorites, and I’m making dinner for Super Friend and her family too. This is an easy meal to make for your own family and another family at the same time.

Nachos (makes enough for two families of 2 adults and 3-4 smallish kids)

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 lb ground fresh chorizo
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Guacamole (this is my recipe, and the amount is probably nearly enough to split for two families, maybe add one more avocado and adjust the recipe accordingly to have plenty)
  • 2 bags of corn chips
  • 2 bags of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 containers of sour cream
  • 2 small cans of sliced black olives
  • 2 pints of grape tomatoes, halved
  • several scallions, chopped
  • 2 jars of salsa and any other nacho toppings you like

I brown the ground beef with a pound of my husband’s homemade chorizo, then take the meat out, drain off most of the fat, leaving in just a bit for sautéing the onions, which is the next step. While the meat is browning and the onions are cooking, mix up the guacamole. After the onions have softened, put the meat back into the skillet and add the beans. Keep warm while you finish up the guacamole, slice the scallions, and get the rest of the ingredients ready.

If you’re making this to take half to someone else, put half of the meat/bean mixture into a travel container. Pack a bag with half of the rest of the ingredients – 1 bag of chips, 1 bag of cheese, 1 container of sour cream, 1 container each of black olives, tomatoes, and salsa. Chop some scallions and put half in a baggie for your friends. Put half of the guacamole in a bowl to travel. Take it to your friend’s house and you’ll both have dinner ready in a few minutes from that point:

Spread chips on a baking sheet, cover with the meat/bean mixture, and top with cheese. Bake at about 350 until the cheese melts (maybe 5 minutes or so). Top with any or all of the other ingredients. Done.

Note: If I’m making this just for my family, I use just one pound of ground beef or venison and season it as I do for taco night, then mix it with one can of beans, and obviously halve everything else.

What are you eating this week? Be sure to check out the link up at Whole Parenting Family for more meal plan ideas and recipes.

 

Thoughts on Community From an Introvert

I never used to put much thought into it, but I think always used to consider myself an extrovert. I like to be around people. I like to go to parties, and when I was younger I loved the bar scene. Each time I have moved to a new city, I’ve sought new friends, because I don’t like not having friends to hang out with.

As I’ve gotten older though, I have realized that I’m probably more of an introvert in many ways. I cannot do small talk. Truly. It’s painful. I need to sometimes have time by myself. I much prefer to have one good friend to having a large circle of friends.

I’ve always been this way. I’ve never been the “popular girl,” but more like the best friend of the popular girl. As I look back over my life, this has been true at pretty much every stage. In high school and college, I fondly nicknamed one of my best friends “The Social Butterfly.” She was friends with everyone, and if I remember correctly, she was voted “Friendliest” in our graduating class. My other best friend was the homecoming queen and voted “Most Popular” (I’m pretty sure… it was over 20 year ago!). It wasn’t that I wasn’t friendly toward people, but I didn’t have it in me to cultivate friendships with lots of people. I was voted the girl with “Most School Spirit.” I was okay with that. I’m pretty sure it still holds true today, and I’m still okay with it.

IMG_4241^^ Left to right, Homecoming Queen, Social Butterfly, and me ^^

When I moved here and had no friends and no job and was about to have my first baby, I search and searched for a group I could call my own. I joined various mom groups. I went to play dates. I joined the Newcomers Club in my town. I met some nice people and made a few casual friends. But in most play date groups I felt very uncomfortable. I tried MOPS. Awkward. Other than in book clubs (because I can talk about books!!), I never felt comfortable in large groups of people I didn’t know.

It took three years after moving here for me to meet Super Friend, and once I did, I stopped trying to cultivate friendships with other people. I mostly stopped scheduling play dates or coffee dates with other moms. I was perfectly happy to spend my social time primarily with Super Friend (if you knew her, you’d understand). That’s not to say I didn’t have any other friends, I just stopped putting much effort into developing those friendships with others. I’m not really sure why. Because I was lazy? Because I was comfortable (Super Friend!)? Because it doesn’t come easy to me? All of the above, I’m sure.

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^^ Me and my beloved Super Friend ^^

One thing I didn’t realize for the first few years of my friendship with Super Friend was that she had this sort of divided friend-life. There was me, the atheist friend, and then she had this whole other group of friends that she knew through church and her (now our) kids’ school, whom I barely knew. She is so much better at developing and nurturing relationships than me (yes, I’m still the “popular girl’s friend”!), and she had this whole community that I only vaguely knew anything about.

When I began my conversion, Super Friend invited me to attend a Catholic mom’s Bible study (you can read about my first time attending here, whoa). And of course, I started attending Mass weekly and going to RCIA eventually. Over time, my perspective on friends began to change. This change has really begun to crystalize in my mind over the past few months. I’ve realized that, in spite of my natural tendency to hunker down and be happy in my little world with my husband, children, family, and one fabulous friend (and her fabulous family), that is really not enough. I mean, it’s enough for me, but it’s not enough. Wait, what?

I need a community.

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I go to Bible study every other week with nine other moms and we talk about our study and we learn about the Bible. But we also talk about our kids, who all go to, or will go to, school together. We talk about our fears for raising Catholic kids in this world, and how can we protect them from all the stuff they need to be protected from, and teach them all the stuff they need to be taught, so that they will grow up to love Jesus and our Faith. And they will know why.

I realized that these women, these other moms, are the community with whom I will raise my girls. When my kids get bigger and they go to events, even if I’m not there, there’s a good chance one of these moms will be. And they will tell me if  something noteworthy happens or if my kids do something I need to know about. And my girls will know that these moms will tell me what they’re up to. They will know that there is a whole community that cares about what they do and what happens to them, beyond just their parents. And I’ll have spies everywhere…

Just kidding. Sort of.

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Even beyond the Bible study group, I have found other sources of community since beginning my conversion.

RCIA was such a wonderful experience the first time, I’ve returned for another year as a sponsor. Through RCIA I gained the lovely Godmother, who is such a source of support and wealth of knowledge, along with my other friends.

And our parish is a beautiful community too. My natural tendency is to go to Mass, shake hands with and smile at some people during the Sign of the Peace, say “Hi” to the Super Family and other friends who might be there after the service, and then go home. I don’t tend to reach out to others. I don’t speak to strangers. Remember, I don’t do small talk. But the Bible says:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” – Hebrews 10: 24-25

This past Sunday at Mass, not one, not two, but three strangers or near strangers came up and spoke to me. It was uncomfortable and wonderful at the same time. Two were women sitting near us who complimented me on my children and my mothering, and one was a woman I met in May at a Mother’s Day brunch, who came up and re-introduced herself and then proceeded to introduce her husband and children and start talking to my husband and children. I would never do that. But how great that she did.

Bible study, RCIA, Mass… A whole amazing community that I need to try to be more open to. I need to nurture my friendships more beyond my dear Super Friend. I need to reach out to strangers more. I should be the one complimenting a mom with little kids or reconnecting with someone I met a while ago at a parish function. I shouldn’t be averting my eyes and hoping that no one sees me, because I don’t know what to say.

It’s nice when life is happy and comfortable, but growth happens when I push myself beyond comfortable. I really love the little community that I’ve become a part of. I’m excited to watch it, and help it, grow.

A New Look. Finally.

I have lots of new post ideas swimming around in my brain right now. I was working on one of them last night while drinking a glass of wine. I’m a big lightweight (and the glass was quite full to start), so I decided I was a bit tipsy and needed to take a break from writing.

While taking said break, I happened to see that my blog’s appearance has changed yet again. You might have noticed that it has gone through several changes in the past few months. I think it’s finally finished. I’m so happy with the final product, I want to give credit where credit is due. You know I sure as heck didn’t do all that by myself!

A little back story:

I switched to WordPress in the summer of 2012. I like a lot of things about WordPress, but it is not user-friendly in the design area. I struggled mightily to make my blog look the way I wanted it to. Finally I mostly gave up, but I was never quite happy with it.

A few months ago, I read on fellow-blogger Bonnie’s site that she had begun offering blog consulting services. I decided to hire her to take a look at my blog and give me some suggestions. Boy, did she give me some suggestions!! She was so helpful in many ways (very worth the money and highly recommended), but one thing she said right up front, that I already knew but had been dragging my feet on doing anything about, was that my blog looked boring and was not engaging (she was very honest, which is why I hired her!). I started making some of the changes she suggested, including trying to improve the appearance of the blog. I made a little bit of progress, but darn WordPress. I just couldn’t figure it out well enough to make the blog look how I really wanted it.

Then, I decided to ask dear Nell if she could give me any tips on how she got her blog looking so gorgeous (I could tell by looking that hers seemed to also be a WordPress site) and/or if she could point me in the direction of a trusted web designer who could help me. She gave me lots of tips and then gave me the name of her guy, Joseph.

Joseph did the rest. Isn’t it so much better than it used to be?

I’m still working on making several other changes. I redid my About Me page and have some other work to do on the Conversion tab (it needs to be better organized). But I’m so happy overall with the new look. Big thanks to Bonnie, Nell, and Joseph, for all the help, and to you for being patient with the constant changes recently!

Maybe tonight I’ll finish the post that I abandoned due to the wine :)

New Year, New Goals (7QT)

Last year I made some goals. I wrote about them in this post. I didn’t do a great job of keeping them.

I was doing pretty well for a while and then got derailed in the summer, mostly on my fitness goals. This year, I will do better.

New year, new goals.

1. Last year I had a goal to start using my camera in manual mode, and I did. I’m getting better and learning a lot just by using this setting. This year my goal is to take better photos, still using manual mode most of the time, but to spend less time behind the camera and more time in the moment. I think that means I need to really work on refining my skills and go beyond the trial and error phase that I was in last year. Trial and error means taking lots and lots of photos to figure out what works, but then I miss out on some of the fun of whatever I’m taking photos of. I need to have a better balance. Now that I’ve been shooting in manual a bit and learning how things work, I think I need to try to get some instruction. I don’t know from where/whom yet, possibly a person, maybe a book, perhaps a website. Something. I will learn.DSC_0145

 

2. I will get myself back in shape. I have found a great tool to help me with this, My Fitness Pal. The simple act of logging all the things I eat and the exercise I do makes me less likely to eat stuff I’d rather not log, and more likely to exercise so I can log it. Win!

3. I will meal plan!!! I must meal plan. I have so many cookbooks I’ve underutilized for the past year or two. Gorgeous cookbooks with amazing recipes. I failed on my cooking goals for last year because I didn’t plan what I wanted to cook before going to the grocery store. Meal planning will help me to cook new and fun recipes, to keep our food choices healthy, and to keep myself from hating to prepare dinner.

My husband came up with the fun idea for me to take requests from him and the girls each week before I make my plan. This keeps me from having to choose all the recipes myself and prompts me to cook new and different things. At least at least this is the case with my husband’s requests. He requested “something Spanish” last week and “something using Italian sausage” this week. The girls tend to choose things like BLTs and spaghetti.

Meal planning will also help me pick recipes to celebrate feast days or to go along with our school lessons. Tonight we listened to Russian music and I cooked Beef and Beet Borscht, because we’ve been reading “Another Celebrated Dancing Bear,” which is set in Russia.

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That may be the prettiest bowl of food I’ve ever prepared ^^

4. I will be more organized, especially with homeschooling. I tend to do last minute prepping or just wing it the day of, which is okay for this year, but I want to get into a better rhythm so I’ll be more prepared for next year when Miss is in first grade. I have tried so many different planners and printables and nothing really lights my fire. I bought a small planner last year and used it for one week. It went in the trash yesterday, with almost nothing written in it. I’ve discovered that printing planner pages and putting them in a binder isn’t the way for me to go. I don’t like using binders for anything other than containing pages for storage.

I have heard rave reviews of the new planner written by fellow homeschooling mom Kelly Mantoan of This Ain’t the Lyceum. The planner is called The Best Laid Plans. I just ordered one, and I really hope it will be the magical fix to my lack of homeschool planning. Kidding. But not kidding that I will be better organized.

5. At least partially as a result of #4, I will make a concerted effort to make school more fun. No yelling and nagging. More field trips. More art lessons. More science experiments. More feast day celebrations. More of the good stuff.

IMG_4229In our book this week the bears made tea in a samovar. So, tea party!

6. I will keep up with housework more. I hate this goal. But I have to make it.

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^^ This photo is from a post I wrote in March 2014, but my laundry room looks nearly exactly the same at this very moment, with baskets of clean clothes waiting to be folded and put away. I won’t even mention the rest of my house. Homeschool Home Ec class will be instituted ASAP.

7. In spite of #6, I will blog more. I have gotten out of the groove of writing, due to a number of things: I stopped getting up early for a while there. I was spending a good portion of every day outside with the puppies. I had less time to get stuff done, and I wasn’t making time for blogging.

But now I’m getting back into the habit of waking up early (thanks in large part to #2 above, if I get up early I’m far more likely to exercise, and if I exercise, I can log it!). AND, my husband set up a perimeter system so we can let the dogs out without leashing them. Freedom!

I’m looking forward to writing more again. I’m happier when I do.

 

I think this year I’ll write out my goals and put them somewhere I can see them often. Last year I forgot half of them by March.

What are your goals for 2015?

Linking up for 7 Quick Takes with Kelly!

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Five Most Popular Posts and Five Favorite Ones from 2014

When I wrote my 12 photos in 2014 post last week, I spent a lot of time looking back over the past year, rereading old posts, and remembering things I had forgotten. I remembered some of my favorite posts that I wrote. Then, just for fun I looked at my site stats from the year to see which of my entries were viewed the most. I promise I’ll move on to current/new posts soon, but I’m not quite done reflecting on 2014 yet. Bear with me :)

Here is a quick recap of the five most popular posts (of those I wrote this year) and and then my five most favorite ones.

#5 Beginning at the Beginning – My Conversion Story, Part 1

This post was really hard to write. It was the first post where I shared the painful experiences that were the spark to my conversion. I debated for a long time whether to write about my first miscarriage and my husband’s vocal cord paralysis. It seems like I opened the floodgates with this post, as I’ve since written about plenty of personal experiences since.

#4 How I Really Found God

Like I said, I opened the floodgates with the first post about my conversion, as evidenced by this post (and several others since then!). This post was basically the third part of my conversion story. So the first part and the third part ended up as two of the top five most popular posts. But the second part didn’t even make the top ten. Weird?

#3 When Your Friend is Infertile – The Dos and Don’ts

This is a post I was very hesitant to write. It rattled around in my thoughts for months before I finally felt like I just had to sit down and type it out. I think because it’s such a personal and individual issue, I was reluctant. But the response to it was amazing. I got messages from women in the combox, via email, and in person that let me know that it was a post that felt helpful to many. Based on the conversations I had after the fact, I probably did miss a few things, but I don’t think I offended anyone (at least not that I know of). I’m glad I wrote it.

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#2 Edel – A Different View

This is another post I was reluctant to write, about how I felt being in the unusual position of looking pregnant, and technically being pregnant (with a non-viable pregnancy), in a room full of lots of pregnant ladies and new babies at the Edel Conference last summer. I’m sure a lot of the popularity of this post was due to Jenny sharing it on her blog Mama Needs Coffee in this post (thanks Jenny!).

#1 Why I Don’t Threaten My Kids with the “Naughty List” at Christmas

This post had more clicks in two weeks than any other post I wrote last year! I’m certain that was because Kendra from the wildly popular blog Catholic All Year shared it on her Facebook page (thanks Kendra). Again, I was unsure about whether or not I should write this one.

It’s interesting (to me at least) that so many of the posts I didn’t want to do ended up being favorites. I am often hesitant to write about topics that I think will be controversial or might offend someone. I don’t like to sound judgmental or be a downer. Maybe I should make a resolution for 2015 to just write what I feel I want or need to write and get over all the hemming and hawing about it.

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On that note, I’ll move on to my top five posts. If I’m honest, most of the posts listed above, with the exception of the Santa one probably, are among some of my favorite entries. But, there are several more that were not hugely popular, that are at the top of my mental list of posts that I most enjoyed writing and like to revisit still.

#5 Come Join the Wild for a Moment – A Labor Day Party Recap

This type of post is never going to be terribly popular. I usually get a ton of hits on my Labor Day post right after I put it out there, because everyone in my husband’s huge family wants to see the photos and relive the party again. I love this post and all the memories it contains. And the photos. It’s one of my favorites to revisit.

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#4 Received into Full Communion

This post about my experience of the Easter Vigil last year is another favorite to reread. I don’t want to ever forget what it was like to be baptized, confirmed, and receive first communion with my husband at my side.

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#3 On Prayer and Getting it Right

About how hard it has been for me to learn how to pray and how to teach my children to pray. I really liked writing this post, and it’s something I’m still learning, and still feel uncertain about.

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#2 Adoration and the Kindness of a Stranger

This was one of my favorite posts to write ever. It still makes me cry when I reread it.

#1 Untangling

My Grandma has taught me some amazing lessons in my life. This one was definitely the best. I need to reread this post at least once a month to remember that hour with my Grandma and what I learned from it.

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Are there any of these that you liked? Hated? Which was your favorite??

I’m linking this up with Jenna at Call Her Happy.

12 Photos from 2014

I’m really enjoying all the end-of-the-year posts I’m seeing around the internet right now. I’d like to join in with another one. Dwija from House Unseen (Life Unscripted) has a yearly link up with 12 photos from the year.

12 in 2014

Photos? Yes please. Here we go.

January

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One of my goals for 2014 (which I failed miserably on, I’ll write more about that later) was to get back to having fun with cooking and trying new recipes. The first effort toward this goal was the above pictured attempt to make gnocchi from scratch. It wasn’t my first attempt at gnocchi (with the first one, the potatoes never got cooked through, and I had to abort the plan entirely in order to throw together something my people could actually eat). This was a better recipe, but I didn’t realize that by allowing the girls to help, we would be over-kneading the dough and making it into an ugly mess. The gnocchi were more like dumplings. Fail.

Shortly after that photo was taken, we experienced Flumaggedon, a different type of ugly mess. Happily, we rounded out the month of January with a trip to Florida to visit my Grandma, to enjoy the warm weather, and to go to Disney World.

February

February was a bunch more sickness and freezing cold, with a skiing trip and a five-year-old’s Brave-themed birthday party thrown in the mix to keep it from being too awful. I even made cars out of cardboard boxes for the party.

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Going through these photos and posts from last year is making me shudder for remembering all the sickness and COLD that kept us inside all winter long.

March

In March we began our first experience of observing Lent. I met the bishop, and we tried our parish’s fish fry (a lot). We were finally able to get outside, and the snow started to melt.

DSC_0141This girl ^^ turned two! (and I turned 38)

April

We spent a week with my parents, Damma and Tuppa as Sis calls them. We went through our first Holy Week. The big event was that I was received into full communion in the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass.

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^^ The water was really cold.

May

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We planted a garden, celebrated six years of wedded bliss, and visited my parents again.

June

June was a full, full month. We went to the Farm, I ran a 5K for SMA, we visited family in Minnesota, and I started my Baby Catholic Answers All the Things series (which I have neglected terribly recently, sorry!).

DSC_0182July

We had friends over for dinner, went to a 4th of July parade, and had our annual trip to the Dirty Weird Zoo. Super Friend and I went to Edel. And we broke ground on our new home!

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August 

Okay, I’ll be honest. July and August basically sucked. I tried my hardest to make it not suck, and we did have lots of fun raspberry picking, eating ice cream, cooking out with friends, and going to the Iowa State Fair. I got stuff ready to start our homeschool year and for Miss to start her part-time kindergarten. And then the big day happened. My big girl started school! And my sweet middle child turned four.

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September

Much better than July or August, September was full of homeschool field trips, soccer, hay rides, our first Michaelmas celebration, and of course, the Labor Day Party.

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October

We decided to get some puppies, played in leaves, had fun with my parents, and went on more field trips. I made cupcakes for Miss’s school Halloween party, we trick-or-treated, and had lots of fun outside during the height of my favorite season.

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Outdoor dance party ^^

November

Ah, November. November saw a sharp decline in my blogging (I only wrote five posts!!). Also in my everything-elsing. I went and got our sweet little puppies, and they have been sucking the life out of me ever since. They are good dogs, and I’m so happy we got them, but they aren’t quite house broken yet, so the hovering over them and taking them outside frequently has eaten into my time to do anything else. See? I can’t even remember what else we did in November!! Oh yeah, we went to the farm for deer hunting. We had an awesome Thanksgiving dinner with our friend-family (The Super Friends).

DSC_0166December

As usual, December was full of holiday fun and activities. I took the older girls to see The Nutcracker, we went to see Santa and met the Sugar Plum Fairy, and we’ve had lots of sicknesses, travels, and celebrating. We celebrated my husband’s birthday with our tradition of having the girls select gifts for him from the Dollar Tree. I promised to write about it, but then I got the stomach flu the day after his birthday. Here’s a precious shot of Sis giving love after he opened her gifts of a “bouncy ball,” a piggy bank, some scotch tape, and a pack of thumb tacks.

DSC_0022Lass selected a basket for collecting produce from our garden next year, a pack of pens, and a shower sponge. Miss’s gifts were a pair of scissors, a small mother-and-child figurine which she determined was Mary and Baby Jesus, and a pair of fuzzy orange (ladies) socks.

12 photos from 2014. I tried to select pics I haven’t posted before. It was fun to look back over the year in photos and posts. 2014 was a year of very high highs and very low lows. I’m looking forward to 2015.

Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading and particularly for sticking around through the past few months of minimal posting. I truly appreciate each of you. May you have many blessings in the new year!  

My Year in Books

Last night while I was on my computer:

Husband: “Did you get your blog post done?”

Me: “No” (complete with grumpy face and growling sound of sorts)

Husband: “What’s wrong? Writer’s block?”

Me: “No. Goodreads screwed me over.”

Husband: “Wha? What’s Goodreads?”

Me: “Goodreads is supposed to keep track of the books I read, and the books I want to read, and when I got my Year in Books email it said I only read 20 books but I’ve read way more than 20 books and Goodreads didn’t do a good job of compiling my yearly reading data for me!!!!!”

Husband: “Why do you need that?”

Me: “I don’t. I just like to have it.”

Husband: “Oh. Okay. G’night…”

I wanted to write a post for today about all the books I read in 2014, my favorites, my least favorites, etc. I had it in mind to do so, and then Haley wrote a post of the books she read this year, and I thought it would be swell to list the books I’ve read and tell you all about them. Fun, right? Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this is fascinating…

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But Goodreads, my favorite reading/bookish app/social media thing, has failed me this year. I’m grumpy about it.

I have read many more than 20 books this year. And I have spent way too much time trying to sort through the 292 books on my Goodreads “Books I’ve read” shelf to see which ones I did read beyond the 20 Goodreads decided to keep track of.

Why do I care? I just do.

Ugh. Goodreads.

Anyway, I decided to go ahead and write the post even though it may be slightly less accurate than it would have been if Goodreads had done its job…

I think I actually read something more like 41 books, one of them twice (Something Other Than God), and listened to three audiobooks. Here they are:

Fiction 

  • Tobit’s Dog
  • The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter #1)
  • The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter #2)
  • The Cross (Kristin Lavransdatter #3)
  • Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England
  • Still Missing
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • The Secret Keeper
  • Brideshead Revisited
  • Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • The Screwtape Letters
  • Keeping Faith
  • Station Eleven (audiobook)
  • Prince of Thorns (audiobook)
  • The Darkest Minds (#1 of a trilogy+, audiobook)
  • Never Fade (#2 of the Darkest Minds trilogy)
  • In the Afterlight (#3 of the Darkest Minds trilogy)
  • Sparks Rise (#2.5 of the Darkest Minds trilogy)
  • Divergent
  • Insurgent (I’m reading Allegiant, #3 of this trilogy, now)

Non-Fiction

  • The Liar’s Club
  • He Leadeth Me
  • See How She Loves Us
  • Hail Holy Queen
  • 33 Days to Morning Glory
  • Pope Awesome and Other Stories
  • Something Other Than God (x2)
  • Realer Than Real
  • Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves
  • Teaching From a State of Rest
  • Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Spain
  • Surprised by Truth
  • Catholicism for Dummies
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
  • Rediscover Catholicism
  • The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World
  • The “R” Father
  • Joan of Arc
  • A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy
  • Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe
  • 150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know
  • Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux
  • The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

44 books all together, almost even numbers of fiction (21) and non-fiction (23). As a great lover of fiction, I have been surprised in recent years by how much of my reading has been non-fiction. But as you can see, I read lots of Catholic and religious books these days, which make up the vast majority of my non-fiction list (19 of 23), and even some of my fiction list (9 of 21). Here are my thoughts on some of the books:

Disappointments: Biggest one? Brideshead Revisited. I liked the book, but having heard Haley refer to it as a highly influential book her conversion to Catholicism, I was expecting something… more. It was good, and I liked it. It just didn’t move me as much as I expected it to. Another disappointment has been the Divergent trilogy. I thought it was supposed to be really enjoyable (for fluff reading), and it has been just so-so. I’ve liked it enough to continue reading all three books, but it’s not as good as I thought it would be. I was also kind of disappointed by the Sister Queens book. I was thinking it was going to be historical fiction (one of my favorite genres, surprisingly underrepresented in my reading this year), but it was just straight-up history, and on the long and boring-ish side.

Better Than Expected: Treason: A Catholic Novel of Elizabethan England. I didn’t expect much from this book, but I ended up really liking it. It had some really beautiful passages and a moving section about an experience with the sacrament of Reconciliation. It was a lovely book. Also, the Darkest Minds trilogy+ was much better than I thought it would be. Young adult dystopian fiction is my go-to these days when I want to read something easy and frivolous. I got the first book to listen to when I drove a few hours for an appointment. I wasn’t expecting it to be anything other than easy and frivolous and mildly entertaining, but it was quite enjoyable and I quickly read the rest of the books too.

Most Annoying Book: Keeping Faith. Historically, I have really liked Jody Piccoult books, even though they get a little predictable in their courtroom drama. This one was just odd, with a little girl seeing visions of God, but in her visions God was a woman. The psychological experts were terrible, and the way Ms. Piccoult described the Catholic Church’s process of determining whether the little girl’s visions were real or not was off, as was a statement about what a person must be like to be canonized a saint.

Weirdest Titles: Desperate: Help for Moms Who Need to Breathe and Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut. The former was pretty good, in spite of its melodramatic title. The latter was so-so.

Least Favorite Book: Prince of Thorns. It was absolutely awful. It’s not a book I would have chosen. I needed and audiobook to listen to when I went to Michigan to pick up the puppies. I downloaded the Audible app to use my husband’s account, and I planned to download a book onto my phone when I stopped at Starbucks on the way. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that you can’t download books fro the app, so I had to select from the books my husband already had downloaded. Prince of Thorns is what I ended up with, and it made for a crummy listening experience on my long drive, full of battles and blood and testosterone and a very unlikeable main character.

Favorite Fiction Book of the Year: The Screwtape Letters.

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This one also could have gone under the heading of “Better than expected.” Super Friend told me about this book a few years ago when we were talking about all-time favorite books, before my conversion. I don’t remember exactly what she said about it, but I think her description went a little bit like this, “It’s about a devil who writes letters to his nephew, also a devil, instructing him how to corrupt souls…” I thought it sounded very weird and not at all interesting. This book is now on my list of all-time favorite books. It’s just so clever and it inspires deep thinking. As I’m writing this, it seems like I read this longer ago than this year, so I’m wondering if maybe I reread it this year? I must have. It’s definitely a book to be read more than once.

Favorite Non-Fiction Book of the Year: Pope Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves. This book blew me away. It made me so sad that I wasn’t Catholic while JPII was alive. I didn’t know much of anything about him, because I didn’t care much about what the pope was up to when JPII was in the role. But this book. Oh my goodness. Now I know. He was amazing and he is fascinating. The way Jason Evert writes this book, by highlighting five special loves of JPII as a means of helping readers come to know him and understand his teachings better, is brilliant. By the way, the five loves? Human love, young people, Mary, the Eucharist, and the Cross. Read this book.

There. My Year in Books, in spite of Goodreads. Aren’t you happy I persevered with this post?

Here are just a few of the books that I have lined up to start 2015:

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I love to chat about books (obviously). What were your favorites from 2014? Tell me all, please.

Merry Christmas and Stuff

Merry Christmas!

We’ve been on a crazy ride of illness, travel, and dog potty training that has led to very few posts this holiday season. I’m sorry.

In spite of the fact that in the past two weeks three of us had a stomach virus, and then three of us had what I originally thought was a really bad cold but was probably a vaccine-dampened version of the flu (yes, I ended up with both of the bugs), our travel plans did not get disrupted, nor did our celebrating. Everyone stopped puking and was fever-free before we needed to leave for the first leg of our travel (we packed a bucket just in case). And I suffered through the flu while my husband drove nine hours on the second leg. No one was sick for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day!

Here are a few highlights of our travels and fun. We celebrated with my in laws last weekend. The girls loved their presents and enjoyed lots of family time.

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The weekend was packed with activities and playing. The girls really made the most of it.

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We have been at my parents’ house this week, where the girls have had more fun playing with more cousins. We spent Christmas Eve with my brother’s family.

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The girls were so tired when we put them to bed. Still, I could hardly believe it when I woke up on Christmas morning, after 8am, and my kids weren’t even awake yet. We had to wake up Sis once her sisters were up and ready to go.

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We had our sacrifice manger, with all the straw the girls filled it up with during Advent, under the tree with our homemade Baby Jesus in it for them.

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Of course, they were excited to run to the tree to see what Santa had left too. Sis had a little bit of hard time adjusting to being awake once the initial excitement had passed.

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The favorite gifts seem to have been the light-up Frozen dresses, Miss’s sewing kit from my mom, Sis’s jewelry, and their Baby Alive dolls.

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It was a great week and a fun and relaxing Christmas.

Because of the sicknesses and travel, we didn’t get to do a few of the fun things I had wanted to do. Fortunately, since becoming Catholic, I have learned that many Catholic folks actually really start their Christmas celebrating on Christmas Day and go at it for 12 days. So, this year I’m going to count the twelve days of Christmas (starting with Day 3 tomorrow because the idea to do this is just occurring to me, I’m still learning this stuff) and get caught up on even more fun Christmas-y things for the next ten days. We have cookies to bake and lights to go see in the park and other cool stuff we can do.

Merry Christmas!