Okay, But How Do You KNOW God is Real?

Nearly two years ago, I began a journey toward faith. After almost a decade of not believing in God, I decided that I needed to explore my faith, or lack thereof. I started to think that maybe there really was a God, and so I had better take a deeper look and figure out what I believed and didn’t. I said to my husband, “Okay, so maybe there’s a God, but I don’t believe in all that Jesus stuff. That’s all just ridiculous.” He said something like, “You never know. . .”

Well. Now I am a confirmed and practicing Catholic. I pray daily, usually multiple times per day. I try to read the Bible. I do a daily devotional most days. I go to weekly Mass. I pray the rosary (not as often as I should!). I believe fully and absolutely in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

I’m not mentioning any of those things to suggest that I’m anything special or deserving of praise, but just to illustrate the transformation I’ve undergone in the past two years. I’m still amazed by the whole thing.

I’ve come a long way, and what I have discovered in all of my struggles and joys is simply this: God is here. God is here in every moment. How do I know? I could list the rational points that I believe confirm the presence of God. But lots of people have written plenty about those, better than I could do anyway (like say, C.S. Lewis, for example?).

So instead, I’m going to share a few of my own experiences to illustrate how I know that there is a God, beyond all the reading I did about the subject. How I know that Jesus is the Son of God, and wasn’t just a man who lived 2000 years ago and then got killed for saying He was the Son of God (that’s what I used to think).

So. Three examples from my life:

1. Adoration. I wrote once about a wonderful experience I had in the Adoration Chapel, which to my mind was, in itself, evidence of God’s grace. But I’ve never written about what it’s like just to go into the chapel. What it’s really like. I’ve mentioned that it’s beautiful and peaceful. But that isn’t even the half of it.

When I go into adoration and kneel before Jesus in the monstrance, I get this unusual, sort of surreal feeling. It’s kind of like a tightness in my chest and a lightness, at the same time. It becomes hard to breathe normally, but in not in a bad way (I know saying “hard to breathe. . . but not in a bad way” doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what it’s like!). I feel at peace (not just peaceful, but at peace) and experience a clarity of thought.

I can spend weeks stressing out about something, wondering what I should do, and then if I take that worry to Jesus in adoration, I immediately feel a sense of calm and understanding about the solution or answer to my question. It’s very hard to describe, and I’ve never felt this in any other type of situation (but see below for a similar one). In that place, with Jesus, I experience a real physical and emotional sense of His presence. I just know He is there.

2. When I went for my first pregnancy ultrasound in July, the doctor basically just said, “There is no baby. This is not a viable pregnancy. I’m sorry.” And he walked out of the room.

I had to call my husband and tell him this news, and then drive myself two hours home. I was sobbing, and trying to pray, but all I could put together was, “Help me. Help me. Jesus, please help me” or something like that.

After a while I managed to pull myself together enough that I thought I could drive home. On the way, I ran into a detour in the route I would usually have taken, which forced me to drive right past a big church. I remember coming closer to it, seeing that it looked kind of Catholic from outside, but then seeing that the sign out front said “________ Baptist.” I was pretty bummed until I got a little closer and made out what the first part of the sign said: “St. John the.” It might as well have been a billboard. I quickly pulled into the lot and went right inside.

The red candle was burning up front (indicating there were consecrated hosts, or Jesus, in the tabernacle). I knelt down and continued my barely coherent prayer from before. “Help me. What do I do now? I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this. Jesus, help me.” I repeated these same few things over and over as I wept. And then I got an answer. He told me, “Don’t give up.” I didn’t hear it with my ears, but with my heart, and I felt truly comforted. I was still devastated. I was still weeping. But I knew I was not alone. Right then and there, I felt His presence. He was going to help me carry my burden.

3. This last example is more about Mary, but it makes sense to share it. Because of course if there was no God, and Jesus wasn’t divine, then Mary was just a lady, and not Our Lady.

Not too far from my town there is a Marian shrine. It is the first (and only) approved Marian apparition site in the U.S. I went there in July. I only had my babysitter for a few hours, and I had two hours of just driving time, so I couldn’t stay there long. But I had been wanting to go for quite some time, and in the midst of my failed pregnancy and multiple ultrasounds, I went.


The shrine was just wonderful. I wanted to spend more time there. It was surreal to sit in the dark basement room, which stands at the actual site of the apparitions, and see the statue of Our Lady of Good Help.

The part that stays with me though, is the moment that I first stepped from my car. I was parked quite a distance from any of the buildings or statues of the site. There was nothing around me except asphalt and cars, and yet the first thing I noticed when I got out of my car was the strong scent of roses. It was powerful, and I immediately began looking around for the flowers. There weren’t any.


As I walked closer, this ^^ is the first area I came to where I saw any flowers, but none of them were roses. In fact, I didn’t see a single rose anywhere on the grounds, and yet the distinct fragrance of roses was the first thing to greet me upon my arrival. It let me know immediately – this is a holy place. I was in the presence of Mary.

God is real. Jesus really died for us. In addition to the three experiences I mentioned here, I notice it every day now. I experience God in my children, in my marriage, in the beauty of the world He created. I feel it. It’s not something that can be measured or tested. But it’s absolutely real.

So. That’s how I know.

Posted in Religion | 2 Comments

7QT – Mary’s Birthday, a 20-Year-Old Photo, Soccer Cuteness, and More

This post started out as a “Quick Takes Friday” post last week. Except that I only got two takes done when I started it Friday morning. And then before I knew it, it was waaay past Friday, and the Quick Takes Ship had sailed. So, I changed it around, and it was going to be just a random catch up post. And then I felt like I just had to write yesterday’s post (it had been bouncing around in my brain for months), so the random post didn’t get done either. And now, well it’s Friday again! Woohoo! So a couple of these “Takes” are a bit old. But they’re still riveting, I assure you.


My girls started soccer last week a couple of weeks ago. Holy cuteness.

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Miss is very into it. Lass is not really decided yet.

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It’s so fun to watch them and to visit with the other moms on the sideline. Wait. Am I a “soccer mom” now?! I think not yet.


I mentioned that Miss is going to our local Catholic school one and a half days per week. On the way home after her first day, Miss asked if she could make a dessert for our family to eat after dinner. She said wanted to make it with graham crackers, chocolate chips, and an egg. I said “sure.”

We got home and there were no graham crackers, but she was willing to improvise. She ended up using five leftover lady fingers, which we crumbled up, two eggs, a splash of almond milk, the remains of a bag of chocolate chips, and two Tablespoons of water (initially she wanted to use a cup of water, but I convinced her to add it a little at a time).

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The end result was quite. . . interesting. It was a bit like a dessert frittata? She was pleased, and her sisters enjoyed it too. Pinterest-worthy for sure.


Tonight is my 20-year high school reunion. Yeah. 20 years. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to go, but since it’s scheduled on a Friday night and it’s in Michigan and I’m in Wisconsin, it wasn’t possible for me to go even if I had wanted to. But really, 20 years? I can’t possibly be old enough for that.


Or maybe I can. I look so very young (and ridiculous) in this picture (second from the left is me).


I’m really starting to get into the swing of celebrating feast days and such with my girls. We celebrated the one-year anniversary of their baptisms on Sunday by lighting their baptism candles, renouncing Satan, and zinging them with holy water. And having dessert of course.

Monday was Mary’s birthday, so we had a little birthday party for her. We had ten candles on the cake and did a decade of the rosary, lighting one candle with each Hail Mary. Then we sang Happy Birthday and blew out her candles.


I’m not eating cake these days, so I just got a baby smash cake with blue and white frosting from the grocery store pre-made case (it was the perfect size for the girls to each have a piece). It worked out perfectly that the blue and white one was the one my girls wanted too. It originally had some plastic sea animals stuck to the top of it, but we took those off, and it went instantly from undersea-baby-cake to Marian-blue-birthday-rosary-cake. Mom win.


I have discovered a major difference between my husband and me: The need for peace and quiet and relaxation when indulging in a treat of some sort. He needs none. I need all.

He comes home from work and cracks open a beer if he cares to have one. He grabs a sweet treat after dinner, either forgetting every.time. that the little-girl audience will descend on him faster than vultures on road kill, or not caring that they do (I still haven’t figured out which it is).

And then there’s me. If my kids are awake and I just must. have. chocolate., I hide in the laundry room to eat it. But the majority of the time, I wait until they are in bed to indulge in any sort of treat food or beverage. I might let them have ice cream after dinner once in a while, but if I have any myself, I wait until after they go to bed. If I’m going to imbibe, I never do it until they are in their rooms for the night. And it’s not because I’m worried that my parental judgement will be impaired. One drink (or even two) would probably only improve my motherly attitude once evening time rolls around.


I just want to enjoy it. Savor it. In peace. I don’t want to have to share my ice cream or answer, “What is that? Can I try it?” about my wine. I’m even the same way about my coffee. I get up extra early before my kids so I can enjoy my coffee in peace (and finish it while it’s still warm).

Am I alone here?


It’s already cold here. Highs in the 50s. Fall is my favorite season, but I wasn’t quite prepared for it yet. Sunday we went on a hayride with friends and were sweaty and sunburned and dehydrated by the time it was over.


^^This picture makes it look like our kids were dangling precariously off the edge of a wagon stacked with hay. They weren’t. 


In the past two days I have had to do an emergency Zappos order of new fleece jackets for my older girls since they now wear the same size and last year’s jackets don’t fit them (though Sis now has lots to choose from). Where did my summer go?


Yesterday was the five-year anniversary of this blog. Five years! I looked back at my very first post, and it just made me laugh. I still don’t know much about what the heck I’m doing, but I’ve come a long way from post, after post, after post about almost nothing but cloth diapers! Anyway, Happy Blogversary to me!

See more Quick Takes here.

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Miscellany, Motherhood | Leave a comment

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

Once upon a time, I got pregnant easily. Three times. I had three babies in just over three years, and it. was. awesome. I never dreamed that getting pregnant, and then staying pregnant, would be at all hard for me since I got pregnant with my three girls, each on the first try. I even got pregnant again on the first try after having Sis, and I might have privately been a little smug about it.


You probably know how that turned out.

You also probably know that, after my fourth pregnancy I tried for a year and a half to get pregnant again, with no success. Until I had success, and then heartache all over again.

I’m giving a super-short-version-recap here to illustrate this point: I have been on both sides of the fertility spectrum. I have been super fertile. And I have been (am) infertile/subfertile.

When I was super fertile, I had friends struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss. I remember feeling guilty about my ease of getting pregnant. And getting pregnant again. And again. I remember feeling uncertain about what to say. What to do. What not to do.


I have at least seven friends who are pregnant right now, and a few more whom I suspect might be (though I would never ask; never, NEVER ask!!). I can think of at least eight more friends who have gotten pregnant and/or had their babies during the time that we have been trying to have another. No one ever said or did anything hurtful to me, but there have been moments when I have suspected those friends felt awkward about telling me their joyful news or talking about it, knowing my struggles.

So, now that I’m on the other side of the fertility spectrum, I have some ideas about what to do and not to do when you have a friend who is infertile. And I’m going to share them with you here. I am absolutely aware that this is a hugely personal issue, but I have heard several other women struggling with infertility mention many of the same things. This isn’t a complete list. And it’s not the same for everyone. But I think it gives some good guidelines and starting points.

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The following are my Dos and Don’ts for when you know someone who is infertile/subfertile/experiencing pregnancy loss/can’t have more children due to health concerns. Take it for what it’s worth.

DO – Listen. That’s all. Just listen and offer empathic responses. Women who are infertile can feel very isolated. It’s hard to share the struggles of infertility with someone who hasn’t experienced it. But it’s less hard if that other person just listens.


DON’T – Try to steer the conversation to infertility all the time, assuming that she always wants or needs to talk about it. The majority of the time she’d probably rather talk about other stuff (at least that’s how it is for me).

DON’T say – “You can always adopt.” Deciding to adopt or not is a very complicated and personal decision. Suggesting adoption as an easy solution to infertility is not helpful (the woman has likely already at least thought of the possibility) and it discounts the pain of infertility to suggest that it can all be “fixed” with adoption.

DON’T say – “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” This is obviously a well-meaning comment. It’s probably usually meant to gently remind someone that God’s will is perfect. But when you are in the trenches of trying to figure out how to pray for what you badly desire as well as trusting and following God’s will, this comment just doesn’t add anything helpful. And it gives the impression of trying to shut down the conversation.

DON’T say – “If you stop stressing/worrying/thinking about it, it will happen.” Because -A. This just isn’t necessarily true. and B. It is nearly impossible. Yes, it’s probably good to try to keep things in perspective, and stress probably does have a negative impact on fertility. But it is virtually impossible not to think about fertility issues when you’re infertile. And similar to the above, if you tell someone not to worry/think about it, you might as well be telling her to stop talking about it.

If you’re pregnant:

DO – Share your own joys/trials. If you have a close relationship with the woman who is infertile, be the one to tell her your news. Don’t let her hear of it through another friend or on your Facebook page.

DON’T – Avoid all discussion of your own pregnancy/children. While well-meaning, this will probably result in your friend feeling more isolated and distant from you.


DON’T – Go overboard in your discussion of every single detail of pregnancy, childbirth, and/or life with a gazillion kids. This may seem like an impossibly fine line to balance upon, but imagine:

Good – “I had my 20-week ultrasound today. It’s a girl!!! She looks perfectly healthy. I can’t believe we’re having a girl! Yay!”

Maybe not so good – All of the above plus, “I am so excited to go to Babies ‘R’ Us and register for all the things! Husband and I are going to paint the nursery this weekend and start buying some baby clothes! I just love little girl baby clothes! Oh my GOSH! Can’t you just picture her so teeny and sweet in all those cute pink ruffles? I can’t believe I’m halfway through my pregnancy! Don’t I look enormous? I have to register for our Lamaze class, and my breastfeeding class, and get a carseat, and wow! Having a baby requires so. much. stuff!!! Squeeeee!!!”

Think: sharing pregnancy joys/woes vs. gushing like a teenage girl.

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DON’T – Feel guilty. Although your friend may struggle with your news to some degree, she is happy for you. Truly.



DON’T – Be offended if she distances herself from you/your pregnancy a little bit. Let her take the lead on this as she needs to. There are some times that are more difficult than others. She might not “like” all of you belly bump photos on Facebook or your status updates about pregnancy cravings. Frankly, Facebook is a treacherous place for the infertile woman, with all its newborn photos and pregnancy announcements and ultrasound pics. She might just skim over a lot of that stuff for her own well-being. It’s not personal.


There have been moments when I have cried upon hearing of another friend’s new pregnancy. Even in my happiness for her, I have cried to learn that someone else was getting what I wanted.

I used to feel shame about this. About my sadness over another’s joy. But I have since reminded myself that emotions are more complicated than just happy or sad. Joyful or jealous. I realized that I have nothing to feel ashamed about, because I never once wished that my friend didn’t have her joy. I have always felt happy for that friend in her joy. It was simply that her joy reminded me, freshly, painfully, for a moment, of my lack of the same. And though I didn’t wallow in it, I did shed a few tears. And I think that’s okay.

Finally, I just want to say that I didn’t write this post to make anyone feel guilty. If you’ve done some of the DON’Ts and/or not done some of the DOs, don’t feel bad about it. I just wrote this to be a little help to those on both sides of the fertility spectrum, so there doesn’t need to be any sort of divide.

So, what do you think? Did I miss any DOs or DON’Ts? Did I miss the mark entirely?

Posted in Infertility | 4 Comments

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 6 – So, How Does One Become Catholic?

No one asked me this question. But tonight is the start of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at our parish, and I’m joining as a sponsor. So I’m going to answer this one just because I want to.


So. How does one become Catholic?

Lots of people get to start out that way. The “Cradle Catholic” is one who is born into a Catholic family. This person is Catholic from the start, but goes through a fairly typical process of receiving the sacraments gradually. First is the Baptism, usually within a few months after birth. Then there’s the first Reconciliation (confession) and First Holy Communion in the second grade. After this point, the child is able to receive the Eucharist at weekly Mass. The final step is Confirmation. This usually occurs between the ages of 13 and 16 (the other sacraments are Marriage, Holy Orders, and Annointing of the Sick, which not every Catholic will necessarily receive).

For converts, the path to full communion in the Church wan be widely varied. But converts  do need to receive all the same sacraments as Cradle Catholics. These occur in a more condensed time period, mostly at the Easter Vigil Mass, held the night before Easter Sunday (for all but Reconciliation).

The Catholic Church does recognize baptisms performed within many other Christian denominations, so individuals who were previously baptized usually don’t need to receive this sacrament at the Vigil (like I did).


Adult converts who were baptized in another denomination will still have to make a first Reconciliation, usually at some point during Lent, and then will receive First Communion and be confirmed during the Vigil. Edited to add: a friend just informed me that sometimes the Church will even accept Confirmations from other denominations (i.e. Lutheran), so some people only receive First Communion at the Vigil when they convert.

So, what does a convert have to do to get to the point of being able to receive sacraments?

Basically, go through RCIA, which begins right around this time of year in most parishes. RCIA classes usually meet weekly, and in them candidates learn about Christianity in general and the Catholic faith in particular.

If they haven’t already, candidates begin attending weekly Mass, but they do not receive the Eucharist. For some people, the process of conversion may be relatively quick. In my case, I knew I wanted to become Catholic last summer. So I contacted my RCIA coordinator, began RCIA in September, and was baptized, received First Communion, and was confirmed in April. I felt sure it was the right thing for me.

For others, the process may take longer. Some people go through RCIA and still aren’t sure, so they take more time before deciding to enter the Church, maybe even going through RCIA more than once. Attending RCIA does not constitute any sort of obligation to become Catholic.


Thanks to Kendra of Catholic All Year for letting me use her image here

You can also read more detailed information here. But, if you think you might want to become Catholic, or you’d like to learn more, contact your parish to get more information about RCIA. Taking that step was one of the best things I’ve ever done.


Still taking your questions for more Baby Catholic posts. I have a few in the works, but I’m happy to try my hand at answering yours too!

Posted in Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Other Great Blogs, Religion, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

It’s a Labor Day tradition for my in-laws to host a great big family reunion for Labor Day weekend, culminating in a rocking party on Sunday night.

It’s also a tradition for Ben and I to sit and debrief/savor/try to prolong the good feelings the party brings by talking about it for hours afterwards. Monday we were too tired/hungover. But Tuesday night, we settled in and rehashed all the things about the party. And then we did it again tonight. The best songs, the funniest moments, the crazy costumes, the hilarious dance moves, the surprise performances. . . All. of. it.

This post has taken several days to write, mostly because I had to sort through over 1500 photos first. But also because it is nearly impossible to put into words what the Labor Day Party is like. I am fully aware that nothing that I write here, even with the addition of lots of photos, will come close to describing the true nature of The Party. It truly defies description.

But. You know I’m going to try anyway. Ben and I decided that this year’s party was one of the best. Here are a few of the highlights of the weekend and the party:

Pre-Sunday Night Party – My brother-in-law brought fireworks for Saturday night. The kids loved them (so did the grownups).

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And though it seems like a small thing, it’s the little additions like this, and the thoughtfulness of all the family members to bring their best, to add something to the party in tangible and intangible ways, that make the weekend magical.

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And I don’t use that word lightly. Really, it’s like magic. As if a little party fairy comes and puts a spell on all of these regular, hard-working grown ups, and turns us into (in some cases back into) party animals, and creates this place where, for a weekend, and more intensely for about five hours on Sunday evening, there is no limit to the fun that this family can have together, laughing, singing, dancing, and whatever else moves us.

Too much? Right. Obviously there’s no party fairy. But there is this fun-loving, slightly nutty group of people that I married into, who really just know how to have fun and aren’t self-conscious or uptight. So, basically the same thing.


So. Sunday night. The costumes. The theme was “Cartoons.”

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Snow White ^^ was a brand new attendee this year (the only first-timer besides some tiny babies). He not only came up with the idea for this group costume, but he made his own dress and the dwarf’s hats and pick axes. Notice that he even included the red insets in his sleeves. Talk about bringing something a little extra. I think he had fun and wasn’t totally freaked out, even though he isn’t related to anyone else who was there, and was exposed to moments like these:

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He’s just one of the family now.


I think the dancing and the singing and the wild and crazy and fun hit a new level this year. I’ll let a few photos illustrate this point:

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A lot of the increase in wild and crazy seems to have been due to this interesting little creation, dreamed up by my husband and made into reality by my brothers-in-law:


It really ought to have been called the Wheel of You’re-Going-to-Feel-Like-Death-Tomorrow, but it did add a lot of oomph to the antics. When I Instagrammed a photo of my hangover-cure fountain Dr. Pepper on Monday, with the hashtag #thebartendermademedoshots, I wasn’t kidding.


Nearly every time I went to the bar to get a beer, he’d give me a diabolical look and reach to spin the wheel. No matter what it landed on, he’d turn it to “Shot.” I would then proceed to drink my shot like a good little partygoer, and then I’d say, “Okay, now can I have my beer?” Ahem. I was a bit rough around the edges on Monday morning, as were the rest of the partiers. Including the bartender.

DSC_0237_2 DSC_0239_2 DSC_0240_2 DSC_0504_2So anyway, things got pretty crazy. People were getting drunky-drunk. The bartender (my brother-in-law) got the party going. There was a lot of rapping, which is always interesting in a group full of folks originating from Iowa farm country.

There was some good old 1978 Rapper’s Delight:


There was even a spontaneous “Ice Ice Baby” rap battle between my husband’s old high school buddy,


and the youngsters, my husband’s godson and nephew (I believe they called themselves Dollar $ign and MC Juan, respectively):

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I think I can safely use the word Epic here.

You may be surprised, considering the place was full of Iowa natives, to know that all of the rapping was actually quite good. Skillful. Well-timed. Full of flair. In fact, it was only the girl from Detroit (AKA me) who probably didn’t do such a bang-up job on the song I rapped (Fancy by Iggy Azalea). In my defense, I had never even heard of the song until about a month before the party. And I was a little, ah, dizzy from the Wheel of Death. If you know what I’m saying.

But who cares? I rapped.


My husband and I agreed that one of the best moments of the night, which was completely spontaneous and hilarious, was when the band inserted a Biz Markie sing-along into a Toby Keith song, out. of. the. blue. Just a Friend into Red Solo Cup, if you can imagine that. It was bizarre, but it worked, and the crowd loved it and fully sang along, at top volume, while laughing and dancing maniacally.


You can’t make this stuff up, people.

There was talent, both young and old.

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^^ My seven-year-old nephew playing the kazoo, alongside his dad.

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^^ If you’ve been paying attention, that’s the third instrument he played that night.

I could go on and on. I already have, I know. But one last thing:

The best part about the night, was seeing my girls really get into it, even more than in years past.

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^^ Hokey Pokey

DSC_0953 DSC_0957 DSC_0995They danced and played and had so much fun. They’re still talking about it and about the relationships they strengthened with cousins and aunts and uncles. They are still asking me to play “Sweet Dreams” (Eurythmics), over and over and reminiscing that it was their favorite song of the night.

The party is an amazing thing. It’s wild, and it’s incredible fun.


But at the end of the night, it’s still really just all about family.

Posted in Family, The Farm | 1 Comment

7QT In Case You’re Wondering What I’ll Be Doing This Weekend…

Linking up with Conversion Diary.

It’s Labor Day! It’s pretty much the biggest weekend of the year for our family. Here is a repost from last year, just in case you were wondering what we’ll be up to this weekend:



Here is Part 3 and Final in my series on the Labor Day Party. Sorry it’s a bit belated, but I got distracted by the girls’ baptisms over the weekend and my parents’ visit this week.

Here are some random observations about the weekend, the Farm, the family, and The Party.


A perfect illustration of The Party in a Walmart shopping cart:


I can’t think of any problem that could come up during the Labor Day Party Weekend that couldn’t be fixed with hand wipes, coffee, toilet paper, and/or a fire extinguisher. Probably should have some beer in there to truly complete the picture, but someone else was in charge of buying that.


Families need to eat together.
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My husband’s family is huge. And they love to eat.

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My Mother- and Father-in-law are the absolute masters of feeding very large groups of people with maximum efficiency.

There are lots of good ways to do it. Weenie roast and lots of wings/fries are two that are employed every year during The Weekend.

My favorite though, is the shrimp boil.
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I don’t know exactly how it works, but it involves boiling lots of corn on the cob, potatoes, hot dogs, sausages, onions, garlic, and shrimp with spice packets in huge pots.


Sometimes it includes lobster. Yum.


The tables get covered with plastic and paper and when the food is done, well, it goes on the table. Literally.


Food. On table.


What could be more fun than grabbing food off the table, eating it with your hands, squirting ketchup and ranch dressing directly onto the paper…? No plates, no utensils, easy clean up. I love it.

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Talk about family togetherness.


I love how much stuff there is to do at the Farm. The bigger kids and grown ups do lots of boating, knee-boarding, and playing volleyball. There’s tons of fun for the littles too.

When a family reunion lasts a whole weekend, there has to be plenty to do.

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Or not.

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Costumes make a party more fun.

The theme of The Party this year was “Jobs.”

After much deliberation, my older girls both decided to be marine biologists. Lass was going to be a zookeeper, but when she saw the wetsuit outfit I was going to order for her sister, she had to have the same one.

DSC_0809 A cousin was also a marine biologist.


Baby Sis was a mommy.


The Band (L-R): Fast food worker, rogue accountant, blacksmith, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, trucker, and me, a tattoo artist.

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Some of my other favorites:

The clown, complete with balloon animals for the kids

“Mechanic Man”


And, yes, The Lunchlady (complete with the full Chris Farley dance performed during the party)


One of my favorite lines of the night was overheard from my sister-in-law regarding a comment my niece had made about her dad (The Lunchlady), “This is my Daddy’s fake butt that he wears under his dress.” Nice.


Families that rock together, stay together.

Father and son:




Mother and son:






A special tribute sing-a-long for their Grandmother,


Her favorite song, “Lord of the Dance.”



One of my favorite parts of the night was watching my girls have fun on the dance floor.

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And the dancing. Oh, the dancing.

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Blister in the Sun:


The dance off:

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“I ripped my pants!!”

And one of my favorite dance-floor traditions, the “Wipe Out” dance:

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An incredible weekend. An incredible party. An incredible family.

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For other quick takes, go here.

Here are links to other posts about the party, its history, and the band.

Have a great weekend!

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Family, The Farm, Traditions | Leave a comment

So Big, and Yet So Small – The First Day of Kindergarten

Yesterday morning, when I went in to wake Miss up for her first full day of kindergarten away from home, I stood and gazed at her for a second before rousing her. I brushed her hair back from her sleeping face, and as I looked at her in profile, I saw her, right then, as a two-year-old. In sleep, her big-girl face took on the baby-like qualities from when she was smaller, and it almost took my breath.


^ In the upper left-hand corner of that photo is Miss at about 18 months.

I almost didn’t want to wake her. I wanted to just stand and look at her. She looked so little and so big, at the same time.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about today. I knew it would be hard/weird to send her to somewhere else for a full day. I knew it would feel strange to know that my little girl is big enough for kindergarten, even though next week she’ll be back home with me, and we’ll be doing school at home most of the time. I knew I would be nervous and excited for her.

She was certainly excited.

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So, did I cry when I dropped her off?


No. I didn’t. I felt the throat tightening, eyes burning feeling for just a moment when she first started to walk away with her class. But it passed pretty quickly.

However, it was certainly a strange, and in some ways difficult, day. I kept feeling like a part of me was missing. At lunch, sitting with just my two youngers, I noticed how odd it felt to not have Miss there. That was the hardest part. That’s when I almost cried.

Sis: (to Lass) “You be Pincess Pesto, and I be Affa Pig, and Mama, you be Supa Why!”

Me: “Okay! Too bad your sister isn’t here. She could be Wonder Red.”

Sis: (looking sadly at Miss’s seat) “We need to go get her!!”

That moment, that little-sister-missing-big-sister moment, is when I started laugh-crying, as I said something like, “We can’t yet. She’s at school.” I almost spiraled into all-out bawling, feeling acutely the void left by Miss’s absence right then. But I pulled it together and rallied with more Super Why! pretending. It helps when you know all the words. . .

For most of the day, I kept looking at the clock and wondering where Miss was and what she was doing right then. “11:07, I wonder if she’s having lunch yet?”  Super Friend kindly texted me a photo of her grinning from ear to ear on the playground at recess and let me know that she seemed fine at lunch.


By 1pm I was checking my watch every five minutes or so, to see if it was time to go get her yet. I missed her.

At pick up, I realized how much fun she had had, and how grown up it made her feel to have had a full day at school, away from Mom and sisters.


She and her sisters played with other kids on the playground for a bit after dismissal. Miss kept following Sis around, helping her on the relatively large play structure. She came to me and told me that I didn’t have to watch Sis, because she would take care of it.

The whole day, I was struck over and over by the juxtaposition of so grown up with so teeny tiny. She was acting so responsibly, and so big with her little sister. Yet the older kids careening around her dwarfed her.

Her uniform clothes were so grown up.


But in them, she looked so teeny tiny.


I guess that’s one of the tough things about the start of kindergarten. Our little ones are so big and so small at the same time. This makes it hard to let go. At least for me.

I must say, I am quite relieved she will be back at home with me next week. I think I’ll be able to handle this for one and a half days per week.

Posted in Miss, Motherhood, School, Sisters, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Answer Me This – Mmmmm, Cheese!

This is the last time Kendra is hosting the Answer Me This link up (at least for now), so I couldn’t miss out this week.

1. What is your favorite picture book?

Oh my. No way could I answer with just one book. I wrote a guest post for the 101 Books blog last year about my favorite fictional picture books. That post included the top 15 books, but I linked it to a post on my blog that had 101 wonderful picture books.

Sooo, yeah. I really love picture books. If I had to choose one favorite favorite fictional picture book, it would probably be:

It is the book I enjoy reading the most, because I love doing the voices of the characters. And it makes me laugh. A close second:

And one more newish book that I love:

Because, obviously.

A couple of favorite nonfiction books include:

We have three copies of ^^ this one ^^. One has been read so much it’s falling apart. Lass used to sleep with it.


This book is huge, and it is filled with wonderful drawings of so many different animals, several of which I had never heard of before.

Ours has been taped and re-taped. Lass used to sleep with this one too.


2. Are you a boycotter?

No, not really. I did switch to buying Blue Diamond almond milk after learning that Silk (the other main brand of almond milk) is owned by a company that supports Monsanto. But, if Blue Diamond isn’t available, I’ll buy Silk.

On the other side of it, the day after the SCOTUS ruling about Hobby Lobby came out and everyone on my FB feed was in an uproar about how awful HL is, I went there and bought a bunch of stuff. It was stuff I needed anyway (most of it, though I did decide to buy some 4th of July decor I hadn’t planned on), but I made a pointed decision to purchase it from Hobby Lobby rather than JoAnn fabrics a few doors down, because I wanted to show them a little love in the midst of all the haters.

3. How do you feel about cheese?

Oh, I LOVE cheese. I think cheese is just wonderful. Unfortunately, I’m boycotting cheese right now.

I am someone who tends to gain a zillion pounds when I’m pregnant. I start gaining weight practically the very minute the second line turns pink. So, I gained (relatively) a lot of weight in the brief time that I was pregnant recently, and it really sucks to have to try to lose pregnancy weight without the blessing of a baby to snuggle while you do it. So, I need to lose the extra pounds ASAP. The fastest way I know of to do it is to get back to strict paleo eating, including no dairy.

Yeah. I love cheese.

4. How many pairs of sunglasses do you own?

I think three or four. I have a pair that I always keep in my car, and a few more here and there. I think I have two pairs in the cabinet by my back door, and maybe another pair somewhere that is scratched. . .


5. How long has it been since you went to the dentist?

About six months. I need to schedule appointments for myself and the girls, but I am being oppositional and putting it off. My dentist’s office always calls me an absurd amount of times to try to get me to schedule an appointment. I always tell them that I will call them when I am able to schedule it (usually they call me when I’m somewhere that I can’t look at my calendar or at a time when I’m in the middle of something else).

Even after I tell them that repeatedly, they still call me several times. I don’t like to be hounded, so now I’m just not scheduling it because I’m being ornery.

6. If you could visit any religious site in the world, where would you go?

The only religious site I have been to so far is the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.


There are so many places I want to go. Guadalupe. Lourdes. Fatima. Rome and the Vatican. Cascia (that’s where Saint Rita is from).

If I could choose one place to go right now though, I would choose Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The Holy Land, I guess is a better was to say it. Someday. . .

To see more answers, go to Kendra’s link up.

Tomorrow is Miss’s first day of school outside our homeschool. I’m not sure if I’m going to bawl, or think of it as no big deal, since she’ll be back with me at home next week. I’ll let you know which way it goes.

Posted in Answer Me This, Books | Leave a comment

7QT, Theme Thursday, All in One

Linking with Jen and Cari today.


Cari’s Theme Thursday this week was “Google Image Search.” Easy – type your own name into Google Images and share the first image of you that comes up. Except that I am kind of crazy paranoid about keeping myself and my family somewhat anonymous on the internet. I don’t use my last name here on the blog, I don’t use my kids’ real names, etc. Add that to the fact that my last name is super generic (think Jones), and I end up with a Google image search in which not one of the photos that shows up is of me. Not. One. I would have done a screen shot of the images that did show up, but I have no idea how to do that, so here are a few samples.

^^ Not me (that’s Amy Grant in case you couldn’t tell)

^^ Also not me (that’s Amy Lee from Evanescence)

^^ Yeah, not me either (Amy Smart?)

Anyway, you get the idea. There were tons of photos that came up of people who actually do have the same name as me, but I didn’t want to put some random person’s pic on here without her permission, so these are a few of the celebs that came up.

Apparently, as far as the internet is concerned, I don’t really exist. I’m cool with that.

To see other people’s actual pictures of themselves from Google image searches, check out Cari’s Theme Thursday link here.


We started homeschooling this past week. This is earlier than I wanted to, but Miss will be starting her part-time kindergarten next week, and for the first week she’s going to go for three full days so she can get into the classroom groove and get to know the other kids. I wanted her to get a foundation of school at home before doing that, so I began before I was entirely prepared.

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It’s been a little crazy. I’m not in a groove yet. I haven’t gotten things worked out so that I can work with Miss and keep the others occupied and still be able to do a little bit of one-on-one work with Lass. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.


^^ She doesn’t use a binkie, she just found that and decided it was nice to chew on ^^

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I will say that, though it has been a little crazy, I’m pleased overall with how the week went. Miss is begging for more of her reading lessons. The girls learned some fun stuff, like what onomatopoeia and personalization are (thanks, FIAR). They had fun coming up with examples of these. We did some cool art. We went on our first field trip.



The field trip was to a place called Bookworm Gardens. All of the different areas at these gardens are based on different children’s books. They even have little cubbies all around the gardens with the books in them, laminated, so you can read them while you explore.


^^ Goldilocks and the Three Bears


^^ Little House on the Prairie


^^ Horton Hatches the Egg


You get the idea.

I thought it wouldn’t be crowded, since school groups aren’t taking field trips yet. I failed to realize that, since most schools haven’t even started yet, the summer daycare programs are ending, and they’re taking field trips. The place was packed.

We had plenty of fun anyway.



In addition to having to prepare for doing my own schooling with the girls at home, I’ve had to get Miss’s stuff ready for her part-time Kindergarten too.


Which means a lot of labeling. Her teacher wants everything labeled. Each crayon. Each marker. Each colored pencil. That’s a lot of labeling. Super Friend did this last year, and she recommended her handy dandy label maker machine.


Which really is quite handy dandy. Except the labels aren’t quite as sticky as they’d need to be to stay on curved objects, like crayons and markers. I stayed up late Sunday night and got all of the items labeled. When I went to show Miss her stuff the next day, I found that on the 108 crayons, 20 skinny markers, and 10 colored pencils, the labels didn’t stay.


I panicked for a moment, and then resorted to the obvious solution. Scotch tape.

DSC_0170I went back and taped over every one of those suckers.

When I took Miss to meet her teacher and drop off her supplies in her classroom she said to her teacher, “My Mom was really smart, because she put my name on all of my things.”

Worth it.


Speaking of taking her to meet her teacher, the open house for her school was on Thursday. She got her school pictures taken.

IMG_3498She looks so grown up, and so tiny, at the same time. Look at her little feet dangling. I could cry.


We had a birthday party today.


A little girl who really loves animals is turning four tomorrow.


Naturally, we had her party at the zoo.

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We had just enough time to play on the playground for a bit and see all the animals before it started to pour. Between them running out from under the covered areas to get wet on purpose, jumping in puddles, and needing to make a mad dash through the rain to the car, we had some wet kids when it was all over.


I suspect the rain and puddles were one of the highlights of the party for them.


After much deliberation, prayer, and checking (and rechecking) with my husband to be sure he’s okay with it, I have decided to become a sponsor for the RCIA program at my parish this year. The first class is September 8th. I can’t wait.

For more quick takes (probably much quicker than these!), check out Conversion Diary.

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Friends, Homeschool, Lass, Other Great Blogs, Outings, School, Theme Thursday | Leave a comment

Answer Me This – Mass Confusion

I’m linking with Kendra for Answer Me This again.

For fun, you should give your answers in the combox :)

1. What is your favorite room in the house?

The office. Really just my chair, but since the chair is in the office, and very often my husband is too, I’ll say the office.


2. Do you subscribe to any magazines or other periodicals?

No. But it’s funny you should ask. I have a story about this.

Once when I first started graduate school, I stupidly opened a credit card, or increased the credit line on my existing card, or did something like that in order to get some “prize package” that had grocery deals (not really) and a free five-year magazine subscription, and maybe some other free things (nothing really worthwhile). The only thing that was really true from that “deal” was the magazine subscription (I was so dumb). I selected “Mademoiselle” from amongst the available titles, and began receiving monthly installments right away.

Turns out I’m not really a magazine person. But they were free, so I didn’t think too much about it. Five years went by. I think they stopped publishing Mademoiselle, because at some point I started getting Glamour instead. It’s basically the same thing, and I wasn’t reading them anyway, so I didn’t care.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that five years was looong past and I was still receiving the magazines. I started to wonder if I was being charged for them somehow and checked through my records, with no indication that I was. I tried to find a way to contact the magazine publisher. I had a hard time finding a contact number. I forgot about it. The magazines kept coming.

At some point, I finally did get ahold of a contact number or website or something and I requested that they stop sending me the dumb magazines. I started graduate school in 1998. Those magazines had been coming for waaaay more than five years. And they had followed me through at least six changes in residence. It was kind of creepy.

But, as I said, a couple years ago (or maybe a year? I can’t remember), I finally got the magazines to stop coming.

Guess what showed up in my mailbox a few weeks ago.


I see they’re still publishing the same article “5,000 Ways to Please your Man and Get Him to Commit For LIFE.” With a different title, of course.

I’m not paying for it. Why do they keep sending it to me?? I don’t know how to make it go away. For LIFE.

3. How do you feel about the sign of peace at Mass? Enriching? Awkward? Overdone? Just Right? Some combination of the above?

Well. Let me first admit that I was very confused by this question, and by Kendra’s answer until I got to the part where she said, “I think it’s nice to make some eye contact with the people around me.” That’s the first sentence of her very last paragraph in response to the question.

Up until I read that, I thought she was asking about the Sign of the Cross. I was very confused and concerned to think that there was any controversy over it.

Oooooh, the sign of peace. Yes, I think they might have mentioned something in RCIA about how some people don’t like it.

So. Now that I have the correct sign, I’ll proceed to give my answer.

When I first started going to Mass, I really didn’t like it. I got all uptight about it in the moments leading up to it, especially once I started learning the progression of the Mass a bit better. “Ugh, he’s saying ‘Peace I leave you, My peace be with you,’ it’s almost time.” I dreaded the sign of peace because I’m shy or introverted or whatever, and it felt so awkward!

I’m not sure exactly when my feeling about it changed, but eventually it did. Now I actually really like it. It helps me to feel connected to other people in the parish. I like a lot of the other people in our parish! There’s one man who sits near us almost every week who smiles and winks at me every time I shake his hand (in a kind way, not a creepy way). People have said very nice things to me during the sign of peace, like, “Your children are beautiful,” “You’re a wonderful mother,” and so on. We were traveling, so I went to a small parish on the Feast of the Assumption (on Friday), and everyone there seemed to know each other and they were hugging and waving across the church and seemed to really enjoy greeting each other and wishing each other peace. Yesterday I went to Mass at a local home for elderly nuns, and people hugged me and were so welcoming and kind. I loved seeing those nuns do the sign of peace.

So, bottom line is, I think it’s great. I think it gives people a true opportunity to express kindness and warmth towards each other. And it’s traditional. “Peace be with you”

5. What was your favorite TV show (or shows) growing up?

I had a few. The main ones were probably Dukes of Hazard and Little House on the Prairie (which my Dad and brother called “Little House on the Chicken Coop,” while groaning, every time my mom and I turned it on).

I just bought season one of LHOTP to watch with my girls soon, and I have a whole bunch of homeschool stuff to go along with it. I think they need to be a little older for most of it, but I couldn’t resist :)

6. What are your favorite TV shows now?

I don’t really watch TV. It’s just not my thing (like magazines). The only show I sometimes watch is Chopped. Though I will admit to occasionally turning on Golden Girls or Days of Our Lives (on SoapNet in the evening, not during the day) when my husband is away or working nights.

I used to watch “Days” before I was married. And Golden Girls was my favorite all through graduate school.

Now, how about you???

Posted in Answer Me This, Other Great Blogs, Religion | 2 Comments