Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Subtle Grace - Book Review

When author Ellen Gable asked if I would be willing to read and review her novel, A Subtle Grace, I immediately agreed. I am a sucker for the inspirational romance genre; the publisher's review indicated this novel stood above the competition.

A Subtle Grace is a sequel to In Name Only, which I haven't yet read. A Subtle Grace can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story, though, which is a testament to good writing. Books that rely on cliffhangers to engage the reader in the next book in the series suggest that the characters themselves are not interesting enough to hold one's interest. Ellen Gable has a talent for creating diverse characters whose lives draw you in and make you want to follow their stories.

Set at the end of the 19th century, A Subtle Grace focuses on the two oldest children of the O'Donovan family, Kathleen and William, as they discern the vocations to which God is calling them. Kathleen's pride and impatience blind her to God's path initially; as she recovers from her folly, she must learn the value of trust. William believes he hears God's voice, but must balance his discernment with the decrees of the Church. Both young adults grow in wisdom during the three years covered in this novel.

Writing of a devout Catholic family in the late 1800s, Ellen Gable has done her research well. The book is full of historical details and reflects a working knowledge of the Church during that period. The characters' words and actions reflect well their upbringing in that place and time with no lapses to jar the reader out of the story. A Subtle Grace is also a well-edited book - no typographical errors, no dragging passages, and no incomplete plot lines. I appreciate the attention to detail evident in such a work!

A Subtle Grace is indeed a cut above typical inspirational romances. With a solid plot line and a cast of excellent supporting characters, this novel has much to offer. I finished the 400+ pages in just two evenings of reading! To buy your own copy and view Ellen Gable's other works, visit her Amazon page here.

I was provided a review copy of A Subtle Grace in order to write this review. No other payment or compensation was received. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Why I've Been a Lazy Blogger

And this isn't even my picture. But this baby is the same age as mine!

Friday, November 21, 2014

7QT (Vol. 108): Anne Says and Peter Pictures

Anne has a cold and might be teething, too. She was up about every 20 minutes last night, mostly gassy, which I suspect is from swallowing a lot of air with her cold. We let her sleep in our bed all night, so not very restful for any of us.

This morning, Jeremy cheerfully changed diapers and got breakfast for both kids while I got a solid extra 30 minutes of sleep. My hero. When he got to work, he sent me the following Anne quotes from breakfast:

"Daddy, doughnut?"
"No, this is a bagel."
"No, doughnut."
"It's a bagel. See? It has seeds."
(concerned) "Why?"

(referring to chicken) "Baby!"
Peter: "Anne, why do you like babies so much?"
"I dunno. Never boring."

(later) "Daddy, doughnut?"
"It's not a doughnut, sweetheart, it's a bagel."
"Me doughnut?"
Hope springs eternal...

I realize I have been unusually lax in posting adorable pictures of my children. This is particularly bad since those pictures are the main reason most people visit my blog. I'll compensate with some pictures of Peter from when he was the age Anne is now (almost 2). How time flies!


7 Quick Takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small Victories

The furnace technician arrived a few minutes before 8:00 this morning (just routine maintenance) and I was already dressed and able to calmly answer the door. Anne hadn't had breakfast yet, but that was her decision. Apparently no one microwaves chicken nuggets like Daddy.

We slithered into Mass during the entrance procession, but we got there!

I accomplished all my cleaning goals for the day. Which was to sweep two rooms and empty the dishwasher. Let's not get crazy.

I had a very productive spiritual direction session that I think I'll be mentally unpacking for quite some time.

Jeremy made delicious grilled cheese sandwiches tonight, forever changing Heesu's perception of what that food should be. "This is really good! Grilled cheese are always junk, but this is very delicious!" Her only experience before tonight had been buttered white bread and American cheese. Jeremy's combination of mozzarella with tomatoes on wheat bread basted with olive oil astounded her. (OK, this is not really my victory. But it was fun to enjoy his victory!)

I finally connected with one of the kids in my class who has been pushing since the beginning of the year to find out how far she can go. She was a great addition to class tonight, not a single inappropriate comment or even facial expression. She's a smart kid and natural leader, so it was wonderful to have her engaged. AND got us out of the potential power struggle that seemed to be on the horizon!

This excellent ponytail placement is not today's victory,
but fits the theme anyway.

Friday, November 14, 2014

7QT (Vol. 107): Joseph and my Amazing Evening

My in-laws came out today. Such a great day! They brought apple crisp AND entertained my children so I could take a nap. :-) My mother-in-law "did school" with Peter, experimenting to see what floats and what sinks. She even went a step further and explained how surface area affects the ability to float. It was music to my ears, hearing him learn from his Grandma as I went up.

After dinner tonight, I went to Chocolate and Vines with Heesu, my mother-in-law, and a friend I met on the internet. (We pretend that's sketchy to amuse ourselves. In reality, it's because we're both too introverted to meet friends in real life.) After a relaxing and delicious dessert, we were off to the Auditorium Theatre for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!

I can't even explain how much I enjoyed it! I saw it years ago with my dad; this performance more than lived up to my memories of that one. The performers were very talented, both in dancing and singing. And the LIGHTS! What I most remember from the first show was the effects achieved with the lights. Technology has improved in the past ten years; it was even more impressive! I think I was smiling for 90% of the show.

And this is just what they did while people were leaving!

A couple weeks ago, I recommended to the parents of my 6th grade religion students that they take their children to see the play if they had the resources. While watching the scene with Potiphar's wife seducing Joseph, I hoped that if the kids go, they won't catch all of that... Hmm. Although Heesu pointed out that it was still less suggestive than the costumes in the Donny Osmond movie.

Heesu and I watched the movie a few weeks ago, since she was learning the story in her Sacred Scripture class. The movie is fine. Heesu wasn't sure she wanted to come see the play, but hesitantly agreed. Tonight, she was overflowing with praise for it. "It was a BILLION times better than the movie!" I agree. I wish I had the resources to go see it again tomorrow night!

One of the little things I thought was cool about the play was that the first brother to embrace Joseph when he reveals his identity at the end was Reuben. He ran up, hugged him, then turned toward heaven and clasped his hands in prayer. Given that he was the only brother who tried to save Joseph's life in the Bible, I thought that was a nice touch.

Making my night complete, Jeremy got Anne to sleep tonight while I was at the play. This is the first time she has been put down to sleep without nursing first (or falling asleep in the car or while rocking), I think. She's getting to be so big! I am very happy to know she can fall asleep without me.

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Sports Our Kids Will Play

A guest post by my husband.

I was not very active as a child. I started reading at a very young age, and my parents say that they often had to tell me to put down the book and go play outside (things you never think you'll have to say...). As such, I think they would've taken just about any sport that I developed an interest in; the only rule was that I wasn't allowed to play football, which also never interested me.

My children do not share my desire to be sedentary all the time.

We do, however, now know more about sports medicine than we did 20 years ago. Our international student played tennis at school this fall, and they had a very interesting guest speaker to discuss injuries in youth sports. Much of it was focused around concussions, but he also spent quite a bit of time talking about the harm of playing one sport year round. It increases the risk of overuse injuries significantly (which makes sense, but I'd never really thought about it), and anecdotal evidence suggests it might even be counterproductive toward excellence in that sport; I don't remember the exact number, but it was something like 98% of Olympic athletes at the 2012 games played two or more sports growing up.

Peter has thus far only done gymnastics, in part because you can start that at a much younger age than other sports, but now he's just about old enough to participate in others, and also developing more of an interest (thanks in part to going to the tennis matches this fall). In the spring, we're going to open up the choices for him a bit.

But which sports? I decided not to give him complete freedom in choosing, because there are certain things I just don't want to have to deal with as a parent. Please note that I'm not saying that the sports we've excluded are bad and I'm certainly not trying to cast judgment on anyone; they're just not a good fit for our family. We do also want him to play a sport; I used to be fairly anti-sports, and still have some misgivings, but I'm convinced at this point that they do more good than harm for kids, at least when set up properly.

These were our primary elimination criteria:

-High concussion rate. One of the things I learned in that presentation is that even getting a single concussion has the potential to cause lifelong migraine or mood issues. No sport is completely immune from the possibility; according to NCAA Division I athletes, golf has the lowest rate, but 5% of golfers still reported getting a concussion while playing! However, I don't want to assume that extra risk for my kids, if there are other sports where it happens less often. This information was surprisingly elusive, as many places just report raw emergency room data, which is not helpful. (For example, bicycling causes more emergency room concussion visits than football - but way more kids own bikes than play football, so that doesn't really tell us much.)

-High expense. I'm going to pick on hockey here because of personal familiarity. We have some friends and relatives whose kids play hockey, and the expenses are very, very high. We have been blessed with more than enough money to survive, but I'm frankly not sure we could fit travel hockey into our budget, so I don't see the benefit in introducing it if we wouldn't be able to support carrying it to a higher level if the interest stays.

-High environmental impact. This didn't eliminate much, but I wanted to get rid of anything that is demonstrably hurting the planet. That's not a worthwhile trade-off to me.

-Anything that's based on weight classes. I've heard too many body issue horror stories about this to want to risk it. I know there are plenty of kids who do these sports and have no problems, but there are also those who do, and as with the other things, I personally don't think the risk is worth it.

If I were going to pick a sport for our kids, it would be volleyball. It has just about the lowest concussion rate of any team sport, provides one of the best aerobic workouts of any lifetime sport (FIVA has a 75+ age bracket), is something that is relatively easy to access and can be played in a backyard, and doesn't have any high-profile professional leagues filled with bad role models (it's a sport you play much more so than a sport you watch). The only major downside is that youth volleyball doesn't really start until age 8.

However, just as I don't want to give them complete freedom of choice in this matter, neither do I want to dictate to them what they are going to do. I don't want them to end up resenting the sport, or worse, sports in general. We developed a list of choices, which I've broken into two tiers: sports I'll actively encourage, and sports that are acceptable and will be presented as options, but I'm not going to actively encourage. As with anything, it's subject to change, though I think it's probably pretty final.

Tier 1:
-Basketball. This was the sport I ultimately ended up playing growing up, and it still fits within all of our criteria.
-Martial arts. I know it's not exactly a sport, but it's still in the same category of highly active activities, and teaches many great life skills you don't necessarily get in sports.
-Baseball/Softball. We don't enjoy watching or playing baseball as much as the others, but it does have the lowest concussion rate, and would put our very-small-for-their-ages children at less of a disadvantage than the other sports in the top tier.

Tier 2:
-Gymnastics. I'm definitely supportive of him continuing, though it is more expensive than the tier 1 sports, especially if he decides to get competitive.
-Swimming. This is even more expensive, and really only makes the cut because we think swimming in general is a very important life skill, and if competitive swimming gets them to learn the skills, it's worth it.
-Tennis. I don't really have any objections to tennis other than that it's not something you can just play anywhere. We live within walking distance of a few public courts, but it's still not something you'll just be hanging out with your friends and be able to play spontaneously.
-Fencing. Our town has a fencing program, and I think it's pretty cool. Only misses tier 1 because it's not quite as physically rigorous as most of the rest of the list; you have to be in good shape to excel, but the actual sport itself isn't inherently as intense of a workout.
-Jump rope. I guess this is a thing now; from what I've read, it sounds like it's sort of like a gymnastics floor/synchronized swimming/dance routine. I couldn't find any programs near us with a cursory search, but if it keeps growing the way supporters claim it is, I'll be keeping my eye on it.
-Soccer. Truthfully, if it were entirely up to me, soccer would not be on the list. The third most interesting thing I found during my concussion rate research (#1 being 1 in 20 D1 golfers getting their bell rung, somehow) was how incredibly high the concussion rate is in soccer. It's nearly double basketball's, the next highest sport on this list. This is especially true in girls' soccer, which brings me to the second most interesting thing: for the same sport, girls tend to have about double the concussion rate as boys. Girls' soccer has by some accounts a higher concussion rate than field hockey, and by most accounts a similar rate to boys' lacrosse. My wife, however, was a soccer player and coach, and is very adamant that soccer remain on the list. I don't want to undermine her, but I'm not going to push it myself.

When we've shared this list with some of our friends, we usually get questions about things like track and bowling. Those cover the two main categories of things to which we don't object, but I'm not counting as their "sport". Running and cycling are things which they can do on their own or in one-off races without being part of a team or sacrificing another sport that they're doing, and since we're homeschooling, I'm not really sure if they'd be able to do them at an organized level anyway. Bowling, archery, ping pong and other things like that we're going to count as activities because they don't provide the full-body workouts of the other sports. (This is actually a slight concern about baseball as well, but if they stick with it until they're older it requires quite a bit of exertion, so we're willing to invest those stand-around-and-wait years.)

Like many of these kinds of parenting decisions, this one has caused me to alter my own lifestyle as well. I suspect part of the reason I was never interested in sports growing up was that my parents weren't either - I'm quite certain that was the case with football, as I never even really saw the game other than on Thanksgiving. What ultimately got me interested in basketball was NBA Jam. (Growing up in the '90s, far and away the most interesting period of professional basketball ever, helped, but my kids don't have that option.) This doesn't match my wife's experience, but I know that's reasonably common; I had a number of friends who got interested in skateboarding because of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, for example, or baseball because their parents were die-hard Yankees fans. I don't really watch sports; even basketball, which is the closest thing I have to following something, I haven't really cared about since the NBA outlawed defense in 2004.

The last great team before the dark age. But I digress.

I have, however, given up Tony Hawk, and the other video games I enjoy which depict sports I don't really want my kids to play. This has been a bigger sacrifice than it may sound; I've got extremely fond memories of playing through the entirety of Pro Skater 2 with a friend one summer in college while we talked through our future plans, and that game was on a very short list of games I was hoping to play through again with my kids someday. Ultimately, though, I'm sure we could have the same experience dusting off NBA Street Vol. 2; it's not the game that matters so much as the people and the experience of playing it.

Come to think of it, that last part really sums up the reason I went through this exercise to begin with. The sport I played most after basketball in middle and high school was baseball; I quit organized play shortly after T-ball, but my neighbor was really into it, so we used to play 1 on 1 often, and it was a lot of fun. I'm sure our kids will be able to find a couple of things from that list that they really enjoy.

How about the rest of you - how did your kids end up playing the sports they play?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jack-o-Lantern and Costumes

A little unnerved by pumpkin goo

But willing to help with a spoon


Happy Hallowe'en!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Learning is Everywhere

Bowser explores Lego city with Spider-Man and Snoopy

Up until recently, Peter's top interest was trucks. His grandpa introduced him to Mighty Machines; Peter was an instant fan. For my part, I found it easy to use that interest in schooling. There is no shortage of books about trucks! We visited construction sites and talked about careers with trucks. 

For the last month, he has been enamored with Mario World. Yes, he loves the video game, but he is equally happy telling stories about it or making up his own with the Mario characters he and Anne got in their Happy Meals. He wants me to make up lullabies about jumping on crates and avoiding Goombas. I must admit, I was at a loss for how to use this interest in school. Pinterest to the rescue! I found an excellent lapbook on Mario World and a math activity that can be branded as Mario Kart. 

Peter has begun making connections on his own, too. Reading about lions recently, we learned that they live on savannahs. "Like Sprawling Susanna!" :-) So, he still pronounces it incorrectly, but the connection was there anyway! This has been a good lesson for me, too, in being able to find the value of any activity, even if it doesn't fit into a neat educational box.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Creating Art

Look at me letting go, not forbidding the mixing of colors ;-)

top left: tree, with sky to the right
bottom left: Niagara Falls
bottom center: Seal the sea lion
bottom right: ringing cell phone with a road above it

Monday, October 27, 2014

Glorious Mysteries

Enjoy the uplifting close to the month of the Rosary!

“Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”
Christ is risen, shout hosanna! Here is the triumph of Life over death. May I never take for granted the beautiful gift of salvation, bought at such a price. We praise you and bless you, oh Lord, because you have overcome the world.

He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
You have gone to prepare a place for me and will come back again in glory. I pray that I will keep my focus on you while simultaneously carrying out the work you have prepared for me. May I not become so heavenly minded that I am of no earthly good!

Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. I reflect on one of these during each Hail Mary, then ask for the Holy Spirit to come into my heart and give me the grace to grow in virtue.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Mary's assumption, body and soul, into Heaven speaks of the worth and dignity of the human body. My body will one day be transformed into a glorified body. This current body prefigures what is to come and must be treated with the respect it deserves.

Crowning of Mary
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
The new Queen Mother, perfectly submissive to her Son, has a special love for us and a desire to bring us to holiness. May I honor Mary as I ought and never hesitate to ask for her intercession. May I ever seek to imitate her humility, gentleness, and perfect obedience.

Friday, October 24, 2014

7QT (Vol. 106): A Well-Ordered Environment

I took a Myers-Briggsish online quiz earlier this week to confirm what I already know: I'm introverted, driven by data rather than emotion, respectful of laws and traditions, and "extremely well-organized and methodical." Maybe a bit too much so.

Don't get me wrong, there is definitely value to this. My friends are astounded by how thoroughly both of my kids will clean up, being certain each toy goes in its designated area. I just say OCD has a genetic component.
Though there are 5 things out of place in this picture alone,
so it's not like I'm crazy about it... right?

I'm also good at proofreading, knowing where items are in the house, and keeping the kids' clothes (past, current, and future sizes) well-organized. Being excruciatingly organized made school and work more efficient, too.

But then there are things I can't let go. Somehow in the past month, two of the teaspoons from our flatware set disappeared. And a mismatched one appeared. It's like there's a little imp out there getting great pleasure out of seeing me count the teaspoons every time I put away the flatware, hoping the wanderers have returned.

And the light switches. We have a few lights with two switches, both of which share switch plates with other switches... And there is no way to have all the switches down at the same time while the lights are off. C'mon electricians, how hard would that have been to do for me?

For obvious reasons, I am a fan of buying a series of books from the same publisher. They look so peaceful all lined up in order at the same height. I recently bought a set of books from Mary Fabyan Windeatt (who is an amazing author). In addition to looking forward to great books, I was happy about acquiring another matched set. Then this arrived:
Why, TAN Books, why?! What thoughtless person is in charge of determining book height?! It is a testimony to how well-written these books are that they are allowed to stay on a display shelf. ;-)

If you were simultaneously nodding and cringing in sympathy as you read this post, please check out this beautiful collection of images, The 31 Most Pleasurable Things That Have Ever Happened. You're welcome.

7 Quick Takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy first feast of John Paul the Great!

Totally yours

My mom took the kids and I to Mass and out to lunch today, a great way to celebrate the first feast day of John Paul the Great. Given a lack of battery in my camera and the difficulties of getting pictures off my dumb-phone, I'll leave you with some advice from that holy man in lieu of cute photos. :-)

Freedom consists not in doing what we like, 
but in having the right to do what we ought.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sorrowful Mysteries

I explained these Mysteries today to Peter (in an age-appropriate manner). His face grew very solemn as he thought of each one, so I concluded by reminding him that Jesus didn't stay dead. Immediately he flashed a brilliant smile and triumphantly exclaimed, "He came back! And He is all better!" We are an Easter people; hallelujah is our song!

Agony in the Garden
He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
I trust in the mercy of God, knowing that my sins necessitated Jesus' passion and death. Furthermore, knowledge of my sins injured Him far more than the intense physical suffering He endured. I am grateful that God loves me enough to suffer on my behalf. May my heart always remain sensitive to my sins, that I do not callously hurt my Savior.

Scourging at the Pillar
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.
As often as I meditate on this, I cannot fathom that God would submit to physical abuse. With a single command, He could have ended not only the torture but the lives of the torturers. And yet, He accepted our violence and redeemed us through it.

Crowning with Thorns
[The soldiers] clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him. They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.
So often I feel the need to prove myself, defend my credentials, and win an argument. But Jesus, who had every right to defend Himself, did nothing. He did not perform a great miracle to convince them. He didn't respond with taunts of His own. He simply allowed them to pour insults and abuse on Him as His heart broke.

Carrying the Cross
So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.
For this Mystery and the next, I reflect on a different event on each Hail Mary, as follows:
1. Jesus is given His cross
2. Jesus falls the first time
3. Jesus meets His mother
4. Simon helps Jesus carry the cross
5. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
6. Jesus falls the second time
7. The women of Jerusalem weep over Jesus
8. Jesus falls the third time
9. Jesus is stripped of his garments
10. Jesus refuses the drugged wine

The Crucifixion
Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take. ... The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.”
1. Jesus is nailed to the cross
2. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
3. Jesus is mocked by the crowd
4. Jesus entrusts His mother and John to each other
5. "Amen I say to you, this day you will be with Me in paradise."
6. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
7. "I thirst."
8. "Into Your hands I commend My spirit."
9. "It is finished."
10. Jesus dies on the cross.

Friday, October 17, 2014

7QT (Vol. 105): Good News People

Shauna - who is quite rather pregnant, mother of two youngsters, and just moved into an old homestead seriously in need of cleaning - took an hour out of her day to go visit a mother at the hospital. You may remember her from last week's prayer requests; she was admitted with health complications. She gave birth via C-section to a bitty but healthy baby boy earlier this week. Anyway, this mother was in the NICU during the entirety of Shauna's visit, but she was not at all irritated. She was simply glad to know the mother was getting the support she needed to breastfeed her new baby.

Jaime launched another Livefitmama challenge this week, including an optional Level 2 this time. She has made such positive changes in the lives of so many women and their families through this program! I'm proud to know her in real life. :-)

Tanya volunteered to bring homemade scones as a snack next week. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but that's because you have never eaten these scones. You would never again be content with what grocery stores pass off as scones.

Nathan drove well over an hour to cheer up a friend who'd had a terrible day at work. While out at the bar, he also paid for his friend's meal and my lemonade with the excuse, "It just seemed easier for me to pay for everything." Wouldn't want people to know he was a good guy at heart.

Dorina, as always, has been filling our newsfeeds and chat windows with laughter and reasons to praise God. Such a breath of fresh air! Everything she posts is guaranteed to at least make you smile.

Fr. Michael spoke inspiringly on Ephesians 1, reminding us of the joy of our salvation. We come to Confession not to focus on our failures, but for God to fill us with His love.

So next time you are overwhelmed by the monumental evil in the world, remember the good souls out there living the Good News one day at a time. And take courage, for He has overcome the world!

7 Quick Takes hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Autumn in Our Home

Fall placemats! And a basket of apples!
You can also see red and orange blankets in the living room.

Please note the leaf and dandelion in vases, courtesy of my children

They also gathered all the leaves for this

Peter slicing apples to make his first dinner for us

Baked apple pancake - delicious!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Luminous Mysteries

If I had to identify a theme of the Luminous Mysteries, it would be obedience. This is a virtue I am pursuing currently, so maybe that's theme I hear because it's what I need to hear. Anyway, here are my reflections on these mysteries.

The Baptism of Jesus
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Through His baptism, Jesus sanctified the waters of baptism. Where He leads, there we should follow. As a baptized member of the body of Christ, I am also called to ministry. My baptism began my commission. May I always hear God's call to be His beloved child.

The Wedding Feast at Cana
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it. And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
May I recognize Mary's role in making our needs known to Jesus and trust in her intercession. Similarly, may I always believe in Jesus' care for our daily needs, even things that seem spiritually inconsequential. Jesus changes our water into wine, into excellent wine, when we follow His mother's admonition to do whatever He tells us.

The Proclamation of the Kingdom
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Again, I am called to ministry. The Spirit gives different gifts, but each is expected to participate in the proclamation of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, but still so many do not see it. As Jesus poured Himself into public ministry, may I also give all I have to answer my calling, remembering always to make prayer my priority.

The Transfiguration
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. ... Behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Here are two commands: listen to Jesus and do not be afraid. If only I could follow such simple commands! May I strive always to give myself completely to the Christ, who is both almighty God and gentle, loving shepherd.

The Institution of the Eucharist
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Take and eat. Drink from it. I am both body and soul, so my Lord comes to me both physically and spiritually. May I never become complacent in receiving the Eucharist, but continue to stand in awe of One who loves me that much.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

7 Quick Prayer Requests

For a mother of two with a third on the way. She is 32 weeks pregnant and was hospitalized tonight with preeclampsia and other health complications. Medical staff want her to deliver within the next four days. Please pray for a healthy baby and a quick, full recovery for the mother.

For a friend of mine expecting her seventh. Please pray that her announcement is met with the joy befitting such news! I am sure she will encounter naysayers and critics, so pray that their hearts may be turned to accept full openness to life. If they meet her other six, they will certainly understand why she and her husband want more!

For two of my closest friends who are pregnant. One has a baby in Heaven whom she never met, so this pregnancy has been a time to learn to trust in God. The other has a host of practical decisions to make with the arrival of this child. Pray for discernment for her and a continued strengthening of the relationship between her and her husband.

For those who have turned away from the Church, that they might come home and be met joyfully.

For those who have turned away from God, that their hearts will be open to the people and situations God brings them in His desire to hold them again.

That the world would trust and celebrate the fathomless divine mercy. Where sin abounds, so much more does God's grace!

For the unemployed, underemployed, and those suffering in their current employment, that all might find meaningful work that honors their dignity as human beings.

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Challenge Met!

30 Day Challenge is complete! From the pictures, you can see I gained muscle definition, a new hairstyle, and focus. :-) I also gained healthier eating habits, higher energy levels, more stamina, almost complete elimination of headaches, one pound and two inches. Those last two definitely weren't part of my original goals, but I'm choosing to believe it is muscle mass and be positive about it.

Anyway, here is my official plug for Livefitmama. It is a great way to jumpstart your fitness journey, is affordable, and actually kind of fun! All of the workouts can be done at home with minimal equipment (just free weights - or detergent bottles filled with water, if you're cheap like I am). Next challenge starts October 13. They also have a program specifically designed for pregnant women!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Joyful Mysteries

October is the month of the Rosary, so each Monday this month I will give brief reflections on one set of mysteries.

The Annunciation
And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus." ... Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary was willing to accept God's will, even when she did not understand it. Through her assent, God brought salvation to the world. He asks for my assent, too. May I always give my assent wholly and enthusiastically, even to the mundane tasks of my vocation. 

The Visitation
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
How does it happen that not only the mother of my Lord, but my Lord himself should come to me?! And yet I do not recognize Him. Or I recognize Him but treat Him with only casual respect rather than the reverence He deserves. May I always grow in awareness of God in my life and respond with devotion.

The Nativity
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The Word made flesh. The God-man. The only begotten Son of God. The Most High God as a tiny child, an infant in the lowest of situations. May I always humble myself, knowing that from dust I was made and to dust I will return. May I stand in awe of the love God has for me such that He would empty Himself and take on human form that I might grasp the divine.

The Presentation
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Like Simeon, I want to recognize God even when He comes in a form I do not expect. Like Mary, I want to so unite myself with Christ that His sufferings become my own.

Finding the Child Jesus in the Temple
When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
Jesus, whose reply seems insolent, is sinless, so He must not have meant disrespect. May I ascribe the best motives to those around me, even when their behavior seems to be deliberately hurtful. Like Mary, may I keep in my heart the words and actions of Jesus, always seeking to understand them more fully.

Friday, October 3, 2014

7QT (Vol. 103): Recommended Movies

I read a post recently about recommended movies and thought, "What a great idea! I can do a list of movies I think are worthwhile." I didn't plan to write about my favorite movies necessarily, but about movies I would recommend as thought-provoking and valuable. (All links are affiliate links.)

All movies listed are better than what we were watching when Colin gave up and went to sleep

Good Night, and Good Luck Based on a true story, this provides a good look at the United States during McCarthyism and the Red Scare. It has value as a historical piece, but also as a lens for looking at the current political climate. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind This film is in Japanese with English subtitles. A dubbed version is available, but the dialogue translation is really terrible in parts. I like the way this movie examines environmentalism, greed, power, peace and courage. It is a masterful story while still being appropriate for younger viewers.

Pope John Paul II This biopic tells the story of a man who changed the course of history. A poet, an actor, a teacher, a priest and ultimately a pope the world would come to love. I watched this in college with a handful of non-Catholic friends who were all amazed and inspired by his life, so it's not just a Catholic thing. (Though if you are Catholic, you'll probably get more out of it.)

Life Is Beautiful Much of this movie takes place in a German concentration camp during WW2, so it is definitely too intense for children. While I think it is a good historical piece, I am more inspired by it as an illustration of Gospel themes. I won't go into too much detail, just in case you haven't seen it and plan to watch it.

12 Angry Men (1957) Good in so many ways! This is another good history piece, set in the 1950s. It does an amazing job of character development of the 12 jurors without ever leaving the jury room. No flashbacks, no voiceovers, just dialogue. Very impressive. It also brings to light how racism and classism can present themselves in gentler guises until one is in a situation where a life hangs in the balance.

And... those were the only films I could think to recommend. I have since thought of Gattaca as a possibility, but it has been so long since I watched it that I'm not sure. Jeremy says the reason I can't think of more is that I generally refuse to watch PG-13 movies and good films have themes and scenes inappropriate for younger viewers. He is probably right, but that doesn't make me want to go watch American History X or Requiem for a Dream. Do you have any recommendations of powerful films that I won't hate?

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I have no idea what I'm doing, but I like playing with these!

Monday, September 29, 2014


Heesu and I just finished homework for the night. My primary job is to keep her awake and read some assignments to her, as her listening comprehension is stronger than her reading comprehension in English. It's a good thing I'm not expected to contribute to actually completing the homework, since her algebra class has progressed beyond what I remember!

I am quite adept at Kindergarten, though. Peter has memorized his poem (From a Railway Carriage) and memory verse (Sirach 16:24-25) for the month of September. He generally refuses to recite for anyone, but did consent to a video recording, so I have some record of what he has accomplished. Our virtue this month was attention. Simply learning that it is a virtue seems to have spurred him to work on it. He has gotten better about listening the first time. Hooray!

Oh hi, just being adorable

Today we celebrated the feast of the Archangels. The kids and I colored holy cards of Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel and made a poster. This afternoon, my parents came over bringing gifts of angel food cake, fresh strawberries, and heavy cream for whipped cream. Quite a feast! Tonight, I taught my second week of religion class with my sixth graders.

Sadly, I did not get my workout done today - first time since I started the challenge. Maybe tomorrow I will be amazing and do two in one day. At any rate, Heesu needs to be woken at 5:30AM, so it is bedtime in this house! Hope your week is off to a great start.

Friday, September 26, 2014

7QT (Vol. 102): Quotable Kids

More outtakes from my favorite kids! Enjoy. :-)

P, wearing a cape and holding a stick: I am St. Peter. My superpower is catching a fish every time I put my pole in the water.

P: Anne, do you want to argue about can openers?
A: Yes!
P: OK, let's go somewhere where Mommy can't hear us.

Jeremy has taught him the expression, "Fortune smiles upon you."
P: Mommy, unfortune smiles upon you because that is not what I want to do.

me: Who did John Bosco teach?
P: Kids
me: And what did he teach them?
A: Words!

P: Can you do the mermaid verse?
me: I don't know a mermaid verse. The only other one I know is a mule verse.
P: Yeah, that's what I meant.

P: Seal (his stuffed sea lion) wanted to see the big sharks, but she didn't want to have tooth marks on her so she took a boat.

me: Wow, that's cool.
P: What's cool?
me: We just got $350 from the State of New York.
P: Wow, that's a lot! Can I have five dollars of it to buy something?

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hiking with Frogs

I took the kids to White Brook Nature Area today for a one mile round-trip hike over level ground. It took us about an hour to complete it, including a break for snack. :-) If you're local and have any frog enthusiasts in your family, definitely get there in the next couple days! These warm afternoons are perfect for spotting them. We saw at least 100.

We didn't get our morning chore or the scheduled writing activity done today, but I can't help but feel that this is an excellent example of a successful homeschooling day!