The Learning Curve

Father Ben Ludke
There are so many things to learn, and the more things you find out, the more you want to know. I was very excited to have the opportunity to go to a Women’s Retreat this weekend, at my parish, Christ the King Catholic Church in Ann Arbor. Sometimes, when you think you know what you will find somewhere very familiar, you find the unexpected. I found that there is a lot more to learn about my faith, other faiths, and all the beautiful women at my parish.
Father Ben Luedtke gave a great couple of talks to us women. It was very inspiring. In fact, the more I hear him speak, the more I feel inspired to live each day actively working to be a better Christian. The problem with even the best of desires is that there is this learning curve, where we work so hard trying and pushing ourselves to do or be something that goes against our nature, and it’s way harder than we think, but if we stick with it…..many good fruits come our way. It’s like trying to teach yourself an instrument. The only thing you can do to improve, is practice. The only way we can improve ourselves is just to….. try.
practice your instrument
I remember when I only had two kids, and I was COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED…and I swore like a sailor. It’s really quite embarrassing to think about now, how horrible that I even KNEW those words, and then I USED them at liberty every time I felt at a loss. I remember the first time it occurred to me that I needed to make a change. I was helping in Eva’s preschool that morning, and we had hustled to get Judah to the babysitters house so we could be to school on time, so needless to say I was running late, and flustered already when Eva stubbed her toe and promptly said quite loudly, “D@mn IT!” I felt red and tiny and absolutely ashamed! I had taught my daughter (who was already spunky enough without the vocabulary) to cuss when she got hurt.
cussing mom!
What can a mother do?! At the time there was no reprogramming my mind- I thought I was way to far gone to just STOP swearing, so I told my little girls and husband to pray over me every time they heard me cuss. The results were quite humbling. My four year old laid her little dimpled hands on my arm while I was listing profanities to the dinner cooking on the stove, and prayed to Jesus, “Help my Mommy say nice words.” I was amazed at how their sweet prayers really worked. I was very convicted to clean up my mouth and reform my ridiculous ranting. All we can do is try, and let God work. Well it did work, and even though I have had (several) relapses, generally these days I have a clean tongue, and the thought doesn’t even come up to say a bad word.
baby hands
God can transform us and fix our little quirks. He can take us, a bumpy lump of clay and turn us into something beautiful, something useful…like a beautiful decorated vase. He can make us into a reflection of Himself. If only we are brave enough to ask for it. Father Ben told a great story of when he was driving Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and was very lost. He was so so lost, and they were on the verge of running out of gas with no hope of finding a gas station anytime soon…Mother Theresa asked him to pull over so they could pray…they sat there and patiently prayed the nine Memorare’s that Mother said she uses in an emergency. When Mother Theresa asked Father Ben to start the car back up, it started immediately, and before he knew it, Ben was in front of the cathedral they were looking for. Even though they were late and he was getting the death stare from his Superior, Father Ben remained in the car with Mother to say the nine Memorare’s of gratitude for God answering their prayer. See how generous God is?!
All we have to do is ask, and we will receive. I hope I won’t jinx myself or something, but I feel like it’s more than luck…every time I need something, notice I didn’t say every time I ask…I mean when I need something, God gives it to me. He seems to be quite deliberately giving me things I want as well as what I need, and I am so so full of thanksgiving for the many gifts he has given me. It’s insane, because not only do I not deserve this stuff, this clarity, this grace, often times I REJECT it. You know how it goes. God sends you a friend who is willing to do some amazing thing like help with dinner, or take care of the kids, and you say, “NO,” simply because you don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, or put themselves out for you….But God is relentless in His generosity, never giving up on us, never stopping his gracious flow of love, no matter what!
Marriage, parenting, and being part of a family is a vocation. That means it is well beyond us. It is part of a system of mercy that God wants us to experience so that we can be with Him in Heaven. All the suffering and outrageous amounts of poop have a purpose. We are learning how to sacrifice small things for His Glory. In doing this we let go of a tiny part of our self. There is no ego in the word “mom.” There is nothing glamorous about breastfeeding or changing diapers or making one.more.sandwich. And that is why we are given our vocation. If we are to be the hands and feet of Christ here on Earth, then what better way to learn to help others than to be given this tiny person who is completely dependent on us for everything?
Father Ben talked about salvation history, and how the great I AM transcends all time, so that when we are at church praising God, we are praising the infant Jesus freshly born- right now- in a manger! We are worshiping Him in His Mother’s arms when she finds Him in the Temple. We look at our crucifix hanging up behind the alter, and we see that He is dying for my sins in this instant! Father Ben says that at the time when Christ comes again we will see the togetherness of this mystery! I can’t wait.
Until then, listen to this YOU TUBE video while you are folding laundry, and hear the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And remember if you have some really loud-crazy-inquisitive kid- he just may make a really great priest……….someday.

Raspberry Delight

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If you didn’t know this is the time to pick raspberries, and only for a little longer! We made a delicious raspberry treat the other day with sweet juicy raspberries hand picked from my friend Deanna White’s garden, it was so good, I had to share it! We affectionately call picking raspberries, “Berry Therapy,” because Dee’s raspberry patch is just that. It’s perfect out there, and the berries are magically sweet this year! We made a bunch of freezer jam (easier than I ever imagined), and had some left over….so we found this great recipe! Enjoy!!

Raspberry Crumble Delight

Adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

A simple crumble bar with a cookie base and streusel topping,and a lot of raspberries in between!


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 6 oz) unsalted butter (I use Earth Balance or Smart Balance)

3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (6 1/2 ounces) packed brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups (8oz) flour (I use spelt)

1/3 cup (1 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour (I use oat flour)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup (2 oz) orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


6 cups (two 12 oz bags) quick frozen raspberries (I hand picked mine at Deanna’s House)!

1 1/4 cups (9 3/8 ounces) brown sugar

6 Tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon butter (or your favorite veggie spread)

1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon


3/4 cup (3 oz) flour (I dig the spelt)

2/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon orange juice

1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) cold butter or substitute

If using frozen berries, several hours before you make the bars, empty the bars into a large saucepan and allow to thaw…

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

To prepare the crust:

Beat the butter, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, then add the flours, baking powder, orange juice, and vanilla. Place the dough in the prepared pan, patting it until it covers the bottom. Smooth it out with your fingers. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Bake the crust until it’s barely beginning to brown, about 40 minutes. Remove it from the oven and set it on a rack to cool. After just a couple minutes, run a knife around the edge to loosen the crust in the pan. Increase temp to 350 degrees.

To Prepare the filling:

Stir in the sugar, cornstarch and salt into the raspberries in the saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and simmer. Cook, stirring constantly until it thickens, and loses it’s cloudiness. Remove from heat and mix in butter or substitute, lemon juice, vanilla, and cinnamon.

To prepare the topping:

Whisk the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in orange juice, then work in the butter until the mixture is evenly crumbly.

Assemble and Bake! 

Spoon the raspberry filling over the baked crust. Sprinkle the topping over the filling. Bake the bars till the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown, 35 minutes or so. Remove the bars from the oven and let cool for for thirty minutes. Loosen bars from edge of pan with a knife and cut into generous squares. Really awesome with a scoop of frozen yogurt, or coconut milk ice cream!


Message me if you live in my area and would like to visit the White’s, she schedules appointments each week and would love to have some additional berry pickers!

The Dreamiest Butteriest Soup Ever

Buttery Butternut!

We love squash, and there are so many ways to prepare it, savory or  sweet, and altogether roasted! This is one of my favorite recipes! I hope you dig! After hearing the reading today at mass about the workers in vineyard, I felt especially happy to be working in service for the Lord, by feeding my family. I don’t always have this good of an attitude, but I pray it’s contagious, and that everyone who reads this is grateful for the family they have, and the good work they have in caring for them! Gods generosity is amazing!

Butternut Squash Soup

serves 8-10

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) Butter, I used Smart Balance because we try to stay away from dairy..

2 Onions roughly chopped

6 pounds butternut squash (2 large squash) cut in quarters, leaving seeds and strings intact

3 cups water/veggie stock

salt and pepper to taste

a pinch of nutmeg

chopped green onion/chives as a garnish

1. Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed stockpot or dutch oven medium heat until foaming. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until translucent. Add the quartered squash and cook, cut side down adding a cup of water, bringing to a boil, then reducing heat to low. Cover pot and cook until the squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes.

2. Take the pot off the heat, and transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet.When it’s cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin. Reserve the flesh in a bowl and discard skin. I kept all the orange fibery parts and pushed it together with the seeds through a sieve.

3. Strain the steaming liquid through a mesh strainer into a second bowl, discard the solids in the strainer. Rinse the pot.

4. Puree the squash in batches in the blender, pulsing on low and adding enough reserved steaming liquid to obtain a smooth consistency. If you run out of liquid, just add water or veggie stock.Transfer the puree to the clean pot and stir in any remaining steaming liquid, and more water until you have a desirable consistency.

5. Warm over low heat until hot 3-5 minutes. Stir in nutmeg and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with a sprinkling of green onions or chives and a warm hunk of bread or crusty bagel! This soup can be stored in the fridge for several days. If you feel adventurous, adding 2 Tablespoons of fresh cilantro leaves, some lime juice as a garnish and some curry powder (2 Tablespoons) to to the blender when pureeing the squash!

Enjoy! Do you have a favorite squash recipe? Share in the comments below!

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S Q U A S H !!



Weeding Out the Junk

summer 2014 #2 080 Can you laugh at yourself? Can you really peel your mask off and get a good chuckle going…. about your own hang ups?

There is a line in a song by one of my favorite bands Lucius, “I’m hard-headed, but I’m completely soft inside! I’m your dolly, stuffed with extra baggage…” Well! The part about the extra baggage is most certainly true.

I am an amazing collector. This can be considered a gift, but it can also be a curse, because as someone really smart once said,

“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”
― Vicki Robin

Guys, I have so much stuff, I can’t even begin to tell you where it all is! I have more junk drawers than clothes drawers, and I have….too much….So, in an effort to create solutions and not keep pointing out problems, I have begun to turn a new leaf. Part of the new leaf is a schedule that helps me and the kids stay on task. I’m going to try it for the rest of the summer, see how it feels and make adjustments as necessary. DO you have a set schedule? For those of you who do, does it help you get accomplished what you want to get done?

We have a goal to get up by a certain time, and eat, do chores and get school work done, but usually after that our “plan” gets overtaken by a tired and cranky mom needing to rest, and excitable children who seem to never need to rest! So, hopefully, this will help.

I have been researching different things on the web, about how to get organized, keep the home clean, etc, and it’s a wide range of wonderful pointers that seem to overwhelm me right from the start. I do like Fly Lady, and I like this website too:

My goal for right now is to focus on taking the things that matter most, and letting go of everything else…I don’t need all that I have, I need to do some pruning and weeding, in all areas of my life, not just maintaining my space. I love this gospel:  Matthew 13:24-30

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. 
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. 
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? 
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them. 
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

I don’t know why this struck me so much today, I have read all the parables so many times, I feel like I know them by heart, but today I keep thinking The-Parable-of-the-Weeds-in-the-Fieldman, we really are blessed to have a savior, and to know that one day he will gather us to Himself. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that day, and about the wonderful patience of our Lord. He is letting us all grow in our own time, and He won’t pick us out too soon, before we’ve had a chance to own our faith, bud and bloom, and learn to trust in Him for everything. I feel this parable is about HOPE. We can continue to have hope for our future, because God has given us the space and time to grow up to be more like Him….This is why we should never be dismayed if we have friends or relatives that aren’t believers. We are planting seeds! IT’S NOT OVER YET! He is working in us all the time, and even the late bloomers are going to get a chance to reach towards the light. Even the tiny thing that looks like a weed will be given a chance to finally seek and find the truth. It will all be made known one day.

So don’t stop trying to make it work, don’t stop trying to keep your home clean and sparkly, and don’t stop preaching the Good News to the people you meet and the ones you love. ALSO SUMMER 2014 142 All the joy on your face, the continuing to try, the ability to laugh at your struggles instead of getting tied up in them…the trusting in Jesus… that’s what will inspire the people….to want to know more…..and if you have any pointers for me, self-declared unkempt house keeper, please……do tell!


Here, You Take the Baby


Sometimes in the Protestant perspective, a Catholic’s love of Mary gets turned into an idolatry, or worship. It’s actually a deep reverence and appreciation for who she is, that leads us to ask her to pray for us! Without Mary, we would not have Jesus, and she was with Him for most of His ministry, and a supportive presence from what we read in the scriptures. The famous Rosary is really just an old Biblical Prayer, used as an excuse to remember all the important steps in Jesus’ short but powerful life. She accompanies her Son on most of His earthly tour, seeing His miracles, and feeling His pain at being rejected, all the way through until His death, and beyond!

I find that everyone I speak to lately has some incredible burdens to bear. There are hardships all around us, and what can we do except pray? I really feel small and helpless sometimes, not only confronting my own struggles, but all the good people I know. How can we deal with such hard stuff, and not be angry or bitter in the process? How can we not become cold hardened people!?

I think looking at Mary is a great place to start.We know she is in heaven, so close to the Lord, ready to share our stuggles, ready to bring the prayers of our hearts before the throne of God!  I have a story for you: My dear Mom-in-Law, Rebecca, told me of her encounter with this Icon, Our Lady of Vladimir. Here is a bit of history about one of the oldest icons:

“In medieval Russia this type of iconography was called «Umilenie – Tender Affection», which corresponds more closely to the imagery: the Child’s cheek is tenderly pressed up against Our Lady’s face; he embraces her with his left hand, and Our Lady holds the Child with her right hand, leaning her head towards him. A characteristic feature of this iconography is that the left foot of the Child is bent in such a way that His heel is seen. The icon is drawn on two sides. On the obverse there is a depiction of the «Throne of the Second Coming (Еtimasia)». The painting on the obverse evokes controversy to this day: some date it to the 15th century, others to the 19th century.”

One day when she was praying, and looking at the Icon, Rebecca heard Mother Mary say to her, “Here, you take the baby.” And she knew then that the position Mary was holding the infant Jesus in was one to hand off the baby! Totally makes sense to me! Mary’s whole purpose in life was to get the Baby out there. Remember the Wedding Feast at Cana? The first miracle happened because Mary told Jesus to pull himself together and HELP! So, before Mary hands you the baby, she kisses Him! The child Jesus is her one gift to the world….and what an incredible gift!

I am so blessed to be a mother, and even though it is often quite a struggle to accomplish everything, all the things I should do….The cooking, cleaning, organizing, nurturing, I know it can be done…..eventually!  Maybe you are feeling tired today too, and you need to hear a kind voice offer reassurance, that what you are doing is beautiful, and caring for and loving the little people around you (big or small) is an act of hope. Just being there for them, smiling at them, interacting with them, it is a good work. I feel God putting the graces, and the people I need to make it through the hard moments. Even if you feel alone, you are surrounded by the many angels and saints!

I hope you are feeling supported in your efforts these days, and I am praying that you are able to reach out, and take the gift! “Here, You take the Baby!”

Gardens and Grilling and Growing Girls

2014 christmas- spring 424This has been one of the busiest and most fun seasons of my life. I go to church, or the library, or wherever, say hi to friends, linger too long chatting, get home, make food, go to another activity, mow the lawn, flip the laundry, and woops! I’m late putting the kids to bed again, and I missed something, what was it, oh yes, the deadline for summer camp….

Do you feel this way too? I’m not frantic, really, it’s just that life seems to move at a frenetic pace. I feel often to slow to keep up. I try, I really do, but I simply can’t keep all the files in the order that they need to be distributed. My friend Clare says we should have gotten a degree in logistics and planning. Boy, is she right!

One of the endeavors I have been excited to try for some time now is to plant a real garden. We did experimental things like sticking lettuce and kale in our flower beds, but the light in our yard is just so bad, the stuff didn’t really grow well. I even tried a container garden one year, but again, not enough FULL sun! So this year I pleaded with my man to hammer me up a few raised beds for the front yard, aka the “Sunny Spot.” He reluctantly agreed because he could see the sparkle in my eye that says, Come on honey….. So, despite his reservations (neighbors who take VERY GOOD CARE of their lawns for example), he gave in….

On the day we were going to install said contraptions, the feelings began to come out, and I saw that there was some deeper issues at stake…Every relationship has it’s issues, and sometimes I marvel at girlfriends who have far more complex problems, ours is a simple comparison issue. The comparison I speak of has been evident in our relationship since early on, and although we have grown immensely in our ability to handle the struggle, sometimes we find ourselves in….a relapse. Let me speak plainly: My husband is equivalent to the Tasmanian Devil in speed, and in a blur, can accomplish tasks with great efficiency. To watch him work is quite something. You really just stand back and watch, or at least that’s what I do. I am more of an observer. I can turn it on, and go full throttle, but I am more of a sprinter, with lots of time in my schedule no matter how busy, to find time to watch television, read, take long hot baths, and write… I enjoy sports, and frequently challenge my body, but in comparison with my husband, who was a serious college athlete, well, lets just say there is no competition! I know what you’re saying, we shouldn’t compare, and yes you’re right, but how can one not notice these things when living closely together as a married couple? Sometimes, it just slaps you right in the face. And sometimes, it’s in awe of the other person, like WOW! You just did that so well, and so FAST! The other side of the coin is also good to look at, like WOA! Those weeds grew so fast that my front yard looks like the everglades, and oopsie daisy, I think I did say I would keep the garden looking beautiful….I think Abel was seeing the everglades and was rightfully feeling a little concern. So, we did what every honest couple does, we looked for other options…we considered a rooftop garden, but thought better of it and experimented with a new idea:  THE DRIVEWAY GARDEN!

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we put those suckers right down on the driveway, and lined them with a huge, thick, black contractor bag cut in half, and then we poked holes in it….

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we put more holes in the side that was farthest away from the house…..

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then we laid stuffing, or “fluff” on the bottom of the beds for drainage….

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the kids helped!

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then we added dirt to the raised beds…and my honey cooked up some Korean Beef on the grill, check my recipe page for the delicious marinade!

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and many tiny seedlings!

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We had more help than we knew what to do with!

It was a good lesson for all of us in working together to solve problems, and even though I was initially disappointed not to have my veggies in the front yard, I actually have really valued the back yard, because the kiddos can play and I can relax because they aren’t running out in the street and scaring the neighbors! This was a win-win if I ever saw one! And, while I find much gratification in raising children, and watching them grow, it is an incredible feeling to walk outside and see beans climbing upwards, tendrils flying out, looking for something to grab a hold of! And orange zucchini flowers that uncurl, forming little fairy homes as they spread…

I love my garden, and if you are interested in having your own, I hope you persist even though there may be challenges, and there are good people around to help you make your dreams a reality!


Pentecost, a Broken Arm, and Babies!

 Well, folks….Still interviewing and praying on the post about our sisters who can’t conceive or who have experienced the loss of a child. For you, I am researching this a bit more before it comes to print. Right now, I am filled with so much hope and excitement for the future, I can barely contain the joy!

Friends, there is so much good in this life, and there is so much to be truly thankful for! I can share with you my blessings, but if you struggle with contentment, I want you to feel comfort in these words: The Holy Spirit is alive and well, and whatever it is that you like to fret about, whatever is weighing heavy upon your heart, it is already taken care of, in the mind of God. So, put a message in a bottle, burn a letter, yell it from the mountain top, whatever you need to do to let it go, really just do it.

During Pentecost mass, I saw a vision of the tabernacle on the altar being open, and inside was the ciborium, which had its lid off, and there was a flame sitting there, burning bright. It reminded me of the Olympic torch. The scene I have playing through my mind is a literal flame of love! I imagine the Olympic torch being thrust from hand to hand until it reaches your hand, and feeling the weight of the powerful flame,  take it and run it up onto the alter, you will see the shiny gold tabernacle and you will  feel the love of the Holy Spirit pouring out of the open doors, the water runs out like a tidal wave, gushing over you, over the torch, over the whole entire congregation. The water of healing, of hope, it’s there in that box. The Holy Spirit is sometimes described as a bird, a dove, a presence, a feeling, a loud wind, even sometimes as fire, or tongues of fire. Any way you would like to describe the Holy Spirit, works, but to me the best description is water, but a water that changes what it touches so completely that it will never be the same. Water fills whatever shape it is poured into, it can accommodate you wherever you are. If you are feeling weak and tired in your life, it will bolster you with courage to face the day. If you are feeling worn down by the world, by temptations, by any form of sin that may be crowding in on you, take in a big gulp of Holy Spirit!!

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A good friend recently reminded me to be thankful…….here is my list of gratitude for today:

1. Thankful for my hubby, who never stops loving me and encouraging me, and to this day always makes my heart skip a beat! His hard working, driven soul, his love of God, and his generosity in loving our, and others children……Honey, you inspire me…..

2. Children, every one of them, because they all are so unique and special and wonderful in their own way! Adam, because, even though I don’t see you as often as I would LIKE, I respect you, and I love you, and I’m proud of your music making! Share your wonderful talent! Judah, for your ability to keep the time, and keep being sweet & helpful despite a broken arm!, Eva, for your hardworking spirit and great sense of humor, you keep us all giggling, Mira, because you are so giving with physical affection, and you never tire with playing with the little kids, Siah, because you are one tough guy! Where would we be without your endless jokes and amazing drawings of three-headed dragons? Cana, because your curiosity is inspiring, and I find your outgoing, bubbly, talkative personality to constantly make me smile, you really are a treasure! Anya, because you are a bundle of elvish personality, magic, and surprise! I never know what you will say, and I can’t get enough of you! And last but not least, our newest family member, baby number 8,  due sometime at the end of January, we are so excited to meet you, and love you!

3. My home, I know you aren’t always as big as I’d like you to be, and your single bathroom creates a line several times a day, but overall I am ever so thankful for your warmth and peacefulness, and I am so overjoyed to be living here for our seventh year!

4. My Cleaning Angel, Katie! I know we all think we can do it all, all the time. But I can’t. Abel and I hired Katie a couple of years ago, and she has changed our lives. She whips through the house like a tornado of mysterious super-tidy genius! I am so pleased with your work, and for coming to fix my mess. Don’t ever leave!

5. Friends! I can’t be more blessed by the people God has put in my life. What a wonderful blessing it is to be in a community of believers, at Pentecost mass  I was thinking of all my friends and neighbors who I love so much, and the beauty of a community trying to encourage each other, reach out to each other, and really try our darnedest to be friends we had such fun yesterday at our neighborhood garage sale….And then I thought of the Community it must have been among the disciples that day, when our church began, all the different languages clouding up the air, the apostles opening their mouths to speak the gospel to the unbelievers, and lo and behold, a different language comes out of them! It must have felt like a wild dream! We can expect miracles like this, today I think. Our world truly longs for the good, the pure, the beautiful!! Our world is need of GOD!! Don’t be afraid to share the gospel. And please pray for me to be brave enough to share it too.

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My dear friend, Cara, has started this cool Facebook thing about being thankful, and I wanted to share her post:

“Making a point to find the good in life, the beauty in the messiness, and the profound in the ordinary swings my emotional pendulum from despair to joy during the troublesome times, and helps banish boredom from the ordinary moments of my every day life.
And because all the goodness in my life is NOT because I deserve it or because I’m entitled to it, but ONLY because God chooses to pour goodness out on me because of His great love for me, I’ll give Him the credit.
These verses are dear to my heart and motivation for both developing a habit of looking for the abundance of His gifts to me and for sharing them with others. There are many more verses. Feel free to add some if you want.
1. My very favorite: Psalm 40:5 Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.
2. John 1:16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
3. James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
4. Psalm 30:12 …that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.
5. Psalm 35:18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.
I’m hashtagging my list this week with the hashtags #1000gifts and#graceupongrace (from John 1:16). Feel free to join me in making a list of blessings this week and use the hashtags if you want. And even if you don’t have a relationship with God, feel free to join in anyway!”

What an inspiration, I thank you, Cara! I will be reading the scripture verses out loud to my family at breakfast, and FORCING them to write lists of things they are thankful for, we all need to remember to praise God for the many gifts!

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There have been lots of opportunities to see God working in our midst, lately! While at our Memorial Day camp out, my daughter broke her arm during a pick up soccer game. It was very painful, and because of that the whole family felt her pain, and we decided to do what we could to try to make her comfortable, pray with her, and care for her. It’s been tough, especially missing out on playing soccer and swimming in our NEW POOL!!! But, she’s a trooper, and with support and Gods grace, we will pass through this season as well! It’s like that with Jesus. He doesn’t expect us to fix everything, like I can’t personally fix Judah’s arm, but He does ask us to do what we can….I can give her a back rub, or brush her hair, or in general just try to be there for her. Jesus knows our hearts. He knows how bad we just want to conquer all of the everything hard in our life. But He just sits there, patiently waiting for us to call on Him.

There are several weddings this summer, and Family Camp, and Soccer Tournaments, and many other wonderful things to look forward to, best of all is my dear friend is coming to visit this July!!!! Monay!!!I can’t wait to see her and her beautiful children!

What are you looking forward to??

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Write your own list! Do it!



Baby Planning, Not Planning, Pregnancy, and Living Open


Family planning for the Christian couple has many challenges. It’s not a simple thing, and it ultimately has to do with opening your heart to the work of being a family, big or small. The infertile couple, the overly fertile couple, the couple that contracepts because they aren’t sure what they should do… it’s never easy. I have been very blessed by the wonderful children God has given me, and I am not in a huge hurry to have more children at this time, because when my husband and I talk about the idea of adding to already larger than normal family, it can feel overwhelming. But…I do so love babies…

The Catholic Church says to be generous and open to life, but also responsible, at the same time. Is it responsible to have more children when it’s already difficult to care for the children financially or psychologically? The church says in these situations there is reason to use Natural Family Planning (also called the Fertility Awareness Method) to define the womans fertile times in order to avoid pregnancy. There seems to be some misunderstanding that everyone who is Catholic must use NFP, which is not true. Only couples who feel that there is serious reason to avoid pregnancy should feel inclined to use it. Otherwise, have babies at will! The more the merrier!

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My pattern thus far has been: to find out I’m pregnant and after a moment of….. wow…. I become filled with joyful glee, and eagerly await the new baby. Have the baby, nurse the baby, watch the baby grow, enjoy the baby very much………..while at the same time feel overwhelmed and swear I never want to have another child as long as I shall live. Then, about two years later decide that babies aren’t so bad, and actually I wouldn’t mind having another one……… then I find out I’m pregnant and REPEAT:) This has happened many times, and I’m sure it will happen again. I do wonder sometimes if this pattern is something other couples experience. And I also wonder how much of the swearing I’ll never want to have another child as long as I shall live portion of the cycle has to do with my husband. He always feels challenged and seditary when holding a baby in the larvae phase, have him chase a two year old and they are off to the races.The baby phase can wear on our relationship when I am become wholly consumed he can feel left in the dust…we want to do things in right order. I want to do what God is calling me to do. I want to serve the Lord with my whole life, all the time! If enjoying time with my husband isn’t near the top of the list of priorities, how can we expect to have a happy home? That being said, each and every time we have conceived a child, he has been overjoyed and incredibly supportive and gracious, and patient through all the ups and downs of pregnancy, birth, and care-taking.

There are many facets to family life, with the childbearing years sometimes being viewed as the more challenging years, and….I would disagree! I think the years of making babies are far more rewarding than trying to let go of the young adults and watch them turn into whatever it is that they eventually become. There is so much less control when they are older. And I can imagine that letting go is an art form in itself, like getting into the right position in labor, it never feels quite right, it’s challenging and it’s a lot of waiting and praying. I do savor the moments I get with my children, because I see how fast the time flies, and I think that is another reason why I sometimes want to avoid having more babies, I want to really be there for my teenagers and young adults. I fear that as I go through the pregnancy and all-consuming first years of the new babies life I will in turn not be present enough for the older kids. I will be so wrapped up with keeping another tiny human alive that they will be neglected or turn into some type of child laborer. Even now, sometimes at the end of a long busy day, I wonder if I said anything at all other than commands to the big kids ….”Go get your sister…” “Can you flip the laundry?” “Can you help me with dinner?” , “Get ready for Irish Dance!” ….etc…….I sure hope they don’t remember their childhood as a collection of chaotic moments of service to their family. I hope they remember the fun, the silly babies, the laughter, all tthe crazy moments, the tears of joy and the times when we felt like screaming and instead cracked a joke. I hope they see our family as something that worked.

Because that’s what it is, really, isn’t it? it’s survival. Survival is SUCCESS! Someone said that to me recently, and I agree. Sometimes we have to stop and count our blessings and realize it is all going to be okay, and call it good.

Sometimes we need to lower our expectations enough to see that keeping the family alive is a great expectation, and we are not super human, we are only doing our best, and especially when we are open to life, we can’t have “it all,” whatever that means. When you are open to life, you care more about people than you care about things, and therefore the “things” aren’t often what many would consider ideal. The thrift store approach to purchasing clothing and furniture, the thrift store approach to…..everything! You want shabby chic ha! We got it. Well.. we definitely recycle! The inability to have family stay over for a few nights while they’re in town, because literally every nook and cranny has a bed or a person, or a bunch of….stuff… in it. Um, we’re really sorry, we have to put you up in our….camper. Yes, the back yard has a classy feel if you’re into…. camping.. and tent’s are also available at no extra charge!

The level of humility it takes to become a person who WANTS children, is a high level. It takes a high threshold for pain, mess, and hair. Yes, there is a lot of hair in my house, in the shower, in the sofa, on the floor, it’s everywhere. I had to hire a great young lady to help me clean,  just so I can keep the hair at bay. The hair, and everything else. The everything else is so varied, it deserves a description. Today when I cleaned under the sofa I was literally only able to throw away the dirt. The rest of it is so…precious, because…. I happen to know where all of it should go! The tinker toys go in the school room, the pens and pencils go in the schoolroom, the beads that click together and I initially really loved but now often feel tempted to vacuum up, go on the toy shelf. All three brushes, and the 7 hair rubber bands go in the hair drawer, also known as the “junk drawer.” When you have that much hair in your household, the hair drawer is all encompassing.


When approaching the reality of an “open to lifer” you must expect the unexpected. Unexpected mess, children running through the room screaming at the top of their lungs, throwing up in the middle of the night, repeatedly being late (a lot) and, always, unexpected beauty. The milky smile of your nursing baby, the walk in the neighborhood searching for fairies, the sunlight seeping through the curtain and falling all over a table filled with great food and amazing little people. The people part is what is amazing. The babies turn into people. It is hard to believe. Our eldest son just turned 21……. Yes, twenty one, the legal age. A true adult. Maybe not quite in practice, but in numerical order, he is a grown-up. One can only wonder what many things he will do with his life, who he will marry, the children he will one day have- beautiful babies all his own, and the talents and gifts that he has will change the world. It’s truly worth all the pain and difficulties, and extra hair. Truly.

So although the business of babies isn’t maybe on your top ten list of things to do….that’s okay. But, maybe now you’ll understand a little better when I tell you, I’m living open…. open to life.

Exercise, My Love and Hate Relationship

warm-up It is really easy to say I love to exercise after I am finished working out. Before that, I can say I’d rather go to the dentist, peel potatoes, vacuum the sofa….well just about anything other than exercising. It’s not my favorite thing to do. I can get into sports, like if there is a ball involved, for instance, my competitive nature takes over, and I want to participate. But just running around for the sake of running around? No thank you. This year I have been really truly trying to work out more, and take care of my body. I started last January with this massive food thing, where our family gave up dairy and wheat. Giving up these foods wasn’t simply because I watched all sorts of foodie videos (okay, maybe a little, I did watch: Knife Over Fork, and Vedgucated), it was mostly because I have several kids with eczema and chronic ear infections. I read that these two problems are often symptoms of a food allergy, and the only way you can truly find out if there is a sensitivity, is if you completely avoid the allergen for a period of time, and then reintroduce it, to check for a reaction.

We  lasted one month without wheat. It was just too difficult. The day I threw the spelt bread dough on the floor was a moment I won’t forget. I was like, okay. Time to go buy a loaf of freaking bread. The wheat wasn’t an issue for everyone except me. I still try to avoid it, but I am not a Nazi wheat avoider. I will eat pizza occasionally, or a slice of cake. But mostly I try to stay away from it, as it really helps my acne. The more mucus producing foods I eat (sugar, caffeinated beverages, dairy, wheat, and red meats) the worse my break outs are.

Needless to say, we still avoid dairy, and that is going great. The other side to it, is I am trying despite many challenges to exercise everyday. I learned not to try to do my exercises with my kids, because I find it to be nothing more than an intelligence test I can not pass. They don’t move fast enough for it to be considered cardio, and what gets the most exercise is my patience…unless I get one of these! So cool! They only cost about $1500.00. I’ll get right on that!

mom with cool double baby bike

I do a wonderful Yoga Video (The Skinny Girl Workout, I know it’s a silly name, but I really like it). Or I just do jumping jacks and push-ups and stuff while watching T.V.

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Just recently I took the plunge and got a gym membership at Planet Fitness. It is 10$/month. I barely go to workout, maybe once or twice a week, but when I do go, it’s a nice treat and I feel so rejuvenated each and every time. I usually get on a treadmill or Ace Trainer for half an hour, and then do their circuit training for a half hour. It’s just enough to burn some calories, and build some strength while slowly acquiring more endurance.

I am thankful for the ability to workout at the gym, but I will say I can’t wait for it to be warm enough to jump, skip, walk, and run outside!


You may be wondering how a Christian Catholic woman could possibly benefit from doing Yoga, which is a valid concern. According to this article from Catholic Answers, as long as you are not participating in the Eastern Religion of Hinduism itself, you are okay. Yoga actually began before Hindu was established. It is now considered dangerous by some protestants, and as I read through the article the thing that stuck out to me the most, was, don’t give a body position that much power. Just because you see someone kneeling doesn’t mean they are praying! They could be proposing, cleaning the floor, or various other non-related reasons. There is even a Christian group who has started “Holy Yoga!” A Yoga program featuring Christian music and scripture readings! The thing I have found in yoga, that I enjoy, is, it’s very soothing, it strengthens all your core muscles, and it’s cheap. All you need is some comfortable pants! You really don’t even need a mat! Just breathe and touch your toes, it’s great. I feel like my whole body thanks me every time I do some yoga. All those super stretched muscles tighten and go back to where they belong after many babies:)

I also LOVE to dance, and me and my big girls get a nice workout using Wii’s Just Dance video game. Sometimes I get them to teach me Irish Dance moves, and sometimes we just freestyle:)


excercise quoteIf for some reason I can’t find the time to exercise, that’s okay, as long as I keep doing it whenever I get the chance. That’s how I roll. If I have any amount of free time, after dinner is cleaned up and the kids are sent to bed, I flip laundry and do my time. If I am too tired, I just go to bed, and exercise again the next day. I never fret about it, but I do put it right there at the near top of my priorities list. It isn’t always the best conversation with my honey, because he misses me, but I’m like: DO you want a fat wife? ok. no. that’s. what. I. thought. see you in one hour.

It’s not just that I don’t want to be fat. It’s also that I really want to be HERE in the future. I want to be healthy, and able to watch my kids play sports, and sometimes even get out there and play with them! I want to be fit, happy, and sacrificing what God is calling me to sacrifice. He did say: “Be fruitful and multiply!” He didn’t say: ” be plump and huff and puff all the way up the stairs.” Housewife doesn’t necessarily have to translate as heavy and having difficulty performing daily tasks while eating junk. We can do this! BEing healthy is so much more fun~ and hopefully God will bless our efforts no matter how little they are, and keep us around to be old and gray grandmothers, who get to watch our children’s children grow up into active, amazing Saints!

What do you do to keep your body feeling good?

Praying With Children- the Fun Way!

2014 jen's scrapbook 013There are many ways a parent can pass on the faith to their children, the best way is to pray often yourself, as their parent, and they will learn by example. Beyond that there are endless opportunities to teach them about the Lord, and to allow them to experience a personal relationship with God. But, I will caution you that not all of the traditional prayers or practices are fun, at least not to start out with. I remember cursing quietly to myself many Sundays while trying to contain an unruly toddler during mass. The unchurchable age does exist. At times the pity party I had for myself was so bad, I felt after mass that I should head directly toward the confessional! But the beautiful thing about that is, children grow up, and if you do continue to take them to mass, and expect them to behave, and show them how to behave, they eventually will! I am ever so proud when I go to church with my family now, because the naughty ones are outnumbered, and we can usually as a team, successfully stay in the pew for the majority of the service! I love to sing, and even though I really can’t carry a tune myself, I try to fill our lives with as much inspirational music as possible! In the car we listen to the classical station, or a CD of children’s music. Our favorite CD is called Cat Chatcat chat cdit’s great because the kids LOVE it, but the music is well done, and very singable for adults as well. I really don’t mind getting any of these songs stuck in my head:) And as much as possible we join in on the children’s choir at our parish. They say singing is praying twice!

Our Lady of the Rosary Feild Trip 3-14 025 Traveling is a great time to talk to your children about  prayer!  We love to go check out other churches, cathedrals, and pilgrimage sites. My all time favorite story was when I had to drag the family across town to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I had never been there before, and although I had heard it was beautiful and amazing, I had no expectation of what we would find when we got there! The only other Shrine I had been to at that point was Pious Union in Grasslake, which has this little grotto where you can go to pray.

Pious Union My family was tired after many days of sightseeing, and I was trying to get them to have this religious experience in the 140 degree heat! They weren’t thrilled! When we got there we were shocked to see the enormity of the place. If you get a chance to go, do yourself a favor and allow some time to see it all and spend some time there. They have eucharistic adoration, and I don’t know how many (70?) tiny little chapels that have artwork from the many apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Mostly mosaics, but many different art mediums were used in the gorgeous depictions from around the world. My favorite one was, of course, Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is breathtaking.

39_Our_Lady_of_Guadaloupe Even if you never make it to the National Shrine, you can see all of it on their website which has a virtual tour. I also like to make my home beautiful and I love to have many religious articles around to catch my eye when I am feeling troubled. I have icons, I have pictures, scripture verses, It’s not for everyone, but even if you have a favorite Saint, or image of Christ, or Our Lady, these things can remind you who you are, while your children are continually trying to convince you otherwise! Repeat after me: I am not a crazy person, I am a child of the King!

SAMSUNG Here is a little statue of Our Lady that my daughter Cana found at a homeschool sale. I wasn’t going to buy it for her because I figured she would just break it and we would all be SO SAD! But she loved it so much, I had to give in. She convinced herself that it is “her saint!” Super cute.

2014 jen's scrapbook 091  For your more kinesthetic learners, you could teach your kids the grapevine dance, or any traditional Hebrew step dances, in the Bible there are several places that reference dancing as a way to worship God. Why not? Here my dear Mom teaches the grandkids how to dance and sing “Hine Ma Tov, Behold How Good and Pleasant it is When Brethren Dwell together, in Unity!”

IMG_1755[1] Especially during Lent it is really nice to make yourself a “Stations of the Cross Box!” Even an old shoebox will do fine. Put something as a symbol for each station, we used nails, band-aids, a crucifix, a rope, a mini cloth with Jesus’ face on it for when Veronica wipes Christ’s face, you get the idea, so that when you are praying the stations, the children each get a turn to pull something from the box. They love it very much. They ASK to pray the stations!

IMG_1767[1] Even the youngest child can pray the rosary, or the Divine Mercy Chaplet! Get them a special rosary, and set parameters, like you may color or build a rosary with Legos while we pray, but you may not leave the room! This way even if they are not able to fully join in by saying all the prayers, they will learn the prayers, and benefit from the graces of a family prayer time together. We just accomplished our first Novena (nine days of praying a rosary for a specific intention). It was very overwhelming to me, so I took a relaxed approach and didn’t pray our Novena in nine days straight, just in nine days over the course of two weeks. We prayed mostly in the morning directly after breakfast, but when folks were particularly squirrelly, we just stopped and resumed at another opportune time, like when the baby was sleeping, or after the littles went to bed, I would allow the kids to “stay up” and pray with me and Dad, and then we would watch Cake Boss together and eat popcorn.

Our Lady of the Rosary Feild Trip 3-14 042Our Lady of the Rosary Feild Trip 3-14 052  You all already know how much I love Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but will say it again! I love the Montessori Method! I love that my kids are learning their faith through simple presentations, with plenty of opportunity to meditate on scripture, and really take the Word to heart. Sophia Cavalletti called it and Education to wonder! Here you see Cana in Level I Atrium working with the Nativity and the Adoration of the Shepherds, for the millionth time this semester. She is very drawn to the baby Jesus, and what four year old isn’t? She can work with it again and again, and memorize this beautiful story of our Lords birth. Siah, who is six, is learning his Maxims, by making a book. He is feeling very accomplished, and even though he drags his feet during the process, you should see the smile of contentment on this little rascals face when his work is completed, after many weeks of work, and he gets to bring it home, and recite the Maxims for his family!

2014 jen's scrapbook 119 A fun tradition that my husbands family has passed down to us is the preparation of a Nativity Play each Christmas. We have collected fun costumes, and have a blast putting together an impromtu show. The children are in charge, and they sing several songs as they act out the story. What a wonderful memory for your whole family, never let them forget the real meaning of Christmas!!

This is the song that we have been using to memorize the books of the Bible. It is a really nice thing to know all the books of the Holy Bible, and where to find them! When I was in grade school Sister Sarah Burdick and Sister Gail Lancaster and Sister Dorcee Cleary among others took the time to teach us the books of the Bible Song, and I couldn’t forget them now, even if I wanted to! And for that I am very thankful!

May God Bless you, in all your hard work trying to share your faith in God. The children you are loving and disciplining and shepherding are Gods handiwork, and you are their pastor in the domestic church of your home. If you pray for me, I will pray for you. Please share any ideas you may have for imparting the faith to our youngsters!