Friday Fish Fry

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One of the many beautiful things about being Catholic is the traditional foods that naturally come with the Liturgical Calendar, throughout the year. I really appreciate the different seasons we have that follow the life of Christ. I suppose in part because I’m a homeschooling mama, I think about the fall as the beginning of the Liturgical Calendar, with Ordinary Time quickly turning into Advent, which is the four weeks of preparation before we celebrate Christmas- with many opportunities for fantastic feasts full of decadence and joyful treats…this year my sister in law taught me how to make an easy delicious family-sized Ruben that we devoured on Christmas Eve…
We have turkey or ham for Christmas dinner and always several types of amazing cookies… Then we have another stretch of Ordinary Time until we reach Lent, which began this week on Ash Wednesday… Before we don our ashy heads, we have one of the most food friendly holidays of the whole year: FAT TUESDAY! Also known as Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Carnival- around the world, there are many fancy and tasty foods that come with it! Historically, all the fats and sugars would be used up before Lent, as it is a time to repent and make sacrifices by fasting from rich foods for the purpose of purification before the most special of all the celebrations in the year: Easter!! When Jesus Rose from the Dead, our lives were forever changed… And the gates of heaven were opened to us so that we too can spend Eternity with The Lord! So we really do it up big, and this year we made Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya with Andoullie Sausage, and one of the very best inventions of all time: the Paczki or Polish Donut! I prefer the custard filled variety, but they come in many flavors: the ‘original’ is lekvar or prune, but now we have cherry, apple, and many others;) It’s pretty delish, and we look forward to joining the masses as they run to our neighborhood’s gem, ‘Dom’s Bakery!’ Then during Lent we fast and eat simple foods. For Lent we ask “Catholics 18 years-60 years old to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which, if added together, would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Also children 14 yrs and older and adults do not eat meat on Fridays. All people who are sick or frail, or a pregnant or nursing woman are excused from fast and abstinence.”
I never turn down a challenge, and this Lent I was sure I could figure out a great recipe to entice my not so interested children. They will eat tuna, but not so much of anything else if it’s called fish! Our family has been enjoying watching Cake Boss on Netflix this winter about a big Italian Catholic family that runs a bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. In an episode I watched recently, Buddy takes his family to Italy where his parents grew up for a cousins wedding. It was a time of fun and celebration, and showing his three young children around the place. Buddy takes his son fishing, and later in the show they film Buddy preparing the fish. I tried my very best to imitate what I saw, and my family LOVED IT!
Here’s what I did:
Italian Broiled Talapia
Spread olive oil on a sheet pan with 5 cloves crushed garlic, one onion large diced, two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes (juice drained) with two teaspoons of dried basil, a teaspoon of garlic salt, and a teaspoon of black pepper. Toss all together and then cube 4 fillets of tilapia and spread out evenly on top of the veggies.
Broil on high for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. It is never fun to eat over cooked seafood, so if need be, remove the fish and cook veggies longer. The fish will cook quickly. Eat on top of rice, or noodles!

What’s your favorite way to eat Fish!?

Confessions of A Worry Wart

This past Sunday, our beloved Father Pat Egan shared some great thoughts on worrying, and I got to thinking, what DO I worry about? I had never really thought about that. I consider myself a relatively carefree person……And I the more I thought about it, the siller I began to feel……… My gracious, I worry about EVERYTHING….

How long will we live in this house? Why isn’t our house a little bit bigger?Will my husband and I stay healthy enough to be happy enough to love each other forever? When will my children begin to see my flaws and start to rebel? How long will we homeschool? Do I have rice to make jambalaya for dinner tonight? Why do the children’s feet keep growing? How about the legs? Why are their legs getting so long? How will I ever find long enough pants?! Shouldn’t all the kids be studying music? What about the one who thinks she isn’t special? How can I make them all feel loved? DO I have enough love? When will it stop snowing? Is it always going to be so COLD? When will it be spring? I really wish we could have a big garden….Why can’t I have a HUGE garden? Will I ever get to go back to school? What about the future? What about my dream to be a midwife? Will anything ever change?

There is no end to the worry. It starts the moment I wake up, and sometimes lasts the whole day long, or even until I am in bed at night. It may not be L O U D worrying,  just in the back cabinets of my mind I have a few sticky notes dangling there, worry waiting to be noticed. Other times the worry is like a brightly colored banner draped across the main doorway of my consciousness.

“Y O U   S H O U L D   B E   C O N C E R N E D!”

‘Thanks for finally admitting to being an anxious freak’, I thought to myself, and I have been reading Sunday’s gospel ever since, to reassure myself that God really truly does want me to be carefree, and trust in him. In case you didn’t catch it, or in case you need to hear it again:

Matthew 6:24-34

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

Serving Two Masters

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.[a]

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?[b] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

I found the reflection on this very helpful, I saw it on the Laudate App on my IPhone. There is a fella named Don Schwager who writes wonderful reflections. Here, he talks about the root word of anxiety literally meaning “being of two minds.” Good food for thought. I want to be of one mind, serving only God, not mammon, or material wealth or riches, or whatever tends to control our appetites and desires.

image-laudate-app1Do you have an app that you love to use, to bring you into the Spirit of the Lord? Laudate is very good, for many uses. You can read the daily readings with your children over breakfast, get a brief story to share about the Saint of the Day at Lunch, and pray a Chaplet or Rosary with the crew in the car. We love the Confession button, which runs through an examination of conscience, and yes, they have one particularly for the children, and they even have a Catholic Media portion that directs you to 12 different websites that will feed your soul while flipping the laundry. Highly recommended.

This Lent, I am trying to fill my mind and heart full of things other than worry. I am “GIVING UP” anxiety. I am attempting to make the silent moments where worry creeps in, into times for contemplation on the Word, singing songs and hymns of Jesus’ love for me, and reading comforting passages, messages, and biographies of the Saints who somehow kept their faith strong despite many unfavorable conditions. I will draw strength from them, and I will let go of any negative thoughts that Satan loves to toss at me, I rebuke him and all who work with him, and I ask Jesus, the Lord and Giver of Life to replace my worries with honest joy.

Jesus, fill me with the Joy of Life. Penetrate my heart with happiness, and Lord, when I struggle, don’t allow me to wallow for long, pull me out of the muck and show me the many good things I have to be thankful for. Exchange the worry with rejoicing! Thank you, Lord. I trust in You alone.

Divine+Mercy

 

Let the Search Begin! Tales from the Recipe Hunter…

SAMSUNG

When I do my grocery shopping, I go alone, I go early, with reusable bags, and a list in hand. I go through and inventory what I already have beforehand, and take note of upcoming events on my calendar so that I have what I need for the week. And that is the ideal. Sometimes I show up at the grocery with several young children and have these strange out of body experiences where the things I put on the conveyor belt are foreign substances, and I am ashamed to admit I bought them, like one time I came home with ten boxes of something called: Lucky Charms….I don’t know what came over me. They were on sale……

calendarStart With Your Calendar!

Plan the recipes according to what you have going on. A crock pot meal for a crazy day. And a more complicated dish for an easy day…So when you are driving carpool and your husband has a meeting and the basketball practice goes late, and the little people are screaming in the backseat, you know there is something warm and delicious at home, ready to eat! I don’t always manage to make this happen, and for that we have pizza delivery!

grocery listA well thought out grocery list is beneficial! It’s no fun pulling out your fry pan only to find out you forgot to buy oil…if you know what I mean! And save your receipts! I love looking back over and deciding which stores have the better prices on certain items:)

KrogerKroger gives fuel points, which is nice especially if you drive a huge van, like I do. I don’t love Kroger because they don’t carry many bulk items, however, I will say they have a decent natural foods section now! SO…..not too bad!

MeijerMeijer, I know like the back of my hand, because it’s the closest store to my home. I like it because I can get everything I need there. They have cat food and twizzlers, play doh and greeting cards, sewing supplies and tuna. You want it, they got it, but they are not the cheapest grocery store in my area.

SamsClubSams Club, well we all know that Walmart and Sam’s are not run with good business practices that we want to support. They don’t pay a living wage to their employees, and much of what they sell is fabricated overseas, but if you have a sick crew, or are otherwise pressed for time, their “Click and Pull” system is great. You can order all your food online, and then go pick it up. My only caution about this is, make sure you have all your stuff before you ring up. I have left freezer items before because I didn’t check…..

costcoCostco: never been. But, I hear it’s pretty great. Are any of you regulars? Why do you love it? I would like to hear your feedback. I do know that the company is sound and pays well, and generally treats employees well.

ALDIIf you really feel motivated to save money: shop here. ALDI’s has the best prices in town. They have much of the same food that you find at Meijer or Kroger, it is just packaged differently. You can’t get EVERYTHING here, but they have nice things, and the money you save is truly worth it. Remember your quarter so you can get a cart, and bring bags, or you will have to pay for them. ALDI is a German company, and they have excellent meat and dairy products. Just for your information: ALDI owns Trader Joe’s!

BULK ORDERS! There are many places you can buy in bulk and save beyond the big box stores, which don’t always give the very best deals.

RandazzoRandazzo Produce is a family run produce market that will deliver with an order over 100$. It isn’t the highest quality produce on the face of the earth, but it is generally edible and so cheap it is worth purchasing even if you have to toss a few. Some friends and I have been ordering from them for sometime. It has been really nice to get those veggies and not feel like I have to regulate how many apples the kids eat! Go AHEAD, children, have another banana, as if I haven’t fed you today already FIVE TIMES!!

country lifeI order Country Life about once a month. I get nuts, seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, honey, syrup, noodles, flour, oats and dried fruit from them. They have fair prices for excellent natural foods. They are a Michigan Company, and always have delivered with a smile! I love their date treats!

Farmers MarketVisit your Farmers Market! My mom took us, almost every Saturday to our local Farmers Market. I can still remember the smell of the cinnamon sugar donuts! It’s a great way to eat fresh, and teach your kids about food, and where it comes from! At our local market we can get locally raised meats, wonderful vegetables, and lots of other cool homemade stuff….

kids_gardening_426On that note. If you can, plant some seeds with your kids this spring, and see what comes up! It’s very exciting for them to see those tiny seeds become red ripe delicious tomatoes! Even if you just plant a couple things, it’s a wonderful learning experience. You may even have to convince your children that you  are not getting a booth at the Farmers Market just because we had some success with our garden! HA HA!

There are a lot of ways you can save money, but what it really comes down to is: pay now or pay later…. Eat well, and feel well…..Or not! Investing the time and energy into doing meal planning is satisfying, and your family will be impressed with your preparedness.

Arranged Vegetables Creating a Face

I dare you to try ALDI. Let me know what you think!!

The Grocery Getter Girl

February Family 2012 117The family can survive on ice cream, and potato chips….. and you know this is true Moms and Dads! Do you ever feel like throwing up your hands and screaming, “You don’t love what I cook, FINE, see how you like it when I don’t cook!” And then mumble some obscenities out the side of your mouth while slamming some cupboards. You too? Oh good.

I like to cook, a great deal! I would go so far as to say I LOVE to cook. I went to culinary school after all, but only recently did I really start to think of myself as a chef. Not a high powered executive chef, just a normal, run of the mill-knows most of the time what shes doing in the kitchen-lowest rung of the ladder-chef. A home cook! I think generally, if you home make several meals for your family every week, and spend time researching good recipes, you feel the same way. You too, are a chef! Some of it is trial and error and what your family prefers. We love garlic, for instance, and a lot of it. We cook a lot of different types of food, but we go through many a bulb each week! Not everyone digs garlic, and that is cool, you just have to find what works. I feel like I have arrived, I have the self confidence to just go cook something, and make it delicious.

Before I went to school for it, I was surrounded by foodies at the Ypsilanti Food Co-op where I worked for 7 years doing many different jobs, mostly cutting cheese and making Awesome Avocado Sandwiches. I also had an opportunity to learn how to bake bread form my Brother-in-Law, the able Baker Charlie Muller, who together with Hilde and three young children they run Laughing Tree Bakery in Hart, Michigan! He taught me many things, like how to deliver bread in a decrepit mini-van, how to roll baguettes, and how to save any frustrations in your day for inanimate objects, namely a very particular chainsaw used to cut pallets into firewood for the oven:)

I also worked at the wonderful Zingerman’s Bake House where I learned more about customer service than food, but I will never regret that job. The training that you can get from a Zing-Train Seminar is worth every single penny you will spend learning how to increase customer satisfaction!

During culinary school (I went to WCC but never graduated), I worked as a line cook at the Cottage Inn Cafe’ which was a pretty real restaurant. We made almost everything from scratch, and the food was good. I was in charge of “bakes,” which were essentially pre-made pasta dishes like lasagna, manicotti, and spaghetti. There wasn’t a lot of creativity involved, I would simply pull the cold plated dish out of the cooler, throw on a scoop of “mar” (marinara sauce), and a large handful of mozzarella cheese, and then bake it for about five minutes in a very hot convection oven, which I loved so much I called her ‘My Blodgett!’ Then later on I had probably the most interesting sous chef position at the Oasis Cafe’ sponsored by Hope Clinic, where I got the amazing and once in a lifetime job opportunity to work with Paul Metler and Chef Johnny (an executive chef). I learned how to make a lot of fancy things there, but especially soup, and quiche which I can do with my eyes closed! We cooked gourmet food for the poor, it was like the Ritz Carlton of soup kitchens. I wish it had been able to stay open longer!

Now when I think about cooking, I think about books. I have so many books, I have a whole shelf in the kitchen dedicated to cook books. I highly recommend anything written by the folks at America’s Test Kitchens. In particular my Sister-in-Law got me what my family refers to as the “BIBLE!” The New Best Recipes, From America’s Test Kitchens. They take the time to spell out the reasons why they do everything they do. I love that. It also cuts down on the guesswork. I also adore anything by Mollie Katzen. She wrote the Moosewood Cookbook, and several others that are all worth your time! I like to sit down with a cup of Earl Grey and a cook book and read it. My kids laugh at me when I do this, but I find it inspiring. I recently got into the Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet by Tara Wohlenhaus and Nanci Slagle. It’s super cool because these ladies have a SYSTEM, I’m telling you, they knock it out! I have changed some ingredients here and there, but I love their overall concept, which is to do a whole ton of grocery shopping, and then a whole lot of cooking, and then freeze most of it so then for the rest of the month you have back up meals! So far I have only been able to do a weeks worth in advance, but really, every little bit counts, right?

I have had many food streaks in terms of what we do and do not eat. I have shared these with you, and I will ever so humbly admit, even though I steer away from wheat and grains in general, our gluten free diet only lasted a month. I remember the day I threw the pan of sourdough spelt bread on the floor in frustration, and that was it. I feel much better when I keep away from all but sprouted grains, but didn’t notice a huge difference in the kids. So….we’re back on the bread. But we are still dairy free. I don’t know how I managed to get such a great husband, but he was super on board with us trying new things to keep us healthier, and I so appreciate his support. My kids didn’t love it, but we all have happier digestive tracts and less eczema and ear aches. We are enjoying a lot of fresh squeezed veggie juices, and almond milk, and are pretty happy with meat only for special occasions. If you look around online, generally milk has lost it’s reputation  for being a super healthy elixir. Here is a link to Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate. They recommend less servings of dairy, and I am a fan.

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/

My favorite thing to do every Saturday morning is hit the store as early as possible, before my brain is fried, and without so many customers I can just fly through and get the necessary ingredients for a bunch of yummy meals. And just for the record, no matter how much I plan, make lists, bulk order, etc. I always forget something.

What are your tips for grocery getting? Do you make a list of meals? Do you wing it? Are you a coupon user? Kroger or Meijer?Anybody like ALDI? Does anyone do Sam’s Club or Costco? I haven’t gotten on the coupon bandwagon, but I have heard stories….Tell me your shopping story!

my future grocery getting VW Bus!
My future grocery getting VW Bus! One day….

Homeschooling, How Do You Do It? @Maria Goretti Children’s School…

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To be perfectly honest, I never planned on homeschooling. I sent my eldest and second born to our neighborhood co-op preschool, and my eldest to a lovely charter school for Kindergarten. What I found was, the standards that the school had for their youngest students was crazy intense. Since my day, when Kindergarten consisted of play- doh and finger-painting, apparently a lot had changed… I wasn’t comfortable putting my child in a situation where she felt “dumb” for not being able to read when she had just barely turned five. So, I prayed hard. I told Jesus He really needed to give me a clear cut (obvious) sign that I should homeschool, because even though I had several friends who homeschooled – it seemed intimidating, a lot of pressure for the Mom!

The same day that I muttered that halfhearted prayer, I got a phone call from my dear friend, Darcy. She says, “Jen, you have got to get over here because there is a school that just closed, an they are giving stuff away by the carload!…. I thought you said you were going to homeschool!” So of course, I took that as my sign, and on the way home from filling my car for thirty bucks, I got this overwhelmed feeling. Now that my minivan is stuffed full of paper, paint, glue, community playthings, wooden toys, puzzles, and so much of everything I needed, I would actually have to do this!! AHHHH! Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, and many days around here begin with me resisting the urge to pull the covers over my head and travel back to dreamland. It is a lot of work and there are good days, but even on good days we have messes that aren’t easily cleaned up, feelings that get hurt, and there is never enough time to do all the things I want to do!

If you were to ask my kids why they like homeschool they would say: Judah (12), “I like the laid backness of it, it’s easy going, I can go off and do my work on my own, and I like learning with my brother and sisters, too, depending on the day. One thing I didn’t like about formal school was not knowing how my friends were doing with their work, I always felt like I was waiting for them to finish.” (Judah went to a local Catholic school for one semester in fifth grade and chose not to return, she had a basically good experience, but wasn’t accustomed to classroom management, and didn’t enjoy being away from the fun of our homeschool projects).

Eva (11), “I like that I can be with my little sisters and brother and do fun stuff at my homeschool co-op, mostly Ballet with my favorite teacher Miss Olivia!”

Mira (8), “I like having extra time in my day to play and work on my piano playing.”

Those are my big kids! I would suspect that the little kids would just smile and say nothing because they do very little formal schooling (2-3 hours each day) and mostly they play and do crafts. They are all learning and surpassing my efforts at teaching them to knit (thanks Ellen, dearest Fiber Friend)! Which is a great way to keep antsy children to sit still and listen to the Mama/teacher read. We do our Science, History, Spanish,and Scripture reading as a group.

Here is a link to teach your kids finger knitting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3LKAlDz9ig

I have heard a lot of reasons NOT to homeschool over the years, and maybe it’s not for you, and that is totally cool. Sometimes I feel like God gave me too much to handle, even though folks are always saying he never does that. One of the common complaints that I often hear from people, is the socialization question. We all want our children to have the perfect environment to learn and be productive lovely adults. Well, to those who wonder about socialization I ask, “What do you think the benefits are for a child to be surrounded by other children of the same  age?” I think it’s a bit like the blind leading the blind. Most work places are not relegated to a specific age group, it makes sense to teach multiple ages so that the younger children can have something to work towards, and the older children can reinforce what they already know by helping the younger ones. I kind of love my one room schoolhouse where the six year old knows details about Julius Caesar because he listens in on the big kids history lessons. And I have to laugh: my four year old reads, simply because she is a big girl and all the other children read, so she should too! I haven’t pressed her at all, she just taught herself! HA! Who would have thought?!

I know the pressure is killer in terms of finding out what to do, and how to do it, it’s not a small question. I so admire and thank God for my dear friend Clare, without her patience in listening to all my anxieties, I would never have had the courage to continue. I got the book “Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum”, by Laura Berquist, and I pretty much follow her recommendations, because I have been so happy with everything she has suggested. If I had to label my style I would say Classical/Charlotte Mason combo.  I use A beka and Teaching Textbooks for math, and now a little Khan Academy too (thanks Uncle Jaime!), we use Primary and Intermediate Language Lessons for Language Arts, Bob Books to teach reading, A beka for spelling, Story of the World and the American Girl Books for History, Gods Marvelous Works by Rod and Staff Publishers for Science, and a lot of Charlotte Mason style Nature Study in between. We love listening to Audio Memory CD’s for Geography and History Songs. We are learning Spanish, using fun You Tube Videos! We stick to Mrs. Burquist’s book lists, specified by grade, as well. There are a lot of other things we have tried, and every kid is different, so certain things will work for some that won’t fly with others. I trust that they will let me know:)

I want to note that a couple of years ago my husband and I had a conversation about house work. We decided that we would be doing the kids a disservice if we didn’t teach them how to be good stewards of our home, and this began a huge “chore chart,” which he regulates with the kids.  They have 3-5 age appropriate jobs each day, and they get points depending on the time it takes them. Each point is worth twenty five cents, and each Saturday he pays them in cash. It’s been a great hands on lesson, if they don’t do their job, they lose money, they can make more money by doing additional jobs, but only after all their regular jobs are completed. I thank the Lord everyday for my husband, and especially for his support in this way. The kids are very motivated to please him, and I am hoping this is the case for quite sometime. That being said, my house is not immaculately clean at all.

One of the questions I often get, is do you go ANYWHERE? Don’t you get bored being at home all the time!? The answer to that is yes, we go EVERYWHERE! I am becoming more and more appreciative of my time at home as I get older, but I still go somewhere with the kids almost everyday, sometimes we have to institute a Loaf Around the House Day! We do Atrium, Catechism Classes and Piano Lessons, Adventurers Homeschool Co-op on Thursdays, Irish Dance, and lots sports (gymnastics and soccer are the two going on now). We do absolutely nothing on Sundays except for Mass, eating, and sleeping (in, hopefully)!

There are so many great curricula out there, it doesn’t seem to make sense to pick just one, I say try some things out, and use what works! I can’t stand these people who are convinced there is a right and wrong way to homeschool! I have friends who Unschool by using everyday experiences to teach their children. I love it. Go for it! If it works for your family, I think it is a wonderful blessing, and don’t ever feel silly for using a book or an idea that no one else you know is using! The reason God gave us these kids is so that we could KNOW them, and learn from them, part of the learning is realizing that your attention is enough. There is no good teacher out there who doesn’t take the time and energy to really develop a relationship with his or her students! It is essential to spend the effort really getting close to them so that when they struggle you can point out the things they are honestly good at. It’s hard to encourage someone you don’t know.

I have used this "writing without tears" letter set for three kids in a row now, and I'm starting the three year old. It's very simple and not frustrating to the child, which goes a long long way in my world. I have no idea how I produced perfectionistic children, but I think this is God's sense of humor at work, again!

 
I have used this “writing without tears” letter set for three kids in a row now, and I’m starting the four year old. It’s very simple and not frustrating to the child, which goes a long long way in my world. I have no idea how I produced perfectionistic children, but I think this is God’s sense of humor at work, again!

Sometimes the more fun, the better, and keeping the child ready to learn the next time you sit down to read is more beneficial than pushing her so hard she loses the joy in it, and NEVER wants to come back and try again. I think being there, sitting close to them, reassuring them that they are making a good effort is critical. If they feel your love and support they will want to please you by doing a great job. Usually.

Do you have a play kitchen set in your home? Where do you like to keep it? I have tried it in my kitchen, so the kids can wok alonside me, but I was tripping over fake sushi and cake waaay to often. Then it took a trip to the basement, which is apparently quite scary to my littles, so, it's in the living room...
Do you have a play kitchen set in your home? Where do you like to keep it? I have tried it in my kitchen, so the kids can wok alonside me, but I was tripping over fake sushi and cake waaay to often. Then it took a trip to the basement, which is apparently quite scary to my littles, so, it’s in the living room…

The best part about being a child is having a chance to play. The play is their work. Maria Montessori said to number your words and prepare their environment. I try to practice the art of shut-up, it doesn’t always work! But  I do get a chuckle thinking about how I used to lecture Judah and Eva so much when they were little. It was waaay over their heads, I realize now, and why did I do that? I think because I was afraid if I wasn’t nice and respectful to them they wouldn’t like me. Now I understand that it’s not my job to be their friend, and I need to stop seeking acceptance from them. My role in their life is to be a good example. I can speak respectfully, but I don’t need to speak at them quite so much. The toys we have are not always prepared in terms for being as Montessoried up as I would like, but I do try to keep their work at their level, and to teach them to return it where they found it.

This is one of the baby's favorite places to hang out in our schoolroom (we call it "the Goretti," after our school's patron saint: Maria Goretti). My mom-in -law got the super cute bunny rug for me at a thrift store, and I just think it's so sweet. Anya sits on it and plays with my collection of wooden cars. Where is your favorite corner?
This is one of the baby’s favorite places to hang out in our schoolroom (we call it “the Goretti,” after our school’s patron saint: Maria Goretti). My mom-in -law Rebecca, got the super cute bunny rug for me at a thrift store, and I just think it’s so sweet. Anya sits on it and plays with my collection of wooden cars. Where is your favorite corner?

I love to switch out their toys periodically so that they feel new, and more interesting. I am learning to not put out so many choices. Just a few toys can provide endless moments of blissful quiet from your young ones! And if it’s pretty simple to  pull out they can have the satisfaction of getting to put it back just so! I like to have something sensationally sensory for the little kids to feel with their tiny fingers… favorites include rice pouring, play doh, sponge painting, watercolor pencils, painting rocks with water, snow play, bean spooning, what other things can you share that keep the babies busy?

Hard to believe, but my kids spend hours playing with these, making designs and flowers....if you don't already have some, get on the bus.
Hard to believe, but my kids spend hours playing with these, making designs and flowers….if you don’t already have some, get on the bus: Geometric Tiles Rock!

I would love to hear your reasons for homeschooling, and what you do that works in your one room schoolhouse!

I love love Charlotte Mason, but you know here in the Mitten State we have a lot of, well, weather. So why not bring the nature study indoors? We have been known to bring in bowls of snow when I can't muster the energy to dress so many little people in snowsuits only to undress them in 10 minutes! I just put pinecones and acorns and shells in this basket just for fun!

May your school days be fruitful, your children be well taught, and may your legacy be faithful friends of Jesus who take the time to love their own little ones! May your toes be warm, your mittens dry, and may your children grow up knowing about Christ by your kind example.

Free to be ME for the New Year….

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A wonderful concept, to be free, actually uninhibited by anything or anyone. Dream with me…………..a canteen of coffee with just the right amounts of sugar and cream, under a tree in a warm meadow, with no one to bother, a great book, and several soft pillows. Hmmm.

Is that real freedom? Why do I often perceive freedom to be a place other than where I am right now?

I think for a lot of us, it is just a need for a tiny short little break. Not a huge long vacation, no days away, no serious separation from our lives. First of all, everyone needs us, and no one can do what we do nearly as well. We just need a few minutes alone. Maybe sixty….five…..minutes…..Okay maybe a few hours…..that would be excellent right, Moms and Dads?! Just  a bit of time to decompress and relax, to kind of take a breath and roll the shoulders back and get a glass of water. A minute to think. A time of rest. I know you know.

Upon reading more Father Jacques Phillipe I have come to understand a little bit more of what he means when he says Freedom. It is easy to suppose what certain words mean in our language, because so many of our words were borrowed from other languages, and we use them so randomly, it’s as if we start to use a word and then wait to see what it becomes. This is an area of great fascination for me, but instead of boring you with semantics, let me share with you the many uses (although improper) of the word  freedom…..

Freedom, Father Jacques says, can be in our mind a synonym for “independence” like we should be free darn-it, and that’s why no one should ever tell us what to do, because we are completely autonomous, and able to handle everything on our own. Therefore rules, of any kind must be in complete conflict with freedom. Not so. We must receive from others and recognize a certain mount of dependence. No one can be complete by themselves. we can only completely be ourselves within a spiritual family (a covenant bond of love and faithfulness). The more we lose our life in God, and trust Him, the more our heart widens and opens, and makes us free. It’s right there in the Gospel: ” Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) The amazing lives of the saints prove this to be true. They unabashedly threw themselves into the mercy of God, and most often literally DID lose their life, but the extreme joy that accompanied their suffering would be unexplainable with out this concept of freedom.

Father Jacques continues to explain the mistakes we make about freedom in his mind exploding book, Interior Freedom, which you should try to get a copy of, since my paraphrasing here can hardly do it justice! Sometimes we think that freedom is something external. We feel that our freedom is limited by our circumstances, physical, or health limitations, obligations that we have, etc. We somehow believe that if these current fences were just chopped down, we would be certainly and truly free. But what we often find is there are rows upon rows of fences, and they are never ALL going to be taken down simultaneously. We have to be willing to over come some limitations, yes, absolutely, but we also need to try to accept things the way they are sometimes too. Father Jacques believes that most men and women today desire freedom that is manifested as a desperate attempt to overcome limitations. People want to go farther, faster, to have a greater power to transform reality. For instance, people think they will be freer when they can choose the sex of their children, or in other ways that they can surpass their own capabilities. Talk to famous bicyclist, Lance Armstrong about this one. He wanted so badly to win, he was willing to cheat with scientific advances, in order to win. Not content with doing ordinary things, we become suicidal in our efforts. Think extreme sports, or the folks who follow dangerous animals and someday get too close, only to be killed in the process (ever watched the Grizzly Man?) . How many young people have been killed by excess drugs or alcohol? They aspired to freedom, but never learned the right way to do it. This does not mean that we should aspire to a dull and boring life. But we do need to stretch out minds to discover genuine freedom in a close relationship with God.

If you doubt that you can do this, that too many difficult things have happened, or that you have “move passed that phase of trusting in a supreme being…” I urge you to look into the lives of people who have lived before us, and found the freedom we are trying to describe. St. Therese is a wonderful example given her “little provincial Carmelite convent, not outstanding for it’s architecture; a minuscule garden; a small community composed of religious sisters whose upbringing, education, and manners often left much to be desired; a climate where the sun shines very little….and she spent such a short time in the convent: 10 years!” But if you read her writing you would never guess all that because of her inner life. She uses terminology which is the opposite of her narrow tiny world. “Infinite horizons,” “immense desires,” “oceans of graces,” “abyss of love,” and “torrents of mercy!” It is quite telling that these expressions came out in her situation, in her suffering, the monotony of sacrifice that she endured. It makes me want to really think hard about the sacrifices I make for my children, and how they will hopefully play out in the future, the glory of the Lord will be revealed!

Freedom can also be confused with power to change things to our own desires, with every domain that we can have power in the more free we become. There may be situations that we can not change, and we feel powerless. Even when we feel powerless we can still grow, and have acceptance and faith in God. Father Jacques points out that being free also means consenting to what we did not choose. This is such a tough one. When we can accept our reality day after day, trusting God to help us through it, no matter how difficult or painful it can become, this is FREEDOM. It is a natural human tendency to hate what we can not control, but there is the paradox, “to be truly free we must accept that we can not always be free!” We must train ourselves to accept peacefully and willingly plenty of things that seem to contradict our freedom.

Lastly, there is this idea that freedom is spontaneous. “I can go where I want when I want, this is from my own heart.” God wants us to renew and purify our heart so we can have His law upon our heart, so when we “follow our heart,” it is truly God who is leading us. Becoming perfectly free is to be purified and inhabited by the Holy Spirit. It takes time, and healing, and conversion to listen to our heart with the Spirit leading us. Too often it’s our wounded psychology and fears that lead us. If we live simply for our desires it can be catastrophic. Do not live in a disaster. INSTEAD, ACCEPT THE WHOLE JOURNEY OF PURIFICATION LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.

How can we find solutions these problems?

It helps to link freedom with love, Father Jacques says. There is no true freedom without love. Also, there is no freedom outside of love. Love has need of freedom – which is why God respects our freedom…..He wants our love! He wants to be sought out freely.

We can lose our freedom, we can become a prisoner to our passions. Here is the order we want:

Love God.

Love Another.

Love Self.

The more we learn to love the more we are free.

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I think it goes without saying that parenthood is a very easy way to learn this lesson. But I also know from experience that we only receive the lesson if we let it in. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in our work. Really delve in and let it consume you, and let it blow open your narrow ideas of children and home and what. it. is. It is a very special opportunity you have to be a mom or dad… and no one else ever will have the chance to be a parent to your specific children. So make it count, and take those hours off to find the space and love and freedom to be where you are, and do it with thoughtfulness. It may not be easy, but it’s up to you, When you make your new years resolutions, take the time to search your heart and ask God,  “when am I not truly free?”

I am right there with you.

Blessings on your twenty fourteen, on your families, your relationships! May He strengthen your marriages, renew your love for your children, and give you the faith and hope to do what you should do, and find value in it. Amen.

Easier Said than Done

20131212-143303.jpg I have been trying to find the words to tell you about Jacques Phillipe and the Christ the King Women’s retreat for quite some time now. If you know me at all, you know that I am rarely at a loss for words. So although this is a different feeling, I am enjoying the sense of longing for the interior freedom that Father Jacques spoke of. The retreat was magical because ( together with his French words and sweet Sister Clare as interpretor) Father wasted little time and got right to the core of all human desire: inner peace. How we can accomplish this? It is something that can be obtained, but with much work on our end of accepting our circumstances, and offering our struggles as an act of faith to Jesus. Jesus is the WAY, we already knew that, but what if we had a difficult time in the past, or are currently dealing with a difficult situation? Father Jacques says that hope is the framework for the wings of faith. So if hope is the main thing we need how can we get more hope?

I feel overwhelmed at letting go of my past circumstances. I don’t LIKE to admit this to you, but I often let my past rule my present. I have hurts that I have done a lot of inner work on, but they stick to me like glue sometimes, those negative experiences, and they don’t just wash off with a good soap scrub. It seems like I have gotten through one thing that was previously difficult, to only be confronted with a wound I thought I had dealt with, but that is affecting me differently now that I am at this phase of life. Like it’s a new old pain. It really hurts and it is easy to sometimes feel discouraged and unable to heal again, begin again. Only with Jesus’ healing power am I able to gain footing and start to climb up…Once Father Ed Fride told me that each time I receive the eucharist I can say, “Jesus, heal the parts of me that are hurt.” And He will. He will. I have witnessed this many times, and it gives me strength to know he cares for me so much that He is willing to work out my kinks and enable me to let the heck go of all the damage that has been done.

Acceptance of our poverty is something that is crucial in order to have that inner peace. We have limitations, we have issues, we are not perfect. But if we can somehow admit our imperfections, maybe we can use that ability to be vaunerable to the Holy Spirit as well. Maybe if we can just let Him have us, as we are, as is, we can move forward in trust.

Father Jacques wrote a book called “The Way of Trust and Love,” based on a retreat guided by Therese of Lisieux. It is a beautiful treasure trove of Saint Therese’s amazing awareness of what she was meant for, and the practical advice of Father Jacques looking at her writings and talking to us as if we are his own dear friends. I highly recommend this book, and really everything Father Jacques writes! He is going to tell it like it is, and at the same time be tender and merciful. What a superior blessing to have the opportunity to read this, and to hear Father Jacques in person.

And now to apply it to my life, all of the inspiration, and wonder is seeping through my brain like ice water to drink on a hot day, it feels quenched, I have the knowledge of the freedom in Jesus, and now I just have to ask for it for myself. Jesus, what in me are you able to solve? What puzzles are you willing to take on?

Saint Therese says this, “I have always desired to be a saint, but alas, I have always realized when I compared myself to the saints, that there is between them and me the same difference as exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the skies, and the obscure grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by. Instead of getting discouraged, I said to myself: ‘God, could not inspire us with desires that were unrealizable, so despite my littleness I can aspire to holiness. It is impossible for me to grow up, I must put up with myself as I am, with all my imperfections; but I want to find out how to get to Heaven by a little way that is quite straight, quite short: a completely new little way.’ We are in an age of inventions; now one doesn’t have to make the effort to climb the stairway in rich people’s houses, because an elevator does the work much better. I too would like to find an elevator to lift me up to Jesus, for I am too little to climb up the steep stairway of perfection. Then I looked in the holy books for some sign of the elevator that I desired, and I read these words that had came forth from the mouth of Eternal Wisdom: “Whoever is VERY LITTLE let him come to me” (Proverbs 9:4). So I came, guessing that I had found what I sought, Wishing to know, O my God, what you would do for a little child who answered your call, I continued my search and this is what I found: “As a mother caresses her baby, so I will comfort you: I will carry you at my breast and rock you in my lap” (Isaiah 66:13, 12). Ah! Never had such tender, melodious words come to rejoice my soul; the elevator that would lift me up to Heaven is your arms, O Jesus! To reach perfection, I do not need to grow up, on the contrary, I need to stay little, to become more and more little. O my God, you have surpassed my expectations, and I wish to sing of your mercies.”

You may not have any idea how consoling these words are to me! I feel that, as my Atrium Ladies and I spoke of last night, the chorus of screaming children, the messy floors and the utter chaos is totally worth it when you look at the eternal perspective, but there is even more than that. There is the now, and it disappears before your eyes if you blink.

Having said that, it is important to close your eyes periodically for reflection and for sleep, and as necessary as all the sacrifices are that mothers and fathers often make, it is also worthwhile to let your own guard down, and climb into the arms of our Heavenly Father, tell Him of all your woes, and feel the tender goodness and love that His Heart holds.

He can handle it.

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Neighborly Love

Bianco Family

There is much to say on this topic, and as I’m sure you’ve heard, Pope Francis is driving it home that it isn’t ok to simply isolate ourselves in a Christian Catholic Bubble, circle the wagons, and take cover. Much more is expected of us who know the gospel.  In fact, we need to start, as Barbara Morgan says, and, “Evangelize YOURSELF!” And then go from there. After growing up in the Word of God Community, attending Our Lady of Elsewhere (a phrase coined by Dan Taylor to describe our parish before we had a permanent location, Christ the King, Ann Arbor), I still manage to either ignore, or not retain simple teachings of the Catholic Church. I listen to Ave Maria Radio, 990 am, daily, and try to hear as many truths as possible. I believe the saying, “You ARE who your friends are.” If I don’t become a friend of Jesus by knowing Him, by saturating my brain with Him, how in Heaven’s name can I preach the gospel?!DO-YOU-LOVE-YOUR-NEIGHBORS[1]

Despite my best efforts I have offended and caused rifts with just about every neighbor I have. Opps. But because I am tired of telling this story, and it gives me high blood pressure,  instead I will tell you the story of my dearest Soul Sister, Simone, who lives with her wonderful husband, Joseph, and their six beautiful daughters in Austria, Europe.

There were a series of absolutely gorgeous days, about a month ago, in which Simone was so thankful for the fine weather that she and the kids LIVED in their ample sized yard. They had many playdates, sometimes two a day! They cooked outside, played games, jumped on the trampoline, rested, read books, and many other various activities. It was a blast. On one of the last days of this beautiful weather blitz, Simone had left over cake (if you’ve ever eaten Simone’s cake, you know what a generous offer this was:) and she decided to bring it over to her next door neighbor.

When the man answered the door her laid right into her, “I don’t know what you think this is, but my wife and I have had no peace what so ever in the last two weeks, what on earth are you doing? There must be eighteen children back there all day long! HAVE SOME RESPECT!!”  And by the way, “All of the other surrounding neighbors have been talking about you all, we are counting the days until you move!” Simone was taken aback and saddened that he hadn’t come to her sooner and all she could really say was, “You know if they had a button I would most certainly push it, but as for now, would you like this cake?!” Because he had heard far and wide about Simone’s cake he accepted it with a scowl and slammed the door. She of course cried herself home, and cried all through the night, sleeping so restlessly she woke up at 1 am to sprinkle blessed salt all around the perimeter of her home, say a rosary begging Mother Mary to come to her aid, and try to continue sleeping again.

In the morning Jesus woke her up with a thought of paint brushes, so no sooner had her children woken up did she spread before them many beautiful water colors, and papers, and she went to work herself making a very large, very rich cake. Then she went outdoors to her beautiful garden and chose among the blooms the most colorful, lovely blossoms and put them into arrangements. After the cake was perfect, and the paintings had dried well, she and all 6 young ladies went to each neighbor in turn, to apologize and ask forgiveness, bringing the cake, flowers, and paintings as peace offerings. The neighbors were overwhelmed with this, and invited them in, assured Simone it was “no big deal!” And had fun trying to remember all the children’s names. It was really interesting how when she acknowledged her loud children and asked forgiveness the neighbors suddenly having put it in context, seeing their shining faces, they could accept the truth:  these are beautiful very young children, how could I be bothered by them, and how can I fault their mother for letting them play outdoors in the sunshine?! Simone said there was one old man in particular was very hesitant to open the door, and just wanted to be left alone. She really had to butter him up and sweet talk him just to get him to receive the gifts. She said it’s amazing how some elderly have been LEFT ALONE for so long, they can’t even remember being reached out to, let alone gifted with anything. The little girls melted this fella’s heart, and they have continued to visit him a couple times a week, realizing the loneliness is what hardened his heart. It was a wonderful witness to me. I thank you, Simone for letting me share your story.

What can we do for our neighbor today? Who is the lonely man in your life? Is there a nursing home nearby that you can visit? How about a relative? I have had so many aha moments dealing with my family member being put in a home this year. Many people with dementia or other illnesses just need love, to help them age with grace. They aren’t hard to deal with on purpose, they simply have a lot going on in their body that they can not control, and sometimes can not explain. The neighborly love that Jesus asks us to cultivate in ourselves is a very profound sacrifice.

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I have recently been reading this book, Thrift Store Saints, Meeting Jesus 25 cents at a time, By Jane Knuth http://www.loyolapress.com/thrift-store-saints.htm. Well worth the read. She hesitantly begins volunteering at the Saint Vincent de Paul Store in Kalamazoo, MI, and uncovers a wealth of transforming meetings with the poor, with her neighbors. It’s an easy, but well written read, with spiritual truths coming through in a form that is both real and challenging. I encourage you to take a look. Also,please comment with any inspiring books you have read. I would gladly try out your suggestions. The main thread that stuck out is that there are constantly folks surrounding us that could use “US!” Even if our family is doing well, and everything is running smoothly, you can bet your buttons there are people around town who are having minor crisis, or severe issues, all the way down to devastation, pending on what it is they are dealing with. I encourage you to find one thing a month extra to do, even if it’s tiny: like making a meal, that love and support that is felt from doing such a thing can actually bring you, the giver, more life and uplifting joy than the person receiving. It’s true that it s better to give than receive. Our parish, CTK Ann Arbor, has a wonderful program called Elizabeth Ministries: https://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/653753/calendar/, my friend Karen is always in need of volunteers, there is  someone who could use help. Feel free to e-mail me at carpenterswife28@gmail.com if you want in on this.  I don’t have space in my life at this time to become a Vincentian, but man oh man if I could…..I used to dream up fancy far away missions to join, probably more because real life is more difficult than nursing lepers in Papua New Guinea, and even though I am committed to stay here, I hope to go somewhere someday to serve the really poor. Like Lucius says, it’s tempting to look through the wrong end of the telescope, I need to turn it around again, and help right here, right now.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMSGsx6-mWI

Big Family Friendly Reviews: Baby Bliss Giveaway! (leave a comment at the bottom of this post for a chance to win)!

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Baby Bliss & Kids

137 East Main Street

Northville, Michigan 48167

 (248) 344-0001
If you ever find yourself looking frantically for that perfect gift for a baby shower, or you have a special child in your life that you want to treat to something really beautiful, look no farther, friends!  Head to Northville’s picturesque town! Here at Big Family Friendly Reviews, we had a difficult time getting our children out of Baby Bliss and Kids, we were all having so. much. fun. The store is tiny, but just perfect for filling with the highest quality brands of wonderfulness! They sell their fair share of Robeez shoes, Mama Goose Amber Teething Necklaces, and the infamous Rainbow Loom! They have an abundance of toys that are wooden or made to last.  The main reason I love to buy good toys is the children are more happy with it, it feels good in the hands, and I can pass it on. I hate the ceremonial “throw away party,” each January, when we literally throw in the trash the toys that couldn’t make it more than one month:/

In speaking with Trevor and Colleen McInnis I see their vision clearly: good stuff for great people. Their family started out in Las Vegas! Colleen grew up in New Jersey and Trevor in Waterford, MI and they met at UNLV and were married there. They started a family and an online business when they chose to come back East to where Trevor grew up. They have four awesome kids, Caitlin (19), Hailey (14), Meghan (8), and Sean (4). They have been homeschooling for seven years and Colleen says, ” I love having my kids around!” I find this to be true for many Catholic Homeschoolers, if you love Jesus and you want to do His will, being together with your children certainly makes sense. They belong to Saint Augustine’s Homeschool Group which meets at Old Saint Pat’s where they are also parishioners.

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When the McInnis Family started their online business they sold mostly baby products like cloth diapering paraphernalia and shoes and clothes, and after moving to Michigan they were led to open a store after being offered a wonderful spot in downtown Northville. They are directly next to the Children’s Theatre, http://www.northvillemarquistheatre.com/ChildrensShowSchedule.htm , which is a great destination all by itself, and with many other pleasant shops and restaurants, who wouldn’t want to come out for a visit?!

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When I asked Colleen what the biggest sellers are, she said the baby shoes, Robeez and Squeekers, which in case you didn’t know,the “squeeker” can be removed if you so choose! And also the Rainbow Loom (as seen on YOU TUBE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI7AkI5dJzo) Actually, at the time of this interview the Rainbow Loom was all sold out! I really like this toy, because it’s not expensive ( about fifteen dollars for the loom and 600 bands, and 3-4$ for additional bands) especially if you buy it at Baby Bliss and Kids, because the McInnis’ don’t hike up the prices unnecessarily, and it’s great for visual learners. The kids can watch the youtube video and learn how to do all sorts of great patterns. Colleen says that boys as well as girls love it and have done some pretty creative styles with U of M or Sparty colors! This toy is recommended for 8 years and up, but Colleen says a 6 year old with good fine motor skills could do it as well.

Mama Goose Amber

The beautiful, Jesus loving-Catholic Family at Baby Bliss and Kids has generously offered the following gift to one lucky person:

One Mama Goose Amber Necklace

(a twenty dollar value)

To enter todays giveaway, please leave a comment (one per person, please!) in todays post. I will close comments by 10 pm November 8th, and chosen by random number generator, I will reveal the winner the following day.

And the winner is: Katie: 8 Boys 1 Girl

I’ve been wanting to check out her store for some time! Wish I was closer.. but I’ll just have to find an excuse to get out there! My baby is cutting her two top teeth now, so she is really hoping we win ;)s

Congratulations Katie, and please e-mail me your address so I can mail you your amber necklace!

(carpenterswife28@gmail.com)

To everyone else: thank you so much for participating! May God Bless YOU! And I will be doing another giveaway soon! If you have a business that you feel is worthy of some “stars,” here at Big Family Friendly Reviews, we are scanning the area for ideas. Today I am researching hair salons!

***If you have a group of ten or more who would like to have a private shopping party after hours, please call Trevor or Colleen to set up a time. Colleen says she does a fundraiser party for La Leche League each year, and it is the highlight of her year.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bliss-Baby-Kids/123359709064

Check out their Facebook page! Like it, and call up Trevor or Colleen if you have any questions or want to set up a party.

Happy Shopping!!!

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Home and Schooling and Varmin, and Miracles, and Lots of Books

The reality sets in this time of year, doesn’t it? There is always more on the list than can actually be accomplished in the time we have… the thrill of everything finally starting up with fall, is fading. But there is still all those bits we have to squeeze in, for me, it’s soccer, Atrium (also known as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), and our homeschool co-op. Those things together with getting good warm food into bellies, spending enough time cultivating relationships with family and friends…. woa, it’s a lot!! But this year we don’t have any mice!!! HA! Thanks to the cats! But guess what we do have? FLEAS! Thanks to the cats….which is worse, mice or fleas? I am unsure.
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Plus you have to factor in having enough quality time with your spouse. It’s hard, always being tired, to make that happen, too. This summer was our ten year anniversary, and were able to get away for four whole days! We had a blast traipsing around northern Michigan, taking in the beauty of nature, enjoying the wineries, and eating fantastic food! What a treat! If you have forgotten to remember your sweetheart lately, don’t. Kiss him. Go see “Grace Unplugged.” Whatever you have fun doing together: DO IT!
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And reading, and books, and making the effort to get the ACTUAL WORK of homeschooling done. My goodness, it’s sometimes overwhelming, not that I would have it any other way- the three ring circus is part in parcel with the life I lead, and I usually accept it with grace, except when, um….I don’t.
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There have recently been so many miracles, it just seems that either God must really love me, or….no, that must be what it is, because I certainly don’t deserve a bit of it. Last week- I am now calling it Miracle Friday – really had me in shock of what Jesus can do! It’s not: WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? – it’s LOOK WHAT JESUS DID!!
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I know it seems silly to point it out to you all, I am preaching to the choir, but…..he died for us, and we should be ecstatically rejoicing and spreading the Good News all over everywhere. I got an opportunity to do that this last Friday, I saw a Facebook post from a dear friend saying, “I need HELP!!!” and so I jumped into action and did a little helping (which I am sure actually blessed me more than it did her:), while I was on my way to her house, I was confronted by a sweet looking young lady standing by the side of the road with a sign that said in bold sharpie-printed letters, “I need HELP!!!” I’m not even making this up!! My first thought was, ‘why do I need to be the one to help, today!?’ Well, I didn’t come up with anything solid on that one, so my daughter and I searched the car for something to give her…we found a tootsie pop, and an apple. Pretty lame, but we gave it to her, I asked her name, and told her I would be praying for her, I said I was going to try and come up with something better for next time. She was honestly appreciative of what I had to offer. Which was, I guess, surprising. Maybe I try to turn pan-handlers into lazy people to make myself feel better about  being unwilling to give….
Then later that evening I thought I heard God telling me to pay for my friends meal, which isn’t a big deal, but then on my way out to the car, there was a twenty dollar bill just sitting there…..

Yes, miracles abound, totally undeserved, total gift. I am feeling like these little happenings are the things that we have to collect, put in our pockets, and then when we are teaching our fourth child how to read, and they don’t LOVE EVERY MINUTE of the process, we can pull this stuff out and savor it. Savor the truth of who Christ is. He is pure love. He has enough love to fill every bloody word in that bleepty-bleep early reader, and then some. So, keep on keepin’ on, my dearest friends. Even if you are sending your children to school, you are still homeschooling. You are trying to create generous, fruitful, somewhat tidy little humans. And boy oh boy, it is a very challenging job.

This week when you want to abandon your post and flee to the quiet room (wherever that may be, or if it even exists) and read a book, alone, with a cup of hot coffee, and no one touching you, squabbling, or generally making life difficult, remember what it says in scripture:

Hebrews 13:5-6
“Keep your lives free from the love of money,
and be content with what you have; for he has said,
“I will never leave you or forsake you.”
So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.”

I am holding this in my heart.
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