Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Giving Gifts, Not Presents

I really believe that the best gifts aren't bought in a store.  If you are having trouble finding the perfect gift for that certain someone, check out this list of great last minute gifts that anyone can give.

The Gift of Time
For the past few years, my cousin has had my children over for pizza, a Christmas movie, and cupcake decorating.  That is their Christmas gift.  I think it is great!  However, I'm not the only one, my children look forward to it all year.  Despite all the other presents they open on Christmas, the only one they talk about all year is this simple get together.  It isn't the pizza and movie.  It isn't that the party is a lavish, over-the-top bash.  It is simple as simple can be.  What they like is the time they get with their "aunt" and cousins.  Is there some special time you could spend with someone special? Watching a movie, going for a hike, making ice cream sundaes, playing ball in the yard..the time will be the best gift you could ever give.

The Gift of Experience
As a general rule, we are not a family that gives big gifts.  Some of that has been due to financial constraints, but also we know money can't buy happiness.  Each year for our children's birthdays, they get to go on a special family trip.  We have been to museums, aquariums, historic trains (lots of historic trains), Medieval Times, and so many other places.  We don't give them all the same trip, it is their chose.  Some trips are big, some are small.  This year, Buddy wanted to go apple picking with his Aunt Kathy (who lives in Texas but was visiting) and have cider and donuts.  Almost six years ago, we were gifted with the use of a townhouse and took Cowgirl on her dream trip to Williamsburg, VA.    We have spent $30 to $300--but the real riches are the time we have spent together.  These trip shave opened opportunities to our children that have taught them so much.  They have also forced us to plan special family days that we would never take the time to do otherwise.  We don't buy souvenirs or go out for fancy meals--unless that is part of the trip plan--but the days are always treasures for all of us.  Is there a special place you could take your child or aunt?  Have you been to an art museum lately?  Has your love done ever attended a Jazz concert on the green?  Pick a special place, set a day and spend the day experiencing something new while you enjoy each other's company.  The memories will be priceless!

The Gift of Tradition
My mother was a person who lived for her family and holidays.  her house was not just decorated, it was decked out in every way and every room.  Through the years, many traditions arose around those decorating patterns, which by the way were for EVERY. SINGLE. HOLIDAY!  Unfortunately, Cowgirl was the only grandchild to have known my mother when she was still healthy, and was only a pre-schooler when she became ill.  She remembers but she doesn't.  All of the children are missing Grandma, and it got me to thinking about how much they missed of Grandma and all she would have done with them.  One of the many traditions, when we were small, was to make and decorate salt dough ornaments each year.  I know it is one of those traditions that would have extended to the grandchildren.  So this year, I am having my nieces and nephews over for a salt dough decorating party. This way the cousins can spend time together and get to know their Grandma along the way.  Do you have a special tradition that has been forgotten?  A special recipe you could teach to the next generation?  Keep the love going and build those traditions, again.

The Gift of Giving
I have said before that on St Nicholas Day, my children receive a gift that must be given away.  A few years ago, we began giving money for them to spend on the needy in the best way they find fit.  It is completely up to them.  They spend hours with charity gift catalogs finding the best and biggest combination of gifts for the money they received.  Last year, I wanted to honor friends who had given us so much--not just in things, but in love and support.  What could I give them?  They needed and wanted nothing.  So, I had a bio-sand filter built in their name and they were thrilled.  Their gift will keep on giving and bless so many, no doubt that gift will earn them some riches in Heaven as well.  Does your loved one have a favorite charity?  Is there a special project that you could contribute to and then visit with your loved one?  Or is there a charity that offers "gift cards" so they can pick the gift?  Their gift will bless not only them but those who receive its fruits.

The Gift of Prayer
We often think of Mass cards as gifts to give to grieving families, but there is no one who is not in need of a little extra prayer.  Mass cards are a simple way to honor your loved one and give them an everlasting gift.  I have given these for many birthdays, and even the children who have received them have been so thrilled to know that they are being prayed for.  Does your loved one have a devotion to a particular saint?  Find a shrine for that saint and request a Mass remembrance card.  Not sure about giving a Mass card, or your loved one is Christian, but not Catholic?  What if you create a Spiritual Bouquet, promising to offer certain prayers and devotions on their behalf?  Prayer is a one size fits all gift that is wealth beyond wealth, despite costing nothing but time and devotion.

I thought of this list because I have been searching high and low for a gift for my Goddaughter who is 14.  Tough age as far as gifts.  Nothing seemed quite right. I finally remembered how I always say it's not the buying that makes gifts special.   So, my gift to her is an "Adoration Dinner Date."  On a Friday where I can get babysitting (she is my go to babysitter), we are going to go out to dinner to the restaurant of her choice, then spend an hour at Adoration in prayer together.  Adoration is my favoirtie devotion, so this is really a combination of all five gifts--time, experience, tradition, giving, and prayer.  I am very excited to spend this time with her, especially the time we will have adoring Our LORD!

Do you have any gift suggestions to add?  I'd love to hear them.  I'm already planning for next year! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

{p, h, f, r} Buddy's First Reconciliation

Last Saturday Buddy received his first confession.  He was so adorable the way he really took it seriously.  He told me on the way into church, "I just don't want to make a bad confession."  I told him that if he was worried about it that much and had really thought and prayed to prepare that there was no way that he could do a bad confession, he just had to be truly sorry.


I really enjoy how our church progressively decorates for Christmas.  The first week the Advent wreath gets put up, the the second week there are wreaths and roping, by the third week (pictured) the wreaths are decorated.  On the fourth Sunday, there will be an enormous Christmas tree in the atrium with angel ornaments all over.  The children are invited each year to bring an angel to hang on the tree.  Then come Christmas, the alter will be flooded with poinsettias and the creche will be set up in front of the side alter.  The progression builds the anticipation and coming joy of the season.


My older children, especially Buddy, have a very strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. I find it a little funny because it is something they came to on their own, but Our Lady is so very special to them and then revere her always but especially in this apparition to St Juan Diego.  In fact, Cowgirl had an embroidered picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on her First Commuion dress, it was one of the few requirements she had for the perfect dress.

Anyway, Buddy was so happy that he received his First Reconciliation of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  When we got to church and I reminded him of the feast, his eys just lit up.  It was a very special gift for him.  He was so proud to have his picture taken with this beautiful statue.  I only wish I had remembered to take flowers to leave for Our Lady.


Since my children are so devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe, we usually have a special day in her honor complete with a Mexican feast and Mexican hot chocolate. I wasn't sure how to make that happen with Buddy's confession in the middle of the day and all the work we had to accomplish on the lake house for the new tenant to move in next week.  My husband had the perfect idea, lunch at our favorite, little luncheonette, which happens to be owned by a Mexican cook so they have the best Mexican delicacies north of the border.  Much better than I could make at home.  

Buddy ordered his favorite, tamales, which he seems to think were probably Juan Diego's favorite, too.  Yeah, good food and no cooking nor cleaning up--that, my friends, is no laughing matter!  :)


I so appreciate the time and effort that our catechists and priests put into making all of the sacraments so special, but also so holy.  We had a beautiful service, after which the children we directed one by one to a priest for confession.  The organ and cantor filled with church with such beautiful music the entire time.  While each child waited their turn, a catechist sat with him to talk to him about how wonderful it is to receive confession and how that should never be afraid to come close to Jesus in the confessional.  Once one child went in, the catechist gently guided another child over and repeated the process.  Each catechist repeated this ritual at least 15 times.  Always gentle, always smiling.  

Once the children were done, and we received a final blessing, they were escorted out to the atrium for cookies and juice, while the adults and older children of the families had the opportunity to receive confession as well.  It was all a very moving and touching experience.

I cannot believe that my little Buddy is already old enough to receive First Communion.  Where have the years gone?  I shed more than a few tears over that the week leading up the 13th.  Buddy was baptized on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.  He received penance on the feast of his beloved Lady.  I decided to look ahead and see if there were any special feasts on his First Communion day. Sure enough, it is the feast of the patron of the church where Hubby received all his sacraments, I was confirmed, we were married, and Cowgirl was baptized.  I think that God has very big plans for Buddy, and I can't wait to find out what they are--even though I would love to keep him little for a few decades more.

Linking up with Auntie Leila.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Five Fav: Advent Traditions (That We Aren't Doing This Year)

We are in the home stretch of Advent.  Wow, that flew by!  One more candle and a handful of days and the Christmas season will begin.  I am linking up with Jenna to share some of our most beloved Advent traditions that just aren't happening this year.  My beautiful friend, Jessica, has told me that life has seasons and there are seasons of an overabundance of activity, and others where just doing what is required liturgically is more than enough.  I am embracing that this season, even though it seems that Jessica is always able to do a little bit extra no matter the season, I appreciate her kind and truthful words.  After a year of goodbyes and upheaval, I needed to keep Advent simple to keep it as focused and holy as possible.

However, if you are looking for ideas to ramp up the final week or start planning for next year.  Here are five tried and true favorites.

Holy Heroes Adventures have become a fixture in our home.  My children talk about the Holy Heroes guides as if they are personal friends.  We did not have internet for the first half of Advent and so we could not link up for the adventure.  While they still discussed the various skits from the past for each feast day, they have not actually complained about missing the adventure.  After so many years of doing it, perhaps we needed a year off to appreciate it more.  If you want to sign up, it still isn't too late, and even one week of Holy Heroes will get your children hooked for the Lenten Adventure coming up in a couple of months.


We began celebrating St Lucia's Day when Cowgirl and I read through the Kirsten books five years ago.  Last year, I made her a new crown and purchased a new, beautiful nightgown because she had outgrown the old ones.  Traditionally, we have been awoken to coffee and pastries (any where from prepackaged cinnamon rolls to authentic Swedish delights).  We then continued our celebration with Swedish crafts and wrapped it up with Swedish meatballs, buttered noodles, pea soup, and lingon berry jam for dinner.  Our celebration has varied from simple (pre-made everything just for breakfast) to the whole shabang.  This year it didn't happen, though.  I had made sure to find the crown just after we moved, but realized a few days before St Lucia's day that I hadn't unearthed the gown yet.  I thought we could still pull it off, although there would be no Swedish treats, and considering I no longer can tolerate gluten, milk, and coffee, among other things, I wondered what we would serve.  However, I knew I could come up with something, that is until I shot awake at 5:30 AM last Sunday and realized I had gotten nothing prepared and St Lucia's Day was already here.  I felt terrible, but Cowgirl took it in stride.  I thought perhaps we could have a St Lucia's Day Observed this Saturday, but our calendar is once again jam packed with house moving/fixing, and holiday festivities.  I think for this year, it must be left by the wayside.


The sacrifice manger is a tradition that is so simple but so powerful.  I can remember the kids' dismay the first time we did it when they saw the amount of straw to comfort baby Jesus on Christmas Day and wished they had sacrificed more.  Of course, Buddy didn't completely understand the whole concept at first.  After explaining how the manger worked, I set it out on the bow window but kept the straw on the counter in the kitchen(I knew where it would all end up if it were left at the height of preschooler hands.)  He came bounding up to me minutes later, "Mommy, I need straw for the manger."

"Why do you need straw?"  I inquired

"To make Jesus comfortable, remember?"

"Yes, I know that is the purpose of the straw, but what did you do to earn the straw?"

"I walked through the house twice without anyone talking to me."

He had completely misconstrued the example of "doing something without being told!"  LOL, oh, Buddy.  Anyway, I have considered breaking out the manger this weekend for a strong finish to Advent.  I would have to make a new one, but at least there is plenty of hay in the shed thanks to our new rabbits.  We have been trying to remember to sacrifice without the manger, and particularly to sacrifice our time and money to raise funds for Mary's Meals.


I don't remember where I even saw the idea first, but the traveling wise men have entertained us immensely the past few Advents.  This my children have queried, and so I have promised that they will show up on Christmas and scout around until Epiphany.  If you are looking for ideas of what to do with you wise men, check out Jennifer's link-up.


Reading a portion of the Bible and crafting an ornament each night has both delighted and frustrated us in the past.  The Jesse Tree was set to make an appearance, and I must say that since getting permanent ornaments thanks to a Jesse Tree ornament swap a few years ago, it has been much easier to keep it going even on busy nights.  However, while the tree arrived safely at the new house with all ornaments in tow, the base that hold the tree up did not.  This accompanied with the lack of Holy Heroes, put this tradition on the back burner until next year.  I think, though, that it gives me more motivation to complete a Jesus Tree this Lent, something I have thought of but not gotten around to yet.

Despite all of these set back, I think that we have had a good Advent.  It was bare bones, but sometimes doing less is more.  Do you have any traditions new or old you would like to share?  I'm already planning for next year, so I would love to hear.  Thank you and God bless!

Correction:  Five Fav's is now hosted by Ashley.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Works of Mercy Bouquet: Resources for Spiritual Works

I have been wanting to wrap up this series in time for Christmas, but haven't known what to really write about the Spiritual Works to make them practical.  I realized that the greatest practical advice I had was to know your Catechism and Scripture.  Knowledge really is power, and it is difficult to admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, and comfort the afflicted without a lot of superpower--God's super power!  These works are all duties we are called to, but it is the spirit working through us that brings glory to the Kingdom.  The more I tried to hash out how to complete each one, the more I felt like I would just be a broken record.  (Even now, I am rambling, trying to explain how I didn't want to ramble on and on....)

So, here are recommendations for how to arm yourself with the power of understanding, so that you can spread truth and light to all around you...in #7QT!


Have you heard of Flocknote?  They have some great resources.  I just got a sneak peak at their new offerings for 2016 and what do you think I found?  In addition to the Catechism in a Year, which delivers bite sized pieces of Catechism to your email--invaluable resource.  Be honest, are you really going to read the Catechism every day?  Probably not, with Flocknote you will!

Anyway, back to my point, in 2016, Flocknote is offering...drum roll, please.... Daily Works of Mercy texts or email!!!!!  Can you believe it?  How perfect is that?  Each day you will receive a short message of how you can live the Year of Mercy.  I guess that means no one will be reading these posts any longer--another reason to finish up by Christmas!


I know that I have mentioned this before, but Bishop Barron's Word on Fire Youtube videos are not only informative, but easy to digest.  Presented in short videos on timely topics, these videos will not only teach you your faith, but how to live in the 21st Century as a Catholic.  Just a video a day will have you well on the way to deepening your faith and living with conviction.

Our parish recently started carrying Word Among Us.  I have read the daily readings in the past either online or in booklets, but I really like how Word Among Us features not just the readings but all of the prayers of the Mass.  We often don't realize just how beautiful the prayers of the Mass truly are until we read them.  In addition, the are "homilies" for each day.  So, while it isn't the same as daily Mass, it is the closest I can get in my PJ's on hectic mornings--which isn't that every morning.  The reflective homilies are so well written and timely.  It has truly enriched my home study time--which I admit is not every day as I hope it will be at some point--but at least when I have time, Word Among Us is there!

I cannot say enough about how our parish has really tried over the past few years to catechize the parishioners.  There are always new and interesting opportunities for prayer and study.  I do wish that we would begin reaching out to the thousands of families that are register with the parish but don't come to Sunday Mass, but that's another story--and a good motivation to live the Spiritual Works of Mercy myself.  However, back to how we have been gifted with knowledge.  Every Christmas and Easter, each family receives a CD, video, or book to experience and share.  All are Catholic and all have been spectacular!  This year, as a gift, the parish joined Formed.  If you have not heard of this website, I urge you to click over and look.  There are Catholic movies, audio programs, study programs, and e-books.  An amazing resource of entertainment, Catechism, teaching, and apologetics all at your fingertips.  If you are not a member of a parish which belongs to the Formed website, it costs $9.99 a month.  Let's be honest, though, $10 is about 3 coffees out and about, or one lunch for one person from a deli or fast food.  If you are looking for the greatest arsenal of spiritual growth tools, it is worth the small sacrifice each month to join.

Reading the Bible every day is a blessing.  I am still working on getting back into that habit, and alternate between a personal study and the Word Among Us. However, reading the WHOLE Bible is a great feat.  When we listen to the readings at Mass, we don't always know the sequence of background information of the passage.  Reading the entire thing is a great way to get to know our faith and our LORD better.  The problem is that most Bible plans are not based on Catholic Bibles, and so you still aren't reading the entire Bible.  If you are looking for a plan to start in the new year, check out Catholic Bible in a Year.
As you grow in faith and grace through your study, bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving all transgressions will get easier because the abiding peace of Christ will rest on you.  Will it ever be effortless?  Probably not.  We are fallen people living in a fallen world.  The only people not sinning ever are those already in Heaven.  However, I find that when I am taking the time to pray and study regularly, the craziness of the world and the mistakes of others are much easier to bear.  It will always be a sacrifice, that's why it is a work of mercy. 
For a long time I would wake up in the middle of the night with situations or conversations from a decade or more ago, replaying in my mind.  The anger and hurt would bubble up and my soul would mourn that time of darkness all over again.  I found it so hard to move past the slights, bullying, and unchristian behavior of others.  However, by reliving it over and over again, and renewing my anger over it, I wasn't being Christian either.  Forgiving ALL transgressions is the key.  We all sin, and sin is dark and ugly no matter how big or small.  We must forgive them all, because through Christ we are released from all of our debts of sin, we simply need to prayerfully ask forgiveness in Confession. In this Year of Mercy, let us see Christ in all we encounter and pray often, "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do!"
Praying for the living and dead should be self explanatory, but again it doesn't always come easy.  First, you must pray for everyone, most especially those who are difficult and you are not intent on remembering.  Second, pray for all the dead, those you believe were faithful and those we feel have no chance at redemption.  God is the only judge, and He is the Beginning and the End, there is no time in the LORD, our prayers could save a poor soul that we think had no chance of being saved.  Lastly, please, please pray for our enemies.  This is a command so commonly forgotten in modern life.  Pray for them, for their conversion, for their families, for their hearts and redemption.  Pray that they are not lost, that they will fall to their knees and accept Our Sovereign LORD.  Pray that the darkness will flee from around them, that their world may be flooded with light and compassion.  I feel so strongly about this, and believe it is our greatest weapon in the war of terrorism raging across our globe.

Friday, December 4, 2015

{p, h, f, r} The First Week of Advent

It's the first week of Advent, and though it may appear that we are off to a slow start with our Advent preparations, I believe it is the best first week we have ever had.  Our Jesse Tree isn't set up, no internet still means no Holy Heroes, our traveling Wise Men have yet to appear, and only a handful of our ten (or more) Nativities have been located and set up.  However, here is a peak at the special things that have been happening.  How's your Advent going?


Buddy was so excited that the new house has a very large pine tree.  He locked himself in the workshop for a half an hour and created a special gift for me.  He made this entirely by himself.  He used barbberrries because he knows they are edible and so I wouldn't have to worry about Little Man trying to eat anything off the wreath.

I had to break it to him that it might not survive another three weeks of forced hot air heat, but it is still looking good and there are plenty of supplies right in our backyard.


Recently, our parish was gifted with a pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima.  Families get the opportunity to keep Our Lady for one week at a time, with the promise to pray the Rosary each night before the statue.  Back in September, I signed our family up but promptly forgot for which week with moving, etc.  Thankfully, the Church office kept track and called me with a friendly reminder.
I'm so thankful we have this beautiful mantle for Our Lady, I'm very nervous about little hands loving Our Lady a bit too fiercely.  Every time Little Man walks into the living room, he says, "Baby Jesus Mom Mom."  He has been just as excited as the rest of us to have our fair Lady in our home.  Isn't she gorgeous? 

Although we have had some very late nights, and a nasty head cold making the rounds, our nighttime prayers before Our Lady have really filled our fist week of Advent with lovely focus on the reason for the season and a gentle reminder of peace.


Buddy is a funny little boy.  While we were cleaning out my parents' and grandmother's homes this year, he chose some very random things to keep as mementos.  However, two of his favorite treasures are Grandma's nativity and Mama's (his great-grandmother) rosary from Nazareth.  He has been using it every night for prayers.

Buddy was so excited about the nativty that it went up even before Thanksgiving.  He also has the antlers that the previous owner of our house left for him.  He so sweetly asked if the antlers came with the house, and the man couldn't resist.  They are from the first buck Mr. L ever shot, when he was only 10.  An  interesting collection of decorations for sure.

What is also funny is that we found about the nativity is that for a few years, my mom's nativity kept going "missing."  So, she would go out and buy a new one.  When we cleaned out the house, we found at least five!  Buddy liked this one best because it had a stable included.

With all that is going on in the world lately, it is difficult to feel peace, even in the deepest prayer, sometimes.  I have been praying and trusting, and trying very hard not to worry, as Padre Pio instructed--but I am human and fail from time to time, mostly in the middle of the night.  I recently asked Hubby, "How are you supposed to build security for your family with economic pressures, continually changing laws about what you can do with your land, so much uncertainty?"

He replied, "Just pray.  We are fitting our family for Heaven, not here.  We aren't striving to succeed here, but live forever there."  Ahh--what I needed to hear but not the revelation I hoped him to share.
Yesterday, Little Man's Godmother texted that she had a candle that was lit from the flame of the Peace Flame from Bethlehem.  A teacher at her children's school had driven hours to light her own candle and was spreading the light to everyone in the school.  The goal is to get the flame across the country--do we ever need such a blessing!  So, I drove over with my little candle and took a flame of peace back to our home.  What a special and unexpected gift!  Yes, we haven't done all the items that we usually do.  St Nicholas Day is in two days and I still have nothing planned, but our first week of Advent has been just as it should, full of prayer and the promise of peace, keeping our minds and hearts focused on the coming Kingdom, not just the promise of presents.

Linking up with Auntie Leila!  Happy Advent, everyone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Works of Mercy Bouquet: Bury the Dead

It has been awhile since I have really posted regularly.  Have you missed me?  I don't know if anyone has noticed that the blog is quiet, sometimes I wonder if there are actually people out there who read and anticipate new posts.  We have been incredibly busy, plus I do not have internet hooked up at the new house.  I told my husband that I could live without it for a couple of months, but I am missing writing and it seems impossible to get anything posted without constant internet.  We have been working non-stop to settle into the new house and prepare the old house for rental, throw in some major plumbing issues and a two year old, and well that's why I haven't been writing. 

I wanted to finish my Works of Mercy Series in time for Christmas, everywhere I look the world is telling me that I am running out of time.  On top of the internet problems, I have really struggled with what to write about "Bury the Dead".  I considered skipping it, but that didn't seem right.  I knew there had to be a story there to share, a piece of wisdom that the LORD wanted me to pen for all of you.  But what?  What more is there to say about bury the dead other than the title of the work implies.  Surely, in modern cultures, the dead are always buried in some way, shape, or form.  Most places have laws about that, you cannot just leave a body on the ground and ignore it. 
However, two recent events made me realize why this is an act of mercy.  The first was the terrorist attacks in Paris, the second, the anniversary of my daughter's due date--she would have been five on the feast of St Elizabeth of Hungry.  I realized despite all our civility and hygienic laws, we do not properly bury our dead, and as Catholics, we must step up and go against the tide, and demand better for God's sake and our own.  I shared the story of losing my daughter to miscarriage and the miscarriage of justice for her remains that followed before.  I was assured that her ashes were buried within a stranger's coffin, along with "other medical waste."  Read as other pre-born children, except they were one who had been selectively terminated for whatever reason, I never wanted to bury my daughter before even meeting her.  So, yes, she was buried, but how and where and when?  I was never allowed to know.  Did she have a Christian burial?  Was she buried with honor and dignity?  While, I will never know the answer to the first question, the second is a resounding NO!  She was mixed in with other lost children, cremated, then strategically hidden in a casket, the family and friends never being the wiser.  The loved ones who wept over the casket and grave never knew that they were weeping over my child, nor any child.  Yes, she was buried for propriety's sake, but no dignity was shown.  The value of her life was never considered, she was just some waste that had to be dealt with legally and efficiently.  Do only the wanted and useful deserve to have dignity? 

To my discredit, in examining this topic and the duties of the work that we are obliged to undertake, I found myself lacking as well.  I never had a proper Mass of Burial said for Ashley.  I have included her in many prayer intentions and Mass requests, particularly in November.  I have lit candles and wept prayerful tears, however never a proper Mass just for her.  Once I could not acquire her remains to bury, I felt that I had no right to such a blessing.  I felt my opportunity to lay her to rest ended with the hospital disposing of her remains without my consent.  Through prayer and reflection, I realize that I am wrong.  I'm not really sure how one accomplishes such a task as a Mass of Burial five years later with no body to bury, but God has laid it on my heart to discover just that.

In the midst of this soul searching, the attacks on Paris occurred.  They truly shook my heart and soul.  I had sensed rumbling of something awful to come, but more over I have a great appreciate and love for Paris and her people.  The shocking, yet not completely unexpected considering all that has been going on in the world, news led me down another path of examination.  What could all this violence and evil have to do with a work of mercy?  The LORD kept drawing my mind back to this article but I couldn't understand why.  Then it hit me, head on---what will become of the dead terrorists?  Where will their remains be laid to rest?  Will anyone pray for their souls?  Were they annointed and shown dignity that every human being, as a child of God, deserves?  More and more questions, no answers!

I know that this is not a part of the puzzle that we want to consult.  They are dead and we rejoice in that shred of hope that at least they can commit no more atrocities against humanity.  However, part of me always wonders, what were their last thoughts?  Did they have children, a wife, siblings, friends?  Even in a radical, militarist society, their mothers must weep knowing they are gone.  Surely, even with a mission from Allah, they will be missed.  Even if they aren't, they were all infused with immortal souls at conception, they were blessed by the LORD and their lives were planned before eternity began.  Yes, they have turned against God.  Yes, they have sinned against their fellow man, taking innocent lives and creating fear in a cloud of evil and destruction.  But, do we not all sin?  Does it not grieve the Father when we speak harshly to our brother or child, when we react selfishly and refuse to focus on the other?  Are we any more deserving of mercy because our sins have not become international news? 

There is great evil in the world and it begins to feel like darkness is closing in on us, advancing every second.  In moments of weakness, we may fear that the dark forces may win--but they will never prevail.  Still, every one of us will stand judgement, all of us will meet our Maker and account for our every second of life.  We will stand alone, there will not be a hierarchy, there will be no one less worthy beside us to make us look better.  Our body will be buried in some way, shape, or form, and our soul will ascend to the Gate.  Will we be welcomed in?  Who will we meet on the other side?  Will there be a Paris terrorist?  Will there be a poor, lost, and sinful soul that we wrote off as no good?  God is our ultimate Judge, in His courts, true justice is metered out; not by what we deserve but by what He deems, in His Mercy, we will receive.

I pray often for the conversion of our enemies, for the softening of their hearts.  I pray that their knees will bend to the One, True, God and they will turn from the darkness and embrace the Light.  I pray that their consciences will guide them to the beauty of humanity and the sanctity of life.  However, I have never prayed for their dead.  I have never lit candles for the repose of their soul, never requested a Mass be said for their intentions.  The LORD wishes that none should perish, in that final moment between here and the hereafter, we are given the choice of eternity in praise or eternity in misery.  Which did they choose?  Did even one of the terrorists repent as their soul departed this earth?  Is he "serving his time" of cleansing in Purgatory?  What is the quickest way out of Purgatory?  The prayers of many faithful for your release. 

So how do we live this work of mercy?  Surely, we cannot hold funerals for children that we never knew existed.  Should we track down the morgues were those killed in the perpetration of crimes are kept and offer to bury their bodies?  I do not have the answers.  All I do know is that we should mourn every life lost.  Our heart should weep for every soul that leaves this earth, and pray for its eternal destination.  So I ask all of you, please do just a little part in remembering all the dead, those loved--but more importantly, those forgotten, unloved, and reviled.  Please, this Sunday, as you go to Mass pray for the victims, every victim, of the ISIS tragedies--those lost by force and those lost as perpetrators of force.  In the prayers of the faithful, offer a silent prayer for the repose of the souls of the terrorists.  After Mass, light a candle and ask God to grant them a conditional blessing, that if their bodies were not treated with dignity that they may be blessed in traveling from this earth to their final resting place, that they may receive a proper burial as children of God; for surely even if no one else in their family nor country has wept for them, their Father in Heaven has.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

We'll Never Tell Them :A Book Review

I was invited by Ignatius Press to preview a new Catholic fiction novel, in exchange for an honest review.  The only payment I received was the e-version of the book.

First, let me say how excited I was to be reading fiction.  As a homeschooling mom, I am usually reading about teaching techniques, or history time periods.  I try to keep up my inspirational reading as well, which I do thoroughly enjoy, however it doesn't leave much time for pleasure reading.  That being said, I am a finicky reader.  I want a well developed storyline, characters, and plot.  If it is at all predictable in any way, I will have the entire story figured out by chapter two, and while I will keep reading, I will be disappointed.  In the age of e-books published by every man and his brother, I find it difficult some times, to find a good book that I can truly enjoy and not spend my time editing all of the grammatical errors, or asking the book questions that it refuses to answer.

We'll Never Tell Them was a delight to read, I was transported to another time and place effortlessly and could not wait to read more.  The depth of character development, the richness of plot, and the well planned, well written chapters were spellbinding.

In an amazing use of language and plot twists, the reader is slowly pulled into the lives of Krisjana, a modern Maltese/British nurse, and Liljana, a Maltese orphan and late mother of Krisjana' s hospital charge.  The truth of their lives, and complexity of their stories slowly unfurl and take shape.  Who the characters are/were and why they react as they do is metered out in doses of conversation, flashbacks, and fabulous story telling.  While the reader has to piece together the events that create Krisjana' s present, and wait patiently for the completion of Liljana' s harrowing life, it is presented in a way that does not create questions, but intrigue.  The storyline is so well developed, there are no questions, no wondering about the gaping holes that have not been addressed.

This novel is a perfect Christmas present for any Catholic who appreciates good literature. Truly, though, anyone would enjoy this Catholic or not.  It is not just a good book for Catholic literature, it is a fantastic book, PERIOD.  I have been recommending it to everyone that I meet.  My only hope is that an actual, bound book version becomes available.  I did not enjoy reading such a long book (250+ beautiful pages) on my Kindle.  If a hard copy is available, I will most certainly purchase it and re-read this excellent story.

**Correction:  We'll Never Tell Them is available via hard copy.  I think I'll add that to my Christmas wishlist.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Confession in 7QT

Linking up with Kelly for the final Linktoberfest.


This year has been a scattered year.  Lots of goodbyes and figuring out where I fit in the world.  Tons of waiting for a new house, while trying to be contented in the old one.  Times of not knowing what to pray for and many occasions of not really knowing what I want, but hoping that it is exactly what God has decided I want.

I've lost my focus, perhaps I never completely had it, but it is surely lost now.  I've realized that this blog has lost it's focus, too.  As I have journeyed this crazy road, my blog has ridden the immense rollarcoaster along with me.  I don't know if that is all bad, but, I need to refocus and get back to my original mission. 


I've decided from here on out, I will publish all controversial and BIG topic posts on Catholic 365 instead of here.  I still want to write the posts God gives me, but since He has provided another outlet, I think it more appropriate to use it in this way.  I will still link my Catholic 365 posts to my Facebook page, so if you are interested in following both blogs, please like my page.  I will love you for doing so!


Before Christmas arrives, I promise to finish my Works of Mercy Bouquet series.  If you are looking for Advent service projects for your family, these posts may be a great place to start.    


After the new year, I am going to start publishing my original plan for this blog, namely the Veils and Vocations program.  It will come out in five session segments.  Veils and Vocations, as I envision it, will be a meet up for girls to explore the different orders of consecrated vocations around the world.  I want this to be a fun club type endeavor that teaches faith and opens the girls hearts and minds to the possibilities for them within the Church.  No more complaining that women aren't important in our Church!  They are and I will prove it!


Along with my mission of serving girls and their mothers, I am working on a booklet/e-book/webpage /still haven't figured out the medium for pre-teen girls and their moms to share about the menstrual cycle.  I know there are books out there, but I haven't found anything that is just what I want to present this topic to my daughter, so I am writing my own.  I want a book that presents the facts and is honest, but is wrapped in the love and faith of the Church.  I am excited and can't wait to sit down and actually get the ideas in my head onto paper  on my hard drive.  


Do you remember my Mother/Daughter retreat series?  Well, it is time for a new one.  I am developing a series entitled "I am Loved!" that will debut this spring.  I am very excited.  The ideas have been spinning in my head for months.  This will be a series for girls 12-14 years old.  Please stay tuned.


So, I need a seventh take to link up with Kelly and I have already set forth a pretty ambitious plan.  Instead of promising more, I have a question for all of you.  What would you like to see in a book or retreat for a adolescent girl and her mother?  Topics?  Faith perspective?  Questions to answer?  Issues to be addressed?  Whatever you would like to get, I want to know.  Please comment below or email me.  Thank you and God bless!    

Saturday, October 17, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons in 7QT

Linking up with Kelly again for my second post of the week--yay, I met my goal!


As I have hinted in my past posts, we are in the never ending joyous process of purchasing a new home.  We had chosen a small, but reputable,  Christian mortgage company thinking we should support that type of business and feeling like we could be confident that they were using the money wisely and honorably.  WHILE I cannot speak to the way that the money is used, the service we received was anything but lovingly Christian.  After our closing was delayed by TWO MONTHS, the loan officer requested that we again extend it and submit another pile of papers, I think they needed wallpaper for a new office for we surely supplied enough paper to do so.


Anyway, we knew we had to find another way.  We thought and prayed and were blessed with an alternative route.  We were able to borrow money from our 401K's at a rate of 6% over 10 years, but here is the bonus, 4% of that goes back into our accounts which means they will actually be making money instead of losing it!  We still had a gap, and we prevailed upon our family to find a few people who would lend us $5,000 each to be paid back over five years at the rate of 2%--a win for everyone, what bank is paying 2%??


However, we still needed a small amount to close the gap and cover closing costs, now that all our cash for moving and closing had been thrown into buying the home.  It just so happened our three little investments children had the exact amount we needed.  Can I hear an AMEN!  God is good all the time, all the time God is good!


Enter the homeschooling lesson, because when life gives you lemons, you create a unit study.  We had already been learning about wise money choices and building businesses.  Why not learn about compounding interest and loan agreements???  Hmmm, we might be onto something.

If You Made a Million 
I checked If You Made a Million out of the library and also found this website to explain earning interest to kids.


Then there is this video 

Lastly, I typed up loan agreements to fill out and sign with each of the children.  So that it's all legal and everything and to add to the learning experience.  I will be sending a copy of the loan agreement to all my subscribers next week.  You don't have to borrow thousands from your child for this lesson, you could start with $100 or even $10.  The importance is them understanding that when one borrows money it costs money and has to be paid back on a schedule, and also the wonder of compounding interest, no matter the pathetic nature of bank investments these days.  I am hoping it will encourage the children to think more about what they do with their spending cash and how they can plan for the future.  Please remember to subscribe, if you haven't already.  Thanks.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Healthy Breakfast Ideas in 7QT

Linktoberfest continues. Last week, I shared my menu planning strategies to eat healthy on a tight budget. This week I am featuring my breakfast plans, since I have taken on that meal as a project to better plan and ensure the kids are getting better nutrition first thing in the morning.


First, I make sure to purchase the following items to have on hand to round out breakfast and fill gaps between when I get to actually make something. We always buy boxes of raisins, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, organic mini shredded wheat (plain), organic vanilla yogurt, and oatmeal. A couple times a month I cook up an egg for each child.  Having easy nutritious items on hand really helps during busy weeks.

A favorite 're pie of ours is "breakfast cookies."  Perfect to make with overrule bananas.  If I end up with an over ripe banana or two, I stick it in the freezer, once I have about six, I make cookies.  I base the cookies on this recipe.  However, I alter it based on what I have on hand.  Instead of the applesauce, I put in two tablespoons of flax meal soaked in one cup of water. I also cut down the dried fruit and add in some sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

New this month are these paleo pancakes that I can't wait to try.  I plan on adding flax seeds, cinnamon, and some unsweetened coconut flakes. I am going to make a big batch on the weekend, then we can just heat up as needed.  I have six large plantains waiting for yumminess!

Another experiment is Chia pudding.  I'm not sure what extras I will put in this, depends on what's still available when we get there.  We have a steady stream of Autumn Berries right now, so they may make an appearance.

My children really like muffins, but I rarely buy them.  Now that the weather is cooler, it's time for some baking.  I am going to make these muffins, but sub in garbanzo flour for half the coconut to up the nutrition.  So, I will be using two eggs, plus two tablespoons of flax meal soaked in a cup of water.  Also, we are adding Autumn Berries to these, so I am cutting the maple syrup down to 2 Tablespoons, since the super tart berries become super sweet when baked.  I am so looking forward to these, making a double batch for sure.

Kelly wants to know my favorite blogger that I discovered on 7QT. Well, pretty lady, that would be you!  I first came across Kelly's blog when she guest hosted 7QT for Jennifer.  It is a blog I kept coming back to, and the one that I follow the most regularly.  Thanks, Kelly, for a great blog and hosting all of us blogging ladies each Friday.

Speaking of Kelly, I joined her accountability group on Facebook.  I set a goal of two posts this week and reading five chapters of the book I reviewed.  This is post #1 and it's Friday....gotta come up with something else, and quick!  :)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Healthy Meals on a Tight Budget in 7QT

Linking up with Kelly again for Linktoberfest.  This is my two millionth somewhere around thirteenth post of Seven Quick Takes, although I sometimes forget to tag posts, so it is probably more!

I am prepping my shopping list for our monthly grocery stockup.  My boys are bottomless pits and I am trying hard to come up with nutritious snack ideas and still stay within budget.  What's my budget, you ask.  Well, it's about $150 for the month, but since we need meat also, I am going to eek it up to $200.  In addition to the food I purchase tomorrow, we received a good amount of vegetable and a dozen eggs every week through our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which cost us about $25 a week.  It's tight, but we are used to it at this point.  What I'm not used to yet is the volume of food my sons are able to consume on a daily basis.

I have always tried to feed my family well, but I am on a mission to up the ante and improve their nutritional intake even more--with no extra funds!  This is my challenge and I am taking you along for the ride.  I will be posting recipes that we make and how we stretch our meat to keep everyone satisfied.  Today I will start with how I am planning my meals for the month.

I have found that giving each day a theme really helps in planning.  I only do themes for weekdays and try to make at least one day over the weekend a smorgasboard of leftovers, although, we seem to have less and less of them.  Here are my themes:
Monday- One Pot Meal/Something Easy
Tuesday- Beans
Wednesday- Slow Cooker Meal
Thursday- Eggs
Friday- Meatless  

Once I have my themes, I fill in a dinner for each night on the calendar.  If there is something planned that we won't be home, I plan a packable dinner.  If we have an event that also will feed us, I do the happy dance!

Having a meal on the calendar makes getting dinner on the table so much easier. None of that 5:30 frantically searching the cabinets for an idea. This also saves me a lot of money because I can plan out ingredients so that they don't get wasted.  For instance, if I have two recipes that each call for half an avocado, I will plan them in the same week.  Less waste, less cost.

I recycle leftovers into a new meal when planning.  This saves loads of money and makes cooking so  much easier.  For instance, if I plan to make a large pot of chili on Tuesday, I will plan a Mexican casserole for Saturday, then freeze whatever is left over and turn that into Chili Mac later in the month.  Likewise, when I make a chicken, we eat the roasted chicken the first night, use the left overs for something like Chicken Fried Rice another night, and freeze the stock made by the cooking chicken to make soup later in the month.  I have already taken one chicken and created four dinners from it.  This allows me to purchase meat straight from the farm.  The extra that I spend for natural, pastured raised meat, is made up by using the meat multiple times. 

We eat much less meat than the average family.  If I make a large steak for instance, that is the meat for the entire meal for five of us.  This definitely stretches our meat and allows me to get quality meat for my family.  We purchased an 1/8 of a steer in January (we split a 1/4 steer with a friend) and still have a little bit left.  We have eaten primarily the beef, with the exception of about 20 pounds of chicken that I purchased from the farm while they were having a sale.  We spent $320 on the beef, and another $65 on chicken.  That has been our source of meat for over 9 months!

Another thing to consider when purchasing meat, is that farm raised meat includes much less waste.  When I would purchase split chicken breasts from the grocery store it always had very thick skin and large deposits of fat attached to it.  Not only did this mean I was getting less meat for my money, but it also cost me time trimming the meat so that I could cook it. 

So now, you have your plan and are spacing out the meat.  It also helps to stretch the meat.  We do this by adding wholesome ingredients that not only add bulk, but nutrition.  If I am making Dirty Rice--a family favorite--I will add an array of vegetables to create a more filling meal.  Last week when I made Dirty Rice, I added a turnip cut into small cubes, two sliced carrots, half a cut of pepper grass diced, and the corn cut from one cob. These were all random leftovers from our CSA pick up over the weekend.  One cob of corn is not much use for a family of five.  However, with those veggies added, I was able to turn one pound of chop meat and one cup of dry rice into a full meal that even allowed a bit of leftovers.  This also allows me to sneak in items that my picky Buddy would never eat on his own.  

Another great way to stretch meat is to add some beans, mushrooms, cooked quinoa, and brown rice.  These will bulk up a casserole or stretch a soup, can even extend a pan of taco filling.   

Shop from a list and stick to it.  Once your menu is set, make a list of ingredients that you need to make all of the meals listed.  My lunches are loosely planned and adjustable based on leftovers available and how much running around we need to do that day.  This month I am beginning to plan breakfast to up the nutrition and make mornings easier to organize.  Instead of cooking breakfast everyday, which I really do not want to do, I am planning a weekly breakfast treat that I can spend a little time on Saturday preparing for the school mornings the following week.  This way the kids will start the day off well, be less likely to be searching for snacks as soon as I begin read alouds, and have no reason to whine at me that there is nothing to eat despite a kitchen full of food. (I will post my breakfast recipes next week.)

Make sure that you have every ingredient on the list of in your kitchen, and that every item on your list has a purpose.  We monitor and plan every item.  This not only allows us to stay on budget but reduces the random snacking and over indulging that happens every time anything extra is in the house.  So, the list is your friend in more ways than one.  If you are not used to being on a budget or shopping by a list, I encourage you to carry a calculator so that you can see what you are spending BEFORE reaching the check out. 

Make the most of what you have around you.  A well stocked pantry helps in so many ways, but that isn't the only resource you can tap into.  Foraging can provide a wide array of delectables and also keep you on budget.  Right now, in our area, there are blankets of black walnuts covering the lawns, many wild greens sprouting around, and my family's new personal favorite, Autumn Olives, to pick by the gallon full.  Not only are these items free for the picking, but they are highly nutritious.  Autumn Olives have seventeen times the lycopene of a tomato. Make the most of what you have at your disposable, but please pick and forage responsibly.  Unless the item is invasive, only harvest a portion and leave plenty for the plant to continue to thrive and spread.  Also, do not harvest from areas near heavy traffic or where pesticides are used.  Lastly, make absolutely sure you know what you are eating!!  There are plenty of great books and websites to help with identifying friend and foe.

With a little bit of work and planning, it is possible to feed a growing family, healthy foods, even on a tight budget.  In the next few weeks I will share some of my favorite "go to" recipes that are healthy and inexpensive.  Thanks for stopping by! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Five Favs: Homeschool Additions

How is your year going?  Can you believe we are already a month in?  Time is flying!!

Here are my favorite five additions to our home school this year.  Linking up with Jenna.

Last year, I purchased Fix It by IEW.  One night, in March, I shot up in the middle of the night and realized that I had totally forgotten to use it.  I decided it didn't make sense to start at that point in the year.  Although, I am glad that I waited.  Cowgirl is better equipped to do the tasks and can complete the assignments independently.

Speaking of IEW, Cowgirl began Phonetic Zoo.  I am so happy with the program.  She is doing very well and definitely learning.  The program is completely self contained.  She independently listens to the lessons, takes the test, and grades herself.  The pressure of learning to spell has completely dissipated and it is one less subject that I have to teach.  A win all around.  I may have to send Andrew Pudewa a Christmas card!


Science read aloud in the morning may be the best idea I have had this decade.  I always felt like we were behind on science and there never seemed to be time enough to get to it.  Adding science to morning meeting has been a life saver.  We get it in every day!  Yes, there are no flashy experiments, but I do plan on doing some, seem like a good snow day plan.  My favorite morning meeting science resource is the Catholic Science Stories for Little Folks.  I picked it up at a homeschooling conference for under $1.  I admit that I have learned a lot from those little stories, too.  

On the topic of science, we joined a Forest School.  They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I always intended to take a nature hike each week, but let's be honest it never happened.  Spending three hours in the woods is exhausting, but the children are enjoying it so much and learning about so many creatures and plants just by being in the woods.  I don't know how I will feel about it come winter, but I am committed to making it to as many meetings as possible.  I think Miss Mason would be happy that my children begin their homeschool week out exploring nature. ( I also think that the two to three mile hike is the type of extra exercise I need but never make time for.)

The Children's Dictionary we were using just isn't sophisticated enough for the level of vocabulary presented in Fix It.  Would you expect anything less from IEW?  So, we switched to a collegiate dictionary.  This posed a problem for my dyslexia child.  Very tiny print, multiple columns, it was all too much.  Enter the Merriam Webster Dictionary app.  It isn't perfect, but when it works it makes a world of difference.  It is like having a regular dictionary entry magnified to the size of my Kindle screen.  She still needs to decide on the correct definition to copy into her workbook, but is no longer spending a half hour finding the word.