How our Family of Ten is (hardly ever) Late

~1~

No, really!

Okay, the “hardly ever” is important. We’re late now and then (sorry, Becky). But we’ve developed a routine that seems to work for getting us most of the places most of the time. I can’t remember the last time we were late for church or a doctor’s appointment.

This is not from some personal virtue. It’s more because we all get cranky when we’re late, and we got tired of that, so we thought out a method and tried things till they worked.

~2~

Plan.

Ten people is something of a production to get out the door. If we are going to all have to be someplace in the morning hours, I need to know about it at least the night before or it’s not happening.

I take travel time, plus time to get in the car (at least 10 minutes), plus time to get myself and everyone else fed and ready, which varies depending on where we are going. Going to church? Time for dress clothes, fixing hair, scrubbing faces, buckling shoes, eating breakfast early enough before Mass…all that.

Going to the zoo? We’ll need to leave time to pack lunches, plus making sure kids are wearing sensible clothes and shoes.

Going to an early morning Irish dance thing? Don’t bother going to bed. Just start getting ready at 11 pm the night before. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I then add about 15 minutes into that time for shenanigans. It’s going to happen. Just plan on it.

That gives me our start time, which hopefully agrees with my waking time, or we’ll need even more time for an extra cup of coffee.

~3~

Prep.

The night before, I make sure everyone has clean clothes, and that they know where their shoes and coats are. If they don’t, now is the time to hunt some up. Not in the morning.

If it’s to be an early event, I will also make sure that any packing is done – diapers, dance equipment, stuff for church, whatever.

Alarm is set for whenever I have to get up to get the ball rolling, and older kids are reminded to set theirs too.

~4~

Have a morning routine.

At our house, we’ve established pretty much who does what when we are trying to get ready to go. Through trial and error, we’ve learned that unless I shower first thing when I get up, we’ll never make it anywhere without either being late, or being angry. Or, likely, both. I don’t know why, but it’s true. While I’m showering, Mark will get the kids breakfast. Then I get them dressed and iron out all the details while he showers.

During that time, the older kids attend to their own needs. When they are done, they pitch in with the breakfast cleanup, dealing with sibling mischief, and being an extra pair of hands.

~5~

Say no.

On a normal day, I am pretty laid back. I will usually take reasonable requests for breakfast, allow multiple clothing changes, not worry about little girls playing under blankets and messing up their hair. No problem.

On Sunday morning? Nope. We keep things streamlined, and since I’m looser on the days we stay home, I don’t even feel guilty about it. Which is an accomplishment all by itself.

“Can I have a dippy egg?”

No, we’re having cereal or yogurt.

“I don’t like this dress!”

Sorry, that’s what’s clean. Let’s try to find something different for next week.

“Can I build a mud fortress in the backyard?”

Not today, dear.

~6~

Have a loading routine.

When it’s time to go, I can just yell, “Time to get in the car!” a few times, and most kids will go out and get buckled in. This is also effective for lighting a fire under any dawdlers. It’s harder when it’s winter and I don’t want them to have to sit out in the cold; I usually will have the car warming up for that.

I have several older kids who can take the littlest ones out and get them buckled for me if time is getting tight. While they do that, I can lock up the house, grab some water, put on lipstick – whatever. I try to avoid roaming the house soaking up the peace and quiet and shoving cookies in my mouth when they are all out waiting in the car.

(But, sometimes it happens.)

~6~

Split up.

If there are two carloads going, sometimes if things are getting pinched, the first load will leave the second behind. That actually helps all of us get there faster. It shaves off precious minutes of entering and exiting house, car, and destination by letting some people do that while others are still getting ready or traveling.

And, if it’s one of those times when we just aren’t going to make it on time, at least some of us aren’t late.

~7~

Now, arriving?

We don’t have a routine for that. We just kind of all tumble out of the Tahoe and hope for the best.

It seems to work. Most of the time.

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How to Win a Soda Bread Competition in 7 Easy Steps

This is the true story of how, a couple of years ago, I became a gold medal champion in an Irish soda bread competition, with helpful tips so that you, too, can bring home that coveted award!

~1~

Have a kid or two in Irish dance. I don’t know if the competition will let you in if nobody’s dancing, though I suppose it never hurts to ask.

We’ve had kids in Irish dance for nearly a decade now, so I had my ticket in!

~2~

Research.

Once I was in, I wasn’t doing this halfway. No sir. I wanted to do my dancer proud. I did extensive, careful research on the history of Irish soda bread, variations on the recipe, and what constitutes “proper” and “improper” soda bread. I love food, and especially the history of regional foods, so this was going to be awesome.

My research led me to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. Here I learned that Proper Soda Bread is made with “flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. Anything else makes it a tea cake.”

Perfect. No rookie mistakes at MY first soda bread competition!

~3~

Shop.

Proper ingredients are essential. So, I actually bought some buttermilk, instead of just souring milk with vinegar like usual.

~4~

Prepare.

It was the night before the feis (“fesh” – it’s an Irish dance competition). I had polished my dancer’s two pairs of shoes, printed off her feis schedule, printed directions to the venue, checked her costume, gotten cash for parking, packed her snacks and our lunches, and gone through the checklist for shoes, socks, bobby pins, safety pins, band-aids, competition card holder, sock glue, and a hole punch.. We would be up at 4:30 to curl her hair into ringlets and get there on time. But I still had to…

~5~

Practice.

Yes, sir. No early night for me. I stayed up until 1 am, baking three (or was it 4?) loaves of soda bread, so that I could have a couple of practice loaves, taste one, and choose the one that was the most beautiful, the most perfect, yet also the most rustic. 

~6~

The Big Day

In the hustle and bustle of getting a dancer checked and settled in, you’ll need to be sure to leave time to check in your soda bread entry and scope out the competition.

You may need to look around for a while, if the entry table isn’t obvious. If you can’t find it, ask at the check-in desk. They will stare at you in obvious confusion, before going to find somebody who knows whether where there is a soda bread competition.

Eventually, a harried looking feis volunteer will come grab your soda bread with obvious astonishment. She might be amazed at its rustic perfection, its faithfulness to the historic tradition of soda bread, the way that the cross-shaped score across the top did not rise all crooked in the oven on the fourth try.

Or, she might just be stunned that somebody actually entered the competition.

~7~

Finally, be sure to go check your results at the end of the day. This is your moment to shine.

Like the gal at the check-in table, the lady at the medals table will also stare at you in confusion. After checking the computer, though, and finding that you were the only entry, she will award you your gold medal! No one will be sure what became of your soda bread, but you will be too humiliated exhilarated by your win to care.

You, dance mom, are a champion.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

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Birth Story #8 – Timothy – posterior hospital birth

For Timothy’s birth, we decided to go back to the hospital. That’s a whole story in itself, but suffice it to say that I surprised myself and decided that I didn’t want another birth center birth, and I also didn’t want the home birth I had long thought of. I was happiest in the hospital. We found a good midwife practice and decided to have him at the small community hospital just up the street from our house.

The birth – now, Timothy has always been a little unpredictable, and very spunky. He showed these qualities early – before he was even born.

The day before he was due, nothing exciting was happening as far as labor. As a grand multipara (I like that term better than “that lady with a boatload of kids”), I get a lot of pre-labor, which usually progresses very gradually into a couple weeks of prodromal labor, and then finally, mercifully, into the real thing. That night, I was still slogging through the prodromal phase.

Timothy, though – this kid wasn’t having it. The usual puttery, going-nowhere-much contractions had been going on for a while now, and I guess he was done. So, that night before the due date, right as I was getting ready for bed, he suddenly squirmed and gave one strong kick. I yelped in pain and surprise – even before I realized that he had gone and broken my water. I was startled, and a little panicked to get to the hospital – the only other time my water broke outside the hospital, the baby came so fast we didn’t make itI also couldn’t help being a little sad that he’d chosen bedtime to get the party started. My last full night of sleep whisked away, just like that.

Well, we didn’t hang around. Our teenagers were already home to babysit, so we just grabbed our stuff and left. I remember noticing the perfectly full moon in a clear spring sky as we pulled away from the house.

We were at the hospital about half an hour after The Kick, and grateful to be there before anything much was happening. Some vague contractions were starting up, but nothing strong. We got checked in, and with some difficulty convinced the nurses that I really was sure my membranes really had ruptured. Their skepticism confused me – this was not a slow leak, folks. This was not an easy event to misinterpret, even were this my first rodeo. On my eighth…haven’t I maybe earned the right to just be believed when I say I’m sure my water broke?

Anyway, the midwife soon arrived, and contractions picked up. And as they did, I developed a deep ache in my back which filled me with a sense of dread. I knew immediately what it meant – the baby was posterior. I had been through posterior birth once before, and it was by far the hardest, longest, and most painful birth I have experienced. He had not been in a posterior position earlier that week when the midwife had checked him, but he sure was now. I had to immediately adjust my expectations for this birth – as soon as the water broke, I had assumed he was coming fast. With his poor positioning, it wasn’t going to be that way.

But, thankfully, neither was it to be a repeat of Alex’s 24-hour labor. The next couple of hours were hard, trying any and every position and comfort measure in the book to encourage him to come down. I spent a lot of time on hands and knees. I do wish I had had a labor tub like I had at the birth center with Emily – I am sure it would have helped immensely. He finally arrived, strong and healthy, only 5 minutes before his due date and about 3 hours after he “kickstarted” his own labor. This was pretty short, for a posterior labor.KODAK Digital Still Camera

So, I learned that not every posterior birth has to be as long and difficult as mine had been; there are so many variables, you just never know. I am sure it helped that we discovered his position early on, and it also helped that I had told the midwife beforehand that I was really afraid of posterior birth because of a previous birth. She did a great job of taking a proactive role in positioning and encouragement, which makes all the difference.

That’s one reason I love midwives; she was there the whole time, using positioning, counterpressure, and doubtless things I never noticed, or have forgotten. Some births I have needed that, and some I haven’t – but you never know until you are in the middle of it.

Finally, if you find yourself facing a posterior birth, don’t despair! My midwife pointed me to Spinning Babies, which is a fabulous resource on fetal positioning. The best way to cope with posterior labor is to be prepared, and be sure your caregiver is prepared as well. Also, for this as well as any birth, if you don’t have a midwife, you should consider finding a good doula. A professional level of labor support really can make such a huge difference, especially if you are faced with difficulties. You can do it!

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{SQT} Simple, Frugal Lenten Decor, Tofu, and Learning as I Go

~1~

Since I’m learning to incorporate the liturgical year into family life at the same time I’m adjusting to being a new Catholic, living in a new state, being a first-time homeowner, homeschooling with some unique challenges, and recovering from a serious financial slump, I’m keeping it simple. And cheap. I spent about 20 minutes on our Lent decor, if you include the time it took to figure out where they keep the plastic flowers at Walmart.

Of course, I’d probably keep it simple and cheap no matter what. I like it that way.

~2~

First up: our Lenten front door wreath, pictured above. I love having something on the front door! I picked up a grapevine wreath for $5 at Walmart, and I got the purple flower at the same time for $2.50. I don’t have a glue gun, or florist wire, or the ability to care about that, so I just cut the stem to a good length and wove it into the wreath. It took about two minutes, minus the Walmart-roving, and this way the flower could be readily removed to make way for some other seasonal whim.

Cost: $7.50

~3~

Next, the dresser in our dining room, which houses playdoh, school games, art stuff, and various junk that I shove in there when company is coming.  I put our Advent wreath on it this Advent past, and liked it so much I decided to just leave the space for “liturgical year stuff.” (There’s probably a lent 1better name for that).

Anyway, the purple cloth is actually just my favorite t-shirt (which is at least 10 years old). On top of that is Lenten Sacrifice Beans.  I got both the idea and the free printable from Lacy at Catholic Icing. The only thing I bought for this was the purple ribbon and the flowers.

Cost: $5.00

~4~

We “buried the alleuia” this year, too. This idea I got from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas – both talleuiahe idea itself and the inspiration to keep it simple. I was happy that I was able to fancy up the Sharpie with some glitter paint that I borrowed from the three year old, though.

I made this on Ash Wednesday, but we forgot to bury it till the Tuesday following.

Cost: free

~5~

The last thing I did was change the top of the bookshelf by the door. It’s only vaguely Lenten, with purple candles and a plain basket, which I recently snagged at the thrift store for a couple bucks. Thelent 2 rest I already had.

Cost: about $2

~6~

Lenten cooking is on my mind, and we tried tofu for the first time in years this week. Last time I made it, it was awful; I think I tried putting it in lasagna, or something equally egregious. This time, I fried it and put sweet and sour sauce on it, and it was actually quite tasty. I have a Pinterest board for Meatless and Fish dishes, come on over and visit for some new Friday ideas.

~7~

Lent seems long, just now, as sacrifices already grow tiresome and I become forgetful of the positive additions I am trying to make to my day during this time. One thing I have learned to appreciate, though, in becoming Catholic, is the sense of the value of time. The value of waiting, of walking through the process instead of skipping to the end. Honestly, I don’t fully intuitively grasp the value of fasting (and I mean fasting in a broad sense) yet, though I have read enough about it by now that I should. I don’t understand it, or why it is beneficial, but I do accept that it is, and I hope to gain a clearer vision of that in this season.

Incorporating the liturgical year into our family uncovers these kinds of gaps in understanding. It brings to mind how, as a Protestant, I would not do something I did not understand the value of or see the Biblical mandate for. Each hymn I sang, each prayer I read, all had to be screened – by me, of course. I love that I can learn by doing, by following the ancient practices of the Church and discovering the richness of it as I go.

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33 Rainy Day Ideas For Bored Kids

Oi, the natives get restless when they are trapped inside!

My kids play outside. A lot. They have way too much energy to keep them locked up. Our typical homeschool day sees us taking care of the books in the morning hours, and then they get a lot of free time in the afternoon. If the weather’s nice, they play outside – we have a good yard with a fence, and big kids who can look out for little kids, so it’s a pretty smooth operation.

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Ah, the bygone days of warm summer rain.

Except when it isn’t. While I’m not at all opposed to playing in the rain and mud (I like them to be able enjoy the outdoors in any weather), it’s just a sad, sad fact that children can’t be expected (or allowed) to play outside much if it’s raining, windy, and 35 degrees. Or in a blizzard, or thunderstorms, or, possibly, hailing meatballs.

Never mind that last.

Outings

  1. Library. The best…what’s better than the library on a rainy day?? If only they let you have coffee.
  2. Small local bookstores often have a little children’s area to hang out in.
  3. A museum. We like to have memberships to some local fun museums for some getting-out fun when the weather’s bad.
  4. A mall. Lots of space, and most malls have a play area that is free as long as your kids know that you are cheap frugal and won’t put quarters in. Or that you only put quarters in once in a blue moon and absolutely never if they ask! 
  5. When it’s let up enough, splash in puddles and rescue worms.
  6. Invite a friend over. Preferably a kid friend AND a mom friend.

Creative

  1. Paint a picture.
  2. Draw with window markers.
  3. Make homemade play dough.
  4. Make slime. (I haven’t tried these recipes. If you have, leave a comment and let me know if they are any good? Please?)
  5. Roll out some easel paper across the room and let them go at it with crayons or markers – this is a big favorite.
  6. Teach a kid five or up to sew a little stuffed animal: My First Sewing Book by Winky Cherry. I’ve used this with five of the kids so far and they all love it, boys included. It usually takes them a few days to a week to finish it, depending on attention span.
  7. Make cookies. Or popcorn.
  8. Make a vinegar and baking soda volcano. (Bonus homeschool points if you get them to watch a You Tube video about volcanos, too.)
  9. If they are old enough to be responsible, let them use a tablet or video camera to make their own movie. These can be hilarious to watch. Or deadly boring. But, it kept them busy.
  10. Make crayon rubbings.

Tactile

  1. Break out the colored rice, pasta, or beans. I did the rice for my kiddos a few years ago, and they absolutely loved it. I would give them each some in a pie tin and some toys to go with, and it kept them busy for ages. It was kind of a pain, though, because it would get all over the floor and be pesky to clean up (and no fun to step on). When it eventually ran out, from being spilled and swept over and over, I decided not to make more and to try pasta or beans instead. That’s still in the works.
  2. Let older toddlers or preschoolers play in the sink. There’s invariably some spillage, but the fun is worth it. Unless you happen to have an ancient wooden floor badly in need of refinishing. Then it isn’t.
  3. Put baby or toddler in high chair with a little water and some cups and funnels.

Building

  1. There’s always the Legos.
  2. Lincoln Logs
  3. Fort out of couch cushions and sheets.
  4. House of cards. Jonathan used to spend a lot of time on this.
  5. Some kids really get a kick out of dismantling junk electronics and appliances. I will occasionally buy something in that vein at the thrift store. Jonathan is quite good at taking them apart and will be at it all day if I let him.
  6. Build houses out of craft sticks and glue.
  7. Build boats out of styrofoam egg cartons or meat trays.

Quiet Time

  1. Read a book.
  2. Work on schoolwork.
  3. Do chores (No? Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said you were bored. Just tryin’ to help.)
  4. Draw a picture.
  5. Do a puzzle.
  6. Play a board game.
  7. Watch a movie. I’m not opposed to some good screen time, to be honest. I’m picky about content, and I wouldn’t let them watch all day (unless I’m sick, or they are, then, well…), but some PBS Kids, Wiggles, Veggie Tales, nature shows..that sort of thing.

That’s what I’ve got. Have something to add? Leave a comment!

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7 Things I Didn’t Lose When I Became Catholic

Our conversion to the Catholic Church was a big deal. It’s a major change; there are things I used to be pretty sure about that I definitely don’t believe anymore, like the bit about the Pope being the Antichrist.

Yeah, I don’t think that anymore.

But I do still have:

~1~

The Gospel. This is the #1 thing that Protestant friends said to us: “You are denying the Gospel.”

As a Catholic, I believe that Jesus paid for my sins on the cross, and that the only way to get to heaven is through His sacrifice. My good works? They are valuable. They are meritorious, even. But where do they, and any merit they manage to hold, come from?

Jesus. All of it. Absolutely everything. Full stop.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.” (Italics original).

And, “With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.” (Both from Part 3, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 2).

I don’t mean to oversimplify the huge justification divide between Catholics and Protestants. It’s a tough subject. For some meatier treatment, try this article by Jimmy Akin. He really digs into the issues, and is good at translating Catholic/Protestant terminology. Or this one: Do Catholics Believe in Justification by Faith Alone?

~2~

Jesus.
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It’s common for Protestants to think that Catholic converts have left their first love behind. That a true and simple faith and trust in Jesus has faded, or never really was, and been replaced by a thirst for “smells and bells.” That a soul now dying is desperately trying to fill the void with empty ritual. That’s how I used to see those who left the Reformed faith for Rome.

This could not be further from the truth. I’ve written before about how Catholic rituals are far from empty;  all I can really say about this now is that, while conflict and confusion drove me to the doors of the Catholic Church, Jesus pulled me inside. His presence in the Eucharist, in particular, is compelling.


Tweet: While conflict and confusion drove me to the doors of the Catholic Church, Jesus pulled me inside.


Mary and the saints don’t detract from faith in Christ – they strengthen it, grow it. We have a huge family to pray for us and cheer us on. But it’s all about Jesus.

~3~

The Bible

I get just as much Bible in the Catholic Church as I did in my Protestant tradition. Maybe more. The Mass is full of Bible – absolutely packed with it. Catholic piety is always coming back to the Bible.

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Psalms

 We still sing the Psalms. They are sung or chanted in the Mass, and we still sing them at home, too. We also have all our old favorite hymns back – for a number of years, we only sang psalms out of Sola Scriptura scruples. We sing Charles Wesley, even. It’s lovely.

~5~

Which leads me to something less tangible. In becoming Catholic, there has been a feeling of uniting the good things from different times in my life, and the different church traditions, drawn together into a whole. This is hard to describe. It’s as though parts of myself that I laid aside in my journey toward being ever more Presbyterian, I got back, without losing the true growth that happened from being part of that rich tradition.

I haven’t finished processing this one yet. I’m curious if any of my fellow converts resonate with what I’m saying?

~6~

Openness to Life

I like to say that I was always a Catholic waiting to happen, I just never knew. This is one of the many reasons why.

Funnily enough, one thing that didn’t change a bit is our position on contraception and welcoming children. So many people struggle with that one, but it was a natural fit for us. We entered the church with 8 children, and now people tend to see us and assume we’re old hands at the Catholic thing.

At least, until Alex tries to genuflect. Then the game is up, I’m afraid. The kid fell clean over the other day.

~7~

Myself

As I wrote in my Lenten reflection, there is a real sense in which I felt that I did give up my very self in this process.

But there is another way in which I did not. I think when people convert from one tradition to another, it can be tempting to look at them and feel like they are not even the same person anymore. Like there are no longer any commonalities.

This, I’m sure, happens. But most of the time, peoples is peoples, as Pete used to say. (Muppets. Of course.) I’m the same person I’ve always been. I just learned some stuff I didn’t know before, and really, did the same thing I’ve always done – run headlong into the next adventure. There are some ways, as I alluded to in #5, in which I actually feel more freely myself than I have in years.

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The Lent when I gave up more than expected

 “In his heart, Frodo begins to understand. The quest will claim his life.” ~ Galadriel, The Two Towers (2002)

Lent 2016 began on February 10.

On February 11, 2016, Mark sent another query letter to another job opening across the country from our home. It was no big deal. We had done this hundreds of times before. Usually, we heard nothing back.

To us, these two things had nothing to do with each other. The timing was an accident – I didn’t even notice it. But the coincidence later came to hold a permanent significance to me.

You see, I didn’t intend to give up anything for Lent last year. It was my very first serious Lent, and I wasn’t fully Catholic yet. I was still a Candidate.

I thought (with some justification) that my life in general was, at that time, penitential to a degree that I just wasn’t sure I could keep it together if it got any harder. So, I changed our family “fun jar” (where anyone can contribute their pennies and the savings can be spent on a fun outing) to a “giving jar,” I committed to pray the Morning Offering daily, and I obeyed the Friday abstinence (which I do year-round anyway). And that was it.

I had no way of knowing what Lent would really be like for me as a Candidate. That job application, for all its importance, was only part of the story of my first Lent.

The road into the Catholic Church is a long, beautiful, and sometimes painful one. At the beginning, I really didn’t understand why it had to take so long. But I found that there are some things that one can’t learn in a book, or by pulling a late night on Google (no, seriously). Some paths simply must be walked, even especially when we don’t understand, when we can’t see.  There were certain things that had to happen during Lent, for me. They were hard things, but also things that turned my heart more firmly toward Christ.

One, I needed to make my first Confession. This was a deeply difficult experience for me, which I have written more about here. In Confession, I gave uConfessional-780028p my pride. My appearance of having it all (or maybe any of it) together. I also gave up my fear – fear of judgement, of rejection. I had been rejected before, in a church where I thought I was safely at home. It was doubly tough to then bare my soul with the ruthless honesty required to make a good confession, and it took me a long time afterward to relax and believe that it was really going to be okay. (But it was, more than okay. Confession is awesome, guys, I don’t know how I lived without it).

Second, during Lent, I came to really embrace the Catholic attitude toward the Magisterium of the church. I had been Reformed, a child of Luther and Calvin, for a long time. As a passionate adherent to Sola Scriptura, what I believed had had to come down to my own interpretation of the Bible. I could be advised, informed, inspired by the church and by the great (protestant) theologians, but I couldn’t trust them. I could only, in the end, trust my own study, my own judgement of what the Bible taught. (That got me in plenty trouble.) As a Catholic, I am no longer the final authority on what the Bible is saying on any given topic. Just because it’s clear to me, doesn’t make it so. (And if “clear to me” was the same as “clear,” we wouldn’t have so many denominations.) That’s remarkably freeing, a weight of misplaced responsibility lifted – but it’s humbling, too.

Finally, during Lent, I came to something of a breaking point in my personal life. Our steady downward financial spiral and our long, fruitless job search were a torment to me. It’s seriously humiliating to have a lot of kids and be in financial trouble. It’s terrifying and all-around stressful. I spent most of my “free” time either filling out job applications, researching academic job search strategies, or finding creative ways to juggle our finances so nothing got shut off that month.

For years, I had prayed and hoped and worked for and agonized over financial stability as an obvious good – which of course it is. But not every obvious good is given to every person. This one certainly had eluded us, in spite of our neverending efforts to pull ourselves out of our mess.

As it happened, that query letter that Mark sent out on February 11 got answered, which meant we were now ready for the nail-biting joy of Skype interviews. We had had several very near misses in Mark’s job search in previous years, sometimes making it to the very final round of interviews. My prayers over those were always variations on a theme: “Please, we need this job. Please, give us the opportunity to fully provide for ourselves. Allow us the dignity of a job that pays our bills. Allow us rest from this trial.” And sometimes, when the rejection letters came, they felt like rejection letters from God Himself. I knew it wasn’t so, in my head, but I couldn’t change how I felt. The stress was unbelievable.

This was how I came, one day during Lent, during the weeks of interviews, to a broken moment of prayer, crumpled in a heap on the bathroom floor (where else can a busy mom pray?). I could no longer hold onto the hopes and dreams for our future and family that had driven me for so long. I had a death grip on my idea of the way my life ought to go, and too many of my prayers had been little more than one long, loud tantrum that it wasn’t turning out that way.

This time was different. This time, the spirit of Lent took hold of my tired heart. In that moment of prayer, I gave up those dreams for Lent. I gave up my own hopes, goals, and plans for my life and for our family. I gave up wanting what I wanted, and asked for the heart to want what God wanted, instead- even if what He wanted was for us to remain trapped in a hole that was growing ever deeper. Not just to accept it – but to want it – because what I really want is God, and for God to draw my soul nearer to him. If the best way to do that is by this or that grim trial, then I can know that what I am getting is precisely what I really wanted all along.

In that moment, I understood. For my first Lent, I had to give up myself.

After that, I was ready for Easter. I talk about that a lot more in my Reflection After the Easter Vigil.

And in a truly poetic turn, Mark got that job. Our job search and our church transition came to completion at about the same time, around that Easter of 2016.

I haven’t fully worked out yet how we will observe Lent 2017, but I will always remember my first Lent. The spirit of that season, of laying down our wordly loads and loves, and turning our hearts and lives toward the cross, dwells in the Church and in the lives of her people, of which I am privileged to be a part.

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Sweet Little Ones

{SQT} Homeschool changes, kid stuff, and general commotion

~1~

Whoa, it’s been busy around here. We had a good Christmas with lots of family, and we’ve been hard at work with school. This school year has easily been our toughest ever. We have had, all at once:

xmas
Merry belated Christmas!
  • The move in the summer, including buying a house, consuming 100% of my time that I needed for preparation.
  • Needed curriculum changes from our Catholic conversion.
  • The kiddos moving into a bit of a new phase where I now have 4 grade schoolers and 2 high schoolers.
  • The two littlest ones, ages 1 and 3, are both very high maintenance children, far more than most of my other ones were at those ages. The two of them are quite a team, and leave me feeling like a rookie as often as not.
  • Other significant life stressors cropped up in the past year, too, and my heart is tired. You know, because a major faith transition coupled with a midlife career change and moving a family of 10 to a completely new place within one year isn’t enough. I guess. Apparently.

It’s been the first year where I really thought we might just hang it up and send them to public school. It was definitely on the table, for a while, and that’s not something I’ve thought twice about since we decided to homeschool an adorable 5 year old Erin, 12 years ago. But, if all I can do is run around throwing worksheets at people with a shrieking toddler wrapped around my head, well, that’s not going to cut it.

~2~

But, before we quit, I wanted to try changing some things around. Sometimes that’s all you need, really, is just a new approach. Since I was getting worn out trying to keep up with all the separate coursework (plus two crazy monkeys), I decided to try some unit studies. I had done this once before when Erin and Anna were little, but neither of them enjoyed it much. They didn’t like the hands on, lapbooking type stuff, so I ditched it.

But, new times. New kids, and it turns out purchased unit studies have been a fabulous breath of fresh air. Less prep for me, since it’s all put together already, with good ideas for the projects and field trips that are so hard for me to think of when I can’t find time to visit the bathroom or throw in a load of laundry. This batch of grade-schoolers loves the lapbooking. So, we’re interspersing week-and month-long studies as a supplement to our foundational coursework.

pizza
making pizzas

We’re getting a lot more done and enjoying it more. We even took a school tour of Pizza Hut and got two free pizzas out of it, so clearly it’s a win.

So now, I’m optimistic we can carry on. It’s a relief, because I was worried about laying still more life changes on all of us.

~3~

The running…oh. That. It’s cold out there, you know? So I do kettlebell. (Sometimes). I love me some kettlebell. 10 minutes, 200 calories. Done.

The kids even get into it, now. I happened on a 3lb bell at a thrift store a while back, and now my 3 year old is perfecting her swing.

 ~4~

The kids are settling in a bit. Rebecca is doing well at dance, and has been invited to be on the Oireachtas team for this year. It’s pronounced oh-ROCK-tus, and it’s a regional competition that will be in Florida this coming December. She’s super excited. Becca has a lot of goals, and one is to go to the World Championship in Ireland someday. Who knows? If Becca can give me an excuse to fund raise for a trip to Ireland, well, hmm. I’m good with that.scouts

We’ve also started the boys in Cub Scouts. They are adorable in their uniforms, but I know nothing about scouting, or about most of the things that scouts do (which is one reason I wanted them in scouts. Right?).  Their poor leader has to talk me through everything. My hand has almost healed from helping them make Pinewood Derby cars a couple weeks ago, though, so that’s something.

And, to my complete shock, my three year old has forgotten Utah. She no longer recognizes photos of our house there, or her old room. She remembers people, friends and neighbors, but not the place.

Also, Becca is going to be an altar server. I’m happy that she can do that, both for its own sake and also as a good place to find some friends her age in the church.

~5~

We got a dog! Memargo and beccaet Margo. She’s a Great Pyrenees/Labrador mix obtained from a rescue up in Virginia. She is our second try – the first dog we brought home from the shelter sadly had to go right back the next day, after it became clear that he had an incurable taste for cat. He was a sweetie otherwise, but I do like our cats an awful lot.

Margo is another story. She is so much fun and has fit right in, and after a chilly start with the cats has become best buddies with Rhys. Erin, who has wanted a dog pretty much forever, still can’t quite believe she’s here.

~6~

Tim me
“Mine.”

Timothy isn’t really a baby anymore. He’s a tempestuous, insanely lovable and lovably insane toddler, now. The whole house has been claimed by him – most especially anything I am eating. And the stove timer, which no one can figure out why it makes him so angry. When it goes off, he becomes enraged and yells “NO! My timer! Mine!!”

~7~

While Emily has forgotten Utah, I have not. We have moved to a good place, with good people and good opportunities, and I’m grateful. But leaving Utah behind left a deeper hole in my heart than I expected. I’m finding life to be that way, the last few years. We’ve left much behind, both physically and metaphorically, and life is different than it was in so many ways.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live,” said Albus Dumbledore. It seems strange now, but I never realized how much that can apply to dreams of the past as well as dreams of the future. It’s always been a priority for me not to waste what I have for want of what I lack. In the past, what I lacked was stability, prosperity, plans for the future beyond getting that much-needed job. But we lived there, and made a life there, and a darn good one.

my favorite view
View from our old dining room window.

I’m determined to do that here, too. To roll who I was into who I am, and be present, and live here. Utah and its breathtaking beauty and its kind, generous, and hardworking people are stamped on my heart, as is Pennsylvania where I grew up. Starting over is hard, but I won’t waste this stretch of my life gazing back at the last one. Even if I have been very busy framing old pictures to hang up around the house.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

The Homeschool Post

{SQT} Bronchitis, strep, pneumonia. And some other stuff.

~1~

 So October hasn’t really been our month.  Unless by “our month,” you mean, “our month to get sick over and over again.” In that case, yes, it’s definitely been our month.

I love having a houseful of kiddos, especially these days when I am poignantly aware that some of them are gonna grow up and fly away awfully soon. All of us under one roof seems like a sweet, fleeting treasure that will be gone tomorrow.

But when sickness strikes the big family – well, see ya in a month, hopefully. This time we were especially privileged to get hit by

20161030_144320.jpg
Pretty, huh?

bronchitis, then a week
later, strep. Then a week later, Becca came down with pneumonia, which she is still fighting off. Had a fridge full of antibiotics, and a big, hastily-drawn, not-Pinterest-worthy dosing chart on the fridge, and really have done very little beyond push fluids, take temperatures, watch breathing,  go to the doctor, get chest x-rays, refill the humidifier…all that.

~2~

 In other news, we did finally get back to school in mid-September. Planning a new school year for 6 kids on top of the huge pile of life changes we’ve tackled this year was daunting. We ended up doing a lot with Homeschool Connections for the older three; the monthly subscription is really affordable for multiple kiddos and takes a lot of the prep burden off of me, particularly for the history and religion classes, which I wanted to have a Catholic worldview but felt underprepared to put that together myself. Uppeschoolr math is Teaching Textbooks as always – I LOVE Teaching Textbooks 2.0. Self-grading math, baby. Enough said.

For the littler ones, we’re taking it easy but hitting the biggies with Math-U-See, Apologia, Hooked on Phonics, workbooks, and some classes from Kolbe. Mostly stuff we already had handed down from the older ones. Of course, we took a lot of time off to be sick this month, but c’est la vie.

~3~

We’re continuing to settle in to our new home. North Carolina is definitely a whole different world than Utah; I’m slow at adapting. Things I miss about Utah:

  • Mountains.
  • Family and friends left behind, of course.
  • Mormons. I’m not Mormon, never have been, don’t plan on it, but I miss LDS folks and culture. I might go over and visit the ward so I can meet some Mormons. Is that weird?  “Hey guys, I’m Catholic, but I lived in Utah forever and I’m not sure my life will ever be complete without ward Christmas parties. Can I come? Please??”  If you too have a fondness for LDS culture, hop over to Twitter and check out #MormonMafia. Hilarious.
  • Fry sauce. If you don’t know what that is, I’m so sorry.
  • Enunciation. North Carolinians mumble like nobody’s business. I can’t understand anybody I talk to on the phone, here, ever. It’s kind of a problem.

~4~

Then again, there are some things I don’t miss about Utah:

  • Traffic. We kind of don’t have any, here, except for that one weekend festival, when there is “CRAZY TRAFFIC” that is kind of like average, midmorning weekday traffic around Salt Lake. Other than that, there really isn’t any.
  • Crazy drivers (of which I kind of am one, now. Thanks Utah).  Utah drivers are pretty aggressive, and I picked that up over time. North Carolina drivers are more…sleepy. They kind of dawdle along, and then sit there for a while, as though pondering very carefully what their next move shall be. Frustrating to an overcaffeinated, overly busy city mom driver? Yeah. But better than getting mowed down. And good for practicing patience. I guess.

~5~

I started running again! I totally quit over the summer, as moving craziness took over my whole world. When I started up again, I had to start the beginning program all over, and made a lot of progress. I have had to quit again for the last month while I get over bronchitis and strep, but I’m almost ready to start up again…again.

The running was made worlds easier to fit in when I realized that I could run in the evening when I habitually take Timothy for a bedtime walk to calm down. He enjoys the running, and so do I. Previously, I’d ruled out running then – aren’t you supposed to not run right after a meal? And not too long before bed?

But the last few months, I’ve gotten sick of not getting things done because of not being able to do them “right.” If my realistic options are a) run after dinner, at the “wrong time,” or b) not run, I’m ready for option a.

~6~

Happy birthday to Jonat20161029_160016.jpghan and Alex! Their birthdays are only days apart, and so far they are content to share a party. Lucky me, I hope it lasts! Jonathan’s day is today, which commemorates 9 years since the elevator incident. And, a few days ago was 7 years since Alex’s birth, which still stands as the toughest birth I have done. May it ever be so.

~7~

I organized my pantry, back in those days before sickness, now buried in the mists of time. (I think it was September.)

Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep a pantry organized with 10 people in the house? You clean that thing, and 2 weeks days minutes seconds later, boom. Totally randomized, to the subatomic level. I kid you not. My husband called it the “Where’s Waldo” storage method.

For years I have meant 20160923_094737.jpgto label the shelves, but alas. I didn’t have a label gun thingy. I had a label gun thingy in my Amazon cart for awhile, but it’s not the same.

I can’t believe it took me so long, but I finally realized that scrap paper, a Sharpie, and clear tape could do what really needed done, which was to make sure we can all find the pickles.

Not Pinterest-worthy, but it works, unlike all the elaborate projects in my head and good intentions left, unbought, in my Amazon cart.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

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Sweet Little Ones

Catholic Conversion: Seven MORE Things I was Wrong About

I used to think the Catholic Church was creepy.

Truth, friends. As a Protestant, I was immersed in my own culture, and looking in, good grief. All this praying to dead people, and burning incense, and…the bones. I went to a cathedral in Guatemala City once, and bones. People bones. It creeped me out for days.

The thing is, we shouldn’t judge Truth on whether we’re used to it or not. The biggest barrier to my conversion to the Catholic Church was the layers and layers of confusion, misinformation, and misunderstanding that clouded my vision.

~1~

Catholics are obsessed with death.

Well, you know. The relics. The crucifixes. Good Friday. All Souls Day.

Giotto. the-crucifix- c.1317 Padua, Museo Civico

I never liked crucifixes even as a child raised outside of church. I refused to believe that Jesus had really had nails driven through His hands. It was too graphic for me, I guess.

As a convert coming in from a conservative Presbyterian background, where any pictures of Christ are considered to violate the 2nd Commandment, I had a hard time with the crucifix in church. I could hardly look at it, for months.

But I’ve found that it’s not that Catholics are obsessed with death and suffering. It’s that they don’t fear it. Not just in an esoteric, I’m going to heaven kind of way, but in an everyday mercy kind of way. They feel the call to be messengers of mercy, healing, and love in the very darkest places – including the deathbed. They know that our suffering has great value in the eyes of God, and that it is a critical part of our growth as His children.

~2~

Catholics think they have to get married to go to heaven.

I didn’t think this one myself, but friends have challenged me with it. This example highlights how otherwise highly informed Protestants have been seriously misinformed aboBS001 sut the Church. The splintering that goes on and on feeds on this kind of thing. (And it goes both ways, for sure.)

No. Of course not. Priests, nuns, etc., are celibate, for one thing, so that would be an extremely odd doctrine. Marriage is a sacrament, but so are Holy Orders, so most people don’t receive all seven sacraments in their lifetime – only a rare minority, such as perhaps a widower who then became a priest. Neither is required – it depends on one’s vocation and state of life.

~3~

Catholics live in a state of medieval superstition and fear.

This one I did think. In the sign of the cross, in the incense, in the candles, the holy water, the different gestures…I saw all these things as superstitious nonsense, silly things probably done to ward off evil spirits or something. MyFitzgeraldFairyBanquet more austere Reformed spirituality seemed more logical and more Biblical, free of outward tangible signs of spiritual realities, beyond the two sacraments I accepted at the time.

But as I mentioned in my previous list of misconceptions, we are beings who are both physical and spiritual. Catholic practice is not superstitious – these practices all express and point to spiritual realities which are, for the most part, also accepted by our Protestant brothers and sisters. But, they do so in a way that understands that people are more than just a brain, or more than just a heart. We are physical beings, and our minds and hearts are informed and strengthened by things we encounter in the physical world.

~4~

Catholicism teaches that the Pope is never wrong, which is silly, because everybody knows that popes have lived scandalously and contradicted each other.

This is one I took as a given. It was incomprehensible to me that anybody could be so gullible as to actually believe that the Pope was infallible. It was patently obvious that, throughout history, there have been immoral popes who certainly weren’t infallible. And those pesky contradictions! Catholics were, to be sure, mindless automatons who never bothered to crack open a history book.

Pope Francis in March 2013 (cropped)

It was a top objection for me, in the early days. The problems here come really from two major misconceptions, not one:

~5~

Papal infallibility means that the Pope is perfect in every way. He does not forget phone numbers, and he sure doesn’t sin.

Nope. No, no, no. Here is an excerpt from an excellent article on the subject put out by Catholic Answers:

“…Fundamentalists and other “Bible Christians” often confuse the charism of papal ‘infallibility’ with ‘impeccability.’ They imagine Catholics believe the pope cannot sin…Given these common misapprehensions regarding the basic tenets of papal infallibility, it is necessary to explain exactly what infallibility is not. Infallibility is not the absence of sin…Some ask how popes can be infallible if some of them lived scandalously. This objection of course, illustrates the common confusion between infallibility and impeccability. There is no guarantee that popes won’t sin or give bad example. (The truly remarkable thing is the great degree of sanctity found in the papacy throughout history; the “bad popes” stand out precisely because they are so rare.)”

Catholics aren’t blind to the scandalous popes. They just know that it doesn’t have anything to do with the doctrine of infallibility.

~6~

Popes can’t be infallible because they have contradicted each other.

The historical record of this really surprised me.  As a Protestant, it was a wPope Saint John Paul II Statueorking assumption that popes had contradicted each other, not once or twice, but so many times that the whole doctrine was ridiculous.

 More from the same article:

“Other people wonder how infallibility could exist if some popes disagreed with others. This, too, shows an inaccurate understanding of infallibility, which applies only to solemn, official teachings on faith and morals, not to disciplinary decisions or even to unofficial comments on faith and morals. A pope’s private theological opinions are not infallible, only what he solemnly defines is considered to be infallible teaching. 

Even Fundamentalists and Evangelicals who do not have these common misunderstandings often think infallibility means that popes are given some special grace that allows them to teach positively whatever truths need to be known, but that is not quite correct, either. Infallibility is not a substitute for theological study on the part of the pope.

What infallibility does do is prevent a pope from solemnly and formally teaching as “truth” something that is, in fact, error. It does not help him know what is true, nor does it “inspire” him to teach what is true. He has to learn the truth the way we all do—through study—though, to be sure, he has certain advantages because of his position…Turning to history, critics of the Church cite certain “errors of the popes.” Their argument is really reduced to three cases, those of Popes Liberius, Vigilius, and Honorius, the three cases to which all opponents of papal infallibility turn; because they are the only cases that do not collapse as soon as they are mentioned. There is no point in giving the details here—any good history of the Church will supply the facts—but it is enough to note that none of the cases meet the requirements outlined by the description of papal infallibility given at Vatican I (cf. Pastor Aeternus 4).”

For a meatier treatment of this, try The Christian Freethinker, the much-quoted Catholic Answers article, or the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.

Some books on the Papacy:

Documents Illustrating Papal Authority: AD 96-454 – E. Giles (This can also be found as a free ebook here.)

Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church (Modern Apologetics Library) – Stephen K. Ray

The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451

~7~

Catholics have gone liberal and don’t practice what they preach anymore.

I talked about this a little in my first misconceptions post, but this one keeps on surprising me. Sure, yes, there are plenty of “Catholics” who aren’t serious. There are also plenty of Evangelicals who aren’t serious, who don’t read their Bible or take their morality or faith seriously. It doesn’t mean that the Evangelicals aren’t serious.  It just means that the Evangelical churches have, well, people, in them. Those people are not all at the same place in their journey.

Worshippers pray with rosaries. Credit: User:leba12 (Wikimedia Commons).The un-serious Catholics that I met and, even more, Knew About (through hearsay) gave me an unrealistic view of the seriousness of Catholics in general. I keep meeting an endless stream of serious, sincere, practicing Catholics; I keep being surprised when I do. It’s a lovely, heart-cheering surprise, like so many facets of the Church, but I do hope my flawed, ingrained expectations begin to catch up to reality, one day.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

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{SQT} 7 Things I was Wrong About

{SQT} 7 Things I Didn’t Lose When I Became Catholic