7 Quick Takes (vol. 6)

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My Lenten sacrifice already needs a jumpstart.  And this is where I get to brag about my awesome husband: who forced encouraged me to snag a morning workout for the last two days, even though it cuts into his work day and doesn’t fit perfectly in my “ideal” schedule.  Which still isn’t written on paper yet…  I’m getting to that!

Interesting historical fact - the term "jumpstart" comes from having to literally jump while cranking this style of car

Interesting fact – the term “jumpstart” comes from having to literally jump while turning the car’s crank

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Michael has been chatting non-stop about his favorite videos and games this week.  Currently on his favorites list are Angry Birds Star WarsPudding Monsters and Yoda.  It’s so cute how he explains the games and the movie story lines.  We can’t seem to catch his best moments on film though.  If I can manage to get a cute video out of him, I’ll make sure to post it for your viewing pleasure.

Yoda

Watch your back, Count Dooku

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I realized why Michael is so drawn to the Yoda character.  It’s because he is currently in the developmental phase that delights in small things wielding great power.  My Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes keep reiterating this concept for children aged three to six.  That is why so many of the works focus on smallness and God using weak/insignificant subjects to highlight great truths.  Last week Michael’s class learned the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  What is a better example of God’s power than the smallest seed growing in the largest of plants?  Now I am seeing Michael’s natural inclination toward the small manifesting in other ordinary situations – like playing Star Wars with Daddy.  I find it fascinating to watch intellectual concepts play out in real life.

Did you know a Jerusalem mustard seed is significantly smaller than our American mustard seeds?

Did you know a Jerusalem mustard seed is significantly smaller than our American mustard seeds?

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Michael and I had the most amazing Pazcki (Polish Fat Tuesday dessert).  The dough was moist and chewy.  The powdered sugar so light and airy, with just a hint of sweet.  And the custard inside… to die for!  I’m still dreaming about it three days later.Pazcki

Pazcki

The child is pleased

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There was a lot of Valentine’s love going around yesterday.  Ryan bought me beautiful roses.  Then Michael and I decided to make Valentines for his friends and family.  (What else am I going to do with 32 wallet photos from his four year portraits?)  We also ate (more) doughnuts.  Who could ask for anything more?

Valentine's Day

Nothing says “love” like pink heart stickers

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Speaking of love, my sister is engaged!!!  Isn’t her ring totally sweet?!

Holly's ring

Holly's ring

Not sure what is that crazy thing behind her hand…

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My poor husband is nearly finished with stressful work week (not including weekend duty hours in the dorm).  Say a prayer for this hardworking guy!

Frazzled husband

Yes, he said I could post this pic

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Barefoot in the Kitchen

A friend of mine just started a recipe link-up and I’m quite excited to join her endeavor!  In honor of the new liturgical season, I’m posting the recipe from our meal last night.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Tastes just like my summer garden!

Tastes just like my summer garden!

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: ~45 minutes

Servings: 8-10 (depends on your favorite bowl size)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (I prefer refined)
  • 4 large carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • medium onion, diced
  • 4 cups homemade chicken broth (store bought works too)
  • 2-4 cups water (depends on your taste)
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • oregano, garlic powder, salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Chop carrots, celery and onions.  Heat coconut oil in a large soup pot.  Saute carrots, celery and onion in coconut oil until soft or onions turn translucent (about 5-10 minutes).
  2. Add broth, water and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.
  3. Add zucchini and spices, let simmer on low at least 20 minutes.
  4. Serve alone or with a thick slice of bread (I hear beer bread is a delicious option!)

Verdict: Last night I was short on time, so I let the veggies saute and simmer for less time and we ended up with crunchier veggies.  Ryan really liked it, but I prefer my soup veggies to be more cooked.  You can let the soup simmer longer according to your preference.  You can also add extra veggies for variety.  Kale is especially good (make sure to simmer for about 10 minutes).

Check out more recipes at Hannah’s blog!

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Sporting rockin’ ashes & my favorite apron

As a child, one of my favorite “holidays” was Ash Wednesday.  Not only did we get to have a half day at school – but the entire day was named after me as well!  I had to laugh this morning when Michael fell under the same childish impression.  He wondered why is this day named after his mama?  Is there going to be some sort of party, like last night with the special desserts?

Speaking of Michael, I was quite impressed with him at mass today.  He was remarkably calm and even seemed to be soaking in some key phrases throughout the service.  “What is pity?” he asked after the first reading.  Then he nearly jumped out of the pew when he heard Father mention “video games” during the homily.  That sure caught his attention!  Today was a far cry from the typical whining and squirming that attending mass generally provokes.  I think the novelty of receiving ashes (the one time of year a four year old actually participates in the communion line) and spending time with daddy midday improved Michael’s behavior.  Although I wondered where my real child went, the peaceful mass experience was such a lovely gift.  I hope this is a positive behavioral shift instead of an anomaly.

The rest of my day was less peaceful.  Ryan and I learned of a financial hiccup that will inevitably increase our stress levels.  I’m having a difficult time getting a handle on household chores this week.  And fasting is hard to do!  I’ve come to realize that I am super-out-of-practice in the fasting department.  Previous Lenten seasons have given me a pass for pregnancy, nursing or health issues – and I’ve finally run out of excuses.  But at least I ate the really dark chocolate (you know, it’s slightly more palatable than bitter) when I finally caved to my sweet tooth this evening.  That’s got to count for something, right?

I’ll let you know how it goes on my voluntary Lenten sacrifice (making a schedule and sticking to it).  Right now, eh…  I need to put a plan on paper.  Did I already mention I’m having a hard time organizing my life right now?

7 Quick Takes (vol. 5)

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I’m not sure if my hormones are going psycho, or God is trying to tell me something, because Kristen Howerton’s adoption story caused a flood of tears last night.  It’s hard to imagine waiting years to adopt a child from another country (not to mention being in Haiti during the earthquake), but at our current rate of procreation I have to wonder if my perspective is changing.  Thoughts still developing on that one…

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I had to laugh this week when I read my friend Ana’s blog post and realized that we both made the same Chia Seed Energy Bar recipe from Wellness Mama.  Do trends exist on the internet or what?  Since chia is all the rage right now, I thought I’d join in the fun and post my attempt as well.

My ingredients: white chia seeds, dates, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate chunks – pulsed in a food processor. Done.

Chewy goodness

Chewy goodness

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 Should I purchase this Groupon for an online photography course?  I’ve thought a lot about taking a class to help me better use my digital camera – I just assumed it would be in a face-to-face setting!  Back in high school I learned how to use and appreciate manual camera settings.  At this point, my eye can usually catch a good photo opt when the conditions are right.  But I would like to have the ability to take a great photo in any situation.  This might be a good skill review…

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 Speaking of photography, here are some shots from a Downton Abbey Tea Party hosted by a donor for the college students (remember, my family lives on a college campus) last weekend.  We were invited to dress up and enjoy conversation over heirloom china.  The host couple greeted us in character as Lady Grantham and Mr. Carson.  It was so much fun – I can’t wait to find another excuse to have a tea party!

1930s bridal china

1930s bridal china

Downton Abbey tea party

1911 baptism gown

1911 family baptismal gown

Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes, Lady Grantham

“Mr. Carson”, “Mrs. Hughes”, “Lady Grantham”

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 The rest of my weekend was spent pondering an article, Virginity: New & Improved, by Elizabeth Esther.  It was so intriguing that I read through ALL the comments and began a discussion on the topic with Ryan.  (What Saturday night is complete without a deep theological discussion on the marital union?)  You can find a synopsis of comments here, should you fail to have three hours to invest in reading them yourself.

In some ways, I resonate with EE’s personal story and distaste for the “purity culture.”  But reading the comments helped to me realize how insulating my Catholic upbringing was against some of the crazier purity notions.  I signed the True Love Waits pledge card and heard all about losing the stickiness on your “tape” if you sleep around.  I just never got the impression that virginity was my greatest virtue.  It seemed more like a gift one tries to protect until one is married.  Chastity is more important because it’s a virtue that never ends, and everyone is called to practice it.

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 My husband is right – there is nothing quick about my Quick Takes!  How do you all figure out seven different topics to discuss in one post?!  Uncle!!  The next take is brought to you not by me.  Because I am out of stuff to say.

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With Valentine’s Day approaching, a suggestion for the that special geek in your life: Check out the slightly odd, but ever entertaining, gifts at ThinkGeek.  (This website has been geek-husband approved.)

Tasty magical beast.

Tasty magical beast

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

An Extrovert Writing an Introverted Blog

writingSince my reentry into the blogosphere, I stumbled upon the Sheenazing Blogger Awards and it’s got me thinking.  Where does this blog fit in?

When it began, I assumed my posts would lean toward humorous stories of motherhood or life in a dorm.  Turns out daily life has been rather uneventful – and I seem to be more inspired when I have a deep interior thought.  Or when I attempt to join forces with 7 Quick Takes.  It just doesn’t feel natural yet.  I am being stretched and pulled in an unexpected way.

Since I am also relying on moments of inspiration, it has been rather difficult to maintain posting on a regular basis.  I am an extrovert writing an introverted blog.  What kind of craziness is that?

It reminds me of an introverted friend who used to come over to spend time with my husband and me in our little apartment.  He didn’t need us to entertain him.  He was perfectly content to sit on the couch, involved in his own quiet activity, while my husband and I worked on our individual projects.  He called it “introvert bonding” – when people socialize without being social.  For an extrovert, I found it a pleasant change of pace not having to entertain.

I guess this blog is also a change of pace – a forum where I can express my introverted side.  It also explains the occasional breaks in posting: my extroverted and introverted sides have to vie for attention.  You can see which side usually wins.

7 Quick Takes (vol. 4)

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This blog is back from a rather long hiatus!  I’m not sure why it’s taken two months to sit down and hash out my thoughts.  There was Advent, Christmas and post-Christmas chaos to be sure.  I was reintroduced to the FlyLady, which inspired me to focus maximum time/energy on providing a tidier home, if not an updated blog.  Honestly, however, I think I was under a serious mental block.  My last post spoke about trying to follow God’s will – and it took me nearly all this time to finish a task set before me in early December.  Now I am able to think freely again.  What a relief.

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What sort of task would hang over my head for months at a time? C’mon, admit it.  You want to know.  I think the prompting started with this blog – and wanting to share the story of my unborn children.  I felt compelled to introduce them into random conversations and public forums.  Throughout December I spoke of them to anyone who happened to ask about the size of my family.  Then I decided to include their names on the signature of our annual Christmas card.  If I was already telling perfect strangers about the hidden details of our family size, why not be open with the rest of our friends and family too?

As it often happens with promptings of the Holy Spirit, human plans go awry.  I ordered the cards early, but they arrived late – at the onset of holiday festivities.  They sat untouched until the New Year, waiting for an explanatory newsletter to join them.  For several weeks I wasn’t in the appropriate frame of mind to write the letter.  Then January drew to a close and embarrassment outweighed procrastination.  I cranked out the letter, stuffed the envelopes, and shoved the whole lot into a mailbox.  Too late to turn back now.

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It takes me forever to express my thoughts in words.  What made me think blogging would be an easy hobby to keep up with?!  Journaling seems to speed my pen along at warp speed.  But people on the other end of a computer might notice the grammatical and spelling errors – not to mention my crazy interior thoughts.  I should have foreseen the timing problem, as writing college papers also required an inordinate amount of time and energy. C’est la vie.  I still desire to finish this post!

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 Our family took a ski vacation last weekend.  Ryan used to ski in high school and has always wanted to share this sport with Michael and me.  So we gathered random gear from family, packed up the car and headed north to the “mountains”.  It turned out to be a super fun challenge.  I got the hang of skiing during my first afternoon (despite some unexpected adventures on the more advanced blue slopes).  Ryan used a harness to guide Michael, allowing him to gain experience on the real slopes from the start.  He also seemed to take to the sport quickly.  We closed our second day on the bunny hill so Michael could try skiing without the harness (his favorite part of the trip).  It was amazing to watch our son glide down the hill with confidence and ease.  I have a feeling that skiing will be a cherished family activity in the years to come.

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 Photos from our weekend:

Ryan and Michael

Daddy and Michael

Michael and mama

Michael and Mama

A very tired boy

A very tired boy

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 Ever heard of Cake Wrecks?  Go there.  Laugh.  You know you want to.

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Another fun website for your Friday Saturday night: Downton Abbey Facebook.  Episode 4 spoiler alert for Downton fans.  But seriously, if you haven’t already gone online to hunt down the rest of season 3 before it’s USA air time, can you really call yourself a fan?!  Just sayin…  This episode can also be legitimately found at Masterpiece (for a limited time).

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Pondering the Little Way

st_james_seat_of_wisdom

Apparently it’s a lot more difficult to write about the nitty-gritty of following the Little Way than I originally anticipated.  It has taken two weeks of wallowing in the knowledge of my inadequacies and a 24 hour retreat with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist to shove me back in the blogosphere.  But I coming bearing deep thoughts!

You know you need to go on retreat when you are pouting the entire three hour drive there, hypothetically speaking, of course.

In all seriousness, I think I hit another low at the end of November.  It all ties back to my childbearing struggles – and the grief process that ebbs and flows over time.  On the surface, I am generally fine.  But I’ve come to realize that certain distractions (TV for one) cause my underlying sadness to fester and eventually spill over, with bitterness threatening to overwhelm me.  I tell myself that God has handed me enough suffering – I shouldn’t have to delve deeper into my spiritual life, I shouldn’t have to give up the few remaining pleasures within my grasp.

It’s never satisfying though, to distract my cares away.

So I went on retreat, where I was constantly surrounded by all the things I yearn for and do not possess: esteem in the eyes of the (Catholic) world, an obvious talent, friendliness, thin body, pregnant belly, babies.  There was no private place I could go to hide and cry out my frustration and woes.  I had to sit before the Lord, acutely aware of my insignificance.

As the retreat drew to a close, I couldn’t pin-point any significant moments.  The talks were good, it was nice to go to mass alone, I tolerated my 4am holy hour.  But nothing seemed earth-shattering.  I didn’t even feel refreshed – mostly just tired and worn out from lack of sleep.  I was prepared to return home to my regularly scheduled life.

Then God informed me that I needed to speak about the Litany of Mary I received at the beginning of retreat (we all drew one at random), Mary Seat of Wisdom.  Totally fine, easy-peasy.  From the moment I read the litany I knew that it related back to a charismatic college retreat when I asked the Holy Spirit for the gift of wisdom.  It would take about 30 seconds to share my blurb, all nice and pithy.  Heck, I even looked up the church’s definition of wisdom – to order one’s life according to God’s will.  Done.

Uh, no, God pressed upon me.  You have got to delve a lot deeper than that today.

Crap.  The last thing I wanted to do was pour out my heart to 170 women about the real reason God asked me to ponder wisdom and the ordering of my life to His will.  I follow God in all the big ways – but it’s those little ways that I fail each day.  I don’t want to suffer more.  I don’t want to seek out further mortification.  I certainly don’t want to admit to all these women that despite the fact that I’ve had four miscarriages in less than two years, the real tragedy is how stingy and distracted I am in my daily life.  How much TV consumes my quiet moments.  It’s embarrassing to admit to struggling with such a dumb vice.

The good news is that I submitted to God’s request.  I choked on my tears in front of all those women.  I spoke of my children.  I admitted to the stupid ways I ignore God’s will.  And I opened myself up to those painful conversations that occur afterwards, when another woman shares her suffering with me.

A short while later it occurred to me that all feelings of anxiety and disappointment were gone.  In fact, a new kind of peace was quickly taking over the vulnerable parts of my heart.  I felt light and joyful – and I wanted to know more about the women I met on this retreat.  I knew that when I returned home my regularly scheduled life wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

So, here I am – pondering instead of vegging out.  My life hasn’t been miraculously scrubbed of all temptations and vices.  However, I think I am finally dipping my toe into the scary waters of following God’s promptings, even in the stupid little stuff.  Especially in those little ways – and isn’t that the point of this whole blog anyhow?