Friday, July 31, 2015

Weekend Reading Vol. 17

Joining Kelly for all the fun.

Weekend's here and time for some quick and fun reads!


The other night, I got to listen/watch an awesome live broadcast from Bonnie. IT WAS AWESOME. If you are a Fulton Sheen fan, and want to hear the story of the alleged miracle that has him up for beautification, you must listen to the story of James Fulton - the boy who lived. (And who is way cooler than Harry Potter, the other "boy who lived." Harry didn't have Fulton Sheen.)

And if you want to be a part of re-opening the cause for sainthood of Sheen, then click here for more info.


Nourish Motherhood is a brand new site that a friend of mine was a co-founder of, and it's beautiful! Poke around and find some inspiration.


Rosie bought a farm,  and I am so super happy for her! If you haven't poked around her site yet, you should really start with "50 Reasons My Toddler Won't Nap" or her tons of resources for mothers of twins or maybe even her posts on ThredUp vs. Twice. She is one of the blog world's gems, for sure.


With all the busyness of summer, we took a week off, so now's a great time to catch up on any episodes of Little House Mothering that you may have missed! We recorded next week's last night and I think it may have been our best yet. I hope you love it as much as we loved recording it! Check the site on Monday for the latest episode!


Kendra tackled something controversial again. Some really great food for thought!


I've never gone camping in a tent camping, but Andrew and I have talked about doing it with the girls at some point. The Homespun Heart recently had some great tips and tricks for camping!


Finally, Haley had yet another great NFP post, this one lamenting the lack of parish resources for couples wanting to practice Natural Family Planning. I feel like I have had so many people ask me about NFP lately (not on the blog, but in real life) and I think that Haley hits on some really important points here. Speaking of which...Andrew and I will be speaking at the Respect Life Convention in St. Louis this October. We'd love to see you there!!!

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why Jesus Was Not Against Housework


Yesterday was the feastday of poor St. Martha. 

Nobody really "gets" St. Martha, do they? I'm sure many of you have heard of the book (which I haven't read, and which actually looks like a good book) Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. The first time I heard that title, I wasn't sure what to think of it - I loved Martha, and I felt that she was misunderstood. Then I became a wife and mother, and would occasionally entertain people at our home; an experience that made me sympathize with Martha even more. 

When most people hear Martha's name, the story that probably comes to mind is of Martha frantically preparing dinner while Mary (her sister) sits at the feet of Christ. Poor Martha asks Jesus to get Mary to help her, and is instead told that Mary has "chosen the better part." What?! 


(Her sweet uncle/godfather sent her the new Dr. Seuss book for her birthday!)

But there is a second option for the Gospel reading on the feast of St. Martha. It is the story of Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha) being raised from the dead. In this story, it is Martha who professes unequivocal belief in Jesus as "the Christ...the Son of God." The only other profession in the Gospels that can compare comes from the mouth of St. Peter. We don't hear this kind of profession come from Mary of Bethany's mouth. We hear it coming from her sister. 

These two stories go together, I think. I have the feeling that Jesus knew Martha pretty well (not just because He was the Son of God, but also because He was dear friends with her family) and that the story with Martha rushing around working was not an isolated incident. I think she was like a lot of women are - trying to do a million things at once and getting really stressed.

I used to wonder why it was that Jesus told her to drop her work and sit with her sister, but now I realize - he didn't say that. Not explicitly, at least. He wasn't talking about Mary's physical posture, but her spiritual one. Presumably, Mary wasn't showing off to her sister - "Look what a good follower of Jesus I am! Haha!" - but was just really longing to listen to the words of Jesus. Maybe Martha was, too. Or maybe Martha was so dang stressed about getting her home Pinterest perfect that she forgot who had come to visit her. She thought it all relied on her.


(Tagging along with Mommy to get the car fixed meant brunch at McD's!)

What Jesus is telling Martha is not to abandon her work, but to bear in mind that He will provide. The perfection He seeks is not picking ourselves up by our bootstraps. It's turning to Him and asking for the grace to get it all done. If Martha had wanted to take a break, she could have, but I think what Jesus was telling her was even more important. He was telling her to rely on Him, and to know that if she rested in Him, he would indeed provide for her needs. 

That's why this story really has to be read hand-in-hand with the other Gospel story, the one of Martha's profession of faith. Martha knew how to get things done, and coupling that with a deepened faith and a willingness to come running to Christ in her time of need (because, notice, she's the one who comes to Jesus with her needs in this story, not Mary)...well, that is the makings of a saint.

And so it is with us. In our vocations, God desires our activity, our busyness. But He also wants to be sure that we seek Him with all our hearts in the midst of our busyness, relying fully on him to help us get done all that we need to do. Having worked in ministry, and now caring full time for my daughters, it seems like those of us who spend our lives serving others (like Martha did) need to be reminded of this the most. For, if we don't do what we do for love of God- why are we doing it?


St. Martha, pray for us, that we may have faith like yours!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Book I Wish We Had Read {As Newlyweds}

Also known as the book I will be recommending for newlyweds from now on!

Real Life on a Budget: 17 Practical Challenges to Live and Thrive on a Budget by Jessi Fearon of The Budget Mama is pure gold. Oh my goodness. I wish I had something like this when Andrew and I were first starting out six years ago!

I'll admit, when I first downloaded it to my Kindle, I was skeptical. Andrew and I have been living the grad student life (on a budget!) since we tied the knot nearly six years ago. We've learned a lot through trial and error, and I have to admit that having Andrew manage our budget helps a lot. He handles and manages our money well, and I've learned how to spend it well. A lot of what Jessi suggests we learned the hard way, over the years.

But, like I said, I thought we were frugal pros and I wasn't expecting to learn anything new...but I did! I picked up a few new tricks and tips, and I felt encouraged in some of the practices we were already implementing.

The book description says it all:

"Real Life on a Budget is a practical guide to helping you navigate the waters of money management. It features real life budget advice, practical challenges; actionable steps that will help you map out your journey to living and thriving on a budget. If you have been struggling with developing, maintaining, and living on a budget, Real Life on a Budget will help you create a system to better manage your finances and will challenge you to stick to your real life budget. Written by popular personal finance blogger, Jessi Fearon (, Real Life on a Budget provides Jessi’s real-world budget advice and exercises for every area of managing your household budget. Real Life on a Budget is a powerful tool to help you start living and thriving on a budget." 

Her site covers all of this and more, and I'm really excited to delve into her archives a bit.

I think what I love the most about this short, easy-to-read little book is that it is equal parts inspiration and practical suggestions. Like I said, we have some well-established budgeting practices at this point, but Jessi made me feel encouraged to re-commit to staying on budget and out of debt. I liked that she had creative solutions, but I especially loved how much she highlighted the importance of knowing why you are sticking to your budget. 

At our current stage, we aren't saving for retirement or a home yet. We're sticking to a budget so we can invest in Andrew's education (i.e. making do with lower pay so that Andrew can get his ph.D) and give me career flexibility (i.e. doing freelance writing and speaking without having to be tied down to a salaried position) so that I can care full-time for our daughters. For us, this is especially important, because it's where we feel God is calling us in our lives, and in this stage of living out our vocations. I know all of that, of course, but Jessi's book made me stop and think about that in a more intentional way than I have in a while.

I can't overemphasize enough how strongly our family believes that money is only a means to an end - that is, the only reason to have money is to provide for our family's needs and the needs of others. For our family, stewardship is so important, as is generosity. I love that Jessi's book is 100% compatible with that mindset. She doesn't discuss charitable giving specifically, but her whole approach to money is that money only matters in the context of what is most important to your family, and in the context of your family's goals.

Like, I said, she has plenty of practical advice, too, some of which flows off her blog. One of her blog posts that I'm most excited to look at my closely is her post about her family's budget. I find concrete examples so helpful!

Looking for a wedding gift or hoping to be more intentional with your family's budget? I think I know just where to point you... ;-)

note: I was part of Jessi's book launch team, so I did get a free copy of the book for review. However, all opinions are my own.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Willa Cather, Catholic Literature, and What It Means For You

When we think of literature that is Catholic, the first names that come to mind are those of well-known Catholic authors – J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, etc. What makes these writers stand out is not only the quality of their work, but also the richness of the worldview they espouse. They highlight beauty, make liberal use of good humor, and aren’t hesitant when it comes to tackling the theme of the battle between good and evil. In some cases, these authors write explicitly on theological matters (in the case of G.K. Chesterton), but even when Catholicism is never mentioned outright, it is clear that their faith influenced their work.
Some of the best Catholic literature, though, was written by people who never “crossed the Tiber.” One such author is Willa Cather...
Read the rest at Catholic Exchange.

And, just for fun, what I wore Sunday. (Solo Mass, since the birthday girl and her big sister were sick, so the pictures were taken while opening presents when I got home!)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Two Years Later...

My dear Maria,

Happy birthday! Has it really been two years since I first saw your little face? It was love at first sight, and I've only fallen more deeply in love with you, every day since.

At two, you are one of the most fun people I know. From the time you were a newborn, you've always had a great sense of humor. Back then, it was an uncanny amused look in your eyes. Now it is the silly jokes you tell me about Bear and Doll, and how they went "Poo!" You love making us smile.

The other thing that really stands out for me is the incredible tenderness and compassion you show toward others. If Sissy gets hurt, you cry. If you see that one of us has a "boo-boo" you insist on giving it a kiss. You've always been very affectionate, but it's been beautiful to see you use that affection to bring comfort to others. I especially love how tenderly you care for your baby dolls. Just yesterday, you carried one of your many babies into Mommy and Daddy's room, shushing her all the way. You tucked her on Mommy's side of the bed, closed the door, and put your finger to you lips and shushed me, lest I wake her.

You love your sister so much. When Mommy or Daddy puts you in your crib at night, you roll over and smile at her. If you can't sleep, your little cry of "Sissy!" can be heard throughout the house. You are such a good friend already, and Therese loves you so much!

I admire you so much for how determined you are, working so hard to learn to walk and talk. You are NOT a quitter!

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention your incredible love for "Jee-us!" especially your tendency to blow kisses at any building that even vaguely resembles a church. You remind me to tell Jesus "hi," too.

I love you so much, my little Thumper (so named by Daddy for the sound your cute little feet make when you walk around the house). It is a joy and an honor to be your mother.

All my love,

*All photography courtesy of Amy Garro. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

What Not to Do When a Child Cries...

Basically, don't do this.

I'm sure you've seen that story circulating around this week - a young couple takes their toddler into a diner, the toddler gets fussy (as toddlers do), and the owner flips out and yells at the child. And she's not in the least bit remorseful.

So, aside from the fact that there is something wrong with yelling at a child period (let alone a child who is not your child), there are a number of other things wrong with this picture. To begin with, I find it very strange that the owner is complaining about the child's parents ordering her three pancakes. Um...isn't she supposed to want people to buy more food in her diner, not less?

But aside from that, her reaction and the comments on every article I've read about this are very telling - people have forgotten what normal child behavior is. People are not around enough children to know how children behave and that not every crying child is "bratty." Not every parents of a crying child are bad parents (the vast majority aren't).

This isn't surprising - we live in a society where two children or less is the norm. There just aren't very many children around, anymore. So, on the one hand, I can't terribly fault these people because they just haven't been exposed to children. Period.

But on the other hand, I do fault them. Because, again and again, the comments people have left on this story revolve around the sympathy they have for the owner and the other patrons, and the entitlement of the aforementioned to being able to eat in silence.

But...that's just not life. And that's certainly not life with children! The underlying assumption seems to be that you can control your child, can predict what her behavior will be. But you can't. Part of teaching a child how to behave in public means that they need experience being in public. That also means that, sometimes, they are going to get fussy. That's normal. From what I could gather from this story (and the age of the child) she wasn't being bratty - she was acting hungry and maybe overstimulated. If she had been my child, would I have taken her out of the restaurant? Yes, probably. Do I think the couple should have asked for a box to go if she couldn't settle down? Yes, probably. But does any of this excuse the response to this situation? NO.

Because what came out, dripping all over the comment boxes, was an absolute repulsion toward children. What came pouring out was the frustration and disgust that people feel toward children. It is hard to parent children in a society with that kind of attitude.

I will say, this is where I am incredibly grateful for most Catholic churches. I have encountered one woman - in my nearly five years of parenting - who wasn't nice about my chatty/fussing toddler. But that's it! Everyone else I've met has either ignored us or been incredibly kind. There is an understanding that these little ones belong in the Church. Yes, there are people who respond this way when a child cries at Mass. There are people who hate any sort of inconvenience or interruption. But the overarching tone of our faith (straight from the pages of the Gospel) are that the children belong here. They have a place. If someone has a problem with the presence of children at Mass, well, that's their problem. Even the guy in Rome agrees, wholeheartedly.

Do parents have a responsibility to raise their children well? Yes. Do they have a responsibility to teach them how to behave in public? Yes. But are children sometimes unpredictable and act out terribly, not because of anything a parent is or isn't doing? Yes. Does showing anger and blaming those parents help the situation? No. Does offering to help them in some way (i.e. offering to box up a restaurant patron's food and get them their check, so they could make whisk a crying child out to the car faster) make a difference? YES.

Part of living in a civilized society is accepting that people don't always do things the way we want them to, and that we can't just start yelling and scaring them if they aren't doing what we want. Part of living in a civilized society is learning to show compassion and give one another the benefit of the doubt. Part of living in a civilized society means that when we see someone who is crying or stressed (as I'm sure these parents must have been) we do what we can to help. In some ways, there was very little difference between the behavior of the restaurant owner and the toddler - except that the restaurant owner should have known better.

I'm not sure if I would have understood this as well before having my second born, but having a baby with colic really opened up my eyes. Sometimes she would (and still does) just cry. We couldn't live in our house for the first two years of her life. We had to leave, had to take big sister to school, go grocery shopping, visit friends and family, go to Mass - and sometimes she cried. We did our best, but sometimes there was only so much we could do. Being able to still go to Mass during this time (even if I was pacing in the narthex with a screaming baby) fed me in a way I genuinely needed. Had someone approached me with this kind of harshness, it would have devastated me.

Bottom line is - children cry (some more than others), and even the best of parents sometimes have kids that are fussy and cranky  (if it can happen to Kendra, it can happen to anyone!). There's no need to add to the yelling or animosity. There is much need for increased compassion, in a society that has forgotten the importance of the weak.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why I'm So Grateful Cryrooms Exist

Joining up with Like Mother, Like Daughter for {pretty, happy, funny, real}.

This {pretty} little girl is turning "tew!" (not a typo, but toddlerese) this Sunday. 

And after mothering her outside of the womb for two years, I have to admit that she has totally changed my parenting. I've been forced to be more laid back, to adjust some of my standards, and to see things from a different perspective.

I've share before  how Maria (and Therese) both continually teach me what really matters. One of the most important things they've both taught me (but especially Maria) is how good a cry room can be (if used properly). Back when she was a baby, the poor love had colic and reflux, and her tendency to be very vocal about her feelings has never really gone away. 

We're in that "golden age" of Mass attendance right now (said with pure sarcasm) when everything makes her unhappy. She loves "Jee-us" and she looks forward to going, but...she's almost two. She can't sit still for longer than a minute or so, and she definitely can't be quiet for an hour.

There was a time (with child number one) when that would have really discouraged me. But then, I made it past that stage with my first and began to realize that this particular stage does pass. Not only does it pass, but it passes almost regardless of what you do. We never did develop a perfect method with Therese, but one day she just started acting more like a sane person at Mass. She grew up.

What was important, though, was that we maintained our relationship with her during that rough patch, and we continued to nurture her love of "Jee" (flashback to tiny Therese), and she emerged at the other end relatively unscathed (as did we). Now, at almost five, she does pretty well at Mass. She knows to be quiet, she'll occasionally recognize parts of the Mass, and once in a great while she'll join in on a prayer or two. Does she pay attention the whole time? No. Does she behave perfectly? No. She's only four! But for a four year old, I'd say she's doing pretty good. She is learning that Mass is a a safe place to be, and that Jesus loves her.

I want the same for my youngest, and I think that cry rooms make that possible.

Our current parish actually doesn't have a cry room, although I do use the entryway as one when need be (as does every other parent). (And also let it be noted that the place is fairly crawling with kids and young families and older people who love kids and young families, so we fit right in.) Our old parish did have a cry room, though, and the girls and I went to daily Mass there the other day. Back when Therese was Maria's age, I usually started off in the pew, and went back to the cry room for brief periods, only as needed. But do you know what? We parked ourselves in the cry room right at the start this time, and it was an excellent decision! Of course our little "Thumper" (so named because of the sound of her purposeful steps as she wanders through the house) had plenty to say, as usual, but having a room to ourselves meant that I had the space to be patient with her. I didn't have to feel self-conscious when she started flipping out. I could focus on calming her down, and redirecting her to "Jee-us" and "Mair-dee" when necessary. I could hold her, could take a few minutes to figure out what was actually bothering her, and even nurse her for a few minutes when I realized she was beyond exhausted from waking up at the crack of dawn. 

I wouldn't have felt comfortable doing any of that, had I been in a pew. I would have been too worried about what everyone around me was thinking, and would have been too frustrated by the increasing volume coming from those small, very healthy lungs. But having the sanctuary of the cry room enabled me to have the freedom and space to be the mother I needed to be in that moment.

Needless to say, a cry room or entryway that had a door that could be closed was a necessity when she was a baby and went to Mass with us. There were times when I would be holding her and she would be literally screaming for half of the Mass. I wasn't doing anything wrong, she wasn't doing anything wrong, she was just colicky. Some kids have a harder time than others, for a whole host of reasons, and it helps parents to be open to bringing them to Mass if they know they can have a safe haven once they get there. It frees up the parent to focus on treating that child with love and patience, rather than frustration with behavior (that is sometimes beyond anyone's control to change, anyway!). 

I know that cry rooms can be misused, but they have a valuable place and I, for one, am grateful they exist.

Looking for more tips on raising infants and toddlers in the faith? Pick up a copy of Faith Beginnings- Family Nurturing from Birth Through Preschool!

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