7 Quick Takes: A Movie, a Storm, and Resting in God

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This past weekend was a pretty lazy one.  Sometimes those are the best, but it definitely requires me to put in the effort of relishing the slow.  I am always go, go, go…looking for the next thing to check off my list.  I think this is what God is calling me to give up this lent.  I feel like he is calling me, not so much to cease working, but to do everything for his glory, to worry less, and to take time to rest in him.

One thing that I have been doing for 3 weeks now is really paying attention to how I spend my Sundays.  Usually, I don’t merely reserve the day for just worship and family, but for tackling a lot of my “to-do” list around the house.  It’s been a nice change of pace to really try and relax, pray, and focus solely on my family on Sundays.  Giving that time to God has shown me, yet again, how truly wise he is.  Resting on Sundays has better prepped me to tackle the rest of the week with love and joy.

The one thing that is a daily source of annoyance and work is laundry.  I never feel like I am on top of it! We’ve already worked really hard at paring down everyone’s wardrobe, but I still find myself bathing in socks and clean underwear on a daily basis.

In an effort to lighten my load during the week, and quit using Sundays as my laundry day, I decided to try something new: I’m doing all of our laundry on Saturday!  My rule is, if I don’t get through it, I don’t touch it until Monday.

This has already lightened my load incredibly because clothes are no longer piling up and we always have what we need, folded and ready to go in our closets.

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This week Father Jim Sichko came to the parish where I teach RCIA for a parish mission.  He was commissioned by Pope Francis to go to parishes all over the country to talk about mercy, the gospel, and Catholicism.  He was really enthusiastic and charismatic, and he did an excellent job of sharing the faith through the context of his funny and heartfelt stories, as well as through song.

My absolute favorite part of his nightly talks was his ability to get the whole church singing!  I mean it, everyone who was there (and there were a lot of people there–the Church was overflowing!) was singing loudly.  Together, the Church felt so very alive and thriving.  Though people mostly sing in Mass, to hear everyone excitedly singing out a lenton hymnal was incredibly beautiful.  It made me tear up, so very proud to be apart of this Church.

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Monday, Joe and I ventured out for a much-needed date. In a thunderstorm. A severe one.  With a tornado warning.

For me, going out in this weather is just crazy talk, but my husband and my 14-year-old babysitter assured me, it’ll be fine! We never see tornadoes around here!

Though the weather was pretty bad, it wasn’t that bad, yet poor Joe had to spend the evening with me twitching and checking my phone every few minutes.  We made the mistake of sitting at the bar, so I had a perfect view of the weather.  At one point, the wind picked up and slammed a chair into a window.  I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest!

In our part of the city, all ended up ok.  We made it safely through our whole date, and by the end of it I was forced to reflect on Matthew 8:24.    I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’s disciples on the boat in the storm.  Most of these men were skilled fishermen, so a storm that would cause them much fear must have been an awful one.  Yet, when Jesus comes out from his slumber, he asks them: Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?

These big storms are big reminders for me to give myself to God with reckless abandon, especially when I am shaking like a leaf in fear.  He is always with us.  We need not worry when he is at our side.

Also, we need not go on dates when the weather’s so bad,  but that is neither here nor there.

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Joe and I saw “Logan” on our date.  It never takes any convincing for me to go to an X-Men movie because I always know I’ll like it.  They are almost always good, or at least always entertaining.

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The one thing that was different with this particular X-Men movie was that it was rated R, which is different from the usual PG-13 rating X-Men movies normally get.  We didn’t think much of this change, especially since the movie got a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Yet, as the preview for the next “Deadpool” movie came on—which was altogether graphic and lewd—I started to realize that Logan was going to be much different than we anticipated.

Though the X-Men movies always include some level of violence, Logan was packed with scene after scene of explicit, realistic depictions of violence.  It was incredibly hard to watch, more or less to stomach.

(Warning: Spoiler Alert!) The movie followed a dark and hopeless Logan, walking through life wishing to accomplish nothing but abandoning himself to obscurity and a life of loneliness.   Early on in the movie he is forced into taking care of a little girl, whom he soon finds out is of his daughter.  Though he doesn’t want to love her (because all of his loved ones end up dead), by the end of it we see Logan learn what it means to love again, even at the cost of his own life.

Not a terrible story line, but it absolutely wasn’t something I enjoyed.  When we walked out of the theater I felt like I had been through the ringer.  I spent half the movie hiding under the veil of my shirt!  There were many moments throughout where I thought, we should just leave, but I never said anything to Joe.  Honestly, though, we should have walked out.  The glorification of graphic violence is not art, and really isn’t entertainment.  As one Catholic reviewer put it, it was nothing more than a “dreary killing fest.”

Next time, at least for rated R movies, we’ll resolve to visit a Catholic Movie Reviews source as opposed to a secular one like Rotten Tomatoes.

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This week we went to the zoo with a friend of ours and her little girl.  It was a really great day!  Noteworthy event: I got attacked by a Gibbon!  Well, sort of.  We were watching the gibbons in their cages, who were especially hyper that day, when all of a sudden one swung towards my back slamming his feet into the window.  I turned around to see this ornery monkey looking straight at me as I let out a scream.  Pretty funny!

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Right after we made good and became friends. 

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Joe went out of town for a few days,  so my bed had been a little colder than usual.  In the morning, Eli likes to wake us up abruptly by knocking on his door saying, “Mommy, I need to go pooottttyyyy,” so I decided to leave his door slightly cracked so he could come in my room whenever he needed.

Well, at 4am, I woke to what I thought was the baby monitor.  When I went to reach for it I found a foot instead!  It took me a second to realize that the noise I had heard was actually my sneaky-ninja son snoring next to me.  How did I not hear him? I don’t know.  But I just rolled over, hugged him fiercely, and went back to sleep thankful that I had him to cuddle.  

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This girl is still cutting her molars.  Poor baby, I can feel how swollen her gums are so I know that’s what is causing all her extra fuss and pain.  She is kind of a wreck at times.  She’ll go from laughing, to fall apart crying in an instance.  She’s had a harder time eating, and some days she is completely inconsolable for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.  All I can do is hold her and caress her little face.

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It kind of reminds me of when she was little.  I sometimes joke that I have a bit of PTSD from her colicky phase, or rather, post traumatic colic disorder—but I really do think that I have some slight form of itWhen she resorts to full on screaming now, I still find myself wanting to recoil, then rushing to give her what she wants because her cries trigger something inside of me.  It’s silly, because she is nothing like she was when she was a newborn, but still, whenever she screams for long periods of times I am automatically taken back.  However, since we got through that awful 5-month phase a long time ago, things really are much easier.  It’s nice that she finds comfort in her mama.  I don’t mind that at all.

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I’ll hold her all day if that’s what helps her feel better. 

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7 Quick Takes: Stuck Indoors, the Inauguration of President Trump, and an Anniversary to Remember

Linking up with Kelly for another round of 7 Q Takes.

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Last Saturday was a really nice day because me and my family didn’t do anything at all.  I was just getting over a 24 hour fast and hard cold/flu type thing, so Saturday was reserved for reading and hanging out with my family.  In that time, I was able to read Mother Teresa’s book, No Greater Love.  I couldn’t put it down.  Every thought she had on prayer, love, family, sanctity, suffering, death—all of it—they were insights from the heart of a true saint.

My plan for the month of February is to share her thoughts on particular issues with you, so be on the lookout for that soon.  For now, here is a quote that especially struck my heart:
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After I got bit by the bug, the kids came down with it too.  Eli was having a hard time sleeping, which we found out was due to a mean ear infection, and Lucy…well, not quite sure what was up with her, but she was especially trying.  I felt a bit like I did back when she was a newborn, because she wouldn’t let me put her down, and when I did, she resorted to screaming and throwing herself on the ground.  It was a tough couple of days, but I had to keep reminding myself that she lacks the words to explain when her little body is aching and in pain.  When I remember that, I only feel selfish for wanting a moment to myself, or at least a moment when the kids are not crawling all over me.  I found myself pondering the paradox of love a lot this week—the paradox of having to completely pour yourself out for another—and found Jenny’s post, which perfectly summed up everything I was feeling.   She has a real knack for doing that.

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I was coming up short with ideas to keep the babies busy while we were stuck indoors, so I tried painting with the kids.  Eli loves painting, but I’ve always avoided it with Lucy because I figured she would just end up eating the paint by the container-load.  Well, I was right.  The paint brush went straight into her mouth, and the only interest she had in painting was eating it.  I was ready to give up, but found an idea on pinterest to use yogurt as paint.

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 Genius!

It was really easy to make (just one drop of food-coloring in a small tub of yogurt), and Lucy went to town on it.  She mostly just ate it, but I like to think the work of art was in the mess she made.

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Only my Lou could make a mess this beautiful.

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I was feeling pretty antsy and down by Wednesday.  Since the babies were sick, we hadn’t left the house much other than to go to Mass and to the doctor’s office.  When my husband came home to the second day of me sighing to myself and obviously frustrated, I told him the only way I could describe how I was feeling was depleted.  Five days indoors with the kids was getting to me: I needed some adult time.  I needed some me time.  Good thing it was Wednesday, because I got a lot out of my RCIA class that I teach.  Nothing brings me out of a coma like RCIA; the people going through RCIA are so inspiring to me.  They are so receptive to God’s will and ready to listen and ask questions, and it is always refreshing being around them.

I also got a huge boost by going to my women’s Bible study on Thursday.  This has been one of the greatest blessings in my life lately, because the women who are a part of it are so very inspiring.  They have an openness to God that is exciting, and all of our talk on suffering, trials, and obstacles (especially in marriage and motherhood) are always examined under the light of God’s will.  How is he working in our lives?  What is he trying to say to us? Where is he calling us to go?

It’s amazing that most of the time I feel I need air, it’s not so much to get away from my kids and my family, but rather silence my own negative and frustrated thoughts enough so that I can hear God speaking to me and evaluate where He is working in my life.  When I do that, all I end up feeling is a sense of gratitude: gratitude for every elbow in my rib when I’m trying to relax on the couch; gratitude for every over-zealous kiss my kids tackle me with when I am trying to get something done; and gratitude for all the desperate cries and pleas for love when I am trying to accomplish something separate from them.  My family is my life’s greatest gift, and I am so very thankful for them and especially that they continually draw me out of myself.

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This morning I watched the Inauguration of President Donald Trump.  I have to say, it was a bit of a surreal moment.  A few days ago, a quick commercial for the inauguration came on TV and I couldn’t help but flash back to a year ago, and think to myself how I never thought it would come to this.  But here we are: Donald J. Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America.

I was thankful when a friend of mine invited us over to watch him be sworn in.  I thought, Beats hiding under a rock and pretending this isn’t happening. But really, all joking aside, watching it with friends while our kids played was the best thing for me to do.  It reminded me that we live in a country that, albeit in ways divided, is free.  We are free to practice our faith. We are free to worship our God.  We are free to speak our minds and voice our opinions; to educate ourselves on the things that matter; and to get involved when and where we can.  I am thankful for that.  Today, more than anything, I am proud to be an American.

If you’re angered that Donald Trump is our president, I plea with you to pray for him.  Really, really pray for him.  I love what Hallie Lord says in her book, On the Other Side of Fear:

“Someone once told me that if you pray for your enemies, you will no longer be able to hate them.  That the moment you begin to advocate for goodness in their life is the same moment that your animosity will begin to exhaust.  This is because the light of love and the darkness of hatred cannot possibly exist in the same space.”

Remember that his goodness, is goodness for our country.  I will be praying for the good of our President Trump.  Will you join me?

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My sixth point was on the women’s march which begins tomorrow, but decided to save it for then.  Check back in with me tomorrow!

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Today is the 4th anniversary of the death of one of my dear friends from college.  This day always saddens me.  Any reminder that we won’t see his smiling face again, or feel his wild and carefree spirit is enough to bring me to tears. He was so full of life; always ready to jump head first, spreading laughter and light wherever he went.

Though today is a sad day, it’s also a reminder to me that I have a friend who has seen God face to face.  I have a friend on the other side who I can pray for, and who can pray for me.  I have a friend who blessed my life with memories and love, and shared the light of his life with all those around him—a friend that I pray I will see again.  He reminds me that hope is real, and that love lives on through Christ.  I miss him, and I know many others do as well because in his short life he touched many people’s hearts.  I’m telling you about this today, so that whoever is reading this might say a quick prayer for him and his family with me.  Pray that God’s perpetual light is shining upon him, and pray that those who miss him are comforted by God’s love and presence.

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Lord, Peter is gone from this earthly dwelling, and has left behind those who mourn his/her absence. Grant that we may hold his memory dear, never bitter for what we have lost nor in regret for the past, but always in hope of the eternal Kingdom where you will bring us together again. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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7 Quick Takes: Resolutions and Resistance

This week I am linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes, but the content this time around is a little different.  This week I am going to offer 7 thoughts on a word that continued to pop up throughout my week.  The word is “resistance,” and I think it an especially good word to reflect upon just a few short weeks into the New Year.

The New Year, for a lot of us, marks a great starting point for growth, transformation, and change.  But why is it that so many of us, elated with the idea of becoming better versions of ourselves, allow for those desires to fizzle out just a few months into the New Year?  How do we stick to our goals?  I think this is where the word resistance comes in.  It is a great word for understanding the battle of self-will we find ourselves in, and a great word for conquering our moments of weakness.

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I mentioned before how I never really make New Year resolutions.  I have always felt that they were kind of useless.  It wasn’t so much about me never trying to accomplish these things, but it always seemed silly and unrealistic to give myself set dates and goals for them just because everyone else does that.  I’d give myself passes and excuses as to why accomplishing my goals within a set amount of time was unrealistic and a waste of time.  I always fell back on the fact that I am a busy stay at home mom, I already do a lot, and if I want to accomplish these things…well, I’ll get to them eventually, when I’m ready.

I think what it comes down to, though, is that I was allowing myself to be moved more by fear and apathy than anything else.  The big problem was that the stirrings to better myself remained, but what were planted and put into action instead of achieving these goals were the seeds of jealousy and envy.  So often I would look around at all of the other women (many of whom are busy moms like me) who accomplish amazing things, then think to myself: Well it must be nice. She must have a lot of help to be as fit as she is.  She must be very wealthy since she started her own company.  She must have a fleet of nannies.  She must have a lot of things that I do not.  But these were all lies I was telling myself.  Instead of recognizing the incredible amount of work these women put into the things that they were accomplishing, I rested in these falsehoods.  They were the reasons why I didn’t have to set new goals and work my butt off towards accomplishing the things I still feel called to do.    

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If we look back to the very beginning in Scripture, we see right away man’s first encounter with the Devil.  Adam and Eve were created and placed within the Garden of Eden, and within this environment, they were perfectly happy: they experienced harmony with their surroundings; fulfillment in their work; perfect unity and love with one another; and a clear unity with God—in both their intellects and wills.  Then the Devil enters and immediately begins using fear and doubt as a tool to manipulate them.   He conned their hearts into believing that they could be better people—more fulfilled and happier—if they stepped away from God’s law and relied on their own thoughts, separated from him.  He instilled doubt and fear in them, and as we know, Adam and Eve followed the insinuations of the Devil.  In doing so, they removed themselves from the good grace of God and all that he had given them that was good and holy.

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Two fruits given, one sweet…one bitter

I think it is vitally important to recognize that we are still a part of that story. Here we remain today, longing for what we lost in the great Fall (a sense of accomplishment, fulfilment, unity with our Creator and with one another) and in our movement to find our way back, each one of us is met with the Devil’s RESISTANCE.

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Today, most of our impulsive and immediate desires are easy to fulfill, and we live in an age in which we can have what we want when we want it.  We are presented with endless amounts of entertainment—catered to our own particular interests—to keep us busy and generally happy.  The problem is that deep down, we are all greatly restless.  Our hearts are always seeking for something more—something greater to fill the void.  Often times, the things we fill it with are those things that don’t make us better people, and because we find a certain level of contentment in them, we end up becoming apathetic with our state and fearful of the work it takes to reach greater heights.  This is a big problem, because when we rest in this apathy and fear, letting our self-doubts control us, we remain unchanged and our lives become sterile.

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Jennifer Fulwiler talked about the word resistance in one of her podcasts this week.  She talked about her resolutions and how she was slowly beginning to realize that when you want to accomplish something good (no matter what it may be) you are almost always inadvertently faced with resistance.  She explained that this is why, when you go to find your shoes to work out, you may get distracted and then end up feeling defeated about it all and give up before you even begin.  This is also what happens when you are trying to complete a diet, and all you can think about is desert and reasons to go back to your old way of living.  I think we have all felt resistance at some point in our lives.  I know I feel it every time I sit down to write, when I’m immediately confronted with feelings of insecurity and doubt in myself and my abilities.

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It is very important to put a name and face to this resistance, because ultimately, it is the Devil’s great tool to pull us out of growth and transformation.    The kinds of doubts, thoughts, and distractions that enter our minds that are motivated by fear and apathy are all the whisperings of the one who doesn’t want our advancement.  He wants us to remain right where we are at.  He wants us to be lukewarm people, who move through life without any real cares in the world.  He wants us to be apathetic, lazy, and unaccomplished, and he will actively get in our way to prevent us from living our lives to the fullest.

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The important and key thing to keep in mind, though, is that resistance isn’t a one-sided phenomenon.    The dictionary defines resistance as “the attempt to prevent something by action or argument” (this would be the devil’s attempts to move us through fear and doubt), but at the same time resistance is “the refusal to accept or comply with something.” This is where we enter.  The devil will consistently pull at our lives, calling us in directions that seem attractive yet lead us into dark corners, but our job is to pull back.  If we don’t, what we are ultimately doing is giving in.  Each one of us has an opportunity for greatness, and we have to ask ourselves: In this cosmic battle, who is going to give in?  Me, or him?

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So, how do we strengthen ourselves for this fight?

The best place to start is by asking what would Jesus do?

Well, we don’t have to imagine what Jesus would do, because thankfully for us, by entering into humanity, he did encounter this cosmic battle in a very real and human way.

He had his own battle with the Devil when he entered into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days in preparation for his great mission.  After the 40 days, he was confronted with the temptations that were a resistance to his main goal of complete obedience and faithfulness to God.  It is important to note that though he was fully divine, he was also fully human, and in his humanity Jesus experienced everything that we do as humans (all, except sin).  This means that Jesus knew what it meant to be hungry, exhausted, warm/cold, and lacking energy.  Christ felt all of this in his physical form, but by uniting himself with the will of the Father through prayer, he was able to crush the insinuations of the devil before they had any chance to take root in his heart.  The Devil played to Jesus’ humanity: Come on Jesus, I know your hungry, tired, and weak…But you’re God! Make food for yourself! Save yourself! Worship me, I will bail you out!  All of these efforts of the Devil were made to thwart Jesus from his big picture: to pour himself out in love for all of humanity, on the cross.  Through prayer and fasting, Jesus was able and ready to encounter and WIN the resistance of the evil one.  To say no to him, and yes to his mission.

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So, that is where we start. We look at the actions of Christ when he was confronted with fear and doubt, and we put his examples of faithfulness, obedience, and discipline into action in our own life.   

What can we do?

Fast and pray.  Both are essential to true growth and transformation in the faith, because what you do with your body has an impact on your soul, and what you do with your soul has an impact on your body.  Strengthening them is a great way to change how you choose to live each day and work towards the heights that you are inspired to reach.  Fasting and prayer helps us break free from being slaves to our bodies and to our apathetic spirits.  If our bodies are not strong, and if our spirits are not shaped by Christ’s guidance, we will have a harder time fully accomplishing and saying yes to our missions.

– Recognize when thoughts of doubt, fear, or apathy are entering into your mind, and work hard to resist them.  Recognize that these are seeds planted by the evil one who wants you to fail and give up before you even begin. Pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen you in your resolve to get things done.

-Focus on the process, not the end result.  If we focus on the day to day work we have to accomplish to attain our goals, we will progress.  Most of us want to reach the top of the mountain, but we forget that we have to climb to get there.

I’ll leave you with some words from Saint Jose Maria Escriva, which I think prove useful in this battle:

“Give in? Be just commonplace? You, a sheep-like follower, you were born to be a leader! Among us there is no place for the lukewarm.  Humble yourself and Christ will kindle in you the fire of love.”

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Interested in reading more like this?  Click the links below!

Inspired by Greatness

I Rejoice in My Sufferings

Perfection in an Imperfect World

Worry in the Midst

7 Quick Takes: Friend Visits and Adventures in the New Year

Back joining Kelly with my 7 Quick Takes for the week!

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Like I mentioned last week, my friend from NM visited me for a few days this week.  It was really nice having her here!  We went to a fancy dinner for her birthday, and it was great sharing in conversation and doing things I don’t normally get to do with her since she’s so far away.  Karrie and I have been friends since we were 16—we bonded in Choir over Capri Suns, and Avril Lavigne. (Nerd alert!)

One of the things we did that is something I don’t usually do is go to the mall for the Dillard’s New Year sale, her annual tradition.  When I got there, I realized quickly that it was Black-Friday-crazy, and seeing the crowd made me kind of want to run for my life!  There were so many people backed up to get in, but the atmosphere was actually kind of fun.  Everyone seemed genuinely excited to buy quality items at an extremely low price, and all the waiting in line made for some really fun conversation with strangers.  It’s funny how putting yourself into such public situations (that I would normally dread) offered opportunities for charity and a good time.  And the sale was really worth it overall, so I’m pretty glad I went.  I bought a few things I wasn’t expecting because the sale was that good, and I think I might actually go again next year!

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I did a few other things that were kind of crazy, but not all around out of the blue, like piercing my ears and chopping my hair off! The actual piercing of my ears was kind of spontaneous because I decided to do it on a whim after passing by Claire’s in the Mall, but I have been thinking about doing this for years.  Going to the mall with my friend instead of my kids was enough for me to finally pull the plug—and I’m glad I did!  I love them!

Getting my hair cut short wasn’t entirely my fault.  I communicated to my stylist that I wanted to go a bit shorter, but she definitely went a bit shorter than I was thinking.  I am still not used to it or convinced I really like it, but you know what—change isn’t so bad.  It’ll grow out eventually if I don’t come to love it…and besides, you don’t choose the cut, the cut chooses you.    

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Awkward selfie.

All-in-all I think it is better for me to just steer clear from malls for a while.  They make me do crazy things.  

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While Karrie was here we went to a couple of movies together.  We saw La La Land and Manchester by the Sea.

I absolutely loved La La Land.  I mean, LOVED it.  I don’t think I have ever smiled in a movie as much as I did La La Land, and wished so very badly that human life and emotion were expressed in such dreamy song and dance.

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The movie went well beyond my expectations, and one of the things I loved most was that it perfectly combined music with storytelling.  Many pivotal moments in the movie were better expressed through the music and through singing and dancing than through dialogue.  The acting, music, choreography, and imagery…it was all so beautiful.  It was transcendent to the point where a hand hold, a kiss, or even a look became simply breathtaking; a typical love story, but there wasn’t anything typical about it.  There was no need to focus primarily on a sexual relationship or unnecessary drama between the two main characters.  The story simply revolved around two people who fell in love, helped each other rise to new heights, and achieve dreams they never thought possible.  It was dreamy, and sultry, and lovely and I highly recommend it.   I hope you like it as much as I did.

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I wished I had seen La La Land as our second movie, because I absolutely hated Manchester by the Sea.   mv5bmtyxmjk0ndg4ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwodcynja5ote-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_

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I had high hopes for it because it got rave reviews and had incredible actors in it, but the whole movie was downright depressing and miserable.  I knew going into the movie that it would be a bit of a downer because it’s obvious from the trailer that the characters are reeling from the death of a loved one, but I still I had high hopes that there would be an underlying message of hope.  I thought that maybe those left behind in the wake of death would find comfort and love in one another.  I hoped that that the connection between life (both here and beyond) would be made, and the movie would offer some light even in the midst of terrible awful pain.  (Spoiler alert) In the end, there really was no light.  There was just pain and suffering and no room for any real transformation of the characters, and because of that I think it really lacked substance.  The main character wallowed in his pain and suffering in almost a masochistic sense, and there was no hope in his future but to live day by day in a sort of zombie-like state.  It was just so sad because it offered no room for redemption in his life.  In my humble opinion, just stay home on this one.  While the acting was out of this world good, sitting through that movie and balling your eyes out is just not worth it.

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I forgot to mention last week that one of my New Year Resolutions is to read the whole Bible in a year.  I read Scripture daily, but my reading is very sporadic.  I’ve kind of always chosen scripture passages this way because I’ve found that when I attempt to read cover to cover I get extremely bored at places (cough, cough Book of Numbers).  In order to do this, I knew I needed a plan.  I was inspired by this post by Brandon Vogt, and found a great plan to stick to for the year.  I am already really loving that the plan makes my daily reading simple and organized.

Give it a try!  Let’s do it together! ( I chose the Catholic Bible in a Year reading plan.)

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It snowed in KC!  I never used to be one who loved snow, but it has really grown on me.  I was up late when it started at night, and the glow of the sky reflecting off the soft white ground was so perfect and beautiful.  Plus, seeing my kids enjoy it is so worth sitting out in the cold.  The only problem is I’m still unsure how to properly handle it.  My go-to is to just never leave the house, so when I do I am always severely under-prepared and me and my kids are never properly dressed.

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This one in particular was a major parental fail. 

I’m going to just start making them wear like 12 layers so we’ll be good.

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For the first time, I used the Saint generator to pick a Saint for the year.  I am so happy I did it and feel so lucky I picked Saint Bonaventure.

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I already know a bit about him, but think that he is a great Saint for me because he was a Italian scholastic theologian and philosopher, and I love that he was good buddies with Saint Thomas Aquinas.  (If only I could have been a fly on the wall during any one of their conversations.) I’m excited to develop knowledge and a friendship with him throughout the year!

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Our little family ventured out in the snow for a very fun night of basketball, and not just any basketball, but my favorite kind of basketball: Aggie basketball!  I love that we can bring the Aggie spirit all the way over to KS, and that my family represents the crimson color.

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That’s all for me this week!

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7 Quick Takes: Christmas in NM, Road Trip Home, and New Year Resolutions

We’re back home in KS, after our wonderful trip to New Mexico to visit family!  I promise I will get back to my usual content soon, but with the craziness of this season, it’s just easiest to offer a few updates here and there.  Here I am joining Kelly once again with 7 Quick Takes!

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For three out of the four years that we have been married, we’ve been blessed to be able to head home to NM for Christmas.  I love it this way, because it is the only time of year I get to see almost all of my extended family.  On the 23rd we gathered with my mom’s whole side of the family to eat and play games together.  It was really fun.

On the 24th we all went to Christmas Vigil Mass, which of course was really special.  It’s kind of funny too, because in all honesty the music was not all that great, I couldn’t understand a word the priest was saying, and Lucy was just a pill…but for the first time ever I really felt the joy of Christmas.

After Mass we headed to my dad’s house to open presents and eat the absolute best Mexican food there is (i.e. mom and dad’s).  I will be dreaming of tamales, red chile meat, menudo and posole until next Christmas.

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I received two really awesome gifts this Christmas: one from my husband, and one from my “secret santa” (my sister Sofie).

My husband got me the most beautiful band to go with my wedding ring and I just love it! I’ve been wanting a wedding band, so he really nailed it this Christmas.

And my little sister gave me this:

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She carved the wood herself!  I literally cried it was so touching.  And beautiful!!! She’s known in our family for her artistic abilities—but she really got me with this one!

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Speaking of John Paul, my father was reading me excepts from Peggy Noonan’s “John Paul the Great,” and when I asked him if I could borrow it when he was done, he just handed it to me and said, “It’s yours.”

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I’ve been reading it since, and I am so glad he gave it to me.  I guess I am a sucker for pretty much anything JPII, because in just the first chapter I was already crying.

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We left for home on Tuesday around 6 pm in the evening, and though we had a little hiccup on the ride to NM from KS with Lucy getting sick in the car, we had high hopes everything would be easy breezy heading back home because she was feeling much better.

Wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

We had a repeat of sickness in the car, only this time 4 times.  It was awful, but all I could think the whole way home as I cleaned up mess after mess was this is love.  I know it sounds crazy but it is true.  Had it been another time in my life I would have gotten sick myself or ran out of the car in horror, but my husband and I just handled it–because, duh, we had to.  But sometimes parenthood surprises you with things you didn’t even know you could deal with, and what’s more, you do it in a way that is beyond your expectation of yourself.  You just shrug your shoulders,  take a breath and remind yourself that everything will be alright, and press on.

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Needless to say, we were all wildly hungover from our car ride home.  I took a 3 hour nap with the kids, and went to bed way earlier than normal.  And two days later I still feel tired, but now that I am not sleeping with the kids anymore I am sleeping like a bear and it is absolutely blissful. We’re home, and home feels good.

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I am so very excited because my best friend from NM is coming to visit me today!  It is her super special golden birthday today—turning 30 on the 30th—and we are going on a long overdue friend date tonight to celebrate!  I can’t wait!

I am really wanting to go see La La Land with her.  I can’t get enough of musicals, and the fact that this one has both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in it?! Well, it’s a must-see.  Plus, Karrie and I were big choir nerds in high school so it is very fitting.

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I’ve never really been one for making New Year resolutions, mostly because I’ve always felt like I would break them anyways.  But I am seeing now that I just used that as a pathetic excuse to avoid really examining my life and seeing where I want to grow and change.  I am learning that big ideas wont mean anything if you don’t put them in to action, and you can’t put them in to action if you don’t clearly define your goals.  So in an effort to hold myself accountable, I am sharing some of my 2017 goals with you!

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I hope at the closing of 2017 to look back on this post and reflect on all the things I have accomplished in the year and how I have grown.

What are some of your goals for the New Year?

-Lauren

7 Quick Takes: Road Trip to NM, Tumbleweeds, and Family Movie Nights

Back joining Kelly this week for another 7 Quick Takes, this time, all the way from New Mexico!

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Joe, I and the kids all took the 16 hour venture to New Mexico last week.  I hear you there thinking, What!? A 16 hour car ride with 2 kids under 3.  Are you crazy!?  Well, I guess if that defines crazy, then I suppose so.  But really! It was our best trip yet (despite the one kid puking in the car…but I will spare you of those details.)

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Somehow, by the grace of God, we left earlier than we planned and arrived earlier than expected! Everything went completely smooth, only having to stop a few times for gas!  (How did we do it, you ask?  Well…that’s a post for another day.  I’ll share our secrets with you next week.)  We left just in time, too, completely missing an awful and chilly winter storm in KC and having clear roads most of the way.  You know, I was mostly concerned about hitting icy roads and snow, but the worst of the trip was bumping into really gusty winds in NM along with GINORMOUS tumbleweeds!!  I’m from NM and didn’t even see that coming!

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The trip home has been wonderful so far, but like I mentioned before, we did all get hit with a mean stomach bug.  The worst part was that little Lucia got the worst of it.  It broke my heart to see her that sick! There wasn’t a whole lot we could do either, except keep her as hydrated as possible. But she is doing well now happy and back to housing whole bananas for breakfast.

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She’s up to her usual antics again, like force-feeding me goldfish.

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This is kind of pathetic, but the saddest part about leaving home was that I was going to miss Madam Secretary!  Ha.  I don’t normally get that way about TV these days, but I mean, that cliffhanger last week!  I wasn’t happy about it.  Joe has asked me before if “we like Russell”, and I have always answered, “Yes, absolutely.  He is our frenemy.”  Well, lucky for me my sister has On Demand and I am all caught up!  I won’t give any spoilers here except to say it was a really good episode.  If you haven’t tuned in to this show yet, give it a try! (It’s not based on Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State at all.) It is probably my favorite show ever.  I have to be honest though and admit that maybe possibly I might I tune in more for Henry, than for Elizabeth–though I love both of them, and especially love them together.  But Henry is the best!  I mean, how often is a character’s ethics built around Catholic moral theology!?  A Catholic professor on TV? Ah, swoon. 

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One thing I really miss about not being in New Mexico is basketball.  I know Kansas is pretty much the home of basketball (go Jayhawks!), but…it’s just not the same.  I am and will always be an Aggie!  We grew up watching them and cheering them on, so it was really nice to get back to a game this week.  It was such a good game!  We went into overtime and crushed them in the end!

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Being home in NM with most of us sick afforded us a lot of time to catch up on our favorite movies.  Inspired by watching Creed (like 3 times–seriously an incredible movie), we decided to throw on a Rocky marathon after hours, and we are working our way through the series.  I have seen bits and pieces of all of them, but never all the way through.  It is safe to say IT IS THE BEST SERIES EVER CREATED.  Okay, okay, that is a stretch.  But, I do love me some Rocky Balboa.

We also went and saw Rogue One last night, which ended up being really, really good.  I have to be honest and say I was really worried about it being kitschy.  I just thought if they are pumping these movies out every year, one of them eventually is going to be terrible.  And this one has Forest Whitaker in it! Not that I have anything against him, but I just figured if anything is a tell-tale sign of an over-rated movie, it is seeing them throw a well-known and liked actor into it.  But I really enjoyed it.  It was a story about sacrifice and hope in a time of conflict and terror!

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Eli is having an absolute blast with his cousins.  He has been hanging out with them so much, he has been calling me “Aunty Lori”.  My whole family and friends who have known me since I was little still refer to me as “Lori”, so I don’t think Eli really understood that no…”Aunty Lori” is his mama.  We tried explaining it to him, but he just looked at us like we were crazy. (He really loves his “Aunty Lori!”)

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Too much lightsaber-action fun!

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Finally, from our little family to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas!  I hope that Christ fills your heart with his love and your home with his presence!

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God bless,

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Seven Quick Takes: More on Advent, The Domestic Church, and Family Activities before Christmas

Linking up with Kelly for the first time in a really long time for 7 Quick Takes Friday!

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Advent so far has been wonderful.  I think the concerted effort to be more aware of what this season is all about is paying off, because I find myself a bit more at peace during this hectic time of the year than I normally am.

The week of the 5th kick-started the craziness of the season for me and my family.  We hosted two parties in one week at our house, and have since celebrated three feast days (Saint Nicholas, Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe).

I have always wanted to be more mindful of the Feast Days in the Church, and seeing the beautiful and thoughtful things that other Catholic moms put together for their families has always left me feeling a bit #inadequate.  Sometimes the pressure to be the “perfect” mom is ridiculous–especially the perfect “Catholic” mom– and I love what Simcha had to say about her family’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception. (“Pant, pant”…just get their butts to Mass.)

The biggest thing I took from her article was that we don’t have to put together these elaborate things for our family for them to get the most out of these special days.  We just need to put our focus on what really matters, and we need to continue striving to share the faith with our kids in the best ways we know how.

So we’ve begun doing that and it has been awesome, and really alleviated the silly guilt that comes from being so very un-pinterest worthy most of the time.

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This new outlook on building our domestic church came just in time, because in the craziness of hosting people at our house on the 5th, I completely forgot to weave together the narrative of Saint Nick’s legendary stories to Eli and stick carrots and other such things in his stinky little shoes before Saint Nicholas’ Feast Day the next day .  I did buy coins and carrots and had a whole thing planned out, but completely forgot in the rush of all things. #Momfail

But I rolled with it. Who really cares?  I mean, I may not be Martha-friggin-Stewart, but that’s okay.  And let’s be honest, Eli (and certainly Lucia) didn’t even notice.

I decided to nix the whole plan and just work with what we normally do every night, which is sit together as a family and eat dinner.  I parked our ol’ Santa Claus “Saint Nick” down with us for dinner,

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gave Eli a few details about his life (Lucy nodded along, too), said a quick prayer in honor of him, ate dinner, and afterwards celebrated by eating chocolate coins and drinking eggnog by our tree. It was wonderful and simple and I think Eli got the general jist of what is really so special about the jolly old man, Santa Claus.  It’s not so much about getting the presents and toys he brings as it is about the character of the real man (a saint) who existed; a man who lived for the Lord, and loved and gave without reserve.

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We also celebrated with our friends this Advent season, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The group gathered together and came up with this great idea to make tilmas (an idea one of the girls got from Catholic Icing), eat cookies, watch a movie about Juan Diego’s vision of Mary, and carry red roses up to Mary in honor of this day.   It was so fun and I am so glad that my kids are making friends in the Church.

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One of the parties I hosted was for Joey’s 30th Birthday!  It is becoming kind of a tradition to have a Christmas party at our house for him every year, and I think this 3rd year was our best.

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We changed the entertainment up this year (from our usual white elephant game) by playing the seran wrap game, and it was such a hit!  Highly suggest it for your family parties—except instead of candy we purchased a bunch of small gifts (chotchkies and stuff) for people to win.  Funny enough though, most of the grown men were vying for the big league chew packets of gum.

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A friend gifted me the Blessed is She Advent journal this year and I am absolutely loving it!  It is probably a bit late to buy the journal for this Advent, but you can also buy it and download a digital copy of it if you are interested!

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This year I wanted to make something that I could gift to people, and I settled on these caramel candies.  I was super nervous about making these because my history with baking is not the greatest, so I only assumed candy-making would be worse.  With only a minor hiccup (a big caramel spill, because my pan wasn’t big enough) I came out unscathed and they came out delicious!  Be happy I don’t have pictures of the process, though, because it wasn’t very pretty.  The recipe I followed was super easy, albeit a tad time consuming (took me an hour and a half to make).  Try making them for Christmas! They don’t disappoint!

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Eli had his very first Christmas program yesterday.  It was priceless.  I especially love how he pretty much “watermelon-coconuted” the whole thing, and clapped for himself at the end.  At-a-boy, you little cutie. At-a-boy.

That’s it for me this week! Hope you have a wonderful week, and if you are traveling for Christmas–safe travels!!!

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