Sunday, April 28, 2013

Not-So-Grace-Filled Moments

"Terrible twos"?  Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeeease!  

In my book, the "terrible twos" have absolutely nothing on the neck-throttling threes.  

No, no, no, put down the phone!  You don't need to call CPS!  But, seriously, this mama needs a safe space to talk about what's been going down around here with one particular three-year-old. 

The last few months with our three-year-old, Jane, have been a wild roller coaster.  Within the same day (or hour), we reach the highest highs and the lowest lows.  One moment, I feel like my heart is going to burst with love, and I can't catch my breath because I'm overwhelmed with love for my little sweetheart.  There are so many wonderful things that I love about this stage:  Jane is delightfully affectionate, and her "love language" is most definitely physical touch.  She fills my tank with her sweet squeezes and kisses throughout the day.  Her imagination and sense of humor helps me to take myself less seriously and look at life through her innocent eyes.  Her excitement to learn about Christ and His Church, and her attempts to live her faith well encourage me to be a better person on a daily basis.  

Then, there are the not-so-grace-filled moments--for her, but mostly for me.  I started saying a little prayer before my feet hit the floor everyday.  (I know, I know, I should be getting up before the kids and starting my day in prayer, but I'm just not there yet.  I'm working on it.)  Usually, my prayer before my feet hit the floor goes something like, "God, please help me to be the wife and mother you want me to be today.  Blessed Mother, please give me a sprinkling of your perfect patience and tender love for my children and all those that we meet.  Amen."

The day gets started, and I put forth my best effort from the get-go.  I'm like this lady with the chocolate cake.  

I'm lovey dovey, I do all of the little things that only moms know about that make the kids' day start out right.  We sing songs as we get dressed, I make their breakfast just how they like it, and then, it begins--all of those things that make me refer to these times as the "neck-throttling threes."  

What gets my blood boiling?  What could my sweet, little, perfect Jane be doing that makes me want to put myself in a time-out?  Well, let's see...among the usual suspects these days are: purposeful dawdling, selective hearing, blatant disobeying, hitting Walt, emotional manipulation, and the whhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiining.  Oh, the whining!  It's mostly the whining!  

I pull out all of the tricks in my mom tool belt to keep those blood boiling moments at bay: we plan lots of outings/play dates, maintain our routine whenever possible, eat well-balanced meals, build in individual playtime and cuddle time, shine a light on their good behavior, etc., etc.  Nonetheless, I'm reaching my breaking point faster and more frequently these days, especially with Jane.  

I'm convinced it all boils down to one thing:  Jane shows moments of self-control, patience, and making good choices.  In those moments, I know that she can know better, and sometimes she even chooses to do the right thing.  She'll put her arm up to smack Walt when he hits her, and she'll stop.  She'll offer Walt the last bite of her Oreo.  She'll do something I told her not to and say a sincere "I'm sorry" before I have a chance to process what happened.  She's learning.  She gets it--sometimes. These moments make me fall into the trap of thinking that she is capable of making those good choices on a regular basis, and they make the moments when she makes the bad choices more frustrating.  

Logically, I know she's just doing her job as a three-year-old.  As my pediatrician says, she is "developmentally appropriate."  Jane is doing all of the things a three-year-old is supposed to be doing: testing limits, asserting her independence, and questioning everything.  Knowing this doesn't make the day-to-day any less infuriating.  At 3, Jane isn't supposed to do everything I ask immediately, maintain perfect emotional equilibrium, or exhibit patience and understanding when things don't go her way.  Come to think of it, I don't do all of those things on a regular basis...

Nonetheless, as a mama, I know I need to rise above the neck-throttling threes and get some strategies for the blood-boiling moments.  I have a fiery temper that I've struggled with since childhood.  When I'm at my wit's end and we're having one of those days (and it's only 9 a.m.), I can go from 0 to 60 in seconds.  After pulling out all of the stops and having my patience tested to no end, I feel invisible unless I'm yelling.  

Yesterday morning, I was still bummed that Philip had to work unexpectedly, but I decided to make it a productive morning and go to the grocery store.  Getting out the door with a 3- and a 2-year-old is a battle anyway, but the kids really battled getting out the door for a solid half an hour.  They didn't want to have anything to do with getting ready--brushing teeth, combing hair, putting on shoes, zipping jackets, getting buckled in the car seats, etc., etc.  Oh, and the whhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiining!  (Why does the whining get to me so much, anyway?)  Anyway, by the time I had gotten them restrained and myself into the driver's seat, I had had it.  I turned around, looked at the kids, and yelled, "STOP!  STOP!!!  STOP!!!!!!  No more whining!  Mommy needs you to be good listeners and use nice voices."  (Yes, the irony isn't lost on me that I was asking my toddlers to use nice voices as I was yelling at them...)  Even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I heard the good angel on my shoulder saying, "Ohhhhhhhh, Catherine.  You shouldn't speak to your children like that."  Yet, I still did it.  Then, I looked forward, said a little "I'm sorry for being such a jerk" prayer in my head, and turned back to the kids.  "Mommy is sorry for yelling.  Mommy shouldn't yell at you.  I love you very much.  Can you please use nice voices and be good listeners?"

Jane responded in her sweetest voice possible, "Yes, Mommy."  Ugh, if yelling itself didn't make me feel like a jerk, hearing her little voice and seeing her smile made it even worse.  She has a way of doing that.  Jane will throw me a one-two punch of the worst of the worst toddler behavior, I'll want to yell like the crazy mom that I can be (and sometimes I do), then she'll take my breath away with her sweetness.  

I asked Philip for a little quiet time tonight after dinner because I needed a break from the kids.  Minutes later, the doorknob to our bedroom jangled and Jane walked in.  I was a little bummed that my quiet time was being interrupted so quickly, but I mustered up my sweetest voice for her.  "Hi, honey.  What are you doing?"  Then, she hit me with the sweetness.  "I'm just loving you.  Can I come and sit with you?"  She ran and grabbed her little LeapFrog computer and sat in bed next to me while I wrote most of this post.  

So, I'm a work in progress.  I'm doing the best I can as a mom.  I'm working on the yelling.  I'm trying to be a good example for the kids.  I'll keep working on the waking up before the kids for prayer time.  I'll keep messing up, and I'll keep asking the kids, Philip, and God for forgiveness on a daily basis.  I'll never stop trying.  

God called me to this vocation because He knew it would be the most sanctifying for me.  He knew I needed to prune a lot within myself.  Philip and the kids uniquely help me to become a better person on a daily basis.  The process isn't always pretty, and some days what I see in the mirror is downright terrifying, but that's what purgation is all about.  Marriage is the vocation for me because it purifies exactly the areas that need it most.  Here's to tomorrow's tests!       

Friday, April 26, 2013

Warning: Be Careful With Pity Parties. God Might Give You a Reality Check.

I was chatting with some gal pals at a MOPS meeting this morning about our weekend plans.  I said I was excited because Philip had the entire weekend off and that we were going to enjoy a quiet weekend of family time.

On his way home from work, Philip got a text saying that he needed to come in on back-up to work at the hospital from 7 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday.  

Goodbye, weekend plans!

Philip shared the news as gently as he could.  He said we would make tonight extra special, rent a movie, and get some ice cream after the kids went to bed.  He suggested we stop at a nearby park and that we pick up dinner so that I could have a night off from cooking.  

Philip was doing a great job of cheering me up, but I couldn't help whining for a bit.  I decided throwing myself a little pity party on Facebook with a "woe is me" status update about our ruined weekend plans was a good option.  
Cue the violins! Goodbye our quiet little weekend as a family. Philip just got called in on backup to work 7 am tomorrow to 10 am Sunday. Residency, I am officially over you!   
Waaaaaaaah!  Waaaaaaaah!  Waaaaaaaaah!

We drove to a nearby park, and the kids had a ball.  Our kiddos were the youngest ones there by a long shot, and Philip and I probably looked like helicopter parents.  While the other parents sat on the nearby benches and chatted, I stood in "spotters ready" position behind Walt as he went up the steep ladder, and Philip kept an eye on daredevil Jane as she went from one obstacle to the next.  

Janie & Walt on the slides
Eventually, the other families left for dinner, and we were left with the playground to ourselves.  Without Jane trying to imitate the big kids' moves and with Walt exclusively using the toddler-friendly stairs to get to the slides, Philip and I decided to sit on one of the nearby benches while we watched the action.  

Then, it happened--one of those terrible slow motion moments when you know what's going to happen next, but you're too far away to do anything to stop it.  Walt had been sitting on the top platform of the jungle gym and turned himself around to go down the slide like he had 50 times.  At the last second, while still scooting backwards, he changed directions.  His little foot caught the edge of the platform perpendicular to the slide.  Naturally, this was the side of the platform with an opening for a spiral pole like this:
Only, this particular drop-off was 6-feet high.  One of us, I can't remember who, was mid-sentence when Walt changed directions and he caught his foot on the edge of the platform.  "Philip!  Philip!  Philip!" I said as I pointed and stood up.  I knew I couldn't stop what was going to happen, so I prayed as I watched it happen that it wouldn't be too terrible.  

Walt didn't realize he was scooting himself off of the platform.  He fell backward between the platform and spiral pole.  By some miracle, he didn't hit his head on the 6-foot descent, and the poor guy landed with a big "thud" on his back.  Philip picked him up instantly.  Walt was murmuring quietly and the color drained from his face.  He straightened his back like he wanted out of Philip's arms.  Then, his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he went limp.  

This, my friends, is when you're glad your husband is a pediatric resident.  Walt came to in a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity, especially because we weren't sure if something more serious was wrong.  After he came back to, he didn't act hurt or concussed.  After holding him for a bit, Philip suggested we let him try to play for a few minutes to observe his movements and check for signs of a concussion.   Per usual, Philip remained calm and collected, and I was so glad he was there.

Children are so resilient!  Within minutes, Walt was climbing, laughing, and wanting to go back down the slides.  We remained helicopter parents for five more minutes before we decided Walt was ok, and Philip announced, "It's time for dinner!  Let's get in the car!"  We knew Walt was back to his regular old self when he said, "Hungry!  Hungry!  Hungry!" and made a beeline for the minivan. 

Since he's still rear-facing in his carseat and has a tendency to space out during car rides anyway, we kept asking him questions to check on him.  

"Walt, who's your favorite choo-choo?"     

"Walt, are you hungry?"

The little guy ate a great dinner, and he seems to be doing just fine, so hopefully the scary moment has passed.  

While I'm still bummed that Philip has to unexpectedly work a 24-hour shift tomorrow, I'm grateful for the reality check that our trip to the playground provided me:
  1. We all have our health.
  2. Philip is employed, and we've found a way for me to stay at home with the kids.
  3. Philip's job as a pediatric resident provides him with the medical know-how to take care of kiddos when these crises arise.
  4. He had tonight off to be there when we needed him.
  5. He'll be able to take care of other kids at the hospital whose families desperately need his help, and he'll give them the peace of mind that he gave me tonight.  
I suppose life isn't all that bad.  

I suppose I can share Philip tomorrow.  

I suppose it's not the end of the world.  

I'm probably still not going to like it, and that's okay.  I don't have to like it because, well, it doesn't matter if I like it.  I'm not the one who matters.  When Philip is able to provide his patients and their families with top-notch medical care in a crisis situation tomorrow, through the night, and into Sunday morning, it won't matter that I'm bummed he's gone.  

Tonight taught me that I don't have to like Philip's absence for his presence somewhere else to matter.  After tonight, I realized that his absence from us makes his presence for families in crisis possible.  And, you know what?  That's pretty cool. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What We Had For Dinner: Pork Chops With Pineapple Fried Rice

I found this recipe for Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice from Ree.  You may know her as "The Pioneer Woman," but we're on a first name basis.  At least I like to think we are...

Anyhoo, this made a fantastic weeknight meal!  You know what made it even more fantastic?  Philip got off work early today, and he made it!  I have absolutely no criticisms of this dish.  Every member of our family thought it was DEEEEEEEEEE-VIIIIIIIIIIIINE!

Without further adieu, I give you (or, I should say, Ree gives you) Pork Chops With Pineapple Fried Rice

Photo from The Pioneer Woman


  • 1/2 whole Pineapple, Cut Into Spears And Skewered
  • 2 cups White Or Brown Rice, Cooked
  • 6 whole Pork Chops
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Peanut Oil Or Canola Oil
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Sliced
  • 6 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (more To Taste, Or If More Liquid Is Needed)
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Sriracha, Or Other Hot Sauce
  • Salt To Taste
  • 3 cloves Minced Garlic
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 jar (small) Drained Pimentos
  • 1-1/2 cup Frozen Peas
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (additional)

Preparation Instructions

Cook rice according to package instructions. Set aside.
Grill or saute pineapple spears until they have good marks/color on the outside. Slice, then set aside.
(Note: soak wooden skewers in water for a few hours first.)
Heat butter and oil over medium high heat, then add the pork chops to the pan. Saute on both sides until they have nice color.
Throw in the sliced onions and work them into the crevices between the chops. Shake the pan and move the onions around and let them cook for a good couple of minutes.
When the onions are starting to soften, add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, and hot sauce. Shake the pan, stir it around, and let it cook and bubble up for a good couple of minutes until the pork chops are completely cooked and the sauce is thicker. Remove the pork chops to a bowl, then let the sauce bubble up and cook for another 30 to 45 seconds. Pour it over the pork chops. Set aside.
Add a small amount of oil to the same pan (without cleaning it) and return it to the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir it around, then crack in the eggs and immediately stir them to scramble them a bit. Add peas, pimentos, and a couple of tablespoons (additional) soy sauce. Add cooked rice and stir it around to cook for a couple of minutes.
To serve, pile rice on a plate, then top with a pork chops and onions from the sauce. Drizzle a little bit of sauce over the top.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Game-Changing Book

Have you ever read a book that changed your life?  I miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight have a tendency to embellish from time to time, but I finished reading a book two weeks ago that I'm calling a "game changer" in my life.  The book is The Bible Compass: A Catholic's Guide to Navigating the Scriptures by Dr. Edward Sri.

Despite being a cradle Catholic and having attended Catholic school for grades 1-12, I still had what Dr. Sri calls a "Humpty Dumpty" knowledge of Sacred Scripture.  I knew the major players and the big stories, but I had noooooooooooo idea how they all fit together in the big picture of salvation history.  

The Bible Compass is compact, hard-hitting, and simple enough for an everyday lay person like me to access.  Dr. Sri wrote the book in 4 parts:

Part I - Divine Revelation: The Unveiling of God
Chapters 1-2: What it means when we say that the Bible is "inspired by God," and how Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium all tie together.  Without an understanding of how Catholics view the Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium as being inseparable, we cannot arrive at an authoritative interpretation of Sacred Scripture. 

Part II - Five Keys For Interpreting Scripture Correctly
Dr. Sri explains how a Catholic uses the "five keys" for interpreting Scripture from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to make sure we're reading with a Catholic lens.  The five keys are:
  1. Discover the author's intention
  2. Be attentive to the unity of Scripture
  3. Read Scripture within the Living Tradition of the Church
  4. Read Scripture within the symphony of God's revelation
  5. Use the four senses of Scripture: literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical (with descriptions of each)
Part III - Where Did the Bible Come From?
Chapter 8 discusses the creation of the New Testament Canon and the Gnostic "Gospels," and Chapter 9 tackles why Catholic Bibles are bigger in a discussion of the Old Testament and the Deuterocanonical Books.  

Part IV - Biblical Background
With the foundation from Parts I-III, the reader is ready to take on Part IV--the nuts and bolts background you need before actually delving in and reading Sacred Scripture.  This was the part of the book where I underlined every other line, starred most paragraphs, and wrote notes in the margins.  I would have bought the book just for Part IV!
  • Chapter 10: Taking God at His Word: Is the Bible Trustworthy?
    • Reading "literalistically" vs. literarily ("carefully examining the literary forms being used and seeking the author's intention"), avoiding fundamentalism, science, history, and dealing with difficulties
  •  Chapter 11: The World of the Bible: Archaeology, Geography, and History
    • "In order to understand better the words of the Bible, we must strive to learn more about the world of the Bible."  This section explores how studying archaeology, geography, and history reveal the context in which Sacred Scripture was written.  This helps us as modern readers to use the "Five Keys" discussed in Part II.  
  • Chapter 12: Knowing God's Story: The Twelve Periods of Biblical History
    • Holy Cow!  Hands down, this was my favorite part of the book!  Dr. Sri uses the "narrative approach" to break down all of the books of Sacred Scripture into 12 periods to tell "the 'big picture' of salvation history--the overarching narrative from Adam to Christ and the Church."  Here's the best part: in 6.5 pages, Dr. Sri briefly summarizes each of the 12 periods of salvation history and shows you how they all fit together.  After spending ten minutes reading those pages, I felt like I knew more than all of my theology classes combined ever taught me about the Bible.  
    • If you think that is cool, then you should know that there is a Bible study called The Bible Timeline by Jeff Cavins (also published by Ascension Press) that uses to same narrative approach to delve even deeper into these same 12 periods of Biblical history.  (If you don't have the time to dedicate to that in-depth study, consider reading Walking With God by Jeff Cavins.  I'd call it a "Cliff's Notes" version of The Bible Timeline.  I'm reading Walking With God now, and I'm about to start facilitating The Bible Timeline.)  Awesome, awesome, awesome! 
  • Chapter 13: Getting Started: Translations, Resources, and Methods
    • Translations: Not all translations are created equally, and different translation methods affect the reading
    • Tools & Resources: Brief introduction and explanations of how different tools/resources such as concordances, Bible commentaries, Bible atlases, etc. enhance your reading of Scripture
    • Methods: Brief overview of the 2 main categories of biblical criticism (historical criticism & literary analysis)
  • Chapter 14: Lectio Divina: Praying Scripture
    • An explanation on how to pray with Sacred Scripture so that it can penetrate your daily life.  Dr. Sri introduces the four basic steps of Lectio Divina
      • reading
      • meditation
      • prayer
      • contemplation
After reading The Bible Compass, I feel ready to start exploring Sacred Scripture through The Bible Timeline study.  Without The Bible Compass, I know I would have felt very intimidated and overwhelmed.  The Bible Compass gave me some very, very helpful tips and tools to access Scripture as a beginner and incorporate it into my daily prayer.  If you've ever felt overwhelmed and completely lost when it comes to reading the Bible, do yourself a favor and read The Bible Compass.  It will give you direction (it has the word "compass" in the title, after all!) and confidence that you are reading God's Word through the Church's lens. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jane's Lunchtime Prayer

We took a little hiatus from daily Mass Wednesday and today because the kids have been overtired from a busy schedule.  This morning, little Walt walked to me with arms outstretched, tears rolling down his cheeks, and asked, "Binkie?  Night, night?" at 8:15!  My kids definitely belong to me--they love their sleep!  We plan to resume daily Mass on Monday.  In the meantime, I look forward to seeing if I can tell a difference in their behavior at Mass this weekend with Philip. 

About the time we started attending daily Mass, Jane started asking to pray for various people or things before saying the meal prayer.  As I started to lead the meal prayer at lunch yesterday, she interrupted me.  

"Mama?  Can we pray for Jesus?"  

"Of course," I said.  "What would you like to say?"

She thought for a few seconds.  "OK.  Dear Jesus, thank you for heaven."

"Oh, Janie, that is a beautiful prayer!  Is there anything else you'd like to say?"

She closed her eyes to think about it.  Her eyes popped open.  "Yes!  Thank you for dying on the cross to save us.  I am sorry you got all of those ouchies.  I will kiss them to make them feel better.  I will get you a band-aid.  Amen!"   

Jane and "The Child Jesus" statue in our parish courtyard
No wonder Jesus insisted that his disciples let the children come to him.  They love so purely and passionately, without seeking repayment or having an underlying agenda.  They just love.  Their prayers must be among his favorites.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Happy Sibling Day!

Apparently today is "Sibling Day."  At least everyone on Facebook keeps posting pictures of themselves and their siblings, so I thought I'd find a few of my favorite pictures of myself and my siblings.  I love you, Dan, David, Jenny, Andy, and Matthew!

Daily Mass Day 2 & True Love

I took the kids to 8:15 Mass for the second day in a row this morning.  The church was jam-packed, standing-room only, so I ended up sitting with the kids in some chairs in the narthex.  I told them that they had to stay on the rug or in their chairs.  We had a few blunders (for example, Walt tried running to the altar after we returned from Communion), but for the most part, it was a pretty grace-filled morning of prayer with the kiddos.  

We brought a few board books, and each kid got to bring one stuffed animal.  Everything else stayed at home.  They didn't miss the extra bells and whistles one bit, and their behavior was actually better today.  

I know you're not supposed to be whipping your phone out at Mass, but I couldn't resist capturing the sweet little ones "reading" so quietly--at least for that moment.  We'll ignore that Janie's hymnal is upside down...

Here's to hoping that Day 3 of daily Mass tomorrow goes just as well!

After Mass, we made our weekly grocery trip run.  Each time we go to the grocery store, I bring two Oreo cookies (Double-Stuffed, of course) in a baggie.  I tell the kids that they may each have one in the check-out if they are good listeners and do a good job of waiting.  Here are the kids post-Oreo a few weeks ago.  Walt's crazy hair and the crumbs all over his face are killing me! 

The kids did a great job at the store today, so I distributed the cookies as the cashier rang up our groceries.  Like always, Walt snarfed his down in seconds, and Jane took her sweet time.  When Walt realized that his cookie was gone, he started crying.  Without skipping a beat, Jane split her cookie in two, handed half to Walt, and said, "Here ya go, Walt.  I share with you."  The cashier and I looked at each other in amazement.  She said, "Wow, I don't think I could share my Oreo with someone else!  Now that is true love!"  Yup.  It sure is.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We Did It! The Kids and I Made It Through Daily Mass Without Philip!

Yesterday, I asked for your prayers because I resolved to take the kids to daily Mass all by myself.  This rainy morning, I took two toddlers and my burgeoning belly to 8:15 Mass, and we all lived to tell about it.  Yay!  

And you know what?  It was great!   

Like most things with parenting, anticipating the outing was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay worse than anything resembling the actual experience.  I have a tendency to kinda sorta maybe obsess over upcoming events, play out all of the worst case scenarios in my head, and try to troubleshoot how to avoid disaster ahead of time.  

I'd be lying if I said that the whole experience was perfect and that the kids were amazing little angels.  As my awesome pediatrician would say, they were "developmentally appropriate" at Mass. 

It turns out our parish has 8:15 Mass in the "Our Lady Chapel" and not the main Church most weekday mornings unless there is a big crowd.  So, the kids had the excitement of a fairly unfamiliar space for Mass and the intimacy of probably 40 sweet faces huddled together in a smaller space.  We spotted some of my mom friends and their youngest kiddos there, too.  Knowing that they come on a regular basis and seeing them in action gave me courage to persevere.

On our way into the chapel, the kids were a little antsy, so we made a pit stop to grab each one a plastic Rosary to hold during Mass.  This was a great idea until Walt tried flinging his around like numchucks and nearly swatted a parish employee on the back of the head.  Oh, and Jane may or may not have dropped hers on several occasions, and I may or may not have felt myself unknowingly step on the beads and (gasp!) the Crucifix.  Sorry, Jesus!  Note to self:  Perhaps the Rosaries are better saved for family prayer time around the dinner table.  

By and large, from what I could tell, the 8:15 daily Mass crowd was made up mostly of elderly men and women, homeschooling families, and a few of us mamas with kiddos preschool age and younger.  So, for the most part, Mass was a lot quieter than our typical Sunday morning crowd.  Also, there was no music.  So, when curious 23-month-old Walt with his 98% noggin took in his surroundings and asked every other second, "Whaz DAT?!" while pointing his pudgy fingers around, I'm sure he was pretty distracting.  

Jane was feeling cuddly today and wanted to sit on my lap.  Walt, on the other hand, was feeling adventurous and wanted to do laps around the chapel.  Remember how I wrote yesterday about being afraid that Walt might make a beeline for the altar during the consecration?  Well, that didn't happen, but Walt did do something else.  

When it came time for the "Our Father," I think I was trying to pick up one of the rosaries, tell Janie I couldn't hold her, and return a missalette to the chair back in front of us.  Walt knew this was his chance to make a run for it.  Before I could grab him, he was laughing and making a beeline for our parish priest (who happens to be named Fr. Walter).  Walt ran the full 8 feet from our row to the front of the chapel alongside Fr. Walter before I could grab him.  God bless all of the Mass goers who smiled at us as we made our way back to our seat.

The rest of Mass had no major hiccups.  Walt tried to shake the hands of everyone (at least twice) within reach during the Sign of Peace.  Receiving Communion on the tongue with Walt on my hip and holding Jane's hand went smoothly.  Just when I thought the kids were reaching their breaking point and I was turning into a hot mess from the humidity, hormones, and constant wrangling with Walt, I heard the words, "The Mass has ended," from Fr. Walter.  I thought, "Wow!  We did it!  We did it!  We came to daily Mass by ourselves, and no huge disasters happened.  Hooray!"  

I spoke with my sweet mom friends afterward in the narthex.  They were so supportive and encouraging.  One even said that she didn't know that we were there until she saw me retrieve Walt behind the altar.  So, uh, that's something, right?!

Since today went pretty well and I loved everything about how the day started, I'm planning on going again tomorrow.  It turns out that tomorrow is the kindergarten through fourth grade Mass, so we'll be in the main Church along with a bunch of the grade school kiddos.  I'll be anxious to see how that goes compared with Mass in the smaller chapel.  

A few notes for tomorrow:
  • Read the daily readings before you leave the house like you did this morning.  Otherwise, you might not have heard all of them!  
  • No more rosaries at Mass for the kids.
  • No more small figurines.  (Today, Jane had a Disney princess, and Walt had a Thomas the Train.)  Only one stuffed animal for Walt and two or three faith-related board books.   
  • Dress in layers so that you can remove them as you turn into a hot mess.  
Thank you so much for all of your encouragement and prayers!  I'll admit that I was still a tad nervous this morning, but I ended up being more excited than nervous as we got ready for the day.  I loved getting our day going and starting the day with the kids (and our friends!) at Mass.  

Going to Mass set the tone for the rest of our day, and I know it made a difference.  It feels like God was able to multiply my time and help me to accomplish more, I was more patient with the kids, I felt myself being more positive than usual, the kids played together great, and they didn't request television like they usually do because they were content playing by themselves. 

This mama can get used to that kind of a day!  Now, I know Mass won't always go great, and our days won't always run smoothly, but you sure can't beat starting your day in prayer, receiving Christ at Mass, and praying with your children.  I like this daily Mass stuff.  I hope it sticks. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Prayer Request: Daily Mass With the Kids

After hemming and hawing over wanting to take the kids to daily Mass but being too afraid to try it solo, I've finally decided that we're actually going to do it.  Tomorrow.  8:15.  Get ready, daily Mass goers!  My crew is invading tomorrow!

I'm equally excited and nervous about this adventure.  Well...maybe...actually...definitely, I'm more nervous than anything.

I'm excited because:
  • What's not to love about starting your day receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the celebration of Mass?
  • I have visions of the kids sitting like perfect angels at Sunday Mass because of the added "practice" at daily Mass.  (I hear you chuckling, Reader.)
I'm nervous because:
  • I'm 21 weeks pregnant and going to Mass solo with a 3- and 2-year-old.
  • There are fewer people at daily Mass, and any noises the kiddos make will be amplified.
  • What do I do when I go to receive Communion?  Should I sit in the front pew and leave them?  Do I leave Jane and bring Walt?  Balance Walt on my hip, hold Jane by the hand, and pray that Walt doesn't try to swipe the Eucharist as I wait for the priest to place it on my tongue?  Maybe I'll disqualify myself from Communion with thoughts about my misbehaving kids so it will be a non-issue.
  • Did I mention I'm going solo and Philip won't be there?
Nonetheless, we're going.  I'm writing about it on my blog so that we'll actually follow through and do it.  We're going, and I'm going to pray that it's not a complete disaster.  Can you please pray for us?  Can you pray that my kids' guardian angels prevent them from recreating a scene from "The Exorcist" at daily Mass?  Can you pray that the others in attendance take pity on me if someone (probably me) has a breakdown?  Can you pray that they think something like, "Oh, that poor dear.  At least she's trying," and not something like, "I pray that they'll never return!"  Can you pray that we're seated next a sweet old grandma that thinks my kids' "participation" at Mass is a sign that the Church is alive and well?

Maybe...just maybe I should ask you pray that I stop worrying about what the other Mass goers are thinking, realize that they probably aren't paying attention to us (unless, of course, Walt makes a beeline for the altar during the consecration), and that I just focus on what's actually happening at Mass.  Yup, that's what I'm going to ask you to pray for.  Pray that we actually show up and that my kids get to experience daily Mass.  Mostly pray for that.

Thank you!  I'll report back tomorrow.  I better go and start praying.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Family Trip to the Zoo

Do you want to know why Philip is the best husband ever?  He worked an overnight shift at the hospital on Friday, came home Saturday morning, and he insisted that he would rather take a family trip to the zoo than take a snooze.  In typical Husband and Father of the Year fashion, he gave me a big hug and said he was looking forward to our family outing.  "Go and take a nice, warm shower.  Have some you time since you've been working so hard with the kids.  I'll pack us some lunches and get the kids ready.  Let's leave by 9:30."

We had a great morning at the zoo.  Here are a few pictures of our fun trip:

We told the kids that there were new baby lion cubs at the zoo, so they insisted on bringing their stuffed Nala & Simba from "The Lion King."  Here's Walt, holding up Nala to this tiger's cage, and saying, "Hi, Tiger!"

Watching the new lion cubs play with each other.

Giving the goats some love at the petting zoo.

The rhino looked like he needed a hug.

Jane thought this turtle wanted to give her a ride.  She was disappointed when he didn't actually move.

Taking a break for lunch.  This peacock stayed nearby since Janie & Walt liked to throw him some food.

Jane in timeout for stealing Walt's chips.  If there's one thing you should never do to Walt, it is steal his food.

Finishing our visit at the aquarium.  Walt is pretty fanatical about "Finding Nemo" these days, so every single fish (clown fish or not) is "Nemo."  He ran from one tank to the next saying, "Wook!  Wook!  Memo!  Memo!"

Thanks to Philip for taking one for the team and for wanting to take a trip to the zoo instead of a snooze.  Once we got home, the kids had some baths, we read some stories, and everyone took a two-hour nap.  Then, Janie and I went to her little friend's birthday party while Philip and Walt had some guy time at home.  Janie and I picked up some pizza on the way home from the birthday party, and Philip and I watched some of our favorite shows after the kids went to bed.  It was a great Saturday!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

THIS is why "There Is No Place Like Nebraska"!

I am very proud to call myself a Nebraskan today!  

The Nebraska Cornhusker football team "adopted" 7-year-old brain cancer fighter, Jack Hoffman, under the leadership of former player Rex Burkhead (Number 22) through the Uplifting Athletes Campaign.  

Jack Hoffman and Rex Burkhead, Photo from Team Jack Legacy Fund
The Nebraska Cornhuskers and "Team Jack" continue to raise funds in the hopes of finding a cure for brain cancer.  At any given Husker event, you're likely to see a red "Team Jack" shirt on at least one fan.  

During today's Spring Game (the annual red and white scrimmage), Jack made the biggest play of the day.  Jack took the field with the red team under the leadership of quarterback Taylor Martinez.  Wearing a number 22 jersey in homage to former Husker player Rex Burkhead, Jack awaited the snap next to Martinez on 4th down.  Martinez took the snap and handed the ball off to Jack.  Jack ran down the field with his red team "blocking" his way through the white Husker jerseys.  The crowd went wild as Jack ran into the end zone to make a 69-yard touchdown.   

According to an article on, head coach Bo Pelini said the team asked Jack's dad if he would like to participate in the spring game.

"Jack's a young man who has touched the hearts of a lot of people. Our football team and the student body have gotten behind him, and he's become a big part of the team," Pelini said.

Here is another article from about Jack's big play. 

Here is the video of Jack's 69-yard touchdown:

To learn more about "Team Jack" and their crusade to cure pediatric brain cancer, please visit Team Jack Legacy Fund.

Go, Team Jack!  Go, Huskers!

Yet Another Gem on PBS: "Call the Midwife"

We cancelled cable about three years ago and subscribed to Netflix.  Aside from a few cable shows like "Top Chef" that we can't seem to find anywhere or the occasional Husker football game that doesn't air on a major network, we haven't missed cable or the bill.  

Since cancelling cable, Philip and I have found some fantastic movies and television shows that we previously probably never would have given a second look.  

One of the gems that we found is "Call the Midwife" on PBS.  

Photo from
The show chronicles the stories of the midwives and nursing nuns in 1950's London's East Side Nonnatus House.  The women live together between making bicycle house calls to the nearby pregnant women.  Each episode introduces us to new patients with quirky family members.  We watch as the midwives navigate the medical and social problems hurled at them as the patients go through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the postpartum period.  The stories range from gut-wrenching to gut-busting.  I laugh and cry several times each episode.  

We've all heard that "truth is stranger than fiction."  Knowing that the show is based Jennifer Worth's memoir makes the characters and their stories even more powerful.  The memoir was previously published as The Midwife and is now titled Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times.  

Call the Midwife cover image from
The show just aired the first episode of Season 2 on March 31.  Here is a 30-second video that gives you a glimpse into the show:

Watch Season 2 Preview on PBS. See more from Call the Midwife.

In my opinion, "Call the Midwife" is one of the few shows on television that:
  • Convincingly and beautifully develops its characters
  • Conveys their wide range of emotions
  • Shares the gut-wrenching stories without being vulgar or explicit 
Season 2 of "Call the Midwife" airs on PBS through May 19, 2013 Sunday evenings at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  I hope you'll catch up on the previous episodes and start tuning in Sunday evenings to this fantastic show.  

Once you've seen a few episodes, take this fun "Which Midwife Are You?" quiz!  Are you Jenny, Chummy, Trixie, or Cynthia?  Apparently I'm Cynthia Miller.  Which Midwife Are You?

"Cynthia Miller" photo from PBS

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What We Had For Dinner

I'll start periodically sharing weeknight recipes on here in the hopes that you'll share some of yours in return!  

Tonight, we had:

1.  Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki (served over Jasmine rice)
Image from
Boy, oh boy!  This was DEEEEEEEE-LISH-USSSS!  It was our first time trying this recipe, and I loved it for several reasons:
  • It's a slow cooker recipe.  What's not to love about throwing dinner together before it's even lunchtime?
  • It made the house smell amazing all day long.
  • I had all of the ingredients on hand.
  • I love sauces, and this recipe made plenty of sauce.
We might add 1 more tablespoon of orange marmalade for next time since we liked the orange-iness.  Otherwise, I have absolutely no changes!

The Recipe (from

Yield: 4-6 servings
  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (regular would work too)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tbsp orange marmalade
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cold water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Cooked long grain white rice, for serving
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
  • Place chicken in a slow cooker, set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk together soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, light-brown sugar, honey, orange marmalade, ginger, garlic and pepper. Pour mixture over chicken in slow cooker, cover with lid and cook on low heat 5 - 6 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred. Strain sauce from slow cooker through a fine mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. In a small mixing bowl whisk together 1 1/2 Tbsp cold water and cornstarch. Pour cornstarch mixture into liquid in saucepan and heat mixture over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to gently boil. Allow mixture to gently boil about 20 seconds until thickened. Return chicken to slow cooker and pour teriyaki sauce from saucepan over chicken. Toss mixture gently to evenly coat. Serve warm over cooked rice garnished with optional sesame seeds and serve with diced fresh pineapple if desired.
2.  Roasted Broccoli Florets
While the Jasmine rice is simmering on the stove top...
  • 1 head of broccoli cut into florets
  • Place on baking sheet
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Sprinkle on some freshly ground pepper and sea salt
  • Stir it all together to evenly distribute the olive oil
  • Roast at 350 for 15 minutes (or until browned)
  • Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
3.  Sliced strawberries
I had a bunch already sliced up from Costco.  Yummy yummy!

What's your easy weeknight dinner recipe?  Share away!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Laundry System

"Woman Plunges and Scrubs"
A mom friend told me that she is sick of the mountains of laundry, and she asked me to share my laundry system as well as any tips and tricks.  Here is my response:

Two years ago, I finally decided to create a system for tackling the laundry.   I used to do a marathon day of load after load of laundry.  I know that system works for some people, but it wasn't working for me.  When laundry day rolled around, I dreaded the task because I knew it would take all day.  Often, I would put it off because it seemed so daunting, and the task grew even larger.  

Creating a laundry schedule and tackling a little bit each day (except Sunday!) works for me.  

Here's my system:

  • Kid laundry
  • Philip's and my casual clothes
  • Philip's and my dress clothes
  • Children's bedding
  • Our bedding
  • Whites
  • Towels
  • Bath mats
  • Bibs/Dish towels
  • Cleaning rags
  • Extra loads or special items like reds or blankets from the family room.
  • NO LAUNDRY!!!  
A few tips I've learned along the way:
  • Whenever possible, treat stains immediately.  Different kinds of stains on different fabrics will need different treatments.  Here is a helpful stain chart from Better Homes and Gardens that you can download and print off for your laundry room.  Always treat the stain before washing to avoid setting the stain.  
  • Read clothing labels carefully to avoid shrinkage, discoloration, dying, etc. 
  • Unless you really like the color pink, ALWAYS wash red items (especially new ones!) separately.
  • Washing items on cold prevents you from having to separate brights and darks.  That would turn into so many loads of laundry, and I don't have enough time to do that much laundry! 
  • Containing socks--especially itty bitty little baby socks:  Hang a mesh zipper bag (the kind you use to wash delicate items) on a skirt hanger next to the hamper.  Place socks in the bag instead of the hamper, and toss them in the hamper when the clothes are ready to be washed.  This way, all of your socks stay together, and you won't end up losing one in a sleeve.
  • Bibs:  My kiddos are messy eaters, so we go through a few bibs a day.  At the end of the day, I rinse them out with soap and water.  Then, I hang them to dry from the wire shelving in the laundry room.  When the weekly washing day rolls around, I unsnap them from the wire shelf, and toss them in the wash with the dish towels from the week.
  • Hang items immediately from the dryer to limit ironi ng.  
  • Pleated skirts:  You can place bag clips (the kind you use on bags of chips) on the hem of a pleated skirt to avoid ironing.
  • Lint:  Empty the catcher often to maximize dryer efficiency and limit the risk of fire.  Thoroughly clean the lint out with a vacuum at least once a season.  Vacuum behind and under the machines as well.
  • If you use liquid softener, top off the softener distributor with water to avoid gunky softener build-up.
  • After each cycle, leave the washer's lid open to allow for air circulation.
  • My laundry room hamper with three dividers on wheels makes separating clothes an easy job.
  • Separate clothes while waiting for the washer to fill.
  • You really can fold a fitted sheet
  • Bedding:  Keep 2 (or 3) sets for each bed on rotation.  Store the fitted sheet, bed sheet, and one pillow case inside of the other pillow case to create neat "packages" for your linen closet.  Blankets can be folded and placed in separate shelves.  
  • Give every item a home in closets and drawers to make putting laundry away easier.  
  • Clean out closets and drawers at least once a season.
  • Keep a "donate" and "mend" bin in your laundry room.
  • Immediately trash items that are beyond repair or cannot be donated.
What's your laundry system?  Do you have any tips to share?