7 Hopes that I Had for Family Life While in College

In my research for writing the second installment of the story of my relationship with M, I have been reading my old prayer journals. First of all, why was everything so dramatic in college? Second, of all it has been fascinating seeing who I was then and seeing how I have changed, and how I still need to improve.

One of the things I came across was how I imagined family life would be. M and I had a lot of serious discussion during our time in Austria, and this was a topic that came up as we wondered if and when we should date again. It is kind of fun to see how I hoped life would be. Here are a few of the hopes that came true.

1. “Husband in charge of kids so that she can work on her book or read a novel”
Now I have not written a book, but I am doing a lot more writing than I once did in my married life. I do feel that writing has been a kind of fulfillment for me these last few years that I had forgotten about when we first had children. Usually it happens not while M is watching the kids, but during our daily quiet times or after the kids are in bed. And I am finding plenty of time for reading novels and other things.

2. “Group of women to spend time with”Developing friendships always takes time, but it is worth the effort. Everytime I get together with lady friends or have a good conversation online, I am reminded of how important it is for women to support and have each other in their lives. It is especially helpful with family life to have the support of other women.

3. “Family meal time is sacred”
When the professor works at home, we sometimes have all three meals together. In fact, he would forget to eat lunch sometimes if it were not for the family eating lunch with him (#philosopherproblems). Family mealtime has become crucial to our spiritual life and cultural life as well, since it is at these times we pray together, read Scripture together, or at lunch read fairy tales together.

4. “I do not want stacks”-This means “no clutter.”
We are not always the best at this, especially on select spots on the counter, the dining room table which doubles as the pre-K craft table, but we have become pretty good at having a spot for everything, and eliminating the offending stacks fairly often. We also purge the house a couple of times a year of things we do not need.

5.”Children should be everywhere”–but God is in charge
I had a strong desire for a large family in college, but also realized that when it comes to having children, we only have so much control. Bringing new people into the world/adding to the perfection of the universe is not something to be taken lightly. And I am so thankful I have been blessed with these four amazing human beings. Sometimes I look at them all together and it blows my mind that I bore them all in my womb, gave birth to them, and tended to their basic needs day in and day out. How did I get to four children already?

6. Home cooked meals
I love home cooked meals, and I love cooking home cooked meals. But I also love the ease of ordering out when I need to, or just would like a break. Food is yummy!

7. Close tight-knit family
This is something I had growing up in my own home. So far the kids are all really close, and I figure if we do what we can to promote a close family, it will probably happen.

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum on Seven Quick Takes Friday!

Dust if you Must, Because you Must

In the craziness of last Thursday, and my fatigue of the first trimester, I neglected to link to my newest article for Truth and Charity. I think it fits well with my house cleaning checklist, that Nell linked last week in her quick takes. I suppose the article is a spiritual defense of what motivates my cleaning…


I recently came across this poem:

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear, and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come round again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go – and go you must –
You, yourself, will make more dust.

by Rose Milligan (The Lady, 1998)

While I appreciate the sentiment of realizing there are more important things than housework, and I even realize the futility of it (since things always get dirty again), I also think that there is something wrong about this attitude. I was affirmed in this by a homily at Mass the Sunday after I came across the poem, when Father talked about examining our consciences, and specifically mentioned not being thorough in the housework.

As Christians, we are called to become virtuous, and part of becoming virtuous is becoming moderate. We are to be moderate in our recreation, and moderate in our housework. Both are important to live a fully human life. To prove my point, one only has to look at monasteries of sisters or monks. I doubt that there has ever been an unkempt monastery. The manual labor of tending the garden, sweeping the hallway, straightening one’s cell, preparing meals, cleaning up after meals, scrubbing the floor, is all part of the vocation. It is part of human existence, and it is dull and tedious. However, for the contemplative, it is meant to be a place of prayer. And for us lay people, the tedious housework, when done with the right heart, can also be as fruitful in giving us a full human existence as swimming in rivers and climbing mountains. The tedium of scrubbing a floor and be united with a prayer for someone in need. The twenty minutes it takes me to dust my house, I can spend uniting my heart to God and His presence.

The fact is that by taking care of one’s home, one is following God’s commands. We are called to be good stewards of the Earth and of our possessions. Taking care of the regular maintenance of a home is simply being a good steward. When we first bought our house with its lovely wood floors, I did some research in how to best care for them. I discovered that the best thing for finished wood floors in good condition is to keep them free of dust and grime. The gathering of dust and dirt wears away at the finish. By cleaning my floors regularly, I am being a good steward of my house, for myself, my children, and for whoever owns this house after us.

When we maintain our possessions well, then fewer things are wasted. So, really, by cleaning my floors, I am saving the world’s resources by not needed to refinish them as often or replace them with other new materials. Taking care of our things keeps trash out of landfills.

And by cleaning my floors I am teaching my children to be good stewards of their possessions.
I have read another poem about how “babies do not keep” and heard things that proclaim that my children will not notice if the house is clean or not. But the truth is that they will. If my house is always in disarray, my children will notice and not learn to be good stewards of their own things. And taking time to do chores does not necessarily exclude the possibility of me being with my children. My children do many chores along side me, and when they are older I trust that we will get them done faster and have more time for painting pictures and writing letters. By each having our own duties we are closer to living a life of a family monastery, and hopefully learning to pray in our work.

I am not saying that we should be continually cleaning our homes so that they are spotless, but I am saying that we need to find a balance between being good stewards of our homes, having our leisure time, and having our work time. Doing these things will help us to live more fully human lives. So, dust because you must, and don’t forget to rest on the Sabbath.

Originally published in full at Truth and Charity…


A Saturday With My One Year Old (well… 22 month old)

When my first gave up taking her morning nap, I used to drop my husband off on campus and spend a weekday morning going to three different grocery stores. I saved money that way, plus it was the way to pass a morning as a stay at home mom of a baby. Then I had two children to take to the grocery store, and shopping only happened at one store, sometimes two. When we got to our third child, grocery shopping became an even bigger ordeal, so much so that I switched my grocery shopping to Saturdays and left all three at home. These past two weekends, my husband has had some yard work to do, so he asked me to take “the baby” who happens to be 22 month old now (how old is too old to call the youngest “the baby”?). I was transported back to life with just a one year old, and it was very sweet.

After making my list, last Saturday, I set out with F in her car seat, planning to stop at three stores. I popped Late to Love by Sam Rocha into the CD player and we jammed on our way. (F likes to sing along, “Show mEEEEE!!”)

Our first store (bulk, club shopping) was a breeze. She was cheerful, talkative, and interested in the food, “Cheese! Raisins! Apples!” It was cute and fun. And when she got bored of the food, I let her figure out how to work her buckle. We checked out, and headed out to the car. With her safely strapped into the cart I was able to bag into the trunk without children running around the parking lot, and then I had only one child to put back into the car.

We headed onto the next store. It is a small store, but often has better prices than our club, so I get a lot of our weekly staples there. We were in and out in about 20 minutes, plus once again I had no children to reign in during bagging. At this point she got hungry, so I did something I have never done before. I sat in the back seat eating chips with her. Sometimes string cheese does the trick, but today I went for the chips that I had already splurged on. Food cheers a kid (and a mom) up, and it gave us stamina for the next store. We even had a conversation about dirty hands, yummy chips, and “wawa cups.”

Then to the next store. The thing I like about bringing a cart riding, slightly verbal child to the store with me is that I can mutter quietly about what I need to get without getting funny looks. If I shop alone and say out loud, “We just need pasta and vinegar now,” people wonder, but if I talk to my one year old, no one even notices. At our third store, the did not have the special kind of whole wheat egg noodles that I love for my chicken soup, so we decided to stop at a fourth store. We could not leave, however, until F had requested and received her “dog ticker” from the cashier, who completely understood her request.

In the fourth store, I let F walk into since we only needed one item. She toddled happily up the aisles and look tiny next to the tall shelves. She helped me grab the pasta off the shelf and carried it to the check out. She then insisted on carrying the bag out to the car, one hand clutching the bag the other hand my own hand. We arrived home to her happy sisters and my husband, who were all eating lunch before their afternoon outing. F joined them in eating while I did the chore of unloading the car and putting everything away.

After lunch, we waved goodbye to everyone, and F and I set in on unloading the dishwasher. It threw me back four years to unloading the dishwasher with my eldest. The utensil rack all in a jumble, and a determined and delighted child, happy to be helping Mama. I could not get over how nice it was to spend time with her one on one. She supervises me most days when I am fixing lunch and dinner, but after the hours spent with her all morning I was able to appreciate spending a whole day with her without her sisters.

Naptime was a breeze as all I had to do was put her down and she was asleep for several hours. I got to exercise, work on other things, without the distractions. When she woke up and everyone was still out we set about folding the bed sheets that I had laundered the day before.

She watched me closely and did her best to wad fold up the sheets and lay them in a stack. When the folding was empty, she took delight in the empty laundry basket. First, she pushed her doll around in the basket, and then she insisted that I push her. Climbing into the basket, she stated, “Push me!” So, I did. I pushed her back and forth across the rug, and then spun the basket around and around. F starred at the ceiling watching the room spin and then decided to check this room spinning thing out for herself. “All done!” she told me as she climbed out of the basket, and standing next to it, tried spinning it herself. After a slight turning of the basket, she looked up to see if that ceiling was at it again, spinning, spinning. She tried this again and again, until she gave up.

Then we headed to the kitchen to work on dinner. During our preparations everyone else came home, and our day spent together was over.

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, September 12

1. I have heard from other moms about having a bad week or day this week, and I confess that it has been particularly rough for me here in the Spencer house, especially trying to figure out how to parent an almost four year old. I hope that part of it is just the end of the threes and transitioning into not needing a daily nap. I also know that part of it is my lax parenting with her, and that my parenting must be balanced with my personality. So, I have made some parenting plans, and I hope that by sticking with them, with all the kids, I will stop losing it entirely with them. You know you need to change something when you are confessing being impatient with your kids regularly…

2. Today has been the best day all week, and not just because it is Friday. I know that my success in not losing it will not be so easy every day, but I plan to persevere even on the hard days. We did our morning hourish of reading, catechism, math (sandpaper number tracing), and then for writing practice the girls made birthday cards for two different “C”‘s who have birthdays a week apart and are also 20 years apart in age. G (5) and L (3) worked on the cards for two hours, and F (22 months) and I worked on the weekly sheet and towel laundry along with the biannual-seasonal-clothing-dresser-swap.

3. The biannual-seasonal-clothing-dresser-swap is biannual, because it seems we only have two seasons in Minnesota: Winter and Summer. (We even have the furnace on today to keep the house from dipping to jacket weather.) For those of you not familiar with this, it means that I changed out all the summer clothes for winter clothes and checked the sizes of clothes to see what fits whom. Anyway, I used to think the whole changing sizes and seasons thing was a chore with just G, and now it takes a whole morning with three! I imagine that one day the older girls will be able to do more of it themselves. We also had a basketful of clothes handed down to us from a friend I had to sift through. As it is we have way to many pants and tops for the girls for the cold weather, and not nearly enough dresses and skirts. I did the skirt thing with leggings for them last winter, but they had holes in the knees by mid-February and that is not going to cut it. So, we are going the more practical pants route. Is it weird to put skirts over colored skinny jeans? Because I might just encourage that. They are so much cuter in skirts!

The hungry hawk is in possession of this squirrel’s sibling on the other side of the Ash.

4. Wednesday I noticed four baby squirrels coming out of a nest in our backyard Ash tree. They were squeaking and climbing up and down the tree, and were pretty cute to watch. M even stopped work for a minute to admire them.

The Circle of Life moves us all.

Then yesterday I glanced out the nursery window, and saw a young hawk with a baby squirrel pinned under its feet. I mentioned it to G and L and they started shrieking and sobbing, “No! No! Chase it away! Don’t let it kill the squirrel!” Knowing that M would want to see the event, I called him up from the study to calm down and explain to the girls about how hawks have to eat as well. All animals have a purpose, and hawks is to eat baby squirrels. The girls stopped screaming, but were not convinced of the goodness of the hawk. At least it was free-range “happy” squirrel veal, right?

5. I was nominated for the 10 book challenge, under the rule that I list 10 that have stayed with me. It is not meant to be a list of the *best* books I have ever read, but ones that have impacted me the most (off the top of my head):

  1. The Complete Works of Jane Austen (I cannot pick one.)
  2. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (Still the best spiritual book for lay people that I have ever read.
  3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (duh…)
  4. The Rule of St. Benedict (When M and I read it in college, we knew that we wanted it to influence our family life.)
  5. Kirsten Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (I love they way she presents motherhood and womanhood. And her insight into humanity is incredible!)
  6. After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre (Virtue Ethics are the best kind.)
  7. The Conservative Mind by Russel Kirk (An understanding of conservatism that I agree with.)
  8. The Complete Works of Laura Ingalls Wilder (They are even better as an adult.)
  9. The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II by Fr. Ralph M. Wiltgen S.V.D. (This transformed my understanding of the modern Church, especially growing up post-V II.)
  10. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (I will never forgive Hardy for being so cruel to his characters, and I am scarred for life…)
The pattern is called “Ozborne Slub.” I am so glad the seam looks straight in the photo…

6. I never shared my curtains that I sewed back in July (though they have photobombed a bit).  They cover all the kitchen windows including our long ones and the back door. I managed so easily because it was a stiff cotton broadcloth. I had been putting sewing them off for a year, and now that they are finally up, I am pretty happy with them, and they add a lot to the kitchen. 🙂

7. I leave you with our blue hubbard watch:

Has it grown since last week? I can’t tell…

Linking up again with Jen at Conversion Diary.


Five Favorites: Small Appliance and Furniture Edition

I am going to try another link up this week, largely because I have been recommending things to people and want to give them the information. Five Favorites, normally hosted by Heather at Mama knows, Honeychild (fun fact: Heather and I once ran a mud run together with some other awesome ladies back when I lived in Buffalo!) is being hosted by Mary at Atelier who is way more stylish than I could ever be.

Here are some of my favorite house hold items:

 Prince Lionheart Warmies Wipes Warmer

1. Prince Lionheart Warmies Wipe Warmer:  This was my third baby splurge. After having two in cloth, and now that we had a job instead of a fellowship, I splurged on having warm, wet wipes right on the changing table. It was and still is soooo worth it.

2. Shark Navigator Vacuum and its Hard Floor attachment: After using a Dirt Devil $40 stick vacuum that we had to buy $10 filters for every three months for five years, I finally bough myself a real vacuum. It is amazing, and best of all is the hard floor attachment. This means I can vacuum my hard floors and wipe them with a microfiber pad at the same time. Plus, it is super easy to vacuum under beds and couches with the hard floor attachment. This vacuum is my cleaning hero.

3. Ikea Wingback Chair: My dear professor made one furniture request and it was a wingback chair. I hunted for hours to find our wingback chairs last spring. Then, just in time, Ikea started carrying one in our price range. All of my blog posts are written from one of these chairs, and I read almost every evening seated in mine. The only assembly required was the screwing on of the legs.

 4. Cuisineart Food Processor: I have been wishing for a food processor for years, but knew that the best ones are the most expensive ones. M even wanted to by me one back in grad school, but I refused knowing the price tag. This year, I saved my Christmas and birthday money and asked M to combine it all to get the best reviewed food processor under $200. This is what he got me, and I love it. It makes pesto in minutes and does all sorts of other chopping things.

5. Mr. Coffee Automatic Burr Mill Grinder: While M and I have drunk lots of coffee our whole marriage, we did not splurge on whole bean coffee until we moved to St. Paul. Then M discovered the burr grinder which grinds the beans more evenly and releases less oil. So, we went for the burr grinder as well. We set the number of cups we want to make on the dial as well as the consistency of the grind, press a button, and dump it into the filter. No more measuring out coffee! The Mr. Coffee’s only drawback is that it grinds into a plastic cup, which the grounds tend to stick to.

That’s five!

Embrace the Ordinary: House Cleaning Checklist

A friend recently asked me about how I keep things organized over here at the Spencer home, and I will tell the truth my organization has been developing over the past six years. When my eldest sister, who has always been older and wiser and better than everything than me, asked me for my cleaning secrets, I realized that maybe I have a gift for organized and planned cleaning. Maybe, just maybe, my 15 months as an administrative assistant and year of janitor student work combined to make me the ideal house keeper. Maybe I am going a bit to far with this…

I am a little bit surprised that people are asking me these things, especially when my perfectionist tendencies tell me that I am never cleaning well enough. I guess I can get a little obsessive at times with cleaning, and I have only dusted my ceilings once in the past 16 months, so I am definitely not at the Monk level of cleaning. But I do strive to have my house as clean as one of my good friends in Buffalo. My friend N had a spotless house even after having twins for her fifth and sixth child. I have yet to see her new, larger house, but I can guarantee you that it is clean. She inspired me to vacuum more than once a month, but I realized that the only way I could keep my house clean and do everything else I need to do to be a good mom of little ones was to make physical a list.

My list and checklist began during my nesting before the birth of my third child. I realized that my recovery from having baby was harder when the house slowly became dirtier and dirtier. If I made a checklist than when my parents, mother-in-law, and husband wanted to help me out, they would know exactly what needed to be done that week. It worked great!

The only problem was that I never got around to printing them off every month after the first couple of months. So this week I implemented a new plan:

To the left is the cleaning list. To the right is my semester schedule.
I need to add “wipe fingerprints off the refrigerator” to the list.

I printed off my checklist, stuck it in one of these handy self-sealing laminating pouches, stuck some magnets on the corners, and voila! I have a dry erase cleaning check list on my refrigerator and impossible to ignore! I have it divided into daily, weekly, monthly, and do-as-needed lists. I would say the weekly cleaning takes about 4 hours total a week. The daily keeping up I do not time. And my husband does a fair share of the cleaning himself (laundry, bathrooms, trash, and dishes–what a great guy!). Basically when I have a free half an hour to clean I look at my list, pick something on it, and do it! I manage to get most weekly things done, and sometimes all the monthly things. And really the only person who notices it me.

The list is not exhaustible; I could probably add a lot more things to it, but if you follow my basic rules for keeping a house orderly you might not need them:

1) Clean it before it looks dirty.
2) Get rid of it before you have too much stuff.

I am sharing my digital files of my cleaning list as well as my cleaning checklist so that you can borrow and adapt it according to your needs.

I hope this is helpful for somebody and was not just an amusing exercise for myself.
I am linking up with Gina at Someday (Hopefully) They’ll Be Saints and her link up Embrace the Ordinary.

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, August 28

1. I am trying not to lament the end of summer vacation for M. It has gone by too quickly with a 17 day trip to Georgia, Ohio, and Michigan, a 5 day visit from my sister and her family, and our 9 day trip to St. Louis, plus everything in between. It has been absolutely lovely here in Minnesota, which is more that I can say for our winter weather. Our garden is still producing well, and we are taking in the last week and getting ready for a more scheduled school year.

2. August flew by without a trip to any fairs, and while I know the kids will miss seeing the animals, it did not fit into our schedule or our budget. We did however make a visit at the end of July to the farm in Wisconsin to visit our cousins, aunt, and uncle and see their animals. Hopefully the girls won’t be too sad when they notice we missed out on the State Fair this year. While it is a big deal in Minnesota, we have only been Minnesotans for two years so maybe we can be okay missing it.

3. Two years in Minnesota! I can’t really believe it. Time has flown by since we got here. The kids are so much bigger than they were when we moved here. We own a house. We have survived two winters. M is thriving at and loving his work. And we have found an awesome community of Catholic families to be a part of. We are really starting to feel at home here.

4. This video was going around Facebook this week about how this winter is going to be worse this year, especially compared to last Winter. But this guy, Joe Bastardi, specifically said “it may not be as bad further North and West, as in Chicago, Minneapolis…” Maybe we are getting a break this year in Minnesota. However, I am not going to count on it, and am mentally preparing for at least 100 consecutive days of sub zero morning temperatures…

5. We are getting monster cucumbers out of our garden. These things are like miniature watermelons.  Here is one L picked today with a pen and with my lame phone.

 The girls keep on picking them and bringing them it. But seriously, they are bigger than G’s arms!

6. And speaking of lame phones. I am trying really hard to not feel embarrassed everytime I pull my phone out in public. Last week at the baseball game everyone was using their phones to check the weather and take selfies and I was like, it would be fun to get a picture… but my phone there it is… tiny. It does have a fun keyboard that slides out underneath. But really it is much better for my soul and for my children than I have not upgraded to a smart phone. I waste a lot of time online as it is…

7. I was thinking of writing a post about how I organize my life and schedule and then I saw my desktop.

Who left all those files on my children?
I need serious help here, guys. Or I  need to spend about five minutes getting everything into folders or the trash. My first tip is to clean before things get messy… then things will not look like this.

That’s seven!

I am linking up with Jen and her Conversion Diary. Head on over for more quick takes!


Seven Quick Takes: Saturday, July 25, 2014

 1. I have two medical things to discuss this week. The first has to do with my dad. You may remember about his emergency surgery back in January to repair his aortic dissection. Well, the surgery was a success and he is alive and getting better day by day. We learned yesterday after a CT scan that his aorta did not heal as well as the doctors would have liked, and they recommend that he not run at all ever again. This is a blow for him, especially since he has been looking forward to running again since his surgery. They do not think that naturally any further healing of the aorta will occur. His aorta is as healed as it is going to be, except by miraculous divine intervention. So, I again ask for prayers for Dad, that he be healed completely from his dissection and that he is able to be happy with his limited aortic ability should his complete healing never occur. We are so thankful to have him with us still, even if I am never able to run with him again. Thank you for your prayers. 
I can’t decide which shoe I like better…
2. In other medical news, I broke my little toe on the right this week. It is pretty lame to have a broken toe. This means no more running for me for 4-6 weeks and I have to wear a funny shoe and have a purplish toe. It happened when I was walking through a doorway and accidentally kicked the edge of the wall. It was like: step, kick, hop, hop, hop on the other foot, OW!!!!, tuck L back into bed, hobble back out to the couch, send G down to get M to get me ice, feeling nauseated, ow that still really hurts, maybe I should see the doctor for an xray, calling my awesome physical therapist sister to get her advice, calling the doctor, calling a friend for a ride so I don’t strain the possible break, seeing the doctor, getting the xray, maybe not broken, getting call from doctor… and yes, it was most definitely broken. A teeny tiny hairline fracture which disables me for a month. But there are lots of things to offer it up for these days, so the Catholic in me had no problem there…

3. We have a new little rabbit living under the shed. The girls have named him “Peter Rabbit.” He is pretty cute and looks cuddly. In my surplus of lettuce this week I donated some of the wilted, bug eaten lettuce it to the rabbits. Both rabbits chowed down on that stuff. It had a soporific effect on the rabbits (a la The Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter), and they went and took a nap.

Cottontail and Peter. Cute bunnies until they find a way into our garden. For now, we can watch the life of bunnies while we eat breakfast.

4. I organized the pantry today. Having this broken toe is limiting in some ways, but not enough to prevent me from reorganizing the pantry. It looks so nice and tidy, for now. I even threw a few stale things out. It was quite freeing. Now I must organize something else….

The bumper and crib sheet we have had forever. They kind of match the decor… and that wall is looking really bare…

5. I have been wanting to get a rug for F’s room since we moved into the house. It is the only bedroom I did not paint, which was fine since all the bedrooms had been repainted before the house went on the market. But it was stuck with these cream colored walls which matched perfectly to my rocking chair, making a very creamy, woody room when you had the crib, chair, and changing table all together. Slowly I changed things. I got some curtains of a pretty teal. F got a handmade quilt from her great grandmother which I threw over the rocking chair. Then I found the toy bins on clearance, which replaced the diaper boxes. And after looking out for the right rug for over a year, I found it. It was $18 (a back to school sale), and has all the right colors. Even F likes it. I am pretty happy with it. The only last thoughts I have for the room is maybe something more for the walls, and curtain ties instead of clothes pins…

That little door looks like it might lead to a secret passage for babies. It is actually a door to plumbing.

6. This bowl of fruit makes me really happy. 

We have kept our Easter candle out without the lilies since Pentecost and it looked so bare and plain. So, today I was inspired by fruit. The only problem is that by the end of the week, it will be an empty bowl…

7. M and I have decided to repaint the outside of the house. It is a stucco house, which normally does not need painting, but someone in the past painted it. This means we have to maintain the paint. Plus, the windows need re-caulking. So, we are doing it all on a whim we had last week. We do not normally do things like this so spontaneously, but it just made sense to do it now, especially since we have no little babies this summer. It is not like I can do much to help anyway (my toe), but at least I will be able to managed the kids easier without a tiny nursling. And while that kind of sounds like I might be pregnant, I am not. It just means, we would like to have a tiny new baby by next summer, but it is not happening yet.

That’s all folks! I am linking up with Carolyn, the guest host of Quick Takes, this week.


Birthdays and Jam for St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo.

Happy Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist!  The best thing about having a birthday today is that I get to share it with St. John the Baptist, and psalm at Mass is this:

Psalms 139

O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me!

Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar.

Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!

 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

 even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,”

even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.

For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well;

 my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

If I would count them, they are more than the sand. When I awake, I am still with thee.

O that thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God, and that men of blood would depart from me,

men who maliciously defy thee, who lift themselves up against thee for evil!

Do I not hate them that hate thee, O LORD? And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee?

I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

 It is some seriously beautiful stuff to meditate on on one’s birthday. Because we share a birthday, I have always had a fondness for St. John the Baptist and have thought of him as a patron.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

For my birthday today, I asked M if he would take the morning off to can some strawberry jam. We went out to a u-pick berry farm after early Mass on Sunday and picked 28 1/4 pounds of strawberries in about 30 minutes. We did it just in time! As we finished filling our boxes, rain started, and by the time we got back to the car it was a torrential downpour.

L and I did the 12 1/4 lbs. M and G did the 16. Apparently, 5 year olds are better at picking than 3 year olds.

We crushed 14 quarts of whole strawberries and froze them on Sunday. On Monday we cut up, sugared, and froze 4 more quarts.

All the red bags are full of strawberries. Some of them have two quarts worth of crushed berries.
10 pint jars and 2 half pint jars.

Today we turned 6 of those quarts into 11.5 pints of jam. This sounds like a math problem. We only canned 11 pints of it, and the other half pint got put in the refrigerator for immediate eating. How many quarts are still in the freezer? How much jam did we make, but not can? How many sandwiches can you make with the canned jam if you use 1 tablespoon of jam on each sandwich? How much jam can we make with the crushed strawberries left in the freezer? And I am done…If you give me all the right answers before midnight tonight, you can come over and get a half pint of jam or join us for some PB&J sometime.

I decided to not have anyone bake me a cake since the one I wanted would probably take the whole day to make. Instead we bought it from a bakery, and are going to eat it after we go out for some Lebanese food for dinner:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup:Our peanut graham cracker crust layered with dark chocolate French Silk and chunky peanut butter cup silk. Topped with whipped cream, peanut butter cups and roasted peanuts all drizzled with chocolate ganache and caramel.”

The description is making me drool… and I am going to go and do my birthday run now so I can eat more pie…

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, February 14

1. Happy St. Valentine’s Day! I once had a miserable St. Valentine’s day. It was about nine years ago and the man I really, really, really liked, like had a huge crush on, was supposed to be a priest. He clearly liked me, too. Well I thought he did, but it was really annoying because we were both continually acting like we liked each other, but he was in the pre-theologate (pre-seminary) program. So I talked with some newly dating friends, and they advised me to get everything out in the open and then tell him that we need to put distance in our friendship. We happened to discuss this while going for a walk in the rain on Valentine’s Day. He eventually left the program, we dated, we broke up, he discerned some more, and then got back together again nine months after our first time dating. At any rate, we are married now and he is spending Valentine’s Day at a department meeting… And tomorrow he is planning on watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with some seminarians. I guess I still have to share him with the Church sometimes?

2. Today the girls and I went to our home school gym co-op and did a card exchange with the other kids. I got my act together about three weeks ago and planned ahead for once, and we did a craft!

G’s handiwork.
L’s inspiration with lots of mom help (I squeezed the tube, she moved the hand).

Each girl completed 20 after eight half an hour spurts on eight different days. I cut the hearts and the cards, and the girls each signed their names on the back of the cards, glued the hearts, and then decorated them. (L traced letters I wrote for her). I really should post on my blog everytime we do a craft and then you can all see how big of an accomplishment this craft was… Oh, and attached to each card is a packet of artificial dye free fruit snacks that I found at Aldi! The fruit snacks are even free of the evil HFC, just corn syrup and sugar… that might be evil also. Does anyone know?

3. We almost did not make it to co-op, due to an annoying stomach bug we had at the beginning of the week. Thankfully we were all recovered, and the entire house was sterilized before today. I even cleaned the light switches. Maybe stomach bugs are natures way of reminding us to clean light switches…

4. I mentioned the other day that the hardest part of my days is keeping the 15 month old out of the preschool work of her big sisters. I think maybe I was wrong. I am pretty sure the hardest part of the day is the reading lesson with G. Some days she loves it and we do it easily, but other days she gets frustrated and just does not want to do what I ask. Then I try not to get annoyed. And we are not very happy about it together. Then this week I read this post from Kelly, a home schooling mom. I have been keeping in the back of my head all along to not force G into her reading lessons or push her too hard, and I am wondering if we have hit a point where she is not ready to move forward yet. We maybe need to step back or just do the lessons when she is up for it. I guess I will tread more carefully in how I approach her reading.

5. I took this quiz and got this:

I have never even been to Wyoming. The thing is that on most of the questions I answered the only thing that I had actually heard of, so yeah… But maybe I should’ve encouraged M more when he wanted to try to get a job at Wyoming Catholic College…

6. Look at these highs we have next week!! (Look at the lows!) Some other co-op moms and I were discussing how we need to make sure we really plan something for outside on those 30s and sunny days. Knowing me, we will stay inside all day and then it will be 4pm and I will send the kids outside as the temperature is dropping. Maybe the Como Zoo? Woohoo!

7. Lastly, don’t forget to enter my first GIVEAWAY! I reviewed a short chapter book for kids by my cousin-in-law’s sister-in-law about a girl in a Catholic family. Click here to read the review and enter the giveaway! It ends next week. 🙂

And many thanks to Jen for link up, Seven Quick Takes! Sorry I can’t make your Edel Gathering. 🙁