About Me, Catholic Spirituality, motherhood, sin

Surprised by Sloth

November 24, 2015

I so wanted to paste some kind of giant sloth gif here but…I won’t. First of all, because I lack the basic comprehension of technology to do so. And do I need a second reason?

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting via voice text (if you don’t know what Voxer is, you should check it out. I’m not big on many apps, but this one is a life-saver for moms and far-flung friendships) and we were trading insights and general nuggets of a spiritual nature and I realized for the first time, I think in the context of this conversation, that my “root sin” or primary struggle, if you will, is with the sin of sloth.

Now, if you’re anything like I was, you probably don’t even know exactly what sloth means. Or perhaps it conjures a vague notion of Homer Simpson and a car full of empty cans of Mountain Dew and Pringles. Something like that.

That was my subconscious understanding of sloth until fairly recently, at any rate. I wish for the life of me that I could tell you where it was I first became acquainted with the more nuanced explanation of the sin, but I’ll just go ahead and blame it on either St. Josemaria Escriva or one of the daily meditations in the Magnificat.

But the sloth that has it’s claws sunk deep in me has less to do with Pringles and more to do with a softness of the will. A weakness of the spirit, if you will. The desire to always indulge just a little more. The utter resistance to any kind of a schedule because I’m a free spirit and I don’t need to be boxed in by “rules” and “timelines,” man.

So just 10 more minutes on Facebook. Just another half hour before I turn off the lights at night. One more slice of pizza. One more glass of wine. 5 more minutes of ignoring the escalating conflict in the sandbox because I don’t feel like putting my phone down and getting off the couch. Drive through lunch because I didn’t plan a menu.

And maybe weirdest of all? Cleaning RIGHT NOW because I feel like it. No matter what. Vacuuming like a mad woman when I should be reading to somebody or praying a rosary.

That’s sloth.

Weird, right?

It’s not glamorous, in terms of deadly sins, but boy does it have its claws sunk deep in me. Maybe it’s just my obsessively analytical Meyer’s Briggs type (INTJ – to rule them all) or maybe it’s real, but I feel like I’ve been seeing so many of my flaws and habitual sins in light of the s-word since connecting the dots. (And I always figured I was just “spontaneous” and that’s why I hated meal planning and schedules.)

Imagine my surprise then when a whole chorus of “me too’s!” went up from around the table at a mom’s group I’m part of. Could it be? Could sloth be the “it” sin for 21st century moms?

I mean, I guess it kinda makes sense. Because technology. Convenience foods. Mini vans. Instant entertainment and distraction in the palm of my hand. There are a million different ways I can ignore my primary duties and cruise along on semi-numb auto pilot, because my little corner of the world is so safe, there are almost no consequences should I decide to do so.

My kids will not go hungry if I don’t cook dinner. They’ll just eat frozen waffles. My family will not go naked if I don’t do laundry. They’ll just wear different clothes. Nobody will get eaten by a wild animal or hit by a car if I zone out on social media or internet tv all afternoon. Our yard is fenced and our corner of suburbia tame and safe.

So you see, the only real immediate victim of the deadly sin of sloth is…me. 

I’m trying to check myself when I hit that proverbial wall each afternoon and just.can’t. for a moment longer.

“Did I neglect my prayer time? Is this happening because I didn’t plan well? Was it the 25 minutes I wasted on Instagram this morning that lit the fire for this tantrum of neglect to explode hours later?”

And if the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then I’ve got some work to do.

(If the answer is “no,” however, then I’m just a woman with 3 preschoolers and a newborn, so please hand me a glass of wine.

This Advent I’m going to really examine this habitual sin of mine, looking for those areas (Peppermint Joe Joes. Cough, cough) where I’m prone to overindulge in the name of “I earned this,” and stop to make sure I’m not slothing where I could be, you know, practicing virtue.

Oh, and I’m allllllmost 100% certain my kids are paving for me a unique and customized path to temperate, industrious sanctity because there are 101 ways I can self deny in a given day before breakfast.

I just need to, you know, act on them instead of running in the opposite direction.

“For those of us who tend to be lazy “under-achievers,” a schedule will keep us on task to make sure we meet our obligations. For those of us who tend toward workaholism and to be driven by the tyranny of the urgent, a schedule will make sure that we make time for prayer, reading to the kids, or other priorities that might get shoved aside if we’re not vigilant.” 

– Leon Suprenant, The Sin of Sloth


okay fine, one sloth. And a nursing sloth at that.



Catholic Spirituality, Evangelization, Family Life, motherhood, Parenting

Praying with children

November 18, 2015

I almost called this “why I have to keep going back to Confession” or maybe “getting the hell out of the house” but…I didn’t.

I’ve only recently (like a couple months-ish) settled on a good prayer routine for myself, so it seemed about time to get the small people humming along the path to sanctity, too. Plus, I have really less-than-fond memories of forced car rosaries (sorry mom!!!) and I’m hoping to not repeat the trauma for my own kids, though that’s probably (much!) less to do what my parents did and more my own natural penchant for sloth and resistance to authority soooooooo, the best laid plans and all that.


I have to do something. And with a 5-year old in the house I’m becoming increasingly aware that I’m on borrowed time here in terms of character formation, will-shaping, etc. so…to work.

Even now. Even at 13 weeks postpartum with a chaotic house full of needs and not quite enough sleep.

I still have to do something for their spiritual lives, lest they waste away on Leap Frog videos and admonitions to not!hit!the!baby! (mostly directed at the fierce not-quite-two-year-old) and general platitudes of the WWJD variety.

Those are all well and good and essential (even Leap Frog, at this juncture) but I want to do a bit more to infuse some grace into our endless days at home, so we’ve begun an almost idiot-proof practice of “Mommy reads her Magnificat and drinks coffee and don’t talk to me for 9 minutes” followed by a single decade of the rosary, beginning with the first mystery for whatever day of the week we’re on. Oh, and we light candles. They make sure to fight about who gets to light them and blow them out.

That’s literally it.

Is your mind blown because it’s so creative and impactful?

Nope, didn’t think so.

But, I realized that waiting until Catechesis of the Good Shepherd showed up at a parish near me (please, soon!) or looking down the road to the nuanced philosophical discussions we’ll be having aroud the dinner table wasn’t addressing the here and now. (Plus, the rosary is the ultimate marian devotion. And Mama Mary seriously has our backs as moms, she just gets it. And I need all the help I can get.)

I also have an alarm set on my phone to go off at noon every day. It’s the sound of ringing church bells, and when the kids hear it they yell “Angelus alarm!” and we say the Angelus really quick, either in the car or, if we’re home, facing our sweet little Mary statue in the kitchen window. I’d say it gets done 80% of the time, and about 50% of the time it’s me by myself, but it’s something. And it’s manageable for me now, in this season.

My deepest desire for my children is a personal, meaningful relationship with Jesus, and that they find their home in the heart of His Church.

Beyond that? I really don’t care. Be a garbage collector, be a librarian, be an attorney or a brewmaster stay-at-home dad. The primary goal for me, as a parent, is to point them towards heaven with a good, firm, push.

I want them to grow up knowing without a doubt that this Faith is their home, and that Catholics know how to blend the mysterious supernatural with the mundane day-to-day better than anyone else.

And also? That we throw the.best.parties.

Feast days, holy days, holidays…I want their little minds crammed full of St. Nicholas shoes with chocolate coins, Advent wreaths glowing at the dinner table, and St. Patrick day keggers with friends and beer and shamrock cookies and…you get the idea.

Kids have a better – sharper maybe? – sense than most adults for the transcendent and the majestic. They get, on a deeper and more instinctive level, what matters. And when it comes to God, I think they are intrinsically more open to Him, nearer to His presence just by nature of their innocence and capacity for wonder.

So the number one thing I need to be concerned about, as their mother, is facilitating that capacity for wonder and protecting their innocence.

My hope and prayer is that they grow up remembering this simple rhythm to our daily life, that we sat around the table (or in the car en route to school) and prayed that first decade together, with the expectation that we’d maybe? hopefully? finish it on our own, or perhaps in a few months when life calms down, pray the final decade together before bed, hemming in our day with the graces He longs to pour out through His mother’s Immaculate hands.

I hope they remember mommy being super weird about not playing (too much) Christmas music during Advent, but letting it rip the week of Christmas and turning on 2,000 twinkle lights and partying so hard that we actually need 12 full days to consume all the sugar and finish all the wine and recover.

I hope they feel the presence of God in their ordinary, extraordinary little lives, whatever He calls them to. And I pray that the language they learn to use to identify that call is spoken here first, and please God, may they one day be fluent.

Some resources:

We love the CCC saints DVDs, and I play them ad nauseum in the car. (Bonus? They’re 50% off right now using the code CHRISTMAS50 at checkout.)

I also like to give them kids plenty of pretty images and toys to play with, so the Fisher Price Nativity set is in heavy rotation, along with our new Shining Light Saint dolls.IMG_8706

And in our little library I have stocked (almost) every single book that Ignatius has ever published in their Magnificat series.

christmas book

My particular favorite of their authors is Maite Roche, whose illustrations are breathtaking. Ignatius was kind enough to send along 2 of their newest titles which, subsequently, Luke is getting them for Christmas. (And basically nothing else, because he’ll never know, muahaha.)

praying with children

About Me, Contraception, Evangelization, Family Life, motherhood, NFP, Parenting, Pro Life

If the worst thing that happens to my kids

November 13, 2015

… is that they have to work harder and share more than the average middle class child of the 21st century, then I’m okay with that.

I’m more than okay, in fact.

A couple days ago I wrote about the curious phenomena of parenting and motherhood, in particular, getting a little less intense as the number of children increases. Maybe that’s not exactly the right turn of phrase. It’s still incredibly intense, but I no longer feel like I’m drowning in plain sight. More like in hidden sight. Kidding. Mostly.

But truly, for our family, four has been easier than two, and three was definitely easier than one. It doesn’t make sense from a (human) logical perspective, it’s true, but nonetheless it has been my experience. And it seems to be the case for many of us:

“Motherhood at any level is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. It takes everything you have, whether you’re mothering one child or (I suspect), seven.”{new post}

Posted by Mama Needs Coffee

An interesting side discussion sprang up in the midst of the conversation though, and it’s one that at first had me laughing but then had me thinking more deeply about the reader’s concerns, but also about what exactly we’re trying to do with these kids of ours. Or, more to the point, what their telos, their intended end, is.

The question was raised that wasn’t it a little unfair for my older kids who were clearly being burdened with helping the younger ones, and wasn’t that why my life was so much easier now with four little people on deck? I basically cackled when I read that because honestly? My eldest was still yelling for me to wipe up until this latest baby was born and, at 9 months pregnant last summer, I was still lumbering to the bathroom to do it.

Because hashtag idiot, hashtag inexperienced mother. So no, not terribly helpful … yet.

He has, in all fairness, stepped up considerably since Luke was born, and he’s now dressing himself, brushing his own teeth, putting away his own laundry, and setting and clearing the table. Sometimes he empties all the trash cans in the house into the main trash, and that’s awesome. Last week I bought him a little snow shovel and he likes “clearing” the driveway. Which is about as effective as one might imagine, if one were to imagine using a teaspoon to scoop a banana split.

So he’s learning to be helpful, for sure. And he has definitely fetched more than a few diapers in his day, as have his two younger mobile siblings. But I would not say we’re operating with a crack team of teen girls conscripted to hold babies and change diapers and cut up fruit for snack time. And I think that’s what my reader was alluding to.

It sounds dreamy.

Or maybe it sounds dreary, for the teens in question.

But I’ve thought good and hard about it for the past couple days, and I’ve spent some time observing the teens in my life and thinking back on my own adolescence, and I’ve come to the conclusion that if a child’s greatest complaint upon arriving at adulthood is that they were too put upon with the care of their own siblings, well…I think that’s a pretty decent outcome.

Let me explain.

First, I don’t think anyone would argue that we’re facing an epidemic of adolescent altruism in this society. Far from it. Now there are good – really good – young people in my community. Their parents have done an incredible job with them, and they’re just good people, period. But I’d venture to say that they’re the exception.

I think it’s really, really difficult to raise unselfish, confidant young men and women in this culture of ours. Because it goes against literally everything they’re programmed to believe, almost from birth: you are special, you are uniquely gifted, you deserve the best, and we are going to make sure your life is really fun, because fun is the greatest good.

Show me one example of media or current pop culture that doesn’t cater to those messages and I’ll recant. But I can’t think of a single one myself.

So when I meet teens and young adults who are kind, unselfish, confidant, and hard working in spite of having been raised in middle class America…I know it’s in spite of the culture, not because of it.

And you know what’s a really, really effective inoculation against entitlement, selfishness, and terminal naval gazing?

Family. Family in general, and siblings in particular.

It’s awfully hard to imagine you’re the most special snowflake in the blizzard when you’ve got 4 people who look a whole lot like you vying for resources and sharing closest space and a schedule with.

And in the school of life, the family is the primary curriculum for how to be human. It’s where we learn to love, to be loved, and, quite honestly, to suffer.

Not for suffering’s sake, but because to dwell on this planet is to experience suffering, and to persist in joy in spite of it.

And it’s also where we learn to wipe down the bathroom sink, start the dryer, and empty the dishwasher.

Having grown up with 6 siblings and 1.5 bathrooms between us, I can personally attest to having learned that lesson firsthand.

And what a small suffering it was. What a gentle primer on delayed gratification, on frustration, on the cost of selfishness (no hot water for #’s 4,5, and 6…you monster), on the reality that this life is not all about me.

Because this life? It’s not all about me.

There is a fine line that parents must walk when it comes to instructing in selflessness and industriousness and generosity and relying overly much on/taking advantage of their older kids, in particular. But if the worst thing that happens to a teen is that they’re missing out on some Friday night football games and Saturday night keggers because they’re being roped into babysitting?

That’s a big “W” in my play book.

Believe me, I lived that life. And even though I’m the eldest of seven kids, I was mostly a selfish, bratty monster for years 12 through twenty…something. When my mom announced her pregnancy with my youngest brother Patrick, I burst into tears and screamed (I am not proud of this) “How could you do this to me???!!” in the driveway, so yeah, not dramatic at all. And no, family size is not an inoculation against teenage drama. But. But. 

I grew up. We all did. Only one of us remains at home, and it’s only for another year or so. The rest of us have all launched, a few have married and now with children of our own, we’re once again sharing space. But here’s what it looks like on the other side:

All those Friday nights (and truthfully? It wasn’t all that many) that I spent babysitting? Those same exact small people are now baby-sitting my kids on the weekends so Dave and I can grab a date night. They’re dropping by to read a story or take someone to the park for an hour of catch. They’re offering to pull the sled and shoot nerf guns when we bring the crew together for family events.

It’s full circle.

And my children, despite everything that I do wrong in raising them, will at the very least carry a kind of natural immunity to selfishness by their sheer closeness and volume. And I pray that when they’re grown they’ll look at each other the way my siblings and I do, and they’ll thank God that their crazy parents said yes. And while I don’t think “WhatsApp” will be a thing by then, I hope they’re all on a group hologram text of some kind, and that they talk every day and are each other’s best friends and greatest champions.

That’s not the worst thing that could happen.

(P.s. my two eldest cherubs emptied an entire bag of craft feathers that!I!bought!myself!why! and 150 pipe cleaners onto the family room rug while I tapped this out and a few are wispily stuck to the baby’s bald head and now they’re both “cleaning” up their mess and writhing on the floor like despairing, spawning salmon by turns. Just, you know, in the spirit of full disclosure.)


About Me

I was going to write something deep and meaningful

November 12, 2015

But my three year old is losing his s every 5 minutes and the fantastic post I had planned is going to die alone, in my head, because we’re baking chocolate friggin chip cookies and I am going to eat at least 5 of them myself. AT LEAST 5.

Happy Thursday.


About Me, Family Life, motherhood, Parenting

When 4 is less than 2 (Or the more kids I have, the easier it gets)

November 11, 2015

First off, thank you guys for the enthusiastic response to yesterday’s announcement. I have lots of fun ideas for content thanks to you fine people, and I’m excited to start laying down tracks. In fact! I just recorded the first half of episode 1 earlier today. And by recorded I mean pushed “record” and talked into a flat-lining screen for 10 minutes, thinking all the while I had an exceptionally well-modulated voice. Like, I actually had that thought. (Punchline: it wasn’t recording.)

So, ah, as soon as we get the minor technical details like actually recording my voice under control, I’m sure it’s gonna be a real top seller.

Judging by the sound of Legos hitting the ground and the baby’s intermittent-but-not-yet-frantic vocalizations, I’d wager I have a minute or 10 to tap something out. And since I’ve long since mastered the art of hitting “save,” today’s content will still be the visual variety. Technical prowess be mine.

The first thought I had when deciding to launch a podcast was “that’s pretty stupid. You have 4 kids.” The next thought was “eh, why the hell not?” It’s not like I’m writing War and Peace in all my downtime throughout the day. I’m generally either nursing, sweeping under the table for the 7th time, or trolling Facebook for “just a quick check in” (45 minutes later…)

In fact, a not-insignificant motivating factor is the very real fear of God in me that knows I will have to account for time spent on social media in my final judgement.


But honestly? I do have a lot of free time. Not like, leisurely time, but time to do what I want – or need – to do, almost every day. I can choose when to clean the bathrooms ( I mostly choose never), I can choose when to start cooking dinner, I can choose when to take a shower (again, neve….ah, not too frequently), I can choose when to go grocery shopping.

So what’s the secret? Lots of babysitting, maybe? Or a really well-run ship of a household that has my little snowflakes scheduled and polished to a shine by 8 am every morning, sitting in a tidy row doing their Latin grammar?


Here’s the secret: 4 kids is the easiest number I’ve had so far. And it’s not because there’s less work.

There’s a literal crapload of diapers to change every day, I’m constantly picking single grains of rice out of the carpet, and I have been stopped 12.4 times during the compilation of this single uninspiring sentence to make 2 paper airplanes, answer a question about penguins, and remove yet another sticky hand from my shirtsleeve and redirect a shrieking pterodactyl to another part of the house. #whitewasabadchoice

I list that out not to sound impressive, but to illustrate how very far I’ve come from the time when, with one kid, I was so completely overwhelmed by a trip to Target that I would time it around my nursing schedule and sit in the backseat of my car, furtively suckling my firstborn for 40 agonizing and sweaty minutes, praying nobody could see the sliver of exposed flesh through the heavily-tinted windows of our (RIP) sporty Honda Accord.

And now there are four of them. And still only one of me. But I’m 99% calmer than when our ratio was 1:1. (I mean, I probably drink a little bit more frequently than I used to also. But I didn’t know about the myriad health benefits of red wine before I had my 3rd and 4th. Wink.)

I hear all the time from other moms that “I can’t even take my two to the grocery store by myself, forget taking four to Costco!” and I’m like, amen sister friend, neither could I.

I mean I did it, when I had to, but it was just as traumatic as you’re describing.

And you know why? Because I was completely maxed at that level of motherhood. 

I still maintain that the transition from one to two children was the most jarring thus far. Perhaps even more jarring than going from not-a-mom to why-won’t-he-stop-crying?

There’s only one time in the span of your mothering career when you have to double your output and halve your resources, and that’s why it feels so insane.

Think about it; when Luke was born, I only had to reallocate a quarter of my energy and brainpower. And I was already maxed out, so HAHAHA WHY NOT ADD ONE MORE TO THE PARTY? (slightly hysterical rising high-pitched cackle)

But it’s been fine. It’s been more than fine, in fact, as I was attempting to communicate to an overwhelmed mama at the park a few week’s back, watching with a mixture of dread and fascination as my sister and I rolled up with our double strollers and disgorged 8 children under the age of 7 between the two of us in a torrent of pint-sized humanity across the playground.

“I can hardly make it through the day with my two…” she trailed off, looking into the distance with a dazed expression. And I’m like, I know. I know that’s true. 

But for whatever reason, I don’t (usually) feel that way at the end of most days. I’d say 75% of our days end in “well, that definitely could have been worse,” and not because anything was terrible, but just that I’m tired.

Motherhood at any level is physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting. It takes everything you have, whether you’re mothering one child or (I suspect), seven.

But the secret formula to feeling a lot less crazed and a lot less like a hunted animal than when I was getting double teamed? It’s that I have more to give.

There’s more of me (literally. postpartum midsection, I’m looking at you.) to go around, because I’ve been training and learning, yes, but primarily because God has given me – is giving me – more grace, more patience, and more energy to meet the challenges of mothering more kids.

It’s the divine economy, which appears to operate almost antithetically to the human economy. The more you give, the more you receive.

So am I a better mom, a seasoned veteran who no longer shudders at the thought of potty training and who meal plans and gently encourages with a smile and a soothing voice?

ah, no. No I am not.

I’m still struggling with night-wetting, still shrewing at my beloved children for the umpteenth infraction of the morning, and usually in a less-than-modulated voice. And still hopelessly making it up as I go along.

But maybe because I know it’s not all up to me, perhaps precisely because I am physically incapable of meeting everyone’s needs in a given moment, I’m more content and more peaceful in this work. 

And that makes it seem easier. Even though there’s more whining, more noses to wipe, and more bedtime stories to read.

When I only had two kids, I could at least pretend I was completely in control. And I tried my damnedest to do exactly that.

Now? I know it’s not possible. There’s no way I can plan for every contingency, and there’s nothing I can do sometimes but cry out “God, help me!” when 3 out of 4 of them are going off like sirens in the back seat, wailing their disappointment with begin immobilized in rush hour traffic.

And He does. And I think, because I have so many more opportunities to ask Him, He actually helps me more.

So the moral of this story? Don’t be a stubborn control freak like me.

But if you are? Maybe He’ll send you a couple more kids to try and work it out of you.



Is this thing on?

November 10, 2015

How’s this for a modern day cliche: A mommy blogger walks into her home office – maybe you have one of those and call it by it’s alternate title of “dining room?” you so fancy – and starts a podcast.


It seemed like the natural progression, and more importantly, the right thing to do with a new baby in the house. Because there’s no need for background music with the delicate soundtrack of intermittent screaming and flushing toilets.

So Mama Needs Coffee: the Podcast. Coming soon to iTunes, and to a mobile device or desktop near you.

I’m thinking current events, personal stories, and some mild mannered political analysis (I see you, GOP debate 2night, thx Julie) with the occasional guest co-host. But the reason I’m telling you about it today, before I’ve recorded a single episode, is because I’m wiiiiiiide open to suggestions.

Sound like fun? Leave me all your best ideas and most burning questions in the comments, I’m all e-ars.

podcast logo

About Me

winner, winner (what’s for dinner?)

November 8, 2015

First order of business – Elizabeth M., check your email, you won the Shining Light dolls + book giveaway! Christmas shopping done, amiright?

Next: meal planning. I’m horrible at it. I’m not a terrible cook at this point, nearly 6 years into marriage, but I’m still not awesome at defrosting stuff more than one hour before I plan to serve it, and I’ve yet to be able to stick to a meal plan for more than a couple weeks. Oh gosh, fine, days.

I’m hoping maybe it’s an accountability issue? And so maybe if I put it up here I’ll stick to it. So without further ado or any cute graphics or Pinable images, here it is: our meals for the week of November 8th

1. Steak, roasted potatoes and broccoli. (I buy sirloin? Top round? Some not terrible cut at Costco), and I butcher them down further, so from a $28 pack of 4 ginormous steaks I get 6 little steaks for grilling, 2-3 ziplock bags of steak strips for stir fries/fajitas, and one ziplock bag of cubed steak for the Pioneer Woman’s Sunday Night Stew, which will actually change your life. We probably eat beef 1-2 times per week, on average.

2. Coconut veggie curry with basmati rice. Coconut milk + chicken stock + fresh ginger + sautéed veggies served over super delicious basmati rice = crowd pleaser, and for cheap.

3. Chicken fajitas in the oven with black beans and cilantro lime rice on the side. Chop fajita veggies and 1-2 chicken breasts, toss with cumin, garlic, salt and pepper (and some cayenne because I’m crazy) and bake at 375 for 30 min or so. Instant fajitas. Cilantro lime rice is regular old basmati or jasmine rice with salt, lime juice and cilantro mixed in after cooking. Muy delicioso.

4. Veggie chili in the crock pot with pumpkin bread. Tomatoes, black beans, a bag of whatever frozen veggies, tomato paste + 1 cup of water and whatever seasonings I’m feeling like. Cumin, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, toss in the crock pot and let it cook on slow for 6 hours or so.

5. Sesame chicken + fried rice. I like Martha’s recipe, plus some rice that I cook and then fry with one egg, some soy sauce, and a handful of frozen peas and a clove of garlic. Mmm, mmm good.

6. Breakfast for dinner. Daddy is gone one night this week and I’m gone one night this week, so some lucky stiff is going to get the scrambled egg and frozen waffle rotation. Dream a little dream.

7. Leftovers/whatever. Because leftovers. Whatever.

I like the numerical system because the rebel in me just can’t commit to “taco Monday,” because what if I don’t feel like tacos on Monday???? Oh the horror. This way I have a week of meals (with ingredients already on hand <— crucial) to choose from, and I feel “free” because I’m not boxed in by no stinking schedules.

I’m wild.

Anyway, what are you guys cooking this week? And do you hate cooking? Do you love it? Is the kitchen your happy place or your number one daily opportunity for grace?


Catholic Spirituality, motherhood, Parenting, temperaments

My little lepers

November 4, 2015

Last night one of my husband’s favorite professors from grad school, Dr. Jonathan Reyes, came to give a lecture as part of the Archdiocese of Denver’s 4-part lecture series on the role of mercy and beauty in the new evangelization (or something like that. I’m a little fuzzy, I was wearing a baby and pacing the back of the room.)

His entire talk was so beautiful and so thought-provoking, but two concepts in particular really stuck with me. So much so that I’m still rolling them around in my head 14 hours and a few night wakings later.

The first was a comparison he drew between the importance of effectiveness versus love in winning hearts. He pointed out how very much good Bill and Melinda Gates have done with their charitable giving (immoral causes aside); how many lives they must have saved with immunizations and clean drinking water and mosquito netting. And the world is grateful to them for their philanthropy.

But then there’s Mother Teresa (RIP). The world is both grateful to her and deeply, deeply in love with her. Not because of how many lives she saved (which is relatively few when contrasted with the Gates’ record) but because of how many people she loved. Because of the size of her heart. Because she was willing to accompany people in their misery, not only with financial support but with her bare hands. With her very self.

That’s the kind of love that speaks to a world grown blind to logic and deaf to reason. They might not believe in absolute Truth any more, but they can still perceive its counterpart, absolute Love. And from that encounter of being loved, of being valuable…a conversation can begin.

The second point that stayed with me was just a little offhand comment he made about serving the poorest of the poor in our midst (often the material poor, but increasingly in our affluent western society, the emotionally poor – the lonely). “Sometimes it’s the 4th kid, up all through the night and needing you over and over again. St. Francis, in recounting his own conversion as he neared the end of his life, remembered the turning point for him was when he encountered a leper … and was repulsed by him. And he turned back and embraced the man, overcoming his intense feelings of disgust and choosing to love instead, to see and embrace Christ in him.”

I knew exactly who the current “poorest of the poor” in my family was, the “repulsive” leper. And I was a little bit ashamed to think of how difficult it has been to love him, lately. His little melancholic soul is so different from my own. He is impossible to motivate, and it just seems like the more I admonish and instruct and, okay, raise my voice in increasing frustration and intensity that it’s time to get dressed NOW…the more he collapses into a helpless puddle of preschool overwhelm.

And I am repulsed.

Repulsed by his neediness, by his inefficiency, by his utter otherness from me, from how I operate and see the world. And when he falls to the floor for the umpteenth time in an afternoon and starts flailing and wailing (anyone else have really fun stretches from 4-5 pm on the daily?) I confess that my first reaction is not to scoop him up and comfort him. And I’m his mother. If it’s this hard to love my own kid, how on earth can I love some miserable stranger?

There’s only one possible answer, of course. And it’s Christ. Christ in me and Christ in him, because otherwise our very human neediness is, actually, pretty repulsive on a fundamental level. And if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I, in my maturity, am far more repulsive in my sin and shortcoming than my innocent child could ever be.

And yet He loves me. And if I allow Him to, He can also love through me.

As I lay in bed last night trying to fall asleep, I thought about how better to love my little lepers. I wondered if there were a way to lean into the misery, the way Mother Teresa seemed to, and if there was a point where, truly, the human face of misery was replaced by the likeness of Christ.

I know all the kid wants is me, his mommy. And I know the answer to “solving” his behavior, whatever that means, is more of me, hard as that may be to put into practice.

It seems counterintuitive, but if I get closer, if I pull him tight and pour myself out in loving him, will it come easier? Is that the secret to decoding “the distressing disguise of the poor?”

I’m not sure. But I’m hoping to find out. I’m hoping that I remember the lofty aspirations and quiet realizations inspired by last night, and that I can apply them when it matters. Like around 4 pm this afternoon, for example.



Shining Light Saint dolls (giveaway!)

November 2, 2015

Happy Feast of All Saints! (And because real life, happy Feast of All Souls, when this giveaway is actually going live as opposed to when it was scheduled to. DST suffering is real, people.)

Today marks the final day in a triduum of sorts during which the Church celebrates the eve of All Saints, the Feast of All Saints, and finally the feast of All Souls.

Why the focus on all the dead people?

Well, because we’re Catholic, so we’re a little macabre. Bone church, anyone?

No for real though, it’s because in conquering death (where is your sting?) Christ redeemed us, body and soul, and when He comes again in triumph, our souls will be reunited with our poor bodies if we’ve already died, and we won’t be separated from them if He comes while we still live on earth.

That’s actually what we profess in the Creed. Crazy, right?

It’s also why the Church is so obsessed with dead people. Because in reality, there’s no such thing.

The Saints? Very much alive in Christ. Already chilling with Him in Heaven, in fact, as the Church Triumphant. Hence the open lines of communication in which we’re all, ahem, JPII, can you put in a good word for me with our mutual Lord and Savior since you’re with Him already? (<— intercessory prayer)

John Paul evoking a young Karol Wojtyla

John Paul evoking a young Karol Wojtyla, the original Catholic hipster.

The faithful departed who we’re not quite sure about? Purgatory, hopefully. The place where the souls of those who die in a less than perfect but not entirely miserable state can go and finish their prep work for Heaven.

Not because they still have to earn it (which is impossible), but because they’re dressed in tattered robes for the wedding feast, y’all. It’s a last chance to get cleaned up for the big dance, and a tremendous mercy. It’s also a huge opportunity for real teamwork, since the souls in Purgatory, the Church Suffering, can’t pray for themselves.

That’s our job, as the Church Militant, and that’s why praying for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy. (And can you imagine the intercessor you’d have in a soul you helped finish prepping for Heaven?) My boys pray every night for my dead grandpa, and I think it’s adorably persistent because their concern for him is real, and their faithfulness to prayer puts my own to shame.

So happy feast of All Souls. I hope you make the time to pray for friends and loved ones who have gone before you into eternity (and did you know you can earn a partial indulgence for those loved ones for visiting a gravesite and praying for the deceased today, or for visiting a church and doing the same? Get on it.)

So to celebrate today’s feast (and yesterday’s. Friggin Daylight Savings.) I’m giving away a complete set of Shining Light saint dolls and a book. Rafflecopter it up below, and visit the Shining Light website and come back here commenting with your favorite little saint doll of theirs for an extra entry.

Oh, and how about an extra entry for new or existing Mama Needs Coffee Facebook fans 😉

May the odds be with you. Or something along those lines.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Family Life, motherhood, Parenting, school

Oops, we quit it again (preschool, that is)

October 30, 2015

I mean, I think we all saw this coming.

I’m pretty sure the director of our sweet little neighborhood preschool did, anyway, when I switched the boys from full day to half day to 2 half days per week to…nada. Poor kids. Poor little Caterpiller and Ladybug classrooms, both now down a blonde boy apiece.

Here’s the rub though; the kids cared not one single bit. And actually, the nail in the pre-k coffin was John Paul (3.25 years old) and his nightly freakout sessions (which I was attempting to negotiate with threats of “if you don’t get back in bed and stop screaming you’ll be too tired to go to school in the morning”) which promptly and mercifully extinguished the moment he heard “you won’t be able to go to school.”

“I don’t have to go to school, mommy?!”

Oh crap. He didn’t want to go?

“Is that why you’ve been, um, so … intense lately, honey?”



Wellllllll okay then. I called the preschool director later that afternoon and pulled the trigger. Announced time of death. Called the game. Whatever. Actually, first I checked with Joey, the freshly-minted 5 year old, to see if he was potentially devastated by such a turn of events. He wasn’t.

His exact reaction was something along the lines of “oh, can I stay home all day in my cozy pants with you?!”

So college should be absolutely thrilling for him.

(Also, I’m getting dressed a lot more frequently now. I’d say 95% of the time. Nothing like seeing your own shiny reflection in the impression you’re making on your filterless five year old for a little reality check.)

So how’s it going, having 4 kids 5 and under home all day while trying to work full-time ish from said home?

Pretty good, truth be told. Better than it was with 2 of them in school 3x’s per week, or even 2x’s per week.

Because no drop offs. No pick ups. No trudging into the school 5 minutes before dismissal with the double stroller and waiting outside two separate classrooms to sign two separate sign out sheets and then schlep all 4 back to the car to begin the lunchtime negotiations.

We have more peace and more chill in the mornings, for sure, and as long as I have a steady stack of library books available, I think they’re getting approximately the same socialization/academic instruction that one might desire for a pre-literate human needling.

I thought – no, I was utterly convinced – that I needed preschool in order to survive this season of life with a newborn and three other pretty young children, but it turned out to be less of a blessing and more of a hassle.

So what are we doing instead?

Well, aside from the aforementioned library books, there are three essential components that make life bearable slash occasionally enjoyable M-F.

1. Self care, beginning with the spiritual. I scored an October issue of Magnificat at the World Meeting of Families last month and I’ve been sitting down with it and a coffee first thing every morning. It has been nothing short of life-changing. I love (and use, when I’m on the go) Blessed is She for the same purpose, but there’s something about having a physical book in my hands that helps me slow down and focus on what I’m reading. I’ve made a rule that I can’t touch my phone or laptop until prayer time happens, which has finally helped morning prayer “stick” for me, since it’s tied not to a predictable recurrent wake time but to the order of events of the day.

I’ve also been more faithful to one night out per week with either my sisters or girlfriends, and involving either adoration or prayer or conversation or alcohol or all 4. I’ve also been hitting the gym 4 times per week whenever someone is available to watch Luke for 40 minutes or so, and the kid’s club is open.

2. Domestic help. I have a homeschooler who comes for 4-5 hours every Monday. She is delightful and her only flaw is that she can’t drive herself, but her parents drop her off and I drive her home, so it’s not the worst. She does dishes and mops the floors and takes the big kids to the park and has recently been designing her own preschool curriculum to tutor them in the afternoons when Evie and Luke are asleep, and no you can never have her number. Or even her name. Cackle. (God help me when she leaves for college.)

3. Taking little opportunities to do school-y things in our day-to-day lives. I’m about 90% convinced that I’m never going to homeschool, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still the primary educator. So we learn together. We stop at a construction site and watch the diggers and talk about how asphalt is made. We go on nature walks and bring the leaves home and arrange them in ROYGBIV order and talk about seasons and why leaves turn colors and photo-freaking-synthesis. We stop by church to say hi to Jesus and talk about the Real Presence and the red candle and the Eucharist. In sum? We just do life and it happens to include teachy stuff and it’s such a relief to read studies like this one that make me feel ril, ril good about my illiterate little preschoolers.

I’m realizing with each passing week that this season of all 4 kids home all day long is actually fleeting, so on the afternoons (read: most) when the fan is totally covered I’m still trying to kind of soak it up. Or at the very least, be glad that I can crack open a little happy hour at 4 pm and not be worried about pickup time. (And p.s., with the $$$$$$/month we’re saving in tuition, I can afford to drink the good stuff. Public school was not free, as it turns out.)