Are you comfortable talking finances? {+ a giveaway with Bona Fide Finance}

October 21, 2016

A little over 6 months ago a sweet friend from grad school and a long time blog reader reached out to me with an offer. Her husband had started a financial advising business, and would I be interested in sitting through several (e)sessions with him to go over our particular financial situation? 

Was I ever.

I knew that Deb and Ben had made the radical decision after college to become long haul truck drivers (both of them!) while they were newlyweds, and that by criss crossing the nation they’d paid down the considerable student debt that is generally awarded along with a Steubenville diploma. How could I not be curious to take financial counsel from a guy like that?

The truth is, while we’ve been dabbling in Dave Ramsey for the bulk of our married life, and while we’ve steadfastly avoided adding debt of any kind (ahem, well, except for that little mortgage…thing…we picked up last month) we haven’t managed to completely extricate ourselves from the student loan companies. Yet. And add to that a quick 4 babies in 5 years, an international move, and more than 6 years of renting in an increasingly hot (read: expensive) market, and I was feeling like we were just treading water financially.

I feel an immense debt (<— see what I did there) of gratitude to the internet, for all its faults and foibles, because by its power, I am able to work from home, and I do so utilizing fringe hours and nap times that translate to minimal childcare costs. So we’re in better shape than we could be, all things considered.

But we still needed some guidance at moving beyond the route formula Dave Ramsey espouses (however effective it may be) and making some actual, real-life changes.

For example: was it wise to continue contributing nothing to our 401k match programs? Dave Ramsey says not to, not until the debt is gone. But meanwhile, we’d let nearly 7 years of full time employment for both of us come and go, contributing not a dime of our own to our employer’s match. I think this was a case of following the letter rather than the spirit of the law, at least in our case, but it was a situation that needed to change. Talking the bigger financial picture through with Ben helped us to see that while in an ideal world, to blast through debt and achieve total freedom in 18 months would be fantastic, we have a relatively large family, live in one of the more expensive cities in the country, and our kids are in private school. And we both work for the Church. So, in a nod to reality, we decided to start contributing even though we’re still paying off my last student loan. 

We also made the decision to add some (much needed) long term disability insurance to our arsenal of risk management.

Ben reiterated what we already knew, that a man in his middle working years is 4 times more likely to become sick or disabled than to die prematurely. And while many people have life insurance (and everyone should!), far too few people have long term disability coverage. Our family would be devastated by the loss of Dave’s income if he were to become unable to work, plus, people who become disabled generally experience a significant increase in the cost of living coupled with the decline in earning potential. Not a great combo for a family of 6 to be looking at. 

Ben also gently nudged us to consider paying attention to our actual budget – the one we determine “on paper on purpose” at the beginning of every month, and then actually living by it rather than logging into the online banking app and noting “oh, we’re totally fine, IKEA is definitely a good idea right now” and then continuing to wonder why we were blowing our bottom line every month. “Don’t look at the account balance. That doesn’t matter.” (I mean, provided it’s not in the red) What mattered, though, is what we’d decided to spend in each particular category, and then sticking with that decision. Even when some event/purchase/fun thing seemed like a good idea. Unless it was an actual emergency, it didn’t deserve to utterly annihilate our bottom line. (It should be noted that one of us – okay fine, it’s me – is still working on this particular concept.)

Our sessions with Ben took place over google hangout-style video conferencing sessions (some more technically difficult than others – probably thanks to our kid’s Netflix streaming) and it was actually more convenient than in person sessions when you figure in the hassle of travel + schedule synching + childcare. Ben was able to virtually meet with us at 7 or 8 in the evening, once the minions were (allegedly) in bed. 

If I had to do it over, I would have liked to have spent more time gleaning his wisdom on specific investment questions and understanding retirement options, and probably would have spent less time weeping about the cost of housing in Denver and asking WHAT DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD DO (last summer was a little personally challenging) about our real estate woes. But Ben was so great. He was confident, personable, really sensitive to our particular situation and just a lot of fun to work with.

His business, Bona Fide Finance, is founded on the principle that all people deserve access to quality financial advising, no matter their earning potential. Schoolteachers and church workers and electricians and dental hygienists still all have money to manage, and they have questions about retirement and investing, too. Ben believes that financial soundness isn’t a concept only accessible to the wealthy, and indeed that people of more modest means perhaps have an even greater need for solid financial advising.

He has generously offered to give to one of my lucky readers … a Bona Fide Basic plan (a $1750 value!) to one rafflecopter winner, and he wanted to extend a 15% discount off of all services to any readers who schedule an Introductory Meeting (Click here to schedule. Under “Your note” when providing your contact information, type the code “MamaNeeds15%”.)

So enter the rafflecopter giveaway below, cross your fingers, fill in that monthly budgeting spreadsheet you’ve been meaning to update since July, and may the odds be ever in your favor. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Catholic Spirituality, Catholics Do What?, Evangelization, Family Life, feast days, liturgical living, Parenting

Raising saints {with a little help}

October 18, 2016

The other Friday night I helped shovel lackluster chicken nuggets (GF so no surprise there) and carrot sticks into the mouths of my young before we jumped in the car to head downtown, fighting wrong way rush hour traffic into the city. (I don’t know what constitutes a good Friday night for you, but I’ll just leave that on the table for your next date night consideration.)

Our destination was the basement of Denver’s beautiful cathedral, where we met up with dozens of our friends, several more dozens of their children, and a handful of our favorite priests and religious brothers, members of a relatively young religious order, the Servants of Christ Jesus.

I’ve written about them before because they’ve been around just a little bit longer than we have, as a family. (I even had the privilege of teasing out some of the common threads between our two vocations in a piece I wrote synthesizing the master thesis penned by their newest ordained priest.) And because they are actually a pretty significant component of what we’re trying to do, as a family.

We’re trying to raise saints.

I first heard Fr. John Ignatius use that phrase in a talk by the same name, given in a parish hall to a handful of young couples with brand new babies and toddlers. I had one baby in arms and one in utero at that time, and I remember looking a little disbelievingly at the squirming blonde head on my lap and wondering when – if ever – the stuff he was talking about would apply to us.

One line in particular stood out to me in particular, perhaps because you can take the girl out of the party scene but you can’t, well, you know… but it was this: Catholics throw the best parties. The biggest feasts. You want your children to grow up knowing this… recognizing it from what they have lived and seen played out in your family and in the larger community you’re building around them.

I’m paraphrasing because it was at least 5 years ago, but the concept of our Faith being incarnate and tangible, not only in the liturgy and in the way we worship together, but also in the way we recreate and celebrate together, touched me deeply. And it thrilled me to think that I could help my children understand the richness and the beauty of Catholicism by throwing great parties. 

I’m not talking here about cake toppers and printables, or about elaborate tables with perfectly-seasoned ethnic food representing whomever’s feast day it might be (though if you’ve got a Hobby Lobby loyalty card and you aren’t afraid to use it, power to you!)

I’m talking here more about cultivating a deeply-rooted and life-giving community of like minded families and friends, and of freely welcoming people into that profound experience of belonging.

Of having your kids excited about so-and-so’s birthday party, yes, but also knowing that we’re going to be praying over that child as a community before the candles are blown out on the cake.

To have had the experience at least once (I’m told it becomes more possible – not easier, but more possible – when they’re a little older) of watching the candlelit sanctuary explode into light with the rising strains of the Alleluia during the Easter Vigil Mass, and then spilling out into the parking lot with plastic cups of champagne (or apple cider) and streamers and platters and platters of cookies and celebrating because He is Risen. And of not only intellectually knowing that, but also feeling it in their hearts and in their imaginations.

And oh, how I want them to remember the hours we spent around the dinner table with men in white collars and black habits, (and sisters too! though we haven’t found our nun niche quite yet) sharing stories and plates of spaghetti and highlights from our week, bantering over politics and sports and news and life. And woven throughout it all, an awareness of the Lord’s presence, an unconscious sprinkling of theology that has nothing to do with lectures and classrooms and everything to do with a living witness of the Faith.

So that’s why we made our way into the basement of the Cathedral that evening, stepping into what could have easily been mistaken for a preschool co-op with dozens of children scattered in rows of seats and dotting the center aisle.

Guitar chords rang out as Br. Peter led the group in praise and worship, and then deep toddler reverence (which is louder and more, ah, intense than regular reverence) fell upon our little group as Fr. John processed in with Jesus in the monstrance.

While Fr. knelt at the end of our time of Adoration to sing the Divine Praises, little knees bent around him (and some full body toddler sprawling was also in play, because it might have been bedtime or maybe just some really charismatic 2 year olds), and somebody captured this:

That’s what we’re trying to do here. Point them to Him.

And these good men are helping lead us along the way, pointing us towards Jesus, bringing Him to us in the sacraments, and knitting our community together in worship and play.

If any of us do, in fact, succeed at raising saints, it will only be by the grace of God.

Thankfully, He hasn’t left us totally to our own devices. I am so grateful for our community here in Denver, and I am also painfully aware that it is all too unique. My prayer is that as the New Evangelization grows and matures, and as the first line of those of us who were formed in it go out into the world and the larger Church to serve, this will not be a crazy, off-the-beaten path thing. That other cities around the world will have this kind of community, even while society is secularizing all around us.

That we would find one another, grasp hands, and then invite someone in. And then do it agin. And again.

May we be bold enough to attempt raising saints. (And may God grant us ALL the graces and the resources we need to make at least a good college try.)

Culture of Death, Evangelization, Family Life, motherhood, Parenting, Pornography, reality check, social media

Why “Don’t Look” won’t be enough

October 10, 2016

I am the mother of three sons and one daughter. My kids are young still, but my firstborn is now within a couple years of the average first age of exposure to pornography. Which means that kids as young as him have seen it, have stumbled upon in accidentally, have been intentionally exposed by an older sibling or cousin or neighbor kid, and are already struggling with feelings of confusion, excitement, shame, fear, and curiosity.

In this digital age, it is all but inevitable that my children will encounter pornography at some point during their childhood. And that breaks my heart.

But I can’t stick my head in the sand and just try not to worry about it, hoping that if I don’t mention it and if we’re careful enough at home and vigilant enough with our network filtering software (which is important!) and discriminating enough about our media consumption (also essential!) and picky enough about how we do playdates (SO huge. You have no idea what your neighbor might be watching late at night, and what might pop up on their son’s tablet during an innocent Youtube search for rocket launches or scenes from Team Hotwheels), we’ll be fine.

That isn’t enough. In other words, I have to equip myself as a mother to help my children navigate the murky waters of the digital world, so awash in pornography and violent, addictive content, and I have to equip my children to face this brave new world.

I can’t leave it up to chance. This one is too big, and the stakes are too high.

While both men and women struggle with pornography in increasing numbers, boys are particularly vulnerable in the era of a smartphone-in-every-pocket. Men are wired for visual stimulation. It’s beautiful and essential and intrinsically masculine, and it is a component of their intentional design that I wouldn’t change even if I could. But there is a multi-billion dollar market built around exploiting that facet of their nature and ensnaring young minds and hearts in a dark web of profitable addiction that is predicated on increasing levels of violence, misogyny, and dehumanization.

And it’s profitable as all hell, make no mistake about that. For every media soundbite or expert opinion that “a little porn is harmless,” or “pornography is a natural competent of a healthy relationship,” a rich pornographer who makes his or her living off of pimping out young women and children is laughing all the way to the bank.

(Porn kills love. For a totally secular perspective and a fantastic resource, check out “Fight the New Drug” and the great work they’re doing, especially with adolescents and college aged kids.)

I wrote a series on “porn proofing our kids” a while back, and afterwards a rep from Covenant Eyes: CMG Connect reached out to me about a new resource designed to empower parents to proactively engage with their kids on the topic of porn, and to help them build a safe, open, communicative family; a “safe haven.”

CMG Connect Parents is full of good video content, articles, and other resources for parents who are in all stages with kids of all ages.

Whether your family is already wrestling with this issue, you’re unsure of where to start (or whether your kids have been exposed yet) of if you’re like us and have young children and are looking down the pike to the future and wondering where to begin, this is a good place to start.

They are also offering a free 30 day trial of their acclaimed “Covenant Eyes” filtering program, a multidimensional resource that filters harmful content, alerts parents to potential problems, and can provide individual accountability and monitoring for help in overcoming an existing addiction. We’ve been hemming and hawing over which filtering software or device to use and when we need to make the leap, but after my husband spent 3 days last spring attending a conference for work, he walked away from the sessions on trafficking and addiction absolutely convicted that the time is now.

Even if your kids are little and aren’t using the internet on their own yet, now is the time to install those guardrails and establish a culture of safe and responsible media use. Not only are you protecting against accidental exposure (and I’ve seen some freaky stuff pop up totally unrelated on Youtube), but you’re also protecting the babysitters or other caregivers who come into your home and may connect to your network, along with houseguests and visitors who may access your WiFi (and in turn, you are protecting your network (hellooooo, targeted ads) against harmful content other people may access via your network without your knowledge. So many people are fighting a great battle, and you truly never know.)

Really, I can’t think of a reason to have unfiltered internet, period.

So do me a favor and start the 30 day trial, will you? And start clicking through some of the video content on CMG Connect. My favorite video is the one featuring two moms, with one mom walking the other through happening upon a probable pornography problem with her 14 year old son. It’s full of common sense, compassion, and a destigmatization of the problem, and it contains some tangible resources and a sort of guide map of what that journey look like for one family.

And of course, above all, we take our cue from Padre Pio: we pray, we hope, and we don’t worry. We don’t wallow in the “what ifs” or the regrets, and don’t anticipate the future with terror. Being proactive, wise, and confidant is a far cry from cowering and fearful. With common sense, open communication, and a helpful toolbox, our kids don’t have to become statistics in an adolescence behavioral journal.

I hope you’ll check it out.

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(Thanks to Covenant Eyes whom I partnered with on this post for the industry-leading work they’re doing to empower families to stay safe and healthy. All opinions expressed are my own.)

motherhood, self care, THM, Trim Healthy Mama, Women's Health

Trim Healthy Mama: a {sorta} quick low down

October 6, 2016

So there’s this book that is about the thickness of a local phonebook, at least in it’s first edition. Which I did not read, because the revised second edition is what populated on my Kindle after no library wait at all (mysterious, for a friend tells me she is 50 out of 70-something on her library system’s waitlist. Guess I got lucky). And I read this book, in about a day or five, and it seemed to be sensible advice, if a little magical in thinking.

riiiiight, keep fats and carbs separated by at least 3 hours at mealtimes, and shoot for lots of protein and add a little collagen or gelatin to these smoothies and above all AVOID THE SUGAR. 

And the weight will drop off.

But then, imagine my surprise when things indeed did start to move south on the scale. Though if you’re familiar with Dwija’s instagram, perhaps you already knew the punchline. #wow.

I’m not saying this is the simplest eating plan in the world to follow, because there is definitely a learning curve for how to properly combine (or rather, to not combine) fats and carbohydrates, but it does hold a significant advantage over, say, the Whole 30 because it doesn’t cut out entire food groups, nor does it require Draconian adherence to the rules. My favorite line of the sister-authors is “you’re only 3 hours away from your next slimming meal.” because I’d wager I’m not the first one to have ever blown a diet by letting a french fry or two slip through and then WELP, GUESS WE’LL START OVER ON MONDAY (shovels McFlurry into mouth.)

I like the balanced, this-is-how-a-grown-up-eats approach, and above all the lack of a starvation or total depravation angle. And the constant refrain that you are choosing to eat this way, and if you choose to “cheat,” it’s simply that: a choice. And one that doesn’t need to be filed under “shameful failure, do not proceed.”

One of the sisters is more of a natural foodie/purist who delights in fermenting her own sourdough and cultivating her own scobys (scratches head over spelling) for home brewed kombucha. The other one eats movie theater popcorn when she’s on a date with her husband. And then moves on.

That concept is the one I really like. The “make-the-choice-that-works-right-now-because-it’s-a-Christmas-party,” but that doesn’t careen into a spiral of shame and late-night burrito choices just because you “cheated.”

In other words, I think this must be what it’s like to eat like a grown up. And as a woman who was once, for a very prolonged period, a girl and then a young woman with an eating disorder, that has been a tricky balance to achieve. And continues to be. But I love the freedom THM gives, since you can eat pretty much all good food. Just not all at the same time.

Let me explain in a few quick paragraphs the basic parameters of the plan: (and this is as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s, so if your eyes are glazing over, feel free to disappear.)

  1. Don’t eat fats and carbs at the same time. Your meals are either E (energizing) or S (satisfying), and always built around protein. Now, this is an admittedly sad rule, because apples and peanut butter do not play nicely together in this universe. But! It’s for the sake of stable blood sugar, which, in turn, leads to pounds dropping off.
  2. The authors purport that your body runs on a twin engine metabolism, burning either fat or glucose, and if you give it one of the two available fuel sources at a time, it will burn through that one injection of fuel and then look to your stored energy supply (read: fat) and start burning through that next. (This is the part that seemed a little wishful to me. But at 14 pounds lighter, I can’t be too skeptical.)
  3. If you give your body both fats and carbs (glucose) in the same meal, your body will burn through both, never kicking into the reserve drive and burning your own stored fuel. If the meals are well-balanced, they’re known as an C meal, or a crossover. This is what pregnant or nursing women should shoot for to experience even, healthy weight gain (and then loss), and ensure a healthy milk supply. Is also a good template for growing children who are in no need of weight loss, but who can definitely reap the benefits of stable blood sugar. These meals look like more typical “healthy” meals: baked potatoes with butter plus steak or chicken plus grilled vegetables. All of those foods are good and healthy, but if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to skip the butter on the potato (and swap it for a more glycemic-friendly sweet potato) and make sure the steak or chicken is a lean cut. Ooooor, swap the potato out entirely for a pile of broccoli or asparagus brushed with melted butter and loaded up with melted cheese and maybe some bacon. And maybe add a little crumbled blue cheese to the steak.
  4. So, an E-meal might be: a bowl of oatmeal with a few berries on top + low fat cottage cheese + a sprinkle of a blood sugar safe sweetener (stevia or something like it. No fake sweeteners though, and no “natural” sugars like honey or maple syrup, since they’re still sugar once they hit your bloodstream.)
  5. And a S-meal might look like a plate of bacon and eggs and a cup of coffee with cream (and a little collagen power mixed into it. Because it’s tasteless and mixes well into hot things, and adds as super punch of protein.)
  6. And a Crossover meal might look like a Caesar salad with grilled salmon and a side of roasted sweet potatoes drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan. Fats and carbs, but evenly balanced. Won’t make you lose or gain weight.
  7. There are also things called Fuel Puels, which as best as I can figure, are super low calorie snacks to tide you over or to help move the needle if you’re really wanting the weight to come off quicker. These would include smoothies made with almond milk, clean whey powder, a little cocoa powder and some of their approved sweetener, and maybe with a little frozen okra (one of their favorite ingredients for gut health, and surprisingly wonderful at providing thickness in soups, stews, and smoothies) and a handful of frozen berries tossed in. Another good fuel pull option might be some celery with low fat cream cheese. Or an apple with a couple almonds. These FP meals/snacks are the part of this whole program that feel the most “diet-y” to me, and the authors emphasize that they are optional upgrades for people looking to move the needle quicker, or are experiencing major blood sugar resistance.
  8. Eat every 3 hours during the day. And don’t eat much, as a rule, after dinner time. It sends a mixed signal to your body when it should be switching into a different metabolic mode for sleep, and it keeps your blood sugar elevated when it should be tapering off in a healthy way as your metabolism winds down.
  9. If you’re having an E breakfast and are hungry again in an hour or less, you can have a snack, but it needs to also be an “E.” Same with S’s. Match your closely-spaced (closer than 3 hours) snacks to your meals, if you must have them, or else you’ll trigger that cross-over mode where you’re burning both fuels and therefore not losing weight.
  10. Don’t get stuck in a rut. As a dyed-in-the-wool early adapter of Paleo/Whole 30/Atkins/Southbeach/whaterver high protein thing is currently popular, it’s a little scary for me to eat oatmeal for breakfast without accompanying fats. Or to eat a dinner that includes brown rice or sweet potatoes but not butter and olive oil. But my body (so I guess bodies in general, if I can make a wild inference) likes the variety. So even though it’s tempting to eat nothing but S meals (because cheese), it seems to work best if I mix in at least 5 or 6 E meals a week.
  11. Don’t take it too seriously. Obviously I veered wildly off the rails in Italy and drank all the wines and slurped all the cappuccinos. But because I don’t eat gluten, I couldn’t go too wild, so no pastries at breakfast and no cones with my gelato. And GF pasta tastes like sadness the world over, so even dinner was a somewhat subdued affair. But, I still managed to return to America with an irritated sweet tooth that is having trouble setting down. La dolce vita not for nothing.
  12. You can do this no matter what your eating/cooking style is. Like to eat Paleo? This works for that. Like buying a lot of pre made ingredients and hitting up the drive though? Works for that, too. Don’t want to cook separate meals for your people? Definitely works for that. I’ve been making lots of sweet potatoes and rice and quinoa on the side and I either eat it or I don’t, but the kids hardly notice I’ve been cooking differently. We already don’t eat buns with burgers or brats, and if it’s Mexican night I just offer them corn tortillas or taco shells and wrap mine in lettuce. Which is the hardest part of this whole affair for me, so 60% of the time, I eat the dang tortilla. It’s a long game.

My hope is that this kind of lengthy synopsis is helpful to someone getting started with THM, and to anyone (hi, Christy!) who doesn’t feel like slogging through the entire book. But this is by no means exhaustive. I’ve found a couple great blogs for THM recipes, and there’s a ton on Pinterest. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes very second nature, and it’s easy enough to reset after, say, 11 straight days of “cheating” in a foreign country. Or trick or treating, I’d imagine.


This is not a great before and after shot, it’s more of a progress shot. But you can tell in the (sorry, blurry) left picture from August that I still look vaguely pregnant and my face and arms are bigger. Everything has slimmed out a little bit in the picture on the right, taken earlier this week, and while I don’t look pregnant anymore (yay!), I probably have another 20-25 pounds to go. Which is fine. Piano, piano. (Oh, and Dave has also lost about 7 pounds just from eating what I’m serving. Which is a pretty awesome bystander effect.)

Family Life, motherhood, Parenting, toddlers

More work, more love

October 3, 2016

(and if I’m being honest, more diapers)

While I was sitting vacantly before the keyboard this afternoon a happy little reddish-blonde head bounced up from underneath my chair, and two bright blue eyes crinkled with delight over having located me. Luke is baby number 4, but he is beloved in a way that numbers one through three (sorry, kids!) were not privileged to experience.

I do love all four of them very much, but if I’m being honest here, I’m a little bit in love with Luke. Maybe it’s the mellowing effect of having done the pregnancy/newborn thing a couple times and being able to relax into the enjoyment of it, maybe it’s the cacophony of joy as his older siblings orbit him like adoring planets, racing to retrieve him from his bed in the mornings, or maybe it’s just the winning combination of the sweetest smile and the most joyful temperament, but this kid has me smitten. I kiss him more than is probably socially acceptable, and even now as I sit here tapping the keys, he’s tearing the lid of the trash can and searching for coffee grounds to dig in and I’m smiling benevolently at him over my shoulder because it’s adorable.

Somebody get a message to my first-time momself that I will eventually lower my standards to an unrecognizable level of filth and indulgence and that it will be fine. It will all be fine.

It’s only the machinations of a divine economy that could yield increasing returns of joy and pleasure from decreasing levels of sleep and time and money. It doesn’t make sense that this little person should have brought so much joy with him when he banged open the doors to our hearts a little over a year ago, but there it is.

I never wanted to have a large family. If anything, I was ambivalent about having children, period. Not because my own childhood wasn’t great (it was), or because I didn’t like kids (I do. For the most part.) but because I seemed to lack that nascent maternal instinct that had my girlfriends easily answering “1 of each” or “3 boys, 3 years apart” when asked about their reproductive futures. When I peered forward into the shimmering mists of time, I could never see clearly what it was that I wanted, exactly.

Which is why motherhood has been so pleasantly surprising and so gruelingly difficult, at turns. I didn’t really plan for this, and even now, at Costco, when someone blinks in astonishment or delight at my little crew and asks if I’m done, I never know exactly what to say. I don’t have strong feelings either way, that we’re “done” or that there are “(X) more babies” waiting for us (<– never was too keen on that theologically-sketchy concept). But I do have strong feelings for Luke, and for each of my children. Every one of them is an incomparable miracle, someone I never could have dreamt up or planned or, quite frankly, executed to the level of perfection they each possess.

I am astonished by the level of collective joy that seems to titrate up with each new arrival. And yet. Even knowing that, even having experienced it firsthand four times over, I still can’t fathom it happening again. I can never love another baby the way I love Luke, I’m sure of it. And yet, if God does send another baby, (which, for the record, He has not currently) He will also send the love. And it will be a new love, and a greater love, and a love that literally did not exist before the object of it’s affection did.

Babies come from love, but they also bring the love.

There is never quite enough time or money or sleep to go around, and yet there is. It works out. Some months or days are tighter on energy or money than others. And some weeks are grueling, and some seasons are disappointing and trying beyond belief. But there has never been a moment that I regretted saying yes to these kids, and if anything, each subsequent baby has deepened the love I have for my older children. (Which doesn’t mean – please, please hear this – that smaller families have less love.)

But, to limit the size of one’s family out of fear of a lack of love, a poverty of love, to imagine that there is a limit to love…that is the lie.

I may be afraid of having another baby for all kinds of reasons, but I’m not afraid that there won’t be enough love.

All I have to do is look down at my little puppy dog Luke (currently eating deli turkey off the kitchen floor #reallife) and know with deep certainly that the love is there, that it will come in abundance. And that it will overflow the bounds of my grinchy little heart and stretch it just a little further, until I’m that mom who is kissing her toddler’s fat neck in the checkout line at King Soopers and wondering if there was ever another cherub alive whose (now borderline feminine and becoming confusing to strangers) curls were so perfect, and who laughs a little and shakes her head when asked “is he your first?” and answers honestly, “nope.”


Catholic Spirituality, Catholics Do What?, Evangelization, feast days, Italy pilgrimage, liturgical living

Defend us in battle

September 29, 2016

Today is Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael, the archangel, and actually of the rest of the archangels, too. I’m not building my kids a satan piñata to smash or baking anything with blackberries, but those are both tradition things that people do, and sound cool. Probably we’ll pray the St. Michael prayer with candles around the dinner table and talk a little bit about kicking the devil’s butt, which is a favorite expression of my eldest.

I took the two littlest to mass with me this morning. We walked in during the Psalm, and we sat contentedly on our bottoms in the foyer, not even attempting the sanctuary itself. Some days you’ve just gotta do what’s easy. I let Evie walk laps around me and bring a backpack full of stuffed animals along for the ride, and Luke cruised contentedly up and down the dividing wall of glass and doors, occasionally slamming his fists and blowing raspberries against the panes. I sat cross legged on the floor with pleasantly low blood pressure and let the need to perfect their pew habits slide, for the morning, and it was nice.

It’s better for me to be at daily Mass, when I can manage it, then to miss out. And sometimes it’s better to be doing what is easiest and least painful for all parties involved. Sometimes solo pew wrangling sessions leave me so frazzled and angry that I hardly feel properly disposed to receive Communion, which is kind of the whole point, so I’m trying to balance expectations with reality and not just survive this season of littleness with gritted teeth. Already I feel the years slipping through my fingers. I watched a young mom only a few years behind me swaying with her newborn in a wrap, reprimanding a renegade toddler while her preschooler sat politely in the pew, and my heart clenched a little to remember that just 2 year ago nobody was in school full time, and my days of alltogetherallthetime are in the rearview mirror. I was telling my little sister the same thing later and starting to get tears in my eyes when she helpfully deadpanned that summer would be here again, and with it the very, very together-centric months of long hot boredness that we’d only just recently escaped by the skin of our teeth, lest I’d forgotten.

Oh, yeah.

Sometimes it’s hard to be part melancholic.

But anyway, back to St. Michael. I’ve had a particular devotion to him since college, back right around the time my conversion/reversion kicked into high gear. I remember having a dream about him one night where we met on a battle field and he took his cloak (because angels totally wear human clothing) off his back and put it on me, and gave me a sword. I was kneeling before him and the whole thing had a very Joan of Arc air about it. Anyway, I love St. Michael. And yet I struggle a bit with the practical implications of a relationship with an invisible, non-human entity. Angels are decidedly outside the realm of skeptical realism. I mean yes, they’re in the Bible. Yes, they’re kind of big time players in the story of salvation history, popping into the narrative of the Gospels at key moments and helping move the story along. Where would Sting be without the Angel Gabriel?

But it’s hard to explain what they are, exactly. And who they are.

It’s almost easier to talk about what they aren’t.

They aren’t dead babies, reincarnated as disembodied heads with wings. They aren’t your dead grandma Margaret, who finally got her angel wings after a years-long battle with breast cancer. Angels are distinct, non-human beings created by God before humans were. The devil, Lucifer, was the most powerful and beautiful angel in the hierarchy. His non-servium, his refusal to participate in the Creator’s cockamamie plan to redeem lowly humanity by deigning to become small and poor and one of us and then to suffer and die for us, was a kind of pre-emptive “Fall before the Fall.”

God already knew we would fall when He made us. And He did it anyway. The angels, who live outside of space and time, were also privy to that knowledge. And upon receiving it, a third of them followed suit with Lucifer, issuing a resounding “hell no” and exiting stage south. They chose to reject God rather than serve us.

But Michael did not.

The great and glorious battle captain of the heavenly hosts chose to bend his fierce knee and bow his fiery head before the vast, helpless expanse of humanity stretching out from creation to the completion of the world and he gave his consent to serve. To defend. To protect us in battle.

And make no mistake, we are in a battle. A war rages for souls, and the same revulsion for God’s plan of redemption still animates our great enemy, the devil. Remember the piece about time and space being a uniquely human construct? The devil is still just as angry today as he was the moment he rejected God.

And Michael and the other archangels and angels and all the heavenly host are still just as resolute to defend us.

The most powerful moment of my pilgrimage to Italy came in a small village called Monte Sant’Angelo. In this small, isolated mountain town in southern Italy, not far from San Giovanni Rotondo, there is a church built around an ancient cave. It’s actually the oldest pilgrimage site in western Europe, and has been visited by such heavy hitters as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Brigid of Sweden, St. Thomas Aquinas, and even St. Francis of Assisi (though he deemed himself unworthy to enter and remained outside to pray. Which begs the question, the h was I doing walking inside.)

The church itself is pretty on the outside, but small and kind of unremarkable in a European setting. Here, it would probably still be the most beautiful building in town, but I digress.

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I don’t have any pictures from the interior because they were strictly discouraging (and severely shushing and gesturing to) photographers. But even if I’d been allowed to snap a shot, I don’t think I would have had the wherewithal. After descending some 300 feet underground down shallow marble stairs that twisted into the earth, we emerged before a kind of second exterior of a church, and upon entering, we found ourselves inside a basilica that was comprised on one side of cave walls and the others of white marble. The atmosphere was thick with electric candlelight and damp, heavy subterranean air. We made our way to a pew near the statue of St. Michael in the grotto, commemorating the spot where he’d appeared 3 times over the years.

If you have ever been to Assisi, you know the deep, all-encompassing peace of which I am about to speak. The holy heaviness of the air there. The way the spirit of St. Francis himself imbues the town even to this day, his presence thick in the air and on the streets.

This place was like that. The same heaviness. The air of expectancy, of presence, of otherness.

I sank to my knees in front of my pew and watched as a family of small children accompanied their mother up to the rail and recited together a consecration prayer to St. Michael. They were speaking German and as the unfamiliar cadence floated back through the semi dark and flowed over my ears I started to weep. I was struck with a profound and certain conviction that St. Michael loves us. That he loved me, specifically. And that he was ready and willing and able to protect and defend my children more effectively than I could ever hope to. As that had been the persistent cry of my heart this entire trip, I found myself unable to stop the flow of tears for several minutes as the peace and conviction of this knowledge of Michael and his protection flowed over me and filled my heart.

I do not have a particularly emotional faith. I am not prone to tears (contrary to pretty much the entirety of out pilgrimage), but I was a snotty mess by the time we left the grotto.

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Before we reluctantly (at least for my part. Luke was pretty much vv ready to peace out upon arrival, thanks for the baby wearing, Dave) parted from the place, I knelt at the altar rails and read that same consecration prayer I’d heard the German family reciting, reading the words in English from the prayer card I’d been handed at the entrance. I sighed in relief as I entrusted our children and their vocations to St. Michael, begging for and believing in his powerful intercession, and knowing with a deep certainty that he could and he wanted to protect them. That he loved them even better than I could.

I know it sounds nuts. There’s so much about this piece that is making me wince internally because it’s so personal and so…out there. But it was one of the most profoundly real things I’ve ever experienced, and so today, on the feast of St. Michael and the Archangels, I felt compared to share it with you.

“St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou oh prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

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About Me, Family Life, Italy pilgrimage, Marriage, Parenting

A few recollections + the ups and downs of leaving your treasure at home

September 28, 2016

Well, we’re back. Mostly. Our largest suitcase is still globetrotting, along with all our souvenirs, Dave’s suit, and my favorite new pair of jeans. (and the rest of my decidedly lackluster but nonetheless nice to have around wardrobe, she types in old gym clothes #downsideofminimalism) Last spotted leaving Newark for Cincinnati and then looping through Chicago, according to the nice Indian man I’ve spoken with 11 times at United. He assures me that my bag will arrive on the next flight each time we speak, and then asks me to be patient for one, two, and then five more days.

I expect we’ll be buying a new suit soon.

On a housekeeping note, the last piece I posted about our pilgrimage included my marveling over Padre Pio’s still beautiful face. Yes, I know he is only a “possible” incorrupt and yes, it was evident that his hands have decayed. The amazing thing about Padre Pio, however, isn’t whether or not his body is incorrupt, but how beautiful his life was and how powerful his intercession continues to be.

I will probably write at least a couple more posts related to our trip and detailing the amazing sites we visited, but my brain is still a little fogged from jet lag and a rooster baby who is dedicated to a 4 am wakeup for the moment, plus I need time to reflect on what exactly this trip was, to me. It wasn’t a vacation. It wasn’t relaxing or easy or even particularly enjoyable at moments. But it was very beautiful, and I think the fruits of what we saw and experience and prayed through will continue to reveal themselves not in the alternate reality of travel, but here, in the daily grind of our actual lives.

I struggled a lot with anxiety the whole 11 days. The final 3 or 4 we spent in Rome were probably the best, because we were finally sleeping (Luke included) and because despite the chaos of the Eternal City, it was home for a little while, and that brought with it a consoling familiarity.

I thought often about my friends who travel for work or who serve in the military and face down deployments and long assignments, and my heart went out to them, along with all of my respect.

I could.not.do.this for a living, and I practically kissed our dirty laminate floors when we walked in the front door late Monday night. I don’t know if it’s my temperament, my disposition to anxiety, the young ages of our kids or what, but there is no amount of money or opportunity that could tempt me to do something like this again for a long, long time.

But it was beautiful. How to communicate the extravagant beauty we feasted on, and the moments of grace and encounter, but still admit how difficult it was?

I’m well aware many people, maybe even most people, will never be given an opportunity to travel the way we have, and I am profoundly grateful for having seen and touched and experienced other cultures and ways of life.

But oh, was it hard. I longed for my older children in a way that was physically painful. I cried most nights for missing them, and thought more than once about blowing thousands of nonexistent dollars booking an earlier return flight so that we could be reunited sooner.

I was kind of astonished by the intensity of gratitude I felt for my plain, ordinary life at home. And I think that realization right there was the entire point of the pilgrimage for me.

All this long, hot past summer of sicknesses and moving boxes and night wakings and hundreds of ordinary little hardships of family life and parenting had perhaps built up a bit of hardness in my heart, both towards the job of motherhood and, shamefully, against my kids themselves. I had been praying for more tenderness towards them recently in the weeks leading up to the trip, while simultaneously looking forward to a break, some downtime, some uninterrupted sleep. (Why I thought taking a 1 year old to a +7 hour time zone difference and sharing a hotel room after hours of bus rides and walking tours = “downtime” shall remain a mystery for the ages.)

What I got, instead, were hours of relative silence to reflect on the beauty of our family life. To think of each particular child’s personality and developmental stage, and to mull over each little person in my heart, missing them fiercely and appreciating from afar the little quirks and talents and idiosyncrasies that make up a unique human being. I’ve never been away from them for any substantial amount of time, and I was shocked how impossible separation from them really proved to be.

Because I’ve lost myself in motherhood.

Not in the lamentable, who-am-I-now-and-why-does-my-body-look-like-this way sense, but in the sense that I no longer exist as an autonomous person apart from these children. And I don’t know how to communicate that this isn’t a bad thing.

In becoming their mother, it’s like I upgraded to another level of reality. And while I am still very much “me,” I have new body parts. 4 little pieces of my heart walking around outside of my body, and to separate from 3 of them was tangible and left me feeling amputated.

If you’ve read me for even a little while here, you know I don’t parent from of a particularly “attached” style. I have no problem calling the sitter and escaping for a few hours of introverted silence or a night out with girlfriends, and Dave and I have left for a weekend away a few times. But oh, the surprise of leaving them for just a little too long and how much it hurt, and how grateful and happy and relieved I am to be home. And relieved at my relief, that it turns out I really was made to be a mom after all.

Not that I particularly doubted it, but there are hard days when I look around and wonder, “am I really cut out for this.”

Yes. The answer is a resounding yes.

I went to Italy expecting to find adventure and spiritual succor and enjoy priceless encounters with history and beauty – and a glass or 10 of really great wine. And the wine was good, but it turns out the real adventure and the more astonishing beauty was waiting for us back at home.


Catholic Spirituality, Catholics Do What?, Italy pilgrimage

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry” (it’s Padre Pio’s feast day)

September 23, 2016

Today, the 23rd of September, is the feast of the beloved Padre Pio. In a happy coincidence of internet unreliability, I couldn’t blog about it until today, his actual feast day, even though we left Petrelcina, Piana Romana, and San Giovanni Rotondo more than 3 days ago now. We spent 2 days exploring first his hometown of Petrelcina, scaling the winding staircases, peeking into the rooms his family lived and worked. Next we made a quick stop in the neighboring town where he received his “invisible” first stigmata (he received a visible stigmata later in his priestly ministry, from which point on the wounds in his hand would bleed continuously for the rest of his life), now home to a church which marks the spot under an elm tree where he was invited to participate in Christ’s passion in a mystical way, and then finally stopping for the night in the city where he lived and ministered as a Franciscan friar for more than 50 years, and where his partially incorrupt body still lies in state.


Of the places we saw relating to Pio, I found his family home and the cell where he studied during his novitiate year to be the most moving. Firstly, because seeing the bedroom where his mother delivered him and the kitchen where she prepared the family’s meals shamed me from ever complaining again about the size of our kitchen and the state of our furniture.


Pio’s cell with his writing desk and bed.

Secondly because, like Assisi, there was a profound sense of the spirit of the saint having permeated the town. Just as Francis still very much dominates his hometown with his presence and protection, so too does Pio. Maybe it’s a particular Franciscan charism?


Seeing his body was surreal. It was not nearly as moving as visiting the tomb of St. Francis or St. Clare or even St. John Paul II, because the church in which his body is housed has to be one of the ugliest religious buildings ever constructed. The scale is bizarre, and the effect is that the saints’ body is almost an afterthought in this gaping chasm of mosaics and swooping curves. I guess there must be somebody, somewhere, who thought the place attractive enough to sign the million dollar check for the renovations. Either that or was too afraid to stand up to the architect.

Padre Pio may be one of the “incorruptibles” of the Catholic church. He died in 1968, and his hands (visible as he lies in state) are withered away to the bone, but his face is serene and largely untouched by age or corruption (Update: some commenters have mentioned him wearing a silicone mask? I’ve no idea if that’s the case, they didn’t tell us that while we visited his tomb. But I do know his incorruptibility is not an undisputed fact, which is why I state above that he is partially incorrupt and “may” be one of the incorruptible saints.) His beard looks as if it still needs regular trimming. His skin looks supple and alive through the glass. It’s a remarkable thing to behold.

I prayed for your intentions there in the brief moment we had to stop before his tomb, and throughout the tour through his hometown and his adopted city. Everywhere you go in Italy there is usually a patron saint of the town or city, unless you’re in Rome and there are 1000 different saints. So in San Giovanni Rotondo, everything is Pio. The Pio pharmacy, Pio rosary stands, Pio banners in the square advertising the festival of Padre Pio (today and tomorrow and Sunday, if you’re interested in going). Even a Pio gelato shop. It’s something completely foreign to the American mind, to see such an intersection of the secular and religious. Even just cruising down the auto strada (the Italian freeway) it’s not uncommon to pass semi trucks with images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or some particular saint. The Italian people might not be practicing Catholics any longer, for the most part, but culturally they are definitely still Catholic.

I had the chance to go to confession in the old basilica in San Giovanni, the place where Padre Pio’s body used to lie before he was moved to the amphitheater of mosaic confusion, and it was a true Italian experience. There were 4 confessionals staffed by Franciscan friars, and a room full of chatty Italians who seemed to know, in that way Italians are uncannily able, the precise order they’d each arrived, and therefore who was up next. Sure, forming a line would have been easier and ultimately more efficient, but why constrain ourselves to a linear progression when it could be reasonably estimated, by means of continually scanning the room and making mental observations, who arrived and in which order they did so? Plus, it’s an excuse to talk more.

Finally my turn arrived, and while the list of comprehensive languages outside Father’s confessional included English, it was definitely not his native tongue. But it was such a gift to be able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation there in San Giovanni Rotondo where the saint had labored for so many long hours in the confessional, delivering absolution and relieving people of their great burdens. Even jet lagged and anxious as I was, it was still a tangible peace that descended as father spoke the words of absolution in Italian, after explaining in very halting English that he could not remember the prayer in my language. But what better demonstration of the universality of the Faith then for a white American woman with a baby strapped to her chest to have her confession heard by a black priest from a French colony in Africa wearing the brown robes of a Franciscan friar, having taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as first espoused by a tiny Italian man who lived out a radical gospel poverty 700 years ago?


Tell you what, it’s a wild ride, this Catholicism thing.

Tonight we’re have dinner with our old friends, a mixed American/Italian couple and their 3 beautiful kids, in one of our favorite restaurants near the Vatican. This is my first trip to Italy since cutting out gluten (and most other grains), and it has been a little tricky. Lots of apples and french fries and salads and some surprisingly good meat, at least compared with the stuff I used to buy from my friend the smoking butcher at our local market. Gelato is still good though, and wine is still “senza glutine.” So, va bene.

Happy feast day, and Padre Pio, pray for us!


A pilgrimage of unexpected proportions

September 22, 2016

Well that was quite a week. Here we are in Rome, and at last with some internet that allows for more than a cursory Facebook post or text message. I want to give a bit of a play by play on where we’ve been so far and the amazing things we’ve seen, but first I need to be totally honest with you guys and also a little bit vulnerable, so here goes. Would you pray for me? I’ve been struggling with profound anxiety pretty much since we touched down in Italy, which I first chalked up to Luke being just a little harder on the flight than we’d expected (ha. just a little.) and then to jet lag, but at this point it’s safe to say it’s not you, Italia, it’s me. I’m not really sleeping much at night and I’m definitely not soaking up la dolce vita, which I realize makes me a complete moron, but I can’t seem to shake the deep, deep funk of missing my big kids. I literally can’t sleep for missing them, and I feel sick about having still another 5 days till we see them again. So I guess the moral of this story is the grass really is never greener, and I will never, ever take for granted a long, frustrating afternoon with my little charges, because while I’m sitting in what is arguably the most beautiful city in the world with my sweet fat baby and my wonderful husband, all I want is to jump a plane home to the rest of our crew and go to the super lame park across the street from our house and play with them.

So anyway, just had to cop to that startling realization that I actually really, really don’t want to be anywhere else than home, with my kids, being their mama for now. And if the Lord had to bring me halfway around the world to drive that point home, and if that is in fact the entire point of this trip for me, then so be it. I will go home content and with unbelievable eagerness to return to the incomparably beautiful status quo.

Let’s back up a bit though, because thanks to the miracle of the disappearing internet connection, I’ve had nada to blogga.

We’ll start at the beginning. Day 1 we touched down in Rome late Saturday morning, waited around for our lost then found luggage (hello, Italy, you haven’t changed all that much) and hopped onto our bus to Napoli. We were a little stunned after 13 hours in the air, no sleep, and a bit of a wait for those bags, but none of us more so than Luke who then resigned himself less than gracefully to another 2.5 hours confined to a moving vehicle. Everyone in our group was positive, by the time Mt. Vesuvius came into view on the horizon, that it was not the ancient volcano that was in danger of erupting, but the angry baby on my lap.

We had a quick tour of the church of Gesu Nuova in Napoli and there we prayed before the tomb of St. Joseph Moscato for all the intentions we’d be entrusted with, along with some special prayers for the doctors and medical professionals we love. After lunch in Naples we drove the short distance to Pompeii and embarked on a 2 hour walking tour of the excavations. It was absolutely stunning. And I was more tired than I’ve ever been in my life, possibly including childbirth. Carrying Luke’s stupid umbrella stroller over 2000 year old marble roads and exposed chariot grooves was an act of olympic effort, and it was only the sight of the 92-year old woman in our group nimbly scaling the elevations and striding briskly through the temples and piazzas that kept me from face planting somewhere. She continues to put the ablest-bodied pilgrims among us to shame.

After Pompeii (this is still all one day) we visited Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii, where we had Mass in English and heard a little about Bl. Bartolo Longo, which I am ashamed to admit I remember exactly nothing about. Luke had transformed into a vampire bat at this point and I was doing circles in the hallways and around the church, weaving through crowds of nuns and stray cats and starting to question the meaning of life itself. We got back on the bus after mass and headed to another town that had something to do with a castle and Maria and the ocean, and then we finally crashed. Luke slept about 3 hours and then cordially invited us to stroll the town center with him from 1-3 am, which we agreed to under some auditory duress. It was definitely a good immersion experience, and it true Italian fashion, the streets were so thronged with party goers and gelato and panino consumers that we thought it had to have been a major local holiday.

Nope, just Saturday night in Italia.

Luke eventually found his chill, and we eventually slept another 3 hours until wakeup call. Which is where I will leave you, because I am being summoned to dinner by a handsome little pterodactyl who is ready for his pasta ration. I’ll try to add some pictures when the internet is less sleepy, but you can also follow me on Instagram.

Tomorrow we’ll visit Pietralcina, Piano Romana, and San Giovanni Rotundo. Ciao for now.

Catholic Spirituality, Catholics Do What?, Life in Italy, Traveling with Children

Can I pray for you?

September 15, 2016

Tomorrow morning we head out bright and early with one sweet but angrily-teething baby (who will be assuring our otherwise glamorous trip remains firmly categorized as “pilgrimage”) and 2 suitcases. We’re connecting through NYC and then straight on till Rome. Once we’re on the ground in Italy, we’re headed directly out of town to Napoli (and Pompeii, which my 7th grade ancient-history loving heart is positively atwitter over), and then the rest of the trip is very much oriented toward visiting shrines, churches, and other pilgrimage sites.

We’ll be visiting the Church of Gesu Nuovo on our first day, where lies the body of St. Joseph Moscati (a medical doctor canonized by St. John Paul II.) I’ll be praying there especially for my doctor friends and for a decisive defeat of the physician-assisted suicide bill on the Colorado ballot this fall.

Still in Naples, we head to the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary and learn about Blessed Bartolo Longo, mentioned by name in JPII’s apostolic letter on the rosary as an “apostle of the rosary.” So far the count of “saints I’ve never heard of” stands at 2.

The next morning we head out for Padre Pio’s stomping grounds, Pietrelcina. We’ll be visiting the house where he was born (!), the church where he was baptized, and the church where he celebrated his first mass. Then we head to Piana Romano, the site where he received his stigmata. Finally, we head to San Giovanni Rotondo, where he served as a Franciscan friar for 52 years.

Day 4 is the day I think I’m most excited about, and I’m not even totally sure why. We’re headed to the Grotto of St Michael, which is the oldest shrine in western Europe, a site that St. Francis of Assisi made a pilgrimage to but felt himself unworthy to enter, so he stayed and prayed outside the door. He carved the “tau” cross into the doorpost, which I’m hoping is still visible? But I don’t know. I’d never heard of this place before seeing the itinerary for the trip, but I’ve been crazy excited to visit, even without knowing much about it. Next we head to Lanciano, which my computer wants to correct to “Lansing, Michigan” desperately. Every time. Lanciano is the home to one of the most famous Eucharistic miracles, dating from the 8th century, when a priest doubting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist said the words of consecration and was astonished to find the bread and wine physically transformed into human flesh and blood. Type O negative, universal donor, to be precise. The flesh is preserved in a reliquary and has been vetted by countless doctors and scientists over the years as the real deal. It’s incredible.

Next we’ll head to Loreto, reportedly the dwelling place of Mary when she was visited by the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, (I know, geography…bear with me for a minute) and then where the Hoy Family may have spent their early years. Pious tradition has it that the house was physically transported to Italy from the Holy Land in the 14th century by “angels,” which is sometimes how the Crusaders are referred to in historical writing. I’ll let you know what I think.

Finally, we head “home” to Rome for 4 days. We’ll hit all the usual spots and I’ll be stopping in to St. Peter’s to walk through the Holy Door for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and of course to visit my main man, JPII, where I’ll be leaving all the intentions we’ve carried with us there with him, like we did last time.

If anyone wants to leave specific intentions, please feel free to do so in the comments, or if you want to remain more anonymous you can message them to the Facebook page. (I’ll be updating IG with shots from our trip in the evenings, but staying off social media during the days in the spirit of actually being on pilgrimage.)

Prayers for a sleepy flying baby and healthy, happy kiddos at home with grandma and grandpa much appreciated!
st michael