Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Peaches, peaches everywhere...

We went peach picking again today.  Apparently 22 lbs of peaches weren't quite enough and we had to go get 10 more.

I think there are peaches coming out of every container/basket/fridge drawer in my kitchen at the moment.     We've been eating peaches for pretty much every meal (reminds me of the time we went camping in Maine and our campsite happened to be surrounded by tons of wild blueberries....we had blueberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that weekend!!).

We've had peach cobbler twice this week.  I made peach salsa tonight.  We've been eating peaches at snack time.....we juiced a few of them this past week for breakfast.   Peaches are everywhere in our house!

Today, the boys and I tried something new:  fruit leather.   I've been wanting to try and make some for awhile, since their favourite snacks seem to be the fruit strips from Target.   I'm happy to say that they're delicious and oh-so-very-easy to make!  Try them for yourself!

Peach Fruit Leather **

4-5 fresh peaches
1 tbsp honey

Combine peaches and honey in a blender and puree until smooth.   Spread over a non-stick sheet for a food dehydrator.    Set your dehydrator for 135º, and let it run until the fruit is hardened, and no longer sticky.   Remove from the non-stick sheet, let cool, and slice into strips.  Roll up and enjoy!  

** one batch of this recipe filled one tray in my dehydrator.  To fill the entire dehydrator, I quadrupled this recipe

Start with fresh, ripe peaches

And a little yummy honey

Chop up the peaches (remove the pits, but leave the skins) and throw them into a blender, with the honey.

Put the lid on and get ready to rock!

Puree it into a nice, smooth liquid

Pour evenly (I spread it with the back of a spoon) onto a non-stick tray for your dehydrator
Dehydrate at 135º until it is hard and can be peeled right off.  As it cools, it should soften into a fruit roll-up consistency.

Cut into strips, roll up, and enjoy!! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday!


Guess what went out in the mail last night?  Yeppers, our I-800A paperwork for our adoption!  We're one step closer to bringing Peter home!  :-)  Writing a check to the Department of Homeland Security was odd....but felt like quite an accomplishment at the same time!  We have officially hit the last round of paperwork and entered into the "waiting" stage.


We made the yummiest dessert yesterday from the peaches we picked the other day.   Here's the recipe - definitely check it out!  I'm slightly embarrassed to let you all know that we ate the entire thing in one serving between the 5 of us....


We're taking the boys on a "secret surprise" tonight:   we're going to the symphony.  Either we're totally and completely crazy, or it will be a fun family date night.  Mike found 1/2 price tickets, so for $16 each, we're going to go see something that looks like this:

They bring in acrobats to do a "Cirque du Soleil"-like show while the symphony plays live underneath them.   I'm hoping it'll pay off and be a great night!   The catch is that it doesn't start until 8 pm, which is usually bedtime!  I'm going to bribe like crazy to try and get naps into my boys who haven't napped in years...Wish me luck!  


My oldest munchkin hit a personal goal last night.   Both of the big two rascals take gymnastics lessons, and will be competing next year.   One of the things they have to do is climb up this incredibly long rope and ring the bell at the top.  To give you an idea of how high this ceiling is, here's a picture of the gym:

Picture taken from the "viewing deck" which is on the second floor of the building - there's at least one more story above the viewing deck before you hit the ceiling.
Climbing up to the top of that rope is HIGH, folks.  He'd never made it up before because he was scared - last night he hit a milestone, guys!


So, most of you know that we're adopting our littlest rascal with the help of an organization called Reece's Rainbow.   They have been incredible - an amazing source of support and a great resource for us during this journey.  Now is a chance for you to help them, and I very much ask you to do so.  Simply follow this link and vote in support of this video.  (Watch it too!).   Thank you in advance!!


I can't believe it, but today marks the end of 28 weeks of homeschooling.  We have four weeks left to go.  It seems a bit unbelievable to me, to be honest.   It's been a crazy journey, with a steep learning curve, but I think it was definitely the right choice for our family.   We're better for it, and the boys are thriving.   I'm already starting to make plans for next year, and I have to admit - I'm really excited!  

I'm trying to decide whether or not to do an "End of the year celebration."  If you homeschool, do you celebrate the end of the year, or have end of the year traditions?  We'll only be taking about a month off before starting up again (I'm trying to give us a bit of a "padding" so we can take off time when Peter first comes home), and I'd like to make that month really special.  What do you all do for summer?


 One of my favourite Catholic bloggers is Simcha Fisher, and Thursday, she wrote an interesting piece on abstinence-only sex education.  I'm eagerly awaiting her next post on the subject (she leaves us hanging), but I'd be curious as to your thoughts.   What about your experiences with sex education?

Have a great weekend, all, and thanks to Jen for hosting! 

The Juice Post

A green juice that tasted exactly like V8.  Delicious!

We've been drinking a lot of juice recently - so much juice, in fact, that it seems to have caught our friends' attentions.   I've been fielding a lot of questions about our new juicing habit, so I thought (and was encouraged by Danya!) I'd blog about it for you guys. 

Last fall, I watched a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.   I like watching food/diet related documentaries on Netflix while I'm working out.  Call it motivation, call it a guilty pleasure, call it whatever you want.  It's just what I do.  

In this movie, a man (we'll call him Joe...because that's his name...) is at a point where he's dealing with a debilitating disease and lots of medication.  He's overweight, not at all healthy, and totally depressed.  Joe consults with his doctors and nutritionists, and decides to do a 60-day juice fast.  There's a lot of information in the movie, and I do recommend watching it to everyone.  I haven't checked all of the science behind a total juice-fast, and obviously would not recommend it to ANYONE without their doctor's approval, but the movie itself provides a lot of food for thought.  I even blogged about it once before. 

Anywho, I'd been curious about juicing for awhile, and Mike finally got around to watching the movie with me one night.   (Yes, I've watched it about 5 times now...).   As you all know, we've been working really hard to try and "get healthy," and things have been slowly but steadily marching onward toward that goal.   Even with that, though, we were finding that it was really hard to get all of our "recommended" fruit and veggie servings throughout the day.   

We started talking about whether or not juicing would work well for us, as an addition to our current diets.   If we juiced some of our veggies/fruits, would we be able to get that recommended amount?  We both firmly believed that nutrition was the key to good health, and that even the best vitamins out there could be outdone by a solid diet.   It seemed to make logical sense that getting our required nutrients in the form that nature intended (through nutrition) was healthier than through a pharmaceutical.

We talked a lot about it, and then one day, during a shopping trip to Costco, I realized that my boys gobbled up the juices that they watched being made during every single one of our shopping trips.   Even after they watched the employee put spinach and other "yucky" things through the display juicer, they loved the juice that came out!  It seemed that maybe juice would be the key to increasing our fruit/veggie intake across the whole family.

We started researching.   I'll admit, it's hard to find solid research out there on the health benefits of juicing.   There's not a lot of *available* scientific data about health benefits of juice.   I found a lot of information about how your body digests juice (more quickly and readily than through the food itself - the juicer does part of the work for your body, so absorption is much quicker).  I found a lot of anecdotal evidence and personal testimonies.  I even found information about the physical effects of juicing (things like mental health and energy).  I saw references to things like possible relationships between blood pressure and Alzheimer's and juicing.....but I found very little in the way of information and research from prestigious American institutions like Mayo Clinic or the National Institutes of Health.   It seemed like the only organizations I could find that even talked about juicing were in other countries (a lot of juicing traffic in the UK, it seems, which also seems to make sense in light of the fact that our buddy Joe began his whole journey in Australia). 

Anywho, our research led us to believing that juicing could - and would - be a healthy addition to our current diets.  Not a replacement for, mind you, but a healthy addition.   We both had some "problem areas" that we struggled with, and we thought that maybe juicing would be a solution to those areas.

Let's take, for example, my problem with breakfast.   I'm not a morning person.  I never really have been.   I don't like being talked to in the morning, I don't like a lot of activity right when I get up, and I definitely don't like to eat.   It usually takes me a good hour to begin to even feel like I want to eat, and by then I'm starving.   My solution before juicing?  I would drink coffee until my stomach started to feel queasy and then reach for the nearest sugar-loaded carb that was easy and quick to eat.  Not exactly healthy.   I really needed a solution to breakfast that didn't rely on a lot of cooking having to be done, and that wouldn't set me up for carb overload for the rest of the day.  (My post-breakfast sugar crash was not pretty, haha).  

Mike had similar struggles that he was dealing with.  We thought we'd give juicing a try, just to see if it might be a solution for us.  We headed down to Bed, Bath, and Beyond with coupons and birthday money, and purchased ourselves a beautiful black-and-chrome Omega Juicer. 

That night, we experimented with different recipes that we found online, in recipe books, and that were recommended by friends.   It was fun, and the best part may have been watching the boys get so excited to "eat" their veggies.  

It's now a month later, and we're both still regularly juicing.   Juice for breakfast (with a protein powder mixed in) has become an amazing solution.  I drink it while I'm preparing breakfast for the boys, and before I even have my coffee, and it has worked perfectly.    We use all fresh produce (mostly organic), and all it takes is about 20 minutes the night before to actually prep the juice (if you do make it the night before, make sure it is in an air-tight container), and voila!  I have a yummy, healthy, easy-to-drink meal that does not lead to me gobbling down every carb in sight about an hour later.    It really has helped my mornings.

We typically juice for breakfast and then lunch involves a vegetable juice.  Some days, depending on the day (and the day's activities), lunch becomes just that juice - - or the juice is in addition to my regular meal of a salad of some sort.   I had already switched my lunches to be salads, and pretty much eat that every day, but now, I was doubling my veggie intake without much work.    It filled me up longer, gave me more energy, and prevented me from adding unnecessary sides to my salad.    I didn't need to add a ton of cheese or croutons or anything like that - the juice plus a simple salad filled me up more than adding all those "extras" to my salad ever did.

What I did not expect to find was the change in my overall sense of well-being that seems to have followed our adopting a juicing habit.    I even hesitated to blog about this anecdotal evidence for the benefits of juicing because I was worried that I was still just riding the "honeymoon high" of the diet change.   It wasn't until I realized it's been a month that we've had our juicer that I started to accept that this wasn't due to the "newness" of our diet, but maybe was due to an overall side effect to eating more fruits and vegetables.

Since juicing regularly (at least for breakfast, and typically for lunch, too), both Mike and I have noticed:

- less instances of depression

- an increase in energy

- better sleep habits and what seems to be more restful sleep

- an overall sense of health.  Meaning, we FEEL healthier throughout the day - less instances of feeling sick or feeling depressed or feeling sluggish

- we enjoy our food more.  Both of us noticed - independently of each other - that our sense of taste had drastically heightened.  Food (including the juices themselves) seem to have a stronger taste.  We're using less seasonings.  We're enjoying the flavours of the food -including juices - more.  

- decreased reliance on coffee.  Both of us have noticed that we've drastically decreased our coffee intake and even our desire for coffee.  To give you an idea, I was typically drinking three cups of coffee every morning.   I'm currently drinking one, and I often forget to drink it once I've poured it - I just don't even really want it anymore.

- we've both lost some weight.   Mine hasn't been that drastic (only a few pounds) but Mike's has been pretty significant (about 10 pounds).  Our diets have changed to primarily fruits and veggies with the addition of the juices (we eat meat maybe once or twice a week, and I'd say at least 80% of each day's total food intake is in the form of veggies/fruits, and most of that percentage is in the form of vegetables). 

- at my recent doctor's visit, my blood pressure was the lowest it has been in years (about two weeks into our juicing habit).    All of my lab work came back in ideal ranges.

Obviously this is all anecdotal, but a quick glance at the internet can find hundreds of anecdotes just like ours.   Is it scientific proof?  Not at all....but it might be enough to convince you that you should research this for yourself. 

At this point, I think juicing will forever be a regular part of our diets.  We enjoy it, we are seeing definite health benefits, and it's fun.  The kids are enjoying drinking their juices (they purely drink juice as an addition to their diets - they do not replace meals with juices), and I'm enjoying the amount of green leafy veggies I can get into them without dousing it in salad dressings.  

I'm not a food scientist, or even a nutritionist, but I've become firmly convinced that juicing can be, and probably should be, a part of every person's regular diet.   I'm not fully convinced on the idea of a total juice fast, like Joe did in the movie, but I'm still researching that one.   I'll let you know when/if I find any more information about that.  

As I said before, I'm not a medical professional.   If you decide to do a juice fast in any way, make sure to talk to your doctor first.

I'll leave you with a couple of pictures of the juicing fun in our house.   Feel free to leave me questions or comments below, and I'll do my best to point you to an answer.   There are lots of recipes out there, and plenty of books written about juicing - I will do what I can to point you to the right one for your answer! 

For now - cheers!

An amazing way to start the day:  apple, apricot and cinnamon

Creating our favourite:  kale, celery, apple and lemon

Getting in on the fun - they LOVE to help!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our day in pictures.....

I've been a bit too word-y lately, so I'm giving you guys a break.  For your viewing pleasure, I present:

"What I did today, an exercise in photography"

With any luck, I'll be back tomorrow with more pictures of what we made with 22 pounds of fresh peaches!!  :-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

The next best thing?

It was a long weekend here at the house.    No, it wasn't a holiday weekend -- but it felt like there was an extra day shoved in there. 

I started wondering WHY it felt so long to me.   I mean, we had something to do every single day, so one would think that the days would fly by and the weekend would be over before we knew it.  But that's not what happened.

Saturday night, I couldn't sleep at first.  I had just gone out with a wonderful group of ladies for a "Mom's Night Out" kind of dinner, and so I would have thought that I would have been relaxed, in a good mood, ready for a quiet evening at home.   Instead, I had come home to a family who had NOT had an easy, relaxing night (thanks to my husband's job and the 3 year old who decided to SCREAM all night, apparently), and the house was covered in a sense of "unsettledness" (for lack of a better word).

The mood was contagious, and I found myself unable to relax or enjoy the evening.   As I sat and contemplated my environment at that moment, I had one of those "aha!" moments.

I think a few posts in the past have been leading up to this - I know I've written about hope, about Love, about the anger and bitterness I saw in so many of my peers - but at that moment on Saturday, one thought kept jumping out at me.  One that tied all of those posts together:  

We need to stop living for the "next best thing."

I realized that this whole weekend seemed to drag out because we were constantly waiting for our next "good" thing.  Instead of looking around us and seeing the beauty that we were being completely surrounded by (little boy giggles, the blue sky, a full pantry, a good book to read, a friend to talk to, etc), we were counting down the moments until our "next best thing."   Counting down the moments until our dinner out.  Counting down the moments until Daddy could be home and not working.  Counting down the moments until payday, when we could not worry about the checking account.  Counting down the moments until our next "big vacation."  Counting down the moments until something better was going to happen...it didn't matter what that something better was....as long as it was better than whatever we happened to be doing at that moment.

In reality, we were counting our lives away.

Goals are a good thing, most of the time.   I mean, we all have goals that are good to work towards (completing a degree, getting caught up on housework, paying off debt, losing weight, hitting an exercise milestone, etc).  Goals are good - they motivate and inspire, and when they are achieved, they affirm in a way that nothing else on this Earth really can.   To accomplish a goal is an unbelievable morale booster, and that's great.

But when we become GOAL-oriented instead of TASK-oriented, we lose sight of the real purpose of setting goals.

If we focus only on the goal, or the next big event, or the next best thing......we miss out on the best gift ever given to us:  our life.

It's easier said than done.  It's so easy to focus on that end goal and just look at the actual tasks that accomplish that goal as a burden.  It's so easy to focus on that graduation date...and view the studying and learning before that date as an obligation or a burden.   It's so easy to allow those tasks to weigh us down, instead of let them do their job of building us up.

The beauty of the goal is in the TASKS that get you there.   The true affirmation comes in the task - it is within the task that you grow, you learn, you achieve.   

This goes for "real life," too.   It's not the big job promotion that affirms you - - it's the daily work that you learn to accomplish in an exemplary manner.   It's not the weight loss that affirms you - - it's the commitment, the dedication, the work ethic that becomes a part of you as you achieve that weight loss.

Each moment in our lives, we are given the greatest gift from God:  we are given the opportunity to respond to His call and grow in virtue.  We are given the opportunity to grow into the person that He intends us to be.  Do we do that?   Or, do we spend our entire day dreaming of that person that He wants us to be.....and end up missing the opportunity?

We are surrounded, every day, by examples of His love.  The people in our lives, the beauty that surrounds us, even the struggles that we face are His way of writing us love letters.  They are His way of showing us the beauty that He sees in us.    He is singing us a love song, every single day of our lives....but are we listening?


Or are we waiting for the big concert finale?

Let's make a deal:  as of today, we will stop counting down the minutes to the "next best thing," but instead...let's count the positives.   I challenge you, right now, without taking time to think about a perfect answer, to leave a comment with FIVE good things/blessings in your life.   Don't compose the best answer - - just rattle it right off.

What are FIVE good things in your life, right now?  FIVE things right here in the now, not something that you are waiting for.....

I bet we can all do it.   Do you?

O Jesus, if I but considered attentively your immense solicitude for me, how greatly should I not excel in every virtue? Pardon me, O Jesus, so much carelessness, pardon such great ignorance. My God, Jesus my Love, Increated Goodness, what would have become of me if you had not drawn me to yourself? Open your heart to me, open to me your sacramental breast; I open mine to you. -- St Gemma Galgani

Friday, May 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes


 I'm joining in on the fun with this whole 7 quick takes thingy.  It seems like a good way to have a regular blog post that doesn't take much pre-thinking or editing.  Hopefully I'll be able to stick to it.  Thanks, Jen, for hosting! 


I have absolutely no motivation today.  A day of staying in my pajamas sounds fabulous, but it won't help groceries appear in my fridge/pantry.  Someone send me a kick in the rear end to get started!

I took a bit of a break from my Friday weigh-ins during our Lenten sicknesses and then our month of visitors.  I finally stepped back on the scale today, and am pleased to report that it's still moving in the right direction.  Since January 2011 when I started this "getting healthy" journey, I've managed to lose 41.5 pounds!


We gave in a few weeks ago and bought a juicer.  I've been juicing every day for at least one meal (mostly breakfast), and I can say that I am now truly and completely addicted.  Who knew that drinking your meals could be this much fun?  And this yummy?!?!


It seems to be peach season here - or at least the starting of.  I'm a dork, and have been looking forward to this season since before we moved to the desert.   I'm going to take the boys peach picking on Tuesday, and I think I'm more excited than they are!  I'll be sure to post pictures....


It's apparently another season here in good old Arizona:  allergy season.   I've never had to deal with allergies before, and I can tell you that I am NOT enjoying dealing with them now.  I've tried a couple different OTC allergy meds, and I'm sorry to say that the only one that seems to even remotely work is good ol' plain Benadryl.   So if you run into me somewhere, or call, or email and get a very incoherent, slightly drugged out response....I'm sorry.  When whatever I'm allergic to stops blooming, try again.  I probably won't remember our earlier interaction by that point.


And last, but not least, be sure to go and check out our giveaway on our adoption blog!  We've had an amazing donor give us a discontinued American Girls doll, and she could be going home to you tomorrow!   There's a really good chance that she will be yours, if you just go to the blog and follow the eligibility rules.  Check it out! 


I seem to be seeing that word everywhere recently:  love

It's in our news headlines.  It's in my friend's Facebook posts.  It's in other blog posts.  It was even the topic of last weekend's Mass readings.

Love is everywhere, it seems.

Then why is everyone still so bitter and angry?

I think the reason is that we're talking about "love" these days, not "Love."

We've been talking about the feeling of love (and only the good feelings associated with love, at best) and not the Person of love.

Everything changes when you start talking about Love instead of love.

You see, in order to talk about Love....you have to have faith.  You have to have hope.  In order for love to be more than just a feeling....you have to know and believe and trust in Love, the Person.

Without Him, there can only be love with a little "l."  Without him, love is merely a chemical reaction in our bodies that feels good. 

But with Him, love becomes everything.  Love becomes all-encompassing.

Love becomes invincible.

Love becomes and action, a way of being....a Person.

With Jesus, we are shown what Love truly is:

- compassion and tenderness
-insistence on the return to Truth and God's commands
-a heart of service
-wanting only the best for another

Love, with Jesus, becomes more than a feel-good emotion.  Love becomes a sacrifice of self for the good of another.

Without Jesus, "love" is merely a selfish concept.  It is a feeling one gets that feels good.  It is self-gratification at the hands of another person or thing. 

With Jesus, the concept of love is turned upside down.  It is no longer about self....but purely focused on another.  Love becomes a glance outwards, rather than a looking inward.  

All we have to do is look at the cross to understand that sometimes, loving someone else hurts.   Love does not always feel good.  But Love, first and foremost, always has the betterment of another at its core.  Jesus suffered for us because he loved us, not because it "felt good."   Love cannot be defined by a feel-good emotion if we trust and hope in Jesus.  Love cannot be a feel-good emotion if we know Jesus Christ.

Love can, however, become so much more when we build a relationship with Christ.

When we follow in Christ's footsteps, love becomes the most powerful action we can undertake.  Love becomes a chance to work towards another person's salvation.  When we love as Christ loved, we are helping our brother get to Heaven.  

Is it easy?  No.

Is it painless?  Not at all.

Is it what Jesus wants of us?  Yes.

He wants us to love as He loved - He tells us that time and time again.

He wants us to care about our brother's salvation.

He wants us to love....with a big "L."

He wants us to follow His lead.

So are we?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I've been on my own for the past day or so, hanging out at home with just the doggies while the rest of the family is up visiting the Grand Canyon.  I was supposed to go, but a sick doggie changed my plans, and so I've been relishing the peace and quiet at home instead.  

Since it's Mother's Day weekend, I decided to spend it indulging in a few guilty pleasures:  yummy beer (Oberon!), double workouts (yay for finally getting back up to my 5K after our Lenten sicknesses!), and my number 1 guilty pleasure:  a marathon of Law and Order: SVU reruns on Netflix. 

Yep, I'm a Law and Order junkie, and my favourite cast of actors happens to be on the SVU version.   (Well, now that Jesse L Martin is gone, of course...)

Anywho, I was watching an episode from one of the first seasons today while on the treadmill (yay for two guilty pleasures at once!  No, I did NOT drink the beer at the same time....), and a line from one of the actors really stood out to me.  It was a mom, who was talking about raising her children after their father had been murdered.  When asked by a detective just what she had told them about the incident, she responded, "I never sugar-coat the truth."

That phrase has been on repeat, in my brain, all day.  Through countless other episodes.   Through driving to and from Mass tonight.   I was reminded of it again during Father's homily.

"I never sugar-coat the truth."

"I never sugar-coat the truth."

Fellow Catholics, now is the time to ask ourselves if this statement applies to us.   Are we sugar-coating the Truth?

Sugarcoat:   to make superficially attractive or palatable

 Are we covering up or hiding the Truth so much that others can't recognize it?

Are we spinning the Truth in order to make it superficially attractive?

“Great truths can only be forgotten and can never be falsified.”

Catholics...have we forgotten the Truth?

This Truth:
In Jesus Christ, the whole of God's truth has been made manifest. "Full of grace and truth," he came as the "light of the world," he is the Truth.257 "Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness."258 The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know "the truth [that] will make you free" and that sanctifies.259 To follow Jesus is to live in "the Spirit of truth," whom the Father sends in his name and who leads "into all the truth."260 To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: "Let what you say be simply 'Yes or No.'"261
Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: "It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth."262  
(CCC 2466-2467)

And this Truth:
The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.269
All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation. 270
(CCC 2472)

Catholics, have we sugar-coated the truth so much that we no longer recognize it as truth?  Have we shoved this desire and search for the Truth so far down into ourselves that we don't even try any more?

Catholics, we know the Truth.  The one and only Truth:  Jesus Christ.  We are face-to-face with the Truth every time we go to Mass.

Have we forgotten Him and what He told us?

Catholics, He is asking us to be authentic.   He is asking us to bear witness to the Truth.   He is asking us to witness to the Truth and make it known.

Have we been doing that?

Or have we been sugar-coating that witness, so that it is superficially attractive?

Do you know what else is superficially attractive?  

The Evil One.   

He twists reality, making evil seem desirable.   Sin glitters under his influence.   The hard truth of reality (the destruction caused by sin) is made superficially attractive.   Bad seems good...immorality seems moral......vice looks like virtue....

Catholics, now is the time to stand up to the sugar-coating.  If we don't understand or see the wisdom in the Church's teachings, now is the time to start learning, to start asking.   

We need to know, and cling to, the Truth.

We need to know, and to cling to, Jesus Christ.

Now is the time for conviction.   Now is the time to stand up.   Now is the time to bear witness to the Truth. 

“Right is Right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.”
G.K. Chesterton


If you want to start learning, I highly recommend starting here

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Open Letter...

Dear friends and family,

I am writing this in an attempt to explain myself a little bit.  You see, recently, I've had this nagging feeling that I'm inadvertently hurting some feelings out there, and I don't want anyone to be hurting.    Offending anyone was never my intention.

What did I do?  you may be wondering?

Well....that's just it.  I didn't do anything.  I didn't accept your invitation to get together.  I didn't really return phone calls or messages (instead, I may have texted or sent a quick email in place of a phone call).  I definitely didn't Skype, as the mere mention of computer video chats sends me into heart palpitations.

I am not avoiding you.

I do not think badly of you at all.   I have not "dropped" you, or "broken up" with you.

Instead, I've been trying to maintain my sanity.  

You see, I'm an introvert.  I didn't realize that until this past year.  Up until then, I thought that being an introvert meant that you had to be shy.   Anyone who knows me knows that I am not shy.  So, if I wasn't shy, I wasn't an introvert, right?  Wrong.

Up until this past year, I thought something was seriously wrong with me.  I thought I *might* even need counseling (I suppose some of you might disagree with my change of heart now).   I couldn't understand why being out in public for *too* long would send me into a completely overwhelmed state.  Like a deer in headlights kind of state.  I didn't understand why everyone else seemed to love parties and being around lots of friends....but it would stress me out.   I couldn't understand why I seemed to spend so much more time writing and lost in thought than everyone else I knew.  I mean, didn't everyone spend hours contemplating one paragraph in a book they were reading, and then writing blog post after blog post about that same paragraph?   I didn't understand why I felt SO VERY DIFFERENT from almost every single one of my friends and family members.....I wasn't shy, so why did I seem to need so much more time alone or away from the outside world, just to feel like I was staying sane?!?!

And then I joined a book group.  

I know, I know, it seems crazy for someone who has a hard time with the external world to join a book group.   At the time, though, I felt like I needed to.  I'd just moved my husband and family three thousand miles across the country, away from everything and everyone we knew, AND I had just started homeschooling my boys, which meant no built-in way of meeting new people or for them to make new friends.  When the homeschooling co-op that I'd joined started a book club, one that included a park playdate for the children (score!  A chance for them to make friends, AND for me to have an excuse to have to read, which is my favourite activity).....I joined. 

The first book we read was about temperaments.   My eyes were opened.  Widely opened.  I have never, ever had a "self-help" book change my life like this one has. 

I finally learned that being introverted has absolutely nothing to do with being shy.  I realized - thanks to the countless examples of real-life people (Saints) sprinkled throughout the book - that I WAS NOT ALONE.

I was not crazy, or on my way there (yet).

I was merely an introvert.

Things started to fall into place.

I now understood why my heart starts to beat a bit faster if I'm in a crowd for too long.  Why I literally cannot think when grocery shopping on a weekend during the busy time of day.  Why I feel exhausted after a get-together with friends (even if I'm not hosting!).  Why I prefer our vacations to be tent camping in the woods and not at a beach town.   Why, on my husband's days off of work, I want to stay home and hang out in our backyard and NOT go to the mall.

It all made sense.  Finally.  I know it doesn't make sense to a lot of you, as, for some reason, my best friends are completely and totally extroverted (as is my husband).   

Now that I recognize it, though, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to reduce my stress caused by too much of a good thing.  (Notice:  I do believe that the external world is a GOOD thing, but too much of it can lead me to high stress levels, which, physically and emotionally are not very healthy). 

So, occasionally, I've been stepping back.  Retreating, if you will.  Not going to those playdates or book club sessions.   Not going out to eat with friends.   Not returning the phone calls with actual phone calls, but instead reaching towards texts or emails. 

It's not because I don't love you.   It's because I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and spread thin.   When I get overwhelmed...I tend to say things that I don't mean or step on toes.  I'm trying to avoid that, especially since the people I love the most (my family) are typically the ones that get the brunt of that exhaustion and stretched thin feeling.   They're the ones that I snap at when I'm feeling stressed and out of control. 

With all that's been going on recently (lots of appointments, adoption paperwork, phone calls, and home studies, sicknesses, houseguests, birthday parties and gatherings, and so on and so on), I'm feeling a bit like that deer in headlights.   I don't know what way is up and how to get myself back to the surface.

So, believe it or not, it's not you....it's me.

I need a snow day, to try and get myself back in order.

I will call, I do want to have playdates and date nights and family bbqs and all that fun stuff.

Just....after my self-imposed time out.

Thanks for understanding,

P.S.  For some more reading about introverts, check out Leila's blog post here.

The Swing

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Three times four is....

Just ask Baby #1!

We've been working on learning how to multiply and divide, and I guess I'm sort of "old school."   Part of our lesson plan involves multiplication drills, even though I don't think that's the "cool" thing to do right now in the land of education theory.   

To spice things up a bit, we've taken a friend's idea ("counting cards") and added a bit of a twist.  Instead of cards, we've implemented counting "stickers"  - otherwise known as Post-it notes, haha - that we place on our tile floor.  

Once the cards are all in place (stuck to the floor, in other words), I start calling out multiplication facts.   Baby #1 will jump from where he was standing to land on the correct answer.   With my active, hands-on 7-year old boy, this method is genius.    He can move around, have some fun (some of the jumping techniques are HILARIOUS!!), and practice the concept at the same time.  He's a little boy that hates worksheets and repetition, so our jumping stickers let me practice facts with him while holding his attention.  Enjoy the pictures!

Our "game" board
Rascal #1, thinking hard

Math in action!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Oh, what a tangled web...

“Precisely because we are so inclined to think in terms of individual greatness and personal heroism, it is important for us to reflect carefully on the fact that the compassionate life is a community life. ”
Henri J. M. Nouwen Donald P. McNeill Douglas A. Morrison 
I've been thinking a lot about community recently.  
More specifically, I've been thinking about connections/relationships within our communities.  

I think it's easy to forget - often - that we are all connected to each other.  We don't stand alone, ever, in this life.   We're always touching - or being touched by - another person, even if it doesn't feel like it.  

It's so easy to feel alone.  It's so very easy to feel like no one understands you, or no one cares about you.  My gosh, I go through days with these exact thoughts going through my head.  It's also usually when jealousy gets the best of me:  "Why does so-and-so always have more friends?"  or "Why does so-and-so get invited to everything and not me?"   It's so easy to give in to that temptation and start to believe that I am all alone in this world.  

It's human nature to focus on our own self.  It's not that easy to focus outward - we're naturally inclined to focus inward.  It's habit to focus on the individual....and completely miss those surrounding the individual.  This is especially true when it comes to our own lives as Americans, I think.  Our culture celebrates the individual, and encourages us to focus on our own needs, and our own wants.  Often, we end up with a sort of tunnel vision when looking at our lives and completely miss everything (or everyone) on the periphery. 

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago and he made a comment that has really stuck with me.  I was focusing completely on myself and our family, and about situations we've been encountering in our recent lives, and he very rightly pointed out that maybe, just maybe, we weren't placed into those situations for ourselves.  He gently reminded me that sometimes God could very well be putting something into motion that had absolutely no bearing on ourselves...but yet He was using us to work within someone else's life or heart.  Basically......if we stopped focusing on ourselves for a minute, we'd recognize that we are intimately tied to other human beings, and everything we did or said affected those other humans.  The situation that I had considered from only my own point of view took on a completely different meaning when I opened my eyes to everyone else involved.  

I'm an melancholic introvert by nature - it's very easy to lose sight of the forest and focus on each individual tree.  I run into a roadblock - a tree - and can't seem to find my way around it.  My vision becomes completely and totally focused on that tree.   The melancholic in me starts to stress, and starts to think the worst.  The introvert in me starts to pull in onto myself:  when I stress and start the "what if?" process, I stop trying to reach out to the outside world, but instead, try to comfort myself with reducing that external stimulation.  That tree becomes the only object in my view, with the rest of the forest fading away into a background blur.

If I can't see the surrounding trees and forest, I hardly ever remember about the birds living in the tree, or the fruit growing on the tree.   I forget that the tree has its own purpose, and that purpose probably isn't just to get into my way.  Instead, that tree is giving another life a chance to grow and thrive.  My roadblock is someone else's stepping stone.  When I realize that, my job becomes not to bulldoze the tree....but instead, to nurture it and keep those within the tree safe.

When I take a moment to step back, shake my focus away from myself, and truly see the community around me.....then I am able to live compassionately.
When I step back and look at the community around me....God can begin to use me for His design.
And isn't that what I want?  Don't I want to be completely and totally open to His will in this life?  Aren't I striving towards a life that is only being lived for Him alone?
I can't do that without community.  I can't do that without looking outward.  I can't do that without seeing those around me.
I can't live for Him when I am only thinking of myself.   
If I focus only on the tree....I miss the beauty surrounding it.  I miss Him, working in and through us all. 
Help me to focus on You in my daily life.
Let me be willing to let You work through me.  
Let me touch those around me with Your love.
Help me to live compassionately for You.
I ask you not to remove the struggles in my life....but allow me to see the beauty within them.

Photo catch up

It was a busy week, with Nanny and Poppy in town, and a couple of birthdays to celebrate (Poppy and Mike's), so I'll do a quick catch up with pictures.  Don't forget you can click on the picture itself to see it bigger!  Enjoy!  :-)

Roadside picnics with Nanny!

Standing inside a volcanic crater

We made it!

A buddy system was quickly instituted thanks to the not-so-sturdy guardrails

What a goof

Beautiful picnic (and wading) spot on the way back home

Heading down to check out Biosphere 2

Time for the zoo!

Just a couple of turkeys

Hope you enjoyed them!!