just a girl, on the phone, talking to much cooler people / 7qt

In a turn of fate that had zero to do with me and everything to do with other people believing that I could do this whole radio gig, I've had the chance to interview some incredible people lately. It's like my life has become this uber-Catholic and non-raunchy version of She's Out of My League, only it's called "They're Out of My League" and "they" are the people I nervously dial each week.


"Hi, is this Tim Staples? This is Mary with Mater Dei Radio."

WHAT?!? I don't know who I am anymore.

1 / Tim Staples
Tim gave a great explanation of the new Marian feast day added to the Roman Calendar by Pope Francis. The obligatory memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church will now be celebrated every Monday after Pentecost. Neato!

2 / Leila Lawler
AUNTIE LEILA! Even though The Little Oratory has been out for a while, I still enjoyed asking this domestic jedi about setting up a proper prayer table in the home. If you've ever sat and talked to your mom while she did the dishes after dinner (like I've done many, many times), listen to Leila. She's a gem.

3 / Steve Ray
Jerusalem Jones never disappoints! Steve's got an infectious enthusiasm for the faith and has spent the last decade of his life creating the Footprints of God DVD series--and I'm thinking that if I ever decide to homeschool my brood, I'm just going to turn on a Steve Ray DVD every morning and call it good.

4 / Sancta Nomina's Kate Towne
Holy baby names, Batman. Kate's new book is Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: 250 Ways to Honor Mary. It has the prettiest cover (and the sweetest content). Makes me want to have 246 more kids just so I can use them all. 

5 / Fr. Joseph Fessio
Nothing has so changed my perspective on recent events as Fr. James Schall's new book, On Islam: A Chronological Record. Fr. Fessio expanded on some of Fr. Schall's brilliant essays, most notably on remembering then-Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg lecture in 2006.

6 / Karlo Broussard for Catholic Apologetics 101
This may be the domestic apologist blog, but I've got so much to learn about true Catholic apologetics that it's fairly embarrassing. Karlo's been doing a fantastic job of going through common objections to the faith, and giving listeners real tools to help remove obstacles to believe in truth, in God, and in the Church.

7 / Ken Davison of Holy Heroes
Family goals: Ken and his wife Kerri built Holy Heroes with help and input from their eight sweet children, and today, their company is a household name in Catholic homes with little ones underfoot. I loved getting to hear more about their beautiful new little book, The Rosary of Saint John Paul II.

Linking up with Kelly--thanks for hosting! 


book report - spring 2018

Totally cheating by adding in a book I read TO MY KIDS to make my stack taller. But look at that cute yellow spine!

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Barbara Kingsolver
First up: the book that made the now ubiquitous farm-to-fork movement really take off. Kingsolver's classic bestseller from 2008 was an incredibly successful non-fiction project for this prolific fiction author. I didn’t know until I read it, though, that Kingsolver is pretty darn antagonistic toward every deeply-held belief I have: my Catholic faith, the structure of the Church, gender (that link is a doozy) patriotism, and basically everything else I stand for in life.

What do we have in common? We both like to eat vegetables. 

The closer I got to finishing her book, I started calling it Animal, Vegetable, Eye Roll because come on, the lady bashes on All Saints Day. All Saints Day! But whatever, Kingsolver is a master wordsmith, and her book is a one-year snapshot of the life of living off food she and her family either grew, or purchased within a 100-mile radius of their home in the Appalachian mountains. She’s a literary giant and the queen of writing accessibly and colloquially. Kingsolver writes fascinatingly about, literally, dirt. And slaughtering her home-grown turkeys. The book’s a classic, even if she’s quite a piece of work. Glad I read it, but won't be picking up The Poisonwood Bible anytime soon.

2. The Wideness of the Sea
Katie Curtis
I follow Katie's New England life on Instagram and love seeing pictures of both her beautiful family life--including the recipes she creates for her foodie blog, the humble onion. This is dangerous. She regularly makes me seriously rethink giving up meat and dairy. Drool. 

This beautiful little book alternates between New York City and a small coastal town in Maine. It follows a family and one daughter in particular after her mom, who was a successful and talented painter, dies of cancer, and the emotional ripples an event like that sends out for years in a family. 

If it sounds like it might be a sad read, well, yes, parts of it are more bittersweet than merry. But as a whole, this book made me feel like I was on a vacation and this was the beachy yet soulful book I had taken along with me to read with my sand in the toes. Heartily recommend. 

Trevor Lee Stewart
Do you have children? Do they have ears? Yes to both? READ THEM THIS BOOK. 

It's a well-written, hilarious, triumphant gem that celebrates the ingenuity and value of children. We're reading it's sequel now which I'm finding a little dark, but this first one is pure gold and we've read it out loud, twice, by request of the boys. 

Trent Horn
I loved getting to chat with Trent for an interview that aired on both Coffee & Donuts with John & Mary and the Morning Drive show. This scrappy little book on popular (yet either fake or inaccurate) quotes by Catholic saints is useful, relevant, concise, and most importantly, it's incredibly well-researched. The first quote that's debunked (quite thoroughly) in the book is the old trope trotted out in the name of St. Francis of Assisi to silence the more vocal supporters of the faith: Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words. 

You know, because the New Testament is full of Jesus not preaching. Just opening doors for folks, and such. 

G. K. Chesterton
Additional cheating: I have not finished this book, this 800-page book, which has type so small, a lady in my book club avowed that she physically could not read it--because the words are so tiny. ;)  I've nearly finished the first set of stories the collection, dubbed "The Innocence of Father Brown." At "The Flying Stars" I nearly gave up--reading and grasping anachronistic cultural references isn't my strong point. But after pushing through the next two or three stories, I think I'm going to stick with it for a while. Uncannily insightful yet unassuming, Chesterton's humble crime-solving cleric was the literary answer to the question posed by the popularity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: To brilliantly solve the crimes of the world's psychotic criminals, must one by a sociopath? Chesterton said no, of course not. And he's got 800 pages to prove as much. 

That's my stack! Let me know if you've read of of these too, and what your thoughts are!


five favorites / amazon music

And by "free" I mean the music you get with a Prime membership, but not with the ridiculous up-sell of an Amazon Music Unlimited membership. So, free-ish. 

I'm having a resurgence of playing music during the day, during the dinner hour, in the afternoons. Seems to make me less on edge, less fully overwhelmed by the magnitude of tantrums, and toddler pants wet from another bathroom accident, and babies cranky over anything. It's like playing something, anything, allows 10% of my attention and patience to be reserved and focused on the music, and therefore, I don't lose my sh*t when all hell breaks loose.

It helps.

Top five melodies on repeat here:

1 / Want you back - Haim 

They're three sisters, I think, singing bubbly little pop tunes. 
Stephanie of NieNie Dialogues wrote a post on this, and said it beautifully: "If you only do one thing today, (besides saying your prayers of course), listen to "Spring 1". Now, don't just play it in the background as you work or do the laundry. Promise me that you will sit down and listen to it.
And I hope you can be alone since I am almost positive the arrangement will make you cry.
I also hope you are able to listen to it as loud as you possibly can and unequivocally know that GOD IS." 

It was good advice. I did it, cried, and have listened to it at least 5 times every day since. 

3 / The Piano Guys - custom set of sappiness 

Made myself a good ol' fashioned playlist circa college in 2006 and added my faves to a good neutral-yet-toe-tapping playlist: Ants Marching, Begin Again, Beethoven's 5 Secrets, What Makes You Beautiful, A Thousand Years. Prime has a bunch of their albums to cherry pick from. 

Auntie Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter mentioned this one in a bits & pieces post a while back, I think because her kids are wickedly talented fiddlers. I pluck no strings over here, but man, these fellows make some great music. Don't miss "Go, Lovely Rose."

Ok ok, it's not on Prime music! I listen to it on YouTube (is that illegal? immoral??) so it fits the free-ish category. I've been seeing folks talk about this one for MONTHS now and finally rented it from redbox last weekend. And now, a million dreams are keeping me awake, and this is brave, this is bruised, OH!! THIS--IS--THE GREATEST--SHOOOOW, etc, etc. Can't stop it from playing hourly, either in my head or on my phone. Polling the audience: How long before you get it out of your system? A week? Ten days? Does it take buying the whole thing to be cured of it? 


making grown-up spaces (in a house overrun by kids)

Nearly 10 years ago, Sean's first official act of preparing to bring his bride back to what would become "our" apartment after our wedding was to go to a furniture store and buy us a set of bedroom furniture.

I'm pretty sure he owned a sleigh bed before he owned a couch.

At the time, I, of course, balked. Wait for me to pick it out with you, I said (since he was in Washington and I was living in California). I want to help! I want to see the choices! I want to give OPINIONS!

And Sean, in something of an act of defiance and bravery for a groom so young, said, no, dear, I'm going to buy this before our wedding, and we're going to come home to it, and I'll let you give opinions, but this is something I'm doing for you.

More times than I can count since that pre-marital purchase of his, I have thanked him (probably more in my mind than actually saying it out loud). Not every couple starts their marriage with a matching 5-piece set of classic, solid bedroom furniture. And then after the wedding, other expenses (like BABIES) come, and a matching armoir and dresser seem low on the priority list.

So maybe it's because the bedroom furniture is our one "thing" that's been with us since before having kids, but we've both always agreed that our bedroom is a toy-free and somewhat kid-free zone. Sure, the co-sleeping infants are notable exceptions, and we've been known to host a Saturday morning snuggle fest or two.

But for the most part, this is a little sanctuary for us. For mom and dad.

It's not fancy. There's no jetted soaking tub in the miniature en-suite bathroom. You cannot walk into our closet--if you do, you will walk into the clothes hanger bar. The room holds a queen bed, one nightstand, two dressers, and even with just that, it's a little tight.

But I like it. There's room for him, and room for me. The kids, who proudly fly their kid flags in the other 90% of the house, recognize this. And for the most part, they're respectful of it.

One way I try to set off our bedroom from the other rooms of the house is to put the breakables and the fragiles in there. Queue the silk peonies and the picture frames.

Faux flowers are, to me, a no-brainer when it comes to decorating in houses with little kids. Sure, the real deal from Trader Joe's at $3.99 a bunch is a great deal and beautiful, but real flowers need real vases with real WATER in them. Ain't no way I'm putting a vase full of water in my living room (which often doubles as a wiffle ball war zone).

Using flowers like this in my house helps bring a little more dignity and grace to a room--but without the threat of spillage. It makes me feel a little less like I'm living in the loony bin of PBS Kids shows and Magformers.

Silk Plants Direct kindly offered to send out one of their products for review, and I jumped at the chance to work with them. In waiting for my 12 stems of pearl cream peonies to arrive, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I've been delighted by their quality and size.

Their silk flowers from their site come with stems that are pre-notched for easily changing the stem length. I used longer stems in my bedroom vase and shorter ones for my living room.

Silk Plants Direct is offering readers 10% of all products (except custom orders) with code BLOGGER10.

My arrangement of 12 peony stems is only listed at $45.99, which comes down to $3.83 a stem. Compare that to peony stems on Pottery Barn, which cost $16 a stem!

Many thanks to Silk Plants Direct for the chance to review their product.


3 ways to put the brakes on spending

I know I'm spiraling down the money vortex when I spend the free minutes of an entire day perusing the HomeAway, Walmart and Amazon apps. NOT GOOD. 

When the "Confirm Purchase" button comes calling, if I have even a hint of guilt or hesitation, then I  run through a couple of steps to make sure this is something I actually need and truly, seriously want.

This is my first line of defense. If it's a clothing purchase, I check the clothing category and see what I have left to spend in the month, taking into consideration any other clothing purchases still needed. Same goes for miscellaneous purchases (which is anything not grocery, clothing and medically-related) and date night.  

This is the yellow light on my spending; this is the gas gauge vs. miles per gallon; this is that big yellow electric flashing sign on the sign of the road, show your illegal speed in a school zone. (a little too heavy on the vehicular metaphors today, lady.)

No other budgeting program has worked for us like Every Dollar has. This is not a paid sponsorship of Every Dollar either, ha! It just happens to be the one that I recommend to anyone who says "budgeting just doesn't work for me." And then I cackle an evil laugh and grab their phone to open the App Store.

2. Shop my closet

This could also be "shop ALL THE CLOSETS IN THE HOUSE." I'm a sucker for a clean, free-of-clutter room. But I'm not a sucker for giving away lots of stuff. No, I just box it, bag it, then push-cram-stack it three giant tupperwares deep in the closet of any given room. 

Out of sight and out of mind, for sure. It means that in April, I forget where my summer clothes are. In October, I don't see the boy's sweaters. I had a crisis once when Sean was travelling somewhere frigid for work but it was 60 degrees where we live, and he wanted to take his gloves with him. Cue me half buried in our master closet, shouting out "I KNOW they're here somewhere" and "HEY look I found bathing suits!!"

It totally goes for shoes, too. I found myself perusing a new pair of summer Crocs on Amazon Warehouse last month, but a cursory look at the shoes in my closet revealed the Birkenstocks (pictured above) that I bought last spring--bought for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of being multi-summer shoes so I wouldn't have to buy a new pair every summer.  #facepalm

3. Make a deal with myself

Often I'll identify a household need--say, footed-but-not-fleece sleepers for the baby. Or a new colander for the kitchen. Or more juice glasses because uh-oh, another one shattered. 

Once I zero in on a thing we need, I'll give myself a few weeks to try and find that item at a thrift store. or Once Upon a Child. Or, I'll even hold out that a bag of hand-me-downs will magically appear from a friend who is cleaning out her closets--which happens pretty frequently, I'm blessed to say. 

But if after a few weeks and a few trips to various used stores, I'm still not finding that item, then I have a greater sense of justification that the only way we could get the item (or get it in decent condition) was to buy it new. And even then, I try to price-check it with at least three sources: Amazon, Walmart, and my own local stores.  

So, that's it! And after all that, I could still probably cut down my spending a lot more. I'd love to hear how you put the brakes (there she goes again) on spending. 


hey, could I take you out to dinner? or coffee maybe? **GIVEAWAY**

Apparently, no one dates anymore. Guys don't work up the nervous courage to ask girls out. Girls don't walk through the door at 11pm, walking on clouds after a great good-night kiss.

No. Generic modern-day courtship is 20 and 30-somethings on Tinder, swiping, fumbling drunkenly in the dark with an attractive stranger, with varying degrees of consent and intimacy.  

And that's all. 

Whatever. This isn't new. We've known this for a while now. It's awful and it makes me fear for my kids. 

It makes me laugh, though, that as married people we're supposed to "date your spouse," because that's supposedly what keeps the magic alive. Ha, really? Because if the key to a happy marriage is reliving the magical single days (but going about it solely with your spouse), then logically what married people now should be doing now is getting sloshed and then messing around. 

It'd be a lot cheaper than dinner and a movie. At least for me. I can't feel my face after one glass of wine. 

Enter The Dating Project, a one-night movie theater event coming up on Tuesday, April 17.

I've watched the trailers and a special sneak-peek. I'm hooked.

When I see these immense social issues that seem to be damaging the culture irreparably (like hook ups over courtship), I tend toward despair and defeat. I'm grateful for Paulist Productions, then, who took up the flag of reclaiming dating:
Half of America is single. The way people seek and find love has radically changed. The hook-up, texting and social media culture have profoundly altered the dating landscape. Traditional dating has become “outdated,” yet men and women still seek meaningful relationships. People are frustrated in love, but does anyone really know how to connect in today’s virtual world? 
THE DATING PROJECT is a new non-fiction film from executive producer Steve McEveety (The Passion of the Christ, Braveheart), produced by Paulist Productions, Mpower Pictures and Family Theater Productions that follows five single people ages 18-40 as they navigate beyond the hookup culture to traditional dating. Professor Kerry Cronin from Boston College is featured throughout as she teaches and encourages her students to return to traditional dating. There is no script. There are no actors. These are real people trying to find love and happiness in an age of swiping left or right.
After graduating college I worked for a year at my alma mater, and I began to face the reality: I had gotten my B.A., but not my MRS. What came next? Dating coworkers? Catholic match dot com? After the security net that is a college campus and having everything (date nights included) in walking distance, and 500 familiar faces comprising your potential dating pool (all of whom you knew at least a little bit about, or knew someone else who did), how did one transition to a world of single sharks? 

I didn't know. I wasn't exactly eager to find out. But I knew it lay ahead of me, if I wanted a wedding in my future. 

At least this guy liked me. 

Well, then. A kid in the year below me threw out what I took to be a lasso, but was really a life preserver. He told me he wanted to date me with the hope of discerning marriage with me. I looked at him and blinked. 

Then I told him no. I told him probably never. I told him, okay, maybe not never, but not now. Come back in, like, six months or something. I've got to go date some single sharks. 

He came back six months TO THE DAY later, looked me straight in the eyes again, and told me his feelings hadn't changed. That day was March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. 

I said yes. And I've been saying yes to that guy ever since. 

He's a keeper and a treasure and my knight and my love. 

And he and I are heading out on a date, a good old fashioned date, on April 17. And I'm hoping a lot of other people will do the same.  

Want to win tickets to see The Dating Project's one-night showing on April 17? Win a pair of tickets 2 ways!

1. I'm giving away a pair of tickets to The Dating Project!
To enter to win, do any of the following (each comment, share or tag will earn you another entry):

- leave a comment on this post telling me where your best date happened

- leave a comment on the Facebook post, telling me where your best date happened

- share the Facebook post

- tag a friend who would like to know about The Dating Project
{contest runs from Tuesday, April 10 - Saturday, April 14; winner will be randomly selected and then notified by email or direct message}

2. The Dating Project team is running their own giveaway of a pair of tickets.  ** Click here to enter! **

View showtimes and available theaters here to see where The Dating Project is showing near you. 


how to make friends and show divine mercy to people / 7qt

1 / ALLELUIA! From your favorite disheveled family who noisily occupied the third row from the back at Easter morning Mass. We appreciate your patience, and how generously everyone returned the thrown sippy cups. Repeatedly. 

2 /   One of the greatest parts of having an itty-bitty, teeny-tiny work-from-home part-time job is that even in the midst of my entire household weathering the Great Flu Strain B disaster of 2018, I still got to have some amazing conversations with dynamic, inspiring Catholics.

I also still have some antibiotics in my fridge that I forgot to dose out. 10 days, twice a day x 4  = more math than I've done since... yeah. 

Get this: Emily Jaminet has this best friend, Michele, and at Emily's wedding, she says to Michele, "I'm going to find you a husband." So it shall be said, so it shall be written, because then Michele meets her soon to be husband THAT DAY at Emily's wedding! The two friends remain close--super close, like, having babies on the same day at the SAME HOSPITAL close.

Fast forward a few years and Emily Jaminet and Michele Faehnle are now not only friends, but co-authors of two outstanding books. I talked with Emily about The Friendship Project and the problems Catholic moms (and most women today) have in making and keeping long-term friends.

During 20 years friendship, these two realized that friendship "was an integral part of their lives as Catholics and they needed to continually work to develop deep, meaningful relationships that would allow them to be themselves, to care for others and be cared for, and to deepen their Catholic faith."

Amen to that, sisters. 

Because these ladies just cant quit the Catholic book scene, they wrote yet another deep yet eminently practical book: Divine Mercy for Moms

Get this one. Just get it. Get both these books. I talked with Michele about why and how they wrote this book, and I think it's a must-have for Catholic moms. On their website for the book they have this prayer posted: 

A Mother’s Prayer
Dear Lord, Calm my inner chaos, bring peace to my mind, and refresh my soul. Allow me to be a vessel of your living waters and share it with those who need strength. Help me to be merciful to my neighbor and to love You above all things. 

It's much better than my daily prayer, which is: Lord, please, just for today... don't let me run into anyone I know at the grocery store.

I love these two free printables that Michele and Emily have posted on their website: 

6 /  And if all of that good Catholic Motherhood Friendshiping And Mercy Working wasn't enough, I had the additional joy of talking to Colleen Duggan, author of the new book (to which I give all the praise hands): Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom.


Colleen's a mom of six and her book is a manifesto to the power of letting go--letting go of perfection, of the need for control, of the fear that if any single little thing with the kids and the house isn't right, it's somehow mom's fault. I need a book like this like I need my 2pm La Croix. It's that good. 

7 /  In honor of Colleen's wise words, I chose "good enough" today over "showering" and got by on what my insta friends call the mom uniform: 
striped shirt
top knot
jeans (dirty ones, in my shining example) 

I'm off to polish off the jelly beans before the kids do. Linking up with Kelly!


five favorites: Catholic birth and cheap swimsuits

The sun's out here and even though my household is still struggling to get healthy again, March had some bright spots, and I'm grateful for prompts like five favorites that remind me to remember the good things, and not just the gloom! 

The delightful Mary Haseltine created and posted this printable on her blog back in January, but it's been speaking to me pretty strongly this spring. It's hard to be the Momager and Head Nurse to a sick family when you're sick as well. But we soldier on. And we put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations. 

I had the great honor to interview Mary for Mater Dei Radio last week about her new book, Made for This: The Catholic Mom's Guide to Birth. In addition to being a doula and a mom to five boys (plus a baby on the way), Mary has a deep understanding of JPII's Theology of the Body, and her thoughts on birth made me mad that this book wasn't around seven years ago, when I was staring down my first labor experience. Can't wait for it to be released next week!

3. old navy toddler girls printed one piece rashguard

Newsflash: Did you know if an item is on sale on the Old Navy website, but you're too cheap to pay shipping (like me), you can go into the store and they'll order it for you (at the website price), and ship it to your home FOR FREE?? Mind = blown and swimsuit = bought, at the $10 website price. I love these one-piece rashguards for babies and toddlers because they limit the amount of sand going into the nether regions. 

4. bow-tastic

Gussie's bows had been thrown haphazardly into the back of her top closet shelf forever, and I kept buying repeat colors of replacement bows at Once Upon a Child because I couldn't remember what colors she already had. Enter the Great Out-of-Reach-Yet-In-Sight Bow Hanger. Cost me nothing and makes me smile.

5. alllllll the medicine

This one's an insta repeat but 5/6 of my household collapsed into sickness at once, including me and Sean. We're maybe (dear Lord, please) crawling out of it finally, but I'm grateful for all the medicine that has helped us. And if you're keeping score at home, the medicine tally stands at : 2 bottles tamiflu, 1 bottle pinkeye drops, 3 bottles ammoxicilin and 2 z-packs. Cough cough.

I'm linking up with Ashley, who's got the cutest welcome mats around. :)


financial peace university: saying yes to sacrifice

Yesterday was Saturday in our house of four little kids. One of them is pretty darn sick with pink eye and a cough. We needed to drive him 20 minutes to our amazing pediatrician who keeps limited weekend hours, then get to the pharmacy to get his prescription.

We also had to brave Costco (on a Saturday...  save me) to buy approximately 90,000 lbs of fresh produce for our Eat to Live meals, plus some snacks for our Financial Peace University class. Then to Trader Joe's too for cereal, sprouted bread and cashew butter. One kid had a soccer class in the afternoon, plus the little kids need naps, and the eight weekly laundry loads weren't going to wash themselves. Gonzaga played in the tournament at 5pm, so life had to stop for a couple of hours. Ha :)

That was Saturday, and it all had to get done on Saturday, because Sunday looms large on our horizon for the next two months: it's our FPU day.

For about three hours for nine Sundays in a row, Sean and I are at our parish church, setting up chairs and the projector for FPU, prepping our announcements and homework for the class, welcoming the guests, running discussion groups, playing the video and praying all the equipment works without a glitch (which never happens).

Then we do it all in reverse, returning our parish hall to the way we found it, and eventually coming home to our kids, who have been babysat either by a our sweet college student babysitter (whom we pay) or by my wonderful parents.

It's a lot. It's hard. And it's so, so very much worth it.

After teaching our first FPU class at our parish (this is our second), two of the attendees wrote us this thank you note. Reading it, I cried. Never before had I realized that my own journey with FPU would have such a positive impact on others.

Three years ago, Sean was asking me, for the umpteenth time, to watch FPU with him.

No, I had told him, many times. I won't do it. Agreeing to watch it is the equivalent of agreeing that I am the problem in our finances. No. We had become that classic couple Dave describes in the first or second FPU video: the words "Dave Ramsey" had become curse words.

But then, I wanted something, something pretty big--a new house. Sean and I were at odds with this move because the financial side of it, he felt, was iffy. After a few weeks of considering it, he came to me with this bargain: If I agreed to watch Financial Peace with him, he'd make the move happen.

SOUNDS GOOD TO ME!! I practically screamed it. If watching a measly nine videos on how I was messing up our budget would help get me to this new home, then count me in.

Well. From the first video, I knew this was no mere measly video series. Ramsey spoke truths about relationships and marriage. Discipline and discipleship. Money and budgets and stewardship--a.k.a tithing. These were things I had thought about peripherally, but never really considered concretely.

As Dave says: Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. THEY'RE BROKE.

I think it's in the second video of the series that Dave talks about people who would come to him after listening to his radio show or taking one of his in-person classes, before he became a nationwide personality. People would come up to him and thank him for saving their marriage. And he thought, what?!? We were talking about money, not your marriage!

But it's true. What's the biggest reason cited for divorce? It's not infidelity or religion. It's disagreements and stress stemming from money.

Sean and I weren't anywhere close to that kind of ruin, but we were miles apart when it came to money. Since our marriage had begun, he had "handled" the money and the budget. And though he often came to me asking for my input, the sight of his 3-tab budget spreadsheets in Excel made my eyes cross.

He got excited about numbers doing things in coded equations with compound interest. I got excited by grocery coupons and sales at my favorite consignment store.

We both wanted to save money and achieve far-off goals, but we had no common language with which to talk about it.

Enter FPU. All of a sudden, there's Dave Ramsey on his stage, telling me that my input in the budget is not just valuable, it's INTEGRAL to making a budget in a marriage. And there he is, telling Sean that his wife can only handle 17 minutes a month of budget-related talk a month, lest her body still be in her room, but her spirit will have departed. (True.)

The whole deal was nothing short of a revelation to us both. And ever since then, money hasn't been exactly easy--but it certainly has been easier. Being able to talk about money with your spouse, free of shame, free of embarrassment and free of guilt is a crucial intimacy they don't mention in that Pre-Cana marriage prep. But it's vitally important.

Discipline and vigilance with money, tracking where it's going and why, and aiming toward shared goals... take out the "money" and fill in with "fertility" and it sounds a little like NFP and charting, to me. I've already said this here before, but I'll say it again: The hard work is worth it.

Living authentically, free from debt, free from contraceptives, free from junk food. It's worth it.

Saying "yes" to a budget has yielded such fruits for us. Saying "yes" to all these babies in our house, too, has been a blessing. It's a sacrifice, yes. But my faith is built upon Jesus' sacrifice, and my hope of salvation rests on it too.

"At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)  That scripture is oft-heard in FPU, and for good reason. The sacrifice and discipline of a budget, or of raising kids, or of doing any good work can cause some pain, some pruning of our own desires and egos.

But it brings peace.

And that's invaluable.

A little disclaimer to say that this is not a sponsored post, nor do Sean and I (and all the other FPU coordinators) make any sort of commission or profit from coordinating FPU. In fact, we often purchase our own sets of FPU materials so that we can give them away to those with a severe need. We run this class because we believe, very deeply, that if God's people (and all people) were out of debt, amazing things would happen, both in our parishes and our communities. 

To find a FPU course in your area, click here.


not a fan of international women's day (just like everybody else)

Lots and lots of images showed up in my social media feeds on March 8, celebrating women--strong women, kind women, powerful women, great women, women, women, whoooooa-man.

But in these two years of p*ssy hats, farcical marches (at which pro-life women were spat at and had their signs torn up), and vulgarity on full display all in the name of feminism, I couldn't just get in the spirit and offer up some social appreciation for the fact that I, along with half the population, am a woman.

This lady in the Telegraph summed up some of my irks:
"I’m afraid just the thought of IWD is enough to make my teeth hurt. Think it through, girls. If we need a special day dedicated to our gender, does that mean the other 364 days of the year belong to men? 
The trouble is, the more that well-meaning females attempt to say we are all the same the more we risk being patronised and treated as some kind of sad, special-interest group... 
How fatuous is it for women in advanced western countries to pretend that they belong in the same boat as women in Saudi Arabia where, according to Sharia law, a woman’s testimony in court is valued at half that of a man?"
I am all for a day that helps women (and men, for that matter) in other parts of the world who face true, desperate, horrendous inequality, especially at the hands of their government. I think of all the millions of baby girls either aborted or murdered immediately after birth in China (and that has been happening for decades). I think of those same Chinese mothers who were physically assaulted and forcibly had their children aborted. I think of female genital mutilation in Africa. I think of the mothers who are watching their babies starve and die of malnutrition in Venezuela.

But does throwing up a little #strongwomen hashtag on IWD from my comfortable home in America do anything to ameliorate any of that?

I'm thinking no.

Pair all of that international strife with a growing sense of unease at what will happen here, domestically, in a few short months. During the lead up to the second Sunday of May, we will no doubt see (as happens every year) the shaming, the scolding, the vitriolic condemnation of another day celebrating women: Mother's Day.

Just for kicks, type "I hate Mother's Day" into Google and scroll through the pages and PAGES of women penning scathing rants dedicated to a myriad of complaints attributed to the day, which at its onset was meant to celebrate the sacrifices mothers make in raising their children.

Complaints range from "I hated my own mother and she was a monster" to "I chose not to have children so this day is ridiculous" and "it's mother's day so my kids should be PERFECT today but they're not" and of course there's "there are too many 'mother'-like people in my life so to expect me to celebrate them ALLLLL today is asinine."


I was feeling fairly lonely in my dislike of IWD until it dawned on me to Google the opposite of hating Mother's Day. Type "hating International Women's Day" into Google and jackpot! Lady after angry lady scaling their digital soapboxes and proclaiming their dislike of IWD. Complaints range from "it's an empty day meaning nothing" to "what we really need is more abortion and childcare" (what??? that doesn't even make sense) and "men telling me 'happy international women's day' are idiots" to "it makes women feel like a special needs group and is patronizing."

If there's one thing women can agree on, apparently, it's that they hate the days dedicated to them.

I'm not going to quit celebrating Mother's Day and I doubt any of the IWD enthusiasts are planning to pare back their celebrations next March. But in spite of my differences with supporters and dissenters on either side, I'm committed to fostering projects and charities (both at home and abroad) that truly help women (and men, and children) who need it. And I hope that's something that all women can agree to do, every single day.


is the Eat to Live diet affordable and kid friendly? (part 3 - dinner)

I'm wrapping up my series on doing the Eat to Live diet as a big family on a budget. Part 1 (on breakfast) is here and part 2 (on lunch and grocery shopping lists) is here.

I had exactly zero pictures in my camera roll of any Eat to Live dinner I've ever made (and I've been doing this since November). Why?


Unless you're the baby.

I've been inching my way up a mountain the past four months with the ultimate goal of having THE BINDER. What is the binder? It's a collection of about 15 Eat to Live dinner recipes that we've made, liked, and would readily eat again. I knew I couldn't really do meal planning again until I had about 2 weeks' worth of dinners. I'm finally to that point.

But getting there took plenty of blood, sweat and chopping. Geeze that sounds gross. It actually took zero blood and very little sweat. But yes to the chopping.

I don't think I can post every recipe that we now use for dinner, but I can point to the cookbook that holds them all:

Holy grail.

The Eat to Live Cookbook: 200 Delicious Nutrient-Rich Recipes for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Reversing Disease, and Lifelong Health

Biggest takeaways from this dinnertime aspect of this nutritarian journey:

- I don't "crave" meat or meat dishes like I used to. Sure, I still will HAPPILY and readily eat a plate of my mom's famous meatloaf. Yes, I love getting a meat dish at a restaurant on date night. But as for cooking dinners at home, I'm much more content cooking with beans and vegetables than I ever thought I would be. Meat on the whole isn't something I miss. (For Sean, it might be.)

- There's no getting around it: To make nutritarian meals taste great, approximately 20 ingredients need to get thrown in a bowl. Taking salt out of the equation means that flavor needs to be derived from  other sources. And taking meat out of the equation means that bulk and substance need to be derived from something else, too.

For example: hamburgers. Ground beef + salt. Grill them. That's it. That's all it takes to eat some cow--two ingredients. The nutritional value of that meal is basically protein and some iron.

To make chickpea burgers, however: mash chickpeas with natural peanut butter, shredded zucchini, diced onion, cumin, garlic powder, pepper, steel cut oats, vinegar, a little ketchup. Then serve that on butter lettuce with avocado, mustard, more onion, tomatoes and sliced bell pepper. YUM.

More than 10 ingredients, plus all the nutrients (and plenty of protein) from all those plant sources. I eat about 2 1/2 of these and am totally stuffed.

- Making all of these recipes the first time is harrowing. It's defeating. It's 45 minutes of throwing together foods I've never thrown together, all the while knowing that my kids will HATE IT. Heck, I'll probably hate it.

But. I've been surprised (deeeeeeeeply surprised) many times over by the fact that not only are my kids eating the food and not complaining--I'm eating the food and not complaining! I'm actually loving the food!

The key to success? The binder.

In the binder I've got recipes for following typical American family meals, but all with nutritarian recipes:

- burgers (chick pea and veggie/pinto)
- enchiladas
- spaghetti
- lasagna
- corn chowder
- cauliflower soup
- chili
- taco salad
- thai curry
- fish stew

I'm not going to post the recipes, because I think that would be pointless. In a taste test, which will win: "lasagna" made with noodles, pork sausage, heaps of mozzarella cheese, salt and ricotta, OR "lasagna" made with zucchini noodles, tofu mashed with nutritional yeast and lemon juice, sauteed vegetables and fresh basil?

The lasagna from the SAD (standard American diet) obviously wins the taste test. But eating this way is realizing that the real test--indeed the one that should dictate what we eat 90% of the time--is the nutritional test. And in that test, the zucchini lasagna leaves the other one in the dust.

Plus: really! this stuff is good food. Making this change has been a blessing to our family and a commitment toward taking care of our health long-term. It's my hope that this is something we continue through the years as our family grows.


can Catholic schools be tuition free?


But it means Catholics have got to learn how to tithe. 

When we think of tithing and charitable giving, we usually think of soup kitchens, crisis maternity homes, our parishes, and things like that. What we don’t often think about are our local parochial Catholic elementary schools and high schools. 

Decades ago, these institutions were staffed entirely by sisters or brothers, or priests--all talented and gifted people with a religious vocations. Of course now, it’s a rare thing indeed to find a school that has even just one religious on their staff full-time. 

And that means one thing: tuition. Lay teachers and staff need (and deserve, of course) salaries. Charging tuition, though, means our modern private Catholic schools are out of reach to many children across the country. 

January of this year marked the closure of another network of private Catholic schools, this time in Memphis, Tenn. Jubilee Catholic Schools, which served nearly 1,500 students, closed its doors due to being financially unstable. As a whole, nearly half of the nation's Catholic schools have closed since 1960--from 12,000 down to just over 6,400.

But there is a place in America where Catholic schools are not just surviving, they are thriving--and new ones are being opened. 

This blows my mind: Faithful Catholics in the diocese of Wichita, Kan., are tithing--like, ALL OF THEM are tithing

They are giving 8% of their income to their parishes--and with that generosity, the parishes fund the schools. Since 2002--that’s for the last 16 years--all of the 38 Catholic schools in the diocese of Wichita (that’s including 4 Catholic high schools!) have been TUITION FREE

For all you moms and dads, let that sink in for a moment. Because right now, I feel like I’m tithing twice--once on my income, and again, for tuition to my parish school. 

They educate 11,000 students a year in Wichita. According to an article in the National Catholic Register, the diocese expects all of those families to: "attend Mass each Sunday, participate in religious education, volunteer in parish ministries and make a financial commitment. Each family is asked to fill out a pledge form committing to stewardship. The end result is that families and individuals give not only of their financial gifts, but also of their time."

Superintendent of schools for Wichita, Bob Voboril, says: “The diocese saw that the best way to teach stewardship was not to compete. If a family is paying $3,000-$5,000 in tuition, a family is not inclined to pay its first fruits to the parish,” explained Voboril. 


“Because enrollment and the budget are not based upon the user’s ability to pay a steep tuition, we are able to serve a much greater cross-section of the Catholic community,” said Voboril. “We have far more ethnic diversity, socio-economic diversity, and even diversity in learning aptitude.” (Quotes pulled from National Catholic Register article linked above.)

Obviously, this level of faithful stewardship doesn't just happen without significant effort and teaching.  The bishops and clerical leadership in Wichita have been building this inspired model of stewardship for decades, really since approximately the 1960s--which is when what happened? Oh yes:
Catholic schools started to decline. But not in Wichita. 

When Catholic schools are free of the strings of tuition and non-stop fundraising, and are instead full of supportive families who attend Mass together and are all pulling together each month to build up the Body of Christ, something else happens--and it's not just the parish or the school that benefit.

“We’ve been blessed with an abundance of seminarians within the last 10 years,” said Father Kuykendall, pastor of a parish in Schulte, Kansas.

 “The diocese has also opened the Lord’s Diner, a soup kitchen that provides a free meal to anyone seeking it, that serves more than 400 people each evening. A second one is being built in south Wichita.”

“There’s a deep sense of faith and parish involvement that permeates the entire diocese,” said Voboril. “The spread of perpetual Eucharistic adoration, 50 seminarians, some of the best Newman Centers in the country, a dynamic natural family planning office, a ‘free’ restaurant and medical clinic, a growing diocesan order of sisters, one of the largest groups of pilgrims to the March for Life each January... all these testify--not to the power of schools that do not charge tuition--but to what happens when everything is united around lived discipleship.” (Quotes pulled from National Catholic Register article linked above.) 

Hearing of the possibilities like this created by faithful tithing have been a driving force in the decision Sean and I made to coordinate Financial Peace University at our parish. We're beginning our second class this month with a packed house of attendees. 

One of Dave Ramsey's lines from his first lesson is thus: What could the people of God do if they were out of debt? 

Change lives. Educate children. Feed the hungry. That's whey they could do.

On the entire other end of the spectrum, of course, are stories like this one out of Connecticut, where a young student at an independent all-girls Catholic school was asked to remove an "I stand with Planned Parenthood" sticker from her laptop. 

She refused. Her parents refused. And a group of alumni came together to threaten to pull all current and future donations to the school should the girl be expelled. 

The cherry on the top? They would send all their donations, in perpetuity, to Planned Parenthood instead. 

Yes. And with Wichita in mind, I also say: they're also supposed to be tuition-free. Tuition-free Catholic schools can't be held hostage to a group of decidedly anti-Catholic alumni. Tuition-free Catholic schools find their root identity in the Church and with the many, many families and individuals who are worshiping in that Church and making monthly sacrifices to support them.

Tuition-free Catholic schools. Let's make them happen.   


7 great read aloud novels for little boys

First graders at our boys' school came home last fall with a reading log and a simple directive: Read books, write down the titles, get points. So all of a sudden, reading became a COMPETITION and our eldest son said YES PLEASE. So Sean's nightly storytime with the boys morphed from picture books to novels because "I can get a lot more points for a chapter book." Yessirrrr.

So we tried Charlotte's Web, and ehhh... the boys just weren't too captured by it. But I know! It's Charlotte's Web! To which I say, I guess, they're boys. I wanted to find them books they'd look forward to listening to. This is a list of our successes, and I'm linking it up with 7 quick takes at This Ain't the Lyceum.

1. Frindle
Cute little book, weird name! Fifth-grader Nicholas has a burning question for his battleaxe of an English teacher, Mrs. Granger: How do words get their meaning? Who decides? While reading this I admit to being skeptical of its message--part of the plot hinges on students being willfully disobedient (though not rudely so) to school administrators. But a great twist at the end puts all that in perspective. Both boys enjoyed it though my 7 year old "got" it more.

2. The Mysterious Benedict Society
THE BEST. Especially the best if you've got a bit of an adorably nerdy boy, as I do. Four gifted children are selected through a series of tremendous tests to topple an unseen evil empire that's subtly influencing the nation.

That sounds heavy handed--I promise, it's not. I laugh at least two times on every page. Additionally, it's a true pleasure to read this one out loud (which isn't the case for every novel, even the good ones, I think). Bonus: It's the first in a five-book series.

3. A Wrinkle in Time
To answer the burning question: No, heck no, we will not be seeing the Oprah movie adaptation. I shudder at the thought. Madeline L'Engle was my favorite childhood author and I spent my summers reading Meet the Austins and Troubling a Star and A Ring of Endless Light.

But I first read every single book in the Wrinkle in Time series, envisioning how I would block out the pulse of IT if I were on Camatoz rescuing my father. Wonderful family themes of loyalty, the love of parents, and the bond of siblings.

4. The Hobbit
We finished reading The Hobbit to the boys months ago but Joseph still comes up to me and says "Want to hear a riddle, my precious?" Such a classic for young boys, and a great introduction to young readers/listeners to the world of Tolkein.

5. Redwall
War! Battle! RATS! Redwall Abbey stands as sanctuary for mouse, vole and hedgehog alike, but rat Cluney and his army of miscreants wants to eradicate the peace and take Redwall for their own. I confess to not know a whole lot about this one as Sean's done all the reading of it to the boys, but I do know two things:
- it's pretty long
- Sean has to water down/skim some passages about rat-on-mouse violence that can get a little bloody and morbidly descriptive. But still, lots of tense action and general boy amusement.

6.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
I know, I know, I'm not exactly breaking new ground here in the "great read alouds!" category. But nonetheless, it stands as a read aloud that both boys genuinely enjoyed, and led to wonderful conversations about Jesus, Aslan, and sacrificial love.

Plus, battles. Always the battles.

7. Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective
The 1963 classic! Each chapter can be read a stand-alone mystery that Encyclopedia solves with his ingenuity--and good listening skills. My 5 year old especially loves it and likes that he doesn't have to follow along with an intricate plot each night.

Sean just started the second Mysterious Benedict Society (And The Perilous Journey) with the boys, but we need to get a few more books lined up. I'd love to hear which books your own boys (or kids) loved hearing!