Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - 1st Birthday Party

Monday, August 31, 2015

Our baby Therese is turning one year today! We had her birthday party yesterday, and it was a lot of fun!

This was my gift to Therese. I make all the babies a cross stitch announcement, stocking, and baby book. 

Cake table!

Tea sandwiches! Salmon and goat cheese. Cucumber and cream cheese.

Quiche! One is spinach, peppers, and feta, the other is ham, caramelized onions, and gruyere.

I don't normally theme first birthdays. This one had a theme because John has learned about party themes over the past year. I still primarily just themed the food and he very few decorations. If it was "S" week in John's preschool, there probably would have been a lot more star crafting going on. But we were on "D" with a lot of dirt. Oh well.

John swooped in and blew out the candle. He thought it was so funny. Therese was a little thrown off by all of these people singing to her.

Surprise inside star cake is .... kind of a star?

She preferred to slobber her way through the wrapping paper.

John tried really hard to teach her about this present opening business.

Therese got a St. Therese! If you like the cute saint doll, I'm told they come from Huggie Saints. She sells through etsy.

Not super well pictured are the 18 adults, 3 preschoolers/toddlers, 4 babies + 1 in utero. 

We really like having these big birthday parties. It is highly dependent on current level of busy we are for determining how pinterest crafty these parties become. If it stops being fun, and starts getting stressful, I don't do it. She's turning one, not getting married.

I do push myself on my cake making abilities every time. One, it's good for me to be a little out of comfort zone, and, two, I probably wouldn't ever get around to working on my skills with sugar if I didn't have the birthday event to work on.

7 Quick Takes - The Week in Review

Friday, August 28, 2015

Linking up with This Ain't The Lyceum for another round of 7 Quick Takes!


 After sleeping for about an hour John wakes up from nap and shouts "I need to play soccer with my mother!!!"

This clearly wakes Therese up, and I'm not happy with him.

Me: "John, it's too early. We're not going to play soccer."

John: "Not YOU, my CHURCH mother."

Upon further questioning it became apparent he meant Mary. As in the Virgin Mary. He had to wake up early, and wake the baby, because he was convinced he was late to play soccer with the Virgin Mary.


This is what happens to an 11 month old about 2 hours after said awakening.

She had been in this position for five minutes at this point.


I'm reading this book right now.

I like history books a lot, and this one is full of great bits like this:

"Eighteenth-century jockeys wore brightly colored caps, as did the competitive long-distance walkers or 'pedestrians' who were the crowd pulling sporting sensation of the the first two decades of the nineteenth century."


I'm plodding along on making a Christmas stocking for Matt. If I manage to put in an hour a day of work on it, I should finish by Christmas (I hope.) I feel very Victorian sitting up and sewing late at night.

Eventually, it will be a winter scene with a sled leaning against a snowy fence, church and trees in the background, and Matt's name embroidered on the box at the top.


Our young adult group has started up events again after the summer break! So happy to have events!

Tuesday was the first St. Mary Magdalen Mass, Meal, and Merriment (we'll nail down that name at some point.) Tonight is a happy hour down at The Trappist. 

One of the great things about being Catholic is celebrating good things in life, like good beer. We even have an official blessing for it.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.
Let us pray.
Lord, bless + this creature, beer, which by your kindness and power has been produced from kernels of grain, and let it be a healthful drink for mankind. Grant that whoever drinks it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord. All: Amen.
It is sprinkled with holy water.

Apparently, we have blessings for lots of things. Check them out in the Rituale Romanum on Sancta Missa.


Matt's company just released a new line of soups and we got to try some out! Chicken and stars was a huge hit with John.

This is bowl #3.

It hasn't happened yet, but little Therese is turning one on Monday! We're having a twinkle twinkle little star party, theme selected by John. It was going to be itsy, bitsy spider, but that was getting creepy fast.

John has been telling Therese all about birthdays.

John: "Therese, there will be food...and presents...and cake...and diggers..."

It just started turning into a list of things John likes after that one.

UPDATE: That party happened! Twinkle Twinkle Little Star party over here.

Prayer - Why You Should Really Get Around to Doing That

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today I'm linking up with Blessed Is She to talk about the power of prayer.

When I was in middle school and early high school I was heavily involved in discernment activities and youth group at our parish. Through these things I was exposed to a lot of different modes of prayer, and met a lot of people who devoted a significant portion of their lives to prayer.

This prayer life looked very different, in practice, from person to person. Some, like some of our fabulous youth ministers, prayed through singing in their band (this is also when I learned that it's a thing for people to jump in the shape of a cross at Christian music concerts.) Others loved the rosary. I like the universality of the liturgy of the hours. 

What matters seems not to be the mode of prayer, but the consistency of that open line of communication with God. The frequency of their prayer seemed to act like a buffer against disappointment or despair in those times when the answer to their prayer was "no" or "not yet." 

I find that still to be true in my own prayer life. 
It is much more difficult to let God work in my life when I'm not actively listening to him. I wouldn't expect my relationship with my husband to be going well if I just ignored him except for one day a week through which I was part way listening. We need lots of little opportunities to check in with each other. Same with God.

The power of prayer is that we are invited to an open communication with a person so much bigger than anything we could possibly imagine. It's not so much about the physical miracles, cures, and protection - though I believe those things happen. But they happen as a physical sign for us to remember the awesome power of God. 

We are not owed miracles, we are not even owed an answer to our prayers, but we are invited to open the discussion. 

How We Found a Church Community

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Today I wanted to get out how we found a church community. Complete with pictures of all of the churches I have ever regularly attended.

I grew up in a big parish in Dallas. It looks like this on the inside:

It's big. This is one mass on Sunday. There are people standing because there are not enough seats. They have 6 Sunday masses. Yeah, it was awesome.
Downside of growing up in a big parish, with lots of involvement options, is that becomes your normal. I assumed that lots of other parishes would be like that where ever I ended up living. 


When I went to college, I found the one other practicing Catholic on campus and made her my mass buddy. We rode the shuttle to the Newman Center over at UC Berkeley to make the 5pm Sunday mass every week. 
Newman looked more like this. Not my cup of tea. Other people seem to enjoy it though.

This had a few issues: 1) I'm not a Berkeley student and so I constantly felt like I was going to be "found out" and I don't know what I thought was going to happen but it wasn't good, 2) it was too far to attend other events during the week and actually make community, and 3) the last shuttle of the day left at 6:15pm. If we didn't make that shuttle we could hope that someone would drive over to Berkeley to get us, or just be stuck in Berkeley for the night. That meant that we had to book it immediately after mass, which meant missing out on meeting other people every week.

When I met my future husband, he attended St. Mary Magdalen in north Berkeley since the one other Catholic in his program at UC Berkeley went there with his family. 

This is St. Mary Magdalen. It's cute. This is when it was set up for our wedding. There are not normally ribbons on the pews.
Now it felt more like going to a real parish where I could help out and meet other parishioners. It is where we got married, where our second child was baptised. 

Our first apartment was in Oakland so we moved over to attending the church around the corner.

So pretty!
We liked it there, but it was an aging parish that lacked some of the young adult/family comradery we were seeking.

When I was pregnant with our first child, I was in my final year of college and ended up with only two classes in my last semester. This meant I was only on campus one day a week. The rest of the week I was largely stuck at home feeling enormous. 

So I started going to the 12:10 daily mass. While I was now in mass a lot, it felt like very much a solo endeavor. 

When John was 4 months old I decided something had to change to get us more ingrained in the parish, so I joined the choir. Matt was awesome and volunteered for baby duty every Sunday. That was great, but it still lacked the closeness of being with people closer to your own life stage.

When the opportunity came to move SUPER CLOSE to St. Mary Magdalen, I jumped all over it. I was now pregnant with baby #2 and really feeling the need to make a stronger church support network.

I remembered seeing lots of families with young kids when we were attending St. Mary Magdalen as a dating, then engaged, couple. I assumed there must be many things for families, but I just didn't know about them because we didn't have kids yet.

Well, apparently those things had largely faded away in the two years or so we were in Oakland. 

I was bemoaning how I was just NEVER going to find Catholic women within 15 years of my age who would be my friends when a woman got up to read an announcement the next Sunday to say that a young adult group was just starting up. There would be a kick off in two weeks. Dialed the dramatics way down.

But it was JUST starting. Getting community to happen was probably going to take me being active and making such a thing happen before I gave birth.

So I suggested things, and hosted things. Come to find out, people will totally come if they are invited!
Part of the Holy Thursday dinner spread. The labels on the wine bottle candle holders were changed to Good Friday for the Fish Fry the next day.
It seems really easy to fall into the bad habit of not getting to do what would really feed your spiritual community just because it is not already prepackaged and ready to go. It's messy, and scary, and intimate to invite people that you have maybe never met into your home or even to something you have put your name out as "host" for something that is held on neutral ground. 

But the results can be pretty fantastic.

Last night we hosted a first ever St. Mary Magdalen Mass, Meal, and Merriment (we're still taking name suggestions there). It's a recurring fourth Tuesday event for young adults. I thought MAYBE four or five people would show up. It's a 5:30pm mass on a Tuesday. We had about fifteen people show. 
Most of those were people that I have never really met before. I would never have met any of them had I not taken a chance on putting myself out there a bit.

There is always going to be a reason not to do it. I had just moved, was seven months pregnant, and had a two year old. But I did it anyway. And life was so much easier!

Homeschool Preschool: Letters B and C

Monday, August 24, 2015

This is an ongoing series on our homeschool preschool adventures. You can read more about what curriculum we're doing and why here:

We have made it through to week 4, letter D, this week, so I thought it was time to look back on what worked, and what didn't, from doing letters B and C.

What Worked

Making the Letters

John has really liked forming the letter out of manipulatives. That has been our biggest, consistent, hit so far. It's something he looks forward to, and he is very proud to show it off. We're saving them and slowly forming an alphabet wall in the kid's room.

B out of beads.

Adding in Letter Hunts

We walk a lot, and I found myself telling John about the things I saw that started with that letter. It became a thing so now we have regular letter hunt walks. We rode the bus to the bank and got books at the library for letter B. We looked for creepy crawlies and counted cars, which ended in getting a cookie at the farmers market, for letter C.

The cookie was originally bigger than his face. He's watching a random hippy play a drum and didgeridoo. Oh Berkeley. 

Making Games and Role Play Part of School

John really likes games. He is much more engaged when there is a game or role play involved. We did a lot of color matching games and played mass with candles and the chalice for letter C. This often requires me to be a little creative, but pinterest for the win here!

What Didn't Work

 Cooking Together

We really haven't found doing the recipes in our school book very enjoyable. We did make cheerios and chocolate dessert bars, but that's all we've really done since applesauce for letter A. John does love to help in the kitchen, but we seem to do better when we're just making our usual dinner. I like the idea of making something special for school every so often, but it doesn't seem like it's going to be a big part of our school week,

Getting Through the Book List

I really wish we had better selection for kids books at our local library. I love the booklist in 26 Letters to Heaven, but our library can be a little short on these great children's classics and even worse on Catholic selections. I think it might be worth slowly building my own library of Catholic children books, especially saint books, since they are difficult to find here.

Another issue is John will REALLY like, and want to repeat repeat repeat, the first three or so books we read. I have learned that if I want to get him exposed to a greater variety of stories and illustrations I should pick one book we have read and one we haven't, let him pick which one first, but always read both. Two books is about his listening limit right now. Once I adopted that system we were both much happier.

Most of the Art Projects

We have done one or two of the suggested art projects, including the magazine collages, but John generally isn't very interested in them for too long. We have found that leaning towards a more activity heavy direction, over a quiet craft direction, is more productive for John. I try to do at least one craft, beyond the letter manipulative and magazine collage, a week. That is working for now on getting him more practice in skills like holding crayons and cutting with scissors, but prevents frustration.

Stay tuned for letters D and E with more cute kids (if I ever get better at remembering to take pictures!)

7 Things that Make my Life Easier

Friday, August 21, 2015

Linking up with This Ain't The Lycum for another round of 7 Quick Takes!

I have seen sooooo many lists around the internets about the "best" items for a new baby/new mom. But what about after you're done being "new"? I'm a fan of thinking long term.

Well here are the things that make my life easier for longer than the newborn stage and are semi-easy to acquire (because otherwise the washer/dryer in the building, dishwasher, etc. would all have to be on here too.)

1. Ergo

I. Love. This. Carrier. Hate the infant insert part though (so I use a wrap then). This thing is baby catnip. Once in, babies, at least my babies, truely believe they cannot escape. They are stuck in cozy snuggle land until mom does something different.

I put them on my back once they have some good head control so I can do things, like chopping onions and fold laundry, without baby hands getting in the danger zone.
I'm also a big fan of not being tied down to places that are big enough for strollers. In the SF Bay Area it gets old to be getting a stroller on and off buses and up hills. Now it's put on baby, grab bag, walk to destination. Done.

Downside: My babies do not like it very much when I sit down in this carrier due to the very structured belt. They seem to get over that on planes, but I'll often bring a ring sling just in case there.

2. Mrs. Meyer's Surface Scrub 

This seems like a weird thing to have on here, but this stuff is amazing! I don't normally buy natural cleaners (I figure if I can't make it with vinegar or soap then it probably needs the big guns), but I really needed something that would scrub the bathtub well and didn't have bleach in it. I got really tired of ruining clothes with bleach stains.

This stuff works so well! And so fast! It saved my super duper grimy so-bad-we-were-going-to-throw-it-out tea kettle. And it even smells good!

Downside: they don't seem to sell it in retail locations very often. You can buy it directly from Mrs. Meyers and I've seen it on ePantry.

3. Crockpot

I find I like to get most of my work done in the mornings, but cooking dinner normally has to happen in the afternoon. With the crockpot I can just put it together in the morning, set it, and leave it. Mine has an automatic shut off to warm once it's done with it's cooking time, so I can actually leave the house and not have to worry about it.

Downside: not every type of food item is made well in the crockpot. As much as I wanted mac and cheese to be a good crockpot thing, it is just SO much better made stovetop to oven. What works well are: soups, curries (way better crockpot than stove actually!), and meats that you want really moist.

4. Magnificat

This is a monthly devotional magazine that contains all of the mass readings with reflections, simplified morning and evening prayers, saint bios, articles, and good sacred art. It is super useful for the days when I might not be able to hear the readings well. The reflections can be a good stand in for when I can't hear the homily due to dealing with the three year old. It's small enough that I can easily hold it with one hand, and light enough to just carry it around in my purse.

Downside: cost I guess? I can't really come up with a real downside to this one.

5. Thirsties Diaper Covers

These things are invincible! Our first, John, was a difficult one to diaper overnight. We created this system we call "the super diaper". This involves a cloth diaper tri folded inside a disposable diaper covered with a diaper cover - then most of the time he wouldn't leak.
Kid has the water capacity of a camel.
These covers worked so much better than others we tried!

We've been using them for about two and a half years now, and I have yet to go through the mommy rite of passage known as a blow out (knock on wood.)
I use the duo wraps. Pretty undecided on the whole snaps vs. hook and loop thing some people are so adamant about.

Downside: they're the second cheapest instead of cheapest?

6. Pinterest

My actual board for kid ideas. They range from educational to just cool and easy time waster.
I know I said I was sticking to item items, but this really is a very useful tool in our household. The husband and I use it to gauge what sounds good for meal planning, and be able to find the recipes without searching through email. I have a board full of at home activity/craft ideas that I have the stuff for and wouldn't mind doing. When I'm running low on ideas, I pull it up and John can pick from the pictures.

Downside: I have heard that some people feel a lot of pressure from places on the internet like Pinterest. Frankly, this is not one of my struggles, so it doesn't bother me. You would need to evaluate if this is a good tool or just more stress for you.

7. Hand vacuum

We don't have any carpeting in the apartment so investing in a standing vacuum didn't make sense with space at a premium. But little kids are masters to crumb production. This was a $20 vacuum and it's awesome! When the babies are in the "putting my hands/feet in sweeping piles is so much fun!" phase I use it in place of a dustpan.

Downside: You'll get more milage out of a good standing vacuum with a hose attachment if you have carpet. I only own three rugs, all of which I can lift easily, so I just shake them out outside once a week.

What do you think of this list? What are the little things that make a difference for you?  

Discernment - It's never really over

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Linking up with Blessed is She at #BISisterhood today to talk about discernment. 

I attended a lot of "vocation awareness" type events growing up. Vocations retreats, come and sees, young adult talks, etc. It was easy to focus so hard on discerning what your main vocation was to be, that we missed talking about all of the discernment that comes afterwards. The discernment that allows one to live your vocation to the fullest.

Discerning is a constant effort. It is never fully done and over with. Our vocations take re-choosing every day.

Even though I am in the state of "married" indefinitely, I still have to re-choose to live being married every day. I might miss a friend's birthday party because it means a lot to my husband to be able to attend a talk that same night. He might skip his gym class at work because I'm over my head with the kids that day and we really need someone to go to the store for milk.

It takes a lot of discernment to figure out what I, and we, should be doing right now. Are we living in the place where we can do the most good? Am I meeting the needs of my kids in the best manner I can?

There are so many ways to discern. Figuring out what works for you is a part of the process.

I really like to talk it out. One of my favorite ways to do discernment is to reflect on either scripture or other writings, and write out that reflection freeform. It's typically only when I read through it again, maybe a day or two later, that I start to see a pattern and notice what seems to be calling me.

The second part is saying yes to the result of that discernment. This is probably the hardest part for me. I often know what I should be doing pretty easily, but it's actually doing it that can make me hesitate. God is awesome and he still lets us choose, even when it would be so much easier if the right choice was just made for us sometimes.

So while discernment can be difficult, the result of choosing the good and right path found out in the process is often the path that will eventually give the most peace. In my experience, saying yes to something discerned as right and good does not often create feelings of true regret. But ignoring, or skipping, discernment leaves one very open to regrets.

Farm Box Fixin's: Roasted Peppers, Tomato, and Onion Sauce

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

This is part of an ongoing series about what we get, and how in the world we deal with, all of the veggies, fruits, and surprises we get in our farm box. 

We have been in the height of the summer harvest the past few weeks, and most of the farm box produce has been of the very easy to use variety. Lots and lots of onions, tomatoes, and peppers. However, when you get upwards if 6-10 onions, 8-15 tomatoes, and a whole bag of peppers a week, and you're getting them every week, there begins to be a backlog. I had to come up with a way to use up the backlog quickly. So I made up this Roasted Peppers, Tomato, Onion sauce.

It is very thick to begin with, but you can add in olive oil later to make it more spreadable (and go further!)

I used about 10 small and 3 medium tomatoes, 12 small-medium peppers, and 4 medium red onions.

First I cut up my peppers and onions into 1-inch wide slides, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put them in a 350 degree oven until I saw the ends just start to blacken (about 40-45 minutes.)

This is what they looked like after roasting. I still want to have a little body to them for texture.
I thickly sliced the tomatoes, put into an oiled dish, brushed with olive oil on top, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and put them in the oven for almost an hour. I look for when they have collapsed, soft all the way through, but still moist.

Love this mini-food processor! Matt found it on the free table at work.
I put all of the veggies into the food processor and blend until there are no large chunks. For this I don't add any water or oil, I just use the moisture that is already present in the tomatoes.

I think I really pushed the limits of this food processor's capacity.
Once everything was blended I poured it into a bowl and added in a few dashes of garlic powder. I decided not to roast garlic along with the veggies because I didn't have fresh garlic, but I could have used a garlic infused olive oil on the veggies instead and have gotten a similar taste.

So pretty!
This made about 2.5 cups of thick sauce. I keep it as is for use as a pizza sauce, and add olive oil for pasta sauce. It could also be good as a sandwich spread. It has a slightly sweet flavor from the roasting.

We made pizza with it! 

John put the onions and pepperonis on the pizza.
 I made the dough about noon, so it's ready for fixing and baking in the late afternoon.

I like to brush the whole thing with olive oil, giving some extra love along the crust, and sprinkle on onion powder, garlic powder, and italian seasoning. I had some parmesan cheese that needed to be used up, and some mozzarella, but I also like feta on a pizza. Letting some of the cheese get on the crust creates some really good crust texture.

All done!
We used more of our red onions from farm box on the pizza. These onions are so fresh, they have a very strong flavor unlike typical red onions. Normally I can sub them in for yellow or white onion with no problems, but I didn't like them as much on this. The sweetness from the red onion was a little much with the sweeter than usual sauce. Matt liked it though, so it just depends on your preferences.

Next time I would probably bake it at 375 instead of 350 so to get more of a crunchier crust.

It is very important to add cornmeal to your baking sheet! It keeps the pizza from sticking, and I theorize that is helps the dough in the middle cook better.

How We Roll with Faith Formation for Preschoolers

Monday, August 17, 2015

Faith formation is one of the first formal-ish teaching things I do with little kids. We start with learning the sign of the cross, how to walk into church (i.e. dealing with holy water, bowing, etc.), and bible stories.

Once they start showing more readiness for crafts and longer stories (about 2.5 to 3 years old) I start an actual faith formation program. It is not strictly necessary, but I find that it does cut down on the work for me, which makes it much more likely to happen.

We have been using the Little Lambs program, the preschool version of Family Formation, from the Church of Saint Paul in Minnesota. It runs for the length of the school year (September - May), and they will prorate your subscription if you are not signing up before the year starts.

The new family packet comes with helpful guides for how to do the lessons, prayer lists, a liturgical year color in map, and a W.O.G. (Word of God) log for each kid.

Every month we get a packet in the mail with all of the lessons for the coming month, the saint of the month coloring page with bio, and, the best part, the supplies for all of the activities! You provide the scissors, glue, crayons, etc. The packet will contain construction paper, any printable pages needed, and even things like star stickers, popsicle sticks, and cord.

One of the things I really enjoy about this program is that it is really geared for the whole family, and it empowers the parents to be the teachers of their children. In the beginning of each lesson is a page that explains to the parent what they will be talking about, and the lesson leads you through introducing the topic to the kid. They catechize the parents just as much as the kids!

Liturgical Year map. Each of the days gets colored in with the appropriate liturgical color that the little key on the map will show you.

I like that it is tied to the liturgical year while also finding ways to include the full depth of Catholic culture. During the month of May last year we had a great booklet on how to pray the rosary as a family and an audio CD of a rosary you could pray along to, but we had also just covered topics like "Adoration and Holiness" and "Marian Apparitions."

There are some aspects of the program we omit or do differently.
We didn't do the W.O.G. logs much last year as we were easing into the idea of more formal school time. We got more in the habit of reading bible stories lately, and John liked keeping track of his minutes doing the Summer Reading Program at the library.

W.O.G. log! You fill in the days of the month and add the minutes the child spent reading or listening to scripture, bible storybooks, or mass readings.

I also don't really do the bible verse memorization yet. The preschool curriculum we are using includes a verse we are working on, but I'm aiming more for familiarity, not memorization, at this point for that type of thing. We are working on memorizing things like the Our Father and the table blessing prayers.

My final favorite point is that both Family Formation and Little Lambs are based on a per family pricing system vs. per child. This means that the cost is the same no matter how many kids are involved. This can make it VERY cheap for the per person cost. When you sign up the number of kids in each age group (Little Lambs 3-4 years, Family Formation Grades K-3 and 4-6) are noted and you will receive enough materials for that number of children.

I am not involved, financially or otherwise, with this program beyond subscribing for my family. I have just found it really useful in my life, and, since it is not very well known outside of particular geographic areas, I figured I would write it up in case it helps someone!
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