Capturing the Little Moments Because Those are the Big Moments

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A habit I started years ago turned into an important part of my life… leaving my camera out on the kitchen counter.  It’s been very good advice.

Because there are so many moments.  Everyday moments.  Glimmers of kindness, of hope, of joy, of love.  They are always there.  To capture them gives me great joy.

I LOVE taking pictures.  Especially of our children.  But my favorite pictures are not the classic portraits, of getting them all lined up just so in this particular spot that captures that beautiful tree in the background and the perfect lighting (although that can be fun).  My favorites are catching that real smile because someone is laughing at a joke, or they are playing catch with their dad in the yard, or the sheer joy on their faces when they get to go play in the summer rain.  And usually, my favorite group shot is usually the first one while they are all still being real and not just smiling for the camera.  I love catching them in an act of kindness and snatching a picture without them realizing.

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The everyday hum of life.  That’s what I love to capture.  Yes, there will be pictures of trips and Christmas and birthdays, but there will be the little moments.  Someone reading quietly on the porch, a spontaneous painting session, making dinner together, bathing the baby in the sink, block building, family rosary, playdough squishing, baking cookies, playing board games, an intense game of soccer in the yard, or football, or whiffle ball, playing in the $5 sprinkler, quietly pondering or standing in awe of something, racing to jump in the kiddie pool no matter what the age, apple picking, kitchen dance party, cooking applesauce, catechism night, endless hours of sledding and hot chocolate, doing crafts, making a garden, holding a baby… The everyday hum.  Those tiny moments that make life beautiful.


It’s those moments I look for and I take a step back to truly savor them.  The goodness of each child.  Their special gifts that peek through.  Their love for one another.  Their love for God.  Their JOY.   It’s all so beautiful.

And, I find it’s important to look for these moments.  Because family life is hard.  It’s beautiful and hard.  There are these dear little souls that God has given us – for a time… to love and help form them to truly become who God made them to be – saints!  Children don’t always get along, or sleep, or are kind, or make good choices, or help, or are obedient, or are loving.  Of course they are sometimes, and sometimes more than other times, but not ALL the time.  Neither are we, right?  This saint-making process is not a quick and easy endeavor.  It is hard.  It is tiring.  It bends us and breaks every selfish bone in our body.  It continually challenges us to love, love, love and never give up.  And when we think we are failing miserably, we remember that they are God’s – we are His helpers.  In those moments of doubt, of sorrow or anxiety, let us give our children to God.  Place them in His Hands and ask for help.  He wants to give His grace – we must ask for it.  We aren’t called to be super-parents and do this all on our own.  We need Him.  And He wants us.  He loves us.  And He sees all those thousands of moments of selfless love that we give to our children… maybe we will see that photo album in Heaven. 🙂

So, leave your camera on the counter.  You may be picking it up more than you think.



Go to Joseph

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March 19th is one of my favorite feasts, and one of our favorite feasts.  Dan and I have a special devotion to St. Joseph, going back to when we were engaged.  We individually had a devotion to him, but as a couple, it became an “us” thing when we visited the Oratory of St. Joseph in Canada.  As we prepared for marriage, what better way to get ready than a pilgrimage, to give honor to the protector of families and to ask his intercession as we began this walk Home together?

A friend of ours was going to Madonna House in Canada, to spend some time reflecting and discerning her life.  Madonna House is a place for people to come and retreat a while, to live in community, working for the bread they eat, praying together, and learning from one another.  It has a self sustaining farm, and everyone has a job to make the house run.  People sew, work on the farm, cook, clean, etc… and pray.  It is a beautiful place for great healing.  I’ve known many a young person go and live there for a couple of weeks or even a year and learn so much about themselves and draw closer to the Lord.

And so, this friend was in need of a ride to get there.  Being young and adventurous, we gladly volunteered.  We had such a good trip up – good conversation, laughter, and lots of counting of cows.  You would not believe how many cows you can pass driving from Connecticut to Canada.  Dan even pulled out his guitar at one point for some music on the road.  We had a good drive, and enjoyed visiting Madonna House.  We were so glad our friend chose to take some time for herself there.  Then off to Montreal Dan and I went, eager to find the great shrine dedicated to St. Joseph.

I had been there before, a couple of times, so I was excited to show Dan its beauty.  We visited the little church and simple house of St. Andre, the humble little doorkeeper who built this great oratory.  I first went there with my youth group in high school, and was overwhelmed by it all, and as our priest told us the story of St. Andre and how he came to build this oratory, I knew I had to learn more.  I loved St. Joseph and was eager to get to know this saint who loved him also.  I found a biography and devoured the book, and St. Andre and I have been friends ever since.  He is definitely one I turn to when I need to be reminded of how important it is to have great faith, like the kind of faith that moves mountains… or builds enormous shrines.

St. Joseph’s Oratory, if you ever have the chance to go, is indeed beautiful.  There is a magnificent hallway whose walls are lined from floor to ceiling (and the ceiling is a few stories up) with the canes of all those who have been healed through the intercession of St. Joseph.  Some of these people St. Andre visited and would bless them with holy oil and pray with them to St. Joseph to intercede for healing.  And many, many came after St. Andre died; they came to the oratory to ask St. Andre and St. Joseph for healing, whether it be physical, spiritual, or emotional healing – and they left their canes, or left their burdens they had carried in their hearts, there at the oratory, and went home healed.   Oh, how important it is to ask for the saints’ intercession for needs for others and also for ourselves.  Let us always ask them.

St. Joseph has always been very dear to me.  I don’t know exactly when my devotion to him began.  But, I always was struck by him when I thought of Jesus and Mary,  of the Annunciation account, of traveling to Bethlehem, of Christ’s birth, of him protecting them and fleeing to Egypt, of their home life in Nazareth.  In high school, I grew even fonder of him as we learned more about him and did the pilgrimage to the Oratory.  It was through this youth group I began to pray the ancient prayer to St. Joseph often, for novenas, or in times of need.  I had the blessing of praying it on each step leading up to the Oratory, which definitely helped me completely memorize it so I will never forget that prayer.

I suppose my devotion to him has grown too because of the saints, most especially the 3 Teresas – St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese the Little Flower, and Mother Teresa (she is a saint, but I just love calling her Mother so much, so she will always be Mother to me).  Side note… did you know that St. Therese was named after St. Teresa?  And Mother Teresa was named after St. Therese?  How cool is that.

These 3 Teresas taught me much about St. Joseph and how important it is to call on him.  St. Teresa of Avila would always say “Go to Joseph.”  I love that.  So simple, and such good advice.  She also said “I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint, for I have great experience of the blessings which he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him. ”   St. Therese the Little Flower also had a devotion to him: “St. Joseph, how I love him! What does me a lot of good when I think of the Holy Family is to imagine a life that was very ordinary, just like our own.”  Mother Teresa was very devoted to St. Joseph and would ask for his help constantly, and He would answer.  I remember the story, maybe from a talk or from one of her books long ago, of a time when Mother Teresa and the sisters needed money to pay for a convent.  Perhaps it was for next month’s rent?  The sisters did not have the funds that month to pay, and if they didn’t pay, they would lose the convent.  So, Mother Teresa had all the sisters pray to St. Joseph, and Mother went to his statue to pray for what they needed.  The day the rent was due, Mother went over to the statue, and there was the money, exactly the amount they needed.  They would keep their convent, and I am sure the sisters’ confidence in St. Joseph’s help grew that day.  Mother had many stories like this.

St. Joseph has been very, very good to me, and a very loving father. Whatever the prayer has been, He has answered.  He is faithful.  I have prayed for myself or for others for jobs, for houses, for one to find their spouse, for purity, for money, for so many projects and so many things – he has always answered.  Through all these years, and so very many requests, he has been patient with me and has interceded.  Especially these last couple of years, I have asked him for quite a bit, and he has come through.  Sometimes I feel like I am nagging him, but he doesn’t mind.  He enjoys being asked.  He smiles at the little child with pleading eyes pulling on his tunic and at once hears that child’s request.

I think of St. Joseph, holding the Infant Jesus in his arms that first night.   God Himself, in the form of a baby, was in his arms. The one who created the universe, who made the wood that Joseph worked with  – he was to be His father here on earth, to love Him, to protect Him, to teach Him, to help raise Him up in the faith and in the workshop.  He would set an example to God Himself of how to love purely, live faithfully, work hard, and trust deeply.   The conversations that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus must have had as He grew older…  Even though St. Joseph is mentioned very little in the Bible, the little that is shared in those pages tell us so much about who St. Joseph really was.  There is so much to meditate on in just those verses alone, and so much to consider if we think about the hidden life in Nazareth of the Holy Family.

When we get to a weekday Mass, the littles and I walk slowly from the car to the church door.  A beautiful statue of St. Joseph awaits us at the edge of the parking lot.  He stands there faithfully, every morning, as if to greet us, to say “I’m so glad you’ve come.  Come inside.  My Son will be delighted to see you; He has been waiting for you.” And we wish him a good morning out loud, and inside my heart I whisper “Thank you, St. Joseph.”  Thank you for all the gifts, all the answered prayers.  I am so grateful.  St. Joseph, protector of families, pray for us.

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Pumpkin Bars

I wanted to share a favorite snack in our house – pumpkin bars!  I know, I know.  It’s not fall…but these pictures are from fall.  🙂  We were traveling all day and I found this pumpkin patch for us to get out and stretch our legs … and take pictures.  Life with littles is fun.

These bars are yummy, gluten free and nut free too.  (and dairy free if you use dairy free chocolate.)  You can adjust them as you wish – you may want a little less sugar, or want to use honey instead of sugar all together.  I suggest mini chocolate chips, but you can use regular as well.

Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

Pumpkin Bars

1 can of pumpkin (14 oz.)

4 eggs

1 cup of canola oil

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

1 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup brown sugar

5 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup of mini chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 pan, or use parchment paper.  Mix all ingredients through brown sugar together.  Then add oats and mix… then chocolate chips.  Pour mixture into pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 40 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Allow to cool a little for easier cutting of pieces.  Enjoy all at once or store in an airtight container for a few days.  You can freeze too… but our bars never make it that far.  They are devoured in one day.  🙂



Let Us Begin

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Lent has arrived, full of ashes and beauty.

Ash Wednesday came, and the littles and I went to our weekday parish for Mass.  I remember being touched a little deeper as those ashes were placed on my forehead.  The ashes to remember that I am a sinner, but also the shape of the cross, that Christ died for not just everyone, but for me.  How deep is love is for each of us.

A friend called later that day and asked, “What are you doing for Lent?”  The million dollar question.  I had to be honest.  I told her I was planning to sit down after I talked with her and figure that out during prayer time.  I had a few things in mind, but nothing set, as this season came too quickly for me.  That happens sometimes, doesn’t it?  I want to do things right, but all of a sudden, time has not just slipped away, but feels like it has been ripped away and is racing down the raging river away from you.  Definitely time for a retreat.  A few days to breathe and be still with the Lord.  Oh! but how to create this retreat within the heart?   How to rest with Him while still being faithful to our daily work?  How to create a little Nazareth for the Child Jesus to play in within the heart and at the same time be present to those around me and tending to their needs?  These are the questions that keep me up at night.

Today, now several days into Lent, I came upon something profound.  Something I know deeply, and yet, still have to be reminded.

“Our Lenten conversion should consist in a generous determination to become a saint.  The desire for sanctity is the mainspring of the spiritual life; the more intense and real this desire is in us, the more it will urge us to pledge ourselves totally.  In this first week of Lent, we must try to arouse and strengthen our resolution to become a saint.  If other efforts in the past have been unsuccessful or have not entirely reached the goal, this is no reason for discouragement.  Nunc coepi – “now I begin”; let us repeat it humbly, and with the experience of our past failures make us place our trust in God alone.”(Divine Intimacy #99)

And there was my answer, right in front of me.  Yes, there are specific things I can and should do to shed myself of the attachment I have to this world and its empty promises, and things I can and should do to draw closer to Jesus.  And yet, really, what is the goal?  It is to become a saint!  To be in heaven one day with Him, eternal Love.  And so, steps must be taken to know Him more, to love Him more, and to serve Him more.  It might mean biting the tongue and only saying what is helpful & necessary (the same advice I give our kids… St. Paul, pray for us!), or choosing a spiritual book to read, or getting up earlier to pray or going to bed earlier, or taking great strides to get rid of a bad habit, or getting back into praying night prayer with the spouse, or working on a particular virtue or fruit of the Holy Spirit, or giving up a particular food, or going to adoration once a week, or  taking the time to play that board game or read aloud to the older kids, or even taking time to actually rest, to learn what proper leisure is. Whatever our Lenten goals might be, let them be to grow closer to Jesus, to love Him more, to truly become a saint, so as to be with Him forever in Heaven, wrapped in His Love.

Mother Teresa had a favorite saying: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today.  Let us begin.”  How simple, yet how beautiful and true it is.  Let us begin.  And no matter how many times we fall down, let us reach up and take Jesus’ hand, and let Him pull us up and dust us off, wipe our tears and kiss our scars, and walk hand in hand down this road of life.  We may go through valleys or up mountains, but let us never let go of His Hand.  Let us love Him with ever fiber of our being, and because of His Love shining through us, help others love Him too.  Let us begin.


IMG_20151116_135252779_HDR.jpgWe all have a friend, a really good friend… one that we can talk about anything with, one that we love to listen to, to seek their wisdom, to laugh with, to cry with, to share moments with.  One who we can be vulnerable around and truly bare our soul.   One who will encourage you and build you up, and also tell you when you are wrong because they care so deeply for you.   One that you treasure those simple moments of sipping coffee on the porch together as you take in the afternoon sun and share those deep thoughts with each other, or just take a moment to breathe while you watch your kids play in the grass.  Sometimes that friend is far away and those coffee retreats aren’t possible, and so you think of that person, maybe say a prayer, and finally make it to the phone or the keyboard to say a quick “Hello, I was just thinking of you” and you find out they had been thinking of you too.  I am so blessed to have a few of these friends here on this journey Home.  It’s so nice to walk together, isn’t it?  God did not make us to be alone.  He made us for each other in a sense.  God said “It is not good for man to be alone…” Now I know this verse from Genesis is usually focused on marriage, but I do think of it when I think of community too.  God, in the beginning, saw that it was not good for us to be alone in this world.

He designed our hearts to long for that friendship, that community.

Because, as my husband recently reminded me,

our longing for communion with one another,

is truly a reflection of our deep longing for communion with God.

We were made for Heaven, our true Home, to be forever with Him.

That is why our hearts yearn for Him.

He is our true happiness.

Our one Love.

I am also so very blessed to have these friendships in heaven.  Sometimes, the saints seem so close, much like very dear friends.  They are not far away in heaven with no interest in us, but they are indeed present, hearing our prayers, and take a great interest in us.  They want to help us get Home.  I just love the Saints.  They have been a big part of my life and my spirituality I suppose.  There have been some I have always been close to, like St. Therese and St. Joseph, and others I have grown to know and love along the way, such as St. Francis deSales, St. Gianna, St. Zelie.  And some I have found out of necessity if you will.  Whenever there is a problem, there is always a saint who can intercede.   We pray to St. Jude for hopeless causes, or St. Anthony when something is lost, St. Peregrine for healing for someone with cancer, St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Joseph of Cupertino for help studying for and taking a test, St. Anne & St. Joseph for a friend to find a spouse, or a job, or a house, or money.  (Important note: St. Joseph is ALWAYS faithful.  He will always answer.  I do find though, that he takes a while.  And so I have started to ask St. Anne’s intercession along with St. Joseph’s… she is his mother-in-law after all… and I can just picture that conversation about hurrying it up. 🙂 The combination has proved to be very fruitful.)

But there are also the less familiar saints that we seem to find, or they find us.  Like once we had about 20 friars over our house for meals for a few days, and the toilet got clogged, and the plunger was not going to help the matter.  And, we didn’t have extra funds to be hiring a plumber.  So I looked up the patron saint of plumbers… and found St. Vincent Ferrer.  I prayed to him, and the toilet was fixed… no lie.  I call on him now every time there is a toilet issue, which does happen with a large family.

We pray to St. George when we are looking for a parking spot close by.  Because, well, how many people are asking St. George’s intercession for things these days?  He might have a lot of free time on his hands.  He is very good about parking spots I will say.

St. Rita is a great saint to pray to someone in a difficult marriage, or for one who suffers in family life, or for a parent whose children whose children have gone astray, or for a situation that needs extra perseverance to get through.  One of my favorite stories of St. Rita is, after her husband and children died, she knew she was to enter a particular convent, but the convent refused her because she was too old.  She was denied 7 times.  But she did not give up hope and continued to pray.  One night, St. John the Baptist and St. Nicholas appeared to her and took her by the hand and walked her through the locked entrance to the convent.  In the morning, the nuns found St. Rita inside the convent and were astonished.  They knew that it was a miracle that she could have gotten inside and took it as a sign that she was meant to be there.  I love this story because of St. Rita’s faith, and also how the saints in heaven help us here on earth.

St. Gemma is pretty amazing too.  Her short diary tells us how very close she was to the Lord, and her guardian angel.  She is a wonderful saint to pray to for relief from headaches and migraines.  Did you know one day she had this terrible headache and and asked her angel to help her… and her angel appeared to her with a hot cup of coffee?!  She drank it and was better so she could continue on with her duties.  I absolutely love this story… as I love coffee, and my guardian angel.

To those who gets to know the saints, in them they will find great friendship.  The saints are our friends.  They love us dearly, have deep concern for us, for they long for us to be in Heaven with them.

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
    he that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
    and no scales can measure his excellence.”  ~ Sirach 6:14-15

I am ever grateful for the friends God has shared with me here on earth, and also for the many friends He has given me in Heaven.  They are there adoring the Lord in Heaven, but are also beside uss, encouraging us, loving us as we are, and loving who we will become, gently correcting us when needed, and offering words of wisdom as we travel this road Home.   Sometimes it can seem like a lonely road, but the Saints are there, cheering us on along the sidelines.  I am certain beyond a doubt that they hear our prayers and bring our requests to Jesus for Him to answer them.  And they eagerly await the day for us to join them at the Heavenly Banquet.  The Saints are indeed a treasure, and I am so grateful for these faithful friends.  The more I read their letters, or stories of their lives, and pray to them, the closer I feel to them… Almost like sitting with a good friend on the porch, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze moving the leaves in the distance, having a good cup of coffee and listening as they share a piece of wisdom.





Minimalism in the B House


Minimalism.  It’s all the rage now…. probably one of the biggest words out there in cyberspace, at least in some circles.  There is the KonMari method with a book, and now even a mini-series on how-to, the 40 Days 40 Bags Challenge, and countless articles, videos, blog posts, and opinions out there.  There is some goodness to it all, isn’t there? Minimalism can be such a wonderful thing, provided we have some balance to it.

I would say that I have always been a minimalist to a degree.  It may have to do with moving a lot (we have lived in 12 houses these 16 years of marriage… this fact I still can’t believe), but it stems back earlier.  When I went out to do missionary work in Oregon, I just wanted to take my guitar and a backpack.  Seriously.  That was it.  However, I couldn’t put the rest of my life in storage, so my childhood treasure box came, a box of clothes, and books.  Books are the only real thing I have a hard time parting with, as I have this secret dream of one day having a real library, like the one in Beauty and the Beast.  So 3 or 4 totes squeezed into my little Ford wagon and off I went.  If it weren’t for the books, the car would have been fairly empty and the car much lighter.  The struts might not have broken either, come to think of it.

But I think my desire to be a balanced minimalist goes a little deeper.  It does have a spiritual component, no?  Jesus told us to be “in” this world, but not “of” this world.  He told us we “cannot serve both God and mammon.”  He also told us to not be attached to the things of this world, as they are passing, but to “store up treasure in Heaven.”  Why have attachments to the things of this world?  We sure can’t take them to Heaven with us.  And when, by God’s grace, we do, we will see clearly that they are such little importance and Heaven is filled with a beauty beyond our imaginations, and being in God’s presence is better than anything we could desire.

And things are just things.   The less we are attached to the things of this world, the more we can cling to God.  The more we cling to God here on earth, the more ready will be to be forever happy with Him in Heaven.

I know there is a balance to this though.  For someone whose love language is gifts, things are special.  They bring meaning to that person’s life.  That person’s love language might primarily be gifts.  I am learning how to balance this concept as some of my children’s love language is in fact gifts… whereas that is not mine.  Learning how to understand what they appreciate and why, while also teaching them to balance that love language (i.e. we do not have to save every scrap of paper or schoolwork, but let’s pick some special ones to save in this folder; or these shells and rocks are pretty, but they are overtaking the room – let’s fill this glass jar with your favorites and bring the rest out to a spot in the yard; etc…) Clutter drives me bananas, but their emotions are important too; trying to figure out how to best deal with these situations has been helpful.

Also, being a minimalist doesn’t mean you don’t ever buy anything.  I tend to not splurge on things too much, which helps our budget.  A friend of mine loves going shopping with me because I help her sort through and end up putting back half of her cart… which her wallet appreciates.  Generally, I ask myself if I really need this or that before getting to the register.   Do I need another mug, or new socks right now, a purse or wallet, or another shirt that doesn’t fit me perfectly but is on sale, etc…?  However, I might go out and decide that picking out a little candle for the coffee table might be a nice splurge, as it will bring some joy during this cold winter season.

As far as minimalism in our house goes, I do like a lightly decorated feel to the home.  Now that we are settling into our new home, there is more artwork on the walls, and a little more design I suppose to the way things are set up.  But, I still really, really enjoy empty surfaces…. tables, counters, bookshelf tops, desks, etc.. Not having clutter, but maybe just what is absolutely necessary on the surface, and maybe a decoration or two, but not just stuff.  It gives it a clean feel and clears the mind, at least for me.  I would rather the stack of bills and mail in a container inside the kitchen drawer rather than on the counter.  But the counter still needs the coffee pot, the container for the spoons and spatulas, the knife block.  It might have a family photo or a little cute knick-knack, but the less the better, for me.  If stuff starts to pile up, it is time to go through it.  I find it helpful to move everything off the counter and give it a good clean, then only put back what I truly want/need on the counter, and find homes for everything else.  It is very easy for the counters to get cluttered with 8 kids running around and the schedule that that reality demands.  (I actually just did this… and it felt so good!)  Again though, everyone is different.  I have another friend who prayer cards/pictures on her kitchen walls and quotes from the saints she finds and writes out taped to her cabinets.  These inspire her and keep her focused, and I see great beauty in that.  She has inspired me to tape a couple of love notes from one particular child here up by my kitchen window so that I remember what’s important on the hard days.

“Everything has a place, and everything is in its place.”  This has been a very helpful attitude, but again with balance.  Because moving.  Or because babies.  Or because sick children.  The list goes on.  In one year’s time … we lived in 5 houses.  And so, I couldn’t honestly go through everything and minimalize.  I didn’t have time to throw away or donate the extra clothes or school work, or other things.  Sometimes I had to just pack it all up and wait for the time to sort to come.  Or those seasons of holding a precious little baby.  To me, holding that little one, while still keeping up with the basic needs of the home and family was enough.  The counters might be cluttered, but the children are loved.  Or the glorious time of toddlers – there is not really a time during the day our house will be in order, as they are constantly discovering and pulling things out and moving on to the next thing.  They want to help with the laundry; they discover the tupperware drawer; or we decide to pull out the finger paints when we know there will be a mess.  But the wonder we can see when we look in their eyes, and the very best hugs that only a toddler can give, makes it all worth it.  And there is the season of teenagers, which I suppose is much like the time of toddlers, but we can hold them more accountable to clean up after themselves.  However, we need more actively present time to listen and talk with them.  Going out for that milkshake or having a cup of tea on the couch and chatting about life and what’s important to them is more important than dishes in the sink needing cleaning or the laundry needing folding.  Because THEY need us.

But, when there is time for me, organizing the house so that “everything has a place” makes our home run smoother.  If I can set things up so that everything has a place, and show the children where those places are, then together we can help keep everything “in” its place.  Then there is more order, and for me at least, less stress.  I can also see that it is less stress for our children too.  If they have a certain place to put their shoes and backpack in when they come home from school, then they can put them there.  They may have to be reminded, but good habits can form.  And then, there is less stress the next morning because they don’t need to search for that missing shoe or backpack, because it is in its place.

And so, those are some beginning thoughts on minimalism.  More to come!



Catholic Schools Week Ideas

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And all of a sudden, Catholic Schools Week comes and goes.  It just sort of sneaks up on you.  The children are in full swing of Advent, then Christmas… then as soon as you start to get in the groove of this beautiful season of “Ordinary Time” (my personal favorite season of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar – more on that in another post) – Catholic Schools Week pops up!  And just about every year I think how it would have been nice to be on a planning committee to really hone in on what really makes a Catholic School and celebrate those qualities.  Those committees start early in the fall I would imagine… and perhaps it is not quite my “season” to be on many committees, but the desire to really celebrate the uniqueness and beauty of Catholic schools is always on my heart.

And so, below is a list of ideas for Catholic Schools Week activities.  Some are activities I have witnessed in the different schools of which we have been a part, and others are ideas I’ve had over the years.  They might also be activities to consider for other parts of the school year.  Something to think about too: invite parents, grandparents, parishioners, the community, the local news, the Catholic newspaper, and the like to as many events as the school sees fit.  It is not only a great way to “show off” the good things happening at your school, but it also helps foster community.  When people feel like they are a part of something, that they belong, they are more invested.  They are more willing to get involved, whether through praying for school, volunteering, telling others about the school, or perhaps even making a donation.  Having a “family” feel to the school community, combined with strong Catholic identity and academic excellence, makes for a great school.  Hope you enjoy these ideas!

Catholic Schools Week Ideas:

  • Diocesan wide Mass – The Bishop celebrates Mass for all middle school students at the cathedral.  (I shared my own experience of this here: )
  • School Mass at Parish – Every student wears their uniform and attends the Mass;  students are involved in the Mass; and perhaps one gives a little speech at the end. Father preaches on Catholic education  (very important).  If it is a regional school rather than a parish school… that will take a little more coordination so that the different parishes can host their own students.  The 2nd collection could be for Catholic schools, particularly their scholarship fund to help families afford tuition.  There could be a representative from the school who signs students in before Mass… and those students get a dress down day the following week for attending.
  • Open House – Host an open house after the Mass on Sunday for prospective families.  Also, consider welcoming all parishioners to stop by for refreshments and a tour of the school.  This is a great thing to do if you have recently updated something, such as the playground, the technology center, the library, freshly painted rooms, etc…
  • Priest Visit – The parish priest comes and visits each classroom.  He may decide to talk with the students about a particular subject, come and give each class a blessing, hand out holy cards, etc…  At one school our children attended, the pastor went on the school field trip and went snow tubing with the students!
  • Sister Visit – Invite a teaching sister come to talk at an assembly, or in the classrooms. Sisters were instrumental in the forming of Catholic schools in our country, and have greatly contributed to their success.  Catholic schools would not exist today without their dedication through all these years.  Orders that have taught in schools through the years include the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Felician Sisters of St. Joseph, the Felician Franciscans, the Notre Dame Sisters, Ursuline Sisters, Daughters of Charity ….  And there are new orders of sisters that are teaching now too: Nashville Dominicans of St. Cecelia, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Michigan, Carmelite teaching Sisters in CA, Sisters of Life in New York, etc…
  • Timeline display – Create a timeline of Catholic education history – it’s fascinating!
  • Live Drama – Do a play of your school Saint, if your school is named after one; or one of the leaders in Catholic education who were Saints – we all know of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, but have you heard of St. John Neumann, St. Madeline Sophie Berrat, St. Katherine Drexel, St. John Bosco, St. Angela Merici…..?
  • Thank a parent – At morning carpool, hand a baked good/coffee/breakfast sandwich to parents as they drive through carpool, or have a little stand in the parking lot.  Many schools host receptions, but as a parent of littles… that can be overwhelming.  And for working parents, this is very appreciated too!  Drive thru act of kindness goes a long way.  Who doesn’t love a free breakfast?
  • Saints Alive – One of the older grades could host a living wax museum of the saints in their gym.  Each student picks a saint to study, create a posterboard with facts, dress as that saint, and give a short presentation.  Invite the other school children to walk through at a certain time, and create a separate time for parents and parishioners to also walk through.
  • Academic Bees – Spelling bees, Math races, Catholic Trivia, History Jeopardy, Science Fair are all great ways for the students to enjoy a little friendly competition and celebrate the academic excellence that is Catholic schools.
  • Balloon Rosary – Create a rosary with balloons, and assign student representatives to hold each balloon (they are all connected).  The entire school community is gathered around the giant rosary and prays together the rosary.  When finished, and with some help from the teachers, each decade is released into the air, one at a time, and finally the cross.  It is absolutely beautiful to watch the rosary float up to the heavens, and the wonder and joy on the children’s faces is priceless.  This is also a good opportunity to teach the students more about our Lady and how important it is to lift our prayers up to God.
  • Teacher Appreciation – Host a luncheon for the teachers and staff, who work so hard for the students, day in and day out.  PTA / PTO usually coordinates a catered lunch and organizes parent volunteers to stay in each classroom while the teachers enjoy lunch together.
  • Bulletin Boards – Bulletin boards can be designed to celebrate Catholic Schools Week.  It may have statistics of Catholic School students (Graduation rate, higher test scores, adult practice of the faith, etc…), or maybe a gratitude board of why the students are grateful for going to a Catholic school.   These would be great in the school building for Open House, but also would be good to display at the back of the church too.
  • Thank you notes – Students write a thank you note to their parents, thanking them for the sacrifice they make to send them to a Catholic school.  They may also write notes of gratitude to their teachers, staff, their priest, parishioners who have donated, the janitor, etc…
  • Service Projects – Students may have a dress down day and pay $1 which is donated to a good cause; have a baby shower and donate items to the local pregnancy center; make sandwiches for the local shelter and invite the older students to an after school field trip to the shelter to help serve dinner; have a porridge day and raise money for Mary’s Meals, visit a nursing home and sing hymns, etc…
  • Pep Rally – Each class prepares a special chant, to show school spirit.  They made posters and banners and maybe even dress up in a particular color shirt.  At the end of the day, they have a special assembly and show off their class’s school spirit.  There may even be a contest on which class shows the most spirit.  There are games, relay races, teachers vs. students basketball game everyone watches, etc… It is very fun and always closes with a prayer.
  • Holy Hour – What better way to make a school better than by spending some time with Jesus?  An hour may seem like a long time to be quiet in church, but children truly enjoy it.  You can fill the hour with the opening prayers, music (consider having some play praise and worship music), some quiet, a short spiritual talk by the priest or school leader,  more music, short readings from the Bible, etc.. The priest will finish with Benediction and bless everyone.  Invite the parents to participate too – they will enjoy that quiet time!

What events does your Catholic school do for Catholic Schools Week?  How do they celebrate?  Feel free to comment with more ideas!  Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a priest, or a school leader – thank you for your commitment to Catholic education!  May God bless you and Mary keep you!