{SQT} Throwing Up Butterflies Or Something

seven quick takes friday 2

1. One week until Edel! I’m 50 percent excited, and 50 percent on the verge of throwing up! So yes, I’m just a bit nervous to be speaking, but in a good way. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to not have some nerves before a talk or performance. The few times I was overly confident were the times I walked on stage and completely forgot my lines, therefore, I feel it’s safer for me to have some butterflies puking in my stomach than to assume everything will be fine. At approximately 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 10th, with my Edel talk under my belt, I will be 100 percent excited, giddy and too liberal with the hugs so, heads up Charleston.

2. While in the sunny south, I’ll be selling my planner and ‘Rosaries Aren’t Just for Teething’ at reduced prices and forcing a smile so. big. for all the selfies. Get ‘The Best Laid Plans’ and RAJFT at Edel prices, through next Sunday, right here at the blog too.

3.To finish preparing for Edel (a.k.a. heavily breathing into a brown paper bag) I’m going to take a blogging break for the week, and next Friday Bonnie from A Knotted Life will host Seven Quick Takes! Be sure to stop by and give her all the love. (She makes the best cookies, so it’s really in your best interests to be nice and link up.)

4. Edel organizer Hallie Lord is expecting baby Lord #7 and is due Edel weekend. Some of us attendees are preparing by watching all the episodes of ‘Call the Midwife’, and that movie by Ricki Lake. All I know for sure is that we need boiling water on hand. I’ve also taken it upon myself to create the perfect L&D playlist using suggestions from other Edel attendees and my own great taste. I dare you to listen and not break into Lamaze breathing.

5. In more self-centered news, I hit 1,000 likes on Facebook this week! With only five to go, I put out a desperate plea and people generously stepped up and pushed me over. I might have mentioned something about a lip synch video….. forthcoming, forthcoming I promise. I’m open to suggestions but brushing up my best Eminem in the mean time. Here’s an old video as a teaser. (This is actually horrible, but my kids are entertaining to watch.)

You know who else is close to 1,000 Facebook fans, the awesome Bonnie. Can we get her a little closer by next week?

6. I do get quite a bit of traffic from Facebook, which is amazing since the social media giant does everything in it’s power to not show my fans or friends anything I publish. If you want to make sure you can easily follow your favorite blogs, businesses, celebrities or friends, EPBOT has a great tutorial for how to set up your Facebook feed so you don’t hate it. H/T Kendra for sharing.

7.In a radical departure: who’s looking for a stylish t-shirt for their teen daughter that manages to cover her midriff and isn’t covered with garish sequins and loud explosions of glitter?  Blessed is She to the rescue!

Blessed Is She t-shirt

Her first blog photo shoot! She actually said to me, “I should be holding a bottle of Pepsi.”

You can even get a matching shirt for yourself! Enter the Rafflecopter below to win $20 of store credit to put towards the item of your choosing! Unfortunately my conscience won’t let me enter or select myself as winner. To learn more about Blessed is She, or subscribe to their daily devotional, clickety click! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Then don’t forget to link up! Remember to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes! I look forward to reading your posts!

Weekly…I Mean Monthly Goals

Weekly Goals (4)

Back to check in on my weekly goals. This will conclude my series of weekly goals, but I’m going to keep up with a monthly goals post.  (Addie was very relieved at this announcement because she found my goals posts “soooooo boring.” I apologize to all my readers who felt the same way.) In general last week I found that I was not mindful of any of my goals. It might have been because we were without power for a bit and I was preoccupied to say the least. However, for the future, I’m going to write the goals in my planner so they’re in front of my face a bit more, especially since I will be going longer between accountability checks. Goals in bold; thoughts following.

Make a note of one thing to be grateful for each day. I was grateful for a variety of things last week: running water, a gas stove, a large supply of candles, the security of our home, a friend’s generator. Certainly many things that wouldn’t have made the cut had the storm not hit. And for as trying as the situation was at times, it was clearly so much worse for so many other people, it was easy to not complain and remember to be thankful.

Be mindful of all the stuff I do accomplish. I didn’t accomplish many of the goals on my list because no power and our cell phone service was down for a day too. But I did manage to finish reading ‘Death Comes for the Archbishop’ and I spent more quality time with the kids because there was no internet to distract me. I also impressed myself a couple times with my improvising skills. However, I think I’m more mindful of it now, in hindsight, than I was at the time. At the time, I was annoyed and convinced I was missing some important announcement on Facebook.

Follow up on the phone call. Nope. 

Spend at least 30 minutes a day on my larger project. Nope. Last week made me reconsider whether storing all my documents online, rather than on my hard drive was such a smart move. I think if I had a dedicated computer to myself that didn’t suck (sorry ancient laptop running an obscure Linux operating system) I wouldn’t rely on Google Drive quite so much.

Keep track of my time better and make sure I’m fully present for the task at hand. Not having internet was great for my focus, in fact, I’ve been wondering if we should cut the internet all together and make regular family trips to the library for device time. But, since we rely on Amazon for movies, it’s probably not a realistic option.

One of the things Gretchen Rubin mentions in ‘Better Than Before’ (which was the catalyst for this series remember?) is whether someone is an abstainer or moderator. I am definitely an abstainer. If I don’t want to be tempted by something I need to completely eliminate it from my home. Like Coca Cola. If there’s a case in the house, I will drink at least three cans a day. So to prevent myself from turning into corn syrup, I stopped buying Coke. The internet is the same way. If I want to prevent social media, email and blogging from encroaching into my real life, I would need to eliminate the internet from my house entirely. Not having the option would actually be less stressful for me than having to continually make the choice to not jump online. Moderators can set time limits for themselves and abide by them, either with or without outside reinforcement, depending on whether they’re an obliger, questioner, rebel or upholder. They can also do things like, keep a candy bar in the house and slowly eat it square by square over the course of a week. I actually babysat for a friend who was like that and when I discovered her candy bar, I almost ate the whole thing. I’m not sure if that reinforces my claim of being an abstainer or just makes me a bad friend/ crazy.

I’d also set a monthly goal for June to organize my digital photos. I did make some progress. The fact that I’m finally going to upgrade to a smart phone (but sell my iPod Touch to offset the cost) means I have even more incentive to finish the task.Only a few thousand left to sort!

So my July goals:

Numbers 1,2 and 5 from above. Making notes with the Commit and Toggl apps.

Finish sorting photos.

Finish big project.

Get all the “To Donate” items out of my house.

Continue looking for caregivers (Also follow up on call. Hoping that changes in Tony’s job will make things easier in the very near future.)

I’m not sure if this list is ambitious enough or what. I’ll give it a month and see how it goes, knowing full well I have to report back to y’all come the end of July.

What works for you; weekly or monthly goal setting? How do you remain mindful of your goals amid the craziness of daily life?

Hospitality in the Worst of Circumstances

Every year, since we purchased this house seven years ago, we’ve hosted a large party and invited pretty much everyone we know in the local area. Our first year here, it was a Michaelmas party, held close to September 29th (because Fulton had just been born and we moved in a month later at the end of July.) But since then, we’ve always held a Nativity of St. John the Baptist party complete with Vespers and a bonfire.


Lighting the bonfire at the NOSJTB Party, 2013 This is how it’s SUPPOSED to look!

Saturday, the forecast was dismal, but we’ve always had perfect weather, no matter the predictions so we forged ahead, sending out cheerful reminders like “Rain or shine!” and “Don’t worry, it’s a go!”. As we set up, it continually drizzled so we decided to set up our food, beverages and seating in our barn, rather than on the deck. It was just to be a temporary measure, until things cleared up.

party barn

The party barn, with Christmas lights! Don’t mind the power tools and scrap wood.

As guests started to arrive, the sky opened up and buckets of water poured from the sky, pounding on the barn’s metal roof, drowning out conversation. The kids ran around in the rain, becoming soaked and muddy; the adults ate and drank and laughed as they would usually do outside. Tony kept saying,  “It will soon let up and the kids can try the obstacle course and I’ll get the bonfire set up!” Thankfully he grilled all the food in advance so he didn’t need to stand soaking wet at the grill.

But, it never let up. More families arrived. Some hung out in the house, near the desserts. Some kids tired from playing in the rain crashed on the couches or floor and read books or played with toys. “Any minute now, it’s going to stop and well get the bonfire going!” Tony continued to say. He broke out the Vespers sheets and they prayed in the barn, raising their voices to combat the sound of the rainwater. During the hymn, you could hear them in the house.

People kept coming, though some left a bit earlier than usual. I assumed once everyone got the text that flash flooding was breaking out on local roads, things would wrap up, But some lingered, their children splashing in the water that was now creeping into my old basement. Eventually, the party did wind down with the last families leaving around 9:30 p.m. Still early for one of our parties, but pretty good considering the circumstances. All in all 83 people showed up, the large majority children.

At Mass yesterday, some people said they hadn’t come because of the weather; they’d assume we’d cancel. However, the invitation was rain or shine, and we meant it. Maybe cause we’re crazy, but also because I think we knew people would enjoy themselves anyway. Our family certainly did, though Fulton and Teddy we upset the weather kept them from driving around as much as they would have liked.

I think many people see perfect parties on Pinterest, and think “I don’t have time for that”, and because they can’t achieve perfection, they never host parties of any size. Even with a steady downpour, our guests had fun and it was wonderful to converse with so many other families.

We didn’t offer fancy themed food or have fantastic decorations. I forgot to buy tablecloths, so I draped old sheets on the serving tables. I didn’t have time to dust in the house or wipe all the fingerprints from the glass. Certainly, it would be great if I could find time to do all those things, but none of them are necessary to offer hospitality. While the rain chased some people away, it wasn’t because I had a lack of side dishes or my kitchen sink was cluttered with party prep.

The benefits to hospitality extend beyond the tasty selection of food and beverage.

Like the early Christians, we must also rely on and offer hospitality as a means of sharing the gospel. By creating a welcoming home, we make the Christian life attractive. With further insight, John Paul II writes, “Welcoming our brothers and sisters with care and willingness must not be limited to extraordinary occasions but must become for all believers a habit of service in their daily lives” (Address to volunteer workers, March 8, 1997). -Emily Cook (read the whole piece if you have time)

When we welcome people into our homes joyfully, we are sharing our faith in a wonderful way and we are sharing in a tradition that goes back into the old Testament as Kendra shares so well in this post. 

While I knew the importance of hospitality, it took Saturday’s rainy party to show me how well hospitality works even in the worst circumstances. And if you can share and laugh during a rainstorm, it shouldn’t be too hard any other time right? Any future party will seem down right easy after Saturday’s muddy mess.

Don’t wait for the perfect day to extend an invitation. Just open your home and see the benefits that hospitality brings to your family. At the very least, your supply of desserts and alcohol might exponentially increase.

Sort of like the loaves and fishes. We started with six bottles of hard cider and now there’s more than enough for everyone!

{SQT} After the Storm


UPDATE: We have power! [happy dance]

Breaking the rules and doing just one take due to time constraints.

Coming to you this week through the generosity of my in-law’s wi-fi connection and electricity. You might have seen in the news about some severe storms that hit New Jersey (and a good chunk of the Mid-Atlantic) this week. Powerful gusts of wind and sudden downpours have led to massive power outages and flooding. We are very fortunate that our house is fine except for a few pieces of siding that blew off. But our poor trampoline went to the great jump zone in the sky. The storm came on so fast and furious, we had no sooner risen from the dining table at the sound of sudden gusts than we saw our trampoline flying across the yard and into a massive maple. Thankfully, it missed our van, car and barn. Tony might have muttered, “So long as it stays against the tree.” right before a giant branch dropped off the maple and completely crunched the trampoline. But hey, at least there was no chance of it blowing away now.


That tangled black and blue mess is our trampoline and “No kids, we can’t fix it.”

The power went out shortly after that and last we heard, it could be Sunday before it’s restored. Thankfully, my in-laws power was restored already and we’ve been able to recharge devices, Fulton’s medical equipment and transfer some cold food to their refrigerator. Other friends let us use their generator to recharge the boys powerchairs (and gave me my fill of Sangria-WOOT!) since my in-laws live in a second story apartment.


Some black walnut trees around the chicken coop just exploded.

We’re lucky to still have water (cold, cold water), a working gas stove and plenty of candles. We’re hosting our annual Nativity of St. John the Baptist party this weekend and all plans are a go, electricity or no. Because if medieval folks can party and host a bonfire, so can the Mantoans. Plus Tony’s got two cases of home brew he’s dying to break out. We just have to cut up that nasty branch on top of our trampoline so we can also get to the grill.

Since I don’t have a smart phone, and a local Verizon tower went down for most of Wednesday, I felt totally cut off from the outside world for a bit. It gave family plenty of reason to worry that we were all dead. We’re such a connected society these days that the inability to instantly reach someone quickly becomes a reason for worry.


Edie’s artistic interpretation of the storm. Me looking out the window, her sobbing and Tony… looking like he might kill us both???

So say a prayer we get power back soon because the novelty of living the Little House life is quickly wearing off. And since the kids math programs are online, they’re all falling behind and don’t no one want to do math into July.

Link up your takes below and don’t forget to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading you posts!

Weekly Goals: Progress! And Re-Focusing My Efforts.

Weekly Goals (3)

I know that caring for four children, including one with special needs, would overwhelm most people, but to me, it was a vacation. This productive week and resurgence of positive energy brought to you by MDA camps. You can read all about Fulton’s awesome week here, and now onto how I spent my time (note: none of it was used drinking my tears.)

Goals in bold, details following.

Post on the blog three times a week. Did it. I’ve been able to keep this pace up now which is encouraging. I’d actually like to increase the frequency of posting to at least four times a week twice a month, but I want to complete my larger project first so I can take the time to write longer, meatier posts.

Spend three hours working on a larger project. Did it. In fact, I spent more than three hours and I’ve already spent some time this week on it. I can’t stand looking at it any longer so I’ll consider the first draft done. Now it’s out to the husband for the first round of feedback. This week I hope to spend at least half an hour a day revising it.

Say the rosary while walking around the yard every morning. Did it, except the morning it rained and on Saturday when we picked up Fulton.

Make a note of one thing to be grateful for each day. Eh. Sort of did this one. Not sure why I don’t enjoy thinking of things to be grateful for but the easier week did make it less distasteful to stop what I was doing when my reminder went off and think of something.

Make at least one phone call regarding getting a nurse/ home health aide. BOOYAH! DID IT! And had to leave a message and of course no one has called back. Not sure when I will get to follow up on this but at least I feel like I did something. Insurance changes are on the horizon for the next couple months so this may all be moot, but we’ll see.

Bibliotecaria made a great comment on last week’s post.

Here’s a suggestion — when you do this check-in on your goals, also think back and list off many of the things you did get done that may NOT have been scheduled. Or perhaps even list some of the everyday things you did. This helps you remember that you DID GET STUFF DONE.
And checking in even when you have to say, “I didn’t get that done,” can be helpful, as it keeps some important tasks on your radar so you don’t forget.

It was a good point. It’s in my nature to focus on all the stuff I wasn’t accomplishing. However, it’s not because I was watching TV or surfing the web endlessly. With Fulton at camp, it was very clear where all my time goes and why I can’t carve out quiet chunks of time for my own personal projects. Last week, I spent more one on one time with Teddy, helped my other children with school, had less rushed and stressed mornings, and stayed on top of cleaning/ tidying up more than usual.

So next week,  I’m going to

Make a note of one thing to be grateful for each day.

Be mindful of all the stuff I do accomplish. 

Follow up on the phone call.

Spend at least 30 minutes a day on my larger project.

Keep track of my time better and make sure I’m fully present for the task at hand. I finally finished Vanderkam’s book and she mentions that often the time we think we’re spending doing one thing, we’re often diluting with other activities. Like, time with children isn’t really dedicated time with our children if we’re just plopping them in front of a movie while we check our social media accounts. Same for writing. I can’t say I put in three hours on a project if I’m jumping over to Facebook every twenty minutes. So this week I want to make sure I’m focused when I’m spending time with the kids, whether it’s during school or just playtime and not allowing myself to be distracted by less important things. Multi-tasking isn’t always as practical or efficient as we tend to think.

UPDATE: And look what Anne is writing about today. Everything I’m saying, but better. 

Vanderkam also writes about the importance of wisely choosing our leisure activities. Watching TV or wasting time online doesn’t actually refresh and relax us as much as we think she argues. She suggests scheduling smarter leisure time so we actually do what we enjoy rather than fall into the habit of just sitting in front of a screen. It’s a good reminder for me personally and although we have this coming weekend booked up, I’m going to make sure I take better advantage of my weekend time through planning rather than find myself at the end of Sunday wondering what happened my weekend.

What goals have you set for yourself this week? Have you made progress and set habits on previously set goals?