2023 In Review

I’m taking a break from eating all the things to finally write my typical year end blog post. Even though I’ve posted the least amount of posts EVER, there was still plenty going on here. I think a lot of this info will be new to readers as I wasn’t blogging much, but journaling almost daily, so I can go back and find interesting tidbits to share. Let’s break it down! (with affiliate links)


We started the year with illness. Fulton and Teddy had gotten sick before Christmas and it lingered, especially for Teddy. Fulton was feeling well enough to go to an Eagles vs Saints football game in Philadelphia (a belated 14th birthday present) with Tony on the first – Saints won! Then on the second, Tony, Addie and Byron flew to Orlando, FL (more belated birthday presents) for a few days at Universal Studios. Teddy eventually went back to school and Edie started wearing a sling and undergoing physical therapy for her elbow, which she injured with her new pair of roller skates. Tony and I spent a lot of time at our old house finishing up things we needed to do to sell it. We successfully closed on the 25th. We made a lot of good memories in that house, and I’d liked the idea of holding onto it as an investment, or maybe for one of the kids, but it still needed so much work (especially after the condition our tenants left it in) that it didn’t make sense to keep it when we could finally sell it and not lose money. I was also doing the final edits of Friends & Intercessors, a book about the saints Accepting the Gift released at the end of the month. We struggled with finding a new Wednesday nurse for Fulton, the only upside being he got to attend daily Mass we me a lot in the interim.

Thankfully, Fulton did not get harassed by any Eagles fans.

Blog Post

2023 Resolutions: Hopefully Joy and Fruitfulness

Favorite Read

The Angels: In Catholic Teaching and Tradition


I spent a good chunk of this month planning trips; a speaking trip to Kansas City and Des Moines in March, our family trip to Europe and trying to coordinate that vacation with a scout trip to Chartes, France for Byron. I went overboard with Superbowl food as usual, and reminded Teddy not to gloat at school as the Chiefs defeated the (local favorite) Eagles. Tony and I committed to observing an Orthodox fast during Lent and I stocked up on lentils and beans. We had mild weather and made it to Ocean City twice in the month. Fulton’s main nurse got COVID at the end of the month so Fulton was home even more.

To say Teddy was pumped was an understatement.

Blog Post

An Orthodox Inspired Lent


March was the month of van troubles. First it was lift trouble, then it was just mechanical issues with the van itself. Thankfully we could still get to Mass in town and take the train into Philly for medical appointments at CHOP. I left for my week-long speaking trip on the sixth. I got to connect with a cousin in Kansas City, speak with parents, and give a talk at a local high school, then drove to Des Moines where I spoke with religious educators in the A.M. and then parents in the P.M. It was a wonderful week, but I started the week with the sniffles and ended with a major cold. I started experiencing a bunch of other perimenopause/ fibroid symptoms simultaneously (though I didn’t know the exact cause at the time), so in general, I was feeling run down, worn out, and uncomfortable. No sooner was I home and trying to catch up than Fulton got sick too. Thankfully, it was a much shorter illness than what befell him and Teddy over their Christmas break. We locked in a lot of details for our trip and decided that Byron, who was traveling to Chartes with his former scout troop from May 24-30 would stay two weeks by himself in France, before meeting us in Paris in June. His troop had originally planned, and fundraised, for this pilgrimage back when Byron was the Explorer chief, but then COVID struck and the trip was postponed. Thankfully, it worked out for him to go along on the rescheduled trip and he was looking forward to a solo adventure as well. Edie finally (reluctantly) got her permit and the driving adventure for my third child began.

Breaking our fast for the feast of St. Joseph.

Favorite Read

East of Eden


We attended a local comic con type event for the first time in years and finally got some use out of some old Halloween costumes. We celebrated Easter with some new Italian inspired dishes, and I rejoiced at eating meat and cheese again. After several doctor visits, and tests, I learned why I’d been feeling so terrible. I started taking an iron supplement regularly and that helped my energy levels. I started assembling Fulton’s beach chair only to realize it was not the “easy on, easy off” conversion kit I thought it was. My mom underwent open heart surgery to repair an aneurysm on her aorta. We had warm spring weather and, based on my journal entries, I spent a lot of time outside sunning on my new patio lounge chair.

Missing Addie at Easter, but still managed a family photo.

Blog Post

My Old Lady Lent and Italian Easter


I started the month in Lancaster, PA helping to care for my mom as she recovered from surgery. I also started promoting Accepting the Gift’s new religious education curriculum. Unfortunately, I also got sick and lost my voice which meant I needed to cancel a speaking engagement, which I’ve never had to do before. Fulton caught the same cold and was sick again for a few days, (but thankfully, despite all his illnesses, he’s stayed out of the hospital for all of 2023). Byron left for France on the 24th and we prayed we’d meet up with him in Paris on June 15 without issue. Although he originally thought he’d stay in Paris, to keep his trip more affordable he decided to stay in Chartes. We accepted another foster child who would’ve been placed with us after our trip but then learned we actually couldn’t take that child due to a rule we hadn’t been told about previously. I was heartbroken, because this child was was what I considered “the ideal” placement for us, and now we were told we couldn’t take him or other children of his age. It’s really hard being open to life in so many different ways and still not being blessed with any children (temporarily or permanently) for various reasons. Honestly, I might need to write a whole post on this but, just know that in May I was feeling very discouraged on this front and blaming myself, even though I really had no control over anything.

Celebrating Addie’s return to NJ with a beach day.

Favorite Read

Little Altars Everywhere


We had some more colds as the boys school year wrapped up and I worried we wouldn’t be able to leave on our trip. We almost never heard from Byron while he was away, but when he’d text two short sentences, he was having fun and everything was going well, so I didn’t worry. Life kept us busy right up until the minute of departure but we landed in Paris, France on June 15 and our European adventure began! I won’t recap all that here, but we arrived home in NJ in the wee hours of June 29. I spent the last day of the month unpacking, doing laundry, restocking our fridge and pantry, and then cooking a belated birthday dinner for Fulton.

I mean, how awesome is this?? I still can’t believe we pulled this trip off.

Blog Post

The Highlights


We celebrated Fulton’s birthday with my parents on the second and my mom seemed back to normal. She made Fulton one of her elaborate birthday cakes, and had energy to listen to all our stories and view our endless stream of pictures (a tough feat even when you’re not two months post-op). Less than two weeks after our trip abroad we were on the road again to the Adirondacks for a trip to visit Tony’s brothers and extended family. It was….rustic….to say the least, and while it was great to see family, we were all pretty “traveled out” and didn’t enjoy ourselves as much as we might have otherwise. And then it was time to celebrate a belated Nativity of St. John the Baptist party which I don’t think either Tony or I really had the energy for by this point. But we always have a nice time anyway. We passed our relicensing inspection to continue fostering though I wasn’t sure we would ever accept any more kids. However, I didn’t want to say ‘no’ just yet simply because of what happened in May. I tried to get into some sort of summer routine but it was hard. I couldn’t get to daily Mass or the gym at the same frequency as when the boys were in school and every day felt “off”. In looking at my journal, here’s where entries started becoming more sporadic.

So. much. rustic. All. the. nature.

Blog Posts

Favorite Read



We did our first real beach day in Ocean City early in the month, sans motorized beach chair. Even with help from Tony and my father in law, we couldn’t figure out how to get it to turn smoothly or disassemble/ reassemble easily for transport. Tony didn’t have vacation time to join us, but I had all the big kids, plus Addie’s boyfriend and we committed to a full day to make all the effort worth it. It was a great time with all our favorite boardwalk foods, good waves, and we visited with some of my family who were in town as well. I committed to eating mostly plant-based for the remainder of the year to see if it would help some of the symptoms I was still experiencing. Fulton and Teddy got to attend the local MDA summer camp for the first time in three years. They had a great time and Tony and I got to catch up on sleep and even got a night away in Atlantic City. Tony turned 45, and we had an early family birthday dinner before I drove Addie back to Cleveland to move into her new apartment. She scored a bunch of great second hand furniture and together with her boyfriend, and his father, we got her place set up. We had a couple extra weeks with Byron before he went back to college as well. Our local school district started back up before Labor Day on the 31st for the first time ever. Edie started her senior year the same week.

How Teddy was feeling about his first day back.

Blog Posts


I assumed once the boys were back in school, I would slip easily back into all the good habits and routines I had during the last school year. It was not as easy as I expected and I struggled with feelings of uncertainty as to where to focus my time and creative efforts. We had a new team of nurses for Fulton and I hoped he wouldn’t miss as many days this year. I started the extremely difficult task of moving Accepting the Gift’s website from Wix to WordPress. Edie continues to hate driving and I have no idea when she’ll get her license. I turned 45 and Edie and I went to Galveston, TX to visit another maritime college. Addie turned 21 and celebrated over Korean food in Cleveland. It’s football season and between high school games, and our family fantasy football league, it feels like football talk 24/7 around here.

Enjoying the Texas heat in Galveston.

Blog Posts

Favorite Read

Good Omens


Teddy turned 13! and it’s official; I have no little kids in the house. I spoke at a Salesian Festival in Ramsey, NJ one weekend and at a Knight’s of Columbus event in Dumont, NJ the next weekend (which was rescheduled from my May illness). Both went well, but I was reminded why I hate driving in North Jersey. Tony and I celebrated 22 years of marriage with a date night at one of our favorite local places. Byron turned 20 at KU, while at home we planned an epic Gravity Falls themed Halloween. I had a fun time making props, we all dressed up, hosted friends, and had a fun night.

I still can’t bring myself to throw out any of these props and signs.

Blog Posts

Favorite Read

Demon Copperhead


The boys had a week off at the beginning of November (yeah, I know it’s weird) so we went to visit Tony’s parents in Virginia. They live in Hampton now. They’ve outfitted their house with lots of ramps and accessible features, and there’s lots of attractions nearby so it was a really fun and relaxing visit. I spent a lot of time on Accepting the Gift’s website in preparation for Giving Tuesday. Edie and Tony went to see the Philadelphia Orchestra (one of our famous belated birthday presents) and enjoyed Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. Byron came home for Thanksgiving and we squeezed in a visit to our old friend, and his Confirmation sponsor Father Seifert. Tony and I met Father when we were students at KU ourselves, and he would go on to marry us and become Fulton’s godfather. He was the pastor at St. Stephen’s in Allentown, PA where a Latin Mass was established 2006. He underwent brain surgery in late 2019, had complications and then between distance and COVID I had not visited him at the nursing home where he now resided. Tony visited him in the spring, but this was the first time for Byron and I. He was there mentally, but physically, he was unable to do much for himself and communication was challenging. However, we had a good time and he liked listening to me bringing him up to speed on all of us. I committed to stopping by every time we travelled to pick up or drop off Byron.

Edie and I at Fort Monroe in VA.

Blog Post

I’m Still Joyfully Killing Myself for Halloween Among Other Habits

Favorite Read

The Poisonwood Bible


And here we are, the end of the year already. I’ve given up plant based eating. Honestly, I felt worse not eating meat. I’m sure there’s a way to get enough protein on a plant based diet for someone like me who lifts weights and is pretty active, but I can only handle so much tofu, beans, lentils and seitan (and honestly, I can’t handle seitan at all). And those frozen vegan meals are expensive! I will probably write more about my health in my New Year’s resolution post (WOOT!) so I won’t detail it here, but plant-based or vegan eating is not sustainable for me long term, though it’s definitely something I would do again for Lent (as an Orthodox fast). Tony organized the annual St. Nicholas party at our parish and since his usual St. Nick wasn’t available, Tony donned the bishop’s robe and played the part himself! He loved it. And he insisted we bring our fog machine so St. Nick could make a proper entrance. He’s already making plans for how to improve his performance next year. Byron was able to come home early for winter break since several of his final papers could be submitted from home. We stopped to visit Father again, gave him a Christmas card and present, read him his mail and overall, had a great visit. I was interviewed by our diocesan newspaper to talk about our family’s Advent traditions. I spent the night with Edie and her Sea Scout troop on the Battleship New Jersey (they were short a female leader). Sleeping in a Navy berth is not something I’d like to do again, but the trip fell over Edie’s 18th birthday, and I didn’t want her to miss out on something boat related. (Crazy that I have three adult children now!) Addie came home from Cleveland on the train and will be with us until the 8th. Fulton, Teddy, and Edie were done with school on the 22nd and it’s been a relaxing Christmas break. We visited with my sister and niece while she was in Lancaster on the 23rd. Christmas Eve was spent with friends before Tony and Edie went to midnight Mass. I was up early on Christmas and had some quiet time over coffee before everyone joined me after 7:30 a.m. We attended 10:30 a.m. Mass and had a relaxing day at home (basically just prepping dinner). Tony and the kids made homemade ravioli yesterday, and Addie and I have been making a steady stream of Christmas cookies. Today I learned Father Seifert had passed away, so that’s been in the back of my mind as I try to plan the rest of our Christmas break. Tomorrow, we will go back to Lancaster to open presents with my parents and grandmother. The boys go back to school on the second, but we’ll try to keep the Christmas fun going until Epiphany.

Merry Christmas from the Mantoans!!

Blog Post

The American Catholic Liturgical Year

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and Merry Christmas! If you’ve done a yearly round up post, drop a link in the comments below.


  1. You have had an amazing year!
    I would like to thank you for your blog and writings. I’ve always enjoyed your work, but it’s the special needs/disability and home schooling posts I’ve come to appreciate deeply.
    My daughter’s disabilities are very different from your sons, but you provide a way to approach it lovinging, faithfully – even when it’s hard. Your fortitude inspires me to stop whining and to think about what I can do to help her.
    The homeschool stuff I used to read for fun, but those posts came so handy when I found myself pulling my one son out of school and kept him home for a semester. Even when it was hard, it was the best choice for the time. I didn’t homeschool like you, but your writings helped me figure out how to design my son’s schedule to work for both of us. He’s back in public school now- again evaluating it on a term/year basis- and while it didn’t go as well as I hoped, he did find some classes that interest him. I found out that he can take just a few classes at the HS and be honeschooled for the rest, so I’m leaning toward that for next year. ( He can take the vo- tech classes there, and I can be in charge of everything else.) I am getting better as asking questions and looking for help for him.
    So, again, thank you and I hope your family finds many blessings in the new year.

    1. Thank you for sticking around and reading, even as I become more sporadic in my writing. The fact that your son can take vo-tech classes and be homeschooled for the rest is amazing! I’m not sure we have that option here (at the very least, each county/district would get to decide for themselves whether to allow homeschoolers or not). Sending prayers to your family for the new year!

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