Links for the start of Advent: Feasts of St. Nicholas and the Immaculate Conception, Advent Wreath DIY, & Books!

Advent Pinterest beginning of Advent
Advent is just around the corner, so I thought I would list some of my St. Nick, Immaculate Conception, and Advent Book posts from the archives for your reading and preparing pleasure. I hope you find these posts helpful as you celebrate the Holy Season of Advent in your Domestic Church. Thanks for stopping by! Coming up next week, Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our family’s Santa Lucia traditions, and some Christmas book lists for children!

Feast of St. Nicholas and a book list

Feast of St. Nicholas 2012

Feast of St. Nicholas 2013

Advent Preparations 2012

Advent Books for Children

DIY Advent Wreath

Readers’ DIY Advent Wreaths

Novena to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

My Advent Pinterest Board

Sometimes It’s Just All Too Much

Have a happy and restful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. I am thankful for you, dear readers!

Week in My Life 2015: Sunday

Team Whitaker WIML_sunday

I’m linking up all week at Team Whitaker! The good, the bad, the real (and sometimes ugly) events of a week in my life. If you’d like to follow along, check in each day for the previous day’s happenings.  And if you just want some snap shots from my day, you can visit my Instagram account. A bunch of folks are in on the act, so search #weekinmylife15 on the gram. It’s going on allllllll week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

I was up and at ’em way earlier than I like to be on a Sunday morning. The Hubs and Smarty Pants had to attend Mass at 7:30am for two reasons: SP had to serve at the altar, and his first All Star tournament game was at 9:15. After staying up later than usual, the big guy had a difficult time getting those sore legs moving. He played four games on Saturday, then battled it out with his brother on Wii Dance. This kid is so competitive, he was sweating like crazy playing that game! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him dance like that in his life. It was hysterical. There’s no telling him to take it down a notch and save his energy for the soccer field. Not with this kid. I made the boys some scrambled eggs and English muffins, and they were out the door, soccer uniform in hand to change in the church bathroom before heading straight to the game.

crock pots SMAM

In the meantime, I started cooking dinner. We were having friends over for an early supper, and so I made another yummy slow cooker meal that cooked all day, allowing me to relax about feeding our guests.

Somehow, I bathed the two little girls, fixed all three girls’ hair, helped my Bright Eyes pick out an outfit leaving just enough time for me to shower, do my hair, get dressed, and get out the door to Mass on time. It’s exhausting getting a family to Sunday Mass, so when I smelled the aroma of pancake breakfast drifting up to the narthex, I was relieved. It’s so nice to head down to the Parish Hall, see friends from school, and eat a breakfast I didn’t have to cook, thanks to the Knights of Columbus. The kids love it, mostly because they get to put whipped cream on their pancakes and drink chocolate milk, but I love it because I get to sit down and enjoy my children in the company of fellow parishioners. It’s the way a church community should be!

The Hubs texted me just as we were leaving church to report that Smarty Pants’ team had lost their game and therefore were knocked out of the tournament. The game was just around the corner from Duck Donuts, so, to sooth a broken soccer player’s heart, and to celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, we all met up and enjoyed delicious warm donuts together. It was a whole lot of sugar for those of us who ate at the pancake breakfast just a half an hour before, but hey, we do what we have to do.

Duck Donuts Christ the King SMAM

Sunday afternoons at our house always include naps for Little One, mom, and hopefully dad too. After blogging about our Saturday, the kids each had their thirty minutes of computer time and then watched some TV so that the three babies of the house could get their precious naps. I always sleep up in the girls’ room for my weekend naps. It’s so sunny and cozy in their room, and it’s quieter than our main floor master bedroom.

I woke up refreshed and Little One was still asleep, so I ran out to the grocery store to get some avocados, fresh cilantro, lettuce, and scallions for our tacos. When I got home, house projects were in full swing and kids were getting homework done and playing outside in coats, hats, and gloves. I turned on some Chris Stapleton and puttered around the house getting ready for our guests 4:30 arrival.

We had such a nice time with Danny, Meredith, and Liam. They are friends of ours from church who are just the nicest young couple. They graciously put up with the loudness and chaos of dinner at our house, and we fed them well. The kids all smothered Liam with love and attention, playing with him and fussing over him. It was adorable. We let the kids watch a movie so the grown-ups could talk and then said good-bye at 7:00. I must say, I really enjoyed having friends over for a brief “dinner and a chat visit.” It allowed us some time to get ready for the week ahead without being too exhausted. I need to remember this for future dinner parties. Sometimes, especially on a Sunday, it’s better to call it a night early.

Smarty Pants and Dimples helped me clean up and then it was snuggle and play time in the living room.

Day of Rest SB and Mom SMAM

Social Butterfly was completely exhausted. I took advantage of this fatigue by snuggling up with her on the couch. I don’t do this enough with my kids. It feels so good to cuddle your babies close and just be together.

On Saturday night, at our friends house, Little One somehow found this random Barbie that my friend swears made its way into her house without her knowing it. She told me to let Little One take it home and then to just throw it away. I believe her words were, “Get rid of that nasty thing!” Well, I don’t think Little One is going to allow me to pry that Barbie from her cute little hands anytime soon. She has named the Barbie “Ma Homey.” That’s right. MA HOMEY. I have no idea where she came up with this, but it is hysterical and I kind of don’t want to take the nasty thing from her because its name is so dang funny!

Little One with Barbies SMAM

Ma Homey can be seen pictured here with the multi-colored stringy hair, immodest outfit, and strappy heals. The other Barbies were mine when I was a little girl, and the crocheted peach mini that the Barbie laying down is wearing was made by my grandmother for my sisters. One of these things does not belong here. One of these things just isn’t the same…..

The hubs put the three younger kids to bed while I entered more contact info into my shiny new address book. Smarty Pants completed his drum practice in the office with me (I find the drums fascinating. By the way, we’re talking school band percussion, not garage band drum set.) Once the oldest two were passed out, The Hubs and I headed down to the basement to watch SNL. The episode was okay, but we especially enjoyed this skit (not appropriate for kids):

I was in bed by ten o’clock, which is something I try to do every Sunday night, just so that I start the week off with a good sleep. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow we’re heading to New Jersey for Thanksgiving! The days are long and the years are short, people.

Team Whitaker WIML_header


I need a real camera. I love to take photographs of my children and my house. I have always just used the camera on my phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 2) and it really is an excellent camera phone. Perhaps it’s time to upgrade my photo taking to a “real camera.” Any suggestions, readers?

I talk to friends on the phone a lot. I guess it’s because I know myself well enough to know that I need some adult conversation during my day, or that I am such a social person, it is life-giving for me to chat with my girlfriends. Whatever the reason, it brings me joy to talk to the people in my life who know me, and who I know so well, to converse about the happenings in our lives and to encourage each other in whatever it is we’re going through, good or bad. I couldn’t do this mom gig without good friends.

This season in life is full of little things. It has taken me years of motherhood to arrive at the point where I can say that I accept it: running errands, driving carpools, scheduling appointments, emailing teachers, helping with school projects, and all of the duties that come with motherhood – I embrace you, little things! It’s all valuable, simple and little though it may be.

Accomplishments look different now than they used to. When the children are fed and clean and sleeping well, and their clothes are clean and put away, when they have been listened to and heard, when mom and dad get time alone together, I have accomplished quite a lot. All these basic things of life add up to quite a lot.

God is good. All the time.

Thank you, Kathryn Whitaker, for hosting Week in My Life 2015! I am so very grateful for the opportunity to connect with other bloggers as we share all the ordinary aspects of our extraordinary vocations as wives and mothers in this modern world. What we are about is truly beautiful. You are kicking some serious butt as a mom of many and I see you, even if it’s through the lens of your blog, I appreciate all you do to bring others closer to joy in their vocations and closer to Christ! I’ll be linking up next year, for sure!

Week in My Life 2015: Saturday

Team Whitaker WIML_saturday
I’m linking up all week at Team Whitaker! The good, the bad, the real (and sometimes ugly) events of a week in my life. If you’d like to follow along, check in each day for the previous day’s happenings.  And if you just want some snap shots from my day, you can visit my Instagram account. A bunch of folks are in on the act, so search #weekinmylife15 on the gram. It’s going on allllllll week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

My day started with the sound of The Hubs oil pulling. He started this interesting ritual about a week ago when I sent him a link from Bridget’s blog. He’s one of these people who will try anything that is all natural and good for your health. I personally love playing charades with him while he has a mouth full of warm coconut oil for fifteen minutes. Yesterday, we resorted to a pad of paper and a pencil so that he could tell me what we needed from the grocery store at 6am. I ran to the store and picked up some healthy snacks and sport drinks for Smarty Pants to take with him to his All Star soccer tournament, then came back and cooked a nice big healthy breakfast for everyone. The boys had to rush off to the soccer fields, forty-five minutes away for four twenty-five minute matches. I stayed here at the homestead with the rest of the family and we just relaxed and enjoyed the day, starting with some Perler Bead crafting. The kids love this craft, and so do I. They’re sitting still, using their fine motor skills and creativity, and talking with each other while they work. What could be better?

Perler Beads SMAM
Dimples had a couple of school projects to work on, beginning with a bottle of her very own concoction making up “Lucy’s Potion” from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Lucy's Potion SMAM
She helped me design a label using PicMonkey and then went foraging around the house for all sorts of liquids to combine to make her potion. What a fun project! Then she got started on a History project in which she had to hypothesize and support with ten proofs what she thinks happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke, Virginia. Fascinating stuff. Man, I love our school’s fourth grade teacher!

I was supposed to go to watch Smarty Pants play soccer, but given the distance that we’d have to drive just for a twenty-five minute match, I opted to stay home all day and then committed to going to one of his Sunday games. His team played well, and The Hubs had a great time cheering from the sidelines. It’s such a treat for him to go and watch his boy play, hanging out at the soccer field just like he did when he was a kid growing up in Northern Virginia. And I know he likes that he gets to go alone. Doing anything alone with one child is a treat when you have five children.

We are hosting a couple for dinner on Sunday evening, so I got to work on setting the dining room table, cleaning up around the house and such while the kids played outside and in the basement. We were heading out for dinner at our friends’ house, and so I didn’t have to cook. I think I should always arrange my schedule this way! Being hosted for dinner by friends the night before hosting friends at your own home was the perfect plan that just sort of happened.

The Hubs and Smarty Pants returned from the tournament exhausted, so I kept the kids quiet in the basement allowing them to watch some TV and relax, and The Hubs got a nice little snooze in. After he woke up, I ran over to Hallmark to pick up one of these cute totes to carry our wine in. I also picked up a little hostess gift for my friend. She wouldn’t let us bring anything, so I wanted to give her a little something to show our appreciation.

We all got changed into some nice clothes and headed over to our friends’ home around five o’clock. They had delicious appetizers out for us, sparkling cider for the kids, and the most delicious dinner and dessert prepared for us! I was so touched by how much they put into the dinner. Everything tasted so good and we all had a ball together. The kids were playing “Wii Dance” in the basement, sweating like crazy from the competition. And by the end of the night, nobody wanted to leave, but there was definitely a collective meltdown happening. After all, it was 10:15. Our kids just aren’t accustomed to staying up late like that. So we said our goodbyes and were out the door by 10:30. The kids all passed out from exhaustion and The Hubs got some work done on his laptop while I streamed Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on the desk top. Then we headed to bed, our hearts full from such a fun evening with people we love.

See you tomorrow with a Sunday re-cap! Happy Solemnity of Christ the King!

Week in My Life 2015: Friday

Team Whitaker WIML_friday

I’m linking up all week at Team Whitaker! The good, the bad, the real (and sometimes ugly) events of a week in my life. If you’d like to follow along, check in each day for the previous day’s happenings.  And if you just want some snap shots from my day, you can visit my Instagram account. A bunch of folks are in on the act, so search #weekinmylife15 on the gram. It’s going on allllllll week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Crazy kids who cannot calm down in the mornings due to pent up energy need to GO TO SCHOOL! Our Friday morning was proof that a few days in a row of crummy weather results in children who clearly need to go to school where they are required to sit still and learn and then run and play on the playground to their hearts’ content. Thank goodness it was a full day!

Shortly after all the crazies left, Little One and I headed out the door to take the NV to the dealership for an oil change and an inspection so that we’re ready to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother and grandfather’s house on Tuesday. I sat down next to a kind woman who was giggling at Little One as she played in the waiting area. It’s a beautiful thing when you can have a faith-filled conversation with a perfect stranger. I love those moments when the Holy Spirit makes His way in  and brings His consolation.

We headed back to the homestead and Little One fell asleep in her car seat for the last five minutes of the drive. I just love when that happens! She was definitely not in need of a nap due to her cat nap, so she had some energetic play time while I blogged.

I had a wonderful long conversation with a friend, someone who lives fairly close but who, because of our busy family lives, I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. The next best thing is an uninterrupted talk over the phone and that’s exactly what we got. Little One interrupted a few times, requiring me to say “Bye!” back to her every time she left the room. That kid. She cracks me up! “Bye, Mom! Bye! (walking away and waving) Bye!” So sweet. One of the take away’s from our conversation was the importance of making time to talk about your dreams with your spouse. My friend shared with me that she and her husband make a point of doing this regularly so that they are on the same page with what goals they each have individually and as a couple. It’s so easy to get far away from the dreams you once had before kids. Life starts coming at you and your days are spent just trying to manage everything. I definitely want to start making a point of writing down goals and dreams that The Hubs and I have for our family, but also for the two of us after everyone is grown and out of the house.

Little One was finally ready to take a real nap, and so was I. When I woke up there was a missed call from school on my cell phone. Uh-oh. I called back only to find out that Smarty Pants was sick. He didn’t eat much of a breakfast, possibly because he was nervous about altar serving at the Friday school Mass. Then, at lunch, he was to the nurse’s office, so he wasn’t eating lunch either. A couple of other kids had thrown up during the previous lunch period, so I have a feeling our wonderful lunch ladies were worried when they saw him, starving and white as a sheet. I told the nurse I’d be over there to pick him up in ten minutes.  Thankfully, I have a wonderful neighbor who I trust who was happy to come sit in our house while Little One napped so I could run over to school to pick up my “sick” son. It’s a good think I asked him to help out because she ended up sleeping for another hour! What a blessing it is to have a trustworthy neighbor!

Smarty Pants spent the afternoon eating while I cleaned up and Little One just kept on snoozing. Thank goodness he wasn’t sick in the end. We have such a busy weekend ahead of us!

I ran back over to school to pick up the other kids to rush home for speech therapy for Bright Eyes. We have seen huge strides in the past few months, given that we found the best speech therapist ever. I’m going to reserve the details on that for another post.

I threw some frozen pizzas into the oven after school so we could all fill our bellies and move on to the next thing. Social Butterfly was whisked away to Irish Dance by her carpool.

The rest of us? Outside! It has been so grey and dreary here for the past few days, so getting outside in the sunshine and the crisp, cool fall weather was of the utmost importance this afternoon. That sun is going down behind the trees, leaving the cold behind earlier and earlier these days. It’s not easy with little ones! Thank goodness for CYO basketball that gets us all out of the house, even just to drop off and pick up. Dimples and Smarty Pants each have two practices a week, and pretty soon they’ll also be traveling all over the diocese to play games, mostly on Saturdays. Yikes. It’s a big commitment to have two kids playing this year, but I know it’s good for them. I have such fond memories of playing CYO basketball. I hope they will too.

The kids watched this video fifteen hundred times. I laugh every time.

The Hubs came home and I dropped the oldest off at a friend’s house on the way to Irish so he can hitch a ride with them to basketball. The shuffling around of children that we have to do is quite absurd sometimes, but hey. It’s just what we do!

Off we went to Irish Dance, and then I found myself alone in the car. This is truly a luxury in my world. I had a wonderful chat with my best friend on the way home, alone in the car, able to give her my undivided attention while we catch up on life. I picked up some beers on the way home because D’Uncle was on his way over.

D’Uncle arrived to the most amazing greeting ever from Little One. Oh, wait! I haven’t explained who D’Uncle is. This is our nickname for The Hubs’ brother, Uncle David. Smarty Pants came up with it when he just started talking, and it stuck. So when he arrived, Little One jumped up and down, feverishly waving her hand at him shrieking, “D’Uncle! D’Uncle’s here!!!” It was precious and he felt like the celebrity that he truly is.

D'Uncle reads to the kids SMAM

D'Uncle reads to Social Butterfly SMAM
D’Uncle read this hilarious book to the kids while I finally put my feet and enjoyed a beer with my brother-in-law. It was delightful.

Dimples arrived from dance followed by the boys from basketball and it was a full chaotic house once again. With a day of All Star Soccer starting early Saturday morning, it was time to get the kids to bed! They’re typically exhausted from the week’s activities, so they pass out shortly after crawling into bed.  D’Uncle, The Hubs and I enjoyed some lively conversation, catching up on his exciting life as a priest and professor at Georgetown University.

It was a good day. I love Fridays, especially when they end with a family member visiting us. See you back here tomorrow for a re-cap of our Saturday. It’s sure to be chock full of pictures from our All Star’s soccer games. Nothing like a cold fall day on the soccer field! Love it!


Week in My Life 2015: Thursday

Team Whitaker WIML_thursday

I’m linking up all week at Team Whitaker! The good, the bad, the real (and sometimes ugly) events of a week in my life. If you’d like to follow along, check in each day for the previous day’s happenings.  And if you just want some snap shots from my day, you can visit my Instagram account. A bunch of folks are in on the act, so search #weekinmylife15 on the gram. It’s going on allllllll week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

This morning I woke up on time again, but not because I was super excited to start my day at 5:45am. Have you ever had a night of sleep so bad that you just want to wake up to get it over with? I don’t know what I was dreaming about, or what was troubling me, but man, I did not rest well. I’m already looking forward to my mid-day nap!

Today is what I like to call a start-stop kind of day. Just when I got my day rolling, I had to go over to school to pick up our oldest, Smarty Pants, to take him to his eleven year well check-up. It is kind of pathetic, but well check-ups are opportunities for our youngest, Little One to have some special time with whichever sibling has to go to the doctor. #bigfamilylife

Little One Ped's Office SMAM
I cringe when she wants to play with the germ-infested toys in the waiting room. Seriously, why do they think it’s necessary to even provide a toy for the waiting patients dripping in snot and coughing all over the place? But there it is.

Tired as I was, I really enjoyed watching Smarty Pants enjoying Little One and vice versa. They love each other so unconditionally, which is refreshing to see when sometimes all I notice is the fighting and bickering between the older four children. Smarty Pants is, as I suspected, a giant. All is well with his health, thanks be to God!

After dropping him off at school, Little One and I headed back home for naps: she in her crib, and I in my bed. Of course, I couldn’t resist making some more entries in my pretty new address book before laying down. I just cannot resist a new home office project because former teacher.

Sadly, Little One didn’t take much of a nap, so neither did I. We headed out to Michael’s for a couple of things and man! Is that place Christmasy enough for ya? Sheesh! Little One was mesmerized. “Yook, Mom! MOM! YOOK!” She stopped at every little bauble and garland, exclaiming, “Wow! It’s wootifuw!” and would not continue walking until she saw me look at the thing she was admiring and acknowledged it with words. I love her dearly. I do. But this was taking every ounce of patience left in me after my little itty bitty nap time. Two year old’s are truly exhausting and wonderful.

Eventually we made our way over to the item I needed, when we headed straight to the check out line, you know the one. It’s the only place in the entire store that is completely lined with candy, stuffed animals, and “As Seen on TV” products. Little One would pick up some candy, look over at me, smile a little mischievous smile, then put it back as soon as I asked her to. Then, as we approached the front of the line, she picked up a little Hello Kitty tin filled with candy, and HELD IT BEHIND HER BACK! I asked her what she had behind her back and she pulled her hand in front of her, looked down at the tin and said, “Oh! Cannee!” as if to say, “How did that get there?!” I tried so hard not to smile, but the three older ladies in line behind me smiled, and giggled uncontrollably, and rightfully so. In the end, Little One put the tin back where it belonged, and we checked out without purchasing a single thing that tempted her along the way. The reason for my strength? Lots of practice!

We made a Target run for the usual: Chicken breasts that I forgot to buy at Wegman’s on Monday, bananas, flour, sugar, and a belt for Bright Eyes to wear with his school uniform pants that are constantly falling down. The kid literally has no waist and no rear end and his belt broke last week, so it was time to buy another. Oh, those catholic school uniform requirements are a real stinker sometimes, aren’t they? Target really is the perfect store for moms. We can pick up all the random things we need (and a dozen things we do not need) all in one stop! I heart Target.

Then it was back home to start dinner and put out the unsalted butter to soften so that we could eat chicken quesadillas right after school and get started on our little State of Virginia Cookie Project for our resident 4th grader.

Virginia Cookie Project SMAM
Dimples measured and mixed all the ingredients, I rolled out the entire batch of dough on a piece of parchment paper, then slid it onto one of those cookie sheets that has no edges. I had to bake it for almost thirty minutes! I allowed the giant cookie to cool for a bit, then, while it was still warm, I placed the State of Virginia template on top and cut around it with a sharp knife. Then the vultures, I mean precious children attacked the plate of cookie scraps. Dimples’ teacher is putting the children into groups that will use icing and all sorts of cookie decorations and candy to illustrate the regions of Virginia on the cookie. Then they will break it apart and eat it and she will send them home so that we can deal with the sugar crash. Joy. Cute idea though, right?

Virginia Cookie Scraps SMAM
Dimples headed off to CYO basketball practice and The Hubs came home shortly after that. We sat down for some dinner together, just he and I, while the kids ran around on a sugar high. Smarty Pants read to Little One while she laid in her crib. She is truly the easiest child to put to sleep on the planet. She rarely fusses about going to bed, whether it’s for naps or at bed time. She just lays there with her fingers in her mouth and her blankie up by her face, her favorite stuffed animals beside her. And in the morning when she wakes up, she just lays there and talks to herself, then when she’s ready to come downstairs she calls for me. Dreamy.

The rest of the night was pretty normal after Dimples returned from basketball practice. The kids finished up their homework, they packed their lunches, got on their PJ’s and went to bed. The Hubs does the bed time routine and has for years. It gives me a chance to straighten up the kitchen, tidy up a little, and put my feet up. With his long commute back from the city, getting him home between 6:30 and 7:00pm, he sees putting the kids to bed as his chance to spend time with them. Our kids all go to bed between 8:30 and 9:00 on school nights, and they get up at 6:45am on school mornings. He really treasures that time with them upstairs, and, needless to say, I treasure the time to myself at the end of the day.

While he was upstairs last night, I watched this week’s new episode of Nashville on the computer while I got some things organized. It’s my guilty pleasure that I’ve been watching since the first episode. It’s basically a soap opera set in the world of country music. I love all the music strewn throughout the drama. In fact, it surprises me how much country music has grown on me. Having grown up in Southern New Jersey, I never listened to the stuff.

I had some seriously crazy dreams last night, and not the best sleep either. Tomorrow should be a fun Friday, though. Nothing too exciting, but just knowing the sun will be shining makes for a great day. See you here tomorrow with my Friday re-cap!

Week in My Life 2015: Wednesday

Team Whitaker WIML_wednesdayWoke up on time!

Showered, dressed, hair did


Made breakfast with Smarty Pants

wiml cooking with SP SMAMphoto cred: Dimples

Ate breakfast as a family and then sent the four “big kids” off to school with The Hubs.


Looked at my EC Life Planner and got everything straight for the day.

Made crock-pot dinner while listening to Love & War

apricot pork slow cooker SMAMDid some dishes

Returned a shirt to Nordstrom Rack and

Talked on the phone to my friend Ashley. She makes me laugh at myself which is so good for me.

Put Little One down for her nap.

Read this interview from the Trenton Diocese’s newspaper. I grew up in that diocese and some of my family still lives there. Pretty cool to read the famously catholic blogger Kendra Tierney in my hometown diocesan newspaper!


Sometimes the only thing that will get me out of bed after a nap is something sweet. Today’s treat to get me out of bed: Oreo cookies. I never ever buy this sort of junk, but I was happy to have a few today, with a big cold glass of milk, of course.

It is such a dreary day here in Northern Virginia. So cloudy and and a little chilly. Time to get my happy light out of the basement storage! I suppose I could have cleaned some toilets or floors, but I decided to get back in bed to read some of The Story of a Family. I’m just at the beginning of the book, and I’m reading about St. Zelie’s letters.

The mother’s letters owe their value to something else: to the freshness and delicacy of their anecdotes, the charming spontaneity and artless frankness, their tone of unaffected tenderness and eager sensitiveness; in a word, to the kind of peculiarly feminine facility for clothing the concrete happenings of daily family life with the finest feelings….She is a woman of faith without exaggeration, fervent but free from illuminism, above all good, intensely loving yet, withal, never allowing her love to degenerate into weakness.

                                                                                                                                                                                              -The Story of a Family: The Home of St. Therese of Lisieux

Did some organizing in the basement storage, but not much.

Little One woke up from her nap and played with little horses at the small table in the living room.

Little One plays with horses SMAM

Cooked some rice and turned the Slow Cooker down to low.

Picked the kids up at school.

Ate dinner.

Drove carpool to Irish Dance.

Returned home for 40 minutes.

Drove Smarty Pants to his last All Star Soccer practice of the fall season. Tourney this weekend! Stayed for five minutes to watch him play a bit. When did my boy get so big?

Came home for some much needed play time with the three youngest kids.

The Hubs picked up the Irish Dance carpool, swung by to pick Smarty Pants up from soccer practice, then came home for dinner. He is one generous guy, I tell ya. After the commute into DC that he endures each day, this mom (and the other moms in our carpool) are eternally grateful to my giving husband for bringing our Irish Dancers home to us each and every Wednesday night. What a guy!

Since we eat dinner after school, we all get hungry around 6pm, so we either have more dinner if there is any left, or a healthy snack. Tonight my snack was an avocado with balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard in the middle where the pit goes, topped with a little salt and pepper.

French avocado snack

You mix it all up with your spoon, and then scoop the avocado out one bite at a time until it’s gone. My friend Thibaut taught my mom and I this trick when mom came over to visit me in Austria. We took a couchette to Paris for a weekend and visited Thibaut’s family whom I had met at World Youth Day in Paris the previous summer. We needed a quick snack before getting a tour of a few typical Parisian tourist sights, and this was what Thibaut taught us to make.

Mom in front of the Louvre 1997My beautiful mom in front of the Louvre, Fall 1997.

And since we’re all praying so hard for France right now, here’s a picture of mom admiring a statue of Ste. Jean d’Arc…

St. Joan of Arc Louvre Paris 1997

Just that simple little snack made me think of this trip with my mom. I love how food can whisk me away, out of my routine. Music can do that for me too. Ahhhhhhh.

Come back! You’re not in Paris, Mary! You’re in your kitchen and you have a husband and five children! Vacation to France by way of an avocado is ovah!

Washed dinner dishes and lunch box containers.

Bath time for Bright Eyes, coloring books for the little girls.

Homework time for the three older kids, bed time for Little One, stamping and coloring for Social Butterfly.

Kids pack their own lunches. Crying. Tears. Whining. Spilling. Meltdowns for all!

Erin Condren address book entries because I am addicted to Erin Condren. I figure I’ll do two letters a day, finishing up in about two weeks. Because I’m a complete nerd, I find writing all the addresses, email addresses, cell phone numbers, and birthdays of all our closest friends and family members into an old fashioned address book comforting and somewhat soothing.

Read Thanksgiving books to Social Butterfly.

SB read to Grandmom and Granddad on Skype. She just learned to read within the last month and it is just magical to watch her read aloud. She can’t help but smile the entire time.

Cleaned up the kitchen. Nobody helped me. I was bitter but now I’m over it.

Researched budget-friendly laptops. I haven’t had a laptop for almost four years! Yikes!

Completed some more entries in my address book.

Read some Facebook status updates, looked at pictures of some kids I barely know, and watched some video of old timey movie stars dancing to Uptown Funk.

And here we are, I’m finished for the day. Cooked. Done. Nothin’ left in the tank. I think I’ll go pray a rosary and drift off to sleep. Come back tomorrow to hear all about my Thursday. Soooooo exciting! and so very, very ordinary. I’ll be baking big giant sugar cookies in the shape of the state of Virginia for my 4th grader’s class. The fun never stops ’round here!

Linking up all week at Team Whitaker!

Week in my life 2015: Tuesday

Team Whitaker WIML_tuesdaySlept in again.

Sipped some coffee.


Made breakfast for the kids.

Showered, dressed, hair, makeup.

Sent the big kids off to school. Dad drives. Praise be.

morning good-bye SMAM

Coffee with James because he didn’t have to go into the city today

Puppy, cat, bah, glee: Little One’s items of choice when going on errands with Mommy. “Puppy” is a Furreal Friend that is about the size of a real lap dog and has a leash. I die. “Cat” is a stuffed animal. “Bah” is a sippy cup of milk, and “Glee” is her blankie. Never leave home without Bah and Glee. Ever.

Filled the NV tank, stopped at Staples for printer paper, Aldi for the usual – listening to Love & War. Buy it. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. The art on the CD case is beautiful, and so is the music. Perfect Christmas gift!

Hope & Justin Love & War SMAM

Home to make myself a breakfast burrito. I do not mess around when it comes to breakfast food.

Breakfast burrito Mommy style SMAM

Checked email and printed out Waiting in the Word: A Mother’s Advent Journey while I ate breakfast

Play time with dolls pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for snack

Little One Morning play time SMAM

Nap time!  I read her the usual board books.

She “read” to herself, cried, I read the books all over again. Little One never cries when I put her down for her nap. So strange! I was happy to sit on the floor next to her crib to read to her again. If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that you can never read to your child enough.

I assembled my advent study binder and laminated the bookmark. Because dork.

Advent Study SMAM


Wiped down the kitchen counters, scrubbed the stove hood, washed and dried some sheets and towels.

Did some vacuuming and straightening up.

More play time with Little One.

Put dinner in the oven and cooked the rice.

Pesto Salmon SMAM

PM coffee, checked email, How to Norway 4. I am addicted.

Picked up big kids at school.

Served up dinner.

dinner after school SMAM

Sent everyone to play outside before it gets dark.

Drove back to school to pick Dimples up from choir practice.

Brought her home to have her dinner.

Sent everyone back outside while it’s still light out, washed all the lunch box containers.

outdoor play time SMAM

Skyped with Granddad to wish him a happy 81st birthday.

Snuggled with the little girls followed by some coloring.

Bathed the little girls.

Big kids did their homework.

Healthy snack time.

Everyone packed their lunches.

We all chilled.

Got dressed, put on some lipstick, and went to Endow.

Studied Edith Stein and shared with other catholic women. What could be better?

Came home to a quiet house, popped some popcorn, poured a drink, and watched SNL with The Hubs.

Went to bed!

See you tomorrow! I’ll share all the nitty-gritty of my Wednesday with you then.

Week in my life 2015: Monday

Team Whitaker WIML_mondayLinking up with Kathryn this week for her annual “Week in my life” extravaganza! So excited. This is my first time joining in on a whole entire week of links, so I’m a little nervous, but I’m also looking forward to sharing a little peek into what the day to day looks like in the SMAM household. So, here we go!

This morning was not a typical morning at our house. Sunday evening, Dimples, Social Butterfly, and I attended a Family Ceili with the girls’ Irish Dance School. We danced our little tushies off, and came home pretty tired, but at the same time invigorated by all the dancing. We had the chance to see the competitive dancers kick and jump in their colorful and sparkly costumes right at eye level as we sat on the floor right in front of them. Some of the dancers placed within the top ten in the world last spring, so it was a treat to say the least. The girls rolled into bed, and I rolled out the door to have dinner and drinks with two of my very favorite girls in the whole wide world, along with Miss Tess, a precious little baby girl who hung with the ladies quite well. Needless to say, after a night of Margaritas, Monday morning came a little too quickly.

I turned off my 5:45 am alarm so fast! I caught a little more shut-eye and then headed out to do the dishes from the night before. Ya know, it’s difficult to wake up to dirty dishes, especially ones you didn’t make, but hey! I got a night out, so I refrained from mumbling under my breath at 6:30 as I scrubbed dishes and wiped down counters. It is what it is and there will be more tomorrow. Man, the kids were cranky this morning! Somehow, I snapped everyone out of their bad moods — Oh, I remember! I put pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (yum!) in their lunch boxes. Dimples then spoke to her cookie, “Stay safe in there my little treat. Don’t get smooshed! I’ll see you at lunch!” We all erupted in laughter and everyone went off to school cheerfully.

Little One and I kicked off our Monday as we always do…She watched Wild Kratts while I got the laundry going and checked email, etc. Then it was off to Wegman’s for some grocery shopping. I try my best to write up a menu for the week along with a grocery list on Sunday evening so that when I get to the grocery store, I have some direction. Then it was back home to unpack the groceries, organizing everything in the pantry, and put Little One down for a nap while I continued the laundry.

Nap time for Mom happens while Little One naps. Whether it’s twenty minutes or a solid hour, this time is so important for me. I pray as I fall asleep, giving all my worries and concerns to Our Lady, asking her to help me be a better mom, asking her to protect my children. I’ve done it as long as I’ve been a mom, and my mom did it too. I like to say I come from “a family of nappers.” I try not to ever make myself feel guilty for my daily nap. It’s just what I do, and I bet there are more moms out there like me who allow themselves this little respite in their busy day.

After my nap today, I made dinner. Since Mondays are a bit hectic, I try to interrupt the chaos of the day with dinner right after school. Today we had the most amahzing casserole in the history of casseroles. It was a butternut bacon dish that was simply delectable. It took a lot more work than I usually like to put into a weeknight dinner, but I’m telling you, it was worth it and the sun was shining and the windows were open and I was in shorts and a tee shirt, so I didn’t care. As soon as it was all assembled and another load of laundry was folded, I reached out to a friend to meet me at the school playground before carpool pick-up. We moms of little kids simply must get as much play time in as possible before the winter doldrums set in! So Little One played with my friend’s son and daughter while we chatted. Then it was time to head into school to pick up Social Butterfly, Dimples, and Bright Eyes. We went home, devoured some dinner, the kids got changed and played for a bit, got a little start on their homework, and we headed back to school to pick up Smarty Pants from an after school activity. Then it was back home to feed him some delicious din-din.

butternut bacon pasta SMAM
The sun goes down at around 5:30pm these days, so I force the kids outside after school. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, it’s fresh air, nature, outside time playing/fighting/throwing a ball, whatever. I don’t care. It’s good for them. Because when that sun sets so stinking early, everyone is inside and it feels like an eternity before it’s time for bed. I’m sorry. It just does. The Hubs came home early to whisk the boys away, one to his All Star soccer practice under the lights and the other to his end of season celebration at a yogurt place. I held down the fort with the girls. I think there may have been 17 fights during the time the boys were gone. I hid in my closet with two locked doors between the girls and I and talked to my sister Sarah about how difficult my life is and how all I do is manage crap and she listened and affirmed me and didn’t tell me everything was gonna be okay and that’s exactly what I needed. Then I put my big girl panties on, came out of my room and face my kids again. The kids packed their lunches, put away all their clean laundry, we all cleaned up the kitchen, The Hubs put Little One in a clean diaper and her footy PJ’s and put her in her crib with a Hail Mary. Then the second grader, Bright Eyes, read her two books and said goodnight. The Hubs went to pick up Smarty Pants from the soccer field and by the time he got home I was sending everyone up to bed to read themselves to sleep. Smarty Pants sat at the dining room table to do his homework while the others headed up to bed. I went straight to my bed to catch up on the news and do my nails. I’m currently obsessed with Jamberry Nail Wraps (insert heart eyed emoji here).

I can’t watch the news and not think about the beautiful and happy, holy experiences I have had in Paris. The first that comes to mind is World Youth Day 1997.

Eiffel Tower JMJ 1997 openingI made so many many Parisian friends during those exciting and faith-filled days with JPII in The City of Lights. So many families opened their schools and homes and hearts to us, showing us how hospitable Parisians can really be. I am praying for all of them, maybe not by name, but the Good Lord knows who they are. I am praying for healing for this broken city.

Sometimes, on a day when my motherhood is really being challenged, I call a fellow mom friend for encouragement. It’s always helped me to hear the voice of someone who knows the challenges and ups and downs of the daily life of a stay at home mom. Thank you, dear Robin, for our conversation. I can always count on you for a laugh and a challenge. That’s a close to perfect friend in my book: someone who lifts me up and helps me to strive for holiness. Thank you for the countless times you’ve been there for me in this way.

The Hubs and I watched the most hilarious Youtube videos of cats before we fell asleep. That’s messed.up! I know. Just typing it is a little embarrassing, but you know what, we laughed so hard together just before drifting off to sleep after an intense Monday (is there any other kind?) so I don’t really care what the videos were! Cats, dogs, babies with cats and dogs. Laughing with my spouse makes me happy.

See you back here tomorrow for a report on my exciting Tuesday!

When the Saints go marching all over your pride

St. Zelie Martin practiced virtue heroically, moving me to tears as I read the little book about her life written by her daughter Celine. All at once I was in awe and envious of this mother of The Little Flower. How? How could someone be so holy? Especially someone who endured such heartache and suffering! I really was a little bit irritated by Zelie after I read her daughter’s account of her saintly life. I mean, really. How is it possible for someone to be so focused on the sanctity of their children? What was it that gave her such a spirit of detachment from the things of this world?

In the event that you haven’t read this beautiful little book, allow me to share a few quotes taken from the many letters Zelie wrote to various family members…

Zelie about her children SMAM
Anybody else tearing up? I am. Again. Okay, so I know she wrote this in a letter. And I realize that she was not the Blessed Mother, a sinner like the rest of us, writing a letter perhaps at one of those moments when she was feeling particularly warm and fuzzy about her children. Nonetheless, it makes me uncomfortable about my own attitude toward motherhood to read this. It causes me to reflect on just how grateful I am for the gift from God that my children are.

How about this morning offering she taught her children to pray each day?

morning offering Zelie taught her children SMAM

It’s no wonder her daughters were so pious! What a beautiful prayer. It sheds a lot of light on the holiness and spirituality of the Little Flower, doesn’t it? It makes me think of all the opportunities that we have in the course of a day to teach our children to offer their work, their pains, their sorrows, their joys, for the sanctification of their own souls and for the souls in Purgatory.

What else can be done Zelie SMAM
So detached. Abandonment to Divine Providence anyone? The faith of this woman is truly astounding. I have a difficult time when I don’t get my way, you know for something inconsequential, like a bigger clothing budget. Here is Zelie, who had been praying to Our Lady and even making a pilgrimage while painfully ill with breast cancer to Lourdes, and she has resigned herself to the Will of God. If He wants her, then He must take her, a young mother with five daughters and a family business to run!

It was a difficult read for me, this book about the mother of the Little Flower. I immediately felt more discouraged than encouraged and I realized that was because of my pride. How many times I’ve been impatient, uncharitable, frustrated, ungrateful! How many missed opportunities to lead my children closer to heaven. So many unsaintly moments. Thank goodness for a good cry, some healthy catholic guilt, the Sacrament of Confession, and God’s mercy!

St. Zelie, thank you. Thank you for your example of true charity in your vocation to the married life and motherhood. Please, please pray for us! May we follow your example, along with that of the Blessed Mother, to become the saintly mothers we are called to be! Intercede for us that we may be humble instruments of God’s love to His children.

When the Saints pinterest graphic SMAM

KonMary the Kitchen

Let me just start right off the bat by saying that these projects I’ve been doing lately have taken me about three hours each, start to finish. That includes taking everything out of the closets or cabinets, sorting through and categorizing the items that I’m organizing, cleaning all the cabinets/drawers/shelves, and putting everything in its new home, all pretty and organized. The idea is to complete one project at a time, while maintaining all the other duties that I have for the day. There is nothing more disruptive to my peace than a project that exhausts me, resulting in a cranky mommy who needs to order take-out for dinner. Over the years, I’ve learned that I really need to plan in advance what can be accomplished in one day, scheduling certain projects for the days of the week that aren’t already busy. It’s taken me a long time to admit to myself what is realistic and what isn’t. Avoiding overdoing it isn’t really my strong suit, so I need to sometimes stop in the middle of a project to sit down and put my feet up while I eat something and watch TV, or even lay down for a nap halfway through. After all, part of what is so great about cleaning things out, organizing, and getting rid of things should be an enjoyable, invigorating process, at least for a geek like me who gets a real kick out of this sort of thing. So, if you’re thinking about tackling your house, divide it up, one small area of the house at a time, one three hour slot at a time. I think you’ll find the whole experience so much more enjoyable this way.

So, this week, I tackled the Master Bedroom Closet on one day, the Living Room storage cabinets the next day, then the kitchen cabinets (minus the pantry), and finally, my off-season wardrobe. I feel more peaceful now that the main floor of the house is less cluttered. Just knowing that I’ve gotten rid of the excess makes me feel mentally lighter. The daily messes seem more easily surmountable now that the under layer of stuff and chaos has been removed.

Here’s what the unearthing of all the kitchen stuff looked like:

Everything out Kitchen KonMary SMAMI was so tired after emptying the cabinets, that I laid down to take a thirty minute nap. As I was falling asleep I realized that I had completely forgotten about two cabinets! Those two cabinets were filled with the appliances and and baking pans and tools that don’t get much use. It’s always tempting for me to just donate a lot of this stuff, but I don’t want to be stuck without the right baking pan or gadget when I’m making something. I hate the idea of purging and then re-buying. That would just be wrong. So, coming up with a different way of organizing all these items was the way to go. I ended up only have one medium sized box of things to donate. The thrill of having squeaky clean organized kitchen cabinets just makes me happy, like silly happy.

ordered cabinets SMAM
How I organize all the kids’ lunchbox supplies

How I KonMary’d my master bedroom closet

How I tame the communication beast

How I file our family’s important papers

KonMary the kitchen Pin SMAM