Mar 30, 2016

Ma Karen's Favorite Things: British Crime Dramas Edition

Today's post is linked up with Five Favorites.  
Click on over to Big White Farmhouse for more...


Hello, my name is Karen, and I am addicted to British TV dramas, specifically crime shows.  After the kids are tucked in, after the chores are done, and after a long day of teaching, tutoring, grading, lesson planning, test writing, assignment discussing, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, and connecting with God, hubby, and kids...I really enjoy snuggling in to watch a well written and well acted crime drama.  A little side note...The subject matters cover the whole of the human condition...there are affairs, homosexuality, treachery, child murders, war, and on and on, but I find the treating of all topics to be balanced and in line with the stories.  You will also find compassion, integrity, honesty, justice, and faith.  My favorites....

1.  Foyle’s War

The description from the IMDB site…”As WW2 rages around the world, DCS Foyle fights his own war on the home-front as he investigates crimes on the south coast of England. Later series sees the retired detective working as an MI5 agent operating in the aftermath of the war.” 

Foyle is honest to the core, thoughtful, and compassionate, and his driver, Sam Stewart, is a breath of fresh air.   This one is probably my all time favorite, and I was sad to come to the end of the series.

2.  The Bletchley Circle

From the IMDB site…”In 1952, four women who worked at the wartime code-breaking center, Bletchley Park, reunite to track down a serial killer.”  

I enjoy shows that features smart, really smart, women.  This is it. These women think outside the box, display incredible tenacity and perseverence in the face of pure evil.  They solve crimes when the police don’t even have a clue.

3.  Broadchurch

From the IMDB site…“The murder of a young boy in a small coastal town brings a media frenzy, which threatens to tear the community apart.”  

This one was a hard to watch, lots of disturbing thoughts and ideas, and I did have to take a break from the crime dramas after I finished this series.  But, the acting was masterful and who doesn’t love to watch David Tennant?  

4.  Grantchester

From the IMDB site…“A Cambridgeshire clergyman finds himself investigating a series of mysterious wrongdoings in his small village of Grantchester.”  

Unlikely (unofficial) partners and eventually best friends, Sydney and Geordie are both struggling with flashbacks and nighmares from their time in the war. 

 The characters are so human and real.  

5.  Father Brown Mysteries

From the IMDB site...“Series inspired by the stories of GK Chesterton; a Catholic priest has a knack for solving mysteries in his English village.”  

Father Brown is the flip side of Sydney his crime-fighting style.  

And, a bonus...

6. Poldark

From the IMDB site…”Ross Poldark returns home after American Revolutionary War and rebuilds his life with a new business venture, making new enemies and finding a new love where he least expects it.”

This one is not a crime drama but more of a historical romance.  I actually have only watched one episode, and it was excellent.

Mar 28, 2016

Monday Meme: My Prayer For You

Sometimes I have so much on my mind that I can’t express it in words.  It’s all trying to come out at once, yet none comes out at all.

On one side, I’m glad that it all does not come out. There’s nothing like welcoming my husband home from work with verbal vomit.  “Hi, Honey, I am so glad you’re home!  I can’t believe that *%&$(=*#)#%...”

On the other side, I can’t keep it in as that is not healthy; it just causes stress.  I try to pray, but it’s all gibberish.  “Dear Lord, uhhhhhh . Well, ummm… blahblahblah”

It’s a good thing the Lord does not need language to understand us!!  We just need to be in His presence.  The Gospel of Matthew 6:8  tells us;  "for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

It’s OUR human need to express our wants and needs.  It’s OUR desire to solve problems and accomplish tasks successfully.  Consequently, mothers may find it helpful to have prewritten prayers or predetermined intentions, especially when we wish to pray for someone else.  So instead of wasting moments trying to articulate our wants and needs in words, we can have a “go-to prayer” to take full advantage of those precious moments when we need to pray for ourselves or others.

Mar 21, 2016

Monday Meme: Silly rabbit!

Trix are for kids!!!  

I mean, Easter is for Jesus.  

Yes, we are one of those families....  Easter is for Jesus in our house.  It's not about the Easter bunny, nor is their an Easter bunny that comes to our house.  

When our oldest was just a little tot, hubs and I decided what we would do with all these present-bearing-fictional-characters who come on these ever so important holidays in our culture, but mostly in our church year.  

We chose to focus on the religious meaning with these holidays, and put the worldly celebrations aside.  I know, I know, I bet you're going to say that my kids are missing out.  But truly, we feel they are not.  They know the meaning of these holidays and there's no confusion about a silly rabbit coming instead.  My crew still wake on Easter morning to eggs hidden all over the house and baskets full of chocolate, books and little toys.  But these are gifts from mommy and daddy instead.  So they still get all the sweets and fun, but there's no confusion whatsoever about the Who of Easter.   

Now I did want to add, that with us, timing was perfect.  Hubs and I were both on fire for the Faith and just newly starting our family.  We were able to start with these traditions from the beginning and so it worked beautifully and smoothly for us.  I say this because many moms have said, "man, I wish I knew this was a thing or even a choice (meaning not doing the Easter bunny thing), and they feel bad and even somewhat envious.  And I reassure them, that for us, it was all about timing.  I think it would be very confusing to switch things out mid-way through, nor do I pressure or judge anyone who still has the Easter Bunny visit them.  It's just works for us and did from the beginning and has provided blessing upon blessing when it comes to celebrating and focusing on these major holidays and what they truly mean.  

So now you may ask, "what about Santa?".  That'll be another post!  But here's a little hint.... it's very similar to this Meme.  We celebrate in a way where Christmas is fully and 100% about Jesus and his birth.  More later!!

Mar 18, 2016

Friday Feasting: Holy Thursday - The Passover Feast

The origins of our family’s Holy Thursday Passover meal came out of a desire to make the day meaningful and symbolic and holy.  Unfortunately, our local parishes had their services too late for babies and toddlers and bedtimes.  Since my husband is not (yet) Catholic, his desire to drive the older children 30 minutes into town after a day at work was - and still is - just not there.  As a re-vert to the Faith myself, I’m still learning what’s “kosher” (pun intended) when it comes to altering what’s desired by the Church (participating in Holy Thursday services with your parish), and what works better for my life’s situation (a meal at home with ceremony and stories and remembrance, and a bedtime good for everyone!).  I’m hoping I’m not doing anything too “awful” by doing this instead of getting us to church!

I originally ordered the Source Book for Families, Lent & Easter from Women for Faith & Family.  In it are a menu and the ceremony for the traditional Paschal Meal.  So this is what we do every year on Holy Thursday.  I have looked online and found other, simpler Passover meal ceremonies than the one found in the Source Book.  I have used those when I had a newborn or just couldn’t get my act together.  It is now entrenched as a solid tradition in our house, and it’s something the kids look forward to every year.  Especially the foot washing!!  And the extra spot we set for Jesus…


(This one is NOT Catholic, per se, but its language is less formal.  Nicer for really small children.)

Mar 16, 2016

Ma Karen's Favorite Things: School Supplies Edition

Today's post is linked up with "Five Favorites" over at The Big White Farmhouse.  
Click the image below to see more "Five Favorites" from other bloggers....


Here are a few things that have revolutionized...YES revolutionized...our homeschool.

1) Pilot FriXion Clicker Retractable Erasable Gel Pens
Do you remember those old timey erasable pens that made a huge mess?  The ones that had clumpy ink and never quite erased...ever.  These Frixion Erasable Pens are NOT them.  Apparently, these involve a chemical reaction and heat and friction (hence the name).  They write like a dream and erase cleanly, every time.

2) Pilot FriXion Light Fluorescent Ink Erasable Highlighter Pen
What’s better than an erasable pen?  An erasable highlighter!

3) Carl Custom Pencil Sharpener CC-2000
I know I am not the only one who has  been on a quest to find the perfect pencil sharpener.  This is IT!  

4) Lakeshore Jumbo Pencils
These jumbo pencils from Lakeshore Learning are the bomb!

5) Leuchtturm1917 Journal
This is my favorite journal for all my brain dumps and to do lists.

So there ya have it!!

What are YOUR favorite school supplies?  
Please do share....

Mar 14, 2016

Monday Meme: The Connection Between the Heart of a Mother and the Heart of Her Children

I think the realization of what this meme says becomes clearer and clearer as my children get older. There is nothing in the world that can prepare a woman to understand the God-given, grace filled connection between a child's heart and her own. Maybe that's too cliché. Maybe I'm just being an emotional, over-worked, under-rested mom of 8. That's what some folks might say anyways, but I'll guarantee that no mother out there will disagree with me.

When kids are little, the connection is new. Mommies bond with their babies in a myriad of ways and that special connection continues to grow. As toddlers, the joys and sorrows are so simple to fix and the tears dry up almost as fast as they fall. A bumped head, hurt feelings, and sibling rivalry are a piece of cake in comparison to the heartaches that come with adolescence.

I clearly remember the first time my husband and I had to punish our oldest child for lying. I think I might have cried harder than her because it was in that moment that I realized that I can't fix everything. Some consequences, some hurts have to be experienced for our kids to grow...for us to grow. In those moments and through those experiences, a mom's heart aches.

There are lots of happy, heart-soaring moments, too. Like when you feel the grace just beaming from a child who just had their First Reconciliation or another child finally reaches a goal they set. A mom's heart feels those happy moments right along side the sad ones.

I'm only 12.5 years into being a mom so I am certain my heart will continue to be stretched with ups and downs of more teenage years and more toddler years (with 8 kiddos, that's a lot of years). So as my mothering journey continues, my prayer is that I can joyfully appreciate the special grace-filled connection that I have with each of my children whether it means tears or smiles or something in between!

Mar 11, 2016

Friday Feasting: Simple and Delicious Banana Cake

Simple and Delicious Banana Cake
(Better Homes and Garden Old Fashioned Cookbook)

"My family loves this recipe because of it's versatility. If you want to use up old bananas but are tired of the standard banana bread, this recipe is perfect. You can also use this recipe for a nice but fairly
healthy dessert that's sure to please!"


2 Eggs
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (~3)
¾ cup buttermilk or sour milk
½ cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg


1. Let eggs stand at room temp for 30 minutes. Grease and lightly flour 13x9x2 inch baking pan – set

2. In a large mixing bowl or in bowl of a stand mixer stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking
soda and salt. Add bananas, buttermilk, shortening, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer or mix on
low until combined. Add eggs; beat or mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool thoroughly on a
cooling rack.

*Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
5 ¾ – 6 ¼ cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in additional powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency.

{Our family likes to kick things up a notch by adding peanut butter to the frosting – makes it super yummy. You can also make it all a bit healthier by using natural ingredients like coconut oil in place of shortening, organic sugar, etc.}

Mar 9, 2016

Friendship Is Not Optional (Why Moms Need Friends)

When I was asked to write a blog post for Cuppa Catholic, friendship was the first topic that came to mind. It is a topic that has been on my heart for a while now, through seasons full of deep and fulfilling friendships and seasons of loneliness when I let life circumstances get in the way.

Of course, after I offered to write about friendship, I began seeing the topic pop up in my daily reading- blogs, daily devotions, even the Lenten workshop I'm participating in.  Women with great wisdom and a gift for words offered me much to ponder and also left me thinking there wasn't much more I could say. I can only offer my own experience and why I think that friendship is not just a good thing for moms, but an essential thing we cannot neglect.

God gave me an incredible gift, back before marriage and kids and this full, busy life. He placed a lovely woman in my path. A woman who sought out friendship with me, when I would have been to shy to step out in faith. Maybe it was growing up without sisters that made initiating friendships, and then navigating them, hard for me. But this dear one saw that we had a connection and she offered herself in friendship. That friendship grew and has endured through the happiest of times: weddings and babies; and the saddest of times: the death of a parent, of a child, of a sibling; the trials of parenthood and marriage.

As a young mom, I had this friend by my side. She drew me into friendship with other moms, who also became my support system, some as mentors, others as companions walking the same path. Back in the day before the Internet, we spent time together weekly, in conversation and support of each other. When there was a prayer need, we had a phone prayer chain, no Facebook or email to type out a message. We had real voice contact. We told the story of the prayer need and promised to pray. When times were hard, I had someone to call. And I was there when one of them needed me.

Life changed when I moved away to another town, far enough away that those weekly meetings were tough. By then email had taken the place of phone prayer chains. More children meant less time on the phone anyway. Having left behind my friend who always drew me in, when I tended to hang back, I had to try to form new friendships without her. The different dynamics of the new group of homeschoolers made it harder, a slow process.

It happened, but it took more work. And that is when I bought into those mistakes so many of us make. I decided it wasn't my season for friendship besides occasional chats before and after activities, or sitting with casual acquaintances at baseball games. I didn't have "time" and I didn't really "need" time with friends. I spent more time online, with moms who were very much like me- large families, same homeschooling style, etc. But what was missing was the voice to go with the avatar, the eye contact to really understand and share with the other person.

Don't get me wrong, I have some strong friendships born from those online groups. Women who have been through years of ups and downs. Some I've never met, others are friends that I may see once a year but it always feels like a bond is there. One of my dearest friends was on a forum with me and then moved to my town. Thank God for that online connection! The point is that, for most of us, in most circumstances, a real face to face, or even just voice to voice connection is needed.

But back to the friendship mistakes. When we don't seek out close friends, we set ourselves up for burnout, even depression. Our husbands can be a great support and confidant, but sometimes we need a woman to walk along beside us. During the busy years, many of us moms, especially the large family, homeschooling moms, tend to hunker down and push through, settling for little tastes of friendship here and there. Moms, you deserve and you need more.

There are two sides of the next mistake. One is lack of discernment, when we are so eager to find a close friend that we don't take the time to pray about it, to gradually allow someone in. Instead, we jump in, pour out our hearts and our energy, only to be hurt, sometimes an outright hurt but sometimes just from a lack of reciprocation. It is dangerous to wear your heart on your sleeve too soon. Prayer and prudence are a must.

The other side of the mistake could be called over discernment. There is that tendency to wait for a friend who is just like us: same family size, parenting style, same school choices, etc. And in the meantime, we miss an opportunity to get to know that neighbor next door, whose kids are grown, but could be a fabulous friend, or the younger mom who seems so busy and in a different time of life, but who could remind you of a younger you and inspire you while you, in turn, could be a voice of experience in an immature world. My dear friend, the one I mentioned before, has her kids in school, she's not quite as "crunchy" as I tend to be, she's way outgoing and makes friends easily while I am an introvert. Little differences, but we share a love for God, our families, and each other. Sometimes, those differences add another perspective when we wrestle with big issues. Don't limit yourself!

Friendship takes courage. But even more it takes faith. Start with prayer. I know I pray for God to put the right people in my children's paths. Pray for a friend. Pour your heart out to Jesus first. Trust that He knows your needs.

Be a friend. This is where your courage may falter. I know I have a hard time initiating things. When I am new to a group, I tend to assume everyone already has their friendships in place and there is no room for me. Or I fear showing myself, worrying that I won't measure up. Maybe I won't be organized enough, or structured enough, or holy enough, whatever. But step out and take a chance. Tell a young mom you'd be glad to chat about homeschooling (or whatever) some time, offer to help with her littles or meet her at a park for grownup conversation. Give her your number and tell her to text whenever. Ask that woman that you admire, who seems like a fun, joyful person, to meet you for coffee one afternoon (and then actually suggest a time). Introduce yourself to the new family at church. Smile, and just be yourself!

Be a friend, part two. Many of us have had close friendships, that we have let life get in the way of. Make it a priority. Put a phone call on your calendar, even if you have to hide in the laundry room or wander around the yard outside to get a little privacy!  Pick a monthly time for a lunch or a cup of coffee and DO IT. Send a text saying you are praying. An idea I had a while back but have done a poor job of following through is "friendship Friday". The idea was to send a card, make a call, or just a personal, well thought out email to a friend with whom I've lost touch. If God has blessed you along the way with good friends, don't let that gift slip away. If you need to repair the friendship, do it.

The best things in life take work, and they take courage, and often sacrifice. Don't make excuses and don't rob yourself because you think you don't need it, or you are too afraid to pursue it. If you are in a good place, reach out and be a friend. If you are in a hard place, let someone in because it will bless her, too.

Moms, we were made for community. Whether you are the only mom on the block where everyone else is at work, or you're a mom working long hours who barely fits in her non-negotiable to-do items, or the mom on a homestead with no neighbor's in sight, you need to share this journey. And you have something unique to offer, there is someone who needs you, too. So, take a chance. Send a text. Make a call. Bless someone today and you will be blessed!

Mar 7, 2016

Monday Meme: God Never Makes a Mistake

Years ago I was haunted by the thought that I could only make defective kids.  I had five boys, all diagnosed with special needs. Then I miscarried my sixth.  Six babies.  None perfect.  “Defective babies” tormented me.  Prayer ranged from screams to whimpers, and gave little peace or solace.  I often wondered if the Good Lord ever made a mistake.  How does He expect me to raise these boys?

People have offered words of encouragement, such as, "You'll be fine." "You're strong." "You can do it." "God doesn't give you more than you can handle."


Dear God,
I really have NO clue what to do here.  I think you have me mixed up with someone else.
Waiting for my replacement,

A replacement has never come.  So onward I go with a ton of questions.  Why did God give me boys with disabilities?  How can I raise them to be the men He wants them to be?  How long do I keep pushing them?  Will they be independent?

Dear God,
Help me.  Guide me.
You know who,

I wish I had the answers.  I muster strength to do what I think is right.  I try.  I fail.  I muddle through.  The years have been tough, but somehow I am still here!  The boys have progressed beyond what doctors ever thought possible!

Now, a mom will ask, "How do you do it? How do you manage?  How do you not go insane?" I smile, and I answer, "I don't do it; it’s not me." The mom might smile back or think I'm crazy.

I explain, “I pray a lot.” The boys' progress and my sanity are acts of faith. I am not always fine, and certainly not always strong. I have shed a tear or two. I have indulged in an occasional "pity party". Then I pick myself up and go.

Dear God,
What do you want done today?

Prayer has always been the key.  Whether that scream, whimper, or quiet silence, I can look back now and see God’s hand.  Daily, God gave me MORE than I could handle.  Daily, I had a choice of trusting Him or not.  HE has been the source of strength and courage.  He is the reason I am still here.

The Good Lord definitely knows what he is doing.  I still have no clue.  However, I see my boys thrive in their endeavors. They still have a tough road ahead, but they give a lot of people with autism hope.  I still cling to God to see it all to the end.

Mar 4, 2016

Friday Feasting: Quiche


"One of our favorite meals, that is easy to put together at the last minute, is quiche. While we like homemade crust, we keep a few frozen, pre-made ones ready to go in the freezer. Quiche is one of those dishes that can be changed up just by adding different cheeses, spices and veggies. For our family of ten, we make two and serve with a side of salad and fruit. Double recipe for two quiches." 


8 ounces total grated Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp flour
1-9" frozen pie shell
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dill
1 bag frozen broccoli, thawed (or fresh, blanched for 2 minutes)


Spread cheese over bottom of pie shell. Toss with 1 tbsp flour.  In a bowl beat eggs, then add milk and seasonings. Pour over cheese. Add broccoli. Bake, uncovered in a preheated 325 degree oven for 40-50 minutes.

Variation #1: 1- 4 oz can diced green chilis, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp onion powder and all Monterey Jack cheese added to egg/milk mixture. No veggies.

Variation #2: 1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and drained. A 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp onion powder and Swiss cheese.

Mar 2, 2016

Tips on Organization

Not long ago I went to a moms’ workshop on organization.  The speaker was Dallas-based professional organizer Lorraine Brock, the owner and president of GetOrganized!  The focus of her talk was actually about getting the items off your “to do” list and scheduled into your calendar.  It was a big a-ha moment for many of us.  So often when my “to do” list reaches epic length, I get overwhelmed and paralyzed.  I cannot do any of it.  But, Lorraine stresses moving from the generic “someday I’ll get to this” list to the “I’m doing this activity on this day at this time” and putting it on the calendar.

Here are a few other hints she had for us:

1)  Do a brain dump daily.  This is where you write down everything you can think of into a notebook, calendar, whatever.  Basically get it out of your head and onto paper, so you won’t forget it. (I already do this into my Leuchtturm1917 Journal that I used for Bullet Journaling.)

2)  Always have your calendar on hand.  It does not matter if it is paper or digital, but don’t leave home without it.

3)  Stop spending time with unimportant people.  Ouch!  This is not as harsh as it sounds.  The idea here is that if you say “yes” to one person or activity, then you are saying “no” to something else.  Make sure you are spending your valuable time where it matters most...with your family!

4)  Give yourself a buffer around activities.  You know surprises and the unexpected will crop up.

5)  It is OK to spread a larger project out across several days.  Tackling that huge walk in closet will not be a short-time activity, so schedule it a chunk of time each day for a week.

6)  Teach your kids to brain dump, too.

And finally, Lorraine touched on what we were probably really at the workshop to get help with...the “How to Organize.”  Ha ha ha.  She used the acronym SPACE to teach us how to organize a closet, drawer, room, or whatever.

This is not decision time.  Line 10-12 boxes along a wall and sort all the like items together by categories.

Now to decide what goes and what stays.  Purging is much, much easier when you actually see that you have 15 staplers and 12 hole punches and a book box full of sharpie markers...just saying.

Putting things in their forever home.  Put items away in zones depending on who uses the item and how often.

Find the best containment system for your items.  Don’t be afraid to use your label-maker.  I know you have one!

Remember to revisit your organization every once in awhile and check that things are still working.  If there are issues, tweak the system!

And, Lorraine's final gold nugget...if something comes into the house...something else has to go out!