Aug 29, 2016

Monday Meme: Humility

Just what you say right before God brings you to your knees.  I know from experience that about the time I think I have everything under control, or that my will is in line with His will, that's about the same time I get practice in the virtue of humility!  For me, that lesson is a constant necessity and a fantastic reminder that He's in charge, that He knows best, and He's always got my back.

Aug 26, 2016

Friday Feasting: Chicken Fun Bowl (Instant Pot Meal)

"Two things I love most from Whole Foods Market are the selection of cheeses and their Japanese “fast food”.  A meal I always pick up is a noodle bowl. Here’s my rendition, made mostly in the Instant Pot for a fast food during dinner rush hour."


8 Chicken thighs, with bone and skin on
8 C Water, divided
3 tsp Salt
2 tsp Pepper
2 tbsp Oil
2 lbs carrots, large cuts
1 lb pkg rice noodles
1 bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 kohlrabi, cut into matchsticks
Lemon, sliced
Sriracha Sauce (optional)


Turn Instant Pot (I’m using 8 qt) on to sauté.  Add oil to pot. Season chicken on both sides.  Once pot is heated, add 4 chicken thighs, skin side down and brown for 3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Remove and repeat with remaining thighs. Add back in thighs and add 4 C of water. Add carrots to top.  Put on lid, set to poultry setting and manually reduce cooking time to 12 minutes. At the end of time, natural release for 10 minutes then release remaining pressure and unlock. Remove skin and bones from chicken and return to pot. Add 4 C water, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the chicken cooks, prepare rice noodles as directed, adding bok choy and kohlrabi at the 3 minute mark and continue to cook for 1 more minute. Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside until chicken is done.

Divide noodles into ten bowls. Top with chicken, broth and carrots. Add lemon slice and sriracha, if desired. Serve.

The recipe in pictures...

Aug 24, 2016

Mary, We are Out of Wine!


It seems like a lifetime ago. Two homes ago. I was the servant leader of an organized group of Catholic military women (mostly spouses of Army men) at Fort Leavenworth, KS. This was a very large and very active group.  We met weekly for fellowship, prayer, and bible study.  I remember there was an especially difficult time.  It seemed like everyone was just pressed a little tighter with worries about our soldiers, next duty assignments, looming deployments, planning moves, uprooting our children to start over (yet again), in addition to all the “normal” ankle-biters of everyday life.  In the midst of all this stress, one of the ladies (one of my longest-time and dearest friends), cried out in anguish during our group prayer time, “Mary, we are out of wine.”  I remember the tears, the emotions, and the silence as we all realized that was the perfect prayer.  

When we are pressed beyond what we think we can manage, when life crashes and rumbles around us, when we do not know how to handle one more crisis, Mamma Mary is there.  Just as she was there for the bride and groom at Cana.  She is our safe harbor.  She is our resting place.  She will intercede for us to her Son.  

“Mary, we are out of wine.” became our code for “life is really hard right now, and I need extra prayers.”  It also became a reminder that when we turn to Mary in our prayers, we are also turning to her Son. After all, the shortest path to Jesus is always through Mary.  When I left that Fort Leavenworth, my parting gift from this lovely group of women was a wine bottle charm for a bracelet I never take off. Whenever I notice the charm I remember.

So in this week that we celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary, remember the short and simple prayer, “Mary, we are out of wine.”  Let her fill you up and give you peace.

Aug 22, 2016

Monday Meme: When The Joke Is On You

How many of us don’t have a problem poking fun at the general public?  There’s probably no harm done either.  Maybe it breaks the ice or relieves some stress.  Just a good laugh, right?  That’s the first meme.  However…

We all come in contact with some people who just don’t so seem so bright, and we think something bad.  We’re polite, but we ponder, “How does this person survive?”  On the more negative side, we might think, “This person is an idiot!”  We do nothing to help; we merely stand in awe of how incompetent or uneducated that person is.  We might have some sympathy, but what do we do about it?  Nothing usually, except stand in awe of how such a person exists, and we are so glad we are not that person.

Then it’s our turn.  That’s the second meme.

We may be out of our comfort zone, or we don’t understand a joke.   How we hope someone might fill us in!  We pray that someone will have the decency to tell us what we did wrong, so we can correct it.  If we stand in humiliation or embarrassment, how we can’t wait for someone will come to our rescue or aid.   Yet, we stare at the eyes of those judging us, with them thinking, “How does this person survive?” or “This person is an idiot!”  We want to defend ourselves, but we are at the other person’s mercy.

This scenario reminds me of the gospel story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  One side:
“The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer."
Luke 18:11

The flip side:
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner."
Luke  18:13

The moral of the story:  …
"For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." 
 Luke 18:14

Aug 17, 2016

Openness To Life - More Complicated Than We May Think

Two years ago, I was expecting my eleventh child. I was so excited at the thought of one more baby, secretly even praying for twins! I was almost forty-five and assumed it was probably my last chance. I was also a little worried. I had had some early losses, including my ninth child's twin, so I knew that pregnant didn't necessarily equal baby to hold in my arms.

At ten weeks, on August 17, I started to miscarry. It was my first "real" miscarriage with the contractions, the bleeding, the waiting. I had wonderful friends who walked me through it, through text messages and through prayer. Giving birth to ten healthy children did not prepare me for this new aspect of openness to life, when things no longer played out the way I expected, no longer meant a baby in my arms as a wonderful reward for letting God plan my family. Instead, two days later, I held my tiny baby, still enclosed in her sac, in the palm of my hand, and I mourned for my baby, and for the past when babies came easily, and came healthy.

A friend posted the other day that someone told her that having ten kids is "heroic", and in many ways, it is. But my friend added that there are different paths to be heroically "open to life". My friend and I both had the path of many babies, sometimes maybe a little closer than we would have planned, or arriving at times of financial or emotional stress. Life has been full of love and, often, of chaos. It is a life of constant vigilance and giving, of tears and worries in the dark, and yet more than our share of moments that make our hearts swell with happiness and love and gratitude.

But there are other paths, and even the path that my friend and I followed can take a sharp turn and lead into a much harder place. Many of my friends, women that I have shared this journey with, are now at that age where nothing is certain, nothing is like it was. Our contemporaries are "done" having children and moving on. But we persist in giving our bodies and our lives to God, knowing that at 40-something, that often means miscarriages or babies with health issues, or just that little disappointment month after month as it seems more certain that our youngest child is, in fact, our youngest child. And we give that sadness to God as well.

There is the path of those who cannot conceive, and the path of those desperate for a large family who only have a few, and the path of those who conceive yet lose baby after baby, filling the heavenly choir with those babies they desire so deeply to hold themselves. That seems the hardest path to me, a constant roller coaster of hope and worry and sadness. And yet, those moms remain faithful and heroically open to God's plan, even when it hurts. Each woman has to lay her hopes and expectations at the foot of the Cross and beg for the mercy and the grace to accept the life she is given.

Because I have a large family, women with smaller families seem to feel the need to explain why they have the number of children they have. I understand this. In Catholic circles especially, there can be the perception that the large families are the holier families, because their openness to life is visible for all to see. The women with a couple of kids, or no kids, are heroically embracing God's Will, too, but because of our contraceptive culture, they can be looked at suspiciously as some wonder why they don't have more children. They can be hurt by the sweeping comments about small families, assuming that it is always by choice. And so, the need to explain, to be validated, just as we with large families need support when the culture at large attacks us for having too many children.

I truly believe that God's plan for each family is meant for our sanctification. For reasons known only to Him, He allows crosses of different weights and size, tailored to each one of us for us to embrace and grow closer to Him. I often joke that my natural tendency is toward laziness so God gave me all these children to keep me from turning into a couch potato! I tell those young moms who are worried because the babies aren't coming fast enough to relax and enjoy their families just as they are. I tell the moms of one or two to embrace the gift of being able to give so much time and attention to their children. Each of our crosses are real, but we need to be careful not to fall into a perspective of "the grass is always greener" also. Having ten children can be quite limiting, in terms of time and money and logistics, and I do at times lament what we "can't do" or when I feel stretched and worry that I am failing these kids. And I know that, on the other hand, there are moms who see my children so happy with each other, my girls singing together, my big kids helping with the little kids, and those moms feel a sadness too.

In the end, I come to the same conclusion I always come to, we need to plant ourselves firmly at the foot of the Cross, dying to our own desires however good they are, and embracing God's plan for our families. And we need to show mercy and love to each mother we encounter because some crosses are obvious, but many are not, and we are all journeying to the same place where He will make all things new and we will see the fruits of our faithfulness.

As I always tell my kids, it is not about this world, keep your eyes on your true home.

Aug 15, 2016

Monday Meme: Come, Follow Me

Being a stay-at-home mom can be a lonely thing.

Yes, I do have seven people around me all day long wanting a piece of my wisdom, but honestly…you don’t feel very wise when you say (for the 4,000th time), “When you take the car out of your brother’s hand without asking first, he’s going to hit you in the head.”  Then your husband comes home and has all these lovely adult tales from work, and all you have to offer to “How was your day?” is the dilemma you’re having choosing a pre-algebra math book for your 8th grader.  Boorrr-iiinngg.

So I’ve been trying to school plan for the past two weeks, and it’s coming very slowly.

Yes, I’ve tried all the tricks, “Play a game or build a puzzle with your child, and that small 10 minutes will make them feel loved and acknowledged, and they will give you some space to get done what you need to get done.”  Ummm, yeah.

So, in bright, optimistic moments, my mind goes to a good place, and I say to myself, “I am SO popular!  How nice to be so loved and wanted and needed. “

I know there will be a day not so long away where I will yearn for the days when I had little ones trying to crawl up in my lap when I just need to find the best deal on a used version of that history book!

Until that day of blessed efficiency comes, I will fight that demon that wants to yell and say ,“JUST GIVE MOMMY A FEW MINUTES!!”

Because right now…I’m a rock star to my kids.  (Right?  I mean, they don’t just love me for the food, right?  Or the fun places I take them?)

P.S.  I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how really, really focusing my identity in Christ vs. what I’m getting/not getting done at home or how much my children like me or whatever I fix for dinner.  Thanks, Olympic athletes doing awesome witnessing!!

Aug 12, 2016

Friday Feasting: Potato and Summer Squash Soup (in the Instant Pot)

"The latest craze in cooking is the revised pressure cooking; The Instant Pot. I was  convinced to purchase one (the 8 qt model) after hearing how another Mom (thanks, Michelle!) was always using hers for her large family, and how it simplified dinner making at the last minute! I’m now the proud owner of the 6 qt, too and use both several times a week. 

We are well into the growing season at our house, and the yellow squash is in overdrive. Always looking for ways to use it up, I stumbled across the idea of a squash and potato soup. Potato soup is quite popular with my crew, but never thought about adding summer squash. Hmmm. This is my rendition and it was a HUGE hit! I’m still amazed that I can cook 5 lbs of potatoes in no time at all, in the Instant Pot."

5 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into large chunks
3 yellow summer squashed, cut into large chunks
4 cloves garlic, mashed and peeled
1 quart chicken stock, divided
4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground pepper
3 tsp dill
1 cup Half and Half
3 cups milk (more for a thinner soup)

Optional Toppings
Sour cream
Parsley flakes

1.  Add the first three ingredients to your inner pot of pressure cooker.
2.  Add about half of stock to pot and place lid in place.
3.  Set Instant Pot on manual, and set for 5 minutes.
4.  At the end of the cook time, let the pot sit for 8 minutes then do quick release.
5.  Once pressure is released, open lid and mash the potatoes and squash.
6.  Add remainder of stock, salt, dill, pepper, 1 C half and half and pulse with an immersion blender for one minute.

7.  Add milk, then blend. Adjust the thickness by adding more milk, if needed.
8.  Ladle into bowls, add toppings and serve!

Aug 10, 2016

A Guilt-Free Mother: Fantasy or Science Fiction?

I just read a book. That in itself is an accomplishment because finding time to sit and read really does not exist in a family of teenage boys. Seriously, with all that has been happening in my life, I thought it was time to read this book that a friend gave to me years ago.

The book, Guilt-Free Motherhood by Joni Hilton, is an easy read, and it offers typical, common-sense advice. However, I found that other moms simply laughed when they saw the title of the book. I have to agree. Is any mom ever guilt-free?

One friend quietly queried me, "What genre is it, fantasy or science fiction?" At first, I didn't know what she was talking about because she asked so softly. She glanced at the book. AHHH! I replied, "Both." We laughed. After a few minutes, I corrected myself. "It's a comedy." She thought that was a better description. My conclusion is that trying to be a guilt-free mother is actually all three: fantasy, science fiction, and comedy.

What other job requires relentless imagination to solve problems? What career demands unlimited patience to overcome obstacles? What profession necessitates an endless sense of humor to relinquish perfection? Motherhood entails this and so much more!

One comment in the book is worth mentioning. The author advises to let kids know that I enjoy what I do for them. Basically, if I resent giving my time and effort, it isn't a gift of love. I took this further, that this gift can also be rejected. Sometimes my kids don't want what I've done for them. That is a hard pill to swallow, especially when I've sacrificed to accomplish that task. However, that is love--a willing sacrifice for another. It's also a choice for the other person to accept it or not.

I also think that guilt is not all bad. Guilt can keep us moms on our toes. Just like I try to teach my boys that they can learn from their mistakes, so can I. Then move on. Don't dwell, but do learn.

It helps to have some room for fantasy, science fiction, and comedy in motherhood!

Aug 8, 2016

Read to Me Monday

"Aunt Karen. Aunt Karen! Read us the book you read last time!"
"Which book, dear nephews?"
"You know!  The one with the dragon and the knight, the cave and the scroll and the squire!"

I'd say it is pretty great when the little ones remember a book from eight months ago and beg for it to be read aloud to them again.

Can you guess which book?

The Squire and the Scroll

This book has engaging pictures and a sweet story that the kids love.  It also has a message that I love.  A message about the rules you need to live by as the son of a King.  Rules to guard your hearing and your sight, to walk on the firm path, and not to stray from the good and pure.  These are messages that are perfect for the forming of our own young knights.

A nod to another book by the same author for our princesses and daughters of the King...

The Princess and the Kiss

Aug 5, 2016

Friday Feasting: Recipe For Success - Easy As Pie

Recipe For Success: Easy As Pie

"This is an easy, no-bake pie.  Good for a cool summer treat, or for a Christmas Delight!  It always puts a smile on the pickiest of eaters.  I’ve included the regular recipe and a gluten free version.  .  I can decorate the pie to fit any occasion.  I sometimes use colored sprinkles, ie green for St. Patrick's Day or red for Valentine’s Day.  My only caution is that the pie can melt quickly depending on the weather.  Serve quickly after the initial few minutes out of the freezer. Any remaining pie can save in the freezer until the next time.  I have also put in the pie mix into individual cups, as seen in Ryan's picture.  The cups freeze, and my boys have a gluten free dessert!  My sons have been making this pie for years.  They still fight over the beaters and mixing bowl.  Good to the last drop!"

Here's the basic recipe for mint chocolate chip pie!


1 package (8 oz) softened cream cheese
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
1 container (8 oz) nondairy whipped topping
1 bag of chocolate chips
1 package ready to use 8 inch pie crust


1.  Beat the cream cheese in a mixing bowl until fluffy, usually a couple minutes.  Gradually add sweetened condensed milk.  Continue to beat in mint extract.  Be careful to use a small of amount of mint extract as the mint extract can be strong.  Add more to preferred taste.

2.  Fold in whipped topping with rubber spatula.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Keep a few chips out if embellishment the top is desired.  Carefully spoon in pie crust.  Put in freezer until hardened, at least 8 hours.  Overnight is better.

3.  Remove from freezer about 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with chocolate chips and mint leaves.

Some variations:

To make 2 pies, I get a 16 oz container of whipped topping and 2 pie crusts.  Make as instructed, but substitute the 16 oz whipped topping for the 8 oz whipped topping.  Divide the mixture into the 2 pie crusts.  I do NOT double the entire recipe.  The mix is rich enough that the added whipped topping is fine.

I can substitute mint candies for the mint extract.  Simply put candies in a sealed plastic sandwich bag and crush.  (Parents might need to supervise youngsters.)  I use about 3-4 candies.

Any flavored crust can be used.  Chocolate pie crusts add an extra dose of chocolate.

To make the caramel chocolate chip pie, substitute the caramel flavored sweetened condensed milk for the regular sweetened condensed milk. Omit the mint extract.

Gluten free pie crust option:

2 cups gluten free cereal
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar

Crush cereal in a plastic bag.  Add butter and sugar.  Shake.  Pat the mixture into a 8 or 9 inch pie pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 6 minutes.  Let cool.  Then add pie mixture.

Aug 1, 2016

Monday Meme: Mom Vacation

This is so true!  There are just days (most) where I need a break from the noise, the chaos, the craziness...even when it's all good.  Ten people, eight under the age of 13 makes for a household that is only (truly) quiet for like 6 hours a day.  So don't feel like you're weird for finding enjoyment in grocery shopping alone or rejoicing when you get to go to the bathroom alone – I'm right there with you momma!!