About Kristen

A 30-something wife and mama of 3 (so far) living out my faith (Catholic) in the southeastern US.

What are We Reading This Advent

Music is but one way that we can help make our Advent a time of preparation. Choosing reading material is another.

Now, I’m one who feels like just making time for any reading that is not email, blogs, or online articles is a bit of a retreat and also creates a more contemplative atmosphere in general. So, I think simply making time for reading is an essential part to either Lent or Advent.

To add something spiritually enriching is just bumping it up for me.

I am re-reading Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. It is seasonal and brilliant. I could not recommend it highly enough.

I am also going to re-start reading for fun Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. Classic. Scandalous for it’s time. Hopefully with some more time built in with my fasting, I will be able to really enjoy it.

And of course, I’m still trudging through the Old Testament.

Some other suggestions for reading I have been given are:

In this House of Brede Rumer Godden

Kristin Lavransdatter Sigrid Undset

Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh (True story, I worked with a woman named Evelyn Waugh when I was in college. It was her married last name but her husband was no relation to Evelyn Waugh the author.)

Anything written by Flannery O’Connor

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Rome Sweet Home and The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn

Confessions St Augustine


What do you enjoy reading?


Let’s Talk About Advent Music, Shall We?

Ah, we are at this time of year again. The annual “debate” season about whether to Santa or not, if it’s okay to wish someone “Happy Holidays,” and what to do about that pesky Christmas music.

I’ve gone through seasons of no Christmas music until Christmas Day and well, maybe a little is okay. That’s me personally. I’m live and let live on this debate. I do find 24 hours of Christmas music on radio stations obnoxious (especially since it all comes to a grinding halt on the 26th). But if you are listening to them while I’m at your house I won’t demand the radio be turned off.

Christmas music I divide into three categories: Christmas carols, Christmas songs and Winter songs. Christmas carols are the songs that most Catholics will find in their hymnals: Silent Night, Joy to the World, Angels We Have Heard on High etc. Christmas songs are songs relating to the Christmas season that are not carols either because they are not relgious (Deck the Halls, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Dominic the Donkey, The Red Shoes, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Silver Bells…) or because while having a religious theme, the theology is ambiguous at best (Mary Did You Know, The Little Drummer Boy). Nothing wrong with those songs, just how I place them mentally. Finally there are “Winter Songs” which we culturally associate with Christmas but do not specifically mention the holiday (Jingle Bells–actually written to be a Thanksgiving song, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride). Personally, I prefer not to listen to a ton of any of those three during Advent, especially in the early weeks but I know for many people, specifically avoiding the carols while listening to songs that fall in the other two groups are okay. There are no hard and fast rules on this and as I’ve heard a few fellow Catholic moms say: if you don’t learn/practice the carols at least a little, it’s hard to suddenly learn them Christmas Day.

So, for someone who doesn’t want to inundate herself with Christmas music, but still wants to get herself “in the Spirit” whatever is to be done?

Enter: Advent Music. Wait, you mean those hymns we sing for four weeks at Mass? Yes and no.

Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas has come up with an Advent Playlist that mixes hymns and more secular fare that I really can’t top.  And there are even more suggestions in the comments section. I can never get Spotify to work but, I did download several on iTunes. And I downloaded the entire Advent at Ephesus album from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. It is a beautiful listen anytime but especially this time of year.

I really have no objections to people who listen to Christmas music but being Catholic my whole life, I can’t imagine a world in which Advent is plowed over and this music, well it helps me to more fully embrace the liturgical season we are in. And I think that most Catholics don’t immediately think of listening to “Advent music” as a way to prepare without celebrating seasons out of turn.

May you enjoy a blessed Advent and I hope that some of this music may add to it!

What I Did on my Thanksgiving Vacation

So today is back to real life but on the plus side it is “Advent-real-life” which beats “normal-real-life” in my humble opinion.

“Vacation” for me started Wednesday. We originally planned to all five go up to Goldsboro to visit Jeff’s mom with some food. I ended up staying home with Shelby after a couple of less than pleasant diaper experiences. Jeff decided it was best that she and I stay home.

Thursday morning we had plans to go to mass. Alas, that would be the morning that “toilet-gate 2015” would begin. Seemingly overnight Shelby decided that flushing things that shouldn’t go down the toilet was fun. Toothbrushes, saline nose drops…these things plugged all three toilets that morning. Sadly, mass didn’t get to happen as a result of this chaos. But the boys and I did watch the parade. William was excited to see the Rockettes, but not for reasons you might imagine. His reason was to see what Spongebob and Squidward were discussing here:


He also enjoyed seeing the kids who appeared in the Broadway numbers. He did ask for acting and dance classes and voice lessons after seeing them.

We ventured to Jeff’s dad and step-mother’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner where we joined Jeff’s younger brother, his wife, son and father-in-law. After dinner, dessert and a football game (Panthers are still undefeated) we headed home.

Friday afternoon I had a shot shift at work but that morning we decided to enjoy the warm weather and headed out to the beach. The tide was going out but it was not yet low-tide. The boys originally were looking for shark teeth (megalodon teeth have been washing up on shore as of late at our new “home” beach) but ended up falling in love with the many sea stones that they found. William filled up both his crocs and Joseph both pockets before we left. We will bring bags next trip!

Shell Collectors Beach Day

A photo posted by @recoveringpeoplepleaser on Nov 27, 2015 at 8:07am PST

As you can see the weather was perfect, if a bit warm for this time of year!

Saturday Shelby and Mom had girl’s day because Jeff took the boys shopping and to see The Good Dinosaur. Despite hearing lackluster reviews, they all really enjoyed the movie. We had a big left-overs dinner that night and I am kicking myself because I did not take enough turkey home for sandwiches, especially after buying some really good bread for them! Fortunately I got some of my favorite cranberry almond chicken salad at work so the bread will not be wasted! And as my mom pointed out, turkeys are so cheap this time of year too, so we may get another one.

Sunday morning the boys and I headed out to Infant of Prague for mass to celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. With Sunday being such a big travel day, it wasn’t exceptionally crowded (a lot of people I know go to the Vigil mass where they are visiting and get on the road early Sunday morning). We enjoyed coffee and doughnuts after mass and then headed home for a semi-lazy day. Lots of Minecraft happened. I helped Jeff grade papers and record grades.

The boys are really embracing Advent this year. It’s been really fun to see them checking the Liturgical calendar and their Advent calendar to see what they are focusing on for the day.

The long weekened really could have been extended a couple more days, but we really had a lot of fun!


Happy New Year!

So here we are again, starting a new liturgical year: cycle C to be exact. The first Sunday of Advent has come whether you were ready, or not so much. We are officially on a go for the preparation of our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

So, how are we doing?

Well, here, for once, we’re doing pretty darn well if I do say so myself.

For one we have one of these on time and this year with real candles:


Yeah, okay, okay, so the “wreath” part is kind of absent. But we weren’t ready to battle needles and the cat’s probable interest in it.

So what else are we doing? Well, I’ve decided that in addition to my daily Blessed is She reading and devotions and my annual reflections with Bishop Robert Barron, this year I am also getting Danielle Bean’s reflections. The key is that Blessed is She has me reading the daily readings and reflecting on them. Bishop Barron’s reflections often refer to the readings and are short, yet thought provoking. Danielle’s are geared toward busy women/moms and as such, are three simple tasks: think, pray and act. So while three sounds like a lot…it’s really not as much as it seems.

For the boys, we are utilizing this “advent calendar” from Loyola Press that William’s teacher gave us. It gives one simple task daily that almost anyone can do. It really helps focus the boys as this time of year tends to get hectic even for them. A favorite book of ours is Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Holiday Drama because we can all relate and we’ve seen the Llama-esque meltdowns. That’s not what this time should be about so the quiet reminders and actions are definitely a huge plus for all of us.

Will our relative calm start to the season hold? Who knows, but a better start gives me hope for a better season overall. So what do you do to make this season less hectic and more holy?

Let the Children come to Me, let them come do not prevent them: Or Why I Love Children’s Liturgy of the Word and Why My Children Do Not Participate In It

Before going on my facebook fast, I noticed a review a friend did of her local megachurch. She mentioned how much she loved it but then made a curious comment. She said she wished that the children of the community were more present and that the congregation was more involved in seeing what the children were learning from and at church. She also mentioned just how segregated the services were with children exclusively in their variety of “kids” programs while the adults were at worship.

Her comment struck me as, first off, it is very rare to hear anything in the way of helpful suggestions for this particular church and never an outright criticism and also because  the children’s programs are so highly lauded there. In fact, I’d never before heard someone say outloud that they disliked the segregated experience at this particular church before. Ever. In the following days, I began to find out many people felt as my friend does, she was just the only one brave enough to say it.

While her criticism was unusual for that particular church, I’ve heard many Protestant converts to Catholicism express the bad taste that “children’s church” left in their mouths. Some from their experience, some from the experience of their children. In fact, it happens to be one of the praises they have of their Catholic experience. Almost universally.

And almost equally universally from these converts I find a total disdain of nurseries, cry rooms and Children’s Liturgy of the Word. And I get it, I totally do. In fact, my children do not participate in CLoW and we’ve never used the nursery and only with Shelby do we use the cry room; and when we attended a parish where Faith Formation happened during mass, we went to a different mass and then waited for Faith Formation. I’ll get to the whys in just a minute. That all being said, I love that these are available at many parishes.

As Catholics we believe in an “age of reason,” which I have my own issues with but I digress. As such, very young children are not required to be in mass. And for many a weary mama or daddy, the option of having a place to put a squirmy toddler or joyful squealer is a little piece of heaven even for an hour. In fact, I’ve known parents who were loathe to even go to mass unless there was a nursery because while there is grace in just being there, they felt like they were in an unfit state to receive the Eucharist when the time came. For those reasons, I love a nursery. However, I agree that it should be optional at the parents’ discretion only. It should never be suggested by a parishoner agitated by a child during mass if the parents choose not to stick their baby or toddler there. No, not even a “just in case you didn’t know” from anyone who doesn’t have a child of the same age and uses the nursery themselves. It’s just uncharitable coming from anyone other than current nursery users.

Cry rooms give many parents a way to go to mass, be with their children and their children be of the age they are. Similarly, I’ve seen more kids like Shelby in the cry room or vestibule who can’t quite handle mass but parents still want them to receive that grace. Still, we don’t want ushers and greeters directing all parents of young children to the cry room! I witnessed this once with a young family with two very well behaved little boys when I was a teenager and I am still appalled by it. Parental discretion is just that. And fellow parishoners do not get a say.

And Children’s Liturgy of the Word is a wonderful gift both for parents and children. It gives the children a more relaxed  atmosphere to here the readings and a homily at their level. It gives parents an opportunity to better concentrate on the readings and homily. At our current parish and the parish we occasionally attend close by, I’ve never seen this happen, but at a few parishes I’ve seen children tapped on the shoulder by other parishoners not in their family and told, “You need to leave with them now.” Not acceptable.

These programs can all be beneficial if utilized at the discretion of the parents of the children. And my personal discretion is that my children stay with me during mass. The main reason is that my children are at an age where they can be reasonably expected to behave during mass and that they learned this behavior by being in mass. I also believe that as they are both in sacrament preparation, both boys need to be in mass to more appropriately understand the sacraments they are preparing for. Finally, they prefer to stay in mass themselves. So, I can’t blame them for that.

And I am heartened to see and hear about stories where children and families are being more welcomed in mass as it were. In recent months, priests have been reported as removing signs that reserved seating for families with young children in the back of their church and encouraging families to sit wherever they feel most comfortable. (I have never encountered this kind of seating personally but have heard from friends, mostly in the Midwest, that this is totes a thing in  some parishes.) While I believe the seating was well-intentioned but flawed. Yes, occasionally a parent needs to remove a child from mass, but to lump all families of young children in that group creates more, not less division.

We should welcome things that are helpful to parishoners but also remember that optional services are just that.

What Happens To Mothers…

I am home for five straight days with the kids for Thanksgiving break. My kids and my husband are my life’s greatest blessings and gifts straight from God. However, I am slightly going crazy. There is a reason that normal BRF looks like this:


image credit.

And my BRF looks exactly like this:


image credit.

Allow me to illustrate. In this clip, I am Squidward and my kids are…well…everyone else.

Everyone needs mom all the time. It’s probably one of the best things about being a mom. But it can be one of the most draining. A few weeks ago, I was stuck when the boys had forgotten their popcorn money on Friday for school and Shelby was sick. I had to bring sick Shelby to school to deliver the money. I said on facebook at the time, sometimes it’s hard to be a good mom to everyone at the same time. And it’s so true.

This week, the boys have wanted to do a lot. And Shelby, well, Shelby’s come up with a new favorite past time of flushing things that shouldn’t go in the toilet down it. Joseph wants one of us to do Just Dance, but Shelby will seize the opportunity. Jeff and I have said we are on high alert and refer to Shelby as a ninja.

And Jeff’s busy grading papers, I have to work, the boys are playing sort of nicely with each other. But everyone needs something. Sometimes, it can be…a little much. And sometimes a lot much.

I freely admit, even before we moved and when I had tons of friends close by, I rarely had “mom time.” The reasons were multi-layered. I believe mom’s do need mom time, but I had several who were close to me who abused it. Multiple girls nights in the same week, combined with other pampering activities and then complaining about money needs with their kids…yeah. I know lots of mom’s who do it right but the number I knew doing it wrong made me feel guilty for my few times of asking. It felt indulgent and like a waste of money because even when I would do something “free” it cost gas and sometimes child care, which cost money.

Since we’ve moved, I have found quieter mom time because of the very close proximity of the beach, having a pool (in the summer), library and other things. And so the shock of the last few days has left my eye a little twitchy, but I can better appreciate mom time because I’ve experienced little slices of it as we’ve moved help me to embrace what mom time could be.

It doesn’t have to be a girl’s night out. It could be a simple hour once a month locked in the bedroom reading while the husband watches a movie with the kids. It can even be the realization that you can maybe enjoy a coffee on a solo grocery trip. And that time away, will in fact make a better mother as it gives those mental and emotional “mom muscles” a chance to rest and re-charge. This is mothering in the 21st Century not times past, I have to keep reminding myself. I can’t compare what, as a mom, I need or do with what my mother and grandmother did. We live in very different times with different challenges and as such, we may require different things.

Mothers need to realize it’s not always selfish to do what you need to in order to make yourself a better mom, it’s only when we make it a priority above the needs of our family that we’ve taken it too far. Don’t let burn-out happen to you…

Trust and Obey???? All the time???

Like most of you, I’m not a fan of tragedy in real life. Heck, I’m not always a fan in fantasy either! (Why Disney? Why does the mother ALWAYS have to die????)

So the events in Lebanon, Paris and Mali? They are tough. But I do not fear the world or life because of them.

In today’s Gospel reading, St Luke tells us of Jesus’ words regarding the end times.

“…When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”

Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

There will be powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” –Luke 21: 9-11

But wait, didn’t I just tell you I don’t fear the world? Isn’t there an insurrection in Syria? Not to mention everywhere Isis is? Isn’t there still war against extremism in Afghanistan and Iraq? Haven’t we seen crazy bad earthquakes in the last few years? Hunger, devastation? Couldn’t the ebola break-out be the plague Jesus is talking about?

It’s very easy to read Jesus’ words here and believe: this is it! This is how it ends! But guess what, people have thought that in other times in history. WWII, for example. And remember Jesus’ words right before this passage in Luke 21:8

He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘the time has come.’ Do not follow them!” –Luke 21:8

So Jesus is telling us about the end times but then tells us not to follow anyone prophesying about the end times, many who will use Jesus’ words as their proof…huh. That’s confusing, isn’t it?

When I first read this reading this morning, I was struck. Struck by just how many people I know or know of who have been spending the last several weeks prophesying about the end times in social media (I’m on a social media fast…more about that later). And then I was struck by who was NOT doing it. Well, my priests aren’t in their homilies. Nope, they are sticking with the Good News. Bishop Robert Barron isn’t. Cardinals I follow in social media: Dolan, O’Malley, Wurl, Tagle, Sarah etc aren’t doing it. My Catholic mom friends aren’t. Most bloggers aren’t. And Pope Francis isn’t. I am sure that plenty of great Protestant ministers are also resisting this, but I don’t follow many of them. Do these people condemn these attacks? Emphatically yes. And they express sorrow over the loss of life. But no one is saying, “The END is here!”

The emphasis, I’m noticing from these corners, is Christ. Christ and His love for us. Love that triumphs over every notion of terror. Love that shows itself on surveillance video when a woman runs into a restaurant to escape a hail of bullets injured and hides behind the bar with a waitress. A waitress who pulls her close and cradles her head. St Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians that Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13: 7-8). And St John tells us in his first epistle, “God is love.” (1 John 4:16) and later says:

In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.– 1 John 4:17-18

Let that sink in. If we are truly in communion with God, who is love, we can trust at the time of judgment. And we truly have no reason to fear either at the time of judgment or in our present world because that love of God in us drives out that fear.

I’m not there yet all the time, but this reminder calms me and lets me continue to do as Jesus commanded and “Love one another.” (John 13:34) Because as many a popular blogger has said, “Love always wins!”

So… if I trust in the love of God, I can obey Jesus’ commandments. So I shouldn’t be sad ever, right? Wrong. Remember the shortest verse in the Bible?

Jesus wept. –John 11:35

Even Jesus cried at the loss of a life. In the case of recent terrorist attacks, we weep for life lost in such a horrible way. We weep also that someone not only broke the Fifth Commandment but the Second as well. As Pope Francis well said:

To use the name of God to justify violence is blasphemy.

We weep that these people who perpetrated these acts do not know God, nor His love nor His mercy and therefore cannot see the wrong they do and live in fear.

So yes, I weep and am sad, but yes I have hope in Him still because He is love. And yes, love always wins. And He is our king. As Blessed Miguel Pro shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Reread those last several readings we’ve had from Revelation that declare His kingship and His victory and do not despair! Remember the words of St John Paul II

I plead with you: never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged–be not afraid!

God’s got this. We have to trust Him. We have to obey Him. Especially when it is hard. Only then will we be able to truly live in His love, and apart from fear.