Monday, April 14, 2014

WIWS - Palm Sunday edition

Did you remember to wear red?!

As an extra special treat, we were also visited by some relatives passing through St. Louis (Andrew's aunt and uncle). We were so excited to introduce them to the newest member of the family. (She's actually the youngest member of the Chronister clan at this point!)

Blessings as you continue your Holy Week!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Holy Week Inspiration

Happy day before Palm Sunday, friends!

I have some exciting things planned for our Holy Week this year - more of what we usually do, with some new things added in. I look forward to sharing it with you!

In the are some ideas from our Holy Weeks past. Enjoy!

Please note that you can make some of these fun and playful sets without wood or fabric. Why not cut and color paper figures, or make felt figures? Or act out these stories? There are many ways to engage your child!

Also note that, if you are able, the absolute best way to immerse yourself and your family into Holy Week and the Triduum is by attending the liturgies for the week (Mass of the Lord's Supper, Good Friday service, and Easter Vigil). If you are able to attend one or all of them, I promise you won't regret it! We've witnessed some atrocious child behavior in our family during the Triduum, but we still look back at them fondly. ;-)

If you aren't able to go to the liturgies themselves, why not take time to read through the readings from them in your personal prayer time? You can find the readings for the Triduum, starting here.

If your parish offers Morning Prayer or Vespers, take advantage of that, too. Do what you can, and remember, even picking one thing to do from all these suggestions is a great place to start!

Oh, and since I'm giving you inspiration for the next seven days, I'll link up to Jen.

Palm Sunday

Attend Mass and bring home some blessed palms!

Wear Red!

On the Eve of Palm Sunday

Hosanna, Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!

Holy Week (Monday - Wednesday)

Attend daily Mass or read the daily readings each day. This is also a great time for some playful catechesis!

O, When the Saints Go Chugging In...

Were You There?

Holy Thursday

Attend the Mass of the Lord's Supper, and/or the Chrism Mass. Pray at the vigil after the Mass of the Lord's Supper, if at all possible.

Holy Thursday (the Cenacle...check back later this week, because this lesson is getting an upgrade!!)

Good Friday

Attend the Good Friday service at your parish, and/or Stations of the Cross.

At the Cross, Her Station Keeping... (We're also adding a new material to Good Friday...check back here later this week!)

Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil

Attend the Blessing of Easter Food, if your parish does this (blessing the first meal of Easter). Attend the Easter Vigil that night, if you are able. If you are not able, then take time to read the Easter Vigil readings in your personal prayer time. They are beautiful!

Blessing of Easter Food (Sister Stinky looks like such a baby! Where has time gone?)

Easter Sunday

Go to Mass if you didn't attend the Easter Vigil (or go again, if you'd like). Celebrate with good food, time with family, and time for prayer! (We like visiting an adoration chapel if at all special after having Jesus missing from the tabernacle during the Triduum!)

May your Holy Week be a truly blessed one! I hope to pop back in here to share more as the week goes on.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Five Favorite Things About Aldi

Linking up with Hallie!

So, I know a lot of people don't care for it, but today I want to share with you my Five Favorite Things about Aldi.

I'll admit it...I used to be anti-Aldi. I just had all these wrong assumptions about it! But now, I love it and it makes it possible to feed my family good food on a small budget.

(If you're like I was and you don't know anything about Aldi, here's a primer.)

"Sometimes your want to go where everybody knows your name..."

ALDI Hosts Blogger Tour of Geneva, Illinois Store

Okay, so everyone at Aldi doesn't literally know my name, but it feels as if they should. I've been to all kinds of different grocery stores in my day, and I've never felt as welcome at one as I do at Aldi. I remember reading that they claim to have a "small town grocery store feel" and I was super skeptical. But, for the record - I'm originally from a small town, and Aldi is even more friendly than a small town grocery store, if that's possible. People smile at each other, making conversation, and look out for each other. On more than one occasion, while shopping with both daughters in tow, I've had people (mainly older people) offer to help me unload my cart, bag my groceries, or get things out to the car. And I take them up on that offer! The store is so small that you can't help but notice when your fellow shoppers could use a hand. 

 Friendly, fast, helpful employees.

New Aldi store opens

The people who work at Aldi are really top notch. They seem so much friendlier and happier than any other grocery store employees I've ever seen. They seem to be a team! And they're so fast. I was amazed the first time I went to Aldi and watched them whip my groceries from the conveyor belt to the cart before I even knew what was happening! At a normal grocery store, I'm usually standing there and waiting for them to finish ringing things up - but not at Aldi! I don't know how they do it, but usually I'm rushing just to get to the register to pay because they scan my groceries almost as quickly as I can unload them! And they're so pleasant about it! They always smile at my girls and offer to let them stay sitting in the cart (you bag your own groceries at Aldi, so usually they give you a fresh cart full of your paid-for groceries, ready to bag, but they make an exception when you've got small children already comfy in your original cart). They keep the store so clean and the employees just give the place a pleasant vibe.

They're owned by the same people that own Trader Joe's.

Yep, Trader Joe's and Aldi have the same parent company! While that doesn't mean that Aldi has the same products as Trader Joe's I actually have been surprised by how many healthy and organic and hormone free products are actually available at Aldi. I couldn't afford products like that normally, but with the help of Aldi prices, I actually can afford some of these kinds of products. Aldi gets a bad rep for being "unhealthy" but I think it's like any grocery store - they sell unhealthy food and healthy foods. If you are selective and choose well, you can certainly fill your cart with healthy, wholesome food. In fact, if you're like our family...Aldi might be the ticket to making fresh produce and meats affordable! Aldi helps us stay true to our budget. :-)

The quarter thing is actually kind of cool.


I have to admit, one of my initial hang-ups about Aldi was the fact that you have to pay a quarter deposit to use a cart. I'm mean, that's weird, right? And I'll admit, sometimes when it's raining and I'm trying to shuffle children from point A to point B, I do wish there was a cart corral right next to the car. But do you know what? At least at my Aldi, the quarter deposit system creates a camaraderie among shoppers. It's kind of an unspoken rule that if you park your car and see someone who is finishing unloading their cart into their car (especially if they have small children, are pregnant, or elderly) that you'll swap them your quarter for their cart. I've had so many people save me a walk back to the cart corrals this way. It's just another little thing that makes the whole Aldi shopping experience so much more personable.

It makes groceries affordable no matter where you live.

When we were graduate students at Notre Dame, we lived in South Bend, Indiana. The cost of living was way cheaper there than it is in the city we now live in. It used to be that I didn't have to think about shopping around with groceries. Yes, there was a grocery store that was cheaper than another grocery store, but still...things were generally pretty affordable. Then, we moved to Missouri and oh-my-goodness-sticker-shock. Every time I went grocery shopping that first summer I would be so discouraged because no matter what I did, I could not stay on budget. Then, I tried Aldi. Problem solved! Not only could I stay on budget, but I actually could buy more food!!!

So, Aldi doesn't carry everything you need (although, I've found that the more familiar you are with their stock you can certainly curtail your list so that you can find most things there). But it doesn't carry most of the things on the average grocery list. So, with a little creativity, Aldi can meet most of your needs. 

I'm an Aldi fan. Are you?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Following her lead...

Linking up with Montessori Monday.

Have you been wondering what happened to our Before Five in a Row series? We're still doing BFIAR, but I've changed things up. I resisted it for a while, wanting to be able to blog about our BFIAR journey but then I realized...doing it the way we were doing it for the sake of continuity was silly. Sister Stinky was leading me in a different direction...and that's okay!

The way we were doing preschool was beginning to feel frustrating. She's three. She has a short attention span and a huge desire for imaginative play. That's a good thing! So rather than focus all my energy and trying to get her to do preschool my way I realized that it was time to step back and let her do things her way.

So, we still have our preschool co-op (which she loves!). We do BFIAR activities with this group. (Our Goodnight Moon class is what is pictured below.)

And we do still have our preschool time. But it's more relaxed and it doesn't always happen every day. When we do spend this time together, it's more relaxed...for both of us! There is no point in getting burned out in this school thing before we've even begun! So, we read our BFIAR book, and we follow one of the suggestions from the curriculum, and sometimes I pull out some other activity for her to play and explore with if she likes. Simple.


(Here she's exploring with weighing and sorting little counting bears for We're Going on a Bear Hunt.)

And the amazing thing? Maria Montessori was right. By following her lead, I am amazed by what she is learning. She's following her own inner drive, and I'm just providing her with the materials and opportunity. It's hard, sitting back and waiting for signs of readiness before introducing new things...but it's paying off! She's actually taking a huge interest in the alphabet right now, and she's come to it of her own accord. She's interested, and so she's ready to learn!

That's not to say that I don't try and introduce activities to her that she may not have chosen on her own (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd can be a bit hit or miss...I'm trying to figure out a more appealing way to store materials so she wants to return to them). But I'm trying my best not to force her in any particular direction. I'm trying to relax and...well...let her be 3. :-)

If you're wanting to change your child's environment to promote their learning, An Everyday Story and Racheous are currently co-hosting a series called "30 Days to Transform Your Play." I've been following it and it's pretty fantastic! Hop on over there for inspiration, if you're interested! I especially love and have been inspired by their huge emphasis on following the interests of your child to promote their learning...even if you're not sure if you think they're worthwhile interests. Just what I needed to hear! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Free only!

Good morning, friends! I'm happy to pass along this exciting tip.

Anne Bogel, of Modern Mrs. Darcy, has just released a new edition of her e-book: and it's free for today only on Amazon! How She Does It: An everywoman's guide to breaking old rules, getting creative, and making time for work in your actual, everyday life gives suggestions for finding balance between work and family, and takes into account suggestions for all sorts of obstacles a woman may face.

Anne's blog Modern Mrs. Darcy is an absolute gem. If you haven't explored it yet, I highly recommend it. And be sure to pick up this e-book! After today it goes back to its normal (still very reasonable) price of $4.99. I've already downloaded my free copy for my Kindle, and I have to say...even if I had paid for it, it would still be worth every penny. We talk a lot on this blog about finding balance and meeting your own needs so that you can provide for your family's needs, and I think this book would be a wonderful resource for seeking that balance!

So pick up your copy while you can! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lenten Challenge #4 - Rest on Sunday

Linking up with the lovely ladies of Fine Linen and Purple for "What I Wore Sunday."

(Click here to see Lenten Challenge #1, Lenten Challenge #2, and Lenten Challenge #3.)

It's the 4th week of Lent. Are you ready for Lenten Challenge #4? Rest on Sunday. (Ma would highly approve!)

When reading about the family of St. Therese of Lisieux, I remember being really struck by how committed they were to resting on Sundays. They trusted that closing up shop on that one day of the week, and giving their cares to God for a day, would allow God to richly bless them. And they were right!

It's hard to let go of control for one day of the week - to put aside our "to-do" list, our chores, our obligations (other than our Sunday Mass one, of course!), but what a blessing such a rest can be for you and your family. I know that I've share this all with you before, but it can't be overstated - you and your family need a day to yourselves. A day to be yourselves. A day to glimpse what heaven is like - a time to focus on your love for God and your communion with each other.

So, I'll ask you again...have you tried a Sunday rest, yet?

(Okay, I'm going to throw a note in here...I know that a total Sunday rest is, in unique cases, not possible. I always recall the story my dad told me, of my Polish grandfather who used to have to work long hours in the steel mills on Sundays - this was before the days of Saturday vigil Masses, too - and who wasn't able to rest on Sunday. So, he would go to Mass on Mondays, instead, and make that his day of rest. The pope at the time - perhaps the soon to be "Saint" John XXIII - acknowledged that there are unique instances like this. Of course, if you have to work on Sunday to support your family - or your husband does - and there is no way to get out of it, then still do all you can to get to Mass, and try to pick a different day or even part of Sunday to set apart as a time of rest. You can do it!)

Our family has been eagerly awaiting the nice weather...because we like to get out to a nature preserve or park after Sunday Mass!!!

And here's what we wore Sunday. We pulled out all the pink for Laetare Sunday!


Have a lovely week!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Every[wo]man's Guide to Celebrating Feastdays

Linking up to the loveliness over at Like Mother, Like Daughter.

I think that there are a lot of Catholic moms out there who genuinely desire to celebrate feastdays, but are also genuinely overwhelmed by all the options presented to them. Rather than get overwhelmed, why not just try to pick something simple and stick with it? Let you're motto be, "Make it beautiful. Keep it simple."


Don't re-invent the wheel.

(Wearing her green for St. Patrick's day!)

If I do nothing else for a feastday, there are two go-to options I have. First, if there is a color connected to the feastday in some way (green for St. Patrick, blue for a Marian feast, red for St. Joseph, etc.) I try to dress in that color and encourage the troops to do the same. Second, if we're able, we all try to get to daily Mass together (especially if the feastday is celebrating a saint who is near and dear to our hearts). Both options take minimal planning and are (relatively) easy to do! BUT, only do them if the feastday has actual meaning for you or is truly significant in the church year. Don't sweat it about feastdays that you aren't as in to. There are a lot of feastdays, and you don't want to drive yourself crazy! I read a really good blog post on this recently, and I'm totally blanking on its origin...maybe it was this one by Haley? She did write the book on celebrating feastdays, after all! (Tip: If you can't get to daily Mass, try to listen to it on the radio that day, or even take some time to read the daily readings in your personal prayer time.) 

The celebration doesn't have to be fancy to be memorable.

Andrew's birthday falls in between the feasts of St. Patrick and St. we have a lot of celebrating on the docket that week of the year! Since he had a lecture to go to the night of his birthday, we went out to eat on the feast of St. Joseph. And do you know what? We kept it simple. We went to our family favorite, the "blue restaurant" and called it a day. Because sometimes...simple is okay. Our St. Joseph celebrations included wearing red (a Polish tradition that my parents used to encourage), daily Mass at noon, and a fast-food dinner in the evening. But was it fun for all involved? You bet!

I used to almost dread holidays, birthdays, and feastdays because I wanted them to be so perfect. But do you know what? Feastdays are little reminders of heaven, and of the fact that we are not there yet. And nothing is perfect in this world. So, rather than trying to achieve the perfect feastday celebration, pick something fun and simple and just enjoy yourself. And if it all goes awry, it's okay. We're not in heaven yet. ;-) Which leads me to my next point...


 Don't try to make your feastday celebration "perfect."

(Sister Stinky sneaking a bite of the soda bread she helped make...)

Don't try to have the "perfect" feastday celebration. If you're doing that, you're missing the point! Even the saint that you're celebrating wasn't perfect (although he/she has now reached perfection) why do you expect that of yourself. I often have the image in my head of Martha frantically rushing around and then coming to Jesus and saying (and I paraphrase), "Lord, why don't you make my sister help me? See how busy I am making the perfect celebration for you?" And (I don't paraphrase) Jesus says, "Martha, are worried and troubled about many things. Mary has chosen the better half, and it will not be taken from her." His point wasn't that we should be lazy...but that we shouldn't lose sight of him in our busyness. It's fine to plan things for a feastday celebration, but if you're so focused on things turning out right that you snap at your children, complain to your husband, and generally find yourself falling away from your own path to're doing it wrong. Feastdays aren't supposed to be stressful. They're supposed to be fun. They're supposed to be like little rays of sunshine in this "valley of tears;" reminders that there is a place of perfection that we're traveling to. They should be consolation for us, not a source of anxiety.

So, keep it simple and embrace any mishaps that may happen. And THAT leads to my final tip...


Be flexible, and let yourself grow in love.

Hanging on the coattails of that last point is this one. Celebrating a feastday in a family - especially a family with babies (who fuss), toddlers (who throw tantrums and anything else they can get their hands on), preschoolers (and their unpredictable moods), school-age children with their busy schedules, teenagers with their busy schedules, and a spouse with a sometimes unpredictable's a recipe for imperfection. We're talking about people here. People with lots of needs, and people needing your love first and foremost.

The above picture is of our table, lovingly set for dinner on the Feast of St. Patrick. It was set way ahead of time, soda bread was baked from scratch, a cheesy soap also made from scratch, and corned beef and cabbage leftovers heated up. And then...Andrew needed to come home later than plan (for a complete understandable reason!) and the low blood sugar level of the preschooler and her mom, not to mention the potentially dwindling mood of the baby dictated that dinner at least be started and...sigh. Not perfect. was perfect. It was an opportunity for all four of us to show patience and understanding. It didn't play out as planned...but we all still had fun! And we all enjoyed our dinner, even if the start times were staggered.

Because, if you're planning your feastday celebrations with your own sanctity in mind, you know that the most important thing that you can do to celebrate is To love God, and to love the dear ones He's entrusted to you. The best of plans are meaningless if they are not done in love!

Does your family have any feastday traditions?

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