Walt’s graduation brought up some interesting conversations with our son Ben, we ate a lot of tacos (and other junk), and ponder about the possibility of moving again (and how that would most likely destroy Jennifer).
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(Note: I originally posted this on our anniversary in 2008, and again in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. This is the eighth year of this tradition.)
1314151617181920 years ago this morning, I got up and took a shower. I was very relaxed, all things considered. Continue reading
While I’d LOVE to take credit for this, I can’t. Instead, I’ll give credit to all the creative moms out there who can think like this on their own. With our five kids going to public school, bringing lunch from home is a must. But it’s never been easy. What I deem appropriate for a lunch box is hardly what my children desire. Then, Greg told me about an image he saw on social media that illustrated how one mom took charge on helping her kids build a better lunch. I never saw the image, but I didn’t need to. It was enough to get my brain going.
Now, with a little sorting help from our son, Walter, I was able to conquer the pain-in-the-butt that is helping our kids to make halfway nutritious lunches from home. I started thinking in categories like: fruit, dairy, cheese, meat/protein, veggie, salty carb and/or sweet carb. Then I sorted items that I wanted to offer in each category and LABELED them! Now each child can pluck one item from each “bucket” and be guaranteed a well-rounded lunch. AND … wait for it… it only takes our kids less than 2 minutes to make their own lunch!!! BooYah!
First I chose two easy veggies: baby carrots and celery sticks. Our kids are not real big on veggies, but seeing it so neatly organized just made it attractive. I have to work with what I can here. So far it seems to be working. There are clearly less veggies in the bucket only a few days in.
Now for the slightly expensive option.. non-refrigerated sources of protein. We choose our favorite brand of protein bars which are sweet. Then, we provided a saltier protein bucket that contains options like beef jerky (portioned into snack baggies) and canned tuna and chicken. I seriously doubt the kids would go for the tuna or chicken, but Greg surely might. If those protein options don’t work, then I’m ready for that too since I try to keep deli meat, cheese and/or turkey pepperoni in fridge.
And probably the buckets of most fun are the carb buckets. One for salty based carbs like single portions of ritz crackers, goldfish crackers and pretzels, etc. And the other for sweeter carbs like chewy granola, rice crispy treats, etc.
I know what you might be thinking. These are a lot of options. Eh, you’re probably right. These are not as nutritious as it could be. Yep, you’d be right there too. I’m not a fitness guru who avoids all processed foods. I’d like to be, but I’m not. I’m just a regular mom who wants to feed our kids with the best options I can come up with and afford. With our five kids needing to build a lunch that will sustain them through a seven hour day PLUS help provide quick solutions for their after school feeding frenzy, this seems like a good compromise for all appetites involved.
Now I’m sure the mysterious other woman who came up with the original masterful organization of back to school lunch food items had the more Pinterest worthy presentation. But I’m more than pleased with our “make do with whatever buckets we can find around the house approach.” So far, so good! Thanks lady, whoever you are 🙂
With this latest edition of Caffeine and Catholicism, a new video series designed to be your quick jolt for living out the Catholic Faith, which we’re producing at my job, I dive into the preciousness of time, and how to make the most of it.
We’ve had decades of books and movies from Back to the Future to the Terminator that explore the ramifications of tinkering with time.
But what about right now?
Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1007 reminds us that “Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life.”
The end of time.
That aspect of death, the Catechism says, lends urgency to our lives: remembering our mortality helps us realize that we have only a limited time in which to bring our lives to fulfillment.
Your local parish is one of the best places your TIME can produce the greatest fruit for Christ. Maybe you’re not called to lead religious education or be a lector at Mass, but each of us have been given gifts that God calls us to use for the service of others. And what a great feeling it is when those gifts are fully realized!
My own mom could sew you a tuxedo if you needed her to. For years she’s given of her talents in repairing vestments and ironing the cloths used during Mass.
Maybe you’re handy with a saw, or a lawnmower, or are a good listener, or a powerful prayer warrior.
Chances are your parish could find a place for you to put these gifts from God to amazing use, even if in the quietest of ways.
So make a commitment to put your gifts to work, by giving up time for the sake of serving others in your local parishes.
This was us two years ago today. Makes me want to pack up the truck and head for the mountains.
The long days of summer often challenge my mommy-frazzled brain that fun and free activities that entertain kids are as elusive as spotting the Loch Ness monster.
But finally (out of desperation) creativity struck my brain. I had an idea that just might occupy the super outgoing and talkative personality of our youngest son Tommy. He loves the video game Legend of Zelda. Like, a lot. So, the idea popped into my head that it might be fun for him to try his hand at stitching a Zelda-themed pillow. Not wanting to overwhelm him with complex designs right out of the gate, we both agreed that the famous Triforce symbol, which represents Link’s ability to harness power, courage & wisdom in order to save Princess Zelda, would be a great and simple pillow design.
I challenged myself to find everything we would need to make this pillow from stuff we already had in our house. And we did. We found an old throw pillow shoved in a linen closet that was no longer in use. We found two old t-shirts (one black and one yellow) that were too small for anyone to wear. We used an old cereal box to cut up and make a stiff Triforce template design for use on the t-shirt fabric. And lastly, we used our simple (and cheap) sewing kit.
So now it was time to get Tommy started on sewing. After getting the Triforce design cut out of the old yellow and black t-shirts, he sewed them together.
Then he had a LOT of stitching to do. Might as well get comfy!
Since the black t-shirt was solid, we figured we’d take a short cut and turn it into a pillow case. We only had to cut off the sleeves and stitch along the top and bottom.
Yep, the pillow works just fine..
There you have it, a homemade Triforce pillow made for free. The only cost was time and my patience.
With this latest edition of Caffeine and Catholicism, a new video series designed to be your quick jolt for living out the Catholic Faith, which we’re producing at my job, I share the FIVE Best Meals at Your Local Catholic Parish.
Yeah, that’s right. Food. We love to shove it in our mouths while zipping through the drive through, but let’s be honest: Food shared amongst friends and family is always better and actually has surprising benefits. Our friends, Fr. Leo Patalinghug from Grace Before Meals and Jeff Young from Catholic Foodie, have been attesting to this for years.
In fact, one Columbia University survey showed that teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are much less likely to have substance abuse problems and more likely to get better grades in school.
Food shared amongst people with common beliefs and common goals and a common focus on knowing, living, and sharing our faith is infinitely more enriching than eating alone.
So what are the best meals to find at your local parish?
Starting with Number Five is Spaghetti Dinners. Not my personal favorite, but they’re easy, kid-pleasing, festive, and casual, with great opportunities for impromptu conversations.
Number Four would be Pancake Breakfasts, often put on by your local Knights of Columbus who use the proceeds to support important initiatives. So you get your griddlecakes with a heaping helping of service to others.
Number Three is the perennial Lenten fish fries, which now often come in healthier options. But I’ll still take my fish fried.
Number Two is after Mass Coffee and Donuts. To this day, my parents are still extremely close friends with people they met at my childhood parish while sharing Krispy Kremes and bad coffee.
But the number one shared meal offered at every single Catholic parish is The Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ which we as Catholics receive as a Community at the shared table of The Lamb’s Supper each time we receive Communion at Mass.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Church – The People of God – “is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body.”
This is not just symbolic thing, but as Lumen Gentium teaches, truly The Eucharist is “The source and summit of the Christian Life.”
Paragraph 1324 of the Catechism says, “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself.”
So yeah, partake of donuts and pancakes, spaghetti dinners and fish fries, but the number one best meal to be found at your local parish is the meal found in the Eucharist at every Mass.
It’s at this meal that we’re brought together as One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It’s the best meal in town.
We’ve launched a new video series at work called Caffeine and Catholicism, designed to be your quick jolt for living out the Catholic faith
In this premiere episode (seen below) we’ll answer the age old question: how do you convert your friends and family?
As I discussed in the video, years ago I worked in the IT industry, leading teams to develop software systems, which gave me the awesome opportunity to work with a wide and diverse range of people.
Around that same time (late 90’s/early 2000’s), I was experiencing a re-awakening of my faith, and an absolutely unquenchable desire to save souls for Jesus Christ.
Like many people, I had friends and family members who had long ago fallen away from the faith, but everyday at my job I worked with people who had no faith at all.
One of my co-workers was a programmer named Ram (short for Sriman), and we went to lunch together frequently where one day I learned that Ram really had no idea who this Jesus Christ guy was.
Here was my opportunity. *I* was going to convert Ram. Over the course of sweet and sour chicken, *I* would get Ram to give his life to Christ.
So I laid it all out. We’re all sinners. We needed redemption. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins so we could go to heaven. It’s all right there in the Bible. Why wouldn’t Ram want that?
But he didn’t. He thought it was a nice story, but meant nothing to him. This was my first experience of eating a major heaping helping of humble pie when it came to sharing my faith.
Over time, I had similar conversations with other friends and family members and they all had the same response: crickets. No interest. Nothing.
Over time – and thanks be to God – I realized that my first problem here is that I wasn’t truly trying to convert Ram for Ram’s sake, or even better, for God’s sake. I was doing it for my own sake, to take credit for it, as if I had a sales quota that had to be met. We seek conversion of souls for the sake of the kingdom of God, so that others choose something not just because we believe it’s a good thing, but because God loves them and wants them to choose God.
So the conclusion I finally came to was that perhaps my witty words of wisdom were not what Ram needed. What would have made a greater impact would be for Ram to see Christ’s light shining through me. Because when we allow the joy of Christ to shine from us, that light of Christ is what will draw people closer to Him, far more than words.
St. Philip Neri said, “First let a little love find entrance into their hearts, and the rest will follow.”
Through our loving actions, our bold loving witness, our lovingly patient example, and sometimes by just lovingly keeping our mouths shut, we can often have major impact on the lives of others. Or rather – Christ THROUGH us – can.
Rather than just seizing opportunities to speak, pray that the Holy Spirit will provide the right moments, and the right words to say.
A bishop once told St. Monica – the mother of St. Augustine, who initially did everything he could to run away from God – to “Speak less to Augustine about God and more to God about Augustine.”
In most cases, private prayer softens hearts far better than beating people over the head with a Scripture stick ever will.
So how do you convert your friends and family?
More than anything, keep in mind that it’s not you that will convert anyone’s heart. It’s Jesus Christ, listening to our prayers and working through willing and loving disciples, that will do the heavy living.
Share your stories (of success and failure) of sharing the faith in the comments below!
A few weeks ago I shared a teaser of a video my office produced for Archbishop’s upcoming pastoral letter on the restored order (to be released on May 24, 2015), which we talked about on TCND Episode #062 a few months ago.
Well now I’m proud to share the full documentary for this project. I’m very proud of my team at work, especially Jason Taylor, the creative production specialist I had to go all the way to Canada to find. He’s amazing and did a fantastic job bringing this production to life.
Hope you enjoy this!
When I first learned to play the guitar in the early 90’s (when I was in my early 20’s), I used to write a new song almost every week. Now I write something new only every couple of years. But writing this new song triggered something cathartic in me that I can’t adequately express. I’m hoping maybe there’s a few more songs left in me.
If you liked this, check out my unique cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”
In our 17 years of parenting, we’ve tried homeschool, private school, and public school.
We desperately (and futilely) attempted on multiple occasions to get our kids into Catholic school, but circumstances (geographical, financial, or flat-out being denied admission) always prevented this. And for multiple reasons we’ve explained in the past in both our book as well as our podcasts here and here (and therefore I won’t repeat here), our attempts at homeschooling were always far less than ideal.
Therefore, our five kids all attend public school.
This week, our 15-year-old freshman son, Walter, was assigned a project for his World Geography class to create a video explaining, “why overpopulation is the worst man-made disaster.”
Here’s the video:
First off, this is one of Walt’s best-produced videos. As his parents, we’re enormously proud of how his skills have increased over the past couple of years, and how he continuously tries to do new and different things using video. Considering he’s just 15, we’re impressed by that alone.
But we’re also impressed with the fact that Walter immediately took issue with the topic. As one of five kids here on earth and several more in heaven, Walter has been raised understanding the value and sanctity of human life and the fact that every person has an innate dignity that must be respected from the moment of conception until natural death.
So to somehow suggest, as Walter’s classroom assignment has, that the existence of people themselves is somehow “the worst man-made disaster” is just absurd.
But Walter, knowing a grade was at stake, did the project, with a caveat. In the description for his video he wrote, “FYI I don’t agree with what a lot of what I said in this video. I only did this and said the things I said for the sake of getting a good grade.”
When Walt and his brother Sam were younger, there were multiple occasions when we had them pulled from their classroom for presentations that we found counter to our Catholic faith or simply just against our core beliefs. In countless situations, we’ve sent emails to teachers letting them know when topics, discussions, and assignments were in opposition to what was happening in our home. We still do that for our other three kids still in elementary and middle school.
But it’s an interesting thing to have kids (who you’ve tried your best to raise in the Catholic faith) attending public high school where their daily existences include having to continually be on the defensive in support of traditional marriage between one man and one woman, to explain to their peers why contraception is contrary to God’s plan, to justify why they struggle (or try to struggle) against pornography and why they attempt to remain chaste. These are things that both our high schoolers, Sam and Walter, have had to encounter time and again.
After watching Walter’s video this morning, both my wife and I encouraged him and congratulated him for being willing to publicly share his personal belief that contraception is wrong. He states this himself near the video’s end.
We then pointed out one of the other detrimental effects of the overpopulation myth can be seen in forced abortions and sterilizations in parts of the world. I encouraged him to visit the website of the Population Research Institute, whose executive director had been a guest on our radio show years ago. While some of the information there has been debated for years, it offers many strong oppositional studies that rally against the myth of overpopulation.
Would I have preferred for him to not have to do this assignment? Yes. But God can bring good out of any bad. And in this case, a 15-year-old posted a YouTube video stating he thinks contraception is wrong. There’s a good chance one or more of his classmates will take notice.
Walter took a stand and became a witness for the faith in which he has been raised.
But the thought came to me: does Walter actually understand what he believes, or does he just believe it because that’s what his mom and dad believe?
After pondering that, I sent Walter this text to encourage him:
“Stand firm in your beliefs. And here’s something else I’ll challenge you with (and this will surprise you): don’t believe stuff just because your mom and dad believe it. But we believe what we believe because of tremendous research and discernment throughout our lives. We trust the Catholic Church’s teachings on things like no contraception because the Church is also the original Church, and the only place where you can receive the Eucharist and the other sacraments. We’re proud of you for sticking to your guns. I wish you didn’t have to make a video espousing something you don’t believe in, though. That’s tough.”
Interestingly, the fact Walter had to make a video in opposition to one of our family’s core beliefs that all life is sacred lead to a follow up text conversation. I encouraged him to take the awesome production quality he brought to this video and start creating videos explaining Catholic stuff for teens from another teenager’s perspective.
The idea seemed to resonate with this 15-year-old trying to figure out the world, trying to understand why we believe what we believe, trying to comprehend the contradictions in this world created by God and inhabited by so many people who don’t want to live for God.
I told him the entire Catholic blogosphere would cheer him on. I hope you’d encourage him to do so, and maybe say a prayer for our teens Walter, Sam, and Ben, as well as all the other teens who are indeed trying to find their place in this world by putting Jesus at the center of their lives.
Very proud of this new video my office produced for an upcoming initiative for the Archdiocese of Denver. I wrote and narrated it, but Jason on my team deserves the credit for the amazing animation and bringing it all together. Stay tuned in 3 weeks for a full-length documentary!