Summer Recap + End of Summer Family Awards

And just like that, summer is over.

This summer, unlike our past ones together, was very low-key. No big cruise vacation to the Caribbean in June and no weekend trips to different destinations other than the one time we stayed at my in-laws for 4 nights down in the Virginia Beach area. It also rained almost the entire time we were there so there wasn’t even a beach visit, but thankfully the kids got plenty of pool time in their backyard.

Our two biggest news of the summer was Jon getting hired at a local print & design shop at the end of July. His commute is 20 minutes each way and it’s basically the dream commute (apart from working from home) considering his commutes to Arlington from our house previously were unbearable.

The other piece of big news was deciding to go the homeschooling route. We did a homeschooling novena to St. Ignatius of Loyola in late July to offer up this decision to the Lord, and during and afterwards we just felt a tide of peace in the decision to homeschool. I received the green light from my studio directors on shifting my work hours to 2pm-10pm so I’m able to focus my time with the kids for all of our activities and lessons; this works better given that Jon’s work schedule isn’t flexible, so with this shift I only have 3.5 hrs or so of wrangling the kids as I work until Jon gets home to relieve me.

Despite the indefinite long days and nights ahead for both my husband and I, the reminders to take everything a day at a time, establishing/sticking to strict routines, setting up personal time (with hobbies & prayer), and getting ample rest—I pray these will keep our heads above water. I also don’t take for granted the support from work and my team, and the resources the company has been providing to help parents navigating these uncharted waters.

In spite of not being able to go to many places, we’ve recommitted to creating more intentional spaces within our home to maximize rest, productivity, and play—for us both and the kids. Jon relocated his PC/gamer stuff to another side of the basement rec room, while the opposite end has become our homeschooling space, adjacent to the sliding door so we can get sufficient natural daylight. My office upstairs is also a work in progress. Since I will be working from home for the foreseeable future, we agreed that it makes sense to invest more deliberate thought and money behind the design and space planning of it. After years, I finally purchased a file cabinet and purged through paperwork and sorted all of our important files. It felt good. The concealed paperwork makes a world of a difference—who would’ve thunk…

On the social front, we’ve been fortunate to meet up with our regular group of friends and their kids. A handful of times we’ve done backyard bonfires + dinners together; it’s been really therapeutic to maintain this time together considering how lonely we get, despite being a family of four cooped up in a house. We’ve also had some outdoor time with my side of the family at my parents’ backyard. While each visit has been so wonderful, it makes me long more and more for the day when we can embrace them tightly and have the kids stay there.

Since the end of May, we’ve also been able to attend Holy Mass as family each Sunday. This by far has been the greatest consolation during these troubling, uncertain times. Our parish has been doing a great job in following safety protocols while more importantly maintaining reverence of the sacred liturgy, for which I am very grateful. We have finally broken our bad habit of getting to Mass late before Covid hit. Sometimes it was inevitable (because kids and their last minute needs), but other times it was admittedly due to poor time management on our end. Needless to say, Mass being closed to the public for months deeply changes you. Plus if you don’t get there early enough, they might have to turn you away due to meeting capacity requirements.

To wrap up our summer and gear us up for all that’s to come, my husband and I got to attend a convocation at our parish on spiritual warfare. Doing this together for a day and a half, without the kids, really helped recenter us a married couple in really understanding once again our vocation as spouses and parents.

One poignant thing I wanted to share was when we arrived back home after the convocation ended. His recently retired parents babysat the kids, and when we returned home, our former mountain of dirty clothes were all laundered & folded and all the clutter in our garage was organized. There was also multiple cooked dishes or prepped ones in the fridge, giving us a little break from cooking. Naturally I was slightly embarrassed at these acts of service, but as I was thanking them, my mother-in-law brought up a story around the time when Jon was just baptized as a baby; she was sick and could barely move from her bed. When her sickness subsided, she learned that in addition to the help she got with them tending to baby Jon, her father-in-law did all their mountain of laundry, a memory she never forgot. This also reminds me of the times since March when my parents stopped by with home-cooked meals.

Experiencing again and again these acts of service are tremendous blessings and good moments to exercise humility as they are certainly extensions of God’s great generosity.

On a final note, tonight we did an End of the Summer Family Awards Ceremony at home. Even in just the past three months they’ve grown so much more in size, and even more so, personality. Faith + Family Collective sent us this awesome kit a few weeks ago, and so I’ve been looking forward to doing this with them. There was very little effort on my part, which you know, is a huge help to have such great tools all ready to go! The kids enjoyed the little ceremony we did recalling all the new memories made this summer (including Lucy now potty trained!!!), and also for them to be recognized on their wonderful qualities and virtues.

Tomorrow we officially begin our homeschooling adventure! We’ve been slowly rolling into the routine these past few weeks so I’m excited to actually dive in now, and the kids are so ready. At this point with all that we juggle it’s all really just a complete surrender of our lessons and plans to the Holy Spirit. And taking it all one day at a time, of course. Prayers are certainly welcome; let us know, too, if you have any prayer intentions!

Review: The Ultimate Catholic Bundle

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the Ultimate Catholic Bundle (August) in return for my honest review in this post.

Happy August, friends! Here we are nearing the end of August and I’m trying to figure out where summer has gone. As we begin the farewell tour of summer 2020 and greet a new school year just around the corner, organization and staying rooted in prayer are what keep me from losing my mind as a full-time WFH mom who will also be donning the “teacher hat” this year as we homeschool for the first time. (Pray for us, please!)

Since the beginning of this month I began using The Ultimate Catholic Bundle from Kathy at iamHis365.com. Like many liturgical-structured, organizational planners, what I value most in this particular arena is that it makes it so simple to center my day, week, and month on our faith, specifically aligned with the liturgical calendar. The Ultimate Catholic Bundle serves to that capacity extremely well. Because no family is the same in their faith & family journey, ample tools are provided in this Bundle and there is the flexibility within it to accommodate each family as they see fit. I haven’t had a chance to do a Lectio Divina for each Sunday’s Mass readings, but I am able to do the St. Monica Novena, which is still wonderful. If anything, this resource is a good invitation for me to consider Lectio Divina (and other reflections) more and more because of the fact that it is readily available for me to use. These and much more are simply provided as resources for families to select with the goal to remain rooted in prayer all year long.

Here are graphics of how the Bundle is broken up (click to enlarge):

As you can can see, it is broken up is by 5 P’s – this was August’s, specifically:

  1. Plan
    • Monthly Calendar
    • Weekly Planner Pages
  2. Pray
    • 30 Day Prayer Journal Pages (Thanksgiving, Repentance, Praise, Supplication, Blessings, Protection)
    • Novena Checklist
    • Litany to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
  3. Ponder
    • Scripture Reading Checklist
    • Lectio Divina Guide
    • Short Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
    • Marian Prayer Journal Pages
  4. Polish
    • Art Prints: Hail Mary Prayer, St. Augustine Quote, To Jesus Through Mary
  5. Play
    • 3 Coloring Pages

Additional notes:

  • It follows the 1962 Traditional calendar and each month incorporates the dedication of the month (August – Immaculate Heart of Mary).
  • It is designed to support our practice of our Catholic faith thus the Bundle takes off any effort I would otherwise need to make for incorporating the liturgical aspect to our planning and already has available the corresponding novenas and prayers of the month.
  • My kids enjoy the coloring pages, and it is super helpful that I can print multiples of one print since I basically have twins and they need the same of everything. :)
  • The Art Prints are also what we will regularly rotate in our homeschool room as they learn more formal / ejaculatory prayers.
  • One practical thing I like is that it’s not a bulky notebook that I have to carry with me. I like how it’s just a print out of the month ahead that I can hole-punch and add to my slim folder with fasteners along with other homeschooling plans. It’s great for consolidating planning needs together.
  • Because they are print outs, I also have the option to display pages on our fridge or in our homeschool room/office as well, if not in my folder.

If you’re interested in taking the next step, each new Bundle is released on the 20th of every month. As mentioned earlier, the Bundle provides flexibility in how you plan for yourself and your family, so it’s released at least two weeks before the following month so that you have time to review the Bundle and decide on & print what and how you see fit. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a big fan of the flexibility!

As part of this review I’m offering readers a 50% off discount code for the first two months of the subscription. Click here for the link for that code or simply enter “BLOG50” in the check out. The September bundle will incorporate the Seven Dolors (Sorrows) of Mary.

Thanks for your time, and know of my prayers for each of you as you gear up for the year. Over here in our household we are depending on the Holy Spirit to take the lead as this year continues to be a year of many firsts.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!

Inspired Interiors: Building Character

Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy from Pexels

If there is one significant thing older, custom homes have that new, builder grade homes usually lack (depending on your budget), is unique character & charm. As an owner of a builder grade home this was something I knew from the get-go, and something I was ready to sacrifice. Though, who’s to say that should stay that way?

I give props to parents with kids who decide to tackle significant fixer uppers. This was a consideration we had, especially as a person who deeply appreciates architecture & design, but it was rather daunting thinking to do so with one kid who was just over a year old, and another newborn, and two full-time jobs outside of the home. Recalling that stage of our life is even exhausting. ;)

And so, that route wasn’t for us. We went the new construction route and haven’t looked back! What I found to be lacking initially only proved there to be unlimited opportunities to take our rather basic shell and go through the process of making it ours, from furniture and furnishings to especially architectural/design features – all of which would add character & charming elements. I refer to any home project as work on our big ‘ol white, blank canvas. So I return to my question from earlier, who’s to say that should stay that way? It doesn’t have to, at all.

For this month’s round-up of Inspiring Interiors (well, some exteriors, too), here are the architectural/design features I want to introduce:

  1. Crittal style doors
  2. Corbels at door frames
  3. Vintage doors
  4. Hardware substitutes
  5. Faux cedar exterior posts
  6. Window flower boxes
  7. Garage pergola

As a starter, I envision installing a crittal style door look at the doorway of our study/office, which is also at the entryway of our home. I love that this as an architectural element provides separation with a literal partition yet doesn’t compromise the generous amount of natural light from the four windows of the room… nor does it feel like it’s closed off – which is important to me.

Anyway, my hope down the road is to gather more thoughts and tips as we get to these projects. Maybe this will inspire you, too, to think as well of ways to add character and charm to your spaces!

Scroll through the board below on this post or visit my Pinterest to see what I’m dreaming up.

Inspired Interiors: Beams, Texture, Subdued Hues

Here’s this week’s round-up of interiors that are inspiring me. This post is the first of many that I will feature as part of the Inspired Interiors series on my blog. In this post I’m talkin’ a whole lot of reclaimed wood, rich stone & brick textures, distressed furniture & furnishings, light walls & cool, earth tones, and… did I already say wood?

Here are my favorites that are a mix of the refined farmhouse + refined rustic styles (scroll through). Share with me which ones really draw your attention, and why!

When determining the kind of space you desire, inspiration images are an easy way to narrow down a variety of things, from a certain overall look to a design/architectural feature to accent pieces. These will contribute toward planning for yourself an optimal space that is both visually appealing and functional. Call out what you like and think why, save/pin it, and build from there.

Remember the Joy of Your Salvation

House projects aside, last week was also a week of celebrations in our domestic church. With all the unrest and uncertainty of the world and within our lives, this was a week we really looked forward to. On the 28th we celebrated my 31st birthday and on the 30th, Jon and I celebrated five years of marriage. Here are highlights from our week.

The day before my birthday we made an afternoon trip to Colonial Beach, VA, which to our surprise was an easy 45 minute drive, give or take. It was a perfect Spring day – 80s, moderate humidity, and the beach was bare making social distancing practically effortless. Despite the little presence at the beach, what felt so normal was sitting on the sand, listening to & watching the waves crash, and walking along the shore.

The rest of the day the kids kept telling us how much they loved our day together and kept asking if we could come back. It was so good for us to be out there; so healing – physically and mentally. Also a really awesome part about this particular location is that the town’s Catholic Church and rectory was literally behind us, so the reality of Christ’s True Presence in the tabernacle only being 100 yards away was comforting. It was an “I’m here” nudge.

On the drive back, Jon surprised me and said we’d have the opportunity to attend Mass privately for my birthday. Of course, in true Fatima fashion, I cried tears of joy. It was really the perfect gift.

The morning of my birthday Jon and the kids made waffles from scratch (thanks to Magnolia Table Volume 2), fruit salad with simple syrup + mint, and bacon. Of course, bacon! Then we got ready for Mass. This would be the first time the kids would attend (Jon and I attended 1-2 times since quarantine began to help assist with live streaming), and as expected, they were super disruptive at times.

After Mass I asked our pastor if he could hear my Confession, and he happily obliged. I hadn’t cried that much during a Confession in really long time. It was so freeing and healing for my soul, and I am so grateful for the gift of that powerful sacrament.

The next celebration was our wedding anniversary. It’s so crazy to think about how time has flown, and how crazy this journey has been.

To celebrate, we first attended Sunday vigil Mass at our former parish and the place where we got married, St. Rita in Alexandria, VA. I can’t tell you how much we missed this place, and it was good to see our former pastor again; he baptized both James and Lucy. To my great surprise, the kids were very well-behaved and were barely disruptive. I guess that was their anniversary gift to us! We also got to receive the Eucharist for the first time in three months. More tears.

Afterwards we got our wedding cupcakes from Buzz Bakery, picked up a tray of Italian food from Mia’s Italian Kitchen in Old Town, and went back home to feast as we finished watching the rest of our wedding videos.

I also wanted to share a reflection I had earlier that morning. This year has been the most difficult year of our marriage thus far, so much so that our cross felt too heavy to bear at times. Though we suffered in more ways than we could have imagined, we also experienced a new depth of God’s grace and mercy in ways we hadn’t before.

The Magnificat reflection I read was from Blessed Charles de Foucauld, titled “Our Only Concern: Following Him”:

All we are trying to do is be one with Jesus, to reproduce his life in our own, to proclaim his teaching from the rooftops in our thoughts, words, and actions, to let him rule and live in us. He comes into us so frequently in the Holy Eucharist—may he establish his Kingdom within us!

If he gives us joys, we should accept them gratefully: the Good Shepherd gives us such sweet grasses to strengthen us and make us fit to follow him later along dry pathways.

If he gives us crosses, we should embrace them. To be given a cross is the best grace of all: it is to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus more closely than ever, to relieve him by carrying his cross for him, as Simon of Cyrene did. It is our Beloved’s invitation to us to delcare and prove our love for him.

In torments of soul and bodily suffering, let us rejoice and be glad; Jesus is calling us, telling us to tell him we love him, and to go on telling him as long as our suffering lasts.

Every cross, great or small, every discomfort even, is an appeal from our Beloved, asking us to delcare our love and goon doing so while the cross lasts. When we think of it like this, could we not wish that our cross could last forever? It will last long as Jesus wishes. However sweet it may be, however greatly loved, we desire it only as long as it is Jesus’ will for us. Your will, not ours, Brother Jesus.

As for ourselves, we should think no more of ourselves…. We should think only of you, our beloved spouse. We want not what seems good to us, but what is good to you. We ask nothing for ourselves; all we ask is your glory. Hallowed be thy name; thy Kingdom come; thy will be done in your children, in all men.

May these things be done in us. May we give all possible glory to you throughout our lives. May we do your will—may we give all possible solace to your Heart. That is all we want and all we need. We are at your feet, do with us as you will—whatever it may be, do it according to your will. We have no will, no wish except to fulfill your will, to do what seems good to you.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld
Our Marriage Crucifix

After having read that, I knew God was speaking so clearly to us. It was an acknowledgement of the cross of Christ that we, too, bear and the guidance we needed for what we are to do next, so that we can move forward faithfully as husband and wife and as parents for the next fifty, sixty years.

It goes without saying that there is just so much happening in our world, and even within our own family. Our week of celebrations was without a doubt the reminder we needed to remember the joy of our salvation to propel us forward in faith and confidence in following Him during tumultuous times. Yes, there’s unrest and uncertainty in our lives, but our joy is not dependent on these circumstances. True Christian joy is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In your charity, please keep us in your prayers! Know of ours, as well.