By Alzbeta Volk – blogger, stay at home mama extraordinaire, and owner of Voboril Photography I’ve always been an unfortunately talented procrastinator. I can flit from project to project and take three times as long to get any of them done. … Continue reading
Epiphany is coming up on January 6th! In my short life, I’ve not seen the holiday given much thought, let alone laud, among secular society. Outside of its Christian context, the word epiphany connotes some striking and significant revelation, especially one born … Continue reading
Happy New Year! The theme for this week’s WoW Post is RESOLUTIONS and the following pieces speak to that effect perfectly. As for me, I’m trying to focus on simplifying my life all over the place and I’m starting with … Continue reading
I think it’s important to protect your own soul from impurity – crude or mean lyrics in music, excessive violence, and the ever over-sexualized media in TV, ads, and movies. It’s not easy to do since it calls for withdrawing … Continue reading
______________________________ A goddess wants to be adored; but a humble wife reigns in her home, always pouring herself out adoring God through serving her husband and children.
I have a spiritual accountability partner (henceforth referred to as SAP). Like many souls, my drive and motivation tend to fluctuate and I can’t tell you how this girl helps keep my heart above water. We check up on each other every few weeks and though our discussion frequently strays from the spiritual to the domestic, I’m always inspired at the close of our conversations. We haven’t been doing this for long, but it’s certain that God is working through her to move my soul. The other day we were talking about disciplining young toddlers and she mentioned maintaining “the angelic sweetness of Mary” toward both her little ones and husband. Since our conversation, this phrase has been playing non-stop like a song in my head. I’ve read that angelic sweetness stems from a prayer life that is constant – a life that is centered on God. What’s particularly wonderful to me personally is that my confessor recently advised me to always stay in touch with God; to bring Him everything – EVERYTHING. (Side note: How cool that my SAP and confessor mentioned the same ideas around the same time!) I want to bring God all matters great and simple because I know that without Him, I’m nothing but bad habits on two legs.
Ok – for example :) It’s rough getting out the door to scoot about town running errands with Liam and a [very large and active] in-utero baby boy – I need the diaper bag, keys, my wallet, the to-do list, Liam of course, energy, God’s grace, and a third arm. Hauling everything and everyone out to the car after first setting the house alarm and locking the door is a juggling act; and in this relentless heat of the South, it’s sticky and frustrating. This is the type of thing I want to remember to bring to Christ, asking Him to get the little men and me to the car, strapped in, and on the road. Will disaster strike somewhere between the front door and end of the driveway? Probably not, but knowing that Christ is present in my endeavors strengthens my will profoundly. In bringing Him everything that’s on my heart – each stress and joy – my soul will certainly obtain angelic sweetness. I have long had the desire to be sweet, but could never put my finger on how to go about it. Prayer should not be limited to a routine 15 minutes a day, 20 seconds before dinner, or 1 hour per week; rather, it should be breath, constantly flowing in and out of my soul, receiving the love of God and offering it back to Him. It goes without saying, however, that the virtue of constant prayer develops from these instances of habitual and ritual prayer.
The other part of the concept of “the angelic sweetness of Mary” is the Blessed Mother. Consider how sweet she is – the Queen of even God’s heart. I was thinking the other day about how earth-shattering it would be to have Christ physically present in your family at all times as she and St. Joseph did. The quality of marriage they had must have been HUGE! and that’s what I want. To a certain degree, I’m limited because I wasn’t born without sin like Mary; but if I allow God’s grace in my soul and breathe prayer in and out, I can bring so much more to the table than what I do now. With just one person moving toward a life of prayer and virtue, things change for every surrounding life. My husband is already a “man after God’s own heart” and inspires me because he actively pursues to be even more so; and Liam sets a great example because he hasn’t even sinned yet, so I have to catch up! The truth is that developing angelic sweetness is a feat in itself, but when I do remember to offer Christ the on-goings of my mind and heart, there is nothing more comforting or empowering than His presence in every nook and cranny of my life. With persistence and the grace of God, this extraordinary virtue can become ordinary for my soul.
- My mother-in-law and aunts-in-law threw Thomas a baby shower just this past Saturday. It was so exciting because receiving the new things on his behalf made his imminent arrival a little more real to me. I’m pregnant. WHAT??!! It was a wonderful blessing and everyone had a great time!
- Liam is 17 mos. now and I am LOVING this early-toddler stage! He is so sweet (with a bit of a bite sometimes) and we have a great time. He turned on his radio the other day and “Livin’ On Love” by Alan Jackson came on – he got up from the floor so he could shake his arms and bounce up and down (read: dance), and I swept him up and we laughed and danced and tickled to the whole song. What a BLAST! He is so playful and darling that I know when this passes, I will forever miss it. But at the same time, I’m so eager for the increase in fun his increase in age will allow!
- Of the 7 women I know who were expecting at the beginning of the summer, 2 of them have delivered and 1 is having her baby on Friday! The domino-effect is underway and it won’t be long before it’s my turn! 7 more weeks til Thomas Joseph Gabriel arrives! In the beginning of my pregnancy, I thought it was taking FOREVER but I can’t believe it’s almost over. As of right now, he is pretty active and playful, which I’m sure will grow with his size. My due date is October 15th, but I’m crossing my fingers for an early delivery. Maybe on the 10th – his great-grandma’s, uncle’s, AND grandma’s birthday??
- A big occupant of my time lately has been NESTING. When we found out that Thomas was a boy, I sat down and made a GIANT To-Do list for the house; deadline October 1st (I’d like to have it all out of the way WELL before the littler man arrives). I’m so proud to say that thanks to the unwavering and sacrificial support of my husband, there remains but a small handful of items to check off! I’ll have to post pictures soon, but the boys’ room is painted, decorations hung, bathroom tub re-caulked, living room rearranged, corners de-cluttered and closets purged – among other things. The summer has been VERY productive and so much fun! I’m all about doing it on a dime, too.
- BEST for Last: Andrew is my hero and favorite person. Have I mentioned that? Last week he came home with a dozen roses and just the other night surprised me with a dinner date at a restaurant neither of us had tried! We’ve been having a great time lately and life is happily moving right along. It’s a blessing and sweet comfort to know that (God willing) he will be by my side for the rest of my life.
I’m a big fan of “every little bit helps,” especially since Liam and I are the appreciative Bread-Eaters to our beloved Bread-Winner. I found a few ways to cut home/family costs and I’m looking for more, so I thought I’d break from my usual reflections for a little nickel-n-diming. The income we have has been a huge blessing for us and it’s so important to be excellent stewards and managers of God’s gifts.
Take It Back
I read on Dave Ramsey’s website that there is always new, unused merchandise in any given house. With those things fated to collect dust, the money spent goes to waste, BUT not if you return them. Getting a refund or store credit is a great way to put that otherwise trashed cash back in your pocket so you can really put it to work (depending on the situation, you can even return merchandise without a receipt). I thought, great idea! but I don’t have anything like that laying around here. After a little digging, however, I found a couple of rolls of shelf liner, some unopened furniture pads, two picture frames, and unused home decor. All purchased over time from different places, but they were forgotten or unnecessary. Not only did returning these items put about $50 back in our pockets, but it also cleared a bit of clutter from the house as well. If you can’t take it back for one reason or another, Craigslist!
Turn it Off
While I’m home during the day, I try to use as little electricity as possible to keep our monthly bill down. Our house has plenty of windows so keeping the blinds open allows for a delightful abundance of natural light, eliminating our need for lamps and overheads; I also have big weekend plans to put up a laundry line so we can reduce how frequently we use our dryer; and I keep the A/C warmer than what we usually enjoy and turn a ceiling fan on in whichever rooms Liam and I occupy.
On a side note, we just re-insulated the attic and for two days our A/C didn’t kick on even once. Making investments in your home like that can save pennies in the long run.
I’ve mentioned Swag Bucks before, but it bears re-promoting. I use Swag Bucks so I can rack up points to redeem for Amazon gift cards. THEN I use the gift cards to purchase diapers for Liam (and soon Little Boy #2), which already come at 30% off if you’re part of the Amazon Moms program. I once worked the gift cards and the discounts so well that an order for 200 diapers came to 19 cents with free shipping. That was the most satisfying 19 cents I’ve EVER spent. Even without working it that well, I can still get a $45 box of diapers for $15 and I’m all about saving that kind of money. Because I’m not a major contributor to our income, I work Swagbucks pretty diligently so we can have cheap or free Pampers. (Most major diaper companies offer point systems, too, which gets you even more for your dollar.) Forget the diapers, though – put the Swag Bucks toward anything you want! You can get points for searching, playing short videos, taking polls, etc.
Couponing is good. Couponing plus discounts is great, but throw in store credit and it’s just brilliant. Several other pharmacies have reward systems, but my store of choice is CVS. Just within the past few months, I’ve saved over $100 using my ExtraCare Card, which doesn’t include the ExtraCare Bucks (store credit) they offer with a few deals. Today I earned $3 in ExtraCare Bucks from an initial purchase, which I then put toward an originally $4 gallon of skim in a separate transaction. Total for that purchase? $1. I will totally take cheap milk. You can work things that way, OR you can take the store credit and put it toward a deal that will earn you even more, which couponers call “rolling.”
Because we lost our car not too long ago, we put the insurance money and my beautiful pickup toward a Honda Odyssey. We are officially a single-vehicle family now and while it’s slightly inconvenient on occasion, it cuts back on gas and insurance costs BIG time; PLUS it requires our lives to be a bit more structured with more communication about Andrew’s and my respective plans for each day. For days when Andrew takes the Odyssey, I have an arrangement with another at-home neighbor in case I need to take a little person (or myself) to the emergency room. AND the fact of the matter is that when I’m at home, I don’t go out and spend money anywhere – gas station, grocery store, Starbucks or Target; which means that we can stretch our dollars across more blocks on the calendar. The whole effort has been great for our family and the pros certainly out-weigh the small inconveniences.
Tell me how you save! Penny pinching can seem like a burden or it can be a thrilling game; it’s pretty satisfying to get things for free or inexpensively. These methods I use are by no means an exhaustive list – even within each approach, there are ways to go deeper and save more.
- Of his own accord, Liam has started picking up bits of grass and leaves from our wood floors and bringing them to me to put in the trash. I can’t help but beam with pride at this. Of course, he thinks that putting things in the trash is a game, but if it actually gets the house clean, who am I to tell him otherwise?? :)
- A HUGE blessing in my life recently is a Bible Study that I joined with my mother-in-law. Just last week I felt spiritually parched and, as I mentioned in my post, I scoured all over the place for something to satisfy my soul. I started reading St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life and the next day started my Bible Study. It’s such a great group of women and we just finished studying James. If you need a good spiritual slap in the face, James is your book. It’s been SO good to be so abundantly spiritually fed!
- Andrew had TWO days off of work this week and it’s been such a nice bonus in addition to the welcomed rain in our area! With a husband home for a couple of days and [slightly] milder temps, there was plenty of time for fishing, errands, ice cream, and lounging.
- Our Little Man #2 is pretty active! Originally I thought this kid would be more laid-back than his big brother, who is already collected and calm; but if he continues at the bumpin’ and kickin’ rate he has now, I’m in for a busy motherhood :)
I’m thirsty. I mean strangely and urgently thirsty. I could go for a tall drink of water at just about any given moment and until my thirst is quenched, I am fixed on getting another refill. It’s been going on for a while and could be part of pregnancy or just southern summer living; but what’s interesting is that I wasn’t aware of this insatiable thirst until today. Back from vacation and beat from readjusting to our normal routine, I foraged in the kitchen, looking for something to satisfy. Nothing seemed appetizing. Fresh fruit? Ham sandwich? Chocolate? No thanks. Running errands, I kept thinking of how easy and refreshing it would be to drive through somewhere for something, but no menu had what I was craving. Finally I came home, put Liam down for a nap, and sat down to a glass of ice water – ahhh… there it is. Simple and perfect. Just what I needed.
And so it goes with my soul. I’m a busy person, an enthusiastic do-er. I love making a list and checking tasks off. These days, I’ve occupied myself with home improvements and nesting – both of which are big thrills for me (as evidenced by my Nesting Notes below). When I complete one item, I glance at my To Do Today List and start another. Phone calls, laundry loads, eager trips to Target. The only thing I really put off is folding and putting away clothes :) Today I checked off everything I had planned, but I still felt an inner nagging as if I had left something unfinished. The floors were clean, the dishes done, as well as other chores, what else could I possibly have to do? Just like earlier when the only thing my body wanted was water, the only thing my soul wants is Living Water. Nothing else will satisfy.
The rector of our parish delivered a strong homily on Pentecost Sunday about the image of the Holy Spirit as water. Images of the Holy Spirit as fire or a dove are pretty common, but considering water brings a different understanding of Who the Holy Spirit is and what He provides. The Holy Spirit inspires and ignites like fire, but also calms and brings peace as with water. The last line of the second reading on Sunday said, “We were all given to drink of the one Spirit,” and I feel like I can’t get enough. In our room we have framed the initial verses of Psalm 63 written in calligraphy, “Oh God, you are my God – for you I long! … for you my soul thirsts, like a land parched, lifeless, and without water.” Life can’t be furthered without water and the spiritual life is no exception. Hands down, my favorite part of the homily on Sunday was when Father quoted St. Iranaeus:
Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven…we need the dew of God.
Without water, flour can’t become bread and feed others. It just sits there without serving a purpose. But add moisture, throw it in a hot oven, and flour can provide and further life for others. How can I serve and love my family if I have no Spirit? It’s amazing how a soul will be so parched as to drink the sand of a mirage, just because it doesn’t know any different. In my physical thirst I scoured the kitchen for the one thing I wanted and in my spiritual thirst, I busied myself with tasks and To-Dos hoping to find some fulfillment; when really the solution was so simple. I have re-started Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (written for married laity so it’s perfect!) and I’m continuing to invite the grace of God to take over my restlessness. My soul will never find peace without the Holy Spirit, just like St. Augustine wrote “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” God is the Sole Satisfier.
- We learned a couple of weeks ago that our new little one is a BOY! I am SO excited to be the mother of two fun, rough-n-tumble little boys. What an honor! I’ve been hovering around the Boys Bedroom aisle at Target (they will eventually share) and glowing at the idea of introducing them, “These are our sons…” SO exciting. Dinosaurs, airplanes, mud and sticks – I can’t WAIT!
- We went on vacation with my family to Lake Okoboji in Iowa last week. I’m about 750 miles from my parents, my sister, and her family (and now officially 4,000 miles from my brother and his family in Alaska who couldn’t make it because of their recent move) so seeing them is always exciting and refreshing. We spent the week on the lake, went to a theme park nearby, took a cruise one evening, and went swimming or played Apples to Apples in any down time. Liam LOVED being with “big kids” and since we’ve come home, he’s even more vocal than he was before.
Dinnertime with Liam…and Jesus (the picture of whom is in a corner of the dining room) :)
Nesting Notes (just for fun):
After we learned that our new baby is a boy, I drafted what was initially a short list of home To-Dos – deadline October 15, the Little Man’s due date. Needless to say, I’m still adding to the endless scroll of tasks, which is organized by room – even the hallway. I’m proud to report that several items are totally checked off, one of which the most daunting and that was the linen closet. It used to be folded chaos of sheets, towels, table cloths with my sewing kit buried, the humidifier hidden, and Andrew’s tool box – YIKES. I’m happy to say that it has since been transformed to clear organization. I fold a set of sheets and then put them all in one corresponding pillow case. On Clean Sheets Day, I just grab a pillow case and BADA BING! it already has everything in it. This arrangement is superior to rummaging through trying to find all the matching pieces. Simple and easy. I wish I could claim this ingenuity as my own, but really I got the idea from my space-saving-savvy sister :) Folks, I could really REALLY get used to this. The rush is fantastic.
The yearly struggle with what to sacrifice for Lent came as expected. Facebook? The whole Internet? There’s no doubt about it that it’s the computer that I allow to stand in the way of my becoming a more disciplined person. I get so irked when others spend too much time online. And then I realized that old truth – the fact that what we often recognize in others can be found within ourselves - directly applied to me.
It was while this thought and discernment process was going on when I read this blog post. The author, Lindsay, is a friend of my sister’s and she’s a very thoughtful wife and mother. She proposed not just ridding herself of Facebook or extra time online, but the computer entirely. Taking a few weeks to prep for this endeavor – letting people know how to contact her, organizing finances so she wouldn’t need online banking – I can tell you with complete certainty that Lindsay’s computer is OFF this very minute, and will be for the duration of Lent.
Now, there are a few things I must use my computer to do, like writing articles for the Catholic Connection, but aside from what is absolutely necessary, I intend to follow Lindsay’s example of purging myself from all things computer related. I need more time to pray. I NEED more time to pray and I will have it. I need more time to devote to my vocation and family and I will have it. It’s amazing – the night before I began my efforts, I felt so free considering the day ahead, like I had a day off. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that the computer is bad. Not at all, it’s my constant inclination to sit down at it that is decreasing my quality of life.
I will resume blogging after Easter, and until then, use the time to journal, take care of my husband and family, and best and most importantly, PRAY. I will invite Christ to take over my life and will be infinitely happier for it.
Again, I encourage you to read Linday’s post on this challenge and consider to participate in all of it, or at least some. Go outside. Take your dog for a walk. Play with your children. Cuddle with your spouse. Love God and devote all of your time to Him.
I couldn’t think of any one topic I wanted to digest, so here are a bunch of little thoughts:
I have attained the discipline to become a daily-Masser. Andrew has been just wonderful in helping me achieve the motivation to counter any personal hesitation. On the days when I don’t have the virtue to get myself there, it’s enough knowing that I’m responsible for Liam’s exposure to all things Catholic; and more so, since Andrew has asked me to go each day, I do it out of spousal obedience as well. When we’re both prayerful and humble, our marriage is a million times better and we communicate beautifully.
In the News
I recently got a job as a copy writer for our diocesan magazine! My first article is being published TOMORROW and I can’t wait to see it in print! On the otherhand, I’m super nervous too because I know that my short blurb on being a Catholic wife is going to be in the mailboxes of everyone in our diocese – YIKES! God is so good to me. In addition to writing a few articles here and there, I’ll be doing a regular column called Domestic Church starting in July or August. I love marriage so much, my own especially, and God even more so – I can’t wait to be able to put my passion toward this kind of ministry.
For the kids or just for you! Check out kids-in-mind.com before you head to the theater or add a movie to your Netflix queue. It’s a great way to check a movie’s sexual, violent, or profane content before you see it and is far more effective than the current standard ratings. Think up a couple of movies that you think are acceptable, search for them on the site, and use that as a reference of severity per category. While some movies from the mid-nineties and back aren’t there, kids-in-mind.com covers most (if not all) movies from then to now. Andrew and I use it all the time and if a movie has ratings that are too high, we nix it from our list.
Purge Week & the NO BABY ZONE
- Two weeks ago, I declared a PURGE WEEK for my wardrobe and a few closets in the house. I got a full trashbag of give-aways from my closet and dresser and then I filtered through each load of laundry, setting aside at least two pieces of my own clothing. I can’t believe how many t-shirts I had [have] that I don’t wear. Some items weren’t fit to donate to GoodWill - holey high school t-shirts and a pair of old sweats, for example – so I took some scissors to them and made a small pile of rags to keep in the garage. I was so proud of my resourcefulness :)
- Our room has officially become a “NO BABY ZONE.” Liam’s stuff is all over our house: in the kitchen, in the dining room, in the family room, in the bathroom, a few little things in the guest room, and then he has his OWN room; so in an effort to truly make the master bedroom our sanctuary, I rid it of of any and all toys, socks, ointments, teething rings, etc. We do away with extra clutter, AND it makes the space a little more sacred. We still let Liam play with his toys in there, but as soon as he exits, so does his stuff without a moment’s delay. And a sanctuary it has become.
BONUS – In My Kitchen: [Almost] Guiltless Peanut Butter Pie
8 oz. lite Cool Whip
8 oz. lite cream cheese
1 c powdered sugar
1 c reduced fat PB (crunchy or creamy)
Whip it up in a large bowl and put into a ready-made graham cracker crust – freeze for a couple of hours to firm it up and baddabing! it’s done. The pie stands on its own feet, but I like to top mine with crushed pretzels and a swirl of cholate syrup. Savor this sweet recipe courtesy of my sister Jennifer!