"When a soul recognises the will of God and shows a readiness to submit to it entirely, then God gives Himself to such a soul and renders it most powerful succour under all circumstances." - Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Fun things and an attempt at efficiency

I felt so frazzled for most of summer and once school started, I realized it's because I never got a break. Meaning, Aaron doesn't nap when the big boys are home. Which means no break for momma.

Okay, maybe I kind of sucked at prioritizing too.

But now that the big boys are in school, Aaron actually asks me to go lie down with him when he's tired, so now I'm happily typing away at this blog post while he sleeps.

It also helps that I've been working on prioritizing. (See end of post.)

I'm not going to lie, back to school has been realllllly nice. Last year, Aaron was so ridiculous and clingy. And while he still certainly has his moments (um, he's 3), he's come a LONG WAY when it comes to playing independently and not wanting me to hold him every second of the day. So, so nice.

So anyways. I've been wanting to share some fun things and what I've been doing to be more efficient...because isn't that what blogging used to be??

Prayer Wine Chocolate shirt

I won Amy's giveaway and got to pick anything in this shop section, so of course I picked the shirt because my name is Jen and I like shirts. It's sooo soft.

Frame Your Day: Daily Prayer + Productivity Journal

Katie from The Approachable Life sent me her new journal, and oh my gosh, I love it. Even if you're terrible at keeping up with journals (I'm guilty of that a lot), she still has so many awesome tools to get you going. She breaks things up beautifully too so you don't get overwhelmed! Plus, it's Catholic, which is awesome. (She does have a non-denominational version too.)

Sometimes I don't fill everything out on these kinds of things, but I still get a lot out of reading through it. I totally finished a project a couple weeks after I got this in the mail! #motivation

You can get the physical copy on Amazon or a digital copy (which you can print over and over) on Etsy.

Kindred Forest Co. 

If you follow Surprised By Marriage (or any Catholic blogger, ha) you've probably seen this, but Kindred Forest Co. came out with these adorable wooden saint medals. They sent us the men's bracelet with St. Raphael (the patron saint of our marriage this year!) and I immediately regretted getting one for Logan instead of myself (I'm so self-sacrificial, I know). So I spent some of my birthday money to buy myself a St. Michael bracelet and just the St. Raphael medal so I could put it on a chain I already had. I just love having two archangels covering my back.
If you click through our affiliate link, we get a small purchase (please and thank you!): https://kindredforest.co/?ref=surprisedbymarriage

Trying to be efficient

I've been working on prioritizing so I can get allllll the things done that I need to since my to-do list is like neverending. To prevent the Internet Time Suck (hahaha, remember when I wrote that post?), I make a list of things that I need to do on the computer at some point, or I make a stack of papers with bills and whatever else that require a computer. And once the boys are on the bus (which is pretty early), I do dishes/laundry/errands/whatever before I finally sit down with my list or stack of papers and get to it. It also serves as motivation to get everything else done first!

Although I like to start the day with an empty sink, I tend to leave dishes in the sink after that until the big boys get home from school. Because I can actually do dishes while still talking to Landon (who talks nonstop when he gets home). I can't write, edit, pay bills, or anything that requires mental focus while Landon is trying to talk to me. Does that make sense? Just trying to be more present to my kids, and I admit I have a big advantage now that they're in school.

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Gosh, I could write more but I'll stop now. Maybe I'll be more consistent with blogging now that summer is over!

Before you go, hit me with an efficiency tip! I'm taking notes.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Recent Reads (vol.18)

2019 Reading Challenge: 30 out of 50 books read. 2 books ahead!

Books I'm reading in 2019 list: 13 read out out of 23 (and I'm in the middle of 2 others)


I'm still feeling like I don't read enough, which is crazy, since I'm about to share 10 more books. But seriously. Many days I don't read at all! Makes me sad.


Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines

I was a little disappointed by this one. It felt eerily similar to The Magnolia Story, plus more stories of dumb things Chip has done. He also came across as a little conceited? I don't know. (I love the Gaines though!) Read The Magnolia Story instead, if you haven't already...it's muuuch better.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Oh, I loved this one. It just might be my fave Austen novel now! (Disclaimer: I know I've said this before. And I still haven't read Mansfield Park yet.) The movie was good too. I think there's two that I watched actually, and I forget which one I liked better...

Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Alice von Hildebrand

You know me, I'm a big fan of memoirs. I thought this was pretty intriguing! Alice shares about her experiences teaching back when women did not teach. She really got me interested in her marriage with Dietrich von Hildebrand, so I'm currently reading his biography written by her. They are such an interesting couple!

33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley

This was my second time going through this, and Logan joined me. I highly recommend doing this with your spouse! It was so fruitful. The devil wasn't too happy about it (seriously, so many ridiculous things happened that month), buuuuut Momma Mary had our back.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Well, this is not what I expected. It's actually not the story of a happy marriage. (Not gonna lie...I'm a sucker for a good marriage book). It's a bunch of her magazine columns all put together, including one about her divorce. I guess she talks about her current (happy?) marriage at some point, but I forget because I really lost interest halfway through. She is funny, and I thought some of the columns were interesting...but it was a little disappointing. Side note: I only considered this book (and finished it) because it was my pick for the reading challenge I do with friends. June's category was a book from Reese Witherspoon's book list.

Theology of the Body in One Hour by Jason Evert

It definitely takes longer than an hour to read, but I thought this was a great intro to TOB.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This was a good one. It took me a few months to get through, and I will be revisiting for sure. I just need some reminders of the techniques talked about...

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I was really intrigued by the concept of this book. And while I was a tad disappointed- since I already do a lot of the things he mentioned - it did give me a lot to think about. Especially as someone who has an online ministry!

Be Brave in the Scared by Mary Lenaburg

Despite not being the best-written book, Mary's vulnerability and honesty made this a good (and easy) read for pretty much anyone! I love how she shares the hard stuff.

Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

I reread this one for book club, and it's such a great story. It's an easy and riveting read if you're in a reading slump!


I normally ask y'all what good books you've been reading lately, but I don't need anymore books to add to my TBR list 😂 But if you have a book you absolutely think I MUST read, tell me!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

What I'm loving lately (summer '19 edition)

It's been almost 7 months since I've shared what I'm loving lately, so here we go!

Marco Polo. This is my new favorite app, and I'm not sure why I didn't know of it before. It's basically where you can leave someone voicemails, except it's a video. Which is SUPER helpful when you need to show somebody something or explain something much quicker than a text...and on your own time. Plus it's fun seeing the faces of friends that live 1-2 hours away from me!

Poldark. I had already seen all 4 seasons, but when I saw the DVDs at the library, I decided to rewatch the series. But this time, I convinced Logan to watch it with me! (He did NOT want to, but I was like, "no, we're watching it.") And he ended up REALLY enjoying it. Plus it made for some really good conversation between us, because SO MUCH DRAMA. And a lot of it was marriage-related, which is totally up our alley. Now we just have to wait for season 5, which starts on PBS in September!

How God provides. In May, I was kind of stressing about our finances because we haven't had any extra video income this year from Logan's side business. It was not long after that I was offered the part-time job (mentioned in this post)! Unfortunately, my little income will basically be paying medical bills (ughhh), so I'm not going to lie when I say I'm still stressed.

BUT God still provides in little ways. I've been needing new tennis shoes for a long time, but they're just so dang expensive. Well. I was at Wal-Mart the other day and noticed a bunch of shoes on clearance. They had girls tennis shoes marked down to $6! I was looking at them and trying to find my nieces' sizes when an employee told me she had to take $2 off. So that made the shoes $4! I had recently learned that I can wear girls size (i.e. a girls 5 is similar to a women's 7, or something like that), so I ended up getting me 2 pairs too, because when the heck will I ever find $4 tennis shoes again? It's a small thing, but it really reinforced the idea that God really does provide.

Hurricane Barry memes. This so-called storm Barry was the most ridiculous thing ever. But it also produced the BEST memes.


Aaron talking like a big boy. It's like a switch turns on when our kids turn 3 - they start talking like a big boy. And I can tell Aaron loves that he can "keep up" with the rest of us now verbally. We were watching a movie last night when I started talking to Logan, and Aaron (who was between us) said, "Be quiet. I'm trying to watch the movie!" 😂
He's such a ham.

Google Docs. Why, yes, call me a nerd if you'd like. I've been using Google Docs since I got my Chromebook last year, but it wasn't until recently that I discovered the feature of letting people suggest edits. It's perfect for blogging stuff - since I've been editing other people's stuff and letting other people edit my stuff - AND for my new part-time job, which also includes editing.

Cow Appreciation Day. We went for the first time ever because it was Chase's birthday, and let's just say it will be a tradition from now on. You just can't beat a $4 meal for 5 people! (Plus entertainment for the kids.)

Monday, July 1, 2019

Summer fun craziness (this blog isn't dead yet)

It's funny how I thought I would have so much free time once all of our boys were potty-trained and more independent and all of that. But what actually happened is that I'm actually even busier. Whenever I'm pregnant or with a baby, I'm like NOPE to allllll the things. But now? I'm like, I could do that.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely say no to things. But I also feel God calling me to do a lot of things right now. We're still trucking along with the Surprised By Marriage stuff (can you say a prayer for our discernment regarding the financial part of that please?), I'm still involved with plenty at our church, and I recently got a part-time gig doing some writing, editing, and other stuff. I've never ever been paid to write until now so it's pretty exciting.

It never fails - whenever life gets crazy, I just want to write. Do I always make time for it? Sadly, no. (Although now I have to make time for it! Ha.) I've been keeping a journal for 16 years (gosh, that sounds insane when I put it in black and white), and even though I journal MUCH less than I used to, it's still what I go to when life is overwhelming. And for some reason, I always turn to blogging when there's a million other things I could be doing. I guess that explains why this here blog exists almost a decade later.

Life is actually pretty good, though, despite the craziness. Logan surprised me with the best anniversary date ever (check out our Instagram highlights under "10 year anniversary"), we're kind of in a sweet spot with the kids, and Jesus has been giving me some serious consolations in prayer. Life is not perfect, by any means, but when I think about some of the rough periods we've gone through in recent years....this is nothing.  There's been a lot of answered prayers, great family moments, and well, I can't complain.

June ended up being CRAZY but it was fun at least. And now for some pictures, because you know I love some old school blogging:
 Our annual birthday bash was fun, as usual. (It was the first time I didn't make cookie cake for their party because that's how crazy June was. #costcoforlife)

 It was Disney themed!

Logan made Toodles in the top left corner to put over the dart board because he is ridiculous 😂 and I always think a pinata (top right) is a good idea until the kids start swinging the bat around...

VBS was fun and exhausting! This was on crazy hair day.

We survived VBS! And my kids are so cute sometimes, I can't stand it.
We went to the zoo today because it was the first day all summer that all 5 of us were home with zero plans on the calendar. 

The women's World Cup has also been adding to the fun! I'm hoping July is our chill month before the school craziness of August starts, but you know how life goes.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The sweet spot (supposedly)

When Aaron was a baby, and we knew we wanted/needed a bigger break between our next baby, we mentioned how it would be REALLY nice if he were potty trained before we had another baby. But since NFP tends to make you open to a baby sooner rather than later (at least that's been our experience), we figured that wouldn't actually happen.

We didn't potty train the other boys until they were 3 and 3.5, but at some point we realized that Aaron would be probably be ready before that.

We were right. Because Aaron is completely potty trained (even at night!), and it took less than 2 weeks. We started a month before his 3rd birthday (which is in a couple weeks).

(Aaron actually tried to potty train himself back in February, but since we were going to Disney in March, we were like NOPE and just used pull-ups for the first time ever because we were not ready to go all the way.)

It's really weird. Gone are the days of diapers and baby things. And while we will jump back into that one day, God-willing, we're trying to enjoy this sweet spot while we're in it.

We keep having older parents tell us how hard the teenage years are, and while I know the phrase "bigger kid, bigger problems" has some truth to it, I think those parents also forget how exhausting and overwhelming little kids can be. You have to do literally everything for them - change their clothes, brush their teeth, buckle their seat belts, fix their food, etc.

I think parents also forget how hard it is to make your marriage a priority when there's always a baby or toddler waking up or screaming or needing something only you can give them. Logan and I talk often about how one day, we will be able to just leave the house! No babysitter or anything because our kids will be able to fend for themselves for a couple hours. Sure, teenagers can be hard (although honestly, my siblings and I were not...and that's coming from my parents), but there are a lot of perks too. Not only the independence, but being able to talk to them about mature things and realizing that you raised some pretty awesome human beings. (Well, here's hoping, anyways.)
A trip to the grocery store is still crazy but it's probably considerably less crazy than it was 2 years ago.

Our life has drastically changed in the last 18 months. We went from 2 in diapers to no diapers at all. Two of our kids can buckle themselves in the car and the third needs just a little assistance. They can all go to the bathroom by themselves (with the exception of Aaron when he poops) and change their clothes all by themselves.

Landon just turned 7 and has been voluntarily doing the dishes some days. Any 3 of our boys known how to feed the dog and let her outside. They can get their own snack, and the two oldest can fix a bowl of cereal and make their own sandwiches.

There are certainly still plenty of tantrums and fights (oh my gosh, seriously), but we can send the boys outside to play without having to hover around them.

They still sometimes take forever to fall asleep at night, and often wake up earlier than they should...but they do sleep through the night.

We know this is almost the little sweet spot between babies and teenagers, and we're grateful for being able to experience it. It's really got me thinking about the stage before this and the stage that comes after, and I'm not sure you can say one is harder than the other. It all depends on the temperaments of the kids AND parents, and a million other factors.

Because even though life is easier is many ways, I'm still tired. Being a mom is exhausting. I've almost forgotten how even more exhausting pregnancy and babies can be, and it wasn't that long ago! (So seriously, I think older moms forget big time.)

Instead of saying to moms of littles "the teen years are even harder," I think we need to start saying "enjoy the stage you're at!" Because every stage, from babies to teens and everything in between, has its own struggles and hard moments. Take it from a parent in that supposed sweet spot. It's called being a parent!

I think as long we accept that our kids will do stupid things, and we remember that God can redeem anything, we will be okay. Enjoy the stage you're in now, because the next one is going to be different!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Confessions (vol. 3)

My #1 reason why I'm glad it's summer: not having to wake up at 6am. (Sorry, Logan, I know you still have to wake up even earlier that that...)

As soon as I found out about all the free events happening at our library this summer, I wrote all of the ones that looked cool in my planner. Because I am a dork.

Sometimes I wish Logan and I could have our own reality show. (Yes, I know that's the most ridiculous thing ever, especially coming from an introvert.)

We currently don't have Prime or Netflix and it's been fine! Totally fine. We get movies from the library (freeeeee) and can watch current shows via our Fire stick. Plus Formed.org.

We do, however, plan on getting Netflix in July for season 3 of Stranger Things. Caaaaan't wait. (And to think Logan had to convince me to watch that show because I'm a wimp.)

I deleted my Facebook app as we take a break from Surprised By Marriage stuff and um, I wish I didn't need to be on it ever.

I've also been thinking a lot about the balance between social media and real life and I just really don't have any answers. While I'd love to cut it out completely, I also feel like we're supposed to be on it. Doing God's work and all. So I've been thinking about what I need to do to make that balance better. Share your ideas/tips with me!

Speaking of news....we're NOT pregnant. LOL. But my goodness, we've been getting a lot of questions about our when our next baby is coming. Answer: whenever God says! (And I assure you, you will know when that happens.)

That being said, I'm going to repeat something I said in my last confessions post: Pretty sure I'd be okay never being pregnant again. (And I will spare you all my crazy thoughts about that.)

Also from last confessions post: Buuuut I don't think our family is complete.

But I can't help but think...what if it IS complete? I know fully well that a baby - and carrying said baby to term - is not guaranteed. (Okay, end crazy fertility thoughts.)

Logan and I are going on a 2-night anniversary getaway and I can't even explain to you how excited we are about it. Seriously. You'd think we were going to Disney again but nope, just a little beach town because we get cheap hotel rates at a nice hotel.

I do wish we could do a bigger trip for our 10th anniversary but we didn't plan it very well with going to Disney a few months before. And actually the only way we're able to swing the getaway financially is because we won money at a fundraising event! #Godprovides

I've been having all kinds of crazy thoughts lately and feeling like some big suffering is headed our way soon which maybe it's just me being melancholic (or hormones? shrug) but if it's true, well...thanks God for the heads up. (Am I crazy? You can tell me I'm crazy.)

I feel God realllllly nudging me to get an hour at the Adoration chapel again (we haven't had one since Chase was born) and I keep resisting. But, like, I know I need to. And after thinking that for like a month, someone randomly asked me to take their chapel hour yesterday and it's like God is telling me, "Here's your reminder!" Because the hour was just what I needed.

I have Charles Dickens' David Copperfield on my list of books to read this year and when I looked at it the other day and considered starting it, I looked all one thousand pages and seriously reconsidered having it on my list. So please tell me it's an awesome book and that I'll be glad I read it!

Even though I haven't finished the entire Anne of Green Gables series, I watched the movie The Continuing Story (because I had a feeling it'd make me mad if I watched it AFTER the books) and oh my gosh...why? Why was I wishing Anne would end up with the crazy dude - the writer, I forget his name - instead of Gilbert?

Logan's birthday is next week and I keep forgetting.

We do plan on seeing the new Aladdin movie since that was our fave Disney movie when we were dating. We may sing A Whole New World together from time to time. No shame.

Maybe I should stop now before these confessions get too crazy.....but first, tell me something crazy about you!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Recent Reads (vol.17)

2019 Reading Challenge: 20 out of 50 books read. 3 books ahead!

Books I'm reading in 2019 list: 8 read out out of 23 (and I'm in the middle of 3 others)

I've really been feeling that I haven't read as much as I would like lately. I guess I almost always feel like that but it's been bad lately. Guess it's just because spring is a crazy time?? Anyways. Maybe I'm just being dumb because I've finished 9 books since my last book post.

The only physical books I read - the rest were on Kindle.

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery

I'm slowly making my way through the series, and I loved this one like all the rest. (And then I watched The Sequel with Megan Follows. Swoon. Gilbert is adorbs.)

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

This was Abby's story about leaving Planned Parenthood. It was really good and the movie was much better than I was expecting! Of course the book had a lot more details that I wish had been able to fit into the movie, but I still recommend both. (The movie was super intense though, so maybe not for highly sensitive folks.)

A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child by Connie Rossini

I first read this when I was pregnant with Aaron because Landon is choleric. But since Aaron is also choleric, I desperately needed a reread. Parenting choleric children is no joke! I'll be revisiting this every couple of years, I'm sure.

Amazing Grace for Married Couples by Jeff Cavins, Matthew Pinto, and Patti Armstrong

12 stories of couples who were on the brink of divorce. It would be encouraging for couples who may think their situation is beyond hope. Because seriously, some of these couples' situations seemed impossible! But God's grace transformed them.

The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva

This took me awhile to get through because you can't just read it nonstop. It's basically a bunch of quotes, which isn't what I was expecting. But it definitely has some gems.

33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley

This was my second time doing this and it was awesome all over again. I've always appreciated St. Therese but reading this again has made me realllllly love her.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

I only read this because of my reading challenge with friends. April's challenge was "a book written by an author with your initials." Someone suggested Jack London and then I found this at a book sale for like a quarter! It was pretty interesting and made me look up the Klondike Gold Rush. Considering it was published in 1903, I thought it was written really well.

Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoing Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us by Fr. Wilfried Stinissen

This will probably go on my fave books of the year list. So good.

The Appalling Strangeness of God: The Story of Ruth Pakaluk, Convert, Mother, and Pro-Life Activist

I listened to this for a book club and was a little conflicted. I was definitely inspired by her attitude as she dealt with breast cancer and the possibility of dying, and it was cool hearing from her husband. But I just was not a fan of the narrator! It was a struggle to get through at times. But Ruth's story was definitely inspiring so maybe try reading instead of listening. (Both ebook and audiobook are on Formed.org, FYI)

Alright, friends, what good books have you read lately?


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