Monday, September 22, 2014

A Home With Truth and Beauty (and another giveaway)

In my post about how we do and do not shelter our kids, I mentioned that we choose not to shield our kids entirely from pop culture influences. As with most things, we try to find a middle ground. We don't have cable, but we do have Netflix. They mostly don't listen to the radio, but they do have iTunes playlists with a wide ranging selection: Sesame Street, the Smothers Brothers, Katy Perry, Weird Al, Ylvis, Elvis, Andrea Bocelli, the Irish Rovers. They're kids. They like some dumb stuff. But, given the opportunity, they like some beautiful stuff as well.

I have to admit to having rather pedestrian taste sometimes, myself. I like Once Upon a Time, and Taylor Swift. And, I swore I was NEVER going to admit this on the blog, but I read and did not hate Twilight. (Please don't leave.) But I don't LIMIT myself to only fluff. I also like Masterpiece Classics, and Yo Yo Ma, and Jane Eyre. I want to raise children who know how to enjoy the stuff that goes down easy, but who won't limit themselves to only that.

I think it's my job, as their mom, to steer them towards the good, guide them in the neutral, and protect them from the evil.

Here's how we mostly do it: We avoid the bad stuff, borrow the neutral stuff, and own the good stuff.

I let them bring books of their own choosing home from the library. They often choose not-particularly-challenging books like Magic Treehouse, or novelizations of Star Wars Movies. But for the books that we are going to own, I'm pickier. We make sure that they're getting exposed to challenging and beautiful books by reading them aloud as a family, listening to them as audio books in the car, and just having a lot of them on the bookshelves, so if they run out of junk food, they'll go ahead and have some vegetables. We avoid books altogether that I think are overly crass, or celebrate bad behavior.

I used to just not put anything on TV for the kids that I couldn't sit through myself. So Sesame Street or Word Girl? Yes. I find those shows clever and entertaining. But Barney and Caillou? Nope. Can't do it. As they've gotten older, they do watch things on their own from Netflix that don't seem bad, but that I can't sit through. But we make a point of owning, and watching together as a family, movies that we'd like them to see, but that maybe they wouldn't choose for themselves. Important movies like It's a Wonderful Life, and Henry V, and The Longest Day, and Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

They get to listen to their iTunes playlists on their own time, but during our late afternoon clean up, I'll often put on classical music.

It's important to me that, although they might enjoy catchy music or silly TV shows, they can also recognize a masterful painting or a beautiful poem. But since they don't often seek those out on their own, I have to have them in the house. We have family photos on our walls, but also mosaics, and paintings. We've got a TV in our living room, but we also have a crucifix. Because I want my kids to know about both.

It's still my birthday giveaway week, where YOU get the presents! And it is especially applicable today, since September 22nd is the shared birthday of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, and, as everyone knows, at hobbit birthday parties, the GUESTS get the presents.

Today, I'm pleased to be able to offer you two gifts to help make your home more true and beautiful:

First, a CD of Liturgical Year Latin Motets, recorded by St. Joseph Cappella, an all-volunteer mixed choir from St. Joseph Church in Detroit.

I've had the CD myself for a few weeks now and it's really wonderful. Primarily a capella, but accompanied by an organ on a few tracks, the pieces follow the liturgical year, and the Mass. The accompanying booklet has lovely photography and a detailed explanation of the music. I've found this CD suitable for cooking, studying, cleaning, prayerful meditation, and dinner parties. :0)

You can get a copy of the CD for yourself by emailing It is available for sale from (physical CD and digital), iTunes and other major online digital retailers, and local Catholic bookstores in the Detroit metro area.

Second, is a one year's subscription of the children's magazine St. Mary's Messenger. My kids love getting mail, they love magazines in particular. So I'm really pleased to have this one in the house. It's full of saint stories, classic poetry, selections from great literature, science, art, photography, craft ideas, liturgical year celebrations and much more. It's a lovely little magazine aimed at kids aged 7-12. 

To find out more, or to subscribe, please visit their website at

To enter to win, please leave a comment telling us all about something true and beautiful in your home.

I'm still out of town. Want to know where? I'm not telling. But if you're on Instagram or Facebook, you can follow me or look for the hashtag #whereislulu, and guess where she is today! The first few correct guesses on each photo will be entered in a drawing to win some trinkets from the trip!


Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to Use Instagram Without an iPhone, and Why You Should Bother (and my birthday giveaway!)

I know I am late to the Instagram party, but I had a good excuse: I didn't have an iPhone.

I still don't.

But all the cool kids were doing it, so I've finally made the plunge and joined. Here's why, and how, and what I think so far.


I joined Instagram because Facebook keeps messing with their "algorithm" (whatever that is), which means, even if you've liked my page, you won't necessarily see everything I post. That's lame. The problem is that Facebook lumps bloggers in with businesses. They would like me to pay to "promote" my post so that more people will see it. I'm sure that makes sense for businesses, but I'm a not for profit blogger, so I can't really justify paying Facebook to let you see my posts.

On Instagram, if you follow someone, you get to see everything that person posts.

Also, I kept hearing that Instagram was drama-free. Just an image, and a few words. A happy place. I feel like my blog's Facebook page is pretty positive, but overall, Facebook IS drama-full. I see comments on friends' posts and cringe, and then I have to decide: to engage or not to engage. Not engaging is, of course, almost always the right decision. I'll leave it to you to figure out if I take my own good advice.

So, I decided to do it. But how to manage without a smart phone?


Instagram is viewable on a desktop computer, but you can't share images from there. You can only post using the Instagram app, and it has to be on a supported mobile device. Currently Instagram works on iPhones, Android phones, iPods, and iPads. Well, I don't have an iPhone but I DO have an iPad. But it's not the new one with the fancy camera. And it's a big ol' iPad, so if I use it, I'm pretty much stuck taking bad photos and looking lame doing it.

So that's one way to do it. Just use your iPad. And own the lameness.

However. I'd rather use my nicer camera anyway, because . . . it takes nicer photos.

So, here are the two ways I've found to do it.

1. Take photos on camera. Upload to desktop as usual. Then either
          a. Email or message the photo to myself, or
          b. From the desktop, upload it to an "only me" album on my personal Facebook page
THEN, from my iPad, I save the image to my iPad photo library, either from email or Facebook, and share it on Instagram right then, or later.

Many steps, but it works.

But THEN I got a Wi-Fi Memory Card . And things got a lot better. They aren't cheap, but they are a lot less expensive than an iPhone 6, and you don't have to camp out to get one. I just got one and am still playing around with it, but mostly, the idea is that this SIM card wirelessly transfers photos to an app you install on your mobile device. So, I can quickly get photos from my camera to my iPad (or a smartphone) without a computer. And, again, better camera, better photos for Instagram. Having a really great subject doesn't hurt, either.

The limitations are:
1. It needs wifi, so, home or a hotel or a wifi hotspot, but not . . . the beach. Not just anywhere, like the "real" Instagrammers. (I suppose if you had a smartphone with 4G, you could transfer on the go.)
2. There's no option to select which photos you send to your mobile device. It sends them all. This isn't a problem for me, because I usually download photos on a very regular basis. I scroll through the photos on the camera and delete the obviously bad ones, then I upload just a couple onto the iPad, and then choose which ones to share on Instagram.  Later, I download them all onto my desktop for keepsies. If I'm traveling, I'll need to use two cards, one to store all my photos to bring home, and the wifi one for social media images, or just be good about deleting unneeded images off of the iPad.
3. It drains the camera battery more quickly than usual. So, I carry an extra battery.

But. I think it's a pretty great compromise. I get to be on Instagram and I get to put the photos I like on there.


Yes, yes I do.

As a blogger, it's nice that with one click in the Instagram app I can share images to Instagram and Facebook as well. Since I was already sharing images on Facebook, it doesn't really take anymore time to do both.

I'm a complete amateur when it comes to photography. But I do love looking at GOOD photos, and some people are just SO GOOD! There are plenty of beautiful photos of ordinary things to be seen on Instagram. I'm trying to wade in slowly, so I'm just following a handful of friends, family, and bloggers so far, but already, I find myself loving the artsiness I'm finding there. I also like that it's a window into the everyday. I love the feeds of my family members and friends who are clearly not staging the "just so" perfect photo of their breakfasts, but are sharing the joy of little moments in their days.

And, again, I have a SUPER small sample here, but do people seem to "get" it more on Instagram than Facebook? It seems to me that the captions are funny and insightful, the comments are funny and insightful, the images are fun and sight-ful, and it's just a nice, smart place to be.

So, if you're on Instagram, or if you have been convinced to join, please come find me, I'm @kendra_tierney. And, hey, just to make it a little more fun, let's play a little game.

Lulu just happens to be setting off today on a very exciting journey. She'll be spending the next ten days visiting some lovely and special places, and if you're on Instagram (or Facebook, it'll be there too), you can try to guess where she is. She'll be posting photos labeled #whereislulu. The first few correct guesses on each photo will get entered into a drawing for a prize package of little trinkets from the trip.

Speaking of prizes . . .  today is my birthday! And to celebrate, all this week, while we're galavanting about with Lulu, I'll also be here at the blog, hosting Hobbit-style birthday giveaways for YOU! (That mean it's MY birthday, but you get the presents.)

The first giveaway is a beautiful handmade cross of glass and wood, created by artisan Hylda Rodriguez of SACRO.

The winner will receive a MINI handcrafted Cross in any color the winner prefers. The winner will have 10 business days (2weeks) to reply the email from SACRO choosing the color you prefer in order to claim the cross.

And there are coupon codes especially for Catholic All Year readers. If you purchase a minimum of $50 (one large cross or two MINI) you'll get a $5.00 USD discount and if you purchase a min. of $150 you'll get a $25 USD discount. The codes expire on September 30th.

MYCROSS - Code for a $5.00 USD discount.
LOVEJESUS - Code for $25.00 USD discount.

All the crosses are totally handmade of natural materials. The colored glass cross on top is formed by cutting little squares of glass and fusing them together at very high temperature (1400 F). They tell me, "These little squares represents all the ups and downs in our lives, but when looking at the big picture; it is just beautiful."

There are many colors available, and each one representing a different virtue or gift of the Holy Spirit. The SACRO Facebook page explains the meaning behind each color.

To enter the drawing, just go to the SACRO etsy shop and take a look at the lovely items available, then come back here and leave a comment telling me which color you like best. You may also, if you choose, wish me happy birthday and/or bon voyage. But to enter the drawing, you must mention a color. The winner will be announced on October 2nd. Good luck!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Mailbag: Please Stop the Screaming!

I got this mailbag question a week or so ago, and responded to it. Since then, my Cryin' Babies Go To Bed post was shared on a parenting forum, to GREAT misunderstanding, confusion, concern, and general unpleasantness. Sometimes I kind of forget that my blog is available to, ya know, the whole wide world. I write for you guys who know me and have read a fair number of posts and "get" me and "get" the tone of my blog. But I can see how someone who was reading it in a vacuum would be left wondering at my advice (or, I should say Frankie's?).

Anyway, I stand behind what I wrote in that post, and I use the techniques I mention in it every single day. I think my kids are happier and more well-adjusted and nicer to be around because of it. But I want to clarify that I do not encourage or practice the stifling of emotions. I do not deny their existence or their importance. Nor do I deny the reality of physical pain.


I have noticed that almost all grownups can stub their toe or get a paper cut and NOT dissolve into a writhing puddle of shrieks on the floor. I have noticed that the same cannot be said of many children. So, at some point between two and thirty, we learn how to process physical pain in a less dramatic way. I just figure, why not do it closer to two? Isn't it nicer to have that under control?

Similarly, I want my children to be able to experience and acknowledge strong emotions without making themselves and the people around them miserable.

this is Betty, in case you're wondering how Lulu suddenly got to be 18 months old

There are legitimate reasons for kids to be sad, or mad, or frustrated. Absolutely there are. But in MY experience with MY kids, most of the reasons that they are having strong emotions are not particularly legitimate. I think it's okay to help them realize that. It works for grownups too. Just last week, a lady at the grocery store took the last box of Magnum Mini Gold Bars, right before my very eyes. And I managed, by carefully implementing the strategies outlined in the Cryin' Babies post to NEITHER punch her, NOR burst into tears, NOR go running to the store manager to tattle on her. Victory! And you know what, I didn't feel stifled, I felt empowered. That's what I want for my kids.

And now back to our regularly scheduled MAILBAG, which just happens to be on the same subject!

Hi Kendra,

I was hoping you could help me with a bit of a situation with my 18 month old little boy.  He is my second child, first boy, and he's going through a terrible phase right now.  He cries almost incessantly, sometimes to be picked up, sometimes to be given something, sometimes for no discernible reason.  I have read your posts on discipline for young babies and have tried using "not for babies" (which only seems to make him cry) and "crying babies go to bed" (which makes him scream bloody murder).  I'm just wondering what to do with him. He has such a strong will, much stronger than his older sister and I feel I'm in over my head. He has now taken to hitting everything and everyone, but mostly me, whenever he feels thwarted and occasionally leaning in to bite. He hasn't bitten down on anyone yet, just leaned in to do it, but it's not a habit that I would like him to develop. I feel like everything I've tried has made him (and me) more angry, frustrated and upset and I'm getting twitchy from all the endless screaming.

This kid is capable of screaming without break for a full hour (he probably could do more but I've never had the heart to find out). That's why it's hard to do a time out in the crib because there's no discernible time when he calms down enough for me to go in and take him back out. I'm not really sure where to go from here because sometimes I feel like I should crack down and put him in time out every time he hits and sometimes I feel like I'm just making life hard on us and should just ignore the whole thing until it blows over. I want to be consistent but I just don't know whether to consistently correct or consistently ignore.


Dear M,

Ugh. That is hard. I'm so sorry. My oldest was really hard for me to handle at that age, so I've been there, for sure. I felt like my whole life, our whole family's life, was lived at the whims of a toddler. I got a do over with Frankie, my number six. He was also a very willful toddler. I handled him in a less emotional way, and for me, it was much more successful.

Mostly, it really does just comes down to what you WANT to do. I think that consistently correcting OR consistently ignoring will both work eventually. It's what you can live with and what you can't. If letting him flip out is less disruptive to your life than trying to outlast him, then I agree with you . . . it probably WILL blow over eventually. I don't know for sure, because I CAN'T handle it. So I always fix 'em.

Now, his level of maturity is going to matter a lot here. I don't have an 18 month old right now, I have a ten month old and an almost three year old. If my ten month old was fussy and clingy and cried a lot, I would put her down as often as I had to for my own sanity and bare minimum productivity, and so she could get some sleep, but mostly, if she needed to be held, I would hold her. I would interpret her fussing as coming from a place of need and I would do my best to meet her need without going crazy myself.

If, however, my two and a half year old was clinging and shrieking and biting and hitting. I would view that not as a need, but as being a menace, and I would do everything in my power to correct the behavior and make him a person who was pleasant to be around. I'd do it for my own good, and his own good, and the good of our family. So if he was to scream his head off in a time out, I'd wait him out. I'd calmly go in every half hour or so to tell him that we miss him and hope that he'll be able to calm down soon. But, he wouldn't get out until he stopped. I'd be more stubborn than he was. I'd figure that, eventually, he would decide he'd rather knock it off and be a part of our family.

As long as he thinks it's going to get him what he wants, he's going to keep screaming. But as soon as he's convinced that it won't do any good, he's probably going to knock it off.

You're in between those two ages, so you've got to decide if he has a legitimate need that's not being met, or if he is just being a stinker. Then you have to decide what course of action is going to be most liveable for you and your family.

I think what changed everything for me with my oldest son was realizing that HIS being upset didn't have to upset ME. I don't know how to write this down without coming across as callous and getting my attachment parenting card revoked, but me allowing myself to get emotionally caught up in all his drama didn't help either of us.

These days . . . I love my kids, I meet their needs, I take care of them, I spend time with them, I LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM but if the toddler is having an off day or week or month, I don't let him drag me and the rest of the family down with him.

I have reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for behavior. I clearly communicate those expectations to the toddler. "No screaming. If you scream again, you're going to go sit in your crib." Then, I follow through in a calm but firm way. Attached to the child, but detached from the drama.

If he screamed again, I'd say, "Uh oh, you screamed again. No, no screaming. You're going to go sit in your crib until you can calm down." Then I'd scoop him up, and put him calmly in his crib, no matter how much fuss he made. I'd say, "I'll come back to get you once you've settled down."

Then I'd leave and not fret about it. He's going to be okay. If he was throwing a long tantrum, I'd check in, calmly and sympathetically, every so often, to remind him that once he's settled down, he can come back and join the family. Then once he was calm, I'd get him out and remind him, "No screaming. If you can't remember, you'll end up right back in here."

If it's an established habit, I might give him a couple of warnings, but, really, if you want to change the behavior, it might be easiest to just keep on him about it and get it over with.

As long as he is developmentally capable of the behavior, (at eighteen months I'm pretty sure all my kids have been capable of learning to not throw fits, but you've got to make that judgment) calm, firm, and consistent should work to change the behavior over the course of a few weeks.

I think it's key to really believe that you and the rest of the family are reasonable to expect a level of peace within your home. And to believe that your kids are capable of living up to a high standard of behavior. Sometimes there will be screaming and chaos, there is in any home with children, there is in my home for sure. But we don't have to resign ourselves to it.

I think what made me hesitant to enforce rules like this with my first was the idea that it was wrong somehow to "punish" him for his "feelings." But I know now that that's not what I'm doing. He is allowed to have any feeling there is, but what he's not allowed to do is not know how to control those feelings and lash out at me or his siblings. Me not tolerating constant emotional outbursts has meant my kids have learned to be the boss of their own reactions to situations. They are allowed and even encouraged to have feelings and preferences, and to stand up for themselves, but in a way that isn't destructive to themselves or our family. They are not perfect, but they're pretty good. In a house with nine people living in it, we are at a liveable level of emotions, probably 80% of the time.

The other 20% of the time, we've got one or more of those nine people off having some alone time to compose themselves. Sometimes one of those people is me. It's a good skill to have.

I hope that helps, and both of those posts you mentioned have specific things that have worked for me in dealing with your situation.

Here are links to some of my posts about parenting toddlers:


Trust your mama gut. It will guide you!

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Secrets Revealed, Prayers Answered, Winners Notified

I've got good news, and I've got good news.

First, the good news.

Remember a few months back, when I hosted an amazing giveaway for a Monastic Immersion Weekend? I had an anonymous sponsor, and asked that you would all pray for her intention, which was very dear to me, too?

Well, good job guys. Pats on backs all around.

The anonymous sponsors were my brother- and sister-in-law. I mentioned their desire to have children in my Dear Newlywed post. The secret intention of the giveaway was that they would be blessed with a baby. The retreat was last weekend. Just a couple of days before the winner headed off to silent immersion, Pat and Brie brought this little guy home with them to Virginia.

Meet my nephew, Luke Anthony . . .

My sister-in-law, Brie, wanted to thank you all herself!

Thank you everyone for all of your prayers and well wishes during our adoption journey. Pat and I can't begin to tell you how much we appreciate them! We are still blown away by how effective they were and are thrilled to be able to introduce our son, Luke Anthony! Luke is a dream come true for us and came into our lives so quickly that we truly feel like he is a testament to the power of prayer. We struggled for over four years to start our family and within 3 weeks of activating with our adoption agency and asking for your prayers, we received a call that a woman had chosen us to adopt her unborn child. Our agency estimates that couples will be chosen by a birthmother within 6 to 9 months of becoming active. Adoption can be such a long and painful experience for couples, filled with false starts and endless waiting. We know how lucky we are to have Luke and give all credit to prayer and the intersession of St. Anthony and countless other saints who had a hand in giving us the greatest blessing of our lives! Given the quick turnaround, I'm also thankful that my sister-in-law started this blog so I have a handy dandy resource for raising this little man. I can't wait to parent with authority! :)

We are so very grateful and will keep all of you in our prayers! Luke has already gotten started on this too...

We couldn't be more excited about our new cousin around here. We like cousins. As Bobby pointed out, "Baby Luke already has more cousins than I do."

Anyway, thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers. You are the best readers a gal could have.

Update: people have asked if Baby Luke has a registry, indeed he does. (But no pressure.)

And for the rest of the good news, there's also the giveaway of Catholic Churches, Big and Small by Stefan Salinas.

The lucky winner is .  .  .

Elise of the blog BlissfulE!

She gets a copy of the book, plus a beautiful giclee print by Stefan.

If you didn't win, you'll just have to order the book for yourself . I highly recommend it!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Tips for Taco Tuesday . . . but on a Friday, and other nonsense for your Monday

We've been meat-free on Fridays for a couple of years now, and it's been good for our family. It's a great way to make a sacrifice that we can share with each other and with other Catholics all over the world and through time. I think it's terrific. Except, of course, for the fact that it's kind of a pain (as sacrifices often are).

I've mostly gotten past the first hurdle of meat-free Fridays, which was remembering to do it at all. But now, the main issue I have, is that we like to try to do fun family activities on Friday, but I don't have many meat-free dinner recipes that are portable.

But look out, I'm about to go food blog on you.

Enter . . .

The Easy Peasy on the Go Fish Taco

makes 15 tacos, feeds 5-6 adults

one package of 30 corn tortillas
one box large-size frozen fish sticks (30 sticks)
one tube prepared fresh cilantro (in fresh herb section)
one tub fresh pico de gallo type salsa
one bag fine shredded cabbage

at home, bake fish sticks according to package directions, wrap in foil and place in a plastic food storage container
pack fish sticks and tortillas in a warm cooler (oh, the irony)
pack cilantro, cabbage, and salsa in a cool cooler (that's better)

at destination: for each taco, take two tortillas in your hand, squeeze a line of cilantro down the center of the top one, place two fish sticks, a spoonful of salsa, and a handful of cabbage on top, fold, and enjoy

Seriously, they're great. Good at the beach, good at the park, probably even good camping, I'd just cook the fish sticks over the fire in a foil packet. My kids love them, if you just keep the fish stick box out of sight, your guests will be impressed, too.

So, the whole reason I had to come up with the fish sticks fish tacos thing was because, while it's been snowing on some bloggers, it's been hot here.

Really, really hot.

So when One Direction came to the Rose Bowl and cancelled our homeschool parkday (they should be ashamed of themselves), we headed to the beach.

I love beach days!

And now for some catching up . . . 

There's really no graceful way to segue from my frozen fish sticks recipe into recommending Daniel Bearman Stewart's latest post on healthy eating practices, but watch me do it anyway.
"When we look at our contemporary health problems here in the West, we’re quick to focus narrowly on diet. And it’s certainly true that the average American today eats very differently than the average American did a century or two ago. But there are even more dramatic changes to the way we live. We’re no longer members of close-knit and active communities made up of strong families committed to each other and a common cause. We’re isolated individuals leading sedentary lives both at work and at home. We also consume massive amounts of entertainment and spend very little time with our families and communities. But these things aren’t easy to measure scientifically and the solutions are even harder to implement. It’d be great if the solution to all our health woes was simply “Eat this one special food” or “Throw away your cheese.” But, it appears the problem is not just WHAT we eat but HOW we get the food and WHO we eat it with."
I loved reading his research, and couldn't agree more with his conclusions. Ever since I slowly (and sometimes comically) have learned to cook food from scratch over the course of my marriage, that has been our focus. Not restricting our diets, but eating reasonable portions of from scratch foods, and avoiding processed food whenever possible. (I have a prescription for Dr. Pepper, so that doesn't count. Obviously.) In our family food is a social activity, something we do together, not alone. Food is not the enemy. I hope this way of eating will help my kids grow up with a positive relationship to food and eating, and keep them away from the crazy fad dieting culture.

And, speaking of the Stewarts, I also loved Haley's post about Instagram Envy, Being Authentic on the Internet, and When It’s Time to Break Up with a Blog.

I'm kind of the opposite of Haley here, I used to get stressed out reading a "Help! My life is chaos!" blog, because I always felt like I wanted to fix what was wrong for her, and felt powerless to actually do anything to help her. But over the past couple of years of blogging, I've come to learn that (surprise!) people are different and are inspired and motivated by different things. I love, love, love seeing beautiful pictures, and I like sharing beautiful or funny moments. But I don't assume that beautiful photos mean clean counter tops and accounted-for-shoes and no-yelling-ever. I like beautiful photos BECAUSE we have messy counter tops and lost shoes and some yelling. I tend not to write about things until I've finished processing them and feel like I have a resolution to share. But NOW, I understand that for some people the sharing of the chaos is PART of their resolution process, and that's okay. I don't have to be able to fix it. Just because someone chooses to share her crazy moments doesn't mean she doesn't have together moments, and just because someone chooses to share together moments, doesn't mean she doesn't have crazy moments. It doesn't mean that for me anyway!

And guess what? It turns out that the thing I needed to nudge me over the edge on whether or not to join Instagram was Haley saying that everyone's life was too pretty on Instagram. So, come see an incomplete sample of the pretty parts of my life. I'm @kendra_tierney.

Speaking of pictures, here are a couple you may have missed on Facebook:

Lulu was playing on the floor in the living room, while we were working on school in the dining room (aka the other side of the living room).
Gus: Mom, can Lulu stand up?
Me (with back to Lulu): No, not yet, but soon. Let's get back to work.
. . . a minute later . . .
Gus: Are you sure she can't? 'Cause she IS.
Lulu: (standing at ottoman, waving one arm, and gleefully shouting to get our attention)
Me: Oh. I guess she can.

This is what playing Mass looks like in SoCal. #cantconsecratecornchips

Finally, (whew!) it's the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows today. Here's what we'll be doing.

 We're going to use sour skittles.  Lemon drops are prettier, but they take forever to eat.

Keep cool/warm as applicable, everyone!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sheltering Kids: How We Do It, and How We Don't

It often seems like we, as parents in a modern world, have two choices. We can . . .

a. shelter our children from the world, safeguarding their innocence, and protecting them from knowledge and experiences that might be confusing or damaging to them

or . . .

b. expose our children to the world, giving them a lens through which to view challenging situations, and the tools they will need to cope with the world in which they live.

Of course, either method has its detractors. The anti-a folks love to tell you about their cousin's niece's kids who were homeschooled and didn't watch TV and how they all went off to college and got pregnant and tattoos. And the anti-b folks want you to know that kids who watch PG-13 movies and listen to pop music are quite likely to end up in jail and on drugs.

So . . . what's a parent to do?

Well, for this parent at least, the answer has been both-and to a. and b. and thanks-but-no-thanks to the doomsday prophesy-types on either side.

I want to BOTH safeguard the innocence of my children AND prepare them for the real world. Both.

The way we do it is twofold. First, we respect the age-appropriateness of certain influences and activities. Second, as our kids mature, we help them to process and understand a more grown-up world by sharing influences and activities with them.

It's often hard to put a particular age on anything, but a wise man once advised me to shelter my kids as much as possible until age ten, and that by that point, they will have internalized OUR family culture to an extent that they are able to hold on to our values in a world that champions a very different way of life. It's been working so far.

So when questions come up about particular books or video games or movies, we make age-appropriate, family-culture-based decisions. In our family, we are comfortable exposing our kids to some scariness and violence, when the story has a clear message and we agree with that message. So, even our toddler has seen some of the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies. But we're more careful about language and (even jokey, maybe ESPECIALLY jokey) sexual content, and "bad boy" heroes. So only our twelve year old has seen Guardians of the Galaxy, because even though I (and he) really liked it, I think it sends a confusing message about right and wrong that is best interpreted by older kids with help from their parents. Also I really don't want my six year old cranking "the bird" up at people.

We use the same system to judge real life issues as well. So, when my four year old asks me a question about where babies come from, she's going to get a different answer than my twelve year old would if he asked the same question. But they're both going to get a real, truthful answer.

I found it very helpful to read The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality by the Pontifical Council for the Family, here's paragraph 4. of section VI. Learning Stages:
4. Parents should provide this information with great delicacy, but clearly and at the appropriate time. Parents are well aware that their children must be treated in a personalized way, according to the personal conditions of their physiological and psychological development, and taking into due consideration the cultural environment of life and the adolescent's daily experience. In order to evaluate properly what they should say to each child, it is very important that parents first of all seek light from the Lord in prayer and that they discuss this together so that their words will be neither too explicit nor too vague. Giving too many details to children is counterproductive. But delaying the first information for too long is imprudent, because every human person has natural curiosity in this regard and, sooner or later, everyone begins to ask themselves questions, especially in cultures where too much can be seen, even in public.
The whole thing is worth reading.

So, do we shelter our kids? You bet we do. Do we guide their interpretation of pop-culture and give them the tools they need to rightly judge the world around them? Also yes. 

And that brings me to the related topic I wanted to tell you about today . . .

I am really honored to be the very first guest on the This Inspired Life Podcast, hosted by Kristin Sanders of the blog Healthy, Happy Home. Kristen is a great interviewer and asked some really thought provoking questions. I just listened to it all the way through, and despite being weirded out by listening to my own voice, I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

We discuss what I was like as a kid, my personal faith journey, and how traveling in Europe and one big leap of faith I took with my husband have slowly pulled me along in the general direction of Heaven. THEN we get to the good stuff. Kristin and I talk about everything you've been too scared to ask about sex and kids. You get to hear how my method of naming body parts is inspired by Harry Potter. Yep. You read that right. And how we handle kids touching themselves. And when and how we have The Talk, and that we mostly try to make that not all that necessary.

Anyway, I do hope you'll check out my episode, and subscribe to the This Inspired Life Podcast. I mean, you can't listen to that Taylor Swift song ALL the time, right?


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Book You Should Know: An Interview and Giveaway with Stefan Salinas of Catholic Churches Big and Small

I've got a birthday coming up this month, so over the next couple of weeks, I'm pleased to be able to offer you, my dear readers, some hobbit-style birthday presents in honor of the occasion. First up: a book and a fine art print!

I am really excited today to introduce you all to a lovely little picture book that I'm pleased to have in our home. Catholic Churches Big and Small by Bay Area artist and Catholic convert Stafan Salinas is  unlike any other book in our family's collection. The illustrations are detailed yet whimsical. The story is entertaining yet informative. Each page is a little work of art. 

I liked it so much, I asked Stefan if he'd answer a few questions for us today. And he agreed. So here comes my first ever blog interview with someone who does NOT live in my house.

First, thank you for creating your book, Catholic Churches Big and Small . We've had it here for a couple of weeks now and my kids love looking at it. You've found a good balance of entertainment and information. 

From your website, it appears that you have "real" artist credentials. What made you want to create a children's book?

I have been sending picture-book proposals to publishers, little by little, for almost twenty years. The first ones make me wince -they are so bland! Attending author/illustrator conferences and taking classes on children’s books has helped with my development, but what taught me the most has been reading lots of picture books and listening to authors’ interviews. To me, a children’s book is like a mini exhibition of paintings, or a small movie. They engage our imagination and sense of wonder about the world. The best books speak to children and adults alike, with a deep simplicity. My hope was that this book would appeal to children, along with their older siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy… everyone. And so I am delighted to learn that children and adults like it!

How long did the book take to complete? Which part took longer, the writing or the illustrating?

It took almost two years to create. A few summers ago, on weekends and days off, I visited churches with my camera and sketchbook. Little by little, between a retail job and other projects, it took shape. Once I decided to self-publish, I kept my nose to the grindstone after work, almost daily for over three months. Each illustration took one to three evenings to produce, which doesn’t take into account figuring out the compositions and choosing the right images to depict. The writing made me nervous, for visual art is my strong suit. I rounded up a friend to edit it and a few priests to check it for e
cumenical accuracy and advice. The paintings took the longest.

One of my favorite things about the Catholic Church is how, well, catholic it is. I love that there are so many different kinds of saints, from so many different backgrounds. Men and women, rich and poor, married and single, famous and obscure. Do you have a personal favorite saint?

Yes, I love the variety! What did James Joyce famously say about us? “Here comes everybody.” I must admit, I admire qualities in many saints, but find it difficult to pray to any one in particular, besides Mary. The mystical ones intrigue me, like St. Hildegard of Bingen. Those individuals trying to balance the traditions of their day with fantastic messages they receive from the Holy Spirit, and are deemed insane because of them.

You show us in your book that there is a similar variety in physical Catholic churches. They are big and small, humble and grand, but they all get the job done. Do you have a favorite among the churches you've illustrated in the book? Did you visit them all, or did you draw them from photographs?

A favorite church? Oh boy, that’s a tough one. I even like churches I don’t like, if that makes any sense. Do you see why I had to write this book? Currently, St. Paul’s is my favorite. It was the one featured in the movie Sister Act, and is nestled in Noe Valley. It’s tall, pointed spires quite strikingly take command of the neighborhood, like antelope or gargoyle horns. And the body of the building is a thick, stone fortress. Once inside, you are surrounded by a regal setting, full of delicate details. Gold stenciling, painted portraits… But I also love, love, love the deep blues in the windows of St. Vincent de Paul. I could swim in that ocean for hours.

It was important for me to personally visit every church, with open eyes and an open heart. I believe I got to notice things many parishioners may not see anymore, and outsiders know not of. I live in San Francisco, and since there is a fairly good variety of architectural styles here, this city seemed perfect. Books tell kids about St. Peter’s in Rome and other grand sites in exotic locations, but what about the value of their own neighborhood church? They too are special, and are here to help serve the families’ spiritual needs.

Were you raised Catholic? Or did you convert? Or both? 

My parents raised me in the Modern Spiritualist tradition. Then, after college, I joined the Unitarian Universalists. Although I originally dreamt up this book idea five years ago, I didn’t convert to Catholicism until 2011. I truly believe this project was one of the devices God used to draw me closer to Him. From clerical mentors, to Catholic volunteer work, to “coincidences beyond coincidence”…

Is your book self-published, or did you have a traditio
nal publisher? Why did you choose to publish it in the way you did? Would you recommend doing it that way to others?

I sent this book proposal to publishers far and wide. One major house accepted it, then changed their mind a few days later. It was then when I decided this baby needed to get out into the world by hook or by crook, so I looked into self-publishing. It is too early for me to recommend either road to anybody else, but either way, an author still has a lot of footwork to do. At least with self-publishing, I am gaining an understanding of the nuts and bolts of the business, instead of simply letting somebody else figure it out. Now that I’m building an audience, a “platform”, I am beginning to send the book out to publishers again. Who can beat their lower production costs and wider distribution?
You have generously offered to give away a copy of your book and a fine art print to one lucky winner among my readers! What can you tell us about this print?

I designed Communion in 2010. This giclée print has gold paint detailing. Some spiritual healers claim that their hands warm up when they perform a laying on of hands, so Christ’s hands are red. Also, the red in His hands and white of His garment are reflected in the red wine and white host. He speaks, and the Holy Spirit flies out of His mouth. This was influenced by a famous sculpture of a Buddhist priest, who’s chanting is depicted as a line of tiny monks marching out of his mouth. Christ’s body is like an hour glass. He is with us and within us, during all of our life, from generation to generation, and He is eternal, just as the hour glass can be turned over again and again. His eyes stare at us intently, like the figures do in Ethiopian icons. Other influences include the sculptures by Benny Bufano and the graphic works of Virginia Broderick.

Thanks for your time! 

Thank you for this opportunity, and for all your hard work with Catholic All Year!

You'll find more information about Stefan's book: Catholic Churches Big and Small, including more illustrations, and some Easter eggs to find inside the book (including Pope Francis' 1984 Renault 4), at the book's blog.

You can see more of Stefan's art at his website.

You can buy his book at Amazon . (Affiliate link alert.)

But one of you won't have to, because ONE of you will WIN a copy, along with a beautiful, high-quality giclée print of Communion (pictured above). All you have to do to win is leave a comment telling Stefan the name of YOUR favorite church.

I will randomly select one winner, to be announced in a blog post NEXT Wednesday, September 17th. Please make sure your blogger comment profile is hooked up to an email address, so I can also email you if you're the winner!

Linking up with Jessica at Housewifespice for What We're Reading Wednesday!