Saturday, April 21, 2018

Help ME Help You with the 2018 Catholic All Year Reader Survey and Prayer Book Set Giveaway

Dear Readers,

My big takeaway from all the hubbub of the last week . . . is that I've really missed blogging! Somehow, just microblogging on Facebook and Instagram doesn't feel the same as being here on the blog and writing things that live on to be googled by new readers, or by me, when I need to verify the birthday of baby number seven by googling her birth story. #thankyoublogging

So, even though I've got a handful of major home decorating projects in the works, I've got a bee in my bonnet to be back in this space more often, and creating more content in general, and I'd like your help in figuring out how I can do that best for you.

Enter . . . my first ever reader survey!

It's a quick, 18 question survey in google drive. You stay anonymous, but I get a feel for the types of posts and projects you'd most like to see.

Click here to take the survey. πŸ‘‡

Catholic All Year 2018 Reader Survey

As a thank you, you can be entered into a drawing to win a set of my three new kids' prayer books! Just email me at after you complete the survey. 

Here's what you could win!

And thank you all so much for liking these little books as much as I do! The Superhero version is on Amazon's new release bestseller list! πŸ˜²πŸ˜€πŸŽ‰

Also, way to keep it super-Catholic on the also bought/viewed list, people.

Catechism? ✔
Devotionals? ✔
Saints? ✔
Jennifer Fulwiler? ✔
Homeschool? ✔
Fertility monitor paraphernalia? ✔

P.S. My A Little Book About Confession for Children has been out of stock on Amazon for ages, because of some warehousing issues with Ignatius. I'm told it will be back in stock any day now, but in the meantime, it's available directly from the publisher, and at many other Catholic retailers.

Happy weekend everyone!


Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Prayer Books Are Back, Baby! (With free printables!)

The three little prayer books are fixed, approved and currently available for next day shipping with prime!

New and improved, now with correct Sign of the Cross pages! They've got the Frankie stamp of approval.

Here's my very professional announcement video:

You're going to ask about the leggings. Here they are.

Here's the set! More details on each book are in this post:


All three are available and Amazon seems to be playing around with the prices a bit. Last I looked, the Superhero one was a dollar off! And the others were on sale, too! They'll ship anywhere in the world.

Here are the links to see them on Amazon. The "look inside" feature is showing the original sign of the cross page, but you will receive a book with the new version.

My Superhero Prayer Book

My Fairy-tale Prayer Book

My Woodland Prayer Book

Each book contains 23 Traditional Catholic prayers in the USCCB recommended wording, plus how to pray the Rosary.

Prayers included are: Sign of the Cross, Apostle's Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Our Lady's Fatima Prayer, Hail Holy Queen, Rosary Prayer, St. Michael Prayer, How to Pray the Rosary, The Mysteries of the Rosary, Grace Before Meals, Grace After Meals, Morning Offering, Prayer to One's Guardian Angel, Angelus, Regina Caeli, Memorare, Prayer to the Holy Spirit, Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory, Act of Faith, Act of Hope, Act of Love, Act of Spiritual Communion, and Act of Contrition.

The Superhero and Fairy-tale books feature boy and girl characters with different skin tones.

They're also available as printable PDFs in my Etsy shop.

Here's their official endorsement from some of my children. Very impartial:

Here's a blog post explanation of the mistake that was in the original version, and the fun that ensued when I tried to fix it.


Every time I escalated the issue to a higher level at Createspace (the Amazon self-publishing platform), I got a different explanation as to why the files had been rejected. Finally, my fifteen year old son suggested that I, in direct opposition to the instructions given to me in emails (not phone calls. NEVER phone calls. πŸ¦πŸ˜†) . . . just delete the files and upload the exact same files again. They were approved within hours.

So, here are the new sign of the cross pages, as images. You are welcome to have these images for your own personal use, or to share on social media or on your blog, whether you buy the books or not. Just click on an image to open it in a new window, then right click to save it to your computer.

And here is a link to them as PDFs. (Using the PDF files should ensure that they print at the correct size for the book). If you've got the book with the error, you can print these full-page images, or a smaller patch that's also available at the link.πŸ‘‡


I hope you enjoy them! And happy Easter and First Holy Communion season to all!


Monday, April 16, 2018

My Books are in Purgatory, or: a Journey in GIFs. Check Out THESE Books Instead?

Update: the books are back in stock on Amazon!


Well, that book launch didn't go exactly according to plan. I was going to wait to publish this post until I could tell you the books were available again on Amazon, but they're still not. They ARE currently available as PDFs in my Etsy shop. If you bought any of the books before I took them down from Amazon, I've got some possible solutions for you, down at the bottom. Plus four amazing books you can get NOW to read while we wait (and wait and wait and wait) . . .

Here's what happened in case you missed it

The tl:dw version is: I inadvertently made the sign of the cross illustration in all three books in the Eastern rite style, with the right shoulder before the left shoulder, rather than Roman rite style, which is left shoulder then right shoulder. This is that version:

It is customary in both rites to use the right hand, whether one is left or right handed. So, as it was, it didn't even work as a mirror image, since they'd have to be using their left hands. But that made me realize that it's probably easier for kids to learn by looking at a mirror image anyway, so I redid the pages as the characters looking into a mirror, with clearer instructions for grownup helpers. This is what they look like now:

So, overall, I'm happier with the concept, but I'm not loving the timeline upon which it all happened.

I showed proofs of the book (and the sign of the cross page in particular because it was my favorite πŸ˜•) to my husband and kids, to my Catholic blogging mastermind group, to my Catholic makers group of over two hundred Catholic artists, and to my IRL friends at our parkday. And none of us noticed it was backwards. But within a few minutes on Instagram . . . YOU guys noticed, Emily first.

So, my initial reaction is . . .

And I start typing up a reply about how you've got to hold the book up next to you. But then I'm like . . . 

it must be a mirror image. But it wasn't.

It was just wrong.

So I texted the husband.

It was.

I disabled the books on Amazon. I redid the images. (Sarah O'leary is the artist for all the books, but I did the design and built the sign of the cross pages myself out of her illustrations.) I recreated the PDFs and re-uploaded them to Createspace. It's supposed to take 24 hours for them to review the files for content and formatting. So I waited.

And waited.

And first thing the next morning, ahead of schedule, I got three emails from Createspace for the three books. One was approved. Two were rejected because the border design includes images that get trimmed off during the printing and binding process. Even though that was my intention and they are clearly patterns and all the books had been approved first try last time and the borders hadn't changed at all since then.

So I called and requested a review of the previous review. And they said up to two business days for that.

And I'm looking at my email like . . .

And today I heard from them and now they're saying the problem is that the books aren't formatted to the correct size. Even though they are. And they're saying that the number of pages has changed since I uploaded them the first time. Even though it hasn't.

So I call customer service and the gal's like, "Yeah. You're right, I can see here that none of that has changed. That's so weird."

Me: "So, can you approve them?" Her: "No. That's the approval department. They have to approve the files." Me: So, can I talk to them?" Her: "No. They don't have a phone."

So the books continue to languish in book purgatory, until they (or I) have become sufficiently detached from worldly entanglements, which I'm told is up to two business days.

So, anyway, if you bought the books already, the sign of the cross page will be backwards in your books. You can . . .

1. Become Byzantine. Problem solved.
2. Download these files and glue in a replacement page of the mirror image sign of the cross page, or a patch that corrects the image as is. Clink link here πŸ‘‡.

My Prayer Book: Sign of the Cross Pages + Patch

I've included the original/backwards/Eastern rite pages there as well, in case Eastern rite folks want to sub in that page once the new version is for sale.
3. Return the book to Amazon, and re-order when the new one becomes available. Amazon will destroy the returned books.
4. Mail your copies of the book to me (each weighs 2.8 oz and is 6x9 in). Once the new version is available, I will order a box of them and ship the new ones out to everyone. Then I will find an Eastern rite home for the returned books. If you prefer not to wait for that shipping timeline (it would be probably 2 weeks?), you can re-order for yourself on Amazon Prime and I will give you a $15 credit for anything in my Etsy shop. Email me at for more details and/or my address.

Looking for a book you can actually BUY? And ya know, read? Well, I've got some recommendations in that department.

1. Made for This: The Catholic Mom's Guide to Birth by Mary Haseltine

This is the book the Catholic world didn't know it needed. But it TOTALLY did. It's a comprehensive look at birth through a Catholic lens. And for as life-changing an event as giving birth, what a blessing that is!

This book is a whole person resource for the spiritual, physical, emotional, medical, and practical aspects of birth. It is for all types of birth. It supports all types of women who have had all types of experiences. It is a book for a first time mom or a great grand mulitpara. I'd even recommend it for women whose childbearing is ahead of or behind them. It's just a well-written, thoughtful, informational look at an important subject from an important perspective.

And I wrote a tiny bit of it.

You can get it here.

2. Catechism of the Seven Sacraments By Kevin and Mary O'Neill

I went to grab this book to take pictures of it for this post tonight, and it wasn't where I was sure I had left it, sitting on my desk. I started retracing my steps around the house, trying to figure out how I could have been carrying this very hefty, sturdy, hardcover book around with me and not remember doing it, when I had a thought of where it might be.

And I was right.

Gus (10) had snatched it from my desk and was reading it in bed.

This is an impressive book. It tackles Biblical history from creation to salvation, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s teachings on Covenant Theology in a fun, accessible, LEGO-based format. Strange but true.

Super cool.

Get it here.

3. The Literary Medicine Cabinet: A Guide to Self-Care Through Good Books by Haley Stewart

This is a charming concept and an excellent resource. Haley shares a list of truly excellent books, and exactly why and when we should read them. (I love the cover art too, by Katrina of Rose Harrington Art. So fun.) If you're wondering which book to pick up next, pick up THIS book, and then you'll know.

Haley has offered a discount code for us too, yay! $1 off for Catholic All Year readers by using the code ALLYEAR.

Find it here.

4. One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler

Okay, this one isn't quite available yet. But you can pre-order it.

And look how amazing the cover is! (Yes, I do have book covers on the brain right now.)

I haven't read it yet, but I wanted to share this now, so you can check out Jen's book trailer and BOOK TOUR and pre-order the book here. She's not coming to California. Boo. But maybe she's coming to you!

Okay, that's it for me for tonight.

I will leave you with this . . .


Thursday, April 12, 2018

It's my Book Launch Day! Not THAT Book, but still . . .

I have some fun news!

I have three little books out and published today!

Rosary by Chews Life
Dolls by Shining Light Dolls: Our Lady, and Pope St. JPII the Great
I have not forgotten about my *REAL* book! It now has an official name: <trumpet fanfare> The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life. 

I'm going through the copyedits on the almost four hundred page liturgical living in the home beastie this week, and I am really pleased with how it's turning out. It's been so long since I actually did the writing (I know, I KNOW) that I'm reading through it almost like a real reader and quite enjoying it. Does that sound terrible? πŸ˜†πŸ’But I AM! It's my truth. I can't wait for you guys to get to read it too!

The copyeditor is amazing, by the way. She has fact-checked every quote and saint story and wild speculation in the book. She has fixed my grammar while retaining my "voice." She has crossed-out approximately one thousand "actually"s and "particular"s. It's been a very long process, but I hope you'll think it's worth the wait.

And it actually (there I go again) won't be as long a wait as it was going to be. The book was originally slated for a spring 2019 release, but I talked the powers that be into moving it up to fall 2018. It's set to head to the presses in August.

The cover is currently being created by the very talented Tricia Dugat of Providential Co. She's an amazing Catholic artist I first encountered on Instagram (go follow her @providential_co !). I was thrilled when my editor at Ignatius agreed to let her do the cover. Here's a sneak peak at one of six panels she's working on for the book.

But back to the books that you can get NOW!

Here's the story . . .

I had a reader write to me through my Etsy shop and ask if I'd be willing to design seven prayers in a superhero theme for a boy with Down syndrome in her first grade religious ed class who would benefit from fun but easy-to-read versions of the prayers. I did NOT have time to do that. I had improperly formatted hundreds of citations in the liturgical living book manuscript and had to go back through and re-do all of them. <headdeskπŸ™‡> I was trying to get two bathrooms, a hallway, the guest room, the schoolroom, and the back staircase painted and decorated before our big St. Patrick's Day Hooley for 300 people. Also, I needed to plan a party for 300 people.

But I got this idea in my head of Superman demonstrating the sign of the cross, and I knew it just had to exist in the world. So I said I'd do it as soon as the party was over, and I did.

THEN I got to thinking about how Frankie was making his First Holy Communion this year too, and wouldn't it be nice if I did fun, superhero versions of ALL the prayers with which I'd like him to be familiar? And why not get them printed up for him in a little book and put it in his Easter basket?

*This is what it's like to be in my head, people. It's a whirlwind.*

And as long as I was making one for him, why not make them for Gus and Anita, too? Because aren't they also my students? Yes they are.

So, partially as an excuse to not start painting and decorating the last three rooms of the house that need it, but also as a loving mother . . . I increased the number of prayers to 23, added how to say the Rosary, made three versions, and researched the best way to get them printed. It turned out that far and away the most cost effective was Createspace . . . which is affiliated with Amazon. And with a few clicks, I could make them available to all! So I did that too. And here they are:

My Superhero Prayer Book

You can find it at Amazon here. (If you get one -- and like it -- will you leave a review?)
And as a printable pdf at my Etsy shop here. (You can see lots more interior images here.)

Here's the Superman sign of the cross!

My Fairy-tale Prayer Book

You can find it at Amazon here. (If you get one -- and like it -- will you leave a review?)
And as a printable pdf at my Etsy shop here. (You can see lots more interior images here.)

My Woodland Prayer Book

You can find it at Amazon here. (If you get one -- and like it -- will you leave a review?)
And as a printable pdf at my Etsy shop here. (You can see lots more interior images here.)

The illustrations are by Sarah O'leary. She's got an Etsy shop called Prettygrafikdesign that's super DUPER cute.

Here's a very impartial review by three of my progeny:

And now, I need to get back to work on finishing the copyediting review on the Compendium. Then it's off to finish paint/wallpaper/decoration in the laundry room, baby storage, and . . . the chapel. I have some BIG ideas for that. We'll have to see what I can actually manage. (Oh, by the way, if anyone has any leads on beautiful old Catholic art or furnishings that are languishing in storage somewhere, please let me know. We would love to rescue it!)

I also want to create expanded prayer books for young men and women (Jack will be confirmed this year!). I want to put together a family prayer book companion to the Compendium, of all the prayers I recommend in there. I want to put together a recipe book companion to the Compendium, of all the recipes we use. And I want to blog! I really do want to blog. I miss blogging. I'm around Facebook and Instagram on the regular, so comment here and come say hi there. And please let me know what you think of the prayer books and if there's anything else that you think I should put on my to do list. I live to serve. πŸ˜ƒ

P.S. There was an error in the original version of the books that went up on Amazon. It's corrected now, but if you have a book with a backwards sign of the cross page, please see this post for more details!


Friday, February 9, 2018

Ash Wednesday vs Valentine's Day: the February 14th Catholic Conundrum

Mailbag time!

The Question:
Hi Kendra, I was wondering if you were going to write a post about how Valentine’s Day is on Ash Wednesday & how you guys will address that at your house. My thought was to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day the day before like the vigil. But I’m having a hard time as to how best to explain that to my kids that are mostly still little (my oldest is 10 but has autism). I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you have the chance. Thanks!

The Answer:
Hey Anna, I wasn't going to, baby George just started sleeping in his crib a couple nights ago and I'm knee-deep in wallpaper samples and paint chips, but yours isn't the only question I've gotten on the subject, so a quick type-it-out seems warranted.

Short answer, I think yours sounds like an excellent plan. Moving feast days when they conflict is a magisterium-approved solution. When St. Joseph's Day or the Solemnity of the Annunciation fall during Holy Week, we just move 'em and celebrate them another day, officially, as a whole Church. Our homeschool group is doing a Valentine's exchange on Friday (today). The husband and I will go out for dinner sometime this weekend to celebrate together. We'll let the kids open their cards from Gramma and exchange their own homemade Valentines and have their treats early. In our family, Fat Tuesday is always a much bigger deal than Valentine's Day, anyway.

We are fortunate to be in control of when our homeschool celebrations take place, and our kids who go to regular school attend a faithful Catholic school, so there won't be any conflict there. They'll also exchange school Valentines before Ash Wednesday.

But I know others aren't so lucky, and have kids who attend public school, or Catholic schools that aren't paying attention <le sigh>. And that's a big ol' bummer. Because on February 14th, Ash Wednesday must win.

I'm in no way against Valentine's Day as a fun, cute tradition. I'm a fan of any attempts to reclaim for Catholicism what has become a very secular celebration. I πŸ’— Catholic Valentines. But St. Valentine's Day definitely loses to Ash Wednesday. In fact, it already lost to the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius!

There is very little historical record about St. Valentine. All we know is his name, and that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome on February 14th. Even his story in the 13th century Golden Legend, which is usually quite verbose,  is basically: "There was a knight named Valentine. He was arrested by the emperor and wouldn't apostatize. He healed the provost's blind daughter. Then the emperor lopped off his head. The End."

So, in the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar by Pope Paul VI, that emphasized saints who have a historical footprint, St. Valentine was left off. He's still a saint. We can still celebrate his feast day. But on the universal calendar, the day belongs to Sts. Cyril and Methodius (they seem like fun guys, no? πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜„) . . .

about whom there is a great deal of historical record. They were brothers who lived in the ninth century. They were missionaries, theologians, and the apostles to the Slavs, translating the Bible and creating the cyrillic alphabet with which to do it. And St. Cyril died on February 14th, so they get the day. Except when it's Ash Wednesday, then they get bumped too.

Because, let's face it, Ash Wednesday is a BIG deal.

Before Pope Pope Paul VI issued Paenitemini in 1966, Catholics observed FIFTY-SIX days of required fasting each year: every day of Lent (excluding Sundays), four sets of three Ember Days, and the Vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception, and All Saints’ Day. Since 1966, we observe . . . two: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

The rules are:
All Catholics from the completion of their twenty-first year to the beginning of their sixtieth year are bound to observe the Law of fast. . . . Only one full meal is allowed on a day of Fast. Two other meatless meals are permitted. These meals should be sufficient to maintain strength in accordance with each one's needs. Both of these meals, or collations, together, should not equal one full meal. . . .

Solid foods between meals is not permitted. Liquids, including coffee, tea, milk and fruit juices are allowed.  
In connection with problems arising from the Laws of Fast and Abstinence, a confessor or priest should be consulted. Dispensations may be granted for a serious reason concerning health or the ability to work.
Abstinence from meat on abstinence days is obligatory for Catholics aged fourteen to sixty. (But our whole family abstains from meat every Friday of the year, and the little kids don't even notice. It's the fifteen year old boy who suffers it!)

Even though none of my kids are bound by the fast, and most of them aren't even bound to the abstinence from meat, *I* am still bound to make sure that they know that Ash Wednesday is a penitential day: "As regards those of a lesser age, pastors of souls and parents should see to it with particular care that they are educated to a true sense of penitence."

Faces full of heart-shaped candy isn't going to do that.

So, if we were faced with the dilemma of secular Valentine's Day parties on Ash Wednesday itself, I would make a point of giving Ash Wednesday precedence. We would, of course, go to Mass and receive ashes. Everyone of every age in our family receives ashes (ashes are a sacramental rather than a sacrament, and so can be received by babies, the mentally disabled, and even non-Catholics). If I could keep my kids home from preschool or school that day, I would.

If I couldn't, I wouldn't sweat it for very little kids. For more mature little kids and all kids past the age of reason (First Communion age), if they needed to go to school, I'd make them a deal that we'd have plenty of treats and early Valentines on Fat Tuesday, and they could bring their school Valentine treats home and save them to eat on Sunday. But fasting from treats on Ash Wednesday seems like a given, even though it's not written in canon law.

I think it's GREAT to start kids early on the concept of OUR family culture. We do things differently because we're Catholic, but most importantly because we're Tierneys (and Tierneys are awesome). If we are to succeed in keeping our kids Catholic for their whole lives--the goal, obviously--they are going to have to do a LOT of things differently than the rest of society. Waiting to eat Valentine candy, or better yet, stuffing our faces on Fat Tuesday instead, is small potatoes. I trust my kids to handle it.

I'm sure each of us can figure out a way that works with our own family circumstances, to give Ash Wednesday the place it deserves.

Related reading . . .



And when you figure out when you're doing Valentine's Day, if you need some quick, Catholic, Valentines, there are free printables on the blog here:


And three sets in my Etsy shop, formatted for easy double-sided printing!

Happy feasting and fasting, y'all.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

How (and When) we Celebrate Epiphany, and Why This Christmas Card is Definitely Not Too Late

Today is January 6th, which is the traditional date of Epiphany, the day that the three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem, having followed the star to meet the baby Jesus. But for Western Catholics, we celebrate it tomorrow, on the Sunday after January 1st.

Liturgical nerd details to follow, feel free to skip these next two paragraphs if that's not you.

Before the 1969 liturgical calendar revisions, Christmas was an octave that went from December 25-January 1 (the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God), each day of Christmas was a solemnity, as is the case with the Easter octave. Christmastide went all the way to twelfth night, January 5th. January 6th was Epiphany, which was its own octave, and (until 1955) the celebration of Epiphany included the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. Epiphanytide lasted until Candlemas (the Feast of the Presentation) on February 2nd. After Candlemas, the holidays were considered over and it was time to prepare for Lent.

Now, in the Latin Church, Christmas is one Solemnity: December 25, and is an octave, but not an octave of solemnities. This is to preserve the celebrations of the liturgies of the feast days that fall during the octave: St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents. Under the new liturgical calendar, in order to emphasize Sunday and Solemnity Masses and the readings that go with them, those celebrations supercede lesser feast days. A saint's day that falls on a Sunday or during the Easter octave only gets bumped every seven years, since Easter moves, but those Christmas octave feasts would get bumped every year. (All it really means for us at home is no Christmas meat Friday. πŸ˜•) Epiphany is now celebrated on the Sunday after January 1st. Christmastide extends right past Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord, which is its own feast day, the Sunday after Epiphany, or the Monday after Epiphany if Epiphany is celebrated on January 7th or 8th. The Christmas season ends with the Baptism of the Lord.

tl;dr: Epiphany is tomorrow and it's still Christmas until Monday!

Which is why it's totally fine that I'm sharing our Christmas card with you guys today. (Epiphany celebration details to follow). I did get them out in the mail before Christmas, them promptly got the flu, followed by a sinus infection and was basically out of commission from December 20th-31st. The rest of the family got the flu too, but not as badly. Fortunately we're all recovered now! Then, I finished our homeschool group yearbook (for 2016-2017 😬) and FINALLY got a chance to work on edits on the liturgical living in the home book. Whew. So no blogging. But now that's done so here's a wrap up of our year . . .

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s that time of year again! And what a crazy year it’s been. We’ve got a new baby and a new job in the family, and a lot of new paint on a very old house. We did some of the same stuff, like family trips to Disneyland and the national parks (this year was Arches, Yellowstone, and Sequoia) and never-before-done stuff like a depressed skull fracture and an ambulance ride. We keep it interesting.

Jack (15): He lost the sophomore class presidential election (as the incumbent) and declared, “I’m done with democracy.” He’s focusing his efforts instead on the St. Monica Academy baseball and JV basketball teams, the latter of which he has proclaimed himself captain. He was John Hancock in the school musical 1776 (we’ve since had to confiscate his gavel), and made the school honor roll every semester. And he received in the mail his US patent for the Boomerang Zip Line he invented with Grandad. He’s a (loveable) tyrant in general, but a big ol’ softy when it comes to his four-year-old sister Lulu -- the only person who really understands him. He’s currently working his way through the Improv comedy online driver’s ed program, and has an appointment to get his learner’s permit at 8:20am on December 26, the morning he turns fifteen and a half. Los Angeles drivers please take note. (Update: He got it! And he's been driving us pretty regularly and is terrific except for a tendency to drive too close to the parking lane, which MIGHT give me a heart attack.)

Betty (13): She is enjoying her first full year at SMA, especially English and math, and had her drawing of a partridge in a pear tree featured in the school Christmas concert program. She played on the volleyball team, made the school honor roll, and has Jack beat on citizenship awards, six to one. She loves baking and has become an accomplished cookie decorator. She doesn’t love laundry, but she’s pretty good at that too. She continues to be a big help to her mother, and has even added babywearing to her list of skills this time around. She’s a Hufflepuff through and through: friendly, loyal, and trustworthy. The word around school is that Betty has beautiful hair.

Bobby (12): He also likes SMA, and has claimed the positions of runner up class clown, and honorary bell choir captain. He continues to be our family class clown, but his jokes don’t really translate to Christmas card summary form. You kinda have to be there. He played on the flag football and basketball teams, and forgot his sweater for school Mass approximately twenty-seven times. He loves Narnia, and Middle Earth, and Hogwarts, and Galaxies Far Far Away. He is the proud owner of 150 carpenter ants, and 22 chickens. One of his favorite pastimes is getting bossed around by two-year-old Midge, who especially likes him to move her little stool and little chair (both) around at her direction during family rosaries. 

Gus (10): Gus is relishing his role as man of the house during the day, and is the first Tierney Family School student to figure out that if you just sit down and get your schoolwork done, there’s a whole rest of the day for doing whatever you want. Which turns out to be mostly melty-beads. Seriously, does anyone want some melty-bead creations? We have some. He and Bobby are altar servers at St. Therese, so now the rest of us can fit in one pew again. He got to go away to camp for the first time this summer, and subbed in on the SMA football team when they were short players. He was Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Mr. Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol. He’s taken up the mantle of Jack’s neighborhood trash can business, mostly to feed his melty-bead habit. He continues to charm his way out of trouble, most of the time. 

Anita (8): She knocked her front tooth clean out of her head for the second time in her life, this time on a zipline (but not JACK’S zipline which is fun and safe and please contact him if you’d like to market it for worldwide distribution). Fun fact: a knocked out tooth should be transported in milk. It seems to be reattaching, fingers-crossed, St. Apollonia pray for us. She played center on a flag football team with Frankie, and got to go head to head against him when she got pulled to the other team which was short players. She likes history and science and played a very convincing “evil unicorn” and “kid who goes to get the prize turkey for Scrooge.”

Frankie (6): On April 27th, Frankie was javelined in the forehead by a piece of ¾ inch pvc pipe, when he got in the middle of an ill-conceived game of pvc-spear-catch being played by his brothers. It just seemed like he’d need stitches until he became unresponsive in the ER waiting room, then had a grand mal seizure in the CT scanner. It turned out he had a depressed skull fracture. We were rushed in an ambulance from that hospital to one with a children’s trauma center. Jack was the man of the hour, filling out forms (albeit misspelling things like his brother’s name), turning on the ambulance siren, and being a great comfort to his mother. Family friends jumped into action to look after the other kids, and bring fast food burgers to us at the hospital. Jim left a meeting and got on a plane home. Grandparents left a formal dinner and rushed up the freeway. And after one touch-and-go night and a lot of stitches, he was back to his same old crazy self, with the addition of an exactly ¾ inch round scar on his forehead. He took one smell of Yellowstone National Park and re-christened it “Stinkostone.” He’s our best-ever first grade reader and is a completely self-taught bicycle-rider.

Lulu (4): Lulu continues to be pleased and delighted at life. She was super proud of her first practical joke, played on her beloved biggest brother: “Jack! I set the table, and gave you a LITTLE spoon.” If she could live anywhere in the world, it would be inside the Ariel ride at Disney California Adventure, which is her favorite, despite the fact that she’s never seen the movie. 

Midge (2): She really liked the buff-loes at Yellowstone and is pretty sure she saw one everywhere we just went. She loves snuggling her baby brother, bossing her big brothers, wearing her baby doll carrier, and taking pictures on her play phone: “‘MILE, you guys!” She asked for a red, a white, and a cranberry for Christmas. If anyone knows what she’s talking about, let us know ASAP. (Update: The husband bought her some Raspberry Zinger snack cakes and she declared them to be exactly what she always wanted.)

George (6 months): This yankee doodle dandy was born on the 4th of July, our first ten-pounder. He is named for two great great grandfathers, his grandad, a great uncle, a president, a saint, and a blessed. He’s maybe the most extroverted person I’ve ever met, and enjoys the company of all people, himself in the mirror, and any toy with a face. His favorite activities include sleeping on mom, preventing the same from working on the computer (hence the lateness of this Christmas card), and radiant gummy smiles that make it hard to be too frustrated with that other stuff.

Jim has an exciting new job as the C.O.O. of Exer More Than Urgent Care, a small but growing company here in the LA area. He waged a Quixotic war against pool algae and ants (not Bobby’s ants), drove 3500 miles in a thirty-nine foot RV, and was glad to leave the baby-delivering to the professionals this time around.

Kendra didn’t LOVE 2017, what with the Frankie thing, and some pregnancy-related health issues, and a painting-on-a-ladder-at-five-months-pregnant-related tailbone fracture. She spent a year writing a 700 page book about living the Catholic liturgical year in the home, and is currently in negotiations with George about being allowed some time to cut it down to more like 400 pages. It’s due to be published by Ignatius Press . . . sometime. She is very much looking forward to relinquishing some of her driving duties to Jack in 2018. (Update: DONE! At least for now. I cut it down to close to 400 pages and submitted it to my editor yesterday!!!!!)

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and officially extend each of you an invitation to visit and a place to stay. Especially if you’re handy with a paintbrush.

With love,
Jim, Kendra, Jack, Betty, Bobby, Gus, Anita, Frankie, Lulu, Midge, and George

And here's George's birth announcement, which went out with the Christmas card, which I think is totally legit.

And now on to Epiphany celebrations! Here's what we're doing:

1. Our Christmas decorations are still up! There are no official rules or mandates or anything, but it's Catholic tradition to leave Christmas decorations up until twelfth night at least. The Vatican Christmas tree stays up through the Baptism of the Lord. Since we're having a party tonight, and I missed so much of Christmas being sick, we're going to wait to take down the tree and the Christmas decorations until Monday. ( . . . or maybe next weekend?) The nativity sets stay out until Candlemas on February 2nd. Then they get put away along with all the various books and knick knacks that accidentally got left out when I put Christmas away the first time.

2. Tonight, we're hosting an international potluck dinner! The three Wise Men are traditionally understood to have come from different continents: Europe (Melchior), Asia (Caspar) and Africa (Balthasar), so our guests are bringing a favorite international food, egg rolls or empanadas or ravioli, or whatever so that our dinner spread will be as universal as our Catholic/catholic faith.

3. Tonight, the kids will put their shoes out by the front door, and leave some grass or lettuce out for the camels. The three Kings will leave a few little treats in the shoes: gold coins, maybe smarties because they're wise, or milky way bars because they look to the stars. The camels will eat their grass, and leave behind camel spit (which looks a lot like a beaten egg white).

4. Tomorrow, the kids will find the treats in their shoes, and the camel spit, and see that the travelling Wise Men have finally arrived at the nativity set, after spending the days since Christmas wandering around the house under the cover of night. (This is why it's nice to keep the nativity sets out until Candlemas, the Wise Men JUST got there!)

5. We'll have a King Cake. I like to use three packages of canned cinnamon roll dough, layer them in a bundt cake pan, top it with the frosting that comes in the package, and yellow, green, and purple sprinkles. When we had fewer people I used fewer packages of dough.

The period of ordinary time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday is King Cake season. You can have King Cake anytime during that period, but not before or after. And the rule is, if you find the baby Jesus in there (or bean or ring) you’re in charge of bringing the King Cake to the next gathering.

One of the kids will find the prize in the cake and get to be the King or Queen of Epiphany. They choose a consort (boys choose a queen to be the sub-ruler, girls choose a king), and if a preschooler finds the prize s/he chooses a regent to help rule. The King or Queen gets to pick our meals (from what we have in the house) and the activities and entertainment (within reason) and assign chores (without being a bully about it). And during meals, anytime the primary ruler takes a drink we all announce "The King is drinking! The King is drinking!" (or Queen) and everyone else takes a drink.

6. We'll Chalk the Door and do an Epiphany House Blessing! I use the instructions and prayer found here. Some parishes give out blessed chalk, or you can bring some yourself and ask Father to bless it after Mass, or the head of the household can bless it at home. Afterwards, just bury the extra chalk. Since it's blessed, it shouldn't go back into the chalk box.

7. We'll listen to this song. How is this the first year I've heard it?!?

And that's that! Merry Christmas and Happy Epiphany and Happy New Year! Here's hoping there's more blogging around here is 2018.