Category Archives: 7 Quick Take Fridays

{SQT} Seven Questions You Were Maybe Thinking of Asking


(I wrote this post Friday morning but my blogging software wasn’t letting me upload any photos, and I know everyone loves photos, especially of my (dare I say it) ADORABLE kids. Hence the fact that I’m posting this “Seven Quick Takes Friday” post on a Tuesday!)

Here’s what I wrote on Friday…

Once again, it’s been too long since I’ve posted, and once again, I’m going to cheat and do the quickest and easiest post possible… a 7QT post! This time, I’m just going to answer a few of the questions that I think you might be thinking of asking!

Question #1: What have you guys been up to?

I am pleased to report that I am writing this post from the basement of my bestie Stephanie… in Pennsylvania! Stephanie and her family moved out here five years ago, and this is our first trip to visit them, so I’m pretty stoked. We’ve climbed a mountain, hiked [a very small portion of] the Appalachian Trail, played in a fjord, walked through a huge field of boulders, done hibachi, and drank a few glasses of fermented grape juice. It’s pretty much been my ideal vacation, minus one thing…

The whole PA gang, outside the scenic railway station in Jim Thorpe, PA
The whole PA gang, outside the scenic railway station in Jim Thorpe, PA

Question #2: Did Ray come?

I know your next question: Did Ray come???!!! Well, no, unfortunately, he couldn’t, since he’s still in neurological rehab in Michigan. I’ve struggled with this, I’m not going to lie. And I know he’s struggled with it too. I keep telling myself that I’ve been hoping to do this for years, and I always figured that I’d visit my friend Stephanie as a “girls trip plus kids” anyways. But it would have been much easier if Ray had been back home, working, hanging out with friends, playing golf, etc.

The reality is that Ray would not have enjoyed this trip. Climbing mountains, jumping around on boulders, and wading through fjords are not really in the cards for him right now. But that doesn’t take away the tinge of guilt I feel constantly, or any of the emotions I’m sure he’s experiencing, either.

Question #3: Are you crazy?

Yes, probably. I drove from visiting Ray in Grand Rapids all the way to eastern PA with five kids. The map app said it would take ten hours. It took twelve.

Question #4: Did you kill any of the kids?

Um, no. Actually, I hardly even came close. Well, there was the time when I was letting Little Man stretch his legs by “driving” the car while the older two boys helped me clean the windshield. Not realizing the consequences, one of the boys opened the driver side door while Little Man was leaning against it. Gravity took over. Mommy freaked. Little Man cried. Boy-who-opened-door cried. But once the initial scare wore off, everyone was fine.

The other time that I “hardly even came close” to killing one of the kids was when the boys were fighting over the space in the backseat. No one died, and I didn’t even end up pulling the car over, as I had threatened. Ultimately, I resorted to bribery – a remarkably effective tool. I now owe two kids five dollars, one kid four, and the least well-behaved (for this particular drive, anyways) gets to walk away keeping three of the five dollars that were originally on offer.

Question #5: So, how’s Ray doing?

A selfie of the two of us from several weeks ago, when we visited beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.
A selfie of the two of us from several weeks ago, when we visited beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.

He’s doing very well, thank you for asking. I know that being away from home is tough on him, but the reality is that the noise level and general craziness at our house when all five kids are home over the summer would have been a lot for him to handle. He’s accomplished both of the goals which he set for himself in early February – to be able to run and to swing a golf club. I’m pretty sure the “running” has been very limited and not something he should do without his physical therapist present, and he says that his golf swing needs a lot of improvement, but considering how lofty both of those goals seemed four months ago, their achievement is definitely something to be celebrated.

 Question #6: And, how are you and the kids?

We’re good. Ray’s being in Grand Rapids is a little bit like the good ol’ days,

Kids walking the Appalachian Trail in PA
Kids walking the Appalachian Trail in PA

when Daddy was on a business trip – he’s just gone a “bit” longer, and we’re traveling nearly every weekend in order to see him. The kids have enjoyed the travel, even if I’ve nearly lost my mind over it at times.

During the weeks, I’m working a lot, either promoting my book or building up my little freelance writing business in order to fill the gap left by long term disability insurance. We’re blessed to have a friend who loves the kids and watches them pro-bono, who also has kids that mine love to play with… and access to a pool. I’m also blessed to have something I’m good at and love to do (writing) that can help provide for our family.

Question #7: Isn’t God amazing?!!

Well, yes, yes, he is! It never ceases to amaze me how God provides for our needs. Just when the summer was looming ahead of us, and I knew having the kids and Ray home at the same time would be a challenge, God provided an awesome opportunity for Ray to go receive intensive therapy, in a quiet, peaceful, and scheduled environment. When long term disability threatened to cut our income significantly, God provided new clients and book revenue to fill the void. He provided a friend to watch the kids, and he’s even provided new friends in Grand Rapids to help us feel welcome and comfortable in Ray’s home-away-from-home.

What’s especially remarkable is this: If we didn’t have a cross to bear, we would be much less aware of these abundant blessings.


Here are some more photos. Unfortunately my crazy blogging platform is turning some of the photos around and then won’t let me fix them. Having spent WAY too much time on this, I’m posting them anyways. You’ll just have to tilt your head to the left. Ha.

Ray with Matt, our new God-given Grand Rapids friend.
Ray with Matt, our new God-given Grand Rapids friend.

Me with my beautiful bestie. What a blessing she is!

Evan in fjord small IMG_3223

Mary on boulder field mailed

Mary Lise and Isaac hopping around the magnificent 13 acre boulder field
Boo and Bear hopping around the magnificent 13 acre boulder field

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Being Home – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (A 7QT Post)


It’s been two weeks now since Ray’s unexpected homecoming. There have been good times, there have been bad times, and there have been downright ugly times. Here are some highlights.

1. Good: I Can’t Even Keep Track of How Much Help We’ve Had

Seriously. I’ve said all along that about the only thing people aren’t doing for me is blowing my nose and wiping my… eh hmm. The boatloads of help have continued, and even increased, since Ray’s been home. Ray’s parents have spent a ton of time at the house helping keep him busy, safe, and therapied. (Yes, I’m allowed to make up new words.) A few courageous friends and family members have even come and stayed with him for short periods of time. Meals have been brought, grocery trips made, and kids have been occupied.

2. Good: My Kids Are Pretty Awesome

The kids have been an amazing help. Boo (our 5 year old) will act as Ray’s loving restraint device by sitting on his lap when I need to leave the room. The older ones will play games with him to keep him in one spot, and they’re generally very happy to help by bringing IMG_9075 isaac bday ray with girlsDaddy whatever he needs.

Ray’s reality is different from our own. Sometimes he sees things that aren’t there, and sometimes he doesn’t see things that are there. Ray will discipline the kids for things they didn’t do, or for failure to do things they were never told to do in the first place. He frequently calls them by the wrong name, or mistakes someone else’s child as one of our own.

This confounds the younger children, but the older two have responded remarkably well. Dude and Bonita will shrug these things off, tell him what he needs to hear at that moment, and, at times, even wink at Mommy as they’re doing it.

3. Bad: Lines Are Getting Blurred

As you might guess from #2, the children’s response is both a blessing, and a curse. The line between parent and child is, necessarily, blurred right now. This leads to children taking on responsibilities they should never have to bear. For example, Ray fell Thursday night, while in the living room with 12 year old Dude. Dude felt that it was all his fault, that he should have caught Daddy. Of course, you and I know that that would have been impossible, but Dude is still beating himself up over it, nonetheless.

The line of honesty and trust is being blurred, as well. Daddy tells some real whoppers, which is an inherent part of his diagnosis. Some of it is hallucination, and some of it is “confabulation.” The kids are learning, very quickly, not to believe anything Daddy says, and, at this point in time, I can only support them in that understanding. Parents should always advocate and support one another, presenting a “unified front” to their kids. Instead, in the Engelman household right now, the children and I have had to turn the tables and present a “unified front” to their father. It’s slippery territory.

4. Good: At Times, I Feel Like I’ve “Got This”

There have been moments, and even days, when dinner was on the table at a reasonable hour, the house was relatively neat and clean, and the laundry not atrociously overflowing. More importantly, Ray seemed to be benefitting from activities and love at home and the children and I have enjoyed having him here. In those moments, I’ve felt like I had things pretty well under control, even while recognizing that, yes, that was entirely due to God’s grace and the help and kindness of friends, family, and even strangers.

5. Ugly: There Have Been Times When I Totally Didn’t “Have This”

And then it all falls apart. Two kids throwing fits at the same time, lack of sleep due to a baby who wakes up three to four times a night and a husband who sometimes needs assistance at night, too. A messy house that eventually gets the better of me, Ray’s stressful showers that take up to an hour, trying to get anywhere on time being next to impossible… these things tend to add up and bring out the very worst in me.

6. Bad: Patience Remains a Virtue I Need to Work On

As you can guess from #5, and as I’ve discussed previously, patience is a virtue that I don’t possess in great quantities. As I mentioned during my radio interview Friday, I frequently think, this requires the patience of Job, and I don’t have the patience of Job.

Part of Ray’s injury has led him to a bit of an OCD personality, that requires prolonged tooth brushing and fixating on various other grooming needs. To make matters worse, I really need to be with him through much of this grooming to make sure that he is safe. Most of the time, I think I do pretty well with this, but when we’re on a schedule, having started well in advance of the necessary departure time, and grooming throws us fifteen to thirty minutes behind, my patience has been know to run out.

Obviously, I’m working on this, on changing the amount of time I allow to get to commitments, and the way we do things in general so that he can have the time he needs, but I’ve got a long way to go before I get it all figured out.

7. Good: We Have a Merciful God

What a blessing to be in the season of Lent, when I am reminded that we are called to take up our crosses and follow Christ. And, as I consider Christ on his way to Calvary, I am also reminded that he fell three times on that journey. Christ was perfect in every way, but his falling reminds me that I am not. I am human, and imperfect, and I will inevitably fall at times.

2016 is being celebrated within the Catholic Church as a “Jubilee Year of Mercy.” This is a time to remember God’s Mercy, through the gift of his son on the cross, through which all our sins are forgiven. It’s also a time for us to extend mercy to others, and even to ourselves.

As I fall, and get up, and fall, and get up again, I rejoice in the boundless mercy of our loving God, and seek to remind myself to be merciful in turn to Ray, to my children, and to myself.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!


At This Most Difficult Hour, 7 Things I’m Grateful For

Just over twenty-four hours ago, our lives were drastically changed when I found my husband, Ray, unresponsive on our family room floor. It’s probably stupid that I’m writing this when I really need to be sleeping, but the words started circling like evil, sleep-eating, blood-thirsty sharks, (don’t get me wrong, I love these sharks most of the time) and I decided to just get this post out quickly, share it, and – hopefully – go back to sleep.

I can’t fit all of the things I’m grateful for into this post, but this will be a start, at least.

Family on beach

1. Ray’s Guardian Angel

Or maybe it was Little Man’s, I’m not sure. But when Ray got out of bed at 3 am yesterday morning, it barely registered with me. Fortunately, it woke Little Man up. If I hadn’t gotten up to nurse him, the story would have been very different when I woke up to my alarm clock at 5:30.

2. Ray’s Guardian Angel

Did I already say that? Oh well. I learned late yesterday that the procedure the cardiologist performed to open Ray’s artery, which was 100% blocked, would not have been successful if performed by most cardiologists. He happened to come into the hospital at a time when one of the best cardiologists in the city was working, according to my friend who was a critical care cardiac nurse for 17 years and worked with this particular doctor. I can’t remember his name right now, but I’m incredibly grateful to him, too.

3. Ray’s Guardian Angel

Oh, geez. I think I’m getting repetitive now. Okay, all of this clearly goes beyond one guardian angel and points directly to the Big Man himself, but I’m saving Him for last. I figure that some hand was guiding those paramedics, who arrived at our house incredibly quickly, and who were awesome with me and the children (there were firemen and police officers too. All were amazing). From the time I woke up until the paramedics arrived was 15 minutes, I think. When you consider that I did not initially realize what was going on, and had “half” nursed Little Man before I realized that Ray hadn’t just fallen asleep on the floor (sounds crazy, but entirely possible in Ray’s sleep world,) that relatively short space of time is nothing short of miraculous.

A nice fire, good company, good chili. What more could a man ask for?

4. My Family

Just before 4 am, Ray left for the hospital. Who would I call to meet me there, but my parents, of course? And Dad, of course, answered the phone. And, of course, Mom and Dad arrived at the hospital just minutes after I got there with the kids. They proceeded to take care of me and the kids throughout the day, and I know they will be a tremendous help in the days to come.

My sisters… they took the kids yesterday afternoon and evening. They’ll likely have them more than I will in the days and weeks to come. They provide a comfortable, safe haven for children who need it so desperately right now.

My friend Erin texted a few minutes after I called my folks. I said out loud, “Oh my gosh. Erin Miller. What, is she clairvoyant?” Of course, she had no idea what was happening, but still, don’t you think that’s a little weird. If I had known she was awake, I would not have hesitated to text her instead of waking up my parents.  And so she’s listed under this heading. Erin took off work so that she could be there to help with my kids. I’ve said before that she’s generous to a fault. I still believe that to be true. Right now, I’m extremely grateful for that “fault.”

My friend Jennifer (the critical care cardiac nurse) took off work and came and spent hours with me and Ray’s family at the hospital, translating medical-ese into English, asking pertinent questions, and affirming that he was receiving the very best care. She’s been my bestie since our Freshman year in high school. And so she’s under this heading, too.

My friend Brenda arrive outside Ray’s door late last night, having worked in the hospital all day long. She took Ray’s mom and sister down to the cafeteria, got toiletries for them, made sure they were comfortable, and then went back to Ray’s room to stay with him while I went home to get Little Man to bed (it was midnight and he hadn’t gone to bed yet. My poor mom.), get Dude to bed (same story) and get me to bed (same story. Dude and I had both been up since three.) And so… she’s under this heading.

5. Ray’s Family

It sounds ridiculous, but I’m so glad I like Ray’s family right now. They could be under heading number four, but they have their own serious hurting and worrying going on – he’s their blood, their son or their baby brother who’s been through tragedy before, and they were there the first time around. They got him through that first time, thirty years ago, and they will be instrumental in getting him through this time. It’s good to be surrounded by other people who love him, and who I love.

ray and steph on stephs fortieth

6. Our Friends

Many of you would have bent over backwards to help us today. Some of you did, and some of you will help us in the days, weeks, and months to come. We’re going to need all of you. I’m so grateful for this incredible network of friends who span across two wonderful parishes, a preschool, two neighborhoods, and beyond. I’m grateful for your prayers, the meals that have already started arriving, the clean house I came home to, every offer of support and help that you have extended or will extend. I’m overwhelmed. I can never write enough thank you notes, I will never find the words. I hope that I can be as present to you in your hour of need as you are to me.

7. My God and My Faith

My calm this morning was surreal. But I know it was rooted in faith. It was firmly founded in the knowledge that “I have a big God”. He will bring us through this. No matter the outcome, we are never left without hope. We rest securely in the knowledge that God has a beautiful banquet prepared for those who love him. We cling to the understanding that, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” God can will take all things and use them for good. He remains my rock, my stronghold. I went to sleep with the words, “Night holds no terrors for me, sleeping under God’s wings.” Day holds no terror either. He will bring us through.

This doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a start, and maybe now I can sleep. Please continue to pray for Ray. His condition is critical. I can’t find the words to pray, and I’m sure yours will be better. Healing, comfort, and hope. God’s will be done, all Glory to Him, the One who made us all.

Oh, number 8… when it’s so hard to know the words to pray, I’m grateful for all of the prayers written by saints whose words are better than mine – or written by God himself. Here are a few favorites.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art though among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

Blessed Mother, pray for us. St. Jude, pray for us. St. Isidore (Ray’s patron) pray for us. All you holy men and women, pray for us.



For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!


Ugly, Squeaky, Humbling: 7 Things I Love About Our Little House

seven-quick-takes-friday-2One year ago, my family moved from our ten-year-old, well-maintained, nicely decorated 3600 square foot home, and into a sixty-year-old, poorly maintained, horridly decorated 1800 square foot home. I shared a little of the story here and here.

While there are many things I would like to change about this ugly little house, the fact of the matter is… I love it. Here are seven reasons why.

ugly house

1. The Ugly Reminds Me to be Grateful

The kitchen and family room floors must be the most horrid linoleum I’ve ever seen. I try not to use the “H” word, but let’s just say, I strongly dislike the flooring. However, when I look at those floors and dream of ripping that nasty linoleum up, I am reminded that the majority of the world’s population lives in huts or shacks that don’t have flooring at all. And what can I do, other than be thankful that we have flooring – even if it’s ugly – not to mention heat, running water, and a washing machine?

2. Less House = Less Cleaning

There were rooms in our old house that I entered once or twice a month… to clean. I found that a bit frustrating. In this little house, every speck of dust and dirt has been well-earned by a well-lived-in space. I appreciate that, and it makes cleaning much more pleasant when I know that I will actually enjoy the fruits of my labors.

3. The Creaky Back Door Makes Me Feel Like I’m On Vacation

I can’t fully explain this, but that squeak makes me think, “lake house.” Every time it opens, I relax just a little bit.

4. Tighter Quarters = Tighter Family

I heard a while back that studies have shown that families who live in smaller homes are actually happier. My children would completely disagree with this – they are constantly insisting that we need a larger home, or to add another story to this one – but I can see a difference in my family since we moved. And I like what I see.

5. The Yard is a Little Slice of Paradise, in the Middle of the Citytree in fall

The yard was the whole reason we wanted this house, in the first place, and it hasn’t disappointed. Sure, it’s been a ton of work and there’s still tons more to do. But, whether we’re in the house or out in the yard, we feel like we’re out in the country. We have campfires regularly, and the kids have camped out in the back yard with friends. And yet, we have every imaginable amenity within minutes – literally. Stores, restaurants, schools, friends… nothing’s more than a mile or two away. It’s truly our hidden little slice of paradise!

6. Ugly Paint Makes for Excellent Conversation

While we have painted several rooms of the house now (thanks largely to my master-painter-mother-in-law!), a few of the original colors still remain, and they make for excellent conversation. What do you think they were thinking when they chose dark brown paint to go with blue countertops? What’s with the dark colors in an already dark house? And, best of all, Which type of poop best describes that color?

7. A Much Needed Lesson in Humility

I joke that I live in the land of latte’s and leggings, an oasis of Maserati’s and mansions. I enjoy a latte as much as anyone, but my rear-end won’t be seeing leggings anytime soon. My minivan is a far cry from a Maserati (and let’s not even talk about Ray’s “classic” Honda), and our house would only be a mansion if you stacked three more stories on top.

I confess. For a while, I just avoided having people I didn’t know over. But, I’m getting over that. I figure God doesn’t care about the size of our homes, or how nicely they’re decorated, and neither should anyone else.

Instead, he cares about how nicely our souls are “decorated.”

My house needs a lot of work. And, let’s face it, my soul is very much a work in progress too. But, as long as I focus more on the latter than the former, I figure that mansion will come eventually. When it does, it will be of the eternal sort. And I’m okay with that.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!


Seven Quick Takes: 7 Ways to Fit the Rosary In Your Day

seven-quick-takes-friday-2In keeping with my blog post novena, I thought I’d use my seven quick takes this week to answer the age-old question: How do you find the time to pray the Rosary everyday? As you’ll see below, I often pray the Rosary while performing other tasks, which may not be the perfect way to do it, but I find that I am able to focus surprisingly well, perhaps because multi-tasking silences that little voice inside my head that says, “You should be mopping the floors,” or, “The toilets are filthy,” or “Did you forget the mountain of laundry you need to fold?” These little “tricks” enable me to pray a daily Rosary, and many days I pray a full fifteen decade Rosary. I do believe that it’s quality – not quantity – that counts. But, “nature loves a vacuum,” and I’d much rather fill the empty moments of my brain with thoughts of Christ and his Mother than whatever “nature” might choose to put in there instead.

— 1 —

While I’m driving… Okay, no surprise there. I think that’s when a lot of people pray it.rosary-2-1499851

— 2 —

At the computer… in those moments when I’m ready to throw my antediluvian laptop in the trashcan because it’s so slow, I use the interminable wait times to say a few Hail Mary’s and meditate. Not ideal, but it does greatly decrease frustration.

— 3 —

While walking the dog, or going for a run… sometimes my motivation to get off my bum and go get some exercise lies purely in knowing that I haven’t prayed the Rosary yet that day and this gets me out of the house so that I can better focus.

— 4 —

While doing the laundry… I’ve actually had some of my best Rosary moments while folding socks and t-shirts. It occupies my hands and allows my mind to run free. I use a set of sacrifice beads, like these, to keep track of the Hail Mary’s.

— 5 —

Tucking the kids into bed… if it’s late, and my first response is, “no,” my kids will actually beg me to pray a decade with each of them. It’s our special time together, just me and that one child. Plus, they get to stay up a few minutes longer.

— 6 —

At my little makeshift alter… I have a beautiful framed Our Lady of Guadalupe in the entry of our home. On my better days, I pull up a padded stool, kneel, and pray before that image. Since Our Lady is expecting in the Guadalupe image, it helps me to focus on both Our Blessed Mother and her infant son, the humility into which he chose to be born, the value of human life, and much more.

— 7 —

In Adoration… well, of course this would be the very best of all options. While having an infant prevents me from having a regularly scheduled hour in the Adoration Chapel, it does not prevent me from going to Adoration as often as possible. There is simply no comparison to time spent contemplating the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, while also contemplating his life, and his mother’s.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!


Seven Quick Takes: Crazy, Gross, Priceless

seven-quick-takes-friday-2Here are some highlights from the past week, in which I provide new definitions for a few common words.

— 1 —

Crazy: The guy that side swipes your mirror when you’re sitting at a stop light but just keeps on driving, and then when you finally chase him down acts like you’re the nut.

— 2 —

Gross: The moment you finish folding a week’s worth of clothing and realize you’ve only folded one pair of underwear for one of your children.

(I always thought parental concern about ambulance drivers finding you in clean underwear was totally misplaced. I now realize that some kids really do run around in week-old underwear. And one of them is my own.)

— 3 —

Mary Lise eating sandwichPriceless: When your five year old has been struggling for ages to understand why we’re never in tomorrow, and then, one day, you tell her that she gets to play soccer tomorrow, and she finally yells in frustration, “But dare’s nevuh a tomowoh!”

— 4 —

Trouble: When you get an email from the vice principle stating that your children have been tardy too many times. And it’s only the sixth week of school.

— 5 —

True love: When you’ve gone slightly crazy trying to get the kids off to school ten minutes earlier than usual (see #4) while working around last night’s dinner dishes, your hubby steps in to clean up the mess, and is still washing dishes when you get home fifteen minutes later.

— 6 —

Excitement: Seeing the cover of your book for the first time, and loving it.

— 7 —

Great reading: The Rosary: The Prayer That Saved My Life by Imaculee Ilibigaza.

(A survivor of the Rwandan genocide, the story she shares of the graces and miracles she experienced through praying the Rosary during three months of confinement, hiding from blood thirsty maniacs. If you’re not already a Rosary person, you will be after reading this. If you are a Rosary person, you’ll be more committed to it than ever.)

(The link above is an affiliate link. If you click on it, you’ll be linked to Amazon. Then, if you add any item to your cart and purchase it, I’ll receive a tiny commission. I appreciate it your support!)

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!


Seven Quick Takes – Big Family Craziness, Running Late, Confessing, and a Book Design Sneak Peek

seven-quick-takes-friday-2Well, I’m a day late with this, but, as you’ll read below, I’m a repeat offender as far as tardiness goes. Regardless, thanks for dropping by, and please read on for a little update on the Engelman family.

— 1 —

I am learning just how crazy life can be with five children. Last Saturday, for example, we had to drop off Ray and Bear for soccer pictures at 8:15, get Dude to football at 8:30, take Bonita to basketball IMG_9816.JPGevaluations at 9, have Boo at soccer pictures by 9:30, pickup Bonita from evals at 10:15, and pickup Dude at 10:30. Of course,  Little Man had to be fed in the midst of the mayhem, which I wound up doing while sitting on the ground beneath a tree amid a chaotic mass of people while waiting for soccer pictures. CRAZINESS!

But, who can complain about the hectic lifestyle of big families when they’re still this cute, even at eleven?


— 2 —

If you know me, you know how truly remarkable it is that we were on time to all of those engagements. I struggle with punctuality, to say the least.

Last Sunday, I went to Reconciliation. One of the items that I confessed was a somewhat habitual tardiness to Mass. In fact, we’re generally late any Sunday that the Dude isn’t serving or I’m not lectoring. Unfortunately, I was forced to run to confession by myself, leaving the rest of the family at home because they weren’t ready yet. So, after confession, I raced home to grab the family before returning to the church for Mass. Late.

— 3 —

On the topic of Reconciliation… on Sunday, after addressing a few items and offering some advice, Monsignor asked me, “OK, is that all you have to confess?” To which I dumbly responded, “Yep, that’s it!”


Actually, my response should have been, “Well, no, Monsignor. Those are just the big things. If you really want to hear all that I have to confess, we’ll both be late to Mass!”

Really, though – and with all due respect to Monsignor –  isn’t that an unfair question? Can many of us ever confess all we have to confess? As soon as I uproot one sin, I discover another. I’ll never be done with that process, and I doubt I’ll ever fully recognize all that I have to confess, let alone remember to tell them to the priest in the confessional!

— 4 —

empty tableWhen I came home from taking the kids to school this morning, the dog had much to confess. Upon seeing the look on his face and his tail between his legs, I knew instantly.

Needless to say, the children did not finish their pancakes, but Keyser was happy to make it appear as though they had.

— 5 —

A quick publishing update: I received the “Author Final Review” version of my IMG_9830.JPGbook, A Single Bead, on Thursday. This is the paginated, proofread “proof,” which basically shows exactly how the text will appear on each page. Here’s a little sneak peek of the first page. I love the font they chose for the chapter headings, and the way they positioned it at the top right of the page, rather than centered above the text.

Now, I am anxiously awaiting the cover design, and praying for Sister Mary Joseph, the cover designer, and the rest of the team who will be selecting it. It’s a little nerve-racking, to have something so crucial in the hands of others, but Pauline Books & Media has done a great job so far – from the editing suggestions to that lovely chapter heading font – so I have faith that the cover will be equally as well done!

— 6 —

As we get closer to publication, I am turning my attention toward efforts to promote the book. A big part of that will be public speaking engagements, most likely to church groups.

Apparently, this makes me very weird, but I absolutely adore speaking in public. That said, I’ve been stressing out over possible topics. Then – silly me – I realized that I needed to pray about it. So I did. And now topics, quotes, and quips seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

I’ll be creating a separate “speaking” page on my website soon. In the meantime, if you know of any group that is looking for someone to speak about the Rosary, Biblical words of life for women or teens, mothering with Mary, or any such topic, please keep me in mind! I need to get some official engagements under my belt, for groups ranging from two to two bazillion, and I’m “free” for a limited time! 🙂

— 7 —

A friend recently recommended Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love. It’s the story of a young girl sold into prostitution, who is rescued from that life by a God-fearing man. She then struggles with her own self-worth and ability to love and accept forgiveness. I highly recommend it, along with Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Series which gives beautiful insight into the life of early Christians, with self-sacrificing romance woven in.

(The links above are affiliate links. If you click on them, you’ll be linked to Amazon. Then, if you add any item to your cart and purchase it, I’ll receive a tiny commission. This little “job” doesn’t pay, so I really appreciate it!)

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Seven Quick Takes – Busy Business, Fake Cheek Bones, and Paternity Leave Penance

seven-quick-takes-friday-2So, let me start by acknowledging that I’ve gotten spectacularly awful about posting regularly. Tonight I’m totally cheating by doing a seven quick takes post, which I confess is the quickest and easiest to write. But it just feels good to be writing, so here goes…

— 1 —

There’s good news behind my lack of personal writing. My little freelance writing business is doing quite well and keeping me very busy. So busy, that I find myself with ideas for blog posts but no time to write them. The reality of the matter is that the stuff that pays has to take priority.

Although I miss my personal blogging and writing activity – and hope to get back on track soon – I do really enjoy the writing I’m doing for my clients. I write blog posts, newsletters, and marketing materials for various individuals and businesses, with topics ranging from health and wellness, to insurance, to mundane governmental mandates (I confess to not enjoying those so much), to the oil industry, entrepreneurship, and more. In many cases, I get to pick the topics – an added bonus!

— 2 —

I’m thrilled to share that, just this week, I’ve brought another writer onto my little “team” – another Catholic mom who loves to write and is very talented. She’ll help relieve some of the stress of deadlines when the baby comes, as well as beef up what I’m able to do for my blog clients. I’m pretty excited to see my little business growing, and to be able to work with another writer-mama at the same time.

— 3 —

Ah, baby. Or, as the kids say it, “Babe-E”. See the difference? Not just a baby, an Engelman baby, hence that “E” emphasis.

There seems to be some doubt as to whether we know the gender and just aren’t telling anyone, so I’ll lay it out. We don’t know the gender. Really. We’re not just saying that. That’s why I have a pile of boy clothes and a pile of girl clothes under the changing table. It’s also the reason why I have two names lists on my iPhone note pad – one for boys, one for girls. This is not some elaborate scheme to be “in the know” while everyone else is “in the dark.” I’ve never understood that. Plus, I hate to lie so much that it’s turned me into a person who is just downright incapable of lying. This is inconvenient at times, I’ll admit, but it does save time in the confessional.

Babe-E will be here in about four weeks, and I’ll do my best to get the word out as to the gender… just as soon as I know.

— 4 —

As for me, I’m feeling every bit of my forty years. By evening, I’m hobbling around on pain-ridden feet, favoring my left hip because my right frequently seems to go slightly out of joint. It’s a lovely sight. Oh, and I’ve gained enough weight that I’m having to use makeup to add cheekbones. Beautiful.

— 5 —

Makeup tip! You know those crazy fan-shaped makeup brushes that you never know how to use? Welllll… use that brush to add a line of bronzer just below your cheek bones. They’re there, even if you can’t see them. 🙂 Blend with your powder brush and – voila! – you’ve got visible (if fake) cheek bones!

— 6 —

On a more practical note, we received the most awesome news today! Ray’s company has increased their paternity leave from one week to six. Six. Seriously. SIX WEEKS!!!! With the previous four babies, he didn’t have any paternity leaveHe took a vacation day or two to get through the delivery, and then it was right back to work. I’m still slightly speechless at the idea of having him home for six weeks.

And maybe a little afraid that I might be ready to kill him by the end.

Interestingly, the baby’s due on the second day of Lent. Which means Ray could be home for all of Lent. I love my husband, but the thought has occurred: This could be a whole new form of Lenten penance…

— 7 —

With the baby’s Lenten due date, I’m having to reconcile myself to the idea of not participating in a Lenten Bible or book study group this year. I’ve thought about doing a study via this blog, or via a Facebook group. Something that folks could participate in on their own schedules, as time allows. No baby sitters, or, for that matter, showering, doing your hair, or adding fake cheekbones to impress your fellow book study participants.

One possible book for discussion is The Gargoyle Code, by Dwight Longenecker. Similar to C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, the book is a compilation of the letters between a master tempter and his student, showing the many pitfalls we humans succumb to, with the added benefit of being specifically designed for Lent, with one letter for each day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Sunday.

Anyone out there interested? Leave a comment on this post, comment on Facebook, or send an email to stephanie at afewbeadsshort dot com. I’d love to connect with other women and share in a faith journey this Lenten season, even while being somewhat home-bound due to the new baby.

Oh, and I’m open to other book suggestions, too! (And “Thank you!” to Dana for turning me onto The Gargoyle Code!) Just let me know if you know of another book that would be good!

(The links above are affiliate links… thanks for your support!) 🙂

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Seven Quick Takes On Craziness, Possessed iPhones, and Impure Souls

— 1 —

First, let me tell you that I have actually blogged in the past three weeks of silence. I was just never able to grab enough time to finish the posts. I have many lovely drafts running, with excellent thoughts to share on bubble-wrapping our children, whether the Pope has deified Mary (I’ll give you a hint – he has not), my conversion story, and I don’t even remember what else. So stay tuned. One of these days, life will settle down and I’ll have time to right a truly excellent blog post.

— 2 —

In the mean time, you’re stuck with this, a quick and dirty Boo-is-asleep-and-I’ve finished-my-most-urgent-Inkwell-business-so-I’m-going-to-see-if-I-can-write-seven-quick-takes-in-twenty-minutes blog post. And just writing that last sentence with all the dashes took me three, so prepare to be disappointed.

— 3 —

In a nutshell, life in my house is crazy. But wait. It should be but it actually isn’t. We’ve rented the house, have to be out in less than a month, haven’t found a new house yet, are driving a half hour to and from school (yes, each way), Dude has football practice four to five times a week, plus games, I’m working a couple hours each day, with no childcare… and yet I’m honestly not stressed out. I can only speak for myself, of course. Ray might be a *little* stressed.

Part of it is that Ray’s handling much of the driving. He takes the kids to school three to four times a week, and does the same for football practice. And then part of it is child neglect. Boo is watching more TV than any child should. Part of it is that I’ve done very little packing, which I’m sure will come back to bite me. Then there’s the convenient part of being at a new church where I have little to no volunteer commitments… and the fact that I haven’t posted to my blog in weeks.

But I think much of it is a Grace thing. When this all started, I had a long talk with God and told him that I’d never get through this without him. I haven’t, and I won’t.

— 4 —

Attempting to add to any chaos that might exist is my lovely iPhone. I hate my iPhone. I used to love my iPhone, but then I got a new one and now I hate my iPhone. I don’t often use profanity but Ray’s kind of the one person who knows I used to talk like a sailor and if I don’t throw it in occasionally he thinks he lost his wife completely to that Jesus dude. So, I allow myself the luxury of texting things like this:


This was brought on by the fact that, last night at football practice, my phone mysteriously deleted all of my contacts. ALL OF THEM. My husband became a number. My mom and dad became a number. My sisters and closest friends became numbers. I currently have two contacts, both of which I’ve recreated in the last 18 hours.

The phone says it’s over-capacity. I’ve tried numerous times to delete all of the photos when I sync to my computer, but it won’t do it. So I wind up going in and deleting them one by one. Yes, I have found a simpler way, but it’s still not the way it’s supposed to happen.

I think my phone has been possessed by a demon, intent on getting me to use profanity in texts. And then share it on my Christian blog.

Update: I’ve deleted all but about 20 photos on my phone and it still says I’m over capacity by 3.05 GB. I’d like to use more profanity here, but instead I’ll settle for…


— 5 —

Largely due to messing around with my phone problems, I wasn’t able to finish this during Boo’s nap. Now it’s Saturday morning and I have good news. Ray was able to restore my phone. Hallelujah! It didn’t even require a priest.

— 6 —

Not that I really thought my phone was possessed by a demon, but I thought it worth noting that, last night, as I was reading The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of the Little Flower (Tan Classics), I came across the following:

“As yet I had not experienced that ‘to the pure all things are pure,’ that a simple and upright soul does not see evil in anything, because evil only exists in impure hearts and not in inanimate objects.”

I had to laugh. Of course, it comes as no surprise to me that St. Therese just totally called me out as an impure soul. Following the news these days makes it a little difficult to conceive of being so pure and upright that one sees evil in nothing. And I remember that the Pope recently said that one of Satan’s greatest victories is convincing the world that he (Satan) doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, these words are a good reminder that we are to see Jesus in everyone. Even the terrorists and the murderers. And, yes, even our husbands who are really stressed out and neighbors who don’t take care of their yards when we’re trying to sell our houses.

— 7 —

On that note, I would ask for your prayers for our family. That, if it’s God’s will, we will quickly find a house in which we can all be happy, or that if He prefers to wait and teach us patience, that we can find peace in this transition and blessings in the unknowns.

**Thanks!** And feel free to add your own prayer requests in the comments section.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

 P.S. That Story of a Soul link is an affiliate link. Thanks for your support! I do highly recommend the book. It’s an easy, enjoyable read from which much insight can be gained!

Seven Quick Takes on Being Sick, Long Drives, and Moving

I figured that, after dropping my little bombshell last week, I probably ought to take a moment to update you on the few little things that are going on in the Engelman family.  Sure, there’s a baby on the way.  What’s that in the midst of a new church, a new school, moving, starting a business, and (hopefully) getting your first book published?

— 1 —

So, first, let me focus on what’s most important… me. Just kidding. But this one is about me. And I’m probably going to whine. You see, through four children, I’ve proudly declared that my body seems to be made to carry children. Sure, I’d get a little tired during the first trimester, but I never felt sick, and didn’t experience the swelling, sleepness nights, or other discomforts that most women experience. It was one of the reasons why I felt I should have more children. If God made it so lovely for me to carry babies, surely He wants me to have more?

I guess God felt that it was high time I got a taste of what most women go through. No, I never actually had to hug the porcelain throne. But I did spend innumerable days feeling sick from ten a.m. until bedtime.

I’m not a person who gets sick often, and I learned something about myself. I’m terrible at being sick. I grouched at my kids, I complained to anyone who would listen, and I spent countless hours laying in bed bemoaning my fate. My family survived on take out food and frozen meals because I couldn’t bear the thought of cooking anything, and didn’t have the energy even if it didn’t make me want to vomit.

Then one day I ordered a Prenatal Pilates video on the Kindle and did the first few workouts. My energy level went up and the sickness decreased.  Maybe it was just a coincidence, but that was the best $10 I’ve spent in a while.

— 2 —

At the same time, we were trying to get the house ready to put on the market. Feeling sick does not go well with painting, mulch-spreading, and closet reorganizing. But I did it. The house isn’t officially “on the market,” since we’re too cheap to pay a realtor, but there’s a sign in the yard. A young man stopped by one night and asked Ray if we’d consider renting. And apparently we would. Papers aren’t signed yet, but it looks like it’s probably going to happen and we’ll be moving in the next thirty days. Which isn’t stressful at all.

— 3 —

IMG_7919.JPGThe kids have been at their new school for just over a week, and they are settling in beautifully. They don’t act anxious about going in the mornings, and they are happy when I pick them up each night. Super-social Bonita already has a play date scheduled. The boys might take a little longer, but the Dude already has his cousins there, and Bear – quite frankly – received very few invitations to play with any friends from kindergarten, anyways. (Which was odd because he is the sweetest kid on earth, and when we invited kids to our house to play, they jumped all over it. But that was one of those little idiosyncrasies of that community, it seems, and something that I pray will be different at the new school.)

— 4 —

The drive to school is long, but somehow it does seem to get shorter the more I do it. We try to leave 40 minutes before school starts. If we’re successful, the kids are there ten+ minutes early. If we leave seven minutes later, they may very well be late, and they’ve already had a tardy. If there’s ever an accident on the way, there’s just no hope.

— 5 —

The drive home from school is almost as bad, though free from the stress of having to arrive at a certain time. School’s out at 3:15 and we get home around 4.  Poor Dude has to turn around and leave for football at 5:30, which doesn’t provide a whole lot of downtime. He gets home around 8:30 and still has to eat dinner and shower. Burning the candle at both ends has already led to a sick day for him yesterday.

— 6 —

All of which has contributed to our willingness to take this guy’s offer to rent the house. I just want to get closer to the school, closer to this new community into which we need to integrate (though I’m sad to leave the “old” community!), and stop spending a fortune on gas.

— 7 —

Now I’ve gotten to number seven and haven’t even talked about my new business or the progress on the book! Well, the new business is a freelance writing service and already has a couple of clients. It’s keeping me busy. Ray developed a beautiful logo, which you can see here:  As you can see, we’ve done nothing more with the website, having been too busy with all the other craziness of life!

As for the book, there is a publisher who is “pursuing a formal acquisitions process,” which doesn’t mean that they’ll publish the book, but that they liked it and are going to do some investigation to determine whether they can actually make any money off of it. I remain cautiously optimistic!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!