30 April 2017

Dinner Dance 2017

Last night was the annual homeschool dinner dance--my last one ever! It was so crazy that it was my last. Crazy in a good way, though.

Nicole, the hair goddess...

...and Maren, her faithful helper!

The traditional photos before leaving for the dance.

The theme this year was "Under the Sea." The decorations were super cute, the food was good, and the dancing was fun! A great way to give some closure to senior year.

Our whole group!

Huge thank-you to all the parents who so lovingly help out at this and make it so wonderful!

24 April 2017

Why every Catholic girl should look into religious life.

     Ask a Catholic mother you know--maybe your own--if she ever considered religious life. Chances are, she'll say no.
    Why not? Maybe it was never presented to her as a viable option. Maybe she didn't think she had a vocation. Maybe she simply didn't know anything about it.
     Growing up in a Catholic homeschool family surrounded by Catholic homeschool families, I always knew about religious life and considered it just as real a vocation possibility as marriage. I was exposed to religious sisters from a very young age (I don't remember not knowing any). I remember having childhood conversations with my friends in which we would say, "do you want to get married or be a nun?" I myself never quite knew how to answer that. Now I do. And knowing the answer to that question has brought me more joy and peace than I ever would have thought.

     So here's why I think every Catholic girl should look into religious life:

     1. Why not?
     Imagine this: you're an old woman, 70 or 80, looking back on your life. Maybe you're married with children and grandchildren. Maybe you're a sister. Maybe you're single. Regardless of your state in life, will you really regret having considered religious life? If you're married or single, at least you know what you could have done. If you're a sister, you'll be so glad you even thought to consider it. There is no downside to exploring the options. And, once you open your heart up to God's will like that, your vocation will become clear.

     2. Religious life is an actual thing, guys.
     I think we can all agree that not everyone is called to be married and raise children. Some girls, myself included, simply don't have that maternal, wife-y sort of quality. And that's as it should be. If people are worried about overpopulation, they should encourage more people to look into celibate life. (Kidding. But you get the point.) The world needs balance. Just like not everyone can--or should--be a leader (if we're all leaders, who's being led?), not everyone can or should be married. It's an amazing and selfless act to give yourself and your whole life to a single human in that way. The marriage vow, and motherhood, are unfathomably beautiful things, as I've come to realize more and more during my discernment. But some girls are called to be a different kind of beautiful. Instead of giving their life to a man, body and soul, they're called to live only for God. Body and soul. What a privilege, to be asked by your Creator to be His bride. 

     3. It will strengthen your relationship with God.
     When I went on my first nun-run, I thought my prayer life was pretty good. Ha. In those six days, I learned so much about prayer, virtue, and giving your life to God in general. One of my favorite take-aways from that trip was a love for praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Such beautiful, ancient prayers. And to drop everything seven times a day to praise God, what could be better?
     Besides learning new ways to pray, you'll find yourself closer to Jesus than ever before. As I mentioned earlier, when you open yourself to His will like that, He rewards you. The simple act of being willing to look into consecrated life makes you listen more closely for His will for you. And that gives Him an opportunity to tell you what He's been longing to tell you since He created you. 
     Every time I go on a retreat or convent visit, I come home with renewed peace and gratitude for God. I've never felt closer to Him than while spending time with His chosen ones, His brides. It's easy to be good in places like that. It's always hard to leave. And when I get home, I redouble my efforts to live for Him and Him alone in my present situation.

     4. Meeting sisters, yes please.
     So, in case you weren't aware, sisters are the actual coolest people ever. Everyone should hang out with them. That vague image in your head of a crumbling, dreary convent like the one in Sound of Music? Yeah. Destroy it. If you think sisters are boring, you clearly haven't spent time with one. They live in a freedom that allows them to be so rigorously alive--and it shows. I've done lots of crazy and fun things with sisters, including Irish dancing, playing basketball, taking the ornaments off a 20-ft Christmas tree, cooking, cleaning, playing games....they make everything fun. Trust me. You think you don't like sweeping? Try doing it with three sisters while you talk and sing and laugh. When every act is a gift to God, everything becomes saturated with meaning and joy.

     5. You might fall in love.
     To fall in love with God, the Author of love. What's more romantic than that? The amazing thing about being in love with God is that He loves you so much more than you can ever love Him. That's one faithful spouse we're talking about. Why wouldn't you want to give your life to Someone who gives you everything, who loves nothing better than to make you happy? Jesus weeps with joy when we say yes to Him. He is so full of love for us. It's hard to say no to a love like that. It kind of sweeps you off your feet. Like a good romance should.

     All that to say, if you haven't considered religious life, do it. Talk to that random sister you see. Go on a nun run. Look up religious houses in your area. Research different orders. Visit them for a day or two. I promise, only good will come out of it. 

21 April 2017

STM Youth Choir

     The school year is coming to a close, and that means the end of the religious ed program at St. Thomas More. The youth choir meets every week before religious ed, so they'll be done for the summer, too. I played piano for their rehearsals all year, and now that it's ending I'm realizing how great of an experience it was.
     First of all, the kids are wonderful. Being in a choir is kind of self-selective, and these kids' behavior is an indication of that. The choir includes first- through eighth-graders, and I've never met a bunch more enthusiastic about praising God in song. They sing their hearts out at every rehearsal. They beg to sing certain hymns over and over. They learn new songs faster than most adult choirs.
     It's interesting for me to watch them interact, since I never went to school and don't know what it's like being a kid in public school. There are sets of best friends, close cousins, and siblings who love each other. Someone always has a story to tell or a question to ask. They talk about what they're doing at school, what they're learning in RE, where they're going on vacation. They are a lively bunch of kids, and they have so much joy.
     Musically, too, this experience has helped me. My sight-reading skills have improved quite a bit over the past year, due to sitting down and having to play hymns and part-songs on the spot. The kids don't care how much I mess up, but sometimes they tell me I should practice. (They're always right.) It's nice to work on something, even something little, that isn't part of my actual piano repertoire. And it's nice knowing I'm accompanying a forgiving crowd. Sometimes they ask me to play a solo I'm working on while they aren't singing. When they sing in a circle, they like to watch the hammers strike the keys inside the piano. Spending time with people who are so fascinated by the instrument definitely breaks up the monotony of the practice-lesson-practice cycle.

At their Christmas Program in December--I'm behind the piano.

     I'll miss playing for youth choir. I'll miss the way the kids remember my name and talk to me, even if I don't remember which one they are. I'll miss their exuberance and their willingness to try new things. I hope that, in some small way, I've made a difference in their lives.

17 April 2017

More Easter Pictures

From Mom's phone.

The official group picture.

Setting the table.

Just a sample of our numerous eggs...most of them mine. 

Coconut cake!

Easter Vigil Exsultet

16 April 2017


He is risen as He said! Alleluia!

The reason for the lack of Triduum posts is that we were so busy--Tessie and I sang for Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday Stations, Good Friday Liturgy, Easter Vigil, and Easter Morning Mass. Now that it's all done, we can catch our breaths...and post pictures.
Tessie and I once again documented our church-singing via snapchat, but we were so busy that I forgot to save most of the pictures.
Holy Thursday Mass, as I've said before, is my favorite Mass of the year. As usual, I had to blink back tears as we began the Pange Lingua and processed with the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose. What a gift to mankind.
Good Friday liturgy was beautiful. It is so profound: the priests prostrating themselves before the altar after entering in silence, the solemn intercessions, the Passion reading, the veneration of the Cross. Every year I appreciate it more. Tessie and I sang a cappella the original Pange Lingua Gloriosi by Venantius Fortunatus. "Sing my tongue the glorious battle, sing the last, the dread afray..." ending with the Crux Fidelis verse.
The choir sings every Easter Vigil, and because of the scale of the Mass, we have several different cantors take turns. Tessie and I were one of those, so we were in and out all night, on our feet a lot. There were three baptisms and four first Communions and Confirmations. What a special celebration to be a part of--basically a 2.5-hour party. The part that always gives me chills is the Exsultet. The words get me every time. And the Litany of the Saints is wonderful, too.
Our church had three Masses on Easter morning, and Tessie and I were cantors for the last one. After Mass we ate brunch as a family and took it easy for the rest of the day.
It's a dream of mine to experience the Holy Triduum in a monastic setting. One day...

I'll gather up some more pictures and post them later in the week. Happy Easter!

11 April 2017

Kitten Pictures!

With the recent beautiful weather, we've been spending more time in the garage with the new kittens.

Little Haley's eyes haven't fully opened yet, so she always looks sleepy.

Brendan tries to climb out of the box even though he can barely walk.

We also have two three-day-old kittens! Our other mama cat had them a couple weeks after the first ones were born.

So much fluff and cuteness!

We have so much fun with the littles!

07 April 2017

Spring Concert Video

Here is the video from the concert on March 27!
Concert & Mixed choir - 39:10
Combined choirs - 1:02:50


01 April 2017

18th Birthday Fun!

My eighteenth birthday was also the day of my last quiz bowl ever! I brought cupcakes and we had a bunch of fun, and at dinner Mrs. McLaughlin surprised me with a special birthday dinner, complete with tablecloth, flowers, and fresh fruit! It was such a lovely way to end the season!

Our team also won second place with 135 points!

Thank you, Mrs. McLaughlin!!