Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Lent, Lent, Lent! (and rain. And books. You know, the usual.)

1. It's almost Lent! Tonight I'm going to be preparing the ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Yes, that's right: part of my duties as head of the Altar Guild involve playing with fire. :D

2. I've discovered that Purple Moon wine, at Trader Joe's, is not at all bad, and only a couple dollars more than Two Buck Chuck. Just fyi.

3. I've been on a quest for awhile now to find books that enthrall my 7-year-old boy . . . without being as gross as Captain Underpants. (I'm sorry; I just can't.)  Here are what I've found so far: the Dragonbreath books, by Ursula Vernon, and the Squish books by Jennifer L. Holm. My son can read at a higher level than that, but this is the level where he really has fun, where he really flies.

And so I want to know: do you have any book recommendations for him? I really just want to up the volume of his reading for the next few months, so that he gets really hooked, and gets enough practice under his belt that reading anything sounds practicable and fun to him.

Then I'll shove all the great lit at him. :)

So, any recommendations?

4. My daughter's piano practice has had a happy side-effect: it's inspired my husband to take up piano-playing again.

I love listening to the both play. There's just something about live music. And it doesn't have to be professional in order to be an absolute pleasure . . . listening to Adam and to Bess play all these simple hymns and melodies and scales . . . I just love it.

5. There is water falling from the sky here! It's just amazing. It's been so long . . . our thirsty ground out here in CA needs it so much.

6. Did I mention that it's almost Lent? No, I'm not sure exactly how our family is going to keep it this year. But do you know what makes this Lent different? I can go read Cate MacDonald's excellent advice on how to keep Lent! :D  I'm so glad I didn't have to write that chapter, and I'm so glad Cate did. Seriously, I'm so excited that this book actually exists now - it's the book I always wanted to have as I tried to figure out the church year.

7. I've been listening to "Non Nobis, Domine" a lot recently. It's just so incredibly beautiful. Here's the scene from Henry V where I first learned of it:

More 7 Quick Takes can be found here, at Conversion Diary.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Weekend Link Round-up - a little late!

So, it's not quite the weekend anymore, but here are some good links anyway!

"7 Quick Home Schooling Takes": Anne's advice on prayer (down in her seventh take) has been echoing in my mind all week.

"Writing Advice": Brandon Sanderson is posting videos of his writing class at BYU! This is excellent, excellent stuff.

ACFW Conference Flash Drives: Speaking of good writing advice, one of my best Christmas presents this year was a flash drive containing all of the lectures from the 2013 ACFW conference. If you're a writer of Christian fiction, this is a great purchase. (I don't get a kickback from this or anything, just really enjoying the product.)

"Doxxing Internet babes: 'She wanted it'": This is an article that is truly no fun to read, but if you've got daughters, you should probably be aware of this trend.

"Dead Poets Society Is a Terrible Defense of the Humanities":
For all his talk about students “finding their own voice,” however, Keating actually allows his students very little opportunity for original thought. It’s a freedom that’s often preached but never realized. A graphic example is presented in one of the film’s iconic moments, when that zany Mr. Keating with his “unorthodox” teaching methods suddenly leaps up onto his desk. Why? “I stand on my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way,” he helpfully declaims . . .
Keating then has the boys march up to the front, of course, and one-by-one and two-by-two they mount his desk and they too “look at things in a different way”—exactly the different way that he has. After each has experienced this “small alteration in [his] local position” (Emerson), he steps or leaps off the desk, as if a lemming off a cliff: Keating’s warning, “Don’t just walk off the edge like lemmings!,” unfortunately only serves to underscore the horrible irony of this unintended dramatic metaphor. Even when the students reprise this desktop posture at the film’s close, in a gesture of schoolboy disobedience (or perhaps obedience to Keating), we realize that while the boys are marching to the beat of a different drum, it’s Keating’s drum. Or they’re dancing to his pipes.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Modeling a Healthy View of Food for Your Child (even if you haven’t always had one) - Part Two

Today I have the conclusion of Miriam Yvanovich's post on modeling a healthy view of food for children. You can see Part One of this post here. Find out more about Miriam at her site, Now, here's the conclusion of "Modeling a Healthy View of Food for Your Child":

This is something that’s in progress, but here are few techniques I’ve implemented so far:

11)      Choose whole foods and avoid “edible food-like substances” for the most part.
22)      Coopt negative food language and make it positive.
33)      Talk about healthy choices but no food policing!
44)      Accept hospitality, even if it means eating food that goes against my usual healthy choices.

Choose whole foods and avoid “edible food-like substances” most of the time.
Feeding a (very) tiny,growing person helped ground my food choices and reevaluate what I was routinely putting in my body. Diet foods? Artificial sweeteners? If those were potentially poisonous and harmful for a child, were they really doing me much good? I knew that what I ate and my attitude while eating it would speak louder than any verbally stated rules or proclamations about health. So, I resolved to eat things that I’d be happy to feed my daughter. This meant that I migrated to more “whole foods,” though I definitely still use refined grains for her when she wants them: they’re calorie dense and easy to digest…really an awesome food for little ones who need to put on weight. 

Coopt negative food language and make it positive.
Now, this next choice is something I’m testing on my own. I don’t know if it’s the best idea, but here’s what it is and why I’ve chosen it.

As an English major, I’m familiar with the power of language to shape our opinions and actions.  A quick example: when you’re struggling through a workout or difficult task, and someone you trust says, “You can do it!” and you do? Yep, that’s at tiny fraction of the power of language.

There is so much negative, body-bashing, weird language surrounding food and our food choices. I’ve chosen to coopt some of those words and give them positive associations in our house.

Examples: We get excited about calories because calories are energy for our bodies and we love having lots of energy. We praise fat because it helps our brains develop. We get excited about protein because it helps our muscles grow. We make sure that our meal has carbs and veggies for vitamins, nutrients, and extra energy. My hope is that by creating positive connections with these words, I’ll help my daughters stave off the onslaught of judgmental, body-bashing, self-abusive terms that so many people use with them.

Talk about healthy choices but no food policing!
How do I handle “unhealthy” food? There aren’t many foods that I label as unhealthy because I don’t want to encourage that kind of detailed thinking about food in my preschooler. Also, since she’s in that “everything is black and white” phase of thinking, I don’t want her to negatively judge people who choose foods that I’ve labeled as unhealthy. So, we talk about foods that are “fun” to eat but don’t have lots of nutrition. So, we have them sometimes but not often. This includes soda. We never buy soda and I never give my daughters soda, but when we’re at a party, there’s always soda and someone inevitably offers them a sip.

Accept hospitality, even if it means eating food that goes against my usual healthy choices.
I want my daughters to eventually grasp that food has nuance. It’s not just fuel: it’s associated with emotion, celebration, tradition, culture….a whole range of beautifully complex applications. If they want to taste soda that someone offers at a party, they should feel comfortable doing so. Obviously, Panda (1) is too young for that, but Pixie (4) will usually ask me if she can have a taste but I always respond with a positive, “Sure! Go ahead!” The same goes for foods that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and/or artificial colors. Again, these always appear at parties and family gatherings. I don’t want my daughters to learn to reject something that someone is offering in the spirit of hospitality and I don’t want to encourage orthorexia (believing that only “pure” foods are edible). So, if they *want* to taste it and it’s offered, I encourage them to try it.

The flip side of this is that I don’t want my daughters to feel pressured to eat just because someone wants them to. So, if they decide not to eat something, healthy or not, I have a couple of responses. If it’s an unhealthy choice, I respect their decision and they don’t have to taste it. If it’s refusing to try a healthy new dish or food simply because it’s new, they need to have at least one bite before making their decision (and I’ll offer it several more times in the coming months).

I try to never use the word “bad” in relation to food or food choices. When Pixie asked me why our sitter drinks soda “all the time” and if she’ll get sick because she drinks it so often, my response was that some people choose to drink lots of soda. We know it’s not good for their bodies, but we still love them, don’t we? And that’s it. Since Pixie is so young and tends to think about things deeply, I’m careful not to burden her with too much detail at this age. Also, the last thing I want her adopting is an obnoxious, “food police” mentality.

What about when Pixie tastes a not-so-healthy food at someone’s house and falls in love with it? This happened at her grandma’s house several months ago. Cheez-Its have an ingredient that is closely associated with/can contain MSG. I try to be vigilant about keeping MSG and its many, many derivatives out of our daily consumption. However, Pixie absolutely adores Cheez-Its and doesn’t enjoy any of their organic counterparts. So, I’ve simply told her that Cheez Its are something that only Grandma buys for her. Mommy doesn’t buy them, but Grandma does, and we can enjoy them at Grandma’s house.

For me, having this flexibility to say, “Sure, go ahead and enjoy that MSG containing snack while we’re at Grandma’s house,” was a long time in coming. However, it’s a decision I’ve made to avoid being disordered (aka, crazy!) about food and to try to model a balanced & nuanced approach for my daughters. This also means that I’ve let go of caring about judgments other parents may make about me if they see my daughter toting around her Cheez Its packet.

Another example is McDonald’s. I personally detest them, their food, and the farming practices that they encourage to obtain massive amounts of animal products at a low price. However, my parents occasionally get McDonald’s breakfast platters as a “treat” when we visit on the weekends. I’ve learned to shrug off my judgments and accept their hospitality. However, for my own sanity, I keep a bottle of pure maple syrup in their kitchen to substitute for the high fructose corn syrup/food coloring/artificial flavor containing syrup packets that come with those breakfasts. There’s only so far I can flex at this point. :-)

So there you have it: my (in process) two cents on overcoming a disordered, flawed relationship with food while parenting and feeding two precious little beings.  Blessings to you!

Miriam blogs at, a place filled with holistic tips to nourish and nurture your preemie (or any little one who needs some extra TLC). She is a stay at home mom, a fitness enthusiast, an avid reader, and a Pinterest junkie.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Modeling a Healthy View of Food for Your Child (even if you haven’t always had one) - Part One

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Miriam Yvanovich, of, to the blog. Miriam writes here about motherhood, food, and self-image. Take it away, Miriam!

I grew up in a family that had a typical view of food: three meals and a couple of snacks per day, plus special desserts and dishes for birthdays and celebrations. I loved helping my mom cook and learned to associate making food for others as a way of showing love. 

Somewhere along the way, I hit puberty and started noticing how different *my* body was from bodies that I saw in magazines and in media. Now, mind you, we didn’t subscribe to any of these magazines, I never played with Barbie dolls (my mom called their bodies unrealistic), and I watched no television until age 10, and very little after that. I simply began to absorb images from the world around me, the library, magazines in waiting rooms, and my heightened awareness of how people talked about their bodies.

One day, while shopping for a bathing suit, I tried one on. Looking back now, I can see that I didn’t know my own size and grabbed one that was two size too small. I looked into the mirror and saw bulges and rolls. I remember seeing my face crinkle in disgust and I quietly spoke aloud, “I’m going to lose weight.”

I was 14. I was 5’ 3” and weighed 110 lbs.

So began my journey into anorexia. While I only lost twenty lbs, eventually weighing 90 lbs, my mental transformation into a calorie-calculating, fat-gram-counting machine was much more drastic. Eventually, all I thought about was food and how to avoid eating it. I spent hours reading as much as I could about weight loss, exercised as much as possible (although I eventually got so tired from caloric deprivation that I had to cut back), and ate the tiniest portions I could get away with. When my friends and I went out for meals, I ate as little as possible and then would “playfully” jump up and down on our way out to the car to allegedly help my food settle (but really to burn as many calories as possible).

As is the case in just about every disordered eating story, I got tons of compliments on my weight loss and learned to crave the validation of being “tiny” and “soooo skinny.”

After a year of this, I had an epiphany. I was 15 and had just graduated from high school two years early. I was about to start college, and as I lay in bed I suddenly realized that the world was filled with possibilities and fascinating, beautiful things to learn about and explore. This realization was so intense that my heart felt like it swelled with this knowledge and tears came to my eyes. I thought to myself, “I don’t want to think about food every waking moment.”

I decided to stop losing weight, and I eventually put on a few pounds, getting back up to around 100. Throughout college, I continued to have a very disordered relationship with food, and while I never went back to obsessive dieting, I thought about food and criticized my body and food choices far too often and too harshly.

Fast forward another 14 years: I’m 29 and pregnant with a baby girl.

I learn to fall in love with my body and its extraordinary, life-giving capacity. I learn to be gentle and caring toward the tiny girl growing in my uterus, and thus learn that my imperfect body, too, is deserving of gentle, caring attention.

I give birth and discover that my daughter is the most beautiful creature on the planet. Her stunning cheeks, tiny limbs, and soul-filled eyes are so utterly perfect and heart-rendingly beautiful that I cry when I realize that one day, she may look at her reflection and wrinkle her nose in disgust.

I resolve then and there to have a healthy, caring, joy-filled relationship with my own body so that she won’t see that self-hatred modeled by me.

But how?

To be continued tomorrow in Part Two . . .

Miriam blogs at, a place filled with holistic tips to nourish and nurture your preemie (or any little one who needs some extra TLC). She is a stay at home mom, a fitness enthusiast, an avid reader, and a Pinterest junkie.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yarn-Along: another Color Affection!

Yes, this is my third Color Affection. What can I say? I love this pattern. It's the perfect relaxing knitting. Just garter stitch, back and forth, in pretty colors.

This one is for my mom. After all, I already have two. But I wanted to make the pattern again, and so when my mom volunteered that she was interested in having one, I jumped.

She picked out and bought the yarn. I get the fun of making it. Perfect! :)

The book is "After the Golden Age", by Carrie Vaughn. I finished and loved "Dreams of the Golden Age" (I talked about it here), and so I went back to read the first book.

It'd been long enough since I'd read it that I'd forgotten a bunch of the plot, and just remembered the satisfaction of the story. Perfect time to reread.

More yarn-and-book goodness can be found here, at Ginny's place.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

5 tips for keeping kids calm in church services

We have four kids and we go to church (almost) every week. We have gone to church weekly all their young lives. And all that practice means all four of them – ages 6, 6, 7, & 9 – are perfect little angels in the pew every Sunday: quiet, still, and attentive.

. . . ha!

No, no, sorry. I just couldn’t keep it in. They are NOT little angels in the pew every Sunday. They are perfectly normal LITTLE KIDS in the pew every Sunday, which means my husband and I have had to learn how to parent them in that context.

We’re not perfect at this yet (seriously, ask anyone in our parish), but there are a few things we’ve found over the years that really help our kids behave in church – and a few more that even help them to start learning to participate in the worship themselves.

1) We let them know what we expect – and we help them keep track of those expectations.
The easiest way to we’ve found to help our kids keep track of how they’re doing is rubber bands! (Sounds weird, right? It’s not.) We give each kid three colored rubber bands to keep on their wrists. If we have to ask them too often to be quiet or sit still or otherwise behave, we take one of their rubber bands. If they lose all of them, they lose a privilege. (Usually dessert at the post-church potluck. This is a real loss at our church – we have some awesome bakers!)

The advantage of the rubber bands is that they’re quiet. We don’t have to go into long explanations with the kids in the middle of a quiet service. They know what it means.

And it’s simple. It actually makes it easier for the kids, because they have a concrete reminder of how they’re supposed to be acting. I honestly can’t remember if any of the kids have ever ended up losing all three. It usually only takes one or two, and they shape up their own behavior. I don’t have to bug them about it.

I seriously love this. I don’t know if it’ll work for your family, but for ours, it’s been magic.*

2) Let them be part of the service.
There are so many ways a child can participate in church. Some of them are before the service (handing out bulletins, setting up chairs), some of them are during the service (acolyting, ushering) and some after (helping the Altar Guild carry things, helping the sextons clean up).

I don’t think what it is matters so much, but when children serve in church, it starts to be their church, you know? They know they’re a real part of what’s going on, and I think this makes a big difference in their behavior.

Instantly? No. Not really. This one’s more about long-term gains, and them growing up to be the sort of people you hope they’ll grow up to be. But I think it’s important, and well worth it. (Like training them to do the chores at home, training them to serve in church is going to be more work for you, in the beginning.)

3) Teach them follow along with the service.
This will be a bigger thing once they’re old enough to read, but even little kids can learn to say the Lord’s prayer, or to sing the doxology. Again, this is about helping them grow up with church participation ingrained in their bones.

But it also reflects a theological truth: these children really are part of the church body. This is their home, too. And as much as we can, we should help them take part.

4) Let them read.
They are still children. They probably won’t be up to following the sermon perfectly, or the priest’s long prayer.

But they can still have their minds focused on the Lord. Let them read the hymnal and the Bible. Let them bring along a Bible story book or two, or a comic book Bible (there are some really good ones out there).

Let them start on milk, if they’re not ready for meat. It’s still nourishment and – when they’re kids – it’s totally developmentally appropriate.

5) Let them draw or write.
This is sort of an echo of the point above. Have them draw the things they see in church: the crosses, the pictures in the stained glass window, the choir and the deacon, the Nativity scene at Christmas, the lilies at Easter.

Or have them take notes. Have them write a letter to the Lord, or copy down a verse from the pew Bible, or their own version of the Sunday school lesson they just heard.

Again, it’s just getting them used to the discipline of focusing on the Lord and his works and his word and his people. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Frankly, it won’t be. But it’s a start. And that’s good.

I hope these tips help! And if you have more to add, I’d certainly like to hear them! We’re only at the beginning of this journey, and I know there’s still a lot I have to learn.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*We don't even use the rubberbands much anymore. But every couple of months, when the good behavior starts sort of dribbling into bad, we pull out this trick again, just to help them all remember how they're supposed to be acting. They remember, and then we can lay off the intense behavior-tracking for a few more months.

This post contains affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Intervew with Anna Moseley Gissing

Hi folks! Today I have a treat - I got to sit down and talk to Anna Moseley Gissing, one of the contributors to Let Us Keep the Feast.  
Me: Hi, Anna! It's good to have you here today. You’re the author of the Epiphany chapter in Let Us Keep the Feast, so I wanted to start by asking you, what’s your strongest Epiphany memory, good or bad?

Anna: I did not grow up celebrating Epiphany, so my memories are all quite recent. A few years ago, we started allowing our magi (from our nativity scene) to travel towards the manger over Christmastide and to arrive on Epiphany. I have loved watching my young kids move the camel and the magi each day and seeing their joy as they announce to anyone and everyone that "It's Epiphany!"

Me: I love it when kids get excited about the season! So, what do you think the heart of the Epiphany season is?

Anna: To me, the heart of Epiphany is the recognition that the gospel is for everyone. The magi came from far away to worship Jesus even though he was born "king of the Jews." They did not have the Scripture, yet they followed a star to find Jesus and worship him with gifts fit for a king. These Gentile worshippers remind us that Jesus came for Jews and Gentiles. At Epiphany we celebrate that God in Jesus made himself manifest to people in new ways. Jesus is the light of the world and yet, He calls his disciples the light of the world as well. So it's a season to focus on sharing the light of Christ with others as well.

Me: That's beautiful, Anna. Reading and editing your chapter on Epiphany in Let Us Keep the Feast really clarified the meaning of Epiphany for me and gave me a much deeper appreciation for it.
And now I want to ask you about writing that chapter: what surprised you most as you did the research for it? 

Anna: What surprised me the most about Epiphany is how little seems to be written about it. When we consider this season a time to focus on the earthly ministry of Jesus, the time in between his birth and death, it seems odd that it should be such an overlooked time. 

Me: I totally agree! Okay, last question: of all the sections in your chapter, which one was the most fun to write?

Anna: It might sound dull, but I found the introduction the most fun to write. My goal was to explain both why Epiphany is significant and how it fits in between Christmas and Lent. In addition, I really enjoyed reflecting on the narratives of the magi and the baptism of Jesus and how they might shape our observance of this season.

Me: I think you really succeeded in that goal, Anna. Thank you for being here today!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Weekend Link Round-up

"In Defense of Crying About Jesus":
As I wiped a tear from my eye, I realized that this was emotion as a response to beauty, not emotion for emotion’s sake. I can see how an event where there is pressure to have a certain reaction would be dangerous. If there’s a feeling like “IT’S THE CRESCENDO OF THE JESUS SONG, SO ALL GOOD CHRISTIANS WILL CRY NOW,” that’s a problem.
But if you have an auditorium full of people getting teary-eyed or waving their hands as an authentic response to beauty, it’s something different — something good.
"Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators":
If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.
"L.A.'s Wildest Cafeteria Served Utopian Fantasy With a Side of Enchiladas": I loved this article! I've actually been to Clifton's Cafeteria - my husband's grandfather took us there when he was showing us his old stomping grounds in downtown Los Angeles. But I didn't know all its history! Everything from feeding the hungry in Jesus' name to facing down mobsters! Wow!

Finally, I really enjoyed this cover of "Royals" - what a voice!:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Post over at Daily Invest Yourself

Hi folks! Today I'm guest posting over at Daily Invest Yourself. Here's a snippet:
The Lord is always with us. We are never out of His presence, never hidden from His eyes.
But it’s hard for us to remember that.
Where He is omniscient, and never sleeps, never slumbers, we are distracted and busy and fallible.
Though He is always mindful of us, it is hard for us to keep our thoughts constantly turned towards Him.
And you can click through and read the rest here.  Thanks!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How I Handle Housework (hint: it involves lots of lists!)

When I wrote my last post on my New Year’s resolutions, I mentioned that I have a housework to-do list that mostly works for me at this point, and threatened to blog about it. One kind commenter encouraged me to go ahead and write about it, and that’s all the encouragement I needed! :D See how little prodding it takes to get a writer to write?

The truth is, though, that between when I wrote about my resolution and when I’m writing this post, I edited my housekeeping list again.

I say “again” because I’m always doing this. I’ve been keeping lists ever since I got married and had my own home, and they’re always a work in progress.

And I think that’s necessary. I think to keep house you have to be a bit flexible. You have to realize that your life is constantly changing (at least while your kids are growing) and so what works one year might not work the next.

On the other hand, some things never change: the dishes always need to be done, the bathroom always needs to be cleaned. And so you have to have some kind of structure. And some way of prioritizing.

The List
So here’s where I’ve landed now: I have a list that I print out every week. The list always has these things on it:

-a menu-planning section: this is where I just jot down what I’m making for dinner each night. I usually make my grocery list at the same time that I fill this out.

-an “other cooking jobs” section: things like desserts I want to bake, or veggies that need prepping.

-an “ongoing projects” section: this is where I list big jobs that might take more than one week to accomplish. Recent entries include things like updating our will and fixing an insurance foul-up.

-a “declutter” section: I’m slowly decluttering our house, and I just write down what part I’m working on this week, so I don’t forget. (I have another place where I keep track of the date I finish each room. Seriously, this is a year-long thing. Not quick. I have to write it down in order to have any chance of remembering where I am.)

-a “weekly” section: This is really the heart of the list. This is the stuff that has to get done each week in order for life in our house to stay sane. Right now (again, this changes with life stages), my list includes:

-watering inside plants (2X)
-watering outside plants (2X)
-upstairs bathroom
-downstairs bathroom
-sweep patio
-vacuum upstairs floors
-clear desk of paperwork
-back up computer

You’ll notice I don’t have “clean the kitchen” or “clean the downstairs floors” on there. That’s because those are really daily. I’ll get to daily stuff in a minute.

-a “monthly” section:
These are the things that aren’t urgent, but do need to happen regularly. My list includes:

-clean out purse
-clean fridge
-wipe down walls
-clean microwave
-buy next month’s gifts
-clean van
-pay bils
-file stuff

And that’s all that’s on the list. It sounds like a lot, but it fits onto one sheet of paper. I have a template in Word, and I just print it out – one copy per week – and then make whatever notes on it I need to. When it comes to the “monthly” section, I’ll just cross off the chores I’ve already done right away. I’ve experimented with a lot of different formats, and this is really the one that works best for me.

Two other necessary parts of the system
However, this list by itself isn’t enough to keep things ticking over cleanly in our house. There are two other things I’ve found that I need to do.

A Daily Walk-Through
I’ll be honest: I’ve fussed and kicked against this idea for years. I honestly want to be able to just check off my weekly and monthly chores and be done with it.

But it’s not enough. If I just did that, we’d still have a messy house.

What I have to do is spend at least five minutes in each room of the house – per day – and pick up, straight up, and wipe down whatever needs to be picked up, straightened up, and wiped down.

So, do I clean the bathrooms every day? No. Not if by “clean” you mean “scrub and polish every surface with appropriate chemicals and implements”. No, that’s a once-a-week thing. But do I clean the bathrooms every day? Well, yeah. If by “clean” you mean “wipe up anything particularly gross and take a minute to sweep up loose hairs”.

And when I do that? It’s a lot easier to do the deeper cleaning once a week. So much faster.

Again: I kind of hate that I have to do the walk-through every day. But oh-my-goodness, I love living in a clean house. So. Much. Love. It makes me feel sane in a way you wouldn’t believe.

And so it’s worth it.

The even-longer to-do list
Here’s the last part of the system: underneath my weekly print-out that I talked about above, I have another list. This is the list that holds long-term projects. You know, the stuff you think you’re going to have time to get down when the long summer months come but that you actually end up getting done in dribs and drabs on the busy weekday evenings? Yeah, that stuff. The small repairs, the complicate paperwork, the it-really-would-be-nice-if-we-replaced-that-forty-year-old-whatever-with-something-that-actually-worked-properly
It’s the stuff that, if you don’t write it down, will bug you. But if you do write it down, then someday, someday, you can cross it off and feel incredibly accomplished.

And if you keep this list around for a year or so, you can actually see progress. It’s magical.

So that’s it! And – since I’m always interested in doing this more efficiently – I would love to hear what works for you!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

St. Francis de Sales, on our pilgrimage

photo credit: Betsy Barber
This one is for those hard days:
Oh, might it please God that we should little regard the course of the way we tread, and have our eyes fixed on Him who conducts us, and on the blessed country to which it leads! What should it matter to us whether it is by the deserts or by the meadows we go, if God is with us and we go into Paradise? Trust me, I pray you, cheat your trouble all you can: if you feel it, at least do not look at it, for the sight will give you more fear of it than the feeling will give you pain.
-St. Francis de Sales, from Thy Will Be Done, Letters to Persons in the World
Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekend Link Round-up!

A bit of good reading from 'round the Web:

"The Courage to Rest":
When I began to try to live by the new, focused schedule, I found that more than anything it was an exercise in letting go of control. I understood on a visceral level why it’s monks and nuns who are known to have the most peaceful daily routines: because it requires great trust in God to walk away from your endless list of demands when there is still technically time to get a few more things done. It requires tremendous faith to rest.
"What’s Next on Sherlock? Steven Moffat Answers Our Lingering Questions About Season 3 ": For all my fellow fans. :)

"wordy wednesday: peanut sauce":  Yummmmm, I want to make this.

"New York Fugshion Week: Tadashi Shoji": This slideshow has so many things I want to wear. Especially the capes.

"Between Heaven and Earth": this analysis of the death of Absalom is just fascinating. (No, really, it is.)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, February 7, 2014

Praying the Psalms of Ascent

photo credit: Betsy Barber

A while ago, a friend asked me to pray for her. There were some particular circumstances that prompted the request, and I wanted to be sure to be faithful to her request.

What I found myself doing was praying the Psalms for her. Specifically, the Psalms of Ascent.

The Psalms of Ascent are the songs the Israelites sang as they went up to Jerusalem to worship. They are particularly beautiful and heartfelt. They come right after Psalm 119 – that long love song to the Law – and go on until Psalm 134.

Most of them are very short. And they make very, very good prayers.

Here are a few excerpts that I find myself coming back to again and again:

A prayer for those in trouble:
"Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips . . . Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war." -Psalm 120

"Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him." -Psalm 126

A prayer for the church:
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls . . .'" -Psalm 122

A prayer of thanksgiving:
"'Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,' let Israel now say, 'Had it not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive . . . Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us to be torn by their teeth! Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we have escaped." -Psalm 124

A prayer remembering the Lord’s nearness:
"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people . . ." -Psalm 125

(My mom sometimes revises this one to "as the mountains surround Los Angeles"! it fits!)

A prayer against the enemies of God:
"May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward . . ." -Psalm 129

And, seriously, there were so many more I could have put in. This portion of scripture . . . I swear it's food. True food. And even in English translations, it has a rhythm and a meter that sounds so good in the mouth. If you take the references to Jerusalem and Zion as references to the kingdom of God and his people and work, and references to the enemies as references to the devil and his minions, they fit where we're at so perfectly and are so easy to pray.

You can put the person you're praying for right in there. When I'm praying for my friend, this can sound like: "Lord, be her keeper. Lord, be the shade on her right hand. Lord, please keep her going in and her coming forth . . ."

Having these psalms to hand to pray has been so good for me. I hope they encourage you, too!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Thursday, February 6, 2014

another giveaway!

Want to get ready for Lent? Another free copy of "Let Us Keep the Feast" is up for grabs over at Filling My Prayer Closet. Hop on over and enter!

Oh, I get it now

So, last night, I instructed one of our children to do something.

And this dear, beautiful child - instead of doing it - looked up at me with big eyes and said, "I looooove you, Mommy."

And, slightly annoyed, I heard myself say, "If you love me, obey me."

And then, listening to what I had just said, it hit me like a ton of bricks: Wow, I think now I finally understand that passage in John.

Which one? This one:
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Oh. That's what that means. Right.

Parenthood: catechesis for the rest of us. 

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Enter to win a free copy of the Epiphany and Lent volume of "Let Us Keep the Feast" over at Life of a Catholic Librarian!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains affiliate links. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

From the Archives

From the Januarys That Were, a little reading:

I looked at them all, even the ones I don't know that well, or don't like that much, and was overwhelmed with joy, because we were all singing about the day when we'd be doing this - this praise, this communion, this worship - all together, endlessly, in the glory of the presence of God. And everyone all of the sudden looked brighter, looked loveable.
"Doing the dishes":
The best dishes I've ever done were the dishes I did at church. 
"Judah and redemption":
I've been used to thinking of Joseph, if anyone, as the Christ figure in this story. Joseph who saves his people, who gives them bread, who forgives. And that is surely there.
But it seemed to me on this reading that Judah (how appropriate, the one from whose line Jesus would come) is a Christ figure too. "Please take me, my lord, instead of him."
"Pick Your Line and Follow Jesus":
What he meant was that when you’re downhilling, you need to look where you want to go (not where you don’t) and then let the bike’s momentum do the work. You have to trust to the line you’ve picked and to the speed you’ve picked up. Your momentum will carry you over roots and rocks and bumps, if you just choose well and then let yourself go.
"Assuming the best":
. . . we've developed the habit of assuming the best of each other instead of jumping to the conclusion that what was said was meant to hurt. From my perspective, this means that when Adam says something that hurts me, I remind myself that I know he loves me, and I ask him if what I heard was what he meant. 
It usually isn't. I'll find that he actually meant something good; his thought processes are just so different than mine; I need it explained.
"Game Trust, Real Trust, and Love":
When I watch reality TV, I'm always surprised by the contestant (and there's always at least one), who is shocked to find out that another contestant wasn't telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but that truth. It's a bit like someone being shocked that poker sometimes involves bluffing.
 "Daily Devotions and the Eucharist":
The Psalms and hymns and praise choruses - especially the ones with lots of scripture in them - I think these remind us through the week that we are, as some pastor or other put it, "Sunday people". We're the people of the Resurrection. And we can see that most clearly when we're all gathered together worshipping on Sundays, but it is true during the week too. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Celebrating the Church Year: the Presentation of Jesus (February 2)

-something to read: The story of the presentation of  Jesus in the temple, found in Luke 2:22-40.
-something to ponder:
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be always praising thee.
   -Psalm 84:4 
-something to listen to: Simeon's song, the Nunc Dimittis (this one's in English, music by Purcell):

-Something to do: The Presentation is also known as Candlemas, and candles were traditionally blessed on this day. If you're up for something hands-on, this is a great day for making candles!

And, of course, for more great ideas on celebrating the church year, pick up a copy of "Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home". 

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Weekend Link Round-up!

"Sherlock’s Best Man Speech is Basically Fanfic, Moffat Says He’s Absolutely Not A Sociopath": Cool excerpts from the creator of "Sherlock".

"For the Love of the Light": how one woman celebrates Candlemas.

"Equivocation and Contraception": a nice bit of clarification in the middle of the pro-life discussions.

"Why Harlequin Is Not Just The Minor Leagues For Single Title":
I'll just come right out and say it. It takes a real author to be able to write for a series line, and certainly a strong writer to be successful at this.
Roast a whole head of cauliflower! - a friend passed this along to me as a Lenten recipe idea - looks great!