Monday, January 7, 2019

{This and That} :: The New Year

Happy New Year! I am happy to be back to school, back to regular life, and back to this space.

I have lots of hopes and goals for 2019, and one of them is to be a bit more consistent here. There are posts I'd really love to get out of my drafts folder and into the world, so I'm hoping to carve out some energy to do that. (I am pretty sure I said the same thing last year. Ha! But I really am going to try!)

For winter, I have a couple posts almost ready to go about the religious life of the family. And I also have a simple Getting Started with Handicrafts series planned based on a bunch of questions from over on Instagram. This month, I'm planning to start with sloyd and scherenschnitte, just based on our own experiences from the past couple years learning and practicing these crafts regularly. (If you have handicrafts questions you'd like answered from someone who is learning right alongside her kids, let me know!)

Later this week, the winter edition of Keeping Company will be up! Once again, I am hoping to be back to sharing daily @keepingcompanycm after taking Advent off. And I'll be posting about the books gifted at Christmas in our home in a {What We're Reading} installment soon.


We have been embracing the joys of the season. Our Christmas was honestly the most peaceful and fun Christmas we have had in years. I am so thankful we had twelve full days to soak it all in.

We took all of the kids to "midnight Mass," which was at the confusingly-named-but-extremely-convenient hour of 9pm. We left at 7pm to drive around the town and look at Christmas lights, then got to church early for Confession and carols before a beautiful High Mass and even the baby was enthralled, engaged, and quiet. Home and to bed with no issues!

Christmas morning was slow and full of delight. This year more than ever I was struck by how few years we may have like this left, all of us together and the children still small(ish). Childhood is so short!

There were some special spiritual graces that flooded me on Christmas Day. I felt like some long-time prayers were answered at Mass and that morning. Too special to share here, but I at least want to express the gratefulness in my heart. God is faithful.

We always process through the house to place the Baby Jesus figures in their respective creches.

We did our usual brunch and a dinner of dips, which was a huge hit. I think we have a new tradition!

I even got a nap in when gifts were open and kids were happily occupied.

The rest of our break involved books and handicrafts, and some planning time for me.

(I actually made the ornaments in the photo above before Christmas. Each year I make an ornament for each of my kids, and this year I chose sloyd stars made of gold cardstock and hung on twine. I got the idea of turning "thread winders" into ornaments from Anna over on Instagram. My kids made a bunch from thick scrapbook paper to give as gifts!)

Yesterday we did our house blessing and the Three Kings arrived to greet the Infant Jesus...except we have multiple creches with full sets of figures, so I think there were 15 kings total? :) We also had a belated Christmas party with family, which made the day extra festive.

It was a lovely holiday but I'm excited to be back to school today. Just three weeks left in Term 2! I did most of my Term 3 planning over the break, but still have a few things to work out. Hoping I get a few empty evenings to manage it all before our last term sneaks up on me!


Do you choose a word for the year? I have for the past few years, and each time it was been fruitful in ways I didn't expect.

Here's what I wrote on Instagram as a reflection on 2018.
My "word" for last year was FOCUS. I was coming out of a postpartum fog and desperately needed to get my FOCUS back again. There are seasons during which I know I must surrender to crazy newborn days and soak up those depleted moments in the name of love; that was my last six months of 2017. But I needed 2018 to be a year of clarity and simplicity that would allow me to replenish mentally and emotionally.
I thought that would mean some difficult pruning. I was ready to take a hard look at my commitments and decide where to FOCUS my energies. I decided that this was going to be a year of saying no to a lot of things so I could say yes to single-minded school days and peace of mind.
And I did do a lot of that. I said no to good things this year. It was far less painful than I thought it would be, mostly because I could literally feel God's graces of courage and confidence. As my kids get older, I have become increasingly aware that my time is finite and my extra obligations have to be selected very carefully. I feel like I have gotten better at making those hard choices.
But at the same time, this year has been suprisingly full of unexpected opportunities. Several times I have been absolutely convinced in prayer that I should say yes to a new project, even though I couldn't see clearly where the time and energy were going to come from. And then the time and energy HAVE come, and I have walked away feeling more fulfilled and invigorated.
It turns out that practicing FOCUS doesn't always require doing less. Sometimes it means doing more, but privileging what will provide and heighten my FOCUS rather than dissipate it. (Sounds a lot like Mason's view on the habit of attention. 😉)
Sometimes it means taking on hard work in prayer, knowing that there are lessons in store for me when I give my time in faith. There are certain kinds of obligations that end up giving me back far more than they require--even when they require rather a lot.
God has taken my desire to FOCUS this year and given me tasks and relationships to FOCUS on that I didn't know I needed but that served my soul. I am still learning discernment and balance, but 2018 was a joyful surprise. ❤️
Did you choose a word? I have one I think I'm settled on for this year, but I'm still pondering...


The first issue of Common Place Quarterly will be shipping this month and I can't wait to see it in print. They just made orders available for the second quarter, as well as an auto-subscribe option if you'd like to commit quarterly or annually. I'm putting the finishing touches on my contributions to the second issue and beginning my articles for the third...the magazine world moves so fast!


CMiRL is back! We took a month-long Advent-Christmas break and it was so good to have that time for reflection and refreshment.

We "met" online last week to talk business and are full of fresh ideas. We're kicking it off with a peek into "back to school" in each of our homes and a bunch of survey questions for the community while we're at it.

If you're not yet following along, head over and check it out! (It's a public account, so it's available whether you are an IG user or not!)


Some conference news...

CM West :: Retreat in Old San Juan sold out just before Christmas (hooray!), but we're still taking names for the waitlist. I'm excited to turn our attention from registration to writing talks, planning immersions, and pulling together the official schedule!

And Northern California and Central Valley friends, I will be speaking at a half-day retreat for Catholic homeschool mothers in Escalon in early February. Email me if you would like details and I will send you the flyer with more information and put you in touch with the organizers. It will be a simple and lovely opportunity to gather and share before Lent.


That's it for now. I'd love to hear how your Christmas went and your plans for the new year. :)


  1. I really enjoy reading your blog, Celeste! I have been reading since 2015 and your blog is so inspiring and helpful. I looked up more on sloyd-- so fascinating. I love that it is designed for wood working and is systematic. I'm glad to hear you will post more entries on the blog! It's such good reading. Thanks for sharing. If you take requests, I would love to know how you manage to make such clean, professional drawings (I know, you're not an artist, but come on, they are great!) especially with a nursing baby. I just had a fourth this October and am finding it challenging to do work with my hands.

    1. Thanks so much, Helen! My little secret is that I do almost all of my drawing when my littles are sleeping. :) Luckily they are all consistent nappers and sleep through the night, so I have a couple reliable pockets in my day when I have my hands-free! :) I also do a lot of drawing copywork...I don't know if you heard the Schole Sisters podcast where I shared about my pre-reading notebook, but maybe you would enjoy it? We talked about building drawing skills. :)

      I hope you are having a wonderful weekend! And congrats on #4! :)