Since last week, Ellie has gained a great deal of mobility. So we have put her to work, giving her a job that will hone her latent predator skills. We even cave her a cave-baby outfit to wear while she chases her quarry.

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Don’t worry, the rat is made of rubber. 

Seriously, though, she is growing by leaps and bounds. Or at least by creeps and grounds.


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She doesn’t crawl any more than she can help. 

Mostly she bear-crawls, commando crawls, and butt-scoots to anything she can pull herself up into a standing position on.

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Git around!

Once there she pulls herself up, and falls, and pulls and falls and pulls and stands and wobbles for a few minutes, until eventually she falls again.

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Mission Accomplished! Now, let’s try stepping.

It’s all hard work and requires a lot of eating and sleeping to support.

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Frozen raspberries! They are delicions and feel good on the sore gummies.

A lot of food. Healthy food!

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Fresh from the garden! Yum!


Fortunately these are the things that Ellie is good at.

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Champion snuggler!

And she has a big sister who is more than willing to help her.


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Here you go, Ellie!

She cooks food for her baby sister. Today it was flower soup.


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Hmmmm… Needs some salt.

Holds her sister.


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Aunty Mary-Kate made Ellie a beautiful colorful new quilt.

Helps her stay cool in the heat, and celebrate Fourth of July all at the same time.


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Let’s just say it’s a good thing Ellie doesn’t mind water in her face.

And Evie also gives her great fashion advice.

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Try putting one of Mommy’s begonias in your hair. It will be beautiful!

The only thing Evie does not do, is go to sleep.


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Bedtime is just the worst!

It’s amazing how much these two get up to in any given day. Mommy and Daddy just seem to do the same old same old, most of the time. Although this week we did have some fun family cooking. Family Friday 163 (2)We made pasta carbonara, out of the Vatican Cookbook.

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The recipe is so easy and delicious.

If you look closely you can see that our copy of the Vatican Cookbook is signed by the owner of La Vittoria restaurant, which is featured in the book. We got it signed when we were in Rome about 1 1/2 years ago.

Then she found a recipe for honey oat bread on the internet somewhere and made that.

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The most beautiful loaf of honey goodness I have ever seen. And the bread’s not too bad looking either 😉

It was delicious. Very hearty and robust, but mildly sweet and nutty. We should share the recipe sometime. Speaking of recipes, Daddy made a new pizza this week that is scrumdiddlyumptious. You guys should come over and try some sometime.

That’s all for this week. God Bless, and have a great weekend. Bye!
















Welcome back! How have you all been? We had a nice, relaxing weekend after last Family Friday, starting with our weekly shopping trip!!! Woohoo!!!

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This awesome Costco checkout lady let Evie scan all the groceries. Totally made Evie’s day!

BTW, it is amazing how much our food bill changes from when Daddy is home vs. when he is on army trips. We had a chance to compare with the recent Germany trip. When the army is buying him all his food, Kathleen and the girls spend about $40/week on food. When Ryan is home we spend about five times that much. Does that mean that Ryan eats four times as much as the rest of the family put together?

Sunday was a day to relax in bed until 7:30.

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Even after Mommy and Daddy got up to get ready, Evie and Ellie stayed and snuggled by themselves for a bit before getting into their pretty Church dresses.

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Ellie looks up to her big sister.

Ellie has been trying to stand up for a few weeks now. She can commando crawl around the floor, but her real goal is walking.

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I don’t see any of you lot crawling around on all fours.

Sunday Mass, when we all get to go and worship God together, with no pager, cellphone, email and nothing pressing us to rush away, is one of the most amazing things in the world. Plus, it’s good to catch up with our Church friends.

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Dillon, Evie and Joshua, 4,3 and 2 years old, all the same height.


We made Pizza for Adam and Maryanne and the gang on Saturday. They came over during Evie’s nap, so Edmund kindly volunteered to wake his cousin up.

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She was “camping” in her “sleeping bag.”

It was nice to have a quiet, relaxing pizza meal.

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Apart from having to coax, cajole and coerce Evie to sit still long enough to eat her slice of pizza.

Major pizza parties are a lot of fun, but they are also a lot of work, and we are less inclined to branch out and experiment. However, as it was we got to try out a new, fluffier dough, a new sauce mixture, a new take on the picnic pizza topping, and a whole new topping (pest, steak, balsamic vinegar, fresh mozz, goat cheese, light sharp cheddar, and arugula).


Ronny and Amanda were invited but couldn’t come due to work and having to attend a late Mass. They did swing by on the way home to chat for a few minutes and pick up some leftovers.

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Hopefully we can get together again sometime soon.

Daddy took Evie out for her first movie date on Monday. We went to see “Incredibles II.” Evie did not like it as much as we had hoped. Neither did Daddy. But it was still kind of fun, and we went and got bubble tea afterwards, so it was a great date anyways.

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She likes playing with the Giant Jenga while waiting for her bubble tea.

The rest of the week was a bit higgledy-piggledy. Kathleen was on night shift, and Ellie does not like not having Mommy snuggles before she goes to sleep. She still sleeps, just not as well as she usually does. Fortunately, Daddy was able to be home fairly early in the evenings, so we got plenty of Daddy daughter time.

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Pizza and peas. Delicious, nutritious, not too ambitious.

Ellie now has three teeth, two on the bottom and one on the top.

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“Read it, Daddy?”
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Practicing her ninja skills.

And now the week is over, Mommy will be done working in a few hours, Daddy is almost done working. We may make some pasta carbonara, or some pizza, or both.

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Or we may just make rock piles on the deck.

God Bless! Have a great weekend.



Heaven Starts Now: Becoming a Saint Day by DayHeaven Starts Now: Becoming a Saint Day by Day by Fr John C Riccardo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book by Fr. John Riccardo of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Archdiocese of Detroit, is a printing of a series of 8 lectures that he gave at a 10-week course in his parish. The subject of this series is becoming a saint in day-to-day life, a topic which he approaches with cheerfulness and optimism, but above all with total seriousness. He really intends to convince people to undertake the task of becoming Saints.
There is, of course, nothing really groundbreaking or revolutionary in that call. That is a good thing. Revolutionary and groundbreaking spiritual writing is usually heresy. This book is a distillation and rephrasing of the perennial message of Christ through His Church, and in keeping with the call of Vatican II to a “new evangelization” and the “universal call to holiness.” Where it seems revolutionary that is only because it is re-presenting the essentially revolutionary nature of Christianity.
He begins by exhorting the reader to sit down and make a detailed plan of how you intend to achieve sainthood, (you can check mine out on this site if you like). He then takes the reader through a few of the fundamental obstacles to holiness that the beginner can expect to run into and those with more experience will readily recognize. These include “Forgiveness,” “Fear and Anxiety” and “Suffering.” He concludes with a chapter on the Primacy of Love.
It was this final chapter that I thought most relevant and necessary (it stands on the other chapters, however, so don’t just skip to the end). In it Fr. Riccardo sums up his foregoing advice under the title of “accumulation of virtues.” I especially love that phrase because it so perfectly illustrates my default (and problematic) approach to holiness. That is, I habitually pursue the accumulation of virtue in a check-the-list fashion. (“Now for a limited time only, pursuit of virtue! Collect all seven!”)
Fr. Riccardo provides the necessary corrective to that attitude by pointing out that the end goal is not perfection. That is an impossible goal. Instead the goal is intimacy with Jesus, perfection being the inevitable but utterly gratuitous result of that intimacy. That is, we are trying to open ourselves to the love of Jesus, and letting that love be manifest in our obedience to Him and in our treatment of our neighbors. Virtue is a means of exercising that love, and also the result of being possessed by that love.
Again, there is nothing new in this book (or under the heavens either, accord to Ecclesiastes). If you have done any catholic spiritual reading at all, or have ever read the Bible you have heard it all before in much greater depth. It is, however, a great reminder, easy to read but challenging to live up to. As long as we live I don’t think we shall ever grow out of our need for repeated exhortation, and this is what Fr. Riccardo provides admirably.

View all my reviews

Last friday we said goodbye to the Ocean:Family Friday 33 23

Mommy built a sign out of rocks, to commemorate Evie’s visit to the Pacific ocean.IMG_0379

And we had a glorious sunset.

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On Sunday after Mass, Evie walked in snow for the first time! And threw her first snowball (at Mommy) (with a little help from Daddy).Family Friday 33 25

This last week since our family vacation has been a quiet one. Relatively quiet that is. Evie started walking last week, a couple of days after Christmas. Now she can toddle like a freakin’ boss, and get anywhere in the house she wants to (unless Mommy and Daddy close the doors or the gate).

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What? I’m just an innocent child. I couldn’t possibly be planning on getting into anything dangerous or destructive!

Other than that, not much has been going on. Ryan has continued with his two woodworking projects. On monday he got the first of the two baby gates glued and clamped. He had to bring one of the tables to the workshop to make sure the gate fit.Family Friday 33 3

This is one of the end-tables from the family room, and the gate is designed to block it off so that Evie can’t crawl underneath it and eat the books and electrical cords that live behind the couch.

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On Tuesday the glue had set and held, despite the temperature in the workshop hovering around 40 degrees all night. So Ryan, glued and clamped the second gate.Family Friday 33 7

Then he scraped and sanded the dried glue off the first one, and applied the final coat of varnish.Family Friday 33 6

Also on Monday, Ryan glued the first two seams of the pizza box. On Tuesday they had set perfectly.

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The back and side walls are glued together.

The next step was to glue on the bottom, and then clamp the heck out of it.Family Friday 33 8

The bottom is glued, the top is just set in place to give the clamps something to purchase on. The whole mess is fearfully and wonderfully clamped, but that’s what you have to do to maintain event pressure along all three seams at once.

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Wednesday morning, all seams are set.

On Wednesday morning, all of the seams were set and dry and the box was sturdy as heck! What’s more, every single interior corner was perfectly square!

I love it when a plan come together!

Unfortunately, one of the baby gates was glued with elmers wood glue instead of  gorilla glue, and the elmers didn’t bond through the varnish, so when Ryan tried to set it on the table it fell apart. So Wednesday was a weary process of chiseling the glue off,Family Friday 33 11 re-gluing and re-clamping it. Family Friday 33 12

Then Ryan measured, cut and stacked all the shelves and slats that the pizzas will actually sit on.Family Friday 33 19

Next week will be the long, laborious project of gluing the slats in, one set at a time, and sanding and finishing the shelves, as well as hopefully finishing the inside of the box.

Dean Koontz has written a new novel, but Ryan cannot read it until he has finished writing his own novel.Family Friday 33 2

This sign has worked wonders. He has added almost 5,000 words this week!

That’s all for this week. Please pray for Ryan’s National Guard Unit. One of our soldiers was killed in Afghanistan last week. Pray for the repose of his soul, for mercy and conversion for the enemy, and for strength and comfort for his family.

See y’all next week. Live under the Mercy.


Family Friday 26 6
Evie studying up on her Historical European Martial Arts.

Oh dear. Evie started taking steps last night. She can now step from the coffee table to the couch or from the couch to the coffee table, a distance of one step. We predict she will be running by Christmas. Next year we will start her in track and field…

This has been an eventful and also a rough week in a lot of ways. Even as insulated as we are, what with only one TV in the house and that hardly ever being turned on, even we cannot escape the constant barrage of evil news, and sad events. The sudden spike in Media coverage of terrorist activities around the world is incredibly saddening, and actually physically discouraging. It is sometimes really easy to feel like “What’s the point? Why do people have to act like this? Why do they have to kill innocent people?”

Almost as discouraging is the bickering and quarreling and selfishness of many of our own people, in response to these attacks. Even people that we know and love can sometimes be overcome with rage and frustration and say stupid and hateful things like, “Just kill all of them.”And as someone who actually has gone over and fought terrorists, I can tell you that the difference between ISIS shooting up a theater or an embassy or a shopping mall, and “nuke the Middle East” is only a difference of capability. If we allow hatred to rule our hearts, we are no different.

Even closer to home, one of Kathleen’s friends and co-workers was killed in a pedestrian vs. train accident this week. It sucks. There is no other word for it. We are going to go to Holy Hour later this evening to pray for the repose of his soul, for mercy for him, and comfort for his family and friends, and for mercy on us and on the whole world.

Traditionally these family friday posts are pretty upbeat, and this one may seem like a bit of a downer, but that is life. Sometimes our lives go smoothly and easily and all seems well, and sometimes bad things happen. There are times when life just seems brutal, senseless and frightening. It is necessary to acknowledge the bad things, and to place them in the context of all the good things. In many ways, that is what Family Friday is all about. It is our assertion that even in a world that has gone mad, and has been going mad since Adam and Eve ate the apple, goodness, truth and beauty are still triumphant.

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Evie and Mommy drove up to the Swiss Park on Friday to drop off some baskets for their annual Rippli music and gift festival. Kathleen has been singing with the Enzian Swiss Ladies Choir for many years, and only stopped last year right before Evie was born. The ladies of the Choir were super stoked to meet Evie again. She grows so fast right now that if you don’t see her for a month, and then you see her again, she is like a whole new baby. Evie was also happy to see them, because in Evie’s world there is no such thing as too many Grandmas.

Family Friday 26 7Then Saturday was the international potluck at St. Francis Cabrini’s parish, so Evie and Mommy dressed up in their matching Swiss dirndl’s (Evie’s was lovingly made by Grandma Kraeger, so be sure to check out her other work here!) and Daddy wore his Swiss flower shirt (even though he is not Swiss. He is more of your generic Western European Mutt). Since our parish is predominately Hispanic and Pacific Islander by probably about a 2/3rds majority, we were proud to represent the white people and make the international potluck truly international.

We were also happy to provide some Swiss Lackerli cookies, courtesy of Kathleen’s old family recipe. However, we were also happy to eat our fill of Filipino and Mexican food.

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Evie especially liked the pancit.

You know the party had a lot of food when there is actually lumpia left over!

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Evie enjoys her first taste of lumpia, despite having a mouth full of pancit.

On Sunday Western Washington got its first low land snow of the year. I say low land because it has been snowing at Crystal Mountain for over a month (please, Jesus, let it keep snowing there so Ryan and Kathleen can go skiing for Kathleen’s birthday!) But on Sunday the plateau got some snow. This is the view from Grandma and Grandpa’s back porch.Family Friday 26 4

Of course it all melted pretty quickly, but it was pretty while it lasted. Sunday was also a baby shower for one of Kathleen’s co-workers. Kathleen hosted it at the Swiss Park.

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It was snowing here too, but you can’t see it in this picture because it was melting as fast as it landed.

We set up very early Sunday morning. Family Friday 26 9

Evie and Daddy helped set up, and then went home so Evie could stay on her nap schedule, and Daddy could work on his NaNoWriMo project, which is currently only about 15,000 words behind schedule (Oh, well, that’s life).

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Evie had to quality control the decorations.

Everyone had lots of fun and we are keeping Mom and baby both in our prayers as they hit the home stretch.Family Friday 26 5

Monday was a red-letter day as well, as there was a new arrival at the Kraeger house! Can we get a “mazel tov?”

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“Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for a refrigerator?”

Yes, that’s right, we finally replaced our 20-ish year old refrigerator. This one is all new and space-agey and shiny and does not have black mold in all its impossible-to-reach cracks and crevices, which Kathleen is super stoked about. Family Friday 26 11

We celebrated with a super classy evening of sparkly grape juice left over from Sunday’s festivities. Family Friday 26 12

While Daddy drank beer from a champagne glass, because he is just fancy-pants like that. And Evie discovered how to open all the drawers in the kitchen. So many new toys to play with!

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What do you mean towels aren’t for Evie to play with? Then what on earth are they for?

Monday evening we all went to MC, and Evie got to hang out with her Godmother, Aunt Danica. IMG_3865

We are very glad for Aunt Danica who has graduated her IT training and is going to start a brand new job soon, and who also has some other good things of a more personal nature that seem to be progressing very nicely  ( wink, wink). But we are also sorry that she will soon be moving North of Seattle, for her new job, and also for those other things that are happening (wink). Fortunately, it’s not like she is moving to Alaska or anything, so Evie and her godmother can still get together and do things.

Let’s see, what else. Family Friday 26 17

Kathleen had a day off and made cookies.

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Lots of cookies. Unfortunately, Ryan is a terrible photographer and not much better at blogging, so the recipes we planned on sharing have not been shared yet and the pictures are blurry. But the cookies are delicious, so that’s good.

And it froze last night! All the way down here in Puyallup, this is the view out our back door this morning.

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Doo, doo, dooooooooo, lookin’ out my back door!

Oh, yeah, I forgot. Ryan had his interview for the PA program at University of Washington on Thursday. We will find out within a week or so whether he gets in or not. Competition is stiff, so prayers would be appreciated. Pray that God’s will be done and the most deserving candidates get in.

As we said at the beginning of this post, life can be rough sometimes. We ask you to join us in praying for all those affected by the terror attacks of the last week, not just the victims but also the perpetrators, and also for our friend who died this week, and for his family. Pray for us too. We are praying for you.

Just remember, Jesus wins in the end.

God Bless, have a good weekend, and stay awesome!



Warning: This Post Talks About Poop.

The City of Puyallup public restrooms kind of look like this, except that they have stalls and are generally pretty clean.
The City of Puyallup public restrooms kind of look like this, except that they have stalls and are generally pretty clean.

Last Saturday morning I went for a run after morning prayers. I typically run down the hill from the house to a park in town where there is a public restroom and a workout area with pullup bars, dip bars, pushup stations, horizontal row bars, decline benches, etc. It is a perfect place if you are tying to run first thing in the morning, since you can run down (which always gets things moving in the intestinal department), take care of your personal needs, and then head over to get in an epic bodyweight workout.

This time, however, for some reason I felt the urge to change it up, and instead of running straight to my usual route, I headed down the hill and came up into town by a different way. Along the way, predictably, I received an urgent call from nature, demanding that I answer forthwith or suffer dire consequences. Unfortunately I was now too far away from my regular park to make it, but I noticed that there was a children’s playground nearby, and they also had a public restroom. So I detoured to that.

hqdefaultNow, the public restrooms in the City of Puyallup parks are generally pretty clean. They are built like army or prison toilets, all concrete walls and stainless steel sinks, toilets and urinals for easy cleaning with a pressure washer. However, the first thing I noticed when I opened the door was the smell. It smelled like poop.

I was in too much of a hurry to bother about that, but I soon discovered why it had that smell. In my rush to the toilet I felt a “squish” under my running shoe.

Someone had dropped a large turd on the concrete floor, right in a straight line between the door of the stall and the toilet.

I am not easily grossed out, and I have definitely stepped in worse (Yes, there is worse). As I sat doing my thing I contemplated the situation. The first thing that was clear to me was that this was an act of violence. I spent a good deal of last week blogging about violence, and how it is not always the physical act of shooting someone. Far more often it is petty, cowardly words or actions designed to hurt someone else mentally or emotionally, or even physically, while hiding behind either a veneer of civility or the aegis of anonymity.

That is precisely what this action was. The size of the offering made it clear that it was not left by a child. It was left by a teenager or adult, on the floor of a restroom precisely where someone would step on it in the dim light, in a playground frequented by children.

“Nice Weather” in Washington State tends to have a liberal interpretation. As long as it is not pouring, kids will be out.

But as I contemplated this, I experienced a slow paradigm shift. Perhaps it was not a malicious act? What if it was a person with a mental illness, and even getting it that close was actually a triumph? Not at all outside the realm of possibility. So why was I judging someone that I did not know and had never met?

Then I realized that at this point it didn’t matter. Just like any physical act, the intention rarely matters as much as the consequences. It was there, and in a few hours the park was likely to be full of kids, it being a Saturday and the weather shaping up to be pretty nice. Malicious or not, it posed a health and safety risk.

So I resolved as soon as I got home to call the City Parks and Recreation department and report it so they could come and clean it up. But then, again, I realized that wouldn’t do either. It was a Saturday. Nobody works at the City Offices on Saturday. They wouldn’t even get the message until Monday.

Then I asked myself, (or the Holy Spirit asked me, exasperated at my slowness) “Why don’t you clean it up? There is plenty of toilet paper.”

So I did.

The humbling thing was, when I got home and told my wife about finding the turd, the first thing she asked was, “Did you clean it up?” Whereas I had to go through a long, involved rumination about violence and the proper response and taking responsibility, etc. her mind instantly jumps there: “Problem? What can I do about it?”

My mind is more like, “Hmm… that’s unusual. Actually, I think it might be a problem. Here’s why (Point A, B, C, etc.). There are several possible explanations (Scenario A, B, C,) and it has these social, physical and spiritual ramifications. A situation like this would probably demand a response. What would be the optimal response? (Options A, B, C, etc.) Of those options, which would be: feasible? Effective? Efficient? Socially acceptable? etc.” And so on until finally it occurs to me that maybe I should just go ahead and take care of this.

Just another little teaching moment that God set up for me. He does that sort of thing.