Friday, December 19, 2014

7QT - Christmas trees, BSB, and Christmas card stats

1 -(Usually I begin with a song, and this week it was going to be Valerie June's cover of Winter Wonderland but I couldn't get it to embed. If you want to hear it, click this link and fast forward to 21 minutes 17 seconds.)

Most people will not like this song but that's okay, I'm a firm believer that I have good taste in bad music. I heard it on the radio the other night and, what can I say? The stompy- clappy songs always make me happy. Shout out to my friend Meaghan who actually knew what I meant when I asked Facebook who sang a version of Winter Wonderland that was "mix of modern folk and twangy old country, sung by a woman" with "grit". 

2 - I ended up getting the Christmas cards below from Minted but still bought some at Target because I didn't order enough. The backs of the cards have a sticker I made that reads, "In 2014 Travis bought a car with working a/c; Bonnie presented to 1500+ people in 4 states; Lydia began reading chapter books; Bennet taught himself to ride his bike; James finagled his way into spending lots of time with his grandmas; Teresa was adorable; and Joseph learned to crawl, walk, & climb on the table. We hope your year was just as fun!"

I'm waiting on 4 addresses and have 2 cards left but I'll figure something out. Other stats about my Christmas cards (because I find this type of thing interesting and would have done all this counting even if I wasn't going to blog it):
Cards sent: 111
International: 2
In state: 78
Out of state: 31
Town I grew up in: 12
Town I live in now: 5
Friends from elementary or high school: 5
Newman Center friends: 20
Friends from college: 2
Nuns: 2
Relatives of Fulton Sheen: 1
My family: 25
Travis' family: 14
People who may not really even like me but they got a card anyway: 5

3 - While signing our names on the Christmas cards there were a couple of times I wanted to sign Peter's name but it felt like I shouldn't, that it would make people uncomfortable. So when my friend M, whose baby girl K passed away a few years ago, shared this article about family pictures and how they often don't show the whole story - well, gosh, it made me feel so normal. If you are missing a baby (or even if you're not) this is a beautiful article: Pictures Can Lie by Kathy from Kissing the Frog.

4 - One of the ways I keep Peter in our Christmas is by hanging this "Baby's First Christmas" ornament. I wish he was here.

5 - Speaking of Christmas trees... This past Saturday it was near 60 degrees in Central Illinois and the whole family went out to cut down a Christmas tree at a local farm.

It's huge, we don't have enough lights on it, the kids loaded it with tinsel garland, the star is crooked and scrapes the ceiling, and it feels a bit like a tree monster is invading the living room - but I LOVE it.

6 - The new Backstreet Boys documentary. I want to watch it. Anyone else? Besides Mia?

7 - These have taken way, way, way too long and I just need to be done. Supper needs to be made, kids put to bed, and a movie watched with my husband. It's the first day of Christmas break. :)

Thank you, Kelly, for hosting!

Friday, December 12, 2014

7QTs about the Christmas spirit and duct tape

1 – Lydia had her school Christmas concert earlier this week. The seventh graders always learn to sign a couple of songs in ASL instead of singing them. "Hey Moon" by Sidewalk Prophets was one of the songs they signed and it was beautiful. I thought I'd share it here because I really enjoyed it.

This is my super cropped photo so I don't show anyone else's kid's face. But I still wanted to share it because L is holding her candy cane the right way. She had told me that morning that she was nervous because during the "J is for Jesus" part of their "Candy Cane Song" she held her candy cane so it made a J for her, not the people watching. Right before she went on stage I even prayed to her Guardian Angel and asked that he make sure she did it the right way. After the concert we both celebrated she had gotten it right. She was so proud and so was I. 

2 – They other day at my mom group someone mentioned how expensive bras can be. I piped up in agreement and mentioned that my bra's underwire had just started poking out and was hurting me. "I wonder if I can duct tape it?"

My friend Jen - without being the teeniest bit condescending even though she could have because, seriously? Duct tape, Bonnie? - said, "Why don't you just stitch it up?" 

Since the rest of the bra is in really great shape I saved myself $60 or a a trashy duct taped bra and stitched those suckers back into place like a real domesticated lady, which I am actually, obviously not.

3 – The Feast Days. On Monday I spent a lot of time gazing at this image.

There's so much I love about this image: the shame in Eve’s face and the love in Mary’s, the way Mary holds Eve’s hand on her womb, like she's saying, “He’s kicking; here, feel. He will make all things news. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
We also ate rice krispie treats for dessert, after the kids did fairly well at the 6pm Mass. Fr. Julius said they were good, though, and so that was good enough for me. I'm not sure who started the tradition of white food on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, but it sounded like a great reason to have rice krispie treats. 

On Tuesday the Church celebrated St. Juan Diego but in our home we celebrated Venerable Fulton J. Sheen who died on December 9th 35 years ago. Lydia and Bennet took chocolate chip cookies to school to celebrate; James took rice krispie treats. At our moms group we ate tortilla chips and Old EL PASO salsa since Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois. For dinner we had a hearty Midwestern meal of venison meatloaf, smashed sweet potatoes, biscuits, green beans.

Tonight we were hoping to have some friends over for a mini fiesta in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe but then poor Teresa got sick. She doesn't look very sick, does she?

So we'll be having beans and rice for dinner and drink Mexican hot chocolate all by ourselves. Then we'll pray a rosary in Spanish. I’m just dreaming, we won't pray a rosary, let alone in Spanish.

Saturday we’ll possibly have Santa Lucia rolls for breakfast and then head out for a tree farm. We’ll put up our tree and then possibly drive around, looking at Christmas lights.

4 – Usually we put up our tree on Guadete Sunday but this year I’ll be speaking in Park Forest, Illinois that day. If any of you guys live in the south suburbs of Chicago it would be great if you could join me at St. Mary’s Parish in Park Forest on Sunday at 2pm. I think they’re having light refreshments afterwards and Travis and our friend Mia will be with me so there's three more good reasons to come! I'm pretty excited because we get to have lunch with our favorite bread makers ever – the Marconis!

And hey! If you read the blog and will be there let me know. Leave a comment here or on FB so I can be on the look out for you. :)

5 - So my friend Katie is amazing. Her cousin sent her a picture of a silly Christmas hairdo and dared Katie to wear it to work one day. Katie, who works at a Catholic school, said No. Her cousin came back and said she'd make a donation to charity if Katie did it. 

As Sherlock would say, "The game is on!"

Katie opened it up and said that anyone who made a donation to her parish's St. Vincent de Paul food pantry (money or canned goods) could make a request. I asked for gaudy earrings.

In the end she raised $327 and a box of canned goods. Here's the hairdo that started it all

And here's the whole look.

I am so impressed with Katie and her humility, generosity, and good spirit. I'm pretty sure that I'm too vain to look this ridiculous. 

6 - Last night we were driving and the kids wanted to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. So I started singing, "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose..." and then Lydia cut me off.

Lydia: We need to start at the beginning.
Me: This is the beginning.
Lydia: Not in my book.

Travis and I laughed, even harder because she meant what she said. She has a book with Christmas carol lyrics and that begins the song with the list of reindeer names.

7 - I know I already posted pictures of my mantel but I wasn't very happy with it so it got  a little make over. The nativity that sat there was moved to the bookshelf in the living room and the one that was on the bookshelf in the living room was moved to our home altar in the dining room.

Then I tucked some garland behind the stocking holders and ran some pretty star lights through it. I added some silver ornaments that were used to decorate for my December wedding 8 years ago.

Then in the void above I started taping up Christmas cards. So far I've got three from family members, two from blogger friends, one from a woman I've been friends with since kindergarten, one from a friend at my old parish, and two from friends at my new parish. I hope it grows!

I love it. By next year I hope to have a large white frame, probably made from scrap lumber, that has twine or lights running the length of it in 3 rows, which I'll hang the cards from. Something like this.

Thank you, Kelly, for hosting!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A sudden retreat and a re-entry

Last Friday afternoon I stood in my kitchen and a post from a fellow blogger caught my eye. It was a wonderful post, well crafted and cleverly promoted, and I just thought to myself, "Why am I even doing this?" (This meaning blogging.)

I instantly felt discouraged, disappointed, embarrassed - humiliated even - and a little broken-hearted. I had an overwhelming need to retreat and so right then and there I deactivated my Facebook account and made my blog private. It was a completely spontaneous decision but it didn't take very long for me to see that it was a good one. I didn't know why I felt the way I did but it was obvious that I had some sorting out to do.

If you emailed, called, texted, tweeted, or in some other way reached out to ask me what was up, to tell me you were concerned, to let me know that you were praying for me - thank you. I did a lot of praying and thinking and I sincerely think your prayers helped with mine.

On Saturday I went on a walk to mull it all over and clear my head. I asked God to help me name specifically what caused the hurt and the need to retreat since I knew that such a strong reaction was not coming from something as small as a moment of blogging discontent.

On that walk the root of it all hit me; I named it; and a weight so incredibly heavy I was shocked to feel it lifted off my shoulders and floated to the sky. There it was.

This doesn't mean that the issue is gone; it's not.  I still need to work through it and the emotions that accompany it but it is so not oppressive any more. Also, now that I know it I can see what I need to do about it. But that's still going to take some time.

If you were on IG, you got the message. 

While my blog and Facebook were shut down I celebrated some feast days, cleaned my house, sat in silence, read a book, talked to friends, and had a really fruitful holy hour. I went back and read through all the responses from that readers' survey I did a few months back. I thought long and hard about why I blog and what I hope to give and get from it. I played around with some design things and had a lot of fun doing it. I reminded myself that blogging is a hobby and that if I'm not enjoying it I can just set it aside.

That little break, just a few days of privacy and hiding, was enough for me. So here we are, back in the blogosphere, ready to have fun.

Friday, December 5, 2014

PS - a 7QT filled with postscripts

Linking up with Kelly, who now has a new planner for sale and the full time job of hosting these lovely 7QT! Hip-hip-hooray for Kelly!

1 -So many of you recommended Pentatonix's Christmas album in the comments of the Advent Care Package post that I went ahead and impulse bought it. I was pretty happy to see this song listed on the album since I'm a fan of the original. We listen to winter and Advent songs now but keep Christmas carols for Guadete Sunday, which is when we put up our tree and turn on all our Christmas lights, so I'm keeping this album tucked away and will pull it out for something special to listen to on our way to the tree farm.
PS - I have a playlist of Advent and winter songs on the right sidebar if you want to take a listen.

2 - In mid November our local grocery store had turkeys on sale for dirt cheap. I bought a 14lb bird for less than $10. It was the second turkey I've ever made and it came out really, really well. Even if I cooked the giblets in the bag in the turkey. (Shoot.)

Everyone loved it and I felt like Henry VIII eating my drumstick. 

"yummy yummy yum-stick"

PS - I slathered it with coconut oil instead of butter to make it safe for James, who has dairy allergies. It was still great - just a little tip in case you need to make a dairy-free turkey for anyone.

3 - The good folks at Firmoo are hosting a blogger contest. They nominated 50 of their favorite blog posts that mentioned their glasses and I was one of them. Who knew stories about mom groups and glasses and posers would get me nominated? Anyways, if you would vote for me I would be really appreciative. I have the chance to win more glasses and $100 that we'd love to put towards my son's tuition. Vote here, pretty please and thank you!

PS - you can vote once a day so if you've already voted for me you can do it again! yippee!

4 - Elise sent me the sweetest gift:

I plan on taking it and a couple of Kendra's images to our local office store and have them printed. I want to hang this Fiat in my girls' room; it's so lovely and feminine and that's a word I want my girls to know.

PS - If you want one too you can get it in her Etsy shop, which is filled with many gorgeous prints.
PPS - I wish I had the talent of lettering. So lovely!

5 - Sometimes a great mind, another great mind, yet another great mind, and a mediocre one think alike, and about Santa Claus of all things!

PS - St. Nick's feast day is tomorrow so dash to the store and get your gold coins or other gifts to fill your kids' stockings or shoes tonight!

6 - Yesterday I was shopping to buy some more eye cream and I spotted a great deal that I thought I'd tell you about. The Oil of Olay Regenerist Starter Kit contains their cleanser, face and neck moisturizing cream, and eye serum. To buy all three of those individually would cost almost $50 but the whole kit is just $30. I've only been using it for 24 hours so I can't give you a full review but I will say that my face feels smooth and not greasy, and usually my skin becomes a grease ball when I wear moisturizer.

PS - Not a sponsored post just a good deal I wanted to pass on.

7 - Things might be slowing down around here in the next few weeks as I try to pace myself and enjoy the seasons.

PS - Hoping and praying that you have a beautiful, holy Advent.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Santa + St. Nick = how we do it

My first Christmas as a mom I learned something really quickly: I had no idea how to keep Christ in Christmas if Santa Claus was looming large. And he was looming incredibly large.

It was obvious to me that there were parents who had done a good job of raising kids who knew the reason for the season and enjoyed Santa’s appearance on Christmas Eve, but I just knew that what they had in their personalities, gifts, talents, homes, and communities was not what I had.

I noticed that some families have only St. Nicholas and no Santa, some the exact opposite. Some have St. Nick, Santa, and the Three Wisemen, and others have some variation of those. I saw each done really well.

After that first Christmas season I wrote my open letter to Santa Claus and the next year I shared how I was making it work in our home with a couple of little kids.

This year things are a little different. We have school aged kids in public and parochial schools. They are young enough to still believe and old enough to hear and wonder about why Santa is different at our house than at their classmates.

Also, I am less uptight.

Things have changed and because someone asked me recently how we make it work I'm sharing it: a few of my opinions and preferences, and what works for us in our family culture. So here's the six things we do to make our St. Nick / Santa work:

#1 Blend St. Nick and Santa Claus with much, much, much more emphasis on St. Nick.
We use the names interchangeably and images of both are called by either name. However, when I use an image of St. Nick it is always of a Santa-looking bishop and not the traditional Santa. Nine times out of ten when I call him by name I use St. Nick or St. Nicholas.

#2 St. Nick fills only our stockings and our stockings are filled the eve of his feast day (Dec 6).
It was such a thrill for me and Travis to wake up and see what Santa would bring us and that's a thrill we still want to give our kids. This morning my kids were literally jumping up and down in a circle screaming that "Santa is coming in two days! St. Nicholas is coming!!!" The cool bonus for our kids is that they will feel this excited again on Christmas Eve - when they get gifts from Travis and me -and again right before Epiphany - when the Wise Men leave them another gift, usually something small or a group gift.

#3 Santa / St. Nick brings gold coins, pajamas, and maybe one extra something small.
We spend a lot of time talking about St. Nicholas and how he saved those girls from a life of prostitution by giving them money for dowries, except I don't go into that much detail at this point. They understand why they are getting gold chocolate coins from Santa.

The extra something small this year will be a Christmas movie for them all to share with a note that says something about how he was talking to Jesus in Heaven and that Mommy and Daddy had been praying and had mentioned that the kids were really excited to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (This is all true, you know, more or less.) I'll - I mean he'll say something about how the lesson the Grinch learns is really important and remind them that Jesus is why we celebrate Christmas.

This gives me the opportunity to thrill them some more (Santa knows what they want!), to reaffirm their Catholic faith (Heaven, saints, salvation), and establish and re-establish that Santa is not a BIG gift giving machine. They can hope for everything in the catalog and Santa is generous and thoughtful but he does not go into debt. You know what I mean.

#4 Discuss that Santa / St. Nick visits some people on December 6th and some people on December 24th. 
We tell the kids that Santa asked some parents if he could come on his feast day to make his travels a little easier on Christmas Eve and we said Yes. We explain to our kids that this means that they'll get gifts now and later and they love that.

#5 We don't talk up the North Pole and elves but we don't say they don't exist either. 
We let the kids lead those conversations - we let them believe and imagine and daydream. If there's a natural way to do it, we slip in that St. Nicholas lives in Heaven, and we do it in a way that does not negate what they believe about his workshop at the North Pole.

#6 We read books and watch movies about both men. 
The Night Before Christmas and The Polar Express will both be enjoyed at our house. So will the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving and a St. Nicholas: the Real Story of the Christmas Legend. I want my kids to believe in magic but I also want to lay a foundation so when the day comes that they learn Santa Claus is not real they will still know that St. Nicholas is. The love, the joy, the excitement - all of that is real because St. Nicholas is real and as a real saint in Heaven he points us to an even greater Truth.

There's a lot of good ways to build traditions and each family will have its own unique twist on things. And how beautiful that is!

These six steps are what works for us, for our family, for our personalities, and for our values. I'm sure it will continue to change as my kids age and go through different phases, but for now this is how we do it.

Other posts you may be interested in:
Our St. Nick party December 2012
How I pull off St. Nicholas December 2010
My open letter to Santa Claus January 2009

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Doing and Un-doing Advent with More Feasts!

In celebration of my friends Haley and Daniel Stewart's new e-cookbook, More Feasts! I've been invited to be a stop on the blog tour and share a little bit about Advent in our home. You know me, I love taking pictures of my decorations and talking about liturgical living, so of course I said yes.

Last year I took a big step back from all the Advent traditions and activities. It was an incredibly powerful and fruitful step, so much so that this year will look very similar. Last year I wrote:

I decided that instead of doing Advent how I had in the past I would "un-do" it.

Some of the basics are still here... The bare minimum.

And gosh, it feels good. My life feels more quiet. The doing got to be too much, overwhelming, and burdensome. It became my undoing. The un-doing has taken the pressure off.

I so badly want to teach my kids about Christ, the Church, salvation history, the saints, the Bible. I grab hold of all the good things, afraid that if I don't I will bypass the one thing which could have really done it - could have really brought home the Story and the Beauty and the Truth.

But too much of a good thing is still too much.

Me stressing out over an activity is not going to impress upon my children how much God loves them, that Jesus Christ died for their eternal salvation, and that the Holy Spirit lives within them.

But God speaks in the quiet and the still, small voice so maybe making less noise will allow them to hear Him. 

This year I have gone through the calendar and noted which days I wanted to celebrate. I have gone through our new home and set up the few things that I want to focus on.

We will pray and eat around our Advent wreath, using Lisa Hendey's book O Radiant Dawn to guide our prayers and dinner conversation.

Our nativities are set up, but are empty except for the animals and a candle, waiting for the Holy Family.

Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care - and I'm so excited because it's the first time in my life that I've had an actual mantel to hang my stockings on. (!)

Our Christmas lights are up outside the house but will only be turned on for feast days until Guadete Sunday. After that they will be on every night through Epiphany.

St. Nicholas will fill the kids' stockings on the eve of his feast day (December 6th), bringing chocolate coins and pajamas.

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) we will go to Mass and maybe, if I'm on top of things, there will be rice krispie treats for dessert.

Our family celebrates Venerable Fulton Sheen's feast day on December 9th even though it's not yet on the Church's calendar. This year we'll celebrate by having a good ole, Midwestern dinner and then attending Lydia's school Christmas concert.

Our Lady of Guadalupe's feast day is on a Friday this year (December 12th) so we'll probably have quesadillas for supper.

St Lucy's name means light and so on her feast day (December 13th) we will drive around town and look at the Christmas lights. Maybe, if I'm on top of things, I'll spend part of the previous day making Grace's Santa Lucia rolls.
I'm gonna go ahead and call it: probably not.

And then it's Guadete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the day we take a little break and Rejoice! because Christ's coming is near. This is the day we put up our tree, bring out the rest of the Christmas decorations (not just the Advent ones), and all the Christmas lights stay on and the Christmas music comes out.

Gosh, that still looks like a lot, doesn't it? But it's all pretty manageable.

The nice thing is that most of the feast days are easily celebrated at the dinner table. I have to feed the family one way or another, so it might as well include a nod to the saint we're celebrating. Additionally, since we usually eat meatless meals on Fridays, we add another meatless dinner to the week during Advent. Haley and Daniel's Simple Beans and Rice from Feast! is my go-to recipe for that.

What about you? What special meals or traditions will you be using to celebrate Advent in your home? 

PS - More Feasts! includes ten new real-food, gluten-free recipes, some thoughtful reflections, and lots of beautiful pictures. Click here to view more details and buy the e-book. (I get a small portion for being an affiliate if you purchase through my link.) It only costs $4 and if you use the coupon code HAPPYFEAST you can get 25% off your purchase from now until December 15th.

If you're new here, stick around! You can follow A Knotted Life on Bloglovin' or Feedly.
Plus, I'd love to connect with you. You can find me on InstagramPinterest, and Facebook. I hope to "meet" you soon!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Wishlists - what I'm excited to give and hoping to get

Today's post comes with a little disclaimer: I have not yet done my Christmas shopping even though I had the best of intentions to get it all done before Advent began, but I really am buying (or suggesting to the grandmas that they buy) the following items for Christmas. I am showcasing these items because I really do like them and, especially in the case of the small businesses, I want to help spread the word about the fabulous goods that are available. I have not received anything in exchange for blogging about these things.

That being said, I am an Amazon affiliate and when you shop at Amazon by clicking over from my site (either by following a link in a post or by using the Amazon search box on the bottom right side) I do earn credit for goods at Amazon. It's not a ton of money but it has helped us pay for textbooks for Travis' masters classes.

So now, let's begin:

For my kids:
My kids always get chocolate coins and pajamas in their stockings from St. Nicholas on his feast day. On Christmas morning they will get, from us, a group gift of a gift certificate to see a movie. Taking the whole family to the movies - especially with popcorn and sodas - is way too pricey for us but obviously a fun treat. So maybe the gift card will go towards Cinderella or Inside Out, or maybe you have a good suggestion of a film we should wait for.

In addition, on my kids' wishlist is:

Printer Paper - Just plain old printer paper. My kids would much rather create their own cards, pictures, and notes rather than use a coloring book. We go through so much paper at our house since every day I have four kids making pictures. (It also then serves as kindling.)

Book Light - All four of the kids love to lay in bed and look at books for ten to twenty minutes after they're tucked in. I'm hoping this adds a bit more fun since I really want to encourage their love of reading.

Talking Diesel from Thomas the Train - We have a lot of Thomas the Train tracks and trains, but we don't have a Diesel, which is really important for my son as he plays out Misty Island Rescue.

Tumble Tree Timbers - I read all the reviews and it seems that Lincoln Logs are an overpriced rip off but people seem pretty happy with these. And they will still work with the Lincoln Logs that my kids play with at my mom's house. Winning.

Elsa dress up dress for Lydia. The dress I got her last year is too small now (Teresa wore it at Halloween) but Lydia still loves to dress up as Elsa.

Christmas Carols Sticker Book from Usborne - Lydia wants to learn all the carols, which I really love. We have some books with just the lyrics but I really like that this book also has the music. Maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to spruce up that piano in the basement and learn to play.

Uni the Unicorn - This is a sweet book with bold, colorful, pretty pictures that tells the story of a unicorn who believes that little girls are real. It's so cute.

Julia's House for Lost Creatures - I love Ben Hatke's work. (And his wife's Instagram account!)

For other loved ones:
Look Inside My Body - Oh man do my kids love this book. Especially the page that explains digestion. (poop!)

Midnight Celebration from Jamberry Nails - Classy, pretty, so nice. I'll be ordering from Jen since she so generously gave to the Advent Care Package Giveaway.

Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster - Such a sweet book that shows kids that every opportunity has a good chance of having a great outcome.

The Only Light EP by Matt Faley - This is such a great EP and I know someone who will love it.

GPS Watch - Travis wants one for his running. It can track his distance, pace, and even calories burned although I don't think he cares as much about the calorie bit.

For me:
Wrenn Jewelry - oh dang, I looooove this stuff. Also, head's up that today is the last day to order if you want your jewelry by Christmas.

Audrey Eclectic prints - I have loved Heather's work for a long time. I love all her work, but I especially want these to switch out for the different holidays and seasons: Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, Advent, Christmas / winter. 

Wibbly Wobbly Tardis mug - Because I'm a Whovian and darn proud of it.

What about you? What are you getting your kids and what's on your personal wishlist?

If you're new here, stick around! You can follow A Knotted Life on Bloglovin' or Feedly.
Plus, I'd love to connect with you. You can find me on InstagramPinterest, and Facebook. I hope to "meet" you soon!