December 9, 2018

Advent: Ever Ancient, Ever New

 I know that people will do what works for them, but what works for me is to have times of feast and fasts, flurries of bustling followed by blank spaces. After the abundance of autumn, with its pumpkins and leaves and groaning dinner tables, I like a good pause. Time to pack away the decorations, wipe up the dust, sweep away the crumbles. It's not even that I prefer or just like it this way: I need it this way. There is a sort of inaudible silence created in our home. There is nothing - no decoration or themed book stack - to communicate to me about what I should be focusing on. There is just room to sit, breathe, rest. 

Our assistant pastor said that the Church gives us liturgical seasons because change is good for us - we cannot get stuck in our ways, we must shake the dust off and switch gears. And he is right, but in my heart I also know that the liturgical seasons are change for people who don't like change. (me) There is a wonderful, circular rhythm instead. Fast, feast, pause, fast, feast, pause. Those pauses - those ordinary times - are ripe  with the opportunity to grow deep in the silence. And so it continues:

Ever ancient, ever new.

In the final days of this past November I clung to the last days of Ordinary Time and distanced myself from the barrage of Christmas-before-Advent. I know indulging that way is a balm for many weary souls and exhausted hearts, but it just wore me out and made me miserable. 

I know, too, that my kids would have loved to jump right in with everyone else, but instead, in our home, we slowly let Advent emerge. Stockings, Jesse Tree, empty nativities, and the Advent wreath on the First Sunday. Then eventually lights. And then the Christmas tree with all its trimmings. And no rush on reading the books or watching the movies - there's plenty of time to get them all in. 

I long for snow days and blizzards, for fires and cocoa and snuggling after sledding and de-bundling.
I crave silence, mitigated by carols and family movie nights. 
I bake, kneading the dough and reflecting on the millions of women who have kneaded dough before me, regardless of time or place or financial means. 

Ever ancient, ever new. 

I hope and pray that my kids will look back on their childhoods and appreciate the way that Travis and I have brought the liturgical year into our home. I hope that their childhoods will be remembered as being filled with wonder, love, and joy. I hope the meaning of it all is seeping into every nook and cranny of their hearts and souls so that it is impossible for them to turn away from their Lord and faith. To do so would be to turn away from gingerbread cookies and laughing at Home Alone and Elf as much as it is turning away from the stories that make up salvation history as told through the Jesse Tree and singing O Come O Come Emmanuel before Grace at dinner. 

Advent is my favorite of all the liturgical seasons. It is a time that acknowledges how weary I am, that I am laying in sin and error, pining for the coming of my Savior. It is a time that reminds me to wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord. It is a time that allows for the tension of all those things, while encouraging me to sit under a blanket and read to my kids, forgoing my chores for a little while to focus on what matters more. What matters most. What - Who - has always mattered most. 

Ever ancient, ever new.

The Mary Consoles Eve print is from the sisters at Our Lady of the Mississippi Monastery and can be purchased here

November 28, 2018

Things Kids Say

Ben: I can't wait until tomorrow.
Me: What's tomorrow?
Ben: School.

Me: Is MJ awake or asleep?
Jofis: She's wide asleep!

Resa telling me the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Me: So what's the lesson we can learn from that story?
Resa: Don't say the name of dangerous animals over and over again or one might show up.

Me: Thomas, can you say your name? Say "Thomas."
Thomas: Train. Choo-choo!

Unnamed Child: Why do we always have to go to Mass?
Me: Because Daddy and I love God very much and He loves us. We go to Mass to be with Him in the Eucharist, so we can pray and be close to Him.
Ben: Jesus talks to me in prayer.
Me: Really? What does He say?
Ben: I don't know. I couldn't hear Him....
Me: What do you mean?
Ben: Last week I was praying at Mass and I saw Jesus come up to me. He shook my hand and we chit-chatted a bit.
Me: What did you chat about?
Ben: I don't know. I couldn't hear. There was thunder.
Me: Like it was raining outside and there was thunder?
Ben: No, there was thunder in my prayer.

L: Miriam calls me Mommy!
Resa: Miriam calls me Mommy!
Me: Miriam, what's my name?
MJ: -

MJ, licking ketchup off a plate: Mmm, mmm, mmmm!

Resa: Can you hurry up and have that newborn baby?!!!

November 21, 2018

Our Harry Potter Birthday Party

Over the summer we introduced our kids to Harry Potter and they were very pleased to make his acquaintance. 

We checked out the audio books from the library and the kids were entranced. As we finished a book we'd watch the movie, which we did four times over. On July 31st we even celebrated Harry's birthday. Ben listened to the fifth book but then was told he couldn't listen to any more until he'd read the ones he'd listened to. L, our oldest, lost patience with our pace in audio book 3 and picked up my old copies, finishing the whole series in no time. 

It wasn't a surprise then when Ben and JF, both with September birthdays, requested a Harry Potter themed birthday party. You guys, I have been waiting for this day for years

We started with Hogwarts acceptance letters, which were tied to a flock of white (balloons) owls, and hand delivered around town. Of course I didn't get a picture of them but they pretty much looked like what Kathryn did here.

I then enlisted the kids' help with decorations. I addressed envelops to Harry, had the kids seal them and draw red "sealing wax" circles on the back, and then we made H's for Hogwarts on the circles. These came flying out of the fireplace, just like what happened on 4 Privet Drive. 

When kids arrived for the party they entered through Platform 9 3/4.

Their first stop was Ollivander's Wand Shop. We printed off a sign and taped it to our tv in the living room. Then on a small table we put a plate of wands (pretzel rods - some plain, most covered in chocolate, and most of those with some sort of sprinke). The kids chose a wand (or the wand chose them) and they started snacking. 

We then ushered them into the Great Hall. I had rolled up paper, stapled slips of yellow construction paper to the top, and hung the "candles" from the ceiling. L colored the Slytherin, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw house crests that I printed off the internet and we mounted them on construction paper. We also used Harry's glasses, a Gryffindor scarf, and a wand for the centerpiece. 

Next we started the Sorting Ceremony. This was a favorite part of the entire party.

Days before the event I texted every parent and asked them to give me three words to describe their kids. If the parent was familiar with Harry Potter I would confirm the House I planning on sorting them into, otherwise I just did my best. 

Before the guests arrived we sent our kids into the backyard to play and our friend Joel snuck into the house with his bluetooth speaker. He and Travis strapped it to the back of a patio chair we had brought into the Great Hall. Because of the design of the chair and the average height of elementary school aged kids the speaker was right behind their heads. Then Joel hid in a bedroom down the hall with a list of all the kids, the adjectives their parents had given me, and their House. 

When it was time for the Sorting Ceremony Travis, who was linked to the Bluetooth speaker, called Joel, who gave an Oscar-worthy performance as the Sorting Hat. Everyone cheered, laughed, and clapped and was so excited to see which House they would be in. Even the kids who had never heard of Harry Potter loved this part! 

Once all the kids were sorted we started classes. I kept JF and his friends in the kitchen for Potions class. They mixed mermaid water (Sprite) with unicorn tears (food coloring) and fairy rocks (Poprocks). This was another huge hit. 

Meanwhile Ben and his friends were outside finding dragons in Care of Magical Creatures. They also just ran around, played on the swingset, and jumped on the trampoline. Each class then switched. 

After classes were done, Travis pulled out the Marauder's Map and made each kid solemnly swear they were up to no good. He then led them through and around Hogwarts while I switched over the Potions classroom into Honeydukes sweet shop in Hogsmeade. They went out the backdoor, in the basement entrance, through a maze Trav had made in the basement, through several rooms, and out the egress window, around the house, and back to the kitchen.  You can see it on the HP Party Video on my Instagram account.

Some kids took a quick stop in the bathroom, where they saw Moaning Myrtle, to wash their hands...

and then they indulged in lots of good treats and sweets at Honeydukes.

We sang Happy Birthday to the boys and served the cake and the kids had refills on their mermaid water.

After all the sugar they were sent outside to run around until their parents came to pick them up, greeted, of course, by our front porch's scarecrow who had dressed himself up for the party.

It was such a fun day, and while it took a lot of time and planning to pull it all off it didn't feel like much work at all because of how fun it was for me. Also, we had those envelopes and candles up for at least a month!

My kids loved the party and their guests had a great time. I will confess, there were probably as many parents who were re-living their childhoods right along with me at this party, too. I know HP is not for everyone but it has been a blessing for our family and this party was just the best.

November 16, 2018

Advent Care Package Giveaway

Photo by Caley Dimmock on Unsplash

Congrats to Bailey P and Margaret A who won the Giveaway!!!
And once again, a huge THANKS to all the small businesses who donated their goods! You guys are the best and I'm so grateful for the way that you spread good cheer. 

Advent starts on December 2nd, about two weeks from now. Did your chest tighten a bit from stress when you read that? Mine did when I wrote it.

We've got things to do, right? Gifts to buy, cookies to bake, parties and pageants and programs to attend. There's feast days to prepare for and holiday traditions to carry on or begin for the very first year. We've got wishlists to build or research and Sweet Baby Jesus, please don't let anyone get sick. (+Amen.)

It can be super stressful so let me help with that. This Advent Giveaway is a Care Package to two of you from me and all the wonderful crafters, makers, and small business owners who donated their beautiful, exceptional, hard work.

The value of this giveaway is $900! That means that each winner will receive a Care Package worth $450!

I am so, so grateful to all the vendors and crafters who donated items. People are so generous and so I hope that you thank them by showing them some love. Follow their social media accounts, favorite their Etsy shops, share their work and shop names with friends, and best of all: purchase from them, either now or in the future.

 Directions to enter and all the fine print are at the bottom. Now check out all the goods!
Beauty Counter - Susan Husband
Holiday Hand Cream Trio: $30

Brass Mint & Co
Mother of Our Savior, Queen of Heaven and Earth print: $30

Call Her Happy
Lazy Liturgical Book: $25 
30 Days to Calm: $25 
I Prayed a Rosary for You & misc postcards: $30

Catholic Curio
St. Nicholas Cookie Cutter: $7 
Hail Mary Pencils: $8 
JMJ Pencils: $10 
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop 

Mailing list, email with OPT IN in the subject line.
Wholesale orders are available! 
Coupon: ADVENT2018, $5 off a purchase of $30 or more, running Nov 16 - 20

Chews Life
Mama Necklace: $24 
Shop Credit for Divine Mercy Teether: $22
Follow on Instagram
Shop Website

Laura Kelly and Franco David Fanucci
Grieving Together: $16
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link) 

Fitz Knitz
Adult Stocking Cap with ponytail slot: $20 
Child Earwarmer Headband with Hearts: $12 347
Etsy Shop

Just Love Prints
Be Who God Meant You to Be print: $16
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: 15% off your order of $25 or more with code AKNOTTEDLIFE18. Expires December 30, 2018

Lily Joy Designs
6' Advent Garland and Decade Rosary: $52
6' Christmas  Garland and Decade Rosary: $52
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: BONNIE10 for 10% until Black Friday. Black Friday through Cyber Monday 15% off the entire shop + use SMALLBIZ2018 for free shipping on Small Business Saturday. 

Look to Him and Be Radiant
Catholic Colorable Stickers: $8 
Advent Candle Stickers: $5
Watercolor Stain Glass Women of the Bible Stickers: $5

Our Lady Doll: $42

Mini St. Nicholas Doll: $45 
Mini St. Lucy Doll: $45
Follow on Instagram
Follow on Facebook
Etsy Shop 

Coupon: Bonnie10 for 10% off anything in the store through the end of December.

Providential Co.
Holy Family Candle: $24
Sign up for the mailing list for special Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday deals here.
Follow on Instagram
Follow on Facebook
Shop the Website

Haley Stewart
The Grace of Enough: $15
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Studio Senn
Pelican in Piety Enamel Pin: $12
Coupon: 15% off entire shop with SUPPORTSMALL from Black Friday - November 30th. Limited supply Storybook maps discounted, no code needed.

Telos Art & Design
2018-2019 Yearly Liturgical Calendar Poster: $18 
Color-As-You-Go Liturgical Calendar, inspired and informed by the Ordinary Form of the Catholic liturgy. The full, 365-day calendar year is represented on a single sheet of 12x18" heavyweight paper. Purchase the full-color version to display side-by-side. Great for teachers, religious education classrooms, or around the home! 
Vintage Aluminum Marian Medal on 16" sterling silver rope chain: $24
Follow on Facebook
Follow on Instagram
Shop the Website

Kendra Tierney
Catholic All Year Liturgical Wall Calendar: $21
Follow the Blog
Follow on Instagram
Shop the Website

Usbourne Books - Sarah Ortiz
That's Not My Snowman book: $10
The Story of Baby Jesus book: $10

Thirty-One - Jessica Thornton
Zip Top Organizing Utility Tote: $35

Someday Saints
Bag with Tassel Keychain: $28
Join the mailing list here for exclusive pre-sales and coupons.
Coupon: DEFENDUS for free St. Michael zipper charm upgrade; FREEFIFTY for free shipping on orders over $50

Whole Parenting Goods
Stella Wall Quilt, size 9"x12": $62
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop 
Small Business Saturday Sale: 20% off everything

P l u s !
I wanted to add a lot of little extras because a lot of the time it's the little things that can fill the gaps, right? So here's a few more of my favorite things. All of these items were purchased by me for you!
Stocking Stuffers & Hygge Helpers: $30
Candles, hot cocoa, a new pen, window clings, candy canes, peppermints, and chocolates, snowflake washi tape, St. Nick chocolate coins, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Advent Candles

Rules and fine print:
One winner will be drawn from the blog and one from Instagram. Care Packages will not have the exact same content but will be of equal cash value. 

To enter on the blog you must leave a comment below - tell me which item you're most excited to win and BE SURE TO GIVE ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. Your email will only be used to contact you if you are the winner and entries without email addresses will be disqualified. 

To enter on Instagram you must go to the main Advent Care Package Giveaway post (here) and follow the directions there. Instagram is in no way responsible for this giveaway nor is this giveaway sponsored, endorsed, or administered by or associated with Instagram. 

The giveaway was extended and now ends Tuesday, November 20th at 3pm CST, or basically once I close comments. The two winners will be announced here, on Instagram, and on the A Knotted Life Facebook page. The blog winner will be contacted via email and the Instagram winner will be contacted via an Instagram Direct Message. Winners will have 24 hours to respond with their mailing address. If I do not have a response in 24 hours a new winner will be drawn. Open to US residents 18 and older. Sorry international friends.

Good luck and have fun!

PS - You can find a few of my family's favorite things for Advent and Christmas at my Amazon Store (affiliate link). This store includes albums, movies, games, and other items we really use and really love during the holiday season and all hygge-long. 

October 18, 2018

A Response to President Emmanuel Macron

I don't speak French so maybe I missed some nuanced reasoning in French President Emmanuel Macron's comment, "Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children." I'll tell you what though, my first response to that comment was a great big, "Forget you, Macron." 

Once I stopped calling him names in my head I read a bit more and saw that he was trying to advocate for education for girls and an end to child brides.  I appreciate that. I am 100% on board with that. 

But this is not the first time that Macron has talked about Africa as one large place where women unfortunately keep popping out babies. (I found this NPR article written by a Ugandan woman very helpful.) How condescending and sad that he - like most of the western world - does not see fertility as a gift and children as  blessings. And I feel a little furious about this man implying / stating that African women are only having big families because they are not better educated. 

I love that women from around the world (yes, not just white, middle class Americans) have shared pictures of their large families as a way of presenting themselves to Macron.  Look at us: we are educated - some of us impressively so - and we did choose this. Look at us, Macron: there are women all around the world who have not only educated  our minds but have formed our hearts and consciences so that we understand that life is beautiful, our bodies are amazing, babies are gifts, and love is the greatest resource we have.  We want you to know this, too, Macron, because it is beautiful and joyful and powerful. 

I know some of you will want to do more than post a picture of your large family on social media, or like someone else's picture of their large family, so I invite you to do what President Macron was talking about and support education in Africa. We can put our money where our values are. 

My former pastor is Fr. Julius Turyatoranwa. He served at my parish while finishing his doctorate in education. Last December he returned to his home diocese in Uganda and has been overseeing the fruit of several years of fundraising done in the States: he is building a school that will educate boys and girls who live in poverty.

When St. Patrick Boarding Primary School first opens in February 2019 it will serve as a day school for local children but once the dormitories are complete children will be educated and will receive three meals a day and clean water.  This kind of education and nutrition is usually only for the wealthy but Fr. Julius is changing that. 

Fr. Julius purchased the land the school is being built on. He has worked for years to raise money for his people. This is not a white man from an outside country telling the people of southwest Uganda what they need - this is a man born and raised there, with dozens of nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews still in the area, who is using all the resources and gifts God has given him to positively impact generations of Ugandan children. 

Fr. Julius would always say to us, "Fifty cents buys a brick. You give me fifty cents and I can buy a brick to build the school." If you can give $20 to the Building Hope in Kids - Uganda foundation you will buy 40 bricks. For $50 a month you can sponsor a child's education. Give them $500 so they can buy desks and books and posters. Give them anything you can and know that it is going to a school that believes in the value of all human life and exists to give children in poverty - girls included! - a chance to succeed. 

I personally vouch for this organization and I am grateful for any help you can give. You can learn more about Building Hope in Kids - Uganda and give to their efforts by clicking here

PS - Fr. Julius would be disappointed in my calling President Macron names in my head and would want us all to pray for Macron to have a conversion of heart and to go to confession. So let's do that, too.