Sunday, July 20, 2014

Answer Me This! (my first ever)

I finally got my act together to join up with Kendra's fun Answer Me This! link up. It's my first time and I'm happy to be a part of it. 


1. What’s something you've won and how did you win it?
I won first runner up in a beauty pageant once, which is actually losing so maybe this doesn't count. I won it by being awesome, but not awesome enough.


2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?
Some cards I do keep. First birthday cards for the kids, very touching ones, ones from my husband, and the ones my friend Katie makes. Her cards are like folk art. 

I kept a bunch of letters from my nun friends when they first entered their religious communities but lately I haven't had to, even though I still have the box of the older ones under my bed.

I don't like keeping things but some things I do want to hang on to for sentimental reasons and because I want my children to be able to decided in a card from their great grandparents is precious or not. 


3. When you’re at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?
Barefoot almost always, though in winter I may keep my socks on if I'm going to be running in and out. If I'm not leaving the house all day socks are never going on my feet.


4. Who’s the most famous person you have ever met? 
I'm not sure. I met Davy Jones from The Monkees, JJ Heller, and Audrey Assad. And Marie Miller. 

I met authors Dave Eggers and Michael Chabon. I know artist Jude Landry. 

In the Catholic world of celebrities I've met Fr. Andrew Apostoli and Teresa Tomeo. Via phone call I've "met" Patrick Madrid and Simcha Fisher. I've met Jennifer Fulwiler, Hallie Lord, Danielle Bean, Lisa Hendey, Brandon Vogt, Kendra Tierney, Kelly Mantoan, Sarah Babbs, and some other blogger celebrities.


I think that the most famous of those people will all depend on who you are and what your background is. For me, I would LOVE to meet Fr. Robert Barron, our two popes, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and the entire Hensley family (so dad the theologian, son the pianist, daughter the blogger and YouTube sensation, and mom who probably is the one doing all the heavy lifting).


5. What has been your best work of art?
I don't consider myself artistic and I'm mediocre at a lot of what I do. Which is my way of saying, I don't have an answer for this question.
Take, for example, this dinner roll. You can't let formed rolls rise overnight or they'll fall and look like an old woman's upper arm.
I still baked them.

6.  What’s your strongest sense?
My sense of humor.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Swollen Lip, a Visit from Kendra, a Whole Bunch of Busy & the Best of the Web

WOW.

Life came and swept me away and things have been crazy around here.

Poor Lydia had an allergic reaction following some fillings and her lip swelled to four times its normal size and then blistered over. Multiple trips to the dentist and our family doctor followed. Poor girl; she's tired of the attention it's bringing her and she just wants to look pretty and not have a bleeding lip.

Travis, who lives by the motto "Happy Wife: Happy Life" busted up our old patio and poured a new one for me two days before Joseph's big 1st birthday party. Thank God for my wonderful in-laws who were all able to come down and help with the process!
 
The day before the party was the first ever Sheen Family Day. There were crafts and cookies, pictures with Fulton Sheen, tours of the Sheen Museum and St. Mary's Cathedral. We estimate 125 people came through which is really great!

Kendra and 6 of her 7 kids came down for the Sheen Day and the birthday party. They came over for dinner Saturday night and in a moment of panic my husband bought 6 loaves of garlic bread and two gallons of pasta from our local fast food Italian place. It was more than enough.
The next day her older two kept my kids busy while my friend Kim blew up balloons, Kendra cleaned my house, decorated, and cut up fruit, and my mom did a bunch of other things like changing diapers. Travis and his brother literally built the step for the new patio as guests were arriving for the party. One friend had to go buy ketchup (106 burgers, brats, and hot dogs and NO ketchup) and another bought 4 bags of ice. The whole lip thing really threw off my week and we just weren't ready. But people are good and generous and want to help and so the party was still a success.
The party, which included 81 of our closest friends and family members, was a blast. It was a bit warm but the kids loved playing outside and I think everyone had a lot of fun.

James had a outpatient procedure earlier in the week and finally finally! things are back to normal. Whew.

I have all kinds of drafts sitting and waiting to be typed but I obviously haven't had the time or mental capacity to write lately.

Thanks for sticking with me and as a Thank You gift I offer you: The Best of the Web!



"Weird Al" Yankovic's "Word Crimes". Hilarious.

7 Quick Takes at Sverella  by Carolyn Way to go, Emmett!

Eight Things I Have Learned on My Journey as a Creative Mom by Laura, a guest post at A Knotted Life. Even if you're not creative it is such a fantastic post.

Free Printable Prayers for Your Printing and Praying Pleasure  and
So Your Toddler Is Terrible at Mass? by Kendra at Catholic All Year.

I'm Not Prejudiced, I Just Don't Like 25% of America by Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas

In Which I Admit I Don't Like Everyone by Molly at Molly Makes Do, a follow-up to Haley's.

He Withholds No Good Thing From Us by Susan at Sole Searching Mama. Beautiful.

Concerns Over Girl Scouts Persist Following USCCB's Investigation from The National Catholic Register

On Planting Seeds and Sowing Them by Joe at Shameless Popery

Mary the Gardener: Reflecting on Our Lady of Mount Carmel by Sarah Reinhard at Catholic Exchange. Maybe it's all the landscaping I've been doing lately, but this column really spoke to my heart.


Finally, this video is the best:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Little Joe is One


Look at him. He's adorable! Those baby toes! Those brown eyes! His sweet face!

Joseph is one today. He cruises like a champ, has a fantastic switch-up normal to bear-crawl crawl, and has even taken a few steps. He lays his head on my chest, under the nook of my chin, and will talk to me as we sigh and "ah" and "oh" back and forth.

His little fingers have a death grip and can be especially painful when he's honking my nose.

His siblings love him and are so proud of him. Travis and I love him and are so grateful that God's plan for number of babies was different than ours. I would have preferred if he had not weighed 11lbs 7.4oz, though.

Happy 1st Birthday, Joseph Peter! You are so loved!


I said some pretty funny things while in labor and shortly afterwards. You can read them here.
If you like birth stories, here's Joseph's.
For a quick summary of what happened last year, read the Joseph Peter 7QT edition.


PS - Yes, sometimes I call him Little Joe. My dad especially likes it. :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Eight Things I Have Learned on My Journey as a Creative Mom - a guest post by Laura H.

Hello.  My name is Laura and I have been friends with Bonnie since freshman year of high school.  I am filling in today while she unpacks boxes in her lovely new house.  I live in beautiful Oak Park, Illinois with my husband and our two boys, ages 11 and 8.  I’ve been a stay at home mom for the past 11 years.  That keeps me busy, of course, but I also spend a lot of time making things with my hands.  Like, obsessively.  I can't stop

 

Bonnie asked if I could share some of my experiences as a mom who is also a creator of things — quilts, embroideries, collages, all manner of various projects.  Sometimes when I am feeling extra confident I even refer to myself as an artist.




(She also asked me to include lots of pictures, so please excuse me if they seem unrelated to what I'm writing about.)




To give you a sense of where I’m coming from, I’m going to include an excerpt of a post I recently wrote on my blog Tiny Scissor Times

“As I kid I loved to make stuff.  I remember clearly the collage kit my parents bought for me, and how I treasured every feather, every pouch of glitter, every piece of alphabet pasta within.  I remember making crafts at every birthday party (thanks, Mom), and trying my hand at clay sculptures both at school and at home.  In high school, I made zines.  The writing was part of my creative outlet, but the collages that covered the pages were always my favorite bit, the part I felt proudest of.  When I went to college, creativity took a backseat to school.  My grandma taught me to knit, but it didn't stick.  I soon forgot how to do it, and my life was full with class and friends.  Then, suddenly, I was a young mother.  My focus was completely on getting through each day with my baby alive and preferably happy.

It wasn't until Simon was maybe 3 years old that I started to make things again.  I started making little collages and putting them on cards.  I was doing a little painting and decoupaging of various wooden objects.  When we moved to Bloomington in 2006, I had more space to store supplies and more room to work.  An oversized desk in the corner became my creative space, and I spent many happy hours there while my little ones napped.  I started repainting and decoupaging child-sized chairs, and making magnets and assemblage pieces to sell in an Etsy shop.  I taught myself to embroider around the same time.

A couple of years later we moved again and had even more space.  I had a whole room (!!!) that was designated as my creative space.  Oh, how I loved that room.  And I began spending more and more time there.  As the boys were getting older and more independent, better at entertaining themselves, entering kindergarten and pre-school, I spent every moment I could steal in that room.  Working on more chairs, freezer paper stenciled shirts for the boys, ever more ambitious embroidery projects, and finally, teaching myself to quilt.”

Now you know a little about me.  I am going to share with you the 8 things I have learned as a highly creative mother, and that I think you should know if you are a parent who is similarly inclined to create:



 

This is a special thing.  A gift.

You probably realize not everyone has a drive to create like you do.  You might get comments like, “you’re so crafty!” or “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”  While I believe that creativity can be cultivated in everyone, there is something different about people like us who seem to wake up itching to make something.  For me, creating things has always been part of my life.  I had to give it up for a few years during college and early motherhood, but it came back in a big way.  Today it’s more important to me than ever before.  Having the opportunity to stay home with the boys and let my creativity grow and bloom has made me feel confident that I have a gift.  Actually, the internet is partially responsible for that as well, because posting pictures of my creations online has resulted in such positive feedback.  Without that, I might have thought I was just playing around, just passing the time with silly crafts.  But I received so many comments on things I posted — “Wow!” “That’s amazing!” “I could never do that!” — that I eventually started to believe what they were saying.  Thanks to the kind words of friends and strangers online, I believe I have an eye for color and design.  I believe I have the patience and dexterity to make things others cannot.  I believe I have a gift, and I am grateful.  Embrace the fact that this is a special thing about you.  It will give you confidence to keep creating and trying new things.




 

There is a balance to be found.

Already in this post you have seen me use words like, “itching,” “obsessively,” and “drive.”  It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’m almost always thinking about something I want to make, or planning the next step in my current project. Hanging in my home is a poster of Jude Landry’s “Makers Gonna Make” print because it describes exactly how I feel about my creative pursuits.  I am a maker; making is what I do.  It just MUST BE.  It’s all a little compulsive, and it requires some effort to keep it in check.



If you are like me, you probably always have 10 projects in mind that you’d like to tackle, and at least four of them currently in progress.  You wake up wanting to walk straight over to your sewing machine or canvas or workbench or whatever. You sit for hours at a time working at your craft, until your back and shoulders are yelling at you, urging you to take a break.  You love what you are doing, but you push yourself too, because you want to see the project finished, or you’ve promised it to someone by a certain date, or you can’t wait to start that next masterpiece.



Here’s the thing.  You want to keep loving your craft.  You want to keep that passion.  Avoiding burnout is a good idea.  Plus you also have a life outside of creating that must be attended to from time to time.  You know, kids, housework, those little things.  Develop some strategies for keeping your creative habit thriving but under control. 





I have a few strategies that I use to this end.  One thing I do is use a timer.  If I work on cleaning the kitchen for 15 minutes, I will reward myself with 30 minutes of sewing.  Or if I have been sitting and sewing for two hours, I will force myself to get up and fold laundry for a while.  A timer is your friend.  It reminds you that you do have some other things to attend to, and helps you not to push yourself to an unhealthy degree. 





Another thing I do is pick and choose my areas of focus.  For instance, holidays are opportunities for creative people to go bananas.  You can make decorations, plan crafts to do with your kids, plan a party so all your friends can see your gorgeous decorations, try new recipes, etcetera.  The problem is, there are too many holidays in the year to give equal attention to them all.  For myself, I have decided that Halloween and Christmas are my favorites.  I put most of my efforts into those two.  And any other holiday that rolls around, I’m able to enjoy them and keep on keepin’ on, instead of breathing into a paper bag over how I don’t have time to make all the things.  I’ve also decided that even though I like Halloween, I don’t make costumes.  People might expect me to because I’m “so darn crafty.”  But I don’t.  And that’s okay.  I have let myself off the hook with that one.  Store bought costumes are okay.  So are store bought Valentines.  I guess what I’m trying to say is I can’t do it all and neither can you.  Find a way to seek balance.  Don’t lose your passion due to burn out, and don’t expect yourself to jump at every opportunity to be creative.  Train yourself to take breaks and prioritize where you are going to focus your creative energies.

 



 


Housework really can wait.  But your kids can’t.

There are many times when I am sewing even though the laundry hamper is overflowing.  Or the kitchen is a mess.  Or there are collections of cat hair rolling around my house like tumbleweeds.  While I try to keep my urge to make in harmony with my responsibilities as a mother and wife, there are times when the balance skews toward MAKE.  Make wins.  But it’s okay.  Because it’s only temporary.  And I find that housework can be done in a surprisingly short amount of time.  Things can get back under control quickly if they have to.  Thankfully I have a husband who doesn’t mind the mess.  He can come home to an apartment that looks like a tornado just swept through and find me hunched over my sewing machine, headphones in, and doesn’t bat an eye. I am lucky that way, perhaps.  But I never regret time I spend creating over time I spend cleaning.  The cleaning will get done when it has to, and it won’t take that long to get things back to normal.







I do, however, sometimes regret my behavior toward my kids while I am in the midst of a creative frenzy.  My boys are growing up so fast.  I seriously cannot believe that I’m going to have a middle schooler next year.  Every year, every month, every day makes me realize how quickly this time is passing, and how soon they will be leaving home.  And I don’t want to miss any time with them because I’m too obsessed with my own projects.  I don’t have any tips for you in this regard.  I’m working on it myself.  The goal is to be mindful.  To stop and talk if they want to talk.  To not shoo anyone away because I’m working.  To sit on the couch saying nothing, just being together in the quiet of the morning, resisting the urge to get up and use these 5 minutes to sew a seam.  To realize this project CAN WAIT.  But this conversation with my boy might not ever happen if I don’t put down the scissors and listen.  If you can find a way to occasionally share your passion to create with your kids, all the better.  In the photo above, my boys and I were learning how to dye eggs with silk ties.




 

It’s okay to say no.  Actually, it’s essential.

You are going to get a reputation as a crafty or creative person.  You are going to get requests.  Some people will offer to pay you, others will expect you to work for free.  People might assume you want to be on the PTO committee for the school carnival because you like to make decorations for your kids’ birthday parties, so you seem an obvious choice to help with that event.  It’s not a bad thing that these people see your talent and appreciate it.  It’s flattering, it’s wonderful.  In my case, such people are why I feel so sure I have a gift now. They convinced me.  I am grateful and humbled that people want to pick my brain for ideas or use my talents for their charitable projects.  Sometimes I can help out and I do.  Other times I have to say no.  Many times, in fact.  And I don’t feel guilty.  Creative people make things.  That’s what we do.  And we need time to do it.  We won’t have that time if we are always agreeing to design a logo for someone’s fledgling business or organize the class party.  For a more eloquent explanation of why you must learn to say no, read this.  Practice saying No.  It gets easier, I promise. 





Theme birthday parties will consume you.

Just over a week ago I threw a cat-themed party for my son.  It was the most fun I’ve had in a while, and when it was over I needed a vacation.  Or at least a long nap.  Birthday parties are similar to holidays for creative parents, in that we can get carried away with all the possibilities.  Especially if your kid is currently into something you really like.  For me, a request for a Pokemon party wasn’t inspiring, and I managed to avoid that one.  I think I convinced him laser tag would be better.  The parties that made me lose my mind because of potential awesomeness: dinosaurs (pre-blog days), Harry Potter, Calvin and Hobbes, Dr Who, and cats.  My advice on the party planning front: try to alternate years.  One epic theme party, one easy store-bought or bowling alley party, repeat.  If it is time for a theme party, be prepared to lose a week or two of your life to manic party prep.  Also when you get up on the morning of the party and you still have 20 things on your to-do list and two hours before 12 children descend onto the premises, just smile, and know that your kid will have fun even if the streamers aren’t perfect or the cake is totally lopsided.  Make sure you are having fun with it too.



Making the same thing over and over is not necessarily the best idea.


When you make beautiful or cute things, people will say, “You should sell that!  You could have your own business!”  This might sound like a great plan — a way to do what you love and make some money and maybe even a career.  And don’t get me wrong — for some people it is.  I always admire those makers who are able to forge a career out of their talent.  Just be aware that much of your making time will morph into business, inventory, networking, and hustling time.  For me this sacrifice was too dear.  I opened an etsy shop to sell cute stenciled onesies (or, ahem, bodysuits, pardon me, Gerber corporation) a few years ago.  It started off as something fun and mildly creative.  I got a kick out of thinking of different funny slogans for babies, and as my products started to sell, it was definitely exciting.  I ended up having a best selling item.  People wanted that and nothing else.  It seemed silly to keep thinking of new sayings that would then sit in my shop, not selling, so that portion of the fun was basically over.   Then I had to deal with the heartbreaking phenomenon of copycats, which I think is probably inevitable for any popular product on the internet.  The main issue was that the shop was keeping me too busy to work on any other creative endeavors.  I was making the same product, by hand, over and over.  It was no longer a creative project.  It was a tedious task.  I felt like I had become a one-woman factory, and the charm was wearing off fast.  After trying a few different ways to make my process more efficient, less soul-sucking, I decided to sell off my remaining stock and close up shop.  It’s not that I don’t think people should ever try for a handmade based business.  However, I do think you should go into it with your eyes open.  Be prepared to have less time to actually create, and less freedom to create exactly what you want to.  For some, it might be totally worth the trade off.  For me, giving it up feels amazing.  Now please go buy the rest of my adorable onesies so I can be done for real.







People might love your work but not appreciate its value.  That’s why you need to.

That being said, if you do decide to sell your unique, handmade items, don’t sell yourself short.  Give yourself a fair hourly wage, and don’t forget your material costs. 
People might love your work but balk at your prices.  But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong.  As a quilter, this post by Molli Sparkles resonated with me. Need more convincing?  Here are a few more articles, about quilting and also other art forms. I really believe that people should not sell their handmade goods at basement bargain prices.  It misrepresents the time and talent involved.  If you can find the right audience, I believe they will pay you what your work is worth.  If that is proving hard (and I think it is for most of us), don’t fret, and don’t compromise.  Think instead about selling your ideas.  You could draft patterns or tutorials and sell access to the pdf’s; you could work on a book.  Neither path is easy.  Find what works for you, whether you want to sell your physical work or your brilliant ideas.  (Of course, you might be perfectly happy creating for yourself, with no hopes of making money.  There is nothing wrong with being a hobbyist or a passionate artist who happens never to sell any of her work).  This is a complicated issue, with too many tendrils of thought and argument to sum up here.  Just remember not everyone can do what you do.  Don’t undervalue your unique work.  And remember that if you get money involved you’re going to have to be intentional and diligent to keep loving your craft.  I like this song by Sam Smith.   You might want to sing it while you make whatever you make.





I'm still trying to figure out what to do, in this regard.  I'm thinking about getting a job now that my kids are getting older, but I don't have a career to return to.  I might try to make a go of it in the world of creative entrepreneurialism.  But it's scary because there is no set path.  I'd be making it up as I went along.  The only thing I know for sure is that I won't be selling my wares for less than they are actually worth.  If that means I'm not selling my wares at all, so be it. 





You might find yourself using the phrase, “never again.”  After a while people will start to laugh at you when you say it.

I recently finished an embroidery, a birthday gift for my 8 year old

  

As I shared pictures on instagram, people would compliment me, and I would say, “Thanks, I’m happy with how it’s turning out but I’m NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.” It was by far the most dense, most detailed embroidery piece I have ever done, and at the time it felt intense and crazy, especially since I was working under a deadline, trying to have it done in time for his birthday.  When Bonnie emailed me and asked me to write this guest post, she reminded me that I said the same thing about this wedding gift I finished for her in 2007, my second ever embroidery.  I didn’t recall saying that to her at all. 





I know that my husband will insist that I say "Never again," after every big birthday party I throw, but I am skeptical.   I guess it’s like childbirth.  Give it enough time, and you’re rarin’ to go again.







Even though this is the Moby Dick of blog posts, I feel like I've just scratched the surface of what it means to be a creative woman and mother, finding her way in the world.  There is a lot to consider, a lot to try, and a lot to enjoy.  Thank you for coming with me as I share what I have learned so far.




If you want to check in on my adventures in motherhood and creativity, you can follow my blog.  Or follow me on instagram, where I share lots of pictures of current projects, my kids, and my cats.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

7QT - the 4th, Indy, sneak peak, bloggers!


1 - You knew this was coming, right? Shooter Jenning's 4th of July has been my song for the past five or so years. Love this one.


2 - Drinking game: every time I say the word "just" take a sip of your drink of choice. Fair warning: you could get tipsy. Fulton Sheen and the miracle of Baby James from the Catholic Herald out of London.

Also, in case you missed it, you can hear my interview with Patrick Coffin by going to the archives at Catholic Answers. They are supposed to be up Friday but I'm writing this on Thursday so I'll just link to the blurb about the show I was on as I continue to squeal inside that I was on Catholic Answers and got to speak with Patrick Coffin.

Also, Patrick Coffin, if you are reading this please know that if you are ever in our neck of the woods you are officially invited to our home for steak, beer, and chocolate chip cookies. Those are the things we do best here.


3 - I realized yesterday that I'm always talking about how I finally have a mantel I can decorate for the holidays but I hadn't decorated my mantel for the 4th of July. The sad truth is that I don't have a lot of patriotic decorations. This new-to-me Jude Landry print, some bunting, and one of the invitations to Joe's 1st birthday party are good but I still have a ways to go. It's too much red, I think, with the red brick and all. Any ideas?
 You would think the quote would be something American-y. But actually it's just John Wayne's line "Life is hard. It's harder if you're stupid." From a distance it looks fine. 


4 - So last week I was in Indy to speak at a Theology on Tap. The crowd was great. Look at them!
They're great!

I got to meet and then have breakfast with the lovely Sarah Babbs (and her cutie baby boy). We had the best bacon, hickory (was it hickory, Sarah?) syrup, and French toast of my life, and it felt like I was catching up with an old friend. Sarah is so great. Go to Indy and meet her at City Cafe

 I met one of the co-founders of Verily, and I spent time with lots of wonderful, amazing Catholics. I met some blog readers (Shout out!) and the directors behind The Third Way video. It was all really great.

They gave me a koozie and I love it.
It actually has root beer in it. Really, really good root beer. (Goose Island if you're wondering.)


5 - Yay for married bloggers writing great stuff! The vulnerable victory of true love: the Sacred Heart, ABC's Once Upon a Time, C.S. Lewis, and The Princess Bride by Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas was a delight and Quidditch: the real sign of Amercia's moral decay by Daniel Stewart was hilarious. My favorite part was the line about Ben Franklin. You have to read this.


6 - I've been getting a lot done on the house - a lot of  cosmetic stuff. We need to still clean out the basement, move a bunch of storage stuff from the garage to the basement, clean out the garage, plant the flowerbed in the front, put in new plumbing and electrical and windows, dig all the thistles out of the yard, rip out the old patio and pour a new one, maybe put in a less grand one of these with some landscaping rocks we were given - all along with the long term goals of renovating the bathrooms and kitchen and getting new flooring throughout most of the house.
Travis has been working so, so hard - he's taking care of the back-breaking work and doing things like patching the roof that was still damaged from the November tornado.
And then there's me, doing the cosmetic. I hung some pictures recently and I finally got the computer desk under control. I am excited to take pictures of the whole house and walk you through it, but for now, here's a little sneak peak of the computer desk area.
Why yes, that is a Tardis in that picture frame.

7 - -Let's all say a prayer for Jenna, who is taking a break to take care of herself. Good for you, Jenna! God speed and God bless. You are in my prayers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Theme Songs

Jen asked about our theme songs; Kelly suggested I share; and I'm a follower. So here's a few of the songs that take me to a distinct time and place in my life. Their lyrics might not sum up what's going on, but they feel right.

NICU - JJ Heller's Magnificat (I've written about this one before.)



Internship at 826 Valencia in San Francisco - The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds & Nickle Creek's This Side were listened to almost every single day as I walked to work and rode public transportation. This song especially just feels like SF to me:



College: Last Night by The Strokes always reminds me of getting ready to go out. Well, that and "Out Tonight" from Rent.



My childhood:



My current season of life: