December 2, 2016

So, how ya been?

I thought we'd catch up and chat about how things have been going. 

Clementines are in season, of course, and we go through at least one bag a week here because all the kids like them and I love them. Clementines mean winter to me, winter and cute little fingers peeling, peeling, peeling.

I got the outside decorations mostly up, but I realized Mary and Joseph need new lightbulbs. Commence search. Eventually I will cut some greens to fill the flower pots by the Holy Family and to fill the basket that sits at my front door. But I'm happy with what we've got. The kids looooove the train and I feel ridiculously proud of myself for figuring out its set-up.

I don't have Advent candles for our wreath yet, just a little votive candle sitting where the first week's purple taper should go. I'm reading Isaiah right now in my Bible but I'm finding my prayer time so dry.  Those two facts seem to compliment each other, at least in my mind.

I'm figuring out how we'll do the feast days this season and I'm thinking it will look like this:
Christmas lights and music (we usually keep these off until Gaudete Sunday)
Hot chocolate + candy canes + clementines for after-school snacks
St. Nicholas on the 6th: stockings will be filled when the kids wake in the morning and maybe we'll eat Shepherd's Pie for dinner because we all love it, not because it has anything to do with St. Nick.
Immaculate Conception on the 8th: chicken + pasta + cauliflower + canned pears + white frosted sugar cookies for dessert (it's all white, get it?)
Fulton Sheen on the 9th: homemade pizza with meat and pineapple (for me) but no cheese (it's surprisingly good!)
Our Lady of Guadalupe on the 12: tacos or maybe enchiladas if I can find a good dairy-free recipe (is that possible? Is my gringa showing?)
St. Lucy on the 13th: Brinner!  Santa Lucia roll recipe Grace shared on the blog several years back + bacon + sausage + fruit
The kids' school break starts on the 16th and the feast days stop so we'll see how this all goes.

Today I wanted thumbprint cookies, though Jofis wanted chocolate chip cookies incredibly badly. I told him that we should make the thumbprint cookies, though, because we could frost them with purple Advent frosting and that would be super special. He was half convinced but then he got to lick the beater, roll the dough, smoosh his thumb in the dough balls, and eat frosting. So he stopped complaining.

We're listening to Advent music around here, but not too much of it. I have a playlist (o'er there in the sidebar) but I'm also trying to have silence in the house. Gee golly, it's nice.

I will share one success, if you will allow me to. This year we're doing the Jesse Tree and it finally feels good - like they're getting it. The three oldest kids all have Religion in school and they are learning so much. It's good to see that what we've been trying to do for years is being nurtured at school and then they come home and we can continue to build on it. This relates to the Jesse Tree in that each night I read from the booklet that came with our set. I do this sort of read + ask questions so the kids tell the story + summarize the Scripture and then the child of the night finds the ornament that goes with the Scripture.  It's like, this is what it's supposed to be! And it only took 6 years!

Finally, Likable Art shared this new video they made for Life Teen and I thought it was so beautiful.

What about you? Got any successes or struggles to share? How's life treating you?

November 22, 2016


In Rumer Godden's novel In This House of Brede a character remarks that November is full of howling winds and holy souls. I have done my best to fill our home with reminders of the holy souls and the cold front has done it's best to surround it with the howling winds.

We've had several fires in our fireplace already but this past Saturday we had a fire in the fireplace, bought a new winter coat for JF, played outside, and warmed up with some homemade hot cocoa. (I use this recipe and just substitute coconut milk - it's delicious.) The whole of it seemed so snug.

I wanted a little playlist for all my Thanksgiving baking - rolls, pies, cookies. I like to keep the wintry-let's-snuggle-up music for January and February but still wanted something fun and festive for now. So, with a little help from Google, I came up with this:
Thanksgiving Prayer - Johnny Cash
Count Your Blessings - Bing Crosby
My Favorite Things - Julie Andrews
Over the River and Through the Woods - Danny Kaye and the Andrew Sisters
What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Theme - Vince Guardaldi Trio
We Gather Together - Celtic Spirits
Homeward Bound - Simon and Garfunkel
The Fox - Nickle Creek
Mashed Potato Time - Dee Dee Sharp

Finally, the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday and I'm sure a lot of you will be scoring some good deals for all the upcoming holy days. Please allow me to remind you that I am a part of the Amazon affiliate program. If you can and would click on the button in my sidebar, the one that says, "Click thru to Amazon" I will receive a referral fee for any items you purchase at no extra cost to you. The money my family earns through this buys school supplies, clothes for my kids, birthday and Christmas presents for our family, and Easter basket goodies. It is a huge help to our budget and we are really grateful for your thoughtfulness. Thanks a ton and happy shopping!

November 21, 2016

A Court Victory for Sheen Family, NY's Appeal, and the Bottom Line

I know that all the ins and outs of the court case that is tied to Fulton Sheen's cause for canonization can be confusing. I will try my best to explain it all here, to the best of my knowledge, using plenty of links for your benefit. I firmly believe that poor Archbishop Sheen is mortified over all this and I'm trying to emulate him - a man of action, a man who spoke up - while I'm trying to emulate him - a man who suffered silently and did not fan the flames of gossip. Here goes...

The cause for Fulton J. Sheen's canonization began, in part, on the promises from the cardinal of New York that his archdiocese was not interested in pursuing the cause and they would transfer Sheen's remains when the Vatican said the appropriate time had come.

The appropriate time arrived and, following the canonical norms, it was necessary for Venerable Sheen's remains to be moved to the Diocese of Peoria.

However, in September 2014 the Archdiocese of New York said they would not allow the remains of Fulton Sheen to be moved because, in part, they were following the wishes of Archbishop Sheen and his surviving family, and they were being careful to follow New York state law. You can read their press release here.

Over the years the Vatican basically said to the Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of New York, "You two need to work this out." That's understandable but tricky: the canonical norms state that in the canonization process the earthly remains would be examined and relics reverently gathered in the Diocese that is promoting the cause. Canon law also makes clear that civil laws should be followed in the process of transferring remains, etc. Therefore, with the Archdiocese not wanting to lose their future saint the Diocese of Peoria's hands were tied.

Eventually, Archbishop Sheen's family - led by the niece Sheen raised, Mrs. Joan Sheen Cunningham, privately contacted the Archdiocese and asked them to allow for their uncle to be moved to Peoria. The Archdiocese refused. Wanting to see the cause progress, the family hoped the Archdiocese would have a change of heart and in fact, last spring, it looked like they had: Fulton Sheen would come home to Peoria. But as the arrangements for transfer were being made the Archdiocese clarified that Sheen would immediately return to New York. The Archdiocese claims Sheen's family agreed to this, even claiming in a newspaper article that,

"The proposal ... would balance the personal wish of Archbishop Sheen to be permanently buried beneath the high altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral with the understandable desire of the Diocese of Peoria to have his earthly remains present in their diocese for the celebration of his long hoped-for beatification."

For the record, there is NO record that Archbishop Sheen wanted to be permanently buried at St. Patrick's. In fact, five days before he died he had a new will made that stated he wanted to be buried in a plot he had purchased in a Catholic cemetery in Queens. Where their misunderstanding came from I don't know.

The same newspaper article, from the New York Daily News, then quotes Mrs. Cunningham's lawyer Steven Cohen. He said Mrs. Cunningham and her siblings "'are not in favor of nor did they consent to the shuffle plan. I have no idea where the Archdiocese got that idea but it's not correct.'"

Everyone in Peoria was shocked with the news and Sheen's niece, Mrs. Cunningham, eventually did the only thing left: she filed papers against the Archdiocese and the Trustees of St. Patrick's Cathedral so she could move her uncle's remains. You can read through the court papers here if you want, but what matters most is that, in the end, the judge ruled in favor of Mrs. Cunningham:

"the Court finds that the petitioner has provided a good and substantial reason for moving the remains of the decedent, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (Archbishop Sheen), to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois, and that respondents failed to supply a sufficient reason to reject the instant application.”

She then ordered that Mrs. Cunningham be granted the right to transfer her uncle to St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria. You can read the judge's ruling here.

And so, since it has been proven that the Archdiocese was not doing what Sheen wanted, what his surviving family wanted, or what state law required of course they should be graciously  working with the Diocese of Peoria and the Sheen family to transfer the remains. But they're not:

“The Trustees of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, who operate the archdiocesan cemeteries, including Calvary Cemetery and the crypt beneath the high altar of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, will need to review today’s decision with their lawyers and determine what next steps they wish to take.” (italics mine)

The next step they decided to take: appealing the decision. 

I believe that Dolan is doing what he thinks is best for his archdiocese and flock. I believe that overall he has done well for the Church. But I believe that his actions here are misguided and are causing great scandal. I believe justice and mercy both call for him to relent. Personally, I'd love to see Cardinal Dolan and his team focusing all their time, effort, and money on the cause for Dorothy Day instead of throwing away more time and money with their appeal.

At my home we are still praying, and in the end I think this is the bottom line. We need to pray and hold firm to the promise that "all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28) My family, friends, and I look forward to the day that all this is behind us and Archbishop Sheen is being canonized in Rome for the glory of God and the good of the Church. +

November 9, 2016

The Advent Care Package Giveaway

Update: The giveaway is now officially closed. The winners have been emailed and have 24 hours to respond.
Thanks to everyone for playing along. I hope you all had fun and got some great shopping ideas for your loved ones. Please do use this as a gift guide and be sure to tell the makers and sellers that you found them through A Knotted Life!

Welcome to the 2016 Advent Care Package Giveaway. Over thirty amazingly talented artists, crafters, and vendors have donated gifts which have a combined value of over $1000. (!!!)

This is all for you, dear blog readers, and I sincerely hope you love it.

Two winners will be chosen and each will receive a Care Package worth over $500. The winners can keep every blessed thing for themselves or they can divvy everything up, put up their feet, and call their Christmas shopping done.

There is something for everyone. Books for children and adults, jewelry, and skin care products. Practical gifts like an apron, a planner, notecards, and beard balm. Fun gifts like dolls, cd's, and an Advent Mass Box craft kit subscription. Some are religious, some are not. All of it is beautiful, much of it is handmade, and every item is gleefully special.

To round things off, and to hopefully make your Advent a bit easier, I'm going to throw in chocolate coins for your St. Nick tradition. Hope it helps!

So here's how this works:

Each gift is listed with links to where you can buy the product or see more items by the same person. I give an honest mini summary of each product and I link to the item's image on my Instagram account, where I have shared (and continue to share) each individually with a little review.

I know a lot of you will use this as a gift guide and so I'm really happy that several of the makers and vendors have included coupon codes for you to use. The discount information is always the last thing listed under each item so that it is easy for you to find. Also, if you could do me a favor: if you buy something included in this giveaway will you please let the seller know that you learned about their item from my blog / giveaway? That kind of feedback is powerful and will mean I can do this again next year. Thanks!

Hopefully you've been following along on Instagram and the A Knotted Life Facebook page as I have highlighted each item with the hashtag #adventgiveawayAKL. If you click on the hashtag you can see more details of each gift.

Directions and fine print stuff: You'll enter using the Raffelcopter entry form below and all I'm asking for is one simple blog comment. One entry per person. All Amazon links are affiliate links for me, meaning I earn a small commission through my referral at no cost to you. Open only to people 18 or older and those living in the continental United States. (Sorry everyone else, my budget just can't afford the shipping!) The winners will be picked at random by Rafflecopter. After the winners are announced they will have 24 hours to provide me with their mailing addresses and if they do not they forfeit the win and a new winner will be drawn. The giveaway closes on Wednesday, November 16th.

Okay, let's get going, shall we?!

10 Tips for a Happy Life Pope Francis quote prints + Christmas car magnets from Just Love Prints
The prints are 5"x 7" and made with amazing color. The magnets are lovely, with great illustrations. Beautiful.
Buy the print here
Buy the Wise Men Still Seek Him magnet here
Buy the Keep Christ in Christmas magnet here
Read my review here
Coupon Code JUSTLOVE10 good through Christmas

Gaudete Sunday Pink Infinity Scarf + Handstamped Christmas Cards by Katie
Be liturgically correct on the third Sunday of Advent with the pink scarf and impress all (or four) of your friends with these gorgeous hand-stamped Christmas cards. Gorgeous.
Katie's blog: Look to Him and Be Radiant
Follow Katie on IG here
Read my review of the scarf here and the cards here

Advent Charm Bracelet from Faith and Fabric by Jen Frost
Delicate, pretty, hand-stamped with Advent colors. Made from aluminum for sensitive skin. It's charming!
Buy the charm bracelet here
Faith and Fabric Etsy Shop
Jen's website: Faith and Fabric
See the bracelet in detail and read more about it here

Advent Purple LuLaRoe Leggings from Megan Stevenart
Be comfortable, stylish, cute, and liturgically appropriate! You know I love me some LuLaRoe!
Shop Megan's pop-ups
Read my review of LuLaRoe here
See more about the leggings here

Christmas Prints from Printable Prayers by Kendra Tierney
These prints are thick and sturdy, bold and colorful. One is sassy, one is classy, and one is a gorgeous prayer. So much to love.
Printable Prayers Etsy Store
Kendra's blog: Catholic All Year
O Come O Come Emmanuel print
Christmas Anticipation Prayer print
You Better Not Cry print
Read more about the prints here

Africa Sleeps Holiday Gift Set by Karen H
The Holiday Set includes body wash, lip balm, and exfoliating gloves and it smells amazing. All Africa Sleeps products are made from organic, fair trade ingredients. The products are made for children of African heritage but are great for anyone with dry skin.
Africa Sleeps website
Buy the Holiday Set here
Read more about it here

Liturgical Prints from Hatch Prints by Katrina Harrington
Gorgeous, colorful, and high quality. These prints are perfect for enhancing the liturgical decorations in a home and setting a tone of peace and joy.
Shop Hatch Prints here
Advent Candle with Josemaria Escriva quote
Christmas Joy B16 quote
Pause in Silence B16 quote
See all three and read more about them here

The Catholic Woman's Companion Planner by Nancy B
Planner comes with it all: monthly calendars, weekly pages, grocery lists and meal planning, coloring pages!, student / child info, and more! A great resource for a busy mom.
Nancy's blog + website: Do Small Things with Love
Buy the planner here
Read more about the planner here

Breathe doTERRA Roller from Sarah Williams
The Breathe Roller is perfect for adding a little bit of calm to your personal space. It's pre-diluted and perfect for helping with winter's respiratory issues.
Sarah's doTERRA site
Contact Sarah 
Get in touch with Sarah on Facebook
Read my review here

Crocheted Baskets by Theresa B
These baskets are soft, sturdy, and incredibly handsome. My eight year old and I both have heart eye emojis for days.
Buy the baskets here
Theresa's blog: Ordinary Lovely
Read more about the baskets and see them closer here
Coupon Code AKLREADERS10 good until December 1st.

Divine Mercy and Sacred Heart prints from Thomas Valle Studio
These prints literally took my breath away, they are so gorgeous. The Divine Mercy and Sacred Heart prints are both from original artwork by Thomas Valle.
Buy prints here
Read more about the prints and see them better here

Handmade Necklace + Earring Set and Bracelet + Earring Set from Annery's Handmade by Annie
Both sets of jewelry are inspired by chain-mail - so think St. Joan of Arc. They are incredibly beautiful and both delicate and statement pieces. Lovely.
Buy religious jewelry, rosary roses, and more here
Follow Annie on Instagram
See a close-up of the jewelry and read more about them here

Handmade Leather Bound Journal by Wild Things Adventures
This journal is made from soft leather, and thick, cream-colored paper. It is completely unique and the perfect gift for an artist, adventurer, dreamer, or Middle Earth lover.
Buy a journal here
Sarah's blog: Wild Things Farm
Read more about the journal here

Glory to the Newborn King Girl's Hairbow by Polka Dot Bowlevard
We own several of these bows and they are well made and beautiful. This particular bow is sparkly and sweet and lovely. Navy, white, and gold - a perfect way to top off a little girl's Christmas outfit.
Buy a bow, key fob, or non-slip hairband here
Check out Polka Dot Bowlevard on Facebook
Read more about the bow and see a close up here

She Be Fierce and All for You Necklaces by Signs of Love from Rakstar Designs
Each necklace is handmade, on a long chain, and absolutely stunning. She Be Fierce includes a St. Joan of Arc medal and All for You includes a St. Teresa of Calcutta medal along with various charms related to each saint.
Shop the Signs of Love Etsy Store
Buy the She Be Fierce Joan of Arc Necklace
Buy the All for You Teresa of Calcutta Necklace 
See more of Rakstar Designs on Instagram
See close ups of both necklaces and read more about them here
Coupon code of KNOTTYXMAS16 good for 15% off a purchase of $30 or more

The Bethlehem Collection Dolls by Fitz Knitz
These dolls are adorable and the apple of my four year old's eye. Joseph's body stands about 10" and is made from a deep brown yarn and the Baby Jesus is securely attached to Mary's arm. Soft, cuddly, big enough to love and small enough to fit in a stocking.
Contact Rachael directly at
Buy a hat, doll set, or mermaid blanket here
Read my review here
Coupon Code: KNOTTED10 - 10% off a purchase of $25 or more, expires 11/30/16

Catholic Beard Balm, Beard Brush, and Bottle Opener from Catholic Balm Co.
The Beard Balm is St. Joseph scented - a mix of cedar, frankenscense, and the lightest hint of rose - and will go to one lucky winner. The other winner will get the handsome and useful beardvangelization bottle opener and beard brush, with its wooden handle and manly wooden case (okay, I wanted to say adorable. How about super neat? Let's stick with manly.)
Buy balms, brushes, lip gloss, and more here
Read my review here

The Gospels of Luke and John from Sacred Art Series
This leather bound book includes the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John along with beautiful, full-colored illustrations from the classics. Gorgeous.
Sacred Art Series website
Buy the Gospels here
The the book and read more about it here
This book is discounted by 20% on Amazon just for the duration of this giveaway!

O Emmanuel Christmas album by JJ Wright from Dynamic Catholic
This Christmas album is unlike anything I've ever heard before - and I like it! Think of the jazz music from Charlie Brown Christmas and then combine that with lush, heavenly high church choral music. Interesting and beautiful.
Buy the album here
Learn more about JJ Wright here
Check out Dynamic Catholic here
Read more about the album here

Juniper Headbands from Christine Coots by Trades of Hope
Handmade in India, empowering women around the world. These are beautiful and a great way to dress up a messy bun.
Buy the headbands here
Shop Trades of Hope here
Follow Christine's Trades of Hope Facebook page
Read my review here

But First, Coffee Mug from Be a Heart Design by Erica Tighe
White and navy with black calligraphy that reads "But first coffee." Big to fit your coffee and metal so no one can break your favorite mug. It's hip and classic.
Be a Heart website
Get the mug here
Follow Erica on Instagram
See the mug up close and read more about it here

Chime Travelers Books 1-5 by Lisa Hendey
These chapter books are great for first-third graders to jump into. Great stories, great saints, likable characters, sweet illustrations. Whoever the winner is: my kids are jealous of your kids.
Lisa's website
Buy any of Lisa's great books here
PS - Lisa's O Radiant Dawn book is what my family uses with our Advent Wreath at dinner each night and it's only $1.25.
Read my review here

Liturgical Apron from Uphill Goods by Megan Whitmore
The apron is two-sided and made with beautiful fabrics and sturdy seams. The apron is approximately 29" long from top to bottom, 25" wide at its widest, and will fit up to a 45" waist / chest with its ties.
Design your own apron or buy a pre-made one here
Read more about the apron here

The Bernadette Book Series 1-3 by Emily Grace Ortega
We love these books in our family! Great for readers in grades 1-3. These stories focus on the children in a loving, realistic Catholic family and are well written with the sweetest illustrations.
Buy the Bernadette Books here or on Amazon
Read my review for I'm Bernadette,  See more about all three books here

Advent Mass Box Subscription
Four weeks of crafts based on the Sunday Mass readings. A great way to interact with your kids to emphasize the liturgical season, Mass, Scripture, and the domestic church.
Buy your subscription of the Mass Box here.
Use the coupon code ADVENT10 for 10% off the December Mass Box subscription.
Read my review here

Lilla Rose Hair Clip from Mandi Richards
Pretty and practical, these clips are great for putting your hair up and looking beautiful. I use mine all the time.
Shop Mandi's Lila Rose site
Read about how much I love these things here
See the clip and read more about it here

Sacred and Immaculate Hearts Hand Painted Wooden Signs by Honeychild Forest
Each sign is handpainted, completely unique, and the perfect mix of whimsy, reverence, and beauty. These are going on my Christmas wishlist.
Shop Honeychild Forest
Read more about the signs here

Catholic Mom Challenge by Sterling Jaquith
Sterling is one of my favorite Catholic speakers and her book is filled with the same wit and wisdom as her talks. This book has practical tips for "striving for sainthood in everyday mom life" delivered in a personable, easy-to-read style.
Buy the book here
Sterling's website
Sterling's podcast, Coffee and Pearls
Read more about the book here

Advent Rosary by Ave Maria Faithcrafts
The Our Father beads have little Infant Christs and the Salve bead has a beautiful depiction of the Holy Family. The other beads are a rich, Advent purple color and the whole rosary is amazing. It's a great weight, too.
Buy a rosary or jewelry here
Check out the Facebook page
Follow on Instagram
See a close up and read more about it here

Meditations 01 by Reverb Culture
The first book of a four set series that walks its readers through thirty days of meditating on the Creed using Scripture and the Catechism. Wonderful for teens and adults, men and women.
Buy the book here
Check out the website
Read more about the book here

Watercolor Hedgehog notecards, 4 pack by Pebble Creek Prints
Super cute and high quality. These are incredibly versatile and incredibly sweet.
Rachel's blog: Efficient Momma
Buy the notecards here
See a close up and read more here
Coupon Code BONNIE good for free shipping in the US, good until November 30th

Receiving Blanket backed in Organic Flannel from Whole Parenting Goods
High quality, beautiful fabric, backed with organic flannel. This receiving blanket is perfect for keeping a little warm and has the sweetest scalloped seam.
Buy the blankets, bibs, and leggings here
Follow Nell and WPG on Instagram 
Read my review here

FYI: I've been getting some emails and messages about comments not showing up. Don't worry. I will trust you that you comment and have even seen some of the ones I've been emailed about. The important thing is that you successfully complete the Rafflecopter form below. I will pick the winner and have your contact info through the form so as long as that takes we'll be good to go!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and God bless!

October 25, 2016

Our Grocery Budget + What's for Supper

One year ago I wrote a series called Financial Hardships & Surprise Pregnancies. In it I talked a bit about groceries, our food budget, and our meal plan and there were requests for me to write more. So here it is, under the category of "Better Late than Never": the follow up post.

I want to start by touching on a couple of things that help to make this work for our family.

First, because of our food allergies I have to make almost everything from scratch but I do love to cook so it's a small sacrifice. However, it can be hard to figure out what we can eat based on what we have, what we can afford to buy, what everyone can and will eat, and then balance that with feast days and evening activities. All that to say, I love having a meal plan but I sorta don't like sitting down and writing up a meal plan.

Second, our income has increased a wee bit since last year and now our weekly grocery budget is about $130. Travis gives me $260 every two weeks. About once a month I will go to Costco for any variety of things: crackers, bacon, chicken breasts, flour, rice, detergent. I will spend about $50 there and then the rest will be divided between my two weeks shopping budget. Sometimes I will spend $120 one week and less the next but with the envelope system I always know how much cash I have and that I have to make it work for me.

Third, we bought half a cow in the spring from a local farmer (whose parents were the witnesses at my grandparents' wedding!) We still have about 1/3 of that meat in the deep freeze. Buying from the farmer is a big expense up front but it means we only spend ~$3 a pound on roasts, steaks, stew meat, ground beef, and liver (what do I do with liver?).

Updated with a fourth, when I say "groceries" I actually mean everything we eat and use in our house on a daily basis: tissues, paper towels, food, drinks, diapers, wet wipes, make-up, deodorant, cleaning products, garbage bags, hair products, feminine products, tealight candles used in holiday decorations, fresh flowers, and so on.

And fifth, we are a family of eight, six kids and two adults. Our oldest is eight and our youngest is almost ten months. While the baby is not eating a ton of food I am buying some special things for him and his diapers come out of our grocery budget so I think it's fair to include him in the count.

Okay, I think that's enough groundwork. Here goes:

Today I went grocery shopping and spent $109. It should feed us through the week though come Friday (pay day) I may pop back into the store in case I've run out of milk, bread, or sanity. My grocery list looked like this:

I also picked up apples, bananas, strawberries, hand soap refill, Earth Balance butter, shampoo, conditioner, mini bagels, bread, and a fountain soda. I didn't use coupons this week but I did make an effort to buy Kroger products so I would save with my Kroger card + earn fuel points. I know my meal plan says chili on Friday but we eat meatless on Fridays and I don't know why I wrote that down. So I bought no beans and we'll have something else instead.

After shopping my fridge looked like this:

And my freezer like this:

The cupboards have the bread, crackers, cereal, pop tarts, fruit snacks, oatmeal, chips, pretzels, canned food, and other items that make up our other meals. Generally speaking those menus look like this:

Breakfast options:
cold cereal, oatmeal, pop tart, bagel, toast, Eggo waffle, and sometimes homemade coffee cake or pancakes

Lunch options:
chicken nuggets, hot dogs, mac and cheese, fresh fruit, chips, pretzels, mini mallows, carrot sticks, leftovers

Snack options:
fresh fruit, carrot sticks, crackers, baked goods, popcorn, chips, mallows

And then for this week here's what we're having:

Monday: Shepherd's Pie and Biscuits
I make my Shepherd's Pie in a cast iron skillet so I can just bake it in the same dish. Both the pie and the biscuits are easily adapted for our food allergies and I use ground round instead of lamb to save on cost.

Tuesday: Italian Sausage + Homemade Red Sauce + GF Spaghetti Noodles and Frozen Veg and Applesauce

Wednesday: Chicken + Rice + Stir Fry Veggies

Thursday: Soup Bones + Noodles and Frozen Veg and Canned Peaches
I don't have a recipe for this because my mom made this up, but let me tell you it's amazing. She boiled the meat off the bones, took bones out, added noodles to the meat and broth. Then she made a roux, added that to the cooked noodles, meat, and what was left of the broth. She seasoned it with salt and pepper and it's delish.

Friday: Potato Soup and Home Baked Bread

Saturday: Ribs and Rice and Frozen Veg

Sunday: Brinner (that's breakfast for dinner)

I don't know if this is helpful at all but if you have any questions please feel free to ask. I'm sure there's ways I could save even more money (I have two friends who are amazing at gardening, canning, freezing, and baking and I know that really helps them a great deal.) but, again, this is what works for us here and now. Please share your tips and tricks, because the point really is about helping one another feed the masses on our budgets and I'd love to learn from you.

Eat up and enjoy!

October 11, 2016

Infancy Without Postpartum Depression, what we did this time around

At the end of October Baby Tee will be ten months old. He is crawling, pulling himself to standing, cruising, and saying "mama." He laughs at his older siblings' silliness and they love to perform for him. He likes cheerios, sweet potatoes, graham crackers, and his mama's milk. He has seven teeth and sometimes I think he looks like an elf.

Can I just tell you that I am completely smitten with him? Some things are tough, of course, like teething and night nursing and all the food he drops on the floor, but he is so sweet and so lovely and my heart bursts with love of him.

I've never had an experience like this before. All my other children's infancies were shadowed by postpartum depression and now that I see what life with a newborn is like without PPD touching it I am incredibly sad that we were all robbed of happier days and a lighter, more peaceful, more loving home. But I am also so incredibly grateful that this time I have not suffered from PPD.

There were moments I was afraid it was coming. One night in particular I was so tired and so anxious. My anxiety kept me awake after a night feeding and I paced the house, I sobbed in the family room, I shook with fear, and I kept seeing this picture of a spiraling, Wonderland-like fall of which I was standing on the cusp.

When exhaustion or stress crept up on me, as they did a couple of times, they showed themselves through anger and an inability to tolerate anything. In the past I would have succumbed - I would have gone crazy. I had...

... but this time was different. We were proactive and we had plans in place. We knew that exhaustion and stress triggered my spiraling into PPD and so my husband, my mom, and I decided what we would do. In the end I would say three things really helped me get through this postpartum period without succumbing to postpartum depression.

First, and probably most importantly: sleep. My mom basically moved in with us for the first few weeks, waking up with Tee's cries, tending to him until she had to get me to nurse him, sending me back to bed immediately after he finished eating, and putting him back to bed. She and Travis made the meals and with he and me sleeping well at night Mom was able to nap during the days. My mother-in-law also helped by relieving my mom and occasionally keeping the older kids at her home. I sat with the kids, rested, and nursed the baby  - and for months that was pretty much all I did. In the months that followed those first six weeks I did not hesitate to put on a movie for the kids and nap, ask my mom or husband to watch the kids so I could sleep, and / or go to bed at 8pm.

Second, I allowed for a lot of quiet and introspection. I spent a lot of time observing how I felt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I prayed, I read my Bible and Beautiful Mercy, I asked for other people to pray for me, and I used Jenna Hines' book 30 Days to Calm.

Finally, I took pills, but not medication like before. My midwife prescribed for me to take Omega-3 supplements (EPA-DHA 720, 1-2 at a time, four times a day) and Magnesium Glycinate (300mg, 4 at a time, 4 times a day). They were amazing. They helped me relax and just... feel good. I know that seems like a vague statement but it's true. If I started to feel overwhelmed I would take my pills and within thirty minutes I was calm and relaxed. I felt little to no anxiety and I slept better with them. I don't think these pills alone would have worked for bringing me out of my former PPD, but they were wonderfully helpful for keeping it bay this time.

In the end, this has possibly been the best year of my life. I have six amazing children, a husband who loves me immensely, and a devoted mom (and mother-in-law). As a family we have hit our stride and we are thriving, happy, and full of love. That might sound cheesy but I don't care. I've always like nachos.

PS - Speaking of babies, I was invited to be a contributor to the Waiting in His Word: A Couple's Journey Scripture Study on fertility. Nell, Nancy, and Laura have done a fabulous job of bringing together women and men with a wide variety of experiences: loss, adoption, infertility, hyper-fertility, foster care, and more. You can learn more and buy your copy here.

PPS - Not to sound silly, but I would love it if you'd vote for A Knotted Life over at the Fisher's Net Awards. I mean, who else gives you blog posts about food allergies, miracle babies, parochial school, parties, and fashion for barrel-shaped bellies? I mean, when it comes to that combination you know that I am the BEST.

PPS - I am definitely not saying that these three things are all you need to do to beat PPD, and please, please, please know that there is no shame in getting help - be it a therapist, medication, a nanny, etc - to overcome postpartum depression or any mental illness. If you think you have PPD please talk to your doctor or midwife. If you are still pregnant and worried about suffering through another bout of PPD, as I was while pregnant with Baby Tee, then perhaps this post will inspire you to think about your own triggers and create a plan with your loved ones so you can get the best care.


October 7, 2016

Life Lately

I have finally caught up with my life and it feels really good. ~whew~ I needed a breather after the back-to-school rush of it all. Our family has hit a stride and as long as I can keep my act together and continue to fold and put away the kids laundry we should be okay.

So tons of wonderful things have been happening. Birthdays, the Blessed Is She team retreat (which deserves its own post, really), cooler weather in my neck of the woods, and all the little things that make life so great. So this is a bit of a highlight reel type post, but first let's start with a song. Catchy with depressing lyrics:

Ben lost his first tooth, right at bed time last week. He was so excited and we were so exhausted that we went to bed at the same time as the kids. In the morning Ben was disappointed because the Tooth Fairy hadn't come but Daddy saved the day. As Ben was eating breakfast Travis passed the kids room, still dark at 6:15am, and caught something out of the corner of his eye. He told Ben and L this and they immediately *knew* it *was* the Tooth Fairy and she *hadn't* forgotten him, she just didn't know that we'd be up already and he was her very last stop. So all's well that ends well.

He lost his second tooth after much wiggling, pushing, pulling, and apple eating at breakfast on Wednesday of this week. Big sister L was an active participant in getting it out (and I think caused him some pain, too. : /  )

Funny story: Last week the new Hatch Prints tote came in the mail. When I pulled it out of its USPS packaging it looked like this:
 And Ben asked, "Is it garlic bread?!" This kid looooooves garlic bread so he was pretty sure it was the best mail day ever.

He was unimpressed and uninterested when he saw that it was actually this awesome bag, but I was incredibly happy.
Currently it is holding: library books, LuLaRoe leggings, wallet, diapers, wet wipes, baby toys, and a pouch filled with rosary, kleenexes, pens, chapstick, and lipstick. It's gotta work hard at this house.

Baby Tee started pulling himself up to kneeling. And then he figured out crawling, abandoning The Worm to master the official crawl. He has great confidence and found his way to the bathroom for his first time to play with the toilet paper. Within two days of that he was pulling himself to standing and within a week he took his first "cruising" steps.

With all these accomplishments comes the need to constantly yell at people for leaving the bathroom and basement doors open and a little (or a lot) of sentimentality and mourning as my baby gets older.

Jofis is wearing big boy undies all through the day. I waited until he was well past three and interested, making potty training super easy. I bribed him with candy for pee and sorbet for poop and in no time he was good to go. I am down to one in diapers again and it is awesome.

Jofis is also becoming a master story teller. He will passionately tell you "ooooky" stories about ghosts and ditches (witches) and big, big, big scary monsters. He acts things out and illustrates size with his arms and hands. His face is incredibly animated and he gleefully smiles when he gets to the really juicy parts. In short, it is adorable.

Last week was a lot of fun for liturgical feasting. Michaelmas (the feast of St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael - the archangels) was celebrated wholeheartedly. The kids and I read about St. Raphael in the Book of Tobit at breakfast becuase I couldn't quite remember what was up with the fish. Inspired by Molly's clever post about St. Michael's leggings, the girls and I wore our own leggings.  

Inspired by Haley's blog name and book Feast! we dined on roasted chicken and carrots for dinner with cake topped with blackberry compote for dessert. As Ben ate he asked, "Am I making the devil mad by eating blackberries?" eager to bring a bit of consternation to the guy.

When I was in college my chaplain was Fr. Gary Caster - a wonderful priest, preacher, and friend of St. Therese. He instilled in my friends and I a deep love of St. Therese and so October 1st cannot pass without some roses and something to honor my friends - Therese in Heaven and those on earth. I didn't get the chance to make something French for dinner or decorate rose cupcakes (like Tracy's - hers were gorgeous!)  but while all but the baby were with friends or family Travis and I ate Five Guys burgers and fries for dinner so I still call that a win.

St. Francis' feast day was this week of course and to celebrate our water heater broke and we had to buy a new one. We are following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps so fortunately we had the money in savings to pay for it, but it's a big purchase. It seemed like a fitting day for it to happen.

In what I would describe as a parenting win, though, my school aged kids climbed in the car at pick-up and asked what we were going to do to celebrate St. Francis' feast. I had not even thought about it but it seems that I have established a precedent in our home: feast days = a special dinner, dessert, or activity. This has been my goal the whole time - for my kids to love living out their faith - and so we brainstormed on the way home. In the end spaghetti in honor of Francis' Italian heritage and cut out cookies shaped like animals were the winners. 
We used dogs, dinosaurs, butterflies, Easter bunnies, and Halloween bats and cats. Afterwards I found our Thanksgiving turkey; I'll have to remember that one for next year. 

So that's it. A pretty good couple of weeks. And now I'm off to link up with the wonderful Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum. Have a fun weekend, you guys! :)