Sunday, March 29, 2015

A couple of thoughts heading into Holy Week.

Here we are on Palm Sunday and I don't know about you, but we made it! 

Bennet turned his palm frond into a fishing rod and pretended to catch fish... until his father caught him. 

James kept making his into a circle and sticking his face through it... until his father took his away and placed it next to Bennet's.

Teresa acted like hers was a broom... until I took hers and put it next to the boys'. 

Joseph just shook his in the air, like a little boy in Jerusalem. 

(And Lydia spent the nigh at her grandma's so hopefully she is behaving wonderfully.)

"I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorry to rivers of joy."
Jars of Clay, The Valley Song

One of the things I love so much about this week is how solemn and beautiful it is. The liturgies with their silence and darkness and candlelight, the readings from Scripture - Isaiah's Suffering Servant and the psalmist calling out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"especially, the music asking us "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" and it's something about that "oh-oh-oh-oh" that is so haunting and always makes me cry... all of it works together to prepare us for the gifts we recieve on Holy Thursday of the priesthood and the Eucharist, the sorrow and shame (our shame) that comes on Good Friday, the loneliness of Holy Saturday, the magnificence of Easter Vigil, and the JOY of Easter morning. 

I love Holy Week.

I have a special love for converts, reverts, and fallen away Catholics. There is nothing I love more than my God and His Church and I want nothing more than for everyone to feel the same. I want you to be Catholic so you can experience all the gifts it offers: the Sacraments, the saints, the feasting and the fasting, the redemptive suffering, the respect for life, the answers to all the questions which are all steeped in charity and clarity and reverence for God. 

I love that in Holy Week new Catholics are welcomed into the Church and old Catholics return. If you are a convert or a revert please know that I am SO HAPPY for you!!! I am praying for you and I hope that my silly little blog and I can help you live our your faith joyfully and in a community. 

Thanks for being here, guys. God bless you. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Myths about homeschooling, or It's okay to send your kid to school

Kindergarten registration is happening across the country. Public, private, and parochials schools are all asking parents to bring in forms and fees so their almost-five-year-olds can be enrolled for Fall 2015.

Simultaneously, my inbox has been filling up with emails from moms wanting to know about our decision to not homeschool. Generally speaking, there seems to be a guilt and a fear coming from them as they wonder, "Is it okay if I don't homeschool?" I really empathize with these women, all of whom are engaged in the Catholic blogosphere, which is dominated by homeschoolers.

The vibrancy and holiness of the homeschooling crew's lives is so attractive, and often the way homeschooling is presented in the blogging world makes it seem like it is the best option.

For a lot of people it is the best option. For a lot of people it's the only real option. For a lot of people it's something they have to do because brick and mortar schools in their area have failed them. For a lot of people it's something they are drawn to and have always wanted to do, and actually doing it brings a rhythm, joy, peace, and dynamic to their lives and home that allows everyone to thrive.

But not so for everyone.

For a lot of people it is the worst option. For a lot of people it is not even an option. For a lot of people it's not even something to be considered because the brick and mortar schools in their area are fabulous and meet or surpass their needs. For a lot of people it's something they are drawn to because they can see the goodness in it but they have always been more drawn to the good of being a part of a brick and mortar school community, enjoying the rhythm, joy, peace, and dynamic that it brings to their lives and home, allowing everyone to thrive.

I've written before about some reasons to not homeschool, but today I want to write to those moms who are worrying about not homeschooling. 

In an effort to calm their worries, I want to address those myths about homeschooling that come up again and again. Some of these myths have been boldly declared by homeschooling bloggers and all of them have at least been implied repeatedly over the years. I would argue that all of them can be true when applied to certain families, but it is the very fact that they are so often portrayed as absolute truths that makes them myths.

So here goes:

Myth #1 - Homeschooling is what God intended for families.
Homeschooling is what God intends for some families but there is no way it is what He intends for all families. Just because God didn't create a schoolhouse with a teacher on the 8th day doesn't mean that He never intended for there to be schools or that sending children to school goes against His ideal. Definitely God intends for parents to be the first and primary educator of their children but that does not mean that no room is left for teachers, classrooms, and principals.

Myth #2 - Anyone can homeschool.
My former job as a college admissions counselor made this very clear. I remember one girl specifically whose high school transcripts were all from her mom and she was a straight A student. Yet her writing samples were embarrassing, as were her community college transcripts and ACT scores. She was obviously embarrassed and frustrated that the education her mother had given her had failed her. The only college she could enter would be a community college and that would involve at least a year of re-taking classes and hopefully finally filling in the gaps in her education. She may have still struggled in a traditional school, but at least there her teachers would have had different expectations and would have been able to give her the extra support and resources she needed.

Separate from that, just because you could homeschool doesn't mean you have to. If you don't have the desire or the obvious need then don't do it, don't worry about it, and happily move on.

Myth #3 - Homeschooling is what holy families do. 
No, knowing, loving, and serving God is what holy families do and what that will look like will vary from one family to the next.

Myth #4 - With homeschooling, everything we do is school!
Okay, but this is not exclusive to homeschooling. My daughter learns about math, reading, her faith, critical thinking, history, science, and geography at school and she comes home and learns about those same things at home. Her teachers and I are building on one another's work; you can and surely will do the same.

I would argue that with parenting everything we do has the potential to be educational. It's insulting to imply that only homeschoolers are capable of or interested in teaching their kids throughout the day; don't believe that lie.

Myth #5 - Moms send their kids to school because a) they don't enjoy / love them as much as homeschooling moms, b) they are selfish and want time to themselves, c) both.
Yes, I really saw this type of talk on a homeschooling blog and unbelievably the commenters all supported or ignored it. Yet this is just not true. Even if you are a mom wondering, "How do homeschoolers not go crazy at home all day with their kids?" you are not less of a mom. Not being able to imagine something because it's completely foreign to you doesn't mean you're a lesser parent.

Having the desire for be part of a traditional school community, to have time to volunteer in your community, to create or work, and then using the time while your kids are at school to do those things doesn't mean you're selfish or that you care less for your children. God has gifted you with certain talents, convictions, and holy desires - be who He has made you to be and you will set the world on fire.

Our family has chosen to send our kids to parochial school. The price is right, the teachers are awesome, and we are happy. It's not perfect, but it's the right fit for our family. And, if someday none of those things are okay, we will happily send them to public school.

So what should you do?

Well, I don't know, but I believe in you and your ability to figure this out. Talk to your spouse; pray with your spouse; spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament; follow your heart and your gut. And remember that you can try it out for a year and then re-evaluate next year. Heck, you can even try it out for a semester!

Whatever you chose: homeschooling, public school, parochial school, I am sure you will do a great job. I believe in you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

VeggieTales Noah's Ark Winner

Congrats, Maureen Adamcik, you won the VeggieTales Noah's Ark dvd and plush toys!

Please email me with your mailing address by Wednesday at 1pm and I'll ship them out to you asap!

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. If I don't hear back from Maureen in time I'll select another winner.

Happy Tuesday, all!

Friday, March 20, 2015

7QT: I'm talking movies, music, and gardening

Many thanks to Kelly for hosting! And if any of you are still in need of a good planner, Kelly's is on sale this week for 15% off! Click on over and grab a copy of The Best Laid Plans.

1 - This isn't the first time Walk the Moon has provided my 7QT song. This one is so catchy and poppy and happy. The campy video reminds of the ones MTV showed in my childhood, like Aha and Peter Gabriel and I don't know who else. Who else? Who am I missing?

2 - If you are a godparent, mom, dad, grandparent, hospital employee, NICU and PICU graduate, uncle, aunt, music lover, all around nice person: LISTEN UP!

JJ Heller is a really, really wonderful musician and she's doing something awesome. This month she is giving away digital copies of her lullaby album, I Dream of You. Her hope is that NICU and PICU parents and employees with download the album and then distribute it to all the moms and dads who are watching their babies fight the good fight in the neonatal and pediatric intensive care units.

This is especially powerful to me since it was JJ's song My Savior's Love Endures that I sang over James during his NICU stay. I've written about it before, but that song helped me love on my son, keep hope in my heart, and  pray when words failed me. One of my awesome readers even arranged for JJ and Dave to perform it when they were in my area for a concert.

The music is really beautiful and even if you're not a NICU family your kids will love it. Hey! You could even tuck the cd in their Easter baskets. When you buy it please give what you can to support JJ and her generosity, but if you are doing this for a NICU please know that this is for free for you!

3 - Speaking of Easter baskets... I've got a little giveaway going on. I was able to review the new Veggie Tales Noah's Ark movie with the bonus of getting a dvd and some toys to give to a lucky A Knotted Life reader. The movie was super cute and my kids loved it. If your family loves Veggie Tales then you should definitely give it a go and enter for a chance to win.

After a couple of viewings I asked my kids, "What's your favorite part of the movie?" to which they said, "When it rains." I thought that was really cute, but I think that's their way of saying it's their favorite song.

4 - Last year of St. Joseph's feast day Travis grilled out and we all drank beer - you know, things St. Joseph would probably enjoy doing if he were alive today. This year was cold and Travis had to work so instead I made chocolate chip cookies for the feast day. Our Joseph enjoyed a few, Travis - whose confirmation name is Joseph - enjoyed a few, and Bennet took a bunch in to his class to celebrate. The kids and I also dropped some off for my dad.

Okay, I ate one, too.

5 - Any readers who live in Missouri? I'll be sharing James' story this weekend at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Pilot Grove, MO following the 4pm Vigil Mass. There will be a light supper and the whole event is donation only, but it's a fundraiser for the parish school so you can be generous.

Will any readers be there? I'd love to meet you if you come! Please come up and introduce yourself and let me know in the combox if you're planning on it!

6 - If you're looking for a movie to watch this weekend do yourself two favors:
#1 don't watch Exodus: Gods and Kings.
#2 do watch Chef.

Chef stars Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr. and a few other recognizable faces and it's streaming on Netflix. There's some language and a couple of innuendos but overall I thought it did a great job of being a really sweet movie while still being fun and about real stuff.

(And that recommendation is why Netflix did not seek me out to write endorsements and reviews for them in exchange for a free subscription. ahem.)

7 - Spring is in the air so let's talk gardens.

The older I get the more I grow from just liking the idea of having a garden and pretty flowerbeds to actually enjoying the work of having a garden and pretty flowerbeds. I am itching to get outside, clear out the dead, lay down fresh mulch, and plant some annuals!

This year I'm hoping to till up some earth and plant some veggies and turn one of the flowerbeds into a sort of garden, maybe with some oregano and basil. It's on the side of the house where the garden will be and it's not really visible to anyone so it doesn't have to look gorgeous, just nice enough.

I didn't get any bulbs planted last fall and so I'm not going to have any pretty daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, crocuses, or the the like which is bumming me out, but I'm hoping my butterfly bush and hydrangea will come back this year and make up for the lack of spring flowers.

What about you? Do you have a green (or green-ish) thumb? What are your plans?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Veggie Tales Easter Basket Filler Giveaway

Last week Travis was gone late one night for work, but I had a plan: stove-top popcorn and the new Veggie Tales Noah's Ark movie.

It was a good night. 

My kids enjoy Veggie Tales and so when I was offered the opportunity to review the latest dvd I jumped at the chance. I knew they would enjoy it and I knew it would be a great movie that they would want to watch again and again. I was right. The kids giggled and swayed and smiled through the movie, and have asked to watch it again since. 

The best part, though, is that with my review copy came a giveaway copy and two plush toys for one lucky reader to win. These babies will make great Easter basket stuffers and I'm incredibly happy to make your life a little easier and save you a bit of money and send you these top notch gifts. 

Not sure if you're interested? Just watch the trailer:

Super cute, right?

Want to win? To enter all you have to do is leave a comment telling me whose Easter basket you'll be putting the Noah's Ark dvd and plush Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato toys. Please make sure you leave your email address is your commenting name is not already linked to one, otherwise you'll be disqualified.

Good luck!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A peek at our St. Paddy's Day

Our home has a pretty minimal but growing devotion to St. Patrick.
I do confess, I mostly celebrate this feast as a cultural celebration (meaning I'm American) but I am making an effort to learn more about him and teach my kids about him too. 

Maybe next year we will do pious things.

But this year Travis and I drank Irish whiskey at dinner. 

We had green napkins and corned beef with mashed potatoes and freshly baked, homemade Irish soda bread. It was delicious.

For dessert I made rainbow jello.

It looks a little trippy but was actually kinda pretty and the kids loved it.  It was time consuming but worth it, especially because it meant we all got to eat the same thing.

Lydia and Bennet told me all about St. Patrick, and they did a good job of it too. Maybe next year we'll start the tradition of praying St. Patrick's breastplate prayer. That would be nice, wouldn't it?

St. Joseph's feast day is coming up this Thursday. It's Joseph's name day and I have planned the incredibly average meal of noodles and sausage. What about you?

Happy feast day, friends. I'll leave you with my favorite Irish song, I'll Tell Me Ma, performed by Van Morrison and The Chieftains:

Monday, March 16, 2015

a blogging conference re-cap

One day a few months back my friend Oliva asked a question about blogging conferences. The wall of the Facebook group filled with responses, starting a long thread of a conversation. Women mentioned the conferences they had attended in the past and ones they hoped to attend in the future. They discussed what they had liked about the conferences they'd been to and what they found lacking. Cost, speakers, faith-based or not, break out sessions, meeting other bloggers face-to-face - we chatted about all of it and it was really interesting. 

And then someone mentioned that what they really wanted from a blogging conference was something small, intimate, 20-maybe-30 women. Laid back, low key. No swag bags, nothing fancy, and a nice, low, affordable cost. Fun but informative, with plenty of opportunity to chat with and learn from one another. Sandwiches for lunch, spiked coffee as pick-me-up in the afternoon. Being surrounded by women who blogged and were Catholic and didn't think there was anything weird but everything wonderful about both those things. 

Funny enough, there were a lot of women who wanted the same thing and by the end of the day Olivia's question had produced several regional blogging conferences for Catholic women. 

Last weekend was the first one, held at Notre Dame University, and filled with women from Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

It was great. So, so great. 

Katrina from Cedars and Tiny Flowers did most of the heavy lifting for the event, with a little help from Ana at Time Flies When You're Having Babies and the aforementioned Oliva from To the Heights. So mad props to them!

I was supposed to emcee the day, didn't realized there was a time zone change, and walked in 30 minutes late instead of 20 minutes early. oops. 

We began with a prayer and then Rhonda took it from there, sharing lots of great graphic design tips.

 And then we all lined up for lunch, chatting and looking fabulous the whole way.

 A friend of Katrina's offered to decorate for us and her touches of beauty and Spring were so appreciated!

My new pink shoes photobombed the spread.

One of the ways we kept costs low was asking ladies to sign up to bring a dish. Costco provided the salads and sandwiches and then sweets, fruits, and hummus all came from the attendees.

It was so cool meeting all these women whose blogs I read. What a thrill.
Lots of group photos and selfies were taken, of course. You can find the selfies under #CWBNIndiana.

We also had a real life photographer with us that day - she signed up to attend and then we asked her if she'd be willing to take head shots for any interested women. Giedre was fabulous to work with (and I looooved her style! Oh goodness she was so hip and sweet.)

There was plenty of time for chatting and sharing ideas and encouragement with one another. 

And it was a really special treat for me to look around a room and think, "I read her blog, and her blog, and her blog, and her blog." All those women who usually live in my computer were right in front of me!

I was even able to rope two of my friends to come along with me for the day. I don't have a picture of Katie, but Nancy is the one on the right in the picture below. Everyone was gushing about Nancy - how sweet and wise she is - and Katie and I were like, "I know. She's our friend." Instant status boost. ;)

After lunch Nell from Whole Family Parenting did a great presentation on social media and building relationships with brands. She nailed it and did a great job talking about the importance of supporting one another as bloggers.

There were also lots of babies and random diaper changes. And I loved it. I loved that there were women who were pregnant, others who were nursing, others who are hoping to conceive, and others who were single. All these women, coming together not as mothers, but as women, with no judgement, only love.

When Nell was done with her talk Kathryn from Through a Glass Brightly presented, challenging us to baptize the secular in our writing. She was funny and intelligent and did a fabulous job.

Then we chatted. We sat and shared. We talked about why we blog and the focus of our blog. Some of us went back to the classroom and gave one another feedback on our blogs.

We closed in prayer and then most of us headed off for dinner out on the town.

On our way off campus Katie, Nancy, and I made a couple of stops to admire Notre Dame's beauty...

And to prat at the grotto.

It was such a great day, and if you were one of the women who attended: thank you! It was such a joy being with "my people"! I want you all to know (if you all even read this, who knows) that you doing your thing and being so authentically YOU is so inspiring to me. Your writing, crafting, blogging is making a difference. Thank you!

Back row, left to right: Amelia: One Catholic Mama, Annie: Annery at Home, Nell: Whole Family Parenting, Michelle: My Domestic Monastery, Katie: Look to Him and Be Radiant, Elizabeth: Copper Top Kitchen, Kathryn: Through a Glass Brightly, Katie: Sugar Salt Straw, Katrina: Cedars and Tiny Flowers, Melanie: Virtue and Veuve, Jacqui: Mexican Domestic Goddess, Nancy: Reading Catholic, Mary: Couch of Red, Cat: Cartwheels and Windmills

Kneeling, left to right: Ana: Time Flies When You're Having Babies, Sarah: Fumbling Toward Grace, Cammie: A Woman's Place, Me!, Amy: Motherhood & Miscellany, Anna: The Heart's Overflow, Theresa: Little House in Chicago, Caitlyn: Harvesting Home, Rhonda: Real Housekeeping, Giedre: Walking Dot Photography