January 5, 2019

He can heal that, too: my word of the year

I started looking for my word of the year in Advent, wanting to start the liturgical new year with an idea of what God was planning for me. 

My word from Jen's generator came easily: fearless. It was the first one that popped up and it instantly felt right. 
My word from God did not come so easily but once it came I knew it was truly from Him: healing.

It took me a month to find it but now that word seems inescapable.  

On Monday of this past week I dreamed* that Death came while I was sleeping, touched my womb, and took my child. Two days later, at 21 weeks pregnant, the midwife could not find a heartbeat though she searched and pressed for at least five minutes. She left the room to arrange for a sonogram and I sobbed. Later, after a sono found a healthy, happy, living baby, I was talking to God about my fear and I heard Him. "I can heal that, too."

On New Year's Day, the Solemnity of the Mother of God, the Second Reading was proclaimed: As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a son... And I couldn't help it, the reading from Galatians spoke right to a very old, tender hurt that is currently being beaten upon and I heard Him. "I can heal that, too."

I followed Shannon's posts on body image and hated them all because they hurt so much but as I sat there reading her words and hating my body I heard Him. "I can heal that, too." 

I am afraid of healing because I would rather hide from the pain then deal with it. Healing, it seems to me, means looking at the lies and the wounds and the very deep, old, unfulfilled longings and letting them rage with all their might until they die down like a storm. 

I pondered to God, "Is this how I am to be fearless? Am I to stand up to the fear and let the pain and sobs and all the feelings come?" And He said to me, "I can heal that too." 

I've noticed, and maybe you have too, that I don't hear Him say, "I will heal that," but "I can heal that," which at first seemed a little odd. He is the Father who keeps His promises, so why wouldn't He promise it to me? 

Right now - and this may change as life happens and things are revealed, but right now - I think it's because He knows and I know that the only way He will heal these things is if I cooperate with grace and allow Him to do so. And I think that's where I need to be fearless, in the places where I am scared I need to trust and let Him in and relinquish it all to Him. 

As a role model in fearlessness I was given Blessed Sara Salkahazi as my saint of the year. I knew nothing of her when I first read her name, but she was a Hungarian nun, killed by the Nazis for her work hiding, moving, and helping Jews. I am very glad to have been introduced to a woman with such bravery and conviction. She's got some work to do when it comes to interceding for me!

This is only the beginning and it feels like I may be on the brink of another rough year. But I am hopeful that soon enough God will bring me to a new place with my heart fortified so satan's stupid lies can cause no more pain.

Please, God.

* Further context for why the nightmare was so bad for me: When I was pregnant with my oldest, Lydia, I dreamed I was holding a sweet baby girl and from that dream I just *knew* I was having a girl. When I was pregnant with Ben I dreamed I was holding an adorable baby boy and I just *knew" I was having a boy. And when I was pregnant with James I dreamed that I gave birth to a stillborn baby boy on my bedroom floor. When I told Travis about the dream he said to me, "That can't happen." We never talked about it again, though we both worried and, of course, it is exactly what happened. 

December 30, 2018

Look Back (2018 was a good year to me)

In 2018 I had two words for the year, but for me the were linked and essentially told me to do the same thing. BE came from prayer and BLOSSOM came from Jen Fulwiler's word generator. After a hard, hard eighteen months beforehand the words felt like gifts from God. He wouldn't be asking me to grow through suffering or be pruned. He was asking me to do well in the place He had already put me. I could just be. 

I had hoped that in the year I'd come to have more confidence in myself, to be more comfortable in my own skin, to stop deflating every time I looked in a mirror but those things didn't happen. 

However, I did find peace and contentment more quickly (if I had to search for it at all) when others' successes surpassed my own. (This is most of the time, people.)

I built the habit of saying YES to my children. Yes, I will do a puzzle with you. Yes, I will hold you. Yes, I will help you with that. Yes, you can bake a cake. And if I had to say No I always had a good reason, not just my own laziness or personal comfort.

I learned to say yes promptly instead of saying "wait" or "in a second," which always meant five or thirty minutes. I turned from my computer or phone or book or show (usually) immediately to show with my actions that my family really is of the utmost importance to me. 

I found that I often had to make these actions a prayer to God, pointing out to Jesus that I was taking care of Him by taking care of them, and I regularly asked Mary to mentor and intercede for me. And then at some point it became less hard and more natural.

I came to relish feeling little and hidden, doing my most important work in small moments that could not be paraded on Instagram. There was no audience to see me except those who love me unconditionally. I felt like what I was doing was hugely insignificant in the eyes of the world but immeasurably needed and wanted by those in my home - my husband, my children, and my God - and it was freeing.

I don't know what God will do this coming year but last year was so, so good for my heart. 

My top posts on Instagram, top to bottom, left to right: 

1 - "a baby due in May"
2 - "This picture of a healthy baby and a strong heartbeat is more than just one baby and one pulse. It leans on all my children, living and dead..."
3 - "Jesus Christ is Risen!"
4 - "praying for a miracle for Mark."
5 - "The Advent Care Package Giveaway"
6 - "long hair, white legs, a barrel of a belly, and kids running all over the place"
7 - "Happy All Hallow's Eve!"
8 - "Happy Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!"
9 - "Just like the cake Hagrid sat on!"

December 25, 2018

How We Watch Elf

Each December the family sits down and watches Elf together. We watch it in a special way and as I was telling some friends about it one said it needed to be on the blog. So here it is, how we watch Elf.

Needed Materials:
blankets and pillows
one copy of Elf starring Will Ferrell
cotton candy, preferably white
mini bottles of Coca-Cola 
hot chocolate
gum drops (we used Dots)
candy canes

Feed the children lots of veggies and protein for dinner. This important because soon enough they will be inundated with sugar. Have them drink water, too.

Get everyone ready. Pajamas, favorite blankets, snuggle down, pop the popcorn, start the movie.

Wait for key phrases and scenes in the movie. When they happen pause the movie and pass out the food. (Or keep the movie playing - whatever works best for your family.)

#1 - "I'm a cotton-headed ninny muggin" = everyone gets a bit of cotton candy. I usually pass it out while calling everyone cotton-headed ninny muggins because I'm such a good mom.

#2 - Buddy walks through the Candy Cane Forrest = pass out a candy cane to everyone.

#3 - Buddy tells of how he ventured through the sea of swirly whirly gumdrops = each kid gets a small handful of gumdrops.

#4 - At dinner with his family Buddy guzzles a 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola = pass out mini bottles of Caffeine Free Coca-Cola (watch out for Buddy-sized burps from the kids)

#5 - Buddy and Michael have the snowball fight = throw marshmallows at your kids.

#6 - Buddy takes Jovie on date and she drinks the World's Best Cup of Coffee = mugs of hot chocolate

#7 - When Buddy etch-a-sketches the apology / good-bye letter to his family (I'm sorry I ruined your lives and crammed eleven cookies into the VCR.) = everyone gets a cookie (or eleven, but I would stick with one small one.)

And that's it. If everyone sings along to "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" at the end that's a lot of fun, too.  And honestly, I either do the coke or the cocoa and not both.

My kids look forward to this every year, and honestly, I do too. It's such a fun tradition.

December 9, 2018

Advent: Ever Ancient, Ever New

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

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

Ever ancient, ever new.

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

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

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

Ever ancient, ever new. 

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

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

Ever ancient, ever new.

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

November 28, 2018

Things Kids Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 21, 2018

Our Harry Potter Birthday Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 16, 2018

Advent Care Package Giveaway

Photo by Caley Dimmock on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Lady Doll: $42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck and have fun!

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