December 15, 2017

I want you to know...


I want to be as transparent as possible and so I've got a bit of an update for you.

 As you probably already know, I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon .com and affiliated sites. In order to be sure that I am in compliance I had to change a few links on my blog and social media accounts. You may notice a bit more links in my blog posts (when they happen) because of this.

However, I also signed up for the Amazon Influencer program. This basically means I have my own page on Amazon, where I can share my favorite things with you. (As a girl who watched Oprah throughout middle and high school this delights me.) I'm really excited about this because it is fairly common for me to get questions about books, gifts, toys, and other products our family uses. This way I can keep a running list for you and hopefully it will serve as a great resource. I plan to keep some items always there and some I will change with the seasons. I add comments to them all, too, so you'll know why I'm suggesting them!

So right now my Amazon Page has some of our favorite holiday books and movies along with (and this is an affiliate link ->) the Wet Brush because every woman, girl, and long-haired man should have a Wet Brush.

You can always find my Amazon Page in the sidebar and I will also share it on Facebook and Instagram. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please let me know!

Thank you so much for reading, understanding, and being awesome. Happy shopping, folks!

November 20, 2017

Advent Care Package Giveaway

CONGRATS to Reagan and Madeleine! Thanks to everyone who entered and have a very happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Advent!

In 2014 I had an idea: wouldn't it be fun to give away a care package? Something filled with a variety of items that will help a woman feel cozy and ready for Advent, that will cross items off her Christmas shopping list, that will take a few things off her plate? And so I teamed up with vendors, authors, and crafters and together we did just that. And ... it was a lot of fun!

In 2015 I had a baby and that was enough, but last year I hosted the Advent Care Package Giveaway again. Once more I teamed up with superb artisans, movers, and shakers and I was so proud to showcase their work and bless two women with packages filled with an abundance of beautiful, fun items.

This year, I decided to Oprah it up and reach out to vendors who make and sell my favorite things. I am thrilled to be teaming up with the likes of Marzipantz, Tea with Tolkien, Catholic Curio, Chews Life, Lily Joy Designs, Just Love Prints, January in June, Emmaus Road, Sancta Bovina, Rose Harrington Art, The Keen Bean Shop, Whole Parenting Goods, and more.

The value of this giveaway is $700!* That means that each winner will receive a Care Package worth $350!

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!

Catholic Curio
St. Nicholas Cookie Cutter: $7
Etsy Shop

Chews Life
Mama Necklace: $24
Follow on Instagram
Shop Website

Emmaus Road
St. Nicholas peg doll: $15
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Fitz Knitz
Stocking Cap with Pompom: $15
Etsy Shop

January in June
Embroidered Christmas Ornaments: $12 each
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Just Love Prints
Sacred Heart with Mother Teresa print: $16
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: 15% off your order of $25 or more with code AKNOTTEDLIFE. Expires December 30, 2017.

Lily Joy Designs
Wooden Wall Rosary: $62
Decade Rosary: $25
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: ADVENT15 for 15% through December 1st.

Lula Roe with Megan Stevenart
Leggings: $25
Shop the Roe going out of business sale page
40% off everything - no coupon needed through November 30th.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Doll: $65
Our Lady of Guadalupe inspired mini Flower Crown: $10

Follow on Instagram
Follow on Facebook
Etsy Shop
Coupon: AKLTEN for 10% off any order through December 10th

Middle West Knitting Co
Pixie Bonnet: $20
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Polka Dot Bowlevard
Reindeer Bow: $12
Glory to the Newborn King Bow: $10
Christmas Red, Green, & Navy: $10
Etsy Shop

Rose Harrington Art
The Time of Advent is a Time of Hope Print: $18
Pause in Silence to Understand a Presence: $18
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Sancta Bovina
Love Like Mary Mug: $17.50
Follow on Instagram
Shop & Website

Sleightholm Folk Art
Santa Lucia Print: $18
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Tea With Tolkien
Sweatshirt: $48
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

The Keen Bean Shop
Hey Nunnie Nunnie Mushies: $15
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop

Usborne Books from Michelle Mosbach
Christmas Activity Book: $10
Nativity Sticker Book: $7
Shop Michelle's Page

Whole Parenting Goods
Linen Dress with Cotton Lace Detailing: $60
Follow on Instagram
Etsy Shop
Coupon: BONNIE for 15% off

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!

Blessed Is She Advent Journal: $25
Blessed Is She Shop ( that's my affiliate link)

Stocking Stuffers & Hygge Helpers: $30
candles, peppermint tea, Christmas-y notecards, new pen, window clings, candy canes, St. Nick chocolate coins, homemade chocolate chip cookies

Rules and fine print:
One winner will be drawn from the blog and one from Instagram. To enter on the blog you must leave a comment below - tell me your favorite version of O Come O Come Emmanuel or which item you're most excited to win or just say Hi but be sure you 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. This contest is in no way affiliated with Instagram.

The giveaway ends Wednesday, November 22nd at 5pm CST. 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 only - sorry international friends.

Good luck and have fun!

October 30, 2017

A Peek at Our Hallowtide

Happy Hallowtide! I love this time of year and I love celebrating the next three days. Here's a bit of a photo dump along with some of our plans. 

We have been pre-gaming for awhile, eating lots of popcorn mixed with candy corn, building fires in the fireplace, listening to my Halloween playlist, watching The Great Pumpkin, and more. 

Like decorating,

and carving jack o'lanterns

and fluffing the scarecrow after kids sit on its lap. And they always seem to sit on its lap while adults are always the ones who are startled by it.

Over the weekend the whole family went to a local park for a "Not So Scary" event so you get to see the kids in their costumes before the neighborhood. Lucky you. 
L and Ben's costumes go together and if you can figure them out then you're the best. Do you want a clue? Okay: Raggedy Man. 

It's a family tradition to have chili for dinner on Halloween, this year with cute little pumpkin biscuits on the side. After trick-or-treating we'll probably have popcorn and hot chocolate.

On All Saints Day the family will attend the All School Mass, where JF and all the first graders will dress as saints. It's the sweetest thing ever. They process in with Father and once Mass is done they each stand in front and give a little bio on the saint they are representing. Can you guess who JF will be?

Since the day is a Solemnity we'll be having a family favorite (and slightly labor intensive to make) meal for dinner: sweet and sour chicken. It has nothing to do with the theme except that everyone loves it. Dessert will be Halloween candy. :)

Last year I gathered all our saint peg dolls and lined them up on the buffet aka family altar but this year they're being loaned out to my friend Katie. We'll gather holy cards for this spot instead and pray a litany of family saints at bed time. 

In case you're in charge of your child's All Saints' Day snack here's a little something I made up last year. Each baggie had this little rhyme typed up and slipped inside. 

All Saints have symbols to help us connect: 
Animals for Francis, firewood for Bernadette. 
Green for St. Patrick, Yellow for Mary's Heavenly Crown.
Royal Purple for King Wenceslas, Food for St. Isidore who farmed the ground.
Tomorrow we'll pray for all the poor souls. 
Today we'll celebrate Saints who reached Heaven's goals.

animals = Teddy Grahams
firewood = pretzel sticks
green, yellow, and purple = Skittles
food = Motts fruit snacks
poor souls = marshmallows with faces made from edible markers

I have no idea if it helped the kids or not, but I sure thought it was cute. ;)

The Feast of All Souls is a busy day for our family, but an important one. In between parent teacher conferences and all the regular busyness of a school night we will be attending our parish's Mass of Remembrance. I want to take some time to remember and pray for our grandparents who have passed, along with all the souls in Purgatory. We may work through these little booklets my friend Katie made, too.

So that's our upcoming week! Tell me your plans!

October 23, 2017

Ways to Pray - Sign Up for the Online Study

UPDATE: All nine spots have been filled and registration is now closed. Thanks!

I have been wanting to do the Blessed Is She "Ways to Pray" study from the Blessed Conversations series. And I thought it would be fun if I did it with you!

"Ways to Pray" is a three part study, based on the Catechism and written by the lovely and wise Rose Coleman. It covers vocal, meditative, and contemplative prayer and I'm hoping it will help me launch more fully into Advent and clear my head a bit after an incredibly busy back to school season.

The online study will be hosted by me and held on Google Hangouts. Space is limited so please only sign up if you are sure you can commit to all three sessions: November 2, 9, and 16 at 8:30 pm Central Time. The nine spots will be filled on a first come, first serve basis and I'll email you to set things up once registration is closed.

If you want to sign up, please go here.
If you want to buy your downloadable copy of the study, please go here. (You can wait for confirmation that you're in the study group first if you want. PS - That's my affiliate link.)

PS: In case you didn't hear there are a few awesome items in the Blessed Is She shop including the Advent Journal, 2018 Planner, Selah daily prayer journal, and the brand-spanking-new journaling Bible, which is available for pre-order now and will be in your hands this January! You can check out any of the items and buy them through my affiliate link here. Happy shopping and thank you!

September 10, 2017

Meet Sweet MJ

Three months and three days ago I announced that I was pregnant. Three months and two days ago today I gave birth to a baby girl. Allow me to introduce to you

Miriam Joan
8lbs 6oz
21" long

delivered via planned c-section at 39 weeks. 
She is named for our Blessed Mother, Miriam being a form of the name Mary, and Moses' sister who led the Israelites in songs of praise after crossing the Red Sea. She is also named for St. Joan of Arc and Travis' dear Grandma Joan.

Miriam's life was another unexpected gift from God. I must tell you that as soon as I got the positive pregnancy test I smiled. It was the biggest, dopiest grin. I was a bundle of nerves and wondered what Travis would think and feel but I quickly told the baby, "I love you," and hoped to God that she would be a girl. 

All through that autumn day I would send Travis a text or tell him something and end every sentence in my head with "I'm pregnant." I was afraid he might be worried or upset so I was incredibly nervous to tell him.

"Please pick up some buns on the way home. (I'm pregnant.)"

"How was work today? (I'm pregnant.)"

"Can you have the kids set the table? (I'm pregnant.)"

And finally, after dinner but before bedtime, when the kids were playing outside in the cool evening I said to him, "I'm pregnant." 

He laughed.

I thought he might have thought he heard me say "I'm pregnant" when really he just knew I said something else so I said it again. "I'm pregnant. I took the test this morning and I'm pregnant." I was shaking and laughing from nervousness but he smiled at me from his spot on the sofa and said, "This is good news."

And it really, really was. 

I laughed and cried and felt such relief and joy. And I hoped she'd be a girl.

The first trimester brought bi-weekly progesterone injections. We never bought alcohol wipes but used vodka to sanitize my hip and I watched highlight videos from the Graham Norton Show while Travis did the injections.  It wasn't my favorite thing - okay, I was super nervous because those needles are huge and the whole process takes awhile - but of course I would do it a million times over for my baby.

On Christmas morning we finally told the kids and our families. After morning Mass my grandpa, uncle, and parents came over. We feasted on bacon and cinnamon rolls and then opened gifts. The last present to be opened was Thomas' - a "Little Brother" onesie with 'little' crossed out and "Big" written above it. L was ecstatic. Ben was worried about having another kid to destroy his things. The others were too busy with their toys. But my mom was thrilled and she too laughed. When we saw Travis' family later that day they too were all hugs, smiles, and congratulations.

We never said anything online, though there were many times I wanted to, but we opted from the very beginning to only tell friends and family who would be happy for us. With Tee's pregnancy there was a lot of hurtful things said to us and we didn't want anyone to ruin the pregnancy for us, to steal our joy. In fact, this is the only picture I took of my bump - a super bad selfie in my bedroom mirror just hours before she was born - because I was otherwise trying to hide the pregnancy in photos.

 But I've learned something in the meantime: by not telling people we still let those meanies steal our joy. I'm sad that I wasn't able to share my daughter's life with people from the very beginning. I'm sad that we have been so hurt by comments and opinions that we let those jerks control our lives. Our daughter is a precious gift from God and I am sad that I didn't get to proudly share the good news of our great gift from the very beginning.

Miriam's pregnancy was tough and not necessarily because of the pregnancy but because my life was crazy. Sickness, my grandpa's death, Travis' grandpa's death, hard times with the IEP, and then learning that L had two congenital heart defects and needed open heart surgery - remember? - it was a lot. 

In the three months that she's been here things have been so good. It feels like we are finally out the thick of things, our life has calmed down and we are happy. She is the sweetest babe - a girl!!! and with red hair to boot!!! I love that I have a little ginger baby and I hope her hair stays its sweet strawberry blonde coloring and her eyes remain their pretty shade of blue. 

I'll write her birth story later - she's just woken from a nap - but here's the birth announcement three months late. Miriam Joan, whom we call MJ, was born. Thanks be to God from Whom all blessings flow.

July 19, 2017

Heart Surgery Recovery

As soon as we shared our news that our eldest daughter, L, had two congenital heart defects and would need open heart bypass surgery people have been awesome. Like "The Body of Christ can move mountains" awesome. Like every dot, flower, and thorn painted with the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts above represents a prayer, a sacrifice, a rosary, a Mass offered up for my daughter, and those are only the ones that were submitted online. But every time we take a long look at that painting I am overwhelmed by the goodness of others and the way God is glorified by your works. 

The first Tuesday night in May Resa, L, and I sat around our dining room table with L's godmother, Katie, making invitations to their angel penguin birthday party. The next morning, with invites in the mail, I was sitting at my weekly moms' group when I got the phone call from the pediatric cardiologist's scheduler: there was an opening for surgery a week from Thursday. Did we want L to get it? We wanted L's surgery to happen before my c-section so we said Yes and then our life changed gears super fast.

All the potential party-goers were contacted and told that the birthday party would not be later in the month but in three days. The school, whose principal had already said L's last day could be whenever we needed it to be, was told that her last day would be in a week. We made arrangements for L to receive Anointing of the Sick before the surgery, for someone to be with our other kids, for Travis to be off work, for all our "i"s to be dotted and our "t"s crossed. 

The morning of L's surgery everyone got up early and headed to the 7am Mass. We had been given special permission for L to receive a very teeny tiny bit of Holy Communion. Fr. Julius prayed for L  at Mass and asked everyone present to pray for her throughout the day. In fact, a friend of our's had arranged with our priests for there to be all day adoration with a special request for people to pray for L. Parishioners would be at our church until 7pm praying for L and during the school day each grade took a turn before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for our daughter. 

Immediately after Mass our family headed over to the parish school and waited in the gym. Our pastor had arranged with the principal for there to be an all-school assembly immediately following Morning Announcements so that the whole school would be part of the prayers offered during L's reception of the Anointing of the Sick. It was awesome. Our family stood with her on that gymnasium floor as Fr. Julius administered the Sacrament. 

We then headed over to the Children's Hospital of Illinois, Travis, L, and me. From the tremendous outpouring on the blog, Facebook, and Instagram we knew that people were praying for us all over the country and world, and when combined with the powerful experiences at our parish we knew that we were being absolutely covered in prayer and graces. We were afraid and anxious but I can say with confidence that those prayers helped to bring us peace and calm our concerns. We were bowled-over by how many had pledged their prayers and we walked into the hospital knowing that you all were with us as we went.  

Some of Travis' students had made a special blanket for L when they heard about her surgery and as she waited for her surgery she wrapped herself in it. It was covered with hearts, the symbol of love, and anchors, the symbol of hope. I loved it. 

As we waited in the pre-op area we were again blessed in a special way. The hospital is a Catholic one, and in more than name only. The people who update loved ones throughout the operation process are from the chaplain's office. The man who just happened to be assigned to us is also a deacon at our parish's sister parish. He was able to give us a special blessing and as he prayed over us the nurse stopped what she was doing to pray with us, crossing herself when we were done.

After waiting for about an hour, playing Uno and chatting the whole time, it was finally time to go. Different doctors and nurses and specialists had come and gone the whole time, each chatting with L and reassuring us as they explained everything that was going to happen. When it was time for her to head to the OR she gave us hugs and kisses and she walked away from us, hair in a cover, love and hope wrapped around her, Cozy Heart Penguin in her arms, and a smile on her face. 

Travis and I went to the waiting room, getting updates along the way. The worst 
was when the deacon called us to let us know that L was on the bypass machine - meaning her heart was no longer beating. Crazy and horrible and amazing and terrifying, if you can imagine.

Surgery went incredibly well and they finished in just under two hours. We were walked up to the PICU (peds intensive care unit) but had to wait for a bit longer than expected to see her because she was having such a hard time coming out of the anesthesia. When the surgeons finally came out to talk to us they explained how happy they were with how the surgery had gone - they were able to use the hole in her heart as a short-cut to thread her veins through so it could finally be attached in the correct place. They used part of her heart sac to plug the rest of it up and ... all's well that ends well. But it's also just craaaaaaazy.

That first day was pretty tough. As she fought to come out of the anesthesia she was in a lot of pain and incredibly confused. At one point she yelled out, "Help me, Daddy!" and it was literally one of the worst moments of our lives because there was nothing we could do to help our baby girl. There was a chest tube to make sure fluid didn't collect around her heart, but it was what caused her the most pain and discomfort. She threw up several times because of it - can you imagine how painful that would be with a broken sternum?! 

But the nurses were rock stars. They took such great care of her and did everything in their means to make her comfortable. The whole cardiology team was just amazing and we were so grateful to be at one of the best children's hospitals in the country - just 20 minutes from our home. 

Over the next few days she napped. Once they removed her chest tube (and the pace maker wires) she started to feel much better. She moved from her bed to the chair, then her bed to the bathroom, then from her bed all the way down to the other end of the floor and then out to the roof-top garden. She rested there, then walked almost the whole way back until the nurse insisted that she ride in a wheelchair the rest of the way. It was twenty-four hours after her open heart surgery! The nurses said it was the longest walk they'd ever seen in a patient at that state in the game. Eventually she regained an appetite. I read aloud to her and we watched the live action Cinderella. Her uncles visited, along with her godmother and grandmother, mormor and grandpa.

I love this picture of me, 9 months pregnant, brushing L's hair for her and putting it up in a bun as she requested. She was so worn out she fell asleep while I was doing it, but it was so good to have something tangible I could do for her. 

Our sleeping beauty.

L, resting in the roof-top garden. She's wearing her super hero shirt, a gift from Trav's co-workers. 

Saturday morning breakfast.

Sunday, Mother's Day, L was given clearance to come home. After the surgery she had to cough a lot, clearing her chest, and her Cozy Heart Penguin - a birthday gift from her Mormor - was her go-to object to hug during the coughing. It was also used to soften the feel of the seat belt against her incision. 

We couldn't believe that just three days after having open heart surgery she could come home! As soon as we arrived at our house the very first thing she asked to do was go outside and sit on the swing. Once again: crazy. 

Early on L had a lot of limitations. She mostly napped that first post-op week, took pain meds, and was sore. Many people gifted her with books and crafty things and so she colored, molded, sketched, created, and read. Since she could not lift anything over 5lbs, be in public, or do anything that might lead to a fall she could not run, dance, skip, do stairs, ride her bike, swing high, use the slide, climb anything, attend school or Mass, and so on. But a friend from church dropped off the hula hoops her daughters used to play with - 20 some years ago! - and L became a master hooper! Thank God - literally - that Chris was moved to bring those hula hoops over because they were *just* what L needed - something physical, something new to master, and something that was allowed by the surgeons. Several times a day she'd walk around our house, hooping as she went. She'd hula hoop for minutes - over 8 minutes straight once - and even do the chicken dance while hooping! 

With special permission from her doctors L was able to attend the last day of school, two weeks post-op. As a family we went to the all school Mass and she got to sit with her class, though she had to wear a face mask and she carried her cough-buddy penguin. As a special treat she made heart-shaped sugar cookies for her classmates, which she and her daddy took to her class after the Mass. She chatted with her friends and was able to thank them for their prayers. 

At this point L is able to swim, slide, swing, run (with shoes - no flip flops!), and do most of her usual activities. She cannot roller skate, ride her bike, climb trees, or play contact sports until November (so that her sternum is not re-broken) but otherwise she is free to live her life. One of the beautiful things about this time is that L has really fallen in love with reading. In the past the only books she really read were the Junie B. Jones series but now she's been plowing through the Lemony Snicket books, has started the Narnia books, and has read The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, and a few others along the way. 

Over and over again I have said that how well L is doing is a testament to the power of prayer and modern medicine. To everyone who sent money or gift cards or presents or prayers: thank you! Our family was so well cared-for during those difficult hours, days, and weeks and we are so grateful. Learning that L had heart issues was terrifying and we were so scared about the surgery. I admit I was angry at God for giving us another hardship to endure. But on this side of it I also have to admit that we had it easy. L had one surgery, it went well, her incision has healed well, and she has a 99.9% chance of going on and living a normal, healthy life - free to do whatever she wishes - once her body is completely healed. So many heart kids have repeated surgeries and they and their families truly are suffering for a long, long time. We had a community of loved ones supporting us. We were blanketed in prayers. Our daughter is healthy and alive. We are so fortunate and honestly, looking back at the tantrums I threw in prayer I am embarrassed. We've had it so easy. May God comfort and restore those who have not. 

And once again I very sincerely want to say Thank You to everyone who has prayed for us, cared for us, and gifted something to us. I am slowly working on sending out Thank You cards and I'm really hoping that in the chaos that was our life we didn't leave any of the gifts off our record log. Please know that we are so grateful - to God and to you. 

Spiritual bouquet embroidered by Jenna from Call Her Happy

June 7, 2017

A Happy Announcement

Some of you may have been wondering and some of you even guessed and now this is the announcement some of you even asked about.

We are incredibly happy and give thanks for this gift.

And now if you have some prayer intentions please send them my way because I have some discomfort I can offer up for you.