1978, on the ‘Shire

Our house, which I might call the ‘Shire (though it is nothing like where Bilbo Baggins lived), was built in 1978. It is full of vintage charm, and drawers that stick to prove their age.

I’m not sure the (unpictured) black toilet is original to the house, but I am willing to bet the light fixtures and curtains are! Enjoy the peek at the Shire!

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There is a laundry chute that dumps out in pantry.

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Stained glass in one of the doors and a window.

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I plan to replace these brown-colored curtains. They are in the master bath, which has the black toilet. Also in this room? An R2D2 shower head my husband received for his birthday. Maybe I need to sew some Star Wars curtains.

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About 5 minutes ago, Small Fry tried climbing this staircase. He learned to crawl only last week.

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It’s a built-in ironing board! Needs a new cover, but otherwise, functional!

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Not vintage, but I love the kitchen window. Although, I think this Mary was my great-grandmother’s, and the blue Ball jar is definitely an old one, so vintage it is!

Now, back to folding packing paper and collapsing boxes and figuring out how many broken things need repairs and replacing. So far, we have 2 broken bookshelves, a broken bedframe,

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a broken washer, a dented dryer, broken curtain rods, a missing china cabinet shelf, and broken tricycle. Such a mess.

Family-Friendly Movies for All Year

(affiliate links included. I receive a portion from the retailer if you buy through my link, which helps me keep drinking coffee…er, helps me keep blogging!)

Yesterday, I mentioned the film I turned on for my boys, Ben Hur. It is produced by CCC America, along with several other delightful saint and hero stories. A few years ago, I bought an entire set during their summer sale. Now they also have additional films and documentaries, like one about Saint John Paul II, which I can’t wait to check out.

Interested? Go and see for yourself! The great summer sale starts today, for 60% off!! Don’t miss it!

Moving In Sucks

Sorry for the slang, but it is true.

Moving in is hard, tedious, tiring, and feels never-ending. The kids are overwhelmed and restless. Mom and Dad are overwhelmed and annoyed with all the broken things we keep finding, and annoyed with the randomly packed boxes, making it hard to find things.

The kitchen is a big work in progress.
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On Sunday, we spent hours and dollars starting to fill the frigde. I wasn’t expecting the cost of peanut butter to be nearly double what we used to pay! After weeks of not cooking, I made time and counter space to cook last night. It was so good to sit and eat together, and have a homemade meal.
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The washing machine is broken. Fence is–at this moment–trying to fix it. It’s not like we have 8 people in the family, and haven’t done laundry in a week… We probably have 4 loads right now needing washing. Something tells me that a laundromat is in our future, as well as new appliances.

Yesterday, our 3rd day in the house, I found clothes and hangers, so the kids have most of their clothes in their drawers and closets now. Mine and hubs are still in boxes. I think getting the kids’ things out and somewhat organized will help them settle in to the house quicker. I hope.

We also found the movies. There’s a great closet for storage, right in the room we set up the TV, so the movies and games are out of reach. Small Fry learned to crawl in the last week, so keeping all the things out of reach is a big deal now!
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While I unpacked and organized clothes, I turned on a movie for the kids, which they hadn’t seen yet! It kept the boys out of trouble for about 40 minutes. 😉
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Today, we’re taking a small break from unpacking, and dipping our toes in the ocean! Can’t wait to see the littlest boys’ faces! They’ve only known mountains until now.

Check back later this week, I’ll have news about a huge sale on great kid’s movies!

Words on My Walls, and a Giveaway

I’ve spent the last 3 years covering our walls with photos and art, and now I am in the process of taking it all down. Bare walls seem sad and lifeless to me. Thankfully, they’re also great blank canvases for family photos and kid art and word art.
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This is my sewing and craft room, and I am sooo going to miss this space! It has beautiful sunlight, a nice wall behind my sewing table and machine, a great closet for storage. Even with my “not quite balanced” arrangement, I love looking at this wall. It makes me happy. The large photo is a print I had done from a phone pic I snapped on an evening run. I have an image of Mary, a darling photo of my girls from years ago when they didn’t mind dressing up and taking photos, and two prints by artists I super-duper admire.

I want to point out my newest one. It’s from Just Love Prints. Lindsay also sent me a second print, for one of you!

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Isn’t it pretty? And I love the words. They are inspiring any time, but particularly poignant to me right now. Moving is hard. So much is unknown; it can ne overwhelming thinking about what the future holds. St. John Paul II reminds me to be confident, and hopeful with trust in our Lord’s plan.

I’m still working on that. With our dryer breaking 2x this week, and our house plans not quite 100% settled, and all the other moving things that are bound to happen, it is hard to feel confident. Pretty much, anyone who sees me and thinks I’m handling this all well, sees my strong face that I wear for the kids. Otherwise, I’m clinging to the hope that it will all work out.

I can’t wait to find a new space for this lovely and cheerful print, once we find it again after unpacking.

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Enter the giveaway below!
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Lindsay also has a discount code for anyone to use in her shop, now through August! Use code SAINTS10 for 10% off!

Lately

**Winner for the Radiant Magazine giveaway was Kelly H.!!**

 

Lately, life has been full. Busy. Intense. Hard. Unexpected.

I have made mistakes, begged for grace, thrown my hands up to heaven in exasperation.

I have been up a mountain, in and out of snow boots and tank tops, shoveled, roasted marshmallows, pulled weeds, washed trucks.20160416snowApril

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In about 3 months, my husband and I will celebrate our 13th anniversary. In less than a month, we’ll have a new address. In less than a week, my kids will have finished another school year. Six years of homeschooling will be under my belt (but don’t think me an expert–I am more eclectic in our approach than expert!).

It is possible that the last 6-7 months have been among our hardest yet. A new baby, specialty doctor appointments for 3 kids, 2 surgeries for my hubby.

If I’m being completely honest, some days have been pretty darn hard. But I am not going to dwell on that. There is so much to do, that I simply cannot get caught up in how hard my days are. Finishing a school year is enough. Add in an up-coming move? The to-do list itself could possibly overwhelm me at any moment.

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Yes, life has been pretty hectic. In these last few months, we’ve also celebrated. Easter was beautiful and we spent a delightful afternoon at my parent’s house that day.

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On a Friday afternoon, we crowned Mary and ate donuts.

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Last weekend was our oldest son’s First Holy Communion.

Little Man makes his own smoothies now. This is huge. Any time a kid gains independence, especially in the kitchen, life is simpler.

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My oldest and I ran a 5K together. Through the fog and cold, up a mountain and back down. She beat me in her first-ever 5K! We’re pretty happy to have finished in under 45 minutes (even if just barely). I’m looking forward to more races together.

I escape with sewing, and soon I hope to share more details about a project and online shop opening.

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Life has been full. Hectic. Good. Please pray for us in the next several weeks, while we finish the school year and move!

Radiant Magazine Giveaway

Last week I was delighted when Radiant Magazine reached out to me. They’re offering one of my readers a print copy of their newest issue, set to release on May 15!

Radiant Magazine is a Catholic Magazine covering traditional topics of the Church and applying them to the modern lives of young women. Their new 2016 issue, Radiant Grace comes out in print May 15 and is available for pre-orders now: www.be-radiant.com. You can check out past issues online here: http://www.be-radiant.com/issues.html

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This new issue sounds so exciting! Packed with a fun fashion spread and modest (darling, too!) swimsuits from Jessica Rey, articles about St. Rita and St. Faustina, a letter written by a young mom who lost her premature baby to her older son about his little brother, ideas about detoxing your routine, and even information about a faith-inspired workout by Pietra Fitness. That’s not all!

I don’t know about you, but I love a print magazine. Flipping through the pages, admiring the photos, reading and re-reading the articles…Print can’t be beat! I am pretty sure I’m going to have to order myself a copy of the magazine!

Enter the giveaway below, and ONE WINNER will have an issue mailed to them by the Radiant team!
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A Child’s First Faith Activity Book {review}

You have about 230 days until Christmas to whip up some sweet gifts for the toddlers and preschoolers in your life. Don’t roll your eyes at me through the screen! I have a fabulous book to share with you, from Jen at Faith and Fabric.Felt Bible Activity Book for Quiet Time - Miracles of Jesus
The Miracles of Jesus is a brilliant activity and story book. Once assembled, it will be a perfect quiet book for Mass, storybook for bedtime, and activity book for any time. The pages tell the wonderful stories of Jesus’ miracles, engaging a child’s natural curiosity and need to feel and touch while also igniting their imagination about the miracles Jesus performed.Felt Bible Activity Book for Quiet Time - Open
As the pages turn, children will practice snaps and velcro and more. They will delight in stories about Jesus reaching out and making fantastic things happen in people’s lives. Each page shares the story of the miracle, an activity your child can do with the manipulatives on the “picture” page, and a short lesson. This is such a fun and creative idea. I cannot wait to get started on a few for my own littles and my Goddaughter.20160503miraclescraft

Grab your own copy here {affiliate link} and be sure to also follow the link in the ebook for a page on Jen’s site, dedicated to buying all the supplies needed! You don’t have to go to the craft store at all if you don’t want to, she has everything you need set up for ordering. The ebook also is packed with over 40 pages of clear instructions, templates, and printables.

Oh, even the less-craft-inclined can make this happen. You don’t have to sew very much, you can choose glue, and Jen has written such great instructions that this is totally possible for all levels of crafting. Have a blast with this. Your children and grandchildren and Godchildren will enjoy it so much!

Mary, Mary {celebrating the Queen of Heaven}

If you’re a mother, you know how delightful the first flowers picked and given to you by your child are–even when they are dandelions. And more often than not, the tiny bunches of flowers and hand-crafted bouquets brought to me are bright yellow poofs of dandelions, even still. Aren’t they sweet, though? Weeds or not, they are picked and bundled and given with love and a huge smile.

I’m 35 years old, but I feel more like a child bringing dandelions to my mother when it comes to honoring our Blessed Mother, Mary.

“Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” – St. Maximillian Kolbe

I want to do something special in her honor, and celebrate her love for us with my children. I want them to know her love and protection, and somehow I hope that celebrating in special ways with flowers and food and drink will spill over into their hearts, and make a lasting impression. I want our celebrations as a family to instill a love for our Blessed Mother that stays with our children for a lifetime.

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It’s nearly May. My days are so full (still) I can barely think in peace for 5 minutes, let alone come up with original ideas for a Marian celebration.

Thank goodness for wiser women who have done the planning already! All I have to do now is gather a few ideas and make them happen, praying that even my simple attempts at honoring our Blessed Mother will delight her as much as thoughtful gestures from my children delight me.

Here are the ideas I’ve picked from the myriad of great suggestions in the blogosphere. Please share what traditions and ideas you have for your family, too!

Make some food to enjoy, combined with some prayers in honor of Mary. I like the idea of tea and treats, personally. Catholic Cuisine has more ideas than I could ever try, so take your pick! I especially like the idea of herb tea to go with food. It wouldn’t be a celebration without a sweet treat, such as macarons blue macarons(which I love to make for Marian feasts), or meringues like a throne of clouds for the Queen of Heaven, or cake.

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Flowers. Of course, any flowers will be a lovely addition to your table and prayer space, but if you are wanting to bring a little symbolism into your floral choices, consider any of these, including roses, lilies, geraniums, and so many more.

Prayer. Anything Marian, such as the Hail Holy Queen, Memorare, or Rosary. I might see about memorizing the Hail Mary in Latin this month. Another special idea is to consecrate your family and children under Mary’s protection. You can use a simple prayer such as this or this, or if you are more ambitious, try the 33-day preparation/self-retreat as St. Louis de Montfort promoted.

I will probably choose a weekday and use many these ideas as part of a special Marian celebration, and crown our statue of Mary. Why not a weekend? It just happens this year that most of our weekends are already full, so a weekday will work better and stand out more to my children. Choose any day that works best for your family!

“If you ever feel distressed during your day, call upon our Lady, just say this simple prayer: ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now.’ I must admit, this prayer has never failed me.”
– Blessed Mother Teresa

Of Swim Lessons, Life Lessons, and Blizzard Forecasts

It’s a Friday afternoon in the middle of April, and I’m sweating in my hoodie and jeans at a swim lesson. The humid air is almost stifling, feeling a bit to my physical senses the way life feels to my emotional and introverted self.

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In the last several weeks, we have faced surgery, move news, Easter, and scheduled another surgery. Add in homeschool, homework for the regular school kids, re-doing homework when the toddler attacks, and oh, dinner, laundry, errands, sleep…

I am tired. Spent. Yearning for quiet, prayer-time, answers, time with my husband.

Problem is…none of it is happening without more effort on my part.

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Exerting effort when I am exhausted makes me cranky, but not putting in the effort for prayer or quiet or sitting for 10 minutes with Fence before we both crash makes me even crankier.

It’s been weeks since we had time (made time?) for Chickadee to swim, something that she loves and has helped her in a rough several months. Today, we’re here, and honestly, as much as I hate the interupption to the afternoon and the dinner that still needs prepping as soon as we step in the door, I am glad we made the effort to be here.  Hard things are upon us, and a few more weeks of being able to swim will hopefully help Chickadee come out on top, still positive and hopeful for new things this summer.

I need to do the same for myself, make the effort to do what gives me life and brings calm, so I can also face the next several weeks with grace and strength. God-willing, I can be a source of strength for all these little people who will undoubtedly have several meltdowns between now and settling into a new place and routine.

My brood has been learning some key life lessons this week, taking every ounce of grace and energy I have, plus my introverted word-quota for the entire month. We’ve covered respect of self, others, the beauty of body and soul, respect for bodies, self-defense, the importance of good family relationships before friends…  I am so glad to have these conversations with them, to guide them and build them up. But you guys, there aren’t enough quiet moments or Oreos or Doctor Who on Netflix to recharge me. Or are there?

Maybe not Oreos or Doctor Who episodes, but there are quiet moments. Hiding in the stillness of the moments before the boys wake and tummies growl for breakfast, there are my quiet moments. Before Small Fry was born, I often woke up by 6am to pray and declutter my head and the counters, prepping for the day. I’m getting back into the habit, because those minutes in the stillness are life-giving. God breathes beauty into my day with the sunrise, and fills my heart with grace in prayer. The “Heroic Minute” challenge hosted by at the Saints 365 blog is inspiring me to get up even when I’d much rather not. Those short minutes really do make a difference in my day.

Of course, I still want a day of going nowhere so I can sew and declutter and sort our homeschool books. Tomorrow’s forecast, full of winter storm warnings, just might deliver the “stay-home” day I need.

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Most days, by the time I have 20 minutes of solid quiet, it is 9pm and I would rather not bother with words, spoken or typed. It’s probably part of being an introvert mom of 6 kids–there is not ever quiet here. I think, for a little while, I’m going to be quieter on the blog, until we settle down again and, routines kick in again. I do have some creative projects in the works, which will be exciting to share soon. Pray for us! I pray for you, too.

What Donuts and Habits of Learning Have In Common

Donuts. Yum. I certainly could go for a donut with my afternoon coffee…or anytime coffee.

And experiential learning? Learning because life and the world is exciting and mysterious and worth knowing about? The best kind. Every child ought to live with life-long learning as part of their very being. The pursuit of truth and goodness and beauty makes life grand. Textbooks simply do not and cannot satisfy our innate longing for these best things in life.

I desire for my children to want to learn, to always seek truth, to constantly push their personal limits. And so I am renewing my goal for providing experiences and opportunities to learn and grow. One way we have done this recently is with cooking and baking.

I love Food Network shows. “Good Eats” with Alton Brown (back in the day) helped inspire me in the kitchen. My kids love to watch “Cupcake Wars” and the occasional “Worst Cooks in America” episode. Several weeks ago, we watched an episode when the contestants learned to fry donuts. The inspiration and desire to fry homemade donuts was instant. Even my self-professed baking- and cooking-hater wanted to make donuts. I made it happen.

My 9 year old, Sweet Pea, was first to create a recipe. 20160112Mdonuts1She eats gluten-free, so her recipe was also gluten-free, and entirely from scratch. She wanted to make a yeast donut, so she added some yeast. In the end, they were successful enough to eat! 20160112Mdonuts4She learned about what to do differently next time (such as using more yeast), and even made her own glaze! While she mixed, she kept track of her ingredients on the dry erase board. 20160112Mdonuts3Let me tell you, it was all I could do to not insist she use more yeast; but this about her learning and experimenting, so I kept my mouth shut!

The next day, my 11 year old, Chickadee (the kitchen-hater), made her donuts. Processed with VSCO with c2 presetFor always declaring her dislike for all things baking and cooking, she went all-out and made a great batch of Krispy-Kreme copycat donuts. She found and followed a recipe, all the way through frying the donuts.

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You know what happened in all this? Learning. Experimenting. Tasting. Laughing. Problem-solving. Questioning. Exploring. All the things I want for them, happened with donuts. They were inspired by something, worked out a plan and a goal, and followed through to the end.

This kitchen experience was the first to kick off a new scrapbook/recipe journal for the girls. They wrote their recipes in a new notebook, and have since added several more creations. 20160121MrecipebookWouldn’t you know, my kitchen-hater has added more to it? I love this on-going experience. They are free to dream, plan, experiment, measure, taste, and create. They are keeping notes, writing recipes, and sharing the process in directions. So much critical and creative thinking goes on. I only say, “have at it!” and encourage them, then get out of their way!

I am so pleased with this new learning process for us. It may be gradual, but the habits forming and taking hold are so worth it. Finding inspiration, making a plan, experimenting with methods, writing down amounts and tools and processes…this is life-long. I cannot wait to see how these habits grow and spill into other areas of learning.