Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That "Crazy-Religious" Relative

I sent out my Christmas cards very early this year- two days after Thanksgiving to be exact. The reason is because I am that "crazy- religious" relative- or that is what I'm sure everyone is thinking right now. 

Last year was the first year my family did the St. Andrew Novena which starts on November 30th and not-so-coincidentally, it was the most meaningful Christmas I've every experienced.  I wrote about it here.

Ever since, I've been trying to spread this special devotion to everyone I know. So, naturally, I included little novena cards with every Christmas card this year. I had to get them out early before the novena would start.  All the while, I second guessed myself thinking: is this too tacky? What am I- a religious order?? Only religious orders send prayer cards in the mail... I'm not even consecrated!

I'm pretty sure everyone already knew I was a "crazy-religious" person,  but just in case they didn't- the cat's out of the bag.  It might be a little strange to include something like this in a Christmas card, but in the end, it's not about me.  If one relative reads the prayer and has a more meaningful Christmas, it will all be worth it.

In case you are not on my Christmas card list, here is a link to a beautiful printable prayer card that Lena from Joy Filled Family made for you.

Also, here is the story that I have shared before of Julie Cragon's powerful testemony of the St. Andrew Novena.  I know there are many other miracles out there associated with this prayer- maybe there is even one waiting for you this year.   Have a blessed Advent!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Feeling Thankful

As the sun is setting on a great visit from my mom and sister, I am thankful for all the memories that my family and I will hold on to until we see each other again. 
  • For the laughter of the kids as they played silly games with Katie
  • For the help around the house and always having a clean kitchen!
  • For shared joy in the 12 month old's constant cuteness
  • For warm walks outside
  • For good food shared with good company
  • For watching old movies and eating popcorn
  • For the unconditional love that only a mom can give
For all these things, I am feeling thankful.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mary's Shelter Fundraiser

Thank you to Mary who took pictures and posted this great article on the Mary's Shelter Fundraiser (and added pictures of the stuff I made as well :-) 

I still have some things left over from from the fundraiser (if you see in the pictures, I made a lot of stuff!) so I am thinking of having a blog giveaway in the coming week.   

BTW: I scored some great handmade things from local artists as well including the cutest handmade little boy's (wool?) sweater made by Mary Gildersleeve.  I love owning handmade things! So much more special than something made in China.  This sweater will be treasured for generations. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am feeling very blessed to have my mom and sister at my home.  Here is a picture from the Turkey Trot this morning in Fredericksburg. It was Eric and my sister, Katie's first 5K.  They started the day off right and had a great time! Now back to helping Mom cook up a fabulous feast...

Happy Thanksgiving to  you and yours!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project Detox: On Hold for The Holiday

Grandma's in town!! I guess this candy/sugar/carb/junkfood thing will go out the window while Grandma's here. You can see why...

Gifts from Grandma

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What You Did to the LEAST of These...

Lord, when did I see you naked, hungry, sick, needing a hug, help with a craft, help finding a lost blanket, needing a book read or a help putting together a puzzle? When Lord, when?

This week for Pondering in My Heart Monday, I'm thinking about Sunday's Gospel.  Mathew 25: 31-46

After I spent most of Sunday lamenting my loss of 'rest', I went to Mass in the evening to hear Jesus say that I actually could have been doing all those things for him if I weren't doing those with such a scowl.  It really put me in my place and I asked Jesus once again to change my heart of stone and give me a new one.

My husband has to work on Sundays, so I don't get his help to make Sunday a day of rest.  No, I spend all day chasing after three kids as they gallivant around the house, making messes where ever they go.  So much for NOT working on Sundays. With young kids (ages 1, 2 and 5), you don't get a choice. Everyday, all day is hard work.   They don't care if it's the Lord's Day.  They will still need every meal and snack served to them and cleaned up for them, still need someone to help them get changed, change their dirty diapers, wipe their butts, noses and faces,  read their books, play their games, clean up their games, break up their fights, wipe tears, make all things right, help them all day with everything and care deeply about them.  You want to spend just 15 minutes of quiet time reading the bible, praying, and resting today, momma? Good luck with that!

I really shouldn't have been complaining about how I never get a break or giving harsh scoldings about how I have to clean up all their messes all day long.  Sure, they could have been a little more careful and clean up after themselves a little more (at least the five year old), but it should have been an honor to do unto the LEAST of these as I would have done unto Jesus.  I just thank God I get a new day to try harder to be a more generous servant so I can hear Jesus say, come, you honored servant. You saw me naked and clothed me, you saw me needing breakfast and fed me, you saw me sick and wiped my snotty nose, you saw me needing a kiss on my boo boo and kissed it- even if it was my dirty foot...come into my Kingdom.

Lord, help me not be a begrudging servant. Help me to serve you in the little people around me with all gentleness and love.  Amen.
Join Heidi for more great Ponderings!

Matthew 25: 31 - 46
31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
37 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
40 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
44 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?'
45 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'
46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Project Detox: Part 2- The Search for Hunger

...Continued from Part 1

The breaking point that lead me to Project Detox was the second day my husband left.  Usually when my husband leaves, I don't even put up a fight for dinner. It's a meal that they like because I don't want to fight that battle alone. So the first meal looked like this:

Day 1: Breakfast: regular concessions- meaning I make what they order: a.k.a waffle house, mommy style
           Lunch: normal convenient food for lunch- with plenty of concessions. I usually make what they kids request.
           Dinner: pizza followed by smores.

Day 2 Breakfast: regular concessions for breakfast
          Lunch: Mc Donald's chicken nuggets and fries- not a regular occurrence, but probably once or twice a month.
          Dinner: tortellini and broccoli for, which I thought was a safe food until it was left untouched even after a full hour and half of a little boy sitting in front of his dinner plate.

At that point, I knew it was something I had done.  I knew I had spoiled their appetite with too much convenience foods. Their taste buds had been spoiled to the point that they didn't even recognize a good meal when they saw one.   What boggles my mind is how they would rather go hungry than eat the healthy food in front of them. Which is exactly what they have been doing since I stopped given them what they want. Going hungry. Amazingly they don't seem to mind all that much- so maybe they just aren't hungry enough?

After identifying the two main reasons why they don't eat the food in front of them, I decided to start what I call, Project Detox.  I am detoxing them from convenience foods and foods that they normally would love to gobble down.  Including sandwiches and bread.  Some people think these are not healthy anyway, so I figure it can't be bad to leave them out all together if it's going to kick start the hunger gene in my kids.  I know it's buried some place in their DNA!

Along with foods that they normally like, I'm trying not to give them any sugar. No juices, no chocolate milk, no cookies, crackers, or any snack foods laden with sugar.  Sometimes I give them a snack between breakfast and lunch, but it's never anything more than a piece of fruit or a cheese stick. Once I gave them a snack before dinner. It was steamed broccoli with lemon.  I think it fit well into the theme of Detox week!

However, right now the point is not how healthy the snack is.  I just want get them hungry enough to eat their meals.  So if it means skipping a snack, even though they may be hungry and it may be healthy, I am trying not to give it to them if I think they don't need it.  I know it sounds harsh, and believe me I hate doing it, but I keep reminding myself that they are never going to eat their dinner if they don't experience true hunger!

We've been reading Farmer Boy and we're hearing about how Almanzo looks forward to his mom's cooking.  There is nothing processed nor convenient about they way she cooks. It's honest, good food. It's healthy and hearty and that boy laps up every bite. He even looks forward to his mom's meals!  He has a real appetite, which is something I don't know if my kids have.    Reading Farmer boy has made me see how my situation is not normal.  Kids should like the food put in front of them, or at least be hungry enough to eat it.

The other major component to Detox Week (or however long it takes) is to not give any concessions.  After tortellini night, I gave the kids a long lecture about what the rest of the week's meals would be like. It went something like this: tough love, baby.  You get what you get, and you don't pitch a fit.

 Stay tuned for Part 3- The Hunger Saga Continues and New Food Choices? (with a question mark because I am confused).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Project Detox: Part 1

I don't know if it was my husband being gone for a week or the inspiration of Farmer Boy by Laura Engels Wilder, or the late night reading of a certain crazy health blog. Maybe it was just the perfect storm.  Whatever the case, an untouched plate of tortellini and broccoli was the last straw.

The kids have been driving both hubs and I nuts for about their food pickiness for years, but I kept thinking it was going to get better if we just persevered.  Their pickiness is not the cause of some serious health or mental issue, and it's not so serious that they can't eat good food- it's just that they won't unless there is non stop coaxing/threatening/rewarding or fork feeding involved.  Dinner time is utterly exhausting for my husband and I.  It's pretty ridiculous when a two and five year old would rather be fed by an adult than pick up their own fork and eat what's in front of them.  Whatever happened to having an appetite for food- real food? Not just for chicken nuggets, pizza, french fries, and sometimes spaghetti.  It's not a healthy appetite if they only eat these processed, nutrient stripped foods willing.  This just can't be normal!

So after "persevering" for years with no signs of improvement, I decide something else needed to change. I realize that this is probably my fault they don't eat well. Not that I haven't tried every trick in the book!  But it has to be something that I did or didn't do, since most other kids I know have healthy appetites and eat the food that's front of them.  Sure, everyone has a few foods they don't like, but with my kids, it's almost every healthy meal!  I don't know if kids through out all of history have ever had a problem with eating the food's that given to them until the dawn of processed foods.   It seems that this is sudden epedemic that is baffeling many parents now.  There has to be a reason and my hunch is that convience foods are spoiling our kids' appetites.

My husband is a huge relief in this food battle and without him at the table, I just feed the kids whatever is quickest and most convient so they eat without a hassle.  So that means for breakfast and lunch, my kids get all their favorite foods. Pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheese on toast, oatmeal, cereal (sometimes all in the same meal since concessions were always made for each child). Then for lunch it's a PB sandwhich, ham and cheese sandwhich, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese sandwhich or tortilla stuffed with cheese and beans.  The only meal of the day I will not give them what they want is dinner.  Does this sound like it might be part of the problem?  It does to me.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Project Detox...

Customer Support and Inspiration

As you know, putting aside my artistic pursuits and business opportunities hasn't been easy these past 6 months.  However, the support and encourage I have received from people who express interest in my work is unbelievable.  Whether they are past or future customers, people have come forth and shared their words of wisdom and given some much needed pats on the back.

One such person recently shared her story of putting aside her work for the good of her family. Here's the encouraging and inspirational email I received from her:

Hi Sarah,
I understand how hard it is to do everything. Art requires so much focus and uninterrupted time. I chose to put my art aside while I homeschooled my six children.I knew for me that when I was involved in an art job, I did not like to be interrupted, including having to stop to make dinner! So I set it aside because I didn't want my kids to feel like they were an interruption. Now I have only a 15 year old at home and even with just one I have to be careful not to get too absorbed in my work. It was a sacrifice because it was the one thing I excelled at and being a mother and teacher at home was not something that came naturally.
In the end, I knew that my children were more important than anything I could create with my hands and I was shaping and molding them into something beautiful for God with eternal value.  ---Jill
 Jill's story speaks to me about how sacrifice is undeniably related to motherhood.  Sometimes I try to hide this component with the rest of the world for the sake of the showing the joy and blessing of children, but I think it's also good for the world to see that in sacrifice, there also is joy.  A lasting peace and joy that the world cannot give.  Thank you Jill for sharing your story with me!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Break Out Session

Nothing like friends and crafts! I'm taking my friend, Chance's lead and hosting a craft night for a few friends to make these fun accessories:
flowery necklace

Girl's hairband

These were so easy to do (and quite additive!)   Just follow these directions for your own fabulous necklaces, hairbands, clips, broaches, you name it.  I can't wait to make some more!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Changing Friendships- For Better or Worse

I usually don't share blog posts, but this time, I just have to share this one by Susie Lloyd. It's like she crawled inside my head and wrote down what I was thinking about more friends in my past than I can count.  It makes me see how us women are all made out of the same stuff.  Just when I think no one could be having the same problem, or thinking the same way I do about something, I realize that it's not just me thinking this way- we are all connected- especially us women in a deeper way than I realize most of the time.

As far as those friends in my past go, if I could crawl inside their heads, I would see and understand and forgive.  In heaven, we will all be able to understand each other perfectly.  For now, I need to give the benefit of the doubt and love as Christ loves.

Because really, what is friendship all about, but a pal to lead you to heaven? If I make it all about me, that's when I start to take offense about all the little things. But if the friendship serves a deeper purpose, I shouldn't be too concerned whether or not the person wants to continue being my friend or not. I am not the point- it's really all about Jesus.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Receiving the Eucharist Like Mary Did

Yesterday as I went up to Communion, I looked up and saw the Mary statue.  For awhile now, I've been praying the simple prayer, "Immaculate Heart of Mary, make my heart like yours" per the suggestion of a priest at confession.  Immediately after doing so, I thought about how receiving communion was much like Mary receiving the Lord at the Annunciation. I tried to think about how Mary must have felt to be called by God to receive Jesus into her and then how it felt to have our Lord within her human body.  Now that I'm home, and have a few less distractions and more time, I recall the exact words of Mary and how she felt. It goes like this:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever. 

(Lk 1:46-55)

Next time I receive communion, this will also be my prayer and I will again try to receive our Lord like Mary did- with a humble and lowly heart, full of praise and thankfulness.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One already!

Happy Birthday to my little pumpkin today!  I can't believe it's been a year and he's already one.

His first cake
We had his birthday party last week in Maryland with my husband's family. He ate some yummy chocolate pumpkin cake and we got some great pictures. 
Catching snowflakes in mouth

We even got to see the snow in Maryland. It didn't snow here at all.  The kids were super stoked!  Liam screamed at the top of his lungs, "It's snowing!!" over and over again.  Can you tell which of my kids was born in Colorado?? Yes, that would be my snow-loving Liam.

Jude looks so much like Liam was he was this age.  He's at such a fun age right now. Next year, I'll be pulling out my hair, I'm sure.  For now, it's all cuteness.
Jude kept licking this plant..I think it was edible!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Lot of Saints

It seems like almost everyone I know is going through a rough spot in their lives- and as one friends said today- "there's a lot of need".  The homeschooling group I belong to and the mom's group from Church is very good about getting out meals to those who just had a baby, are going through some kind of physical disability, or other extreme circumstance.  Making one meal, though, just doesn't seem like enough for these families who are going through hard times. I want to be there for them in a more substantial way to ease their burdens.  But how can I- when I am already worn thin, barely able to put together an extra meal, help out another who is in even more need?

Today, on all Saints Day, I am reminded of how God, in his infinite wisdom, already thought of this.   There's a cheering squad in heaven willing and ready to help each of us, no matter how desperate the case.   It gives me hope to think of the multitudes up there sending their speedy help in the form of prayers.  They are my special friends who know what I'm going through and are encouraging me in ways more powerful than I will ever know.  I may be in the shadow of the valley, but my friends next to God are cheering for me to continue on.

Today I am reminded I am not alone and neither are my friends in need.