Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3 Reasons Why I Love Catholic Family Fun {and My First-Ever Blog Giveaway!}

Catholic Family Fun Giveaway

{Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless in exchange for an honest review.}

"If it helps, keep a rosary in your pocket and picture Mama Mary walking right beside you as you struggle to look past the domestic imperfections and embrace the smiles and pleasure that await you."

This quote, hidden among the array of wonderful ideas for family fun in Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless by Sarah A. Reinhard was music for my weary sole. These 35 words allowed me to sit up and relax and believe that this book is the real deal.

I don't know about you, but as a wife and mother, I make decisions all day long. I decide what time everyone needs to wake up. I decide what we're going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I decide if we can go to the library or if we need to go to the grocery store instead. I decide if the kids are dirty enough to require a bath or if we can get by one more day. So often, as moms, we make decisions without even thinking about it. It's just something that we do.

But often this constant decision-making mode leaves us exhausted. Our brains are on overload, and our bodies are fatigued. And when we get a lull in our day or are presented with a free Sunday afternoon, we can easily be all out of decisions. We are presented with time to do something fun, and we can't think of anything to do. So, we deem it board game day or movie night and call it good.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love board games, and our family has movie night once a week. But what about the other times that we spend together? What can we do?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a quick guide to help us along during those what-should-we-do-next moments? A guide that can simply tell me what to do and what I need in order to do it, so I can take a break from decision making?

Well, we have such a guide in Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless. Here are three reasons why I love this book:

Quick and Simple
Notice what words I used to describe this ideal guide: quick and simple.

In 2014, we are bombarded with images of the nearly impossible. Quick and simple have lost their true meaning. And yet, because the so-called quick and simple ideas are featured on a glossy, high-trafficeted blog or pinned 1,376 times on Pinterest, we think we should be doing them. That our lives, our families, our homes will be so much more blissful if we just DIY something so quick and simple, it will only take us two weeks to complete. Many of these ideas can leave the average mom feeling a little defeated. And as much as they might be pretty to look at, these ideas certainly aren't for me and my family. Because at the end of the day, I need simple and quick to retain their true definitions.

Enter Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless. This handy guide is for the tired-of-making decisions mom (or dad). It is a book filled with fun quick and simple ideas for the whole family to enjoy. And the reader gets to determine just how quick and simple she needs an activity to be.

For example, if you are having a particularly busy, hectic week, but some downtime or comic relief is in order, select an activity that requires little or no prep time and takes less than one hour! Something like Silly Story, where the family sits together and comes up with silly stories! Sarah even provides some story starters to help you out. This could be done anywhere: at the kitchen table, on the road, around the campfire. My husband and I have incorporated Silly Story into our family meetings. By ending the meeting with Silly Story, the kids keep focused during the important chat about family life, because they know there is a fun reward at the end!

What I love about the Silly Story idea (and many of the other ideas in this book) is that it brings laughter into the family! So often, life can be so busy and hectic that we forget to laugh and have fun. But it is one of the most essential aspects of family life, not only for our children but for ourselves, too. If we don't lighten up once in awhile, the weight of the world and of our to-do list will get too heavy, and we will break.

Many of the quick and simple ideas in Catholic Family Fun take less an hour to prepare. Some take 1-2 hours, and only a select few require more than that. The ideas are organized in the back by prep time, duration and cost.

For the Creatives-at-Heart
When my oldest children were really little, I wanted to be the mom who crafted the day away with her kids. I wanted to be the mom who was spontaneous and carefree and loved glitter. But trying to be someone who I'm not just ended up being frustrating. Crafts rarely go as planned, and rather than going with the flow, I would feel anxious and frazzled. So, I have learned to leave the painting and creating to my art-major husband.

Sometimes, however, on a rainy day when my husband is at work, the kids and I need a creative outlet. And so I turn to Sarah's doable craft ideas for inspiration, because she admits she is not crafty either!

It is hard to pick a favorite craft idea from Catholic Family Fun, but if I had to, I'd probably pick Homemade Greeting Cards, because it is something my kids and I have done and have found to be so rewarding, not only for the recipient but also for the creator. Sarah takes it a step beyond birthday and get-well cards, and she gives us so many more ideas about what kinds of greeting cards we can make. I especially like her faith-based card ideas, which brings me to the final reason why I love Catholic Family Fun so much!

Weaving in the Catholic Faith
Most of the ideas in Catholic Family Fun are ideas any family could do. They include nature hunts, picnics, obstacle courses and trips to the zoo. But throughout the book, Sarah provides "faith angles" to many of these general activities, in order to give parents ideas on how to incorporate the Catholic faith into the ordinary and everyday aspects of our lives.

More Than Enough Mary Garden
Planting a Mary Garden is just one of many wonderful ideas for family fun in Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless by Sarah A. Reinhard. This is my family's Mary Garden.

For example, one of Sarah's ideas is to have an Unbirthday Party, which basically includes things you would expect at a birthday party, like cake and balloons. But an unbirthday party obviously takes place on a non-birthday day. And if you add a twist of faith, you can easily plan an unbirthday party to coincide with a baptismal day or favorite saint's feast day.

This simple idea renewed our family's commitment to celebrating the patron saint feast days in our domestic church. There have been times where we have been really good at this, and other times that we have missed some. But with a little planning (i.e., writing my kids' feast days on my calendar) and preparing a favorite dessert, we have family fun that also celebrates our Catholic faith!

In addition to adding a twist of faith to everyday activities, such as scavenger hunts and backyard circuses, Sarah also devotes an entire section of her book to specific faith-building ideas, including planting a Mary garden and finding several uses for holy cards. There also is a section of service project ideas, so we can put our faith into action.

How about you? Could you use a little help in the family fun department? Would it be nice to have a resource, so you can take a little break from decision making and let this book be your guide?

Thanks to Sarah's generosity, I am offering the chance to win a free copy of Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless for you and your family to enjoy! This is my first-ever blog giveaway, and I am really excited about it! Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, and be sure to tell your friends about it!

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Friday, July 18, 2014

7 Quick Takes :: Saving the Best for Last


Summer is zooming by! It's not going exactly as I planned, but it's going ... This week included basket ball camp for two of my children and run club for my four daughters. I am learning that my younger children are content with running and playing outside, while my older ones require a bit more structured activity. Is this common or just unique to my children?


My husband Greg had this week off from work, because he is between jobs. Last week, he finished a nine-and-a-half-year stint at Target, and next week he begins a brand new chapter in his career at a software development company. If one didn't know it, he landed this new job rather quickly, but it has taken several years of patience and prayer for God to bless him with just the right job for him. When you watch someone wait on the Lord, you cannot help but be overjoyed when those prayers are finally answered! I often feel like I am going to burst with excitement for my husband's new job! I am SO happy for him!


As much as I am trying to appreciate the leisurely schedule of summer, I am starting to think a little bit about back to school, too. I love fall for many reasons, but one reason is that we can get back into daily routines that we just can't seem to keep, no matter how hard we try, in the summer. So, after a month-and-a-half of vacation mode, I am ready to get back to the comfortable, cozy rhythm that sharpened pencils and new crayon boxes bring to my family.

I also am thinking about back to school, because I don't want to save the preparations for the last minute. It is a BIG job purchasing school supplies, shoes, socks, outgrown uniform items, etc. for five children. Oh! And we can't forget hair cuts! The to-do list for back to school is quite long, so I hope to work on it over the next several weeks, so we can have fun with it and feel peaceful during the days leading up to the first day of school! I purchased this Back To School Survival Guide to help me along.


Meal planning continues to be a really big obstacle for me. I admit: I don't love to cook. I do it, because I need to feed my family, and it's not like I'm bad, but I struggle with wanting to do it. Can anyone else relate? Anyone? And if you can relate, what do you do to get over it?

Yesterday, I signed up for eMeals with the hope that if I can just follow a meal plan, eventually I will be able to create a meal plan, too! I've tried it before, and the meals are delicious and kid-approved! I am trying the Aldi plan this time, because that is where I do about 80-90% of my shopping these days.


This week I was blessed to have coffee with a new friend! Her name is Michelle, and she is such a lovely, faith-filled woman! I was totally edified by our conversation, and I am grateful that God has put her in my life.


Today, we visited the Toy Exhibit at the Minnesota History Center. The display featured toys from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. It was wonderfully put together, with the vintage furniture and classic toys. I loved how there were ash trays on just about every end table. (Not really loved, but boy did it take me back!)

What touched me the most were some of the quotes by people who loaned their toys to the exhibit. Toys were so much more precious to children back in the day. They didn't have an overabundance, and when they did receive a toy, it was treasured. They knew it was a big deal for the parents to give them something so frivolous, in that it was not a basic necessity. One gentleman wrote,

"Back in the early '50s, we did not have excess money, but my parents were overly generous to us at Christmas. They scrimped and saved the rest of the year. At Christmas, we were allowed one present that 'if it is the only present you received for the rest of your life ... what would it be?' My wish was for a train."

Wow! Have times changed! This really made me think about the toys my own children have ... and their gratitude toward them. Hmmm.


Last, but certainly not least, we were honored to have a very special guest over last evening for light fare and dessert. Bishop Cozzens is newly ordained to our Archdiocese, and we knew him back when he was Fr. Cozzens. He oversaw our marriage preparation as well as presided at our wedding Mass, almost 13 years ago. I will always be grateful to him for truly investing in us and guiding us through everything we needed to know to begin our life together. To this day, his advice and words of wisdom continue to come to mind, from time to time.

We had such a nice time visiting with him. The kids asked him all kinds of fun questions, like "what is your favorite color vestment to wear?" (Red) And "what is your favorite Mass to celebrate?" (Easter Vigil and Holy Thursday)

What a wonderful time we had with Bishop Cozzens! We are grateful that he was able to take time out of his busy schedule to spend the evening with us!

Happy Weekend!
For more Quick Takes, please visit Conversion Diary.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Small Success Thursday: Everything is Awesome

One day, about a year or so ago, I was venting to a friend about my never-ending to-do list. As if she (or anyone else for that matter) didn't have one just as long as mine. She obviously understood my woes, but she also suggested the brilliant concept of the "done" list, which includes writing down the tasks (even the littlest ones) that I actually did throughout the day. Because, let's face it, we do so much more than what's on our to-do list, and we often don't take credit for it! Some of those things are give-ins, like tying shoes, putting on a band-aid or folding the laundry. But when the list is endless, sometimes we actually have to recognize those tasks as just as significant as those written on the list. Celebrating the small successes is really important. Because if we don't, we can tend to focus too much on what's not successful in our lives.

With my busy June and the Fourth of July in my happy memory, we have had a pretty normal week. But a few things come to mind that are highlighted successes in my book, and here they are:

I took all six of my children to The Lego Movie.
This is successful for two reasons:

1) It was fun! So often, my husband is seen as the fun parent, and I'm seen as the practical one. For the most part, it's fine and it works, but sometimes, I need the chance to be the fun mom! And what says "fun mom" more than taking the children to a movie at 10 a.m. and buying popcorn, pop and (sneaking in) candy!?

2) I remember after having my third child, I was overwhelmed by doing errands or going out by myself with all three of my girls. It was too unpredictable, and the cart was too crowded, and it was just easier to go by myself. Adding three more to the mix, I continued to be uncomfortable going places with all of the kids. But now that I have a tween who can go and get popcorn refills by herself and a 3yo who is almost potty trained, it is getting a bit easier to go out and about with all six of my children in tow. I still prefer to grocery shop by myself, but I didn't even think twice about taking them to the movie on Tuesday. Victory!

I researched window treatments and throw pillows at Target and took pictures of them in the process.
(The taking-pictures-in-Target part is what makes this a true success. I felt so fancy, like I totally know what I'm doing! Ha!)

Ever since I finished The Nesting Place, I have been thinking quite a bit about my house and how much of it is "undone" and why. I have been thinking, dreaming and planning about little things I can do now to complete the rooms in my home. I've even talked about painting and doing some bigger projects with my husband, but I also just want to do a few simple things to build my own confidence in the area of home decorating.

Pictured here are just a few possibilities, and I'll keep you posted on what I decide!

I added social media icons to my blog side bar.
I have wanted to do this for months, but to be honest, I had no clue how. But lately, the more I visit some of my favorite blogs and am introduced to new ones, the more I realize how sophisticated and pretty many blogs have become. They are beautiful! And I still have a simple blogger blog.

So in an effort to update and beautify, I decided to research how to add social media icons to my blog. I found a wealth of information, and it took awhile to sift through it all, but I finally found a great video tutorial by Blogaholic Designs, which makes adding social media icons to your blog totally simple! What a fabulous tutorial! I found my icons simply by searching for "free social media icons with goodreads." I am not on Twitter or Instagram, and I have considered leaving Facebook. But I love Pinterest and Goodreads! The whole process of searching and reading posts and finally finding the video did take me awhile (like most of the day). And I had to actually do the process of adding them a couple times to get the icon size just right, only to realize I could just make my sidebar slightly wider to make them fit nicely. (I am not very techy, as you can see. Thankfully, my DH is, but I don't always want to bug him with little things like social media icons for my little ol' blog! Not when I really want him to help me put up curtains!)

I am very happy with how the icons turned out! And I felt so accomplished when I completed this little project! Yeah!

So, what are your small successes this week? Remember, no success is too small to be acknowledged and celebrated! Not among us mamas with our never-ending to-do lists!

For more Small Success Thursday posts, please visit CatholicMom.com!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mid-Summer Daybook

Outside my window ...
Sunny and bright. A beautiful Monday following a beautiful Independence-Day Weekend!

Thanking God for...
+ quiet time with Him each morning
+ a fun, small-town celebration of the Fourth of July in the middle of Wisconsin
+ traditions, both old and new
+ freedom, may we never take it for granted
+ my husband's new job, which he starts two-weeks from today

Thinking about ...
My ever-growing to-do list and how little I've been able to accomplish lately. My oldest was in a play, The Pilgrim's Progress, the last weekend in June, and the entire month was filled with driving to and from rehearsals, plus two weeks of VBS. It was just a busy month, and my house is proof! But in an effort to let go of my perfectionism and not freak out completely, I'm trying to remain calm and patient with myself, as I chip away at putting things back in order.

On retreat last month, during spiritual direction, Father John said some very simple things that were balm for my weary soul. I want to expand on this in a separate post, but the gist of it is this: "Do not ask of yourself more than God does." This has essentially become my mantra, and it is helping my anxiety quite a bit!

Wearing ...
Um, I'm still in my PJs! It has been so nice to have more relaxed mornings this summer! Black capris, a grey shirt with embellished flowers & turquoise flip-flops.

Reading ...
I just finished The Nesting Place, and I LOVED it! A review will be coming soon (and hopefully some posts that share what I'm actually going to do with all of the amazing encouragement about decorating that IS this book).

I'm currently mid-way through Something Other Than God. And it's growing on me. I wasn't sure at first if I was going to like it as much as everyone else, and I'm not exactly sure why, but I am trying to figure that out. In the meantime, I am thinking a lot about the gift of faith, and how some people receive it so freely while others have more of a journey to find it. God works with each of us so uniquely, just the way we need Him to work with us. What an amazing and good Father we have to take care of each of us in such a specific, individualistic way!

Up next is The Little OratoryAn Everlasting MealGift From the Sea and The Practice of the Presence of God (not in this order).

Creating ...
All of the SAME knitting projects I've been talking about for months. Will I ever finish my husband's scarf, my mom's shawl or my Lenten prayer shawl? I am such a slow knitter, and while I don't have to put deadlines on things like knitting projects, I still look at them as long overdue, which causes unnecessary anxiety. Why do I this to myself?

Learning ...
I'd like the months of July and August to include a bit more review of math and reading. Some of the kids have workbooks to work on, and I have an audio book all ready for us to listen to at night. One of my kids is receiving some tutoring this summer, too.

We got the school supply lists in the mail last week, along with the school year calendar, but no one was very interested in looking at them. It's a bit too early to think about #2 pencils and book covers.

On the table ...
It was so nice NOT to cook this weekend! We had free breakfast at the hotel and family picnics for lunch. We feasted on leftovers or snacks in between and went out to dinner once. It was a great break from the kitchen, but now I need to make a menu plan for the week and go to the grocery store, so we get back to normal, healthy eating.

Plans for the week ...
The Lego Movie for $1 tickets
+ laundry
+ getting the house in order
+ finishing a couple incomplete projects
+ planning some home-decorating projects, based on inspiration from The Nesting Place

Praying ...

+ my husband's job transition
+ a family decision
+ family and friends

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I Place All My Trust in You!

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How are you celebrating?

I didn't grow up with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in my house. I grew up in a generation that did away with some of these most beautiful devotions, sometimes purposely and sometimes unknowingly. I think that is why I find these devotions, these prayers, these acts of love that connect us to the entire history—past, present and future—of the Catholic Church so incredibly edifying. I love the richness and the depth that these devotions bring to my prayer life and my personal relationship with the Lord.

Currently, we have a very simple picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our home, and it always gets placed in the most prominent of places during the month of June. But someday, I would like to have a more permanent image (perhaps with the Immaculate Heart of Mary) enthroned in our home.

Today, we attended Noon Mass at our parish. Each Friday, our pastor invites homeschool families to the parish for Confession, Adoration, Mass, lunch and a little lecture. Even though we don't homeschool, we've been invited to join this wonderful opportunity this summer.

Today after Mass, Father blessed and enthroned a brand-new statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Then, all of us knelt in front of the statue and made an Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart. What a beautiful way to celebrate this solemnity, and since it is a solemnity, we treated ourselves to ice cream on the way home!

Jesus gave 12 promises to all those who honor His Sacred Heart, through the apparitions to St. Margaret Mary. They are beautiful to ponder today and strive to practice everyday! After reading them, I think I need to speed up the enthronement process in our own home! We need that grace and peace ... big time!

The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart

1.  I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

2.  I will establish peace in their families.

3.  I will console them in all their afflictions.

4.  They shall find in My Heart a secure refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.

5.  I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.

6.  Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.

7.  Tepid souls shall become fervent.

8.  Fervent souls shall quickly rise to great perfection.

9.  I will bless the homes in which the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored.

10.  I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.

11.  Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.

12.  I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Heart shall be their assured refuge at the last hour.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You!

We made these Sacred Heart of Jesus tie-dye T-shirts a few years ago. I saw them on a blog and thought they were so cute!

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