Thursday, October 30, 2014

{phfr} 4th Birthday Edition!!!

Linking up with the lovely ladies over at Like Mother, Like Daughter. Congratulations to Rosie on her big announcement!!!

Last week, our family gained a 4 year old! Andrew also went out of town for a conference, we had a dear friend come stay with us, AND we drove up to Chicago to go to a baptism and visit family! Whew!!


I was so incredibly grateful for my beautiful, sweet, gentle friend, who stayed with us while Andrew was gone. The girls LOVE her, and she lightened my load considerably. In the less than 48 hours she was here, we also managed to make...a T-shirt quilt!!!!


While Andrew was gone, we also drove up to Chicago, where we got to attend our first ever extraordinary form baptism (which was beautiful!) and stay with Andrew's family. Andrew's best friend's daughter was the one being baptized, and Andrew couldn't be it took five Chronisters attending the baptism to make up for his absence. And still, everyone told us how disappointed they were that Andrew couldn't make it! That husband of mine has some big shoes to fill!

(Does anyone else think that priest vaguely resembles Sherlock?)


We had a little time in between Mass and the baptism, so we went to check out the giant bean in Millennium Park, since the girls had never seen it. Therese couldn't wrap her mind around it when we tried to describe it to her beforehand, but she seemed to like it once she saw it. Maria was unimpressed. ;-)


We also got to stop by the Art Institute (which was also a first for the girls). Therese actually recognized one of the paintings from a project she'd worked on with my sister (who is an artist and has even made some of the oil paintings in our home). Therese saw this particular painting and exclaimed, "I saw that picture with my Auntie!!"

All in all, a busy but lovely weekend. :-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flexi Review (and Giveaway!)

Okay you all...ready for a chance to win your very own Flexi Clip?!

Full disclosure: in exchange for this review, I was given a free Flexi clip and two bobby pins. Opinions are all my own.

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I've been wanting to try a Flexi Clip for a while, so when Mandi was looking for reviews, I happily offered!! For those of you who aren't familiar with Flexi Clips, they are one of the many beautiful hair products made by Lilla Rose (you can click on that link to browse their website). Lilla Rose makes bobby pins (a couple of which Mandi sent along for Therese!), hairbands, You Pinshair sticks, the Flexi Oh!, and, of course, Flexi Hair Clips of all sizes and styles! For my review, I selected the Flora Metals Flexi Hair Clip, size small. Mandi sent along helpful guide to figure out which size clip would be right for me.

So, a quick preface about my hair type. From the time I was small, I had naturally curly hair. But, after my last pregnancy with Maria, my hair became more wavy, and it is now in the process of turning curly again. Whew! That being said, my curls are and always have been of the looser variety, not corkscrew. When my hair behaves itself, it can look quite lovely. But a lot of the time, I find myself trying to tame the frizz beasts and I've been trying out some different hair products to help with that. Living in Missouri, with its abundant humidity, doesn't really help matters!

My hair isn't thick, but it also isn't thin. So I really had to think about what hair styles I wanted and which size clip would work best for me. I think that if I had hair with a more consistent texture and thickness throughout, it would have been a lot easier to select a clip size. I think I was hoping that I would be one of those lucky few who only really needs one size flexi clip to accommodate all their hair styles...but that I am not! I realized that I may eventually want to get a smaller flexi for the half pony tail style, and I may need a medium-sized one for a swept up look. Because my hair gets thicker as it goes down - very fine and only slightly wavy on top and then thicker and curlier as it falls - it's just tricky to find clips that work well!

That being said, I am trying to grow out my hair a bit, and I was really needing a good hair clip to keep it pulled back from my face. I needed something softer and more flexible, since I still lay down to nurse Maria a few times a day (and the harder hair clips tend to dig into my scalp when I do that). But I also needed something that would stay secure, and not come undone or pop open in the course of taking care of my little ones. I am happy to say that my Flexi Hair Clip met both those criteria!

I love that, even though it is a metal hair clip, it is so flexible that it doesn't really dig into your scalp. It moves with you! When I lay down to nurse Maria, or to take a nap (which is basically a must when you have a teething baby!) I can leave my Flexi Clip in, and it's so comfortable that I often forget that I'm wearing it. BUT it also holds my hair really well throughout the day, while we're doing school, or while I'm cooking or cleaning or writing or sewing or going for a walk...or whatever I have to do! Because of my hair type, it can be really hard to find a hair clip that holds on to my hair throughout the day, but the Flexi seems to hold up better than most. 

Aside from all that...isn't it also just gorgeous? I feel more beautiful and put together when I'm wearing it! I love that I can wear it everyday, but that it's also fancy enough for Mass or special occasions.

(Just as a side note...Therese loved her Bobby Pins and was super excited to try them out! They were the sturdiest bobby pins I've ever seen, and held her hair really well. That being said, I made the fatal mistake of letting her wear them in the car and I haven't seen them since. I can only assume that they are lost in the abyss between the girls' car seats? At any rate, I'll have to take a picture of them once I find them, because they truly are lovely.)

Want your own Flexi Clip?! I know you do! I'm thinking a may need to put some on my Christmas list this year. :-)

Mandi would be more than happy to help you select and purchase a Flexi Hair Clip of your very own! 

You can find her on her websiteon Facebook, or Instagram. For more about the story behind Lilla Rose, you can read the history of the company, or check out their promo videos on Youtube.

Want to win your own? Our very own Independent Consultant, Mandi Richards, is graciously offering you a chance to win one free Lilla Rose item valued at up to $16! (Sorry international readers, US residents only.)

1) Visit the Lilla Rose website and come back here and leave a comment telling me which Lilla Rose product you would pick if you won!

2) For an additional entry, like Mandi's facebook page and come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so.

Good luck, friends!! Giveaway open until the end of All Saints Day, Saturday, November 1 at 11:59 p.m.

And the winner is...


Rosie check your e-mail!! You've won a copy of Faith Beginnings: Family Nurturing from Birth to Preschool. Enjoy!

If you didn't win, never can hop on over and snag a copy of your own.

Thanks for playing everyone! Another giveaway coming your way later today, so stay tuned. :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

{phfr} The Beauty Captured by her Godmother...

Linking up with the lovely ladies over at Like Mother, Like Daughter. Be sure to check out the giveaway they have going for a rosary flip book! And don't is the last day of the giveaway I'm hosting on this blog, too! Click here to enter now if you'd like to win your very own copy of Faith Beginnings: Family Nurturing from Birth to Preschool.

On to some loveliness. :-)

Maria's godmother came to visit last weekend (with her newest addition in tow!) and she brought her fancy camera. She took some lovely pictures of our family, and especially of her sweet little goddaughter.


It is sooo rare to have people take nice pictures of you when you're a mother! Amy got some great ones that I can use as headshots (when the occasion calls for that sort of thing). I never seem to have good headshots when someone asks me to use one!


Seeing these two together always makes me happy. What is it about seeing your husband with your children that just melts a mother's heart?


Is being mischievous a second born thing? This girl is always trying to play with things she's not supposed to!


She could just live in my arms and lap. And honestly? I would happily let her. Alas...starting to just want to move, move, move...but only with Mommy close by, of course. ;-)

Have a lovely Saturday evening! Go Irish!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Plastic Toys are Helping Me Grow (in Holiness)

This is kind of following on the heels of why we don't Montessori anymore, but I've recently become more open to the benefits of plastic toys. In fact, I think plastic toys are helping me get to heaven.

What? What? Well, I used to be anti-plastic toys. I mean, not totally anti-plastic toys, but I was quite determined to keep plastic toys in our home to a minimal. (Honestly, I still am a little bit, because I still think that wooden and cloth toys are more beautiful.) But, lately, I've noticed something. Therese is drawn to certain plastic toys of ours in a way that she isn't to some of our wooden toys. I know, I know, the fact that they are bright and gaudy has something to do with it, but regardless, I can't ignore the fact that they serve a definitely purpose for her. Take the dollhouse pictured above, for example. We found that and a whole box full of accessories for $1. Yes, we have a beautiful, large wooden dollhouse, but I haven't been able to afford furniture for it yet (soon!). She plays with it, but without the accessories, it just isn't as fun. But this little dollhouse (complete with furniture, people, and cars0 we found for a buck? Hours of fun.

So, how does this relate to my holiness as a mom? 

It is so easy to approach motherhood the way you do everything else - research thoroughly, and apply your research, making decisions based on the data. It works for so many other big and small choices, right? But it doesn't always work with kids. I can have a definite idea in my head of what I do and don't want for my children, but if it doesn't fit their actual needs...well, then I just find myself stubbornly enforcing a system that doesn't actually work. 

So, as much as I see Therese and Maria drawn to some of the toys that I think are beautiful - some of them are just ones they'll have to grow in to. And in the meantime, those plastic toys - in all their gaudy glory - serve a need for them. 

The thing is, this lesson doesn't stop with plastic vs. wooden toys. It extends to more serious areas of life. As their mother, I definitely have hopes and dreams for their future. But, ultimately, their future isn't just about what I want for them. It's about what God wants for them. And let's face it - I might not be thrilled with God's plans for them. God may be calling them to live and work far from me, to join a super cloistered religious order where I never get to hug them again - I just don't know what God has in store for them. In the more immediate future, I may have to relinquish how I teach them, or even where I teach them (we continue to prayerfully discern how homeschooling may or may not play a role in our family each year). And darn it...I may need to let them play with those plastic toys.

Ultimately, these precious little girls aren't mine. They aren't Andrew's. They are God's. Yes, He has entrusted their precious little selves to us for a time. But it isn't up to us what direction their lives take. We can guide them. We can nurture them. But we can't dictate or control what they will become. 

Leave it to plastic toys to remind me that. ;-)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why It's Okay If Your Children Aren't Perfect at Mass (Plus a Giveaway!!!)

Linking up to What I Wore Sunday.

So, huge disclaimer here: this is not a post telling you that it's okay to let your children do whatever they want during Mass. This also isn't a post telling you how to get your children to behave well during Mass.

I just want to encourage you to not lose the forest for the trees. Sometimes we are so worried about doing the right thing for our children that we forget why we are doing it to begin with. Ultimately, we don't want our children to just know about God. We want them to know God. So, while it's important to teach your children how to behave at Mass, and it's important to teach them the words to prayers, and it's still important to teach them the teachings of the faith, that all means nothing if there is no reason for them to learn these things.

But, that being said, there is a reason why we need to learn all those things! I'll give you an everyday example. When I was growing up, my mom did bake things, but for birthdays we got to get a store bought cake, with store bought frosting. That was such a treat! (And I still really love store bought cake.) But, when Andrew was growing up, his favorite birthday treat was a funfetti cake with homemade buttercream frosting. Now, I love Andrew with all my heart, but if I said that I loved him but I never bothered to learn what kind of cake he likes to eat on his birthday that wouldn't really be loving him, would it? I would just be loving the idea of loving Andrew. Knowledge of the one you love does matter.

Conversely, let's imagine that I took the time to become a complete expert on Andrew - what he likes and dislikes, how he likes to spend his time, etc. but I didn't love him...what would be the point?! So it is with us and God. Part of loving God is knowing about God. But knowing about God only matters in light of love.

The trick is remembering this when you have a baby loudly babbling and shrieking in your arms at Mass, or a toddler insisting on laying full length on the pew but then falling off and screaming from the resulting injury, or a preschooler loudly whispering her questions throughout the whole Mass. In those moments, with patience running thin, my first reaction is usually just to try and make the noise stop. As important as it is to train a child to be quiet in each of those instances, lashing out in impatience to achieve that takes away from the real reason why I am at Mass with my child. If my child associates going to Mass with Mommy snapping in impatience for an hour, what does that teach her about Mass?

Now, I'm not going to lie - I struggle alot with impatience during Mass. I get so impatient with my girls, and I really do feel badly about that. Here are 5 tips that help me keep my cool at Mass:

1. I pray for patience. There are many Masses where - from start to finish - I am begging God for the grace to be patient with my girls throughout the course of the day (and that includes our time at Mass). I especially turn to Jesus in the Eucharist (especially right after I've received Him in Communion) and just beg for the grace to be patient.

2. I slow down my movements. I remember learning this trick when Therese was a baby. When she was getting wiggly and fussing, I slowed down my movements. I didn't frantically grab her as she crawled down the pew, I didn't turn and snap, I didn't stand up quickly to respond to misbehavior. I responded, but I responded in slow motion. That's not to say you shouldn't rush to grab a toddler who's running down the aisle! But your tone, as a parent, matters. If you act stressed, it won't help the situation. So, I try to act calm. Am I typically calm on the inside? Heck, no. But acting calm tends to lower my blood pressure a bit, and sometimes it even calms the girls ever so slightly.

3. I step out when I need to. One method of teaching Mass behavior is to stick it out no matter what. I think there are merits to that system, but I also know myself, and I know that I shouldn't stay in the pew if my child and I are both on the verge of meltdowns. So, I step out to the back. Sometimes, I pace with the baby to soothe her, but...true confession? Sometimes I just plop her down on the ground and let her crawl. Sometimes I need to be able to pray. On those days, when I feel like I'm drowning and on the verge of snapping, I focus on my prayer and let the baby wiggle and crawl in the back of church.

4. I lower the standards when I feel like losing my cool. This goes with #3. There are times when I focus on training the girls how to behave at Mass (especially if it's a Sunday Mass and Andrew's by my side). But then, there are times when we just need to get through Mass. I'm all for consistency, but sometimes there are some days when you just can't be consistent. There are some days when you need to cut yourself (and your children!) some slack. It's okay if your little ones don't behave perfectly at Mass. Mass isn't manners class. Yes, they need to learn eventually...but they will learn eventually! One Sunday (or 10) won't make or break you.

5. I make sure we blow Jesus kisses. At the end of the day, I try to remember what matters most. I want my daughters to love Jesus, with all their hearts. And so, I not only teach them to be quiet at Mass (with mixed results) but I teach them to blow Jesus kisses. I teach them to whisper "I love you" to Him. I tell them that He is always waiting for them in the tabernacle. I tell them that He is filled with joy to see their little faces there.

So, at the end of the day, my Mass advice is the same as trying to find balance with smartphone use, using TV as a tool,  etc. - cut yourself some slack. Ignore the "experts" who tell you that there is an easy solution, and that your kids would be well behaved if you just "tried this one method." Parenting doesn't work that way. The path to sainthood doesn't work that way. Raising your children in the faith is less about finding a method and more about finding God and humbly asking for the grace you need to keep going.

Oh, and here's what the youngest in our crew wore Sunday....

And yes, that is the same dress her sister was wearing only a few weeks ago. They both had growth spurts. But what's ridiculous is the fact that they're almost three years apart and I sometimes find myself handing down clothes straight from the older to the younger! No wonder I've gotten the occasional person asking if they're twins...

And now, for the giveaway!!!

In honor of Maria's godmother visiting this past weekend, I'm giving away a copy of the book I co-wrote with her! It's a simple and fun read for parents of very young children:

To win, simply leave a comment below! The giveaway will be close on Friday, October 17 at 11:59 p.m. You also can earn two bonus entries if you:


2. Pin this giveaway. (Simply click on the image of the book and select the "Pin It" option!)

Simply leave an extra comment for each bonus entry. And tell your friends! In the words of one of the characters in my latest book binge,"May the odds be ever in your favor."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall Off the Face of the Earth...

...I did not!

Now say that in your best Yoda voice.

That's better!

I had to pop in here, because I know that when a blogger disappears for a few weeks I either:

a) Think she's pregnant.

b) Think something terrible has happened.

c) Don't notice.

So, hopefully you fall in to the "C" category, because I'm not pregnant and nothing terrible has happened! Just a lot of good busyness. The big project I can't tell you about yet, but keep hinting at (because I'm terrible like that) has had some exciting developments. I seriously can't wait to tell you more about it! Unfortunately, the little bit of time I have to sit at an actual computer has been devoted to that. Once you see what it is, you are going to flip out with excitement! I promise!

I've also gotten lost in the Hunger Games trilogy. I thought I never would, but after seeing the second movie and not being able to get it out of my head, I plunged in to the book series. I haven't been disappointed! My bedtime has been a tad bit later, as a result, though. I could definitely relate to Anne's recent post, though. Any other lovers of The Giver out there? It's one of my favorites, and The Hunger Games can easily be put in the same genre.

I've put aside Mansfield Park for the last week, though, because my reading time is limited. Does that make me a bad person, Haley? (For the record, I actually really like Fanny Price alot, and she's one of the main reasons why I'm managing to slog through the first half of Mansfield Park. Does anyone else have that problem with Jane Austen books? The first half goes so slowly for me, but then I hit the midpoint and the story gets so good!) 

Anyway, enough stream of consciousness. 

Okay, one more addition! Not all of you readers are alumni of the Holy Cross trifecta, so if you haven't ever listened to the Notre Dame Folk Choir and are into binge liturgical music listening like I am, here you go:

We had a slew of patron saint days last week, and I think I'm still recovering. Mine was Monday (St. Michael the Archangel), Therese's was Wednesday (St. Therese of Lisieux), my sister's was Saturday (St. Francis of Assisi), and Maria's middle name one was Sunday (St. Faustina). We don't even do anything too fancy for feastdays - Mass, out to ice cream for dessert, a nice dinner - but I have to commit that I was so patron saint dayed out by the time we got to Sunday that Maria got a "Happy Patron Saint day!" and I called it a win. (And, of course, we went to Mass.) 

Can you do me a favor, by the way? Can you please pray for Mary and Courtney? Courtney is nearing the end, and they need all the prayers we can send her way! Courtney is truly beautiful (as is her mama) and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been touched by her life.

What a truly disjointed post. I'm so sorry. (Kind of.)

Okay, Maria is doing the thing she does where she crawls to the closed door of the room I'm working in and starts banging on it and alternating fussing and cute noises. Who can resist that?

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