Monday, November 09, 2015

Our Family's Jesse Tree: A Review

I am back again with another review. Because right now this is all I am able to manage on the blogging front. And I'm sure any faithful readers here (all 3 or 4 of you?) forgive me for that.

But, but, but ...

I am so excited to share something new with you! Don't be fooled by the post title, I'm not sharing MY family's Jesse Tree, but a review of a new ebook called Our Family's Jesse Tree by Jen Frost with Melinda Murphy. We have never done a Jesse Tree in my family, but with the help of this cool little book, I believe we will be diving in this year.

Just look at that cute tree on the cover of the book! I'm not sure mine is going to be as cute, but I feel like I can't go wrong following Jen's directions. It'll at least look decent. Let me explain why.

First of all, just recently in one of my Facebook groups someone asked about what sort of trees people use for their Jesse Tree ornaments. She complained that she sees all these different activities for making cute little ornaments but no where has she found anyone who made their own tree. Well ... this is the book! That tree you see on the cover of the book, you can make one just like it. Guess what is under all that cute felt. You'll never guess ... it's a traffic cone! Now, I have no idea where you get a traffic cone, but if you have access to one, more points for you. I was brainstorming and I think I may look for one of those white Styrofoam cones (I think they're Styrofoam, but even if not, I'm 99% sure I've seen something like that in a craft store) would work just as well. Anyway, my point, this book helps you make your own tree, complete with little buttons to hang your ornaments on.

I tell you what, that is one of the main reasons why I can envision using this book this year. Or at least sometime in the near future (if not this year, maybe next year ... for making the tree).

Regardless of whether we do the tree or not, we will definitely do the ornaments. [For a tree, we still have the small tree I had from my single days living in an apartment and later a townhouse, so I could use that for the time being.] The ornaments are cute as a button! And the best part is that Jen gives you 6 different ways for making them. Since my kids are little (4 year old twins and an almost 2 year old) I may print out the black and white coloring versions for the kids to color, cut them out, paste on card stock, and hang them up. Because this is an ebook, next year we can print them out and do the same thing or try something new (depending on how brave this non-crafty mom gets).

Here are four possibilities for making the ornaments
So, #1, this book helps you to make your own Jesse Tree. #2, you have a ton of flexibility on how to make the ornaments. (And did you also notice my subtle hint that even non-crafty people (Yoohoo!) can use this, too?) But wait, there's more ...

The third cool thing about this book is that the Bible readings and prayers are all included as well. Jen and her co-writer Melinda have provided an activity, Scripture reference, summary, a Jesus connection, and a prayer for each day. Since Jen and Melinda come from different faith backgrounds they also worked to make the stories and connections relevant to all Christian believers. In the intro pages she recommends that parents review the materials ahead of time and should feel free to diverge from the printed text as is appropriate for your family's faith background. I read through a few of the days and found them to be good information and very Biblical. I plan on going through it more, but from what I see so far, it all looks great and very flexible depending on the ages of your children.

All that being said, I know you all want to know the details. How can you get your hands on this nifty book? I'm glad you asked. You can get the book for $7.50 as a downloadable PDF. Now, I'm the first person to tell you that I'm not super crazy about ebooks. I like them for quick fiction reads, but not usually for much else. However, I love that this is an ebook, because you can print certain pages and have kids color these each year. Or do the ornaments one way one year and another way the next. So it works great as an ebook. Head on over to the Faith and Fabric Etsy shop HERE to get your copy today. Or, you can get it on the Faith and Fabric Craftsy shop HERE.

Look for more from me on this product soon. I am planning a second review for Catholic Sistas later in the month plus at some point you'll hopefully see an "action shot" of my kids working on their Jesse Tree ornaments. Stay tuned!

Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book for review and no other compensation. My opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Meet My Planner And Get Your Own Just Like It

Here I am back from my blogging break (for good? momentarily? we'll see) to share with you my planner. So exciting, right? Right?

I know you're super excited. You saw this blog post pop up in your blog reader or on Facebook or Twitter or wherever and I know you just thought, "Yay, Kerri is back and she is going to talk about her planner! This is the best thing ever!"

Okay, seriously, I realize you likely had none of those thoughts. That's okay, it won't hurt my feelings. But stick with me here. Because if you are in need of a new planner, especially if you tend to favor academic calendars (August to August), you will want to pay attention.

I became reliant on a planner in college and continued to use that same kind through college and grad school and into my professional career. These days I use a paper planner at work in conjunction with an electronic calendar. But that electronic calendar has some serious faults to it. So I use it, but it's mainly for work. At home, though? Not so much.

Enter the Catholic Sistas Through the Year Weekly/Monthly Planner. This is now my planner at home. And I love it!! Here's why I love mine:

The month at a glance
It has a two page monthly spread that I love for getting a quick glimpse of commitments for the month. It also has a two-page weekly spread with each day laid out in columns from left to write. This column layout works really well compared to any other calendar I've ever seen. Why? Because each column is divided into four boxes that you can label however you want. Talk about flexibility!! The top box is already filled in for you with all the Church things you need to know: saints' feast days, liturgical color, daily readings, the Rosary mysteries for the day, and more. The next three are up to you. And you can label them one way one week and another way another week. Do it by categories (Home, Work, Kids, House, Homeschooling, Blogging, etc.) or do it by time frames (morning, afternoon, night). Totally up to you.

The front of the planner also has basic prayers, a short description about prayer, pages for notes, pages for contacts, and a page describing the Proverbs 31 Catholic Women. This planner can certainly be used as much more than a planner.
My week

It also has quotes from saints scattered through the planner. On each monthly spread there is a section for notes and on each weekly spread there is a notes section and a checklist section off to the side. I have to say, the checklist section is one of my favorites. Sometimes you have a list of things you want to get done, but it doesn't matter when that week it gets done, just that it does.

To see more of this calendar for yourself, check out the Sample Pages that are up on the blog.

Other things to note: affordable price at $7.50 (plus I believe it might be half off now, so an even better deal!). You get a link to a pdf and you can print it however you want. Some people spend the money to print it up at a print shop and get it spiral bound or something. For me, I printed it at home and put it in a three-ring binder that I already had. Again, flexibility!

I printed the cover on pink card stock and put
the whole thing in a purple binder.
In addition to the calendar itself, there are bundles. I will confess that I have yet to actually use a bundle, but I love the idea of the bundles. There are three: Blogging, Homeschool, and Household. I encourage you to go look at the CS Store to learn more about the bundles (all the details there).

So are you ready to get your own now?? Currently on sale is the Academic Calendar which starts on July 27, 2015 and will go through the end of July, 2016. Perfect if you have kids in school and/or are homeschooling or maybe you are in school yourself.

This review is part of the Catholic Through the Year Planner blog tour. Follow the link HERE to see the other posts in the series.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Why Remain Catholic: 7(+1) Reasons There is Only One Church for Me

I feel like over the course of the last week I've been inundated with so much information. That's a funny thing for someone like me to say. I'm a librarian (otherwise known as an "information specialist") and I do a little writing on the side, which often prompts me to stay up-to-date on current events. So information is kind of all around me, all of the time, even when I try to escape it.

There is no escape. That's the conclusion I've reached.

But this last week, oh boy! It's grown exponentially. The number of articles and opinion pieces, the Facebook posts and ensuing discussions, it seems endless. The legalization of same-sex marriage, the hold placed on the TX pro-life laws, thank you SCOTUS for bringing the culture war even more to the forefront of our lives. 

Thinking about recent events it occurred to me how different my perspective is now than it would have been had I not returned to the Catholic Church about 13-14 years ago. There was a time when I would have rejoiced in some of these recent events. Now, however, not so much. That being said, I decided that now more than ever, I should add my voice to the #WhyRemainCatholic posts from the past month. Yep, that's me, always late to the game. But at least I'm here now.

So, what are seven reasons that I remain Catholic? Let's get started!

#1 The Eucharist
No where else do you find Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, than in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. This is a reality I was not at all familiar with while growing up Catholic. It was a stunning surprise when I learned this as an adult. This one revelation made me sink my feet in for good even while I struggled with other teachings. I knew that I would have to learn to accept everything else because I couldn't leave the Eucharist. 

#2 Humane Vitae
Wow did I ever struggle with this one. Contraception was a given in my world. I had never had reason to use it, but I had never thought twice about the fact that I would if I were to get married. I argued against this (with others and in my own head) quite a bit. Luckily for me, I also listened, even when I didn't want to. I finally looked up Humane Vitae and read it. I expected it to be long, I had never read an encyclical before and assumed it was like a book. I looked it up online one day at work, figured I'd get some info and maybe just read a bit and figure out where to buy it. I was surprised to find that it wasn't that long and I ended up reading it over my lunch break that one day. Oh. My. Word!! I never argued the point again.

#3 Confession
I received the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time in the 2nd grade. I never went again as a kid and I have no recollection of anyone in my family going beyond my younger siblings also receiving their first reconciliation. I returned to the Church in my mid-twenties and it soon became evident that I needed to make a confession. I happened to do it on a young adult retreat. I remember being nervous going in, as well as starving. It was dinner time and I hadn't eaten since lunch. When I finally went in and told the priest that it had probably been over 20 years, he was really nice and helped me along. I walked out of their feeling like a new person. The hunger was even gone, which turned out to be a blessing since we then found out that the dining hall at the camp ground had closed. Oh well!! Regardless, that feeling of being completely in God's grace, wiped clean, was amazing. I'm still not great about regular confession, but I manage it at least once a year. I still have a bit of a hang up about it, but intellectually, I know it is an amazing gift! I remain Catholic because of this gift God has given to His people in the Church.

#4 Art
Historically speaking, the Catholic Church has a treasure trove of art throughout the world. The Church was the largest patron of art for centuries, maybe the largest patron of art throughout history. I have had the opportunity to go to Rome and to see the Sistine Chapel, the Pieta, the amazing architecture of St. Peter's, and so much more. Even here in the U.S. we have amazing art in our churches, from stained glass windows and statues to beautiful architecture (arguably there are a few exceptions, but overall many traditional, beautiful examples exist). Just realizing the beauty that imperfect humans have been able to create when inspired by the beauty of God in Heaven is amazing. I appreciate art so much more now than I ever did before.
"Michelangelo-pieta". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

#5 History
Before my return to the Church, I loved my college classes in music history and in European history. Music was my major (and later I did a master's in musicology, which is very history-based) and I minored in European history. I also took one art history class as an undergrad. It was in a music history class, studying the medieval times and early music, that I recognized the Church of my childhood in the Mass. Memorizing the Mass parts of a music major, I had a sudden revelation that this was the Mass. (Duh!) All those parts we were memorizing had a real meaning! It was shocking and confusing all at the same time. Then I took a survey class on early Europe while simultaneously taking an upper division class called "The Birth of Europe." The Protestant Reformation was discussed in both classes and, although I had taken classes in high school that covered the same topic, it was more revealing this time around. I remember a few things coming up about the Catholic Church and thinking, "we believe what?" The Eucharist in particular. There were several little things like that between a number of music history and European history classes stuck with me. When I did return to the Church, they all made sense. It was like carrying around a whole bunch of puzzle pieces for years and not knowing how they fit together. Then one day you walk into a building and the people there start showing you how they fit together. Before long, it all starts to make sense.

#6 Pro-Life stance
I already mentioned Humane Vitae, but I do feel it is important to mention the pro-life message separately from that. Despite growing up Catholic, I did not understand that the Church was pro-life. I was actually once very much in favor of a woman's "right to choose." This was another area that I had difficulty accepting but knew I had to learn to accept. I couldn't just accept it and move on, though. I needed to understand what I was accepting and why. I had to do a lot of reading, a lot of listening, and a lot of praying. Once I accepted the contraception teaching, it got easier to accept this one too. Once I also discovered that the science is there to support the Church's stance, I was converted fully.  I've never looked back. The fact that the Church is consistent in her teaching from the beginning is huge for me! Thank goodness for consistency!!

#7 Mary and the Communion of Saints
I love that the Church acknowledges our brothers and sisters who have gone to Heaven before us. And not just recognizes that they are there, but encourages us to ask them to pray for us. I love this idea so much that I have had a very difficult time really connecting to any one saint as a personal patron. I flit between several constantly and I'm always finding others that inspire me, so much that I never really remain connected to any one for very long. It's like ADD with the saints. Regardless, I love knowing that when we pray, we can not only place our intentions before God, not only can we ask our friends and neighbors to pray for us, but we can also ask Mary and the Communion of Saints to pray for us too. Can you imagine the number of people, both alive on earth and those alive in Heaven, that could be praying for your intentions before God at any given time?

One quick story. I had read about the Mass as being like a little glimpse of Heaven here on earth. I loved that image. Then one time, about 6 years ago, I was at Mass, trying to fully participate, but was having difficulties engaging. Just a few months previously my son Zachary had died at 22 weeks gestation. Since his death I had difficulties singing at Mass and was always on the verge of tears. At this particular Mass, I was trying to focus during the Eucharistic prayers. At one point, when the priest holds up the body and blood after the consecration, I had this immense feeling surrounding me as if the place had gotten incredibly crowded. Our altar is surrounded by quite a bit of open space and, although I couldn't see anything different, it felt different, a claustrophobic feeling with people adoring Jesus in the blessed Sacrament. At the same time I felt an extra presence right near me as well, it felt peaceful and intimate, and I felt a slight weight in my arms. It was only a split second, but in that second I felt as if my son and his sibling that was miscarried prior to him were there with me. It was an extraordinary feeling.

Bonus: I can't end this without also mentioning the amazing men who serve the Church as deacons, priests, and bishops. I have been fortunate to know many wonderful, holy priests and they make the Church better for answering God's call to devote their lives to serving His people. I'm grateful to the remarkable priests who helped me find my way back home, talked me through awkward confessions, took time to comfort my family during times of suffering, rejoiced with us, and so much more. To those many priests, thank you!

And so we have it. Seven (+1) Quick Takes for #WhyRemainCatholic. I could probably have added many more, but then it wouldn't be "quick." Since I did this post as a 7 Quick Takes, I am also linking up to Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum. So please go check out her blog and enjoy the #7QT fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

7 Reasons for My Blogging Absence, aka Small Success Thursday

I think one of the best ways to come back from an unintentional blog break is with a list of small successes. Start on a positive note, right? So here we go.

1. Gardening: We have quite the garden going his year. We had spinach in April and May, a bit of lettuce in early June but the rabbits got most of that, and we ended up with quite a few sugar snap peas that we are eating now. Hubby has planted our tomatoes where the spinach was, added the zucchini in next to the dying lettuce, and planted a section of string beans. I'm starting to see a few tiny green tomatoes out there and the other plants are all getting huge. I should have taken a picture today, but didn't. Sorry. Just take my word for it, the leaves on those zucchini plants are ginormous! 

2. Adoration: I officially have an adoration hour again. Every Monday night I get to spend an hour with Jesus in the Eucharist. Love it!

3. Sorting and Organizing Kids' Clothes: Plastic bins have been sorted, winter clothes put away, bins of clothes 9 month size and smaller are all in the basement, and all other bins are in one of two closets. Summer clothes in the right sizes are in the appropriate children's dresser drawers. Doing all this is very time consuming! But oh so glad to have it done!

The guest room closet, clothes from 24 months up to 5T

4. YMCA: We joined the Y in our little city. And then I started working out. I've only just started, met with a wellness coach last week and have been to work out on my own twice this week. Goal is 3 times a week, in the evenings after the kids are all in bed. Seriously cuts into my writing time, but it must be done.

5. Swim Lessons: Now that we have joined the Y, we registered the twins for swimming lessons. The next small success will be getting them into the water. No, scratch that. If we get them in the water that will be a BIG success.

6. Catholic Sistas blog series: I'm working on two series of posts for Catholic Sistas right now. One is mostly me coordinating the volunteers who are writing each post (and I have one to do as well) and one that I am doing entirely on my own. I like doing big series like these and I always think that it'll be easy. But they always turn out more time consuming than I expected. Regardless, I still like doing them. The first is our "You Did it to Me" series on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy and the second is a series of interviews in honor of the Year of Consecrated Life (next post is scheduled for tomorrow). Go check them out, share them with others, and leave comments for our fabulous writers!

7. Work: I submitted my annual column to my new editor for our professional journal; I finally got moving again on a project that is massive and will takes years to complete but is always nagging at me; and I had my last big event to be in charge of for the faculty committee I've been chairing this year, which means my chairmanship will end on June 30 with all the boxes checked and someone else gets to take over. Very excited about that. And then I went and volunteered for something else. 

Lastly, I've been missing my blog. I keep thinking about things I want to write, but with everything I have going on right now, including a biggish project with Catholic Sistas, I have been trying to resign myself to the fact that writing here is going to be a very occasional thing. At least for the near future. For those who have been hanging with me for a while, keep checking back. I'm still here, even if just occasionally.

Linking this post up with Small Success Thursday at Come share in the fun!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teaching Manners

My kids actually listen to me!

This was my realization this morning when I finally figured out what my children were trying to tell me while we listened to their Veggie Tales CD on the way to work and school (for the gazillionth time). Last week they were trying to tell me something about the Veggie Tales not saying please. And they were very adamant about it. I wasn't sure what they were referring to and they eventually dropped it.

Then this morning they started telling me again about how someone wasn't saying please. From their seats in the back row of my van I usually can't hear their tiny voices while this CD is playing. So they'er trying to tell me something, I keep shutting the CD off, I don't understand what they are talking about, I turn it back on, and the cycle starts again.

But I got it today! The CD finally hit on the song "Give me oil in my lamp" and they started yelling from the back, "The Veggie Tales not saying please, they not saying please!"

Ah, Veggie Tales, my almost 4 year old twins think you need a lesson in manners, apparently.

Despite how many times I remind my kids to say please instead of "I want" or "give me," it's good to know that they are listening. Hopefully they will put it into practice more eventually, too.

Listen to "Give me oil in my lamp" by the Veggie Tales HERE.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Seven Toddler Quick Takes #7QT

Happy Easter Friday!!

My toddlers just crack me up. If you're a parent of a toddler or have been a parent of a toddler, you know what I'm talking about. I have twin toddlers that are 3. Between them and the 15 month old, who runs after them any chance he gets, our house can be quite entertaining (and loud). I thought it'd be fun to share some of the entertainment with you all.

While reading about Easter from a great book I found: {opening the door on the scene of the Last Supper} "That Judas, he bad!"

During the very beginning of Good Friday service (we were sitting in the front row) and seeing the priest and deacon prostrate in front of the altar: "Mommy, he sleeping?"

I had emphasized the veneration of the cross prior to the Good Friday service, but we had gone over the whole story beforehand, multiple times (see #1 above). So at one point Peter leans over to me and asks, "Where the tomb?"

On laundry: "We wear the clothes, we wash the clothes, we put them away, and we wear them again!" {Imagine toddler with his hands out, palms up, as he explains this to me. I'd like to know more about the "we" part of this process because right now it seems to be mostly me.}

On why we are still talking an hour after we were told to go to sleep: "We not talking, Baby [or Monkey or Puppy or Snoopy or whatever animal they happen to have in their hands] talking."

Okay, whatever kid. Tell the stuffed animal to go to sleep.

Most of time Silas doesn't get to play with his older brothers. He either wants to be with mom or dad or plays on his own. But he definitely doesn't like playing on his own. He tries to play with the twins, but they often won't play with him, which ends in some crying, usually Silas. Every once and a while though, the twins make a game out of Silas chasing them around the house. At those times I hear, "The ladybug, the ladybug coming!" "Watch out, ladybug coming." "There's the ladybug!!"

Don't ask me how Silas became "the ladybug" and why a ladybug is scary. I have no clue.

Our night time prayers consist of the Guardian Angel prayer followed by asking Jesus to bless a list of family and friends. We list our priests at the end and a few months back we added an intention for our diocese to get a new bishop. We've been sede vacante since February 2014, but hadn't thought to add this intention until recently. Then of course we got word the very next week of who our new bishop would be. Funny how that happens! Anyway, so we added his name to the end of our prayers. Ethan has this funny way of adding extra syllables to what we say and neither child same initial "S" sounds very well yet. So we end up getting something like "... and for our new Bishop-elected 'Tow." {Should be Bishop-elect Stowe} Hubby and I have stopped trying to correct him.

Have a great weekend all!! And don't forget to check out more 7 Quick Takes posts over at Kelly's page, This Ain't the Lyceum.

Friday, March 27, 2015

{7QT} On Parenthood, Writing, and Adoration

Hello! Anyone out there? If you are, I just want you to know that I have not forgotten this dear little blog of mine. I may have a trillion things going through my brain at any given time, but thoughts of this blog and what I might want to write about are often at the forefront. You wouldn't know it right now since things seem so neglected over here, but I promise that the wheels are spinning.

One day, more will happen. Just in one of those seasons of my life right now. BUT!! I come here today to share a little bit of what our life looks like right now in the form of a Quick Takes post. Thanks to Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum for hosting!

Potty training. I told some coworkers (who both have grown kids now) that potty training has got to be the hardest part of parenthood. And if it's not, please don't tell me otherwise right now. I don't want to know. Maybe it's because I'm doing two at once and they've been pretty resistant to the idea for a long time. Man oh man, this has been difficult. But there is good news!!

We had major breakthrough last weekend. They started cooperating more last week and we started putting them in underwear. No more protection! By Saturday they were having lots of accidents but some successes, too. Sunday they started telling us when they needed to go (or thought they needed to go). We've now been doing this a full week, I can't believe it. They are almost completely accident-free as well. It's like night and day. I think I even hear angels singing.

I promise this is not a post just about potty training. As proof: I had a book review published yesterday at Catholic Sistas (see it HERE) and I think everyone needs to go check it out and then go buy the book.

While I'm pointing you to my review at Catholic Sistas, have you also seen my series over there for the Year of Consecrated Life? If not, you should go check it out. I've done three posts so far, one as an intro and the other two are interviews. You can get to all three posts at this link HERE. I am hoping to do one interview a month through January 2016. I have one for April but could use some more. If you know someone in religious life, have them contact me to be included in this series. My email: kasclar [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks, friends!

The weather in our area finally started to warm up. We're still wearing long sleeves and jackets in the morning, but afternoons are nice and we have had the opportunity to take a walk after dinner on a few occasions. It got cool again Thursday and will be on the cooler side for a couple days, but spring is definitely in the air. Even if we have a bit of snow on Friday, it won't stick around. I love knowing that!!

Guess what?! I finally have an Adoration hour again!! So, sometime around 2005 or 2006 I signed up to take an hour in my parish's Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. I held that spot until February of 2011 when I ended up in the hospital to have an emergency cerclage put in to keep my twins from coming early (I was almost 22 weeks at the time). I was put on bedrest and told my coordinator to just take me off the schedule. It was a 6am hour and even after the babies came I didn't know how my life would change and if doing an hour at 6am would even work. So I had to end it a bit earlier than I had planned. Since then, I've been so busy with twins and then eventually a third child got added, that I never considered finding a way to work in adoration again. But I had been feeling a nudge over the last few months and so I started looking to see where they needed people. I think I found the perfect time slot and I have now gone two weeks in a row! I'm now an evening person (9pm) and that works so much better with three small children. They are all in bed before I have to leave. It's actually quite perfect. And I love being back in there on a regular basis!! So peaceful, so amazing, one-on-one time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We are so blessed to have such a beautiful chapel!

Okay, so I'm going back to the topic I kicked this post off with: potty training. Hey, it's a big deal. Anyway, very, very early Thursday morning (3 AM) I was awoken by a tiny voice right next to me. In the dark I could see one of my children standing there, but since they look identical I had no idea which one had woken me. It was 3 AM!! Turns out he needed to go potty!! I woke up so fast and practically leaped out of bed. I was so proud of him!! Woke himself up, came and got me, sat and actually went, and then went back to bed. Can night training be a possibility already???

Feels good to be adding something to the blog again! Hope you enjoyed and I hope to be back sooner rather than later. And don't forget, go check out This Ain't The Lyceum for more #7QT posts.