Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why join a peg doll saint swap? - Top 10 Reasons

During Lent some friends of mine (and their friends) joined together for a peg doll saint swap. If you haven't heard about how it works, basically each family chooses a saint to paint and paints multiple copies of the same saint. Then, we get together and swap to get a finished set of diverse saints. I figured I could get 20-30 families together, and we could create a set of saints as Easter gifts for our children. In the end, much to my surprise 47 families joined, mostly from Texas but not all from San Antonio. I just couldn't turn anyone away! Here is our almost-completed set (a few families fell behind on their timeline, and that's okay in my swaps!):

So many of us enjoyed the swap and had so many friends and family members asking about how to do it, that I am coordinating another swap this summer. This one will have several options, subdividing families into groups based on if they participated in our Spring swap or not, quantity of saints they are willing to paint, and even some Old Testament figure swap groups!

Why did we enjoy adding one more thing to our plate during Lent, especially those of us who are less than artistically gifted? After talking to several of the moms over the past couple of weeks, I have compiled the top ten reasons I have heard from our swappers for participating in such a swap. Lacy has a great list of reasons, too!
  1. It was time well spent! There are many things we do that, in the end, are not really worth the time we invest, but both the process and the outcome were so fruitful that it was a good use of our time.
  2. It required sitting down! Or at least remaining still for relatively long periods of time. Our lives as moms are busy, and we always seem to be moving. Focusing on painting our saints was a gift to our weary bodies.
  3. It provided time to think and pray! Many of us stayed up late at night to paint when our little ones were in bed, and it gave us quiet time to ponder our own thoughts and spend time in prayer with our saints and the Lord.
  4. It was affordable! Except for the women who lived out of town and had to pay postage to ship their dolls, each family paid around $40 for the materials for a set of 48 saints. One saint on Etsy, while definitely painted by exceptionally talented individuals, runs about $30.  
  5. It resulted in a finished product! Most of our work as mothers is undone just as soon as we do it (think laundry, cleaning, cooking), but standing back and admiring our saints has been quite gratifying.
  6. It forced us to be creative! Being creative has been linked to all kind of therapeutic benefits. Those of us who aren't naturally artistic were still able to create saints with unique personalities, even if some are much simpler than others.
  7. It brought beauty into our homes! These are wooden toys, which are solid and beautiful. Beauty truly brings us closer to God, the source of all beauty, and our children are drawn to them.
  8. My little children love them! To see their little hands grasp these saints and for them to choose their favorites for play is remarkable. They are a great size for little hands and inspire them early to make friends with the saints.
  9. My big children love them! Not only do they study them and name them and ask about them, the bigger children even want to paint their own, releasing their creativity and cultivating craftsmanship.
  10. My husband even loves them! This is a totally personal note. My husband hates clutter and knick-knacks, but even he is proud of our collection, allowing them to be prominently displayed in our home.

So if you are interested in joining us this summer or have any questions about how to organize your own swap, let me know in the comments below! I'm not going to post links to our guidelines and sign-up form, because I do need to know a bit about you before you join us, to make sure you're legit.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Best Easter Gift Ever!

I'm nearly exploding with enthusiasm over here, and I'm terrible at keeping things from my kids. My husband would not truly appreciate my level of excitement over my plan. So, I'm here to share it with you! Aren't you lucky?!

A few months ago, thanks to Sarah's glowing recommendations, I read aloud The Green Ember by S.D. Smith to my children. It's tagline is "A new adventure with an old soul," which is right on target. We are on a Read Aloud Revival (episode 12) inspired streak, and the big kids and I have only missed one day of reading aloud together for pure pleasure (not for homeschooling purposes) in 172 days (and that includes our three-month trip to Virginia and back). When I say that we loved The Green Ember, that's putting it mildly.

I was overjoyed, seriously, to find a modern book with such value for my family. It's well-written compared with most. The vocabulary is excellent. The characters are relatable (blogger tells me that's not a word, but you know what I mean) and somewhat complex (for kids). The plot is full of adventure, mystery, love, family, good guys, bad guys, suffering, and joy. And the lessons! Oh my! Teaching my kids about courage and loss, trust and deception, leadership and faith, this book is a gem.

Need I say more? Okay! I will.  #rabbitswithswords - truly the best element! The book began as a story S.D. Smith told his own children and developed from there. You can hear his story about how the book came to be on Read Aloud Revival Episode 21. My children are doodling rabbits in the margins of their math books! It's an adventure story, a page-turner, and we never wanted to put it down! Back to my super secret plan...

I have created a #rabbitswithswords Easter gift basket for my kiddos! It includes:

The Green Ember in paperback (we read the Kindle version)
The Green Ember audiobook
4 sets of rabbit ears found at the Target Dollar Spot
4 swords found at the Dollar Tree

Ssshhh! Don't tell! They're going to be SO excited! Those of you who have read the book, am I missing anything in my gift package? Maybe a bunch of carrots? :) Now, as Sarah says...
I’m going to be crazy bossy here and tell you this: if you read nothing else to your kids this year, read The Green Ember. This is a book that will steep your family’s imagination in the good, true, and beautiful. The characters encounter tremendous difficulty and face them with indomitable courage. You will laugh, cry, and find your heart racing. You will wonder if you could possibly live up to the nobility and fortitude Heather and Picket.
You will, in short, fall down a rabbit hole. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jesus' Questions: Day 26

I'm trying something new this Lent. My goal is to find a simple way to talk about living our faith with my children on a daily basis, outside of our (more) formal studies of Scripture and Catechism. This series is based on the questions Jesus asks within the Gospel of Matthew. I am brainstorming here some ways to discuss these passages with each of my children and am sharing with you in hopes that you and your children might be blessed by daily faith sharing. If you try this with your children, I would love to hear about your conversations in the comments!
Are even you still without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that enters the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. ~ Matthew 15:16-18
Focus ~ Ew! Gross! Jesus was talking about our digestive system? He is actually pointing out to the Pharisees that they are too focused on following the strict Old Testament dietary laws and not being careful about what they say to one another and to Him.

Littles ~ What kinds of words would Jesus like us to speak all the time?

Middles ~ What would you say to Jesus if you could meet him?

Bigs ~ How do our words, even after they are spoken, hurt our hearts?

Moms ~  Talk about how, in your life, words you have spoken hurt others and how they hurt you at the same time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jesus' Questions: Day 25

I'm trying something new this Lent. My goal is to find a simple way to talk about living our faith with my children on a daily basis, outside of our (more) formal studies of Scripture and Catechism. This series is based on the questions Jesus asks within the Gospel of Matthew. I am brainstorming here some ways to discuss these passages with each of my children and am sharing with you in hopes that you and your children might be blessed by daily faith sharing. If you try this with your children, I would love to hear about your conversations in the comments!
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.” He said to them in reply, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" ~ Matthew 15:1-3
Focus ~ Just because everyone does it, doesn't mean it's right. Everything must be subject to God's law before common practice.

Littles ~ Can you name one of God's commandments?

Middles ~ Give an example of something a lot of people do but breaks God's laws.

Bigs ~ Give another example of something a lot of people do but breaks God's laws.

Moms ~  Talk about common sins in our culture and the struggle today between tolerating differences and respecting God's laws, appropriate to your children's ages.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Lenten Moments

As mothers, there are these moments we give to God, often without realizing it. Whenever we go against what our selfish desires beg for and do what is most important in that moment, our sacrifice is for Jesus. It's better, of course, if we are conscious of the gift in the moment, but I believe even if we are not thinking of it, the Lord is pleased.

This Lent, my goal has been to spend two thirty-minute chunks of time sitting in a designated chair for prayer. I've managed to do this about 50% of the time, so far, and it has been wonderful. My natural inclination, of course, is to berate myself for the 50% of the time I fail to meet my goal, but I am trying to be gentle with myself and grateful for the time I do get with God.

Now, you might be thinking about how impossible this would be for you. You have small children. You have too much to do. You can't sit still. You dread the thought of waking up early. You don't want to give up your "free" from children time. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. Me too.

The wonder of this practice is that I am consciously deciding by the physical act of putting myself in the chair that this time is for God. I get interrupted. The 12 year old and 9 year old know to try to leave me alone as best as possible, but the 4 year old and 2 year old do not. But, knowing I am deciding to be in the presence of God, I respond to them with love, more often than not.

While I have been counseled by countless priests to stop thinking of prayer as something to check off of my to-do list, the reality is that I have to have a plan or it doesn't happen. Fortunately, such wise counsel reminds me that while prayer is something I have "to do," by setting the time limit, I let go of the litany of prayers I think I should accomplish: pray divine office or Scripture, write in my Lenten Journal, read Fr. Barron's daily reflection, do my spiritual reading, etc... and I sit. Sometimes I write, read, and pray quietly. More often than not, I write a few words in a journal, respond to 20 questions, pray a quick aspiration, read a book about fire trucks, read a Quiet Time post from the Restore Workshop, redirect sibling battles, and close my eyes to rest in the Lord. It works, somehow.

Sitting still is the hardest part. And I do get up to tend to little ones, but I sit back down. I force myself into that chair and remind myself that my goal is not thirty uninterrupted minutes but thirty minutes given to God, whatever I do during that time. It has been blessed.

At first, I didn't wake up early. I am not a morning person. But now, after enjoying some snippets of time with God, I find myself more motivated to get up early to hope my thirty minutes can be uninterrupted and more peaceful. Of course, like this morning, as soon as I pour a cup of tea, often my little ones wake up, no matter how early I get up!

And, I am trying to put the littles down for their naps and going straight to my chair, but it's much easier for me to sit first thing in the morning. The second thirty minutes is a much bigger sacrifice, because once I'm moving, it's really hard for me to slow down and choose sitting over doing. When I do, as we all know, the rest of the day usually goes more smoothly.

What Lenten practice has been the most helpful to you, so far, this season?


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