Thursday, December 19, 2013

Healing and Reeling

The past week has left me in a state of disbelief.  I'm amazed that a cut on my finger rapidly turned into something very serious.  So lets add cuts to my list of things that will send me running to a doctor now. First on the list is mosquito bites after that fun little incident where I had an infection making its way along my veins last year.

The big lessons from my recent experience are these: 1. NEVER EVER EVER take skin and put it back over a cut, unless you want to spend a few days at the hospital.  2. Any red streaking coming from a bite or cut should send you running for medical attention.  If you aren't sure, see a doctor.  The wait and see approach with thing such as this is a dangerous game.  3. Ask around and find out which of your local hospitals have a reputation for bad care and mistakes and then make a mental note to avoid those facilities at all costs.

I started to write the story of how I landed myself in the hospital on Sunday but an infectious disease dr. asked me to please stop using my right hand to type so I could allow that hand and arm to rest since they had just been ravaged with a pretty serious infection.  So the story sits partially written in my drafts folder.  It may be a two or three part story, it's that bad.

Thinking back on the past week really upsets me.  It clearly illustrates that even when we think we have everything under control we really don't.  And honestly, if Bryan hadn't woken me up from the couch where I spent most of my Friday I might not have realized quickly enough that I really needed medical attention until things, which were pretty bad, had gotten to a point that was far worse.  You know you're in a fix when an urgent care doctor freaks out and tells you to get to an ER right away.

So I've been spending the past four days at home trying to recover.  But I'm awful at resting so I keep doing things like laundry, straightening things and worrying about making sure Madeline doesn't fall too far behind with her schoolwork.

Simple tasks that require two hands or run the risk of exposing my finger to germs are pretty much off the table.  I haven't changed a diaper since maybe last Thursday.  I can't exactly cut wrapping paper with scissors (I'm a lefty that can only cut right handed.) and that pretty much leaves me unable to wrap gifts.  It's a good thing I wrapped most gifts before this happened but I still have plenty to go.  I won't even be able to bake cookies since I can't risk my finger coming in contact with the cookie dough.

The past few days I've been feeling like I just want all the Advent and Christmas stuff packed away.  I shared this feeling with Bryan and he actually decorated one of our trees when he came home from work today and then helped me to get our family room tree decorated.  I feel a little better now that our trees are decorated, but I'm still not feeling that Christmas spirit.  It just doesn't feel like we're less than a week out from Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm Going Home!

I just got good news from the doctors.  My blood culture came back clean and I'm being discharged today!  Praise God!  Thank you to all who prayed for me.  I really appreciate it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Please Pray For Me and My Unborn Baby

I began to blog about my current situation but it's a very long story and I can only type one handed at the moment.  I had a serious infection in my finger that landed me in the hospital on Friday night.  I fought to go home on Saturday only to get a call this morning telling me that my blood culture shows that the infection is in my bloodstream. This, I am told is a serious risk to me and our unborn baby.  So please offer up some prayers for me.
This is how my finger looked on Saturday morning.  It's not as swollen or red now.  The redness is cellulitis which ran up to my armpit.  It is mostly all faded now.

I feel fine with the exception of my finger that is swollen and hurts at the wound site that is just over a joint.

The infectious disease dr. tells me only one of the two blood culture vials shows bacteria, so it may be a case of the vial being contaminated,  We will know what the culture results are tomorrow.  If the clean vial still shows no infection in my bloodstream I will go home.  If not, I will be here until it is clear.  Please pray that I don't have an infection in my blood stream.  I very much want to go home and be with my family and rest knowing that my baby's life isn't in jeopardy.

All this because I somehow closed the car door on three of my fingers and one got cut in the process!  Watch where your hands are when you close your car doors!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick Takes with a Dash of {PHFR}

It's been a while since I've done a quick takes post and I think the same is true for {PHFR}.  So I'm going to multi-task a bit.
Do you ever have moments where you sit back and say to yourself that something is so crazy off the wall that people will think you're making it up?  I don't know what it is about me, but I have so many stranger than fiction moments in my life that are 100% {real} and often very {funny}.  It's stuff I simply file under I can't make this stuff up.  So back in October my aunt passed away.  She lived alone and was a bit of a recluse when it came to interacting with family.   My uncle is handling the estate and is a bit surprised at what he's finding.  Now he lived a few states away from my aunt, but I spent 22 years living a block away from her, so my parents and other relatives who lived near by knew how she lived.  But, even when you know someone, you can still find some surprises.  Can I tell you that I spent quite a while laughing when my mom forwarded me this picture that my uncle sent to her of my aunt's back yard? 
That fine piece of life sized bovine statue was something my aunt picked up at an auction.  If any of you are interested in acquiring this piece for your back yard statue collection drop me an email.  My uncle is looking for a buyer.  I'd like to meet whoever buys it.  
I've spent who knows how long avoiding the supermarket.  I've gone to Sam's Club and Target but not to the supermarket since October or possibly early November.  I suppose at some point I'm going to have to break down and get to the grocery store.  Anyway, on Monday it was pretty clear that we were sort of running out of food options, so as much as I dislike going to end of season soccer banquets, I was quite happy to fill in for Bryan and go with Ellie so I could have my fill of so-so buffet food that didn't require me to cook or visit the grocery store.  Ellie was  very {happy} to get her soccer trophy.

I'm 18 weeks along today and I'm feeling {pretty} big even though everyone assures me that I'm not.  Usually I don't have any sort of baby bump until I'm more than half way though a pregnancy.  I already have people coming up to me asking when I'm due.
I feel so unprepared to have a baby boy.  I've known for nearly a month now that we're expecting a little boy and I just feel like I need to get everything in order NOW.  After three girls I just feel like I have no idea what I'm walking into.  Even selecting a name seems far more difficult.  I am pretty sure we're settled on the baby's name.  
See if you can guess his first name based on the picture above.  I'll be ordering this from Abbey Ceramics for his bedroom soon.
I'm realizing that my standards for grading Madeline's work for homeschool might be too high.  We submitted her first ever book report to Seton a couple of weeks ago and we got her grade yesterday.  The book report that I told her was probably going to get a C at best came back with a 95 on it!  She's thrilled and I'm starting to realize that perhaps Bryan is right when he says I'm expecting too much.
I have no idea how the display screen on my camera broke.  I had ordered a replacement screen but I really have no idea if we'll be able to fix it successfully.  Since electronics and small screws are involved I'm just going to leave that to Bryan.  In the meantime I decided to try and reduce my chances of cutting my nose on the broken glass by adding a layer of packing tape.  Yeah, it's about as classy looking as it sounds.  This is the before picture in case you're wondering.
I think I may have killed our paper shredder this week.  I was working my way through over two years worth of papers that needed to be shredded and this afternoon it made some sounds that make me believe that our shredder has seen the end of it's useable life.  Fighting with the shredder makes me wish we had a fire pit in the back yard or a real fireplace instead of our gas one.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Small Successes: First Week of Advent

Celebrating the little things in life that add up...

1. I'm about four hours away from being able to say that I survived yet another one of Bryan's business trips.  The kids are already in bed so I will call this one a success.

2. On Monday I had a wave of energy that had me cleaning the house like I haven't been able to do in months.  Kitchen counter tops cleaned, all of the laundry cleaned, folded and put away, and the stairs vacuumed.  I even cleaned some of the basement play room.

3. Two nights ago I pulled out the kids' Advent calendars.  I'm still amazed that I was able to muster the energy to get the Advent wreath out on Sunday morning.

4. I am getting very close to being done with shopping for Christmas gifts.  And I even wrapped most of the gifts I already purchased.

5.  I think we've decided on a name for our unborn baby boy.  I've been comfortable enough with the name to share it with a few people so far so I think that's a good sign.  
6. I didn't cry when I discovered that the glass on the display screen for my camera is shattered.  I have no idea how it happened.  I suppose it happened on Thanksgiving when I had it in my purse but I didn't notice that it was broken until I went to take pictures of our Advent wreath on Sunday night.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Is that a Twinkie or a Minion?

I've noticed among my local friends' children that the cute little minions from Despicable Me seem to be quite popular.  I know all three of my girls are were quite taken with them in the first movie and after going to the movies to see Despicable Me 2 my eight year old talked about the minions for days afterwards.

I was recently made aware of a fun little sweepstakes where entrants are asked to dress up a Twinkie like a Minion.  Sounds like a fun little weekend activity for the kids, right?  And now that I've heard of this sweepstakes I keep laughing to myself about how much a Twinkie really does resemble a minion.

So if you're interested in giving a Twinkie a Minion makeover check out the details below:


Hostess and Universal Studios Celebrate the Despicable Me 2 release on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD with The Twinkie Minion Makeover Sweepstakes! The Limited Edition Minion Makeover Packaging hits shelves as the holiday season gets underway.

Hostess is inviting fans across the country to kick up their creativity and dress up their favorite golden, crème-filled treats and “Minion-ize” their Twinkies for the chance to win great prizes. Now through January 5, 2014, Hostess lovers can make the season a little brighter by visiting the Hostess Facebook page . You can even download a collection of Minion accessories, and make your own Twinkie Minion.  Be sure to upload pictures of your creations to enter to win a daily instant prize, which includes aDespicable Me 2 Blu-ray™ and special offers from Hostess, or the grand prize, which includes a Home Theater System, a collection of 30 Blu-rays and a year’s supply of Hostess treats.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Product Review: Britax B-Agile Double

*Portions of this review were originally written for Amazon Vine.  I was provided with this item for free in exchange for my honest review.

Next to car seats, strollers have to be one of my favorite baby gear items to review.  You could call me a stroller snob.  I have a garage that is littered with a collection of strollers, most of which never see the light of day because they simply didn't meet my standards for everyday use after being test driven several times.  Now that we're expecting a new baby I am now on a quest to find the perfect lightweight double stroller since I will be joining the ranks of double stroller moms for the first time in 12 years of parenting.  My first three children were all spaced far enough apart that we only ever needed single strollers so double strollers are getting a lot of attention from me at the moment as I search for one that will accept a Chicco Keyfit infant seat and weigh in under 28lbs.  Does such a stroller exist?  I'm not sure, but if it does I intend to find it!

A little over a year ago I wrote the following review of the Britax B-Agile double stroller:

I'm going to do a little bit of comparing apples to oranges here by comparing the B-Agile Double to the single B-Agile. The stroller on the whole is a very nice double stroller. While I've yet to have two little ones of my own to push around in a double stroller on a regular basis, I have plenty of experience in pushing my friends' children around in their doubles.  

Just as you'll find in the single B-Agile, this stroller also has the infinite reclining seat backs. I'm not a fan of infinite reclining seat backs. No matter how easy or simple the manufacturer claims they are, there's usually something that gums up the works. I had issues with our single our of the box with the webbing for the adjustable portion being twisted, so be aware that the webbing could twist during repeated use and it is a pain to untwist.

It should be noted that while you could use this stroller with a newborn, the seat backs do not fully recline. It comes close to it, but it does not form a flat surface. It does recline enough that a baby will be able to nap, but if you are looking at this for twins and are hoping to use this instead of a travel system, this might not meet your expectations. One of the biggest drawbacks to this stroller as far as I'm concerned is the fact that you cannot use this with two infant car seats. The adaptor clips to use the Britax b-safe seat are shaped differently than the single B-Agile (they curve outwards on the double because the seats on the double are narrow, which is why the stroller can't accommodate two infant carrier car seats).  The stroller also cannot accept car seats from other manufacturers which is also disappointing.

The folding mechanism for the double B-Agile is essentially the same as the single, only with the double you need to pull on two pull straps instead of one. Just as with the single, I'm not thrilled with how this stroller folds. Sure it's quick and easy, but at 28lbs, this stroller is a bit heavy to handle as it falls into it's folded position. I do like that this stroller can stand on it's own once folded if you position the adjustable handle just right. Of course, the handle bar will come in contact with the ground once folded. I don't know about you, but I prefer the portion of the stroller that my hands will come in constant contact with to stay off the ground. If you're a soccer mom like me, imagine how dirty the handle bar will get when you fold this up in the muddy parking lot at the soccer field.

The buckle on the child restraint harness is super easy to snap together and release which is a huge improvement on the design found on the single B-Agile. Releasing the straps from the buckle requires very little effort. This buckle may be easy for little escape artists to free themselves.

The lack of a parent tray for the price of this stroller also does not impress me. I've felt the same way about my Peg Perego strollers as well. For what you're paying for this stroller, it would be nice to not have to buy the cup holder, too. However, if you do go with this stroller and need a parent tray or cup holder, I highly recommend the Britax parent organizer. I have one on my single B-Agile and I love it.

The storage basket underneath is decently sized. Thanks to the thoughtful design of the zip open foot rests on this stroller you can access what is in the basket from the front of the stroller if the seat backs are fully reclined. If you have an oversized bag in the basket you're probably going to encounter some difficulty in getting it out from the front.

I'm not a fan of a fixed height handle bar like you'd find on the single B-Agile, so I was happy to see that the double has an adjustable height handle. It's a nice feature to have especially for shorter or very tall parents. 

The canopies are very nice and generously sized. They will certainly shield little ones from the harsh sun. I love the peek-a-boo window on the canopies. The flaps lift up to reveal a mesh insert which you can see through. This design means you won't have clear vinyl that develops a hole over time or gives you a distorted view. It also means you can actually see your child. The rear of the canopies have a nice storage pocket which can be rolled up and secured. Once the back is rolled up there is a mesh lining that offers ventilation.

I love how smoothly this stroller handles. It is every bit as smooth and easy to steer as the single B-Agile. Even with my 50lb seven year old testing out one seat (she hardly fits in this stroller, but she sat in it so I could test it out) while my nine month old (nearly 20lbs) sat on the other side, the stroller handled very well. Thanks to the thoughtfully designed handlebar, you can easily push this stroller one handed.

The one touch brake is nice. It is easily engaged and disengaged. I like that one touch locks both rear wheels. Since the brake isn't stiff, you can lock and unlock the brake with sandals on and not kill your toes as you disengage the brake. It's the best brake lever that I've encountered on a stroller.

The stroller upholstery is nice. The material is a type that feels like it can easily be spot cleaned. I'd say the fabric is comparable to what you will find on Chicco and Peg Perego strollers. It's certainly nicer than what you will find on a Graco, Baby Trend, or Kolcraft stroller.

Adjusting the height of the harness straps is pretty easy. I like that there's no rethreading involved.

The maneuverability of this stroller is excellent especially given that it's a side by side double. To look at it you'd think there's no way it will fit through a standard doorway, but I was able to fit it through regular doors with a 32 inch opening in my house and it easily fit through the front door. This stroller is every bit as agile as the single version only it's wider. The widest part of this stroller is 30.5 inches.

I do think the seats on this stroller are narrow. My nine month old looked like a giant sitting in this stroller. She has loads of room to spread out in the single version of this stroller, so I was surprised at how little room she had in this one. I think children upwards of four years old will not be very comfortable riding in these narrow seats.

Overall, it's a very nicely made double stroller, but I see areas where improvements could be made. No stroller is perfect, you simply have to find one that has the features that are most important to you.

Brace yourselves...I'm going to start importing reviews

You all know that I write a good chunk of reviews on this blog for Catholic book titles and some DVDs and toys that are geared to Catholic children.  What some of you may not realize is I also write loads of reviews over on for their review program called Amazon Vine.  I pretty much review all sorts of items for them but I focus mostly on writing reviews of baby products and toys.  I began writing product reviews back in 2001 after relying heavily on customer reviews to wade through the market of baby products when we were expecting our first child.  Writing product reviews for baby products has actually been something I've felt strongly about for many years.  I even help friends and family members who are expecting babies wade through the sea of baby products by helping them build baby registries or by looking over what they registered for and offering them suggestions based on what they picked.  I'm certainly opinionated when it comes to baby gear!

At the moment I find myself in slightly uncharted territory given that we will have to use a double stroller for the first time once our little one arrives.  But, I'm not a newbie when it comes to reviewing double strollers.  I've test driven more than my fair share with my friends' children, and I've even reviewed a couple for Amazon.  Right now I'm on a quest to find the prefect double, so stay tuned for some baby product reviews from my Amazon Vine reviews and some new reviews as I explore new baby products in the coming months.  Strollers and carseats are my passion when it comes to baby gear so if you're looking for honest opinions from a picky mom then you're in the right place!

Guess what I've been up to?

I know most of you have probably been wondering why my blog has been a bit a bit quiet over the past  three months.  Part of that is due to us unexpectedly jumping feet first into homeschooling.  My goodness, I never realized just how much time and energy homeschooling could take.  And, those Jesse Tree swaps I hosted also took up a nice chunk of time.  But there's another reason why I've been so quiet.  We're expecting another baby!

I'm presently seventeen weeks along and our little one is due to arrive on May 9th.  Of course, with Katie coming a full week late and Madeline and Ellie arriving two weeks early who knows when this little guy will make his way into our arms.

We went to one of those ultrasound places where they do the gender determinations twice last month.  We went when I was 14 weeks along and it was pretty obvious that we had a little boy on the way.  Talk about a shock!  I already had a name picked out for my new princess and was already digging through hand-me-downs to pull out all the cute 0-3 and 3-6 month spring and summer clothes.  So when we discovered that he wasn't a she I went into hyper nesting mode and started getting everything ready for our little guy.

This past Friday we went back for another gender ultrasound (it was a two visit package) and the baby is still a boy. Oh boy!  So now we have some room shuffling to figure out and we certainly need to decide on a name for this little one who my husband is presently calling Quattro.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lilla Rose Live FB Party Event Starts Soon!

In a little over an hour the live FB event for my online Lilla Rose party will begin.  Mandi, my Lilla Rose consultant will be answering any questions you may have about the Lilla Rose hair accessories and she will also be giving away prizes.  Be sure to log onto the event so you don't miss out on the fun!

Lilla Rose is offering some great deals today and tomorrow for Black Friday.  All items are 20% off and orders over $50 ship free!  As a free shipping junkie I love any deal that gives me free shipping!
If you're a new Lilla Rose customer Mandi also has another offer going where if you buy three items you get a fourth one free.  Combined with the Black Friday deal that's pretty sweet!
Be sure to join the Live FB party event at 8PM EST tonight for an hour!  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jesse Tree Swap #2 Ornaments

At long last, here are the pictures of the swap 2 ornaments and the scripture they correspond with.  There are so many creative ornaments in this group.  
Beginning with the top row and moving left to right:
Day 1 Creation: Genesis 1:1-23 
Day 2 Creation: Continued
Day 3 Fall of Man: Genesis 3:1-15, 20-23
Day 4 Noah:  Genesis 6:5-20, 7:1-23, 8:1-17, 9:1-13 
Day 5 Abraham:  Genesis 12:1-5, 13:14-16, 18:1-10, 21:1-3 
Day 6 Isaac:  Genesis 22:1-14 
Day 7 Jacob:  Genesis 27:41-44, 28:10-17
Day 8 Joseph:  Genesis 37:3-4, 17-28 
Day 9 Moses:  Exodus 2:1-10, 3:1-12 
Day 10 Moses Continued:  Exodus, Chapters 7-14, 19, 32
Day 11 Ruth: Ruth 1:1-16, 7-22
Day 12 Samuel: 1 Samuel, Chapter 3 .
Day 13 Jesse:  1 Samuel, Chapter 16 
Day 14 David:  1 Samuel, Chapter 17, 19:1-2
Day 15 Solomon:  1 Kings, Chapter 3 
Day 16 Elijah:  1 Kings, Chapters 17 &; 18
Day 17 Elisha:  2 Kings 5
Day 18 Isaiah's Prophecies:  Isaiah 8:6-7
Day 19 Isaiah:  Isaiah Chapter 6
Day 20 Daniel:  Daniel 6:11-17, 19-25
Day 21 Jeremiah:  Jeremiah, Chapter 31
Day 22 Angels:  Luke, Chapter 1
Day 23 Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist:  Luke, Chapter 1
Day 24 Blessed Virgin Mary:  Luke, Chapter 1
Day 25 The Visitation:  Luke 1:39-56
Day 26 Joseph:  Matthew, Chapter 1
Day 27 The Nativity:  Luke, Chapter 2
Day 28 Magi: Matthew 2:1-12

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jesse Tree Ornament Swap #1 Ornaments

The Jesse Tree Swap ornaments for both swaps are all on their way to their new homes and should arrive in time for the first Sunday of Advent.  I'm still amazed that 1. there was enough interest to fill two swaps and 2. that the swaps both went as smoothly as they did.  I really expected there to be a disaster of some sort.  Last Monday a package arrived at my house that was damaged and had been taped up by the post office.  Shock, relief and total thankfulness pretty much sums up how I felt when I opened the box and found all of the ornaments in tact.  Crisis averted!

I've already had a few people ask if I'm going to do this again next year.  I'm considering it, but if I do it will only be one swap and I will start it a month earlier.  It will really all depend on how busy life is in our house next year.  We have some big changes coming up in the coming year so I will have to wait and see if I will have the time to take on another swap.

Back to the swap.  It was my original intention to put together a little booklet that had a picture of each ornament and the bible story that went with it.  Unfortunately I didn't anticipate spending a week battling a cold and then spending another week with a cranky teething toddler all while trying to get a handle on our first year of homeschooling.  Toss in some other happy circumstances that have pretty much sapped most of my energy and you have the reason why that little booklet never came into existence.

I'd still like to give you a run down on each of the ornaments so when you open up your box of ornaments you know which one goes with which day so I've created a few photo collages of the ornaments.
Beginning with the top row and moving left to right:
Day 1 Creation: Genesis 1:1-23 
Day 2 Creation: Continued
Day 3 Fall of Man: Genesis 3:1-15, 20-23
Day 4 Noah:  Genesis 6:5-20, 7:1-23, 8:1-17, 9:1-13 
Day 5 Abraham:  Genesis 12:1-5, 13:14-16, 18:1-10, 21:1-3 
Day 6 Isaac:  Genesis 22:1-14 
Day 7 Jacob:  Genesis 27:41-44, 28:10-17
Day 8 Joseph:  Genesis 37:3-4, 17-28 
Day 9 Moses:  Exodus 2:1-10, 3:1-12 

Day 10 Moses Continued:  Exodus, Chapters 7-14, 19, 32
Day 11 Ruth: Ruth 1:1-16, 7-22
Day 12 Samuel: 1 Samuel, Chapter 3 .
Day 13 Jesse:  1 Samuel, Chapter 16 
Day 14 David:  1 Samuel, Chapter 17, 19:1-2
Day 15 Solomon:  1 Kings, Chapter 3 
Day 16 Elijah:  1 Kings, Chapters 17 & 18
Day 17 Elisha:  2 Kings 5
Day 18 Isaiah's Prophecies:  Isaiah 8:6-7

Day 19 Isaiah:  Isaiah Chapter 6
Day 20 Daniel:  Daniel 6:11-17, 19-25
Day 21 Jeremiah:  Jeremiah, Chapter 31
Day 22 Angels:  Luke, Chapter 1
Day 23 Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist:  Luke, Chapter 1
Day 24 Blessed Virgin Mary:  Luke, Chapter 1
Day 25 The Visitation:  Luke 1:39-56
Day 26 Joseph:  Matthew, Chapter 1
Day 27 The Nativity:  Luke, Chapter 2 

Day 28 Magi: Matthew 2:1-12
O Antiphon: O Wisdom
O Antiphon: O Lord of Lords
O Antiphon: O Flower of Jesse's Stem
O Antiphon: O Key of David
O Antiphon: O Radiant Dawn
O Antiphon: O King of All Nations
O Antphon: O Emmanuel

The O Antiphons begin on December 18th.

The ornaments and the bible stories for each one are the same as what is used in the Holy Heroes Jesse Tree DVD.  You can also see the Jesse Tree videos that go with these ornaments by signing up for their free Advent Adventure.

I hope you all have a blessed Advent!  I know my children can't wait to use all of our lovely new Jesse Tree ornaments.  We will be praying for all of you this Advent.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I'm Hosting a Lilla Rose Online Party and You're Invited!

Over the past year I've seen so many blog posts with people absolutely raving about the beautiful hair accessories from Lilla Rose.  For the longest while, I figured with my chin length hair that those pretty flexi clips and beaded head bands just weren't for me even though I really liked them.  But now that I have slightly longer than shoulder length hair I thought it would be fun to host an online Lilla Rose party (November 24th-December 6th) and you're all invited!

My blogging friend Mandi, from Messy Wife, Blessed Life is a Lilla Rose consultant and she will be posting information about the great products offered by Lilla Rose and even some tips on different hair styles on the Facebook event page for the party.  And this Friday night, November 29th, at 8PM EST she will answer questions and give away prizes during an hour long LIVE event.  I hope you can join us, I think it will be fun.

If you're new to Lilla Rose, Mandi has a special offer for the party.  Buy three items and get one free! (up to a $16 value)

The party will close on December 6th to ensure delivery in time for Christmas, so be sure to place your orders before then!

All orders will be submitted together and shipped when the online party closes on December 6th.  Direct shipping is available to anywhere in the U.S.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

CD Review: Brother Francis Walking with Jesus

Several months back I was sent a copy of Brother Francis' Walking with Jesus music CD.  The CD is a collection of rosary prayers in song.  Many of the songs on the CD are familiar songs from the Brother Francis DVD series so they were an instant hit with my toddler and have seen a lot of play time as a result.

So what should you know about these songs? Well, for starters, they help to familiarize little ones with the rosary and the the prayers of the rosary.  I play many of these songs for the students in my religious education kindergarten class and last year when they put on an end of year show with another class the teacher of the other class came to me weeks later telling me how she had one of the songs stuck in her head and she needed to know the name of the CD.  Several of the songs are quite catchy like that.  When teaching little ones their prayers I like anything that helps to make it stick and these songs do just that.

All of the prayers we pray during the rosary are presented in song form on this CD.  Children are also introduced to the four sets of rosary mysteries through a series of songs.  It's a great way to introduce little ones to the rosary.

This CD is perfect for toddlers through second grade.  The songs are all beautifully done and will resonate with youngsters.

Since we're approaching the time of year where people start thinking about Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers, I think this CD would make an excellent faith filled gift idea.  It would fit perfectly in a stocking!

I was provided with a review copy of Walking with Jesus: The Rosary Prayers in Song by the publisher, Herald Kids in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Brother Francis Online for more information on this CD and their other great Brother Francis products.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LifebankUSA Winter Peace of Mind Giveaway

LifebankUSA is hosting another awesome Britax car seat giveaway on their Facebook page.  Three entrants will be selected to win a Britax Marathon 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat valued at $260!  I actually have this seat (You can find my review of it here.).  I've trusted Britax car seats with my girls' safety for the past twelve years and I highly recommend their car seats. 

So what is LifebankUSA and why are they giving away three awesome Britax car seats?   LifebankUSA is hosting this Facebook Winter peace of mind giveaway to spread the word about the "peace of mind" services they provide to expectant parents.  They are the only company that offers cord blood, placenta blood and tissue banking -- and the first to release placenta-derived stem cells for a successful transplant -- New Jersey-based LifebankUSA is a technological leader that is pioneering key medical innovations in the field.  Owned by the Celgene Corporation, a world-class biopharmaceutical company, LifebankUSA also operates a robust donation program and collects cells from anywhere in the US for use primarily in advancing medical research.  

What are the benefits of banking cord blood? Through cord blood banking, you can collect and preserve potentially lifesaving stem cells, and doing so could one day save the life of your child or a blood relative. You can bank even more stem cells by collecting them from 2 usable sources of stem cell-rich blood: the umbilical cord and the placenta. This service is called Placental and Cord Blood Banking, and it's available only from LifebankUSA. Whether you choose Placental and Cord Blood Banking or Cord Blood Banking alone, there are many important reasons to choose LifebankUSA.  

Why choose LifebankUSA? When you bank with LifebankUSA, they include tissue banking (tissue from the placenta) for free.* Placental tissue contains mesenchymal cells (MSCs) and MSC-like cells. While stem cells found in cord blood and placenta blood have been used to successfully treat patients, there are currently no approved uses for stem cells derived from the umbilical cord or placenta tissue. Possible therapeutic applications are in early research stages and LifebankUSA's parent company is actively involved in their development.

LifebankUSA will store the placenta tissue for you as part of their complete banking package using their cryogenic tanks for long-term preservation. In the event your baby's tissue cells are ever needed for future therapies, the tissue may then be processed and cultured using available technology at that time.†  Tissue banking is just one more layer of protection and peace of mind offered by LifebankUSA.

The LifebankUSA Winter Peace of Mind Car Seat Giveaway runs from now until December 31, 2013.   Head over to LifebankUSA's Facebook page and enter for a chance to win a great carseat that will take your child from infancy to kindergarten.

*Storage fees apply after the first year
†Clients will be responsible for the cost of shipping the tissue and any culturing or expansion of the cells.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

You know you have an awesome husband when...

I use Grammarly's grammar correction feature because having bad grammar is like washing dishes with no soap.  It just doesn't make sense.

I need to give a major shout out to Bryan that comes with some big awesome husband kudos.  All week long he's been getting up at 5:30AM and leaving for work only to return home around 8PM.  He's had a lot of important all day meetings with different vendors over the past month and it's not only exhausting for him, but it's pretty exhausting for me.  The kids and I are used to him working from home three days a week which clearly has us spoiled.

I had a bit of a melt down this evening.  Bryan was still working even though he thought he'd be home a bit earlier today.  The hand wash only pans and bakeware were piling up in the sink and we had no dish soap.  I was hungry and we had nothing good to eat and the baby was on a cry jag.  Also add in that I was exhausted and I haven't been feeling well.  Poor Bryan patiently let me complain to him via text and then over the phone as he made his way home.  I lamented that I really needed meat and have been dying for a filet mignon for the past six or seven weeks.

Now if I were Bryan, I'd have been a lot less patient and I certainly wouldn't have done what he did.  After a long day at work and a long commute he took a detour to the local grocery store to buy me a steak which he then had to prepare outside in forty some degree weather.  And to earn even more awesome husband bonus points, he even brought home two bottles of dish soap in the brand and scent that I like best (He did use a "phone-a-wife" life line to verify the brand and scent that I wanted.).  And the steak?  It was awesome.

So sorry, ladies, I'm keeping him.  I have a feeling that not all men would come home from a long day of work, stop at the grocery store and then grill up an amazing filet mignon for their complaining wife.  Clearly I'm helping him on his way to sainthood.

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Disney World

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life...

Two weeks ago we packed up the minivan and headed to Florida for a much needed vacation.  It's hard to believe that it was just a week ago that we headed home.  I feel like so much has happened in the past week that we can't possibly have been home for just seven days.

We had a great time in Disney World.  We went to all four parks and amazingly didn't wait longer than fifteen minutes to get on any of the rides.  I attribute that to us having the nifty "Magic Bands" that allowed us to schedule a fast pass for three rides per day as well as being able to use our room keys to get additional fast passes.  We also made sure we were at some of the parks right when they opened so we could take advantage of shorter lines.  It worked out so well that we managed to get on all the rides that tend to have very long lines with 0 and 5 minute wait times during the first hour that the park was open.

One of the nicest perks of our vacation was getting the Disney Dining Plan for free.  Free food is awesome when you are in Disney World.  They gave us so much food that we could barely eat it all.  Poor Ellie kept turning down dessert! Since ages nine and up are considered an adult at Disney World, Madeline really enjoyed getting to order off the adult menu, especially when it came time for dessert.  


On our first day in the parks I took the obligatory picture of the kids in front of the castle.  If I didn't my mom would yell at me.  Now I wish I could tell you I took this picture as soon as we got there but unfortunately the skies opened up and it started pouring as soon as we made it through the gate.  It made for a very wet day, but we still had a lot of fun.

We spotted this pretty rainbow on Main Street on our next to the last day of vacation.  I don't think I've ever seen a rainbow in Disney World before.

I love this picture of Katie.  She was trying to watch a little show that was going on when I was taking pictures of her so she actually stayed still long enough for me to get a few good pictures.


Katie was star struck when she saw her favorite characters.  She was so excited to see Sophia the first that we ended up having to stand in a twenty minute line so she could meet her.  Her reaction was priceless.  She was beaming the entire time.

Even though they aren't going anywhere, the girls were happy to pose for a picture in the cute little Dumbo photo-op spot.


I like looking for hidden Mickeys and other little things of that nature in the rides.  In the Pooh Bear ride at the Magic Kingdom there are a few Mr. Toad shout outs in the ride.  The Mr. Toad ride, which was my favorite, was removed in order to make way for the Pooh Bear ride.

I particularly like the Donald Duck pinata that is found in the boat ride in Epcot's Mexico.  I wish they sold that pinata out in the little marketplace area they have.  I bet he'd sell fast!

Phone booths.  How many of you have kids who are totally unaware that there was such a thing in the days before everyone had a cell phone?  The girls went nuts when the saw the red phone booths in the UK area of Epcot.  "Hey, they had that in Harry Potter!"  Ellie wanted her picture taken in it so she started to play in the phone booth which was a total novelty to her.  Then she comes out and tells me that it has a real phone in it.  So Bryan and I took the opportunity to tell the girls about how phone booths used to be all over the place before people had cell phones.  We totally blew their minds!


I'm shocked and amazed that we actually got a family picture where everyone was looking at the camera and looks reasonably happy.  We have a few others that are close to this but I think this one is the best.  I don't know why it's so difficult for us to get a nice family picture.  I guess it's just one of the mysteries of life.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Found them!

After I blogged that last post Bryan walked in the door from a long day of work and I let him know that I was on the verge of either crying or having a major freak out because the SD card with Katie's second birthday pictures was MIA.  So before even getting a chance to sit down he helped me to find the memory card.  Everywhere I looked I found nothing but clutter and messes that needed to be addressed.  He managed to find the memory card in a pretty obvious spot: with the rest of my camera equipment.  I think he deserves some awesome husband points for saving the day.

So I can breathe a massive sigh of relief now.  Bryan insisted that I upload the pictures to my laptop right away.  As I scanned some of the images that were on the card I found pictures from our trip to the local pumpkin patch, both of Katie's parties and a series of pictures that make me so happy that we homeschool.

You see, in a regular middle school setting you don't have your parents goofing around with you while you take a test.  With homeschool, you might find that you have an inflatable pony inches away from your face as you take a vocabulary test.  So you really do have to learn how to concentrate and filter out even the most bizarre situations.  Life skills.  She's learning life skills and demonstrating that she can focus on academics even in odd situations.

And this is why I need to blog more often

The past two months have been a bit of an exhausting blur for me.  There is so much I want to do but I just have been lacking both the time and energy to do it all.  So here I am with a list of things I want to blog and I sit down to find I have a problem.

I wanted to share a few pictures from Katie's second birthday.  She had a party with family a few days before her birthday and I took lots of pictures and then she had cake and a few presents with us on her actual birthday and I took more pictures.  The big question is: Where are my pictures???  They're not in iPhoto and they're not on two of the memory cards I just checked.  I'm on the verge of freaking out.  I don't know whether to cry or scream.

This never would have happened if I made myself blog a bit more back in October.  Those pictures would be sitting in my iPhoto right now between the pictures from the alpaca farm field trip and Halloween and our Disney vacation.

Oh and I also need to take and share pictures of the Jesse Tree ornaments that have been arriving at my house over the past few weeks.  Maybe I'll do that later tonight.  I have so much to blog but I want to do a lot of it in order so it's not as scatterbrained as I feel right now.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Small Successes: October 31st

1. I timed getting to the Halloween parade at Ellie's school so well that I not only scored a spot in one of the parking lots, but I also only had to wait five minutes for her class to come out and parade around.  Score!

2. The class party for Ellie's class went well.

3. Our car is just about packed for our Disney vacation.  We got most of it done last night and now we're rounding up a few odds and ends like tooth brushes and toothpaste.

4.  Madeline is nearly done her first quarter of homeschooling.  Two religion tests, a rewrite or two of a book report, and one English test to go and she'll be done.  Of course, all of that is going to have to wait until we get home.

5. We are caught up on the laundry.

6. I have clean kitchen countertops.  It will be nice to come home to a clean house.

7.  Pending all goes well, we can check off Mass for All Saint's Day, trick or treating and getting out on the road in the next three hours.  We're almost there!

Come and link up with your Small Successes over at Catholic Mom.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: Catholic Mom's Cafe

At this point I've read several books written by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle and I'm always impressed with how well her writing resonates with me as a Catholic mother.  Catholic Mom's Cafe is no exception.  This book is a daily devotional filled with quick mini-retreats that only take five minutes.  If you're a mom, you know how precious every minute of the day can be, so having something like this that only requires five minutes to help you spiritually recharge is great.

I like daily devotional books like this where the book is laid out with a specific passage for each day of the year, but I have to tell you that I don't always use the books like that.  I can't always rely on picking up the same book day after day.  I have a short attention span in that regard, so I'm more likely to pick up a book like this and pick a day, any day and go from there.  Sometimes I'll just page through and find something that jumps out at me and then zero in on that particular passage and it's not unlike me to sit down and pick two.  Sure it's not following the exact way it was meant to be used, but that's ok.

So you're probably wondering about these mini-retreats, right?  As a mom, if you're like me, you might consider a mini-retreat that moment where you're able to sneak a treat without your little ones clamoring for it, or maybe it's getting to chat with a friend on the phone for a few needed minutes of conversation with an adult.  All good things, but they don't necessarily feed the soul.  The mini-retreats in this book can give you a nice spiritual pick-me-up.  Each daily retreat has four components.  First there's an inspirational quote for you to ponder which is focused on a particular virtue.  Next you'll find a section that offers a meditation that ties in nicely with the preceding quote to provide more food for thought. This is followed by prayer and concludes with a thought to savor for the day.  For the busy mom who is pressed for time these daily retreats can't be beat.  (No, I didn't actually intend for that to rhyme and sound hokey, but I'm leaving it there.)

With Christmas approaching and this book being a daily devotional that is ordered by month, I think this would make an excellent stocking stuffer for the busy mom in your life.  This would also be a thoughtful gift idea for a new mom.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I was provided with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic Mom's Cafe. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Small Successes: October 24th

Truth be told, I haven't been feeling very successful as of late.  There is so much that I want to do that I simply don't have the time or energy to accomplish, but since this is small successes, and not amazing successes, I know I can list at least a few things.

1.  My husband has been having to spend a lot of time in the office the past couple of weeks.  This week he has had to go into the office every day this week.  Tomorrow he gets to work from home.  So the fact that I'm about five or six hours away from him being home for the next three days and my sanity is mostly in tact is something I'd call a success.  Don't ask me how I'm getting through next week, or the three weeks after our much needed vacation.  I don't want to think about it so you probably don't want to either.  Let's just say I've been spoiled the past two years with a husband who is home five days a week.  

2.  Laundry feels like it's been the bane of my existence lately.  No matter how much of it I do, it is never finished.  I've had a few good days where I managed to get 3-4 loads done per day.  It's not folded, but it's clean.  You just have to go digging though the pile of clean laundry in the living room if you need something.  Or, if you're like me, you'll just scrounge around your closet and find something, anything that works.  But seriously, I'm probably going to have to go digging for clothes by tomorrow morning.

3.  Ellie's teacher emailed me on Monday to ask me to plan the class Halloween party.  Yes, that's right, just 10 days notice.  Awesome!  I sat on it for two days before contacting the parents.  These awesome people signed up for all of the needed supplies in under 8 hours.  I can call the Halloween party planning done.

4. I have started to put some thought into what should be packed for our upcoming Disney World trip.  Thinking about it is just as good as important as actually packing, right?  What I haven't done is tried on any of the clothes I think I might take with me.  I suppose I should do that, but then I might possibly freak out if certain articles of clothes don't fit.  Please, God, let it be chilly enough to wear jeans in Florida in early November otherwise I know you know I'll cry.

5. The girls and I went to confession last night.  It's the first time in many, many months that we haven't had to stand in a long line.  I don't want to think about how many hours I've stood in line for confession since mid-May.  Standing in line for confession with two or three children feels like the perfect penance for someone who is impatient.

6. I went to the grocery store this week for the first time in I don't know how long.  Several weeks at least.  Of course, I get there and they don't have the #1 item on my list: romano cheese.  Fortunately, my wonderful husband, who has been getting up at 5:30AM and working long hours and then commuting home in rush hour traffic, took pity on me and stopped at another grocery store on the way home and got several containers of romano cheese.  My hero!

Link up at Catholic Mom and share your small successes for this week.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where has the last week gone?

I feel like it's been ages since I have even touched the blog.  We had a busy weekend followed up by a busy week and the next thing I know it's been over a week since I posted anything on the blog.  And in some ways we can even say this looks a bit like procrastination.

First, I have a bit of Jesse Tree Ornament Swap news.  For swap #2 I have no contact information for Wendy J. (ornament #5) and Erin (ornament #18).  If either one of you see this please email me so I can send you the email I sent everyone else on 10/12 that contains all of the swap details.  While I have contact info for everyone else, I still haven't heard from many of you.  Please send me and email so I know you got the email I have sent.  I'm not someone who adheres to the "no news is good news" line of thinking.  Instead I'm waking up in the middle of the night here and there wondering if some who signed up for the swap had second thoughts and haven't communicated it to me.

Last week Katie turned two.  She's two already!  I have the hardest time believing that she's two, but then she throws a little fit or something and I believe it.  She certainly acts like a two year old.  We had a party for her on the 13th and then cake on her birthday a few days later.  Katie loves cake!

Bryan was sick last week with a double ear infection and now I'm not feeling to well either.  The past few days my throat has been sore and I feel like one of my ears is filling with fluid.  Katie had a bit of a cough and cold last week with left her feeling a bit grouchy.

Katie, Ellie and I had a bit of a pumpkin picking hay ride fail last Monday.  Clearly choosing a day when everyone was off from school to do a hay ride was not the brightest idea.  We ended up buying pumpkins from the market area and ditching our plans for the hay ride.

I'm really surprised that Madeline is only a week or two away from wrapping up all of her classes for the first quarter.  Some days haven't been the easiest, but we're getting there.  There are some changes I'd like to make for the remainder of the year so I'm going to have to take a little time to sit down and see what I can do.  We're using Seton for our homeschool because 1. I was able to get her enrolled and have books delivered quickly when we made an 11th hour decision to pull her out of the public school system days before the school year was set to begin.  2. It's an accredited program which makes my husband feel a lot more comfortable with our decision to homeschool.  3. I know people who use the program who have all had good things to say about it.  Now there are plenty of aspects about Seton that I like, but there are some things that I'm not necessarily thrilled about.  I don't particularly like their science and history books so I need to find ways to tweak, supplement  and substitute while still preparing her to take their tests.  And then, there's the dilemma of my child not being very fond of memorization which is a huge part of the religion course.  Right now we're having Ellie work with her on the memorization.  Ellie is a pro when it comes to memorization so I'm hoping her method of quizzing her older sister will work.  So far it's getting her somewhat better results.  I think it has an additional benefit of Ellie learning the material, too.

I got an email from Ellie's teacher yesterday asking me to organize the class party for Halloween.  I can't believe how quickly the end of the month is coming up on us.  I'm a little surprised at how few parents volunteered to help out with supplying treats for the class parties.  Of course, with all of the restrictions the school now has on sweets, there isn't much on the list of approved food items.  The school even changed it's policy on how many parent volunteers are allowed to help with the parties.  Just two parents per class.  Years ago we were allowed to have five or six.  This new way of doing things very closely resembles the way things are done at our local parish school.  I really disliked the way they sucked the fun out of classroom parties and it looks like the public schools are now doing the same.  Another reason to prefer homeschooling to a traditional school.  I'm just fine with having some goodies and fun to celebrate a holiday or feast day.

When I get a little more time I'll update the blog with some pictures of the birthday girl and some of the other happenings of last week.  I just don't have the energy at the moment to sort through photos, edit and water mark them and everything else that is associated with me adding them to this post.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Attention: Jesse Tree Swap Participants

Both Jesse Tree Ornament Swaps are now filled.  I'd like to email all of you in the next day or two with all of the details for the swap.  Particularly where to mail the ornaments and how to pay for the return shipping.  But first, I really need your help.  I have roughly forty people for whom I have no contact info.  I need an email address for each participant so I can send you all of the swap details.  I've spent a few hours over the past two days trying to track down email addresses and it's becoming very time consuming.  It would be an amazing help if you would email me at Karen(at)KareninMommyland(dot)com and tell me:
1. Your name
2. Which swap you joined
3. The ornament you are making

I thank you all in advance for your understanding.  For those of you who have already left your email address in the comments or have sent me an email I sincerely appreciate it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Alpaca Field Trip

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life...

Yesterday Madeline, Katie and I went on a field trip with a local homeschool group to a nearby alpaca farm.  The trip was a lot of fun and we learned some interesting things about alpacas, including how alpacas and llamas differ.

One of the highlights of the field trip was getting to feed the alpacas.  It took me some time to work up the courage to feed one.  I was pretty nervous about it.  I'm happy to report that I still have all of my fingers.  Oh, and from what we were told, alpacas don't bite.

I'm not sure who was happier, the alpacas or the kids.  The kids all thought it was funny how the alpacas wiggle their lips all over your hand when you feed them.  It was a really odd feeling.

At the end of our field trip the kids got to make an alpaca ornament.  I think they cookie cutter used to make the ornaments was really cute.  

Madeline was happy with how her craft turned out.  Or maybe she was happy to get a morning off from doing school work.  Either way, she was happy.

This alpaca made me laugh.  She realized that I was holding a bag of food in my hand and I think she was doing her best to get my attention so she could get that food.  She seemed like she had quite the personality when compared to the other alpacas.

Katie wasn't all that sure about the alpacas, but she really liked this little goat who was wandering around in the alpaca pen.  I was shocked when I saw her nose to nose with this little goat.  And I'm pretty sure this little guy licked her face.  Katie thought he was the greatest thing.  Although I'm pretty sure she thought it was a dog.

Katie is beaming in this picture as she hangs out with her goat friend but moments later she was very unhappy with me when I took her away from him.  The little goat kept watching her from afar.  I honestly wasn't sure if goats were kid friendly or not and I couldn't just leave her with the goat while the rest of the homeschool group moved on to the craft portion of the trip.  She's my only child who has ever been so outgoing when it comes to animals.  It always catches me off guard.  

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.

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