Monday, December 14, 2015

December Tumbling Meet!

Mommy blogging it up in here!

L had another meet this past weekend - so prepare to be inundated with all the pictures!



Monday, December 7, 2015

Cross Stitch Saints: A Review

Items were provided, thoughts are my own.

Nancy from Do Small Things with Love was kind enough to provide LB (10) with a cross stitch saint pattern to review.
L selected Blessed Mother Teresa to cross stitch.  

When we got the package, it included the embroidery floss, all labeled, the pattern, the fabric, and the hoop.

I gave L a few pointers on tightening the hoop and marking each stitch on her pattern as she continued so she wouldn't lose track (I had her poke a hole in the stitches on the pattern after she stitched them on the fabric so she'd know where to pick back up after putting it down for a bit).

Just starting out

About halfway there!

She did it!

In the beginning, L seemed a little overwhelmed at getting started on this project.  However, once she started, she seemed to gain momentum throughout the project.  She would run up to me and show me her progress, she took pride in completing a project on her own.

It was such great practice at following a pattern and the end result is lovely.  

An unintended benefit of this project was that we both had handiwork to do together.  As I sat knitting, she would pick up her cross stitch and we would talk or watch something together.

That alone is worth the purchase.  That slow, quiet time together was so great.  Even more wonderful that we could talk about the saint she was working on.

If you're looking for a little something to tuck into a stocking, I really recommend this for the budding or practiced crafter in your life.  

Check out Nancy's shop.  I think the next thing I want to make is one of the felt alphabet books.  They look perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Talking Fiats: A Conference

About a week back, a friend reached out asking for some logistics support on an event she is working on.

Sometimes the hard parts of infertility seem to pile up in front of me. Then, there are those moments that God shows me the grace. 

When He shows me a way the space He's allowed into my life can be used to serve Him in a way that brings me joy. 

Today, I'm talkin about such joy. 

Women getting together to celebrate, encourage each other, and embrace our unique paths through this great big journey to Heaven. 

Advent helps us remember and focus on the beautiful fiat of Mary....and the miracle and wonder that brought to the world!

Just like Mary, each of us has a fiat. Something God is calling us in to, while giving us the free will to embrace or turn from it. 

It might not come with an angelic apparition, but there's a miracle waiting to be worked in each of us, and today, I'm so excited to announce the event that friend asked me to help with - the Finding Your Fiat Conference. 

Join other women from around the country to laugh, share, party (hello Friday night mixer!), and learn. 

Let's embrace our fiat, and find support in each other along the way!

I hope you can join us.  June 24-25 in Central Illinois.

Check out the Speakers section if you wanna see what's making me excited, throw-uppy nervous, and absolutely thrilled!

Can't wait to see you all this summer. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mochas at Home: A Recipe

I've never been a coffee drinker. Always loved the smell, but couldn't stomach it. 

I'm thinking coffee purists would still say I'm not a coffee drinker, but I've developed a serious love of mochas. You know, grown up hot chocolate - but the kind you can drink and drive with :)

The downside has been that they haven't tasted *quite* the same made at home - and I can't justify spending all those dollars on a caffeine fix , so mostly I've done without. 

Well, Advent is starting off with a bang because today - TODAY - I finally figured out a less expensive home brew that rivals that $5 cup. 

It all started with an IKEA French press for under $10 and a bag of ground espresso blend. 

Espresso (or dark roast of choice) Concentrate:

4 cups water
2 cups ground beans

24 hours cold brewing in a container of your choice in the fridge. 

After 24 hours, strain and reserve liquid in the fridge. (Mine lives in the French press in my fridge.)

When you're ready to brew your mocha:

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 Tablespoons very hot water

Mix cocoa powder, water and sugar into a syrup. 

Add 3 Tablespoons Espresso Concentrate (adjust this up or down a tablespoon as desired, 3 is perfect for my tastebuds!)

10 ounces hot or steamed milk

Add milk to mocha solution and stir. 

Now make a cup, sit down in your favorite pjs and do some Advent reading with an online shopping chaser. Make your season prayerful and convenient, right!!?! :)

If you stop by my shop (Annery's Handmade on Etsy - shop from my tab up top!), be sure to use the coupon code SMALLBIZ20 through 11/30 for 20% off. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Theme Thursday {Groups}

Theme Thursday Oct NovLinking up with California to Korea for Theme Thursday!

Last weekend, we had family pictures for the parish directory.

Since everyone was already dressed in coordinating clothes, and the weather was beautiful, we went to our local nature preserve and snapped a few shots (with the help of my niece).

Here are some outtakes of our "group" shots :)

File this under "things I made my kids do"

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bursting with Pride

Last weekend, L competed in her very first tumbling meet.  Her events were trampoline and double mini trampoline.

She did a great job and I was so proud of her, I found myself on the edge of spontaneous, big, blubbering tears a few times.  Thankfully for the comfort of the complete strangers around me, I held it together!

She placed in both events - second and third.  A great start and it's safe to say, she's hooked.  She's already talking about the December meet :)

Mommy pride overload complete....for today :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Theme Thursday {All the Catch-up}

Theme Thursday Oct NovBy my count, I'm only three weeks behind (gah!)

So, I'm going to play a little catch-up!

Linking up with California to Korea once again - and very truantly!

10/22 - Same Photo, Different Angles

I opened an Etsy shop at the beginning of October (can't imagine why I haven't blogged much - ha!).  As a part of the process, I took lots of product photos.  A. Lot.

10/29 - Silhouette

 I took a series of shots of a full moon recently.  While I still have a lot to learn about my settings, I love this one because of the shadows and depth.  The silhouette of the trees in the foreground and the barest shape of the moon, something about this one just sits well with me.

11/5 - Catchlights

Ah, the light in her eyes.  This is a special catchlight.  This is my girl after her first tumbling meet.  She competed in two events, trampoline and double mini trampoline and came home with second and third place trophies.  That catchlight?  It's about doing something that makes you deep down inside yourself proud....and your hard work made your mom so proud she almost broke into blubbery tears no less than twice.

11/12 - Close ups

Recently, we've been helping with my nephew a couple days a week.  L is a "baby person" to her core.  She loves babies.  Here's a close up of their sweet snuggles.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Our Family's Jesse Tree: A Review

Author provided book for review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Recently, I got a copy of the digital book Our Family's Jesse Tree.

I love the Jesse Tree tradition.  If you're not familiar with it, the Jesse Tree is a set of images that tell the story of salvation from the start of creation. 

Each picture corresponds with a scripture reading.  It's like a miniature bible timeline study for Advent.  A small thing you can do each day that gives your kids an overview of our entire story.

With this book, you can bring the salvation story to life in a way that works for your family, crafty skills, and speed of life. 

It includes each of the scripture readings that accompany the images - as well as a prayerful reflection.

The book offers detailed directions - great for the beginning crafter.  It offers a variety of ways the ornaments can be created, including:
  • Printing the pictures
  • Printing the pattern for coloring
  • Printing the pattern pieces for craft foam 
  • Printing the pattern pieces for felt or embroidering
This project will absolutely meet you where you are, wherever you are.

Maybe this is a season of busyness for your family - print the pictures or let the toddlers color the patterns to use.

Maybe you have a budding new artist in your home - let them create with colored pencils, craft foam or felt.

Or, maybe crafting is your downtime.  This book offers you a how-to guide to a beautiful tradition.

My youngest is just getting old enough to color and sit for a few moments.  My oldest is able to do quite a bit more in the crafting department.  This Advent, we'll be able to print two sets of ornaments and let the girls create their own sets. 

I'm looking forward to incorporating this book into our season, and now that I have a beautiful set of patterns, we'll be able to use them to the girls' abilities over the years to come.

You can find it for sale - and very reasonably priced - here: 
To find more of Jen's beautiful work and patterns, check her out on Facebook or find her on Instagram at @faithandfabric

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sharpen Your Sword

As a young teen, I remember my mom retelling her reading of a book on a saint being attacked by demons.  She was reading it late at night and my father was out of town.  A pretty great time to spook yourself out.  But, then the voice of Mary spoke to her heart, "What would you do if there were someone attacking your child?"  Of course, she would fight them.  She would go after them with the veracity of a wild animal....and in that moment, Mary said, "Aren't you my child?"

Mama's got our back.

Still, I've always been abjectly terrified by the idea of demons attacking me.  On the nights when the fear crept in, I would pray that I never face such trials.  I would pray, "God, I'm not strong enough for that."

Every now and then throughout my life, I've felt attacks pulling and pushing on my emotions, on my life.  No physical assaults, but there all the same.

At the beginning of October, I opened an Etsy shop that includes little knit roses for counting out the prayers of the rosary - especially helpful in the hard-to-pray categories of little fidgeters and older hands unable to hold small beads.

Before opening, I thought about how these would help more families bring a decade (or five!) into the realm of possible with family life.  I thought about little hands squishing the roses and proudly placing them in a basket or the family prayer space as each prayer was said.

I didn't think about how irritating lots of little hands holding roses and praying would be to the enemy.

I didn't think about how all those prayers - all those potential prayers coming from my knitting needles would be a declaration of war.

But, over the last month, my three year old has been plagued with nightmares.

My ten year old becomes anxious when she's not around others in our house.  The dog growls in strange moments.

There's been a lot of holy water and praying in these parts lately and things seem to have calmed down. (prayers appreciated though!)

After the first week, orders were really slow, and I started to doubt that my shop was such a good idea.

But it really came back to wanting these roses out there.  However many I sell, whatever profits or losses, I want little fingers to hold something soft and have sweet memories and attachments to the rosary.

This week, I've been working on a little bonus to toss in with the roses......and it's been a symphony of errors.

First, my printer decided to print everything in a lovely zebra pattern.

Then, I took the materials to my parents' house to print.  My computer wouldn't link up with the printer....the one that's it's been linked to for years.

After I was able to open the file on my dad's PC, I printed it out......then I noticed that everything had somehow shifted and the font was askew.  Awesome-sauce.

So, I'll keep plugging away.  One of these times, I'm going to get these cards to print right.  Until then, accept my slightly askew bonus with purchase of the roses - just as soon as I get them laminated.  What could possibly go wrong?  :-)

Now that I'm engaged in battle, it's time to sharpen my sword.  The battle has always been raging, but, now I'm paying attention.

If you'd like to sharpen your sword, take 20% off your order with the code MYSWORD20. 

Shop now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Very Belated {TT} Sun Flare

Theme Thursday Oct Nov

 I was so excited Theme Thursday is back - but last week got away from me!

Since Micaela has the link-up still going, I decided to jump on the bandwagon late.

This pic was a lot of trial and error with the settings on the camera - and a little Photoshop.

October is full of varying temperatures and sunny days in the Midwest. 

I loved this shot with the plane crossing the horizon.

So great to be back at it!  Thanks for getting it going Micaela!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Last Prayer: Part 3

This is a fictional piece based on my experiences.  I hope you enjoy.  
*trigger warning* child loss, infertility, miscarriage

Slowly the world solidified around her.  Movement and words began to run in sync.  It was done.

Ava was alive, but the baby was gone.  As she sat breathing in this new reality, the on-duty nurse came in and handed her a prescription and told her it was time to go.  
Ava tried to stand, but everything blurred.  She asked for a few more minutes to rest, the nurse looked her over and replied, "You have to be gone by shift change, which is in 20 minutes."

Nineteen minutes later, Dave helped Ava up and they slowly made their way back home.  Home to no baby.  Home to the same emptiness of infertility, but now with the added black hole of loss.

The next several days were a blur of pain medication and broken naps.  Sleeping, waking in pain, medicating, sleeping.  Again and again the cycle repeated.

Finally, on the fourth day, Ava's parents brought Lily back home.  At five years old, she didn't understand what had happened.  She didn't know she had had a sibling briefly in this world.  Lily only knew that she prayed for one every night, not how much that prayer pierced her mother's heart.

to be continued...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Goodbye to Babyhood

We're starting to hit milestones around here. Potty training is long done. All the cloth diapers are washed a final time and packed away until the day we need them or I'm strong enough to let them go. 

SP is in preschool and loving it. Her tumbling skills are starting to look like actual tumbling moves. 

Still, this week it all hit me at once: she's not a baby anymore, she's fully kid

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, I awoke to SP getting sick. As we lay together on the futon all night marathoning cartoons, I looked at the side of her face. I saw the long lines where rounded cheeks had been. 

In that moment, the baby disappeared and I saw her. All girl, no more baby. 

It's been four years of diapers and babies and toddlers, of constant physical demand on my person, and in that instant, I realized it was over. 

Late nights of sickness and bad dreams will still pepper the route, but a chapter closed when I wasn't looking. 

It's hard to let this last chapter close. I'm mourning it's end as I rejoice in some of the freedoms of this next chapter. 

I can have conversations with both of my girls now. Actual conversations. 

Life doesn't have to revolve around nap time. 

Everyone is old enough to do some measure of chores and entertain themselves to varying degrees. 

I can sleep in. I can sleep all night. 

I've struggled with feelings of guilt over the ease of these things. When so many others are drained, how can I enjoy a restful night in good conscience?

But, the answer is staring me in the face when I look at my few baby items squirreled away and mourning their disuse. 

Because I have a different cross.  My cross isn't stretching myself out over many babies, it's stretching my heart over the lack of them. 

I'm working on embracing the gifts of my cross unapologetically. I'm trying to slow down and just be. 

Sometimes God throws a little stomach flu the three year old's way to get you to do just that. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Say Hello to Your Sister

I should be preparing a fifth birthday party. But I'm not. 

That baby died. At seven weeks gestation in utero. As part of the grieving process, the baby was named Mara. 

Last week, I crashed my car into a deer. As I talked with my oldest about the power of guardian angels and how an impact with a compact car and a buck could have been completely catastrophic, she said something that stopped me in my tracks, "Well, if we had died, I would have gotten to meet Mara."

She thinks about the missing sister. It is ever-present in her mind that her whole family does not live with her here on earth. And with the faith of a child, she understands that we're on our journey home to be with Mara. 

Maybe we're having a hard time with long division, but if she keeps her eyes on Heaven, I'm counting this parenting thing as a win. 

My girls will never all be together completely until Heaven, but on the day of L's first communion, we talked about the communion of saints - and what that meant for her family. 

Mara is a holy innocent, sitting at the foot of Jesus. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, that's the closest we get to Heaven here. 

In that moment, I say hello to her. 

When L received her first holy communion, I told her, "say hello to your sister."  

With tears in her eyes, she turned from her reception and I knew she had. 

In the years since, we've talked about it occasionally, but as we approach what would have been a birthday, I'm struck all over again by the grace I find in the communion of saints. United in prayer, and for that moment of Communion, both sitting together with Jesus. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In Defense of Suffering

When you read my words of anguish and grief, does it inspire you to step boldly towards what God is calling you to?  Or does it stop you in your tracks watching me grieve?

I struggle sharing the darkness I've been through.  I want to share this story, unite myself with others who are suffering, and provide an insight into where God has called me.

But, late at night, I wonder, am I scaring people out of their callings?  Because in the middle of the night, I have tremendous powers of persuasion.

Hear my words of heartache and anguish, but look to what God has done in my life.

Suffering has transformed my heart.  It has been turned inside out, so now my focus is on others instead of myself.  It has been broken, but it has also been remade.  Into a heart big enough to reach for heaven.

When we started down the road of fostering, we heard a lot of voices expressing concern for how we would guard our hearts against the possibility of loss.

As I sat one day, holding a fragile five pound baby, I answered that question boldly, "God gives us no promises on any of our children.  I'm not guarding my heart, she deserves it."

My family raised a beautiful, feisty little girl for too short a time and entirely too long to guard our hearts.  How could we guard ourselves against falling in love with her for 29 months?  Every day of that time, she was with us, rocked to sleep, bumped knees kissed.

I poured love into her with reckless abandon.  I was her mother.  What were the options?  She deserved nothing less than all of me.  This precious child entrusted to our care.

I haven't made light of what it was to lose her.  What it was when her bio parent cut off all contact.  Devastating.  Crushing.

It took me a long time to come out of a very dark place after losing her.  I'll mourn the loss of raising her as my own the rest of my life.  Every day.

But what was the alternative?  That precious precious girl needed a home and God called us to be it.

We aren't promised no suffering because of our fact, sometimes that faith causes more suffering through persecution.  But, we are promised redemptive suffering.

It wasn't the losing of Sweet Baby that made me a better person, it was the fiat.  The unconditional surrender to God's plan for our lives, even if we were taking a big risk in the eyes of all around us.

Maybe it looks like we gambled and lost.  Some days that's what it feels like.

But everyday I look at SP, my rainbow baby with no medically explainable reason for existing, I am reminded that God blesses our fiats.

Maybe the fruit of my next fiat won't be additional children in our family.

But always, always, God shows up when you say yes.

In big ways and little ways.

Take risks for God.  Be bold in your faith.

It will be hard.  It will crush you.  But you will be made new.  Allow God to remake you, to refine you by the fire.

Do not guard your heart from your calling.  Give with reckless abandon and trust.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Pinprick of Light

The response to my last post was, so lovely. 

Sharing that darkness weighed so heavily on my heart.  As I sat in the silence of it, I felt pushed to speak, pushed to break the silence surrounding me.

It was hard to speak of the dark.  To name it.  To own it.

I didn't know others were sitting in Mass, deadened to the feelings of grace around them.  I didn't know others were leaning on the motions to carry them through the darkness.

I thought I was sitting in the dark room alone.

When I spoke, the weight of it shifted, a burden shared.  Messages sent my way, speaking encouragement, solidarity, experience.

It gave me strength to be still in the dark and trust the motions a little while longer.

You friends, were the first of pinpricks.  The first light showing what has been developed in me.

Another pinprick came in a most unexpected way.  A religious sister was speaking on the role of women.  She looked up from her notes and said, "We are first God's daughters."

In that moment, she radiated.  Her whole being was transformed with joy, and there I sat a witness.

I felt something shift in my soul at the witness of her joy.  It wasn't her words, it was the transfiguration of her being as she spoke them. 

These days, I move through foggy grays and twilight skies...not quite the black of night.  And as I walk, there I see the stars.  The little points of light, shining with all the truth and goodness and beauty I cannot quite yet reach.

Perhaps one day, hope will flood my soul again.  For now, I am grateful for you, and for small moments of light.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Dark Room

I've had a fascination with old school photography my whole life.  My paternal grandfather was a ground-breaking photographer, developing chemical processes and guest lecturing for a major film company.

He passed away before I was born, and I was always fascinated with his life's work.

The dark room is the tricky part; the moment when you make it or break it.  Unprocessed film cannot be exposed to light, or it will be destroyed.  So, the photographer works in complete dark, a series of practiced motions leading them. 

Hands move without sight, opening canisters, winding film, placing in the processing tank, and sealing the film away again, safe from light and ready for the next step.

In the dark room, you need to trust your hands.  You need to follow the motions you've done before, confident that the practice, the process works. 

It will only be in the final steps that you will know if your hands have been true.  Everything from the moment you step in to the dark room to the moment you see the developer bring your film to life is an exercise in trusting the process. 

It's a leap of faith until the moment everything suddenly becomes visible.  Until then, it's all darkness, trust, and hope.

Since June, I've been sitting in the dark room of my soul.  No breaks of light or foreshadowing of great things.  Just the feel of my own hands working in the dark, moving through the motions I've spent a lifetime learning. 

Practicing blind trust because I feel no hope.  No grace.

In May, I was able to see and touch the relics of St. Gianna.  After the experience, I felt my chronic uterine inflammation (a piece in the infertility puzzle) was relieved.  With that relief, I was one katrillion percent certain a(nother) miracle was imminent and that I would be pregnant shortly.

As I sat in Mass, two days after the onset of a new cycle declaring a continuance of infertility, I physically felt my heart break, my soul shatter.

It was in the moment I entered the dark room.  I could see nothing, feel nothing.  Only the absence of miracles.

Since then, every Mass, every Confession, every prayer has been said from practice, from blind trust.  Not from any feeling of grace or goodness.

In the dark room, it's easy to doubt.  It's easy to think that perhaps it would be easier to just open the door and let the film spoil.

In the dark room, there's a lot of time to think.  In the moments when the dark room seems too much, I think about Mother Teresa.

Every time I do, I thank God her confidant didn't listen to her and throw away the letters detailing Mother Teresa's lifetime in the dark room.

She spent decades, acting on a faith she couldn't feel in her soul.  In her private writings, she details the pain of faith without tangible grace. 

The grace there, just outside the door of the dark room, constant and present, but unable to reach through.

I haven't wanted to talk about this darkness.  I've been hoping it would be relieved and I could put it behind me and move on to happier, more cheerful things.

But it hasn't lifted, and I wonder.  Who else is sitting in a dark room?

Do you know you're not alone?  I'm here, sitting in this room with you.  Trust the movements of your hands, trust the prayers spoken by rote but unfelt in your soul.  Trust, friend.  You are not alone.

The dark room cannot extinguish the truth or existence of the light.  The dark room is a part of the process. 

We need the dark room to keep the film safe, perhaps here our souls are resting and staying safe as well.  If only we trust the process.  Now our training will be what we lean on, and the stories of those who have braved this place before us.

Hold my hand, friend.  You are not in this room alone.

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Painting is Teaching Me

I've always said that I can't draw - can't paint. 

But, for our kids, we'll try things and do things we wouldn't do for ourselves. 

So, I've been drawing and painting saint dolls - because Sweet Pea is absolutely ENAMORED with her "Mawee dolls". 

These were last month's dolls - St Elizabeth of Hungary. 

Days and days of work. She ended up looking a little cranky, and from that I learned that next time the eyebrows need to be less severe. 

But you know what? I was really proud of how they turned out. All that free hand drawing and painting - and it turned into something recognizable!  Not perfect, but beautiful. 

This month, I'm working on four pieces for a nativity swap. 

None of them are exactly perfect, but again, all beautiful. All a little different. 

A new experience for this time painting was the addition of animals for the manger scene. I elected to do camels. 

The trick to these was that they had to be painted straight onto the raw wood. That meant no take-backs. Where the paint landed was where I had to go. 

So, I leaned in to it. I let go of perfection and worked with the paint, coaxing it along. 

As the camels' faces changed because of a particular brush stroke or grain of the wood, I had to let it go. I had to lean in to what that moment gave me. 

And right there, sitting on my couch with a bunch of toothpicks, paint brushes, and acrylics, it just hit me. 

I only got to where I needed to be when I let go and trusted my hand, when I worked with what I had and let it be enough. In the end, it became beautiful. 

If you need me, I'll be sitting here thinking about those implications for the rest of my life.