Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mom Squad Blog Giveaway - The Mass Box

"Preach it!" I actually said those words while watching the intro video on TheMassBox.com. The mom-dad team who created The Mass Box recalled that they want to do crafts and activities with their kids that help them grow in their faith and prepare for Sunday, but by the time they search out the idea and get the materials together they are out of energy and patience. Yep. We are in the same boat, my friends!

So imagine my excitement that as I was hearing these words in the video, my boys were unloading their Mass Box and all the perfectly packaged craft materials and instructions (for all of Lent!) were there, ready and waiting!

Photo copyright 2016 Abby Brundage. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright 2016 Abby Brundage. All rights reserved.
Here's the gist according to The Mass Box team:

Introducing the Mass Box - a program for 3-7 year olds to help your family get ready for each and every Mass with craft supplies, kids missals, and coloring sheets delivered every month to your door!

We take the work out of getting ready for Mass so that your family can spend time together preparing instead of searching the internet for ideas and collecting craft materials. Everything is ready, and we've even made a YouTube show called Catholic Crafts with Clare to help prepare you and get children excited about the Mass and the crafts.

We are in a pilot in the Mass Box for Lent 2016. Trial kits are in the mail now! We begin full production - for every Sunday and Holy Day - at the end of Advent. Please pre-subscribe for your family to receive the Mass Box starting in Advent!


I'm part of this pilot program for The Mass Box and lucky you - you can be too! I have one to give away. The only requirements: 
1. You have to "like" The Mass Box on Facebook and post pics of your kids doing the activities.You're a guinea pig, after all. 
2. You have to come pick it up here at Spirit FM

Here's how to enter - just post in the comments what you are doing this Lent - are you giving something up? Adding extra prayer time to your day? I'd love to hear your ideas! I'll pick a winner at 6pm tonight and post an update on the blog with the winner's name. 

The first activity is Ash Wednesday and there's one for this coming Sunday, so you'll miss a couple of activities, but this particular box takes us all the way to Easter Sunday. My favorite parts so far -
The instructional video starring their daughter, Clare. I like that it takes the guess work out of the craft for us less-artsy folk. I also love that in the conversation between Clare and her dad, Clare isn't reading a script that makes her sound older than she is. He asks her a question and she says, I don't know! And dad gets to teach her. Hooray for honesty! Here are the results of our first go at The Mass Box!











Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Chains of God's Embrace

Chains by Radoslaw Wyjadlowski (2007) via freeimages.com 
45 minutes. I can tell you when about 45 minutes have passed during Sunday mass because that's when my boys start fidgeting. And HOW CONVENIENT! That's right at the consecration. The time when I want more than anything, for the sake of my own spiritual growth and that of those around me, for them to just sit still already! I try pointing at the priest extending the Eucharist. I say, "Listen! The bells!" And as a last resort, I issue the ultimate threat: No post-mass donuts! Dun dun duuuun!

Last week the most curious thing happened. I was kneeling  while my two-year-old stood next to me on the kneeler. I had my arm wrapped around his waist, because sometimes actual  physical restraint is the best method of keeping him still (plus I like to channel my inner "Elasti-Girl" and use my stretchy arms). After he had remained still for a few minutes, I moved my arm and just placed it on his tiny little man hip. He grabbed my hand and pulled it back to it's original position, so he was once again held tight and enveloped by my grip. I got a kick out of it and waited a few moments and tried again. Once again, he move my hand back, showing that he preferred to be in the tighter grip with my arm completely around him.

We (you and me specifically, but also people in general) are so afraid of rules and restraint. Aren't we? We want to make our own decisions and not let any one (or any Church, really) tell us what to do. One of the most common arguments against religion is that it is "a set of rules". Why can't we see that these rules and restrictions are God's arms wrapped around us? I want my kids to sit still for the good of others and for their own benefit, so they see the miracle before them. So does God!

The amazing paradox in all of it is that when we embrace the "rules" we also come to embrace the embrace! God's arms don't feel like chains. They feel like a protective, caring hug. But that comes from knowing Him too. I doubt my little guy would have enjoyed being gripped by a stranger, but my arm was comfort to him.


Is there a teaching or position of the Church that you struggle with? As parents we have a unique perspective of why boundaries, rules and structure are important - necessary even, so why do we fight them? Is it fear? A lack of trust? Pride? How can we embrace the Church which wants to extend God's embrace to us?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

TADA Goes the Sugar Plum Fairy!


It's hardly Christmas without the Nutcracker! Here's an exclusive Mom Squad Blog giveaway to see this amazing show this weekend. I have two four-packs courtesy of TADA studios. One for Saturday's 3pm performance and one for Sunday's. Email me if you want to go! Both performances are in Blake High School of the Arts' beautiful theater! Since the show is this weekend, you'll have to swing by Spirit FM and pick up the tickets - and take a tour while you're here! Happy Advent to you!


Monday, November 30, 2015

A Stocking Full of Lessons

Copyright 2015 Abby Brundage. All rights reserved.
1985. I saw my fifth birthday and snow in my backyard for the final time. My parents had shoveled enough from our little suburban-Milwaukee row house yard and finally said (as though we were in a predictable and weakly-written movie), “No more! We’re moving to Florida!” Cue the montage with the Kenny Loggins song. We arrived in the Sunshine State in August. Yep. August. In Florida.

Welcome to Florida! We have oranges! We have beaches! We have Disney World! We have 132% humidity for ten months of the year! Woo hoo. We’re home.

I’ve grown to love my home or perhaps I’m just too hot to care anymore. While I’m not quite willing to call myself a “Floridian” I definitely have more of Florida’s culture in me than Wisconsin’s. My parents, on the other hand, have held tightly to their Midwestern roots and passions, like wearing a Packer sweatshirt on a 89-degree day and eating raw beef, shrimp & herring on New Year’s. One tradition we celebrated when I young was St. Nicholas Day. I was shocked when I talked to my Florida friends about it and they had no idea that a surprise stocking could arrive on the morning of December 6th!

One day a couple of years ago I was talking about receiving gifts on the feast of St. Nicholas and finally got tired of the blank stares, so I did some research and found out that this is a very specific tradition to a few northern and Midwestern towns, including Milwaukee. Do you celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas?

It was pretty simple. On the morning of December 6th, my sister and I would wake to the sight of a stocking on the bathroom counter. Not sure why St. Nick couldn’t put it in a less private place, but whatev! They were bonus presents, so I wasn’t going to complain. There was nothing fancy in them. Just stuff like lip gloss, some candy, maybe a new pen or small toy. We knew St. Nicholas had visited while we were sleeping. This took the place of any stocking gifts on Christmas Day, but it was a great way to remind us of the wonderful Saint from whom Santa Claus is derived.

Now as my kids get to the age where Santa is becoming a pretty big deal, I am trying to think of ways to put some extra emphasis on St. Nicholas. It’s tough to compete with the marketing and advertising budget that the world has, so I love that this generous and thoughtful man has his own day. My boys are still too young for a big theological lesson, so for now, I throw in a race car or another small toy and an orange in the toe of the stocking. I just use it as a way to tell them this great Saint’s story. Here’s the story behind the orange!

If you have older kids, I have a great idea to share. First I’ll tell you, it’s not my idea. A listener called me up and said she used to do this with her kids and feel free to pass it on (Thanks Midge!). She calls them Grace & Mercy Cards. They are coupons you can use as stocking stuffers that can assist you in teaching the kids about, well, grace and mercy! Design them yourself as plain or as fancy as you’d like. The gist: Getting something you don’t deserve (grace) and not getting something you do (mercy). They are two separate coupons that your kids can “cash in” when they choose.

How might they choose to use their Grace & Mercy Coupons?

Scenario 1: Little John-Paul didn’t eat his dinner and doesn’t get dessert. But wait! He hands over his “Grace” coupon and gets that cupcake he didn’t earn.

Scenario 2: 12-year-old Mary Elizabeth lied about getting in trouble in school and you sentenced her to a weekend of restrictions. She uses her “Mercy” coupon and shaves 24 hours off her time and gets to go for ice cream with friends.

I wouldn’t say it’s theologically air-tight, but it’s a good starting point. As I think of ways the kids might use these coupons I realize it might be a greater lesson in grace and mercy for us moms. In some scenarios it would be hard to accept the coupon and follow through, so again, we’ll get a small glimpse into how our God is so awesome.

Stuff those stockings with a lesson on grace & mercy this St. Nicholas Day. I’d love to see what you design, so snap a pic and post it in the comments or share it on Twitter and tag it #Grace&MercyCoupon. Be sure to mention me so I can share it too. I’m @abbyspirit. In what scenarios do you imagine your kids would use these coupons? Do you think it will be hard to hold up your end of the bargain?

Monday, November 16, 2015

And the winner is...

Alright, moms! I counted the number of individual entries (no duplicates) and entered the range into a random number generator then counted down from the top (see the pic above for proof, if you have very good vision). Congratulations to... Melissa J! Email me abby@spiritfm905.com with your home address and I'll send out your two tickets to VeggieTales Live!

To the non-winners (never any "losers!") there are still many more chances to win. Tomorrow morning on The Big Big House Morning Show around 7:30am and at our last two Veggies for Hope stops today and tomorrow. And you're the first ones to hear this: Wednesday is "Winning Wednesday." What's "Winning Wednesday?" I'm glad you asked!

Every hour on The Big Big House Morning Show and on The Way Home (so 6-10am and 3-7pm) you'll have a chance to call in and win a family four pack of tickets to the show AND on Thursday we'll give away a four pack with a Meet & Greet! Hooray!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Win VeggieTales Live Tickets!

Like little heat-seeking missiles, my boys started smelling the VeggieTales Live show weeks before I told them about it. Randomly, from the back seat on one ordinary day I hear, "Mama, can we go see the VeggieTales show?" I already had the tickets but had not yet shared the news with them. My big one told me he saw a commercial after Sesame Street. Ah... well played, Veggies! Well played!

There are a lot of things my kids ask for that I'm not crazy about, e.g. the 48-inch tall Darth Vadar from Target. Truth be told, I wanted to take them to VeggieTales Live as soon as I heard the show was coming. As parents, when our kids ask for something good, like a second helping of broccoli (No joke! This just happened last week!) or to go to church a few minutes early so to have extra time to pray (I'm still waiting for this one), we are willing to bend over backwards to make it happen.

Sometimes financially though, it's not as easy as that backbend. Spirit FM and the Mom Squad Blog to the rescue!

Here's a chance for you to win two tickets to VeggieTales Live! Little Kids Do Big Things, November 22nd at the Straz Center in Tampa. It's at 2pm, but come early because before the show, Spirit FM and other folks will have tables set up with activities like coloring, puppet-making and veggie bowling!

How do you win? Just leave a comment with your name and your favorite VeggieTales song. I'll draw a random winner on Monday around 10am and post the name. Be sure to send the link to the blog to friends and family to increase your chance of winning!

Here's some more good news - there are a few ways to get discount tickets - as of last night there was a Groupon for discounted tickets and there is also BOGO 50% off if you use the promo code "LARRY". You have to do the math to see which deal is better. That is outside of my skill set. HERE'S A LINK TO THE SHOW and to PURCHASE TICKETS.

There are more giveaways coming up on Spirit FM and through our Veggies for Hope collections on Monday and Tuesday, but if your little one's heart is set on it, and you can make it happen, I think it's worth it to make the purchase. Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Itty Bitty Soul

One of the first posts I wrote when I started this blog a few years ago was about my niece, Ella. A beautiful little blonde girl with a sweet spirit and a perpetually giddy personality. Ella and her mom and dad are the first adoptive family I have ever had the chance to get to know. Growing up, there were kids who were adopted, but I never got to know their parents. After all, I was a kid too!

I was so amazed by how perfect that family was. Don't misunderstand, they had imperfect moments, plenty of them, but they perfectly fit together. Then I had the chance to host an event for Catholic Charities Adoption Services last year and I saw it all over again. I think it's a bit of a mystery that although this isn't the "normal" way God makes a family it still feels so natural and right. It's one of the most beautiful acts of love that I think we could ever witness.

November is the month where we focus on what we have to be thankful for, which I think is a perfect fit for Adoption Awareness Month. I just read a great book that would be an awesome addition to a preschool classroom bookshelf or in your own home. Itty Bitty Soul is the story of a little guy who God sends to be part of a family. Mom is a business woman and dad owns a food truck! They are a fun-loving, faithful couple who is just waiting for the call that their baby is here.

I love that it shows the range of emotions adoptive parents go through. But what is even better is that God speaks to the little boy and assures him that although he is tiny, he is important and can change a life, which to me is a great testimony to why we should work hard to support adoption as an alternative to abortion.

Jim Fellows, the author of Itty Bitty Soul, shared that he wrote the book after witnessing his friends go through the process & the rollercoaster ride of emotions it takes you on. One interesting thing he mentioned is that his friends frequently heard, "I know a lot of people who try to adopt and then end up getting pregnant!" as though adoption was a consolation prize. I think if you talk to any adoptive parent, they would say they feel like they won the grand prize, not a consolation. So I asked him, "What SHOULD we say to a couple trying to adopt?" His reply - "You're going to make a great mom and dad!" or "I'm praying for you!"

It's so simple. We don't need to fix the problem, we just need to love them and support them. And I think that it starts with teaching our children, through a book like this, that adoption is one of the most beautiful gifts God has created. What if our children grew up seeing adoption as a privilege, not a threat or an alternative. How many more unborn babies would be allowed to live? How many more couples would embrace adoption instead of spending their life's savings (and emotions) on infertility treatments? How many more children who are adopted would see their life as special and not unwanted?

So check it out - the colors and illustration are beautiful and you'll fall in love with mom and dad, just like I did. www.IttyBittySoul.com. Part of the profits this month go to www.giftofadoption.org, an organization that helps bridge the financial gap for couples who are trying to create a family through adoption. And happy Adoption Awareness Month!      

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I See "How Beautiful" It Is

This Sunday God had fun and created a music video for me. He must have been bored!

The communion song was How Beautiful, by Twila Paris. I know, it's not the newest song, but the melody is timeless and our choir sang it perfectly. I've always loved this song. I even had it sung at my wedding.

I came back from communion, knelt to pray and after a few minutes did the usual, studying of the people walking by me. As I saw soul after soul receive the Eucharist, that's when my personal music video began and I was struck with how true the lyrics of the song were. The chorus is simple,
How Beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ.

First a little girl passes by in a smocked dress, then her older sister who was awkwardly eleven-years-old.

Then a mom and her three sons.

Then a grandfather and his grandson.

Then a young woman with Down Syndrome.

Then a Filipino woman. A black woman. An Indian man.

An usher who is permanently confined to a wheelchair.

It was such a privilege to look around the community of people I worship with and see, not what the world defines as beauty, but what God does, and to witness it as those words were being sung. The world has a very narrow view of what is beautiful, and if you look over a long span of time that definition changes with the wind. But I got to see real beauty in the form of the individuals who make up the body of Christ.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

They're Playing Our Song!

Cool guy, Graham. 
You know that trend of typing a sentence with a period between each word for extra emphasis? For instance, "My coffee maker is on the fritz. Can't. Wake. Up." This is how Graham, my 2-year-old speaks. He uses full sentences, but there is a poignant pause Between. Every. Word. He's into saying "I can't" right now. It drives me bonkers.

Typical conversation-  Me: "Graham, come here now."
Graham: "I. Can't. Walk. Ma. Ma."

This past Sunday at church, Graham was standing on the pew hand rest, facing me. We were eye-to-eye to sing the Alleluia at the start of the gospel acclamation. I said, "It's time to sing, Graham!" I couldn't hear his tiny voice over the people around me, but I watched his lips move and with my hands on his ribs, I could feel the vibrations. Then he said the sweetest, truest fragmented sentence, "Ma. Ma. This. Is. My. Song!"

I've never heard him say that before, but I love that he did. Alleluia. Praise the Lord. I hope that is always "His song". All I could say in response was, "Yes. It. Is!"