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!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Forgive As My Father Forgives

The culprits, eating carrots & licking frosting off mixers.
It started with silence around 6:15pm. Silence is never good in a house of toddlers. Silence = trouble. They weren't in the play room, so I went searching. Liam had to go potty so he went to my parents' bathroom and Graham followed behind with a pitcher full of poker chips and fake money. Don't ask.

I found Graham sitting in my parents' shower with the coins spread out around him. Liam was going potty. I said, "Dinner is ready and you shouldn't be in here. Pick it up and come out now." And I walked away. Mistake. 

A few minutes later I heard my name and went looking to see what was the matter. Both boys were now in the shower with the glass doors slid shut - and stuck. I got my dad. Long story short. He was getting quite frustrated trying to open the doors which must have come off the track. He was angry with the boys, asking them why they were in the shower in the first place (my fault). And as I was asking... "Can I help?"  *Shatter!!*  I heard Graham start crying and then he got handed to me around the door. Next came Liam, handed off. I saw blood on the ground and hoped it hadn't come from either of them. Liam started crying. I started crying. Everyone was crying! There was glass everywhere. 

I dealt with the kids and my parents cleaned up the mess. Side note - after dinner they went in to try to slide the other door into place and it broke too. Ugh.

I was so angry at those boys. No dessert. No Curious George. Eat dinner and get in bed. I reminded them that I told them to get out of the shower and they didn't listen. At dinner Liam apologized to my dad for breaking the door and my dad pointed out that they didn't break it. He did. I jumped in to say, but you WERE disobeying. I didn't want to let them off the hook. When it came time for tucking in, I was cold to them, but tried to make sure the night ended on a loving note. 

Meanwhile in Adult Land, I was crying. Telling my dad I was so sorry. He said - don't worry about it. It's okay. He was frustrated, but he didn't lose his temper with me. 

I couldn't help but think about the story of the Unmerciful Servant from the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18. The king forgave his huge debt but then when someone owed HIM a smaller one he was unmerciful and threw him in prison. I was the middle-man debtor in this story-turned-real-life. My dad forgave me before I even asked yet I was so angry that I couldn't properly tuck my kids into bed.

But here's the tough part: When it comes to parenting, if you are too quick to forgive do you miss out on the opportunity to teach a lesson? Of course there is a lesson there on forgiveness and mercy, but where's the dividing line between holding on too long and reinforcing the message? 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What It Means to Be a Woman

newborn-nelly, by rotorhead 2003 via freeimages.com
Have you seen this article by Ruben Navarrette Jr. from The Daily Beast? I said on The Big Big House Morning Show that the headline is the most powerful wishy-washy statement I've ever read. It read: I Don't Know If I'm Pro-Choice After Planned Parenthood Videos. Wow. Even though it is not even close to being a firm declaration, that took courage and I think it is what a lot of people are thinking or at least feeling in their hearts.

The part of Mr. Navarrette's article that resonated deepest with me is his reasoning for why he has been pro-choice for 30 years. Consequently, it is the same reason that he is "on the bubble" of being pro-life. He says it's because he is a man. For so long he stood on the sidelines because, as a man he didn't feel like it was his right to decide what a woman did with her own body. He has come to realize with the loving nudge of his pro-life wife that declaring neutrality is "wimping out" and what it means to be a man is to use your voice to protect a child - your own or someone else's, even if their own parent is the one from whom they need to be protected.

Wow again.

My initial response was, "Good for you, 'man'". And then I thought, if that's what it means to be a man, then what does it mean to be a woman? I think to be a woman is to nurture, love, create life. And I'm not just talking about getting pregnant and rearing children. We are nurturing, loving & creating when we plant a garden, listen to a friend's story, help organize a bake sale at school or drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic to make money to put dinner on the table (often all within 24 hours).

In response to the abortion debate, if to be a man is to protect a child then I think to be a woman is to nurture a child. But how do we do that if the child hasn't even been born yet? We do that by supporting our local pregnancy centers. We do that by encouraging couples struggling with infertility to consider adoption. We do that by teaching our kids how to be compassionate towards the girl in school who (rumor has it) is newly pregnant. Our teenage children (or the kids in our church's youth group) are on the front lines. They are our eyes and ears on the battle ground. Take your teenager to a pregnancy center and ask for a tour or attend a fundraising dinner and let them hear a story of a life saved. And most importantly, we pray.

The worst thing we can do is nothing. That's not the kind of woman I am. Come to think of it, I don't know many women who ever sit around and do nothing, especially when a life is on the line.

What else WILL YOU DO to help nurture, love & create life this week?

Friday, July 31, 2015

What Are Your Kids Snacking On?

Like most families, we thrive on routine in my home. Nap is 1-3 (ha! Yeah right. More like 1 to 2, 2:20 if I'm lucky). After nap we snack! We rotate the snack item from day to day. Popcorn, pretzels, fruit, goldfish, pickles... It's really more than a snack. It's an event.

Beckah Shae and family have also given us more than a snack in "Scripture Snacks: Kids Fun Size Vol 1". Beckah's husband is a producer and super talented and her daughters are following in her footsteps with their beautiful voices.

I talked with Beckah on the show this morning and she said that the Word of God is the greatest legacy she could leave her daughters, so they walk around the house singing verses from the Bible. Everyone knows singing helps commit something to memory (that's how I memorized all the prepositions for extra credit in 7th grade!).

So I have for you, Mom Squad Blog reader... a chance to win a copy of Scripture Snacks. Just leave a comment with your child's favorite snack item. I'll choose a winner and announce on Wednesday.

If you don't win, don't worry. We are putting a free download of Scripture Snacks in the swag bags for Spirit FM's 2nd Annual Women's Conference AND throughout August, you'll have a chance to WIN 1 GIVE 1. So you'll get a copy for yourself and one to share with a friend.

Good luck! And the album is available starting today on iTunes, Amazon & other digital platforms & of course at Christian retail stores. Check it out at www.scripturesnack.com. (I love the track called "Time"!)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

You Aren't What You Wear, But...

If we were being graded on our dress at church, I'd say I get a B- on average. Some days I wear a dress, but some days I wear jeans. Scratch that. Many days, I wear jeans.

A lot of people say, God doesn't care what I wear to church. All that matters is that I'm there. If God had to choose between having you in the pew in your pajamas and not having you in the pew at all, I'd bet my bank account he'd rather see those Star Wars footies of yours. But why do we feel the need to have this arguement? Why can't we say, "God, I know you see my heart, not my clothing, but I want to put effort into this hour and that effort will start with the way I present myself."

If you see me next weekend in jeans, please don't call me out. But I promise I will try to improve my grade. You in?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Living Proof LIVE! with Beth Moore

Girl time + scripture = time well spent! This weekend Beth Moore will be at the USF Sun Dome and I have a pair of tickets for a Mom Squad Blog reader! Living Proof LIVE, which is now in its 17th year, both challenges and encourages women to grow deeply in their faith. Dove Award winner Travis Cottrell will lead worship, so warm up those vocal cords and grab a couple tissues!

So how do you win? Well, I want to do a little info gathering. Just put in the comments your name, how many kids you have & their ages. No kids? That's ok! I'll draw a winner today (Monday 6/8) at 1pm.

Living Proof Live starts Friday, June 12 at 7pm with doors opening at 5:30, and concludes for the evening at 9:30. It starts back up the following morning at 8:30am and ends at 12:15pm. Tickets will cover both days of the event and cost $69. Want more info? Click here.

*** Congrats to 6 month old Quinn's mommy, Lindsay. She won the tickets. Quinn, be good to daddy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dinosaurs + Trains = Happy Kids

I had no idea my guys watched Dinosaur Train on PBS. Turns out it comes on right after Sesame Street which is a weekday staple and occasionally Annie the Nanny allows some, "extended viewing" or a "double-feature" we'll say.

I got my little guys tickets to see Dinosaur Train Live - Buddy's Big Adventure this Saturday and as a Mom Squad inside scoop, I'll tell you we're giving away a Family 4-Pack of tickets tomorrow morning (Wednesday, 5/13) between 8:10 and 8:20am. You'll have to listen to a brief conversation I had with Liam and answer a question based on what Liam says. Not too difficult, but you'll have to put your listening ears on!

If you want to purchase tickets, there's a 1 and 4pm show. It's this Saturday, May 16th at the Straz Center in Tampa. Here are more details! Look for my guys at the 1 o'clock show!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Does He Like Pina Coladas?

The other day I was scanning the radio "dial" which is no longer a dial, but that still seems to be the best way to describe the act of checking out what is playing on all the stations. I stopped on an oldies/classic rock station and heard a song that I've always thought was super-catchy, yet super cheesy. Rupert Holmes' The Pina Colada Song. I knew the chorus but hadn't listened to the verses much, until now. The opening lines: 

I was tired of my lady, we'd been together too long
Like a worn out recording of a favorite song
So while she lay there sleepin' I read the paper in bed
And in the personal columns, there was this letter I read

Cue the chorus and the famous personal ad that speaks of what this woman likes (pina coladas), what she doesn't like (yoga) and what she dreams of (making love at midnight and getting caught in the rain - clearly she has easy-to-manage hair). 

I fell for it, hook line and sinker. I was getting angry hearing Mr. Holmes sing about how his relationship with "his lady" had gotten to be routine and dull. He replied to the ad and asked to meet up. What a jerk! And don't you know, Rupert, that these things you are finding interesting are frivolous? Don't throw away your relationship because some chick likes high-calorie, sweet alcoholic drinks. Where is your sense of commitment?! 

Then comes the "punch-line" if you will. Rupert and the woman from the personal ad meet up. And... shocker! He says, It was my own lovely lady and she said 'Aw! It's you!' Then we laughed for a moment and I said, 'I never knew. I'm going to set aside for a moment that the woman was attempting to cheat just like Rupert was and that neither seemed bothered. What grabbed my attention and made me pause was this:

Why didn't they know any of these things about each other? Did they stop talking? Did they stop sharing their hopes, fantasies and dreams? 

I've learned a lot about marriage in the past year-and-a-half. I noticed that when a relationship is new we want to ask every probing question to get to know the person's likes and dislikes. Once we get married, those questions often stop. Is that because we feel like we know everything about our spouse? Is it because we are afraid of the answer? To not ask questions is to imply that your husband will never experience something new and decide he has a preference or distaste for something (or that you don't care if he does). Sure you might not know the questions to ask - I had no idea you tried and enjoyed that fruity drink! - but why not after 20 years of marriage ask , What is something you think I don't know about you? or Have you tried anything new lately? Or even better, why not try new experiences together

And one thing I didn't know until I looked up the song on You Tube, it's actual name is Escape - The Pina Colada Song. He was looking for an escape, but what he was running away from was due to his own ignorance and lack of effort in his relationship (and hers too). He thinks the grass is greener, but the truth is, it's just another yard. And jokes on you, Rupert, in this case, it turns out it's the same yard!

Need an ice breaker to raise the topic with your husband? I give you... Escape - The Pina Colada Song. Your welcome. You'll be singing it for at least 24 hours. 

And P.S. Isn't our relationship with Christ like this? Just when we think we know everything about Him, there is so much more to find out! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Be - The Journey of Rol, A Free eBook for Your Young Reader!

My sister was a big reader when we were younger. She read all the Nancy Drew and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I think she was into The Babysitters Club too. Me? Not so much. My mom used to buy me all the Calvin & Hobbes comic books because she was just happy I wanted to read something. Anything! 

Just like when we were kids, there are a lot of options for pre-teens/tweens/whatever we are calling kids age 9-12 these days, but not all of the options are going to feed their minds with things that are good. Enter, Be - The Journey of Rol by Ric Colegrove.

In Be - The Journey of Rol, the main character, Rol, is a fourteen-year-old boy whose guardian-and-mentor uncle unexpectedly disappears. Faced with the life-determining decision to travel the easy path or the long, difficult route to return home and reunite with his family, Rol chooses the latter. He encounters, among other interesting characters and creatures, traveling companions Kearth and Fhfyrd, whose relentless banter both entertains and antagonizes Rol throughout his journey. In his quest, Rol is forced to confront internal and external obstacles, learning to rely on his positive attitude, as well as hope, for a successful outcome.

There aren't many books that can provide your young reader inspiration, values, faith, and humor, so if you want a copy of Be - The Journey of Rol there are a couple of ways to get one! 

1. The first person to email me at abby@spiritfm905.com with the subject line, "I want a copy of the book!" will win a copy.

2. The eBook version of the book is free on Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1v7ASs2) - but only until the end of the day today (5/5/15)!!

Read more about Be - The Journey of Rol here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Woman's Walk with Jesus & Who IS Veronica?

I love the Stations of the Cross. Even if I can't get to any other service during Holy Week (other than Easter Sunday mass) I try to make it to the Stations of the Cross.

If you've never heard of them, it is a spiritual meditation on the final moments of Jesus' life, broken up into (typically) fourteen events - from being condemned to death to laid in the tomb. Typically on Good Friday if you go to a reading of the Stations (many churches, including mine, have them every Friday during Lent), one reader will read the text for each Station, followed by "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you." Then the congregation says, "Because by your Holy cross, you have redeemed the world." The priest and altar servers will process around the church and stand in front of each station as it is read. On that note- if you're in a Catholic church and you see stained glass or wooden images with roman numerals under them, chances are, you're looking at the Stations of the Cross!

They date back to the 4th century when Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land would recount the walk that Jesus took to Golgotha. When Muslims captured Jerusalem and it became too dangerous to make the pilgrimage, Christians brought the concept home and viola! They are also knows as the Via Dolorosa, Way of the Cross or Via Crucis.

There is something so sad yet beautiful about walking with Jesus on this road. To reflect on these 14 moments and think about how long and arduous that journey was and what it did for us is the perfect way to close out the Lenten season and get my mind and heart ready for Easter.

Thanks to CatholicMom.com I came across A Woman's Stations of the Cross. Now these aren't going to be read in a formal setting at church, but that doesn't mean you can't take them and sit in church by yourself and do a little quiet reflection. Or how great would it be to bring these to your next women's bible study?! I'm sure everyone would appreciate it & grow from it.

On a separate but related note, a couple of years ago a dear friend of mine accompanied me to a Friday night Stations of the Cross. She is not Catholic. She asked me about Veronica. The sixth station is "Veronica wipes the face of Jesus". I said, uh... it's Veronica. I was baptized at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Milwaukee. Of course there's a Veronica! She's not in the Bible? I figured she was mentioned in just a verse or two and I had missed it. So I did my research. Here's the gist (source, bustedhalo.com):

Regardless of how much you search and how closely you read the text, you won’t find an account of what we know of as the sixth station of the cross, Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, because it isn’t in the Bible. It is one of our Catholic legends that grew up after the Bible was written. The sources of the legend are varied, but it is noted in some medieval texts and includes the detail that after Veronica gave Jesus her veil to wipe his face as he walked to his death on Calvary it bore an imprint of his face. In the 1800s, a Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St. Peter, reported a vision of Veronica wiping away the spit and mud from Jesus’ face. The name Veronica itself is sometimes said to derive from “Vera Icon” meaning “true icon.”

Stations of the cross numbered three, seven, and nine — recounting Jesus falling three times — are also not to be found in the Bible although they, too, have become part of the popular imagination around Christ’s Passion.

I encourage you to join me (and more importantly, Jesus) before Lent ends. You'll be glad you did!

Money Laundering?

It's a crime how much we spend on laundry detergent. Isn't it? (That's the end of the pun. No more money laundering associations possible.) The other day a friend posted on FB that she just completed a new batch of DIY laundry detergent that would last her family of four like, eight months! Come again? Eight months?

There's little more painful than going to the grocery store for a quick in-and-out trip and remembering you're almost out of laundry soap. $16.99? Seriously? So when I saw that this concoction was supposedly going to last 2/3 of a year and not cost much more than a single bottle, I was willing to take the bait.

I mentioned it to my housemate/landlord/mother and she asked if it contained lard. Ah... no. It's not quite THAT DIY.

Here's the "recipe". And before you even ask, it says it's safe for HE/front loading washers.
The only tricky part is the Fels-Naptha. I started out by grating it and then put it in the food processor. It didn't get as fine as shown in the "Happy Money Saver" pics. In fact, I don't know how she got it that fine. When you put it in the processor, even on pulse, the heat causes the Fels to melt enough that it became little balls. I put some of the Gain in and the dryness helped a tad. Bonus - it only takes 1-2 tablespoons per load, and the Oxi Clean comes with a scooper that is slightly more than a tablespoon.

As I write this, my first load is in the dryer. I checked out a piece of my 1 year old's clothing that had... how should I say... leakage on it and it came clean, but I have yet to look at the entire load. I was a little concerned that there might be a film or waxiness on it and from what I've seen it looks good-to-go.

Worst case- I put this aside and only use it on loads that aren't super dirty. All the materials were about $22 at Publix, so in my budget's opinion, it was worth testing out.

Happy legal laundering!
(Okay. I lied. One more laundering pun)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Holy Week in Handprints

Catholic Icing - such a great website for moms of compact to mid-sized kids (yes, I size up the kids just like rental cars)! I love this idea to help bring Holy Week to life and give them another way to connect with each day. It's $2 for the download - for a limited time only! :) Check out the site here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thomas the Tank Engine is Rolling into Town!

We are thick in the world of Thomas the Tank Engine at my house. My big guy loves him and you can often hear my little one shouting, "Choo! Choo!" Boys and trains. I don't get it. I have to say though, I am good with sitting down for an episode (or two) of Thomas. It's relaxing, smooth and instills good morals, which is more than can be said for a lot of the other shows out there.

All this week we've been giving away tickets to Day Out With Thomas at The Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish. The event stretches over two weekends, March 14-15 & 21-22. There are two more giveaways - one tomorrow and one Friday. Here's the inside scoop - tomorrow's (Thursday's) giveaway will be between 8:10 and 8:20am!

The gist of the giveaway: You listen in on a conversation between me and Liam and then I quiz you on something he said. So it's a little bit of listening comprehension. Yikes. To be honest, as he's pointing to characters in the Thomas book we are looking at, I HAVE NO IDEA what he's talking about. He can see one episode and know the characters' names. I'm still figuring out the difference between Thomas and the other blue one!

For more on Day Out With Thomas click here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What is She Waiting For?

I had a handsome lunch date on Tuesday. After a visit to check out a preschool, my three-year-old and I sat across from each other at a two-top at Chick-fil-A, swapped one grilled nugget for one fried (because I needed to at least TASTE the fried sweetness that is Chick-fil-A chicken), chatted about ketchup... it was noontime perfection!

Panhandler, by Leroy Skalstad (2009) 
via Freeimages.com

As we pulled out of the parking lot, he noticed a woman standing in the grass holding a sign. The conversation went something like this:
L- "Mama, what's that lady doing?"
Me - "She needs help."
L - His response could fuel a political debate, "Why is she just standing there?"
Me - "Because she is waiting."
L- "What is she waiting for?"
Me - "For someone to give her money."

And before the words came out of his sweet little mouth I knew what he was going to say, "Why don't we give her money?"

My response - "I don't have any cash." Lie. I had $2.

The truth was, I didn't want to give her my last two dollars- I never have cash! I didn't want to reach over to the other side of the car - What if I couldn't reach? That would be awkward. I didn't want to hold up traffic coming out of the parking lot – Wouldn’t want the people behind me to honk!

I am full of it. Excuses that is. And they need to stop.

If I remind myself of the gospel of Matthew where Jesus says, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me, I would realize that Jesus is saying to me, Abby, you made a lot of excuses for why you didn't help me. A lot.

When we make the excuses, we are ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit and telling God those obstacles are bigger than Him.

But I think my son's response is another great example of having faith like a child. He doesn't think of the obstacles. He doesn't make excuses. He sees someone in need and says: They need. We have. Let's do it.

What are we waiting for?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Spirit of Honesty

Graham, the puke-eater.
He's hungry. Again. 
In the spirit of being honest about parenthood, I'll confess that my son ate a thrown-up cat treat today and I didn't even budge to get it out of his mouth.

I shared that on Facebook on Monday and received more comments than any of my posts over the past few months. Why?

It made people smile, but so do funny memes and videos of us making bacon roses.

It was a cute kid thing, but c'mon. Facebook is dripping with cute kid stories.

I think it's because we want honesty. We are craving the comfort that comes from knowing we are not worse parents than the next person or that "worse parents" is even something that is possibly measurable.

I know, I know. This has been blogged about before. Facebook is just a highlight reel. Don't compare your life to the lives that are presented through photos and 180 words or less. Yadda yadda. But here's what I've learned: When all we share on social media is the perfection that is captured in the 24th photo we snapped, the stories of how Michael or Emily got the award for "Most saintly kid!", or (if I'm really being honest here) the rejoicing at how our relationship with God is so perfect (because sometimes, don't you really want to say- "I'm not feeling it today, God!") we miss out on the Spirit moving through us to our friends.

When I shared about my divorce on the morning show, I got so many calls and emails from listeners saying they love me and are praying for me. Several emails came from people who had been through it or are going through it and they felt comforted and connected. One call in particular resonated with me. It came from a woman who had called dozens of times before and we almost always exchanged a laugh, but that day she said, "If you hadn't shared about what you've been going through for the past 8 months, our relationship would've stayed at the surface. But now I feel like I can tell you that I've been through..." and she shared about her own struggle.

The pain we go through carves out a path like a river bed for the Spirit to flow through, but the facades put up a dam. Letting our guard down and sharing the hurt, the confusion and the struggle lets the Holy Spirit move. We are thirsty for this. Don't let your insecurities keep you from being honest. You have no idea how God might use that honesty to move in the heart of another.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Soooo Addictive!

I'm pretty sure the day we talked about a Candy Crush addiction recovery program on The Big Big House Morning Show folks in the cars could hear my eyes rolling. Seriously? There are people who are THAT into a silly game that this type of thing actually exists? "That's REEE-diculous" I said!

And then I downloaded Candy Crush.

Hello. My Name is Abby and I'm a Candy Crush-aholic.

Okay, maybe I wasn't that bad, but I understood the appeal of the game. It was downright fun and strategic and totally addictive!

Have you ever noticed that in the reviews under an app the understood indicator of a good game is the phrase, "Totally addictive!" or "So addicted!" You can even search "addictive games" in the iTunes app store (for those of us who aren't in denial). Or when a new series hits TV if no reviewer says, "I was addicted after one episode!" then as a collective viewing audience we assume it's not that good.

In other words, if I am not rendered powerless by this thing I'm engaging in then it's not worth my time. Sure, it's really just our way of hyperbolically saying  - this show/game/app is really good, but why do we see addiction as something to be desired?

Is it for the same reason that we sit in front of the TV with a pint of ice cream and mindlessly eat, paying no attention to the fact that we are one spoonful away from consuming over 1000 calories in a single sitting? (hypothetically speaking, of course) Or we head to the mall and engage in some retail therapy taking a breath of fresh air with every cute shirt or pair of shoes we try on?

There is so much vying for our attention that we find solace in the ability to tune the rest out and just zone- could be with a game, a ice cream binge or a shopping trip. We want to avoid reality, the problems, the chores, the bills so we allow ourselves to get pulled in. We lose control. We let the things that turn off our brain become the things we crave - that we are "addicted" to. The addiction comes from the need to not think, not worry.

But is turning off and tuning out the way that God wants us to spend so much of our time? And yep, I'm going to say it- What if we took some of that time that we would normally scroll through our Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feed and sit & listen to Him. Sit in silence. Read the Bible. Meditate on one verse.

Lent starts in less than 48 hours. What if, over the next 40 days, we attempted to be more mindful of those moments when we feel ourselves slipping into zombie-land and cut it off before it take us over, before the addiction grabs us and zaps the time that we can give to God.

And on a side-note, I would love, just once to see in the reviews under a Bible app, "So addictive!" Truth.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do I Still Get Dessert?

My guys love food. Shocker, I know. The other night, Liam ate 3 fish sticks, then asked for two more. So I slaved over the hot microwave and gave him two more. Yeah, not only do I serve them fish sticks, I microwave them instead of bake them in the oven. Don't hate! He said he was still hungry, so I gave him one more. His dinner consisted of 6 fish stick in all + haricot verts (he doesn't eat green beans but if we call them haricot verts he gobbles them up) + tomatoes + polenta, which in the same vain as the green beans, we called "rice" to get him to eat. His little brother ate almost as much, but only managed to put away 4 sticks.

After all this food, Liam asked if he was getting dessert. How could I say no? He did such a great job with dinner.  But there was a back story on this dessert - for their afternoon snack, the boys had pudding. I told them they could have that instead of fruit or pretzels (the normal snack) but that meant nothing crazy-sweet after dinner. We settled on pudding at 3:30 and planned for mango after dinner.

After dinner & bath my boys got bit by the energy bug and would NOT STOP MOVING! That's normal but man, they were amped up on something this night. I kept trying to get Liam's attention to get on with the post-bath process- "Liam, go grab a pull up." "Put your foot in your jammies." "Come here." "Stop running" "Settle down" "Don't clothes-line your brother". I said each of these phrases a number of times and each time - no exaggeration - he asked me, "DO I STILL GET DESSERT?"

Annoyed, I grabbed his face (I'm getting better but I'm still working on patience) and told him, "I don't lie. I told you you're getting dessert but you need to stop asking me that." And because there was something about the way he was looking at me each time he asked "Do I still get dessert"  that led me to believe he was testing me, I then said to him, "Why does it feel like you are trying to do as much misbehaving as you can up to the point where you get dessert taken away?" Maybe I didn't say it in those exact words, but that was the gist. And I know it went over his head, but I had to say it anyway.

The "event" ended there. The boys sat and watched Curious George and ate their diced up mango in silence. Side note -  I might name my next child George as an homage to that monkey because I am so grateful to him and the Man in the Yellow Hat.

The next morning I was thinking about the evening's happenings and realized I do the same thing with God that Liam was doing with me. In my heart, when I choose to sin, I am saying, "If I do this, do I still get dessert?" Can I still get to heaven? Is this sin really that bad? Can I get away with this and still be okay?  For those parents of teens and young adults they might be saying: How far can I go physically in this relationship and still be "in good standing". It's this silly gamble that we take. I know it's not necessarily theologically sound, but you get my drift.

What I wanted my three-year-old to understand is that I had a wonderful treat ready for him, not because he earned it by eating 87 fish sticks and half the produce aisle, but because I wanted it for him. I wanted him to obey and be "a good boy" not so he could maintain his dessert status, but because he loves me and wants to honor me as his mother.

I guess tonight I should treat him to dessert for teaching me another lesson...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Here am I, Lord?

Sunset, by Beniamin Pop (2007) via Freeimages.com
I had to laugh. The Responsorial Psalm at mass yesterday from Psalm 40 was "Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will." Imagine this: I have the little one on my lap and he was so wiggly that not once but twice, he threw his head back and popped me in the mouth. Felt GREAT! Then the big one was not happy not getting my full attention and was fighting to push shut the book that I was "reading" to the little guy. It was not a banner day. On days like this, the best this single mom can do is try to catch every few words that the priest says and glean something worth hanging on to. On days like these I find comfort in the words of a dear friend, "Your kids are your prayer right now".

Still, when I started singing along to "Here am I, Lord" I thought, "God is probably laughing at me and asking- Where are you?" My mind just happened to focus on the mass for that moment and I chose to participate, but seriously, was my heart really speaking the words my mouth was saying? Nope. Then I got to thinking about all the distractions we have in our lives and how even when I don't have two toddlers vying for my attention, I'm still a pretty sorry example of attentiveness.

Thankfully, God knows our hearts. He knows when we want more of Him but are pulled in two or three other directions. He knows when we are just babbling and when we are really sharing the desires of our hearts. BUT (and here's the kicker) we can't rest on that. We can't say, "God knows I WANT to spend more time with Him so it's ok if I keep this same routine and keep giving Him the last five minutes of my day or one hour on Sunday."

From Mark 2: 22, "Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins." When we feel the Holy Spirit inspiring us to go deeper or devote ourselves more fully to our faith, we can't continue the same habits and lifestyle.

The good news - small changes can make a difference. Set that alarm 5 minutes earlier (It's not going to kill you!) so you have a chance to start your day in prayer or read the psalm for the day. Start praying before every meal, not just dinner. Try to make it to daily mass one more time per month. Join in a Bible study or download one onto your phone. If the wine is new on the inside, change the skin on the outside! What one thing can you do this week to make your actions match your heart?

Friday, January 2, 2015

$20 vs Mud

That's my friend, Renee. On New Year's Eve she found $20 on the ground. She posted the photo to social media with the declaration, "2015 is going to be a great year!" Friends chimed in with words of congratulation and agreement. I asked her (not trying to be a pessimist), "Since you found it before midnight, are you sure it isn't an exclamation point on the end of a good year?" She poo-poo'ed me.

Whether it's hitting every light on the way into work or getting a run in our tights, we often let one incident set the tone and our level of expectation for a day or sadly, even a year. It's great if we allow this to make us optimistic and hopeful, but I think more often than not, we tend to focus on the negative.

Renee thought that $20 was just the first in what would surely be a year of good things, but what if she had,instead, at the same spot on the sidewalk, gotten splashed with mud by a passing car? Is 2015 destined to be rotten?

I am guilty of doing the backwards version of this. 2014 was a rough year for me and it all started on January 1st. New Year's Day. 3:30pm. So as the year drew to a close, I said more than a few times, "I'm ready for this year to be over" as if the calendar determines how things will unfold.

The days, months and years will unfold how we allow them to. God is continually molding and shaping our lives and our hearts. If we have a hardness, like dry clay, what can He do with us? Holding on to an attitude of, "Today is going to be a bad day" or "This month is just awful. I can't wait for it to be over." will put up a wall where God might want to come in. We could miss out on opportunities to see $20 on the ground or silver linings on the clouds. So here's to 2015 and what each moment holds!