Little Drops of Water {Touchables for Catholic Kids}

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One of the greatest pleasures of blogging is the opportunity to review beautiful Catholic products and to share them with you. I turn down most review opportunities but occasionally happily accept when the product is consistent with my blog purpose, blesses my family, and supports business that contribute to healthy culture. Little Drops of Water is a Catholic line that meets all the criteria. I am pleased to introduce them to you.

In 2014, a young lady named Anna founded Little Drops of Water in order to promote the faith and pass it on to all children. Her little brother was her inspiration and her father, her support. They took her dream and drawings and launched the new company.

I was fortunate enough to receive some of their items for review and, of course, my children whisked off the box as soon as it came...

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I am particular about the religious art that my children are exposed to. I do not love the cartoon books that feature Jesus with googly eyes or caricatures of saints that border on the ridiculous. Children are attracted to beauty and do not need it dumbed down to appreciate it. Exposing kids to the beauty of the externals of our faith is one of the best tools of catechesis that we have.  Because of this, I was uncertain about these products at first because they did seem childish. But...

The conclusion that I came to is that there is that while these are simple and toylike, they are not ridiculous. They communicate the faith sweetly without distortion. And best of all... they are made to be played with. If you've ever been to my house, you will notice that it is a little lacking in the decor department. That's because we have 8 kids. If it can be broken, it probably will be; and when it breaks, we rarely replace it. So... I'm a big fan of "touchables."

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We received the statues, magnets (St. Therese pictured above), charms, and pens. Not all items are intended for all ages, but common sense purchasing will please a number of ages in a family. For example, a two year old can certainly play with the resin statues and simple magnets, but I wouldn't recommend the tiny charms for anyone who still puts things in their mouths. 

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Pairing items of saints would make a sweet name day or sacramental gift. Also... St. Nicholas Day shoe stuffers and Christmas stockings. They are small enough to fit and perfect for maintaining the purpose of the season. 

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The pens light up, have glitter water, floating angels, and a cute angel dangle... all of which are impressive. But not nearly as impressive as my toddler's line scribbles. I mean, really... genius. 

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The magnet selection includes 3 dimensional figures and flat images (pictured below). Ours are currently lined up in formation on our fridge and need to be rearranged by the resident magnet artist about once every few hours. 

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I love the little saint charms. This little St. Christopher is heading out to my college aged son who is not named Christopher but who is doing quite a bit of traveling. Our other charms have found their way onto coat and bag zippers, pencil cases, and hair bands. 

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St. Patrick is adorable. I may or may not have played with him after the kids went to bed. And then I definitely put St. Nicholas and Mother Teresa of Calcutta on my Christmas shopping list. 

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You'll definitely want to check out the Little Drops of Water website and product selection for yourself and check them out on Facebook and Instagram! And stay tuned for a giveaway of their sweet products. As soon as I hit 1000 followers on Facebook, I'm going to send a box of all kinds of good stuff to one treasured reader.

Posted on September 25, 2016 and filed under Gifts, review.

How to Rock Postpartum Fitness at 40

The reality about postpartum fitness at 40 is that it can no longer be a mad-dash-to-skinny like it was when I was 20. Then it was all about "losing the baby weight" but today it is about so much more. I have said it many times in the past year (and it's still startling true) that I would rather be 40 than 20 because of the maturity; the maturity which makes the difference between wanting to be skinny and wanting to be well. 

I have been open here about my journey of healing which started about four years ago. It has come in stages of understanding and implementation and over and around the obstacles of life. So, where am I now?

I'm in a great place. Imperfectly.

Three months postpartum.
7 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight.
Getting stronger.
Eating well.
Staying active.
Saying no to the good to make way for the better.
Feeling like "myself" again. 

And all of this has come within one of the most difficult years of my life. I know what the difference is and I offer you the same encouragement that I have recently experienced...

THE DIFFERENCE.

I woke up this morning tired like I often am (8 kids will do that to a gal) and prayed an abbreviated morning offering as I stumbled out of bed. I was late to the day and feeling behind again. But instead of rushing out to the kitchen in a panic, I paused and stretched the way that Rebecca had encouraged me to stretch.

It was a moment of praise and worship. A restoration and integration of the proper order of the physical and spiritual and emotional and mental... 

Body and soul. Body and soul.

I felt the panic subside. Greasing the elbows, greasing the soul. Yes, Jesus... it's all about You, after all. The endorphins kicked in at the same time that I remembered my purpose and I found the courage to go downstairs cheerfully. 

And that has been the difference: The relationship of body and soul united to Jesus.

It is not the act of stretching that changes everything, but the intentional act of rising, moving, and giving it back to God like the natural movement of the ocean tide. It is an act of constant remembering in order to combat the constant neglecting and forgetting. 

The relationship is what makes the difference. True Christ-centered wellness and fitness is about a relationship of love with the Creator and His created, not about pounding the cake off of my bones after overindulging! I've always known that intuitively, but the accountability of a kindred soul (who also happens to be postpartum Catholic mom and Olympian) has been a game changer; continually helping to restore the relationship to the Beloved.

EXERCISE IS NOT ABOUT PUNISHMENT

I used to look at exercise as a kind of punishment or a way of forcing my body to do what I wanted. Rebecca has helped me to recall that my body is an instrument of praise. The result of that has been that I have been doing far less "working out" and far more LIVING actively. She has been providing structure to my fitness goals through her lifestyle mentorship and I have been imperfectly following it. There have been many days where I was not able to complete the schedule. I haven't looked at my BeachBody videos in months. And yet...

I shed pounds anyway. And I was happier, more peaceful, more energized, and more connected to my God and my family. 

I have a fitness plan that actually brings me back into the center of my vocation instead of drawing me out of the home and into a cycle of guilty frantic exercise. I feel younger... more like myself. And I have heard similar things from the gals who are in the current training group.

FITNESS IN THE STORM

My family was recently traveling for a week to drop my son off at school. It was a hard trip that required a lot of emotional and physical stamina. I had very little energy and we were eating out a lot, but I brought my fitness plan with me (because I can do it anywhere) with the hope that maybe I might be able to fit it in. What I learned from that experience is that fitness is no longer about "fitting it in" but about incorporating healthy living into each moment. I learned that I can be healthy even in a stormy season...

It is about taking the stairs.
Running with the kids at the park instead of warming the bench.
Strapping the baby in the carrier and walking the hills while they play.
Using the parking lot curb as a balance beam instead of bench sitting.
Doing a rosary walk and maybe lunges during the Hail Mary's.
Leaving out the sugar and offering it up.
Buying better ingredients.
Offering intercessory prayer during a scheduled workout.
Spending more time outside.
Playing more.

I'm happy to be fitting into more of my clothes again but even happier that there a sort of peace between the person I am and the person I wish to become. We are one and the same and I am gentle with myself and tough at the same time. Merciful but demanding. I am young and I am old. Weak and strong. Failing and flourishing.

And... I am no longer freaked out by the constant contradictions. I have spent the last year breathing through them like the waves of birth contractions; and even when delivering my son 3 months ago, I thought, "Isn't this just like the pain and joy of my entire life? I'm not afraid anymore.

You know what else? I played tag with my athletic 14-year old at the playground last weekend and caught him when he made an ill-advised turn under the yellow swirly slide. Sometimes, the victories in life are that beautifully simple. Thanks be to God.

*Click through here for more information about what Rebecca is doing through FitCatholicMom.com and follow her Facebook page for bonus life workouts, tips, and encouragements.

 

 

Posted on September 9, 2016 and filed under fitness, motherhood, pregnancy, Womanhood.

So your kids want to be Ninja Warriors?

It's a year of rising and renewal for me... mind, body, and soul. After a tough pregnancy that kept me glued to the couch for most of a year, I'm more than ready to stretch and strengthen. A big part of that has been getting myself outdoors. The days of sitting on my can for most of the day and then spending the token hour with Tony Horton (of P90X fame) are giving way to functional, natural, healthy movement; living and breathing in bigger ways with integrated prayer of thanksgiving and intercession. And... I'm dragging my kids along with me.

Remember when we quit youth sports and I lost my "soccer mom" (volley mom, swim mom... all the things mom) credentials but probably saved my soul? Well, the kids are doing great but they do get a little antsy and we are always looking for ways to help them stretch and grow physically. And actually, they are more than happy to lead the way with a lot of energy and a little more crazy. Cross-eyed, upside down, strong in mind, body, and spirit...

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(Hey Mom! Take a picture of me and send it to my brother! So I sent the pic of him showing off on the nunchucks to his brother at seminary. Because apparently for brothers, the competitive never ends.)

This has been a Ninja Summer. Anyone else know what I'm talking about? Are your kids making obstacles out of every possible piece of furniture and overhanging thing in site? Yep, yep... they're all Ninja Warrior crazy, I tell you. It only took one episode before they were literally climbing up my walls. 

Speaking of which... I have more footprints on my walls in one Summer than in the last decade. So mama said Enough!  I sent them outside...

And the woods and yard were transformed into our ninja playground. But after one set of stitches to a chin from an ill-placed log, a few dozen ugly splinters from natural obstacles, and a round of poison ivy (which healed marvelously with an essential oil concoction I inflicted on my kid), I started googling "Ninja obstacles for kids." Because while I love the great outdoors, I do not love knitting needle sized splinters and medical bills. 

Time to work smarter... And google introduced me to the Ninjaline.

One look and I was all in. I contacted the good people at Slackers and they sent me a kit to review and also promised a Ninjaline to give away to one of you!

*Please remember... I do not promote stuff that I don't own, love, and think some of my readers will appreciate. And we definitely use and enjoy our Ninjaline so we're good on that count.*

Let me tell you a bit about our experience and then I'm going to give one away...

This Ninjaline is a solidly constructed outdoor obstacle course similar to the overhanging obstacles used on American Ninja Warrior. It's basically a slackline that is set up above the head so that various Ninja accessories can be hung from it and navigated. All you need are trees and a teen or adult to adjust it. The installation is simple and now that we've done it a couple times, it only takes a step stool and 5 minutes to set up. The length is adjustable, the accessories are adjustable, and the whole thing fits into one box when we're done. Perfect.

I recommend the Intro Kit for beginners along with the ladder and rope accessories. The pro kit and accessories are excellent but definitely a level up. 

My kids are monkey bar pros at the park but this Ninjaline is definitely harder than monkey bars! It takes some will and some skill to get going on this, but for a kid who wants (needs) to move and be challenged, it's really perfect.

*Sidenote: Do invest in some gym chalk for chalking up little hands when playing monkey. It took some literal blood before we learned this lesson at a local park. Apparently, it's not good enough to have callouses because callouses can rip off. I know these things. I recommend a chalk ball like these HERE (affiliate link) and being used in the pic below.*

This is the anti-video game apparatus. (That's a good thing.) For every successful kip off this line, I'm sure there must be a game system gasping it's last breath somewhere. 

I would definitely recommend having the kids stretch and warm up a bit before practicing their Ninja Warrior skills. This is not your mother's playground toy but a real training tool with a youthful flare. There is technique and strength involved and is the perfect companion to our slackline. I love that the whole setup is portable and adjustable. 

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It will hold the weight of most kids and adults. And for the younger ones in your family who have some work to do before they can Ninja their way across the line, the ladder and rope accessories are a lot of fun. My toddler uses the ladder as a swing and insists that we assist her with her other Ninja skills on demand.

While you're exploring the Slackers website, be sure to check out their other active products. There are so many things in their catalog that are on my wish list and that would keep the kids busy outside and in. I definitely have my eye on their swings.

Below is a brief video of my 14-year old working his way along the Ninjaline. The height is a bit short for him because it is set for the younger kids but he said that trying to keep his feet off the ground adds to the challenge! 

Posted on September 7, 2016 and filed under Family Life, fitness, Giveaway, review.