Posts filed under review

Little Drops of Water {Touchables for Catholic Kids}

IMG_0210.JPG

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...

IMG_0218.JPG

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."

IMG_0215.JPG

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. 

IMG_0250.JPG

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. 

IMG_0235.JPG

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. 

IMG_0229.JPG

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. 

IMG_0244.JPG

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. 

IMG_0226.JPG
IMG_0213.JPG

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. 

IMG_0211.JPG

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.

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...

image.jpg

(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. 

Click on the pics below to enlarge...

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.

Memoirs of a Happy Failure: Alice von Hildebrand {Read this book!}

If you asked me to name the three most influential Catholic writers in my faith journey, there is no question that Alice von Hildebrand would be among them. I first encountered her writing as a young mother when looking on our shelves for something "easy" to read. Her slim volume "The Privilege of Being a Woman" seemed to fit the bill. It looked like it would make me smarter, had a pretty blue cover (I like blue), and most notably, was only about 100 pages. Little did I know that the Holy Spirit would use those few pages to open my eyes and heart a little wider... and transform me into someone a little (or a lot) better than I was.

I am tempted to say that Alice von Hildebrand's little book saved my marriage but that seems too dramatic since there wasn't any direct threat at the time. But it is is completely accurate to say that it (along with Fulton Sheen's Three to Get Married) changed my understanding of marriage, my place in marriage, and the meaning of my feminine identity... and built a strong foundation against the challenges that would inevitably come.

When I saw recently that St. Benedict Press had published the memoirs of Alice von Hildebrand, I stared with the hunger of a child in a candy store. I didn't need it but I needed it... know what I mean? When they sent it to me to review, I haunted my mailbox waiting and read it within two days of receiving it. I wasn't disappointed.

I wouldn't call the book exciting in the modern sense. Even the most dramatic moments of her life (escaping Nazi Germany, for example) are told in an understated way. And it is fitting. We live in a time when we feel that we must add emojis and exclamation points to everything in order to be understood... but von Hildebrand speaks of all of her life in the same reverent and tempered tone. With the innate understanding that the Holy Spirit is present through each moment as powerfully as the next. And as I read through the events of her life, from big to small, I understood that the most dramatic moments are really the ones in which the soul is moved toward God. Everything else is just window dressing.

Memoirs of a Happy Failure follows von Hildebrand from her childhood in Germany, education in the United States, marriage to Dietrich von Hildebrand (one of the great theologians of our time), all the way through her retirement from teaching philosophy at Hunter College in New York. It was a time before the internet and "education via meme." A slower time but no less rampant with the errors of relativism and modernism. Von Hildebrand combatted these enemies through the faithful and bold teaching of Philosophy. She wrote:

"How often did my students say to me, "I never heard this before," to which I would answer that to learn is to become acquainted with insights one has not had before. I had come to see that relativism is the one great obstacle to faith. Once this bastion is torn down, the rest follows. Man's longing for God is thereby "unleashed."

The book, like much of Alice von Hildebrand's writing, left me with a feeling of deep peace and confidence in the power of God working through the mundane. It also left me with a renewed hunger for a renewed pursuit of the intellectual life and a profound appreciation for the under-appreciated queen of the sciences: Philosophy. 

You can buy "Memoirs of a Happy Failure" at St. Benedict Press and I strongly recommend doing so!

Posted on November 4, 2015 and filed under review, Womanhood, books.