Living Lent as a family

This past Monday I had my monthly interview spot on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air Show, and we talked about some of the Lenten traditions my family I embrace or have embraced in the past. I had every intention of putting together a post chock full of resources for Lent prior to the interview. When that didn’t happen, I told myself I’d cobble a post together on Fat Tuesday. Then the ice hit Georgia. We lost our Internet connection, and it ended up being a good day to cuddle and play lots of games of Uno.

So here I am on Ash Wednesday throwing some ideas out there. This year we’re not going to make our traditional Lenten mice out of mismatched socks (see picture below of our rodent friends from the past). I may end up doing this again for Thomas down the road, but we are using a jelly bean activity a friend told me about from Catholic Mom to encourage prayer, sacrifices, and alms giving this year because, let’s face it, candy motivates my 10-year-old more than tying knots in the tail of a mouse stuffed animal. For those of you with only littles in your house these mice are so cute and a great way to visually show a child what sacrifices can do. The mouse’s tail gets shorter and shorter with each good deed (from each knot tied), and you can talk about how your child’s soul is changing, too, as it draws closer and closer to Christ.

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The Lenten sacrifice mice the kids and I have made during past Lents

For those of you with some older children, you can try this jelly bean activity. My friend substitutes M&Ms. Different colors can be ordered on the M&M’s website. She also plans ahead and buys holiday M&Ms when they’re on sale. We’re using jelly beans and using this Catholic Mom article as our guide:

On Ash Wednesday we set out a glass jar for each child with a small copy of the jellybean prayer taped to it. We determined a behavior to go with each jellybean color (corresponding with the prayer). Each day the kids could earn a jellybean of any color they followed through on.  They could not eat the jellybeans until Easter. The kids could not earn white jellybeans,  these represented the Grace of Christ, which is a gift not earned ourselves.  On Easter morning, the kids woke to find their jars filled up where they were still empty (lacking) with white jellybeans (Christ’s grace)

This is how we interpreted each color. You can make your own ideas based on ages and needs of your children.

  • Red is for the blood Christ gave (each morning we chose something to sacrifice that day to earn the red jellybean.  It had to be something they would have had the opportunity to have or do on that day)
  • Green is for the palm’s cool shade (green jellybeans were earned for good deeds.  It was a good dead to provide shade for Jesus with the palm)
  • Yellow is for God’s light so bright (yellow jellybeans were earned for sharing God’s light through kindness to others)
  • Orange is for prayers at twilight (orange jellybeans were earned for attentive behavior during bedtime prayer time and night time bible story)
  • Black is for sweet rest at night (these were earned for going to bed good. we used blue though, as our kids are not fans of black jellybeans)
  • White is for the Grace of Christ (these we could not earn as mentioned above)
  • Purple is for His days of sorrow (we earned these through apologizing to anyone we hurt with our words or deeds that day)
  • Pink is for each new tomorrow (pink jellybeans were earned when we forgave those  who apologized to us for hurtful behavior)

During the course of 40 days the kids did not tire of this activity and have talked about how fun it was throughout the year.
Of course,  the Easter bunny might not want to bring any more jellybeans for the baskets!!

I am using blue jellybeans instead of black, and I’m hoping for a heaping pile of blue jelly beans because I just know we will have nothing but calm, easy, and peaceful bedtimes for the next 40 days because the Wicker kids love nothing more than hanging out in the horizontal position. Yeah right.

I also decided that while we can’t earn God’s grace – and thankfully we don’t have to! – we open ourselves to God’s grace in the sacraments, so the kids get white jelly beans for going to Mass and for going to Confession (thanks, Betsy, for this idea!).

Also, each morning we will pick a family sacrifice in addition to our own personal sacrifices and if we fulfill it, each child gets an extra red jelly bean. This might mean a day with no electronics or we pray the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross as a family.

I’m excited about this Lenten activity, and I can already see the kids are, too, because their jars are filling up quickly. Now I just have to keep them, especially 3-year-old food thief Thomas, from stealth jelly bean eating.

In year’s past, I have done things like 40 Bags in 40 Days while encouraging the children to help me fill the bags with toys that they didn’t really need (this doesn’t mean broken toys they never liked; giving those away wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice, after all). I personally have loved writing letters for each of the 40 days of Lent for the past two years. My oldest daughter has decided to adopt this activity to make her Lent more meaningful.

My big Lenten resolution this year is to not buy anything for myself that is just for me. When my husband was still in residency, this was how life always was. I really had to watch our budget and penny pinch, but I’ve noticed that in recent months – now that we are finally arriving at a secure place financially – I’ll be at Target or somewhere and I’ll toss things into the cart that aren’t on my list because – hey, it’s only $10 for that scarf that’s marked down. Or I’ll see an item on Zulily that’s a great deal, and I’ll think to myself that I have to snag it cheap while I can. Or I’ll be buying The Gruffalo Living Lent as a family off Amazon for a birthday party gift for a little friend and will add a book to the cart that I’ve been wanting for our collection instead of just checking it out at our wonderful local library that is within walking distance of my house. But those $5 to $10 purchases add up, and so do those shoe splurges. And truth is, we still have monstrous educational loans from my husband’s many years of schooling to pay off, and I really want to revert back to my thrifty self so we can save more and give more. So my plan for the next 40 days is to not buy anything for myself – that includes things really only I consume like makeup or seltzer water, which only I drink except when certain children ask for a sip. When I shared my plan with my oldest, she asked, “But what if you run out of something you usually use?”

“I still probably don’t need it,” I told her.

Then I plan on looking at the past three month’s budgets prior to Lent (my husband keeps very detailed spending pie graphs) and determine the average of what I spent on myself during that time and give that amount to a charity like the Catholic Relief Service’s Lenten Rice Bowl or Food for the Poor since I hopefully did not spend that moula on me, myself, and I during Lent. I have some other personal plans and sacrifices I plan to do as well, but that’s the biggie.

Mary Elizabeth will be coloring this wonderful printable Lenten calendar that’s available for free over at Catholic Icing (along with lots of other Lent activities for kids and families). The countdown to Easter is particularly exciting for her because her birthday is on the same day this year. “So I’ll get cake AND Easter candy?” she asked happily this morning. Yup! Sugar binge, here we come in 40 days!

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That’s our 2015 Lenten Plan, but here’s a list of some resources, ideas, books, etc. we’ve used in the past, plan to use, or dream of using when my life isn’t such a beautiful, chaotic mess.

I know I’ve missed some great stuff out there, so please feel free to share your own links and/or resources in the combox.

Happy clicking!

(Oh, and please forgive the funky formatting below. I’ve tried to fix it multiple times with no luck.)



Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families Living Lent as a family by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

Welcome Risen Jesus: Lenten and Easter Reflections for Families Living Lent as a family by Sarah Reinhard

Magnificat Lenten Companion (it looks like the hard copy is sold out, but it’s available as an app)


Around the Web

Catholic Icing’s Lenten Navigation Page

Catholic Mom’s Lenten Activities for Children

Christ’s Journey to the Cross: Lenten Insipiration for Mothers (an old reflective essay of mine)

Conversion Diary’s Recommended Reading (for adults) for Lent

Elizabeth Foss’s Preparing for Lent post (includes link to all her Lenten archives)

Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure

Lent for Little Ones (an old post of mine, but we still put to practice many of the ideas I write about, especially the Stations of the Cross for children and the box of objects to represent each station)

Karen Edmisten’s Meaningful 2011 Lent post

Lenten Activities for the Family This is a PDF document targeted to non-Catholics who wish to observe the Lenten season. It’s chock full of ideas on how to celebrate Lent with your family and makes use a of Lenten tree in which children color pieces of fruit after they complete an activity.
Here’s an example of activity included: “Practice giving one another a foot-wash. Talk a bit about Maundy Thursday when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and commanded them to love one another. The word maundy comes from a root word meaning ‘mandate’ or ‘command.’ Look up John 13:34-35 to discover the ‘new commandment’ Jesus gives. The book is from 2009, but it’s still relevant.


Pondered in the Heart Lenten Calendar, Merciful Cross idea for keeping track of sacrifices, Stations of the Cross grottos, et

Recipes (including lots of meatless dishes perfect for Lenten Fridays)


Catholic Foodie’s Fish on Fridays and Lenten Kitchen
Avocado Corn Salad with Tropical Smoothies

Homemade Pretzels (we make these every Lent and have a simple dinner of pretzels, cheese, fruit, and milk)

Kid-Friendly Cheesy Broccoli Pockets

Lenten Corn Chowder

Meatless Black Bean Chili

Papa’s Oven Fried Fish

Shrimp Wraps

Spinach & Feta Quiche

Tofu Parmesan (don’t judge it until you try it!)

Review & Giveaway: St. Mary’s Messenger

IMG 7132 225x300 Review & Giveaway: St. Marys Messenger*This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are my (and Madeline’s!) own. Leave a comment at the end of this post to enter to win a free one-year subscription to St. Mary’s Messenger.

During Advent (yes, I am just getting around to writing a review now; I told you I had morphed into a complete blogging slacker), my children and I received a free issue of St. Mary’s Messenger. We also were gifted with a year’s subscription to the magazine. We just received the newest issue (pictured above) that is chalk full of good stuff about Lent. My 7-year-old voraciously read this issue (for some reason, it seemed to appeal to her more than the previous issue) and was particularly struck by a true-life story about a young girl who had type 1 diabetes and how this was her cross in life. (We have a loved one with Type 1 diabetes, so perhaps this hit home with my daughter.)

Think of the publication as a Catholic Highlights. St. Mary’s Messenger is a full-sized, full-color and 32-page quarterly Catholic magazine for children, ages 7 to 12. I read a few of the articles aloud to my 5-year-old as well, and she enjoyed it. Each issue includes articles, a fictional story or two, activities, and ways to enrich a child’s faith. It is written for children in a way they can understand. But don’t take it from me. I asked my 10-year-old, who is 10 going on 30 in a lot of ways (you’ll see how she writes the review as IF she was reading it as a kid when, in fact, she did read it as a kid) to jot down her own thoughts about the magazine. She wrote the following review of the Advent issue (pictured below):

Hello. My name is Madeline and I am 10 years old. I had the opportunity to read this Catholic kids magazine, and my mom wanted me to write a review. I happily agreed. So here are my thoughts:

My favorite article was probably “Pinka, the Joyful Candle” by Susan Skinner. I also liked “America’s First Saint: Mother Cabrini” by Wynne Crombie.  The one about Pinka was very kid-friendly and could keep the intentions [attention] span of a kid for awhile. The reason for that is:

  • It wasn’t too long
  • It taught you the meaning of Advent in a fun way
  • It had other kids in it

For some reason when I was little [as if being 10 means she’s all grown up], I always liked stories with other kids in it better than a story with only grown-ups. As for the article on Mother Cabrini, I thought younger kids wouldn’t find it quite as interesting. I, on the other hand, thought it had some really cool facts that I didn’t already know about this important woman of faith. I have been studying her in my Religion class at my Catholic school. I also liked all the activities. Kids love activities! I love activities!

All in all I only have one thing that could be changed. If you want more kids to read your magazine, then remember: Kids love bright colors and pictures!!!!! When a kid is looking through magazine, the ones with brighter colors, more things, and pictures on it will stand out and look interesting to the kid. I thought the cover could have used more color and that the magazine’s title didn’t really jump out. It kind of blended in with the trees. You need a cover that pops and caches [catches] a kid’s attention [I did point out to her that the Eucharist is pretty eye-popping and should catch our attention!] But don’t judge a book – or magazine – by its cover.  I found out how cool and awesome St. Mary’s Messenger when I started to read it. Anyway, thanks for reading! Bye!


IMG 7143 e1423679356953 225x300 Review & Giveaway: St. Marys Messenger

St. Mary’s Messenger is not a flashy publication as Madeline’s review suggests. I personally can’t stand kids’ magazines that are too busy or full of ads. Kids’ National Geographic, for instance, is sensory overload for me; however, I think Madeline was thinking of her Cricket and Spider magazine covers, which we all love for their creativity and yes, color.  I am excited about this magazine and how it marbles in our Catholic faith to its pages. The “Pinka” story Madeline mentioned was a fictional story that teaches children about what the Advent wreath’s color of candles each represent. The Advent issue also included an Immaculate Conception game, explanations of saint symbols for the Gospels such as an ox or bull representing the Gospel of Luke, an article describing the process of how one becomes declared a saint, a crossword puzzle, a Veterans’ Day tribute, and more.

We are big readers mostly of books in our home, but we do subscribe to Cricket (gift subscription from a great grandmother), Spider (also a gift subscription from a great grandmother), and Ranger Rick, and I am so happy to add a Catholic option to our mailbox four times a year. Yearly subscriptions (4 issues) are $19.95 and available at the magazine’s website. The website also includes some free online articles. A subscription would make a great gift for a child making her First Holy Communion this spring!

Also, the publisher’s have very generously offered to gift one reader with a free yearly subscription. To enter to win the giveaway, please leave a comment below. I’m sorry, but winners must reside in the United States. The contest will close on Monday, February 23rd at 7 pm EST, and winners will be announced that week. Good luck!

My hips don’t lie

Once upon a time people stopped by this blog to read about my life in the trenches of motherhood or body image or my faith journey and/or struggles. Now a lot of people Google their way over here because they, too, are dealing with frustrating, nebulous injuries like high hamstring tendinopathy or SI joint dysfunction. Welcome! And for those of you who are tired of my periodic ramblings pertaining to my broken body, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Note version: I have been trying to overcome pain and myriad injuries since September 2013 when a physical therapist (one of 6 I’ve consulted since then) thought I had piriformis syndrome, and now it looks like my left hip may be the reason behind my litany of injuries, trigger points, etc. and that surgery may be in my – and by default – my poor family’s future. How will I ever chase down a wild 3-year-old boy while on crutches?

Now for the unabridged post: After I was told to go ahead and run the half marathon I’d trained for back in October 2013, my husband, who knows I listen to my body about as well as aforementioned 3-year-old boy listens to Mommy when in the throes of tantrum, suggested I get an MRI, which revealed I had a partial tear left semimembranosus tendon at ischial tuberosity. Not enough doctor-speak for you? Read more here. 

I remember crying to my husband and one friend in particular who has had to hear every detail of this injury (poor thing; I love you, friend) that I would never run again. He assured me that I’d probably be doing another half marathon and maybe even qualifying for Boston in a year. Well, it looks like Eeyore was right this time, doesn’t it? Sorry, Mr. Pollyanna.

Later MRI showed only mild high hamstring tendinopathy and the tear had healed, but some pain remained and then other weird symptoms – symptoms that didn’t get worse with running but also never went away, started to crop up. Then there was a new PT who thought, “Hmmmm…maybe there’s something going on with the labrum.” MRI arthogram and a slew of further imaging studies said, “Yup. There’s something wonky with that hip joint.”

But was it leading to all these other injuries? Some people have wonky hips and don’t have the kind of problems I do. And before I write anything further: Running does not cause FAI (what I’m dealing with). It’s just the way my hip joint is fashioned; however, people who are more active may end up having more problems because of tightness in the hip area and biomechanical/compensatory issues that result from the wonky hip. (Can you tell I am really into the word “wonky” right now?)

Anyway, it’s been more than a year of searching, of being fearful that chronic pain was in my genes (thanks, Mom), of  hearing so many different expert opinions and feeling like it was going to be difficult to trust anyone since everybody seemed to think they had the answer and would get me better to no avail, wondering if maybe I was just weak or everything was in my head or I was going crazy, of learning (once again!) that what I do (or don’t do or can’t do) in this life doesn’t define me as a person, of crying, of getting angry,  of embracing the “Honey Badger don’t care”  attitude (don’t watch with kids within an earshot because of bad words) and just being as active as I want because it didn’t seem to make the pain worse, of being grateful for all that I am capable of, of letting it all go, of feeling guilty for even letting something like this get to me when so many people face horrible tragedies, injustices, sicknesses, and misery. I’ve had dry needling in my back, hamstring, obturator (ouch!), and other places, acupuncture, scraping/Graston, active release therapy, pelvic adjustments, pelvic floor physical therapy, an injection directly into the hip joint, and more. I’ve stopped running for months, started running again, stopped running and then started again, and I still hurt regardless. When I was feeling good during a recent run, I fell hard on the concrete and have a bruised knee and elbow, and several scrapes to show for it. Oh, and I got my first corn ever. Gross. And my dear friend’s amazing doctor-husband offered to look at it, and I was sure to wash my feet beforehand but as he was examining my crustiness, I noticed my toes had their winter coat. Anyone else forget to shave their toes in winter? Fortunately, it’s blonde, but it can get long enough to braid. If he noticed the nasty hair, he didn’t act like it. He showed me nothing but compassion, and I ended up talking about far more than my corn (which thankfully finally fell off the other day). He encouraged me to remember that medicine is sometimes about managing pain and that we can’t always get rid of it. He also helped me to realize I am NOT crazy. This is real, all that I’ve gone through. He and his wife are such good friends.

So despite the medical mysteries, my foot barnacle (corns are stubborn buggers to get rid of), glute/hamstring/iliac crest/groin/back/hip pain every day,  I keep pushing because I am stubborn or idiotic, because while I am making peace with my body’s physical limitations, I refuse to give up and to stop fighting for answers.

And I feel like I am finally getting some of those answers. A renowned hip specialist in Atlanta whom I’ve been seeing for a few months and has been wonderful was the one who gave me the recent hip injection. Based on its results, my imaging, my history, and physical examination, he suspects the hip joint (my FAI and labral fraying to be exact) could be behind my ongoing hamstring, iliac crest issues, etc. and that I am a decent candidate for hip surgery. So I am in the discernment stage, trying to determine if I want to take this leap (of faith, foolishness, or futility?).

I’m no fool. I know it’s likely not a panacea, and I’m really reluctant about jumping into surgery. However, there’s also been something freeing about knowing this isn’t all in my head and there are others – lots of others as evidenced by this Facebook support group – who have dealt with similar issues. The funny thing is the groin pain that the doctor said is a direct symptom of FAI I had attributed to girly problems or IBS or even my past kidney stones. Things are finally starting to fall in place. In my before kids days, I was diagnosed with snapping hip syndrome during a training cycle. I was young and recovered quickly. Oh, to be young again, but I wonder now if this was the beginning of what has finally led me to where I’m at right now. Later, I was told I had hip bursitis – perhaps another red flag. Who knows? What I do know is I am going to get a second opinion from a hip/FAI leader because I happen to live only a handful of hours from where he practices and see what he thinks. But it looks like hip surgery and crutches and all that fun stuff might be in my future.

In the meantime, I’ll do what I can do and be thankful for my body. The doc did give me the go-ahead to run light mileage, so I have plans to run my kids’ school’s 5K. I have been told to listen to my body – something I’ve never been entirely good at. “Your hips will tell you if you need to slow down even if you don’t feel the pain in your hip,” the doctor told me.

Oh, Shakira, you were onto something when you said your hips don’t lie.

Stay tuned for more of the Kate’s wonky hip/body saga.

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