Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dear Parents of Young Kids In Church

Dear Parents of Young Kids in Church,

Your children probably aren't as disruptive as you think they are.   

Today is the feast of the Holy Family (liturgically the day we got huh? Have you seen my 7 Ways to Happily Ever After?)

The Mass we usually attend has one of those children's liturgy things where the kids go out and have their own separate teaching during the readings/homily, etc (P.S. I'm personally not a fan of those and my kids always stay in the pew...but that is a post for another time).   Today they didn't have it, so all the kids were at Mass the whole time.   And, I will confess that while I tried to focus solely on Mass, my attention did wander and I ended up observing a few of the familes in the pews.  No, this doesn't mean their kids were particularly fact they weren't. I was also observing the row of college students sitting together and the women with the hair bonnet (pray for her, I suspect she may be a cancer patient) and the single lady across the way.  Yep, being distracted during Mass is something I majorly struggle with. 

One thing I LOVE aboug being Catholic is how welcome children are during Mass.  Some churches offer nursery or a "children's liturgy during a part of the Mass" but most of them (in my experience) don't.  Which is great....there is no pressure to leave crying babies in a nursery with people they don't know.   I've heard too many Protestant friends worry about leaving their children in the nursery and how their children just cry the whole time and aren't welcome in the main service. 

Yet, all this attending Mass with children can be stressful.  I've so been there.  My 15-month old, Elsa, alternates between being a total angel (because she is napping in my arms) and wanting nothing more than to run around and escape the pew.  I can totally understand that stressed out, worried look and I saw it on way too many parents today.

And to those parents...I just want to say, that's hard.  I get it.   But, also, relax.  Your kids probably aren't being as disruptive as you think they are.  Yes, you need to teach them how to sit quitely and listen..but you want to hear a little secret.  It's TIME and AGE and PRACTICE that teaches kids to sit quietly and listen during Mass.   They grow up, they get older, their attentions span lengthens and that whole sitting still thing gets loads easier.  Keep taking them.  Keep taking them out if they start screaming.  Keep gently correcting them, don't STRESS over it, or worry if your three year wants to turn around and look at the people behind her, or your five year old is making faces (that was MY five year, by the way and yes I did stress over it, until my wonderful husband reminded me that he is only five and sitting still in church is hard).  Don't worry if your 1-year old wants to stand on the pew or your 2 year wants to stand on the kneeler.  They'll grow older, they'll learn and it will all come together.  One day you'll just realize that you don't even worry about their Mass behavior anymore. Oh what a happy day that will be!

And, since it's Sunday, I'm linking up with Fine Linen and Purple so you can all see what I wore today.  And you can also see our super sad, very tiny, Charlie Brown Christmas tree that is way overloaded with ornaments and (falling) tinsel and lights.  So whatever your Chrismas tree looks assured it HAS to look better than this one.  

Sweater: ThredUp (the most awesome online thrift store ever...and if you buy through my link we BOTH get ten dollars credit!)
Shirt: believe it or not, I think this shirt is from the 70's!  Seriously, I think I got it from clothes my aunt left at my grandmother's house.
Skirt: I think it's also super, super old.   Not totally sure where I got it.
Boots: Wal-Mart
Glasses: Zenni

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Friday, December 27, 2013

7 Ways to Happily Ever After

Thirteen years ago (December 30th to be exact) my hubby and I stood before God and family and said the big I do. 

I'm wearing the same dress my grandma AND mother wore.  Three generations of women who all wore the same wedding dress in the same picture!  Talk about vintage clothing!

We were young....23 years old, fresh out of grad school.  He had graduated with his master's degree a few months earlier in Aug, and I had juuuuust finished mine in December. I like to say that I got my M.S. degree only fifteen days before getting my M.R.S. degree.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing.   Does anyone really when they get married?

Over the past 13 years, we've been through A LOT together....lots of stress, lots of uncertainty, lots of change and lots, and lots and lots of moves.   Our waists have grown while our bank accounts have shrunk.  We have a few more wrinkles, a few more gray hairs and a lot more life experience. 

Yet despite all that, our marriage is happier now and our love is stronger than it was back then.  It's been a long journey and we've both learned a lot along the way. We still have a lot more to learn...but I thought I would share my thoughts anyway since, hey...that's why I I can blather on about my thoughts.  So, from my humble experience, here are 7 ways to happily ever after. 

1. Comparisons are the enemy of the good.

Don't compare your spouse to other people's spouses.  I have a lot of friends with spouses who are very handy.  They would be all this weekend my husband built this adorable doll house, re-gutted the bathroom, assembled a swing-set in the back yard and installed new under-cabinet lights.  Meanwhile, I'm not even sure my husband knows what it means to re-gut a bathroom (actually I have no idea what it means either, I just have a vague recollection of hearing someone say it once) and the words some assembly required are enough to make us both break out into a cold sweat.  There will be no re-gutting of bathrooms going on around this here house.   And that's okay, because while my husband isn't handy, he has lots of talents that a lot of other men don't have.  I married an intellectual...not a handyman.  I knew that when I married it's not fair to suddenly expect him to turn into Mr. Handyman.  

Likewise, I am no Martha be more accurate, I'm like the anti-Martha Stewart.  Ben knew that when he married me.  So, it really should come to no one's surprise that if I was a terrible housekeeper back then, I'm still a terrible housekeeper now.  I'm not crafty, I can't sew, I can't decorate, and I cook weird healthy food like kale and, sugar free peanut butter cookies made with coconut flour.  (I think he started to suspect something when I made him cookies with dates instead of chocolate chips while we were still dating).    I like to think I'm an intellectual, but having kids made me lose a few brain cells, so I'm not even sure I can wear that card anymore. 

2. Take the plank out of your own eye. 

I once got super mad at Ben for spending a small amount of money and on something silly like fast food.  I was all you're wasting money, we can't afford it, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Somehow, I totally forgot about the $230 dollar carseat I somehow convinced myself we needed, or cabinet full of unused/unopened vitamins I have or all the books I've purchased and never used.  I STILL struggle with this.  I'll get upset with him for making small purchases I deem unnecessary, while I myself have made COUNTLESS unnecessary purchases over the years.

3. Marry Up. 

I've noticed something over the years.  The people who are the happiest in their marriage, believe that they married up, they believe that they married someone better than themselves.  They are quick to recognize their own faults and their spouse's strengths.  And, both partners believe that about the other person. It's all about perceptive...not actually who is "better" (because of course, no one is really "better" than anyone else) just have to think your spouse is better.

4. Assume Positive Intent

This applies to basically all communication...not just marital communication.  One thing I've learned is to always assume the other person has a positive intent.  We all say things the wrong way at times or have things come out in a way that we don't mean.  Assuming the other person had a positive intent goes a long way towards smoother, easier and happier communication.

On that same scale...don't get upset if the other person doesn't do or behave exactly how you want.  A big part of marriage is accepting someone for who they are and loving them anyway.  Obviously this doesn't apply in cases of abuse or neglect or infidelity but barring those circumstances, it's important to accept that some people will always be slobs (like me) and some people will always squeeze the toothpaste wrong or throw their dirty socks on the floor, and part of being a family is learning how to live when people don't behave exactly how you would like. 

5.  Give, give and give some more. 

Marriage isn't about what you can do for me, but rather what I can do for you.  Marriage takes sacrifice, and it's better to just accept that right away. It's not always easy, in fact it's frequently not easy.  But it IS always worth it.   It's the little things spouses do for each other...things they do without expecting anything in reciprocation..just because they love the other person and want to do something nice for them that are so important. 

And one of the most important things you can give are compliments.  I LOVE it when my husband tells me I'm beautiful or that I'm a good mother.  And, I know he appreciates it when I tell him he's a good father and a hard worker and has the magic daddy touch for dealing with contrary toddlers.

6.  Have Kids Early On

Of course, sometimes infertility or other things prevent a couple from having kids right away.  But, the happiest marriages I know involved babies coming along soon after marriage.  Babies force you to be give of yourself completely to care for this new, tiny, helpless being.  And, the unselfishness you have in parenting carries over into marriage as well.  I will admit, I was kinda crazy when we first got married.  I had moved to a new city, didn't really have any friends, was pretty lonely...and getting pregnant just 5 months after getting married was the best thing ever for our marriage.  It really was.  That baby gave me someone else to focus on and really brought us together.  I'm sure people thought we were crazy for having a baby right away, but it really was the best thing for us. Having a baby is the best thing to give a couple a shared purpose and intention. Plus, we really love our oldest daughter and couldn't imagine life without her. 

7. Make Intimacy a Priority. 

It's important to a really is.  And, I totally get feeling tired and touched out and all that.  But, it IS important enough to make a priority.  I get that NFP and pregnancy worries and babies/toddlers that don't sleep can make things difficult, but that connection is just so important.  It really is...even if it means giving up some sleep or putting off some cleaning (ha...any excuse to not clean, I say).

So, that is my humble advice from someone who probably has no clue...take it for what it's worth.

{Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!!

It's time for the annual Bentrup Christmas letter/blog post/email/whatever because I am too cheap and lazy green and eco-conscious to send out actual cards/post cards. 

Naturally, I am sending it right on Christmas Eve because I like to keep Advent a spiritual time and wait to celebrate Christmas until actual Christmas.  Naturally.  Or possibly it's because I didn't get around to writing it until now and due to a series of unfortunate incidents involving a broken camera and replacement camera and wrong battery and wrong power cord, we were not able to take family pictures until this past Sunday.  Which actually might have turned out to be a rather fortunate event because it was an unusual 75 degrees in December and a kind passerby offered to take our pictures for us, thereby preventing me from working off a few Christmas cookies by running back and forth with the self-timer. 

Merry Christmas From Us.

It was a very windy day.

And, this what we've all been up to this year.


 Ben has had a most exciting year.  In May he graduated from Ave Maria School of Law with his J.D. degree.  It took three years of really hard work, but he has now earned the privilege of tacking two more letters onto his name (in addition to the B.A. and M.A he already had). 

Then in July he took the bar exam in Virginia and in October found out he passed!!  In December he was sworn into the Virginia State Bar, a ceremony that Heidi was pleased to attend with him.  When asked what she had learned there, she said, and I quote, "Lawyers are three times as likely to have drinking problems as other professions."   So, take that for what it's worth.  So drinking problems.  And Ben has even given up drinking Diet Coke (for the most part). 

So, now Ben is licensed to practice law in Virginia.  Keep his number handy should you reside in that state and find yourself in an interrogation room. 

And to celebrate, he got himself a fancy new gangsta fedora.  Quite dapper, isn't it?

If this whole lawyer thing doesn't work out, he's already got the coat and hat for a detective gig. 

Meanwhile, since there were a couple of hungry mouths to feed, he got his Virgina teaching license and landed a job teaching Spanish, French, and Latin to 7th and 8th graders.  We're praying (very, very hard) that he'll find a lawyer job once the school year is over.  Any prayers you want to add to ours would be much appreciated.


Amelia started blogging - on this here blog - quite regularly.  And, miracle of miracles, a few people actually read it.  She has discovered that she quite likes writing after all and has been really enjoying this whole blogging thing.  So, if you haven't read past posts...go back and take a gander at them, should you be so inclined.  In the future, she's hoping to publish a few articles on a few real websites or stay tuned for that.  

In the meantime, she is now in her 8th year of La Leche League leadering and her 7th year of homeschooling and amidst all that, trying to find the time to do a minuscule amount of work for CFP Holy Angels Gift Shop (check them out for all your Catholic gifting needs) along with keeping up her home remedies website, .

Amelia is mostly done talking about herself in the third person now. 


Heidi is 11 years old and in sixth grade.  She loves to read, write, cook, draw, play chess, and visit with her friends.  She especially enjoys social activities such as her Little Flowers club and homeschool co-op.  She is like a second mom to her baby sister Elsa, and much to her mother's delight, can actually sing her to sleep.  Her favorite subjects are English, history and Latin.  She does not enjoy math nor sweeping the floor, although she begrudgingly does both. 

This year, Heidi played in a few chess tournaments, dispatched several high school students, and even won a trophy and a medal.


Greta is nine years old and in third grade.  She loves to read, write, draw, play chess, play dolls, play dollhouse, and play with her friends.  Her creativity produces lots of interesting stories and projects.  She enjoys Little Flowers club, homeschool co-op, and any other social activities we do.  She is a second teacher to John and loves helping him with his reading and math.  She always assigns him little math tests,  even though she hates math herself.  Her favorite subjects are history, English and geography. 

Greta also likes chess tournaments and even won a medal at the last one for having a winning record.


John is 5 years old and in Kindergarten.  Unlike the rest of the family, he loves math.  He also enjoys learning how to read and likes doing his schoolwork.  He is begging to do school during Christmas break.  His teacher is less than enthusiastic about this proposition although she is quite happy that he loves school so much. 

John's favorite things are (and I quote) "playing chess, playing on the computer, playing on the kindle, playing with Greta, saying the word "cow" and playing stuffed animals." 

We do not know why he likes this bovine vernacular so much...we figure it is some sort of annoying 5-year-old boy thing.  Or it may have something to do with his mother's master's degree in the reproductive physiology of the dairy cow.  Bovine lovers unite!

John is quite the talented chess player and is now the highest rated in the family (except Dad).  He also has won a trophy and medal at chess tournaments and can't wait to play in more tournaments in the future.



Elsa is 15 months old and wild as can be.  She has amazing fine motor skills and loves to put her artist's mark on everything: books, paper, walls, and her legs constitute some of her favorite canvases.  Her dearest wish in life is to be "big" and do whatever everyone else is doing.  Whether that entails running around, doing school, eating with sharp utensils, climbing high places, or scooping cat litter, she always strives to be right in the middle of the action.  She loves nursing, ice cream and picking out her own clothes (yes, at the tender age of only 15 months).  She does not like sleeping.

In other news, at the end of May, we were very, very sad to leave all the wonderful friends we made in Naples.  We summered in Rhode Island (just like the Vanderbuilts) and then at the end of August we moved to Virginia, where we now reside and plan to for both the foreseeable and non-foreseeable future.

Grandpa Nugent was heartbroken that we took our cat, William (whom they had been watching for the last three years), back to Virginia with us.  Heidi also acquired a guinea pig (named Pippin) as her very own pet this year. 

In another very surprising move, Amelia's parents picked up and moved all the way from Rhode Island to Indiana at the end of no more summering in Rhode Island for the Bentrups. 

We are very pleased that in 2014 our family will be expanding.  No, not THAT way (at least not yet anyway).  At the end of May, Amelia's little brother, Michael, will be marrying a wonderful woman.  We are so happy and excited to welcome Bethany into the family!! 

On December 30th, Amelia and Ben will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary. 

This year, thanks to a unique opportunity to hold two family members hostage unless they agree to provide a night of free babysitting (you know who you are, consider this your only warning), they are hoping to actually go out on a rare date to celebrate their anniversary.

Mommy, Mommy let me in. 
It's been a wild and crazy 13 years and an especially wild and crazy 2013.  Who knows what 2014 will bring?  Lots of love and laughter, I'm sure, and probably a few tears as well.

Tears and laughter shown here.

We wish all our friends and family a very, very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

May the Peace of Christ reign in your home this year, and may you all have a Blessed and Happy 2014.  If we haven't heard from you lately, please drop us a line we'd love to know what you've all been up to!

Amelia, Ben, Heidi, Greta, John, and Elsa. 
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

WIWS and the Most Important Catholic Tradition to Teach Your Kids

Happy 4th Sunday of Advent! 

Last Saturday, at  3:45 PM we all piled into the van to drive 15 minutes north of us to attend Confession at the church without the long lines. We were walking into church at 4:05 PM and proceeded to wait and wait and wait until finally at 4:50 P.M. the priest comes out and says he will finish Confessions after 5:00  Mass.  Juuuust before it was going to be our turn.   So much for not having long lines.

Anyway, thanks to the 15-month old terror who was about at her limit, we decided not to stay and opted to try again another time.

Ben was able to go to Confession this past week week before a daily Mass that was near his work, but the older girls and I weren't able to go during the week.  So, last night, before heading to the Little Flowers Christmas Party, I looked up a church on the way, and we headed to confession before heading to the party.

And, it got me thinking about the importance of taking our kids to confession...frequently.  When I was growing up, we went to Confession quite regularly on the first Saturday of the month...every month.   My dad used to call it disk technician for your soul.   This was back in the late 80's/early 90's when we had computers that used to require several hours of some sort of maintenance thing called disk technician. You know, back when computers had those big, black floppy disks.  Anyone else remember that?   Anyway, if we couldn't go on the first Saturday for some reason, then we went on the second.   But, it was always made a priority to go without letting too many weeks pass by.   And, we've tried to do that with our own kids.  Ever since their first Confession, we take them (and go ourselves) about every 4 weeks.  We don't necessarily do the First Saturday thing, we do try to go every 4 weeks, of course, sometimes it ends up being 5 or 6 weeks....but if it's been at least four, we make it a priority to go as soon as we can.

Frequent Confession is so important and Confession can be scary if you haven't been awhile.  Going frequently helps everyone be more comfortable and the graces you get from it are so necessary.  As they say, Confession is good for the soul...and it really IS.

Next to attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, frequent Confession is probably the most important habit to instill in your children.  Of course, regular prayer is also very important, but the habit of going to Confession regularly really just is so important.  At least in this house, none of us are saints and we all have at least 1 sin we can confess on any given day (and usually more than one) hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Confession we go.

I also just wanted to mention Sunday Mass.  Another habit my parents installed in us, is to take the obligation to attend Mass seriously.   We make a point of always attending, if at all possible ......sometimes we have to go separately due to sick kids, or go to a different church because of a schedule conflict or go on Saturday night because they are forecasting a big snowstorm for Sunday but we make it a priority to attend if at all possible...even if it involves some advance planning or inconvenience or we are traveling.   And that is the GREAT thing about being Catholic.  You can attend Mass at ANY Catholic church.  I think my parents once told me that when you pray in a new church for the first time, you get special graces. So I just wanted to encourage anyone who's traveling this holiday season...use the opportunity to check out a new Catholic church.

And, since it's Sunday, here is what I wore to Mass today (at the same old church we usually attend).

The shirt is stolen from Heidi's closet.  Seriously.  I bought it for her (thrifted) but I love it and am keeping it for myself (don't worry...I gave her one of my shirts in exchange).  You can do that when your 11-year old daughter is as tall as you are.

The skirt is from Shade clothing.  The boots are from Wal-Mart and the belt is probably from high school (not joking!).

Go see FLAP for more Sunday fashion.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

7 Posts with the Most of 2013

Linking up with Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things for Most Posts of 2013.  She only had 5 categories, but I"m adding two more because I'm just narcissistic enough to think my blog is the mostest. (kidding, kidding...I just want to link up with Jen for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

So, here are my 7 Most Posts of 2013!

  • Post with the most clicks

Apparently a lot of people are looking for gluten free lemon square recipes.   And basically the only keywords that bring people to my blog are some sorta variation of gluten-free lemon bar recipes.  So,'s the food that brings people over here. 

  • Post with the most comments

I don't usually get a lot of comments on my blog.  My readership is still really, really, really, really small.   And, in this post, the most comments on this blog were actually not on my blog, but rather on my Facebook page which had a bazillion comments  And, the whole thing kinda blew up and caused some in-law umm...not so good.  I honestly never really thought that *THIS* post would be my most controversial one. 

  • Post with the best picture

Amelia Felt Shame

This picture says it all!

  • Post that was hardest to write

Don't have a picture for this one, but it was a really hard one to write, because I basically admitted that we were on public assistance for a period of time.  Which is a hard thing to admit.  Plus, I'm still formulating my own thoughts and don't have a firm stance on it.

  • Post that was your personal favorite (not your readers' favorite- your favorite)

Home Remedies by Dr. Greta

She cracks me up.  All.the.time. It's like having my own personal court jester right here in my home.

(these are the categories I added)

Post that was Your Readers Favorite

Why this Health Food Nut is Little Less Nutty. 

One of my first, and in my opinion one of my best.  Apparently this one really resonated with a lot of folks. 

Post that was the Most Fun to Write

Definitely my Ask A Nun Series I did this summer with my sister!  That was super fun to write!

Ask a Nun Part I

Ask a Nun Part II

Ask a Nun Part III

Thanks to all my dear readers for a WONDERFUL year of blogging.  I made my first post (after resurrecting this blog) on Jan 1, 2013 and it's been an AWESOME year.  Even though my readership is really small, I've been having SO MUCH FUN!  I LOVE blogging.  I didn't know how much I enjoyed doing it until I started.  This year has been crazy for our family....with Ben graduating from law school and then passing the bar and two long distance moves (first to RI and then to FL).  It's been quite a journey and I'm so honored and happy and excited that all of YOU made this journey with me.   I really appreciate each and everyone one of you that takes the time to read my humble little blog.  SO THANK YOU! And, please keep on stopping by!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!  May God Bless you abundantly this year and I"m looking forward to another year of blogging!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Favorite Gluten-Free Christmas Cookie Recipes

Who loves Christmas cookies????  Me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Baking cookies (all right, all right....eating cookies) is my FAVORITE Christmas activity.   I love baking cookies.  I love eating cookies every more...and I don't like really fussy cookies that take lots of time.  I'm all about the simple and the delicious. 

So, I present to you my five favorite, easy, simple, delicious gluten-free cookie recipes


Peanut Butter Birds Nest Cookies

Sorry for the bad photo. 

1 1/2 cups peanut butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

chocolate chips.

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Mix all ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a large mixing bowl.

Grease cookie sheets.

Roll dough into approximately golf-ball sized balls

Please 3-5 chocolate chips in the center of each ball making a "nest" around the chocolate chips.

Bake for 10 minutes or until bottoms juuuuuuuuust start to turn brown.



Buckeye Peanut Butter Bars

Photo from but my recipe is different from theirs. 

1 cup finely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans or walnuts. I whirl mine around in the food processor until they are broken into very small pieces.
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter

Mix nuts, peanut butter, powdered sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.  The mixture should be very thick....if you need to, you can add more powdered sugar.

Press into the bottom of a jelly roll pan.

In a microwave safe mixing bowl, melt chocolate chips with butter.  Stir frequently and watch for burning...

Spread the chocolate on top of the peanut butter.   Refrigerate for several hours until firm.  Cut into bars and enjoy! 

Warning:  These are VERY addictive.  Eat at your own risk. 


Mexican Wedding Balls

Clearly I have a real calling as a food photographer

1 cup softened butter

2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (with xanthum gum).  I like and always use Namaste

1/2 cup confectionar's sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Combine all ingredients.

Grease cookie sheets

Roll into balls.

Bake on cookie sheets for 10 minutes.

Roll balls in more confectioner's sugar while still warm,

Allow balls to cool and roll again in confectioner's sugar for one last coating.


Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

Photo from but it's my own recipe

3 cups chocolate chips

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Melt chocolate chips, butter and sweetened condensed milk in saucepan on stove.  Stir constantly to prevent burning.  Stir in extracts and salt.

Spread into greased glass pan and refrigerate several hours until firm.

Cut into squares and enjoy!


Puppy Chow

So, I'm cheating and this isn't a cookie.  But it is a Christmas  any time of year, favorite of mine!

Photo from
9 cups gluten free rice chex cereal

2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

Over saucepan mix chocolate chips and peanut butter until melted.

Stir in vanilla and salt.

Toss with chex cereal, coating all the cereal.

Toss with confectioner's sugar.

Perfect for parties, games or just movies!

Now, go see Moxie Wife for more Five Favorites
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Discipline Before the Age of Reason

I recently read an article by the Popchaks on Catholic Exchange encouraging parents to parent with a Catholic worldview of self-donative love. He challenged parents to decide if their parenting looked different from that of people of other faiths with different worldviews.  I'm not a theologian by any means but I do believe that the Catholic view of sin and forgiveness and free will is different from that of say Evangelical Protestants.  I have been mulling that thought over and over in the mind and I keep coming back to the idea of the age of reason. So, I'm going to run with it and post my thoughts on discipline and parenting before the age of reason.   These are just my thoughts and what works for us.  I can't say how anyone else should parent and I'm definitely not a parenting expert by any means.  The only experience I have is with my own kids and how I was raised and it is quite possible that my kids are all relatively easy and generally tend to be fairly obedient and highly motivated by a desire to please us and God. At least so far.   Even the child that I thought was the most strong-willed (my second) has calmed down a lot and is now generally a very happy and obedient child.

The Catholic Church teaches that children reach the age of reason around seven years of age.  What does this mean?  The age of reason or age of discretion is meant to be the age at which a person becomes morally responsible.   It is the age at which most Catholic children receive their first Confession and First Holy Communion.   Of course some children reach it earlier, some later and some individuals with severe special needs may not reach it at all, but most kids start to have more of an awareness of sin around that age. 

Most parents know what the means when it comes attendance at Mass (it becomes an obligation) and reception of the Sacraments. 

But what does it mean when it comes to discipline?  Does it mean anything?

How do we discipline with the idea of the age of reason in mind?  After all, if discipline is about teaching right from wrong and the church teaches that children aren't morally responsible until they reach the age of reason, shouldn't that affect our discipline? Should our discipline for older children look different than that for younger ones?

If our children don't reach the age of reason until about age 7, does this basically mean that they can't sin until about that age?  I believe it does. I don't believe that our Church would allow little children to live in sin without giving them the grace of the Sacrament of Confession.  This doesn't mean that we don't expect good behavior from our younger children and that we don't teach them right from wrong.  We certainly do, and we have an obligation to do so, but we also need to keep in mind that young children are not morally responsible for their actions.

I may call my one-year old bad for scribbling in library books...but she's not being bad..not really.  We homeschool for crying out loud, so she's just imitating what she sees everyone else doing (lots of writing and drawing).  

A three-year old who hits his baby sister is not morally responsible for his actions.  We still need to teach him it's wrong..but he's not really capable of sin yet, not really.

A four-year old who lies doesn't have a real understanding that it's wrong and sinful.   Not that we can just let the lie go without addressing it, but we need to realize that she doesn't have a firm grasp of lying and that it's wrong. 

A five-year old who won't stay in bed may drive us to drink, but they aren't doing it on purpose and aren't necessarily being bad.  They may be exasperating, but they aren't really sinning. 

So, what does this all mean for how we discipline young children?  

Many years ago when my oldest was only two years of age she went through a hitting and grabbing playgroup, at La Leche League meetings, anyplace we were around other toddlers.  I was mortified and humiliated.   I even avoided playgroup for a time.  And, I observed how the other moms handled hitting with their young toddlers (three and under).  Some spanked for it.  Some (most) used time-out.   Some would leave the playgroup as a consequence for hitting.  None of the those options really sat right with me.  I had already decided that I wasn't going to spank...just didn't feel right to me.  Time-out didn't seem to work with other kids...they kept right on hitting/grabbing toys and I wasn't sure that my 2-year old really had the comprehension for that.  In fact, she was diagnosed with global developmental delay as a child, so when she was two, in many ways, developmentally she was only about one (by about age 6 or so, she was all caught up developmentally).  And, leaving seemed like the worst option, because 1) it would be punishing ME more than her,  I actually attended playgroup more for ME (for the social interaction with other moms) and 2) I definitely didn't think she had the comprehension (remember she was delayed) to connect leaving with her previous action...especially since leaving always takes a few minutes (gathering up coats and diaper bags,  saying our good-bye's, etc.).

What I ended up doing was just keeping a close eye on her and quickly intervening if she grabbed toys or hit.   If the grabbed toys, I returned the toy to the previous holder of it and if she hit, I just gently grabbed her hand to prevent her from hitting and said "no hitting, be gentle"  So, while we taught her not to hit, we didn't really punish her for it. 

Eventually she got it and stopped hitting or grabbing toys.  In fact when she was a bit older (around 5 or 6) and I would tell people about how she used to hit, they were so surprised because she was always very sweet and happy and easy to get along with.  And she still is at age 11 (almost 12).  Not punishing her for hitting at age 2 did not turn into a violent, aggressive kid when she was older.  In fact, once she got past the hitting phase (by 3 1/2 which was more like 2 1/2 developmentally for her) she never really did it again. 

So how do we discipline young children?  Well in all things, we strive for gentleness and patience.  We fail on this every singe day and I still yell way too frequently but the goal is patience and gentleness while still teaching important lessons.  I try to avoid punishment of young children who don't know better.  By punishment I mean a parent imposed consequence that is totally unrelated to the "crime".  We do use logical consequences.  Our day has a natural rhythm and routine...for example every night before bed everyone is allowed to watch a show on Netflix.  However, before they can do that they need to clean the whole house...all toys and books picked up, floors swept/etc.  If it takes them too long to clean, they won't have time to watch or will have less time to watch before bed.  If they can't take care of an item or use it safely, it gets taken away.   If they can't get along with their siblings, they get separated.   If they don't pick up their toys or books, they can't do the next thing, whatever that thing may be reading stories or watching a show or eating a snack or going outside.

We also make use of routines and doing something the same way EVERY single time, and that seems to make a big difference.  For example, they get immediately buckled into their carseat as soon as we get into the car.  And, we NEVER buy anything in the store just because they ask for it, so they learn just not to ask.  They don't fight getting dressed because they are always dressed...we don't let them run around naked. It just makes things easier, if they are used to always wearing clothes, they don't fight wearing clothes. 

For the most part our young kids listen to verbal direction very well...and if they don't, we will make them do what we ask.  Not make as in punish or coerce them into doing it, but make as in physically make them do it.  As I was writing this, I saw our little 15-month old start to climb on a crate of books underneath the bookshelf across the room.  I said to her "No, no baby, no climbing the books, get down,"   And, she paused, she looked at me....I looked at her.  We had about a 30 second stare-off before she got down and ran over to me.   And, that was it.  If she hadn't gotten down, then I would have gotten up and physically lifted her down (making her get down), and told her again "no climbing the books" and that would have been it.    Because when kids are little, you can do that.   If they run in the street, they get physically picked up and taken out of the street and told "no."  If they fight getting into the car seat, well they get wrangled into it anyway.  If they resist leaving the park, they get picked up and gently carried out anyway.  If they throw food on the ground, they get told "no throwing food, give it to me " and I give them a plate to put the unwanted food on.   No further punishment needed.   Believe it or not, this works and they learn what is expected of them. When they're little, you can do that and by the time they are too big for that, they are old enough to listen to reason or logic and don't do those behaviors any more. It is all about teaching them what we expect of them while still realizing that they don't yet have the cognitive abilities to be morally responsible for their actions.

If our young children temper tantrum, we hold and comfort them through it.  After all, I have a hard enough time controlling my temper sometimes (which is why I yell way too much), so it's seems rather unreasonable to expect a 3-year old to have perfect control of her emotions, when I'm in my mid-30's and still don't.   In my experience with my kids, separating them when they scream and cry (into "time-out") just makes them scream and cry louder, while holding and them and comforting them through the tantrum ends it much quicker.

If a 4-year old gets out of bed or refuses to stay in bed,  we lie down with or stay with them for a few minutes to help them relax and fall asleep.  Because sometimes it's hard to fall asleep alone and sometimes they're scared of the dark and that's okay when they're four, because you know what....they outgrow it.  And, it actually takes less time (usually less than 15 minutes) to just lie with a young child and help them fall asleep than it does to repeatedly put them back into their room.  Plus, by three and four all my kids were done napping, so by nighttime they were TIRED and fell asleep within minutes.

We also try to look for other causes of misbehavior (tiredness, hunger, loneliness, not getting enough attention) and address those.  My 5-year old son has a tendency to act out sometimes when he is feeling neglected.  I know this.  He unfortunately tends to get lost in the shuffle, because I give the toddler a lot of attention and time (because she needs it).  I give the older girls more attention and time, because we are homeschooling and well...sixth grade trumps kindergarten when it comes doing work.  So, usually taking the time to do school with him and read him a story makes a big difference in his behavior and he does less "pestering, attention-seeking" behavior after that.  Building that connection seems to be key and in some ways it mimics what the church does in Confession.  When I go to Confession, 100% of the time, the penance involves is meant to bring me back to God. I can't remember ever actually being given a real "punishment" in Confession...just lots of prayers and occasionally good deeds that are meant to bring me closer to God and to others.  So, we try to discipline and parent always striving to build that connection and repair any broken connections.

This is how we do things (or at least strive to do things...we fail, frequently).  I'm not saying it's the ONLY way to do things or even necessarily the RIGHT way to do things, but it is the way that feels most right to us and is part of our general parenting practices (co-sleeping, breastfeeding into the toddler years, not doing "cry-it out").  I'm not sure if those parenting practices make it "easier", but it is "easier" for me, because it comes most naturally to me.

{Linking up with Mama Moments Monday (on Tuesday)}

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

WIWS: Finally Wore Purple and You're Supposed to Wear Pink

 Clearly I am not one those on-the-ball, liturgically correct Sunday Mass dressers.  Happy Gaudate Sunday anyway!  Pink is the liturgical color of the of course I wore purple (which is the liturgical color of the other three Sundays in Advent).   Actually, I'm not even wearing purple, it's more like lavender.  Whatever. 

Anyway...everything is either thrifed or given to me with the exception of the boots and tights.  And, you've seen those before. 

And oh look...Elsa is wearing pink.  Elsa wears pink 95% of the time...such are the travails of being a toddler girl.  Although it's not a liturgically  correct pink...more like a pastel pink. C'est la vie.

So, I got new glasses.  Who wants to see?  Probably no one except for my mom...but oh  well.

Anyway, I got them from Zenni Optical which I love.  They are way, way, way, way cheaper than getting them from the eye doctor.  Almost anyplace online is going to be cheaper than the eye doctor. I got two pairs with a BOGO1/2 off deal for $70 and that included the fancy, scratch-resistant, finger-print resistant coating on the lenses.  Took about two weeks to arrive.  Plus, on their website you can upload a picture of yourself and try the glasses on before you buy.  Makes buying online so much easier.

So what else.  I finished my Christmas shopping.  A whole 10 days before Christmas.  This is probably a record for me.  Of course, I did a pitifully small amount of Christmas shopping this year because we have a pitifully small budget for it...but that's okay

And, that's I will just direct you to FLAP for more Sunday Fashion. 

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Friday, December 13, 2013

7QTF, Bank Errors, Images of Mary, Baby Name Popularity, Children's Books

Linking up with Jen for more 7QTF 


So I logged onto our bank account today and noticed an extra $400 in it...deposited on St. Nicholas Day, no less. 

However the nearest branch of this bank is up in RI, so I knew there was no way either Ben or I had deposited money in it.  So, I called the bank. error and they're taking the money bank out.

But, at least I get to post this card.


I love this image, even though Jesus has red hair (which I really doubt he really had).  I just love the image of Mary breastfeeding Jesus.

I don't really know where it's from, I first saw it several years ago as a friend's avatar and I've loved it ever since. I love the way Mary is holding Jesus and Jesus is holding his foot...just the way real babies are apt to do.  The whole picture just looks so "real" to brings home the point that Mary was a real woman and Jesus was a real baby.

In searching for that image, I also found this one. 

Photo Credit

 Mary breastfeeding WHILE riding a donkey. That would take some talent.  Although that poor donkey looks like it's about to collapse.

There is a super cool tool over at BabyNameWizard website called the Baby Name Voyager which graphs the popularity of each name over times. 

I found it off this hilarious blog post. 

  I had way too much fun graphing our names

Babies named 'AMELIA' per million babies.
My name was at a low point in popularity when I was born in  the 70's...but look how much it has increased in recent years!  Which is sorta odd to me because I keep hearing of all these babies and little kids named Amelia, and when I was growing up, NO ONE had that name 

Babies named 'BENJAMIN' per million babies.
Kinda neat how the name has basically stayed the same in popularity over the last 40 years or so.

Babies named 'HEIDI' per million babies.
Looks like we kinda picked a fad name....only three decades later than the actual fad.

Babies named 'GRETA' per million babies.
Apparently NO ONE named their baby Greta in all of the 80's!
Babies named 'JOHN' per million babies.
Wow...interesting how the name is becoming less and less common, but it's still really up there in popularity.    Look how insanely popular it was back in the 1880's...35,000 out of 1 million!

Babies named 'ELSA' per million babies.
Apparently Elsa was fairly popular in the 1880's and is starting to regain popularity...slightly. 

That was fun...go check out your own names!


I need a new Netflix series to watch while I do my morning workout.  I'm about to finish up Alias. Any suggestions?  I like mystery type stuff.  It is has to be interesting enough to keep me engaged while working out.   Thinking of checking out Breaking Bad (heaven knows I've read enough about it). 


So bloggers out anyone hosting a Christmas cookie recipe link-up? I LOVE Christmas cookies (and Christmas fudge and Christmas candy).  Would love to find some new recipes to add to our regulars.  Anyone have any good recipes they care to share?

6. of my friends just published a really cute children's story called The Nighty Night Narwhals.  It's super cute...a really fun bedtime story.  You should check it out!!


Speaking of children's books. Have you seen the website  It's pretty cool for kids who like to write and they can write and edit and illustrate their own stories.  You can even get it published in hardback form (for a fee of course) but my kids have just been having fun writing books on it. 

Happy Friday everyone!
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