Sunday, April 29, 2012

Anatomy of a Free 4 All

Since a few people asked for more details about the Free 4 All I attended this weekend, I thought I would make it into its own blog post.  Eventually this will make its way over to my website as a permanent page since it is such a worthy apostolate.

This Free 4 All began when a friend and I had the idea (really my friend had the idea, I just helped organize it :) back about the year 2000 or so.  We tried it a couple of times in my church's basement but what ended up happening was that all kinds of people dropped stuff off but no one came to take things away.  We ended up hauling A LOT of clothing and other items to the local donation center.  For that reason, we let the whole idea die.  Our downfall was that we didn't advertise to the local community, just to our homeschool group!

A few years later a friend of ours picked it back up and made it blossom.  She's third from the left in this photo.  These other wonderful women are her minions helpers.  I picked her brain the other night and here are her tips for running an effective Free 4 All:

1.  First find a big hall or gym (preferably one you don't have to pay for) and then find volunteers to help set up all of the tables.  It would be great if the maintenance staff of the hall or men from the church would take that job on.



2.  Advertise the Free 4 All in the community.  This is obviously the most important part. Her advice is to NOT waste time hanging up flyers all over because she has found that they do not bring in the crowds.  Her most effective form of advertising has been newspaper articles.  It's been easy to get an interview with the local paper because it is a big charity event.  In addition to the newspaper, people have contacted churches, charities and schools in the area, especially in the low-income areas.  They start advertising a few weeks before the event.  Then at the event they advertise for the next one.  

You can also use your 15 passenger van as a moving billboard :)


3.  The event is held on a Saturday from 9 till Noon and there are drop-off times on Thursday and Friday evening.  When people drop off their items (which can be anything in GOOD condition - be it clothing, household items, furniture, toys, etc. - anything but used underwear and sharp knives!) there are volunteers there to help organize the clothing and lay it out neatly on the tables.  The clothing is separated by gender and size.  Everything else is organized by what it is - books, household, toys, etc. 

As we're sorting, we throw out things that are stained, ripped,damaged or inappropriate.  Since a lot of the people who drop off items are other homeschoolers, we usually bring our kids and stay to help. 

4.  Another good thing they've learned for getting people to stay and help set up is to have dinner provided (made by more volunteers :) for those who are working.  This way people won't have to go home and eat and are more likely to stay longer to get the job done.

5.  To make it easier for the shoppers to find a volunteer if they need help, my friend has everyone who is working wear a blue apron.  This way the helpers are easier to spot.  Here she is sewing the finishing touches on the aprons the "donut girls" are going to wear.  Yes, they provide donuts and coffee for the shoppers!

6.  They do provide donation receipts for anyone dropping items off.  Since they have the help and participation of their parish, they put the name and address of the church on the receipt, as well as the date of the next Free 4 All.  Right now they hold the Free 4 All in the Spring and the Fall.

7.  After the event is over, and if there is anything left, they load up a van or two and bring it to the nearest donation center.  Usually there isn't much left.

I can't think of anything else!  This is such a wonderful event and so many people benefit from this great work of mercy.  If you have any other questions that I failed to address, please feel free to email me at

Friday, April 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes April 27, 2012

--- 1 ---

Well I just now (Thurs night) got my invite for Pintrest.  I caved.  I'm not quite sure I understand all the ins and outs of it yet.  I suppose it will take a bit of time to get the hang of it.  I hate spending time learning things that really aren't essential to my life.  I feel as if I'm wasting time, so I try to rush through it and then I get frustrated.  As my son would say, "Patience is a virtue".   One I haven't quite mastered yet!

--- 2 ---

So I wonder, how much sleep am I going to lose because of this?  I can look upon this as a test of my will power; a chance to increase in virtue!  Sounds good, doesn't it?

--- 3 ---
In between things, we've spent this week doing the clothing switch.  As far as the weather goes around here, I'm not quite sure why we've done this as it is supposed to be in the 40s for a few days.  Anyhow, we are going through our clothes and loading up into bins all of the items we will be giving to our homeschool Free 4 All.  We are not shoppers, so it always amazes me how we can come up with so many bins of clothes to bring to this event twice a year.
--- 4 ---

What is a Free 4 All, you wonder?  Yes, I know, the name pretty much speaks for itself, but it is such a neat thing and I love being able to participate in it.  A couple of our homeschooling moms rent a big hall and set up tables then all of us bring in anything we want (that is in decent shape, of course) and spend two evenings setting up the room.  Clothes, toys, household items, books, name it, people bring it.  Then on Saturday, they open the doors to the community and let it fly.  The place is pretty much cleaned out in a few hours.  It is a beautiful event! (Even better now that they enforce the "No Scooping" rule!!)
--- 5 ---

Anyone here going (or did you go) to the Milwaukee Homeschool Conference?  If so, check your vendor bag for a bright yellow flyer from ME :)

--- 6 ---

I just love when I find out that the littler ones have been listening when it appears as if they haven't been.  The other day we were getting ready to exercise and one of the girls was looking for the lightest set of weights we have.  Mr 7 yo, who was hanging around the area, said, "NO, you're supposed to use a CHALLENGING weight, not an easy one!"  Sounds just like the guy from the exercise video!

--- 7 ---

We have our homeschool project fair this weekend!  I settled on the younger four children, each with a craft and a poem (or poems) to recite for public speaking.  It's not much, but at least we're participating, which is better than we've done for the past few years.  Have a great weekend!


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ideas For May Gifts

With May right around the corner, I thought I'd give you some great ideas for Mother's Day and First Holy Communions.  

First off, if you've never read (or in this case, heard) "The King of the Golden City" by Mother Mary Loyola, then you have to get a copy of this CD for yourself, too!  A good friend of mine, who is among many other things, a Catholic singer and songwriter, dramatically reads this story of the king and his friend, a young girl named Dilecta.  This is a wonderful allegory of all of the Sacraments, but makes a great story for those receiving Jesus for the first time.  Click here to order your copy for yourself or for gift giving!

If you need some new ideas for Mother's Day, why not check out our goat milk soap site.  We have some wonderful smelling soaps that your mother, grandmother, aunt, etc. will just love.  The goat's milk is what makes the soap so rich and great for your skin.  The essential oils are what make them smell so wonderful.  You can click here to check out our great gift ideas.

Finally, for the somewhat harried homeschooling mother on your list (maybe that is even you - so if it is, bookmark this page and email it to your hubby and kids), why not give a gift that will help organize her day and bring joy to her life?  You can click here to get all the details and order your copy in time for Mother's Day.

I hope that gives you some new and interesting ideas for your May gift giving.  We would love to have you share this information with your friends and on your social media sites.  Small businesses are what keep this country going, so support a small business whenever you can!

Note:  Be sure to check the comments for other links and ideas!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Big Cleanout!

This past weekend we cleaned out our garage.  A little over two years ago we moved from a house with two barns to this house with just a garage.  Needless to say, with nowhere to put the "stuff", there hasn't been much progress in that time.  We're also planning a garage sale soon so we decided now was the time to tackle it. Here is the before:

Here is the in-between.  You know, the "dump it all on the driveway" phase:

About four hours later, here is the final:

We ended up with a nice garage sale pile (in the bottom right corner of this last pic) and a huge garbage pile!  It's always nice to spend a productive day with your family.  The garage looks so nice and clean now, I enjoy going out there.  We had an interesting discovery while we were out there, but more on that later!


Friday, April 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes April 20 2012

--- 1 ---

A new shipment of Life of Fred books came in today.  Here's everyone reading the newest elementary books!  Cracks me how they dive for these Fred books and read them for FUN!
--- 2 ---

I saw this statement on a blog yesterday and thought how true it is:

"Brothers and sisters, the world is not getting darker because Satan is growing in power. It is getting darker because Christians are shining less and less!"
Brothers and sisters...shine that light! The world needs it.
--- 3 ---

I'm sitting here going between thinking up Quick Takes and thinking up dinners for next week.  Sometimes this Thursday night thinking can be very difficult!

--- 4 ---

Our internet has been incredibly slow and tedious to work with for the past few months.  The past few weeks it has been getting worse because of how long it takes to do even the simplest task.  We called our internet provider and their first recommendation was to upgrade our 7 year old receiver since, "technology has improved a lot in the last 7 years, ya know".  They come on Tuesday to bring us "up to speed".  And there was much rejoicing :)

--- 5 ---

Our homeschool group is hosting the annual project fair next week.  It really is a good thing.  When my older kids were younger, we did it every year.  Now that the older ones are older and we're just a lot busier, I can't ever seem to get up the enthusiasm to keep doing it.  I know, it just isn't fair to the younger ones.  I should be making them do public speaking just like I made the older ones!  I should be requiring history boards and science projects and sewn items.  Truth is, I'm just too tired from the usual chaos to add more chaos into the week.  Am I alone here?

--- 6 ---

Of course, some of you will be wondering why it would add chaos.  This is probably because you will have been working on projects throughout the year.  Here, however, we usually spend the entire week before getting our act together, which makes for a lot of work and stress :)  I might be organized, but creative projects just aren't my strong point!

--- 7 ---

Last weekend we finally got to watching the movie, "The Help".  Right before I picked up the movie, I ran into the library and got the book.  Right before we watched the movie, I had already read 2 or 3 chapters of the book.  As I was watching, I was already comparing the book to the movie and finding the movie coming up short.  I finished the book today, and while I did like the movie, of course the book is just far better!  Not a surprise!

Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Just Askin'"

I received this in an email the other day and just read it.  I felt it went so well with my post from the other day, and it was definitely something I needed to read!  Enjoy the reminder!
  Me: God, can I ask you a question?                                       
  God: Sure.                                                               
  Me: Promise you won't get mad.                                           
  God: I promise.                                                          
  Me: Why did you let so much stuff happen to me today?                    
  God: What do you mean?                                                   
  Me: Well, I woke up late.                                                
  God: Yes.                                                                
  Me: My car took forever to start.                                        
  God: Okay.                                                               
  Me: At lunch they made my sandwich wrong and I had
to wait.              
  God: Huummm.                                                             
  Me: On the way home, my phone went dead, just as I picked
  up a call.     
  God: All right.                                                          
  Me: And on top of it all, when I got home I just wanted to soak
  my feet in my new foot massager and relax, but it wouldn't work!!!
  Nothing went right today! Why did you do that?                                        
  God: Let me see, the Death Angel was at your bed this morning
 and I had to send one of the other angels to battle him for your life.
 I let you sleep through that.                                                      
  Me: (humbled): OH...                                                     
  GOD: I didn't let your car start because there was a drunk driver
  on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.                   
  Me: (ashamed)                                                            
  God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick
  and I didn't want you to catch what they have, I knew you couldn't
  afford to miss work.                                                                    
  Me: (embarrassed): Ok...                                                 
  God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling
  was going to give false information, I didn't even let   you talk to
  them so you would be covered.                                
  Me: (softly) I see God.                                                  
  God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going
  to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn't think you        
  wanted to be in the dark.                                                          
  Me: I'm sorry God.                                                       
  God: Don't be sorry, just learn to trust all things, the good  
  and the bad.                                                             
  Me: I will trust you.                                                    
  God: And don't doubt that my plan for your day is always better than
  your  plan.                                                                    
  Me: I won't God.  And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything  
  God: You're welcome child. It was just another day being your God, and I love looking    after my children.       

Photographic Alliteration

In my most recent homeschooling newsletter I included a recipe for Balsamic-Marinated Pork Chops and Grilled Peaches.  The day the newsletter came out I just happened to have them on the menu.  They turned out so "pretty" that I had to snap this picture and post it:

Pork Chops and Peaches on a Pretty Platter:

And they tasted as good as they look!

PS. The Pretty Platter came from Princess House.  I love their stuff!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Problem Solver

As a wife and mother, I find myself trying to solve all the problems that come across my desk everyday:

- My tooth hurts
- I need new shoes
- My eyes are itching
- What is there to eat?
- I'm upset
- I need a job
- We need to move
- She hit me again

I know I don't have to describe it...every day every mother out there here's something of the same litany.  I try my best to listen to each complaint or statement and do what I can to solve the problem or lessen the pain.

Problem is...sometimes I can't change anything.  Sometimes it is because of my circumstances - no money, no talent, etc. - and sometimes it is because there is no way that anyone could solve the problem.

Other times I can help them, but they choose not to listen or to change anything. Either way, I obsess and worry about all of these problems; whether they are big or small. 

Well, I reminded myself last night that I just can't solve everything.  I can't force people to do things they don't want to do.  I can't get myself in a worried mess over things I can't change.  This is a supreme lesson in abandoning myself to Divine Providence.  I have to give all my worries over to God and know that He knows how bad or troublesome a given situation is and I must trust that He will take care of it in the right way and in the right time.

This is all very hard to do, especially when the problem is pretty big.  It really stretches my faith and my ability to not get upset when I think He is taking too long.  It really comes down to living in the present moment and putting all of my faith in the Lord, who always has my best interest at heart.  I just had to write this down, because a lot of times writing things down cements them in my brain, and right now I need cementing!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Family That Exercises Together...

Stays together.  Unless...'re five females who don't really want to exercise but are upset that the Easter Octave erased some of the progress they've made so are feeling forced to exercise together in a cramped space without much air circulation...then it gets ugly...arguing, grumbling, etc.

Really, though, it has been good to develop a workout habit with all of us. The peer pressure usually gets everyone down there whether they want to go or not.  We've been doing this all through Lent and have decided to keep going.  You see, we have a family wedding in July and we want to look good and be in shape for all that dancing!

Beyond the physical exercise, the group effort has also been an exercise in virtue.  You might want to sock the girl next to you when she gets in your way, but you don't (or at least that's the goal :).  You might want to call the guy on the TV a name, but you exercise self-control.  Maybe you only call him a name every 5th time!  So I guess we are not only trying to get our bodies into shape by exercising, we're also working on our souls by exercising together!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Easter Joy

This past Friday we attended the monthly Evening of Recollection that is hosted by the priests of Miles Christi.  It is a wonderful evening full of Mass, Adoration, benediction, spiritual talks and confession.  

While I was there I was pondering the Easter Season.  As Catholics, we know all about Lent...we count down the days until our penance and sacrificing can end in that Easter Joy!  We know what it means to give things up, do extra things for others, give alms and add in some additional prayers.

What I have a hard time with is the 50 days of Easter.  It is longer than Lent and full of the joy of the Risen Christ.  Unfortunately, I find it harder to "do" because there isn't really a prescribed way of celebrating it for 50 days. I find the octave is easy to celebrate because you still see the visible signs of Easter around your house and at the altar in church.  For at least eight days we're still picking Easter grass out of interesting places.  

The last 10 days of the Easter season are easy, too.  With Ascension Thursday (even though we celebrate it on Sunday now :( and the nine days leading up to the great feast of Pentecost, there's a lot of excitement building!

I talked to one of the priests about it and he said that these days are all about a spiritual joy which is why it is so much harder to celebrate because it is not something you can easily see and do.  It is more like something you personally need to maintain.  As an aside, I would like to mention that Father did point out that eating a lot during the entire Easter Season really isn't the best way to keep that joy alive.  Darn, eating is how we celebrate best!

With eating not being an option, I think the best way to keep that Easter Joy alive is through prayer.  Saying the Regina Caeli before dinner every night is one thing we all enjoy doing.  We keep our "Alleluia" pictures hung up on the fireplace mantle the entire season, too.  The Alleluia really is a great way to feel joyful, even if it is only momentary. As always, participating in daily Mass helps to keep us involved in the liturgical life of the church.  

I welcome other ideas on how to keep that joy alive during this time, just in case you have any to share!  It is so easy to let the burdens of life get you down and forget that we are an Easter people and we should be radiating right now!  Pray, pray and pray some more...ask for the grace to be joyful...practice being joyful even when you don't feel much like it...all great ways to keep the Easter season alive in our hearts.

Friday, April 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes April 13, 2012

--- 1 ---

Happy Eastertide!  We've unburied our Alleluias and decorated for the octave with our Easter baskets.  We are ready to celebrate for the next 50 days!  How about you?

--- 2 ---

One of my favorite parts of the Easter season is reciting the Regina Caeli  every day.  There is something very uplifting about saying all those Alleluias!  I guess the "Alleluia" itself might be my favorite part of the Easter season, now that I think about it!

--- 3 ---

We took this week off in honor of the octave and went on Thursday to see my almost 92 year old great aunt.  About two years ago she gave me some fabric and asked us girls to make her some pillows for her couch.  When we saw her right after Christmas this past year she said, "Am I going to get those pillows before I die?"  Well this week I was able to get one done and we brought it to her.  I had this eerie feeling while I was making it.  Her last words to us were, "Come and see me again some time, just don't wait too long."

--- 4 ---

My husband and I finally went to see "The Hunger Games" this past week.  It is really hard to say, "Wow, that was a good movie!"  It was far too disturbing of a theme to say something like that.  Really, all I can say about it is that the movie was true to the book, I felt that it was well done and  I'm glad I got to see it.  Like most book/movie combos...I liked the book much better!
--- 5 ---

We went to the Easter Vigil Mass this year (yes, something we rarely do) because friends of our came into the church.  Wow!  Dad, Mom and four kids Baptized, Confirmed and First Communion!  It was really incredible to be there and participate.  I got to photograph the event for them, which was quite an honor.  Here's one of my favorites:

 --- 6 ---

It always amazes me what you can do with a less than perfect photo.

--- 7 ---

Don't forget that this Sunday, the 15th, is Divine Mercy Sunday.  In case you don't know much about this feast, here is a good explanation.  Don't forget to take advantage of God's limitless fountain of Mercy!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When Your Child Surprises You!

It all started on Easter Sunday when Ms 9 yo received this wonderful gift from her Godmother:

Her Godmother even showed her how to make friendship bracelets and that is what she and her sisters have been doing all week:

Yesterday I noticed that Mr 11 yo got involved.  Not quite sure what got him started, but all of a sudden the embroidery hoops came out.  Somewhere he found himself a needle and then talked his sister into letting him have some of her thread.  Next, he found himself a scrap of material and he started...

He started drawing and then stitching.  I am not kidding you, this kid has never even picked up a needle before yesterday, let alone embroidered anything!  This was his finished work:


I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in being frustrated with my children sometimes because they really don't seem to be applying themselves.  I know that even as adults we are guilty of that!  What a surprise it was,then, to see the finished project last night!  My heart skipped a few beats and I'm so proud of his work, that I just had to show it off.  Isn't that what blogs are for???


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Putting it All Together

This chapter is where you finally get to see the fruits of your labor.  I know it has been a lot of work, but now you get to put it all together and see the plan for your day take shape.

Of course, as you well know, putting the plan together doesn't mean that everything will be perfect.  The key is in being disciplined enough to FOLLOW the plan that you've put together!  Really it all comes down to that...DISCIPLINE!  You can put together the best plan, but if you never follow it, all that time was wasted.

Only you know how disciplined you are - or aren't.  If you aren't disciplined, consider adding that to your morning prayer time.  Find a prayer, or write your own, asking God to bless you with the grace to add discipline to your life.

After that, it's a piece of cake!  Get up and follow the plan you have set for yourself and your family.  Learn to be flexible when necessary.  Come back to the place you should be if you get off track.  That is the beauty of this plan that you've made.  It gives you direction for your day, but allows you to roll with the punches when you need to!

I pray that your life will be blessed and joy will come into your days when you begin your new, organized life.  It may take some time to feel natural to you, but you'll appreciate all of the work you put into this project in a very short time!


Remember, all of these drawings are under copyright, so please do not use them anywhere else!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter Monday and Other Things...

Here is the now Mr. Seven Year Old using "the force" to blow out his birthday candle this weekend.  Notice the Star Wars theme on the cake top, too.  In all of his 7 years of wisdom he imparted the following theology to me this morning at Mass:

"Mommy, you know when the priest says 'lift your hearts to the Lord'?   You can lift your heart up and still live because you aren't really lifting your heart up but your love."

Yes, son, you're right!  Lift that love up!

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter Sunday.  Now enjoy the full Octave of Easter!  8 full days of celebration!!!!

Thanks to Ms 18 yo for my new header picture :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alleluia! He is Risen!