Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Small Business Spotlight: INKtastic

One of the things that I love about having a blog is that I have an outlet to share the causes that are important to me.  One such cause is supporting small, family-owned businesses.  I have the honor of being able to share just a fraction of small businesses on this blog, and with the holiday season upcoming, I hope you'll take a look at INKtastic. is a family owned print-on-demand custom apparel and gift company. Founded in 2007 in the basement of Alan Dail, Angie Smith-Dail, and Joyce Dail, began its rapid growth and success. By 2009, had outgrown the basement and had to lease a space in a spilt level building in Wooster, Ohio. In October of 2012, outgrew yet another location and built it's own 10,000ft production facility where production currently takes place. offers volume discount prices on already low-priced, high-quality products. Combine this with the any available coupon codes which are often listed directly on our site and your in for tall savings! Simply check out prices in comparison with the big competitors here! You can always browse our products on sale here as well. 

We offer a wide variety of products: customized apparel, personalized stickers and banners, great gift ideas, individualized stuffed animals, and much more! Check out all of our product categories on our website here. Click on a category for even more options! 

Whether it's a customized gift for one person, or personalized shirts for a whole team; has something for you with no minimum purchases and no waiting for price quotes! Perfect for all and any occasions such as baby shower gifts with a personal touch, team shirts, awareness walks, band merchandize, promotional merchandize, or just for fun! 

Play around in the easy designer, upload your own image from your computer or select one of the hundreds of graphics available. You may always add your own personal touch with customized text at no extra cost! It's easy to make something truly unique with! 

With a product quality promise of, "If we wouldn't buy it, we won't sell it" and a ***day no hassle return or exchange policy*** you can rest assured- you are going to be happy with your order! 

***refund for return or exchange of product minus shipping and handling fees 

Monday, October 28, 2013

On Marrying Young: Serving Together

The "On Marrying Young" series, has been the most-contributed-to and most read series on my blog since it's beginning.  Several of the posts in the series are in the top ten posts on my blog.  I keep thinking that the series is going to peter out, that all possible topics have been addressed...and then I get an email from a reader with a new take on marrying young.  The truth is, there are so many of us (although less than there used to be) that still choose to marry young, and each of our stories is different.  Join me in reading Katherine's story, that is indeed very different, having spent much of her newlywed year with her new husband serving others in Africa. 

In September 2008, 22 years old and married three months, we set off for six months in Uganda. We didn't have a great reason for taking time off to serve. We'd been lucky enough to graduate college debt-free, and lucky enough to find each other young. We had a spare moment to give back. So why not? I rarely feel God's guidance directly in my life, and so we prayed: God, if You have a reason that we should not go to Africa, make it clear.

And He didn't, it seemed. Instead, we got a lot of encouragement, both emotional and financial, from friends and families and near strangers. We found a way to tag along with a surgical mission team, got our visas in order, and went to a travel nurse for anti-malarial meds.

So, in September, a summer after our wedding, we left. The closest we'd ever been to the developing world was the rough side of Marseilles, or New Orleans, maybe. Our parents said goodbye to us in our hometown airport, and three days later, we went to bed on the hospital compound that was to be our home for six months.

That night, tip-toeing through the open-air hall to the bathroom, I thought about the kids who'd tapped the windows of our hospital van that day, begging and beseeching. Bats swooped overhead, chasing moths the size of my hand, and I thought uneasily about hemmorhagic fever. A gecko leapt out of the toilet tank, spooking me badly. I rushed back to bed, where John was lying beneath a mosquito net, listless in the oppressive heat, and complained bitterly. This had clearly been a mistake.

But the days slouched by and we made our way. I found work at local libraries, and he kept busy on the computers down at the hospital. We never had enough work, by American standards, and filled our time making friends, reading, attending morning chapel. John learned badminton and played with the hospital staff. I read to the kids who peeked curiously through our windows.

After pretty successful undergraduate careers — and aren't we told college is for finding ourselves, and by implication, serving ourselves? — we had signed up for service. But that service didn't come in the form of heroically reorganizing African libraries or winning souls or enlightening eager students. It came in sharing meals that freaked us out (who's for goat broth and cassava, eaten with your hands?) and cramming into an overcrowded matatu without a fuss. It came in the form of learning our own unimportance, and to be happy with each other when things aren't comfortable.

As our days in Africa came to a close, as I counted down to our flight home and fantasized about those wedding gifts I'd barely had a chance to use, I came to a startling realization: I was always going to be someone who had lived in Africa.

"Oh! It is your honeymoon!" the Ugandans we'd met would claim, and it was and it wasn't. For me, a  honeymoon implied pure indulgence — champagne and sleeping in. And yet our months in Africa are vivid in my mind as any tropical cruise or Disney vacation, and shape our culture as a couple and, now, a family. Five years later, we still receive letters soliciting our help. We search out new acquaintances with an African accent, hoping just once to find a Mukonzo. (We never do.) I bear a motorcycle taxi burn scar on my calf from my twenty-third birthday. We are adventurers who now, because of our time in Africa, give more confidently and trust more fully. Lessons learned there about cheerful sacrifice helped us through my terrible morning sickness, informed our decision to be a one-car family, taught us to rejoice in the gift of children, even when we're far from rich.

There's a danger, of course, in service as young newlyweds. You're thousands of miles from home with the person with whom you've decided to share your life, and he's pretty much the only one you can share it with. Talk about leave and cleave. We were surrounded with new friends, expats and locals alike, but only he knew the real me, the me from before. But isn't this, ultimately, what marriage is all about? The two of you, alone together in the world.

Katherine Bowers is a new mother and teen librarian in Western Mass who attempts to serve through both roles, and always leaves room for ice cream. She blogs about her adventures with the wiggliest baby, an outdoorsy husband and a bouncy dog at shouting hallelujah.

Please check out the other posts in the On Marrying Young series here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Saints for Multi-Tasking Moms

Sometimes I think multi-tasking is going to kill me. With five kids running around constantly getting into various predicaments (usually involving the potty), a baby to nurse and hold, homeschooling to teach, meals to cook, things to pin, and Facebook posts to read I feel as if I'm juggling many brightly coloured and noisy balls in the air. Along with the multi-tasking of motherhood comes the never ending to-do list, and the constant responsibilities in and outside our homes. It all makes for such scant amounts of time for quiet prayer, meditation, and all those things we think we need in order to be holy.

Sometimes its easy to stay discouraged about our lot in life when we think of the saints. Do you think of the saints sometimes as a vague and stereotypical cloud of witnesses comprised of only those who had their entire lives to devout to silence, hair shirts, and no distractions from God at all? Well, sometimes I do. I think they can't possibly have gotten to heaven by doing a lot of different things at the same time. As is most often the case however, my vague and discouraged thinking is not based on actual fact! Most saints got to holiness through living difficult lives, lives led outside of the silent cloister, usually by overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties. Saints continue to always surprise me by being so relatable when you get to know them. Here are three women saints who also happened to be mothers with full plates.

St. Margaret Clitherow
St. Margaret was a wife and mother during the persecution of English Catholics in the century after Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church. She converted to Catholicism and then was compelled to help harbour priests in her home, as it was illegal for Roman Catholic Priests to be in the country and perform Mass at this time. She was eventually arrested for harbouring priests, put on trial and sentenced to death if she refused to give up her faith. She was killed by being pressed against a stone while under a heavily laden door.

When you think about her life though, I think its easy to imagine a life a many daily responsibilities as well as heroic dangers. As the wife of a glazier, she was firmly middle class and probably dealt with society in her town a great deal. She raised two sons, one of whom went on to study for the priesthood in France. In addition to these responsibilities she was participating in helping the Church survive in England, although clandestinely; not something that could be too easy, but would require much organization and communication between communities, the secret faithful, and the persecuted priests. This was a heroic wife and mother who may have been martyred, but used her vocation in life to its fullest for the service of the Church both in her home and in her community.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal
A princess who married the Prince of Portugal at a young age, St. Elizabeth would go on to be a faithful example of marital fidelity to her husband, a peacemaker between
kingdoms, a mother to two children, all while maintaining a constant devotion to the Daily Office and the Mass. Although royalty, Elizabeth's life couldn't have been easy. Her husband's infidelity became public early on in her marriage and she tried to remain a good example to him by remaining steadfast to her morals and Catholic faith. Eventually this example led to his repentance. She clearly had diplomatic talents as she became the go-between between her husband and a neighboring kingdom in a time of civil war.

All these responsibilities proved that she must have had a dynamic personality and the courage to continue to practice her faith with such devotion when it must have been similar to living in Hollywood with the amount of attention her social circle paid to morality. She's another great example of how Catholic women and saints throughout history were active mothers at home while participating in the political sphere. I think that women leaders outside of the home would greatly benefit from a devotion to the Daily Office and daily Mass like St. Elizabeth, so that must mean it would be doubly beneficial for mothers who feel like they're running countless different companies at once.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
A convert to the faith and the first American born person to be declared a saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton  married young and had five children before converting. Her conversion came soon after losing her husband to illness and she was faced with having to navigate widowhood and raising a family alone while embracing a faith that did not make you popular in high society protestant New York. St. Elizabeth must have dealt with many of the basic pressures single mothers face, decisions about daily spending, economy, the education of her children, and even where to live. But while having to deal with these challenges God was clearly drawing her to an intense faith in Him and the Church. She felt a great need for Catholic education in America and began the first free Catholic school in the country. Elizabeth's passion for education developed into a religious order, one which allowed Elizabeth to continue raising her own children in addition to being Mother Superior of the newly founded Sisters of Charity.

St. Elizabeth's daily responsibilities must have been many, yet she maintained her strong connection with motherhood, both to her own children and to the sisters of her newly founded religious community. I would imagine that this multiplied the daily anxieties and responsibilities of motherhood, with not only questions and demands being made to her by her own five children, but those of a burgeoning community that looked to her for leadership. The amount of daily decisions that would have had to be made, as well as looking for the support of such a community would have required devotion to the small tedious tasks of daily life. St. Elizabeth obviously didn't let the daily tasks that can seem mountainous hold her back from making important strides in the education of Catholics and serving God through her community.

Although these great women didn't have the distractions of social media and television like we do, they did have to perform the many jobs that come with being a mother, as well as taking on more in service to the Church. Its a great reminder to me when I feel bogged down in a sea of small errands that only I can do for my family, laundry piling up everywhere, lessons to be taught, and babies to be loved. Maybe if we embrace our multi-tasking day in and day out at home with the grace of the saints we'll make more headway in our own road to heaven. Or, if multi-tasking really does end up killing me you can call on me as the patron saint of multi-tasking (or potty training - its a toss-up) if the Vatican puts my name up for sainthood!

Inline image 2Christy Isinger is a full-time, at-home, sometimes crazy, mom to five(!) children aged 6 to 6 months. She herds toddlers and tries to keep a chaotic but loving home in northern Alberta, Canada. You can keep up with the craziness at her blog 
fountains of home where she writes about family, living the Catholic faith, books, and other random observations and opinions. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Marrying Young: Discerning Starting a Family

This is the only post in the On Marry Young Series that I actually requested from a fellow blogger.  Caitlin previously wrote a piece for this series entitled, Less is More Than Enough.  I had been wanting to write a post on deciding when to start a family when you marry young, but it just never seemed to happen.  When Caitlin announced her pregnancy, I knew she would be a perfect person to address this topic! If you love following pregnancy, after reading this post, you must check out her blog and read all her adorable "bumpdates".  She's 34 weeks now, so you don't have too long to wait before an exciting baby announcement either.

My husband and I got married at 21 and 22, and now, two years later, we are joyfully expecting our first baby!

With the average age of marriage being around 27 for women and 29 for men (and climbing), and with couples waiting several years after that to start a family, I realize that our situation is not the norm.  Add that to the fact that I’m finishing up with grad school and we’re living in a one bedroom apartment, and people start questioning our sanity! 

If you had asked me in college, I would have never thought that I would start a family this young.  While Thomas and I always wanted children, we saw it as something in the far future.  Even when I started grad school, we figured we would probably start having children a few years after I started working.

Sure enough, all of that changed.  God moved our hearts once we began using Natural Family Planning, and our desire to have a family grew once we started discerning his plan.  We started to actively seek out when HE wanted us to start a family rather than what WE thought might be best.  He opened our eyes to the fact that December might be a good opportunity to have a child.  I would graduate from grad school that month, and I could potentially take a few months off to take care of the baby before having to find a job and pay back student loans.  Yet, we were still so uncertain.  All the married couples around around us, even if they desired children, were putting it off until they attained a certain lifestyle first.  It still seemed kind of crazy to start a family right after finishing school when I should be getting a job, saving up money, and planning for a house. 

Nevertheless, we continued to pray relentlessly that God would give us a sign about his timing for our family.  He certainly answered our prayers on that one!  We heard several stories in the same week from couples who had started their families while they lived in a small apartment and did not have much money to go around.  They openly shared how it was challenging, but so rewarding, and how it enriched their families and caused them to focus on the important things.  We see them living such fulfilled, holy lives now and we see the beauty in starting a family young.  We also went to an inspiring talk at church that week about the importance of love and families, and we felt God continuing to tug at our hearts. 

Things are different than they were back in the day when it was normal for people to get married and have children young while living a simple lifestyle.  Now society encourages couples to have certain things before having children – a house, a Pinterest-worthy nursery, years to just enjoy being married and to travel, and more than enough money in the bank.  We knew that if we were to wait for me to work for a few years after graduating to make more money and get a house, we would be putting ourselves in a much more financially stable position, and would be in a place to attain much more wealth for our future.  We questioned what was really most important to us and what God would most want for us.  I really believe that people focus so much on planning and preparing nowadays that they lose sight of God’s plan for them.  Trust me, I know that well, as I was a huge control freak throughout college, wanting everything to go according to my plan.  God has been working on my heart over the past few years to get rid of that tendency and to trust wholeheartedly in his plans (which far outweigh my own EVERY time).  

We put our full trust in the Lord, and I really do think we correctly discerned his plan for us as we found out in the spring we were expecting a baby December 1st!  We were filled with a joy unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, and that joy has only continued to grow throughout my pregnancy!

Life is so simple and sweet right now as we prepare for the arrival of this baby.  We’re not concerned with putting together a beautiful nursery or buying new things, but on building up our love for one another and for God so that we can be role models for this precious baby.  We may not be doing things the way society thinks we should, but really and truly, anything society could offer us pales in comparison to the joy of waiting to meet our baby boy! 

God has revealed to us time and time again that he has greater things in store than what we could even begin to imagine.  It is chilling to think that if we had chosen to selfishly pursue worldly things over being open to God’s gift of life, this sweet child would never exist.  This tiny, dependent baby will soon grow up to carry out God’s unique plan for him, leaving his own imprint on the world that only he was chosen to make.  His life is worth infinitely more than anything we could ever choose to own or pursue as a young, married couple. 

Caitlin is a Catholic woman and first time expecting mother who blogs at Savor His Goodness about the joys in life.  She loves baking, running, and dreaming about her baby boy. 

Please check out the other posts in the On Marrying Young series.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How to Start a Family Prayer Time

What Christian parent of small children hasn't wondered the who/what/when/where of incorporating faith into family life?  Thanks to Kelly of This Ain't the Lyceum for giving us some inspiration by sharing how works for her family (and how it doesn't have to be perfect to be worth it). 

After the table is cleared, at least partially, our family gathers in the living room for family prayers. We can manage three decades of a rosary, a litany of Saints, and maybe even a reading on a feast day or season. On any given evening, between my five kids, there is still rosary throwing, arguing, tears or a contest to see who can lead a decade the loudest, but without hesitation I would recommend starting a family tradition of a dedicated daily prayer time.

Growing up, the only time my family prayed together was at meal times. I viewed suspiciously friends whose family’s did “church things” on any other day besides Sunday. But as my husband and I started our own family and considered what kind of Catholics we wanted our children to become, we quickly realized that instituting a set time every day to pray together would help our children learn their prayers and instill the importance of living our faith on a daily basis. As our parish family prays together on Sundays, it only makes sense that our domestic church should keep the momentum going during the week. Now my children can’t remember a time before family prayers.

It was a gradual process that first included prayers at their bedside while they were still very young. Then about seven years ago, I discovered a children’s devotional book and immediately declared we were going to spend time every night before bed reading from it and praying.

It was a disaster.

My children were so little, and I was expecting them to reflect upon scripture and religious stories when all they wanted to do was go to sleep. My husband and I both look back and cringe at our overzealousness. We almost scrapped the idea of an evening prayer time all together when, after talking with another family, we shared in a light bulb moment; the rosary! Yes, why not the rosary? And we started with just one decade and haven’t stopped since.

Through the years we’ve added a couple decades (though I know many families say the entire rosary) along with our family’s litany of Saints, which is always the favorite part for whomever is the youngest. Even at two years old, a child will gladly call our their favorite Saint and “Pray for us!” Every night we ask for the intercession of at least two dozen Saints. The kids have come to understand their patrons, their parents' patrons, the Saints who look after our home and school, the Saint whose feast day it is, the titles of Our Lady, plus develop their own devotions.

Although sometimes, they grow to like a Saint just because of his or her unusual name. Sometimes I wonder how devoted Ede really is to the early martyr St. Apollinaris. And even though he’s been invoking St. Ubaldus for months, I doubt Teddy understands anything about the great bishop and confessor.

During Advent we say our prayers around the Advent wreath, and during Fridays in Lent, we read the Stations of the Cross. It’s easy to substitute other prayers during other seasons because we always have the time set aside.

Recently, we moved our prayer time from just before bed to right after supper. We’re all more awake which equals less fussing from the younger ones and a more reverent attitude from the older ones. Maybe mornings, or mid-afternoon, would work for you. Find what works for your family, then stick with it. The kids will help remind you once you’re in the habit.

I remember when the older children started leading the decades; it’s wasn’t too long before the younger ones wanted to lead too. My fourth child was leading prayers at age four, something my oldest had no interest in doing at the same age. So even if it seems hard at first, persevere because before long, there’s less child wrangling and more actual prayer going on.

The only aid I would recommend would be a large chunky rosary and maybe a small booklet that illustrates the mysteries. Any time we gave the kids pictures to color during prayers or larger books, images, etc. we found it to be more of a distraction, or weapon, than an aid.

Trying to start with little children is hard because doing anything for more than ten minutes with little children is hard; just be realistic in your goals and try not to get frustrated. If you’re trying to start with older children, you might need to work around sports or other activities and a child’s natural tendency to hate anything new. Be firm but proceed gently. Let the child help choose the intention for the evening. Allow them time to ask questions about a Saint or liturgical season. Although I don’t always enjoy going off on tangents, our family has some of the best discussions at prayer time. Do they need to learn prayers for CCD or a sacramental year? Incorporate them. My youngest daughter will be making her First Holy Communion this year and we’ve started saying the Act of Contrition every night to help prepare her.
Although it may sometimes feel like a battle getting everyone to cooperate, a dedicated family prayer time is perfect weapon against our culture’s war on families. Pray for the graces to keep going, even through the tantrums, and you’ll see the benefits it brings.

“If families give Our Lady fifteen minutes a day by reciting the Rosary, I assure them that their homes will become, by God's grace, peaceful places." Father Patrick Peyton

Kelly is a homeschooling mother of five who makes time to write at her blog 'This Ain't the Lyceum' between checking workbook pages and pulling her hair out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Baby on a Budget guest post: How to Cloth Diaper for Under $70

One of the biggest costs associated with having a baby is diapers. When we had our son Noah, we started out using disposables and I was amazed by how many diapers we were going through every day. It only took a few months before we decided to switch to cloth diapers. While it can save a lot of money in the long run, the initial start-up cost can be intimidating, especially when a lot of the diapers out there are $20 a piece. We didn't have hundreds of dollars to spend on cloth diapers, so I scoured the internet for ways to cloth diaper our son on a tight budget.

During my research, I stumbled on this article about a recent Yale study showing that 1 in 12 low income mothers can't afford to buy diapers for their babies. Often times these mothers have to choose between buying food and buying diapers, forcing them to reuse disposable diapers. Hearing that broke my heart. I couldn't imagine how hard that would be for a mother and I wanted to find a way to help.

I've found at least four options that will fit even the tightest budget. Each option includes the basics needed to start cloth diapering for $70 or less. A case of diapers for a month costs about $25, so in less than three months you will have made up the cost.

Birdseye Flats
The first option is to buy Birdseye flats. They are very versatile, fitting from newborn to potty training depending on how they are folded. Flats take a little bit of getting used to, but well worth it once you figure them out.
  • 1 dozen flats = $19
  • 2 Snappi's $6
  • 2 Kawaii diaper covers $15
  • DIY cloth wipes (find the tutorial here) FREE
The flat’s diaper kit comes to a total of $39.95 + tax

These prices reflect buying new, but even further savings can be found by purchasing used cloth diapers. Another option is to make your flats. I found this tutorial that shows how to make two flats for 50 cents. I made a couple and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Pocket Diapers
The second option is to buy China Cheapies pocket diapers. There is a bit of controversy in the cloth diapering world about these as they are inexpensive and not made as well as several of the American made diapers. However, I have found Sunbaby cloth diapers to fit great and for the price I'm pleased with their quality. They probably won't last through several children, but they're holding up strong with my first child. My husband isn't a big fan of flats because of the folding involved, so these are his go to when it's his turn to change Noah's diaper.
  • 12 pocket diapers with microfiber inserts $63 (tax included)
  • DIY cloth wipes - Free
The Sunbaby pocket diaper kit comes to a total of $63

For some families though, the budget is so tight that there isn't $70 to spare. The good news is that there are several resources out there to help in these situations.

Pregnancy Centers
Most areas have a Pregnancy Center that offer help for women facing an unplanned pregnancy. The Worldwide Directory of Pregnancy Help Centers can help find one near you. Many Pregnancy Centers run off of donations, so their supplies can vary from location to location. They work hard to keep the basic necessities stocked, including diapers. Anyone is welcome, as there are no income based requirements. Simply contact them via their website, call or walk in. They are more than willing to help with whatever they can.

To get a better understanding of how a pregnancy center works, the Wyandotte Pregnancy Center in Kansas City offers a point system for the women they minister to. The center offers informational classes which earns them a certain number of points for each one they attend. Points are then used as currency to shop for necessities such as donated diapers and clothing. The center also offers free pregnancy tests, sonograms and counseling.

Cloth Diaper Banks
A simple Google search displays several websites for diaper banks throughout the United States. Some focus on dispersing disposable diapers to low income families and some focus on cloth.  I personally love the idea of a cloth diaper bank because it's kind of like that old adage, Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. A set of twelve cloth diapers can last a family from birth to potty training whereas 12 disposable diapers would only last a little over a day. For that reason, I'm going to focus on the cloth diaper bank called Share the Love, started by Cotton Babies.
A cloth diaper bank loans out cloth diapers to families in need for a set amount of time, in this case three years. The family then returns the diapers at the end of the term and the cloth diapers can be lent out to another family in need. To qualify for the program, a family must currently be enrolled in WIC. Once that criteria has been met, a simple application is required including a small essay describing the impact the program would have on your family.

If you or someone you know no longer needs their cloth diaper stash, please consider donating to one of the above organizations. Knowing that diapers are taken care of can be a huge blessing for a family somewhere.


Rachel graduated from Benedictine College where she met her husband, Jordan. They got married right after graduation in 2011 and welcomed their son, Noah, into the world in October of 2012. Rachel stays at home with Noah, but is able to work part time from home as well. She writes about food, health, budgeting, her DIY projects and motherhood over at Efficient Momma.