Last we spoke (read? wrote?) my husband and I had just arrived back from leg one of our Epic Late Summer Road Trip. That was our anniversary trip to West Virginia. I mentioned at the end of that post that I was actually writing while on leg two of said Epicness. Here’s how it went down:
When we arrived back home on Sunday night, we made a horrible discovery: our air conditioning had gone out at some point during the weekend. It was probably a toasty 86 degrees on the lower level of our townhouse and who knows how much hotter upstairs. Not fun, but thankfully it was a pretty nice night outside so we managed with fans and enjoyed the rest of our evening while frantically unpacking/re-packing into a larger suitcase so we could set off the very next afternoon immediately after work (and reporting the broken ac to our leasing office bright and early) for leg 2…New Jersey!
Why were we so excitedly venturing to New Jersey? To attend the wonderful and oh so glamorous Catholic Marketing Network trade show. I’ve mentioned before that I run a Catholic bookstore/giftshop and that it’s pretty much the best job in the world. I get to do a million things a day including filling the store with all kinds of magnificently solid Catholic goodies. And it’s so amazing and fulfilling to know that every decision I make is focused on what will help the people who come to our shop to grown closer to Our Lord. Seriously, best job ever.
So try to imagine how much fun I was having in a conference center in New Jersey packed to the gills with beautiful statues and pictures, handmade rosaries, books, books, books galore, and hundreds of amazing new kids stuff just waiting to be scooped up and placed on our shelves. I have a very serious suspicion that Heaven might look like this for about an hour at a time (unless, of course you can’t get sick of good things in Heaven…at which point in the theological debate I’ll pass you over to Jen.)
I feel like I could probably go on ad nauseum about all of the amazing stuff I found there and what a fun time I had on day one (when I actually got to explore and browse instead of running around like a maniac skipping lunch trying to get all of my orders placed before the show floor closed and I had to drive back home right away.) I’ll try to keep it to just a couple of fun things, ok? Feel free to skip past if you’re soulless and don’t like totally awesome shiny new stuff from fun new companies that will make beautifully organized new displays in the children’s area of our store.
LIGHTBULB! Since it’s that time of the week, let’s do this 7 Quick Takes style and cheat a little. Deal? (Sorry, there’s probably no scrolling past this now.)
If you are Catholic and have small children, I absolutely encourage you to check out this new company called Wee Believers. They have dozens of adorable products that are great for even really small children including these vocations dolls. Fr Juan Pablo wears a full cassock (or as I call them, Priestly super hero outfits) and Sr. Mary Clara is just plain adorable. They’re plush and come with great books to encourage children to become comfortable with the idea of vocations to the religious life. Plus they remind US (not just kids) that priests and nuns (and brothers and sisters) are fun!
I’m cheating here because this is from the same company, but it deserves it’s own number and I don’t think you’ll blame me.
Yeah, that’s an entire Mass kit made out of soft materials for children to play Mass with at home. When I was a kid, all we had to use as a “host” was an Oreo. Seriously. This set has candles, a crucifix, and a thurible for crying out loud! It’s a thing of beauty. I wish I had a four year old boy to play with this with right now. Their website is here, but I wholeheartedly recommend that you use their search function to find a local Catholic bookstore near you to order this stuff from. Help out the little guys so you’ll still have a place to pop in and grab a couple of holy cards or a new miraculous medal from at the last minute.
P.S. I would LOVE to hear some great funny and/or adorable stories about kids playing Mass. There might even be a prize in it for the person with the best story.
This was probably my favorite new booth of the year: Arma Dei. I made fast friends (well, I thought so) with Monica and fell in love with just about every single one of her products. I didn’t even realize she ran a blog, I swear! All of her products are fun, color-able, inexpensive to make, and most importantly full of great Catholic “meat.” She has tons of great books and craft ideas that I spent a solid half-hour drooling over. A board member who came with me had to drag me away. I bought a bunch for the store including a set of playing cards that teach fundamentals of the faith (everything from 2=the two natures of Christ to 9=the nine precepts of the Church.) Amazing, right?
You know those great saints bracelets that everyone wears? Well, this company was called Battle Saints and they make saints bracelets just like those, except the saints on them are specifically chosen because they’re the patrons of each of the branches of the military and of warriors in general. The idea is that a) you can purchase them and send them to a service man/woman that you know to give them some extra protection and b) you can purchase them for yourself and anyone else you can talk into wearing it to remember to pray for the service members through the intercession of the saints on the bracelet. Each bracelet comes with a folded up paper explaining the different patrons found on them and the mission of the organization. An especially wonderful part of what they do is to make a donation from each sale to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund which helps wounded warriors when they return with physical rehabilitation, TBI, and post-traumatic stress.
This company is brand-spankin’ new and is making the most wonderful new line of hard vinyl dolls. Right now all of the subjects are different apparitions of Our Lady, but she’ll also be making a line of favorite saints! (We ordered the Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fatima, Knock, Czestochowa, Lourdes, & Kibeho for starters.) Since the dolls are a single piece and made of tough, durable plastic, they’re perfect toys for any age–even infants! I think they’d make great tub toys (there is a tiny air hole in the bottom that could potentially trap water in there…but you never know until you try,) and should be very easy to clean mud and/or drool off of. They also come with a great booklet and prayer card to teach your family more about the subject and come in really attractive packaging. Apparently they’ve become a collector’s item for lots of people. And they’re just so sweet! (P.S. I know they’re called Shining Light Dolls, but they do NOT light up. Don’t be confused!)
If you haven’t heard about Navis Pictures yet, you’re in for a treat. We already carried their movies, but this is just such a great apostolate that I had to share. Navis Pictures is an apostolate for young people that basically developed because one father in a homeschool group in CT had a professional background in film and a desire to get his kids actively involved in learning their faith. This is a production company that ONLY uses children 18 and under as actors to film amazingly solid Catholic films. The one I pictured above is one of my favorites because it really makes the beautiful faith of the martyrs of the French Revolution (that I–and most people–had never heard of) come alive. You’ll spend the first ten minutes of each film figuring out how old each of the characters is supposed to be, but you actually forget that you’re watching a group of relatively untrained homeschool kids and just become enraptured with the stories. There are a number of truly moving scenes in there too that words just won’t do justice. (i.e. the scene on the cover where they’re offering Mass on the field before battle and during the moment of consecration one of the older main characters looks so reverently at the Host and says, “My Lord and my God!” and if you watch carefully for the small children behind him who are probably barely old enough to totally grasp that their friend playing the priest is not, in fact, a priest and that this is only a pretend Mass, you’ll see the sheer love on their faces as they look upon Our Lord.) Sorry for the run-on sentence there. Just so you know, it hurts me too.
Another one that you probably already know about: Glory Stories CDs by Holy Heroes. You might notice a trend here that most of these favorite picks are children’s products made by family-run apostolates. This is another started by a convert and her family. All of the kids help with the voices on the audio CDs and the stories are really top-notch. They gave me a demo of the Blessed Imelda Lambertini and Juan Diego CD to listen to and I was actually in tears on the drive home, it was so beautiful. Every family that I know that’s started a collection of these CDs has fallen madly in love with them. I actually had a group of nine year olds jumping up and down in the store with excitement (one almost knocked over some statues) when I told them we would be carrying them from now on! They also have lots of neat weekly Mass prep resources and activities. Enjoy!
Two other points of personal interest: While at the CMN show I was surrounded by Catholic celebrities (Fr. Michael Gaitley, Fr. Don Calloway, and Mother Dolores Hart for starters.) Among about 3 dozen other authors that I met, I got Teresa Tomeo to sign one of her books for me. I’ve never read her books and I’m not sure that I’m particularly dying to, but I do love to listen to her radio show on my way into work in the mornings. It puts me in the right mindset after schlupping through the Today show to get my weather report and Al Roker fix. It was pretty great to get to see her. Even if she was super busy and could only even look at me for a few seconds. I get it, Teresa. We’re cool.
Also, Dale Ahlquist held the door for me. Be jealous.
Coming…soonish: Part 3 in which my husband almost punches a DJ and we’re still really sweaty.