Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What do you breathe?

During Lent I use the little black book. Do you know the one I mean? The one parishes donate out. The one with only a black cover that can be taken anywhere. I always hate that wording because then it makes it seems as if you might be ashamed of your faith. Anyway, I digress...

Yesterday's meditation spoke very closely to one of my Lenten aspirations. I am going to paraphrase, and no doubt badly, but here goes. We have a choice on how we react to the world around us, how we breathe, so to speak. Do you breathe love? Kindness? Patience? Or do you breathe rumors? Anger? Bitterness? We have a choice on how to breathe.

I could use so many excuses - the winter blahs, a new baby, no sleep, lack of schedule, etc. - but really, they are just excuses. Instead, I confess that I have not been the most patient, have not been slow to anger, have not been the most loving. And now I must make a choice. Do I want to breathe love? Or anger? Patience? Or frustration? Hope? Or despair?

How do you breathe? God bless you as you continue your Lenten journey.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lent in Progress

Here we are, on the first Sunday of Lent, only a few days into the season. And I must say, I do think we have a good system going on here. Each year I have struggled bringing Lent to the kids in a way that they can understand and appreciate. Last year we had success with the Jesus Tree, but that was pretty much it. This year I thought long and hard on what we could do that was simple, doable, and meaningful. So what are they doing?

Each morning the kids wake up and we read our Bible story and hang an ornament up on the Jesus Tree. After, one of the kids pick a slip of paper from the jar for their sacrifice/good deed of the day. For example, this week the ideas drawn were:

  • Say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you" when needed. (Just when I think we all do this automatically is usually when it starts to wear off!)
  • Say an extra decade of the Rosary. (On nice days we take a "Rosary Walk" but colder days find us on the couch or on my bed before going to sleep.)
  • Unplug for the day - no tv, computer, phone, etc. (Wow - I had some teary eyes on this one but after the initial groans, I heard nothing more about it, and they had a great time making a disaster of the house, pulling games and whatnot out.)
  • Fill a donation bag. (Boy, this was hard for me to let them fill it as they wished, and not butt in. And, it sure took them a long time to decide what goes!)
Once their deed is done, they can put a bean in a jar. On Easter morning they will find it filled with jelly beans (to share of course!).

The final thing the kids are doing is taking a chain off our Lenten countdown chain at night. The chain is purple for the 40 days, with golden yellow for each Sunday. Each chain has a simple prayer on it. Their dad, myself, or Skipper reads the prayer. We all love this activity, but I must say I do not like the cat batting away at it every single morning, while waiting for his breakfast!

In addition, there are little things added: creating a small altar table with books, crucifix, etc. that is very visible and hands-on; playing the Holy Heroes Stations of the Cross audio cd (Skipper loves this); and eventually watching Via Crucis - Stations of the Cross dvd. I have some other small ideas if desired, but those are all extra and will do only if time (more like, baby) allows and it does not lead to complicating/stressing-out Lent.

What meaningful activities help your child(ren) focus on Lent?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Valentine Giveaway Winner

Ok, so my son drew the winner of my Valentine Giveaway last Friday. As of today I have not had a response from this reader. So just in case you do not check that email, take a look and send me your info. If I have not heard back from you by tomorrow (that's Friday), I will redraw a name so I can get this book out and into another's hands!

And the winner is... The Petriolas!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shakin' the Crazies Out

Before tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of penitential season of Lent, we had some extra fun and "shook our crazies" out with some music, dancing, and a once-a-year dinner of ice-cream sundaes.

Having a little too much fun perhaps? Wearing his Aunt's knee-high boots. Looks like a satyr to me. What do you think? (Sounded like one too!)

Skipper was so excited to have sundaes for dinner that I could not even get a clear picture.

Hiding the Alleluia (a nursing/clingy baby kept this from happening so I need to go do that before bed here).

I have some Lenten plans for the kids - the Jesus Tree, Lenten countdown prayer chain, a good deeds jar, and a few other small things to set the stage. Most of my plans are new to this year except the Jesus Tree. Lent is a difficult time for me to share with the children as I would like. It is a work in progress. Much like Lent, you could say.

I hope you all have had a crazy Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, or whatever you call it in your home). God bless!

A Baby's Baptism

Miss Z's first steps along her Sacramental journey, and I pray, a life of faith and holiness.

Father in Heaven,
when the Spirit came down upon Jesus
at His Baptism in the Jordan,
You revealed Him as Your own Beloved Son.
Keep me, Your child,
born of water and the Spirit,
faithful to my calling.
May I, who share in Your Life
as Your child through Baptism,
follow in Christ's path of service to people.
Let me become one in His Sacrifice
and hear His Word with faith.
May I live as Your child,
following the example of Jesus.

Pancake Tuesday

After coming home from doctor check-ups that were actually scheduled for next Tuesday (oops!), I whipped up some Fluffy Buckwheat Pancakes for the kids and I for lunch. Yum! Of course they are gluten/dairy/soy/egg free...

Skipper was super excited for pancakes! (Psst... Just wait until dinner!)

Apparently I raise my children in a barn. That syrup must be good!

And here's Miss Z, who will not sleep on her own ever this past week. I'm so tired! She may have missed out on pancakes but she looks content. And all went well at the doctor's. Mega dose of shots - I always hate that - but great on growth. She's up to 12 lbs, 9 oz and 23 inches tall. Still not up to her brothers and sister at two months (but good for her considering our rocky start). I personally am glad she is not as big as the others since I am the one holding her all the time!

More craziness to come. After all, it is Mardi Gras! Or is it Fat Tuesday? Or Pancake Tuesday? Or Shrove Tuesday? Any other names out there? Have a fun day whatever it is!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gifts of Grace

I receive daily minute meditations in my in-box. I loved today's quote and wanted to share it with you.

We are always trying to please God, but it is God who is always trying to please us. God is always surprising us with gifts of grace when we least expect them. 

— from Compassion

I would like to add that not only do we receive these gifts when we least expect them, but when we are most in need of them. Don't you agree? What a beautiful gift grace is.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Jesus Tree for Lent

Somehow between the Christmas season and Lent, our daily Bible readings slow down and we tend to look outside the Bible to kid devotionals, faith books, etc. But as Lent nears, I feel that need to bring the Bible back, to draw closer to God through scripture. The Jesus Tree is such a simple - and doable - daily activity to do with your little ones throughout Lent, that brings the entire season to life for them. And hopefully gets their mind off the Easter Bunny (I have to do a lot of redirecting in my household thanks to overzealous well-meaning relatives).

What is the Jesus Tree? If you are familiar with the Jesse Tree, it is just like that. Where the Jesse Tree covers Old Testament material through Epiphany, the Jesus Tree covers the life and missionary work of Our Lord Jesus Christ, beginning with his presentation in the temple to his resurrection on Easter morning. Every day during Lent (coming up so quickly!), the kids and I will read a scripture passage and hang up the appropriate symbol. By Easter morning, our tree will be full of life. I hope to extend this somehow into the Easter season sometime but that will have to wait until next year!

To make a Jesus Tree, you can be as simple or complicated as you like. Last year, inspired by Jessica at Shower of Roses, I chose to make our own Jesus Tree, using felt scraps I had. But it can be as simple as cutting out a construction paper tree and using leaves to mark a passage read. Or, take a look at these ideas I discovered:
  • To purchase a felt kit similar to the one I made (this one is just like the one at Shower of Roses), visit here.
  • From St. Brigid's Academy, color or black and white paper Jesus Tree ornaments to hang on whatever "tree" you'd like.
  • Wooden tree ornaments to purchase, ready to use. The site also has "trees" for an additional cost.
  • Felt tree ornaments to purchase, ready to use, and also adaptable based on Eastern/Western Churches.
  • From The Diary of a Sower, a wooden tree craft idea where you add leaves each day corresponding to the Scripture read.
  • From Arma Dei, stepping stones through Jesus' life.
However you choose to do it, I am sure you and your children will benefit from this little "time-out" from the world!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy St. Valentine's Day & a Giveaway!

St. Valentine was a holy priest in Rome during the reign of Cladius II. He was martyred for refusing to give up his faith. For the full history of St. Valentine and celebrating his feast day, visit this site.

Here in the U.S. it is simply another holiday taken to excess and over commercialization. My desire is for my children to love wholeheartedly and faithfully, to give constantly of themselves though they may tire of it, to do little acts of love daily. I, too, desire this! Why not do little deeds for one another? Not just for today, a day set aside for love - as if love can be set aside - but every day. Let us choose love above all else.


The Giveaway

I have a copy of the book, "Maurice and Therese: The Story of a Love" by Patrick Ahem to give away in honor of today. It is the story of the correspondence between St. Therese of Lisieux and Maurice Belliere, a struggling young priest. I read this book as part of a book study through my parish's women's group and really enjoyed it. To enter, simply leave a comment to this post by 12:00pm on Friday, February 17th, and I will draw a name that night - the old-fashioned way of slips of paper and a hat. Please leave some way to find you - email, blog - you know the drill I am sure from other giveaways.

Happy St. Valentine's to you!

Monday, February 13, 2012


Skipper has a thing for penguins. It must prove he's his great-grandmother's great-grandson. She too has a love affair with penguins, and what started out as carving a single, life-size Emperor penguin has turned into a crazy collection of penguins. People are always giving her one. She loves them all and remembers where each comes from. While that is fine for her, I could do without the massive collection so we will stick to his bed fellows (a pillow pet penguin, a mini stuffed penguin, and a larger stuffed penguin) as well as a penguin bank and a penguin plate, both of which he decorated at a paint your own clay piece kind of place.

Well, with penguin love around here, we did a mini unit study on penguins back a few weeks when we were all trying to get back into school (um, still are!). It was fun though. I loved the kids' enthusiasm and the little things we did. Again, since we were not doing any school officially, I tried to do a variety of activities to hit on the main subjects.

We took advantage of a very unusual warm day and headed to the zoo for an hour or so!

Penguin "foot" craft (and review of shapes for Critter).

Seeing how a penguin's downy feathers keep it warm using 3 bags - one with ice and water to represent the cold, one with a bit of air, and the third flat. The feather is the bag with a bit of air in it. Very easy to do and very visual, hands-on "experiment" with the kids.

Penguin Punctuation - I typed out sentences to do with penguins and Skipper had to write in what he thought each sentence should end with.

Being a daddy Emperor penguin. The boys tried to shuffle their "egg" (made of clay) around. Very difficult!

Pop-n-Drop Penguins game - received at Christmas. The first to get their penguins out and around the board to "home" wins. I actually won this!

Critter cracks me up. He grabbed one of his daddy's fleece coats, put his legs in the arms, and waddles around like a penguin. It was hilarious and the other two quickly followed suit.

A little treat to go with the penguin pie worksheet below, though ours were more like penguin pops. Regular fudge bars have malt in them, which the boys cannot have, so this was an awesome find - and so delicious, no pun intended!

This fill-in-the-blank worksheet dealt with similes, though we skipped the lesson and just filled it in for fun.

Some grid work. Skipper loved this, though Critter struggled a bit at first.

Checking out how ice bergs look (just a bit out of the water, and plenty more underneath the surface).

Penguin counting by 5's. Still working on skip counting with Skipper...

All about adjectives with Tacky the Penguin. Tacky was a great book and this was a pretty fun worksheet too though I had to do a lot of prompting initially.

Other Fun Stuff

Book List

  • The Magic School Bus Chapter Book: Penguin Puzzle by Judith Bauer Stamper
  • I am Small by Emma Dodd
  • Penguins (Smithsonian book) by Seymour Simon
  • Tacky the Penguin with audio cd by Helen Lester
  • Penguins by Liz Pichon

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Prayer Request

In the early morning hours I received an email from a woman in my local Catholic homeschooling group. I do not know this woman (the group is fairly large), but I do not need to know her to grieve for her and pray for her. Please, if you feel led, say one as well. Her email has been on my mind all morning.

She wrote to ask everyone for prayers for her 3 1/2 month old son, Conner, who died today inexplicably. There is nothing more to say...

Dear Lord of Mercy, we lift up Conner, his parents and his family to your cross because they have been devastated by tragedy and are engulfed in sorrow because of the death of their child. Pour out your spirit and love over them and let them feel your comfort. Remind their hearts that they have a hope in the resurrection and that you died on the cross so that all who put their faith in you would be delivered from death. Let them receive the support from those around them. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our Lady of Lourdes

Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman, Blessed by the Most High! Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, We join in your song of praise, to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.

Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ! Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word, Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history.

Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living! Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, Be our guide along the paths of the world. Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified.

Hail Mary, woman of faith, First of the disciples! Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love. Teach us to build up the world beginning from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.

Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.


~~ Pope John Paul II (This prayer was said during the Holy Father's  August 15, 2004 visit to Lourdes, France.  The Pope asked her among other things to "be our guide along the paths of the world.")

Our Little Celebration

Last year the kids and I made a simple picture craft using a piece of construction paper, a coloring page of Our Lady of Lourdes and green and red tissue paper.

This year I surprised the kids with a "grotto" treat using my picture from last year (our printer needs ink!) and a "grotto" of rice crispy treats (I used EnviroKidz Koala Crisp cereal and this post inspired the treat). Naturally, it was a hit! Though it was quite funny watching Critter trying to eat it with a fork (Skipper too whose front teeth are still not in!). The kids also watched Bernadette - The Princess of Lourdes on dvd, colored in a small page from this week's Catholic Kids: weekly mass bulletin, and we took a virtual pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, where in 1854, Our Lady appeared to a little girl named Bernadette.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Candle Baptism Favors

Miss Z's baptism is coming up in less than two weeks so I have been working on little things for our small gathering after. Naturally, I had it in my head to make something myself. More specifically, I wanted seashell candles (the shell being a symbol of baptism). So of course I just had to make beeswax candles. You know, sometimes I get an idea in my head and it is very difficult to transition to a new idea if one does not work out. Nicely, this one did. Originally, I was going to make individual shells, but I had a hard time filling it with wax because of the angle. Immediately I thought of doing them in sets of three, which is a nice reminder of the Most Holy Trinity. What do you think? Picture tutorial:

Grate about 1/2 lb beeswax. My husband ended up in the garage chiseling off chunks for me (much easier and faster!).

Two bags of shells (found at Michaels). Hot glue three shells together. Add wick. I used a wire wick which I did not know was not recommended for beeswax until after I had purchased everything and opened it. Oh well. They are small candles so hopefully it will work!

Melt the wax (in stages if need be) over med-low heat. I put mine in a recycled tin can in a pot of water. The spoon is there to weight the can down.

Once wax is melted, pour into shells. Once hardened, trim wicks. (I put the shells on wax paper to protect my counters and make clean-up easy - the dried wax peels off nicely for re-use.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Woodcarving Show

Over the weekend, we visited our hometown for my grandparents' annual woodcarving show. My grandfather was in a chemical work-related accident back in the day, and he became involved with woodcarving as a result. My grandmother also started to carve, as well as paint. Together, over the years, they have built up a woodcarving business - offering a place to learn to carve, to come hang out and work, to buy materials, offer classes, and hosting this show, now on its 15th year. There were some great pieces, but I was half-way through the show before I remembered I had a camera in my hand! Here are a few glimpses:

Every year it snows on this weekend. We woke up to a "Christmas" snow. Beautiful!

The little sign reads, "This will be a knight to dismember."

Skipper found a St. Francis, a favorite of his.

Penguins! Skipper pointed out every one he saw as well as all the polar bears.

My mom carved these wooden flowers. And added pictures of my kids to the basket as a gift to me.

A bitty basket of flowers my mom made.