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Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24 --- Magnificat



My soul doth magnify the Lord,

and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.

For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For He that is mighty hath done great things to me,

and holy is His Name.

And His Mercy is from generation unto generations

upon them that fear Him.

He hath shewed might in His arm,

He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat,

and hath exalted the humble.

He hath filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich He hath sent empty away.

He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy.

As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.




Find your role...



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Litany to the Infant Jesus

Keeping our focus on the Infant Jesus as we near the grand celebration of His birth, here is another prayer I love to say this time of year! My children enjoy litanies, because they can join in, repeating the simple responses.

Litany to the Infant Jesus
http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/Litanies/infantJesus.htm

December 23 --- O Emmanuel!

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!



Accept God's plan...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December 22 --- O King of the Gentiles!

O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

Be humble...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mysteries of the Holy Childhood

With the Birth of Jesus rapidly approaching, I enjoy meditating this week on how Christ came as a little baby, not an older boy or man. It is all too common for me to imagine Jesus during His teaching years, but I find it beautifully intimate to cultivate my relationship with the Christ Child, especially this time of year.

Years ago, I found these prayers, also called the Devout Exercise to the Infant Jesus and found them a tremendous way to reflect on and connect with the Christ Child. I am excited to be able to share these prayers with my children for the first time, because I know their relationship with the Child Jesus can be even more meaningful than mine!



24. Mysteries of the Holy Childhood
(scroll down to find #24 and then keep scrolling for the English translation)
http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/ap/rac/child.htm#24

Also, there is an indulgence tied to meditating on these prayers on the 25th of each month!

December 21 --- O Dayspring!

O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!



Rejoice...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20 --- O Key of David

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.



Say yes...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Saturday, December 19, 2009

To the Point

"We are called to live the love of God, not to feel the love of God. We live this love through prayer and action. Our work is the fruit of our prayer, so that if our work is not going well, we must examine our prayer life. If we neglect our work or are harsh, proud, moody, and angry, then we should examine our prayer life. We will see that something has gone wrong there." ~ Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (emphasis mine)


Anybody else find themselves avoiding mopping or yelling a lot? When I take the time to pray, the mopping does not seem so horrible, and the children are much more tolerable. I was so glad to discover this quote and remember that my work (of which she speaks) is fulfilling the obligations to my vocation as a wife and mother. What a perfect, simple reminder to all of us of the direct correlation between our daily work and our daily prayer!

Letter to the Christ Child

Have your children written to Santa? Whether they have or have not, why not have them try this old custom this last week of Advent as Christmas approaches? Traditionally, these letters have been written at the beginning of Advent, but I see this as a perfect opportunity to refocus our anticipation, especially that of gift-giddy children, on Christ. Here are some explanations:


Christkindl Brief or Letter to the Christ Child
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=901


Letter to the Christ Child
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=551


Letter to the Christ Child
http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=784

December 19 --- O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.



Forgive your doubts...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Friendly Beasts illustrated by Tomie dePaola

This week was Tomie de Paola week in our homeschool. His books are absolute favorites, and his illustrations are simply gorgeous! He has delightful Christmas and Advent stories. My favorite is The Clown of God, probably because I've had it since a child and it's autographed by him!

While this particular title is new to us (found at the library), I was so excited to find the song on YouTube with de Paola's illustrations, so we could learn how to sing a new Christmas song! Enjoy!

The Friendly Beasts: An Old Christmas Carol


Wrapping Up

I am wrapping up my Christmas preparations by Sunday. I had planned this all along, to be done with the shopping and the wrapping and the cards, but a friend inspired me the other day. She told me her family has decided that next week will be a week of silence and peace in their home, no TV, minimal outside activities, just quiet and meditation. I am longing to try it, too.

Further inspiration has come from two other dear friends. Last Sunday, we attended a Tridentine Low Mass while visiting friends out of town. While the Mass was difficult for me to follow, since I had only been to a High Mass in that form, what struck me was the silence. Our Novus Ordo Mass is so packed with noise, and it was incredibly spiritual to commune with God in that quiet. Plus, yesterday morning, my very best friend emailed me an article on silence that was confirmation I needed to write this post and make this commitment.

My Advent started out with great intentions. I have mostly kept my focus on the religious nature of the holiday and not spent much time worrying about gifts and such. I have been flexible with planning, being sensitive to my family's needs. In my heart, I feel I kept things simple, but I know I did not allow myself to go deeply into the mystery of Advent. I want that. I feel like I have lost precious time.

But, now, I have new motivation. Next week, we will still bake a batch of cookies each day (mostly because I see cooking with my children as a sacrifice for me, a gift to them). My husband and I will still snuggle on the couch for one or two favorite shows. I will still spend each afternoon cleaning the house, but I will be doing it with a prayerful attitude. My pledge is to reduce excess noise.

These are my hopes. Christmas is coming. Christ is coming. I need to open this mother's heart to His joy, His peace, and His mercy. As Mother Teresa said, "In the silence of the heart, God speaks." Will you join me?

December 18 --- O Adonai

O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!



Stand up for your convictions...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Third Friday of Advent

Seek reconciliation...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Antiphons

There are many ideas out there for praying the O Antiphons that begin today, including the novena I just posted. I have very simple plans for us this year.

We will pray the Antiphons with our Advent Wreath in the evenings as they are prayed in the Divine Office. We say the Antiphon, pray the Magnificat, and repeat the Antiphon. Before or after dinner, depending on timing, I'll have the children color the images here to hang as decorations. That's it.

If you want more wonderful, creative ideas, these sites are amazing!


Detailed Explanation of Antiphons - http://www.fisheaters.com/customsadvent10.html

Jessica's Fun Plans - http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2009/12/celebrating-o-antiphons-our-plans-for.html

Charlotte's Fun Adaptations - http://tiredtwang.blogspot.com/2009/12/o-antiphon-activities.html

Jessica's Amazing Antiphon House - http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2009/12/o-antiphon-house.html

Mary Ellen's Links to More Amazing Ideas - http://maryellenb.typepad.com/o_night_divine/celebrate-with-o-antiphons.html

Christmas Novena

I am a day late posting this nine-day prayer, but perhaps your family would like to start this today and finish on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve. I find these prayers are too intricate for my little ones to keep up with, but older children may be able to help make this a beautiful, peaceful, prayer time, incorporating the O Antiphons. The words are simply breathtaking, in my humble opinion.


The Christmas Novena
http://www.wf-f.org/ChrisNovena.html

December 17 --- O Wisdom

O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!



Learn your history...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Third Thursday of Advent

Comfort the sorrowful...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Keeping Your Focus?

I overheard a conversation between two fathers this weekend that both saddened me and inspired me to keep my focus on what is really important, especially as the children become more giddy with excitement as Christmas rapidly approaches. It reminded me that most parents in our culture are teaching our children a set of priorities that are clearly inconsistent with the Gospel, and I want to do things differently.


I have made up names for clarity, as I do not know the fathers, but it appeared they each had two children. Their exchange went something like this...


Bob - So, are you two going to have any more children?

Sam - She wants more, but no way. Once you have the third one, you have to start cutting corners and giving things up. I want to be sure I can give them everything possible. With three, you just can't do that. You have to drop the lessons or the sports or the schooling or the gifts. After all, that's what it is to be a Dad, right? Providing it all for your children.

Bob - Oh, yes, I know what you mean. Absolutely. I want my children to have everything, just like my parents gave me everything I ever wanted or needed.


(I wanted to cry, but I said a prayer instead as I walked away.)

Third Tuesday of Advent

Contemplate joy...



http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Model Life

I've been reflecting on the Holy Family more this Advent than ever before for some reason, and this prayer by Mother Teresa stood out to me the other day. I may have to post this somewhere in our home and say it daily. It is just so...complete! May it bless your family, as well.


Heavenly Father, you have given us a model of life in the Holy Family of Nazareth. Help us, O loving Father, to make our family another Nazareth where love, peace, and joy reign. May it be deeply contemplative, intensely eucharistic, and vibrant with joy.

Help us to stay together in joy and sorrow through family prayer.

Teach us to see Jesus in the members of our family, especially in their distressing disguise.

May the eucharistic heart of Jesus make our hearts meek and humble like his and help us to carry out our family duties in a holy way.

May we love one another as God loves each one of us more and more each day, and forgive each others' faults as you forgive our sins.

Help us, O loving Father, to take whatever you give and to give whatever you take with a big smile.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, cause of our joy, pray for us.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Holy Guardian Angels, be always with us, guide and protect us. Amen.

~ Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Second Thursday of Advent

Listen closely...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stations of Christmas


One of the most unique ways I have found to meditate on this season of Advent is the following Stations of Christmas. In the original article, each station is accompanied by a reflection and prayer that helps to draw one into the emotional journey of the Holy Family similar to the Stations of the Cross in Lent.


If you are looking for a special way to help your family focus on the reason for the season, this might be a meaningful addition to your Advent prayers and a great way to remind children of the entire Christmas story. The meditative nature of the stations might also be appropriate for group settings at prayer groups or parishes. Find the full text here at Disciples Now.



1. The Annunciation.

2. The Visitation.

3. Joseph's Vision

4. The Journey

5. Arrival in Bethlehem

6. The Manger

7. The Nativity

8. The Heavenly Choir

9. The Shepherds' Visit

10. The Star

11. The Epiphany





© Liguori Publications

Excerpt from Advent: A Quality Storecupboard. The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Second Tuesday of Advent

Acknowledge your sins...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Obedience

"Obedience makes us most like Jesus and one with him. If we really obey, it is a constant crucifixion." ~ Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Wow. This one spoke to me late last night. No wonder it is soooo hard!

First Saturday of Advent

Let Advent into your home...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Thursday, December 3, 2009

We, Who Have So Much to Do


One of my favorite prayers for the beginning of Advent...



Advent Prayer by Henri J.M. Nouwen


Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.


We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.


We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.


We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.


We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.


We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.


To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"


Amen.




First Thursday of Advent

Pray for patience...

http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Monday, November 30, 2009

Courage ~ Little Flowers Girls Club Meeting!

These ideas were developed by me for my local group and are not a part of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® created by Rachel Watkins. To purchase the excellent materials and begin your own local group, please visit www.beholdpublications.com

What fun we had at our November meeting! I am posting the notes a week later than I hoped, but Thanksgiving week was a bit rough around here. Our virtue for November was Courage, and we learned about Blessed Margaret Pole. Here is what we did...

As usual, we gathered for prayers and began with our offering, my spontaneous prayers, and a Hail Mary. I had forgotten the song sheets, so we skipped our St. Therese Song to my dismay. Then, I went right into presenting the virtue.

I asked the girls what courage means. We talked about some ways you can show courage and some people they know who show courage. I reminded them that courage is NOT about just being different but in choosing to do the right thing. We talked for a few minutes about people who make difficult choices that are the wrong choices, and how those people are not courageous.

Then, I told them the story of David and Goliath from the Bible to remind them how we can have courage. I had found these three (1 2 3) songs written by Steve Case and read them like a very long poem to tell the story of David. This was great, because it kept the girls' attention, as every once in a while, I paused and let them guess the missing rhyming word! I stressed how David took five stones but only had to use one, because he knew God was on his side. We also discussed how David was probably afraid of Goliath (and should have been) but faced him anyway. I wanted the girls to understand that we should be afraid of some things and that there are some fears we should face with courage.

Next, I asked the girls to share specific examples of when they showed courage. This was wonderful. I reminded them that it takes courage to be yourself and to be the Christian God created you to be. We talked about how their families are courageous for homeschooling and being devoted to their Catholic faith, because sometimes it's not easy to do these things. But, of course, it is the right thing to do. I also reminded the girls that the way to grow in any virtue is to practice that virtue, so they must find ways to be courageous in order to be stronger.

The flower for this virtue is the yucca flower. It is mentioned that the yucca plant is one of the hardiest plants that blooms and grows in desert climates. Just like courage that grows under difficult situations, the yucca flower blossoms without much water and under a very hot sun.

Next, we went to the craft tables and made our craft of David's Bag of Stones. For this, I bought these simple canvas bags at Oriental Trading Company. We decorated the bags with fabric markers and fabric paints and then put five neutral colored pom-poms in the bags. I encouraged the girls to write courage or draw something that would remind them of David relying on God to be courageous, so they would remember the meaning even when the pom-poms are gone. I thought these turned out really cute!


Next, the girls went with a mom to their small rose groups to different corners of the room. They were each given a piece of scrap paper and something with which to write. Each girl was told to write or draw all the things of which they are fearful. After the girls were all done writing or drawing, they crumpled up their papers all as a group and said "God is with me!" to remind them to conquer their fears. I had taped up the face of a giant very high on the wall to represent Goliath. So, then, they took turns throwing the crumpled fears at Goliath's head to see if they could hit him, also saying "God is with me!" as they threw the paper. This was simple, but the girls really seemed to enjoy it.

We took a snack break next. Then, we played my improvised version of Marco Polo. I took three girls, one from each rose group and had them start with their eyes closed as the Marcos, but their job was to say, "God is..." The rest of the girls (Polos) had to say, "with me!" as they tried to stay away from the Marcos. When a "God is..." tagged a "with me!" the "with me!" had to close her eyes and become a "God is..." until everyone was caught. I also turned off half of the lights to remind them not to be afraid when they cannot see. This was a hit! The girls really seemed to have fun with this simple game!

Next, we sat down again and talked about Blessed Margaret Pole. First I explained why she is not called Saint Margaret Pole, since she lived a life of virtue and was a martyr but no miracles are necessarily attributed to her intercession. I explained about her noble history, growing up in a castle and such and being related to kings and queens. She married Sir Richard Pole, which made her Lady Pole, and she became a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine and later the governess to Princess Mary Tudor.

Some of the girls were familiar with the concept that King Henry VIII did not like Catholics, but I only briefly mentioned it was because he wanted to marry another woman, saying that he wanted to be more important than the Pope. We talked more about how he started killing the Catholics and imprisoned Blessed Margaret, eventually having her beheaded as an old woman. I stressed that she was known as a very virtuous woman and prayed for her murderers before her death. We agreed that all the martyrs showed great courage.

The girls returned to the tables to make their Courage virtue pages. This went much more smoothly than last time, except for two glitches on my part. I had one too many quotes to fit on the page, so some girls just left them off or put them on the back. Also, some generous moms make my copies for me after I email them the files, and the font I used for the word Courage came out as nonsense. So, we gave the girls blank white paper to write courage and helped the littlest ones write theirs. It worked.


Finally, we gathered to sing the Scripture song for courage and close in prayer. We all prayed the St. Therese Prayer, and I read the girls' prayer intentions, including an adorable one about the "pig flu," that made us all giggle. We asked our saint friends to intercede for us, and then, I passed out Mercy patches to those girls who had turned in their patch project sheets at the beginning of the meeting. As they left, the received the patch project sheet and practice page for Courage.

Our next meeting in December will be on Joy, a perfect virtue to discuss as we approach Christmas!

Per the request of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® I have removed the downloadable patch project sheets and practice pages. If you are interested in learning about how I used these documents in my group, please contact me directly.

Christmas Anticipation Prayer

Last year, a friend led me to this beautiful traditional prayer, and it has been a simple way for me to focus on the season of Advent. It starts today!



Beginning on St. Andrew the Apostle's feast day, November 30, the following beautiful prayer is traditionally recited fifteen times a day until Christmas. This is a very meditative prayer that helps us increase our awareness of the real focus of Christmas and helps us prepare ourselves spiritually for His coming.



Hail and blessed be the hour and moment


In which the Son of God was born


Of the most pure Virgin Mary,


at midnight,


in Bethlehem,


in the piercing cold.


In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God,


to hear my prayer and grant my desires,


[here mention your request]


through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,


and of His blessed Mother.


Amen.







First Monday of Advent

Dream a little...



http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

First Sunday of Advent

Waiting in Hope...



http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1103.asp

Prayer and Anticipation --- Advent



Happy Advent and Happy Church New Year! What a joyous, peace-filled, waiting time! Our children are waiting with such anticipation. Can it really be 27 days until Christmas? There are so many fabulous activities and reflections to do during this season, and the Catholic Church is so generous in giving us these four weeks in which to prepare not only for the coming of the Infant Jesus at Christmas but for the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Last Day.




I am hoping, during Advent, to post many of my favorite prayers, devotions, and reflections for this time of year. For several years, I hosted a weekly women's prayer group in my home during Advent to enable us to stop and focus on the spiritual aspects of this season and not get overwhelmed by the secular celebrations and family traditions. So, first of all, here is one thing I will do.




For years, I have used some simple little daily reflections for Advent that I found in an old issue of Catholic Update here titled "Advent: Waiting in Joyful Hope." I highly suggest you click on over every day and read the short (3-5 sentences) reflections to help you prepare your heart for the coming of Christ. Each day I will post the link to this page to remind you to read today's reflection. So, if you subscribe to me in an RSS feed or Google Reader or similar way, you will have a daily reminder to pause for five minutes and reflect on Advent. (Note that the Scripture included with the reflections are not the daily readings but provide an additional way to meditate on the meaning of each reflection.)




Additionally, every few days I will post or link to one of the prayers or readings that we used in those Advent women's prayer groups several years ago. My hope is that these little moments of prayer will enable our Advent season to be truly a time of patient waiting and not frenzied anxiety. Please feel free to send me your favorite meditations for this season, as well, and perhaps I'll include some of those!




Finally, as the children and I discover or rediscover some special story or activity, I want to share those with you, as well. I cannot promise how regular this will be, but I have just picked up a ton of new Advent and Christmas books from the library to enjoy these four weeks. So, I hope to post those titles that particularly touch us and encourage you to share them with your families.




On a personal note, I finally went to Confession and took that baby step. The grace from that sacrament has already filled me with such a great desire for prayer that I am excited about renewing my relationship with my friend and Savior, Jesus Christ this Advent season. I am also focusing my children's catechesis this month on becoming more intimately familiar with Jesus, hoping they, too, will befriend him more deeply. Thank you for your prayers for me!




May God bless you in your active waiting, as you prepare your hearts and homes and families for the coming of Jesus, the light in our darkness, the companion on our journeys.




Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanksgiving for God

I know I already posted about Advent, so I am doing this backwards. But, I believe as a homeschooler that I have an awesome opportunity and responsibility to turn the week of Thanksgiving into a truly spiritual experience for my family. Here are a few resources I plan to use this year to do that.


I am sure there are other fabulous sites out there, but these are helping me get going! Let me know what great Christian/Catholic Thanksgiving traditions your family has! I am, of course, leaving out the simple traditions I brought from my family, like making our own butter (terribly simple version of shaking heavy cream in a well-sealed plastic jar for a really long time) and watching the Macy's parade.

13 Days and Counting!

Advent really is that close? Are you ready to prepare your family prayerfully for the coming of Christ? I am not even close to being ready! Panic time!


First step, compile all of my wonderful resources from websites and blogs online, so I can reap the wisdom of other fabulous moms and liturgical gurus! I figure I will share this with you, just in case you have any gaps, although I am sure everyone (but me) is totally set with their plans, right?!


And, of course, we have a great number of favorite books we read this time of year not listed above, and I have not even mentioned searching 4 Real Forums, which I usually do once I have a better outline of my plans (as if what is above is not overwhelming enough!). I will probably make one last order from Oriental Trading Company for some simple fun crafts, and we always have our Jesse Tree and Advent Calendar (with chocolates) for daily inspiration.


When I get my final plans put together, I will try to post them. As always, they will be too ambitious, especially for me this year, but I am hoping preparing my children for Christ’s coming will motivate me to put a little more effort into my internal preparation!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Style Workboxes

This post is for those of you who know a little about workboxes but are overwhelmed by the thought of putting them into practice or having all those boxes around!

The idea of workboxes appeals to me, especially the part about how independent it makes your children and that they gain ownership of their schoolwork. The practicality of having that many boxes in my living room, which is where we homeschool most of the time, does not appeal to me. So, this summer I wanted to see if I could simplify the idea to work for me. My only rule was not buy anything, so if it did not work, I would not regret it.

To assemble one set of workboxes, I took one of those plastic milk crates designed to hold hanging files and nine hanging file folders. I labeled the folders one through nine. I printed out a table from Word that I created with the numbers one through nine. I put a small post-it note in each hanging file with a fun sticker on each note. Then, each evening, I filled the folders with work and activities for the children to do, attaching a larger post-it with instructions when necessary. That's it!

Admittedly, we only used the folders for a week or two, because our summer schooling got derailed several times. But, the children did enjoy them. They liked being able to rely on themselves and knowing what comes next. We mostly did the folders in order, but sometimes the children were allowed to skip around (like when an activity required Mom's help and Mom was busy or when both children were supposed to do the same thing but one was not finished with another work). I enjoyed having everything set out the night before, since I am not a morning person, as well!

This school year has gone really well for us, all things considered. I have felt like our short lessons, Charlotte Mason style, with tons of living books have really made learning meaningful for all three of us. Recently, though, I have not been feeling well and have had a hard time getting moving in the morning. We also have had some discipline issues, and so, I resolved the children needed more responsibility and more structure.

I brought out the crates again on Monday, and while it has not been a perfect week, for the first two days both children began schoolwork before I even asked them to get started! Filling the folders (we are using twelve, now, instead of nine) has forced me to find work the children can do independently, so they are not relying on me for every single folder. Instead of post-it notes, I printed out some fun number clip art I found in Word, floral numbers for my girl and walking numbers for my boy. The children know they must finish their first eight folders before recess and do the remaining four before lunch.

I would post pictures, but the crates are not really that attractive. Like I said, I used what we had on hand. I feel like this is a good level of commitment for me. I can use the folders when I feel we need them and put them away if they do not fit our style of schooling at that time. I am not sure if we will use them during Advent, since our schooling is so different during that season. But, I can imagine pulling them back out in January to motivate all three of us to keep going and avoid burn-out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Avoiding Action

Dryness. It happens to us all. Something happens in our lives, whether good or bad, and we fall away from prayer. We forget the spiritual progress and vision of holiness and become dull. It has happened to me before. It is happening again. And, every time, I must be the one to take the first significant step back towards God and let Him do the rest.


When we are dry, wandering aimlessly, moving through days in a fog, how is it that we can begin again? I spent days pondering this thought, noticing my quiet time with God had evaporated into moments here and there, between movements from one chore or task to another, getting into bed, getting out of bed. And even then, my prayers were either a determined "I will praise Him...no matter what" (as if I was trying to convince myself rather than actually do any praising) or a whining "Lord, help me!"

I realize that many saints have experienced a dark night of the soul, but I distinguish dryness from this in that dryness is due to my failure to act. While I do not know much about those dark nights, I have read a little and have seen that those saints stayed faithful and kept praying and hoping even when they felt abandoned. So, that is why I distinguish the two; I might be wrong.



Anyway, I am not known for being very decisive. I can be opinionated, yes, but when it comes to making simple decisions about which I do not have strong feelings or the choice isn't really important, I am not your gal. Remember sitting on a curb in summer with your best friend in junior high? --- "What do you want to do?" --- "I don't know; what do you want to do?" --- That's me!



But, I have been asking God to help me here. There is so much going on in my life that I know this dryness will not be overcome by indecision, and it is too easy to just let it be. And, of course, He has given me a few ideas. Here they are, in no particular order. Writing them might just help me choose one and act, since any one would be a significant step, at this point. Warning - you're about to see the cynic in me.



1. Go to Confession. I have lots of excuses for this one. No mortal sins. No time. No good priest. Not convenient. Children.



2. Go to Adoration. I am avoiding this, because I am pretty sure I will just cry, and I am so tired of crying. I do not want to whine to God, and when I do that, I feel worse rather than better. Silly me.



3. Read a spiritual book. Most of the books on my "to read" shelf are spiritual in nature. None of them appeal to me. It's like I just don't want to hear it, right now. So, I'm reading the Lord of the Rings. Talk about avoidance!



4. Resume a daily Rosary. I already say a decade a day with the children. The Rosary has never really been my thing; I've always prayed it more out of duty. How can that really help?



5. Journal. I abandoned my journal months ago, because it was all about me whining to God. I'm not sure what to write or say to Him at this point.



6. Pray for others. This one is the best option, I think, but it seems like slipping in the back door, avoiding the real issues. What do you think?



In sharing these, I realize that my real problem is that all the words I want to say/pray to God are whiny, and I am terrible at being silent. Now, I know there are more baby steps I could take. Can you give me some more ideas to make my decision even more challenging?!



The bottom line is that God and I are in a stalemate. He is waiting for me to act. I am avoiding Him. That can't be good. Please pray for me and feel free to tell me what you think I should do. If you're in a similar spot, let me know which one you did or will do soon!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Begin Again...

It's November already. I miss blogging. I am in a quandary, though. While I want this space to focus on a mother's personal spirituality, there are just some things too personal to share in a public space (in my opinion). These past few months I have not been in a place to offer encouragement to anyone. Months ago, I wrote about the importance of being real, but sometimes real life is just ugly. Who wants to read that? We all have enough of our own ugly.



So, now I sit here, wondering what to write, what to share, where to start and desperately wanting to reconnect with this ministry. I cannot begin to explain the past few months and what God has asked of me. I cannot express the attitudes and thoughts that have torn apart my mother's heart. I cannot communicate the loneliness and distance I have felt from everything and everyone. All I can say is that I have been blessed by the gift of faith, for it was certainly a gift and nothing of my own power.



My faith is in a God whose timing is impossible to predict or understand but is absolutely perfect in His way. When has He confounded you? I have begun to see that one minute of joy and laughter can change a bleak day into sunshine and a crusty heart into smiles of love. What moments of joy did you find today? I know that each day will be more challenging and more glorious than the last, because He knows what is best for me, despite myself. These are mostly lessons in humility, I suppose. How does He teach you humility?



Today, I will begin again, from where I am. I will enjoy writing about the things I love. I love my family. I love my vocation. I love my God. And, I hope this space will lead you to His love more deeply. For He wants to know how much we love Him, but He wants us to know how much He loves us more!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Uncanny

This is just too bizarre not to share!!! Look what you can buy at Old Navy. This is not a joke.













HT to AMP who says, "Someone call Old Navy, Jesus wants His Sacred Heart back." :)

Scary Bedtime Prayers

With all the questions I've been getting about why we don't do witches, bats, spiders, and bloody body parts around here, and the answers I've been giving about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, this video made me laugh so hard I was crying! Maybe you'll relate. I love Tim Hawkins! Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

He is Awesome!

I will praise you among the peoples, Lord; I will chant your praise among the nations
For your love towers to the heavens; your faithfulness, to the skies. Psalm 57:10-11

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mercy ~ Our First Wreath II Meeting!

These ideas were developed by me for my local group and are not a part of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® created by Rachel Watkins. To purchase the excellent materials and begin your own local group, please visit www.beholdpublications.com

What a joy it was to begin a new year of our Little Flowers Girls Club last Friday with so many enthusiastic girls! We are doing several things differently this year to give things a fresh start and make them more manageable for me. Most significantly, we are only meeting once a month instead of twice a month. This means our meetings are longer and more packed, since we only get to learn about each virtue at one meeting.

Friday's meeting was on the virtue of Mercy. This year I have 26 girls registered, which is delightfully different than the 47 I had last year. Part of this is due to a group being formed of girls who used to drive quite a distance to attend our meetings; they will start this week with seven girls. We are meeting at one of the local parishes which is especially supportive of our homeschooling group, 1-4PM.

Our meeting began with lots of buzz as the girls arrived and received their nametags. We only had one new girl at this meeting, and several families were sick. I believe 8 girls were missing. I had a lot of supplies to organize for this meeting, so I was busy with that! Finally, though, we began in prayer. To demonstrate some consistency from last year, I began with the same daily offering as before, added a few spontaneous words applicable to our meeting topic, and we all prayed a Haily Mary. Then, we sang the Little Flower song that is on the Little Flowers CD, having learned it at our end-of-wreath-one party a few weeks ago; I had handouts with the words.

The offering is:

Mary, holy Mother of God, our dear guardian angels, blessed saints of God, and especially you, St. Therese, take us under your protection this day, pray for us, and defend us from all dangers. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Then, I invited the girls to get excited that our meetings are going to be longer this year (although less frequent) and reminded them it will be extra important to participate fully and give me their attention from the beginning all the way to the end of the meeting. With slightly skeptical faces, they assured me they would. I retaught our chant, which is what I use to get their attention when they are otherwise occupied. I say, "God is good!" They respond, "All the time!" I say, "All the time!" They respond, "God is good!" The key to this is that as soon as the chant ends, their mouths are closed, and their eyes and ears are on me.

I told them that is basically our only real rule for our meetings besides some other things we might want to practice, like loving our neighbor, humility, industry, etc... We went through all nine virtues from last year, and I told them I expected them to practice these virtues at our meetings, starting with love of neighbor. So, to get the girls moving, we played the popular game from last year - Do You Love Your Neighbor?

This is where the girls all sit in a circle (we had chairs this time) with one less chair than there are girls. One girl is in the center. She says, "Hi, my name is N." Everyone responds, "Hi, N. Do you love your neighbor?" She responds, "Yes, especially those..." and inserts a descriptive phrase about something some of the girls are wearing or how they look (i.e. wearing sandals, with brown hair). Everyone who fits that description must get up and find a different chair, including the girl in the middle. Usually, a new girl ends up in the center, and we start all over again. I like this game, because no one loses and we learn names.

Then, we sat down and talked about mercy. I kept my presentation relatively short, knowing we had a lot to do. First, we talked about God's mercy, how He showed us mercy in the Bible, and how He shows us mercy in our lives, and in Confession (although thinking back, I may have been distracted and forgotten to mention Confession, oops). Then, I explained how our practice of mercy is imitation of God's mercy, and that mercy is more than just forgiveness. It is generosity and compassion, too, overflowing and given when not expected. The girls kept focusing on forgiveness, so I hope they will remember mercy goes deeper than "I forgive you."

I asked them to whom we should show mercy. We decided we must show mercy to our family, our friends, our extended family, and sometimes even strangers. At that, I reminded them briefly of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy we discussed last year for Love of Neighbor. I pulled out my booklet and read through some of them to help them remember, and most of them seemed to remember at least a few works of mercy. Hooray!

Next, I made an impulsive move to do our hardest craft first instead of last. Good change! I shared with them that the Lily is the flower for mercy, because we usually see lilies at Easter, when God showed us the greatest act of mercy by dying and rising for us. Lilies are often cream-colored, so I told them cream is the color for mercy today (but that we were going to make white lilies).

Our craft was to make handprint lilies based on this craft idea from Enchanted Learning. Instead of paper, though, we used craft foam to make them a bit sturdier. We also added a yellow pipe cleaner cut in half and folded in half for the stamen. So, here were our steps:
  1. Trace your hand on a half sheet of white foam with a pencil.

  2. Cut out the handprint.

  3. Fold a half of a yellow pipe cleaner in half and twist it around the end of a green pipe cleaner.

  4. With a big glob of glue, glue the pipe cleaners where they meet to the bottom edge of the hand. Affix with a paperclip if needed until dry.

  5. Roll the hand like a cone, so the pinky finger and thumb overlap. Glue them together. Affix with a paperclip if needed until dry.

The most amusing part of this craft was how different the four-year-olds' lilies looked compared to the nine-year-olds'! So sweet! Pictured are mine, my 7 year-old's, and my 4-year old's. Ours took overnight to dry, so I was glad we did them first. It allowed them some time to sit before they were transported home. Our littlest girls really needed help tracing their hands and cutting out the fingers. I was grateful one of the mothers donated plastic tablecloths to cover the tables and protect them from glue; we will reuse them at each meeting this year!

Next, I had the girls go into small groups to discuss mercy a bit more. Last year, we did this activity using M&Ms; this year, Skittles were on sale! Each small group went to a different corner of the room with a mom. Each girl started with two Skittles and answered the questions according to which colors she had. Once the girls answered their questions, they got to eat their Skittles. Here were the "questions" I used:
Purple – Name one of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy.

Green – Name a way you can show mercy to strangers.

Yellow – Name a way you can show mercy to friends.

Orange – Name a way you can show mercy in your home.

Red – Name a way God has shown us mercy in the Bible or in our lives.
As I wandered the room, these discussions were precious. I love hearing the girls come up with their own ideas, and the mothers do such a great job of letting the Holy Spirit guide the conversation! When they were done, we took a snack break, having teased their appetites with only a few Skittles each. Our moms take turns signing up to bring drinks or snacks each time, and this is a great time for the girls to relax, chat, and play.

Next, we gathered back in our circle to discuss our next activity. This year, I am having the girls make virtue pages like Jessica's at Shower of Roses. I used most of her content but changed fonts and colors a bit to save on color ink. Once I explained the plan, I sent the girls to the craft tables. This day, we made a cover sheet and the Mercy page. The girls absolutely need glue sticks for this. Many of them only had white glue, and it got pretty messy.

Anyway, the cover sheet was a pastel color of their choice with the words Little Flowers Girls Club in fancy font, a picture of St. Therese, and their names. Some decorated with markers, too. The Mercy page was on cream construction paper cut to standard paper size with a picture of St. Faustina receiving the Divine Mercy image and a lily in color. All the text was in black. The older girls cut their items fancy or decorated, while the little ones kept it simple. They are all beautiful!

I gave the girls a plastic report cover, with the sliding binding, in which to put the two pages when they were finished. I had originally thought about going with something sturdier, but most other options cost too much. Plus, I have a huge box of these in case any get damaged, lost, or broken. Then, I passed out their Member's Guides to color St. Faustina. I had the idea to let them listen to the St. Faustina Glory Story while doing this, but even though they were obedient in working quietly, the general noise of cutting and gluing in a large room made it hard to hear. We reviewed the whole story afterwards, since some of the girls had heard it before.


I wanted to do one more game that specifically referred to mercy in some way at the end. I think the game made its point but wasn't one of our most fun. From here we played the Goodness and Mercy Will Follow Me game (scroll way down) as we recited Psalm 23:6. Because of limited time and space, I had the girls take turns and not everyone got a turn. I need to find a way for us to go outside without interacting with the schoolchildren there (that's why we're supposed to stay inside). Oh, and I mistakenly only gave the girls two footprints each, so it was harder. Regardless, it was another way to drive mercy into their minds!


Finally, we gathered to sing our Scripture song. I print the words out in advance and tape them to a big poster, so we can all sing with the CD. The little ones can't read, but surprisingly, many of them pick it up. Then, I had the girls sit and listen to my explanation of the two handouts we are using this year. The first is the Patch Project Sheet, just like last year. I feel like the activities in the member's guide are limiting, so I try to include an additional page of ideas for the girls. The girls were very excited to hear that I would be passing out patches at the end of each meeting this year. I reminded them that they do not have to get their project done by the next meeting; that is up to each girl and her parents. With such busy lives, I do not feel deadlines help the girls or their families. Additionally, there are some virtues which take longer to understand or practice. If one of the girls wants to do a big project that takes longer, she should have the time.

Also, this year I am giving the girls a second sheet each month. It is the Virtue Practice Sheet. This one has a few limited ideas on how to practice mercy on a daily basis in simple ways and a picture of a bare bush. The idea is the girls will hang this in their home and for the next month will add a flower to the bush every time they practice mercy. They can draw the flowers or use stickers. I hope this will reinforce the lesson throughout the month, since we will not discuss mercy again as a group for an entire meeting.

Our closing prayer was like last year. This time, I printed and taped the words to the St. Therese Prayer from the Member's Guide on a poster, so we could all say it. Many of the girls know it just from saying it at each meeting. Then, I read the intention list the girls where the girls wrote their intentions throughout the meeting. During the Skittles game, I took the clipboard to each small group to remind them to do this. Their intentions are always so precious! We always close by asking our friends St. Therese and the saints for this wreath, St. Faustina, to pray for us!
Next month is Courage!

Per the request of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® I have removed the downloadable patch project sheets and practice pages. If you are interested in learning about how I used these documents in my group, please contact me directly.

Monday, October 5, 2009

House with an Open Door

I am not a scholar. So, I enjoy learning new tidbits in regards to our faith. Yesterday, our pastor gave a typically wonderful homily in which he gave the literal definition of the original Hebrew word for woman in Genesis.

It made me think. It make me ponder. I have dwelt on it for almost 24 hours, and it means more to me each hour. In fact, it has challenged me in a fabulous way. Here it is for you to consider...

Woman means a house/home with an open door.

Isn't that amazing?! Tell me what you think! (this isn't usually a comment-heavy blog, but I would love to hear what this means to you)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spiritual Progress

The prayer my soul has been groaning for a few weeks (Rom. 8:26) has finally found words in this poem I found in Karen Andreola's Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning, and in finding the words, the new life seems easier to find, as well.



Kindly spring again is here,
Trees and fields in bloom appear;
Hark! The birds with artless lays
Warble their creator's praise.

Where in winter all was snow,
Now the flowers in clusters grow;
And the corn, in green array,
Promises a harvest-day.

Lord, afford a spring to me,
Let me feel like what I see;
Speak, and by thy gracious voice,
Make my drooping soul rejoice.

On the garden deign to smile,
Raise the plants, enrich the soil;
Soon thy presence will restore
Life to what seemed dead before.

by John Newton



***keep in mind I live in South Florida, so since we do not really have seasons, these sentiments echo in my soul more than in the natural world around me!

Join a Guinness World Record!


This sounds like a lot of fun! Go to Read for the Record to sign up!


Dear Friends,

I am happy to announce that my book The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the official book in Jumpstart's Read for the Record campaign this year.

The goal of this program is to set a Guinness World Record for the number of people reading the same book on the same day to children around the world and to shine the spotlight on the importance of early literacy.

On October 8th, all around the world, more than one million people are expected to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I will be appearing on the Today Show in New York to help celebrate. Hopefully a record will be set, bigger than ever before!

Sign up at Jumpstart's web site to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and be a part of this year's Read for the Record!

Eric Carle

Thursday, October 1, 2009

T is for...Teacher's Guides

I am so excited! Thanks to Jen's post at Wildflowers and Marbles, I just found out that many of the Sleeping Bear Press alphabet books that Elizabeth and friends at Serendipity got me hooked on have free PDF teacher's guides to go with them! Are these great or what? Some of them are a bit advanced for my little ones, but what great ideas for rabbit trails and older students.



These are the titles that I own, so far:


D Is for Democracy: A Citizen's Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

M Is for Masterpiece: An Art Alphabet ~ no guide available; I wonder why

M Is for Melody: A Music Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

P is for Passport: A World Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

R Is for Rhyme: A Poetry Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

S is for Story: A Writer's Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide



A few titles I don't yet own but look fabulous...


A is for America: An American Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

B Is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

B is for Bookworm: A Library Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

G is for Galaxy: An Out of This World Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

I Is for Idea: An Inventions Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide


L Is for Lone Star: A Texas Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

P Is for Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide


S Is For Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide

V Is for Venus Flytrap: A Plant Alphabet ~ Teacher's Guide



I could go on and on, but I won't! I only checked the two state books, but since they have books for all 50 states, I would assume other states have the guides, as well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Housework Chaos?

Overwhelmed by the mess? Drink the graces here...slowly savor them...



So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Cor. 4:18



Then, head on over to Ann's place to read more beauty about Things Unseen.

Too Bright?

I was making the bed this morning, and the morning sun coming in through our bedroom window (which faces directly east) was intensely bright, causing me to squint, cringe, and shade my eyes. The thought instantly came to my mind that this is how I feel about God, right now. If I pray a little or read a little from a spiritual book, it's too bright for me. I have to stop after just a tiny taste. Interesting insight into why I have not gotten (back) into any prayer routine lately. Anyone ever feel this way?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where Am I?


I know it has been a while, since I have posted anything meaningful. I have excuses, but I will not share them here. Without sharing the external details of what has been going on here the past month, I have finally determined where I am internally and why I just do not know what to write. My heart and mind have been pondering very deep, eternal things lately, in bits and pieces anyway, and I just cannot decide if I want to or need to share them, and if so, with whom. Let me try to explain.


We had a family vacation planned for this past week for quite a while (since March), but due to certain circumstances, my husband was not able to take off much time to go. So, I invited a friend to join us for the time he would have to go back to work, a friend whom I have not seen in over a year and hold very dear to my heart. The plans were all set. I was talking through in my head the things I wanted to share with her about the past year and the past month, all of these deep thoughts, many questions I wanted to ask her, and ideas to bounce off of her. It was going to be quality time with a true spiritual companion (and her adorable children!).


As a family, we had a fabulous time, probably the best day and a half we have ever had as a family of four! What a precious gift to my husband and all of us (thanks, Mom & Dad, for the trip)! Then, my friend called to say her children were sick and could not come. The next morning, my children woke up sick with what sounds like the same cold virus. In the chaos that ensued, I had a wonderful time with my children, as we took short trips out to the pool and/or beach when they were up to it. Through it all, I simply prayed the Lord would speak to me, despite my inability to endure much quiet or set aside prayer time due to my frustration with the whole situation. I put no effort into talking to Him or listening to Him, though; it just was not in me - pathetic, I know. I left it all up to Him.


But, of course, He still spoke. I started realizing in tidbits when I was lost in thought around afternoon naps and mindless cable television at night that my desires to share my struggles and joys in conversation with my friend in person were too much about me. The Lord reminded me about the hidden monastery of my domestic church and that sometimes we have to suffer alone, like Our Lady. It is said that her most painful suffering occurred between Christ's Ascension and Mary's Assumption, the time she was left alone to ponder her own deep thoughts in her mother's heart. And, I realized maybe I did not want to share all that anyway.


You see, I thought my friend could be the voice of God for me. I thought her encouragement and joyful spirit would be golden, and I know that it would have been if she had come! What really happened is that in being physically alone for the rest of the trip, I discovered how lonely I am in my heart, and more importantly, that there is no remedy for that loneliness other than God even if I do confide the depths of my heart to someone. (pity-party stops here)


This is not, because I have no friends. I have been blessed with a group of wonderful friends here (although no one, yet, with whom to have those deep conversations), and I still (barely) keep in touch with a variety of precious friends from around the country to whom I could turn in this situation and would definitely be a balm to my soul. The reality of it is that the thoughts I am having do not need to be shared with someone to be validated or cured or whatever else I think I am seeking. Just as I have shared before, I need to embrace this cross as my own, let these thoughts settle in my soul, and become comfortable with them residing there, maybe forever. Does that make sense?


So, here I am, alone in my mother's heart, learning to live with the crosses and blessings He has chosen for me, and trying to find peace with it all. This is what we all do, isn't it? But it has to be like this. It is His will. He is forming me by fire, even as I can barely say more than a few words to Him or listen to a few seconds from Him. He knows what I can handle and is spoon-feeding me bit by bit the grace I need despite myself.


He is awesome.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Trials and Punishments...


Are Blessings from God and Proof of His Mercy


"A glove is not more fitted to a hand or a sword to a scabbard than what He does and ordains in us and for us is suited to our strength and capabilities, so that everything may serve to our advantage and perfection if we but cooperate with the designs of His providence. "

from Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure, S.J. and St. Claude de la Colombiere, S.J.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Offline for a While

Due to some recent unexpected family events, I am going to take a blogging break. Sign up for my feed or add me to your reader, so you know when I come back... I will be back! :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Watch My Latest Webinar!

On Thursday evening, we held our Meet & Greet for moms to learn more about the online, interactive Bible study I am co-hosting for Homeschool Connections. If you want to watch the recording and learn more about our plans, click here (it's about an hour).

There are still a few spaces left for the study! Here are the details on that. Go here to sign up now! (If you try to sign up and get directed to the waiting list, please sign up, we are considering opening up more spaces!) The basic information is...


We will meet every other Thursday evening,
September 3 through November 12 at 8:30-10:00PM Eastern.
by Kimberly Hahn (moms read two chapters to prepare for each meeting).
The cost is $10 to go towards a scholarship fund.
All you need are the book, an Internet connection,
speakers or earphones, and a microphone.


Let me know if you have questions!