Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: God Is With Me

I'm always on the look out for good storybooks I can read to my younger children as well as my kindergarten religious education class.  Recently I received a sweet book entitled God Is With Me Always and Everywhere.  The title is one of the books in the Faith Foundations line from Pauline Books.  The books in this line seek to help build the foundation of faith in young children.

In this book children learn that from their baptism day onward, God is with them every day and everywhere they go.  The story has sweet illustrations and a rhyming style that will keep little ones engaged.

The book is a good introduction for little ones who are just beginning to learn about God and his loving care for each and every one of us.  As a kindergarten catechist, I feel this book will be an excellent story to share with my little students, especially those who will be haven't had much or any exposure to their faith prior to coming to religious education.  This story will help to plant seeds of faith and a confidence that they are loved by God.

The story is well suited to children in the preschool to first grade age range, but the story is short enough that even toddlers can enjoy it.  My two and a half year old likes this book and has brought it to me to read several times.

I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Media for more information on this title or to purchase.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: The Catholic Baby Name Book

I don't know if this is the case with most parents, but I always find naming my baby to be a weighty task.  Here you are charged with naming a person for the rest of his or her life and that's no small matter.  When my husband and I are picking out names for our children we are looking for names that are family names and names of saints.  We like family names because they give our children a connection to their lineage and saint names because we want them to have a patron saint as a holy example to follow.

I didn't exactly rely on baby name books with my first three children.  Between having a great selection of female family names and wonderful corresponding patron saints for those names, we really didn't have to fret too much over the names for the girls.  But, throw a boy into the mix and you get one set of stumped parents, especially when most names we like wind up with initials that spell things that aren't exactly monograms you'd want your child to shoulder for life.
So when it came to naming Anthony, we needed a bit of naming help so I turned to The Catholic Baby Name Book.  This book offered thousands of baby name suggestions.   So we took our lists of names we were considering and then browsed through this book to see if there were any other names we liked better or would work as a middle name.  Then I took a look to see which saints were associated with the names we liked as well as what each name means.  Ultimately, we ended up sticking with the names we were originally considering, but it was nice to learn a little bit more about the names we were choosing for our son.

These days there are all sorts of "trendy" names out there that have no real meaning and that can muddy the waters a bit if you're hoping to find a name for your child that is complimentary to your faith.  So with that in mind, this book is nice because you may find that the trendy name you're considering, if you go that route, actually has a connection to a saint.  That was the case with my godson's name.  There isn't a St. Miles, but when we looked up his name in this book we found that his name is actually derived from Milles and there is a St. Miles from the 4th century A.D.

So I guess the bottom line here is this:  If you need help coming up with a baby name, or you want to find a name for your baby that is relevant to the Catholic faith, then this is a good pick.

I was provided with a copy of The Catholic Baby Name Book by the publisher, Ave Maria Press, in exchange for my honest review.   Visit Ave Maria Press for more information on this book.  You can also purchase a copy of this book by visiting Amazon.com.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Christmas in July Brother Francis Review

Today is "Christmas in July" so I'm going to tell you about another Brother Francis DVD that I should have reviewed about seven or eight months ago.  Why did I take so long?  Well, there was the pregnancy related exhaustion and the nausea which was induced by looking at any sort of screen or text, and then there was the serious strep A infection from the cut on my finger just weeks before Christmas that posed a nice threat to both the baby and my well being which pretty much limited my using my right hand for a couple of weeks.  And by the time all was once again well with me, Christmas had come and gone and Lent was on it's way.  Sigh.  So that's the nickel tour of why I'm reviewing a Christmas DVD and companion coloring book in July.

In Brother Francis The King is Born children will learn about the true meaning of Christmas.  As with other episodes of Brother Francis, I love how well our faith is explained to little ones in a way that is right on their level and in a way that they will take to heart.  In this episode, Brother Francis beautifully explains how Christmas isn't just about getting gifts and having parties, but rather, it's all about celebrating the birthday of Jesus.  The segment where he explains this is sure to reach little ones.

As children watch this DVD they will learn the story of the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah and the birth of John the Baptist, along with the stories of the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity of Our Lord and the presentation.  Throughout the episode there are some great songs some of which, you and your child may already be familiar with.

My youngest daughter was glued to my laptop when I put this DVD on for the first time since Advent.  She's seen this episode many times but I've never seen her so drawn to it like she was today.  When it was over she wanted to see more.  How awesome is that?  As a parent, you can't help but be thrilled when your child wants to watch such good program that helps in laying a solid foundation of faith.  I really can't recommend the Brother Francis series enough.

When I received the DVD of "The King is Born," I was also sent a copy of the companion Coloring & Activity Book.  The book is filled with coloring pages and activities that are appropriate for children between the ages of pre-school and second grade.

This DVD is great not only for sharing with your own children toddler through age ten, but it's also ideal for a religious education class.  I have shown several of the previous Brother Francis episodes to my kindergarten religious education classes over the years and they're always a hit with the kids. 

I was provided with review copies of The King is Born DVD and the companion Coloring & Activity Book by the publisher, Herald Entertainment, for the purpose of this review.  Visit Brother Francis Online for more information or to place an order.  Christmas will be here before you know it!  This episode will be the perfect way the help prepare the hearts and minds of little ones  for the Christmas season this Advent.

Book Review: The Story of Saint John Paul II A Boy Who Became Pope

Sometimes when children's books arrive on my front doorstep I'm the one who's the most excited about the book.  When a copy of The Story of Saint John Paul II A Boy Who Became Pope showed up at my house shortly after his canonization I was really excited.  St. John Paul II is easily one of my favorite saints.  Picture me doing my best Buddy the Elf impression when he heard that "Santa Claus is coming to town.  10AM tomorrow morning.  10AM..." when he started screaming "Santa!  I know him!" Only 1. I didn't scream Santa; rather I squealed with delight, and 2. I didn't personally know JPII like Buddy knew Santa, but he was pope for most of my life and I've always liked him, even when I wasn't Catholic.  You get the idea.  SUPER.  EXCITED.

So if just seeing the book got such a strong reaction you're probably wondering about the story, right? Of course, you are.  Well let me say that the story does not disappoint.  The story beautifully recalls the life of St. John Paul II from his very beginnings to the day he becomes pope.  The story is told on a level that will grab the attention of children in the 5-10 year old age range.  I read the story to my 2 1/2 year old and she happily sat and listened to the story and looked at the pictures.  So even younger preschoolers who are accustomed to listening to longer story books would enjoy this book.  I'm already looking forward to sharing this book with my kindergarten religious education class during the upcoming school year.

The illustrations in this book are simply beautiful.  Page after page is filled with rich illustrations.  I really liked how each of the illustrations matched the mood of the story unfolding on the page.  Not all picture books have illustrations that correlate with the story as well as this one does.  Children will enjoy looking at the pictures while listening to the story.    

Aside from the beautiful story and illustrations, I really like that this story is told in such a way that will help younger children to know St. John Paul II who is fondly remembered by so many of us who remember when this saint was alive.  Since the story follows JPII from infancy to his pontificate, it nicely illustrates to youngsters that it's never too early to start striving for sainthood.

I was provided with a copy of The Story of Saint John Paul II A Boy Who Became Pope by the publisher, Pauline Kids.  Visit Pauline Media for more information on this title as well as a sneak peek inside the book.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What We're Reading Wednesday

I think it's been ages since I've joined the WWRW link up, but here I am.  Between not really being able to read while pregnant and then being insanely busy adjusting to life with a new baby while directing VBS for our parish I've been in what I'd call a reading drought.  But this past week or so I've been able to carve out time for books and it's been amazing.

Anthony, like Katie, is content to sit and listen to longer story books.  Yay!  The end of last week and throughout this week we've been pulling out some of our old favorites like Strega Nona, The Clown of God, and Pascual and the Kitchen Angels.  Katie's love of Tomie DePaola is still going strong.

The other day she decided to break out of her usual standbys and give Big Anthony: His Story and Strega Nona's Magic Lessons a try.  Both are nice stories and I like how we get to see more of Big Anthony's antics.  Big Anthony's failure to follow directions keeps us all amused, but I'm finding that Strega Nona is really such an amazing example of patience.  She could so easily tell Big Anthony to hit the road and never come back, but she's exudes a quiet patience with him and just bears his many faults and keeps him around.  I know these books are written for kids, but I'm obviously getting something from the story, too.

Reading these stories around Anthony is funny.  Every time I say Anthony or Big Anthony while reading he looks around and raises his eyebrows.  Evidently he recognizes his name already.  How cool is that?

I wrapped up reading Fearless: Stories of the American Saints this weekend.  I really enjoyed the book and will be reviewing it soon.  I felt like I was reading the backstory of many saints who are mentioned in Madeline's 8th grade Seton History book.  Love that I was able to essentially prepare for her history class and read a book for my own enjoyment at the same time.  This book won't be available until the Fall, but it's worth adding to your reading list.

So for years and years now I've heard people going on about G.K. Chesterton.  I've read quotes here and here and read a few excerpts but nothing has really pulled me in, but still I've wondered what all the fuss was surrounding him.  I've gone down this road with J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and each time I've traveled this road I've been happy that I have.  So last night I started reading G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.  What I've read so far I like but I'm going to wait until I done with the book to say one way or another whether or not I like it.  I approach authors like this with the assumption that I'm not going to like their work, and then, if I do, it's a bonus.

Visit Housewifespice to check out what others are reading this fine Wednesday.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Quick Takes Baby Cuteness and Soccer

Last week at his 2 month well visit my adorable little fat man weighed in at 12lbs 11oz.  I think most of that weight is situated in those squishy chubby cheeks and his little second chin.

Seriously, look at how big those cheeks are!  They're so big they wound up taking over another quick take!

I'm hardly ever in any pictures with any of the kids so I had Bryan take a few of me with Anthony the other day.  Of the ones he took I liked this one the best.  Since my kids like to steal my blog photos all of the time (they don't care when I point out the copyright notice on the sidebar of the blog) this is one they can use when I die and they're putting together one of those photo memory boards.  Got it Madeline?


Anthony's been exhibiting some pretty good head control lately and is getting a bit tired of his swing, playmat, bouncy seat and boppy pillow.  So we added a little variety and put together the bouncy entertainer thing I got as a review product a while back.  He can't bounce and jump in it yet or even reach the toys but he seems to like just sitting there and taking in the sights.
My older girls are at a Team First Soccer Academy this week so I had a rare 45 minutes of quiet yesterday while Katie and Anthony napped at the same time (Woot!).  I took advantage of that time and finished up reading a advance copy of Fearless, which I really enjoyed.  With two pages left of the book I heard Anthony stirring and decided that since he wasn't crying I had time to finish reading.  Umm, yeah.  See how he's on his belly in the above picture?  That's not how he was sleeping.  So while I finished reading about St. Katharine Drexel, this little guy decided to roll from back to front and rotate his body 90 degrees when I wasn't watching.  Arrgh!  Little Man, don't you know that you aren't supposed to hit milestones when Mommy isn't watching?!

Today was picture day at Team First Soccer Academy.  The ladies in the red shirts are soccer legends Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tish Hoch.  The girls are having a great time at the camp and so is Bryan who is one of the volunteer coaches.

Katie's too little for this soccer camp, but she really wanted to be in a picture.  Who knows, maybe when she's older our soccer club will host this camp again.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} VBS 2014

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life.

Last week was VBS week.  I switched VBS programs this year so the new changes and additions made my job as director a bit more challenging than years past, but it all came together nicely.  Our theme this year was Living in God's Kingdom from Loyola's Catholic Vacation Bible School book.  I was so pleased with the way the program turned out this year that I'm already looking forward to using the other two themes that are in that book for the next two years.

One of the crafts the kids made at VBS was a prayer card holder.  Each day the kids received a new holy card to color and take home.  The color your own holy cards seemed to be a hit with the kids.  We laminated all of the cards each day which made them look really nice.

I have some amazing friends who help me out with VBS each year.  I'm convinced that the program wouldn't be as great as it is without their help and passion for teaching.
I think I also have some of the best student volunteers.  This year I was the only volunteer with kids young enough to need a nursery so I scrapped the nursery knowing that my little ones wouldn't stay in there and instead had two awesome assistants who not only helped me a ton with relaying messages for me and delivering things to classrooms, but they also spent most of their time holding Katie and Anthony while I ran around doing all the things that I needed to do to make sure everything was running smoothly.  

Ever since last year, I like to tease Deacon Al about what costume I'm going to have him dress up in for VBS.  Originally I wanted him to be a jester to go with the medieval kingdom theme, but I never got around to ordering him a jester costume.  I was delighted when a friend of mine came in with a monk costume.  We were all amused to meet "Chip Monk" as he went from class to class with his Italian accent talking to the kids.  I have to start thinking about who he will dress up as next year.  I think he secretly enjoys dressing up in these costumes.

My main goal with VBS is to plant as many seeds of faith as possible hoping that some of what the kids learn will take root.  My approach is to infuse as much Catholic culture and prayer into the program as I can.  Most of our crafts include a prayer.  For the prayer card holders the kids made we included a prayer for vocations.  It was an idea that just came to me one day and the more I thought about it the more it made sense.  Our parish presently has a seminarian who is studying in Rome and we now have three more young men from our parish and/or young adult youth group who are entering the seminary this fall.  I had one of our new seminarians do a video on Divine Mercy for the campers and in his video he explained what a vocation was and what a seminarian is to help this prayer make even more sense to the kids.  Who knows, maybe our parish will see even more vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the coming years.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {P,H,F,R} and Clan Donaldson for more Vacation Theme Thursday posts.

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