Thursday, September 30, 2010

Small Successes-September 30th


Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

Is today really the last day of September?  I'm shocked at how fast time seems to be flying these days.  I've been preoccupied with the unnecessary drama that has filled my days over the past week and am not feeling overly successful.  Last Thursday night it became evident that not everyone appreciates the time I spend preparing and planning in order to teach their child's religious education class.  Hearing people loudly complain about me when I have poured so much of myself into this volunteer position is difficult.  As if that drama isn't enough, we're once again dealing with soccer drama surrounding Madeline's team.  The coach along with my husband and another team dad who assist with coaching this team (also volunteer) are feeling frustrated, but on the bright side, the parents of the kids on the team appreciate their efforts.  Clearly this past week has not been volunteer appreciation week!

1. Laundry is done.  Not only did I get everything washed, I also folded, ironed and put it all away with the exception of three items that came out of the wash after I put the iron and ironing board away.

2. I remembered to bake cupcakes for Ellie's back to school night yesterday, and I even remembered to bring the cupcakes to the school.

3. I wrote a post about Madeline's soccer experience that touched her coach. (I appreciated a volunteer!)  The link to the post along with an email praising his efforts and the difference he has made for several girls was sent to some of the board members of our soccer club.  I'm hoping that my words will help smooth ruffled feathers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: Through The Year With Mary

I recently had the opportunity to review Karen Edmisten's Through the Year with Mary.  The book is composed of 365 reflections on the Blessed Mother.  The reflections, as you can probably infer from the book's title, are in dated order starting with January 1st.

For each day, there is a quote from another source, such as John Paul II, several saints and many notable Catholic authors.  The quotes, most of which are very inspiring or thought provoking, are followed by a brief reflection added by Karen Edmisten.  Her reflections will lead you towards a deeper insight of the wisdom contained in the quotes from which they proceed.  This beautiful collection of thoughts on Our Lady will serve to inspire and deepen your relationship with Mary and Jesus.

The reflections contained in this book are deep enough that you could easily ponder them over the course of a day.  Of course, if you haven't much time, you could just as easily take a few minutes a day to reflect on them and still grow stronger in your relationship with Mary.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Mary and would like a book with daily reflections about her.  This book is surely bound to become a treasured favorite of mine.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Servant Books.


From time to time my kids will use a word in conversation that makes me pause and marvel at how well they grasp the English language.  My mom mentioned to me years ago that she found it interesting that I didn't speak to my kids like they were babies when they were.  From the time they were newborns  I would talk to Madeline or Ellie like they could comprehend those 50 cent words college professors love to see when reading your latest term paper.  My reasoning was simply that they would learn the words and their proper context by hearing them used in everyday  conversation.

When my kids learned to talk I was always delighted to hear them use a word that was commonly used by me but not by others in contact with them.  I recall one time when Bryan pointed out that Madeline liked to use the word splendid (a word he thought I had made up) when describing things she liked at age two.  It made me feel rather splendid that she had learned such a lovely descriptive word from me.

Today as Ellie was eating her after school snack, a delightful little cupcake made by moi this morning, she was telling me about her day.  I was letting her ramble on about her day when she demonstrated that she knew how to use the word randomly in proper context.  She was telling me about how her friend had randomly sat next to her at school today.  This friend likes to sit next to different kids all the time from what she tells me, so I suppose her friend's presumably deliberate action appeared to be a random act in Ellie's mind.

I can't wait to see how their vocabularies expand as they continue to grow.  Who knows, there may come a day when Bryan doesn't understand half of the words they use!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: Jesus Calling

Sarah Young's Jesus Calling 356 Devotions for Kids is a devotional that is supposed to be geared to young kids and tweens.  Having paged through the book I suspect the publisher is a bit off in their target range.  I think this book is better suited for tweens to teens.  I simply don't see a child who is 7 or 8 using this devotional effectively.

The devotional has an appearance that looks fun and inviting while possessing a vintage look at the same time.  It's a cute book, and that alone may inspire some kids to pick and up and use it.

This particular devotional book is ordered by the calendar year.  Each day has a heading followed by scripture.  The reflections are written as if Jesus is talking to your child.  I liked how the reflections were written in a way that makes Jesus feel like a good friend talking to you.  It makes the devotional and a relationship with Jesus something that feels approachable for kids.  The reflections are followed up with a "Read on your own" section that has more Bible verses to be looked up.  If you have a child who isn't very good at looking up scripture a year with this book will certainly help your child become very familiar with finding verses in their Bible.

This book is suitable for gift giving and has a dedication page.  Since the devotional starts on January first, it would make a nice Christmas present.

I think this is a nice devotional but I'm wouldn't recommend it for Catholic children given that many verses that are taken from Protestant translations of the Bible.  Of course, this devotional is published by a Christian publisher and not a Catholic one, so that doesn't surprise me and I can't fault the book for not being Catholic.  If I were looking for a devotional for a Catholic youth, I'd want to see something that followed the liturgical year and highlighted major feast days.

I was provided with a free review copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How I Came to Embrace Being a Soccer Mom

I didn't want to be a soccer mom, ever.  When my husband and I made that fateful decision to buy a minivan nearly five and a half years ago, the first thing I said was "I will NEVER be a soccer mom!"  I drew the line at driving a minivan.  There would be no transformation into the stereotypical suburbanite minivan driving soccer mom.  No way!

Then it happened. My child who had been content with dancing and showing off her amazing technique and deportment on the dance studio floor had had enough.  No longer did she want to learn to be a graceful ballerina or an energetic tap dancer.  She now longed to be on an open field of green grass in a pair of ugly black soccer socks and cleats.

I gave in and agreed to let her give soccer a try.  But, I was adamant, this didn't make me a soccer mom. I'd go to the games and freeze my butt off as I watched her stand around on the soccer field picking clovers and reassure myself that this soccer thing wasn't going to last.  The coach, didn't know what he was doing and he hardly ever showed up for practices or games.  His son, after all, was "on the travel team."  This recreation league for six and seven year old girls was clearly just for fun.  Give them a ball and let them chase after it.  Surely, this didn't make me a soccer mom.  I was in the clear.  Recreation league soccer does not make one a soccer mom.  Phew!

Since I wasn't a soccer mom, I didn't argue when my daughter asked to play Spring soccer.  I had heard that Spring soccer was even more laid back than Fall soccer at our club, so that meant that I'd be in for more of my daughter gazing at the sky while the other kids played, or some dandelion picking.  What I wasn't expecting was an actual coach for my daughter's team.  But that's what happened in the spring of 2009.

It started with an email that made me think we had a delusional person on our hands.  The coach sent out an email that outlined goals he wanted the girls on his team to strive towards and a few video attachments of skills the girls should work on daily to develop ball handling skills.  The team also had a name.  It was the Mighty Ducks.  "Are you kidding me?"  I asked my husband as I read the forwarded email.  Then he mentioned that there was even a team chant that the kids had to learn.  As we listened to the attached wav file with the team chant I began to wonder just what we had gotten ourselves into.  We hadn't even met the coach for our first practice yet and already it seemed like we were in for a totally different soccer experience.  I mused to my husband that maybe this is what soccer is like when your kid has a coach.

My focused little Mighty Duck
Once practices and games began that Spring it became evident that our Fall soccer experience had been a joke.  The Spring soccer coach was larger than life.  He had energy, he was eager to teach the young 6 and 7 year olds on his team everything he could about soccer and most importantly, he had passion.  At the end of the eight week long Spring soccer season my daughter had gone from being a kid who would stand on the field and do nothing or worse, the kind who would try to kick the ball and miss, to actually being a decent little soccer player.  She wasn't fast, and she didn't score goals, but she had learned how to pass the ball and defend her team's net.  By May of 2009, my daughter was no longer the kid on the field who stood around looking lost.  She had direction and was learning how to play soccer.  Best of all, she was loving every minute of it!  Not only were the girls on our team having a blast and developing soccer skills, they were also learning great sportsmanship.  If we played a team that didn't have enough girls to field a team, our coach would give some the players on our team to our short handed opponents so the game wouldn't have to be forfeited.  Playing the game and having fun was more fun than gaining a win.

Using skills learned in the Spring against the Fall 09 Ducks
When it came time to sign up for Fall soccer for 2009 there was no question.  She was playing.  Now that we knew what it was like to have a real coach for our child, we wanted to stick with him.  Unfortunately for us, some issues within our soccer club saw Madeline and two other girls removed from this phenomenal coach's team and placed on teams that didn't even have a coach.  My daughter was upset because she couldn't stay with her team.  She even considered quitting, but my husband convinced her to stick with it.  In the end, Bryan stepped up and coached Madeline's team.  We weren't the best team, but we did well.  We attribute our successes to the fact that we utilized the same types of training drills and stamina building exercises as the Mighty Ducks.  Unfortunately, we just didn't have that great team camaraderie with the new team that we did with the old coach.  We missed being part of the Mighty Ducks family.

At the end of the Fall season the awesome coach from the Spring approached us about playing indoor soccer.  Instantly we told him we were on board.  I didn't want to be bothered with indoor soccer but if it meant my daughter could be on his team and continue to grow as a player, then I was all for it.  She played two sessions of indoor soccer that spanned four months of Sundays.  I only went to a couple of the games, but my husband who was now an assistant coach would come home and tell me about how Madeline and the rest of the team were progressing.

About to score a goal!
When Spring soccer rolled around this year we were beyond delighted that Madeline was once again a Mighty Duck.  This Spring Madeline really blossomed as a player.  She developed good ball handling skills and not only became a good defensive player, but she even managed to score a goal here and there.  She didn't compare talent wise to some of the other girls on the team, but she was a solid supporting player.  I could tell that she had grown as a player, but I wasn't convinced that she was particularly good.  Her coach and other parents, however, would comment that she was playing really well.   When we played a tournament in June I began to realize that my daughter really was becoming a decent soccer player and it was then that I realized that I am, indeed, a soccer mom.

For those of you wondering just how someone knows they're a soccer mom here's how I realized it:  When you find yourself at a soccer tournament eyeing up things like six seater fold up team benches, folding chairs with umbrella attachments and little canopy tents and wishing you had them for yourself, your child's team and your fellow soccer parents, then you know you are a fully vetted soccer mom.

We had some doubts as to whether or not Madeline would be able to continue to play under her coach this fall.  Because of the excellent training and direction given to her team by her dedicated coach there had been many parents who were upset that our team was as skilled as it was.  Sadly, in this day and age where many people have lost sight of the fact that life isn't always fair nor is it supposed to be, several parents of children on teams that had lost to our team had complained to the powers that be in our soccer club.  These seemingly misdirected complaints threatened our team and caused many of our team members to be scattered to other teams this fall.  Thankfully, Madeline and a few of her teammates were kept together.  The four girls who were kept together for this fall were by no means shining stars during the Spring season.  They were just solid team players that do their best to execute the skills learned during practice on the playing field.

Protect the ball! 
We're three games into the Fall season this year and once again, the Mighty Ducks are a nice cohesive family unit.   The parents get along and so do the girls.  The girls are proving that they can put what they're learning at practice into play during game time.  I tend to sit with two of my fellow soccer moms and we marvel at how far our daughters have come under the tutelage of our phenomenal coach.  These are girls who were once just like Madeline was in the Fall of 2008: Kids who were clueless on the field and drifting somewhere in La La Land.  Now our girls are stepping up and proving themselves to formidable members of their team.  They're proud of what they've become and they owe it all to the incredibly dedicated coach who cheers them on every step of the way.

I know for Madeline this entire experience has been more than just learning to play soccer.  Her coach has taught her to persevere.  He has taught her to be confident, even when her opponent is bigger and more skilled.  Because he has instilled in the team that they are a family she has bonded with her teammates and that bond makes the team stronger and more confident.

Great coaches, like teachers, have the ability to touch and change lives.  It has been a blessing and a privilege to have Coach R. coach my daughter over the past 18 months.  It is my sincere hope that he will continue to be her coach for many years to come.  I believe she can go far in the game of soccer with this phenomenal coach.  Coach R. truly has a gift for taking any player that comes his way and moulding her into a soccer player.  And mothers who are firmly resolved to not be soccer moms?  Yeah, he can convert them into the biggest cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Texting Towards Humility

Sometimes my carelessness can result in a major dose of humility.  Tonight brought me one of those moments.

Since getting a cell phone with texting capabilities thirteen months ago I have had a few blunders when it comes to texting.  Given that I average less than 100 text messages a month I suppose you could say that I simply haven't gotten the hang of things.  You could say that, but I can't blame my meager texting for my being careless.

Nine times out of ten the person I'm texting is Bryan, so I naturally assume that he's receiving any text I want to send him on a whim.  On several occasions I have texted my best friend with things intended for Bryan.  She will usually text back and tell me she's not Bryan or something like that when I send a nagging text about him not taking out the trash or something the kids did that aggravated me.  Other times, I have texted Bryan and in reality have sent something to our sixteen year old babysitter.  For some reason, she always gets those text messages that I wish only Bryan had seen.  I'm not sending anything salacious to him, but just things pertaining to money matters or other things of that nature.

Tonight, I was feeling unwell from some food I had eaten and instead of grabbing my laptop as I dashed upstairs, I grabbed my cell phone.  A few minutes later I was texting Bryan lamenting about some food containing fire sauce that I had earlier in the day.  Then, I suddenly thought to look and see who I had just texted.  Yup, I sent it to our neighbor, the sixteen year old babysitter.  I immediately told her to disregard what I had sent her, but her initial confusion about the texts had faded and she totally got what I was getting at in my texts to Bryan.  She and I are so even.  Both of us have so much embarrassing dirt on the other that neither could successfully blackmail the other.

Isn't it great when technology is able to help me serve up a nice heaping dose of humility to myself?  Bryan and I had a good laugh about the whole situation and I learned that I really do need to check who I am texting before I hit send.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: Little Acts of Grace 2

Little Acts of Grace 2 is a sweet book that teaches small children ways they can show their love for Jesus in doing small things.  The book is 47 pages in length.  Unlike many story books geared to children this book is broken into several different sections.  You could read this book all at once, or you could take it a small section at a time.  All of the sections, but one, are four pages in length comprised of two pages of text and two pages of illustrations.   The text tells children very simply the ways they can grow in holiness and show love to Jesus and others by lovingly doing small kindnesses and acts. Each section concludes with a scripture reference.  The illustrations are filled with ways that show the acts of grace mentioned in the text along with other objects that can spark talking points, such as rosaries, prayer cards, divine mercy images and so on.

This book is essentially a continuation of the catechesis presented in it's predecessor, Little Acts of Grace.  We have the first title and I actually think the two books combined are a great way to teach young children how to behave at Mass as well as explain why we do some of the things that we do while we're there.

My daughter, who is five, really enjoyed this book and the other books from this line of books.  She likes to see what the tiny church mice who are seen on just about every page of the book are doing.  She also searches the illustrations to find Jesus and other items that she recognizes from church.  This book piqued her interest in the sanctuary light and the tabernacle and she tells me she's going to show me where they are at Mass tomorrow.  I doubt she would have wanted to go through this book and the others from this series looking for the tabernacle and sanctuary light in the pictures if she hadn't learned about it in this book.

My daughter likes the book and the illustrations.  Given that it's a book geared to children, I would say that her opinion of the book matters more than mine when it comes to the illustrations.  I'm torn on the illustrations.  Some of them are really nice to look at and others just look creepy.  I can be critical of illustrations at times so I asked my husband what he thought of them and he agrees that many of them are of the creepy variety.  I suppose what is most puzzling is that Jesus' appearance changes from illustration to illustration.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Little Acts of Grace 2 and be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts while you are there.

I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Is this the magic time slot?

It's fall and that means that life is a bit hectic these days.  School is in session, soccer season is in full swing and CCD has resumed.  All of that is fine, but I'm getting grumpier with each birthday invitation that has darkened our doorstep over the past few weeks.  The problem?  It seems that everyone loves having a birthday party between the hours of 4-6PM on Saturday night.  I could not dislike the timing of these parties more.  It requires me to miss Mass at our usual time (4PM) and prevents us from attending Mass at our second time preference (5:30PM), as well.  Even worse, it requires me to wake up at 6AM the following morning so I can take the girls to 7:30AM Mass so that I can make it to my 9AM CCD class on time.  I could go at another time on Sunday, but that requires me to either starve my kids before a soccer game or rush to get them washed and dressed for Mass at 6PM on Sunday evening.  There's no happy medium.

If my kids were so intent on going to these birthday parties I'd love to say "Sorry, we can't come, we have a prior engagement." (Which in all honesty we do, attending Mass.)  I know if I decline party invitations to take the girls to Mass that they will be miserable, and so I will need to reshuffle once again next weekend.  I hope my girls appreciate what I do for them.

Bzz Bzz: Elmer's and X-Acto Scrapbooking

I'm a BzzAgent for which is a really cool company that does word of mouth campaigns for all sorts of products.  Most of the time when I Bzz about the product samples I receive from them to people I know personally because often the campaign includes coupons to give to friends or little samples of the product.  This time I got to participate in a campaign that was craft products and I can't help but tell you all about them.

I'm not a scrapbooker by any means.  I've tried to get into it, but I just don't have the time and patience that it requires.  I am, however, into doing fun crafts, so the tools and adhesive products that I got to try out are right up my alley.

I squealed with delight when I opened up the package from BzzAgent filled with all sorts of crafty goodies.  There were Elmer's CraftBond acid free-archival safe adhesives like an all purpose glue stick (Who doesn't love a good glue stick?), permanent tape runner (Perfect for making layered birthday invitations!), a clear glue pen (Great for projects that require precision glueing!) and sticky spots.  My mind began to race with all the great projects I could do with these adhesives.  I'm sure many of them will come in handy when it's time for a school project.  The permanent tape runner is one of my favorite types of adhesive.  It allows you to quickly bond papers together for layered projects and the best part is there's no bulk and no wasted time waiting around for the adhesive to dry.  Simply roll the adhesive on and pop the next layer into place.  It's that easy!  It's my favorite type of adhesive to use then I'm making birthday party invitations.
My box of goodies also included some fun cutting tools from X-ACTO's Desinger Series.  I had two pairs of decorative edge scissors and a corner rounder punch.  The decorative edge scissors allow you to make fun edges on your scrapbook pages or on cards and invitations.  I received a scalloped edge scissor that makes cute little edges that are great for girly invitations.  The ziz zag edged scissors are nice for making fun little goodie bag tags.  The corner rounder punch is a nice tool for rounding off the edges of homemade greeting cards, photos and other projects where you don't want the run of the mill squared off edges.  I played around with this punch and and found that you could make little North Star shapes by folding a paper in half twice and putting the folded edge in the punch.  The scrap come out looking like the North Star.  That happy discovery may find itself in a Christmas craft this year.
These cool products from Elmer's CraftBond and X-ACTO Designer Series can all be found at your local Wal-Mart.  They have a whole range of craft and scrapbooking items there in the memory keeping aisle.  The Elmer's CraftBond projects are priced between $2-$9 which seems pretty reasonable considering you can pay a lot more than $9 for things like the Permanent Tape Runner at craft stores.  The X-ACTO Designer Series products range in price from $2 to $20-also very reasonable when you compare that to prices at your local craft store.

Disclaimer: I was provided with free samples of the products mentioned above in exchange for sharing my honest opinion of the products with others.  I was not required to generate positive Bzz for the products.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review: Twenty Tales of Irish Saints

I recently had the pleasure of reading Twenty Tales of Irish Saints by Alice Curtayne.  This book is a lovely collection of legends about some of Irelands saints.

I found all of the tales to be well written and quite delightful.  My nine year old daughter has been enjoying reading about Ireland's saints.  She's used to reading books about saints that are a bit more dry, so she was surprised at the lighter tone of this book.  Of course, just because this book is fun doesn't mean your child won't be learning about the saints.  Children who read these stories will still learn what makes these twenty saints so special and how they chose to serve our Lord.

This book is best suited to an older child who will happily read a book that isn't illustrated.  There are many  little illustrations worked into the capital letters that are "illuminated" throughout the book, but there are no full page illustrations found in the book.  The lack of illustrations does not detract from the book in my opinion, but I know such things are important to some people when they are looking for a book for their child.

I found the author's storytelling to be very engaging.  A child who is interested in reading about saints and Ireland will be sure to delight in reading this book.  I liked that my child was able to learn a bit about her Irish heritage while reading this book.  I believe the original intended audience of this book was Irish children based on the fact that the author makes many references to regions of Ireland and local customs that she references the reader already knowing about.  In those instances, a reader who is not native to the emerald isle may feel like they're out of the loop.  I suppose when it comes to references to specific regions, it might not be a bad idea to have a map of Ireland so your child could plot out where in Ireland each saint lived.

Overall, it's a nice book that is sure to captivate and enthrall many young minds.

I was provided with a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, Sophia Institute Press, in exchange for my honest review.

Small Successes-September 23rd


Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

This week I'm in what I call survival mode.  Bryan has been away on a business trip since Sunday and I'm doing my best to stay sane and hold everything together at home while he's away.  The secret behind why I'm not a crazed puddle of goo right now is pink, yellow and red Starburst candies.  I've probably eaten close to two pounds of them in four days.  Don't tell my dentist!  And, let's not tell the kids in my third grade CCD class that I decided to eat the candy I intended to give them.

1. I managed to pull off seeing both of my girls play soccer this Sunday when they had games at the exact same time.  I saw Madeline score the first goal of the game twenty seconds after I returned to her field after dropping Ellie off at her game.  Then, I managed to get a few pictures of Ellie actually kicking the ball at her game.  She generally chases after all the other kids and rarely makes contact with the ball during a game so I was just as thrilled to see her kick the ball as I was to see Madeline score a goal.

2. I have been really good at figuring out the technical things at home, like how to make sure the alarm clocks are set, without having to call Bryan in a frantic state.  I even figured out how to enable the sound on a cool set of laptop speakers I reviewed for Amazon Vine, and I learned how to pair a blue tooth headset to my phone.  I'm feeling very accomplished with my electronic successes.

3. The kids have consistently been fed, bathed and had their teeth brushed each day.  Madeline has made it to school on time each day (Ellie's late every day because I have to drop Madeline off first.) and both kids have been picked up from school right on time.  We all miss Bryan while he's gone but we're managing.  Poor Mr. Furkins seems to be having the hardest time.  He faithfully waits for his best friend to walk in the door each evening and is visibly upset that he hasn't been home.  He grows confused when he hears Bryan's voice on speaker phone or over iChat.  He'll be one happy puppy when Bryan walks in the door on Friday morning.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Absolute Green Kids Natural Bug Repellent

I'm a min-van driving soccer mom, and as such I'm very familiar with a very annoying problem.  Bug bites.  Yes, while it's great to sit in my folding chair on the sidelines of a soccer field and watch my kids play I'm keenly aware of the fact that while we're outside mosquitos and other irritating flying and biting creatures look at me, and my kids like we're dinner.  Can you tell I'm not a fan being a food source for bugs?

I've mentioned in the past that I'm not a fan of bug sprays that contain DEET, that lovely chemical that can repel bugs and can pose health risks to people at the same time.  Perhaps the bugs are  just smart and that's why they stay away from the bug sprays with DEET.

Finding a DEET free bug spray that is safe to use on my kids has been a challenge for me for several years.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when a bug spray labeled "for kids" or "for families" contains DEET.  It's not safe for kids and slapping a colorful label on a product and saying it's for kids does not make it safe.  Most of the time, because I can't find a safe bug spray we go without it and simply hope that we don't get eaten alive by the bugs.

Recently I was asked by the folks over at Absolute Green if I'd be interested in trying out their Kids Natural Bug Repellent which is a DEET-free bug spray.  With soccer season looming ahead of me I instantly told them I'd be happy to give it a try.

This past weekend I finally got the perfect opportunity to try out their all natural bug repellent.  As I sat and watched Madeline's soccer practice I took notice of the mosquitos circling my head.  I laughed at them knowing that we had come to practice prepared.  Ellie and I sat on the sidelines protected with Absolute Green's Kids Natural Bug Repellent.  Ordinarily, we would have come home from the practice covered in itchy bug bites, but that night we came home bite free.

I told the other mom's about the spray and how we weren't getting bit and they were certainly interested. One of them asked to try it out.  She commented that the spray had an interesting scent (that would be the lemon eucalyptus oil) and then remarked that the arm she sprayed looked like it had been moisturized when compared to her other oil.  Sure making your skin look and feel nicer wasn't the purpose of the bug repellent, but it's a nice side effect.  I particularly like how this spray doesn't leave your skin feeling stick and gross like many of the chemical sprays on the market do.

I have to say that I'm very pleased with this bug repellant and I'm quite happy that Absolute Green gave me the opportunity to try it out.  I think we finally have a bug repellent we can trust to do the job and keep our family safe at the same time.  Watch out mosquitos, were no longer on the menu!

I was provided with a sample of Kids Natural Bug Repellent by Absolute Green in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Planning for Christmas yet?

I think it's been revealed on my blog more than a few times in the past couple months that my thoughts drift to Christmas almost as soon as Pentecost has passed.  In reality, I actually start to think about next Christmas about one day after Christmas has passed.  I'm a planner through and through, what can I say?  But for the sake of argument, I'll place the blame on the people in our neighborhood who decorated their house for Christmas on September 12th this year.  I have no idea why they're decorated for Christmas before Halloween and Thanksgiving, but they are.

Most of the year I try to keep my longing and preparation for Christmas quiet, but as my mind drifts towards wanting to wrap presents, I'm also thinking about new ways for my family to celebrate the season with more meaning.  Last year we added a home made Advent wreath to our decorations and holiday traditions.  This year we'll be sporting a real Advent wreath on our dining room table since the homemade one was a hit.  I'm even going to make a better effort at doing a Jesse tree with the girls.  Last year's feeble attempt didn't exactly get off the ground, or printer tray for that matter.

We'll also be helping the girls explore their Slavic heritage this year by introducing an old Christmas tradition: Oplatki.  Oplatki was a tradition I had heard about in the past but I was unaware that it was also  practiced by Slavic people until recently.  After learning more about the tradition of Oplatki I decided it would be a great way to to teach our girls about their great grandmother's heritage while underscoring the importance of togetherness and unconditional love for family at the same time.  Something tells me the girls are going to go nuts over the Optlatki wafters embossed with a picture of the nativity.  They both have a thing for nativity scenes at Christmastime.

Have you given any thought to how you'll be celebrating this Advent and Christmas with your family?

Book Review: A Christmas Prayer

A lovely little book just arrived on my doorstep today.  Amy Parker's A Christmas Prayer is a beautiful padded board book that teaches little ones the true meaning of Christmas in a gentle rhyming way.  The story is a small child's prayer at Christmastime.

The prayer itself is one of thanksgiving that tells the Christmas story.  We start with thanks for the Angel Gabriel, followed by thanks for our Blessed Mother, Mary and her faithful husband, St. Joseph.  Then there's thanks for a series of other things that all tell the Nativity story.  The prayer finishes with thanks for the gift of our Lord and God's great love for us.

The book is illustrated in beautiful soft colors.  As the story progresses we see how the child is using her toys to act out the nativity story.  The illustrations are sure to capture the attention of small children.

This book would be a lovely bedtime story during Advent for children up to about age 5.  I like that the focus of this book is not on the materialistic aspect of the Christmas season, but rather where it belongs, on the birth of Jesus.  The book is suitable for gift giving even though it does not have a dedication page.  

I was provided with a complimentary review copy of this book as a reviewer for Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze blogger review program in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Power of the Sacraments

I just had the pleasure of reading Sr. Briege McKenna's The Power of the Sacraments.  This short little book surprised me.  Before I read it, I wondered to myself what this little book of just 64 pages could have to offer.  What this book has to offer is a powerful witness to the beauty and and healing power of the sacraments.

In this book each of the seven sacraments are examined in their own chapters which follows a lovely introduction where Sr. Briege points out that we too often take the sacraments for granted.  Each chapter of this book contains anecdotal evidence surrounding either an amazing healing or reconversion story of someone Sr. Briege has encountered through her ministry.  The book is simply inspiring and makes you step back and simply admire the awesomeness of the sacraments through which we encounter our Lord and are strengthened.

This book would be a lovely gift for someone who you are trying to stir out of complacency.  It's a relatively short book that could be read in the span of an evening or afternoon.  The book is engaging and will leave you wanting to read more.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: Take Five-Meditations with John Henry Newman

I recently had the opportunity to read Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Velez's Take Five: Meditations With John Henry Newman.  This little pocket sized book is packed with plenty of thought provoking inspiration.

The introduction of the book includes a short note on how to use the book. It's a book you can easily skip around in and still benefit from it just as much as you would if you read each meditation in order. Also included in the introduction is a short biography of Bl. John Henry Newman. I like the biographical commentary because it gives you a feel for who he was which is nice when you're about to dive into a book of meditations derived from his work.

There are seventy-six meditations in this book. Each meditation begins with a quote from the work of Bl. John Henry Newman. Following that are three sections entitled "Think About It", "Just Imagine", and "Remember". The "Think About It" section offers three prompts or questions to get you on the right track. In "Just Imagine", you'll see a scripture quote that ties in nicely with the meditation. The "Remember" section offers a statement that you can reflect on throughout the day.

Overall, I like the simplicity of this book's format. It is a book where you could read one meditation each day and then reflect and pray on it. What is nice about this book is you can take just a few minutes to read a specific meditation in the morning before starting your day and take the rest of the day to incorporate the clarity learned in that meditation into your day. Most of the chapters are about two pages long so you won't need to find more than a few minutes to read a single meditation.  Of course, when it comes to reflecting on a particular meditation, you'll probably want to spend the better part of the day mulling it over as you go about your daily routine.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who's looking for spiritual inspiration but doesn't think they have the time to fit it into their busy schedule. The simplicity of this book will make you want to turn back to it again and again.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Take Five: Meditations With John Henry Newman and be sure to check out their great selection of Mary statues while you are there.   

Disclaimer: I was supplied with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Small Successes-September 16th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

Is it really the middle of September already?  Time flies when you're so busy you don't know if you are coming or going.  I've accomplished a lot this week, but I'm not sure how successful I'm feeling.  I think exhaustion is more or less the word that describes this past week and all it has required of me.

1. Madeline celebrated her 9th birthday on Sunday, and this is the first time I've had a moment to blog about it.  It was a busy day filled with soccer games, a family party and the standard pre-party frantic scramble to get the house cleaned and the laundry washed, folded and put away.  The party, which included grandparents, an aunt and an uncle, turned out nicely.  I even decorated her cookie cake and it turned out halfway decent.

2. I've spent most of the past week scrambling to get everything in order for my religious ed classes which begin tonight.  For the third graders I had to make 18 sets of good deed beads to be used as a one decade rosary in class.  Then I had to color the coloring page for the mystery of the rosary I'll be presenting tonight.  After that, I set to work on getting sign in sheets for my classes made up along with composing my letters to the parents.  Then it was time to label and stuff communication folders for each student.   And let's not forget that I had to write up a lesson plan for each class and print it out.  I still have a few odds and ends to do before tonight and Sunday, but I'm not feeling frantic anymore.  Whew!

3. Despite all the craziness, the house is relatively clean.  Sure the laundry isn't folded and some of it isn't washed yet (two loads to go!) but we're functioning with what is on hand.  Grocery shopping is partially done and will be finished sometime today or tomorrow.  And I'm slowly adjusting to life with two children in school full time.  The days when I'm not kept busy with volunteering feel tremendously long between the hours of noon and 2:30.  I'm used to not having a child around for the early part of the morning but it's very odd to not have a little person by my side for the rest of the day.  It's been over nine years since I've had this much time to myself.  At this point, I'm not sure I like it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Holy Spirit Craft

I'm in the throes of one busy week.  Religious education classes begin this week at our parish and while I've had ideas for what I'm going to do in my classes rolling around in my head for several months now, I haven't actually finalized those plans until yesterday.

While writing up my lesson plan for my first class with the third graders I decided that I needed a dove to represent the Holy Spirit in a story I'll be having students act out.  Acting out bible stories was a hit with the kids in VBS this past summer and I've decided I should try it out in my classes.  My only problem?  I didn't have the Holy Spirit!  Talk about a dilemma!

A couple years ago Ellie made a super cute dove tree topper at her preschool that was made out of a plain old white paper plate.  It would have been the perfect prop for my lesson, but it's packed away with our Christmas decorations.  Certain that I could find this adorable dove craft online I did a quick search and came up with nothing.  Ugh!  Thanks to the wonders of iPhoto on my laptop, I managed to locate a picture of the craft and have done my best to replicate it.

It's a surprisingly simple craft that could be done with children in a religious education class to tie in with a lesson on the Holy Spirit, or it could even be used to make a Christmas decoration.  To attach it to a tree you would need to hot glue a clothes pin on the back.

The craft is simply three shapes cut out of one paper plate.  I colored the triangle orange to make a beak. I cut the edges off the scalloped part of the paper plate to make the wing and tail feather look more realistic.

Once it was assembled, I used glitter glue to jazz it up and make the dove's eye.
Overall, I'm pleased with the result and I'm pretty sure my dove will make a nice Holy Spirit prop.  Something tells me this very inexpensive craft will find it's way into my lesson plans.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Review: Can You Find Jesus?

My children both enjoy look and find books and the Where's Waldo series, so I decided to be sneaky and see if they would like Can You Find Jesus? Introducing Your Child to the Gospel which is a Search and Learn book.  The book contains thirteen pictures that depict different gospel scenes.  For each scene the children need to find the ten symbols that are found in each picture as well as the additional pictures that are on the search list for each individual scene.  Each scene has a brief story that explains what the gospel story is being represented.  Next to each picture on the search list you will find a nice explanation of that particular picture and it's significance.   The back of the book contains a parent guide for each picture.  The parent guide tells you how to go about discussing the picture with your child and how to prompt them to look for specific things in the picture.  I found the guide to be rather useful.  There is also a glossary at the end of this book that defines any terms a child may not be familiar with in a way which they will easily understand.

Overall the book was very well received by my children.  They really enjoyed looking for the hidden pictures and when they had found everything they needed to find they spent some time just looking at all the quirky things in the pictures that made them laugh.  I thought the pictures were well done and rather amusing.

While the book is a lot of fun and a hit with the kids I have some reservations about it.  While reading through it I kept getting a feeling that it just didn't seem very Catholic, which had me bewildered since it is published by a Catholic Publisher.  I feel rather confident that my suspicions were correct when I came to the last picture scene in the book.  This scene entitled "Jesus Lives in Us"  is about finding Jesus in our everyday life, depicts a female member of the clergy.  I thought perhaps I was mistaken and asked my husband if he thought it was a female minister and he is of the same opinion.  For this reason, I doubt that this is really a Catholic book.  Taking a second look, I thought perhaps that female clergy member was really a choir singer, but there's a depiction of a choir and they are not wearing white vestments and a purple stole.  There are no depictions of priests, or any sacraments of the church being celebrated.  Simply put, I have a hard time believing this a an authentically Catholic book.  It's not a bad book but the last picture sort of spoils it for me.  I wouldn't want either of my daughters examining that last picture and getting crazy ideas that someday they can be female priests.  Shortly after writing up this review I discovered that there is also a drawing that appears to be Buddah in the final drawing.  Perhaps the illustrator was trying to be be very ecumenical, but I don't think it or the female clergy member were necessary additions to the book. I suppose most children aren't going to pick up on the Buddah, but I'm sure enough will notice the female minister. For more information on this book or to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

I wrote this review of Can You Find Jesus? for the Tiber River Blogger Review program created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, the largest Catholic store online.  I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle's A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers is a nice pocket sized hardback book that covers every aspect of being a woman.  No matter what your state in life is, if you're a woman, there's something in this book for you.

As you can probably infer from the title this book is a collection of prayers for most situations.  More than that, this book if filled with uplifting words of inspiration to bolster any woman in her vocation, whatever that vocation may be.  The book is peppered with edifying quotes of saints, Pope John Paul II, scripture and catechism references that all point towards embracing the wonderful gift of femininity.

The overall presentation of the book is sunny and cheerful.  The pages are beautifully decorated with a nice floral motif.  The book would have been just a good with plain pages, but the decorative page format certainly punches it up and makes it more attractive.  Because of it's small size, this is a book that could very easily be carried around in a purse.

I think it's a very nice little prayer book.  My only gripe with the book was I strongly disliked the font that was used for the prayers.  It's a sort of italicized disjointed script that has one of the worst looking lower case d's I've ever seen.  I think the book would have been even more attractive had another font been utilized.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers and be sure to check out their selection of Mary statues while you are there.

I was provided with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Review: The Heavens Proclaim His Glory

I have a daughter who is fascinated by astronomy and I figured she would love to spend time looking through Lisa Stilwell's The Heavens Proclaim His Glory.  The book is a compilation of images of the heavens as viewed through the lens of the Hubble Telescope.  My assumptions were correct and my nearly nine year old daughter loved paging through this lovely book and pondering all of it's beautiful and awe-inspiring images.  When looking though this book her primary focus has been to learn about the many images contained in it's pages.  The book has certainly been a hit with her.

This book is a mix of astronomy and faith.  I liked how the book was set up.  It has a nice relaxed feel to it.  There are gorgeous full color photos that are accompanied with the scientific description of the image and either a scripture reference or inspiring quote that nicely complemented the photo.

I suppose this book falls into the category of coffee table book.  The beautiful images and the inspiration to be found in them and the text that accompanies them are sure to spark many conversations.  It's the type of book that you could open to any random page and find something to inspire.  The dedication page in this book makes it suitable for gift giving.

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book as part of the Book Sneeze blogger review program in exchange for my honest review.

Small Successes-Back to School


Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. Madeline started fourth grade and I did my best not to freak out that next year I am faced with two options. 1. Send her to the middle school.  (Isn't that a bit like feeding your child to a pack of hungry wolves?) 2. Homeschool. (This option will likely cause me to permanently lose my sanity and my hair.)  So far the school year is going well for her.  The teacher likes her and she likes the teacher.  That's always a good sign in my book.  She's happy to be back in school, and I am adjusting nicely to having to be up and ready to leave the house by 8:30AM.  177 school days to go until summer!

2. Ellie started Kindergarten yesterday.  I didn't cry or get all sentimental as I sent my baby off to school.  I did freak out when I realized that I forgot it was show and tell day, so I rushed back to the house after dropping her off to gather some show and tell items for her.  Ellie was thrilled to start school again.  She begrudgingly gave me a kiss goodbye when I dropped her off.  She's so independent, and I think just my being in the classroom was cramping her style.

3. The laundry is washed, ironed and folded.  Some of it still needs to be put away but it's finished.

I noticed that this is my 500th post on the blog.  I don't think I would have believed that I would have blogged this much when I started this blog a little under a year and a half ago.  I'll count this as success, too. ;)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cupcakes for Mary

I decided that it would be fun to celebrate the Blessed Mother's birthday with the girls today.  I only got to eat one cupcake at Madeline's birthday party this past Saturday (Would you believe the guests devoured all the cupcakes and cookie cake?) and have been wanting to sink my teeth into one for days.  Waiting until Madeline's actual birthday this Sunday seemed like too long a span of time to wait for cupcakes.  After reading several blog posts about other families celebrating Our Lady's birthday with cakes today I figured this would be the prefect way to satisfy my cupcake craving and honor Mary at the same time.

The girls were delighted that they got to help decorate the cupcakes with blue icing.  I quizzed Madeline about why we were using blue.  She remembered that blue is Our Lady's color.  The girls really enjoyed icing the cupcakes and adding the sprinkles.  Ordinarily I don't let them do that sort of stuff.  I'm sure the Blessed Mother enjoyed watching two of her biggest fans make cupcakes for her this afternoon.
Working hard to get the icing just right.

Sprinkle application is serious business when you are five.

Look at how happy she is to decorate cupcakes for Mary!

Proudly showing off their expertly decorated Mary cupcakes.
Once Madeline and Bryan get back from soccer practice we're going to enjoy some cupcakes.  I'm pretty sure even Bryan is happy that today is our Blessed Mother's birthday.   I'm hoping that poor Ellie who now has a fever of 101.2 will want to have a cupcake. She's currently sleeping on the couch.  

School Days

The past two days have been the first day of school for my girls.  Madeline started fourth grade on Tuesday and today Ellie began Kindergarten.  So far, both are really happy with their schools.  Ever since first grade, I have worried about what kind of experience Madeline will have at school.  So far, the new teacher loves her.  It's really a great feeling when you get an email from the teacher telling you what a sweetheart your child is.  I had sent an email earlier today asking if I could send in soft pretzels for the class to celebrate Madeline's birthday this Friday and I was delighted to get an email response telling me how much she liked my daughter.  I hope this means we're on the path to a great school year.  Madeline is really happy with the new teacher, too.
Getting ready to head to 4th Grade
That's her "Mom, you're embarrassing me at school!" look.

Ellie walked into her Kindergarten class like she owns the place.  She was thrilled to see some of her friends from preschool and delighted that she was finally able to play with the cool toys I used to have to drag her away from when she was a toddler.
Kindergarten here she comes!
Ellie and I waiting to go into the school.

When we pulled up to Ellie's school this morning I freaked out.  Not because I'm sad that my baby is going to full day kindergarten, but because I suddenly realized that we didn't have a summer show and tell for Ellie.  The letter from the teacher told us to bring a show and tell item as a getting to know you type of thing and I failed miserably.  I have a track record of forgetting school related things for Ellie (I did take extra precautions to not forget stuff for her last year).  I have an even longer standing record of forgetting show and tell items for Kindergarten.  I think her teacher is used to me forgetting show and tell since I did it consistently for Madeline when she was in her class.  This morning saw me frantically running home to get some summer show and tell items for Ellie.  I'm going to try extra hard to remember show and tell for September 24th.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Already There Giveaway Winners

I meant to select the winners for this giveaway much earlier today, but I woke up at 5:30AM and proceeded to freak out that Madeline didn't have clean shoes for school tomorrow.  Funny how something so insignificant can turn everything upside down.  The shoe shopping trip set my day in motion and here I sit blogging at 9:15PM while eating my not so tasty reheated pizza for dinner.  Enough about my crazy digression, you want to know who the winners are, right?

The nifty selected Munches Mom and The Praying Mom as the winners for the giveaway.

Munches Mom has won the copy signed by Fr. Mark and The Praying Mom has won the second, unsigned copy.  Congratulations ladies, I hope you both enjoy this book as much as I have.

Book Review: The Bible's Best Love Stories

I initially paused when I saw this book and wondered if it would be worth my time to read a book about love stories.  I'm not exactly one for romance and love stories and I suspected that I might not enjoy this book.  Was I going to walk away from it wishing I could reclaim the time I invested in it?  Would I find it trite or contrived?  Would I simply be annoyed by this book?  Those are the normal questions that run through my head anytime I'm faced with a book that focuses on love stories.  Most of the time I decide to let the opportunity to read the book pass me by.  That said, I'm very glad that I didn't choose that path when  it came to Allan Wright's The Bible's Best Love Stories.

Once this book arrived on my doorstep a quick look at the table of contents assured me that this book was not going to be some sappy work that I would have to slog through.  Each story of love highlighted in Wright's book covered a different facet of love.  Happily, I had not signed on to read a book that was going to be full of gushy "romantic love". Yay!

Each of the biblical love stories are retold and explained in a way that help you appreciate the story in a new light.  Several of the stories in this book I have seen retold in other books geared to younger audience, but the fullness and beauty of the love was not conveyed as well in those books as it was in this one.  I enjoyed how cultural information relating to the time of the story is explained in many of the chapters to help the reader fully appreciate the depth and significance of the love that is being expressed in the story.  In other books, that information would be totally lacking, and as a result, the reader would likely miss the point of the story.

I particularly liked how each chapter ended with a prayer, a quote, reflection questions and a love connection.  All of these end of chapter elements further the readers understanding of the story and are wonderful aids for reflecting on the message.  The reflection questions nudge the reader to dig deeper and think about the story.  The section entitled "Love Connection" prompts you to do something to put the love facet highlighted in the story into action in your own life.

Because of the way this book is set up, it would be perfect to use in a group setting or as a couple.  Of course, if you choose to read this book on your own you'll still get a lot out of it.  It certainly will lead to many introspective moments.

I think this book is one that is best read slowly.  The book is very well written and could easily be read in a day or two, but I suspect the reader would wind up glossing over the messages contained in each story by not taking the time to reflect on each one.  It is certainly a book that is best for reflection.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Bible's Best Love Stories and check out their great selection of Mary statues while you are there.

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Parents of the Year

Bryan and I will be claiming this title at the close of the year.  The awesomeness of our parental abilities knows no limits.  On most days my children are the ones who wander around uttering the phrases "Can I have a snack?" or "When's lunch (or dinner)?" which would lead most people to believe my children are, in fact, never fed, which isn't true.  I actually think that my kids are on a quest to eat us out of house and home.

In discussing what we'd like to eat for dinner tonight, I suggested to Bryan that we have hamburgers tonight.  Bryan, who spent the better part of yesterday afternoon cooking hot dogs and burgers on the grill at Madeline's birthday pool party didn't want to grill anymore this weekend.  Understandable, but I still wanted a burger.  The one I had yesterday was chilly by the time I managed to get halfway though it.  Such is life, when you are hosting a party and trying to make sure everyone has what they need.  Everyone that is, but our children.

Ellie was listening to our discussion about tonight's dinner and mentioned that she didn't have a cheese burger yesterday. I instantly started to fret when I realized that she hadn't had a cheeseburger during the party.  I was upset primarily because we didn't eat dinner until 9PM last night.  Ellie survived on chips, a soft pretzel, cookie cake and a cupcake for most of yesterday.  I realize it's not the worst that could have happened, but I feel so badly that she didn't have a decent lunch or timely dinner.  The funny thing was she never complained once that she was hungry.

When Madeline came home from swimming at the neighbor's house Bryan asked her if she ate a burger or a hot dog at the party.  She went silent in that way that instantly told us that she had neither.  So Bryan rephrased his question and asked her what specifically she ate.  She fared slightly better than her sister.  She ate chips, tostitos, soft pretzels, fruit from the fruit tray, and cookie cake.  She also didn't complain of hunger at any point in time.  In fact, she could barely eat the pizza we ordered for dinner.

So there you have it.  Bryan and I have the poor habit of remembering to feed our children when we throw parties.  We go out of our way to make sure all of our guest have been fed, but we totally forget to feed the kids.  We will now await the letter that awards us the parents of the year award for teaching our children how to be self-reliant.

In the future I'll consider asking my children during the party if they would like to eat something more substantial than chips.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Quick Takes Volume 6

I've managed to pull together most of what I need for Madeline's birthday party.  I'm beginning to wonder why I never thought of having a pool party for her before.  I'm actually feeling rather relived that I'll have the party out of the way before soccer season starts.

Following Bryan's lead and going along with his birthday gift idea for Madeline has turned out nicely. Of course, we did hit a rough patch on Monday night when we took her to LLBean to surprise her with a mountain bike.  Turns out my practical and cheap daughter didn't want the pricey bike her Daddy wanted to buy her. (This is not the first time he has had one of the ladies in his life respond ungraciously to a gift that he put a lot of thought into.  And yes, I was the other person to react badly to a gift several Christmases ago.)  We all had an evening I'm not proud of as a result.  After explaining to her why Bryan wanted to get her a nice bike, she decided that she really would like to have the very nice bike.  Practical child that she is, she was content with the bike she had even if it did have some problems.  I hope she grows up to be just as practical as she is now.  She's loving her new bike.

I'm almost at a point where I can start planning my religious ed classes.  I got the ball rolling by submitting my copy orders for the first two weeks of classes yesterday.  I have less than two weeks before the first class starts.  I need to get moving on the lesson plans.

The girls and I celebrated my mother's birthday with her on Wednesday.  We took her out to Olive Garden and then went back to her house for cake.  She was delighted with our gift of Mario Kart and Bananagrams.  The girls revel in beating my mom in Mario Kart when she visits and my mom is now hard at work in perfecting her Mario Kart skills so she can beat the girls when she visits next.

I just finished making cupcakes and a cookie cake for Madeline's party.  I tried to level with her and get her to agree to wait on the cookie cake for her actual birthday, but she had to have a cookie cake for the party.

Enter the Already There book giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy.  I have two copies of this book to giveaway (one signed copy and one unsigned).  The giveaway ends this Sunday.

The realization that my baby is going to kindergarten next week is setting in.  What on earth am I going to do with myself after next week?

Trending Towards Extinction

...or How to make the ladies in the parish office wonder if you're:  A) one of those people who reads the obituaries for fun, or B) killing people left and right and then getting Mass cards for them.

In less than four months time our family has lost four members.  Now I'm counting the distant cousin Bryan's side lost a couple of weeks ago, but she was family to me.  On my side of the family I have lost an aunt, an uncle and now a great uncle.  I'm at a point where I find myself pondering which one came as more of a shock.  I didn't know my uncle well at all so it wasn't much of a shock to me.  My Aunt was certainly a shock.  But, nothing prepared me for the news I heard from my mom on the phone last night.  When she asked me if I remembered my Uncle Harry (my grandfather's brother) I instantly knew that she was about to tell me he passed.  What I wasn't prepared for was what came next.  My eighty-something great uncle decided to take his life.

It seems these days the younger generation (and yes, I'm counting those in their 60's and 70's as young when compared to those in their 80's and 90's) are passing long before we might think they should.  That lack of longevity concerns me.  In all honesty, I'm not even sure what I should think about my uncle's exit.  I don't think I ever thought of suicide as something the elderly would do.  If I had gotten that same type of call about someone much younger I'd still be shocked, but I'm not sure I'd be so bewildered about it.  Then again, when I tried to explain to my husband what happened in cryptic terms in front of the children, the only think I could think to say was the name of a class mate who had taken the same way out at 18.  And then I realized that I can't comprehend they whys behind such an action even for the young.

I'm tired of getting phone calls telling me that someone has passed.  Since May, I've been averaging such calls at a rate of one per month.  If this rate keeps up, the whole family will probably be extinct in about 10 years or so.  As someone who doesn't like to think about death, I find the past months to be a bit excessive. It's bad when you go to a viewing and your five year old asks "Who's in that box?" like it's no big deal.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Small Successes- September 2nd

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

Aack!  It's September?  How did that happen? We've been so busy with various things the past few weeks that I don't think I fully understood that September was getting ready to attack.

1. Bryan and I realized on Sunday that we didn't really have a game plan for Madeline's birthday.   Not-so-subtle comments from an almost nine year old that she will be 9 in fourteen days can startle oblivious parents into spontaneous party planning.  I freaked out when I realized that I hadn't put any thought into planning a party.  Having a party the weekend of her birthday didn't seem like it would work out too well since it's opening weekend for soccer.  That Friday night is consumed by the opening night ceremony, and the girls have soccer games on Madeline's actual birthday, the 12th.  Not wanting to have no downtime that weekend, we decided that we need to throw a party this weekend.  We decided that a pool party this Saturday would be ideal since the water is still warm and a Saturday party would allow us to have two days to recover before school starts.

Surprisingly, I managed to settle on a date and time for the party, procure invitations AND give them to the invitees, and put party favor bags together.  Now I just have to buy the food for the party and order a fruit tray.  I think I have this under control.

2. I spent a nice chunk of time preparing for my religious ed classes that will begin in two weeks.  Inspired by a fellow religious ed teacher at our parish, I decided to create a blog for my classes to keep the parents informed.  It's not totally finished yet, but it's coming together nicely.   Feel free to take a peek.

3. The laundry is under control.  Sure there are a few piles sitting in the living room waiting to be sorted, folded and put away, but there is not a small mountain of dirty or clean laundry to be found anywhere in that house.  That's always a success in my book.

While you're here, don't forget to enter the book giveaway that ends this Sunday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Review: The One-Minute Apologist

I recently had the opportunity to delve into Dave Armstrong's The One-Minute Apologist.  The book is a collection of over sixty Catholic replies to common Protestant claims.  Many of the Protestant claims/arguments against Catholicism are ones which I have been faced with in the past when talking to Protestant friends or relatives, or have had questions about prior to my conversion to Catholicism.  The book is separated into nine categories: scripture, the Church, the papacy, the priesthood, the sacraments, salvation, theology of God, Mary and the Saints, and other topics.  Each category has several common Protestant claims (or misconceptions, if you will) and the Catholic response to those claims.

I liked the over all tone and flow of this book.  There were some areas where I felt the writing was a bit dry, but the majority of the book was very readable.  I liked the way the book was set up with the Protestant claim followed up with the Catholic rebuttal complete with references from either the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church to back up the Catholic answer.  The vast majority of the apologetic answers are backed up with multiple scripture references and that's exactly what you want/need when you are trying to defend Catholicism to a sola scriptura Protestant.

I think this book has two valuable uses.  For one, it can give a Catholic who often finds him/herself needing to respond to Protestant claims against Catholicism the answers they need to explain what it is that we, as Catholics, believe.  This book could also be a great jumping off point for a Protestant who is interested in knowing more about the Catholic Church.

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Sophia Institute Press in exchange for my honest review.
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