Thursday, April 28, 2011

Product Review and Giveaway: My Comfort Cross

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to review an olive wood comfort cross that was hand carved in Bethlehem.  I had seen and heard of comfort crosses before and I had always sort of wondered what was so special about them.

I don't know much about the other comfort crosses that you might see in catalogs, but the comfort crosses from are individually carved from a single unique piece of beautifully grained olive wood pruned from the olive trees around Bethlehem.  My Comfort Cross's mission is to ensure that the Christian artisans who carve these lovely comfort crosses receive a fair market price for their goods so that they can support both their family and the Christian community.

The folks at provided me with one of their lovely comfort crosses so I could tell you about it.  The cross came nicely packaged in a maroon velveteen drawstring bag which is suitable for gift giving.  The little comfort cross fits in the palm of your hand and not only feels nice in your hand, it's also quite beautiful.  The day it arrived I set it out on the dining room table and everyone in the house noticed it.  My five year old, in particular, was very interested in this cross.  She really liked holding it and wanted to know what we were supposed to do with it.  I let her know that you could hold it to pray and she seemed quite happy with that suggestion.

This past week, I discovered a new use for this comfort cross.  I always take religious books and a rosary to Mass with us for my younger daughter so she stays content.  On Good Friday I noticed that the family sitting behind us gave their young children crosses to hold during the service.  Then at the Easter Vigil Mass the next day, I noticed one of my religious education students holding a small crucifix during Mass.  Instantly a light went off.  This little comfort cross would be a great thing to give a small child during Mass. generously offered two comfort crosses for my blog giveaway.  To enter the giveaway tell me why you'd like to have one of these crosses and visit or like them on facebook.  Earn one extra entry each if you tweet, blog or facebook about this giveaway and provide a link back to this post.  Make sure you leave a comment here for each extra entry you earn. The giveaway ends at midnight, Friday, May 6th.  Winners will be announced on Saturday May 7th. is also offering a special deal for readers of this blog to get two comfort crosses for $12 when they use this link.

Small Successes-April 28th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. On Monday, I planted four basil, five tomato and two pepper plants in three of our gardens.  I also pulled weeds and discovered grubs in one garden.  So far the gardens are looking good.

2. I started reading Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week at the start of Holy Week and I managed to finish it on Easter Sunday.  You could also read the previous sentence as: I took a break from reviewing books and read something that was high on my list of books I really wanted to read.

3. On Monday the girls and I went to the dentist (No cavities!), then all of us [Bryan included] went to my childhood home which will be sold next Friday to take pictures and walk through the house one last time.  It's sad the house has to go, but there's nothing I can do about it.  Bryan and I simply couldn't afford what my parents were asking for it.  We stopped at a favorite local hoagie shop and I got and managed to eat half of chicken steak.  This is huge considering my chicken aversion that has lasted over three months.  As if the day wasn't packed enough with stuff to do, we also visited the zoo.  Did I mention that it was near 90 degrees that day?  It was one of those too hot to be pregnant days, but I survived and didn't whine too much.

Bonus: Our Easter was very nice.  The kids enjoyed hunting for their Easter eggs and we all had a nice dinner with my parents and brother.  Madeline altar served at the Easter Vigil and she didn't light anyone on fire.  That alone is a huge success.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


or just another way God decides to test my sanity and or sense of humor.

Several weeks ago in one of my frenzied cleaning sprees, I came across the warranty information for the new shower Bryan and my father-in-law installed almost two years ago and I threw it away (It was installed on July 13th 2009 if you want specifics).  The shower was replaced because the previous owners weren't familiar with these things called cleaning products (Yes, I know, I'm being mean and gossipy, but I'm going to confession tomorrow.  Humor the acne ridden pregnant woman, will ya?).  Now we had used the old shower (It's amazing what liquid draino, several gallons of straight bleach and 24 combined hours of elbow grease will do.)  but it had a leaking issue that had to be addressed frequently.

So we replaced the shower with a nice looking acrylic one that we hoped would last us five to ten years.  We figured by the time we needed or wanted a new shower we would be in a position to put in something nice, like a tile or solid surface one.  You know, something that would cost some money but would likely see us through to the end of our lives.

Last week I was taking a shower and I heard a loud crack sound when I stepped on the area where my father in law had decided to not only remove part of the floor support, but also the styrofoam support for the shower floor.  It's an area of the shower we try to avoid but sometimes it can't be helped.  I thought I felt a crack but I didn't see anything.  A few days later Bryan noticed that the family room ceiling was wet.  Fun!

For part of last week we had to use the kids' bathroom for showers.  After living for ten years with 2 1/2 baths, it's kind of rough losing full functionality of one bathroom.  I know some people have to make due with one and a half or just one bathroom so this probably seems like ungrateful whining on some level.  I don't mean it to be.  It's just not fun to have to wait to take a shower while your nine year old is busy singing in the shower and using all the hot water.  Have I mentioned our hot water heater is in dire need of replacement?  That's another story, but until we can replace it, we'll continue to keep a frying pan under the pipe that happily leaks water.

On Sunday, Bryan was pretty sure the shower was fixed.  He was convinced it was a drain issue and he replaced the drain, tested it and was satisfied that the problem was solved.  Since Monday he's been checking the ceiling after every shower.  Up until today things were looking pretty good.  That was until I took a shower.  Once again I stepped in the area which must not be stood upon and I heard a crack.  So I made a mental note to tell Bryan.  Then hours later I noticed that the family room ceiling was not only wet but had two new, huge, water stains.  Great!  I told Bryan what I saw and he said he'd take a look at it tonight.

Before we put the kids to bed we were talking about the shower issue and decided to take a look at it.  Sure enough there's a nice crack right where I thought I felt one.  So I apparently broke the shower.  Sigh.

This means that we will not have a shower for a while, and even worse, I'm going to have to endure a construction project while pregnant.  I'm trying my best to not be Massive Mood Swing Karen this pregnancy, but things like this are going to do nothing but test my limits.  Here's hoping we can get the shower replaced without me losing my sanity or breaking the bank.

I suppose I should tell Bryan I also sent the warranty info to the recycle bin a few weeks ago.  Awesome!

Small Successes-Holy Week

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. This past weekend we got most of the old office/new baby's room cleaned out.  Sure there are still a few boxes belonging to Bryan and a few stacks of office related things on the floor, but the room is now more baby than office.  Yay! I'm a very impatient person, and while I know I don't need this room to be a nursery until late September the planner in me needs this room to be done ASAP.  Thankfully, Bryan is willing to humor me to avoid inciting me into having a massive mood swing. (In previous pregnancies they were so bad they're legendary.  I'm doing my best to act like a sane person where possible.)

2. After discarding a lot of junk that was stored in the old office/new baby's room, I'd say I can call the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge a success.  I've removed lots of paper and cardboard from our home, we've donated clothes, decorations, miscellaneous household goods and two televisions for which we had no need.  (No, Madeline begging and pleading to have a TV in her room did not constitute what I would consider a need.)

3. I'm ready for Easter.  Thanks to my daughters who think that cleaning is a fun game, my house is dusted and straightened.  I cleaned off the dining room table and I have to say I prefer seeing the table top to tons of papers.  Easter baskets and eggs are filled and ready for Easter morning.  I even managed to fill 84 eggs for the egg hunt we'll be having with some of the neighborhood children on Saturday morning.  Two days ago I went to the grocery store and got most, if not all, of what we will need for Easter dinner.  Tomorrow morning I will head to confession, again, and at that point I will consider myself completely ready for Easter.  (You have to love how being a hormonal pregnant woman can pretty much create the need for frequent confession.  I have a feeling I'll be there a lot over the next six months.)

Bonus: Madeline has learned how to do laundry.  She's been able to sort the laundry for years, but now she's actually doing the wash.  She asked if she could learn to use the washer this past Saturday and I jumped on the opportunity.  Bryan showed her what she needed to do and she took off and tackled our mountain of wash with a joyful spirit.  I can't tell you how incredibly blessed I feel to have a daughter who actually wants to do the laundry.  And as an added bonus, this same wonderful girl also excitedly came to me two days ago and asked if she could clean the baseboards in the house.  What mother would say no to such an amazing request?

I hope you all have a happy and blessed Triduum and Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ellie And Music

I'm always amazed that Ellie has a definite opinion about the music she hears.  She's been a Green Day fan for nearly two years and will ask for the band by name when she wants to listen to their music.  (That alone impresses me since I'm horrible with associating songs with their artists.) She's a huge fan of one song in particular, We Are the Waiting.  I have no idea what it is about this song that makes her like it so much.

She is not a big fan of the Mom and Dad appointed four year old anthem by the Rolling Stones, You Can't Always Get What You Want, but she has come to learn that if you try some time you just might get what you need.  Yeah, we deal with unreasonable kids by making them listen to this song.

And now, it appears that she likes the Beatles and thought to ask her daddy to put Let It Be on the iPod dock/radio thing I'm reviewing for Amazon Vine.  I have to say I'm impressed that she asked for the Beatles song.  I personally love this song, but I don't play it all that often.  But aside from being impressed, her dancing around the kitchen and sweetly singing along just melted my heart.

Paper Infestation

Where does all of this paper that is taking over my house come from?  For the past several days I've been on a cleaning kick and day after day I'm finding that I'm mostly tossing paper.  It's pure insanity.  I've got tons of paper everywhere and this isn't counting the books.

My recycle trash can is filled with paper.  My garage has several boxes of paper that needs to be recycled (but won't fit in the can).  And, of course, as I try to get the house ready for Easter (I'd like a clean house by Thursday.) I generate even more paper trash.  Gaaa!  It's never going to go away.

Next year when we homeschool I'm looking forward to discarding paper as soon as it's graded.  Let's hope I can get away with that.  Maybe I'll get a binder for each of the girls that can hold prized work.

I think it's time we ditch paper and go digital.  How great would it be if my girls could have all their curriculum on an e-reader or an iPad?  Maybe someday that will be our reality. It certainly would be sweet.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Attempted Sheep Stealing

I was making dinner tonight when the phone rang.  Ordinarily we don't answer the phone if we don't recognize the number on the caller ID.  Now that I'm directing the parish VBS I really can't be so selective when it comes to answering the phone, and so when the phone rings I answer it.

Tonight I got a phone call from a representative from Gospel Light, the company that produced the VBS our parish is using.  We're using the Catholic version published by Liguori, but for the most part the program is very protestant.  Let me be the first to say that I'm not a fan of using Catholicized protestant material to teach Catholic children.  Maybe this is the result of me being raised protestant against my will.  Ecumenical is not something I'll ever be accused of being.  Sorry, you're either with us or you're not.

So back to the phone call.  I suspect there's a metatag in the webpage template we're using for the parish VBS website.  They called because they saw I was on their site recently (try, ages ago) and they wanted to know if I found everything alright.  I told her that I had. (It's called I ordered from the Catholic publisher nearly two months ago.)  Then she wanted to talk Sunday School curriculum.  I told her that I wasn't the DRE and that this is for a Catholic parish.  She goes on to tell me that they have a new program that they think we'll be interested in seeing.  I asked her if it was Catholic and she responds that she's 24 and she's still learning about Jesus.  Good for you!  Aren't we all?  I take it her deflection was a way of avoiding having to say no.  I let her know that we're using a Catholic program for Catholic children.  That also must have fallen on deaf ears.  She proceeded to let me know that they're going to send some information to me (I'm assuming at the parish address-this ought to be good.) and she'll call me later to discuss it.  Something tells me she's not going to be too happy when I tell her we're not interested in their watered down version of Jesus.  I'll take the fullness of the Catholic faith, thanks.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

40 Bags In 40 Days?

At the start of Lent I half-heartedly decided that I'd do the 40 bags in 40 days deal again.  I figured worse case scenario, I'd use small bags and still manage to meet the 40 bag quota.  Easy peasy, right?  At first, it seemed anything but easy.  I managed to bag and box up some of the stuff I decided needed to be donated in the week after Christmas.  Sly person that I am, I decided to hold on to those things until Lent began so I could use them as part of the 40 bags.  Nothing like getting your Lenten penances out of the way during the Christmas season.  Yes, that's me, always have to be a few steps ahead of the game.

As easy as my cheating should have made this, I struggled through most of Lent thanks to evening sickness and first trimester inability to get anything done.  Once in a while I'd get some energy and I'd gather up some paper recycles and fill the recycle container with more paper than one family ought to have on hand for disposal.  Then there was the weekend where I decided to run myself into the ground cleaning out the garage.  Have I mentioned that I really have no ability to take it easy?

Now that I'm finally feeling better (February and March were horrible months for me productivity wise) I've decided to tackle Bryan's old office which is now known as the baby's room.  This room alone could have been a 40 bags in 40 days challenge.  Amazingly, over the past week I have emptied the closet which was packed with junk, office supplies and random objects.  I have also managed to get most of the floor which was strewn with more office supplies, junk and various computer programming books to look a little less like the aftermath of a devastating bombing to that of an abandoned home office.  Of course, I didn't do all of this by myself.  I nagged and harassed enlisted Bryan to help me sort through his things.

At this point, I'd say I'm very close to being able to prime the walls of the baby's room.  I can't wait.  It is my goal to have the room painted and set up by the first week of June.  And yes, I'm aware that I technically don't need to have this room finished until September but I'm a neurotic pregnant woman and I don't listen to reason.  (Translation: I NEED to get this room finished or I will go insane and drive all those around me insane in the process.) People like Bryan are smart enough to just go with the flow and let me do my thing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Amazed, and not in a good way

Sometimes I see things that just leave me shaking my head.  I was reading a story that was linked through AOL and I noticed an article that showed a  picture of a baby wearing a onesie with a Kate Moss saying that made me do a double take.  It said "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."  It lead me to one of those Wha-a-a-t? moments.

I'm a skinny person and pretty much always have been unless you're in the camp of people who count anything above 130lbs as fat.  And yes, there are people out there who would consider that fat.  I personally am perplexed by the notion that being skinny feels so much better than anything can taste.  Seriously?

Let's go down the list of foods for which I would happily carry a few extra pounds simply because they taste good, shall we?

  • A delicious sugar cured ham with pineapple and brown sugar glaze, or just plain old 100% maple syrup.
  • Pancakes smothered with whipped butter (enough to clog your arteries) and 100% maple syrup.
  • A baked potato with sea salt, black pepper and about 1/3 of a stick of butter.
  • Butter (God's gift to those of us who don't care if it's not exactly the healthiest food to eat in large quantities.)
  • Pumpkin pie with whipped cream (the real stuff, not Cool Whip)
  • Butter cream icing (back to the butter again)
  • Pumpkin cheese cake
  • BLT sandwiches
  • Italian Hoagies
  • Fresh off the grill hamburger with dill pickle
  • Jell-O swirl pudding
  • Pizza
  • Fresh buffalo mozzarella
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Cheesesteak with cheese whiz from Pat's in Philadelphia
  • Cannoli
  • Tiramisu 
  • Manicotti

So now I am left wondering what is wrong with our culture that some people would put a quote that is so incredibly shallow and harmful on a child.  Given the choice between delicious food or small pants I'll take the food.  Someone pass me the butter, please.

How We Celebrated "Pink" Sunday

It seems these days that time is moving a little too fast for me to keep up.  Maybe I'm overextended at the moment (completely through my own fault) or maybe I'm just a little lazy.  Whatever the case may be, I'm finally getting around to writing up how we took time to rejoice on Laetare Sunday.

Presents are always good for getting little girls to rejoice, so early Sunday evening when the girls came inside from playing with their friends they found two mysterious pink packages tied with a purple ribbon sitting on the kitchen table.  Instantly they wanted to know what was inside.

We told the girls they'd have to open their presents at the same time and Madeline was instructed not to say anything until Ellie had a few moments to get a good look at her present.  Needless to say, Miss Blabber Mouth, who is every bit Mrs. Big Mouth's daughter exclaimed what her present said.  Her sister still managed to be surprised.  Apparently bewilderment and certainty that there must be some mistake had quickly overcome both Madeline and Ellie.

You see, they both opened a package with a little bracelet with two little words that happened to be the same.  The girls went from total confusion to excitement in a little less than two minutes.

To celebrate our big news, we went to a local diner for dinner.

I realize the picture of the girls modeling their bracelets isn't exactly the best so I snapped a picture of Ellie today wearing a tee shirt that proclaims her new status.

This October (hopefully September) we will welcome a new little one to our family.  We're very excited and incredibly blessed.

Ellie is certain that she is going to have a little brother and she has taken the liberty of naming him Daniel.  Where she got the name is beyond me.  If we do have a son I doubt his name will be Daniel, but you never know.  She was a bit disappointed when she found out that the privilege of naming the baby is not reserved for the big sister-to-be.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Unleashing the Mama Bear

Today started off well enough.  The kids were happy.  I was being somewhat productive.  And I was happily riding that just went to confession high.  Then, it all came to a grinding halt at 1:25 when I picked up a crying Madeline from school.

One of the school paraprofessionals (that's the fancy name for lunch room/playground aide) questioned and accused Madeline of spreading a rumor about her friend.  Madeline told her she hadn't done that and the aide apparently didn't get the response she was looking for and informed Madeline that she would be escalating the matter to the head teacher.  So my poor child comes home to me a crying, sobbing mess.  Apparently, in the public school you are considered guilty no matter what, and Madeline is now convinced that she's going to get in trouble for something she didn't do.  Reason #523 why I'm glad we'll be homeschooling next year.

I called the school in total Mama Bear mode wanting to talk to the instigator aide but she had conveniently gone home for the day.  Isn't that always the way it is?  So I let them know that I was less than pleased with how things were handled.  While this school claims to be a school of character, I have insisted for the past four years that they're really a school of characters and I made it a point to tell the woman on the phone.  Not satisfied with my response from the office (the issue is being escalated to the principal since I threatened to take the matter to the school board and superintendent) I decided to let Madeline's teacher know what is going on and see if she knows anything about the rumor.  I also let her know that Madeline is not allowed to be questioned, interrogated without a parent present.

Then, I headed out to pick Ellie up from school.  No problems at the private school.  (I've said for years that when you write that check for tuition you're paying for peace of mind.)

I arrived home to a bunch of neighborhood kids telling me about some bullies who came around and taunted the kids while I was gone.  So now I sit here waiting for them to come back so I can unleash the Momma Bear on them.  It appears that they have selected the wrong day to come looking for trouble.

And so, I will now certainly have plenty to confess when I make it back to confession on Good Friday.  Sigh.  It never ends.  I suppose a day without sin simply isn't possible for me.   Even when I don't go looking for it, it still finds me.

Small Successes-April 14th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I tackled the scary mountain of laundry that had piled up in the laundry room.  I even folded and put everything away.  That was Sunday into Monday.  We're not going to talk about the new mountain of laundry that I once again have to wash, fold and put away.  Let's just say that I'm beginning to realize and accept that this is simply a never ending process that's only going to grow larger and larger.

2. I took time to sit out on the deck on Monday when it was nice and warm to just enjoy the peace and quiet of the neighbors making odd noises in their back yards or power washing their house (the sounds depended on the neighbor).  Despite the oddities that I heard, I really enjoyed relaxing typing up several book and product reviews while being harassed by bees and wasps on the deck.  Oscar enjoyed soaking up the sun to enhance his smelly dog odor as well.

3. Both of my girls played great at their soccer games this past Sunday.  Ellie scored four goals (She's actually dribbling the ball and running around!) and Madeline scored one.  In all, I saw three of the goals.  I was too busy talking to notice two of Ellie's goals.  Bad mommy!  I did, however, lie and tell Ellie that I missed the goals because the other mom wouldn't stop talking.  In reality it was me that wouldn't shut up and I think she knows that because I got that look from her.  Note to self: don't talk to the other mom's when my kids are in the game.

4. I made it to confession last night.  Despite drawing a complete blank after getting rather irritated that Ellie was not behaving while she waited in the church with Madeline (this was before Mass so it's not like they were sitting in an empty church) I managed to remember the vast majority of what I had to confess.  I think Fr. was slightly amused when I was explaining why I couldn't remember something as simple as saying "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."  Ah, my mind isn't what it used to be these days.  The important thing is I made it to confession even if I did fumble my way through it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Arma Dei Review: Cathletics Key Cards

Arma Dei has a lot of great products that are great tools for teaching children about the treasure of our Catholic faith.  Several months back I was given the opportunity to write some product reviews of a select group of the products Arma Dei has to offer.  My final review in this series of product reviews is the Arma Dei Cathletic Key Cards.

In all there are eighteen different Cathletics Key Cards offer by Arma Dei.  These cards cover a wide range of Catholic topics.  There are Cathletics Key Cards for the rosary, bible heroes, angels, daily prayers, altar servers, patron saints, vessels & vestments, reconciliation, rules to live by and several more.  For the purpose of the review, I was send three Cathletics Key Cards: Vessels & Vestments, Rules to Live By, and Reconciliation.  All three of the cards have been well received by my older daughter who is nine and a half.

I have to say that I think Vessels & Vestments is a favorite.  My daughter is a fairly new altar server (she's been serving since the feast of the Immaculate Conception) and she has found this card to be a great way to learn the names of some of the vessels that are used during Mass.

I think the Reconciliation card is a great aid for preparing for the sacrament of reconciliation.  This card walks you step by step through the sacrament.  This is not only helpful for children, but I imagine many adults would find this card nice to have on hand.  The card also offers a child friendly examination of conscience.  An Act of Contrition is also printed on this card.  I think this particular card could be very helpful for students who are preparing for  first reconciliation.  

The Rules to Live By card is one that is packed with information.  Children can use this card to learn the ten commandments, the eight beatitudes, the seven virtues, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and the six precepts of the church.  Where applicable, this card also lists references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Geeky moms like me get excited when they see Catechism references like that on kid's things.)  I like this card because it can be used as a sort of trivia game.  You can use the information on the card and ask questions to see just how well your child knows the rules to live by.  

I like how these cards nicely complement other Arma Dei products.  The illustrations on the Vessels and Vestments card are just like those on the Reverence and Awe and Cathletics Playing Cards and Catholic Lingo Bingo game.  All of these cards are great for fostering an interest in our Catholic faith among children.  

For more information on Cathletics Key Cards, visit Equipping Catholic Families, the Arma Dei blog.  While you're there, check out some of the other great products this Catholic apostolate has to offer.  You'll be glad you did.

I was provided with three Arma Dei Cathletics Key Cards by the publisher, Arma Dei, in exchange for my honest review.

Imagination Station Giveaway Winner

Last week I blogged about a new series of children's books called the Imagination Station.  Lynn is the winner of the first two books from this series.  Congratulations, Lynn!

Book Review: Staying Faithful Today

I think I have yet to read anything written by Fr. Alfred McBride that I didn't enjoy immensely.  This is certainly true of his book Staying Faithful Today.  In this book, Fr. McBride examines why we need fidelity, and how we already have it from God.

This book beautifully presents and explains the many facets of our lives, whether we're single, married, or living as clergy or religious.  No matter what your station in life, there's certainly a need for fidelity.  Over the course of seven chapters readers will discover what fidelity looks like, they will see how God is faithful to us, and come to an understanding as to why fidelity is so important to essentially every aspect of our lives.

The entire book is insightfully written and keeps you turning pages.  The book is suitable for reading in a group setting or on your own.  At the end of every chapter there are questions for personal application, questions for use in a group setting, a scripture meditation and a blank page where you can record your own promises for ways in which you can be faithful to or supportive of those examined in each individual chapter.

This book was an enjoyable and informative read.  It's certainly worth reading.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, St. Anthony Messenger Press, in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Catholic Update Guide To The Mass

The Catholic Update series of books published by St. Anthony Messenger Press is a new series that seeks to offer solid catechesis on a variety of subjects.  The books in this series are suitable for use in individual or group settings, and could be quite useful with RCIA.

The Catholic Update Guide To The Mass covers the questions of "What is the Mass?", "Why do we go to Mass?" and "How do we go to Mass?".  The book offers good solid answers to these questions and as such, is a good jumping off point for those who are new to the Catholic faith or simply want a short book to read that will sufficiently cover the bases.

Each of the three chapters in this book offer questions for reflection at the end of the chapter.  This feature makes it ideal for a group setting since it has built in discussion questions.

I think as a basic introduction to the Mass this book is pretty good.  It's relatively short at forty-three pages long and can easily be read in a short period of time.

As with the Catholic Update Guide To Confession, I found parts of this book to seem a bit liberal, particularly the explanations of the Mass itself.  This is likely not the book for you if you are looking for a book that is going to take a deep look at the Mass.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, St. Anthony Messenger Press, in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Catholic Update Guide To Confession

Confession is that sacrament that many Catholics either pretend does not exist, or they try to celebrate it as infrequently as possible.  All too often I find myself talking to people who exclaim "Oh, I haven't gone to confession in years!" whenever it's mentioned in conversation.  I can't help but wonder sometimes if that's due to a lack of understanding of the sacrament.

In the Catholic Update guide to Confession title, readers curious about the sacrament of reconciliation will find plenty of information regarding why we celebrate this sacrament, how to prepare for it, how to celebrate the sacrament,  as well as insight from priests who have been on both sides of the confessional screen.  The book is less than fifty pages and could easily be read on a lazy afternoon.  It would make a useful guide book for those currently in RCIA, or those who have been away from the sacrament for a while.

Overall, I thought the book was rather solid and offered practical advice and explanations.  I did, however, get the vibe every so often that opinions of the authors (the book is a compilation of information from previous publications of Catholic Update) we're not coming from a very conservative Catholic view point.  That said, I do feel that the book still has a lot to offer to those who are not very familiar or comfortable with the sacrament of reconciliation.

I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher, St. Anthony Messenger Press, in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Movie Review: Brother Francis The Bread of Life

Ever since seeing episode 1 of Brother Francis, Let's Pray, my five year old daughter has been hooked on Brother Francis.  For what seemed like an eternity, she asked to watch the DVD every day and then moved on to asking when we could get the next Brother Francis DVD.  I can only blame myself for tipping her off that there was another episode in the works.  I had heard about a preview of the new episode and I had her watch it.  After seeing just the preview she began to ask daily if we could get it.

Pure delight is how I would sum up Ellie's reaction when I informed on one day after school that a review copy of the new Brother Francis had arrived at our house.  As soon as she walked in the door she ran to get the DVD player ready.  I'm happy to report that Ellie felt the new episode was well worth the wait.  Since that eventful day when the new DVD arrived at our house, Brother Francis The Bread of Life has played in our house somewhere between three and five times a week.

As you can probably guess from the title of this episode, Brother Francis teaches young children about the Eucharist.  The Bread of Life is packed with plenty of stories and songs to entertain and catechize children.  Children will learn Blessed Imelda Lambertini who is the patroness of First Communicants.  The story of the Last Supper is presented, along with a rather amusing story about a grape who decides he's going to cut himself off from the vine despite being warned that he needs the vine to live.  The grape story is a hit with not only my younger daughter but also my nine and a half year old. The songs "What More Can He Give" and "I am the Bread of Life" are both very beautiful and catchy.

I think this video is great for teaching young children about the Eucharist.  In fact, I played several scenes from this DVD for my kindergarten religious education class last week when I presented a chapter on the Mass.  The children really enjoyed watching the DVD and some of them even asked if we were going to watch Brother Francis again when they came to class today.  I'd say Brother Francis is very well received by five and six year old children.

I would strongly recommend this DVD for children who are preparing for First Holy Communion.  In a religious education classroom, this DVD is no doubt a half hour well spent.  There's just something about Brother Francis that makes learning the faith fun.

As a mother and a catechist, I highly recommend the Brother Francis series of DVDs.  They're fun, they're a great vehicle for teaching children to understand and appreciate their Catholic faith, and they're a treat for the eyes.  The animation is fun a bubbly.  Some portions are a CGI animation that reminds me of the Backyardigans, and other portions are your standard two dimensional animation.

If I had to say anything negative about this episode, I'd have to say that I didn't like that Brother Francis was jumping on a trampoline while eating an apple.  Am I being picky?  Maybe.  All I know is I cringed as I watched Brother Francis bounce up and down while taking a bite from an apple.  I hope in future episodes Brother Francis will not do anything that could lead to choking.  Yes, I know he's an animated character, but I worry that his example will lead to a child thinking that he or she can eat an apple while playing on the trampoline, too.

Just like the first episode of Brother Francis, The Bread of Life has downloadable activity pages that you can print from the Brother Francis website.  I really like this thoughtful feature.  It's a great way to help children remember what they learned about from this episode.

In all, I'd say this DVD was well done and gets two thumbs up from me and my little Brother Francis fan.  We're already looking forward to the next episode in this series where Brother Francis will teach us about the Rosary.

To learn more about Brother Francis, The Bread of Life, visit Brother Francis Online.  I was provided with a complimentary review copy of this DVD from Herald Entertainment in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Small Successes-April 7th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. I just spent the last 3 1/2 hours cutting out all the necessary components for Catholic Icing's Last Supper craft for my 3rd grade religious ed class.  That means I cut out Jesus and his 12 apostles, the table cloth, and the egg cartons, too.  Then I had to slice the egg cartons to fit them together, add glue, hot glue on the table cloth, number the figures and the egg cartons.  I did all this to ensure that my students could color and complete the craft in under 30 minutes.  Last Sunday I did this craft with my kindergarten religious ed class and we almost didn't finish.  It's a great craft, but it's a huge undertaking with more than a few children and a tight time schedule.

2. I am doing my best to read through the small mountain of review books I have sitting in my dining room.  I read a couple books this week, which I haven't had time to review, so I was feeling rather proud of myself.  Then I walked out to the mail box and found two more books.  Sigh.  On the bright side, I'm trying not to feel guilty that I haven't been able to crank out reviews in under a week these days.

3. I cleaned my stove top!  I can't tell you how long it has been since I last took care of it.  I'd say it's been at least a month if not 9 weeks or so.  Again, I'm not letting myself feel guilty.  I have a perfectly valid reason for not being on top of it.

4. I almost forgot.  I not only made it through the marathon day of going to all three of Madeline's school Spring Concerts last Thursday, (She had a short solo and sang beautifully, by the way.) I also survived going on her field trip to the Franklin Institute the very next day.  I didn't lose any of the kids in my group!  Yay!  I'm actually capable of looking after four kids in a crowded place.

We will not be talking about how my laundry was totally under control as of Monday and is now once again in shambles.  Stop it!  I'm not going to discuss the load of wash in my washer that I have had to restart 3 times since Monday because I can't remember to put it in the dryer in a timely fashion.

If you have a young reader in your house please check out my review/giveaway of the first two books in the Imagination Station series.  The giveaway ends in just a few more days.

Monday, April 4, 2011

First I Lost Track Of The Days...

I think I can officially say that I'm losing it.  A few weeks ago I lost track of what day it was.  For three days I thought it was Wednesday, but I was only right on one of the three days.  Only that wasn't good enough.  On the day when it was, in fact, Wednesday, I forgot that I was supposed to be lunch mom at Ellie's school.  Not my shining moment.

Fortunately since that screwy week where I had no idea what day it was, I've been pretty good about knowing what day it is.  I thought I was chugging along just fine, until I came to the startling realization this evening that I apparently don't know what year we're in.  Now maybe you'll think I got confused and thought it was still 2010.  No, I knew full well that we have said goodbye to that dreadful year where family members dropped off left and right.  Would you believe I thought we were already in 2012?

I was once again browsing some homeschooling sites and I was getting annoyed that so much of the content on their sites was dated.  Honestly, am I supposed to enroll my children in a home study program where they have last year's information up on their site as if it's current?  I simply could not figure out what the problem was with these places.  Then I tried to figure out what happened in 2011 since I hardly had any recollection of it.  A few minutes of me being perplexed and a little more browsing online brought me to the conclusion that 2012 hasn't happened yet.

I'd love to know why I thought it was already next year.  This, dear readers, is how I totally disorient myself with little to no effort.

Book Review: The Imagination Station

A little while ago, I was given the opportunity to preview the first two books in a new children's series called The Imagination Station for their blog tour.  The series follows the exciting adventures of two cousins (a boy and a girl) who get to travel through time in an imagination station.  Each adventure combines history, action, Christian faith and an element of mystery.  The stories remind me of another children's book series called The Magic Tree House.

Before handing these books off to my nine year old daughter, I read through them.  I was impressed with how engaging they were for a children's book.  The authors, Marianne Haring and Paul McCusker,  do a great job at telling the reader how the setting looks so you can actually imagine what the places where the cousins, Beth and Patrick, look like.  I thought the illustrations in the book were nicely done and did a great job at conveying what was happening in the story at that point.  The stories are bound to keep eager young readers on the edge of their seat.  It's yet another series of children's books that your child won't want to put down until the story is completed. The publisher, Tyndale, and Focus on the Family plan to expand this fun series of children's books to at least eight titles.

The first adventure in this series is Voyage with the Vikings.  In this story, children will be transported to Greenland in the mysterious Imagination Station that only seems to work for them, and not it's inventor.  The children head back in time on a special mission to find something that is needed to save the mysterious Albert.  While they're there, they meet Eric the Red and Lief.  The plot has twists and turns and a nice dose of history and faith woven into the story.  When I finished reading this book I was ready to find out what happens next.  My daughter felt the same way after she devoured this book.  You can preview the first few chapters of this book by clicking here.

The second book in this series is Attack at the Arena.  In this book the cousins travel to ancient Rome.   In this adventure, children will be on the edge of their seats as they wait to find out the fate of Beth, who is the Emperor's slave, and Patrick, who is a monk.  I liked this book because it culminates with a key character being reminded that it's not enough to just be a follower of Christ, you also have to conduct yourself as though you are.  The message is subtle, but it makes it's impact nonetheless.

Overall, I found the first two books in this series to be well written.  Children who are just starting to read chapter books will find the easy words and large print easy to read.  They'll also appreciate the lovely illustrations that will further help to make the story come alive.  This series has the potential to appeal to both boys and girls.  I particularly like series which try to engage children of both genders.  Children who like adventure, mystery and history will surely enjoy these books.  This series isn't dripping in history quite as much as the Magic Tree House series, but it has a nice healthy dose of it that carries the potential to spark an interest in history for young children.   The book's Christian message is subtle.  I have read other books for children where the religious message feels heavy handed and forced. This is not the case with this series.  The message is there, but it does not try to shove anything down the readers throat.

My daughter who is nine thoroughly enjoyed the books and thinks they are a lot of fun.  She is curious about the mysterious messages regarding Albert, and so am I!  Going by her expert kid opinion, I'd say that children between the ages of seven to ten will enjoy these books.

As a parent, I not only enjoyed the fun historically infused stories, I also appreciated the fact that the end of each book has an activity puzzle.  Once you finish the book you can complete the puzzle and find the secret word.  The secret word can be used to win a prize on the series' website.

To make this blog tour fun for you my readers, I will am also hosting a giveaway of these two books.  One reader will win the first two books in this series courtesy of the publisher, Tyndale.  To enter, simply leave a comment telling me why you would like to add these books to your child's library.  If you blog, tweet, or facebook about this giveaway I will give you one additional entry for each.  The giveaway will end on April 10th at 5pm EST, and the winner will be announced the following morning.
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