Monday, February 28, 2011

Fast Times in Fourth Grade

Madeline got in to the car after school and announced that Mortimer* wanted her to call him tonight.  "Really?  And why does Mortimer want you to call him?" I asked.  Madeline didn't know but he just wanted her to call.  I asked her if she thought Mortimer liked her and she told me she didn't know.  Ugh.  I decided to use Mom Tactic #48 and avoided encouraging any phone conversations by means of distraction.  After all, kids today don't actually hold phone conversations.  They text and grunt.  They don't talk anymore.  Heck, they can't even spell out simple words like YOU or ARE.

Then, Mom Tactic #48 lead my nine year old to share some fascinating information with me.  Mortimer's mom told him that he can pick to of his very bestest friends to come over for a sleep over at the end of the school year.  Isn't that great?  And, here's the best part....Mortimer would like Madeline to come over to his house for the sleep over.  Isn't that terrific?  I promptly told her that it's not happening. EVER.  Sorry to disappoint you Mortimer and other boy who's name escapes me, but my daughter will not be sleeping over.

I told Madeline that she could tell Mortimer at school tomorrow that she WILL NOT be sleeping over at his house and to pick another friend to invite.  Madeline told me she thought it was odd that he wanted her to come over and that she didn't want to go.  She's not a fan of sleepovers even with her best girlfriends.

Maybe the boy's intentions were purely innocent, but I don't care to find out.  As long as Bryan and I have breath in our bodies and our daughters are dependent on us for food and shelter, they will not be sleeping over at boys' houses.  No way, no how!

*To protect the dubious identity of the rather forward young lad, his name has been changed to one I feel is befitting of any boy who thinks it's even remotely appropriate to invite my daughter to his house to spend the night.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Small Successes-February 24th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

So what HAVE I been doing this past week?  Seemingly, not much.  I do, however, have a perfectly valid reason for my total housekeeping fail.

1. I have managed to function like a normal person every morning by waking up on time, or before the alarm and getting the girls' breakfast ready.

2. After my nine year old freaked out on me that she had no pants to wear, I washed and folded a fair amount of laundry. To be totally truthful, my husband helped with the laundry process, too.  Some things I put in the washer and he took care of the dryer and unloading phase, and other loads I did the reverse.  It was a team effort, but it got done.

3. I have not freaked out about the multitude of things I have failed to do in the past week.  The kitchen counter tops look like they were hit by a bomb.  Ellie has not had any of her normal socks for several days with the exception of the one pair I managed to dig out of the clean laundry on Tuesday.  I've seen them in the piles of dirty laundry, but I'm not sure how they haven't managed to go for a ride in the washer and dryer.  I have only barely managed to put dinner on the table once in the past week, I think.  (Buying McDonald's last Thursday night counts, right?)  Bryan has been doing an excellent job at making sure the kids get fed at regular intervals.

Bonus: Yeah, I'll toss in a bonus to make up for my lackluster showing of "successes."  This past Saturday Madeline was not on the schedule to altar serve, but she decided to check and see if Father needed any additional altar servers for Mass.  It turns out she was the only altar server for the Mass.  She did everything and not only impressed Father, but she also got lots of compliments from people who were at the Mass.  I did my best to not be too nervous for her.  To be perfectly honest, I thought it would be many years before she was sitting next to the priest and holding the book.  Just to give you a visual, picture this: The shortest altar server (maybe 50 inches tall) with our tallest priest (6ft+).  If you had told me two months ago when she started altar serving that she'd be the only one up there and that she'd do a pretty good job, I never would have believed it.

Second Bonus: Because I started to feel really bad that I didn't accomplish much of anything this week.  I gathered up all the paper recycles and put them out at the curb.  Now when my parents visit in an hour or so my house won't look quite as bad as it did when they were here on Monday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A New Chewy Granola Bar Poster Child

Years ago there was a commercial for Quaker Chewy Granola Bars where a series of kids saying things that would totally mortify their parents were shown.  At the end of the commercial was a tag line that essentially said those kids needed a Chewy Granola Bar to shut them up.  The commercial was funny and so very true.  Tonight, I believe Madeline exhibited the qualities needed to be the new Chewy Granola bar poster child.  One thing is clear, you can't put a price tag on mortification.

I needed desperately to hit the local Shop Rite and get a small list of foods that an hour ago I decided were absolutely necessary for my survival: Heath Bars, seltzer water, strawberry yogurt with granola that you mix in, and Zesta saltines so I can bug Bryan to make me Campbell's tomato soup (the pedestrian kind that is concentrated and not at all fancy).  I was going to begrudgingly go to the store on my own an absolutely brilliant idea in hindsight but Bryan was moved to round up the kids and accompany me despite the fact that he didn't want to leave the house.  So the whole family trucked to the supermarket to get my odd list of  "essential" food items.  We were seconds from grabbing the last item on the list when one of our parish priests said hello to me.  This is the priest who for nearly two years has been trying in vain to get Ellie to be his friend.  She's more than happy to befriend our parish deacons, but for some reason she shies away from priests.  She won't shake their hands, give them a high five, tell them to have a nice week or give a hug when asked.

Father managed to sneak up on her tonight and say hello without her freaking out or running away.  I took it as a good sign considering she wouldn't give him the picture she drew of him and her this afternoon without me by her side.  Then he asked her when she's going to start altar serving (He coordinates our altar servers.)  That's when Madeline decided to show us that she should be the 2011 Quaker Chewy Granola Bar poster child.  "Not while you're here!" my precious nine year old bluntly put it.  GAAAA!  I froze.  Then I turned away from the candy I was seeking and stared at Bryan in total disbelief and shock.  Poor Father chuckled it off, but Bryan and I felt horrible.  Madeline had no idea that what she said was even hurtful.  I guess Madeline also doesn't realize that her sister is four years away from being old enough to altar serve at our parish.  A lot can change in four years, and I hope Ellie will outgrow her priest phobia by then.

So now we're home and I realize that we have no Chewy granola bars.  I didn't think we needed them, but now I'm not so sure.  I'm hoping that Father was not offended by what my mother would call Madeline's "diarrhea of the mouth."  The way she said it made it sound like we don't like him (absolutely not the case) and that made us feel even worse.  While Madeline thinks her sister doesn't like him, that's honestly not the case.  She likes to talk about our parish priests and is curious about them, but I think she's just too scared to actually talk to them.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Madeline wasn't exactly thrilled yesterday when she found out that Ellie not only got to go to the zoo, but she also got to spend time with my parents.  In fact, when I asked Ellie if she wanted to go to the zoo with me she responded that she wanted to go to Mom Mom and Pop Pop's house.  Defeated, I called my parents and asked them if they had any plans for the day.  They agreed to come to the zoo which made Ellie one happy little girl.

On our ride home from the hair dresser this morning Madeline decided to ask Ellie about the zoo trip.  She apparently had gotten over her jealousy or annoyance at the fact that we went to the zoo without her.  She asked what animals she got to see.  Ellie excitedly told her that she got to see the crocodiles.  I corrected her and told her it was an alligator.  That's when Madeline came out with the profound statement of "Oh, so you saw a girl alligator!"  I explained that we didn't know the gender of the alligator to which she replied "I thought crocodiles were boys and alligators were girls!"  I told her that species don't work that way and that it would be like saying that cats are girls and dogs are boys.  Ellie, presumably flexing her 5 1/2 year old know-it-all muscle, had to comment that she knew they were different.

The little misconceptions never cease to amaze me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Carrying Only the Essentials

Ellie had the day off from school today so we had one of those days where we could do something fun while Madeline was in school.  Now that Ellie goes to school for a full day, I don't get many days like this with just the two of us.

Our morning started off with a trip to the pediatrician for an ear recheck.  She had an ear infection almost two weeks ago and we needed to have her ears checked to make sure the infection was gone.  I'm happy to report that her ears are back to normal.

While we were there I noticed many things.  The poor girl who was walking out of the office with her throw up bowl, the little boy who was making trips to the bathroom every 5 minutes, and a lot of babies who were toted around in their car seat carriers by parents carrying diaper bags that may be too large to fit in a carry-on compartment of a plane.  In the nearly 9 1/2 years that I have been a parent, I have never been able to understand this phenomenon.

Then we went to the zoo with my parents.  Given that it's a day off from school for a lot of kids, and it's also one of the warmest days we've seen in a while, the zoo was rather packed.  Ellie zipped through the zoo at hyper speed, seriously this child pauses for maybe 3 seconds at each exhibit.  Once she's seen the animal she's had enough.  Not being an agile five year old, my parents and I had to navigate through the crowds of strollers and the lesbian couple (the things I notice that often times I wish I hadn't).  In our navigating, I noticed once again the huge overstuffed diaper bags.  Some were for tiny babies, and others were for toddlers.  Honestly, I don't get it.  Nosy person that I am, I noticed in one stroller an open diaper bag, presumably it was open because it had too much stuff and couldn't close, which had what appeared to be a 3lb can of powdered formula.  Are you kidding me?  When my girls were eventually on formula, a can that size would take about 2 1/2-3 weeks for them to consume.  Why does one need something so large for a trip to the zoo?  Do some parents fear that they will be trapped in the zoo?

I guess I just don't get it.  I carried a diaper bag with Madeline.  After a month of carrying my larger bag which wasn't very large, I moved to a very small bag that contained a pacifier, a few diapers and wipes in a portable changing pad, a bottle if we were going to be gone a long time, a burp cloth, nursing pads, my wallet and keys.  When I had Ellie I started out with the super small bag and then decided it was easier to just put her bare necessities in my purse.  If we went somewhere for a long day, I'd bring the bigger bag and pack enough diapers and wipes for the day, a small blanket and a change of clothes.

Maybe I'm too much of a minimalist, but I don't see the point in being weighed down with a lot of unnecessary stuff.  I did keep a small bag in the car that held emergency diapers, wipes, pacifiers and other items that could be needed in a pinch, but I didn't carry them.  Once in a while I'd need to dip into my emergency supply, but I never felt like I needed to lug it around with me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Small Successes-February 17th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. As a life long blabber mouth, I have great difficulty in keeping secrets.  One of my successes this week is keeping a rather sizable secret for the second week running.  This has got to be a record for me.  No idea how much longer I'll last before I blab.

2. I got another volunteer for the Vacation Bible School that I'm directing for the parish this July.  Yep, that puts me at four volunteers.  Best of all this volunteer has all the necessary diocesan hurdles cleared.  YAY! Every time someone steps up to volunteer for the VBS I feel a little less stressed.

3.  Ellie learned to tie her shoes and is now a member of the Shoe Tying Club at school.  We're very proud of her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ellie Tying A Shoe!

CSN Product Reviews

About a month or so ago I was contacted by CSN Stores and asked if I'd like to do another product review for them.  I was happy to oblige, and had the opportunity to expand my cookware with two new pots.  This time, I decided to review the 1 quart saucier with pouring spouts and the 2 quart sauce pan with pouring spout and lid.

Here's my take on the 1 quart saucier:

I've been using the stainless Emerilware pots and pans from All-Clad for two years and have been very pleased with them.  I was pretty excited to try out this 1 quart saucier with pouring spouts because my husband and I frequently find ourselves wishing we had a small pot to work with for certain sauces and other items.  We had hoped that this pot would be the perfect solution.

Our hopes would have been answered if this pot was balanced.  Unfortunately, the handle on this saucier is heavier than the pot which causes it to tip very easily if there isn't enough in the pot to balance it.  This isn't much of a problem if you have the saucier at least half way filled, but it's certainly a problem when you are making something such as a roux.

It's not an awful saucier, and I certainly appreciate the pouring spouts which allow me to transfer liquids with no drips, but buyers should beware that they may have a few unexpected messes for those occasions where the pot decides to tip over on the stovetop.

My thoughts on the 2 quart sauce pan:
In the two years that I have had my Emerilware cookware, my biggest gripe has been that the set didn't come with a 2 quart pan.  I had 1.5 quarts and 3 quarts, but I was feeling a bit like Goldilocks and the three bears when it came to my cookware.  Enter the 2qt sauce pan with pouring spout and nifty lid with drainage holes.

This pot is perfect for cooking up pasta for those times when I don't need to cook for more than just my children.  I love the pouring spouts and drainage holes on the lid.  I can easily drain pasta without needing a colander.  Anything that saves me from needing another cooking device that will have to be washed gets bonus points with me.

The pot is a nice weight and is fairly well balanced.  As far as pots go, this one is a little short and wide (I'd prefer taller and thinner, to be perfectly honest) but it gets the job done and that's what's important.

I was provided with both of the above products for free (I did put close to $5 of my own money towards the cost) from CSN Stores in exchange for my honest review.

Shall We Hand Dance?

I found a link to this over on Fr. V's blog, Adam's Ale, this morning and couldn't help but share it here.

I suppose if I can find some timing, rhythm and coordination somewhere, I might be able to make an incredibly feeble attempt at doing this.  I'm sure the video of my inevitable flaming fail could be mildly amusing.

Is Trying Something New That Bad?

For nearly five years now, Ellie has baffled me when it comes to learning new skills.  She simply hates to try.  When she learned to sit up on her own, she was incredibly indignant that I had the audacity to move out from behind her and snap a picture of the momentous occasion.   As soon as the camera snapped, she looked up, looked behind her, looked back and me, turned bright red, slammed herself on the ground and proceeded to have a kicking and screaming tantrum.  Once she realized that she could move around by crawling, she threw herself on the floor and and acted like she was devastated.

I'd like to tell you that she's come a long way and will try things and smile when she accomplishes a new skill.  I'm not going to lie to you.  While the tantrums have pretty much died out, she still doesn't want to do new things.  Learning to write was a painful process, and it was at that time that I realized that I was dealing with a perfectionist.  How her mother, an irritating perfectionist, never noticed that she was one, too, I'll never know.  It took insane amounts of patience to encourage her to write, but we made it to the other side.

Ellie is meticulous in many of the things she does.  She can make the biggest mess you've ever seen, but she can also be very neat when it comes to arranging things just. so.  I've been of the opinion for over a year now that she has the fine motor skills necessary to tie a shoe.  Ellie, not wanting to be too autonomous has held firm that she can't do it and doesn't want to learn.  Enter battle of the wills.  (Have I mentioned that mine is iron clad and teflon coated?)

Over the course of the past several months, I have slowly tried to trick (because trickery is the only way in which I have been able to convince this child to learn new skills) my expert knot tying child into learning to make a bow.  She had the first few steps down but made it a point to sabotage the tying when it came to bringing the lace around the loop.  A few days ago I mentioned to my husband that perhaps my left handedness is to blame and I asked him to take a shot at teaching her.   He agreed to give it a try, but I got impatient waiting for that attempt.  You see, I wanted her to learn to tie shoes before she turns eighteen.  I decided to try to talk Ellie through the process again this morning.  Amazingly, she got it.  I congratulated her and offered a high five.  She looked at her perfectly tied shoe and melted into tears.

I don't know why she simply can't be happy for herself when she learns something new.  I remember Madeline was super excited when she learned to tie a shoe.  She went around the house and tied every thing she could.  She couldn't wait to tell her teacher so she could be a member of the shoe tying club.  Ellie claimed she was tired when I asked her to tie another shoe.  I don't buy tired at 8:30AM.  On the way to school I asked if she was going to show her teacher that she can tie a shoe.  She's not interested.

I guess she's just one of those kids who really doesn't like change.  I was hoping to have a video of my new shoe tying kid to share here, but I'm pretty sure none of you would want to watch the video of Ellie crying her way through a successful shoe tie.

I'm sorry she's not proud of her latest accomplishment, but I'm proud of her.  And let me just add that she ties a mean bow.  Her big sister could probably take a few pointers from her.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Small Successes-February 10th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. Ellie is on the mend.  I didn't blog about it, but she was sick last week.  She stayed home from school on Thursday and Friday with a fever of 102, but the only thing she complained about was a stomach ache.  Figuring she had something viral, I decided we'd wait it out.  Saturday she was peppy and happy.  I thought she was better.  Then she crashed at Mass that night and seemed a little iffy.  Sunday morning she went to religious ed with me and quickly declined.  I had to have Bryan come and pick her up.  Once I was done teaching we ran her over to the Walgreens Take Care Clinic.  Turns out she had a double ear infection, yet every time I asked her her ears or throat hurt she said no.  Now she's on an antibiotic and is feeling much better.  After three days of having a sick kid at home (she missed school on Monday, too), I'm happy that she was able to go back to school.   She was missing her friends.

2. The girls actually want to clean the house.  I guess my neat freak qualities rubbed off on them.  They're now into cleaning bathroom sinks, sweeping floors and wiping off the kitchen table.  I don't know what got into them, but I hope it sticks around.  I could use the extra help.

3. The laundry is remarkably under control.  I had a big pile up at the beginning of the week but I got through it and now it's totally manageable.  Yay!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beyond Blessed

When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted to sweep, mop and vacuum.  Occasionally, my mom would let me play with the broom, but the vacuum and mop were off limits.  That's not to say that I didn't pretend to mop the bathroom floor (that's where the mop was stored) or play with the awesome retractable cord on my mother's Hoover.  Once in a while the mood would strike me and I'd want to clean the powder room sink.  This usually happened in the process of me washing my dolls' clothing or playing swimming pool with my Barbies.  Being of totally sound mind, I never wanted anything to do with cleaning the bathrooms.  It has to be my least favorite chore.  Rake leaves, weed the garden, clean the garage?  Sure, I'll happily do those if I means I can avoid scrubbing toothpaste off a sink.

For a while now, the girls have enjoyed dusting.  Despite the fact that it ranks as one of my favorite chores, I let them do it.  They have to start somewhere I always tell myself.  Yesterday something strange came over my girls.  They want to clean the bathrooms.  No, they're not gas station rest room bad, or anything like that.  In fact, they were cleaned last week.  Apparently, they find cleaning the sinks to be great fun.  I mentioned in jest that one of them will have to learn how to clean a toilet.  In response, Madeline and Ellie decided that they would clean the tanks, and seats.  Perhaps this is a sign that my nearly 9 1/2 year old can be charged with toilet cleaning.  After all, she did transform her scary toothpaste encrusted bathroom sink into a shining masterpiece.

In an effort to get the word out about their cleaning business, they made up business cards.  They boast the phrase "Bathrooms only."  I can live with that.  It's a blessing that comes at a time that is most opportune.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mass Confusion

While we only live about 3 blocks from Madeline's school, we're still in the car for a few minutes as I drive her to the drop off location.  As we approached the drop off, Madeline excitedly told me that her class was going to learn about the Mass today.  Confused, because my child attends public school, I asked her if she was sure.  "Yeah, Mom, our teacher said we were going to learn about the Mass in science today," said an excited Madeline.  The excitement faded and she looked like she had been cheated when I told her that she was going to learn about mass, meaning the weight an object has, and not the Mass.

I suppose Madeline has been largely unaware of the separation of church and state.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Movie Review: Ben-Hur A Race to Glory

The girls and I have enjoyed watching CCC of America's Ben-Hur: A Race to Glory over the past several weeks.  The movie has elements of excitement, faith and best of all, educational value.  At just 30 minutes long, this movie manages to get across the same powerful message as the well known epic motion picture Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston.  

I was amazed at how well this animated film mirrored Ben-Hur.  From the tile falling off the roof, to Ben-Hur encountering Christ on multiple occasions this film presents that same amazing story line on a level that children will take to heart.  And best of all, it's a short film so your children won't lose interest half-way  through the story.

Observant children will recognize Jesus when he gives the thirsty Ben-Hur a drink of water, and again when he speaks to the crowd.  My nine year old pointed out that one of the scenes must have been Palm Sunday because Jesus is seen riding into the city on a donkey colt.  I was impressed that she picked up on that detail.

The exciting chariot races that many associate with the movie Ben-Hur are also in the animated version.  My five year old was on the edge of her seat the first few times she watched this film waiting to see how it would turn out.  She even picked up on the roman numerals being used during the race.  So this film also provided us with a learning opportunity.

This film has the ability to appeal to both boys and girls.  My five and nine year old daughters enjoyed watching this film and so did I.  I suspect most children between three to ten would be happy to sit and watching this exciting DVD.

I was provided with a complimentary review copy of this DVD by the publisher, CCC of America in exchange for my honest review.  For more information on Ben-Hur: A Race to Glory visit CCC of America.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Make Your Own Mary Grotto

Last year when I was trying to come up with a craft idea for my kindergarten religious education class for the chapter on the Blessed Mother, I was really happy to come across this nice round up of crafts for the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes on Catholic Icing.  In particular, I was interested in the Mary grotto that was made by Charlotte of Waltzing Matilda (She has great Catholic coloring pages, too.)

While I found Charlotte's post on making a Mary grotto that's similar to the somewhat pricey kit from Illuminated Ink very helpful, I still had to take some time to figure out just how big the cardboard and the picture needed to be in order to make the grotto look right.  After a little trial and error and a couple instances of pondering whether or not I was insane for wanting to tackle this craft with eight kindergarten children, I got it figured out.
In making the classroom example, I came to the conclusion that certain portions of the grotto construction are best done ahead of time if time is limited.  In my case, time is certainly limited as we only have an hour for class, and that class has to include prayers and the chapter lesson.  I allocated 20 minutes for this craft with the vast majority of the construction completed ahead of time.

To make a Mary grotto you'll need the following supplies:
  • cardboard cut to 5 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches
  • a holy card of Mary or a coloring page shrunk to 3 1/2 by 5 inches
  • crayons or colored pencils if you aren't using a holy card
  • popsicle sticks
  • glue stick
  • tacky glue
  • aquarium gravel in colors of your choice
The first and easiest step is to locate and cut out a piece of good sturdy cardboard that can be used for the  craft.  I prefer to use cardboard that is plain on both sides for aesthetic purposes.  You want something that will be able to survive being coated in glue.

Next I would suggest picking a nice holy card of Mary or finding a coloring page that you can shrink down to 3 1/2 by 5 inches.  I like this coloring page from Waltzing Matilda.  I shrink this coloring page to 25% and then color it in for my students.  I color it in before hand to save time and to also ensure that no green alien Blessed Mother grottos leave my classroom.  Just call me a control freak.

Once I have the coloring page colored, copied and cut to size (You didn't think I was coloring them individually, did you? I'm crazy, but I'm not insane!) I take my glue stick and glue the picture to the cardboard.

Then I take my tacky glue (because it holds well and dries fast) and glue the bottom and side popsicle sticks around the picture.

Once they are done, I assemble a cross made from popsicle sticks that were cut.  You'll need the upright beam cut to 3 inches and the cross beam cut to 2 inches.  You can use a sharp scissor or wire cutter to cut the sticks to size.  I don't like rounded ends on the cross so I cut the sticks so I'm left with squared off ends.

Then I glue the upright beam on to the cardboard so that only 1 1/2 inches of the cross protrudes from the top.  After that, I add the crossbeam.

Once that's all in place, you add the popsicle sticks that form the top of the grotto.

After the glue has dried then you can proceed to adding the aquarium gravel.  I recommend being generous with your use of glue, but don't go totally overboard or the glue will run over the edges.
Once you have covered cardboard and the popsicle sticks you'll have a lovely, inexpensive Mary grotto that you can display.

I use the Mary grotto that you see in the first picture on the prayer table in my kindergarten religious education class.  To make it stand nicely, I glued the back of a 2x3 picture frame on to the back of the grotto.  If you want to use this craft to encourage your child/students to learn a specific marian prayer such as the Hail Mary, Memorare, or Hail Holy Queen, you could glue it to the back of the grotto.

For around $12 I was able to get enough gravel and popsicle sticks to make close to 75 of these grottos.  I was able to find store brand tacky glue for $.79 a bottle.  One bottle is enough to cover 8 to 10 grottos.

You could also use this grotto set up to make the stations of the cross during Lent.  I may give that craft idea a whirl in March or April.  

Equipping Catholic Families

About a week ago, Monica from Arma Dei contacted me and told me about her new blog called Equipping Catholic Families.  On her blog you can not only find reviews of Arma Dei products, but you can also find some really cute craft ideas.  Some of the ideas come straight from Monica's book, A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families.

If you're facing a snow day and the looming boredom or insanity that comes with such days, she has an idea that is not only really creative, but should also keep your kids out of your hair for a little while.  I love that she took items that most of us can find in our house and turned them in to a castle.
And, if you have a kid who can't get enough of the game Guess Who? she even came up with an awesome template so you can play Guess Who? using the saints.  We have an old version of Guess Who?, but seeing Monica's Guess Who? saint templates makes me want to go out and buy the newer edition so the girls and I can play this game with saints.

You can also follow Arma Dei on Facebook where you'll find previews of her latest craft ideas that have been posted on Equipping Catholic Families.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review: The Little Way of Lent

Several weeks ago a review copy of Fr. Gary Caster's The Little Way of Lent meditations in the spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux arrived at my house.  As soon as I saw the book I was excited about the prospect of a Lenten book based on the little way of St. Therese.  St. Therese is a favorite saint in our household.  My daughters are quite taken with her and they often try to emulate her little way, especially during Lent.  But, this book wasn't for them, it was for me.

There's a lovely introduction to this book that explains St. Therese's little way in case you are unfamiliar with it.  Fr. Caster explains in his introduction how approaching Lent using the little way changed the way he experienced it.

The daily meditations will prompt you to have a more meaningful Lent.  For the beginning of each week in Lent, you'll find a long quote from St. Therese that kicks off the week.  For each day during Lent you will find a listing of the Mass readings for the day (I highly recommend reading them before moving on to the meditation.) followed by a meditation that is based on those readings.  The meditations are insightful and will lead you to a deeper understanding of God's word.  Each meditation is also followed by a shorter quote from St. Therese that can work as an additional reflection point for the day.

I think this book makes for great spiritual reading during the season of Lent.  I particularly like that it ties into the Mass readings for each day.  The book certainly has the potential to change your perspective on Lent.  If you typically see Lent as a gloomy time, you might just find that it becomes joyous as you travel through Lent this year with St. Therese's little way as your guide.

I was provided with a complimentary review copy of The Little Way of Lent by the publisher, Servant Books, in exchange for my honest review.

Small Successes-February 3rd

Celebrating the little things in life that add up.

1. Bryan's office is slowly but surely coming together.  I painted the shoe moulding this weekend and Bryan used the pneumatic nail gun to get it attached.  We also brought a nice area rug to complete the office floor.  Throughout this week he has been moving some of his furniture to it's new home.  The old office is looking rather empty, but I've already got big plans for that room.

2. I'm on top of the laundry.  I have some that it's in process and some that's folded and needs to be put away but I'm counting laundry as a success.

3. I'm finally getting caught up on all the reviews I have to write.  I wrote three four this morning (two were for the Amazon Vine program which I typically don't post on the blog.)  I apologize if this blog seems like it's mostly reviews these days.  I'm just so busy with life these days that I simply don't always have the time to blog about everything that's going on even though I wish I could.

Book Review: The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins

I was rather intrigued when I first heard about John Zmirak's The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, a vital look at virtue and vice, with quizzes and activities for saintly self-improvement.  The book is pretty much a tour of the seven deadly sins, their polar opposites (the neurosis) and the virtue that is the balance.

This book is one that requires the reader to have a sense of humor.  If you're easily offended or lack a sense of humor, this book is likely not for you.  That said, I found this book to be incredibly humorous.  Zmirak's wit and sarcasm kept me turning the pages to see what he'd say next.  Before I give you the impression that the book is simply there to entertain the reader, let me assure you that there is a certain element of seriousness as well.  Throughout the book you will find references to great theological minds such as Thomas Aquinas.  Zmirak essentially presents a vice, gives us a few stories that illustrate that vice, and then tosses in solid insight that will get you thinking.

After each vice and it's associated virtue are presented, there is a "Trademark-Busting Cosmo-Style Quiz."  These quizzes present you with a situation and four  choices for how you might respond to it.  I found the quizzes and their potential answers to not only make me think, but they also made me laugh.

The type in this book is small (think college text books that had the sole purpose of killing your eyesight), but the copious illustrations and pictures make up for the itty bitty type.  Despite the small print, this book is probably the most fun you'll have learning about the deadly sins.

From start to finish, The Bad Catholic's Guide To The Seven Deadly Sins will keep you laughing.  For more information on this book or to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

I wrote this review of The Bad Catholic's Guide To The Seven Deadly Sins 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.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Narrowing Down the Options

I've been preparing all the necessary documents necessary to register the girls at our parish school.  The school, for some reason would not provide registration forms before the actual registration date.  This seemingly simple little thing bothered me immensely.  I like to be prepared ahead of time, so I would have been happy to have the forms in advance.

Tonight I got a reminder email from the school letting me know what they require for registration.  Then I scrolled down and saw the tuition for 2011-12.  It jumped $600 for the first child and $250 for the second child.  While I realize it's just $850 more, it's just enough to put the option out of consideration.

I'm disappointed, but I suspect that it's a sign that this simply isn't the right option for us.  Today has just been one of those days where a lot of major things fell into place and narrowing down the education options has just been one of them.

We're now trying to discern whether or not homeschooling is a viable option for our family.  Both girls want to attend the public school.  Madeline could go either way, but her preference is to go to the public school with her friends.  I am not sure if my concerns about the middle school are totally unfounded or not.  I know several families who really like the school and only a few who have had anything negative to say.  Ellie is pretty desperate to go to the public elementary school.

I will now spend the next several months trying to discern which of my remaining two options is best for the girls.   I hadn't expected that I'd have an answer about the parish school so soon.  Two weeks ago when I mentioned my concerns about the school issue to another mother, she suggested that I not only pray about it (which I had been doing quite a lot) but that I also put it in God's hands.  I did just that on Saturday before Mass.  I'd say I got a rather fast response.  And in some ways, I think I got my answer today about the other two options, but I'll continue to pray about it.

I'm now going to go sigh, and try to find peace in knowing that I no longer have to worry over this particular option.  Besides, I've got bigger things on my mind.  I'll blog more on that in the future.
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