Friday, November 30, 2007

On the Calendar

There are just so many wonderful feast days coming up for us to celebrate during Advent. It is going to be such a fun month as we joyfully prepare for, and then celebrate, the birth of Christ!

In addition to our Jesse Tree, Advent Wreath, Advent Calendar and other Christmas preparations, I have been working on our plans for a few of the various feast days leading up to Christmas.

Looking at the list, I'm not sure we will get to all of them, but it will sure help having them all planned out!

December 2 - First Sunday of Advent

Today we will start our Jesse Tree, Advent Calendar and Bless our Advent Wreath. We will also set out the manger and animals of our Nativity sets. (Each Sunday of Advent, as we get closer to Christmas, we will added more to the scene). Since it is also "Stir-up" Sunday, we will make a fruitcake and possibly a plum pudding. One of the local churches that we attend will also be having a St. Nicholas Dinner as well, that we are planning to attend! It is also the beginning of the NEW Liturgical Year! So, we will prepare our Liturgical Notebooks to fill with art and copy work for this new year! Happy New Year! :)

December 3 - Feast of St. Francis Xavier

In the morning, we will pray the Litany of St. Francis Xavier and then read page 20 of More Saints Lives and Illuminations. In the afternoon, I will let the kids watch Francis Xavier and the Samurai's Lost Treasure by CCC (we just love all the CCC videos!) And for dinner I think I will try and make this recipe for Xaver Suppe. (You can check out even more ideas here.)

December 4 - Feast of St. Barbara

I found another couple recipes for this feast day that I think we will try this year. We will make Barbarakuchen (St. Barabara Cake) and Schweinelendchen Barbara (Pork Tenderloin St. Barbara) from pages 34-35 of Cooking with the Saints. They both look quite yummy. We will also read pages 16-21 of Once upon a time Saints and this Story of St. Barbara for Children.

December 6th - Feast of St. Nicholas

This is one of my favorite feast days!

We have a number of books about St. Nicholas that we will be reading the whole week prior to the feast of St. Nicholas. Our favorites is The Legend of St. Nicholas by Demi. We also really like The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan.

Our family has the tradition of giving our kids new slippers filled with a bag of gold coins and a note from St. Nicholas. The note is usually on the back of a holy card... It lists the good deeds they have done, as well as anything they need to work on before Christmas. (We have not needed to do this, but could place a note from Black Peter with a lump of coal, if the child has not been good.)

For breakfast I am planning on making St. Nicholas Hot Cocoa and a Candy Cane Coffee Cake. Sometime during the day we will watch Nicholas: The Boy who became Santa by CCC and read page 17 of Saints Lives and Illuminations.

I also love Love LOVE this website which is dedicated to St. Nicholas. In fact my screensaver is actually a St. Nicholas day countdown that I downloaded from this site! :) It has so many fun things to do including many great coloring pages! I'll probably print a few off and let the kids color them while we listen to this wonderful CD by Anonymous 4.

December 7th - Feast of St. Ambrose

Since St. Ambrose is the Patron Saint of Candlemakers, we will decorate our Christ Candle today... We will just use a tall white pillar candle, and decorate it with these Candle Decorating Pens from Hearthsong--as long as they arrive on time! We will also read the story of St. Ambrose on pages 5-11 Once upon a Time Saints.

December 8th - Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today after Mass, we will drape a Blue Cloth, or tie a blue ribbon, around the Christ Candle we decorated yesterday, in honor of the Blessed Mother. On Christmas Eve the cloth comes off and reveals Christ. This candle then takes the place of the Advent Candles for the Christmas Season.

We will also read about and discuss the Immaculate Conception.

There are TONS of great ideas at this link... I love the idea of taking a virtual tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We were there once when Captain was a baby, and so I might pull out our own pictures as well!

The special treat for the day is gingerbread... It is baked on this day because it reminds us of the passage in the Book of Sirach, 24:20-21 that describes Mary smelling like spices:
I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatical balm; I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh; and I perfumed my dwelling as store, and galbanum, and onyx, and aloes, and as the frankincense not cut, and my odor is as the purest balm.
So, I think we will bake this gingerbread cake that I've been totally craving looks delicious and put together our Gingerbread House for this special feast! I also will copy off the Marian Crossword Puzzle on page 55 of A Year With God.

December 9th - Feast of St. Juan Diego

We will read page 19 of More Saints Lives and Illuminations and Our Lady of Guadalupe by Father Lovasik. Then we will listen to Fresh Flowers in Winter: The story of Saint Juan Diego by Glory Stories while the kids color pictures out of Our Lady of Guadalupe Coloring Book by Mary Fabyan Windeatt.

December 10th - Feast of Our Lady of Loreto

I plan to pray the Litany of Loreto with the children. Oh! And here is an online crossword of the Marian Titles from the Litany of Loreto!

December 12th - Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

For this feast we will be attending Mass, and then a celebration afterwards, with our Homeschool Group. When we get home we will read The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola. Also, this craft looks like such fun, but I think it will probably have to wait till next year!!

Decmeber 13 - Feast of St. Lucy

Today we will make Santa Lucia's Bread for breakfast, or have round Donuts with lighted birthday candles inserted.(if I don't have a chance to make the bread!) We will also read about Saint Lucy and color the picture in Fenestrae Fidei. I so wish I could sew and make one of these!

December 14 - Feast of St. John of the Cross

Today we will read page 24 of More Saints Lives and Illuminations. Being Friday, it might be a good night to watch St. John of the Cross as well!

December 16th - Gaudete Sunday

I read in Catholic Traditions in the Home and Classroom:
"In Mexico, the houses are decorated and ready for guests by December 16th. From this night until Christmas, people will have parties and the traditional posadas. The posadas commemorate the journey of Mary & Joseph and their attempt to find lodging."

I thought this would be a great day to read The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaoula. Maybe I will even attempt to make my mother-in-laws flan for dessert... Although, it NEVER turns out as yummy as hers!

I hope this list will help you with your own plans, and that you all have a very blessed Advent!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Advent Wreath

I love the tradition of the Advent wreath. It so totally packed with symbolism! It is such a great way to teach the children even more about God, Christ and the Christmas season.

The round shape stands for God's eternity. Like God, it has no beginning and no end.

The greens used to make the wreath are EVERgreen, and therefore unchanging, just like God.

The four candles symbolize the four centuries that man waited for the coming of our Savior.

Three of the candles are purple since Advent is a time of penance. It was because of our sinfulness that we needed a Savior, and so we must prepare ourselves through sacrifice and penance during Advent for Christ's coming at Christmas. However, we know that Christ HAS and IS coming again, and so our penance is a joyful one! We are joyfully anticipating and preparing ourselves for the celebration of Christmas, as well as Christ's second coming. Therefore, one candle is pink to represent our joy.

On the first Sunday of Advent we light one purple candle. On the second Sunday of Advent, two purple candles are lit. On the third Sunday of Advent, which is called "Gaudete Sunday", we light the pink candle since "Gaudete" means "let us rejoice!" And then, on the fourth (and final) Sunday of Advent, all four candles are lit. The gradual lighting of the candles is a visible sign for us. We can see the light growing brighter the closer we get to birth of Christ, who IS the light of the world!

We usually make our own Advent wreath by gathering greens from our yard. I then have four silver candle stands on which I place the candles. I use to purchase taper candles, but since we light them every night, we burn through them so fast... So, I switched to pillar candles which will last all of Advent, and have been working great!

After dinner, on the first Sunday of Advent, my husband leads us in prayer as he blesses our wreath before we light the first candle. We use the blessing found in a great little book called Handbook of Prayers. (I just LOVE this little prayerbook!) You can also find the blessing here.

Each evening of Advent, before we relight the candles of our wreath, we say one of the following prayers, depending on which week of Advent it is:

The First Week
Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we pray Thee and come; That, defended by Thee, we may deserve rescue from approaching dangers brought on by our sins, and being set free by Thee, obtain our salvation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

The Second Week
Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of Thine only-begotten Son, that through His coming we may be worthy to serve Thee with purified minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

The Third Week
Incline Thine ear to our prayers, O Lord, we beseech Thee; and make bright the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

The Fourth Week
Bestir, O Lord, Thy might, we beseech Thee, and come; and with great power come to our aid, that, by the help of Thy grace, that sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

The School Room ~ An Update!

I finally have our "School Room" put back together! It is amazing what last minute company can help you accomplish! Here are a few photos for you to see what I have been up to this week...

I took snapshots of different views of our room. In this picture you can see our Saint Calendar, the closet, and a couple bookshelf's in which I keep most of our Pre-School books, coloring books, beginning readers and Cd's.

Here is a picture of the left side of the closet.

I added a couple more Rubbermaid drawers and moved that small nightstand into the closet to make room for our new bookshelf.

The closet holds various craft items, games and other miscellaneous things. The other side of the closet has a large dresser for more storage with my copy machine on top. It seems to be a good spot to keep it.

Overall it made much better use of our closet space.. I am wishing I would have taken a before picture. Oh well.

Here is the next snapshot. You can see that I placed the table under the window coming out into the room. This seemed to work the best... I can't begin to tell you HOW many TIMES I moved all the furniture around trying to make it fit without feeling crowded! I will be bringing in 2 more matching chairs from the garage as well, and, hopefully, painting both of the boys desks at some point.

And here you can see the other corner, which is filled the computer and more books! I haven't moved my maps and the boys history time line around yet since I wanted to make sure everything is staying put first! :)

You can see this picture sitting on top puzzle that sits on the small bookcase by the door. I still need to decide where to hang it up.

I just LOVE it! Our home school is dedicated to and called Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We received this print from a monastery at which my brother-in-law spent a few months before returning to the Fraternity of St. Peter.

You can order it here and support the monks at the same time! :)


This is a picture of what I used the magazine holders for. Everything always slides off the ends of this bookshelf, and I thought these would work better than book ends since they would give me a place to store paper! One is filled with construction paper, one with copy paper, one with notebooks and writing paper and the last with all our Handwriting without Tears curriculum. (I just started using HWT with Twinkle Toes, and she loves it!) Don't look too closely at the colors of this bookshelf... It shows the effects of my Spray Paint experiment... Yikes! Hopefully it will eventually be ALL green!

OK, I couldn't help adding a picture of my favorite bookshelf! My "Catholic Mosaic" shelf is a very close second.

Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions on ways for me to make it look better with my limited resources!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The School Room ~ Revisited

I posted last summer about organizing and setting up our school room.

That arrangement was working alright for awhile... However, once we added a table to the middle of the room, it made it feel so cramped and cluttered. And who wants to spend much time in a cramped and cluttered room?

So, I decided, since we spend so much time in here, this is where I would start with my house organizing... Now, 2 days later, I am wishing I would have chosen a quicker project. :)

I started with a trip to the store. The objective being to purchase a few more Rubbermaid drawers for the closet, some magazine holders, spray paint, and an inexpensive bookshelf.

One of the challenges with home schooling is finding room for ALL of our books! We have very few bookshelves, and plus, my biggest one has open ends so everything slides out the sides if you take a book off of it... It is very frustrating. Hubby says, "You just need to stop buying books." I say, "We just need another bookshelf!" I love books...

So... back to the store. We, the kids and I, found the things we were looking for including a bookshelf that was only $28.99! So we headed up to the checkout with a full cart. At the check out I realize that I had left my wallet in the car... AArrgghh! So, I go to take the car seat off the cart, knock over the Rubbermaid container on top, which falls on top of Rascal, as everyone turns to stare at the crazy lady shopping with 5 little ones! I must have been quite a sight!

Nevertheless, we made it home. I then proceeded to put together the bookshelf. Which turned out to be not quite as easy as it sounded... And my thumb is still trying to recover from all the times it happened to be in the hammers way. Once that was done, I pulled out the spray paint.

The open ended bookshelf I mentioned is, or rather was, primary colors of blue, red, yellow & white. It has always bugged me. I guess I like more natural (earthy) colors. So I picked up a can of primer and a can of hunter green paint. It said it would cover 25 square feet... that should be enough right? Well, 25 sq feet equals practically nothing when it comes to spray paint. I now have a red, blue, yellow, white, blotching primer with a green corner bookshelf. It looks lovely! I have added another 10 cans of spray paint to my next shopping list!

Today went much better than yesterday, other than the fact that I woke up completely sore. (Moving furniture is quite the workout!) The bookshelves have been filled--I will deal with the paint another day--and the furniture has all been rearranged. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I will be able to snap a few pictures of our school room. The kids are liking it better already. When the girls were done playing dress up they pulled out a number of puzzles and sat around on our open school room floor putting them together, while the boys colored. It is quite cozy.

Well, I'm off to get some sleep... Goodnight!

Dressing Up

This afternoon, while I was creating a bigger mess organizing our school room, the girls decided to play dress up. Daddy says they look like a couple of gypsies... They were sure having fun!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Preparing to Prepare

The latest Loveliness fair is up... The loveliness of Preparing to Prepare!

You can read it here.

Like all of the loveliness fairs, it is just lovely! I wanted to participate, but honestly, I have just been too preoccupied with life lately... It seems that there is always so much to do and so very little time. It feels like lately I am just not getting much accomplished.

Part of this is due to my lack of sleep. Peanut is not sleeping well at night and this makes for very challenging days. The rest is due to my lack of organization. Getting organized is my goal this week as we "Prepare to Prepare". I want to be able to give my children a peaceful and enjoyable Advent as we prepare for Christmas. But, in order for this to happen, I need to be organized. At least, it would be a HUGE plus!

So... This is the kickoff of my major housecleaning and organizing project, which is long overdue, and hopefully will be finished by this next weekend, the beginning of Advent. And, hopefully, it will also be a thorough purging of all the clutter that seems to take over my mind home! If all goes well, we should have a whole load of stuff, that we can take down to St. Vincents, to "bless someone else" with.

As Flylady says, "You cannot organize clutter - you can only organize the things you love!"

Stay tune for my progress, and say a prayer me if you can! I'm sure this is not the most interesting topic, but I need some motivation! :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Saint Day Celebration!

Today, November 25th, is the feast of Christ the King.

It is ALSO the feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria... And, since she is one of Twinkle Toes' patron Saints, it is an extra special day at our home.

I love the story of St. Catherine. She is known as the patron saint of young girls. You can read more about her here.

One of our favorite books about her, which we read today, is called A Story of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. It was originally published in 1965, and had been out of print. However, it has been reprinted by Newman Press. I just love how all these wonderful old books are now being made available once again! I highly recommend it.

The book is described as follows:

This is a magnificent story of another of God's great saints, an example to young girls and Catholics of all ages and times. Catherine was born a pagan princess of Egypt, the land of the Sphinx and Pyramids. In her thirst for knowledge and wisdom she soon grew into a wise and very lovely young woman. This is an account of Catherine's conversion to Christianity, her ascension to the throne as Queen of Alexandria, the persecution of her Christian subjects by the Romans and her own suffering at the hands of the Emperor for her love of Christ. Beautifully illustrated.
This past summer, Daddy missed Twinkle Toes birthday, since he was out fighting forest fires... So, I decided we would have cake for her "Saints Day" this year as well.

There is an old custom that originated in France, that on St. Catherine's Day, heart-shaped cakes are given to young women who have reached the age of twenty-five and are still single. This is to encourage them in their search for love.

Now, as you know... my girls are no where NEAR the age of 25 and I'm not going to "encourage them in their search for love" :) I just thought it would be fun to make, just the same. It must be my Inner French coming out!

Any ways, I found these directions on how to make a Heart Cake which were quite easy. And, even though it looked a little out of balance, Twinkle Toes LOVED it!

(My hands are now indefinitely blotched with red from the food coloring that I used to make the frosting pink... I'm still not sure how it got all over my hands!)

As a gift, she received The Little Match Girl. This is another great title featured in our Catholic Mosaic book study. It is so nice to have these extra excuses feast days to add books to our collection!

Well, It has been a very busy week... I am off to finish preparing for this coming week... Getting back into the "school" routine after a holiday is always a challenge for me! I will leave you with a beautiful prayer to St. Catherine. Goodnight and God Bless!

Glorious Saint Catherine, virgin and martyr,
Help me to imitate your love of purity.

Give me strength and courage
In fighting off the temptations of the world and evil desires.
Help me to love God with my whole heart
And serve Him faithfully.

O Saint Catherine,
Through your glorious martyrdom for the love of Christ,
Help me to be loyal to my faith and my God
As long as I live.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Our Thanksgiving

We had a great time at Tug & Regina's for Thanksgiving! Thank you so much for having us over! We had so much fun, that I never even got my camera out! Can you believe that?

Tug deep fried the turkey and it was delicious, just like last year! Regina's sweet potatoes were super yummy! And I ate WAY too many rolls!

The adults had fun playing euchre and sequence. Regina & I winning each round!! I'm not competitive, by the way. ;)

The kids each made oreo and pine cone turkeys that turned out so cute! Regina & I ended up helping the kids with the pine cone turkeys since the feathers needed a bit of hot glue to stay put...

The pine cones came from our very own backyard. I had bought some at Michael's while forgetting the fact that we live amidst many pine trees... Silly me. I came home and hubby said, "You didn't actually BUY pine cones did you!" I replied, "Uuuummmm.... Ooopppss! Yep, I did... I'll take them back!"

After all the pokes from the pine cones, I am now wondering if store bought pine cones are less poky than the wild ones? :)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wishing you...

To all my visitors, friends and family... May God shower each and every one of you with many blessings! And may you all have a very Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving!

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Father in Heaven, Creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon us and receive our heartfelt gratitude in this time of giving thanks.

Thank you for all the graces and blessings. You have bestowed upon us, spiritual and temporal: our faith and religious heritage. Our food and shelter, our health, the loves we have for one another, our family and friends.

Dear Father, in Your infinite generosity, please grant us continued graces and blessing throughout the coming year.

This we ask in the name of Jesus, your son and our brother. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gobble, Gobble...

Last night after dinner we made the cutest little Turkey snacks out of Double Stuf Oreo cookies, malt balls, and candy corn!

My mom would die if she knew I fed this kind of stuff to my kids... In fact I recently ran into her at the grocery store and started covering up the yummy treats junk in my cart so she wouldn't see it!

In case one of my many siblings shows you this post... Don't worry mom, I only let them have one each...

So get ready Sugar & Boo, we are bringing all the leftover junk ingredients with us tomorrow!

They are SO easy to make. And only took a total of maybe 5 minutes!


- Take 1 oreo apart. This will be the base.
- Place the whole oreo on its side on the base, so that it sticks to white of the oreo.
- In front of the oreo on its side, place a malted-milk ball for the turkeys head.
- Place candy corn, points down, in between the oreo cookie that is standing on it's side.
- We added a piece of twizzler (left over from the All Saints Party) as well.

Now, I am off to make this yummy treat for tomorrow!

This is what happens... 6 o'clock pm, if someone plays instead of actually napping.

Yum... I can't wait!

You Are Mashed Potatoes

Ordinary, comforting, and more than a little predictable
You're the glue that holds everyone together.

H/T: Knit Together in Love

You Are Apple Pie

You're the perfect combo of comforting and traditional.
You prefer things the way you've always known them.
You'll admit that you're old fashioned, and you don't see anything wrong with that.
Your tastes and preferences are classic. And classic never goes out of style.

Those who like you crave security.
People can rely on you to be true to yourself - and true to them.
You're loyal, trustworthy, and comfortable in your own skin.
And because of these qualities, you've definitely earned a lot of respect.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our Tree of Thanksgiving

Making our Thankful Tree yesterday was such fun! First the boys headed outside to find a few branches to use and while the girls gathered rocks to fill the vase with. In the meantime I printed off this leaf template and set out the watercolors and paintbrushes. The kids didn't waste any time getting started! :)

They were all very focused on painting the leaves.

Captain was especially concerned with making sure he used fall colors, and lots of them.

After the leaves had dried, they all told me the different things they are thankful for, while I wrote them down. We didn't have enough leaves for all the things for which we are thankful!! Then we taped hung the leaves on our "tree". It turned out great!

Thank you again Meredith for the idea!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Poem to St. Elizabeth

Today is the Traditional Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Ann Elizabeth is my Confirmation name, after St. Anne and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. I have always loved St. Elizabeth! A while back I ran across this beautiful poem to St. Elizabeth that you may have seen, but I thought I would post it anyways. You can read more about St. Elizabeth here.

O blest Elizabeth, in glory
Enthroned amid the heavenly throng,
Be gracious to accept the praises
We offer you in cheerful song.

As you from home and hearth were driven
And forced in direst want to roam,
So now direct us lonely exiles
And help us reach our heavenly home.

You practiced poverty: enrich us
With heaven's choicest gifts secure;
You daily mortified your body:
Help us to keep our bodies pure.

The luring world and wily Satan
You overcame by watchful prayers;
Teach us with steadfast heart to conquer
Our enemies' deceitful snares.

To God the Father highest glory
And to his only Son, our Lord.
Together with the Holy Spirit,
As years and ages endless run.

St. Elizabeth of Hungary ~ Pray for us!

The Spirit of Christmas Award!

I have been awarded "The Spirit of Christmas Award" by Amy over at Knit Together in Love. Thank you Amy, your so sweet!

What is the Spirit of Christmas you ask?

Quite simply it is those that have a generous and giving nature. Those who care about others. Those who have a kind word to say or a broad shoulder to lean on in the times that others need that. Those who display the "Spirit of Christmas".
Oh my! What an honor... Since the Christmas Season is still a couple weeks away, I'd like to pass the award to three sweet ladies who, unlike me, truly deserve this award:

Trina at Merry Menagerie
Mededith at Sweetness and Light
Heather at These Thy Gifts

Explanation of this award can be found here.

"Thankful Tree" Project

I love Meredith's idea for making a Thankful Tree!

The watercolored leaves are such a great idea. I have sent my boys outside to find some branches and the girls are collecting rocks to fill the vase with, while I get the watercolors and leaves ready...

I will let you know how it turns out!

The "Annual" Open House

The Open House a very good friend of mine hosted for me Friday night, was SO MUCH FUN!! This is the 3rd year we have done this and it has become an annual event. This year, it was scheduled from 6-10 pm, but by the time I packed up and finished visiting. It was 1:30am... Hubby called me at 5 minutes to 2 to see if I was coming home... I was right around the corner! I was exhausted Saturday, but it was well worth it!

This year, she included another friend who brought along Arbonne and Blessed Toys to add to my assortment of Cookie Lee, Pampered Chef, Finders Key Purse, Usborne Books and Discovery Toys... I know, I'm pathetic... I am such a sucker for these "home businesses", especially if I love the products. I don't do them to "sell" for the most part, just to be able to get the products for myself. I do have a couple Cookie Lee parties each year, but this annual "Open House" is the one that keeps me active and gives me a bit of extra Christmas money, and my friend gets to earn all kinds of wonderful stuff from all those companies.

My goal, this year, was to sell enough of my Cookie Lee inventory to purchase a certain Christmas Gift for my girls... I was able to go and purchase it Saturday morning (Costco had it in stock with a great cash & carry price)! I won't tell you what it is, but you can click this link to get a sneek peek if you'd like. I can't wait to give it to them. They are going to LOVE playing with it!

My friends house looked BEAUTIFUL! She the most creative person I know... I wish I had even HALF of her talents and creativeness! Her house looked so beautiful I just had to snap a few pictures. Being right before Thanksgiving, she decorated with a fall theme, using candles, pumpkins, and lots of pretty leaves. My favorite thing she did was use gold spray paint to paint all different sizes of pumpkins! They looked AWESOME! She said it was so easy and that she got the idea from Martha Stewart. I would never think to do something like that, but it really looked quite festive and elegant.

Another idea she got from a Martha magazine was for a Luscious Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake. It was so YUMMY and looked wonderful. You can see it in the above picture. I think I am going to have to give this recipe a try. The Pampered Chef Chocolate Chip Sensation was a huge hit as well, and was gone in no time.

Anyways, I am still trying to get orders processed and everything put away... as well as decide just what I am going to order. ;)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I couldn't help smiling...

...and then running for my camera Friday afternoon when I walked into my bedroom and saw this precious scene.

I had been trying to get ready to go and put on a "Cookie Lee; Pampered Chef; Discovery Toy; Usborne Book" Open house for a friend of mine. I only do this once or maybe twice a year now to earn extra money for Christmas... However, this year I was extremely overwhelmed, and unorganized! I asked Captain to go and try and make Peanut happy while I started loading the car. Peanut stopped crying and twenty minutes later it sunk in... "OH my goodness! He hasn't started crying again??? I better go check and make sure he's ok!"

I walked in and saw Captain READING to Peanut!!!

I haven't blogged about this before, but teaching Captain to read has been one of my greatest challenges. I had decided to give it the rest of this school year before looking for outside help.

Captain was a late talker. Even a couple years ago, at age 5, it was still difficult for others to understand him. He was very physical though, and walked at 9 months! Being our oldest, I didn't think much of it till our doctor was concerned. I figured that all kids develop differently and in different areas first, plus Captain is very shy. However, after our doctor was concerned, I looked into everything that I could do to help. A dear friend of ours, who has been teaching swimming for over 50 years, suggested we put him in a private swimming lesson. This session of swimming lessons completely changed him. Within a month he was speaking clearly and was not nearly as shy as he had previously been. It seemed to really boost his confidence in himself.

It has still been very difficult to teach him to read. He tends to get discouraged easily. I tried so very many different reading programs trying to find one that would work for us. It seemed the more we tried, the less he wanted to learn. He knew all his sounds, but putting them together was so frustrating for him.

About this time, I decided to switch programs again. A friend recommended an excellent book called Alpha Phonics. In no time he was able to read short sentences. This past month we have finally been working on long vowels and seeing some real progress. However, Captain would never pick up a book and read on his own without being prompted.

This year I decided to use a more Charlotte Mason style approach, at least with a few subjects. All the wonderful "living books" we have been reading this year have helped my son regain the love of books that he had been losing.

And so... Walking into my bedroom and seeing him READ to Peanut, from a book he had not read before, almost made me start crying! And Peanut was LOVING it!

Since Friday, he has almost read the whole reader! He is so excited, and so is his proud momma!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Our Favorite Advent Calendar

Since some of my thoughts this week have been geared towards Advent preparations, I thought I would do a quick post on Advent Calendars...

Over the years I have tried to have an Advent Calendar for each child. However, as the years go on, and more children arrive, this is getting harder and harder to keep up with. :)

In all my searching for various Advent Calendars, there is one I found back when our oldest was a baby that we all LOVE! I thought I would share it with you now, in case any of you are on the hunt for one this year. It is by far our favorite. It has 24 cubicles which each contain a magnetic character for the children to get out and add to the metal Nativity Scene. It is very pretty and the children just love moving around the different figures of the nativity.

I purchased ours from Catholic Child. It is also currently available at Amazon: Kurt Adler Wooden Nativity Advent Calendar with 24 Magnetic Figures

The only thing I don't like about it, and this goes for any pre-made Advent Calendar, is that it is not an accurate countdown of Advent. Advent Calendars should begin on the first Sunday of Advent and end on Christmas Eve. Every year this date changes and can be as early as November 27 or as late as December 3. I really wish that they would make this Advent Calendar with extra cubicles to be modified as needed each year, instead of pre-numbered slots. Wouldn't that be perfect?

Darling Dresses

My Grandparents with *some* of their many grand and great-grandchildren!

This past summer we were able to go to a family reunion on my moms side. My mom is one of 13 children, and it had been some time since we had all gotten together... Years and years in fact. Peanut was only a month old and my DH was on a fire assignment at the time, but I didn't want to miss it. So, I made the 12 hour road trip with my 5 little ones. It was a ton of work, but it was so worth it. Almost all of my moms family was there, along with my grandparents, and my grandfathers sister and some of her family. All but 2 of my siblings (there are 12 of us) were there as well. It was so nice to see my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Siblings. Most I hadn't seen in some time, if ever... It was so fun to show off introduce my own children to everyone. :)

My girls FELL IN LOVE with one of my sweet little cousins, Juliana. Anyways, today they received a special surprise from her. She sent them the most DARLING Christmas dresses ever! They are so cute I just had to post about it...

This is a picture of both of the girls... Don't they look lovely?

They LOVE "Twirling" in their new dresses!

Left: Close up of "Twinkle Toes"
Right: Both girls signing "Thank you!"
(I told them to say Thank you, but they signed it instead!)

Thank you "Auntie" Juliana! We love you!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A bit of fun...

You Are an Ice Cream Cake

Surprising, unique, and high maintenance.
You're one of a kind, and you don't want anyone to forget it.
You're fun in small doses, but it's easy for people to overdose on you!

Now isn't that nice... I was SO excited to see that I was "Ice Cream Cake" (my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!) until I read the description... Hum... Surprising, that's ok-nothing wrong with that... Unique, well I guess so... HIGH MAINTENANCE, Yikes! That's not good, I'm not sure about that one. BUT THEN IT GOES ON: I'm ONLY fun in "SMALL DOSES"!! What is up with that? To all my friends out there reading this, is that true? Or maybe you just better not answer that one... Let's move on to the next one:

You Are Vanilla Ice Cream

Your personality is anything but "vanilla"
You're a risk taker, who's up for anything new.
You go well with anyone and fit into any situation.

You are most compatible with rocky road ice cream.
What Flavor Ice Cream Are You?

Let's see here... That sounds fairly accurate... and I do just LOVE rocky road. Yum!

And one last one: FRENCH!!! I would have NEVER guessed French! Irish,
FOR SURE, or maybe Italian... but not French. Maybe I have a bit of my
Great-Grandmother in me after all!

Also, it is nice to know that I only *think* that
I have the best of everything. Too funny! :)

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

That was fun! I'm off to finish up dinner.

More on the Jesse Tree

My dear friend Trina just wrote a beautiful post about the Jesse Tree. She has organized a "Jesse Tree Ornament Swap" at her parish! Isn't that such a wonderful idea? It sounds like such fun!

Go check out her post to find out more.

OH, and check out Amy's post for some Jesse Tree Ornaments and reflections!

The Jesse Tree

Advent, along with the beginning of the New Liturgical Year, is getting close! This year, the first Sunday of Advent is December 2nd. I have started working on my plans for Advent & Christmas. I look forward to starting new traditions this year, including the use of Christmas Mosaic, along with continuing our old favorites. I thought I would take a minute and share one of our old favorites... The Jesse Tree.

About four or five years ago, I bought a from the series Celebrating the Faith in the Home titled Advent and Christmas for the Christian Family. This is a wonderful book of ideas that I have only seen sold through Emmanuel Books. It was through this book that I was first introduced to the Jesse Tree.

At first I planned to purchase this kit from Leaflet, but due to our tight budget, I decided to make our own instead. I modeled it after the Leaflet tree and then used the patterns from my book to make the ornaments.

I made mine out of felt since it doesn't fray. If you are able to sew, unfortunately I am not, you could take the necessary measures to prevent fraying and make your tree this way. Or, you could also make a wooden tree. Another friend of mine just put a branch in a pot, and placed it on her table, and used this to hang the ornaments from.

Every day we read a page from one of our Children's Bibles, starting with Creation and ending on Dec 24th with the Birth of Christ. Depending on how many days are in Advent, we sometimes have days where we read 2 stories and hang 2 ornaments, in order to finish in time. (We have 30 ornaments, since sometimes Advent starts in November, plus 7 more for the "O Antiphons" used the week prior to Christmas.) It looks like I am missing a few of our ornaments. Guess I will add making those to my "to do" list :)

After we read the story we hang the ornament on the tree. Then I try to have a corresponding coloring page for them to color. ALL of my children, as well as myself, profit immensely from this activity. As the author says in my book:
It provides a meaningful way for us to count down the days until Christmas. Moreover, it increases our understanding of this portion of salvation history and is an effective way to prepare spiritually for Christmas.
I always love how even my littlest children's ears perk up during the readings and gospel at Mass when they realize "We just read about that at home!" I am really looking forward to Advent this year! Aren't you?

This picture was taken 2 years ago, on Christmas morning...
You can see our Jesse Tree in the background.

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse." ~ Isaiah 11:1