Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No Trick or Treat for Us

We came out of Hurricane Sandy unscathed [and with electricity].  We have a tree that's leaning a bit that my still fall, and a few branches that fell off one of our trees but other than that we sustained no damage from the storm.  My hometown and it's surrounding areas took quite a beating, but it wasn't as bad as what happened in some of the more northern shore points.

Due to the destruction and upheaval Sandy caused throughout the state our Governor has postponed trick or treating until next Monday to ensure that it's safe for the kids throughout the state.  My girls and many of their friends were all disappointed about this news, but I reminded the girls that they should be grateful that our home and town suffered very little damage compared to other towns where trick or treating probably isn't even a concern to children who have had their homes severely damaged or destroyed by the storm.

A childhood friend of mine is a police officer on my hometown island and he was kind enough to offer to take pictures for those of us who were concerned about a specific property since access to the island was still restricted.  While my parents sold my childhood home a year and a half ago, I was relived to see that it wasn't badly damaged from the storm.   And a college friend of mine who lives in Ocean City was very relived to see that her home was safe and sound when they finally were allowed back on the island today.  Even their pumpkin was still sitting right where they left it.  Praise God!

Tomorrow I'll post some pictures of the older girls in their costumes at the school Halloween parade.  Katie didn't get dressed up in her costume today, but she'll be in costume on Monday night.

Preparing for Advent: The Road to Christmas Day

During the Advent season I like to have an assortment of books available to them that help to prepare them for Christmas.  There are a lot of lovely books out there that do an excellent job of steering children towards the real reason for the Christmas season instead of focusing on the secular consumerism Santa theme that seems to be quite prevalent these days.  Jan Godfrey and Marcin Piwowarski's The Road to Christmas Dayis a beautifully illustrated book that takes children on a journey from the annunciation to the wise men seeking out and finding baby Jesus.

I really liked the cadence and repetition that is found throughout the story.  By the end of the story children will not only know the story of Christ's birth, but they'll likely be able to tell you it was two thousand years ago and they will surely have picked up on the fact that everyone involved in this story looked and listened and listened and looked all along the way to Christmas day.  And isn't that what we want our little ones to do this time of year?  We want them to listen to the true meaning of the Christmas  season.  During Advent we're not in a countdown to a big gift grab on December 25th, but rather we're preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate that our God came down from heaven and became man to save us.

The conclusion of the book ends with two lines that can be turned into a wonderful conversation starter with young children to help them further understand the importance of the Christmas story "Now the world was different. The world had Jesus, born on the very first Christmas Day."  Those two final lines are the perfect set up to discuss just how profound the birth of baby Jesus was to the world.

The illustrations in this book are really quite nice.  I'm not sure what medium was used, but the pictures have the richness of oil pastels, and there's a look of texture that just makes these pictures seem very interesting.  My littlest one enjoyed looking at the pictures.

Overall, this would be a very nice book to add to your Advent and Christmas reading for your children.    It would be a great book to read to children in religious education from about preschool up through first grade.  It will be one of the books I read to my kindergarten religious education class this Advent.

I was provided with a review copy of The Road to Christmas Day by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  To learn more about this book or to purchase a copy visit Pauline Media.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Hurricane Preparations

How about a Top Ten Tuesday on preparing for a hurricane.  Given our current circumstances it seems timely enough.

1.  Stock up on essential foods.  This is pretty much the same mentality as stocking up before a big snow storm.  Since there's the possibility of losing power, it's a good idea to make sure you have some non-perishable foods on hand to last you several day.

2.  Ensure that you have flash lights and batteries.  If you arrive at the store to find all of the batteries and flash lights are out of stock, relax and think outside the box.   Target sells LED night lights in the children's bedding aisle that can be charged (this only works if you buy them before you lose power) and then provide up to eight hours of light.  The little lights throw a surprising amount of light and can be switched on and off.  Two big storms in a row I've been able to find these on the shelf long after all the batteries and flashlights are gone.

3. Candles are good to have on hand, too.  Make sure you have something to light them.  If you're using candles don't leave them unattended.  You don't want to accidentally start a fire.

4. If you have well water that uses an electric pump stock up on water in the event that you have a prolonged power outage.  Someone I know learned this lesson the hard way.

5. Turn the temperature setting to a colder level on your freezer and fridge and pack your freezer with ice.  This will help keep your food cold in the event of a power outage.

6. Fill up empty juice and milk bottles with water and freeze them.  This will give you big blocks of ice to fill in any open spaces you have in the freezer.  It can also be used as drinking water [provided you cleaned the containers first] if the need arise.  You can also take plastic sandwich bags and fill them with water and freeze them, too.  We stuffed bags of water all over in our freezer so that our perishables will have a greater chance of being saved in the event that we lose power.

7. Ensure that anything you have in your yard that might go flying is secured.  You don't want your trampoline to become a kite or your patio table to go flying through your sliding glass door.

8.  Make sure you keep your cell phones, laptops and things of that nature fully charged as the storm approaches.

9.  Heed warnings to evacuate if officials for your area tell you to do so.  It's far better to leave home for a few days and find out after the fact that you didn't really need to go than to stay behind and possibly wind up in a situation that threatens your life.

10. Have a first aid kit on hand.
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Tiber River Review: Blessed Be God

I have a bit of an affinity for pre-Vatican II books.  There's just something about they way they are written and the way in which they present the faith that makes them seem grander than their modern day counterparts.  I find this to be especially true with regards to prayer books.  Maybe it's just me, but I feel like a lot of the more modern prayer books feel like they've been stripped down.  Many of them seem like the fail to convey a sense of awe.

Fortunately, there are plenty of wonderful prayer books out there that don't fail to present our beautiful Catholic faith with awe inspiring reverence.  Blessed Be God is one such prayer book.  This book was originally printed in 1960 and is now available in a beautiful leather bound 2010 reprint.  So much is contained in this 700+ page prayer book that it would be hard to give a complete overview of everything it has to offer.

In addition to a wealth of prayers and devotions, this book also offers a bit two very nicely done sections that cover quite a bit of catechetical ground.  One of them gives lays out some basic knowledge of the Faith and the other offers a nice overview on how to pray.

As I paged through this book it became evident that this book contains prayers for just about everything.  Not only does this book offer a treasure trove of beautiful prayers, novena, litanies and devotions, but it also has excellent explanations of many of the devotions as well as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.    

I particularly like how there are notations throughout the book that point out prayers that carry an indulgence.  I find information such as that to be incredibly valuable and was delighted to see it in this book.  It's yet another thing that I've noticed you tend to find in pre-Vatican II books but not the more modern books, unless of course, you've picked up something like the Handbook of Indulgences.

This prayer book would make a great gift for someone who is in RCIA or a young man or woman who has just been confirmed.  

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

I wrote this review of Blessed Be God for the free Catholic Book review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Aquinas and More is the largest on-line Catholic bookstore. I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Preparing for Hurricane Sandy

Sometime in the next few hours we're expecting to get hit by Hurricane Sandy.  We assume we will lose power at some point so my blog will wind up going silent as a result I expect.  My parents who are about 40 minutes south of us lost power a couple of hours ago.

Our house is more or less prepared for the storm.  We did discover that the crack in our basement wall which had been repaired six years ago is now leaking.  We're a little concerned about how much water will come into the house once the full force of the storm hits us.

While we sit and wait I've been looking at the pictures my friends have been posting of my hometown/island.  If you are familiar with Morey's Pier in Wildwood, there was a picture posted many hours ago that showed the water about 18 inches or less below the bottom of the pier. Mind you this pier is about 8-10 feet above the beach.

 Then I saw another picture of the street where I grew up where the highest end of the street is flooded and looks to have at least a foot of water or more at low tide.

My uncle and several friends that I went through grade school and high school with are still on the island because they are either law enforcement or city workers who are needed to help with things on the island.  Their safety is certainly on my mind at the moment.

Another friend who I went to college with lives in Ocean City.  She and her family with thee young children evacuated this weekend.  She posted pictures of her neighborhood which was already underwater at low tide.  She knows that what she had inside the house must be ruined, but she's hopeful that she will still have a home with a sound structure to return to after the storm.  I can't imagine being in her shoes right now.

Please join me in praying for all those in Hurricane Sandy's path, especially those who are on the barrier islands who will be hit the hardest.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our Garage Snake

This evening when we came home from the store I spotted a little snake in the garage right next to a pile of some of the kids outdoor toys.  He was a tiny little thing about the width and length of a new pencil.

At the time Bryan and I weren't sure what kind of snake it was so I grabbed my phone, snapped a few pictures and told Bryan how I thought the Croc Hunter would handle this tiny little snake.

We had a bit of trouble figuring out how to pick the little guy up and relocate him to the lawn, but we managed to scoop him up with a leaf and put him in a little bowl.
I went online, typed in his characteristics: black snake with orange ring behind his head and orange belly.  Turns out what we had in our garage is a ringneck snake.  He's non-venomous so I probably would have been ok to pick him up and pet him--Bryan would have freaked out, I'm sure.

I decided to name him Little Snakey-hoo.  Yes, a few years ago Ellie subjected me to way too many hours of Wonder Pets and I blame that show for Snakey-hoo's name.  This is precisely why I do not allow Katie to watch TV during the day.

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life...


The birthday girl decides that she's not going to hazard a crawl under the limbo pole.  She was happy to sit back and watch the big kids battle for the limbo champion title.


 80% of us look happy and 60% of us are looking at the camera so I'll take it!

Katie was one happy girl once she got her hands on her giant Hello Kitty cupcake.


I guess Katie wasn't feeling the birthday hat.  Her godmother made the hat for her.  


Someone was real tired by the time her party was over.  She was all set to snuggle with godmother.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Preparing for Advent: Jesse Tree

A few years ago I introduced the Jesse Tree to my older girls as a new Advent tradition.  Each night from the first Sunday in Advent up until Christmas Eve we gather in the dining room.  We light our Advent wreath and since a verse from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.  That is followed by us praying a decade of the rosary using the joyful mysteries and then we round it out with our Jesse Tree.

The first year we did the Jesse Tree I was all over the the place with it.  I had found some free printable ornaments which I liked, but I didn't like that there were only twenty four ornaments.  That same year, Holy Heroes released their Jesse Tree DVD.  Midway through Advent I abandoned the Jesse Tree ornaments we started with and switched over to the Holy Heroes one because I liked the ornaments better, there were enough for every day of Advent, they included the O Antiphons and best of all, they had videos for each ornament where my girls could listen to the story and see either a felt story board display of the story or something similar such as the Holy Heroes Adventure guides acting out a scene from the bible.

Last year I wasn't sure if we were going to watch the videos.  Instead, I was going to have Madeline read the corresponding stories from the picture biblewe use for our Jesus Tree during Lent, but the girls insisted.  The Holy Heroes Jesse Tree has become family tradition.

In all honesty I was going to wait another week or two to write about the Jesse Tree, but Holy Heroes sent out an email today saying that their Jesse Tree DVD is their Deal of the Day.  So you might want to head over there and check out their sale price if you're interested in this Jesse Tree.

The DVD includes the file for the printable ornaments.  I tinker with the size a bit and make ours about half the size they have on the PDF document.  I then take our shiny green foil wrap and cut out a tree for each of the girls.  They hang their trees on their bedroom doors and tape a new ornament on it each night.  They really enjoy coloring in their ornaments by candle light each night during Advent.  I hope when they are grown that they have fond memories of celebrating Advent.

In Advent, Christmas Epiphany in the Domestic Churchthey also have a nice Jesse Tree.  With this one you can print out and color the symbols for each of the readings and read the corresponding story from the bible, or if you have the time, you could match up the stories with those in a children's bible.  They have some great ideas for different ways of setting up a Jesse Tree.  In addition to the Jesse Tree, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in the Domestic Church has a lot of other great ideas for celebrating these seasons with your children.

If you want to do a Jesse Tree but aren't sure you can commit to doing a story/ornament each day, you might like the St. Joseph Picture Book Celebrating Advent with the Jesse Tree.This book has eleven Jesse Tree readings each with a corresponding full color illustration.  The readings are divided among the four weeks of Advent with the first three weeks having three readings and the fourth week having two. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preparing for Advent: A Catholic Family Advent

Advent can be a hectic time of year.  You're busy doing a million and one things trying to get ready for Christmas.  It's important to take a break from the hustle and bustle and make yourself and your family slow down here and there and take a few moments to focus on what Advent really is [a time to prepare your heart and mind for the splendor of the miracle that is Christmas].

Susan Hines-Brigger's A Catholic Family AdventPrayers and Activities is a nice book to help you focus yourself and your family on Advent and preparing for Christmas.  Unlike some daily Advent books, this is one that can be used year after year since it offers an entry for the maximum number of days you can have in any given Advent season.  For each day this book offers an entry with the following categories: scripture, reflection, talk together, prayer and activity.  The entries can be read over the course of a couple of minutes so even the most impatient children should be able to sit still and listen and discuss the topic for the day.  The author suggests you read through the book ahead of time and check out the suggested activities so you can make changes to fit your lifestyle where necessary.  For the most part, the reflections seem like that are primarily geared to the adults, but the other categories are all perfectly suited for the whole family.

The book has beautiful full color pages that both children and adults will find attractive.  I'm so used to white pages with black type that I was pleasantly surprised to see the colorful pages.

I like how the book essentially brings Advent to you.  If your family is busy and you think there simply isn't any way you'll have time to celebrate every day of Advent, I'd suggest you take a look at this book.

I was provided with a review copy of A Catholic Family Advent by the publisher, Franciscan Media, in exchange for my honest review.  You can purchase this book here.

Preparing for Advent: A series to help you get ready

Year after year I feel like Advent sneaks up on me before I have enough time to prepare for it.  I assume I'm not the only one who realizes a day or two before Advent begins that I didn't order the books I wanted for myself or my children.  So in an effort to be better prepared myself and to hopefully help some of you plan for this season, I have decided to do a series entitled Preparing for Advent.

I haven't decided everything that will be included in this series, but there will be a number of books aimed at helping you get ready for Advent and Christmas.  I'll share reviews of some of the Advent and Christmas books that are in my review pile as well as some of my favorite story books to read to the girls and my religious education class.

I know it's October and it may seem like I'm super early with these posts, but I think it helps to have some lead time in case you decide you want to order a book or look for it at a local bookstore.  I've had more than a few instances where I saw a book that was perfect for celebrating a particular feast day the day of and found myself wishing I had known about it a week or so beforehand.

Book Review: Imagination Station Battle for Cannibal Island

My seven year old daughter and I recently had the opportunity to one of the latest books in the Imagination Station series, Battle for Cannibal Island.This was my seven year old's first experience with an Imagination Station book and she really enjoyed it.

In Battle for Cannibal Island Beth and Patrick are transported on to a ship off the coast of Fiji in the 1850s.  In this adventure, which kept my daughter wanting to know what would happen next, the main characters meet missionary James Calvert and learn about how he worked to convert the cannibals on the island.

In previous reviews I had likened the Imagination Station to the Magic Tree House series.  My older daughter read many of those books independently and also likened this series to that one.  I recently read a Magic Tree House book with my seven year old and have come to the conclusion that while there are some similarities between the two, that it is unfair for me to compare the Imagination Station series to Magic Tree House.  I have come to the conclusion that the Imagination Station series has better writing hands down.  While you'll find sentence fragments passed off as sentences throughout the Magic Tree House books you won't find incomplete sentences in the Imagination Station books.  As a parent who firmly believes that children who read good quality writing will become good quality writers themselves I feel good about sending my child off to read with a book from this series.  As for the other series, I have decided that we won't be reading them anymore since the writer and her editors don't know how to formulate complete sentences.

One thing that I really appreciate about the Imagination Station series is the way it weaves solid Christian values into the story line.

If you are looking for a good series of books for children who are just staring out with chapter books, then this just might be the series for you.  After reading this book my daughter was asking me if we had anymore books like this that she could read.

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

Check back next week when I review the next book in this series for a chance to win a copy of this and one other Imagination station book!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Look who's walking!

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life...
I love how happy and sunny Katie looks in this picture.  I took it on her last day of being less than a year old.  I love every day with this pretty little girl and am so richly blessed to have her.

Katie likes Cheerios and her big sister "Maa" so much that she's happy to stagger walk across the kitchen to get to them.

Look at the look of concern on Katie's face as she sets off across the kitchen [to get the aforementioned Cheerios and big sister].


I'm pretty certain that they think she's a pet.  They shake the box of Cheerios at her like they're treats and then they have her eating them out of their hands.  Katie doesn't mind and the big sisters love it.  Of course, there are times when they fight over who gets to feed her.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Quick Takes Volume 48


Katie turned one on Tuesday.  She absolutely loved having people wish her a happy birthday and this girl really likes icing.
I've spent most of today baking cakes and cupcakes.  I feel like I've had enough of cake this week.  Monday I baked a cake for Katie's little party, Tuesday I baked cupcakes to bring over to the parish office for Katie's birthday buddies, and today I've baked one giant cupcake and thirty six regular cupcakes.  I'm not sure why I made the cupcakes since my mom is bringing a birthday cake up to my house tomorrow for my brother.
I survived another one of Bryan's business trips.  Tuesday night into Wednesday Katie didn't sleep very well.  I was exhausted by the time Bryan got home very late on Wednesday.
I feel like I have an incredibly long to do list for Katie's birthday party tomorrow, but I'm chipping away at it.
Madeline's hatred of Math is making me begin to hate Math, too.  I've spent more hours this week going over decimals with Madeline than I care to remember.  
I discovered that Katie sleeps much better when she is wearing snuggly warm long sleeved pajamas.  As you can probably imagine, I made it my mission to buy her a few new sets of warm fleece pjs.  If a warm baby equals a sleeping baby then I'm all for it.
I got to help out with a craft in Ellie's class today.  So now I have a new craft idea that I look forward to trying out with my CCD kids.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Katie is One!

It's incredibly hard for me to believe that an entire year has passed between Katie's arrival and today.  I can tell you it honestly doesn't feel like it has been a year, but at the same time it feels like Katie has been with us forever.

I think the birthday girl had a pretty good day today.  She spent a lot of time playing and working on her newly minted walking skill.  She was so excited about her big day that she decided that afternoon naps were for the birds.  Poor exhausted mommy was not thrilled about that little development.

Katie and I did a little bit of shopping in the morning for party supplies for the party we're having for her this Saturday.  We decided to go with Hello Kitty as her party theme because it was big sister approved and seemed quite fitting for the cute little one who we call Kitty Katkins.

This afternoon Katie and I visited the parish office so she could say hello to her birthday buddies.  We brought some cupcakes with pink icing to commemorate the big day.

Right around the time Katie decided that napping wasn't on her birthday to-do list, my mom and dad arrived.  My parents came up and had dinner with me and the girls and we had a little party with cake and a few presents before it was time to shuttle Madeline off to soccer practice.

Katie indulged in her fist ever slice of pizza.  She kept grabbing at my slice so I decided to dice up half a piece and see if she would eat it.  She gobbled it up!  She's clearly her mother's daughter!

Katie dug right into her cake.  She happily grabbed at the icing on the cake.  I had to pull her away from it after a bit because I was afraid she was going to give herself a belly ache from eating too much of the very sweet buttercream.

She wasn't very interested in opening presents but she loved playing with the envelopes for the cards.  She has a thing for paper these days--particularly the one dollar bills her MomMom and PopPop like to give her.

Later in the evening Katie got to FaceTime with her daddy.  Unfortunately Bryan had to travel to San Antonio this week.  We're looking forward to having him home with us late tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Kitty Katkins!  We love you so much!

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