Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: God Is With Me

I'm always on the look out for good storybooks I can read to my younger children as well as my kindergarten religious education class.  Recently I received a sweet book entitled God Is With Me Always and Everywhere.  The title is one of the books in the Faith Foundations line from Pauline Books.  The books in this line seek to help build the foundation of faith in young children.

In this book children learn that from their baptism day onward, God is with them every day and everywhere they go.  The story has sweet illustrations and a rhyming style that will keep little ones engaged.

The book is a good introduction for little ones who are just beginning to learn about God and his loving care for each and every one of us.  As a kindergarten catechist, I feel this book will be an excellent story to share with my little students, especially those who will be haven't had much or any exposure to their faith prior to coming to religious education.  This story will help to plant seeds of faith and a confidence that they are loved by God.

The story is well suited to children in the preschool to first grade age range, but the story is short enough that even toddlers can enjoy it.  My two and a half year old likes this book and has brought it to me to read several times.

I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Media for more information on this title or to purchase.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: The Catholic Baby Name Book

I don't know if this is the case with most parents, but I always find naming my baby to be a weighty task.  Here you are charged with naming a person for the rest of his or her life and that's no small matter.  When my husband and I are picking out names for our children we are looking for names that are family names and names of saints.  We like family names because they give our children a connection to their lineage and saint names because we want them to have a patron saint as a holy example to follow.

I didn't exactly rely on baby name books with my first three children.  Between having a great selection of female family names and wonderful corresponding patron saints for those names, we really didn't have to fret too much over the names for the girls.  But, throw a boy into the mix and you get one set of stumped parents, especially when most names we like wind up with initials that spell things that aren't exactly monograms you'd want your child to shoulder for life.
So when it came to naming Anthony, we needed a bit of naming help so I turned to The Catholic Baby Name Book.  This book offered thousands of baby name suggestions.   So we took our lists of names we were considering and then browsed through this book to see if there were any other names we liked better or would work as a middle name.  Then I took a look to see which saints were associated with the names we liked as well as what each name means.  Ultimately, we ended up sticking with the names we were originally considering, but it was nice to learn a little bit more about the names we were choosing for our son.

These days there are all sorts of "trendy" names out there that have no real meaning and that can muddy the waters a bit if you're hoping to find a name for your child that is complimentary to your faith.  So with that in mind, this book is nice because you may find that the trendy name you're considering, if you go that route, actually has a connection to a saint.  That was the case with my godson's name.  There isn't a St. Miles, but when we looked up his name in this book we found that his name is actually derived from Milles and there is a St. Miles from the 4th century A.D.

So I guess the bottom line here is this:  If you need help coming up with a baby name, or you want to find a name for your baby that is relevant to the Catholic faith, then this is a good pick.

I was provided with a copy of The Catholic Baby Name Book by the publisher, Ave Maria Press, in exchange for my honest review.   Visit Ave Maria Press for more information on this book.  You can also purchase a copy of this book by visiting Amazon.com.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Christmas in July Brother Francis Review

Today is "Christmas in July" so I'm going to tell you about another Brother Francis DVD that I should have reviewed about seven or eight months ago.  Why did I take so long?  Well, there was the pregnancy related exhaustion and the nausea which was induced by looking at any sort of screen or text, and then there was the serious strep A infection from the cut on my finger just weeks before Christmas that posed a nice threat to both the baby and my well being which pretty much limited my using my right hand for a couple of weeks.  And by the time all was once again well with me, Christmas had come and gone and Lent was on it's way.  Sigh.  So that's the nickel tour of why I'm reviewing a Christmas DVD and companion coloring book in July.

In Brother Francis The King is Born children will learn about the true meaning of Christmas.  As with other episodes of Brother Francis, I love how well our faith is explained to little ones in a way that is right on their level and in a way that they will take to heart.  In this episode, Brother Francis beautifully explains how Christmas isn't just about getting gifts and having parties, but rather, it's all about celebrating the birthday of Jesus.  The segment where he explains this is sure to reach little ones.

As children watch this DVD they will learn the story of the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah and the birth of John the Baptist, along with the stories of the annunciation, the visitation, the nativity of Our Lord and the presentation.  Throughout the episode there are some great songs some of which, you and your child may already be familiar with.

My youngest daughter was glued to my laptop when I put this DVD on for the first time since Advent.  She's seen this episode many times but I've never seen her so drawn to it like she was today.  When it was over she wanted to see more.  How awesome is that?  As a parent, you can't help but be thrilled when your child wants to watch such good program that helps in laying a solid foundation of faith.  I really can't recommend the Brother Francis series enough.

When I received the DVD of "The King is Born," I was also sent a copy of the companion Coloring & Activity Book.  The book is filled with coloring pages and activities that are appropriate for children between the ages of pre-school and second grade.

This DVD is great not only for sharing with your own children toddler through age ten, but it's also ideal for a religious education class.  I have shown several of the previous Brother Francis episodes to my kindergarten religious education classes over the years and they're always a hit with the kids. 

I was provided with review copies of The King is Born DVD and the companion Coloring & Activity Book by the publisher, Herald Entertainment, for the purpose of this review.  Visit Brother Francis Online for more information or to place an order.  Christmas will be here before you know it!  This episode will be the perfect way the help prepare the hearts and minds of little ones  for the Christmas season this Advent.

Book Review: The Story of Saint John Paul II A Boy Who Became Pope

Sometimes when children's books arrive on my front doorstep I'm the one who's the most excited about the book.  When a copy of The Story of Saint John Paul II A Boy Who Became Pope showed up at my house shortly after his canonization I was really excited.  St. John Paul II is easily one of my favorite saints.  Picture me doing my best Buddy the Elf impression when he heard that "Santa Claus is coming to town.  10AM tomorrow morning.  10AM..." when he started screaming "Santa!  I know him!" Only 1. I didn't scream Santa; rather I squealed with delight, and 2. I didn't personally know JPII like Buddy knew Santa, but he was pope for most of my life and I've always liked him, even when I wasn't Catholic.  You get the idea.  SUPER.  EXCITED.

So if just seeing the book got such a strong reaction you're probably wondering about the story, right? Of course, you are.  Well let me say that the story does not disappoint.  The story beautifully recalls the life of St. John Paul II from his very beginnings to the day he becomes pope.  The story is told on a level that will grab the attention of children in the 5-10 year old age range.  I read the story to my 2 1/2 year old and she happily sat and listened to the story and looked at the pictures.  So even younger preschoolers who are accustomed to listening to longer story books would enjoy this book.  I'm already looking forward to sharing this book with my kindergarten religious education class during the upcoming school year.

The illustrations in this book are simply beautiful.  Page after page is filled with rich illustrations.  I really liked how each of the illustrations matched the mood of the story unfolding on the page.  Not all picture books have illustrations that correlate with the story as well as this one does.  Children will enjoy looking at the pictures while listening to the story.    

Aside from the beautiful story and illustrations, I really like that this story is told in such a way that will help younger children to know St. John Paul II who is fondly remembered by so many of us who remember when this saint was alive.  Since the story follows JPII from infancy to his pontificate, it nicely illustrates to youngsters that it's never too early to start striving for sainthood.

I was provided with a copy of The Story of Saint John Paul II A Boy Who Became Pope by the publisher, Pauline Kids.  Visit Pauline Media for more information on this title as well as a sneak peek inside the book.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What We're Reading Wednesday

I think it's been ages since I've joined the WWRW link up, but here I am.  Between not really being able to read while pregnant and then being insanely busy adjusting to life with a new baby while directing VBS for our parish I've been in what I'd call a reading drought.  But this past week or so I've been able to carve out time for books and it's been amazing.

Anthony, like Katie, is content to sit and listen to longer story books.  Yay!  The end of last week and throughout this week we've been pulling out some of our old favorites like Strega Nona, The Clown of God, and Pascual and the Kitchen Angels.  Katie's love of Tomie DePaola is still going strong.

The other day she decided to break out of her usual standbys and give Big Anthony: His Story and Strega Nona's Magic Lessons a try.  Both are nice stories and I like how we get to see more of Big Anthony's antics.  Big Anthony's failure to follow directions keeps us all amused, but I'm finding that Strega Nona is really such an amazing example of patience.  She could so easily tell Big Anthony to hit the road and never come back, but she's exudes a quiet patience with him and just bears his many faults and keeps him around.  I know these books are written for kids, but I'm obviously getting something from the story, too.

Reading these stories around Anthony is funny.  Every time I say Anthony or Big Anthony while reading he looks around and raises his eyebrows.  Evidently he recognizes his name already.  How cool is that?

I wrapped up reading Fearless: Stories of the American Saints this weekend.  I really enjoyed the book and will be reviewing it soon.  I felt like I was reading the backstory of many saints who are mentioned in Madeline's 8th grade Seton History book.  Love that I was able to essentially prepare for her history class and read a book for my own enjoyment at the same time.  This book won't be available until the Fall, but it's worth adding to your reading list.

So for years and years now I've heard people going on about G.K. Chesterton.  I've read quotes here and here and read a few excerpts but nothing has really pulled me in, but still I've wondered what all the fuss was surrounding him.  I've gone down this road with J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and each time I've traveled this road I've been happy that I have.  So last night I started reading G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.  What I've read so far I like but I'm going to wait until I done with the book to say one way or another whether or not I like it.  I approach authors like this with the assumption that I'm not going to like their work, and then, if I do, it's a bonus.

Visit Housewifespice to check out what others are reading this fine Wednesday.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Quick Takes Baby Cuteness and Soccer

Last week at his 2 month well visit my adorable little fat man weighed in at 12lbs 11oz.  I think most of that weight is situated in those squishy chubby cheeks and his little second chin.

Seriously, look at how big those cheeks are!  They're so big they wound up taking over another quick take!

I'm hardly ever in any pictures with any of the kids so I had Bryan take a few of me with Anthony the other day.  Of the ones he took I liked this one the best.  Since my kids like to steal my blog photos all of the time (they don't care when I point out the copyright notice on the sidebar of the blog) this is one they can use when I die and they're putting together one of those photo memory boards.  Got it Madeline?


Anthony's been exhibiting some pretty good head control lately and is getting a bit tired of his swing, playmat, bouncy seat and boppy pillow.  So we added a little variety and put together the bouncy entertainer thing I got as a review product a while back.  He can't bounce and jump in it yet or even reach the toys but he seems to like just sitting there and taking in the sights.
My older girls are at a Team First Soccer Academy this week so I had a rare 45 minutes of quiet yesterday while Katie and Anthony napped at the same time (Woot!).  I took advantage of that time and finished up reading a advance copy of Fearless, which I really enjoyed.  With two pages left of the book I heard Anthony stirring and decided that since he wasn't crying I had time to finish reading.  Umm, yeah.  See how he's on his belly in the above picture?  That's not how he was sleeping.  So while I finished reading about St. Katharine Drexel, this little guy decided to roll from back to front and rotate his body 90 degrees when I wasn't watching.  Arrgh!  Little Man, don't you know that you aren't supposed to hit milestones when Mommy isn't watching?!

Today was picture day at Team First Soccer Academy.  The ladies in the red shirts are soccer legends Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tish Hoch.  The girls are having a great time at the camp and so is Bryan who is one of the volunteer coaches.

Katie's too little for this soccer camp, but she really wanted to be in a picture.  Who knows, maybe when she's older our soccer club will host this camp again.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} VBS 2014

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life.

Last week was VBS week.  I switched VBS programs this year so the new changes and additions made my job as director a bit more challenging than years past, but it all came together nicely.  Our theme this year was Living in God's Kingdom from Loyola's Catholic Vacation Bible School book.  I was so pleased with the way the program turned out this year that I'm already looking forward to using the other two themes that are in that book for the next two years.

One of the crafts the kids made at VBS was a prayer card holder.  Each day the kids received a new holy card to color and take home.  The color your own holy cards seemed to be a hit with the kids.  We laminated all of the cards each day which made them look really nice.

I have some amazing friends who help me out with VBS each year.  I'm convinced that the program wouldn't be as great as it is without their help and passion for teaching.
I think I also have some of the best student volunteers.  This year I was the only volunteer with kids young enough to need a nursery so I scrapped the nursery knowing that my little ones wouldn't stay in there and instead had two awesome assistants who not only helped me a ton with relaying messages for me and delivering things to classrooms, but they also spent most of their time holding Katie and Anthony while I ran around doing all the things that I needed to do to make sure everything was running smoothly.  

Ever since last year, I like to tease Deacon Al about what costume I'm going to have him dress up in for VBS.  Originally I wanted him to be a jester to go with the medieval kingdom theme, but I never got around to ordering him a jester costume.  I was delighted when a friend of mine came in with a monk costume.  We were all amused to meet "Chip Monk" as he went from class to class with his Italian accent talking to the kids.  I have to start thinking about who he will dress up as next year.  I think he secretly enjoys dressing up in these costumes.

My main goal with VBS is to plant as many seeds of faith as possible hoping that some of what the kids learn will take root.  My approach is to infuse as much Catholic culture and prayer into the program as I can.  Most of our crafts include a prayer.  For the prayer card holders the kids made we included a prayer for vocations.  It was an idea that just came to me one day and the more I thought about it the more it made sense.  Our parish presently has a seminarian who is studying in Rome and we now have three more young men from our parish and/or young adult youth group who are entering the seminary this fall.  I had one of our new seminarians do a video on Divine Mercy for the campers and in his video he explained what a vocation was and what a seminarian is to help this prayer make even more sense to the kids.  Who knows, maybe our parish will see even more vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the coming years.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {P,H,F,R} and Clan Donaldson for more Vacation Theme Thursday posts.

Small Successes July 17th

Celebrating the little things in life that add up...

1.  VBS wrapped up on Friday last week and that left me with about 45 hours to prepare for Ellie's Frozen pool party. Why yes, I am crazy enough to schedule a party at my house following a crazy busy week.  Somehow we managed to pull over straightening the house and getting it decorated for the party.  The party went quite well and the kids all seemed like they had a great time.

2. On Monday it became evident that following a week of VBS and a birthday party for Ellie meant that we were pretty much out of burp cloths and bibs (not good when you have a baby with reflux).  I also come to realize that I was pretty much out of clean clothes.  Also, not good since I like wearing clean clothes.  So I waded into the laundry room that was tip toe room only and sorted the laundry and got to work getting all of it cleaned and folded in the span of a day.

3. I started blogging again.

4. I edited and printed out some pictures I had taken of Anthony.  Now I have pictures of all four of the kids in the house.

5. I survived daily Mass this morning with a 2 1/2 year old and a 2 1/2 month old.

Head over to Catholic Mom to share your Small Successes for this week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tea for Two

I've been going through pictures from the past two months these past few days and I'm coming across some here and there that I can't help but share.  When Anthony was just shy of two weeks old Katie was warming up to the idea of having a new baby in the house, but she really wanted to be able to play with him.  Not content to wait for Anthony to grow up a little bit she decided that she would help him play.  So she set up her little tea set and had a tea party with Anthony.  She even helped him drink a pretend cup of tea.  I'm so glad I grabbed my camera to document his first tea party.

Book Review: Encounter Jesus

These days a book needs to grab my attention in order to be read from cover to cover.  My time is pretty much at a premium as I try to meet the needs of my family and still carve out time for one of my favorite past times--reading.  There are lots of books I want to read, but with limited time only books that stand out to me in one way or another get read.  When Encounter Jesus showed up in my mailbox I wasn't sure if it was going to grab my interest, but the book just kept showing up in various locations of the house and I figured I needed to crack it open and give it a look and I'm glad I did.

At the start the book reminded me of so many other books like it that I've read before and I just wasn't sure if it was going to go anywhere for me.  It took me a few chapters of reading for me to really find myself sold on the book.  In many ways this book reminds me of Fr. Mark Mossa's Already There, which I reviewed a few years back.  In Encounter Jesus From Discovery To Discipleship you will find a guide to intentional discipleship and a deeper relationship with Jesus through the anecdotal stories of Fr. Dave Pivonka and Deacon Ralph Poyo.  But, the book is so much more than that.  

Each of the book's fourteen chapters begins with scripture which correlates with the chapter's topic.  From there the authors offer an explanation which is easy to relate to in order to help the reader understand how to apply this to his or her life, whether it's the call to evangelize or how to embrace the crosses that come with this life.   The book offers practical insight and can be a valuable source of inspiration.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read that is practical and approachable.  It's certainly worth reading.

I was provided with an advance copy of this book for the purpose of writing this review by the publisher, Servant Books.  Encounter Jesus is set to be released this Fall.  You can pre-order it from Amazon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anthony's Baptism

On the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua our little Anthony was baptized.  The morning of the baptism Anthony and I went to Mass where his Godfather pointed him out to everyone present and announced that today was the most important day of his entire life.  After Mass he had lots of well wishers come up to him.  The fact that he was being baptized on the feast day of his patron saint has earned him the nick name "Saint Anthony" from several of the daily Mass goers.

The baptism that afternoon was beautiful.  Anthony was baptized by our friend Deacon Al, who also baptized Katie.  He was happy to do a private baptism for us yet again.  Just like all of our other children, Anthony didn't make a single peep during the Baptism rite.  In fact, he slept through the whole thing just like Madeline and Katie did.
I think it's safe to say that both of Anthony's Godparents are quite taken with him.  It is my hope that they will both be an amazing example to him as he grows.

I'm not sure if I mentioned in my lack of blogging that Katie has had her moments where she isn't necessarily thrilled to be a big sister at times.  For the most part, she's very happy with her little brother, but in those moments where he seems to be the center of attention she makes her displeasure known.  As soon as she realized that this was a big deal centered around Anthony she had a bit of a meltdown.  It didn't help that she hadn't had a good nap beforehand, nor did it help that I forgot to bring a sippy cup or pacifier for her to the Baptism.  She cried, she sobbed, she threw herself dramatically at the foot of the paschal candle and laid there like her life was over.  I was not amused by her behavior and neither was Bryan but apparently others found the display amusing.  

After the party we had following the Baptism,  I realized that we never got a family picture at the church.  Part of that had to do with the giant downpour just as we were leaving the church which prevented us from taking pictures outside like we had planned, and part of it was due to the fact that Katie wasn't exactly at her best.

Afterwards we had a party back at the house.  Anthony, who sleeps almost all of the time,  did wake up for some of his party.  I like how he looked pretty excited when it was time for the cake.

I spent the evening after his baptism and the days that followed breathing in that awesome just baptized chrism scent that he had.  There's just nothing better than holding a freshly baptized baby.

God bless you Anthony William Joseph!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Four Kids Will Keep You Busy!

I can't believe that I've only blogged two or three times since Anthony was born on May 1st.  I feel like my blog has been set on the back burner for the longest time.  All I can say is the past eleven months have felt like some of the busiest months of my life.

Things are going well here and I'm continually amazed at how sweet this new little love of mine is.  I can't believe I spent so much time worried that I wouldn't adore this little man as much as I do my girls. I really didn't think I'd have any clue what to do with a little boy but I have to say having a boy baby isn't too different from having a girl other than the obvious differences and the overall absence of whining and crying.  How come nobody told me boys were so easy going?  Anthony is so laid back that I'd be prefectly content to have more just like him.

I have so much I want to blog about so I will hopefully be able to find some time in the next few weeks to fill you in on what we've been up to.  Here are are few highlights.

Madeline completed her first year of homeschooling and she managed to finish up the year a full three weeks before the kids in public school finished.

Ellie will be joining us for school this year.  When I re-enrolled Madeline for 8th grade we also enrolled Ellie for 4th grade.  Can I tell you how excited I am that we're done with the public school?  I know Ellie is excited about homeschooling, too.  She seems to be telling everyone about it.

I think Katie has adjusted to having a little brother for the most part.  She still has moments here and there where she seems jealous but overall she seems content to have a real baby in the house.

Anthony was baptized on the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua.  I couldn't resist having him baptized on the feast day of his patron saint.

VBS took place last week.  How I managed to pull off coordinating VBS this year while pregnant/having just had a baby will remain a mystery.  All I can say is I have some amazing friends and family members who all helped me out tremendously.  Last week was great and I enjoyed seeing all of the kids having a great time.

Anthony had his 2 month well visit last week.  He's growing so fast.  He's 12 lbs 11oz and 23 1/4 inches long.  He's already outgrown some of his 0-3 month outfits and is on the verge of outgrowing the rest.  It's crazy!  Between 6 and 8 weeks old he went from looking like a newborn to looking more like a three month old.

As if having a new baby and running VBS wasn't enough, we also had a birthday party to plan for yesterday.  Ellie turned nine yesterday and we celebrated with a Frozen pool party.  I can't believe she's nine already.  It's amazing how quickly time passes.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that we had just moved into this house and celebrated her second birthday and already she's nine years old.
So I think this wraps up my little highlight tour of what we've been up to this past month and a half.   I hope to be able to put together a post about Anthony's baptism and Ellie's Frozen party later this week.  I have a lot of pictures to share and I was so pleased with how well Ellie's party came together that I need to tell you how easily everything came together and why I'm convinced that I must get a die cut machine. (Hint: Look at the snowflake decorations in the background of each of the birthday pictures.)

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