Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Friday, June 25, 2010

Saint Josemaria Escriva

I just love reading the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva, a saint of our times...


I recently read that In 2001 Pope John Paul II explained the secret of St Josemaria’s message: “Blessed Josemaria was a man who thirsted for God, and therefore this great apostle used to repeat the aspiration ‘Thy face, O Lord, do I seek’ (Ps 27:8). 
He wrote: ‘In intentions, may Jesus be our aim; in affections, our love; in words, our theme; and in actions, our model’ (The Way, 271).”
~I am inspired by this~
Many people know St. Josemaria Escriva was the founder of Opus Dei.  I am not a member of Opus Dei but I have been blessed with exposure.  I have attended several evenings of reflection and my older sons have loved going to their summer camp each year.  I will always be grateful for this beautiful Catholic experience that has enriched my life.  Striving for holiness in ordinary, daily life is something I have had to learn in my adult life...It has been a key component to my journey of faith.  Thank you, Lord, for graces received!
~I made Flan for dessert in honor of St. Josemaria Escriva as this is the national dessert of Spain, his home country~
Check out my post over at Catholic Cuisine for EASY instructions!
~Here are some great resources for kids and a free holy card to download~
Josemaria Escriva Holy Card
Activities and Stories for Kids
Some of my favorite Josemaria Escriva Quotes:
"Anything that does not lead you to God is a hinderance.  Root it out and throw it far from you."
"Have a good time," they said as usual.  And the comment of a soul very close to God was "What a limited wish!"
"Love our Lady. And she will obtain abundant grace to help you conquer in your daily struggle."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Celebrating Endings & Looking Ahead To New Beginnings~ Part 2 of 2

Part 2:  Learning Binders=Simple Success!
I wanted to share this idea that sprang from my desire to celebrate our children's accomplishments, as well as their individual God-given gifts.  I wanted to capture their work and who they are in their own separate ways.  This felt impossible at times! I searched around and didn't really find exactly what I was looking for.  As with many home educating families, it can be a constant challenge to keep up with  multiple grades, often with limited space.  And for me, I needed something easy that I knew I would keep up with and on top of.  I admire those who do scrap booking but it just isn't my reality at this time of my life!  So I came up with a simple Learning Binder. 
It's nothing fancy but I assure you that it is easy and do-able!  The "easy" was key for me.
I have used these binders for the past 2 years now and my children LOVE them!
These binders truly help us feel successful in our home education because it's a visual compilation of our celebrations throughout the year.  Sometimes when I doubt (like any mother/teacher who beats herself up sometimes) whether we got anything "accomplished", I take a look at the binders and say:"Wow, we really did a lot this year!" 
My children especially enjoy showing them to grandparents!

Supply list:  Binders, Sheet Protectors & 10x14 manilla folders
  • The sheet protectors can add up in price but they usually come on sale closer to the start of the school year.  
  • I estimate about 35-50 sheet protectors per child.  Buy them all ahead of time so they are on hand.  I found if I ran out, I got behind.
Step 1:  A Simple Binder (At least 1 1/2") 
*Get the ones covered in plastic cover to insert a cover sheet*
This is a photo of our Kinder son's (with name blocked out)
~My husband helps them design their own personal cover each year on the computer~
But you could certainly make a fun art project out of decorating your own front page!

**My photos are a bit limited since the kids have their names on everything**
(2nd grade daughter had an adorable binder but her name is all over)

Step 2:  Pre-load each binder with empty sheet protectors to start the year
Step 3:  Keep everything you want to "celebrate" here in the binder!  
I literally use it for EVERYTHING:
Liturgical celebrations, special school work, special artwork, writing pieces, piano certificates, pictures doing school work, pictures, and more pictures, sports, field trips, etc. 
It has been a great record-keeper!
This also helped solve the problem of where to display children's work they are proud of!
THE KEY:  Once great work is done, it just gets slipped right into the binder right away, without delay!  This is critical to success!
Before you know it, the binders are full of great things to celebrate!
When writing assignments are complete...IN they go!
One other important point...I try to print out field trip (or other) pictures right away.  Warning:  You may need to budget for a bit more printer cartridge ink to do this.
~If I fail to print pictures right away, I put it on the calendar to take 1 day and do it quarterly.~
But I still find the best success when I take a few extra minutes and do things right away or within a day or two!
So you are probably wondering what to do with these things at the end of the year?  Most of us do not have storage space for a billion binders that would accumulate with many children over the years!
Well, I have started removing all of the work and placing it in a large 10x14 manilla envelope.  These are easily stackable in a drawer or plastic bin.  I actually save all of the special things and keep them right in the sheet protectors.
Then we re-use the binders and create new covers the following year...the only cost is for more sheet protectors!
~I really hope this helps someone else out there looking for just the right simple and successful tool~
I'd love to hear how some of you organize your spaces too!
*God Bless your families as you, too, look ahead to new beginnings*
Oh and one more thing...I really love this E-book:  Simplifying Your Domestic Church

Major Note:

Since I last wrote this post, I discovered that this concept is definitely NOT my own!  Through some recent blog surfing, I found this Notebooking Site.  It's wonderful.  Though my original idea for Learning Binders was for "record keeping" and general storage for loose artwork, photos, and misc. extra things,  I plan on expanding to include some of the things at this site.  I am so excited about starting our year pondering some of these ideas!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Celebrating Endings & Looking Ahead To New Beginnings~ Part 1 of 2

With summer officially upon us, we are celebrating the end of a school year and looking ahead to new beginnings.  Today we are celebrating clean desks!
~This is (soon to be 3rd grader Princess') tidy learning space~
(It hasn't been this clean for quite awhile!)
It feels good to wipe the slate clean and start anew...
With a Home Educator Conference to attend, I am looking ahead to new beginnings.
Thinking about new curriculum...
Thinking about organizing my "own" desk...
Thinking about cleaning...out with the old and in with the new...
Thinking about trying to de-clutter detach...
Thinking about getting rid of "stuff"...
Definitely lots to think about and lots to do!
Over the 6 years that I have educated children at home, I have often felt overwhelmed at this point.  The thought of cleaning out several children's school work and making room for the new grade has gotten the best of me.  Over time, I  have learned to take things one room or space at a time.  I found it best to devote the first part of our summer to purging bedrooms and learning spaces so the new school year is a fresh start and not a stressful start.
My realistic goal this year (especially with busy toddler at foot)  is to work on one room or space per week.  So far, this has proven successful!  To date, we have purged and cleaned 2 bedrooms and started on the school room, hence the 1 clean desk above!
I thought I'd share a few photos of a storage cupboard I have in our school room/play room.  This year, I decided to keep my liturgical decorations and supplies separately (from all other stuff) for easy and quick access when the time comes.   I found that if I'm "ready to go", we tend to make the most of both our school year and church year!  This is the outside of 4 cupboards in our school room:
Inside these four cupboards, we keep school supplies and play things.  We use this world map when we do our daily saint readings to point out the country and continent where the saint comes from.  This ends up being a great daily geography lesson!  And of course the liturgical year, in poster form, is a great tool for following the church calendar each day.
~One of the top shelves holds all of our Advent & Christmas resources and crafty supplies~
(I keep holiday picture/reading books separately on a different book shelf)
~Next to Advent/Christmas is the Lent/Easter season supplies and crafts.  This year, I added Mary Month of May storage, including materials for next year's May baskets~
I know many of you already do this but it sure is helpful to have separate containers for pens, colored pencils, and crayons.  These 3 tubs provide quick access at our house and easy clean up.
~Here's how I keep my gift bags and ribbon~
~Saving the best for last is our prayer shelf in the school room~
Out of respect, we always try to keep this area clean but it's always nice at the end of the year to tidy it up a bit.  We keep our daily saint readings here so they are accessible after our morning prayer.  This little prayer shelf has made our morning prayer and saint reading time a huge success.  Praise God for these graces received!
**For my next post (Part 2) I want to share our Learning Binders**
These were created as a result of my desire for a tool to help all of us "celebrate" our school year  and the children's accomplishments.  These binders have been successful beyond measure and they have really been very easy to maintain with several children!
God Bless your summer!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Birthday John The Baptist!

[Saint John the Baptist]

~We have been planning ahead and preparing to celebrate the birthday of the Forerunner of Christ on June 24th~ 
John the Baptist is the only one besides our Blessed Mother and Our Lord himself whose birth is celebrated liturgically.  I am posting this a bit early to share some ideas.
Happy Birthday John the Baptist!  
You may read about this Solemnity HERE and HERE.

This will be a great day to read about the beautiful Sacrament of Baptism~The Sacrament of Faith!
Bible Readings:
Matthew 3:1-17
John 3:22-36
CCC 1213-1284
St. John the Baptist was the model of the virtue of humility.  We will work on this scripture for memorization:
"He must increase and I must decrease."~John 3:30~
This makes for a great discussion about how this means that we should not look down at ourselves but away from ourselves to the Lord.

Handprint Baptismal Craft
There are many ways that our hands can be connected to baptism, including the hands that baptize us as we receive the sign of the cross, imposition of hands and annointing of oils. 
We made these felt handprints, representing us as children in the "hands" of God.  The baptismal photo in the middle reminds us that we are members of the body of Christ after our Baptism and also to remind us how our Baptism seals us as Christians with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of our belonging to Christ. (CCC 1272)  Through our Baptism we have a continuous call to holiness... May we always strive to be lights in the world around us, reaching out to others with the "hands" of Christ.  
We had fun digging out old baptism photos...
~I just used felt, tacky glue, and card stock to back the photo!  We also wrote each child's baptismal date on the photo to remind them of this special day~
These will make great ornaments for Christmas this year!  
A funny thing happened at our house as we were making this craft... One of my outdoor plaques got broken (that held a ceramic St. Francis of Assisi).
  I decided to recycle the frame for our Baptismal Handprint Crafts and hang it over our home altar with our completed hands!  Next we need to dig up Mom and Dad's baptism photos...
~I think it serves as a great reminder of our baptismal promises~
This is one of my favorite quotes about humility and a great reminder to keep on trying!
"Humility is an elusive virtue. The more we pursue it—and the more we seem to acquire it—the more we take pride in our accomplishment, and we find ourselves back at square one. "~ from Love in the Little Things~
Since John the Baptist was a model of humility and known to eat locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4), we prepared a little snack in his honor.  Afterall, birthday cake would be a little extravagant for this humble saint.*wink*
Stop over to Catholic Cuisine to see how we made these John the Baptist Locust Snacks!  You might say "Ewwww..." or you may even say "Yum!"
Two-year old Angel Baby voted "Yum!"
Here are a couple of other links:
Litany of St. John the Baptist
Birth of John the Baptist for kids
We also look forward to some water play and maybe a visit to the church to fill up our Holy Water containers!
~God Bless you and your families on the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist!~

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sacred & Immaculate Heart Cakes

~Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary Cakes~
We had fun making these cakes for the dual feasts of the Sacred & Immaculate Hearts!  They were fairly easy with heart-shaped cake pans!  These are special back to back feasts so we wanted to really celebrate these joyous occasions today and tomorrow.  This link explains the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  And this link explains the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
I was particularly struck by this statement from Catholic Culture:" How society, culture, economy, politics today need this Heart!  It is really true, the more man distances himself from God-Love the more he becomes 'heartless', agitated about a thousand things because he has mislaid the principal one: to let oneself be loved by Christ and to respond to this Love with our love."
WOW, is this ever so true!
So with that in mind, back to the cakes of LOVE...
We started with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, representing how much He truly loves us. 
We used red food coloring to die the white frosting, then used squeezable chocolate brownie topping for the weave of thorns...Finally, we added a bit of red icing for the blood He shed.  Oh what a loving and merciful God!
After painting 2 small craft sticks brown, we glued them to a straw so that we weren't poking painted sticks into our edible cake!  Silk flower petals (from the Dollar Tree) were glued on to the sticks to represent the flames.  They looked like this:
~Here you see the front of the Sacred Heart (straw) cross and flames and the back of the Immaculate Heart flames~
*The straw was the only part that we stuck into the cake*
A close-up of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cake
(We used the same idea of gluing the stick to the straw for the sword that pierced her heart)
Here is another photo of the dual hearts!
This is the picture that hangs over our home altar/prayer table...A nice visual reflection for these two special days.
"Behold the Heart which so loved mankind."
~St. Margaret Mary Alacoque~
"The heart that resembles that of Christ more than any other is without a  doubt the Heart of Mary, His Immaculate Mother."~Pope Benedict XVI~
One last thing...For another idea, here is a photo of some Immaculate Heart of Mary Rice Krispy Treats that we made in the past....
~Happy "Feasting" With Love~

Sacred Heart of Jesus Wreath

~Sacred Heart of Jesus Wreath~
There is still time to make a lovely Sacred Heart of Jesus wreath since the whole month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart...
~This was a really easy craft to adorn your front door or home altar!~
*My daughter Princess (age 7) was a good helper*
We started with a foam heart and silk red roses, found at Michael's...
~Most of the roses were stuck right into the foam...Sometimes with a little help from my (hot glue) friend~
~We added some dried birch tree branches for the woven thorns through the middle...Think we'll add a bit more to make it a thicker weave~
~The cross(on top)with flames was "originally" made from painted craft sticks and silk red petals, once again with a little help from the hot glue gun~ (I think I would use natural objects for the cross next time..In fact, I may end up with a re-do very soon.  The craft sticks look a bit out of place!) I ended up re-doing the cross with natural sticks.  I think it looks much better this way. (Photo at top and bottom)
Here are some ways to display the finished wreath.... 
~We took a photo with our wreath hung inside our entry way~
~Then we hung it on our front door~
~It seemed a little bare so we attached it to a plain white wreath we had on hand~
**Everyone agreed "Much better" for the front door**
I'm just loving the idea of a liturgical wreath!
We can detach the Sacred Heart wreath and use it for our home altar when we are through the month of June!  
Here are a few photos of the "re-do", using natural branches from the backyard and more twigs for the center thorn weave...
Much better, don't you think?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sacred Heart Summer Welcome

I found the Sacred Heart of Jesus!
I was so excited about finding this little garden statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus about a month ago.  While visiting my sister in Oregon, we were shopping at a store called Tuesday Morning.  Up near the front of the store, standing amidst a few other garden items, was this lovely (lone) statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  I picked him up to check the price, certainly expecting it to be out of my range.  Lo and behold, He was a mere $9.99!  It was as if he was crying "Take Me Home!"  Knowing that the Feast of the Sacred Heart (and the month of June dedicated to the Sacred Heart) was coming up, I had big plans for this little guy.  With our lovely Mary garden in the backyard, I thought it would be quite fitting to have a little Sacred Heart garden in the front!
This is what you see as you walk up to our front door...
I thought the colors were perfect for the blood and water He shed for us, red also for love...Oh, and the blue flowers also seemed to drape the shoulders like Mother Mary's mantle.
This is a "timed" post since we are away camping.  But looking forward to baking some treats for the dual Sacred and Immaculate Hearts this weekend.
"His divine Heart calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to abandon our human certainties, to trust in him and, following his example, to make ourselves a gift of love without reserve."~Pope Benedict XVI~

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