Monday, April 30, 2012

On Why We Really Need Community

In light of the (in)RL Conference I had the privilege to attend (at home, by myself-- but not really by myself since I felt the connection of women all around the globe gathering on the subject of community!  A beautiful thing!) I've been thinking about what community has meant for me over the past several years.  I wanted to share with you the importance of community--how it can grow you, nourish you and change you in amazing and surprising ways:

I walk into the first MOPS meeting of the year feeling like 14 year old just entering the halls of high school. But instead of fretting all night over what I should wear to look cool, I've fretted all night over my not-yet-sleeping through the night 2 month old. I'm still brand-new to motherhood.  I'm tired. Clueless. Lonely. I feel like I should have a big tattoo splashed across my forehead reading: "clueless tired new mom without a mom friend in the world."

These moms have probably been moms for years. They all have toddlers running around-- they're probably all getting a full night's sleep. I bet they have oodles of friends that meet at parks and coffee shops. Why on earth would they want to be friends with me? What do I have to offer--the new girl with the newborn, desperate for connection.

I do have ONE mom friend. She lives almost an hour away and we've been friends since grade school. She's been a mom for years so she knows what she's doing and listens to my sleep-deprived woes and fears. She mentions that she runs a group called MOPS and encourages me to attend. The group is far away but I feel like I'd drive across the country in order to connect with somebody, so here I am.

I find my one friend and she greets me with a big hug and smile. Then several other women also greet me with warm smiles and show me around. I make my way to a table full of other equally nice women and settle in. We exchange pleasantries and sip coffee.

What I didn't realize at the time was that this was the first day of being a part of community. A community of women with whom I could share and trust. Women who I could count on when things got hard. Women who I could laugh with, cry with, ponder with and really be myself.

Over the course of that first MOPS year I opened up in ways I never would have imagined. Sharing the really hard things I never thought I would discuss. As we worked our way through book discussions on the topic of family life, we discussed our own walks of life--out trials, our pasts, our worries. I found myself pouring my heart out about the loneliness I felt.  About how scared and overwhelmed I was as a new mom with no friends.  How I didn't have help from parents--but rather a set of worries over my mentally ill mother who, at the time, was in and out of hospitals. On how I had no parental role models to turn to--those wonderfully built-in "free babysitters" full of wisdom and concern who you can call at 1:00 in the morning wondering how to hold the baby so it will stop crying and which brand of pacifier works best. I shared how I didn't have a clue about what "happy family life" looked like save for what you find in a book, having grown up with a mess of a childhood: schitzophrenia, alcoholism, divorce, latch-key loneliness cutting like a knife.

I poured out my heart on how I afraid I was I'd screw it all up. On the pressure I heaped on myself to know everything there was to know about parenting--all from textbooks and college courses, none of it yet experienced. How I wanted to breastfeed but couldn't, and all of the expectations and disappointment I carried over my failure.

These women listened. They cried with me. They offered advice when I needed it. And best of all they got it. These women were not perfect "Stepford" Wives" who had it all figured out and wanted for nothing. These women had broken scared places, too, just like me. Difficult in-laws, husbands working long hours leaving them to parent virtually alone, and pasts that hurt and haunted. These women also felt scared, tired, overwhelmed and lonely-- just trying to get through another day. It  turned out I wasn't the only mess in the world.   In fact, I was pretty much just...a normal new mom. And with this realization I no longer felt so scared, worried and alone. And neither did they.

I took a risk, sharing my heart and my past. Sure, I could've been rejected, snubbed. I could've poured out my heart just to heave it left there dangling and exposed. But sometimes it takes a risk to get what you really need. I really needed connection.  In order to get it I had to put myself out there.  Chances are, when you put yourself out there, someone will connect with part of your story. The details and circumstances might look different, but our feelings are so often the same. And that's exactly what we really need to share--our feelings, our hearts. The importance of community is to give yourself breathing room. A place to just be you--wherever you are.

Seven years and two kids later I've grown a lot. Learned to let go of those old fears and perfectionism. I've walked through periods of grief, loss, change. And through it all I had a wonderful community to share it with. A community that helped me become the person I am today. Over the years my community changed--I found a MOPS group closer to home, joined homeschool groups, bible studies that began and ended.   But there was a always some sort of community out there for me to embrace. A community of women to share with and learn from.

So if you're feeling really lost or alone, if you're a new mom, a veteran mom in a new town, or someone going through tough times and needing some support, I urge you to find a community. Find a MOPS group, bible study, church group, meetup group, cooking club, sewing circle--find people to be real with. Just do it.  Do it for yourself. You won't regret it.

sharing with:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Importance of Sunday School

Today I'm happy to share with you a wonderful guest post by freelance writer, Emmy, on the importance of Sunday School.  Many great things to consider!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

Growing up in a Catholic home, Sunday school was the highlight of my week. Our teacher was a gentle old lady who taught us how to sing “Jesus Loves Me” and paint Easter eggs. We gathered around her at circle time and listened in awe as she described Joseph’s coat multi-colored coat and how Jesus turned water into wine.

I loved Sunday school as a child and now that I’m an adult, I still feel the same way. This is why it saddens me that attendance is on a steady decline. Not all churches offer catechism classes anymore, and the few that are running may soon stop. I’m glad, however, that the one where my kids go to have no plans of closing down. I believe Sunday school is important when raising little Catholic believers and here are some reasons:

 It helps children make friends. 

This is perhaps the best, safest place for a child to find a friend. It teaches God-centered values, which makes an ideal environment for nurturing friendships that stand the test of time. My twin daughters met their best friends at Sunday school, and I couldn’t wish for better company for them to hang out with.

 It cultivates active participation in church traditions. 

The gospel is taught in creative, age-appropriate ways so that children develop a deeper understanding for the Word of God and have fun at the same time. My friend proudly shared that his ten-year-old son initiated going to confession before Lent. A neighbor’s nine-year-old daughter happily sings along to the praises during mass.

It fosters a deeper relationship with Christ.

Songs taught in Sunday school are more than just children’s rhymes. They relay the message that God’s love is unconditional; it’s their refuge and solace when beset with troubles. When our kids commit mistakes and fall, they know they can rise again because God’s love doesn’t falter. As parents, there’s no greater comfort than knowing our children paths are rooted in God’s protection and favor.

Students are less likely to stray. 

 Studies from several universities and research groups show that regular attendance to a “faith community” yields adults who live longer, happier, and healthier lives. They’re less inclined to experiment with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco and have a higher tendency to value religion, education, and family.

 Students are taught to live together harmoniously. 

Sunday school is a melting pot of races, classes and cultures. Children are taught to respect and appreciate the differences in background and opinion, and live with them in peace and harmony.

 For just an hour every week, you and your family get to enjoy a lifetime of benefits. If all families brought their children to Sunday school and supported the church and lay volunteers, children will grow up to be compassionate, God-centered adults.

 It’s my fervent wish that these classes are made available to all kids around the globe so everyone will experience the wonderful things that we do. And who knows, maybe our dreams of a better world will finally come true.

 Emmy is a freelance writer for Discount Catholic Products, an online retailer of scapulars, patron saint medals, first Communion gift sets, and many more. She never missed a day of Sunday school and has two pages full of stars in her old scrapbook to show for it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter with the Family {with Divine Mercy Printable!}

We had a lovely Easter weekend, albeit very busy! It was all baskets, lilies, egg hunts, ham with potato salad and family fun! We didn't get to do everything we had planned (e.g. resurrection rolls and coloring eggs will have to happen sometime over the next few weeks! Ooops!) but what we did fit in was wonderful. Here are some of the highlights of our weekend:

Easter baskets!

Luke goin' straight for the chocolate! :) (Smart kid!)

This picture cracks me up. It's totally blurry but I just love Adam's sheer joy over the prospect of chocolate for breakfast!

Megan about to dive into her bunny as well!

The kids had memorized this poem over the past couple of weeks, so they were reciting it and laughing as they devoured their hollow bunnies:


Chocolate Easter bunny
In a jelly bean nest,
I'm saving you for very last
Because I love you best.
I'll only take a nibble
From the tip of your ear
And one bite from the other side
So that you won't look queer.
Yum, your'e so delicious!
I didn't mean to eat
Your chocolate tail till Tuesday.
Ooops! There go your feet!
I wonder how your back tastes
With all that chocolate hair.
I never thought your tummy
Was only filled with air!
Chocolate Easter bunny
In a jelly bean nest,
I'm saving you for very last
Because I love you best.

-Bobbie Katz

The kids really enjoyed the "family basket" as well. This butterfly finger puppet is really fun to use! The wings look very realistic as they flap!

Egg hunt #1 of 2!

Adam and Megan completely exhausted from not enough sleep but loving every minute of Easter fun! :)

ready for more partying!

More Easter egg hunting...

The boys had a blast making this HUGE block tower with the family!

That about wraps up our weekend! We've also been enjoying our Garden of the Good Shepherd calendar this week. We've been reading lots of stories about sheep, shepards and wolves including:

We also plan to make "popsicle stick sheepfold gates" later this week (no photo since we haven't made them yet! Sorry!) and hopefully wolf paw cookies, thanks to this wonderful idea from Catholic Cuisine:

We're planning a trip to Old Sturbridge Village next week to visit the newly born lambs! Can't wait for that!

Since Divine Mercy Sunday is fast approaching, I also wanted to share a coloring sheet I made:

Divine Mercy Chaplet Coloring Sheet

I designed this so little ones can color one bead at a time throughout the entire chaplet. It's a nice way to involve kids and keep them focused during prayer time! Maybe they could alternate decades using red and blue? I wanted to post this before holy week so you could start using it on Good Friday if you've been praying the novena, but it just didn't happen. Sorry! But at least I posted it before Divine Mercy Sunday! :) Feel free to print and use as many as you like.

I hope your family has been enjoying the Easter season so far!

shared with:

Catholic Icing

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Traditions and Celebrations...

As the Easter season is upon us, I just thought I'd share some of the things we have planned this year!

As way to keep track of the Easter season we're using our 50 Days of Easter Calendar along with our Easter Prayer Jar prayers. These are simple and meaningful ways to involve the whole family without requiring a huge amount of time or preparation (bonus!).

50 Days of Easter Calendar

Easter Family Prayer Jar

We'll also be using Tomie DePaola's Garden of the Good Shepard calendar. It's a really fun and simple way to incorporate the rich symbols of Easter into your 50 days. Waltzing Matilda and Shower of Roses have put together a ton of great posts on ways to use this calendar including themed garden parties, crafts and activities for each day and themed foods. There's even a printable color-your-own version of the calendar for those who cannot purchase it, so be sure to check all of these amazing links out! I'd love to have some "garden parties" myself, but we'll have to keep our celebrations simple this year since we're very busy getting our house ready to sell. But we'll do what we can! :)

We also have our Resurrection set displayed (available through Oriental Trading):

Over the years in several places I've seen the idea of a "family Easter Basket" incorporating traditional Christian symbols of Easter. I've always wanted to make one, but never managed to get one together. This year I managed to assemble a few things I think our family will enjoy--a "starter basket!" Our basket includes:

--plush peacock (traditional Easter symbol)

--butterfly finger puppet (this is really fun to use! It looks very realistic as it's wings flap!)

--Resurrection eggs (I made my own set to use with the book Benjamin's Box)

--Wrist Bells (symbolizing Easter Bells!)
--Easter books ( list of titles here)

--supplies to make our own paschal candle (thanks to Lacy's wonderful idea at Catholic Icing!):

photo courtesy of Catholic Icing

I'd love to add to our basket in future years to incorporate more symbols, but it's a start! :) I plan to use the basket as part of our evening story and prayer time. I thought the little toys would be nice for the kids to use while we read stories!

And nearest (and possibly dearest!) to my heart are Easter crafts and activities! We'll be doing as many as we can possibly fit in! Some of the crafts I have planned so far are:

*Stained Glass Crosses and butterflies

photo source

*Divine Mercy Sundaes
(we did these last year--so much fun!)

*Ascension Cup Craft
(another one we did last year! Simple yet meaningful!)

Another craft we plan to do is this Easter Story Wreath recounting the events of Palm Sunday through Pentecost. If you'd like to make one, too, just click the link above and it'll take you to the printables!

That's about all I've planned so far, but we'll see what other Garden of the Good Shepard activities we can also squeeze in! :)

I'd love to hear all about the traditions and activities your family enjoys! Please feel free to leave a comment sharing the ways your family celebrates!

Wishing you a wonderful 50 days of Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Make an Easter Story Wreath {free printables!}

Inspired by the Easter Story Wreath I saw at Oriental Trading (pictured below), I thought it'd be fun to draw my own version for kids to color, cut and assemble!

I wanted to include Pentecost in my wreath (it's not included in the one above) and also add scripture verses to make it tell the Easter story in better detail. (And by-the-way, I really didn't care for the "happy hippy" Jesus in their wreath--I mean, he's SMILING during the agony in the garden? Really?) So anyway, here is my own version of an Easter Story Wreath. Please feel free to print as many as you like! There are three documents to print (2 image docs and one scripture egg doc).

To assemble the wreath simply print, color and cut out the images. For a wreath base I used a large circle (approx. 11 1/2 " in diameter) cut from a 12" x 12" piece of cardstock:

I arranged the pictures to "tell" the story from Palm Sunday (starting on the top right) through Pentecost (placed in the top center). If you're interested in making this wreath I'm sure you're already very familiar with the order of the events, but I will go ahead and list them just in case:

1. Jesus enters Jerusalem (palm branch and donkey pictures)

2. The Last Supper (bread and wine pictures)

3. Jesus Prays in Gethsemane (praying hands picture)

4. Jesus is Crucified (cross picture)

5. Resurrection (empty tomb picture)

6. Ascension (Jesus in clouds picture)

7. Holy Spirit Comes Down (dove and flames pictures)

Here is an example of an assembled wreath will look like:

I overlapped some of the pictures on top of each other to make them fit nicely--feel free to arrange them however you like! Glue stick or Glue Dots work well to affix the pictures to the wreath base.

 You can print the wreath images by clicking on the links below:

Easter Wreath Pictures Page 1 of 3 (Microsoft doc)

Easter Wreath Pictures page 2 of 3 (Microsoft doc)

Easter Wreath Pictures page 3 of 3 (Microsoft doc)

NOTE: Some people have mentioned that their scripture eggs are printing out blank.  If you experience this, you can try editing the document to re-arrange the order of the "egg shape" to send it to the back.  This has fixed the issue for most people.  I hope that helps.

If you are still unable to print the eggs with scripture in them, you can also print the text separately and simply cut and paste it onto the blank eggs.  Below is the document with the scripture verses by themselves:

 Scripture Verses TEXT ONLY (microsoft doc)

I hope this wreath helps make the Easter season more meaningful for your family!

Sharing With:

Raising Homemakers

Easter Books for Kids

Since it's Holy Week I thought I'd share a list of my favorite Easter stories for children. While many of them are religious, a few are those sweet traditional tales with a really nice message and good strong characters. Here they are (in no particular order):

1. The Egg Tree
A wonderful Easter classic capturing the thrill of Easter morning rich with tradition. I love the idea of gathering a community to share the tradition of the egg tree.

2. Petook
I pretty much adore anything involving Tomie DePaola--this book is no exception! It's a unique Easter story told from the perspective of a rooster. It poignantly captures the sorrow of Good Friday as well as the joy of Easter morning.

3. The Story of the Easter Robin
This is beautiful story of compassion and faith. It's the tale of a little girl concerned over the safety of a robin's nest, which makes for a lovely lesson of God's provision and protection.

4. The Parable of the Lily
A wonderful story capturing awe of the miracle of life told through the story of a little girl and a surprising gift she receives.

5. Easter Family Treasury
This book is great because it includes many different aspects of the Easter and Lent; the sorrow of Good Friday, the waiting of Lent, the Springing up of new life and the joy of Easter Resurrection. It's a compilation of poems and stories with beautiful illustrations.

6. The Tale of Three Trees
I love this story of the three trees and their dreams of what they might grow up to be. A beautiful Easter classic!

7. The Legend of the Easter Egg
A moving story of Easter hope about a little boy and his concern over his sick sister.

8. Pancakes & Painted Eggs
I think this one might be out of print--it's an oldie but a goodie! It's a compilation of stories poems, songs and even recipes for Lent through Easter. I love the many rich traditions and customs it incorporates.

9. Benjamin's Box
This is a great story to use with a set of Resurrection Eggs--it just makes each one really come to life!

10. The Country Bunny and the little Gold Shoes
This one isn't a religious story, but is rich with Christian virtues of perseverance, kindness and wisdom. A lovely classic!

Well, that wraps up my list! What are some of your favorites? I'd love to hear your favorite titles!

Happy Easter!

shared with:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Raising Homemakers


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