Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy {almost} 2014!

2013 has been a whirlwind year.  A wonderful year of challenges and blessings--new house, new baby, new town.  It was a year of embracing the new and letting go of the old. As the frenetic season of Christmas Crazy calms down (Merry Christmas, by-the-way!  I sort of stepped out of blogging this past Advent.), I find myself reflecting on life in general.  Like many others do, as the New Year approaches, I pause to consider the blessings, goals and challenges of this ending year and the year ahead.

Last year, in that swirling sea of change, I determined my one word goal for the year would be "trust".  Lots of changes all-at-once kind of forced me to trust.  As I realized how utterly out-of-control I truly was, I needed to anchor myself to something firm.  Thankfully we have a loving God who is happy to be our rock!  Trust allowed me to feel more steady, amidst the chaos.  My year of trust grew me in many wonderful ways.  Whenever my head started to spin with worry and overwhelm, I was able to steady myself time and time again by reflecting on my one word.

As 2013 comes to a close I've been thinking about my new word for 2014. It came to mind pretty quickly for me:


My goal for 2014 is live each moment fully present. Too often I find myself "in my own head"...wrapped up in mental to-do lists, plans for the future...just being elsewhere and missing all joy of the present.  In all of my distraction and half-attention, I rob myself of the beauty of the now.  And of course some moments in life can be brutal.  I'm know all too well about the ugkly moments--the mom-stress, the teething baby, stubbed-toed kid-howls and snippy exchanges with family.  Of course these are all parts of life and don't feel all that beautiful as they occur.  But even in those moments, we can still grow closer to God, to attune ourselves to the life lesson in that moment. And when we stretch ourselves to fully live each moment, the present becomes a present.  A gift to self, an inner-quieting, a place where God can enter and the soul can sing.  I don't want to give away my present away to worldly noise.  I deserve better than that, and my family does, too.  By robbing myself of the present, I also rob my loved ones of the best of me.   So  goodbye to distraction, to worry and half-measures.  God has a plan for me, and I don't want to miss it.  No more idling my time away with fruitless pursuits,  mindless online clicking, numbing TV, procrastinating with chants of  "later, later, later".

I know this is going to be a challenge.  Bad habits creep in slowly, and purging the noise I've let in is not going to be easy. Holding myself accountable, moment-by-moment, to live with intention ALL THE TIME sounds overwhelming, I have to admit!  It strikes that balance of making me want to dive right in and simultaneously run for the hills!  But that's how I know it's right.

2014 promises to bring more change, as I recently discovered I'm expecting our fifth child (due in August!)!   I'm excited and nervous all at once!  Though I don't know what the future holds, I do know that I am fully committed to being present for it all.  I commit to living fully each moment, to seek joy, to live purposefully and find the wee little miracles (apparently I've grown a bit rusty at my own blog title!).

So, whisper a prayer for me as I embark on this year of living the present and I will pray for you, in your goals, too.  Do you have a one word goal this year?  If you do, I'd love to know what it is!  Pop in the combox and let's discuss! :)

Happy New Year, everyone.  I wish you many blessings in 2014!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Celebrate St. Martin of Tours {Free Martinmas Lantern Printable!}

Today is Martinmas (the feast day of St. Martin of Tours)!  St. Martin was a Roman soldier (and later became a Bishop) born in 316 A.D. He was forced into the military when he was quite young.  He is most well known for the famous story in which he encountered a beggar on a cold wintery day.  Filled with compassion for this shivering man, Martin cut his cloak in half, giving part of it to the beggar.  Later that night he dreamed that the beggar was Jesus himself.

In many countries, Martinmas is celebrated by children processing with paper lanterns at night. They sing songs, receive candy and build bonfires as well.  To honor this tradition, I thought it would be fun to make a paper lantern printable for children to cut, color and light (using an artificial candle, that is!). Today, the feast of St. Martin coincides with Veterans Day, which is nice since he is the patron saint of soldiers.  There is a prayer for soldiers included on one of the panels of the lantern, which would be nice to pray this evening.

Below is the printable.  Simply click on the link and you will be directed to Google Docs:

 (The printable is a microsoft word document)

Here is how to assemble your lantern:

1.  After printing (and coloring!) your lantern, cut and discard top section of page along thick black "scalloped" lines.   

2. Fold lantern into 4 vertical sections along dotted lines.  Cut along folded lines from the bottom up to the solid line.  This will create 4 flaps that will become the bottom of your lantern.

3. Fold bottom flaps along solid lines, placing glue on the inner bottom of each flap (I used glue stick).  Place one flap on top of the other, holding in place for a few second to let glue dry.

4. Place tape along the opening of the lantern walls to close remaining gap.  Your lantern is now complete and ready to illuminate!

5.  If you want your lantern to have a handle (nice for children to process with!), simply cut a thin strip of paper, cardstock or ribbon, and tape across any 2 opposite walls of the lantern.

6.  Place a battery-operated artificial tea light candle inside and enjoy the pretty luminary you made!

And remember to say the pray in honor of our soldiers this Veterans Day! 

Happy Martinmas!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Giving Trees {A Simple Kids Craft for Thanksgiving!}

With Thanksgiving approaching, there are many beautiful crafts and activities to do to show our thanks.  But along with giving thanks for all that we have, why not also do an activity about giving to others?  "Giving Trees" are a wonderful way for little ones to think of ways to serve others this Fall as as Thanksgiving draws closer.  Inspired by the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, along with wanting a craft to celebrate the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (November 17th), I came up with the idea of making a giving tree.  The base is made from a paper lunch bag, and on the leaves are written ways to give to others.  Simple and sweet!

One of my favorite children's stories!

The trees are very easy to make, and you only need a few basic supplies:

--a brown paper lunch bag (I used the larger size)
--autumn colored cardstock, cut into leaf shapes
--a hole punch


1) Open your brown paper lunch bag and set it on the table. 

2)  Grab your bag around the center and twist in one direction, while keeping the bottom of bag (your tree base) pressed firmly on the table.  While twisting center of bag, be sure the base will stand upright.  If you wish, you may tuck the corners of the bag so they are not visible, making it look round, instead of rectangular.

3) Fan open the top of your bag and make about 8 vertical slits with your scissors, down toward the center of your "tree trunk". These strips will become your tree branches.  They should be approx. one inch wide and 4 inches long (this craft is very forgiving so don't stress over counting and measuring!)

4) Scrunch each strip with your hands, twisting tightly in any one direction to form your tree branches.  You may wish to shape them by giving them a bit of a curve, like a real tree branch.  This is the fun part!

5)  Once all of your branches are formed, be sure to twist the tips of each branch very tightly, so that your paper leaves will be able to slide onto the branches easily.

6)  Cut some simple fall leaf shapes from your cardstock.  Punch a hole in the top of each leaf.

7)  Write various ways to give to others on each leaf.

8)  Marvel at the simple beauty of your Giving Tree...and then get givin'! :)

Here's a quick at-a-glance reference of each step:

That's all!  Easy, right?  They look really pretty placed in a group together (like a forest!), and would make a beautiful centerpiece for a kid's table on Thanksgiving.  

And, of course, you must read The Giving Tree together, to make this activity complete. :)  And, for my Catholic friends, if you wish to incorporate this activity with St. Elizabeth of Hungary's feast day, the Loyola Book of Saints (a wonderful book which arranges saint stories by theme!) has a lovely story about her life of giving, and Charlotte from Waltzing Matilda has a beautiful coloring sheet that you could use as well.

Happy Crafting!

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Walking Game {a.k.a. Easy Kid Fun!}

A couple of days ago the kids were feeling a little restless--you know, the dreaded pre-dinner witching hour was beginning to strike.  As I often do in times such as these, I decided to read aloud (one of our favorite pastimes).  I grabbed the latest issue of Spider magazine (another favorite!) and got to it.  One of the stories was called "The Walking Game" by Linfred Longenecker.  Intrigued, I started to read.

Love Spider magazine.  LOVE.

The story tells of some rowdy siblings who are getting annoyed with one another (the spooky E.S.P.-esque realization that I had picked this story in the midst of sibling crankies was not lost on me!).  The mom decides that, in order to remedy the squabbles, the kids need to play the "Walking Game",  in which they head outside in different directions, returning home once they were no longer feeling annoyed.  The assignment works like a charm, and the kids come back refreshed with unique treasures in hand, resulting in a nice dinner together.

Ummmmm, yeah.  This girl needs some serious cheering up come witching hour.  What was it that Shakespeare said... "though she be but small, she be fierce"!

 Genius!!  I immediately needed to put this idea to the test!  After finishing the story I sent the kids outside in different directions to collect 3 things each, that we would arrange on the table as a dinnertime centerpiece. I know.  I veered from the original story.  But just a little.  Keep in mind that our yard is not nearly as interesting as the one in the story, in which the kids come back with all kinds of spectacular garden fruits and flowers!  So, I figured I'd add in the treasure-hunting aspect.  IT WORKED.  Worked like a charm, it did!  The kids thought it was uber-fun to see what they could find, and loved the added intrigue of keeping it a secret from one another.  They all came back with cute little finds (cute for a considerably boring yard in late October, anyway!), and had a blast arranging their treasure for our centerpiece.  Then we had a nice (and peaceful!) dinner together...and the rest is history!

Our centerpiece :)

Witching Hour: 0,  Mom: 1.

In fact, the kids loved it so much that they asked to do it again the next day!

Witching Hour: 0,  Mom: 2.

So, if you find yourself desperate to occupy the littles some late afternoon, I highly recommend giving the Walking Game a try!  You could easily modify it to become an indoor hunt on bad weather days--just send them to different areas of the house to find something special.  Or, if you want to get crafty, you could have them each make something to use instead.  And if you want to get even more creative, you could have them each find or make something specific (e.g. something red, something symbolizing a favorite activity, something holiday-themed, etc.)  The possibilities are endless!  For us it struck that perfect balance of feeling special (an official centerpiece!) with mystery/ rivalry (who will find the coolest stuff?  What will everyone else pick??).  If you want to read the original story to add to the fun, I found it online here: The Walking Game.  Try it, it worked for me!

Easy and fun...a win-win!

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Friday, October 4, 2013

October Daybook...

Outside my window...
 The leaves are beginning to change colors and pumpkins & mums are appearing on neighbors' doorsteps.  Aaaaah... Fall is here!

I am thinking...

About all of the upcoming holidays!  I LOVE everything about the next few months--Halloween, All Saints, Thanksgiving...and dare I mention the "C" word yet??  Ok, I'll just say Advent and spare you guys the anxiety of the "C" word for now! :p  Last year we really missed out on the fun of October through December amidst the towers of moving boxes!  So, this year I am planning on savoring Every. Single. Moment. of Autumn!  It's been so much fun pulling out boxes of decorations we didn't got to see last year, and finding new homes for everything in the new house.  I've been LOVING having a mantel to decorate, too, since our old house had no fire place. So much fun!
Our Halloween Mantel

I am thankful...
As I mentioned, this time last year was CHAOTIC, so I am just thankful for the calm of this year, so far.  Being settled in the new house and having a much more sane homeschool routine has made for a very peaceful mama!.'s so nice to have a slower more predictable "rhythm" of every day life again.

In the kitchen...
As part of my "oh-how-I-love-having-a-normal-life-back" theme, I've been pulling out my favorite Fall recipes!  I been making Butternut Squash Soup (with bacon in it! YUM!!), mulled cider, chili...basically anything that screams fall!  I've also been scouring pinterest for some other yummy things to try. 

I am creating...
...lots and lots of Halloween decorations for the party we're having in a couple weeks!  Adam and Megan both have autumn birthdays and LOVE all things Halloween, so we thought we'd do a combined birthday party for them.  It's been so much fun putting up spider webs and cutting out paper silhouettes!

Silhouettes are such a fun and easy way to decorate!

I am going...
We actually just got back from a trip to the Outer Banks last week, so this is more  "where I've already been"!  Each summer we visit OBX and thought it would be nice to try an off-season trip for a change.  It was beautiful!  Since the weather was cooler than the unbearably hot and humid temperatures of July, we got to do some things we'd never done before, including a walk on the sand dunes and a climb to the top of a light house.  And we got to play mini golf MINUS THE SWEAT!!  I am a huge fan of NOT-sweating!!  It was such a relaxing trip. :)

Feeding the (somewhat frighteningly close!!) seagulls on the beach

At the Aquarium

The littles having fun in the sand!
The kids getting a "lesson" from Dad on how to hold a gold club  (read: how to avoid holding it like a weapon!)
Hibachi Dinner!  Megan was cracking me up with all of her funny facial expressions during the meal!  She couldn't decide whether she loved or hated the loud noises and flames!!  I think her face was more entertaining than the actual cooking demonstration!!  If you look closely you can see one of her priceless expressions here!
...hmmmmm, not too sure about all of this...
...but the soup is sure yummy!
My little girl turned 4 on our trip!  What better way to celebrate a birthday than with donuts for breakfast?!

...and a trip to the arcade!

...and why not some chocolate cake, too?!
Oh, why not just go ahead and wrap up this big ol' sugar-fest with some cupcakes while we're at it?!
walking on the dunes (need to work off all that sugar lol!!)
Light house tour
Gorgeous view from the top of the lighthouse
Luke & me inside the lighthouse
lots and lots of stairs to climb!
Chili Cheese dogs from Sonic! (And yes, Luke ate the entire footlong!)

We had such a wonderful trip!
I am wondering...
How to invest myself in future ministries and service projects.  I LOVE using my time and talents to do meaningful things, and had to step back from a lot last year with all of the changes that were going on.  Now that things have settled down I feel eager to try some new things, but haven't figured out what just yet.  Stay tuned! :)

I am reading...
I have been LOVING The Shelter of Each Other .  It was a book a friend had passed along to me in a box full of old books which I started to casually peruse and immediately got hooked!  It's one of the best books I've read on the subject of family.  I highly recommend it if you're interested in the topic of family dynamics and building intimacy.   In our homeschool studies we're doing a Colonial/Revolutionary unit right now, so we've been reading all about Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and diving into some classics like Johnny Tremain and Carry On Mr. Bowditch.  I think I'm enjoying it as much as the kids! (I've always loved this time period in history!)

I am hoping...
...we are done with Indian Summer here in Connecticut!  This past week has been downright HOT and we'd already removed the a/c units from our windows, which has resulted in lots and lots of sweating  (remember how I mentioned how much I enjoy NOT-SWEATING?!)  It has not been good. Cooler weather, please?

I am looking forward to...
Country fairs, apple picking, kids in costumes, crunchy-leafed hikes in the woods, pumpkin lattes (already had one last week, actually!), pumpkin carving-- and best of all-- pumpkin seeds!!

I am learning... great it is to have a husband who works from home!  Kevin was recently offered the opportunity to work at home (being a computer programmer and all!) which he gladly accepted.  It's been AWESOME to be able to run to the store for milk or drop off a library book without needing to bring the 4 kids or work around baby nap-times!  I can definitely get used to this!

Around the house...
Lately I've been trying to figure out how best to organize our school books.  We homeschool in our dining room, and I've been toying with the idea of switching to the living room.  This would entail a huge re-arrange of our shelves and cabinets, though, which I'm not completely sold on yet.  I like the idea of not needing to clear everything off the table for meals (especially when we're in the middle of a messy art project!), but am not sure about committing to the living room idea yet.  Need to think more about this!

I am pondering...
How to better incorporate saint and Feast Days into our homeschool studies.  I always want to do more fun things like make blue cupcakes in May or tissue paper flowers for St. know...more Catholic Icing types of things, but unless I plan ahead they don't usually happen.  I may manage to read a saint story or say an extra prayer, but I want to do more of the special activities.  So, I'm working on putting together a calendar for myself of feast days with coordinating stories and crafts/recipes that we can do each month.  I'm trying to create a balance where it's not too much to actually accomplish--I tend to go big when I start projects LOL!  Balance has always been a challenge for this all-or-nothing girl!

A favorite quote for today...

I read this little snippet in an issue of Real Simple while I was in bed last night that resonated with me:

            "[The deeper meaning of the movie] It's a Wonderful Life is...about how hard  
            it is for all of us to see the magic of life as we're living it.  What George comes  
            to realize is that even the things he took for granted or the things he didn't like 
            (like that pesky banister knob that keeps coming off his stairway) are part of the 
          transcendent texture of the everyday.  And that's a lesson we all have to keep 
          relearning, because life seems almost designed to make us forget it." 
-Owen Gleiberman

First of all, I LOVE the movie It's a Wonderful Life, so I was immediately interested in anything someone had to say about it.  Second of all, I loved the idea of the "transcendent texture of the everyday".  What a beautiful phrase to describe the bits and pieces of our days--the beautiful moments, the ordinary and mundane, the predictable, the tedious...and all of the ones we take for granted.  I love the idea that all of the moments of our lives can be transcendent, so long as remember to...well, remember. This idea is very eucharisteo.

One of my favorite things...

I picked up a bottle of Bailey's Raspberry White Chocolate coffee creamer from the store the other day and OH MY YUM!  It is soooooo good!  I also recently rediscovered my love for my french press coffee maker!  Since I got a Keurig for Christmas a few years ago, I haven't used the french press much, but it makes a dang good cup o' joe!  So, between the Bailey's creamer and the french press, I've been one happy (and caffeinated!) mama this week!

A peek into my day...
My little chunk is 7 months old already!  Time is flying with this little (or not so little!) guy!

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