Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Guest Post: "H" is for How I Organize our Homeschool Books


The ABCs of Homeschooling long banner 2

I’ve been homeschooling now since 2005 and I still feel like I’m floundering trying to figure out what works and doesn’t work with my children’s lessons, curriculum, organization, goals, and expectations.  Each year brings new family dynamics, challenges and successes.

Maybe I should not admit that I struggle year after year with different aspects of homeschooling for I don’t want to discourage anyone who is just beginning to embark on their homeschool journey.  But, then again admitting that I’m a constant work in progress can possibly encourage someone and for those who have been homeschooling for as long as me or even longer, maybe you can relate to my “floundering” feelings. :) 

But, despite my struggles as a homeschool mom of 5 children, I am happy to say that I have finally figured out a system to organize our homeschool books that I think is worth sharing.  I am participating in the ABCs of Homeschooling hosted by Sarah at My Joy Filled Life and “H” is for how I organize our homeschool books...Read more HERE



Friday, April 24, 2015

7 (very random) Quick Takes: Dragon, Clothespins, Hummus, Spiritual Adoption



This post contains affiliate links.

It's another Friday which means it's another opportunity to link up to Kelly at This Ain't The Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!

This edition of 7 Quick Takes is going to be random and hopefully quick since it's late and I have a full weekend ahead...

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Yesterday, April 23, was Saint George's feast day.  We snacked on this veggie dragon after I read Saint George and the Dragon to my children.  Thanks Jessica at Shower of Roses for the idea of the veggie dragon! 

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Do you need a different and fun way to do math facts?  How about trying out "Clothespin Calculations"?  I came up with this idea a few weeks ago as my 7 year old daughter was staring at her addition worksheet that had several problems on it.  I spotted the clothespins in our art closet and thought I would cut apart her math sheet and write numbers 1-10 on the clothespins.  She could then answer each addition problem by clipping the slip of paper onto the correct answer.  This definitely got her motivated to answer the problems vs. just writing down each answer on the worksheet. 

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I call these pictures of our 20 month old "Hummus Hair".  She was so proud of her hair style and I was so glad to get her in the bath after she "styled" her hair.  Yuck! :) 

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Our little one loves playing with Daddy's ties and wearing Mommy's shoes.  As soon as I called her name she looked up at me and said, "Cheeeeeeese!"  Yep, she knows the routine :) 

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She loves to walk over to near our neighbor's yard and check out their "doggie".  :) 

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"Looking for a fun, engaging way to pray for the unborn, as well as teach your children about the miracle of life? Join Holy Heroes’ Spiritual Adoption Program – a 9-month prayer adventure that follows the developmental cycle of an unborn child." 

I registered my email for free and can't wait to participate in this prayer adventure with my family that begins May 1st!   I hope will you want to join the adventure! 

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See?  I told you this post was going to be full of randomness :)   My 10 year old daughter and 13 year old son will be playing in a soccer tournament this weekend!  We look forward to the busy weekend filled with lots of soccer and making memories!

Have a blessed weekend!


 
Monday, April 20, 2015

Recipes for Homemade Mac & Cheese and Squash Casserole


I haven't shared a recipe on my blog in awhile, so I thought I would share a few now. 

On Easter Sunday this year, my parents came over for Easter lunch and there were two dishes I served that I thought were blog worthy.  :)

The first recipe is for homemade Mac & Cheese and I'm sure everyone has their favorite recipe for noodle and cheese goodness, but I thought I would share it anyway since my parents and my family really enjoy this version.  The other dish I served was a Squash Casserole.  These were both easy and delicious.  Both recipes were given to me by dear friends of mine in my homeschool group. 


Homemade Mac & Cheese

(1) 16 oz. package of elbow macaroni
5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups milk
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Cook macaroni; Drain. Layer 1/3 macaroni in lightly greased 9 x 13 in. casserole dish.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese; repeat procedure and top with remaining macaroni.  Reserve remaining cheese. 

Combine milk, eggs, salt and pepper; pour over macaroni and cheese.  Cover and bake at 350 for 45 min to 1 hour.  Uncover and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cover and let stand 10 min. before serving.   

Squash Casserole

6 cups sliced squash (I use combo of zucchini and yellow squash)
3 TBS butter
1 onion
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
1 (6 oz.) box instant corn bread stuffing
1 small can chopped green chiles
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a heavy skillet melt butter, cook squash and onion until tender.  Drain well. 

In a bowl combine the next 4 ingredients plus salt and pepper.  Mix well. 

Fold in squash mixture and pour into a greased 2 quart baking dish (or crock pot).  Sprinkle with cheese. 

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  (Crock pot on low for a couple of hours).

If you give these recipes a try, I hope you will enjoy them as much as our family does!

 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Miss Fannie's Hat: A Book Review


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It's still the Easter season and it will be until Pentecost Sunday so I thought it's not too late to post about a wonderful book that would make a great addition to your Easter book collection. 

Have any of your children ever randomly checked out a book from the library and after reading it at home your family has discovered a beautiful story to be treasured always? 

During this past Lent this happened for our family.

My 7 year old daughter happened to borrow a book from the library this past Lenten season called Miss Fannie's Hat by Jan Karon. 


Toni Goffe's illustrations on the front of the book and through the entire story are fun, sweet and go so beautifully with the author's story line.
I love any book (or movie) based on real events so when I read on the inside cover, "For my mother, Miss Wanda, and in grateful memory of my grandmother, Miss Fannie", it immediately peeked my interest and I had a good feeling about the book.  So the cover and the dedication page already had me excited about reading this book to my daughter!

Amazon has this summary of the book:

Ninety-nine year old Miss Fannie has lots of hats, and she loves them all. But her favorite is the pink straw hat with the silk roses. That's the one Miss Fannie has worn on Easter Sunday for the past thirty-five years. When Miss Fannie's preacher asks her to donate one of her precious hats to the church auction, choosing which one to part with is no small task. This heartwarming story about the rewards of unselfish love will enchant readers young and old.
The star of Miss Fannie's Hat is based on Jan Karon's own grandmother. "My grandmother, Miss Fannie, was so wonderful I wanted to share her with everyone," says Jan Karon. "I wrote Miss Fannie's Hat to give both children and adults a sense of family, to give them the grandmother or great-grandmother they never had, or always wished they had. Briefly, the story is about sacrifice--and the rewards that can come when we give with a willing heart."

While I was reading the book to my 7 year old it kept her attention and mine since we were both anxious to find out which hat Miss Fannie would donate to her church's auction. 

There is a page at the beginning of the story that tells how Miss Fannie reads her Bible every morning after breakfast.  That page plus the part when the preacher approached Miss Fannie about donating a hat to raise funds for the church encouraged my daughter to ask, "Is Miss Fannie Catholic?"  I told her I'd ask the author about that :)
   
After my daughter and I read the book I then shared it with my husband and other children and my 10 year old daughter also asked the same question about whether Miss Fannie was Catholic or not.  This same question on separate occasions made me smile. :) 

On Easter morning Miss Fannie's Hat was on the kitchen table to surprise my children before they hunted for their Easter baskets. They were excited to get their own copy, especially my 7 year old daughter.  I then read the book again to my parents and entire family on Easter Sunday 2015 during our lunch.  



So why did our family love Miss Fannie's Hat so much?

* I loved that the author, Jan Karon, was so touched by her grandmother, Miss Fannie, that she wrote a children's book about her.

* I loved that Miss Fannie was a real person who had a great sense of style with all her fancy hats.

* I loved how the author's mother, Miss Wanda, took such good care of Miss Fannie.  It brought back memories of when my own mother and I used to take care of my grandmother before she passed away.

* I loved how this book modeled for my children the beauty of caring for the elderly. 

* I loved that Miss Fannie loved the Lord and went to church in all her fun hats. 

* I loved how each of Miss Fannie's hats brought back special memories from her past.

* I loved that Miss Fannie sacrificed something so special and her unselfish love brought joy to her heart and others.

* I loved that I was able to read Miss Fannie's Hat to my children several times and it kept their attention each time.

* I loved that when we got to the 2 page spread that had Miss Fannie sitting in her bedroom looking at her collection of hats, my 7 year old pointed out her favorites of Miss Fannie's hats each time I read the story to her.  My other children also chimed in with which of Miss Fannie's hats were their favorites.

* I loved that my children saw how making a sacrifice is not always easy, but sacrificial love can touch many lives in sometimes ways we can never imagine or will ever know this side of Heaven.

* I will always remember and love that I was able to share this story with my young children, husband and parents.  Reading the book to my parents and family on Easter Sunday was a gift for me for so many reasons.  There aren't many children's books that can be shared with ages 1 to 99 like Miss Fannie's Hat.

* I loved that even though this book takes place at Easter, it can be read anytime of year to be treasured by young and old alike.   

Thank you Jan Karon for introducing Miss Fannie and Miss Wanda to our family!

So do you have any books that have touched your heart in a special way and have become family favorites after a random library check-out?  Please share in the comments!

Hoping you are having a blessed week!







Thursday, April 9, 2015

7 Quick Takes: 7 Ways to Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday with Children (and Adults too!)


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Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter Sunday.  So this year Divine Mercy Sunday will be celebrated on Sunday, April 12, 2015.

Last year on Divine Mercy Sunday, it was an extra special day for many reasons, including the great canonization of two Popes: Saint John XXII and Saint John Paul II, pray for us. 

Here is a list of 7 ways to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.  Don't know much about Divine Mercy Sunday?  No worries!  I'm still learning about this devotion myself with our family and I hope my list here will help our family and others learn more about this beautiful story and devotion.

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Photo Credit: Catholic Inspired
 
If you are looking for a great resource to learn about the Divine Mercy for children (and I'm sure adults will learn a thing or two), look no further than this beautiful ebook created by Jennifer and her husband at Catholic Inspired!  Wow! I just printed mine out and plan to go through it with my children.  It has everything you need to learn about the Divine Mercy, including a life summary of St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy. The ebook is filled with information, as well as fun and easy activities and crafts that the entire family can enjoy!  Be sure to find out more information and purchase this ebook!  

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While you are learning about the Divine Mercy, dive into "Divine Mercy fruit platter" filled with raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries.  We ate this last year for the first time and it's an easy enough and healthy enough snack to do it again this year! 

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Expose and venerate the Image of The Divine Mercy in your parish or home.  "I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world," Jesus told St. Faustina (Diary, 47). He also said: "Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of my mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I will grant many graces to souls" (Diary, 742). 

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St. Faustina was given specific instructions by our Lord when He appeared to her about what the image should look like.  Find out what the ray colors mean and Jesus' promises to those who venerate the image. 

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Read a book about Saint Faustina Kowalska, who Jesus appeared to and asked her to have a painting made of her vision with the words “Jesus I Trust in You.”

Do you celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday?  If so, how?  I would love to hear other ways to remember Jesus' infinite mercy and love! 





Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Eastertide and Our Holy Week 2015 Recap: Photos and a Video


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It's been a little while since my last post when I blogged about our Holy Week 2015 plans and then last week I quickly popped into my corner of blog land to tell about my chocolate green smoothie guest post.

After not singing "Alleluia!" during Lent, it's now time to sing this song of praise during the Easter season!  Did you know that Easter is not just a day, but a season called Eastertide?  Eastertide begins on Easter Sunday and ends on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter Sunday.  Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, the beginnings of the Church and its mission to every tongue and people and nation. 


It was a busy week last week and I posted pictures of our Holy Week on my blog Facebook page, but I thought I'd share a little about our Holy Week here.  Also, it's still Easter so "Happy Easter!" as I share a little about our 2015 Easter fun too. 

Holy Week 2015 - Monday/Tuesday

We started and completed our "Holy Week in Handprints" book from Catholic Icing that my 10 and 7 year old daughters enjoyed making.  My older 2 didn't get into it and my 20 mo. hates having paint on her hands.  It was a beautiful day last Monday, so the project was started outside in our backyard.



Holy Week 2015 - Spy Wednesday 

I hid 30 pieces of "silver" for the kids to findWe started this fun tradition last year.


Holy Week 2015 - Holy Thursday

Like last year, we visited the "Via Cruces" (Way of the Cross) with a few families. A couple who attends our church has a beautiful garden in their side yard where you can pray the Stations of the Cross as you walk around the long path filled with the stations of the cross, statues, benches, plaques, crucifixes and there's even an empty tomb with a stone rolled away at the end of the path.  Just beautiful!  Via Cruces is opened year round and the owners say all are welcome anytime, but I like making it a Holy Week tradition.  

In the evening, our family went to Holy Thursday Mass and it was a special way to end a beautiful day! 


After visiting "Via Cruces", we came home and made some birds' nests to share for Easter lunch and dinner.  Very easy and fun to make and yummy too!


Holy Week 2015 - Good Friday 

Before Good Friday service, we had our annual symbolic Good Friday lunch that we started last year.  We discovered our 20 month old really loves the part of the Passion story when Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss as she loved eating the Hershey kisses at the lunch. :)


After the Good Friday service at my parent's church, we saw the live reenactment of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection again which is something my kids remember from when we first went several years ago.  It is put on by the Hispanic youth and adult community at the parish and although we don't understand the Spanish, you certainly know what is going on.  It's a very powerful presentation as the audience followed the presentation to the various stations and locations around the church grounds.   There were "guards" taunting Jesus as they kept the crowd away from where Jesus was walking.

Here's a short video clip of when Jesus died on the cross with music playing in the background.

video

Holy Week 2015 - Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday, 2 of my girls painted our salt dough crown of thorns with glitter gold paint and decorated it with jewels since Sunday would be the day we celebrate our resurrected King of Kings!  We then use the golden crown as a decoration for Easter Sunday. 

On Saturday evening we made our traditional Resurrection Rolls and Resurrection Cookies.  Some of our kids like the Resurrection Rolls the best.  For the rolls, the marshmallow represents Jesus' body and then you dip the marshmallow into melted butter, cinnamon and sugar (oil and spices to prepare body for burial) and then wrap crescent roll (linen cloth for burial) around the marshmallow.  While  baking, the marshmallow melts and it looks like an empty tomb inside the bread!


The first step to making the resurrection cookies is to chop up pecans in a bag by having the kids pound the pecans with spoons to represent when Jesus was beaten.  My kids really enjoy this part of the recipe which seems strange to say since it's representing something so sad.  As we continue to make the cookies, scripture is read to tell what each ingredient symbolizes in the Easter story. 

When the ingredients are finally mixed, they are put into the pre-heated oven and the oven is turned off for the night.  The tomb is sealed by placing tape on the oven.  In the morning the cookies are rocky and hollow-like to represent an empty tomb. 


Easter Sunday - Happy Easter!

In the morning, our kids woke up to this on the kitchen table.  We always hide their baskets in the house and they get to see what is in their baskets after church.  On the table is displayed the sacrifice beans from Lent that turn into jelly beans, the "Alleluias" come out from hiding and this year our kids got this sweet story called Miss Fannie's Hat.  It is a wonderful Easter book that we happened to borrow from our library so I had to buy it.  I hope to write a post about it soon since it's that good!  


This year our oldest daughter sang in the girl's choir on Easter Sunday and she sang with 2 other girls during the Communion song.  They all sounded beautiful and they could be heard too! 

We had to get to Mass an hour early to not only get my daughter to her choir practice before Mass, but also the Church fills up quickly.  While I was waiting for Mass to begin I noticed from the back of the church that the tabernacle was glowing brightly with gold light just under the huge crucifix at the altar.  Then as you walked a few steps the tabernacle shone a Marian blue.  Thanks to the morning sun and the stain-glass windows, we were able to see this beautiful site, though I like to think that it was a way for us to remember Christ's true presence in the Blessed Sacrament.


Here's our family after the Easter Mass.


After Mass we came home and my parents came over for lunch and we used the gold crown that was painted as the centerpiece.  Our little one loved pulling the jewels off the crown :)


At lunch my kids showed my parents their "Holy Week in Handprints" book that I put in a binder with page protectors to keep for years to come.


Pictures and an egg hunt outside.  My Mom got in the photos, but my Dad was inside icing down a sore knee. 

Then it was off to my in-laws house for more food, family and Easter fun.  My kids and their cousins decorated this Easter bunny cake.


May you have a blessed Easter season! If you are looking for ideas to celebrate the 50 days in the Easter season be sure to visit Nicole's post at Children of the Church where she blogs about 50 Ways to Celebrate the 50 Days of Easter With Your Children.

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I'm Tracy. I love my faith, family and on most days, homeschooling my 5 blessings. When I'm not busy baking cakes for my family or making memories in real life or dreaming I had a housekeeper or professional chef, I enjoy documenting a slice of Smith life in blog land.

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