Sunday, July 30, 2017

A 4th Birthday Tribute to our Sweet One

Dear Sweet One,

As I spent some time gathering photos for this post, it brought back memories of your eventful, long, and exciting birth 4 years ago and I can't believe another year has gone by!

You have grown and changed so much since your 3rd birthday celebration and now we are so joyful and happy to celebrate your 4th birthday!

This past year you continued to LOVE gymnastics and do all sorts of crazy moves.  You are super flexible and just about everyday you practice hand stands, rolls, back bends, splits and your dance moves!  You really have no fear!

You continue to love to read with Daddy and Mommy.

You love the beach and swimming at Nana and Grandpa's pool and you are getting really good at swimming.  So much so that you have taken off your floaties to swim!  And you love to spin around and I get so dizzy too easily! :)

You love hanging out with your big brother!  He is so good to you and all his sisters!

I love when you wake up in the morning and come and snuggle with me. 

And at Halloween in 2015 you thought the yucky pumpkin guts were quite funny and it made you very silly. :)

You still love to wear all types of shoes including my black boots!

I love this photo of you from our trip to Charleston, SC at one of your sibling's soccer tournament in Nov. 2015 because it shows just how your hair gets curlier and curlier!

You loved the new kitchen and accessories you got for Christmas 2015...

You love playing dress-up and with your sisters and being silly with them!

Your big brother loves to snuggle with you, but you don't always want to sit still enough for his hugs.  You happened to fall asleep on his shoulder so I quickly took a photo of this rare moment where your brother got some snuggle time with you!

You love to roller skate with and without help!

You love going to the park and swinging, climbing and sliding!

You love to help out in the kitchen and you are always pulling up a bar stool to get close to the counter as you exclaim often, "I wanna see! I wanna do it!"   Here you are helping out with our traditional Easter resurrection cookies. 

You've been talking up a storm, learning your ABCs, counting and doing school work like the big kids.  You love to sing your ABCs and you always ask us to write out the alphabet by saying "Do an A."  This past year you do really well writing the letter "n" over and over again. :) 

Recently you loved going on kiddie rides for the first time at Knoebels Amusement Park

And you went down your first water slide!

You are growing so fast and tall that you can already touch the ceiling!  Well, you can at least touch this ceiling with help from Daddy.

You have grown so much and have gone through so many changes this past year!  You don't take regular naps anymore, but occasionally you'll find Mommy and Daddy's bed to sleep in during the day or you will walk downstairs at night and come and snuggle with us! For a little person you sure do take up a lot of space!

This past year you loved to say the "Hail Mary" and "Our Father" prayers even more and during family prayer time you tell us who is next to recite the prayers.  We love that you love Jesus and kneel during Mass and sing the "Alleluia" at just the right time.  All of us are also amazed that you walk up to communion at daily Mass with your little praying hands folded and bow before the Eucharist, though it is still some time before you can actually receive our Lord at your First Communion.  Here you are kneeling at The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in front of her final resting place.

We pray and hope that you will always love our Lord and grow deeper in love with your faith and look up to Him and our Blessed Mother as your best role models and friends.

You play and love hard and sometimes you fall and scrap your forehead from playing so hard and then fall asleep from all the playing.

You still love to dress up and this past year we saw you in this outfit a lot!

You love your family and we love you!

Happy 4th birthday sweet one!

We love you!

Mommy, Daddy, and your 4 adoring siblings
Friday, July 28, 2017

Review: Tracking Mary: Mysteries & Messages Catholic Kidz Camp

At the end of June our parish had another faith-filled, fun and successful Catholic Kidz Camp (CKC) using another one of the Growing with the Saints excellent authentically Catholic programs!  Many may be more familiar with the term "VBS"(Vacation Bible School).  CKC is very similar to VBS, but CKC got it...Catholic and CKC is the new VBS!   Growing with the Saints was written by Catholics for Catholics! Same concept as VBS, which is to teach our youth (and adults too) the Good News of Jesus Christ, but CKC also highlights the many specific, beautiful teachings of our Catholic Church through skits, arts and crafts, games, Bible stories, snacks and music!! 

This was our parish's 6th year using the Growing with the Saints CKC programs and they have all been excellent!  Here is a list of the programs we have used the past five years and the links take you to my blog posts about each themed CKC:

June 2012: Vatican Express featuring St. Jerome
June 2013: Assorted Saints and the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Love
June 2014: Parade Around the Our Father featuring St. Joseph of Cupertino
June 2015: Set Sail with the Holy Trinity featuring St. Patrick
June 2016: Parachute with the Angels and St. Catherine Laboure

This year's theme was Growing with the Saints newest CKC, Tracking Mary: Mysteries & Messages.

 photo credit:  Growing with the Saints

For an overview of the week be sure to visit the Camp Overview page to check out all the fun and learning that the campers did during the week!  

Ms. Anne, our wonderfully organized and hard-working children's youth ministry director, prints out a schedule for each grade level to follow through the week.  The schedule is broken into time slots where volunteer adult and youth leaders lead their age group around to each themed station.

With another adult volunteer and two wonderful teen volunteers, I lead a group of rising first graders throughout the week and we were "Bernadette's Brakemen"(to go along with the train theme) Ms. MJ and I even wore "conductor" hats and had our train whistles throughout the week.  :)

Here are just a few highlights of our week.

Ms. Anne and her hard working team do a wonderful job with the decorations each year!

Each morning began with the sign of the cross and prayers as a group and then the youth acted out skits to go with each day's topic.  The youth worked hard and did a fantastic job!

Here are our rising 1st graders walking to their next station.

I brought in my personal Shining Light Dolls and the line leaders held the doll with our group's sign when we learned about the apparition for the day that went with the doll. Our group loved holding the Our Lady of Lourdes doll, Our Lady of Fatima doll and Our Lady of Guadalupe doll

Our Lady of Lourdes Collectible Vinyl Doll by Shining Light Dolls LLC 

Lots of fun music, crafts, Bible stories and learning more about the apparitions of Mary and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

In the Bible Story room the leader, Ms. N., read passages from the Bible about each Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and then we prayed one decade of the rosary.  It was great to watch the campers learn more about the rosary and how to pray the decades. 

On the day that we learned more about Our Lady of Knock in Ireland, a camper's parents brought in an actual photo of the Church where Our Lady of Knock appeared to 15 people on August 21, 1879.  It was a great addition to an already wonderful faith-filled and educational camp!

Like in years' past at CKC, each age group had the opportunity to visit the chapel in our church and spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament adoring our Lord.  After the leaders spoke to our first grade group about how to show reverence and talk to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, our class went into the chapel a few minutes to listen to our Lord speak to our hearts in the silence.

This week's CKC was so fun and the children, teens and adults learned so much about our Catholic faith!  Many adults weren't aware of all the details of the Marian apparition stories so it was a blessing to learn more along with the campers!

I look forward to CKC each year as a parent and a regular volunteer and I love to learn from all the children that attend!  I'm also grateful that my older children volunteer their time to help during the week and my younger children enjoy being campers!  It's beautiful to see our Catholic faith, which is full of Truth, wonder and treasures, being taught in fun and creative ways!  I am so grateful for the Growing with the Saints programs and all those that work hard to create such great programs!  I thank Ms. Anne for all her hard work and the many helping hands that help bring our Catholic parish an authentically Catholic CKC!   We look forward to next year's CKC!

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Saints Anne and Joachim: Celebrating Jesus' Grandparents and My Kids' Grandparents: The Tradition Continues

This post contains affiliate links.

On July 26th the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim, the parents of our Blessed Mother and the grandparents of Jesus.

We actually don’t know much about these two special parents and grandparents and what we do know about them comes to us through legend and tradition.

According to Catholic Online, “For those who wonder what we can learn from people we know nothing about and how we can honor them, we must focus on why they are honored by the church. Whatever their names or the facts of their lives, the truth is that it was the parents of Mary who nurtured Mary, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God. It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe.”

I recently wrote a post for Peanut Butter & Grace titled 10 Simple Ways to Celebrate Saints Joachim and Anne. If you aren't familiar with Peanut Butter & Grace and how they make Catholic family life sweet and simple, be sure to follow their site and follow them on Facebook!

In the post I mention one way we celebrate this feast day. Last year I started the tradition of having my parents and in-laws over for dinner as a way to celebrate and honor Jesus' grandparents and my kids' grandparents.  My children are blessed to be able to live 20 minutes away from both sets of grandparents and see them on a regular basis which is a blessing I didn't have while growing up.

Here are a few photos from this year's celebration.  My father was out of town visiting family this year so he was unable to join us for the pasta, salad, bread, and fruit meal.

The book on the left is Saints and Angels and the book on the right is Picture Book of Saints.

After I read information about Saints Anne and Joachim and said grace we snapped some photos of both sets of grandparents and then of my children sitting in front of them.

This feast day is also my oldest daughter's "Name Day" because her middle name is Anne like myself and we were both named after my grandmother whose first name is Anne.  So she ate her meal on her "You Are Special Today" plate that we try to remember to have our kids eat on when each of my children have their birthdays, baptism anniversaries and name day celebrations.

Waechtersbach Plate, You Are Special Today, Cherry Red
Like last year's post, I'll close this post with this beautiful Grandparents' prayer which I thought is perfect for this feast day:

Good Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, 
parents of Mary and grandparents to Jesus, 
be with me and all grandparents 
that we may be wise and loving, 
may share our time and stories and sense of humor, 
and may enjoy and not spoil too much the grandchildren 
who are close to our hearts, 
for they are the sign of God's life to us. 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, 
be with our grandchildren and all other grandchildren 
that they may love and respect their grandparents 
and all older people, 
may remember to call, 
visit or write, 
and grow in wisdom, 
age and grace before God.


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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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