Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Novena, Christmas Creche, Homemade Nativities

Immaculate Conception Novena

Before I encourage others to pray the Immaculate Conception Novena beginning today, Nov. 29, HERE is information that answers "What are Novenas?" 

Immaculate Conception Novena!
Starting November 29th, I am joining over 6,000 Catholics to pray the Immaculate Conception Novena!
I’m looking forward to the answered prayers from this amazing saint! With so many faithful Catholics around the world praying this novena, I thought I'd invite others to join too!
Do you have any special petitions to bring to Mary?
You can sign up for handy email reminders to get the the novena prayers here: Immaculate Conception Novena
Let’s get as many as we can to pray this novena together for the Immaculate Conception!

Tis the season to see Nativity scenes displayed in homes, yards, businesses, Christmas cards, etc.  But, do you know the history behind the Nativity Scene or Creche (French)?  Believe it or not, the origin of the Christmas Creche dates back to the 1200s with St. Francis of Assisi.  Read more about this beautiful story and tradition HERE.

One tradition our family does during the holy season of Advent is to prepare a soft bed/manger for Baby Jesus.  I saw this idea on Holy Heroes Advent Adventure and thought this would be a fun and simple way to have my children prepare their hearts and souls for the true meaning of the Advent/Christmas season.  So at the beginning of Advent we start with an empty manger (empty basket)  and have a bowl full of "hay" (yellow yarn pieces).

Then as my children make sacrifices for family and friends (doing their chores without complaining, helping a sibling with school work, doing a kind deed for a friend, etc), they can put a piece of yarn in the basket.  So by the end of the Advent season, the basket will be filled with yarn for a soft bed for Baby Jesus (at least that is the goal :) )

On Christmas morning, we will place Jesus in our soft manger built with love and sacrifices and display Him under our Christmas tree.

I love this quote from the article, St. Francis and the Christmas Creche by Fr. William Saunders :

"Although the story is long old, the message is clear for us. Our own Nativity scenes which rest under our Christmas trees are a visible reminder of that night when our Savior was born. May we never forget to see in our hearts the little Babe of Bethlehem, who came to save us from sin. We must never forget that the wood of the manger that held Him so securely would one day give way to the wood of the cross. May we too embrace Him with all of our love as did St. Francis."

Are you looking for affordable Nativity sets for children?  Lacy at Catholic Icing did a post where she listed lots of ideas and I blogged about her post HERE.

Speaking of Nativities, be sure to check out Monica's blog post HERE at Arma Dei Equipping Catholic Families that has photos and links to so many creative handmade nativity sets.  If you have a nativity set to share you can link up your creation to Monica's blog post HERE and grab a button like this:

The world tells us Christmas is here and ends on Dec. 26.  Our family is blessed with our Catholic faith that tells us that Advent is here as we prepare for Christmas.  The Christmas season officially starts on Christmas Day and the 12 days following....More on this on a later post...Stay tuned!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Catholic Icing Posts Affordable Nativity Sets

I wanted to help spread the word about all the cute and affordable Nativity Sets that are available.

Lacy at Catholic Icing has this post with lots of sets listed at great prices.  My kids love Nativity sets and they are especially enjoying the Little People set I got for them last year.  I gave the Little People Nativity to our Godchildren last year for Christmas gifts.

As mentioned on Lacy's blog post, I just ordered the Playmobil Nativity Set for $19.95 with Free Shipping until Tuesday, Nov. 29 by using the coupon code 16911.  I can't wait to give this to my children on St. Nicholas' Feast Day on Dec. 6!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent in 2 Minutes and Why the New Roman Missal Changes?

Today is the first day of Advent in the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar and there are other Christian churches who also celebrate Advent, or the 4 week preparation to prepare our heart and soul for the celebration of our Savior's birth. Below is a short 2 minute clip I found on You Tube about Advent.

To read about some Advent traditions I am doing in our home, you can go to this post HERE. My Advent post also links up to other Catholic Mom bloggers who share their Advent traditions as well.

Not only is today the first Sunday of Advent, but today was the first Sunday that the 3rd Edition Roman Missal changes were implemented at Mass.  Below is a video by a priest who is explaining why these changes were made which I hope you find as interesting and informative as I did.   

Today when our church congregation celebrated Mass, we were given a guide to follow with all the changes.  My children also used the Roman Missal Mass Booklet that Lacy at Catholic Icing posted and I blogged about HERE.  I also hope to use the Color Me Catholic New Roman Missal Edition by Arma Dei with my children to become more familiar with the response changes.

I hope everyone has a blessed Advent and with all the hustle and bustle of this season, I hope we can all remember the reason for this holy season!

God bless!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Pilgrim Hats and Cake!

Do you need a quick and cute Thanksgiving themed dessert? 

How about making Pilgrim hats out of Fudge Stripes cookies, Reese's cups, and icing?  My friend JH made these when her family came over to eat with us last week and they were so cute I had to snap a picture or two and share!  She made a sheet cake and put the hats on top, but you can easily top cupcakes with these Thanksgiving themed treats.  Thanks JH for sharing this creative and delicious dessert with our family! 

May you have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving with friends and family!

  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 107:1

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WVU Armed Forces Salute and a Salute to Students

One of the many cakes I have made for my family.  I made this yummy and festive cake for July 4th 2011.

My Dad recently sent a great You Tube video that I wanted to share with the blogging world.  The video is "The 2011 West Virginia University (WVU) Marching Band Armed Forces Salute."  As stated on the You Tube link: "No celebration of our freedom can be complete without a tribute to the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to preserve and protect our country. The WVU Band presents our "Armed Forces Salute," which features a medley of the songs from all branches of our great military.  This selection will close with a stirring rendition of "America, The Beautiful."

• The United States Army!
• The United States Coast Guard!
• The United States Marines!
• The United States Air Force!
• The United States Navy!

Click on the 5 minute video below to watch this wonderful and creative way that WVU Marching Band salutes our military men and women:

I hope you enjoyed watching the WVU Marching Band video. :)  Such creativity and fun!  I showed my husband and children (a.k.a. "cupcakes") the video and as a family we all agreed that this was a fun and wonderful way to honor our military and their families for all their sacrifices to keep our freedoms in our country!  THANK YOU!  

I thought the video tied in so well with our recent celebration of Veterans Day this month and my husband and I were honored to be guests at the 236th United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball.   

I would like to salute the WVU students and staff for all their dedication and hours that they must have put in to perform such a wonderful salute to our military men and women.  The band performers were students, of course, but maybe some of the performers were also parents attending WVU.  For sure, there are many students that are also parents out in the stands cheering for their great band and supporting our military with claps and cheers. 

I would like to salute student parents for all their sacrifices and time they dedicate to not only their studies, but also to their children.  When I went to college (go NC State Wolfpack!), I was single and felt like my plate was full trying to keep up with my work load and assignments.  I have great respect for parents who are attending school also because I can't imagine how challenging it must be to balance school and loads of laundry, dishes, and juggling your children's schedule also.  Then some student parents may also hold jobs while they attend school full/part time!  If you are a student parent I admire your ability to juggle life from all angles to make a better life for yourself and for those you love.  I wish you the best in all you do!

I have been blessed with a recent nomination from eCollege Finder for the Top Parenting Blogs Award
eCollege Finder is an established online education resource representing over 120 accredited online institutions.  In early 2010 eCollege Finder began hosting a series of Top Blogger Awards. 
As Brittany from eCollege Finder states, "The winners of the awards are listed on our website to provide students with a pool of resources to help them get through their college years. Our goal in hosting the awards is to enrich students while giving high-quality blogs the recognition they deserve."

What a great honor to be recognized as a nominee and I hope that my blog will inspire all parents, whether they serve in our armed forces or are students in an institution.  Thank you! 

I will sign off with a few quotes that have inspired me in my schooling and now as a parent in hopes that these words will be a source of inspiration for those that have taken time to read this post and my blog.
"The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral-a dwelling place for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body...Even the angels have not been given such a grace! What is more glorious than this - to be a mother." -Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty
"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." Author Unknown

May God bless our military men and women and their families and all those who are parents and students! Thank you for all your sacrifices and hard work!  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Park Birthday Cake

Today we celebrated our daughter's 4th birthday which was officially yesterday.  Her party today was at a nearby park just down the road from us.  It was a beautiful, warm November day as we celebrated Cupcake #4's big day with family and friends. 
For this year's cake I decorated a park cake to go along with our party location.  Playmobil 123 pieces came in handy, but I did make the swingset out of pretzel rods, black licorice, a Life Saver, and a yellow Laffy Taffy swing.

Here's a close-up of the swingset I built for the cake:

And here is the Playmobil 123 slide:

Then I made cupcakes and used the easy toothpick idea that I have used several times before to decorate each cupcake.  I copied and pasted a photo in a word document of my daughter on park equipment that a took a few weeks back.  I shrunk the picture and copied and pasted 24 copies onto one page. After printing the page and cutting out each picture, I then taped each picture to a toothpick.  Instant personalized cupcake decorations that are low cost, easy, quick, and cute!  :) 

It was a blessed birthday and a lot of fun! 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday Cupcake #4 !

Today we celebrate the birth of you, our beautiful rose.  Your middle name is Rose because we named you after Saint Rose of Lima and Daddy's cousin, who passed away before she could meet you outside my womb, thought your middle name should be Rose also.

Mommy delivered you in the middle of the night, 1:41 AM on November 19, 2007 to be exact.  Your oldest sister was sick so Nana and Grandpa stayed at home with your 3 older siblings and they didn't get to see you in the hospital.  :(

It seems like yesterday that I was in the hospital with you and you were barely 24 hours old and I was alone in the hospital room.  Your Daddy went home for a little while to check up on your sisters and brother.  As you laid in your bassinet you started gagging and choking and you had difficulty breathing.  I panicked. What do I do?  I ran to the door and screamed for a nurse for help.  A nurse came in and suctioned your mouth and tapped on your back.  I broke down and cried feeling guilty that I felt so helpless and didn't know exactly how to help you. Even though you are our 4th child, at that moment I felt like you were our first since I didn't know what to do.  The nursing staff told me that since you came out of me so quickly, you had a a lot of mucus still in you and you were just trying to clear out your system and needed some extra help with that.  This panic moment lasted less than 30 seconds but I remember like it was 30 seconds ago. Fortunately, there were no more scary moments like that. :)

Your sisters and brother couldn't wait to see beautiful you because we told them how cute you were....

and they couldn't wait to see you because....
you brought them each a small gift when you arrived at home for the first time!

Your siblings were in awe of you when we brought you home from the hospital:

You bring so much joy to our lives! Happy Birthday to our big 4 year old! We love you!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday: Camp Scenery

At the beginning of November, I went camping with my son and his friend's Boy Scout Pack.  His friend's mom is a dear friend of mine. We had a great time hanging out with mostly boys and their dads, but there were several other moms there pitching a tent, hiking, and roasting marshmallows alongside of us.  While we were walking around the 2.2 mile trail around a beautiful lake I snapped the following photos.  The leaves were beautiful and so full of vibrant colors during this Fall season.



Sunday, November 13, 2011

Advent 2011: How Our Family Prepares

I am joining several other Catholic bloggers as we all share our Advent traditions.  If you would like to read all the wonderful ideas these ladies are blogging about click on their blog name below and enjoy!  We hope by linking up all our posts,  it will give our readers lots of fun ideas for Advent in one area in blog land! Have fun browsing and have a blessed Advent!
Laurie @ Catholic Baby Steps

Advent Wreath Tradition 

It's hard to believe it is time to prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth!  I truly think that one way to keep Christ in CHRISTmas is to embrace the Advent season with all its beauty and meanings.  
One of the first decorations we pull out is our  Advent wreath which we display in our kitchen.   After we eat dinner as a family we light the candle(s) depending on which week of Advent we are in.  So during the first week of Advent, we will be lighting one purple candle after we bless our wreath with a special prayer.

Here's a cute song sung to the "Alphabet Song" that we sing while we are lighting the candles. I got this song from someone on the Catholic Homeschool Moms Facebook page:

This is a very simple Advent song we sing when we light our Advent candle(s) each morning for prayers and each night for prayers.

"Set the candles burning bright.

One by one each week we light.
Advent is a time to wait -
Not quite time to celebrate.
When the waiting time is through,
It's Christmas joy for me and you!

This year we will be reading Jotham's Journey, A Storybook for Advent with our children.  We will try to read it with using only the light from the candle(s).  It's beautiful to see that as we get closer to the celebration of Christ's birth, each lit candle makes the room brighter and reading easier.  I love how this symbolizes how we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world! 

Jesse Tree Tradition

We will also be decorating our Jesse Tree and reading scripture as our children put on one symbol per night on our "tree" (which is a branch we found in our woods in a pot covered with purple cloth).  Our symbols are made out of paper and our children colored each picture. I then laminated them and punched a hole to tie a string to the paper.  I made copies of these symbols from this page on Domestic-Church.com  . We have enjoyed reading The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean in years past and we will continue with this tradition this year.  We read one story each night which relates to the Jesse Tree and its symbols.
Patty at Reasons for Chocolate just shared how her homeschool group made it a group project to make homemade Jesse Tree symbols for everyone in the group! Go check them out HERE! They are all so beautiful, made with love and care! Thanks for sharing Patty! 

Advent Tree and Wrapped Christmas Books Tradition
If you are like me, you may have a lots of Christmas books that you have collected through the years.   A few years ago I found a great way to read our religious and secular Christmas books and at the same time have my children anticipate Jesus' birthday.  I wrap up each book with purple wrapping paper.  I usually find the purple paper in our local Dollar Tree store.  Then beginning on Dec. 1st, one child opens one book and we read it as a family.  Then on Dec. 2, our next child opens a book and so on.  My children really love this idea of opening their Advent Christmas book.  I have a small "Advent tree" in our great room decorated with purple balls and under this tree is where we have our wrapped Christmas books.  This small Advent tree goes up at the beginning of Advent and then we buy our real Christmas tree sometime later in December.   
I also number the books and put each child's name on the back of the wrapping paper so I don't have to remember who gets to unwrap the next book!

Family Fun Bucket Tradition
One year a friend of mine made this family fun bucket for me. 

Inside the bucket are strips of white, green, and red heavy paper with simple fun things to do.  Each night in December, each family member picks out a strip of paper, reads it and then our family does what is on the paper.  For example, one says "What is the real meaning of Christmas?" or "Shhh! the secret phrase is : "Christmas Lights." Describe the phrase and see who can guess it." or "It's sing-along time! Everyone sing "Silent Night".   There is a great variety of simple, fun things to do and this has been really great to do as a family!
I have made several Family Fun Buckets for family and friends for gifts and everyone has enjoyed this low cost and meaningful gift!  I have the list of all activities on 7 pages saved on a file in my computer.  If you would like to have this list please Contact Me and I will be more than happy to email you this list!

A great resource we love is the Holy Heroes website which has an Advent Adventure for families.  It is free to sign up and each day our family gets an email with the next day's adventure lesson.  My children love to watch the children on the videos and hear the Bible stories and history of Advent.

I'm especially excited to join in this year's Advent Adventure because our family will be learning all the new mass responses for the third edition of the Roman Missal with Holy Heroes as they will go over the changes during Advent Adventure that will start on the first Sunday in Advent.  Holy Heroes also has a Lenten Adventure in preparation for Christ's resurrection at Easter.   Holy Heroes is a great and fun resource and our family has learned so much together as a family about our Catholic faith with Holy Heroes!

So if you are looking for another great way to enhance your Advent season with your family, check out the Holy Heroes website and enjoy your adventure!

Another Advent tradition in our family is reading the book What God Wants for Christmas.

This is a beautiful story that is written in rhyme on each page.  For example, the first page tells of the angel Gabriel from Luke 1:26.  After each page the book directs the children to open one of 7 boxes which contain pieces to make the interactive nativity set. So in box number 1, they will find a little angel Gabriel figurine to place in the manger scene.  The 7th box is when the children discover the best surprise...which is what God wants for CHRISTmas!

The book goes along with the interactive kid-friendly nativity set, which has the 7 boxes and the pop-up manger scene.

My children love this book and interactive nativity set and I look forward to sharing this my children.

One year I read the book for the children in my homeschool group and after I had them gradually discover what God wants for CHRISTmas, they made kid-sized Advent wreaths using air-dry clay, green paint, purple and pink chenille stems for candles, and yellow/orange dot stickers for the flames.

Each child got a ball of clay so they could form it into a wreath shape.

Then they painted the wreath green and placed 4 chenille stems ("candles")  that I cut 2 inches long.
I gave them 4 yellow/orange circle stickers and had them wrap one sticker around one purple candle.  The children can "light" another candle by placing a sticker on another purple candle as each Sunday in Advent arrives.  So they can count down the weeks until CHRISTmas day with their own handmade wreath.

Here is what the wreath will look like when complete

Here is a beautiful paragraph I found about the Advent wreath from "The History of the Advent Wreath" by Father William Saunders:

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to CHRISTmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The season of Advent is such a special time and I am thankful that our family celebrates the true meaning of Christmas by doing several fun and meaningful Advent activities to prepare for the day when we can sing "Happy Birthday to Jesus!"

Don't forget to check out the 5 links below of how other Catholic Moms are preparing for the celebration of Christ's birth during Advent 2011:

Laurie @ Catholic Baby Steps

For a list of other great Advent posts be sure to visit Xhonane's link up party at Familia Catolica

This post is also linked up to Catholic Icing's Christmas Link-Up


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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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