Monday, December 30, 2013

My "Most" Posts of 2013 {Link-Up}

Sarah over at Amongst Lovely Things is hosting a "Most" posts of 2013 where you create a post of "mosts"- highlight five of your own posts from the year that fit into the following categories:

  • Post with the most clicks
  • Post with the most comments
  • Post with the best picture
  • Post that was hardest to write
  • Post that was your personal favorite (not your readers' favorite- your favorite)

The only rules are that the posts should be from your own blog, and they should be from 2013.

Post with the most clicks:  2013-2014 Classroom and Curriculum
(Like myself, others also enjoy peeking at where homeschoolers learn and what they are learning!)

Post with the most comments:  Advent 2013: How We Keep Christ in Christmas 
(This was a fun link up in Advent and there were so many wonderful comments on my blog and great ideas from several bloggers.)

small Keep Christ in Christmas 
Post with the best picture:  30 Weeks Down...10 To Go!
(Some say I have my hands full...I like to say I have my heart full! I really love this preggo pic my hubby took with my older 4 cupcakes touching their new sibling.

Post that was hardest to write: March for Life 2013
(Not only was this difficult to write because we still have a need to march for life, but it was also difficult tbecause I couldn't be at the March for Life this past year and I wanted to join the march so badly to stand up for those that can't speak for themselves!) 

Post that was my personal favorite:  HABEMUS PAPAM! In My Own Words/Photos/Videos
(Experiencing history in the making with my own cupcakes was exciting and memorable!) 

And if you want to check out my 13 most viewed posts in 2013, be sure to visit my Blog in a Blink: Best 13 of '13 post that I recently did hosted by Monica at Equipping Catholic Families

Thanks for stopping by to visit some of my 2013 blog highlights!  May you have a blessed 2014!
Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Blog in a Blink: Best 13 of '13

I'm linking up with several bloggers in this "Blog in a Blink!" link up hosted by Monica at Equipping Catholic Families as we all share our top 13 posts from the year 2013!

Here are my Top 13 Posts from 2013 in collage form 
(see below for the links to each picture)

Here are the links to my Top 13 Posts from 2013

# 1... 2013-2014 Classroom and Curriculum, posted 8.17.13
# 4... 18 Week Ultrasound!, posted 3.7.13
# 6... Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette Recipe, posted 4.29.13
# 7... Chocolate Green Smoothie Recipe, posted 9.2.13
# 10... March for Life 2013, posted on 1.25.13
# 12... Baby Shower for Baby #5, posted 7.1.13

Thank you for visiting my little corner of blog land in 2013 and for your comments on my posts! Enjoy visiting other blog links below to see their popular posts in 2013!  

May you have a blessed new year and 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What are the 12 Days of Christmas? 2013 Edition

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

This picture was taken at the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass our church.

*I'm reposting this blog post from last year*  

Although the calendar says December 28 and the Christmas carols are no longer playing on the radio and in stores, it is still Christmas!  Christmas begins on Christmas Day and continues for 12 more days until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when the Magi visit the Christ Child and bring Him gifts.

So did you know that the famous Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", celebrates the beginning of the Christmas season, Christmas Day, in the liturgical calendar and ends on the Feast of the Epiphany?   Many mistakenly believe that the 12 days refers to the 12 days prior to the celebration of Christmas Day.

On our Christmas tree we have this beautiful ornament of a partridge in a pear tree that was given to my husband and me by an aunt who has since passed away.  We treasure this gift from our loved one and it wasn't until I started researching about the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that I realized that there is some controversy surrounding what the partridge in the pear tree symbolized, as well as the other items mentioned in the song.  

Several years ago, I read that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" has religious symbolism and according to Father Edward Dowling in the article, "The Real Meaning of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", The Twelve Days of Christmas” was written to educate the faithful in the doctrines of the faith and yet not be obvious to the persecutors. The numbers are simply a mnemonic to help Catholics remember some basic facts. Recall the words of the song. “On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: twelve lords a leaping, eleven pipers piping, ten ladies dancing, nine drummers drumming, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

Father Dowling's article then lists what each phrase of the song means as a way for Catholic Christians to remember the doctrines of the faith: 

“My true love” refers to God, “me” is the individual Catholic. 
The “twelve lords a leaping” are the twelve basic beliefs of the Catholic Church as outlined in the Apostles Creed. 
The “eleven pipers piping” are the eleven Apostles who remained faithful after the treachery of Judas. 
The “ten ladies dancing” are the Ten Commandments. 
The “nine drummers drumming” are the nine choirs of angels which in those days of class distinction were thought important. 
The “eight maids a milking” are the Eight Beatitudes. 
The “seven swans a swimming” are the Seven Sacraments. 
The “six geese a laying” are the Six Commandments of the Church or the six days of creation. 
The “five golden rings” are the first five books of the Old Testament called the Torah which are generally considered the most sacred and important of all the Old Testament. 
The “four calling birds” are the Four Gospels. 
The “three French hens” are the Three Persons in God or the three gifts of the Wise Men. 
The “two turtle doves” represent the two natures in Jesus: human and divine or the two Testaments, Old and New. 
The “partridge” is the piece de resistance, Jesus himself, and the “pear tree” is the Cross. 

It wasn't until I did a search on the internet about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that I realized that the religious symbolism behind the song is thought to be fiction.  For example, Snopes states that the song was NOT created as a "coded reference to important articles of the Christian faith."  Then Snopes goes into detail why some claim this to be false.  "The Twelve Days of Christmas", according to many articles that I have read, might have been mixed up with another song titled, "A New Dial" which dates to at least 1625 and assigns religious meanings to each day of the 12 days of Christmas.

After reading many articles about the real meaning of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" song I'm not  sure if the song has religious symbolism or not since it appears there is no sound proof for it to be true or false.

What do you think?  Have you heard about the religious symbolism in "The Twelve Days of Christmas"?  Were you aware of the differences of opinions in whether or not the song was created as a type of catechism during a time of persecution?   I think this is a fascinating topic and would love to hear what others think about it.

There are many parodies that have come from "The Twelve Days of Christmas" song and I would like to conclude this post with 2 variations that you may have never heard, but I found them to be fun and entertaining. 

The first video is titled "The Twelve Days of Homeschooling" which I found funny as a homeschool mom myself.

This second video is the group Straight No Chaser singing a creative and entertaining version called "12 Days of Christmas Medley".

On this fourth day of Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

I recently read Tiffany's plans that she did for all the 12 days of Christmas and it was all just so beautiful and impressive so I am linking to Tiffany's page,  Catholic 12 Days of Christmas, over at Family At The Foot Of The Cross for my own future reference and to share the lovely ideas that Tiffany has done with her family during this holy season!  Maybe one year I will be able to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas as beautifully as she did!  Thanks Tiffany!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Need a Last Minute Christmas Gift?

Monica at Arma Dei Equipping Catholic Families has designed a wonderful and meaningful last minute Christmas gift idea for family, Godparents, and friends.  It is a Communion of Saints Family Calendar that can be used over and over again each year as you write in birthdays, baptism anniversaries, wedding anniversaries, and with my calendar I'm writing in my Godchildren's baptism anniversaries, as well as all my husband's side of the family's birthdays.  The artwork for the calendar is beautiful and I love that so many wonderful feast days of the saints are highlighted each month, along with popular devotions.   In the back of the calendar there are saint's feast days listed for everyday in each month.  Such a wonderful resource to deepen the faith life!  To find out more about how to purchase and download this product, go HERE.

Downloading and printing my calendars was quick and easy and I plan on giving a few family members and friends this perpetual calendar that can be treasured year after year.

I printed each copy of my calendars using heavy photo paper that is similar to card stock paper.  Here's a picture I took of the photo paper I used and the cover of the calendar.

I then found magnetic clips at the grocery store.  Although they are magnetic, the card stock paper is too heavy so the magnets were not strong enough to hold the calendar onto my magnetic dry erase board.  So since the clips have holes in them, I plan on using nails to hang my calender with the clips.
I look forward to giving this unique and special calendar as gifts this week and I look forward to never forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, feast days, and baptism anniversaries.  I also love the fact I don't have to write in all my family's special dates over and over again each year.  So this is definitely a gift that keeps giving.

Have a blessed Christmas week!

Sock Baby Jesus...Handy Tree Skirt...Gingerbread House Fun

This past Friday, I hosted the craft activity that our homeschool group tries to do once a month at one of our homeschool family's homes.  As soon as I read Lacy's email from Catholic Icing on how to make a Sock Baby Jesus with No Sewing, I knew that was the perfect craft for our bunch!

Before we started the craft, I read a great children's book about the first Nativity that began 800 years ago by Saint Francis of Assisi. The title of the book is Saint Francis Celebrates Christmas.  I showed the children our statue of St. Francis and asked what he is well known for. They all blurted out how he was kind to animals and blessed them.  I then asked if there is something else he is known for, especially during this holy season.  A few children answered that he started the first Nativity as he gathered animals and people for a live Nativity.  It's a great story and book!  

After I read the book, we started our Sock Baby Jesus craft.  Everyone loved it! Thanks Lacy for the idea! 

Last night our family added to our "Handy Tree Skirt" that we have been doing each Christmas since 2008.  You can see my original blog post about the skirt HEREHERE are a few pictures from last year's tree skirt printing.   Below are a few pictures from tonight's hands on fun!
My cupcakes love to compare their hand size from year to year.  Here is one of my daughter's comparing her print from 2012.

This year we were all excited to have our sweet little one's 4 month old hand print added to the skirt.  This time last year this sweet little one was making me feel oh so yucky since I had recently found out I was pregnant then.  What a difference a year makes! :)

We love seeing our tree skirt fill up each year with big (and little) handprints!

Last night we made our annual gingerbread house too.  

Besides the festive traditions above that we do each year, we have also done these fun activities from the past and some of them we still do each year like making the Bua Bark, pretzel treats, and a birthday cake for Jesus. 

LifeSaver Ornaments

"Bua Bark" and Sweet Pretzel Treats for Christmas Gifts

Silverware Stockings

Valentine Candy Canes and Christmas Crackers!

Happy Birthday Jesus Cake!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More Advent Traditions We Are Enjoying...

Our family tries to keep Christ in Christmas in many ways as shared in my Advent post HERE and just this year our family is learning more about the "O" Antiphons with our lapbook activity that I blogged about HERE.

As in year's past, we still put straw (yellow yarn) into Baby Jesus' basket/manger as my children make sacrifices or do good deeds throughout Advent. By Christmas morning, Baby Jesus will have a soft bed to lie in.  You can read more about this tradition HERE.

I wanted to add a few new resources we have especially enjoyed this Advent.

First up, is the family reading of Bartholomew's Passage.
Our family has really enjoyed this family story for Advent and it's one of those books that my cupcakes keep begging us to continue reading at the end of each chapter!

There are two other family stories for Advent by the same author that we have read in year's past which are Jotham's Journey and Tabitha's Travels.  We pick one of these three books to read as a family during each Advent season. 

Another Advent resource we have enjoyed as a family this year is a DVD called Advent Calendar on DVD, A Christmas Countdown for December. Each day in December there is a short video clip, about 2-3 minutes long, that talks about various topics including Advent history,  origins of Christmas carols and Christmas traditions, and just various topics surrounding the Christmas season.  It's very interesting and holds everyone's attention, adults and children alike. 

I hope you are having a blessed Advent!

"O" Antiphons Lapbook

Like I mentioned in my last post, this Advent season I've made a conscious effort to try to learn and embrace the "O" Antiphon prayers and traditions as best as possible with my limited time and energy.  I spent many hours reading and researching great websites (and stayed up way too late) to learn about the "O" Antiphon prayers and then several more hours were spent (while my 6 year old entertained the baby) creating a lapbook from several sources in hopes that our family could learn more together.

With Lacy's post HERE at Catholic Icing and Chris' "O" Antiphon lapbook post HERE at Campfires and Cleats, I was inspired to create a lapbook  for my children. :)  I hope that this post will inspire you to learn more about the octave (8 days) before Christmas or the "Golden Nights ".

 I thought having my kids create a lapbook would be a fun way to learn the "O" Antiphons.  The lapbook was compiled and created from several sources which I will link in hopes that if you try this yourself, it will save you time and not take as long as it did for me. :)  The lapbook includes general information, a novena, Latin and English prayers, and coloring pages.   

The materials are basic:   2 file folders, printouts (refer to links below), one rectangular piece of purple cardstock and one rectangular piece of white cardstock (that is glued on the cover) , scissors, glue, crayons/coloring pencils.

I used 2 file folders, one yellow and one purple, to go with the Golden Nights and Advent theme.  I cut the tabs off the tops of the folders to make the sides look more even. (the right side of the folders below had the tabs that I cut off). 

I then inserted the purple folder into the yellow one and hole punched 2 holes on the left side of the folders, as shown in picture below.

I tied purple curling ribbon through the two holes to bind the folders together.
The Cover:
The top of the lapbook cover (O Antiphons general information) was printed from Lacy at Catholic Icing's Advent Christmas Planner that you can purchase HERE.  I folded the O Antiphons information in half, glued the bottom half, then glued a rectangular piece of purple cardstock (I actually just cut out a rectangle from another purple file folder) to the back of the top half as shown below.    
The information that is glued in the middle of the purple rectangle was taken from THIS post. I printed copies of the first page and cut out this short paragraph:  The "O" Antiphons are the verses for the ancient hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The first letter of the Messianic titles: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia—spell out Latin words ERO CRAS, meaning, "Tomorrow, I will come." 
Then each of my children wrote "O" Antiphons Lapbook on white cardstock and glued in the middle of front cover. (We forgot to add the "s" on "Antiphon" on their cover  :)  )
The "Golden Nights" Novena that is shown above was printed from Lacy's Advent Christmas Planner.  She explained how the novena starts on Dec. 16 so I put that on the cover. If you want to include the novena throughout your lapbook, but don't have Lacy's planner you could do a search on "Christmas Novenas" and find a prayer that starts on Dec. 16.  

2nd page (Dec. 17) and 3rd page (Dec. 18) 
On the yellow and purple sides of the lapbook at the top is the corresponding O Antiphons and Corresponding Symbols.  The chart for these symbols for each day can be found HERE.  The coloring pages can be found HERE.  The Novena prayer for each day that is glued onto the bottom of each page was copied from Lacy's Advent Christmas Planner

4th page (Dec. 19) and 5th page (Dec. 20).....refer to links above for printouts

6th Page (Dec. 21) and 7th page (Dec. 22)...refer to links above for printouts 

Last page (Dec. 23)....refer to links above for printouts

I wanted to include the last day of the Christmas Novena (Dec. 24) onto the back cover so I folded it and glued it to the back of the Dec. 23 Novena prayers (if that makes sense).  Here's pictures I took to show you what I mean:

And that's the end of the "O" Antiphons lapbook :)

Here are some pictures of my children starting their lapbooks.  We worked on the cover and Dec. 17 page tonight.  All my efforts were worth it as I heard one of my daughters exclaim, "This is the best Advent ever!" and "This is so fun!" :-)  (which also tells me I should be doing more of this "fun" stuff with my kiddos :-/ )

This is obviously a work in progress as I hope to have my children cut out, paste, and color each page during the "Golden Nights".  I plan to pull out these lapbooks each year so my children will always have a prayer guide during these last days of Advent. I hope to maybe make/buy ornaments some year to go with the "O" Antiphons as I have seen some beautiful ones on the internet! 

I plan to have my family listen to the video clips found HERE of the O Antiphons being sung to celebrate the Golden Nights.  Just beautiful!

Update:   Be sure to check out Jessica's O Antiphons 2014 post HERE at Shower of Roses with lots of fun ideas to celebrate these special days during Advent! 

May you have blessed Golden Nights as we get closer to celebrating the birth of Jesus!


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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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