Monday, May 23, 2016

Holy Heroes: Spiritual Diary Review

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As a Catholic mom, I'm always wanting my children and myself to seek God daily and encourage each family member to spend daily quiet time in prayer alone.  Our family prays together often and each morning we have our "Couch Catechism" family devotion time before our homeschool day starts, but making time for individual prayer is so necessary and fruitful, but can be challenging at times!

Holy Heroes, a wonderful company that offers products to "help you bring the joy of the Faith to your Family", has created the new Holy Heroes Spiritual Diary that is an excellent tool for the entire family (yes, for children AND adults!) to make spending time with our Lord not only possible, but also reflective and fruitful. The diary is intended to be used each day for about 10-15 minutes.  Holy Heroes sent me copies of the April 4, 2016- August 14, 2016 Spiritual Diary in exchange for this review.

So what is the Spiritual Diary?  Briefly, I like to think of the diary as a daily "date" with God as I use the diary to think, reflect, pray and write about what is on my heart, mind and soul.

Photo Credit: Holy Heroes

Here is the description from the Holy Heroes website:

The ultimate diary to help children focus and reflect every day on what God is doing in their lives, and what He wants them to do tomorrow!

* Covers April 4, 2016 to August 14, 2016 (end of the Easter Season from the Annunciation through Ordinary Time to the Vigil of the Assumption)
* TWO pages for every day's memories, with questions to prompt spiritual reflection for children aged 7 and up.
* A step-by-step guide for Confession, plus removable pages to carry into the Confessional, with directions for confessing and space for a child to write down sins committed.
* Inspiring quotes from the Mass Readings and Saints for Sundays and Feast Days 
*The Prayer Intentions of the Pope for each month
* Daily prayers and an evening Examen for children based on the method of St Ignatius
* Pages for listing prayer intentions and people to pray for
* Much more to make this a daily resource and a keepsake for the future!

Here is a photo of the inside of the diary that I took to give you an idea of what each day looks like.  Each day doesn't have the exact same questions, but many questions are the same from one day to the next.  For more inside views, you can watch the video on the Holy Heroes website.   I love that the diary records feast days. (For example, Pentecost Sunday is noted in the photo for May 15, 2016)  I enjoy living liturgically with my family with food, fun and activities and being able to use the diary as a quick reference for upcoming feast days is a definite plus! 

I asked my children what they enjoyed about their diaries and here are their comments: 

Daughter, age 16:  "I enjoyed how the diary keeps a record of mass attendance and the last time I went to confession." 

Son, age 14: "I really like how the diary notes feast days which is a quick way to look up various feast days through the year." Side note: One day our family was wondering when a particular feast day was on and my son immediately got his diary out to look for the feast day date. :)

Daughter, age 11: "I like recording what I thought about and did during the day."

Daughter, age 8: "I love listing my prayer intentions in my diary to help me remember who and what I'm praying for each day." 

Daughter, age 2.5: She enjoys getting a hold of her siblings' diaries and a pen and scribbling in them. :) 

As a parent, I have enjoyed sitting down each evening with my diary to write in another entry.  It has helped me reflect on the day's events and I like that some of the questions focus on what I have been grateful for during the day.   Too often, I lay my head down each night and only remember the day's big challenges and headaches rather than all that I should be grateful for.  The Spiritual Diary has helped me redirect my thoughts to what went right with the day and be grateful for my many blessings.   I'm also more aware of what I want to work on spiritually for the next day since I'm recording my thoughts along my spiritual journey.  The Spiritual Diary is full of great prayers and information, but I think it could be an even better tool if the daily Mass readings were listed on each day to encourage users to look up scripture and pray with the Word of God while filling out the entries.
The Spiritual Diary takes self-discipline to fill out each day, which is always a challenge for me personally and with our busy family schedule.  We have skipped several days lately because of our hectic evening schedules, but I'm hoping to get back on track soon with our less hectic summer schedule!  Summer time is a great time to start using the Spiritual Diaries to form a consistent habit! 

I have found that when our entire family fills out their diaries at the same time together each evening we are more consistent so I always try to make this a goal. 

 Photo Credit: Holy Heroes

After you finish filling out the Spiritual Diary through August 14, 2016, Holy Heroes has the next diary for August 15, 2016 - December 24, 2016 for sale and you can order both as a set and save money!  Be sure to visit the Holy Heroes store for more details!  

For more reviews of the Holy Heroes Spiritual Diaries, you can visit the Holy Heroes website and Holy Heroes Facebook page to see what others are saying about this wonderful product that helps children and adults become more prayerful daily! 

Have a blessed week! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our Daughter's Sweet 16: Birthday Tribute and Memories

To my firstborn who made me a Mommy for the first time, 

16 years ago today we were blessed when we held you in our arms for the first time.  Here you are with Daddy and Mommy when you were just a few weeks old.  You were so little and Daddy and Mommy were soooooo young! :)

You were 6 lbs, 1 oz., so very tiny, but big enough to fill our hearts and home with love and wonder!  I remember being admitted into the hospital 2 weeks prior to your due date because of preeclampsia. To make a long story short, I was able to labor on my own without being induced and in about 6 hours with no epidural, you went from your dark, peaceful home into this bright, big world!  Your Daddy and I had tears of joy when we saw you for the first time!

I remember crying myself to sleep one afternoon soon after we got home from the hospital because you were so tiny and I was struggling to get you to latch on so I could nurse you.  Your Daddy woke me from my nap to tell me that he had made a phone call to our local La Leche League and made an appointment for us to see a consultant.  I remember the feeling of gratitude and relief after our appointment because I was soon able to nurse you.  I remember thinking that you have a wonderful Daddy and I have a supportive and loving husband.

We remember when you were and will always be Daddy's little girl and Dad will never forget his first Father's Day in 2000 when he held you lovingly in his arms and gave you a sweet kiss in the backyard in our "old, old house"...

I remember when we were celebrating your first Christmas when you were 7 months old.  The outfit you are wearing in the photo below has been worn by all your siblings too to celebrate their first Christmas.  Nowadays you are more into what's wrapped in the wrapping paper vs. just laughing at the funny sounds paper can make, like you did as a baby... :)

I remember when you were this little with your sweet bow in your hair...

I remember your 1st birthday when we had a "Ladybug" themed party and I made these ladybug cakes with a friend to celebrate your big day!

I remember when I was 17 weeks pregnant with your brother (although we didn't know if you were a big sister to a brother or sister at the time), and I held you on my first Mother's Day 2001 (the first Mother's Day with you outside of my womb) as you modeled your cute outfit with a hat with your adorable smile that lit up a room...

I remember when I borrowed a watermelon print dress from a friend just so I could take pictures of you beside a watermelon and eating a watermelon with me while my belly was getting as big as a watermelon carrying your sibling. (that's alot of repetition there!)  I wanted the matching watermelon (there's that word again!) dress too so I could make the adorable page for you in your scrapbook....

I remember taking this special photo capturing special memories.  Here you are with Nana and me. 3 generations! 

I remember how you loved peeking into the (pink) bassinet looking at your baby brother sleeping.  You were just 17 months old when he was born. You loved taking care of your little brother and still do!  And now you take care of your little sisters too!

I remember how you loved to dance so much that you would stand in front of the oven and stare at your reflection while you made all your graceful ballerina moves.

I remember when you went to Mass in this sunflower dress and hat the Sunday before your first sister was born in June 2004.

I remember that you loved and continue to love our family and faith traditions and how you light up our lives with your smile and sweet personality and talents each day. 

I remember that even as a little girl you loved learning about our Catholic faith.  I remember for your First Holy Communion in 2008, we went and took a picture at the same church that I received my First Holy Communion.  I remember thinking "Wow! You really do look like me!"


I remember when we celebrated your 10th birthday with an ice cream cone castle cake and played lots of games with friends in the backyard.

I will always remember how you have grown to love soccer and contribute so much to your homeschool soccer team with all your hard work and talent.

Last year I remember when you got your driver's permit!  You don't have your license yet, but you will soon enough.  This Momma's heart has to get mentally prepared for that milestone when you can be behind the wheel solo!  That day is coming sooner than later!

For your 16th birthday celebration this year our family will remember you going to see Captain America Civil War with Dad, sister and some friends.  I made you a Captain America pizza and ice cream cake with an Oreo crust , birthday cake ice cream and homemade whipped cream topped with strawberries, blueberries and marshmallows.   Pinterest is a life-saver!

Happy Birthday to our sweet Cupcake #1! It's always an adventure hanging out with you! (I hope you will always remember going to the voting polls with me in March 2016 for the primary election.)

Your God-fearing heart and sweet smile light up the room! We love you and we are proud of the beautiful young lady you are becoming each day!

Happy Sweet 16 birthday sweet girl!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pentecost Sunday 2016:{Pancakes, Cupcakes, Soccer and Lots of Red}

Pentecost Sunday was on Sunday, May 15th this year.  This is when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and it is the birthday of the Church! (Check out Acts 2: 1-11)  It's a big deal and a great reason to celebrate!  Pentecost also falls 50 days after Easter and marks the end of the Easter season and we now enter Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar.  

Last year we celebrated Pentecost Sunday for the first time with Pentecost pancakes for breakfast.  We continued the tradition this year.  I made homemade whipping cream (Yum!) and cut strawberries in slices to make "flames".  We did the same pancake celebration this year and since it is a birthday celebration, I made Pentecost cupcakes over the weekend with my little helper. 

I decorated the chocolate cupcakes (I use the Hershey's Cocoa powder recipe) with homemade cream cheese icing that I've used quite often and sprinkled with red sugar sprinkles.

Here's a picture of my little helper.

I made flames with yellow orange butterscotch and red cinnamon candies like the campfire cake I made for my son's 13th birthday party.   I found some Holy Spirit clip art for free on the computer so I printed them out, laminated and cut in a circle.  Then I taped each one to a toothpick to make as a cupcake topper.  I've used this easy and cheap decorating method for several of the cupcakes I have made for birthday parties.

We shared the cupcakes with friends and neighbors over the weekend and they were enjoyed by all!

On Pentecost Sunday my husband attended Mass out of town with our 11 year old daughter while traveling for a soccer tournament and I had a child not feeling 100% so my teen daughter (who attended Saturday's vigil Mass with friends) stayed home Sunday with her 2 sisters.  Here are a few of many photos my husband took at my daughter's tournament.  My daughter reminds me of a fighting Eagle defending her territory. :) They came in 1st and that's my daughter being lifted by her coach to reach the trophy!

So on Pentecost Sunday my son and I had our first Mass "date" and it was the first time we matched!  I had to take a picture of us! :)  My almost 3 year old enjoyed playing peek-a-boo for the camera! :)
Red is the liturgical color for Pentecost  as it represents fire and the altar on Pentecost Sunday is decorated with red linens and banners and the priest wears red vestments.   It is also a tradition for people to wear red on Pentecost Sunday. 

In the evening, we read the few pages from Tomie DePaola's Book of Bible Stories that discussed Pentecost.

I thought this graphic was interesting and enlightening that I thought was worth sharing here. I found this graphic on Facebook that shows how the Old Testament (from the Book of 2 Chronicles) parallels the New Testament scripture about Pentecost (in the Book of Acts).

If you are like me, there is soooo much about the Holy Spirit that I am still learning and it will always be a lifetime journey to remember to invoke and completely rely on this third Person of the Blessed Trinity.  For these reasons, I enjoyed reading 5 Things Every Christian Needs to Know About the Holy Spirit.  Maybe you will enjoy it too!

This week our oldest turns 16!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, I can't believe it either! :) Blog post coming soon!

Have a blessed week!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day 2016

This post contains affiliate links.

As the saying goes and my motto these days in blog land, better late than never, as I publish this post a day after Mother's Day 2016.  I just thought I'd share a few highlights of my day so I can look back on it one day and actually remember it.  I have MBS (Mommy Brain Syndrome) so my blog keeps memories documented for my benefit. :)

I can sum up my Mother's Day with the words grateful and relaxing.   The only gift I wanted from my children was to have them not argue with one another since in the Smith house this happens waaaaaay too much.  Uggghhh!  I could tell they were trying really hard to make the day peaceful and I was grateful!

In the morning, all my kids woke up in good moods and got ready for Mass without fighting!  Yes!  (OK, so maybe you are thinking the Smith household can be like a war zone sometimes...well, you're right! ;) ) My 8 year old and 15 year old daughters sang in the girls choir at Mass and my 8 year old sang the "Alleluia" chorus with her friend.  They did a beautiful job!  My daughter is in the pink top standing next to her friend with our fabulous choir teacher singing for support. :)
I told my family I wanted a family photo outside of church after Mass which was not a surprise request for them. :)

After Mass we went down to the beach for a few hours and it was just fun to hang out!  In the evening my wonderful husband grilled burgers outside on the charcoal grill near our family campsite behind our house at the edge of the woods.  My family surprised me with a beautiful orchid after dinner.  I just love orchids! They are beautiful and so easy to take care of!  I didn't get to see my Mom on Mother's Day because she and my Dad are on a cruise with friends. (tough life! :) ) Above is a photo of my Mom and I from back in November 2015 on her birthday with the photo of the orchid and my family after Mass.

It was a beautiful day and I am so grateful for the vocation of marriage and motherhood.  My husband gave me the gift of time as I relaxed and read a great book, Trusting God with St. Therese. I have loved reading this book! It's a gem and it's just what I need to be reading during this season of my life.

I am so grateful for my children and I try to not take any of my blessings for granted as I keep in prayer all women who struggle with infertility and who have lost children through abortion, miscarriage and sickness.

I'll close this post by sharing one of my favorite quotes:

"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  

And this is a prayer I say often during prayer times that came from Mother's Manual. It covers all that I feel as a mother on a daily basis and reminds me to look toward our Blessed Mother for love, guidance and peace.  Every time I pray this beautiful prayer it speaks to my heart in a special way.

 Mary, Help Me

Dear Mary, I who am a mother, have you for my mother.  Thank you!  I really need you, Mary, as my Queen, my mother, my friend.

For the energy and spirit to arise each morning with a joyful heart - My Mother Mary help me.

In the difficulties and setbacks of each day - Mary help me.  

When I feel tired and depressed - Mary help me. 

When the outlook is bleak and there is no one to console or encourage me - Mary help me.

When I feel impatient with my family - Mary help me. 

When others are impatient or rude to me, by your gentleness - Mary help me. 

When others speak angrily or loudly to me, and I feel like snapping back, that I would answer calmly and gently - Mary help me. 

When my plans don't work out, my efforts seem in vain, and I feel discouraged - Mary help me. 

When I try my best and others don't understand -Mary help me. 

When worry and anxiety clutch at my heart and it is difficult to be at peace - dear Mother Mary help me!

When there is no one around to support me in trouble - Mary help me. 

Dear God, grant that through Mary's intercession, all things in my life and my family will work out for the good.  May I grow day by day to be more like her, My Mother, my Queen.  In the name of your Son Jesus I pray. Amen. 

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Prayers for the Boyle Family and The Easter Season Continues...with a Symbolic Easter Tea Dinner

Before I blog about the details of our Easter tea dinner from last week, I would like to ask that you keep a fellow Catholic blogger and homeschool mom in your prayers.  Lisa at Home to 4 Kiddos lost everything, including their family cat, in a house fire last weekend.  :(  They are understandably devastated and filled with all sorts of emotions as you can imagine, but grateful that their family of six all got out safely.  Please keep the Boyle family in your prayers and if you feel called to help them out in monetary ways, there are few ways you can do so:   Contribute to the Boyle Family Go Fund page.  Or if you shop at Amazon you can click on Lisa's Amazon affiliate link and she will receive a small percentage back from your purchase at no extra cost to you. Or if you would like to get updates of the Boyle's family immediate needs, you can join the Blessings for the Boyle Family Facebook group. The Boyles will appreciate any way you are able to help in this most difficult time in their lives.  Thank you!

And now on to less important details...From the title of my post you may be asking what's a symbolic Easter tea dinner all about?  That's strange, isn't Easter over already?  Nope.  Easter is not just one day, but rather a season that lasts from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, 50 days after Easter Sunday.  40 days after Easter Sunday marks Ascension Thursday when Jesus returns to heaven 40 days after his resurrection.  We will be celebrating Ascension Thursday this week by going to morning Mass and then going out for some "heavenly" sweet treats at the donut shop. :) 

Last week we continued the Easter season celebration with our first (I hope it can become an annual tradition) symbolic Easter tea dinner.  Our symbolic Good Friday lunch has been so fun the past two years so I was inspired to put together an Easter tea dinner when I saw Nicole's Easter tea at Children of the Church where she was inspired by Lacy's Easter tea at Catholic Icing.  This "ripple" effect of liturgical living brings to mind Martianne's post at Training Happy Hearts with her When Celebrating the Liturgical year Goes Viral post. :)   A symbolic Easter tea can be celebrated anytime during the Easter season!

I printed out the Via Crucis (Way of Light) or Stations of the Resurrection for Kids from Family in Feast and Feria and laminated each card to use them to label each food at our table. After praying the Stations of the Cross all during Lent, it was great to be able to focus on the Risen Christ during this Easter season.

This is how our table was set:

For each food item, I got my ideas from Lacy at Catholic Icing at her Symbolic Easter Tea post.

FIRST STATION: Jesus Rises from the Dead: Easter lily sandwiches: I made the sandwiches by cutting the crust off the edges of each slice of bread, stuffed them with can chicken chopped up and mixed with Ranch salad dressing and folded the sandwiches to make a lily.  Then I sliced yellow peppers for the "stamen" part of the lily to add to the top of each sandwich.  The paper lilies in the vase on the center of our table were made several years ago by my older kids in an art co-op. 

SECOND STATION: The Finding of the Empty Tomb: Pinwheel Marshmallow filled cookies to look like an empty tomb.

THIRD STATION: Mary Magdalene Meets the Risen Jesus: Spice tea to symbolize the spices Mary Magdalene brought to the tomb.

FIFTH STATION: Jesus is Known in the Breaking of Bread: Small ham sandwiches on broken bread (Hawaiian rolls)

EIGHTH STATION: Jesus Strengthens the Faith of Thomas: Doubting Thomas donuts. Thomas said he wouldn't believe until he could put his hand in the nail holes of Jesus' body.  One of my favorite Bible verses.  John 20: 28-29:  "He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand, and place it in my side, do not be faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." 

NINTH STATION: Jesus Appears by the Sea of Tiberias: fish crackers

TENTH STATION: Jesus Tells Peter to Feed His Sheep (Primacy of Peter): Cut stems off cauliflower "sheep" and add black olive "heads" using sour cream.

TWELFTH STATION: Jesus Ascends into Heaven: (on white cheddar popcorn clouds)

THIRTEENTH STATION: Mary and the Disciples Wait in Prayer: During Lent we made pretzels to symbolize "little arms" in prayer.  So for our Easter tea dinner I bought white chocolate covered pretzels to represent the joyous and sweet Easter season and as always, a time to pray. 

FOURTEENTH STATION:  The Holy Spirit Descends at Pentecost:  Red pepper slices to look like tongues of fire.

It was a memorable and fun Easter tea dinner that I hope we can remember to do each year during the Easter season. :)  My family may or may not have liked all the symbolic foods, but I think they liked participating in a unique and meaningful dinner as a family to celebrate the 50 days of the Easter season!


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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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