Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Busy Bag Swap!

Last week I wrote about a "Busy Bag" swap I was doing with a few of the mothers in our homeschool group.  You can read about the popsicle matching game I made here.

As promised, here are the other goodies I received from the swap...very creative!

Magnetic Fishing Game.  Each fish has a magnet sandwiched between two pieces of felt.  The fishing rod also has a magnet attached to the end allowing you to grab a fish!

Roll-a-Cise Dice Game.  A die is included with different shapes that match instructions on the paper.  For instance if you roll a square you jump like a kangaroo 5 times! You can get the hard copy of this template here.

Paper plate matching.  The object is to use the clothes pin or red clip to pick up pompoms and put them into the corresponding color plates.  The two types of clothes pins are an excellent idea since they require different degrees of fine motor skills.

Yarn art.  Simple but fun!  Different colors and lengths of yarn used to make pictures on a pieces of sandpaper.  The sandpaper holds the yarn in place.  As you can see, I had some fun with this!

Felt cupcakes.  In this bag were cupcakes, cupcake liners, heart cherries, sprinkles, and frosting.  The colors in this one are great!

And there is still one more bag I have yet to get...I will update when I get it!  I really think Maya will love doing these...it has been tough keeping these away from the girls until school officially starts for us.

Just thought I'd add this because it was the sweetest thing to find at the end of the day (both Sofia and the message!)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - Saint Foot-in-Mouth

Matthew 16: 21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
"God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you."
He turned and said to Peter,
"Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life"
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct."
Wow. I can really relate to Peter.

Last  week Peter was shining as Jesus awarded him the keys of heaven and was issued special authority over the church.  Life must have been pretty nice right about then.  

This week he is shunned as Satan, by Jesus, for his poor choice in words!  Our priest today eloquently titled him Saint Foot-in-Mouth.  

So, what could Peter have said that got him into so much trouble? He did not want to accept the will of God that Jesus would have to die.  He wanted to save Jesus and promise that no harm would come to Him.  Sounds pretty innocent right?

Jesus got so upset in today's gospel because Peter was tempting Him to turn away from the path God had directed.  "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do".

This is why many of us can relate to Peter.

How often do we steer away from God and choose a more materialistic direction?  
How often do we hear God calling us to do something, but make human excuses for not being able to follow through?  
How often to we think that our excuses are for the best and think not as God does, but as human beings do?

I'm so glad we have Saint Peter to look up to.  He doesn't always get it right, but he tries and God loves him for it.  Phew! There's hope for us after all ;)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Popsicle Color Match Game

When people find out I am homeschooling my eldest daughter, they often ask what I will do with my younger children during school time.  Luckily, the homeschooling curriculum we are using (Sonlight) is literature based and even the younger girls will enjoy listening in to the stories.  When Sofia is doing her reading lessons or math, however, I do need to find things to occupy Maya so I can have some one on one time with Sofia.

A mother from my homeschooling group suggested that we do a busy bag swap since so many of us have pre-schoolers at home as well.  The swap works when each member makes a game or activity geared towards the preschool age and then duplicates it for the swap.  In our group we have seven mothers participating, so we will each have seven different busy bags upon completion!  The activity I chose to make was the popsicle color match game. 

The supplies required include felt in different colors, wide popsicle sticks, paint and thread for sewing.  Using two sheets of felt per color I was able to make eight full sets of popsicles (yay! an extra set for a friend!) 

This is a very easy activity to make!  It took me a while to complete only because I made so many sets of it.  If you were only making one set, it would be very quick!  I made a pattern for the popsicle, cut it out from two pieces of felt and then sewed the two pieces of felt together leaving an opening in the bottom.  I painted the popsicle sticks the corresponding color and voila...you have a perfect preschool color match game!

Since I am teaching Sofia French, I wrote the french names for the colors on popsicle sticks and made a matching game for her too!  This activity can be modified to include the written word of the color (an English version of the French one I did) or the "flavor" of the color (ie. grape matches with purple). 

I am looking forward to our busy bag swap this Friday and I will post pictures and descriptions of all the activities I get!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

St. Peter and the Popes

Mt 16:13-20

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

This gospel reading is so important in explaining certain truths in the Catholic faith. In today's gospel reading we learn just how important St. Peter is in the church and the great authority Jesus has bestowed on him.

There are many instances in the Bible where we get an idea of how important Peter is:
  • He is mentioned 195 times in Scripture (the next most named Apostle was John who was named 29 times)
  • Peter is always listed first when all the Apostles are listed in scripture (Judas is last)
  • Several times in the Bible it is mentioned "Peter and the twelve"
  • He is the only apostle to get his name changed (I'm not talking about changing from a Roman to a Hebrew name like Paul to Saul)
  • The is the only one given the keys to the kingdom
  • He is the one given the vision that the Gentiles should be admitted into the Church
  • He is the only one who walked on water
  • He is the one who gave the first sermon, the first homily, to the masses after the Ressurection
  • He was the first one to enter Jesus' tomb after the Resurrection
The list could go on forever!  Even when Peter and John went racing to the tomb on the day of Resurrection, John got there first but waited for Peter to go in first, showing a great respect for him.

But today's gospel reading is the clincher.  

"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it"

"I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"

Here we have Jesus saying plain as day: You are rock and on this rock I will build my church.  Jesus singled Peter out to be his ambassador.  He gave Peter His authority to teach, to forgive sins and to preach.  As Catholics we do not believe this command was given to Peter for his generation only!  We believe that this authority has a succession...our present church and the pope. The pope is now the person who does the speaking for Christ and we believe he will know what to say not because he is God but because it has been revealed to him from the Father through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus chose Peter not because he was the most holy apostle, he chose him because he knew him and told him he would protect him.  Just like our pope today.  Our pope does not have to be without flaws or perfect in every way.  What protects us is not the pope's character but the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A quote by G.K. Chesterton a great Catholic apologist:

When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing his great society, he chose for it's cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul, nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward - in a word, a man.  And upon this rock he has build his Church, and the gates of hell have not prevailed against it.  All the empires and the kingdoms have failed because of this inherent and continual weakness that they were founded by strong men; and upon strong men.  But the historic Christian Church was founded on a weak man and for this reason it is indestructable.  For no chain is stronger than its weakest link. (G.K Chesterton, Heretics, IV)


The statistics on the mentioning of Peter in the Bible and the quote from G.K Chesterton was taken from "What Catholics Really Believe" By Dr. Ray Guarendi and Rev. Kevin Fete.  This is an awesome book that does a wonderful job of explaining how to defend the Catholic church and it's teaching. It can be found under the tab "Products I Recommend."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why we turned off the TV

When I was pregnant with Sofia (my eldest) I got a ton of advice.  Most just made me smile and nod with the advice going in one ear and out the other.  But a few words of wisdom have managed to stay with me.  One tip that a mother gave me was to not allow our children to watch TV.  She told me that kids who do not watch television are able to entertain themselves easier and are rarely bored.

The sound of a child saying "I'm booooorrred" annoys me to no end.  So just that fact alone made me want to try to live a TV free life!

So, we did.

And we love it.

Television has become a special-occasion device in our home.  Since dropping cable years ago, we have subscribed to Netflix and watch shows with the kids as a treat.  Our children have a million other things to do for fun during the day and can entertain themselves for hours!  I really do not hear the phrase "I'm bored."  This is great and what we were hoping for when we decided to turn off the TV for good.  But, there was something else that happened that I never planned....

My children do not ask for things.

My girls do not watch commercials...ever.  When we watch a show together on Netflix, there are no commercials.  Because of this, they are not exposed to the "I want this/I need this" mentality.  When it comes times for Christmas or birthdays they tell people they like crafts or dress up toys...things that they use instead of being plugged into the TV all day.  They don't have a concept of what is cool right now, or how kids should be dressing or what toys they should have.  They are free-thinkers!

I encourage parents to try it.  Join us and turn off the TV.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So, is it the "cutest blog on the block"?

It's done!

So, how do you like it?

The blog design is by The Cutest Blog on the Block Custom Design.  My designer was  Alicia who came up with the beautiful header, and custom background.  Tenille then helped her apply it all to my blog and voila...today it is up and running!

The process was quick...from the time I placed my order to the time it was all put together and loaded was 2.5 weeks.  The next day after placing my order, I got an email from Alicia who asked me to give her some ideas I liked, some colors and what kind of style I was going for.  In no time, she had a bunch of proofs ready for me to choose from.

They are really committed to getting your blog looking just like you want.  At one point I was worried that the background would not work on my PC and my iPad, but they corrected it immediately! 

Thank you "Cutest Blog on the Block".  I am a satisfied customer!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - Say what Jesus?!?

Mt 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
"Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon."
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus' disciples came and asked him,
"Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."
He said in reply,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me."
He said in reply,
"It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs."
She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters."
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
"O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish."
And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.
Say what!?!?
That is precisely what I thought when I first read this.
Was this really Jesus being so neglectful, so harsh and even racist to the poor Canaanite woman?
I really struggled hard to understand what the gospel meant today.  Sure, I can see the end picture where she persisted in faith and was rewarded at the end...but did it have to be so...brutal?
I prayed that the priest today would have some insight on the reading for me today....and thankfully his homily today was wonderful!
He started the homily telling us about when he was young he wanted an aquarium.  He asked his parents for one and they said "no".  He continued to ask them every day and they always said no.  When Christmas came a few months later, he cut out pictures of fish and hid them all over their house...under his parents' pillows, under their plates etc. When Christmas came...no fish.  His parents told him they were not going to get him an aquarium, and explained that they would end up having to care for it and that was not something they wanted to do.  His birthday was 6 months later, so he continued to ask them for an aquarium.  Six months later on his birthday....no aquarium.
Discouraged and still wanting the aquarium really badly he turned to his priest and told him that he has been asking for this aquarium for some time now and he was nowhere closer to getting it than the first day he asked.  The priest (probably trying hard not to laugh at this poor boy) told him to pray for the aquarium and that surely he would get one....one day.
Christmas came around again and under the tree...no aquarium.  His parents told him again, they were not going to get him an aquarium.  Later that day, his older sister came over from her work and brought him a present...a brand new aquarium!!
His parents had kept true to their word and had not bought an aquarium...but he still got one (eventually) from someone he wasn't even asking anything from!

Now the priest today explained that the gospel reading was just like this (although the Canaanite woman was asking Jesus for something more precious than a fish, she asked for her daughter's health).  Whether it was the fish or an ill daughter, Jesus DID hear the prayers.  He just knew when and how they were to be answered.

Sometimes we get so discouraged because the prayers we send up to heaven are often not answered immediately in the way we want.  How can we not take it personally? How can we not assume that Jesus is not listening to us?  Or worse, doesn't want to help us?
I was watching a Duggar Family episode and Jim Bob said that "God's will is what we would choose if we knew all the facts".  Today's gospel reminds us of this.  God knows how to answer our prayers, God knows when to answer our prayers.  Our job is to stay faithful and keep the communication open with Him.  Just like Jesus was harsh to the Canaanite woman, so is the world harsh to us sometimes...and just like she persevered, we must too.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

From Stacking States to Marking Maps!

It is no secret now that my 4-year old is better at US geography than I am! I attribute her love of learning maps to the iPad game we downloaded, Stack the States.

This week we have been getting all our materials ready for the start of school (yay!) and one of the items we pulled out from our Sonlight box was the USA markable map.  The map is large, as you can see from the picture above (23" x 34"), but folds down to 12" x 12".  It is full color, laminated and shows details such as rivers and political boundaries. If you flip it over, there is a map of the world

As SOON as I took it out of the box Sofia grabbed it, unfolded it and started labeling away!  The map comes with 4 wet erase markers which are awesome so Sofia doesn't erase what she has written when she moves across the map.

Sofia (decked out in full dance attire) started labeling the states she knew right away and then when she was stumped, she lay the map under our USA wall map and finished the rest.

What a great idea from Sonlight!

Here is the map after today! The smudged Montana is from Emmy's drool as she crawled over the map (even she loves it!) :)

 And my awesome husband turned the Sonlight box inside out to reveal it can be cut into a castle! A little paint later and this princess was happy as can be!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

eeboo animal wall cards

We are getting ready for Kindergarten! Our plan is to work in our kitchen since it is such a great open area with everything we need nearby.  I have a large open wall beside our kitchen table and I thought it would be fun to get it ready for "school" by sprucing it up with some things we'll use throughout the year.  My first purchase was a set of eeboo Animal wall cards that I bought from Amazon.

They arrived in a nice large box and were tied in a blue fabric ribbon..pretty!  They are large cards (8" by 10") and are made of heavy cardstock.  The colors are vibrant and the pictures are fun (they do include some animals that I have never heard of...but I imagine we will have fun looking them up!).  We hung them up using double sided tape stickers that I purchaed at Office Max.  We'll see what the kids think of it tomorrow morning when they wake up!

Next on my wall is a chalkboard I just ordered!  Looking forward to it, I'll post pictures when it arrives.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - Doing the impossible

Mt 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Today's gospel is a familiar story and image. The disciples are in a boat during a storm when they see Jesus walking towards them on the water.  Thinking it is a ghost, they are frightened until they realize who it is.  Jesus tells Peter to walk towards him and Peter obeys.  It is only until Peter begins paying attention to the frightening storm and wind that he starts to sink and cries out to the Lord to help him.

I can imagine how the disciples felt in their boat in the midst of a storm - doing exactly what Jesus had asked them to do.  How often do we feel scared or insecure about what we feel Jesus is calling us to do?  I can also imagine how Peter must have felt - he obeyed Jesus by getting out of the boat and he almost sank!

But why did he almost drown? 

He took his eyes off of Jesus.  He focused on the world around him and the danger and uncertainty that it holds.   When he looked around at the world, he started believing that the storm would defeat him.  He lost faith.

There are many times where I find myself questioning my decisions because of the fears I have for the future.  What if I can't handle raising these children?  What if my children have a hard time with me homeschooling? Can I really trust my fertility to natural family planning?  The list goes on and on and on.  Today's gospel applies to all this.  Jesus calls us to step out, whether we keep our eyes on the world or on Him dictates whether we sink or swim.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Alphabet Stampin'

We have been plugging along with Handwriting without Tears K and have been enjoying it a lot.  Today, however, we tried something new.  I had purchased a set of Learning Resources Uppercase Alphabet Tracing Stamps a couple years ago but had never really got them out for the girls to use.  They are a set of the entire alphabet and some other characters like commas, periods and exclamation points.  The stamps are dotted so that after stamping out a word, it's possible to trace them making your own handwriting practice sheets!

The girls loved them!

Sofia wasn't much into tracing them after the first couple sheets of prints she made, but she had a great time sounding out and spelling words to print.  You have to have *just* the right amount of ink on them to make the dots on the letters stand out, otherwise they come out like solid letters.  My girls were both ink happy and most of their letters came out solid! 

You can see Maya's work (our 2 year old) behind Sofias work...she mostly finger painted!  Maya was able to help with putting the stamps away because you have to match them to their letter in the tray.  It was great matching and alphabet practice for her as well.  A product that lets both girls learn and have fun at the same time...priceless!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What I didn't learn in Catholic School

I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through grade 13 (in Canada we used to have an extra grade before you could attend university). I even went to a Catholic college after university!  So, after 18 years of Catholic education you would think I would be pretty knowledgeable in my faith.  Right?


I am almost embarrassed to admit that I did not know FUNDAMENTAL things about my faith.  I did not know that the four gospels were actually the same stories told by different people.   I did not know that during the mass the bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of our Lord.  I didn't even know what any of the prayers meant...but I could recite them all.

Now, looking back, I can't imagine that these facts were not taught in school.  Perhaps they were and they just meant nothing to me so I discarded them?  But, am I alone in this?  Can it be that after 18 years of Catholic school, I was no further in my faith than if I had gone to public school?

It wasn't until my mid twenties that religion changed for me.  My room mate from college took me to adoration.  For anyone who doesn't know (of course this included me at the time), adoration is when the consecrated host (the Eucharist) is displayed for people to pray to.  Slowly after that, the Holy Mass became something I loved.  Something I actually needed in my life, instead of somewhere I had to go on Sundays.

Sometimes I look at faithful Christians (and yup Catholics are Christians) and I admire the great love they have for Jesus.  For me, it is a slow (but steady) relationship I am trying to develop.  When I talk about Jesus to my children, I talk about Him with such excitement and joy because I want them to grow up with that love of God I admire in other Christians.

This is my primary goal for raising my children. 

Honestly, they can learn academics anywhere...whether in Catholic, public, or home school.  What I can't afford to let them miss is learning about our faith.  I want my children to have the kind of excitement of being Catholic that will evangelize others they meet!

In a special document titled "Letter to Families" Pope John Paul II writes "Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents. You are the first and best role model for your child in these growing years.  Your role as parents to love, teach and lead your child to Jesus is a remarkable and noble vocation"

So in the coming weeks, as I plan my first year of homeschooling, I am going to keep in mind my primary goal for raising my children so that they learn what I didn't in Catholic School.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stack the States (or how a Canadian mom teaches US geography!)

Since I have lived in the States for almost 10 years now, you would think I would have some sort of grasp on US geography.  Wrong.  When looking at an unlabeled map, I was only able to correctly identify a handful of States!  Yes, this may be concerning for a mother who is going to homeschool this very subject...but...this is also the beauty of homeschooling, that I get to learn alongside my children.  Or, that's what I tell myself ;)

When Sofia started asking me about the United States, I needed a crash course in geography.  I turned to my iPad and downloaded a game from the App store called Stack the States.

Stack the States is basically a game that asks various questions about the different States including abbreviations, capitals, landmarks, bordering states and even state shapes.  It then gives you a choice of four states to choose your answer from.  Once you choose the correct state you can then drag and rotate the states to stack them up until they reach a checkered line.  The states are scaled in size so you learn visualize how much bigger Texas is than Delaware for instance.  If you get a 60% score you "win" a state.  With each state won, you move closer and closer to winning bonus games to unlock.

 What I didn't expect from this game is how MUCH my kids love it!  Playing with the iPad is a big privilege for our kids...but I do allow them to play this game often!  Sofia is four and a half and does really well with this.  She has trouble reading some of the questions but if I read along with her, she does great answering questions.

Since playing this game, she can correctly identify most states from their shapes and can point out on the map where the "big" states are (getting Texas, Alaska or California as a right answer is awesome because they get you to the checkered line quicker!) It's also opened up new dialogue for her and she is interested in what states people we know live in.

For 99 cents, you can't go wrong with this game.  It's a fun, animated way for kids to learn about the US map.  Normally, I don't turn to electronic games for teaching but in this case it really gives a fresh approach to geography...and it helps a Canadian mom out too!