Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Catholic Company Review: Help Me Pray

Help Me Pray: Learning from the Saints by Louise Perrotta

You know I can't resist a book about saints!

This is a book nearly entirely composed of quotations from saints and other holy people. Each chapter begins with a short introduction by Louise Perrotta followed by page after page of quotations gleaned from what must have been hundreds or thousands of sources.

There are quotes here that will aid every person, something to speak to the individual situation of everyone. I was inspired and prodded again and again while reading with hints, suggestions, and exhortations. Quotes from saints who excelled at praying and those who struggled with it.

The chapters cover a broad range of topics: attitude, habits, what to say, how to focus, times to pray, and Scripture. I read the book from beginning to end, but it would be nearly as worthy an exercise to simply pick it up and open it to any page for wisdom or inspiration.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Help Me Pray - Learning From the Saints. The Catholic Company is also a great online store for all your Catholic gift needs, such as baby baptism and christening gifts. You can also find a wide selection of Catholic Bible Studies for both parish groups and individuals, as well as a variety of other Catholic Bible study resources.

Monday, July 30, 2012

What I Loved About the Past Two Weeks (40th Ed.)

I skipped last week's post because I wanted to get Second Son's birthday post up, so I'm combining the last two weeks.

1. We went to see a traveling exhibit on Star Wars (for the second time).

2. Second Son had surgery to remove his two top front teeth, which I did not love, but the office was wonderful and he started feeling better within hours.

3. Second Daughter turned four! We had pancakes for breakfast and ice cream sundaes after dinner.

Second Daughter's pancake as big as her head, with a chocolate chip smiley face, as requested.

4. Kansas Dad gave the boys much needed hair cuts, just in time for the birthday party over the weekend.

5. My parents were here for a visit. They try to come every year for our July birthday party and the kids are always so happy to see them!

Papa reading bedtime stories

6. A successful birthday party, thanks in large part to a wonderful friend who made the Winnie-the-Pooh birthday cake for us AND brought rockets to shoot for entertainment (which Second Son hated, but Second Daughter loved).

The portion of the cake without names

First Son made a pin the tail on Eeyore game for the party

 7. The girls and I went shopping with my mom. I picked out some new (smaller) clothes.

8. Second Son turned two! Of course, we started the day with pancakes, including a pancake as big as his head. And smoothies, because he doesn't actually like pancakes all that much.

9. We visited the Cosmosphere, which is a bit of a drive for us, but certainly must rank among the top museums in Kansas. The two little ones weren't very interested, but First Son and First Daughter picked up a few things and my dad and I had a fabulous time.

10. Kansas Dad let me take a nice long nap the day my parents left, even though he was just as tired. That's love.

11. Swimming lessons started and ended. First Son passed Level 2!

Second Son tries to use force lightning on me during swim lessons

12. We had our second work day for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Level 2 materials over the weekend. We painted and cut and sculpted and are a lot closer to having everything ready!

13. Grammy treated us to an afternoon at a local water park over the weekend. The kids had a wonderful time. First Daughter was tall enough to go down the slides and First Son was old enough to ride the lazy river by himself. Second Son wanted to walk around the pool just at chin deep.

14. Finally, a picture of Second Son doing a downward dog.

I was hoping the last two weeks of summer would be nice and quiet, but it doesn't look like it. Maybe starting school will feel like a vacation!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Range Version of a Salt Box for Handwriting

Along with our handwriting program for next year, Cursive First, and recommendations for young children learning to write in Essentials, I decided to make a real salt box. I wanted to make one using only materials I had on hand. Counting the time to wander around the house looking for supplies, I only needed about twenty minutes to make this box.

I found a box that had arrived in the mail full of pictures (minus the pictures) that opened nicely and covered it with the remnants of a shimmery green gift bag. For the bottom of the inside, I cut a piece of black construction paper to fit. (That paper is perfect for colored chalk drawings, just as an aside.) I used double-stick tape to hold the paper in place on top and inside.

On the inside, I made sure to put double-stick tape lined up in the corners so they would stay nicely in place.

I added packing tape around the edges of the green bag so no little fingers would be tempted to peel it off.

After adding salt, I realized I needed to tape up the corners on the bottom. The box had enough spaces for salt to sprinkle out on the table and floor.

I think it'll be perfect! If it doesn't last forever, I'll make another one. The girls have already been using this box on a regular basis. Second Daughter in particular loves to pull it out, but I have to watch her because after a bit of drawing she likes to scoop up the salt and let it slide through her fingers -- and not always back into the box.

Of course, I put the extra bits of shimmery green paper in the craft box so Second Daughter can continue gluing creations like this masterpiece:

I searched online a bit and found some other homemade salt boxes (much more beautiful than mine): this one and this one were my favorites.  (I think the sandpaper letters in the second link look awesome! So much nicer than the ones I made. I have been tempted to make new ones with cursive letters...if I ever get around to it, I'm going to put them on colored card stock and round the corners. Somehow I have a feeling I'll be making those for my grandchildren.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Favorite Picture Books: The Weight of a Mass

The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso, illustrated by Katalin Szegedi

This is a book for Catholics, all Catholics, not just Catholic children.

I love the illustrations. Ms. Szegedi is Hungarian and her style lends an Old World flair to the illustrations of a grand Cathedral and flowing gowns.

In the midst of preparations for the marriage of the King, a widow begs a bit of stale bread of a baker in exchange for her prayers at Mass. The baker refuses in an effort to convince his son of the worthlessness of piety. He cruelly jokes at the little value of a Mass. Writing "one Mass" on a strip of tissue paper, he tosses it on the scale to see how much bread it would be worth. Miraculously and enjoyably, the pile of pastries, cakes, loaves, rolls and delicacies grows tremendously, never outweighing the Mass.

Awed by the miracle, crowds surge through the streets for the Holy Mass and the wedding, including the baker and his son (who may now have more freedom to pursue his greatest love, his faith).

My favorite part of the whole book is the end. The widow takes only a slice of bread when the baker offers her anything she'd like. She was too ashamed to take more. "You see, my friend--like you--I, too, do not know the weight of a Mass."

I think it likely very few of us understand the true value of the Mass, but reading books like this one can help a great love for the Eucharist grow in our hearts. This is a perfect book to read with children preparing for their First Communion, as a First Communion gift, as a gift for godchildren, or even as a beautiful gift for an adult being received into the Catholic church. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Second Son Is Two

What can I say about my little man? Every day he is learning new words, trying out new skills, and pushing all the boundaries. His laugh is delightful and infectious and so easy to provoke with some tickles or nibbles under his chin!

Six days before his second birthday, he slipped and fell as he was getting out of the baby pool while the older kids had swimming lessons. He broke his top two front teeth and had to have them extracted the next day. He did extremely well after the surgery. I don't think he misses his teeth at all and now he has an even more adorable gap-toothed smile.

Scrunchy-face smile, just like Second Daughter used to give us (minus the teeth)

They also had to file down the one on his right. You might be able to tell it's a little shorter. It was chipped, too, and too sharp.

He asks all the time to listen to a "Bob CD." (That would be VeggieTales, of course.) At nap time, he always asks for "Dora Elmo" as if we'll one day say, "Oh, ok. We'll let you watch TV instead of take your nap." He has a lot to learn about parents!

Wearing Second Daughter's Elmo shirt
Recently he asked for a sip of my iced tea. When he drank some, he made a sour face then declared, "Mama tea yucky!"

He will do a downward dog pretty much anytime someone asks. I really need to get a picture of this!

When someone does something he doesn't like, he yells, "Bad baby!," which is cute, and hits, which is not so cute. He also tips chairs, throws things and empties bookshelves onto the floor.

In the morning, he will hide under his blanket and giggle when we go in to take him out of his crib, but will become upset if you leave without actually picking him up.

He hates to have his diaper changed, fighting it nearly every single time.

He is incredibly shy when we're out of the house, even with people he's known his whole life. He's been to story hour once a week almost since he was born. One of the other moms there is his godmother. Still he usually refuses to talk or look at any of them.

He recently discovered crayons and will busily scribble on any paper he can find. Then he will eat the crayon.

He loves to find pencils left by his brother and sisters and color on walls until he is caught.

He loves to climb. He will climb anything. Taking after Second Daughter, I have pulled him from the top of the futon, the dog crate and the piano. I have pulled him down from a precarious balance on the arm of a chair. He also loves to jump, especially jumping off things. (It's hard to believe he wasn't jumping when he slipped and broke those teeth.)

Every evening, when Kansas Dad gets home from work, Second Son runs over to him, "Shoes walk dog." He lifts his little arms and bounces up and down to go along.

He loves to jump and can even get both feet off the ground at the same time.

He can drink from a regular cup, but you have to watch him closely. When he's satisfied, he dumps whatever is left wherever he's standing or sitting.

He loves smoothies, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, Cheerios, ice cream, spinach, carrots (especially baby carrots), chocolate, whole milk (which he sometimes calls water, very confusing for everyone involved), noodles, Ranch dressing, croutons, baked ziti casserole, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, white rice, brown rice, sliced toasted almonds, "yummy apples," pears, yogurt and cottage cheese (in moderation). He is indifferent to pancakes and eggs. He's actually not much of a breakfast guy at all, other than some milk.

Haircut for his birthday party

He hates having his hair cut. Before his birthday party, Kansas Dad shaved it all off and Second Son survived better than most times thanks to a friend's tip to play YouTube videos. We set up the laptop and watched Carmy and Claire.

He does a fabulous imitation of "force lightning." He is attracted to everything Star Wars and Mario related because he loves his big brother so much.

The Tooth Fairy brought Super Grover instead of money because two-year-olds don't really care about money yet.
Every day, he's the first one "ready go bye-bye," begging for shoes and heading out the door. Wherever we are, whatever we're doing, when you ask if he's ready to go bye-bye, he nods and races for his shoes and the door or, if we're out, the van. It's all about the going. He loves to race to the van, get in first and either sit in the driver's seat or hide in the back. We usually carry him out to avoid dragging him to his seat and enduring the inevitable wails.

 He talks so so much now! In fact, I think he started talking even more once they took out his teeth last week. My favorite word is "buddy" for "bunny." He says First Daughter's name quite well, but First Son and Second Daughter are both "Sheedee." Once he got very close to saying Second Daughter's nickname perfectly. He won't even attempt his own name, though he says "my" clearly enough.

Despite his accident at the pool (which he may not even remember), he loves all things water. He loves the sprinklers at parks and at church during donut club. We've already been back to the pool and he jumped right back in, literally. (He says "bath" so sweetly now that he has to work extra hard to enunciate that "th" sound!)

Happy birthday, Second Son! We hope you have a wonderful and exciting third year, but this time without losing any teeth!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Second Grade Memory Work: Bible Verses and Poetry

After morning prayers, we pull out the memory book. (Now we have two, as First Daughter was so disruptive during First Son's memory work, I invited her to begin her own at the end of March. She was thrilled and slightly less bothersome when First Son recited.) Here's a record of First Son's memory work for second grade.

Bible Verses

All of our Bible verses are from the NRSV. I went through and copied many I liked onto index cards (which are stored separately from the binder linked above). We had plenty left from the ones I coped before first grade from which to choose.
  • John 15:10
  • Gen 1:1-2
  • Phil 4:13
  • 1 John 1:8-9
  • Matthew 18:21-22
  • John 15:16
  • Joshua 1:9
  • Phil 2:3-4
  • Hebrews 11:6
For those wondering, First Daughter's Bible verses were:
  • Psalm 118:105
  • Matt 18:20
After the first one, I realized I should arrange the order differently than First Son learned them in kindergarten so they will not be reciting the same verses on the same days when the verses are moved back to the once-a-month category. You can find a list of the Bible verses First Son memorized in kindergarten here. First Son's first grade memory verses are here.


We begin by reading the poem aloud each day. As First Son becomes more familiar, I ask him to fill in words and phrases until he's ready to attempt the entire poem on his own.
First Daughter started at the end of March:
First Son's first grade poetry is listed in this post. I read poetry in kindergarten with him, but we didn't try to memorize any. We still read poetry together at least once a week (everyone listens!) but I consider that separate from our memory work.

Whenever I see a poem I think might be a good one to memorize, I add it to a Word document (one poem per page). Once a year, I print it out (and will do so twice now that we have two binders) and put it at the back of the memory binder. As the child masters a poem, I select one from my options based on the child's interests and the time of year. I have pulled poems from a great many books of poetry and the one I would most highly recommend for young children who want to memorize a poem or two is Poems and Prayers for the Very Young. This little book alone is enough for any preschool or kindergarten poetry memory work you'd like to do. It is a shame it's out of print, but I was able to request a copy from PaperBackSwap.com.

Other Stuff

We're always working on some other memory work, too. First Daughter finished the year learning to spell her full name. She's still working on it, but her middle and last names are hard! In second grade, First Son memorized:
  • the Act of Contrition
  • the Rite of Reconciliation
  • Dad's cell phone number
  • Mom's cell phone number
  • St. Gertrude's prayer for souls in purgatory
  • Grammy's cell phone number
  • the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:12-13)
  • how to spell all the months of the year
  • an excerpt from St. Patrick's Breastplate (which has turned out to be really difficult; we worked on this the last couple months of the year and he still hasn't quite gotten it)
Catechism Questions (and Answers)
I also have room in our memory binder for catechism questions. In the past, I copied them from the Faith and Life book for the year. Next year, First Son will begin the questions from The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism (No. 1) which we'll continue using through fifth grade. First Daughter will be memorizing the questions and answers from The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism (No. 0) which she'll continue through second grade.

Our memory work would go much easier in the fall if we continued it over the summer, but we don't. We just spend the first month or so reviewing it all at the beginning of the year.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Second Daughter Is Four

Second Daughter is four years old today! In honor of birthdays, I like to write a little about the "baby" so here's a post all about Second Daughter Right Now.

She can do jumping jacks if she really concentrates, but they quickly deteriorate which is hilarious for anyone watching.

helping Daddy with push ups

She can write her name, sort of. She gets most of the letters but not always facing the right way or in the right order.

She almost always wants to sing the Cat Chat version of the Hail Mary for her night-time prayer. She asks her name-saints to pray for her each night, but has a special love for Mary. That's good, because she's going to need it.

She prefers daily Mass to Sunday Mass, because it's shorter. She will tell anyone, loudly, that she does not like to go to church. During Mass, she cannot be still or quiet. She will often cry that she is too tired to stand or kneel, at which she is told children who cannot stand or kneel during Mass cannot play on the playground after Mass. That will get her body moving, but the wailing and gnashing of teeth continues.

Notice how everyone else looks awesome below...and then there's Second Daughter. Kansas Dad says this picture captures her perfectly.

She has only two chores (though I've been meaning to increase that). She has to change from pajamas to clothes before breakfast and she has to clear her plate and cup after every meal. Have you seen the video online of the girl carrying her bowl two feet to the sink and sobbing hysterically that it's too heavy and too far? Yeah, that's Second Daughter.

She is the most disobedient child! She is particularly difficult at bed-time; she will just chatter and play in the dark in her room for an hour or more after bedtime. Some days she tells me, though, "Today I'm going to try to be good." And melts my heart.

She loves the salt box and all the activities in the Montessori cabinet, but she dumps them all at the same time (or leaves them where Second Son can do so) and gets in trouble.

She hates eating her vegetables but will choke them down if necessary to get candy or desert. (Really, I never saw someone choke something down before.) She loves all candy. Unlike the other children, we have to strictly monitor her during candy-time or she will simply keep eating until we take her bag away.

She loves to brush her teeth. I think it's because the toothpaste is sweet.

She requested a Winnie-the-Pooh cake - chocolate with chocolate chips in it - for her birthday. A wonderful friend is making it for us because cakes are not my thing. Her party will be combined with her brother (who turns two in four days) and she is already excited about it: hot dogs, Cheetos, and chocolate cake. It's practically heaven.

I think she's getting thinner, but she is still perfectly soft and squishy. She doesn't like to be tickled (or so she sometimes tell us) but she will still usually grant a hug when asked.

She loves to dance. She'll spin and leap like a ballerina. She also loves to dress up before her dances (or anytime).

She loves to draw and make other art, especially using the contents of the craft box. Give that girl a piece of paper, some scissors, a glue stick and some stuff and she's a happy girl for hours. Sadly, she also tries to draw murals on her closet door and random walls all around the house.

She talks far too often about cutting her own hair for my liking.

She has an interesting fashion sense. She believes in layers for all weather, including the broiling heat of summer.

She started swimming lessons for the first time this summer. She loves playing in the baby pool during First Son and First Daughter's lesson time. Her lessons are mainly blowing bubbles and learning to put her head under water, but she's thrilled to be big enough for them.

Kansas Dad says, "She's full of life. She's the opposite in many ways of her mother." And now everyone who knows us in real life can laugh because they'll know exactly what he means.

Happy birthday my dear sweet baby girl!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Favorite Picture Books: Bagels from Benny

Bagels from Benny by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Dusan Petricic

I requested this book from the library and couldn't remember why by the time it was available. Perhaps it was a providential accident because it's a wonderful book!

Benny works every day in his grandfather's bakery where the most delicious bagels are made. When people thank him for his bagels, Grandfather defers, saying God should be thanked because he has made the wheat grow from the good earth.

After thanking God in a prayer, Benny wonders why he hasn't received a response and decides more drastic action is needed. He asks his grandfather to pay him each week with a bag of bagels. Slipping quietly into the synagogue, he places the bag in the Ark. At this point, many readers and children may be shocked; after all, the Ark is sacred. But God has a plan for Benny's bagels and a lesson for all of us at the end of the book about thankfulness, gratitude, the loving care of God and using His gifts to bless others.

Bagels for Benny is based on a Jewish folktale. Though it's in English, I like how the text is aligned right as Hebrew would be. The illustrations are warm and Benny's expressions, especially on the double-page spread showing weeks of delivering bagels to God, are enchanting.

Find a copy and read it with your little ones!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prayers for Second Son

This morning, Second Son slipped and fell while he was climbing out of the baby pool while the older two were in the midst of swimming lessons. Normally, this would not be such a big deal. Toddlers slip and fall all the time. But poor my poor baby boy (who will be two on Monday) fell right on his top teeth, cracking one horribly and damaging some others.

We took him in to see the pediatric dentist where they told us he would need to be put under sedation for one tooth to be extracted. (It's broken right up into the nerve within the gum line and has a dangling piece so we were not too surprised.) One of the other teeth is chipped into a sharp point and will be filed down a little. The other big front tooth may need a crown or may be alright without one; she'll know more when Second Son can't feel her moving it around to check on it.

The very wonderful dentist and all those who work with her are coming in early to do his surgery at 6:30 am tomorrow (Wednesday). I am so thankful as just getting through this day was very difficult;  he wanted to eat and drink but everything he put in his mouth caused pain. We poured enough liquid in him to get through the night, but I'm sure he is still hungry.

I am nervous about my little guy being sedated tomorrow. And I'm mourning his adorable baby tooth smile. It's just a tooth and we'll all get over it; but tonight I am sad.

Please pray he gets through surgery well. Please pray his mouth heals quickly so he can eat, drink, and be merry again. Please pray for the other kids who are suffering a little from the chaos that was our day today and the anticipated stress of tomorrow. Please pray for the very dear friend (and her family) who graciously said we could drop off three sleepy kids at 6 am on our way to the surgery. Please pray for Kansas Dad who had a lot of work to do this week and is instead driving kids around, sitting in waiting rooms, and coercing a toddler to drink a sip of water now and then. Finally, please pray for me. I have a tendency to cry in sympathy with my children rather than being strong for them and helping them through rough times.

Hopefully, we'll get through the next few days and will be ready for a birthday party on Saturday for Second Daughter and Second Son and it'll all be a good story for Second Son's baby book.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What I Loved About Last Week (39th Ed.)

1. I spent an afternoon just with First Daughter. She came with me to the dentist's office (played on the Kindle Fire). We ran some errands and then met Grammy for some fun time shopping.

2. First Son had alter server training this week. Can he really be old enough to be an altar server? He loved it!

3. On Thursday, while First Son was at his altar server pizza party and playing with a friend, the other kids and I went into town. Second Daughter had her free three year vision and eye check (all is great!). Then we went school shopping (yikes). But we celebrated with a picnic at a park with friends and then a bit of time at the science museum before picking up First Son again. Everyone fell asleep on the way home (except me of course!).

4. On Friday we had a lovely play date with friends!

5. We had a nice quiet weekend at home without any activities besides Mass. We needed the time to calm down because today...swimming lessons start!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Homeschool Review: Living Faith Kids

Living Faith Kids
Daily Catholic Devotions

This quarterly magazine provides an excerpt from one of the daily Mass readings for each day followed by a few thought-provoking paragraphs which attempt to connect the reading with a child's life. They each end with a prayer of one sentence. At the bottom of each page are the references for all of the readings so they can be quickly found in a Bible on hand.

I subscribed to this magazine when I was looking for a way to incorporate the daily Mass readings into our schedule without driving my children away from Scripture. I originally tried reading the daily Mass Scripture readings in their entirety and the children complained mightily. Now, we do a lot of things about which they complain, but my goal with Scripture is not just to read it aloud, but to help them develop a great love for the Word of God. I was therefore searching about for another option when I read about this magazine on one of my Yahoo groups.

In many ways, this little magazine was perfect. We read it twice a week in second grade. Generally, I would read the Scripture verse or verses and then First Son would read the reflection aloud. In general, I found the verses excerpted to be well-selected and the reflections to be pertinent and appropriate for my second grade son. Rather than a narration, I would usually ask him to somehow apply what he'd read to his own life. Some days he did better at this than others. He loved the crosswords, puzzles, and other fun activities they often include for feast days. He also always insisted we spend a few minutes reading the Bee-Attitudes comic on the back whenever a new issue arrived. The illustrations are surprisingly well-done.

I was pleased enough with the magazine to extend our subscription for next year. In third grade, I'm going to ask First Son to read the Scripture excerpts and reflections on his own twice a week and then (probably) write one sentence for me. Ideally, he'd write more of a narration-style sentence (how the excerpt and reflection applies to his life), but at first I will probably just ask him to copy from the Scripture reading or the prayer at the end.

Additionally, our Scripture study will include a story from My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories twice a week. This is technically our kindergarten Bible story book (a new one because we've read through the others so many times), but I'm very excited about it. Because it uses the actual Scripture (rather than an adapted version of the stories), I think it will be appropriate for First Son as well, so everyone will listen in. On another day, we will be attending daily Mass. (Oh, pray for me alone with my children at Mass! Or maybe pray Kansas Dad will always be able to join us!)

I ordered a subscription on the website just for us, but there are good discounts for bulk orders. That would be a good option for families that meet regularly who want to combine orders.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Product Review: Tovolo Star Popsicle Mold

My girls and Second Son adore popsicles. The ones at the store are expensive or full of high fructose corn syrup or both! A few years ago, I used some gift certificate money to buy these Tovolo Star Ice Pop Molds, which I had read were BPA-free. I loved them so much, I bought a second set. All summer long, I leave enough room for them on the top shelf of my freezer and try to keep them filled. I like to send the girls outside with one each just after I put the baby down for his nap. By the time they come back in (sticky, of course), he's sleeping well and doesn't wake when they make a little noise.

It takes about five minutes to fill them up and another three minutes to clean up the mess. They usually have to stay in the freezer overnight before they're chilled enough to eat, but I bet it'd be faster in the deep freeze.

When I make popsicles, I use one cup of apple juice and one and a half cups of frozen fruit (whatever is in the freezer). I blend it up and pour it in - so very easy! First Daughter loves to put the tops on for me. The "recipe" is very forgiving; I've used other kinds of juice and yogurt for different tastes or textures. I've dropped marshmallows or tiny chocolate candies in before putting on the tops. I've made instant pudding and poured it in. I've even made hot chocolate and poured it in. My girls will eat all of it. (First Son just doesn't like any kind of popsicles. Ice cream is about the only thing he'll eat cold.) I've read some people put in a little honey or corn syrup to soften them up, but I've never had my children complain they're too hard.

These molds are easy to use and easy to clean. I just put them in the soapy water and pretty much rinse them out a few minutes later. (I think they're dishwasher-safe, but I hand-wash mine.) To get the popsicle out, run hot water over them for a few minutes. If the top comes off without the popsicle, just put the top back on and put them back in the freezer.

We dropped one once right out of the freezer and can see the crack in the plastic, but it still holds the liquid and freezes just fine.

Beware, though, some fruits stain badly. I can usually get out blueberry and strawberry but the blackberry (or something) in our frozen berry mix did not come out at all. Sometimes I make the girls change into "popsicle clothes" before they can eat one.

I only wish I could buy more of the pop molds without the star base (for less than the whole set). Then I could pull them off the base when they're frozen, leave them in a pile in the freezer and make more!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: Catholic Icing's "A Picture Book of the Mass"

A Picture Book of the Mass, Illustrated by the Masters, created by Lacy of Catholic Icing (a site every Catholic mom with young children should know, so bookmark it now if you haven't already!)

I was so excited to see these booklets, I ordered a bunch for all my kids and each of our god-families. I asked for an extra copy in exchange for an honest review on my blog. Sometimes this works and I'm so glad this is one of those times!

We have had a number of missals in our home and all of them seem to be full of pictures of Mass in the 1980s or funky illustrations that just don't seem to do Mass the justice it deserves. This book features beautiful full-color high quality reproductions of real art relevant to each part of the Mass. Only two pages don't have any artwork on them and those both have a full-page painting on the facing page. I've never seen a missal quite like this one, especially priced so reasonably, and think it will be a great blessing. Lacy says on her website she thinks this book is great for all Catholics, including adults, and I agree, but I also think all our children deserve missals like these, that feature so much Beauty along with the awe-inspiring sacrifice of the Mass. There's a post over at Catholic Icing with lots of pictures of some of the beautiful artwork.

The text is very simple, showing only the most important and consistent responses and parts of the Mass. It can be used easily throughout the year and in any parish despite differences in celebrations. Of course, it is based on the new translation of the Roman Missal and is published with the approval of the Committee on Diving Worship. The people's responses are all in red, easy to find and read. There are small icons showing when to sit, stand or kneel (enormously helpful for those visiting or new to the Catholic faith).

I just received these today but am really excited to see how the children use them at Mass this weekend. I think helping Second Daughter follow along in the book might help her focus more at Mass. She'll be four next week and has great difficulties being still and quiet at Mass, but she loves Mary and the saints and does want to be good (or so she says); I think she'll love having her own Mass book. I'll help her follow along, of course.

The booklets are already on back-order, but they'll be shipping again on July 23rd. You can go ahead and order now and they'll ship when they're in stock again!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I do not receive anything if you follow a link above and make a purchase.

If you are a parent of one of our godchildren or a godparent of one of our children, I have one of these books for you already. I was thinking of saving them for Christmas, but I'm not sure I can wait that long. If you want it earlier, let me know and I'll get it to you.

My Favorite Picture Books: Mr. Williams

Mr. Williams written and illustrated by Karen Barbour

Mr. Williams was a real person, a friend of the author's mother. She has created this picture book based on his words and it shows. Sitting and reading this book is like listening to a wise man recount his youth in simple but profound words. He was born in 1929. His large family worked every day (except Christmas), struggling to feed themselves and make ends meet. In one page, he admits he feared white people and that white boys would sometimes threaten them with his cars. Because his language is so straightforward, readers and listeners are left to wonder what this means without forcing any specific reaction.

The illustrations are not my usual style; they are bold with occasional green skies and blue faces, but their very flamboyance interacts with the starkness of the words in a fabulous way.

Mr. Williams had a difficult youth, full of hard work, but reading this book does not give the impression that he or his family were unhappy. They seemed to love each other and to work well together. Reading this book will give a young child a wonderful glimpse into the life of poor black Louisiana farmers in the 1930s and 1940s, but more than that, it will make readers wonder what beauty and goodness surround us every minute of every day (and night). It's worth sharing even if you're not reading through American History in picture books.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review: The Winged Watchman

The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum

This is a fictional account of a family that lives in a windmill in Holland during the German occupation of World War II. It's fantastic. This good Catholic family (there are scenes in confession and Mass) offers sanctuary to those in hiding from the Germans and food to any who knock on their door during the terrible famines. There are glimpses and intrusions of the war on every page but because Father's job is necessary (so he can't be forced to labor for the Germans), the boys are too young to be drafted, and they are outside the cities where the food shortages are worst, the family is as warm and secure as they could be. Tragedy touches them before the end, but it's cushioned so I would be comfortable reading this book aloud to all ages. (I'm trying to shield the girls from the Holocaust for a while longer and First Son will only learn a small bit of it next year in third grade.)

The book gives wonderful opportunities for discussing some of the most difficult topics around war. Father Kobus and Joris discuss why God does not just stop the Germans from doing bad things with some great insights for young children. Later, Joris and his mother discuss why she is right to lie to an informer in order to protect three children living with them.

I fully intend to read this book aloud to my children, but I think I will wait until we're studying World War II in World History (when First Son is in fourth grade, First Daughter in first), mainly because I've decided to focus on life in America during World War II next year when we study it in American History.

Goodness, Beauty and Truth are at the heart of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it myself and highly recommend it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What I Loved About Last Week (38th Ed.)

1. First Son won an honorable mention in a contest with The Catholic Company! We already spent our gift certificate - on a new Glory Story CD (selected by First Son) and a statue of Mary for our prayer shelf.

2. Second Son can jump!

3. Second Son says "Shee-dee" for First Son's name and Second Daughter's name, which is hilarious because it's nothing at all like their names. Second Son knows this, because he cracks up laughing whenever he says it.

4. Donuts and sprinklers were back this week!

5. On the Fourth of July, we had planned to go to the science museum, but they lost power! The kids were mollified with ice cream. Then we went to Grammy's house for a water balloon fight (with Kansas Dad, not me; I had the camera) and firecrackers. Second Son quickly decided the firecrackers were no fun at all. When he started crying, "No, Daddy, no!" whenever Kansas Dad went to light a new one, I decided to take him inside. He did like the little snappers, though. He wanted more when his box was gone.

6. Second Son says "sit" but begins with an "sh" sound instead of "s." It's really funny, though it's good the kids don't get it yet.

7. Our summer reading program took a field trip to a children's theater productions. Second Daughter was enthralled with the shimmery dress. Second Son was just mesmerized by the whole thing.

8. The kids went to a day camp at our parish this weekend hosted by a group out of Nebraska. Second Son and I enjoyed a quiet day just the two of us. We listened to a lot of Bob and Larry CDs.

9. My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary this weekend!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Review: Made to Crave

Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lisa TerKeurst

I started reading this book last summer with a couple of women from church. One of them had ordered the DVDs that went along with the book, so we would read on our own, then come together to watch the DVD and discuss everything. I read most of it last summer and finished it in a final spurt in the spring. Then it took me months to find the time to review it.

I don't like to write about the need to be healthier for lots of reasons. The top of that long list is a reluctance to admit I'm displeased with my current health and to open myself up to comments from people who read the blog that I "look fabulous" or "like you've been losing weight" which are based more on the desire to make me feel good than any real difference they've seen. So, please feel no need to say anything if you happen to see me in person.

This book is very easy to read. Ms. TerKeurst has an easy conversational style; I felt very much like I would like to sit down and have tea with her. She was upbeat and realistic but she didn't gloss over anything. She reiterates that though God loves us just as we are, He wants better for us.

Ms. TerKeurst provides a good Scriptural study in eating, food, and cravings. It doesn't provide examples of diets or recommendations for how to go about being healthier; it's more about finding Biblical reasons and supports for converting to and maintaining a healthier lifestyle. I found many of her insights helpful and revealing.

In particular, I liked one part in the book where she encouraged the readers to focus on obedience rather than results. It's hard not to look at the scale in the morning or focus on how clothes are still tight, but it's not really about how much we weigh. It should be about eating food that is nutritious and beneficial to our bodies, moving and using our bodies to their full potential and focusing on what God wants of us (rather than on how bummed we feel when we look in the mirror or at the scale or go shopping for clothes). It's better to slowly but permanently change our habits than to see quick results that disappear just as quickly.

It's not a Catholic book. Though I think it would be valuable for Catholics, I also would encourage Catholics to read it with other Catholics. It seems like there would be a lot of room for discussion about the spiritual food we receive in the Eucharist at Mass.

I had the Participant's Guide as well. I thought it was nice to have, but there are plenty of questions and thoughts to ponder within the book itself so it's not necessary.

I can't compare this book to others in its genre, because I haven't read anything like this before. I think it could be a nice supplement for Christian and Catholic women who are attempting to change their eating and exercise habits for the better.