Best of the Web

Annnnnd…I apparently can’t resist a good guest-post opportunity. Bonnie at A Knotted Life asked for guest posts a while back, so I jumped at that chance, too. It was fun! If you haven’t checked out Bonnie’s blog, do, at least to read her stories of her son’s miracle and learn about the cause for Fulton J. Sheen’s canonization–his intercession had a huge role in their son’s miracle at birth!


I’ve never done a “best of the web” post before, but when Bonnie was looking for guest posts and suggested it as a post option, I thought, “how fun! I can use things from Pinterest and my time-wasting moments to fill a blog! I don’t have to think too hard!” which is perfect for me right now. I can’t think much this week, after hours in the orthopedic office to get a cast on my Little Man, keeping up with our homeschool schedule so we can still have our summer break when planned, getting through graduation with my hubs…I’ve missed an appointment because my brain has been so filled with other things. Not thinking too hard about a post is ideal. Yes, I know. I stooped and lowered the bar for myself, because thinking too hard is overrated.

I think this will be a pretty good selection, though. Lots of fun, lots of yum, lots of other good stuff. Basically, the things my mind thinks about for .17 seconds before another shiny thing comes along for me to think about. It’s Best of the Web from my wandering mind.

Shall we get to the list?

1. A Summer Reading List for Tweens


(note, these in my photo are just books we’ve read and loved, not that any are on the list. And some aren’t even for tweens…but hey, that tween started with Dr. Suess, right?)

…I like to talk about books we’re reading. But if you know me at all or read my bio, you’ll know that I’d rather do almost anything than sit and read a book (though, I admit, that is slowly changing as I get into really good books). My 9 year old daughter reads like it’s going out of style, and since I wasn’t a big reader as a kid (don’t get me wrong, I’m literate, just didn’t read for fun), I don’t know what to suggest to her, nor do I have the time to preview all kinds of current books and authors before she reads them. I would have to read 24/7 and hire a cook, house cleaner, and send all the children to school in order to keep ahead of my girl. That’s why I love lists of good books for tweens.


And for the rest, do head over to A Knotted Life!

Books with Kids: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Welcome to month 5 of my “Books with Kids” series! It is hard to believe that May is not only here already, but in full-swing. Last month we finished reading a biography of Saint John Paul II, just in time for his canonization. It was a great read, and I highly recommend it.

This month we’re moving into fiction and fantasy, with “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. LionWitchWardrobeWe have read this as a family before, about 2 years ago. The second time through is even more exciting, and it’s hard to put down once we start! We stop every now and then to discuss the themes of choosing right over wrong, and how easily we can fall into sin from temptations (poor Edmund, he keeps telling himself it is too late to turn back, thinks so much of the Turkish delight that he forgets how sick he felt after eating the whole box…). I just love how imaginative C.S. Lewis wrote the story, and how detailed his descriptions are; we are all drawn right into the story! On days such as today (we’re having another spell of winter weather!), it is not hard to imagine trudging through a wintery, snow-covered land.

For this book study, I hope to enrich our reading with more than watching the movie as a treat once we finish. A quick internet search pulls up dozens and dozens of resources for unit studies, crafts, and recipes. Here are a collection of my top searches, from which I will be gathering ideas and using the premade studies. No need to reinvent the wheel, eh?

Home Scholar Books has a very thorough collection of unit studies, with links to science project ideas, Biblical connections, and more.

Free coloring pages to download and print can be found at

Educator’s guides, values’ based activities, and quizzes can be found at the C.S. Lewis Foundation website. These look promising. I will mostly likely use the discussion ideas to deepen our understanding of the themes, but not do all the classroom activities.

There is a lapbook style unit study at Confessions of a Homeschooler. It’s not free, but for the low cost, may be worth buying.

This duct tape sword and shield look easy, fun, and customizable for reenacting scenes from story.

Here are some copywork pages with C.S. Lewis quotes if our study turns to include more than the story but also the author himself.

For those who like to color and play with dolls, there is a darling Lucy paper doll printable.

A very nice map is available at Narnia Web.

And, who can resist trying one of the main sweets of the story, Turkish Delight? It may have been enchanted by the Witch, but this recipe claims to be¬† “non-evil” and delightfully tasting. Worth a try! Or, you might find a box of the sweet confection in stores such as World Market. We have even seen it before in TJMaxx.

Art project ideas:

Diorama, painting of the wood and lamppost, design a shield, design a dress, design and build a castle. The possibilities are nearly endless.

We are up to chapter 12 already–they keep asking for more! It’s great to read a chapter and have the kids so interested they want to keep going. If you have read this before and have ideas for discussion or activities, please do share!

Tea on Tuesdays

tea on tuesdays

Here we are again! After whirlwind Mondays–the day I perpetually over-plan just in case we are really on the ball with hitting the books–Tuesday rolls around and I’m ready to slack off. It’s nice to have a plan in place already for something fun, special, and worthwhile to wrap up Tuesday afternoons. It’s been just about a month since we started adopting the Brave Writer Poetry Tea Time into our own homeschool routine. I’m holding out hope that one day soon all 4 of the big kids will enjoy the poetry just as much as the tea and treats. ūüėČ

This week, I am even prepared with a treat! We are going to have my version of gluten-free Nanaimo Bars. I’ve had this recipe saved on my Pinterest boards (2 years, actually). It looks so tasty…but I’ve never had them before, so hopefully anyone who has had them, won’t be upset that I’ve changed the recipe up a bit. I subbed gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies for the graham crackers, and used half a box of vanilla pudding in place of the custard powder. So far, it’s looking great. (and, it is great. I couldn’t resist a sample while cutting the bars for the pictures.)

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The bottom layer was so tasty as I licked the spoon! I can’t wait to share this with the kids later today.

In the last few weeks, we have recited the poetry we’re learning from The Harp and the Laurel Wreath, and I have read a few other poems I’ve found using my tablet. Last week, each child chose a poem from a list of silly poetry and read it aloud for us. It is so rewarding to me to see how excited and enthusiastic my young boys are to participate! Especially my wiggly Comedian–he is so proud to recite his rhymes (such as the Itsy Bitsy Spider), and excited to “read” new poems with me. This week, I’m prepared with a book of poems I checked out at the library. It is a collection of pieces of Shakespeare’s works, talking about the seasons of the year. I’m looking forward to this; and I think it will be fun to read since in the last 10 days, we’ve had nearly all the weather for each season!

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Celebrating a Soon-to-be Saint: JPII

I was 16 when I found myself in a hot, dusty, over-crowded arena outside Paris, surrounded by people from all over the world. On my way back to my group’s camping spot from using one of the 15 total potties (only a slight exaggeration), the large aisles were blocked off and people were no longer able to cross through the sections. I was not able to get back to my group. (in hind-sight, why was I not with a buddy? It probably would have helped me feel less lonely and would have been safer overall…but that was 17 years ago and I was a teen…what was I thinking?) I was hot. Tired. Dehydrated. All I wanted was to be back with my group, to settle in for the evening, and get something to eat.

But the aisles were blocked off.

I didn’t know why, so I was upset.


Funny thing about God, is that He makes things happen for the good. Even annoying things like not being able to rejoin a group at World Youth Day.

After some time passed, there was a bit of commotion from behind…and wouldn’t you know, I was trapped just before the Pope Mobile was about to come down the aisle.

Where there is a Pope Mobile, there is a Pope.


I was surrounded by a group of Lebanese pilgrims at World Youth Day 1997, in Paris, France…about to be less than 10 feet away from Pope John Paul II. Talk about not only good, but AMAZING.

I am a pretty short girl, so I was standing on tip-toes trying to see as the Pope Mobile slowly made its way down the aisle. A sweet, dear man who was in the group around me, from Lebanon, motioned to me that I could sit on his shoulders. I did. I was on top of the world, sitting on that man’s shoulders…and I saw Pope John Paul II for the first time that day. It was deeply moving; I was overcome with joy and emotion.

¬†(I wish I had pictures, but 1997 was before camera phones, ya’ll. It was before I owned a digital camera. And since I was on my way back from the bathroom break, I didn’t have my camera with me. Sorry for no images!)

Since then, I saw JPII in person, from less than 15 away, again, in St. Peter’s Square. It was another moving experience. He was a powerful, loving, joyful, wise man. His influence reached beyond the Catholic Church. JPII was loved by many, admired and respected by people of all faiths.


This month, he will be canonized an official saint in the Catholic Church! We are very excited about this, and will be spending this month reading about him and preparing to celebrate his canonization. As a special patron of our family, I think it will turn into an annual celebration! My husband asks for Blessed John Paul II’s intercession each night during our family prayers, and our children have grown to love him this year since we took up skiing as a family activity. JPII loved the mountains and used to ski!

I want to share our plans, so that if your family would also like to celebrate JPII this month, you can find inspiration in my ideas.


What we’re reading:

“Blessed John Paul II: Be Not Afraid” by Susan Helen Wallace, FSP
“My Dear Young Friends”, a collection of words from Bl. JPII to teens on life, love, and courage
“For the Children: Words of Love and Inspiration from His Holiness Pope John Paul II”

Copywork of favorite quotes:
(will vary, depending on how much we choose, but this one taken from the “For the Children” book will definitely be done)
“True happiness lies in giving ourselves in love to our brothers and sisters.”

“Be not afraid.”

“If you follow Jesus’ advice and pray to God constantly, then you will learn to pray well. God himself will teach you.”

What we’re listening to:
The Glory Stories edition on Bl. John Paul II

What we’ll be eating:
Have you heard of Papal Cream Cake? It sounds amazingly delicious. Not originally called “Papal”, this cream cake was a favorite of Bl. John Paul II, and has been renamed because of his fondness for it! The cream custard filling between layers of flaky dough looks so tasty…

Also, apparently Bl. John Paul II enjoyed a certain risotto which was prepared for him, with spring vegetables. I’ll be making both dishes for our family to eat in his honor.

What’s on the “big screen”:

There are a few different movies to choose from about his life. Since we recently gave up Netflix, we’ll have to see which our library has available for borrowing.


For more about Bl. John Paul II, visit these sites:


A miracle story is featured on Catholic Exchange

I am so excited about this month, and celebrating this soon-to-be saint! If you have ideas to share, please do! The more, the merrier!

Books with Kids: “The King of the Golden City”

March is here, and it’s time for a new book in our house! In January and February, we read new books. They were great stories of our patron saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, and of the angels. This month, we’ll be rereading “The King of the Golden City”, by Mother Mary Loyola.

The King of the Golden City” is an allegory, showing the relationship between a young child and Jesus, as a way of sharing with children what it is like to receive Jesus into our hearts and souls in Holy Communion. We read this a few years ago, when Chickadee was preparing for First Holy Communion. This year is Sweet Pea’s turn, and I’m so excited to read this again with her and the whole family. My hope is to excite her about making her First Holy Communion, and open her mind and heart to the beauty and joy of a deepening relationship with Jesus. I hope it will also renew the love for the Eucharist in Chickadee, and encourage the boys to look forward to the day they are old enough for receiving the Eucharist, as well.

When I was buying books to prepare Sweet Pea for First Holy Communion last fall, I learned about a study guide available for parents to use with the story. I thought it might be nice to have some supplementary ideas of discussion to unpack the story with, so I went ahead and bought it. Last night I finally spent some time reviewing it, and I’m looking forward to using it. There is more to the study guide than I think we’ll be using (I am looking to simplify our lives right now, and too many study ideas is just overwhelming), but they are fabulous ideas to enrich the story and deepen even our adult appreciation of the Eucharist. Each chapter has topics to read about in the Catechism (for the kids, we’ll look at the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, which has concise answers), discussion topics, Scripture verses, suggestions for growing in holiness, and quotes from Carmelite saints. It is so rich! I think by the time we read and study this with our 5th, we will still be learning more.

Tomorrow we will begin with the first chapter, and I’ll check back in soon with some of our family book study activities and discussions.

What I’m Reading: And Daring to Do

I may have mentioned before how I’d do almost anything before actually choosing to pick up a book to read, no matter how good or enjoyable the book may be. Yet, I find myself reading anyway. From books about vaccinations and baby sleep, to book about made-up people and places, to books about homeschooling and mothering, I’m actually reading them. Truth be told, I’ve been reading all these kinds of books since my oldest was born, going on 10 years ago. Still, I don’t consider myself a “reader”. It’s not on my list of hobbies, you know?

Some fabulous women I know through an online group are going through a book together, and I heard so many rave reviews that I decided to join up with them. We are reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. I am only two chapters in, and already am looking at my life and interactions differently. “Daring Greatly” is about letting ourselves be vulnerable, and how it will take courage, and change the way we parent, lead, engage in all relationships.

Chapter one deals with something called “scarcity”, the feeling of not being enough:

–not woman enough.

–not holy enough.

–not pretty enough.

–not fit enough.

–not friendly enough.

–not successful enough.

–not {insert any adjective here} enough.

At first, I though, “meh, I’m pretty content with who I am. I’ll breeze through this chapter. Wonder what’s next?”

And then, a friend posted a question. She asked how scarcity affects us. It wasn’t until I’d began chapter 2 and read about disengagement (more on that in a bit) when I realized that the feeling of “not enough” *does*, sadly, affect me and my relationships.

I am putting it on the line. I’m doing this vulnerability thing. I’m going to get real.

In my life, I feel like I am not friendly enough (it is hard for me to make new friends, even though I should be good at it, and I really want to make new friends every time our family moves. I just feel like I don’t have enough in common, or don’t have enough time, or am just plain not likable enough for the other women to want to hang out). I also feel like in my family, my ideas aren’t good enough for sharing, so I just keep quiet and let life go along at it’s pace, meanwhile my ideas and dreams and things to say just sit in my head.

I’m scared to post this. I want to keep my secret to myself and let everyone continue to think I have it all put together. But I don’t, and I don’t really want people to think I’m “Miss Has-Her-Ish-Together” and is a perfect little housewife, homemaker, and homeschooler. I’m not perfect. I’m sitting in an office full of clutter and chaos, the kitchen has a full bag of trash, the school room has paint smeared on the table and next week isn’t planned yet. I don’t have a group of local friends to call just because (though I have a group of women to see for ladies’ nights, I’m not lying to say I’m not *yet* close enough with any of them to just call on a whim and say “hey let’s do lunch!” or “we’re both having craptastic days, let’s leave the kids with the dads and go get a drink.”), and I don’t always tell my family what I really want to do (self-sacrificial and all).

The reality is, I *am* enough, and where I feel like (or know that) I am not enough, I can do something about it. There is always room for self-improvement, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t believe that God has a plan in mind for me, and His plan involves the best version of myself. My attempts at self-improvement are with God’s version of me in mind, not society’s. Just saying, lest anyone decide to blast me for wanting to become an unattainable sort of perfect. That is not my goal. I want to be the best me, healthy, happy, holy in Heaven one day. In my state of life, that means to be healthy, a good wife, a good mother, and a good friend.

God-willing, His grace will not only teach me that I am enough, but also move me to grow where I need to improve and weed out the negative things in my life which hold me back.

As I mentioned, I am already seeing my life in a new way. I’m *daring* to exchange numbers with women I think are awesome. I’m *daring* to tell my husband what I think would be neat to do for our home, for our marriage, for our family. I’m *daring* to actually listen to my children and allow them to broaden my view of the world.

I’m daring. I’m posting. Pray for all of us ladies who are reading this, and daring greatly, together.


{linking up with Julie and others who are reading the book together}

Books with Kids: “Angels for Kids”

More than a week into February already! We started our next book, “Angels for Kids” by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle. Let me tell you, I have only read ahead a few chapters (because I am a busy mama and I just don’t have the time or energy to read all the way ahead! I am a self-professed “non-reader” anyway–I prefer to do all kinds of other things before I choose to sit down and read a book. Reading is great, I admit, but I still prefer lots of other things to reading), but I am really impressed with this book.

First of all, Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle addresses the book to her young audience. She speaks to them in her introduction, and continues with a friendly and easy-to-understand tone throughout the chapters.

Second, it is full of beautiful Scripture references and stories of the Angels. Each chapter is full of verses, leaving no doubts that not only should we believe in the Angels, but God has given us His own words about them so that we might believe. I also like that each chapter begins with a short verse. I am using some of them as copywork for my children, and hope to also use them in prayer to help memorize verses.

Third, Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle also references teachings of the saints and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our history is rich in belief about the angels! She helps that young readers understand and appreciate the rich traditions we have, and by the end of the book, have a new appreciation and (hopefully) a deepening respect for (and even relationship with!) the angels.


To date, we have finished the first two chapters. (Chapter Three, “What Angels Look Like”, is on the agenda later today) Chapter One, “A Multitude of Angels”, tells us all about who the angels are and are not, (they are not fairies!), and what they do. In short, the angels are in God’s service, to aid us in attaining salvation. How fabulous is that? To finish up chapter one, I created copywork sheets for my girls with Hebrews 1:14, “Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” I made another for my 5yr old, with his name, “angel”, and “St. Michael the Archangel”.

Chapter Two, “Angels in the Bible”, might be the longest chapter in the book. From creation in Genesis to Revelation, stories with angels are re-told. Even though this was a long chapter to read aloud, and I wondered at times if my kids were beginning to day dream, I loved this chapter. I know the angels are in the Bible; I have heard the stories all my life. Probably everyone can at least name the Angel Gabriel, who announces the birth of Jesus. And yet, I was delighted to be reminded of not only Gabriel, but all the other angels who play a role in the lives of so many. I had many “oh yeah!” moments while reading this chapter. To finish up chapter two, my 5 yr old retold a favorite story and illustrated it, and the girls illustrated their favorite angel story.

I am keeping it simple as we read and “study” these books this year. Not only to do not have abundant time for coming up with elaborate crafts and activities, but I want our mini family “book club” to be relaxed, casual, and enjoyable. Here and there I’ll come up with a craft or recipe, I’m sure (‘cuz that’s how I roll), but at the same time, it is nice to have a family read that isn’t part of our syllabus and isn’t crying out to be enhanced with Pinterest-worth crafts. It’s the reading together that counts!

Books of Hope and Joy, 2014

I don’t know about you, but the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a big thinking week. I dream. I plan. I hope. I get excited for all the possibilities a new year offers.

An idea popped into my head last week, a fun way to intentionally grow in virtue and faith and stories with the kids. As I kept thinking about it (probably while nursing the baby, when most of my ideas come to me), I thought about how neat it would be to choose one book a month to read as a family, do crafts or projects related to the story, or eat food similar to what a certain saint would have eaten, anything that comes to mind as a project to do as we read. Some of the books will be fictional, some will be factual. Some are picture books, some are chapter books. All will be inspiring.

Here is my tentative list, as of January 2. If you have the books, join in and share in the fun and discussion in the comments!


1-St. Thomas Aquinas, the Story of the Dumb Ox by Mary Fabyan Windeatt       St. Thomas is our patron saint for our home school, and his feast day is this month.

2-The King of the Golden City by Mather Mary Loyola¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† This is a great read for children preparing for First Holy Communion, and Sweet Pea is that this year. We’ll read it again as a family, like we did when Chickadee was preparing 2 years ago.

3-Angels for Kids by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

4-Blessed John Paul II by Susan Helen Wallace, FSP¬†¬†¬†¬† Bl. John Paul II will be canonized in April, so we’ll read this in April.

5-The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

6-A Life of Our Lord for Children by Marigold Hunt

7-The Children of Fatima by Mary Fabyan Windeatt

8-The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† This will be specifically for the girls. There is a boys’ version, The Squire and the Scroll, which we will also read.

9-Our Holy Father, the Pope, The Papacy from Saint Peter to the Present by Don R. Caffery

10-Bernadette, the Little Girl from Lourdes by Sophie Maraval-Hutin

11-Bambinelli Sunday, A Christmas Blessing by Amy Welborn

12-Bible Stories