Monday, October 29, 2012

The Reconciliation Challenge

What does your Confession look like? How are you teaching your children to go through their own Sacraments of Reconciliation as time goes by? What do your habits on this particular sacrament say about you? Have you grown in your faith, but forgotten this corner of it?

Does your Confession look like a checklist? I’ll freely confess I had planned on taking this format when I did my First Reconciliation a little less than a year ago. “Bless me Father for I have sinned. This is my first Confession. I've a, b, c, e, g, h, j, k, l, m, o, p, r, s, t, v, x, and y’d. For these and for all my other sins I am sorry.” Hold my breath until we get to the Act of Contrition and read that off a little card. Run for the door. Try to avoid ever having to do it again. Repeat as seldom as humanly possible.

I remembered sitting in the room with other parents of the children in my son’s Confirmation class the year before. We were preparing the children for their First Reconciliation and the teacher, Dianne, would for a portion of the class split us from the children and while they worked on a project without us, we would learn about the Sacraments, their origin, and all kinds of other amazing things. I loved the class. I was new to the Faith and like a sponge. I would stay after class and ask a million questions to Dianne who had the patience of a saint. She let me take home the videos we watched in class so I could review my notes and make certain I’d gotten everything out of them. I loved her. I still do.

The other parents and sponsors loathed it, deeply. They wanted to get in, get out, and get it over with.
One Monday when Dianne left us adults to our own devices after explaining to us what to expect on the day the children did their First Reconciliation, encouraging all the families and sponsors to participate as well. I was ecstatic. I was nervous. I was a wreck.

The other adults were terrified. Most started talking and comparing how long since they’d been to Confession. None had gone since their grade school years, high school at best. I was stunned. I’d just spent 8 weeks teaching my son that this was a beautiful Sacrament and that he should participate in it for the rest of his life! I mean, *I* didn't want to go…but he should! He must! What on God’s green earth were we there for if he wasn't going to participate in the Faith as soon as he got the excuse to stop?!?!

First Reconciliation for the children came. They were all nervous and rather intimidated. I was too! I’d planned my list (as stated above) and was ready to go in, just like the children, and do my First Reconciliation on the same day as my son. The children slowly went, one by one. I kept waiting for an adult or older sibling to go to the back of the aisle, but no one went. If I stood up I would look like an absolute fool. My son went last and held the door to the Confessional open for Father Joe afterward and they came forward. It was mixed emotions. Pride in my son, relief that I didn't have to go, and sadness that I’d missed the opportunity.

After transferring to a new parish for a host of reasons, Father Dan assured me that everything was “all good” and offered to take care of my First Reconciliation at the first available opportunity when we came to worship at Mass the next time.

I got there late. On purpose. I figured if Confession ended at 4:30 and Mass started at 5:00 I should be good to squeak in at about 4:45. Or not. Father Dan was leaving the Confessional when he saw me sitting in the pew. He walked right over, smiled at those sitting next to me and said, “Susan, would you watch her son for a minute?” and marched my happy butt back to the Confessional. I’d been called out. Now I was a complete wreck. I wasn't ready. I didn't have my list. I didn't have my Act of Contrition card. If I hadn't left my purse and car keys with my son I might have booked it for the exit.

As I walked through the door, he asked me if I wanted to sit face to face with him (oh the horror) or kneel on the other side. Seemed rather ridiculous to kneel and “hide” at that point, plus the chair looked infinitely more comfortable to a 5 month pregnant woman than the kneeler. Face to face it was.

I had nothing with me, but since he knew it was my first time he walked me through it. I started the way I knew I was supposed to, but when I got to the “listing my sins” part, my mind started to go blank. Where do you start when you were baptized at 1 month old and are in your (we won’t go there.)? I started to go backwards from the most recent issues I’d had with my struggles. Tears started rolling down my cheeks as I revealed things I wouldn't even tell my closest friends. I just laid it all out there. No pretty words, no hiding. Just me spewing all the horrible things I’d done that I could remember in one sitting.

At the end I felt amazing. Truly, it was unbelievable.

Today I went to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time in months. I’d found a million excuses before, but I was at the end of my rope and knew I needed to do it. I’d only gone to Confession that one time before. I’d planned that this would be different. I would be anonymous. I would kneel. I would go through my list and get out of there at the speed of light. And then I fell in the door of the Confessional and went sprawling with the baby onto the floor and he came running to help me up…and it was useless to try and hide again. So I began my second Confession while nursing a 6 month old in front of a priest who could see me. I’d planned on just getting it over and getting out of there. Instead I ended up a pile of tears again, and then cracking jokes as we talked about the fact that I’m not crazy. I left relieved. I was a normal mom with normal fears…who knew?

After getting the exact same feeling as the first time I couldn't help but think how impossible it would be to feel the same way if I’d hidden and used my x, y, z list of pretty words as a checklist. I wouldn't have had that unmistakable personal connection with Father Dan. I certainly wouldn't have been laughing.
What about you? Has your Confession life grown or are you like those adults in the Confirmation class – too scared or too busy to be bothered? Have you seen the inside of a Confessional in the past month? How about the past year? The past decade? Are your children learning to follow you in the Faith? What does your fear or nonchalance teach them?

We’re about to start a new Church year and are just around the corner from Advent. I’m reaching out to you. I’m asking you let’s make this a new start together. In case you didn't know, you don’t have to break one of the 10 Commandments to go to Confession. While it is a requirement to confess any mortal sins there is nothing wrong with confessing your other sins, especially if it is something you are struggling with and could use the value of spiritual guidance. Can’t we all use God’s hand more in our lives?

I’m going to ask you to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation available to your family at least once every other week. I don’t believe in nagging to Confession. I do believe in making the option available to those you love. It’s very hard for a child under the age of 16 to get to Confession without your help and summoning the courage to say “Mom, I need to go to Confession” might be too much for your children, no matter how much they know you love them no matter what. Make sure you make that option available as often as you can.

Since you’re already going to be there for your family, I’m asking you to join me. Until Easter I am going to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once every other week. Join me. Take the plunge. The Sacrament of Reconciliation takes less than 15 minutes out of your week. Take the time. Go to Confession with me. Then come back and tell me how much better you feel. Tell me how much your life is changing…and I’ll tell you about mine.

USCCB Resources for the Sacrament of Reconciliation:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bringing the Election Home

I’m a firm believer that all families should participate together in the electoral process, particularly in Presidential election years.  Since our oldest son was born in 2003 he has sat through every debate and been to the polls with me each time I voted.  The last Presidential election in 2008 we pulled our son out of Kindergarten and made a whole day out of going to vote as a family.  I even let him cast “my” vote for me in the booth so he felt more involved in the process.  Afterward we went to lunch and then came home to prepare a buffet of appetizers to be consumed as we watched the votes come in from across the country.
Our active role in politics in our family has led to our eldest son being very interested in politics.  He watches the debates and comments intelligently at the age of 9, no shock since at the age of 5 he had a better grasp than many adults I know.  He’s even made his own protest signs defending his beliefs.  He impresses me on a daily basis with his excitement about how our country works and his thirst for knowledge that comes from deep within his heart.
Each year we take the time to educate ourselves and actively discuss what we believe, even when we disagree, about the candidates and their stances.  We watch our own state’s elections as well following very closely the races of Governor, Senators, and Representatives.  Election night is something to celebrate, even when we don’t always agree. 
There is nothing more precious when you live in a truly free country than having the ability to go out and exercise that freedom in voting.  While many countries “vote”, their elections are fixed and those voting know their vote won’t count.  There is outright cruelty at the “polling places” where people are blocked from voting if they are not going to vote the way of the current regime or the regime wanting to take over.
Each and every time we as a country vote, we make a decision to move one step closer toward our freedom, or one step further from it.  If we choose not to vote, then that choice to move away from freedom is chosen for us in lieu of our choosing to fight for the freedoms won for us by generations of American blood spilled on battlefields around the world. 
This year, our family is preparing.  We've watched the debates and engaged in them together.  Granted, the 6 month old’s job has mostly been to scream at the TV because there aren't any commercials on which are far more entertaining to watch.  We plan to go and vote as a family on November 6th.  We plan to go and spend the day together.  My husband is actually taking vacation from work so we can celebrate our country and her freedoms.
This year our son wanted to be part of the tallying process again.  As the results roll in across the country he is responsible for coloring in the charts and keeping the family updated in who is winning/losing.  We all watch the coverage together, but this gives him a special piece of memorabilia for each debate and helps him to see what happens.  The first year we did this, in 2008, he tracked just the Presidential Electoral Votes – all 538 of them!
In 2010, we tracked as the House of Representatives and Senate seats were filled and filled in the same charts.  Tracking two was a bit more of a challenge for him so I would write the numbers down on pink and blue sticky notes respectively so he could color in the right number. 
This time we’re tracking all three simultaneously.  To make things a bit simpler for you to follow along at home too, we’re offering this free PDF at Raising LittleSaints.  All you need to complete the activity is a red marker and a blue marker.  The Senate seats that are not up for vote are already marked for you.  For those with younger children, I highly recommend using stickers.  Either red and blue dots or even red and blue star stickers are a cheap “investment” for the return.  Just so you know you will need 1,073 (538 electoral votes, 435 in the House of Representatives, 100 Senators) stickers to complete all three charts if you go all white so plan ahead!  If you are using the already colored in version of the Senate chart you will need 1,006 (67 seats already filled and not up for election).  I would plan on having at least 600 red and 600 blue on hand in case we see a super majority sweep on one side or another. 
From our home to yours, Happy Election Day.  Embrace your freedom.  Rise above the partisan politics and see November 6, 2012 for exactly what it is: a living, breathing example of our Constitution in practice 225 years after it was signed by this country’s founding fathers.   Be the King.  VOTE.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homeschool Schoolroom Make Over

Year 4, five children, one room, six desks, what is a home educator to do with our school room?

Step One:  Look around and PANIC because what you thought you had done, doesn't look to hot by week six of your homeschool year.  It's year four and all and you *should* have this under control right?  Right?  No.
Step Two:  Think of the kids, how the function, where you need more space, which direction are the windows, stop starring at the disorganized and incredibly FULL bookshelf in the room, and definitely STOP thinking that DH needs to finally build that really cool one you saw on Pinterest and want so bad.

Step Three:  Keep Calm and grab some coffee.

This, my friends, was me last week on Friday.  I thought I had organized the schoolroom for the 11 billionth trillionth time and that it looked good....but, but...once we started using the room, it wasn't functioning.  So it was time to give our schoolroom a Make Over!  I didn't want to go out to the dreaded Dollar Store, one more, I worked with what I had in the house.  Double brownie points for me in the end when the room looked FANTASTIC and I got to brag that we didn't spend one more cent on it.  So here is our new school room, in pictures.  I will caption each section describing in as much detail what I did and why I felt it made a difference.  Enjoy!

This is our Word Wall.
As the children learn new sight words we add them to the word wall.
It's their "trophy" for conquering the new words.

This is a close up of the Letter Tt on our Word Wall.
I have chosen to BOX the letters so that the children continue to see the shape of the words.
These are the children's Workboxes.  Each shelf has nine workboxes.
The ones on the left belong to our second grader, he uses all nine boxes.
The ones on the right are shared by our first grader who uses boxes #1-6
and our preschooler who has boxes #7-9.

This is our preschooler's desk.
Next to him are three bins (red, yellow, red) with the flash cards he likes to use.
Thankfully, he is not a daydreamer so facing the window isn't an issue for him.  
His desk and chair was a FreeCycle find....yep, they were free!

These desks belong to our first and second graders.
They use the little space under their seat to store their independent reading book,
their dry erase board tablets, and their daily journals.  I place the old play rug under their desks so that it keeps the desks in one spot in the room plus it protects the wood floor.  I got these two desks on FreeCycle (yep, for FREE)...they were dirty and written on so I cleaned them up and got them back into good and usable shape.  I love free finds like these!

This is the corner next to our preschooler's desk,
the top of the shelf are items for the teacher/mom ONLY. ;)

This is the supply shelf, I used small coffee tin cans to store supplies like pencils, rubber bands, chalk, scissors, glue, etc.  I covered them with a pretty paper I made, if you are interested I can upload them, just leave me a comment.  The old wipe tub holds blank index cards which the kids use to draw on or to write notes to friends/family.  The second shelf stores their flash cards. The first one is Religious ones, the middle one is Math and Science, and the right one is Reading. They are either in individual small ziploc bags or with rubber bands. Only one set per child is allowed out at a time.

I added the green curtains which my MIL gave me a while back and I didn't know which room to use them in so they were sitting in a closet.  They match the containers in the bookshelf perfectly.

THIS is the main reason I started this Make Over, the bookshelf, it was such a mess...
what I did was use these little crates I picked up at the Dollar Store long ago...
I had them full of junk/toys basically and now they store books.
On top of the shelf I placed the supplies I do not want the children handling without my help.
The first shelf stores my books which I make copies from or I use as resources.
The second shelf has books from last year which I use to go back to when needed in addition to our Scholastic Readers Series. The third row has green containers from the Dollar Store which now have our easy readers in two, our little Father Lavasik religion books in another.   The last two shelves have educational puzzles and games which we use frequently. Most Dollar Store or Marshalls finds.

This room has two entrances but no doors this is the view from the living room into the schoolroom and what I consider the front of the room. The student workboxes are in the front.
In the corner there I have little tables with papers, notebooks, construction paper, colored pencils, and other supplies for the toddler to use.  It's his "desk" when he "does school"  :)
The tables are big enough for him to work his little puzzles on which are located to the right of him.  

This is the other view from the side entrance into the school room.  Here you can see the children on the left.  They are on the school room computer.  You can see the front of the room here, the map, the calendar, our Morning Message Board, and our teaching board.  On top of the boards is a line with clothespins to display the work of the children.  On the opposite corner (on the left of this picture) is our eldest son's desk/computer.  But recently, he likes to go to our dinning room table and spread his books out.

Here you can see our Morning Routine calendar and morning message, our prayers and our focus of the week.

This is the dry erase board I use for our Morning Message and also has the Letter of the Week for our Preschooler, the Feast Day, and our Count Down of the Week and Day of School.  To the left of this is our calendar.  I bought these dry erase boards on Craigslist for like $10 for two of them...the one on the right is the one I use for teaching.

Hope you have enjoyed our school room make over!
Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, October 8, 2012

ABC Catholic DVD and CD Product Review and Giveaway

 Learn to Count DVD
We have had the wonderful opportunity to review ABCatholic's DVD entitled "Learn to Count" this past Summer. It is a beautiful DVD geared for small children with an instructional Math component but yet still Catholic. The hostess, the little girl who sings the songs with the kids is adorable, sweet and children love watching this DVD, even those that already know how to count because of the Catholic component and the fun tune. Here's a sample of the Learn to Count DVD:

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: Teach your little ones to count on what really counts with ABCatholic’s Learn to Count! Geared to children six-months and up, this high-definition DVD features bright, engaging animations paired with live-action video to introduce your child to numbers and counting 1 through 10. Your child will love interacting with the children in this production! 
To integrate early basics for mathematics and language skills, each number is introduced by:
  • Spoken Name
  • Quantity
  • Numeral
  • and Written Word
But you can count on ABCatholic to go a step further: Items and symbols representing each number have been carefully selected to establish early Catholic concepts. Learn to Count begins with:
  • 1 Tabernacle
  • 2 Rosaries
  • 3 Bells
For the youngest child, this program is the ideal starting point for learning numbers. For older children,Learn to Count can be used to introduce to counting, spelling, and faith concepts. And parents can take heart in knowing they can trust ABCatholic to provide wholesome and holy tools for early education.

* * *

Marian Lullaby CD
The second product we had the honor of reviewing this past Summer was the A Marian Lullaby CD.  This came to our home at the perfect time!  My six and seven year old love falling asleep with music on and the CDs we have had for some time, were seeing their last leg.  Not only was this CD wonderful and perfect for night time music but it was an added bonus that it has a Marian devotion.  Part of the CD has sung lyrics the other half has just the instrumentals   This one came in handy for our music class since we can just play the instrumental part as we learn the lyrics to some of the most beloved Catholic songs.
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: Lull your little one to peaceful sleep with this beautiful collection of lullabies honoring the Blessed Mother. During wakeful hours, your children will come to treasure these specially selected songs. This collection of hymns and original songs includes a variety of sung and instrumental pieces, arranged and performed by Matthew Torres and introducing Patrick Culbertson (Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue).

Listen NOW to samples from this collection by clicking on the links:
Remember Holy Mary – SampleTiny Little Sheep – SampleAve Maria – Sample
Classic songs in this collection include:
With Lyrics:
  • Hail Virgin Dearest Mary
  • Hear Thy Children Gentlest Mother
  • O Purest of Creatures
  • Remember Holy Mary
  • Tiny Little Sheep
  • Ave Maria
  • Salve Regina
  • O Sanctissima
  • I’ll Sing a Hymn to Mary
  • Daily Daily Sing to Mary

Sow the seeds for an early love for the Virgin Mary with A Marian Lullaby. 

You can purchase A Marian Lullaby CD for only $14.95 on their website


In addition to the lovely DVDs and CDs on their website, I also love these alphabet coloring pages for Catholic kids over at ABCatholic....their videos and cds are awesome too! They post new FREE activity coloring pages every Monday on their Facebook page


They have setup a discount for our readers, yes, that's YOU! The promo code you should use is RLS2012 this will give you a 10% off discount for any order!

Do you love these as much as I could WIN THEM ALL!  Yes that's right, you can visit their Facebook page and sign up to win their entire collection of three DVDs and two CDs right now; here are the details:

Contest closes on October 31, 2012 at 11:59 PM. A winner will be chosen by a random drawing on November 1, 2012. Winner will be notified by phone and/or email. Please do not inquire via Facebook as to whether you have won. Prize includes one copy of each of the following: My Catholic ABCs DVD, Learn to Count DVD, Little Latin DVD, A Marian Lullaby CD, Sing Along Adventures of the Saints CD. Winner will be sent prizes within two (2) weeks of the contest ending. No purchase necessary.

If I don't win these, I can guarantee you that I have selected what I want to get the children for Christmas!  The other two DVDs:  My Catholic ABCs and Little Latin as well as the Sing Along Adventures of the Saints CD.  Don't forget to use the promotional code to receive 10% off your order!

Enjoy!  Blessings,

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Welcoming Autumn and Loving Life

I hadn't realized this but, October is really a busy month!
The trees are busy changing colors and dropping leaves.
The weather is busy getting cooler is some parts of the world.
People are starting to decorate their homes with Mums in warm colors like orange, reds, yellows and browns.
It's the Month dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary.
Also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
{just, think before you pink as Komen supports Planned Parenthood who is pro-abortion}

It is also ProLife Month.

Found this image on

Our family loves the Autumn season!  Sweaters come out and it's (like my seven year old calls it): "Hot chocolate season!"  The awesome scent of soups and baked bread fills the house.  The air gets crisp and the smell of burning wood fills the air from running fireplaces.  It's my favorite season!  I also love decorating the front of the house with Fall items like potted Mums and big, fat, orange pumpkins!  My kids and I also watch for the return of many little creatures big and small that resurface after being super busy all summer with their little ones, teaching them how to fly, hunt, gather - we love nature.  

We noticed that the Robins are back for a visit.

At our home we normally do not carve pumpkins nor decorate with witches and ghosts; it just doesn't match the rest of our beliefs and what we work so hard to teach the kids but instead like to focus on the beauty that God has given us, nature and what matters the most, LIFE!  October is ProLife Month and I wanted to share that with the world (okay maybe not the world but my neighbors will be enough), so I was reconsidering the whole pumpkin carving idea.  I have secretly loved these and have been collecting these pictures for the past three years (my apologies for those artists that created them as I didn't keep track of where I found them since I never thought it'd blog about it.)  I totally love the the idea of incorporating the Fall pumpkins and the Pro-Life message!  So here are some that I have found and plan on possibly trying out this year for a first time.  I have created templates for all of them except the middle one.  Click here for the Prolife Pumpkin Templates.  Enjoy!:

Baby in the womb with a heart.

A mother with her baby.
(or as my 4 year old said, "Mary with baby Jesus")

"Occupy the Womb" with a baby sucking his thumb.

This is one of my favorite ones.  Baby in the womb.

Holding a new born baby.

Many blessings from our family to yours this Fall season!

Click here for the Prolife Pumpkin Templates.