VBS 2014: Weird Animals LINKUP PARTY!

Come find - and share - your ideas for making VBS 2014 a year to remember!

Need some ideas?

Check out our Liturgical Year Activities for some great ideas on sharing out faith with your family.

Celebrate Every Day

With so many ways to celebrate our faith, you're sure to find ideas that you can do with your family today!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Turning Artwork into an ABC Learning Book!


When it comes to kids artwork at our house, it's at a max. Between the preschool projects, the at home art, the crafts from a friend's house, and drawings at the gym, we seem to have five new pieces show up each week! While we're pretty good at managing the load, there are a few pieces that we really wanted to preserve...especially those that came from Lacy's "Catholic ABCs" Preschool Curriculum*. We needed a way to save a few of our projects, so...

...we've turned some of our best art projects into our very own ABC Learning Schoolbook! Each project is glued down to a full 8.5"x11" sheet of paper, and the letter of the alphabet corresponding to the art is added to the sheet. We then add the sheet into this binder (it's acid free, which will keep these memories safe for a long time and comes with 20 clear page protector inserts to get you started). We're filling up our book, and our son LOVES his "school book" with all his projects inside! Plus, it gives us a way to reinforce and learn our letters over and over again as we look over the projects he made. The pride he has in his school book is evident - not only does he pull it out at least twice a day to look through it, but he shares it with our guests and anyone who will look. He also gets excited about upcoming letter crafts so we can add them to his book. 

This project would work great not only for a structured program but for general artwork your child may make. Did you make our handprint crafts? Mark the letter "C" for crab, "O" for octopus, and "F" for fish, date it, and add it to the book. Perhaps you color pictures of trucks Cut out a car or two from their picture (great opportunity to practice supervised scissor skills), mark the letter "T" on the page, date it, and add it to the book. Easy! This is a great way to save your kids projects while making it into a meaningful tool.

*Disclosure: I bought my own copy of the Catholic ABCs and am very happy with it. We use it in our Moms & Kids group at our church, and it works well for kids age 3-5...the younger ones do the crafts as well, but definitely have a bit more "mom" support than the older ones. The lessons are well thought out, and are structured such that you can make tweaks...add things, take away things, etc. as appropriate for your group. I would strongly recommend this book for those looking for a Catholic-based preschool program to do either solo or as part of a group. 

Discover God's Creations:
Handprint Fish

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ACTIVITY: Jesse Tree: Daniel in the Lion's Den

Jesse Tree Advent Project Calendar Daniel Lion's Den

18th Day of Advent: Daniel in the Lion's Den

Daniel 14

Click here to return to the main Jesse Tree page.


"On the seventh day the king came to mourn for Daniel. As he came to the den and looked in, there was Daniel, sitting there. The king cried aloud, “You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides you!”" (Daniel 14) 



Jesse Tree Advent Project Calendar Daniel Lion's Den

  • BACKGROUND: first, cut out the shape of the cave three times - twice out of the black felt, and once out of the gray felt.  
  • ANGEL: cut out the angel (circle for head, triangle with rounded edges for body). Attach the body to the gray background using a forward stitch. To attach the head, place a drop of glue at the back (optional) and secure it down with gold thread to form the halo. 
  • LION: cut out a face, mane, and body for your lion in whatever shape you like...you can add more or less detail than I did (truth be told, I should have left the ears attached to the face!). Stitch the lion down into the doorway onto the top of the black. IMPORTANT! I did this kind of wonky, and looking back what I should have done is FIRST attach the gray background onto a piece of the black felt stitching the doorway portion only. In the photo you'll see I sewed the lion down onto the black first, and it was hard trying to constantly make sure he would fit in the doorway. Would have been smarter to attach the gray doorway first and then ensure he fit. Se la vi. 
  • ATTACHING FRONT TO BACK: Lay the felt piece you've been working with on top of the remaining black background, and blanket stitch the three pieces together. Also, be sure to add some stuffing just before you sew it all up!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RECIPE: Hot Cross Buns Recipe & Project (free printable!)

Hot Cross Buns Recipe & Printable for Good Friday TraditionsA wonderful Good Friday tradition ties into a nursery rhyme you probably learned growing up:

  Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! 
  One ha' penny, two ha' penny, Hot cross buns! 
  If you have no daughters, Give them to your sons.
  One ha' penny, Two ha' penny, Hot Cross Buns!

Hot cross buns were traditionally made during Lent and eaten up through Good Friday, with the cross on the bun symbolic of the Crucifixion. During the time of Queen Elizabeth I, a decree was placed that forbid their sale except on certain days, including Good Friday. Tradition was born, and enhanced by folklore: according to another rhyme, sharing a hot cross bun with another will ensure friendship throughout the coming year ("Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be"). If you're into travel by boat, bake up a batch and bring them with you - another lore says hot cross buns protect against shipwreck. 

This is the second year we've made hot cross buns together and passed them out to friends, and we're truly enjoying adding this to our Easter traditions. Since not everyone participates in the tradition, we made up these great hot cross bun gift bag tags that you can attach to the baggie when sharing your hot cross buns. It gives a quick intro to the buns and shares the rhyme above which you'll no doubt be singing for the rest of the day.

Hot Cross Buns Recipe & Printable for Good Friday Traditions
For recipes - my favorite recipe comes from the delicious kitchen of the Pioneer Woman (wish I could claim grandma's secret recipe here, but while I remember seeing them in the baskets that folks brought to the Easter Food blessing, I don't remember us ever making them from scratch). As for this recipe, I mean yum - look at that photo and tell me you don't want to make a batch. The only change I make is to use currants...I like the taste better than raisins and they're smaller, so mix more evenly. Click on over to her site for the Hot Cross Buns recipe, but be sure to download the free printable bag tag below so you can share this wonderful tradition with your friends and family this Good Friday.


Hot Cross Buns Recipe & Printable for Good Friday Traditions
  • Option 1: Print out the printable on single-sided paper. Cut along the gray lines on the printable (step 1). Glue each side down onto a piece of paper (step 2), being sure to align them so that they are back-to-back on either side. This sounds way more complex than it is - just see the photo above :)  Fold in the middle, so the graphic is on the outside. You'll end up with a small square, kind of like a small greeting card.
  • Option 2: (way easier) Print out the printable double-sided on a heavier card stock paper. Cut out along gray dotted lines.  Fold in the middle, so the graphic is on the outside. You'll end up with a small square, kind of like a small greeting card.
  • Punch a very small hole in the center of the tag (step 3). The spacing inside the card is such that you should be able to punch a small hole without removing/punching away text
  • Bake your buns, let them cool, put them in a cute bag (step 4), and tie closed attaching your card/bag tag as part of the closure. Seriously, though, wait until they're cool and the icing has hardened...otherwise they turn into a mushy mess. 
  • Share with your friends & family and enjoy this wonderful Easter tradition!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ACTIVITY: Empty Tomb and Mount Calvary Garden for Easter / Triduum (FREE PROJECT)

ACTIVITY: Empty Tomb and Mount Calvary Garden for Easter / TriduumI've talked before about my amazing MOPS group when we created the Stations of the Cross magnets and the inspiration the craft provided. This past week we created an adorable representation of the three crosses on Mount Calvary (referred to as Skull in the Bible) and the covered tomb, which would be found to be empty on Easter Sunday as part of Jesus's resurrection. The best part? It's a living garden! There are little seeds of grass on the mount that will grow by Easter Sunday. So...start yours soon! Besides, this is super easy and you probably have everything you need at home already. Again, credit for this idea goes to my MOPS group - seriously, they are the best.

The idea behind this project is not only educational but interactive. The three crosses on the mount show Jesus (in the center) but the two criminals he was crucified with (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27-28, Luke 23:33, John 19:18). The tomb represents the tomb into which Jesus was buried, only to rise again on the third day. The interactive part here is the rock covering the tomb...it remains in the covered position beginning on Good Friday and rolls away to reveal an empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Love this! Another perk? This project is probably FREE for everyone. Seriously, you can just use items laying around your house. Read through the "what you need" list below and you'll see there's no cost involved in this project. Love it even more. 

  • plant potter dish, old plate, or anything else you have around the house that has scooped sides. This will serve as your base.
  • soil / dirt from your yard
  • one egg carton "bowl" (just one of the 12 bowl-holes that the egg sits in...I have no idea what those things are called!)
  • popsicle sticks, toothpicks, sticks, etc. 
  • one larger rock, about 2" in diameter, from your yard
  • smaller pebbles from your yard
  • grass seed (optional)
  • glue gun
  • small piece of ribbon

    ACTIVITY: Empty Tomb and Mount Calvary Garden for Easter / Triduum
  • Mound a pile of dirt into your bowl, keeping it pretty lose
  • Push the egg carton piece into the mound, which will serve as the tomb. press the dirt down now, lightly packing it down so it holds its shape. (optional) if you want, sprinkle grass seed onto your mound
  • Place a few of the small pebbles at the entrance to the tomb along the front of the bowl
  • Place the larger rock covering the tomb entrance
  • Cut three popsicle sticks to be shorter, three to be longer. I recommend cutting off the rounded ends if yours have them so they have flat edges. Glue them together to make three crosses.
  • Drape and glue the ribbon around one of the crosses. 
    ACTIVITY: Empty Tomb and Mount Calvary Garden for Easter / Triduum
  • Gently press the crosses into the mound.
  • Recommended: squirt the mound with a water bottle to keep it moist, even if you didn't add the grass seeds. This will help ensure it keeps its shape.
  • Watch your grass grow! A few squirts of water will keep the soil moist and your grass should grow in a few days. Watching it grow was half our fun!

Just for fun...this post links up at Catholic CarnivalCBN.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Water, water, everywhere...

Such a fun day! Little man slept in late, which meant I got not only a long hot shower but second cup of coffee. He woke up in a great mode, powered down a yummy smoothie, and we headed to Legoland. We spent the day splashing in the play zone, riding the water rides, and squirting everyone who got within two feet of our water cannon. After a quick lunch & water break, we headed home to make a yummy marinara sauce (though I had to water it down) served over some boiled whole wheat pasta and steamed veggies. YUM! All in all a great day.

Catholic Relief Services World Water Day
The difference between my day and that of 768 million (!!!) others is a simple one: water. Access to clean water. Here's an interesting fact from Fox News: "Around the world, it is estimated that women and girls spend about 200 million hours every day fetching water. This is equivalent to a 25 million-person workforce doing nothing more than carrying water seven days a week." Another: "Every year, 3.4 million people lose their lives due to water related diseases. At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people with illnesses that could be prevented by access to clean water and sanitation. Worldwide, children lose as many as 443 million school days annually, mostly because of diarrhea which stunts their growth."

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has partnered with communities in over 40 countries address this basic need: access to clean water, improve hygiene, and provide sanitation. Imagine have no water to drink, to cook with, to flush waste away with...it's such an integral part of our world that it's hard to even comprehend. Is 40 countries hard to connect to? See the photo above of a young boy - about 7 years old - filling up a water container at CRS’s water tap in his community. This is an organization making a difference in the lives of those most in need.

Saturday, March 22nd, was World Water Day. It was a day focused on sustainable practices in the realm of water and energy. The hope was that Bill HR2901 would progress this year...sadly, it didn't. That doesn't mean we should stop reaching out to our representatives and legislators and telling them how important this bill is! Go to the CRS Action Center to send an email to your representative - it's an easy way for you to make a difference. Too busy to send a message right now? No problem. I'm sure you'll find the time tomorrow after your cup of coffee and morning shower.

Catholic Charities & Philippines

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Live From LA Congress: Day 3 Recap

Last day at LA Congress...can't believe how quickly Day 1 and Day 2 went.*

Today called for an extra cup of coffee, so we started the morning off right by stopping at Café Justo. Café Justo is a coffee grower cooperative based in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. They market a pure, organic cofee which is grown, harvested and marketed in the spirit of justice. With a goal of providing incentives for people to remain on their family lands, and a simply delish tasting coffee to share, this is definitely a company that cares and supports all of mankind.

With a chance to walk around the Exhibit Hall this morning before the crowds descended, I truly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with the vendors. One of the first stops was at Pauline Publishing (the daughters of Saint Paul!), where I picked up this adorable Baptism Remembrance Book for my soon-to-be nephew. Roughly 50 glossy pages in total, the book is a wonderful combination: there are pages to record memories from the child's special day as well as faith-filled stories that you can read to the child as they grow. It's this combination that sets the book apart from others out there. Children love stories about themselves, and this book does a seamless job of integrating the two.

The next booth I stopped by was My Saint My Hero, a jewelry designer. I had been eyeing their stunning designs all weekend, and knew I'd regret leaving without one (or two!). The company who designed these lovely bracelets is made up of talented women whose mission "is to bring elements of Faith Hope and Purpose into everyday life through traditional prayer.
Inspired by our Heavenly Father, our Blessed Mother and all the angels and saints, My Saint My Hero brings you wearable blessings, hand-made heirloom rosaries and prayer tools to help create a place of prayer in your heart, your home, and your workplace." Pretty cool, no? Definitely check out their website & store...the photo I took doesn't begin to do these lovely bracelets justice (and they make more than just bracelets, too!). 

First session of the day today brought us back to John Allen Jr. and his talk on The Francis Revolution. I admit, after hearing his talk yesterday on Francis I was expecting more of the same, but he brought a whole new sense of energy and topics (yeah!). There were a few really great nuggets in here: first, the pillars of interest. Francis, as we all are incredibly aware, has huge popular appeal. All over the world, this pope has an approval rating that the leaders in those countries can't even achieve! With Catholics in the US alone, his approval rating is 90%...for a group who can often appear divided, this is huge. Not only do the people love him, but the media can't get enough of him. Media Foundation did a
study and found him to be the most searched human being on Google in 2013 - and he only had nine months to earn searches. He's' been on the cover of Time, Rolling Stones, and countless others...including Italy's own Vanity Fair where Sir Elton John dubbed him "a miracle of humility in an era of vanity". He's driven a cultural revolution through Rome: simple is the new chic.  John Allen Jr brought the focus back to the change that Francis is driving - the substance behind the popular appeal he has gained. He appears in person on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa to call for a change to immigration form, calling out the thousands who have died trying to find a new life and the blind eye the country has turned to them. He went to Rio's "Gaza Strip" to call for an end to the violence...and with the level of popularity he has attained, he was listened to, and the government began talks on how to begin change. He led the Christian world in a Global Day of Prayer for Syria, a peaceful action that challenged the countries looking to bring armed forces into an already damaged country. Again, the power of his actions can't be overlooked - it's like when Lady Gaga raves about a new designer's pink sweater, and suddenly that shade of sweater is seen on every woman walking down the street. He has influence, and uses it to ensure that human dignity is always put to the forefront of political agendas. He is truly a powerful presence driving a message of mercy. 

After a quick break for lunch, we headed up to see the Catholicism Around the World display. Being of Polish and Czech descent, I spent most of the time reading the information at the Polish table. The Madonnas were stunning, and the intense pride they hold in Pope John Paul, one of their own, couldn't be missed. 

The closing speaker was David Wells, a hysterical, understated British gentleman who brought tears of laughter, sadness, and joy. Through story after story, he reminds us that the New Evangelization is all around us, and that copying the actions of Christ is the first way we spread the good news. It's not through
shouting scripture, or condemning actions...it's through patience, looking others in the eye, giving when you think you have nothing left to give. It's being the message, not just speaking it. We are to be the manifestation that Francis is exemplifying and that Christ calls us to be. Such a simple message, but - of all the sessions - one that probably stuck with me the most. On a personal level, I would never consider myself someone equipped to evangelize. I don't know the saints. I haven't memorized scripture. I've never read the entire Bible. How can I possibly be equipped to evangelize? But I am. You are, too. You have everything you need, as we are called to be examples of mercy, champions of human dignity. For, as Gal. 2:20 tells us, it is no longer that I live, but that Christ lives in me. 

Closing liturgy - the Prelude sang, "United in one Spirit, each different in appearance, all are welcomed in the house of God." The strongest moment, for me, was when they brought forward the children whose parents had been deported. My heart melted to see their faces...truly, I felt a change within. Every life, every person, is worthy of the same level of dignity, opportunity, and love. With readings and song done in five languages, traditions incorporated into a single celebration, and the beauty of our differences brought together, we left this year's conference as a team truly afire! 

*Please know these are my summarized notes, mixed with thoughts and a few interruptions along the way. Any misstatements are my own as it relates to the speaker. Please stop by the LA Congress site to see the official presentations made by these amazing speakers.

Just for fun, this post links up at Catholic Carnival

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Live from LA Congress: Day 2 Recap

Day 2 of LA Congress - can't believe we're already nearing the end. Day 1 feels like so long ago, not just yesterday! *

We started the morning with morning prayer, presided by Julianne Donlor-Stanz, the Director of the Department of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay. Originally from Ireland - and with St. Patrick's Day right around
St. Patrick and the Snakes
the corner - she told a legend of St. Patrick. One day, St. Patrick was climbing a mountain to spend some quiet time with the Lord. On the way up the mountain, he was repeatedly attacked by black birds - demons in disguise - who wanted to stop him on his journey. He fought them off, armed with only a walking stick. At the top of the mountain, he encountered the Mother of Satan in the form of a snake. She encircled him, tempted him, attacked him...and he fought her off, swing by swing by swing with his walking stick. Fast forward to today: we - you, I, those before us, and those yet to come - all have our own demons we fight. Our internal demons of anger, mistrust, self doubt, hardened hearts, and more. We fight these battles each day, and - much like St. Patrick - must battle the Mother: Our Pride. It's our pride that stands in the way of forgiveness. It's our pride that doesn't let us back down, admit when we're wrong, let go of past angers and injustices. But, like St. Patrick with his walking stick, we have the opportunity each day to swing and chip away at our pride each day. Ouch - and wow. ...and the day has only just begun. (thanks to Unique Teaching Resources for the graphic!)

Up next - the one and only Fr. Robert Barron. He emulated the Word on Fire from the moment he stepped on the stage, and gave us a wonderful plan on how we can bring Christ to today's culture: (1) Lead with the

Beautiful - Catholicism is a beautiful faith, from our traditions to the kind of people we are (or should be). Be that person, lead by example, and share the beauty of our faith. This leads to the goodness we offer and subsequently to the biblical truths. Trying to do it in any other order is a loss. (2) Don't Dumb Down the Message - people of all ages can handle such complexity. We teach math and science in kindergarden yet have elementary school children gluing pompoms onto a "Paschal Lamb". Why must we oversimplify our faith when we don't need to? Give people the heavy - or someone else will. (3) Preach with Ardor - be strong. Be excited. Vatican II was not to modernize the Church but to make us light bearers as we go to the ends of the earth sharing the Good News in a way people could understand. Share that news. Be excited! (4) Tell the Great Story - and keep Jesus in context of the Old Testament. Without the Old Testament, Jesus is just another bearer of peace. With the Old Testament, he is a prophecy filler. He is the Savior of not only Israel, but the world. (5) Remember that God Doesn't Need Us (wait...what??). God utterly loves us, but doesn't need us. Think of a relationship you're in - it's reciprocal. You do something nice for me and I do something nice for you. We're dependent on each other. The difference here is God doesn't depend on us for his happiness - he loves us no matter what we've done and will never stop. (6) To quote Bruce, Everybody's Got a Hungry Heart. We are WIRED to want more. So many are seeking the wrong thing because what they really need is a relationship with God, not the worldly goods of today that don't permanently satisfy. (7) Use the new media ONLY once you've completed steps 1-6. ...and suddenly his hour and a half ended with us all wanting more. 

Wanting more, we did the natural thing at break - headed straight to his book signing table for a chance to meet him, thank him for sharing the gift he was given with us, and get this really awesome photo :)

The second session of the day was deep - as in pastoral theology deep. Our pastor often speaks of Henri Nouman, so it was a great opportunity to sit in on a session all about Mr. Henri himself. The discussion was largely Philosophy 101, with Will Hernandez centering around the topic of polarity. Polarity, or two opposing contradictory statements, are at the core of our faith. Take woundedness and healing: it's not the wounded who need a doctor, but the sick - Jesus's affirmation that only those who face their wounded condition can be available to receive God's healing. We are all wounded, and we need to figure out how to put our woundedness into the healing of others. Take solitude and community: the space within us and the space among us are fully intertwined; in our solitude we discover God in our innermost being, and in community we discover God for our life together. Take presence and absence: we need to be fully present to others around us, but need to make sure we aren't in the way of the work of the Spirit; we can't cram theology and faith down at someone without partnering and letting the Spirit work as well. The summary? (1) We need to subscribe to a both/and (inclusive) instead of an either/or (exclusive) and watch our lives expand. (2) We need to move closer to the center as the truth lies in the middle of two extremes; we realize our sameness with others when we meet in the middle instead of living life at the periphery. (3) We need to work towards integration and wholeness; labeling is always limiting. These three messages stood out like a blueprint for how we are called to live - such wonderful takeaways.  

After such a deep session, there was just one obvious choice: go shopping. CatGear, a company that wears their faith (as opposed to their heart) on their sleeve, had some adorable sweatshirts and t-shirts. My favorite was hard to pick - I was torn between the calligraphy-styled "Catholic" (see photo) and a second that literally matched the same blue with white lettering gym shirt that I remembered as part of my uniform from elementary school. In the end, calligraphy won out. Love this shirt. 

The third session, led by the ever-present John Allen Jr., looked at What's Hot and What's Not in Catholicism today. To start off, he covered what's just plain not true: (1) Fallacy of Doctrine: Francis is not a doctrinal radical, but he's still a child of the church. If the litmus test is whether he changes doctrine, well...you get the idea. (2) Francis = good, Benedict = bad: actually, there is a HUGE affection between the two popes. Francis has described it like having your grandfather living at home with you! He wants us to know Benedict isn't a wax statue in a museum and wants him to be present...after all, some of the
reform that Francis is being credited with started under Benedict. (3) All Sizzle, No Steak: In actuality, significant changes have and are taking place. The financial ministry that has been put in place is a cultural revolution in Rome as the Old Guard has the purse removed. Francis's instatement of a publically-transparent budget, with three tiers of checks and balances, is shattering. Key Trend to Watch For: Anti-Christian Persecution. Low estimates are that one Christian is killed each day. High Estimates are that one Christian is killed every hour. The real number is likely somewhere in the middle - around 5,000 per year. Again - that's roughly 5,000 PEOPLE PER YEAR killed because of their Christian faith. Our Western idea of suffering is when mass runs an extra :20min long or being hungry on Ash Wednesday. For a huge segment of the Christian population (there are 2.3B of us, or 1/3 of the world's population), suffering is a daily choice between faith and death. Expect to see this at the forefront of his global leadership meetings, including March 27th with Barak Obama, in the Holy Land on May 24-26, and in Korea in August. 

We finished the night with liturgy - a beautiful liturgy led by Rev. Henry Sands in the Native American spirit. Through interpretive tribal dance, the liturgy opened with a Cherokee morning song: "We n' de ya ho, He ya ho" - I am of the Great Spirit, it is so. The gatherings, refrains, hymns, and closing were spoken in the voice of the Inuit, Lakotas, Hopi, and Incas. Their sacred drums gave us the back beat as we sang Amazing Grace: "u ne la nv i u we tsi". Truly, we are one family united in spirit!

...can't believe tomorrow is the last day

*Please know these are my summarized notes, mixed with thoughts and a few interruptions along the way. Any misstatements are my own as it relates to the speaker. Please stop by the LA Congress site to see the official presentations made by these amazing speakers.

Just for fun, this post links up at Catholic Carnival