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, October 21, 2014

Finding Your Gift in a Pile of Leftovers

Blame it on the fussy toddler, or hormones, or the flip-flop that had ripped just as I stepped out of the car. Blame it on whatever you want, but last night - at our women's ministry - I was THAT girl. The one who starts off sharing, answering a question, and - somewhere between the second and third breath - loses all sense and can barely finish the answer between the tears and nose blows. I actually woke up this morning and had that post-frat party hangover feeling (sans alcohol), thinking...please, let that have been a dream. Turns out, it wasn't - and maybe that's a good thing. 

We were on session three of Momnipotent, a wonderful study geared towards life as a mom today. I won't go into it here, but seriously, find one of these in your area or bring it to your parish if you can - it's so good and it's lead by the talented Danielle Bean with amazing guests (like Lisa Hendey). Last night's session was on the competition we women create for ourselves...of feeling like we're failing if our meals, house, friends, family, holiday decor, and style aren't Pinterest worthy. In a world that offers only highlight reels of others' lives, it's hard to remember that there are more than twice as many moments where these moms are down in the thick of it, just like you and me. As we were sitting in small group, we worked through the discussion questions - and then we came to IT. The question I thought I had a short, simple response to that ended up turning, for me, into so much more. "Are there times in your life where you feel inadequate? Who makes you feel that way?" Yes. Yes, yes yes - and the person who does that isn't my family, or my friends, or my neighbors. It's me. 

We all grow up with personal, individual experiences that make us who we are today. 

I was fresh out of Catholic school and new to the public system. My first day of school immediately put me in my place - I had no idea what to wear, where to go, what to do, or how to fit in. The outfit my mom helped me pick out, which I was so proud of wearing to my first day of school (out of a uniform), fell tragically short of what the other girls were wearing. The language the spoke was different - the bubble I had lived in felt like it popped. My bad perm, red glasses, and braces stood out in the wrong way. I felt so lost that first year, and the cruelty that others - just 13 years old as well - can verbally inflict on others is unimaginable. That first month, I found myself lost and on egg shells, constantly trying to find a way in. Instead, I found my way to a small lunch table at the back of the cafeteria.

There were four of us at the lunch table*. Kay, who came from a absent-father broken home; Liza, who barely spoke out of fear of others hearing her thick accent; Grace, who was sleeping (in 7th grade) with any older man she could as she sought to find her self worth by giving herself away; and me - someone who fit into none of these categories, yet felt just as outcast as they. I remember one afternoon, while watching the cool table sharing plans for the dance later that week, Grace snapped, "Jen, let it go. We'll never be like that. We're the leftovers." WHAM. There it was. I felt like she hit it on the head...she was right. We were the leftovers. We were the friends no one wanted to be friends with. We were the last to be picked at dodge-ball and the first to be pegged with the ball once it was game-on. We were the ones that bonded not over make-up and after school activities but over a shared sense of uncool. We found in each other a tenderness, understanding, and acceptance. 

Life changes, and people grow. I ended up finding a really wonderful friend in high school who - though I still manage to miss her birthday every year - still stands by my side and she probably has no idea how much I truly love and value her. I have several women now who are becoming an integral part of me and my family's life, and I enjoy spending time with them more than they'll ever know (and I hope to still be sitting with them, sharing a glass of wine, in forty years). But that feeling...that feeling of being the leftovers, the only-friends-until-something-better-comes-along, never completely goes away. It still shows up - I work to always be at all the social events we share for fear of being forgotten about if I'm not there. I worry when I leave a message that goes unreturned for fear they don't like me anymore. I don't ever want to be leftovers again. 

...and then I remember what a gift having been a leftover is. It's given me the chance to be a friend to people who had none (and them the chance to be mine). It's created this INTENSE need in me to make sure no one else ever feels like that - as a result, my husband and I are always having new parishioners/families over for dinner to make that connection with them and become a friendly face at Mass. It drives me to strike up small conversation and look into the eyes of total strangers, just in case no one else has stopped to talk with and smile at them that day. It leaves me writing lists from sign-in sheets at events I go to, making note of who is absent, and checking in with them later that night to make sure they're ok and let them know they've been missed. It inspires me to seek out the gifts in every single person I meet, because I know they have worth. It drove me to start a Moms group at our church, just in case there were other moms who were looking for other women out there to share this journey with (turns out there were over forty). It's given me this amazing ability to excel at individual sports - I've competed in countless bike, swim, run, and triathlon races, including the half Ironman and a bike tour across the state of Iowa (I still hate dodgeball). I have little issue speaking up or being silly...if I fail or look odd, well, I've developed a thick skin. We all have different experiences, and we are all broken...and that's where our faith steps in. We each have our own challenges, our own unique circumstances - and if we just ask, God will show us how to work with them. It's through my growing faith that I can see this gift as a gift and begin to shed the insecurities that come with it, keeping only the good. I'm thankful to have my gift...and I hope that you are thankful for your gift, too - whatever it may be. 


PS:  *totally not their real names


PPS: After the breakout group was over, and I had managed to pull myself together (drippy mascara and all), the session ended. So many beautiful amazing women came over and told me they had been/still are where I was. It amazed me, because most of these women are the most charming, confident people you'd ever imagine. Then, the Cool Girl came over. Come on, you know that even in your thirties and forties (and beyond, I'd imagine) there's still the cool girl. So she walks over to me, gives me an amazing hug, and tells me that is exactly how she feels. Wait, what? She shared HER challenges in finding intimate female friendships, of finding other women she can connect and share with on that deeper, more meaningful level, of difficulties in moving past that "we're more than acquaintances and perhaps even friends but I don't know if I can really call you if I'm going crazy and need someone to talk me off a ledge". For me, it was such a huge mental shift - here I was, seriously getting middle school jitters when she would say hi to me, and here she is sharing that she experiences the same struggles I do.

I am so blessed to have the beautiful women there as part of my friend family. I'm learning that a wrongly-perceived swimsuit or an ill-timed phone call doesn't mean they don't want to be friends. I'm thankful to know that they probably look past the thousand insecurities I have about myself - and perhaps don't even see them, just as I don't see anything in them except how amazing & inspirational they are. Seriously, ladies, you rock. I hope you know how much. 


PPSS: If you know someone who could use a hug, please share this with them. There's strength in numbers, ladies. Besides, I promise - I'll always be your friend. 


PPPSS: My head is a bit swollen right now...but since we're friends I'm sure you won't mind me sharing. Thanks for being cool like that. Had to share - the host of Momnipotent, Danielle Bean, and her guest host Lisa Headey (of Catholicmom.com) shared this article! Truly, I'm humbled. And honored. Thank you.

Just for fun...this post links up at CBN.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saint Michael: Defender of Evil and...Halloween!

Catholic Halloween Saint Michael

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays...it's one of those totally silly days that doesn't take itself too seriously. Grab a costume, have some chocolate, and enjoy the adorable costumes that come to your door. For my husband and I, Halloween has come a long way from our college days to now celebrating it with our toddler. As we try to live our Catholic faith in all that we do (and not "just" be church-on-Sunday-can't-get-out-of-the-parking-lot-fast-enough parents), we wanted to find a way to learn about our faith as part of this holiday.

Well, ask and you shall receive! A few days ago this post from Scott Richert on Catholics Celebrating Halloween. Pretty awesome. The article is great, as it talks about how "Halloween" is actually the contracted word from "All Hollows Eve", or All Saint's Day. I don't want to spoil the rest of the article, so check it out - turns out those ghosts and goblins have originis in the Catholic faith, too. I'll be honest, I truly had no idea!

The inspiration for today's project came from the last paragraph of the article - how we can say a prayer to St. Michael to watch out for us, and protect us from the goblins that lurk in dark corners on All Hollow's Eve. For our craft, we're making the Archangel St. Michael, complete with his helmet, sword, and shield - shielding off those scary things!


  • This one was super easy! On the back of the glittery paper, draw out a helmet (mine looks like a letter "C" with a bump in it), a sword, and a large shield. You want to make the shield large enough that it can hold a few scary stickers.
  • Cut out the shapes, glue them down on your angel.
  • Glue down google eyes (if using) - otherwise, draw the eyes along with the rest of the face. Add "St. Michael, Protect Us!" to the angel.
  • Stick the stickers onto the shield, and talk about how St. Michael battled evil a long time ago, and today he is still protecting us, using his sword and shield to keep evil away!
Check out all our Halloween projects!

Just for fun...this post links up at Arma DeiCBN

Monday, October 6, 2014

Knights of Columbus Installation Dinner

Knights of Columbus Installation Dinner Decorating Party Ideas
Hosting a dinner party is so much fun, so when we had the opportunity to move the annual Knights of Columbus out of the sterile church cafeteria into our back yard, we were thrilled! Hubby is entering his second year as Grand Knight, which made this event all the more meaningful. So proud of him.

When it comes to party planning, no one does it better than my friend Kylie of Made by a Princess: Parties in Style. I mean seriously, she's good. When it came to the KoC party, I knew I was hosting an outdoor potluck but wanted to make it a bit classier and less mishmashed casserole dishes, if you know what I mean. After a quick call to explain my challenge, Kylie shared some great ideas: using our own dishware/serving platters so the dishes matched, sticking cloves in lemons to help ward off bugs (plus, they look adorable), and more.

I took her tips, and created the blue-and-gold Knights of Columbus party shown below! Love the way everything came out. Already thinking of next year's dinner...

Knights of Columbus Installation Dinner Decorating Party IdeasFor the main table, I created a main focal area in the center of the table towards the back. As the Knights of Columbus' colors are blue and gold, I themed as much as possible with this color scheme. The lemons worked great not only to help fight the bugs, but to create a very summery feel to all the centerpieces - plus, they fit the color scheme perfectly! Hubby was great as he helped shop for blue and yellow flowers...it took three different stores to find enough to fill the nine vases we had. A tip: blue flowers - at least those this blue - are artificially colored, and the color will leach into the water. So, put the flowers in the final water just before the party unless you want your water to turn blue (as mine inadvertently did).  As it was a potluck, I made dessert - four dozen chocolate mini cupcakes with white frosting. I tried to avoid adding artificial food coloring (there's less than nothing good about that stuff) so sprinkled colored sugar in blue and yellow. This mini cupcake stand has been my go-to for more events than I can count! Lastly, I used a chalkboard with that new cool liquid chalk markers to write out a message to the officers...both the old and new. 

Knights of Columbus Installation Dinner Decorating Party Ideas
When it came to the individual dining tables, I used these gorgeous little hanging mason jars that my mom had given me for Christmas a few years ago. They're intended to be hung with tea lights, but I've used them as centerpiece holder all the time. They're just the right size for a table centerpiece - not to small that they get lost but not too tall that people have to peak around the centerpiece to talk to each other. Now - getting the lemons in the jars was quite a challenge. To do this, I had to stick a plastic cup (it's white, and you can just make it out in the photos) inside each mason jar. This left about a 1/4" space between the outside of the white cup and the inside of the mason jar - perfect for sliding a lemon slice between. Lemon slices float, so it was important to figure out a way to keep them weighted down. I also threw in some glass baubles in white and blue that I had on hand. Cute, no? They worked great clumped together like this on a side table during the ceremony, and then were right on hand to place as individual centerpieces when we did a quick reconfig on the yard for dinner. 

Knights of Columbus Installation Dinner Decorating Party IdeasFor the ceremony itself, we used one of the large tables as the podium. I'm a HUGE fan of simple white linen table cloths (we have six of them, all the same. Yep - six.). They work perfect for ANY season, as they're simple, classy, and pair perfectly with whatever theme you want to have. A bonus? When they're dirty, just throw them in the wash with some bleach and they come out just like new. The main table for the ceremony had, as it's base layer, one of the white tablecloths. I already had these great yellow and blue stripped placemats, so we laid three of them side-by-side to create a faux table runner...and it totally worked. I placed a large vase with lemons and flowers as the side (center) piece - to be honest, this was the last vase and I was both tired of slicing lemons and running short on time so just stuck the lemons whole into the vase :)  I still think it looks cute, and added a bit of variety to the centerpieces. In prep for the ceremony, we placed the KoC medals around the vase and along the table runner. 

Knights of Columbus Installation Dinner Decorating Party IdeasWhen it came to the serveware, we opted for disposable. I didn't have enough ceramic dishware or silverware to accommodate 50 people - plus, with the great quality now available out there for picnic-ware, you don't have to sacrifice quality or design to get a great look. In keeping with the general color theme, I opted for plain white paper plates (the high density kind), clear silverware (I think that always looks the classiest), and white napkins (again, classy vs. too much blue & yellow). We placed each type of silverware into a blue tin - I had these on hand from past get togethers, and find they work really well for large groups. I was tempted to do one of the bundles - you know, those cute little napkin-wrapped-silverware packages tied off with cute twine? - but with so many dishes, soups, appetizers, and folks going back for seconds (and thirds), we wanted to provide the most flexible option to our guests. 

I hope this gives you a few ideas for the next Knights of Columbus dinner you help host! 

Just for fun...this post links up at CBN.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Feast of Saint Francis: Sensory Dough Project/Activity for Kids

The Feast of St. Francis is celebrated each year on October 4th. This is a great feast day to celebrate with your children...not only is it a chance to talk with them about Pope Francis, but kids of all ages love the animals often portrayed with St. Francis. 

We celebrated - as a parish family - St. Francis's feast day in two really great ways today. There was a Blessing of the Animals this afternoon, where all parishioners had the chance to bring their animals (both the furry and not-so-furry) to meet and greet each other - and perhaps bark, hiss, and growl a bit, too.  
Saint Francis Animals Salt Dough Activity Project for Kids

The Faith Formation classes gave the little kids a chance to celebrate, too. With some salt dough, the kids made their own animals in honor of St. Francis. Cute, right? I'm thankful his teachers spelled out which animals were which...while we may have figured out the bunny, I'm pretty sure we would never have figured out the dog and tiger! What's nice about working with salt dough is it dries out and holds it shape...so you can keep those perfectly made tigers, bunnies, and dogs for years to come. 



  • Mix salt and flour together in bowl
  • Add warm water and kneed
  • Divide up into smaller bowls, and add a few drops of food coloring
  • Create animals out of your dough, using Q-tips, eyes, straws, or whatever else you have on hand!
  • Allow to air-dry

Just for fun...this post links up at Arma Dei & Catholic Carnival.

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!