Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How I want to spend my leap day

What would you do with your time if the world paused today?

Every four years, we are blessed with an extra day on our calendar.  February 29th is kind of an oddity.  I remember thinking as a kid that if you were born on Leap Day, you would age four times slower (kind of like Robin Williams as Jack, only in reverse).  I of course know now that this is not true, but still think that there is something special about a Leap Day.  Since it is extra, I think that it should be a freebie- as in a day where normal life stops-kind of like pushing the pause button. 

Now, I am not talking "holiday" because holidays tend to be more work than a day off- think about Thanksgiving.  I think that I am trying to capture something more like the Sabbath, the way God intended it.  Everything else stops, you focus on Who God is, and who you are as His creation.  No other responsibilities take precedence. You enter in to true rest. 

So if I could plan my Leap Day as a day when the world pauses, this is what I would do:
(note that I am not trying to imitate that this is the perfect Sabbath, just what I would do today if it were a freebie)

1. I would sleep in- not a long time, just long enough that I don't feel like I need toothpicks in my eyes to proceed with the day.
2. I would make a nice breakfast.  Breakfast is actually my favorite meal of the day, but I rarely have time to cook something good.
3. I would spend a good chunk of time in quiet prayer, in a dimly lit church, without a list of to-dos crowding into my head.
4. I would not answer email or my cell phone. (I guess I couldn't, if the world had paused, huh?)
5. I would go for a nice long walk.
6. I would read something good- something entertaining and challenging.  And while I was reading, I would not have one eye on the clock thinking that I need to stop so that I can get somewhere.
7. I would sit down to watch a movie.  And while I was watching the movie, I would not have my laptop in front of me, I would not fold laundry, I would not work on anything.  I would not do anything but watch.  I think that this movie would be perfect:

So what would you do with your Leap Day?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Keeping the Sabbath #14

Happy First Sunday of Lent!
1. A Song:

2. A Verse:
This is dedicated to Abigail, born this morning, a rainbow baby.  How appropriate that the readings from Mass this weekend start with Noah-

"This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth."
~Genesis 9: 12-13

3. A Quote:

"A covenant made with God should be regarded not as restrictive but as protective" ~Russell M. Nelson

4. An Image

5. A Blessing
Got to see my both sisters this weekend-which was a surprise!  It is nice to all be around the same table sometimes :)

6. An Intention
Praying for the Behold Conference.  Will you be there?

7. A Challenge
Answering emails....lots of them...over the next couple of weeks.  Since I don't have internet at home, it is hard to stay on top of emails and not get frustrated.  With the Behold Conference coming up, I am having memories of the bulk of emails last year, and am not looking forward to all of it again-Will be offering it up for the women attending the Conference to have a beautiful, Christ filled, and uplifting day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stuff Catholic Girls Say

(Prize alert below!!!)

Laughed So Hard:
Catholics, and Non Catholics alike, enjoy!
I have had every (and I mean EVERY) single one of these conversations.

A prize (it will be fabulous and crafty!) shall be awarded to the commenter below who can first identify which "Thing Catholic Girls Say" made me laugh the longest.  This informal contest ends next Friday.  Ready...go!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Youth Group this weekend was fun.  The kids had a four day weekend, so they coerced me (and their parents) into staying longer.

We played volleyball. (outside, in the dark, in freezing temperatures, with a deflating beach ball)
We made some fun (and ridiculous) videos of the boys experimenting with food. (and eating it- that's the rule!)
We played Sardines with the lights off in the entire Youth Group Room. (a current favorite game)
We also used my get-to-know you game from this post- which turned out to be kind of fun.  The kids all learned some new things about each other, and got kind of creative, too.

The favorite response:

Ice breaker question: "What do you think Mary's last words were at her Assumption?"
Answer: "Beeee gooood..." (Picture this in an ET-like serious, drawn out tone)

Which led to a new Facebook Profile Pic for the group:

Notice the Mother-like pointing finger.  (I mean you, Thomas.  You too, Sons of Thunder.  St. Peter's in charge...)

These kids are awesome.

Anyways, the lesson was on Heroism- with Esther and St. Bernadette as examples.  Click below for the link.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Keeping the Sabbath #13

Keeping it simple this Sunday-

"Thus says the LORD:
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers."
~Isaiah 43:18-19

Friday, February 17, 2012

Space for Rent

Remember this post?

I have run out of concealed storage space based on the rate that boxes for the Behold Conference are arriving at my door.

This is currently my main hallway:

I just might need to take up residence someplace else for the next three weeks- anyone have space to rent? 

So what is in THESE boxes?


You're just going to have to come to the conference to find out!

On that note, are you registered?

Beach Ball Icebreakers

Beach Ball + Sharpie = Your cheapest teaching tool ever!

I love beach balls-
Cover them in vocab words to study.
Use them to review questions about a book or chapter.
Write activities/stations/tasks and use them to make choices.
The list goes on and on.

Toss them around, and the catcher has to answer the question (or define the vocab or pick that activity, etc.) based on where their right thumb lands. 

You can make as many as you need for very little money (especially if you buy a stash at the end of the summer) and they are easy to deflate and store, or brighten up a space if you hang them from the ceiling still inflated.

Per the request of the attendees at my presentation last night- Here are the questions that I used on my Catholic-Get-To-Know-You Ball.  Write all these questions on a beach ball, and you have a great ice breaker for your next youth group, Bible study, or adult gathering.  (Girls love it because they get to talk about  themselves, and boys love it because they get to throw things inside.)  The questions are geared more towards teens and adults, but you could certainly adapt them for younger kids.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Gospel in an Eggshell

Looking for a quick hands-on object lesson for Lent and Easter?
Here's a new one to try:

The Gospel in an Eggshell.

I like this one, because it is quick, and tells the story with objects that can lead to short, easy conversations with littles, or longer, more advanced conversations with older kids.

You will need one of each item for each child:
  • a plastic Easter egg
  • a mini baby Jesus (see directions below)
  • a small cross 
  • a small artificial flower, or some Easter grass, or other "growing" thing
  • a Gospel in an Eggshell sticker (link below)
  • a Gospel in an Eggshell insert (link below)
This is a great lesson to help kids see that the Jesus we celebrate at Christmas time is the same Jesus who died for us on Good Friday.  It can be really hard for kids to understand how he can go from baby to 33 year-old man in a few months during the Liturgical year.  This activity can help tie the story together and emphasize that He came so that we might have life forever with Him.

Here's how you make this easy craft-

1. Prep work for the adult comes first- I don't recommend using a hot glue gun with kids :)
Draw a simple "sleeping" face on a wooden bead with a permanent marker.
 2. Cut out a roughly 3" x 3" square from any kind of white fabric.
 3. Using a handy-dandy hot glue gun, glue the head close to one of the corners.  Then glue one side across the "body" like this:
 4. Then glue the bottom like this:
 5. And glue the other side like this:  Ta-da!  Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes!
 6. Find some kind of a small cross- only rule is that it has to fit in an eggshell.  I think that I got several hundred of these from Oriental Trading.
 7.  Then you need something to represent life- I used a tiny artificial flower.  You could also use some Easter Grass, a real flower, etc.
 8.  Cut out a Gospel in an Eggshell sticker and insert.  (Both links below)  Someone donated a whole bunch of labels to our CCD program, so I actually printed the circle on labels and then cut them out using a circle punch.  That way, they can just stick on the outside of the egg, no glue required. 
 9. Now its time to get the kids involved. Have them add a sticker to the outside of the egg, and put Baby Jesus inside.  Ask the kids- Why do we celebrate Christmas?  Who was born on Christmas?  What did He grow up to do? etc.
 10.  Add a cross to the eggshell. Ask the kids- What is the cross a symbol of? What happened to Jesus on the cross?  Why did He have to die?  Did He stay on the cross?  What happened on Easter morning? etc.
 11.  Add the flower or grass.  Ask the kids- What does is mean to be alive?  How can this flower (or grass...) be a symbol of life?  What did Jesus come to earth to do?  How can we live with Him forever? etc.
 12.  Add the egg insert- It reads "He was born in order to die so that we might live!"  This is the time to tie the whole thing together with the kids.  Also, I always try to remind them of the symbolism of the eggshell- that it reminds us of the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. You can challenge them to go home and share the story of the three objects in the eggshell with their family and friends.  Remind them that Gospel means "Good News"- they are sharing the Good News of Jesus. 
Hope you enjoy trying this or your own variation with your kids!

Here are the documents to make the stickers and inserts:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Stories & Scripture- Curious George & Zacchaeus

Who doesn't love Curious George?  Cute monkey, curious about the world, always manages to get himself in trouble, but at the end of the day, you love him anyways.

Why not use the Curious George books (or movies) to teach kids about Zacchaeus?  Curious guy who made some mistakes, but through his curiosity he gets to meet Jesus and changes his life.

Click on the document for a link to the sheet.

Stories & Scripture:
Connecting beloved picture books with the faith:
The Kissing Hand & Doubting Thomas
The Giving Tree & The Prodigal Son
Curious George & Zacchaeus
Click, Clack,  Moo & Ask, Seek, Knock
Stone Soup & The Feeding of the 5000

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From Clubs to Cupids

Happy Feast of St. Valentine's Day!
Of course, I changed the text color of this post to red, because St. Valentine's Day is all about love, and roses, and hearts, and red boxes of chocolate, and cute little cupids, right?

Or not.

In a culture that creates a romantic-buy-a-new-dress-pick-up-expensive-flowers-eat-at-a-fancy-restaurant- mentality surrounding Valentine's Day, it is no wonder that we have lost the point.

Do you know WHY we celebrate something called Valentine's Day?

About 1800 years ago, it all started with a Catholic priest.  He was a good priest, who loved his Lord, but he lived in a time when that was not acceptable be a Christian.  Roman leaders heard of his beliefs, and subsequently killed him, first by beating him with clubs, and then beheading him for good measure. (Rumor has it that he was found to be a Christian because he was performing secret/illegal Christian marriages- hence the connection with romantic love.)

Clubs and beheadings- Now that sounds like Valentine's Day doesn't it?

What we need to remember on St. Valentine's Day is a different kind of love than the kind of love the greeting card companies would have us believe in.  Love is not all swoony and candlelit.  Sometimes love is manifested not in a bouquet of flowers, but in the life of a martyr.  Valentine died because he was in LOVE with the Creator of the Universe.  His life has become an example of LOVE for the billions who came after him.  I wonder what Valentine, looking on us from the beatific vision, thinks of the way we celebrate his "day" now?  Does he chuckle at how far we miss the point?  Does he pray for us, that we not lose our focus on the Source of Love?  Does he wonder about where in the world we came up with these Valentine's Day Traditions?

I don't know what St. Valentine is thinking, but I know that I plan on focusing on his kind of love this Valentine's Day.

"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." ~Deuteronomy 7:9

Monday, February 13, 2012

Stories & Scripture- Click, Clack, Moo and Ask, Seek, Knock

Have you read the book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type?  If the answer is no, you should stop what you are doing right now and go and check it out from your library.  It is super cute, and one of those books with humor that both kids and adults will giggle at.

The book can bring up some good discussion topics for all ages:
Should we always get what we ask for? 
Should we get things that we ask for right away?
How can we ask for the things that we need?

Which ties in very well with the Gospel story of Asking, Seeking, and Knocking.

Click on the document below for a link to a sheet with activities and discussion topics to use these two stories together.

Stories & Scripture:
Connecting beloved picture books with the faith:
The Kissing Hand & Doubting Thomas
The Giving Tree & The Prodigal Son
Curious George & Zacchaeus
Click, Clack,  Moo & Ask, Seek, Knock
Stone Soup & The Feeding of the 5000

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Keeping the Sabbath #12

1.A Song

2.A Verse
“I turn to you Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” ~Psalm 32:7

3.A Quote
“Spiritual joy is the greatest sign of the divine grace dwelling in a soul.” ~St. Bonaventure

4. An Image

5.A Blessing
I am grateful to have found myself many times this week laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my cheeks.  Laughter is so good for the soul.

6. An Intention
Still praying for decisions being pushed for in the government, and for the action being taken by the Church.

7. A Challenge
I think that joy sometimes follows from being grateful for things that we normally take for granted.  Each day this week, I plan to share some joy by writing a thank you note to someone that I am grateful for. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Stories & Scripture- Stone Soup & The Feeding of the 5000

Everybody knows some version of the Stone Soup legend:  hungry soldiers, stingy townspeople, creative plan, and a feast for all.

Ever considered the connection with Jesus' Feeding of the 5000? hungry followers, generous boy, miraculous plan, and a feast for all.

Here's a sheet with some ideas about how to use these two stories with kids:
(Note, you could use any version of Stone Soup, this was just the copy I had.)

Stories & Scripture:
Connecting beloved picture books with the faith:
The Kissing Hand & Doubting Thomas
The Giving Tree & The Prodigal Son
Curious George & Zacchaeus
Click, Clack,  Moo & Ask, Seek, Knock
Stone Soup & The Feeding of the 5000

Friday, February 10, 2012

Maybe I'm *Not* Amazed

This is dedicated to my dear friends Betsy and Karla:

I was not amazed by A Joyful Noise.  My seriously low expectations were chewed up, spit out, stomped on, and left to rot next to their crappy screen play.  We predicted what was going to happen each step of the way, the dialogue was ridiculous, and worst of all, what was suppose to be a "Christian" movie portrayed all of the people as either manipulative, immoral, or hypocritical (or all three).  They only get points for some fairly high quality dubbing and lip syncing. 

I did, however, highly enjoy getting a good laugh out of it while sitting in between the Wilkinson sisters.  There were lots of tears and snorting.

(Please do not think that by posting this video that I am in any way encouraging you to see this movie in the movie theater, to rent it at your local video store, to netflix it, to get it from red box, or any other form of viewing.  If someday in the future, you stumble across it on the Gospel Music Channel at 3 a.m. and decide to give up two hours of your life to watch it, don't say I didn't tell you so.)

Stories & Scripture- The Giving Tree & The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son is my all time favorite parable.  I love the symbolism, the story, the parallel to every sinner's life.  In college, I remember hearing a priest say that he thought that the name of this parable was stupid.  I was appalled!  However, he then went on to explain that the title is misleading, because the story is not really about the son, it is all about the Father.  I see his point.

In another unrelated conversation, I had a friend tell me that her mom never really like the children's book The Giving Tree, because the little boy is so selfish.  I remember responding (in defense, because I liked this book growing up :) ) that the book isn't really about the boy, it is all about the Tree.

And for some reason, those two lines slammed together in my head...

Selfish boy...selfish son.
Generous Tree...generous Father.

So here is another Stories & Scripture sheet that can help kids see the connections between the Giving Tree and The Prodigal Son, a lesson on forgiveness and generosity.

Stories & Scripture:
Connecting beloved picture books with the faith:
The Kissing Hand & Doubting Thomas
The Giving Tree & The Prodigal Son
Curious George & Zacchaeus
Click, Clack,  Moo & Ask, Seek, Knock
Stone Soup & The Feeding of the 5000

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Get ready for Lent

Can you believe that Lent is just around the corner?  Less than two weeks until we enter a season of renewed prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for the celebrate of Easter.  I know that is is early, but if you are looking for an activity to help explain the meaning of Lent to your kids (the ones you are raising or the ones in your classrooms), here's one you could try:

My take on Resurrection Eggs-  Complete with documents available for you to print (click on the documents below for a link) and easy-to-find items.  Start with an old egg carton and twelve plastic Easter eggs.  This might just be one of the cheapest crafts that actually can be used year after year.
 Each egg contains an object related to Holy Week and a slip of paper explaining the item with a corresponding Bible Verse.
The items included are:
1. Holy Water- for when Jesus washed the feet of the Disciples on Holy Thursday
2. Picture of hands breaking bread- for the institution of the Eucharist
3. A nickel- for the silver coins Judas got for betraying Jesus
4. A Lamb- (lamb picture with fuzzy cotton glued on) because Jesus was our sacrificial Lamb
5. Piece of leather string- for the leather whips used on Jesus at the scourging
6. Picture of crown of thorns- for the crown placed on Jesus, our King of kings
7. Small wooden cross- for the cross Jesus carried on Good Friday
8. Three Nails- for the nails that held Jesus to the cross
9. Picture of a soldier with a spear- for the lance that pierced Jesus' side after His death
10. Small piece of white cloth- for the linen that they wrapped Jesus' body in
11. Small rock- for the stone rolled in front of the tomb
12. Empty Egg- for the empty tomb on Easter morning- Alleluia!  He is risen!
I also created a letter to be sent home to the parents of the kids that do this activity.  The idea was that they would create it in class, listen to the story, and then after going home, be able to use the objects as memory devices to tell the story in their own words.
decoration for the top of the egg cartons
objects with Scripture verses

parent letter
 I have made this with lots of kids, ranging in age from preschool to ... high school actually. The last time that I made this I had several middle & high school helpers, and about half way through, they asked if they could all make one too!  I then heard stories from the parents of the older kids about how they went home and showed off their project and then put it in a safe place so their siblings couldn't hurt it.  Needless to say, I think that this activity appeals to a range of ages!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stories & Scripture- The Kissing Hand and Doubting Thomas

Last fall, I was asked to present at a workshop for CCD and Catholic School teachers.  The theme for the evening was "Making the Secular Holy."

I spent the summer thinking about ways that we can use the secular resources around us in our classrooms and our home to deliver a message of Truth to the kids that we love.  Now don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful books and movies out there that teach directly about Christ and His Church.  However, they might not be as readily available, might be more expensive, might not be as attractive, etc.  Let's be honest- most American homes have a copy of The Cat in the Hat, but few have The Weight of a Mass.

So let's teach our kids to find meaning in all things around them, that God can be found in the movies they watch and the books they read, even if they don't have an obvious tie.

This and following posts will have links to a one page sheet with questions, activities, and prayers that show the connection between a well loved secular children's book and a story from the Bible.
Included are questions to ask for each story, ways to bring them together, and connections to the Sacraments and Saints.

First up: The Kissing Hand & Doubting Thomas, a lesson in believing when you can't see.
Click on the document for a link to the real thing.

Happy reading!

Stories & Scripture:
Connecting beloved picture books with the faith:
The Kissing Hand & Doubting Thomas
The Giving Tree & The Prodigal Son
Curious George & Zacchaeus
Click, Clack,  Moo & Ask, Seek, Knock
Stone Soup & The Feeding of the 5000

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”~St. Ignatius of Loyola

Here's our Youth Group Lesson from last Sunday:  Click on the image below for a link to the document in Google Docs.

Topic: Leadership
Examples to Look To: St. Peter and Josiah

(Have you read about Josiah?  He is my second favorite Old Testament king.  As a young man, he refused to follow in the footsteps of his sinful father and grandfather, and instead changed an entire kingdom by encouraging orthodox devotion to the one and only God.  You can read about him in 2 Kings 22 & 23. A great example for everyone, but especially for teenagers who think that they are stuck repeating the cycles of hardship found in their families.)