Sunday, January 15, 2017

Top 10 Faith Posts of 2016

Are you looking for ways to teach and celebrate faith-related ideas with your children in 2017?  Perhaps scrolling through our Top 10 Faith Posts from 2016 will inspire you.

Recently, I realized that again in 2016, the Top 20 most popular posts were here at Training Happy Hearts were split almost 50-50 between reviews and giveaways and faith-related posts.  Thus, today, I thought I would share our Top 10 Faith Posts of 2016 s that you might discover inspiration that you may have previously missed or enjoy revisiting an idea that you'd like to try out in 2017.

I pray that as you scroll through our Top 10 Faith Posts from 2016 you are inspired to continue to live and grow in faith in 2017.  


Paint a Marian Peg Doll

Whether you are a novice or an old pro, painting peg dolls can be fun for all ages.  Find fabulous designs to inspire your own Marian peg dolls among the ones that local friends and I created.


Check Out Our Beautiful New Lenten Learning Tool!

Why stop at peg dolls when wooden eggs are so much to decorate as well?  My first forays into woodburning were fun as I participated in a local Lenten Resurrection Eggs swap.  You can find close ups of each egg and brief explanations of their symbolism at  this post.


Make D.I.Y. Stations of the Cross Prayer and Sequencing Sticks

Paint sticks, paint, laminated printouts, scissors, and velcro were what we used to make DIY Stations of the Cross Prayer and Sequencing Sticks last Lenten season.  Find details of how we made them, as well as other ideas and resources for teaching and praying the Stations of the Cross at this post.


10 Ways to Begin Advent

We do love celebrating Advent and Lent in big ways and small here. Plan ahead to next Advent with inspiration from 10 Ways we celebrate.


How We Plan to Celebrate the Canonization of Mother Teresa + a SKILL TIME Round Up!

Sometimes, we like to build most of our lessons and activities around liturgical celebrations.  Whether you're looking for a single quick idea to celebrate Saint Theresa of Calcutta this coming year or would like a while bunch, you may find what you're looking for here.


Go on a Doors of Mercy Pilgrimage

The window for going on a Doors of Mercy pilgrimage may have passed, but the need for mercy and the blessings of pilgrimages seems ever-present.  Perhaps 2017 could be your year for seeking sacraments during pilgrimages.


Begin a Works of Mercy Wise Men Tradition with 16+ Picture Book-Inspired Service Acts

Whether you'd like to begin a fun new tradition that marries picture books and acts of kindness next Advent or are looking for simple inspiration for Works of Mercy throughout Ordinary Time, perhaps this post can help.


Plans to Honor Our Lady of Sorrows through Art, Music, and a Poet-Tea

Lots of folks seemed to like the plans I shared for an Our Lady of Sorrows Poet-Tea.  In case you did not see how those plans played out, feel free to pop by this post:



Enjoy Saint Padre Pio S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + (and a FREE Copywork Printable!)

Bookmark this post for September if you'd like a free copywork printable to help celebrate Saint padre Pio's feast day!  You'll find plenty more learning ideas there, too.


8 Sensory Smart Ways to Celebrate St. Anthony of Padua

In recent years, I have moved away from posting so much about SPD, but it seems some of you still appreciate sensory-smart ideas like the ones I shared related to St. Anthony of Padua.  I wonder if you also noted the FREE St. Anthony of Padua Nature Scavenger Hunt Printable I shared, too.


  We'd love to hear which posts YOU liked best in 2016 and what you'd like to see us focus on sharing more of in 2017.  As you might guess, there are always more things happening than we have time to write about, and we'd love to tailor what we share to what you'd like to read.  So, please don't be shy with requests and suggestions.  

May God bless you a your 2017 unfolds.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

6 Ways to Celebrate Epiphany

Happy Epiphany Sunday!

Life got a bit harried here this end of Christmastide, so we were unable to celebrate Epiphany with all the traditions that we have in the past (like doorway chalk blessings).  However, we still observed both the traditional day of Epiphany (January 6) and this Epiphany Sunday with moments of prayer and joy.

Some highlights of our observances - which I pray will inspire you to slip in celebrations even during your own crazy, busy days - were:

Sharing Stories

(Disclosure: Some links which follow are affiliate ones.)
I did not have time to borrow all our favorite Epiphany read togethers from the library this year, so we simply shared two that we own.

Humphrey's First Christmas has gorgeously expressive illustrations and engaging text which tells the story of a cranky, yet endearing camel, who starts his journey "all about me", but ends "all about Him".  The book seemed especially meaningful this year as some preteen attitudes began infiltrating our home.  The message of being overwhelmed with love and letting that love change you hit home! 

I also love that the book ends with the name of Jesus since January is dedicated the Holy Name of Jesus.

Every year at this time, we borrow the single copy of the out-of-print The Story of the Three Wise Kings that our library owns.  This, year, though, we did not have to. 


Much to my delight, The Story of the Three Wise Kings has been reprinted in a collection called Joy to the World: Tomie's Christmas Stories, which was (and still is!) on sale and, thus, became my children's Epiphany gift.

We are all thrilled to own our own copy of the first Epiphany picture book story we ever read together.  It truly has become such a family tradition to read this story together that it does not seem like Epiphany for us until we do.
Enjoying Faith through Food

We love celebrating faith through food here, so, even when things were a bit crazy here on Friday, I set aside time to put together a quick and easy celebratory dinner that, this year, included a dout stable, a blueberry sky with cashew Star of Bethlehem, pineapple and pineapple juice "gold", chocolate-nuts-seed-dried fruit-spice "frankincense", and greens "myrrh".

The kids could not wait to dig in after we prayed, snapped a photo or two, and chatted about symbolism.

Celebrating Mass
Traditional Epiphany found a few inches of snow on our ground and Epiphany Sunday found a foot-and-a-half of the white stuff, but that did not stop us from celebrating Mass. 

I was blessed on Friday to have some quiet time on my own at Holy Hour with Divine Mercy, and, then, my husband and children joined me for the Mass which followed. 

Then, this morning, we were among those that braved shoveling out to get to Sunday Mass.  So glad we did!

Enjoying a Pageant

Truth be told, we had two reasons to shovel out this morning!  One, of course, was Mass.  The other was the children's Christmas pageant. 

For the first year since we had children, our parish decided to host a Christmas pageant.  Because the Christmas season is so busy for so many, those organizing the pageant decided to hold it just before the vigil Mass for Epiphany Sunday.   However, Mother Nature had another plan.

A blizzard postponed our final rehearsal and show until this morning!

That caused a bit of chaos, as our cast members, accompanist, fellow Mom volunteers, and audience members had to work hard to shovel out to get to the church, and, unfortunately, our set person never made it. 

Despite that, though, the pageant turned out well.  All the children did a beautiful job, including my three children, who were cast in five roles:

My girlie was the Angel Gabriel.

My youngest was Caesar Augustus and, then, a shepherd.  (Somehow, we failed to get a photo of him as the latter, which is too bad, because he looked so cute!)

And, my oldest was a prophet, and, then, a townsperson.

Yours truly volunteered to co-direct and enjoyed doing so.
Praying for Babies
Every year, our church hands out baby bottles at the beginning of Advent to be filled with change through Epiphany to support the work of the Respect Life Committee.

My children love filling the bottle with loose change and bills, making secret offerings to it, as well as ones we make as a family. 

Due to the chaos from the blizzard this morning, we did not remember to bring our bottle to return this week (but will get it to the committee later!)  We did, though, remember to make special time to recall how Jesus came to earth as a baby and to offer extra prayers for babies today.

Learning about the Star of Bethlehem

We haven't actually done this yet, but as we settle for bed tonight, we are going to snuggle up with a library copy of The Star of Bethlehem

We have never watched this documentary before, but it was recommended to me by friends, so we are excited to see what we might learn from it.

May this Epiphany bring you blessings and joy, no matter what else may be happening in life!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Are You Looking for a Bible Storybook to Take Your Child from Read Togethers to Read to Self?

If you're looking for a bright, bold, simply told, sturdy book of Bible stories, then the The Beginner's Bible by Zonderkidz could be for you.

You may have heard of
The Beginner's Bible since it was originally released in 1989 and has sold over 25 million copies, but did you know that the new anniversary edition has all new, vibrant 3-D artwork?

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}
Basically, the same colorful images
that a generation of children came to know and love have now been redesigned to have a 3-D effect which makes them pop.  

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}

Along with the illustrations come 94 simply written Bible adaptations from both the Old and New Testaments.  These adaptations are printed in a large, easy-to-read font with just a few lines per page.  That makes them perfect for beginning readers to enjoy on their own or for parents to read to children who like quick stories.

My own son was delighted to receive his very own copy of
The Beginner's Bible for Christmas, and has since been happily enjoying it since on his own, with his siblings, with Daddy, and with me!

In fact, it made my heart sing to see that during one of my son's recent "Read to Self" times, I found him on the couch puzzling through through some words to read the first pages of
The Beginner's Bible on his own.

Then, I was equally pleased when my son asked if he could use his new Bible storybook as reading material for our 1:1 ELA lesson.   (Why certainly, Son!)

Likewise, when I was paging through the book myself, I was happy to see that it includes a colorful map, which is helpful for gentle geography studies, as well as a short Bible dictionary - great for ELA - and, of course, a full Table of Contents, which we have used more than once to help my son find his favorite Bible stories to read.

The Beginner's Bible includes Bible stories that many children will likely already be familiar with, like my son's favorite, David and Goliath, as well as other popular stories, such as:

  • The Beginning
  • Adam and Eve
  • Noah's Ark
  • The Battle of Jericho
  • David and Goliath
  • Daniel and the Lions
  • An Angel Visits Mary
  • Jesus Calms the Storm
  • The Lost Sheep
  • The Last Supper,
  • Jesus is Risen.  

There are also lesser known Bible stories, such as:

  • Ruth and Naomi
  • Hannah's Prayer,
  • Earthquake in Prison.  

So, this Bible storybook, though by no means a complete Bible, offers a more thorough introduction to Salvation History than many children's Bibles do.  Plus, there are Bible references at the start of each story, so that children and parents can easily look up the full Scripture that each chapter in the Bible storybook comes from.

Truly, the 25th anniversary update of The Beginner's Bible is a keeper. So, whether your older copy of the book has become tired and worn, or whether you're just looking for a new Bible storybook with child-friendly, engaging cartoon-like illustrations on each page, the newly updated version of The Beginner's Bible may be for you.

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}

Without question, The Beginner's Bible has invited my son to read stories of our faith on his own and with the rest of the family, and, since it is a hardcover book bound with a sturdy, glossy cover and thick pages that are easy for little fingers to turn, I know it will last. 

If you're looking for a children's Bible storybook, I'd recommend it.

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}

More Information

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}

The Beginner's Bible was designed for children in the 4-8 year old age range.  Young children may enjoy looking at the illustrations while being read to by an older child or adult, while beginning readers may be able to read the Bible stories book all by themselves. 
The Beginner's Bible currently sells for $16.99.  Discounts are available for purchases of 10 or more copies, and a Deluxe Edition, which includes 2 audio CD's with narrations, music, and sound effects is available for $24,99.

Who doesn't love freebies? 
Head on over to
The Beginner's Bible website for free printable coloring pages, writing pages, dot-to-dots, mazes, and more for kids.  Also note the free printables for parents and teachers as well as free online games and a FREE App.

Get social with 
Zonderkidz on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

The Beginner's Bible {Zonderkidz}

Read what 80 Homeschool Review Crew families had to say
about the newly updated Bible storybook.

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Question for 2017

For several years running, I have joined others in the exercise of choosing one word or phrase to act as a guide for the new year.  This year, as the old year has transformed into a new one, many words and phrases have come into my mind and heart:

Pause.  Reflect.  Connect.  Relationships.  Purpose.  Gratitude.  Create.  Clear.  Encourage.  Embrace.  Today.  Health.  Live. The list continues... 

However, on it there has been no single word that the Spirit seems to be persistently - and ironically - trying to get me to listen to, and, likewise, there has yet to be a phrase that has echoed from my heart to my head, creating an aha in my soul.  Nope.  There has not even been a simple pair of words whispered to me in such a gentle, yet firm way that I know they must be my words for 2017.  

Rather, during the past few weeks, a question that I have often used to reset myself and my children through the years has come to mind and lips over and over again:

What can I do right now to make the next moment better?

So it is, that I have decided NOT to embrace a single word, or even a short phrase, for 2017, and, to, instead let this question lead the way.  Undoubtedly, as I do, I will, by default, listen... and ACT.  I will recognize what is  I will, at times, pause, reflect, connect, create, clear, and encourage.
I will embrace gratitude, work on relationships, live with purposeful pause.  I will, with God's grace, live in the very precious present while building a better future. 

Yes, that is what 2017 is already about for me.

What word, phrase, statement, or question might guide you throughout 2017?  I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

May Your Christmastide Be Blessed

May your Christmas be blessed and beautiful.
May you be filled with His love and peace.
May gifts of joy be yours.
And may gratitude never cease.
Wishing one and all a blessed Christmastide!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

When Joyful Anticipation Gets Interrupted

Joyful anticipation.  That's what Advent is all about, right?

It is meant to be.  But, sometimes, life throws you a curve ball. 

You and yours are in the midst of a "catch up" day, when you've cleared the calendar and are staying home to attend to some responsibilities that have been being pushed aside, as well as to enjoy some Advent merriment that you've been wanting to get to - cookies, crafts, and such.

You wind down a pleasant morning of checking off tasks and begin to look forward to lunch, followed by the completion of a few more things, before a late afternoon of Advent merriment.

Just as you're about to call a pre-lunch tidy, the phone rings.  Your daughter picks up the receiver and hands it to you, saying, "It's a doctor."

BOOM!  Everything changes.

You wipe away silent tears that escape the corners of your eyes despite the brave smile that you try muster up for your children.  You take a deep breath and make a quick, silent plea to the Lord for the right words to explain things to your little loves who have such big ears when you're on the phone and such keen sensitivity when your emotions do a 180.

As your children's questions slow, you hug them tightly and say, "It's going to be all right.  We'll take things one step at a time and get through this together.  God is with us."

Then, you lay your trust in that.  He IS with us.

Jesus came to us all those years ago in Bethlehem.  He comes to us each week in the Eucharist and in the way others let themselves be His hands, heart, and mouth. 

Because of this, there is hope.  There is love.  There is joy.

There are three young children offering extra hugs to a Mommy who needs them and leaving rocks and shells decorated with encouraging messages all over the house.

There is a woman who knows she is loved by those children, their earthly Daddy, and their Daddy in Heaven.

There is concern over what will unfold regarding the news from the phone call.  Yet, joyful anticipation remains, re-ignited by love and hope.

If you, too, have had an Advent interrupted by unexpected news or difficult challenges, please know you are not alone.  None of us are.  His love brings hope.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Enjoy a Movie and Moving Joseph, Mary and the Donkey

I was intending to share about something else this week, but when I heard my children laughing as they watched a movie and, then, giggled  myself upon finding our Joseph, Mary, and donkey figurines facing our bathroom wall for the umpteenth time this week, I felt prompted to share about one of our simple Advent traditions:  Family Movie Night and a Journey to Bethlehem.

Now, before I share why Joseph, Mary, and the donkey were facing the wall, let me explain the back-to-back parts of our weekly Advent tradition:

Family Movie Night 

As much as we attempt to keep our hearts focused on joyful anticipation during Advent, it's easy to get caught up in pre-Christmas busyness and holiday hoopla.  Thus, for the past several years, we've made it a point to s-l-o-w life down in our home once a week throughout Advent - and, sometimes, straight through Christmastide and on to Candlemas - to enjoy the treat of a family movie night.
  {Disclosure:  Some links which follow are affiliate ones.}

So far this year, we've enjoyed:

Miracle on 34th Street is a classic, which is well worth watching.  Beware, though: the movie can bring up questions about if Santa really exists, which may not be welcomed, depending on your children's ages and family's traditions. 

In our home, we have always taught the Santa is the expression of the spirit of love at Christmas, so the movie presented no problems for us.  Rather, Miracle on 34th Street proved not only a fun film to watch, but also one that prompted natural discussions about virtue and vice as chatted about the plot and characters depicted in the movie.

In years past, we've watched this version of The Littlest Angel:

This year, though, we accidentally ordered this one from the library:

What fun my children thought this newer version of The Littlest Angel is!  They laughed so hard at the silliness and antics within the film and appreciated messages about the importance of friendship, the delights of memories, the power of forgiveness, and the big potential of small acts of kindness.  They also paused to comment about the theological differences between the movie premise and our own Catholic beliefs. (We have discussed before how humans do not become angels when they die, for example.) 

Watching the extras included on the DVD, my children learned a bit more about animated film making.  Cool!  A lot of laughter, a little theological chatting, a cozy doze of togetherness, and a bit of learning...  I'll take that for a movie night.

In years past, some other films we've enjoyed are:

...and more!  We'd love to hear your recommendations for family-friendly Christmas and Epiphany movies!

A Journey to Bethlehem

After our movie each week, we help our Joseph, Mary, and donkey figurines journey towards Bethlehem.

Basically, on the first day of Advent, we put the angel, shepherd, sheep, and cow figurines from one of our nativity sets up in our living room and, then, place the Joseph, Mary, and donkey figurines in one of the rooms furthest from the living room. Then, each week during Advent, after a simple dinner and movie, we move our Joseph, Mary, and donkey figurines to another room in our house, helping them, "journey to Bethlehem".

On Christmas Eve, Joseph, Mary, and the donkey finally settle into our living room nativity set.  Then, on Christmas day, the Baby Jesus figurine is added, and, after journeying themselves, the Wise Men get added on Epiphany.

A Bit of Humor

So what's up with Joseph, Mary, and the donkey facing the wall? 

This year, some of our bedrooms have not yet made it into a clean and clear state, ready to safely host our Joseph, Mary, and donkey figurines for a week.  Thus, last week, the children decided to have the figurines journey to our bathroom. 

Putting Joseph, Mary, and the donkey in a clear space in the bathroom all seemed well and good until someone had to go potty.  Then, the children felt uncomfortable, so they turned the figurines towards the wall each time a potty run was made.  I did not know this until someone forgot to turn the figurines back around when exiting the bathroom.  Oh my! 

I am glad it is a new week and Joseph, Mary, and the donkey can continue their journey to Bethlehem elsewhere.  I also look forward to our next family movie night.

What simple traditions help slow your family down during this sometimes busy season? 


Related Posts with Thumbnails