Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sharing Easter Joy (Plus a Free Printable)

Ready to go egging!

It was after nightfall last night when the children, Mike and I went on a mission to share Easter joy.  Since that mission was a secret one and would have been exposed by camera flashes, I opted to avoid photographing much of it.  However, the memory will remain strong in my mind -- and the meaning even stronger in my heart.

First, we snuck across the street with quick, quiet footsteps and excited, yet hushed giggles to "egg" a neighbor's home.  Then, with Daddy driving our getaway van, we hit a nearby friend's house.

Later, as the children dyed their own Easter eggs, they chattered about what our neighbor and friends might think when they wake to find they've been "egged".

The children were excited to share both literal sweets and the more figurative sweetness of the message:


We are so glad He rose and wish all a joy-filled, blessed Easter!

Don't forget.  Easter begins today.  It's not too late to "egg" someone yourself.  If you'd like to use the poem I penned to do so (which was inspired by the many I have seen online in the past), please feel free to do so.  You can find it here.


(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)


Saturday, March 23, 2013

An Impromptu St. Joseph's Day Tea and Play Date

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 Last Sunday, we set the table for our friends to come join us for a St. Patrick's Day liturgical tea and play date, only to discover that they could not come.

So, we prayed, feasted and enjoyed without them.

Then, on Monday, as the children got in some sensory calming swinging after a morning filled with appointments, my cell phone rang.

It was our friends, wondering what we were doing for St. Joseph's feast day, since they had missed sharing St. Patrick's day with us.

"Um, St. Joseph's Day?"  I responded.  I had gotten so caught up in St. Patrick's day and then busy with our Monday appointments and lessons that I had forgotten the following day was St. Joseph's Day.

"I'm not sure yet."  I decided.  "But, you're welcome to come over."

And so it was that my intentions for the remainder of Monday were hijacked by the excitement of planning a rather impromptu St. Joseph tea and play date for us all.

I have been rather into the idea of making our home one of hospitality despite it being one of mess and clutter, so the idea of living that intention superseded other plans for the afternoon and carried on into Monday morning.

As I went about chores, I thought about what we might be able to feast upon.  When the children allowed, I searched for St. Joseph and carpentry printables online.  For a lesson-time tie-in, I created a short St. Joseph-related prayer for handwriting/copywork and prepared some measuring activities.  As Family Work Time, we switched out the St. Patrick's day toys and activities that we had in our living room for construction theme ones in honor of St. Joseph's occupation.  And, of course, we did more than one Tidy Time!

Was it ever worth it!  What a delightful afternoon with our friends on Tuesday!

My friend Karen came over with her two youngest children, two beautiful statues of Joseph to decorate our table with and a heart for celebration.  Greeting her and her smiling kiddoes, were Luke, Nina, Jack, me and the impromptu St. Joseph's table we had jerry-rigged using a foot stool, a square basket and a small box for layers, with pillow cases and table cloths to disguise them.  (No one said our table had to be perfect.  Just pleasing to us and our guests, which it was!)

Afternoon tea fare included:

  • a plate of cut fruit to remind us that saying "yes" to God and being obedient like Joseph brings much fruit into our lives.

  • a bowl of grapes, because I have heard they are often on "real" St. Joseph's Day tables and as well as a small plate with a simple "cross" of grapes that Nina made, which she said was to remind us of the three persons in the Holy Trinity, the three persons in Jesus' earthly family and the three times that Joseph was visited by the angels.  (Wow!)

  •  some hummus and veggie sticks, to round out the food and, with imagination, to represent, again, Joseph's staff flowering with lilies.

Before digging into it all, the children impressed  Karen and me with their knowledge about Joseph.  Then, we listened to the St. Joseph song on Sing Bible Prayer Songs and prayed the St. Joseph prayer from Prayers to the Saint. My friend's youngest son also added the sweetest personal prayer.

After polishing most of the food off, the children enjoyed playing carpenter in the living room... well as doing playdough carpentry with with golf-tee nails, hammers and saws at the kitchen table.

My friend's daughter, with Nina and Jack as "helpers" rose toy the challenge of putting printouts of Holy Hero's The Story of St. Joseph coloring book in the hallway in a logical order, and, then, narrating the chronology of Joseph's life.

And, of course, there was coloring!

Karen told me that she had been expecting just a bite to eat and a story and that her kids were never going to want to celebrate a feast day without me again.  That's okay by me!  I have Karen to thank for getting me re-inspired to celebrate St. Joseph's day in the first place.  And, her and her kids are awesome people to pray and play with.

In fact, we found ourselves over their house for an impromptu visit on Friday to visit their new baby chicks...

Then, we snuggled on their couch to read Joseph's Story, which is a favorite St. Joseph's day book of mine, which I had not been able to find on Tuesday.


Now, time to stop all the feasting and to get back to fasting, as we enter Holy Week.

May your Holy Week be richly blessed!


(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Please note: Links to Amazon within this post and others are affiliate ones. Should you choose to click through one to make an Amazon purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale. This does not cost you anything, but is a choice we thank you for making. Anything we earn from Amazon goes straight back into training up our children and to much of what we share with you here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Planning a Sense-able St. Patrick’s Day Tea and Playdate

source: Wikimedia
Yesterday afternoon, while I was balancing work, housekeeping and kids, I glanced up saw the date on the calendar.  March 16th.  Argh!  That meant that St. Patrick’s Day was less than 24 hours away and I had yet to prepare for it.

Before I knew it, all thoughts of working and de-cluttering around the kids while Hubby was out at a commitment were hijacked.  My main intention for the afternoon became to throw together a plan for a sensory-smart St. Patrick’s Day Liturgical Tea and, if all went well, playdate.

So, I whisked the kids into the car to make it to the library before closing.  There, we scooped up whatever St. Patrick’s Day reads had not already been checked out.  Then, I referenced some of our past sensory friendly St. Patrick’s day story-and-play activities and the St. Patrick’s Day playdate ideas I shared at Catholic Mother’s Online two years ago.  And, finally, I thought about what we might wish to eat and do as a family, and, hopefully, with friends, this year. 

This is what I came up with.  Feel free to borrow last-minute ideas to enjoy during your own sensory-friendly St. Patty’s Day celebrations today!


  • Light a green (or blue) candle with a picture of St. Patrick taped to it.  (Although green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day, St. Patrick was originally depicted in blue.)
  • Decorate table with shamrock cut outs or real shamrocks, since legend had it that St. Patrick used a shamrock to teach about the Holy Trinity.
  • Put a drum and a bell on the table, because legends refer to St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland with either a drum or a bell.
GFCF Tea Time Fare

Luke and Nina at St. Patty's Family Dinner, 2009

As I already mentioned, I am late with St, Patrick’s Day preparations, thus both time and budget constraints demand a relatively simple menu. 

Since we don’t consume food dyes in our home, many quick, easy, yet cute, modern St. Patrick’s Day menu ideas are out for us.

Many traditional Irish foods won't work either.  For, unlike me, our children are not potato lovers.  Plus, we serve only gluten-, casein-, additive- and preservative-free food at home.

But, that does not mean we won’t be feasting.  Based on our grocery shopping run and whether our friends will be joining us, our menu may include any of the following: 
  • Shamrock Peppers and Eggs, like those found on Catholic Cuisine, to remind us of the Holy Trinity.
  • A Fresh Fruit Rainbow made from sliced strawberries and raspberries, clementine segments, pineapple cubes, green grapes, blueberries, and purple grapes, which we will tie into traditional Irish lore as well as God’s promise to Noah (which we will mention despite it not being 100% thematic to the day, since reinforcing Bibe stories is useful no matter what day it is.)
  • A GFCF Pot-o-Gold Soup, inspired by the recipe found at, to remind us of traditional Irish lore as well as the idea that true bounty comes from the Lord, much like the ingredients in our pot will
OUR ADAPTED RECIPE:  Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (or ghee, if you tolerate ghee) in a pan and sauté 1 finely chopped onion in it.  Once the onions are transluscent, remove from heat.
Meanwhile, peel, core and dice 3 medium apples.
Add chopped apples, 2 boxes of defrosted organic squash, 1 cup of apple juice (or cider) and 3 cups of stock to the onions.  Bring to a boil and then simmer 25 minutes.
Puree with a bit of salt, pepper and cinnamon, plus 1 tablespoon of raw honey or maple syrup.
  • An Fruit and Veggie Irish Flag inspired by the one on Catholic Cuisine.  Our will be made with carrots, pea pods and sliced bananas and will work to remind the children that St. Patrick is patron to Ireland.
  • Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies, which we created last week and discovered actually cook up with green centers.  (Luke has been waiting fro St. Patrick’s Day to try these again!)
  • Liquid Gold (a golden-colored 100% juice or smoothie I find on sale).
  • Crispy Kale (any excuse for this crispy green goodness works here)
  • Green Tea (which the right color, even if it evokes the wrong continent for the day's focus)


As always, the children will likely make up their own prayers.
As far as formal prayers go, I plan to help them pray the following from the Liturgy of the Hours:
God our Father,
you sent Saint Patrick
to preach your glory to the people of Ireland.
By the help of his prayers,
may all Christians proclaim your love to all men.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Playing Snake Freeze

Depending on if it is just us or if our friends can make it, we will enjoy any combination of the following activities:
  • Blue to Green Tactile Fun:  Ask anyone what the color of St. Patrick’s day is and you will hear, “green”.  However, St. Patrick was originally portrayed wearing blue. Thus, because I am not prepared enough to make homemade playdough or pud, we will explore how to change the color blue to green using shaving cream and food coloring on trays.
  • Nature Faces for Proprioceptive and Tactile Input:  We’ll talk about how the people of Ireland went from sad because they did not know God, to happy because they did, through St, Patrick’s teachings.  Then, we’ll go on a nature walk to find items that can be used to create happy “nature faces”.
  • Read Alouds for Auditory and Visual Input will include any of the books we own, or that I was able to snag from the library, including:
Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
The Story of Saint Patrick's Day
The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh
  • St. Patrick Four Corners for Fine Motor and Proprioceptive Fun:  We’ll team up to create four images related to St. Patrick – a bishop trampling on/driving away snakes, a shamrock, a Celtic cross and a baptismal font.  Then, we’ll use these to play a traditional game of Four Corners using these instead of numbers.
  • St. Patrick’s Stick Freeze Game for Auditory, Proprioceptive and Vestibular Input and Body Control:  Legend says that St. Patrick carried an ash wood walking stick with him as he preached, and that whenever he began evangelizing, he thrust it into the ground.  At one place, it is said that his good news message took so long to get through to the people that St. Patrick’s stick grew roots before he was ready to move on.  We’ll bring this legend to life by playing a dance-freeze-pray game.  To play, we’ll turn on some tunes while everyone dances. Then, we’ll turn the music off and have everyone freeze, rooted to the ground.  Before we the music on again, everyone will have to recite a common Catholic prayer.
  • Singing Shamrocks for Auditory Input and Fine Motor Control:  We’ll teach “I’m a Little Shamrock”, adapted by me from “I’m a Little Teapot” and, then fashion shamrocks using three green hearts with symbols drawn on them for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I’m a little shamrock see my leaves.
Count my petals if you please
One for the Father, One for the Son,
One for the Holy Spirit.  God is three in one.
  • Snake Freeze for Auditory, Oral-Motor, Proprioceptive and Vestibular Input:  One legend says that St, Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland using a drum.  Another says he used a bell.  We will let our St. Patrick’s choose between these with that person laying down next to the drum or bell. to “sleep”, making snoring sounds if possible (for that extra deep breathing, which can be so good!)
The other children will be snakes.  They will line up a ways away from St. Patrick and, on their bellies or on their feet, move toward the sleeping St. Patrick, of course, being encouraged to make hissing sounds.

When St. Patrick wishes, “he” will reach for the drum or bell to beat or ring it.  All snakes will freeze and stay frozen for as long as St. Patrick maintains the beating of the drum or ringing of the bell.  Then, St. Patrick will back to sleep and the snakes will move forward again.

Play will continue until a snake steals the drum or bell or touches St. Patrick.  That person will get to be St. Patrick next.
  • Throw The Snakes Out of Ireland for Proprioceptive Input:  Legends say that St. Patrick is said to have thrown the snakes out of Ireland, so we will use a hula hoop on the grass as an island, put a number of small plastic snakes in it and take turns getting on the island to throw or kick the snakes out.
I expect it to be a full, blessed feast day here today and hope yours will be, too.

What are your favorite St. Patrick’s Day recipes and activities?

(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Please note: Links to Amazon within this post and others are affiliate ones. Should you choose to click through one to make an Amazon purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale. This does not cost you anything, but is a choice we thank you for making. Anything we earn from Amazon goes straight back into training up our children and to much of what we share with you here. Thank you for supporting us in this way or through a PayPal donation if you feel so moved.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Windows Open

Two weeks ago, I was reminded of the old adage, "When God closes a door, He opens a window."

As is so often the case, I was unable to fully participate in Mass due to the challenges of my young children.   Yes, the opportunity for focused grace eluded me yet again that Sunday as I responded to (and sometimes attempted to ignore) my busy, observant, motor-driven children who were wiggling; offering commentary on what they heard and saw around them; rolling coins along the crease between the seat of the pew and the back of the pew; craning their necks to gaze at stained glass windows...

And, that is where the window opened.  With a stained glass window.

My oldest, Luke, asked me who was depicted on the window.  I was not sure.  So, I whispered to him that after Mass we could ask Father just as we had done on a different week at a different church in our parish collaborative.  My son held me to that.

After the final hymn, we went to greet Father at the door of the church and to ask him Luke's question.  Of course, other parishioners wanted to greet Father, too, so, my husband Mike took our youngest child Jack to the car while I reminded Luke and Nina of the importance of patience.

Before too long, Father was able to offer us his full attention.  Recalling that he had recently explained another stained glass window to us, I apologized to Father for asking for his time again and joked that I should just take a photo of every stained glass window so I could email him questions when Luke had them.  Father wisely told me there was no need for that and suggested that Luke's questions give him an opportunity to build a relationship where there was none before.

Yes!  The truth of Father's words sunk in as Father walked with the children and me over to the window in question and answered Luke's question.

Father asked to be reminded of Nina's name and, then, explained the symbolism on the window to both Luke and Nina.  True to form, Luke's eyes and attention wandered as soon as his initial question has been answered satisfactorily, and went on to ask father what the "black things" were that he noticed our parish Music Director taking down after Mass.  (The numbers of the hymns.)  Father was happy to explain.

And, so it was, that Luke and his sister, who have such difficulty meeting Jesus through the celebration of Mass still received love and grace that Sunday morning.

"Let the little children come to me..." Jesus said.  

"And, Mom, stop worrying about the door to "right behavior" seeming to close on another Sunday Mass," He told my heart that morning.  "There are always windows."

Thank you, Father, for letting my children come to you with their questions and for helping me re-frame my own thoughts.

Thank you, Jesus, for continually reminding me of the importance of relationships.

What doors and windows have been opening in your faith journey and that of your children's lately?

(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Count, Pray and Give (with a Free Printable!)

Let's Count, Pray and Give.

You have got to love a simple Lenten activity that promotes:

  • Almsgiving
  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Addition
  • Coin Identification
  • Counting
  • Handwriting
  • Problem Solving
  • Pincer Grasp
  • Proprioceptive Input

Our tweak of an idea that I found some years ago, in Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler does just that!

The basic premise of the idea is that children love to play with coins and to drop them into piggy banks, so why not have children count a different category of items in your home each day during Lent and, then, drop a corresponding amount of coins into a Lenten Rice Bowl to share with those in need.  Our tweak is to layer prayer and handwriting into the activity, while also donning our Sensory Savvy Lenses to see if we cannot add a little extra input to the experience.

Our Count, Pray and Give Routine

Sounding Out "Fruit in a Bowl"
The children and I pick an item in our home to count, for example, upstairs windows.  Then, the kids run around the house to count the item.  If their count comes up differently than mine – as it did when we actually counted windows – we count again, noting how many of the specific item are in each room of our home and, then, having Luke and Nina use their budding addition skills to add the sums up.  Through this we are blessed with a fun way to incorporate counting and addition skills into our days as well as an opportunity for proprioceptive input as the children get heavy work in by moving around the house to count things.

Once we have checked and re-checked our count, either Luke or Nina records the count and the item of the day on our Count, Pray and Give sheet (which you can find a free printable of at the bottom of this post.) 

At this point, we usually pause for prayer. I ask the children how the item we have counted might relate to those in need.  Based on their response, we say an impromptu prayer together, such as the one the children and I came up with for  candles:

Lord, some people have no electricity.  They have to use candles to read and do stuff when it is dark out.  Please bless these people and their efforts to work and learn even in the dark.  Also, Lord, let us all be lights onto the world.  Thank you. 

(Obviously, I sometimes help the children with the language of the prayers we say.  However, as I do, I always base what we pray on the children’s shared ideas.)

Dropping Coins Into the Box
Then, I break out our coins, and the children work together to count out enough coins to equal the number of items that we counted.  The children can choose any combination of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, so long as the total they choose adds up to the right amount.  Needless to say, this encourages the children to use their counting, addition, subtraction, coin identification and problem solving skills, as well as their pincer grasps!

At this point, the children are always very eager to drop the coins in our rice bowl.  I don’t let them...yet.

First, I encourage Luke, Nina and Jack to decide whose turn it is to put the day’s coins into our Rice Bowl, while also considering who might want to drop the coins in even if it is not his or her turn.  Inevitably, this leads to an opportunity for one child to fast from a “me, me, me”-only attitude about being the day’s coin dropper, and instead, to “give” his or her turn to another – or, at the very least, to figure out a mix of coin denominations that will allow for everyone to drop at least one coin into the bowl.

The First Seven Days

So it is that we incorporate a number of skills into one easy activity, which serves as a tool that helps us to pray, fast, give, love and learn throughout Lent.  The children pray daily in connection with whatever items we count up to determine how many coins we will put in our rice bowl; they sometimes “fast” from their “me, me, me” desire to be the sole coin dropper; and, they give coins to help those less fortunate than us.

Free Printable

If you’d like use our Count, Pray and Give sheets to do similarly at your home, please feel free to download free a free 2-page printable here.  It is purposefully simple and uncluttered (so as not to distract young writers), with fairly wide boxes for writing in (so as to provide enough space for little ones to practice handwriting in.)  

(If you receive this post via email and cannot see the linky, be sure to actually click over to the blog to read browse the rich catalog of ideas there.)

Please note: Links to Amazon within this post and others are affiliate ones. Should you choose to click through one to make an Amazon purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale. This does not cost you anything, but is a choice we thank you for making. Anything we earn from Amazon goes straight back into training up our children and to much of what we share with you here. Thank you for supporting us in this way or through a PayPal donation if you feel so moved. (See "Donation" button in the right column.)


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