Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Praises Be...

Thank you, God, for knitting me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for walking beside me (and carrying me!) no matter how far I have strayed or how many times I have stumbled.

Mom and the kids, standing in the house that depicts one of our ancestors at Plimoth Plantation - a reminder to all of us of how God has always seen our family through literal and figurative journeys.
Thank you for dancing next to me in joyful times and reminding me I never need to be afraid (even though, like all folks, I am times).

Dancing with leaves in the dark.

As I enter into the next year of my life, I continue to see how you make all things work together for good. I praise and thank you for that!

There are so many moments to be grateful for!
Please, help me to increasingly choose YOUR will as my own, allowing you to use me as your hands, eyes, ears and mouth towards others, just as you use so many in these ways for me.  Thank you, especially, Lord, for all who you work through to, and for, me.  Thank you for life, both here and (with your grace!) eternally.

Together here; together with our greater family in Heaven one day. (We hope!)
I am so grateful.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Be Married to Your Best Friend (Without Changing Spouses)

Want your spouse to be your beloved and your best friend forever?
The Authors
Hal and Melanie Young do, too.  As I understand, that’s why they began writing My Beloved and My Friend: How To be Married to Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses.  They wanted to create a written legacy for their children and others about how to grow in a fruitful, Christ-centered, best-friend kind of marriage like they have.

I am so glad they did.  

In My Beloved and My Friend, Hal and Melanie drew from the Bible and their 30 years of marital experience, to weave together wisdom, encouragement and counsel about all areas of marriage, including:

  • becoming one – in flesh, mission, even wallet 
  • having children 
  • surviving – even thriving – through trials 
  • fighting so both spouses win

and more, including, of course, being true and forever friends with your spouse.

Why I Read It
Our Betrothal

When I was offered the chance to read My Beloved and My Friend as a part of the Bow of Bronze launch team for the book, it was the book’s subtitle – How To Be Married To Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses – that drew me in.  So many people I know are divorcing.  Marriage seems to be a transient state in today’s world, where one spouse is traded in for another.  My husband and I don’t like this.  We are committed to a “until death do us part” relationship.

Our Wedding Day

However, we are also experiencing a stage where the friendship that first bound us together is flagging.  Reflecting on our day-to-day exchanges, it is sometimes difficult to believe that when we first met, it was our friendship that my husband told me he did not want to lose should he marry someone else.  For, in truth, there are days when we act like anything but friends.  Partners.  Co-parents.  Roommates.  Yes.  Best friends.  Only sometimes.  

The trust, charity, grace and good will that were at the core of every exchange we initially shared are still there, but not always as outwardly evidenced as they once were.  The eagerness with which my husband and I once confided with one another about our days and dreams is sometimes obscured by the busyness and challenges of daily life.

Sure, we love each other.  We have a good marriage.  But, we want a great one.  Even a phenomenal one. One where the immediate friendship that drew us together grows stronger with each successive year we spend living the sacrament we entered into nine years ago.  One where we are truly beloved best friends, successful in our married mission.

Our Journey Going on Nine Years
So it was that I picked up the pre-publishing copy of My Beloved and My Friend, which I was offered in exchange for an honest review, hoping to gain insight and inspiration for being married to my best friend and modeling for our children how to one day do the same if that is their call.

Did The Book Live Up to Its Title?

In a word – yes. 

My Beloved and My Friend, How To Be Married To Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses provides chapter after chapter of scripturally-based insight, inspiration and encouragement from two folks who do not sugar-coat their own experiences and insights in an effort to inspire and encourage others.

I was not disappointed as I read the book in a few minutes between homeschool lessons here, a pause from housework there, a before-bed wind down here, and a blessed, rare quiet time there.  And, betwixt readings, I found words and ideas from the book resonating in my mind and heart.

Some of these were about the kindness, charity and love that spouses can and should share.  Words such as:

We need to be aware of how we are communicating with our mates and choose to use words that edify and encourage, while avoiding those that tear down and destroy.” 

Why is it we are so much kinder to our friends and acquaintances, sometimes, than our own spouses?  How can my husband and I work to edify and encourage one another more?

“The friction and division we experience points out the places where we’ve maintained a separate sense of identity and entitlement.”   
Aren’t we supposed to become one?  Are we spending too much time, interest and energy on pursuits that divide us?  How can we invite each other into the must do’s and want to’s that we busy ourselves with each day?

“If God expects ... consideration between neighbors, people no closer than those attending the same church with you or sharing a property line at home, surely He means at least as much between two-made-one-flesh...There’s a sense of restraint and decorum, of respect even
when it’s plain—to one party, at least—that the other person is in the wrong. God desires us to work out our differences by coming to understanding, not by overwhelming the other with physical or verbal force."
Do we fight so we both can win?  What "rules" do we break?  How can we honor one another, our friendship and our marriage even through differences?  How can we practice humility, love and charity even when there is discord between us?

 Soon, I will ask my husband to read the book to see what resonates with him in it.  I don’t hesitate to suggest others read My Beloved and My Friend, How To Be Married To Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses, too – whether just getting ready to walk down the aisle or decades into marriage.  That is, with one caveat.

A Caveat for Catholic Readers

I know many readers here at Training Happy Hearts are fellow Catholic-Christians.  So, I would feel remiss not to mention that My Beloved and My Friend, How To Be Married To Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses is written from a Christian – but not Catholic – point of view.  In my opinion, that means it contains inspired wisdom and truth that I thoroughly appreciate with gems of thought and sharing I value, but that it is also sprinkled with notations and passages that do not fully support Catholic teaching.  A large believer that the Lord asks us all to love one another and work together for good, I feel that My Beloved and My Friend is a worthy read of Catholic-Christians.  Hal and Melanie share much in their book to help readers strengthen their marriages, be friends and grow in faith and love.  (Don’t gasp, Catholic Readers or Non-Catholic Christians, but I actually read portions of this book at Adoration, amazed with how what it shared dove-tailed perfectly with other readings, prayers and audios I have been immersing myself in, helping me better listen to our Lord about some topics I did not even expect to find in the book!)

Get the Book!

My Beloved and My Friend has not actually been released yet, but you may pre-order it at a discount for $12, thereby blessing yourself, or whoever you gift the book to, with the heartfelt encouragement and Christ-centered advice of a couple who have pulled together Bibles principles and practical sharing about their own learning as a long-married couple in a way that is as applicable to those just entering marriage as it is to those enjoying yet another decade of being together.

To read more reviews about the book, visit the Bow of Bronze Launch Team page.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

10 Favorite Sites that Offer Free Catholic Printables

Our own free Life of Mary printable cards helped decorate our table for our Seven Sorrows of Mary feast Day this year.
The other day on the Catholic Homeschool Moms yahoogroup that I am a part of, one of the moms asked for a list of websites that offer Catholic printables.  As I went to respond, I realized that I do not have all of my favorite sites listed for myself in any one single location, but rather have some in a file here, others bookmarked there and still others noted somewhere else.

Thus, after pausing to pray, Lord, please help me to rediscover the organization and order I once thrived with, I felt prompted to begin gathering all the sites in one locations.  When I got to ten, I stopped, because that was all the time I had that day.

Now, as much for my own future reference as for your click-through exploration, I thought I would share those 10 favorite go-to sites for free Catholic printables.  Please let me know in a comment on this post or on the Training Happy Hearts Facebook page if you find this list helpful.  For, if you do, I will list more in a post to come!

Now, with no further ado...

10 Go-To Sites for Free Catholic Printables
  1. Elaine at Commotion from the Ocean of Life is truly gifted with a talent for making faith-based games, booklets and more and, generously, gifts forward by sharing much of her work freely online.
  2. Awesome file folder games, lessons plans and other aids can be found at The Catholic Toolbox.
  3. Raising & Teaching Little Saints offers some free printables, to include an Act of Reconciliation prayer with picture cues that we will be using to help our son learn the prayer.
  4. Holy Heroes offers Sunday Mass quizzes, coloring pages, awesome Advent and Lent programs and more.  They also have Sunday mass prep videos!)
  5. The Saint and Marian coloring pages offered at Waltzing Matilda are favorites of my children!
  6. Angie was offering monthly printables at Catholic Mothers Online, where you can still find the old ones.  Now, she is doing so at Many Little Blessings, where you can find other fantastic faith-based printables, too.
  7. St. John the Baptist Religious Ed offers coloring and booklets for the rosary, saints and more.
  8. New to me recently is The Catholic Playground, with gorgeous coloring pages and a plethora of other fun faith-based ideas. 
  9. Catholic Mom has links to many types of faith-based printables.
  10. That Resource Site is exactly what its name implies, a wonderful resource site for printables and more, many religious and academic ones included.
And, of course, I have some free printables available here at Training Happy Hearts, too!

As I mentioned before, these are just ten of the sites I tend to go to to enrich our family faith studies.  If you'd like me to share more, just ask.  And, of course, if you happen to be a blogger or organization with a page of free Catholic printables, or if you simply have a favorite site that you visit that is not listed above, please share in a comment.  It might be new to us and we love learning about such resources!

What are your go-to sites for Catholic printables?


(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, October 20, 2013

Our New Prayer Tool (with Thanks to Our Parish!)

Luke, proud and happy, with the prayer cube our parish gifted him
Have you seen prayer cubes before?

Luke was gifted one from our parish at Mass last weekend in honor of the fact that he is preparing for First Reconciliation and First Communion, and I must say, we are delighted with it.

On the way home from Mass, I heard Luke working his decoding skills as he read the different sides of his prayer cube in the back seat. Then, on Thursday, as the kids and I continued our daily Faith and Virtues rotation, the prayer cube became central to our activities. We sat in a circle, took turns rolling the cube and, then, prayed the different prayers with specific intentions suggested by the children.



And, best of all, the kids asked to do it more – rolling, reading and praying.

Awesome! I love when a simple tool helps not only our prayer life, but also the kids’ reading skills.

It may be nearly impossible to get a photo of my three kids looking in the same direction at the same time, but, luckily, it is not impossible to get them to pray together at the same time -- especially, this week, with our new prayer cube.

So, thanks to our parish for introducing us to this tool. I am paying the introduction forward here in case you’d like to use a prayer cube with your children, too.

Although I am not sure where the prayer cube our parish gifted our son was from, I was able to find similar ones online at Amazon*, of course:

None of these looks exactly like ours, which has blue print and includes the Sign of the Cross, Grace for Mealtime, The Guardian Angel prayer, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be and the Our Father.  This one looks close and all look fabulous.

In fact, in searching online, I found cubes with prayers specifically related to the Rosary, Mealtime, Reconciliation, Healing from Cancer, Friendship, First Communion, Confirmation, Advent, Fasting and Christmas -- some even in Spanish.  Truly, there seem to be cubes for every occasion.  How cool is that?!

What tools have been encouraging prayer life in your home lately?  Do you have a favorite catalog or company for tools such as these prayer cubes that we now love so much?

    (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.)

*As always, we thank you if you choose to click through the Amazon link in this post to make a purchase, or do so with other affiliate links on this site. Doing so does not cost you anything, but it may help us earn a small percentage of your purchase price to continue training up our children. Thank you!

Monday, October 14, 2013

7 Fabulous Field Trips in Massachusetts!

Field Trips!  They are one of our favorite parts of homeschooling. Nothing else compares to the fun and learning that we experience when out exploring new destinations and old favorites alike.

On Our Favorite Apple Picking Hill
Experiential learning, exercise, social time, family time, academic connections... Field trips offer us all of these and so much more. So, today, as a part of a link-up I was invited to participate in at Hip Homeschool Moms, I thought I would spotlight seven field trip locations that we thoroughly enjoy in Massachusetts – ones we have returned to again and again or ones we plan to do so now that we have experienced them once.

Enjoy Free Fun and Learning

Luke and Nina become official Junior Rangers outside the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center.
The Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center is open early May through late October and features exhibits that appeal to all ages. Some of my children’s favorite activities there are climbing in the 40-foot patrol boat that is permanently on display and “fishing” for magnetized fish. They also absolutely loved the free Canal Kids program that the Cape Cod Canal rangers run weekly each summer and, of course, hanging out at the beach that’s just a short walk from the center.

Academic tie-ins at the center are many – science and nature study, history, engineering, literacy, etc.

Luke and Nina doctor a seal in the dramatic play area at the National Marine Life Center.
The National Marine Life Center is open daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day and, then, on weekends through Columbus Day. Though relatively small, it is worth a trip, especially for younger children. Hands-on displays and dramatic play areas at the visitor center always engage our children in fun and learning about sea life and the environment. Behind-the-scenes tours to see where seals are brought back to good health capture my children's attention, too – especially before seal releases, which are open to the public, usually at the nearby Scusset Beach. Truly, the National Marine Life Center is a little known gem, which as enriched intentional days processed through play for our kiddoes!

Academic Tie-Ins include marine biology and environmental studies.

Nina and Jack get caught in a bubble at the Discovery Museums.
The Discovery Museums in Acton, north of Boston and just south of New Hampshire, offers Free Friday Nights, usually once a month, and reasonable admissions at other times. With a multi-story Children’s Discovery Museum targeted at young children and a newer Science Discovery Museum aimed at children who a bit older, plus outdoor exhibits, the place is a huge hit with our children! We’ve been several times, and, I have often said that if I lived closer to the museums I would buy a membership and center our entire elementary science curriculum around the fabulous hands-on exhibits there.  (More pictures of our trips there can be found at this Signature Moms post.)

Academic tie-ins include literacy, science, engineering, art, woodworking, practical life and more.

Look for Library Passes or Reciprocal Museum Membership Discounts or Just Pay Full Price for Full Days of Fun and Learning

Nina sketches at the MFA on her first official day of kindergarten last year.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston offers a Family Art Cart, Art Connections Cards, Family Activity Totes and more to make visiting the museum an engaging experience for families with children. They also offer a popular Homeschool Artful Adventures program on Fridays throughout the school year, which anyone can register for once, or week in and week out.  Either way you go, expect a full day of art, walking, drawing and inspiration.

Academic tie-ins, of course, include art, history and design.

The kids check out a dinosaur foot print at the Museum of Science.
The Museum of Science in Boston was so well-loved by our children that we bought a family membership there. With an amazing Imax theater, planetarium, live science shows, room after room of hands-on exhibits, drop-in activities and more, there is always too little day to experience everything the kids are interested in.

Academic tie-ins, of course, include science, technology, history and engineering.

Budget for a So-Worth-It a Seasonal Trip

Jack mastered climbing, picking and eating at the same time this year at Honeypot Hill.
Honeypot Hill in Stow is hands down one of the best places I have ever picked apples. Every year, our family goes there to enjoy climbing ladders to pick delicious local apples, enjoying fresh-pressed apple cider and cider donuts and feeding the farm animals. Some years, we’ve also enjoyed the hayride and hedge mazes at the farm.  (For the record, there are dwarf trees for those who don't like to climb ladders.  Our family, however, finds the wooden ladders one of our favorite parts!)

Academic tie-ins for this field trip, of course, include anything apple and agriculture.

Nina, my unofficial sensory seeker, loved making angles in the corn bun at Sauchek Farm
Saucheck Farm in Plympton hosts hundreds of local homeschoolers for an annual outing to their corn maze each year. We went for the first time this year and will go again without question. What a day we had – complete with bouncing on the jumping pillow, pumping water for duck races, riding cow trains and pedal cars, taking a hat ride out to pick pumpkins at the pumpkin patch, burying ourselves in a huge corn sensory bin, navigating the giant corn maze and reading our way through the kiddie corn maze... And, that was not even all that the place had to offer!

Academic tie-ins for this field trip include corn, literacy, sensory input.

Of course, there are plenty of other places that we have enjoyed fabulous field trips to in and around Massachusetts. In fact, as I flip through photos of the past year, I marvel at just how many events and destinations we’ve been blessed to enjoy – many for free, or at minimal cost. I also shake my head at myself, realizing that while I have been proactive about finding great locations to explore with the kids, I have not been equally good at sharing about our excursions here at Training Happy Hearts. So, I have a questions:

Would you like to hear more about things to do and places to go for fun and learning in and around Massachusetts? 

If so, please leave a comment on this post or at the THH Facebook page. Let me know what types of places you’d most like to hear about or which of the places spotlighted above you’d like more details about. If you have specific questions about the area or would like a particular detail about a location we may have been to, just ask.  I'm  happy to share our experiences to help enrich yours!

I'm also honored to be a part of the Hip Homeschool Moms link up, where you can find round ups, reviews and more about field trips everywhere.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Our Current Faith and Virtues Learning Time Rotation

One of Luke's Mini-Books from a Virtue Lapbook We Began Monday

One recent sleepless night, a rotation of Faith and Virtues morning circle activities came to my mind:

  • Sundays: Viewing Holy Heroes Mass Prep videos and enjoying Faith and Life
  • Mondays:  Focusing on Virtues and/or presenting Catechisis of the Good Shepherd/Godly Play-inspired trays
  • Tuesdays:  Doing copywork or crafts based on Scriptures or reading and drawing about Bible Stories (often from books we own like the ones described here)
  • Wednesdays:  Listening to and discussing faith-based CD's in the car (such as the favorite ones I wrote about here)
  • Thursdays:  Practicing formal prayers or focusing on personal free-form prayers
  • Fridays:  Focusing on First Reconciliation and Communion prep and other Sacrament studies
  • Saturdays:  Listening to faith-based CD's on days when we are headed out right away or enjoying free kids' bulletins that we find online on more relaxed Saturday mornings

I jotted this rotation down and have begun using it as a structure for our Mom-led Faith and Virtues learning time after breakfast each day. 

So far, I can say, so good. 

The rotation allows us to keep our regular rhythm of focusing our first lessons of the day on faith, while also offering the children enough variety to keep them consistently engaged at each of their own developmental levels.  Moreover, the rotation offers both structure and flexibility, which are two things this Mama constantly craves.

What Faith and Virtues activities are a part of your weekly rhythms?

    (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.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Create Your Own Art-n-Nature Hiking Club with Five Easy Steps!

Nine heading out on our first Art-n-Nature Hike
Autumn has brought beautiful weather to our local area.  So, while the weather, inspiration and our schedule aligned, I decided to act on an idea that has been brewing in my mind for quite a while -- beginning and Art and Nature Hiking Club for the the kids, other families and me.

Doing so was super easy!  In fact, it only took five steps:

1.  Create a purpose statement and general outline for the club. 

Our purpose is to nurture a love for nature, an understanding of design and an appreciation for how nature inspires art.  Plus, of course, to simply enjoy time outside with others. 

Our club outline is to meet weekly, hiking different nature trails while focusing on each of the seven elements of artAt each meeting, we might do a quick supply check and, then, briefly discuss one or more elements of art and design as we begin our hike.  Along the trail, we may note examples of the target element(s) in nature.  Then, when we come to a clearing, or are back at the trailhead, we may create art works inspired by our observations.  The media for these works will depend on the day’s target elements and will be provided by my family, each parent-child(ren) group or nature itself, depending on what is announced in the hike posting. 

2.  Write up an introduction to the club to share with others.
The one I wrote can be found here in a Word document.  Since I wanted to get the club rolling while weather, my family schedule and inspiration aligned, I did not bother with fancy images, graphics, formatting, etc. but rather just stuck to the what the club was and how folks could join.

Please feel free to download and edit my intro letter if you'd like to start your own club, of course, sharing with folks that you got the idea here by sharing the Training Happy Hearts webpage, this post or the Training Happy Hearts Facebook page with those you introduce the club to.  I'd love to see links to posts and pictures of your club, too!  Oh, and if you happen to add some great design and graphics to the edit you do of my intro, please share back!

3.  Create a private Facebook Group (or alternative).

To centralize and facilitate communications, I created a private Facebook Group and, then, invited folks to join it through a variety of local yahoogroups, Facebook groups and forums I belong to.  I also called or emailed a few friends personally and posted about the group on my personal facebook page.  I was wowed when within 24 hours, 40+ people had joined the group.  (My Training Happy Hearts Facebook page has been live for far longer and only has 230+ likes.)

4.  Plan the first hike.

Since I was eager to finally turn idea to acted upon reality, I planned our first hike for just a few days after I invited people to join the club.  It was at a local conservation area with fields, a river and wooded areas and focused on the art element line.  In an upcoming post, I will share details about the plans I made and how they turned out.

5.  Invite folks to the first hike and enjoy!

I used the Facebook group to invite folks to our first hike -- and posted it on my personal Facebook page and one other homeschool forum I am in just to get initial word out.  Since it was rather last-minute, only three families besides ours said they would be able to go and, of those, two ended up having to drop out.  So, our first hike-and-art ended up being just for my children, one other family and me.

Indeed, it was a normal group, but we were okay with that.  The day was gorgeous in every way.  The weather was gorgeous, the trail beautiful and the art fun.  We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and when we posted about it later on our Facebook group, a number of folks commented that they were sorry to have missed joining us and cannot wait for hike # 2, which will be coming soon!

A picture the other mom took of the kids and I doing watercolor resists on the trail.

 Our second hike will be this week, focusing on shape.  Several families have already RSVP'd for it and we cannot wait to share the experience with them.

If you decide to model a club after this idea, I'd love to hear about it.  I'd also welcome any comments or links with your favorite ideas for:
  • art projects dealing with line, shape, color, form, texture, value and space
  • outdoor art projects 
  • other hiking club focuses 

Enjoy the Other Posts in This Series...

 How can you combine your interests with outdoor, community pursuits?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Homemaker’s Mentor (A Rich Review and Giveaway)

One of the perks of being a blogging homeschooler is being able to review wonderful home and schooling products that we can use here in our home.  Recently, I was invited to do just that as a part of the Bow of Bronze launch team for The Homemaker’s Mentor Library CD.  In exchange for an honest review, I was given an advance copy of the CD, which, essentially, is a huge library of hands-on homemaking lessons and tutorials.

What a delight it was to dive into this practical homekeeping library  of 110+ tutorials, recipe pages, ebooks and resources, especially since I am admittedly a mom with homekeeping deficits. 

Okay, true confessions honesty check. 

It was both a delight and a deluge. 

Just Some of the Books Included
With so many tutorials, resources and recipes. when I first dove into the Homemaker’s Mentor, I – a challenged homemaker – was admittedly overwhelmed.  There was just so much there! 

However, once I navigated my way through the table of contents and previewed each section of the library, I realized there was no need for overwhelm.  The Homemaker’s Mentor would be easy enough for me to categorize into portions that might be useful to me and mine now, what could be useful later and what would simply be good to know I had at hand should the need for it ever arise.  And, so, it was, I continued to dive in.

Now, I invite you to take a moment to dive into a review of my first impressions of the Homemaker’s Mentor, followed by opportunities to enter to win a free copy of the collection, as well as to enter a Mega Giveaway, which includes the Homemaker’s Mentor and more, and is valued at $400.

A Review of The Homemaker’s Mentor

* * * * ¾’s


Each section of The Homemaker’s Mentor is formatted in a clean, clear style and contains easy-to-follow tutorials, recipes, ideas and inspiration as you can see in the free downloadable sampler you can find in the middle of this page.  Some pages have photos.  Some have vintage graphics and borders.  Some have both.  All are easy to read and learn from, even the truly vintage ones that come in the bonus materials, which the kids and I consulted for their button sewing lesson the other day.  

Vintage Inspiration for Our Button Sewing Lesson


In the first Rich Review I ever wrote, I set out criteria for how materials might earn stars.  For “relevance”, that criteria was, “Does the book provide information and ideas I can use right now, or in the relatively near future?  It gets one star if I find myself thinking ‘Do now,’ ‘Think about soon,’ or ‘Ah-ha! That’s it!’ while reading a portion of it.  That said, The Homemaker’s Mentor certainly earns a star.

“Do nows” included the aforementioned button sewing and also our latest bedtime read aloud for the kids, Mary Frances’ Adventures Among the Doll People, which inspired the kids’ own do now – making their own doll house and furniture!

Nina and Luke's free time one day was spent making self-designed tables, rugs and cups for a doll house inspired by Homemaker's Mentor Bonus materials.

Among the items from the resource on my “Think About Soon” list are the oil lamps – which I wish I had noticed before St. Jerome’s feast day passed since they would have tied in wonderfully with the storybook we read each year on that day – and the pages about embroidery.  (My children have recently showed an interest in embroidery and in order to mentor them, I need someone to mentor me.  Enter this resource!  Yeah!)


The Homemaker’s Mentor is all about practicality – timeless practicality that speaks to modern times with a vintage flair. 

As a someone with homekeeping deficits, I appreciate that the library focuses on encouraging skills that I have not mastered, yet want my children to develop young so that they never become struggling homekeepers like I am.  I am certain that lessons from the collection will both inspire and equip me to be both teacher of – and co-learner with – my children in all facets of homekeeping.

Nina's second attempt at button sewing (right) shows improvement over her first (left) with just one lesson.


Because the Homemaker’s Mentor includes over 110 recipes, tutorials, etc. I have yet to dive fully into the whole thing.  For that reason alone, I know I will be accessing the resource for quite a while to come.  With how-to’s, reminders and tips on everything from gardening to canning to sewing to embroidering to cooking to cleaning and more, this resource will stand the test of time.  It may well become our family’s go-to source for all those home ec. sort of skills that I somehow missed mastering while I was growing up, yet value as timeless, important and, perhaps one day even enjoyable, skills to explore now that I am a parent.

Inspired by his homemaking lesson, Luke has decided he wants to add more buttons around the first he sewed to make a "button quilt" for dolls.


At $47 ($37, plus free shipping through October 18th) for 110+ lessons, tutorials, recipe pages, e-books and resources to inspire and encourage homemakers of all ages, the Homemaker’s Mentor is a solid value  However, for families like mine, some of those pages may not be worthwhile.  Why?  The Homemaker’s Mentor contains page after page of traditional mouth-watering recipes that are anything but GFCF. 

I know that many readers here at Training Happy Hearts have special diets like we do.  As such, I want to be honest:  many of the recipes in the Homemaker’s Mentor will not be read-and-go for you.  In order to test many of the recipes out, while still honoring our family food goals, I will need to tweak them.  That said, there are plenty of other useful pages of non-recipe information (and even some useful recipe pages) that anyone can benefit from.  So, I am subtracting a ¼ star in consideration of my special diet readers, but do so with the caveat that I’d give it a full star outside of this.

Want Your Own Copy?
o      Order your copy of the Homemaker’s Mentor for $10 off through October 18 through this page.

o      Or, enter to win one of the two copies that the Erskine’s have generously offered for me to giveaway by using the Rafflecopter entry form below.  (CD's will be sent to US addresses only.)

o      And, enter to win the Mega Giveaway, valued at over $400, here.
Included in the Mega Giveaway
o      You can also check out other reviews and impressions of the Homemaker’s Mentor – along with their additional giveaway opportunities – through the Bow of Bronze Launch page link-up.

Whether you win one of the free copies the Erskine’s are generously offering as giveaways or purchase a copy of the Homemaker’s Mentor, I think you’ll discover many ways to sharpen your homekeeping skills and enjoy making your home a clean, comfortable, hospitable place.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, October 6, 2013

We Did It! We Actually Prayed an Entire Rosary Together!

Our Cupcake Rosary from Last Friday
Several years ago, I attempted to make a habit of praying the rosary with my children before bed each night.  It was a struggle.  The kids just did not get into it and, therefore, they succumbed to temptation to morph their rosary beads from prayer tools to toys (and -- yikes! -- even swinging weapons).  So, away went the beads and pause went my efforts to develop a peaceful, prayerful bedtime rosary routine for us all.

Later, since my children love to listen music CD's at bedtime, they received The Rosary for Children CD set.  It was great, I thought.  And, they did, too.  For a while.  But, soon enough, even this lovely CD set  was met with more complaints than delight and prayer.

And so the quest to engage the children in praying the rosary continued.  And, I admit, the quest to make the rosary a strong prayer habit of my own did, too.  Praying the rosary is not something my own family did growing up, and, although I understand the value of it and feel called to do it, I confess that I have failed to follow that call regularly.

Then, finally, this past Friday, we met with some success.

At our first fall gathering of Catholic homeschoolers at a parish about 40 minutes from our home, the leaders decided to include a cupcake rosary.  As I baked my share of the cupcakes for it, I wondered how my kids would make it through the prayer portion of the afternoon.  Prior to the gathering, my children had never made it through an entire rosary.  In fact, sometimes, attempts to pray the rosary together ended in anything but  a reverent atmosphere in our home.  (Anyone else ever experienced this unhappy phenomenon?)

Enjoying Cupcakes After Praying the Rosary and Hearing a Poem About St. Francis
With God's grace, the gentle leadership of the two wonderful homeschooling moms that led the rosary, and, perhaps, the promise of cupcakes awaiting the children on a nearby table, the kids did it, though.  Nina participated 100%.  Luke, who currently has an odd and inexplicable dislike for the Hail Mary prayer, struggled, but at least did not disturb others.  Jack, a typical three year old, came in and out of the prayer.  So it was, that all three of my children and I remained present -- if not 100% engaged by -- praying the entire rosary this past Friday.

I am so grateful.  I am so encouraged.  Praying the rosary with young children CAN be done -- even with my children. 

Now, I am eager to revisit The Rosary for Children with my children and to make praying the rosary a more regular habit for us -- even if it may mean making lots of cupcakes or inviting friends to pray it with us (which are both things I think helped us meet success this past Friday.)

What hurdles and helps have you discovered when praying the rosary with young children?  Please share your tips and tales.

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