Saturday, May 31, 2014

Clean Up the Internet for Adrian - A Mother's Message

One of the worst things any parent can imagine is losing a child.  Worse yet is losing a child without knowing why the loss happened.  And still worse is having the pain of that loss magnified by careless reactions. 
I cannot imagine such pain.  I know it only second-hand through witnessing it in my sister and her husband since the loss of my niece in March.  While my children and I have mourned and prayed, the depth of my sister and her husband's hurting is unfathomable.

Despite pain, though, they seek peace.  They seek honor.  They seek love. 

My sister, in fact, posted the message below on her Facebook page with a request that it be shared to make it go viral.  I want to help that happen.  I want to share my sister's personal plea for her child's respectful memory and to encourage all people to be mindful of how their words, actions and reactions can affect others.

As I share my sister's  words here, I ask you to consider them seriously and to re-share them if you wish.  Thank you!

On March 12, 2014 my husband and I lost our beautiful girl, Adrian Marie. So many people have asked and promised they would do anything we needed in the loss of our daughter. She was his by blood and mine by choice and so deeply in my heart. Adults and children took to the internet to express grief, throw blame, spread rumors, make judgement, etc.

Every day and every night I wish I could find answers.

Sometimes I search everywhere online for a clue.  Inevitably, I find more falsehoods, assumptions and hurtful past postings, mostly from confused misled peers, but no less painful for me to see.

I'd like to remind everyone that what you put on the internet, never truly goes away, but if you've posted something inaccurate, hurtful or unkind, you should at least have the decency to go back and delete it, remove it or at least correct it. You may have moved on from that feeling, but there is a mother and a father here walking around daily and sleeping nightly with a hole in their heart that does not and will not ever go away.

What you can do for me? Share this post, not just to for me, but to honor Adrian by making sure this post goes viral and that a message gets out to the world about the need for privacy and respect for the loved one who has passed and the family and friends left behind. Remove your posts and remember, should you ever be faced with such sorrow again to think first before you post, start a page, a memorial, a fund, or use the name of somebody's minor child without the explicit consent of their parent.

The things you choose to do, even if your intentions are good, might just hurt somebody else deeper than you could ever imagine. We will never know the true reason we lost our amazing, beautiful, fun and loving girl. We have to learn to accept and live with that because nothing will change the fact that she is gone.

What can change is how she is remembered and honored by removing all negativity surrounding any search for her name on the internet that serves no purpose and may even disgrace her time here on this earth. Imagine how great it would be for all of us to search her name and only see beautiful memories, pictures and thoughts. Come together everyone. Make it happen.
Honor the girl I loved so much and clean up the web trail so the world will know only the joy she brought to her family, what a great friend and person she was and how blessed we all were to have her. Learn from her passing and be mindful of your future postings that you are not hurting others.

Clean up the internet for Adrian!

I pray today that all of us will speak and write what is good, what is right, what is just, what is true and what is loving and that when we fail to do so, we will recognize it and, if possible, make amends.  

Thank you.

This post is shared today in lieu of my usual Sunday Training Happy Hearts in Young Children post.  Please pray for all family and friends of children lost too soon and for the children themselves.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Teaching Virtues to Young Ones with Ease {A Little Lads and Ladies Review and Giveaway}

{This post contains affiliate links to Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue.  If you click through them and make a purchase, our family may be blessed with a small percentage of your sale.  Thank you.}

What are all these silly smiles about?  Joy, of course!  More precisely, they are about my prekinder and elementary-aged kiddoes enjoying activities from the "joyfulness" lesson in the Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue curriculum that I received in exchange for an honest review.  (A curriculum that you can win in the giveaway at the end of this post!)

What Is Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue?

Kathie Morrissey, from the Character Corner, put together an effective and easy-to-use character curriculum for preschool and early elementary-age children when she created Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue.  Better still, she did so with moms and dads in mind.  For, each of the daily lessons in Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue is one that can be shared with youngsters in but 5-15 minutes -- which perfect for busy moms and dads as well as for children with limited attention spans!

Used as designed, this character curriculum presents 24 character qualities over the course of six months, using five brief, yet effective lessons a week.  Lessons include:

  • a definition of each character trait
  • Biblical memory verses for each trait
  • 3 "I Will" statements per character trait that exemplify how the trait can be applied in daily life
  • a variety of games, object lessons, prayers and role plays that help children understand and apply what they are learning

A reward chart and coloring pages are also included in the curriculum.  Plus, you can purchase a supplementary copywork e-book.

How We've Been Using the Curriculum

Since it is spring, we have spring ourselves from most indoor learning and are spending the bulk of our days outside diving into experiential learning on field trips.  That means we have yet to dive into the Little Lads and Ladies Copywork that I printed out when I first received my review copy of the curriculum.  We have plans to do so soon.


In the meantime, I have been weaving portions of the Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue into our conversations while driving, walking or picnicking as well as enjoying activities from it during our post-dinner intentional times.

Sometimes, we spread the lessons out as intended.  Other times we take ideas from all five days of lessons on a particular virtue and weave them into a longer session of fun and virtue-exercise! 

For example, the other day, the presiding priest at our local Mass focused on the idea of joy during his homily.  Thus, I pulled out the joyfulness lessons from Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue that night and had some fun with the kids.  First, we reviewed the definition and "I Will" statements for "joyfulness".  Then,  we made up silly rhythmic chants and tunes to bring the joyfulness verse to life.

From there, we practiced making grumpy and joyful faces as we enacted different scenarios.

We also tossed a stuffed bunny around while practicing how to turn grumpy outlooks into joyful outlooks.

Finally, we wound down with coloring a related printable picture from the e-book.

Who Might Enjoy Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue?

Obviously, my children and I are enjoying the lessons in Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue, and, I dare say, anyone with young children might do the same -- homeschoolers or not. Truly, I think the curriculum is worth looking into for any home, church program or school.

The lessons are brief enough that they can easily be slipped into daily life or, perhaps, even woven into club or classroom lesson activities.  They include a wide variety of multi-sensory activities and require little to no preparation and only materials you might find around your home or classroom.

Want to Try Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue?

You can learn more about Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue and access the table of contents and a free sample chapter on Attentiveness at the Character Corner.  The e-book is currently $9.  The accompanying copywork e-book is $5.  or, you can get both the e-book and the copywork e-book for $12.

You can also enter to win the e-book as a part of the Grand Prize Giveaway for the book's launch! 

Or, you can win a copy here!  Kathie graciously has offered to give one copy of the Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue e-book away to a Training Happy Hearts reader.  So, I am having a 3-day giveaway!  Enter below.

Enter to Win a Copy of the Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue E-book Now

One lucky Training Happy Hearts Winner will receive an e-copy of the book.  Winner will be notified on 5/30 and will have 24 hours to respond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How do you help your children learn about and exercise virtues?

DISCLOSURE:  I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.   All opinions I have expressed are my own or that of my family.  Because my family uses and enjoys the product, I have chosen to become an affiliate for the Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue E-book and may receive a percentage of sales should anyone click through links in this post to make a purchase.  I am disclosing all this in accordance with the FTC regulations.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What on Earth Can I Do? {A Review}


Note:  This post contains affiliate links to a favorite educational products provider of ours: Apologia Educational Ministries. Read full disclosure here.
Although we tend not to be "textbook" learners here, I have heard fantastic things about Apologia Educational Ministries.  So, when I was offered an opportunity to review their What on Earth Can I Do? textbook and the accompanying  What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal, What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal and What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book I decided to go for it.

What Is What on Earth Can I Do?

Apologia Review

What on Earth Can I Do? ($39) is a 290+ page hard cover text about stewardship with a Biblical worldview.  It is broken down into eight lengthy lessons designed to be flexible and adaptable to family needs by breaking it down into smaller chunks based on each lessons parts:

  • the big idea that introduces the lesson's theme

  • a short story that shows how children put their worldview into action (and in the first several lessons is a continuing story that my children loved which follows a family living in Great Britain during World War II)

  • adaptations of the Parables of Jesus
  • faith building helps such as Hide It In Your Heart Bible verses to memorize, What Should I Do? sections that highlight specific godly character traits and a concluding prayer

  •  articles on interdisciplinary topics related to the main text, including such people and things as Hitler, Corrie Ten Boom, Winston Churchill, Maria Von Trapp, Victory Gardens, etc. 

  • traditional lesson helps such as a brief What You Will Do list that presents learning objectives for the lesson, Think About It questions to spur conversation and solidify concepts and defined Words You Need to Know

All of these features are well laid out with graphics, photographs, etc. which make reading easy and engaging.

Apologia Review

The What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal ($24) is a softcover spiral bound book that contains 48 daily lesson plans as well as pages for:

  • note-taking
  • answering questions
  • defining vocabulary words
  • writing Bible verses
  • noting how lessons apply to your own life
  • enjoying crosswords and wordsearches
  • creating mini-books
  • writing or drawing prayers
  • recording how God has answered prayers
  • noting how you've seen God in everyday life
  • recording how you are ministering to others
  • reviewing lesson materials
  • finding additional resources on lesson topics.

I would say it has everything you might want for notebooking through the text, but, as my son pointed out, it does not contain coloring pages.  Yes, even older kids sometimes like to color, and, if they are going to in this journal, they will need to do so from scratch.

Apologia Review

The What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal
($24) is a step-down in age/skill level from the above journal.  It, too, is a spiral-bound softcover book.  In addition to 48 lesson plans, it contains:

  • blank note-taking pages
  • coloring pages
  • fill-in-the-blank word to know pages
  • places to rite Bible verses
  • places to answer questions about how lessons apply to life
  • word puzzles 
  • mini-books
  • prayer and praise report pages
  • resource lists
  • and more.

Apologia Review

The What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book ($8) contains 64 captioned illustrations which include Bible stories and quotes, historical figures and more.  It's perfect for youngsters who want to be included in lessons.

How We Used What on Earth Can I Do

When I first received the What on Earth Can I Do? textbook and the accompanying  Notebooking Journal, Junior Notebooking Journal and Coloring Book, I was impressed by how complete the resources were and envisioned how tidily I could weave it into our homeschool endeavors if we were in a more structured phase of learning.  However, since we were in one of our more relaxed, experiential and unschool-y seasons of life, I did not use the materials this way.

Instead of following the beautifully laid out lesson plans, I simply gathered my kiddoes to read the main text together one day and then continued to read segments of it at bedtime, during midday rest time, after picnics, etc.  

Likewise, I did not present the journals and coloring books as "work".  Rather, I invited the children to the table and let them know that we were blessed with the opportunity to check out three different special journals to go along with the book we had been reading together.  When I did so, my two younger children immediately set to work coloring pages while my oldest hemmed and hawed that his book did not have coloring pages in it.

Soon enough, though, even my oldest dug in.  He sketched on a note-taking page about the air raids we had read about earlier in the main text.

We continued to use the materials in this casual way, and it is working for us.  As a matter of fact, as I write this review, my three children are enjoying dramatic play about bomb shelters and gas masks as inspired by a portion of the text (pictured above) that they revisited earlier today.

However, in a later phase, I can definitely see yet-to-be completed readings and journal pages being fodder for more structured, traditional and even independent learning endeavors.

A Balanced View

One the "Yes, this works!" side for our family:

  • As Christian homeschoolers that lean towards unschooling, we do not separate faith from learning from life.  Thus, I appreciate that What on Earth Can I Do? is not a secular, dry textbook.  Rather, it is a readable book with a Christian worldview that my children and I enjoyed at bedtime and during other read aloud times sprinkled throughout our days.

  • Just as we don't draw lines between life and learning here, we also blur lines between different typical subjects of study.  I appreciate, then, that What on Earth Can I Do? crosses between faith studies/family devotional time, history, fine motor skills, handwriting, comprehension, etc.

On the "Hmm, you might want to consider..." side"

  • What on Earth Can I Do? is meant for children in grades one through six.  We used it with children ages three to eight, and although all of them were engaged by it, I honestly think that the beginning of the book -- which starts with the "heavy" topics of World War II, Hitler and Nazis -- might be a bit much for some sensitive young listeners.  So, be forewarned and be sure to pick and choose which portions of the main text to read aloud.

  •  The notebooking journals are a wonderful resource for the "right" kinds of children and families.  They provide opportunities to color pre-drawn pictures, do puzzles, answer questions, create mini-books, take notes, respond to open-ended questions, etc.  However, for kids like mine they still seemed to "workbooky" to be 100% appealing. 

That said, I am still impressed with the thoroughness of the What We Believe series What on Earth Can I Do? textbook and the accompanying  Notebooking Journal Junior Notebooking Journal and  Coloring Book that I plan to continue using these resources my children at their request throughout the summer and into the fall.

Learn More

You can find Apologia Educational Ministries on:

Click to read Crew Reviews

Plus, if you'd like to know what others think about What on Earth Can I Do? and how people are using it, there are plenty more reviews to browse.

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, May 25, 2014

No Fuss GFCF First Holy Communion Desserts (and Our Boy's Special Day)

{DISCLOSURE:  There are a few affiliate links to Amazon within this post. If you click on any of them and make a purchase, we may receive a small amount of your sale. It does not cost you any extra to do so, but blesses our family with a little income. Thank you.} 

Yesterday, all three of our children were crazy, happy, silly about our oldest receiving First Holy Communion.

In fact, before Mass began, Luke bounced up and down, jumped on me, squeezed me in huge hugs, offered me kiss after kiss, and  proclaimed, "I am so excited!  I am so excited!"

 And, after Mass, he beamed with joy!

Since I wanted the day's focus to be on the sacrament, Luke and joy, I did not want to fuss with difficult meal and dessert preparations nor risk picky-eater meltdowns at Luke's celebration.  Thus, I went with old favorites prepared in new ways for our gluten-free, casein-free First Holy Communion celebratory dessert:

Juice Wiggler "Wine" with "Hosts"

Inspired by a post at Catholic Icing, in the morning, Nina helped me make juice wiggler "wine".  We put one cup of organic grape juice in a bowl and sprinkled it with  four envelopes of Knox Gelatin.  Meanwhile, we boiled another three cups of juice.  Then, we mixed all that together, stirring until the gelatin had dissolved, let it cool just a bit and poured it into eight disposable golden wine glasses.  We popped these into these into the fridge to cool.

After our main meal, I just cleared the table and put these out with a round gluten-free cracker atop each one to represent the host.  (Not that we are supposed to dip the host into wine, but the children thought it was fun to have them together like this.)

"Holy Host" Coconut "Ice Cream" Wafers

After Mass, while the kids changed into their play clothes, I took a container of So Delicious Vanilla Bean Coconut Dairy-Free Frozen Dessert out of the freezer to soften.  Then, when it was dessert time, I simply cut the container open and sliced the "ice cream" into "communion wafers".  I put each slice on its on plate and then carved a small cross into each with the tip of a knife.

Cookie Cross

Luke does not care for frosting and many of our relatives do not relish gluten-free cakes, so rather than fuss with cake-making, I simply put some Lucy's Allergen-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, (which Luke, Nina and Jack love) into the shape of a cross.  (Yes, I could have made my own cookies, but I was all about the ease with this celebration!)

This easy-peasy dessert spread made the perfect ending to our perfect day!  A beautiful and meaningful Mass, a fun and easy celebration with extended family and a finger-licking good dessert.  We are so blessed!

 Nina is already asking for a repeat of the dessert as she anxiously awaits her First Holy communion day next spring.

Praying all of this year's first communicants everywhere continue to grow in wisdom and stature as they are strengthened by the Eucharist.  May any family celebrating this special occasion be blessed with as ideal a day as we had!

What are your favorite First Holy Communion celebration recipes and ideas?

  Feel free to share in comment or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board.

2014 Catholic Bloggers Link-Up Blitz

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Celebrating Little Lads and Ladies {A Giveaway}

{This post contains an affilaite link to Little Lads and Ladies, a pre-k and elementary school curriculum we have been having the pleasure to review.  Should you click on this link and choose to purchase the curriculum we may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.  However, we also are excited offer an opportunity for you to receive the curriculum as a part of a huge giveaway, so please keep reading!}

Virtues and prizes!  Virtues and prizes!  Today I am excited to share with you about virtues and prizes!

Our family has the received the blessing of reviewing Little Lads and Ladies as a part of the wonderful preschool and elementary school character curriculum's launch team.  (Watch for that review coming soon!)  

As a part of the launch team, we have also been offered the opportunity to bless forward.  That is, to share with others about an awesome giveaway that is going on in celebration of Little Lads and Ladies ' release!

One winner will be blessed to receive:

Little Lads and Ladies of Character

1 Copy of Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue ebook and 1 copy of  ($9)
1 Copy of Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue Copywork ebook ($5) Membership

1 Year Membership to ($99.95)

Mom's Toolbelt Membership

Lifetime Membership to ($24.95)

Words with Wings Poetry Curriculum

1 Year Membership to Words With Wings ($84.)


a $50 Gift Certificate To A Journey Through Learning ($50)

The Shorter Word book collection

Three paperback books from Laurie White of The Shorter Word  ($32.80)

Homeschool Copywork Membership

1 Year Membership to Homeschool Copywork ($14.95)


Wow! That’s quite a practical and fun blessing with a grand total over $318 in prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Celebrate the Devotion of the Holy Ghost

What better way is there to spend a sabbath afternoon and evening than praying and playing with friends while learning about a new-to-us faith-based tradition? 

That's exactly what we did today.

At our Habitat Explorers co-op last week, our friend Annemarie from You leave Me Breadless shared with excitement, "The Holy Ghost is coming to our house!"  She then went on to explain a little about the Portuguese devotion to the Holy Ghost and offered us an open invitation to join her, her family and others for prayer and fellowship any time during the week.

We finally made it over today.

I am so glad we did!

Annemarie's mom shared with us the story behind the tradition of the Devotion to the Holy Spirit.  Her husband led us all in praying the Rosary.  Her children were wonderful hosts for my children.  Conversation flowed.  Fellowship was appreciated.  And, I got to taste traditional Azorean sopa for the first time.  

What is the Tradition of the Devotion to the Holy Ghost?

I might not have all the facts straight here, so, please forgive me (and correct me!) if I share any poorly, but as I understand things:

In many American parishes with large populations of Portuguese, and in particular Azorean, parishioners, families enter a lottery for the honor of hosting "the Holy Ghost" at their homes for a week between Easter and Pentecost.  

Hosting means, among other things:

  • honoring the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives
  • having a variety of symbolic objects at your home which have been blessed
  • promising never to leave these objects alone
  • remembering the story of Saint Isabel (also known as Queen Elizabeth) of Portugal
  • and committing to opening your home daily for prayer gatherings where, among other things, the rosary is prayed.

Among the symbolic objects central the to devotion are a crown and scepter, which take a central place on a home altar surrounded by flowers and candles with a flag standing nearby.

The Story of Saint Isabel and the Devotion of the Holy Ghost

It is said that Saint Isabel (Queen Elizabeth of Portugal who lived from 1271 to 1336) had both a special devotion to the Holy Spirit and a never-ending love for the poor of her country.  In fact, stories say that Saint Isabel saved bread from her own table to give to the hungry of her country, much to her husband's, the King's, chagrin.

One day, legend says, the King caught Saint Isabel heading out to mingle with the poor with a cloak filled with food.  When he demanded that she open the cloak, the Queen said a prayer and complied, throwing open her cloak.  Instead of the bread that she had hidden under it to go feed the poor with, red roses tumbled out.  From that day forth, it is said, the King never bothered Isabel when she continued in her mission to help the poor.

It is also said that at one time during Saint Isabel's reign there was a terrible famine.  The Queen depleted all of her financial resources trying to help her people until, at last, all that was left was her crown.  One morning at Mass she promised the Holy Spirit that she would give this crown to the Church if the Holy Spirit would send a miracle to relieve her people's hunger.  Lo and behold, when she left the church, she saw ships coming into harbor which were loaded with food.

In addition to leaving her crown, as she had promised, at a cathedral as an offering of thanksgiving for the favors the Holy ghost granted her people, it is said that Saint Isabel also began a tradition of feeding the poor at Pentecost and choosing a number of people each year to gift a new suit of clothing and a meal, served personally at her table, to.

The people of Portugal, and in particular of the Azores, have since commemorated Saint Isabel's goodness and God's graces through displaying replicas of her eight-sided crown and praying devotions to the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, Annemarie and family for inviting us to learn and share in the tradition with you today!

What unique cultural traditions helps you share the Tradition of faith with children?  Might you invite others to learn, play and pray with you as you celebrate them?  Might you join others to learn about their cultural traditions?

  Feel free to share your experiences in comment or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  If you leave a link to an idea, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board.

2014 Catholic Bloggers Link-Up Blitz

Monday, May 12, 2014

An Ideal Day Exploring Habitats {with Free Printable Co-op Lesson Plan}

{Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links to books that we used in planning, prep and follow up to our co-op meeting.  We thank you for blessing our family should you choose to click through any of these links to make any Amazon purchase.  Doing so adds nothing to your purchase price, but does provide our family with a tiny percentage of your sale.  Thank you!}

 Start with a beautiful day.

Add children.

Stir in several brief mini-lessons.

  Add a generous amount of free, child-directed exploration.

And you have a recipe for one successful kick off to a Habitat Explorers Co-op!

At least you do in our experience.

Last week, we thoroughly enjoyed our first meeting using the Habitat Explorers Meeting One lesson plan that I created and am sharing here.

Some highlights of our experience were...

Coming together in Discovery Circles...

 Going on a Micro-Hike...

Sharing our nature journal entries...

Trail walking...

Please feel free to adapt the plan for your own family's, club or co-op's use.  If you do, I would love to hear how it goes.  I'd also be excited to hear about your favorite outdoor adventures and read alouds, websites and other resources related to hands-on habitat exploration!

Read-alouds my children and I enjoyed while preparing for this co-ops. following up from it and prepping for the next meeting on Woodland habitats are:





I'll share about the Woodland Habitat meeting, too, in weeks to come.  Stay tuned for all five parts of this series! And, please find all the posts so far by clicking the Habitat Explorers button. 


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