Sunday, December 27, 2015

Want Ideas for 12 Days of Christmas Ornaments?

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, swap-fever has hit our local Catholic homeschooling group.  That means these beautiful hand-painted saint peg dolls were under the tree for my children on Christmas morning.
It also means that all throughout Advent my children were able to enjoy hanging hand-crafted Jesse Tree ornaments on our Jesse Tree each night just before snuggling in for bedtime stories next to one of our Advent wreaths.

Now, it means the children get to continue hanging hand-crafted ornaments until Epiphany as we make our way through the ornaments I received in our last swap and the 12 Days of Christmas devotional that I shared yesterday.

12 Days of Christmas Ornament Designs

Before organizing the ornaments and devotional in a box near our Jesus candle and Christmas tree, I photographed the ornaments.  Perhaps you'd like to take a peak at them to get some ideas for crafting your own 12 Days of Christmas ornaments:

Days 1 and 2 Fronts

Days 1 and 2 Backs

Days 3 and 4 Fronts

Day 3 and 4 Backs

Days 5 and 7 Fronts (I have yet to get a Day 6, because they were short on them at the swap.  There are Day 6 pics I took at the swap down further in this post though.)

Days 5 and 7 Backs

Days 8 and 9 Fronts

Day 8 Back and Day 9 Front

Days 10, 11, and 12 Fronts

Days 10, 11, and 12 Backs

I have photos of alternate ideas for inspiration, too (in no particular order):

Alternate Days 1 and 7 Fronts

Alternate Days 1 and 7 Backs

Super Cute Ladies Dancing Front

Day 9 Back
Alternate Day 2 Front

Alternate Day 2 Back

Alternate Day 3 Front

Alternate Day 3 Back
Alternate Day 5
Super Cute 6-Sided Day 6

Alternate Day 8 Back

Alternate Day 8 Front

Alternate Day 4 Front

Alternate Day 4 Back

Why all these alternate styles?   I wish I could say, "because I have two sets of ornaments."  Such is not the case, though. 

The real reason is because the organizer of this swap actually ran two swaps at the same time.  Some moms signed up for slots in both swaps so they could get one set of each style, but given my other commitments, I knew I would only have time to complete one set of 13 ornaments to swap.  So, I simply snapped photos of the ornaments at the other swap tabla fellow blogger, Shannon, who shared pictures of what she received at Homeschooling Papist.

Why Make 13 Ornaments if There Are But 12 Days of Christmas?

After the
hand-painted saint peg dolls swap I did, in which the organizer of this 12 Days of Christmas ornament swap participated, she and I had the same idea at almost the same time:  Wouldn't it be great if we all completed just one extra item for the swaps and then ended up with a set to donate?  So, beginning with this swap, the "one extra" idea was implemented. 

Coming soon, that will mean I try my hand at woodburning making 13 Lenten Resurrection Eggs so we'll have an extra set to donate.

I'd love to see YOUR 12 Days of Christmas ornaments, too - handmade or not - so please post a link here or post a picture on the Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  Happy Christmas season!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Get Your FREE PRINTABLE 12 Days of Christmas Daily Devotional

Merry Christmas!  I pray the start to your Christmas season was filled with all things blessed and beautiful yesterday.  Ours was!  Our joyful anticipation and eager preparations paid off.

As a part of that preparation I whipped up a 12 Days of Christmas Daily Devotional for my children and I to use nightly until January 6th in order to teach/review catechism.

(Note:  An affiliate link to Amazon follows.  Should you click through it too purchase anything, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you as per our disclosure.  Thank you.)

My plan is that now that we're done reading scripture and  Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent each night beside our Advent wreath before hanging an ornament on our Jesse Tree, we will begin reading one page of this devotional each night before hanging a hand-made 12 Days of Christmas ornament on our Christmas tree.

(Yes, I did another ornament swap shortly before Christmas.  I will share pictures of all the handmade ornaments I received another day.) 

The children and I, admittedly, missed kicking off our new tradition of reading by the light of our "Jesus candle" and hanging a corresponding ornament on our tree last night, because we got home from our extended family Christmas so late.  So, we shall begin tonight.  Perhaps you would like to as well.  Just download our FREE PRINTABLE 12 Days of Christmas Devotional and go!  And,  if you'd like a little background on the tradition of the 12 days and catechism, see Catholic Culture, which was one of the many resources I turned to when pulling our devotional together.

Also, please be aware that I made our 12 Days of Christmas devotional in the midst of Christmas preparation hoopla, so there may be a few typos or whatnot that I did not catch.  Forgive me for these and enjoy the devotional in the spirit of sharing it is given with.  Also, please, if you do note any errors, be kind enough to pop back by here or onto our Facebook page to let me know ,so I can correct them.  Thanks!


Wishing you the best, blessed Christmas season!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Count Down to Christmas with Works of Mercy


As we enter the fourth week of Advent this year, I smile, knowing that in but a few hours little feet will pad down the hall making a bee-line for the living room window, atop which our Advent Chain hangs.  I cannot believe how few links are left on it and how quickly this Advent has passed.

I feel as though we just celebrated the church's new year and that I am woefully unprepared for Christmas still.  Yet, here we are, but a few days away from the commemoration of Christ's coming.  Thankfully, Our Lord comes to us regardless of how prepared we feel.  Double thanks that through the tradition of our Advent Chain, our family is at least a bit more spiritually prepared to celebrate His coming.  For this year we decided to focus the things we wrote down on each link of our chain on the Works of Mercy.  Mercy shared always makes folks more prepared.

Why Mercy?

Even before our family had heard that Pope Francis had declared a Jubilee of Mercy, we had personally been called to live and learn more about mercy in our home and local homeschool community.

Our family virtue studies and chats had begun to be framed by the Works of Mercy.  Then, a late-summer conversation with local homeschoolers resulted in the idea of forming a Works of Mercy Club, which did not actually kick off until October.  

Following suit, a recent fair project the kids did on Paying it Forward included "secret evangalization" when the kids chose to write Works of Mercy as examples of ways to "pay it forward" despite the fact that the fair organizer had requested project topics not be centered upon religion nor politics.  (With my kids, religion is so central to identity it cannot simply be "avoided", so they chose to simply weave it into a project technically centered on something else)  Thus, it just seemed natural to build our Advent chain around the Works of Mercy.

The Making of the Chain 

Before making the physical Advent Chain this year, the children and I brainstormed ways we might offer works or Mercy to others this Advent season.  Basically, the children suggested ways to simply live Works of Mercy and I captured their thoughts on a document.  Then, as usual, I printed the document out so, whenever the children wanted to, they could use it for copywork to prepare their chain.

Nina eagerly did most of the copywork this year...

... with a little help from Luke...

Then, Nina assembled the chain and held it up so I could hang it.

Now, daily, the kids pull down a link, and, if they decide to perform the Work of Mercy written on it immediately, they hang the opened link on our Jesse Tree. 

 If it seems that the Work of Mercy might be more suitable for another day, they put the opened link in the middle of the Advent wreath on our kitchen table as a reminder.

Easy, beautiful, practical.  The children love our tradition of counting down the days until Christmas with their simple purple-and-pink paper chain.  They offered wonderful ideas to write on the chain, eagerly assembled and help hung it, and, now, anxiously await when each will have turns to pull down a link to read so that they may may act upon whatever is suggested on it.  

Our Works of Mercy Advent Chain is such a great way to keep us focused on giving, not getting, this season and on preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ.

A Daily Dose of Gratitude for Mom 

As an extra added bonus, this year's Advent Chain has also offered me a daily breath of "Ahhh, it's happening at last..." 

What's happening?  The children's growing ability to be patient!

For, this year, the children decided to go in a cycle from youngest-to-oldest with daily link-pulling, and have been awesome about waiting each day for the "my turn" child to wake and pull a link down.  It has been so cute to see early risers eagerly, yet patiently, wait for a sibling to wake in order to pull links.  It has been equally darling to see bigger siblings helping littler ones physically get to the chain.

Thus, this year, more than any prior year, I am especially struck by the way the kids have been using our Advent Chain.  Joy and gratitude fill my heart each time I witness the virtues of self-control, patience, and charity being lived by children in conjunction with our Works of Mercy Advent chain!  (Now if we all could figure out how to transfer these virtues to every aspect of our lives...)

So What Works Have the Kids Been Acting Upon?

One of the kids' favorite Works of Mercy this Advent has been to "give a gift to a needy person".  They brought a donation to My Brother's Keeper and, then, as a family we volunteered to "shop" and wrap gifts for for a needy family at the Santa's Workshop there.  In fact, the kids loved doing this so much, they asked me to squeeze in another visit to help before Christmas, which I have scheduled.

Other ideas they came up with were:

    • Pray for all veterans.
    • Give a secret gift to someone on your street.
    • Give a secret gift to someone in your house. 
    • Make breakfast for Mom. 
    • Pray for (a specific family) as they mourn their loss. 
    • Hug someone in your family to show forgiveness. 
    • Say an extra prayer for Eddie’s soul. 
    • Say an extra prayer for (friend). 
    • Say an extra prayer for Adrienne’s soul.  
    • Say an extra pray for the Eagle Scout that died. 
    • Go to confession. 
    • Offer food for the poor at Mass. 
    • Give cookies to our neighbors. 
    • Make a meal for someone who could use one. 
    • Give a hot drink to someone outside. 
    • Sort out our coats and give some away. 
    • Give some of our outgrown clothes to friends. 
    • Give some of our outgrown clothes to the poor. 
    • Put extra money in the baby bottle donation for church. 
    • Make cards for people in the nursing home. 
    • Go Christmas caroling at a nursing home. 
    • Visit (an elderly neighbor). 
    • Make Mommy and Daddy lunch. 
    • Put money in the St. Vincent de Paul box. 
    • Go to the cemetery and pray.

    To come up with these, I read an "official" list of Works of Mercy to the kids and they brainstormed specific related ways they could share mercy with others this Advent season As the children dictated their ideas to me, I was impressed by the fact that they remembered to balance between family, friends, local community members, strangers, and souls in purgatory.  In the past, we purposefully rotated between ways we could be kind to family, friends, those we know, and those we do not and, this year, it seems, doing so just became natural.  My hope is that consciously choosing to live Works of Mercy, large and small, will likewise become a natural part of how our family thinks and lives.  In fact, I pray mercy makes itself a greater priority for all, everywhere, as this coming year unfolds.

    May mercy work in you and through you!

    Wednesday, December 16, 2015

    Win Pope Francis' Pop CD Wake Up!

    When I was offered a chance to review Pope Francis "Wake Up!", a music album with Pope Francis' words and prayers, my curiosity was piqued.  Just what would a modern pop music album featuring Pope Francis be like?

    Now, before you get excited about the idea of the Pontiff busting out guitar riffs or crooning pop lyrics, let me tell you, you won't find such things on Wake Up!  Instead, you'll discover 11 tracks that combine modern music arrangements of traditional hymns with original voice recordings from some of Pope Francis' speeches, sermons, and prayers.  These spoken snippets cover such universal topics as faith, family, peace, poverty, and nature and, all but one are in Spanish, Italian, or Portuguese.  That one, in English, is the title track, "Wake Up!", which can be previewed online.

    You can also view large parts of the album on Youtube to get a flavor for the combination of sound styles, from Latin to Contemporary.  

    Then, should you wish to feast on the entire album, you can either:

    A portion of all profits from album sales will go towards helping refugees.

    Why Would I Want to Listen to Something I Cannot Understand

    If you are an English-speaker like me, who knows only a smattering of Spanish and a word or two in Italian and Portuguese, you might wonder how
    Wake Up! might appeal to you.  One word: Music! 

    The language of music is universal, and with tracks inspired by many genres and cultures,
    Wake Up! provides a smorgasbord of sound.  Some tracks rock while others are more tender.  Together, all 11 tracks offers a beautiful mix of sound that is pleasing to the ears, and, sometimes, gets feet a-tapping.

    As for the actual lyrics and sound bites from Pope Francis included in Wake Up!, I cannot say much beyond that I am glad the latter is translated in the booklet that comes in the CD package (which is also available online) and that I appreciate the passion with which the language comes across.  Having lived and traveled overseas for many years before settling down to marriage and children, I am no stranger to hearing language I cannot understand.  Emotion and power come through even when the literal meaning of words is not immediately understood.  Such is the case with Wake Up!

    Win a Copy!

    For a chance to win a copy of Wake Up!, please enter below.
    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    If you do not win, remember, you can purchase the album at Amazon, where it currently sells for $13.99, or at Pope Francis Wake Up, and help refugees while you do!

    Have you listened to clips of Wake Up! yet?  What do you think?


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