Sunday, August 30, 2015

How Luke Came to Serve Mass at Home

This past week, friends who had accepted an invitation to enthrone the Sacred Heart in their home invited us to celebrate a Mass together.  In the past, I had heard about such Masses at individual family homes, but neither my children nor I had ever participated in one, so, of course, when I asked my children if they wanted to go, they had lots of questions.

The children wanted to know HOW a Mass could be celebrated at someone's home and WHY it would be celebrated at their good friends' house.  They also wanted to know WHO might help the priest there.  Luke, in fact, asked me if he might serve as an altar boy for the Mass.

Having never been to an Enthronement of Sacred Heart Mass, I did not know what the protocol would be, so I called my friend to ask if Luke might serve.  She loved the idea and said, if we brought altar server garments for Luke, she would ask the priest who was celebrating the Mass if Luke could serve.  Thus, I called our local parish office to request the use of an alb, cincture and cross and, before we knew it, Luke was sitting prayerfully under the breakfast bar at our friend's home excited to serve at the Mass.

Of course, I did not take any photos while Mass was happening, since we were all involved in celebration.  However, I did snap two (albeit quick and not so great) of the kids and the celebrant after the Mass had concluded and the priest had taken off his beautiful vestments.

Then, we all enjoyed fellowship over food and through conversation and play before heading home.

During our drive home, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor when Luke, moved by what we had experienced, led us all in praying the rosary.  You see, lately, Luke has chosen not to pray aloud with Nina, Jack, and I when we pray a decade or the rosary upon entering our minivan for the first time each day and has often groaned when we pray more than one decade.  However, when we got in the car after Mass at our friend's home and Nina asked if we could pray a decade of the rosary instead of listening to a CD or chatting, Luke piped up with a request to pray an ENTIRE rosary and, then, proceeded to lead us in doing just that.  While doing so, he paused before the first four decades to spontaneously pray beautiful intentions, and, then, before the last decade asked if anyone else wanted to offer any special intentions because, although he had some in mind, he did not want to "hog the whole thing".  Considering how self-centered Luke can be at times, this thoughtful inquiry was a powerful one.

Just as joyous was the genuine cheer with such excitement Luke broke out in when we finished "praying the whole thing without a booklet!"  To see such joy sparked by prayer was a moving thing for this Mama!

In fact, the entire evening moved me.

As 20-30 friends, family members of my friend, and Men of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary gathered tightly together in our friend's home to celebrate the Mass, I strongly felt God's presence.  On more than one occasion, emotion welled up and grateful tears brimmed in my eyes. 

I could not help but to think of all the people throughout history who have had to gather clandestinely to celebrate Mass with faith and fervor despite rulers who forbade doing so.  My heart ached for those that, even today, risk punishment of death for their faith.  Yet, it also filled with gratitude that, throughout the centuries, Mass has continued to be celebrated in much the same way, whether in small living rooms or huge Cathedrals offering grace and the gift of the Eucharist.  Too often, I take the opportunity to receive the Eucharist for granted.  During the Mass at our friend's home, it struck me anew how amazing it is that I am able to freely receive the blessings of Mass at almost any time.

I was also reminded of how the mundane in life becomes miraculous and blessed with the simple act of faith - and the not so easy to comprehend miracles of God's power.  Simple bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ.  A regular home to a blessed dwelling.  It was beautiful to witness God working through the priest to make Himself present to us all and to bless the home of our friends.  (Part of the enthronement celebration involves the priest leading the family around their home to bless it.)


Likewise, gazing upon images and statues of the Sacred Heart held meaning.  As an image my friend's husband drew was enthroned in their living room, I marveled at how statues and images can act as continual reminders of the love and power of God, much like photographs of friends and family and children's artwork on display call loved ones to mind. 

Moreover, as I witnessed my son eagerly and respectfully serving at the Mass, I thought back to the many days that the ushers at my local church or I had to chase him when he disrupted Mass by escaping our pew and, then, I spoke a quiet prayer of thanks in my heart.  May my son, and all my children, continue to grow in faith and virtue.  May I be open and able to help them hear and pursue their own callings, whether those calls be to religious life, marriage, or some vocation as a single person.

As I went to bed after the Enthronement experience, I did so with a peaceful, happy smile.  God is so good.  Faith traditions are rich.  You just never know how an invitation might affect you and those around you. 

If you'd like to learn more about the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart, please see the National Enthronement Center webpage.

Since experiencing the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in our friends' home the other day, of course, my children have asked if we can do the same.  I told them, God-willing and us-focused, we may be able to get our physical home in better order in order to accept an invitation to open our doors and hearts to Jesus in the tradition of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart.  Until then, we can simply continue to be grateful for the experience we shared at our friend's invitation and to continually accept God's invitation to know and to love him.  Each moment, we are offered opportunities to accept and reflect God's love or to turn away from it.  More and more, may we do the former!

Dig into Mayan History and Culture with a Fabulous Online Learning Game {A Review}

History + Online Learning Fun typically equals SUCCESS here, so, when we were offered a chance to review Mayan Mysteries (Online Game) by Dig-It! Games it only took us a few minutes to reply with an excited "yes!" 

Having never heard of
Mayan Mysteries prior to being offered a chance to review it, we immediately checked out a FREE DEMO of the game, decided it was for us, and, then, happily waited for our  review log-in information to arrive so we could play the full game.  Since then, it has been fun, fun, fun and learning for the kids!

All-in-One Engaging Learning and Fun 

Basically, Mayan Mysteries is an online game that seamlessly weaves reading (or listening), history, adventure, and 25+ challenging puzzles together so players can have fun while learning about archaeology and Mayan culture. With both single-user ($3.99) and classroom editions ($189.00) editions available, the game offers opportunities for players to discover more about seven unique Mayan sites while trying to solve a mystery to save the mythical city of Ich'aak from looters.  

A subscription to
Mayan Mysteries includes:

  •  9+ hours of gameplay which integrates content verified by Maya expert Robert J. Sharer with plain old online fun!

  • an immersive, interactive learning adventure which aligns with National Standards for Social Studies, Math, and Language Arts and offers fun achievements.

Dig It! Games Review

  • a comprehensive In-Game Encyclopedia with 450+ accurate entries.

  • an engaging comic-strip storyline that can be read or listened to.

  • plenty of opportunities to enrich Reading, Geography, Math, and Critical Thinking skills while having fun online.

The game, which is available online or for iPad, is designed for players in grades 5-9, however, but includes audio features that make it accessible for younger players and struggling readers, too.   In fact, my 5-9 year olds had no trouble playing it together without me after an initial few sessions with me.

10 Thumbs Up Here! 

Dig It! Games Review

When we first got our log-in information for our Mayan Mysteries subscription, we found it super simple to get the game up on our computer.  Then, the kids and I sat down to play.

At first, my oldest and I took turns reading information as my younger two children sat alongside us, offering input about which characters and locations within the game to click on and how to respond to challenge puzzles.  We thoroughly enjoyed doing this together, but found the background music in the game a bit too loud for our tastes.

A quick look at the settings helped us discover that we could lower the music volume AND set the animated voices to automatically play.  This discovery meant two things to our family:

  1. Less distraction from background music, which equaled greater fun and focus for the sound-sensitive among us.
  2. The ability for the children to play independently.  (My nine -year-old could actually play on his own anyway since he could read the text included in the game, but he likes the animated voices on the audios and my younger two prefer them to our none-year-old reading to them.) 

So it was that Mayan Mysteries went from being something Mom or Dad would do with the kids to being a tool for learning and fun that the kids could use together while Mom and Dad attended to other things (although the kids still welcomed my husband and me to sit with them to play when we wished to do so.)

Whether playing by themselves or with my husband or me, the children enjoyed the game.  Better still, my husband and I appreciated its learning value!  In fact, more than once since we began using
Mayan Mysteries, the kids have randomly related facts and theories learned they have learned from it to us in conversation while we've been out and about.  The children have also talked about the game with park interpreters at field trips to local historical spots, and they have excitedly told friends about the game. 

Without question, all of us here give
Mayan Mysteries two thumbs up!

In the Kids Words...

When writing this review, I asked each of my children to share their thoughts about Mayan Mysteries.  My nine-year-old said:

So, there is this person called Ladrone, and you think this person is stealing artifacts, so she can find a lost city called  Ich’aak that is said to be magical. 

Your job is to stop Ladrone and get to Ich'aak before she does.  You do this by completing tasks, playing games, reading or listening to pages as if people were trying to tell you things about the Mayas, and doing a lot of other stuff.  You can also go back in time and talk to Mayans as you solve clues.
Dig It! Games Review
I think it is a very good game.  It is about history and culture, but you are playing games and having fun while you learn.  For example, I learned that the Mayans put boards on babies heads to make their foreheads flat and their heads super tall, because they thought it was pretty.  I also learned about geography, artifacts, archaeology...

Dig It! Games Review

I do not think anything about the game should be changed except the math.  The Mayan math is super hard!  Besides that, everything is awesome.  I would recommend Mayan Mysteries to everybody.
My eight-year-old bubbled:

Mayan Mysteries is a game that is good to teach you about Mayan culture.  I like it, because it tells you a lot of facts and it is like you are talking with olden day people.  You can go back in time.

 I could play it without Mommy, because people in the program read the words to you and it is a game I wanted to play...  I did not know Mayans flatten their foreheads or want their children to look cross-eyed even if nowadays you'd be "arrested on the spot" for doing what Mayans did to babies...  Mayan culture was different and a little bit ridiculous, but cool.

My five-year-old added:

Mayan Mysteries is a game online.  I liked the money thing where sticks, stones, and shells were five, one, and zero.  I liked the voices.  I want to keep playing it.
Of course, all three of my children will keep playing Mayan Mysteries while we have our subscription, and, as I have time, I  will, too!  We thoroughly appreciate that our subscription to the game includes:

  • memorable game-based learning
  • features that allow independent learning even for struggling readers 
  •  plenty of fun while gaining cultural understanding

  • opportunities to use critical thinking and problem solving skills 

  • geography tie-ins

  • an ability to easily pick up the game right where you left off with it, s well as to go back to explore thing you've already completed, too.

The only thing I wish the game had since I am not always playing it with the kids is a parent feature that would allow me to quickly and easily check-in on where they are in the mystery-solving adventure, what key concepts they've explored and how they are doing with the puzzles.  As I understand, the classroom edition of the game allows such things with a Teacher Management System that allows educators to track the progress and performance of up to 30 students.

With or without tracking options,
Mayan Mysteries makes for an engaging and worthwhile online pursuit.  As I mentioned earlier, the my children have already been recommending the game to local friends. Now, I happily recommend to you.  There is enough meat and challenge to the game, I think, to capture the interest of its intended audience, Middle School-aged children, and it definitely appeals to my Elementary School-age children.   

Played just for fun (with learning as an added benefit) or used as a springboard or enrichment for a Mayan or archaeology study unit, the game can make a wonderful addition to homes and classrooms.  Plus, since it is compatible with iPads, those lucky enough to own iPads can play it on the go, too!

Learn More

Dig-It! Games also makes Roman Town (iOS App), which I wish we'd had an iPad to check out.  It looks just as fabulous as Mayan Mysteries (Online Game).

Dig It! Games Review

Dig-It! Games Review

How can online educational games spark fun and learning in your home?  Might you, too, dig in to Mayan Mysteries?

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Year of Consecrated Life Corner

On and off for years, the kids and I have set up feast tables (and shelves) in our home.  However, we have fallen out of consistency with doing so, and, this fall, I would like that to change.  Thus, today I got to rounding up resources as inspiration for part of our September table and thought I'd share my findings.

Inspired by the fantastic feast tables shared on Wildflowers and Marbles, I have decided I would like three parts to our September liturgical table: one corner for the Year of Consecration, one corner for the monthly dedication and intentions, and the center for more temporary things.

The Year of Consecrated Life
Even though we are months and months into the Year of Consecration, I have yet to focus on it much with my children.  So, inspired by the objectives set out in Pope Francis' apostolic letter.  I will be consulting with the kids about what they want to include on a corner of  our shelf dedicated to it.

Some things I am considering are:

  • a scrapbook page holder with images of some of the September saints who were priests and nuns to help us "look back at the past with gratitude"
  • a print out of the Year of Consecrated Life logo
  • a print out of Pope Francis' prayer for vocations
  • some sort of craft based on the Prayer for Vocations on Loyola Press' website.
  • wooden letters that say NOW, to remind us "to live the present with passion"
  • letters that say "yes" to remind us to "embrace the future with hope"
  • a wrapped gift, to remind us to "be aware of the gift (we ourselves) have received".
Of course, we likely will not include all of these things and we may also substitute other ideas, too.  (I'd love to hear yours!)  My goal is simply to introduce the the "Year of Consecrated Life" to the children as a focus.

How have you been sharing the Year of Consecrated Life with the children in your life?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Win A Free 4-Pack to Opening Weekend of King Richard's Faire!

Do you have plans on September 5, 6 or 7?    Can you get to Carver, MA?  Then, do I have a giveaway for you! 

King Richard's Faire, New England's longest-running Renaissance Faire will be opening its doors again from September 5-October 25, on weekends and Monday holidays (Labor Day and Columbus Day) and I am blessed to be able to give away TWO separate 4-packs of free tickets for it opening weekend.  Each of these Opening Weekend 4-Packs also includes two additional coupons for $2 off adult admission good any day the Faire is open.  That means if you love it -- and I have no doubt you will -- you can go back again at a discount or, if you can get six folks in for the price of two, less $4 on your initial visit.  That's a fabulous deal!

In Case You Have Never Heard About King Richard's Faire

Image Credit: King Richard's Faire

If you're a regular reader here, you have undoubtedly heard about King Richard's Faire, since my children love the place!

If you are not, then let me introduce you...
King Richard's Faire brings daring knights jousting on horseback, fabulous food and eight stages filled with song, dance, stunts, and storytelling to its guests every weekend from September 5 through October 25, 2015, including the Labor Day and Columbus Day Monday holidays.  Now in its 34th season, the Faire has long been reputed for offering guests a full day of live, interactive entertainment for all ages, tucked away on 80 acres of enchanted forest off Rt. 58 in Carver, Mass.  There are also themed contests on the King's Stage every Saturday afternoon and a host of other events to add variety to the festival-like entertainment lineup. (See for details).

At the Faire, you can:

  • visit with the King and his royal court, noble and not-so-noble subjects and skilled performers
Our Visit in 2014

  • wander through minstrels, musicians, acrobats, stilt walkers, giant puppets, and maybe even giant bubbles!
Giant bubble play made waiting for the second (for us, third, for real) joust of the day in 2014 easy for my children.

  • enjoy a fabulous kids' area
A child-sized castle turret in the kid's area made a perfect place for peace and play for my kiddoes in year's past!

  • shoot arrows, ride a swan swing, aim cannons and more at all the cool games
Anyone can become an archer at the Faire!

  • volunteer on stage
The kids volunteer to help with a sword fight on stage.

  • cheer on jousting knights
Since the first time he went to the Faire, our oldest has loved cheering on the knights in the live jousting matches!

  • or become a knight yourself
Jack was so excited to get the dragon's ring last year!

Plus you can bite into delicious spit-roasted turkey legs, buttery ears of corn, boules filled with chowder and stew, ringlets of fries, and more! Quench your thirst with typical drinks, as well as champagne, wine, or brew.  Or, shop as your stroll through a 16th century village filled with the wares of more than 1000 unique and talented artisans, including ones from right here in New England!

Your Chance to Win!

If you'd like to win one of the TWO 4-packs, good for September 5, 6, or 7,  that I'm blessed to give away, enter today using Rafflecopter below.

Please note:  This giveaway is open to people 18 years of age or older with U.S. addresses who will be physically able to attend to fair on one of the aforementioned dates.

Two winners will be randomly selected and notified by email.  Winners will have 24 hours to respond another winner will be selected.  Final winner may request the tickets be mailed to them or may choose to come pick up the tickets directly from me (one town over from Carver.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Faire Details

There's even entertainment before Faire doors open each day!

Faire hours are 10:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday holidays, from September 5th through October 25, 2015.

Tickets are $29 for adults (12+) and $16 for children ages 4-11. Children under 4 are free.
Parking is free

Discounts are available for groups of 25 adults or more and private parties can be accommodated (birthdays, vow renewal ceremonies, weddings). Groups may make reservations by emailing

The Faire is located at 235 Main Street (Rt. 58) in Carver, Mass. 02330.  The phone number is 508-866-5391 and the email is

You can also visit King Richard’s Faire on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest
I cannot wait to hear how YOU enjoy the Faire whether you win the giveaway or not.  Good luck!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Celebrate the Assumption of Mary through Fun and Food!

It's no secret that my children and I enjoy learning about saints and celebrating the liturgical year through food and fun, as well a through more traditional prayers and Mass times. We love doing so even more with friends.

So, we were delighted the other day to bring to fruition some of the possible plans that I shared last week in our Assumption Day Playdate Round-Up.

Enjoying the Beauty of Creation

The playdate began with a nature walk to gather flowers for our rosary-decade craft.  What a beautiful easy trail with gorgeous views we were blessed to walk!

Prayer Time

Flowers gathered, we opened our faith-focused fun with a brief chat about the Assumption of Mary and this prayer:

Alternate Catholic Collect for the Feast of the Assumption

Father in heaven,
all creation rightly gives you praise
for all life and all holiness come from you.
In the plan of Your wisdom
she who bore the Christ in her womb
was raised body and soul in glory
to be with Him in heaven.
May we follow her example
in reflecting your holiness
and join in her hymn of endless life and praise.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
from the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL)

 Symbolic Assumption of Mary Vases

(Please Note:  Affiliate links to Amazon follow.  If you click on one to make any purchase, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting us this way.  See full disclosure here.) Following our opening prayer, we prepared vases by pouring blue and white water gel beads into recycled baby food jars and, then, filling the jars with water.

Then, each child chose 1-3 small reproductions of Assumption of Mary paintings to cut out and tape to their jars using clear packing tape.  (I had pre-selected a variety of famous works of the Assumption which I resized to be no more than 1.5 inches tall in order to fit onto the jars.  I pasted all of these into a one page document which I printed in triplicate to give the children an array of choices.)

Vases thus prepared, we prayed a decade of the rosary together, offering special intentions the children suggested and placing one wildflower in each vase with each Hail Mary we prayed.


After our prayers we chatted a little about the symbolism of our vases:
  • Mary is often depicted in blue for the heavens and white for purity, thus the color of the water beads.
  • We used water.  In the Bible, Jesus refers to "living water"...
  • In some locations around the globe, flowers are blessed on the Assumption of Mary feast day.Mary was the Mother of Jesus and was assumed into heaven.

Our Own Paintings

After our chat, I welcome the children to paint and craft using a variety of Assumption of Mary coloring pages that I'd found online and printed out.  

Nina decided to make a pop-out decoration with hers.

Faith through Food

While the children created their art (or just played together, as the case was with some of the kids), I set up our snack table with a white lace tablecloth layered over a blue one, blue and white candles, a statue of Mary that held blue and white rosary beads, and, of course symbolic foods.  To this set up  the children added their wildflower bouquets before we chatted about the symbolism of the food:
  • CocoWhip and blueberries to remind us of the heavens into which Mary was assumed
  • vanilla coconut milk ice cream and berries for the same reason

  • an herb-and-vegetable salad, since in some places people bless herbs and vegetables on the Assumption
  • herbed fruit punch, again for the herb-and-fruit blessing tradition

  • and GFCF cupcakes that we decorated with "clouds" of Cocowhip, sugar, or blue jimmies.

After praying grace and chatting about the symbolism of the food, we all enjoyed feasting!

Free Play Time!

Finally, since it was a hot day, the kids enjoyed a dip in the pool to cool off, after which hours and hours of chatting and play ensued.

It was another celebration filled with fun and faith.  How very blessed we were to experience it!

Of course, there are plenty more ideas to celebrate with in future years! 
Please feel free to pop over to see ones that I've collected on my growing Assumption Day Pinterest board.

I'd love to hear about your favorite resources and ideas for sharing about Marian feast days with children.  I'd also be delighted with anything you'd like to share in the way of food and fun as related to saints for upcoming feast days.  May we continue to bless one another and the children in our lives with enjoyable, yet meaningful study and celebration of the saints!


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