Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Poetic Round Up of Tried-and-True Advent Ideas from 12+ Families

Happy Christ the King day!  As we celebrate our Servant King, I am reminded that the beginning of Advent is but one week away.  If you're still deciding how you'll approach life and learning during this beautiful liturgical season, you are not alone.  Many other folks are, too, including me!  And, if past years are anything to go by, some of us may be preparing to prepare right up until Advent begins next Sunday, or even a bit beyond that.

To help us all, I thought I would share a poetic Advent season round-up.

Please enjoy this musing I wrote earlier today, which I've since linked to oodles of Advent ideas and inspiration from different Catholic bloggers.  Perhaps the Spirit will use a phrase from the poem or a post linked to it, to speak to you about how you might begin your Advent journey this year.

    'Twas a week before Advent
    and across blogosphere
    Mamas were asking:
    What are you doing this year?
    To keep this liturgical season
    in its rightful place, 
    which Advent traditions
    will you and yours embrace?
    while 'Christmas is here!' madness
    seems to sweep across the nation?
    How might we kick off 
    Advent observances this year
    How best can we celebrate Jesus' coming-
    present, future, and past?
    What will help us create meaningful
    How do we find balance
    in the sometimes chaos of this season,
    with all the blessings that brings?
    Might we help children move from "the gimmes"
    to simple gratitude,
    modeling thankfulness, joy, and humility
    in our own attitudes?
    Might we enjoy activities
    that focus on time spent together?
    Might we add new tweaks
    to past traditions that we treasure?
     Might we mark the days with Scripture
    that points to our Lord,
    as we hang up ornaments
    and spend time reading the Word?
    Might we each unplug and make time
    to let the Spirit's voice come through?
    ...Yes, the questions are a-flying,
    and some answers are, too.
    cautionary tales...
    Wisdom and reflections...
    prayersponderings and practical advice
    for managing daily life
    and preparing for heavenly paradise.
    In heads, hearts, and homes,
    thankfully, persists:
    Advent is nearly upon us,
    and that means it is time
    to prepare to celebrate our Lord,
    so merciful and sublime!
    However we do that,
    and may our response to God's will
    ring out with a resounding, "YES!"

    Thank you to the following folks for ideas shared through the links above:

      May you have a blessed and beautiful Advent!

      Sunday, November 19, 2017

      Celebrate Saint Clement and Blessed Miguel Pro Simply

      It's no secret that we love to learn about saints and celebrate their feast days here.  It's also no secret that our home and lives are rarely picture perfect.  Tables get covered in stuff.  Groceries get low.  Life gets full. 

      So it was in our home on the feast day of Blessed Miguel Pro and Saint Clement last November 23.  Luckily, I didn't let all the imperfections stop me. Instead, I gathered what I had on hand and spent the morning getting reacquainted with Blessed Miguel Pro and Saint Clement through prayers, books, a CD, some coloring, some conversation, and a simple floor picnic, followed by a few saint-inspired lessons.

      {Disclosure:  Some links which follow are affiliate ones.}

      Since I did not 
      have any Mexican or Roman-inspired foods in the house, the floor picnic I set out for my children had symbolism through drinks and candles instead.  Water reminded us of the story of Saint Clement that we read in Once Upon a Time Saints and cocoa and chocolate chips reminded us of Blessed Miguel Pro's cocol. Likewise, a white candle stood for the purity of Blessed Miguel Pro's and Saint Clement's love for our Lord, while a red one recalled their martyrdom.

      My children were delighted with our simple celebratory breakfast and dug right in, proving to me that what I thought might not be enough was actually just right.

      The rest of our morning followed suit.

      praying and reading about Blessed Miguel Pro in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints, my youngest helped with some on-spot geography by finding Mexico on a map.

      He also found Rome after we read about St. Clement in 
      Once Upon a Time Saints.

      Then, after chatting about the two saints, comparing and contrasting their stories and 
      discussing history, the children set to coloring free printables from Paper Dali while listening to a
      Glory Story about Blessed Miguel Pro.

      Later we enjoyed a spelling game and some other lessons inspired by the saints, too.  

      So, what started as me accepting imperfections and simply offering up the meager "loaves and fishes" of what we had around our home, we ended up blessed with the fruit of learning about history, virtue, literature, geography, and more related to Blessed Miguel Pro and Saint Clement - simply, relatively spontaneously, and all due to the grace and glory of Our Lord.

      Indeed, each time my children and I make an effort to learn about and celebrate the saints, I am struck by what God can do when we just say "yes" to His will for us.  No saint was perfect - and neither are we.  Yet, through loving God and letting Him work in them and through them, the saints made amazing impacts on others, and, eventually, were able to join our Lord in Heaven.  Oh, that we may do the same one day as well.

      Whatever imperfections you face today, may you not let them stop you from seeking to know and love God.  May you be inspired by stories of the saints and be unafraid to take the next step in whatever story our Lord wishes to write with you.

      Blessed Miguel Pro and Saint Clement, pray for us!

      Wednesday, November 15, 2017

      Join Us for the Super Girls and Halos Blog Tour {with a Review and Giveaway}

      Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.

      Welcome visitors new and old.  Today, I am excited to be a part of the Super Girls and Halos Blog Tour, where every day from November 8 through 22, a different Catholic blogger from around the world is sharing thoughts on award-winning author Maria Morera Johnson's thought-provoking new book which explores the Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude through pairing heroines of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books with inspiring female saints.

      Now, if you've been following Training Happy Hearts for any length of time, you're already aware of how much my children and I enjoy learning about and celebrating the saints together.  So, my interest in Super Girls and Halos makes sense. However, if you know me in real life, you also might be aware that I invest little to no time in reading about nor watching pop culture heroines in action, and the closest I ever got to being a true superhero fan was taking my Dad's military hat as a child in the 70's, stuffing my hair into it, and doing Wonder Woman turns with my sisters and the neighborhood girls in our front yard.  (Okay, maybe we had some "bullet-proof" bracelets and a golden lasso, too.) 

      But, seriously, science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture have rarely been my thing.  Moreover, the strong feminist push of our culture in recent years - which tends to stray far from the virtues, values, and strengths I believe women are created to embody -repulses me more than it excites me.  Thus, I tend to eschew anything that screams "woman power". So, you might wonder why I would want to read a book where over half the pages delve into analysis of
       Wonder Woman, Rey, Black Window, Scully, Storm, Hermione Granger, Katniss, and Lt. Uhura - fictional heroines whose stories I have rarely, if ever, read or watched and have had zero interest in getting to know.

      Truth be told, when I first cracked open Super Girls and Halos, I had no desire to read about these "super girls".  I simply wanted to learn more about Sts. Katherine Drexel, Clare of Assisi, Mary Magdalene, Marguerite d’Youville, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Cunegunde, Mary MacKillop, and Kateri Tekawitha.  I was also interested to see how Maria Morera Johnson would highlight each of these saints as examples of real life individuals who overcame challenges and flaws through embracing Cardinal Virtues.  

      Of course, though, because I was reading 
      Super Girls and Halos for a review and not simply for my own pleasure and edification, I was honor-bound to read every page of it - even the parts about the fictional heroines I cared little about.  So, I did, and guess what?  Instead of being bored or rolling my eyes as Maria examined each female pop culture character, I found myself drawn in, interested in Maria's enthusiastic analysis of how each fictional heroine exhibited human virtue.

      I appreciated how Maria recapped key elements of characterization and storyline so that even those who are not pop culture fans could relate to the super girls she highlighted.  I also loved how Maria wove words from St. John Paul II's apostolic letter, The Dignity and Vocation of Women, into commentary about Wonder Woman, and I discovered a new perspective on Rey, who I had been non-plussed by upon seeing one of the new Star War films when my parents invited our family to it. Likewise, I recalled why I'd liked Scully in the few episodes of the X-Files that I had previously seen and delighted to hear that in later episodes, the Catholic faith actually was brought into the storyline.  I also thought about how, if my children suddenly got into the Avengers, X-men, or Star Trek, I might not cringe and could, instead, now easily point out some virtues in the casts of characters.  Finally, I decided that although I still won't ever encourage my children to read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, I can find redeeming value in the series should my kids choose to become immersed in them.  Indeed, I found Maria's treatment of modern day super girls
       clever, thought-provoking, and on-point.  

      Better still, I loved how Maria paired the fictional super girls with both both well-known and lesser-known saints, highlighting similarities in the virtues between the super girls and saints, while also honing in on a key difference: the fictional heroines overcome obstacles through superpowers or crafted twists in plots and, sometimes, fall to their flaws, while the saints face challenges and move beyond human failings trough God's face.  By operating from a place of virtue, faith, and grace, the saints made difference in their own lives and in the lives of people they touched while living here on earth - and even still through their examples, legacies, and intercession.  They also challenge us to do the same - to seek a virtuous life, to seek god, to seek God! 

      As Maria encapsulates each saints path to holiness, we cannot help but to see how God's grace empowered them to live with virtue despite all too human circumstances.  We see how St. Katherine Drexel quietly used her wealth to benefit marginalized Native and African Americans.  We recall how St. Clare of Assisi put her trust in Jesus Christ, thereby saving others.  We recognize how St. Mary Magdalene remained steadfast in love and faith and also shared about the Resurrection. We learn about how St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross came to Jesus and, then, to offer up her suffering with dignity for the Jewish people.  We hear about how St. Cunegrade moved from being an empress who funded churches and monasteries that still stand hundreds of years after being built to spending her final 20 year in prayerful retreat.  We witness how St. Marguerite d'Youville overcame taunting to build a health network that is lauded even today.  We are inspired by how St. Mary MacKillop stood firm even through temporary excommunication and defended her order while changing the face of Catholic education in Australia.  And, we witness how St. Kateri Tekawitha endured wrongs and isolation as she sought to love and serve Jesus.  In short, we discover how each saint responded to circumstances with love and faith, and we are encouraged to emulate them.

      Through Maria' the collection of fictional and real heroines that Maria curated in Super Girls and Halos, we are remind that even in our humanness, we are called to be saints.  When we seek the greater good, when we choose what is morally right, when we stand firm through difficulties as we strive for what is good, when we maintain healthy discretion and self-mastery, and when we take time to ask what step toward Jesus can we make today and then do it, we respond to our calls to sainthood.

      Whether you're a pop culture aficionado, a saint enthusiast, or someone seeking a fresh look at how to live the Cardinal Virtues, Super Girls and Halos makes a worthwhile read.  Maria:

      • presents strong analysis of fictional characters and saints
      • shares persona anecdotes
      • defines and gives examples of virtues
      • weaves in quotes from fiction
      • highlights portions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
      • quotes from popes
      • offers periodic questions for reflection
      • challenges readers to tap into the supernatural powers God grants each one of us so that we may become saints

      She makes pop culture and saint stories accessible to modern reader, presenting edifying examples of virtue.

      Truly, I believe that Super Girls and Halos is a refreshingly unique take on how to live with truth, justice, and heroic virtue that any adult - or adolescent - can benefit from reading.  In fact, I am going to recommend it to my parish collaborative to use in youth ministry and have also already recommended to a local friend who is involved with a Catholic book club.

      Who Doesn't Love a Giveaway?

      In conjunction with the blog tour, Allison at Reconciled to You has put together a great giveaway.  You can enter below.

        a Rafflecopter giveaway

      Who is YOUR Supergirl Saint?

      I knew nothing about St. Mary MacKillop before reading Super Girls and Halos and found her story intriguing.  To think of bring excommunicated and still standing firm in faith, and, then, eventually becoming a saint.  Wow!  

      Who is YOUR SuperGirl Saint? Please share in a comment!

      Disclaimer:  I received a FREE copy of this product from Ave Maria Press 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 those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

      Monday, November 13, 2017

      Improve Attention, Concentration, and Memory {A Forebrain Review and Discount Code}

      This post contains affiliate links.


      UPDATE:  Forbrain often offers a % off and FREE SHIPPING using our affiliation code 3A4802705. Try it at check out.

      What do you get when you combine a simple, fun-to-use design with award winning technology to help people of all ages (3 and up) improve:

      • attention
      • concentration
      • verbal working memory
      • short-term memory

      Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD!

      If you or your child struggle with
      attention difficulties, poor memory, or speech and language issues, then you'll be happy to know that
      Forbrain can help.  Simply by speaking normally into the device for one to three daily sessions of 10-20 minutes, depending on your age and needs, you can experience a marked improvement in as little as six to ten weeks.

      Until December 12, you can get a 30% discount and free shipping off Forbrain if you use our affiliation code 3A4802705.  After that, you can get 10% off.

      What Is Forbrain?

      If you're an audio-visual learner who likes quick overviews, here's a short video about what Forbrain is and how it works:

      If you prefer tried-and-true user comments, then, you may wish to read how my-ten-year old - who was our primary Forbrain user -describes the device:

      "Forbrain is a device that you use if you have pronunciation problems, reading problems, spelling problems, or memory problems.  It looks like a microphone headset, but instead of putting pieces on your actual ears, you put them on the bones in front of your ears, so the sound waves can travel through your bones.

      Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

      The headset has a small rectangular box with the place you charge it using a computer, the on and off button, and volume control buttons.  It also has a bendable mic piece for the front with a small cushion on it, which is sensitive.  You want to place that about an inch to the right in front of your mouth.  That's why it is adjustable.

      I used Forbrain often.  Sometimes, I used it with my mom or dad when I read to them or did spelling and other lessons.  I also used it alone for read-to-self and speaking randomly into it, because it sounds so cool.  I used it with my brothers and showed my friends it, too. 
      Forbrain helps me with my spelling, because when I use it, different sounds feel and sound differently, so I can hear to spell.  I think it helps me a little with reading, too, because, when I use it to read words, I can puzzle them out more easily and can concentrate better.  I haven't yet used it for memory work, but I want to, because it's REALLY FUN and I think it will help me memorize better by having an easier time focusing."

      You might also get a kick out of the description my seven-year-old,  - our second most common Forbrain user- offered:
      "It is a device that has a microphone and connects to your bones when you speak.  It makes my bones vibrate and rattle.  Some words make my ears pop.  It feels weird.  Good weird.  I like using it for reading on my own and with other people."

      So, as you can see, Forbrain is basically a smartly designed microphone headset that uses bone conduction and a dynamic filter to correct the way you hear your own voice, leading to better speech production and increased attention and confidence.  Designed with technology for brain stimulation to help people with speech and language difficultiesForbrain has been helping people with

      • ADD
      • ADHD
      • auditory processing disorder
      • memory difficulties
      • sensory integration challenges
      • speech challenges

      It also has helped folks with:

      • articulation
      • learning to read
      • memorization
      • presentation skills
      • singing
      • vocal dynamics

      and more, including just having fun reading children's picture books with expression!

      If you'd like to learn more about how the Forbrain is designed and why it works, the Forbrain website is chock full of further information and articles about the device, so head on over  to it if you want learn more detailed information.

      Why Do We Love Forbrain?

      I love things that are simple, effective, and enjoyable, and, in our home, we've found Forbrain to be just that.

      Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

      It sure is simple to take our Forbrain out of its handy, hardcover, padded carrying case and pop it on for a 10-20 minute session of use. 

      Doing so for the first time, we were each surprised about how we could truly hear our own voices in a new way and immediately were drawn to pay closer attention to our articulation.  Over time, regular use of the device has been, "a fun thing that helps me improves my language skills" says my daughter.  Of all my children, she is the one that struggles most with reading, processing, etc., so witnessing improvements in her - and improvements made with a smile! - is a delight.

      I also appreciate it when a simple-to-use device is backed by science and adaptable for use by a wide variety of ages in multiple settings
      Forbrain is just that.  It can be used: 

      • alone when reading aloud, completing pronunciation exercises in native or foreign languages, practicing memory work, preparing speeches or dramatic works, reviewing learned materials, or, even singing.
      • with parents when learning to read, practicing speech and conversation exercises in native or foreign languages, doing homework, etc.
      • with professionals like therapists, teachers, and coaches when completing exercises, activities, and therapies.

       Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

      Whether your a youngster learning to read, a child in speech therapy, a teen memorizing scripts or speeches,a professional working on your public speaking skills, or someone who could just  grow in attention, concentration, and memory skills, Forbrain can help you enhance language and learning, using your own voice to unlock potential!

      Get a Discount Code and Free Shipping


      Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

      Forbrain typically costs $299, which might seem steep at first.  However, when you consider what many therapy tools cost and what potential the specifically designed Forbrain bone conduction headset has to help you or your child overcome challenges with attention, speech, and memory, the price becomes more reasonable.  Also, right now, the Forbrain website offers FREE SHIPPING, and, if you use our affiliation code 3A4802705 when making your purchase, you can get a 10% discount.

      Learn More

      Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

      In our home, we have been using our Forbrain for a little over a month and are already seeing results.  Other Homeschool Review Crew families, like the ones at Through the Open Window, are in their second year of using the device and testify to its long-term effectiveness with their children with autism or other challengesYou can find reviews from forty-five Homeschool Review Crew families who have used Forbrain by clicking through the banner.

      Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}

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