Sunday, December 29, 2019

Did You Miss any of Our Top 10 Faith Posts for 2019?

As we wind down 2019, I pray that it has been a blessed year for you and your are looking forward to a faith-filled 2020! 

If you're planning ahead for ways to celebrate faith as a family this year, perhaps scrolling through our Top 10 Faith Posts from 2019 will inspire you.

This year, when I took a peek at Analytics to see what my top 20 posts shared in 2010 were, I discovered that a large portion of them were faith-related posts. (There were a few popular review /giveaways ones, too.)  

So, today, I thought I would share our Top 10 Faith Posts from 2019 so that if you've forgotten an old favorite, your memory might be jogged, and, if you missed a popular post, you might discover it now.

I pray that as you scroll through our Top 10 Faith Posts of 2019, you will find inspiration to continue to live and grow in faith with your family in 2020.  


I love sharing lesson ideas, inspiration, and plans, especially when they combine our Catholic faith with outdoor time like this one for a Blind Listening Walk to remember the Holy Spirit.

If you're ever looking to connect lessons or outdoor activities to liturgical year, please just contact me through a comment here, or on our Facebook page and I'll be happy to see if I can help!


We are hit and miss with copywork here, so I sometimes try to fire us up again by making free copywork printables as I did with this St. Andrew Novena coppwork.

If you're ever looking for copywork to go along with a specific feast day, just let me know and I will whip up a printable if I can as a blessing to your children, my own, and whoever else stops by to download it.


I was surprised to see that a quick reflection I shared on truth, beauty, and goodness was one of the more popular faith posts that I wrote in 2019.  It warmed my heart to see that a reflective memory post was appreciated by others, since sometimes, although I started this blog in part as a place to journal family homeschool memories, I wonder if anyone ever really cares about such things.

I am delighted to see some still like to simply walk the journey together.


Our family continues to enjoy exploring art, music, and poetry with friends during once or twice a month AMP Club meet ups, and I am even happier when our meet ups dovetail with celebrating the liturgical year. Amplifying my delight even more is when I can share forward, as I did with our St. Francis of Assisi AMP plans, which, I now see, many of you appreciated, too.  Hoorah!


I have a confession to make: Using the free 3-2-1 Examen printable that I shared here did not become a journaling habit for my children as I had hoped. However, we do still do an oral 3-2-1 Examen more nights than not, and I am glad to see that folks reading here are interested in Examen resources, too. 


We have so enjoyed celebrating St. Joseph's Day with friends through the years and sharing about it here!

This year, we shared 4 Simple Steps to Planning a St. Joseph Table and, it seems, many were interested in those. I would love to hear about or to see pictures of your celebrations if you used inspiration from here. 


It appears that we're not the only ones seeking Catholic community since the 3 Truths of Building Catholic Communities was high on our Top 10 Faith posts of 2019.

I pray your Catholic community is thriving! Please let me know if I can ever be of help with providing tips, resources, or ideas specific to your needs.


My children are already growing out of some of our yearly traditions, but one Lenten tradition they still love is going egging on Spy Wednesday using a free printable that they helped design. Perhaps your children would enjoy doing the same!


Saints for Kids St. Josephine Bakhita

My children and I did not get to all the ideas I put together for celebrating St. Jospehine Bakhita, so I will be looking up my own post for reference come February. I hope you find some inspirational liturgical ideas there, too.


How perfect that as I share this Top 10 Faith Posts of 2019 collection right before the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, the top post is 31 Ways to Celebrate Our Lady! I pray some of the ideas inspire you as you head into the new year while honoring Our Holy Mother Mary.

We pray you have a wonderfully blessed New Year and that, as you move forward with celebrating it, you are not shy about sharing requests and suggestions with us.

For, as always, we have more ideas and things happening here than we have time to write, so we'd love to spend the time we do have for blogging sharing whatever might bless you most.
Do let us know which posts you've enjoyed and what you'd like to see in the future. 

May God bless you a your 2020 unfolds.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

An Idea for Celebrating 12 Days of Christmas Community

Training Happy Hearts

Winter walks...

Image may contain: 2 people, including Martianne Stanger, people smiling, people sitting, tree, child, shoes, sky, bridge, outdoor, nature and water

Surprise parties for friends...

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Creating artworks...

No photo description available.

Hikes in the woods...

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... and more.

All of these joys of community were a part of our 12 Days of Christmas Gatherings last year when, after prayer one day, five things came together to prompt me to suggest an idea to our local homeschool group.  

What 5 Considerations Led to Our 12 Days of Christmas Gatherings Initiative

Basically, between the beginning and middle of Advent last year, five things came to my mind...

1. 'Tis a Season for Celebration

A number of folks in our local homeschool group mentioned to me that they wished they could connect with other people more often, but that their regular scheduled commitments prevented them from doing so. Thus, Christmastide - with its vacation from regularly schedule activities - seemed a great time to reconnect.

2. Some Seek New Gifts of Friendship

A few of the newer folks in our local group also told me that they would welcome more opportunities to meet and befriend others. They sought 
the gift of new friendships - and what better time is there for gift giving than Christmastide?

3. Some Mommas Just Cannot Get Out
Around the same time, other members of our homeschool group members had become relatively homebound due to one-car family needs, new babies, seasonal depression, and more. Some of these Mommas mentioned that they would welcome social opportunities, but just could not get out.

4. Pre-Christmas Customs Inspire Christmastide Gatherings
As I thought about all these folks in our local homeschool group that sought community, I happened to read a picture book to my children about the pre-Christmas custom Las Posadas and was struck with the how beautiful the idea of community celebrating together in the book sounded.

5. Ideas from Others Inspire
Around about the same time, someone in an online group that I am in mentioned how her church community offers 12 nights of potlucks over the 12 days of Christmas.

When praying one day, all of these thoughts converged and the idea of celebrating 12 Days of Christmas Gatherings came to my mind.

How Did Our Group Organize our 12 Days of Christmas Gatherings?

Once the idea of 12 Days of Christmas Gatherings formed in my head, I simply threw the idea out on our homeschool's Facebook page, stating:

I had an idea this morning that I want to share to see if anyone wants to try it: How about if we have 12 Days of Christmas Gatherings among friends this year? Anyone who wants to can post an event at a time and location of their choice between December 26 and January 6, inviting all other friends to join in. If you'd like to do this, comment on this post and/or just go ahead and make an event for the group. 

You could simply invite folks over to your home for a playdate. You could ask people to come over to lend a hand or hold a baby while you get to something. You could put together a tea time. You could host a small service project or craft time. You could do a potluck. Day or night.  Whatever works.

If your home is not a place guests can come, you could post a library met up, a playground meet up, a sledding meet up, (if we get snow), a service meet up, a free community event meet up, or whatever.

Or, team up with another family to host something!

You could also get clever and do something around the symbol of whatever day of Christmas it is - partridges, maids a milking, and what not.

The idea is simply to have 12 days of opportunities for friends to get together to celebrate the season and the blessings of friendships - new and old - among our community!

Anyone in? Anyone want to try this? Anyone want to help me see that every day (or as many as possible) between December 26 and January 6, one friend or another will post/host an event that other friends could join in one, hopefully, building community and blessings among us and providing casual opportunities for those who may be new to the group, unable to get out during non-vacation times of the year, blue due to the dark/wet of the seasons, too busy at other times of year, or whatever to meet/get together? If so, pick a date and we'll post an event! 

Immediately, some people commented on the posts, and, so, I created a running list of who offered to host on which days, and, also added separate detailed event posts accordingly.

In the end, some of our hosts had to cancel or postpone gatherings due to unexpected sickness, etc., so our group did not end up with an actual 12 day string of opportunities to gather. However, we did have quite a few, and all were enjoyed!

We are thinking about trying our 12 Days of Christmas Gatherings againn as a low-key way for friends - old and new - to (re)connect over Christmastide.

If your local homeschool group, church group, or network of family and friends seeks opportunities to connect as a community, I encourage you to try a similar initiative. Doing so is not hard and brings extra blessings to the season.
May your Christmastide be filled with blessings, beauty, and connected community!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

6 Things to Do Before Christmas

I don't know about you, but, for me and mine, this Advent has been flying by with but a few of our regular traditions and so much busyness that the beauty of the season has been lost at times.

Thus, I have decided to prioritize six things in the coming week to help me and mine slow down and set aside time to better prepare our hearts and home for the coming of Christ.

I am sharing my list now in case you could use a little inspiration for ending Advent intentionally.

1. Put confession on your calendar.

Ready or not, Christ is coming, and confession is an important part of preparing room for Him in our hearts.

Decide right now when and where you're going to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Christmas and be sure it happens.

2. Make Small Sacrifices for the Christ Child

Advent is known as "Little Lent" and is an ideal time to focus on prayer, alms, and sacrifices. Each day, commit to making at least one small sacrifice.

If you happen to have a copy of
Marta and the Manger Straw, reread it and, perhaps, set up a creche with some straw nearby. When anyone in your house makes a small sacrifice or does a good deed, add a piece of straw to the creche to soften the place for Jesus. Then, on Christmas, lay a baby Jesus figurine in the creche. 

We have done this Advent activity in the past and found it a fruitful activity. This year, I almost opted to let it go, but have realized we could all use a tangible reminder of where our focus should be even on our busiest of days, so the manger will return to our table this week!

3. Consider being a Christkindl 

If you and yours have been headed in different directions throughout Advent, a wonderful way to refocus on one another while also building a spirit of giving is through the custom of having each family member secretly draw the name of another for whom to be a 

Before Advent, my daughter asked when we were going to begin this custom of doing secret kindnesses for another again, and I said, "later".

Well, "later" got later and later and, with all the commitment we've had, our family has been in too many different directions, so I've decided that this week is the perfect week to once again promote familial kindness, thoughtfulness, and joyful suspense with 

4. Dig into some spiritual reading and prayer.

Even if life is crazy-busy, I bet there you might spend five to ten minutes daily on mindlessly staring at or scrolling a screen or otherwise wasting time.

Why not give that time to intentionally letting God speak to you through prayer or spiritual readings? Even if only for minutes a day, picking up an Advent reflection, a passage of Scripture, a spiritual memoir, or some other spiritual reading - or simply pausing to pray - can have such a soul-changing effect.

Here, we've been doing okay with our St. Andrew Novena, but have fallen a few chapters behind with our nightly Advent readings of 
Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent , and I have not been picking up my own spiritual reading each day, so I am going to make time to catch up with our Advent read aloud as well as with my own spiritual reading.  I might even make a daily spot of tea, hot cinnamon almond milk, or hot chocolate and invite the children to choose their own spiritual reading to enjoy in quiet company.

5. Serve with a smile.

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Whether you are simply serving your family or headed out to do charitable works in your community, smile and think, "I get to...", not "I have to..." What a gift it is to be able to model ourselves after Christ through serving others. What a blessing it is to do so with love and joy.
Singing at a nursing home, taking care of a friend's babies, packing holiday meals, slogging through dishes and laundry... with "fun" service and more mundane ministrations, having the right attitude makes a difference. I plan to choose - and encourage my children to choose - to serve with joy and thanksgiving.

6. Just say no.

While we want to model after Mary's beautiful "yes" to God, we also need to remember that everything we say "yes" to is a "no" to something else.

So, remember to just say "no" to some things in order to prevent yourself from becoming so overbooked and overburdened in the last days of Advent that your busy out the beauty of this season.

As a practical measure, get out your calendar, mark off "have to" commitments, then pencil in a few special Advent outings or observances - particularly penance services, charitable works, and family time.

That done, give yourself
permission to say "no" to anything else that may distract you from a commitment to live the end Advent meaningfully. For, while it may be hard to turn down good things, some of your "no"s might help you better say "yes" to what matter most.

I know that I am entering into the final portion of Advent ready to say "yes" to better preparing my heart and home for Christ. I pray you are, too!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Host a St. Juan Diego / Our Lady of Guadalupe Sensing the Saints Playdate (with FREE PRINTABLE Plans!)

Happy second Sunday of Advent!

As the feasts of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe near, I've been reminiscing about past celebrations and realized that I never shared here about a favorite one - a Sensing the Saints: St. Juan Diego & Our Lady of Guadalupe Learn-and-Play Date that we enjoyed with friends some years back.


Circle Time

Some of our group came straight from Mass and others came after Mass, so after everyone had gathered, I asked the children to come into a circle near an Our Lady of Guadalupe candle.

Then, I asked:
  • Can anyone name a saint and an aspiration of Mary that were celebrating this week?  (Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe)
  • Does anyone know which dates these celebrations fall on? (the 9th and the 12th)
  • Can anyone find the dates of these feast days on the calendar?  (The young children then paged through calendar to find the date, chanting months, days and dates as we went.)

I then suggested that before we learned and shared more about these saints, we open our gathering with a prayer.  So, we prayed the Sign of the Cross and, then, read the prayer printed on our candle.

After praying, I drew attention to the different images of various picture books that were already set up on a table and asked  the children to share some things they knew or could guess about St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Then, I asked children if anyone knew where Juan Diego was from and had them find Mexico on a globe.

We also chatted about what saints are and how we are part of the Communion of Saints. 


After that, we segued into reading The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe, which I prefaced by asking children to listen for both miracles and virtues described. 

Throughout the reading, I paused periodically to discuss images, text and the children’s reactions, and, when the story concluded, I 
asked if anyone knew what a virtue is (a habit for good) and what virtues St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe demonstrated. (courage, faith, compassion, etc.)  I, then, asked the children how each might live such virtues themselves.

Choice Activities 

After storytime, it was onto choice activities, which included:

Make Our Ladies Roses, where children could make playdough roses, thereby getting tactile input, as well as exercising fine motor skills.

Enact the Story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, where children used scarves, plastic roses, a stool and other props to take on the characters of Juan Diego, Our Lady, the bishop, etc. to dramatize the story, thereby getting tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular input.

Make a Tilma
, where children could craft a simple tilma.

Draw, Color and Notebook the Saints
, where children could draw Our Lady of Guadalupe, color images of Juan Diego and Our Lady, or collaged notebooking pages about these saints using images and copywork prayers, thereby exercising fine motor skills.

Plant Roses on Tepeyac Hill, where children could “plant” plastic roses in coffee-scented playdough hills, thereby getting olfactory and tactile input, along with practicing fine motor skills.

Transfer the Roses, where children transfered water bead “roses” in a small cloth “tilma”, practicing fine motor skills.

Free Printable Plans

I hope some of our activities inspire your own.  In case you'd like to use all of them, I am sharing the FREE Sensing the Saints: St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe lesson plan I created, which has materials lists, objectives, assessments, etc. included.  Please feel free to download and use it in your own homes, co-ops, or classrooms and to point others to this post to do the same.

Have a most wonderful second week of Advent!  I'd love to hear how you play and learn about the saints.  Do leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.

St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Happy New (Liturgical Year) Question Game {A Free Printable}

Would you like an activity to help you and yours reflect and connect this new liturgical year - or even on the new calendar year which will be coming up before we know it?

Then, please let the fruit that came of my family's crazy First Sunday of Advent schedule this year be something that blesses you and yours.

The Making of the Game

This year, a commitment that my boys had precluded our family from being together to celebrate the new liturgical year the way we typically do. So, I got to work thinking about how I might help us to reflect and connect when we were all together again.

What I came up with was a Happy New Year Question Game.

Inspired by a marriage help exercise that I recalled reading about in John M. Gottman's The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, I created a game that could help my family reflect and connect together as we conclude one year and start the next.

Basically, I typed up a list of 100 questions and some rules, then, printed them out and waited until we were all together to play.

The game worked well, so I thought I would share it here in case you and yours would like to try it.

Playing Is Easy

All you need to play are some time to sit together, the Happy New Year Question Game printable, and pieces of scrap paper and pencils for each player to write 25 numbers and keep a tally of their score upon.

Then as it says on the game printable:

  1. Each person, take a piece of paper and pencil, randomly decide 25 numbers between 1 and 100, and write these down in a column on the left side of your paper.

  1. Hand another player the list, and tell that player your first number. That player reads the question that corresponds to the number you stated. If answer the question, and, if you answer it right (the other player judges that!), you receive the amount of points listed after the question and the other player receives one point. If you answer incorrectly, the other player must state a correct answer, and no one receives points.

  1. Next, the player who you handed the questions to takes a turn. (If playing in a group, players may not hand the list to anyone who has participated in the last two turns.)

  1. Continue to take turns like this until someone reaches 25 points. That person wins the game… and, in reality, you all win for having spent time communicating and reflecting.

Reflect, Connect, and Seed Spiritual Growth

If our experience is anything to go by, in doing this, you and yours will share laughter and thought while reflecting on the past year and planting seeds for spiritual growth in the next. Find the Happy New Year Question Game printable here. You could also, of course, use the question list for personal journaling or journal prompts for your children. I'd love to hear about your experience if you choose to play (or journal)!
Happy New Liturgical Year!


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