In appreciation for the outpouring of love you fine folks offered for Michael's 1st Communion, his mom sent us some awesome photos of him decked out for his special day!
Our Lady of Guadalupe approves!
This one is my favorite. Definitely. Ha!
She also had this to say about how each of you worked together to create a beautiful spiritual hug for her and her family:
I absolutely can not put words to how I felt when I received your package on the DAY of Michael's First Communion... I called James over, handed him the envelope, and promptly started bawling my eyes out.
(Tears, in my mind, are a triumphant sign of victory. We did good, people. We did good.)
Generally speaking, I'm fairly stoic in matters of the heart. You and I have discussed various times about how the best way to avoid heartache of any kind is to be stony-hearted in all things. Well, the "trouble" with our Faith is that we must allow God to take our hearts of stone and replace them with living hearts; which are totally unable to remain stoic when faced with the onslaught of love and joy that was delivered last Saturday :-)
Michael was THRILLED to look at all of the photos of well-wishers...we were all incredibly touched. [I realize] this is a paltry and insignificant means of saying "THANK YOU!!" [but wow]... It's a wonderful thing to be a member of The Body. Countless, countless thanks!
And then she attached this sweet photo of Michael sending out a big thank-you to everyone in cyber-space. :)
Just as an add-on, I love that she said "It's a wonderful thing to be a member of the Body." It really is. This special project pulled together folks from all over the country (and several from overseas!). We came together as one to rally and support one of our own. I dunno about the rest of you, but I certainly felt the Spirit. <3 Bless you all again!
Vince has been very sick the last few days. He's been cuddled against Mommy with a 103 degree fever, total sinus congestion, and all sorts of little aches since Saturday afternoon. My poor baby!
He's starting to feel a bit more like himself, thank God.
Before he came down with this nasty little bug, I had taken him to The Franklin Institute for the first time! Since John was off meeting one of his childhood idols that day, I got to spend a whole day with my little munch - something we haven't really done in a while.
So I packed him up and took him into Philly to explore the Institute.
For those of you who have never been, it's a great place for kids to get hands on experience with science in action. They've got rooms set up to tackle topics like global weather patterns, static electricity, the circulatory system and aviation. My favorite part of the Institute has always been the planetarium. Vince enjoyed looking at the planets and seeing a brief video about black holes, but he was more interested in the train room. In the train room, there are real locomotives that you can climb aboard and look at. Vince must've climbed aboard at least a dozen times! He even got to try his hand at turning one of the giant wheels!
He also got a big kick out of the circulatory room. This room is probably the most famous one the Institute has simply based on the "maze" they have that follows the path blood takes through the human heart. It's a massive exhibit that allows you to walk through a model heart... tracing your way through arteries, the lungs and eventually veins and back through the heart again. Vince was scared of the heart, but he adored the exercise equipment that showed you how you could "get your heart racing" in order to promote good health!
If only I could reach the pedals!!!
He wasn't too fond of the aviation room. At first he was a little afraid of all the wind tunnels and noises of jet engines, but once I plopped him into the pilot seat of the old plane they've got hanging from the ceiling, he changed his tune a bit. :)
Once we finished in the aviation room, we stopped to get a quick bite to eat in the atrium. This served to fuel the little munch for his romp in the Sports Center! I let him take the marble steps instead of the elevator so I could show him the huge pendulum swinging down through three flights of spiraling stairs. The pendulum swings due to the motion of the earth. Every morning, dominoes are set up in a perfect circle around the pendulum. As the day progresses, the tilt of the earth causes the pendulum to switch direction almost imperceptibly. The tiles get knocked down little by little as the pendulum shifts to account for the spin of the earth. Vince got a kick out of seeing it!
However, he enjoyed running up the stairs a lot more. Maybe he felt like Rocky Balboa!
The sports room is probably where he had the most fun. I got several fun shots of him playing around in there! All over are jerseys of sports celebrities, footprints of basketball players and various statistics of some of Philadelphia's best loved athletes. Vince didn't much care about any of that. He just wanted to play on all the cool stuff!
However, even having all that fun in the sports room, he still wanted to head back to the trains. So, we headed back to the trains to have some more fun on the old locomotives!
So yeah - as you can see God was very good to give us this fun little adventure before his little body got caught up in this whole being sick business. I keep telling him that when he gets better, we'll go back and see the trains again. Without fail he forgets he's sick and smiles so big! He really loves those trains!
If any of you are ever in the area, the Franklin Institute is a great place to stop by (even if you don't have kids!). A few weeks ago, some friends and I attended one of their traveling exhibits - the Titanic. Last year it was the Dead Sea Scrolls. This spring I'm taking John to see one about Spies and all the different spy gadgets governments have created over the years.
It's really such a great place and I can't wait to take Vince again when he's feeling better!
Since I've still got plenty of beads and yarn to work with, I tried to figure out a fun Lenten craft that would use them up!
I lucked upon some cheap foam sheets at Walmart and put the two together. Fun was the result!
Since Ash Wednesday falls on the day before Valentine's Day this year, I decided to combine my Lent and Valentine's Day crafts. To prep my students for the upcoming craft, I spent Tuesday night's lesson explaining to them the purpose of Lent and why we prepare through prayer and sacrifice. We spent a good portion of the class going through the Triduum and why that is considering the most sacred time of year for Catholics. Since Jesus was willing to sacrifice so much for us, it's only fitting that we return His love by showing our love for Him by loving others.
So this coming week, we're going to be doing Valentine's to Jesus, but instead of simple "I love you Jesus" messages, we're going to be offering LENTEN Valentines. I'm having the kids mark down things they'd like to both give up as a sacrifice and do for others as a sign of love. They'll put their ideas onto the foam sheets and frame them out with decorations and symbols of their faith.
To further prepare, I mocked up these samples:
The first one is a combination of Love Letter and Sacrifice Beading. I took 40 purple beads to signify the 40 days of Lent and strung them along four strings of yarn. For each time the child resists temptation, a bead can be moved down the line. This is a good way to help children see the progress they're making and give them a sense of accomplishment. The beads along the bottom are red, white and blue. They weren't chosen because I was feeling patriotic. Instead, I chose them to provide special meaning for "gifts of love" done by the child.
Red is to remind us of the pain that sometimes comes along with sacrifice. Jesus gave us the gift of Eternal Life, but it came at the cost of His Blood. Thus, when we sacrifice things during Lent, we should aim to sacrifice things that might be a little difficult (like video games, candy, fast food or shoe shopping!).
White is to remind us of the purity of God's gift. The Father did not force the Son to sacrifice Himself for us. Jesus was not guilty of anything. Instead, Jesus's motive for coming to earth to die was pure. His Sacrifice was driven purely by love. Our sacrifices duing Lent should also be driven by love.
Blue is to remind us of the Blessed Mother. She, too, consented to take part in these Sorrowful Mysteries because she knew it was necessary for God's children to return to Heaven. When I explained this to the kids last week, I likened Our Lady to a firefighter's mother.
If a firefighter knows a baby is at the top of a burning building, what does he do? He runs up to the top of the building to save that baby! It's his job! It's what he chose to do with his life because he cares about others and wants to spend his life helping them!
Would his mother object to him trying to save the baby? Would she have jumped in front of him and sacrifice the life of the baby? No. Why? Because she understands he has to save the baby. She knows the baby would die without her hero son, and so she suffers the fear and pain of losing her son because being a fireman is who he is.
Just like that fireman was born to save lives, Jesus was born to save humanity. Thus, Our Lady consented to the fear and pain that went along with seeing Her Beloved Son die so that we could all gain eternal life. In my Lenten meditations, I always tend to stick with my sacrifices better when comparing them to hers. If she could do that, I can give up fries and junk food, ya know?
So I put the blue ones in there in case the kids want to do something similar.
Put a magnet on the back and you can hang it up on your fridge so you can keep track in an easy-to-reach spot!
The next one is a horizontal frame that includes three "give up X" and three "do X for others" items. I alternated them and to denote which was which, I placed either a heart (for loving others) or a cross (for sacrifice) above or below the corresponding picture.
I'm a terrible artist, so forgive me. I used Sharpie markers for this one. I chose three typical sacrifices to showcase as ideas: Fast food, chocolate and mean / angry language. For the "love others" items, I chose organization, prayer and monetary donations. Obviously these pictures can vary based on the child's choices. I liked putting the "Lead me to Your Cross, dear Jesus!" at the bottom, though. It just seemed to fit. Sacrifice undoubtedly leads us to Christ, and loving others through things like prayer and help are about as Christ-like as you can get!
I chose to make slits in the frame to give the smaller foam piece a place to anchor into. No glue necessary! Just make the slits with a knife or pair of scissors.
Finally, I made the more "traditional" Valentine card. It's very simple and made mostly with the little foam stickers I found in my travels. I did end up hot gluing the red piece onto the white background for this one.
Fish on Fridays, remembering to make my bed in the morning, and making a concentrated effort to pray with faith - no empty words here!!!
So those are just a few of the fun little projects you can do with your kids / classes. It will give the children a chance to really think about and express their love for Jesus while preparing for the Lenten / Easter season.
Thanks to Anabelle for the reminder to link this up! All you other fine bloggers out there, don't forget to link your crafty posts to places like Catholic Bloggers Network and Raising Little Saints! Other folks out there are looking for ideas JUST LIKE YOURS, so help them out by linking up!
I'm currently teaching my kids about the Liturgical Calendar. I wanted to do something more hands on for them to help them better understand how colors and season work together to tell the story of Jesus' Life.
Since I have a plethora of colored beads on-hand (these are given as rewards that kids can exchange for treats), I figured a beaded liturgical calendar was in order!
I pulled some yarn and cut them into strips about 12 inches long. I then had the kids sort the colored beads into their proper seasons and string them, in order, onto the yarn. Once completed, they tied their ends together to create an easy to follow (and portable!) liturgical calendar!
These are what the looked like:
The best part about these (aside from how cheap and easy they are to make), is they can be customized to suit the level of your children!
Older kids can do a calendar that features Holy Days of Obligation (the above is only Sundays plus the Triduum). Or maybe they want to do the ENTIRE calendar and see if they can't coordinate the feasts of martyrs, the Blessed Mother and other saints while still paying attention to season.
This one features a few of Our Lady's solemnities.
I was so pleased with how these turned out that I plan to do one with Vincent! He'll enjoy stringing the beads, and even though he doesn't have much concept of Church colors, we can match them each week when we go to Mass so he can begin to "follow along" in his own way.
So there's my liturgical craft for the night. You folks enjoy!
My morning started off pretty awesome. My son gave me hugs and kisses before I dropped him off at daycare, several of my friends were already on their way to the Pro-Life March in D.C., and I was on my way to the most awesome job in the world (made that much more awesome by the fact that my coworkers are pretty much the best people in the universe). That all being said, I looked something like this:
LIFE IS CRAZY AWESOME - YAAAAAAY!
About an hour or so after getting to work, however, one of those aforementioned awesome coworkers sent me this article which put me in a mood decidedly...
That smell isn't my diaper - it's the smell of St. Thomas More vomiting from Heaven.
After a few minutes of fuming - loudly - I checked to see which diocese St. Thomas More was actually a part of. I wanted to make sure it wasn't Archbishop Chaput's old Denver stomping grounds. When I found out the hospital was located in the diocese of Pueblo, I hopped over to their site to find out if any statement had been made by the bishop there. When I got to their homepage (found here), I took a moment to read the press release posted there. While reading, I probably looked a little something like this:
Money, yo. These bishops are MONEY.
The quick (and pointed) response to this situation is incredibly heartening. In fact, I was SO pleased that they responded that I wrote the wonderful folks over in Pueblo to tell them how wonderful I thought their bishops were in a letter to the Office of the Bishop. I would suggest all of you do the same. When you're done praising them for being defenders of Life, go ahead and exercise your fingers by then moving over to St. Thomas More Hospital's site to unleash a lesson or two on what TRUE Catholics stand up for and defend.
This, my dear friends, is what today's version of Defending the Faith looks like. We might not need to shed our blood in the Colosseum (yet), but we do need to take a stand and refuse to back down on our beliefs simply because it's financially beneficial to do so. Those hack-job lawyers in Colorado have just destroyed so much of what the Pro-Life movement has worked hard for. How DARE they claim that fetuses aren't people only to kick a lawsuit under the rug!
My heart goes out to the father who lost his wife and children. How invalidated he must feel that a set of Catholic representatives (whether or not they were Catholic themselves doesn't matter - they represented a Catholic Institution, and thus should have reflected Catholic values in their actions) basically told him his two children were nothing... that they were undeserving of proper care because they weren't technically alive by the standards of the law...
I am sickened by that! At the very least the firm representing the hospital should never again be allowed to step foot in the courtroom in defense of St. Thomas More. I'd also like to see the administrators of this particular hospital feel a little fire for their part. SOMEONE over there had to have given some sort of consent to this diabolical argument. Ugh - I just... I can't.
Anyway, after you spit some of your justified venom their way, refresh yourself by viewing some of the incredible, uplifting and thought-provoking images of today's incredibly successful March for Life. These imagines? They'll remind you that you're not alone in your desire to see a better, brighter future for this generation and all generations to follow. They'll remind you that you're part of something bigger... something mystical... something militant - the Body of Christ.
Mobilized and militant - we will not remain silent!
Vince has been hiding under blankets a lot. He'll just drape one over his head while he's playing a game and then beg for Mommy or Daddy to "get in here" with him.
So when I saw the above hideaway thing on sale, I figured "He'll love this."
I excitedly took it out of the box and set it up for him. Sure enough, he loved it. He was so excited to see Buzz Lightyear and the other Toy Story characters that he couldn't stop repeating "TOY STORY, TOY STORY, SO COOL!" over and over again.
Unfortunately, the tent was too small for he and I to share together - which is what he wanted. The best we could do was put the tent over my head and then I'd slink down to the floor. He'd then crawl in over top of my lap, and we'd laugh about being squished in such a tiny space.
Since my back and knees grew weary of that game within minutes, I came up with a better solution. The tent.
See those little feet? Those are happy little feet that think they're hidden from Mommy.
I brought out one of our queen-sized blankets and draped one end over our cat tree (sorry, girls) and then tucked the other end over and around the couch. There was more than enough room in there for Vince and I to snuggle together with pillows and a book. As soon as that blanket went up, he forgot about the Toy Story tent. All he wanted to do was sit in his fort playing on his iPad or giggling with Mommy.
Should've just saved myself the $6 and built this in the first place. I remember doing the same thing as a child, and it made me smile knowing that Vince got the same enjoyment I did out of secret hiding spots like this.
Yup. Me and my little Spiderman had a whole lotta fun this weekend. :)
A friend of mine asked for prayers last night.
She suffered a miscarriage 10 weeks into her pregnancy. Something she said really struck me (and I hope she doesn't mind me posting it here). She said, "I was lucky because I attended Mass this morning, so my baby got that extra blessing before passing on."
Her faith is awe-inspiring.
I immediately wrote back and assured her of my prayers. I am also enlisting you wonderful readers. Please shoot up a prayer or two her way. She, her husband, and her daughter could surely use all love they can get as they wade through the coming months.
In fact, if I may, please keep all those who suffer miscarriages in your prayers. I know of at least two other women who have recently endured the pain of hearing such news. They and their families could all use support.
I'm going to post my reflection on miscarriage here. I know I've spoken of it in the past, but it never hurts to repost something of such significance. These cherished children the Lord blesses us with so briefly... they are meant for great things.
The pain of losing one (even before birth!) is palpable because for those of us lucky enough to carry life – even briefly – we carry within us the seed of divinity. The Breath of Life from the One who animates our mortal bodies takes root not just in our bodies, but in our souls.
When that Breath returns to its Creator, we cannot help but mourn the loss of Divinity. We cannot help but mourn the loss of such invaluable treasure.
But we don’t really lose these children, do we? Instead, we are given them briefly so we can gain them swiftly as saints. And maybe these little souls are given this choice, themselves, before conception. Maybe God allows them to foresee their role as intercessor and gives them the choice. Maybe He says, "Will you consent to sacrifice your life for the benefit of My Will? Will you sacrifice your earthly life so that you can help the family you leave behind make it to My Kingdom?"
And those little saints – with the wisdom of Heaven unclouded by the stain of sin – jump at the chance to acknowledge and fulfill God’s Will. I truly believe they offer themselves to His Will for the benefit of their families. They are gathered into the arms of their guardian angels and rewarded with the perfect splendor of Heaven.
And blessed are those with such radiant saints before the Throne of God. Blessed are those who mourn so acutely the same sorrow as Our Lady who mourned the loss of Her Beloved Son. I truly believe that God allows such significant loss specifically so families with special needs (either now or in the future) have their own patron saint to bring petitions before Him.
And I believe my friend is blessed to be able to see the Hand of God in this tragedy. Her faith is truly incredible to me. I am humbled and empowered by her example. May she and all those asked to endure this cross be gifted peace.
Taking some good advice from Fr. Levi of The Way Out There, I'm seeding you his entry on an impossibly tragic case involving a pregnant mother, her unborn child, possibly a misunderstanding of Church teaching, severe miscommunication, and definite mistreatment resulting in a grieving husband, family and friends who are left with more questions than answers.
Please keep these folks in your prayers. ALL those involved need prayers right now. May the mother, Savita Halappanavari, find herself encompassed by Christ's mercy, may the father, Praveen, find solace and peace. May their family and friends use this tragedy to better the treatment and awareness for other mothers in potentially similar situations. May these doctors / nurses / medical staff gain understanding, wisdom and compassion to handle such trials in the future.
Oh Ireland... you are enduring such a period of confusion right now. You were always my favorite country outside of the US. I'll keep you, your leaders and your people in my prayers. Keep us in yours. We need each other now more than ever.
I've been sitting on this post for about a week because I haven't had a proper camera with which to take my photos. *GRUMP GRUMP*
Anyway, my iPhone ended up taking the ones you're about to see, so I really, REALLY apologize for the blur and lack of clarity.
A wonderful friend of mine asked me to create a pair of Pro-Life earrings for a friend of hers. This friend works across from an abortion facility and it breaks her heart that she must work across from this place day after day.
She wanted some small way to remember their suffering throughout the day... some small way to speak out against the atrocity and remind others that there were those willing to speak for these voiceless children.
Thus, these earrings were born.
I went through several charms and versions, but the Precious Feet (though pricey) were the way to go.
Thus, I've created a whole batch for those who wish a pair for themselves. These can be customized with pink, blue or red beads. However, one crystal will remain on all of these to remind us of the innocent souls that are being torn away from us each time an abortion is carried out.
10% of all sales go towards the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. They do some incredible, incredible work. Please spread this particular entry along. I want Pro-Life jewelry to spread just as much as ribbons for breast cancer, puzzle pieces for Autism, or bracelets for Alzheimer's.
Hi again! Sorry I've taken such a long time to respond to folks lately. I promise as I get myself more situated in my new job and schedule, I'll be back to e-mailing responses, updating entries, and posting new content soon.
In the meantime, please keep a very special intention in your prayers. Two, actually.
A little boy named Jack passed away very early this morning. He was not yet four, but already had touched the lives of so many people. He was born with a rare genetic disorder that stunted his development (but not his love). His parents had recently moved him to hospice care. They were awakened with news that he might not make it through the night.
By the time they arrived at the hospice, they found their son being cradled by the nurse who held him as his soul returned to Heaven.
Please keep his family in your prayers. Please, too, keep the nurses and staff who are in hospice care wrapped in prayer as well. They must endure so many heartbreaks out of empathy for their patients' families. Their job is not easy - but it is a blessed thing to be called to help usher souls through their final moments.
So yes... please keep little Jack's parents in your prayers. No doubt Jack is incredibly joyous, happy to be running, playing and completely enraptured in the beauty that Heaven offers to his saintly soul. He left this earth with his guardian angel to intercede for his family before the Throne of God. May they find peace in the hope of their eventual reunion.
For more information regarding Jack - and if you feel so inclined as to offer financial support to this worthy family - you can follow this link for more information.