Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Katie Reads {4}


I'm a little behind on sharing my current reads, but these Katie Reads posts are keeping me accountable to keep reading and to be a bit more mindful of the books I'm picking up.  Here's some a few titles I've read recently!

(FYI- the links for the books are Amazon Affiliate links.  That means that if you click through and purchase something, I will receive a small percentage at no cost to you.  I will gratefully use it, probably to stock up on more books! :) )

Since I would rather be reading than writing long book reviews, I'll give you a grade and a quick run down- totally just my opinion based on what I enjoy.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books or suggestions of what I should read next in the comments! (You can check out other book recommendations here: Katie Reads {1} & Katie Reads {2} & Katie Reads {3})

Victory Over Vice, Archbishop Fulton Sheen {A}
  • One of Sheen's books is perpetually on my what-I'm-reading stack.  I recently re-read this small but powerful book on the seven deadly sins and their corresponding virtues.  Packed with wisdom, Fulton Sheen weaves powerful little kernels of truth about overcoming personal vice as he teaches about Jesus' suffering and death, using the Seven Last Words as anchor points for each chapter.
  • "We lose our souls not only by the evil we do, but also by the good we leave undone." (I loved that one so much I made it into a coloring page years ago.)
  • This would make a great book to read during Lent- one chapter a week would get you through the season with a better understanding of virtue & vice.

Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis {A}
  • I need more C.S. Lewis in my life.  Every time I pick up one of his books (of course, the Chronicles of Narnia, or the Screwtape Letters, or the Four Loves...) I wonder why it took me so long.  Mere Christianity was no exception.  Written in short, conversational chapters he discusses how morality points to belief, how that belief finds truth in Christianity, and how Christianity makes us new men.
  • "Enemy-occupied territory- that is what this world is.  Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."
  • This quote was timed perfectly as a reminder that the strife of politics is not to be our chief concern, but instead our care for the souls that make up our world: "If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilization, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual.  But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilization, compared with his, is only a moment."
  • If you are looking to read an approachable & timeless take on morality, philosophy, and Christian living, look no further.
The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Stedman {B+}
  • I read this book months ago in the mindset of gotta read it before I see the movie... and here I am and still haven't seen it.  Movie rental, hopefully coming soon.
  • Also- Hey Publishers!  Stop changing lovely book cover art to match movie posters.  Yuck. (See link to above compared to the photo of my edition...)
  • This quote makes the book sound more depressing than it really is, but it was one of my favorite moments of character self-awareness- "He turned his attention to the rotation of the beam, and gave a bitter laugh at the thought that the dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness.  A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it."
  • If you are looking for a story that demonstrates how the love within a family is both heartbreaking and beautiful, this book is for you.
Giants in the Earth, O.E. Rolvag {A-}
  • My love for all things pioneers started when my first grade teacher read Little House in the Big Woods to us.  I then devoured the rest of the series (and others like it) and most of my childhood games of make believe were tied up in the fantasies of covered wagons, cooking over a fire, and building sod houses. 
  • This book perfectly captures the trials and triumphs of the pioneer spirit- "And so Per Hansa could not be still for a moment.  A divine restlessness ran in his blood; he strode forward with outstretched arms toward the wonders of the future, already partly realized."
  • Next up I need to find out what happens to the second generation of pioneers in Peder Victorious and Their Fathers' God
  • If you're looking for a grown-up, culturally accurate, sweeping saga about the life of the pioneers, this book is for you.
The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah {A+}
  • Two sisters, at odds with one another's choices and personalities, live in the difficult circumstances surrounding the German occupation of France during WWII.  Both are called to bravery, secrecy, and sacrificial love as they each resist the dehumanizing war raging around them.  Neither realizes the lasting impact they each will have- and neither sees how the secrets they keep unite them in the same fight for truth and justice.
  • In the same spirit as The Book Thief and All the Light We Cannot See, this book has been added to my list of forever favorites.
  • The opening paragraph sets the tone of the story- "If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.  Today's young people want to know everything about everyone.  They think talking about a problem will solve it.  I come from a quieter generation.  We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention."
  • One intriguing plot element was the narrator- like The House at Riverton, she tells the story as an elderly woman slowly unfolding the past. You soon realize that she is one of the Rossignol sisters, but it is not revealed which sister until the end of the book.  That reveal and the falling action was one of my favorite parts of the book. 
  • If WW2 is a topic of interest, if you love stories about the redemption of broken relationships, and if you are inspired by the courage that can shine in the darkest of circumstances, you should read this book.
For Such a Time, Kate Breslin {D}
  • I've debated about even including this book, but I did read it, and I certainly have an opinion about it.  I really, really wanted to like this book, but ended up hating it. (Lots of spoilers below)
  • Set at Thereseinstadt Concentration Camp, it tells the story of a Jewish woman (Stella) who is saved from a firing squad to become the personal, live-in secretary for the Kommandant (Aric) in charge of the camp.  Staged to mimic the book of Esther, Stella uses her tenuous power to influence change in Aric and try to save as many of her people from the camp as she can.
  • Here are (some) of my issues:
    • The premise of her rescue is ridiculous.  Aric sees her as she is about to be shot at another camp, and supposedly because of her blue eyes and blonde (but shaved?) hair, assumes she is not Jewish and therefore hides her in his car and takes her to another camp.  What?  Inaccurate stereotypes develop the entire plot line.
    • The romance between Aric and Stella is just too heavy handed and left me feeling creepy.  Love in war time? Yes.  Love despite conflicting sides of politics? Yes.  But love when the man expresses desire for her in one breath and uses the threat of sending her back to the camp in the next?  Just gross.  
    • Stella did not come off as the strong heroine she is suppose to be.  To me, it felt like she was brainwashed.  One minute she is trying to orchestrate a plan to save her people, the next she is all thanks-for-the-new-clothes-yes-let's-have-a-snowball-fight.  Also, losing her faith and finding it again would have added to her character.  Losing her Jewish faith and supposedly finding salvation as a Christian was an insult.
    • Then the author changed actual dates and events to suggest that people actually were freed from the camp by the characters.  It didn't happen, and she explains that it is all fiction in her Afterward.  Again, this is too sensitive of a topic to have a fake character sweep in and save groups of people in a camp that saw no such thing.
  • Creative license with history might have a place in some fiction, but to falsely portray events in Concentration Camps during WWII is too much.  Those times were too dark, too horrible, too atrocious.  There are real stories of courage, of love, of sacrifice that deserve to be told.  Wrapping up a completely fake and implausible story, masquerading it as a retelling of Queen Esther, and then staging it like a harlequin romance novel was just inappropriate and disrespectful to the suffering of the time.
  • If you are looking for... nope, never mind.  Just don't read this book.  If you want more evidence, go read the polarized reviews on Amazon.
Night, Elie Wiesel {A}
  • After reading such an atrocious attempt to tell the story of the Holocaust, I needed to pick up something true and honorable about those that suffered.  I chose Wiesel's autobiography of his arrest, internment, and suffering at Auschwitz.  
  • My copy was a new translation from 2006, so it also included a forward from the author about why his message still needed to be told.  This quote particularly struck me:
  • "For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living.  He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory.  To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time."
  • The week I was reading this, I unexpectedly got to attend a lecture with a Holocaust survivor, Magda Brown. Magda's advice  to her audience was this: protect your freedoms, think twice before you hate, and remember what happened.
  • If you are looking for a short but poignant first hand account of the suffering of the Holocaust, this would be a great book to pick up.

Now that I'm all caught up on sharing what I read this fall, I already have a new stack of recommendations! More time reading, less time blogging I guess. :)  What should I add to my TBR list for 2017?

You might also like:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Woodburned Peg Doll Noah's Ark

Peg doll sets have become my go-to gift for the kiddos in my life, so after making my niece a peg doll nativity, I needed to come up with a different set to create for her little brother. My sister suggested that they needed more animals to go with a barn they already had, so Noah's Ark seemed a perfect choice.

I decided to make this a natural set instead of painted after loving (so much!) how my other nephew's woodburned nativity turned out.  In this post, I'll share some pictures of the dolls, animals, and ark that you could use for ideas/patterns if you would like to try making a set of your own.

All of the steps, including set up, woodburning, staining, and sealing can be found in great detail in my original Woodburned Peg Doll Nativity post.  I thought I would save a little time and send you there instead of recreating everything.  The rest of this post will just include pictures of this project.

Here are my supply recommendations based on what I used: (affiliate links)
-Wood Doll Bodies Man 3 9/16" (Although I bought in bulk last time to save!)
-Wood Doll Bodies Woman 3 1/2" (Also bought in bulk)
-Wood Knobs 2"
-Wood Blocks 2"
-Wood Blocks 1 1/2"
-Wood Eggs 2 1/2"
-Larger Blocks (similar)
-Woodburning Kit
-Mineral Oil
-The box I used is from Hobby Lobby.  Unfortunately, I can't link right to the product I used, but I love these boxes.  They are sturdy and you can get them individually in store.  The medium one listed at that link is the one featured in this post.

Ok, first up, the storage box gets turned into an ark!


And inside:

Here it is filled with all the animals, Noah, and Mrs. Noah:

The birds, cats, and dogs (two by two, of course) were made from 2" wood knobs, so they are flat on the bottom and will stand up.  Here is the front and side view:

And the front & back view:

Sheep, cows, and pigs were made with 1 1/2' and 2" blocks.  Here is the front and back view:

There were also camels made with 2 1/2" eggs... but I didn't get a picture of them apparently.  You can check out the nativity post to see the Wise Men's camels if you'd like to add them to your ark.

The giraffes and zebras were made from 2"x 2" x4" blocks:

Because the original idea started with their empty barn, I also made a Farmer and Mrs. Farmer that could be played with all the farm animals:

I think it turned out pretty cute!  Remember, if you are interested in more step-by-step details, check out the nativity post linked just below.

If you are interested in more Catholic peg doll projects, check out these posts:

All Natural Peg Doll Nativity:

Peg Doll Nativity:

Wooden Animals for a Peg Doll Nativity:

Passion & Resurrection Peg Doll Set:

Saints, Cathedral, and Mass Set:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Confirmation Door & Pentecost Self Portraits

"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  Then there appeared to them as tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." ~Acts 2:1-4

We often don't get to celebrate Pentecost during the school year, as it falls fifty days after Easter (this year it is on June 4th). I thought I'd share a quick art idea connecting Pentecost and the Sacrament of Confirmation. With a little review of the Sacraments, you can work Pentecost in any time of year.

As part of our review of the Sacraments of Initiation, my students learn more about the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  We read several passages from Scripture, including the account of Pentecost above.  We talk about how the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, has always existed and will always exist.  And we connect that the Holy Spirit that was received by Mary and the Apostles at the first Pentecost after the Resurrection is the very same Holy Spirit that the students will receive at their Confirmation.  We will use this Confirmation Foldable and add it to our Confirmation page in our Fulton Sheen Notebooks.

Then we did a basic art lesson about self portraits (balance, proportions of the face, size of features, looking in a mirror, etc.) and the students each created an image of their own face.  They also used red, orange, and yellow paper to create flames hovering above their heads.

The results were awesome!  I hope that it helps the kids start to internalize the relationship with the Holy Spirit they are invited into, and how it is strengthened by Confirmation.  We displayed the Pentecost Self Portraits on our classroom door (no bulletin board=creativity) with a fiery dove, wind and a "Come Holy Spirit" sign.  This completed our Doors to the Sacraments for Christian Initiation: you can see Baptism here and the Eucharist here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How to Develop a Culture of Life in Your Home and Classroom

During January, teachers and parents often weave lessons and discussions about the dignity of the human person into their plans and activities.  This truth is important every day of the year, but remembering Martin Luther King Jr., the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, and the March for Life present us with teachable moments that are relevant today.  As I make plans for some of those important discussions in the coming weeks, I am excited to start using The Culture of Life Study Program created by the America Life League. I'm so impressed by the curriculum they have created and grateful to add this new resources to my classroom content.  Go click on over to their website to explore all the things they offer (including both print and digital lessons for purchase and many FREE instant downloads to get you started, like this set of sample lessons.).  If you'd like more info or to hear my humble opinion about some of the resources they offer, read on :).

Disclaimer: American Life League provided me with free lessons and materials in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own!  I'm happy to share this solid resource with other educators.

Across Content Areas and Grade Levels:
This program includes lessons for preschoolers through high schoolers, organized into both stand alone mini lessons as well as full units of study.  The cohesive nature of the units would allow a religious ed program, school, or family to develop continual growth of understanding about the culture of life over the education of its students.

The lessons are also supplemented with Scripture, art, hands-on models, literature, and media, providing opportunities for all types of learners to engage with the material.   They cover pro-life topics with both depth and breadth.  Many times kids (and adults) think that pro-life topics are limited to pre-born babies instead of recognizing the dignity of each and every human person.  The Culture of Life Study Program offers materials on babies, the elderly, disabilities, eugenics, diversity, marriage, euthanasia, social justice, and more.  The cross-curricular lessons are intended to tie into literature, science, art... and even foreign language classes!

All of the Units of Study and Mini Lessons are organized, complete, and thorough.  As a teacher, I love that the authors have included not only the recommended steps for an activity or lesson, but also objectives, ideas for reinforcement and evaluation, supply lists, sample discussion questions, color photos of sample student work, opening/closing prayers, etc.  They really have thought of everything related to this curriculum and have organized it into easy to follow lessons, including appendices of handouts/printables.  From the experienced to the novice, I know that any teacher, catechist, youth leader, or parent could comfortably and successfully use these lessons.

Some of the lessons are created as one time activities, like this book study, discussion, and art project about Mother Teresa.  Others are multi-day units covering more content, such as The Beauty of the Developing Human Being for 7th-8th graders.  And other materials, like the sweet Miracle of Life Coloring and Activity Book, could be used time and time again to promote pro-life conversations and formation.

Units of Study:
The Culture of Life Units of Study are setting up a sequence of lessons for the full education of a student.  The units begin with the  Life Primer in elementary, move to Life Foundations in middle school, and offer Life Lens, Life Scope, and Life Quest in high school.

Included in the Life is Precious Unit Study for K-2nd grades is the video Baby Steps, which offers 4-D Ultrasound imagery of babies 8-34 weeks.  Menu options let you watch the babies grow at each week of development, seeing them kick, wiggle, smile, and yawn.  There also is a Guided Tour feature, which gives a five minute narrated week-by-week overview of fetal development.  (You can watch the English narrated version here.)  They also send a Precious One 12 week fetal model for the students to see and touch.  I've written here before about how much I love the Touch of Life Fetal Models.  They continue to be one of my very favorite pro-life resource.

Books and Movies:
Teachers of any kind will tell you that time is at a premium.  Adding in another unit might seem impossible, but these lessons fit well within many different subject areas and even use books and movies that are often already in a classroom curriculum.  Content in the Life Primer Unit (K-2nd) includes popular picture books (like Horton Hears a Who and On the Night You Were Born) to introduce each topic.  Discussion guides are available for chapter books like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Giver series, and To Kill a Mockingbird, just to name a few.  There are also a whole collection of discussion guides for modern movies, teaching kids to look for culture of life themes in everything they read and watch.  There are lessons for some of my favorite movies including The Blind Side, August Rush, The King's Speech, Bella, The Magic of Ordinary Days, and It's a Wonderful Life.  Those movie discussions would lend themselves perfectly to a youth group or pro-life club.

And so much more...
The exciting thing is that the Culture of Life Studies Program is still in development.  More and more lessons will be added, creating a full K-12 scope and sequence.  I'll be keeping an eye out for the additional curriculum, especially in Life Foundations.  In the meantime, you should go check out the current materials in their store (including many FREE downloads!), the ever-growing topics and ideas on their blog, and consider making a donation to fund the next unit of study.

I hope you are feeling inspired this month (and always!) to weave culture of life conversations and lessons into your classrooms and homes.

And if you are interested, here are some of the pro-life resources I have on the blog:
Touch of Life Fetal Models & People of Integrity
Favorite Pro-Life Videos
Spiritual Adoption Prayer Coloring Page
Spiritual Adoption Bookmarks and Culture of Life Discussion Guide/Bible Study
Spiritual Adoption Update Postcards

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Twelve in Twelve 2016

Happy New Years! As we look forward to 2017, here's my 2016 in pictures:

January: Went through my first Holy Door for the Year of Mercy (which became nineteen doors in ten states!) all documented with a #holydoorselfie.  This was also around the time I became obsessed with making Saint Peg Dolls. And I got a brand new Bible and started reading/studying with the goal to finish the whole thing in a year.  (More on that later...hint- I didn't meet my goal ;).)

February: No major notable events, but I did have lots of meetings and therefore lots of pretty doodles.  I got a little organized and made a doodle each Sunday corresponding to the Scripture readings for Mass, and have kept it up for over a year.  I posted a summary of all of them here, or you can check out #sundayreadingsscripturedoodle and follow along!

March: Super notable was the birth of my adorable nephew Oliver whom we love to pieces.  I made the two hour drive a whole lot that month (and still do) to snuggle this little one and his big sister.

April: And five weeks later Oliver was followed by second nephew Theodore.  This time I majorly played hooky and flew to Colorado to spend a week with tiny Teddy and his mom & dad. He's the cutest.

May: Wrapped up the school year with our annual Fulton Sheen Field Trip and got my first glimpses of the newly restored St. Mary Cathedral in Peoria.

June: Summer!  First roadtrip of many- A friend and I traveled to the Appalachian Mountains.  We visited the Biltmore in Asheville, NC, hiked, listened to Bluegrass, ate great food, and drove the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.  Also in June, I also attended the incredible Finding Your Fiat Conference and hosted the Why Make Beautiful Things Series.

July: And a couple weeks later, I was hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  I made two back-to-back roadtrips to Colorado, once with family and once with a friend.  (If you are counting, I spent about 6,000 miles in the car over the course of a month!) My brother-in-law will be restationed to another Army post by next summer, so we spent as much time in Colorado as we could this year.

August: School started again and was a fun milestone year for my top floor teachers and I.  With Mother Teresa's upcoming canonization, I also made tons of coloring pages and activities to celebrate her powerful life.

September: #describeyourselfinthreefictionalcharacters was all the rage, and I decided that even though I want to be Laura, Jo, and Lizzie, really I'm Mary Ingalls, Meg March, and Jane Bennet- the older, predictable, trustworthy sister. Not a bad role, I guess. And I also made a skirt out of curtains, just like Maria VonTrapp.

October: My sister and Teddy made their first trip home to Illinois.  This is my favorite picture from the whole year, especially considering that Violet was 21 mos., Oliver was 7 mos.,  Teddy was 6 mos., and they are all looking at the camera. :)

November: I couldn't pick one, so you get two pics for November. First, I roadtripped to Wisconsin to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and sites around LaCrosse.  And, no big deal, we got to meet Gianna Emmanuela, the daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.  Hearing her talk about her "Saint Mama" and hugging her was like a little piece of heaven.

And, also in November, I cut 14" off my hair to donate to Children with Hair Loss.  This is the shortest my hair has ever been, and I'm still getting used to it!

December: And this month has been filled with lots of good things, including tons of family time.  I'm currently hanging out in my parents' living room, surrounded by all the babies.  This sister pic is of us and our matching purses- earlier in the year I found and splurged on the perfect purse (it's the Fossil Sydney Tote).  It's soooo perfect that by the fall, both of my sisters had individually purchased their own.  We love our matching purses, but we (and their husbands) mix them up all the time, leading to some confusion and laughs.

So there's my 2016 in a picture nutshell.  Wishing you a very blessed 2017!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent Trivia Jeopardy

We might be approaching one of the greatest Feasts of the year, but as Advent winds down, there is a certain level of survival mode that kicks in for teachers/catechists/moms.  We only have a handful of school days left before Christmas break, but those days are filled with interrupted schedules, program rehearsals, parties, and kids pulled out of the room for various reasons. I know I am looking for "filler" activities that are still meaningful and catechetical.  Over the years, these Advent Jeopardy games have come in handy during these crazy last days of December.  I'd like to share them with you here in case you might be able to use them in your home or classroom!

In presentation mode, the main Jeopardy board with 25 options will appear.  Clicking on a point value in a certain category takes you to the "answer" and the next click takes you to the "question." Hover over the home button, and you are back to the main Jeopardy board.  When chosen, the point values will change color so you know that question has already been chosen.  Some of the different games also have Double Jeopardy options and Bonus Questions to make it more interesting and challenging.

(Note- because Power Point doesn't transfer perfectly to Google Slides, some of the fonts and formatting are going to be messed up.  If you download to your computer or make a copy in your Google Drive, you can make those corrections.  You also can edit the questions as you would like.)

Click here for trivia about five popular December Saints and their Feast Days:

 Click here for Advent Trivia Game 1:

 Click here for Advent Trivia Game 2:

Click here for the Challenging Advent Trivia Game:
(we used this one at a young adult Advent party, but it would also be great for middle or high schoolers)

And if you are looking for an additional lesson  to squeeze in, the O Antiphons start on December 17th.  You could use this coloring book or mini book to study and pray with the whole Church as we await our coming Messiah!