Wednesday, September 21, 2016

St. Terese Novena for Vocations {Color-a-Novena}


I do love praying novenas, but find that I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of the days or holding myself accountable to the set of prayers.  Last year in preparation for St. Terese's Feast Day, I joined in this novena (she is the patroness of vocations in my Diocese) and wanted to try something different.  I wrote out the main prayer in my journal, and ended up doodling in a rose each day as I prayed.  I added in the date, theme for the day, and a brief quote from the reflection.  It kept me on track, and made the novena much more present in my mind and therefore more meaningful.


A novena is simply nine (or sometimes more) consecutive days of prayer for a specific intention often leading up to a Saint's Feast Day or other Liturgical celebration.  You can read more about what a novena is here and about the history of novenas here.  You can even sign up to have novena prayers and reminders sent straight to your inbox at Pray More Novenas.

I thought that this journaling strategy might be great for kids (or other adults) to use as they prayed a novena, so I started making Color-a-Novena sheets.  St. Terese is the first one I have to share with you!  This sheet features the main prayer for the vocations novena and a numbered rose to color for each day.

To finish the novena on October 1st, the Feast of St. Terese, you start the novena on September 23rd.  However, you can pray this novena for vocations any time of the year.  The full novena has themes, meditations, and prayer for each day. You can find the novena in its entirety here and print a pdf here.

Click on the image below to download the St. Terese Color-a-Novena:

Do you have any favorite novenas that you would like to see as a Color-a-Novena?  I'll happily take your suggestions in the comments, and then I'll get to work adding to the collection!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Woodburned Peg Doll Nativity How-To



I know, I know... it's only September. But in my book, its never too early to start planning for Advent and Christmas and gift giving.  I'd rather do a little work early on so that I can enjoy the season.  Last Christmas, I made this peg doll nativity for my just-turned-one year old niece, and it was a big hit.  The peg dolls are just the right size for a little fist, they make satisfying banging noises, and are fun to chew on (and later will hopefully help her understand the true meaning of Christmas). We've added two new nephews to the family this year, so I wanted to make another nativity.  After watching my niece play with hers I was inspired to think a little differently about the next set.

When making toys for babies & toddlers, you have to consider that everything is going to end up in their mouths.  With that in mind, I still made Baby Jesus a tiny size, but as He is a choking hazard, my sister has Him stored away until the kiddos are bigger.  When I painted last time, I also made sure that my paint and sealer were non-toxic.  This time considering my nephew is even younger, I knew that there was an even higher likelihood that he would have these pieces in his mouth all the time.

After a friend gave me a woodburner this summer, I knew that it would be the perfect medium to make more baby-friendly peg dolls.  I woodburned the peg dolls, stained them with coffee, and sealed with mineral oil and beeswax- all non-toxic, food safe materials that a mama can feel a little better about her baby chewing on.  Not only that, but I l-o-v-e the style of the Nativity and how simple and beautiful it looks.  Plus, they smell delicious- a combo of the burned wood, coffee, and beeswax is like a campfire and incense all rolled into one. :)

If you want to try this technique, I've got a lot of pictures to help you along the way.  If you stumbled upon this and want to paint a set of nativity peg dolls, you could easily use the woodburned patterns below as outlines and you might want to check out this post.  Also, this post has ideas for painting animals for a peg doll nativity, and this post has a set of Saints, a cathedral, and a Mass set.  I think the kiddos in your life would love any of them!

Note: Many of the links to products in this post are affiliate links.  That means that if you click on that link and make a purchase through it, I receive a small percentage at no cost to you.  I only recommend things I already have used and have been happy with.  I appreciate your support!

Here are my supply recommendations based on what I used:
-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 Blocks 2"
-Wood Blocks 1/2"
-Wood Eggs 2 1/2"
-Woodburning Kit
-Mineral Oil
-Beeswax
-Baby Jesus was from Hobby Lobby, but this wood doll is similar
-All of the boxes used (large stable for whole Nativity, small box for Holy Family, and tiny box for Baby Jesus) were from Hobby Lobby.  Unfortunately, I can't link right to the products 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.

(*Update- A reader asked about the total cost for this project. I based on amounts from buying the peg dolls in bulk from the links above and I used a 40% off coupon on the large wooden box from Hobby Lobby.  With those discounts, all of the items you see in the first picture cost me about $30.  This doesn't count the cost of the woodburner, wax, oil... or coffee :) It would be a bit more expensive if you purchased the peg dolls in smaller quantities, but you could always find someone to split a larger order with, do a peg exchange, etc.)

First up, sketch lightly in pencil.  Totally worth the time, because then you concentrate on small areas while wordburning without trying to figure out the big picture.  And there's no need to erase unless you miss some lines.  You can keep an eye out for any rough edges that might need some light sanding at this point.  All of the supplies I mentioned above have always been very well made and I haven't had to worry about sanding, except on the edges of the boxes.

The woodburning kit I used (listed above) came with a few standard tips.  I almost exclusively used the fine and round tips.  I did use the straight tip in some cases for hair and a couple of lines, and I used the shading tip to create the angels' wings.  I hadn't woodburned in many many years, but it actually was easier than I remembered.  I would recommend practicing with a scrap piece of wood to get a feel for the tips and to also be very careful with your fingers when you start working on the pegs. :)

As great as the woodburning looked, it needed a little contrast.  I decided to use a coffee stain.  I brewed double strength coffee and brushed it on with a paint brush.  I had planned on adding water to dilute it and make lighter shades, but actually ended up letting it dry and adding more coats to create darker shades.  The coffee obviously soaks into cut ends and smooth ends of the wood differently.

Here you can see what a difference the contrasting brown colors makes.  I let the stain dry completely before adding sealer.

Also, the wooden blocks, especially the 2" size, seemed to have very sharp corners.  Not only did this make me nervous if one of the kids fell onto it, but it also seemed more likely to wear down and splinter.  I could have sanded the corners, but again, thinking about preventing splinters I tried another technique.  I put one corner of the block on a steel plate I use for jewelry making (you could use any hard surface, like the bottom of a skillet) and then whacked the opposite diagonal corner with a hammer.  The result was a dented in corner on two of the eight corners that looks much more baby safe.  It only took a couple of minutes to do this on all of the blocks.

Next up, sealing the wood.  I used mineral oil and beeswax to create a food safe sealant for the natural wood.  Using a one part wax to four parts oil ratio, I warmed up the mineral oil in a double boiler and then added small pieces of the wax, stirring until melted.  I waited for it to cool a bit and then used a rag to rub into the wood while it was still warm.  As it cools, it gets too solid to work with, so I just put it in a hot water bath to warm it back up.  I let the sealant sit for about 20 minutes (basically the time for me to put it on every piece and then get back to the beginning) and then buffed off the excess with another clean rag.  I put two coats on some of the rougher piece of wood, including the box.

Ok, ready to get started?  Whether you decide to paint or woodburn, it can be nice to have a pattern to start with.  I always like to have one peg doll to look at, so I took pictures of the front, back and side of the various people and animals in the Nativity:

Here's the Holy Family:
The Wise Men:
Their Camels:
The Angels:
The Shepherds:
Their Sheep:
And the Cattle and Donkey:

And finally, I woodburned a big star and lots of little stars inside the lid of the box listed above.  It is the perfect size to function as a stable for play and also for storage.  Baby Jesus is lying in swaddling clothes in the bottom of a tiny wood box (from Hobby Lobby) for His manger.

If you don't want to start with the whole Nativity, you could make just the Holy Family in a small box like this.  I made these for some baby showers this fall.

Aren't they so cute?!? I just love how this turned out :)


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

Peg Doll Nativity:

Wooden Animals for a Peg Doll Nativity:

Passion & Resurrection Peg Doll Set:

Saints, Cathedral, and Mass Set:

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dear Moms: What Your Kids' Teacher Wants You to Know



It's a new school year.  My time is spent organizing school supplies and teaching routines, introducing new concepts and getting to know new kids.  This season of change is exciting, sentimental, and challenging not only for the students, but also for their teachers and parents.  Last year, I was asked to give a quick talk on thing teachers wished parents knew.  This post is the fruit of notes from that night of sharing and collected conversations, and it seems like a great time of year to share it.

Here are the seven things I wish every mom (and dad) knew:

1. You are the first and most important teacher of your children.
Nothing can replace your influence. We are your partners in this endeavor to help your child grow into the kind, loved, talented, responsible, intelligent person God created him to be.


2. If you are wondering what you can do to help your child's education: Read & Pray. 
Read to them, read with them, let them see you read.  
Pray for them, pray with them, let them see you pray. 
Both of these things, although they may seem simple, matter and influence every other part of a child's formation and education.

3. Love multiplies, not divides.  
Your child is everything to us, but she is also one of 25, one of a whole school. We strive to see every individual, to know her, to support and challenge her, and we also have to care for every kid in our classroom, each year, in every school.  

4. "Fair" and "Equal" and "Same" are not black and white words in our classrooms.  Please don't compare what has been determined to be the best educational plan for each student. I won't talk about another child with you, but you can be assured I won't talk about your child with another parent.

5. We appreciate your communication.  
A quick note, an emailed question, checking in during pick up- You are your child's best advocate, so certainly speak up when you have a concern or question. But please, in tough situations, don't assume the worst of us. Be willing to listen to another adult perspective before jumping to conclusions.  We are so grateful to be respected as partners in your child's education. 

6. To be honest and practical: 
A teacher will graciously accept the pinterest created/inspirational nik-nak/cutesy collectible as an appreciation/Christmas/end-of-the-year gift. But do you want to know our real love language?  Give us a handwritten card from you and your husband and/or a picture or letter created by your child- I will keep and treasure those long after I have to figure out what to do with this year's collection of gifts.  If you really want to spend money, buy us classroom supplies.  Ask us for a wishlist and stock up on all the things we love to provide for our students that don't fit in the school budget.  Or donate to a charity in honor of our class.  And if you must... Starbucks Gift Cards are always welcome :) 

7. Most importantly, it is a privilege for us to teach your children.  
We are blessed to spend time with them, to help form them and watch them grow. We are grateful to be a part of your family, even if it is only for a school year. Your children will always matter to us.



And a few bonus topics that came up in conversation as a result of my talk:

-When I spoke to several teachers from different schools and grades, ALL of them brought up communication as something they wished teachers and parents were on the same page with.  Here are a few of their thoughts:
Talk to us instead of your child's classmates' parents.
Expect a reasonable response time, especially when emailing outside of school hours- we respect your family time and appreciate the same consideration.
Take advantage of the many ways that most schools communicate- websites, social media, newsletters, etc.
As is age appropriate, have you asked your child first? Help him to be accountable and responsible.  

-How do you support your child when they have a teacher they don't get along with?
This is tough.  My thoughts are a balance between advocating for the well being of your child as well as helping them grow in the virtue of fortitude and the skills of navigating challenging relationships.  Your reactions could range from teaching your child coping mechanisms and helping them self-advocate to intervening on their behalf.  It all depends on the maturity of the child and the severity of the situation.  

-When do you intervene in your child's school social situations? (Building friendships, helping them learn to play with others, etc.)
Social growth develops so differently for each child and doesn't always follow a specific "grade level" trajectory.  Again, it's important to advocate for your child and keep the teacher in the loop with social situations that might be happening outside of school, but you also need to let the kids stretch their wings.  An intervention from a parent can end up being the worst thing when trying to foster social situations, especially as kids get older.  It is important to encourage your child to build lots of types of friendships in different situations, even with kids of different ages.  Play groups, activities, neighborhood friends, etc.- these all can help model appropriate social behavior and how to be a friend.  

-How can you encourage a more Catholic atmosphere in your child's classroom?
My suggestions for this are to help the teacher by "finding" great resources for them to make it easy to weave in faith throughout the school day.  Purchase a favorite Catholic book and donated it to the class.  Loan Catholic books or a DVD from your family's collection for an upcoming Feast Day.  Offer to come in to lead an art lesson or story time that relates to the Liturgical Season.  Email links to solid (educational, well made, age appropriate) Catholic printables/activities.  When you are involved in classroom parties, take advantage of the time to infuse the faith as you plan games and activities.  Invite the teacher to local retreats/studies/speakers to strengthen his/her own faith.  And super importantly- pray for your kids' teachers.  We all need your prayers more than anything! :)

So those are my thoughts.  Educators of all kinds, what else do you wish parents knew?  Parents, what do you want teachers to know?  I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments! :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Home Sweet Classroom

HGTV is so popular because all of us secretly want to know what the inside of other people's homes look like.  One of my favorite things about visiting a friend's home for the first time is getting the "house tour" and soaking up their decor, storage, furniture, and homemaking.

Confession? Teachers l.o.v.e. doing the same thing in other teachers' classrooms.  Even when I stop in to my coworkers' rooms for something, I'm saying "uh huh, uh huh," all while looking around at their new art, posters, organization, desk arrangement, etc.  And visiting a new school?  I feel like a tourist craning my neck as I walk down the hall and peek inside rooms along the way.  (P.S. read my note at the bottom of the post- feel free to leave a link to pics of your classroom in the comments!)

So in the spirit of a tour, I thought I'd show you around my classroom all set up for the 2016-2017 school year!  (Note, these pictures were actually taken last week...students have since invaded and as you can imagine it is a little fuller and lot less neat.)

This is my 5th year in 5th grade, and my 5th year in the same classroom (alleluia!- At my last job I moved in and out of spaces four different times in three years!)  
If you are curious to see the progression of this room, you can check out these posts:
The "Before" and The "After" (Fall 2012)
Fall 2013
Fall 2014
and apparently I missed my 2015 post :)

This year I ditched the owl theme and started fresh with a colored pencil theme!  A little less cutesy, and I was ready for a change.

 I had already decided on the pencil theme when a teacher friend asked if I would like to take these giant pencils off her hands.  They were retail store props and she was ready to pass them on.  I super excitedly laid down the seats in my car and hauled them away- note that they were all the way in the back of my trunk and the tips touched the front windshield- they are giant!  And one of them is a Ticonderoga, which is only the absolute best pencil in the world.

My cozy little corner, complete with all the heavenly helpers who have my back throughout the day.

Our closets and word wall, which will be added to throughout the year.

Organization center- mailboxes, assignment board, objectives, and calendar.

Books, books, and more books.

I moved and rearranged our faith corner and I love it!  It is much more visible and I have room to display featured books for different Saints and seasons.


Our school wide Catholic Assignment Notebooks just happen to match my theme for the year!  (I was a little too excited about this.)

Cute new birthday chart!

And new privilege system chart.  It is laminated and is now labeled with privileges the kids have the opportunity to earn (or lose) throughout the day, like using the laptops, earning Saint cards, etc.

 Year five seemed to be the year a lot of posters fell apart, so I've got some fresh routine reminders up on the wall.

 Cute welcoming door.

The coveted 5th grade lockers with cute little pencil name magnets. :)

Jobs and responsibilities organized.

And St. Maximilian Kolbe watching over us all.

There you have it.  Teachers of all kinds, don't you love classroom tours?  If you have a blog or other social media platform, I'd love for you to share pictures of your school classrooms, CCD rooms, or homeschool spaces.  Feel free to leave your links in the comments below.  I can't wait to see them!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Resources for Teaching about St. Teresa of Calcutta

We are less than two weeks from the canonization of Mother Teresa! St. Teresa of Calcutta had a profound impact on the world during her life, and continues to inspire and influence us even now.  I've compiled some projects and posts to help you and the kids in your life celebrate and learn from this amazing woman.  Click on the images below to take you to a post or printable.

Mother Teresa Coloring Page:

Mother Teresa Quote Coloring Pages:

And more Mother Teresa Quote Coloring Pages:


Prayer cards about loving like Mother Teresa for students and teachers:


Check out this post with ideas for decorating a Mother Teresa theme:


Create a Mother Teresa theme in your classroom with these folder covers:

Welcome Back Postcards:


And room signs: (if you want to use these and need the name of the classroom edited, I'd be happy to help.  Send me an email at looktohimandberadiant (at) gmail.com)




Teach about things that were important to her, like the Corporal Works of Mercy:



And Spiritual Works of Mercy:


And time for prayer:

I love this beautiful video with audio of Mother Teresa about prayer and holiness:


Teach about the Canonization Process with this activity and printable:

Teach about heroic virtue using this coloring book and printable notes:


Watch The Letters- It is available  for purchase (affiliate link) and is also streaming on Netflix right now.  And find more videos about Sainthood on my YouTube playlist.



Check out my Mother Teresa Board on Pinterest:

St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!