Saturday, November 30, 2013

Our Family Advent Prayer Service

Last Advent we took our nightly Jesse Tree ornament and reading ritual one step further and turned it into a full prayer service complete with singing... because what would an official prayer service be without singing. It was difficult to make the nightly commitment, but truly worth it. Ending our day in prayer as a family sent the kids, and me, to bed even more peaceful than I had anticipated.

I've pulled my notes off of my "Christmas Prayer Service, Jesse Tree, and Books 2012" document to put them here on the blog. I hope it's of help to you in formulating a nightly prayer time with your own family as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. It will also be nice to not spend 10 minutes trying to remember what I titled the document next year, I'll just look in the archives of my blog ;).

Advent Prayer Service

1. Each family member blesses themselves with holy water to remind them of their baptism.

2. Dad or mom lights the Advent wreath.

3. Everyone sings an Advent hymn together.
4. Dad or Mom announces the symbol for the day and reads a scripture story related to the symbol. After the reading a child places the ornament on the Jesse Tree.

We've found that using a narrative approach to telling the stories helps our kids comprehend the continuity of Salvation History, so we use three children's books for the stories, but you could orally tell the story or read it straight from the Bible as well. The books we use are:
Below are the symbols we use each day, where to find the Bible story that goes with the symbol from the above books, and where to find the story in the Bible. You can find individual pictures of our handmade ornaments at this post. Some of them have moved around in their use, sorry if this makes it confusing to figure out what goes with what at the end.
  • Dec 1st - Creation - World (CPB 8-9, Genesis 1-2:3)
  • Dec 2nd - The Fall - Apple (CPB 10-11, Genesis 3)
  • Dec 3rd - Noah’s Ark - Rainbow (CPB 12-15, Genesis 6:9-9:17)
  • Dec 4th - Tower of Babel - Tower (TdP 26-27, Genesis 11:1-9)
  • Dec 5th - Abraham and Sarah - Stars and Sand (CPB 16-17, Genesis 12:1-3 and 15:4-5)
  • Dec 6th - Sacrifices of Isaac - Bundle of Wood (CPB 18-19, Genesis 22:1-18)
  • Dec 7th - Jacob Steals Esau’s Blessing - Sheep (CPB 20-21, Genesis 27:1-29)
  • Dec 8th - Joseph and his Brothers - Coat (CPB 22-27, Genesis 37-45)
  • Dec 9th - The Plagues and 1st Passover - Door with Blood (CPB 28-33, Exodus 6-13)
  • Dec 10th - Parting of the Red Sea and Manna - Bread (CPB 34-37, Exodus 16)
  • Dec 11th - Ten Commandments - Commandments (CPB 38-39, Exodus 20)
  • Dec 12th - The Promise Land - Grapes (GA 14, Numbers 13)
  • Dec 13th - Miracles in the Desert - Snake on Staff (CPB 40-41, Numbers 21:4-8)
  • Dec 14th - Fall of Jericho  - Crumbled Wall (CPB 42-47, Joshua 6)
  • Dec 15th - Samuel and Saul - Crown (CPB 52-72, 1 Samuel 15)
  • Dec 16th - David - Slingshot (GA 22-23, 1 Samuel 17 and 2 Samuel 7)
  • Dec 17th - Solomon and the Division - Divided Kingdom (GA 24-25, 1 Kings 12)
  • Dec 18th - Elijah and Baal- Fire (GA 26, 1 Kings 18)
  • Dec 19th - Elisha and Elijah - Mantle (GA 27, 1 Kings 18-19 and 2 Kings 1-2)
  • Dec 20th - Jonah - Whale (GA 28-32, Jonah)
  • Dec 21st - Zerubbabel/Nehemiah Rebuilds Jerusalem - Wall (GA 33, Ezra 3 and Nehemiah 2: 11-20)
  • Dec 22nd - Ezra Reads the Law to the Jews- Scroll (GA 35, Nehemiah 8) and Esther - Crown (GA 36, Esther)
  • Dec 23rd - Maccabeas - Candle and Shield (two symbols) (GA 37-40, 1 Maccabees 1-4) 
  • Dec 24th - Annunciation - Mary (GA 41, Luke 1:26-38)
  • Dec 25th - Birth of Christ - Nativity (GA 42, Matthew 2)
5. Each family member shares their prayer intentions and then everyone prays one decade of the Joyful Mysteries. For ideas on how to engage little ones in the rosary, check out this!

6. Everyone shares the sign of peace and a child blows out the Advent wreath.

This concludes the prayer service, however, directly after we finish praying we open up one of our Advent books for our bedtime story. Here is the list of what we are reading for 2013!

Happy praying and preparing!

Be saints, it's worth it!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ideas for December Feast Days and Celebrations

December is filled with great Feast Days, many of which correlate with Advent. (Here's the post that is filled with Advent ideas.) I've pulled together some ideas for celebrating these fun days, I can't wait to use them!

December 6th: Feast of St. Nicholas

Feast of St. Nicholas (2010)
Feast of St. Nicholas (2013)

Other Ideas:

December 8th: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Other Ideas:

December 12th: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Other Ideas:
December 13th: Feast of St. Lucy

Feast of St. Lucy: 2010, 2011

Other Ideas:
December 25th: Christmas

This Solemnity deserves it's own post, so that's what it got!

Be saints, it's worth it!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Thankful Pumpkin Craft for Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving crafts continue in our home this week with thankful pumpkins!

The kids really enjoyed making these. Well, they didn't really enjoy the part where they had to come up with 10 whole things that they are thankful for, which only magnified the need for this little exercise of gratitude.

This simple craft can be made with only a few items that you probably have in your home, they are...

  • Green Paper
  • Orange Paper
  • Two Brads
  • Green Pipe Cleaner
  • Hole Puncher
  • Scissors
  • Brown Marker
Step 1: Cut out five 8 1/2 x 3/4 inch strips of orange paper. Punch holes at the ends and in the middle of each strip.

Step 2: Place a brad through the center of your strips and have your children write 10 things they are thankful for, writing them from the edge of the strips into the center of them on both sides.

Pal's list, I wrote them for him... I know it's hard to tell, handwriting has never been my strength.
Step 3: Make a leaf, write "I'm thankful for" on it, and punch a hole in it.

Step 4: Layer your pumpkin onto the second brad. Start with the leaf (word side down), then loop the center of the pipe cleaner onto it, followed by one side of your strips (stacked together, word side down), then loop the other side of your strips onto the brad and fasten down the tabs of your brad. Finally, curl your pipe cleaners around your marker to make tendrils.

Step 5: Fan out your strips to form a round pumpkin and you are done!

Be saints, it's worth it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 Ideas for Celebrating Advent with your Kids

Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is an easy way to help prepare your kids for the coming of Christ by walking them through Salvation History one story at a time. Each day you add a new ornament to your tree making for a beautiful reminder of God's faithfulness.
Other Ideas:

Advent Calendar

Every child loves to countdown the days until Christmas... wait everybody loves to countdown the days until Christmas. Each year we pick something different to fill our pocket calendar to make this tradition extra fun. We've done chocolates, puzzles pieces, mini ornaments for a mini tree, and this year we are doing a Lego Advent calendar (see below).
Other Ideas:

Sacrifice Manger

Advent used to be a time of penance like Lent. While the Church doesn't give us specific ways of fasting and preparing today, it does call us to do something to prepare to welcome our Lord. For the past several years we have made a manger for baby Jesus and as the kids offer special prayers, sacrifices, or good deeds, they add a piece of hay to the manger. The hope is to make a nice soft bed for Him by Christmas.
Other Ideas:
Advent Wreath
This is probably the most known and loved Advent tradition. I've never posted on our Advent wreath, but of course we use one!

Other Ideas:
Advent Books
Last year we began the tradition of unwrapping and reading one Advent book a night. I get all of the books from the library and wrap them up in pink and purple paper. We loved this tradition and plan on doing it again. I will post our list for this year when I compile it but you can check out other bloggers lists now!

Other Ideas:

Other ideas:
Be saints, it's worth it!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Legend of Indian Corn Craft

Decorating for Thanksgiving is in full swing at the Cotter home. Last week's project was an Indian corn craft with a Christian twist.

I recently found the above poem that gives Christian meaning to the colors of Indian corn kernels. I'm not really sure where it came from, and I doubt it's an authentic legend, but it made for a fun craft project that included copy work, which is always a bonus in this homeschooling house.

Here is how we made them, beginning with our supplies:

  • Paints
  • Yellow construction paper
  • Q-tips
  • Raffia
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Pencil (We used a black erasable colored pencil.)
Step 1: Cut out two corn shapes per child from yellow construction paper.

Step 2: Have your child copy the poem onto one of the ears of corn. We laid out the poem so it would fit on 15 lines.

God put colors for
you and me on all
of the Indian corn
we see! Brown is
for the beauty of
fall, Red is God's
love for us all,
Yellow is for the
golden sun, White
tells us to love
everyone, Orange
tells us to give 
God praise and
keep Him with us

Step 3: Make a pallet of orange, brown, white, yellow, and red paints. These are the colors mentioned in the poem.

Step 4: Have your child use a q-tip to dot the kernels onto the other ear of corn and around the words of the poem.

Step 5: Glue the corn ears together, punch a hole at the top of them, and tie on some raffia.

I think they turned out just lovely!

P. S. I wrote the poem for my preschooler, it would have been too much for him!

Be saints, it's worth it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Classically Catholic Memory: Gamma Year: Week 5

Classically Catholic Memory: Gamma Year: Week 5
I'm blogging my way through our four year curriculum program so I don't forget everything that worked for us! Please feel free to use what works for your family and share in the comments anything you would add. For more on Classically Catholic Memory go here.


Lesson 1
Catholic Inspired has a communion of saints activity which helps explain this week's memory work. We used Catholic catalogues to find images for the activity.

Apparently when you get to purgatory you get a hat.
While the kids did their worksheets we listened to some Angel Food sermons on praying for the souls in purgatory. Pick your favorites!
Lesson 2 
This week's catechism question is on the communion of saints, so we read about and searched for saints in Can You Find Saints? by Philip Gallery. The book mainly features canonized Saints, but it also has a page dedicated to the faithful on earth and even the souls in purgatory get a cameo.

You can also check out what Family Catechism has to share on this topic.

We are learning the Salve Regina by watching and listening to this version on youtube. I like this one because it has both Latin and English subtitles, as well as beautiful art.


Lesson 1
This week's history memory work basically covers one topic, so one lesson was all we really needed... and, to be honest, I struggled with finding resources for children on the Ottoman Empire/Battle of Lepanto. Here is what I came up with.

Ascension Press's Epic study has a segment on the Battle of Lepanto and it is available on youtube, so we started by watching that. Then Kevin talked to the kids about the significance of the battle and what led up to it, as well as how we still honor the victory with the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

We also watched The Impawssible Dream, which is a Wishbone tale on Don Quiote. The author of Don Quiote fought in the Battle of Lepanto, so it was a fun way to learn about what life was like during this time in history. There are three parts to the video: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


Lesson 1
We only did one science lesson this week. Here is what you'll need.

We began our lesson on some kinds of chemical reactions by watching this awesome TED Ed video on chemical reactions. My kids thought it was hilarious, watch it and you'll know why my five year old son thought it was so funny.

Trying to teach the 6 types of chemical reactions (you learn 5 this week and the 6th next week), to a 5 and 7 year old is quite complicated. So we just did some experiments and worked on the memory work.

First we did activity 3 in the CCM Teacher Text on decomposition using a potato and hydrogen peroxide.

Then we did activity 4 and cleaned my silver! I like it when homeschooling multitasks for you. This experiment is laid out in your teacher text as well.

I wish we could have done one of the experiments with Alke-Seltzer, but I just couldn't pull it off on our first week back into the swing of things!


Lesson 1
For math this week we made a Venn Diagram to review the multiples of 4 and to learn the multiples of 6.

We skip counted each set and moved the numbers around to their proper locations until we were satisfied. It was a little more challenging than I thought it would be!

Lesson 2
We also played multiples of 6 Balloon Pop Math online at Sheppard Software.


Lesson 1
For timeline this week we went fishing for the timeline cards. The goal was to catch the cards in order. If you caught the wrong card... I mean fish... then mom threw it back. Fun was had by all.

I made these poles years ago and they have served us well. All you need is magnet rings, string, and a stick. Also, it's important to put a large paperclip on each of your timeline cards so the magnets can pick them up. Go get em.

Lesson 2
Finally, we put some pictures into our timeline book.

This week we began learning our states and capitals. Since May we have been studying one state per week to go along with our study of North American geography. Here are the states I've blogged about so far. You could pick one thing from each lesson or just do something fun about a few states each week. I'll keep linking to the state studies as we move through our Journey Across America!

New Hampshire
Rhode Island

Great Words I
We continued memorizing The Moon by Robert Louis Stevenson. You can find it in A Child's Garden of Verses.

Be saints, it's worth it!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Booklist

With Thanksgiving just around the corner I've been compiling a booklist of some of our favorite Thanksgiving books for future years. I have a few more books on hold that I might be adding, but here is what we have so far!

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa My Alcott*
Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration by Julie Stiegemeyer*
Thank You for Thanksgiving by Dandi Daley Mackall*
Over the River and Through the Wood by L. Maria Child
The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh*
This is the Turkey by Abby Levine
Thanksgiving Graces by Mark Kimball Moulton*
Thanksgiving is... by Gail Gibbons
Thanksgiving at Our House by Wendy Watson
Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas*
T is for Turkey by Tanya Lee Stone
Thanksgiving Mice! by Bethany Roberts
Thanksgiving: What Makes it Special? by Harold Myra* (This book has a part stating that calling Thanksgiving "Turkey Day" is bad because it takes away from the thankful part. I don't know if I'd call it bad. Just a heads up if your thinking about this book! The rest of the book is great!)
Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin
P is for Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet by Carol Crane
Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock*
N.C.Wyeth's Pilgrims by Robert San Souci
The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George
The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall

What are your favorite Thanksgiving books?

*Books with an asterisk have a Christian theme.

Be saints, it's worth it!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ringing in the Liturgical New Year with a New Patron Saint

As the Family Liaison for FOCUS, part of my job is to put together a quarterly newsletter. The latest edition went out on November 1st and one of our wives, Meghan Krueger, put together a fun article on the tradition of choosing a patron saint for the liturgical new year. With her permission I'm posting the article here at Catholic Missionary Family so you can start this tradition in your own home!

As the season of Advent is quickly approaching, I’d like to share with you a tradition to help ring in the New (Liturgical) Year! Save the confetti and champagne for December 31st, and celebrate Advent Eve with the Saints (why not, you can throw some confetti in there too). An excerpt in St. Faustina’s Diary ‘Divine Mercy in my Soul’ inspires this tradition. 

“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year's Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn't read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 - the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”

Although you are the one picking the name out of the hat, it is really the Saint that chooses you!

In an effort to better embrace the Liturgical year, we began throwing an Advent Eve party and drew our patrons then. It is always exciting to see which Saint chooses you, sometimes its someone you know well, and other times it is someone you have never heard of. After it was such a big part of our lives in college, naturally, my husband and I have incorporated it into our ministry as campus missionaries, but it’s also a great way to celebrate as a family.

Here are a few tips for a successful Patron Saint drawing:

Prepare your ‘hat’.

Gather a good number of Saint names together for people to draw from, and put them all in a hat (or bag, or bowl, you get the idea). This could be done in a number of ways: just writing out names that you copy from books or online, printing off small photos of the Saints, or using a variety of prayer cards that have a small biography or prayer of the Saint on them. You can also do this electronically by using this great Patron Saint generator at

Have some resources available.

The immediate reaction of people after drawing their patron is that they want to know more about their Saint or ask themselves ‘Why did this Saint choose me?” It’s helpful to have some books and other resources at the ready so you and others can fully embrace the new patron relationship as soon as possible.

Don’t stop at Advent!

Holy medal wine charmers make a great patron saint gift!
Since Christmas is right around the corner, it’s a great opportunity to give your loved ones simple Christmas gifts involving their Patron. A book about or written by their Patron Saint, a picture, or medal of their Saint can be simple gifts that hold a lot of meaning and are a good reminder to invoke their intercession. And, of course, remember the feast days throughout the year and take that time to pray a novena or celebrate the day in a special way. Was your patron a Capuchin Monk? Celebrate his feast day with a Cappuccino! Get creative!

It’s been fun to look back on the year and see how my Patron has directly interceded for me. This year my patron is St. Vincent de Paul, the patron of hospital workers. It makes sense, my doctors and nurses were fantastic throughout my first pregnancy and I’m convinced it was all through his intercession. The biggest thing to remember is that this Saint chooses you for a reason, and it’s a great time to really embrace their intercession; to get to know them and how their example of holiness can be a model for you in your journey to sainthood.

Be saints, it's worth it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Make a Cathedral for your Wooden Saint Dolls

I have been so excited to see and hear about the saint doll exchanges that many of you have been doing! It really is a lot of fun and for those of you who have recently done one, I hope you agree.

Ready for the next step? Making a home for your dolls...

I think the most appropriate home is a cathedral. Last year I started building our saint doll cathedral and it's still not complete as I have so many ideas for making it awesome. I keep telling the kids that it took decades to build the Cathedrals around the world, so if it takes us a few years, then we are way ahead of the game.

Here is what I did to make this saintly home!

Step 1: Gather your supplies

You can purchase the castle cathedral at Michael's, with a 40% coupon, so it's roughly $15.00, not $25.00. (We took the "front door" off of ours.)

You'll also need a can of spray paint. We did ours in gray, but you could also do a shade of tan or white. I didn't get a picture of the spray paint at Michael's because spray paint is locked in a cage. I thought it would be odd to ask someone to take a can out just so I could get a picture of it on my phone... and this is about the time my two week old had a poop explosion.

If you don't have a Michael's near you, you could purchase this Melissa and Doug castle and cathedraliz it. It's more expensive, but you wouldn't have to paint it!

Optional items you might chose to purchase include:

Crosses for the top of your castle turned cathedral.

Liberty bells for a bell tower. Oops, fuzzy.

And some wooden blocks for an altar and tabernacle. I forgot to get pictures of these. I blame it on the explosion.

You also might need some acrylic paints. Gold, white, black, and blue are the colors I've used so far. You should have these on hand from painting your saint dolls. Look how green you are. Oh, and wood glue, you'll need that to glue on the crosses.

Step 2: Spray paint your cathedral inside and out

Step 3: Accessorize

First I painted the wooden crosses gold and then glued them to the top of the cathedral with wood glue.

Then I added a bell to one of the cubbies for a bell tower. Since the cathedral is made out of wood you can just screw a screw eye right into the ceiling to hold your bell.

For the altar I painted a small wooden cube white and bought the chalice and paten at Shepherd's Closet. They are currently out of stock :(. Alternatively you could get these from Mountain Miniatures. I also purchased this small crucifix from Shepherd's Closet.

The two little white cubes are the chairs for the celebrants and the tabernacle was made by gluing three cubes together, and then painting the bottom cubes white and the top cube gold. Finally I painted a cross in the middle and little angels on each side of the gold cube/tabernacle.

Above the altar I painted a blue sky with gold stars. A friend of mine is even going to paint the inside of hers with stripes like the Duomo di Siena!

And finally, I've been working on our "stained glass" windows. I made them out of a black shinny-ish scrapbook card stock and various colored cellophane. You have to cut the pictures out twice with an exacto knife and sandwich the cellophane between them. My idea is to have the symbols tell the story of salvation history, so the apple is for Adam and Eve and the rainbow is for Noah. I also have a sun for creation, but the rest of them need to be made.

And now your saint dolls can have mass.

Here is my Pal early in the morning setting up for mass. St. Cecilia is in the choir loft over the bell tower, Sts. Michael the Archangel and Gabriel are watching from above the altar, the faithful are waiting in their pews, and the celebrants are to the right getting ready to process in. It is so cute to watch how they play with their dolls.

And don't they look so happy to be in their special home?

Be saints, it's worth it!