Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lamb of God Cards

On Monday of Holy Week, we once again made Lamb of God Easter cards for friends and family.

The kids did a great job!

By Juliet, for GG

By G-Bear, for cousins.

By Buddy Bear, for cousins

By G-Bear, for MoMo and Papa

By E-Bear, for a neighbor
Happy Holy Week!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Week 2015

"TOMORROW is PALM SUNDAY!  The start of Holy Week is tomorrow!" 
exclaimed E-Bear last night at dinner.

Holy Week is upon us, friends.  We have made it through all of our Lent Pockets.  Our Lent Calendars are nearly completely colored.  Our bean basket is full of black beans.  We are ready for Easter.  But before Easter, we're hoping to fully enter into the mystery of the events of this week.

As I have said in previous years, I have found that there are many wonderful ways to make Holy Week special in the home for young families.  Our kids now look forward to Holy Week almost as much as Easter, remembering the special meals, crafts and readings that we enjoy as a family.  This year, I am especially excited because our Spring Break aligns with Holy Week, so all my kids will be home. We'll have plenty of time to savor each day.

This is our plan for Holy Week this year.  Each night, in addition to the activities below, we do the  Stations of the Cross after dinner so that we will finish them by Good Friday. 

Palm Sunday
Bring 'Hosanna' paper palms to church.
*Craft: Make palm frond crosses
Kids get Cross Wreaths to decorate for Holy Week
Cover crosses and crucifixes in the house for Holy Week
Dinner: Chili and quesadillas

Holy Monday ~ Preparation Day
*Craft: Making Lamb of God Easter cards (don't forget to mail them!)
Dinner: Tortilla soup with carrots, chips and salsa
A few of our Lamb of God cards from last year.
Inside we write: "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us!" and "Happy Easter!"

Holy Tuesday ~ Preparation Day
*Craft: Decorating Easter Eggs!
Church Penance Service 
Dinner: Spinach tortellini with tomato cream sauce, peas and oranges

Spy Wednesday ~ Preparation Day
Remembering how Judas and the leaders plotted to capture Jesus
Remembering Jesus' anointing at Bethany
*Craft: Spy Wednesday silver coin craft from Catholic Icing
Dinner: Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup with whole wheat Irish soda bread and 
Cracker rounds (remembering the thirty pieces of silver),
olive oil (to "anoint the bread"), applesauce

~Maundy Thursday~
Remembering the Last Supper,  Jesus' night in the Garden, Jesus' trial
*Craft:  Garden of Gethsemane Praying Hands from Sowing Mustard Seeds
Holy Thursday Mass and Seven Churches Prayer Walk
Dinner: Remembering the Last Supper & Washing Feet
We'll read passages from the Gospels and wash each other's feet at dinner
Turkey meatballs (remembering the roast lamb) from Everyday Food Magazine
(these can be made ahead and frozen ~ perfect for a busy week!)
 Homemade pesto (remembering the bitter herbs and bread)
Praying Hands Pretzels from Catholic Icing  
(remembering the unleavened bread and Jesus' prayers in the garden)
Grape juice in "chalices" (remembering the wine)
Three spinach leaves salad (remembering Jesus telling Peter he would deny him three times)
Raisins (remembering the Mount of Olives)
Red Twizzlers, Hershey Kisses (remembering Judas' bad kiss and Jesus' arrest)

Our "Upper Room" to remember the Last Supper.

~Good Friday~
Keeping Vigil at the Cross
*Craft: Making Crown of Thorns by Catholic Icing
LunchCross Sandwiches from Catholic Icing
DinnerHot Cross Buns from Spoonful
Pineapple cubes (remembering how the soldiers cast lots for Jesus' garment)
Roasted Asparagus Spears (remembering how the soldiers pierced Jesus' side)
Cheese sticks (remembering the two robbers crucified with Jesus)
Jam & Water (remembering the blood and water from Jesus' side)

~Holy Saturday~
Awaiting the Resurrection!
Breakfast: G-Bear's Birthday!  
Resurrection Rolls from Eat at Allies with whipped cream and sprinkles
Dinner: G-Bear's birthday party!

Whatever is in store for us this week, may we meet the Lord in a deeper, more personal way.   We all need Him; He loves us so much.  How deep the Father's love for us.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, March 27, 2015

Stations of the Cross, Lent 2015

Praying the Stations of the Cross is a beautiful tradition particularly appropriate for the Lenten season.  The traditional meditation includes fourteen events from the final moments of Christ's life and Passion leading up to His crucifixion and burial.  The fourteen stations are visually depicted throughout the sanctuary of most Catholic churches, and we are fortunate that our church offers Stations of the Cross every Friday night throughout Lent.

As I have said before, I try to be realistically age-appropriate in my Lent plans for our family, and the post-dinnertime Stations at our church is too late for our younger kids.  The full prayer meditation takes about a half-hour, which again, is a bit much to ask of our kiddos at such a late hour.  So, for the past two years, we have opted out of our parish Stations experience.  Instead, I focus on the Stations for our family during the last two weeks of Lent leading up to Easter.  This allows us to do one station per night and the final three stations on Good Friday.  This way, all of our kids can participate in the prayers, we can talk about each one, and all of our kids can certainly focus attention on a single station each night (the prayers for each station take only about 2 minutes).

This past Monday, I set up our Stations of the Cross in our dining room:

Last year, I made our own version of Catholic Icing's Stations of the Cross Eggs.  These are a wonderful addition to our routine.

Each egg represents one station and contains a wooden heart with the number of the station and a small object representing the event (with the exception of one egg, which represents Stations 3, 7, and 9, Jesus' three falls.  The Catholic Icing version uses an 18 egg set to allow for separate eggs for all these stations.  I just fill the one egg with enough pieces for the three falling stations).  This is a great way to hold the attention of preschoolers, and I often give the job of opening the egg to our younger kids so they can show the object to the rest of us as we are doing our prayer.

To help with our prayers, we also use the Saint Joseph's Press Stations of the Cross Coloring Book.

It has large, age-appropriate pictures for each station, as well a special prayer coloring page specific for each station.

I like the introduction page of the coloring book so much, because it explains simply for the kids why we pray the Stations of the Cross.  We use this page as the introduction to our prayer each night for each station.

After the introduction, we light a candle and read the station for the day, open an egg and talk briefly about what the station means, say a short prayer specific to the station and then say together,

"We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.  For by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world."

Then we blow out the candle, make the sign of the cross, and we are done.  

This year, I gave the kids Stations of the Cross wheels from Oriental Trading Company so they would  have their own visual aid to color each day.  The kids colored the top of the wheel, I helped them assemble them, and now they get to color the station windows that we do each day.  Everyone has enjoyed this and put a lot of effort into their work:

G-Bear's Stations Wheel

J-Bear's Stations Wheel

E-Bear's Stations Wheel

Buddy Bear's Stations Wheel

However we pray the Stations, our greatest prayer is that the Lord will use this time to draw all of us closer to Himself.  Lent and Easter are precious seasons because we are asked to take time to reflect on how much Jesus loves us.  The Stations are a reminder and a brief glimpse into that love.  For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring Snowmen

It is technically spring in Minnesota, but that doesn't mean we are done making snowmen.

This week, we enjoyed three inches of brand new snow.  The southern suburbs got ten inches!  Lucky ducks. :)  We made the most of the new fallen snow by making snowmen after school in our backyard.  I showed G-Bear how to roll a snowball around the yard to make it into a snowman, and she got really good at it.  By the time the kids and I were done, we had a village of five snow people. 

 J-Bear made sure that all the snowmen were sturdy enough not to fall over. 

We also had one snow dog, courtesy of Buddy Bear.  

E-Bear did a great job making sure each of our snow people had appropriate accessories. 

 This time of year, we know that the snow can't last too long, even in Minnesota.  That makes afternoons like this one so very special.  I felt like we were stealing one last day snow play day.  And if it snows again?  I'm okay with that too.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saying Good-bye to Nana

Today we had to say good-bye to Nana after having her with us for our fun Lutsen ski trip.  

We were all pretty bummed out that she was leaving.

On our way to school, E-Bear said,

"I wish I had an off day today."

"What would you do if you were off school today, E-Bear?" I asked.

"I would play board games with Nana," E-Bear replied.

"Nana is the best board game player ever,"  he continued.
"There is just nobody like Nana."

I have to agree. Thanks to Nana for a super-fun visit.  
Our kids are so blessed to have three amazing grandparents.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Skiing in Lutsen

This past weekend, we made a break for spring skiing at Lutsen Mountain on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  There was decidedly less snow this year than last year, but still plenty of snow on the ski hills.  With one day of snow, one day of warm sun and one day of freezing temps, we got a little taste of everything.

Fortunately for our whole family, we were able to convince Nana, MoMo and Papa to come with us for the second year in a row.

As far as I am concerned, there are several keys to ensuring a successful ski weekend with four kids under eight.  First of all, enlist all possible grandparents.  Second of all, set low expectations.  The Bunny Hill may be too good for us.  Third, plan to never leave the Bunny Hill.  Fourth, pack an enticing picnic lunch with treats like mini gatorades and applesauce pouches.  Fifth, enlist all possible grandparents.

This was only our second adventure skiing at Lutsen.  One will notice from all the pictures that we all decided to go with helmets this year, since preserving gray matter is all the rage on the slopes these days.  I must say that helmets are a great way to take the edge off of watching your kids ski.   I found my helmet to be comfortable and cozy, but terribly orbital.

When we left Lutsen last year, G-Bear was just learning to turn and stop on the Bunny Hill.  E-Bear was upright but out of control on the Bunny Hill, and Buddy Bear was barely upright.  What a difference a year makes!

The skiing crew (with J-Bear)
This year, J-Bear sat out the skiing in favor of playing in the snow, snagging afternoon naps with Nana and going for gondola rides with Mom.  

G-Bear was in control of the Bunny Hill (turning, snowplowing and stopping) and ready for the ski lift by the end of our first day.  By the end of the trip, G-Bear was skiing blue runs all by herself!  Awesome!

E-Bear was in control of the Bunny Hill by the end of his second day, and after a brief ski school lesson with G-Bear, he was ready to try the Big Bunny green hill by himself.  E-Bear was truly persistent, and his efforts paid off.  He made it down the green Big Bunny without any help.

Buddy Bear was riding the Magic Capet lift to the top of the Bunny Hill by himself the first day, and by our last day we had him laced into a ski harness and he was skiing down the Big Bunny green hill with T holding onto the reigns.  Buddy Bear's progress was amazing, and he was so excited to be "skiing by himself" in the harness.  Next year, he'll be old enough for ski school, and we can't wait to see how much he improves.

MoMo and G-Bear on the lift.

Truly, we were ecstatic to make it off the Flapjack bunny hill.  By our second day, all the kids were riding the lifts with an adult, while Nana or I cheered at the bottom of the slopes with J-Bear.  One afternoon, T and I even got to take G-Bear for a ski by herself.  We skied nothing but blue hills that afternoon, and G-Bear declared them her favorite runs.  Papa warned us that next year several of our kids may leave T and me in their dust.

On Mystery Mountain with G-Bear
MoMo and Papa are super skiers in their own right, and it was a special moment for them to get to ski with their grandkids.  I am so grateful that they taught me to ski when I was little, doubly grateful that they are willing to help my own kids learn the same sport.  As T and I also took G-Bear down the blue runs, we also experienced the uncomfortable feeling of watching one of our kids do something for the first time that we couldn't protect them from.  I'll say it again, thank goodness for those helmets!

After a long day of skiing, there were still plenty of treats in store.  We would catch the shuttle back to our townhouse,

 soak for a while in the swimming pool or hot tub at the Lodge,

 and then head down to the beach to explore, 

hunt for treasures, 

and throw rocks into the lake.

We also had time for a few gorgeous early morning sunrises, s'mores by a starlight bonfire, a dinner out at the Lodge, family board games, a viewing of the Sound of Music (the kids LOVED it), and a Saturday Vigil Mass in Grand Marais.

Thanks, once again, to Nana, MoMo and Papa, for making the trip so special, and to our all-star skiers, who didn't quit when the going got tough.   Until next year, Lutsen!

Sunrise with T over Lake Superior.

 Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, March 16, 2015

Musical Instrument Petting Zoo

Is this a great idea or what?
One of our local theaters, the Ordway, hosted a free family event this weekend.

The event included several free arts activities and crafts, including Flamenco and Hip Hop demonstrations for kids, musical skits, mask making and an instrument craft.

Our kids' favorite was the "musical petting zoo."  We walked into a room filled with tables of instruments that the kids were encouraged to touch and try.  

G-Bear learned that you blow over, not into, the hole of a flute.  

Buddy Bear finally blew hard enough to make a sound with a trumpet.

J-Bear got to pound as hard as she wanted on a real drum.

E-Bear tried his hand at a real violin.

All three of the kids got a kick out of the Flamenco demonstration, and Buddy Bear ended on stage with the Hip Hop troop.  

We called it a successful family morning.  Thanks to the Ordway!  We'll be back next year!

Happily Ever,
Queen B