Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pines Catholic Camp is Awesome!

Why The Pines Catholic Camp is Awesome

Are you looking for a Texas Catholic Summer Camp? We are fans of The Pines Catholic Camp and   recently registered our kids for their third year of week long sleep away summer camp in north east Texas.

The Pines is full of all the usual activities in a summer camp – cabins, counselors, lake activities, sports, music, outdoor fun, skits and more fun than is almost possible in 7 days. But what makes The Pines the camp for us is that it also includes all things Catholic. Mass, bible study, adoration, small groups, and prayer. But don’t let all that faith filled stuff fool you. It’s still summer camp. The staff at The Pines mix faith and fun into the perfect blend of summer camp experience for kids as young as seven through high school teens.

I asked my kids to tell me their favorite things about The Pines Catholic Camp and what did they do? They made a video!


(I'm one proud mom for their creativity and execution!)

They are super excited to return to The Pines this summer.

Check out The Pines website to view their own 2015 promotional video to discover more fun at this awesome Texas summer camp.  



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Tips for Taking Kids to Mass

Tips to Help Take Kids to Mass

Taking young kids to Mass is hard. The baby and toddlers years were difficult but you thought it would get easier by the time they hit preschool or elementary age. Hmmm. Not always. Engaging young kids at mass can be a difficult and really hard but so important.

As parents we are the primary teachers of the faith. Our children learn from us, not just what we say, but also what we do. They need to see us worship to understand how integral mass is with our faith. God made us to worship with each other in community and that community includes our kids. As Jesus said – “let the children come to me.” Matthew 19:14

Yes, you’re saying. I agree, it’s important, but HOW do I do it? How do we survive as a family through mass with young children? Unfortunately there isn’t a secret pill or magic solution. It’s going to be tough like almost everything else in parenting.

I’ve assembled a few tips that helped us with our kids at mass from the preschool years to now.

Before Mass

Getting Dressed
– Most people will suggest lying the clothes out the night before, but I’ll take it one step further. To simplify getting dressed for my family when my Birdie was a preschooler, we found a dress that was her “church” dress. She wore that dress to church every week. When the seasons changed or she grew, we picked out a new one. Her knowing what she was putting on every Sunday eliminated a major meltdown. There was not a choice in clothing, which really calmed her. It worked so well for her that her older brother started doing it also.

Before you Leave the House
– I know it seems obvious, but I have to say it. Feed your kids before Mass. A hungry child is a cranky, difficult child. In addition, take them to the bathroom before Mass starts.

Review Readings – Talk about the readings before you leave for mass or discuss them in the car on the way to church. Help your children know the topic of the readings or let them know if a reading will be part of a story they recognize. It will give them something to anticipate and familiarity during the Liturgy of the Word.

Set Expectations - Go over what you expect from them at mass. Review why we attend mass, how we participate, and how we behave at mass. Be sure to set realistic expectations based on your kids.

One Thing – Ask your child to pay attention for one thing that speaks to them at mass. Before mass they can pray to remain open to God to notice the one thing He wants them specifically to experience. It could be a line of scripture, a prayer, song, or any moment that stands out for them. The idea is that it keeps them watching/listening for it and to share it as a family after mass.

Arrive Early – Sit where you want, go to the bathroom and get settled. Arriving late or in a rush sends the wrong message to the kids. Get everyone settled, take a really deep breath and remind everyone to stop and pray before we start. And it’s ok if your prayer is a thanksgiving for getting there and asking God to help everyone to sit nicely for the next hour!


At Mass

Sit in the Front – I know, as a parent that’s scary, really scary. But how difficult is it for you to sit and look at the backs of people’s heads and not get distracted? Now what’s it like for a kid? They have a better chance of being interested in what’s going on if they can see. If you have a choir up at the front, your kids might like to sit where they can see the choir. That is always a favorite for us.

Children’s Liturgy – If your parish offers children’s liturgy, try it out. Being out of the pew for the Liturgy of the Word might help them sit nicer for the rest of mass.

MagnifiKid – This is one of my favorite things on this list! MagnifiKid is a weekly missal for elementary age children. It offers the mass readings, a glossary of the big words, activities, and a full missal of the mass. It is especially helpful during the Liturgy of the Eucharist for my youngest to follow along with the priest’s prayers.

Readings & Song – For pre-readers and beginning readers, it helps them focus if you run your finger under the words of the readings or during the songs.

Leaving Mass - If you take your child out of mass for behavior, come right back in once they are settled. Don’t let them learn that if they act up they get to leave mass for something more interesting like running around in the hallway or foyer. Kids are pretty smart and will pick up on it fast.

Participate in the Mass – You must model the behavior you want them to have in mass. Sing, Pray, be attentive. Children should be encouraged to sit when you sit, stand when you stand, kneel and face front. Even if they are preschoolers they should join in to the mass. Sing! Pray! They can participate in the mass, especially if you help them understand what and why we are doing what we are doing. And always, take them up with you to communion. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to get up!

Talk to them through Mass - Describe what they see and what you do quietly in their ear. Don’t be afraid to point out discreetly what’s going on to help them stay engaged. When the priest holds up the host, help them remember to look at Jesus. What do you pray? Why do we cross ourselves in 3 places before the Gospel? Whisper it to them as you do it. Did they notice the priest putting water in wine? What do the altar servers do? There is so much actually going on during the mass for them to notice.

Homily – The homily is an exception to the above. This is their time to have a small book, a notebook with a pencil/crayon to keep them busy if they are too young to listen attentively. For us, that lasts until the middle years of elementary school. But when Father sits down, their notebook or book goes away because it’s time to pay attention again.

You know your child best. Adapt and do what works for your family. Don’t expect perfection from them. As they grow from toddlers into kids they are more and more capable of sitting and participating at mass. Depending on your child and how often they attend mass, it might be earlier than you think.

Remember, most of us have been there. Our kids were little once. We know it is such an important but difficult thing. It will get better with perseverance and prayer.

If you get the evil eye from fellow parishioners, please pray for them. They might have forgotten what it’s like to bring little ones to mass or their attitude might be about something entirely different. Either way, your kids deserve to worship the Lord in mass as much as an adult. Trust in that and pray.


After Mass 

Reward - Reward them for incremental improvement. Give them the donut after Mass or stickers or whatever is a reward for them. Help celebrate the baby steps.

Share - Talk about the readings, the songs and your “one thing” after mass. You might be really surprised what they picked up while you thought they weren’t paying attention.

Don’t give up – Go, go, go – They more you attend mass as a family, the faster it will get easier.

If it didn’t go well and you need to have a cry, then go for it. Sometimes that’s the reality of attending mass as a family. Just remember, the reason you are at Mass is to worship God and receive Jesus. You can do both of those even if you were busy with your kids, don’t remember a word of the homily or were not able to pay much attention at all. Sometimes those experiences at mass bring you even closer to God when you receive Jesus in communion.

God gave you your kids. He understands what you’re doing in the pew on Sunday morning. You’re a parent bringing your children to Jesus. Take comfort in that and don't give up.








Tuesday, February 17, 2015

LENT - How We Love God, Others and Ourself

Lent - How We Love God, Others, and Ourself

Lent is the perfect season to re-dedicate ourselves as followers of Christ as we prepare to celebrate His resurrection on Easter.  As children, we might have decided which of our favorite foods, toys or games to give up for 40 days, but Lent is so much more than giving up Chocolate or TV.  The focus, as I was very recently reminded by Kathryn Whitaker at Team Whitaker, should be on Love.

Lent should be about how we love God, others and ourself.  So, rather than look at these thinks below to incorporate them all or a bunch into a Lenten plan, read them with the idea that something in one may speak to your heart about where you are on your Journey with God right now.

40 Ways to Give During Lent #Givefor40Find something that will help bring you closer to discipleship in preparation for His Resurrection.

I start my list with my favorite because it came from my family.  40 Ways to Give for 40.  My kids and I a couple of years ago tried to think of ways to serve others during Lent. We merged our Sacrifice, Almsgiving and Prayer into a list of ideas for Lent.  It is my "go-to" list when I find myself thinking about how I can see Jesus in others and serve them during Lent.  




Remember, don't be overwhelmed.  Lent is about doing (or not doing) something to grow closer to God.  There isn't a checklist and sometimes there really isn't a plan.  It's a journey of sacrifice, prayer and giving that ultimately leads to the most gracious gift ever given to us.



Saturday, February 14, 2015

7 Quick Takes - Pride & Valentines

It's been a while, long while since I tried 7 Quick Takes but here I go again...

-1-
To get us moving and grooving in the morning we sometimes turn up the tunes before school.  Our new favorite this week is "It's a Good Day," by Jaime Thietten on the album Love Along The Way.  She performed the song last year at the Houston Women's Catholic Conference (which is coming up again) and it stuck with me.  It will have you tapping your feet and smiling in no time.  Which is perfect on those tough - let's get ready and get you to school without another tardy type of mornings....  Please tell me I'm not the only one that struggles getting my kids (or one specific kid really) out the door in the morning.

Go grab it on iTunes or the whole album Love Along The Way on Amazon.  You won't be sorry.



-2-

While I'm on the subject of my almost tardy every day child, she said something really funny the other day.  My phone was playing random songs (not on a playlist) and "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" (also recorded by Jaime Thietten  although on a different album) started playing.  The first lyrics to the song are, Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Alleluia. Our Triumphant Holy Day. Alleluia.

Birdie listened to the words and said, "How is it triumphant if she is singing it so slowly?"
Big smile from me!  That is so my Birdie. I don't think I'll ever hear that song the same way again.



-3-

It's mid-February and I'm already thinking about summer. So wrong, I know but VBS won't plan itself.  Our Everest VBS starter kit from Our Sunday Visitor arrived this week.  I also need to select a week for my kids to all go to The Pines Catholic Summer Camp in northeast Texas.  This is will be their third year (Birdie's second) and they can't wait to go back.

Do you help with VBS at your church?  Let's swap tips!  Also, if you don't know about The Pines, you must check it out!!


-4-

I know pride is a sin, but I am one proud mom this week!  My oldest served as cantor again at our parish 9 am Mass last Sunday.  Only thirteen years old and she has the guts (and the voice) to sing by herself from the ambo in front of 700 people.  Crazy!!  Of course I took video and a few pictures during mass.  I've posted the video over on our Of Sound Mind and Spirit Facebook page.  Go check it out.

On top of that, this week she joined the Track and Field team at middle school.  What??  Her dad and I were stunned.  She's never shown interest before in running, or even in playing any sport since she left soccer at 6 years old.  This is the child who absolutely hates to try new things.  When I picked her up from the first day of practice she was white as a sheet and whispered, "That was really hard."  But she kept at it all week, pushing through the fatigue and soreness.  Now she's looking forward to trying the hurdles next week???

Seeing her this week really brought tears to my eyes after the struggles she's had with anxiety over the last four years.  But that's another blog post.


-5-

Not to leave my son out of this quick takes, Daniel celebrated his Arrow of Light (Cub Scout graduation) in January and is a new Boy Scout.  This weekend he is off to his first Boy Scout campout without my husband or I going with him!  There will be plenty of other parents going, so we really aren't nervous.  It's just a sign of more things to come for him as he gets older.





-6-

You may remember a few months ago I shared that I was helping to plan my parish's first Catholic Ladies Retreat. Well, the actual retreat occurred last month and it was a huge success. I seriously owe you a blog post (or two or three) all about it.  But when I came home I was a little emotional about the experience and the weekend as a whole.  Maybe by putting it out here I will make myself finish writing about it, because God was truly at work with the women of our parish.  And He still is...




-7-

Happy Valentine's Day!!!  

My family woke up this morning and was shocked to learn that I made them a Valentine's Day treat!   I'm so excited about it I just have to share:  Chocolate covered Valentine Twinkies on a stick! Oh Yes!!!
Chocolate Covered Valentine Twinkies on a Stick

It's Pinterest project - you can find it here.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Attending Church: Reflections on the Mass


Photo by Sonny Carter, used with permission
The Minor Basilica of the
Immaculate Conception
Natchitoches, LA
Photo by Sonny Carter
As we approach Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season, consider this question: Where are you with attending church today? 

Just like getting up early to exercise physically, it can sometimes be a chore to get up early to exercise spiritually.  Maybe, like many of us, you have a spouse or kids who may not feel so devoted or excited to be pulled out of bed on Sunday morning or told to stop what they’re doing, shower, and get ready on Sat or Sun afternoon for church. What would their response be if you said to go to the movies?  To go out to eat at your favorite restaurant?   Why not church! 

You probably know the arguments.  My faith is between God and myself.  I can be close to God anywhere; my faith is not about a building or other people.  Yes, your faith is your personal relationship with God  - and to grow in that relationship you need to spend time with Him, in His house, surrounded by your brothers and sisters in Christ. When your dad invites you to come over to the house for dinner with your family, do you accept his invitation or do you tell him you’ll only meet him on your terms, your needs? 

God Speaks to You
Have you ever had a moment when you’re struggling with something? Maybe finances, maybe something going on at work or school that is preventing you from feeling close to God. You come to church because you have to and the first song strikes you right in the heart.  Or one of the readings, or the Homily, just “speaks” to you, as if God Himself is saying I know what you need to hear right now. Maybe last Sunday you were sitting, disconnected, mulling over your latest worry, when suddenly the lector began the second reading saying, “Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties.”    

Do you have a Parish Home? 
For 11 years St. Bernadette served as our home parish. It’s where my children received their sacraments. Where I taught my first CCE, served on committees, and felt embraced by an extended family community. Even after we moved away 2 ½ years ago, we visit every year for Epiphany. We still recognize the same families and are warmly greeted. It still feels like home. Changing Parishes was difficult and requires an open heart and a willingness to serve.  When we moved across town, I purposefully volunteered at our new parish, in order to get to know the people and make a new home.  In some respects it’s been different from our former parish, but after two years it’s starting to feel comfortable.

Catholic Calisthenics
Catholics often catch a lot of flak for moving around so much in Mass.  When speaking to our teens, the Pastor called this posturing “Catholic Calisthenics.” Stand up - sit down -  kneel.  It’s often confusing for non-Catholic Christians visiting a church, yet Fr. John explained it very simply. When you sit you are receptive. When you stand you are active.  When you kneel you are reverent. We sit when we listen to the readings, to the homily; we are open and receptive to God’s word. We stand when we are actively hearing the Gospel, praying, participating. We kneel in reverence for the blessing and in the presence of the Eucharist.

Participating with Music
There are often debates about what type of music should be offered during Mass and it varies from parish to parish. Some churches stick with traditional, some are more contemporary. I love them all. From the Latin chant (which is underused today in my opinion), to the post-Vatican II songs of my childhood, to the Praise & Worship contemporary Christian music used during the “Life Teen” Mass on Sunday night. There is a time and a place for each type of music to praise God and make you feel at home. St. Augustine of Hippo is often (falsely) credited with saying, “When we sing, we pray twice.”  What a beautiful way to praise God with our voices.

So, how do you feel about attending church today? Do you have a parish home that offers you a prayerful opportunity to hear God speaking in your heart? As Lent approaches next week, consider visiting God in His house this season. 
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