Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy 8th Bird-day, Caroline!

Caroline turned 8 on March 21st, and she requested a bird-themed birthday party.  She has been really interested in birds for several years now, and we were seeing lots of cute bird decor in local stores... so this was easy to pull off!

I love our light over our dining room table... as slightly tacky as it may be, it is perfect for hanging things from, and these bird ornaments looked nice there!

Caroline was the last name I had to make for the homemade birthday banner... now I have all three girls' names and can reuse them each year!  Pretty, frugal, and practical - and it is a tradition they can look forward to each year, getting their birthday banner hung up!  When they are all grown up, they'll just have to fight over who gets the sections that say "Happy" and "Birthday."  ;)

These cute little birds were found at Michael's craft store... so were the bird ornaments.  Did you know Michael's has an educator discount of 15% off your total purchase?  All you have to do is show your Barnes & Noble educator card!  With their regular sales plus 40% off coupons plus educator discount, I still probably spend way too much here, but hey, at least I know I rarely pay full price for anything in the store!

This cute centerpiece came from Michael's too... we haven't lit the candles yet; the bird shapes would melt if we did!  Lucy loves to climb on the table and take the birds out and then put them back in their nests.  We are leaving this on the table all spring - I love the look of the bird decor in spring.

These birds on pedestals lined the china cabinet in front of the birthday banner... in each color to match the three by the pitcher...

...and now they are on our mantel in the den.

Cute bird tray that now lives on my counter against the wall, held up by my empty yogurt glass jars and my fermenting veggies and sourdough starter.  The fermenting veggies are in a pretty clay canister that my roommate from college, Aura Lee, made me in her pottery class - the color of it matches the birds on the tray!  So pretty.   Anyway... the tray held some of our food and paper products for the party.  As you can see, I didn't find any bird plates and used a very random assortment of old paper plates.  You've got to use up all the extras somehow before buying more, right?

This cake was fun to make!  I still think I made the top layer too tall, but oh, well.  The top layer was chocolate (with beets and kale in it, shh, don't tell anyone!;) and the bottom layer was butter.  both cakes plus the frosting used like 5 or 7 sticks of butter, some insane amount like that; I can't remember now exactly.

The birds are wooden cutouts from Michael's which I painted purple and then glued toothpicks to on the backs so i could stick them into the cake.  I tinted some frosting blue for the sky, left a little white for the piping, and then made a small batch of chocolate frosting to pipe the tree branches.  That was the most fun part!  

The nest is made from melted chocolate chips poured over chow mein noodles and then shaped into a nest to harden on wax paper.  The eggs are peanut butter M & M's which are egg-shaped for Easter.  

If I had wanted to take it further, I could have made some frosting green and then added some leaves on the branches, or even some pale pink flower buds...

Here is my bird tray, unobstructed this time!

The girls helped me make these peanut butter balls the day before - just peanut butter, honey, powdered milk, and oats mixed up and rolled into balls... then we rolled each one in a mixture of sesame seeds, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, ground flaxseed, and a little bit of chopped up raisins.   We called them Birdseed Treats (for humans)!

I just love these little birds!

I found these cute bird tags in an etsy shop - The Fig and Thimble.   I put one on each gift.  We gave Caroline some books (of course!), a window bird feeder (it suctions to the glass and really works even though I found it for a few bucks at Big Lots!), the Little House on the Prairie book on CD (which is excellent; I highly recommend!), and a First Communion outfit for her 18 inch doll.

The gifts...

I topped them with this cute bird sign - again, a wood cutout from Michael's that I  painted and then wrote on with chalk so it can be reused.

Daddy lights the candles...

Caroline waits to blow them out...

And I missed her blowing them out.  I keep missing that shot lately!

Caroline opens her gifts...

...with lots of help!

This was funny... Lucy was hiding her head in one of the gift bags and playing peekaboo with all of the grandparents!  Here she peeks at Gran (she calls her "Nan")...

...and here she hides from Gramma (who she calls "Mehnah")...

...and finally, she tries to make Grampa hide in the bag (her pronunciation of Grampa is the best - she calls him "But-duh").

I saw this idea somewhere online, to make a bird feeder wreath by stringing whole peanuts on wire.  I had peanuts, and I had wire... but it was really hard to break through the shell to get them on the wire. 

Once they got several on, they started to look pretty.  We attached them together to make one big wreath and then hung it high in our fig tree.  We saw a squirrel and some blue jays enjoying it.

Here's dinner... chicken salad (from Chick-fil-A, of course) on croissants, fruit salad, more birdseed treats, chips and guacamole, and...

...deviled eggs that looked like baby birds hatching out of their shells!  (FYI - a PITA to assemble!)

Pretty bird card that we gave to Caroline with her gifts, also found somewhere on etsy...

The day before the party, Caroline and Cecilia made these bird paintings for their weekly art project.  This one is Caroline's.

This is Cecilia's.  They made the bodies of the birds and the wings using potatoes cut  into wedges.

If you look closely, you'll see that Cecilia was taking great delight in eating the bird face from a deviled egg in this photo... she can be a sort of morbid child, ha.

Happy Birthday, Caroline!!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Habemus Papam!

With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the selection of our new pope, Pope Francis, we took advantage of living through this history-in-the-making by studying the papacy, the line of popes as the successors to Peter, Vatican City, and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  I was really sad to see Pope Benedict leave... we watched it all on EWTN, from his last Wednesday audience and last Angelus to his last blessing from Castel Gandolfo.  And I cried.  I loved that pope, so much so that had Lucy been a boy, I think her name would have been Benedict!  But I have faith that our Church will, as always, continue on and move forward, and that pope Benedict made the best choice he could about this, and I have faith that our new pope will be a strong leader for us who continues in the work of JPII and B16 and will continue to uphold the Truths that are the Catholic faith.

So, here are some of the things we did relating to the papacy...

First, before the resignation announcement, we read a book called Friendship with Jesus: Pope Benedict XVI Talks to Children on their First Holy Communion.  We read and discussed this as a part of Caroline's sacramental preparation.  It is a series of questions that children asked the pope about the Eucharist when they visited him.  I had Caroline write her own letter of what she would ask the pope if she was able... my idea was to just include it in her First Holy Communion notebook that she has been creating all year.  But she wanted to make a second copy and actually send it to Pope Benedict.  So... we did!  And then, about a month later... we were shocked and very excited to find this letter in the mailbox!!!

Yes, it is a letter from the pope!!  Well, it was sent on behalf of the pope, anyway, but how cool is that?  It assures Caroline of the pope's prayers for her as she prepares for her First Holy Communion!

Here is a close-up... you can see by clicking on it what the letter says and where it was sent from (each country apparently has a Nuncio which handles these kinds of things on behalf of the pope).

The Feast of the Chair of Peter

 It just worked out that this feast day fell within the time frame of our papal studies!  We read and learned about Peter, our first pope, and how the papacy was begun by Jesus through Peter as he told him to "feed his sheep" and gave him the keys of the kingdom, and more... This feast day remembers Peter as our first pope and the creation of the papacy.  Each pope is said to be in the chair of Peter.  We also use the phrases "Barque of Peter" and "See of Peter," which basically remind us that our pope has been descended (not by birth, but by direct succession) from Peter, who was chosen by Jesus himself.  Very powerful and amazing to think about!

So anyway, we carved a pineapple into a chair shape to make the "golden chair of Peter."

Kind of pitiful-looking, huh?  But the kids liked it, and Cecilia kept taking about "Peter's golden chair" afterwards!

Keys are a symbol of Peter and the papacy (they are pictured on the Vatican flag), so when we made pretzels on one of the early Fridays in Lent, we shaped them into keys.

This is how the keys appear on the flag - crossed.

Here is a painting called Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter.  It is one of the paintings on the inside walls of the Sistene Chapel.  We studied it in lieu of our Impressionist picture studies we have been doing this year.  Then, when we used the interactive Sistene Chapel webpage to look at the beautiful room in which the Pope Francis would be chosen, Caroline spotted this painting easily!

Barque of Peter

A barque is  a large ship, and the Catholic Church is sometimes referred to as the "Barque of Peter."  The popes are said to be steering the Barque of Peter.  We made these boat-shaped sandwiches for lunch one day while learning about St. Peter and some of our other popes!  One other thing we did was to read the book St. Peter the Apostle out loud - Cecilia was able to understand a great deal of this book, which was a plus, as she wanted to be included in our unit of study on the papacy!  We have also been reading aloud from The First Christians: The Acts of the Apostles for Children this school year and picked it back up heavily during this unit.  Both the girls are enjoying this book - everything we have read by Marigold Hunt has been simply excellent.

Lucy enjoyed her banana and peanut butter (or almond butter; can't remember which)... this is a favorite snack of hers! 

Another part of our study of Peter was actually part of this year's school plans - Caroline is  reading, orally narrating, and illustrating New Testament stories to make a book this year as well as copying one verse from each story.  We skipped ahead to the story in which Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep (meaning to guide and care for his Church).  You can click the photo below if you want to read her narration or see the quote better:

 My friend Beth has had this poster in her schoolroom for awhile now, and I decided to order one myself to have while we were studying the papacy.  It shows every single pope all the way back to St. Peter!  It also includes the dates they were born if known and the dates of their papacies.  There is a bit of additional info about each as well.  It is so cool to see 265 popes all lined up back to the time of Christ!  And there is even a little blank spot after Benedict XVI where we could glue on a little image of Francis now!  I cannot find a link to it now... I bought it from, but it isn't there any more...

The Vatican

 We learned all about the Vatican using several neat resources.  We explored this website to see the various buildings and interesting parts of St. Peter's Basilica.  We learned that the obelisk which is in the center of St. Peter's Square actually was part of the Emperor's circus and stood near the site where St. Peter was martyred.  Originally from Egypt, it was brought to Rome in 37 BC.  When Vatican City was built, everything was built up higher than the ground level on which the circus sat.  The obelisk was moved from its original spot into the square in 1586, where it has been since.  Isn't that amazing to have an artifact that actually witnessed the martyrdom of some of the first Christians??

In the above photo, the girls are looking at the views of St. Peter's Square at night... they were using this neat site, which is similar to the Sistine Chapel one mentioned above in that they can mouse around for a 360 degree view.  Something very neat that we noticed is that one of the commentators on EWTN had mentioned the three windows that belong to the pope's bedroom, office, and secretary's office, and how she had never seen the bedroom window lit except for the night that Pope John Paul II died.  And sure enough, we found the windows easily in the picture, because the two office windows were lit and the bedroom was not!  See for yourself!

This is another site that looks neat.
Caroline had already read the book Lost in Peter's Tomb, a fiction story that takes place in the Vatican, and I had her read it again because it includes many factual details about the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica.  I read most of it myself, too, and it is interesting and holds your attention while conveying information about the Vatican in a fun way... but, at the risk of sounding like a snob, I found it to be poorly written.  There were typos such as comma mistakes, and the book was written in the present tense third person, which just felt awkward to me the whole time.  So... I add that info just as an FYI that this isn't necessarily excellent literature, but I find enough value in its information about the faith presented within a fiction story to buy the other three books in the series as well (Caroline has received three of the four as gifts in the past year; I will likely buy her the fourth eventually).

Here the girls are coloring Pope Benedict's coat of arms.  They also added Pope Francis's coat of arms to their lapbooks by either cutting out an image of it or copying it themselves.  Here is where we got the coat of arms sheets for B16.

We did a lot of things related to our beloved former pope, including reading books about him such as Joseph and Chico and Max and Benedict, which I believe my brother Tim gave to the girls as gifts a few years ago.  I love the illustrations in these books!  We also looked through this online book of various photos of the pope.  Of course, as I mentioned before, we watched all the coverage of his last days as pope on EWTN. 

Here are most of the books we used for this unit study.  

This one is We Have a Pope!  It is a good introduction to who the pope is and how he is chosen.  We did lots of reading and watching of online videos and exploring websites to find out exactly how the process works when a new pope is chosen.  This one was a real gem: How a Pope is Elected from Vatican Insider.

Some of the youtube videos we watched...
How to Become Pope - my kids especially got a kick out of this one, since it shows the cardinals electing "Tim" as the pope, because my brother Tim is currently a seminarian... maybe one day, ha ha!

Throughout the length of our papacy study, we worked on this Papal Lapbook, made available by Jessica at Shower of Roses.   What a great resource!!  Cecilia was excited to make her very first lapbook, as she is getting close to Kindergarten and wanted to be included!

We worked on the various components to the lapbook as they tied in with what we were learning: Peter, other popes, history of the Vatican, how the conclave works, and so on... so, here are some parts they completed. 

Here is Cecilia's lapbook opened up after it was completed.

Here is her understanding of St. Peter.

She illustrated the various popes and for some, she retold information about them for me to write down.

This is her illustration and what she told me about Pope Benedict after watching him depart the Vatican on his last day as pope.

Here it is partially opened... I added two extra flaps inside, and one of those actually opens up again to fit everything in!  Here you can see the Cardinal that Cecilia chose to pray for during the conclave (this website used a random generator to assign cardinals for us to "adopt" - each person in our family adopted one.  Cecilia and Caroline chose theirs from a list while Chris and I used the random generator).

This is the bottom flap folded out... It has a blank space there that I haven't figured out what to add yet; it's just how the last few mini-books would fit best...

And this is what we decided to add about our newly elected Pope (you can click to see it larger).

Here is some of Caroline's work... she did a lot of writing for this project and did really well.  We have done most everything orally to this point (oral narrations), and this shows me that it has been working and that she is growing into written narrations!  You can click on any of the photos to read what she wrote:

We read about how a new pope is usually elected after the death of the previous pope.
This mini-book was about the Vatican itself, and Caroline added to it.

The following are "Amazing Pope Facts" which Caroline selected herself from all the reading and listening to EWTN that we had been doing.  We discovered many interesting thanks that I didn't know before!

Before this, I had assumed Pope John Paul I had had the shortest papacy of only 33 days!

We watched and listened to Pope Leo XIII here.  We also learned that he was the oldest pope ever (died at age 93) and that he had the third longest pontificate (the other two longest were his predecessor, Pope Pius IX, and Pope John Paul II).

 There were many, many years of Italian popes before John Paul II, who was from Poland, and then Benedict XVI from Germany.  now we have the first one from South America.

This was cool - the passeto.  It is a long passageway that leads from St. Peter's Basilica outside of the Vatican grounds.

This accordion-fold book was called "Who is the Pope?" and Caroline colored it to resemble the Vatican flag.

This is the pop-up book of St. Peter's Basilica where Caroline wrote info she'd learned about it.

 At the top of this photo is where Caroline attached her own "disguised" vote after learning that when they cardinals vote, they disguise their handwriting in an attempt to keep their votes as secret as possible... she wrote it with her left hand in order to disguise it.
Under that is her page of "Great Popes" about Peter.

Here is what she wrote about Gregory the Great...

...and Leo XIII, who wrote the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel...

...and Pope Pius X, one of my personal favorites since that is my high school alma mater...

...and lastly, on Pope Benedict XVI, who she knew quite a lot about since his papacy lasted most of her life... all but about a month, as JPII died only about two weeks after her birth!  I thought that was another interesting fact - that she and I were both born under the same pope, 25 years apart!

This is some of what Caroline wrote in the book about how a new pope is chosen...
What is a Conclave?

Which Cardinals are Included?

Voting Procedures

We included on the Voting Procedures page a model we made to figure out mathematically how many votes were needed in this particular conclave.  We used graph paper to count 115 blocks and then folded it into thirds to figure it out.

Black or White Smoke?
Chris helped Caroline to do this smoke science experiment also!

Habemus Papam!

Below are some of her pages from the Pope Francis booklet:

 Here's the back of the lapbook... a coloring sheet of Peter receiving the keys from Christ, which we made into a pocket.  Inside the pocket, we slid the coat of arms pages mentioned earlier in this post as well as coloring pages of Pope Benedict XVI (this one, too), Pope Francis, and the Vatican flag.

The girls made this Sistene Chapel smokestack craft the day before the new pope was chosen and set them up with the black smoke coming out... until Wednesday, when they got to change it to the white smoke upon seeing that we had a new pope!  I had EWTN on the TV so we could watch for it, and just as she did right as Pope Benedict's papacy was ending and the doors of Castel Gandolfo were about to close, Lucy woke up early from a nap crying pitifully... so, I watched both the end of Pope Benedict's papacy on my laptop while nursing her back to sleep as well as the first moment of Francis's papacy, because as I opened up EWTN streaming on the laptop, the white smoke was coming out of the smokestack!  Caroline had noticed it on the TV out in the den, and so once Lucy was a bit more rested (in retrospect, it was probably her molars bothering her, but I like to think she wanted to witness the close of one papacy and the beginning of the next ;) I came out and the girls and I waited for the new Pope to appear at the balcony!

To celebrate, we dressed our front yard decorative chicken up for the occasion, so all our (non-Catholic) neighbors would know, hee hee.

Here's how Lucy"celebrated" the election of a new pope - by tearing up styrofoam she'd found somewhere to make her own confetti... hey, at least she occupied herself and left us alone to watch Pope Francis being announced!  Oh, and this photo is after I swept the "confetti" all into one area... have you ever tried to sweep styrofoam bits?  I have more than once.  Static electricity is not your friend here! ;)

An Argentinean Dinner to Commemorate our New Pope

We make Buenos Aires empanadas one evening later in the week after the conclave ended.  They were yummy!!  Here is the pastry recipe (the one posted by "lissah") that I used.

Along with the empanadas, we had chipas, which are an Argintinean bread made with tapioca starch.  I modified this recipe to make my own self-rising flour that was half whole wheat flour, and I didn;'t use as much cheese (I was grating it onto the scale thinking that four ounces sure is a LOT of a hard cheese!!).  They were easy and so yummy!

Viva il Papa!!