All the Gift Guides, All in One Place! {7 Quick Takes}

Friday, November 27, 2015

Quick! It's Black Friday! And if you're anything like me, you have absolutely no desire to leave the house... Also if you're anything like me, you planned on getting all your Christmas shopping done before Advent and that's not happening, yet again.

Need ideas? I've got you covered!

Some links are affiliate links - at no extra cost to you, a small percentage of your purchase supports this blog! Thank you :)


First, if you need clothes for you or the kiddos, there are some fabulous sales going on - I stocked up on leggings, socks, and underwear from Children's Place, and Gap has 50% off EVERYTHING including some really adorable dress coats that I'm resisting but GOSH they're cute!

Until the 30th, you can head to Amazon and get 30% off ONE book (up to $10 discount) using the code HOLIDAY30 - may I suggest Pioneer Girl?


These musical instruments are all great quality and a few of them would be great stocking suffers!


These songbooks and CDs are tried-and-true favorites around here - definitely gifts that go a long way.


These CDs are still some of my favorites to listen to in the car - totally doesn't seem like children's music!


Did you see this faith-based gift guide the first time around? It's too late to order from some of these shops for Christmas, but others are still open and offering great deals this weekend! Plus you're supporting small businesses - win-win!


If you're looking for Christmas or Advent picture books (and some chapter books!), I've got a list for you right here!


Need something for the man in your life? I love these ideas, and this book is my number one recommendation - we love ours!

Hope this helps, and hope you're having a wonderful holiday weekend!

Linking up with the awesome Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum!

Making Montessori Your Own: An Introduction {Part 1}

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hello! A while back a friend asked me if I would write a blog post explaining the Montessori method and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd a little bit... But even though I was Montessori-educated for MANY years (and my grandparents founded the Montessori school I attended - it's in my blood!) I didn't feel qualified! I knew somebody who was, though - Sarah! I think she and I "met" through the What I Wore Sunday linkup a couple of years ago, but we ended up realizing we lived right near each other and had friends in common.  Small Catholic world!

Sarah will tell you a little bit about herself below, and will be guest posting here weekly for the next four weeks as she explains the Montessori method, why Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is such an awesome thing, and how to incorporate the Montessori method into your home. I hope you enjoy this series!

Hello, beautiful readers!  I am so excited to share some of my favorite things with you in these next few posts.  Rosie, thank you for inviting me and hosting this little series!  My name is Sarah Therese; I'm a cradle Catholic and, after graduating from a lifetime of homeschool, I stumbled upon the Montessori Method at college while working toward a Degree in Early Childhood Education.  One could say that it was love at first sight because as soon as I realized that Montessori was a person who was a devout Catholic, I was captivated.  Of course, at college there was no mention of any religious education component with the method -- merely a glimpse into her discovery of human development and a little bit about her philosophy of education -- I knew, however, that if she was really a devout Catholic then, considering her remarkable discoveries of human development, there simply had to be a religious education component to the method.

The Easiest Way to Score on Black Friday

Monday, November 23, 2015

Every single year I think, "Wow! Black Friday deals! I should get out of the house and shop so I don't miss any!"

And every single year Black Friday rolls around and I think, "It's cold, I'm tired, and I'd really rather not leave the house..."

Okay fine, last year I had a better excuse...

So my Black Friday shopping occurs in the comfort of my home, either on my phone or through the handy dandy laptop! I've kicked myself after putting an order through only to realize I probably could have found a coupon somewhere to use with it...

Mary Claire and Elizabeth, Age 3

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A week ago, the twins turned three! (Birth story here if you're into that sort of thing) I attempted to do this birthday survey with them together, first with what questions I could remember, then sitting at the computer while they answered questions. It went about as well as you would expect...

Me: Can I take a picture of you smiling for your birthday?
Mary Claire: Take a picture of me CRYING!

Christmas & Advent Reads for the 6-and-under Crowd

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I know, I know, the internet is bursting with book lists for Christmas and Advent... What's one more? I'm always finding tons of great ideas, but a lot of them are long. Too long for me to read aloud with a fussy baby grabbing at the pages and kids who want me to sit and read them an entire stack one after the other! 

So if you're in the same boat with lots of littles, or are just starting out reading to your baby or toddler, hopefully this will be a good list to get you started with some of our Christmas & Advent favorites!

If you click any of the links and make any purchase through them, I get a very small percentage through these affiliate links.

Daily Reads:

Advent Storybook - John Paul and Cecilia LOVED this last year - we would read a story every day after snack as part of our morning ritual, and I'm looking forward to reading it with them and the twins this year.

The Story of Christmas - This is a set of 24 ornament-sized books that tells the story of Christmas a little bit at a time, one per day. We like to light the candle on the Advent wreath, pray together, read the book for that day, and then sing a verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel every morning.

Board Books for Babies:

My First Pictures of Christmas - The Maite Roche books are always a hit with my babies - perfect for taking to Mass and whispering the words in their ears while pointing to the pictures.

A Peek-a-boo Christmas - This always gets HUGE smiles from my babies and toddlers when they "find" baby Jesus at the end! I would not recommend bring it to Mass, though, unless you want to deal with some very loud "PEEK-a-boo!" squeals.

The Story of Christmas - The text isn't anything to write home about, but for some reason all my kids adore this series of books with the handle and the old fashioned illustrations.

Jesus in the Manger - Another Maite Roche book, this one with sturdy flaps to lift!

Christmas in the Manger - This is one that I tend to gift to new parents a lot! Short board book with a basic introduction to all the "key players" of the Christmas story, but with a good rhyme scheme so it's a little more interesting to read. All my babies and toddlers have loved it!

Short & Sweet for the Youngest Ears:

Room for a Little One - this is one that always gets a happy sigh at the end from all listeners - different animals take shelter together on a cold winter night, eventually welcoming the baby Jesus

An Angel Came to Nazareth (The First Christmas) - beautiful illustrations, flowing text, good lesson of 

Who is Coming to Our House - one of my absolute favorites! Beautiful woodcut illustrations, rhyming & short text, another calming story that's especially good for toddlers who love animals

The Stable Where Jesus Was Born - "Cumulative Rhyme" is a new phrase for me but it totally makes sense with the order of this book, where each page builds on the last in a repetitive (but not tiresome) rhyming nativity story.

A Little Longer for Better Listeners:

Lift the Flap Nativity - The actual text on the pages can get long, but there are so many flaps and the pictures are so detailed that my little ones are happy to sit still for a while with this one.

Mortimer's Christmas Manger - This one is new to us but I love it! The kids are all big fans of Jane Chapman & Karma Wilson, and while this doesn't have the usual rhythm of their books, the story is so very sweet. Mortimer the Mouse finds a new home in a nativity, then realizes the stable he's worked so hard to clear of all those pesky figurines is where the poor cold baby Jesus needs to sleep!

The First Night - Very short text, beautiful paintings on wood panels.

The Animals' Christmas Eve - If you want to be technical, I suppose this is a counting book... But the rhyme scheme is so nice and I like the illustrations (even though several reviewers prefer the originals) - it's always highly requested at our house, and I'm pretty sure I have the entire thing memorized!

The Friendly Beasts - I love this carol, maybe because I sang it so much as a small child? It's lovely, and my kids love singing along with the book.

Bethlehem - I love the stained glass illustrations, and the fact that the text is straight out of the Bible!

The Little Drummer Boy - This is a classic, and our board book version is great for younger kids also but if you're going to be singing it, you need kids who are a little bit better listeners - it's a SLOW song and can take a while to read!

Even Longer Picture Books (for kids who will sit still):

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - This is new for us this year and comes highly recommended by basically every person I know! 

Angela and the Baby Jesus - My sister got this for us last year and Cecilia especially loves it! It's always fun to have the chance to try out an Irish brogue when we read it aloud, also.

The Legend of St. Nicholas - We love Demi's style, even though this one always makes me chuckle when we read about what a very pious baby young St. Nicholas was (he FASTED as an infant! Like, refused to nurse because he was so holy!). Definitely on the longer side, but I think we'll just be spending a lot of time reading on St. Nicholas' feast day

The Miracle of St. Nicholas - This one isn't exactly a story of St. Nicholas, but rather a lovely story of enduring faith amidst the persecutions in Russia long ago. On the long side, but wonderful!

The Clown of God - A new find for us, we were all rather taken aback by the ending! Maybe not for sensitive children, but a really nice story that can be read throughout the year as well.

Joy to the World (Including Las Posadas, The Legend of the Poinsettia, and The Three Wise Kings) - If you're a Tomie DePaola fan, this is a must-have! Three books in one, plus several Christmas songs in a beautiful cover. This is another one that I like to gift to friends.

Merry Christmas, Strega Nona - I'd seen this one recommended by quite a few people and was skeptical, because how could Strega Nona make a good Christmas story? But it really is wonderful, and who would have thought Big Anthony could finally come through!

The Christmas Story - Only available used, but I think just having that much sacred art in one book is worth tracking it down!

The Lady of Guadalupe - I'm trying to track down a reasonably priced copy of this one... We get it from the library every year when the feasts of St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe come around in December, but the kids love it so much I want our own! Definitely worth checking out if your library has it.

Chapter Books & Longer Read-Alouds:

I'm pretty sure my mom has a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which I got a kick out of reading as a kid, and I'm pretty sure John Paul and Cecilia will really enjoy as well.

The Family Under the Bridge comes highly recommended from several sources as an excellent Advent/Christmas read aloud, and I'm really looking forward to reading it with the older kids - only 9 chapters, so we should get through it pretty quickly.

I toyed with just picking the specific Christmas chapters out of our Little House books, but I know Cecilia especially will really enjoy reading through A Little House Christmas Treasury and I think one story each evening will make a nice read aloud time. I think I'll also get Christmas in the Big Woods for the twins - they haven't heard the entirety of the series, but they love the picture books, and should be ready for longer chapter books soon.

What would you add? What are your Christmas favorites? I'd love to hear more recommendations!

Happy Birthday, Peter!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It's been a big weekend over here. The twins turned 3 on Saturday (their birthday post is upcoming) and today Peter turned 1! (If you're a birth story junkie, his is here!)

This baby. I get such a kick out of his little personality - I think he reminds me most of Elizabeth at this age, with his sense of humor and obsession with stacking toys. Also with his lack of sleep... But I suppose John Paul didn't sleep either when he was 1.

He LOVES being with people, and has ever since he was born - any time the older kids are outside playing he's so lonely and just insists on climbing me and sticking toys in my mouth until I take him to be with them. 

What I Do Instead of Blogging {7 Quick Takes}

Friday, November 13, 2015


The thing is, every time I get the itch to blog in the middle of the day, it's the middle of the day and everybody's awake. Naps don't coincide anymore, and if I DO get anyone napping, there's so much other stuff to be done that blogging takes the back seat!

Like yesterday... I plopped Peter in his high chair and laughed at the fact that I was throwing goldfish at him so that I could make French Onion Soup for a dinner party that evening - homemade stock for us, Costco crackers for him!

And cooking is one of my default things I do when I have a free minute - I automatically think, "What can I bake?" or "What can I get started for dinner?"

Which is probably why this week I baked 4 loaves of bread, made a couple gallons of chicken stock, and canned several quarts of applesauce. But blog posts?



Meanwhile when I'm trying to cook all the things, I turn a blind eye when the twins dump the crumbs from a bag of goldfish on the floor so they can have a "goldfish picnic" because hey, at least they were including the baby!

Let's Up the Crunch Factor {An Essential Oils Giveaway}

Monday, November 9, 2015

I feel like I don't mention it on the blog a ton, but we're pretty darned crunchy at our house... Like, bake my own bread, cloth diaper, haven't bought a roll of paper towels in 5+ years, even make my own granola-type crunchy. So it kind of seemed inevitable to me that eventually I'd hop on the essential oils bandwagon - I mean, all my crunchy friends are doing it which basically means I'm going to avoid it for as long as possible.

Don't ask me why. I just like adding a little extra counter-cultural to my counter-cultural lifestyle.

I *did* make our own bug spray out of an essential oils blend + witch hazel this past summer, but I've kind of just let it go at that because there are so many types of oils, and I was kind of overwhelmed.

So when Haley asked me if I'd like to try some out, I was a little skeptical... But also kind of excited to try something out, particularly since she was just as skeptical as I was! Cold & flu season is starting out here, and it seems like we've had a constant stream of runny noses since we moved, so I jumped at the chance to try out some Thieves Oil, which I've heard is great for preventing illness (Fun fact: the name comes from the legend that a group of robbers used this particular blend of oils to protect themselves while robbing the dying in 15th century France).

Catchlights and Quotations {Theme Thursday}

Saturday, November 7, 2015

So this week's photography challenge is to capture "Catchlights" in my photography, whatever those are. Well, actually, Micaela explained it really nicely in her post and I realized that I actually already do a pretty good job getting catchlights in my photography, solely because I always try pretty hard to make sure I'm not photographing into the light because everything ends up grainy that way. So I guess inadvertently, I was already doing something right!

Anyway, a certain 2-year-old was climbing on the banister, which she is very specifically not allowed to do but she was facing the window so I was a bad disciplinarian and took pictures instead of getting her down:

This is her posed smile... She cracks me up with those chubby little cheeks!

All Saints & Halloween: Better Late than Never?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pardon me while I mom-blog it up in here... I made the horrible faux pas of not taking ANY Halloween/All Saints pictures except this one:

And my sister was about ready to have my head, so I washed the costumes and we did a recap photo shoot this morning!

When you have a bunch of girls and you don't want to think about *making* them anything to wear for Halloween/All Saints' Day, you just buy a few princess dresses and tell them they can be any princess saint they want!!!

There are a lot of princess saints.

So Elizabeth chose St. Elizabeth of Hungary/Sleeping Beauty, Mary Claire chose St. Adelaide (or St. Clare pre-vocation)/Cinderella, and Cecilia chose St. Ursula/Ariel. 

Well, she chose St. Ursula like, a year ago... But then on Halloween she decided that she was NOT going to be a saint, JUST Ariel when she marries the prince.

She's never seen The Little Mermaid, but there are enough pictures in library books that she's figured it out. I even read the original story to her, death and all, and she's still obsessed. What can you do, she's 4! 

St. Adelaide is, of course, carrying the traditional badminton racket.

Just kidding. There IS no patron saint of badminton, I looked it up. Mary Claire just really wanted to hold it for pictures.

I think you'll agree with me that Elizabeth wins any posing contest, right?

And the dresses are wrinkled from going through the wash - we went to a part on Halloween and Mary Claire helped us cement our status as that family by peeing herself not once, but twice! Both times were outdoors, luckily... And Elizabeth insisted on staying inside and having ME inside with her, so really I'm sure we greatly endeared ourselves to our hosts?

John Paul was devastated when he didn't win the costume contest - I'm thinking next year I'm gonna have to shave him a tonsure to give him a fighting chance ;) Although if I had found Peter's cow costume in time, maybe that would've clinched a victory!

Although no way would Peter have tolerated it for an entire day on Saturday!

As you can see, he was not real enamored of the whole idea...

But St. Isidore probably had to deal with similar issues with his animals, right? So I think it's in keeping with the theme...

Using the Internet for Good: Pick Up That Bible!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Time and again I read articles about "putting down the smart phone" and "treasuring every moment" and the like - which I get. We're all a little bit tied down by our own distractions, particularly those that present themselves in the mindless scrolling of this negative facebook post and that negative article posted on twitter...

But for every negative image, post, article I see, there's the positive too - the tragedies that bring communities together through the power of social media, the prayer requests that receive floods of responses, the fruitful discussion that leads to greater understanding we might not achieve in person, our thoughts muddled and emotions guarded by walls that come down on facebook.

It can suck you in, that's for sure. But when you take the temptation and harness it for good it can be a powerful, powerful thing. It's why I never give up facebook for Lent, which seems to be a popular sacrifice; I've got such an awesome faith-filled community that encourages and reminds me to pray, to love, and that provides the fellowship we all so desperately need.

Nell, Laura, and Nancy are some of the most uplifting ladies I know, and we've never even met! I'll admit to being kind of a stereotypical Catholic when it comes to actually reading my Bible (although I do read scripture every day, just on my phone because it's easier), and these women have created a wonderful Advent devotional that I'm so excited about! I'd never heard of Lectio Divina before they introduced their project, and I'm so excited to have something concrete to focus on for prayer this Advent.

Are you like me? Do you need to just pick up that Bible? Laura's got a great guide on how to pray Lectio Divina with kids, and you can preorder your digital copy of Waiting in the Word right here for a discounted price.

Join the facebook group, pray it on your own, or maybe start your own prayer group with a few local friends - but get that Bible off the shelf, dust it off, and let your kids see you reading it!
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