Summer Reading

I had high hopes of homeschooling through summer, especially since we ended school early so we could move.  Ask me how much school we did this summer.  Go ahead.  You guessed it…little to none! ha  Turns out we just all needed a big break.  Moving while in the third trimester and homeschooling 5 kids was not an easy task.  So we spent the summer by the pool eating frozen yogurt.

One schoolish thing we did do was read a lot.  So I thought I’d put together a little list of the books I read aloud to the kids and how the kids liked it.  This isn’t a “best of” list or anything.  The kids just picked out a few books and we snuggled up to read.  Perhaps I’ll do another list soon of books the kids read on their own.

1. Indian in the Cupboard  This was a random choice.  I had credit on my kindle, so I let the kids pick out a book.  We really enjoyed this one.  Jack, the boy who claims to hate every book I read, was actually asking for “just one more chapter” each night.  By the end of the book, the kids were fighting over the one little plastic indian we have in the house.

2. Because of Winn Dixie  I’ve always wanted to read this to the kids so I just picked it up one library run.  And we’re big Kate DiCamillo fans here.  This book was fun and the kids enjoyed it. Also I got to use my native southern accent for most of it. :)

3. Pippi Longstocking  I think this one was the biggest hit of the summer.  I kept finding kids sleeping with their feet on the pillow or deciding that they were going to be “thing finders”.  Warning: use a new translation.  I picked up a really old copy that used the word cannibals instead of natives.  I ended up having to explain what cannibals actually are.  Fun.

4. Mary Poppins  We just finished this up then watched the movie.  And I have to say that although I love, love, love Julie Andrews, the book was just so much better than the movie.  The book Mary Poppins was a bit sterner but I really liked her.  And the adventures she and the kids had were just so bizarre that it made the book that much more enjoyable.

5. The Borrowers  So I had a reason for choosing this book.  I really wanted to watch The Secret World of Arriety, but I wanted the kids to know the inspiration first.  I think our favorite part about The Borrowers was what they used for furniture and various items in their home.  I knew the kids were fascinated with little people living in the walls and floors, so I picked up a dollhouse door, painted it, and glued it to the closet wall in Matilda’s room.  The looks on the kids’ faces when they found the door was priceless.

6. Little House on the Prairie  My husband is reading this to Matilda (It was his favorite book growing up).  The boys had no interest, but I haven’t broken it to them that this is on their reading list this year.  They did like Little House in the Big Woods, especially the pig part.  Matilda absolutely loves it.  She tells me about Laura and Ma and Pa all the time.  We’re definitely going to continue the series.

And that’s it.  We have an even longer list for the school year and I can’t wait to get reading!

Our Clay Rosaries

IMG_6760A week before Stella was born, my 8 year old suggested that we say a rosary every day for an easy and safe birth.  So every afternoon we’d all grab our rosaries and snuggle up on the sofa.

IMG_6761We said our rosaries every day during that week, and I often had to remind Liam and Jack to move down a bead because they would be staring at a particular bead they liked on their clay rosaries.

IMG_6764These are the rosaries I gave them for their First Communions.  Liam and Jack adore them.  I first found out about the Clay Rosary Girl from the beautiful blog Small Things.

IMG_6762Our final rosary was said on July 27th and Stella was born the next day.  On the same day Stella was born, the beautiful woman who handmade these rosaries and her unborn child passed away.  When I told the boys, they said one rosary for Sarah Harkins and her baby Cecilia.

IMG_6763I was planning on giving these clay rosaries to each of my children for their First Communions, but now I can just be really thankful that we have these two.  We’ll share them and take turns running the beads through our fingers and thinking of the kind soul whose fingers made them.

If you would like to contribute anything you can spare to her four beautiful children, please do so.


Stella Maris

IMG_6664Stella Maris was born on July 28th in the wee hours of the morning.  She weighed a whopping 8lbs 8oz!  I normally don’t do birth stories since mine are mostly uneventful and just run of the mill have contractions, go to hospital births.  Stella’s birth was a tad eventful.  My last labor with Max was very, very fast, so we induced with Stella.  We live in the burbs and the hospital is alllll the way in downtown Houston.  That’s a 40 minute drive in good traffic.  I was freaking out about the possibility of giving birth in our huge van so induction it was!

After being pushed back due to no rooms (not even in the stable!) I finally got a room and an epidural shortly after.  It was smooth sailing from there.  I got to read, sleep and relax through most of the labor.  But at the end, for some reason, the epidural suddenly wasn’t working.  I couldn’t move my legs one bit, but I could feel the full pain of every contraction.  The weird thing about me is when I’m having painful contractions, I tend to vomit.  I discovered this with my first child during the 5 minutes I was crazy enough to think I could have a natural birth with no medication…I couldn’t.

The nurse declared I was fully dilated and she was going to call the doctor.  By that time I was losing my lunch in a bucket.  With every wave of sickness, I could feel Stella move.  Finally she just came out.  But I was still all covered up in a blanket.  The nurse started moving a monitor on my belly trying to find Stella’s heartbeat because she was unaware that Stella was in fact on the bed under the blanket.  I, meanwhile,  was vomiting and pointing at my blanket.  It finally dawned on everyone what had happened, and Stella was picked up and put on my chest where she has been most of the time since.

IMG_6674For all you non Catholic readers, cough***my in-laws***cough, it’s tradition that we name our babies after saints.  Stella Maris is Latin and translates to Star of the Sea, one of the Virgin Mary’s titles.  And I can’t think of a better saint to name our little one after than the Blessed Mother herself.  And yes, we technically named our child Star Jones.

IMG_6734I’ll let the kids’ own words speak for how little Stella was received at the humble dwelling…

Liam: (before Stella’s birth) I’ll like her but not love her because she’s a girl.  (after Stella’s birth while holding her) I just love her soooo much!!!

Jack: I know I keep following you around while you’re holding her, but all her little noises are so cute…even her crying.

Matilda: I’ll teach her everything I know! (ahh 6 year olds…the keepers of all the wisdom)  Can I hold her now?  (She asks this at least 1 million times a day.)

Matthew:  You’re a good mommy because when Stella gets hungry, you feed her with those.  (Can you guess what he was pointing to?)

Max: My baby Tella!  And when we ask if anyone but him can hold her…NO!

Slacker post!

We’ve been so busy with school/birthdays/moving/baby growing that I forgot about this poor ol’ blog.  So for the few readers (who are mostly my family) here are a few pictures for you…Image





So we have pictures of Matthew turning 4, Max turning 2 and Matilda turning 6.  Whew! 

Thankfully, we’re wrapping up school for this year, but then we’re moving (just to a neighborhood closer to the city for those family members thinking it’s some cross country move. :))!!!  And the same weekend we’re moving, Jack is having his First Communion!!  So it’ll be busy here for the next 3 weeks.  I’ll try to remember to keep my camera out.  Meanwhile, I’m @elainemariej on Instagram, which is where I post most of our daily pictures, so follow me there!

Saint coins, chore charts and a family store

saint coins 005I’ve been asked by enough people about our family store reward system, that I figured it warranted a post.  I’ve tried many variations of chore charts, sticker charts, reward systems, etc, but this by far is the one that has worked best.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m more consistent or the kids just respond really well to it.

I just started with a simple laminated “task chart.”  I had 3 for each kid (morning, afternoon, evening) but it was too much.  I made it extra simple and this seems to work.  The circle is for when it’s her night to set the table and once or twice a week they each have one household chore like take out the trash, vacuum, clean windows, etc.

saint coins 001At the end of the day, my husband looks at their chart.  If they have done all that they should, they get 3 saint coins. (more on how I made them later)  He doles out the coins so he can talk with them about the day they had and what they accomplished and because I will forget every single night if it were up to me.  I give them extra coins throughout the day if I catch them doing a good deed or they were extra attentive in class.  One of my children was having trouble completing his work in a timely manner.  So I now set a timer and if he beats the timer, he gets an extra coin.  He’s starting to beat the timer most days. :)

saint coins 002To make the coins, I printed out badges from Happy Saints ebooks at 50% their size.  If you don’t have a Happy Saints ebook, get one!!  We use them for greeting cards, homeschool religion classes, service projects, just tons of stuff.  So I printed out the badges on label paper.  I was able to get about 20 on a page printing them at 50%.  I then cut them out and stuck them on little wooden discs you can get at the craft store.  I forgot the diameter of mine, but it was around 2 inches I think.  Then I sealed the coins with spray modge podge.

saint coins 003A friend asked me to make some for her, and this time I used printable shrinky dink paper.  I printed the badges at 100% size, but I set the color to the lowest intensity so they would be too dark after being cooked. (control p; main tab; under color/intensity, click manual; set intensity all the way to light).  The shrinky dink coin is smaller, but turned out great!  And it saved me a lot more time doing the shrinky dink way!  I was able to make 30 coins with one pack of shrinky dink paper.

saint coins 004Then the kids decorated little boxes for their coins!

saint coins 006Finally, every Friday night, they get to shop in the family store.  The 5 box has small candy, trips the the coffee shop with mom or dad or to a bookstore.  The 10 box has plastic bracelets, bigger candy, and the big hit…microwave popcorn for Friday night movie night.  The 15 box has slinkys, lego minifigures, fancy pencils, and various things found in the Target dollar section.  And extra coins the kids have, they can roll them over to the next week, but they usually spend them all. :)


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We make this Advent Wreath every year.

Wreath blessing (from USCCB):

Lord our God,
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
Lord God,
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen.

The blessing may conclude with a verse from
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

O come, desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of humankind;
bid ev’ry sad division cease
and be thyself our Prince of peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.


It’s been a while!  We’ve had our heads so buried in school that I just looked up and realized I left this little blog all alone.  I’ll try to remedy that over the next few weeks because I love Advent and want to spread the love!!!  The candles, the Jesse Tree, the anticipation, the readying of our hearts…I love it all.  Stay tuned…