Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Days of Family Christmas Movies -mostly- on Netflix Streaming (and a BIG giveaway. you probably want this.)

Keep reading all the way to the bottom for the winners of the two most recent Advent giveaways, and my next to last giveaway of the season, which just might help you enjoy these Netflix recommendations a little more. Speaking of that . . .

As I've written about here and talked about here, our family likes to avoid watching Christmas movies during Advent, then we watch one movie every night of the twelve days of Christmas while eating Christmas treats in a cinematic and gastronomical Christmasplosion . . . for Baby Jesus.

But this new baby has been making me feel pretty Netflix-y, and, since I'm a responsible parent AND a professional blogger . . . I decided to make the sacrifice of pre-screening many, many Christmas movies that Netflix Streaming has to offer. This way, I'll know that I'm offering my children and you, gentle reader, only the BEST and most enriching in Christmas entertainment.

Until very recently, this was my favorite version of A Christmas Carol. I've watched quite a few and they have always been too badly animated, or too badly musical, or too Jim Carrey for my taste. So, even though this one is very short, and takes quite a few liberties with the plot, I've always really liked it. As have my kids. We love how familiar characters are cast in the story and how it manages to get Dickens's message of redemption across with humor. There are some slightly scary parts, but it's Goofy as the ghost of Marley, and Pete as the undertaker, so I really think all but the most sensitive kiddos would be okay with it. It's a good starter version.

It's available on Netflix Streaming as a part of Snowed In at the House of Mouse.

The Mickey one used to be my favorite version, but now this is. By a landslide. It's the Muppets, so, like Mickey's version, we've got familiar faces in the roles, but in this version we also get great songs, top notch live actors, and a VERY faithful adaptation of the book, complete with actual quotes.

I actually think this version is also a little less scary than the Mickey one, but it's more sophisticated plot may be more difficult for little kids to understand. But they won't mind, because they'll be watching Kermit.

And, just as a quick aside, if you find yourself poking about on Netflix and you think to yourself, as I did, "Hey, there's Scrooged! I loved that movie when I was a kid. I'll be a cool mom and let my big kids watch it this year." I'm just going to tell you that there is a The Walking Dead-worthy zombie-esque Marley, and Solid Gold Dancers and the nipples of Solid Gold Dancers in this movie. And maybe other stuff, but that was as far as I made it. And I'll let you decide from there.

I am a huge fan of Bing Crosby, and we watch a lot of his movies as a family. So I was really excited to see this one available on Streaming this year. It's got war and slapstick for the boys and dancing and romance for the girls, how could you go wrong?

It's mostly just an excuse for a bunch a musical numbers, but there is a sweet story of helping out an old buddy woven in there. Plus Phil tells Bob that what he really needs to do is get married and have nine kids.

Speaking of Bing Crosby, we also love this classic sequel to Going My Way. It's very funny and very Catholic, and features an adorable Christmas pageant, which makes it appropriate for the season.

It would be worth watching just to hear Bing Crosby singing as Fr. O'Malley, but you also get Ingrid Bergman as Mother Superior teaching a little boy to box. And there's a grumpy rich old coot and the sisters' blind faith in miracles, and it's all just lovely. It's slower than today's movies, of course, but my kids really think it's funny.

These are the two Veggie Tales Christmas movies available on Netflix Streaming. Our family actually usually watches the St. Nicholas one on December 6th for St. Nicholas Day, and we've got another, older Veggie Tales movie called The Star of Christmas that is in our regular Christmas movie rotation. But, really, you mostly can't go wrong with Veggie Tales. They are funny and clever and sweet. We like 'em.

Here's where I'm going to go a bit rogue on you. Because when I said I watched a lot of Christmas movies on Netflix, I mean I watched a LOT of Christmas movies on Netflix. Including this grainy black and white movie from the 40s wherein a bunch of little kids defeat some horse thieves. It's like Australian Home Alone.

I love how independent the kids are. You see them lugging saddles around for themselves. The boys ask their mom if they can head off a day's horseback ride away to go camping, and her response is, "Sure, but you have to bring your sister and your little brother." Which is AWESOME. The kids are brave and resourceful and responsible.

One note: it's from a different time, and the aborigional people are referred to as "blacks" in a way that seems really noticeable to today's ears. I'm okay with just discussing this with my kids, but it might be uncomfortable for some. It's also not ALL that Christmasy. It IS Christmas in the movie, but it's also summer, because Australia is weird like that.

Okay, okay, I KNOW. But, really this isn't a joke. I actually intend to show this movie to my kids and husband over our Christmas break. Yes. It is super cheesy. There are people in green spandex suits and a bad guy with an evil mustache growing through his green face paint.

But this movie actually has a lot going for it, as far as I'm concerned. Santa is dignified and heroic. He is generous and loving towards his Martian captors, but in the end, he conquers them. I think it's a pretty accurate depiction of how the historical St. Nicholas might have behaved in such a situation, although maybe there would have been more punching.

Also, as in the movie above, the children make brave and selfless decisions. I want to encourage that kind of thinking in my kids. And, mainly, I just think it's going to be really hilarious to watch as a family.

And . . . that officially exhausts the Christmas movies on Netflix that I feel would be appropriate and enjoyable for all members of our family. But since there are twelve days, I'll also share with you the other four movies we'll be watching even though it will mean kneeling on the floor and waiting for the little DVD drawer to open like some sort of cave person.

We usually watch the Veggie Tales version of this story AND the classic black and white version. I HOPE my kids prefer this one, but it's hard to tell. There are a lot of sweet, funny moments, and the message is timeless. Its theology about angels is, um, how to put this . . . totally wrong. But we just explain to our kids that people don't become angels when they die anymore than cockroaches become horses when they die, and then we enjoy the movie.

Hee-haw and Merry Christmas!

Our whole family loves this movie, but perhaps we shouldn't. The dad uses gibberish words instead of actual swear words, but there are a handful of lesser but still significant bad words in there. It's got the infamous leg lamp, which Ralphie caresses. The department store Santa is mean, and Ralphie is pretty convinced that the meaning of Christmas is Getting Stuff. Still, somehow, it seems fun and funny and lighthearted, and the family is loving. We're going to watch it again this year, but it's okay with me if you don't.

This one is another Tierney family favorite, but maybe not for everyone. It has some language, an unpleasant family fight right at the beginning, and a very brief scene of Kevin finding and tossing aside an adult magazine. (Nothing that a quick trigger finger on the remote can't handle.) It also has an extraordinary amount of comic slapstick violence that results in very nasty looking injuries.

BUT. The sound track is perfect, the kid is brave and resourceful, and there is a message of forgiveness and redemption and the importance of family. There are beautiful scenes involving a Catholic church, in which a character listens to his granddaughter's choir sing Christmas carols, and Kevin hides from the bad guys in a life-size nativity scene.

Okay, to finish with here, let's go non-controversial. The Small One is a classic Jungle Book-era Disney animated short film. It's sweet and fun and has catchy, if not-always-relevant-to-the-plot musical numbers. And, spoiler alert, it's got the Baby Jesus at the end.

We have it in Volume 9 of Walt Disney's Classic Cartoon Favorites, titled Classic Holiday Stories. But it also seems to be available on YouTube.

These are my honest opinions, but it's a sponsored post. And there are affiliate links, too, clicking the titles of the movies will take you to Amazon. (By the way, thank you SO MUCH to all of you who have been shopping through my affiliate links this year. It doesn't cost you any more, and it makes our family a few pennies every time, which have really added up. I am very grateful to each of you!)

There's another giveaway coming, to help you watch all these crazy shows I'm always going on about.

But first, I've got some winners to announce.

The winner of the Alison Oliver BabyLit print and copy of the new book Doodle Lit is: Tori who liked the Jungle Book prints! (check your email)

The winner of the set of Shining Light Dolls is: Caroline with a baby with pigtails at home! (please email me by Thursday) Didn't win? If you've got Amazon Prime, you have plenty of time to order them for yourself!

The winner of the Whole Parenting Goods scarf is: Megmckham (please email me by Thursday)


The winner of the ebook copies of Feast! and More Feasts! is: Elizabeth whose mother is gluten-free! (please email me by Thursday)

And now, for another installment of the Catholic All Year Advent of Giving . . .

Tired of not being able to weigh in on the big Curious George Boofest controversy of 2014, because you haven't seen it, and don't know whether you approve of hat-kicking or not? Wish you could watch all the cool TV shows about dresses that Christy and Haley are always going on about? Want to commiserate with me about how much we love a bunch of dirty English gangsters or some star-crossed Spanish lovers who might be dead now but we don't know what happens to them because the third season isn't in English . . . on Netflix or ANYWHERE?

Doesn't that sound great?

Well, it's your lucky day. Because I have two, yes TWO one year subscriptions to Netflix Streaming to give away to my awesome readers.

Just leave a comment telling me your family's favorite Christmas movie, whether it's on Netflix Streaming or not (but if I'm being honest, if it's not on Netflix Streaming . . . probably I'm not going to see it). If you already HAVE Netflix Streaming, you can still win. You can either give the subscription as a gift to someone else, or just add it on to your existing subscription.

You'll be able to watch movies and TV shows on your computer, tablet, or on even on your TV if you've got the right set up. And you'll finally know what we're all talking about with these shows!

Come back Friday for the last of the Advent giveaways, which is sure to help you ring in 2015 right.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Catholics, Celiac, and the Dread Pirate Roberts

I'm turning the blog over today to reader Sarah Kaye, who has had an Advent to remember this year as she and her family learn to cope with a diagnosis of celiac disease and what that means for their Catholic faith, particularly reception of the Eucharist. With 0.5 - 1% of the world's population suffering from celiac disease and 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide . . . Sarah's is a struggle potentially facing over six million Catholics! I'll let her take it from here . . . 

Today, Kendra has graciously allowed her fantastic blogspace to be invaded by a fellow mother-in-the-trenches, partially due to the fact that I share so many of her likes and dislikes.  Take for instance this iconic movie:

She may have mentioned it once or twice here on the blog; but I caught sight of it listed among her faves, and I knew right away we were of the same generation.  (note from Kendra: I am winning over a new generation to the Princess Bride!)

But the reason I have been thinking about this guy

lately is not really related to Kendra at all, but rather to his fascinating defeat of the dreadful villain, Vizzini, which we come to realize he achieves because he was able to drink poison and survive.  How had he done this?

By simply conditioning himself; by building up an immunity for the odorless, tasteless yet deadly iocane powder, reaching the point of being able to survive the same dose of poison that killed his enemy.

But unlike the Dread Pirate Roberts, my family has been unable to build up a tolerance to a very ordinary substance in our daily lives: gluten.

No iocane powder necessary here; we were in fact poisoning ourselves every day by our morning  Cheerios.

Gluten is somewhat of a current “food fad bad guy.” Many people choose to avoid gluten because of various levels of sensitivity to it, or to try to lose weight or have more energy. But we recently received the news that I, and much of my family, suffer from celiac disease.  Whereas intolerances can develop to any number of food substances, causing significant and uncomfortable digestive symptoms, celiac disease is quite different.  It is an incurable, hereditary, and often irreparable autoimmune reaction by the body to the protein found in a majority of our American dietary grains.

When a person with celiac disease ingests gluten, it attacks the lining of the small intestine, impairs normal digestion of food, and leads to an assortment of gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, endocrinal, and neurological symptoms.  The vast array of symptoms it produces is dizzying, and can result in patients like myself being misdiagnosed until well into adulthood, despite a barrage of random complaints for poor health since childhood.

via purplecactusdesign on etsy
But back to the Dread Pirate Roberts.  The point of my mulling on his ability to tolerate his own brand of self-poisoning, is in the decisions we as a family have had to make regarding our reception of the Holy Eucharist.  Just as in this season of Advent we are reveling in the approaching arrival of the infant Jesus at Christmas, so too do we normally await His coming into our bodies and souls through the act of Holy Communion with great peace and eagerness, so much so that we have been a daily Mass family since I was a single, collegiate coed.

Now suddenly, the “advent” which brought us such daily joy and manifold grace has become tainted through fear of gluten.  Not only for us, but for our children.  While we have always striven since early childhood to stress that it is “really Jesus” they see us consume, our current predicament of, “yes, but there is still gluten in it” has opened a portal through which doubt of the real Presence could creep in. But doesn’t, thanks to this guy:
Thomas Aquinas would say that the accidental properties of the gluten are still active. Hence, someone with an allergy to gluten will still react to the accidental property of this grain protein even though the substance of bread has changed . . . The accidents remain while the substance changes. The physiological human response to the properties of alcohol or gluten remain even after transubstantiation. Likewise, our physiological response to the calories (also accidental properties of bread and wine) are real. We truly receive natural nourishment from the Holy Eucharist, although the purpose of the Blessed Sacrament is to provide supernatural and sacramental nourishment through habitual grace.
So just as we taught our kids, “Yes, it still looks like bread, smells like bread, and tastes like bread, but it is not really bread anymore,” we simply need to add, “Oh yeah, it works like bread in our bodies . . . but still, not really bread anymore.  Just Jesus.”

More questions easily follow though:
Why does the host have to be made of wheat? Answered here.

What about a low-gluten option? Answered here.

How much gluten is actually okay? Answer: no one really knows, and even more confusingly, it varies from person to person.

It this last question that caused me to ponder iocane powder.  Real poison can be given little by little, hardly detectable to the human body, building to a point of immunity.  That is, if fairy tales are to be believed.

Unfortunately, for the reality of celiac disease in which we now live, the accidental property that allows the precious Body of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to still behave in our bodies as gluten does, means that even the smallest amount has the potential to set off the chain reaction of silent, imperceptible damage to one of our most vital organs, with wide-reaching consequences.

That's the bad news. The good news is that we now appreciate more fully God’s providential Wisdom that ordained the holy sacrifice of the Mass to be performed under not just one, but two species: bread AND wine, becoming Body AND Blood.  We are so grateful that the body that is sacrificed on Calvary is separated during death from the blood that pours from His side; enabling us, these nearly 2000 years later, to remain able to receive our Lord fully in sacramental Communion.

A second coincidence I take great peace in realizing is the fact that about six years ago, our children noticed the Anima Christi prayer on the back of the missal in the pew.  Seizing a moment of inspiration, this prayer became our post-Communion act of thanksgiving, especially for the youngest ones who had not yet received their sacraments.  Learning later that this prayer was an act of Spiritual Communion, we are now grateful to have a dearly loved prayer available to us for those instances where, despite our best efforts to be prepared, we will not be able to participate in the reception of Holy Communion.  Once again, the providence of our heavenly Father is making sure that neither knowledge (“Yes, it is really Jesus”) nor grace (which is present in, but not limited to, the sacraments) is kept from us as we seek to welcome Christ into our souls at each and every Mass.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me; 
Body of Christ, save me; 
Blood of Christ, inebriate me; 
Water from the side of Christ, wash me; 
Passion of Christ, strengthen me; 
O good Jesus hear me; 
Within your wounds hide me; 
separated from you, let me never be; 
From the evil one protect me; 
At the hour of my death, call me; 
And close to you bid me; That with your saints, 
I may be praising you forever and ever. 


As the celebration of Christmas approaches, let's be grateful to be able to take a few moments to recalibrate our own sense of awe and wonder at the gift of the Holy Eucharist, and give great thanks for each and every opportunity to welcome Jesus anew into our lives, whether you are blessed to physically receive Him, or whether you must suffer the sacrifice of praying for Spiritual Communion.  Jesus seeks us out . . . let us be ready to receive Him.


Sarah Kaye is a homeschooling mother of seven (so far) who spends her free time consulting with the great folks at Memoria Press. Find her on the Member Forum at under the title, KF2000.

p.s. from Kendra: The winner of the Liturgical Living giveaway is . . . Ashley Strukel! Please email me at by Monday to claim your prize! Ashley wins either a printable pdf OR a spiral bound hardcopy of Kelly's planner: The Best Laid Plans AND an ebook copy of Haley and Daniel Stewart's new liturgical living cookbook: More Feasts! 

And, in a pretty awesome coincidence ALL the recipes in More Feasts! are gluten free.

SOOOOO . . . I talked with Haley, and she wants to offer my readers another ebook copy of More Feasts! PLUS an ebook copy of the first book, Feast! That's 33 recipes based on Saints' feast days that are perfect for all the gluten-free Catholics in your life.

I'd love these books to benefit someone who is gluten-free. So, if you'd like to win them, please leave a comment telling me who you know who's gluten-free who will either receive the books, or at least something you'll cook from the books if you win them!  The person can be you, that's allowed. And since they are ebooks, all you internationals are eligible to win!

I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, so be sure to check back then to see if you won.

And the Advent giveaways don't stop, Sarah got the fine folks at Memoria Press to offer a giveaway you homeschool types will love. Check back for that next week.

In the meantime, enjoy the great feasts this weekend. We're braiding our hair and having Tamale Pie for Our Lady of Guadalupe today.

Then (if this very-welcome-but-still-very-inconvenient rain ever stops) we'll put up our Christmas lights on Saturday for St. Lucy's day. And eat these, which are either supposed to be cats or eyeballs, depending on whom you ask. But *I* am going to make them out of a pop-tube of cinnamon roll dough. Please don't tell Norway.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lulu Had a Birthday, and She's Got Some Presents for You! (a giveaway from BabyLit, Shining Light Dolls, and Whole Parenting Goods)

Jack, my oldest, said of his baby sister the other day, "I think she's probably tied for the third best baby who ever lived. Jesus and Mary were probably better, but she's got to be at least tied with St. John the Baptist for third."

Now, I don't have any way to verify his theory, but she is awfully, awfully sweet.

And she just had a birthday. (Well, last month, but we've been busy.)

So, to celebrate, she'd like to give YOU her birthday presents. Don't worry, she gets to keep hers. But you'll get them too.

We went pretty big for Frankie's Little Monster birthday party, and really big for Bobby and Gus's shared Lego Movie birthday party. So I wanted to keep it simple for Lulu's first birthday party. Now, I am aware that some of you will read this and think it is not simple at all and that I am some sort of crazy robot.

To those people, I say: We have already covered this. I am most likely NOT a robot. But it's hard to know for sure.

And for ME, this is as simple a birthday party as I am capable of throwing.

We only invited immediate family, my parents, and Lulu's godparents and their kids. And that was nineteen people. It's pretty much impossible to throw a small party when the guest of honor has six siblings (soon to be seven!).

The theme was pink and brown giraffes, because Lulu likes her Sophie giraffe toy, and she has a giraffe sweater, and we had leftover pink plates from her baptism.

- The Decor -

This banner, courtesy of me:

And this poster, courtesy of Bobby, which is still hanging in my house, because it has a certain je ne sais quoi and I can't bring myself to part with it:

- The Food -

I know I'm usually all about the funny party-themed foods, but for this party, we had a pizza. And I didn't even come up with anything else to call it. It was just a pizza.

But, it WAS a really, really, REALLY big pizza, which is kinda giraffe-like. Right?

- The Cake -

I made a pink giraffe cupcake tower. That's a thing, right?

I am a big fan of Wilton Candy Melts. I print out whatever I want the decorations to be, put a piece of parchment or wax paper on top of it, and trace it with melted candy melts, squeezed out of the corner of a ziploc bag. I can't draw freehand. But I can trace like nobody's business.

No games. No prizes. No favors. She's only one, after all.

But she DID get presents. And now you can get them, too. This is actually supposed to be NEXT week's giveaway, but Nell from Whole Parenting Goods, who is sponsoring one of the giveaways, is closing up shop for Christmas and TODAY is the last day to place orders. I didn't want you to see her cute stuff and not be able to order it.

So . . . the giveaway for Haley's book and Kelly's planner is still on-going, but I'm going to go ahead and post this one too. And then there's one more giveaway, which I'll probably post next week, because who reads blogs the week before or after Christmas? Anyone? I don't know. Anyway . . . 

I have been a fan of the BabyLit board books, since they first came out in 2011. They are baby versions of the greatest classics in literature (focused on things like colors or counting, rather than the actual plot of the original book) written by Jennifer Adams and beautifully and whimsically illustrated by Alison Oliver. Whimsy is my favorite.

For her birthday, Lulu got Sense and Sensibility , Jane Eyre , and Romeo & Juliet , to add to our BabyLit collection.

Allison sells selected illustrations from the books at her shop, Sugar. She's offered to give a winner the print of his or her choosing from the shop. You can also check out her blog, here.

I don't know how anyone could possibly choose.

London from Sense & Sensibility
Thornfield from Jane Eyre
Ball Gowns from Pride & Prejudice

You'll ALSO win a copy of Alison and Jennifer's newest book, a HUGE interactive book of inspirational doodling prompts called Doodle Lit .

So cute. I know my older kids would love to get their hands on this. But it's for YOU.

Lulu's second gift was generously provided by Chantal at Shining Light Dolls. These dolls are practically perfect in every way.

They are sturdy, bright, engaging, quality-made little dolls.

If that wasn't enough, they are also beautifully designed, and whimsically painted (what did I tell you about whimsy?) grippable, unbreakable, little vinyl versions of Mary and the saints.

Lulu loves them, the rest of the kids love them. Each doll comes individually packaged with a little prayer card.

They are THE cutest.

One lucky winner will get a whole set, or you can order them for yourself from Amazon for all the babies and toddlers in your life!

There's Our Lady of Czestochowa of PolandSt. Nicholas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Patrick, and Our Lady of Knock of Ireland. Each one cuter than the last.

Finally, Lulu received a gift of handmade love with a side of awesome, from Nell of Whole Parenting Family and Blessed Is She.

This owl skirt. Seriously. You wish Nell made them in your size, right? Well, she doesn't.

But she does make lots of cute little skirts for little girls, and bibs and burp cloths and blankets, and knit scarves, and stretch leggings. All very very cute. And, say it with me now . . . whimsical.

Unicorn skirt? Check.

If you'd like to have and hold any of these cuties for yourself, TODAY is the last day to place an order in Nell's Etsy shop, before she closes up for Christmas. So act now!

We also got this fun infinity scarf, that Lulu and I can BOTH use:

One lucky winner will receive the gift of this lovely purple and gray number, so we can be almost twinsies:

So that's the whole shebang. And a pretty great one if I do say so myself.

There will be three winners. One winner will receive an Allison Oliver print and the new book Doodle Lit.  One winner will get a complete set of Shining Light Dolls. And one winner will get a nice cozy scarf, sized for a grownup, but also enjoyed by some super-easygoing babies.

To enter, click over to Sugar illustration & design, Whole Parenting Goods, and Shining Light Dolls (on Amazon) and leave a comment (or three) telling me what you like best on each page, and maybe wishing Lulu a happy birthday. ;0) I'll announce the winners next Monday. US addresses only for this one.

UPDATE! Alison will ship the babyLit prize anywhere in the world! International address cost $10 for shipping, but that's still pretty great, right?

The liturgical living giveaway is still going on. You can enter to win by clicking over to this post and leaving a comment there.

This post contains affiliate links. Some of these products were provided to me in exchange for my honest review.

And if you're on Facebook, stop by the Catholic All Year page sometime today, I'm going to have a special giveaway going on JUST over there, beginning around 9am Pacific.