Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Little Peek Inside Our Easter Baskets (hint, it's mostly books) PlusGift Ideas and New Easter Printables

Happy Palm Sunday! Hosanna! Easter is one week away! Just in case you haven't finalized your family's Easter baskets, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what is going to be in ours' this year (and yes, I pretty much JUST took care of all of this) . . .

I've been working on our collection of Advent and Christmas books over the past couple of years, and I'm really pretty satisfied with it these days. (Also, for whatever reason, I'm much better at planning ahead for Christmas. Lent is just SO long.) But our collection of Lent and Easter books is, well, almost nonexistent.

We are consciously minimizing the bringing of toys into the house, since we are all set in that department. So the kids' Easter baskets this year are going to be new Easter clothes and shoes, candy, books, and sidewalk chalk. That's it. But after a nearly-treatless Lent, they would probably be satisfied with just the candy.

Cultural-type Easter books seem a lot farther away from the true meaning of Easter, somehow, than do cultural Christmas books. You know: "Binky Bunny is sad. With the wheel off of his wagon, he and Chipper Chick will NEVER make it to the big Spring Festival on time!" But then, it is SO HARD to find religious Easter books that aren't poorly illustrated or poorly written, or both.

So, I did a lot of looking. And here's what I found in the way of Easter books (plus a couple not-so-Easter books for the older kids). The kids haven't seen them yet, but I think they all look really great.

- for Lulu, 17 months -

The Easter Story, board book
Oliver, board book


 - for Frankie, age 3 -

Richard Scarry's The Bunny Book
I am a Bunny, board book


- for Anita, age 5 -

Rechenka's Eggs
The Easter Story


- for Gus, age 7 -

The Egg Tree
The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale


- for Bobby, age 9 -

The Story of the Easter Robin
Ed Emberley's Big Green Drawing Book 


- for Betty, age 11 -

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library


- for Jack, age 12 -

Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle

Nick and Tesla's Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove
These two are the third and fourth books in the Nick and Tesla series. Here is my review of the first two.

Annnd . . . counting up . . . yep. That's all of them. (For this year at least.)

We gave the kids subscriptions to Kiwi Crate for Christmas and have been really happy with it. We get all four of the available crates. Each month, a sturdy cardboard box arrives in the mail with all the supplies the kids need to do a few projects based on a particular theme.

ALL the supplies. The glue, the scissors, everything. Which is really great for me, because I can mostly mange to keep track of the children, but almost never the scissors.

A Kiwi Crate subscription would make a great Easter gift, except that it just comes when it comes in the mail. So . . . just in case that's what's been holding you back, I made up these certificates, that can be printed and put in an Easter basket.

Koala Crate is geared for ages three to five. The projects cover preschool concepts like colors, and music. Frankie can't do the projects on his own, but the older kids help him.

Kiwi Crate is meant for ages four to eight. Anita, Gus, and Bobby all get Kiwi Crate. Bobby is nine, but he still really enjoys the projects.

Betty gets Doodle Crate, which is for ages nine to sixteen plus. The craft projects are great for older girls, and have been things Betty really can use, like a pencil case, or jewelery. And she's been able to give friends and family-members homemade (but actually useable) gifts!

Finally, Jack gets Tinker Crate, which is for ages nine to fourteen. The projects are science, engineering, and robotics-based, and are challenging, but do-able for him on his own. And the projects have given him ideas for things he does on his own later.

And, while I'm mentioning things . . . I'll put in a quick plug here for my book. It would make a thoughtful gift, if I do say so myself, for anyone who has recently made, or will soon make a First Confession. But it's also helpful for anyone, kids OR grownups, who want to know more about the sacrament, and/or approach it well-prepared each time.

A Little Book about Confession for Children
All links are Affiliate Links, clicking over and shopping through these links helps support this blog at no additional cost to you. Thanks!
And now, some free Easter printables for ya!

As with all my printables, you are welcome to right click on the image and save it to your computer for your own personal use. You may print the images and or upload them and have prints made for your personal use or to give as gifts. (These are sized for 8x10 or square but will print well much bigger.) You may use my images on your blog, just please link back to my blog. If you would like to sell my images, please contact me first. To request a custom printable, visit my Etsy shop here.

For LOTS MORE free printable prayers, check out my Pinterest board.

Here is the JPII Easter quote for kids on white:

and on yellow:

And a little more grown up version on white:

and on yellow:

and square on white:

 Here are last year's Easter basket suggestions, with free things to print that are not of my making:

Last Minute Somewhat Free Easter Baskets

Have a happy Palm Sunday, a fruitful Holy Week, and a joyous Easter.

What We Wore Palm Sunday . . . Me: Anthropologie, Frankie: Gymboree + Old Navy, Lulu: Vintage Knit, Anita: Old Navy, Gus: Gymboree + Old Navy, Betty: Old Navy + new haircut

for more WIWS, visit Fine Linen and Purple


Friday, March 27, 2015

Weaning: my hows, whys, and whens

Sometimes when I get a mailbag question, I can't believe I really haven't ever written on the subject before. This was one of those. I've written about breastfeeding (those posts always spark quite a discussion) and getting babies to sleep (conversation AND, um, insults on those posts) but, somehow, I've yet to share how we handle weaning around here. Thanks to Amy for asking!

The Question:

Hi Kendra,

I hope you are well!  I just got my baby down for a nap, which took 30 minutes, and had an "I should ask Kendra..." moment.

My baby (first one) is 16 months old.  I've read a lot of your parenting posts, especially on breastfeeding and other food related posts, so I know that we have similar approaches in this.

I feel a little bad about this, but I'm kind of ready to stop nursing -- at least the daytime nursing.  The morning session seems to be phasing itself out.  The pre-nap session is harder. That said, I did just get him to go down for a nap without nursing but it took a half hour for him to settle himself enough to sleep.

All that said... how did  you go about "weaning" your babies?  When did they totally stop? Did you let them lead the process?  Did some take longer than others?  Did you ever nurse while pregnant?  (I'm not... I don't think... but sometimes I wonder how that would work.)

The Answer:

Great question Amy.

I've been able to exclusively breastfeed all of my babies, and to nurse them for over a year, which has worked really well for us. I'm awfully grateful for the ease and convenience of it, and it has always fit
really well into my lifestyle.

Figuring out nursing was a bit emotionally taxing and physically painful for me with the first couple babies, but then it got pretty darn easy with all the rest (until I got a silly nursing injury with Lulu, my seventh, and spent a few days fighting back tears every time she had to nurse). But I'd say, mostly, I've been very fortunate and have really loved breastfeeding. I'm happy to nurse my babies pretty much on demand, whenever, wherever, and let them start solid foods on their own as they're interested in them. However, for most of my babies, figuring out solid food hasn't translated into not wanting to nurse. I've only have one baby wean himself (it was Frankie, of course). For all the others, at around fourteen months or so, I just start feeling a bit spent on it all. I'm usually pregnant again by that point, and ready to be able to share nap and bedtime routines with my husband (or now with my big kids) and have my body back to myself a bit (as much as that's possible for someone who is pregnant).

I know there are lots of schools of thought on this, and lots of passionately held opinions. So, I'm going to put a quick disclaimer in here saying that I realize that there are many legitimate reasons that a mom wouldn't be able to exclusively breastfeed for as long as I have (thus far) been able to do. I also understand that many moms choose extended nursing, and that that works well for them and their kids.

I haven't felt like extended nursing was something my babies so far have needed, and it hasn't been something I felt like I wanted or needed to take on. And I have found that, for my kids, there has been kind of a magic window between thirteen and sixteen or seventeen months, when they don't really NEED to nurse anymore, but they're not quite aware enough to have the process of weaning be all that traumatic. I only nursed one baby to eighteen months, because we were postponing pregnancy. And the process with her was definitely more stressful than it has been with my others. She could talk about nursing, and she remembered it and wanted it, even if we had already skipped a day or two. It was harder than I think it needed to be on both of us.

That experience with Anita convinced me that I either want to wean by sixteen or seventeen months, or be prepared to wait until past two, when they are a bit more reasonable.

The way I approach weaning is pretty much just what you've been doing.

I start by not offering during the day, and providing baby with snacks and water or milk in a sippy cup. Instead of pulling baby into bed with me in the morning to nurse, or snuggling down in a chair to nurse (and watch TV) after naps, I just get us going right away. We have a snack, and we do something active, so baby doesn't really think about nursing. In that way we get down to just nursing before naps and bedtime.

I co-sleep with my babies for six to nine months or so, then transition them to a crib in conjunction with sleep-training, that still involves some nighttime nursing. I've always sleep-trained my babies before I wean them, so they are already familiar with sleeping in a crib on their own, and with soothing, <cough -or sometimes crying- cough> themselves to sleep, on days that they don't nurse completely to sleep. I have no idea how people wean while co-sleeping. I suppose it's possible, but I can't wrap my head around it.

During the weaning process, daddy takes over the bedtime routine for at least a couple of days. Baby isn't expecting to be nursed by him, so that seems to go more smoothly than me trying to just put a confused baby down with no nursing. After a few days of that, then I am able to substitute reading a book, or singing and rocking for a bit in the baby's room, for nursing, then I can just lay him down in the crib and leave.

For my babies, this has worked very quickly (a day or two) and with only a little unhappiness and no trauma to the baby.

I just try to be really upbeat, and consistent about it. I think if I acted worried about it, my babies would sense that, and I think giving in and nursing every once in a while would probably make the process take a lot longer than if I just go ahead and do it, once we're down to only a couple sessions a day, anyway.

My two outliers have been Frankie and Anita. Frankie flash-weaned himself at twelve months, he just flat out refused to nurse. So that was that. And, like I said, with Anita it was a longer, more difficult process that involved a lot of unhappiness and attempting to reason with and explain to a baby who wasn't really able to understand. But even with her, the whole process only took a couple of weeks. And then she was fine. So perhaps I'm making too big a deal of the age on this anyway.

Like everything with parenting, a calm but firm attitude, having age-appropriate expectations, and being really consistent, seems to make everything go more smoothly.

Anyway, I hope things have been going well with it. You can do it. And it's okay to want to.

Good luck!



Some additional reading . . . 

Breastfeeding posts:

Lactivism, aka I'll Teach YOU How to Feel About Nursing

I Want it All: a Nourished Baby AND Good Manners (also superpowers)

Solid food posts:

Starting Baby on Solid Foods for Moms Who Don't Have Time For That Sort of Thing

I Do Not Cook Two Dinners: how we avoid mealtime battles

These two are about sleep training, which isn't what you asked, but mom-lead weaning might well include some crying oneself to sleep for the baby, and I really, really think that's okay.

Have a Baby They Said . . . It Will Sleep Like a Baby They Said

How I Changed My Mind About Sleep Training

Mailbag Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Family Movies for Holy Week on Netflix and Amazon

Movies can be a great way to bring families together, and a great way to help kids understand complicated concepts. Holy Week is an excellent time to do both of those things. So, even though we give up our family screen time during Lent, our family Holy Week traditions include watching some movies together. 

And they're available on Netflix or Amazon streaming! (Clicking on the movie title should open it for you in Netflix, if you are logged into your account, or take you to Amazon . . . this post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

2017 Update: Some of these movies are no longer available on Netflix, but I've added links to find them on Amazon streaming or via DVD. A new addition to the Netflix library is the History Channel miniseries The Bible, and the edited to movie-length version, called  Son of God.

I think either would be a good addition to a family's Holy Week. Especially episodes 8 and 9 of The Bible, which begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the crucifixion. Each episode is 48 minutes long. The depiction of Jesus' passion is not as bloody as in The Passion of the Christ. The focus of the camera is mostly on Jesus' pained reaction, or the horror of the crowd. At the scourging at the pillar, we see the red marks, but no ripping of flesh. There is dripping blood at the crowing with thorns, but we don't see the thorns going in. Jesus is bloody and battered as he carries His cross, but the focus is on His strength and perseverance, and the help He receives from Simon of Cyrene and Jesus' mother Mary. We see the nail, we see the hammer, but the camera cuts away before the nail is struck. I plan to show these two episodes to all my kids, even the little ones, over the course of the week. It may be too intense for sensitive kids.

The Bible is also available on Amazon streaming to rent or buy, or as a DVD.

I'd also like to add The Miracle Maker to my recommendations this year. It's claymation, and gore-free. I think it's very well done (Ralph Fiennes is excellent as Jesus) and appropriate for even the youngest kids. All my kids have seen and enjoyed it multiple times. (Although there are some scenes that may still seem intense for VERY sensitive young kids.) It's available streaming to rent or buy on Amazon, or on DVD.

So, here they are . . .

- 1. Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie -

Jonah, who spends three days in the belly of a whale, is an Old Testament prefigurement of Jesus, which makes this movie a good choice for Holy Week. Also, the Ninevites slap each other with fish, which is pretty great, any time. We've watched quite a few Veggie Tales movies, but I think this one is my favorite of them all. The songs are fun, the characters are charming, it's a fun watch for the whole family.  (also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

2016 Update: <sob> Jonah isn't streaming on Netflix anymore. But fortunately we have it on DVD. If I can find it. Joseph: King of Dreams is another Dreamworks movie that IS available on Netflix streaming this year. It's not as well-done as either The Prince of Egypt or Jonah, but it's a good look at a great Old Testament story for little kids who aren't up for Old Hollywood Bible Epics.

2017 Update: Jonah still isn't back on Netflix, but it is available streaming on Amazon to rent or own, or you can get the blu-ray in two days with Prime. I really do recommend it.

- 2. The Prince of Egypt - 

I really can't recommend this animated movie of the life of Moses highly enough. It has an all-star voice cast, and beautiful songs, and beautiful visuals. It's also the perfect thing to watch on Holy Thursday, as it features the Ten Plagues of Egypt and the Passover, which Jesus and his disciples were commemorating at the Last Supper. (also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

2017 update: It's still on Netflix! And it's still a big favorite around here.

- 3. The Robe -

This classic movie from 1953, starring a young Richard Burton, has the distinction of being the first movie ever shot in the super widescreen "CinemaScope" format. Oooooh. It is the story of a Roman officer, tormented by having participated in the crucifixion of Jesus. It's an old school Hollywood epic, complete with a cast of thousands, dramatic music, and a healthy dose of grimacing overacting. But, somehow, it still gets a lot right. Particularly the efficacy of relics, the freedom in forgiveness, and a very counter-cultural happy ending. There are cheesy bits, but overall it's still a really worthwhile film. It's appropriate for the whole family, but might not hold the attention of preschoolers. Also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

2016 Update: this one was unavailable on streaming for a while, but it's back! We also watched another movie this year, similar in feel and also appropriate for Lent, called Barabbas (the 1960s version). It's available streaming from Amazon, but not Netflix.

2017 Update: The Robe is no longer available on Netflix, but it is available to rent or buy on Amazon streaming, or as a DVD.

- 4. The Gospel of John -

This is a narration of the complete text of the Gospel of John, over the background of a very impressive visual representation of all of the events of the gospel. The entire movie is two hours and forty minutes, which might be a good way to spend the hours of noon to three pm on Good Friday. Or, if you don't have that much time, you can start at about 1:30 in, and watch beginning on Palm Sunday. The depiction of Jesus' passion is pretty restrained, all things considered (no whips are shown cutting in to his skin, we don't see the nails go in), but we do see Jesus' bloodied body, and his crucifixion. I would feel comfortable showing it to even my little kids. But it might be too intense for some. (available exclusively on Netflix streaming)

2017 Update:  It's no longer available on Netflix, but is available to rent or buy from Amazon streaming or on DVD. I like this version a lot, because of the way they use the actual text of the Bible, which I think is important for us to be familiar with, but I think The Bible (above) is a good Netflix alternative.

- 5. The Passion of the Christ -

I'm probably not going to tell you anything you don't already know about this movie. It's beautifully done, but very raw and painful to watch. As it should be, right? But this movie isn't for everyone, and it isn't for young children. I can't handle watching it every year, but our oldest is nearly thirteen, and I think we might watch it with him this Good Friday, after the other kids have gone to bed. (also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

2017 Update: The Passion of the Christ is no longer available on Netflix. But it is available for rent or purchase on Amazon streaming, or on DVD. I find this version of Jesus' passion and death to be the most moving of any I've seen depicted on film. Jim Caviezel's portrayal of Jesus has an appropriate gravity and love, but without the saccharine-quality of the Jesus of, for instance, the miniseries The Bible. It is too gory for my younger kids, but I want my teenagers to see this Jesus and what He suffered.

For more family activities for Holy Week, check out . . .

Lent: The End Begins (Ideas and Printables for Holy Week and Easter) 


The "You Can Still Do This" Guide to All Things Holy Week

AND . . . I've been meaning to sit down and put together a scripture-based Passion Play for kids, like the Nativity Play we do for Christmas. But now I don't have to, because Elena from A Rosary, a Tractor, and Some Books has just taken care of it. There are options for longer and shorter versions, and it's really pretty much just what I would have done, if I had done it, which I didn't.

A Passion Play for Kids

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post. (Also, I need us all to pretend that this is April, because I'm supposed to do one of these per month.)

What have I missed? Do YOU have any favorite Holy Week movies?