Sunday, December 28, 2014

Large Family Small Entryway

  What to do when you have a large family and your entryway or foyer is severely lacking in space? This seems to be a big question among large families. That, along with managing socks, cupboards, beds, clothes, etc. There's certainly a lack of ideas on Pinterest, so here's my contribution!

  We have a 3ft wide, T-shaped entry. People wait outside for their turn to come in. The winter fun aftermath is all sorts of chaos. We have plenty of hangers and hooks for coats. What we lack is area for people to enter, sit, and store their shoes. I fixed the shoe part, but the rest requires a remodel. And we all know that ain't happening.


Section 1 is where the door swings and the stairs start. Kids pile on the stairway to tie shoes. It is what it is.

Entryway Organization

Section 2 is the garage entry door and closet. This area has toddler coat hooks, key/purse hooks, a memo blackboard/corkboard I made, and our main storage. In the winter, boots melt off here along the wall. Otherwise they go in the garage.

Entryway Organization

  The closet is about 5ft wide and 2 ft deep. We used 1x3s on the wall as support for laminated wood shelves spaced 7-8 in apart. Enough to fit a high heel shoe and see what's shoved a the back. The wood rod is up as far as it'll go to hook up the kids coats. We've got Dad & Mom with 4 boys and 3 girls, so we just split the closet half boy / half girl sides. Our adult coats are in the garage or on the hooks. Each child has a church coat, rain/lightweight coat and a winter coat.

Entryway Organization

Section 3 of the T is part hallway to the downstairs. So it's critical this stays a walkway. When you add coats and hats to the hooks, good luck! Here we have a 8-square Cubby that holds each of the kids snow pants, hats, scarves and mittens. We ran out of space, so Dad & Mom get the bins on top.

Entryway Organization

Section 4? Well, Dad & Mom have more coats than the kids. Especially with dress coats, work coats, hunting gear, etc. So all those go out in the garage. One long pole with shelves above for misc, and a shelf below for winter/rain/work boot storage. Another area has storage bins full of coats and shoes for growing kids.

I know some people with less space than ours. I simply can't imagine, since we have no spare room in our bedroom closets. Others throw shoes into baskets, which wouldn't work for us either because shoes would be ruined and we have limited floor space.


I hope that sparks some ideas for you and your gathering space! Please share your links and ideas in the comments.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Petitions to Saint Nicholas

Praying to St Nicholas

Each year we hang our stockings in hopes that Saint Nicholas will come fill them on the eve of his feast day, December 6th. This has been a new tradition for my family, as when I was a child the stockings were typically filled on Christmas Eve. It did not sit well with me as a new mother that my children should associate Christmas, the birthday of Christ Jesus, with a Santa Claus of society's creation nor a saintly one.

Visit with St. NicholasVisiting St Nick 2009

Before the season begins, we visit Saint Nicholas at a local church and the children are always encouraged by photographers and bystanders to tell him their Christmas wishes. This typically is known to be toys. My children are well aware that we cannot afford much, and I would never want their hopes to be set high that a Saint or stranger would miraculously give them what they desire - concocted all by parents in an effort to get the kids to be good. How awful! My children are well aware that graces are the gifts given by the Lord as merit for doing good every day. We always tell Saint Nicholas "We're so excited for you to come by! Merry Christmas!" and smile for the camera.

Visit with St Nicholas

This year I have older children, in fact we have 6 children and one on the way. I felt the need to further this discussion and reiterate it with action. We are writing our "Letters to Santa," but they will be "Petitions" that St. Nicholas will read and share with God. They will be about hopes, fears, pleasures, desires, commitments, and prayers for others.


After the children have finished their letters, they will put them in their stockings prior to December 5th. The night before Dec 6 when all are asleep… "St. Nicholas" will collect the letters and leave a special treat in its place. Typically something between $10-20 depending on finances. Sometimes a pair of new slippers. We like adding chocolate coins in his memory, and I will be using this print-out from Catholic Cuisine to glue to each one.

St. Nick Came


Please share in the comments your thoughts on this approach, if you will include it in your tradition, and other ideas you may have!


I have more posts about our Advent traditions here:

Happy Saint Nicholas Day - our traditions

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - activities

Advent Stocking Tree - Countdown/advent calendar

Preparing for Jesus' Birthday - more kid sized activities

Every year we donate shoebox gifts to Operation Christmas Child

The Joyful Mysteries for Homeschoolers



Regarding praying to the saints and praying for others, a good argument for it:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Tree of Knowledge

Tree of Knowledge copy


Using these apples, you can keep track of information you learn in school. I made a sheet to get you started full of fun facts. Laminate the blank sheet and use dry erase marker to record new things, or print new ones and save the old apples to look back on each year! Punch a hole at the top and hang on a Forever Tree or other activity area.


Fun Facts on Apples - factideasFun Facts on Apples


For our family, this is our September activity. We change it up every month. For directions to create an "Our Forever Tree" as well as ideas for every month, CLICK HERE!


More Fun Facts found at:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Forever Tree for The Holy Spirit

The week of Pentecost we'll need a fun lesson to add to Our Forever Tree to learn about what all that fire above the Apostles was about. Use these activities to enrich your learning about the Holy Spirit! Print and cut around each image. You can pin to a bulletin board, hand on your wall tree, hang from a chandelier, or stick on the fridge.
*New project! More pictures after we've hung them up!*

The 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Piety, Fear of God, Knowledge, Fortitude
Forever Tree Holy Spirit Gifts
- We will be punching a hole at the top and hanging these from our chandelier with red-yel-org curling ribbon. The older kids will be writing the definition of each on the backside. These words sure make a good spelling list!
- definition @

The 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Peace, Goodness, Self Control, Generosity, Kindness, Joy, Modesty, Chastity, Faithfulness, Patience, Gentleness, Charity
Forever Tree Holy Spirit Fruits of Spirit
- My idea with this is to either print and hang,  or print two to a page and make several copies. When a child exhibits one of these fruits, they can hang it up! These will look so cute on Our Forever Tree.
- You might buy plastic fruit or make some out of clay and write the words on them and place them in a basket.

Buckets of Grace & Deadly Sins vs. Virtue

Add several rain drops on your tree/wall using either the printout, or paper cutouts. Each drop can have a name of a virtue or saintly action. When the child performs this action/virtue, remove it and put into a bucket. When it is full, offer them a special treat.

Using the 7 Deadly Sins clouds and Virtue suns, you can show how God's Light (the sun/virtue) can block out the darkeness (clouds/sin). But also, by allowing sin you cover up those opporunities for grace (sun/virtue). 

9 Spiritual Gifts - Charismata - Charismatic Graces
Forever Tree Holy Spirit spiritual gifts

- 1 Corinthians 12-14 "So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church."

These gifts or graces do not sanctify the individual, rather build up the church and help reach out to others. These gifts are often in need of discernment including having a Spiritual Director. But we can also look to these gifts for inspiration of which direction we would like to take our lives. Below are ways anyone can seek/use these gifts. Write some of your ideas on the back of these reminder cards (above).

The word of wisdom - First strive to think before you act or speak. Much wisdom comes from growing from past mistakes. Share your talents in your church.
The word of knowledge - Take time to read, pray and experience God's word in your life. It's not about being smarter, its about being a good student.
The gift of Faith - Faith is not just a belief or knowing, it's a complete trust in what you believe. Surrender to it.
The grace of healing - Wounds come in all shapes and sizes. Start by healing relationships. You can also take time to visit the sick and open your eyes to those wounded around you. Share God's love with them.
The working of miracles - Many times we miss a miracle happening in our lives. Read about the Miracles Jesus performed. Open your eyes and see the good in each day. Life is a miracle. Pray for respect for all life.
The gift of Prophecy - Many people gossip and speculate, so lets try to be a person who doesn't lie, falsely accuse or stereotype. However the Good News is always true and ready at hand in the Bible! Testify with your words and actions.
The discerning of spirits - There are spirits that are demonic, angelic and human. Start by focusing on the human spirit. Remove all temptation of deadly sin (pride, gluttony, sloth, etc). Pray to your guardian angel for protection and the Holy Spirit for guidance.
Diverse kinds of tongues - I have had the grace of speaking in tongues, praying in an angelic language. Most cannot, so start with speaking to God in prayer your own way. Traditional prayers are helpful, but try spontaneous prayer on your own, as well as with family and friends. Adoration is a favorite place to pray to God.
Interpretation of speeches - Some can understand the angelic language. Perhaps you're learning a new language such as Latin, Spanish, or sign language. Slow down and take time to understand others needs so you can be Christ to them. What is my friend, child or parent really saying to me with their words or actions?

- New Advent: Spiritual Gifts, Wikipedia: Spiritual Gifts
- Children Using Spiritual Gifts guide
- What is the Charismatic Renewal?

Catholic Education: Gifts of the Holy Spirit by Fr. William Saunders
Catholic Icing: Pentecost - flame hats, snacks, paper plate dove, handprint dove
The Catholic Toolbox: Pentecost Lesson Plans - games, discussion, crafts
Catholic Lesson Plans - word search, puzzles, lesson plan, game boards

Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Academy of Housekeeping and Play

I don't know that there are any real guidelines to unschooling. I think it's all the stuff you do when you're not doing formal bookwork. It's life-learning planned and unplanned. That's what we've been doing lately.

Homegrown Catholics: St Patricks Day

At the end of my pregnancy and after the cesarean, there was no energy in me to motivate my kids to learn anything other than stay calm, keep the house clean and let me nap. Some of those days incorporated holidays where we could leave the house and I could nap during the ride and the house stayed clean. Other days the kids were their own playmates and had fun with the hundreds of toys, movies, books and gadgets around the house. Winter is tough enough, then God said - make it longer in 2014.


Then she arrived. Our baby Molly came into this world so beautifully. You can read about it here: Growing in Grace - Family Centered 6th Cesarean.

Homegrown Catholics: Baby 6 Stylin


It really took 6 weeks to recover, so during that time I encouraged the kids to study their history and religion. We read their school books and watched Netflix films about the holocaust and science fun. We talked a lot about personal behavior and consequences, a perfect fit for Lent. I think in those six weeks we learned how to respect others and their stuff, stuff we're so privileged to have. We learned how to be attentive to others, be good helpers, and remember that we're a family. Table for Eight!

Homegrown Catholics: Table for Eight


Then the sun came out!

Homegrown Catholics: Nice Laundry Day

Who wants to be inside when winter FINALLY goes away. Not me!

First warm spring day 60 degree

First warm spring day 60 degreeFirst warm spring day 60 degree

Of course the kids went from winter into summer mode. They wanted to swim! Of course only inside pools are open for swimming in March. (I could shave my legs for that.

Homegrown Catholics: Worth Shavin ForHomegrown Catholics: Comm Ctr

We learned that everyone, including the toddler, was able to swim on their own. I love these floaties.

Breezy Point pool dayBreezy Point pool day

Breezy Point pool dayBreezy Point pool day


Well, it was short lived - we can't swim forever.

HGC: Fell asleep after coloring on faceHGC: Baby and Daddy sleeping


But there's only so much cleaning and staying at home that we can take! It feels so crowded here, even though our new addition was only under two feet long. It's the mounds of laundry, the toys in the hall and stairway, the sink full of dishes, and the whining  - all that never seems to go away.

HGC: SistersHCG: Daddy

HCG: Big Brother Can Fuss Too


Like with most homeschool moms I know, Spring brings homeschool burnout. For us it was more home burnout. So we left. I sewed a sling carrier for the occasion!

Modest Mommies: Baby Ring Sling

We took advantage of homeschool week at the Mall of America, and went to Sea Life.

MOA Sea Life homeschool week

And as long as we were there, Eddie got to join the Build-A-Bear pet club.

MOA BuildABear Workshop - EddieMOA BuildABear Workshop - Eddie

They even have free rides there!

MOA free ride


Now that I'm feeling more recovered at 8 weeks, we're catching up on all the chores and visiting we've been meaning to do. Holy Family it's a lot more than I anticipated! 6 times more. Do you ever really get caught up?

Melissa and children


SO I haven't got a regular schedule for homeschooling. We're taking each day as it comes, which looks like lots of outside time with all the warm weather and gardening. AKA Science, PE and Art.

But we know there will be rainy wet days and sweaty hot days ahead to come inside and do the rest of the "bookwork" AKA Math and Language Arts.


Happy Spring!


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