Friday, December 30, 2011

The Most Holy Name of Jesus & Epiphany Link Up

Celebrated on January 3, this feast is a new addition to the Liturgical Calendar.  This celebration reminds us that the name Jesus means Savior.  We rejoice at his birth because he is God’s son, because through him God is with us here on earth (Emmanuel, another of his names), and because he redeems us from sin through his sacrificial death.

One way that adults and older children can celebrate this day is to promise never to misuse or abuse the name of God or Jesus.  Children notice when others use language they have been asked to avoid; this celebration can help them remember that God asks us to respect his name and that of his son.  

I found a fun activity that reinforces the special attention we should pay to Jesus’ name at the advent post from Michelle at Hubbard’s Cupboard.  On her Advent page, you will find a whole calendar of Advent activities, some of which I wrote about in my first Advent post.  Her craft for December 11 (scroll down to where it says “Jesus is Named and Presented in the Temple”), is perfect for The Most Holy Name of Jesus.  She includes two links to pages you can print with “Jesus” in broad block letters.  Para cambiar el nombre al español, dibuja un acento encima de la "U".

I printed both pages, but my children have so far only completed the page from the second link.  We will decorate the other page, which includes the words from Luke 2:21, on January 3rd.  I gave my children glitter and sparkly things to glue onto the letters as she suggests, but they also decided to color, paste objects, and add their own embellishments.


We may even attach our pages to poster board or cardboard for durability and hang them on the wall as a reminder throughout the year. 

We decorated the second page on January 3rd.  I think these would work well as interior pages for January lapbooks dedicated to The Most Holy Name. Hmmmnnn… we may have to make some of those.


Here is the updated photo from our completed stable and manger scenes that now include the baby Jesus.  You can see the empty ones at this post.


The next major event of the Christmas season is the Epiphany of the Lord, celebrated on January 6th (celebrated on January 8th in 2012), when we commemorate the Visit of the Magi.  The link up for this event is hosted by Martha at una vida católica en construcción(Unfortunately, the Epiphany Link up is no longer available for viewing).

My post for Epiphany will explain how we will construct a special Star of Bethlehem to hang over our nativity so it can guide the Magi to Jesus.  We have a statue of the Holy Family that we actually keep out year round, and this year we received a statue of the Magi that is nearly equal in size as a gift.  We need a large ornamental star to complement this scene.  Check back soon to see how it turns out.


In 2011, I linked with the Christmas Link up hosted by Beatriz at De FAMILIA, dos puntos.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Giveaway Winner

My friend from high school, Tracy, wins an autographed copy of Entre la claridad.  I’ll be giving away another copy next week, so check back to learn the details on how to enter.


Thank you to those who have participated in the drawings; I will also have a second chance drawing for those who did not win any of the previous giveaways.

I am looking for fresh ideas about how to increase participation in these giveaways.  I know that the holidays keep people busy and away from blogs and Facebook and even e-mail, but if you have suggestions, please let me know.  

While I’m taking suggestions, if you have ideas or topics you would like to read about in the coming year, I’d like to hear about them.  Soon, I will write more posts about healthy living, food, and healthier choices for specific foods.  Planned topics include nutritional benefits and recipes for beans, reviews of the My Plate recipes, and recent studies of the arsenic content in apple juice.  I did not have time to post about the healthier Thanksgiving Dinner in November, but we have two turkeys in the freezer, so the next time we prepare one, I will make a point to write about that.  

I hope to post about my upcoming presentation and reading at the AWP Conference, before and afterI want to write reviews of other books published by Mouthfeel PressI may give you a round-up of some of the interesting topics my students chose for their advocacy presentations this past semester.  And, there will be more posts that are part of the Liturgical Calendar Link Up Party organized by Familia Católica.  My next post is part of the Christmas link up, an activity for The Most Holy Name of Jesus, celebrated on January 3.

In the meantime, if you want to buy Entre la claridad rather than waiting for a giveaway, it is available for $7.00 from Mouthfeel Press.  Don’t forget to explore the other books from the press while you are there; you’ll see a selection of books by innovative and talented poets.  

Have you liked the Entre la claridad page on Facebook?  I post notices about writing, readings, publications, and literary events there, including things that I don’t have the chance to blog about.  Do go like the page if you are interested in those topics, or if you just like my book!

Reading an anthology is a good way to familiarize yourself with poetry.  My poem “Bat Bridge” is included in the new collection of poems about the sacred by Mutabilis Press, Improbable Worlds.  You can read about and buy that book here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mary Spoon Puppets for Dramatizing

On January 1, Catholics will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God.  This is one of the many days we honor Mary throughout the liturgical year, and I wanted my children to make something that we could use each time we learn about Mary.

A few weeks ago, I found really easy instructions for making spoon puppets of Mary posted by Martianne at Training Happy Hearts.  I thought they were a really fun idea that we could use to dramatize the events of Mary’s life throughout the year, but especially for this day, when we remember that Mary answered God’s call by naming her son Jesus, as the angel Gabriel instructed her.  You can find Martianne’s instructions here, along with details about making Mary Garden Baskets (both actual ones and paper ones to send in the mail).  While winter isn’t the best season for planting flowers, I think the paper Mary Garden Baskets would be another great activity to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary.  This is how our puppets turned out.


We did not make our clothing exactly the same way as Martinane and her children, mainly because we did not have bowls big enough to trace a circle for a dress large enough to cover the spoon.  I already had some blue fabric scraps that were about 18 x 22 inches, so I just folded them over, folded them again, and rounded off the corners with scissors.  I cut one slit in the folded corner to thread the spoon through.  My oldest daughter decided Mary needed a cloak instead of a veil, so I cut a white rectangle about 12 x 15 inches, folded it to the inside around the head and tied it with yarn.  This activity was super easy, really quick, and inexpensive; if you don’t have fabric scraps, you can look for inexpensive remnants wherever you buy fabric.

We made spoon saints last year using construction paper for the clothing; read how here.  What I like about this version with fabric clothing is the durability; Mary can participate in many play scenarios without much wear and tear.  And, I think we may try to make other saints the same way in the future; the possibilities are endless.  My children have already asked to make Joseph, so I’ll have to look for dark fabric scraps next.

Mary’s first dramatization was to ride a “donkey” on her trip to Bethlehem.  Here she is in our hallway on her way to the stable in our living room.


My oldest daughter decided her puppet could also represent Elizabeth, but Mary was still busy on the road to Bethlehem, so we will have to dramatize the Visitation later.  See our dramatization of the Annunciation here.

We already have some wonderful plaques that my children made for the Assumption of Mary in August.  I wrote about how to do this for the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe; see the post here.  If you don’t have something like this to pray or say the rosary with, you could make one for this feast using an image of Mary with the Christ child, or any image of Mary.  My friend Jen said her boys, who usually don’t enjoy doing crafts, really enjoyed making their plaques for the Virgin of Guadalupe.  Here is one they made.


We are trying to stay focused on the wait for Jesus.  A few days ago, we read Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9: 6-7 and prepared a cradle for Jesus, as I suggest in my first advent postThis year, we made mangers for Jesus based on this craft from Lacy at Catholic Icing.  My youngest preferred to make the stable instead, so I’ll help her draw in the manger on Christmas day, when we place baby Jesus into the pictures.  Here are one stable and one manger waiting for Jesus to be born.


See the finished pictures here.  Wishing you a blessed and Merry Christmas season.

Reminder: I am hosting a giveaway for my new chapbook of poems.  See my last post for details.  If you already follow or subscribe to this blog, have announced the book on social media, or have liked the FB page, all you have to do to enter is tell me you want to participate in the drawing!  FYI: If you are reading this post after December, this giveaway has already happened.

I am linking this post to the Christmas Link Up hosted by Beatriz at De FAMILIA, dos puntos, part of the Liturgical Calendar Link up Party organized by Xhonané at Familia Católica.  The Christmas season extends beyond Christmas Day, so go see the other ideas for celebrating and learning.



I have also attached this post to a Celelinky with the Saints hosted by Monica at Equipping Catholic Families.  Her link up includes posts about individual saints and for celebrating all the saints.  Go check it out.


And, since our Mary spoon puppet is making her journey to Bethlehem, I have also attached this post to Erika’s link up for advent, Preparing for Baby Jesus.  You will find even more Advent ideas by clicking on the button below.


One more: Jennifer at Crafolic is hosting a Month of Mary Craft and Décor Link up, so I have linked there also.  These puppets can be used to celebrate Mary year round.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Book Has Arrived: Enter the Drawing


Yesterday, I received my copies of Entre la claridad, and I am so happy to have my new book in my hands.  This also means I can give one away to you, so please read on about how to participate in the drawing to win your very own copy.

This time, there are multiple ways to enter, which means you can have multiple entries.  Someone in my family will draw the winning name on the evening of Tuesday, December 27, so even if you are super busy this Advent and Christmas season, you have time to enter.  

In case you have missed my earlier posts, this book is my second chapbook of poetry, an achievement that has taken me ten years to realize.  Of course, I have not been writing the book for all of those ten years; I took time away from my writing career to marry and start a family.  While the delay was certainly worth all the rewards of married and family life, I am grateful that I now have some time to devote to writing again.

Early this year, I made a commitment to write at least once a week, and after I was asked by a friend to submit to Mouthfeel Press, many of those weeks were devoted to choosing poems to appear in the book, placing them in order, revising the poems, choosing a title, and reconsidering which poems should be in the book.  Then I sent the manuscript to Mouthfeel, and waited for a response.  Seeing the book in print is a lovely reward for my writing efforts this past year.

For those of you unfamiliar with poetry, a chapbook is a small book, so reading a chapbook is a good way to familiarize yourself with poetry in general, or a particular poet.  My chapbook contains twenty poems, mostly about my and my family’s experiences living in South Texas, a border community with a culture enriched by two languages, two cultures, and a strong sense of family history.
Here is what a few others have to say about the poems:

“One lives in the zone of clarity when one lives in two worlds, versus living in one culture where there is only one set of ideas/beliefs instilled...When one lives entre la claridad, one lives a full life of various experiences as noted in your poetry collection-- so much richer, open and wide. Here, there are no boundaries or border or mapas.”       —Maria M.

“I loved your poems with the mixture of English and Spanish and hearing about the letters your parents wrote each other.  Funny now to think that your grandmother thought her daughter moving to Dallas was not a good idea.  Really lovely work and words.”          —Beverly M.

If you have read either of my chapbooks, heard me read in person, or listened to the radio broadcasts (listen to the archives here), let me know what you think.  I would like to post a round-up of comments in the future.  I may even host a future drawing especially for those who write a short review about my poetry!

There are multiple ways to enter this week’s drawing, so you can enter more than once.  The key to each of them is to let me know after you have completed the action(s) requested below that you wish to enter the drawing.  Just leave a comment, or send an e-mail.

  • Follow this blog using the blue button in the left sidebar, or by subscribing via e-mail at the top of the right sidebar.  New followers or subscribers get two entries!
  • Announce the book on the social media platform of your choice.  The easiest way to do this is to use the Facebook, twitter, or Google Plus One buttons at the bottom of this post or in the right sidebar.  Or, get creative.  My publisher quoted from the end of this blog post when she posted a link to the blog with a picture of the book on Facebook.
  • Like the Entre la claridad page on Facebook.  

If you already follow or subscribe to this blog, have announced the book on social media, or have liked the FB page, all you have to do to enter is tell me you want to participate in the drawing!

Here is another teaser from the book, to build your interest.  You can read a teaser from the first poem in the book here, and from the second poem in the book here.  These lines are from “Aguacate,” a poem in the middle section of the book:

Slippery flesh that melts in my mouth,
yellow green color of new leaves,
when I squeeze your oval body
after slicing you in half,
your insides chunk off
the smooth underside of your skin,

If you want to buy Entre la claridad, it is available for $7.00 from Mouthfeel Press.  Take a look at the other books from the press while you are there; you’ll see a selection of books by innovative and talented poets.  

Also, my poem “Bat Bridge” is included in the new collection of poems about the sacred by Mutabilis Press, Improbable Worlds.  Reading an anthology is another good way to familiarize yourself with poetry.  You can read about and buy that book here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Crafts for Christmas

Keeping Christmas focused on family time and Jesus is important to me, so I make sure my children have plenty of nativity and holy family activities to keep them busy during the season.  I will list several of the activities we have done in the past, as well as some we plan to try this year below.  But, I start with a Mexican Posada tradition: the piñata.

The piñata is not just for birthday parties, and since Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, you have two reasons to break one this season.  Traditionally, piñatas were filled with nuts and small oranges as well as candy and toys.  My in-laws usually celebrate with one on Christmas Eve, and they have been known to put in lottery tickets also.

This year, we will have two piñatas: the large one filled with treats, and a small one my daughter made at school.  She wants to try breaking it too; I’m not sure it will tear up and spill its contents, but we’ll see.  It takes several days to make, but it’s worth trying if you aren’t able to buy a piñata in your community, or just want to make one for a fun decoration.  Here’s how my daughter and her classmates made theirs.


You will need:
a balloon
newspaper
lots of glue, mixed with a little water
crepe paper
more glue

Blow up the balloon.  Cut the newspaper into wide strips and wet them in the glue mixture.  Cover the balloon with 3 – 4 layers of newspaper strips, smoothing them out as you go.  After the newspaper has dried, cut the crepe paper into thin strips and then into pieces about 4 - 6 inches long.  Then cut fringe about halfway through each piece and glue the uncut edge around the balloon in stripes until the entire balloon is covered.  Now you have a piñata.  If you want to fill it, pop the balloon, or you can use the tied end of the balloon to hang it as a decoration.

Hang your filled piñata by tying yarn or string several times around the middle of a jumbo popsicle stick, slipping the stick inside and pulling the string to brace the ends of the stick against the sides of the piñata.  Be sure to use plenty of string so that it doesn’t get lost should it fall inside the hole of the piñata.  Double the string over and tie it into in a large loop before you attach it to the popsicle stick for easy hanging on a hook or branch in your yard or patio.

You can also make a simpler decorative version by stuffing a paper lunch bag with newspaper, stapling it closed and gluing fringed crepe or tissue paper to the outside.  We made one of these at a library craft time several years ago, but I do not have a picture of it.

Here is a picture of a couple of the nativity crafts we made last year; these are simple color, cut, and paste worksheets available from First School/Primera Escuela.  They also have color versions you can print.  


Link to the English page hereEnlace de la hoja en Español aquí (no tiene el nacimiento en esta hoja, pero hay otras manualidades).  You will find other Christmas crafts and coloring sheets on these pages, as well as many other crafts and patterns throughout their entire site.

This year, we are going to make Lacy’s printable Nativity, available here.  She offers her drawings as a download.  You can make a full standing Nativity using her drawings and 13 toilet paper tubes, or print them on card stock.  Lacy’s blog, Catholic Icing, also has many other Christmas crafts and a Christmas link-up.

We will also make some angel ornaments from Designs by Birgit, as described here.  We probably won’t put faces on ours as she suggests, because I plan to use them as angel puppets to dramatize the Nativity, the Annunciation, and guardian angels.  Yesterday, my oldest daughter drew an angel on my plastic cup (along with my name) when we were visiting with family and said, “Mommy likes angels.”  I think she did this because I’m always reminding her to make behavioral choices that the angels and saints would.  Perhaps keeping these angels in our home will serve as a visual reminder also.


In 2013 I am linking with: Christmas in July


In 2011 I linked with: The Christmas Link Up, Preparing for Baby Jesus

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