Monday, March 3, 2014

Lent with the littles

I feel like every Lent for the last 31 years has been a bust.  I always give something up.  And I try to add some extra prayers in.  But most of that is internal preparation.  And I always feel like I could have done more.

Christmas, on the other hand, is over the top preparation on the exterior AND the interior.  I think that having decorations and outward signs are a fantastic aid to keep us on the journey toward Easter.  And now that I am a homeschooling mom, and Leo is getting so much older, it is up to me to observe the large plank lodged square in the center of my eye before I start throwing out advice to my children for Lenten practices.  And I have lots of crafty things that I can do with the kids to help us all remember exactly what we are getting ready to celebrate!!

I am so excited to be waaaaay on top of the ball this lent.  It took a little bit of planning, but no more than I do in a day for homeschool anyway.  It was as easy as a quick google search "lent with kids".  We are shooting big by trying lots of different things this Lent and anything that ends up a winner will be reinstated next year, and the losers will just phase out.

I'm a realist.  I don't know if we'll get around to completing all of them this Lent.  
They are small and messy.  And exhausting.  

But, I found so many good ideas on the Catholic Icing Lent Pinterest board that we are going to go ahead and add these to the Gale Family roundup for Lent 2014:

Our Lenten Calendars up on the wall:

Up top is my 40 Bags in 40 Days calendar.  I know if I didn't print the checklist out, I wouldn't do it.  This way, it stares me in the face while we do school every morning.  Below is the Catholic Icing Printable Lenten Calendar.  I just drew it onto a huge posterboard so the kids could color in each day as we travel through Lent!

I am really excited about this one.  I have never taken the kids through the Stations of the Cross.  But now that they are older, I think this is a great year to start.  I found this fantastic idea for a Montessori Stations of the Cross box on Three Sided Wheel.  She offers a free printable, so I had Jason print them on cardstock and I wrapped them with contact paper.  Now I just have to find a box and the items to put inside!

Look at what a creative idea she came up with!!  One item to represent each station.  Hopefully this will be hands-on enough that the kids won't lose interest and get all wild and crazy in the middle of the church...????
And I thought this was a cute idea to help us out if they need ideas for sacrifices they can make during Lent.  Our religion book through Kolbe Academy has a list of 20 sacrifices you can make during Lent.  I copied each one onto a popsicle stick, and if the kids want to, they can pick one out of the bag.

Lastly, I purchased a couple cheap supplies:

so that on Ash Wednesday, instead of our regular morning of school we will be making these:  A bunch of purple salt dough crosses to hang up in the classroom.  I think the kids will have blast making them and they will make the room a bit more Lent focused.


and this:

A playdough crown of thorns with toothpicks: each time a child does something great (a sacrifice, being obedient, sharing, etc.), they get to pull a toothpick out of the crown.  So simple and sweet!

The only other thing I did was make this webpage my homepage for Lent:  That way, I can prepare in advance our meat-free dishes rather than scrambling on Friday afternoon after I have already thawed a pound of ground meat!

Now I have to quickly finish the bag of chocolate bars I picked up yesterday so I don't have to stare at them for 40 days...

And now I leave you with photos of our iced over East Texas backyard today!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes (#54)

It's either this or laundry...

1) Lots of you already saw this on my facebook page, but I'm so proud of him I have to post it here too!!  Leo finished the phonics program at Christmas with only a few difficulties.  We immediately jumped into the next part of the school year: McGuffey's Eclectic Primer.  I was excited for this part, but a little nervous since I already knew that he might have a hard time with reading.  

McGuffey's gave us a run for our money.  For a little less than 2 weeks, we plugged away trying to read words and sound them out.  Trying to put sentences together.  Trying to cheer and encourage as the concept clicked.  But Leo was soooo frustrated.  He spent the last 3 days in tears and so I put the book away and polled Facebook for a solution.  90% of the responses were in favor of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, so I jumped on the bandwagon and bought it.  After about 14 lessons, we picked up McGuffey's one more time to see if it was something we could add back in and Leo read the first couple pages with NO PROBLEMS!!  No crying or frustration. And he was sooo proud of himself.  

When we actually do arts and crafts, I take a million pictures.  All 2 times.  Of course, I have none of him reading!
I'm not proud of Leo THAT he can now start to read.  I don't buy into the hype that children in Kindergarten have to learn how to read.  (Jason and I are pretty darn articulate and we spent our half-days of Kindergarten painting pictures, singing songs, and trying not to have accidents in public.)  I'm proud of the way he handled the stress of learning how to read.  He was beating himself up pretty bad when the concept wasn't clicking.  But he kept trying each day without giving up and I'm really happy that in the end, he emerged victorious.  Seeing the look on his face when we revisited McGuffey's Primer and he crushed it, the source of his angst and frustration, was soooo worth the effort!!

This first year of homeschooling has been such a fun ride so far and I never imagined I would actual like it.  I'm glad we started now so we can continue if we want!  I think we will still take the decision year by year, but I am feeling more inclined to say homeschool forever after this last year!!  

Although it does have its downsides...

2) I had a MUCH needed Mom's night out with our local Catholic Moms Group and we made these Lenten centerpieces.  

It was only $6 and almost everything came from The Dollar Store!  Except the tree branches and glue guns.  Seriously - if you have a couple girlfriends, a few bottles of wine and some brownies, this is the perfect hangout activity to prep for Lent!

You need:
Glue Guns
Ribbon (for burial cloth)
Fake grass
Twigs for crosses

Or you could go all over-achiever on this project and use real grass: tutorial


3) February is birthday month for us.  Roman's 2nd birthday was the 15th and Elena's is tomorrow!

2 years old!!

He helped make the cake :)

He is a pirate.  And he means business

No seriously - do NOT mess with him.

Cousins came to play for the entire weekend.  I LOVE having family close enough to drive over for a party!!  

4) My 4 year old!!!!

This picture cracks me up.  It looks completely normal until I noticed WHO she is staring at like this:


5) Miracle of miracles!!!  It snowed for 30 minutes in Texas!!!!!!

I think I heard 99% of you scoff from your northern homes.  I recognize the silliness of this "news".  But I refuse to post things about weather on Facebook so this is my only outlet.  When you are all snowed in for weeks at a time, we are outside enjoying the weather.  It all comes full-circle when the heat and humidity kills us in the summer, but I don't want to torture you all regularly by showing our shirt/shorts combos in February.

6) Hi.  My name is Lisa.  And I am a Legomaniac.

Leo got this huge Lego set and he isn't old enough yet to put all the pieces together by himself.  I spent no less than SEVEN HOURS putting together the firehouse, a helicopter, airplane, ladder truck, rescue boat, rescue car and motorcycle.

And I loved every.minute.  I can't believe I'm 32 and I have never played with legos before.  But it was oddly cathartic to work on building each individual piece and see it through to the end.  I feel like I should put a set on my wishlist for my birthday.  I liked it THAT MUCH!

7) But something I like more than legos is dessert.  I decided to make a Chocolate Eclair Cake completely from scratch.  I thought finding a recipe to put this cake together would be relatively easy but I was SO WRONG!  I searched the internet for over an hour to try to find the recipes I needed.  This meant: no graham crackers, no "no-bake" cake, no instant packages of vanilla pudding, and no cool whip!  I wanted the real thing.

I had to combine three recipes in order to make this bad boy.  This eclair cake, these classic eclairs, and this whipped cream.  For ease of making this in the future, I am going to list the directions and ingredients.  If you get a wild hair and love boston creme donuts as much as I do - definitely make this!!!

Chocolate Eclair Cake completely from scratch
Chocolate Eclair Cake


Pastry Puff:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 
1 cup water 
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour 
4 large eggs 

Chocolate Filling: 
2 ounces semisweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons butter 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup confectioners' sugar 
3 tablespoons hot water

Vanilla Custard Cream Filling:
12 egg yolks 
4 cups whole milk 
1 1/2 cups sugar 
2 tbsp vanilla extract 
1/2 cup flour 
1 stick butter

Whipped Cream Topping:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp confectioners' sugar


Preheat oven to 400 F.

For the Pastry:
1) In a large heavy saucepan, heat butter and water to boiling over medium-high heat. Add flour and reduce heat to low. Cook and stir until it forms a ball and pulls away from the pan.
2) Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.
3) Spread in bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.
4) Bake at 400 degrees F for 35 minutes. Cool completely.

For the Chocolate Filling: 
1) Melt chocolate and butter in a pan on low heat stirring constantly until smooth.
2) Stir in vanilla.
3) Sift in the powdered sugar, a little at a time, stirring as you go. Dribble water in to the mixture until smooth and spreadable (you may or may not use all the water).
4) Spread over the cooled pastry.

For the Custard:
1) Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and flour together in a large bowl. 
2) Bring milk to a boil. Slowly pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture, continuously whisking. This is called ‘tampering the yolks’. 
3) Pour the mixture back into the pot and bring to a boil, continuously stirring and going along the bottom of the pot in zigzag motion with a rubber spatula, to prevent scorching. It WILL stick if you stop. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. 
4) Add the vanilla extract & butter. Allow the butter to melt and stir for it to incorporate. 
5) Cover the custard with plastic wrap it touches the custard. To speed up the process you can transfer the custard into a jelly-roll pan, spread it thin, covering with plastic wrap will avoid skin formation. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the whipped cream topping:
In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.

Putting it all together:
When the puff pastry has cooled, spread the chocolate on the puff pastry.  Spread the custard on top of that and top it with the whipped cream.  Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The reality of baby #4

First thing first:  THIS BABY IS A GIRL!!!!!!!   This so exciting for SO many reasons:
  • Jason and I convinced ourselves this was a boy since I was sick with the boys and had absolutely no morning sickness with Elena. This was SUCH a welcome surprise!
  • Now Leo's OCD will not go into overdrive. We have the proper order of boy, girl, boy, girl...and Leo declared happily, "Now I can marry to Elena and Roman can marry to the baby girl!"  Ahhhh, all is right with the world...
  • I always wondered if Elena would be my only girl. But now, not only do I get to enjoy another girl, but Elena is going to have a sister!!!
Now, onto the reality of a fourth pregnancy since we got married less than 7 years ago:

*DISCLAIMER: Jason and I are ecstatic that I am pregnant.  We are super excited to meet this baby and care for it forever.  The kids are beyond thrilled that they get a new sister.  And this baby has no idea how lucky she is to have three older siblings ready to spoil her and torture her for the rest of her life.

This post in no way reflects an attitude of apathy toward this new baby.  It's just real life.  Life with three other small kids and not enough hours in the day or mental energy to compare schedules before sonogram appointments are made or be creative with announcements.

How Jason found out I was pregnant:  
An early morning conversation on Gmail chat:
Friday, October 18, 2013 9:27 AM
Lisa Gale
Jason Gale
whats up
Lisa Gale
remember when I said a couple weeks ago that my cycle was all wonky?
Jason Gale
Lisa Gale
Jason Gale
late...or pregnant???
Lisa Gale
Jason Gale
i think?
pick one!
And this is how I announced the gender 
(he was boarding a flight at the same time as my sonogram!)

Jason promises me he will at least try to Skype for the birth...

And now: BRING ON THE PINK!!!!

Elena, Feb 2010

Friday, January 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes (#53)

I am so flattered.  Cari Donaldson, author of Pope Awesome, and blogger at, has completely outdone herself in the bloat Lisa's ego and make her feel all warm and bubbly inside by featuring me on her hugely popular blog.  Cari you are the sweetest.  Thank you!!  And now I am completely aware and feeling guilty for abandoning my blog for so many weeks.  But using the few brain cells I have fighting for air inside my head, I have saved a few quotes from my offspring for a rainy day.  Here are the the latest nuggets of wisdom:

Me: Leo, check this out!  It's your team soccer photo!!
Leo: Wow.  This is so cool.  But I keep looking and looking and I can't find the camera??
Me: ???Huh???
Leo: Where is the camera?  It's not attached?
Me: OH!!  Leo, this is called a "print".  We print the photo from the camera onto a piece of paper.  Then you can hold the picture in your hands.  It's magical.

Elena: Mom, I love kissing.

Me: Leo, check out your soccer trophy
Leo: Does this mean I won?!
Me: Not exactly.  This is called a "participation trophy".
Leo: So....did I win or something?
Me: You're right.  This is stupid.

Me: Roman, you are hurting me
Roman: I step on BABY!!!

Elena: The Redskins RULE and the Blueskins DROOL!!!

Leo: Mom, can I eat the seeds in the popcorn?
Me: No buddy.  The kernels will hurt your teeth.
Leo: Will it make your teeth fall out?
Me: Yup.
Leo: Then do it!  You can get money!

Homeschool for the win:
Me: Leo, Who created all the living things?
Leo: Uh...A chicken?

And please go visit Jen for more QT!!

(Thank you Cari for the ego boost and encouragement to blog again!!!)