Joan of Arc, Super Hero Saint {May 30}

Friday, May 30, 2014

Most people have heard of Joan of Arc, but few know that she is a Catholic saint.  Hers is an unbelievable story of courage and faith.

If I think back to when I was in my teens, I spent most of my days driving around with friends, playing lacrosse or field hockey, perusing malls, eating Little Debbies, and talking on the phone (a house phone at that).  Well in her preteens, Joan of Arc, a peasant girl from the countryside, started hearing voices...the voices of saints:  St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret.  By her teens, the voices told her to go to the King of France and help him reclaim much of his kingdom from the English, during the Hundred Years' War.  And she did.  Just a girl from the countryside, going to chat with the King of France.  What?!

Here is a quote of her explaining the voices:

"I was thirteen when I had a Voice from God for my help and guidance. The first time that I heard this Voice, I was very much frightened; it was mid-day, in the summer, in my father's garden. I had not fasted the day before. I heard this Voice to my right, towards the Church; rarely do I hear it without its being accompanied also by a light. This light comes from the same side as the Voice. Generally it is a great light. Since I came into France I have often heard this Voice. … If I were in a wood, I could easily hear the Voice which came to me. It seemed to me to come from lips I should reverence. I believe it was sent me from God. When I heard it for the third time, I recognized that it was the Voice of an Angel. This Voice has always guarded me well, and I have always understood it; it instructed me to be good and to go often to Church; it told me it was necessary for me to come into France. You ask me under what form this Voice appeared to me? You will hear no more of it from me this time. It said to me two or three times a week: 'You must go into France.' My father knew nothing of my going. The Voice said to me: 'Go into France !' I could stay no longer. It said to me: 'Go, raise the siege which is being made before the City of Orleans. Go !' it added, 'to Robert de Baudricourt, Captain of Vaucouleurs: he will furnish you with an escort to accompany you.' And I replied that I was but a poor girl, who knew nothing of riding or fighting. I went to my uncle and said that I wished to stay near him for a time. I remained there eight days. I said to him, 'I must go to Vaucouleurs.' He took me there. When I arrived, I recognized Robert de Baudricourt, although I had never seen him. I knew him, thanks to my Voice, which made me recognize him."

In 1429, at 17, Joan of Arc was suited in armor and fighting on the battlefield at Orleans.  She was a part of what are often deemed miraculous military successes, and saw the crowning of King Charles in part of France that had been heavily occupied by the English.  

However, after those couple years of success, Joan was captured and tried by the English for heresy.  She was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431 at  just 19 years old.  

Of course, that is a very short summary of her life.  More information can be found at Catholic Culture and Maid of Heaven.  

Besides her story, Joan also left us with some awesomely inspiring quotes.  These are a few of my favorites:

joan of arc quotes | joan-of-arc-quote  My Pregnancy, labor & delivery mantra!
Genius Quotes

Lifehack Quotes
St Joan of Arc
Screaming Catholic.tumblr

What I love so much about St. Joan of Arc is her sheer obedience to God.  She followed His will even if it meant leaving all she knew, risking her life, and inevitably dying.  She showed great courage in doing what seemed to be impossible, especially being a girl from a poor family in that time period.  She is an example of faith and trust in God.  I want to be more like her!  And I want to show my 5 year old, Grace, examples of strong women who follow God.  

Here are a few ideas I've found to teach kids about this amazing saint:

Color pictures of St. Joan of Arc

saint joan of arc coloring
St. Joan of Arc Coloring Pages
Catholic Playground

Learn about her battle standard (battle flag).

St. Joan carried three "flags" into battle with her:  the battle standard (above), pennon, and banner.  A description of each can be found at the St. Joan Center.  These pieces tell a lot about Joan's faith.

I am planning on having Grace make her own standard, and I'll include that in an upcoming post.

Check out the Joan of Arc Activity and Resource Book

The Animated Heroes Classics Activity and Resource Book for Joan of Arc has over 40 pages of activities, such as coloring pages, games, crosswords, quiz questions, and discussion questions that you can print out and use.  I particularly like the coloring pages with descriptions of her life events, as well as activity suggestions like creating a coat of arms or flag  (like above).  

"Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it."
- Mark Twain

How to Add Text to Photos {Easy and Free!}

Thursday, May 22, 2014

When I first started blogging, I searched out ways to add text to photos or images.  The best way that I have found is using a website called Ribbet. is a photo editing website that provides all the services I want for FREE.  All you have to do is register.  I also suggest linking to your Facebook account, if you have one, because it lets you use photos from your Facebook page, as well as your friends' pages.

After you have registered, you can start uploading and editing photos.  So here is...

I.  Upload photo

At the Ribbet homepage, you can upload an image from your computer.  You can also click the Library tab and retrieve images from your computer, Facebook, Picasa, Google+, or Flickr.

I uploaded this photo of my dad and I during the Father-Daughter dance at my wedding. 

II.  Do basic edits

When you upload your photo, you will automatically be on the Basic Edits tab.  Here you can crop, sharpen, and brighten/darken your photo.  

If you are adding words, you may not want to do much cropping, as having extra free space will make it easier to fit text.  If you're not sure what to do, leave your photo alone because you can always go back later and do more edits.

My original photo was a little dark, so I went to the Exposure section, and messed around with the settings a little to lighten it up.

3.  Cool effects

Next, go to the Effects tab.  This is where all the fun photo effects are, just like with Instagram.  Some are free, others require a Premium subscription (which will be shown by the word premium on the right side of the effect's box).  I only use the free options and have found them to be all that I need.  Scroll down to see your options.  I usually opt for the Filters section or black and white.  

I wanted to focus on my dad and I, so I chose black and white.  Then, I used the effect painting to put color on us and on the Maryland flag window.  

4.  Add text

The next step is to add text to your photo, so click on the Text tab (pretty obvious, right?).  You simply type your text into the empty text box on the left side of the screen, choose the font, and click the Add button below the text box.  There are a wide array of fonts to choose from, but you can also upload your own fonts if you find any cool ones online to download.  

Your text will automatically show up white, but you can change the color, as well as the size, fade, blend modes, etc. on the pop up of text properties.  If you want to match colors in your photo, click the box to the right of the color choices to use the color sampling tool (it looks like an eyedropper).  You can drag it across different parts of your photo and click to choose the color displayed.

If you are finding that your text doesn't fit well or you want different fonts for different words, try entering the text as separate text boxes. 

I found a nice father quote to add.  Each line you see was added as a separate text box.  I searched for some contrasting fonts that would work and moved them to various places on the photo to see what would work best.  My method is just guess and test (you know, like 1st grade scientific method).  

5.  Make your text show up

Sometimes it can be difficult to read text depending on the colors or patterns in a photo.  If this is the case, I typically add a shape as a background behind the text.  To do this, go to the Stickers tab.  Scroll down to Geometric and choose a basic shape.  I've found that rectangles and ovals work best.  
Stretch and move your shape to cover the text you want.  Then, right click and go to Send to Back.  This will put your shape behind the text and bring your text back to the front so you can read it.  

Fiddle with the Sticker Properties to change color, size, and fade.  

I didn't really need to use a sticker on my photo because my text showed up just fine with the black and white background.  But to show you how it can be done, here is an example where I added a rectangle, moved it back, and faded it.


6.   Add a border

If you want to add a border to your photo, simply go to the Frames tab.  There are not a lot of free choices, but the basic Border option turns out pretty nice.  You can also change the colors and thickness.  

I added a basic frame and matched the color to the Maryland flag window using the color sampling tool (the eyedropper).n the Maryland flag window.

7.  Save it!

You probably don't need me to tell you this, but when you are all done editing your photo, you will want to click save!  

Here is my finished image.  I think it turned out pretty nice, and it just might be part of my Father's Day present to my dad. :)

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St. Isidore the Farmer {May 15}

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I'm really trying to learn more about the saints, and in turn pass that knowledge onto my children.  St. Isidore is a great saint to teach children about.  He was born in 1070 in Spain, and lived the life of a farmer, caring for the poor and finding happiness in simply serving God.  St. Isidore is the patron saint of farmers, rural communities, and of Madrid, the capital of Spain.  

Here are some ways that I'm thinking of teaching the kids about St. Isidore the Farmer:

Get them thinking with a collection

Before doing anything you will probably want to go to a few sights in the next section below to learn a little bit about St. Isidore.  Then you'll be ready for the collection!

A collection is simply that: a collection of items (usually 5 or more) that go with a particular topic.  For St. Isidore, (and with preschool aged kids), I want the focus to be on figuring out that he is a farmer.  My collection might include soil, seeds, flower, vegetable, farm animal, and a shovel.  There are two main options for revealing the collection: 

1.  Open collection 
All the items are displayed at the same time.  Kid(s) brainstorm possible ideas for what the whole collection is about.  The adult can guide their thinking by asking questions but should refrain from "yes" or "no" to their responses.

2.  Serial collection
The items are hidden from the child(ren) and are revealed one at a time.  You will want to think in advance of an order that would make sense for your items and your child.  

Show the child the first object.  Then ask the child to guess what the collection might be about.  Writing ideas on an index card can help collect their ideas.  

Then, reveal the next item.   Look to the child's previous ideas written on cards, and ask them to determine if those ideas still work with this new item.  Guide them in removing any that no longer work.  Then, ask if there are any new guesses about what the collection is about.  Continue this until all items are revealed.  

The point of doing a collection is to help children with higher order thinking skills like inductive and deductive reasoning.  It is important that you don't focus on a right or wrong answer, but rather on the process to get to the idea you are focusing on.  Kids really enjoy collections and other problem solving strategies.

Well I hope that made sense.  If not, just let me know and I can try to clarify.

Learn about St. Isidore

There is not a lot of kid-friendly information out there on St. Isidore, but I plan to use information found herehere and here.  Since many kids (and adults for that matter) are very visual, it might be good to Google some images of St. Isidore the Farmer (be sure to include farmer as there is another St. Isidore- the one the farmer is named after, actually).  

Study farms

Farm Unit

This is soooo much fun with kids of all ages, especially my little toddler friends, Ada and Lucas, and my preschooler, Grace.  I spent a lot of time compiling this Farm Unit in the fall, and I plan on using it again and linking it to St. Isidore. 


Visit a farm

Farm Unit

We are really blessed to live near a farm park, but there are also many farms within a short drive that provide a hands-on way to learn about farming, farm machines, farm animals, crops, etc.  In the Farm Unit post, there are a couple different types of scavenger hunts that can be used to make visiting the farm even more fun.

Plant a garden

This is the perfect time to plant something, anything!  We are in the process of adding some bulbs and flowers to our gardens, and celebrating St. Isidore is a great time to get the kids in on the planting.  You could also post this sign in your garden of a prayer of intercession to St. Isidore:

St. Isidore Garden Sign
Catholic Inspired

Planting or visiting a Mary garden (which is on my to-do list at some point in the future) is also a great way to incorporate St. Isidore's passion for using the land.

Mary Garden
Under Her Starry Mantle

Collect food for the hungry

St. Isidore was known for "miraculously" providing food to the poor.  What better way to emulate his giving spirit than to collect food for a local food pantry.  Our parish collects for a particular food pantry, so we could easily bring our goods to church this week or at the end of the month.   The family could also create a hot meal for the needy.  Our church collects casseroles each month to serve to the homeless.  This would be a great way to include the kids in helping others.

Pray a novena to St. Isidore

I haven't included my daughter Grace on a novena yet, as I'm new to them myself, but this might be the time!  There is a great explanation with exactly what to do here.

Eat foods from farms

Pretty easy right?!  Maybe a salad, fruit, carrots, bread, meat.  Most everything we eat comes from a farm in some way, so it shouldn't be hard to gather some items.  It's also a wonderful way to talk with kids about where their food comes from.

Happy Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer!