Thursday, November 30, 2006The Advent Wreath
Many of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the tradition of the Advent wreath. It is an Advent custom which originated in Europe and which is now widespread in America. As Advent means coming, the Advent wreath is one of the many customs which help us to prepare for Christ's coming at Christmas.
As mothers of our homes I think that it is very important to remember that children love to learn through symbols, stories, customs and such. The Advent wreath is one of many customs during Advent which can assist in instilling a love of our faith within the hearts of our children.
What do the different aspects of the actual wreath represent?
~The wreath is in a form of a circle. This is symbolic that God has no beginning and no end.
~The evergreen which makes up the wreath is a symbol of eternal life and the unchangingness of God.
~There are four weeks in Advent, hence the 4 candles. There are 3 white candles representing divine innocence and 1 rose-coloured candle to match the rose-colored vestments which the priest wears on Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent, so called from the first word of that day's Introit at Mass: "...Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice." ~The promise is almost fulfilled; come, everyone, rejoice!
~The ribbon on the wreath is purple, just as the linens of the priest and the altar are purple. This color represents penance, just as lent represents penance. However, it is important to remember the difference between the penance of Lent and the penance of Advent. The penance of Lent is bitter and sorrowful as we atone for our sins through fasting and such. The penance of Advent is more of a hopeful rememberance of our sins with the emphasis being on our longing, our need, our dependence on Christ's coming and the graces of the feast of His Nativity.
~The flames of the candles lit of course signify Christ as the Light of the world.
So that's the symbolism of the Advent Wreath, in brief.
To find suggestions for the making of your own advent wreath you can go to: catholic culture.org. There on Catholic Culture's site they also include a suggestion of how to go about doing the Advent Wreath customs in your home, their source being Mary Reed Newland's. For some basic Advent Wreath prayers, click here. The following prayer is the prayer for the second sunday of Advent, to give you a taste of the prayers.
Stir up, O Lord, our hearts to make ready the ways of thine only-begotten Son; and with minds undefiled to pay to thee, through is coming, the homage of our service.
Growing up we sang an Advent hymn every night after the prayers. This was helpful in setting a peaceful tone to the night, preparing us for sleep. ASfter we were finished singing, the candle-snuffer (usually the youngest) would put out the candles and we would be left in the completely dark room...very magical to us.
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
~St. Andrew was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee, a fisherman by trade, and a former disciple of John the Baptist.
~Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Russia, and Romania. The flag of Scotland (and the Union Flag and the arms and Flag of Nova Scotia) feature a saltire (X-shaped cross) in commemoration of the shape of St. Andrew's cross.
Tonight would be a good night for a yummy fish meal, as he was a fisherman. (And of course something sweet as a treat for the children in celebrating this feast!)
Wednesday, November 29, 2006Question of the Week: Holiday Shopping
The frenzy has started... and every year most of us are faced with the advent struggle of mentally and spiritually preparing for the birth of Jesus while excitedly spending tons of money on people we love, or at least have an obligation to buy for.
Debuting in theatres this Friday is the story of Christmas: The Nativity Story. Reading reliable reviews of this movie lets me think that, while not absolutely perfect in the details, this is something definitely worth watching with your families. It's about time something Christ-related came to the big screen around Christmastime. Plus the Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Mary... and I love this little actress since her big debut in "The Whale Rider."
Tuesday, November 28, 2006Pray for hardened hearts...
Oh Divine, Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ... in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.
Labels: in the news
Monday, November 27, 2006Daily Life With Little Children
I also always try to remember that their early days of learning are the most formative of their years!! The early days are when they need an abundance of attention, love, guidance... They know and can tell when we don't want them around! They know when we are angry at them. So they will also be able to tell if we are happy to have them around. -If they feel loved and that those around them are happy to have them around, this gives them the sense of security they need which aids in their blossoming and flourishment.
Advent is coming... There are many projects out there to do, including that of the Jesse Tree. This may be a fun project to do with the children for the coming of Advent.
About this tradition:
The representation of the Tree of Jesse is based upon the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1-2:
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the sprit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord."
~(source: catholic culture.org)
The Jesse tree tells about Christ’s ancestry through symbols and relates Scripture to salvation history, progressing from creation to the birth of Christ. It's essentially the story of our whole world up until the Messiah's coming. The tree can be made on a poster board with the symbols glued on, or on an actual tree. The Leaflet Missal Company also sells a BLESSED Jesse Tree kit which is essentially different swatches of felt and patterns for each day (this is the one Ellie has... I'll gladly email the patterns and instructions for you to print from your own computer if you are buying your own felt: the company encourages sharing). Doing this activity is one of the BEST ways to keep the focus of Christmas in its proper perspective for kids. Each day you put a new symbol on the tree and do the little Scripture verse that corresponds to it.
For further information read Advent and Christmas in a Catholic Home. (from Catholiceducation.org)
Saturday, November 25, 2006The Divine Prisoner
While I think it's justifiable that I don't attend Mass daily, I don't think I usually have an excuse to not take time out of my day to drive the five minutes to go visit the Master of the Universe in the tabernacle at our local parish. I can bring my children... they can voice their own prayers audibly without me shushing them (sometimes the sweetest things fall from their lips when they are face to face with God's altar). And I can do this in between naptimes, without fasting prior, without putting my children in church clothes, when it's convenient for my family. And if the boys act up or the baby is fussing, I can simply leave. Even staying for 3 minutes just to say "Hello, I love You..." is consoling for me... and certainly pleasing to Him. He waits for us. I'm convinced that if I visit Him daily in this way the graces will be immense. We have a family adoration hour at our church too that my husband and I switch off weeks to go to. But it is late at night and our kids don't go with us. Coming into the House of God regularly during the week familiarizes them with our Eucharistic Lord... let them come unto Him.
I think the single most underestimated source of strength, consolation, power and grace is found in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus Christ has willingly made Himself prisoner in the most humble of forms... our indifference to this must agonize Him. The following are some awesome quotes for us to chew on.
- St. John Bosco
My Jesus, mercy. (~prayer written by Cardinal Newman. )
Friday, November 24, 2006Speak out again!
Today on the "Dr. Phil" show they are airing the reportedly biased and vile program on homeschooling. You can see a preview here. And read the earlier article I linked to here. I'm sure there'll be plenty to voice your thoughts about by writing to the producers of the show.
Labels: in the news
Never underestimate the power of prayer! Please, please join in this spiritual pilgrimage for Pope Benedict's trip to Turkey.
Here is a link to the brief article and prayer...
Labels: in the news
I am always looking for recipes which are gourmet and also beautiful in presentation. The holidays are comin up and if you're having parties or dinners, these are wonderful recipes that look beautiful on your tables. They also go VERY well with coffee!
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 cup strong fresh black coffee (not espresso)
12 good-quality Italian savoiardi cookies or ladyfingersCocoa powder
1. Beat egg yolks with a whisk in a medium bowl. Gradually add sugar, continuing to whisk until mixture is thick, smooth, and pale yellow. Gently fold mascarpone into mixture with a rubber spatula, then set aside.
2. Put egg whites in a clean, dry mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture and set aside.
3. Pour coffee into a wide, shallow bowl. Dip four of the savoiardi or ladyfingers into the coffee just long enough to moisten them without making them soggy, then arrange them side by side in a single layer on a serving platter. Spread one-third of the mascarpone mixture over the biscuits, then dust with a little cocoa powder. Repeat the entire process, including coffee, layering remaining savoiardi or lady-fingers, mascarpone, and cocoa. Refrigerate until well chilled, then serve.
(This recipe was first published in Saveur in November 1999.)
Chocolate Coated Strawberries
16 ounces milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening
1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves
-Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries.
-In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth.
-Holding them by the toothpicks, dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture.
Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into styrofoam for the chocolate to cool.
(recipe from Allrecipes.com)
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Thursday, November 23, 2006Another update
As we move to a new blog format, you'll notice categories at the bottom of each post. I've gone back into ALL of our archives and labeled everything. So if you are looking for something specific or simply want a somewhat "organized browsing" of older posts, this should make it easier to find things. Simply click on the title of the label and you'll be taken to a page with all of our posts in that category. I encourage our newer readers especially to look into the older things, there's some notable posts that may be of interest to you.
Labels: our website
Simply put, "In 1621 the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is now known as the first Thanksgiving." -True or false? There are many myths and legends about this holiday. History.com has a lot of reading material for those who wish to learn more about the origins and history of this holiday. Myths and legends, and The First Thanksgiving is what I have just read.
However, in general I think we'd all have to agree that Thanksgiving is the celebration of the harvest, which is what many cultures have done for centuries. Yet this harvest celebration in my mind is not just about food of course but about the blessing of fellowship and gathering together in peace.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Some fitting posts you may want to read for this day are Ellie's most recent Making Do on Mondays: Thanksgiving; and the post I recently wrote on the Blessing of Mealtimes.
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Wednesday, November 22, 2006prayers are up
Check out the new inclusion for expecting mothers on our sidebar. There's room for more if you are in that category. Just e-mail us. We also respect that some don't want their names published and include them in our general prayers for the readers of this blog.
Labels: our website
Having recently moved to a neighborhood- (my first time, really!) my kids are enthralled with which kids live in which houses on our block, and when we can go outside and play with them. Some of these children seem nice enough, some seem like they might actually be a negative influence.
So here's the question:
Today is the Memorial of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr.
~She is the patron saint of Albi, France; composers; martyrs; music; musicians; musical instrument makers; archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska; poets; singers.
Prayer to Saint Cecilia:
Saint Cecilia, heroic martyr who stayed faithful to Jesus your divine bridegroom, give us faith to rise above our persecutors and to see in them the image of our Lord. We know that you were a musician and we are told that you heard angels sing. Inspire musicians to gladden the hearts of people by filling the air with God's gift of music and reminding them of the Divine Musician Who created all beauty. Amen.
Happy Feast Day...
Tuesday, November 21, 2006Be encouraged to speak out
A few months ago I received a mailer from our local dentist with a very immodestly dressed chick smiling and showing off her pearly whites. There were a few pictures of her, and it was not something I wanted my kids looking at, or my husband, or myself. I know- it's everywhere, so why even try? I am just so fed up with this problem I wrote them a letter complaining about it, saying how I prided our town on being family focused and their mailer was offensive to me and I'm sure many families. Well in my mailbox yesterday I got their new mailer, and what a difference! There were actually pictures of kids and parents instead! So anyway, some may think it is a losing battle but I feel very strongly about fighting it anyway, at least on a local level. My next quest: to get our local grocery store to stop putting Cosmo magazine in the checkout aisle. I have recently found out that they pay for their spot, and so I have to appeal to higher management. But I encourage you to do the same. Find out what you can about it- our priests and husbands have to walk through those lines! And I know I am looking at those pictures, and I am a girl. Cosmo's headline this month: "Naughty Sex." In big letters. I feel bad even writing it on a site as beautiful as this- but do we want our children reading that? Anyway a word of encouragement... if you have the time to complain, it may make a difference.
Hope from California
Labels: useful ideas
Today is the memorial of the presentation of Mary.
Eternal Father, we honor the holiness and glory of the Virgin Mary. May her prayers bring us the fullness of your life and love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
I just recently went on a very refreshing hike. It rained here for a week straight and then, finally, there was a break. There were actually patches in the sky; everything was damp and dripping wet, but there were still brilliant leaves on many of the trees. Aidan (my son) and I set out on our little local trail (almost literally in our backyard!). We passed the lake, walked through the deep forests full of oaks, maples , birch, firs and pines. We followed the river further down and found ourselves crossing a bridge deep down in the gorge. The water is very high right now from all the rainfall, so the river water thundered through the trees along it's limestone rocky course. As I hiked back up the hill, through the upper meadows full of gnarly mossy oaks, I smelled woodsmoke in the air... probably from a nearby house I couldn't see. That smell is so strong and wonderful; it reminded me of my family's land back in Ohio. -This time of year they always have the woodstove going. You can smell it all over the many acres they own.
It is such a joy to go on these local trails with Aidan. He's my little companion in everything I do and will be for many years. He already delights in the sights and sounds, I can tell, because he marvels at everything, in his own way, already. As he grows older we may have to walk slower and won't be able to cover as much ground, but it will be fun to pick up leaves together and teach him about the different kinds of trees, mosses and such. The leaves here are giant! Some of the maple leaves are literally a full square foot. I picked up a lot of them to press back here at the house and was reminded of all the things one can do with the radiant leaves of autumn:
~Press them and then laminate them betwen two sheets of plastic, then turning them into magnets for the fridge (glue a magnet on the back side of the laminated plastic peices) or into placemats, depending on the size or quantity of them.
~Press, then make tiny holes (using a hole puncher) in the tops of the leaves. Tie strings to each leaf and hang them at different heights from the upper window jam. This also could make a wonderful decoration for Thanksgiving. Of course, be sure that the leaves are strung on the window high enough so that little hands can't tear them down. The leaves are fragile in this state!
~Place a leaf on the flat tabletop, put a peice of paper over it and, holding in place, color over the paper with a sideways-crayon or a block crayon, so that the veins and sides of the leaf (the relief parts) show through onto the paper.
~After pressing, place on beautiful folded handmade, natural paper and cover with transparent laminating plastic to make a leaf card for stationary.
~Whether you have colorful golds, reds and oranges or plain old yellows and browns, leaves are still fun to adorn your Thanksgiving table. -Gourds and tiny pumpkins are also lovely.
~Sia writes from VERY rainy Vancouver, WA
Labels: crafty posts
Monday, November 20, 2006Making Do on Mondays: Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Here is a compilation of great articles or tips related to this day:
First let's talk decorations:
"Decorate from nature. Instead of buying those honeycomb paper turkey decorations and cartoonish pictures for the wall, scatter (clean) leaves over the tablecloth. Place an arrangement of twigs in a flower vase; it will look better than it sounds, especially if there are some berries on the branches. A bowl of fruit can serve as both a course for the meal and your table's centerpiece. Candles, table runners, and harvest-themed objets d'art are easily found at second-hand shops and garage sales, if not in your own attic."
This webpage has some GREAT tips on how to get kids involved in the day: "Thanksgiving can be either an awful or wonderful memory for kids. It can be a day full of adults yelling to "get away from that stove" and "don't stand in front of the tv while the football game is on" or it can be a day where kids help prepare food decorate the table, greet the guests, and have a good time." This site has a whole slew of Thanksgiving craft ideas for kids.
Come Thanksgiving morning, you may realize that there is a lot more kitchen traffic than you bargained for. Start your meal preparations now! You can make a big batch of Cranberry Sauce and freeze it. Plus your dressing always tastes better the next day so why not prepare it a day early? You can also get away with cooking several of your baked items at the same time. Even a little temperature difference won't mean much if you keep an eye on your casseroles and pies.
And do you have one or more guests coming over that are vegetarians? I liked this article that gives good tips on how to entertain and prepare for such a person in a meat-eater's domain!
Here are some good Turkey Leftover ideas.
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA
Saturday, November 18, 2006The Blessing of Mealtimes
Our world is crying out for conversation, community, fellowship, love. Family mealtimes are very rare in our society yet so important! I think that often we take the blessings of mealtimes which we have for granted.
It is through the breaking of bread with eachother over a meal that we can see eachother, face-to-face. We can look into the eyes and faces of our loved ones and guests, and see where the real hunger is. It is a time when we have the opportunities to act charitably by either listening to one who needs to talk, or by speaking ourselves and being friendly when we actually feel like crawling into a hole. (Tonight I tried to put this into practice, actually. It was harder than I thought. Lately I've really been having the blues, and today I helped my mother-in-law to prepare for a party here and tonight at the party it has been a really big challenge to be "up" and amiable when I really felt so low that I wanted to just camp out in my room and not see anyone.) For we who are suffering that day and feeling unsociable, the table is a place where we should be able to come and feel loved, welcomed, at home, there at the table with our loved ones, our fellow pilgrims.
Mealtime is a time we can laugh with eachother, share storeis of our days, discuss thoughts and ideas... Catherine Doherty says that the ability to laugh at oneself instead of at others is a great step forward toward emotional health and sanctity.
She also wrote something very heartwarming in her book titled Dearly Beloved:
"Laughter has been given to us by God to relax us, tossing Him a song of joy."
May our mealtimes be a sacred sharing of love over the breaking of bread, always reminding us of the Sacred Last Supper. May we laugh with eachother rather than at eachother... may we embrace one another at our tables, clinging to the lost gifts of the hearth, to this little slice of goodness, love, fellowship.
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Friday, November 17, 2006Friday Coffeehouse: A few books on family and marriage
Here are a few books on Mothering, Marrriage and Family which I think to be pretty edifying. They were a treat for me to read, anyway.
Rosalie McPhee wrote a couple books on Mothering and on Marriage which are well-worth reading. They are full of Scripture pasages, quotes from Catherine Doherty and her own experiences as a wife and mother. -Although the content is rich, it is very easy reading. Her books Mothering: Becoming the Heart of the Home (A Little Mandate Book) (with a beautiful illustration by Michael O'Brien to adorn the cover, I might add!) and Marriage: A Fountain of Grace (Little Mandate Book). These books are great reads while you're making dinner, waiting for the water to boil, etc... ;)
Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love, by Dietrich von Hildebrand:
This book is a bit heavier than the above ones I mentioned, as it is written by the well-know philosopher.. so it has mor ephilisophical/theological depth in certain ways. -What a reat for your heart and your intellect, though, when you have time to really think and soak up what you're reading! (This book is more of a coffee-hour concentration book.)
"Marriage has been chosen as the image of the perfect union between the soul and Christ because in marriage, likewise, the center and core is love. No other earthly community is constituted so exclusively in its very substance by mutual love..."
To read more of this book, go to:http://www.ewtn.com/library/Marriage/SIPMARRG.HTM
Fulton J. Sheen's book Three to Get Married is a remarkable presentation about the nature of marriage and discusses common marital problems and solutions.
Letter To Families From Pope John Paul II-- I highly suggest reading this as it is from our late Holy Father! To look at this letter or to read it, go to: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_02021994_families_en.html
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Labels: Books Music Culture
An extreme helper and servant to the poor and sick in her community, St. Elizabeth was a deep contemplative woman who gave all she had and was to the service of others. Catholicculture.org has a couple nice ideas on how to celebrate this day: bake some bread... teach your children the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Her patronage includes: bakers. beggars, brides, charities, death of children, falsely accused people, hospitals, in-law problems, people ridiculed for their piety, tramps and widows.
"Premature babies born before 22 weeks gestation should not be given intensive care treatment to keep them alive, according to a report released in Britain on Wednesday."
Labels: in the news
Thursday, November 16, 2006St. Margaret of Scotland
I forgot to mention today St. Margaret of Scotland!! (Born about 1045, died 16 Nov., 1092) She in particular is a wonderful Saint for we wives/mothers to look up to as she was the mother of something like 9 children I think. She was married to a horrid Scottish king, Malcolm III,and I guess she made the most of it, prayed for him and did a lot of day-to-day sacrificing because I believe that he became a better man after being marrried to her for a while. -And she became a saint from having been married to him! She also is very wel-known for having been a very strong Catholic queen, devoted to prayer. -Holy royal people were quite rare.
St. Margaret, pray for us!!
I am sure that there are many readers out there who could perhaps call themselves by the same title as I can during certain times every week from aproximately September through January. The sport of football has captivated many mens' attention and time. It becomes something that men need to watch. They can't miss it and it is their passion for a straight 5 months out of every year. As a woman it's hard for me to relate to, yet I am compassionate to it as I know that I have my own passions. Yet it can be very hard when it dominates every Sunday, of all days!! This is the day when we ladies value and look forward to our precious family time! Sure, Monday night football is great-- bring on the party. It's a work-week. But a Sunday, to me, is sacred. When I come home from having shared in the feast of the Mass I want to turn on classical music, cook a feast for breakfast and savor in my husband's presence at home and in family time! So this is my cross to bear during these fall and winter months. I thank God that at least my dear husband does not zone out and completely lose himself to the television set. -At least I can still get responses out of him when I speak to him during a game. I also feel very blessed that there ARE indeed exceptions that my husband wil make when there are other priorities. But, in general, it's a very very hard many months for me and I am sure that there are many other wives out there who share the same cross.
I would like to throw out some encouraging words to my fellow football widows. ~First of all, I want to encourage you to make the most of it. Back in Ohio I would watch the games with my husband. I learned more about the sport and became pretty partial to my husband's favorite team. I would try to keep Sunday a special day by cooking something yummy to have around for ourselves and the potential game-watchers who would come over. I would never wait on them... I wouldn't go that far! But usually I would just have something yummy around and tell them to help themselves. It also became a day when a lot of my girlfriends knew I'd be home and would come join me for tea for hours on end while the guys watched football. It'd turn into a social day. So I'd just keep my chin and spirits up and, when invited somewhere, although I was very frustrated inside, I'd say "they're playing today.. but come on over and join me for breakfast!" or something like that.
One interesting thing about the sport itself I have just learned: Recently my husband and I were watching a game together and I remarked to him that when in the beginning the two teams, formed in lines, run towards eachother and, in my eyes, collide, it was very similar to ancient warfare...remember Braveheart? The two lines of men , the English and the Scottish, would charge at eachother and then join together in a battle of strength and skill. To my surprise, my husband told me that this is exactly what football was modeled after.
Also, I have discovered some really great things about football lately, namely the team of our former hometown, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Apparently they are the only pro football team who does not have cheerleaders! Cheerleaders are, to me, the epitomy of the negative aspects of football. (I won't go into that right now.) The Steelers also come from a city steeped in Catholic heritage, ie the Irish, the Poles, the Italians, and more...
Father loves football too:
~"So, am I a Steelers fan? Yes," Maida said, smiling broadly. "As a priest, I always arranged my schedule so I could get to the Sunday games."
~The team's training camp has even been at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., since 1966.
~The team's Catholic following is evident in one of its largest fan clubs: the Pittsburgh Steelers ~Fan Club of Baltimore, which has more than 3,300 members.
Essex, Md., resident Jack Staley, president of one of its chapters, says at least half of the club is Catholic and compares its appeal to that of the University of Notre Dame.
~Staley, 45, lived in the Pittsburgh area as a boy and remembers people making it a priority to go to Mass before the games.
~As a young priest, Maida was studying law at Duquesne University and living in downtown Pittsburgh in St. Mary's parish. Art Rooney, the legendary founding owner of the Steelers, took Communion daily at St. Mary's. It did not take long for the two to become friends.
(~from Blessed be the Steelers article)
Catholic players: Most of us know about Ben Roethlisburger, the young quarterback who is in his early 20's... he wears a rosary around his neck and crosses himself during the games. But have you heard about Steelers player Troy Polamalu? This article has some wonderful quotes from him about the game itself, about his perspective on the sport, and more. It's worth reading. Here are some bits from that article:
~"Football gives me confirmation of how I can carry out my faith. It's my way to glorify God."
~He said thet their Superbowl victory was "beautiful and a blessing", but, more importantly, that: "success in football doesn't matter. Success in anything doesn't matter. As Mother Teresa said, God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful. My prayer is that I would glorify God no matter what, and not have success be the definition of it."
~Father David Bonnar, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, has celebrated Mass for 10 years before home games with Steelers players and coaches.
~Troy keeps love at the center of his sport: "I believe that I'm the same person on and off the field. I live my life with a passion and that includes how I play. Obviously, football calls for physical contact, but that's just part of the game," Polamalu said. To illustrate, he offers Jesus' time on earth as an example. "Look at the passion for life that he lived as portrayed in the Stations of the Cross – that fight that he had in him, as well as the love he shared with others. There's no difference."
~"Football, in general, has it backwards," he said. "They think this inner anger, this hatred, is what drives football and becomes the physical aspect of the game. But love overcomes all things. My love to glorify God through my playing will far outweigh anybody's hate for me."
I'll leave you with that one. I'd love any other imput/comments from you other football widows out there, as well as from you men football fans! ;)
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Wednesday, November 15, 2006Coffee and Diapers News
*We are creating a permanent section on our sidebar that will be dedicated to prayer for expectant mothers. This is one thing that will be frequently updated so names will come and go. If you would like to be included in this, please e-mail your name and due date for listing.
* We wanted to announce that we've created a little partnership with amazon.com so that when our readers use OUR links to buy books we suggest, we get a certain percentage of the sales. We will be using all the profits from this to buy lovely books for needy children or mothers. So we encourage you to support us in this if a certain title catches your eye. Ellie will be working on creating links for all the titles on our bookpage but she's only going to be able to do that so fast... if there's something you plan on purchasing that we suggested, and it doesn't have a link yet... please e-mail us and it'll get forwarded to you ASAP. So far the only links we have done are the last two books listed (laundry & liturgy and the Eric Carle book).
Labels: our website
Xavier found a crucifix on the shelf and hands it to Leo: "Leo, you be the altar boy, I'll be Jesus and Mama is the priest."
We tried to implement the discipline strategy someone here suggested for naughty children in Mass. After last Sunday's liturgy, we told Xavier he needed to go apologize to Father for misbehaving in church. The priest was really great, got down to eye level and tried to smile and ease his fear. Xavier completely stonewalled him... stared at the ground and refused to say a word. Later, as we walked to the van and I explained how it's important to apologize for naughty behavior, Xavier replies: "But Mom, I don't need to talk to the priest. I already told Jesus I was sorry."
Tuesday, November 14, 2006The Redemptive Work of Laundry
For some folks, laundry is a grueling task. For others, it's a delightful one. For everyone, it's a time-consuming, never-ending task. I have to admit that I find a lot of joy in doing laundry. Just as I delight in turning a dirty kitchen into a clean one, I also delight in the freshness of clean laundry, no matter how constant a task it is. There are many household tasks such as laundry: dishes, sweeping, picking up after toddlers, you name it. I know many folks out there who could die thinking of all these tasks. These tasks are the dread of some, the joy of others. They can be grueling and miserable, leading some of us almost to despair. However, as with anything that is painful, hard and grueling, there is a redeeming aspect to it. Christ, I'm sure, wants us to take those particular tasks which we so dread and make them the most glorious. He is the Lord who takes something wretched, like sin for example, and maks it beautiful. He will come to us through the most grueling of tasks if we open ourselves up to the graces He has for us within them. Just think: You could become a Saint and save souls by learning to do those most tedious of tasks well, with great love. It doesn't happen overnight though. It takes much prayer, patience and discipline.
Ironing was the task I dreaded the most, at one time in my life. I hated and despised it with a passion! Yet when I arrived at Madonna House and was put to work in the laundry room, of all places, I learned to love it and offer it up. (I perfected it, too! I can iron better than I ever thought I'd be able.) I learned this because the work was there, day after day, for 2 weeks straight. There was no going around it, unless I wanted to leave the place. I ironed shirts and pants, shirts and pants... porobably at least 25 articles of clothing/day. It was awful at first but slowly I came to love the steam, the smell of a fresh, crisp shirt and the disappearing wrinkles. I learned to pray as I worked. I was taught to pray for the person who's shirt I was ironing. This now is perfect for motherhood... I am given the opportunity to pray for my husband every time I iron his shirts. I also began to meditatively think about the work I was doing. Through the steam and the press, the wrinkles disappeared... and the fabric looked as good as new! How similar that is to ourselves and what happens with grace in our souls. My thoughts/meditations were many.
There is a book out there titled The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work" by Kathleen Norris. My husband gave it to me one day and said he thought it looked like a fitting book for me and one I'd enjoy reading. He was right on.
"The 'women's work' in the title can refer to any daily chore that leads to boredom, frustration, or despair-- whether housecleaning or mindless office work. Norris shows how such work can ground us in the world without grinding us down, how it has an incarnational reality that sanctifies everyday life." (from a review on Powell's site.)
Here are a few passages from the book that struck me:
"The comfortable lies we tell ourselves... that daily personal and household chores are of no significance to us spiritually- are exposed to falsehoods when we consider that reluctance to care for the body is one of the first symptoms of extreme melancholia. Shampooing the hair, washing the body, brushing our teeth, drinking enough water, taking as daily vitamin, going for a walk, as simple as they seem, are acts of self-respect."
"During the unspeakably brutal winter... with nearly thirty inches of snow on the ground by Thanksgiving, I had had enough by the time the Spring blizzards came- another three feet of snow and high winds... that I set out one morning, ablaze with the wrmth of an angry determination, to shovel a path to the clothesline in order to hang something colorful there. As I began to handle the wet clothes, my hands quickly reddened, stung with cold, but it seemed worth doing nonetheless, simply to break the hold of winter on my spirit- and to disrupt the monotony of the white moonscape that our backyard had become. And even though the clothes freeze-dried stiffly and had to be thawed in the house, they had the sky-scent of summer on them. And it helped."
"Like liturgy, the work of cleaning draws much of it's meaningand value from repetition, from the fact that it is never completed, but only set aside until the next day. Both liturgy and what is euphomistically termed 'domestic' work also have an intense relation with the present moment, a kind of faith in the present that fosters hope and makes life seem possible in the day-to-day."
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Monday, November 13, 2006Making Do on Mondays: In the Waiting Room
So this is what we do:
- If possible, wait outside the office! Oftentimes, the staff will be fine coming to get you if you simply let them know you'll be right outside.
- Put a hole puncher and a shoestring in your purse/diaper bag. This is a great little tip I heard about somewhere that can be used in almost all settings. Find a flyer or envelope or scrap paper in the office or your purse and punch a few holes in it... you can make shapes if you want to really get into it. -Then have your child use the shoestring to lace through the holes. This helps them to be focused and quiet.
- Have long lasting little lozenges the kids can suck on... I like to use Vitamin C tablets as "treats" for the kids...
- Play finger games: I like the variation of Rock, Paper, Scissors that uses Mosquito, Fish, Bear (I guess it's hard to describe the corresponding gestures here but you can make up your own).
- One thing that I think makes a big difference is for YOU to change your mindset from one of "How can I have to control this situation?" into one of "How can I engage with my children right now?" Instead of trying to keep everyone quiet and still, have them all stand up and play a game in a mild manner, like Simon Says. Kids love to feel like their parents are involved and interested in what they are doing. You can make simple games for little ones with simple commands. For example, tell your kids to stand tall like a soldier. Then ask them to do various movements corresponding to different animals, beat their chests like gorillas, hunch their shoulders like owls, arch their backs like cats, etc. (Eric Carl has a great kids book on this that would make a great diaper bag addition for just such an occasion). Kids who accomplish "commands" feel so proud of themselves and are eager to please.
~Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA
Labels: useful ideas
Saturday, November 11, 2006Family
To revise an old quote:
Today we honor all military veterans. I hope patriotism is something we all strive to cultivate in our homes. If your city has a local veteran's cemetary... taking your kids there to pray and place a few flowers would be appropriate. Also, check your newspaper for community activities. Oftentimes there are parades or even simple flag ceremonies where the public is invited to attend. Here is a coloring page you can print out for children to color.
Martinmas is the European term for the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. He was the first non-martyr to be canonized a saint. This soldier-turned-bishop is most famously depicted as cutting his robe in half to give to a beggar in the streets. A wonderful way to remember this feast day would be to go through our own belongings and sort out the clothing we don't need (especially warm clothing since winter is on its way) and donate it to St. Vincent's de Paul Society. Children have traditionally used this day to celebrate both the saint and the coming of winter by making paper lanterns and marching through the streets singing songs. You can find instructions for doing that HERE.
Friday, November 10, 2006Friday Coffeehouse: Patricia Polacco
For today's coffeehouse subject ;) I'd like to share with you all one of my favorite author/illustrators of children's books. She is known for her very colorful, folky illustrations and wholesome stories based on her own life experiences and passions...
Her name is Patricia Polacco. Born in Lansing, Michigan her heritage is Russian, Ukranian and Irish. As a child she spent the school year in Oakland, California, her summers in Michigan on her grandparent's farm... this explains to me where she gets her passion for thunderstorms! I share her passion, and still delight in reading her wonderful book titled:
Thundercake. This is my favorite of her books. The story illustrates a delight in thunderstorms as opposed to a fear. It also is a feast to look at her detailed illustrations which include icons on the walls of the home. If you know your icons, you'll certainly recognize some of them!
G is For Goat-- This book is a delightful, colorfully illustrated rhyming alphabet book. Unlike the normal A is for Apple type, this one is unique in that it follows a little girl around the goat farm. As you learn the alphabet, you learn about goats as well... the Goats who nibble on Oats...
"L is for lunch-get out of their way! M is for Munch; clothes taste better than hay."... to see more of these illustrations go to: http://www.patriciapolacco.com/books/goat/index.html
The Keeping Quilt--
"...A Russian immigrant mother and family arrive in the United States. She plans to make a quilt from a basket of old clothes, telling her daughter, "It will be like having the family in backhome Russia dance around us at night". The quilt is passed along from mother to daughter for four generations. It becomes a Sabbath tablecloth and a wedding canopy. When it becomes a blanket for new generations of children, it really tells a family's story of love, faith and endurance..." to read more from this review, go to: http://www.carolhurst.com/titles/keepingquilt.html
She has many more out there, but these are a few of my favorites. I highly suggest getting some of them out of the library to read. I own a few of them as I wanted them to be a permanent part of our bookshelf for the many years to come.
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Labels: Books Music Culture
Today the church celebrates the feast of Leo the Great Bishop of Rome, 461. How many of us would have the courage to face Attila the Hun on the battlefield?! (I would pray that my own Leo be given the heart of his namesake!) One of my very favorite quotes to meditate upon in hard times comes from this great saint:
Thursday, November 09, 2006In the Now
I want to say that I am the worst culprit of what I'm about to talk about.
So often we spend our days worrying about everything under the sun: "Johnny needs new shoes." "When are we going to repair that leaky faucet?" "I wish we could remodel the kitchen." "My house needs a paint job." And so on and so forth. Sometimes we forget to just live in the NOW. Be present TODAY. I love how Sia wrote a while back how ours is too sacred a vocation to simply tolerate "getting through" the day. Sure it's rough... but can you think of anything more rewarding?!
And how often are we actually, actively living RIGHT NOW as mothers to our children? Forget about the troubles tomorrow may bring or the things you constantly want to improve on in your home or personal life. Live humbly with what you have, when you have it. Read a book with a child. That's what I remember about growing up... not doing errands with mom. I know that it is inherent in our motherly nature to worry and certainly we MUST do errands, etc. And nothing is wrong with wanting to better our position in a material way... as long as it's in moderation with a proper gratitude for what God has already given us.
And the way to moderate is simply to live right now. There's been a few times that I go through my days and I am hustling and bustling with worries or concerns, that before I know it my husband is wandering through the kitchen as if dinner will appear in front of him by itself! I forget to just BE present... mentally... with my family! And that is at least as important as being physically important.
My thoughts at the moment. And now, to return to my "now" in this home...
-Ellie, Oak Harbor, WA
Wednesday, November 08, 2006Question of the Week: Overnighters
Breastfeeding is a whole topic which is well worth posting about at a later time, but for now I wanted to throw out there a wonderful site I discovered these past months which offer breastfeeding support. Breastfeeeding.com is incredibly useful and helpful. If you have a breast infection, which MANY of us have had, it offers some great tips and words of wisdom from Dr. Newman who can be as helpful as having a doctor by your side during the grueling times of infections.
There is also Lactation Support Group.
I found this article which I thought interesting... it gives the economical breakdown of formula vs. breastfeeding.
~sia, Vancouver, WA
Labels: useful ideas
Tuesday, November 07, 2006Faces to the Names
Here are some recent pictures (last month) of your blogging hosts. The first is a montage of Hope's clan. The second is both families of Sia and Ellie. I wanted to also call attention to the obvious again: Hope has been settling into her new home; hence the lack of recent posts from her. We are excited that she'll be up and at it again sometime in the near future...
Labels: our website
My old friend has been back to visit again... that fleeting and unexplained bout of sadness which seems to come and go on a whim. I don't think I'm unique in experiencing random shots of sorrow as a mother. But I really shy away from labeling it as the oft misunderstood "post-partum depression." I'm not a depressed individual. It's just that I get swallowed by something that I think is outside of myself, and who can explain it? Why do little remarks open a flood of tears? Why do I sometimes wake up with such a deep dread and reluctance to start my day? Why am I surrounded by a loving husband and great kids and I still feel painfully alone sometimes? God knows.
I think I'm able to talk candidly about this here for two reasons: One, although I personally know several of the readers of this blog, I almost never see them. This gives me a sense of anonymity and with it, the courage that comes with being just a name on your computer screen. Even if we have a wonderful supportive group of people surrounding us, it can be hard to live as an open book outside the status quo. It can feel like you have to maintain the cheerful attitude that is proper for a Catholic woman to have; we should welcome our trials right?! And so we try to repress our feelings and apologize for that sneaky tear that slipped past the dam holding its brothers back. Secondly, I can talk candidly about my sorrow because, with the help of a good friend, I think I've FINALLY put it in its proper perspective and so I feel comfortable digressing about it.
I think even good, strong Catholics can misunderstand the idea of "offering it up." We all know that grace results from suffering; hence trials are really a gift of love and trust from God. So we 'offer up' our pain for certain intentions and for the ultimate glory of Christ. I do this regularly, especially through my morning consecration. So am I supposed to abracadabra feel better?! This is where I think we can go wrong. Yes, it's important to try and be cheerful and maintain at least a tiny sense of saintly joy in suffering. But it's okay to feel sad and overwhelmed and even depressed sometimes. As long as you make the conscious effort to give your trials as a gift to God... the act is done. How you "feel" about it is actually pretty irrelevant. And this is precisely because ours is a God that is bigger than our finite and capricious emotions. Praise Him!!! We don't have to rely on "feeling happy" in order for sanctifying grace to be a reality! As Sia's husband Justin, once told me about Absolute Truth... it is what it is regardless of what we feel about it.
I used to berate myself for feeling depressed after I consecrated my day. As if my sadness negated my gift. But sadness and pulses of depression aren't negative things in our spirituality... despite a society that tries to "fix" these emotions. We must only be concerned about succombing to unhealthy thoughts of bitterness and self-pity during these times (check out this post for more on that). I feel so liberated now in realizing that my feelings are just feelings, powerful and important in human relationships, but oh so trivial in the spiritual reality that is underpinning our day!
So I can now be confident in making sense of my random sorrow. I don't need to know the cause of it. Maybe it's psychological or maybe it's the Evil One... I'm neither psychologist nor theologian so who knows? But at least I do know that I am doing what is important for me-- just a tiny, mud-crusted sheep in the corner of Christ's flock-- I am offering my pain up for Him. I'm not trying to fix it or understand it or fight the sadness. I accept it as my little cross and am honestly thankful that He trusts me enough to bear it. So don't be too alarmed if you happen to see my smile suddenly get dressed down to a brimming-eyed frown. Those are just feelings... and they are sometimes beyond me. God's grace is showering on me during those times and that is the reality that matters.
Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA
Monday, November 06, 2006Making Do on Mondays: Sing into Reading
I had the privilege of going to a kiddy concert at our local library where Nancy Stewart came in and played and discussed the impact of music on children's lives. I wanted to share a bit about this topic here.
Have you ever noticed how children pick up on the words to a song quicker than everyday conversation? My two year old barely constructs two word sentences... but he can sing "Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are." I was blown away when I first heard that 10 word phrase come from him! But it makes sense. Children naturally love to sing... there is no teaching involved... they just do it! Singing brings to them an awareness of words since each syllable gets a different note.
There are so many ways we can incorporate singing into our little ones' lives. All of us probably at least sing a lullaby or bath song. But we should be singing to our kids throughout the day! (I have a terrible voice, but my kids still love to hear me sing.) Doing this will help them build early literacy skills especially when you incorporate activities to match your songs. Oh, and don't be fooled into thinking that kids need "kid music" only... complex music, such as classical compositions, stimulates the areas of their brain that will develop math skills and spatial reasoning. Here are some ideas on games to play with your kids... courtesy of Nancy Stewart (whose CDs are available on her website... our favorite is the "Bee Bopping Bugs"... another thing I like about her site, is that she gives activity ideas to accompany each of her CDs.)
- Make up songs and substitute your own lyrics to familiar songs so they become personalized to the child... you can sing "Wheels on the Bus" using family members' names for example.
- Make up songs about foods as you prepare them... exaggerating letter sounds.
- Sing as the word sounds: if this fish is long... stretch out the words... if this fish is big... use a big, deep voice... etc.
- Try putting stuffed animals in a box and pulling one out at a time and sing the sounds the animal makes.
- Sing about the groceries you pull out of the bag when you get home. At the store, have the children make up songs about food items or try to spot certain letters, etc.
- Make rhythm instruments! You can glue plastic Easter eggs, filled with rice together for shakers... or staple paper plates together, filled with beans. Even just clapping helps to engage young children.
- You can sing your way through a favorite book! Even forget about the printed words sometimes and make up your own story to the pictures.
At any rate, children thrive on rhyme, rhythm and repetition. This is why they have a favorite book they want to hear over and over again, even though they already know all the words! They just like the reinforcement of what is familiar to them. This all helps to catapult kids into phonological awareness and reading readiness better than almost any non-musical approach taken. The more music we make with our children, the better!
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA
Labels: useful ideas
Saturday, November 04, 2006Don't forget about your OTHER husband.
We should try to make priests a bigger part of our families! They are our spiritual fathers... heading the Bride of Christ. We must act as their spiritual wives and families too. Invite them over to supper. Take your priest out to the park for a picnic and frisbee. A lot of people assume that someone else is doing dinner for the priest... or that they are too busy for us. The reality is that it's usually the same 2% of the parish that is actually tending to the human relationship of our priests. Not only will it serve them to have companionship and a deeper knowledge of their flock... but it couldn't be better for OUR families! Children need to see priests in their human capacity too... they should be a normal part of kids' lives. If we hope to be blessed with children who may have religious vocations... we should make the priesthood accesible and real to them in our everyday lives. A family I know used to have a priest come over, do confessions in the kitchen, Mass in the living room, and then a big dinner... all this after an afternoon of surfing at the beach.
I know the image of the priest at YOUR church on a surfboard is probably laughable to most of us... but you get the idea. They are men... and like all men, need someone to take care of them!
Friday, November 03, 2006It is with great pleasure...
...that we introduce Hope's CD Faithful and True! She and her husband Justin worked long and hard to finally put their talent on album. The result is awesome... you can hear 30 second track samples on that link and buy a copy for yourself. We'll be putting a permanent link up soon but in the meantime, go check this out... she's too good to stay "undiscovered"for long...
Labels: our website