Wednesday, January 31, 2007Don Bosco
This patron saint of youth is a wonderful example for us. I highly recommend the book "Forty Dreams of St. John Bosco" for your young boy or even yourself; it's chock full of good spiritual messages found in his prophetic dreams. We've posted this quote before, but it's worth repeating:
Whether you are strict or not, whether you use corporal punishment or not, I think we all agree that children, at a certain age, need to learn obedience and right from wrong. I tend to think that children reach a very crucial beginning to the whole "age-of-reason" time around 12-18 months. This is, after all, when they begin to test our patience and figure out what they can and can not get away with. And they need to know that there are consequences to their behavior. So...
Tuesday, January 30, 2007A Woman We Can Admire
Hope brings this article to our attention:
Labels: in the news
On our booklist, you'll find many treasures for both adults and a link to our children's book recommendations. Every now and again, I think it's helpful to go into some detail about particular books that have either helped us as mothers or delighted us with our children.
Many of you know about Holly Pierlot's "A Mother's Rule for Life" because so many women, once reading and implementing it, are quick to want to share it's usefulness with others. I am one of these people.
The whole gist of the book is essentially creating a schedule and sticking to it. I had this down... even scheduling in nap time, errand time, exercise time, Mass time, play with kids time, etc. Everything. If you allow yourself a flexible window and include recreational things, your plan WILL work. Prior to living with a Mother's Rule, I was pretty disorganized; I'd do a little laundry, a little dishes, a little computer time etc... and nothing was getting done! Now, if I know that from 10-11, I do laundry (including PUTTING AWAY the clothes!), then I don't worry about laundry all day long or I don't worry about dishes until their scheduled time.
My children thrive on routines. Most kids do. They know if we have a particular order about our day, certain things are unreasonable at certain times. They know now that I WILL have time to play or color or walk with them after our napping hour so they don't bug me too much during my working hours in the morning. They know we do story-time at the library on Tuesday and go to the gym on Friday. Instilling in them a sense of when things happen has been essential in having a more peaceful home.
My good friend Steph just inspired me to extend my Mother's Rule even more by getting out of bed earlier. This has been a challenge for me to get up from my toasty bed into the cold room and dark house when my husband leaves for work around 6-6:30. But after I'm up and moving, I feel okay. I am able to say morning prayers and do all my computer work for this blog and for my classes I teach with Mother of Divine Grace before the kids even get up. Getting up this early helps me to justify taking my daily nap with the baby while my toddler naps and my oldest son plays quietly by himself.
The other thing that has been instrumental for us is creating a menu plan for a full month... and sticking to that when shopping. It's brilliant not worrying about what to make for dinner anymore! And it's been a huge help on our budget. I've organized the meals so the more expensive ones are spread out as are the cheaper meals to keep spending each week consistent. Plus, when I plot out the week, we aren't having three hamburger casseroles in a row! There are many online menu plans you can plug into... (http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/ or http://www.savingdinner.com/ for example) or you'll just have to do what I did for my picky husband and figure out all the meals he'll actually enjoy (or at least tolerate: I even organize those! Having one "tolerable" meal a week and at least one really nice meal).
I found Holly Pierlot's blog... which exists to help women trouble shoot with creating their Mother's Rule. I've already gotten off-track reading many of those posts.
With three kids now, I can't logistically have my day mapped out to the half-hour like I used to. But I DO have it organized in segments. I have mornings for breakfast and housework and noons for lunch and naps; afternoons are for errands and walks or games; evenings are for dinner prep and being mentally and physically present for my husband and children. Sometimes errand time gets switched with housework time, but the point is that things all have their place.
The concept of ordering our lives can do wonders for our souls primarily, and also our selves and families too. I highly recommend "getting a grip" on life! You'll be so glad you did...
Monday, January 29, 2007Making Do on Mondays: Thank You!
I'm a big believer in writing out Thank You cards for gifts received. And I try to impart this concept to my children. Gratitude and graciousness are underrated nowadays... but as for me and my children, we will always try to show appreciation for gifts or nice gestures done to us.
Now getting a child to sit down and write a proper thank you card may be like pulling teeth so here are some ideas I've discovered that may make this "chore" be a bit more fun for everyone.
- In the pre-writing stage, it may be an nice gesture just to take a simple photo of your child holding (or wearing) the gift and write "Thank You" on the back yourselves before sending it off to someone. Everyone likes to see their gifts used and appreciated.
- You can get a large piece of butcher paper if you have multiple children and have each child write his or her own little message on one part of it... or draw a picture on one part of it to create a Thank You Collage from the whole family. Little kids can be encouraged to clip pictures from magazines or little shapes from construction paper and glue it on the paper... the more color the better. This would be a fun little twist to receive I would think.
- Make a fun box just for writing letters. Include homemade or bought stationary, stamps, stickers, pre-printed address return labels with the child's name, envelopes and fun colored pens. This makes the idea of writing a thank you card much more palatable if they get to be creative doing it.
- Have you discovered personalized stamps yet? You can create your own REAL photo stamps to be used as postage! It's brilliant fun and would really get kids excited about writing thank you cards! What's more is that by buying a sheet of these kinds of stamps... you could have a wonderful, unique gift idea.
- Save all your child's pictures and artwork in a folder that you don't have room for on your fridge or feel guilty throwing away. You can use these in a quick pinch by having the child simply sign the back of it with a little note.
- Set a good example! Kids should see the importance of being thoughtful and gracious by watching YOU write out thank you cards.
Labels: useful ideas
Saturday, January 27, 2007SALE!
Emmanuel Books is having a Winter Clearance Sale... a good time to pick up lots of goodies at a discounted price.
Labels: in the news
My husband and I have had many conversations/debates concerning the use of weapons for children's use in play. We both are in agreement when it comes to certain acts, for instance children pointing guns right at each others' heads, pretending to brutally kill one another. (This is not, in our minds, healthy play.) -But then there is the whole sword-fighting thing and bow-and-arrow thing which I really think that every little boy is entitled to, let alone that every boy (perhaps) will most likely end up playing around with anyway. Whether you ban toy-weapons or not, young boys will take a stick and pretend it's a gun. Doesn't every boy love to run around in the woods and pretend they're Robin Hood or whoever their role model is at the time??
Of course, the way a little boy will play with a weapon is very much influenced by that which he is exposed to. If he plays video games and watches violent movies, he is bound to use a weapon in the types of ways he sees them being used. If a boy reads stories of chivalrous knights or survivors in the woods, he is bound to play that type of character when he picks up a toy weapon.
-So there is the question: Do you ban guns but allow the other weapons? After all, guns are more violent-looking than a sweet little bow-and-arrow or a beautiful wooden handmade sword. (I am sort of playing the devil's advocate here...)
-There is the whole very respectable Quaker-mindset of children not being allowed to play with weapons period.
-Perhaps the way to draw to draw the line is to not allow children to use weapons for use in killing humans, but only for hunting...?
-Or perhaps you simply carefully choose which weapons they play with, observe how they are using them, and teach them noble use of that tool, so to speak. This would be the most likely way I'd end up handling the issue I think. (Logically and philisophically, my husband would disagree with me here..)
I don't have any answers... and I really don't have any concrete view on it all yet. Thank God, though, that we are Catholic and have the beautiful, wise, Mother Church to guide us. The Church doesn't teach anything hard-core on this issue, but we all know, as Catholics, that we are called to be peacemakers. I was originally inspired to write this post because some friends of mine on their blog, evangelical-Catholocism.com, posted what the Pope lately has said relating to this matter. I found it interesting and it made me ponder this whole issue a little deeper.
The following is from Zenit.org (Date: 2007-01-22):
Pope Urges Youth to "Change the Game" (VATICAN CITY )
Benedict XVI gave his public support to the Change the Game project, an initiative that asks children to put toy weapons aside. "I am pleased with this initiative and I would like to extend the appeal: Let's protect children from the spread of violence!" the Pope said on Sunday when greeting crowds gathered to pray the Angelus.
The project, which began in Leece, Italy, sponsors campaigns to "disarm" children of their violent play things. Since it began, Change the Game has collected some 4,500 toy weapons.
With the help of the civil authorities of Leece, Vito Patti, known as the Magician Fracasso, organized a month-long "disarmament" campaign that ended Jan. 6.
When Benedict XVI received Magician Fracasso in a private audience, the magician gave the Holy Father 12 toy weapons collected during the campaign.
The Change the Game project is now being promoted in other European cities.
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Friday, January 26, 2007Friday Coffeehouse: Jim Aylesworth
And the latest author I've discovered is Jim Aylesworth . We picked up two of his books from the library: Tricky Fox and My Son John. Tricky Fox is a rendtion of an old tale but something that this author loves to incorporate into his stories are fun little rhymes and noises that make the whole story a treat... not just a telling of a tale. My boys and I love to cozy in on the couch and read delightful little books and this is one of them! One thing I love about this author too, is that he has a penchant for choosing great illustrations for his books. Tricky Fox is done in a classic style by Barbara McClintock.
My Son John is my favorite so far. This book is complimented with wood cutout illustrations that are a joy to look at in and of themselves. The book is a play on the old rhyme: "Diddle, diddle dumpling..." He goes through an entire day on the farm with various sons and daughters (hey: pro-life message right?! ;o) ) with a page for each one:
Old Black Fly is another book I remember checking out at one point. This one is geared toward little readers as an old fly goes through the alphabet wreaking havoc through the house along his way. Again, in his trademark style, it is catchy and has a wonderful cadence that children will want to experience over and over.
With over 25 books in print, we will definitely have our eye out for more of Jim Aylesworth !!!
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA
Labels: Books Music Culture
Thursday, January 25, 2007another disclaimer
We've said this before in the early days, but it's worth repeating in case some of our readers find themselves disgruntled with the things we post. All mothers are not created equal. Our tastes and thoughts are just that: ours. We don't hold it against ANYONE who parents in a manner different than us. Please just take what you can from this website and know that though we sometimes write more forcefully than we maybe should... we aren't dogmatic about everything we say! So if you use disposable diapers and your kids are in public schools wearing the latest Sponge Bob fanny pack... that's fine; there's much more to be gleaned from this website than things like this! We're here to stay true to the goal as stated in our side bar: finding dignity and encouragement in our vocation.
Labels: our website
I've been trying to figure out a way to write about the topic of children and commercialization for some time. I'm personally not a huge fan of my kids being walking billboards for the latest cartoon character but through gifts or cheap thrift store bargains, you may find a few brand names screaming loudly from their shirts.
I don't think this is necessarily bad; after all the kids are dressed and warm and that's what counts. But I try to limit such types of clothing and toys for two reasons. One, it's not asthetically pleasing to me (and it's all about ME right?! ;o) ) Two, the principal of using kids to market brands just gnaws on me in a bad kind of way.
Clothing producers are very, very savvy in the techniques used to market their products to children. Look at the whole Disney "Princess" line that's just taken off this past year or two. There are princesses EVERYWHERE... and it's all over their bed sheets, sippy cups, backpacks, and toothbrushes!!! This stuff sells big. Again, I wouldn't categorically say that buying your kid the Dora the Explorer sheet set is an act of imprudent parenting... you'd probably be your child's hero for a while! (My son used his own birthday money to purchase Spider Man slippers he wanted so badly.) But it does give us pause to think about overarching goals of consumerism.
When I was looking up a book (yet to be released) called "So Sexy, So Soon:
The Sexualization of Childhood in Commercial Culture", I stumbled across a very interesting website: http://www.commercialexploitation.com/
As a disclaimer, it's important to note that I don't advocate everything on that site; there are some things a little too "left" for my liking but you can sort the wheat from the chaff and be caught for hours reading links and articles that really put the commercialized childhood thing in perspective.
So without further digression, I'll leave you to explore that area on your own. Some interesting links include the following:
Printable fact sheets on marketing to kids
"So Sexy" overview
Breaking Free from Baby TV
Wednesday, January 24, 2007Should I put sugar on my cereal?
I wanted to point out today's feast day of St. Francis de Sales because he has so many incredible thoughts for us to ponder. The title of this post sort of indicates that this isn't your average feast day announcement we do. So read on and look at some of of the things he said and apply them to our lives as mothers. Here are a few that stuck out to me along with my commentary:
"There are many who say to the Lord, "I give myself wholly to Thee, without any reserve," but there are few who embrace the practice of this abandonment, which consists in receiving with a certain indifference every sort of event, as it happens in conformity with Divine Providence, as well afflictions as consolations, contempt and reproaches as honor and glory."
Well if this isn't the story of MY life! How easy it is to consecrate ourselves to God each day, but how many of us actually LIVE that conviction?! If we truly wanted to be one with Him, the trials we encounter wouldn't phase us so much as they do. God allows ALL THINGS for a reason. He is trimming our unwieldy branches with hard times...
"Every moment comes to us pregnant with a command from God, only to pass on and plunge into eternity, there to remain forever what we have made of it."
We have opportunities at every waking moment. Achieve sainthood by making the most of them.
"An action of small value performed with much love of God is far more excellent than one of a higher virtue, done with less love of God."
This is especially encouraging to me, who has such a difficult time with "big" things like fasting. When I struggle with tormenting thoughts on whether or not to sacrifice sprinkling sugar on my Cheerios--and I choose to eat them plain in atonement for my sins or for the holiness of my husband, or for an end to abortion etc.-- that's when I've conquered a little piece of myself to give to HIM. It sounds so silly and trivial... but with love it is made great.
"The highest degree of meekness consists in seeing, serving, honoring, and treating amiably, on occasion, those who are not to our taste, and who show themselves unfriendly, ungrateful, and troublesome to us."
I don't think anything more needs to be said.
"To be perfect in one's vocation is nothing else than to perform the duties and offices to which one is obliged, solely for the honor and love of God, referring to His glory. Whoever works in this manner may be called perfect in his state, a man according to the heart and will of God."
There is no magic wand that some mothers have and others don't. We can't measure how "good" a mother is by most objective standards. I used to think I wasn't cut out for maternal things. But this just was my muddy excuse for being impatient and annoyed with my kids. But if I turn that around and see that this is what I'm CALLED to--and I do it with love-- there my perfection will be.
"Consider all the past as nothing, and say, like David: Now I begin to love my God."This is beautiful. There is no time like today. Forget all the imperfections you've struggled with and just DO IT! Just love God and live your vocation and purge your flaws slowly from your life. The saints aren't just some nice legends to be admired in picture books. They are REAL people who struggled with real problems. We can get there. There are no excuses... the sacraments can help us. We are all called to be saints.
I admit to being a church shopper. We don't necessarily go to the closest church in our neighborhood because our liturgy preferences are better met 1/2 hour away. We made the decision to go to a different church after much thought. It wasn't just a matter of us being liturgical snobs. Among some of the reasons we travel a bit is because it is a matter of our children's spiritual formation being better met in a parish that is alive with families and sound homilies and yes, aesthetical achievements that assist in directing our minds to the Beatific Vision. However, this was a personal choice laced with several elements we considered in depth for OUR family. I know many people who do assist at the local parish and are wonderful, upstanding, orthodox Catholics; they have found their position in the Church family there.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007staying healthy
This article includes most of what we already know, but there were 3 particular tips that I think are lesser known: Eat more basil. Say no to ice. Never point a fan at your child.
Labels: in the news
Here is a link to an interesting article, and follow-up comments, regarding middle-schoolers 1st ammendment rights, especially regarding abortion.
Labels: in the news
Looking back on it now, I really know for a fact that I wouldn't have beeen able to get though any of that if it weren't for grace, help from Our Lord and Lady and the love that God puts in our hearts for our children. I had to say a lot of prayers last night for strength to be patient, for the strength not to give up. Without those prayers I may have lost it. Sure, during the day I find myself snappy or quite like a witch if it's going like that. But at night, when I am tired and sick and hence it's doubly hard, you'd think I'd abandon the whole thing altogether or throw my child out the window, so to speak! But no! Grace is there and we get through it. How? I have found that the ONLY way to really get through it all in a quiet, loving way is through our Lady. Thank God for her example. We must give her everything we do, asking her to take our hand and teach us her gentle, loving and patient ways! Sure, it was easy for her, you may say-- after all, she was sinless and holy, and we on the other hand are sinners. However, we have the consolation and grace of her help, and the shining image of what we are CALLED to be as mothers.
Monday, January 22, 2007Making Do on Monday: Do Life
Today marks the 34th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade... the decision that made abortion legal in the United States.
These messages are good. People in society need to see that we will not be silenced. And that there are many people who want to defend life despite what the (often rigged) poll numbers say. But the even bigger impact can be made by how we are living OUR lives. By being open to life... by wearing that smile on your face that shows you DELIGHT in God's blessings to you. Having a large family and/or mothering the few children you have with grace and love and STRENGTH is the best pro-life message we mothers can give. Show those hardened hearts that this life we chose is a beautiful one, even on your bad days. I don't think we should "fake it" if we are having a crummy day. But make a conscious effort to find grace in sufferings and show THAT. The willing, sacrificial attitude of wanting to raise children isn't very common anymore. We are called to be a sign of life... to be counter-cultural. Bite back the temptation to yell at your kid who knocks something off the grocery store shelf. Be conscious of how disgusted and worn-out you might look when your three little ones are clamoring all over you in public. What do our expressions tell society regarding our feelings on mothering? We are called to love and to give love in the way we raise our children. Having a smile on your face while doing it can change the world...
Saturday, January 20, 2007Catching His Smile
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Friday, January 19, 2007We stand corrected...
Posted a car seat warning study a while ago... well the study has been retracted apparently:
Labels: in the news
This article is one of the best overviews I've seen on why marriage is in such decline. It's somewhat disheartening to read, but it does make you realize just how essential of a vocation we have to be counter-cultural in this world. Of course one of the primary reasons is summed up by this quote: "...family and sexual liberation cannot co-exist."
Labels: in the news
Every home needs some good singing/music resources. Below are a few I think are pretty essential to have around.
Rise Up Singing: This amazing folk book is wonderful to have on-hand... It doesn't have every song in it but it has most of the gems (especially ones that were well-known between 1950-1980) which our parents sang to us, and most fun kid songs. I love to use it for lullaby singing. It's basically the songbook which every folk-musician owns or knows about. A unique feature of this songbook is that it has a very diferent presentation of guitar chords... a great presentation which I use for all of my own music. The illustrations are also a plus. They are beautifully-done, gentle and strong. Some of them have a sort of new-agey look or feminist side, but it's lovely sketching in general. One of the biggest pluses is that it is spiral-bound, so it is always stays open if you're reading along while playing the guitar.
The Adoremus Hymnal is a wonderful hymnal put together quite recently, in 1997.
It was designed for use both in small parishes with few musical resources and in large parishes with full choirs. Following the general plan in Musicam Sacram, this hymnal consists of three major sections:
1. the Order of the Mass;2. musical settings for the Ordinary of the Mass; and3., an excellent selection of the most beautiful hymns ever written -- for every season of the liturgical year and other feasts and holidays.
The music was selected on the basis of beauty, holiness, Catholic tradition, theological integrity, familiarity and simplicity. All the music is within the capabilities of every Catholic parish. (~adoremus.org)
For more information go to Adoremus.org. It's a great hymnal to have around the house as well... great for learning new hymns and harmonies for every season.
Go in and Out the Window: An Illustrated Songbook for Young People ~By Dan Fox
This one is published by Metropolitan Museum of Art, including a delightful and very diverse selection of artwork, prints, ancient tapestries, woodcuts and more to adorn the classic old folk songs such as Down by the Riverside, Greensleeves, The Farmer in the Dell and more.This folksongbook, unlike Rise Up Singing, includes the music for piano, not just guitar tablature. It does include the guitar tabs as well though. What really makes this book unique is the narrative on the side of every song, (directed towards a listening child), which introduces the reader to the song by using the illustration/picture provided.
Here is what he says about the well-known child beloved classic song, The Fox:
"Foxes, both the red and the gray kind, are very pretty animals, with their bright eyes, pointed snouts and ears... But farmers do not like them, for they can do a lot of damage... The designer of this tapestry made the fox very hard to find among all the greenery and flowers. If you look closely,... "(He goes on to tell the reader all about the tapestry which is the illustration on the page, then concludes with an introduction to the song:) "In this old folksong, the fox is up to no good..."
Here is what he writes about the beloved American lullaby, All the Pretty Little Horses:
"This tender lullaby was very popular in the American South, hummed over cradles by parents and nurses. Some people counted sheep when trying to fall asleep, but it is much more pleasant to think, and perhapd dream, of the 'pretty little horses' like the one in this print by the French artist Henri Matisse. He used brilliantly colored paper cutouts to create a joyous circus design..."
In short, Go in and out the Window is a delightful songbook that can provide hours of fun for adults and children to read, learn new songs, learn about different artwork from all different time periods: -Definitely a homeschooling essential to have around!
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Thursday, January 18, 2007Pray...
Labels: in the news
The disturbing trend of self-glorification is all over in stores these days. If clothing manufacturers are suceeding, your 12 year old girl is wearing an "I'm hot, you're not" or "Spoiled" shirt, and your 13 year old boy is wearing something like a "Keep staring, your boyfriend won't notice" or a "Will trade sister for video game" shirt. -Ugh. Not only are these kinds of clothes ugly, they are simply disgusting in the morals they (don't?) try to promote.
Well, I'm fine letting people go about their style until it crosses a line. Lately there have been a rash of shirts out thinking it's funny or cute to promote violence against men. Look at this shirt; if you can't read it, the words say "How to drop a boyfriend." I've also seen a shirt out there that shows a girl standing on the head of a boy saying, "Sometimes you have to put your foot down." Can you imagine the uproar if the sexes were switched in these images?! So why is it okay or "cute" to have pictures of girls beating up on guys? Even Wal-Marts have been seen selling these shirts in their girl section.
If you notice clothing like the above, please do us all a favor and say something to the manager of the store. Change is effected through dedicated and concerned consumers. If enough of a protest is made, that line will get pulled from the shelves and manufacturers may think twice about what messages they are pushing onto our children.
-Ellie, Oak Harbor
Labels: in the news
Wednesday, January 17, 2007Question of the Week: It's a sign
Tuesday, January 16, 2007Without a Home
"Without a Home"... The title I choose for this post seems so sad, so forlorn, reminiscent of a lonely, homeless cat wandering the streets... It is not so dramatic or sad as that. -Just a fact of the present state of things around here. I'm sure that there are many of you out there who have been through or are going through a similar sort of thing as I am about to share.
My husband and I bought our first house one year ago. 3 months later we moved here and tore apart parts of our house with the intention of renovating a bit. Now, almost a year later, we are STILL chipping away at the place. My husband has not the time nor the money to finish it promptly. Being a carpenter, if he were to do nothing but the house, it would have been done early this summer. However, with starting his new job and all, his time was quickly eaten up. Our 2nd child is due to arrive around February 22nd or so...That is only about 6-7 weeks away, and I have not unpacked one box of baby clothes or diapers or anything. My nesting instinct is kicking in and I want to start scrubbing my home, washing the baby blankets and organizing clothes and diapers... but I am stuck here in a little room, still without a home to move into. My husband and I still reside with his folks in a very small bedroom and sleep on a bed smaller than a Queen size. With a toddler sprawled on the side, a big man and a 34-week pregnant woman crunched together, it is quite a snug fit. -Cozy, but very tight. There was a time this summer when I thought I'd die of frustration. I wanted my own kitchen, my own space... I wanted our own family time back, etc. I begged people to pray for us and was desperate to get into our own house. However, the lessons I have learned have been immense.
First of all, there is the wonderful advantage of knowing my in-laws very, very well. We are now all so comfortable around each other that I'm convinced there may not ever be an awkward moment in our futures. Secondly, there is the virtue of patience and all, which I learned the hard way. Most importantly, I have been given the graces to be able to be very grateful for the many blessings I do have. I have been given the grace to be able to focus and be grateful for the what I DO have as opposed to what I do not have. It sounds so simple, but I think that many of us spend so much of our time thinking of this and that which needs to be done, this or that which we desire/need/want, rather than just living in the moment and thanking God for the moment-to-moment blessings in our days.
We are rich! We may not have a home, but we have love; we have grace; we have each other. What more do I really and truly need? Sure, I desire to have my stuff again-- to have my own pots and pans, my own pottery and icons and table linens and furniture... but do I really NEED these?? I do not. I need God, shelter, my husband and children. That is all.
We plan on having a home birth. We did with the firstborn, and we plan to do so with our coming second. However, I could technically go into labor safely in just a few weeks... And, as I mentioned above, I have not ONE thing ready for my coming baby! I don't even have a house of my own that is ready. I am beginning to feel like Our Lady. Now I have a very tiny idea of what it may have been like, going from inn to inn before giving birth in the shelter of a stable. Thank God I do have a wonderful husband, my own St. Joseph, to take care of me. If I went into labor tomorrow, so to speak, he would be preparing a bed and a little mini hearth in our empty, unfinished home. He would make a cozy place to welcome our little one. In other words, God will provide, through Him and His merciful providence.
It has been hard to be grateful for these things amidst the frustrations of not having my own home. But it has been a journey of grace, a journey of growth, and I thank God for giving me the strength and the graces necessary.
Monday, January 15, 2007from the mouths of babes
Xavier told me that he was playing "prison" with some of his rubber animals and and other toy characters. I noticed in the prison (a broken tupperware container) that he'd put in his plush St. Joseph and Baby Jesus-in-a-manger dolls in there too.
I casually ask: "Why is St. Joseph in prison?"
Xavier: "He's protecting Baby Jesus."
Me: "Why is Baby Jesus in there?"
Xavier replies with exasperation as if I should have known better: "He's praying for all the prisoners."
We mothers are always so pleased when the little ones learn their months and seasons... have we taught them about the spiritual phases of the year? One of the best ways I heard about doing this was to always adorn your table with a tablecloth coordinating with the current color we are in. So children will see a green tablecloth most of the year, but that phases out with purple and pink, white and red. I think putting on a red tablecloth on the feast of a martyr or on Passion Sunday, a big impact would be made in the minds of little ones. We have to remember that kids only absorb so many facts and words and dates. What really makes a big impression are visual or spatial activities to really hit home a point. Colors have the potential to make a big impact! Other things you could do include having particularly colored vases brought out during the appropriate time. Or if you are aghast at the idea of having many days of a green tablecloth... you might make or buy colored place settings or hang a wall tapestry up reflecting the current time of year we are in.
www.catholicculture.org has this to say on the matter:
Annually, through the Proper of Seasons or Temporal Cycle, the Church immerses herself in the whole “mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and birth until the ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord.” Further, in the Proper of Saints or Sanctoral Cycle, she honors with special love Mary, the Mother of God, and celebrates the feasts of martyrs and saints who are already in possession of eternal salvation.
But how are the faithful to draw life from the Eucharistic sacrifice as water from a limitless spring? How can they make their participation in the sacred liturgy bear fruit in their homes and daily lives?
Within the Catholic home – the domestic church – the faithful may make use of pious practices, objects and various traditions to join with the Church in living the liturgical year. By making use of customs, traditions, and devotional practices, parents, as first teachers of their children, will be building up the “little kingdom of heaven” that is their home. Ideally, this will culminate in the celebration of the liturgy, for every practice and custom that is not oriented towards the liturgy will be hollow and fail to produce worthy fruit.
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA
Saturday, January 13, 2007A Taste of Real Wealth
I went back to Ohio for the holidays, where my family has 55 acres of land in the beautiful Eastern rolling hills. There they have some goats, chickens and cows, as well as many cats and a border collie. They also have a woodstove and a windmill, gardens and fruit trees, lots of woods to explore. In short, they have a pretty special little corner of the universe to themselves. My parents have 3 children at home presently. I abide in Washington and my 21-year-old brother is finishing up a degree up at the University of Michigan this spring. My family has a lot of financial stresses and lifestyle choices which make it difficult to live so far out in the country. As we all do, they have their own little package of trials and struggles to work through! However, what they are indeed very rich in is the richness of life on the land. They are wealthy in ways many of us are very poor. They have the open air, the stillness, the smell of woodsmoke and the distant, clear, resonant sound of a goat's bell out in the fields. They can see the stars at night; they can hear the windmill turning; they can hear the distant dog bark miles away... in essence, in that place they can hear the beating of their own heart, the stirring of their souls. It was there that I really went through my deepest spiritual changes. I think that the quiet and the beauty of the countryside assists in instilling in one the yearning for God as well as the discovery of Him. Being there was a reminder to me of the really important goals in my life. I want to be able to not just teach my children how to think, to read, to write, but to give them the peace and stillness of mind which is the best foundation for good, healthy movements of mind and heart. I want my children to get their hands into the earth, into the soil. I want them to discover the wonders of the woods, the fields, the sky, the open air. I want them to learn the plants in the area. The list goes on. Most importantly, I want to give them the healthiest foundation possible for their journey in life. How good it is, also, for children to be around animals! While I was home I took my son for a walk every day to visit the animals. We chased the chickens, fed the goats hay, and watched the cows chew their cud... My son really watched, listened and observed. Out there in the fields he, like me, was still, quiet and peaceful as we fed the animals and walked through the grass. On Christmas Eve it was especially good to be amidst the animals, the sweet smell of hay. -For animals in the manger surrounded our Lord when He was born! God chose for Our Lord to be born in stable, amidst animals. Animals are not dirty and unclean. Many of them are noble, dignified beasts to be taken care of with reverence and care.
I am sort of rambling on I suppose. In essence, it was good to be reminded that in the noisiness of our cities it is indeed harder to be still and peaceful, whereas in the countryside, it is peaceful and still, providing that stillness of mind and heart neccesary for our growth in interior health.
Ah, the good things in life...
~Sia is back home in Vancouver, WA now
Friday, January 12, 2007Look out American Girl
Okay if I had a couple extra hundred dollars... and a little girl... this would be my kind of baby doll!
Thursday, January 11, 2007The Rules of Engagement
My husband's current pastime has been a bad influence on me. I noticed this when in a recent long argument we had I used a football analogy to explain it: "We are just too evenly matched... at this rate we'll just keep going into overtime."
Last I heard the top three reasons for divorce had to do with disagreements over money, sex and childraising. I wholeheartedly encourage arguing with your spouse! It can be very healthy to unearth feelings and expectations and understandings that are operating under the surface of day-to-day life. I mean this in a way that takes into consideration the "rules" of arguing. I would add to the list I'm about to post that we must focus on not making mountains out of mole-hills... and to not go to sleep angry. Every couple married more than a couple months realizes that they need to pick their battles. However, it's also important not to let things accumulate until he casually mentions "Honey, my mashed potatoes are cold" and you blow up and throw the whole darn pot in his face. Constant communication is key as we all probably know. When work or family or outside commitments take time away from you as a couple, try very hard to take even just 20 minutes of catch-up time. Turn off the TV and boil some tea water and sit at the table and just talk.
A few years ago, I saw this list from Marty and Kristine Franklin about Fair Fighting. I was in a militant state of mind when I read it, so I reprinted it... signed it, asked my husband to do the same and posted it on the fridge. The list is long gone now but the effects are still present in our marriage... well, we shout and get sarcastic a bit more than we should sometimes, but things are much better now than the way they were in our rocky newlywed days. Especially useful for our purposes has been abiding by rules 9-11.
1.We are on the same side. We are a team. The goal is not for me to win. The goal is to solve the problem and to love you better.
2.Your feelings matter to me even if they are very different from mine. I will not judge your feelings. I will try to understand them and I will try to help you understand mine.
3.I will not shout, throw, or slam anything.
4.I will not be sarcastic, call you names, or swear.
5.I will never threaten or even hint at the possibility of divorce. We are in this together for life. If I need space to think, cool off, or pray, I'll ask for it and go to another room. I will not leave the house in anger.
6.I will not ascribe motives to your actions. I cannot read your mind and won't try.
7.I will keep quiet when you talk and listen to everything you say.
8.I will stick with this discussion for as long as it takes. If we can't finish right now, I will make a date in the very near future to pick it up again. I will not leave problems unresolved.
9.I will not give you the silent treatment. I will do my best to express my thoughts and feelings so you can understand. I will not clam up. I will not pout or manipulate through guilt.
10.I will ask for clarification when I don't understand you. I will not jump to conclusions.
11.I will not throw old sins in your face.
12.I will apologize quickly if I break any of the above rules and I will try to do better as we go along.
13. I will admit when I am wrong. I will say I'm sorry. I will ask for your forgiveness.
14.If the children overhear us I will apologize to each of them and explain that married people argue even when they love each other very much. I will assure them that I love you and that our family is not in any danger whatsoever. I will never make you out to be the bad guy.
15.If we can't solve a problem on our own in a reasonable amount of time, I will agree to outside help.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007being apostolic
The apostles were so bold with their faith. They were so on fire for sacrificing being "content" for Christ. Acts 5:41 tells us they "rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."
Tuesday, January 09, 2007on my way out
Will try to post later today... had a long night and now I NEED to get my kids out of the house to go to Story Time at the local library.
Have you checked your neighborhood library for kiddy storytimes?
An absolutely invaluable resource... they usually have a theme for the day and often follow storytime with simple games or crafts for the kids.
It's one of our only fun outings on the island in the cold weather...
Monday, January 08, 2007Car Seats
Here is a link to a recent article by Consumer Reports. To the disappointment of many, it turns out that MOST infant car seats aren't quite as safe as we're led to believe.
Labels: in the news
I have been enjoying watching my four-year-old grow up little by leaps and take on more responsibility around the home. Oh, how I long for the day when I have a disobedient teenager who can be assigned to dishes and scrubbing toilets for a punishment! I'm being facetious here but the point is that chores are good for kids! I've met people who have a real aversion to kids having much responsibility at home and who berate big families because the older kids often take care of the younger. What is so wrong with that?! Of course, no child can take the place of the mother and father but I am absolutely in favor of my children learning to play, share, WORK and live together as a family. Children are learning skills for the real world, and while we shouldn't treat them like little Cinderellas... we should give age-appropriate responsibilities for them to handle. This is easy to do with older kids who can handle cleaners and brooms and washing machine cycles with ease, but what about the little ones?
It is often a pain watching little kids work, it requires a gallon of patience and a pint of compassion. It can be frustrating watching the spilled milk getting toweled up when you know you could do it ten times faster and better than your child. But the important lesson is taking place. If we keep cleaning up their toys and doing everything ourselves because we are more efficient, we aren't enabling our children to become responsible members of the family. Of course they'll be awkward at first, but practice makes perfect. After my son takes five minutes to wipe up his spill, I tell him he did a really good job and then I quickly do a once-over on it myself. Positive reinforcement can do wonders...
Labels: useful ideas
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of our Lord. This day marks the end of the Christmas season.
And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water; and lo, the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him. And behold a voice from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."
Sunday, January 07, 2007Happy Epiphany
Happy Feast of the Epiphany! This feast marks the day when the three kings arrived in Bethlehem to present their gifts to our Lord.
Prayer: Father, you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star. Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith. 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, Amen.
The children in our homes can now place the kings by the manger...they have been traveling around the house and now have arrived in Bethlehem. Some popular traditions include:
~This inscribing above the doorways of our home (in chalk):
20 + C + M + B + 07
The initials (of the Magi Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) are separated by crosses and the year above the door. The initials CMB also stand for the words "Christus Mansionem Benedicat" which means "May Christ bless this house". This inscription above the entry of our house should be a reminder to us that we should be with and go to Christ in all our comings and goings.
The colors of the table settings or decorations for this feast can be gold and white. The color of white is the color of the liturgical linens (white signifies rejoicing in the church) and gold is the color of royalty, the 3 kings.~Twelfth Night Cakes
~Twelfth Night Bread
~Twelfth Day Cake
Go to Catholic culture.org for more reading. They have activities, blessings, prayers, the recipes above and more.
Happy Feast Day!
Saturday, January 06, 2007For our Leaders
With news that up to 25 US Bishops could retire this year, we should be especially mindful to pray for holy men and women of the faith... that the Holy Spirit allows newly elected bishops to be filled with His grace, wisdom and humility.
Labels: in the news
Friday, January 05, 2007Friday Coffeehouse: in my mailbox...
The sad reality of my bookworm tendencies is that I don't often find the time to sit down and do much solid reading. Or, what is more often the case, I don't have the brain energy to think on a level much deeper than the Sunday Comics in the newspaper.
And so, magazines and newspapers have become my mainstay for intellectual stimulation. I can handle something that is an article length... or even better is reading the letters to the editor. I have heard of several highly recommended magazines out there but am only qualified to share what my personal experiences have been:
National Catholic Register
This is my most anticipated treat by way of mailbox publications. It comes weekly and is chock full of current news from a Catholic perspective and interesting tidbits about what is going on in the Church and especially at the Vatican. Be careful not to confuse this wonderful, orthodox newspaper with the "National Catholic Reporter" which isn't nearly as reliable or time-worthy as this one. In each issue there is the Holy Father's weekly address as well as a wonderful sub-section on the "Culture of Life". If you have to choose just thing to subscribe to, pick this one.
Okay, I admit that I no longer subscribe to this because I couldn't commit the brain cells to thinking this "well" after having my third child. It's a wonderful magazine, again very solidly Catholic... and the articles are usually quite brilliantly written on politics, culture and the Church. The problem is that one has to FOCUS on these articles. They are highly intellectual and a fierce competitor to your attention to toddlers begging for more milk in a sippy cup or gassy babies filling up diapers.
Well, on the opposite end of the spectrum is a perfectly light and easy reading magazine geared exactly toward what its title sugests. This isn't a Catholic magazine, but it's been such a treasure for us to have simply because there are so many wonderful ideas for things to do and make and play with as a family. My kids are just barely getting old enough to where I can actually do many of these activities with them... though I've been a subscriber since my first son was born (saving up back-issues because they're so full of good ideas). This magazine is great for homeschoolers too because it offers so many ideas; I especially appreciate their seasonal and holiday focused issues.
I don't get this magazine anymore either (I think they've converted to only offering digital subscriptions?) but it was instrumental for me in reverting back to the Faith. It is an apologetics magazine. Colorful and flashy and probably perfect for teenagers or adults who want to know how to defend the faith better but don't have the resources or time to commit to reading the Early Church Fathers or studying the Bible in depth. It's somewhat elementary in the sense that with this alone, you couldn't debate seminary theologians; but it's more for the day-to-day, down to earth lay people. The editor is well-known apologist Patrick Madrid (author of Surprised by Truth... a great read for new Catholics or potential converts from a Protestant background).
* Gift subscriptions are a wonderful gift idea, especially for kids who have too many toys as it is. Children LOVE getting things in the mail... why not indulge that with a quality publication that they can really get involved in. There are magazines geared toward almost every sport or hobby out there; just google it! Other magazines I think are worth looking into (for kids or adults) or ones that I've enjoyed include these: Boys Life, Faith and Family, Ranger Rick, Highlights, Real Simple, Mothering, Runner's World, and National Geographic.
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA
Labels: Books Music Culture
Thursday, January 04, 2007Different Spiritualities
Something that is so extraordinary about our Catholic faith is the way that virtually every person can find his or her own niche in the way we worship. Granted our THEOLOGY is the same and our doctrines don't waver... but there is so much room within the Church to really express our beliefs in our own lifestyles.
I look particularly at the various saints throughout time. Many of them had extremely different spiritual paths. What worked for Ignatius of Loyola was very different from Thérese of Liseux. I have spent a lot of time over the years reading various saint books, wanting to imitate their directives for life. I honestly failed at most of them. The Spiritual Exercises of Loyola seemed too intense for my weaklingness. St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle was mostly over my head. Then I moved on to St. Francis de Sales Introduction to the Devout Life which was good reading, but didn't really resonate with me. I had read the works of St. Thérese, the Little Flower long ago and again more recently, and while I enjoyed the reading, I still didn't quite fit that noble calling. Close, but not quite. I've also gotten into the prayers of St. Bridget of Sweden and read a little of St. Augustine. Again, good stuff... but I wasn't quite up to par.
Finally, just recently, I've discoved a saint whose spirituality I can make my own too... St. Peter Julian Eymard and his devotions which are primarily geared toward the Blessed Sacrament. Reading his works makes me want to dig inside to find the very best of who I am... who I am called to be and live it fully and with joy and humility and honor.
Some people in our church are called to a path similar to the apostles and their evangelization or defense of the faith. Some are called to a St. Michael type of spirituality... one that isn't talked about much, but is lived with a fierce, quiet love in their work. Some may be asked to be the socially unaccepted and simple lovers of God like St. Francis. Still others are called to find holiness not in the limelight, but in the shadows of the Cross as victim souls... lives filled with suffering and a path scattered with thorns.
I have been to and experienced churches where in some cases, it seems that if one does not fit the cookie cutter of what a "good Christian" is supposed to look, act, and talk like, then something must be deficient in their walk with God. Members of these churches might be confronted by people who try to get them to the "right way" by attending the prayer groups or singing louder in the worship music or by going door to door as missionaries or by publicly discussing their relationship with God. These things can be good for some... but they are not for all. It's tragic if people are made to feel inferior for not expressing their faith in the sociallly correct way for that church.
I praise Him that He is big enough to accomodate for all kinds of characters and understandings and ways to worship Him! All while staying comfortably covered by the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apolstolic umbrella.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007Question of the Week: Saw this one coming didn't you?!
Tuesday, January 02, 2007Quick Pick
I just finished reading what came as a breath of fresh air: "Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent's Guide: How to Make Safe, Sensible Decisions about the Risks, Benefits, and Alternatives."
Labels: Books Music Culture