Wednesday, February 28, 2007Quick Pick
My husband is reading a book. For those who know me, this is an unusual event. He gets a lot more out of "doing" than reading. But I wanted to highlight this book on our blog because it is so perfectly directed toward the dignity of a MAN'S vocation. Succesful Fathers: The subtle but powerful ways fathers mold their children's characters by James Stenson is an awesome compilation of reflections on the nature of fatherhood. It's more than your typical self-help book. It includes how the traditional economics of the family unit have changed over time and what kind of role that plays in the parent/child relationship. Now, my husband is not only averse to reading, but he is very averse to anyone, "expert" or otherwise, telling him how to raise his children. This book doesn't do exactly that. But a man who my husband respects a lot offered him this little book (it's only 65 pages) and mentioned how it had a huge impact on his life... so my dear agreed to give it a go. And as I covertly browsed it myself, I was struck by the simple and true message in it, I would hope all men see their role as fathers in the way this author describes.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007My story and the Rule of Six
When I had my first son, I was barely 20 years old; my husband was on the other side of the world; and my family was 1000 miles away. I had no clue what I was doing as a mother. It seemed as though there was suddenly this little life given to me and while I knew I had to feed him and change his diaper and such, I didn't exactly know WHAT to do with this little guy?! I think a lot of people fall into the mindset that children are simply accessories to our own lives. We have kids to check off that little box in our lives, much like buying a house or going to college or getting a dog. We think a couple kids will be nice; we won't be lonely and they'll be so much fun to dress up in cute clothes and parade them around. Then they grow older and start talking back and we just try to keep them out of our way as we go about our business... annoyed that they keep demanding our time and attention. Sometimes they bring home a cute drawing from school and we proudly display it on the fridge. We dress them up and get the mandatory family portrait at Sears and send it to all our friends, hoping they'll see what a lovely, well-put-together family we are. Then they become teenagers and it's the battle of wills and we pray for the day they move out so we can go back to "quality" time with our spouses without those kids getting our every spare moment. What a pity. And yet, this is basically what society considers typical, healthy parenthood.
God has so much more in mind for us! For them!
What exactly DO we do with these kids? What does it mean to love them? To raise them? To educate them? If you would have asked me this when I had my firstborn, I probably wouldn't have known what to say... at that point in my life, I was just having a baby because I knew artificial contraception was wrong... not because I necessarily wanted one or had any concept of the vocation of motherhood.
Now, hopefully, the readers of this blog have some sense of wonder, privilege, and humility at being called to our noble vocation; I thank God that I've learned to have this attitude now. But sometimes I think it's tough to answer those above questions STILL.
However, recently discovering the Rule of Six has helped me articulate what I've begun to know but didn't think to itemize. I know I'm johnny-come-lately to this Rule of Six which seemed to get its blog-buzz last October, but there are still many who've not heard of it. Since there is a lot to be gleaned from these ideas, I thought the word should get spread even more.I encourage you to read posts about the Rule of Six from the originator: Melissa Wiley. These can be found in the sidebar of her blog.
So there's that. There now exist many different versions as mamas everywhere are trying to tailor their own rules for what their family needs are. But most follow the same theme of Play, Work and Love. So it may help some moms who are just feeling unsure as to how to go about this whole mothering thing... I wish I'd had it 4 years ago.
Monday, February 26, 2007Feed the Family!
Please support one of our readers who is seeking recipes from women everywhere for possible publication in a Large Family Cookbook. These recipes should be frugal, relatively healthy and able to be easily adapted to feed 5+ people. She is also looking for any personal anecdotes, time-saving tips, or other little experiences to sprinkle throughout the cookbook. Feel free to include holiday oriented fare or recipes in any category: breakfast, lunch, supper, snacks, dessert, beverages etc.
We mothers and wives have certainly gotten lots of practice at scrubbing and cleaning our homes. Have we ever really tried doing that within our SOULS? Each year lent comes around I find myself desiring to do this. But have ever really bowed deep down in humility before our Lord and asked Him to show us everything, to humble us, to reveal all that we really need to work on? Have we ever really and truly scrubbed and cleaned every nook and cranny of our souls? This means our whole mind, our whole heart. It's big! It takes a lot of guts to really, honestly, search for every trace of dirt and grime in every corner of of our beings. But what better time than Lent to do this?
Catherine Doherty speaks of lent being a time of "spring cleaning":
Deep inside us there is junk that has accumulated through the years. You have to go and cleanse your soul and heart of it all. Go into your heart and you'll see thousands of things: jealousy, envy-- a lot of things.
So, come Lent, you make a genuflection--not so much of your knees but of your soul-- and you say to yourself, well, here is where I cleanse. I cleanse my soul; here is where I spring-clean it; here is where I make it a place in which God can live.
Think of your soul as a room, a room that you are making ready for God. If you knew God was coming, you certainly would wash, clean and scrub...
One of the great ways to clean your soul is to be specific in your goals. It's easy to fail when we say things like "I'm going to try and be a better person." But each morning, wake up and say "When my husband comes home grouchy and gives me an unfair criticism, I'm going to bite back my harsh reply and be humble and silent like Christ was when unjustly accused." or " Today, I'm going to refrain from yelling at the children." or "When I see ___, whom I really don't care for, I'm going to go out of my way to be kind and thoughtful to this person." or "I am prone to impatience, I am going to slow down and breathe deeply when I feel tempted to get hurried and annoyed with the people." Making very specific attempts to weed out our imperfections, one by one, will produce a very comfortable soul in which the Lord can rest indeed!
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Friday, February 23, 2007Apologetics Done Right
There are a thousand and one different counting and ABC concept books out there. And while you certainly don't need picture books to teach either of these to your children, they can make the process a whole lot of fun. So here is a listing of my favorite concept books. What criteria do I have for a good concept book? Well, I of course look for quality, classy illustrations to delight ME as well as the kids. Secondly, I prefer books with a theme of some sort. Sure the "A is for apple, B is for bear" books are fine, but it's a lot of fun to use letters and numbers to treat the same topic. So here are just a few of our favorites, feel free to comment with yours!
Anno's Counting Book is a gorgeous book with rolling landscapes that change with the seasons and quaint churches and figures appearing to populate the town. All of Anno's books are good books for that matter, and are usually wordless too.
1 is One by Tasha Tudor is absolutely exquisite in it's pictures. I can not say enough good things about this author/illustrator. This counting book isn't totally themed like Anno's but the pictures make you feel like you are perusing a national treasure each time you turn the page.
The Icky Bug Counting Book is a fun and clever book by Jerry Pallotta that goes through all differernt kinds of bugs you may or may not have heard of. I always appreciate books that "sneak in" some educational material and this is one of them with his realistic paintings. As an added bonus, the book doubles as an alphabet book going backwards!
A is for Annabelle is another Tudor book that goes through all the beautiful ways one cares for her dolly. My boys weren't entirely interested in it but I couldn't resist checking it out from our library and wishing I had a daughter to share it with.
G is for Goat by Patricia Polacco is a fun rhyming book about the peasant girl frolicking about with her goats. Polacco's illustrations are always very colorful and detail-oriented watercolors and this one is typical of her Russian countrysides she is fond of depicting.
B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner is obviously out of season, but it's well worth mentioning since Elisa Klevin is an awesome, unique artist who illustrates this. This tells the story of Jesus' birth in sweet little rhymes.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007Just when you seem to get a grip on life...
... something bizarro happens, as if by a calculated stroke of the clock from the evil one. Your prayer life is progressing, you are loving motherhood, your husband and you are communicating beautifully, life is grand.
Just when we think we've risen above the roller coaster emotions of our challenging vocation, you get hit hard. Writing this out is helping me to put that in perspective. I'm never above the temptation to anger and despair. I must always be vigilant for the attacks of the evil one trying to jeopardize my relationship with Christ.
Today, I went to the thrift store with my three little ones in tow. I was wearing the baby and the two and four year olds were riding in the cart while I tried to browse a couple things. The boys were giggling, then standing in the cart. A curt, store employee asks me to have them sit down since many kids fall out of the carts. I nod and smile, of course, slightly overwhelmed because my kids were unruly at the time and I picked a bad time of day to venture out. The boys sit down. Not two minutes later, Leo stands up again to reach for an item on the shelf. The cart tumbles over with a very loud bang. He knocks his head against the shelf and promptly WAILS a piercing scream. Then Dominic starts crying and Xavier is just laying on the floor whimpering. The same woman comes over to me, giving me a very cold, stern look of "I told you so." Another employee asks if we need ice. Leo is fine so I decline. But he is still wailing, now begging for ice. I talk to the boys in as much of a calm voice I can muster, while my dignity and composure are rapidly fraying in a heap behind me: "C'mon boys, maybe we should go." The employees (there are three now) shift around and exchange looks in what can only be interpretted as them not wanting to tell me to leave... but hoping I will. This must be similar to what people feel when their bosses "ask" for their resignation. So I try to shush the baby while picking up Leo and carrying him, still crying, on my other hip. Xavier trudges behind me, crying now because he wanted to stay in the store to play with toys. The entire place is staring at me... it was silent except for my kids crying and my red face screaming for air.
So there's that. It took me a couple hours to digest that but I have it in perspective now I think. I was really rather depressed, feeling like I can't really go out in public anymore... and who am I to think that I have a handle on this whole mothering thing?!
And I have to divorce myself from those thoughts. It was just one day. And it almost makes me feel like I must be doing something right, when things like this happen. The closer you feel to God, the more vulnerable you are to attacks from the one who doesn't want that. He, in his sneaky way, wants us to feel exactly what I am so often tempted to feel: inadequate. This would be such a sucess for him! If we, who are raising the future soldiers and ambassadors for Christ, don't feel able to handle the job... we are inclined to give up or give in to apathy or self-pity. This of course affects our mothering, which plants seeds of easy battle-wins on our children's souls. Where we neglect them or dishonor them, it is like we are creating a mold for their character... with little leaks here and there. And you better believe that he knows their weaknesses, just as he knows ours. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we should be empowered to look at trials like this in a new way. They aren't just "trials from God to endure." Often they are direct battles the evil one tries to plant in our minds. And by recognizing this, we can be ready to fight.
We are supposed to avoid boasting of our fasting or sacrifices... in order to avoid a false sense of piety. But over the years I've learned a lot of good ideas from others on WAYS to sacrifice during Lent. What are some ideas you have on sacrifice that either you've done or heard of during this time?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007Sanctification so sweet
This little gem of a thought comes from one of our readers (and my dear friend):
The other night Lindsay and I were talking and she mentioned how this life is just a pilgrimage- our sanctification. I didn't think much of it at the time but I've been thinking a lot about that lately- I guess I've never really thought a lot about it before. Anyway, how gracious is God to give us all the pleasures we have in this life when all it is is our sanctification?! We aren't here to just enjoy this life; we're here to suffer and be united in that suffering with Christ. Our children could just be little pains in the butt without all the joy God has so kindly included with them. He gave us all these hormones and such to make us bond and love our children even when they completely test our patience. Anyway, you get the idea- it may be something encouraging for the other mamas to hear...
- Steph is a mother of two in Ogden, UT
Monday, February 19, 2007New Little Soul
You may have noticed that we have removed Alexis' name off of the pregnant mamas list....
She gave birth to little healthy Angelique Simone last week. The birth was wonderful and healthy. Thank you all for your prayers, and please pray for the recovery, adjustment and health of mama and baby as they recover and all. Alexis is a first-time mama, with a husband away, so I'm sure she is need of a litle extra prayers right now!
Labels: in the news
Lent begins in just two days. Like Advent, this is one of the more significant liturgical rythyms in our year. How important it is to celebrate the coming of His Glorious Resurrection by first preparing our minds... and homes. There are MANY, Many ways to prepare our minds and home for Lent and the coming Resurrection. Blogs everywhere are focused on this theme right now. So what you see here are just a few initial ideas for incorporating a sacrificial, sparse atmosphere in your home. Throughout Lent, we hope to post more ideas and reflections based on this season.
Friday, February 16, 2007Friday Coffeehouse: Rio Grande Games
As my profile reveals on here, I'm quite a board game fan. My husband and I drag our friends into board games whenever we get the chance. Back in California, this would involve a few people coming over and me putting my boys to bed while their children wandered around, playing... staying up irresponsibly late while we tried to keep our voices and laughter down from one of our favorite games. I long for those days again. Along with buying books with spare money, board games are another cause for vanity that I struggle to moderate: our hallway closet is full.
As such, I consider myself somewhat of a game connoisseur. I've only played two or three games that I actually didn't like. Everything else has its proper time and place. Word games like Scrabble or Scattegories are for a certain mood, just as party games like Cranium or Apples to Apples are. We even pull out good old Yahtzee every now and again and play with our kids. Then there are the strategy games like Risk or Axis and Allies, which are wonderful learning tools if you have older children as well as just plain fun if you can devote the time to it.
Most casual gamers do not know about Rio Grande Games. They don't know what they are missing! This company publishes some of the most fantastic strategy games EVER and there are a few components that contribute to making this company such an award winning one year after year. First of all, most of their games involve a perfect time length. While I love Risk, I can't pull the all-nighters we used to before we had children to play it. But the strategy games of the Rio Grande company usually last under an hour. So it doesn't monopolize your entire night to play an interesting game.
Another reason I love this company is that the games are artistically interesting to look at. They are simple, usually with wooden pieces, and pleasing to the eye. Furthermore, these games are almost always historically educational... would be a great resource for older children to supplement history lessons in or out of the home. I'll highlight the two games we own, though my wish list includes a few more I'd like to get!
This game is the most popular one this company produces because it has won numerous awards and many serious gamers recognize it as the ULTIMATE strategy game... meaning there is almost no "luck" involved. Every move you make affects everyone else and vice versa; throughout the game you have to constantly adjust your strategy to be the most efficient settler to raise and ship crops from Puerto Rico island. There are a lot of rules to go over so the first game is slow and complicated, but once you get it down a vociferous appetite develops to play it again and again.
This is another popular game and the company has produced many variations of it. This is nice because it can be played with 2-5 players and my husband and I have often pulled it out on weeknights and enjoyed playing it together; the game changes each time you play and you become more and more aware of the dimensions involved. "A clever tile-laying game. The southern French city of Carcassonne is famous for its unique Roman and Medieval fortifications. The players develop the area around Carcassonne and deploy their followers on the roads, in the cities, in the cloisters, and in the fields. The skill of the players to develop the area will determine who is victorious."
I highly recommend any Rio Grande games on the market. Your basic Target/Wal-Mart stores won't carry these games. Their website has a list of which stores in your area you can find them in, or you can purchase them on amazon.com.
Labels: Books Music Culture
Thursday, February 15, 2007Learning
This is just more a reminder to the obvious (pay attention to your children) rather than anything startling or revolutionary, as I know you've all come to expect from me. ;o)
Our blog isn't one that is intended to solely promote homeschooling; wonderful families we know attend all kinds of schools and everyone must figure out what works best for their family situation. However, it helps sometimes to consider alternative learning options by becoming aware of some of the issues we face as parents.
Most of us know that individuals have different learning styles. Various psychologists suggest that there are at least 7 types of intelligence. Here is a link that helps to identify those with regards to children. I don't necessarily think we all fall cleanly into categories but certainly there are dominances and weaknesses in each area we all have.
Why bring this up now? As I've stated before, one of my big reasons for wanting to educate at home is because I want to tailor a custom learning experience for each child I have. In traditional, government schools, learning styles are not usually taken into consideration. Children are graded, sorted and labeled before being put into a classroom with a curriculum that's already determined.
Now for me, I am really good at "school." I can memorize well, read and write essays with ease. I am good at perceiving the questions teachers ask and isolating what I need to know to ace a test (not necessarily learn the material). I am a verbal/linguistic learner. But my husband, who is one of the most innovative thinkers I know, was crummy at "school." They put him in remedial classes and he barely graduated high school. He happens to be a spatial and bodily/kinesthetic learner-- brilliant with woodworking, electronics and the like. I don't consider myself "smarter" than him at all; we have wonderfully complementary styles of reasoning and seeing the world. But he still has very bitter feelings about how certain teachers killed the joy out of subjects he was naturally good at (e.g. Math).
I want to be able to address the learning style that each of my children has shown me developing inside themselves. Leo is extraordinarily oriented in the musical realm. Anyone could see that. But Xavier, I've recently begun noticing... would almost certainly struggle in a traditional schooling environment. Let me illustrate just one example:
My mother-in-law works in an elementary school and sometimes thoughtfully brings packets of pre-school work home to give to Xavier (who really enjoys matching things up and drawing and such). She was recently helping him with one worksheet that was a basic connect-the-dots picture. As he went from number-to-number, he started to do an ornamental looping "detour" before getting to the next number. My mother-in-law, doing what most other traditional teachers would have done, kept correcting him saying "No, you have to go in a straight line." And it struck me as odd. For one thing, when I was young, it never would have occured to me (being good at "school"... not creative spatial thinking) to go in anything BUT a straight line between the numbers. So I could see his brain working differently there. The other thing that struck me was the realization that his instincts to do things in an alternative way would likely be squashed in a formal academic environment... at least in the early grades were conformity is the highest virtue. He'd been connecting the dots as the paper instructed; that he found interesting ways to do so would be reprimanded. Xavier has shown other signs to me that he sees the world in a different way, by being very poetic in describing scenery and constantly finding alternative uses for ordinary things. At the same time, he loves books, but isn't particularly interested in learning how to write or read himself just yet. I'm in no rush.
I've heard similar stories from other parents: one kid was put in "remedial" math because she didn't understanding subtraction. All it took after days of tears and frustration at school was for the mom to sit down with her child and ask about it. The child didn't understand when 3-2=1... where the 2 went... where it was being taken away? An interesting thought actually, that could have been addressed and subsequently prevented such misunderstanding at school.
What I'm getting at here in a long drawn-out way, is that we can really maximize the potential of our children by gently encouraging their skills and aptitudes while being sensitive to the ways they approach information in their minds. I know that there are some wonderful private and public schools out there; if you've found one, what a blessing! But these are the exception and not the norm, unfortunately. The other thing that is important to remember is that you know your child BEST. And most teachers, doing the best they can, do not have the prior knowledge about "where you child" is at or how they've come to see the world, or what experiences are shaping their current motivation or attention. This isn't their fault; most have a genuine interest in the well being of children; but it is an inherent problem with the government school system we have now, and even many private schools too. Here is a somewhat tangential John Holt quote to chew on:
Wednesday, February 14, 2007Valentine's Day and questions
Happy Valentines Day! Many peoeple don't celebrate this holiday, as, like many feast days, it has been taken over by the secular world. But Valentine was a saint. The stories of St. Valentine, such as the one of him marrying two lovers in secret, are very romantic.
Also, corny as the shape of a heart has become, it is indeed a very physical and Catholic shape. It is the physical shape of the very organ that beats to keep us alive; it's the symbol of the emotional aspect we all posess: that which gives us sentiment, compassion... it is used to represent the hearts of Jesus and Mary... the list goes on. Just as we see cartoon depictions of Santa Claus in the secular world and must interpret these as depictions of St. Nick, so must we do with the shape of the heart filling the public windows of the post offices and grocery stores all over the place.
On a side note, celebrating Valentine's day can be a delight in itself in color and decorations! What a fun time, in the middle of winter, to bring out those cheery doilies and summer-y plates and teacups... to make heart-shaped pancakes... to spread out the pink or red tablecloth. Symbols of St. Valentine include birds and roses.
In the New Calendar, this is the feast of the Memorial of Sts. Cyril, monk and St. Methodius, bishop . However, St. Valentine's feast is in the old Calendar which is where we get the name "Valentine's Day".
While in prison, Valentine was tended by the jailer, Asterius, and his blind daughter. Asterius' daughter was very kind to Valentine and brought him food and messages. They developed a friendship and toward the end of his imprisonment Valentine was able to convert both father and daughter to Christianity. Legend has it that he also miraculously restored the sight of the jailer's daughter.The night before his execution, the priest wrote a farewell message to the girl and signed it affectionately "From Your Valentine," a phrase that lives on even to today.
The valentine has become the universal symbol of friendship and affection shared each anniversary of the priest's execution -- St. Valentine's Day. Valentine has also become the patron of engaged couples.
~(above taken from catholic culture.org)
Go to CatholicCulture's site to read more about this saint.
I could go on with ideas of how to celebrate Valentine's day but I'd like to hear from our readers in the question of the Week responses first...
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Tuesday, February 13, 2007a humbling little honor
Thank you to the reader who nominated us for the 2007 Catholic Blog Awards. What an unexpected little delight to see our name on the listings when I went to place my vote. This little apostolate was nominated in four categories!
Labels: our website
How difficult (and how important!) to change this mindset by recalling the face of Christ! Christ is in them! Our Savior is not just in the nicely dressed, gracious, model Christian serving food at a soup kitchen. He is in that overweight, tattooed plumber on a cell phone that cut you off in the intersection! How can we recognize Him in the mulitudes? In the same way our Blessed Mother searched for her lost Child in the multitudes. We must seek in faith. Beyond what our deceptive senses would have us believe. We have to blind ourselves to what we see and hear, going only by the faith that we pray for on a daily basis.
In Caryll Houselander's "The Reed of God", it was noted that an old man... before he ever met someone, he greeted Christ in them in secret. Can you imagine how this could affect our world?! Before we put our groceries on the conveyor belt, we greet Christ in the cashier and bagger, and the frustratingly slow woman with two FULL carts in front of us, who is determined to empty her purse finding the exact change. This is the way to live in charity! It won't be easy to see Christ in everyone; it's not easy to see Him in the Blessed Sacrament either... but He is there.
Personalize it even more. Don't just look for Christ in strangers. Greet Him in yourself. And greet Him in your husband and children. This is what it means when the Bible talks about doing things for the littlest of men... you are doing them for HIM. Fold your clothes for the Christ Child. Prepare you food for the Christ Child. Wash the feet of the Christ Child. Kiss His wounds when He is hurt. Do these things-- these ordinary acts of motherhood-- in the way our Blessed Mother must've lovingly nurtured her Son.
Monday, February 12, 2007Making Do on Mondays: Stretching the food supply
There are many ways of saving money when it comes to meals. We've talked about "cop-out" dinners before, menu planning, useful sites etc. But here are a few simple tips just to get you to think frugally with the food you have on hand.
~When you have a whole chicken to cook, boil it. Save the water... take out your chicken when it's done and add peppercorns and onion peels and other such flavorful additions. Let it simmer for a while, partly covered. Let it cool when you think it tastes good enough, and save it in a jar or in a tupperware in the freezer.
~Buy bulk broth powder from your local health food store. There are usually a few types of broth: chicken, vegetable, beef, etc. When you go to the cupboard for broth, make it with boiling water instead. You only need a teaspoon per cup or so.
~Make your own flavored "stock" for soups and such by simmering vegetable peels and peppercorns... add paprika, salt and pepper to taste.
Save the Leftovers!
~When you go to a party and they're getting rid of all the food, ask if you can take home all those veggies! If you already have a fridge full of veggies, put them in the freezer and use them for soups later. If your fridge is veggie-less, well, eat them fresh!
~Don't throw away the dregs of a dinner that can be made into a whole soup! The other day I had about 1 or 2 cups of a chicken-rice-potato meal I had made for lunch. It just wasn't the type of meal I wanted to eat again in that form. -So I saved it. The following day I threw it into a crock pot with half a can of tomatoes, salt and pepper, an onion and as much water as was needed.
Drink more water!
~So many people spend oodles of money on juice! You don't need to drink lots of juice. You really need water. Eat fresh fruit and drink water.
~If you are a juice lover, (I certainly am! I'd drink juice all day.) dilute your juice to make it stretch. Or if you can't bear that, drink a cup of water before you pour yourself some juice... that way you aren't likely to drink as much.
~Also, buy frozen concentrates instead of already-made juice. It's drastically cheaper and then you can add as much water as is bearable. I've been doing this lately. It's more freeing to be able to drink juice without seeing the dollar signs in your head...
Don't throw it away.
~Save any dregs of food left in the pans, ie the extra oatmeal, the extra rice, etc. Freeze it and use in muffins and such. Muffins taste great with added oatmeal.
~So there are a few sliced apples left on the plate. So the babe didn't finish the banana... etc. Save it! Use the fruit in banana bread, or defrost and sautee with sugar for the crepes! Or freeze those chunks of fruit to use in smoothies; all you need is fruit, yogurt, juice or ice according to your tastes. You get the idea.
~After dinner, when there are still some steamed green beans or carrots in the bowl, save them and add them to a pasta sauce...
Labels: useful ideas
Friday, February 09, 2007Friday Coffeehouse: An Artist's Blog Worth Noting
Below is an excerpt from her wooden toys post which I though very well-put, and hence, worth noting. It will hopefully give you a feel for what her *tone* is...
There are many reasons why folks choose to have simple toys or straight wooden toys, but...
"As one mother-writer (whose name I forget but who founded the Natural Baby Catalog) wonderfully reasoned: consider a sunny field of daisies. Picture a child playing in the field. The child and the field belong together -- they fit. What sort of toy fits into that picture next to the child? A Barbie Doll? Rainbow Brite? A plastic laser gun? A Bionicle? Introduce those toys and something jars. Those toys don't fit. Now picture a rag doll with the child -- a wooden truck -- those toys fit. They are natural, like the child. Intuition and instinct. That's why they give their children wooden toys.
Because it's all about beauty, for me. Even when they're lying in a dishevelved way on the floor like above, I like looking at wooden toys. Maybe that one writer was onto something when she said they were more natural. They don't jar the senses. They don't scream for attention. They "fit."
For homemakers (or should we call ourselves, "house artists?"), I think this is an important component of crafting a home. Beauty isn't just filigree, decoration, pictures and curtains and knicknacks we put around our home. It's also about the day-to-day essential components of our home. And it's about molding our children's sensibilities to appreciate beauty by surrounding them by what we ourselves find beautiful. We try to simplify. But we should also remember to beautify. "
I'll leave you on that note!
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Thursday, February 08, 2007Stand by your Man
Ellie used the phrase counter-culture in one of her posts a while back...it reminded me of how truly counter cultural our role is as mothers in the world today. We are going very much against the grain just by being open to life, by having more than 2 children, and by simply being Catholic! However, I think that there is a lack of being counter cultural in our public attitude towards our husbands.
So often I witness women, non-Christian and Christian, complaining openly about their marital difficulties, frustrations and even personal arguments. The worst is when women make loose, mean jokes about their husband's ways or the negative aspects of their marriage. Sure, there is a humorous side to being married, and sometimes it can indeed be appropriate to make a lighthearted joke, for instance, "We just can't sleep on that bed anymore! It's tiny and we end up fighting over the blankets..." (with a smile.) That is fine. But it is not funny if it's something at all, in the least bit, serious or private. How would we like it if our husbands made mean jokes about us in public? Wouldn't we want our husbands to boast of the fact that he is the luckiest man in the world to be married to us, even if he knows that we do have some very huge difficulties within the marriage? To me, it seems a disgrace to the Sacrament of marriage and is doing it a dis-service. Troubles within the marriage need to be worked out in the silence of our own heart, in prayer, and with a humble, private attitude. I think that we would all agree that we desire holy marriages. Dishonoring our husbands in public and making such jokes is counterproductive in this growth towards holiness, let alone to our general mentality about the unity of marriage. Now there are of course the appropriate times when we can, and perhaps should, speak openly to someone about any hardships or difficulties within our marriage, as long as the end goal is to grow in our marriage. I have certain friends with whom I can share certain tensions and issues my husband and I have. These friends are there to help me and to guide me, to be a listening ear and to pray for me. In general, though, I try to make it a point to never complain to someone or vent on someone about my marriage if they will judge my husband or take sides with me because of what I say. This type of sharing is oftentimes fruitful and helpful to me in my growth in marriage. I want the listening ear to be one that is charitable towards both people in a marriage and who's mentality of a marriage is the same as mine, ie a Sacrament to be be treasured, embraced, safeguarded with our lives amidst a tumultuous world.
A refreshing, against-the-grain way to act in public would be to have a more humble attitude rather than a feminist one: an attitude that witnesses to the beauties of marriage as opposed to the hardships. Let's witness to the love, the honor, the union. We must never put our husbands down in public, never talk badly of them. What helps me in this effort is to remember that it is an honor to be married to my husband. It is bordering a feminist mindset when we get all proud, haughty, gossipy.
So, please ladies, be good witnesses to the world of being Catholic... not just in being pro-life, having many children, etc... but in your marriages! Safeguard it with your life. Go truly counter cultural and show the world a new side of what marriage can and should be... Remember that we are the salt of the earth. Stand by your man!! ;) (If you haven't heard that song, sung by Tammy Wynette, you must listen to it. It's awesome for it's time!! Lyrics below.)
Sometimes its hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You'll have bad times
And he'll have good times
Doing things that you don't understand
But if you love him you'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh be proud of him
'Cause after all he's just a man
Stand by your man
Give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely
Stand by your man
And tell the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man
Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Wednesday, February 07, 2007We take home education for granted.
A government education official says the government is working to avoid future conflicts over homeschooling with one particular family by looking "for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement."
Labels: in the news
I've found myself on more than one occasion stumbling over proper word choice and phrasing when I discuss non-Catholics to my children. They've learned that we cross ourselves when we pass a Catholic Church. Occasionally we pass a protestant church and the kids cross themselves and my oldest will say something like "Why don't we go to that church?"
Tuesday, February 06, 2007The pope, our families and YOU!
Katerina sent along these little quotes to us from our Holy Father and I'd like to remind everyone that we've always had an open invitation to you, our readers to write out your own thoughts, and reflections and e-mail them to us to consider for posting in this blog. We all benefit from different perspectives and experiences, so share away! Now this is what our pope had to say the other day, feel free to share any thoughts you have on this:
I think that in whatever way we discipline our children, they all need consistency. To me, it is almost unfair to them and doing them an injustice to simply "let something be" because we're too busy or lazy to deal with it. That makes whatever it was they were doing wrong something which is allowedm sometimes and at others is not. So what I've been realizing lately is that I need to "pick my battles" wisely.
I learned this the hard way the other day when I was in an irritated mood and told my 18-month-old to stop doing something that was really, really bugging me. He was banging on something or other with his feet in a playful way, not a destructive way...My noise-tolerance level, at the time, was very low. Right after I told him to stop, I realized that, #1, I had never told him not to do that before, and that, #2, it really wasn't something that I cared about that much, and, consequently, #3, wouldn't be able to be consistent with putting my foot down on such a silly little thing as this.
However, at that moment, I knew that I needed to be consistent. So I did the whole asking him twice and looking at him in the eye thing, then gave him a time out when he delibrately kept on...
Today, he looked at me very intently and then carefully and deliberately tested the waters by doing the very same thing. Today it didn't bother me in the least and I couldn't care one bit if he did it. After all, I was in a bad mood yesterday and a good mood today. So, in lack of knowing what to do, I pretended that I didn't notice, sang a song out loud, played with him and distracted him entirely... oops.
Oh, live and learn. I shall pick my battles more wisely next time. With this particular scenario I speak humorously, but with our day-to-day right-and-wrongs and disciplinary endeavors, I think it tremendously important to be consistent for the child's sake. As one of our readers said a while back, "no" MUST mean "no", because some day if they're in danger, i.e. running into the street, and you yell, "no", they need to know that you mean it!
~Sia, Vancouver, WA
Monday, February 05, 2007Making Do on Mondays: Improvised Art
This is a really quick couple of suggestions; I'd hoped to expand it a bit but have since got caught up in one of my more demanding mothering weeks. So where I lack, I hope YOU fill in with ideas of your own!
Art can be expensive. But sometimes expensive art is a good investment as it can be both edifying to us and supportive to the creative minds of people who make a living on such things. So, while I may balk at spending $30 on a generic reprint of cutesy animals at Wal-Mart, I would be more likely to spend the money on a small original piece of work we found at the farmer's market or something. Fortunately (I suppose), we don't have much discretionary income to debate on that art choice right now. So when we finished insulating and drywalling and painting my kids' room, the walls looked pretty bare. We of course put a crucifix up and then a statue of the Archangel Raphael on the dresser, but what about those walls?
For one, my mom picked up some chunky vehicle wall hangings at a garage sale so we threw those up there. Then we hung an old family baby quilt (the kind you can't bear to use) in one open space but their are two things I want to specifically talk about.
I am my libary's best patron; since we are pretty liberal with leaving library books lying around the house, some destruction was inevitable. Before my Leo turned two, he'd ripped three library books up that we had to pay for. Luckily for me, one of those books had gorgeous, quirky illustrations and since we essentially bought the book; the non-ripped ones were all ours. I found some cheap, antique looking frames and put our favorite three pictures on the wall; it looks like custom "kid room" art!
Lastly, we bought the boys a dinosaur calendar a couple years ago. After the year ended--not wanting to just chuck the thing-- we took those great pictures and had them laminated (3 pictures each in two complementing strips) and hung those on the wall. I wanted to do something narrow and long for the spaces we had and the result turned out to be lots of fun.
So there's that, a couple cheap ways to decorate kids' rooms! Now go rip up some library books... (just kidding)
Labels: useful ideas
Saturday, February 03, 2007urgent
Amy has a five year old, a four year old, a two year old and a five month old baby. Amy has also recently been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of leukemia; upon initial surgery, they found it had spread much more than they anticipated. She now has to undergo 7 months of severe chemotherapy in hopes to save her. She has to wean her baby within the next two weeks. This is a strong Catholic family living in Florida but they need a massive amount of prayers right now.
Jesus Christ is the Divine Physician. Please pray for her healing, and ultimately that God's will be done.
Friday, February 02, 2007savor the goods
A little cluster of epiphanies came walking down our lane. We've been taking Sundays off in order to celebrate it as a sacred day. Starting now, don't expect much posting on Saturdays either. It may happen, but don't bank on it.
Labels: our website
Today we celebrate Candlemas (blessing of candles), or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Presentation of Christ in the temple. So much to think about! This is also a great day to light and even make your own candles.
Yes, I used the word "delicate" immediately preceding Superbowl; you won't see that very often. Most Superbowl parties we've hosted or attended were filled with delicious, hearty foods-- usually involving lots of meat, chili, chips and cookies. Nothing wrong with that. For years, the word "Superbowl" has been synonymous with clogged arteries. If you ask, I give you an awesome recipe for a ghoulishly loaded "man dip" that you will probably love. But for now, who says the Superbowl is domain to just meat, cheese, and spices?! In keeping with our 'finer things in life' goal of this blog, I'd like to share 3 of my very favorite party recipes that are a great alternative to the typical fare found on coffee tables. I guarantee all to be people pleasers!
Hot Artichoke Dip (courtesy of my dear friend Jessica S. I'd double this recipe if it's going to a party; it goes quick!)
1 can unmarinated artichoke hearts
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayo
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 -1 cup shredded Parmesan
1 Tbsp. minced onion
Drain hearts from their can. Preheat oven to 350. Process artichoke hearts (or use a blender). Combine all ingredients in 1 qt. casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir and bake for 10 more minutes. Serve with chunks of French bread or crackers.
I reallly don't know the real name for this but all you do is combine one 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened at room temperature) with a small jar of marshmallow cream and you have a fabulous dip for all kinds of fruits. It works great with strawberries, bananas, apple slices, pineapple, grapes and cantaloupe especially. It's wonderfully yum! (Incidentally, another great little strawberry dip is to simply place some brown sugar next to the pile of sour cream you have on hand for your nacho pile and dip the berry in sour cream before the sugar. Sounds wierd, but it's great!)
Bako's Baklava (This is one of those things that people think is always much more difficult to make than it really is... here is an easy, delicious recipe)
1/2 pkg. phylo (filo) dough (let it sit at room temp a while before working with it)
1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely ground
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 to 1 cup honey
2 or more cubes melted butter
Place 1 sheet phylo dough in a 9 x 13 buttered baking dish (you may need to trim to fit). Brush with butter and add another sheet. Repeat until there are 4 to 6 layers. Mix walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/3 of this over layered sheets. Layer another 4-6 sheets of phylo and butter. Sprinkle last of mixture. Layer more phylo/butter layers. Cut into diagonals before baking. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and pour warm honey over all. Pour slowly so honey soaks into the layers.
Thursday, February 01, 2007in auditioning for the choir of angels...
...I'm afraid my son won't make the cut:
"Laa-sagna, laa-sagna in excelsis..."
We adults easily fall into the attitude that we are the all-important directors of our children's intelligence and even soul! We think that by imparting our direct, dominating personality on our children, we'll supply everthing necessary for them to become responsible, spiritually enlightened Christians. What a pity! I've too often thought that between my husband and me, we are the end all and be all of our children's development. All good thing and bad things come as a result of our parenting.
Children have an innate, God-given principle within themselves that will unfold little by little as they grow if it's left unhindered, and gently encouraged. Sometimes, we adults GET IN THE WAY of our children's growth. Montessori illustrated this difference when she talked about how people interpret the Gospel incident where Jesus says "Suffer the little children to come unto Me..." Too often this is pushed into meaning "Lead the little children..." when the reality is that the words suggest "Permit the little children to come unto Me..." Adults hinder this process by trying to do for the children what they ought to do themselves... what can only only be done by themselves! I think of it like a budding fire. It will grow and burn and flourish if allowed enough air and proper kindling. But blown on too much, and suffocated under too much wood... the fire will have no room to grow; it will snuff out.
-Ellie: Oak Harbor, WA