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Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family

Month

January 2009

The perfect tool…

My father-in-law was a remarkable man.  Brilliant, as most self-made men are.  Strong and upright, no shady deals or skeletons in his closet.  Faithful to his wife and a loving father to his children.

And practical.

He grew up during the Great Depression, and the lessons learned during those lean times, permeated his daily life until the very end.  He saved everything.  Seemingly broken tools, toys, appliances, etc. were always salvaged, never discarded.  He would either repair whatever needed fixing, or he would construct something altogether new and most certainly, useful.  He wasn’t the kind of guy who was looking for the latest gadget, the shortcut or the easy way out of honest work.  He was smart, and having learned the value of a dollar the hard way, he made sure that nothing was ever wasted.

We own a few of his “inventions.”  Tools, mostly.  To the untrained eye, most of these tools would seem to be junk.  But a closer look past the scars of previous neglect, would reveal a tool that had once been one thing, and had now become something else, entirely.  A useful something.  No slick packaging, or catchy name brand emblazoned on the side…just a homemade tool, crafted for a specific job known only to my father-in-law.  Many times my husband would have to ask “hey Dad…what’s this?”  The explanation would be offered quickly and matter of factly, the usefulness of this new tool was never in dispute…it had a place, a purpose and a use all its own; and there were never any duplicates.

It was the perfect tool, crafted to suit the needs of the master and fit perfectly to the task at hand.

And so are we, being fashioned into perfect tools, by the hands of our Maker…useful tools; each of us fitted for a specific job, with a purpose defined by the One who created us in His image and likeness.  Unique, sometimes work-worn and scarred, but sought eagerly by He who would use us for His greater glory and our sanctification.

Our throw-away society sees no beauty or usefulness, in that which is “imperfect.”  We live in a disposable world, one which discards imperfect people and imperfect things with such ease and very little conscience.  We’re far more likely to replace a broken item, than we are to fix it.  A young woman once shared her repugnance for belongings that had been damaged.  She said that when a cherished item had been broken and repaired, she still knew it was no longer perfect, sadly relating, that she no longer placed the same value upon that item as before.  The gift of vision can, at times, be a handicap.  The eyes see what they want, limiting our perception and obscuring the truth that can often only be read by the heart…

Reality:  We are a marred, scarred, damaged and inconvenient people. There are many who are seemingly broken beyond repair.  God sees our imperfections, our brokeness through the eyes of Love.  The more damaged we are, the more He reaches out to us, seeking to “fix” us, to make perfect that which is not.  He discards no one, He sees infinite value in all of His creation…He has looked upon what He has made and finds it GOOD.

He is a Master Craftsman, with a toolbox full of misfit “tools”, whose purpose are known only to Him, and who are just perfect for the job He has in mind…

Blessings,

A Busy Mom’s Weekly Reflection…

A moment of grace on Monday…after two weeks of prayer and searching, Gareth finally located his math book.  Behind the dresser…where we’d looked many times before.  I literally begged St. Anthony, while once again searching the classroom, and two minutes later Gareth emerges from his room dancing around with such glee…he’s never, ever been that happy to see a math book!

A moment of thanksgiving on Tuesday…when my dear husband and Clementine made it home safely, just prior to the winter storm.  Thanksgiving once again, in the wee hours of the morning when Clementine emerged from an accident, unharmed…

A moment of laughter on Wednesday…watching the children play with our dear friend, Tim.  Lots of laughter as we watched Tim disappear under a growing pile of stuffed animals…

A moment of joy on Thursdayhaving breakfast with Clementine.  For the first time in many weeks, she was home on a weekday.  Up bright and early, although actually quite late for a young woman who’s used to rising at 3:00 a.m.

A moment of peace on Fridayback from the Emergency Room with Gawain (more on that later…), cuddled up watching a movie with the little ones, happy to be home.  All is well…

A picture paints a thousand words…


Curious George’s biggest fan, my little guy, Gareth.  Taken by little sister Charlotte!

Blessings,

Me and my bag…

Regan!!! Enough with the tags, already!  Just kidding…this one is actually a bit fun, though I can’t begin to tell you just how much I despise having my picture taken.  That’s why I take the pictures…so I don’t have to be in them!  I’ve always felt this way about photographs, even as I child I hated being photographed.  Like listening to my voice on an answering machine, I’m always shocked by the reality.  Is that me?  I perceive myself so differently…it’s odd.  I find my smile to be rather smirky, my eyes look infinitely tired and the rest of me looks like it would rather be anywhere else but in front of the camera…compliments of 12 yo Gawain:

Okay.  So that is me.  But I don’t have to like it, do I?

As for the bag.  I like handbags.  My taste borders on the eclectic and weird.  Perhaps avant garde sounds a bit more sophisticated!  I find all of my handbags at thrift stores.  This one is my favorite.

A brand new Etienne Aigner handbag for $4.99…oh wait…I got it half-price…$2.50!  The last time I paid retail for a purse was an Amish basket purse I purchased from a gentleman by the name of Troyer.  That’s about as Amish as you can get in Ohio!  The best thing about my current bag:  it’s smaller, has lots of pockets and that umbrella stand just won’t fit! Umbrella stand, you say?  My friend Sandra has joked for a long time that I carry so much junk in my purse that she expects me to reach in one day and extract an umbrella stand ala Mary Poppins.  So Sandra…guess what’s in my purse right now?

A wallet, lipstick, compact, two receipts, a set of keys, last Sunday’s church bulletin, a box of Altoids and hand sanitizer.  Yeah…I know you don’t believe it, but you can check when you come over next Wednesday.

***note to self:  make sure purse is cleaned out before Sandra sees it…***

Who to tag…how about:

Allison

Sweet Pea

Mary Rose

Esther

Blessings!

Small Successes

A big thank you to Danielle Bean for organizing the Small Successes blogfest!  I really need this reminder today!  Check out more Small Successes at Faith & Family Live:

1.  I vacuumed under the sofa cushions.  You wouldn’t believe the things I found!

2.  I missed the end of a movie I was really enjoying to help 19yo Clementine fix a bowl of Cream of Wheat.  Yes, friends.  She’s 19 and hadn’t a clue how to fix hot cereal!  Well…she does now!

3.  I crocheted a dolly dress and cape for a dear friend’s daughter just because she asked me to…

So…what are your small successes?  I can’t wait to read about them, so join in!

Blessings,

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Shaken

3:00 a.m.

Clementine and Dad discuss road conditions and Clementine decides to give it a go on her own.

3:20 a.m.  Shortly after exiting the ramp onto I70E, Clementine loses control of her vehicle.  Spinning out of control the vehicle comes to rest in the median, hopelessly trapped in the ice and snow.

She’s unhurt, but terribly shaken.  She calls her dad and the state police.  A kind officer responds quickly and even tries to help move the vehicle.  It’s stuck and at 3:30 a.m. in the middle of this winter storm, it’s not likely it will be towed anytime soon.  She leaves with her Dad.

She’s at work now.  I really can’t say much more…I’ve felt sick to my stomach since 3:20 a.m., realizing how quickly we could have lost her, wishing that her dad had taken her to begin with, and wishing her job wasn’t such a priority (she works for UPS…a wonderful employer, but one that lives by the axiom “the show must go on” no matter the weather, the danger, etc.).  I praise God for His mercy…He loves her more than I, and has faithfully protected her on more than one occasion.

I can’t help but wonder, though, what the message is, in this latest accident.

Her dad is on the way to pick her up now.  Her vehicle has yet to be towed out of the median…this storm is positively wicked and I’m sure the tow trucks will be busy for quite some time.

Anxious to have everyone home…

Blessings,

Unfair

While unloading the dishwasher, Gawain notices that I’m preparing two chickens for roasting…

Gawain:  “Ah, man…now that’s not fair!”

Now thats my kind of chicken!  I bet theyre easy to take care of, too!
Now that's my kind of chicken! I bet they're easy to take care of, too!

He reads from the package:  “This chicken was fed an entirely vegetarian diet…so they made the poor chicken a vegetarian so that it could become our meat?  That just doesn’t seem fair…”

Mom:  “Gawain…do you really want chickens chowing down on one another in the barnyard?”

Gawain:  “Even condemned prisoners get to have a steak if they want it…”

Who can argue with such logic?

Blessings,

Happy things…

Regan tagged me for a little blogging fun.  Happy things…

Hmmm…things that make me happy…

Oh so many!!  But here are a few:

The knitting basket beside my bed…yummy shades of russet and brown, cottons and wools and the lovely size 11 walnut needles lovingly carved by my husband.

Learning a new craft!  Creating my very first crocheted hat (my own pattern, once I got past the basic crown, that is!)  Emily loves it and it suits her so very well…she’s never without a hat!

My egg coddlers…sweet gifts from my mom and dad.  When they come for a stay, breakfast always consists of either soft-boiled or coddled eggs!

The view from my back door.  Every day I praise God for the beauty that surrounds us!

Tea.  Harney and Sons and a sweet little antique teacup picked up at the thrift store for a quarter…a small crack, but it still holds liquid.  Tea always tastes better in pretty cups…

Bird tracks in the snow…I stepped out to throw a few crusts of bread and saw that my feathered friends had already been hopping around on the light dusting of snow on the front porch…

Sunrise.  Rising early has many advantages, among them the beauty of the morning sky.  Nearly every morning is picture worthy, but some even more than others…

I’d love to see your happy thoughts!  I tag the following:

Allison

Jessica

Nadja

Blessings!

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – January 26, 2009

Outside my Window…all is white and gray.  Snow frosted trees and a blanket of white hides the ice from the previous melt.  A promise of more snow is written upon that leaden sky…I don’t mind that promise!  Thanking the Lord that we are warm and still able to see snow as a gift…

I am thinking…that the laundry room is a very frightening place!  How did my sons manage to hide so much in that very messy room?  Ah, well…at least it’s clean and the hiding places are few and far between!

I am thankful for…everything.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  Thank you, dear Lord, for all the lessons, blessings, graces and trials.  So long as they bring me closer to You, there will never be any gifts more precious…

From the kitchen….hot espresso, bold and intense laced with a generous dollop of Chocolate Caramel creamer.  Pancakes and ham steaks for the children.  Dinner:  roasted rosemary and thyme chicken, baked apples, herbed potatoes and carrots, and a leafy green salad.

In our school room…still agonizing over Arthur.  Part of me says…persevere!  Do what you’ve been doing, help him push past this roadblock!  The other part says…don’t spin your wheels!  Find something that works!  He needs structure, more accountability, he’s bored!  Don’t keep beating this dead horse…

Praying to discern the truth.  Option one is the easiest financially.  We just keep doing what we’re doing.  Option two means a packaged curriculum and increased expense…but something we’ll just have to do if that’s the answer…Arthur wants the new curriculum.  Perhaps we should try to accommodate the desires of the scholar…

I am creating…I’ve been madly crocheting and sadly neglecting my knitting!  I’m amazed that I can crochet a really lovely dishcloth in less than an hour…I still prefer in all ways the beauty of handknit fabric, but crochet certainly has it’s place in my life!  It’s perfect for whipping up quick dolly clothing, edgings, dishcloths and you simply can’t beat it for creating  3D objects.  I really don’t need any patterns…thus far I’ve been able to envision the object I wish to create and simply “build” it.  That is very, very nifty…

I am going…to go fix those pancakes as soon as I hit “publish!”

I am wearing…black velvet lounging pants, white turlteneck and pink sweater.  Toasty warm slippers and hair up in a twist…the hair will have to come down soon!  The weight of it kills my neck and shoulders.  Yes…I’m definintely going to get it cut, just haven’t been able to coordinate the schedule with Clementine!

I am reading…see last week’s entry!

I am hoping…that Clementine doesn’t have to work as a driver-helper for UPS today.  She got in very late, had very little sleep before her 4:00a.m. shift…that girl is a workaholic!

I am hearing…the dull roar and scrape of the plow as it continues to make passes to clear the blowing snow…

Around the house…a kitchen that is significantly cleaner than the rest of the house.  Which means the rest of the house needs attention!

One of my favorite things…rosemary.  The smell, the texture, the flavor.  Rosemary appeals to all my senses…

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week…pray more, worry less…or at least try!  Laugh more, complain less…or at least try!  Love more, regret less…or at least try!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you

Remembering my first blog header photo of the children.  My goodness, how they’ve grown!  Emily isn’t that little baby anymore, Charlotte has become such a young lady, Galahad, Gareth and Gawain are at least three inches taller and Arthur…Arthur!  He’s beginning to look and sound like a man…not that young boy dangling his feet in the water…

Sweet memories of spring and time gone by…

Have a blessed week!

The Feast of St. Francis de Sales

~~For those Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and following the old calendar, our dear Saint’s feast day is celebrated on January 29th…this family observes both dates, as we are particularly attached to this saint!~~

Today is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales. He is a particular favorite of mine…I can’t imagine making it more than a few days without reading some little gem in the Introduction to the Devout Life.  He is the patron saint of writers and journalists, and is the perfect example of the need for all writers to strive for charity when “taking up the quill.”  Consider a few of these quotes for reflection:

“You will catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar. Were there any thing better or fairer on earth than gentleness, Jesus Christ would have taught it us ; and yet he has given us only two lessons to learn of him—meekness and humility of heart.”

Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.

And this quote. This reminder should be engraved upon the heart of every busy mother:

While I am busy with little things, I am not required to do greater things.

Here’s a yummy recipe to remind us of the sweetness and goodness of our dear Saint!

Blessings!

A Busy Mom’s Weekly Reflection

When I was pregnant with my first child, I received a “baby book.”  Yellow, rather old-fashioned with drawings in soft pastels, I couldn’t wait to begin filling in the blanks…first haircut, first tooth, first smile…all of those “firsts.”

I was quite dedicated to filling out those pages and managed to chronicle the first five years of my eldest’s life…

Then I had a second child.  Juggling the needs of two little ones, I only managed to keep up with this little daughter’s baby book until age three…

My third daughter?  Age two…

And then the first boy.  I had no less than two baby books (one traditional and the other a journal) and a calendar.  Age one…

Do you see where this is going?  As the years went by, and the days were filled with nursing infants, housecleaning, homeschooling, meal preparation and all the other busyness that goes with the care and feeding of a large family, I just didn’t have the time to write down all the cute things they said and did.  The intentions were always there, but I was in the midst of living life and had no time to write about it!

When I started this blog a little over 18 months ago, I was thrilled to discover how quickly I could post the day’s events…those funny, quirky, adorable things that my children do, day in and day out.  I could share some of the challenges of raising a large family and hopefully, offer encouragement to other Catholic moms.  This medium seems to suit my hectic lifestyle and allows me to “jot down” those sweet memories, quickly.  There’s no real method to my madness, just the occasional hastily typed paragraph of sweet sayings and the nuttiness that is an inherent part of our daily life.

In the hopes of organizing my thoughts, I’m going to begin posting a weekly “memory jogger.”  Please feel free to join me…this is quite informal and really, simply serves to remind me of those weekly joys that my “busyness” might otherwise file for future reference…and never retrieve!  There is much beauty in the vocation of wife and mother, hopefully these weekly posts of day by day memories will provide further illumination.

Welcome to the very first Busy Mom’s Weekly Reflection:

A moment of grace on Monday…learning that a dear friend is carrying a very heavy cross, being given the grace to pray with the children on her behalf…

A moment of thanksgiving on Tuesday…while watching Galahad lovingly prepare breakfast for his siblings without being asked…softboiled eggs and soldiers!

A moment of laughter on Wednesday…listening to my children laugh maniacally while watching Laurel and Hardy…they are true connoisseurs of comedy!

A moment of joy on Thursdaywatching five year old Emily dance in a patch of sunlight on the kitchen floor, twirling like a prima ballerina…

A moment of peace on Fridayah, peace.  This one implies quiet, and we’ve had a very noisy day!  A mock battle, complete with K’nex propelled shrapnel.  Quite dangerous!  Right now, though, I hear their laughter…watching a silly movie, weapons put away for the moment.  That’s peace, right?  Or at least a truce…

A picture paints a thousand words…the view from my kitchen window this morning, as I prepared my husband’s coffee.  Shortly after I received this quote from a dear friend:

“Every sunrise is a message from God and every sunset His signature.”

Blessings,

In Preparation for the Feast of Candlemas…

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.

The Christmas tree is lying upon the brush pile, the decorations are packed away.  The wreath on the mailbox and the large one beside the front door are yet to be put away, but come rising temperatures will be taken down tomorrow…

The sole reminders of Christmas past, other than our memories, are the two nativities still prominently displayed in the living room and dining room.  Like the Trapp Family, we keep our nativities on display until after the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, also called Candlemas.

Candlemas is one of my favorite feast days.  The priest confers a blessing upon the candles and will, the following day on the Feast of St. Blase, use them for the Blessing of the Throats.

Sacramentals are so important in the life of this Catholic family.  Throughout the year, our mantle holds four brass candlesticks, each holding the blessed candles received on February 2nd.  We light them during prayer, during storms, or anytime that seems appropriate…sometimes, for no reason at all other than to bask in their blessed light…

We look forward to the celebration of this lovely Feast Day and will celebrate by reciting the following antiphon from the Feast of Candlemas until Easter:

Hail Mary, Queen in Heav’n enthroned
Hail Thou, Mistress by all angels owned!
Root of Jesse, Hail, Gate of Morn,
The world’s true light from Thee was born.
Virgin glorious, ever fairest,
Of all creatures to Him nearest.
Hail to Thee, hallowed in Heaven!
May Thy children’s guilt be forgiven.

Would you like to celebrate this delightful Feast day with your family?  Here are a few resources that may help:

Candlemas Ceremony

A recipe for Strawberry Creme Crepes.  Pancakes are traditionally served on Shrove Tuesday and Candlemas…these look delicious!

More recipes…a Feast of Pancakes!

Cardboard candlesticks…I’d probably make them white, cute for little ones!

A wealth of suggestions for parents of preschoolers!

A papier mache candlestick holder…much more advanced, suitable for older children.

Make your own beeswax candles!

A Shadow Box Show and Procession…the shadow box idea is sweet.  I think the children would really like it!

Sweet Alice has several precious ideas for a Candlemas Liturgical Tea.  Outstanding resource!

Coloring page of Simeon and Anna

Another coloring page of Simeon and Anna

Mary, Joseph and Simeon coloring page

Here’s a lovely excerpt from Around the Year With the Trapp Family, outlining the family’s approach to the Feast of Candlemas:

CANDLEMAS

All through the month of January the creche is standing in the living
room, even if the Christmas tree has been removed, and every night the
family prayers will be said beside the crib, followed by at least one
Christmas song.

When Holy Mother Church came to Rome, in the time of the Apostles, she
found that the Roman women went around town with torches and other lights
on February 1st in honor of the goddess Ceres. The Church continued the
same custom but “baptized” it: Forty days after the birth of a child the
Jewish mother had to be purified in the temple, and so we celebrate on
February 2nd the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of her little
Son in the Temple; this should be celebrated in the light of many
candles, in honor of Him of Whom the old Simeon said on that day, “He
shall illumine the Gentiles with His light and shall be the glory of the
people of Israel.” There was a special blessing for the water on Epiphany
Day, and there is a special solemn blessing for the candles on this
Candlemas Day. Besides having beautiful prayers, the Church helps us to
understand the symbolism of the light blessed on this day, so that we may
make the right use of it by the bed of the dying, during storms, and in
all perils to which may be exposed “our bodies and souls on land and on
the waters.” The five special prayers of Candlemas Day are so beautiful
and so full of meaning that they should be read aloud as evening prayer
the night before and explained by parents to their children.
ANTIPHON FOR CANDLEMAS DAY

Recite the Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2, 29-32) and repeat the Antiphon
after each verse.

A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles: and the glory of Thy people
Israel.

On Candlemas Day every family should carry home a blessed candle, which
will have a special place on the home altar and will be lit in all
moments of danger, during thunderstorms, during sickness, in time of
tribulation.

Candlemas Day is a bitter-sweet feast. While in the morning the church is
bathed in the light of hundreds of candles in the hands of the faithful,
afterwards the creche is stored again. It marks the end of the Christmas
season; and the sheep and shepherds, the Gloria angel, the ox and the
ass, Mary and Joseph with the Infant, and the whole little town of
Bethlehem are hidden away for another year. There is always a tinge of
sadness in the air, because, during these long nine weeks, the Holy
Family has become so much a part of our household that it is hard to see
them go.
HAIL MARY, QUEEN IN HEAV’N ENTHRONED

From the evening of Candlemas to Easter this Antiphon is sung instead of
“Blessed Mother of the Saviour.”

Hail Mary, Queen in Heav’n enthroned
Hail Thou, Mistress by all angels owned!
Root of Jesse, Hail, Gate of Morn,
The world’s true light from Thee was born.
Virgin glorious, ever fairest,
Of all creatures to Him nearest.
Hail to Thee, hallowed in Heaven!
May Thy children’s guilt be forgiven.

~~~Please feel free to post any ideas or suggestions you may have regarding your family’s celebration of Candlemas!~~~

Blessings,

An urgent prayer request!

How beautiful are the prayers of the faithful…

With trust and humility, united in common purpose, the voices of God’s people rise to the vault of heaven like incense…

How it pleases God when we join one another, particularly to lift up one of our brothers or sisters who are in need…

I come to you with a most urgent need!   A young woman most desperately needs your prayers.

Several years ago, a beautiful young woman named Melissa, who has always lived her life for God, decided to give it, wholly and completely, in the service of religious life.  She entered the convent.  But God’s ways are mysterious and it wasn’t long before she had to fight for survival.  Doctors discovered a brain tumor and Melissa, with great reluctance, had to leave the convent to take up the cross of physical suffering.  Through God’s grace and infinite mercy she prevailed, and returned to her home, which she lovingly states is very much like a convent.  Her family lives much as the Holy Family did.  In loving service of one another, with great faith, humility and simplicity.

A seven year respite and now, another tumor.  This one is seemingly inoperable and the many suggested treatments are all highly dangerous and potentially fatal.  Melissa’s faith is so very strong and she trusts God so implicitly, but is struggling to discern which options she should pursue.  One of those options is, of course, doing nothing…

I’d like to share a little excerpt from one of her letters to give you a sense of who she is:

What I’ve suffered in my lifetime is a drop in the bucket and how dare I complain or be unappreciative of all God has given me. He could have made me suffer even more and given me an even heavier cross to carry, like so many others have been given. We can sometimes become so self-centered and think we have it bad when we have it so good. We can look at others and think how easy they have it and the actually carry a hidden cross so heavy we would collapse under it. I try to keep all things in perspective and know that God has fitted the crosses He sends, perfectly for me. However, in my weakness, I do become discourage and weary of the battle. All I long for is to be called Home. So many people want to fight and try every experimental procedure to “save their life”. This isn’t me. This world offers nothing worth “fighting for.” The only fight worth fighting for is the one that leads to our heavenly Home.

I could include many more quotes, much in the same spirit.  She is precious and is humbling submitting herself to whatever God wills for her, be it life or death.

Amazingly enough, I’ve never met Melissa in person.  This blog has been our means of “introduction.”  Melissa had read a post I’d written regarding my frustration over having no glitter glue (a humorous lament in which I admitted coveting another woman’s craft closet!)   She wrote me to tell me she was cleaning out her craft closet and asked if I’d be willing to receive a box of supplies.  I said “yes” and a couple weeks later on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the children gleefully dove into a 35 lb. box of every kind of craft item you can imagine.  Not just crafts…sweet little prayer books, instructions, examples and pictures of our generous friend’s family.  It was precious…

I haven’t even managed to post about it, though I did take a few pictures, which I’m sure will tickle Melissa:

So my friends…

I humbly beseech you to send this prayer request to every friend you have.  Every priest and religious.  Anyone you know who would be willing to lift up this young woman in prayer!  How pleased our Heavenly Father will be when we all beg Him to help our sister, to sustain her and grant her every grace during this time of suffering!

Once again:

~For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.~ Matthew 18:20

Blessings,

Uncivilized…

Conversation overheard at the little girls’ tea party.  From over the rim of her pretty china tea cup, little Miss Charlotte spies big brother Galahad drinking his tea from a large mason jar:

Charlotte:  Galahad!  Civilized people drink their tea out of cups and use cream!

Galahad:  Charlotte…we live out in the country.  We don’t have to be civilized…

He’s a guy…what can I say?

Blessings,

The gift of time…

Following last week’s arctic blast, we lost our internet service for several days. It was incredibly inconvenient, particularly for my husband who needed to work from home for a couple days, and necessitated the reordering of the school day, as well. Despite these annoyances, it was an amazingly productive time.

I’m well aware that the computer is a great big “time eater.” Time is such a precious commodity, and no one knows this better than a busy mom who is continually trying to squeeze an extra hour or two into every day. Whenever all is quiet, I make a quick break for it…off to post, twitter, surf, research, download…you name it. In 20 minutes or less…

I live in a house with nine people and one working computer. PC time is hard to come by, but if this blog serves as evidence, I certainly manage to find the time to boot someone off for a minute or two!

So…back to Friday.

The computer was down. The boys were playing a game and the little girls were engaged in feminine sabotage, doing everything they could to annoy their brothers…dancing, singing, knocking things over, you name it they did it. In frustration, I sent them upstairs to play with their dolls and the boys went back to quiet play.

Which left mom with some free time! Ah…what to do? I thought about knitting…naw…too much of that lately. Crochet? Yes…I really wanted to explore that option further. Writing? Maybe…Word still works, and I have a file full of ideas…

But then it hit me. What if…what if…I decided to make the children my recreation? I play with my children all the time. I teach them. I hug and tickle them. I enjoy their presence…but our together time is just a matter of fact. We. Are. Together. Always.

Thus, I’m frequently seeking ways to “recreate” myself. But this Friday was different. I decided that for the rest of the day my recreation would be the children! It was an epiphany of sorts and I hastily made my way to the kitchen to prepare a “gift of time…”

I decided to give the little girls a tea party. Fancy plates and cups, finger sandwiches, cookies and fruit. The real deal. Not because they had earned it…in fact they had done everything that day but earn it! I began brewing the tea when Gareth asked what I was doing. When I told him, his eyes lit up. He and Galahad quickly began straightening the table cloth, carrying in the special tea set and laying the table. Gareth even lit candles. When Arthur observed the flurry of activity, he ran into my room, pulled two of the girls prettiest dresses from the closet, snagged a hair brush and ran upstairs to tell the girls to change quickly, brush their hair and bring their dollies.

A few moments later, Gareth lead them down the stairs. Squeals of delight. And such ladylike behavior at the table! They lingered over tea, both Charlotte and Emily speaking in affected whispers about the “lovely sandwiches” and the “delightful tea…”

A few photos (8yo Gareth took the bottom three…he’s getting quite good!):

It was too cute…

But cuter by far were the boys. These guys had been harassed and tormented by these little girls. And then helped served them tea. Giving of themselves and their time…and it would never have happened if I’d spent those twenty minutes writing. Or knitting. Or crocheting…

The fellas ended up having a manly snack of hot tea and peanut butter sandwiches…no tea parties for these guys!

The rest of the afternoon continued in the same spirit. We assembled a paper nativity, in anticipation of Candlemas…it’s quite unique, with heavy cardstock characters, including Simeon and Anna.

Now some might say…don’t you always do these kind of things with your children? Well…yes. And no. I do them, but not always in the same spirit. This was a bit different.   I took time that was mine, and gave it to them.  How happy I would be if only I lived my vocation in the same spirit!  Recreation is essential, to keep together mind, body and soul…but it was a lovely day, giving those times to them by choice rather than necessity.

God grant me the wisdom to always give the gift of time, graciously…

Blessings,

The Simple Woman’s Daybook – evening edition!

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – January 19, 2009

Outside my Window…stars shining in the night sky…the cold, hard glint of moonlight upon snow.  Single digit temps…balmy compared to a few days ago…

I am thinking…that it’s been many days since I’ve sat at the computer.  Not an entirely bad thing.  I’ve been very, very busy.  In a good way!

I am thankful for…the end to the arctic freeze.  The temperature is now comfortable enough for the children to play in the snow.  Today’s high:  18

From the kitchen….remnants of this evening’s meal:  Rachel Ray’s recipe for Chili Cheeseburger Mac (the kids loved it!),  salad, sliced oranges and mint-chip brownies.

In our school room…we took the day off.  Played in the snow and mom learned how (or re-learned, I might add!) to crochet.

I am creating…since I’ve finally unlocked the crochet mystery, I’ve been crocheting like mad!  I’ve crocheted (boy, does it seem weird to use that word…I’m so used to saying “knit!”) two dollie capes, two dollie dresses, a dollie purse and scarf.  I’m still knitting, but the crocheting seems to relax my hands.  No carpal tunnel issues!  The dollie clothes are all my own designs and were quite simple to make.  Today, I learned to half-double, double and treble crochet.  I can’t believe how much quicker it is than knitting…

I am going…to take a long, hot bath after I finish this post…

I am wearing…pin-striped trousers and a cable wool sweater.  Hair hanging straight down, only a slight trace of the day’s make-up remains…

I am reading…still working on Donna’s book.  So much to digest.  And still, still, still and always will be reading and re-reading Introduction to the Devout Life.  Food for the soul…

I am hoping…to get caught up on the laundry.  All this play in the snow has left piles of wet things in my laundry room.  Ugh!

I am hearing…the sounds of my men as they watch and comment on an old war flick…The Hunters

Around the house…I really need to consider spring cleaning…two months early!  Things are so disorganized!

One of my favorite things…my Dyson Ball Vacuum.  May I wax rhapsodic for a moment?  I’m going to sound like a walking/talking advertisement:  This machine is beyond amazing!  After one use the color of my carpet changed!  It removes dirt and dust that is so micro-fine, it’s unbelievable.  And easy to use!  My children argue over who’s going to vacuum.  No argument…Mom will!  Once again…a great big thank you to our Christmas Elf!  I’ve never owned a truly excellent vacuum cleaner and no mother has received such a practical gift as gratefully…my highest recommendations for this one!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week…enjoy the snow!  Looks like we have more coming.  We already have a good 7 – 8 inches on the ground, with drifts around the barn that are nearly 18 inches deep.  And icicles!  Today, Gareth brought in the largest one I’ve seen this season:  over 3 feet long.  We’ll continue to plug away at school.  I wish I could say that a bit more joyfully, but right now it’s time to get down to business.  We’re making real progress in so many areas, but I’m still in a quandary over what to do with the high school student.  He really seems to need something with more structure.  Pray for us?  Thanks!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you

My beginning crochet efforts: Danielle and Emma sporting their new gowns and capes.  Charlotte and Emily were so delighted!

Have a blessed week!

Snakes and snails…

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”
What are little girls made of?
“Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!”

My first three children are female.  Bows and curls, dolls and ribbons, tears and smiles.  One was a tomboy for a bit, but now embraces her femininity with joy.  We talk, we cry, we laugh.  The protectiveness one feels towards a daughter is inherent…we want to protect them from every harm, from all danger.  They are mommy’s angels, daddy’s princesses, our little girls.

I love raising daughters.  For sheer joy, daughters win, hands down.  But for fun…

Boys.  Ah…boys.  Rough and tumble, rowdy and ready, full of mischief and quick to forgive.  My boys amuse me in ways I never dreamed.  They do the nutty, the daring, the unbelievable and the courageous.  Random acts of violence and kindness, smirks and smiles, with grubby hands, torn jeans and bear hugs.

But they are an enigma.  A mystery I’m not sure I’m meant to solve.  Try as you may, some nuts just aren’t meant to be cracked!  The mother, the woman that I am wants to over analyze the frown, the furrowed brow, the exasperated sigh.  I rush to fix them, to make things better.  But…

They don’t want to be fixed.  They want to be loved, accepted, dared and trusted.  They want to grow up to be men, to love, to serve, to be bold.  They will be men…

It’s hard.  I’m a fixer by nature.  A nurturer by vocation.  A mother.  Their mother.  How pleased I was to read the following article.  So timely, so true.  Here’s a brief excerpt and a good reminder for those of us raising sons, teenagers most particularly:

7 Things Teenage Boys Most Need

Legionary of Christ Father Michael Sliney suggests the following seven necessities for parents of adolescent boys:

1. Clear guidelines with reasonable consequences from a unified front; cutting slack but also holding boys accountable for their actions.
2. Reasonable explanations for the criteria, guidelines and decisions made by parents.
3. Avoiding hyper-analysis of boys’ emotions and states of mind: avoiding “taking their temperature” too often.
4. Unconditional love with an emphasis on character and effort more than outcome: Encourage boys to live up to their potential while having reasonable expectations. To love them regardless of whether they make it into Harvard or become a star quarterback.
5. Authenticity, faith and fidelity should be reflected in parent’s lifestyles.
6. Qualities of a dad: Manliness, temperance, making significant time for family, putting aside work, and being a reliable source of guidance.
7. Qualities of a mom: Emotional stability, selflessness, loving service and extreme patience.

You may read the rest of this excellent article here.

Well…I know one teenage boy who’d really like mom to put away the therMOMeter and “stop taking his temperature…”

God bless him and all the wonderful, quiet, serious, seemingly sullen and oh-so-mysterious young men just like him…

Blessings,

And we shall have snow…

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.


Milk in the fridge, food in the freezer and cabinets.  Heat.   Blankets.  Coats, hats, gloves and boots.

We are blessed.  Arctic temperatures are moving in along with a winter storm and the promise of lots of snow (those naughty weathermen have made this promise before!) and I can’t help but think what a luxury it is to look at snow and see only beauty in that blanket of white. It is with great guilt that I delight in the stark loveliness of the wintry landscape…

May God have mercy upon the poor, the homeless, those for whom these freezing temperatures and falling snow represent only suffering.  If you have any old blankets or used candles, please consider taking them to a local shelter.  A blanket and a little light can make all the difference on a bitterly cold night.

Blessings,

The Traditional Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

January 12th is the traditional Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.  Happy Feast Day!

Today our family celebrated with friends near and dear to our hearts…my dear Sandra (who is godmother to my young daughters) and her sweet children (her youngest daughter is my goddaughter!) joined us for an afternoon of yummy food ( we prefer the term “swaddling clothes” – treading the fine line of separation between the mundane and the divine!) and fun crafts.  We were also finally able to celebrate Christmas together…and just in the nick of time.  Today’s feast marks the end of the Christmas season:


Santa’s lil’ helper distributed gifts…


Sandra finally gets her hat and mittens…


Sandra’s precious 9yo daughter knit this terrific hat for Gareth…


Emily and Charlotte were delighted with new knitting bags, yarn and supplies…


My girls had assembled a lovely bouquet of pencils to give away…aren’t they nifty?

Isn’t it lovely having a circle of homeschooling friends?  There was a time, for many years, when we were the only Catholic homeschooling family in a very large community of home educators…

While living in Kentucky, I’d been the assistant director to a large multi-denominational homeschool cooperative.  Unfortunately, and I suppose,  inevitably,  conflicts arose due to the differences between protestantism and Catholicism.  I was the lone Catholic, and even though I had written the statement of faith for the group, as well as the mission statement, published the monthly newsletter, and taught Latin; I still had to fight a small faction who simply wouldn’t accept that Catholics are Christians.  The very fact that I was the Latin teacher was used against me…Latin is, of course, the language of the Church…I was apparently corrupting the children by teaching them the Pater Noster and Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.  Those prayers are in the Mass.  Never mind that they’re in the Bible…

I eventually resigned my position in anticipation of a move, but also out of concern that my children would begin to experience persecution, or that well-meaning “Christians” might try to proselytize…

When we moved to Ohio, it was quite sometime before I found another group.  For the first time ever, I met other Catholic home educators.  While we have fun during the summer with park dates and field trips, we don’t really participate much during the school year.  It seemed we’d never have the type of fellowship that we yearned for…friendships that revolved around our faith and living our lives according to the rhythms of the liturgical year.

Then I read Haystack Full of Needles and I began to rethink my approach to homeschooling fellowship.  We were already enjoying occasional visits from friends and decided to schedule them around liturgical celebrations, or to at least incorporate those celebrations as best we could.  The most important consideration:  no stress.  If we want to visit and forget the craft, that’s what we do.  If the children are involved in creative play, we let them continue.  No pressure, just a mutual sharing of food, faith and fun…

Perhaps this approach is not the super-sophisticated and organized endeavour that my large group was…but it works for us and is the cozy, homey and faith-filled approach to fellowship that we were lacking, even when surrounded with hundreds of home educators and amazingly structured academic opportunities.  We were missing friends of the heart and  friendship is truly a precious gift…

If you are privileged to know even one Catholic homeschooling family, count yourself as blessed and invite them over!

~For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.~    Matthew 18:20

Blessings,

Belated acknowledgements and thanks…

My goodness…

When I started this whole blogging adventure a little over a year and a half ago, I had no idea  that I’d have so very many visitors nor did I realize what an amazing group of women I’d eventually “meet.”   Though the computer can, in many ways, cause us to isolate ourselves, it can also be a tool of grace and a means of expanding our community, thus fostering relationships that would never have existed due to the constraints of time and distance.

I’m awed and encouraged by my many “sisters…”   What  incredible examples of Catholic womanhood!   Though I’m most certainly one of the “old schoolers” on the block, I learn something new everyday and delight in the sharing of personal joys and sorrows, lesson plans, crafts, catechetical resources, etc. from Moms who strive everyday to make home and hearth, the Domestic Church.

And did I mention generous?

Over the last few months, a handful of these wonderful women have nominated this blog for awards.  Premio Dardo, Octamom, Butterfly and the Marie Antoinette Award are just a few of the ones I remember…my sincere apologies that I haven’t acknowledged them sooner and have even forgotten a couple.   It’s a bit hard for me to receive praise for something I feel so many others are doing so much more effectively!  I’m humbled that the jumble of words that leave my head and make it to a post are occasionally a source of entertainment, information or, God be praised, inspiration.

I would like to thank the wonderful women who have made the information highway a kinder, gentler place.  And while my “daily read” list is really not so very long , there are so many blogs that I still pop in to visit, from time to time…there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get to know everyone as well as I’d like!

There’s hardly a Catholic mom blogger out there who isn’t deserving of one, if not all, of the above awards.  If you haven’t had a blog award lately, pick one or all, post them and tell everyone Kimberly at Catholic Family Vignettes awarded you…you deserve it!

Blessings,

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