Catholic Family Vignettes

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


February 2010

Your Friday dessert…

I bet that got your attention during Lent!  Not to worry…this “dessert” is completely licit ;-D

Are you still looking for a few ideas as your family continues its Lenten journey? Drop by and say “Hi!” to Lacy at Catholic Icing for a real treat.   A Lenten Blog Fair of sorts in the works…lots of inspiration to be found:

Lent Link-Up


Robin’s nest…

Every spring we are greeted by the scratching, chirping and otherwise birdlike disturbance from a family of robins who annually take up residence within our kitchen wall…

There is a gap in the siding which provides easy access for them.  I’ve long tolerated their presence, and just haven’t been able to bring myself to close up their favorite nesting refuge.  My teenage son and husband remind me that this space also provides an opening for water, wind and all the other forces of nature…including any other wildlife that might decide to take up residence once the robins vacate.

Nevertheless for three years we’ve watched a succession of baby robins leave their well-sheltered nest…birdsong is our only reward, and is one that I long for as winter continues to tighten its grasp upon the land.

But the gap must be closed.  Our robins must look for a new home…one that hopefully will be safe from our two outdoor patrol cats, Buster and Oreo.  They are quite the hunters and I’ve seen them take down more than a couple birds.

So no nest this year.  No sounds of life in my kitchen…yes, I know that sounds strange but I’ve gotten rather accustomed to it.  As we continue our wild bird study we’ll be watching to see where Mr. and Mrs. Robin Redbreast will choose to reside.  I’m anxious to welcome them…to the tree of their choice!

In the meantime, my oldest son, who is extremely creative, decided to craft me a little nest of wire and robin’s egg blue beads.  This tutorial was the inspiration…and after he gave me a few pointers, I decided to craft a couple of my own.  But I really like his…that copper wire provides a lovely contrast against the blue eggs!  I think these nests would make lovely lapel pins…just in time for Easter!


The bomb that fizzled…population bomb, that is!

On Monday I received our first video shipment from Pius MediaDemographic Bomb – demography is destiny. This documentary is the companion piece to Demographic Winter – the decline of the human family. Like its predecessor, it dispels the many myths that have fueled the so-called “Population Bomb” theory by illuminating the many inaccuracies, unfulfilled prophecies of doom and non-demography based research that formed the basis of the population explosion presumption. It replaces these falsehoods with facts and figures from actual demographers who’ve been studying population trends for the past forty years…indeed longer, when one takes into consideration the work of Adam Smith (Scottish moral philospher and pioneer of political economy, who believed that population growth was a sign of a healthy economy), a contemporary of Thomas Malthus (Anglican clergyman, scholar and economical theorist, who believed that we must “decrease the surplus population” and whom some cite as the father of modern eugenics) .  Amazingly, Malthus considered Smith a mentor, though one would never know it when considering the disparity between these quotes nor would one discern that Malthus was a clergyman with any trust in Divine Providence:

Thomas Malthus:
“Population growth is the true reason for the poverty of the poor.”

“The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.”

Adam Smith:
“What encourages the progress of population and improvement, encourages that of real wealth and greatness.”

“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”

With the advent of Darwinism, the teachings of Malthus quickly replaced those of his mentor and mankind began its descent down the slippery slopes of eugenics and fertility manipulation. With the world population now quickly falling below replacement rates, the fruit of these teachings are now dangerously apparent, and without a worldwide shift in understanding, seemingly impossible to address.

And while it is not at all astounding that there are still those who cling to the now essentially debunked myth of overpopulation, it is still shocking to see many of the government sponsored advertisement campaigns.   As the mother of a large brood of “violent, impoverished, uneducated, unclean and disease ridden” children (or so the advertisements would have one believe), I find myself angered by this propaganda…for that is exactly what it is: propaganda nouninformation that is designed to deceive or mislead.

Take a look at what your brothers and sisters in China, India and Africa contend with, and have contended with for decades:

Yes…”small family, happy family…”

Sad family.  Sad when one isn’t allowed to choose life. When sterilization camps, coerced and forced abortion are the means to this “happy family…”

And now we have this.  The Global Warming hysteria which is fueling the latest round of population control efforts, once again via the effort of the United Nations.

From a UN Population Fund report:

“As the growth of population, economies and consumption outpaces the Earth’s capacity to adjust, climate change could become much more extreme and conceivably catastrophic,”

Though the report also acknowledges that “The linkages between population and climate change are in most cases complex and indirect,”

And this surprising bit of wisdom from the World Health Organization:

“Using the need to reduce climate change as a justification for curbing the fertility of individual women at best provokes controversy and at worst provides a mandate to suppress individual freedoms,” wrote WHO’s Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum and Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan.

As one incredulous analyst so succinctly put it:

“It requires a major leap of imagination to believe that free condoms will cool down the climate,”

And this, of course, only matters if one holds to this new, burgeoning myth of global warming.  How many times will we listen to Chicken Little declare “the sky is falling!” before we decide to look up and see with our own eyes?  Bandwagons are for those who simply lack the motivation to seek for themselves.

Seek and you will find…


A busy mom’s daybook…blessed Lent to you!

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – February 22nd, 2010

Outside my Window….a light mist of rain, heavy fog obscuring the tree-line and melting snow.  Still a vast vista of white, but now it is taking on a dirtier, dingier hue.  Temperatures are climbing towards 40 and we are thankful for the respite…no matter how brief.  A bit of snow for Tuesday and Wednesday and then frigid air makes it way back in…oh, come Spring!

Thinking…about school.  We’re back full force now.  It’s been one month since my surgery, I’ve made peace with the suffering and now I just want to get down to business.   And so I have…

Thankful for…being homebound.   As nasty as the weather has been, it doesn’t seem such a deprivation any longer.  Spring is just around the corner.  We’re anticipating a March visit from the Grands and a weekend trip in April to attend the Midwest Homeschool Convention (we have tickets to see Tim Hawkins!!! Woohoo!)  We’ve been able to attend Adoration and Mass, as well.  Two of best reasons to be thankful…

From the kitchen…ah…it does pain me to no longer be able to give such an enthusiastic review of our menu.  I can no longer taste the food I’m preparing…we have appointed “tasters” so that mom can season appropriately.  The family assures me my cooking skills are intact, but I’m not so sure.  Nonetheless, chicken pie is on the menu this evening, salad, biscuits and peach crisp.

Faith and learning…back on track.  We’re back to our full schedule…though the children are feeling the strain of the increased load.  It’s rather like the first day of school all over again…

Creating…lesson plans for science and nature study.  Also making plans for Easter…menu and other celebratory aspects of the Great Feast.

Planning…school, school, school.  And school.  Housecleaning.  And laundry.  Laundry, laundry, laundry…

Wearing…blue jeans, turtleneck and pink cabled sweater.  No makeup, hair up in a twist.

ReadingJoy In Suffering, Happy Are You Poor (I highly recommend this!  It is helping me to clear up misconceptions about Evangelical Poverty…true and false forms.  My biggest shock:  Economy.  A review to come later…)

Praying…our “prayer board” is up and our nightly rosary is offered for friends and family whose names are drawn from the basket.  This is a long time practice, one which we all enjoy.  I’m also meditating upon Psalm 90, as recommended by an Institute priest.  “Take it line by line, day by day…” is his suggestion.  That’s what I’m doing…

Hearing…other than the children’s voices, silence.  No TV, videos, games or other distractions during the daylight hours of Lent.  It is a blessed, blessed relief…

Around the house…laundry.  The septic system…is…fixed…I think…hope…pray.  Yes…I write this tentatively.  How many times have we had this issue, felt that we resolved it, only to have it return.  So I’m cautiously optimistic.  And up to my eyeballs in laundry.  But, hey…at least we can all shower now, flush toilets, etc…never underestimate the value of indoor plumbing!

One of my favorite things…Lent.  I’m just that weird.  I like the purgation…I need it.  Every year, our Lord so graciously reveals just how very weak I am…and I need this revelation!  Painful, but necessary…rather like surgery!  But even the best surgeon in world cannot save your soul…time to let the Divine Surgeon do some serious cutting…

Here’s a picture thought I am sharing with you

Our Nature Table…we’re studying the Wild Birds of North America. We’ve had great fun putting together the display. And those realistic birds? Actual photos printed on cardstock, carefully cut out and hot glued to the “tree.” Gareth crafted the nest behind the Meadow Lark and the small nest in the tree was found last summer in the grass. We are will work on identification based on physical characteristics and birdsong, egg identification, anatomy, habitats, etc. Time to dust of the Audubon pocket guide!


From death to life…

So many amazingly wonderful revelations at today’s Mass…I’d love to share them all, but for now I’ll share this, recalling from my memory as best as I’m able:

Our sweet priest is a great lover of antiquities.  No small wonder…he is the founder of the Holy Family Jubilee Pontifical Museum.  This museum is dedicated to the preservation of all things Catholic…from holy water fonts to baptismal fonts…high altars and vestments…rare original art work from several of the masters…relics and reliquaries (including the zuchetto that belonged to our Holy Father John Paul II…I’ve actually had the great privilege to touch and venerate this relic the day after our Holy Father passed into Eternity!)

That said, Father is frequently on the lookout for things that should never, ever be placed in the common market…he is a rescuer of these antiquities, saving them from misuse and possibly abuse.  It still surprises him when he sees these holy objects for sale, and such was his reaction when he came upon a collection of antique vestments and altar linens in a local antique store.

The haggling begins:

“How much for the entire collection?” he inquired of the owner

“$1200.00” he answered

“How about $1000.00?” Father countered.

“$1100 is the least I’ll take…” was the final response…

Father pulled out his checkbook to make the purchase, when he’s approached by a husband and wife who had heard the entire exchange…this amazing couple very quickly wrote a check for $600 to offset some of the expense…an amazing occurrence, but not nearly as amazing as what happened next:

A young man held in his arms an item he, too,  had just purchased from the collection.  Curious, he politely asked Father if he could explain some of the symbolism on this ornately embroidered cloth.  He told Father he had plans to use it as a blanket on his bed.

“Is it some sort of blanket?” the young man innocently queried.

Father’s surprising answer:

“Well…you might say that…yes, it is a blanket.  But it’s not for the living.  It’s for the dead.  This “blanket” is a pall and was used to cover a coffin prior to the interrment.”

Father had hoped that he would be able to purchase the pall from him, but the young man didn’t want to relinquish his “treasure.”  Nonetheless, he continued to listen intently as Father explained the symbols of Alpha and Omega and the Chi Rho…

In the end the young man left with the pall…and Father’s card.  Though disappointed that the young man didn’t relinquish this sacred linen, Father offered the following:

“It’s quite possible that which was used for death just may bring life to this young man.  He may be our next convert to the faith.  Please pray for him…”

Wouldn’t that be amazing?  “That which was used for death may bring life…” Rather calls to mind both the Cross and the Shroud, doesn’t it?  May God bring this young man to faith soon.   An entire congregation prayed the most fervent Hail Mary just for that reason.

Will you pray for him?

I knew you would!


Break your heart…

…and make you think.  Living a life of such ease and plenty, it’s so easy to forget that “one man’s trash is one man’s treasure.” Please take the time to watch this 6 minute video…it truly put waste and gluttony into a new light for this family…something we all need during the Holy Season of Lent. Make sure you watch until the very end…beautiful!

h/t to Easter:


Pocket-sized Stations of the Cross

A lovely resource, particularly suited to a Friday afternoon in the first week of Lent:

Pocket-sized, fold-out Stations of the Cross.   Available on the Lent and Easter CD, at Catholic Artworks…

Lenten blessings,

it’s all right…

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right…

The Beatles – Abbey Road, 1969

Oh, yes…it’s all right…


More sunshine…

Another happy note:  I’ve finally set up our February liturgical display.  I missed the entire month of January.  It’s good to be back on track and I’m actually looking forward to the Holy Season of Lent!

That nifty Lenten calendar can be found here at Catholic Icing.  Thanks, Lacy!

Instructions for the crown of thorns can be found here.

Don’t you love this image of Christ in the desert?  It really sets the tone for what Lent is all about…time in the desert.  By the way…here is a link for last year’s post on Lent.  I’m still mulling over the other ways that our family will give up, take up, let go and accept all that God has in store for us throughout the Holy Season.  And I highly recommend the Fasting Bread recipe on that page…we used cranberries and walnuts and found the substitution quite delicious.  Enjoy!


Sunnier on the inside…

Ah, friends…thank you so much for your prayers, letters of encouragement, etc.

Though all is cloud and gray around the house…mounds of snow several feet high and wind are causing near white-out conditions on the outside, I’m feeling ever-so-much sunnier on the inside. Those dark clouds are slowly passing, and I’m making friends with suffering. There’s much peace to be found in accepting what can’t be changed and I can’t ask for more than that.

Last night, as I, with great weariness, approached my bed, I spied a small booklet placed quite deliberately on top of my pillow.  Joy In Suffering: According to St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

Hmm.  Didn’t know I owned a copy of that particular book!  Who put it on my pillow?  Hubby says it wasn’t him, and thus far none of the children will own up to it. Perhaps my guardian angel…it is certainly divinely inspired and gave great comfort last night, particularly as I read this:

But she (St. Therese) was human, and so she also asked, “How can the good God, who loves us so much, be happy when we suffer?” There is a touching tenderness and refinement in her playful answer: “Never does our suffering make Him happy, but it is necessary for us; and so He sends it to us, while as it were, turning away His face…I assure you that it costs Him dearly to fill us with bitterness.”

“The good God, who so loves us, has pain enough in being obliged to leave us on earth to fulfill our time of trial, without our constantly telling Him of our discomfort; we must appear not to notice it.

And so I, a most privileged daughter, have been prepared to enter into the Holy Season of Lent in a very special way.  It is time to “give up”, to “surrender” all to the good God.  I had begun to think, with audacity, that I had nothing left to give.  I have what He wills.  This new suffering, the inability to eat those things which in the past made up the whole of my diet, this is His will for me.  But never have I longed more for “bitterness” when everything that I place in my mouth tastes so horribly sweet…

And now, Lent.  What to sacrifice?

These food issues…caffeine, sweets, meat…all of those things which have, in the past, been a source of sacrifice are no longer available to me to give up.  I can’t eat meat.  Or sweets.  Nor can I drink anything other than water.  When left without a “thing” to give up, one must reach deeper.  Our good God knows just how unlikely it is that I will reach that deeply.  So all those other “things” have been taken away.  And I’m left with only my will.


The toughest thing for me to ever give over and yet this is His will…and He is actually making it easier for me to do it.  Though it certainly didn’t seem that way a few weeks ago.  No…much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I actually asked to have the pain back, rather than this new cross, one of uncertainty with no promise that I will ever enjoy a meal again.

I never realized how difficult it would be to cook a meal for the sheer joy that it would bring others…not being able to taste or sample the food being cooked without being repulsed!  I discovered that I was quite selfish…that I often prepared these things for the joy it brought me, not my family.  I’m so humbled in this discovery.  It’s embarrassing to admit, but oh, so true.  If you had asked me, I would have told you that all I did in my vocation was for the joy that it brought my family… but when I could no longer share their joy, I found that my bitterness was a real obstacle to giving happiness to others.  I struggled with this for a couple weeks and am please to say, that while my loving actions are still not entirely unselfish, I’ve made a great turn around…and I take real joy in preparing meals now strictly for the enjoyment that it brings to my family.

But I digress…I don’t tell you these things to garner sympathy!  I’m finding that I can do this…that I’ve let too many things become little ‘gods’ in my life.  That my motives haven’t always been as noble as I’d like to think they are…and I can honestly praise God for revealing these failings and for even giving the means, through suffering, to address them.

Yes.  I can finally thank Him, at least for this small cross.  Because it is small, in the grand scheme of things.  I will not die from it, nor will anyone else.  I’m no longer suffering pain, nor does it cause pain.  The hunger issue has been addressed, now that I know that I can eat beef and white rice.  Bland and boring, but hey…it nourishes the body, and that’s good enough.

My prayer life is better…my joy over the simplest things, so very great.  Attending Mass after three weeks away was a day of such happiness…I can’t even begin to adequately express what it felt like, to leave the Confessional with such longing for Holy Communion.  Weeping at rail, embarrassed, but unable to help it.

I beg forgiveness of all of you, my dear friends.  For my laments and darkness.  I would never want to be a stumbling block to any of you, but I do thank you for sharing my little pains and for your precious prayers.  May you all be blessed as you have blessed me…

Ruffled feathers…

A bright splash of color on a windy, gray and white February day…I’m so glad that “red bird came all winter…”

Red Bird

Red bird came all winter
firing up the landscape
as nothing else could.

Of course I love the sparrows,
those dun-colored darlings
so hungry and so many.

I am a God-fearing feeder of birds.
I know He has many children,
not all of them bold in spirit.

Still, for whatever reason —
perhaps because the winter is so long
and the sky so black-blue,

or perhaps because the heart narrows
as often as it opens —
I am glad

that red bird comes all winter,
firing up the landscape
as nothing else can do.
—Mary Oliver


A good woman…

h/t to Colleen Hammond for this lovely quote:

A woman’s heart
should be so lost in God
that a man needs to seek Him

in order to find her.


When words fail…

…pictures have to suffice.

My words are nothing but lament of late…lament for suffering, for hunger, for household inconveniences, for isolation…they tell the tale of post-surgical depression. So…rousing myself to stand on both front and back porch, I leave you with a few pretty pictures of this morning’s snow and fog…and branches etched in delicate crystal:


Snowed in…


Snow drifts against the backdoor make it impossible to open…I’m so thankful for a teenage boy who will brave the 35 mph wind gusts and sub-freezing temperatures to shovel it away!

It’s so incredibly gusty and cold that I took these pictures from inside the house…my big guy lifted the screens so I could get a decent shot:

Our county is under a level 2 snow emergency.   The roads are nearly impassable, our driveway is invisible and the cars are buried…

Now…I love snow.  I have dreams about snow.  Every year, I ask God to send me snow for my birthday and I always, always get some…even if it’s just a couple flakes (it helps that my birthday is in January!)

But this…no…I don’t love this.  This is not a snowfall that we can enjoy…at least not today! Temperatures are crazy cold, gusts are creating drifts several feet deep and attending Mass on Sunday is beginning to seem unlikely.   We live in what meteorologists refer to as the I-70 corridor…just a few minutes outside of Franklin county, our weather can be markedly different at any given time of the year.  It seems the wind is always higher, snow falls faster and thicke, and it doesn’t take long for a minor weather situation to turn into a great big mess…

But it is pretty.  And we have nothing like what the east coast is getting slammed with once again…

So…once the wind dies down, the children will dig into those 4 to 6 foot drifts.  I foresee a village of igloos and snowmen.  Snow forts and tunnels.  And a very, very big snowball fight!

Right now, I’m thankful for electricity…we still have ours.  For stocked cabinets and a weekend to ‘dig out.’  Hubby is home, we’re all safe and we’re praying for the east coast as they are certainly facing a mess of historic proportions…


A not-so-busy mom’s daybook…Friday edition

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – February 5th, 2010

Outside my Window….a mad swirl of enormous white flakes.  Ten to twelve inches of snow in our forecast.  Oh, that this were two months earlier…I’m so ready for spring.  For daffodils and daisies.  For soft, green grass and the smell of the earth ready for planting.  It makes for a pretty picture, this blanket of white, hiding all that is dead and brown…and we have nowhere to go.  Once hubby is home, safe and sound, we’ll all be snug and content to be together.

Thinking…about love.  As we approach St. Valentine’s Day, I’ve been meditating more and more on what it means to be truly loving.  I’m praying that God will help me to continue to improve in this area, that all my actions be motivated by a true, unselfish, unconditional love…I’m surrounded by so much of it, I want to give more…this recovery has taken so much out of me, and I feel I’ve been on the receiving end more than the giving end, of late.  I’m hoping to improve that…

Thankful for…my sweet family.  For a husband that loves me and our children.  For every little improvement in my daily condition, since surgery.  On the material side…for my iPod Touch.  32 GBs of happiness!  For ibreviary, ipieta and Intuition.  For audiobooks and fairytales at the touch of a finger.  For WordPress blogging, from the comfort of my couch, at the touch of a finger…hubby and I rarely exchange gifts, reserving what we have for the children.  This gift has been such a blessing, particularly during my “downtime.” I can’t recommend it highly enough…

From the kitchen…Potato soup.  I have no motivation where food is concerned.  I’m dropping weight like mad…first, food was impossible to swallow.  Now…the taste is just horrible.  Everything, everything is sickeningly sweet.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  And I’m just not one for sweets.  Salt and crunch…that’s me.  This is dreadful and I’m praying that it is just a short term side effect.  In the meantime…I’ve lost 20 pounds in two weeks.  That says a lot…

Faith and learning…We’ve managed to get school done everyday.  Core subjects only, as mom is still mostly confined to the couch, but school nonetheless.  The little ones are progressing beautifully in the subjects that matter most.  I’d been quite concerned with my two youngest sons’ progress in spelling and writing.  Eliminating the other subjects for the past couple of weeks has made focusing on these subjects so much easier and they’re quickly improving in both areas.  I’d actually considered a paid tutor, but am pleased to see that concentrated effort is what is most needed.  And no distractions…

Creating…well…after weeks of very strong narcotics, I found it impossible to focus on the smallest task for than a few minutes.  I’ve been crocheting a bit more, because it’s so much easier to put aside, and I never use a pattern.  I’ve made two flapper hats, a pair of gauntlet gloves and a dolly dress.  I’m hoping to get back to my knitting.  I have two pairs of socks to finish and a host of other projects I’d love to begin.  Just trying to take things a day at a time…

Planning…to heal.  It’s slow, but it’s happening.  I’m sick right now…on top of the healing process, thanks to prednisone, I’m very prone to sickness.  So I’ve picked up a virus of some sort…it pleases the Lord for me to suffer, and since He very much wants me to get it right, looks like I get another opportunity!  Ah…to suffer well…that is an ongoing challenge for me…

Wearing…pink knit long-sleeved tee, gray sweat pants and socks.

ReadingHoly Mary, Mother of God…Help Of All Christians by Fr. John Kane.  A gift from a dear, dear friend whom I miss so very much.

Praying…that it becomes less and less painful to talk.  To swallow.  To breathe.  To eat.  That I will keep a spirit of gratitude for all the wonderful things that have occurred during this “down time…”  As the title of this post says, I’m “not-so-busy”…not because of laziness…I’ve been forced into retirement for a time and I’m trying desperately to not fight it.  I did try to plunge into all the housework as soon as my dear mother-in-law left on Wednesday…and paid for it dearly all night, and the next day and I believe I’m still paying a bit today.  So…I’m slowing down.  No…I’m stopping.  And delegating.  The children have been wonderful…I couldn’t ask for better.  May God bless them all…

Hearingmy children playing Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess…school work is done and no one wants to play in the snow right now…

Around the house…septic is acting up again.  Laundry.  Looks like a trip to the laundrymat will be necessary unless these septic problems are addressed soon.  Lord…you seem to want me to grow in patience.  I’m trying…but it’s so, so hard…

One of my favorite things…pain medication.  At least for the past two weeks.  I can’t imagine how one would cope with this level of pain without it.  I’ve always been hesitant to take any kind of medication.  All I can say is “Deo Gratias!” for medical science and all the conveniences that save our lives and make us more comfortable during the healing process.  God bless all healers…

Here’s a picture thought I am sharing with you

A few shots from my sweet boy, Gareth who loves the camera:

In the yard:

In the house:

And all around us…

Snow, snow, snow…and much, much more to come!


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