Catholic Family Vignettes

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


September 2010

Happy Feast of St. Michael the Archangel…Happy Michaelmas!

A busy day ahead…special guests for lunch and a small Michaelmas celebration planned for this evening!

I hope you won’t remind a repost for this feast day…and I hope you’ll only quickly read and then proceed to celebrate the day in a very special way…Happy Feast of St. Michael…Happy Michaelmas!


A name which is battle cry, question and statement of faith:

Who is like God?

WHO is like God?

Who IS like God?

Who is LIKE God?

Who is like GOD?



P.S.  A fantastic coloring page (click the image to enlarge and print) and my post on how our family observes Michaelmas…off to bake a bannock!

A new season…

I’ve been anxious to share with you, my dear friends, the beautiful gift of healing that our Lord has so graciously granted.

Regrettably, I’ve been rather selfish with my little miracle…I’ve shared it with family and a very few friends, but mostly have been keeping it to myself, savoring it and reflecting on the goodness of God and His infinite mercy.

A few days ago, I wrote a dear friend a letter, describing the event.  It was the first I’d written of it, so I include a “copy and paste” excerpt here…I know she won’t mind!

From an email dated 9/15/2010:

I have to share an amazing revelation that I had on Sunday and the beautiful “miracle” that occurred shortly thereafter.

Roger was horrifically ill on Saturday night.  After months of being the pillar for this family, he crumbled.  Feverish and vomiting, he was unable to take any of the children to Mass.  I was so sad for the ones who’d wanted to attend so desperately.  And feeling a bit stressed.  You see…I’d wanted to start school on Monday.  That was MY plan.  But I had no idea how to even begin.  I couldn’t order books.  I didn’t know how on earth I was going to move easily from place to place.   The children would need to focus on school even if I could do it…how would the all the cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. get done?  The high school students needed so much!  And I couldn’t keep leaning on Zachary…school is his job, not housework.  And no Mass!  Ah…it seemed the laments were endless.  I was at the sink, in my wheelchair, trying to clean up my disastrous kitchen when a wave of calm descended upon me.  And I heard, not out loud, but interiorly:  “How faithful are you?  Last year, you had everything you needed to do what you wanted, to go where you wanted.  This year you don’t.  Are you still faithful?  Do you still believe this is what you should do?  Show me.  Show me that you really believe it.”

I knew what God was asking!  He was calling me to move forward, in faith, without worry, without supplies, without a car, without my mobility…to really act as though I had all those things, rather than lamenting the lack!!  I quickly made my way to the livingroom…I was so excited.  I asked the children to bring all their book boxes and for the next two hours (only two!) I pieced together a school year.  The children were actually excited when I described what I was doing and why.  I thought they would lament what they lacked, but they didn’t!  It was marvelous.  And so very simple. It’s not perfect, but it will do until things change.

By that evening, all while their poor, stressed Daddy was sleeping, they cleaned up the house to ready it for school.  Roger awakened to a good meal, a cheerful wife and happy children, a fairly well ordered home and the realization that at least one burden had been lifted from his shoulders…it was precious!  It wasn’t until the next morning, that I shared with him my “epiphany…”

Seated at the kitchen sink, I told him what I heard…and then I showed him something:


It was as if our Lord said “Ah…so you finally get it.  Your faith is what shall heal you.  Put your trust in Me.  You can do all things…according to your level of trust…”

On the eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the woman who hadn’t been able to tolerate 50% weight bearing on last Wednesday…the woman who had rejoiced at using one crutch and laboriously picking her way down a wooded path on Saturday…dropped her crutch and walked (still in the robo-boot!) across her kitchen!

And moved easily, from room to room on our first school day.  Helping Zach and Joseph with their work, turning to help the four youngers in the classroom…putting in a load of laundry…preparing lunch…cooking supper…and finally, attending physical therapy, where I surprised the living daylights out of my physical therapist!  Who, consequently, worked the living daylights out of me!

And that, my friends, is that.

Four days after my “healing”, my father took me to a shoe store and within 5 minutes picked out the perfect shoe…one that actually fit my still swollen, but now functional, foot!

And I’ve been walking ever since.  In the early morning and after extended periods, I rely on my cane.  But I’m walking…and it wasn’t supposed to happen until nearly December!

Upstairs.  Downstairs.  Outside.  Inside.

I can drive.

I can go to MASS!!

May God be praised…He shepherds us all through difficult seasons, never ceasing to care…always rich in compassion and kindness.  Patiently leading us to the right place, at just the right time.

And placing in our lives, just the right people…

So…I thank all of you for the many prayers, rosaries, meals and kind words offered throughout the long days and weeks of disability.

What an exciting new season this is!  Feet planted firmly on the ground, I’m proceeding surely and quickly, thanks to a merciful Father, an amazing family and a precious group of friends.  May you be blessed as you bless others!

Nifty nighties…

In the heat of summer, my little girls practically lived in their pillowcase nighties…there were more than a few days that I’d have to insist that they get properly dressed.  “Our nighties are so comfy…” they’d say.  And so very, very cool.

Not to mention cute!

As we inch towards fall…and I do mean “inch”, as current temperatures are in the 90’s…I thought it might be fun to try another kind of nightie…using the same recycling principles.

Back to the thrift store for a couple more vintage pillowcases and two long sleeved girls’ cotton tshirts.  It took only a few minutes to find a couple 59 cent cases covered with trailing roses…sure to delight the little girls.  As for the tshirts…I looked for plain white, and found two with nice   embellishments.

From there, it was quite easy.  First, I trimmed the shirt to create an empire waistline.

Then,  I simply opened up the closed end of the pillowcase and ran a running stitch (by hand) around the outer edge to gather the long skirt until it measured the same width as the bodice.  Finally, I pinned and machine stitched the two pieces together.

The results…beautifully simple.  Simply beautiful!

I used a nice, thin cotton pillowcase for these nighties, but I’ll probably make at least two more using flannel.  The entire project, from start to finish, will take you less than 30 minutes.

And the cost?  $1.58 per nightie!

And that, my friends, is the beautiful fruit of recycling!


Apples and tomatoes…

Ah, September…apples and tomatoes in abundance!

Time to make Apple Tomato Jam.  Yes…jam!  And it is oh, so delicious.  I was a bit dubious when I first heard about it, but decided to give it a try.  It’s a hit…unanimously approved by all the children in the household, and particularly delightful when served with homemade buttermilk biscuits.

The recipe is rather simple…you can even adjust to suit yourself.  This is my version:

Apple Tomato Jam

8 large tomatoes (I used a combination of Mr. Stripey and Brandywine…gives the jam a lovely pumpkiny-orange color and is less acidic!)

5 large apples (I used Cortlands…nice and tart…the natural pectin in the apples will help with the thickening process that creates the jam.)

4 cups of sugar

3 cinnamon sticks

Peel and core apples and tomatoes…you may wish to seed the tomatoes as well.  My heirloom tomatoes have very few seeds, but I remove as many as I can, to avoid potential bitterness.

Combine all in a large pot and cook.

You want to cook the mixture until it reaches a jam-like consistency…an immersion blender will help to speed the process, but you can also use a potato masher or process small amounts in a food processor.

Ladle into clean jars or containers and either freeze or use your favorite processing method…I use the inversion method, but only for jams.  Use your own discretion.

Yields 4 quarts.

I do hope you’ll give it a try!  It looks like sunshine in a jar, and tastes like summer…in the depths of winter it will be a delightful reminder of warmer days…


Joy in the ordinary…

Ten days ago, I had an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon.  Entering the enormous office complex, I quickly “crutched” my way to the door.  A woman was slowly, laboriously making her way towards the same door.  I slowed down, waiting for her to get to the door, noting that familiar expression; a mix of sheer determination and pain…teeth clinched, brow furrowed, arms shaking.  Obviously a few days post-surgical.

She sees me.   “Oh…please…go around me.  I’m so slow…”

I smile, pointing down to my robo-boot.  “You’re doing great!  And it only gets better.  I promise!”

A few minutes later, registered, xrayed and barefoot, hubby and I are greeted by the surgeon.

“Wow!”  He said.  “Everything looks great.  You’re healing beautifully.  Your bones are fused and your scars are looking pretty good, too.  How do you feel?”

Me:  “I feel pretty good.  My range of motion is excellent, my pain is less than it was before the surgery.  The screws are really bothering me…I can see and feel them, but other than that, I think I’m doing really well…”

Him:  “Yes…the screws can really cause problems for some people and yours are rather prominent.  In a couple of months we can remove them…it’s quite simple…very quick outpatient surgery.  So…looks like your ready to move to full weight bearing…”

Me:  “Full weight bearing?  Doctor…I haven’t even accomplished the 50% thing yet!  Full weight bearing?  How do I do that?”

Him, with a smile:  “I completely understand.  And you’re misunderstanding what I mean.  Your bones and tendon have healed enough to bear your full weight, but that doesn’t mean that you can do it.  Yet.  You’re  still at least another 12 weeks away from being able to do that.  But you’re  on your way.  Remember:  this is a slow process and you’re only a couple months in, but you’re doing amazingly well.  Your healing is about the best I’ve seen.  Just be patient.  Listen to your body, keep going to physical therapy.  It will all come in time.”

It will all come in time…

We made our way out of the office and straight to physical therapy.  As we transitioned between the two spaces, I met another lady…wearing a boot like mine, walking without crutches!  She looked at me with my two, smiled sympathetically and said:  “Don’t worry…it gets better.  I promise!”

Hehehe…the encourager receives encouragement!

The physical therapist noted the doctor’s new assessment.  “Time to move forward.  First thing, let’s lose one of those crutches…”

By the end of the session I was moving quickly and surely across the floor…with a single crutch!

How can I describe how liberating it is to use only one crutch?

One crutch leaves one hand…FREE!  I can carry a cup.  A hairbrush.  A book.  Wonderful!

I felt like Mel Gibson in Braveheart:    FREEEEEEEEEEEEEDOMMMMMM!!!!

Flash forward…a lovely Saturday.  And the woods beckon.  Do I risk it?  Can I?  The trails are mowed, the hickory nuts are on the ground, leaves are changing, falling, swirling…

We pile into the the truck.

My sweet hubby walks three steps ahead of me, clearing every obstacle in the path.  I move, slowly and deliberately, observing nature as I haven’t been able to for more than two months.

One hour later, camera in hand…the woman who hadn’t walked for more than five minutes inside her home…that woman walked for more than an hour in the woods.

With one crutch, bending to pick up nuts and acorns…joy welling in my heart as I watched my children run from place to place…experiencing a peace and contentment that I’d struggled to obtain within the confines of my home, now so easily within reach.

There’s more to this story.  A profound and beautiful realization that took place the following day.  I’ll share it with you soon.  Right now, I’m relishing a new found freedom, finding happiness in the simplest things, contentment in the day to day.

Joy in the ordinary…


Our Lady of Sorrows…pray for us!

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam,
attendite, et videte,
si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.
Attendite, universi populi,
et videte dolorem meum,
si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?
Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.
Behold, all ye people of this earth,
to see if there be any sorrow
like unto mine. Lamentations Of Jeremias 1:12

Our Mother’s son…

Thirty two weeks pregnant, infection and early labor.

The pregnancy had been progressing well…our little boy, already loved and named, was in trouble and early delivery seemed imminent.

I remember the day I discovered I was pregnant.  It was my birthday and the news was received with such joy, such hope…I just knew our new little one would be a boy, a playmate for our other son and we had already chosen a name:

Joseph Thomas.

Named for two wonderful fathers…the foster father of our Lord and my father…it seemed the perfect combination.

But now, mom was very sick, an acute case of pyelonephritis was causing early labor, contractions were escalating and I feared for my little one. Praying, through waves of pain and tears, I begged for help:

“Please, Blessed Mother…please help me.  I give him to you.  As our good God gave you and the Holy Child you carried to the loving care of St. Joseph, I beg you to take my Joseph, my baby, as your own!  Please let me carry him a little longer…”

For several days I fought infection and fever.  Labor stopped, healing began and I eventually returned to my home, only to return a few weeks later…this time for the delivery of a healthy newborn, 8 lbs. 12 oz, 22 inches long, born on September 11th at 11:56 p.m.

It never failed...Feast Of All Saints, he'd always be St. Joseph!

And, of course, we named him Joseph Thomas.

Since then, our Lady has given me a few lovely confirmations that she has taken my offering seriously.   When Joseph was preparing for his First Holy Communion, it was the tradition at the parish we had been attending, for one of the little girls to crown our Lady, after the Mother’s Day Mass.  I begged our Lady to intercede…I had told Joseph about my “consecration” of him as a baby, to our Blessed Mother’s care…I wanted so much for this sweet, 7 year old boy to crown his Mother!  In an unexpected turn of events, the DRE announced that for the first time all of the children’s names would be placed in a hat.  She said “our Lady will choose who She wants to crown her.”  Yes…you guessed it…Joseph was chosen!  He was beyond happy and, after having received our Lord for the first time, crowned our Lady with such loving affection!

And it nearly didn’t happen.

I had almost not allowed him to join the First Communion class.  My own scrupulosity and fear that he didn’t really understand, had nearly kept this dear boy from receiving.   He had seemed so disinterested…I kept waiting, praying for some kind of sign, an indication of his excitement or anticipation…but, alas…nothing.  I appealed to his heavenly Mother.  A few days later, as I was reading him a story from one of his Catholic readers, he expressed his great joy that he was about “to receive Jesus.”  Ah…the sign!  His “earthly” mother, so lacking in faith, had received the green light…

Of course, as Catholic parents, we’ve always entrusted all of our children to our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  But I, as mother, had never “consecrated” or “set aside” with such deliberateness, one of my pre-born children…it changed everything.  And yes…I’ve since given them all, with great trust, to Her, the Mother beyond compare.

G. I. Joe, to the rescue!

Still…there’s something special about the care our Lady has lavished upon this other Joseph.  I remind him of her special protection at every

Always the comedian...even when in "kingly" attire, he's still more Groucho Marx!


Today, we celebrate 14 years with our Joseph Thomas.  Incredibly intelligent, so very helpful…he serves the Traditional Mass every Sunday as an acolyte.  We’re so very proud of him, of the young man that he’s become.  The future stretches before him, like a beautiful as yet to be written scroll…I can’t wait to see the rest of the story!


Frog and Toad…together!

Frog and Toad least they were today, as evidenced by the following photo, compliments of Joseph

Do you like Frog and Toad?  We sure do…there’s so much charm in the Lobel classics…and the videos?  Precious.  I can’t help but read the tales and hear those same silly voices.  Below, my all-time favorite…complete with the adorable “seed” song and poetry.  Enjoy!


Happy Birthday, Mother Mary!

Pretty cupcakes, dressed in blue:

Yes…we’re feasting today to honor the birth of the Mother of God, the Mother given to humanity by God the Son, from the foot of the Cross. What joy to celebrate an incomparable Mother…my Mother and yours!

Our Lady’s Nativity

Star of the morning, how still was thy shining,
when its young splendor arose on the sea!
Only the angels, the secret divining,
hailed the long-promised, the chosen, in thee.

Sad were the fallen, and vainly dissembled
fears of “the woman” in Eden foretold;
darkly they guessed, as believing they trembled,
who was the gem for the casket of gold.

Oft as thy parents bent musingly o’er thee,
watching thy slumbers and blessing their God,
little as they dreamt of the glory before thee,
little they thought thee the mystical Rod.

Though the deep heart of the nations forsaken
beat with a sense of deliverance nigh;
true to a hope through the ages unshaken,
looked for “the day-spring” to break “from on high”;

Thee they perceived not, the pledge of redemption
hidden like thought, though no longer afar;
not through the light of a peerless exemption
beamed in thy rising, immaculate star!

All in the twilight, so modestly shining,
dawned thy young beauty, sweet star of the sea!
Only the angels, the secret divining,
hailed the elected, “the Virgin” in thee.

B.H.D. Catholic World –
September 1870, v.11, page 825


Daybook…Summer’s end

Visit Peggy at The Simple Woman for more Daybook entries!

FOR TODAY – September 6th, 2010

Outside my window: a warm breeze rustles the corn and stirs the lace curtains.  Bright sunshine sifts through the blinds striping carpet and furniture.

I am listening to: the rustling of dried cornstalks in the wind…

I am wearing : blue jeans and a paisley peasant blouse.  Giant robo-boot and one tennis shoe.

I am thankful for: Labor Day…an extended weekend of enjoyment and around-the-house labor. 

I am reading: lots of information on recovery from PTT transfer and calcaneal osteotomy surgery.  Looking for a light at the end of this very long tunnel…

From the kitchen: yummy roast beef and veggies roasting in the oven…we grilled all weekend; first burgers and dogs, then ribs.  Thankfully, it’s sufficiently cool enough that we don’t have to worry about heating up the kitchen.

I am thinking: about school. I’m nearly as anxious to start as are the children!

I am creating: a bit of order, here and there.  After months of immobility, I’m trying to utilize the wheelchair to accomplish as many things as possible.  It feels good to get a handle on a few things around here.

On my iPod: Michael Bublé…my favorite while cooking!

Towards a real education: the classroom is in order…YIPPEE!  I’m excited to get back to work.  This year I’ll be teaching 11th grade, 9th grade, 7th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade and 2nd grade.   I’ve never taught two high school students at the same time…this should be interesting!  The younger students will be studying Greek history, Geology and Physical Sciences.  I’m encouraged by the excitement of the children.   Praying for a peaceful and productive year…God’s grace is sufficient for all things!

I am hoping and praying: that we can resolve our transportation issues…

In the garden: hubby has mowed down a portion of it, the tomatoes are still flourishing.   We have five gallons of them smoking on the grill as I type.  This evening, we’ll slip them out of their skins and bag them to use in soups and sauces…my favorite way to preserve the harvest!

Around the House: acres of dry, rustling cornstalks…trees that have already begun to drop their leaves in these near drought-like conditions…zinnias still blooming in riotous profusion…

On keeping home: I’m still quite limited in what I can accomplish, but I’m doing what I can…and it feels good.  I can’t wait to take back control of the kitchen…I miss it!

One of my favorite things: praying the Eucharistic Adoration Chaplet. I usually pray the chaplet while at Adoration, but also enjoy reciting it with the children, when I’m unable to attend.  It’s very lovely in its simplicity…

A few plans for the rest of the week: Celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Mother on September 8th…hurray!  Pray more, worry less…and hopefully receive encouraging news from my orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday.  Xray and evaluation time!  

A picture thought I’m sharing:

Our September liturgical display



BACKWARD, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for to-night!

Childhood is fleeting.   The time of wonder and the land of make believe, are gone in the blink of an eye…

How precious when they cling to it!  A fairy princess crowns a queen…a young knight slays a dragon.

No cell phone rings.  No computer games beckon.  Imagination flourishes in the quiet of a child’s heart and I rush to capture these few moments, gone so quickly…

Soon, all too soon, their childhood will be but a memory for them.

And for me.

But not today…today they are still small, though I marvel at how they’ve grown, they are still young enough to pretend…

And I’m old enough to want to remember, old enough to pretend that the ring crafted by a 10 year old rock hound, is as fine as any diamond…indeed, more beautiful, as it’s crafted with love.

No…I don’t have to pretend!  It’s real…the love that crafts the necklace, the ring, the memories…no imagination is required.  They slay me, as surely as knight has ever slain a dragon, so does their love and creativity undo me.


Feeling Fall-ish…

What?  Is there a bit of crispness in the air?  Could it be that Fall approacheth?

Me hopes!

Even if Summer should, once again, rear her hot, sweaty head we will revel in the cool temperatures, whistling wind and hearken to that little voice that whispers:  how about a nice, hot bowl of soup?

Oh, yes please!  Especially if it’s a bowl of pure comfort…say, Soulemama’s Tomato Carrot Soup.

Don’t wrinkle your nose!  It’s positively delightful!  Ask my children who are avowed tomato/cooked carrot haters.  They’re feeling the love or at least they will be this evening when they’re served lovely cream-laced bowls of this delicious concoction, served with toasted cheese bread sprinkled with fresh herbs.

Though the process for making the soup is a wee bit time consuming, it’s worth every bit of it.  And with an absolutely insane tomato harvest, I had the perfect excuse to indulge my own penchant for a soup chock full of tomatoey goodness.

I had such a good time making this soup!  Having spent so little time in the kitchen of late, it felt good to expend a little extra effort in my favorite room.  Yes.  I miss cooking.  I’ve been sneaking in more and more…and you know you’ve got it bad, when you’re taking pictures of the food.  But such yummy and beautiful food…

First, I had Michael go to the misty-rainy garden and pick several of these:

A quick boil and they slipped right out of those nasty skins:

A slice, a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh picked oregano:

Pop them into the oven:

Then I pulled a few of these out of the fridge:

Chop, chop.  Dice, dice…and saute:

Add tomatoes, minus the herbs, a little chicken broth and simmer until soft:

Then…my favorite part…puree!

A bit of fresh chopped basil and a drizzle of cream, a few cheese toast points, et voilà!  Mom gets a preview of tonight’s meal:


Kitchen blessings on a Fall-ish Friday,

Ah, September…

“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.”
– John Updike,

Ah, September…you’re here at last!  You bring cooler temperatures, “bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils,” and the heady aroma of new crayons and markers…

For the past two days, the children and I have been working on refurbing the classroom.  Though our resources are quite limited this year and the work is so much harder from a wheelchair, I’m quite pleased with the progress we’re making.  There’s something so very hopeful about readying a space for learning.  As home educators know:  learning isn’t confined to a specific time or space…it takes place anytime, anywhere.  Nevertheless, a well-ordered classroom should and often does invite the scholar to work.  To create.  To explore.   Or, if nothing else, to cut paper into teeny, tiny bits…spill glue…and sprinkle glitter all…over…everything.

Long live the spirit of creativity!

Thank heavens for a really good vacuum cleaner!

And Magic Erasers…

Our first day of school is September 13th…we’re such traditionalists…we never, ever start before Labor Day and are pretty particular about starting after the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This year, we’ll begin as we have in a few years past…with what we have, not sweating what we don’t!  God is good…and we’re all ready to resume our homeschool journey, confident that our Good God is smiling upon our humblest efforts.  And after all, it’s the little things that count, right?  Whenever the big things seem beyond our control, we can always show our faithfulness by doing “small things with great love!”

Here’s to a great homeschool journey…that starts with a single step.

If you’ve already begun your journey…may God bless every step and guide you down the path!

If you haven’t yet begun…may God aid you as you equip yourself for an exciting year of adventure and memory making!

May all home educators and scholars grow in knowledge, faith and love…


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