Thursday, October 31, 2013

On Celebrating the Saints (or why I don't think Halloween is evil but we still won't celebrate it)


I love All Saints' Day.  It really is one of my favorite feasts of the year.  It's a solemnity actually, like Christmas or Easter, meaning that it is one of the most important days on the Christian calendar.

A day to remember - and thank! - those who have gone before us and now are home.  Those who ran the race and won.  Those who fought hard and who carried their cross.  Those who now gaze upon the face of God.  We focus on them.  We celebrate them.  We thank them.  We ask for their intercession.  

The day is especially set aside to remember those who have not been given a proper feast on the calendar but who are just as much saints as those who have.  The ones without books and biographies, history or title.  We remember the trillions of souls (we hope) whose names we don't know but who have arrived home first.

It's a day to honor them.  It's not really about us at all.
Sure, we want to be like them and to one day join them and it sure is applicable to our own lives but the crux of and reason for the solemnity itself was to give them their due respect not necessarily to be a catechetical lesson.
(But we sure do like to make everything about us, don't we?)

And so we go to Mass.  We celebrate these countless souls who we will hopefully one day meet.  We throw parties in their honor.  We sing their praises and we recognize their dignity and their role in salvation history.  They had a story and whether we know the details or not, we honor it.  We pass down the stories that we do know, sharing them with our children and maintaining the collective memory.  


Our family celebrates.  We celebrate those we know and those we don't.  We celebrate the hope that it gives to know that others have done it.  They really did it.  This life that sometimes seems so hard, so long, so insufferable.  They won it.  And that means we can, too.  Despite our wretchedness and sinfulness, we have hope in Christ.  

I owe my brothers and sisters in Christ so very much.  As a Catholic I believe that death has been overcome.  I believe that relationships, that love, is stronger than death.  And so I know that those who now live fully in the love of the Blessed Trinity cannot forget us here below.  They are living Love more fully than anything I can ever imagine here on earth.  They are part of Him and He never ever forgets His children.  How could they?

This day is a day I can use to thank them.  To show them in my own small simple ways how incredibly grateful I am to them.  For their witness, their prayers, their love.  For the powerful ways that they have worked in my life time and time again and in the countless ways that I've never even known.  I owe them that.

I gave birth to a saint once.  By the time I held his body, I believe that he was already living the beatific vision.  This day is a day for him.  A day that I get to say he existed and he is real and that yes, I really can still be in relationship with the child whose voice I never heard and whose hand I never held.  This day is a day for all those little ones that don't get their name on the calendar but who nonetheless are saints in heaven.  I love that and I'm so grateful for a Church that remembers those that the world never got to see.

So we will celebrate the entire solemnity, from the time the sun goes down this evening until tomorrow night, we will remember and feast and celebrate these beautiful souls, these friends of ours who have won.  


I had to smile when I saw someone suggest that our children dressing in saint costumes couldn't possibly be as fun as an American Halloween.  My kids apparently never got that memo.  The amount of bouncing and preparing and counting down to All Saints' Day has been epic this year.  What is important to us becomes important to them, right?  We've been having a ball planning costumes and they are over the moon excited to celebrate.

Pope Cantaloupe the First has been occupying our counter this week helping reshape a flattened miter.  


wrote about this once before but the real reasons we don't do an American Halloween have little to do with thinking that it is inherently evil and I thought I might clarify since there seem to be assumptions made this time of year in comboxes and articles scattered about.  My reasons are a bit more of a practical nature:

•I can't do it all.  My time and energy is limited and I just can't give All Saints' Day the energy and focus I believe it deserves.  I know myself and any amount of energy spent preparing for and focusing on Halloween would be energy not spent on the solemnity.  Either that or I would do both and burn out.  For me as a Catholic, the solemnity of the Church calendar takes precedence.
•Some people are able to do both and somehow fit them together catechetically.  To me, it's a stretch.  If I were to do Halloween, it would be of the innocent, dress your kid like a cowboy variety.  And that, to me, is like going to a homecoming parade on Christmas Eve.  A good and fun thing, sure, but the timing
•I loooove that in the Judeo-Christian understanding of time, the day begins at sundown.  That means that All Saints' Day really begins tonight.  I'm a sucker for celebrating as soon as possible.
•Shake your head if you must but I'm also totally that mom who would end up throwing out half the candy as unfit to eat anyway.  Or I would submit to my gluttonous tendencies and sneak eat it at the kitchen counter.  (I can't imagine how hard it must be for those with food allergies to deal with it!  My sympathies.)
•We live in Buffalo and this is the last day of October.  My only memories of Halloween involve picking out a sweet costume only to be heartbroken by the fact that I had to wear a winter coat over it anyway.  One year I remember walking in a few inches of snow chattering our teeth as we knocked on doors in thirty degree temperatures which currently sounds like my least favorite way to spend an evening with four young children.  Another year my face paint trickled off in the chilling rain.  I think I may start a movement to bring some sort of innocent Halloween-esque type of thing to, say, August.  Far away from both major solemnities and pneumonia invitations.
•Wait, I do have that one memory of writing in my diary at eleven years old how I was longing to be a "sexy French maid" to impress the boy I had a crush on.  True story.  *shudder*
•Spiders, bats, some tissue paper ghosts, a cemetery here or there I can do.  Hideous bloody masks, gruesome flesh-eating zombies walking about, graphics and yard displays worthy of a B-rated horror flick I cannot.  And I don't want those images imprinted on my children's or my mind.  We read our share of fairytales and saint stories that have some pretty graphic story lines but when it is heard rather than displayed their minds can process it in a way that is safe for them, a way that strengthens and fortifies them rather than terrifying them.
•I've read some people stating that this is the day that Christians can laugh at the devil and mock death and that we should be partaking in this kind of stuff.  We have won, that is for dang sure, and I don't fear death or the devil in an unhealthy way.  However the Church still takes the reality of hell and the devil and his work pretty seriously.  There were saints who had run ins with the evil one but they never went looking for it.

Whether you celebrate Halloween or not, please take some time to pray for those who do observe it as a day of evil as well as asking St. Michael to protect your family from the attacks of the devil.  There are so many people entangled in the occult who need our prayers.  Let's remember to pray for them especially today as well as try to do our best to honor and thank our brothers and sisters in heaven who cheer us on as we figure all this stuff out.

Have a wonderful All Saints' Day and may all those souls in heaven, known and unknown, pray for us!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A DIY Secret Spy Kit

My Godson turned TEN the other day.  Ten.  Which is right down crazy, if you ask me.  I was thrilled when he mentioned that he would like a "spy kit" for his birthday.  What a fun gift for me, a one-time wannabe detective, to give!  It was rather funny that the cousins started this little detective phase after learning that Grandpa's bike and a case of beer had been stolen from the garage a few months back. They spent the entirety of a family party searching for clues and coming up with various compelling theories on what had gone down.  ("Wait.  Aunt Bridget drinks beer..." "What if Grandpa hid the bike and now is trying to get the insurance money?"  "I saw some older boys down the street.  They were smoking.")  For several weeks after, they were trading theories and clues and searching for that bike.  

Anyway, after scouring the internet and stores for a cool ready made kit to buy, I came up empty. Either they were pretty lame filled with a few plastic junky toys or they were oh, seventy dollars. And we don't do seventy dollar birthday gifts 'round here.  So I decided that the boys and I would put together our own for him.  Total was around twenty dollars.

We bought almost all of our supplies at the dollar store...

The Basics:  Magnifying Glass, Flashlight, Notebook 
(I added the decals from stickers we already had and the pen from our massive collection that the husband brings home from work every. day.)

Disguise Gear:  Sunglasses, Hat, Mustaches
We already had those silly glasses and I threw them in just for fun.

Secret Code Kit and Invisible Ink
The plastic case came with the swabs.  I took out the cotton balls in the middle and replaced them with index cards on which I wrote a Morse Code cheat sheet and a reverse alphabet cheat sheet.  The invisible ink is lemon juice and I put it in a vitamin bottle I saved.

Fingerprint Kit:  The case is simply a plastic produce container I had saved from some cherries and had on hand in the cupboard.

Inside:  Fingerprint Dusting Powder (aka talcum powder), Makeup Brush, "Lifting Tape," Ink Pad, Homemade Print Cards (from normal index cards)

Other Gear:  Gloves (can't be leaving fingerprints behind!), "Lock Picking Kit" (screwdriver set with some bobby pins thrown in), Binoculars, Zip Ties (for securing the suspect, of course)

The only thing not from the dollar store or my own stash was the fancy briefcase which I scored at the Salvation Army for three dollars.  I was originally looking for a hard case in either black or silver but I actually think this works much better as it is filled with pockets and has three big dividers to help organize all the spy gear.  It's also much less conspicuous when he's going in cognito.  And if and when the spy phase is done, it's actually a really nice bag that can be used for something else.

We thought of a few other things that would've been cool to add  - walkie talkies, watch, wig, camera, spy glass - but we needed to rein it in a bit.  I suppose they could always be added in the future and of course, he could add any of his own things to it for his detecting adventures.

The boys decided that this was so cool that they also needed to make their own kits this week so they've been scrounging the house to replicate as much as they can of it.  John Paul especially is crazy excited to give his cousin his new kit and because I'm the most fun aunt in the entire world, we even made up a series of clues that will lead him to his present when we give it to him!  I'm really hoping he enjoys it!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Seven (Not Horribly Bad for Them) Cheater Meals

Do you do cheater meals?
For the most part I make a normal meal every night for the fam but once in a while I am just too plain exhausted or something unexpected comes up or Brian and I want an in-house date night after the kids are in bed so they eat separately.  Or those Saturdays when we've been working on a project all day and I totally forgot to put something in the crockpot or plan accordingly.  On those nights I rely on my cheater meals.  The meals that take five minutes or so to put together that they will eat without complaint.  I don't really keep frozen processed foods in the house so these meals are easy ways to make a meal that is fast and convenient without all the added preservatives and junk that the frozen boxed stuff contains.

Tuna Cheesies
My mom made these growing up and now my kids love them.  My mom made them with english muffins but I usually just use whatever carb type product I have on hand: rolls sliced in half, simple slices of bread or bagels.  
Make some tuna salad, layer it on your bread product of choice, top with shredded or sliced cheddar cheese.  Then just broil for about 2 minutes.  
Pair it with some veggie sticks and you've got all your food groups covered.

Meatball Sandwiches 
As you may or may not have heard, we are slightly obsessed with Trader Joe's and one of our favorite things they carry is their party size meatballs.  I suppose they might be considered processed by some people but I can recognize all the ingredients and with the exception of the soy flour, it's all legible and okay-by-me real ingredients.  They are so good.  In fact, Brian and I will use them for our own special date night dinner after the boys are in bed because we are that ghetto they are that delicious.

Mini Pizzas
Pretty much the same exact idea as the tuna cheesies but pizza style.  Bread product of choice (roll, bagel, english muffin, pita), pasta sauce, cheese.  Add other toppings if you want but my kids are happy plain cheese eaters.  Broil about 2 minutes and the kids will be thrilled with their mini pizzas.  Again, I usually throw some sort of finger veggies or make some frozen peas or whatever to go with it.

Bean and Cheese Burritos
This is a slightly obvious one but a can of refried beans (check the ingredients and get the kind without lard or hydrogenated oils), some cheddar cheese and a tortilla (again, TJ's has the healthiest ready-made ones).  Heat the beans and assemble at table.  Throw some veggies on there for good measure.

I tried and failed many a time to take an appealing picture of a burrito for you.  My apologies.

Dip Night
The boys love them some dip nights.  We do this sometimes when Brian is out of town and I'm trying to make things fun for them and because Brian won't eat this stuff so it's our chance.  I'll set a couple of dips on the table, some blue corn tortilla chips, some veggie sticks, and let them at it.  Our dip choices have included pre-made hummus, Buffalo bean dip, refried bean dip, guacamole, or taco dip but there are lots of healthy dips besides those out there to choose from.

Freezer Soup
Is this cheating?  Once in a while when we have leftovers that I don't feel like using for a lunch but that aren't enough to feed all of us for another dinner, I will freeze it and label it as a smaller batch for use on one of these easy nights.  It's almost always soup but sometimes chili.  The kids love my split pea soup more than I do.  Weirdos.  I use a quart size freezer bag.  Thaw, reheat, crackers, done.

Crudite Tray
When you're the parent you get to make choices like serving a tray of crackers, cheese, fruit, tuna salad, hummus, and veggie sticks for dinner and that's allowed!  I take full advantage of that liberty.

Now tell me, what are your healthy-esque cheater meals?  I'd love to mix it up a bit!
See Cari-in-lieu-of-Jen for more Takes

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One Last Hurrah and a W

Last Sunday I was desperate.  It felt like I hadn't gotten out of the house in far too long (even though I had) and I felt the foreboding smell in the air and heard the chaos of four boys in the house.  I trembled with the reality that winter is coming.  Seventeen (or something) long months of winter ahead.  The forecast predicted a rain-filled weekend but then, behold, we got out of Mass and the skies were blue!  I hopped online and a certain unnamed weather source stated that  the forecast had changed!  Chance of rain, 0%!  I shot out an email to friends begging them to come to the park for one last hurrah before the freezing temperatures and illness quarantines of winter began.


We went to a park near where I grew up.  It looked lovely and despite the frigid temperatures, we had fun.


This area of the park is so quaint and nostalgic and has yet to be replaced by a generic plastic monstrosity.  In fact, I was so pleased that they had repainted the rusty metal rather than tearing it down. It is lovely and dangerous and imaginative and really quite a treat for little people.


Such a goof.

That 0% chance of rain turned into a quick downpour and drizzle the remainder of our stay.  But we toughed it out, stubbornly enjoying our crockpot of chili while chattering under the pavilion.  And Theresa and her family were crazy cool enough to join us!  The kids played soccer and examined drain pipes and searched for acorns oblivious to the wet and cold.  Mostly.

And now the temperatures are in the forties and will likely continue dipping for a good long while.  I'm glad we got one last hurrah of fall before the snow starts falling.  I'm ready now.  I think.  Not really.


And this was the extent of our saint costume preparations as of yesterday morning.  But, glad to say, after a morning spent yesterday gathering supplies and an afternoon of putting things together, I made a good dent in it and have a handle on getting everything ready.  The boys are quite pumped about their costumes :)

Hey, look!  A 'W' for Cari!
(Our lovely crazy messy old tree that greets me out the kitchen window.)

Linking per usual with Like Mother, Like Daughter for {phfr} and Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Seven Takes on a Saturday

I want to thank everyone so so much for sharing the miscarriage posts from the beginning of the week and for all your words in the comments.  I have been praying for all of you.  Please pray with me for a few people with very recent losses who are grieving right now.  Life is so brutally hard sometimes but the rest of us will do our best to hold you up while you are down.  Your children will not be forgotten.

So I'm no longer spending time on Facebook which I won't yammer on about again except to say that sometimes it's really hard and I miss people.  I also miss a lot of the current internet drama and what is infuriating people at the moment.  But from what I gather via other blogs is that it seems that there's been a whole working mom vs. stay at home mom thing going on again.  So here's my contribution to that:

"While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family.

Furthermore, the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome.  This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home."

(Blessed John Paul the Great, Familiaris Consortio, 23)

That is all.

Lightening things up a little...
Do you have a bottle deposit law in your state?  It's quite ridiculous, really.  (For those of you lucky people who do not, you pay an extra fee for certain types of bottles at the checkout and then if and when you return them to the store for recycling, you get those nickels and dimes back.)  I mean, why bottles and not everything?  (No, New York, that wasn't a serious suggestion.  No ideas, please.)  Most of us have curbside recycling now which makes the whole thing a bit silly and just another hidden tax because who has the time or energy or conviction to save all their bottles and then remember to take them back to the store with you?  Answer:  This girl.  Because darned if I'll let the state take more of my money.

In news that is really only exciting to us, our new windows were finally installed!  Since we've lived here we've never been able to open the windows in the back half of the house which included Brian and my bedroom, the nursery, the kitchen, the bathroom, and the utility room.  Some of them were  painted closed and the ones that weren't were not safe for opening because they had no screens which made them an enticing opportunity for toddlers, bats, and assorted other creatures from God's beautiful earth.   It got hot as heck in the summer (seriously, over one hundred degrees a few days...) and required plastic and extra space heaters in the winter.   Brian installed the four tiny upstairs windows and we had to have a company do the the three bigger ones downstairs and the one in the nursery because they are arched at the top and no one carried the sizes available to us laypeople.  Which was more than you ever wanted to know about our windows but yay windows!

I feel a moral obligation to revisit my statements about the love I professed for Trader Joe.  After again going there the other day I realized that some of their prices are not as low as they used to be and I'll still have to suck it up and get to Aldi's (and maybe even send Brian to...Wegman's) at least once a month.  Their cheese especially was waaaay over what we can spend and we likes our cheese here.  They still rock with their dry goods and a lot of their produce and beer and tortillas and peanut butter, though.  So while they will not be the grocery panacea for which I had dreamed I am still over the top psyched that they are here.

Misty asked what my favorites were so here are our top:
-TJ's Salted Creamy Peanut Butter  (Their pb is the ONLY natural peanut butter that is worth eating.)
-Whole Wheat Tortillas (Their tortillas are the only tortillas I've ever found that don't have a whole host of preservatives and conditioners added in that make them last 37 years on a shelf.)
-TJ's Antiplaque Toothpaste with fennel, propolis, and myrrh.  (The taste takes getting used to but now I love it.  Flouride free and cheaper than any other natural toothpaste out there.)
-TJ's Party Size Meatballs (We love them for meatball sandwiches.)
-TJ's Stoned Wheat Crackers (Just super good and at a great price.)
-TJ's Natural Beef Hot Dogs (Hot dogs are a special treat around here since studies have shown that the cheap conventional ones are one of the scariest foods a kid or pregnant mother could eat.  But the boys love them so we get these ones that don't have all the nasty cancer chemicals in them for special occasions.)
-TJ's Honey and Oatmeal Soap (Two bars for less than three dollars and it is the only soap that my face responds well to.)
-TJ's Salmon Oil, Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc, and children's vitamins (The children's vitamin's doubled in cost in recent years, though.)
-They are great for special treats and holidays, too.  (Their candy is dye free and I love buying a few special new treats during holidays with a little less guilt.)

Thought I'd share the link for the All Saints' Day Scavenger Hunt I made up and have used the last few years at our party since it's coming up and soon!  I'd love to hear from you if you use it!

More game and activity ideas can be found here as well.

Today our family (and by our family I mean all of us minus one sickie on the couch) ran (and by ran I mean all sort of propelled ourselves in various forms of semi-frontward type of motions) the Run for the Little Flowers Virtual 5K!!  We did it!

Sorry for the bright camera seems to have a hard time with red.  Is that a thing I can fix?

No, the boys did not do the whole thing.  Brian and I took turns lapping them and we made use of the stroller as well.  But it made me realize what a cool thing it would be to do again as a family and also that I would really like to go off and rescue and take in all the orphans.  Also, I need to exercise more and I'm sadly out of shape.

Thanks, Katie, for all you do to organize this and for giving the motivation to be a part of it.

See Jen for more Quick Takes...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Lesson in Pumpkin Economics with an Alpaca Bonus

Our pumpkin patch fizzled this year.  And by fizzled I mean that Brian planted hundreds of seeds and nary a plant nor pumpkin survived.  Last year we had great success but this year it succumbed to bugs, weeds, and neglect.  We just didn't have the time to put into it this year.  So last weekend we attempted to get some outside fall-y family time and headed out to a pumpkin "patch."  Except that this patch that I remembered from my youth as a quaint little nostalgic field in the country had turned into a high high high cost tacky pseudo-fair thing.  It was disappointing.  We ended up leaving pretty quickly after having to tell the boys over and over that each thing was too expensive and we weren't going to pay 12 dollars each for the wrist band that would let them bounce or ride the tractor and then more for food and then get gouged again for the pumpkins themselves.  Seriously, $20 each for jack o lantern size pumpins.  Eh, no.  Not gonna be plopping out my weekly grocery budget for some pumpkins and a few rides, you know?  

I just kept thinking the whole time what a sad thing it is that so many families are now used to the prices for things being like this and now both parents feel they have to work if they're going to provide their kids with just a little thing like a trip to the pumpkin patch.  But it's this crazy cycle.  People are willing to pay it, so they charge it, so people think that's what things cost nowadays, so they work more, so they earn more, so they spend more, so the cost of living and inflation goes up, so they end up really do needing more money for the same things and on and on and on.  Meanwhile it gets harder for those who are on one income to make it work when two incomes are the expected norm.  Anyhoo, enough of my economics lesson.  We were already thinking what a sweet deal this is that you can work hard for about two months out of the year and I bet the owners are able to live off that the rest of the year.  I could see the gears in Brian's head turning while we were there.  "But," he said "we would make it a place where normal families and people with lots of kids could afford to come and have fun."  That's my man.


We ended  up trying to find some of the two dollar size pumpkins in the pick your own patch.  (We couldn't get to the farther fields because you needed a wristband for the hayride there.)  The two dollar pumpkins were smaller than pie pumpkins so the boys scoured the field and all we found these two gourd things.  So we got those.  And then the sweet old man at the entrance to the field said we could have them for free.  I think he felt sorry for us.  He must've heard the boys yelling over and over "is this one a two dollar one?"  

It was free to watch the cider press so we did that for a little while and it was neat before it got a little slow.

I have to take a moment to commend my boys for being so great about stuff like this.  I can see how disappointed they are but they don't complain or beg or throw a fit.  They see the other kids doing these super cool looking kid things and I'm sure that's hard for them and it hurts my heart a little that they can't just join in all the time but I know in my head that it's good for them, too.  They find something else to do and they make the best of it.  I feel so proud of them when it comes to stuff like this even when it's hard.

So we left with our oversize gourds and munched on pretzels and apples in the car.  And then on a whim decided to stop at an alpaca farm on the way that was having an open house.  Because why not?

They are so incredibly soft!  And the owner was happy to show them off.  I would love to be able to knit with alpaca yarn but it's pretty pricey.

The owner insisted on taking a family picture of us with the alpaca.  It sort of looks like we're the ones in the cage.  This year's Christmas card?  Blog header?  Should I blow it up real big and Mod Podge it onto a canvas and hang it over the mantel?  

David would like to show you that alpaca eyeballs are very big. 

I love all the colors but I think I can admit that orange, the theme for Theme Thursday, is my least favorite.  Unless, of course, it's in nature and especially this time of year.  Michael helped me get our fall decorations out a few weeks ago and we added a few things to the living room.  When I stepped back I really loved how the touches (or should I be designy and say "splashes?") of orange made the room feel.

I show a picture of my chinese lanterns every year, I'm sorry.  I just love how neat they are.  These are actually the ones from last year.  I never got new ones this year and Blogger is showing them much oranger than they look in my original photo.  We did try to save some of the seeds from some of them last year and plant them but alas, another gardening fail for the year.

Again linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter and Clan Donaldson!
Get ye there.

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