Saturday, March 29, 2014

In Which I Ask Your Advice on All the Things, Show You My Kids, and Chestertonianize You

(Sarah said it's a word so I'm gonna go with that.)

First, in just a very few weeks we will be headed off to Rome!  I know!  And apparently, we need some good walking shoes.  The kids are all set after I scored some Keen sandals on Ebay and I have a few pairs of close toe shoes but here's what I need:  Women's sandals that are super comfy for walking but don't look like hiking shoes.  Like something I can wear with a skirt and not look like a total nerd.  Any recommendations?  Oh, and it has to be something I can get for like $25 or less or off of Ebay.  Ain't nobody here is going to be paying $100 for a pair of shoes even if they are the Best Things Ever.

Related:  Ten hour middle of the night flight with four young children.  Keeping them occupied we could do...but I don't want them occupied.  I want them asleep.  Because we'll be getting there and it will be the middle of the day and if they don't sleep, oh my goodness, the next few days will be rough.  That would not be fun.  Here's what I have:  ear plugs, some of those neck pillows (do those really work?), blankets.

What else can I do to get them to sleep?  Thoughts on melatonin?
(I know.  A lot of people recommend Benedryl.  We've decided we may be willing to compromise some of our natural tendencies and try that for the first time ever if we absolutely have to.  But I would love to hear if there are other things that could work first.)

Picture break!
The other day my mom and stepdad took us to see Robin Hood performed at a local children's theater.
You can't tell because they hadn't yet taken off their coats but they decided they all had to wear green in honor of the occasion.  Those are my nephews on the end :)

Let's get a close-up of that hat, shall we?

Thanks to Kelly for her inspiration.  Or at least for her pinning someone else's inspiration.  John Paul whipped this up before we went and was heartbroken to realize that it was way too small for his noggin.  At least it sort of not really fit David.

He was making me laugh by sandwiching himself up in the seat :)

It was really well done and the kids loved it.  I took a chance bringing David, too, and he sat through the whole two hours and only got antsy at the very end!  It was different than the version we had read.  Do you know what I never knew?  That Robin Hood isn't one book and doesn't have one author!  (Should I not admit that?  Does everyone else know that?)  I guess I just assumed it was one book.  Apparently it's a legend of English folklore and there are many versions and stories that have been written.  So there's your fascinating fact for the day.

Back to advice:
Do any of you have a great natural shampoo and/or conditioner you use?  One that doesn't have unpronounceable ingredients and all the harmful chemicals but still works well?  I cannot seem to find one that doesn't either make my hair greasy, fried-looking, or give me dandruff.  I've been trying to figure out my hair since having Luke when it totally changed on me.

(And yes, I've done the whole no shampoo thing.  Three times.  I even got like two months into it once and my hair and scalp still looked like death and didn't suddenly transform like everyone says it will.  I just got pseudo-dreads.  Maybe it's our water?)

Related:  Maybe it really is our water?  This is what the bathtub looked like when I filled it up the other day:
You can't even tell how blue it really was!  But it was like aquamarine blue.  You wouldn't notice it in a glass but when all filled up in the tub it was clearly not clear.  Should I be worried?  Um, thank goodness we filter our drinking water?

Latin people:  John Paul finished Latina Christiana I months ago.  The program is okay and he did fine enough but I can't say I'm super thrilled with it.  We used the DVDs.  I was just going to have him go onto II but then heard about Latin for Children from Classical Academic Press.  Anyone else make the switch?  What are your thoughts?  And what level do you think would best follow the Latina Christiana I if I switched?

"Those underrate Christianity who say that it discovered mercy; any one might discover mercy. In fact every one did. But to discover a plan for being merciful and also severe—THAT was to anticipate a strange need of human nature. For no one wants to be forgiven for a big sin as if it were a little one. Any one might say that we should be neither quite miserable nor quite happy. But to find out how far one MAY be quite miserable without making it impossible to be quite happy—that was a discovery in psychology. Any one might say, “Neither swagger nor grovel”; and it would have been a limit. But to say, “Here you can swagger and there you can grovel”—that was an emancipation." - G. K. Chesterton

I read this in Orthodoxy a few months ago and really appreciated this, especially that bolded line.  It reminded me of the times in Confession when I've had a priest sort of belittle what I've said like it's not that big of a deal.   Anyone else have that experience?  It really bothers me.  I don't think I'm an over scrupulous person and if I'm bringing it to Confession it's because I know I did something wrong.  I don't really care if it's a "common" sin or really, if it's a "big" sin or not, I know I hurt my relationship with the Lord and I want to confront it and fix it and be healed of it.  And I want the grace to not do it again.  I really really appreciate when a priest treats each Confession with reverence and gets that.  The freedom of Christianity lies in accepting mercy but knowing that that mercy was (and constantly IS) needed.  To see ourselves in our true state in all our gloriousness and wretchedness is quite the feat of Christianity indeed.

Today while we sit in a 58 degree house (new furnace that yes, we did end up needing after all is being installed as we speak...thank you, dear men for coming on a Saturday afternoon!) the boys are doing this:
And for some reason it makes me happy.

The End.  Except for the part where you fill the combox with all of your wise and experienced advice.  Thank you!

Go see Jen for more Takes and Sarah for more Chesterton!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Twelve (Simple!) Ways to Celebrate the Annunciation

(otherwise known as the post I meant to post yesterday but didn't realize that it's already (?!?) the 25th)

Besides the obvious classic of getting thyself to Mass if possible (there's nothing better!) I've been thinking of a few extra ways to celebrate today's Solemnity of the Annunciation:

Pray the Joyful Mysteries
Maybe obvious but oh so good and worth it.

Wear Blue
The kids love to dress in liturgical colors and so do many other kids I know.  I even put on a blue shirt today without realizing it!  I think it's a great and super simple way to show the kids that this day is a bit more special than others.  

Bring a Meal to Someone Who is Pregnant
Or send them a card.  Or a cleaning lady.  Or a massage gift certificate.  Or just call to let them know you're praying for them.  Sometimes those weeks before birth are just as hard as those weeks after.

I'm still waiting for my letter of recognition from the Vatican as I'm still convinced this is the best catechetical idea ever.  Click here to see the genius ;)

Pray for Those Struggling with Infertility and Miscarriage
Maybe even send them a note or give them a call to let them know you're thinking about and praying for them.

Pray for an End to Abortion and Fertility Treatments that Destroy Life
Our Lord was once a zygote, an embryo, a fetus and was just as much God.  What a thing to contemplate.  Every life is sacred, no matter how small.

Plant Your Garden
(or just start some seeds inside!)
It's too early for us to be planting outside here in New York but it's a great day to start seeds inside.  Or even just plant a seed in a paper cup with the kids.  (Or if you're like me this year, even just order your seeds!)

Sing to Mary
Yes, sing.  Have your kids sing with you.  Maybe even learn a new Marian hymn.  Do it during prayer time or before you eat dinner.  You can do it :)

Look Back at Your Pregnancy Pictures
Take some time with your children to look back at pictures while you were pregnant with them.  Even (especially!) ones taken when you still can't tell you're pregnant but that little person is still there growing inside!  Show them how hidden they were but how they were just as much them and as special as they are right now.

(Rockin' it with the bubbles)

Give to (or Volunteer at) a Local Crisis Pregnancy Center
I'm certain Mary could identify with those women feeling scared and alone.

Our traditional dinner is stromboli but really, you could use any meal that has a "hidden" component to it (tacos, pitas, etc.) in honor of Baby Jesus being "hidden" inside Mary.


Bring Mary Flowers
When Mary first found out she was asked to be the mother of the Savior, she was faced with fear, anger, ridicule, and shame, nothing any of us would want to face when newly pregnant.  Maybe we can make that up to her a bit and bring her some flowers :)

Any other ideas?

Help Me Out - How Would YOU Describe Labor?

One of the challenges I have when meeting with doula clients, specifically first time parents, is helping them understand what labor will be like.  Sometimes that's good because each person experiences it differently and there's really no way to understand it until you've experienced it.  But sometimes it's not because I want them to know how prepared they have to be without turning it into something to fear.  And while I know that there are many sensations, descriptions, and experiences that tend to be more common that I try to share, the only experience I have to directly pull from is my own.  Part of me doesn't want to give too much information since it is so unique to each person and I want clients experiencing their labor rather than waiting for the "right" sensations and feelings but inevitably at every meeting with a first time couple, they want help understanding what it will be like.

So how would YOU describe labor?

If you were talking with a first time mom and she asked you what it feels like, what would you say?  What words were helpful or harmful to you before birth?  If you had a hospital birth, how did you know when it was time to go?  How would you describe the sensations to someone planning a natural birth?  Or any birth?  Was it what you expected?  What is something that you wish someone had told you beforehand? 

Talk to me!

Just in case you wanted to see a picture of me in labor :)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Being Forgiven (It's Sort of Like Pizza)

In his specially ordered gold tie.  The ones at Sears and Macy's and Penney's and Bon-Ton were not quite right.  It was meant to be the special tie for his First Communion but we let him wear it for this special occasion as well.  

Our normal pastor was unexpectedly out of town for a funeral so Father Bill came and he was wonderful.  It is such a weird feeling of letting go when you see them walk away at their turn.  One I can't quite place into words.  I cried.  Which is not really a surprise.

"Papa, can you match with me?"

"I want to get a picture with him!"

The List


Michael decided on a pizza dinner to celebrate.  "The dough is like our souls.  And then the sauce is like Jesus' blood.  And the cheese is our soul all clean again!"  Well...yes.

And just a little something...

We've given both the older boys a special crucifix for their First Reconciliation, one that we hope they will have through their lives to remind them of His mercy always always available to them.

(Do you have any special things you do for First Reconciliation?  I love the tradition that some people have of letting their daughters get their ears pierced on that day to commemorate the day.  The symbolism is so beautiful.  I racked my brain trying to think of something comparable for boys but couldn't come up with anything.  I'm pretty sure Brian would say no to a piercing ;)  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pardoning the Unpardonable :: Weekends With Chesterton (Hosted Here Today!)

Well, hi!

Sarah asked me to sub in for her for Weekends With Chesterton as she gets some much needed rest and recovery this weekend.  I'm sure I don't need to remind you to say a quick prayer for her and her family, right?  Anyway, I'm glad you're here!  I'll try not to talk too much  ;)

I saw a quote attributed to Chesterton floating around that I loved and really wanted to use this weekend.  But alas, when I went to dig into what he really meant by it, it looks like he never really said it.  At least not in those words.  Silly internet.  But I did find the real quote that I think it was referencing.

This is from Heretics as Chesterton discusses the paradox contained within many of the virtues.  

A challenge, it is, this difference between ordinary faith, hope, and love and that of the supernatural virtue variety.  Pardoning those who we as society have deemed irredeemable.  Extending mercy towards those who have hurt us, even those who have hurt us deeply.  Daring to have hope in the face of disappointment after disappointment.  Hoping even when the world would call us a fool.  And faith.  Faith in things beyond the limitation of our senses.  Faith in things that the world calls fairy tale.  
All of these are gifts, graces granted to us to live beyond an ordinary, natural life.  

Pretty much understood it, I thought.  

And then I saw another side of it, a side I'm not sure Chesterton even intended, as I mulled it over a bit.  It was about extending this idea outward, sure, but even more so 
it was about me receiving it from Him.  

I'm the unpardonable who is pardoned.  I'm the hopeless case who is given hope.  I'm the one who trusts (or tries to) in the incredible belief that even I can again be redeemed.

My sins may be as scarlet but I may become as white as snow?  Incredible indeed.  He is the One who has extended these mercies to me and it is only because of that that I can extend them to others.  It is me who is to be pouring out my ointment over His feet and asking to be forgiven much so that I can love much.  It is only in seeing my own sinfulness and brokenness that I can be ready to forgive the unforgivable.  Because they are a reflection of me.

Nowhere is this reality Chesterton speaks of more evident, I believe, than in the confessional.  Where we have this incredible crazy belief that God will pardon even the most unpardonable sin and bring hope to those who are most hopeless.  And He waits for us.

Today our Michael will be making his First Reconciliation.  Entering into the mystery and grace of the confessional and allowing the Lord to make him new again through the simple words of a simple priest.  I'm fairly certain that at seven he hasn't done anything unpardonable but what a beautiful thing it is to learn from such a young age of God's unfathomable mercy.  To get comfortable with acknowledging that we need a Savior and familiar with the idea that God constantly wants to make us new.  (If you could say a prayer for him, too, it sure would be nice of you!)

I did some looking around to see if Chesterton had any words specific to the Sacrament of Confession and had to share this gem:

"It is almost a good thing that nobody outside should know
what gigantic generosity, and even geniality, can be locked up
in a box, as the legendary casket held the heart of the giant.
It is a satisfaction, and almost a joke, that it is only in
a dark corner and a cramped space that any man can discover
that mountain of magnanimity."
(from The Catholic Church and Conversion)

(Yikes.  I think I did talk too much.  Sarah is never ever going to ask me to host anything again...)


Every weekend in 2014, we're digging into the work of G. K. Chesterton at Amongst Lovely Things.  Join us!  All you need is a snippet - a short quote taken from anything he's written.  Blog it and link up below, or share your snippet in the comments of this post!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A First Day of Spring Mini Stream of Consciousness

The other day was another quick taste of spring so we spent all afternoon outside.  I spent a good amount of time dragging huge piles of branches and sticks to the burn pile and the side of the road, the aftermath of this long winter and a whole lot of century old trees around the property.  I love and hate these trees.  It felt good to move again, though.  And to be outside.  I was feeling all proud that I was getting ahead on the spring clean-up until it hit me once again that we're nearing the end of March so it really wasn't all that early after all.  I still haven't ordered our seeds (from my favorite company!) because it just doesn't feel time yet (but I really need to do it!).  Today this first day of spring we are back below freezing with snow flurries in the air.  

Does that count as complaining?  I've tried very hard not to complain about the weather and I think I've stuck to that but gosh, if things don't take a turn soon...well, I guess there's nothing I can do about it but it's been a battle to feel like myself for months now.  At least I can recognize it for what it is.  There have been winters where I start feeling down and lousy sometimes for weeks or months only to realize after the first day or two of spring and stepping outside again that life isn't as bad as I've been thinking.  The lack of real vitamin D for months on end is hard, isn't it?  Combine that with being a stay at home mom and homeschooling this gang and it's no wonder so many homeschoolers struggle with burnout this time of year.  This year's actually been a bit better for that personally but at this point I admit, I'm beginning to feel ready to sell this house, downsize and use the extra money to travel once every month or two to somewhere beachy and tropical.  
For health and education's sake, of course.

Speaking of which, have you been reading Sarah's series on teaching from a state of rest?  It's wonderful.  Her post yesterday was so convicting to me.  And though this wasn't her main point, it reminded me once again that the times that I most feel like running far away from home are usually the times when what I really need more than anything is to spend time with, truly with, my children.  Somewhere beachy and tropical would probably be best.   

Anyway, pictures!  Of both our lame simple St. Patrick's Day observance and a few from the aforementioned afternoon.  Because that's what I've got.
(Also, someone please teach me how to use a camera.)

  On the actual feast day I made some quick shamrock shakes for dessert.  We had an Irish stew a few days before St. Patrick's Day with some friends so that was our little dinner observance.  (And just in case you're wondering what Irish stew is, it's the same old beef stew we have a bunch of other times throughout the year but since I presume they have stew in Ireland, it magically becomes Irish stew when consumed in mid March.)

Served in these special little mugs that we received from my late great aunt as a wedding gift.  I think they've been used twice but they belonged to her and I thought that was so neat so I can't bring myself to pass them on just yet. 

The boys were quite {happy}.

I just can't seem to get a good, in-focus picture of this child.


(They were wearing green and orange but they had already changed into pajamas.  Note post-bath hair and shiny nose :)

We were treated to this number before morning Mass, though.  This was a very {funny}, er, I mean dramatic reenactment of a scene from Lord of the Dance. 

Hey!  Chickens!  Remember them?

They were {happy} girls to be outside again.  The winter's been hard on them, too.  We did have a heat lamp outside because we couldn't stand to have them out there in such frigid temperatures for weeks on end.  We finally got our first egg in months just the other day.  

I spent some time making a mental honey-do list of all the things that need to be done outside.  I'm sure Brian will be very grateful.

We had half a tree fall down on part of our property and it was sitting for weeks, way too cold and snowy to tend to.  We finally got a lot of it cleaned up except the main branch which Brian will need to cut down.  But John Paul gets credit for moving the other half of it to the burn pile.  I was impressed.  What these boys will eventually cost in food bills I'm hoping they make up for in doing all sorts of things we'd otherwise have to pay professionals for.  We'll see ;)

Linking up for yet another {phfr}!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Because That's What Dads Do

Are you still praying the Novena with us?  
Today's the last day!

I have to tell you how grateful I am again for so many people joining in to pray together and what an absolute privilege it is to pray for your husbands and hear your stories.  I have no doubt that the Lord can do amazing things through this and I hope it will bear fruit in your families, if it hasn't already.  May our husbands become more and more the men that the Lord calls them to be and may we continually lift them up in prayer and help do our part to bring them to heaven!

Last year I decided that St. Joseph's Day would be a day in our home to honor our own Joseph.  So we'll go to Mass and instead of an Italian feast tonight, we'll have steak and potatoes and broccoli and brownies (maybe I'll even go all out and take them out of the baking dish ;) because those are Brian's favorites.  I can't help but think that St. Joseph would rather our little family do that than anything else.  What a tangible way that I can imitate Mary and teach my children to imitate Jesus both of whom chose to honor the man that God had chosen for them. 

I wonder what kind of dad St. Joseph was.  How he interacted with Jesus.  Traditions tell us that he was silent and honorable and humble.  Scripture simply says he was "just" and shows him to be trusting and obedient.  But that doesn't tell us much about what day to day life looked like during those hidden years that we know so little about.  Did he play with Jesus?  Every great dad I know takes time not only to teach but to simply engage with their kids.  To play with them!  Did St. Joseph do that?  I don't know much about ancient Jewish family culture and male cultural norms but right now I'm going to imagine that he did.  Because that's what dads do and Joseph was His dad, His first abba.  

What would it be like to be playing ball or roughhousing with Jesus?  Would Mary have experienced that feeling I know all too well?  I have no idea why this is fun and who will end up hurt but I just have to let them do this.  It's important even if I don't understand why.  This kind of play is so important for children.  Time with their dads.  It's a wise mother who learns to let it happen and not interfere too much.  Jesus shared completely in our humanity, including being placed into a normal family.  He was a boy who needed a father to help form Him into the Man He was to become.  He knew what it was like to need a father and since St. Joseph was not sinless even if he was a wonderful and holy man, He probably knew what it was like to see that man's faults, too.  

And something else to ponder:  Just like our own relationships with our fathers, Joseph was the avenue through which Jesus would shape His psychological understanding of father and ultimately of THE Father.  Wow.  How about that?  Is St. Joseph the one who taught Jesus to trust in the Father as "Abba"?  Was St. Joseph the one to whom our Lord first used that title?  

Huh.  I think I'm loving this St. Joseph more and more.  And the more I see how Brian loves and interacts with his kids and how every first born son I know is SO much like their father, the more I can appreciate just how important St. Joseph really is.  And why it's cool to have a day to honor that. 

(I think we need to see a painting of Joseph and Jesus doing this :)

Getting ready for the dive. 

Happy St. Joseph's Day!  
May he continue to intercede for all of our families and especially for those men for whom we have been praying.

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