Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Triduum and Easter Recap

Happy Easter!

He's alive!  So am I?  Kinda.  Just finally getting a chance to check in after lots of Triduum and Easter celebrating and guests and late nights and things to do.  We're in Easter mode over here which means no to lessons and yes to feasting.  I'd like to somehow make these Easter Octave days stand out a bit more in our hearts and home, though.  Do you do anything big?  I plan for this time off of lessons which does make things feel a lot different.  I think we need to plan some outings or something so that we (I) don't just get antsy but then there's the need-a-nap baby to accommodate.  We do pray the Regina Caeli in place of our Angelus, we've been (trying) to do the Divine Mercy Chaplet and novena during our family prayer, there's special food on the dinner menu, and I try to just keep an overall sense of Easter going but it just doesn't feel the same as when we're celebrating the Christmas Octave.  Easter is supposed to be even a bigger deal so maybe that's a goal we can work toward.  

Then again, things will never feel enough now, will they?  I mean, I guess they shouldn't because there's nothing we can do to be "enough" in response to the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord.  There's a peace in that realization, too.  Whatever we do in our attempts to celebrate Easter must be as a response of gratitude all the while knowing that it will never feel "enough."  In fact, that's probably a good place to be, now that I think on it, provided that it doesn't just cause us to give up responding in love and gratitude or worse yet, forget what He's done and who we are.  Knowing that we CAN'T do enough is part of the story and the grace.  The main point of our attempts is not to "make up" for what He's done for us but rather to wake up our forgetful minds and hearts to the huge world-changing reality of our redemption and salvation and respond appropriately.  More than anything we can delight the heart of Christ by opening ourselves up to receive whatever graces He wants for us wherever we are right now.

We spent Holy Week pretty much as I wrote and it went really well.  The plan helped a lot to keep me focused and entering in to the time.

We made our first home Paschal candle and have been and will be lighting it for prayer during the octave.   

We spent time each day Lent cleaning and I tackled stuff that I've been putting off for a looong time.  Like wiping down all those shelves.  It helps having a dust ninja in the house because they wouldn't have been touched otherwise.  Basement American Ninja Warrior training has paid off.  It really helped to break things down and just aim to do two or three rooms per day the best that we could.  

We did a Holy Thursday foot washing/nail clipping before we left for Mass.  (I realized as I was clipping that that's probably one of the motherly modern day equivalents.  Also, what did ancient people do before nail clippers?)

I finally ordered cassocks and surplices for the older boys and I love them!  Our parish only has the simple white albs and they serve other places sometimes, too, so I thought they'd be a good thing to have on hand.  They definitely bring the serving up a notch and several people commented that they really loved that the boys wore them to serve on Good Friday and at the Easter Vigil.  I used doula money I'd set apart just for this (for which I have a theological reason which most people would find nutty).  I surprised the boys with them on Holy Thursday which seemed an appropriate day and they were really happy to have them for their serving.  I love that.   

The best picture I got as I was baby bouncing in the back before the Vigil Mass began.  I've been so tempted to get pictures during Mass when the boys are serving but I'm not sure how to do it without feeling like I shouldn't.

We dyed our eggs on Holy Saturday with the natural dyes I mixed up on Friday.  I feel like egg dying should be way more an event than it usually is.  It takes like two seconds activity wise and most of the family doesn't even care for hardboiled eggs.  The boys write on them then put them in and then it's over.  We left them overnight to see if the colors would be bolder and didn't see that much of a difference from previous years.  

But it's the thing to do and at least they make for a pretty picture ;)
The natural dyes also rub off a lot easier than the conventional ones.  I wonder if that's my vinegar, though?  I just had the cheap stuff from Aldi and maybe it needs a more potent vinegar to permeate the shell better? 

We did, in fact, make it to the Vigil on Saturday night and it was beautiful!  The boys did really well.  No one was lit on fire, Luke was tired but chose to lay down and rest rather than disrupt, and Ben was distractable enough with candle holders and lip balm tubes.

And just look at that dapper man in his Easter hat!  He was the best.  We greeted people for Mass in the back before Mass started since we were there so early and I wanted to walk with him before the long Mass began.  He brought out lots of smiles from the people coming in.

I mean, really.

I tried to make our parish's tiny fire look much more impressive than it was.  Working?

The Mass was beautiful and the Gloria and Alleluias rang out.  Our pastor does half the readings (for which I'm both sad yet thankful because parents) and it was done by 9 p.m.  The boys rang out their own crazy alleluias when we got home and then they were shuffled/wrestled off to bed.  Baskets and eggs and alleluia letters were hidden, Lent decor was changed out for Easter, the good deed beans changed to the jelly variety, and the cinnamon rolls got prepped for the morning.

This year's baskets

And the Easter mantel

Easter day was spent here finding baskets and eggs, then to my mom's for brunch, and then back home where we hosted dinner for some family here and some family that was in town staying with us.

I was proud of my Easter rolls :)  Also on the menu were ham, mashed potatoes, baconified sweet potatoes, green beans, carrot cake, wine

and this sweet Pinterested fruit bunny my mother in law put together!

Aaaand I was organized enough to have new ties for the boys for the Vigil and for Sunday morning!  That is a rare occurrence so pictures were a must:

Mama, you need to get a picture with me and Ben!!  #thatdookerbeanface

Happy happy Easter from our family to yours!!
He is risen indeed.  Thank you, Jesus.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Holy Week Plan

I want to be more intentional this Holy Week so y'all get to see me write out the little plan so I can be all accountable and such.  So, um, thanks for that!  I'm sure you're thrilled.  I've been mulling around in my head something "extra" we can do each day as we enter into the Triduum as well as our normal Lenten devotions and stuff.  

I'm thinking a little catechetical extra as well as cracking the whip on some spring cleaning* is what is in store for this year.  And yes, self, I know.  I'll be flexible and we'll see how much of this plan actually gets done and where each day leads.  I'm a home management optimist but I won't freak if they don't come to fruition (<---famous last words).  The heart of our Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter lay within our hearts and in the liturgies of our Church.  May this Holy Week be whatever He wants it to be first.  

ANYWAY.  Here's what I've come up with:

Palm Sunday:

::Passion Mass::

Weave up some palm crosses and crowns.

Red dinner (which this year due to exhaustion and ingredient slippage was steaks from the freezer (red meat?!?))

Palm sundaes


Spring clean our bedroom, baby room, and hallway.  


This (super simple!) watercolor crucifixion painting from Small Things With Love.  

Spring clean both boy bedrooms and upstairs bathroom.


Paschal Candle Making
We've never actually done this but I have beeswax sheets from Toadily Handmade that will be perfect.  The trick will be having us all participate to make our little domestic church Paschal candle without it turning into a throwdown of liturgical proportions.

Spring clean front room (or in my fancier moments what I call the library or oratory). This is the biggie...all those shelves, the woodwork, windows, fan, and floor.  I'm tired just thinking about it. 

Holy Thursday:

Spring clean dining and living room.

Make dinner rolls for Easter and freeze.

Family foot washing

::Mass of the Last Supper::

Good Friday:

 This is our day of "silence."  (You know, as much silence as you can have with five boys but no extra media and whatnot.  Hard for me more than anyone.)

Spring cleaning bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room.

::Good Friday Service::

Pick up sticks in yard (fitting, right?).

Remind boys to put up cross in yard.
(John Paul made this when he was seven and insisted that we put it up in the yard on Good Friday.  And we still have it and keep doing it.)

Pray Stations.

Baths and make sure all 100 nails are clipped and all ten ears not gross.

Get out everything for baskets and have ready.

Holy Saturday:

Spring clean mudroom and basement.

Preparations for Sunday (Dish for brunch, prep cinnamon rolls, make sweet potatoes, boil eggs.)

This year I plan to start them in the evening and leave them overnight in the refrigerator to get as bold as possible.  Then they can show up in their Easter baskets in the morning.

Make sure all outfits are prepped (surprise boys with their new Easter ties!  Yay!  Someone pat me on the back for thinking ahead!)

::Easter Vigil::

After the kiddos are in bed, unshroud the pictures and statues, switch out the Lenten decor for some Easter stuff, fill up the bean jars with jelly beans, fill and hide the baskets, a few eggs, and Alleluia letters, start the cinnamon rolls.  Yawn.

So that's the plan, man.  Plus, like, meals and a few lessons and stuff.  Whew.  But it'll be good.
May we all be immersed in His grace as we enter into this Holy Week.

*Why yes, there is an inverse relationship with the depth of my spring cleaning and the number of offspring I put out, thank you for asking.  For me right now, spring cleaning means going a bit beyond the norm and into washing sheets and blankets (which get washed an embarrassing low amount, I admit), slipcovers, woodwork, fans, windows, dusting, cleaning the disgusting tops of window trim, and finally wiping the peanut butter smears off of the chairs.  That kind of thing.  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why We Won't Have the Seder Meal This Holy Thursday


There's no time like Lent for a good dose of humility now, is there?  For the past, oh, six years or more, our family has had a little Seder meal on Holy Thursday before we rush of to the Mass of the Last Supper.  A beautiful way for us to connect the Passover meal celebrated by the Israelites and made new by Christ's Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper with our family's liturgical observance and the Church's annual entrance into the Passion timeline.  It seemed so good and so fitting!  

Oooor so I thought.  

I learned last year that the USCCB actually instructs us to NOT try to "baptize" the Seder by integrating it into a Christological New Testament understanding or as an entry into the Eucharist.  If we are going to celebrate the Seder as Christians we are to do so observing the original rites "in all their integrity."  

From God's Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation of Jews and Judaism inCatholic Preaching written by the Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy of the USCCB:
28. It is becoming familiar in many parishes and Catholic homes to participate in a Passover Seder during Holy Week. This practice can have educational and spiritual value. It is wrong, however, to "baptize" the Seder by ending it with New Testament readings about the Last Supper or, worse, turn it into a prologue to the Eucharist. Such mergings distort both traditions. The following advice should prove useful: 
When Christians celebrate this sacred feast among themselves, the rites of the Haggadah for the Seder should be respected in all their integrity. The seder . . . should be celebrated in a dignified manner and with sensitivity to those to whom the Seder truly belongs. The primary reason why Christians may celebrate the festival of Passover should be to acknowledge common roots in the history of salvation. Any sense of "restaging" the Last Supper of the Lord Jesus should be avoided .... The rites of the Triduum are the [Church's] annual memorial of the events of Jesus' dying and rising (Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter, March 1980, p. 12). 
(Bolding mine.) 

So there is value in observing the Seder as a Christian but only as long as the rite and original prayers are maintained "in all their integrity."  We weren't doing that.  We were using a book with prayers that did reference the connection to the New Testament and Christ's sacrifice (published before the above directive).  And they're beautiful.  From what I can tell, it seems the aim of the bishops here is to ensure respect for the faith of our Jewish brothers and sisters and honor the roots of our Faith with dignity as well as to ensure that no one is causing confusion by "replicating" the Eucharist.  To be honest I'm not sure I fully understand the reasoning of the bishops.  We use a whole lot of the Jewish rites and observances as the premise for our own as Christians and isn't that what the Mass exactly is in many ways?  The new Passover?  So many of our prayers, too, are based off of the Jewish prayers.  But while I don't necessarily understand why baptizing the Seder specifically is wrong, our little family will obey.  Because obedience trumps matzo.  

We could, it seems, still do it so long as we were observing the full Haggadah rites or, I suppose, we could make a stretch of the wording here to fit what we were doing and our intentions.  But I'd rather err on the side of caution and obedience and just replace our tradition with another observance.  We've done a family foot washing a few times over the years but more often than not with the rush of doing our Seder once the husband got home from work and finishing it in time to rush off to Mass and then it being meltdown/bedtime by the time we get home, it usually got passed over (ha! get it?).  Maybe by not doing our Seder and replacing it with a simple soup from the freezer (with matzoh on the side as a little HT to the Last Supper?), we'll be able to do that instead.  Which, to be honest, I'd actually prefer.  I really really don't like lamb.  

I apologize for anyone who may have started this little tradition in their homes based upon my previous posts and accounts.  You can be certain it was done with good intention.  I've deleted or updated the posts containing reference to our Holy Thursday Seder meal to reflect this new awareness.   

So there you have it.  Why our family won't be passing the wine and sedering this Holy Thursday and why.  May God bless all of us as we try our best to live the life of Christ in our little domestic churches.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Annual Saint Joseph Novena

Tomorrow begins this year's St. Joseph novena.*  If you're new around this blog, for the last two years a whole lot of us prayed a novena to St. Joseph for our husbands and other men in our lives and it's been pretty darn powerful.  This is why I started and organized it.  This year it's been on my heart to especially pray for fathers and healing.  I'd like to invite you to pray it again with me and if you'd like, share the names of the men you'd like prayed for either in the comments or on the Facebook page so the rest of us can pray for them by name.  It's an honor to pray for these men with you and I hope you'll add my intentions to your list as well. 

Here's the main novena prayer but each day starts with a reflection that can be found here:

Saint Joseph, I, your unworthy child, greet you. You are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you. You know that I have special confidence in you and that, after Jesus and Mary, I place all my hope of salvation in you, for you are especially powerful with God and will never abandon your faithful servants. Therefore I humbly invoke you and commend myself, with all who are dear to me and all that belong to me, to your intercession. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, not to abandon me during life and to assist me at the hour of my death. 
Glorious Saint Joseph, spouse of the Immaculate Virgin, obtain for me a pure, humble, charitable mind, and perfect resignation to the divine Will. Be my guide, my father, and my model through life that I may merit to die as you did in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
Loving Saint Joseph, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, I raise my heart to you to implore your powerful intercession in obtaining from the Divine Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare, particularly the grace of a happy death, and the special grace I now implore: 
(Mention your request). 
Guardian of the Word Incarnate, I feel confident that your prayers in my behalf will be graciously heard before the throne of God.  Amen. 
Remember, most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, my loving protector, Saint Joseph, that no one ever had recourse to your protection or asked for your aid without obtaining relief. Confiding, therefore, in your goodness, I come before you and humbly implore you. Despise not my petitions, foster-father of the Redeemer, but graciously receive them.  Amen. 

St. Joseph, head of the Holy Family, mirror of patience, glory of home life, pillar of families, terror of demons, and protector of Holy Church, pray for us.

*I know some people like to end a novena the day before a feast and some prefer to end it on the feast.  Both are traditionally "acceptable."  I like to end on the solemnity itself but you're more than welcome to begin today and end the day before if that's your style.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Simple Outer Space Birthday

We have a nine year old in the house!

I can't believe this one is nine today.  That's kinda nuts.  

He decided a few months ago that he wanted to celebrate with a Star Wars party but then a few weeks ago (to my great relief) switched it to an outer space party.  His first choice of cake was "Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader with light sabers" but that changed to something waaaay easier.  I had tried to convince him to do a "golden" themed birthday since it's his golden birthday (turning 9 on the 9th) but he wasn't interested - this one who for years claimed his favorite color was "golden" and chose that color for everything!  Bad timing, I guess.  Shoulda been born on the 6th or 7th.  

Anyway, we celebrated his birthday over the weekend and went with that very simple outer space theme.  He had been looking forward to it for months and was so excited to celebrate.

He and John Paul made this early in the week to greet our guests at the door.

We turned our ceiling into a Solar System!  The boys did it all on their own and did it as accurately as they could with various balloons and balls.  We used a yellow tablecloth to cover the chandelier to be our somewhat blobular "sun."  It was pretty great that this whole process also doubled as science for the month week.

Try not to be jealous of my mad chalking skilz.

Silver star stickers on a black tablecloth and some little spots of space decor.

Our little astronaut was so excited!  He decided that he'd be Neil Armstrong and David got to be Buzz.

Because doesn't everybody have a bee suit that can double as an astronaut suit in a pinch?

Michael took it upon himself to design a "Pin the Flag on the Moon" game.  Sweetest.

He ran it all and was so great.

Entertainment included what else but a model rocket launch.  Only took four tries for it to finally go up ;)

A few special food touches...

But the main course was his choice of hot dogs and pasta salad.  Which tastes extra good in March when you haven't had either since the summer!  And for dessert, enter the easiest kiddo birthday cake I may have ever made:

I love how it came out!  It took like two seconds to frost because craters!  The pan is this ball shaped one that I've had for a long time and used for other cakes.  The astronaut is from this space toob (although we got it at Joann's using a coupon).

The frosting is my normal buttercream to which I added some of India Tree's natural blue dye (which never really comes out blue, fyi, but will make a perfect moon color ;).

Sparkler candles for effect.

He received a lot of generous gifts that he absolutely loved but clearly
this telescope sent from Grandma was a pretty fitting close to the night.

Happy birthday, sweet kid.  Nine years old is going to suit you just fine, I think. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Simple Lent Meals

When it comes to Lenten meal planning, we do simple.  We're pretty simple eaters anyway but during Lent when it comes to food even more so.  We know Lent is supposed to be a season of fasting and sacrifice.  As the Catechism (540) tells us, it's a time of uniting ourselves with the fasting Christ in the desert.  Popes and saints have long encouraged us to embrace the power of fasting both for our own spiritual growth as well as an instrument to unite us to the poor.  Pope Benedict's 2009 Lenten address is powerful on the role of fasting in our spiritual lives and how it can unite us to the poor:
"By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up, the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast. This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent. 
From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetic practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person."  Pope Benedict, Feb. 3, 2009
It only seems fitting then that, in general, our meals together reflect that spirit when we have the choice.

And so I try to carry that spirit into my Lenten meal planning.  I want our Lenten eating to feel a little bit different, to be a reminder that our food is a gift and that our food choices and desires should not rule over us.  It's so easy to let that happen, isn't it?  Whether it's the temptation of immediate gratification or constantly catering to our palate or an inordinate obsession with the perfect food or simply an ingratitude for the amazing variety available to us and the ease in which we first worlders can avail ourselves of a relatively healthy meal...all of them can be traps that we fall into that place our food in a disordered place in our lives.  

A simple food plan also helps us as moms to not have to focus so much on meal planning and shopping so that we can spend our energy on the higher things.  It reminds us that it's okay if we repeat a lot.  It's okay if every meal we make isn't the best meal ever.  And it's okay if we walk away not completely full bellied and satisfied.  That's part of feeling Lent and entering into union with Christ and the poor.  And, on a more natural level, it allows us to much more appreciate the feast and celebration of Resurrection when it comes time, embracing and being more thankful for the decadent and extravagant treats, viewing them as a gift meant for our joy and celebration.

So here are some of my go-to Lenten meals that make the dinner rotation often.  They're not all that original or fancy...and that's part of the point.  Most of the meals on this list have a bonus of being easy to plan and cook (because that's how I do), as well  as being VERY cost effective. Many of them are meatless, pretty healthy, and all of them are eaten (or usually eaten) by the kids.  Simple meal planning is different than just lazy meal planning and stress-throwing cereal or frozen pizza at the kids because it's 4:30 and we totally forgot about dinner.  (Though, we've probably all been there. Actually, let's be honest, my kids would probably love it if I was there more.)  It's intentionally simple.  It's embracing the season for what it is and it's remembering that food is meant to serve us, not the other way around.  


This soup is packed with vitamins and minerals and protein and vegetables.  Plus it's made in the crockpot and is super easy to prepare.

Baked Potato Bar

I bake a bunch of potatoes and put out cheese, butter, broccoli, salt, and (if I have it) sour cream.  If it's not a Friday I often will thaw a small pack of meat chili frozen from a previous dinner that can also be a topping.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

I love the tomato soup recipe found here.  It's so simple, has only five ingredients (though sometimes I add garlic powder), is healthy, and takes only 15-20 minutes.

Black Beans and Brown Rice

This is our traditional meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Healthy and crazy simple with only five ingredients.

Tuna Cheesies/Tuna Wraps

These are a throwback to my 80's youth.  Tuna fish on half an English muffin, topped with cheese and broiled for a minute or two.  I serve them with either a veggie from the freezer or veggie sticks.  The husband and I will often opt for a tuna wrap or sandwich instead, all grown up as we are.

Poor Man's Chili

You can make this lots of ways since it's pretty much chili without the meat and a whole lotta beans.  I'm a fan of this crockpot recipe, though I like to add a couple tablespoons of chili powder for spice.  This is a very cost effective meal that can be stretched a whole lot.

{Fill in the Blank} Soup and Bread

We do lots of other soups during Lent.  They're nutritious but not extravagant, filling but not fancy.  Plus, crazy cost effective and a good way to get healthy bone broth into my peeps.  Beef barley, chicken noodle, chicken pot pie, and baked potato are my usual go-tos.

Honorable mentions also have to go out to these simple food contenders that sometimes find their way to our table:
Whole wheat pasta and marinara sauce
Mini pizzas on English muffins
Bean and rice tacos

So those are our simple Lenten meals...wanna share yours?

Linking up with Kelly and Seven Quick Takes

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