Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Cooking

Like the women followers of Jesus prepared spices and ointments for the body of Christ as He was in the tomb on Holy Saturday, we all prepare for Easter celebrations. Today I made the traditional bread/cookie of M's Greek ancestors (He is 1/8). The spelling I am finding online is Koulourakia; though all the recipes I have found are with vanilla flavor and his family recipe uses ginger. I am pretty happy with how braided nest turned out. I won't share the recipe because it might be top secret for family only?

The twists are the traditional cookie shape.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Joy of Good Friday

A Station in Czetochowa, Poland. Photo by M.
Holy Week is the time when we hear the Passion of Christ again and again and again. The whole week is centered on it. On Palm Sunday as I was listening to and praying with the Gospel, I started to think about how much I do not really like to hear about Jesus being betrayed, arrested, condemned to death, beaten, and crucified. It is not a pleasant thing to think about for many reasons: two of them being that He is God and our Creator and that He is doing this because of us.

Yesterday I was praying the Stations of the Cross (for the first time this Lent, which is too bad for me) and I got to the second station where Jesus takes up his cross. This was the meditation that stood out to me (from St. Josemaria Escriva's meditation The Way of the Cross):
"Is it not true that as soon as you cease to be afraid of the Cross, of what people call the cross, when you set your will to accept the Will of God, then you find happiness, and all your worries, all your sufferings, physical or moral, pass away?
Truly the Cross of Jesus is gentle and lovable. There, sorrows cease to count; there is only the joy of knowing that we are co-redeemers with Him"
I remembered again that as Christians we can have a joy in our sufferings, and as St. Paul explains we participate in our salvation. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Colossians 1:24)."

If we can rejoice in our own sufferings, then is there joy also in Christ's suffering? He is God and has perfect suffering; and while it seems totally wrong for our God to suffer and die, this is what He chose in order to redeem us. What makes Good Friday good is the fact that His suffering brought about our redemption. The meditation on the Second Station from the St. Andrew Missal says, "A heavy cross is laid upon the bruised shoulders of Jesus. He receives it with meekness, nay, with a secret joy, for it is the instrument with which He is to redeem the world." Imagine Jesus already so tired and hurt, bearing not just his physical ailments but also the sins of the world, having a Secret Joy in what He is doing.

On Good Friday Catholics practice fasting and abstinence to do penance for our sins, so that we can be united with the sufferings of Christ. But it is a joyful suffering and penance and one full of gratitude. Unlike the apostles, we know that Jesus has risen. The memory of his death should be solemn and sorrowful for our one sins and that God suffered, but I think that we can also share in the Secret Joy of Jesus in His carrying of The Cross.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Simplicity of Pope Francis

Pope Francis in his simple ways reminds me a lot of my grandparents generation, those born during the thirties. I think we have all heard about a friend buying him new shoes as he headed out for the conclave. And his refusal to take on traditional parts of the papal dress, such as the mozzetta, and the fact that he would rather walk places than take a car a couple of blocks. These things remind me of how my grandfather will eat all of an apple, I mean all of it, until there is nothing but the stem remaining, and how he has simple, plain but healthy meals everyday of his life. And his shoes; I am not sure if I have ever seen him wear a new looking shoe in my life. He must buy new ones at some point. In this simplicity, there is a desire to not be wasteful with one’s possessions and to use each possession until it is no longer usable.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Pope Francis let the papal fleet become a group of well maintained old cars? The simple lifestyle is not just using things until they are no longer useful, but it is also about being a good steward of what one does have. This simplicity is inspiring. Another aspect of his self-imposed simplicity is the fact that Jesuits take a vow of poverty; being pope does not make him no longer a Jesuit or exempt from his vows. Though I do not really know the tradition of how Jesuits lave lived their vow of poverty. And now the pope has decided to not live in the papal apartments. His simplicity in his personal life is inspiring (though I wish he would take his simple personal life and contrast it to worshiping God in beautiful liturgies full of splendor). I think we have a lot to learn from our new pope.

In the first-world, we do live in a wealth that was unimaginable to people even 100 years ago. We have machines for washing just about everything we own, indoor plumbing, electricity, the internet, and our material needs are always met. And when you look at the pictures of the pope’s suite in the Vatican “hotel,” his furniture is still super nice. St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life (I can’t stop referencing him, because he is so good!) talks about poverty of spirit in he midst of wealth. He says:

“ ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.’ (Matthew 5:3)...[Y]our heart be open only to heaven and impenetrable to riches and earthly things; if you possess them preserve your heart from loving them; let it rise above them, and be poor in the midst of wealth, and the master of its riches. Beware of losing the spirit of holiness in the good things of the world, but let your hearts always be the superior, not in them but above them.”

This is exactly is what Pope Francis is aspiring to. He realizes the dangers of being attached to the worldly goods that are so accessible to him and is opening his heart to the riches of Heaven. He has shown us that he is so open to the riches of Heaven in God’s mercy, but also in God in other people. I think he is trying to teach us that what matters more than anything is loving God and loving others. Our worldly possessions should not get in the way of loving others and a way of being detached from them is by having things be simple.

He said in his homily on Palm Sunday, “Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but it comes from having encountered a Person, Jesus, who is among us.” I think Pope Francis is trying to show the Church and the whole world that we can have joy by living simply and loving others. I hope that he continues to embody and hold strong to his simplicity as his papacy continues; and is he persists he will have more of an impact on the world than he has in these first few weeks.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Seven Quick Takes-Friday March 22

1. In case you have not heard it is Spring. But I guess that is not something we have in Minnesota. So all of you who have Spring, please enjoy it for me. However, today is sunny and 31°F so I went for a walk once the kids were down for naps and M was doing some grading at home.

2. G had a well visit today up at the family clinic that we have been frequenting way too much this winter. The doctor suggested we do a food allergy and celiac panel on her. She was awesome through the blood draw (it kind of stinks for kids that they have to draw as much blood as they draw out of adults for these tests). She did not even cry. So, we should find out next week if she has any other food intolerances. Apparently asthma, allergies, and eczema are commonly linked in family genetics; all things which are common at least on my side of the family. I'd like to think that intellectual prowess us also included in the DNA.

New vacuum and L's little foot.
3. Our vacuum died last week, and after the birthday festivities and relatives went home I started to search for a new one. Using the resources available to me I looked at Consumer Reports and asked the advice of my Facebook friends. There was a lot of pressure to buy the Shark Navigator Lift-Away, so I did some research and found out that I could get the professional model at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (with a 20% off coupon) for Amazon's list price on the basic one. The professional has a hard floor attachment which I am excited to try in the new house. I tried it out as soon as I got it home and it picked up so much hair and dust that I am disgusted at the amount of filth we had been living in... well it was not that bad, but it was a lot.

4. The kids have been really into having a new pope. They have a duplo train that has a smoke stack and I overheard them the other day exclaiming that there was smoke coming out of it and that we had a new pope.

When G and I were driving to the doctor's this morning she noticed a building with white smoke pouring out of it. She said: "White smoke! It is like having a new pope!" I then explained to her about the special chimney on the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and that was the one that announced the new pope. So, we then talked about what the Vatican was and also the Vatican flag. When we were at our awesome Catholic doctor's office there was a book with St. Peter's Basilica on the cover. G saw it and said: "Look! It is where the pope lives!"

5. Tonight M and I are going to watch the last show of season three of Downton Abbey. We were using the awesome free PBS app to watch it until they took down all the episodes. Now we are spending 1.99 an episode to watch them from Amazon. I suppose that is not so bad considering how much money we save by not going out on Friday nights due to having kids. Unfortunately, my Facebook friends enthusiasm for the show already spoiled the main event in this last episode, but maybe I misread their status (M tells me that status is the plural of status) and it won't be so bad after all?

6. The underwriter has approved us and we are set to close on April 22! Then we will officially be paying a bank to live in a house instead of paying a landlord, and in 30 years, no one! And to clarify my post about doing things on the house. We are not moving until the end of May since our lease in our current home will not be up yet.

7. Finally, if you have not done so yet and want to easily follow my blog on Facebook. Please "like" it by using the handy little box to the right. :)

Read more Quick Takes at Jen's blog

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blogger App

Here I am testing out the blogger app I just found. I am inserting a photo of Niagara Falls taken by my father.

Habemus Papam: A Week Later

G and the white smoke.
Can you believe it has been a week since that emotional Wednesday that we got a new pope? I think it is finally starting to sink in. I might be able to say something about it now. I decided to stream EWTN that morning to see if maybe we could catch the smoke. I am normally getting the kids down for nap around 1pm ct, so the smoke was really pushing it. The baby was hungry, so everything else got put on hold and I sat and nursed her while watching the chimney. It was then that the smoke came pouring out. I starting tearing up, almost full our crying, and told the kids to watch the smoke. G came over and was happy to watch asking if we had a new pope. L had decided that this was a boring thing to watch and was on her pre-nap prowl around the house. The photo above I took with the iPad while nursing the baby. Yeah, I have skills, though I am pretty sure the baby was not happy about the position I put her in to get this shot. While we waited a few minutes for the new pope to come out I realized that L would not really care and that it was going to be awhile. I had G stand guard at the computer and put L in her room for her nap. Then when L continued to come out of her room, I decided to get G to her quiet time. (It sounds simple, but really imagine me running around herding the kids to their nap/quiettime rooms and glancing every two seconds at the screen to see what is going on.) Then the baby decided she was tired. I decided to bring the computer into the room and prop it on the bed with the sound off. L had finally decided to go to sleep, and G was content downstairs. I sat in the quiet of my room, nursing my baby, when the cardinal came out and announced who our new pope was. Well, I did not hear it, but I saw it... Once the baby was asleep I got left the room and called M and tried to figure out what this new pope would be about.

We have been trying to process Pope Francis for a week. Like many tradionally minded Catholics we are a little nervous about what he might do in regards to the allowance of the Extraordinary Form, but it is out of our control really. He seems to be a good, humble man, who loves his people the Church. I would love for him to kiss my baby (as I saw in a picture on Facebook today), and I am interested to see what he will do as pope. I also will pray for him that he will be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and lead us well.

I am still reading Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset, and St. Catherine had a lot of influence on the papacy in her day (she influenced just about everyone she met). If you do not know her story, she is the one who convinced Pope Gregory XI to bring the papacy back to Rome from Avignon, and supported Pope Urban VI through the chaos of multiple popes when the French cardinals come not handle having an Italian pope. For some reason I had thought that the papacy had lost its political influence that it had in the Middle Ages, but this conclave has made me realize that the pope's position is as political as it ever was. The political leadership and influence should not take away from the spiritual leadership, but ideally it shows us how to live in the world and not of it. We in the Church are all sinners, and there has never been a perfect pope. Yet, this is what Christ intended for His Church, and we can trust that the papacy is divinely guided in the statements made ex cathedra, We can hope that the popes other decisions are in line with God's will as well, and for this we pray.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Seven Quicktakes Friday-March 15

1. Beware the Ides of March! G is four today (yesterday)! I have been a mother of an out of the womb child for four years. Can you believe it?

2. We went out for dinner on Sunday to celebrate the new house (which appraised properly and now we just have to wait for closing, yay!). M and I both ordered drinks, and we got carded. Us with our three kids got carded. I guess we still look young. Yay!

3. Yesterday (Thursday) was M's birthday. This is the dinner he requested. He may or may not have eaten all of that pasta. That was the serving dish, but there was more in the pot and he had seconds... That is goat cheese. G says that she likes goat cheese because it is "soooo creamy."

4. I also made this cake for M.

It has dark chocolate and coffee in it.

And almond crust with chocolate ganache on top.

And tofu. It was really good and almost vegan, except I used real butter and milk. It goes really well with breakfast, as breakfast, or as second breakfast. 

5. M said I could get this for the new house. 
I bet I could convince G to use it and her help would actually be effective.

6. My mom is in town and is coloring with G. G is having my mom draw Noah's Ark. 
G: "Draw people drowning!"
Mom: "It has been raining for so long there aren't any other people around."
L: "Draw people drowning!!!!"
My kids are entirely normal. I promise.

7. I am throwing a birthday party with friends for G. I think it is going to be pretty lame from the kids perspective. There is no theme or decorations. M is at the store right now getting a few balloons, but no helium. There has been speculation that Fr. Z does birthday parties among our friends in St. Paul, but we forgot to invite him. 

Head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Follow my blog on Facebook!

I now have a Facebook page for this blog. I guess it is to honor the 100th post which happened last week. So, like me on Facebook! Hooray! (Look to your right for the "like-box").

Waiting Week

Four years ago today I was 9+ months pregnant with G. M was on Spring Break his first year in graduate school for his PhD. G was due on March 7 and that was the first day of his break. The idea was for the baby to come at the beginning of the week and then him to have a whole week off for us to adjust to the new life of being parents. That did not happen. Four years ago today my sister went into labor and had her second child and daughter who is also my Goddaughter. We were due the same day. G decided to wait until her father's birthday to kick me into labor. I made his birthday dinner with some friends over. The contractions got stronger and stronger and closer together as we ate dinner, had cake, and chatted. Our friends suggested playing a board game as we often did after our dinner parties. "Actually," I said, "I am pretty sure I am in labor." They got really excited and said they would go home. They could not wait to hear our news. M and I started practicing our Bradley relaxation techniques, called the doctor, called family and finally decided to go to the hospital around midnight. G was born 5 hours later on the Ides of March. Now she is about to be four, and is a sweet, pretty, intelligent, and pious little girl who either wants to be a princess, nun, or marry her three year old friend who she has playdates with...

Photo by bk1bennett.
This year we are waiting for the white smoke. Today it was black. I should the girls the closing of the Sistine Chapel on the live broadcast by EWTN, and am now finally an EWTN watcher. (I love when TV that is worth watching is available online since we do not have a TV.) The girls seem unable to distinguish between baseball Cardinals and Church cardinals, since after seeing the doors close, L requested to see Fredbird. At any rate we have been telling them about praying for the conclave and for the new pope. Maybe they will be able to see some live smoke streaming. This is the first time in their lives I will let them watch live television. Pope TV is probably the best that TV can be.

Here we are waiting. Maybe it will be the Ides, and that is not a bad thing for the next pope unless he picks the name Caesar I which would be just wrong... But I know of a sweet little girl born on the Ides and she is just fine.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thought of His Thoughts

M after reading a text for an hour: "I should have written my dissertation on ________! He is awesome!"

He goes on describing how this philosopher says all the things that another philosopher said, but way earlier. He quotes me a few lines.

Me: "Do you feel like you are Adam finding your Eve? 'At last this is experience of my experience, thought of my thoughts?'"

That is what is is like to live with a philosopher. In case you did not know.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Seven QuickTakes Friday: Pinterest Awaits!

We found our new house. It was there from the beginning of our search. But for some reason it has been overlooked by us and every other house hunter looking for a 3+ bedroom house in our price range. I'd like to think that God has been saving it just for us. I feel so abundantly blessed.

We had the inspection today and met the owner (not really supposed to happen, but it did). He is a man in his late sixties who has been meticulously maintaining his house for 17 years. He has kept a file with all his updates on record and is going to give it to us. I am just going to say that it is perfect for M and I who have never owned a home and probably should not be trusted with too extensive of home repairs yet. That being said my quicktakes today are seven things I want to do with this house before we move in.

1. Carpet the steps to the basement. The basement is finished and carpeted, but the stairs remain unfinished. Since I plan on the basement being kid heaven, I want carpet on the stairs.

2. Install a bench and find a small table for the eat-in kitchen.

3. Create a great system for storing shoes by the back door next to the eat-in kitchen.

4. Living room: Find matching chairs and complimentary couch, paint walls (who knows what color?), rug.

5. Master bedroom: I would love it if I could finally afford a bedroom set instead of folding table nightstands and no headboard or dresser, but for now I am going to at least figure out the perfect wall color and curtains. Since we are buying a house for our 5 year anniversary, maybe the bedroom set can wait until our ten year...

6. Girls room: paint their thrifted dresser (which lives in the closet in their current room) white with green trim and paint their walls a color we can all agree on.

7. Refinish dining room table and find a matching bench.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Random Tuesday Post Because I Have Time to Blog

I like to write nice, neat, and tidy blog posts and I have been sitting at the computer for an hour waiting for the baby to be ready for her nap so that I can put her to bed and write something. She is almost ready and I have accomplished commenting on and checking Facebook a billion times, reading a few short emails, and finally getting L to stay in her bed and go to sleep...

Now I will entertain myself by writing a narrative:

G comes out of her quiet time a few minutes after L has fallen asleep telling me that she has to go to the bathroom. I send her in and tell her to be quiet and not wake her sister who is on the other side of the wall from the bathroom. About 10 seconds later I hear a huge crash and G start to yell/cry (not exactly quiet, huh?). I rush to the bathroom, primarily to get her silent, secondarily to find out what is wrong. She had fallen into the bathtub while climbing on the toliet. I really don't want to know exactly how it came about and work on calming her down, praying that L is not woken up. G asks me why I came running into her when she fell, and I explain that I love her and that she is my precious child and I don't want her to be hurting. I have been trying to emphasize to the children how they are loved lately since I realized that when I am stressed I forget to do that. She appreciates what I say and gives me a hug. We get her off the toliet and I carry her back downstairs.

After I come back up I start to write this and the baby is finally ready to go to sleep. It is great when I just be patient and wait for her nap to overtake her because then I can get her sound asleep within 10 minutes as opposed to 45 minutes. I pick her up to go to the bedroom, but pause a moment to watch the college student from the house next door attempt to drive is little blue Mini Cooper down our unplowed-8inches-deep-in-snow street. I leave him with his wheels spinning. I change the baby, rock her, and nurse her. She is out like a light. I lay her down and slip out of the room. G comes up to ask how much longer she has of quiet time. I tell her and then come back to my seat on the couch. The Mini Cooper is gone; I guess he made it. Maybe I will have 45 minutes of silence or so. It is golden I tell you.

Tonight I am making a new recipe. We are meatless again this Lent. I think I am going to combine this and this one. I hope it will be enough food though. M shoveled snow and is walking to and from school up hill both ways in snow from work today (1.5 miles each way). He is going to be hungry! I am trying to think of a way of supplementing the meal from the empty refrigerator. I am supposed to go to the store tomorrow. The snow-plow just ineffectively went barreling down our street. I really wonder why they don't plow this city and still have school when most of the other schools cancel. I am really hoping that we get that house in West St. Paul we put an offer on yesterday. I am trying not to give up on finding a good house. The first one we offered on was not right for us after the inspection made us realize we know nothing about houses. The second offer was outbid, and this one has not been responded to for longer than a normal offer is out. At any rate, hopefully we will know soon. No response is better than a negative one right? Anyway, I will tell you all about the house we finally settle on once there is an offer, acceptance, and positive inspection...

I think I have said enough for today. Have a happy Tuesday. :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Seven Quicktakes: March 1

1. IT IS MARCH ALREADY!?!??!?! This month we have two birthdays (back to back) and two name days... Also, Easter! But it is still Lent, so lets not forget to eat fish today.

2. I think I need to read this again and again and again and then stop being annoyed at myself for not doing "home school" with my almost four year old most days.

3. Today an insurance issue looks like it is going to finally be resolved. Last March (so it has been nearly a year!) L needed a nebulizer for some wheezing she was experiencing. It was the third time in her life she had needed it so we decided to go ahead and get one especially since our insurance was supposed to cover it. It turns out the one the doctors office provided was not covered and the company took it back at no cost even though we had used it for a week and had recycled the box it came in. So, the next time we went to the doctor for L I got a prescription for a new nebulizer  and called the insurance company to find out exactly who to get the machine from so that the cost of it was entirely covered (we had really nice state employee health insurance in NY). This was in June. I called the company and they had a guy deliver it. The thing is, he did not take the insurance information (this was my fault I suppose). A month later we got a bill for the full price. So we filled the insurance information in and mailed back the paper. But they continued to send us bills every two weeks or so. Finally I called them and explained that the insurance would cover it and they just needed to bill them. After months of exchanging phone calls and finally getting them to bill the insurance we got an EOB in the mail last week. Claim denied. Ugh. Today I got the time to make that important-phone-call-you-can't-make-when-the-kids-are-around-because-they-yell-and-scream-if-they-know-you-are-making-an-important-call (M held down the fort and I hid in the basement). When I finally got the right person on the line I explained the situation that I had been told this would be covered. The lady put me on hold and looked over the information on the claim. Expecting to have to talk it out more, I waited... She came back and said that the claim had been wrongly denied and it would be reprocessed. What?!?!?!?!??! It made my day. I guess having insurance works out in our favor sometimes.

4. G has only seen one Disney Princess movie (Sleeping Beauty), but I can't help but wonder if the movies are truer to what little girls are like than I first realized. She sneaks up the stairs multiple times daily from her downstairs quiet time. After the reason for coming up is addressed, she goes very slowly back down the stairs and she sings softly to herself, moving her arms gracefully about her, touching the walls as she goes along. All that is missing is the plethora of animals surrounding her. In fact, Sunday she asked to where her poofy white and green dress she wore on Christmas. Once it was on she decided that she was a princess and danced around until Mass singing, "I know you, I met with you once upon a dream!"

5. We are looking at another set of four houses tomorrow and I have great hopes for at least three of them. A friend is watching the kids so that should make it easier. It seems we prefer the 50s ranch style with a finished basement to the rest of the house styles available in our price range in the cities.

6. The baby went to bed the earliest she has yet! 9:15 PM! She slept until 3:30 AM in the cosleeper and nursed right back to sleep until I woke her for First Friday Mass at 7:20 AM. Then she fell back to sleep at church and I made a successful transfer (with a nursing session) to the cosleeper at 9:00 AM and she napped until 12:30 PM. What a good sleeper. She is just what I needed for a third baby. She will be four months old next week. And I have realized that it takes me a good four months to really feel healthy and strong after pregnancy. Well, on with life! I think I can take it on now.

7. My next post will be number 100. Over half of those were written last year, the year I decided to make this blog at least a weekly commitment. It has existed since 2008. Well, I hope to keep on going strong with it. Thanks for reading.

For more Quicktakes head on over to Jen at Conversion Diary.
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