Friday, February 28, 2014

Seven Quick Takes Friday, February 28

1. In your charity, please continue to remember my dad in your prayers. His recovery from surgery is still slow going. Specifically, he is having trouble with nerve damage in his left arm from his surgery. This is particularly difficult for him since he is left-handed, and playing the piano and guitar with his hands is a major part of his life. Please pray for complete nerve healing for him. Also, please pray that he has more of an appetite and is less fatigued. We are so thankful that he was able to have his life saving surgery, that a full recovery should happen, and for everyone's prayers and material support.

2. One encouraging part of dad's recovery is that he is allowed to travel. I think he is having a hard time resisting visiting his first grandson that was born to my sister earlier this month. I am excited to have a nephew; now I can peruse the clearance racks for cute boy clothes! After six granddaughters, my parents have a grandson. My brother-in-law probably thinks he is all that for having the first boy, but he is just giving us a chance to pull ahead in the girl department. I think we will try for 10 girls and then maybe have a boy.

3. I still can't believe that people settled Minnesota. What were they thinking? I mean what kind of restriction is this?
A St. Paul winter parking ban will go into effect starting Saturday.
The city says snowbanks have grown so large that there's not enough room for emergency vehicles to squeeze down some of the streets.
I am pretty sure that this is God telling us to all move to the South. It is time for a mass migration... We can bring our jobs, homes, and businesses with us. Let us just all move to the same place...

4. Look at our poor snowmen. They are going on 2 months and 3 months:
It is so cold, I feel a little bit sorry for them.
We went out when it was 2°F this morning to a friend's house, and when we left the house around 1pm it was a balmy 13°F. What a difference! My nose was ice crystal free and I did not care if the one year old took her gloves off!

5. I was making pancakes for the kids on Tuesday for lunch, and M came home after his only class of the day to eat lunch and work from home the rest of the day. G and L were begging for "Nickey Mouse" pancakes with a round head and ears and chocolate chip facial features. M then requested Socrates smoking a pipe while riding on a dolphin. I gave it my best shot:
You see, since he is smoking,
that is a cloud of smoke off the side of his head...

6. Dolphins in our home are often called "dolphinium," from the brilliant Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Little Pig Robinson. Our favorite passage:
After another hand, two sailors left the cabin and went on deck. They noticed something having the appearance of a large black beetle in the distance. One of them said it was an enormous cochroach, swimming with it's hind legs. The other said it was a dolphinium. They disputed, rather loudly. Captian Barnabas, who had had a hand with no trumps at all after the cook dealing--Captain Barnabas came on deck and said:
"Bring me my telescope."
The telescope had disappearedd; likewise the shoes, the sealing-wax, the compass, the potato pot, the straw hat, the hammer, the nails, the bucket, the screwdriver, and the armchair.
"Take the jolly boat and see what it is," ordered Captian Butcher.
"All jolly fine, but suppose it is a dolphinium?" said the mate mutinously.
Go get the copy from your library today to find out more about the pig from the song "The Owl and Pussy Cat."

7. Finally, home schooling, even preschool has been a bit of an adventure with a non-morning napping, teething one year old. She wants to get into everything, and when I strap her in she fusses until I let her have the crayons. Any tips for entertaining pre-rational children while trying to instruct older ones? I know I have home schooling readers... some cousin-in-laws perhaps?

There are worse things she could be doing...
Head on over to Jen's Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes! Also, a bunch of bloggers linked up with her to post everyday this week. I could not commit this time around since I spent a bunch of time writing for Truth and Charity this week, but there are some pretty great bloggers posting out there!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lent "Wreath"

I am big on liturgical year centerpieces, and as next week starts Lent, I want to share again my Lent "Wreath." I got the idea from the Advent Wreath.

I started with this wooden cross, which you can purchase for only 3.49 plus shipping. Then found the base at the craft store. I use six tea candles for the six Sundays of Lent. They are easily replaceable, so if they get used up, no problem. I suppose to be really awesome, I could use purple and rose colors, but I like the bare feel of the white. The rocks are symbolic of fasting and Lent, and will probably add to my penance this Lent as I fight the 16 month old's desire to consume them.

I model the use of the "wreath" off the Tenebrae service. I posted last year our prayers for the First Sunday. We have six lit on Ash Wednesday until the First Sunday of Lent. On Sunday before brunch, we lit six candles and then during the prayers extinguished one. Then all of the first week of Lent, we have only five lit. On the Second Sunday, we lit five, prayed the prayers and extinguished a candle. By the time we got to Holy Week, there were no candles lit. I will be posting the prayers for each Sunday this year, for anyone who is interested in joining us.

On Easter we switched to our Easter Candle:
This is from 2012, clearly.

Truth and Charity: How to Actively Participate at Any Mass

I am blessed to be in a parish that always has very reverent and beautiful liturgies, whether they are the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form. We try to wake up for the early 7:30 am EF most Sunday’s, but this last week due to a late night for the kids we decided to “sleep in” and go to the 8:30 am OF. The one year old managed to last in the pew until the homily and then I was pacing in the back with her and other parents and young tots. I noticed that I paid much worse attention to the sung OF Mass than I do when I am in back for the quiet low EF Mass.

I imagine that it was largely my own fault. I did not exert myself towards the liturgy, and I realized that it was because I could hear what was going on. When I am only paying attention with my ears, if I am not careful, my mind and my heart tend to wander. I need to visually follow to really have conscious participation. Ideally I will have a missal (at both forms) and follow word for word everything that is prayed, but holding a missal is not an option in my state in life. And maybe that is why the quiet low Mass is more prayerful for me, because I have to follow with my eyes in order to follow with my heart.

Since the Church is so universal, each person has his or her own strengths when it comes to active participation in the liturgy. God has gifted us all differently and calls us all to different things. Gifted musicians, for example, tend to be in the choir wherever they are parishioners. It is where they can participate in the liturgy, where they are called to be. Others are called to be ushers, altar servers, deacons, or priests. Most of us are called to be the people in the pews. But in the pews we all pray differently. We are all different and all have different relationships with God. There are certain unifying actions we all do, but our participation in the heart is unique to ourselves.

When the Second Vatican Council discussed the liturgy and produced the document Sacrosanctum Concilium, the active participation of the faithful was something they were strongly considering. It has always been a concern with the Church. Even after the Council of Trent when Catholicism was such a part of everyday life, lay catechization on the liturgy was considered to be important. By the early 19th century, secularism had spread across Europe, and the liturgical movement began. It was from the fruits of that movement that the council fathers sought to help the laity understand the liturgy. Here is what they said about our participation:
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.
In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work[...] (SC 14)
With zeal and patience, pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful, and also their active participation in the liturgy both internally and externally, taking into account their age and condition, their way of life, and standard of religious culture. (SC 19)
I really appreciate how considerate the Church is in knowing that not everyone can participate in the same way. When I see statements about taking into account age, condition, and way of life, in addition to the sick, the Church is keeping in mind the parent of little ones. This is where pacing in back counts; it is very active and still counts as participation.

We are called by God and by the Church to have a “fully conscious, and active participation,” but this cannot come about without “necessary instruction.” It all makes sense when I see my children in the pew at either form of the Mass. They have had instruction according to their mental abilities. The four year old mostly looks forward and whispers occasionally to her father. She listens to the readings when she chooses to or when she recognizes a story. The three year old has a picture board book, which has the main parts of Mass, and lately she has been trying very hard to stay on the right page. She stares at the book and whispers loudly asking “are we here?” and then will grin at her baby sister. The one year old will climb on the kneeler, look at books, and when she is really paying attention shriek as loud as she can and then quickly put her finger in front of her lips and shush.

For an adult, it is quiet different. We should know what each part of the Mass is and follow it with out hearts and bodies. Hopefully, we have all been given the appropriate instruction through our religious education or through RCIA. But it seems that the priest is called to continue to catechize us all on the liturgy, in homilies and in other parish events. Understanding liturgical action, adds to our ability to participate. Even the least catechized person can still pick up a “worship aid” and follow the Mass.
Most parishes are very good at promoting active participation:
 The people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence. (SC 30)
Sometimes, however, the best intentions of liturgical planners backfire, and all of the external “participation” turns into a distraction. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI put it this way a book he wrote as Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy:
It is not now a matter of looking toward the priest, but of looking together toward the Lord and going out to meet him. The almost theatrical entrance of different players into the liturgy, which is so common today, especially during the Preparation of the Gifts, quite simply misses the point. If the various external actions (…) become essential in the liturgy, if the liturgy degenerates into general activity, then we have radically misunderstood the “theo-drama” of the liturgy and lapsed almost into parody[...] One must be led toward the essential action that makes the liturgy what it is, toward the transforming power of God, who wants, through what happens in the liturgy to transform us and the world. (The Spirit of the Liturgy 175)
As laity, we have little say in what happens in the liturgies we attend, and thus we have to find a way to participate in the liturgy, which is centered around God’s action. Ratzinger explained:
The real “action” in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself. This is what is new and distinctive about the Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential[...]
The uniqueness of the Eucharistic Liturgy lies precisely in the fact that God himself is acting and that we are drawn into that action of God. Everything else is, therefore, secondary. (The Spirit of the Liturgy 173-174)
If you have come this far with me, then you are finally arriving at my point. How can we learn to participate better at any Mass, no matter what is going on? How did I learn to pray at any liturgy, despite my more traditional leanings? I give you my:
Six Ways to Internally Participate in God’s Action in the Liturgy:
1. Prepare as much as you can, especially for Sunday Mass. Read the readings before the liturgy, so when you here them again, your heart can be open more fully to God’s Word.

2. Focus your attention on the unchanging parts of the Mass. The basics will always be there, no matter what else is added in or not. The OF and the EF have the same basic parts, especially the Eucharist, and that is where unity can be found between them.

3. Follow in a missal or missalette, if you can. I have found that even when I have heard a Eucharistic Prayer hundreds of times, I pay so much more attention to God’s actions when I read along.

4. If you can’t read along, exert yourself to listen, watch, and pray. The action at the altar is where God acts. You can join your heart with the sacrifice on the altar; the sacrifice is ours to take part in.

5. Memorize or have with you a devotional prayer for before receiving the Eucharist and another for after. This helps greatly with remembering that the liturgy is for our salvation. My favorite before and after where written by St. Thomas Aquinas.

6. If something is distracting for you, offer it up, and focus on the real action, which is God’s. This was the hardest thing for me when I discovered the richness of the Church’s liturgical tradition. But when I was able to get over my nit-pickiness, I learned to move beyond what I wished was different, and seek God in the liturgy.

Even when we find ourselves at the “story hour like” liturgies discussed by Rachel Lu in her essay Love For the Latin Liturgy More Than a Fashion and it seems like none of the Church’s ancient traditions are preserved in the new Masses most of us attend, God’s actions are still there and we can participate in them with our whole selves.

Originally posted at Truth and Charity!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Post # 201!

During a blogging hiatus. And this is definitely a mirror image phone "selfie"...
I meant to commemorate post #200, but I happened to miss it in the frenzy of last week. I was not expecting the crazy amount of traffic that my Truth and Charity post on young people trending to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) it received, and I missed my 200th post. Well, I did post a silly thing on winter music, mostly in attempt to amuse myself in the midst of a blizzard.

I started this blog back in 2008 when I was in my second trimester with G. I had been married slightly longer than I had been pregnant, and out of college slightly longer than I had been married. A lot had happened and continued to happen as I learned how to balance kids and living. The blog was neglected for a large portion of my life in Buffalo, but towards the end of it I started writing more. Maybe I owe my deeper introspection to the move to St. Paul. When you have to restart life to some extent in a new place, it is nice to have a place to process it all. Due to my renewal of this blog, I was invited to write for Truth and Charity. I am deeply grateful to everyone at Truth and Charity for inviting me to write for them. It has been such a rewarding experience, and a challenge for me to expand my writing abilities.

I feel like that I can really call myself "a writer" now. I always wanted to be a writer. That was my plan before I discovered theology and philosophy. And since I did not make it past my masters degree before my vocation turned to wifehood and motherhood, blogging seemed the appropriate option. Thank you for all your support of my blogging. I am especially grateful to the "writer's group" from freshmen year of college, who have always been my most faithful readers. The weekly group also happens to be where M and I had the chance to get to know each other through our love of writing.

On top of our love of writing, M and I have a love of reading. When I was discussing my article about the Pope's understanding of young people becoming traditionalists, M mentioned this passage, which I will leave you with, from Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh:

So Rex was sent to Farm Street to Father Mowbray, a priest renowned for his triumphs with obdurate catechumans. After the third interview he came to tea with Lady Marchmain [Rex's future mother-in-law] ...
"Then again I asked him: 'Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said "It's going to rain," would that be bound to happen?' 'Oh, yes, Father.' 'But supposing it didn't' He thought a moment and said, 'I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.'
"Lady Marchmain, he doesn't correspond to any degree of paganism known to the missionaries."
Philosophy while parenting... kinda make you want another...
P.S. I am planning some updating on my blog design...I am not sure exactly the extent or when.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Winter Songs Edition

As the billionth blizzard of the Winter passed through the Midwest overnight and I am sure the whole East is thinking they would love another storm. I think that maybe some Winter songs to cheer everyone up would be helpful. We pulled out our favorite snowy songs from our Christmas albums during Monday's blizzard, and are still enjoying them today.  Maybe even ones that remind us of December cheer. So, sit back and enjoy a few Winter songs.

1. Favorite Things sung by Andy Williams. My parents have this on record. We always listened to it on the vintage record player that belonged to my great grandmother.

2. Let it Snow sung by Captain Picard. I just found this today, but seriously it is amazing (I do not endorse or not endorse the advertisement afterwards):

3. Winter Wonderland sung by Dean Martin:

4. Winter Winds by Mumford and Sons. You know a romantic one to celebrate the octave day of St. Valentine's Day. They really should be running through fields of snow:

5. Jingle Bell Rock sung by Billy Idol; "Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun!" I was thinking jingle bells, but blowing snow is the thing today:

6. Winter by Vivaldi. I like the sense of doom the beginning gives.:

7. And our family favorite, Marshmallow World. We have just Bing, but you can't go wrong with Ella Fitzgerald:

And as always, I am linking up with the lovely host of the Seven Quick Takes, Jen at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Devotion to the Latin Mass is not "Fad" or "Fashion"

In an all too frequent perusal of my Facebook “Newsfeed”, I came across a link to a traditionally focused Catholic blog, Rorate Caeli. It contains a statement made by the pope to Archbishop Jan Graubner, of Olomouc. The original of the excerpt is in Czech, but was translated by a reader of Rorate Caeli called MC:
[Abp. Jan Graubner speaks:] When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, it was evident that the Pope speaks with great affection, attention, and sensitivity for all in order not to hurt anyone. However, he made a quite strong statement when he said that he understands when the old generation returns to what it experienced, but that he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it.

When I search more thoroughly – the Pope said – I find that it is rather a kind of fashion [in Czech: 'móda', Italian 'moda']. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. But I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us.
Photo credit: Cristina Ryzyi. Used with permission of Juventutem Michigan.Photo credit: Cristina Ryzyi. Used with permission of Juventutem Michigan.
Many young traditionalists are taking offense to this statement, seeing it as a dismissal of a vital part of Church tradition, but I wonder if Pope Francis really just does not “understand the younger generation wishing to return to it.” As one of the younger generation who deeply appreciates and prefers the Extraordinary Form or Traditional Latin Mass (EF for the rest of this article) and the traditional rite of the Sacraments, it is clear that the pope does not understand. For my purposes, I think maybe a better word to explain it in English, might be “trend” (which happens to be a synonym of “fashion”). It seems that younger Catholics devotion to the EF is a trend, but many devotions start as “trends.” Someone starts doing something, and they share it with a friend, and then all of a sudden many people are praying a certain prayer. That is the way tradition works in the Church. Something becomes popularized and then sometimes it becomes universal.

However, I would not describe my own love of  and devotion to the EF as a whim of my youth or an “addiction.” I would describe what happened in me as more of a revelation. Through my theological studies, I became aware of the depth of liturgical tradition that had been neglected in my cradle Catholicism. It seemed to be something so important, so a part of the Church, and no one had ever told me. I am reminded of the book of Nehemiah when the Israelites, having returned from exile, rebuild the city, and then are read the law for the first time in their lives:
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; and when he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God; and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands; and they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
Also Jesh’ua, Bani, Sherebi’ah, Jamin, Akkub, Shab’bethai, Hodi’ah, Ma-asei’ah, Keli’ta, Azari’ah, Jo’zabad, Hanan, Pelai’ah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. And they read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

And Nehemi’ah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.
(Nehemiah 8: 5-9)
And I did mourn after the tradition had been explained to me through various writings and through my graduate professors.
819383_554850697859782_357714528_oPhoto Credit: Holly K Photos. Used with permission of Juventutem Michigan.

I mourned for the loss of the richness of the traditional liturgy in my life and in the Church, and for a time I could not get enough of it. I wanted to only go to it, to soak in everything beautiful about it. I encountered God in an even deeper way than I did praying at charismatic prayer meetings. I entered into a deeper, even more personal relationship through the old structure of the old liturgy. I remember liturgies where I had the care of a young infant and all I could do was sit and watch and listen, but I was lifted in prayer by the beauty of the music sung at the liturgy, written somewhere in the Church’s ancient history. I felt led by the priest, the deacon, the subdeacon and the altar boys as they did the liturgical dance of the EF. I went from pacing with a child in the very back to kneeling at the sanctuary and having God placed in my mouth. The tradition drew me to itself. It was not about me at all; it was about it.

Then I became a hard-hearted critic of everything not traditional. We attended Ordinary Form (OF, Novus Ordo, New Mass) daily masses, and I became scandalized at every liturgy that did not follow perfect rubrics or used extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or other things that seemed to be absolutely contrary to tradition. I was wrong to think and feel this way. It was hurtful to myself and to my fellow Catholics. I now apologize to the Church, and all my fellow Catholics for passing these judgments. I ask your forgiveness and understanding.

It took five years for me to get past the shock of my introduction to the EF; five years to see beauty in the Ordinary Form. I found a way to understand others and to remember that there is much more to a relationship with God than the liturgy we attend. That we attend Sunday Mass is very crucial to our relationship with God and the Church; which Mass we attend is as universal as the Church.
And it does not bother me to think of young people, like me, as part of a trend. All of the liturgical changes that happened in parishes before, during, and after Vatican II were trends. Priests facing the congregation instead of the tabernacle started as a trend. Women ceasing to cover their heads in the liturgy started as a trend. Lay people receiving communion in the hand and standing started as a trend, but that did not stop Pope Benedict XVI from giving an example of the older tradition to us by distributing on the tongue to people kneeling. I have great hope and excitement that many traditions will be renewed, be it God’s will. And that will only happen through trends. So, if the renewal of the liturgy is the will of God, then let it start as a trend or even a “fashion”, and maybe it will help us be drawn closer to God, so that it may save us.

Originally published in full at
Truth and Charity.

Truth and Charity Post: "Fashion" and Devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass

In an all too frequent perusal of my Facebook “Newsfeed”, I came across a link to a traditionally focused Catholic blog, Rorate Caeli. It contains a statement made by the pope to Archbishop Jan Graubner, of Olomouc...

Head on over to Truth and Charity to read the rest!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Award Winning Mint Brownies: A Recipe

Once upon a time my fiance made a batch of brownies. These were not just everyday brownies; they were a family recipe, from his future mother-in-law. He made them in his carpeted kitchen in a house he shared with two roommates in Steubenville, OH. He then submitted them to a baking contest judged by university professors. He won the prize in his category, and took me out for dinner with his gift card prize. The baking contest may have been a fundraiser for my household...

Last Friday was not planned for by a certain wife and mother. The kids had made their Valentine cards the previous week, and the house had since then been plagued by and purged of a stomach bug. I was scrambling Friday afternoon to celebrate my love for my family with something in addition to the pizza delivery. 

I whipped together the family favorite mint brownies, only to discover that I had no confectioner's sugar. Thankfully, I was saved by a generous neighbor, and M arrived home to almost finished heart shaped brownies.

Pink mint is pretty weird to look at. I suppose I could have left it just white, since green is not really appropriate for St. Valentine's Day, but with three little girls in the house I had to use pink.

I am not sure where my mom got the recipe, but she has been making them my whole life.
She sent a copy of this card to me after I asked her to send me the recipe, when M wanted to make them for the baking contest. I then took it and made it into an easy to follow set of charts. And here it is the recipe:

Award Winning Mint Brownies or Chocolate Mint Layer Cookies:

·Grease 8x8 or 9x13 pan and set oven to 350° F. Set out icing butter to soften.
* Can use 2 oz. or 3 oz. of unsweetened chocolate
depending on pan size instead of shortening and cocoa.
·Melt butter and shortening and add cocoa.
·Beat in eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
·Stir in other ingredients.
·Bake for 25-30 minutes depending on pan size.
·After cools a bit out of oven, cool in the freezer or refrigerator to ready the brownies for the frosting.
·Using an electric mixer, whip together sugar and softened butter.
·Add milk little by little until a nice fluffy consistancy. 
·Add the mint extract and whatever coloring or lack of coloring you desire.
· Here I used a greased heart cookie cutter to make heart shaped brownies. Usually we just frost the brownies in the pan and cut them into squares. 
·Spread frosting onto cool brownies, and then chill the brownies again until ready to add chocolate drizzle. 
·Melt the butter and chocolate together, and add vanilla. (My sister and I discovered over Christmas that substituting chocolate chips for the baking chocolate can work for the drizzle.)
·Drizzle the mixture over the frosted brownies.
·Let cool, and cut, and serve! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Seven Quick Takes, Friday, February 14

1. Happy St. Valentine's Day! I once had a miserable St. Valentine's day. It was about nine years ago and the man I really, really, really liked, like had a huge crush on, was supposed to be a priest. He clearly liked me, too. Well I thought he did, but it was really annoying because we were both continually acting like we liked each other, but he was in the pre-theologate (pre-seminary) program. So I talked with some newly dating friends, and they advised me to get everything out in the open and then tell him that we need to put distance in our friendship. We happened to discuss this while going for a walk in the rain on Valentine's Day. He eventually left the program, we dated, we broke up, he discerned some more, and then got back together again nine months after our first time dating. At any rate, we are married now and he is spending Valentine's Day at a department meeting... And tomorrow he is planning on watch Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure with some seminarians. I guess I still have to share him with the Church sometimes?

2. Today the girls and I went to our home school gym co-op and did a card exchange with the other kids. I got my act together about three weeks ago and planned ahead for once, and we did a craft!
G's handiwork.
L's inspiration with lots of mom help (I squeezed the tube, she moved the hand).

Each girl completed 20 after eight half an hour spurts on eight different days. I cut the hearts and the cards, and the girls each signed their names on the back of the cards, glued the hearts, and then decorated them. (L traced letters I wrote for her). I really should post on my blog everytime we do a craft and then you can all see how big of an accomplishment this craft was... Oh, and attached to each card is a packet of artificial dye free fruit snacks that I found at Aldi! The fruit snacks are even free of the evil HFC, just corn syrup and sugar... that might be evil also. Does anyone know?

3. We almost did not make it to co-op, due to an annoying stomach bug we had at the beginning of the week. Thankfully we were all recovered, and the entire house was sterilized before today. I even cleaned the light switches. Maybe stomach bugs are natures way of reminding us to clean light switches...

4. I mentioned the other day that the hardest part of my days is keeping the 15 month old out of the preschool work of her big sisters. I think maybe I was wrong. I am pretty sure the hardest part of the day is the reading lesson with G. Some days she loves it and we do it easily, but other days she gets frustrated and just does not want to do what I ask. Then I try not to get annoyed. And we are not very happy about it together. Then this week I read this post from Kelly, a home schooling mom. I have been keeping in the back of my head all along to not force G into her reading lessons or push her too hard, and I am wondering if we have hit a point where she is not ready to move forward yet. We maybe need to step back or just do the lessons when she is up for it. I guess I will tread more carefully in how I approach her reading.

5. I took this quiz and got this:
I have never even been to Wyoming. The thing is that on most of the questions I answered the only thing that I had actually heard of, so yeah... But maybe I should've encouraged M more when he wanted to try to get a job at Wyoming Catholic College...

6. Look at these highs we have next week!! (Look at the lows!) Some other co-op moms and I were discussing how we need to make sure we really plan something for outside on those 30s and sunny days. Knowing me, we will stay inside all day and then it will be 4pm and I will send the kids outside as the temperature is dropping. Maybe the Como Zoo? Woohoo!

7. Lastly, don't forget to enter my first GIVEAWAY! I reviewed a short chapter book for kids by my cousin-in-law's sister-in-law about a girl in a Catholic family. Click here to read the review and enter the giveaway! It ends next week. :)

And many thanks to Jen for link up, Seven Quick Takes! Sorry I can't make your Edel Gathering. :(

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review and GIVEAWAY: I'm Bernadette!

  When I was a girl, the library bookmobile used to park about a block away from my house on Saturday mornings. I would walk over with an old stack of books, return them, and spend an hour or so combing through the stacks to find a new set of reading fun. I tried very hard to pick good books, with worthwhile content, but it was often very difficult. If I had found I’m Bernadette! by Emily Grace Ortega, I am sure that I would have brought it home and read it quickly. I was always interested in stories about girls my age, and Bernadette is about a girl in the first grade. She goes to a Catholic school, and has two younger brothers, a four year old and one year old. Her mom stays at home with the kids and her dad goes to work, and it is clear that her parents are raising their family to be devoutly Catholic.

I was really excited when Emily Grace Ortega contacted me to review her book, especially when she sent a letter along with the review copy explaining her view on children’s literature: “I think it’s important for kids to have positive thoughts, ideals, and characters introduced in their reading. The current push in education to have kids “read” without offering high quality, thoughtfully produced literature infuriates me.” While my eldest is almost five, and still learning to read, I have had a lot of difficulty finding even worthwhile picture books. There certainly are a lot of good books out there, but it takes a lot of effort to find them amidst a sea of not so good ones. I have spoken to other Catholic parents who struggle to find good books for their young readers. And if you are searching for a new chapter book series, this one is definitely a gem!

The premise of the first Bernadette story (there are more coming!) is the approaching celebration for All Saints Day. Bernadette has been thinking about her Halloween costume only to hear that her school will be having a Saint parade. She has to figure out which saint she wants to dress as, and let go of her disappointment of not celebrating Halloween.
My almost five year old and three year old daughters loved listening to the story. They remembered their own experience on All Saints Day dressing up like saints, and were very eager to hear about Bernadette. The story was written simply enough for them to follow, but also, I think in a way that a child could read on his or her own. Within the telling of the story, bigger words and concepts are explained through Bernadette’s narration, and we even learn a little bit of Church teaching: some angelology (they have no genders) and how boys and men may not cover their heads in church.

Besides the wholesome and Catholic content, I think that Ortega captured the different ages of childhood well, which makes a lot of sense since she has six children of her own. There were a few scenes from the book about the four year old brother that reminded my husband and I of our own four year old, and even helped us understand that maybe that is just what four year olds are like. For example, they seem to be very good at destroying things. The illustrations by Meg Ross Whalen are very sweet, but my particular favorite is the one of the family at dinner where the baby is throwing noodles on his sister, and the mom is clutching her glass of wine.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet book about childhood in a realistic, loving Catholic family. I think that children who are home schooled or those who go to school could relate to Bernadette and her family. Ortega did a wonderful job creating a world from a first grade point of view, that any Catholic family would delight in knowing.

Finally, I am happy to announce my first giveaway on my blog. You can enter twice:

1. Leave a comment.
2. Like my blog on Facebook. If you are already a Facebook fan, then that counts!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Brandi M! I will be contacting you by email shortly. :)

P.S. If you did not win and would like to own a copy, you can order it on Amazon

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Slow Rhythm of Now

I am up and writing because lately at night I have been laying in bed for at least a half an hour with my mind wandering and not able to fall asleep. It probably has something to do with the baby not waking around 11pm anymore. I really liked that nursing session that gave me just enough of a hormone boost to get sleepy and drop off. It meant that I woke up a few more times at night than I do now, but there was not that struggle to fall asleep at the beginning of the night. Alas, I have resigned myself to less sleep than I think I might need since I don't seem to be getting it no matter what schedule I try.

I am finding myself wanting to hold onto this time of life forever, or at least a bit longer. I don't really mind the bitter cold days, as long as we have nowhere to go. I think about Ma Ingalls in her house by Plum Creek and her three little girls cooped up all Winter with blizzard after blizzard outside. They did not go crazy; they just did their lessons and chores and were together.

I feel like life is not going to be the same after this school year. We are doing about 40 minutes of school a day, and it is preschool work. There is no set curriculum, and things do not have to be that serious. I have an easy one year old, and a three and five year old that will happily spend the whole day playing with each other. I have so much time to do housework that I am continually checking Facebook. I know my time can be put to better use, but the leisure is nice.

I think my favorite time of babyhood is when the baby stops the morning nap. Since M started his new semester I have been doing grocery shopping on Saturdays, which totally frees up my weekdays. We have a nice rhythm at home with the girls, and the hardest part of a normal day is keeping the baby from climbing into chairs to chew on her sisters' preschool work. I get her to sleep for a long afternoon nap before her sisters take their nap/quiet time, and have two quiet hours to myself. If M is home I run on my treadmill, if he is not, I try to read or write. Then dinner, and then bedtime for the kids. And after bedtime is more leisure time until I can't fall asleep. But I probably should turn in now and try to sleep.

Life is good.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If on a Winter's Afternoon Three Girls...

It is a late afternoon in the Spencer house. M is still at work and expected home for a late dinner, the girls request a CD of traditional folk music. They are finishing a snack and L (3) decides to get down and begins to dance. "I am the dancing girl," she tells me as she twirls around, her arms outstretched. G (4.5) finishes her snack and they move to the living room to continue their dancing. F (15 months) crawl-scoots her way after them to join in the fun.

When I peak into the living room I see F standing and squealing next to the couch and the older two wearing paper moose antlers that they made at a library story hour holding hands and spinning themselves around the room. Since they all seem content, I grab an article I want to read and sit down in one of the wingback chairs. G, excited by my presence, says, "You are the one watching our dancing! See the way my shirt swirls out so cutely when I twirl!" L and F are interacting next to the couch. F had been wearing a large wooden Rosary around her neck, and now L is holding it in her hands. She lunges towards F in attempt to put it around her neck, but F moves quickly to her hands and knees and crawls away to the bedrooms squealing with her big sister in pursuit. L comes back in without the rosary, but the baby has found something else to do in her sisters' room.

"When the Saints Go Marching In" starts to play, and L sticks her legs out in a wild fashion, asking, "Is this marching?" I get up from my reading to demonstrate marching, and soon both older girls are laughing and doing something slightly resembling marching around the room. G then sticks her head on the floor and does a somersault. "Did I just do a cartwheel?" she asks excitedly. And I tell her she did not, but that she had done a somesault. L is curious and asks how to do it, but then decides to show me her version of skipping instead. It resembles a gallop. F crawls back into the room and sees me. She climbs onto my lap and thwarts any attempts I make at reading. My phone rings and it is my mom. I get up with the baby on my hip and answer the phone, leaving the older two to their world of imaginative play.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, February 7

1. For all of you who have been asking, my dad is still in recovery mode from his emergency surgery. He is tired out very easily, and is still sleeping a lot. But that makes a lot of sense considering that he had his chest cut open, his aorta partially replaced, and was sewed back up just three weeks ago. He is getting physical therapy now, and I think it motivated by the thoughts of seeing grandchildren in March to keep on track. Thank you again for all of your prayers and support to my family. It is a great blessing to me to hear about friends who have been taking care of my parents when I live so far away.

2. I have been a little bummed about the Olympics this year. I don't understand why publicly broadcasted things can only be seen when one has a TV with an antennae. When will stations just start having a live stream on their website? It makes total sense to me. If they have the commercials and everything, why can't it be there? Further, I feel like the Olympics should be broadcasted more freely than normal TV. If it is this internationally unifying event, why leave out those cool enough to not have a TV.

3. I have been making soups this Winter from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The one last week was garlic soup. It was a little strange. Basically I cooked whole garlic in water with salt, whole cloves, parsley, thyme, and pepper for 30 minutes and then strained it. Then I beat slowly into the soup egg yolks that had been beaten with oil. It is supposed to be really good for your health, but the cloves gave it a weird flavor. There is an alternative ending to the recipe without the egg yolks, but with potatoes and saffron. We are thinking we might like that better and still get the healthful benefits of the garlic.

4. Some of our friends spent all of January in Texas, and apparently their kids cannot handle being back in Minnesota because of the cold. However, I am really glad to have them back especially because my friend R is very encouraging of my writing. I make no promises, but I hope to be writing a lot more as long as we manage to have good conversation over children playing.

5. M has been extra busy these last two weeks, since his department has been interviewing for new hires. He has gone to dinner three times in the past two weeks and not gotten home until after 9pm. Once again,  I am so thankful that I only have to manage bedtime alone on occasion and am in awe of parents who do it alone all the time.

6. G (4.5) and L (3) were competing today about who's imagination was bigger. Arms outstretched, "My imagination is THIS BIG!" G said her's has a billion pictures in it, and L retorted that her's has 20. At least L can count to the number of pictures. And if you are wondering these are pictures of monsters. Some of them are good and some of them are bad, but the bad ones only cause nightmares when you are awake. They must have been having a lot of nightmares while they stayed up until 9:15pm tonight.

7. This kid won't walk, but stairs are not a problem. 15 months today!

Linking up to Jen and her Conversion Diary! Click over for more Quick takes!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Candlemas Day! and other things...

Even on Candlemas Day, the professor is spending time with Lady Philosophy (and our blessed candles).
Happy Candlemas Day (Presentation of Our Lord) and Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary! We managed to wake up for the 7:30 am Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form), and got there just in time for the Blessing of the Candles. I have never been to a Candlemas blessing before, and it was long an quiet at the EF. I actually managed to unbundle myself and the baby (it was -10 when we left for Church) by the time the blessing was over. After Mass we got to take a pair of candles home to use throughout the year for family prayer. How cool is that?

Some of the beautiful prayers from the blessings:
  • That, by worthily offering them to Thee our Lord God, we may be inflamed with the holy fire of Thy most sweet charity, and deserve to be presented in the holy temple of Thy Glory...
  • Mercifully grant, that as these lights, enkindled with visible fire, dispel the darkness of night, so our hearts illumined by invisible fire, that is, by the splendor of the Holy Ghost, may be free from every blindness due to vice...
  • By Thy gift the light of Thy Spirit may never be wanting inwardly to our minds...
  • That the grace of the same Holy Spirit may enlighen and teach us to recognize Thee truly and faithfully love Thee...
I know that I surely need more of the grace asked for in the prayers.

To celebrate today, the last day of the Christmas cycle of the Litrugy, we turned on our favorite Christmas music and took down the tree and put away the nativity scene. I miss them already, but it is nice to have our living room back.

We are going to try out  Papa Murphy's for dinner since the dentist gave the big girls each a coupon for a personal pizza when we saw him back in December. I hope it is good. And, is there some big game going on tonight? I guess with the lack of TV and all, we will be watching another episode of Foyle's War instead...
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