Sunday, December 30, 2007

Feast of the Holy Family

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. Father gave a wonderful sermon reminding us all (husbands, wives, parents, and children) of the parts we have to play in fostering love in family life. And he reminded us that God in the Trinity is a family, with the Holy Spirit being the love between the Father and the Son.

But enough of my sermonizing! The most moving part of the day was the reading from Saint Paul's letter to the Colossians. I've heard it before, but it is so perfect for today. It's a wonderful, powerful call to family love. I think the homeschoolers and I will memorize this passage when we begin our studies again. I know it's a message I need to be reminded of over and over again:

"Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:12-17


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Christmas Kitchen

Last year, at my urging, Len built Becca a stove and fridge out of cardboard. She had so much fun with these simple toys! This year after much waffling, I asked Grammy and Grandpop to help us buy her this wooden kitchen. I was probably more excited than anyone at the unveiling. :-)

Becca has already spent countless hours playing in her kitchen. It's in my kitchen, which I love, because I get to watch and listen as she mothers her babies, cooks for friends, or plays house with Marianna. We already had lots of play food, and Mimi and Granddad bought her some new pots and pans. There are hooks for the potholder, towel, and homemade apron (used to be Lauren's--sniff). What a great gift for our little girl.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


The first recipe is up at my cooking blog. It's for a dessert. Surprise? I think not. ;-)

Friday, December 21, 2007

God's Providence

Len and I have had many discussions about God and His providence/involvement in daily life. Of course each of us (even the whole universe) would cease to exist if he stopped willing it, but how much does He interfere/decide what will happen to us? Why do bad things happen? If He has a plan for us, where does free will (ours and everyone else's) come in?

I think God does have a plan, a way He wants us to go. We need to discern His will and do our best to follow it. And bad things happen because the world is Fallen (so sickness, pain, etc.), and we sinful people have the free will to mess things up and hurt each other.

BUT, I believe God can make good things come out of any situation. And I believe He does know what is best for us, even if we sometimes disagree. We can't see where all the consequences, circumstances, and choices will lead.

For example, today I was racing around the mall looking for the teen who was late and had not turned on his phone (grr!). As I sped through the food court, I saw a little boy, maybe 2 years old, happily walking along. I saw no adult near him. I got down on his level and asked where his mommy was. No answer. He remained cheerful until I picked him up, and then the wailing started! He wanted nothing to do with this unfamiliar lady, but I thought, "Too bad. I know what's good for you, and walking around through this crowded place alone is NOT what's good for you." The crying was even potentially useful. I held him high and wandered around waiting for someone to claim my noisy bundle. We got plenty of attention, but no takers. I found a security guard who realized that since little guy wore no shoes, he must have come from the (not so nearby) play area. On our way over there (I kept carrying him since he screamed even more when the guard tried to pick him up.), we met his mom.

My point is this: as I think about this incident now, I remember that experienced-parent feeling I had when I picked up that child against his will to make sure the best thing could happen. While God (yes, a very experienced father!) allows us lots of lee-way (i.e. free will), I believe He can and does intervene in our lives, making miracles big and small happen. I don't know how often He's directing the minutae, and while He answers prayers, it's not alway in the way we want Him to.

Someone once told a true story about getting a flat tire on the way to daily mass and having to stay home. As things turned out, a long unseen friend came to the door and ended up having lunch with the family. They would have missed each other without that flat tire. Did God cause the flat tire? He could have. Did God make something good (the friend) come out of a (nothing special) flat tire? He could have. I don't know, and to a certain extent I don't care. I just need to try to trust that God loves me and wills the best for me.

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jesse Tree update

Our Jesse Tree has enhanced our Advent prayer time. Sometimes we just read the verses for the daily symbol, but other times, a lively discussion ensues related to some aspect of Salvation History. Here's a picture of our "tree" on the prayer table in the corner of the family room.

And here's a close up of a few ornaments. The children did a great job of decorating them. It's hard for my picture to show how nice they are--I couldn't get more than a few in focus at a time.

Hope for the Future

I know all siblings fight, but it can be so discouraging! Every now and then there is a particular pair of "oil and water" siblings. Not only do they bicker, they also criticize, tease, hit, argue, tattle, push, watch for "unfair" treatment, push each others' buttons, etc. Sometimes it brings me to great anger or tears (or both!). We've got one of these special sets in the house right now.

My wonderful husband encourages me that this sort of thing is normal and will fade. And I do try to coach charity, but it can seem to be a never-ending, losing battle.

Well, this weekend I saw some hope for the future--a previous "oil and water" pair who get along fine now. One asked the other for help, and it was given. There was no complaining or criticizing, and no hearts and flowers either--just ordinary, matter-of-fact cooperation.

Now that I think about it, I noticed this on Sunday, the Joyful Sunday of Advent (pink candle). Christ is getting closer, the light is getting brighter, and our hope and joy are growing as well.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Our Jesse Tree

We are finally using a Jesse Tree this Advent! This is a tree or bare branches from which are hung ornaments that symbolize people (Abraham, Moses, David) and events (the Fall, the Flood) in Salvation History. We read and discuss the scripture for each symbol during our preparation for the Savior's birth.

I enlarged some ornament pictures from a book given to me many years ago, and traced them onto shrinky-dink paper. This is then colored (we use colored pencils) and baked in the oven where it shrinks to 1/3 its original size and gets 9 times thicker. The hole that was punched before baking is threaded for hanging.

We've only hung a few ornaments so far, but this is going to be a great meditation for Advent. I'm tracing and cutting, while the homeschoolers are coloring. They gathered some bare branches on a windy day, which we arranged in a vase adorned with purple ribbon. Lauren is going to take a picture so I can show it soon.

Have a blessed Advent!

To Blog or Not to Blog?

(originally posted 12/5 on "Come to the Table")

For months and months I wanted to have some blogs. I wanted a chance to reflect on my daily life (instead of just reacting to it), and to save (and savor) some memories. I wanted to share recipes and photos.

I finally started blogging, and it really is enjoyable. But life seems to be getting away from me lately. There's the 11 p.m. grocery run, the "Why am I here in the pantry?" moment, the unlaundered school uniform, and the unorganized homeschooling. Oh yes, we're eating every day and wearing mostly clean clothes, but it seems like we're not often getting beyond those basics.

I hope to have the chance to blog some more, but right now it's hard to organize a coherent thought AND get a turn on the computer (the stars must be aligned just right...), so we'll see what happens.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks Giving

"Thanksgiving Day"
by Lydia Maria Child

Over the river and through the wood,
To grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood--
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground,
Link a hunting-hound!
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go
Extremely slow,--
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood--
Now grandmother's cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Well, we'll be going over several rivers on our way to Mimi and Granddad's house for Thanksgiving. But as we're traveling Tuesday night, the children should not find it "so hard to wait".

While much of this poem is obviously dated (the dapple gray and sleigh are now a minivan), much still speaks to us about the Thanksgiving experience. We are SO looking forward to "first-rate play" with many cousins. And just being with family and friends, and enjoying all that delicious food makes for a memorable holiday.

I know we have much to be thankful for here. I won't list it all now, but wish you a blessed holiday. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Prayer for the Day

Adapted from this morning's Magnificat:

Let me put into God's hands my heart, my soul, and the deep recesses of my being wherein dwell those beliefs and thoughts that govern my actions, so that He may guide me in the ways of the Gospel.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Meals

One of our homeschool traditions is "making a meal" once a month. The student and Mom pick a date, develop a menu, and prepare it together. This is great for bonding time, practical life skills, and nutrition education (I still remember one menu suggestion that included ham, very sweet potato casserole, fruit salad, sweet drink, and dessert. How about...NO!)

That said, we actually didn't start our meals this school year until November. Marianna was first, cooking with me on Sunday. (One problem is finding a good day--cooking together is pretty time intensive.)

Her menu was eclectic: baked spareribs and light biscuits (actually yeasted rolls) from The Little House Cookbook, veggies and dip, and homemade peanut butter ice cream with chopped Reeses cups. I turned the oven higher than suggested in the cookbook, so the ribs were a little crusty, but we actually ate every bite of everything offered, probably a first and last accomplishment here!

Here are some photos of our afternoon. The rolls started with a "sponge". Yeast, water, and flour are beaten together and set aside to grow.

And grow it did:
Next come more ingredients, kneading, and rising. Finally more eggs, fat, and sugar are added, and the dough is rolled and cut:
These were very popular!
Here is Marianna scraping ice cream out of the machine and enjoying quality control. Yum!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Preschool is in the Bag

Preschool in a homeschooling family is full of tagalong experiences: "writing" like the big kids, playing with the math manipulatives, or watching science videos. But sometimes it's nice to have something that's just for the little one.

Rebecca keeps herself busy; she's not "in the way" of the work of the higher grades. She has an hour of "Sesame Street", and enjoys looking at books, working puzzles, and coloring/painting (It amazes me how she fills the WHOLE PAGE with color!). Although she's fairly independent, Becca will happily play games or work with anyone who makes time for her.

I've read over the years about preschool activity bags, and finally made a few. The idea is to fill a large (easy) zipper bag with one specific activity. Train your toddler, and the bag becomes a fun, independent, and educational project. There are ideas all over the internet, but here is a link to one idea-filled page. It includes links to more ideas.

Here are some samples of lacing bags that I've made.
I had some traditional sewing cards, but the holes were too small for Rebecca, so I made simpler ones with thin cardboard and a hole punch.

She decorated them herself, and caught on pretty quickly to the lacing technique.

This plastic needle is so thick that Becca can't really pull it through the plastic canvas herself. Maybe next year...

Here's what a single project bag looks like: easy zipper, see-through bag, all the supplies ready to go.

I'll try to get some pictures soon of other preschool ideas. Enjoy your toddler if you have one!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Welcome, Baby!

Angel Shae was born at 2:55 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6. She came out purple (like our Joseph) and was quiet and calm, with only a few cries. She pinked up quickly and got off to a good nursing start, too.

Watching and participating in this birth was a beautiful experience. Seeing all that hard work, and the joy and tears that follow, brings back the flood of feelings of new motherhood. And it's new every time, you know?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Caroline's Labor!

Tomorrow morning Lauren and I will be out the door as dawn is breaking. We're driving to Arlington to support Caroline as her labor is induced. Please pray for this sweet young woman and her baby (Angel Shae is her name).


Friday, November 2, 2007

All Souls Day

November 1 is All Saints' Day, when we celebrate all the faithful who are with God in Heaven, whether they've been officially canonized or not. Everyone in Heaven is a saint!

Today, November 2, is All Souls' Day. We remember those who have died but are still being purified before joining God in Heaven. This is a great day to pray for the souls in purgatory. In fact, the Church has dedicated the month of November to the Holy Souls. We can offer prayers and sacrifices to help them make the final step of their journey to Heaven, since they can no longer help themselves.

Saint Gertrude the Great received a special prayer in a vision of Our Lord. He told her that reciting it with love and devotion will release 1,000 souls from purgatory. Here it is:

"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home, and within my family. Amen."

Some Questions Answered

  1. The algebra answer is in the comment section of the Math Wizzes post. Good work, Porter and Dad.
  2. The beak on the penguin cake was made with an orange Starburst! Lauren microwaved it for ten seconds, then rolled and cut it. Didn't she do a great job? (Although I'm taking credit for the idea, thank you very much.)
  3. No, Len has still not read my blog! A few days after the driveway post, he saw it on the screen ("Oh, I was wondering about that big track..."), but I'm not counting that. Would you? ;-)

We Did It!

We did manage to say a full rosary every day during October! Rarely did the whole family recite together, but we really did work as a team to "get it done". It might have been different groups in separate cars, or homeschoolers starting during the day with the the rest joining for a few decades in the evening. In any case, everyone really pulled together to accomplish something logistically difficult.

I'm not sure what the future holds, but some are relieved that the month is over. For now we're going back to the more meditative daily decade using our scriptural rosary book. Some of us will keep saying our own individual rosaries. Maybe we'll get back to the whole thing someday.

Incidentally, that's how meatless Fridays started for our family. Years ago, I'd keep the tradition during Lent and then continue for a while after. Eventually the practice stretched to year-round. I don't think any of the children remember any other way.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Wonderful World of Make-Believe

Becca is great at independent play. She'll paint, work puzzles, leaf through books, draw, and arrange the animals on her bed. And then there are her imaginary friends...

A while back, she asked me if she could go to Brianna's house. Encourager of creative play that I am, I asked her if Brianna's mother was home. She had complete control of the answer, but said, "No." So I said, "No," because of course she may not go over if a grown-up isn't home. Cue ten minutes of weeping and wailing!

Sometimes I wish I could enter so deeply into a world of my own making. Don't you?

Friday, October 26, 2007

When the Kids are Holier Than Thou...

Catholics are called to sacrifice on Fridays to commemorate Christ's ultimate Friday offering, and our family follows the tradition by giving up meat. Due to yesterday's party we had meat on the menu in the form of leftover pizza. So we decided to give up our special popcorn for the day instead.

Flash forward to this evening:
Joe: "I think I'm not going to have dessert tonight. I know we're giving up the popcorn, but that's not really enough. I might not have had any anyway."
Mom (to herself, having just consumed a plate of cake): "Wow..."

Penquin Power!

Here's the birthday cake Lauren designed and executed almost entirely on her own for a penguin-obsessed friend . Cute, huh? It's a double batch of cake, made as 12" and 8" rounds. The running joke of the party was that everyone thought the beak was made of cheese! Can you guess what it really is?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How to Find Out Whether Your Husband Reads Your Blog

  1. Back your minivan out of the garage you've owned for 14 years, onto the slightly curving driveway you've used for just as long.
  2. Make a large tire-arc in the rain-soaked, recently seeded grass.
  3. Return two hours to later to find the grass has not yet sprung up and covered your tracks, so to speak.
  4. GET THE RAKE and fluff up the grass so he won't notice it when he gets home.
  5. Don't tell, but write about it to the rest of the world.
  6. Await his comment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Math Wizzes Strike Out

I love math, and I'm good at it. Daniel has a math talent, too. But today our brains were not functioning in high gear.

Dan's been working through the Algebra 1 Honors Book, and today's lesson was about solving problems with multiple variables. You know, you're given a word problem and need to write the equation(s) and then solve. Knowing how to translate a question into an equation is actually the most important part of this. In math books you can sometimes fiddle around to find the right answer, but in real life the numbers aren't always tidy, so the proper set-up is vital.

Anyway, problem #3 had four variables, and so needed four equations. Daniel tried it, then called for help because the answer was obviously wrong. I helped and it was still wrong. We tried again and it was still wrong. We looked at the solution (thank goodness this answer key SHOWS THE WORK!), and realized we had made the same careless error several times. A truly humbling and time consuming experience. Math was over for the day!

Read on only if you really enjoy algebra:

"Super Suites Hotel has four rates for their 250 basic rooms. Senior citizens pay $35 a night. Businesses pay $45, and coupon-holders pay $40. The standard rate is $50 per night if none of these other rates apply. On New Year's Eve, the hotel's room rates brought in $8640 in income.

The number of rooms sold to senior citizens that night was 10 fewer than the number of standard rooms. The number of business rooms was 8 fewer than the number of coupon-holder rooms sold. Also, the sale of coupon-holder rooms was 10 times less than the number of standard rooms sold. How many rooms were empty on New Year's Eve at Super Suites?"

If you're interested in solving this, put your four starter equations and final answer in the comment section. I'll put the correct answers there later. As a start, we used S for senior, B for business, C for coupon-holder, and R for regular (standard). Our mistake was getting senior and standard partially mixed up--beware!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Loveliness of Apples

In the fall, it's hard to beat a perfect apple--cool, crisp, juicy, and sweet-tart. I rarely venture to orchards or farmer's markets these days, so those apples are mostly fond memories. Really fresh macouns and courtlands are the closest to ideal I've found lately.

Here's a recipe that's quick and tasty to make any time of the year, even with supermarket apples. I originally saw it on Danielle Bean's website, but last fall's archives were lost in a spectacular computer crash. This was submitted to Danielle by "Barb", and I've changed a few ingredients and the technique. It's now food processor quick and friendly.

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

6 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 medium apples, peeled and diced
  • Grease and flour an 8" square or 9" round cake pan.
  • Mix dry topping ingredients in food processor. Add butter in chunks and process. Set aside.
  • Mix dry cake ingredients in food processor. Add butter in chunks and process. Add milk, egg, and vanilla, and process just until combined.
  • Pour over diced apples and stir together. This will be very thick, looking more like apples with coating than a typical batter. Spread in pan and crumble topping over it.
  • Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes.
  • You can add nuts to the topping. I process them first (about 1/2 cup of walnuts or pecans), then set aside. After processing the rest of the topping, I mix the two together.
  • If the topping is sandy in texture, squeeze it into clumps as you put it on the batter. This will keep the batter from covering it as it rises in the oven.
  • Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples work well.
  • If you want to make more batches, don't add the wet ingredients to the food processor. Instead, after cutting the butter into the batter (Dr. Seuss, anyone?), stir that portion into the bowl of wet. I usually have the diced apple in a bowl of milk, egg, and vanilla (keeps them from browning, too).
  • You can do everything but the baking the night before. Just cover your pan with foil and refrigerate, then bake in the morning. Baking time will be increased.
In case you're wondering, that's a teenaged me at an apple orchard with my baby sister, who is now a grown-up mother herself. :-)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Motto for the Day

I came across this quote from Romans (12:12) yesterday: "Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer."

Enough said!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Our Rosary Challenge

We've been approaching the rosary slowly in our family. For several years I've been saying a rosary myself whenever I have the alone time. This means while walking in the morning or on the treadmill or driving alone. I got to the point where I said a complete rosary almost every day, even if not all at once.

Meanwhile, the homeschoolers (The 2 oldest children attend school rather than living in it!) and I have been reciting a decade each weekday. We use this beautiful meditation/scripture book to guide us through the mysteries. But even the few minutes required to gather everyone and pray one decade kept us from managing a whole rosary much of the time. We really celebrated when we managed a complete week!

Well, October is the Month of the Rosary in the Church. The Sunday before, one of our parish priests reminded us of the 90th anniversary of Our Lady's 1917 appearance at Fatima. He challenged us to say the rosary every day as family, and to pray for peace in our homes and the world. He told us what a hard time he and his siblings had given their parents about their family rosary, and about how he came to appreciate it.

Well, we accepted the challenge! So far we've said a whole rosary every day in October.

Only rarely have we all together recited the whole thing (kind of like trying for a family dinner with toddler, teens, in-betweens, and a dad who works late...), but we've usually had a majority. Some days the homeschoolers recite some decades in the morning or in the car, and the rest of the family joins in to finish at bedtime. Tonight we had a home group and a car group get started, and then joined for the end. Once in a while we've all buckled down for a whole rosary together.

I'm amazed at what we've accomplished so far, and impressed that there has been no fussing about this rosary-ing! A whole one with a group takes a good 20 minutes, and that feels like a long time when we're busy or tired. The children are all cooperating to meet this challenge, and it's beautiful to see.

Random thoughts:

One thing I do miss about the "old way" is the meditation book. It has a scripture verse for every "Hail Mary" and "Our Father", which really brings the mysteries to life, but would make a whole rosary last much too long.

Even the nearly three year old is invested--she'll "lead" a decade by saying the first few words of each prayer.

I don't know what we'll do come November. Are some of us just hanging on, hoping to get through this month? I know one child has said he wants to keep this up. Time will tell.

So...are you up for a challenge?