Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Mother's Prayer Companion: A Review

I first heard about it on Facebook. 

An old Ann Arbor friend, Christa, recommended A Mother’s Prayer Companion, created by a friend of hers from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Right off the bat I could see it had to be a good recommendation. Christa (whose recommendations in the past had been so spot on*) and FUS (my alma mater). I checked out the link. 

After perusing the website, filling a basket, then backing away while I doubted myself (“Would I just use it for a few days and then forget about it? Would it end up a pretty binder and a good idea, but no follow through on my part?”), I finally bought it. 

I was very excited when I got it. I put together the binder and got a pen and pencil case to fit it and found the perfect place for it—on a little table, next to a comfy chair that I had just moved into my bedroom to be my little prayer corner. 

I think it took a few days to actually sit down and use it. 

At first, I read through the pages-- one for Jim, one for each of the kids and one for me. For each person there were spots to write down gifts that I am thankful for and intentions. I wondered if I should write it in pencil, in case I make a mistake (like I could make a mistake about what to pray for?!!). Or should I find colored pens to make it all pretty? (No, that was too much pressure). 

Instead I filled out the “other intentions” page…that was easy. Black pen felt bold and confident, but I did it anyway. 

There, I was ready to pray. I just read through each page, stopping to fill in the blanks in my head. The prayers were what my Catechetics professor would have called “Scripture speak”. Verses from the Bible, slightly altered so that they made sense as a prayer. The citations were there and I looked up a few. But mostly I just read through each one, inserting the correct name and intentions and gifts. 

I was hooked. I finally felt like I was DOING something about all the things that swirl in my head—Will this child ever get over that issue? Will that child ever find his/her place in life? How do I help that child develop that gift? How can I help Jim with work? 

After about a month I began to write down intentions (in pen), and soon I was writing the answers to some of those prayers on the blank page opposite! 

I also wrote down gifts to be thankful for, including those little characteristics that are trying now, but you know are really a future gift in the making (her intensity, his entrepreneurial spirt, her single mindedness). 

Although I can’t say I use it everyday, and I often forget to bring it to adoration, it is my place to go when I feel myself fretting, and it is my anchor when I don’t “feel” like praying, or I am so distracted I feel like I “don’t have time” to pray. It has become such an integral part of my prayer life that I began to wish my kids could hear me pray some of these words: 

I praise you Lord, for (fill in the name) is fearfully and wonderfully made. 

What kid wouldn’t love to hear their mother say that about them? So I took parts of the prayers and copied them onto another page and began to pray aloud over each of my kids at bedtime. It was already our routine for me to pray something, like the Memorize, over them as I said good night, so this was easy to substitute once in a while. Then it became a nightly thing. 

They loved it! I could see my youngest grin at me in the darkness as I said the words. My boy would cuddle down deep and lean into me while I prayed over him. 

After a few months of this, my boy asked if he could pray over me. To my surprise he had it memorized perfectly. He put in “Mama” wherever I usually said their names. Now I was the one grinning in the darkness and leaning in to cuddle a little. 

After all of this, it was a no-brainer this past Christmas to buy one for my sister, sisters-in-law, and my mother. 

If I could buy one for every Mama I know, I would. Instead I write this, so you might go check it out and get one for yourself (or any Mama you know).

*About 16 years ago I showed Christa the online profile of a man named Jim, and she confirmed that I should write to him, and the rest is history.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

{p,h,f,r} The Perfect Butter Dish

I am using this blog post that I wrote a few weeks ago as my {pretty, happy, funny, real} post today. Because both my butter dishes are {pretty}, they make me {happy}, I think it is {funny} that the best one was here all along, and this whole post is about getting {real}....and this is all about contentment today. 

A few years ago, when we first moved to Texas, I began looking for a new butter dish. Wait, I think the search began even before that, in California. 

At any rate, I think it was because we started using Kerrygold butter a lot and it comes in a big block…too big for most butter dishes. 

After an exhaustive search I finally settled on a “butter bell” and I found the perfect pattern. It was from a Polish pottery website and I couldn’t wait to get it. 

When it came I began using it right away. A block of butter fit into the top part perfectly, and then I filled the bottom with cold water. I changed the water daily and it worked quite well for awhile. But come spring, I began to notice the butter slipping out of the top section into the water. It was just too warm in the house to keep it solid enough. 

The Butter Bell went up on a shelf to look pretty and I began to use various bowls and dishes for my butter. In the winter I went back to the Butter Bell. It worked pretty well, but there are still some issues. The way you lift it up is by a round handle on top, which is fine when you have a knife or spreader in one hand and the butter dish in the other and you are just taking a bit of butter for toast or to put in a pan. But if you are buttering something larger or using it repeatedly you have to set the butter part down on the counter on its handle. Then it gets messy and is hard to pick up again. 

So this past winter, I didn’t take it out again. And I continued to shuffle the butter between various bowls, some with lids, some with wax paper on top to keep it fresh. We use it so fast freshness really isn’t much of an issue. A block is usually going to sit on the counter no more than a few days. 

One day, just before Christmas, I had to put a new block of butter out and I had no clean dishes of the right size. So I grabbed a Christmas coffee cup (of which we have many) and shoved the butter into it. It fit perfectly. A little piece of clear wrap or wax paper and we are on our way. 

Now I love this “butter dish”. It has a handle, so picking it up and holding it to spread butter is easy.  The butter knife can just be stuck in it when it has to be on the table or used repeatedly. And when we are done I cover it with a little piece of clear wrap and to looks quite pretty. I can even leave the little butter knife in it and wrap the clear wrap around the handle. And when the clear wrap gets messy (like butter dish lids ALWAYS do) I just replace it. Easy peasy, lemon squeezey. 

After all that, I had the perfect butter dish in cupboard all along!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Through the Eyes of a Kennedy Kid

The World Through the Eyes of Kennedy Kid #3


A! Where are you? "I've been over here inside the Nativity Scene"

At first I wondered why the Baby Jesus was not in his crib.
Well, a King is holding The King. 

"Look Mama! There is a deer in the back of that truck!"

Only in Texas? Maybe. There was another deer head in the passenger seat and an antelope in the back seat.
For some reason I can't get the little Like Mother, Like Daughter button to work. I used to get it to work, but no longer. There are lots of little bloggy things that don't work anymore. Not sure why.
Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter and see the other {phfr} posts and all the other great stuff!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

{pfhr} Catching Up With Christmas Edition

 On one hand it seems like it was just yesterday. On the other hand.....well you know. For my {p,h,f,r} post today, here are some pictures from Christmas Eve in no particular order since I am not up for the frustration of loading them into my blog one at a time, or for moving them about the post. 


A hawk came to hang by the pool that day. He waltzed up and down one side, ever watchful, then he flew low to the other side. He looked like he was going to do another fly over, but he was scared away.


Christmas Eve gifts...new warm pajamas for everyone. Too bad it was too warm to wear them!

Bikes for Christmas!! I remember my own "bike Christmas"...a purple, one-speed bike with flowered banana seat and tassels on the very high handle bars. Incidentally, one of my favorites Christmas moments as a parent is this last moment Christmas Eve in front of the tree with the gifts all around, and all the little Baby Jesus statues in place.
Silent night, holy night.


And I bravely include a picture of myself. We are decorating the "upstairs tree".  We do all Christmas decorating on Christmas Eve, though the trees themselves have been up (with lights) since the first Sunday of Advent.


One of the last things to do before bed is move the Holy Family statue (which has been wandering around our backyard all Advent) to the "stable" under the trees.


M. on her cool new bike with a big basket in the back. Now, if we only lived close to a grocery store I could send her for last minute stuff.


A. thinks she is going to climb the tree. Silly girl!


This picture goes up above the one with the kids placing the Holy Family in the "stable". You can't see them but they are moving it into place.


Happiness is our Advent reading tradition...the Jotham's Journey series with our Cradle to the Cross Wreath.

The same picture as above without the flash. You can see our Fontanini nativity scene in the background. 

{funny, real, happy and pretty}
They love to hold the Baby Jesus statue, but it isn't really a good thing if they fight over it right?
Good thing they don't have to fight over the Real Jesus!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 was the year...

  • We let total strangers walk through our house multiple times. (no we are not crazy or unusually social…our house is on the market in the hopes of selling it and moving closer to Jim’s work) 
  • We read aloud as a family…a lot!
  • We dipped our toes in the Liturgy of the Hours, using online resources
  • We sailed in Newport Harbor with Captain Uncle M. (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We met the newest nephew/cousin, W. (March trip to So. Cal) 
  • We played in the waves of Manhattan and Redondo Beaches in March—at least the kids did (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We spent a warm day hanging out with Grandma at a swanky outdoor mall near the famous Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We spent lots of great time at Grandma’s house, including visits from Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. (March trip to So. Cal)
  • Carol and Annabelle had a chance to visit with a relative from Switzerland whose one day at Uncle L. and Aunt D.'s happened to be the day we arrived in California! (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We swam laps and kept track of how many
  • We watched hours and hours of Premier League Soccer
  • We walked the golf course at night
  • We studied the Theory of Constraints
  • We studied Economics at Hillsdale College (via Youtube)
  • We became virtual parishioners at our Lady of Good Counsel in Michigan and fans of Father Riccardo
  • We discovered an Anglican-Use Catholic Parish nearby and started enjoying their liturgy
  • M. had a Jane Austen themed 13th birthday.
  • A. had a Swallows And Amazon’s themed 9th birthday
  • D. had a Geography/Maps themed 11th birthday
  • Carol had a Starbucks themed ## Birthday
  • Jim had a birthday
  • We enjoyed two…count em TWO!… visits from Carol’s God-daughter, our niece/cousin M.! 
  • We visited the No.Cal. contingent of Carol's family (November trip to No.Cal)
  • The kids helped Uncle R. play his electric guitar (November trip to No.Cal)
  • The kids panned for gold in Coloma (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We did a drive-by of our old house in CA. (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We re-visited the spot where we got engaged -see picture (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We visited with an old friend, Father Cavalli, who was the priest that concelebrated our wedding and baptized all of our kids. (November trip to No.Cal) (see update below)
  • We walked along Fisherman’s Wharf, saw the sea-lions, bought a Sourdough baguette and ate it while we walked to Ghirardelli square where we tasted the chocolate. (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We wandered all around Union Square looking for the place we “always” go to lunch, the place that we went to multiple times with Grandma and Grandpa…but it was gone. (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We entered the world of orthodontics when M. got braces
  • We began a weekly Bible study using the Sunday readings...just us and the kids
  • We began listening to lots of Scottish and Irish folk music
Finally, this year, as in years past, we have missed all of our friends and family that are so far away.  You are always in our thoughts and prayers. 
The Kennedy Family

Jim, Carol, M., D., and A.
(updated to add our meeting with Father Cavalli, which was omitted from the original post. Also to add that he passed away on February 5, 2016. We had a feeling it was our final goodbye when we saw him in November, 2015)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

On the Seventh Day of Christmas: A New(ish) Scottish Tradition

A {phfr} POST

On the Fifth Day of Christmas I was in a doctor's office waiting to check out. As I dug a candy cane out of the bottom of the candy dish, the man standing in line ahead of me said "Aren't you sick of those yet?"

Nope! We just got started!

Right now, the Christmas tree is bright and cheery, there is a fire in the hearth, and I just finished a molasses cookie and a cup of coffee with "spiced latte" creamer (the bottle was disturbingly decorated with the face of a wookie). 

The family is gathered around the hearth reading Scottish comic books. 

{funny}...as in funny holiday

Today is the third annual Oor Wullie Day. If you follow the link you will see that it entails reading piles of comic books featuring a Scottish Bart Simpson-like character named Wullie. In our house it is a much anticipated part of our Christmas celebration. This is the only day the kids can read the comics, and that brilliant idea (Jim's, of course) has meant that the same eight or ten comic books remain new and delightfully funny to all the kids. 
(If you were here just now you would have heard a loud giggle from a certain 11 year old boy). 

Though we have celebrated this invented-by-us holiday three times, Christmas 2015 has seen some new additions to the celebration. We have tried in the past to celebrate all twelve days of Christmas, but have been over-whelmed by my limited view of that word "celebrate". 

I mean how many days in a row can you have a fancy dessert?

This year I was inspired to re-think this view by Auntie Leila over at Like Mother, Like Daughter and I shared my new, down to earth, realistic outlook with Jim. 

He came up with an idea that has transformed Christmas this year. 

We have tried in the past to spread some of the gift giving out a bit, to avoid Christmas morning overload. But that usually meant there was Christmas day with an exchange of gifts among the five family members, and then another day mid-week for Grandma's gifts and any friend/cousin gifts that might show up. Then on Epiphany a family gift. Sounds good, right? 

Yet it still left Christmas morning feeling overwhelming and wrongly focused. 
This year we chose to schedule the gift giving by the giver and spread it throughout the twelve days.
So the First Day of Christmas was Mama's and Papa's gift giving day. We gave to each other and to the kids. A pretty typical Christmas morning but with a lot less wrapping paper and much more time to sit and hold the Baby Jesus statue and linger over breakfast...and be ready for Mass on time. 

{pretty}...as in pretty girl

The Second Day of Christmas was the Feast of St. Stephen, the day mentioned in a family favorite Christmas Carol, Good King Wenceslaus, and it was chosen as M.'s giving day. She handed out her gifts to each family member one at a time. And an amazing thing happened. She LOVED her day, while the other two squirmed excitedly, barely able to wait for their day to give gifts.

On the Third Day of Christmas A. gave her gifts which included well thought out, purchased gifts, as well as homemade ones. She wrote and illustrated a story for her Papa and had it bound at OfficeMax. This project took weeks to complete and she was so excited to give it. 
And, of course, it was a hit. 
{happy}...as in happy kids

On the Fourth Day of Christmas we started another new tradition. The Babies, or, as the kids call them, The Kennedy Kids in heaven, had a gift giving day. Under the tree that day was Bishop Barron's Catholicism series on Blueray which we had bought on sale during Advent. Now, when we watch these DVD's we feel as if the whole family is together to learn more about our Faith. 

On the Fifth Day of Christmas D. had his day. He is the quintessential gift-giver, always seeing something that would be the "perfect gift" for someone. All through November and December he was constantly in danger of spending his last cent on gifts. So waiting until the Fifth Day was almost like torture for him. But he picked the day in honor of one of his favorite saints, Thomas Becket, whose feast falls on that day. D. also found time to write a book, get it bound and do some artwork. 

{real}...as in real bad red eye that can't be removed. 

I suppose one of the reasons for the kids' increased interest in giving this year could be that they have had, for the first time, a real allowance. They all had their own money to spend in whatever way they wanted. This also meant they had a lot more say in what was chosen--in years past I had a big influence on what they got for each other, to the point of buying it and telling them what they were giving the day it was wrapped. 

But not this year. And surprisingly, that produced the biggest effort put into homemade gifts to date. I like to think that it wasn't because they wanted to save their money to spend on themselves, but that they knew the value of things, and that a gift from the heart mattered much more than a gift bought just to meet a price  point on their own list. 

For the remaining days of Christmas, we have some activities planned and a few more gifts to open. 

We hope you are all enjoying your Christmas celebration as much as we are!

Check out the other {phfr} posts at Like Mother, Like Daughter. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cap In Hand

In this article about high school sports we are told that kids will learn some crucial skills from participating in sports. They list advantages such as positive mentors, leadership skills, a success mindset, and the importance of the "3 P's"--persistence, patience and practice.

Remember these things as you read the following story...

This morning, on the way home from Church, we saw a string of bouncing teens holding up poorly written signs advertising a car wash to raise funds for a sports team. We assumed it was for football since that is the sports-god around here.

Aside from the signs (with their guilt inducing appeal to community loyalties),  and the fact that a combination of our exorbitant property taxes and the parent's pocketbooks can't seem to finance the sports scene around here, our initial reaction was "at least they are working hard" (and at least the girl's were not wearing bathing suits, as far as we could see).

Then we got to the next major intersection.

Standing on the medians were two men (probably fathers) and on the corner one very sober and uncomfortable looking adolescent. They were all holding signs and cups. The signs said "Please Donate to Our Team" or something like that.

There was no name of the team (I presume I was supposed to know it) and the "our" was most likely meant to include you and I. These sports teams belong to the whole community, right?

The irony of the whole situation hit me.

We are told that our kids should play team sports because they will learn how to work hard, push themselves, work in a team situation, they will gain self respect and responsibility, yada, yada, yada.

Irony. Ten miles closer into Houston you will see people standing on the medians with other sorts of signs, cups in hand. Or brandishing spray bottles on towels while they offer to wash your windows for a buck. Or even the grown ups waving large colorful signs, and dancing to unheard music while they advertise for a nearby business. All of these people struggling to make ends meet.

Yet, here on the corners of our relatively affluent neighborhood they stand, signs and cups in hand, imploring help from passing cars. Apparently, the publicly funded school sports teams need extra money* to buy whatever (uniforms, equipment) and rather than have the kids come up with a plan to WORK for that money, we teach them to stand on a corner and BEG for it.

It is all too easy to imagine the sight of that adolescent, cup in hand, as some sort of foreshadowing.

And what about all the benefits of school sports?

Persistence? Well I suppose. Patience? Yes, definitely. Practice? Practicing what?

Success mindset? Don't think so.

Let's try a few other words. How about ENTITLEMENT, HANDOUTS, MISPLACED PRIORITIES.

I have a sinking feeling that my property taxes are being wasted at the local schools.

Can I ask for a refund?

But seriously. I could (or someone could) write a book on all the implications of this scene, and all the causes that lead to it:

  • Why do after school sports trump after school jobs? 
  • Why can't kid be found to mow lawns, spread mulch, power wash the walls, chop the wood, move the rocks? When and how did these become jobs for adults? 
  • *What do kid's learn from having a $58 million football stadium built for them? 
  • Where do they go from there? To university life, where things are handed to them again. And then to REAL life where it all has to be paid for, whether in the form of student loans or in taxes. 
  • And student loans! Another form of handout, especially since so many can't ever pay them back. 
  • Actually, if we are questioning the value of high school sports, we need to question the value of college sports. Often the high school sports are touted as the way to get the kid into college, but what is end point of college sports? To feed into professional sports? Life time fitness? Money? But if college sports bring so much money into the universities, why do tuitions keep increasing at such astronomical rates? 
  • What about the FAITH we put in institutions to form youth into mature individuals who are self reliant enough to support themselves and generous enough to share with others? 

What about an antidote? I have two ideas as a start. One serious. One MOSTLY serious.

1. Read this book as a family. His story is inspiring. His mother is remarkable.

2. Learn to sing this song and teach it to your children (said with tongue in cheek...sorta):

Cap In Hand by the Proclaimers
Another irony: this song comes out of the birthplace of Adam Smith, author of The Wealth Of Nations, and lyrics describe Scotland's descent into socialism.