Thursday, December 23, 2010

We do that every year, too.

This post is continued from December 7, at which point I promised to finish the post in a day or two. Hah! How naive of me! Well, here we are on Day 7 of the O Antiphons and I am finally getting around to it. Don't be fooled isn't because everything else is done...just take a look at that back bedroom. On second thought, no...don't look. 

Advent Wreath
Jotham's Journey around the Advent Wreath
O Come, O Come Emmanuel procession:

These traditions go together and have been my most favorite. This is partly due to the fact that we are consistent with them. Some of the other activities tend to get skipped as Advent winds down and the days get busier. But our Family Time each night is almost always there. 
At about 6:30 each evening, after the dinner dishes are cleaned and the kids have done their night time chores, we gather in the front room at the round table in front of the fireplace. We light the Advent Wreath and begin with either the Magnificat or the Benedictus (we have been working on memorizing the Magnificat this year and now added The Canticle of Zechariah, sometimes called the Benedictus). 
Then we read the chapter from Jotham's Journey. If you haven't heard of this book, you need to check it out. This is our second year reading it. It is the story of a young shepherd boy who ends up separated from his family due to his own disobedience. Throughout Advent you travel with Jotham as he searches for his father and learns of the coming Messiah. He meets real figures from the story of the birth of Christ as he runs from a seriously bad guy, and meets lots of new friends on the search for his family. I edit some of the danger scenes as I is pretty dramatic. But with older children, you wouldn't need to do that. It has been a story that has touched each of us in a different way. 

After the story and a short discussion of what Jotham is learning and what we can glean from his journey, we pray our abbreviated rosary (even more abbreviated than usual). When that is done, we blow out the candles and each of the kids gets their LED candle and lines up for our procession. As I mentioned in my last post, we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel (adding the other verses during each night of the O Antiphons) as we process to our rooms, stopping at the top of "Tepayac Hill" to ask the Lady of Guadalupe to pray for us. The kids put their candles in their window and climb into bed. Blessings, kisses, ipods on to listen to stories or the rosary, and they are usually asleep by 7:30ish.  


St. Nicholas Feast Day gifts:

On December 6th we celebrated St. Nicholas' Feast Day. The night before the kids put their shoes by the fireplace, and in the morning they have candy and usually a gift. In Aberdeen, their gift was a new set of winter mittens, hat and scarf. Those are not needed as much here in California so we chose to start a Fontanini set, with the intention of adding to it over the years (as I said in the first Advent post). 

This year's loot for the Feast of St Nicholas.

Got this idea from a Faith and Family blog post! I love the fact that one of them is winking...didn't notice it when I bought them. 
The Holy Family is watching over their shoes.

Christmas Eve Pajamas

This is a tradition that I had growing up. We used to get pajamas from Grandma Puccio on Christmas Eve. For many years, we also got crocheted slippers from my Great Aunt Frances, Grandma's sister-in-law (they both married Puccio boys). So, we continue that gift giving tradition. I always loved getting into bed on Christmas Eve with crisp new PJ's on. It occurred to me as I grew that there was also the advantage of looking fresh and cute for Christmas morning pictures -- no holey t-shirts for the all-important pose with gifts. 

Toys and Sibling gifts

We have never really done the Santa thing. It hasn't been a big master plan, nor has it been borne of some deep moral conviction. We don't get into the Santa wars. It simply boils down to the fact that the story never flowed easily from my head and mouth. I just never got around to weaving the tale and pretty soon it seemed silly to even try. So, they get gifts from us on Christmas morning, and they pick out gifts for each other. 
In addition, we have made an effort to simplify our toy situation over the last few years. Moving as often as we have really brings home the amount of stuff we can accumulate! When you think about the toy industry these days, and how toys are something you can buy any day, anywhere, as opposed to the times a generation or two ago, when toys were purchased at toys stores once or twice a year (Christmas and birthday), or a generation before that when toys were made by hand and a child had one or two, maybe. 
Well, we aren't going back to that time (however tempting it is), but we are making a concerted effort to not add toys to the already generous collection upstairs unless it really suits the child and moves them forward in life, so to speak. 
We have also never done wish lists. We get them what we think they should have. Again---this isn't some sort of "high moral ground", it is simply easier. They let us know what they want, if they have an idea, but ultimately we choose anyway. 

All that to say that this year, they get one main thing from us (in addition to the PJ's on Christmas Eve) and a few small things in their stockings. Also, the each get a shopping day to pick out a gift for eachother (and for Mama and Papa). Starting this year, the sibling gifts have themes (none of which are toys). They will each get a book, a religious gift and some clothes (something from the mind, the soul and the body). Each kid got one of the themes to choose within. The nice thing is that they get something they need, but they get the fun of choosing for their siblings, and unwrapping something for themselves. D and I went book shopping for his sisters (and I snuck one from him in there too). M and I went clothes shopping (and I found her a new winter coat on sale). And A and I went to the Catholic bookstore where she picked out Nativity Scene figures for her siblings (and I found a little donkey for her). 

We have also had a family gift on the Feast of the Epiphany (in years past this was when we got the family computer, or Wii). This year, we got a few old fashioned games (including marbles!). 

The Christmas Tree:
Since our first year of marriage we have had the tradition of decorating the tree on Christmas Eve and having pizza for dinner. I think we have managed that for eight Christmas's so far. This will be the ninth. The only difference this year is that Christmas Day is a traveling day for us so the decorating began yesterday and will be finished on Christmas Eve. Pizza from Costco will be served after Christmas Eve Mass. Not exactly elegant, but simple, and expected. We tend to like "the usual". 

The Baby Jesus Dolls:
Each of our Nativity scenes (we have at least four) and one of our Advent Wreaths has a tiny baby Jesus that spends most or all of Advent hidden in a cupboard. We also have a basket under the tree that we are filling with yellow yarn hay to make a soft bed for Jesus. On Christmas morning, or after Christmas Eve Mass (as we will do this year), all the Baby Jesus Dolls are place in their spots. The most popular in past years was the baby doll in the soft crib under the tree. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes (a baby blanket) and placed in the manger (a box). Two years ago they all looked on in awe. Nobody touched the baby...all through the Christmas season. In the end, I packed him up till the next year. 
Last year, the girls couldn't get enough of him. The dressed as Mary and carried him, cuddled him, sang to him. Even D got into it, dressed as Joseph he carried him off to Egypt. When the Christmas Season ended last year, they couldn't part with Baby Jesus. That doll has been in and out of toy boxes all year. He is never dressed. Always tenuously wrapped in swaddling clothes (a blanket). 
This year, I had to hide him around the beginning of Advent and he will reappear after Christmas Eve Mass. 

This is our Kennedy Family Advent and Christmas so far. I am sure we will shift and change and time goes on, and I know we will sometimes fail to keep up with the plans. 
Each year, we try our best to focus our hearts and minds on... 
"The hour and moment 
in which the Son of God was born 
of the most Pure Virgin Mary. 
At Midnight.
In Bethlehem.
In piercing cold."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Round-up of Posts Swirling Around in my Head

The Mass was celebrated at my house last week....over and over again. Granted, it may not be the real thing, but it is certainly sincere. Once there was a bishop presiding, but usually it was just a priest. There was even a real homily!

It all began with a procession, followed by a brief Liturgy of the Word, read by M-the only real reader in the bunch. She propped up my old bible and read from it. This was followed by the Gospel, complete with Alleluia. Then, six year old, D., the designated priest, preached a homily about Jesus giving His mother to the disciple John from the cross. Father D told us that Jesus meant to give all Christians his mother.

That is exactly how he said it.
Here is our bishop. In this picture he is speaking with Juan Diego on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

This was followed by the offertory in which many plastic plates and cups were brought up, including a Nemo plate that was a big hit with the two Church ladies in attendance (that would be M and A). An abbreviated, yet accurate, Eucharist prayer was said and communion distributed to many imaginary parishioners. A solemn Salve Regina was sung after communion and then a final blessing.

The "Mass" ended with another procession complete with Holy God We Praise Thy Name---or something that sounded very much like it.

Imaginary play just doesn't get any better than this!


M. has been sick with some sort of stomach virus. I naively cling to the hope that it stops with her. We'll see.
You know how kids handle sickness differently. Some are sort of sweet and endearing, others, not so much. M is the sweet type. She smiles and sighs as you comfort her. She rests happily in front of a TV, content to watch a video or two. She has her not-so-sweet moments too, but for the most part M draws you in to her, inviting your sympathy and care. 
In a typical M moment yesterday, she paused to sit on the bottom step. Not wanting to go up to her room, not wanting to venture to the couch, content to sit on the step as long as I sat with her. She leaned on me and sighed.
I was not so content, though, and wanted to get her settled on a chair with a bucket next to her, and "get some things done" (isn't this always in the back of a mother's mind? is mine...sigh!). 
So, in an effort to get moving I asked "What do you want, sweetie?"
Not sure I heard right I asked "Prayer?"
"Pray for me" she says. 
So we prayed part of our Christmas Novena, while she lay her head on my lap. 
She was right. That was what she needed. She carefully got up and walked to the couch to settle in and wait for her stomach to settle...or not. 
Well, that was much better than "getting things done". New lesson learned. 


So, I bravely cut my girls' hair last week. Aren't you proud of me? My mother tells the now famous (in our family) story of cutting my older sister's hair when she was no more than five. Margie's grateful response? "You ruined my life!" 
This is the legacy that I must overcome. 
Last week was about the fourth time that I attempted haircuts at home. The other three times I timidly trimmed centimeters off of their length. This time I boldly cut INCHES. You should have seen the hair on the floor. I must say, the cuts turned out cute! Much cheaper than those kids beauty parlors...and I think I did a better job keeping my squirmy ones still! 
Aren't they cute? We like to sing the "Sisters" song from White Christmas...with our own words, of course. "Sisters. Sisters."


A week ago I promised to complete the list of our Advent activities, but instead I have all of the above swirling in my head and begging to be written down. So, I must promise again to complete my Advent activities list. In the meantime, here is a picture of our nightly procession: 

We sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel as we process upstairs to the bedrooms. The LED candles go in their windows and they hop in bed. This particular procession was on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, thus, the flowers.

Our picture of OLG is hung at the top of our stairs, now called Tepeyac Hill. The kids stopped there and left their flowers, and a couple of the candles on a little table. Each night, now, they stop and interrupt their hymn to say "Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!" and then continue to their rooms. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pretty over the Kitchen Sink

Auntie Leila over at Like Mother, Like Daughter is hosting a little party of kitchen sinks made pretty. Most of the ladies seem to have a window sill behind their sink. I was trying to figure out how to make mine pretty without the window, and then I realized that very often the area beyond the sink is adorned by the prettiest things in my three smiling children! I had them pose for me. I also have a Christmasy platter, covered in bananas, and my almost brand new red rooster paper towel holder. And then, of course there are the various soap containers, which I really should consolidate into one pretty dispenser (New Year's resolution? Christmas present for myself?) and the brushes. The little cup holding various kid's items is the last one left of a four cup set we bought in the UK. The kids used to drink hot chocolate from them on Sunday mornings after Mass. Now they use Starbucks espresso cups (yes, they really do put up with such small portions of hot cocoa!).

Thanks Auntie Leila for all your great advice and interesting discussions!

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, join in over at SouleMama.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baby Longing

D. at a few weeks old. 

I have had it for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories is waking up from a nap in the guest room/play room that would later be the room I shared with my sister. I was groggy as I noticed something lumpy under my clothes. It was my baby doll, and I remembered that I had put it under my shirt to pretend I was pregnant.

Though I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, preferring sports and bike riding to barbie dolls, I was always open to a good old fashioned game of house with baby dolls.

I always wanted kids. I always wanted ten of them. Very early on, I idolized a family in our parish with lots of kids (some of whom were adopted) more than any other family I knew.

But, as I grew into a woman and began looking around for husband material...I didn't see much. My twenties turned into my thirties and at last, Jim came into my life. We married when I was 36 and my first was born when I was 37. I have always been a "high risk mother", a "mother of advanced age". So, I had to set aside the dream of ten children years ago.

That was fine. I can deal with that. I am very, very blessed with three children in exactly four years of older motherhood. Each birth was followed by the hope of "just one more".

But now, as my youngest is almost five, I look fearfully on the possible end of my fertility. This blessing, that so much of the world treats as a disease, will disappear. And I am not ready for that. The baby longing comes stronger as the months and years advance. And it brings with it pain and fear.

Pain at the thought of not having another. Of never feeling that life move inside of me again. At recognizing that others so close to me have that same pain, and not as many living blessings I have.

The fear, though, is a mixed bag. As a "mother of advance age" every medical professional, women's magazine, or news show feels it their God-given duty to warn you about the dangerous possibilities. The statistics are everywhere. Even though I doubt their validity most of the time (what with abortion and contraception how can you really get an accurate picture of the possibilities?), they stir up the fear. Can I handle it if....?

But there is also the fear of getting older and all that entails--physically, mentally, spiritually. I know women do grow to embrace their post-menopausal lives...I am just not ready to even think of that right now! I still look in the mirror and see a twenty-something in a slightly-older-than-twenty-something body. And sometimes I even feel like a fourteen year old--especially in social situations or when my faults are glaring me in the face.

So.....just like those years before Jim and I found each other, I am forced to pray hard, and try harder to let go at the same time. To hold on tight to hope, but not dream too much. Hold on, let go, hold on, let go. The ultimate Catholic "both/and".

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We do that every Advent!

Our Advent this year is beginning to feel "traditional". We are beginning to say "we always do this during advent" a good way! We also have added some things and fine tuned others. Nothing is set in stone, but we have a good rhythm going.

For the record, as a part of the collective memory, and so that next year, when the kids say "Don't you remember Mama? We do that every year!", I will have a place to go so I can is the list as it stands this Advent. It will probably take me two blog posts to get it all down. 

The Christmas Novena: This is a new addition. We began on St. Andrew's Feast Day and are still going strong. God willing, we will make it all the way till Christmas. Too bad we didn't know about this when we lived in Scotland as St. Andrew is the Patron of Scotland.

We made the chaplets and I found the little holy cards with the prayer on the back. We pray the novena each morning during circle time.

 Play nativity scenes: We started this about two years ago when I bought the Little People Nativity Set. Since then we added a small wooden scene as well. This year, the kids got the beginnings of a Fontanini Nativity scene (the Holy Family and an Angel). My plan is to add to it each year in their stockings or for a sibling gift (see tomorrow's post about this) and mark their pieces with a pen on the bottom. Then, somewhere along the line, they will each get the core set (Holy Family and Angel) and will be able to take their pieces with them when they grow up, which, by the way, is never going to happen, right? Humor me, please!

Working with our new Fontanini nativity scene.
 Our Advent Tree with Jesse Tree ornaments: We started the Advent Tree tradition back before M. was born. We got our tree on the first Sunday of Advent and decorated it sparsly in purple, with some homemade ornaments made from old Christmas Cards. Then, on Christmas Eve we took all those down and redecorated for Christmas, leaving the tree up until the end of Christmas (or however long the real tree would last). The year before we moved to England, we perfected this process by buying a second tree on the day before Christmas Eve (or it may have been December 24). Since it was the end of the season we got it for 1 cent!! Well worth it, since the second tree was much more fresh than the one that had been in our house for four weeks.

Putting together the tree with my helpers on the First Sunday of Advent, 2010.

Then, the following year, in London, we gave in and bought a fake tree (a move that shocked my family for reasons I will share in another post, another day)---falling needles and dry tree problem solved. We can now leave it up as long as we want.
So now, it is our Jesse Tree as well. We color ornaments along with the Holy Heroes Kids.

The finished tree with the third set of lights purchased over two days and the first few Jesse Tree ornaments. Notice the purple cloth on the bottom. Since then we have added purple beads and more Jesse tree symbols. 

Holy Heroes Advent Adventure: This will be our third year doing Advent with the Holy Heroes kids. In case you are wondering, Tray is our favorite (apparently the only boy in the family, which, of course, endears him to D. immediately). When he is seen the kids erupt in cheers. Seriously. They do. I have to replay the little video so they can hear what is said! We don't do everything they do, mostly the Jesse Tree and the coloring pages. In years past we have done more of the recommended activities. Sometimes it is enough to just learn about them, and the significance of each activity. We love this FREE resource, and the products on their website as well!

Our books wrapped in purple next to our Fontanini Advent Calendar, a gift from a cousin many Christmas's ago. The print above is there year round, not just for Christmas. 

Christmas books: I think I got this idea from Shower of Roses. While in the UK I purschased quite a few Christmas themed books and we read them throughout Advent and Christmas. This year we started the tradition of wrapping them in purple paper and opening one each day. They have been put away since last Christmas so they feel like new books. We open one every week day and read it. Then it goes into our Christmas book bag to be read during free time.

For the rest of the Kennedy Family Advent Traditions tune in tomorrow....or the next day....or sometime soon. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

American Exceptionalism

Danielle Bean has an article on the Washington Post website about American Exceptionalism. Here is my comment added to the discussion:

America's exceptionalism is not about Americans being exceptional people, and it is not really about the blessings of wealth and abundance (though they are in many ways a result of what makes us exceptional). 
We are exceptional in the history of the world because of our constitution--which results in unprecedented personal freedoms; a president who relinquishes his office after four or eight years, without exception; an economy that allows for people (not all, but those who work hard, persevere and use their abilities well) to enter it at the bottom and rise to the top; a country who sends it's military to other countries and when it leaves ask only for the land necessary to bury its dead. 
When we speak of American Exceptionalism we are not bragging, or denigrating others....we are saying that this country, as it was founded, is a place where any person from any country can come and be free and succeed. 
Insofar as our constitution continues to be followed, we will continue to be exceptional. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Of Birthdays and Tennis and the Matterhorn...

Last week was my Dad's birthday. I wanted to blog about it, but I couldn't think of anything profound to say. I suppose I could have posted a picture of him....{this moment} style...but I don't have as many pictures of him on my computer as I would like. So....I did nothing.

Nothing but think about him. And birthdays. And what I would be doing if.

I finally decided to get "off my duff" and, in the spirit of this blog, which is largely about documenting life for future generations, post a couple of Dad stories.

Story Number One: A Birthday Memory

In our younger days we were a tennis family. I think I learned to play in junior high. Maybe Mom and Dad started playing about then too. Then I played in high school. Mom still plays with her friends. And we played as a family.

In my late high school/early college years I began the habit of giving my Dad a coupon for his birthday: "Good for one game of tennis and lunch" or something like that.

The running joke between us was that he supposedly had coupons that he had never cashed doubt due to my busy schedule and the difficulty of pinning me down to plan such a day. I would challenge him to produce the paperwork, and he would say he would...tomorrow. Or that I neglected to give him the proper paperwork. Or whatever might get us laughing about it.

Dad with kids (minus littlest brother not yet born) at Mammoth Lakes, California.
Guess which one is me. 


Story Number Two: Funny Family Fable Retold Every Holiday

This is not a birthday memory, but one that has come up because of some recent commercials for Disneyland. We grew up in Southern California, near enough to Disneyland to make a day trip. In fact, it was not entirely unusual for us to be driving (to visit family or other sorts of outings) and be in Anaheim, close enough to see the Matterhorn from the road. But, we were not a "yearly trip to Disneyland" sort of family. Mom and Dad felt that would ruin the magic. Going too often made it routine.

To us kids this felt like "we never go to Disneyland", which was not true, exactly.

This all sets the scene for that fateful Saturday that we were driving the family Ford station wagon (the one with the fake wood paneling) through Anaheim, ostensibly to get a part for the car at some obscure car part place. There we were, right next to Disneyland, peering out the windows at the top of the Matterhorn ride, stuck in a traffic jam with all those lucky people who were really going to Disneyland that day.

Dad was lamenting the traffic, wondering aloud how he would get to the other side of Disneyland to the car part store that was supposedly there. Then, whether by force of the traffic jam, or by the mistaken belief that he could get through the parking lot, he turned right into the driveway and headed for the kiosk where you pay for parking.

All the time he is complaining that he is going to have to PAY to get to the other side to get that part for the car. And we kids are in the back staring glumly out the window, wondering at the luck of all these people who actually get to GO TO DISNEYLAND rather than just drive through the parking lot.

It never ONCE occurred to us that WE might actually be going. So ingrained in our brains was the "we don't do that" mantra.

Even when Dad parked the car, we didn't dare to hope. It wasn't until he ordered us out of the car that we began to think we might... we just might....get to go to Disneyland this time. Could it be?

I don't think we truly believed until we were at the ticket booth!

We didn't jump up and down and scream like the kids in the commercial, not our style, but I am sure we had ear to ear grins!

Friday, November 19, 2010

[this moment]

{this moment} - A Friday ritual.  Photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bedtime Vocabulary Drills

I let A go to bed with headphones and an ipod playing one of her favorites: Barnyard Tales from Apple Tree Farm (we got it in the UK--imagine cute farm stories told with a British accent).

An hour after the kids were tucked in we hear someone on the monitor.

4 year old her: (whining and crying from upstairs)

[I make my way to her room]

Me: What do you want sweetie?

4 year old her: Why did pig get stuck?

Me: Ummm...I don't know.

4 year old her: Do clouds make rain?

Me: Ummm...yes. Now go to sleep. I love you.

4 year old her: Why are your hands cold?

Me: Well, uh, it might be because I am eating an ice cream...which is now sitting on the table by the couch...melting!!

Okay, I didn't say that, but I thought it. Whatever I said, it got me out of there a few minutes later.

Then...10 minutes after that:

4 year old her: (whining and crying from upstairs)

Me: What's up sweetie?

4 year old her: What does clever mean?

Me: It means very smart. Should we take these headphones off? It's time to go to sleep.

After some clever negotiations, another quick science lesson, and a plan to get pig un-stuck, I am back downstairs, hopeful that my little dictionary-to-be will be asleep soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quivering with Excitement...

So...remember those holey jeans? Well, I got creative. I SEWED! Yes! As in needle and thread. No machine here...I am too afraid to make that investment (what if it just sits there on the table sneering at me while I don't ever use it!). machines here. Just a jumble of needles and threads and patches and scraps which I try to organize in plastic containers that never seem to work just right. So, you can see why a sewing project is a BIG DEAL for me.

I have to admit though...I had inspiration from another blogger. Michelle has made the coolest things from army uniforms and when I blogged about the jeans before I was thinking of her. And then she went and commented on that blog post!! I was really flattered that she even looked at my little blog!!

(Note to Michelle....took your advice and bought some Toughskin jeans and joined Sears Kidvantage as insurance against holes in the knees.)

Ready for the reveal? Here is what I sewed with my own little hands:

No...not him. That cute kid is the inspiration for the sewing. See the crossbow on his shoulder and those arrows peeking out from behind him? How is he holding those arrows? 

Voila! That's how!! His clever mom turned his old jeans into a quiver!

How clever is that? Hold on...don't say anything. Let's wait and see how long the thing lasts! It could be falling apart as we speak. Maybe I could get partial credit?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I can't NOT talk about it....

Okay, so I know the picture in the previous post is supposed to be without words...but I have to tell you about that place! It was a little monastery tucked among the hills in the-middle-of-no-where Scotland. 

Well....I guess it wasn't "no-where", it was somewhere between Inverness (home of Loch Ness) 

and Aberdeen. We got lost multiple times getting there. The country roads were obviously for the local folk as they had NO SIGNS!! Fortunately the scenery was gorgeous. 

When we finally arrived, Mass had just ended and church was quiet. Some of the monks were in adoration...we could see them through a little window. 

The grounds were beautiful and un-manicured. There was a an old cemetery (which is where the {this moment} picture was taken),

an occasional old wooden bench, and farmland around the edges. 

When I look back on the pictures of our adventure in Great Britain it seems like ages's ago! When it was time to go home we were soooo ready! We wanted all the comforts of home, the "luxuries" and conveniences of American life. And we have really appreciated those comforts and luxuries. 
But....I miss it. The adventure. The feeling of being on vacation....for four years! 

God is good! He has blessed us so abundantly...really, I am embarrassed by His blessings. 
We know we don't deserve His blessings, though. 
All Glory To God!
All Honor is His!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not following directions...again!

I am notorious for not following, games, putting together cheap furniture. I always think I can figure it out.

Well....I just now realized that {this moment} is meant to be something from THIS WEEK! My only two entries have been anything but THIS WEEK!!

The first was 6 years old!!! And today's is a few months old (see tomorrow's post for the story behind that one).

So...I hereby promise to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS next Friday!

(don't I spend every day telling my kids this??? Sheesh!)

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. For more moments go to SouleMama.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What time is it....really?

Do you find yourself asking "What is the real time?" a lot today? What is the real time, anyway?

Daylight Savings Time is a funny thing. Two times a year it turns people like me, who believe in absolute truth, into relativists with respect to time. The clock says 8:30 but it is "really" 9:30.

Depending on how quickly the kids adjust to the time change...which of course directly affects my ability to deal with reality...this relativism can go on for days. It FEELS like 9:30, but it isn' it?


And that reminds me of another "funny thing" (otherwise known as a pet peeve): when people say "I feel..." when they are about to tell you what they think.

Can we no longer distinguish between opinions, facts and feelings?

"I feel that the government should provide health care for people who can't afford it."

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Are you saying that you feel like this now, but it might change (as feelings often do)? Or are you saying that, since you FEEL this way, I can't argue with you....after all, it is your FEELING!

Or, are you unwilling to THINK about what you feel. I suspect this is the problem.

A perfect example appeared on our California ballot last week. We voted on whether of not a "bi-partisan citizen committee" should decide about redistricting, or should it be "legislators".

Lets THINK about this....
"Bi-partisan" always sounds good. It means people are "getting along", "compromising"....words that we are conditioned to like.
And "citizen"....well those are folks just like us, right?
But "legislators" are politicians, out for themselves alone, just wanting to get re-elected, right?

If we are "feeling" about this, then "bi-partisan citizen committee" feels really good. I feel that regular folks should decide these things, afterall, we can be above all the politics.

But lets THINK about it instead.
Who chooses these non-elected citizens? How do we know they are a bi-partisan group? Didn't we elect those legislators to do these things? Didn't we get our chance to voice our opinion about who gets be a legislator?

Unfortunately, the brilliant California electorate voted for the "bi-partisan citizen committee".

Perhaps I should have been writing about this last week.....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"60 Seconds of Fear"

Back in 2003 I wrote this short article about the Catholic teaching on death. As we remember those who have gone before us in the month of November, I thought it was a good time to resurrect it. 

“60 seconds of fear”

When I saw the headline declaring that the Columbia crew may have had as much as one minute knowing what would happen before their ship exploded, my Catholic mind sighed with relief. But this was not the response of the writer of the article, or of the world. Why is this? Is it because I am some sort of masochistic fanatic who wants others to suffer? Or is it because the world has little idea of the importance of those last sixty seconds before death.

Happy Death

Catholics have a habit of praying for a happy death. For a long time, growing up, I thought this meant a painless death, one with little suffering. But this is far from the truth. The truth is closer to what a good friend used to say: the best way to die would be on a plane you knew was going down sitting next to a priest. In the Catholic mind, a happy death is one in which we have the opportunity to meet death with a willing heart, and a recently cleaned soul.

Suffering is Good

It is common for the loved ones of those who have died to console one another with the fact that the deceased “didn’t suffer”, “went quickly” or “died in their sleep”. And in many ways these phrases can be comforting. No one wishes that a loved one will suffer. However, imagine that loved one has things in his life that he regrets but has never asked for forgiveness. Or perhaps he has behaviors and habits that turn him from God and he has stubbornly held onto them.

Let’s face it, none of us is without sin, and all of us have neglected our relationship with God in some way or another. It is only in this life that we can freely turn to God and ask for healing and forgiveness. Once we have died, our fate is sealed.
We all know that we will one day die, but seldom do we have a chance to know ahead of time when that will be. Most of us imagine, or at least hope, that we will die at a ripe old age, after those final years of contented retirement during which we spent a lot of time in contemplative prayer.

Necessary Things

However, our death could come today, tomorrow, in ten years, 30 years…or in 60 seconds. Think of the great gift of one small minute when an untimely death comes upon us. In that sixty seconds I can quickly bring to mind the ways in which I have offended God, and ask him for forgiveness. I can recite the Act of Contrition—a perfect formula for getting right with God. I can even offer my suffering, both mental and physical, in reparation for my sins or for a loved one whom I will leave behind.

Sixty seconds could be enough to get me a free pass straight to heaven, without a moment’s lingering in purgatory. Not only should we thank God when others have had those final moments, but we should pray that we, too, have the gift of time to face death willingly, and with true contrition for our sins. And perhaps a little final suffering would come in handy…but only if necessary.

Dear St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death, pray for us

Friday, November 5, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. For more moments go to SouleMama.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Church and Politics

From 1999 to 2001 I was the Director of Religious Education at the Spiritus Sanctus Academies in Ann Arbor Michigan. At that time the schools had a weekly letter called the Monday Mailer that went home to each family. I wrote a short essay/article each week for that letter. Here is an excerpt of one of those articles.

The Church and Politics

The Church should concern herself with religious issues and leave political issues up to regular people and their governments. Don’t you think so? Many people do think so! However, a close inspection of the two, the Church and politics, will reveal the real truth.

First of all, politics concerns human beings and their relationships with each other. Politicians make many claims about what is good for men and society. When we vote for an elected official, we are saying that we agree with his assessment of what is best for the people of our city, state, or country.

The Church is an expert in humanity. She guards and teaches what the Creator has revealed about man and his destiny. We learn from the Church that man is created in the image and likeness of God and thus has a dignity that does not depend on his function or place in society, his accomplishments, or even the goodness of his deeds. By virtue of his creation he deserves respect, from the moment of conception until the point of natural death. This truth is at the core the Church’s social teaching and every political conclusion that a Catholic comes to should reflect this core.

We also learn that, by God’s design, each man has a free will and each man is intimately connected with all other men. This means that we are responsible for our own actions and can be held accountable by society for those actions. It also means that we have a responsibility towards our fellow man, as individuals. It is not merely the role of government to care for the poor or the disabled; it is ours, as individuals.

From these facts we can know two very important things about tomorrow. Given the treasure the Church guards and teaches, the Revelation of the One True God, we must consult her on all things concerning what is good for men and society. Those teachings will guide us in making the best choices in each area. And, given that all men are intimately connected with each other, we cannot neglect our chance to participate in this political process.

Practically speaking, we should all vote tomorrow and we should all consider what the Church teaches about the dignity of the human person when we choose a candidate. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Souls of the Faithful Departed

From 1999 to 2001 I was the Director of Religious Education at the Spiritus Sanctus Academies in Ann Arbor Michigan. At that time the schools had a weekly letter called the Monday Mailer that went home to each family. I wrote a short essay/article each week for that letter. Here is an excerpt of one of those articles.
(note: this was originally published on October 18)

The Souls of the Faithful Departed

As we approach the Feast of All Saints (November 1) we need to remind ourselves of the ways in which God’s Family works. All members of God’s Family, on earth, in heaven’s doorway (purgatory), and in heaven itself, relate to each other in very real ways. Our older brother’s and sisters who have died in God’s friendship, and been purified, rest at the feet of our Savior in constant worship. But their worship does not distract them from caring for their younger siblings. Being perfectly united to Our Savior they can’t help but care for us. Just as any good sibling, they constantly intercede on our behalf.

And we, in our turn, look to them for help, guidance, example, and prayers. We honor them for the virtues they possessed on earth and the way in which they have shown us the path to God. This honor cannot take anything away from Our Savior since He is also Our Creator. When we honor the sanctified of His Family, we honor Him. Today we honor our brother St. Luke: the evangelist, the physician, the friend and companion of St. Paul. We ask him to pray that we speak of Jesus with great courage and skill, as he did. We ask him to pray that we find Godly companions on our earthly journey, just as he had in St. Paul.

When family members pass through the doorway into the next life, they count on us for prayers as they undergo any remaining purification. In order to help us remember those siblings, Holy Mother Church has designated a day to pray for the family members who are suffering in purgatory. This day is called All Souls Day (November 2). But, just like any good mother, She doesn’t leave it at that. She asks us to add a simple prayer into our regular daily routine, perhaps at the end of a meal, or in addition to our grace before meals. No matter where we put the prayer, when we say it we are demonstrating our love for our siblings in Christ, just as any good family member does often.

May the divine assistance remain always with us and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Go Giants!!

They won!!! 
And now Patty's team is headed to California!!....wouldn't it be great if Patty was coming too--do you think the Texas Rangers would take her and her cute kids with them???

What fun for the kids to come back to the U.S. and have our local team winning the playoffs! This is their introduction to baseball since they had very little exposure living in the U.K.----most exposure came through Wii. 
D has been wearing his San Francisco Giants hat around town and people always comment on it and ask about his favorite player or if he watched the game. So far, no favorite player, and "watching the game" is more of an idea than a reality. But it is fun non the less. And we have been seeing some imaginary baseball games in the backyard...though M claims her favorite game is cricket (don't worry, we are working on her!). 

As for the adults of the Kennedy family...well, I have to confess I probably wouldn't be paying attention at all if they weren't in the playoffs. As much as I love the game of baseball, I have never been really big on actually watching on any regular basis. 

But this is fun! And what fun to be watching the World Series along with my new blog friend Patty!!


A ladies man from way back...

6 year old boy: Papa, I can't believe how much you kiss Mama.
Papa: You think I kiss Mama a lot, huh?
boy: Yes, especially at Mass...(pause)...You know, when we shake hands.
Papa: Oh...well kissing at that time is special for Mama's and Papa's
boy: When I am big and I marry a woman I am going to kiss her a lot.
Papa: Well, that's good.
boy: Yah, I am going to kiss her in the morning, at night, AND at Mass.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Holy Jeans, Batman!

What would you do?

I am a failure at patching jeans. Sitting on my laundry room counter are no less than 9 pairs of jeans that have holes big enough that I can't stand letting my kids wear them in public...not to mention the one pair that is mine!! Every patching attempt broke through within two weeks. I thought I might just give them away, but most charities ask for clothes WITHOUT holes. I have no sewing machine, and even if I did I am not sure I would know how to sew them up....wouldn't it just get all puckered? Sewing a patch on by hand seems....well....just too hard! 

What would you do? Make a quilt out of the material? Turn them into clever, crafty...ummm...pot holders? Purses?

I hate to just trash them!

And while I am whining, what happened to Toughskin Jeans---maybe Sears still sells them, I haven't looked, but thats beside the point!!
What happened to jeans that cowboys wear to protect them against brambles, thorns, cows horns, etc? These couldn't even stand up to a little carpet burn!!

Note to reader: Yes, I realize that I am using waayyyy too many exclamation points. My high school English teacher----Mr Korte----would have marked up this blog post with red ink, I am afraid. But I needed those little dashes and dots to help you see my desperate situation. 
Batman! Where are you???

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Today we had our first field trip with the local homeschooling group--Cornerstone Homeschool Connection. We went to Dell'Osso Family Farms to see tons of pumpkins and do fun farm stuff. And all that with some great new friends! (not pictured--except in the background--since I don't feel comfortable showing pictures of other people's kids on my blog without permission).

Say "Go-Cart!"

Queen of the hill

Go speed racer, go-oh

"Hey, where'd they all go?"


And they're off!

Now, THAT was fun!

How corny!

This was one bumpy tractor ride!

Okay guys..don't look so enthusiastic!

This pony was called Mrs. Pony
(the other horses were given much more creative names)

This horse was named Spirit.

Pick a pumpkin? Really?!!

26 pounds of pumpkin!

Farmer D can handle the wheel barrow all by himself. 
This girl loves her cars and her horses!
Three happy Kennedy Kids......priceless.