Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A New, Unexpected Advent Tradition

*The excuse for my long absence is one word: LIFE. You know what I mean, so you'll forgive me, I am sure. But this morning I am inspired. 

Slipping a basket over her arm, Priscilla made her way to Bethlehem's market. It was crowded with travelers in town for the census, soldiers and merchants. Sorting through a bin of onions, she noticed a young woman next to her examining the quality of some lentils.  
"I see you are to be a mother too", observed Priscilla. The young woman--more of a girl, really--saw the sash of Priscilla's garment tied high; recognition crossed her face. "It is my first", she said shyly. Her accent was a northern one.

We have been collecting Fontanini nativity scene pieces for a few years now and only this year did we discover the package inserts. Each figure comes with a story. Even todays figure, named simply OX. 

The human figures all have names as well as stories. Some encounter Jesus in the stable, some encounter Mary in the market square (like Priscilla's story above), some encounter the Angels in the fields. 

This year we planned to open each piece one at a time, leaving Mary and Joseph till the last week of Advent. But we didn't expect to add to our traditions the thoroughly enjoyable reading of their stories. Sadly we are done with the all the non-Holy Family statues (except the three kings), but we will definitely do this again next year. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What We're Reading Wednesday (late afternoon/evening)!

I am joining the folks over at www.housewifespice.com for a late What We're Reading Wednesday link up. 

What we're reading aloud these days:

A month or so ago we started reading aloud from The Story of Trapp Family Singers as part of our evening routine. We chose the book as much for Jim and I as for the kids. I had read the book years ago, on the eve of my move to Steubenville to study theology. So reading it again, as a wife and mother, was interesting. The kids have enjoyed it mostly, and though it isn't written for children there have been many funny scenes and life lessons for them. 

If your only connection with the Trapp family is through the movie The Sound of Music, you will be surprised and enchanted. Though the details were enhanced for the sake of excitement in the movie, in real life the decision and the consequences of escaping the Nazi occupation of Austria were, I think, even more moving. 

But that is just the beginning of the book. You will learn all about their life in America as well. I have done very little on-the-fly editing as I have read aloud, but I am approaching the most moving chapter of the book (which includes a death scene) and I am doing more editing at this point. You'll have to judge you audience….or just read it for your own pleasure!

For our lunch-time, tea-time, any-time reading we have returned to one of our favorite families, the Moffats! The Moffat Museum is our last Moffat book (though some of them were read to one kid, rather than all three so we may revisit one or two others!)

Janey Moffat (my alter-ego) has had a brilliant idea. It all starts with the old bike, called Bikey, which they all learned to ride on and which sits against the old barn behind a bush because no one can bear to part with it. Bikey becomes the first artifact in the soon-to-be-famous Moffat Museum. 

The Moffats life is a peek into a different era of childhood, in which kids have lots of free time and interact, on their own, with the adult world of shop owners and elderly neighbors. 

On My Kindle: 

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

I decided to check this out for future reference since I read about it on some homeschooling blogs. It seems that it was being read by kids older than mine so I didn't attempt to read it to them. I am glad I chose that route. 

A recent experience with a book from audible (The Candymakers) caused me to be more cautious. We started listening to the book and were all enjoying it when I started to get some hints that the characters in the book had had some traumatic experiences which were going to become part of the storyline soon. A little online research confirmed my suspicions. Though it didn't seem like it was going to be written in a horribly dramatic or scary way, I just didn't think we needed ideas that my worry some of the more sensitive Kennedy kids, or their Mama. 

Well, The Mysterious Benedict Society has a similar storyline. The main characters are orphans, one was abandoned, another ran away from neglectful parents (apparently, but both of those story lines may change) and they are all subject to bullying and mean kids. 

While I am enjoying the kids as spies narrative along with the way the love of truth and the virtues of honesty, kindness, and hard work are valued, I am not sure the kids are ready for it. 

Frankly, I am not sure when a kid is ready to hear about people being mean or cruel to children. We have set aside a number of highly touted among the homeschool crowd (who I tend to trust on these sorts of things for the most part) books due to a storyline of adults or other children being cruel. 

Which explains why we love the Moffats so much! (and the Fairchild Family, and Betsy Tacy and Tib, and the Little House Books…)

In my study bag…

I have a bag of non-fiction books that I am reading and hoping to eventually write reviews about. I won't share them yet except to say that one is about the human body, one is about the Theology of the Body, and one is about the Body of Christ. 

Now, lets hope I actually get around to finishing them and writing about them soon!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Franciscan Saints Edition

 ~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~  

Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

A decided to be St. Agnes of Assisi, St. Clare's sister. I don't recall ever hearing about her, but the girls had listened to the Glory Stories version of St. Clare and remembered her sister's name. When she said she wanted to be St. Agnes I thought she meant the early Church martyr. When we finally figured out what they were talking about, I thought it was so sweet that they wanted to be Sister Sister Sisters! 


What could be happier than Sister (St. Agnes and St. Clare) Sister (M and A) Sisters?


So, when his sisters decided to be St. Clare and St. Agnes D just HAD to be St. Francis!

 {more funny}

The funny picture above reminded me of the serious picture below, thus making it more funny, if that makes any sense.  

"A Levitation of St. Francis" circa 1640

{really carving pumpkins}

 {real conversations between 
St. Francis and the Poor Clares} 

For an explanation of our thinking toward Halloween and trick or treating go read Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda. We're pretty much exactly where they are! While you're there check out her fun treasure hunt.

Click below and check out some more contentment. 

round button chicken

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Feasting on the Vigil of St. Crispin

Last week, D worked very hard to plan and prepare for his first annual (we hope!) St. Crispin's Day vigil feast. He planned the menu, set the table, prepared the dessert, helped with his costume and, most important of all, practiced his speech. The day was lots of fun for the whole family and you can share in some of it in the video below.

The plan was to post this on Friday but that morning D woke up sick. Only today is he back to his cheerful, hungry self and we had the time to edit the video and post it.

So, here it is, a couple of days late:

For the sake of comparison, here is the full speech by Kenneth Branaugh in his movie version of Henry V. It is D's goal to perform this whole speech next year, making improvements on what he already knows. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Memories of Blessed Pope John Paul II

Way back in 2002 I wrote about Pope John Paul II and his very public aging and suffering. This week as I am reading a great book on the Theology of Body (These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson---review to come soon!) I recalled my thoughts from eleven years ago. I had to dig them up off the old computer and edit a little to take care to take care of some time references, but I left the present tense (I was writing when Blessed John Paul II was alive). 

I share these thoughts with you today on his feast day. 

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us. 
Jim and I meeting (and being blessed by!) Blessed Pope John Paul II. 


Pick Up Your Cross….

This past week, as we saw the Holy Father on TV, I was reminded of conversation Jim and I had in Rome. In 2001 we were on pilgrimage in Rome. As we walked through numerous churches and art galleries, not to mention gift shops, Jim pointed out that in most crucifixes Christ’s head hangs down toward his right shoulder. It was never something I noticed before, so I began to look. Sure enough, in every crucifix I saw, Jesus’ head leaned to the right. This was the case in new and old crucifixes as well as other depictions of the crucifixion. I am not sure why artists down through the centuries have done this, but it seems to be consistent.

Now, as I watched Pope John Paul II on TV I began to reflect on his appearance. Most of the world has noticed that he is looking very frail and hunched over, that he walks with difficulty, that he talks with difficulty and in fact has to wipe drool from his mouth as he speaks, and that even his face muscles seem to strain. He is willingly suffering with the dignity of a true child of God. And even in his suffering his schedule doesn’t let up and his mind is always completely present at every event. He is focused on his role as the Vicar of Christ whether it is a typical Wednesday audience or a beatification Mass.

We noticed all of these things that year as we sat in St. Peter’s Square or St. Peter’s Basilica watching him and listening to his words. We also noticed that he leans his head to one side…his right side.

The Pope and The Cross

As Catholics we know that a priest stands “in the person of Christ”, a fact so real that when he says “This is my body…” it is Christ who speaks through the priest. We also know that the successors of St. Peter represent Christ and His authority in the world. This is why we call the pope the Vicar of Christ. We further know that it is the job of every Christian to imitate Christ, in fact to become so closely connected to Him that he is Christ to the world.

The world of the third millenium has been given a special gift, because we have a man who not only stands “in the person of Christ” (since he is a priest), as the Vicar of Christ (since he is pope), and in daily, hourly imitation of Christ (since he is seeking holiness as all Christians should), but he has become for us a living icon of Christ being crucified on the cross.  This is not to say that the Holy Father is near death, at least no more than any one of us who know not the day or hour, but that he is embracing the suffering of age and infirmity for us, just as Christ embraced the Cross for us.

Don’t Dismiss An Old Man

When we look at this elderly man and see how he so openly loves the aged, the disabled, the young, the family, the single, the infant, it is natural for sentimental feelings to be stirred. We think that he is such a precious old man, like a sweet, affectionate grandfather. Yet, he is still the man who defied Hitler in his youth, who hiked in the wilderness with young people – teaching them about Christ, who has mastered many languages and achieved many degrees, who has written countless letters and encyclicals as well as several books, who brought down the Berlin Wall, and who leads the Catholics of the world to know, love and serve God each day. He keeps up with a rigorous schedule that would exhaust most of us. And he speaks and writes every day out of the wisdom of his years, and with the help of the Holy Spirit in an effort to lead the world to Christ.

Perhaps the world’s tendency to dismiss him with sentimental affection is related to our inability to appreciate the wisdom and experience of our own elderly friends and relatives. Our culture certainly does not honor age as cultures of the past have. 

As Catholics especially, we cannot fall into that trap. We cannot dismiss this Holy Father as practically dead or in the nursing home. We must look at him and see Christ, dying on the Cross, and know it is for us that he suffers, and know that in that suffering truth is triumphing over lies, good is winning the fight against evil, and God is ultimately victorious through His servants here on earth.

To dismiss this particular elderly Polish gentleman is a mistake indeed. He may look frail, and he certainly is suffering, yet he continues to teach the world, in every way possible about Christ, His Church, His plan for mankind, and our role in that plan. In fact, he writes and speaks so much, it seems as if he has no concern for whether or not he is being heard. But do not be mistaken. The Holy Father is surely writing for you and I in the hopes that we will read his words, however, he is also writing for our children, and our children’s children. It may take centuries to unpack the teachings of this papacy of 23 plus years, but his words will not, cannot fall on deaf ears.   

In Imitation of Christ

We must also look at this Christ-figure in our midst and learn to embrace our own suffering and pain. After all, we are all called to pick up our own crosses and follow Christ down the well-worn path toward the glories of heaven. Pope John Paul II suffers in a very ordinary way, especially for an 81 year old man. But his suffering is ennobled and elevated by being united to Christ on the cross. In this way, his suffering becomes a powerful force in the transformation of the world of the third millenium. Our suffering can have this same power when we unite it to Christ.

Seeing Christ in the Holy Father should move us to examine our own life. How do we imitate Christ? Do we love Christ enough to work tirelessly in the service of His Church? For some of us this could mean actual service in a parish, but for must of us, being in service of Christ’s Church is something much simpler. It means being living examples to our children. It means seeking holiness each minute of the day in the way we get up in the morning, drive our cars, treat our co-workers, speak of others, plan our day, and train our children.

When we think of the Holy Father we should ask ourselves how we embrace suffering. Our suffering can be as inconsequential as having to wait in line to buy groceries, or getting caught in traffic on the way to work. It could be morning sickness for the pregnant mom, or even stinky diapers. Or how about that co-worker that always wants to stop you in the hall and talk about his life, but never seems interested in yours? These tiny sufferings, when united with Christ’s suffering on the Cross and willingly endured for the sake of others can become powerful forces in the world. Just imagine how powerful our bigger sufferings can be, such as the loss of loved ones, illness, disabilities, even financial difficulties.

So, the next time you see the Holy Father, whether on ABC, CNN or in person, notice that his head tilts toward his right shoulder, like Christ on the crucifix in your entryway. And remember that we are all called to imitate Christ in all ways, especially in His suffering. And perhaps we will have the courage to endure whatever difficulty we encounter, large or small, willingly and with dignity and allow ourselves to join Christ on His cross, as Pope John Paul II does each day.

Here is another blog post about Blessed John Paul II reposted in 2011 and written in 2001.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

{p,h,f,r} Kennedy Kids Edition

This week the Kennedy Kids have taken over the {pretty, happy, funny, real} post. I asked them each to take one of the words and use their photography skills and my iPod to come up with a picture that suits the word. Here is what they came up with. 


Predictably, M chose to do the word "pretty". Here is what she came up with. 

Idea: M  Photographer: D
She knows her subject well, doesn't she!


D chose the word "happy" and so he headed to the library. 

Idea: D  Photographer: Me

He said "Reading good books makes you happy." Here he is "reading" a Michael O'Brien book (can't you tell by the sheer size of it?) which, of course, he can't read yet. 
However, he is always hopefully looking forward to the day when all the books in the library are "at his level". 


D and A worked together on this one. 

Idea: D and A    Photographer: A
They said it was funny "because he is using an umbrella indoors." 
I believe there was some musical accompaniment while this was being taken--to the tune of "Singing in the Rain."
I think it has a very artistic look, don't you? 


A jumped at the chance to do "real". She is adamant that her beloved home-made lion cub "Simba" is real.

So here he is "really" drinking from the pool.
Idea: A   Photographer: D

And here he is "really" climbing a tree.

Idea: A   Photographer: D

Join the others at Like Mother, Like Daughter for some everyday contentment: 

round button chicken

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Is's All About Being Available

In my post about seeing my friends the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist,(I'll use DSMME as a short hand) I mentioned that I had stories about some of the sisters that I would share in the future.

So today, I have some fun memories of Sister Ave Maria.

But they really are a small part of a larger story--the story of my vocation. And I think my vocational journey can be helpful to other women--the singles ones--who may be still wondering about their own vocation.

When this story takes place, I was single and living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was working for the DSMME and though I was happy working, I was wishing I was married and having kids.

But there I was, in my mid thirties and still single.

Although I had wanted to be married with children since I was a child, it didn't seem to be happening for me. I found myself doubting that marriage was my vocation. Maybe I was called to religious life?

I could see how my current career lent itself to that vocation. I could just dedicate my whole life to teaching and catechesis. I could see the positives in that vocation--both the grand spiritual positives, and the down-to-earth, everyday positives. You know, things like never having to decide what to wear again; having someone else decide where you should go and what you should do (a Mother Superior); having lots of happy cheerful sisters to live with.

All that being said, my heart just wasn't there. And I was afraid it was because I wasn't willing to listen to God. I thought that all those other women wanting to join the Sisters were just braver than me. I was too chicken.

I wanted someone else to tell me what to do. Maybe a priest or Mother Assumpta could tell me? But, as a wise friend pointed out at the time, God calls YOU to your vocation, not someone else. If He wants you there, He will tell you.

And He did.

As I said in a previous blog post, I was very deftly prayed into a discernment retreat by Sr. Joseph Andrew. It just happened to be the same retreat that Sr. Ave Maria (still named Molly then) attended. At the time, she was living in a small house next door to the school where I was working and where the retreat would take place. We knew each other socially and had lots of friends in common. So, naturally we were drawn to each other, talking before the retreat began.

Me and Sister Ave Maria (and D). 
It turns out we both had similar attitudes about the retreat. We weren't necessarily looking forward to it.  I think we both felt like insiders (locals) who, because of that, felt like outsiders--all the other girls came from all over the country and were camping out there at the school, while Molly and I knew all the Sisters, knew the school and local community and were spending the night of the retreat at Molly's house next door.

We also were both there a little reluctantly. We both felt like we were mostly being loyal, going because we were invited, not really because we WANTED to.

So, we bonded over our similar situations and that bonding turned into playing hooky---sort of.

That night, while everyone else was enjoying the silence and peace of sleeping one room away from Jesus, present in the Eucharist, or adoring Him in the chapel, she and I were next door baking cookies before we hit the hay.

While we baked and ate, we talked. It turns out she had felt a call to religious life for a while, but she wasn't sure where, when, how. As I listened to her talk I began to see that she felt about religious life the way I felt about marriage. There was a deep attraction to it, along with a realistic fear of the hardships associated with that vocation. I desired married life, but I also feared bearing and raising children, the challenges of being in a life long commitment with a (then) unknown-to-me man.

As I reflected on this throughout that weekend, I began to see that many of the girls (not all) exuded a joy and anticipation--a hope--- that THIS, religious life, was THEIR calling. They were already in love with their Spouse and clearly called to a life as a consecrated Bride of Christ.

I was in love with Jesus but, as I came to realize, not called to religious life.

And that was okay. God had put a deep desire in my heart for marriage. I didn't know if I would ever find the guy. I realized that our own free will can keep us from following the path that might have been, but that God works for His Glory and the good of all even in that brokenness. At least I had much greater confidence that this was His will.

Of course, when I met Jim, that confidence was transformed to certainty. But there is no doubt that the discernment retreat was instrumental in my understanding my own vocation.

It is because of my own experience that I would encourage every single woman to make a discernment retreat. A true discernment weekend is not about joining an order. It is about opening yourself up to hearing God's call in your life. We are all called to a vocation: marriage, religious life, consecrated single life. When we put aside the fear and make ourselves available, He will speak to our hearts.

Of course, I highly recommend attending a retreat with the DSMME because I know them and I have been on one of their retreats. But, if not with them, I am sure there are others. Just be sure that it is a Christ-centered retreat--one that has Mass and opportunities for Adoration, or at least prayer time in front of a Tabernacle. I also highly recommend a silent retreat. In spite of my failure to keep silent the whole weekend of my discernment retreat, it was the silent parts which were crucial to hearing that "still, small voice".

Feel free to pass this on to any young (or not so young) single women you know.

Monday, September 30, 2013

My first VLOG: Sin and the Baptismal Garment

I have been meaning to do this for so long, and so today I just jumped in with two feet and recorded a lesson that I did with my kids. We added some silly graphics and words to explain and here it is.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

7QT: Out of Sync and a Link (or two)

So, instead of saving my pretty, happy, funny and real pictures from the Convent Blessing, and using them for {phfr} at Like Mother, Like Daughter, I used them on Tuesday. Instead of doing a What We're Reading Wednesday I wrote about our book on Thursday. I totally skipped 7QT Friday, but I have at least a few quick takes to do this morning.

In keeping with my Out Of Sync Week, here is my version of 7 Quick Takes for A Saturday Morning.

1: Nick Names
I promised to explain about Sister Joseph Andrew's nick name "Sister Bone Breaker". Don't worry, it wasn't very widely known or used. But it was very apt.

Sister Joseph Andrew is front and center.
Back in the day--when I was single and living in Ann Arbor and Sister was after me to attend a discernment retreat and I was hedging and making excuses, I thought I had the prefect excuse. My friend Laurie was coming to visit. She would be flying in the day the retreat was to begin. Sr. Joseph Andrew slyly offered to pray that, if it was God's will, I would be able to attend the retreat. I smugly assumed God's will had already been decided.

When the day of the retreat arrived, I get a call from Laurie. She is at the airport and her flight has been delayed due to frost--or it may have been diverted--but anyway, after an hour or two of hemming and hawing and multiple phone calls she decided to stay home that weekend.


I HAD to go to the retreat.

When I showed up and told Sister Joseph Andrew she smiled knowingly, and told me she had another girl coming who had the same excuse as me only her friend BROKE HER ARM and couldn't come to visit.

So, the other girl---don't know who she was---and I were both prayed into the discernment retreat by a Sister whose prayers were, apparently, so powerful they could stop air travel AND break bones.

2: Link #1
I found the following link at Conversion Diary and was moved by the blogger's story. You will be too. I promise: I'm no theologian.

3: Link #2
Here is a humorous, and mostly accurate, explanation of the entitled generation of young people trying to flood the job market these days: Generation-y-unhappy.

4: Safety Moment
At work, Jim and his co-workers have what they call "Safety Moments". In the oil industry, not paying attention to safety can cost lots of money, and more importantly, it can cost lives. So they are interested in making sure everyone, across the business is safety minded. A "Safety Moment" is when a presenter at a meeting shares some story of safety--or un-safety--to inspire folks to pay attention.

The most common safety reminder in our house is to "hold onto the railing while going up or down stairs". We are always after the kids, especially when they are toting toys from one floor to the other with no free hand to hold on with. So, yesterday morning, 7yo A was on her way down stairs, with a stuffed animal in one hand and the letter that the stuffed animal had written in the other, when she apparently missed the first step. We heard the sound and it was scary. According to her story, she feel from the top to the first landing, about 10 steps.

Being prone to drama, her crying was LOUD and it took a few minutes to be sure there was nothing seriously wrong. We quickly narrowed down the pain to her ankle and she was moved to the couch to rest. By the afternoon we were pretty sure we had at least a good sprain so we headed to the local Walk-in Clinic---make sure you walk, don't run, 'cause you'll be waiting awhile anyway.

After hours of waiting and a few minutes with a doctor in one office and an x-ray technician in another location, we had the diagnosis: sprain. Cure: off load the ankle for two weeks.

A was a trooper until she heard she needed crutches. For some reason that induced lots of weepy objections. When she had calmed down I was able to get an explanation out of her: "When I picture myself in crutches I just don't like it."

I don't think it is a vanity thing, I think it is a fear thing--it makes her feel like something is wrong and she is worried about that.

We haven't gotten any crutches yet, but the plan is to find some today. I don't think I can carry her everyplace all week, so we will persevere in the search for a mobility assist.

7: No, I didn't skip 5 and 6. Check my math below.

Since #1 and #4 were so long I will count them each as two. So that makes....let me count two plus one more, plus another, plus two more is six. So this is seven.

Quick take #7 is just to say that I will belatedly link to Jen over at Conversion Diary. And, though I don't want to be a weird fan-girl or anything, I just have to say I spotted Jen at the Convent Blessing, though she left before I could go over and ask for her autograph.

No--I would really do that. But, I may have introduced myself if I had a chance---or any guts. Instead I stared and pointed.

Yah. Weird, huh?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Finally Makes Sense

I grew up in Southern California where a trip to Disneyland was pretty much expected to be an annual thing. For us it was more like every 5 years, but that still meant that I went often enough to have favorite rides and lots of different memories. One of the favorites was called "Mr. Toads Wild Ride" and it was a very low tech ride (in fact it is one of the original rides from 1955) in a two man car that went along a track through various scenes and doors that would magically open before you just short of crashing into them. 

In case you never get the pleasure of taking this ride, here is a video version I found. Enjoy:

Thanks to Auntie Leila, I finally get---forty years later--this favorite Disneyland ride from childhood. Why did I love it so much when I didn't really get it? I vaguely remember attempting to read The Wind in the Willows when I was a kid and I just didn't get very far. 

We have been listening to the wonderful book since Auntie Leila wrote about it a few weeks ago. I am glad we chose an audio version because the language is so beautiful and I have enjoyed listening to it as much, or more, than the kids. 

We tend to avoid animal books in this house because we really feel they tend to blur the lines between the dignity of the human person and the place of animals in creation. 

But I have noticed a distinction between the animals-are-like-humans stories (in video or book form) of today and the human-like creatures who happen to be animals in books like the Narnia series and The Wind in the Willows. 

If you take for example, the Lion King movie, you find animals in their natural habitat doing everything that animals do naturally, except we have added speech, feelings, virtues, and even vice that don't apply to animals. This often ends up elevating animals to creatures at least as important in creation as humans. While animals are entrusted to the care…and USE…of humans, they do not share their dignity. Humans are the only creatures made for their own sake---so that they might attain eternal life. All the rest of creation is made to serve the ends of mankind.

Now take a story like The Wind in the Willows. Here you find animals who dress like people, live in houses like people, drive cars, have money, and relate to each other like people. They just happen to have some animal characteristics---the mole prefers to live underground, though he is learning to enjoy the life of the river rat. The toad has very little of toad-ness about him, except his looks. These talking animals interact with  people as if they were all the same. Toad is arrested and helped to escape all by people. In this particular book they also happen to have names that identify them as animals. 

In the Narnia books there is a distinction between "talking animals" and the more ordinary animals that are considered "dumb brutes". Thus it is horribly immoral to tie a bunch of talking horses to a heavy load and force them to pull it. That is akin to slavery. If they had been "dumb brutes", well then, all is okay. The talking animals, for their part, live much like their human counter parts.

This way of using animals in stories gives the story a feel of a parable or fable and helps to bring about a message about behavior--good or bad---without the added confusion and complexity of persons. You can make generalizations about animals without offending or confusing people. 

The Lion King version* of the animal world is the one that leads to what we have today---a world in which dog's sit in strollers and babies are aborted.  

*I am NOT saying that The Lion King leads to being in favor of abortion. I AM saying that the train of thought that attributes too much dignity to animals also tends to devalue persons. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Me and The Sisters

I have finally gotten the pictures off of Jim's phone and can now share our great weekend. 

So, this past Saturday we had the great pleasure of visiting some old friends who were in the Austin area for a very special event. 
The Kennedy family with Sr. Joseph Andrew (sitting in front) and Sr. Philip John.

Back in the day (about 1998), before husband and children, after studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I interviewed for a job as a DRE (director of Religious Education) for a group of small private (not diocesan) Catholic Schools run by a new order of Dominican sisters. 

They were living in a house in the area called Domino's Farms where the headquarters of Dominos Pizza was located, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was living in Steubenville at the time and so I had to drive out to Ann Arbor for the interview. I remember that I rented a car…a very tiny, red car…because my old Honda was not up to the long drive. 

My interview was really a whole weekend. I stayed in a little house that was down the road from the sisters. Sister John Dominic took me around to the school (the second one was in the process of being built). I remember clearly visiting the convent (it was temporary since the Motherhouse was also being built) and seeing the sisters heading to and from their little living room chapel. I sat in Mother Assumpta's office and we talked about expectations and what the job entailed. I was so nervous. I wasn't sure what God was doing with me at this point. Was He going to call me to religious life? Was Ann Arbor going to be my home? 

I was offered the job and I accepted, and so began my friendship with The Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I can count the four founders among the people who greatly influenced my Faith, my life, my future. I have been friends with several of the sisters since before they answered their call to religious life. Oh, I have stories (about Sister Ave Maria and Sister Philip John mostly). After spending about three years working with and for the Sisters I met Jim, we married and moved to California, and the rest is history. 
Me and D with Sr. Ave Maria. 
In our first year or two of marriage we were able to visit once or twice, but it has been a decade since I have seen Sr. John Dominic (with whom I co-authored a book and who has some GREAT virtue education materials coming out soon), Sr. Joseph Andrew (whom we once nick named "Sister bone breaker"---story to follow soon), Sr. Ave Maria (with whom I played hooky on our discernment retreat---more stories to come), Sr Philip John (with whom I hung out at a surf bar in So. Cal watching my little brother's band just months before she entered the convent) and Sr. Elizabeth Ann (we were catechetics "stars" back in the day---and she still is. You may recognize her from EWTN). 
Sr. John Dominic and I catching up on catechetical ideas. 

The Sisters are well known these days for their appearances on The Oprah Winfrey show (yep…THAT Oprah), the Bible Challenge game show (in which they took second place), and for their new CD that is hitting the top of the Billboard Charts

And I knew them back in the day. 
We finally caught up with Sr. Elizabeth Ann who was running around making everything work all afternoon. 

The reason we saw each other this weekend was that they are getting read to build a new priory in Georgetown, just outside Austin. They have already built a temporary convent and there was a blessing of that building by two Bishops as well as a sort of housewarming, in which we got tours of the convent and heard all the news of what is going on there. There was Texas BBQ and time to chat with the Sisters. 

Behind this large picture of the future priory was the empty lot on which the building will sit. 

It was really fun to see the looks on the faces of the Sisters who did not know I would be there…or perhaps didn't believe we would really show! It was really great to find that, though life has taken us all in different directions, and we have all grown in so many ways, there is still that great connection--a love of our Faith, a deep desire to pass it on to the next generation, and great hope for the future of the Church. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Internet Friends Edition

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~  

Every Thursday, over at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Last week we had the pleasure of getting together with Patty and family from Reasons For Chocolate. I am not really sure when I first started reading Patty's blog and how I found it, but it is very likely that it had something to do with chocolate. So, of course, I was hooked. And for a few years I have been watching her kids grow and reading about life in Patty's world. About the same time she began reading mine and may have been the first to ever comment. She has certainly been my most frequent commenter and number one encourager! 
We had a delightful time talking, watching the kids get along, chasing cutie pie Clementine---seriously, the cutest little trotting toddler I have ever seen (my own kids excluded of course ;)
All pictures but the last are Patty's expert work. The last is taken by David. 


Brand new friends, just like old friends. 
The kids got along swimmingly!


Two boys who spend most of their days surrounded by girls find some time to play Davy Crocket and Roy Rodgers. 
What could be happier than that? 

Roy Rodgers said "I'm distracting the Indian while Davy Crockett shoots." 


Just before Patty and David and clan arrived Jim and I turned to each other and said "So this is the second time we meet in real life someone whom we only knew on the internet." 
(the first meeting was with each other 13 years ago next month)

What a fun testament to the Family of God. 
When we share our Faith we are truly Family.
[not pictured: the two dads who lead these families! They were intrepid photographers for this miraculous picture--which was preceded by lots of chaos and at least one melt down. Sally heroically swept in and somehow switched A from stubborn-I-won't-take-a-picture girl to smiling-sweetness-girl!]

round button chicken

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mind the Gap

I read a blog post (linked below) this past week that really spoke to me. It was an analogy for the differences between school, school-at-home, and what some people call "un-schooling". 

I admit the first thing that attracted me to this blog post was the title. For those who are not familiar with it when you take a train or subway in the U.K. you see signs like this:
(please excuse the grainy iPod photo)
This is a doorway upstairs in our house. The poster at the top is like the signs you see in the Tube stations. The map on the right is a London Tube Map. 

It refers to the gap that exists between the train and the platform edge. In fact, when you are in the tube stations of London there is a repeated recorded voice that says: "Mind the Gap between the train and the platform edge." I have very fond memories of D, with his sweet little three year old voice and his very slight British accent, repeating these words over and over again. 

This blogger has used the phrase and the idea of riding a train, as opposed to a car or bike, to explain the different approaches to education. 

It's like someone hands you a train schedule when you are five years old, and it details the plan for every day of the next thirteen to seventeen years of your life. The stops are laid out, the timetable is set. There is only one set of tracks for your school train.They are the same for everyone. They tell you this is the only way to get between stops, where you are tested to make sure the train is on schedule.

I find that in spite of having been a "train conductor" (school teacher) in the past, my inclination for my own children is the bicycle approach. 

Her image of the family riding bikes together, exploring the world around them at a more leisurely place, with older kids having some freedom to explore--to steer their bike, to pedal at their own pace-- is exactly how we like to see ourselves. 
You learn from all things you do, but the learning does not need to be measured. Your parents don't keep track of how fast or how far you go each day...You don't have to keep up with anyone else.
Development--growing up--is not a race. Yet we spend so much time, as a society, worrying about our kids keeping up. 

I am not just talking about the world of "you have to get into the right pre-school if you are going to get into that great college" or "if you haven't started competitive football by the age of five you may as well give up". 

I am also talking about reading fluently by kindergarten (or even first or second grade) about doing algebra in third grade. 

So much of what we think of as academic is really developmental. If we had a more relaxed approach to when a child reads fluently, we may see a decrease in learning disability labels, or at least a decrease in kids wearing glasses. If we had a more relaxed approach to math instruction, we might have fewer grown-ups who "hate math" or think they are "bad at math".

Opting out of the race, getting off the train, so to speak can be very difficult. The world around you assumes that your objective is to make sure your kid is "on schedule" and that there are "no gaps". Our objective is to raise children who love God first, know how to love others as well as themselves, and love to learn. 

Love does not keep a schedule, arrive at certain stops at certain times, or stick to one set of tracks. Love is free.

Go. Read. She explains the analogy really well. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A 9-11 Prayer

Please vist Mary at Counting Graces for Pope Benedict's prayer at Ground Zero. 

The Patience of a GPS

If only I was as patient as my GPS. 

Here is my GPS first thing in the morning.
I wish I could get a sign like that for my forehead for first thing in the morning. 

Michelle (the name of the voice we chose for our GPS) never sounds the least bit annoyed when I ignore her directions. She will say "Make a legal u-turn" innumerable times in the same sweet tone. She never says "How many times have I told you to make a legal u-turn?" and she never says "If I have to say make a legal u-turn one more time there will be consequences."

Since I know I will need to repeat myself a lot throughout my kids' childhood, I may as well be sweet about it. I mean what kid heard "Put your shoes away, please" and never had to be told again? Or after being told "Please don't do that" completely stopped all strange noises and loud tappings? What child only had to hear once "Elbows off the table please."?


Actually, for a couple of years now I have been looking for a GPS voice that WILL nag and get frustrated with me. I think it would be funny. 

Somehow I don't think my kids find it funny when I nag and talk impatiently.

So, the plan is this: talk like Michelle even if I feel like exploding and only use these three precious names in love (or real danger). The rest of the time I go to them and get eye contact first or use a sweet nick name that softens my voice. 

Yikes! I think I have my work cut out for me. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Favourite and My Best Bread Recipe*

Okay, it is the ONLY bread recipe I make. But it is GOOD. 

I got it from this website way back when I lived in Scotland. I was desperately seeking an easy-to-make-at-almost-the-last-minute bread recipe for dinner. So, of course it couldn't involve any kneading/rising/yeast. I came across this and it was in instant hit. 

What it lacks in beauty is made up in flavor and hardiness. It is a great bread to serve along side soup or a salad. It is also great as a snack and travels well as two slices buttered together, stuck in a zip lock bag and brought to the park in your big bag of park stuff. I happen to know this last idea from personal experience. 

If you don't have buttermilk on hand (I usually don't) you can use plain greek yogurt and it is just as good…and has added protein! It makes two good sized loafs and they freeze quite well. 


  • 4 cups buttermilk or plain greek yogurt 
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pour in buttermilk, and stir until all of the dry mixture has been absorbed. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared loaf pans.
  3. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the crown of the loaf comes out clean. Serve warm. Store leftover bread wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. This reheats well.

*The title (including the spelling of "favorite" is meant to remind you of Charlie and Lola. Well, at least it reminds me of Charlie and Lola.