Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bring the Good News

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?

Romans 10:14

Monday, November 29, 2010

Under Jesus' Authority

Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me.

Matthew 8:8-9

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Highest Mountain

Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.

Isaiah 2:3

Friday, November 26, 2010

Poetry Friday--Robert Frost

I came across this recently. The poems (and other reads) that stick with you are the ones that seem somehow relevant to your life, or worldview, or moment in time. I do not have a stone wall or apple trees but I have been thinking about boundaries, and real imperfect people, and openness, and...

Mending Wall
by Robert Frost

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:

Read it all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Poetry Friday--C.S. Lewis

I first came upon C. S. Lewis' poems while I was in college, browsing the bookstore shelves one day and finding a copy of Poems among his better-known titles. At the time, I was a creative writing major (actually, going for a double degree in psychology) with at least two poetry classes slated for my courseload. Knowing Lewis to be a Christian and academic heavyweight, I snapped it up. "Poem For Psychoanalysts and/or Theologians" was the first poem in the book that I read, and my favorite of his ever since--the primacy effect, I guess.

...I was the pearl,
Mother-of-pearl my bower. Milk-white the cirrhus
Streaked the blue egg-shell of the distant sky,
Early and distant, over the spicy forest;
Wise was the fangless serpent, drowsy.
All this, indeed, I do not remember.

Read it all here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas card crafts

Some people dispose of the Christmas cards they receive after the season is over. I just can't do that. But I have plenty of the free cards that come in junk mail. Sometimes they are printed in ways that make them unsuitable for me to send, but the images are just too beautiful to throw away. So I keep them in a clip-art box and have come up with a few ways to make use of them with the kids.

(I haven't had a chance to try all of these yet, but my favorites might not be your favorites--so have at it!)
In the past, I have used old Christmas cards as gift tags or embellishments for gift wrapping. An angel cutout tucked underneath a bow or a ribbon-tied nativity vignette can really punch up a gift's presentation.

My kids and I have also decorated our own Christmas cards with cutouts from them, using card stock paper or blank note cards and other art stuff. Here are some great ideas.

When I was younger, we used Christmas cards to make ornaments by cutting out the picture we wanted using a circle template, glueing a thin fabric ribbon or other trim around it, and punching a hole at the top for a hook or string. Here are some variations using juice lids and bottle caps.

Here's another ornament possibility--Victorian icing cards.

These are gorgeous ornament balls--I love the thought put into them.

Here's a collection of projects to recycle Christmas cards. You can make gift bags, mobiles, card games, lacing cards, and more.

Another slew of ideas for reusing your cards, including bookmarks, placemats, and more ornaments.

More ideas (I especially like the serving tray).

Make Christmas card puppets!

Here are some cute Christmas angels from cards.

Here's a great art project for kids. They can make several, maybe with a theme, and group them together like a story!

Have fun, and let me see what you do!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

I think almost every girl who dresses up for All Saints Day chooses St. Elizabeth sooner or later. I did it when I was 10, I think. Natalie chose her this year.

A great resource for today at Catholic Culture.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Clutter Crunch--the valet station

I've done a little research on decluttering. I've read the books, joined the programs, made the schedules, purged the extras. Either it doesn't take (the program) or it all comes back (the extra).

Now, that's not to say such things were worthless for me, or that I'm hopeless. I've learned a lot about managing clutter and making a home from my intermittent immersion in the organizing industry. And I have come to the conclusion that what I need is a buddy.

The Internet is a wonderful source for ideas. Mom blogs are really wonderful sources for ideas that are relevant to my vocation. And it's so much more fun to do things when you have a little company! So, periodically I will be sharing ideas, big or small, that I find helpful in tackling the beast of clutter in my home. These are things I will be doing myself, and posting the before-and-after pics to prove it. (Or maybe just the after. :-))

Now, if you do the same thing, because you got it from the same place I did, or because you saw mine and thought, "Hey, that could work!"... or if you do something totally different and want to show off a little...come on over and we'll have a little show-and-tell. This is a work in progress. I'm not a guru. I just want to get a little encouragement started over here, and I hope maybe you can be one of those who finds some.


With that, I give you my little project from last week...

...my valet station.

(Yes, I know a valet is typically for a man, but I like the term.)

This may not look like much, but let me walk you through why it is so helpful.

First, there is this eyesore...

...which is what it used to look like. We put the tea cart in our room to hold our supplies when we were preparing for a home birth, and since then it had become a magnet for all things homeless. Not to mention those supplies, still perched below. Well, that all had to go, but I wasn't sure how to avoid piling the space up again with clutter. It needed a function.

Next, I wanted to address the rocking chair by my bedside. It had a function--several, actually: for rocking the baby, sitting at the vanity (you can see part of it in the picture, begging to be a future project), laying my clothes out for the next day. I cannot emphasize enough how much easier it is to get ready in the morning if you already know what you are going to wear and have it prepared and waiting for you. And if I put the clothes for the morning on my rocking chair the night before, it didn't interfere (that much) with its other functions.

The problem was that it became a catch-all for my coat, my wear-again jeans, the dress I changed out of after Mass, the kids' clothes.... Don't know if I want to wear this sweater again tomorrow? I'll put it on my rocking chair until I decide. Soon, five layers of decisions were taking up my rocking chair.

Another eyesore.

So I cleared out both spots. Sent clothes to the laundry, moved my beautiful Southern Living magazines to the bottom of the tea cart (you can't see them but they were under the little pile of clothes on top), put away a bunch of stuff. Then I set up a finite space to keep my day's outfit and fluffed the cushions on my rocking chair.

Voila. I eliminated two chronic clutter spots and eased my daily routine.

You can buy a fancy clothes valet (I think it may also be called a suit stand), and at one point I found that very appealing, but I decided to save the money and use what I had. The basket was recently freed of paper clutter, and the cloth underneath it is actually an old, square pillow sham that belonged to Jason's grandparents. (I trimmed the stringy fringes after I made sure I wasn't likely to damage it.) Other things you could use are a quilt stand, a hat rack, or maybe just a robe hook over the door. Think about your bedroom's (or bathroom's) layout, your morning rhythms, your personal taste, what you already have or can easily obtain, what you wear--you will come up with something.

If you do, leave me a comment (or a link!) and tell me about it!

St. Margaret of Scotland

One of my favorite saints--A wife, mother, and queen. No miracles, no flash, just love and devotion. The image comes from here, which is a delightful telling of the story of St. Margaret for children.
Scotland was full of poor prisoners, carried out of England during the wars, and Margaret used to find them out, pay their ransoms and send them home. The priest who wrote her life says that he admired her works of mercy more than miracles, for miracles may be worked by bad people (probably he means witches) as well as by righteous people, but mercy and kindness are good in themselves.
I have read elsewhere (I wish I could remember the source) that she was quite rigorous in running her household: leading them in acts and attitudes of piety, teaching courtesy, making vestments and altar clothes with her ladies in any leisure time. I think she might be a good patron saint for me to turn to in stepping it up around here.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Poetry Friday

This being my first foray into Poetry Friday, I thought I'd figure out what my goals are here. For Poetry Friday, not for the blog. That's another post.

I know the importance of poetry, especially in a child's education. (I talk a little about beauty below; what I mention about home is also true of the mind.) At different times I have gone on a little binge of poetry reading with the kids; occasionally we do some memorization. I'm certainly one of those who don't read poetry enough--how am I going to feed it to my children's hearts when mine is a bit deficient? The first couple of entries will be more for me than for the children. My oldest daughter (who is reading the Odyssey) will no doubt want to read them, and then contribute her own selection every now and then. I have a feeling some of the others will follow suit. Perhaps I can instill the good habit of reading poetry to all my children each week--a mini-Poetry Friday in our homeschool room.

My hope is to get them looking for poetry more.


It feels like a bit of a cheat to pick just a selection from an epic poem for Poetry Friday, but that's what I'm doing. I haven't read Endymion; I never even saw the famous first line in context before this week. But I have been pondering the importance of beauty, and this first part of Keats' poem has had me thinking all week.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.

I sought this poem out because I have been moved to create more beauty in my home, and I wanted to inspire my intellect to help shore up my will. I have learned that cultivating an appreciation for beauty is an important part of a person's spiritual formation. Also, as a homemaker it is one of my privileges and duties to make home a sanctuary for my family. I use the word "homemaker" with some chagrin; it is too often that the task of making things pleasant and welcoming plays second fiddle to the more urgent task of getting things done. Even if they are necessary things. And even if I don't do a very good job even of that. Perhaps my own mindset could be nurtured in an environment of greater beauty? And it turns out Keats even has something to say about the hopes of diligence and productivity.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end!

Today's poems are at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub.

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week the season. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, visit soulemama and leave a link to your 'moment.'

Quick Takes Friday


Is it Friday already? Yesterday's post was short and sweet. Today's Quick Takes will be, too (sort of). My attention is so fragmented I can't seem to turn out much of anything. Life in general seems a bit fragmented, with each day passing away in chunks instead of hours. I've tried to write a little about it, so some of it may show up here as I sort things out.


After all, a fragmented attention span ought to be dealt with. I blame the Internet.

I read this when it first came out, and it made perfect sense to me--I modified some habits in response, and saw a difference. But so much of what I did everyday was somehow connected to using the Internet, and the old habits didn't stick because they didn't take that into account. Now I'm assessing how I use things like Facebook and news sites and blogs and readers, and I'm making a new plan. I'm going to be a lot more intentional about my online engagement. I don't know what it's going to look like, but I know that it includes turning the computer completely off for the majority of the day.

I know I'm not the only one who has taken steps to master their computer use. Any thoughts? (Especially from you super-blogging mom writers if you, um, happen to be reading this. Jen?) Links welcome. Irony noted.


For a while we only had one computer, and my husband needed it for work. Now that I have my "own" computer, as well as an older PC that Jason's mother gave us, the kids are rediscovering the thrills of Timez Attack.

This game teaches multiplication thoroughly and the kids cannot wait to play it every day. It's so good I use it as a reward. (I got a discount on the purchase price by recommending it to others, but I've already done that twice over en masse.) We bought it in 2009, and on loading it to the "new" computer, we discovered that the updated version has an additional character to play as. The original one is a little green guy that my kids have called a bug, an alien, and a mouse. Now there's a girl version with long red hair--the ponytail toss cracks me up.

Here's an intro.


I cut Cate's hair Thursday. It's not the first time, but I still got nervous three snips into it. She wanted it short. Fortunately, she has just enough curl in her hair to make it very forgiving. Now Natalie wants me to do hers. Her hair is straight, fine, and thick like mine. But I'm going to give it a go. Sometime.


Despite some lost cards, some ruined artwork (little brothers and all), and a futile rush to make last Friday's postmark, we got our artist trading cards finished. We explored books, found some new heroes, and learned some new things. Did you know that St. Gabriel is thought to be the angel sent to strengthen Jesus in Gethsemane? That Adam and Eve are traditionally held to be in heaven and therefore saints? That the saints are a vastly diverse set of people from all walks of life and widely different manners of holiness? Well, yes, we knew that already, but it was a delight to rediscover it with this swap. I look forward to learning with the kids about all the saints about whom we receive cards.


One thing I've noticed is that because (I am assuming) of our host's personal background, there is a vastly diverse set of participants in Quick Takes. I typically blog as a Catholic mother (throw in "of many" or "homeschooler" when it fits) but sometimes I link at more "secular" sites when it's not so much a Catholic or Christian post. So, sometimes I receive comments from people who would not otherwise consider themselves part of my target audience. (The term "cross-pollination" crosses my mind. Sorry.) Anyway, I want to say to people who find themselves here from any path: Welcome, and thank you for being here.


For my mom: Cate and Caleb.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Small Successes

Short and sweet today:

1) I have worked out every day this week.
2) In spite of workout time being in the evening, I have had dinner on the table on time.
3) I cleaned up a major eyesore in the bedroom, and replaced it with something pleasant, orderly, and functional. I'll show you next week. :-)

What are your successes?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

100 Species Catch-up

We tried to get a big start on our 100 Species Challenge during one nature walk. The first couple of entries were fun; we went a little overboard with the camera for one walk, though. We got so many I just shut down. Hey, there were nine of us grabbing species pics. I decided to knock a few out here.


"Leyland Cypress" describes a group of evergreens popular in landscaping. My husband loves them for their rapid growth and their sound-deadening capabilities, although supposedly they don't do well in the drought-prone South because of their shallow root system. They are a sterile conifer hybrid, so you're not really going to see them growing wild.


American Beautyberry. A few years ago, we temporarily mistook it for pokeberry (which we now know well--see below). After a Google image search, though, we easily identified this shrub by its cluster of bright purple berries. It's prized as an ornamental shrub and for attracting birds. Who knew--it grows wild all around here.


A wildflower/weed that I never thought much about, except when little ones picked me their tiny bouquets. Hey, flowers are flowers in their eyes. This tiny, stringy--but oddly pretty--thing is Gregg's mistflower, which is in fact planted on purpose sometimes, probably because butterflies like it. And there's that light lavender color--blues and purples seem to be sought after, maybe because they are less common? All my information on this one seems to come from Texas.


American holly. We have holly (American or English--I haven't figured out which yet--!) in our landscaping around the house, but this is some that grows wild that we found on our walks. From its height, pyramidal shape, and spiny leaves, we determined that this is American holly. It can grow 3o to 60 feet, has glossy evergreen leaves that are spined all along the edges, and are a little lighter green than English holly. (The light green can also be the result of new growth.) I think this may be the only wild one around, which explains why there are no ripening berries--holly is either male or female and needs to be pollinated by a nearby plant of the opposite sex to produce fruit.


Two pictures for this one--pokeberry. (Sorry for the holey specimen. The birds and caterpillars have gotten to it--winter's a-coming.)

If this thing gets a decent start from the ground in the spring, by summer's end it is a lush four feet tall, at least. It's got a long, folksy history. Check out this tidbit from Wikipedia:
Young leaves, if collected before acquiring a red color, are edible if boiled for 5 minutes, rinsed, and reboiled. Berries are toxic when raw but cooked juice is edible (the seeds remain toxic after cooking). However, it may be difficult to identify exactly when leaves have no red color whatsoever; an incorrect picking may result in a poisoning.
Come to think of it, I think I remember Jason's grandpa (who first told us what this was) mentioned something about "poke salad." There are all kinds of rumored medicinal uses, too. I think I'll just play it safe, though.

Besides being poisonous through and through, its berries are used to make dye. Now, that I'd be willing to experiment with. Just look at those berries--you know those can mess up some clothes.


So there you have it.
1. Dogwood (Cornus florida)
2. Mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa)
3. Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)
4. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
5. Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)
6. American holly (Ilex opaca)
7. Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sign of Love


If you want to jump on the bandwagon
simply post a photo of something that
makes you wildly happy.
Then, visit Leigh vs Laundry
to get the button and post your link.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's really not fair...

...that Simcha Fisher towers over the rest of us with her wit, but this Quick Takes (which she actually wrote a few months ago) is too funny for me to leave unnoted:
...feel free to make a copy, laminate it, and keep it in your ludicrously enormous purse. It will help you respond to people who see your presence as a challenge, when really all you want to do is mail a letter, buy some diapers and few pregnancy tests, or pay the librarian for the books you ruined this week, and go home.
Number 5 sounds a little familiar.

Quick Takes Friday


The kids are all about clay these days. Here's one of their creations:

I'm trying to think how to channel this into Christmas shopping (besides just stuffing their stockings with cans of play dough). Modeling beeswax? How-to book or DVD? Sculpting tools? Kiln? Any suggestions?


We got our picture taken for the parish directory last week. I have lowered our expectations for such things. Instead of having everyone gussied up for posterity, I simply settle for all of us looking reasonably well-groomed and nobody's outfits clashing. It feels kind of sad to admit that out loud, but it is outweighed by the promise of a professional family portrait. The last one we took was in 2000.

We caught the poor guy at the end of what must have been a long day, and though his patience sometimes looked (sounded) a little thin, he never lost it. Out of fourteen shots, most of them had a blink, a yawn, someone looking the wrong way. I am very familiar with this from the photographer's side! Getting eight kids, some of them not capable of self-control, to look and smile at you at the same time without weird expressions (intentional or otherwise) is a herculean task. Maybe one shot (the one we chose, of course) was flattering enough to all of us to pass muster, without pleading with the photographer and all the people in line to let us sit for just a few more shots. We got it, and our 8x10 will be here in a few weeks.


Remember all those brothers and sisters future House Speaker Boehner talked about? One of them is a local here.


My camera is ailing. There are several settings that just won't work. I can still manage to get decent pictures by fiddling with it a little, but it is the fiddling of an amateur with an amateur camera that is broken. Well, I wanted to get a new one anyway, ever since I learned that I can't control the aperture on this model. I'm teaching myself photography in fleeting baby steps. So I guess it's on my list for Christmas! And I'll hand this one down to one of the kids; we might even be able to get it repaired. Only thing is, I don't know what kind of camera to get--is there a relatively inexpensive model between the versatile point-and-shoot that I already have and the costly SLR for people who know what they are doing?


This is a great story--read the comments for more of it! Please pray for this family as they work to bring their little boy home. (H/T Elizabeth Foss)


The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. --2 Cor 9:10


And because she makes everyone so happy:

What are your Quick Takes?

A Random Act of Culture

I will never get tired of this stuff.

H/T Creative Minority Report.

{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, visit soulemama and leave a link to your 'moment.'

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Small Successes


Small Successes seems to have gotten quiet lately, hasn't it? I know I sat it out last week--a deliberate thing because I was busy trying to do non-Internet things--but I missed it. Sometimes I have to work a little to count anything as a success to post. That's the point of the exercise, right? To take time and say, "You might not notice it, but you're doing something good here."

Well, small means a little more cozy. I'll see you in the comboxes!

Here are mine for this week.

1) I voted! I almost didn't--not because I didn't think I should, but because my husband and I had an appointment to go together after his work and we almost couldn't find everyone's shoes in time before the polls closed!

2) I went through one bin, one box, and one bag of clutter all in one day--and the rest of the house didn't suffer from lack of attention. I thought about posting a picture of the room where all of these clutter containers are kept, but I decided I'd spare you. For now.

3) I got the kids to an All Saints' Day party--and they were in costume--all by myself. The costume part was not all by myself but the part that I helped with--well, getting that done was an accomplishment for me.

What are your successes?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls Day Pilgrimage

We usually go a cemetery (one where some of our relatives are buried) on All Souls Day to pray for the dead. It's a beautiful old tradition that our family picked up about five years ago. I am sure some would consider it morbid. I myself thought, when I began to take the children, that it would be a good but somber act of piety and teaching moment.

I was surprised by how joyful the experience was, and has been ever since. We talk about death, yes, but we also talk about heaven, prayer, and God's love. We talk about our brothers and sisters who have gone before us. We see that they were human souls who walked this earth, who loved and were beloved. The children wander around, choosing people to pray for; we stand around that person's grave and pray for that person by name, all the people in this graveyard, and all the holy souls in Purgatory. They right flowers and ornaments that have fallen over. They collect scattered stems and deposit them in empty vases. They skip in the paths.

True, we have had some very solemn moments. They often asked me to read the engravings on the tombstones. Sometimes we did the math to find out the age of a grave's occupant. Some of the graves were quite small. Here was some disquieting new information for my younger kids to assimilate, particularly the more sensitive ones (I have a few). It strikes me, though, looking back, as a much better introduction to the idea that all of us die than some other possibilities. The situation of a dear friend or cousin dying from illness or accident would be so traumatic. And I have one child who, if started on the abstract thought that sometimes children die, would agonize over the possibility that very soon it would be her or one of her siblings. Encountering an unknown dead child's tomb, oddly enough, seems to be less threatening.The trauma of dealing with a very personal loss is not there. It is a concrete matter of fact--it has happened, and is done; and there is only to pray for this person and look forward to meeting him or her in heaven.

And this is the biggest lesson of the day for me; how much they have already absorbed about our purpose and hope here in this world. Being in the cemetery reminds me and teaches my children that we all will die one day; but it will be a going home to God. We walk amid shadows of death and turn to the light. All Souls Day teaches us about Easter.

Vote--and Sign

It's Election Day!

Immaculate Mary, Patroness of the United States, pray for us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, pray for us.

So far I've refrained from writing about politics on this blog, and for the most part, I intend (for now) to continue to do so. First, there is the fact that there are already many bloggers writing about religion and politics in a much more insightful, entertaining, and challenging way than I could. (There you see my leanings.) And politics has always been divisive, else why bother with it? In my limited experience, though, it has become so much more polarized, with people not even hearing what the other side has to say.

That's a loss for our society. "As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man," says Proverbs; it's good to question each other and to reexamine our opinions sometimes. And it is our duty as Christians to contribute to choosing the agents of our government who will best serve the public good. We are called to be shapers of our culture. Today is, I think, an appropriate day to call on to my fellow Catholics and touch on what faith and politics have to do with each other.

I am so glad to see civic expressions like this one. From what I understand, Catholics are an interesting voting block, in that they provide something of a mirror of the culture at large rather than voting in lockstep, on one hand, and on the other that they are a crucial swing vote--if a candidate wants to win, he or she has to address the Catholics.

This open letter to politicians is meant to speak the voice of a people in the world but not of it. It acknowledges the difficult issues we face as a nation but is optimistic about our future. It is doesn't let anybody off the hook but also doesn't condemn or sling mud. It takes seriously our responsibility to our country and makes you take it seriously too.

So go read it. I see no reason why, just because this election is over today, you shouldn't sign this letter, if you wish. The work of governing starts anew after Election Day, and the next one will be here before you know it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Busy for now

Many apologies to any and all who noticed that my saintly Meet 'n' Greet was a no-show today. I hope to return to better blogging soon.


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