Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Days

Merry Christmas! Are you still celebrating? We are!

We found these beautiful ice lantern projects at The Crafty Crow. They were listed for the winter solstice, but we got started too late to use them that night. No problem. We put them out on Christmas Eve, to celebrate the waning of darkness with the birth of the Savior.

 The kids made Christmas scenes with some foam stickers.

Waldorf they aren't, but I defy anyone looking at them to remain grinchy. 

Christmas cookies from this recipe, which I undoubtedly saw on Pinterest, but clipped to Evernote instead of pinning. 

We tried not to overstir the sprinkles, really we did, but they just would not mix in otherwise. So we ended up dyeing the dough pink with our red sugar sprinkles, which the author warned about. I think if the directions had said "knead gently" instead of "gently mix," it might have worked better. Or just reassured, something along the lines of, "Don't worry, the sprinkles don't need to be mixed evenly in—the baking will take care of it." Or maybe we should have just held some out to add on top right before baking. Also, 1 cup of sprinkles was a lot. I think we could easily cut a third to half of what was called for. 

We'll try it again. The kids really had fun, and they loved the cookies.

And we've got more fun plans. What are you doing to celebrate the Christmas season?

Friday, December 28, 2012

December Read Alouds

Ok, first, let me say that with all of the pre-Christmas book recommendations (I'm looking at you, Melissa Wiley) I kind of glutted on reading lists. It was true overload; I forgot most of the mental notes I made as I read, and thus will have to go back, and write them down next time. In the meantime, I'm going back to basics. The new year is coming; check back for a failsafe list of classics we're resolving to read/reread, aloud as a family.

As a sort of ongoing school project, the kids keep a "title collection." This is a suggestion from our advisor at St Thomas Aquinas Academy, where I've had at least some of the kids enrolled. To collect a title, we read a book together (the older ones can add books they've read on their own), make a photocopy of the cover, and sign and date the photocopy. Sometimes they'll color in a black and white copy. Sometimes they write or narrate something about the book on the back. I've toyed with the idea of letting them copy an illustration from the book, maybe instead of the cover photocopy. Some of them would jump all over that.

The advisor for our homeschool program recommends many awesome things to do in our homeschool. I attempt them all, but, well, it's me. I don't always follow through. This one, though, really tickles me. Admittedly, my implementation of it is inconsistent, but the kids like it and it gives me an idea of what may have slipped through the cracks for somebody. I lean pretty heavily on Elizabeth Foss's early booklists for picture books, and some others (see, I collect whole title lists!) and I have my own favorites in our collection. You want to make sure everybody hears the good ones—and there really are so many good ones. We don't add every title we read—the twaddle that worms its way into the house usually gets undocumented, for example, and sometimes we just forget—but sometimes one of the kids will be really gung-ho to add a book he just finished to his collection. It's fun to flip through to see how each child's collection grows.

Here's a partial list of what we read aloud this month (I usually forgot something when I updated my list every few days).  I'll try to add links later:

The Candymaker's Gift by David and Helen Haidle
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Woiciechowski
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
Richard Scarry's Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer
Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect  by Richard H. Schneider
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
The Christmas Wreath by James Hoffman
The Miracle of St Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
Good King Wenceslaus by John M. Neal and Tim Ladwig
The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Berger
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Ten Apples Up on Top by Theo LeSieg
The Napping House by Audrey Wood

Yes, they're almost all Christmas books. It's the non-Christmas ones, the ones I've read so many times I can't differentiate between a days-ago reading and all the other times before it, that I had a hard time recalling.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Morning minutiae

Four-year-old Gabe has spent at least twenty minutes letting/watching a ladybug crawl all over his arms and back.

Toddler Cora just poured out half a bottle of Dasani for her and little sister Anwen's splashing amusement. "Anwen likes it," she beamed, perfectly accurately, as they both laughed and slipped and spread the mess. Then she said, "Mommy, what's wrong?"

Some of the middle kids are doing their handwriting but they keep getting distracted by mom watching Minor Revisions, so I guess I'd better wait until after the Angelus and finish it at lunch break.

Lunch break. Heh.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Quick Takes: Instagram, Twitter, Baby Names and More


All right, all you Instagram people. I've seen the photos. I get the appeal.

But it's owned by Facebook.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, influenced by privacy concerns, the commercialization of user data, and issues of content ownership. When I first considered Instagram, Facebook was what turned me off.

As it's grown, (read: as you people whom I read and who share your lives pictorially have increasingly kept it before me,) I did a little reading and am somewhat reassured. but I'd still like to hear from you. What are your experience and knowledge as Instagram users? Are you happy with the terms of use? And is it more than just another time eater—I mean, what are you getting from Instagram?


And you Twitter people following fifty or more: how do you do that? I can barely mark unread items in my Reader as "read" without feeling guilt or dread at what I'm missing. To miss hours of tweets by the people I follow gives me twitches. In real life, it is, heh, easy to understand that you can't catch every conversation in the building—to think otherwise would be insanity. Why can't social media be like that?


Expecting a baby gives me an excuse to indulge in one of my favorite interests: baby names! Not just baby names, really, just names in general. But unless I have a need for a name, I generally, for sanity's sake, I generally make myself stay away from the fascinating site called Nameberry.

Nameberry is the brainchild of the authors of some of my favorite baby name books, and was the inspiration for an article I wrote for Faith and Family Live last year. They just did a blog post about likely names for England's unborn baby royal. Oh, I love this stuff. I think a new Princess Charlotte, or Alice or Eleanor, or a Prince Arthur or Leopold would be fabulous. And of course this baby will have a string of monikers to marvel at. It will be interesting to see how many of the picks on this list will prove prescient. I have no doubt they'll have hit on at least one somewhere in there.


By the way, it's a bit early, especially for us, but...

I think we have a name!

One for a boy and one for a girl. Plenty of time to change our minds, but I'm pretty pleased right now.

No, I'm not telling.

I forget what 5 was for.


Melissa Wiley tweeted a cool article about storytelling and the brain, which reminded me of this Albert Einstein quote, If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales. I love reading out loud to my kids, but it's too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, get to the end of a day, and realize, sadly, that we didn't read anything except schoolwork. So I've been thinking about joining Sarah's Read Aloud Revival. She's been doing it for three months now; the next "meet" date is December 29. It looks like fun; if I manage to stay on task, I'll talk about a little activity our advisor recommended we do with the books we read.


Oh, and another Sarah is doing an Advent wreath link-up, so check it out. I love Advent wreaths, so this should be good. I'm off to check out her link-up from last year. All the pretty pictures!

Go see Jen for more Quick Takes!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy St. Nick's Day!

I almost forgot, but I can't let this day go by without giving a shout out to St. Nicholas—it's my unofficial name day! (I should probably just drop the "unofficial," too—I doubt it matters that St. Nicholas was not the direct inspiration for my name.)

Did you do anything for today? My kids left their shoes out last night (they put Jason's and mine out, too). Chocolate gold coins shouldn't be hard to find, but St. Nicholas' namesake helper had trouble finding them, so the kids all got chocolate Santas in their shoes. The baby girls each got their own "tiny, cute" Santa, but Cora ate hers and Anwen's too. There were enough tiny, cute ones for mom and dad to get one each, too.

And. I shouldn't laugh at this. But I do. Can't help it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just a note to say...

... we are expecting our 10th baby! He or she will make a first appearance in the spring. One of the good things about the Catholic blogosphere is that you're sure to be able to find someone who is pregnant at the same time with you. (E.g., for a short time, my friend Krystin, even if nobody but I knew it. Here's her new baby, "Poppy," if you want to say congratulations.) And now we know that Princess Kate is expecting, God bless her—our baby will be born (probably) a month or two before the likely future king or queen of England, so, fun!

Every pregnancy has its challenges, and I anticipate that as a "(great) grand multigravida of advanced maternal age," I'll have my days. I'd welcome any prayers you throw my way. We can hardly wait to meet this little one!

Meet This Sister

I just found this via Facebook about an old friend today.
I was a romantic child and I still am! I still love fairy tales. As a teenager I would spend lots of time daydreaming about the prince that would sweep me off my feet; this future man that would complete me. Little did I know that He was already standing right there beside me. He had already pitched his tent on the surface of my heart waiting there until I invited him to pour Himself into me. I had no clue then that the strong masculine heart I longed to lean upon was Himself; His Sacred Heart burning ferociously with love for me.
Sr Therese Marie Iglesias and I both experienced the blessings of the then-nascent campus ministry of the Brotherhood of Hope at FSU. She went on to answer a call to religious life with the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother. Her story is beautiful! She also has given several talks; four, about intimacy in prayer for women, are available online, and you can bet I will be listening to them.

Monday, December 3, 2012

For your Monday...

Happy Advent! I'm glad this time is here—my favorite liturgical season.

We have our Advent wreath in commission, which is good for me—that extra week between Thanksgiving and Advent helped. We're still working on building our Advent chain. Simcha Fisher writes about Advent being a simple time. I think I needed that permission to be a little small and sparse.

Here are some other things that I've been pondering. They may or may not be apropos of Advent, but they are worthwhile food for thought.

I keep coming back to this piece by the Anchoress about the clarification afforded by the election:

Now, with this election over, and the writing on the wall, I believe it is time to divest myself of my too-enthralled-attention to politics, which just a glance at Drudge will tell you is all-illusions, and has been for a very long time. I’m done giving attention and credence to the princes of the air, and the daily theater. I’m setting my attention and my eyes where they must go to prepare for what is coming; what I am feeling called to at this point has nothing at all to do with politics and everything to do with helping to prepare and mature our spirits for what lies ahead.
People of faith, take a good hard look at the new landscape and do not be afraid; do NOT be afraid. 
Changes are going to come, and they’re going to come quickly, so now is the time to work on strengthening the atrophied muscles of our spiritual lives — to make them stronger and healthier through the exercises of prayer, fasting, lectio and service and by divesting ourselves of the world and all of its things, its glamor its empty promises.

And she's sticking to it:
This is bringing up some interesting conversation in my social media timelines, particularly among Christians who are wondering how a balance may be struck between the spiritual (which is reality) and the political (which is so much illusion) and what denotes the line between reasonable political engagement and political junkie-ism, which can be defined as an excess of reliance on (and belief in) political solutionism, and is very often half-rooted in idolatry. There is a challenge of balance, for people of faith: political engagement is a good and necessary thing, but too often our fervent engagement leads to excess, and then to defect as we lose perspective as to what is the reality of Christ versus the illusion of both political reach and the “saviors” who we invest with power, and then entrust to “bring things about.” Once that perspective is skewed, we are out of balance, and the best of our energies ends up being spent on the wrong thing. Misplaced. 
Somewhere between reasonable political engagement and the political junkie-ism that foments idols and false messiahs there is a balance; when we move away from it, we move, necessarily, away from where Christ tells us to be; we venture too near the secular-solution-seeking Judas.

On that note, Tony Rossi gives us a reminder to reject anxiety and keep your eyes on the sphere where God has put you.

Here's something that hits home, from about why kids don't stay Catholic.
My wife just read a book called Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. The premise is greatness doesn’t lie in natural talent or abilities. It’s the same message as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Greatness in some sport/job/skill, etc. is more about practice than natural ability. Gladwell says you need “10,000 hours” of practice to become an expert. The greats always practice more than anyone else. That’s what makes them great.
Parents, your kids won’t stay Catholic because you don’t encourage them to practice!
Let’s start thinking of religious formation as a critical life-skill. How do our kids get these skills? They must practice! They must put in their 10,000 hours! And, they must start young. 
Will they always like it? No! But they don’t always know what they need. They’ll want to skip religious education or youth group because they’re tired or because there friends aren’t there. They need to go!

It's so easy for me to think that, since I'm up to my elbows in the effects of living the faith—openness to life, homeschooling to preserve a Catholic worldview—we're sufficiently passing it on to our children. But I know it isn't automatic.

Here's an incredibly moving but frank piece by the inimitable Elizabeth Foss.  She reminds me that time is a resource, as much as any talent, that our master will call us to account for.
On the morning of Sarah's birthday this year, I found myself at Starbucks. The line was ridiculously long. As I stood in line, I noticed a baby in a carseat carrier on the floor by an overstuffed chair. She had a bottle propped in front of her. And she was wearing a pumpkin hat. Her mother sat in the chair, busily tapping away on her iPhone and when the baby fussed, she rocked her with her foot. I left the cafe crying.
I'm sure it was lack of sleep, emotion from the days before, and good old anniversary reaction, but that baby in the hat rocked me to my core.

There are lots of ways to be the mother with the iPhone. I don't need an infant to make that mistake. I can make it daily with even nearly-grown children. I tried to explain this whole train of thought to my husband. I bumbled along and then concluded with, "What if I only have another fiteen years with Sarah? I don't want to spend those years living inside a screen, distracted, disconnected, and offering her just a random push with my toes now and then."

And he said, "I doesn't matter if you have fifteen years or fifty years, if you don't offer her everything now, you won't have this chance again."

Read it all.

This really is a wonderful time. My daughter brought home a small Advent wreath of her own, complete with liturgical resolutions for each week. I have my Advent playlist ready. And if I can keep from being a humbug purist and spoiling the spirit of the good-willed but liturgically incorrect souls around me, I'll consider that a win!

My apologies to any Reader readers, to whom this post may have appeared in varying partial stages. It was a combination of time crunch, and trying to edit on multiple devices and with multiple children "helping"!


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