Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I'm off to make dinner now...
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
"Blessed Among Men," I called myself because truly I was-- even if I needed to be reminded of that fact. I posted "When The Curtain Falls" those six months ago and though nobody read that post but my husband and myself, it changed my perspective. Suddenly, I saw humor in what was an otherwise very frustrating incident.
In these last six months of blogging, I have been surprised and happy to also find perspective, encouragement, inspiration, and-- I believe-- real friendships. I have "met" so many wonderful people through this small cyber spot and I believe sincerely that these are true friendships. Certainly they are different than face to face friendships, existing as they do in the fair weather of the blogosphere, but that doesn't mean they aren't real. Certainly I have more faults and failings than you will find chronicled on this blog, but it isn't my faults that make me who I am.
I try to capture in this space those things that are worth remembering, worth sharing, whatever is good and true--those things that are most real about any of us--the things that endure. It has been a very humbling experience trying to come up with something along these lines to write about every day--some days I have been more successful than others, but the effort itself has proved worth my while.
And I have received so much from all of you. If you are in my sidebar, it is because you have given me something real. Something to think about, to do, to aim at, to hope for, or even just laugh about...and for this I am grateful. I have received from others of you, too, that do not have blogs of your own, but have left encouraging comments and I thank you also, because it is my readership that brings me back here day after day.
And I thank, in a special way, my sisters Helene, Danielle, Christine and my dear friend, Kristen (who is as good as a sister) because your kindness and encouragement in the early days of this blog are the only reason that it is still here today and, if only for me and my family, "Blessed Among Men" has been a great blessing.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
We adore Thee, oh Christ, and we bless Thee
Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
As I cuddled close with my littlest ones, I could hear the clapboard creek and bend beneath the wintry assault. So cold and icy barren seemed all the world.
Jesus is Condemned to Death:
Pilate is afraid. He has looked into the eyes of Jesus and seen more than an ordinary man. Yet he is afraid of the people. "Take you Him and crucify Him." And so Pilate leaves Jesus; walks away worried, but unconverted. I might have done the same. How often I have looked into the face of Jesus, but turned away because I feared the judgement of the world. How often I have served the opinions of men and preferred their favor to His Truth.*
Our climbing roses are nothing now but thorny vines wound around their trellises. As the wild wind shook them, I could hear those thorns tapping and scratching at the sunroom window panes.
Jesus Meets His Mother:
What consolation is this... for son or for mother? Of all the places in the Holy Land, what memory is here! What thoughts pass through the minds of these two-- mother and son-- as their anguished gazes meet? What words are spoken?*
I felt a draft and checked to see that the window was fully closed. It was closed. I pressed my hand on the glass and it was numbingly cold.
Jesus Falls For the Third Time:
He reels and sickens again. All is a blur before Him. There are times that I am insensible to sin. My conscience has been so dull at times that I hardly realize my sin. That is what my guiltless Savior expiates for me now: my spirit of indifference.*
The wind seemed to double its force. There was a howl when it circled in on itself, gathering strength, and then a crack as it pushed against the walls and seemed almost to come through them.
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross:
It is too much. I cannot bear to think that the innocent hand He puts forth is to be hammered down as my stubborn and wayward will goes unchecked and free. I do what I please and He is nailed to a wooden beam as though He would try to run.*
How harsh, how unpleasant, how trying is Lent. When the weather seems cruelest-- wild, barren, icy and dry we contemplate the hard things of our Faith and we look closely at the torments of the cross. We consider the unpleasant things in ourselves and we take on difficult penances.
Why do we do these things?
Do we do them, as some believe, because we love suffering and harshness for its own sake? Do Christians, and Catholics in particular, have an unhealthy fascination with guilt, suffering and pain?
No, we do these things because we love beauty, and truth, and life and we desire to possess them fully and forever. We take up our crosses because He, the One who has conquered death, has told us that this is The Way to Resurrection and New Life.
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:23, 24)
*(Selections from Meditations For the Way of the Cross by Rev. John C. Selner S.S., D.D.)
(Photograph: mine. The mailman's footprint in the frozen slush)
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
Me: (hollering down the stairs) Alexander, everyone is getting on their shoes and socks, why aren't you up here with us?
Alex: Remember how you said we should never leave a room without tidying what we have messed up there? Well, there is nobody here but me to do that so I am cleaning by myself.
Me: (hollering down the stairs...yes, I do that a lot) Boys, did you get enough to eat at lunch?
Simeon: (hollering up) Remember, today's focus is fasting. I think we need to be happy with what we got.
These kids deserve brownies on Sunday. Anyone have a super excellent recipe???
Each of these fish has a letter P, F, or A on its back for prayer, fasting, or almsgiving. Each day, when we draw a fish off the string, we take note of the letter and make it the focus of our day. For example, if we draw a fish with an A on its back, we make almsgiving the focus of our Lenten observance for that particular day. The children might do chores around the house for payment that they then put into our rice bowl.
After the fish has been drawn, it is placed in the basket below. We pray by the basket that Lord will multiply our fishes (our efforts) for the greater good of all.
The boys have really taken to this activity. Even before breakfast in the morning, a fish has been drawn, is in the basket, and everyone is yapping about the day's focus. I suppose it is early on, but the enthusiasm is quite promising.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I was fine in the morning and even made it through lunch and the early part of the afternoon in good spirits. But then the afternoon hours just seemed to c...r....rrr...eee...e...eeee....p by. I was cold and I was hungry and the kids were bickering about nothing and everything and there was nothing to look forward to but more of the same. I know, I know, have you ever heard of such suffering in all your life? What a spoiled child I am.
Crab, crab, crab. Snap, snap, snap, is just about all anyone heard from me until I had time to reflect on the day's Gospel.
"When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad."
I know the Gospel, here, is referring to the way the Pharisees would paint their faces ostentatiously to show everyone that they were fasting, but it seems to apply to my crabbiness as well.
You know, I don't even think it is the hardship of Ash Wednesday that gets to me. It seems I've suffered much, much harder things without becoming crabby. I think it is the obedience part. It is the thought that I can't just drop it at any moment and say, "Oh well, that was a nice idea, but it's not working so let's go out for pizza! Everyone to the van!" I think penance undertaken out of obedience is so much harder than penances freely chosen. It is also more meritorious and, for that reason, a great opportunity for growth.
I am grateful for the opportunity, and thankful that every day is new.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I have vivid memories from my childhood of my mother's hands. I remember them tying my shoelaces and buttoning my sweaters. I recall so clearly how they crimped the edge of a pie crust, held a pencil, and moved swiftly in the strokes of her perfect handwriting. I recall their measured motions when she played a piano, how quickly they peeled an orange, how neatly they folded our clothes. All that I had as a child, I received through my mother's hands. Such beautiful hands, too, with short rounded nails. They were always clean, soft and so gentle.
But they were tough hands, too. I recall watching in amazement when she unflinchingly washed dishes in scalding hot water. I recall, too, how she used to scoop out the pieces of soggy food bits that had gathered at the drain and throw them away with her bare hands. I couldn't watch this as a child without suffering violent protests from my gag reflex. How things have changed.
All this was brought to mind today while I was trimming Alex's hair. I turned on the water to pat down a stubborn spot and he starred at me, wondering.
"What is it, Alex?" I asked.
"How do you do that?"
"Put your hand in that HOT water," he replied. "It's burning my head."
I don't know exactly when my hands toughened up. I don't know which number pot it was that I scrubbed and that officially gave me mother's hands...but here I am. I am now able to keep my hands under scalding hot water for great lengths of time and scoop soggy Cheerios without a gag. My hands are tough, now, because of my service to my family. All that my children receive, they receive through my hands.
When I reflected on this, I thought how appropriate an analogy this was for the beautiful season of Lent beginning today. Lent is a time of chastening, of hardening, of toughening. Lent is the season for strengthening our wills and proving our resolve. Lent is a time for toughening our souls so that we might labor in the Lord's vineyard without flinching so much under the necessary hardships or gag so readily at the scandal of the cross. Lent is like boot camp for the Church militant. We are, all of us, working together to become better instruments of God's grace so that Christ might be brought to others through Our hands-- the hands of our Mother-- His Church.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Something strange happened today. I followed Nicholas upstairs as he put himself down in his new-to-him crib for a nap. When I turned around, my eyes rested on the clean and simple beauty of our newly decorated little boys’ room. There was an updated craft hanging on the door and the smell of fresh baked bread wafted up from the stairwell. I stepped out into a vacuumed hallway beside a moderately full hamper and all was quiet as the four oldest boys played a self-organized game in the downstairs playroom. I had the happy knowledge that the morning school work had been completed (in the morning, mind you), that lunch had been made, the kitchen cleaned, and a few afternoon extras were planned.
(Begin Twilight Zone music)
This may not seem strange to you, dear reader, but to someone just now emerging from the most difficult phase of her young family’s life, this was an unusual moment of unplanned peace--the kind of moment that has been happening more frequently around here.
It seems up until just very recently I was always on edge, always behind, always late, always exhausted, always a mess. It seems just yesterday (though it is nearly two years ago now) that I called my sister, Helene, in desperation wondering how other mothers do it. I will never forget her words because I banked on them,
“You are at the very hardest time right now—when all the children are still so little. It gets easier. Believe me.”
It came as a shock to learn that my life with five boys under age six was more difficult than other mother’s lives that had eight, nine, or even twelve children. It was also a great comfort. I had been struggling with feelings of inadequacy and wondering why God had given me more than I could handle. He isn’t supposed to do that, right?
But I am seeing, now, that it does get easier. Now that I don’t have to put on every mitten and zip every coat, now that the boys are getting older and caring more and more for their own needs and are more able to help me with the little ones, too, things really are easier.
This can’t be, I think to myself as I realize we’ve caught up on all our lessons (I think we're ahead). There must be more children, I imagine as I notice that I have been making an extra snack and pouring an extra glass of milk the last few afternoons. Who’s missing I wonder when the room doesn’t seem quite loud enough or crazy enough.
Things have changed and so have I.On this side, looking back, I am glad I went through that difficult time. I think it is good that there was an extended period of time when I didn’t have things as I would have had them (Not that they are perfect now-- just easier).
I think I’m a calmer mother on account of it, more joyful, happier in the moment of the swiftly passing childhood of my little ones. I find myself wishing time would freeze. I think I've learned to focus more on what really matters and let the messes be messes and the mistakes be mistakes-- because these will always be with us-- but our little ones will not.
I'm more optimistic, too, more likely to see the hamper as half empty than half full. I'm less attached to the things of this world and more desirous of those things that cannot be spilled or stained or broken or ruined or lost.
And I am humbler, I hope, knowing that God has asked of me more than I imagined possible of myself. I have managed so awkwardly what He has blessed me with, but with His help, I hope I have learned a little something about love. And, with His help, I am eager to learn more.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Two more bread recipes have been added.
And now dessert has been served.
I'm slowly uploading recipes I had posted here, too.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Jacob: working with his beginning sounds phonics cards
B..bb...b..b..bPraying Mantis (bug)
S...s..ss..ss..sBlack Widow (spider)
T..ttt...ttt..tGalapagos Tortise (turtle)
Confusing. Perhaps I should look for cards with more generic looking pictures?
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
That's the good news. The bad new is, that after making this for our date night and frosting heart-shaped cookies for the kids, I'm looking up and seeing that it is after six and I'm not sure what's for dinner just yet. Hmmmm...
Recipe will be posted at "The Virtual Kitchen," once I have my DSL connection back. Sigh...
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Ice Q: Def. One of those frozen, three dimensional, square-shaped blocks of ice used to keep drinks cool. Sentence: My mother always worries that I will choke on an ice Q.
Corder: Def. The coin most often required for vending machines. Sentence: Can I have a corder for the gum ball machine?
Briffix: Def. The first meal of the day-- usually cold cereal, but preferably pancakes.
The Honky-Tonky Fider: Def. You know, the one that went up the water spout? Down came the rain and washed the fider out...
Remembery: Def. The faculty by which you remember. Sentence: Jacob knows where to go because he has a good remembery.
Fer Wealy: Def. Short phrase tacked on to the end of a sentence that indicates you really mean what you just said. Sentence: A jaguar can run faster than a car and I'm not kidding, fer wealy.
I can't... post pictures without jumping through crazy hoops (I won't tell you how long it took that picture of St Therese and the roses to upload--I'll just say that I fell asleep waiting)
I can't...visit other blogs or leave comments without a great deal of being bumped off and reconnecting.
I can't...read my email in one box easily or the other box at all.
I can't...use the internet for most hours of the day.
I can't... complain
...because after I get the children into their pajamas and read a few chapters of "Farmer Boy," I turn around and see that my husband has set up his lap top in a convenient place for me, dialed the connection, and made me a cup of tea. Then, leaving me to "reconnect," he quietly takes the boys upstairs to read to them from "Lord of the Rings," pray with them, and tuck them gently into bed.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Not to worry, though, because Simeon has been dancing with them and teaching them all the motions and steps that I taught him years ago. It warmed my heart the other day when I caught a glimpse of this through the scolding hole: five brothers spontaneously singing and dancing happily together to such simple tunes-- it was just the sweetest and most innocent scene.
When I walked around the corner to get a better view, Zachary took a spill. Simeon helped him up and, without missing a step, he was dancing again with the others. Simeon flashed me a knowing smile and said, "He is so gay, he doesn't feel the pain." I almost choked when I heard this word choice. We never use the word gay around this house for any reason. I can only think he heard or read it somewhere recently in its original meaning and thought it was a useful word. Why not? After all, he has never learned otherwise.
I thought a moment about how different I was at Simeon's age. While I have many good memories of my elementary school years in the public school system, it seems I remember being fully aware of what was cool and what was not cool. I remember, also, being aware of who was cool and who was not cool. The pressure to conform to these standards of coolness only grew stronger in later years, but it was already present in the third grade and beginning to shape my thoughts and desires.
Simeon does not know anything about this pressure. He's never learned to look down on children younger than himself (like I did) or despise the things that entertain them. Neither does he know the slang meanings of certain words (like I did) or that some people use these words to hurt others. In his world, the word gay means happy and I am happy it does. I am happy my boys have the freedom to express themselves freely and naturally. I'm happy that they do not feel pressure (like I did) to conform to standards that are not their family's.
It is good to be in touch with one's culture and to belong to a larger community, and I want that for my children. For now, however, I think our family, our large extended family, and very large pool of friends (both inside and outside the homeschooling crowd) is "larger community" enough for my young sons. And, unlike popular culture as it is most often found, our children really are loved and cared about by everyone in our larger community. They have every reason to feel that they will always belong and that they are unconditionally accepted here.
There will come a day when our community is no longer large enough for my children and they will need to find their way in the world. When that day comes, I hope we will have trained them well enough to know how to fit in without compromising what I hope will have become their own standards. It is with that day in mind that I will teach Simeon that gay, meaning happy, is no longer a word in common use and I will help him to find a few synonyms. Living a counter-cultural life of faith is difficult enough without adding unnecessary quirks that are bound to rub people the wrong way. I wouldn't be doing my children any favors by completely neglecting to instruct them in a sense of style, speech, and manner that is somewhat in keeping with the larger culture to which we all belong.
So, while I readily and happily admit that we are not cool-- as defined by many a third grader-- I like to think that we are developing in our children a naturalness, a confidence, a sense of taste, and a more classic, more perennial style that will serve them well in any place or decade.
And, quite frankly, I think that's pretty cool.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Friday, February 09, 2007
Does this count??
Thursday, February 08, 2007
So, I'm on my husband's laptop that does not remember ANY of my passwords with a connection that is so.......
...it times out at every turn.
Since I'd rather pull all my hair out strand by strand than use this medium for any extended period of time, I am sad to say that I will be taking a break --or at least blogging and visiting blogs lightly-- until I have my DSL connection running again, which should be in about a week. Since I won't be spending as much time as I'm wont with my new friend Blogger, I hope to use the time to get re-acquainted with my old friend Word. Maybe I'll start working on some of the projects I have spinning around in my head.
I leave you with these words of wisdom:
Jacob: It's really fun to be out of control. (I think he meant on a sled)
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
In honor of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 140th birthday today (thanks Cay!), we started reading our favorite book of hers again. Also, we had a real Farmer Boy style breakfast for dinner. I went for the Wilder breakfast menu because I thought it would be easier to make on a whim and more generally appreciated. Pictured below are just a few of the necessary ingredients.
Not pictured here were the butter, whipping cream, molasses, brown sugar, eggs, and shortening I used to make buttermilk pancakes, sausages and gravy, hot baked apples, steel cut oatmeal, and pumpkin pie. There was plenty of sugar, butter, cream, molasses, and real maple syrup on the table as well. I don't know what the surgeon general would say, but I'm certain Nina Plank would endorse us. After I made all this food, it occurred to me that we could have just gone out to eat at Cracker Barrel, instead. Then I remembered what happened the last time we were there, and I was glad we stayed home.
And here's a picture of the table I took without realizing that I was holding the camera over my own steaming plate.
We were all too full to eat this pie. But we did have the sugar cookies the boys made from the extra pie crust. Then we filled the kettle on top of the wood stove with water, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. We warmed cider, popped pop-corn, and gathered round the hearth...
...to read all about that hardworking American boy, Almanzo Wilder, drinking cider and eating pop-corn beside his family's hearth.
This was so much fun and the perfect respite from our dull and dreary cabin fever, we might just have to make it tradition.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Again today, when he was struggling to put on a coat and go outside to sled with his brothers, I simply said, "Oh Nicholas, I think it would be better if you had a nap." He took the coat off, hung it on a hook, and went up to bed without a word. Later, he woke up and joined Zachary to play in the living room where I was reading from a science book with the three oldest boys.
The warmth of the wood stove in the slowly dimming light, and the quiet stillness of the children as I read in the lateness of the afternoon beckoned me to sleep. Just ten minutes, I thought to myself and ordered everyone to read to themselves. I let my head fall on a throw pillow and as I was about to fall asleep I heard someone very close to my face say "bank-ette." I opened one eye and there stood Nicholas holding up a blanket with one arm and attempting to wrap it over me with the other. There was the baby putting his mother for a nap!
Monday, February 05, 2007
This was a simple project, but very rewarding. I call it "Restless Hearts" because we used the traditional Valentine theme to illustrate an important theological truth uttered by the great St. Augustine. Speaking to the Lord he said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."
First we cut out the hearts. Then I had the boys choose one, write their name on it, and also write three things that they love. They listed things like friends, snow, tigers, sunshine, ice cream, and tennis. Then I asked each boy individually why he loves the things he listed. For example, Simeon loves ice cream because it tastes good and Alex loves snow because it is fun to go sledding and make snow balls.
Then I asked if any of these things we love could make us happy forever. Could we eat ice cream and nothing else for the rest of our lives? Wouldn't we grow tired of snow if spring never came? The boys agreed that while they love these things, none of them alone would make them happy forever.
Then we talked about how God made all these things and how what we love about ice cream, snow and even one another is found in God. In fact, EVERY good is found in God and that is why He alone can make us happy forever.
I told them that while reading about tigers, eating cookies, and playing tennis are all very good and well, we eventually grow tired of these things, but we will never grow tired of God. The heart without God is forever searching for something new to fill it up, growing tired of that thing, and searching again. But the heart that has God has all things and can finally rest.
To symbolize our hearts "resting" in God, we taped them to the center of white heart-shaped doilies. The white heart at the center of the doily stood for God and His love for us. When we fastened our hearts to God, the lace that then surrounded them symbolized the grace and virtue that adorn a heart resting in God. Then we taped our resting hearts to our bedroom doors and wrote the words of St Augustine below. For added flair we put up some restless, floating hearts as well. Don't worry, we didn't write any names on those.
Visit Beck and check out her amazing groundhog cupcakes.
Check out Lifenut's new design. And then look at it again and see how it changes. I could click all day.
Read Elizabeth's insightful and thought provoking post about "pegs."
As for me and my house, we will....
...slowly recover from the Superbowl bash we attended last night.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
What begins with Bb?
Blue Baby Blowing Bubbles
These last few were not taken at our home, but fit the blue theme so well I couldn't leave them out.
Blue Blanket on Baby in Blueberry Bushes
Friday, February 02, 2007
Kristen and I will be starting a kitchen blog soon. We have cooked together quite a bit over the years and are always exchanging recipes. We hope that this new cyber-kitchen will offer us the opportunity to share more ideas with one another and with anyone who would like to join us.
Neither of us has much time for maintaining an additional blog and so we imagine a very casual atmosphere, posting ideas as they come and recipes when requested.
The only reason we haven't started it yet is because we haven't been able to come to up with a satisfying name. Any suggestions??
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I've been tagged by the beautiful Kimberlee who graciously shares with us the many good things she ponders in her heart.
Aprons – Y/N?
You know, I don't wear one. But since I've been seeing all of you wearing your aprons, I would really like one or two. It seems the perfect robe for Domestic Queenship. Besides, I think I'd be cute in an apron.
Baking – Favorite thing to bake:
Blueberry Scones, peanut butter cookies (See above: made today), breads of all sorts, muffins of every variety, birthday cakes, pies...
Clothesline – Y/N?
We have one. I use it for pool towels in the summer. That's all.
Donuts – Have you ever made them?
Every day – One homemaking thing you do every day:
Laundry, dishes, cooking, endlessly picking things up off the floor...
Freezer – Do you have a separate deep freeze?
Garbage Disposal – Y/N?
Yes, but it needs servicing. Last weekend someone dropped a string in there and it hasn't sounded the same since I pulled it out. Arrg.
Handbook – What is your favorite homemaking resource?
Ironing – Love it or hate it?
Like my sister, I don't iron. I never have. I never will. I don't understand it, our mother always ironed so faithfully.
Junk drawer – Y/N? Where is it?
Which one? This one? Or the one below it I use to clear the counters?
Kitchen: Design & Decorating?
It is cream colored with deep red trim,chestnut cabinets and a red-ish wood-looking laminate floor. Soon to have my fruits on the walls.
Love – What is your favorite part of homemaking?
They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I can reach six hearts for the same effort it takes to reach one. It's a wonderful feeling...of course, it is scary to think how much this is going to cost us in a few years!
Mop – Y/N?
Nylons – Wash by hand or in the washing machine?
Oven – Do you use the window or open the oven to check?
Open the door. Too many finger/nose prints on the window.
Pizza – What do you put on yours?
I grill pizza. It is wonderful with fresh basil, tomato, garlic, green onions, and mozzarella. But I've been known to top pizza with such things as pears and Gorgonzola or Rosemary, mushrooms and Brie.
Quiet – What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you-- a "what" moment??
Recipe card box – Y/N?
No. Three ring binder with plastic folders for inserting hand written or computer printed recipes.
Style of house –
Red Cape Cod with white trim, window boxes, and a white sun room. We have what they call "curb appeal." If only it were larger...
Tablecloths and napkins – Y/N?
I just bought some great cork-backed place mats. Paper napkins.
Under the kitchen sink – Organized or toxic wasteland?
Organized. A little stinky with all the wet rags drying down there, but I wash those once a week.
Vacuum – How many times per week?
Fifteen? Twenty? It seems I don't stop vacuuming and it always needs doing.
Wash – How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
Seven to ten.
X’s – Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Yard – Y/N? Who does what?
My husband tends to most things outdoors. I'd like to do more...
Zzz’s – What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
Check on the sleeping boys, kiss their foreheads, say a Hail Mary for each.