Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What's Left to See

There are some things in our lives that are so familiar that we fail to see them anymore. Sometimes it takes a new angle or a fresh pair of eyes to point out the detail that has been right in front of us for so long. We all know that.

But this doesn't apply to our children, right? I mean, really, we wake them up in the morning and put them to bed at night (or they wake us up in the morning). We feed them. We've changed their diapers; what's left to see? We have lived with them their entire lives and almost all they know--they have learned from us. What don't we know about them? Right?

Well, if ever I had imagined that I know all there is to know about my little ones, I would have ceased today when I saw Zachary practicing with scissors and paper for the first time. He was having a hard time and was mostly tearing the paper. He was having a hard time, I noticed, because he was holding the scissors in his left hand.

Hhmmm...

I placed a pencil before him, wondering. Sure enough he picked up the pencil and began to draw with his left hand just as he has always done and just as I have seen him do again and again and again--without ever really seeing that he's left-handed.

It makes me wonder what else I'm missing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Peachy


Mine...

...and Jacob's.

I learned today that peach is NOT an easy color to mix and "fuzzy" is not an easy texture to paint.
*

Cabin Fever



It's that time of year again...

...when the boys look so pale their skin is almost blue. Their hair is mouse brown and highlight-less. We all feel anemic and vitamin deprived. I'm itchy and dry and static-y all over. I wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep because, I realize, I'm just not tired. Why would I be? I haven't breathed fresh air since Sunday except for a few mad dashes to the mailbox and I have been wearing these same slippers now for days...

I once heard it said that you should never make any major life decisions in February and that seems wise.

So, for the next few weeks I will try not to change my name or the color of my hair. And I will try very very hard not to run away to some exotic island where there is sunshine, green grass, colorful flowers, clear water and fresh air...breathe deep...sigh...sigh again.

Thank You

To everyone who participated in and visited the Candlemas Fair. At last count, we hosted over 550 visitors here yesterday!

I will continue to take entries through Candlemas, adding them to the "late comers" list as they come. So please, send me your links if you have them.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Loveliness of Candlemas Fair

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all the people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:30-32)

The fourth joyful mystery of the Holy Rosary, The Presentation in the Temple, is rich in symbolic meaning and offers much to contemplate. The feast of Candlemas celebrated on February 2nd in honor of this mystery has many facets to reflect that meaning. This fair will focus on three: Time, Light, and Purification by Trial.

Time
...for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

Here, in the heart of this beautiful mystery, the Old and the New Testaments meet. In the forty days since Jesus' birth, He has remained in the abode of the Holy Family. The presentation is His very first public appearance. The proclamations of Simeon and Anna are, therefore, the first heraldings of the arrival of our salvation. It is no coincidence that this feast falls on a cross quarter day, half way between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox--a time when we look for the first heraldings of spring.


Katherine's meaningful reflection on the Icon of The Presentation makes several connections between Candlemas and the theme of time-- the old and the new.

The beautiful flowers pictured above are called Candlemas Bells, so named because they bloom around Candlemas and are among the very earliest signs of spring. Read more over at the Catholic gardener's dream web site, Mary's Gardens.

In her list of 21 various things she would like to do in order to celebrate Candlemas, Dawn has some wonderful ideas for learning more about these flowers and other winter/spring nature studies and crafts.

Kristen reflects on four virtues exemplified by Mary in this mystery, one of which is patience, considering the time of Mary's wait before her purification.

To read more about weather lore--signs of the times-- associated with Candlemas and to see a cute picture of a groundhog and a candle go here.

Light
A light to lighten the Gentiles and a glory to thy people Israel.

This is the first mention in the Gospels that the Gentiles are a part of God's plan for salvation. Guiding both the Gentiles and the people of Israel, Christ is truly the light of the world. This is worthy of reflection as daylight begins to increase. On Candlemas, the Church blesses all Her candles and, for use in the darkness of winter that remains, the faithful have traditionally had candles blessed for their homes.

Elizabeth sheds light on this subject and offers some beautiful ideas for using candles in our Domestic Churches throughout the liturgical year.

Mary also shares some wonderful ideas for celebrating Candlemas with candles. Did you know that this feast day is called "Blessed Mother of the Candles" in Poland?

Matilda has posted the loveliest craft using paper to create a picture lantern around a candle in honor of this day. Truly, truly beautiful.

And Jen has some interesting links about beeswax candles.

Here are some simple instructions for making beeswax candles.

Purification By Trial
A sword shall pierce through thine own soul also.

The Virgin Mother had no need to undergo the ritual of purification in the Temple, but there the prophet Simeon announced another sort of purification that she would undergo at the foot of the cross.

Alice shares some insight into the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Be sure to read the comments on this one. They are as interesting as the post.

Karen contributes with a beautiful post about her purification "bit by bit, tear by tear, and sorrow by sorrow."

I posted on this topic just below. (please scroll down)

And our own dear Margaret, whose wound is still so fresh, captures so well the bittersweet nature of this feast.

It has been a pleasure hosting this fair. I hope you have found something here worth your while.

God Bless you all and may you have a very blessed Candlemas Day!

Your Fair Hostess,
Suzanne

Now Taking Late Comers:
Elena
Blair
Marjorie: La Chandeleur
Alice: Tea, Turtledoves, and Treading Water
Barbara in nova does not have a blog, but recommends Michael Card's song, "Now That I've Held Him in my Arms."
* * *

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The History of a Name


Simeon Temple playing Simeon in the Temple
Shepherd Montessori: Presentation Play, 2002


Every year on February the second I receive a phone call from a friend. It is a different friend every year, but always with the same question. "Suzanne," they begin, sounding somewhat embarrassed,"I was at Mass today and I just realized...Simeon... I mean Simeon in the Temple. Did you name him that because of the Presentation in the Temple?" I usually answer this question with a short and simple reply so as not to drag my friends through a long history.

But for you, poor reader-- who has the power to click away from here at any moment with scarcely a trace-- I will answer this question in full...

Three weeks after my wedding day I discovered that I was not alone at home anymore, but was "with child." We hadn't been looking for this, but neither had we been avoiding it, and so I should not have been surprised. I was shocked at first and maybe even a bit nervous, but overall I was happy. My dreams were as bright as the noon sky and as starry as the midnight. I could hardly contain my delight. But news of a new life uniquely our own could not be broken in an everyday way. I had to think of something memorable... and I did. I baked a cake. It was the first cake I baked as a married woman and I decorated it with the words, "We Love You."

When my husband returned home from work, I shuffled about with nervous excitement preparing and serving the dinner. How could I ever sit through a meal and participate in such ordinary conversation when I had the most extraordinary news to tell? Though bursting at the seams, I must have managed well enough because he did not suspect a thing. When I presented the cake, he just looked at it with a smile. Then, turning his smile to me, he asked with the mildest confusion, "Who is we?"

Who is we? Who is we? That question still echoes in my mind because it was never answered. Never fully and adequately answered with a face and a name. In early February, I miscarried. Though I was little more than five weeks along, the pain of that loss was almost more than my young heart could endure. I couldn't understand it. At that time, I had not known anyone my age to have suffered a loss of this kind.

I was hurt, felt very much alone, and was determined to conceive again. After months without success, I was diagnosed with hormone imbalances that were likely the cause of the first miscarriage and threatened any future pregnancy. When these imbalances were stabilized, I conceived again. We were cautiously pleased. I did not bake a cake.

But when miscarriage threatened a second time, I was terrified. My doctor was gracious enough to take my frantic call at home, his wife handing him the phone through the shower curtain. He prescribed regular hormone supplements by injection and it was not a moment too soon. While the symptoms of miscarriage faded, we remained cautiously pleased.

I remember, as those early weeks passed, feeling as though I had been robbed of the simple joy of new motherhood. While I still felt joy, I was also haunted with anxieties and fear. I wanted the joy without the fear. It seemed unfair that my time of expectation, of waiting, quilting, planning, preparing, dreaming... would be tinged with sorrow and surrounded by fear.

We continued for three months with the injections and things progressed well. In late January, we learned we were expecting a boy. By that time, we felt confident enough to make a list of names we liked. Jacob, James, Alexander, Simeon, Nathaniel, Nicholas... I liked them all. How would we ever choose one? (Little did I know I would have ample opportunity to use ALL these names and more.)

In early February of that year we traveled to Connecticut to visit my sister and her family. They took us to the beautiful St Mary's Priory in New Haven on the feast of Candlemas. Before the Latin Mass, there was a candle-lit procession in honor of "Christ, the Light of Nations." As we held our burning candles, the choir conducted a concert-like production of prayers and hymns. With no little ones to distract me, I was easily lost in the beauty of the music and in the prayers.

Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel; and for a sign of contradiction; yea, a sword shall pierce thine own heart also.

These words were repeated again and again throughout the ceremony. They were sung and chanted, spoken and whispered. Suddenly, as if by prompting, I recalled where I had been just the year before. One year before (almost to the day) I had been "presenting" my first born child to the Lord; not in the temple... but in grief, scared and alone in an apartment and I finally understood. I wasn't being robbed of motherhood through these trials. Rather, I was being introduced to it sooner than I liked.

Here was the young Virgin, pure and clean, humbly obedient to the Law her Son had authored and would soon fulfill. She offered two turtledoves for her purification because she could not afford a lamb-- which lamb represented the babe in her arms. Gently, humbly, she receives the words of the prophet,

A sword shall pierce thy heart...

And she wonders over them in her faith-filled heart. On that feast of Candlemas, suspended so perfectly between the feast of the Nativity and the Passion, I began to understand my vocation. To say "yes" to love and to receive new life opens one's heart to the sword of sorrow. Sooner or later and to a greater or lesser degree, that sorrow always comes. On that day, I saw my suffering with new eyes. I suddenly saw it as a privilege, as a gift--however small-- that I had to offer the Virgin Mother and her Divine Child who suffered so to save my soul from death.

As we drove home and talked about these things, we decided to name our son Simeon after the prophet who proclaims the dignity of the vocation to motherhood. It was only an afterthought that our last name happens to be "Temple." While we did not intend this, neither did we change our minds on account of it.

Over the years, I have come to know many, many other mothers who have suffered loss through miscarriage and it is heart breaking every time. But the beauty and the strength of these mothers always seems to shine through their suffering. On this feast of Mary's purification, let us remember all mothers, everywhere, whose hearts have been pierced and purified.

Loveliness fair: The Loveliness of Candlemas

Friday, January 26, 2007

Gloomy Childhood?



Jane Eyre

Jane, orphaned at a young age, is turned out by her aunt. After a gloomy childhood at boarding school, she leaves to find mystery and romance with the dark, strange, Mr. Rochester...

Which Classic Heroine are You?

I reread this classic last August and apart from the lonely, dark childhood and the fiancee's-first-wife-hidden-in-the-attic thing, I did feel a certain connection with this character. Perhaps I have more in common with author, Charlotte Bronte, who came from a happy home, had several sisters, and they all loved to write.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dietary Restrictions

Simeon: Can we go to the parent-teacher store?

Me: Not today. If we go anywhere, it will be somewhere where I can pick up something for dinner.

Simeon: Ok then, how about Home Depot?

Me: Simeon, do we eat hardware?

Simeon: (disappointed) Oh yea, that's right. No.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

January





The Promise of Bread

Out on the frozen uplands, underneath the snow
and sleet,
In the bosom of the plowland sleeps the Promise
of the Wheat.
With ice for head-and-footstone, and a snowy
shroud outspread
In the frost-locked tomb of winter sleeps the Miracle
of Bread...

by C.L. Edson

(This bread is a very hearty oatmeal sweetened with molasses. It's my father's own recipe. One slice of this with butter might just be enough for Almanzo Wilder's breakfast! Photo: The view from my baking stand window.)


Don't Move, Brother, There's a Splinter in Your Eye

Simeon: Jacob, perhaps you shouldn't talk about that. You are saying it a little un-correctly.

Business


Please remember to post about Candlemas this week and send me your entries for the fair. I would greatly appreciate having your entry by the 27th of January. You may post it to this com box or send it via email to the address in my side bar.

In the meantime, read here, here, and here to learn more about Candlemas.

Thank You,
Your Fair Hostess (the fairest of them all)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Things I Will Smile About As I Fall Asleep Tonight

Today...

Simeon vacuumed the dining room after dinner. When I thanked him he stepped forward, took a dramatic bow and said in his deepest voice, "It was nothing."

Alexander read both short and long vowel words beautifully. He was so proud of himself he could hardly get the last few out from behind his grin.

Jacob looked at the painting posted below and said, "I didn't know it was a rainy day when you and Papa was marryin'." The dear boy thought that elegant lady was his mother!

Zachary stood in fuzzy, green, feety pajamas and announced spontaneously from the next room, "I luz you, Mama." When I said "I love you, too, Zachy" he came running into the kitchen and bowled me over.

Nicholas woke up in our bed this morning and ran out of the room shouting "Gracky....Gracky" (his name for Zachary). Then, as though he had suddenly remembered something, he dashed back into our room, kissed me on the mouth and was gone as fast as he had come.

The End of Love


Dance Me to the End of Love
Jack Vettriano

Saturday night we watched, "The Lake House." Every once in a while, I enjoy a good romance film (and I make someone else enjoy it with me). For a modern romance, this one wasn't too bad. The story of a young woman and a young man separated two years in time, but somehow able to communicate--and fall in love--through messages left in a mailbox at a house on a lake. Interesting enough. Acted well enough. Perfectly innocent. Not bad on the whole.

The surprising thing was my own reaction. I think I'm finally losing my taste for these films. It isn't that I don't like romance anymore. I do. I like it as much as I ever have. I relish a well told story about the conflict and compatibility of man and woman. I love to watch young lovers overcome great odds to be with one another. I love to see the lengths to which they will go for each other and the crazy things they will do. I love the elements of stolen moments, heartfelt proclamations, sweet embraces. I enjoy all these things, but from a new perspective.

After ten years of marriage and five children, we don't go ice skating alone hand-in-hand all that often anymore. It isn't every night I find myself in a glittery gold dress holding a glass of champagne in a white-gloved hand. And the barefoot midnight strolls on a beach are, well, non-existent. Oh, I still get the occasional flowers and chocolate and an evening out from time to time, but this is not really what I consider the most romantic part of marriage.

I believe the most romantic part of marriage is found in the day in and day out of ordinary life. Elinor Glyn once said, "Romance is the glamour that transforms the dust of everyday life into a golden haze." While I don't like Elinor Glyn or anything she worked for, I do see truth in this statement and would only change it to say, "Romance is the love that transforms the dust of everyday life into a golden haze." Glamour is flashy and bright, attention-grabbing, and self-focused. It may create illusion, but it is much too superficial to actually "transform" anything. Love, however, love can be so much more than that-- and it has the power to transform.

In marriage-- the overcoming of great odds, the conflict and compatibility, the crazy things we do, the stolen moments (any moment alone in this house I consider stolen), the heartfelt proclamations--they are all there, just without the glamour. And there is another difference too, they aren't about just me and him anymore. They are about us-- all seven of us.

God has designed family life very wisely. Marriage and children slowly train the will to move our love out of ourselves and focus it on others. And the longer I am in this school of love, the more I learn to appreciate its romance. Acts of selflessness are far more beautiful than flawless diamonds and they give me more joy than a pic-nic for two in the country. Small considerations, kind words, gentle encouragement, prayers offered, and sacrifices made-- both given and received-- can, and do, "transform the dust of everyday life into a golden haze." That is the romance I have become accustomed to and it makes the Hollywood kissing-in-the-rain variety appear so flat and lifeless.

I liked the title of this painting, "Dance Me to the End of Love" because that is what I hope we will do. I imagine couples going before us and others following after, each of us learning how to love one another, love the children that come along, and love our neighbors ever more and more perfectly until, at the end, we all meet up in heaven to love for all eternity. Now that's romance.
*

Monday, January 22, 2007

34th Annual March For Life

We will be supporting, with our prayers, those who are marching for life at our nation's capital, today.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all human beings are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which is the right to life..." (The first of the Life Principles explaining the motivation for the march.)

Unfortunately we are not able to attend, but look who's going!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bedtime Routine

That page reads,

"Baby sits on Daddy's lap.
Daddy reads the story.
Baby looks at the pictures."

"Good Night, Baby" by Denise Lewis Patrick
*

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Do I Need a Diet and a Shave?

Yesterday, we headed to the store in the first real snow of the season. As we walked from van to store I was complaining...

Me: Winter makes everything harder. Every little thing we do is complicated by more hats, more coats, more mittens, more boots...

Simeon: (walking behind me) Yeah, more fur, more blubber...

Me: ???

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bb


Big B, little b
What begins with Bb?
A Big Boy and his baby brother
Bathed, in blue pajamas, and smiling beautifully

*

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Watercolors

We've been painting our hearts out. Here are some samples of our finished work...


Zachary's "Forest" (It's hard to see it for the trees)


Jacob's "Subway" (Jacob has been all about subways ever since our trip to NY)


Alexander's "Peacock" (does not have much cause to be vain).


Simeon's "Potted Plants" (He's been very impressed with some Asian artwork he has seen in the Lucy Micklethwait books)


Simeon's "High Seas"


My "Pear"


to go with my "Apple" and hopefully two other fruits to be framed and hung in a square in my kitchen. However amateur, I think it's nice to decorate living spaces with some things you've done yourself. Any suggestions as to what the other two fruits should be?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Man's Job

Maybe he knows more about women than I thought...

Simeon: Mama, can I take this trash out for you?

Me: Sure, thank you!

Simeon: I'm happy to do it.

Me: Why are you so extra-helpful this morning?

Simeon: Well, it's cold outside and this bag is pretty heavy. It's a man's job.

Weather Reports and School Reports

There is no snow or ice to report here, but the temperatures have dropped significantly. We lit our first fire of the season and kept the boys up late to sit and stare at it, snuggle, and sing winter songs.


We have been focusing our attentions on studies these last few days and this cold weather arrives at just the right moment to encourage us to stay indoors with pencils and books and paint. We've had a few bumps and starts, but I am happy to report that things really are going well on the whole. Here are a few of the ups and downs (I'll give you the bad news first)...

Lows:

1. When Alex forgot how to read words with short vowel sounds because he learned about long vowel sounds.

2. When I discovered that all the neat tricks Simeon was using to get the answers right on his math work were also ensuring that he was never actually practicing the math facts he needs to learn.

3. When I walked past a mirror today and the definition of "dowdy" stared back at me in horror. Oh well, we're not going anywhere, right?

Highs

1. Listening to The Marriage of Figaro yesterday afternoon and painting with the four oldest boys. Most people who hear I have five boys probably don't imagine that we listen to opera and paint together, but we do! It's certainly not all we do, but we do! I love homeschooling!

2. Sipping "Sweet Apple" tea with Simeon yesterday evening while reading all about that fateful Golden Apple that began the Trojan War. Simeon decided that, were he Paris, he would have chosen all three goddesses as "The Most Beautiful" and divided the apple into thirds. (He has a lot to learn about women and vanity and greed--Thank goodness!)

3. Today, when I asked Simeon to fill in this blank map of the United States, I did not ask him to illustrate it, but there you go...


He offered me some funny stories and facts about some of these illustrations. I would share them with you, but my husband just rented the new (as in 2007) series of the television hit "24." We are pathetic addicts even though we don't have television. He is standing outside the door beckoning me out...

"Chu-Ching...Chu-Ching...Chu-Ching.." Guess that means I don't have much time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Candlemas Fair

To Simeon, the elderly priest, the Virgin Mother offers her infant son who is Maker of the Law and its Fulfillment.

"Dismiss your servant now in peace, for my eyes have seen Thy salvation."

While others have little else than Groundhog Day to look forward to, we Catholics have the wondrous feast of Candlemas! I am now taking entries for the "Loveliness of Candlemas Fair" that will be hosted here on January 29th. You may post your entry links in this com-box or email them to the address in my sidebar.

In the meantime, enjoy the Candlemas art and poetry found here. I hope that it will get you thinking about your entry.
*

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Think I'm Looking at Him

Bringing me an orange-colored scooper we have for making Jack-O-Lanterns...

Zachary: Mama, can you help me? I can't find the pumpkin that goes with this.

I Resolve Not to be Defeated


We're behind. Way behind. As we return to ordinary time and begin a second semester of school, I am discovering the full effect of the time lost trying to sell our house. From the first showings to the packing all the way to the unpacking, we lost a good three months of serious, dedicated, first-priority school...and it shows. It shows in the lesson numbers. It shows in skills, lost or rusty. It shows in the September-like frustrations of getting back into gear and following a schedule. It shows.

Last week I was feeling rather down about this situation and decided to go for a run--something else that had been put on the back burner while we tried to find a new home for our family.

The warm weather seemed to call me outside and as I tied my sneakers I thought about my usual route--too long neglected-- with joyful anticipation. The familiar trees and landmarks, the houses, the gardens, the smells of cooking, of chimneys, of flowers and leaves all comfort me. They seem to greet me as I approach and wave as I pass. But even as I headed out the driveway I felt a certain tension in my chest.

What's that? Ahh...push on. It will pass.

But before I even reached my first landmark, the tension turned to ache. I held my breath and pushed on with muscle. I even got a certain rhythm going and imagined my arms were the steel arms of a train forcing the wheels forward.

I am a machine. I am unstoppable.

When I was compelled to breathe again, however, I felt immanently stoppable. I found the ache had become a sting and stop I did. I walked fast, breathing hard, hoping to work it out. I walked past my second and even third landmark before I thought I could try again. The second time I made it a little further, but was forced to stop sooner than I had hoped.

As I walked the route I usually run, I thought about how this was the perfect analogy for where we are at with homeschooling. Here was a path I had run many times before, but today I couldn't run a quarter of it. I was set back. I was behind the place I had hoped and expected to be. Somehow, with the running, this didn't bother me so much. I suppose it's because I don't run to reach goals, I run to get exercise and relieve stress. I can do that running five miles or I can do that running one. Running isn't about goals, it is about the doing of it for me. It is enough that I am on the right track, moving forward-- walking or running-- and that I am challenged. Besides, I know from experience that if I am consistent enough, I will go the distances before long.

The same is true, I realized, with school. Now is not the time for goals. Now is the time to do it for the doing of it and be satisfied that we are challenged and moving forward. Now is the time for patience and consistency and before I know it, we will be going the distances. I resolve not to be defeated.

When I reached my three quarters landmark, I mustered all I had and ran at a slower-than-normal, but very steady pace. As the sting left my lungs, I could almost hear the instrumental piece from Chariots of Fire cheering me on... da, da, da, da, da, da... da, da, da, dum...When I rounded the corner to the house and crossed the finish line at last, I was still feeling as though I could run forever.

Loveliness Fair: The Loveliness of New Year's Resolutions

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Water to Wine

Wedding Feast at Cana
Jan Vermeyen (c. 1530) Amsterdam

The words of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the Gospel reading today....

"Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye (Jn. 2)."
*

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I was given a little time alone today-- some time to run some errands and get some exercise, and maybe enjoy a little peace and quiet. When I returned, it seemed I was the only one who noticed they were all speaking at once...

Simeon:...Where did you go? Did you go running? Your face is pink. What's in the bag? Is there anything for me?

Alexander:...But it was funny in the movie, Mama, cause there's this hammer, and you hit it on the wall and the walls start to crack...

Jacob:...but how do you exercise with those things? Those things Mama,..you know, those things that have balls on the ends and are very heavy? What do you do with those?....

Zachary:...Do you remember the "Statue of Liverty?" in the water, in New York? Remember, Mama?...

Nicholas: ...ah quant-want, Mama, ooohhh... dogies...woof-oof... Mama...

I am convinced that the very best part of getting away... is the coming home.

* * *

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Humble and Contrite Heart

Often, in my dealings with the children, I feel I gain some insight into how I might approach God. I mention this because a recent incident with Middle Child (who's name will be withheld) helped me to see a sure and certain path to God's mercy.

Middle Child has it hard sometimes. When he plays with Big Boys, what he considers play... they often consider annoying. When he plays with Little Boys, what he considers play... they often consider bullying. It isn't always hard. It seems to come in waves. A long time will pass without incident and then, suddenly, we can't get through a few hours without a crisis of this sort.

The early part of this week brought an unusually heavy onslaught of such trials for Middle Child. When he was playing with Big Boys, he was constantly screaming in frustration. When he was playing with Little Boys, they were constantly screaming in frustration. It seems screaming is the solution of choice when no solution can be found. Well, I had had quite enough of the screaming. As I tucked him into bed after a particularly bad day, I talked to Middle Child about finding other ways of dealing with his frustrations with the Big Boys and about how he could avoid causing the same frustrations in the Little Boys. He promised to do better the next day.

But the trouble started early the next morning. The first I heard of Middle Child was a frustrated scream. I called him to me and reminded him of his promise to do better. He remembered his promise and seemed sincere in wanting to do better, but within minutes, Little Boys were screaming about Middle Child. I called him back and reminded him again, how he must be considerate to the Little Boys. He remembered again --and promised again, to try harder. The third time it was Middle Child, himself, screaming yet again.

The moment I called his name, he burst into the most desperate sounding sobs. He walked slowly towards me turning his fists in his eyes.

"It's not easy. It's not easy," he managed to cry out between the heaving sobs and sighs.

"What is not easy, Middle Child?" I asked.

"Being good," he choked, "I want to be good, but I keep being bad." He took his hands from his eyes, opened them towards me pleadingly, and asked with a crackling voice, "Why do I keep being bad?" It shot me through the heart and melted me completely. I sat on the ground, took him on my lap and just held him a while.

Then, when he seemed consoled, I explained that it isn't easy for any of us. It is hard to be good and we don't always succeed. I told him what matters most is that no matter how often or how badly we fail, we must always be sorry and we must always keep trying.

"That is what I will do." He pronounced firmly and went off to try again. As I watched him go I thought to myself how charming and endearing Middle Child had been at this moment of his failure and I could see how the words of the Psalmist must be true, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A humble and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:17)." After all, who could despise such a heart?

I pray that I might have such pure and honest contrition before God for all my failures and such firm resolve for amendment. Always.

Little Diving Puppet

If you have six minutes(ish), and the sense of humor of elementary-school-aged boys, you will enjoy this video of a "Little Diving Puppet" enormously. Otherwise, it may just make you smile.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Weird Things Meme

If the content has been a little thin here at B.A.M. lately, I do apologize. The truth is that there have been some non-virtual goings-on here that have required my attention and consumed much of my thought. I hope to write something of more substance soon, but until then please indulge me in this meme. The wise and talented Renee from Crazyacres, one of my favorite cyberplaces, has tagged me to name six weird things about myself. So here goes...

1. I'm crazy about Lima Beans. Love them. Love them. Love them. Don't worry, though, I don't like Brussel Sprouts.

2. Despite excellent balance and good gymnastic training in my youth, I am accident prone. My oldest brother was once teasing me about this very fact and saying that corporations should hire me to walk through their facilities in order to reveal all hazards and potential liabilities. After defending myself rather eloquently, I promptly tripped on a nail and fell on my duff.

3. A little research into phobias tells me that I have a touch of amaxophobia (fear of riding in cars) especially on the highway, claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and acrophobia (fear of heights).

As a side note, I also learned that I most certainly do not have clinophobia (fear of sleep), cyberphobia (fear of working on computers), or papaphobia (fear of the pope).

Also, I got a laugh out of the word meaning "fear of Greek terms": Hellenologophobia (Couldn't they have used Latin roots for that one?)

And lastly, the word meaning "fear of long words": Sesquipedalophobia (that's 18 letters folks!)

4. I sometimes experience "brain freezes" for no apparent reason. Suddenly, I just can't remember the name of someone I know very well, the birth year of one of the children, the proper use of quotation marks, or where I left my head. Luckily, these usually pass in a matter of minutes. Ok, maybe hours.

5. When I laugh really hard (which is often), tears stream down my face. People often mistake this for crying. It's embarrassing to have people become concerned about you when you're just enjoying yourself. "No, no" I have to say, "What you said was very funny. I'm laughing. I'm not crying."

6. My earlobes are of the recessive attached variety.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Setting the Record Straight

Zachary and Nicholas are thirteen months apart. Since Zachary is on the shorter side and Nicholas is on the taller side, we knew it wouldn't be long before people started asking us if they are twins. Well, they are not. They are very nearly the same height, though, and wearing many of the same clothes. Zachary is starting to notice the closing gap in his and Nicholas' size and he's not quite sure he likes it.

The other day when I bought new sippy cups for the two of them and asked Zachary to choose one, he was excited at first. He can drink out of a regular cup, but he still likes the portability of a sippy cup and perhaps some of the comforts as well. He chose the blue one, but when he was about to take it from my hand he paused a moment. A concerned look came over his face,

"Nicholas is little," he said, "He's a baby. I'm not little. I'm Zachary."

Only when I agreed most emphatically, "Oh, yes, you are not a baby. Nicholas is the baby," did he take the cup from my hand.

Rough Start

Simeon brought me his Animal Encyclopedia and showed me the picture of a Common Murre's egg. It sits, nestless, on a small rock ledge hundreds of feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

"Even though the egg is pointed so that it will roll in circles and not fall off the cliff," he said, "this just doesn't look like a nice place to be born." Thankfully, it's the Murre that has been called and equipped for that one.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Pockets

Zachary loves them. It makes me think of this little boy...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Boar's Head Revisited


The Boar's Head ancient festival is a processional celebration of Epiphany. A cast of characters processes up the main aisle of the church accompanied by various hymns and tunes sung sometimes by soloists, sometimes by the choir and orchestra, and sometimes by the whole congregation. The order and actions of the characters processing, along with the musical pieces, bears testimony to Christ and His Kingship at birth. The boar, a symbol of evil, is slain and his head is carried up on a platter. All the royals of the earth gather to celebrate and a feast of dancing and jesting follows a long procession of royalty.


I do not have a decent picture of the dancers and circus performers that provided the entertainment at the royal court. However, I must say that it was a most amazing thing to see the church overrun by a mass of Irish Dancers, their curly wigs bouncing like a truck load of rubber balls dumped on the interstate. They filled every open space in the church and kicked and moved with such swiftness to the tune of a rockin' "Sugarplum Fairies" that I warned my husband not to step back into the aisle for fear he'd be seriously injured (I hope the boys don't expect this at mass from now on).


The Woodsmen follow the dancers carrying the Yule Log as the congregation sings "Deck the Halls." After the woodsmen, come the clergy. The monks and priests followed by none other than his holiness, himself! What a surprise! The choir and orchestra play a beautiful rendition of the "Christmas Gloria" as he passes and waves his "benediction."

When all the earthly kings and peasants, clergy, jesters and waifs have gathered together, a star appears heralding the coming of the true King of Kings, the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

And there is Father Hinkley--the priest behind everything good that happens at St Anne's-- with Jacob. He is pointing the way, as he always does, to Jesus...

As the Holy Family processes, the choir sings "Silent Night" and the congregation joins in the third verse, "Son of God, Love's pure light, Radiant beams from thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth..." At this point, my heart was burning with love for that King and overjoyed at the sight of that dear baby and I realized that this was one of the reasons I love Christmas so much--it combines two of my favorite things: God and babies! Only a heart as cruel as Herod's can reject God in the form of a baby.


The little drummer boy follows the Holy Family, and he is followed, in turn, by the shepherds who lead a llama through the church and a few sheep as well (again, let's hope the boys don't expect this next Sunday). "The Little Drummer Boy" is sung and "The First Noel."

Lastly, enter the three Kings with their gifts and each king sings a solo part in that beautiful song, "We Three Kings." After the kings pay their homage, the recessional is none other than Handel's brilliant and electrifying "Hallelujah Chorus." And what a recessional it is with all those kings and queens, knights, monks, priests, jesters and acrobats!

As far as production goes, this particular presentation of the Boar's Head festival could probably be outdone. The costumes and acting were quite good, though, and not the least professional. And I doubt the music could have been any better-- that was certainly top notch. But what does it matter anyway? What I loved most about this celebration was the way the congregation seemed so alive. We Catholics are known for mumbled-mouthed singing and a general lack of enthusiasm at worship. I don't know if I would necessarily agree with this stereotype, but I do know how exciting it was to hear the congregation sing these beautiful Christmas songs with such heart and devotion. I felt a certain bond, a certain sense of family with the other parishioners that night that I don't often feel.

In fact, most of these pictures were taken by the woman sitting behind us whom we had never met before that evening. She took as many pictures of us as she did of the event and scribbled down my email address so that she could send them to me. I received them within hours (forty pictures!) with a note,

"Dear Suzanne, Here are the pictures as promised. I hope you enjoy them. You have a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing them with me tonight!"

I was very touched by this.

And here's Simeon with one of the acrobats of the royal court (on stilts) at the Wassail party that followed downstairs!

[Please note, this is not a complete program of events for this production. There were more characters and carols than I mention here.]

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Happy Boar's Head!

We attended a traditional medieval Boar's Head Festival and Wassail Party in celebration of Epiphany at our very own St. Anne's Shrine for Mothers. It was a wonderful experience. The kind of wonderful that completely wipes you out and so I will have to wait until tomorrow to post anything more about it.

But before I sleep, I would just like to say that today was the Sunday of Sundays. For me, Sunday has always been bittersweet. It is about the sweet joy of praising God and resting in prayer. It is about respite from hard labor and the enjoyment of family. It is an appetizer for the heavenly banquet and a promise of good things to come. The only bitterness is that the next day is always Monday. That Monday, with its labors and obligations, looms over my Sunday evenings like a shadowy imp playing in the corners of mind.

This Epiphany Sunday, with the celebration of this grand festival, was so sweet that it set the bitter at an even sharper contrast. How hard it is to say goodbye to Christmas.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I...

...give up.

If ever you are idle and there is an open invitation by the ever-inspiring Dawn to invent a list of ten items you idolize beginning with an identical letter, and if you are inclined on impulse to take the invitation though you have been issued the letter "I" and you have an inkling the task may prove impossible... do not be an idiot or worry that you may be impolite but immediately inquire after a new letter or risk injury to your imagination.

Indeed, it is no illusion, the letter "I" is inherently negative. It's prefixes (in-) and (il-) and (im-) all serve to negate and thus issue an innumerable and ignoble list of words....

Ill-bred, ill-famed, illogical, illegal...and that's just the icing.

Indecisive, incompetent, inconsistent, incomplete...

Inferior, insult, indelicate, infection, inflamed...and so on ad infinitum.

If the negative ideas become insufferable, if they are driving you insane, or if their influence is inducing insomnia...inhale slowly and take a break.

If, in that interval, your husband interrupts...

Honey, I just found this on the kitchen counter and I thought, at first, it was a grocery list because it begins with ice cream and Irish Coffee but then lists infants, The Iliad, and igneous rock???


...give up. And write a post, instead, including ninety-five (or more) indiscriminate words beginning with the letter "I."

[Incidentally, I do not mean to implicate Dawn in any way or imply that she has inflicted any injury. Indeed, I would insist on her innocence as this has been a most interesting incident. I only wish I could have initially imparted the tale in increments of iambic meter.]
*

Friday, January 05, 2007

Humility

For those of you arriving at this web site via the Google search "Suzanne Temple dance," you should be aware that this woman and I are, sadly (for me), NOT the same person.

...sigh....

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Little Hands

Zachary

Nicholas


Oh how it gives me joy to see
these little hands linking, building, moving together
along a sunny length of track.

* * *

Tarzans of the Woods

We have been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures here in New England. This has truly been a blessing as it has given the boys the outdoor time they physically need. I remember a few years back I used to meet a friend at a park every Tuesday, even in January, because boys just need to get out-- whatever the weather. One Tuesday I wasn't up for it. I was several months pregnant with Nicholas and just couldn't stand the thought of all those coats, those mittens, those hats, scarves, and boots. I wasn't up for the searching and bending involved in getting four little boys ready to play in near-zero temperatures. As I was explaining this to my friend on the phone Simeon was listening, "We're not going?" he asked confused, "Soooo, can we act wild?" And when boys have been kept indoors for too many days in a row, that's pretty much the choice. Since Simeon spelled it out so clearly for me...we went.

So far this year, we haven't had that problem. The boys have been spending most of their afternoons in the woods behind our house. They have all sorts of projects going on back there. There is the "Great Path" construction project that has been going on for some time now where they are clearing paths to and from each place in the woods where they like to play. I got a look at it today and I am very impressed with the progress they have made.

Something else I got a look at was "The Vine" I had been hearing all about. They told me there was a vine in the woods that went "way, way, high up" and that they were swinging from it off a rock located nearby...what I hadn't realized was just how "way, way high up" that vine went and the force with which they were swinging.


Yikes! The risk-intolerant part of me nearly flipped when I saw it. But when I showed my concern, the boys were quick to reassure me. There was no need to worry, they said. And to prove just how cautious they were and how they had everything under complete control, they explained that when Jacob crashed into a tree a few days back they passed new safety regulations stating that swinging from the vine was now an activity for "ages five and up" (language they learned from perusing toy catalogs). Jacob, of course, falls just under this limit and Alex is just above. Jacob accepted the new regulation as law (the boys take the age limits in the toy catalogs VERY seriously). Problem solved.



Now the question is, to further limit liability, should I change the regulations to: Swinging from "The Vine" is now an activity for ages twenty-five and up?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Overheard

Nicholas (practicing his favorite pair of opposites): Yes...no...yes...no...yes....no...yes....no....yes...

Alex: Mama, Nicholas won't stop arguing with himself!

He Has a Point

Alex: Jacob, if you don't give me what I want, I will not play with you outside.

Jacob: That's not nice. I'm telling on you.

Alex: If you don't like what I say it isn't my fault, Jacob, it's yours. You should just ignore me.

Perspective


If you're washing the supper dishes and your twenty-month-old keeps jumping around, pointing at the paper horse over the sink and saying, "Muuun.....muuun.....muun" and you aren't sure what he's talking about, it helps to sit down on the floor next to him and look up to where he's pointing.
Ahhh..."moon," I couldn't see it from up there.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Real Life George Bailey?

My husband just directed my attention to this inspiring story about an inspiring young man. When the only grocery store in his struggling community closed, seventeen-year-old Nick Graham used the $10,000.00 plus that he had earned working on his uncle's turkey farm (and had been saving for college) to put it back in business--under his ownership. Watch the video. You won't regret it.

"I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long..." --Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, It's a Wonderful Life.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Catholic Devotions Meme

Thank you to my good friends, Alice and Cheryl, for tagging me.

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus?
Divine Liturgy-- In Latin or English, Tridentine or Novus Ordo, Eastern or Western, I love the Mass.

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer?
I have always loved the Catena Legionis of the Legion of Mary with the Magnificat and its Antiphon from the Canticle of Canticles, "Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?" I love the image, here, of Mary as a mighty and beautiful woman.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
No. But nor do I wear a watch or any jewelry, but my wedding ring (and even that gives me eczema). I have tried all sorts of things at different times, but I just don't like the feel on my skin.

4. Do you have holy water in your home?
We used to keep it in the house, but we haven't for some time now. I don't know why we stopped.

5. Do you "offer up" your sufferings?
All.The.Time.

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
No, I don't. That is not for us at this time. The two little ones are too difficult to manage through Mass. Sunday is enough for them. Our homeschooling group meets on First Fridays and provides a special mass intentionally for this special devotion. I love the idea, but I usually skip the Mass and meet for the activity afterward. Hopefully, one day, we will be able to attend the Mass, too.

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration?
I love this devotion. I do not go regularly, but when I feel I'm at the end of my rope, I like to do what I call a "body and soul workout." I go for a run and then spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It works wonders.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person?
Sunday morning. I love Sundays!

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?
Yes, we do. At home and in public places.

10. Favorite Saint(s)?
St. Joseph, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Theresa of Avila, St Catherine of Sienna...oh, I can't stand to leave any out...all of you up there... I love you all!

11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart?
I certainly hope so. I can say it in Latin, too...while blindfolded.

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?
I do. My very wise oldest brother once told me that all you have to do is ask God for grace and He gives it to you. That's just the kind of God He is. That stuck with me and ever since, whenever I have a free moment in my mind, I say over and over, "Give me more grace. Give me more grace..please, God, give me more grace." Sometimes, I can feel it working...I think.

13. Where is your favorite place to pray?
In the shower. Well, at least that's where it most often gets done.

14. Bonus Question: When you pass by an automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?
We do.

Helen's bonus question: If you could visit any of Our Lady's apparition sites, which one would you choose?
Lourdes. Definitely, Lourdes.

I tag, Alicia.