"God made us for joy. God is joy, and the joy of living reflects the original joy that God felt in creating us." (St. John Paul the Great)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

the true. the good. the beautiful. week 2.

“That his creatures should share
in his truth, goodness, and beauty --
this is the glory for which God created them.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 319

As I noted last week, lately I have felt an increasing need to be more intentional about cultivating truth, goodness, and beauty in our home. To that end, I want to share with you what we are doing to bring that about, in the hopes that you might share with me the same.

The True: Feeding the Intellect
It is Advent (!)

It is becoming alarming to me how difficult it is to teach my children the difference between Advent and Christmas. Since the beginning of November, the malls have been decorated. Christmas music is playing. Christmas commercials are running. Cards and gifts are arriving. We are invited to Christmas parties. Come the 26th of December, the decorations will come down, the music will stop, discarded trees will be thrown to the curb. But the season of Christmas will just be beginning! I have been pounding it into the kids' heads that, despite what they see and hear all around them (except in church), IT IS NOT CHRISTMASTIME!!! IT IS ADVENT! A season of preparation. A season of waiting. A season of expectation.

We do everything we can to make Advent a distinct season in our home. We put a tree up on the first Sunday of Advent, but it is decorated with pink and purple lights and ribbon. We add our Jesse tree ornaments, one or two a day, after reading the appropriate Scripture story. On Christmas Eve, we take the Advent decorations off and put on multi-colored lights and Christmas ornaments. It is a lot of work, yes, but it makes the two seasons very distinct. In like manner, I refrain from putting out other Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve. We decorate with snowmen and snowflakes and, on December 6, add our stockings and Saint Nicholas decorations, but the red and green "Merry Christmas" stuff doesn't come out until the end. And it stays out until Epiphany. Our stable is out, but Mary, Joseph, and Jesus remain out of sight. There is no star on our tree. We try and keep Christmas music to a minimum. Then during the Christmas season, we play our Christmas music. We stretch out our gift giving -- the children receive a gift on each of the twelve days of Christmas. They always get a new pair of pajamas and an ornament and a magazine subscription. Sometimes the gift is one for all four of them, like a game or a movie.

We are trying to teach the children the truth that Christmas is the season starting Christmas Day and lasting until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

The Good: Forming the Will
Sacrifices and Good Deeds

During Advent, we have a tradition of lining a manger with a piece of hay to represent each sacrifice offered, each good deed done, to prepare a place for the Baby Jesus on Christmas Day. I am always pleasantly surprised by how the children get into this tradition. Just today, they were exceptionally good at Mass, even reminding each other quietly to fold their hands or keep their rears off the pew when kneeling. They cleaned their room together and offered to clear one another's dishes. They volunteered to be last instead of first. And our manger already has a nice thin layer of hay.

The Beautiful: Inspiring the Affections
A Real Tree

Despite the fact we were unable to cut down our own tree this year, we were still able to pick out a live one from a nearby nursery. There is nothing like the fragrance of a real evergreen in our home!

(Link up in the comments if you'd like to join me.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Definition of Excited

Look what I got in the mail! (Click to enlarge.)

The instructions were to purchase one of these. But with the Black Friday deals on Amazon, I had enough left over to get one of these, too!

I have been without a mixer for three holiday seasons (!) -- I have had to borrow one for baking day. I haven't made oatmeal raisin cookies (one of our favorites) since I burnt the last mixer out. I swore (not really) after borrowing a neighbor's KitchenAid, that I wouldn't buy another mixer until I could afford a KitchenAid myself. I can't wait to get baking. And we already have a fajita and margarita party planned for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

And Happy Black Friday! (Note: Almost all of my Christmas shopping is done in my jammies at the computer, and I LOVE it!)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


I had a junior high teacher who offered extra credit to anyone who would stand up and sing the below song in front of the Thanksgiving crowd before the big meal. It's become a family tradition!

(Sung to the tune of Frere Jacques)

Turkey dinner, turkey dinner,
Gather 'round, gather 'round.
Who will get the drumstick --
Yummy, yummy drumstick?
All sit down. All sit down.

Chestnut stuffing, cornmeal muffins,
pudding pie -- one mile high!
All of us were thinner,
'Til we came to dinner,
Me, oh my! Me, oh my!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May your day be filled with good company, good eats, and good rest.

And may we all remember, today and always, to give thanks to Our Heavenly Father for the many blessings he has bestowed on us in Christ.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Ready

The turkey is thawing.

The new stuffing recipe is assembled and in the crock pot, ready to go.

The potatoes are peeled and in a pot on the stove.

The back-up gravy packets are bought and secretly stored (just in case ...).

The sweet potato casserole is made and in the fridge, under the green bean casserole.

The cranberry slush is whipped and in the freezer.

The apple pie is on the counter cooling.

The pumpkin pie is in the oven baking.

The kitchen is cleaned up.

I'm grabbing a glass of wine and heading to bed.

Boy (regarding sweet potato casserole): Are you making that for dinner tonight?
Me: No, it's for Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Boy: No ... be serious, Mom.
Me: I am being serious -- it's for tomorrow.
Boy: Seriously? Mom ... I can't wait that long.
Me: Really?
Boy: Really.
Boy (after devouring large spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and butter that his generous mother handed over in response to his desperate longing (and dimples!)): This is even better than usual!

And so the feasting begins.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember to take time to give thanks to the Giver of all that is good.

Wordless Wednesday - Jack Frost Morning

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the true. the good. the beautiful. week 1.

“That his creatures should share
in his truth, goodness, and beauty --
this is the glory for which God created them.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church
, n. 319

Ours has been called a culture of death.


As a parent, especially, I have become increasingly aware of this. Because I have to choose daily to combat it. I have to correct the lies our culture feeds my children. I have to explain the bad choices people make and the consequences of those choices. I have to shield what is ugly from their eyes and ears. We are inundated with what is false and what is bad and what is ugly.

And I ask myself: How do I teach my children Truth in a world that values relativism? How do I teach them Good in a world that delights in personal happiness, individual freedom and license? How do I teach them Beauty when every time we leave our home or turn on our television or radio some billboard or commercial or news headline bombards them with what is ugly?

Before my husband and I ever had children, we discussed what we wanted our home to be like for them. We talked of filling our home with the true, the good, and the beautiful. And we talked about how we would do this: how we would stimulate their intellects with Truth, how we would provide opportunities for their wills to choose the Good, how we would inspire their affections with Beauty.

Lately I have felt an increasing need to be more intentional about cultivating truth, goodness, and beauty in our home. To that end, I want to share with you what we are doing to bring that about, in the hopes that you might share with me the same. In teaching our children what is True, what is Good, and what is Beautiful, we can build a culture of life. one family at a time.

I'll start.

The True: Feeding the Intellect
Reading the Lives of the Saints

This past week we have been using a great study series to learn about the life of Blessed Imelda Lambertini, patron saint of first communicants. As part of our study, we've also had opportunity to talk about two other child saints: Saint Tarsicius and Saint Agnes. Better than fairy tales, these true stories have captured my childrens' hearts and imaginations and inspired in them a feeling that even they can do great things for God.

Patron Saint of First Communicants: The Story of Blessed Imelda Lambertini (Stories of the Saints for Young People Ages 10 to 100)

The Good: Forming the Will
Table Manners

Inspired by our studies of the Little House series, and frustrated by the noise level in our home, especially at meal time, we have begun to focus on having one conversation at a time at the dinner table. This means, practically speaking, that the children will not speak unless spoken to, at least to begin with. It sounds drastic, I know, but training in restraint in speech and learning to listen to others is already beginning to bear fruit. In addition, we are practicing our table manners. To this end, I purchased a cloth napkin for each person in the family -- each person has his or her own color, so I only have to wash the napkins when they get REALLY dirty.

The Beautiful: Inspiring the Affections

With the cold winter air howling outside (it's six BELOW zero with the wind chill as I write this!) and the stale closed up house, we brought beauty to our schoolroom this past week with a candle. It was a simple way to create a cozy atmosphere. The kids enjoyed both the smell (Cabin Scents is my favorite) and the flickering flame and asked to light it every morning as school began and in the afternoon when classes resumed.

(Link up in the comments if you'd like to join me.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

O Christmas Tree

In 2005, we trudged through the snow near Mequon, Wisconsin, looking for the perfect Christmas tree.

In 2006, a horse drawn wagon carried us out into the tree fields to begin our hunt on a warmish late November day.

2007 was the year of the ginormous tree. and the blizzard on the way home.

In 2008, we got quite chilly in Stacy, Minnesota, but then warmed up with hot cider by a roaring fire (while Daddy struggled to get the tree on top of the van).

And last year, we went to the same tree farm I went to for years and years growing up.

Ever since I can remember, I have been part of the annual tradition of choosing and cutting a Christmas tree -- first with my parents and siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Since getting married, with my husband, and then together with our children. I have many, many fond memories of this tradition.

There does not appear to be any place near Bismarck, North Dakota to choose and cut your own Christmas tree.

What am I going to do?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whine or Wine

Well ... I can either tell you about my week thus far. Which I'm not sure I'm up for. And you might not be either.

Or I can tell you where I'm off to in half an hour.


Mom's Night Out (fondly known as MNO).

This month?

Wine tasting!

(If you don't have a mom's night out group, you should really (and I mean REALLY) get one started!)


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yarn Along I

The last few weeks I've been enjoying Sarah's Yarn Alongs and I followed her link to Ginny's website, where I enjoyed some more. Since I just started knitting last month I thought I'd join in the fun. What one is supposed to do is post a picture of a current knitting project and a current read. So ... above is my first ever scarf! I know knit now, so as soon as I learn how to finish this scarf (what's that called? binding off?), I can start learning purl. I also started reading a new-to-me author this week -- Wendell Berry -- and am really enjoying Hannah Coulter.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - From the June 2008 Archives

(If only I could sleep anywhere!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The First Snowfall

Though we've had snow three times already this year, in honor of my home state's first snow of the season ...

The First Snowfall
by James Russell Lowell

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night

Had been heaping field and highway

With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock

Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer's muffled crow,
The stiff rails were softened to swan's-down,

And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,

And the sudden flurries of snow-birds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, 'Father, who makes it snow?'
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snowfall,
And thought of the leaden sky

That arched o'er our first great sorrow,

When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,

Flake by flake, healing and hiding

The scar of our deep-plunged woe.

And again to the child I whispered,
'The snow that husheth all,

Darling, the merciful Father

Alone can make it fall! '

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;
And she, kissing back, could not know
That my kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick Takes - Volume 11


So, last time I posted, more than a week ago already (!), I posted about time, specifically how time is not our own, especially if you're a mother.

Case in point: I have not had time to post since last Thursday! Why?

-- 1 --

Last Saturday I spent the whole day -- and I mean the. whole. day (like from eight in the morning until ten at night) -- trying to catch up on my other job. I did take some breaks to eat and the like. If you are a homeschooling mother contemplating doing some "real" work (also known as that work for which someone else gives you money), I advise against it. Don't get me wrong. My job has been a huge blessing during these husband-in-graduate-school years. And I do enjoy the work. Really. It's a good and necessary ministry. But ... I am finding myself more and more unable to deal with the stress of having to get twenty-five hours of something-other-than-taking-care-of-my-family-in-the-way-I-want-to in.

St. Raymond of Penyafort, patron saint of canon lawyers, pray for us.

-- 2 --

Since cupboards and refrigerators do not fill themselves, and since I was working all day Saturday, we had to spend Sunday running errands. This is something I do not particularly like to do on Sunday. I would have rather been outside enjoying one of the last warm days of fall with my family. But we tried to make the best of it, by running errands together as a family. And the week goes much more smoothly when I have a menu and the groceries to make the items on said menu.

St. Martha, patron saint of cooks and homemakers, pray for us.

-- 3--

Monday morning I put The Baby down for her nap and then The Boy and I went to look at some houses. It's been a while since I posted a housing update. Our main criteria in our housing hunt is space, both inside and out. What we've found is that the old houses in the city with lots of space inside, don't have very much outside, and the houses with a lot of land are too small for our growing, spend-a-lot-of-time-in-the-house-because-we-homeschool-and-the-winters-are-long family. Whether or not to purchase in the city or the country has been a quandary for me for some time. I like the idea of living in the country. a lot. But ... what does that mean for my children in terms of friends and extracurricular activities. Do I say no? Or do I spend a lot of time in the car? Right now it's not a huge issue, but as they get older .... I would love you country ladies to chime in now with your thoughts on this issue.

St. Joseph, patron saint of finding a home, pray for us.

-- 4 --

Tuesday I was able to cross a major item off my to-do-in-my-nonexistent-spare-time list. (By the way, how do you like all my hyphenations today?) I had The Baby's picture taken. The other three had their pictures taken at the hospital, when they were three months old, when they turned one, and then formal pictures at eighteen months. My Gramma has 16x20 portraits of each of her three children at eighteen months of age hanging over her couch. My Mom has 16x20 portraits of my three siblings and me hanging on the wall in the master bedroom. I have 16x20 portraits of my three oldest children, unframed, in a box in the basement. Hmmm ... The Baby is twenty months old and hasn't had her picture taken by a photographer other than mom since she was two weeks old. You can see my problem. With the move and starting school and finding a photographer ... anyway ... it's done! She didn't show her dimples, but we'll see how they turned out in a couple of weeks.

St. Veronica, patron saint of photographers, pray for us.

Tuesday we also attended a new parishioners dinner at our new parish. And a great parish full of wonderful people it is. We are so blessed.

-- 5 --

Wednesday was an exciting day for The Boy. He had his first guitar lesson. My little man LOVES music -- he likes to sing and play his harmonica and xylophone and mess around on the guitar he got for his birthday last year. He has been eager to learn to "really" play something and he's been asking about guitar lessons for over a year. I contacted the music department at the University and found a senior music education major who is willing to come over to our house once a week and give The Boy lessons.

St. Cecilia, patron saint of music, pray for us.

-- 6 --

Thursday the girls and I took our first steps toward bringing Irish dance to this German city. We met with the director of a local dance studio. She would love to offer Irish dance. I'm going to try and help her find a certified teacher. This would certainly make things easier for me. The Girls love to dance and want to continue, but driving back to the Twin Cities for private lessons ... not my favorite thing to do every four to six weeks. Dance has also always been the girls social network too, so it would be good to have that opportunity again.

St. Vitus, patron saint of dancers, pray for us.

-- 7 --

And that brings us to Friday again. You know, it's amazing to me where God has brought me. Last year at this time, I was shuddering over the possibility of moving to Bismarck, North Dakota. I can't tell you how many hours I spent crying in the shower, away from my children's questioning looks and not wanting to discourage my DH. But, once again, God knew what was best for us. You'd think I would have learned this by now. Trust, trust, trust! And that's what I'm still working on. I trust that I will know when it's the right time to quit my job. I trust that things will slow down (a little) and we'll have more of a family life when the dissertation is done. I trust that I won't always have to run errands on Sundays. I trust that we will find the house that God has waiting for us, whether in the city or in the country.

And I am grateful. I am grateful for all that I have been given. I am grateful for my faith. I am grateful for the support and encouragement I get from you, my blog friends. I am grateful for my friends in real life -- old and new. I am grateful for my husband's perseverance on his dissertation. I am grateful for his new job and that I get to share in the exciting things happening at the University of Mary. And I am especially grateful for my children and the opportunity I have to spend hours with them each and every day, watching them grow and learn and love.

All you holy men and women, pray for us!

Have a good weekend!

And check out more quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

A friend of mine sent this to me. I thought I'd share it with you.
Carlo Carretto, a leading spiritual writer of the past half-century, was a hermit in the Sahara desert for more than a dozen years. Alone, with only the Blessed Sacrament for company, milking a goat for food, and translating the Bible into the local Bedouin language, he prayed for long hours by himself. Returning to Italy to visit his mother, he came to a startling realization: His mother, who for more than 30 years had been so busy raising a family that she scarcely ever had a private minute, was more contemplative than he was.

Carretto drew the right lesson. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with what he’d been doing as a hermit. Rather, there was something wonderfully right about what his mother had been doing as she lived the interrupted life amidst the noise and incessant demands of small children. He had been in a monastery, but so had she.

A monastery is not so much a place set apart for monks and nuns as it is a place set apart (period). It is a place to learn the value of powerlessness and to learn that time is not ours, but God’s.

Our home and duties can, like a monastery, teach us that. John of the Cross once described the inner essence of monasticism this way: “But they, O my God and my life, will see and experience your mild touch, who withdraw from the world and become mild, bringing the mild into harmony with the mild, thus enabling themselves to experience and enjoy you.” John suggests that two elements make for a monastery: withdrawal from the world and bringing oneself into harmony with the mild.

Certain vocations offer the same opportunity for contemplation. For example, the mother who stays home with small children experiences a real withdrawal form the world. Her existence is monastic. Her tasks and preoccupations remove her from the centers of power and social importance. And she feels it. Moreover her sustained contact with young children (the mildest of the mild) gives her a privileged opportunity to be in harmony with the mild, to attune herself to the powerlessness rather than to the powerful.

The demands of young children also provide her with what St. Bernard, one of the great architects of monasticism, called the “monastic bell.” Bernard told his monks that whenever the monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to the activity (prayer, meals, work, study, sleep) to which the bell was summoning them. He was adamant that they respond immediately: If they were writing a letter they were to stop in mid-sentence when the bell rang. When the bell called you to the next task, you were to respond immediately, not because you want to, but because it’s time for that task and time isn’t your time, it’s God’s time. For him, the monastic bell was a discipline to stretch the heart by taking you beyond your own agenda to God’s agenda.

Hence, a mother raising children, perhaps in a more privileged way even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will, to constantly stretch her heart. For years, while raising children, her time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding something. She hears the monastic bell many times a day and she has to drop things in mid-sentence and respond, not because she wants to, but because it’s time for that activity and time isn’t her time, but God’s time. The rest of us experience the monastic bell when our alarm clock rings and we get out of bed and ready ourselves for the day, not because we want to, but because it’s time.

The principles of monasticism are time-tested, saint-sanctioned, and altogether – trustworthy. But there are different kinds of monasteries, different ways of putting ourselves into harmony with the mild, and different kinds of monastic bells. Response to duty can be monastic prayer, a needy hand can be a monastic bell, and working without status and power can constitute a withdrawal into a monastery where God can meet us. The domestic can be the monastic.

Father Ron Rolheiser

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - From the March 2006 Archives

(Don't they look like they're in a sink?)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I've had a lot on my mind lately, and a lot on my heart. I have started several posts, but have left them as drafts -- I just can't seem to get the conveyance right.

At least I have some pictures to share.

You know that crazy wind blowing around last week? We had snow, too. Although most of it is gone already.

The kids and I went back to the Twin Cities over the weekend. My brother and sister-in-law and nephew are visiting my parents from California. They dressed as golfers for Halloween.

We had fun trick-or-treating with cousins and friends.

Cowboy Cousins

Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger


My parents broke their record again this year -- over 1100 trick-or-treaters. It's my Gramma's job to keep tally.

I spent some delightful evenings with friends. and pizza. and wine. and white russians. and laughter. and knitting. and advice. I love you all! And am so blessed to have you in my life!

It was a long drive home yesterday. Tonight I'm taking Jamie's advice and watching Robin Hood with my husband. and some pizza rolls and some wine and some ice cream.