Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Happy Saint's Day

Enjoy yourself as much as you like
- if only you keep from sin. - Saint John Bosco

We love Saint John Bosco!

1. He is one of The Professor's name saints.
2. He gave us the image of Our Lady Help of Christians which is celebrated on Sunshine's birthday.
3. He was such a cool saint!

He wanted his boys to be saints--- happy saints though, not dower saints. Modern Saints: Book One by Ann Ball has some fabulous photos of him. EWTN also has a lengthy essay online written by a Salesian priest.

What I love most about St. John Bosco was that he didn't just want his boys to hear that they were loved---he wanted them to know they were loved. His three-fold method of education was religion, reason and kindness. (My new homeschooling mantra).

To celebrate this feast day, we a have a little family tradition of making Bachelor Buttons. I started this a long time ago and The Professor has never let me off the hook. I chose this recipe simply because you roll the dough into balls and then roll them in sugar before putting them on the pan to bake. I told the children they were like the juggling balls Don Bosco used to entertain people with. In exchange for the entertainment, he would ask them to go to Mass or say a rosary. I am sure there are many cookie recipes that would also require this step, but the Bachelor Buttons are the ones requested. (Maybe because they sound so masculine?) The recipe I linked to is not the one I use, but the closest one I could find online.

I think, in exchange for the fun of making cookies I am going to ask the children to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I have been inspired by Dawn and Alice (in so many ways) so instead of just plain old snack time we are going to have our first family tea. Maybe I should call it a dress rehearsal for our Candlemas tea. I'll post pictures later if my batteries don't die first!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New On The Dance Floor

It's not your typical Mommy Blog... but she is a mom who blogs. Please go say "Hello" to Red Cardigan. She is intelligent, funny and a great friend! Politics, faith, literature, current events--- we have discussed it all. I finally agreed to share her. (Just kidding!)

I had this over on the sidebar so that it wouldn't get swallowed up by the Candlemas post. Please take a minute to make her feel welcome!

Looking for... easy to use field guide that will help us identify and learn about the birds in our area. We have one already; The Birds of Texas, but it is kind of hard to use. This little guy showed up on our fence today:
How can I find out what kind of bird this is? He never turned around so this is the best shot I could get. We would like to do a little more nature studying, but how to get started? Any suggestions?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Loveliness of Candlemas

Simeon's Moment by Ron DiCianni

My grandfather was a wonderful man. He was responsible, funny, a good friend and had an incredibly generous heart. He was a poor farmer in South Texas who knew just how hard the rocks could be, just how dry the soil could get and just how fast the weather could change. Being the oldest child of his youngest child, I didn't know him in his working days. He was just my grandpa who could be as stubborn as the toughest mule and as helpless as the smallest child. He worried about everything. He worried about where we would find more good priests and the future of the Church. He worried about the fashions of the day and just what those crazy kids did for a whole week every spring in a sandpit called Padre Island. He worried about where the next generation of farmers would come from and if they didn't --- where would the food come from.

He could also tell stories that would make you laugh until you cried and gasped for air --- and he knew it! I loved the twinkle that would show up in the corner of his eye and the mischievous grin on his face when he realized that his audience had lost it.

For as long as I can remember, every day, he said,"I won't be around much longer" though everyone predicted that the man who had survived so many dangers (struck by lightning, twice!) and hardships (hurricanes and droughts) would end up outlasting all of us. When I think of St. Simeon I think of my grandpa and can't help but wonder if he did hang on so long to this world and his family just to make sure that everyone turned out OK. He saw most of his 13 grandchildren married and settled and was still alive when his 14th great-grandchild was born (my little Shortcake). He passed from this earth on the Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer and I pray that on that day, in an empty hospital room (he wouldn't have left a captive audience) he was also able to say,"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace...."

When I think of my grandpa there are so many things to remember; however, two things stand out the most. First, was his incredible devotion to Our Lady and second was that he raised Ringneck doves (also called Collared doves). How could I not think of him on Candlemas when two of his loves coincide so perfectly?

The law dictated that Mary and Joseph offer a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons as their sacrifice. When I try to re-create the scene in my head, I think of the soft coo-coo-roo of the ringneck doves that used to wake me when I visited my grandparent's farm. The smell of the pen, the discarded, downy feathers that were stirred by the slightest breeze. I know that every bird has a unique call, but it is that sound I hear ever so softly.

So, we first went to the RSPB to learn about turtledoves. Be sure to listen to their call. (Sounds similar I think, but you decide.)

Then, we borrowed Katherine's amazing idea and made this table centerpiece. I made a line drawing of Simeon's Moment and the turtledoves and then copied them onto a piece of transparent vellum. I also made a copy of each of the original pictures on the vellum and cut them down to fit in the mats.

I used black 5x7 mats and chose to make ours four-sided. My original hope was to do three line drawings colored by each of the children but The Professor really doesn't like to color and I didn't feel like forcing him so we devoted 2 sides to St. Simeon and 2 sides to the doves. The picture in the middle was taken when the shade was half done so you can see the inner workings. A three sided shape like Katherine's probably wouldn't shift as much as this one does but I like having a little more room between the candle and the paper.

Lastly, I couldn't resist these Audobon Turtle Doves. They have lifelike designs and authentic bird songs! (If we have to have more stuffed animals at least they can be educational.) They are also going to replace two well loved, little pink birds that stopped chirping ages ago!

I hope you have a lovely Candlemas! If you have made it this far, I thank you for sticking it out--- my first attempt at loveliness.

Friday, January 26, 2007


Everyone seems to be doing this quiz and I tried, I really did, but I guess I overthink the questions or something. The answers they gave me just didn't seem to fit me (and I even double checked with a dear friend who knows me very well and she agreed). Maybe I am just not a heroine. Is there a Which Obscure Character Are You quiz? I'll take that one. Anyway, here was an interesting one; kind of unique and not too long.

What van Gogh painting most suits you?

Entrance Hall of Saint Paul Hospital (Oct. 1889)

The door is open revealing a lush garden, but you seem unable, or unwilling, to venture outside.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

Ummmm, wait a minute? This is the hospital he was in. Wasn't this an asylum?

I give up.

Why I love the Internet...

The Professor: What is the Bering Strait?

Me: A strait of water that runs in between Russia and Alaska.

The Professor: No, I mean, what does it look like?

Me: Oh, well, here you go!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Should I be laughing or crying?

While using a wooden board, nail and hammer to demonstrate the effects of sin, confession and penance on our soul to Sunshine:

Me: See this nail? Let's pretend that this is the sin of anger.

The Professor: (listening in) That's a venial sin, right?

Me: Yes.

The Professor: Wheewww!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Message From Pope Benedict XVI

I was very interested in the Holy Father's message for the World Day for Social Communications when I read it this morning. I was never aware of bias when I was a child. I was clueless to the concept of "agendas" as a teenager. It wasn't until college that my mind was opened to these realities. I admit, I went a little overboard at first. When I recognized an agenda or perceived a bias I would become angry and upset and want nothing to do with whatever it was that caused the offense. It would infuriate me that I couldn't convince members of my extended family to see the harm being done. It was painful to hear them talk about how much they loved a certain political drama on TV because I could recognize the bias and they couldn't. Oh, if I tried to explain it, well, they pretty much thought I sounded like a paranoid freak.

So, I struggle with this still (a bit) but now my focus is directed to my children. How do I teach them to understand the "proper use of media". How do I help them to "learn to use the media intelligently, with a strong critical sense" and to not accept reality as "what the media recognize(s) as real" without turning them into paranoid freaks?

I appreciated Dawn's honesty because it gives me the courage to say that I too have issues with worry and anxiety. She is dead on in her description of how debilitating it can be. I see that some of my children are already inclined to worry and anxiety (oldest children seem more prone to it, speaking as an oldest child myself) and I want to give them a balance--- you know, that old "everything in moderation" concept. It is not as simple as just telling them "let go and let God". Telling someone who is prone to anxiety to "Don't worry, be happy" is like telling someone with anorexia to "just eat something". I will close now since I think I have used up my daily allotment of quotation marks. Any thoughts or ideas would be most welcomed.

P.S. The article mentions that the message was delivered today because St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of journalists. Say a prayer for your favorite (or least favorite) journalist today.

The Pope snuck out to go skiing!

Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz has described one of many "escapes" in a book of memoirs called A Life With Karol. You can read more about the book and the excerpt that showed up in Il Messaggero here. How fitting is it that the first person to recognize him was a 10 year old child!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Professor!

You have certainly grown...

...into an amazing young man.
Can't wait to see what happens next! We love you big guy!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Agnes sweet, and Agnes fair,...

Thanks to Dawn's inspiration, I finished establishing and organizing my craft closet this weekend which was a big task (like a treasure hunt through every drawer and closet in the house) but well worth it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had all of the supplies to do this craft with the girls. St. Agnes has been one of their favorites for a long time. The traditional celebration on the Feast of St. Agnes (which you can read more about here) involves two little lambs who are crowned and carried in decorated baskets--- red for her martydom and white for her purity. They are given to the Holy Father who blesses them. The nuns of St. Cecilia care for them until they are sheared on Maundy Thursday. The wool is used to make about 12 pallia each year. The pallium is representative of the priests' role as shepherd just as Christ was the Good Shepherd. These are the little lambs we made:

Here they are again with the little lambs God made:

Attention Hoards of Angry Grammarians

I am learning the rules of blogging slowly but surely and thanks to the kindness of a dear friend, I have learned a couple of important ones.

1. Thinking that you can sit and jot down a quick post without giving it much thought is best left to the more experienced bloggers.

2. Spell checking is great, but don't forget grammar lest people think you drizzled your children with chocolate instead of their cake!

Thanks, dear friend!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

God's Way

So my idea the other morning was to go to Mass with the kids and offer it up for my father and his intentions since it was his birthday and to be perfectly honest, in the back of my head I was thinking, "He needs all the help he can get!" I began to get a clue that God had a different plan today when the very elderly priest who usually gives a 2 - 3 sentence homily pulled out all the stops and went on for about 5 minutes with some wonderful words that really spoke to my heart.
When I first sat down in the pew and bowed my head, I was thinking that this was the best gift I could offer my Dad not because it was the most perfect prayer, but because I had determined that he needed this grace and I was going to get it for him whether he liked it or not. (Wow, reading that it sounds even worse than it did in my head.) Father spoke about how we should mentally put our names at the end of the Apostles and ask ourselves whether or not we measure up. Have we taught the example of Our Lord in word and deed to others? If not, where better to start than in our own family.
There are many people who have left the Church through divorce (that one hit home), bad catechism and scandal. Don't try to solve their problem, let God do that. We have to realize that God has a plan for us every day. He has something for us to do and we need to approach our day (and our loved ones) with an open mind and a prayerful attitude. We may think it plain and ordinary but it is in the mundane that the passing on of the Faith happens.
I realized that, yes, going to Mass was a good thing to do for my father but that just showing up with him in mind on one day out of the year was the least I could do. I can't solve his problems but I can do more for him, every day, in little ways. Changing a diaper, teaching a lesson, sweeping my floor (biting my tongue!). It may not change him, but it might change me into a better representative of the Church that I love and the one perfect Father who loves perfectly. Here's hoping!

Friday, January 19, 2007

A Sink with a View

Margaret in Minnesota is having a spontaneous Kitchen Sink Fair. It is true, my kitchen is the place that most of the action takes place. Tiny as it is, it seems to be where everyone congregates during a party and the place the kids look for me first when needing my help. Here is a view of my kitchen sink (thanks, Margaret, for making sure I didn't skip shining it today!).

These are a side by side view of what I see from my kitchen sink in order to avoid the big metal bar in the middle.

"I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?"

We had a little diversion remembering A. A. Milne yesterday. I found a yummy recipe for Australian Honey Cake which gave me the opportunity to try out a fun Christmas gift from my mother. It turned out great and with a little bit of chocolate glaze drizzled on top the kids munched away while we read the story of Prince Rabbit. If you haven't heard this story you might try to find it at the library. It is a short read and very clever!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Day On Skates

I can't even begin to tell you how much we have all enjoyed Hilda Van Stockum's books. Studeo announced earlier that another of her previously out-of-print picture books is being reprinted and they are offering a discount on pre-orders!

You know it's a keeper...

...when they request the leftovers for lunch!

Served with butternut squash mashed potatoes and fresh fruit this is by far my kid's favorite meal.

A Request from a Kanga

Over at Elizabeth's, I saw this post. What a wonderful idea! And it gives me an opportunity to make a request.
The Professor read a story in one of his reading books called Prince Rabbit (unfortunately it didn't also include The Princess Who Could Not Laugh) and he really enjoyed it! A dear friend of mine remembers reading other fairy tales by Milne but couldn't recall the titles. I was amazed to see this list of his works (who knew?). Of course Milne is most famous for the stories of Christopher Robin but he also wrote mysteries, plays and even an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called Miss Elisabeth Bennett. From the list it is hard to tell, so if anyone knows which ones might be other fairy tales, please send them our way!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's here!

Shortcake's Texas Snowman

BigBoy is not sure what it is, but he liked it!

Sunshine's snow angel

Daddy said,"Stand right here while I clean off the canopy."

I guess I spoke too soon...

The pretty, sparkly, rainbow-makers are gone but now there is all this white fluffy stuff. Not sure what it is but there is more on the way.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Enjoying the thaw

We aren't the only ones it seems.

Sorry for the hazy quality to the first two pictures but I took them through a screened window and I am amazed they even came out at all.

This little guy waved to my kiddos while he ate some lunch!

This is a blue jay in the neighbor's tree. I thought he might be too far away. If he ventures into our yard, I will try to get a better shot.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Things you don't hear every day...

Dad: Food is getting low, let's go hunt.

Shortcake: Leave the Buffalo to me!

BigBoy: (Singing and dancing) Buff-uh-woah, buff-uh-woah, buff-uh-woah...

Sunshine and Shortcake: (in unison) OH NOOOOOOO, what happened?

Dad: Mary has typhoid fever.

Courtesy of the Oregon Trail.

Pride and Prejudice

There was a game yesterday that brought sadness and sighs from certain occupants of my house. So last night, realizing that we needed some cheering, I grabbed this from the DVD cabinet. It certainly did the trick!

I was happy and contented, smiling on the inside and out.


...was out like a light!

At least he wasn't in pain anymore. Love you honey!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Some changes...UPDATE

Icicle update:
Probably the last since these delicate delights will not survive the strong wind that is bearing down on us.

It's freeeeeeeeezzzzing!

Let's see, flash flooding in Austin, tornadoes in San Marcos, ice in DFW...

...Armageddon in Texas?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Magic School Bus Blues

Whenever I start worrying about whether or not my kids get as much hands-on, educational, field trip opportunities as the children in the big brick box down the road, just remind me of the way these children behave when they are on a field trip and the way the chaperones/teachers act like they really don't care how much they learn. It's just an indoor playground to them and a break from the routine. We're not missing a thing...

...unless we show up to the museum at the same time as the big yellow buses!

All in all, we still had a lot of fun!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Habitat Exploration

If by chance, you are a homeschooler who is using this awesome science curriculum but you get to the experiments in the chapter on habitats where you are supposed visit a pond and forest habitat and take note of what you see but you live in Texas and the idea just makes you laugh and call your husband who has lived in every major region of the United States to ask how far you'd have to travel just to get to the nearest real forest, then........

try this or this instead!

Okay, okay...I know we do have national forests in Texas, but it was a fun way to explore habitats right in the comfort of our home. Maybe this spring we will take a trip to an actual forest. We might get lucky and find one with a pond!

Did you know...

...that a scoop of leftover extra-creamy whipped topping on top of a steamy mug of Tazo Chai tea tastes like liquid pumpkin pie? Now you do.

Why Tired Twang?

I am a Texan, born and raised, but most people don't know it just by listening to me talk. I work very hard and I think I do a pretty good job of not letting it slip...

...unless, I am...

a) in the presence of someone with a very strong accent.

b) in the presence of immediate and/or extended family members (see exhibit a)


c) very tired!

I am made aware of these moments most of all by the cute little grin that creeps across my husband's face followed by the words:
Sweetie, you're twangin'!