Easter-y, Mommy-ish Randomness

We are visiting my parents this week, and I don’t want to interrupt our family time to do a long, or even thoughtful post (you’re welcome?). But I do have a few cute Easter pics and some good ones of my girls having fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, so I’m going to get rambly and probably a bit photo crazy for a minute.

If you’re not my mom or my mother-in-law or my Auntie, you may want to just stop here. I won’t mind.

Here goes –

Last week, I had lots of fun Holy Week activities planned. Then Miss got strep throat and we ended up skipping a few of them, like the search for 30 pieces of “silver” (or quarters) on Wednesday and Holy Thursday Mass as a family (Miss was still contagious). Most of the things we did do I didn’t get photos of, like our “Last Supper” dinner (which Miss didn’t feel well enough to eat anyway) or the foot washing on Thursday night after my husband and I got home from Mass.

We did get to the Good Friday service at our church, and the girls did surprisingly well for it being such a long and late event.

Holy Saturday started with an RCIA retreat for me from 9:00 until about 1:00. Then I came home, boiled eggs for dying, put out Easter decorations with the two older girls, gave the dogs baths, and packed our stuff. After Sis got up from her nap, we dyed eggs and my husband and I got ready for the Easter Vigil Mass.

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She said the made ^^ that egg for Jesus.

The Vigil was beautiful, but I didn’t get a single photo from it this year. It was nice to experience it with a little less nervousness and adrenaline than I had last year. I realized that I hadn’t remembered much of the service from last year because of being so excited and anxious about being baptized and confirmed and receiving Communion for the first time (plus being interviewed in front of everyone). It was less exciting and emotional this time, but I probably was able to appreciate it more in some ways.

Sunday morning, we had our Easter egg hunt, I made resurrection rolls, we threw our things and our dogs and our kids in the car and hit the road for the drive to my parents’.

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I was determined to be on the road by 8:00 so we could get here by dinner time and have my family’s traditional Easter and Christmas breakfast of creamed eggs for dinner. We got going at about 8:20, and we made it.

My kids have been enjoying Grandma and Grandpa and the lovely weather and flowers and greenness here since.

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We have many lovely bouquets for Grandma of dandelions, or “Lellow Light-ups” as Sis calls them.

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IMG_4557Someone, who gave up coloring for Lent, is very happy to be able to do one of her favorite activities again.

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As a new Catholic, it amazes me how much Lent creates so much more appreciation of the Easter season and the celebration of spring, and life, and the Resurrection.

It’s Wednesday, but it’s still Easter. What joy. Happy Easter!

Embrace the Ordinary – Feast Days

We had a late night of fun with friends last night. So I’m, um, getting a slow start this morning on posting this link up for Gina.

embrace-the-ordinarybutton“…there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.” St. Josemaria Escriva, Passionately Loving the World

I have always loved St. Patrick’s Day, and now that we’re Catholic and I understand it as the Feast of St. Patrick, I love it even more.

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This week in March is especially fun, because we get to do neat things for the Feast of St. Patrick on the 17th (we actually did St. Patrick’s Day stuff all week), and also for the Feast of St. Joseph on the 19th.

I have learned that it is traditional to eat cream puffs on the feast of St. Joseph, so I whipped some up from scratch bought some at the grocery store for the girls to have a special treat Thursday. St. Joseph’s intercession is often invoked to help people who are trying to sell their houses, so we used this printable from Catholic Icing and did an hourly novena for the intention of our friends who are selling.

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I set the alarm on my phone every hour, and each time it went off, the girls ran screaming into the kitchen, “MOM! Our novena!!!” It was fantastic.

I love how the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church helps me to celebrate something every day with my girls.

Some days, like St. Patrick’s Day and the Solemnity of St. Joseph and the Solemnity of the Annunciation (this coming Wednesday), are bigger than others.

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But there’s always something to talk about and embrace. There are saints’ feast days, days that commemorate special events or devotions, Baptism anniversaries, and so on. Every day can be a little celebration of faith.

What are you embracing from this week? Link it up!

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Kid-Made Stations of the Cross Box

Last year I made a Stations of the Cross box for my girls, inspired by the one Bonnie made and shared in this post.

The girls really enjoyed doing Stations last year using the box. It was fun for them to have something tangible to look at and touch while we read the book and prayers.

We had been doing it every Friday during this Lent too. They seemed to like doing the Stations and talking about them, just like last year. Last Saturday however, my kids’ love for doing the Stations went through the roof, and I had nothing to do with it.

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I wasn’t even home, but my oldest daughter decided she wanted to make her own Stations of the Cross box with the babysitter. All by herself, she came up with a way to make each of the items in the box or to substitute with something else if she couldn’t get or make what we had used before.

My babysitter texted me this picture while I was at the Catholic Women’s Conference on Saturday:

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At first I had no idea what it was, but I thought for sure Lass had made it, because she has been into making small figures out of paper lately. I texted, “Is that Jesus?” The babysitter texted me back that yes, it was, and that Miss had made all the items and they had been sitting around doing the Stations.

Yes. My kids did the Stations of the Cross with my babysitter on Saturday, with no prompting from me. Twice. Then they requested to do it again when I got home. And we did it again before bed.

We’ve done it at bedtime every night since then, at their request.

How do we do it? We use both boxes (the one I made last year and the one Miss made) and take all the items out. We distribute the items among the girls, and each of them also gets a small pocket Stations book to follow along with the pictures. We use this book to read the prayers and the descriptions of the Stations (and BTW, what a rip off, Amazon, the book was $2 at our local Catholic store!). As we read about each station, the girls with the items relating to it put the items in the boxes. Some of the prayers we all say out loud together. That’s it.

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Sometimes they ask questions about the Stations and we talk about what it must have been like for Jesus.

Sometimes they argue about who gets to put which item in which box. Whatever. We (or they) have read through the Stations 10 times since last Friday. (!!)

Miss used craft foam (my girls’ favorite) to make most of the items in her box. I love that she got creative with a few of the things she couldn’t duplicate from the box I made. She didn’t have a rosary, which is what I used to symbolize Mary, so she cut a piece of blue foam, knowing that blue is a color often associated with Mary. She didn’t have a rock, so she made Jesus and wrapped Him in tape to show that He was in the tomb. She could have easily gone upstairs and gotten her rosary from her room or outside and gotten a rock, but she chose to make all of the items instead (except the tissue).

The cross shapes aren’t perfect. The hand (symbolizing Simon helping Jesus) is missing a thumb. But she made it all by herself. And that has made her want to pray the Stations of the Cross and look at the items symbolizing each station every day. And because she’s the oldest, her sisters want to do it too.

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I had thought I might make this a how-to-type post, but then I realized I really couldn’t. In this case, the complete independence of the project, and the creativity and satisfaction that resulted from the process, made it so much better than if I had set out all the materials and had a planned way for Miss to make each item.

Obviously, I think it would be great to give your kids the idea to do this along with some suggestions on how to make it happen (I wish I had thought of it!), but I don’t really have those suggestions other than to show you another photo of Miss’s finished product and say, “Let them go for it”:

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By rows, top top bottom, left to right:

  1. Jesus is condemned to death (rope)
  2. Jesus takes up his cross
  3. Jesus falls for the first time (that’s supposed to be a BandAid, it has a 1 written on it)
  4. Jesus meets his mother
  5. Simon helps Jesus
  6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
  7. Jesus falls for the second time
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem (they are crying, thus a tissue)
  9. Jesus falls for the third time
  10. The soldiers tear off Jesus’s clothes (that is a piece of paper folded and taped to represent a tunic)
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
  12. Jesus dies on the cross
  13. Jesus is taken down from the cross (Miss said that this is the “Jesus outside the tomb”)
  14. Jesus is placed in the tomb (Jesus wrapped in tape = “Jesus inside the tomb”)

All kept together in a nice shoebox she found in her closet.

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If you try this with your kids, please let me know how it goes!

Seasonal Successes (and failures)

I love this time of year.

Last year was my first time in a long time of celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday rather than just a secular one. I tried to add in all the Catholic things (Advent wreath, Jesse tree, St. Nicholas day and other feast days, etc) while keeping everything we had been doing before (visiting Santa, baking Christmas cookies, our Advent calendar experiences, etc). I ended up feeling a little overwhelmed, but we had a fun time anyway. I enjoyed learning about and beginning some new traditions.

This year, I am feeling utterly overwhelmed by it all. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it’s because we’re doing real homeschooling (beyond preschool), part-time Catholic school, and have just gotten two puppies. Maybe it’s because we are going to be traveling for the week of Christmas, so I have had to ship almost all of our gifts to my parent’s house and have less time to get everything done before we leave. I don’t know what my problem is. But I’ve decided that I just have to let some things go if I want to maintain my sanity and keep focused on what is really important about Christmas.

One example of letting things go: From the moment we got our decorations out, I decided the Advent calendar of years past, with a different fun experience for each day, was going to have to bite the dust. I hung it up. I just didn’t do anything else with it (I didn’t even take out the cards from last year!).

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I just can’t do that one anymore.

I have had some nice successes in my efforts at seasonal celebrating and observances. And also some plans that seemed fabulous in my head and then were just big flops. For example:

*I made some lovely new ornaments for our Jesse Tree and ordered a book to go with them (courtesy of Kendra, how awesome is she to share?). I also got the DVD from Holy Heroes with cute little videos for each day with the readings. Unfortunately, we haven’t actually done the readings (or watched the video segment) since day 5 (5 days ago).

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*I made it to Mass with my children for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Monday. I set Miss’s Immaculate Conception Saint Anne doll on the counter in place of honor and talked to the girls about the meaning of the Immaculate Conception (Mary’s conception, not Jesus’s).

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Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to do any other activities I had planned to commemorate the day. No special dinner. No dessert. I didn’t even get around to giving them the coloring page I have had ready to go in our liturgical year binder for months.

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*I wrapped Christmas books for each day of Advent, in purple and pink to go with each week. We have kept up with the daily opening of the books, but we haven’t done a great job of keeping up with the reading of them. Which kind of misses the point, right? Geez.

*I rocked St. Nicholas’s feast day. The girls put their shoes on the hearth and they each got a couple of these adorable little saint dolls, some chocolate coins, a Veggie Tales Christmas DVD, and a Twilight Turtle (they have always loved their cousins’ turtles, and I got them on sale from Zulily).

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St. Nicholas left a note explaining that he hopes the stars/light from the turtles will remind the girls of how God created the heavens and earth and stars and sun and everything else, and also of how Jesus’s light is always with them. Huge. Hit. We watched DVDs about Saint Nicholas and read books about him. Unfortunately, I forgot that I had some new play nativities for the girls I had planned to leave as Saint Nicholas gifts as well. They’re still sitting in my basement.

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*I took the big girls to see The Nutcracker. It was a special date they have been looking forward to. They loved the Nutcracker stories we read last year and our trip to the local art museum that has a beautiful Nutcracker display throughout. It really was fun, though a touch long for them.

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Unfortunately, though I had purchased a new Nutcracker book for them this year, we didn’t manage to read it before going to the ballet, so the girls kept asking, “Who is that? What’s happening now?” because the whole story wasn’t fresh in their minds (nor in mine).

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They still loved it, and have been playing “Nutcracker” ever since. With costumes even. Lass is usually Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy. Miss is usually the Nutcracker:

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In addition to all the above partial successes, I have also managed to get most of my shopping done, to make a couple of Christmas crafts with the girls, and to remember to move our elf every night (except for that one time when Lass came down early and said, “Hey! He’s still in that same spot!” and I convinced her that she had just woken up too early and needed to go back to bed for a little while to give him time to decide where to go).

See? Lots of successes.

I tend to have big ideas about all the amazing things I want to do with my kids at this time of year. Then reality comes calling and I have to make adjustments. Instead of fretting about not doing enough, I’m working on just being happy with where we are. I could get caught up in doing activities and crafting and baking and going here and there to see and do, but then I would be missing the whole point. I spent ten years missing the whole point, so I don’t want to do that anymore.

We will probably catch up on our Jesse Tree readings/ornaments tomorrow morning. I’ll make more of a point to read the Christmas books we open each day and the ones we missed. We’ll go see Santa, and go to the Nutcracker display at the museum, and bake cookies, and make more crafts, and observe the feast days of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Lucy. And if we miss something, it will be fine. Because we won’t miss celebrating Jesus’s birth most of all.

Remembering the whole point of it all has been one of my very favorite successes.

My First Michaelmas

I first heard about Michaelmas through Haley’s blog, and have seen and read more and more about it over the past several months. It is a feast day with such rich tradition and interesting history, I knew I wanted to celebrate it in a fun way with the girls this year.

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I decided to go all in and invite the Super Friend Family over to make it even more fabulous.

I got pretty much all of my information and ideas from Haley’s post here and Kendra’s post here, and the St. Michael prayer card above is a printable from this post.

Traditionally on Michaelmas, folks have served goose and carrots and blackberries. I couldn’t find a goose (not for lack of trying)

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so I made cornish game hens instead, with this recipe. I had never made this particular recipe before, and it’s been a few years since the last time I cooked a cornish hen, but this was easy and quite yummy (and made enough to feed four adults and seven children). I also made whisky glazed carrots from this recipe, which were amazing, and blackberry cobbler from this recipe. I literally decided to throw together the cobbler Sunday night at 9:00, and I’m glad I did. It was very easy and so good.

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I love the story of why people eat blackberries on Michaelmas. The legend goes that, when St. Michael cast satan from heaven, he fell into a blackberry bush (satan, not St. Michael). He was angry, and he cursed and spat on the blackberries. So, tradition says to eat all the available blackberries on Michaelmas, because after that day they will taste bitter from satan cursing and spitting on them.

The food was good. The company was excellent. Before dinner the kids colored archangel pictures I copied from various coloring books I have. I happened to have a coloring page for each of the archangels, which I was quite excited about because St. Raphael tends to be the archangel that no one mentions much, and I wanted to be sure to have something to celebrate him, because he is the patron of our home parish.

The big fun, however, happened after dinner. I stole Kendra’s idea and got a piñata of the devil for the kids to beat up on. I found one to order on Etsy in this shop. I don’t see the original listing in the shop anyone, but it was for a DareDevil character piñata, which looked like it had a mask on and a slightly smiling face. I asked the artist to make it a bit more devil-like. She did a great job.

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I put some candy in the body of this guy and the kids went to town on it.

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I thought for sure that the bigger kids would smash it open in no time.

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But this piñata was actually made a bit too strong. They went around and around, taking turns banging on it, and it just wouldn’t open. Finally I suggested putting it on the ground to give them better aim and leverage on the thing.

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Even that didn’t really work. They made some holes in it, but not enough for the candy to spill out all over the floor. I think perhaps grown men with baseball bats could have smashed it open, but not children six and under with a segment of Swiffer Sweeper handle. The good news about that is that it is still intact enough that I will be able to salvage it and reuse it for next year.

I the end the dads ripped it open a bit where the kids had made the holes and dumped the candy on the floor. The kids didn’t seem to care. They got candy. They got to take many turns whacking the devil. They got to stay up past bedtime on a school night (seriously, it took forever to get that piñata open!). I think a good time was had by all.

At one point in the evening, I believe between dinner and dessert, I heard Lass in the next room, leading all the kids in a rousing cheer for St. Michael. “Three cheers for St. Michael!” she yelled. And all of them chimed in, “Hip-hip Hooray! Hip-hip Hooray! Hip-hip Hooray!”

I think we have a new yearly tradition.

Happy Michaelmas!