30 September 2014

What month is it, again?

I thought it was September. Maybe my calendar is wrong.

Snow? Today? It could have waited one more day, and then I wouldn't have anything legitimate to complain about because it's supposed to snow in October. But snow on the ground, sitting there not melting as more and more continues to fall? Not supposed to happen in September. I took that photo before breakfast this morning; by now, you certainly can't see any evidence that we were running around on the driveway:

Not exactly shoveling-the-driveway accumulation yet, so I really don't have anything to complain about. Snow today or tomorrow, it wouldn't be any warmer.  And white snow is prettier than dead brown leaves and grass. I'm not super unhappy about it; I'm just annoyed with the snow as a matter of principle. 

Little Bear was really excited to be running around in the snow this morning, which is good; he's going to be doing a whole lot of that between now and next May! It's possible that this will melt, but it may just stick around and become the bottom layer of our hardpack. The ponds we pass heading in and out of town held onto their layer of ice all day long yesterday, so we may have entered the "always and forever cold". 

Maybe I wasn't quite ready for that to happen yet, but it has it's own perks: being able to say because there's snow on the ground! when Little Bear doesn't want to wear mittens; not worrying about having the afternoon suddenly warm up when I've made a pot of soup for supper; enjoying fires in the fireplace... whenever we get that working. Matt's learning an awful lot about fireplace mechanics as we try to figure out why our fires won't stay lit!

29 September 2014

Happy Michaelmas

Happy Michaelmas! Or in the current calendar, feast of the holy archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. I figure we can celebrate all three but still use the old name, especially since St. Michael the Archangel is my confirmation saint and one of Little Bear's patron saints.

Within the last week, Little Bear has been all about angels: it seems like every few hours, he'll start running around shouting "guardian angel!" "Michael!", wanting me to say the St. Michael prayer and the guardian angel prayer. If we're saying different prayers, like morning prayers or the Angelus, he will get upset if we make the final sign of the cross without adding on a St. Michael prayer and guardian angel prayer. He found a holy card with St. Michael on it, and propped it up in the center of the table facing his high chair. I'm not exactly sure where his fixation came from, but there are certainly worse things he could be into!

You probably know how I try to make my menu match the liturgical year and feast days, so it won't be a surprise that I started researching Michaelmas celebrations several days ago. There are a number of traditional foods for Michaelmas, particularly from the British Isles: roast goose, sometimes with apples; a St. Michael's Bannock or "struan" from Scotland, with many different types of grain; anything incorporating blackberries, from the English folklore that when St. Michael cast the devil out of heaven, he landed in a blackberry patch. An Italian-American custom calls for meat with a spicy fra diavlo ("brother devil") sauce, and in the height of devil's food cake's popularity it was a popular dessert for the day.

I suppose it's theoretically possible that the local organic meat market miiiiight have geese available, but we can't afford to shop there, so I wouldn't know. I've certainly never seen geese for sale anywhere else in town! I do have apples waiting to be cooked, though, so tonight we are having roast pork with apples and onions, sauerkraut, green salad, and a dark chocolate pudding. We'll save the cake-baking for Thursday: angel food cupcakes for the feast of the guardian angels! Blackberries don't grow here, sadly... that sounds like a fun bit of legend to teach little ones about today.

The Michaelmas Bannock sounds interesting, but I don't have a good assortment of grains right now. I'll have to try and remember to plan ahead and gather ingredients ahead of time next year.

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, o prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Saint Raphael the Archangel, we beseech you to help us in all our needs and trials of this life, as you, through the power of God, did restore sight and give guidance to young Tobit. We humbly seek your aid and intercession that our souls may be healed, our bodies protected from all ills, and that through divine grace we may be made worthy to dwell in heaven for eternity. Amen.

Saint Gabriel the Archangel, we beseech you to intercede for us at the throne of divine Mercy in our present needs. As you announced to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation, so through your prayers and patronage in heaven may we receive the benefits of the same, and sing the praise of God forever in the land of the living. Amen.

27 September 2014

Oodles of Noodles

Last week, as a "get all your school work done so we can do something fun" bribe, I brought our pasta maker over to my family's house. The kids had a lot of fun making noodles, even Little Bear. He sat on the counter next to the mixer and started shouting excitedly every time I turned it on: "Noodle! Noodle! Here they come!"

I used roughly half semolina flour and half all-purpose flour, and maybe the semolina was too old and dry or Interior Alaska is just too not-humid or something, but it took so much more water than my recipe called for to even form a coarse, crumbly dough. I had to add an absurd amount of liquid—definitely at least double what the recipe wanted—to get my dough pliable enough that the machine could even extrude it. 

Once the dough finally reached a "leathery but flexible" consistency, we attached the pasta maker to the stand mixer. The kids chose to use the elbow macaroni-extruding die, which in hindsight was probably not the smartest idea for our first attempt with semolina and impatient kids, but I'd promised to make totally-homemade mac'n'cheese for Friday's supper. All of the kids gathered in the kitchen to take turns feeding little chunks of dough into the hopper (when the instructions say "walnut-sized," they do not mean an unshelled walnut!) and lifting off the noodles and laying them out to dry.

According to the instructions, we were supposed to let the pasta extrude 15 to 20 centimeters, turn off the machine, take down the pasta, then turn the mixer back on. The youngest kids were generally too excited about the noodles to wait until they got that long, though, so we wound up having all different lengths.

We stopped twice to let the mixer's motor rest for an hour or so because it was getting pretty warm, so it wound up taking several hours to make it through one batch of dough. After the long noodles had dried for at least a half hour, the kids snapped them into the right size pieces for mac'n'cheese:

The noodles cooked really quickly: they were done probably three or four minutes after going into the pot of boiling water! They turned out a little softer than store-bought pasta... I'm not sure if I over cooked them, or they were just softer because fresh pasta is soft. We will have to do it again, and next time I'll actually measure how much water I use so I can write out the recipe!

26 September 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Sleep, Snow, Socks

I know it's waaaaaay too soon to declare victory, but we're excited anyway: today is the third consecutive day that Little Bear has taken a nap in his own bed (and under the blanket, no less), and last night he fell asleep in his own bed and stayed there until almost 1:00 am! It was so weird to have time together without him awake. We did the math, and it had been 2 years, 2 months, and 20 days since we last fell asleep in our own bed without him between us. Wow.

A lot of people have been pretty free with their opinions on us letting him stay in our bed so long, but I'm glad that we waited until he was ready to switch because so far the transition has been painless; he laid down in his own bed without me even asking him to this afternoon, but the times we tried when he was younger, he would spend an hour arching and kicking and screaming and rolling until I finally gave up. This is so much easier! Not to say that we don't hope that any future kids will be ready to make the transition at a younger age, before they are quite as big and strong and pillow-hogging as he is. But it seems like (naïve mom-of-one talking here) it would be easier with an older sibling to hold up as a role model... Anecdotal evidence, anyone?

Little white flecks were drifting past the car windows this morning as I drove Matt in to work, but they were few enough and small enough that if you purposely didn't look too hard, you couldn't see them. I'm just going to keep telling myself that it isn't really snowing in September...

Matt got a new chef's knife for his Asian cooking class. He brought it home last night very excited: "It's like chopping vegetables with a lightsaber!"

Little Bear doesn't watch a lot of TV, but when I'm home alone with him in the evening and the dishes aren't going to wash themselves while he wants to hang on my skirt and whine, I'll often turn on an episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. (That one show and its ability to give me ten minutes to myself is absolutely worth the price of the Netflix subscription) And he's actually learning good things from it! Yes, he runs around saying, "Trolley! Ding ding! Ugga mugga, Daniel Tiger," but he's also started cleaning up without being asked, and if I tell him to pick one more thing to do before it's time to go take his nap, he'll think about it, tell me what he wants to do, do it, and then run down to the bedroom.

Tell me about your kids' winter footwear, especially if you live somewhere cold. What are the best boots? We need something that will stay warm well below 0, and will stay dry in the squishy wet snow this fall and in breakup next spring. Also, perhaps more importantly, socks: really, really warm socks. The wool socks for little feet I've seen in town are ridiculously expensive! And you can't just layer regular cotton socks; that doesn't add any appreciable warmth, and winds up restricting blood flow. Surely there's another option?

I got a rewards code from Huggies last month for a free photo book from Shutterfly. We put our wedding album together through their site, and decided to use this chance to start making annual photo albums since we never ever print photos. Since we got married halfway through 2011, we figured this first book would cover the latter half of 2011 plus all of 2012. We came up with a whole list of things that'd happened in that time that would be good to include pictures of, and I sat down to work on it earlier this week (of course I put it off for two months and the code expires this weekend). And discovered that we didn't really take photos our first year married. As bad as I thought we are about taking photos now of Little Bear, we were so much worse at ever pulling out the camera before he was born. After our wedding, I have photos from our mid-September 2011 trip to the Glenallen area and Valdez, and then pretty much nothing until we went to Monterey, CA, in March 2012. And then there's one photo of me pregnant—just one—and a couple of cooking photos, and then Little Bear arrives in July 2012. First Christmas married? Easter? Anything at all with snow in it? Any pregnant photos before or after 30 weeks? Nothing. It's ridiculous. My mom was rightly appalled, and I'm running over to her house this afternoon to see what pictures she has of us from that time period so I can finish the book before the deadline.

For more quick takes, visit Conversion Diary! Have a great weekend.

25 September 2014

Homemade Yogurt

My mom started making her own yogurt around the time I left for college. I remember some of the earlier batches, while she was trying to perfect her recipe, being pretty soft and runny. And I know that store-bought yogurt is generally only as thick as it is because they add stabilizers like gelatin and pectin, but because that firmness is what I was used to, the softer homemade yogurt was kind of weird.

Sometime during my first semester away, my family back home switched to buying/drinking/using exclusively whole milk. Coming home to that from several months of drinking exclusively skim milk or water, the richness of the whole milk made me ill. With the exception of cheese, I pretty much stopped consuming dairy on my visits home.

And so I completely missed the fact that switching to whole milk had given Mom's homemade yogurt the firmness I was missing.

Ever since I became pregnant with Little Bear, it's been a given that we always have yogurt in the fridge. It was one of the few foods I could always eat even on days I felt sick, and unlike some things that I loved while pregnant and haven't been able to stand since, plain yogurt with a little fruit or honey and granola is still one of my preferred breakfasts and snacks. As I learned more about the "stuff" that goes into low-fat yogurt to give it the same texture as full-fat (whole milk) yogurt, I started making an effort to buy exclusively whole milk yogurt... but there is only one non-fancy-pants-organic brand of whole milk yogurt carried by any of the grocery stores in town, and while it's cheaper than the organic stuff, it's still expensive!

Every so often, my mom would remind me of how easy it is to make yogurt, and how much less expensive. I believed her, but somehow I never managed to find the time or gather the equipment. A couple of weeks ago, though, coolers went on end-of-summer clearance and I finally picked up a little one, along with a candy thermometer and a half-gallon of whole milk.

Then Little Bear found and broke the candy thermometer, and we waited another week until I replaced it.

But we finally did it, and it came out incredibly well. I was shocked at how thick it was. It doesn't have as strong a tang to it as some yogurts, but Little Bear and I like the mellow flavor. 

Next time, I'd like to try making it in little half-pint jelly jars instead, to have individual servings that Matt could take with him to work.

Want to give it a try? You'll need:

- one lunchbox-sized cooler (mine is 5 quarts)
- four pint jars with lids and rings
- a candy/frying thermometer 

Make sure your jars can fit in your cooler with the lid closed!

In a large pot (you want lots of surface area) over medium heat, bring 6 cups of whole milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and cool to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk in 1/4 cup of plain yogurt (I used whole milk yogurt). Ladle into jars, no fuller than the point where the sides start to curve in toward the neck (the jar's "shoulders"). Put jars in cooler and fill it with the hottest possible tap water up to the jars' shoulders, then close the cooler and set it somewhere it won't be touched. Take the jars out in 12 to 24 hours*, and you have yogurt! (Which should now be refrigerated.)

*Apparently 12 hours will give you a slightly softer yogurt, 24 will make it thicker; I took mine out at about 22 hours.

24 September 2014

September Ember Days

begin today! The Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the week following the feast of the Triumph of the Cross (September 14) are traditional days of prayer, penance, and fasting/abstinence. Together with the Advent, Lent, and pre-Pentecost ember days they follow the cycle of the year, reminding us of God's unchanging presence throughout the changing seasons.

Today's penance is likely coming in the form of a too-short nap following my harebrained attempt to put Little Bear down for a nap in his own bed, under the blankets—both things he hates, and neither of which has ever worked before. I got him into the bed willingly, though, so I figured I'd better take advantage of the opportunity: He didn't want his pants back on after I changed his diaper before nap time (a normal occurance); I told him that if he got in his bed under the blanket with his head on the pillow, he didn't have to put his pants on; he picked the perceived lesser of the two evils, lay his head down, and started pretending to go to sleep! He's out now, so I have no chance of getting him to sleep on our bed if he does wake up early here, so hopefully he gets a real nap.

The ember days have not been required days of fast and abstinence since the Second Vatican Council, but it's always good to be reminded of God's presence in our lives, isn't it? I try to observe the ember days at least by being conscious of them, by remembering to express gratitude for blessings of the past season and hopes for the coming season in my daily prayers, and by abstaining from meat. 

Today the cooking is easier than usual because Matt has night class, so I really don't have to put a ton of effort into a nice-but-meatless supper. The rest of the week will take a little more effort, but that's okay:

Wednesday: pancakes, eggs, sautéed zucchini and onions
Thursday: noodles with peanut sauce, steamed broccoli (meatless so Matt can take leftovers for lunch on Friday)
Friday: roasted tomato soup, asiago crostini
Saturday: baked tilapia with acorn squash

I don't think Little Bear is old enough to understand ember days yet, because he doesn't know about seasons... Maybe by the Lenten ember days I'll be able to do something with him? I've seen some cute "changing seasons" activities for kids, but it's harder to use those here... The calendar may say that autumn just started, but we had snow flurries yesterday afternoon!

How do you teach your kids about ember days? I'd love ideas!

23 September 2014

Turning of the Season

This morning it wasn't even 32 F when I brought Matt in to work. A heavy frost weighed down the roadside brush, and each little pond and puddle wore a spackly skin of ice. In the past week and a bit, we've lost nearly all of our leaves; it seems like the hills went from golden to grey-brown overnight. First day of autumn yesterday, my foot. We're on the cusp of winter.

Little Bear and I have been living in sweaters since Sunday, because the fireplace damper doesn't seem to be drawing in enough oxygen and we can't keep a fire going. The furnace works fine—we aren't going to freeze! But with heating fuel running around $4 per gallon, we're sure hoping to offset our oil use with as much wood as possible. We should have tried building a fire earlier in the fall; now it's a busy season for everyone, and it'll take a few days to have our fireplace looked at (and hopefully figured out).

It's a far cry from the previous weekend, when temperatures climbed unexpectedly into the mid-70s. We went out grouse hunting that Sunday, and true to form didn't see any grouse... I think this was the fourth time Matt's gone? We did hear several grouse, but were unable to scare them up from the brush. Although we did see a moose! It was away across a clearing from us, and it looked small, probably a yearling. Little Bear's noisy determination to be let out of the ergo startled it off. We also found the remains of an old cabin, and hiked out to an old logging slash pile where I remember doing target practice with the .22 when I was younger. It was a beautiful day to be out in the woods; I'm glad we took advantage of what was almost certainly our last warm weekend for a very long time.

It's too bad it doesn't still look like that outside today! Well, it is and it isn't. I love the fall colors, but I could always print off some photos, stick them on the living room window blinds, and pretend it's still pretty out... and as soon as we get a fire going, I'll be perfectly happy to curl up in front of it with Little Bear, a book, and a mug of hot cider or chai.

22 September 2014

7 in 7 time

Okay, I officially feel like the worst lazy blogger ever. No posts since two Saturdays ago? I'm pretty sure I haven't let that much time slide since I had a newborn. (But don't go check, okay? Thanks.) 

But I have an excuse! Multiple excuses. Good ones. Little Bear and I spent last week at my parents' house cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, and homeschooling my three youngest siblings so my parents could take a trip. And my phone doesn't like talking to their internet, so when I had something I wanted to write about, I couldn't blog even if I could find a bit of free time. And of free time, there wasn't a ton; they say that once your oldest kid reaches 7 (some say 10), everything gets easier, but I have to say that comparing life with my sole 2-year-old to last week with a 13, 10, 6, and 2-year-old, I'm pretty sure I did a lot more work there. Some of that was certainly "Mom and Dad are gone, let's relax!" syndrome, and a good chunk was the 6-year-old's selective hearing, but goodness, I'm so grateful to just have one kid to be taking care of today!

(Although I'm sure it would have been different if they were my kids, rather than them being my siblings, simply because the relationship is very different. I definitely don't mean to say that my life wouldn't be as good with more than one kid! Having just one kid is all kinds of hard in its own way, and we're hoping we'll be able to give him siblings.)

The week was also made more stressful by me not seeing Matt for most of the week; he came over for supper on Tuesday, but had night classes Wednesday and Thursday so he couldn't swing by after work, and I didn't get to spend time with him again until he picked us up Friday after getting off work. I guess I learned an important lesson from that: Since he has those night classes all semester, and I now know just how hard it is for me to not see him from Tuesday night through Friday afternoon, I'll be making more of an effort to get up early with him Wednesday and Thursday mornings so we can have a little bit of time together before he leaves.

My weekend was swallowed up by a nasty sinus infection, accompanied Friday—Saturday by a migraine. Pain killers have been helping, but the sinus infection is still hanging on and I'm hoping and praying that Little Bear and Matt don't catch it. Also my doctor started me on a new medication on Wednesday, and my body has been making sure that I know how unhappy it is to have to adapt to this. Overall I've just been pretty out of it recently.

Long week, many excuses, no blogging. Anyway. Since I'd been slowly slacking off on posting even before disappearing last week, I'm challenging myself this week to write 7 posts in 7 days, and I'm actually writing it down here because last time I just made a mental note and only wound up posting three times that week. So if it looks like I'm going to miss a day, call me on it! I really want to actually get my 7 in 7 this week.

13 September 2014

Sticky Buns for the feast of St John Chrysostom

For the feast of this "golden-tongued" doctor of the Church, these golden sweet rolls were fun to make and got our morning off to a great start! I was kind of mostly following this recipebut I made some changes so I'll write out our version here.

One of the symbols often associated with Saint John Chrysostom is a beehive, because of his eloquence (the "sweetness" of his words). To tie the rolls more in with his feast, I swapped the white sugar in the original recipe for honey... Local honey also helps build up immunity to pollen allergens, so I can pretend I'm cooking more healthfully by using it instead of the white sugar.

1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast (2 packets)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup honey
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 well-mashed bananas
2 eggs
6 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 bananas, sliced thinly

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of milk with 2 tablespoons of honey over low heat until the honey has completely dissolved. Allow it to cool to 110 F, then add yeast. Set it aside to proof for about 20 minutes. (That sounded like a ridiculously long time to me, but it really worked!)

Melt together the stick of butter and the honey. In a large bowl, combine them with 1/2 cup of milk and the salt. Beat in bananas. When well combined, thoroughly mix in the eggs, then beat in the yeast mixture.

Slowly beat in the flour. If your stand mixer can handle a stiff dough with 6 1/2 cups of flour, congratulations! Mine can't, so my wooden spoon got a good workout. The dough will be sticky, but not never-letting-go-of-your-fingers sticky, if that makes sense? Definitely the consistency of a dough and not a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, at least 1 hour.

When the dough has risen, roll it out into a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Spread the softened butter over the rectangle. Sprinkle and gently pat down the brown sugar over the butter. Shake cinnamon over the brown sugar, then evenly scatter with pecans and bananas:

(Make the corners less round than I did here, and the next step won't be as messy for you!)

Roll into a log and cut into rounds. I didn't measure before I started cutting, and wound up with 11; if you start in the middle and subdivide, it shouldn't be difficult to get 12 rolls out of this recipe.

Lay the rounds on a greased baking sheet and let rise while your oven preheats to 350 F.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

The original recipe called for a caramel frosting, but I skipped it and thought they were fine without. Matt thinks they would benefit from something, maybe whipped cream or a coffee glaze. If you give them a try, let me know what you think!

12 September 2014

Seven Quick Takes of fall colors and liturgical meal planning

The fall colors are finally here. It was so very weird, last week, to be shivering in sub-freezing temperatures but have all of the trees and underbrush still green! In the past week, almost everything has turned: the trees are all golden, and the underbrush is a canvas of fiery reds, oranges, purples and browns.

We also got an unexpected thermal jump this week, so it's actually comfortable to be outside enjoying the fall colors without having to wear anything heavier than a light sweater: we've hit mid-60s most days this week, and supposedly today or tomorrow will even see 70. It's not expected to last long, so we're making sure we take advantage of it: We've gotten several walks in over the week, and last night we took a picnic supper to a park and let Little Bear run around and play on the swings and slides. I'm so glad he's finally conquered his fear of slides—up until a few weeks ago, he refused to go down even the shortest slide. Last night, he climbed to the highest point of the play equipment and went down the tunnel slide all by himself, without needing any encouragement from us! It was great to be able to sit back, talk with Matt, and enjoy watching Little Bear having fun on his own.

Tomorrow morning, Matt is kindly foregoing his precious Saturday morning sleeping-in time so the three of us can take a ride on the Riverboat Discovery. They give an excellent presentation of local history and culture, and now that the leaves have turned it should be an especially beautiful trip downriver. Matt and Little Bear have never been, and it's been years since I've gone; we are looking forward to it! Hopefully we will get some good photos.

Last weekend, we learned that Home Depot has free kids' workshops the morning of the first Saturday of each month. Matt was looking for materials to build a wood rack for our deck, but it was his weekend on call for work and he got a call right as we parked, so Little Bear and I went inside to wander and noticed the hammer-and-paintbrush-wielding children. The timing worked out perfectly: Little Bear and I finished building and painting our birdhouse just as Matt finished gathering his building materials. Little Bear held the hammer to help me pound in the nails, and he did a really good job of keeping the green paint on the roof and the orange paint off the roof (his choice of colors, probably because they're the only two colors he consistently points out). He was very proud of it!

This has been a two-Marian-feast week... How often does that happen? On Monday we celebrated the Nativity of Mary, and today is the Most Holy Name of Mary. I wonder if there was a tradition in early Judaism of naming girls, or children in general, several days after their birth? 

Aha: Wikipedia is an ever-helpful resource. The article on the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary cites the Roman Martyrology as describing today's feast as "a day on which the inexpressible love of the Mother of God for her Holy Child is recalled, and the eyes of the faithful are directed to the figure of the Mother of the Redeemer, for them to invoke with devotion.

So it's more about her name as a reflection of who she is, not about her naming itself. 

To celebrate Our Lady's birth on Monday I'd intended to make a cheesecake with blueberry sauce, but ran out of time and patience and just made blueberry bread pudding instead.

It was wonderful. Also very purple. But now I'm out of blueberries, my go-to fruit for Marian feast days, and we have dinner guests coming tonight and I really wanted to make a good dessert for today's feast. I guess we will see what happens. There's a bunch of ripe bananas hanging next to the stove, and I've been eyeing this recipe all week... That would make a good dessert *and* a fun breakfast tomorrow morning!

Tomorrow is the feast of Saint John Chrysostom, and Sunday is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. "Chrysostom" means "golden-tongued," a name he was given for his eloquent preaching, so I'm planning to make something "golden" for supper. Not sure what yet, though! (Although those banana sticky buns would probably be fairly golden...) There's a legend that Saint Helena found a basil plant growing at the site where she found the cross, so something Italian—possibly pesto?—sounds like a good idea for Sunday. 

I'm sorry for inflicting my "oops, I need to plan meals for this weekend!" thought process on y'all. What are you making this weekend?

Don't forget to stop by Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

08 September 2014

Happy Nativity!

Of Mary, that is. Today we celebrate the birth of the Mother of God! When I told Little Bear this morning, he asked, "Cake? Candle?" so I may be making a little cake for dessert tonight. Oh, wait; I have cream cheese and blueberry pie filling in the fridge. Cheesecake with warmed blueberry sauce? That sounds perfect.

Tonight, if the wood gets stacked this afternoon and I can keep the wiggly boy still long enough, I'm hoping to add the Akathist to the Theotokos to our evening prayers in honor of her birthday.


In the Church's calendar, we only celebrate the births of three people: Christ, of course, on Christmas; St John the Baptist, on June 24; and the Mother of God today, September 8. St John the Baptist was the cousin of Christ, the last prophet to prepare the hearts of the Israelites for the Messiah's coming, and the one who announced Him when he began His public ministry. 

Mary had an even more central role: she carried God within her for nine months, gave Him physical form from her own body, nourished Him as a baby, cared for Him as a child, brought Him up according to the law of Moses, continued to love and support Him through his public ministry, stood by Him in His death, received His Body from the cross. No other created being has been so intimately connected to Christ as Mary was to her son; it is fitting that she is honored more than any other creature, and recognized for her role in pointing us toward Christ!

Celebrating her birth today reminds us that if Mary had never been born, the Gospel as we know it would not exist; without her fiat, her "Let it be done unto me according to your word," there would have been no Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly God could have chosen another way to bring salvation into the world, but it would have been different: Not only did Christ's physical being, appearance, DNA, come from Mary specifically, but due to fetomaternal microchimerism (an exchange of immune cells between mother and child through the placenta), Christ carried actual cell lines from Mary—her DNA, not His—within Him, and she carried cells from Him. Even at a cellular level, Mary is uniquely connected to Him.

Hail, Infant Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou forever, and blessed are thy holy parents Joachim and Anne, of whom thou was miraculously born. Mother of God, intercede for us.

We fly to thy patronage, holy and amiable Child Mary; despise not our prayers in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, glorious and blessed Virgin.

V. Pray for us, holy Child Mary.

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us Pray: O almighty and merciful God, Who through the cooperation of the Holy Ghost, did prepare the body and soul of the Immaculate Infant Mary that she might be the worthy Mother of Thy Son, and did preserve her from all stain; grant that we who venerate with all our hearts her most holy childhood may be freed, through her merits and intercession, from all uncleanness of mind and body, and be able to imitate her perfect humility, obedience, and charity. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

07 September 2014

Doughnut behavior

Since Little Bear has learned to associate the parish hall with treats, we've definitely begun using the classic "Be quiet or you won't get a doughnut after Mass" good-behavior bribe. Last Sunday we had to explain that he'd been too naughty to have a doughnut, and while he was very unhappy about it then, he was very quiet all through Mass today.

But then there were announcements. And more announcements. And more announcements. And then someone was invited forward to speak about Stephen Ministry.

And I picked up the squirmy, stage-whispering, trying to be good but why is it taking so long, Mama? two-year-old and carried him out to the narthex.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm frustrated about... The oodles of announcements? The placing said oodles of announcements before the final blessing? Probably that; I know that there are things the priest really needs people to know, and it's not enough to hope that everyone will actually read the bulletin. But for parents of littles who are trying to learn how to behave in Mass, it winds up being a no-win situation: Little kids have short attention spans. It's a fact. When they are at the tail end of their ability to sit still and quietly, and someone else gets up to talk for another five minutes, parents have to choose between A) risking allowing their child to become disruptive, and B) taking their child out and missing the final blessing.

Neither is a good option for the parents, but also, neither is a fair option for the kid. If you take the kid out, neither of you receives the final blessing. If you don't take the kid out and they do start losing control of their whispering voice (or their patience, which certain two-year-olds have in very short supply as it is), whose fault is it really? If I know that Little Bear has already been still and quiet longer than I can reasonably expect him to, but I try to keep him there through the extra five-ten minutes anyway, does he lose his doughnut privileges that week? He's been good and quiet all through Mass, watched Father and the lector, paid attention... I don't think it'd be fair to punish him by taking away the treat he's been looking forward to all week, when if the final blessing had been given before the announcements Mass would have been over and he would have successfully been well-behaved all the way through. Kids learn to follow along with the Mass pretty quickly; they know when it's supposed to be done, and they don't have adults' maturity to not express their frustration when the announcements are never-ending.

But. If he melts down during the announcements and I let him have a doughnut anyway, he's going to lose the association between "good behavior" and "getting a doughnut." So even though I don't think it's fair to punish him for the announcements being too long, I can't teach him that we can be loud and unhappy in church and still get a doughnut. Which leaves me with just one option on Sundays with long-winded announcements: Heading out to the narthex and missing the final blessing.

Surely it wouldn't be that big a deal to switch the blessing and the announcements? People are conditioned to stay until after the recessional hymn anyway; I doubt they would actually lose many members of their captive audience for the announcements.

05 September 2014

Seven Quick Takes of quiet and busyness, diagramming and grizzly bears

It's not even 10:30 am, and the day is already weird: Little Bear, who has been reliably napping from 12:30 to 2:30 pm, is sprawled asleep across my lap. But I intended for that to happen; we have a long crazy afternoon ahead of us, and the only way he was going to get a nap today at all was if I could get him down for a super early one. It's not often that I'm happy about him insisting that it's time to get up an hour early, but I gladly made an exception today!

A bunch of local homeschooling families (and pre-school-kid-having families) will be meeting for noon Mass today, followed by a back-to-school picnic at a local park. At 51 degrees it's a little bit chilly for a picnic, but it's certainly warmer than Monday was! I'm looking forward to seeing other moms and letting Little Bear run around. I stuck mittens in my purse in case he'll let me put them on him, and since he's been sniffly I should probably try to stick a hat on him as well. If we have a hat that fits. I think we do. Since the picnic would have interfered with nap time anyway, I figured it made more sense to have him sleep early and them stay in town and do errands between the picnic and picking Matt up from work.

One of Matt's night classes started yesterday. It's going to be a strange semester with him out until after bed time two nights a week. Little Bear kept running around looking for Dada, because he knew it was past time for him to have been home... We'll find things to do together in the quiet evenings while he's in class, though. Last night, Little Bear sat on the counter and helped me make a Mediterranean quinoa salad to bring to today's potluck picnic. He was very enthusiastic about getting all of the feta out of the little container and into the bowl!

Last Sunday my parents hosted a "last party of summer," which was definitely more of a first party of fall given the temperatures, but regardless of what it was called it was a lot of fun. I think my dad said they had more than 40 people over the course of the afternoon and evening. Matt and I both got to talk to other adults—a too-rare occurance some weeks—and Little Bear ran around after all of the older kids. Our contribution to the potluck was a pecan shortbread-sweetened cream cheese-blueberry pie filling layered dessert:

I thought about typing out the recipe, but it's really pretty self-explanatory, isn't it?

Speaking of recipes, I've finally added a tab up on the top bar for a page with links to all of the recipes I've posted: it's nothing fancy, but now I can find my chicken Provençal recipe without having to try to find the post from the night before Little Bear was born. Why I haven't written that down on paper yet I have no idea... but at least I know where it is! I'll try to remember to update the link list when I add new recipe posts.

I lay awake for the longest time last night trying to figure out to how diagram a sentence from a children's song. In "I stand up," I is of course the subject, and stand is the verb. Up would hang below stand as a modifier, right? It's been way too long since I've done this.

And for the "what are we going to do with this child?!?" category: 

I don't think they're dancing. 

Have a good weekend! Visit Conversion Diary for more quick takes.

02 September 2014

2T Haircuts

Would it really be so hard for there to be one standard sizing scale for kids clothes? Right now Little Bear is wearing mostly 2T shirts, as well as some 3T (but 18mo in button-downs); he fits into one pair of 18mo jeans, two pairs of 2T, and one lovely fleece-lined pair of 12mo. Most of his 18mo dress pants are still too big in the waist, and those that aren't are now too short in the legs, so we had to dig out the safety pins before Mass on Sunday. And he fits equally well in 18mo and 2T sweaters, and is wearing 3T-4T socks. What size is my kid wearing these days? I have no idea.

After helping me wade through sorting too-big clothes into boxes the other week, Little Bear picked up on how the sizing system works and is ridiculously proud of the fact that he wears size 2T. As he's getting dressed in the morning, he happily points to each piece of clothing as it goes on: "2T pants! 2T shirt! 2T sweater!" 

The other day while we talked to Matt's parents on Skype, about clothes and haircuts, he apparently put two and two together and came up with I just got a haircut. I wear 2T. It's a "2T haircut!" Since then he's been running his hand through his hair mimicking the clippers, saying "Vrr, vrr. 2T haircut!" and looking very proud of himself.

I thought, as I cut his hair in late August, that I was timing it perfectly: it was short for the end of summer, but it'd be longer (and warmer) by the time it got cold. Ha! After last fall's "Indian summer" with no snow or particularly cold weather until into November, we are freezing. Literally. It's supposed to get down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit tonight.

We spent the coldest Labor Day that I can remember--it didn't even reach 50 degrees out--bundled in fleece and sweaters and wool socks, stubbornly insisting that we weren't turning on the heat or lighting a fire because it was only September 1, for crying out loud. I finally gave in before bed and turned the thermostat up to 65, and waking up this morning was so much less unpleasant than it was yesterday. Fortunately, it looks like we will be reaching at least the mid-50s for the rest of the week.

I like fall weather, but goodness, we're tumbling toward winter temperatures a little too quickly here!