31 October 2016

Celebrating Hallowtide

Happy Hallowe'en, y'all! Since this week is full up with holidays and holy days, Little Bear and I are taking a break from our regular religion curriculum to talk about Hallowtide, Halloween, saints, purgatory, et al. And I wanted to hear what kind of traditions or plans you have, too; I'm kind of throwing things together haphazardly here, since this cold has made it hard for me to get ahead on planning things out, so more ideas would be welcome!

Today we looked at the calendar to see that All Saints, or All Hallows', is tomorrow, and then talked about how when we start celebrating something the evening beforehand we call it the "eve." So one thing we can remember on this eve of All Saints is that God has conquered death, and that as we celebrate the saints tomorrow and pray for the souls in purgatory the next day, we are glad and grateful that Jesus made it so that we can one day be with Him in heaven. So some people might have scary decorations or costumes, but they remind us that with God, there's nothing we have to be afraid of.

But mostly, Halloween is an American holiday about having fun, carving pumpkins, and going trick-or-treating, and we talked about that too. Matt and Little Bear had fun carving a pumpkin yesterday, and tonight for supper we had stuffed "jack-o-peppers," because clearly keeping up with life was too easy and I needed an extra challenge today? I don't know. Little Bear was excited about them, though, and they turned out better than I expected.

I bundled Little Bear into his superhero costume (over top of his coat, because that's how costumes work here) and we went trick-or-treating at four houses in our neighborhood before the car decided that it didn't like the key and wouldn't let me turn it on, and Matt had to come over with the spare key and save us. So then we went home.

Turns out that if the steering wheel is turned too sharply when you take the key out, it can "lock" and not let you turn the car back on. At least there's nothing wrong with our car!

All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation; we're still trying to figure out how we are going to make it to Mass, because all of the parishes in town have their Masses at the same times which is horribly inconvenient if those few times don't work for you. I'm sure we'll work something out, though. Little Bear and Kit are both excited about wearing Saint costumes tomorrow; okay, Kit is just excited about the pretty red princess-y dress (Bl Gisella, first queen of Hungary), but Little Bear was very sure he wanted to be St Juan Diego again this year. We didn't make it to the cathedral's All Saints party yesterday since the kids were sick, but Little Bear figured we could just have our own party on All Saints Day instead. So I guess I'm looking up a few simple games tonight!

I have a nice dinner planned for the feast day—ham, butternut squash, and roasted Brussels sprouts with a honey-balsamic glaze—and we'll be celebrating our own little saint in a special way throughout the day.

For All Souls' Day, Masses are even harder to find than on All Saints, but we'll try to at least visit a cemetery and say a rosary as a family. From inside the car, because it'll be in the 20s out and we can be pious and practical at the same time, especially when the kids are sick. The religion lesson for the day will involve talking about purgatory and November being the month specially set aside for praying for the dead; I'm planning to have Little Bear help me write the names of our relatives who have died on slips of paper to put in our prayer corner, so that we can pray for them all month. And the kids will help me bake doughnuts, because soul cakes

Thursday, November 3, is the feast day of St Hubert; as the patron saint of hunters, St Hubert is a pretty big deal around here! We'll read the story of St Hubert and the white stag, and talk about how we pray for Saint Hubert's intercession when Dad is out hunting, and what "intercession" means. If the kids are healthy enough by then, we'll go for a quick tromp in the woods, looking for birds and animals. And there might be one last package of moose steak hanging out in the freezer from last season; I think that'd make a fitting supper.

Friday... We try to go to Mass on First Fridays, but that'll depend on how the kids are doing. Friday Mass is right in the middle of Kit's nap time, and I am not going to mess with nap time unless she's much better than she is right now. I think we will wrap up the week's lessons by learning and discussing the Requiem aeternum, Eternal rest grant into them, O Lord... and probably reiterate Wednesday's discussion of praying for the dead in November. Little Bear seems to have gotten my love for the liturgical year—he appreciates explanations of "we're doing X today because today is Y/a part of Y season"—so I think he will respond well to the idea of there being a particular thing we do because it's November.

So that's my master plan! And now that it's all written out, I'm probably going to get hit with the full brunt of the kids' cold and our actual week won't be nearly as organized, because that's how life works. :-) We'll see how it goes.

What are your traditions for Hallowtide? Is anyone else celebrating St Hubert in a special way on Thursday? I'd love to hear your plans.

29 October 2016

A quiet moment

Kit and I are sitting still in a quiet house right now, a rarity these days. The poor munchkin has a head cold, and is cuddled up snoring in my lap while Matt and Little Bear are out running errands. My to-do list is a mile long, as ever, but rather than lay Kit down and risk waking her, I'm going to stay right here and write.

How long has it been since I've talked about the kids? Longer than I expected, that's for sure. I feel like I never have time to write a long, well-thought-out post, so I just haven't been writing at all. Well, let's do a little catching up.

Kit, almost one and a half, is normally the happiest little girl. She's been clingy and whimpery for the last week or so with this cold, but when she's well-rested, her smile comes out again. She talks constantly, and is starting to put two words together more often: "milk please," "mama down" (when she wants me to be done at the table), "mama up" (when she wants to be picked up), etc. I know most of her words are unintelligible to most people, but because we're around her and talking with her all the time, we recognize more than 50 words that she uses regularly. Sometimes it does take context to figure out what she's saying though, and occasionally I can't figure it out at all, which frustrates her.

She's walking and running on her own, usually squirms to get down and walk instead of being carried, and dances/bounces whenever she hears music. Kit loves helping: she hands me silverware from the dishwasher one piece at a time, prompting me with a "tank'oo" to thank her for every single piece, and gets mad if her brother starts putting away handfuls of it by himself without waiting for her. When the buzzer sounds on the washing machine or dryer, both kids drop whatever they are doing and go running for the laundry room—I haven't had to load laundry in or out of either machine  here!

And after prayers every evening, she runs up to Matt to say "night-night," give him a hug, and brush a hand across his forehead with a "beh-oo!" (Bless you). So cute!

Little Bear, 4 and change, is generally very helpful too. He's still getting over the same cold that Kit has, so it's been a long week in the Shifflerhaus. But he does usually try to be good. He loves to help in the kitchen, and lately has been "cooking" toy food for me and Kit. The other afternoon, I had to laugh as he was talking his way through making a salad "with an orange lemon vinaigrette, and some fresh herbs, and five tablespoons of white vinegar. And I'll just lay this lemon slice on the side for a garnish, okay Mom?"

He's still excited about doing school every morning. We're doing four main subjects this year—handwriting, religion, math, and reading—along with a monthly subscription to a kids' cooking class that ties in elements of science, history, geography, and culture. He has picked up everything really well so far; he's reading stories with short-vowel words with little to no help from me, and loves using his abacus and playing math games. (We're using Catholic Heritage Curricula materials for handwriting, religion, and reading, and Right Start Math for math.)

We only have an inch or so of snow on the ground so far, but winter is definitely here; it's 32 degrees F outside right now, which is the warmest it's been in a while! Matt fired up the wood stove for the first time earlier this week, and we were all happy to find things to do in the living room so that we could enjoy the warmth. Little Bear has been itching to go play in what little snow we have, but I've been trying to keep him in until his cough lets up... Hopefully both kids are feeling better soon, and we can spend more time playing outside. For now we're having fun watching birds and animals out in the snow instead: in the last few days, we've seen a woodpecker, several squirrels, a couple of dark-eyed juncos and black-capped chickadees, and two female pine grosbeaks.