Friday, December 31, 2010

 Wishing you all newness of life and firm  
   resolve, infused with his strength and love.
                      See you next year!

Tulips came from Travis for Christmas, a burst of Spring on these cold winter days.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Just Anna

Happy 3rd Birthday, Anna!

I can't believe Anna turned three years old today. This is our first time in eighteen years of not having an infant and/or toddler in our house!

Anna still seems a baby to me, however. I don't think it's because she IS the baby of the family. There are lots of babyish things she still does. She still likes a bath in the sink, she still nurses, she likes to be called my little baby, and she is as snugly as a newborn. It is funny, though, to hear a 'baby' call her brother "despicable," and tell another brother that she "despises his kisses." Mary Margaret frets over the fact that we sometimes spoil our baby a bit too much.

We had a very small party today with Anna's little friends across the street. Emily decorated the kitchen with balloons, Hello Kitty paraphernalia, and little party bags for boys and girls.

This afternoon, a friend of mine and I were planning to take Anna on our shopping outing. Anna said, "I would rather stay home with Emily. I'm having a very tired day." She did stay home and took a looooong nap. I guess that's why it's after 11:00, and she is jumping on the couch behind me. "Anna," I said, "you are just a little monkey."

"No," she said with certainty, "I'm just Anna!"

Living In A Minute

I like to plan life, but life never goes according to plans. I like to plan life, but I don't like living according to plans, even my own! I'm the planner that doesn't use plans- Not a good combination. Since we have made the decision to home school our children (years ago), and since I was "trained" to be a teacher in college, the planning bug hits me hard sometimes. The problem is, I want my children to love learning at home, and I want them to have the freedom to pursue interests of their own. So planning an agenda for them has left us all feeling unsatisfied and lacking.

When we have abandoned all structure, however, we have also felt something to be amiss. Somehow the days get away from us, and we haven't had time, or haven't made time to read books together, play, look at stars, paint, etc.. How often do I tell my chlidren we will do something "in a minute? "
I think I'm finally realizing, over the last year or so, that LIFE ISN'T IN A MINUTE. LIFE IS NOW.

So, for the new year, I am trying a "new" kind of planning. I am going to plan the fun stuff- things we love to do! Instead of planning typical lessons, I am going to plan time to play board games,do simple crafts, read the books we want to read,  bake together, etc... I want to GIVE PRIORITY to nurturing a love of life and learning in my children. I don't want life to go by and my time with them to disappear and see all the dusty books on the shelves that have never been read, the games with the boxes still fresh from never being played...

I am feeling the pull to live, NOW.... Not in a minute.

How long can I spin the cocoon and feather the nest instead of taking flight?

How long can I weave words and ideas, yet cling to the loom?

Oliver said to me on Christmas morning, after constructing a train with his new Keva planks,
"I don't care if I am ever smart, as long as I have my creativity."

Later that day he put his new "wind generator" together. I overheard Mary Margaret say, "Gosh, Oliver. You're like Albert Einstein!"

I used to want my children to be smart. Now I want them most of all to love life and have a passion for learning....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Window Washer

My parents and sister visited with us today, and we had a lovely time. I was so happy to see the remarkable pictures Maureen captured with her artistic eye. Sometimes we all need a FRESH take on familiar surroundings. Isn't our attitude in life often determined by our perspective?

I don't know if I would have thought to take this picture of Darby through a peep hole in the wall of the barn. I see these pictures, and I want to make my prayer, "Lord, please free me from my narrow mind! Allow me to see life through your eyes~ always new, always abundant, always fresh."

When we first moved here, I described the mountains to my mother as "looking like God pushed his fingerprints into the sides of the mountains." I think Maureen captured that in her photos.

Here is Will with Duncan, the new baby of the family. Sam stands below with his air soft gun.

At first I didn't know where this picture was taken. Then I realized it is John Paul's window, next to his bed. It warmed my heart to see the Rosary on the window frame. I might not have ever noticed this if it hadn't been for Maureen's picture.

Do we have another puppy I didn't know about? Actually, this is a ceramic puppy on John Paul's desk. I like Ben in the background.

Another peep hole shot...

When I asked Tommy what he was doing, he said. "Oh, I'm just cleaning up this little house the best I can."

The very talented photographer, my sister, Maureen...
And what was I doing during their beautiful romp out of doors? Look at the background of the picture. Maybe I needed a fresh perspective right at that moment. How many times does life pass by our windows, while we stand there cleaning them? How many times do we wipe the glass to get a clearer view, when it would be better to just go beyond the glass?  Just something to think about...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What If?

When I was young, like most children, I saw the world in black and white. In my two-toned world, good people didn't do bad things. Bad people didn't do good things. Everything was good, or everything was bad. No in-between.

Now that I am older, I still live in a black and white world...but it's the black and white of a zebra, not the black and white of day and night. I realize now that good and bad are two necessary realities of one existence, one day, one moment. The black and white exist together, parts of a whole, painting the stripes of a zebra.

In Christmastide, we are infused with the joy surrounding Christ's birth. He came as light to a dark world. A BLACK world, cold and made desolate by sin.
What if my world came crashing down around me tomorrow?

What if it were not the clamoring of illness or physical death, but the crushing weight of sin- of evil deeds too dark to mention that would cause my walls to crumble?
Would I sit in the rubble and curse God?
Would I still be able to say with all assurance that "Yes, God is good?"

I pondered these very questions on Christmas. I was haunted by the question: "Who would I be if the walls came down?" Are they the walls of protection, or are these walls that shield me a barrier to HIS light, HIS grace, HIS mercy?

Am I afraid to be a naked soul, only comfortable in the warmth of goodness and light? WHO AM I WHEN THE LIGHTS GET TURNED OFF? Who am I in the face of sin and ugliness? Who would I be, stripped of the assurance of my own goodness or the goodness of others? Does God need our goodness to be good himself?

And when the worst, most heinous crimes rear their ugly heads in our lives, do I try and build the walls higher as they crumble, or do I stand stripped before a merciful father and beg for forgiveness, not even of my own sins, but of the utter depravity of the human condition?

There is only one recourse in the face of spiritual death and sin: CLING.
Cling to the cross with all your might. Read his word, sing or play hymns , and PRAY.
He will not abandon you.

Christ has come :"TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace." ~Luke !:79

Wishing you a season of peaceful reflection this Christmas, as we bask in HIS light.

On a much lighter note, here is our new puppy, Duncan. We just got him today!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Quiet Night

Dearest friends,

My thoughts tonight are invested in a journey I am about to make- a journey through my past, scratched on some sheets of manilla staionery. Am I being nebulous? Alas, details will have to come later. Right now my pen feels tight, unfurled, like the leaf pictured above. I pray I can find the words to express a lifetime of love and sacrifice on a few pieces of paper.

I wish you a peaceful, reflective ,"Joyful" Sunday as we make our way towards the Babe in the manger. I thank my wise and saintly aunt for the following insight:

"Sister Alice," I asked, "How are people living in distress and sadness supposed to be peaceful?"

"Think of this," she responded, "What would have happened if Mary and Joseph had refused to accept their difficult circumstances. Where would we be? Most people wouldn't have put up with those circumstances, but look at the peace Mary and Joseph had."

And that's where I'll leave you tonight. God bless you all. Humbly your friend,


Just One Crumb

 "The sky is the daily bread of the eyes."~ Emerson 

I look at their sweet faces and am made giddy. We pray together and they say, "Mom, why are you so silly tonight?"
"I can't help it. I am so happy to be here with you, praying, just being together."

Nature, my children...they ARE sustenance to me. But I know there is something even more solid. Can there possibly be more than mother love?

"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,


We become what we feed on. If we watch meaningless or even immoral Television shows, read trashy books, and listen to crummy music, that's what we become. That is what we are choosing to sustain our souls: mental junk food. We can't go on forever feeding our minds with ugliness. WE have to  CHOOSE THE BEAUTIFUL.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." ~Philippians 4:8

Is it any coincidence that God chose the form of bread to be in Eucharistic Communion with his beloved?  He is the bread of life. Every time we go to Mass we are fed, nurtured by his own body, so that we are able to then FEED OTHERS.

Every day I need to take time to let Him speak to me through HIS words.Just as the five loaves of barley bread fed thousands,  a single crumb of his Holy Word can sustain me through the day!

And for some daily bread that you can put on your table, I highly recommend the following book:

Artisan Bread Baking In Five Minutes A Day

This book revolutionized bread baking for me!
One tip: use LESS salt than called for. For example, the basic recipe calls for 1 1/2 TBS salt. I use a scant TBS. The first loaf pictured (above) was made using the basic recipe and freshly ground wheat kernels. The cinnamon loaves were made using the buttermilk recipe, and then I iced them with a powdered sugar-milk icing.
This is how easy it is: While on the phone with a friend I mixed up the buttermilk dough in a big plastic container. No kneading. Just mix until all ingredients are combined. I left the dough on the counter. Two hours later, I shaped the dough and baked it. It really can't be more simple.

I was excited about these gingersnaps because I found a recipe that uses vegetable oil instead of butter!Here's the recipe:

Place ALL wet ingredients in a big mixing bowl:
3/4 C oil
1 C brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg


Add: 2 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. ground cloves.


Finally, stir in 2 1/4 C flour. Roll pieces of dough into one inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar, and place balls 2 in apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 min.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Whiter Than Snow

"Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow."
 ~ Psalm 51:7

Are you ever hesitant about going to Confession? I sometimes am.
I did NOT want to come out walking this evening, either. I made myself. I was warm and cozy inside with a cup of tea. But I knew what was waiting outside my doorstep, Outside my COMFORT ZONE.
Yes. Living for Christ means leaving the comfort zone of our SELVES to become more like HIM.

The snow blankets the earth and gifts the world with newness.
Confession does better. Festering wounds, guilt, ugliness aren't just covered up; it is all erased.
Confession isn't about me. It isn't about what I have done wrong , and I have to confess my sins to 'appease an angry God.'
CONFESSION IS ABOUT HIM, a loving merciful father who is waiting to gift US with NEWNESS OF
 But in the same way I didn't want to go out walking, we sometimes have to FORCE ourselves to be open to God's grace and go to confession. All too often, we can become like the bees in Winter,
nestled in our hives,
hoping to make it off the grace we have, instead of entering the land of milk and HONEY. We don't have to be stingy with the grace God gives us; he always gives  more than enough to the heart that seeks him.

"But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." ~ Romans 5:20

Confession is a sacrament, and what is a sacrament?
"A sacrament is an outward sign INSTITUTED BY CHRIST to give GRACE." (Baltimore Catechism)
Everything God gives us: commandments, sacraments, laws, EVERYTHING is given to us to partake in the DIVINE JOY that only comes through union with God.

And isn't this how you feel after Confession? I do. I feel overjoyed! I was also happy that I made myself walk this evening! Think of what I would have missed...