The Lenten Review!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's the first week of the Easter Season! This is when I mentally sit down with myself and take a good honest look at how Lent went this year. I decide what did, and didn't work, in my original plan and see how to incorporate those lessons now. 

1. Take On: The Love Dare

Well this baby was a big giant flop.

Too many of the dares just did not speak to our love languages, and I found it more stressful than helpful.

Instead I started making a more intentional devotion for our marriage with my normal Liturgy of the Hours, and I offered a full rosary (all four decades of mysteries) in front of the Holy Eucharist at the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday.

2. Give Up: Extraneous Tech during Naptime

Even though I had done this one last year, I found it harder, and more complicated, this year.

For one, last year I had a small baby who would mostly take naps on me. If I was lucky I could sneak her onto the couch once she was REALLY asleep and do a little sewing.

This year I have a toddler, and a preschooler, who take pretty reliable naps off me plus more outside-the-house type projects that need computer doing while I don't have toddler typing additions.

It was harder than I thought to define work vs play. Some things were easy (the first day I did our taxes, for example) but others were not so clear. Did watching ballet videos for choreography count as work or play? I did need to do it for getting the ballet done, but I would probably have chosen to watch dance videos anyway.

So I'm calling this one a partial success. It did make me more aware of how I was spending my time (no more getting to the end of nap time and wondering what just happened), but I'm not sure I made the right call every time.

3. Pray On

This year I was doing a lot of discernment praying: what should I be focusing my energy on doing? Where is God calling me to grow?

It has been a scary process, as discernment often can be, but I think I got some clarity out of it.

For one, I'm auditioning again! I have an audition Monday night for a Shakespeare piece.
I was remarking to my husband that this is the one time my skills for acting, court dancing, archery, and walking in a giant dress are all relevant to my daily life.


Cleaning in the Season of Lent

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I am one of those clean moms. The ones people feel the need to share memes with that include something vaguely condescending about how "the dishes can wait."

The first few days of Holy Week I spend cleaning.
Like really cleaning.
I-scrub-the-walls-and-move-big-furniture kind of cleaning.

I think people picture me being something like this.

Yeah, no.

The reality is that my home is not just my home. It's my office, gym, and child care center. 
I can't leave my mess and go somewhere else for most of the day. I have to, literally, sit in the mess until I handle it. So I handle it.

Home is also where most of my prayer and reflection happens.

Have you ever looked around your typical church and noticed how little stuff is around? You could try and make a mess out of it (and trust me my kids TRY), but it is quite hard to do with so little material.

Yet the church never feels lacking. It has just what it needs for the functions it has at any given time.

Forcing these big cleans, as the church does during this season, is really helpful for discovering all of the things you had lost and flaws you didn't know about. 

Pro: Found my pasta crank I thought the kids had lost forever! We can make pasta again!
Con: Discovered some serious mold in my window and lots of rotting wood. 

Would I have liked to not know about the fluffy white, and not-so-fluffy black, mold growing oh so near my head at night? 
Yup, yup, yup. 
But should I know so I can deal with it? 

And what are the kids doing while all this cleaning is happening?
Generally, helping too. I give them a spray bottle, with vinegar and water, and a rag (Therese gets her rag pre-sprayed) and they go to town with me. 

This year they got really into it. Monday afternoon I caught them taking turns wiggling under John's bed on their tummies to grab lost toys, books, and giant dust bunnies. With a little direction about where to put their re-discovered (and very dusty) treasures, they were able to finish the whole self-initiated task on their own.

I made another pot of coffee in the meantime.

"Treasuring the moment" is what the memes are telling me to do, right?

Holy Week Plan!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Well it's finally here - Holy Week 2016!! Yea!!

Here's what's on the agenda around here.


We're cleaning, cleaning, cleaning!

We take off regular lessons this week. I find this a good time to do any lingering Family Formation activities John still has around. 
(Keeping little hands busy + religious themed + clears out my drawers = holy week approved)

Most of the focus is on decluttering - largely the stuff that really is just junk/recycling. I'm always amazed when I do this how much paper clutter is stuffed in drawers and baskets.  

It's also about setting things up for the more prayerful end of the week.

I set up our little family altar with the blessed palms from Palm Sunday, cover the big Holy Family statue in purple cloth, and take away all of the extra holy cards. I leave our CRS Rice Bowl, Family Formation rosary booklet, rosaries, and candles. (This year I have 3 candles set aside for Tenebrae. More on that later.)

Wednesday is our final choir rehearsal before Easter time. This year, it's also a gender reveal! (#thisisnotanannouncement)
Another woman in the choir just found out the gender of her baby, so I'm making gender reveal cupcakes and making people lighten up in the stress of Triduum. 

Can't be stressed out when you're celebrating babies with sugar, right?

Holy Thursday

And it begins!

The morning is spent doing the last big cleaning push, and doing the prep work for meals today and Friday. Fasting is harder for me when I have to spend a lot of the day working in the kitchen, so I find it better to front load that on Thursday so it's all set for the kids.

I'll often put on The Prince of Egypt (and it's on Netflix!) for the kids while I do things, like scrub the bathroom, that involve using cleaners I don't really want little fingers touching.

This year we're doing a little family washing of the feet with the littles. We also read this book about Passover.
We have a Seder inspired dinner with the young adult group! 

Part of the spread from last year.

If you want to do something like that, this Horseradish Potato Gratin is amazing.

Good Friday

This morning we do our first Tenebrae with the kids!

Tenebrae is a form of the morning prayers (matins and lauds) used during the Triduum. 
I'm using the adaptations I have in my Magnificat magazine. 
These include lots of feet stomping at the end. I can see this being a hit with a certain dinosaur reenactor of mine...

Even though the kids are not fasting on Good Friday, they still will not be eating meat and meals will be simpler. Thankfully I have children who are very happy with simple soups and beans and rice. 

We will do a little kids Way of the Cross after naps - since this is the time least likely to melt down. It also lets me round out a Noon to 3pm Holy Hour. It is normally very doable since the kids both nap from noon until 2-2:30. It's just that last hour or so that's tricky. 
So it might not be quiet, but it is on topic!

We will be hosting the young adult group Fish Fry at our place!

Mostly because I'm the only one who misses southern Lenten fish frys enough to actually put on my own.

Holy Saturday

It's time to hit the road on Easter prep!

Most important activity of the day (according to John): making confetti eggs!

We save most of our eggs through Lent by cracking out about a nickle sized hole on the small end to get out the contents of the eggs. Rinse out and save in empty egg cartons. Then, on Holy Saturday morning, we dye them like regular Easter eggs, stuff full of confetti, and seal with paper mache tissue paper square.

On Easter, we hide them and do an egg hunt before the real confetti egg fun begins.

You crack them in your hand a bit and toss the shell and confetti at people.

Like so.

The cracking in your hand is very important as it allows the contents of the egg to actually go on the other person and not just bounce off them. Then all you've done is handed them more ammo, and why would you want that?

A St. Patrick's 7QT with a Side of St. Joseph

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I forgot that yesterday was Friday. Only in terms of blogging - no meat was consumed :). So here's the belated 7 Quick Takes with This Ain't the Lyceum


It makes no sense if I thought about it for two seconds, but I completely forgot that St. Patrick's Day is something the wider society celebrates (in its own special little way.) It never occurred to me that there might be some issues with crossing Market to get to the dance store come the Saturday before St. Pat's.


We did make it! Pointe shoes were fitted!


Therese was very interested in the band and enjoyed patrolling the parameter while holding onto someone's hand. She makes sure to wave to all her adoring fans.
Parish party the Saturday before St. Patrick's! This year we added an Irish step dance exhibition by two of the students at the parish school. This was in additional to our usual band, that was a bit on the country/bluegrass side this year.

Food is always amazing!
Everyone brings a side/salad of some sort and the parish provides the roast beef, cake, and drinks (Irish coffee anyone?)

Therese got a wee bit tired towards the end and requested endless reading of books. Always good to have a seminarian in your pocket who really will not get tired of reading the same thing over and over again.


Therese got a curly pigtail hairdo courtesy of Aunt Katie.
The party continued the next evening with the young adult group St. Patrick's party!!
It is also the birthday of one of our core team members, so these parties also include birthday cake.
We don't believe in lessening the amount of cakes around here.


On the morning of honest-to-goodness St. Patrick's...the leprechauns came!
And boy did they.
We have a very Irish priest at our parish, with very Irish connections, and it appears those connections can sometimes result in some extra leprechaun love on the parish lawn.

I did not get pictures of everything but it involved such things as many poems, "Irish" spelled out in potatoes and cabbages, and potatoes lining the walk to the rectory door.

Words of the Leprechauns.

Post-nap I needed some time with the kids out of my hair so I set them up with the St. Patrick coloring page from our 26 Letters to Heaven preschool book.

I felt so on top of it until Therese ate a decent part of a crayon....


But I did succeed in making the best Shepherd's Pie I've made yet! The recipe I used was pretty good but I think I prefer mine with a thicker gravy involved. Adding that for next year!

Not pictured: the green pancakes (by kid request and made green by blending in a whole bunch of rainbow chard) and Guinness shakes (by adult request).


We had two the of the Jesuit seminarians over dinner. Thursday nights are a regular dance night we have in which we mess around with a bunch of dance styles (ballet, swing, ballroom, and all sorts of tricks in between). Typically at the, much larger Jesuit residence, and not my itty bitty living room.

Therese enjoyed getting in on the dancing. Baby girl's got a talent for wrapping men around her little finger.

Not pictured: we went out to the Starry Plough hoping to catch the ceili. We missed most of the dancers already, but got to hear a good bit of music and good beer was had. First time ever going out on St. Patrick's Day!

Bonus: Happy St. Joseph's Day!!

via Catholic Gag
Because St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, we celebrate it like a second Father's Day. 
So far Matt has chosen to go for a long morning run, we'll hang out as a family, do confessions at the parish, and head over for a St. Joseph's dinner with friends (in which we will be taking a liturgical living note from Kendra over at Catholic All Year.)

If you can boil water for pasta, you can celebrate St. Joseph's Day!

Thoughts on Returning to Ballet - 4 Months Later

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I've been back at dancing a couple of months now. The thing about being a former dancer who was out of practice for a number of years (and had two babies to boot) is I know how good I can be. It's very clear, with every class and rehearsal, how not as good I am now.

But the time elapse has resulted in some good changes.

I think I appreciate getting to go to class and work on choreography in ways that I certainly took for granted as a teenager.

I am much more proactive about improvement. Granted certain things, like helpful youtube channels, weren't too much of a thing yet in 2006.

I still don't have a "ballet body" but I am much more ok with that.

Ballet itself is not terribly different. My body condition still matters. Strength and flexibility still matter. Keeping all of the variations, combinations, and instructor preferences in your head still matter.

Ballet doesn't lie to you. If you are faking it, cheating it, or otherwise not giving what you have - it will let you know. (My dozens of ugly, terrible, no good, horribly executed variations are evidence of my continued need to improve.)

If ballet did not demand improvement and if it was too easy, it would lose some of it's appeal for me. Improvement is hard in ballet, but there are so many ways to improve. Finally getting a variation down cold, getting your leg just that much higher, your arches just that much stronger - would not be as satisfying.

I do think you need to be emotionally and physically prepared to return to something you enjoyed, and some level of skill at doing, pre-kids - I would even argue that being mentally and emotionally prepared matter more than physically.

I can see where the temptation lies to be too hard on yourself.
My first couple classes I did, literally, NOTHING right.
And it was ok.
I knew I was terrible at this moment, but I was going to focus on this one exercise right now and do it the best I could right now.

I try not to take myself too seriously in class, and that seems to be the prevailing attitude among the other regular people in the adult classes. We are not going to be professionals. We are here because it's fun and we enjoy it. There is no need to beat yourself up about your turnout or extension. It still needs work, but it's not worth any stress.

Preschool, Passiontide, and (Bi)Pedalism

Friday, March 11, 2016

Another Friday 7 Quick Takes with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Long time no blog! I have good reason, promise. Here's some of what we've been up to in the meantime.


We are on letter T week in John's 26 Letters to Heaven preschool book!
Which means we are going to be finishing this book reeeallllyyy soon. (Some of the last few letters are combined in the curriculum.)


So we're picking step two in this homeschool journey!

I think it'll be a good middle step to starting the concept of workbooks, and good practice for me in using lesson plans made by someone else.

Knowing me, I'm probably still going to add, remove, and generally adapt the lessons anyway, but I think that is a good skill for homeschool life.


It has been rainy rainy rainy here!

Not being able to hang out at the park in the morning is sad times.

So I finally broke down and took the kids to Habitot, our local children's museum.

It's pretty amazing. They have rotating pretend play exhibits (rocket, pictured, is the current one), a wind section, water play, pretend grocery store, train tables, reading tent, and (my personal favorite) art room!

Therese is in a development explosion so she did EVERYTHING.
Since when is my baby big enough to make tissue paper, paint, and glitter collages?!


You know what else my baby is, apparently, big enough for?


Yes, my little slow poke of a walker finally took her first independent steps yesterday!

She's still pretty hesitant, and would rather have one hand on someone or something, but she's not really using it for physical support. It's all about confidence building now.

I'm so proud of her!


Yesterday was also her first time walking around outside (holding onto my hand) and she discovered there are lots of cool things down there.

It didn't dawn on me that she had no idea what it was like down on the sidewalk (she's nearly always in the Ergo or stroller.) She was oohing and awwing over every berry, stick, and flower.

Sorry I accidentally held out on you baby.


We have been looking ahead toward Easter and Holy Week!

The kids and I have been trying out praying the rosary together more often, and it's pretty hilarious.

I've learned some little tricks and have added rules. 
For one, rosary time always happens sitting on the living room floor. For some reason the kids take it a lot more seriously when I'm sitting on the floor.

You hold your rosary, and only your rosary, the whole time.
 No rosaries in your mouth, over your head, or on your feet.
No lassoing anyone, or anything, with your rosary. 
(Ask me how I know....)


Finally, the Sunday is Passion Sunday which means it's the beginning of Passiontide!!

Last year and friend and I sewed little purple coverings for all of our crosses and crucifixes. I learned that I own a lot of such things.

We're also celebrating all of the St. Patrick time this weekend!

Here's John busting a move at the parish party last year.

Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary with Littles

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hope you enjoyed John's take on the Joyful Mysteries. Here's what it's like praying the Sorrowful mysteries with him!

Sorrowful Mysteries

1st Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

Me: This is when Jesus was in a garden late at night asking God, his father, to give him strength and maybe not have him die.
John: But Mom, we don't have a garden!
Me: Well Jesus found one.
John: ...Did he find the one at church? That's a good garden.

2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

Me: This is when Jesus was tied up to a pillar and the soldiers hit him over and over again.
John: But those are knights!
Me: But why would knights hit Jesus?
John: Because they was....

3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns

Me: This is when they pushed a crown of prickly hurting thorns onto Jesus's head and made him bleed.
John: I wanna take that thing and put all the band-aids on him. That'll make it better!

4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

Me: This is when Jesus had to carry his big, heavy cross all the way up a very big hill. He was very hurt and tired, and it was a lot to carry.
John: He got splinters?
Me: I don't know, probably.
John: Jesus don't worry. Your momma will get 'em out and make you ALL better!

5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion 

Me: This is when Jesus died, nailed up to the cross.
John: They put him in a cage?
Me: No, but they put his body in a cave after he died.
John: The soldiers do that?
Me: Yup.
John: Bet they're sad about that. Bet they sorry. They will go give Jesus big hug and say "I so sorry Jesus."
Me: He'd probably like that John.

So in general: John is really concerned about the roles of soldiers/knights (interchangeable terms for him at the moment) in the Passion. Valid.

Mysteries of Rosary with Littles - Joyful Mysteries

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I've been trying to pray the rosary with the kids more often this Lent. They are currently 3.5 years and 18 months old so attention spans are short. In order to get through an entire rosary I have taken to making the rosary mystery announcement into an exciting little story.

All of them start like this.

Me: Who knows what the ___th _____ mystery is?
John: ME!
Me: What is it?
John: I don't know....

Repeat for all mysteries. Eventually, he'll say something besides I don't know. (Maybe? Hopefully?)

From there I tell a little story about the mystery. Because this is mostly to draw their attention back to the rosary, these stories have become kind of hilarious due to John's responses. I wanted to write them down before the kids get too big to do this anymore.

Joyful Mysteries

1st Joyful Mystery - The Annunciation

Me: This is when the angel Gabriel came to tell Mary she was going to have a baby!
John: Where?!
Me: A long time ago.
John: Is the baby going to want to play with my toys?
Me: John, the baby was Jesus.
John: he only play with church toys then?

2nd Joyful Mystery - The Visitation

Me: This is when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth to help her have her baby John the Baptist!
John: ME?!
Me: No, different John.

3rd Joyful Mystery - The Nativity

Me: The Nativity is when baby Jesus was finally born - Christmas!
John: Momma, it's not Christmas time. It's not Advent time. It is Lent. Time.
Me: I know John, but Jesus was still born on Christmas.
John: Oh, maybe he get presents later then.

4th Joyful Mystery - The Presentation

Me: This is when Jesus' mommy and daddy brought him to the temple. It was a very special day, like how your mommy and daddy brought you to the church to be baptized.
John: He got water poured on his head?
Me: No, that came later.
John: Oh good. Jesus not very dirty. He don't need no water.

5th Joyful Mystery - The Finding in the Temple

Me: One time, Jesus went missing for three days! He did not tell his parents were he was going.
John: What?!
Me: Yup. His mommy and daddy were very worried. They looked everywhere for him. Eventually they found him in the temple teaching the teachers.
John: He got in trouble?
Me: He got in a little trouble. But then he decided to be very good and listen to his mommy and daddy. He always listened to them after that.
John: Jesus was a good boy?
Me: I think so.

Let's hope John doesn't get any sneaky ideas from that last one. I'm hoping we cling onto the "listen to mommy and daddy" part.

Stay turned for the Sorrowful Mysteries!
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