Book Review

All About Books: Hardy, Eliot, and Ten Boom

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I recently finished reading Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. I’ve read it once before, back in my heathen college days, and didn’t like it. I suspect I was too stupid to appreciate Hardy’s vocabulary and too shallow to appreciate his detailed descriptions of flora, fauna, and architecture.

Let me tell you, though, I couldn’t put the book down this time, even in spite of its daunting 362 pages.

This is the same copy I read in college. It even had my old notes in it, which were hysterical to read.

Far From the Madding Crowd is set in rural nineteenth century England and follows the fate of Gabriel Oak who meets and falls immediately in love with a very vain woman named Bathesheba. Then we meet two more men in the novel: Mr. Boldwood and Captain Troy.

Now just looks at those names. What comes to mind? There are so many biblical and ancient references in this book that it’s no wonder I was clueless the first time I read it. (Which is why, by the way, it’s worthwhile to revisit a book that one read a long time ago.)

In any case, this book was amusing and a sheer delight to read.

Silas Marner by George Eliot

I read this book by George Eliot (i.e. Mary Ann Evans) for four reasons:

  1. It’s short.
  2. It’s a Victorian novel. (I love Victorian novels.)
  3. I enjoyed two of Eliot’s other novels, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, so why not read another?
  4. Since the gals (and Mr. Banks) were reading it at the Literary Life Podcast, I wanted to follow along with them.

Now, did I like it? Meh. It picked up as I went along, but I must admit, I got tired of the didactic tone, and I found parts of it unbelievable–possible, yes, but unbelievable.

Basically this novel follows the plight of Silas Marner, a thwarted weaver living in the sticks who loses all, but gains something even better. I won’t spoil it for those of you tempted to read it, for it is worth a read.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

I’ve written about this excellent book before. (Click HERE for details.) The reason I reread it was for a local book club–The Well-Read Mom.

As I’ve said before, if you haven’t read this autobiography, you are missing out. Corrie Ten Boom tells her story of hiding Jews during WWII and of how she survived a Nazi concentration camp. I give it a 10+.

Go buy a copy NOW. You won’t be able to put it down.

Bonus Book Mention: And now, a book I tossed into the trash…

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

This book was another read for the Well-Read Mom Book Club. It seems that every year at least one sketchy book is selected.

I tried to finish it, really. But page after page was chock full of occult practices and disordered sexual references, that I quit on page 47. I then looked up the author. It would appear to me that she had an agenda with this book. She wrote it specifically for Young Adults and even won awards for it. Disgusting.

I should have known even before page 47 when Alvarez has one the older sisters tell her younger sister that, “Sometimes you need to do a bad thing for good to come.”* Nope. No, you don’t. The ends never justify the means.

It’s not that authors can’t write about bad or evil things, though. They can, but what matters is that the good is good and the bad is bad. It’s harmful to read books that don’t get virtue and vice right. In others words, you can’t pass bad things off as good, which I think Alvarez does.

Alvarez even admits to having no biographical information about these four sisters who died in the Dominican Republic under a totalitarian regime, and the picture she paints is, well, disturbing. She’s got them playing fortune telling games with a priest, buying and reading spell books behind their mother’s back, drawing pictures of private male anatomy and then laughing when caught, participating in a girl stripping naked for others just to look at, and finally, where I quit, the masturbation scene.

Now you tell me, with zero biographical information, was all that necessary? Or is Alvarez sending a different message? Regardless of what other messages she may want to portray in the book, it would appear that Alvarez is trivializing and therefore normalizing these other completely disordered and disgusting behaviors. And remember, her intended audience are teenagers.

What Am I Reading Next?

I don’t know yet. I might pick up George Orwell’s 1984. Or I might read another Dorothy Sayers detective novel. Or maybe Agatha Christie?

What are you all reading?

*I can’t verify the exact quotation, because I threw the book away. But if you still have the book, check between pages 40-46. Then throw that trash away.

Christ-Like Minimalism

Decluttering For Lent

I’ve been trying to declutter a few areas of my life for Lent–spiritually and physically. I want to get rid of the noise. You know, the things that keep me from hearing Jesus.

In prayer, I’m often distracted and don’t even realize it. For example, when I’m praying the psalms in the morning, I’m not thinking about them. I’m thinking about my coffee. Or the sick kid, or my grocery list, or the hole in my sock. Anything, but what the psalmist is trying to say to me. I need to get better at listening.

I want to be intentional. I want to be present to Jesus everywhere, at all times.

Then there are the things or the “stuff” of my life. How many cookbooks do I own and never consult? Do I really need more than five skirts per season? How many nights a week should one have a glass of wine?

Or better yet–one that hurts a little–why do I like bright lipstick so much? Why? Is it perhaps because I’m vain?

Alas! I have so many attachments.

And little by little, I’m asking Jesus to scrape away the filth and the clutter, which reminded me of a true story I wrote about a couple of years ago. It’s about a family whose house burned down. I’ll post the whole thing below.

The Family Whose House Burned Down

A few years ago a local family lost their entire house to a fire.  It was devastating, as they only escaped with the clothes on their backs.  Somehow I got wind of it all and heard that they were living in hotel room and were asking for household supplies to start over again.

So I thought, what can I give?  I went to the basement and grabbed our extra suitcase.  (I thought they might as well have that.)  And I began to fill it.  I had an extra quilt.  I had a whole set of unused kitchen towels.  I had a few kids’ games that were never used.  I found so many things that I filled the suitcase and had to get a garbage bag.

Then I found my beautiful set of extra silverware that I had never used.  I held the wooden box in my hands.  It was a gift that someone had given to us for our wedding.  I didn’t want to part with it, partly because I worried about what that person would think should she find out and partly because the set was complete and like I said, beautiful.

I started to put it back on the shelf, but something inside me said no.  This lovely silverware set was not meant for me.  It was meant for this poor family, and so in the end I gave it too.

The next day I drove over to the hotel and gave them my things.  The mother of the family was so thankful.  So thankful.  But you know what?  I was the one who was thankful for the opportunity to give.  I walked away with Love burning in my heart.

Of course when we simplify or declutter our homes and give things away, we don’t always get to see who might benefit from it all.  But that one time I did get to see.  And it was worth it.

But it is always worth it, no matter what.  For giving our things away teaches us detachment from them, and more importantly, it teaches us Love.

Christ-Like Minimalism

Boys and Minimalism?

Before we get to the topic on hand, how’s your Lent going?

Ember Days last week was a wringer for me and oh so difficult. I can barely do the Church’s prescribed fast of one main meal and two small snacks without practically dying. Three days in one week! I’m such a wimp, but I guess I’m trying, and I made it. (Barely.)

Then, for some extra penance, last week I decided to paint my bedroom. I don’t know why I did this to myself. It’s so horrible and terribly tedious, especially the trim work. To help things along, though, I listened to Patsy Cline and sang loudly. Eventually my husband felt sorry for me and took over–painting, not singing, that is. God bless him.

And onto today’s topic…

Boys and Minimalism

Today I’m offering a tour of the boys’ bedroom for those of you interested in such things. There are three boys who share this room: a 10-year-old and twin 12-year-olds. Is it minimalistic? Sort of.

Here’s the what greets you when you walk through the door:

A Triple Bunk Bed

One of the very first things we purchased when we moved into this house was a triple bunk bed for the boys for the obvious reason that their room was the smallest. I’m telling you, if you’ve got more than two kids in a room, triple bunk beds are the ticket.

The first thing you may have noticed from the above picture is the lack of toys everywhere. That’s because the only “toy” the boys keep in their room are legos, and normally these legos are strewn all over the floor in the corner. So for posterity, I took the following picture which more accurately resembles the “everyday” experience.

Legos dumped out and beds not made.

What’s Missing From This Boy Room?

  1. The 10-year-old’s little tractors and farm equipment. One boy does have some toy tractors and hook-ups, which he keeps in the storage room. Why there? Because there’s room on the floor to set up a farm, and he won’t be bothered with the girls, for nobody likes to play in that dark, unfinished place.
  2. Their books. While they do keep their current reads in their beds to peruse at night, all other books are in the book shelves located in the basement family room.
  3. 3 Nerf guns with bullets. The boys have a little plastic tub of these items, which is also in the basement family room.
  4. Games and puzzles. All the kids’ games and puzzles are in the Game Closet, which is technically the bathroom closet. Funny place, I know.
  5. Trains and train tracks. This bin is also in the basement family room as the Little Girls actually play with them now, not the boys.

That’s all for toys. If you’d like more thoughts on that topic, however, click HERE for a post I wrote awhile ago. Not much has changed.

Moving on.

The Closet

Here’s a picture of the the boys’ closet:

What you can’t see are a few lego boxes on the left and 3 backpacks on the right of the clothes hamper. The upper closet shelf is where the twins put their jeans and pants. (Most of which happen to be in the hamper when I took this picture…)

Since the boys’ room is small, we’ve elected to put their only dresser right in the closet. On top of the dresser are three boxes. Each boy has one in which to put his treasures, like duct tape, string, baseball cards, rocks, jack knives, etc.

The drawers of this dresser are all labeled, too. This is because the boys were continually mixing everything up and not, therefore, able to find socks or undershirts when they wanted them. I’ve found that clarity makes for less chaos.

Here’s a breakdown of the drawers from top to bottom:

  1. Undershirts and underwear (They all share)
  2. Socks and belts (They all share)
  3. Shorts – 12 pairs (They all share)
  4. 10-year-old’s jeans/pants
  5. Lego directions

To the left of the dresser is where the 10-year-old hangs all of his shirts and to the right is where the twins hang their shirts. The nice thing about having 3 boys close in age, however, is that really, they can share most things.

Confusing? Here’s a specific inventory of the boys’ clothes:

10-year-old:

  1. 5 pairs of jeans/pants
  2. 8 long sleeved shirts
  3. 4 short sleeved shirts
  4. 1 suit with jacket and vest
  5. 4 uniforms for private school

Twin 12-year-olds: (These numbers are higher, as their are two of them)

  1. 8 pairs of jeans/pants
  2. 12 long sleeved shirts
  3. 12 short sleeved shirts
  4. 2 suits with jacket and vest

We try to stick pretty closely to these numbers, as it seems to work if I do their laundry once a week. Also, should the boys receive a new shirt or something for their birthday, etc., we do follow The Rule:

One Item In, One Item Out

Lastly, here’s a shot standing against the bunk beds of the opposite side of the room.

Nothing to show.

And that’s it! If you have any questions, be sure to ask.

Call Me Catholic

Kids and Lent

It’s not too late!  Would you like any ideas for your children during this Lenten Season?  If so, read on.  If not, I’ll see you next time.

The Children: Lent 2021

Before you read on, however, I want to remind you that all families are different, and just because the following works for us, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll work for you.  I only offer this with the thought that it may give you an idea or two, if you’d like one.

Without further ado…

The 3 pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  So I’ll break it down for you.

Prayer

The four older children join my husband and me every morning for Lauds.  I’ve written about it here.  Even though we’ve been doing this for years, most mornings the children are in a drowsy stupor.  We’d like for them to be more intentional during this time, if possible.  So we’re working on it.  The Eldest has her own breviary; it’s likely time to invest in books for the boys too.

At breakfast every morning I normally read aloud from the Bible, but during Lent, I’m reading the Mass propers and readings from our 1962 missal, this is especially beautiful because the readings correspond to the Stational Churches, which my husband reads in the evening.

If you’re not familiar with the Roman Stational Churches, you’re missing out!  They are ancient; they are holy.  Click HERE for the particular booklet that I’m talking about, which is available from Biretta Books.  (Or was available.)  NLM, however, does a great job of posting actual pictures of the churches in Rome with commentary.  Click HERE for an example.

We are also praying St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Stations of the Cross in our home every Friday night.  A few years ago my husband had ordered a bunch of those booklets from Tan Publishing.  When Friday night rolls around, the girls and I grab a copy, the boys process with lighted candles, and my husband leads the prayers in front of homemade plaques that a dear friend of mine gave me a few years ago.  It’s lovely.

Fasting

The children are all too young to do any serious fasting, but they’re not too young to begin somewhere.  Since all them are capable of abstaining from desserts and candy for 46 days, they do that.  Of course we don’t eat meat on Fridays, but that’s a given.  We do that all year around anyway.

But the older children can do more.  On Fridays, they eat plain bread for breakfast, and then during Lent, they add a day–Wednesdays.

Almsgiving

As the children don’t earn any money at all, this one’s out.

Let Us Know!

If you have any other great ideas, I’d love to hear about them.

Lastly…Need a boost?  My husband and I greatly enjoyed Patrick Coffin’s interview with Tony Roman, a restaurant owner in California who’s fighting back.  (How I wish more men would follow his example.)  His heroes are Jesus Christ and George Washington.  Watch it now, for I’ll bet it gets censored and disappears.

Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: One Night of Freedom! Part 2

In today’s post, I’ll continue our travels into interior Wisconsin. If you missed out on Part 1, click HERE.

As I was saying a few days ago, my husband and I had One Night of Freedom last weekend, so we drove to Wausau, Wisconsin, and checked into a hotel. We had hoped to stay downtown, but all those rooms were booked, so we were forced to settle with Holiday Inn Express, which wasn’t so bad.

Naturally, the first thing we did in Wausau was seek out a Happy Hour somewhere. We drove to a pub named Sconni’s Alehouse. I had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon; my husband had an IPA. We then pulled out our books and read for an hour. I think the neighboring table of bearded men in Carhartt jackets thought we were weird.

My Book: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff

Now, if you’re a book lover and you have never read Helene Hanff’s first book, 84, Charing Cross Road, you are missing out! Go to your local library and get it. Better yet, just buy it. That book is sheer bliss.

Hanff’s sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, is also worthy of reading, but not quite as hysterical as the first. Those of you who have read the first, and couldn’t put it down, though, will definitely want to read the second, for Helene actually does fly to London even though the night before she, “got out of bed, had hysterics, a martini and two cigarettes, got back in bed, and whiled away the rest of the night composing cables saying I wasn’t coming.”

The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is Helene’s day-by-day dairy in London. One of my favorite episodes is when her acquaintances drag her all over Oxford, neglecting to show her the one college she wants to see–Oriel College. (She’s a huge fan of John Henry Newman.) Helene won’t stand for it; she must see Newman’s Oxford, and so, “I stood in the middle of Wadham Yard and hollered: “WHEN ARE WE GONNA SEE SOMETHING I WANNA SEE?” They immediately took her to Oriel and she sat in Newman’s chapel.

Did you know, Helene also scandalizes the hotel bartender by demanding a real martini? She had to first show the guy how to make it and then convince him that she wouldn’t be, “face down on a bar table sodden drunk.”

Oh, it’s a delightful read.

Tine & Cellar

After Happy Hour, we made our way to Tine & Cellar. We had to make reservations the week before to get in. The place was hopping. We were seated up a few steps on a landing with three other tables, all obviously for two person “dates.” I had great fun watching couples come in and out. It was St. Valentine’s Day weekend, after all, so lots of sweethearts and formal dinners and flirting and wine flowing everywhere. Do you know, men don’t tuck in their collared, buttoned shirts anymore? Scandalous.

At our table, we began with a charcuterie board, a Manhattan, and a glass of Donati Cabernet. Then, I whipped out my deck of cards featuring Greek gods and goddesses and proceeded to lose playing Gin Rummy.

You see, my husband and I play Gin Rummy all year round and keep score for the whole year. I lost last year, and I’m still bitter about it. What’s worse? I’m losing already this year. In fact, I haven’t won since 2017. I’m not sure why I still play that game.

Ah, well, the food was good. I had pan-seared Atlantic salmon with wild mushroom couscous in roasted pepper cream with carrots. My husband had roasted duck breast with caramelized fingerlings (what’s that?), prunes, and braised purple cabbage. De-licious. Naturally we had our food paired with the appropriate wine–Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc and Monte Oton Garnacha, respectively.

Quinquagesima Sunday at St. Mary’s Oratory: Heaven On Earth

One reason why we chose Wausau was because of St. Mary’s Oratory. If you live within…say 3 hours of this place, THERE’S NO EXCUSE. Your life isn’t complete. They have a magnificent choir, gorgeous church, beautiful TLM liturgies, babies and children everywhere, and a real altar triptych. Now when’s the last time you had all those combinations together?

Here are some pictures to prove it.

Exterior. My apologies for not getting a frontal shot, but it was -20 below and I didn’t want to run across the street.
Narthex. The first thing that greets you. Notice the lovely foliage in the vaulting. What’s your church’s entryway look like? (Hopefully you do NOT have TVs or screens in it.)
We came a half hour early, hoping to take a few pictures. Turns out people actually come early to Mass to pray here. Novel idea. All the lights weren’t even on yet. And just look at those light fixtures!
Real altar triptych. With hinges. Gorgeous. And notice the gothic columns, soaring to the heavens.
After Mass their priest began a Forty Hours Devotion wherein Jesus was exposed in a monstrance for 40 straight hours and the people came to pray. Now that’s a vibrant parish.

The End

After Mass we made our way home, back through the meandering highways of Wisconsin. We look forward to exploring more of this great state when the weather is nicer.

Life is Worth Living

Travelogue: Sconnie Edition. One Night of Freedom!

Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a night away from home. My inlaws–bless their souls!–drove 600 miles to watch, feed, bathe, and drive around 7 obnoxious, giggling children. What’s more, they willingly lent us their clean 2019 Ford Edge to cruise around in while they endured our messy, sticky 15-passenger van.

Anyway, after stuffing an extra skirt and a few books into a bag, we were off. The children didn’t even say goodbye to us. They were too busy playing Rummikub and Sequence with Grandma and Grandpa.

Naturally, the first thing we did on our Tour De Force was to buy cappuccinos. Then we were off into the countryside of beautiful Wisconsin. Or rather, perhaps I ought to say, the forests of Wisconsin? This was exciting because we live on the Mississippi River, which is on the western border, and I had never been past the town of Sparta, which is only 30 miles away.

Our destination? Wausau, which sits bang in the middle of the state. Why Wausau?

  1. It’s past Sparta, hence new territory for us.
  2. It’s only 2 and half hours away.
  3. The route drives by two ancestral cemeteries of my husband’s family.
  4. Wausau boasts a lovely restaurant, Tine & Cellar.
  5. And it has a GORGEOUS TLM church, St. Mary’s.

The Drive

Now, I’ve lived most of my life in the Dakotas where we know how to do long, straight highways. We do highways so well, in fact, that we can legally drive 80 mph on them because they’re nice and straight. But Wisconsin? Oh, no. They do not do long, straight highways. They would much prefer to curve all over the place and go up and down and up and down. Why level this hill? That would require too much work. Let’s just go up! What about this little stream? Should we build a bridge across it? Nope. Too much work. Let’s follow it and swerve about everywhere. Bah!

Ah, well. Sconnies are just different, I guess. I will say, however, that it is beautiful, even in -20 degree weather.

And did you know, if we passed one Trump flag, we passed a million? These people are passionate about Trump. They don’t even care that Biden was sworn into office. It was Trump everywhere–Trump signs, Trump flags, Trump billboards. I actually saw one woman pause in her shoveling, lean over her Trump sign affectionately, and adjust it carefully so as to afford optimal viewing pleasure to her Trump-loving neighbors. Truly, I was wishing we had some Trump flags streaming out our car windows so that we could fit in.

Example of a typical Sconnie house in the country.

The Cemeteries

As I said earlier, we chose Wausau because the route put us in the path of two ancestral cemeteries of my husband’s family. The first cemetery was in Arkdale, which is no longer a town, I don’t think anyway. It’s just in the middle of a forest on some gravel roads. At least I think they’re gravel roads. You see, it was snowing and nobody bothered to plow those roads, so I don’t know.

Anyway, we found the tiny cemetery, and as it was -20 degrees outside, I sat in the warm car while my husband ran about in two feet of snow looking for the Lecy family. He looked awfully cold out there, so I rolled the window down and yelled, “Shall I put your seat warmer on, Dearest?” (Seat warmers are a luxury that we only get to experience when driving our parents’ vehicles; they make us giddy with delight.)

My husband did find some tall Lecy headstones, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to dig down to the actual graves of Christopher Lecy and his wife, Helga. (We don’t know when Christopher died, but we do know from family records that Helga died in 1865.) Sigh. All that work.

It is rather stupid to go grave finding in February.

On to the next cemetery!

Before driving to the New Miner cemetery, however, we discovered that we were hungry from our grave finding efforts and needed a restaurant first. Since the nearest, sizable town to Arkdale was Necedah, to Necedah we went.

Necedah has a population of 916 people, so naturally it has a Main Street Cafe. It’s one of those local cafes that serves like five breakfast dishes and five lunch entrees, all accompanied by french fries. I picked a chicken sandwich; my husband had a burger. The floor sloped and the table was greasy. The ceiling fan above us had inches of dust perilously drooping off of it. The bathroom was down a creepy flight of stairs that have never been cleaned. The toilet, however, was new and spotless. What a surprise! It felt like an adventure.

I met the owner of Main Street Cafe. He was a spry, old man who had come into the restaurant a few minutes after us. He squinted and mused, “Well, I have to eat here, or I won’t get anything to eat.”

New Miner Cemetery

After we paid our bill, which was hand-written on those old green tickets (you waitresses of some years will know what I’m talking about), we drove to the New Miner Cemetery. Like Arkdale, there is no town here, but there is a church–St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran. There are also no woods here because “New Miner” is in Cranberry Country. Cranberry Country means lots of little sunken fields, much like what I would imagine rice fields to look like.

But I digress, New Miner Cemetery. Once again, my husband ran around the graveyard, as respectfully as possible, and attempted to locate his great, great, great grandfather, Jakob Jakobs Norsby, who died in 1910. His wife, Merit Olsd, was also buried here in 1899. But he couldn’t find the graves due to the extreme cold and deep snow.

Husband, looking for graves in two feet of snow and windchills nearing -30 below.

And that was that. We’ll go back in the spring, like sensible people.

The rest of the drive to Wausau was uneventful. We twisted and turned onto many different roads. (Alas, one must remember that Sconnies prefer roundabout ways.) We listened to Tim Flanders and Kennedy Hall discuss fasting. (Excellent podcast HERE.) We arrived in Wausau and checked into our hotel.

Later this week I’ll post Part 2 for those of you who are interested.

Call Me Catholic

Our Lady of Lourdes Today

Happy Feast Day!

Our family will be slipping off to Mass to honor Our Lady of Lourdes this morning in the bitter, bitter cold. Afterwards, we’ll be driving straight to Dunkin’ Donuts. Then later? We’ll probably watch an old movie of St. Bernadette. There was a black and white one done in the 1940s, based off of Franz Werfel’s novel The Song of Bernadette. (Have you ever read that book? It’s worth it.) There was another movie too, done later, that I also enjoy. We’ll see.

In any case, I like Our Lady of Lourdes. I like everything about it–Our Lady beautifully illumined and attired, and yet appearing in a pig sty, humble Bernadette dutifully following her instructions, Bernadette’s rotten home life, her incessant coughing, her drunken father, her sweet brothers–all of it!

If you’ve never watched one of those movies, take a break today. Sit down and enjoy one with your children.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

Call Me Catholic

Candlemas and Crayon Wreckers

Yesterday was Candlemas, February 2nd, which is sometimes referred to as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or even the Presentation of Our Lord (in the Temple). It marks the fortieth day since the birth of Jesus and the end of the Christmas season.

Last night, during the Confiteor, at St. James the Less parish.

Prior to Mass, there was a special blessings of candles. If you’d like a detailed explanation of the great symbolic beauty of this blessing and Candlemas, click HERE for Fr. Z.

Our family loves this holy day. Why? I can think of 6 reasons:

  1. Most of the church’s lights are left off, with only one illuminating the altar.
  2. Every candle the church owns is lit and flickering mysteriously.
  3. Every person, old enough to reasonably hold a candle, gets one.
  4. There’s a procession with innumerable altar boys and acolytes and the rest of us holding our candles in clouds of incense while the choir chants beautiful antiphons in Latin.
  5. Prior to the procession, father blesses, incenses, and sprinkles with holy water everyone’s candles that had been brought from home and placed on or near the St. Joseph altar. (We had a big box blessed for use in our home.)
  6. Did I mention we get to hold lit candles nearly the whole time?
Beginning of the Procession. The rest of the servers and acolytes are already in the aisle. The whole congregation filed after father and processed around the church in candlelight.

Kids naturally love this, but so do adults. If you ever get a chance to attend one, jump at it.

Broken Crayon Syndrome and Crayon Wreckers

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a problem that this household has. It’s called Broken Crayon Syndrome.

Let me explain. The other day the Little Girls brought to my attention the lack of pretty crayon colors. In other words, we only had “ugly” colors left: green yellow, peach, and apricot. All the “pretty” colors were used up and gone. You know, like pink and purple.

Unused, ugly crayon colors. Therefore, these crayons have an especially long lifespan.

Since I’m an attentive and obliging mother, I dutifully bought a new pack of 24 crayons a month or so after the lodged complaint. Naturally the girls were very excited to use the new crayons, and sat right down to color. Now, no coloring books could be found, nor could any clean, white paper, but that didn’t bother them. Undaunted, they just took some cardboard out of the garbage can and hacked away.

Until, SNAP! Broken crayon. SNAP, SNAP! More broken crayons. SNAP, SNAP, SNAP! Broken crayons everywhere! In their race and excitement to color, they just broke the crayons. But what’s worse, they didn’t even care! They could still use them. Ah!

But I cared about those broken crayons–those lovely pinks and purples and blues! What a shame. What if I happened to want to color? It does happen every now and then. (Ok, fine, it doesn’t, but still.)

How long do you suppose that blue lasted? Oh, about 3 seconds for one Crayon Wrecker to smack away at that piece of garbage you can see there. And note the broken purple in the box.

What a bunch of Crayon Wreckers.

I caught one Crayon Wrecker red-handed, coloring on some cardboard. Guess how long that crayon remained intact? Oh, .2 seconds.

Good thing she’s cute.

And willing to use broken crayons because I’m not buying new ones for at least a year. I don’t care if we’re only down to “ugly” colors.

Call Me Catholic

Septuagesima Sunday is Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Septuagesima Sunday*–in the Old Calendar.  Kind of a funny name, no?  It means that we’re on the threshold of Lent.  Are you ready?

Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays

In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent, and they have Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima.  They mean, seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth, which is to say, it’s roughly 70 days until Easter, 60 days until Easter, and fifty days until Easter.  Tomorrow, we’ll be at Septuagesima.

In the Old Calendar during the three weeks prior to the actual start of Lent, priests wore violet vestments and certain elements of the Mass were dropped, like the Gloria and the Alleluia.  (In fact, there’s a sweet tradition of physically burying the Alleluia, only to dig it up again at Easter.)  All of these things were meant to get you thinking.  Sober up, people!  Let’s start preparing.

The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving

During these fore-lenten Sundays, my husband and I like to begin preparing for Lent.  We take a look at the classic 3 pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Below I’ll offer a few thoughts for you all to consider.

Prayer:

  1. Do you set aside a time to pray, every single day?  If not, what’s stopping you?
  2. For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse?  Every day?
  3. Or how about learning to pray the breviary? Lauds? Compline?
  4. For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?
  5. How about a daily family rosary?
  6. Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?
  7. And finally, go to confession!  At bare, rock-bottom minimum, go at least once this season.  If you’d like a challenge, consider going every other week or so.
800px-Artgate_Fondazione_Cariplo_-_Molteni_Giuseppe,_La_confessione.jpg
Again, go to confession!  You won’t regret it.

Fasting:

Fasting is the second great pillar of Lent.  In our culture, this one gets ignored a lot.  And we need it.  I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:28-29, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?”  And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”

Do you have something in your life that needs casting out?  Try fasting.  Do you know of someone who really needs Jesus?  Try fasting.

If you’ve never done this before, start small.  Give up one meal a week.  If you’re accustomed to weekly fasting, try two days a week.

But NOT if you’re pregnant or nursing. Goodness, mothers, be careful with this one. I’ve written about it before. Here.

Almsgiving:

This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially.

The point during Lent is to work towards the virtue of generosity – the virtue of being unattached to material goods and in gift giving.  During Lent, one may look at it in two ways:

  1. How can our family work towards giving more of our total income?
  2. In what ways am I able to make a monetary sacrifice during Lent to benefit a charity?

The first one…again, as each family is different, this one cannot have some uniform answer.  Wherever you’re at on this one, take a step towards giving more of your total income.  If you’re currently giving 1%, try 2% and so on.

A true tithe would be a full 10% of your income, however.  (The word tithe means one tenth.) If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then give 10% of your total income before taxes.  And tithe that bonus too.

The second point…during Lent make an additional monetary sacrifice.  For example, maybe you are accustomed to dining out a few times each month.  Consider not eating out, and expressly give that budgeted money away to your favorite charity.

In the end, God cannot be outdone in generosity, and He will reward you.  Just take the first step.

And Lastly, a Lenten Challenge

Have you ever wondered what it was like for most Catholics throughout the history of our Church to pray the Mass?  I mean, what was it like for St. Catherine of Siena to receive the Eucharist?    Or which Mass inspired the great writings of St. Thomas Aquinas?  Or the great missionaries? Or St. Therese the Little Flower? Or Padre Pio?

For nearly 2000 years Catholics have been worshipping the same way at the Latin Mass, and if you’ve got one near you, check it out.  Don’t worry about not understanding everything. Who cares, you know? Everyone has to start somewhere.

Some of you, however, may not have access to any Mass or Sacraments at all, and my heart breaks for you. Truly. Just the other day I received an email from a gentleman in South Africa. They are starving for Truth there. For that matter, people are starving for Truth everywhere. In Canada, too. For example, there’s this piece written by one of my favorite writers at OnePeterFive, Dan Millette. My heart breaks for his family. What a difficult situation.

In any event, God does know of your particular situations, and He cares.

May God bless you all this Lent.

*Want more about Septuagesima Sunday? Click HERE for a piece at New Liturgical Movement

Book Review

84, Charing Cross Road: Really Fun Read!

8 Reasons to Read 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

  1. This book can be read in one sitting. Not kidding. You won’t want to put it down. I only got up once while reading it and that was because one kid decided to bite another kid, and I had to feign like I cared for thirty seconds and dole out consequences. Motherhood.
  2. Read it for free! You can probably get this book from your local library. I did.
  3. This book is in an epistolary book, which means it’s a series of letters written between one party and another. In this case, they’re between Helene Hanff and a book store in London.
  4. It’s a book about books. It’s fun to see what a spinster in 1950s New York City wants to read and can’t find in the States. It’s her real story–her real letters.
  5. And she’s hilarious. On page 5, she informs the book store that they sent her the wrong bible. She writes, “Kindly inform the Church of England they have loused up the most beautiful prose ever written, whoever told them to tinker with the Vulgate Latin? They’ll burn for it, you mark my words. It’s nothing to me, I’m Jewish myself…”
  6. I think the gals (and the Mysterious Mr. Banks) at the Literary Life Podcast are going to do an episode on this book soon. They keep mentioning it, anyway, which was why I read it to begin with.
  7. Speaking of the Literary Life Podcast…you do know it’s the best podcast out there, right?
  8. Helene Hanff loves Jane Austen. She put off reading her because she hates novels and anything that didn’t really happen in Real Life, but when she finally did read Pride and Prejudice, she “went out of my mind” over it.

2 Reasons to NOT Read 84, Charing Cross Road

  1. It’s too short. I wanted it to go on and on. My heart sank when it ended.
  2. It’s apparent that a few letters are missing. Where are they? I’d like to know!
Call Me Catholic

The Goodness of God

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to write something here. This morning it struck me that I had better speak up and speak loudly about the goodness of God. I am choosing this topic for a few reasons.

Why Write About the Goodness of God?

  1. Because it’s true, God is good.
  2. Yes, He really is, even if godless government officials are mandating all kinds of madness and the world seems incredibly dark and upside down, and God seems nowhere to be found. (He is very much to be found, however.)
  3. Satan hates it when we glorify God and speak of His goodness.
  4. Again, Satan really does hate it. In St. Faustina’s Diary–a book everyone should read–Satan howls at Faustina in a fury, “She writing everything, she’s writing everything, and because of this we are losing so much! Do not write about the goodness of God; He is just!”

Now, I am not St. Faustina, but Satan is Satan, and it’s true that he hates for anyone to acknowledge the goodness of God, which is why we should frequently do this.

Did you notice, by the way, what Satan screamed at Faustina? The truth. Because she’s writing about the goodness of God, Satan loses. He even admits that God is a just God. Incredible.

So this morning, after a harrowing night of insomnia and children incessantly waking up, I’m speaking about God’s goodness.

God’s Goodness

Last night we were at Monday Night Prayer Group, where five families gather together with their babies and young children and kneel to pray the rosary. Amidst the squirming mayhem, I noticed that one father actually fell asleep during it all. He was so tired, he slumped in a chair, and was out. When he awoke, he smiled and acknowledged that he was worn out. You see, he knew that his pregnant wife was at her wits’ end and needed a break, so he held the crying baby all night so that she could sleep.

And he smiled about it.

I thought about that last night when I was lying awake at 10pm, 11pm, and then at midnight when I finally got out of bed to pray. I knelt in front of a picture of Jesus and listened to my husband sleeping and also thought of a friend of mine, recovering from a serious illness. I then thought of my son and the heartrending headaches he had had earlier in the day. I thought of my dad, too.

What could I do?

I did the only sensible thing one can do. I thanked God for the insomnia and prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Then I reminded Him that I would need a superabundance of grace in a few hours to start this day.

And here I am. God is good, even if I’m really tired and had no chance of sleeping in. (I never do.) In fact, I had to get up even earlier this morning to see my husband and the twins out the door by 6:15 to serve Cardinal Burke’s Low Mass at 7am.

I could have been angry or sulky about getting up even earlier, but that would have been silly and a waste of energy–of which I’ve got precious little. No, I had better focus on being extra patient, as I tend to snap a lot quicker when I’m tired. (May it please His Majesty not to test me beyond my strength.)

This is a good day, though, you know? After Lauds and driving two other children to school, the rest of us ate breakfast. We did grammar and Latin. The boys are out running the dog now. The little girls are playing house, and I’m about to chop vegetables in preparation for supper’s casserole.

Blessed be God!

I also listened to this song, which touched me because it’s true, even if a bit emotional.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).

Book Review

What Are We Reading?

Today I’ll give a brief overview of what everyone in my family is reading. This might give you some book ideas, if you’re stuck in a rut.

Speaking of ruts…are you stuck in one? I mean, when’s the last time you picked up a book instead of your phone to read something?

For those of you who are addicted to technology and treat your phone like a god, put it down! Take a break. See if you can not touch that Thing for a whole day. (After you’ve finished reading this blog post, of course.)

Books, Books, Books

Shall we start with the youngest?

The two Little Wreckers aren’t actually able to read, so they just drop in wherever anyone else is reading a book. They are not deterred if that person is silently reading. They just plop themselves down and look on.

For example, yesterday, I wondered upstairs to find this:

As you can see, the Older Sister was finishing up Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Littlest Wrecker undeterred, hopped in her chair, threw a doll down, and worked at dressing another doll. The Other Wrecker less obtrusively looked on. Eventually they did beg the Older Sister to read aloud, which she happily did.

I noticed last night, however, that the Older Sister started a new book from the Fairchild Family Series by Rebecca Caudill. Now she’s reading Happy Little Family.

How about the boys?

At this moment, the boys are all deep into the Redwall Series by Jacques Brian, again. There are some twenty or more books in this series, and we only own the first eight or nine. So every now and then the boys beg me to pick up a few from the library, which I did earlier this week. They’re currently reading Long Patrol, Marlfox, and Legend of Luke, I think.

The boys also have a few audio books going. At lunchtime, we’re listening to The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This is the original book–not a modern, edited version–and it’s difficult, but beautiful and definitely worthwhile.

We do own a hardcover Illustrated Classics version of The Pilgrim’s Progress and another edited version that my boys read when they were little, but I wanted them to hear the original language and be very familiar with it. This book is so important. I can’t tell you how many times The Pilgrim’s Progress is mentioned in other books.

The other audio book we’re listening to during Art and History Time is from Tan Publishing. It’s volume 4, The Story of Civilization: The History of the United States. This whole series is great and worth owning in both print and audio versions.

The Eldest

The Eldest is reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe for her Literature class and Honey From the Rock by Roy Schoeman, which she picked up off of our bookshelves for fun.

Honey From the Rock is a fascinating read as it chronicles the conversion stories of 16 mostly well known Jews. I can particularly remember Alphonse Ratisbonne, who dramatically converted while in Rome after taking a dare to wear the Miraculous Metal. He eventually became a priest.

There is also the story of Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, which some of you may know from Catholic Answers and LifeSiteNews.

My Husband

My husband is currently reading a Ham Radio manual and Nothing Superfluous by Rev. James Jackson, FSSP. It must be a good book because my husband enjoys pausing and telling anyone in the room all the biblical and historical reasonings behind every gesture, item, and action during the Traditional Latin Mass.

Me?

I just finished rereading two books: The Quiet Light by Louis De Wohl and In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden. Both are excellent reads. The Quiet Light is a delightful romp through history with spiritually edifying insights. It also features a sacrificial love story of a knight, thwarted by his lady.

In This House of Brede is just downright good. If you’ve read it, you know. My favorite sister is Dame Agnes because she’s so cranky and always right. Dame Veronica, the book’s Drama Queen, gets a close second, though, because I love it when her chin quivers. She’s hysterical.

And what am I going to read next?

I think I’ll read Robert Hugh Benson’s The Queen’s Tragedy, which chronicles the reign of Mary Tudor in England. I’ve never been disappointed with Benson’s historical novels.

How about you?

Have you read anything good lately?