Thursday, October 13, 2016

Our Thrifted Kids' Mass Set

For years, I've been wanting to get a nice little Mass set for the kids.  I have long had dreams of my boys, in particular, playing priest, and asking me to sew them some sweet child-sized vestments like Pope Benedict did.  So far, neither of the boys have shown much interest or inclination, to be honest.  But maybe if Tom shows them how all the vessels are used and what everything means, they'll get a little excited about it?

For a long time, I had my eye on the gorgeous set at My Father's House  (it says it's not available for sale now, but you can still see the photos.)  I can't recall the exact price, but I know it was way out of the budget.  Maybe $160?  I had to give up on it, because it was just sooooo much money for something I wasn't even sure my kids were going to use.

I decided instead to activate my thrift-shopping superpowers, and start the long slow hunt for items that would work in a kids' Mass set.  I wanted the bare minimum needed for a Traditional Low Mass.  So I wasn't holding out for the incense implements, etc. which would be required for a High Mass.  I've been keeping an eye out for items for about two years now.

The one item - though not a strictly necessary one, I believe - that's been holding me up for the past year from finally completing the set (by my estimation) was a ciborium (a vessal which holds the Eucharist).  I needed something metal, roughly cup-shaped, with a lid.  Not many non-liturgical items look like that!  Finally, at Goodwill last night, I FOUND one.  It's some Paul Revere reproduction piece, according to the etching in the bottom.  I was thrilled, Tom and I high-fived in the aisle, and there was much rejoicing!

We have: a crucifix, two candlesticks, a chalice, a ciborium, a paten, two cruets, a bell, and also a shell-shaped dish in case the kids want to play "baptism" - haha.

The one part I still don't have are all the necessary altar linens.  Never having served at the altar myself (a fact I am now, in retrospect, very happy about), I have never actually seen any of those linens up close,.  All I've seen are my little line drawings in my missal.  So I'm going to have to get some clear descriptions from Tom, and then I can start trying to acquire what I'll need.  I'm sure a lot of them can be made from re-purposed thrift store finds as well, and any that can't be, I will sew.

Is there anything else I forgot??

I know having a Mass set is not a guaranteed way to encourage my boys to consider the priesthood, but at the least, I'm hoping all my kids will get a clearer knowledge of what the priest is actually doing up at the altar during Mass, and the meaning behind it all.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Our Homeschool Year

I haven't paid a visit to my blog in quite a while.  My best excuse for it is because we've started up our homeschooling year, and I've found myself with much less time.

"back to school" 2016
Sly is in "first grade" this year, so I wanted to get a bit more serious about his schooling.  After spending the early summer in an excited frenzy of reading and listening to anything I could get my hands on about Charlotte Mason, I decided to give her approach a whirl this year.  We're almost perfectly following Mater Amabilis, which is a free Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculm.

Somehow, I had gotten it into my head that a CM approach was pretty light and fluffy, and not as rigorous an education as I was looking for.  But how wrong I was!  Many of the books we're reading are ones which I would have thought too advanced for my kids' ages, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how much they are picking up and understanding.

Last year, I pieced together my own curriculum, and as the year went on, I just kind of dropped things here and there as I was developing the classic "homeschool burnout."  Since I had no one to answer to but myself, I had no trouble just ditching parts that took too much out of me.  I think (hope) this year will be a little different.  Because I'm following a plan put together by someone else, I feel more obligation to stick to it (though I think I may drop some of the geography lessons...because that part feels really thrown together to me).  Sticking with this curriculum also forces me to incorporate some subjects which, while worthwhile, I may not have made time for otherwise - things like artist study, poetry memorization, or nature walks.

Our actual school time is close to two hours per day.  That gets stretched out, though, because I try to shoo the kids outside for short breaks in between some of our lessons.  The past few days, Sly has been insisting that he keep working right through with no breaks at all.  He says he prefers to save up all his playtime for one solid chunk at the end.  But I've noticed that his focus has been really slipping.  His brain needs to take those little breaks.  So I'm going to start insisting on it, even if I have to push him out the door whining and crying.

I set things up so that we only do our normal lessons Monday through Thursday.  Fridays alternate between going to our homeschool co-op, or taking a nature walk.  And we've already fit in a couple additional "field trip" days to a special Divine Liturgy at an Eastern church, and a visit to a fort from the French and Indian War.

Stella is only four, so I'm mostly just casually trying to get her to learn her letters and the sounds they make.  Linus is almost two-and-a-half, which I have found to be the magical age for potty training.  So when the big kids started school, Linus began "potty school."  I'm just taking a very slow and gradual approach to it.  Having him sit on his potty a few times a day, and seeing if anything happens.  And reading our all-time favorite book for potty training, Ian's New Potty.  And Flora is six months old, so she mostly fusses during school time until she's ready for her morning nap, and then Mommy rushes to try to finish up the rest of the school lessons so that maybe she'll have a tiny bit of time left to fit in some baby-free chores before naptime ends.

It's been an adjustment for us all.  It's been hard on the kids to realize that they can no longer play with their good across-the-street friend during the mornings, and that Mommy is likely going to turn down most offers for morning playdates and outings because she really needs to get serious and make sure "school" happens most days.

And it's been tough on me to have to give those things up as well.  We're just not morning people in this family.  We can't get up early enough to get lessons out of the way and still have time to go anywhere in the morning.  So hanging out with friends, trips to the supermarket and other errands have to get pushed to other time slots.

It's kind of like I've taken on a part-time job in addition to my already full-time job of mothering and housekeeping.  I need to remind myself constantly to be responsible and just get it done, and not be tempted by every possible excuse to push lessons aside until the next day.  I figure, if the kids were in public school, they'd have to show up every day, and they'd stay there until mid-afternoon.  At least we have more flexibility and free time than that!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mothering Days

A few days ago, the kids and I really needed to get out of the house, so I took them to the local Game Preserve.  There's a pond with ducks and geese, a couple caged peacocks, and a bunch of buffalo in a fenced pasture.  I'ts not as exciting as the zoo, but it's free, and it's a nice way to kill a little time on a summer day.

We had brought a bag of stale bread to feed the ducks, as one does.  As soon as we stepped out of the van, the Canada geese spotted us with our bag of bread, and they came swarming.  First four, then eight, then sixteen....they were just multiplying every second, waddling over and surrounding us.  I doled out a piece of bread to each kid.  But the geese got greedy, and when Stella and Linus weren't able to break off pieces quickly enough (or hold their bread up high enough), they both started to get bitten!  Geese are mean creatures.

Poor Linus started crying, and clinging to me for dear life!  Then Stella followed suit It was such a chaotic scene, I couldn't help laughing.  And then we tried to get away, and all the geese were chasing behind, while Linus cried and cried.  I know it makes me a terrible mother, but it was definitely the funniest thing I've seen all month :-)


Speaking of being a mean mom, I've started to make my kids clean their rooms completely every day after "nap time"!  (I always put nap time in quotation marks, because no one ever actually sleeps.  And I don't even have the energy to enforce a true "quiet time" since they are on the third floor and I'm just not going to drag myself up there every five minutes to make them be quiet.)

Ever since the never-ending renovations started on Stella's room over a year ago, we've had the three biggest kids all sleeping up on the third floor together.  I send them up there for a couple hours every afternoon, because....well, I need it for my sanity!  Needless to say, the rooms become a huge wreck every day.  I was wearing myself out trying to tidy every few days, and keep the third floor rooms somewhat presentable.  But I've decided that if the kids can make the mess, then they're ready to learn how to clean it up as well!

Ten minutes before the end of naptime, I tell them it's time to start cleaning.  They let me know when they're ready for a room inspection, and then I go up to take a look.  I'm pretty ruthless - I think it's the best way to be, so they learn to do a good job.  They can't have even a little scrap of paper left on the floor, or a single sock under the bed.  When they're a little bigger and more capable, I'll start having them make the beds as well.  The first week of room cleaning was slow going.  They didn't know the most efficient ways to tidy up, and kept calling me up to check when there were still a bunch of little things scattered around.  But they're getting quicker and better now.  It's become expected, so there's no complaining about it.  They just get it done.


Yes, I feel like I'm slowly figuring out some tricks in this parenting business...For example, today at Aldi, I decided to try taking two shopping carts instead of one. I pushed the cart with Linus and Flora.  Those two usually ride together in the cart, so I'm forced to pack all my groceries around Flora's bulky car seat.  But today, my big almost-six-year-old Sly pushed the other cart containing Stella and all the groceries. It worked out so well. Three of the kids were strapped in, and the other one was busy with an important job. So there was none of the usual monkey-ing around or reminders from me to stay with the cart, stop hiding behind boxes, etc. It was all business - and so much more efficient than usual!

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Favorite Children's Musicians

I truly enjoy listening to children's music.  Probably more than my kids do.  Pretty much all of the kids' music I consider "good" is actually folk music, which might explain why I love it so much.

That said, I almost universally dislike when children themselves are singing the songs.  The little voices just tend to sound so whiny!  I prefer an adult singer with some simple but well-performed accompaniment.

Here is a list of my top recommendations for children's artists:

1. Nancy Cassidy
This is the woman I grew up listening to!  I have mega nostalgia when it comes to her albums, and still know every song by heart.  They were originally released by Klutz.  Each album historically came with a lyric book so kids can follow along (we had the cassette tapes growing up).  I'm not sure if the newest version of the cds comes with these, but I'd bet you can find them on eBay.  She has a great voice, and it's easy to sing along.

KidsSongs Jubilee (my favorite)
KidsSongs 2

2. Raffi
I never heard of Raffi as a child.  How is that even possible?  I feel like everyone else my age grew up with his music.  Now I know I was really missing out!  We now have a ton of his albums, and I love them all.  He's quite a prolific artist!  Here are all the ones I can definitely recommend:

Singable Songs for the Very Young
Baby Beluga
Rise and Shine
One Light, One Sun
Everything Grows
Bananaphone (one of the kids' favorites)
More Singable Songs
The Corner Grocery Store
Raffi's Christmas Album
Raffi Radio (Tom and I have been known to put on the song 'Coconut' even after the kids are in bed just because it's so enjoyable)
Let's Play

As I was compiling this list, I discovered that he has two new albums I've never even listened to!  It genuinely feels like I discovered a goldmine, and I just declared to Tom that Sly and Stella will each be receiving a Raffi album for their birthdays next month :-)

3. Elizabeth Mitchell
She's a newer artist than the others I've mentioned. I first heard her lovely voice at a friends' house, when she put on an album for her children.  Elizabeth sings a lot of modern renditions of traditional folk songs.  Her stuff is probably the easiest to find at your local library.

You Are My Sunshine
You Are My Little Bird
Little Seed (my all-time favorite - all the songs are covers of Woody Guthrie songs)
Sunny Day

4. Peggy and Mike Seeger
A sister and brother duo (their half-brother is Pete Seeger).  I only have one of their albums (so far!), but I've been loving it.  On this, they are singing the entire collection of folk songs their mother Ruth published in one of her several song books (see it here).

American Folk Songs for Children

I recently found another of Ruth Seeger's books at a library book sale, and it's a sweet collection of songs.  I've seen that the siblings recorded an album of these as well, and I'm looking forward to hearing it sometime.

5. Making Music Praying Twice
I really like the idea of this program, intended to teach music and rhythm (and a bit of the Faith) to young children.  The song selections are pretty good, though I'll say that the singers' voices/singing style is sometimes not my favorite.  But it's a great intro to some simple, fun songs for kids.  I've heard my children singing songs off these albums more than any of the other ones, even though I've played them less times.

Making Music Praying Twice Family Edition


Who are your family's favorite children's artists?  I'd love to give them a listen!

(note: this post contains affiliate links)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Closet Madonna

We have an abundance of Mary statues around outdoor one who looks after our garden, a beautiful pearlescent one on our home altar, one in the dining room opposite a St. Joseph statue, two kitchen Madonnas in - appropriately enough - the kitchen, and a scattering of smaller ones in bedrooms.

Then there's the poor neglected  Lady of Sorrows statue that's been sitting in my closet for ages.  We used to have her out in out living room until Advent started one year.  A sorrowful Mary just didn't fit with the season of Advent.  Besides, I was going through the house trying to reduce excess where I could, and that statue had never been my favorite anyways.  So I put her in my closet to keep her safe from little hands....and I guess I kind of forgot about her.  Or perhaps I just haven't taken the time to figure out what to do with her.

I have a strict "no kids in my closet" rule, but ever since the kids discovered the statue in there a few months ago, I've allowed one exception - they are allowed to go in each morning while I have it open and give her a kiss.  Stella often talks to me about why Mary is so sad.

Acting upon another sweet and holy inspiration, the kids have been occasionally picking flowers from the yard, and bring them in to give to the yellow Kitchen Madonna near the sink.  I keep some mini vases next to her just for this purpose.  Truth be told, it's a benefit to myself as well, since I enjoy having pretty fresh flowers to look at while I'm washing the endless dishes.

A couple weeks ago, Stella brought in a big orange day-lily.  It was one of the first of the season, and I was looking forward to displaying it on my kitchen shelf.  I started filling one of the little vases, but Stella stopped me.  "No, I want to give it to another Mary."  I tried to convince her to give her flower to Mary in the dining room or Mary in the backyard.....somewhere public where we could all enjoy the beautiful flower.  But Stella was insistent - she wanted to give the flower to the Mary in my closet.  I told her the flower wouldn't do well just shut up in the dark, that no one would be able to see it in there, that I didn't want a vase of water spilling all over the carpet, and that we should really find a better place.  "No," Stella answered, "I want to give it to Mary in your closet.  To make her not sad anymore."

Of course, my heart just melted under the impact of such a pure and loving intention.

It's now become somewhat regular for Stella to bring a flower to "Mary in my closet" - gifts given completely unselfishly, entirely for the joy and honor of the recipient.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Slowing Down and Teaching From Rest

"last day of school" 2016

We "officially" ended our first "official" year of homeschooling a couple weeks ago.  It went well, overall, and gave me a good - though small - taste of what I've actually gotten myself into here.  Overall verdict: this is going to require a ton of self-discipline, on my part, to make time for what's important each day....and not using homeschooling as an excuse to laze around the house all morning.

It seems that in the weeks before our school year came to an end, all the dozens of other activities and groups the kids and myself were involved in had ended as well.  I didn't realize how busy we had been until suddenly I saw myself looking at a full week on the calendar with nothing planned. It's forced us to slow down our usual pace, and find new ways to occupy ourselves.  

picking black raspberries
I'm trying to seize this opportunity to teach myself to slow down and just live - with intentionality - in the moment.  To pause and allow myself to take delight in my children and (perhaps even tougher) my husband.  It's really hard.  And I've failed at it more often than I've succeeded.  I am definitely a "Martha" and not a "Mary" - always wanting to keep busy, getting things done, and nagging everyone around me to make sure they are doing their fair share of keeping busy in the exact way I've determined they should!

I just finished reading Teaching From Rest, and what an inspiring read that was!  A short little book, but such a breath of fresh air.  I'd been spending the weeks since we ended our school year doing endless research and stressing over what the heck we should do next year for Sly's education, as he'll be starting first grade.  If I could sum up the book very briefly, the message is "Chill the heck out, Mama.  All those things you're worried about aren't actually a big deal.  Here's how you should be living your life.  Here's what your vocation is requiring of you."  I would not be surprised if I end up re-reading the book maybe every six months or so.  I know I'll probably need it!

Stella, loving a bit too tightly on a "baby caterpiller" she caught

The other day, I was washing the dishes.  Stella was in the kitchen with me, and began crying about something.  I can't remember what it was, but it was something I determined to be completely ridiculous.  As she usually does when her emotions get the best of her, she was asking me to hold her - "I want you, Mommy!" is how she says it.  And as usual, I was brushing off her feelings, and telling her there was nothing to cry about and if she wanted to be held, she'd have to wait until I was done with what I was doing.  Telling her, in other words, that she was less important to me than a few dishes sitting in the sink.

But I remembered some of what I'd been reading in the book, and realized that - unnecessary as her tears might be - she truly needed me to respond to her and love her at that moment.  And I knew that this need which was presenting itself to me was what God was asking me to do at that moment.  To tend to the soul of my child, instead of some stupid dishes - that was what was most important.  So I turned off the faucet, and picked her up.  I gave her a hug and some tender words, and in just a short time, she was all better.  And we were both left feeling love for one another - rather than rejection on her part, and annoyance on mine, as has too often been the case in the past.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

LuLaRoe - More Than Just Leggings

For about a year now, I've been hearing people raving about a company called LuLaRoe, and their "amazing" leggings.  Some women I know especially seem to go nuts over the ones that come in crazy and bold patterns.  Not really being a legging girl myself, I never saw a reason to look into the craze.

But I was recently contacted by a reader, Courtney, who is a consultant for LuLaRoe.  What she told me about the company was intriguing.  It is a Christian company that strives to make modest clothing for women - especially moms - that's both comfortable and fashionable.   I poked around the internet a bit, and learned that they in fact have much more than just leggings!  They also make dresses, skirts, and tops, as well as clothing for girls and juniors.

So I took Courtney up on her offer to test out a few of their items to see what I thought.  The following is my honest review, so you can see if you too would be interested in giving some of their clothing a try.


LuLaRoe has an interesting business model.  They only create about 2000 pieces of clothing in each of their (many) specific prints/fabrics.  And the consultants are not able to choose the exact prints they receive for their inventory.  This means that each of them end up with a totally unique collection of items.  So if you're hunting for an exact style and print, it may take you quite a while to track down!

Nicole Dress

This is a pretty simply-constructed piece.  I love the longer length of the sleeves.  It comes about to the knees, and has a nice drape to it.  And lucky for me, Courtney even had one in stock in my favorite color!

My only complaint is that the material felt a bit thin.  With such a light color, I was worried if the dress may be slightly see-through (my husband assured me it wasn't).

Lola Skirt

I tried a black lace version of this skirt.

I like that a section of the lace hangs down below the liner of the skirt.  I think it adds some visual interest, and also ensures that you notice the lace detailing.  If the whole skirt were lined, the lace may well get swallowed up in the sea of black.

This skirt has an elastic waist, so I know I can wear it anytime - pregnant, post-partum, etc.  And I think it could work as part of either a casual or dressy outfit.  No complaints about this one - I like it!

Amelia Dress

This style is definitely more elaborate and structured than the Nicole dress.  The skirt is pleated, the arms have a bit of gathering at the top, and the material is more substantial.

Oh, and it has pockets!

I had heard that a lot of ladies like to wear this one backwards, with the zipper in the front, so that they're able to nurse a baby in it.  In case you're curious about that, here's what that would look like.

Tom was taking the photos and kept saying "elongate your neck!"
ummm....I'm not sure what I think.  It might look a little funny this way?  But maybe if you didn't know it was "backwards," you wouldn't be able to tell?

I insisted to Tom that it would look stupid if I untucked the top part, and he didn't believe me until I showed him.


The funny thing is, when I first tried everything on in the mirror, I really preferred the Amelia dress.  But looking at the photos, I actually think the Nicole dress suits me better.  Tom is always telling me I don't have a great sense of what looks good on me!  Perhaps I should start photographing my outfits each morning :-P


And lastly, Courtney surprised me by throwing in a pair of LuLaRoe's famous leggings.  These ones were just plain black, which is perfect actually, because the only time I wear leggings is to add some extra warmth underneath a skirt.  I don't need the fun patterns, because no one would really see them anyways!

I have to say - these leggings are every bit as comfortable as people say they are!  They are somewhat high-waisted, which means they stay up really well, and you don't have to keep hiking them back up your hips all day.  But they aren't so tight that they create bulges around your middle.  I was impressed with these leggings, and will definitely be getting a lot of use out of them.


If you want to learn more about LuLaRoe, or order anything for yourself, please check out Courtney's Facebook page.

You can also contact her at or by phone at (724)317-8469 if you live within 2.5 hours of her house in Dunbar, PA and might be interested in hosting an online or in-person LuLaRoe party.