Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Passing on The Faith

 **These thoughts are addressed to fellow Catholic mothers.  If you aren't Catholic (or a mother), I'm not sure how accessible this post will be.  Perhaps you might still find something interesting or useful here, and I'd appreciate if you have some thoughts of your own to add to the topic.**

I truly feel that my most important job as a mother is making sure that my children come to know and love God - to help them on their path to holiness and sainthood.  I'm by no means claiming to be an expert on how to accomplish this. I only have two kids - one is two years old, and the other is two months old.  I don't have a lot of experience yet.  But I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, reading good books, talking with other Catholic mothers, etc. to come up with some good strategies for passing on the Faith to our children.  Ultimately, every human being has to decide for himself to love God.  I can't force that on my children.  But I can provide them with good instruction that they may come to better know and understand God, and with opportunities that encourage them to develop a relationship (because that's really what it's all about) with God.

Here are some things that mothers should do who desire their children's souls to be saved.  This list is only the beginning, and I'd love to hear more thoughts on this in the comments.

1. Pray for them.
Pray, pray, pray, and pray some more.  Pray daily for your children, pray for their father, pray that you may be a good mother.  This is the most important thing, and I hate to say that it's something I don't do nearly as much as I should.

2. Pray with them.
Children need to be shown how to pray, and taught that there are many ways to pray - some of which are non-verbal (such as offering gifts of your time, making little sacrifices, etc.).  In order to do this, we have to be familiar with prayer ourselves, and work to maintain a regular prayer life.

One of the easiest prayer habits to start as a family is Grace Before Meals.  When we remember, we also like to say Grace After Meals (you can use the standard prayers, or compose one of your own).  Once he was able to sit in a highchair, we had baby Sly join with us during Grace, and even moved his hand in the Sign of the Cross.  Now, at two years old, he can *almost* do it correctly, all by himself.  No - he probably doesn't really understand the significance of it yet.  But he knows that it's important and that it's something we do as a family.  As his capacity for understanding grows, these impressions will help establish a good base for a young faith.

Another great time for prayer with children is right before bed.  You can join your children, kneeling beside their beds (Yes, I think kneeling is important.  Because it means something.  It is a position of supplication in front or our God.  It is somewhat uncomfortable, and thus a small sacrifice) and teach them how to pray.  Pre-written prayers, again, are fine.  But this is a good time to pray also for specific intentions.

Our Blessed Mother has appeared in visions to so many Saints and holy people, exhorting them to pray the Rosary.  The Rosary is so important to her, and it is known to be one of the most powerful prayer weapons we have (I would go so far as to guess that it's #2, after the Mass itself)!  So why isn't every Catholic praying it every single day?!  Don't ask me for the answer, because I'm just as guilty myself.  Our family goes through periods where we're good about praying the Rosary together every day, but then we always fall out of the habit again.  Right now, the relationship is "off again".

3. Take your kids to Mass, for crying out loud! 
This may seem obvious, but I can't tell you how many people I've heard saying that little kids shouldn't be at church until they are old enough to be quiet and behave themselves.  I think this is terrible advice.  It's true that until their First Communion, the children don't actually have the Sunday obligation.  But they can still be in the presence of God, soaking up the graces from the sacrifice of the Eucharist, even if they are still too young to experience it fully.  Why would you not want to share with them "the source and summit of our Catholic Faith"?

Attending daily Mass is an added bonus, though I know it's difficult to get to sometimes, and can be very intimidating if it means that you will have to manage the children on your own.  I have not yet been to a daily Mass with both children.  I don't have a very good excuse, as there are at least two daily Masses within walking distance, one of which is the Latin Mass.

Tom and I co-taught a CCD class one year to a group of 3rd and 4th graders.  They were pretty good kids, and willing to learn.  Unfortunately, the whole experience was rather disheartening and frustrating for us.  In the entire class, only one of the students was taken to Mass each week with his family.  And just forget about any other Sacraments!  So here we are telling them each week about how important it is to go to Confession....and these kids haven't even been there since their very first time in second grade - and might very well never go again.  It is parents' moral duty to take their children to Confession.  Nine-year olds can't do that by themselves.  During class, we would sometimes mention a certain prayer or action that happens during the Mass, and the kids wouldn't know what we were talking about.  Their parents just expected that sending them to us for one hour a week was enough to ensure that they understood the Faith, and became good Catholics.  We did our best to impress upon them the importance and efficacy of prayer (which we decided was the most crucial thing for them to take away), and a basic knowledge of Catholic beliefs, but I'm afraid it was pretty ineffectual.  The Faith needs to be LIVED, and their families weren't providing the opportunity for this.

4. Teach your children how to behave at Mass.
Bringing children to Mass need not be so intimidating.  The earlier you start teaching them to participate, the earlier they will need less behavioral correction.

Some of the actions we perform at Mass are fairly easy to teach to children, since they naturally desire to imitate us.  Blessing themselves with holy water (or getting blessed by you when they are babies), genuflecting, making the Sign of the Cross, kneeling/sitting/standing at the appropriate times - even one-year-olds can start to do these things!

We want our children to begin to understand what the Mass means. You can whisper to your children about what is happening: "the altar boy is lighting the candles", "the priest is going to hold up Jesus", etc..  After Mass, you can talk to them about the images in the stained glass, the flickering votive candles, the baptismal font, and all those little items in the Church that help lift our hearts to God.  Every Sunday after Mass, Tom brings Sly up to the altar rail to visit the statues and pray.  Sly has come to really enjoy this, and will ask as soon as Mass ends to "go pray. Baby Jesus!".   

The biggest struggle for all of us is dealing with all the disruptions children cause at church.  Believe me, I know how hard it is to deal with little children at Mass (and our usual Mass is almost an hour and a half long!).  Children are not quiet, still, or attentive.  But we can teach them how to be all these things, gradually and patiently.  I'll share with you our personal approach to this situation so far.

Firstly, we don't let Sly have anything.  No toys, no snacks, no cups, no books  - nothing.  I know plenty of people who let their children have some activity (often church-oriented, such as a Lives of the Saints book) to keep them occupied during Mass. I'm not saying there's necessarily anything wrong with that.  But we knew that down the line, we'd have to stop letting Sly have those sorts of things, and we didn't want to fight that battle.  So instead, we decided to just not let him get used to it in the first place.  Also, if we decided on some certain cut-off age when kids weren't allowed those things anymore, it would be difficult for them to understand why the younger siblings were allowed to play with toys, etc.  Better, I think, to just be able to say, "No.  We don't have those things at Mass.  This is our time for praying to God."  When Sly really needs a distraction, I put him in my lap, and whisper to him about the beautiful pictures in our missal.  He's learned a lot of little things this way, like that a dove represents the Holy Spirit, who St. Joseph is, that Jesus is holding bread and wine at the Last Supper...

Sometimes, one of the kids is being too loud or Sly is getting too rambunctious, and that's when we take them to the back of the church (the "narthex" or entryway).  We don't have a cry-room (those new-fangled, silly things!), which I'm glad of - I think it separates you too much, and breeds an impatience among the parishioners for children's natural disruptive tendencies.  Instead, all the doors to the nave are left open, so even when you're in the back, you are still able to participate in the Mass (and there are chairs in case you need to nurse a fussy baby).  The best tip we ever got when we first became parents was to make sure we  never ever ever put our kids down when we were standing with them in the back.  If you let them run around, then being taken there becomes something fun for them and they might act up just to be allowed into the back.  Instead, we hold Sly in our arms, and refuse his requests to go down.  This makes him dread having to be brought out of the pew (where he has a lot more freedom of motion), and serves as a useful threat when he starts becoming disruptive!  I'm not saying this is the only way to handle the issue, or that it is totally foolproof - but it's one method for how to train your children in proper Mass behavior.

5. Protect them from evil.
This might sound a bit extreme, but I'm totally serious.  Satan works very hard to pull souls away from God.  Our children will struggle enough with temptations of their own.  We don't need to expose them to extra ones on top of that.  I do believe that their environments need to be monitored.  Garbage on television or the internet, peers who might be a bad influence - parents have the power to cut these things out of their child's life, at least to some extent.  Of course I believe that our children need to learn independence, and sometimes they need to make mistakes.  My intent is not to keep my children inside a bubble, with no knowledge of the outside world.  Instead, I like to think of it as an analogy: the ideal family environment acts like a greenhouse.  This is a place where young, fragile plants can be nourished and tended within a safe shelter.  The sun can come in, but the winds and storms cannot.  But there comes a time when the little plants have grown strong through all the good care and protection they've received, and they are ready to go out into the world, able to survive and flourish.  Once I understood this, it made me much less skeptical of parents who chose to homeschool (and became just one of many reasons that I now desire to do the same with my own kids).

6. Incorporate the liturgical year into your daily lives.
 The Church calendar offers us the perfect opportunity to LIVE the faith through the seasons of feasting and fasting.  In our world of instant gratification, where everything is available whenever you want it, there are some very good lessons to be learned from following the wisdom of the liturgical calendar.  And it's a great way to learn more about the Saints, and be encouraged and inspired by their example.

Our old home altar at Passiontide

There are many small little ways to start.  An Advent wreath in the home which is lit each night with prayers; a May crowning using wildflowers to decorate a statue of Mary; draping the crucifix and other holy images in purple cloths during Passiontide.  Some families may have the inclination to go further, and recognize many smaller feast days in some little way.  There are many good resources for ideas, such as the site Catholic Cuisine: "We are all, especially us moms, cooking and baking every day, why not sanctify these mealtimes and teach our children even more about our beautiful faith at the same time?"

Yes, they're just dandelions. 
7. Engage the senses.
This one ties in well with observing the liturgical year.  When their senses are engaged, children learn much better.  All the "smells and bells" of the Church have the ability to leave a strong impression on them.  This is one reason why we love the Traditional Mass.  We experience the smell of the incense, the bells - both the large church bells, and the smaller handbells during the Consecration, the Gregorian chant and Polyphony of the choir (as my husband says, "every Sunday, we get to listen to beautiful classical music for free").  Then there are all the visual reminders that Church is a sacred place: brocaded vestments, golden tabernacle and sacred vessels, timeless architecture (Sly knows words like "dome").

Other ways to involve the senses include positions of the body during prayer: kneeling (discussed above), folded hands (another sign of submission and supplication), the Sign of the Cross; blessing yourself with holy water; lighting candles.

8. Keep signs of the Faith around your house.
Our Church offers us such a wealth of special practices and devotions that can help to strengthen our relationship to God.  Put up a crucifix in your home, or several.  We have one in every room of the house (which was a special wish of my husband).  Find good, reverent religious artwork and statues.  Talk to your kids about the people or events depicted in that art.  By the time they are older, Jesus, Mary, and the Saints will seem like old friends.  Consider setting aside a home altar [I'll write a separate post about this soon] where you can pray together as a family.  Keep holy water, blessed candles, Rosaries, scapulars, and other sacramentals around - and use them!  Your house doesn't have to look like a church, but visitors should be able to pick up on the little signs of an actively-lived Catholic faith.  Your children should come to identify themselves strongly as Catholic, with all the strange and wonderful practices that can include.

9. Get inspiration from other Catholic mothers.
Reach out to other Catholic mothers.  Find out what they do in their family to instill the Faith in their kids.  Share your own experiences.  Befriend them.  Pray together.  Encourage your children to  spend time with their children, because you know you can trust the way they are being parented.

It's also a helpful to learn about some of our great Saints who were mothers.  Some that jump to mind: St. Monica, St. Rita, St. Gianna, and of course Mary, mother of our Lord.  One mother whose example I am constantly thinking about is Blessed Zélie Martin, the mother of St. Thérèse.  Though she died early in Thérèse's life, her influence on her daughter was significant.  Of her five children who survived, all ended up joining the convent.  So she must have been doing something right.  And since she's relatively modern, we have a lot of information about her - letters, photos, and the like.  An important book for all Catholic women to read, after - of course - the essential autobiography of St. Therese, Story of a Soul, is the small companion book called The Mother of the Little Flower (there is also one written about her father, also excellent).  It will change your world, and revolutionize your ideas about Catholic mothering!


I look around at society, and sometimes it's so easy to think that the whole world is just going to hell around me.  It makes me more determined than ever to raise my children with the Faith - to teach them to stand against all the evil that abounds.  I know how important to this task is my role as their mother.  But my ability to pass them the Faith isn't my biggest worry.  What used to worry me the most was the thought of my children's children, and their children, and so on.  When I'm long dead, what will happen to the faith of my progeny?  If just one generation loses the Faith, it could be gone to my heirs forever.  But as I was working on this post, I had a very reassuring realization....If I can manage to get myself to Heaven, then I'll have God at my side, eternally.  I can spend the rest of eternity continuing to pray for my ancestors on Earth.  My influence doesn't have to diminish - my role as their "mother" will continue.  That's a pretty awe-inspiring thing to consider.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Communication Breakdown

Me: "If we had a fryer and a mandolin, we could make our own potato chips."
Tom: "...huh?"

What I meant:

What Tom thought I meant:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our House Tour Part 6: The Library

Tom and I have two chief complaints about the house we live in.  1. We have no yard WHATSOEVER.  This one can't be changed. 2. We have no dining room.  But we've recently been talking about amending this...

Right now, we eat at a tiny table in the kitchen.  With just our little family, we are already very cramped for meals, especially when we set out all the serving dishes and condiments we need.  It also means that we are never able to have friends or family over for dinner, as we'd like to.  But I proposed the idea that we could convert our living room (right next-door to the kitchen) into a dining room (we'd have to find a bigger table), and our upstairs "library" into the living room.  We've hashed out most of the logistics, and it seems like it's a project that's in store for us down the road.  So I wanted to share a few pictures of our cozy little library before it gets broken up!

Peeking into the doorway from the office

Tom's manly black couch from his bachelor days with his manly "Roman dudes" pictures above I think the room looks a lot different in daytime and the evening.  In the evening, it's much cozier.

Add caption

That stack of "too old and fragile to touch" books on top of the shelf is one of the banes of my existence right now!  I need to get on Tom's case again about DOING something with them (I'm hoping it involves giving them to someone else).

Lots o' books

A close-up of one of our many bookshelf knock-knacks: an antique glass holy water bottle that used to belong to my Gram

Fancy gold brocade curtains (not "too" fancy, though: the fabric's from Joann's)

Our one bookshelf made from "real" wood and not cheap-o composite stuff

My cozy reading corner.  There's a shelf of non-board-book kids' books on the right.  Zither on the wall over the chair.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Recent Windfall of Free Stuff!

1.  I received a mystery gift in the mail.  Four pairs of black tights, with no return address.  If whoever sent them is reading this, I want to offer a huge thank you!  They will definitely be put to good use this winter.

2. A friend has season tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, but won't be able to make it to two of the concerts.  He offered them to Tom (two tickets for each of the nights), so now we get to go!  One of the shows happens to be on his birthday too, so we hope to do dinner or something beforehand and make a night of it.  Tom is very excited, because he loves the PSO, and we haven't been in a few years.

3. We got THREE beautiful free chairs this weekend. 

cat not included

We went to a party on Friday at a house where a bunch of our bachelor friends live.  I spotted the middle chair across the room, and was quite taken with it (haha - this sounds like the beginning of a cheesy love story...).  I was going on about how beautiful if would look if it were refinished and re-covered.  The guys told me that it had just been picked from someone's trash, that they had plenty of other chairs, and that I was more than welcome to have it - awesome!

close-up of the details
It might take me awhile to get to it, but I will show an update once I refinish it.

The two chairs on the ends were offered to us by another friend.  His whole house is decked out in amazing antiques like this, and these two chairs were just taking up room sitting in his basement (which tells you something about how nice the rest of the house is).  He knows Tom and I also have a taste for "old stuff", so offered them to us.  The amazing part is, he was thanking us profusely for finally taking them off his hands.  Huh.  I think we're the ones who made out in the deal.

Hand-carved, of course.  Sly saw them the next morning, and said "church chairs!"

A re-upholstery job wouldn't hurt on these, since I'm not a huge fan of the pattern on the fabric, and the stuffing is a little lumpy.  But that will have to wait for the future (when we have a windfall of free money? Maybe? Ha.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 20)

So you might have noticed that I made a new header.  It's painfully obvious that *I* made the new header, because it looks so crudely done.  Believe it or not, that was four hours of trouble and toil right there.  ha!  It doesn't help that we have NO photo-editing programs besides the standard Microsoft editor and the totally un-user-friendly Paint, and that I am not very savvy with computers to begin with.  I like the idea of this header, but it just turned out "okay".  The worst part is that there's all that weird blurriness going on around the words in the title.  I went so far as to zoom way in on the picture and "clean it up" on the level of individual pixels.  I spent over half an hour doing that.  But after I saved it and zoomed back out, it kept reverting back to the blurriness!  What the heck?  I just gave up, and posted it as is.  That's as good as it's gonna get for now.

I've been playing around a little with the blog recently.  On the left sidebar, I added a list of some favorite posts.  If you haven't been a reader from the beginning, and find yourself just dying for some more of my fabulous writing style, and also have tons of time on your hands...check them out.  ha!  No, it's fine if you don't.  But if you do find yourself reading them, I'd love if you left a comment letting me know your thoughts.  I love getting comments!  And I finally figured out how to reply directly after a specific comment (I told you - I am not computer savvy), so I promise to be better about answering questions, etc. you might leave there.

And the last change I made on here is that I let Google put some ads on my page.  They still have to go through my blog to make sure it's not pornographic, etc. before they'll make them active.  Sorry if the ads annoy anyone.  But a few people suggested it as a way to make a little money, and every penny counts right now (I'm quite sure, however, that's about all it will generate: mere pennies.  Oh well.  It's something).


It's a little early, but I'm already starting to think about Christmas and gift-giving (really, it's the gift buying aspect).  For our kids, we definitely want to keep it simple.  Not only are they both too young to even remember very long what they got for Christmas, but it's also about the precedent we will set.  I'd rather our kids receive a few special gifts that they can truly appreciate, instead of getting overwhelmed or coming to expect a ton of stuff every year.

Since I'm one to pick up gifts throughout the year as they present themselves to me, I think I'm already done "shopping" for Sly, without really even trying.  We have a real, but child-size drum we found at a thrift store, the game Hi Ho Cherry-o (I got an older version on eBay, since I don't like the modern one as much), and a cute squirrel book I couldn't resist at a recent "book party".  We'll also get some candy/stocking stuffers later.  That's plenty for a 2 year-old.

Stella really needs nothing since she's a baby.  But I think Sly might feel like she got jipped if Santa doesn't have a gift for her too.  She's obviously too young for it now, but I'm considering finding her a little baby doll.  If anyone knows of a good - and inexpensive - "first doll", please let me know in the comments!

At two months old, Stella is now officially "out of our bedroom".  Yay!  It's nice to have some floor space back now that the enormous cradle is gone.  She's sleeping in a crib in the same room as Sly, and things have been good so far.  Though I don't put her down until I'm going to bed, around midnight - which is long after Sly has been asleep.  It could be a disaster once we start putting them to bed at the same time.  She wakes up around 6:30 wanting to nurse, at which point I grab her (before the little man has a chance to wake up), and bring her back to bed with me where we both get a few more hours of sleep.  It works out pretty well.

A bad habit I have is writing in a post about how I plan to start doing something, but then never mentioning it again, to fill people in on how its going.  I think this is because a lot of the time, I don't end up following through as well as I'd intended!

Anyways, I had said a while back that I wanted to start meal-planning for real each week, make a crockpot meal every Wednesday, and additionally try out one other new recipe each week.  Well, I am pleased to report that I've actually managed to stick to this resolution!  Meal planning has been good.  It gives me a lot more peace of mind to already know what's for dinner each night of the week, since cooking can take up a good-sized chunk of each day.  And I think my husband appreciates coming home to more meals that I've obviously  put thought and work into, instead of ones that were thrown together last minute (Me, previously: "Oh shoot, it's 5:30 already!  What's in the freezer?  Hotdogs, buns, aaaaand [digging through pantry]....a can of baked beans?  We're good!). Now if only I could get him to stop asking me every day "what's for dinner?" and remember to just look at the dang chalkboard!


Has anyone else been watching Call The Midwife on PBS?  It's on Sunday nights.  I watched the first two episodes, but forgot about it last week!  It's an enjoyable British show about midwives in post-WWII London.  Worth checking out!

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stella Smiles

It's always exciting the first time you finally capture those early baby smiles on camera!  We captured these last week.

Every time Sly sees a picture of a baby in a magazine or on tv, he shouts gleefully, "Stella!"

Said by Sly

Yesterday morning, Sly found the banjo which I had left sitting out*, and he got really excited.  He has loved bluegrass music since the first time he heard it somewhere, and we sometimes play him Youtube videos of it (which always feature banjos prominently).

Me: "Alright Sly, let's go get breakfast."
Sly[looking at the banjo]: "No, Sly play bluegrass."


The other day, it was naptime, and Sly was being wild and full of energy as two-year-olds often are.  He looked up at me with a grin and said, "Sly drive Mommy crazy."

*No, I don't actually know how to play it.  Tom had pulled it out for me for the first time in two years, insisting I try to teach myself again.  Maybe I will practice more this time....

Friday, October 12, 2012

Giveaway Winner

And the winner is...

Looks like a neat cookbook :-)

Please e-mail me at christinewin(at)gmail(dot)com so we can arrange for you to get your gift!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On Barely Getting By

A recent post on Shoved To Them has been running through my mind all day.  In it, Rebecca (a.k.a "The Mom") seethes over how expensive it has become just to survive.  Lately, I've found myself adjusting and readjusting numbers in our budget, trying to make things "work".  And I was finding it harder and harder to find the money for the things we needed.  I was aware that the cost of things like gasoline had definitely gone up, but it didn't all sink in until I read this post, and realized that it's happening everywhere: living costs for everything are getting way more expensive, but people are still making the same amount of money as before.

And I don't really know what we can do about it.  Since getting married, and especially since Sly was born and we were determined to have me stay home with him - I've had to learn so much about being frugal and getting by with much less than I was used to.


We've cut down our spending in so many ways:

We don't buy anything new if we can reasonably get it second-hand instead.  Or sometimes we make it ourselves, as in the case of one of our baby gate on the basement stairs....made out of wood Tom scavenged from somewhere.

When something breaks or is no longer usable, we scavenge it for parts before throwing it away.  Tom removes the screws and bolts from furniture (and keeps the wood as scrap), saves the wires and cords from electrical things, I remove buttons from unwearable clothes (and then cut them into rags).  Seriously. Nothing goes in the trash that is not actually trash.

We use cloth diapers, baby wipes, napkins, and rags.  We don't buy any paper products anymore except toilet paper (and I'm really working on my husband to agree to switch to cloth for that as well!)

I haven't bought anything "fun": new clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc., since we were married...except a few things which I purchased with birthday money from my mother-in-law (with the strict instruction that I MUST spend it on myself).

The thick black or brown tights I live in all winter (I mostly wear skirts, remember) have had at least five holes sewn up on every pair.  Same with socks and gloves.  I'd love some fresh ones, but we can't afford it. 

I do as much grocery shopping as possible at Aldi (which has the cheapest prices, hands-down, for almost everything).  The items I can't find there, I get at one of three other places (based on where it's cheapest), and always generic, if possible.  I only buy meat when it's on a BOGO sale or otherwise very inexpensive, and I severely ration my meat-loving husband's portion sizes of it.  I've had to learn how to cook various new (read: cheap) cuts of meat (it usually involves some combination of lots of marination, pounding it with the meat hammer, and cooking it for a really long time).  I make most of our meals from scratch and without elaborate ingredients.  We eat leftovers for lunch, or something cheap like ramen.

We save all gift bags and tissue paper we're given for re-use.  We make our own greeting cards out of pictures we cut from magazines (given to us free), because they cost too much to buy.  We are shameless re-gifters.

We wash out plastic baggies and pieces of aluminum foil to reuse them.  I save the envelopes we get with our bills and mail other things in them (we pay the bills online, to save the price of the stamp).  Tom brings home scrap paper from the office, and we use the blank side to print things on.

As much as we love our cats, we've talked about how we kind of wish we didn't have them, so we didn't have to buy their food and litter every month.  They do not get taken for check-ups at the vet.

We use our contact lenses way longer than you're supposed to, so we only use the paid-for-by-insurance pairs.  We got our eyeglasses for $10 a pair (frames and prescription lenses!) at Zenni.  Shampoo, conditioner, etc. comes from the dollar store.

Tom either walks or rides his bike to his job downtown, so we don't have to pay for gas/parking, or buy a monthly bus pass.

We don't have air conditioning for the summer, and we keep the thermostat at a frigid 62.5° in the winter, which is the coldest I can stand (because, of course, the house feels much colder than that).

We canceled our newspaper subscription.  We don't get cable (well, technically we have "basic cable" which means essentially the networks + 3 home shopping networks + PBS+ EWTN.  But only because it's strangely cheaper to have internet with cable).

We get the cheapest cell phones possible and only when our 2-years are up and it's almost free (and, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, we're each still on our own family's "family plan", so don't actually pay the phone bills on those...).  We don't have smartphones, a laptop, a tablet, an e-reader, etc.  We listen to vinyl records we buy at the thrift store, or music on the (old desktop) computer.

If we ever go to the movies - which is basically never - we only go to the dollar theater.  And only when we can get free babysitting from parents.  We don't go out to eat.  We don't order pizza.  We never have beer or wine in the house anymore.  We don't pay for admission to the zoo, the science center, etc. (we wait for the occasional "free days"). 


And there are so many other little things like this.  We've already tightened our belts so much.  I don't think there's a lot more we can do.  (Seriously, what more can we do?  If you have ideas, tell me, because I need them!)

My husband is a hard worker.  He's a very good and honest employee and does his job well.  But he still doesn't make a ton of money, and besides, it's hard these days to support a family on a single salary.  He studied history, philosophy, and anthropology in college.  It's not like he can get a job in his actual "field".  He hates the corporate world, but that's where he is, and we need him to keep making the money.  Once you have a family, you can't just start over again in an entry-level position in some other field.  He talks about maybe finding a second job, but we haven't found anything that would work for the family yet.  I wish I were an interesting enough writer to make money through blogging, or crafty enough to sell stuff on Etsy or something...but I'm just not.  And even so, I don't know if I would have the time/mental sanity to be the mom and wife I want to be and also take on a part-time job.

For the most part, we've accepted being broke, and understand that it's probably helping us to become more holy.  But sometimes I just wish I could get a coffee at a coffee shop with friends every now and then, and not feel guilty about it.  I wish we could invite people over for dinner without worrying about all the extra mouths to (pay to) feed.  I wish we could get invited to a wedding, and actually feel happy about it, instead of getting all stressed out about the gift we'll have to buy.

So anyways, reading that blog post was reassuring in some ways.  We're not the only ones feeling this financial crunch!  It really is hard to get by.  But at the same time, it was pretty discouraging to realize that.  I mean, if it was an issue of something we were doing wrong, then we could change things and hope for a better situation.  But if if we're already doing all we can and it's not working, then....what?

Monday, October 8, 2012

GIVEAWAY and St. Hildegard's "Cookies That Bring Joy"

I was given the opportunity to review the book, From St. Hildegard's Kitchen from Catholic Family Gifts.

Before looking through this Catholic cookbook, I really didn't know anything about St. Hildegard.  But there's a short bio of her in the introduction.  I learned that she was a German mystic in the middle ages who received visions about many different things.  One subject she received some visions on, interestingly, was eating - which types of foods promote or inhibit one's health ("foods of joy" vs. "foods of sadness").  She wrote some books on the subject, and was supposedly ahead of her time with a lot of her dietary principles.

For this cookbook, some of St. Hildegard's recipes were taken and adapted by the author, who is a lay oblate of St. Benedict [Hildegard's order] and also a chef.  Other recipes in the book are merely "inspired" by St. Hildegard's dietary principles, using some ingredients which were unknown in 12th century Germany.

As I was flipping through and looking over the recipes, I often said to myself, "geez - I'd need to go on a foraging expedition through a meadow to get some of these ingredients!".  Like, where am I supposed to come across things like hyssop, fiddleheads, and galingale?  Not in the grocery store....

For that reason,  this book would mostly appeal to people who like simple dishes, but are willing to scout out uncommon or adventurous ingredients.

Anyways, I found a recipe that intriqued me: Cookies That Bring Joy.  According to St. Hildegard, "they will reduce bad humors, enrich the blood, and fortify the nerves....They may help remove hate from the heart, assure good intelligence...and give one a joyful spirit."  Well, alright!

The book says that they are traditionally baked on her feast day, September 16th.  Dang!  I had missed it by less than two weeks.  I was bummed to lose such a perfect opportunity to try out that recipe.  But then I happened to hear that St. Hildegard was being named a Doctor of the Church yesterday.  Perfect occasion to make her cookies!

St. Hildegard's big thing is spelt, a species of wheat which she claimed to be better for you than the regular type.  When I had decided to make the cookies, I wanted them to be authentic.  So I had to head out to the local food co-op to pick up some spelt flour (I got the whole-grain kind, assuming that's what Hildegard would have used).

The cookies were pretty flat (too much butter, St. Hildegard!!), but tasty.  They are flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves (which she says are all "spices that bring joy", and I have to say I'd agree with that).  The spelt gave them that whole-wheaty taste, so they reminded me of a healthy version of a gingersnap.  The friends who tasted them yesterday seemed to enjoy them.  Tom liked them enough to request that I make them again.  But maybe that was just the joyful spirit talking.

This will be really simple.  Just leave a comment on this post to enter.  On Friday, I will pick one person at random.  That lucky reader will win a gift from Catholic Family Gifts (either this cookbook, or something else if you prefer).  MAKE SURE TO CHECK BACK, because if you win, I'll need you to contact me with more information!

Friday, October 5, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 19)

Every time I make rice, I SWEAR afterwards that I'll never ever ever serve it to a toddler again.

because look what happens!!
 I make it in a rice steamer, so it's always very very sticky.  It's impossible to sweep up.  For days afterwards, I'm constantly pulling little grains of it off the bottoms of my feet.

And yet...I continue cooking it, always telling myself, "maybe it will be ok this time"  (but no, it never is).

Last week, we went to see replicas of Columbus' ships, the Nina (too lazy to figure out how to do the little accent over the 'n') and the Pinta.  It was pretty cool to have the city skyline in the background.

love my Moby wrap!  Also, see!  Pittsburgh DOES get blue skies sometimes!

One of my uncles, knowing that I'm "really religious", occasionally gives me Catholic items that he inherited from my grandparents (holy cards, medals, etc.).  Last time I saw him, he gave me a full holy water bottle which is labeled "St. Anne Water".  No one in the family has a clue what it is or where it came from.  The best I can come up with (through a Google search, of course), is that perhaps it came from this well?  If anyone else has a better idea, please do let me know.

Unfortunately, I have terrible teeth.  I have had 30 cavities (yes, that's more cavities than I have teeth in my mouth.  I swear I do brush my teeth regularly!), two root canals, and a couple crowns.  Ugh.  I have never once gone to the dentist and had them tell me "everything looks good!".

So when I went there earlier this week, I pretty much expected something to be wrong...but not this.  Okay, a little backstory first: during this past pregnancy, I didn't really have any cravings for a particular food.  Instead, it was for ice.  I munched on ice constantly throughout the last trimester.  I'm sure the 90+ degree weather and our stifling hot house contributed to my desire for something so satisfyingly cold.  But apparently (so says my scandalized dentist), it is VERY BAD to chew on ice.  And by doing this, I managed to break two of my teeth.  And now both have cavities (underneath the old fillings that were already there).  And my dentist wants to put crowns on them, which I am told insurance is unlikely to pay for.  Awesome.

I got invited to a bridal shower recently.  The invitation was very well-done and obviously took a lot of effort to put together.  But I was surprised to see that it asked guests to send in their RSVP *by text* to the bride's mother.  Whoa.  That is the first time - but I'm sure not the last - I have seen that.  The times, they are a-changin'...

Ohhhhh yeah!  Look what I finally got to try!

Raw milk!  I've read so many good things about it, and have been wanting to get some for a long time.  But last year, I was having a heck of a time finding any for sale (I guess there are a lot of legal issues surrounding it).  Once I finally knew where to buy some, I was pregnant again, and it's recommended that you not drink it while pregnant, because your immunity is down and you have a higher risk of getting sick.  Ha - I'm really doing a great job selling people on this stuff, huh?  Anyways, just Google "raw milk" (which means that it's unpasteurized) if you're curious to know it's many supposed benefits.

I've been wondering how if it would taste different.  It's very rich.  Though it's whole milk, so that's to be expected.  But there was another quality to the "richness" that's hard to explain.  It reminded me of malted milk - it had a sweetness with a lot of "body" to it, if that makes sense.  There was a definite flavor there that's not present in regular store-bought milk.  But I can't say for sure if that's due to the fact that this milk is unpasteurized, or because it comes from cows which are exclusively grass-fed (which I doubt to be the case with other milk I drink).

Stella got pooped on by a bird the other day!  I'm not even sure when it happened.  It could only have been during the five second walk from the car to the house.  The worst part, though, is that I didn't even notice it for several hours!  She was sleeping in the car seat when I brought her in.  I wasn't foolish enough to want to wake her up, so I just set the seat on the floor.  Three hours later when I decided I should get her up to feed her, I noticed the milky white goop all over her left cheek and arm, and the inside of the carseat.  Oooops.

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary