Sunday, June 30, 2013

Celebrating the Liturgical Year: July

I was so proud of myself the other night, because I actually sat down with a calendar and a bunch of books, determined to plan out different ways we could celebrate and recognize the various holy days and saints' feasts over the next month.  I have a number of good books on this topic, so I thought it'd be pretty easy to map out some good plans (certain traditional foods to make for dinner or dessert, a good decorating or craft idea that was relevant to the saint of the day, special prayers to use, etc.).  Turns out, it's not as easy as I expected.  Or maybe July is just a little sparse on big feast days.

Since we attend the traditional Latin Mass, we observe the traditional liturgical calendar in our home as well.  You may notice that certain feasts I mention below are on different days than you are used to.


Here were some of the tools I had spread out in front of me:

2013 Traditional Liturgical Calendar, The Seraphim Company

Butler's Lives of the Saints Vol. III, Thurston and Atwater version - by far the best version of Butler's, and it follows the old calendar.  It's hard to put down once you pick it up - the stories are fascinating!

St. Andrew's Daily Missal (1953)

Around the Year with the Trapp family, Maria Von Trapp - I've mentioned this book a number of times.  I absolutely can't say enough good about it.  A wonderful source for how to observe the feasts and fasts of the Church.

The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living: A Loving Look at the Lighter Side of Catholic Faith, with Recipes for Feasts and Fun , John zmirak and Denise Matychowiak- very amusing book, with some real and some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for celebrating the Catholic year.  Follows the new calendar, though, so a little more flipping around to find what I needed.

Feast Day Cookbook; The Traditional Catholic Feast Day Dishes of Many Lands - I've mentioned this one before as well.  Good source of information and recipes (though some are a bit "dated" in terms of ingredients).

 The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day - This book came highly recommended by several blogs and by Amazon ratings.  I haven't read enough of it to give a recommendation either for or against.

The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation - this book sounded pretty promising, but I find that there's not a lot of "meat" to it, and a lot of suggestions for activities are only vaguely Catholic and/or kinda corny.
Some good online sources for these sorts of things: Shower of Roses and Catholic Icing


Here are some ideas I've come up with so far, for some of the days that stuck out to me.  I was hoping for more ideas leaning towards the "food and crafts" style of celebrating.  But for most of the days, it's going to end up just reading something aloud.  That's good too, I suppose.

July 1 - Most Precious Blood of Our Lord
Have friends over for dinner of red meat and red wine, and pray the Litany of The Most Precious Blood.
The whole month of July is dedicated to the Precious Blood, so this would be an appropriate prayer to use on any day.

July 2 - Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This is one of the joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, so I suggested to Tom that maybe we pray that particular decade of the Rosary.  He decided we should be more ambitious and say a whole Rosary instead.  But it seems weird to use the Joyful Mysteries on a Tuesday (which is usually for the Sorrowful Mysteries).  Can you mix and match??  Maybe we should just pray (sing?) the Magnificat instead.

July 4 - American Independence Day (not actually in the Catholic Calendar!)
Prayer for Government (because they could really use it)

July 8 - St. Elizabeth Queen of Portugal
Read her story in Lives of the Saints since it's pretty inspiring, and read Proverbs 31:10-31 which is part of the Mass Propers for her feast day.

July 14 - St. Kateri Tekakwitha (technically not in the traditional calendar, since she was only recently canonized).
Read a story about her life?  It's also St. Bonaventure's feast day, who would be good to learn more about.

July 16 - Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Maybe just tell Sly the story of this apparition.  He already knows about scapulars, since Tom and I wear them, and he recognizes St. Simon Stock, as he appears on the back of Tom's scapular.  We could also eat caramels, even though it's a *little* cheesy :-)

July 22 - St. Mary Magdalen

July 25 - St. James the Apostle
His symbol is the cockleshell (which has become the symbol for pilgrims), and shellfish are traditionally eaten for his feast day.  I think they're all pretty gross, we might substitute shrimp.  I know, it's kind of a stretch. He's the patron of Spain...what's a type of Spanish food?

July 26 - St. Anne Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary
She is patroness of homemakers and mothers (among many other people).  She is definitely a Saint I can benefit from.  I'm still looking for a good way to celebrate her feast.  The Feast Day cookbook suggests cooking in the style of Brittany (in France), since there is a strong devotion to her there. hmm...not sure what that might be.  Perhaps we can do something with that mysterious bottle of "St. Anne water" my uncle gave us.

July 29 - St. Martha
Another patroness of housewives.  I would like to read her story in the Gospels.  Perhaps I could serve a dinner of savory soup and some good crusty bread (which I like to think is similar to the meal she made when Christ came to visit). 


We'll see how this month goes.  I think Tom and I both benefit spiritually from these kinds of observances, and it might even teach Sly a little something.  Ideally, over time, it will become as natural to take note of the day's feast and act accordingly as it is to take note of the fact of it being "Tuesday" or "Friday", and perform the activities or errands proper to that day of the week.

I am more than open to hearing other suggestions!

Friday, June 21, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 30)

Stella finally started crawling a couple weeks ago.  Crawling babies are the most adorable!  But I forgot how much trouble they get into.  She's already begun making messes and getting into things she shouldn't (cabinets, bookshelves, trash cans).  We had to put up the baby gates again to block off stairs and the (often open) front door. I hate having to constantly step over them.  It's doubly frustrating, though, because they trap Sly in various rooms as well, and I'm always having to go lift him over.  [update: Tom installed one with a swinging gate at the top of the main stairs, and it's made things much nicer!]

I also forgot how babies have the impressive ability to find the tiniest (and often grossest) little things imaginable on the floor.  I'm constantly pulling wads of shed cat fur out of Stella's mouth.  And the other day, I found her chewing on a piece of Christmas tinsel in the living room.  I haven't seen any trace of tinsel since January!  How does she manage to find these things?


Recently I was reading through some entries from an online journal I used to keep.  Complaining about my anthropology class during my freshman year of college, I said: "I honestly feel like the smartest person in the class.  And the sad part is that this isn't just me being's true.  I have no respect for anyone who majors in this ridiculously easy subject." [I know, I was kinda a jerk]  The funny thing is, at the same time I wrote this, I was becoming friends with this guy Tom, an anthropology major, and my future husband.  Haha!  We had a pretty good laugh over that.


I've mentioned several times that I'd like our family to start observing the Liturgical year better - celebrating many of the feasts and fasts of the Church.  I have been completely falling down on the job.  But at an antique store recently, I picked up a little gem that I'm hoping will inspire me to at least start planning a few more meals around the Church calendar:

I looked it up on Amazon, and it's actually been reprinted.  That's great, because it means more people will be able to find a copy.  I've only read bits and pieces so far, but I would recommend it!


I do almost all my stovetop cooking in cast-iron now.  It truly cooks the best.  One problem I've run into is that our cast iron frying pans do not have lids. In the past, when I needed one, I would borrow a lid from a pot.  But this never provided a tight enough seal for foods such as rice, which depend on steam to cook.  The other day, I came up with what I like to think is a pretty clever solution.  I used our sil-pats (silicone baking mats) to cover the pan.  They are designed for use in the oven, so the heat was definitely not a problem.  And they're so flexible that they bend to cover the pan perfectly!

An item which would probably work even better - and which I have had my eye on for a while [hint, hint, Tom!!] - is one of these silicone bowl covers.


I *finally finished* the cross-stitch I have been working on for my best friend's wedding....which happened a year ago now.   I was working on that thing for two and a half years.  If I was ever skeptical about the effectiveness of having young girls of the past create needlework samplers as a way to learn patience, dedication, industry....I no longer have any doubt that it worked!  Now I just need to frame it, which I am definitely going to do under glass, because if stain, dust, or moth ever go near this thing, I will cry.

Obviously, edited for privacy.  The pattern for the border comes from this book, and the center part I charted out myself.

Thanks to everyone who suggested some books for my Catholic Moms reading group last time!  At the suggestion of several people, we will soon be reading My Sisters the Saints.


I read an article the other day that discusses the problem of contraception, and how the Church should work to combat it.  It does such an excellent job of explaining why NFP - while sometimes acceptable - is not the answer.  Instead, it is the promotion of "heroic parenthood."  I've touched on some of these issues here and here, but this author lays it out so much better than I could.  Read it here: Heroic Parenthood
[note: this article is a pdf, so you might be prompted to download it in order to read it].

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Week in Feminine Dress

I recently participated in the "Week in Feminine Dress" challenge on The Catholic Lady, run by my friend Colette.  If you're looking for inspiration in dressing in a feminine, elegant, and modest way, her blog is a good place to start!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Militant Breastfeeding

I've breastfed both my children, and plan to do the same for any children I might have in the future.  There was never any question that I would choose breastfeeding as the way to nourish my babies.  Why pay money for an inferior food source, when my body makes a great one for free?

I've never read books about breastfeeding, or taken classes about how to do other words, I never took it up as an an important "issue" to support or to spread the good news about (as I've done for other mommy topics like cloth diapers or using a doula).  It was just the natural thing for me to do as a mother, like most of my ancestors before me have surely done.
I understand that it's not always easy or possible for women to breastfeed, and I don't spend time worrying about the decisions of other women on feeding their babies (breast or bottle?  on-demand or by schedule?  mother-led or child-led weaning?, etc.).  Because, well, it doesn't really affect me or my kids personally.  I trust that most mothers love their kids, and do what they believe is best.

I don't get rapturous about ("the womanly art of") breastfeeding, calling it "beautiful" or focusing extensively on the special bond it produces between mother and child (although I wouldn't disagree with those who do).

But when it comes to breastfeeding in public - in other words, when it comes to allowing other people to be aware that you feed your baby in just the way that nature intended - my feelings seem to become more and more militant as time goes on.
I have to be in the company of other people sometimes, and I have to bring my kids with me.  If the baby is hungry, I need to feed her.  This should not be a problem.  And yet many people find the sight of a woman breastfeeding to be indecent, disgusting, or at least inconsiderate.  Despite the fact that they probably don't actually see any of the breast (unless perhaps they're looking really closely, or watching for a long time), some people become uncomfortable with the idea of a woman nursing a baby anywhere near them.
So while I am absolutely not the type of person to ever be in the vanguard of controversial public displays, I find myself trying more and more to muster up the courage to breastfeed in public without a nursing cover.

...but still discreetly, of course!  I'm not trying to offend.  I'm just trying to show, through my comfort and naturalness, that feeding a hungry baby with that food which is perfectly designed for human babies is a completely normal and sensible thing.  I don't want to give the appearance of being ashamed of something which is in no way shameful.

I am fully in support of these basic facts: Breastfeeding is natural.  Breastfeeding is the normal and ideal way of feeding babies.  Breasts exist for the purpose of feeding babies.
I am interested in digging a little more into the history of when these obvious truths started to seem...not so obvious.  It is clear that a big part of the problem today is that breasts have become so incredibly sexualized, that people have trouble conceiving of them in another way.  And most of the negatives reactions against breastfeeding mother aren't actually concerned with the exposed flesh or "immodesty."  Rather, it is because she is using her breast in a way which is not sexual or objectifying.

These cartoons sum up what I mean perfectly:

It's perfectly acceptable to many people to be subjected to barely-concealed breasts in every ad, commercial, and personal encounter throughout the day...but present them with an image of a mother feeding her child - probably revealing much less naked breast, if any at all - and suddenly, they act disgusted and offended?  It's not the breast itself, it's what the breast is being used for.

I do have a fondness for images of the nursing Madonna.  But this has less to do with seeing Mary portrayed as the ideal of Motherhood, and more to do with the very humanity shown in this most basic of acts.


Some bits and pieces I've gathered about breastfeeding trends in the past 200 years:

In Europe throughout most of the 1800s, women who could afford to sent their babies to a wet nurse.  St. Therese (French) and all her sisters were raised this way, and their parents would only see theie babies on occasional visits.

In America, breastfeeding by the child's own mother has always been more common.

Towards the middle of the 19th century and through much of the Victorian Era, strong ideals of a "cult of domesticity" and a very specific and separate "sphere" for women developed.  Rather than working alongside a husband doing the tasks required to run the property, women were left alone to manage the homes and regulate family life, while husbands went out to work in an office or a factory.  Nursing one's own children became an important aspect of proving your worth as a woman and a mother.  Recently, the Daily Mail published a series of old photographs (actually, daguerreotypes) of women breastfeeding babies from the mid 1800s.  Even in an age of much stricter ideals of modesty (wait, do we even still have ideals on modesty?), breastfeeding was not only considered an acceptable practice, but one to be lauded.

The first formulas came out in the 1860s, and by the turn of the century, formula feeding had become considered more socially proper, and was the norm for those who could afford it.  [did the woman's movement have some influence in this shift?  That's something to look into]

By the 1950s, only 20% of women breastfed, most of them poor or non-white.

During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a movement, started largely in the "hippie" community back towards breastfeeding (as well as natural birth).

And today, it has become in some ways the "trendy" thing to do, especially among white women and the upper-middle class (almost three-quarters of whom breastfeed, at least for some time).  It's essentially the opposite of the pattern in the 50s.

With many mothers in the workforce today, pumping and storing milk has become more common, as have special areas at the workplace designed for privacy while pumping.

Feel free to fill in any gaps in this rough timeline, because I find this to be a very interesting social and historical topic for study!


But again, it doesn't matter if all of society is doing whatever the trendy thing is in regards to breastfeeding or not.

Women have breasts.  Breasts make milk.  Milk feeds babies.  

Just let me feed my baby when I need to without calling me gross or indecent!  Geez, it's hard enough already to be a mother.

Monday, June 10, 2013

American Girl Dolls ain't what they used to be

Last night, my aunt gave Stella one of the greatest gifts ever for a little girl: a Samantha American Girl doll!  She too young to care about it yet, but if she's anything like I was as a child, she will love it in about seven more years!  My aunt had been given the doll for free by a young woman who had "never played with it at all" and didn't want it anymore.  Whaaaat?!  Better yet, I still have my Felicity doll from childhood - though she is certainly not as pristine as this new one -  so now Stella will have both (or, perhaps, her and a future sister will each have one).  I'm pretty excited about it. 

As someone who grew up poring over each American Girl catalog that came in the mail, reading the books, and memorizing each doll's details...imagine my shock and horror when I discovered that Felicity and Samantha don't even exist anymore.  In official AG lingo, they've been "archived."  Ugh.   As everyone knows, American Girl dolls are their many furnishings, outfits, and accessories are absolutely not cheap.  It's possible that - despite Stella's future inevitable begging - I may have decided not to invest further in Samantha or Felicity's "collections."  But I hate to know that they aren't even available anymore.  That was such a dream of my childhood!

And not only that, but since my own girlhood (in the early 90s), the "message" and focus of the company has really changed.  It used to be about getting girls interested in American history.  Encouraging them to read the stories, and engage with their heritage!  Girls would be able to relate to the doll as someone their own age, and imagine themselves dealing with the challenges of previous times.  Reading the stories of the original characters, and gazing longingly at the images of their beautiful accessories taught the eight-year-old me a fair amount about daily life in different periods of our nation's history.  And now that I think about it, may well have played a role in sparking my current interest in learning all about "daily life" in earlier time periods, especially the duties and roles of women.

One glance now at the American Girl catalogs or website, and it's clear that the focus and marketing has shifted to their "modern" dolls.  The dolls that can dress the exact same as you, and be specially made with your exact hair, skin, and face type.  The doll who will be your best friend/identical twin.  You can braid each other's hair and have sleepovers!!  Instead of reading about Felicity witnessing the stirrings of Revolution in Boston, Kirsten enduring a dangerous wagon trek across the country, or Addie being a slave, you can now read about girls who are just like you, facing the exact same boring modern "problems" as you do everyday. 

I see that Mattel bought the Pleasant Co. in  1998.  I am sure this is when the original intention of the dolls really started to go by the wayside.

Anyways, here are some articles which discuss this much more eloquently than I can:

Even More Terrible Things are Happening to the American Girl Doll Brand Than You Thought
American Girls Aren't Radical Anymore

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Where's Stella?

I might be taking the "Stella is my baby doll" thing a bit too far...

chilling with some of my mom's antique baby dolls

I stripped one of the dolls (not shown) to dress her in this outfit.  But it's actual vintage baby clothing.  We might have to go "shopping" in my mom's doll clothing next time Stella needs to dress up for something :-)