Tuesday, November 22, 2011

First haircut

Mudpuppy had his first haircut today...long overdue. Jaybird went first, so he could see that there was nothing to be afraid of. Here's how it went:

And here is how the girls look with their new, shorter hair...prompted in part by their desire to avoid all the tangles and hassle of brushing out long hair:

Aren't they cute?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some zingers from the kids...

Bear: "I really like praying the rosary. I'm thinking of founding a monastery devoted to praying the rosary, unless someone already thought of that idea."

*  *  *

As a family, we were reading and discussing the Sunday readings, including the iconic passage from Proverbs 31, on the virtues of a noble wife:

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

So after reading that, my husband begins: "So, kids, what we have here is the Bible's description of an ideal married woman: she is good, loving, works hard, gives to the poor, and is wise and thoughtful. Right? She is not--"

And the 11-year-old boy interjects, "Mom!"

*  *  *

Things Mudpuppy says:

"Ohhh! Okay!" -- You'd have to hear it to appreciate it; it's a long, exaggerated "oh,' the kind someone says when they finally realize something.

"whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!" -- Picked up from his older sister for anything that's too exciting for words.

A random act of kindness

Well, this blog is called Gracewatch, and I guess things don't get more grace-y than this. Now, how would you like to get a note like this one in your mailbox? Even better when there's a couple of gift cards taped to the other side! This note made my week, I think, and came at a time when I needed a little boost of inspiration about my parenting vocation. And really, mid-November in Minnesota, who doesn't need a little boost!

It also got me thinking about whoever sent it. We've done a little detective work using informal handwriting analysis but haven't narrowed the field down by much. But I was also thinking about how much the sender must have enjoyed doing this. Maybe this Advent we'll take this on as a family project -- dropping secret notes to people who deserve an extra boost. So, if you happen to find an anonymous note like this one in your mailbox anytime soon, it's probably just a secret surprise from us.

Wait a sec -- I shouldn't have said that, I guess...oh well...just pretend you didn't read this....

Being beacons of light!

Veterans Day

This past veteran's day, Mudpuppy and I went up to the Saint Mary's University Veterans Memorial for some quiet prayer observing the day. We were joined by a few friends. This has become something of an annual ritual since the memorial was erected. We prayed for all veterans...especially those we know personally, who are cherished friends and family members...and we prayed for peace, so that this little one and all children might never know the horror of war.

And we once again read the words of the Church, from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #497:
The Magisterium condemns “the savagery of war” and asks that war be considered in a new way. In fact, “it is hardly possible to imagine that in an atomic era, war could be used as an instrument of justice”. War is a “scourge” and is never an appropriate way to resolve problems that arise between nations, “it has never been and it will never be”, because it creates new and still more complicated conflicts. When it erupts, war becomes an “unnecessary massacre”, an “adventure without return” that compromises humanity's present and threatens its future. “Nothing is lost by peace; everything may be lost by war”. The damage caused by an armed conflict is not only material but also moral. In the end, war is “the failure of all true humanism”, “it is always a defeat for humanity”: “never again some peoples against others, never again! ... no more war, no more war!”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Of birthdays and various things

Well, it has been a long time since I last posted...it is insanely crazy around here, again...so here's a quick catch-up post.

The weather continues to be exceptionally mild (for the most part...we had snowflakes
in the air today)...extending the playground season.

I turned 42 on Nov. 7. A few nights earlier, Starling and I went out to eat in La Crosse (woo-hoo!), the first time we'd done that in years, due to Mudpuppy being so young. I went looking for a fancy-but-not-too-expensive restaurant and thought I found one in the Waterfront. I couldn't get their menus to come up, but another review said they were "reasonable," which turns out to be a relative term...as we found out. Everything was wonderful, from the service to the ambiance to the (truly amazing) food. Starling said she had the best scallops she'd ever tasted, which is saying something for a girl who grew up on the Eastern seaboard, and whose parents now live on the Gulf Coast. But I couldn't help feeling bad about the expense...what would St. Francis say???!!! Yikes. The penultimate "fancy restaurant" moment came when someone other than our server stopped at the table just to brush a few bread crumbs off the white linen tablecloth.

Isn't this just cute? It's a mousse something or other...note the little ice bridge
connecting the two berries...and that is a curl of pure chocolate on top. $9.
My favorite part of my birthday is getting homemade gifts from the kids, along with their kind words. Every year I say the same thing: "Do you know what my best present is? You!" Only this year when I said, "Do you know what my favorite present is?", the older kids said, "Yeah, yeah, us!" And I said, "No! These warm pajamas!" Ha ha, just kidding. The older ones are at that jokey stage. We ended the party with a big group hug.

Mouse and Jaybird with their paper airplanes.
The day of my actual birthday, the kids were off of school. Happy birthday, you get to watch the kids all day! Actually, they were very good -- they entertained themselves most of the day. They rediscovered paper airplanes, and spent hours making them and flying them, both indoors and outdoors.

And finally, before I turn in for the night, here is a bit from the kids' Fall Sharing Night:

Bear with the classroom salamander.

Mouse with an algebraic cube.

Jaybird demonstrating her mastery of terms for three-dimensional geometric objects.
She also demonstrated a word-matching work.

And here is Bear with his favorite work -- maps! Here he is working on placing
city names on a map of the Ukraine.
That's all for now!

Happy Halloween! And All Saints Day!

Well, this post is past due, but better late than never, right?

We celebrated All Saints Day before Halloween this year, since our church's ASD party was on the Sunday before Halloween. It was very similar to last year's format -- family folk dancing followed by a potluck and "guess the saint" costume contest -- so I won't repeat all of that here. This year, Mouse went as St. Elizabeth of Portugal, Bear went as St, Paul Miki, and Jaybird went as St. Julia Billiart. Another girl went as St. Julia the fourth century martyr, which took her by surprise. Mudpuppy went as Juan Diego, except he refused to wear the tilma that Starling made for him.

The girls made their own pumpkins, by themselves, this year.
 Halloween was little weird. We visited the Kensington again; that is my favorite part of the whole night. The residents dress up and sit behind tables in the dining room; the kids go along from table to table collecting treats while the residents smile and say nice things about them, always urging them to take more candy. I love seeing how happy it makes the residents when the kids visit. They especially liked little Mudpuppy, who went along in his little pumpkin costume, cautiously taking the candy -- and then trying to put it into the basket held out by the next resident in line, or taking more than one piece, not out of greed but because they're pretty. He was getting into the swing of it by the end!

We promised to stop by the Catholic Worker for dinner, but before we did, we swung by the parish rectory at the invitation of Fr. Jim, who loves M&Ms.

Yeah, this picture isn't the greatest, due to the dim light and
excited kids.
Then we headed over to the Catholic Worker, where we shared in sweet potato soup and black beans and rice, all of which the kids barely touched. That was weird because we ended up being the only guests (besides one other guest living in the house).

Then Jaybird wanted to stay for the Halloween party, so we left her at the Bethany House (the other house, where the party was -- not the house that we had dinner in). Several of the former live-in volunteers said they'd watch her. She carved pumpkins with one of her friends (a guest at the family house and a classmate from school), had lots of cake and brownies and cookies, and watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" on the front porch. She actually preferred that to trick-or-treating.

Jaybird with her friend at the party
That left Mouse and I to go around the neighborhood; Bear is "too old" at age eleven, so he stayed home and answered the door, and Mudpuppy had had it anyway. As usual, trick-or-treating in our neighborhood is part moveable block party -- a great way to reconnect with people we haven't seen since June (at the actual block party) as well as our older shut-ins. This year, Mouse went as a Snow Princess, which she had to explain to everyone, since she was wearing a long, blue gown. Also, she carried a ball that had a floating eyeball in it, and that lit up when you bounced it. She was very talkative with the neighbors, stopping to chat with everyone.

Our pumpkins. I especially
like the one on its side. Sadly,
they were nibbled on by
squirrels before we even lit them.

Despite working alone, Mouse managed to bring back quite a haul. At three pieces a day, they're still only halfway through it!