Saturday, April 25, 2009

So Busy...

...Cecilia, that is. We haven't really been too busy... maybe busy at home: lots of baking projects, lots of preparing for LLL of Georgia's upcoming parenting and breastfeeding conference, lots of outside time and gardening, lots of praying for Elizabeth (my new niece, born prematurely at 1 lb. 5 oz. and 12 inches long but doing remarkably well considering her small size - any prayers for the family are much appreciated!).

But Cecilia - she is busy, busy, busy. She is loving exploring the house - so much more than Caroline did at this age. She empties cabinets in the bathrooms. She carries toys and other items around the house. She hides her sippy cup in the Tupperware cabinet. We find diapers in the bathtub (clean diapers, don't worry!) and toys in the laundry baskets. Today, she was up on the hearth playing in the gravel under the gas logs in the fireplace. She carries containers around the house and tries to put objects inside them.

She got into the pantry the other day and found the box of raisins. She took the package out of the box and replaced it with one of Caroline's cats (proudly proclaiming, "Gat!!! Gat!!!" as she carried the forbidden treasure around the house). Then she removed the sticker label that is used to seal the raisin package... and where do stickers belong? Worn on shirts, of course - so she carefully adhered it to her shirt.

We took the two busy girls to the park for dinner on Thursday. They played and ate, and played some more. Cecilia was too busy to eat much at all. She had fun wandering out into the volleyball court. I showed her how to use a stick to make lines in the sand, and she spent the next ten minutes wandering around the sand, poking the stick into the sand in various spots.

You can see that she got a "real" sticker on her shirt later in the day... the lady at the door at Sam's gave her this one. She certainly howled in disappointment when I took off her raisin sticker and put it back on the raisin package!

She likes the park swings better than our swing at home (of course). She wanted to stay in it a long time... maybe because she could slouch forward in this one? Or maybe because she was tired from her restless, short nap that she had on this day!

One of the moments of stillness in the busy life of this toddler...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Caroline's Baptism Anniversary - April 17

Celebrating our children's baptism anniversary is a tradition I would like to begin in our family.  We hadn't done it before this year.  Caroline's baptism was on April 17, 2005.  We made a pound cake and then frosted it with homemade whipped cream.

Caroline suggested I write on the cake using a toothpick - so I wrote "Caroline's Baptism Day" and even though it didn't show up all that well, the words were there, and that is all that mattered to Caroline!

We set the table in white... we had already used our white tablecloth for Easter on Wednesday when we had our seminarian over for dinner.  We also set out the white china and got out Caroline's baptismal candle, which we lit before our prayer at dinner.  Then we had her blow it out shortly thereafter, knowing that we shouldn't leve it lit too long if we are going to be lighting it every year!

Caroline found this flower randomly growing behind a pine tree in our yard and picked it to bring in to use as a centerpiece.

We were lucky that Caroline's godfather (my brother) and his wife were able to come for dinner.  In the future, I may have a bowl of holy water on the table and have everyone use it to make the sign of the cross as a reminder of our own baptisms.  I was excited to begin this new family tradition for our children!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter 2009

We went to my parents' house on Holy Saturday to spend Easter there. My brother Tim was there, and my brother Mike and his wife were able to come for dinner Saturday evening, so we got to have a nice big family celebration.

I brought the ingredients for Resurrection Rolls, which Caroline and I prepared on Saturday to be eaten with Sunday breakfast.

Basic whole wheat bread dough, melted butter, cinnamon/sugar mixture, and large marshmallows... after making the bread dough and letting it rise, the rest is very simple!

First, Caroline took a marshmallow and dipped it into the melted butter and rolled it in the cinnamon/sugar. The marshmallow represents Jesus's body, and the butter and cinnamon/sugar represent the oil and spices used for burial.

Here's Caroline dipping while I wrap an already-dipped marshmallow in dough. The dough represents the tomb in which Jesus's body was placed.

Caroline had remembered this from last year and was very excited to make resurrection rolls again for this Easter! She had gone to my mom's preschool with her, Daddy, and Uncle Tim to play on the playground while Daddy looked at a computer problem my mom was having, and she got back just in time to help finish making the resurrection rolls.

Here they are before baking, each representing the sealed tomb. We baked them and then let them cool and set them aside for the next morning.

On to the next Easter preparation activity - egg dyeing! We learned a lesson here to not let Uncle Tim mix up the egg dyes. We had two separate kits, and he read the directions for both - which were identical. Both called for a quarter cup of vinegar and then 3/4 cup warm water. Well, I don't quite know what he was thinking, but first he put two tablets in each cup (he later said, "Hey, at least I tried to match up the colors!"). Then he filled each one with a whole cup of vinegar until he got to the fourth cup and announced, "Mom, we're out of vinegar!" So, the yellow dye is of the correct proportions, and the pink dye is only water, no vinegar.

Somehow, they still turned out okay!

Caroline is wearing an apron my mom put on her to try to protect her clothes from the dye. Yes, it does look like a Christmas apron.

We wrote names on the eggs with the "magic crayon" that was included with one of the kits. Caroline and Tim dipped each egg and then pulled them out to reveal what was written.

Another fun project: Caroline and her Aunt Crystal worked on a craft that she and Uncle Mike had given Caroline for her birthday. It is a little duck made of foam that has a plastic egg in the center. She made another one they gave her that was a bunny, and she saved this one to bring to make with Aunt Crystal.

See the Coke bottle, sitting there taunting Tim and me on the last day of Lent? We both gave up Coke for Lent.

Easter dinner, a day early - since Mike and Crystal could be there on Saturday evening, we had our big meal then... lamb chops with a mint sauce, homemade macaroni and cheese, and green beans. Yum! The middle seat is Caroline's - a placemat to protect the tablecloth and a non-nice chair (one without a fabric seat).

Dessert - I can't remember what my mom said it was called, but it was made of an angel food cake that was cut up and then molded back together in a bundt pan with some kind of lemon cream, and then the whole thing was covered in whipped cream. Mmmmm...

Our after-meal drinks, lemoncello mixed with sparkling water and a few blueberries. Supposedly this drink "cleanses the pallette" after dinner. We had it before/with our dessert and enjoyed it very much!

After finally getting Cecilia to sleep - a few tired hours later! - I assembled the Easter baskets. To get Cecilia back, all she got was one little board book ;-P No, really, does a one year old need a huge Easter basket full of junk? I only got her a basket so she could hold it for photos the next day anyway! Caroline's basket contains a chocolate cross, a book about the Easter story, and some "Backpack Cat" band-aids. The flowers are actually covering one of the stick crosses that we made on Good Friday - I hid the one we had made with Jesus on it and put out this one covered in flowers (which had all fallen off by morning and I quickly replaced - oops). Behind both baskets is a cute book from 1939 called The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.

Caroline tears apart a resurrection roll at breakfast on Easter morning to find that the tomb is now empty!! The marshmallow melts away, leaving a hollow center in each roll. Jesus has risen!!!

Yum!! The cinnamon makes these a perfect breakfast roll. For the overly-observant, yes, Caroline is wearing the same shirt as the day before... it is because she wet the bed and so we just put the previous day's shirt on her for breakfast before changing her into her Easter dress. I am sure she will one day appreciate me sharing this with the world, but I didn't want anybody to think that my kids wear the same clothes for days at a time. ;)

We went to Mass in the parish school cafeteria - there were two Masses at 10 and one at 10:15. We chose the one in the cafeteria because we thought it'd be more kid-friendly (more space for Cecilia if I had to take her out in the school hallways), we liked the priest saying that Mass, and the music in the church tends to be a bit on the slow side (read: funeral march slow), which isn't the joyous Easter music that we'd expect. Tim served at that Mass, although that wasn't a reason we went to it - he chose to do so once we decided which Mass to attend. Cecilia did really well, and I was able to stay in the cafeteria for nearly all of the Mass and hear all of the homily - a rarity lately! Father made an announcement right before Communion about making a "spiritual communion" and how that was appropriate for certain situations such as those who have been away from the Church for awhile and were therefore not properly disposed to receive Holy Communion. It was so well-said, and so true... and so refreshing to hear a priest giving proper instruction to his flock on this matter!

After Mass, the girls posed for pictures in my parents' front yard... well, Cecilia wouldn't hold still, so they wandered around a bit while I tried to snap photos.

The Easter basket is almost too big for her, but she handled it quite well! Caroline's Easter basket was mine as well as my mom's when we were children. I should have let Cecilia hold it for a picture too... oh, well.

Her dress was given to my mom by a mother at her preschool who owns a children's boutique consignment store. It was so pretty, all white with the pink smocking at the top.

Caroline stood still to pose, and I got a couple shots where she wasn't making a goofy face. Her dress had a little white sweater with navy trim that tied in the front, but she insisted that it was now too warm to wear it outside in the pictures.

The dress is still really cute anyway - I was very lucky to find it at a consignment sale, brand-new, for $6!

Here's Caroline hunting for eggs. Grampa is the official egg-hider in my family, and so he was recruited to do it for Caroline too. I had brought twelve eggs to hide... each with a special surprise inside!

Caroline opened the eggs, which were numbered 1-12, in chronological order once she had found them all and brought them into the sunroom. These are no ordinary Easter eggs... they are Resurrection Eggs! Inside each egg is a symbol that goes along with the Easter story, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with the Resurrection of Jesus.

The eggs contain: a piece of palm for Palm Sunday, a piece of cloth with perfume on it for Mary bathing Jesus's feet in expensive perfume, a piece of bread for the Last supper, three dimes for the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas, a cross made of toothpicks, thorny stems from a rosebush to depict the crown of thorns, dice for the lots being cast to divide Jesus's garments, a nail for the crucifixion, a piece of sponge for the sponge with vinegar offered to Jesus, a few whole cloves for the spices to prepare Jesus's body for burial, a small angel figure (can also use a rock for this symbolizing the stone being rolled back from the tomb), and last... nothing! the twelfth egg is empty because Jesus is no longer in the tomb, but has risen from the dead!

Caroline was able to figure out most of the symbols herself, and she showed them to Uncle Tim as she told the Easter story. I helped her out with the few she didn't recognize - for instance, we hadn't talked about the soldiers dividing Jesus's garments by rolling dice. She enjoyed recognizing the symbols and using them to retell the story. The Wednesday following Easter, we had our seminarian over for dinner, and Caroline was very excited to show him the Resurrection Eggs. Since she went on and on about Jesus and church while he was here, we had to tell him that she wasn't just showing off for him - talking about our Catholic faith is one of her favorite topics! I guess it is a big enough part of our lives that Caroline really explores it through her play often.

Our parting Easter shot - the dyed eggs. See, they really didn't turn out too bad somehow! We enjoyed them as egg salad on spinach tortillas for our Easter Day lunch. Egg salad for lunch was always a tradition in my family on Easter - we would hunt for the eggs first and then turn them into egg salad.

We had a wonderful Triduum and Easter Sunday and hope everyone else did, too! And remember, Easter is not over! the celebration continues for fifty days! We are trying to come up with some ideas for continuing the celebration... we bought this sticker countdown for the fifty days of Easter and are using it. If anyone else has some ideas for celebrating the fifty days of Easter, feel free to share!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday 2009

A blessed God Friday to everyone. For today, we are staying at home. Caroline expressed a desire to go to the Stations of the Cross at our church at 3:00 today, followed by Veneration of the Cross, but I didn't think that was the wisest idea for me to take her and Cecilia by myself. When we have attended the Stations in the evenings throughout Lent, it has been do-able since Chris came then. Let's just say that Cecilia isn't quite as, ah, riveted by the Stations as her big sister. We'd end up in the vestibule for most of it, I am sure, which would be disappointing to Caroline since she would have to come with me. So, we are having out own Good Friday observances here at home. Caroline watched a bit of the Good Friday service from the Vatican on EWTN streaming video this morning... and for the next hour, I got to listen to her own rendition of Latin chanting, ha ha. Is my child speaking in tongues??? Maybe we will do our own Stations here this afternoon using Caroline's Stations of the Cross box.

Yesterday, we made hot cross buns, which are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. I wanted them to be ready to reheat and eat for breakfast the next morning. Fitting this in with the day of fasting has been interesting. Of course, my girls are not obligated to observe the fast until they are 14 years old, so Caroline has eaten quite a few hot cross buns today! For me, I am doing a modified fast, since I am breastfeeding. I have had 2 hot cross buns for both breakfast and lunch, along with a half cup of yogurt at breakfast and a part of a banana (Cecilia ate/played with the rest of it!) at lunch.

Caroline helped shape the dough into balls as we chanted (over and over and over):

Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns
One a penny, two a penny
Hot Cross Buns
If your daughters won't eat them, give them to your sons
One a penny, two a penny
Hot Cross Buns

If I stopped chanting after going through the song three or four times, Caroline would ask, "Is that the end, Mommy?" "Well, it's only the end if you want it to be,"was my response. Oops. We went on and on and on...

Caroline really liked the icing part, of course. They were supposed to be iced 15 minutes after being removed from the oven - according to the recipe, too hot and the icing will run off, and too cool and the icing won't stick. Well, our icing ran off a bit, but not too badly. This recipe came from my new favorite whole grains cookbook - same place I got the pretzel recipe - and they were excellent! I think the raisins soaked in a tablespoon of rum really made these stand out!

Caroline was excitedly waiting for the buns to cool enough so she could try one! I figured we could have one or two on Holy Thursday and save the rest for Good Friday. I always like to try baked goods fresh from the oven, but honestly, these tasted just as good reheated in the microwave today! That is not typical in my experience with whole wheat breads. these were about half whole wheat and half unbleached white flour.

I ordered a book about Lent for Caroline several weeks ago from Amazon, and it still hasn't shown up. Fortunately, the Easter books I ordered for her and Cecilia have arrived, ready to be put in their baskets for Easter Sunday. But, the My First Catechism book did arrive yesterday, so we read through some of it while we enjoyed our afternoon snack of hot cross buns. When we got to a part about Jesus's death, Caroline said, "Look - here is a part about Lent!"

Yesterday, Caroline came up with the idea on her own to make some crosses out of sticks. So we collected some sticks in the yard in the afternoon and saved them for today. While we were collecting sticks, Caroline also decided to make Jesus on the cross. She was very creative and found a rock for his head, a thick stick for his body, and smaller sticks for arms and legs. She even found a thin pine tree twig that was bristly and wanted to use it for the crown of thorns. So this morning, we used the glue gun to assemble it. Caroline wanted to have her Mary figure nearby, as you can see in the photo. We will use this crucifix today and place it on our table or maybe the china cabinet, and then maybe we will hang it on the wall later to just use as a wall-hanging crucifix.

Perhaps on Easter morning, I will replace this crucifix with one of the plain crosses we made (pictured at the very top of this post) adorned with flowers! Maybe this will make the resurrection more impressive in Caroline's mind (as she is quite fascinated with the death part currently!).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Definitions by Caroline - Candy

"We made a nest and put eggs in it, and then we put in one of those puff birds."

"Look Mommy - these are S & S's!" (while eating her first Skittles ever)
[That should probably say "Ses" rather than using the apostrophe, but gosh, that just looks weird and is hard to read!]

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Pictures for Holy Week

At the right, you see a cross - the crucifixion. Mary is the figure in the center. The lines coming down out of her eyes are tears. There are also clouds and another crying person... perhaps it is John. Caroline did not elaborate on that part when she was telling me about her drawing.

Another crucifixion drawing, this time in black and not quite so detailed as the first.

Caroline has been quite interested in Jesus's death. Being Catholic, she has been exposed to crucifixes from a very young age. it is hard to decide how much to explain to her... we have a few children's Easter books, and she hears a lot during Mass (I am amazed at how well this child listens in church - I sure wasn't like that even at an older age! After Mass, she can often tell briefly what the homily was about, even.). Right now, she gets that Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins and that he rose from the dead and is now in Heaven.

I suppose her drawings are her way of exploring it all...

Ant Farm Update

The ants have been hard at work! I took photos at three separate times this past week to try to get a progression of the work the ants had done. I waited a little too long before taking these first photos, I think. The photo above shows how the habitat looks with the lights shining through it.

Here are the ants working in the bottom corner. They really cleared it out and made more than just a tunnel in that area.

The tunnels down the right side are pretty interesting... I wonder what possesses them to make these particular patterns when they are tunneling?

The above two photos were taken a few days after the first two. In this one, you can see the ants working on a new tunnel.

Here you can see that tunnel completed. They pretty much stopped tunneling after that... maybe they are now satisfied with their work?

They have been congregating at the bottom left corner where they made their cave - I guess it's like their little secret room. Wonder what they're plotting in there? They certainly do hang out there a lot now that they aren't really tunneling... guess they don't have much else to do! Some of them have been working at the surface though, making some paths through the bits of gel that they had deposited up there from when they dug out the tunnels initially.

They are certainly interesting to watch! And I have been surprised at how they aren't dying much at all - we just lost a few at the beginning, and they have all been plugging away just fine for a couple weeks now. I think the gel has some kind of property that helps to prevent disease, so that probably helps. I guess it's not quite like they would be if they were in a real anthill outside somewhere.