Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Pentecost!

We celebrated Pentecost this year by going to Mass with one of my brothers and his wife, with whom we had stayed over Saturday night. Then we came home and celebrated in our own domestic church...

Caroline and I had begun to prepare on Friday. One thing we did was to hang these doves above our dining room table. Caroline was so excited when I told her we were going to get out all the dove Christmas ornaments! "So, we can look at all the other Christmas ornaments, too?" I had read in several places about the idea of decorating with doves - the symbol of the Holy Spirit - and perhaps hanging them up from the ceiling. One thing I read suggested a wooden dove figure, to which I thought, "Where would one find a wooden dove? And how much would that cost??" Then I remembered - we had a few dove ornaments that would do very nicely. I think it would be really neat to collect more (my husband groans as he reads this, I am sure!) and have them hanging at different heights above the table... I think my light fixture could accommodate up to 12 total!

Three of the four doves we hung up were gifts from my godparents - they used to get me a Christmas ornament each year. This is one they gave me in 1996 (no, I didn't just remember this piece of trivia - I wrote the years on the boxes when I received them!).

They gave me this one as well, in 1993. It is one of my favorite Christmas ornaments of all... so simple and pretty.

They gave me this one at Christmas 1994. Cecilia particularly enjoyed this one last Christmas - the sparkly-ness was probably very attractive to her!

Here's the fourth dove ornament. It came with Chris when we got married, so I don't know the history behind it!

The hanging of the dove ornaments was the only idea here that I came up with partially on my own. The rest of the Pentecost ideas I cannot take any credit for at all!

Caroline is holding her completed Garden of the Good Shepherd. I saw this activity referenced on many other blogs, and then when I saw that it was on sale for just a couple dollars, I decided, why not? We'll do it this year! I see so many activities and think, "Oh, that will be fun to do in a few years..." So we did this one this year! It is an Easter countdown, with fifty stickers, one for each day of Easter. We put the final sticker on today - a dove surrounded by flames for Pentecost. Caroline was very excited to hold up the completed display! She was also sad that we were done with it... but it is able to be reused (at least, it is marketed as such!), so we will pull it out again for next Easter.

Caroline and I put together our decorations and other Pentecost preparations on Friday, because we were going to a birthday party an hour away on Saturday and from there to my brother and his wife's house to stay overnight. We made this fun Pentecost Mobile... I printed off some dove shapes and cut them out while Caroline cut out the spiral that I had drawn on some cardstock. Then she glued the doves to the spiral.

Cecilia really wants to feel like a part of things - she flips out if Caroline gets play-dough, makers, scissors, etc. and she does not. But she has to be contained... she will take crayons all over the house, so I put her in a booster with a tray. She doesn't do well with paper on this tray because it doesn't fit well, and she also doesn't understand about holding the paper steady with her other hand. So, since they are washable crayons, I just let her draw on the tray. It rubs right off with a damp paper towel. Unfortunately for Cecilia, she will not be drawing again any time soon... she ate the brown crayon. Well, she ate a bite, chewed it and spit it out, then took another bite... yuck.

Here's the finished product in action. Hanging under the fan, it really twirls well! The doves are supposed to be glued on facing down (oops), because then as the spiral twirls, the doves descend - like the Holy Spirit did, get it?

And here is our table on Pentecost Sunday, all set up under the doves. Caroline and I decorated while Chris and Cecilia went grocery shopping after our trip home from my brother's house. We put out the red tablecloth, since Pentecost's color is red... the priest wears red, and the church we visited this morning had a red altar cloth as well.

I couldn't get a great picture of it, but we also salvaged petals from our last remaining roses on our rose bush outside our house. We sprinkled them along the tablecloth - they are to symbolize the flames that rested above the apostles' heads. Can't remember where I read this idea... apologies to whoever came up with it for not linking to you! If anyone knows where I read this, fell free to put it in the comments box!

We made cupcakes (er, oatmeal muffins with cream cheese/honey frosting!) while Chris and Cecilia were shopping, too. Then I arranged them on this cupcake stand. Here's where I found this idea. The top cupcake is tinted blue for Mary, and then there are twelve white cupcakes for each of the apostles. Caroline pointed the one mismatched cupcake (a leftover cranberry muffin from a couple days ago... how do you bake 13 cupcakes at once with only one muffin tin? Yay for my rare instance of foresight in saving the cranberry muffin for this use!) and declared, "This one is John." She didn't name any others... apparently it was only important to her to know which one was Mary and which was John, ha ha! The lit candles represent the flames that appeared above their heads, and then Caroline blowing them out represented the wind that filled the room when the Holy Spirit came down. I thought that was a fun idea, and so did Caroline!

Ariel view...

Here she is blowing them out (her hair is wet because she just got out of the bath... Chris did bathtime while I frosted the "cupcakes" and stuck the candles on).

We had lots of fun celebrating Easter this year! Wrapping it up with several ideas for Pentecost worked out really well... celebrating the end to a very blessed Easter season! And there were so many other great suggestions for Pentecost at Shower of Roses... a great resource for the coming years (and where I found most of my ideas linked from ;). A few other things we did to celebrate Easter throughout all fifty days... we learned all the words to "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" and sang it almost every day. We kept the Easter books and the Resurrection Eggs out for use throughout the season. Along with the daily sticker and Bible reading for the Garden of the Good Shepherd, I think we had a good first year of actively celebrating the fifty days of Easter in our home!

Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Divine Love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth. Oh God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructed the hearts of the faithful, Grant, that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.


Both "nursing" their baby dolls... well, Cecilia is trying to figure it out...

Reading books together in Caroline's room

Can somebody help here?

Somebody with some fashion sense, that is? ;)

Cute skirt, huh? It is a hand-me-down for Caroline... if I can figure out how to put it on her, that is! I assume the above photo is the front of the skirt... right?

Here's what makes me unsure... this photo shows the back if I flipped the skirt over from the position in the top photo. The elastic is now centered, but the tag is in a really weird position, is it not?

And here is how it looks if I center the tag, the way you'd think it should be... doesn't look right at all now, does it? The elastic waist part is all skewed now.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Because it is easier than writing posts myself...

...and so I can find it again to refer to myself! That is the real reason I am linking to it here, and in case anyone else wants to read some good stuff:

Good parenting information there!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ascension Thursday

Thursday marked the day that we celebrate Jesus's return to heaven, which means we are nearing the end of the Easter season. We will officially celebrate it on Sunday, although it is known in the Church as "Ascension Thursday" and the feast is typically moved to the following Sunday. In my parochial school when I was growing up, we used to release helium balloons with notes tied to the strings on this day, to symbolize Jesus going up to heaven. We stopped doing it after several years (darn those environmentalists ;)... Tim, did you even get to experience the fun of a 500-balloon release Ascensions Thursday?? It was great fun, except for the few kids whose balloons would inevitably end up caught in a tree or power line only seconds after being released...

So, we refrained from a balloon release, although maybe that is an idea to keep in mind for future years. Instead, Caroline did some cloud painting with white paint, a cotton ball, and her fingers. Then she stuck an image of a painting of the ascension (which she cut out herself) to the clouds.

I also found this cute little craft online... if I can remember where, I will post the link. Caroline colored Jesus, the apostles, a cloud, and the background and then we cut them out and I attached them together... the result is that Jesus slides up and down so Caroline can make him rise up into the skiy, and the apostles slide back and forth (for some reason - maybe so they can pace back and forth?). We have used both these things as visuals in our dining room.

We also did this rhyme and finger play (which I was randomly inspired with late Wednesday evening):

Jesus ascended into the sky. (point finger upward)
All his apostles waved goodbye. (waving motion with hand)
Jesus said, "Across the world you must go," (spread out arms wide)
"Spreading the Good News so all may know." (cup hands around mouth, then point to head)

And we made this dessert Thursday morning - I called in Ascension Cloud Cake. It is completely no-bake - it is frozen. Nice for warmer weather, and very easy.

Here it is cut open... yummy!

So, we had a fun day celebrating the ascension! Everything sort of fell together for us in celebrating this feast... we don't always manage to do this much. Each thing was little and didn't take much time, so it ended up being very do-able. I have heard it mentioned that some people read blogs and get discouraged because of seeing what other people do in their homes to celebrate feast days... because it looks like they have perfect families with these great plans that go so smoothly all the time. And I have also seen it discussed that this is because people typically put the best things that happen on their blogs rather than blogging the messes and whining and other things that may happen day-to-day with small children. This is quite true. What you do not see behind these photos and words are the frequent temper tantrums Cecilia had all day, and that she did not take a nap. It was almost cute for awhile when she threw her little fits... until this day, when they came one after another, ha ha! She decides she wants to play with the toy lawnmower that Caroline is playing with and expresses this by shrieking and running towards it... so Caroline very politely steps aside and takes the other toy lawnmower for herself... and of course, Cecilia immediately decides she wants that lawnmower instead! This went back and forth a couple times until ! scooped Cecilia up, told her how hard it is to be one, and we went inside! So, we'll probably have some difficult days as she goes through this developmental phase and beginning to learn that life has limitations and disappointments. A tough lesson for anyone to learn at any age, poor baby ;) She'll make it, though, especially if that huge molar will finish breaking through her gum!

Definitions by Caroline

Whole Milk Kefir: "suck yogurt"
Pretty accurate description of it, I'd say...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pretty as a Picture

Looking up at Mommy with those blue eyes

There are BLUEBERRIES growing up there!

Happy in the bath

Had to stick in a pretty picture of Caroline, too - it is harder to catch these lately, because she either won't look at the camera, or she makes a goofy smile.

Our Mary Garden

The month of May is dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus, so I decided it would make a good time to start a Mary Garden. In our garden, I wanted to have a statue of Mary as the focal point, but do you know how much those things cost??? The cheapest garden statue I could find was $60!

This garden area is at the end of our sunroom. It was already like this when we moved into the house years ago.

So, I painted this sign. Chris attached some posts and hammered it into the ground in our garden.

Caroline suggested we paint a picture of Mary since we didn't have a statue. So I found a piece of wood for her to paint. First, I painted the whole thing a beige color with some leftover wall paint so that it would seal the wood and hopefully allow it to withstand the weather better. It was still damp when Caroline began painting, which created a neat "wet-on-wet" effect. She also wanted to paint Joseph - painted him first, in fact. Then she painted Mary in brown and went over her again in blue. The red and green at the bottom is a flower. After it was dry, she wanted to put their names on it, so I spelled them for her and she wrote them. Other than the letters in her own name, I haven't "taught" her to form any letters... she has just started doing it on her own.

We plan to add a little at a time to our Mary Garden. We planted marigold seeds, so we'll see if they come up. I also plan to plant some rosemary, maybe just in a pot, and put it in the garden. We are also going to make a garden stone with some sort of Marian theme - I picked up a stone making kit and various blue gemstone things at the craft store. In future years, maybe we will get a statue, and we'll put in other plants traditionally associated with Mary. I have a few ideas for garden decorations that reflect some of Mary's many titles... it will be a fun project to revisit each May.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Great Article

I love this.  It is short - go read it!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Prayers Please

For those of you outside of my family who read this blog, I wanted to let you know that my new niece, Elizabeth, passed away at the beginning of this week, at almost two weeks old.  I ask for any prayers you can offer for the family, especially tomorrow, when there will be a memorial service held for Elizabeth, and in the coming weeks.

It is impossible to find words to describe this tragic loss.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

La Leche League of Georgia's Area Conference!

Greetings from Unicoi State Park in the NE Georgia mountains!  Okay, I am not still there, although that would be nice ;)

We have held the Area Conference here for three years now, and what a wonderful environment it is.  There is a lodge with a conference center building and then three seperate lodging buildings in the complex.  Families can also camp, bring an RV, or rent a cabin.  All the conference sessions were held in the conference center building of the lodge.  We had a fantastic set of speakers this year, including one of LLL's co-founders, Marian Tompson, and Dr. Bob Sears.  I learned a lot in the sessions and enjoyed connecting with other leders and their families.

Thursday evening, we had a Hoedown.  We had the same live band that we have had for three years, and the kids had such a great time dancing and running around.  Caroline found some friends to dance with, and Cecilia had the time of her life running in circles.  She wore herslef out!!

Several tables were set up with crafts for the kids to do as they pleased.  Caroline strung dried pasta onto a piece of yarn to make a necklace and enjoyed coloring wih markers.

Cecilia had this same look on her face the entire time we were in the Hoedown!  I think she must have done 50 laps around Daddy!

She also found a dance partner and tolerated being danced with for about 60 seconds.

The best thing about a LLL conference is being around so many other like-minded parents.  I love seeing all the happy babies in slings and the parents who are gently guiding their toddlers and preschoolers... such a breath of fresh air when my day-to-day life includes hearing parents scream at their children in the Wal-Mart parking lot and carrying crying babies around in bucket seats, seemingly oblivious to the crying.

Being at a conference reminds me how blessed I have been to find this path in parenting.  Creating a close bond with our children from infancy is so beautiful, and so rewarding for both parent and child, and seeing it on a large scale is amazing.  

Cecilia sports her "cage free baby" shirt - our LLL group sold these in the bookstore

When away from a gathering such as this, many of us get looks and comments for things like breastfeeding our babies in public or sleeping with our babies, hearing comments about spoiling them or not being able to show them "who's the boss."  Here, it is okay that our babies don't sleep through the night and that they are still nursing as toddlers.  I laughed to myself as I thought about how this was probably a weekend where Unicoi had more children staying in the lodge rooms than ever before, yet they probably had a very low request for cribs comparatively!

One of the highlights for me was hering a session by Dr. Sears on the science behind attachment parenting.  It is not only about mothering our children naturally at the breast and going with our instincts as parents, but there is scientific backing for responding to our babies' cries!  Dr. Sears went into the scientific evidence such as how babies' brains develop in the early years and how a loving response from a parent helps to form those brain connections in the healthiest way possible.

We got a laugh out of his sense of humor at the end of his talk, too... he had prepared a slide in his PowerPoint presentation that listed resources, many of which were authored by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears, his parents, and some that he co-authored with his parents and brothers, who are also doctors.  He had written that The Discipline Book was "written by my parents about my brothers," and that The Successful Child was "written by my parents about me."  It was probably funnier in person... that old line that we used to use in middle school, "you just had to be there."

This stair-step grassy area is the courtyard between all the lodge buildings.  It used to have big swings in it (the kind that old people would sit on, not fun kid swings, lol), but those had been replaced with benches this year.  The kids still enjoyed having a place to climb and explore.  Cecilia is very into climbing in the last week. She climbs onto the fireplace, the couch (not always successfully), Caroline's saucer chair, low tables... so it was nice to have a place where she could climb unhindered.

There is a room set up as a bookstore at the conference each year.  It has parenting and breastfeeding books for sale, a huge silent auction with all kinds of donated items, and individual group boutique sales tables.  Our group made several things to sell: tie-dyed baby and toddler shirts with pro-breastfeeding slogans on them, hand-dyed playsilks, baby doll slings, and a few other little items.This was our first year doing the silks, and they were a big seller, along with the doll slings.  Our shirts didn't do as well as in years past, but it is nice that we have plenty of them left for next year!  My co-leader, a group mom, and I worked hard to get them all done, so it will be nice to have a supply for the next couple years and not have to replenish it again in a year.

Of course, Chris could not get out of work for long... his technology expertise was called upon on Friday afternoon when Dr. Sears's computer would not work... Chris ended up setting him up with another laptop which belonged to our conference supervisor.  Then, in the closing session, my laptop was borrowed and then would not ply a DVD, so Chris went to work on it as well!

Caroline and I made a huge batch of play-dough for the Family Fun Night. Crafts were put out on the tables again, and we had a DJ playing 80's songs such as Thriller, Material Girl, and... YMCA?  Okay, so it wasn't purely 80's music...

Cecilia had another fun evening full of running in circles, dancing, and smiles.

Caroline made snowmen out of the play-dough.  Alexander is sitting to her left... he spent most of the evening at the play-dough table!  I was really happy with the recipe we used to make it... it turned out nice and soft and moldable.

Cecilia and I danced togther a bit too... I spent some of both evenings running around hanging up signs for the next day's sessions.  

Another good shot of Cecilia doing YMCA - Chris showed her how to do it, I guess, and seeing everyone else doing it probably helped.  So, the rest of the night, Cecilia ran around randomly sticking her hands up in the air in the "Y" position... during Thriller, she was still stuck on YMCA!

Cecilia and I posed with Marian Tompson, one of LLL's seven original founders.  She has been coming to our Area Conference for several years now and it is always a delight to hear her speak, and so neat to realize you are talking to one of the seven people who, 50 years ago, began an organization that would help so many mothers and babies in such a profound way! Cecilia had just woken up a few minutes earlier from a nap in this picture, hence the dazed look and sweaty, messy hair.  You've heard of hat-hair?  At an LLL conference, you see babies with sling-hair!

There was a ceremony honoring all the leaders and welcoming new leaders on Saturday evening.  Unfortunately, we missed nearly the whole thing.  We went to Mass in Cleveland, almost 20 minutes away, and then had to eat dinner, so we didn't make it back in time.  But, we did make it to see the pretty "centerpiece" (for lack of a better word... is it a centerpiece if it is on the ground??).  The last names Froelich and Wagner are on the side - these are two of the original seven founders who both died within the past year.  We paid tribute to them as we welcomed the leaders of the future... who would have known over fifty years ago the ripple effect these seven ladies would have on breastfeeding and mothering?

Believe it or not, this was the better of two pictures... Caroline was clearly tired, twisting her hair.  Sofie, my co-leader Theresa's baby, seems to be more interested in Marian than in the camera.  Cecilia isn't screaming to get down in this picture.  All three of us ladies look fabulous though, I think ;)  Cecilia has no pants because apparently now Target disposables officially join the list of diapers that don't work.  Or maybe I should just up-size.  Cecilia pooped all over me after dinner, rode back to Unicoi without her soiled pants, and happily ran around the courtyard in her diaper.  If I'd taken off the diaper, she'd have *really* been a cage free baby!

And, a wonderful end to a great weekend - our family walked around the neat town of Helen just outside of Unicoi State Park.  And then, peace and quiet...

... HA!  For about a half hour!  Cecilia suddenly sleeps poorly in the van again.  We had to stop so I could nurse her by hanging over the seat to get her to sleep instead of scream... and darn those railroad tracks in the Marble Hill/Tate area!!!

I feel like I could gush on and on about the wonderful feeling of attending an LL conference... Chris says he wishes they were held quarterly!!!  But I will close here so I can finally post this and then GO TO BED!!!