Sunday, November 09, 2014

All Saints Celebrations

This year, Halloween fell on a Friday.  We went to the vigil Mass of the Feast of All Saints Day, where the children are invited to dress as saints or figures from the Bible.  There is a "trunk-or-treat" in the parking lot after Mass, so we did about six cars there and then went home so they could trick-or-treat in the neighborhood as well.

On our front porch after trick-or-treating
The vigil Mass has always been a mostly-Hispanic Mass; however, it is advertised as being bilingual (which it is) and everyone is welcome to both the Mass and the trunk-or-treating in saint costumes afterward.  Yet in the two times we have gone, we have pretty much been the only non-Hispanic family there, which is a shame that there is such a divide within the parish that families see it and just assume to themselves that it's a Hispanic thing.  This year, since All Saints was on a Saturday and the US Bishops decided to abrogate the feast, there was no All Saints Mass on Saturday at all.  So the vigil was the only option if we wanted to attend an All Saints Mass, and we did!  We love this feast day!

Something we did for the first time this year, in addition to carving a jack-o-lantern, was to carve "Saint-o-lanterns."  There are ideas of symbols to carve in a book that I won in an online giveaway a few years ago, A Year with God, and our neighbors had given us three little pumpkins, one for each of the girls.  So they drew the designs they wanted, and I carved three of them - Caroline carved her own with the Swiss army knife that her uncle gave her when she found it in my parents' house.

Lucy's monstance pumpkin - a symbol of St. Clare, since she held the Eucharist up as the convent was about to be attacked by an invading army, and they turned and fled!

Cecilia's crown pumpkin - a symbol of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who was a queen
Caroline's pumpkin shows a palm branch surrounded by three drops of blood - her saint, St. Joan of Arc, was a martyr
Lucy with two of the jack-o-lanterns, holding up my vintage McDonald's Happy Meal pumpkin bucket that I got when I was in college, just because.
Lucy as St. Clare

~All Saints Homeschool Party!~

On the Friday after All Saints Day, we had our annual All Saints homeschool party!  The kids can all dress as saints and then they play saint-themed games, have saint-themed snacks, and try to guess each others' saint costumes.  We have done this in the parish hall for the past two years, and it has worked out really well there.  We have plenty of space and tables there.

Caroline was Joan of Arc again, but this year, she dressed as her as a soldier - last year, she dressed as Joan of Arc as a shepherdess, before she led the French army.  Her blue dress is a cheapy costume from Oriental Trading or some awful place like that, ha, and then I made her "armor."  The top part is a shiny silver fabric that cut into a rough shape and then sewed up the sides, leaving arm openings which I cut slits in to look like armored sleeves... we used this photo of St. Therese the Little Flower, who once dressed as Joan of Arc in a play, and that is what we modeled the costume after:

The skirt part is some skirt material from the craft store, again cut to look like St. Therese's costume.  I did no hemming; I used Fray Check!  I thought it would be practically impossible to hem both these types of fabric anyway, and I was going for function and not for them to be able to be worn daily or anything like that.  So, I hope it will hold up for other kids to wear in the future!  The fleur-de-lis is supposed to be an iron-on from the craft store, but again, finicky fabric... so I had to stitch it on after it came loose after being ironed on.  Her sword is just a scrap of wood that Chris cut out from the leftovers from the Winnie-the-Pooh tree.  We didn't have paint for it, but maybe one day we can improve it with some silver and gold paint.  Caroline made her flag herself by drawing it to look as described in a novel she has about Joan of Arc, and then I went over her drawing with gold puffy paint.  I love that she copied the flag from her book's description!  I taped it to part of her shepherd's crook from last year. 

Cecilia chose to be Saint Elizabeth of Hungary - she wore most of Caroline's costume from a few years ago when she was St. Elizabeth.  We got lucky when our neighbors gave us this royal-looking dress up costume in a bag of hand-me-down clothes several years ago.  Her veil is a white piece of fabric I hemmed years ago for them to play with as a doll sling, and the crown is something I made for them last year - they each get a little handmade something for Epiphany.  The crowns are easy to make: you just need felt, fabric glue, and elastic and can then decorate it with stick-on jewels or puffy paint or even embroidery.  I used this tutorial to make them.  She is holding some fake roses because of the story that when St. Elizabeth of Hungary was feeding bread to the poor of her country, her husband the king stopped her because he didn't think a queen should be going among the poor that way, and when she opened her cloak, the bread was gone and roses were there instead!

Lucy, dressed as St. Clare in her Poor Clares habit, certainly looks poor with that scraggly hair, ha ha!  She kept pushing it back and rumpling up her hair and then having to try to tuck it back in!  This costume was also used previously by Cecilia.  The brown tunic is an inside-out brown shirt of Daddy's, tied at the waist with a piece of knotted rope.  She has a simple wooden rosary hanging from her belt.  The part around her face (i think it is technically called the wimple?) is a white shirt of Daddy's with her head partway through the neckhole, which I pinned to make it tighter.  This works better with a white turtleneck just a few sizes bigger than the child actually wears, but I didn't have time to rummage and see if I had one in a bin of clothing, so this worked fine too.  The veil is two pieces of hemmed fabric: one white, one black, pinned to the top of the t-shirt.  It also works better to pin the excess t-shirt in the back behind the neck - I had tied the sleeves together behind her neck, but it didn't stay.

Our snack table with our Happy Feast of All Saints banner
The kids all got snacks first
Some of the snacks were Juan Diego's tortilla chips and salsa, St. Francis's animal crackers, St. Bernadette's "firewood" (pretzel sticks), and Saint Halos (pineapple rings), St. Isidore the Farmer's Veggie Patch, and Archangel Trumpets (Bugles chips)...

...and I brought deviled eggs, or St. Lucy's eyes!  She is the patroness of eyesight and was supposedly blinded during her martyrdom.  Her name means "light," which we know is essential for sight. 

The games were set up in stations that the kids could go back and forth between.  This one is Crown Mary the Queen of heaven, where they toss the cown ring-toss style over the statue of Mary that I brought from my garden.

The Guess How Many jars are so fun to put together... and to see what the kids guess.  We had guesses as low as ten and as high as 100,001!  This year we had a jar of caramel candies (Rolos) for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, star-shaped cereal for the Our Lady of Guadalupe, candy corn and pumpkins for St. Isidore the Farmer, Goldfish crackers for St. Andrew, patron of fishermen, marshmallows for the Holy Souls, and animal crackers for St. Francis.

Chris got to come to the party because he took a half day off work to make up for the four hours he'd worked the previous Sunday (because sometimes IT guys have to work at crazy times)!
Here are two of our group playing the St. Juan Diego Rose Toss game.  It works like an egg toss except it is less messy!  The goal is to keep trying to catch the roses in the cloak.  Juan Diego was a man who lived in Mexico, where Mary appeared to him and gave him fresh roses in winter as a sign to show the bishop.  He gathered them in his cactus-fiber cloak called a tilma, which can still be seen in Mexico over 500 years later with Mary's image still on it.  The fact that it has not deteriorated based on what it is made of is incredible!

I came up with a new game station this year, mostly for the older kids who knew more about the saints.  We had some trivia sheets, a saint memory game, the Church Windows card game about the four evangelists, and Saint Guess Who.  I printed the images off; I can't remember exactly where, but this is an example.  Anyway, I made a set of saint sheets for our own Guess Who game and then the kids could play it!

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of this year's St. Isidore's Pumpkin Patch Race, which is lots of fun to watch!  I did take several photos at last year's party.

The kids played saint bingo as a large group and then did a mini cupcake walk where the child who was standing on the saint that was called out got to go pick a cupcake.  While they played bingo, I figured out the winners of the Guess How Many jars... both Caroline and Cecilia won something this year.  Lucy didn't make any guesses, but if she had, they all would have been 41.  For some reason that is her favorite number right now!

Just before the cupcake walk, the children all played Guess My Saint.  Each child who dressed as a saint went up to the front and the others tried to guess what saint they were based on their costume and on any clues they gave.

Group shot!

All Saints in Heaven, Pray for Us!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Daybook for the First Week of November, 2014

Outside my window... it has cooled off significantly.  Rainy here and there in the past couple days, but beautifully sunny today, although still windy and chilly.  The kids have been enjoying the back yard this afternoon despite the cooler temp - the neighbor's cat, Tarsus, is out there visiting with them. Such a sweet cat - he even lets Lucy pick him up under the arms and try to lug him around.  

I am thinking... about the media's depiction of the Catholic Church and how that must influence public opinion.  I think there is so much that could be misunderstood about Catholicism - it really requires a very deep look to be fully understood (and even then, we have to take some things on faith because they surpass understanding).  The latest thing was how the media responded to Pope Francis's comments regarding evolution... we had the "progressive" people on the one hand declaring they were glad to see that Catholicism isn't so backwards and stuck in the dark ages and anti-science as they thought (and that the current pope is teaching things that go against what the previous popes said), and then we had the "fundamentalist" Christians on the other side saying isn't it awful that the Catholic Church no longer believes in a literal seven-day creation, some even going so far as to say that Catholics are removing God from creation (not true) and that this is further proof that we are followers of Satan and certainly aren't real Christians (they apparently have no background in history if they don't see that the Catholic Church was the first Christian religion).

Anyway... all of this confusion would be lessened if the media didn't jump on stories like this and act like it was something new.  There are those in the media who, whether intentionally or not, want to present our pope as breaking with long-held Catholic teachings.  They don't get that it doesn't work that way - the Catholic Church cannot just change doctrine.  If we believe it was divinely revealed to the Church through the Holy Spirit, then how could a pope just say, "Oh, we're not going to believe that any more."  The Catholic church has always been a friend to science, and it was a priest who came up with the Big Bang as a theory.  Pope Pius XII actually stated that theories of evolution can be compatible with Catholic beliefs way back in 1951.  So this is not some new thing, not a break with traditional Catholic beliefs.  We believe that faith informs science - they are not at odds with each other.  Ultimately, it is not important how we began other than we know it was because of God.

So... the Church is not changing, the Church doesn't hate science, the Church does not state that a literal seven-day creation story is the definitive way to explain how we got here.  The Church does believe that God made us.

It's the same story when it comes to the Church holding a synod on the family.  Certain media outlets were acting like the Church was about to change the definition of marriage.  Not going to happen.  And it isn't because the Church is backwards and stuck in the dark ages, either.  And it certainly isn't because of a hatred or intolerance.  It is out of a deep respect and love for humanity, and I certainly cannot do the topic justice myself - but the Catholic teachings on marriage, the family, and sexuality are beautiful.  Trust me if you don't think so and do some digging.  There is a reason why, when all other Christian denominations have okayed contraception, the Catholic church remains steadfast in her teachings against it.  All in beautiful love, and not always communicated clearly, unfortunately.  I know it took reading and searching on my own, and with my husband, to gain a deeper understanding of all the whys of Catholic teaching.    

I am wondering... if the things I have been saying/writing in the past week have made sense, ha.  I am losing words; I try to say something and can't find the right way to express it.  My brain is just sluggish lately.
I am praying... for all who have died.  November is the month dedicated to All Souls.  This morning, we walked through the woods behind our street to the cemetery that is at the other side of the hill we live on so that we could say a few prayers there for the deceased.  Visiting graves and praying in a cemetery, especially on this feast of All Souls Day, is an act of piety.

Our All Souls mantle display... all family members who have died are pictured here so that we can remember them during the month of November, especially when we pray as a family each evening.

I am thankful... for a special new blessing.

I am hearing... the wind.

Learning at home... we are planning a mix of things this week... a visit to the aquarium, a couple of art projects, a nature hike one day, along with some of our regular reading and such.  Last week, we had some nice outdoor time at Berry.  I would love to come back to this specific spot with a larger group of kids and some open-ended materials and tools like rakes, buckets, ropes, old sheets, and just let them have at it:

From the kitchen... my chicken broth gelled!!  Well, it was really just the liquid in the bottom of the crock pot when I cooked a whole chicken, but my plan was to save it and use it in a soup the next day... and look how beautiful it was!

I was bummed, though, that the big pot of stock I made from two chicken carcasses plus veggie scraps didn't gel at all... boo.  so now I have a theory... the raw backbone may be what helped the stock in the crock pit to gel.  When I make a big pot of stock from leftover bones, they have already been cooked when I cooked the whole chicken.  I have one recipe I like in which I have to cut a whole chicken into pieces, and so that leaves me with a raw backbone section.  Maybe if I save two or three of those in the freezer along with additional bones, I can get better gelling results by using them all at once.

I am reading... Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of EducationAlso, the latest issue of Family Foundations, the magazine of the Couple to Couple League.

To live the liturgical year... about two weeks ago, we celebrated the first-ever feast day of Pope Saint John Paul II.  Being a quarter Polish myself, and this being the pope I was born under, we had to do a little something to celebrate now that he is a saint!  On Facebook, my brother posted a photo of JPII when he was the pope that I had taken myself, and it made me realize - wow.  I took a photo of a saint!  It was when I was 16 and we were visiting Italy while my dad was there on business for about a year's time.  We visited Italy for ten days and toured around the country, including a stop in Rome, where we heard Pope JPII give his Wednesday audience and then, as he passed by us on an open cart (not the actual Popemobile, more like a golf cart without a roof), my brother Stephen touched his hand as he passed by, and I took the photo just before that.

So, to celebrate a special pope who is now a saint, we made a Polish apple cake.  I used the recipe found on this awesome blog of an old childhood friend of mine from Girl Scouts... she decided to cook foods from each of the 195 countries in the world, one country a week!

One of my favorite things... fall weather, fall scents, fall cooking.  And a fire in the fireplace. 

I am creating... I am filling a few jars for a Guess How Many game for our homeschool group's All Saints party.  since All Saints Day fell on a Saturday this year, we are having our party the following Friday after noon Mass.  I helped the girls create their costumes this past Friday, and they will get to wear them again for the party.  I spent a few evenings sewing some "armor" for Joan of Arc. 

Around the house... I need to straighten up some areas, clean some things out... after we went camping with friends last weekend, this past week/weekend was spent doing a little laundry catch-up and some much needed sunroom sweeping (me) and vacuuming (Chris).

Pondering these words... "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen."

A few plans for the rest of the week... 
* Trip to the aquarium tomorrow along with lunch with an old friend and his son!
* Gran comes to visit for a few days on Tuesday!
* Date night on Tuesday - Gran with the girls and Chris and I out to dinner and whatever else... maybe mini golf?
* PSR Wednesday evening
* Nature hike one morning
* Dance classes on Thursday
* Noon Mass and homeschool All Saints party on Friday - lots of fun saint-themed games and snacks that my girls are really looking forward to!

A picture thought I am sharing...
What homeschooling looks like... Caroline helps cook while watching her Math-U-See lesson on DVD   

Dressed up as saints at the All Saints vigil Mass... more pictures of Halloween, All Saints, etc to come soon!