This May, our reflections on Mary have been quiet ones. We haven't done a whole lot of crafting. We even missed the parish May crowning. But, the quiet suits me right now. We have talked about how the Blessed Mother was full of grace and we have each been thinking what that means exactly and how we, too, can be filled with grace.
Early in May, I took my scapular medal and my medal of Our Lady of La Leche from the gold chain around my neck. Karoline had been grabbing at it and pulling and I was afraid that one day, the chain would break and the medals would be lost. I also wanted to make something that set off the loveliness of what those medals represent for me. I tinkered with the idea of a beaded necklace on sturdy wire, but settled instead on a small rosary bracelet. It was simple and suited both my beading skills and the "every day-ness" of my medals. I wanted something I could wear always.
In practice, I can't wear this when I cut raw chicken or make meatloaf. I take it off when I'm scrubbing toilets. But, for the most part, it's with me. The unexpected benefit to having a bracelet instead of a necklace is that now I see my medals all the time. There they are, framed by delicate, lovely, small pearls, and little bits of pink--a constant reminder that Mary was lovely, little, hidden, and joyful. The bracelet reminds me that the goal is to be full of grace.
Mary lived a humble, hidden life in Nazareth. She loved her baby well and filled herself with His being. He grew inside of her and He grew alongside her. She spent the days of His childhood in relative quiet-- Our Lady of La Leche, a gentle woman with a holy baby at her breast. God was with her, all the time.
When I see the medal, often throughout the day, I whisper a prayer: Pray I will be little; pray that I want nothing more than to be with Him as I go about my daily round and I answer the call of my vocation. Let me see your Son in my children. Let me be full of grace.
How can we be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit? That means that there is nothing in us but the Holy Spirit. If it's all Him, there's nothing left of me. The only thing that stands between me and the perfect indwelling of the Holy Spirit is pride. Pride is being full of me. And the only way to be full of grace is to be humble and little in the arms of Our Lord. I have to empty myself of my pride so that He can pour His grace abundantly into my being. Let go! Let go of the fear, let go of the urge to control it all! St. Therese writes that " sanctity is an interior disposition which makes us
humble and little in God's arms, conscious of our weakness and trusting
even to audacity in the goodness of our Lord." Can we do that? Can we trust--even to audacity--in God's goodness? We can if we allow ourselves to be filled with grace.
I don't live in Nazareth. Mary didn't have a computer and a telephone. She wasn't a soccer mom. Her husband didn't travel every week. Our lives are so different. And they are so similar. We are both women whose hearts long to hold the infant Lord. She had no need for reward or recognition; she lived her whole life looking towards her Son. The people whose lives she touched followed her gaze. She looked away from herself and to the source and summit of life. It was a simple way to live, free from earthly drama and self-centered turmoil.
Mary's life was simple and mine can be, too. She told me exactly how to live the life of simplicity that will leave me open to grace: Do whatever He tells you.Always, she points us to her Son and His Word. Whatever He tells you. Is that so hard? Well, sometimes. But it is simple. With every decision I have to make, I can consider one thing alone: How will this help me get to heaven? Simple. Humble. Mary-like.
Mary had limitless faith. She issued her fiat without stopping to intellectually examine the seeming impossibility of what the angel had told her. If God said it was so, that was good enough for her. All she wanted was God's will for her. That's it. A straight and narrow path to heaven is the will of God. Every single day, Christ asks us to be His handmaiden. Sometimes, He is asking so much of our fragile, human selves. Sometimes, the cross is nearly unbearably heavy. But always, He will give us the grace to accept His divine will and live in His love.
I am reminded of purity of heart when I think about the Blessed Mother, particularly Our Lady of La Leche. How single-minded we are for our children when they are suckling at our breasts! How small our world becomes when it is just the two of us, intimately connected and gazing with mutual adoration. Love like that seems so pure. Yet, it is not nearly the pure love Our Father has for us, nor the pure love we aspire to have for God. That is the love the Blessed Mother had for her Son and that is the love she wants so much for us to have as well.
Father Jean C. J. Elbee writes, "Mary was all love because she was completely pure. Purity is not only exemption from any stain, from any sin.Purity is often synonymous with the absence of sin. What an error it is to stop there! To drive away darkness we need light. The absence of sin is a condition; but what we need beyond that is the positive beauty of sanctifying grace--that is to say, the Holy Trinity in us. That is purity: Mary, full of grace."
Our Mary table this year is simple. A small bowl holds flowers to be wrapped around a wreath we made of Sculpey. When the children serve each other, they wrap a flower around the wreath: a gift for the Blessed Mama! There is a May basket that was delivered by a friend, an icon the never fails to remind me of another woman who prays daily for the simple, hidden holiness of Mary, and a statue that holds holy water. I so loved my Alleluia letters, that I re-invented the idea for May and this month's letters remind us that our heart's desire is to be full of grace.
It is my prayer, my friends, that the Lord is with thee!
Visit Helen at the Castle of the Immaculate to read the Loveliness of Marian Devotion Fair.
Some mothers pray their sons will be priests. Others hope fervently for a doctor and a lawyer. I've always thought it would be handy to have a chiropractor and a dentist in the family. But, when you've had five hours interrupted sleep, driven an hour and a half roundtrip to the airport with a crying baby, kissed your husband goodbye (again), and look forward to a day in which there is no chance of a nap, you are really grateful that your son's a barista! Thanks, a latte, Michael!
These handsome young men
were on their way to the prom.
...Michael and his best buddy of all time, the ultimate Foss and Hasson collaboration!
... It's hard to imagine that these three will be far and wide across the country soon (and I take great comfort in the fact that their younger siblings remain so that these family friendships will endure...)
After a four hour recital, Keenan is still light on her feet (with a little help from her friends)!
...Beautiful place, beautiful night...
...And yes, the peonies bloomed in time!
As the IKEA chair assembled by Christian fell apart under the weight of Nicholas, Michael looked at Christian and said:
It's a good thing God didn't choose you to be Jesus because if you were a carpenter, no one would have faith in anything.
We're going to wait to do this craft because I want Gracie to do it with us, but I thought I'd toss it out there for anyone who can get it together. It's really darling and somehow, I think I'll love to have these angels above my table, in the same room as the San Pasqual print my father brought back for me from New Mexico.
Things have been very quiet at Faithful Over Little Things lately. It's not that we're not doing anything--quite the contrary. It's just that I've been pondering how and what to record. I started the daily notes blog last January, mostly because I recognized over the course of the college application/portfolio process how important it is to record learning as it happens. I also recognized that I have at least seven more children to guide to adulthood. Instead of taking confidence from Michael's successes, I felt a whole new and bigger-than-ever-wave of insecurity.
In talking with some other moms who have gone the distance, I know I'm not alone. When pressed to provide a record of a child's entire education, home educators do just fine. Actually, we do really well.But when I looked at all we'd done and all we read and I realized I had to do it all over again--seven more times, only tailored to each child--I was more than a little overwhelmed. I found that we were asked by colleges to provide over and above anything on the typical application. We documented every single book Michael ever read, every trip he took, every piece of art he studied. For some colleges, this was a golden application. For others, it wasn't enough. They wanted half a dozen standardized tests. I hadn't taught to the tests. And despite major money sunk into test prep courses, Michael still has major test anxiety. Oh, bother...
Michael is officially finished with home education. He's already registered for classes next fall at the university of his choice. Now, I find myself evaluating my plans for the other children in light of the experience we gained. Will I teach to the tests more, thus opening more doors? No, I don't think so. The schools who weight tests so heavily are probably not going to be a great fit with the rest of our educational philosophy. There's more to a child than his test scores. We might was well eliminate schools that think otherwise from the get-go. That said, I will make sure math is done every day. Unschooling math does not work in my house. Period. But, the rest, well, we'll still do what we've done.What exactly is it that we do?
Last fall, before my application agony, Mary asked me to think about the Foss Family Rule of Six. I played along, coming up with six things, because that was what I was asked. Just six, no more, no less. And I set the list aside, to get lost in a shuffle of postpartum, college applications, advent, and Christmas. Now, I'd like to revisit the list. It seems that using that list as a "checklist" at the end of the day could be a very good thing. The original list is in blue. I've added notes and commentary in light of lessons learned on our way to our first graduation.
In order to raise healthy, happy, holy children, I think they need these six things everyday:
So that was the original six. But I know now that I need to add two more (at least five days a week). These are the two that Michael wishes we'd been more systematic about when he was little. These are what tend to be lost when we slide into unschooling. These are pretty key to remaining disciplined and getting the deed done.
Alrighty then, stay tuned for a new checklist at Faithful Over Little Things . We'll see how our Rule of Eight holds up in Real Life.
It's still Wear an Apron Day! And I'm wearing mine.
Mine as in I made it! And I'm extraordinarily excited about it. I totally fell in love with an entire line of fabrics. I bought a couple of yards of it even though I don't know how to sew. Then, I saw this bucket hat and thought how much Mary Beth likes hats like that. So, I bought the book recommended by Soule Mama. Around that time, I read about Wear an Apron Day.
I love aprons. I am the world's messiest cook. My favorite aprons are denim and heavy twill and I wipe my hands on them all day long. But, in the book, there was a pattern for a reversible apron. And, I think I might love fabric even more than I love aprons. So, I temporarily forgot I can't sew and chose what was rated the hardest pattern in the book. Then, I added a ruffle and pockets to it. I made a deal with Katie and Nicky: I would only sew if they could "drive." That is, I'm only sewing if they press the pedal. It's rather like having a student driver at the wheel. And it slows the progress considerably. They leave me alone during the cutting and the pinning and the turning and the pressing parts. The book says that this apron will be so cute that you might just want to wear it out of the house. I'll tell you what, three seconds after it was finished, I was on the phone to see if Mary Chris was home. And if she had been, I think I would have worn it across the street. Maybe. For now, I'm just floating around the house in it. And I'm avoiding the kitchen. Don't want to get it dirty:-). So now, all you homeschooling moms of many, go tie one on!
Note to the people in Denver: I still have to make that bucket hat and I promised Mary Beth that she could make an apron, too. Then, I really will buckle down and write a talk or two!
And now I'm off to sew!
Here's the deal:
Grab the nearest book.
Okay. I didn't cheat. The nearest book to me was Everyday Graces: A Child's Book of Manners. But page 161 was a chapter title page. So, the next page with text was 163. Here's the fifth full sentence:
People with disabilities are the same in God's eyes as you are.
Like Dawn, I love Vera Bradley bags. They are just so Happy! Between babies, I had several Veras for different moods and seasons. They are all medium size totes, suitable for wallet and checkbooks, keys, and cell phone and the occasional spare shin guard or two. When Karoline was born, I switched to a black microfiber Vera--quite the chic over-forty mom bag. With the springtime though, came the opportunity to indulge in a fanciful Happy! bag of epic proportions. It makes me smile just sitting there, all pretty and pink and well-organized and ready to go at a moment's notice. And it's so incredibly big and heavy, it does have its own designated space in the house, kind of like furnishing.
So let's see what's in it.
In one of the many pockets: my cell phone, wallet, and a charger for the van, because I have a tendency to forget to charge until we are out the door and I might actually need to use this phone. I don't like cell phones. I'm hard of hearing and these babies are hard to hear. My cell phone doesn't ring, it sings. It sings Let them cry, them giggle, let them sleep in the middle. Let them be little. Totally embarrasses my kids. I love it.
The interior pockets are full of all those don't-leave-home-without-it things that make life out and about so much more pleasant. There are some samples of colored pencils sent to me from Julie when I ordered a little wooden rattle for Karoline. Colored pencils are much preferred to crayons as the weather warms here in Virginia. My children are happy as long as they can draw everywhere we go. Though I'm not the purist I used to be, I much prefer wooden toys for my babies. This makes a soft noise. Karoline doesn't like loud noises, bells, or whistles. This rattle does, however, make quite an impressive noise if dropped from a height of say...six feet... onto the church pew in front of us. I know. So does my husband.
I'm actually kind of bummed about the pencils in the picture with the sticker. These are all remnants of our ortho-ortho week. The orthodontist has pencils on his checkout desk. They used to be blue triangular pencils that were our very favorites for handwriting. We picked them up at every visit. What a bargain! Spend five thousand dollars a year for orthodontia and you get FREE ergonomically correct pencils. Now, they're just normal pencils. I want a fee-adjustment. The sticker is from the cast room at the orthopedist, where Patrick is a frequent flyer. When they know we're there, they all come to see the boy who can wear through the bottom of a cast a week. They applaud. They think he's cute. They don't have to figure out what to do with the other seven kids while we sit for hours in the cast room.
Every well-provisioned soccer mom
is a hottie has Hotties in her bag. These are little sacks of charcoal that warm when the package is opened--very handy for warm hands and toes a when watching soccer games in snowstorms in March. I'm afraid to purge this item. Just as soon as I do, it will hail for the Memorial Day tournament or something. There is also sunscreen; we go through about one of these a week. The yellowish stuff is antibacterial gel, necessary following trips to porta-potties at soccer fields all over the East Coast. Need to go potty? Just ask me. I know where they all are! Finally, this pocket holds arnica. It's the remedy of choice for bumps, bruise and all injuries which might find us back in the cast room for another sticker and a round of applause.
The "tea pocket" holds an assortment of tea bags so that I can have a cup of whatever I need, whenever I need it. I notice I'm low on caffeinated teas. I'll have to replenish those. There are also two packets of Emergen-C. Add these to bottled water at the first sign of a sniffle and you'll chase that cold away. And then, there are Ginger Altoids--excellent remedy for motion sickness and morning sickness. I keep an extra tin of these hidden in the car as well.
We're still going through the pockets, friends. Lots of pockets in this here, bag.
Lipgloss! You can have your makeup, your hair dye, your manicures...just leave me the lipgloss. I love lipgloss -- and I'm a bit of a lipgloss snob. Here, we see Aveda Lip Shine (Grapefruit Pulp is my favorite, though it's not pictured here), Origins Lip Shimmer (with Aloe and Vitamin E and a hint of peppermint--all about smells I am), and Burt's Bees Lip Shimmers (Guava, matches the bag). In the little round tin is homemade healing salve. This works for diaper rash but it's coveted by a certain U-12 soccer team which has been known to go through an entire tin after a particularly rough game. Then, there is a Aveda blush that I always forget to wear. And my miracle wand--Tide to Go. This got red Jello out of an Easter dress and we never even left the table.
In another pocket are church contribution envelopes and my checkbook. The picture I took revealed way too much information for the web. That about covers the pockets. In the main compartment is a church bulletin, an empty holy water bottle that I keep bringing to church and forgetting to fill, my rosary case (the rosary is in my bed), and a copy of my favorite rosary CD. I've stopped leaving this in the car. It gets mighty hot in the car in Virginia, better to carry it everywhere I go.
For a recent trip to the fabric store, I tossed this pattern into the bag. It's a vintage apron pattern and I'm hoping to stitch up an apron before Monday, which is National Wear an Apron Day. It's very convenient that this great holiday falls just after Mother's Day.One could, theoretically, wear a new Mother's Day gift apron for Apron Day. But, if someone who looks like they have been cut from this family's cookie cutters just happens to be reading this blog (highly unlikely because why would they care about a post detailing the contents of my diaper bag? They rifle through the bag regularly.), skip the apron. Just clean up the craft room and make it look something like Heather Bailey's studio. But don't paint it pink unless Daddy helps you. End of hint.
Oh, these are handy. I have to have sunglasses outside--in the dead of winter, at twilight, all the time. My eyes are super sun sensitive. I'm very proud that I've had the same sunglasses for two years now. Love, love, love them. And keys are good, too. Actually, I've had the same set of keys for quite some time as well. St. Anthony and I are on very good terms.
Also in the main compartment: my planner (got to love that shade of pink). The planner was a gift of Sean Covey himself. He called a few years ago to ask permission to use a couple of my articles on time management in his training materials. And he sent me a new planner as a gift. Believe me when I tell you that it's quite a shock to receive a phone call from Sean Covey. Believe me also that it's still a joke around here that I had anything to contribute to the Franklin Covey discussion of time management. Incidentally, inside the beautiful Covey cover is a hybrid of Covey Simplicity pages and Michele Quigley's Catholic Woman's Daily Planner. I still haven't found my ideal planning system. But I keep trying and life does run much more smoothly when I apply Seven Habits principles to the liturgical year and family-centered living.
And there's a claw hairclip in this shot. Whenever the little cherub starts to eat my hair, up it goes!
The sunhat is an absolute must for my bald baby. This one is in the diaper bag; there's one in the stroller, one in the van, and one in the house. No one wants this baby's head to burn. Ever.
Hey! This is a diaper bag, after all. There is a fresh diaper and some ziploc bags for the dirty ones, and a couple of cotton wipes in another ziploc bag. I've gushed enough about diapers. I think Ill leave it alone for this post:-)
Finally, the bag does tricks. Not a boring bag at all this one. Now that I've emptied it, I can show you what happens when I turn it inside out. Tah-dah! Isn't it too cute for words? Of course, I can't use it this way, because I've just decreased storage space significantly:-).
That was silly and sort of fun. Bags really are an important part of our lives, aren't they?
One of my favorite people is back from a babymoon and blogging again! Katherine in Texas has done some spring cleaning. She's left Typepad for iLife and is blogging anew about Life in the Onion Dome. I got a sneak peek at what that Mac can do and oh, my, it's beautiful! (Are women destined to eye an Apple longingly for all of eternity?)
To the visual appeal, add Katherine's grace-filled writing and a plethora of happy baby pictures. We will begin with the beautiful story of how her family named the baby--or how God Himself made His will known. Settle in with a cup of tea and meet the new baby on the new blog. And don't forget to welcome Katherine back to the blogosphere!
Actually, it's an eighteen-year-old throne. But we freshened it up a bit for Karoline by making a new seat back cushion and a matching bib (or two, or three; I tend to buy way too much fabric:-).
I like it so much I want to redecorate the whole kitchen in pink! I've got my eye on Heather Bailey's palettes and patterns. Stay tuned...
There are have been some very happy little boys this week. Maryan took her four little guys (and her willing dear husband, shhh...) to Bull Run to play in the flowers and catch cool toads. And Cindy took her three little men to break in their boots on the banks of Cub Run.
And did you know that there are bluebells in Beligum, too? Diane and her crew saw them there.
Rachel posted about the most beautiful workout in the world!
Have you been to see the bluebells this year? Did you blog about it? Send me a link and I'll add you to the list!
Until last spring, I was a dash and splash gardener. I'd dash off to the garden store every spring and buy some annuals and some vegetables and ensure a splash of color and flavor for the season. What influenced this approach, I think, was the gardening of my childhood. We moved from place to place because my father was in the Navy. As soon as the boxes were unpacked, my mother would hang pictures and curtains and whatever else she could to make it feel like home. But it was only temporary. No wallpaper or remodeling--nothing with roots. We wouldn't be there long. So I learned to love begonias and tomatoes, plants that gave us pleasure for a short while and didn't trouble me when we moved on.
There were some stately oaks dripping with Spanish moss in our backyard in Charleston, SC. I did love those trees. But I didn't plant them and I wasn't overly attached to them. From there, we moved to Northern Virginia. And someone planted peonies. I don't know if it was my mother or my father or the people who lived in the house before us. I just know that they came back year after year after year. I know they bloomed for my senior prom. I know they were perennials. Perennials. They had roots; they counted on someone to care for them from season to season, year after year. And they bloomed predictably. I lived in that house longer than any other in my childhood. And I learned I liked things that grew.
Then, I got married and moved into a house with a little bit of land of its own. I didn't know a thing about planting a garden. All I really knew was that in the spring, I was supposed to go and buy some color for the front beds. I planted impatiens. I remember the first season I planted them--I was impatient! I squatted in the garden nine and a half months and hoped the very act of planting would put me into labor. Did you know that impatiens grow seed pods in the fall that pop when small boys squeeze them? And that means that in the spring, "volunteer" impatiens bloom? Not really perennials, but still, color from the year before--a sense of continuity.
Years and years went by. Years of not knowing how long we'd be in a house. Years of having babies and babies and babies and not having a whole lot of time for planning and planting and tending a garden...Until last year.
Last year, we dug in. We had truckloads of dirt delivered to our house and our boys shoveled and hauled and spread. We all studied gardening together. And then I bought perennial flowers and herbs. These were a whole new world of plants to me. These were plants that would flower and grow and then I would tend them in the fall and they would come again--bigger, better, stronger, more--the following year. These were plants in which to invest time and energy and love. These were plants that begged my patience.They were little tiny things when I planted them last year. They whispered, "Trust me. Take good care of me. Wait for me. Watch me grow."
I could do that. I was well practiced at that. I have children. Like a little row of flowers, they are growing. Some are a bit on the wild side and their beauty catches one off guard. Some are more contained and utterly lovely at first glance, only to be lovelier the longer you look. Some require careful, almost constant pruning. Others are decidedly low maintenance. Together, they are breathtaking!
The thing about gardening, I've discovered, is that there's always room for one more plant. A little shifting, a little pruning and the whole garden looks better for the addition. The plants challenge me and teach me things. Sometimes, they require that I step out in faith. I planted peonies last year, even though the nursery lady told me that they wouldn't bloom until this year. That's okay, I'm used to waiting nine months at a time for a bloom. Now, I'm watching those tightly closed buds eagerly and wondering if they'll bloom in time for Michael's senior prom. (He couldn't care less, but I think it'd be kind of cool.)
This year, I planted rosebushes. They are John Paul II roses and Our Lady of Guadalupe roses--very fitting, I think, for the first summer of Karoline Rose. People have warned me that roses are difficult to grow. I'm too inexperienced. It's too hard. I bought too many. I smile at that. I've heard it before. ..and I know that there are never too many and that, like the children, the roses will teach me; they'll show me; I'll learn what I'll need to learn. Together, we'll grow.