The Hallow Times

Hallow:  To make or consider holy or sacred
The Hallowtide Days are coming.  For those unfamiliar with this term it is simply what we call Halloween (or All Hallows), All Saints Day and All Souls Day; a three day period of sacred days that call us to reflection life and death.
Celebrating holidays other than Halloween is rather new to me, but I jump at the idea of finding more holidays to celebrate that don’t revolve around presents and sugar and give my family the chance to reflect on particular idea or themes throughout the year.  
Our Halloween will look very much like the typical Halloween, in all it’s secular glory.  I love having a day that is about dress-up and just having some great fun.  I think it’s a great opportunity to get outside with friends and family one last time before winter sets in – here in Iowa it’s all too common to get snow the next day (go here to read a post from last years reflection on Halloween).  I think it’s great to encourage kids to face things that are frightening.  I believe in encouraging imagination and pretend play because I think it opens the mind to accepting the miraculous, mysterious and almost unknowable Truths in the world.  We will be wearing costumes, going door to door, collecting and giving out candy just like so many others (most of that candy will be pawned off on co-workers the next day).  We will have jack-o-lanterns and decorations, because I really do love this little holiday. 
Religiously speaking All Hallow’s Eve is supposed to be a time of reflection, to prepare yourself for the two days following and it will be, but who’s to say that sometimes you can’t have quite a bit of fun at the wake before the funeral. 

The following days are All Saints and All Souls.  All Saints is a day we’re pretty much told that we need to make it to Mass and luckily our parish has an evening Mass so we’ll be making a special effort to go.  In fact, it will be my first All Saints Mass and I’m quite curious to find out what it’s all about.  It’s also said that going to a cemetery and praying helps the souls in purgatory.  Not to sound to macabre, but I plan on taking Henry for a short visit to the grave of a dear friend of mine lost when we were only 13.  He was Catholic and I feel like he’d appreciate the gesture.  These are days to reflect on those we have lost, but it should end with a feeling of hope not hopelessness.  These are days to reflect on those who are gone from us, but have been given a great reward or to pray for those who might still be seeking that reward in this life or the next.

These days, while a little morbid in their subject matter, are not meant to be gloomy or frightening.  Rather it is a chance to face the reality of life and death and to reflect on any beliefs or practices that give us hope in the face of such a finite occasion.  It is a time to reflect on the good in the lives of those near to us and those we might learn about.

The Hallowtide days are great way to reflect and remember.  A perfect time to pull out photo albums and family videos.  To take down favorite recipes or make a toast.  It is a time to face our fears, remember those we love and reflect on what is to come.

Where I Am: A Short Reflection on Starting RCIA

I will be starting RCIA classes this Sunday.  For those not up on the 411 of Catholic lingo RCIA is the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.  It’s for anyone, even if you don’t think you want to (ever) join the church or you’ve been a member since birth.  It’s a long process; I start on October 28th and take a class a week until after my first communion on Easter Vigil.  It’s a little crazy, a little controlling and I’m rather surprised that I’m about to take this step.

I don’t have to take this step.  My husband and his family are perfectly content with whatever way I chose to express my faith.  There is no pressure to convert even from the more devout and pious members of the family (and we’ve got nuns, catechists, etc.all throughout the family) so I can really say I’m taking this step of my own volition.

I’m pretty determined of my course; I fully plan on receiving communion at the Easter Vigil, but it can still be a little overwhelming at times.

I’m am not entering this phase of my religious development wearing rose colored glasses and I do not have myself convinced of anything black or white definitions.  There are teachings I struggle with and probably will struggle with for a long while.  I am nervous of being part of a religious organization which has had so many failings in the past and have already tasted the vehemence of peoples’ dislike of Catholics.

I am where I am because I wasn’t happy, content or fulfilled in the teachings I grew up with.  I am where I am because we want to present a unified front when it comes to teaching our children about faith.  I am where I am because, while I still struggle with some teachings, I’ve found some amazing teachings that call to me to be a better wife, mother, daughter and member of my community and world.

A large part of the credit for where I am should go to a number of friends (and my husband) for being remarkable people and models of a faith that I will admit to being highly prejudiced against.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been floored by a friends love, charity or just day to day behaviors only to find out that the same thing I was so impressed with was inspired by their faith.  I remember saying, or at least thinking, on more than one occasion “You can’t be Catholic, you’re too normal.”  The way they took what they learned in classes as a teenager or Mass as an adult and found numerous ways to apply it to their lives was an inspiration.

I do not start on this journey with any idea that I can atone for others’ past wrongs or mistakes.  I can barely hope to make sense of it all in my life time.  There is, in fact, quite a few points that I just don’t attempt because I don’t feel we – as conscious human beings – are even at a point of really understanding something so simply and wonderfully complicated.  But, I can hope that I can take what I can understand and apply it to living a good, loving, charitable life.  I hope that as I engage in this journey I will find my own way to show that what draws me to the faith I choose to live is not how the Church lives in the world at large, but how the Church lives in me.

Money Tight Montessori: Thrifting Practical Life

One of my favorite aspects of a Montessori Education is that of the category of “Practical Life” in which the child learns independence from being allowed to participate in certain real-life activities.  These can range from dressing oneself to helping in the kitchen.
As any parents who adheres to an education principle we can often find it overwhelming to fit the items we deem necessary for such an experience into our budget.  I’ve found that in a pinch our local thrift and consignment stores can be a wealth of items once I knew what I was looking for.
The following are some of the items I’ve found easy to locate in my local thrift and consignment shops that adhere to Montessori ideas, without being directly from a catalog.
  • Baskets – Many Montessori practitioners are fans of the idea of things being useful and beautiful in order to encourage their use and I’ve seen many beautiful baskets for sale on Montessori sites for any purpose from storage to sorting and baskets are one item that never seems to be lacking in thrift stores.  Those small baskets that don’t seem to be good for much to an adult are the perfect size for little hands.  Large baskets make for much more appealing storage that plastic primary colored totes, IMHO.
  • Trays – Plastic or Wooden trays are versatile objects that can be used for organizing activities and supplies.  Divided trays are perfect for sorting activities.
  • Bowls – Mix matched plates and bowls are a dime and dozen at most thrift stores.  I’ve found that tea saucers and small desert bowls are a perfect size for little hands.  Ramekins and Ice Cream Dishes are also a perfect size for both Practical Life and Sensory Games.
  • Pouring Materials – Learning to pour water from one vessel to another is a favorite Montessori activity for preschoolers and if you think out side the box a little you’ll find that your thrift store has just what you need.  I’ve picked up a couple cream and sugar sets that are just the right size for my little guys hands.  Set the activity up on a tray with a sponge near by and you’re all set to encourage hand eye coordination!
Baskets, Trays, Cream and Sugar Set, S&P Shakers, Wooden Nutcracker, Enamel Mixing Bowls, Utensils, Plates, Bowls and Cups all Thrifted Items in our Kitchen Basket
    • Utensils – Child-sized utensils can be tricky to find, but keep an eye out for things like small spreading knifes, sugar tongs, desert forks and spoons and you’ll have a wealth of items at your disposal!  It’s not uncommon to find novelty sized kitchen utensils in the mix – tiny whisks and wooden spoons that have little to no purpose for the average adult are a gold mine to children.
    • Various Cooking Tools – An eagle eyed thrifter can easily find unusual items if you go in with the right mind set.  Think of things that you loved to play with or would have loved to play with as a child – perhaps a mortar and pestle, honey pot, salt shakers, various decorative jars for cooking oils or sugar tongs to help with hand eye coordination.  “Mini” and Novelty sized cook and bake-ware are often a dime a dozen and perfect for little hands.Whether they get used in Practical Life or head straight to the play kitchen is not really that important.
    • Cloth Napkins – Something too many people get these as gifts and never use them; if the napkin is too big for your child right now a quick cut and/or a run thru a sewing machine and you’re good to go. Not only good for kitchen and imaginative play clothe napkins are the perfect size to teach little hands to fold
    • Jars and Containers – Encourage that hand-eye coordination even more by picking up a few items with different types of lids and latches from the kitchen and knick-knack aisles.  Think of little jewelry boxes or old spice containers.  Use the items to discover sensory experiences like texture, size or color!
    A Few Other Items to Keep in Mind:
    • Scarves – Forget expensive play-silks, stock up on fun cheap scarves for imaginative play.  While you’re at it don’t forget to check out hats and shoes for dress up!
    • Costume Jewelry – Just because you’d never leave the house in it doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect accessory for a Queen or a Pirate’s Booty!
    • Sheets – Whether it’s for forts or to lay out for messy crafts, this can be a great thing to stock up! Just run them through the wash once or twice to ensure cleanliness!

    If you’d like a list of Easy to Find Practical Life Items CLICK HERE.

    P.S. While “researching” this post I managed to score the Twisting Wooden Nutcracker shown in the picture above at my local Goodwill.  That item alone tends to run between $16-18 at a Montessori supply site and I added it to our collection for a whopping $1.30.

    *I’m not a trained educator in the Montessori Method, only an enthusiast with a few years of real life experience in a Montessori Charter School and what I’ve gleaned from books.  What I share here should therefore be taken with a grain of salt and not considered a completely true and accurate account of Montessori Education Methods.*

    Shared on LivingMontessori’s Montessori Monday 

    and Frugally Sustainable  – Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways 

    and Your Green Resource 

    and Little House in the Suburbs

    Our Useless Degrees…

    My husband and I have what is commonly referred to as a “Useless Degree”.  Tonight our useless degrees, when used in tandem, located a repair a melted wire that had disabled our dishwasher.  I was in charge of the lightening fast online research and my husband was in charge of tearing apart said machine and eventually doing the basic electric work that saved us the $100 (minimum) it would have cost to get a repair man in… next Wednesday all using abilities learned while acquiring said “Useless Degrees”.

    If we ever become pro-Wrestlers we’ll be called “The Muscle and the Librarian” –  
    Tremble before our applicable life skills! 

    Black and White

    Black and White.

    Triggers for Him and a Meret for me.  With the kiddos head-wear taken care of I can move to the next projects.

    Please rest assured that in the midst of all of the pretty fall pictures and knitting projects there is a lot of real life going on behind the scenes.  Two weekends away (and sleeping in the same room as mommy and daddy) mean a slow re-accustoming to our previous bedtime routine – we’ve let him sleep a number of nights with us like he’s asked and given in to his “Nah-Nah” (the pacifier) which, before the weddings, we had all but completely given up.  There was an amazing melt down before dinner, the dishwasher has stopped working and the state of most of the house leaves something to be desired.  Though I did manage to make dinner tonight –

    Huzzah! –

     which was eaten downstairs on the couch because of said tantrum.

    But, it’s life and I wouldn’t change a thing.

    But I wouldn’t say no to some kind of robot maid ala the Jetsons.

    Quiet in the Early Morning

    It’s really all, but quiet around here.  We’ve already been up for a while and had breakfast and are now alternating between playing with trains, cat toys and making shadows  puppets on the walls.  Henry’s also brought me another Dr. Pepper from the box on the floor… make that three.

    We’re in the middle of a stretch of wedding weekend – one down, one to go – and gearing up for something that will take a good portion of our time for about 6 months.  I’ll be  participating in our churches RCIA process this year (that’s the schedule in the picture) and my husband will be my sponsor, so we have about a class a week from the end of October until after Easter to attend.  While I appreciate the depth of the program the time frame is a little daunting and we all know how good I am with hurry up and wait situations.

    I plan on a writing a little more of my thoughts on the process as it get started, and sadly I have a feeling I’ll probably loose a few followers along the way – I lost three just by writing about Michaelmas and the Feast of St. Francis, but I’ll just assume it was not personal for now.  Please know that while I share about my religious thoughts or our family traditions here, I aim to make this a welcoming space for all – no matter our theological differences.

    But, back to the knitting – the striped hat is almost complete, and so is Henry’s scarf for his Halloween costume, which means I’ll be starting on Ben’s Christmas Knit any day now.  Not too bad for the beginning of October!

    Can’t wait to be back in a few days to share our St. Francis Day with you!

    Shared on Frontier Dreams KCCO, and Small Things Yarn Along 

    Edit:  Thank you for your lovely comments!  I’m pleased to announced that since posting this I’ve gained 3 new readers.  Welcome!

    Underground: Reclaiming the Little Holidays

    I love holidays, and I doubt I’m alone.  I love parades, big dinners and {yes, I admit it} presents.  I can’t wait to see how our family traditions grow and change over the next few years as our children learn and begin to anticipate holidays.  As much as I want my children to adore and anticipate their major holidays with joy, my husband and I wanted something a little bit more in our celebratory year than just the guns – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.  Perhaps it sounds a little selfish, but we want more holidays.
    Now I bet a few people are rolling their eyes.  “Oh,” they’re probably saying, “Someone just wants more presents and reasons to spend money.  To that I’d reply with a polite shake of my head because it is the opposite of what we’re desiring.
    There is only so much, I feel, we can do to “reclaim” holidays that have been claimed so strongly our consumer culture when shops start setting out Christmas decorations in July.  While we intended to fight the good fight to ensure that our major holidays are focused on the ideas and celebrations we feel are right for our family in the end there might be only so much we can do.  So instead of fighting tooth and nail to save our only holidays from consumerism we thought, we not go “underground” and reclaim days that our society, as a whole has forgotten or ignored.
    It’s a little easier for our family; Catholics love holidays, or feast days as they’re usually called, so we have plenty to chose from.  In fact, it’s rare when you don’t find someone or something that you could celebrate on any given day.  However, many religions or denominations have old traditions and celebrations that have fallen by the wayside and who’s to say you can’t take a little inspiration from someone else.
     Our reasons for wanting to add more special days into our year are simple:
    • Inspiring Family Time – We wanted more ways to make our family times a little more special.  While we’re committed to things like family dinners and activities sometimes you just need a little inspiration to set the table again or you’ve just run out of ideas for next Sundays’ Family Day and I’m sure I’m not alone, but sometimes I need a little inspiration to liven up the meal planning week after week.
    • Life Lessons – We wanted new, yet subtle ways to teach our children about the people and ideas that we find important.  Since many of the feast days focus around a particular person it becomes easier to take a moment to reflect on their achievements and struggles.  If we don’t want to focus on a particular person, we can always pick a theme like Courage or Honesty.
    • Commercial Break – Okay, I’ll admit it – I love Christmas presents.  Within reasons, I love picking out, wrapping up, giving and receiving gifts on Christmas day, but I’ll also admit our society as a whole has a serious problem with the importance of this action.  We want a chance to impart to our children that it’s not presents that make a holiday special – that a gift can be in the form of an activity, a special dinner or a small tradition.  Perhaps, just perhaps, our children might grow to understand that a holiday is not just about gifts if they have fewer holidays that are focused on gift giving.  It might be a pipe-dream, but it seems a worthy one.
    In order to achieve this without throwing Grandma or Auntie Ida into a tissy by suggestion that we change or simplify the major holidays we simply choose to go underground and make a few more holidays to celebrate.  We claim special days and occasions that are not on Hallmark or Nestles’ radar with the freedom to make it exactly what we want to be without magazines and T.V. shows giving us unrealistic expectations of what our homes and families should be experiencing to make the moment magical.
    Ideas of what our Little Holidays might include:
    • Small, but special family dinners.  Perhaps we’ll try out a traditional dish from another country or time; sometimes the dinners might be a little grander than normal and sometimes they will be simpler.
    • Storytime; I doubt I could do any kind of holiday without finding a book that relates in some way or another.  It might be a book about the person we’re learning about, or share a similar theme or perhaps it will be a time for story-telling and a chance for children and adults to share special moments in their lives.
    • Purposeful activities.  They might be grander gestures or small things we can do around the house.
    • Community; while I’d love to find ways to inspire our parish to celebrate more of the Little Holidays I hope to foster a sense of community starting at home whether it’s with family, neighbors or friends.  I don’t want to create something just for the reason of proselytizing, but rather find ways to include those who are important to us on days that our important to us in a way that is comfortable and welcoming.

    Ideas for finding Little Holidays to bring into your home:
    • For the religious or spiritual – look to older traditions within your Church, or (if you’re comfortable with the idea) look to other denominations or religions similar to yours.  I remember learning a lot about my family by celebrating holidays likes Chanukah and Passover even though we weren’t Jewish (we do have a Jewish-side of the family and it was a great way to stay connected to them and their traditions).
    • Celebrate the birth (or death) days of people you find inspiring or important in your lives.  This could be someone famous, or a great way to remember a beloved friend or family member.
    • Look to nature – consider creating family traditions on the longest and shortest days of the year or around berry-picking or apple harvesting times!
    • Look to other cultures – this can be an amazing tool for learning about others in your community.  Consider finding New Years celebrations or days that celebrate parents, sibling or other family members.
    • Look to Literature – Consider celebrating Elevensies for the anniversary of The Hobbit, having a birthday party for Harry Potter or finally learning what was so important to Henry about “St. Cripsin’s Day”.
    • Be Silly – Maybe “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” or “Pick Up Rocks Day” is just what your family needs to get out of the house and have a little fun. (hint: google “bizarre holidays” for more!)
    I hope this gives a little more insight to the holidays you’ll see us celebrate through out the year and maybe give you a little inspiration to go underground and claim some new traditions for yourself!
    If you missed it go HERE to see our ideas for celebrating our first Michaelmas and Feast of St. Francis and HERE to see the pictures of our first Michaelmas celebration!