“I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”

This quote from Flannery O’Connor’s Habit of Being, a collection of her personal letters, is an excerpt from a larger paragraph in which she illuminates how she had been coping with lupus, the disease that eventually ended her young life. I’ve read Habit of Being before, in fact, I keep it on a bookshelf at the school where I teach, but I didn’t recognize this particular snippet until I was confronted by it and was curious as to its origins.

About three weeks ago, Matt had the honor of MCing the Cross the Bridge for Life walk  from Newport, KY into Cincinnati via the Purple People Bridge. Despite the inevitable heat, it is a wonderful yearly event, and an opportunity to see many of our favorite people from all over the region in one central location, and of course in promotion of the cause of Life. I was distracted by an over-sweaty and tired  toddler at the time, but I had the chance to run into a friend, the mom of some former students who are now full-fledged grown-ups in their own right, who paints amazing signs for the home. I really encourage you to check out her website Signs and Sentiments, as I personally have several around my house and they are beautifully done. I’ve also had some personalized ones made, such as for friends who were getting married, with monograms and wedding Bible verses.

It turns out that she had heard Matt on the  Son Rise Morning Show talking about how much we appreciate the life and work of Flannery O’Connor, and she felt moved to make us this sign for us:

Flannery Conner quote sign from SignsandSentiments.com
Flannery O’Connor quote sign from SignsandSentiments.com

Little did she know that I’d been diagnosed with auto-immune disease (a lesser, discoid – skin – form of lupus that is non-life threatening) about a year and a half ago, having actually probably had it for almost half my life already, and I’m still attempting to shed Prednisone chub (I grimace to see pictures of my swollen face from last spring and summer), as well as, under medical guidance and my own non-scientific experimentation, figuring out the best ways to stay healthy for both the immediate future and the long-term. Although I look  totally normal at the moment, except for all the essentially quirky attributes I tend to have anyway, I’ve done my share of feeling sorry for myself. Somewhat like Flannery O’Connor herself, this sign is a sort of unexpected cock-eyed blessing, and I’m looking forward to hanging it up today.

Catholic Family Camping Retreat Resource: Editable/Printable Itinerary

 

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It’s been quite a while, what with the end of the school year and all its busyness, as well as a variety of big transitions for our toddler – moving to a bed from a crib, toilet learning, and saying goodbye to the booster seat and tray in favor of a chair. That explains my general reprieve from blogging for the last several weeks, but we also have had other fun things in the works, such as putting together a family camping retreat for our Teams of Our Lady group (Perhaps you remember the Camping with a Toddler Packing List that I posted a while back?).

As my husband can attest from going on vacation with me for the past decade, I can be a rather meticulous planner regarding trips (although I do enjoy a little spontaneity, too!), and this retreat, since we have taken a leadership role this past school year, has been my brainchild for the last several months. I thought, since I had spent so much time crafting and tweaking the schedule for the weekend, that I might share a more generic version that can be personalized to meet other groups’ needs. To put our group in perspective, we will be about thirty people (10 adults, 20 kids) and the kids range from infancy to middle school age. Ideally, it would also include confession on Saturday, as well as another mass that morning, but those were not available options on this trip. I hope you can find it of some use in planning your own outdoor-based retreat!

FamilyCampingRetreatItinerary

Theology on Tap Cincinnati Series Starting Soon

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Mark your  calendars for every Thursday at 7PM,  between May 1st and June 5th, 2014.

Theology on Tap Cincinnati is coming back to Norwood’s own Cancun Mexican Restaurant. This year, we are in the same venue, but are endowed with a much larger, even more centralized space, not to mention an exciting line-up! As always, be sure to tip the wait staff well!

May 1 – Rozann Carter of Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire Ministries

May 8 – Fr. David Endres of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary

May 15 – Dr. Matthew Bunson of Our Sunday Visitor

May 22 – Fr. James Kubicki, National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer

May 29 – Jason Williams, Cincinnati seminarian

June 5 – Fr. Kyle Schnippel, our venerable chaplain

Easter Basket Ideas for the Very Young Catholic Child

Inedible vegetables in an Easter basket - There are only so many years we can get away with this!
Inedible vegetables tucked into an Easter basket? There are only so many years we can hope to get away with this!

While we’re not a no-sugar household, we don’t do much candy. So, as I slowly accumulate some items for a certain two year old’s Easter basket (in order to avoid an aimless and mad rush to CVS on Holy Saturday), I’ve been looking for creative ideas that are beautiful or inject some catechesis into a basket celebrating our greatest of liturgical feasts. Don’t worry, there will be some Jelly Belly Beans in the mix, too, if only to satisfy my own buttered popcorn-flavored craving! Plus, I picked up some classic German and Belgian Easter chocolates, Matt found some fun, child-friendly snacks from the local Asian market, and we even collaborated on a block of cheese in the shape of a zebra from the infamous Jungle Jim’s (it is as awesome as it sounds).

Here are some of my non-edible favorites, which either made an appearance last Easter or will be this coming Easter for our 2 year old:

- Maite Roche’s My First Pictures of Easter board book  - We bought this book last year, and have been reading it during this Lent, since it covers Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, betrayal, and crucifixion in a very simple style and type of language, without watering the story down too much (unlike many of the baby and toddler Bible adaptations one is likely to encounter). I am a big fan of Roche’s work – it is a joy to experience for parent(s) and child(ten) alike.

- I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and illustrated by Richard Scarry – This has nothing to do with Jesus’ dying and then rising three days later in victory over our sins, but oh my is it sweet. I have this book memorized from my own childhood, and just know my toddler will also appreciate it. This falls into the solidly beautiful category.

- Wee Believers’ Easter Faith Mat - This may sound a bit strange, but we are slowly acquiring/making a collection of catechetical placemats for use during Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter (so far, we only have Advent), and then, during ordinary time, we do general educational ones I pick up at a local teacher supply store. While I really like the look and quality of this Easter one, I do wish it wasn’t made in China.

- Wee Believers’ The Story of Easter Magnet Book – $13.99 - Also made in China, this portable scene with movable characters would be good for early childhood catechesis at home or mass.

- Maite Roche’s My First Bedtime Prayers - Yes, I am admittedly a Maite Roche super-fan! This is yet another of her delightful little board books. My toddler already spied it, pulled it down, and requested I read it, but he’ll have to wait until Lent is over, as will I….

- Ikea’s Duktig 14-piece vegetables set – We have a mini-kitchen from the 1970s, made by the iconic Creative Playthings company, which we picked up via Craigslist. Up until recently, it has been stationed in our library, mainly holding cars in the cabinets and stuffed toys in the sink, but I recently moved it into the kitchen and invested in some miniaturized cooking utensils and pans. These will look so cute in the Easter basket, inject a little dose of irony, and our son will enjoy them, no doubt.

In addition, here are my Lent and Easter Pinterest Boards.

I’d love some more inspiration. Got any great ideas?

 

 

Printable Film Critique Assignment: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments

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As a current thirty-something, I grew up with the yearly tradition of watching Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments on TV. It has everything – adventure, romance, questionable hairstyles (I’m looking at you, Yul Brynner) – so, imagine my surprise when I was fresh out of college and teaching Scripture and realized most high school students, at least the ones whom I’ve encountered, have never seen this epic in its entirety. Now, almost a decade into a career in education, this is still my experience. Instead, many of them have seen Prince of Egypt, which is another story altogether.

It was in such a fit of DeMille enthusiasm, that I came up with this film critique assignment because, let’s face it, it’s a great film that everyone should try to make an effort to see, but it is not exactly identical to what we come across in the Old Testament. I saw this as an interdisciplinary opportunity for my students to watch critically, compare/contrast, practice active note-taking skills, and hone their writing skills. Plus, from my observation, adolescents just love the high-tech, mid-1950s special effects!

I used this assignment with high school sophomores, however it really could work well for middle school and up.

In honor of the start of Passover, you’ll find a PDF of the assignment below.

FilmCritiqueTheTenCommandmentsbyCecilB.DeMille

Meat-Free Friday: Tofu Pad Thai

As much as I applaud the Meatless Monday initiative that has had, for the last several years, foodies and the socially conscious alike (with much overlap, of course) combing their shelves at the start of the week for a tasty vegetarian option, the Catholic Church is way ahead of you. It’s abstaining on Friday, and you can do it all year long. In fact, the 1983 Code of Canon Law encourages it, unless – at least for those in the United States – you have another specific penitential or charitable act in mind.

Home-grown Mung Bean Sprouts - Aren't they pretty?
Home-grown Mung Bean Sprouts – Aren’t they pretty?

There’s not much penance involved in our meal planned for tonight (I’ll add pictures this evening), as it’s kind of a crowd pleaser, especially if you count the pleasure I get in watching Matt willingly ingesting tofu, which doesn’t happen all that often: Pad Thai, a meal as varied as it can be good. The recipe we’ll be following this evening has simple to follow instructions, although some of the ingredients are easier to find than others. I grow my own Mung Bean sprouts, and I’ve already invested in Thai dried chili peppers and a good fish sauce, but we may have to do a little hunting for banana flower and preserved turnip, as well as Chinese chives. For another perspective on authentic Pad Thai, I enjoy the anecdotes and pictures provided here. She also provides some good substitutions, as well as entertaining commentary on ingredients foreigners like to add.

* 04.14.2014 Update: According to Matt, this is one of the best meals I have ever made – this is all owed to the recipe’s clear instructions and the great finds he was able to pick up at our nearest Asian market. But truly, it was better than any Pad Thai take-out I’ve ever had. As the recipe mentions, the meal is really much less oily than take-outers are probably used to, and the noodles themselves are comparatively drier.

 

"Marriage is a duel to the death, which no man of honour should decline." – G.K. Chesterton's 'Manalive'

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