Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Ham, Again?

How was your week?  Here are a few highlights from mine.

  1. Someone once gave me a good piece of advice: Never, ever talk about or show pictures of bowel movements on your blog.  Now, this is sound advice, and I had every intention of following it.  Until this happened:
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Yes, that is poop running down her leg.  She apparently doesn’t mind and is having a good time.

2.  When my 4-month-old did this, I had two choices:  1.)  I could sit down and cry.  Oh, the agony of cleaning up this mess!  Or, 2.)  Go, get the other children, and show them just what their baby sister did and have a good laugh.

I did the latter.  This is real life, after all, and it’s messy.  (The older children thought it was hilarious, until I had them scrubbing onesies and seat holders.)

3.  Someone else also gave me another really good piece of advice:  Never, ever share stories or pictures of your children that could potentially embarrass them when they are older.  Mea culpa.

4.  Sometimes on this blog I show pictures of what I’ve cooked for dinner.  This week, I’m not going to show you because we had ham three nights this week.  Yep.  Baked ham the first night.  Bean and ham soup the second night.  And noodles and ham the third night.  We’re out of ham now.  Maybe we’ll have hot dogs tomorrow night.

5.  I’m rereading G. K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man.  Here’s a sample:

“The very fact that a bird can get as far as building a nest, and cannot get any farther, proves that he has not* a mind as a man has a mind...But suppose our abstract onlooker saw one of the birds begin to build as men build.  Suppose in an incredibly short space of time there were seven styles of architecture for one style of nest.  Suppose the bird carefully selected forked twigs and pointed leaves to express the piercing style of Gothic…Suppose the bird made little clay statues of birds…”

His point is that we’re different than the animals – gloriously different, in that we create.

*My emphasis.

 

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Book Review

G. K. Chesterton and St. Francis: Book Review

St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton

The other day I picked up a G. K. Chesterton book that I hadn’t thought of in ten years: St. Francis of Assisi.  I remember enjoying it then, if only understanding a 1/3 of it.  Now, that I’ve reread it, I understand more.  I love books that one can return to, because there’s such great depth.

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G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).  Intellectual Powerhouse.  Catholic Convert.  Terror of Heretics.

My problem ten years ago was that I had little understanding of the history of the Church, and that’s the great strength of this book.  Chesterton doesn’t just start by saying Francis Bernardone was born on a rainy day in Assisi in 1181.  Nope.  He devotes the first couple of  chapters to describing the world in which St. Francis was born.  He answers such questions as, what was going on in the Church?  Or, why was there a great need for a man like St. Francis anyway?

St. Francis of Assisi is just as relevant today as when it was published in 1923.  In fact, it is probably more relevant as our culture has completely forgotten its roots, and if it remembers St. Francis at all, it remembers flowers and birds.  Nothing really of the man Francis – of his uncompromising holiness.  He didn’t just preach to birds and admire the flowers.  No.  This was the man who willingly embraced a leper because he wanted to overcome his cowardice.  This was the man who walked straight into the heart of the Crusades and demanded to speak to the notorious Sultan to tell him about Jesus Christ.  This was the man who bore the Stigmata and asked to be moved to the bare ground to die upon, in nothing but his hair-shirt.

Chesterton does an excellent job of startling our drowsy senses into wakefulness with this book.  He clears up our dull and hazy vision to reveal a truly great saint.

If you’re in need of a good nonfiction book, get this one.  But be warned, even though it is meant only to be an introduction to St. Francis, I found it helpful to be somewhat familiar with a basic outline of St. Francis’s life, as Chesterton seems to take that for granted.

Chesterton for Kids

If you’d like to introduce Chesterton to your children, check out these excellent readers put together by Nancy Carpentier Brown.  My children love them.

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Nancy Carpentier Brown takes G.K.C.’s Father Brown series and adapts it for children.

Want More For Yourself?

There is an excellent magazine that my husband and I have been enjoying for years.  It’s called Gilbert!  Perhaps some of you may be familiar with Dale Ahlquist?  He’s the publisher and editor.  Subscription to the magazine comes with membership to the American Chesterton Society.  I strongly recommend it.

This magazine features various essays from Chesterton and other current writers such as  Dale Ahlquist, James V. Schall, and my favorite, David Beresford.

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Here’s our latest issue.  This magazine is truly a gem.  I look forward to it every month.  (Even though I think there are only 8 issues a year…)

If you’ve never read Chesterton before, begin now.  And don’t be intimidated by him.  Many start with Orthodoxy or his Father Brown series.  Both are excellent.  If you love fiction, go with Father Brown.  If you’re a lover of nonfiction, go for the former.

4 Parting Smidgeons

  1. Since I’ve recently mentioned Evelyn Waugh on these pages…Chesterton wrote a scorching review of one of Waugh’s early books, Decline and Fall.  (Waugh wrote that book prior to his conversion.)  At the time, Waugh thought it was hilarious and put Chesterton’s condemnatory remarks on his 1929 Christmas card.
  2. After Waugh’s conversion, he became great friends with Hilaire Belloc, who happened to be best buds with Chesterton.  I’m not sure, however, if Waugh and Chesterton ever met.  (If anyone knows the answer to that, drop me a line.)
  3. In England, the Church is investigating Chesterton’s life with a view for opening his case for canonization.  This is only the very beginning stage of a long, long process.  Read about it HERE.
  4. What’s my favorite Chesterton book?  Everlasting Man.  And I recommend THIS copy because it contains Everlasting Man, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Thomas Aquinas – three of my favorite Chesterton books.
Homeschooling

My Hydra-Yucca-Plant: A Tragedy

This summer we’ve been studying biology and botany.  Well, sort of.

You see, I have a yucca plant that won’t die.  In fact, it only multiplies.  So my husband and the children have been experimenting with different Killing Methods.

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Here it is.  Thriving.

Ever since we moved out here, in the country, we’ve had a yucca plant problem.  The previous owners of our place willingly (and stupidly) planted this horrible, indestructible thing.  So the first and second year we just hacked the thing off at the ground, naively hoping it would disappear in the spring.  And it did no such thing.

The third year, my husband got the spade out and violently slashed at the roots and wrenched out big hunks of that deplorable plant.  I was quite hopeful that it would be gone.

Alas.  My hopes were in vain.  The thing only multiplied; thus receiving it’s new name The Hydra.  (You are familiar with Hercules and the Hydra Dragon?  You cut off one head and several more appear.  Unbelievable.)  This Hydra-Yucca-Plant is threatening to take over my whole garden.

Last summer, I gave the 8-year-old twins a tank of extra-strong, undiluted Round-Up and a sprayer.  Their job was to kill it.  Hence, botany as summer school – good idea, right?

Well, the twins failed and through no fault of their own.  It just kept popping up all over the place.

This summer the twins have been giving me reports on It.  “Hey Mom, do you want us to pull Those Plants out?  Or should we get the Round-Up?”  And, “Mom, there’s more of ’em!”    And finally, “Mom, you wouldn’t believe it, but now they’re popping up on the other side of those railroad ties!”

And so, I give up.  This year, the Hydra-Yucca-Plant gets to live.  It’s a tragedy.

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Here it is in another spot.

The picture below is a full-grown yucca plant in the wild, where it belongs.

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This picture was not taken by me.  It was taken by Forest and Kim Starr.

P.S.  This is such an ugly plant.  It belongs only in deserts.  It’s pretty much like a worthless cactus anyway, with it sharp spears.  And ugliness.  No offense to anyone out there who actually likes these indestructible things.  For I suppose they do offer a little green to an otherwise brown landscape.

Life is Worth Living

Caught in the Act!

Strider’s on the loose again.  This time I caught him in the act.  Really, it takes a lot of talent to catch these flying beauties.

It’s like watching Planet Earth, with the big, mean predator sneaking up on its helpless and defenseless prey.

Ever watch Planet Earth?  My kids love it.  I do too, I guess.  Even though I mostly save these short episodes for the ten other colder months of the year.

The world is truly a beautiful, awesome place.  There’s some propaganda in Planet Earth though.  You know, like human beings are all terrible destroyers and polar bears are all dying out etc., etc.  But it’s worth it.  There are two seasons out now.

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No birds are safe around here.
Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Pull-ups & Kiddie Pools

How was your week?  Here are a few highlights from mine:

  1. The boys have been doing daily pull-ups on the swing set.  The other day, they challenged me to a contest to see who could do more.  I lost.  I mean, I lost big time.  I couldn’t even do one.  They made me start from a dead hang, and I couldn’t even pull myself up halfway.
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The twins can do six.  I was impressed.

2.  Speaking of pull-ups and other impossible things, apparently it’s impossible for my children not to put things in their mouths.  Do you remember how my son swallowed a penny a few weeks ago?  Well, my 2-year-old girl decided to do that too.

But now that I have experience with the matter, I’ll have you know that I completely kept my cool.  I observed her for a whole five minutes before I gave up.  The first minute she cried.  The second minute she started wriggling around again.   The third minute she was off playing.  And the final two minutes I just watched her from afar.  She’s fine.

3.  It’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow.  Happy Birthday, Mom!

4.  Since the temperature rose above 80 degrees the other day, I thought I’d check out the kids’ pool in the backyard.  (This is what you do, when you live nowhere near anything cool, like an ocean.)

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It was a bit tricky trying to float on their little floaties, but I managed.  Does my neck look red?*

The children were so excited that I was joining them that they even promised to not splash me so that I could read.

And what was I reading?  Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate.  Mitford was one of Evelyn Waugh’s friends.  He even proofread her stuff for her.  But this book was marginal.  Waugh is a wayyyy better writer.  (If you’re looking for a good book to read this summer, pick up Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.)

Notice the brown water in the pool?  Yuck, huh?  But that’s just because the sandbox is a few feet away, not because, well, you know.

5.  The prairie roses are in full blown.  They are the best smelling flower in the whole wide world.  They also happen to be our State Flower.

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The children keep a fresh supply for me on the table.
*I’m afraid that floating around in the kids’ pool makes me a Red Neck, if you know what I mean.

 

What's for Supper?

What’s For Supper? Italian Minestrone

Tonight we had a lettuce salad, Italian Minestrone, and bread.

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Lettuce Salad with feta, yellow & red peppers, and kalamata olives.

Now I know that my Minestrone may not be true Italian Minestrone because it’s lacking cabbage and Italian sausage.  The fact is, I didn’t have any Italian sausage because I’m not Italian.  But I did have venison sausage because I’m a North Dakotan, and my husband hunts.  Every fall he shoots a deer, hangs it, guts it, cuts it up, and then has his butcher process it for us.  Hence venison sausage.

So maybe, I ought to call it North Dakotan Minestrone?

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“Italian” Minestrone

Now what to drink with this soup?  I understand soup is difficult to pair with wine.  I looked it up and came across two suggestions.  The first was a sparkling red.   Well, I didn’t have any sparkling red.  Next, I read that a Sangiovese will do, with the most popular Sangiovese around here being Chianti.  Alas, but I was fresh out of Chianti.

What to do?

Some of you may be wondering what I did have in the wine rack?  Only a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.  And when all else fails and one only has a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, one drinks Cabernet Sauvignon.

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I suppose I spent about $10 on this Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was good.

Notice the bread in the picture?  I bought it from our local bakery, Bread Poets.  They buy wheat from the farmers around here and grind (or should I say mill?) it themselves.  It’s the best.  This particular loaf is stuffed with tomato sauce and pepperonis.  Who wouldn’t like that?

Recipe for “Italian” Sausage Minestrone

Ingredients
1 lb. “Italian” Sausage
2 large carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
olive oil
7 cups chicken broth
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup small pasta
shredded Parmesan for serving

Directions
In a Dutch oven, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.

In the same pan, saute the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in oil until tender.  Stir in everything else, except pasta and Parmesan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Put the pasta in the last 5 or 6 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan.

 

Book Review

Humility Rules: Book Review

Anyone need a good book for teenage boys?  That’s inspiring, short, and hilarious?

You’re in luck.  Ignatius Press has just the thing:

Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s 12-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem

This is the title of Brother J. Augustine Wetta’s book.  Click HERE for it at Ignatius Press.

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Notice the monk carrying a skateboard?   This book is full of funny pictures.

A friend of mine gave this book to me, and I read it in a day or two.  It’s set up in 12 “steps” and offers practical advice after the fashion of St. Benedict’s Rule.  It’s good for anyone to read, but the reason why I emphasize teenage boys is because Wetta is a monk, a high school teacher, and a rugby coach.  Furthermore, he’s got a great sense of humor, used to professionally juggle, and loves surfing.  He’s a manly man–perfect for teenage boys.

Wetta even has a little chapter on dating wherein he addresses the infamous question, “How far is too far?”  He ends his rant on the wrongness of this kind of thinking with, “Feel free to do anything you could brag about to your mom.”

Then there’s a chapter on impure thoughts.  He describes his own struggle with this.  “While reading a biography of Saint Benedict, I learned that when he was tempted, he threw himself into a rose bush; so I said to myself, if Saint Benedict can do it, so can I. I went out into the garden behind the monastery and jumped right in.”  You can imagine what happened next…getting stuck for an hour and half, and then having to explain himself to a brother monk…poor guy.  It’s a great story for teenagers.

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I couldn’t resist showing one picture of his monks.  I love that they’re lifting weights.

But he’s got great advice for all walks of life, not just teenagers.  For example, he was once asked to preach at his best friend’s wedding, so he sought the advice of the wisest monk in his abbey, Brother Luke, who happened to be napping.  Brother Luke opened his  eyes and calmly told him, “Tell him [the young married man] that there will come a day when he will want the window open and she will want the window closed.”  Then Brother Luke went back to sleep.  Wetta was taken aback.  What simple, but profound advice!

As a mother, I too found this book inspiring and funny.  For example, let me quote a passage that I could relate to:

When I [Wetta] was seventeen, I burned a hole in the living room carpet.  I didn’t do it on purpose, but let’s just say I wasn’t thinking when I set the hot kettle of popcorn on the rug in front of the TV.  A few minutes later, my mother was standing before me with tears in her eyes, saying, “How much of this house to you plan to destroy before you finally leave for college?  Just let me know so I won’t get too attached.”  That was a few weeks after I had decided to juggle bowling balls in my bedroom, and several months after I had backed the family car into the garage door.

Any mother who has boys will understand what Wetta’s mother was feeling.  How often have I lamented the destruction of my house?  From holes in the walls to broken toilet seats, my husband and I joke about how we can’t have anything nice.

Wetta’s Homework

Each chapter concludes with Wetta’s homework for the reader.  This may be the best part of the book – this simple, practical advice.  Let me give you a few examples of his homework:

  1. Clean a toilet.
  2. Drive somewhere with the radio and the cell phone turned off.
  3. Clean up someone else’s mess.  Bonus points if it’s on the floor.
  4. Spend an entire day without looking at a screen.

Now who wouldn’t want their teenage boy (or girl) to read this awesome book?

Homeschooling

Summer School

We never actually quit doing school; we go all year round.  Why?

  1. The children get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives them something to do.
  2. I get a little bored in the “off” months, and it gives me something to do.
  3. It’s fun to learn new things with zero pressure.
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These two love Summer School.  They just show up and look cute.

What do we do for Summer School?

There are a few things that never go away, no matter what the season, which I call Early Morning School, Morning Time, Piano, and Mid-Morning Prayer Time.  These things work well for our family and provide a nice structure to the day.  That’s not to say that we can’t break from them if something comes up, but rather, they are there to guide us.

Early Morning School is that time before breakfast wherein the children will just pick on each other if there’s nothing to do.  So the night before, I lay out a math facts sheet and a handwriting sheet for my 2nd and 4th graders.  My 6th grader gets a math facts sheet and then works on her typing skills.  None of these things require my assistance, which is good, because I’m usually nursing a baby and drinking my coffee.

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Here’s the cursive handwriting book my 4th graders are using.  It’s got lovely photos.  It’s Seton.

Morning Time is that time during breakfast when I read the Mass readings aloud and then we recite our poetry.  I’ve said it before, but I like doing these two things at the breakfast table because the children are more likely to listen as food is in their mouths.  Right now we’re working on Paul Revere’s Ride.  We do it every summer, leading up to the 4th of July, when we’re feeling very patriotic.

Piano also never ends in the summer.  We keep right on with lessons.  The four older children must play through each of their songs at least 3 times after breakfast.  I tried once making them play for a certain amount of time, say twenty minutes a day, but found we were terrible at keeping track of time.  But for whatever reason, playing a song three times was easier to do.  (And I find that the ones who like playing piano will continue to play on.)

Mid-Morning Prayer Time happens sometime in the morning when I call everyone together, and we sing a hymn and offer a prayer for our intentions.

All of these things are further detailed in my Day in the Life Series, which you can find on my sidebar under “tags,” if you’re curious.

The only other thing that I’m consciously doing for school in the summer is grammar with my three boys.  We are using Classical Academic Press’s Well-Ordered Language series.  This takes about twenty minutes, then we’re done for the day.  I don’t have anything “scheduled” for the afternoons.  After all, one must have time to splash around in a kiddie pool and climb trees.

Any questions?  Just ask.

Call Me Catholic

Slow Down This Summer

The children of their own accord made a little shrine in our trees the other day.  (They affectionately call these trees, The Wildness.)  They gathered lilacs and other flowers in bloom, made blue sashes with star badges, and used sticks for swords.  They also made a little flag.

It was all in honor of Mary, Our lady, Star of the Sea.  I have no idea why they chose this title, especially since we live nowhere near a sea.  (Does the Missouri River count?)

After making all their preparations, they marched my husband and I outside and made us all stand in a line with the 5-year-old leading the way with the flag.  Then, we sang their favorite Marian song, Regina Caeli, as we walked through the yard and Wildness to their prepared shrine.  Once there, the boys made us walk through their swords, which were meant to be something like the Knights of Columbus, and we solemnly knelt down and prayed, asking for Mary’s intercession for our family.

It was sweet and beautiful.

But you know what?  They wouldn’t have done this or had time for it, if we constantly shuffled them around from one activity to another.

Dear families, slow down.

Put the screens away.  Let your children play and use their imaginations.  If they complain of boredom, make them lie out on a blanket under a tree and stare at the leaves and the sky.  Give them a notebook and make them write down 50 things they can see.  Clouds?  Bark?  Ants?  Blades of grass?  Birds?

Maybe you will want to join them?

Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Pray for us!

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This is their shrine in the Wildness.  Note the badges and “swords.”  The badges say, “Our Lady, Star of the Sea, pray for us.”  The boys even put on blue shirts, in honor of Mary.
Life is Worth Living

Welcome to the Family!

Dear Readers,

I can’t help but spread a little cheer.  My brother has just announced his engagement to the lovely lady in the photo below.  They both have suffered a lot through previous “marriages,” which have been annulled.  God is giving them a second chance to do things rightly.

All I can say is, congratulations!  And welcome to the family!

And then I have two bits of advice for all Engaged Couples.

Advice for Engaged Couples

  1. Start praying together now, if you aren’t already.  (This goes for you married couples too.)  This is so important.  Not only will it help you when things get tough, but just think of the example you are setting for your children.
  2. Go to confession.  We are all sinners, and we all need to frequent this sacrament.  (Married couples included.)  So, go to confession!
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Here is my brother and his new fiancé in front of the oldest cathedral in the United States.  Quiz:  Where are they?*

 

By the way, I understand that my brother’s fiancé is 100% Italian.  This is exciting for our family because we are mostly German and Norwegian, with a little Dutch sprinkled on top.

But the Dutch part is very important, as I will never forget my Grandfather explaining his heritage and last name.  “You see, Kim, our last name used to be ‘Van Dubbelden’ in the Old Country, but now it’s Dubbelde, which is a little more American.  But don’t you ever forget,” and here he stopped, looked me straight in the eye, pointed his finger at me, and said, “If ya ain’t Dutch, ya ain’t much!

Well, I’m glad I’m Dutch.  But, I look forward to having an Italian in the family.  I love their wine.  (After all who ever heard of a Dutch wine?  Or a Norwegian wine?)

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Cheers!  From my husband.

 

*Answer:  St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.  Not built by the Dutch or the Italians, but by the French of course.