Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ramona's Slippers May Not Be Glass, But ...

... they do make me think of another beloved movie. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bits and Pieces of Our Days: The Recent-Books-With-Ramona Edition

Ramona and I finished our read-aloud of Anne of Avonlea. We read it only over breakfast on the days when Anne and Betsy could join us, so it took awhile, but it was worth it to once again share a book about "that Anne girl" with all of my girls.  Such fun, and made for a delightful start to our day.


Also recently finished a read-aloud of The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop. 
Fun, adventure, and interesting ethical issues to discuss. 


Read-aloud in progress: The Cottage at Bantry Bay. It's Hilda van Stockum ... need I say more?


Twenty and Ten,  by Claire Huchet Bishop. The last, I think, of the WWII books for this year.


And, one that we can't wait to get our hands on 
(we'll be watching for the UPS man tomorrow!): 

The new Penderwicks! Cue the squees! We're all giddy! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Poetry Friday: Deep in the Quiet Wood

Winter does, sometimes, leave me bowed down in heart. But, spring -- o lovely spring! -- is here. Even in Nebraska. And I am ready to "come away to the peaceful wood" and be restored.

Deep in the Quiet Wood
by James Weldon Johnson

Are you bowed down in heart?
Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?
Then come away, come to the peaceful wood,
Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,
From out the palpitating solitude
Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?
They are above, around, within you, everywhere.
Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.
They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.
Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale
Until, responsive to the tonic chord,
It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,
Filling earth for you with heavenly peace
And holy harmonies.

("Deep in the Quiet Wood" is in the public domain. Thanks to for the poetry that daily arrives in my Inbox.


The round up is being hosted today by Reading to the Core

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lent With a Sensitive Child

This is a re-post from when Anne-with-an-e was younger:


When Anne-with-an-e was much younger, she was very sensitive. A picture of Jesus on the Cross could reduce her to tears. Singing certain hymns would leave her spent. The idea of forty days of sorrowful mysteries drained her. I sometimes wondered how someone so little could feel things so deeply.

Lent became a difficult time.

I, being an enthusiastic convert, looked forward to doing everything I could during Lent to challenge myself. But, I realized that my vision of Lent and the Lent I needed to provide for my tenderhearted daughter were two different things.

In a way, it was humbling to create a "more relaxed Lent," if I can call it that, than I had previously practiced, but that's what I needed to do. I pulled back, I stopped trying to do things such as Stations of the Cross for children. Anne just couldn't take it; it broke her heart.

One might argue that our Lord's crucifixion is supposed to break our hearts. Yes, it is. It does. But, a soul in formation has to be handled with the utmost care, and I knew that forcing certain practices on this child would not help her to love God more, and it may even have the opposite effect. Clearly, that was not my vision for teaching my child about how fabulous Jesus was.

All of the usual "Lent with Children" practices were good: baking pretzels, putting cottonballs on the Lamb, putting beans in the sacrifice jar for kindnesses and unselfish actions. But anything too raw, too harsh, too weepy, was just plain too hard. (And remember, Holy Mother Church doesn't technically require our children to abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday until they are fourteen years old.)

As Anne grew, our practices slowly grew and changed, too. Things that were once too hard are handled now, and I see an extremely sensitive child growing into a beautifully sensitive and perceptive young lady. Now in her teens, Anne chose her own penance for this Lent (and it's something she really loves, so I do believe she's challenging herself) and she also chose to take on a devotion that I hadn't even suggested.

I don't mean to suggest that Lent should be watered down. I offer all of this only to help anyone out there who has found that Lent is "just too much" for their sensitive child. You're not alone, and I can almost assure you that "pulling back" or "taking it easy" or tailoring Lenten practices to make them work for your particular child in your particular situation is not necessarily a compromise. In your case, it's sensitive parenting, and it can bear lovely fruit.

And, the beauty of the Catholic Church's teaching (that the parent is the first educator in a child's life) means that we can and should make careful, prudent decisions about these sorts of things.

Every house, every child, every soul is different.

So is every Lent.

At least, that's been the experience at our house.

"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ramona Tweets

Ramona: I'm hungry for freedom. From math.
Me (to Ramona last night, helping her brush through her long hair): "Wow, where did all these tangles come from?" Ramona: "Life."
Ramona: "What's for dinner?" Me: "Stromboli." Her: "Why didn't you tell me that before, when I was in a bad mood?!" Duly noted, child.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Fountains of Carrots Podcast is Up

My chat with Haley and Christy is up on the Fountains of Carrots podcast page. (It's actually been up since last Tuesday, but I, as usual, am late for my own party!)

They were so great to talk to -- 90 minutes, and we still didn't exhaust every subject. Hope you enjoy it -- I sure did, even though we all cried. :)

Saturday, March 14, 2015


When Betsy was younger, before we had her asthma figured out, there were some long and terrible nights. She coughed. Miserably.  I felt helpless. Sleep wouldn't come although we had given her each and every medication that the doctor had approved. There was water on the nightstand, available for sipping. A cushy, cozy bed. Extra pillows that propped her troubled head and eased the air flow to her lungs.

Still she coughed.

And so I turned to the last weapon in my arsenal. I'd snuggle up beside her and she'd rest against me. I held her close, stroked her hair. Sometimes I sang. I was simply there. And she rested. It startled me every time, that my mere maternal presence eased her breathing, relaxed her limbs, opened a clenched fist, left her small mouth slack in sleep. A sweet reprieve it was, for both of us.

Sometimes I am like my daughter.  I have followed my prescription and everything is in its place. Bits and pieces of life have been comfortably settled, readied to deal with any situation that may arise. The water glass, the cool pillow ... we have done our best.

But my restlessness can be calmed by only one thing -- it is the presence of my Father that I need. I do not need any "thing" that He can grant me. I need only to rest in His arms, and that is my consolation. That is the sweet reprieve I need to wake up tomorrow and rise to another day.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lent Has Changed. Or We Have?

When my daughters were young, I wrote about "Lent with Young Children."

We always did our Lamb of God calendar:

We put beans in the Sacrifice Jar for every tiny, kind act, and every prayer sincerely uttered: 

We made caterpillars from egg cartons, baked homemade pretzels, read about saints, talked about prayer, learned new prayers, went to daily Mass more often, and dropped iridescent purple stones into a teacup to count down the days until Easter.

And now? My girls have outgrown all the lovely, childish, beloved traditions they grew up with. Cotton balls, beans in a jar, and shiny stones are things of the past. But you know what? New traditions have emerged as young women have slowly appeared, replacing the children in this house.

Last night, Betsy gave a witness talk, about her relationship with Mary, to a group of 7th and 8th graders. It came about by chance (I mean the way in which she was asked to do it) but she saw God's hand in the timing, and she said yes, although she doesn't like to speak to groups. And as she chatted about what she planned to say, Ramona chimed in with her perspective, too:  "Do you know how I would explain it? It's like you have a best friend, but better than any friend you have on earth, and you can tell her everything." The talk went beautifully, by all accounts, and Betsy was so glad she said yes.

Lent with old children is nice, too.

On Relevant Radio in a few minutes

... to talk about pilgrimage

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Just Call Her Anne-with-a-Ron-Swanson-On-the-Side

Anne-with-an-e: What are you planning for dinner?
Me: Vegetarian fried rice.
Anne-with-an-e: Oh, I'm sorry ... you're planning to feed me the food my food eats?

Sorry Ron-Anne.

Hate to Go, Love Having Gone

(from the archives:)

I want to share my three best tips for a meaningful Lent (or any month):

They are:

1. Go to confession.
2. Go to confession.
3. Go to confession.

(And, if I haven't mentioned it lately, I also think going to confession would be a good thing to do.)

If you love going to confession, good for you. Keep it up.

If you hate going to confession, consider giving up "not going to confession" for Lent.

If you hate to go, but love having gone, you may be a Dorothy Parker fan. (Of her profession, she said, "Hate to write ... love having written.")

I am a Dorothy Parker sort of confessee. Hate to go. Love having gone. Love going regularly, even though I hate going. (And, although it has no place in this post, I'll share another Dorothy Parker quote: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." Love that, although it's completely out of place here.)

And, finally, one more Dorothy Parker quote that does have a place here:

“It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes.”

Confess the mess.

And, that's the last of Dorothy Parker I can share. If I repeat her most famous stuff, I'll have to head straight to confession.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Poetry Friday: Go Visit the Roundup

I'm in a bit of a hurry today, so I'm sending you straight over to the roundup at Robyn Campbell's place.

(And I linked over there to my "Good-bye, February, and Good Riddance" haiku.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Yeah, But Was It a Real Pilgrimage?

I should face it: we'll never be able to afford a real pilgrimage. That's okay. I make a short pilgrimage every morning to the coffee pot, and there I am fueled for the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of my day.

But Rome? The Holy Land? Probably won't happen until vans never break down, appliances last forever, a mortgage is paid off ... and by then Atticus and I will be decrepit.

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is a charter bus, and Mr. Henkel is the sun.

Our liturgy director is opportunity in motion. He is all about offering the people of our parish opportunities they may not otherwise have, or may not take advantage of, or even think of unless he charters a bus and hands them a permission slip. A recent one was this: he arranged for our youth choir (and any interested adults) to sing at a Mass at St. Cecilia's Cathedral. He called it a pilgrimage.

Anne-with-an-e and Betsy have been to our cathedral before. And of course, Atticus and I have been there. (We were there for the Rite of Election the years we came into the Church -- fifteen years ago for Atticus, twenty years for me, and I was there for numerous other Rites of Election.) But Ramona had never seen it.

Photo thanks to St. Cecilia Cathedral 

Mr. Henkel loves to arrange trips. For kids, for adults, for anyone who's up for a trek: a journey to an historic church they've never seen, a chance to hear a choir they've never heard, a moment to whisper supplications in a place they've never prayed, the chance to spend a day they've never had. He wants to share beauty.

Ramona wanted to see the beauty. She wanted the bus trip, the day with friends, the singing, the spectacular pipe organ (she didn't know she wanted that -- until she saw it, toured it, got to actually go inside the organ -- but she did). She wanted the Chinese food on the way home. And I wanted her to see St. Cecilia's, because somehow, inexplicably, I've never shown it to her before. I wanted to share beauty.

That's one amazing organ. And I don't even like organ music. Unless I'm in St. Cecilia's. 

So we signed up.

I can't say that bus trips are something I look forward to. I developed an aversion to mammoth forms of transportation after spending 36 hours on a Greyhound from Omaha to Daytona Beach, Florida with Jack when I was twenty years old ("Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping. "I'm empty and aching and I don't know why.") But this little field trip was only two hours, with my favorite Ramona and my favorite Betsy (acting as a choir chaperone), and friends, too. Leaving the driving to someone else sounded lovely, actually, on a crisp, cold, sunny first day of March.

Ramona's view from the choir loft, after practice. 

During Mass, the choir sang "Steal Away."

Steal away, 
steal away, 
steal away to Jesus. 

Next week is the anniversary of my baptism. Next month is the anniversary of my reception (five years after my baptism) into the Catholic Church. Next month is an anniversary for Atticus, too, who came into the Catholic Church five years after I did. Has it really been that long since our conversions?

My Lord, He calls me, He calls me by the thunder. 

Conversion is a funny word. It connotes weights, calculations, measurable results.

"Transfiguration," as Fr. Robert Barron explains, feels more accurate, more illuminating than the word "conversion." More tremble-inducing.

The trumpet sounds within my soul.

The clear, sweet voices (steal away, steal away) that floated ethereally from the cathedral's choir loft during Mass on Sunday night transported me to a time before a Transfiguration, before I knew who the Man on the cross was, before I could or did or wanted to love Him.


It was a fearful, wonderful journey I took, this search for Jesus. For such a long time, I was a spiritual asthmatic, gasping, waiting, looking for a cure. My newfound faith was clean, sweet oxygen.

This cathedral was one of the stops on that trek.

Yes, I took a real pilgrimage last weekend.

Steal away, steal away home.

I was home, I am home, I will be home, and I am on a constant trudge to get home.

I ain't got long to stay here.

Tomorrow morning, I'll stumble to the coffee pot, pour another cup of coffee, offer up another day, and the pilgrimage will continue.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Good-bye, February, and Good Riddance

Why is the shortest month the longest month?

A few years back, I couldn't find anything (for a Poetry Friday) that expressed my relief at saying farewell to the longestshortest month of the year. So, I wrote my relief in haiku form:

February fades,
Like a guest who stayed too long.
Shut the door, and sigh.

Dear March -- hey, there! Happy to see you arrive!

You can stay for 31 days and I promise not to get exasperated with you.

Photo thanks to

Saturday, February 28, 2015