Monday, March 31, 2014

E Turns 2!


The Monday following a full weekend is always a day to play catch-up. Fortunately, the weather is cooperating with me today (read: rainy, rainy rain rain rain) so even though more rain kind of makes me want to pull my hair out, I will say "thank you for the excuse to stay home!" and go on with catching up. 

Late Thursday night (let's be honest-- it was early Friday morning), my sister and her family drove in to spend a long weekend with us! We spent Friday relaxing and I had the good fortune to introduce my sister to my best friends here when we all got together for lunch followed by a play-date. The evening was punctuated by a hilarious game of Wise and Otherwise with my sis and bro-in-law.* Saturday, we took advantage of a little break in the rainy rain rain rain to walk around the city. This was followed by an afternoon of grocery shopping and intense party prep because on Sunday, our little E turned 2!!!

We had a luncheon party with family and friends, which was only hampered slightly by the rain because we couldn't offer to let everyone go outside on the playground.  Yet despite a cold and a slightly grumpy demeanor, E seemed to have fun and she eventually embraced the chaos enough to enjoy opening her presents.  My sister and her beautiful little family departed that afternoon, as did my husband's parents who so graciously made the long drive just to be with us for the day. 

It was truly a long weekend of feeling supremely blessed by family and friends-- what a gift to receive at the mid-point of what has been a busy and trying Lent.  

And now, some eye candy from the weekend: 

Happy Godparents with ADORABLE Godson

E, G and S: cousins!!

*Also, for any reviewers who say that the game isn't fun, I have to snarkily reply: then you aren't clever enough to make it fun. If you write boring answers, the game will be boring. Duh. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dinosaur Lesson


S and E have both taken a fancy to dinosaurs the past couple of weeks owing to the recently-acquired knowledge that their father was an avid dinosaur fan when he was their age.  For your viewing pleasure, here's what S and I did while E was napping this afternoon:

I hope you learned as much as I did! Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

New Shop!


When I did my 7 Quick Takes featuring the dolls, momof5 wrote in the combox:
"I think they are adorable. I would love to make these for my grandchildren. Would you consider making a pattern and selling it? I think there is a big Catholic audience for these if you market them."
First of all, I am incapable of doing "patterns." I just never learned and I don't have the patience for it. Each of these are done free-hand with regard to details-- I just start with three basic pieces and add on as I see fit. So that's all I have to offer, but you are welcome to it!

Second of all, I have a hard time with "intellectual property rights." If someone sees something that I am doing and you want to do it-- go right ahead! Acknowledgment is nice, but with something like this that's just a blank template, all the creativity belongs to you. :) I, for one, was inspired to make my own dolls based on the wonderfully talented SaintlySilver, but the shapes and designs are my own.

As you'll see on the "pattern," I use two different body shapes.  The female saints usually get Body Type A and generally the men get Body Type B, but this is totally up to you.  Just cut out two pieces of felt in that shape, either in a single color or you can stitch different colors together in the correct shape (e.g. Maximilian Kolbe or Helen).  I make the halos with two pieces of felt as well, being sure to stitch them to the back of the body and then when I close the seam I stitch to the front part as well.  Faces are attached and hair is added on the top.  All of the faces are done with black embroidery floss, using French Knots for the eyes. Everything is done with a blanket stitch and I use poly-fill for the stuffing. Depending on the intricacy of the design, it takes between 1.5-3 hours for any of these dolls. Inspiration for design is taken from classic icons and art.  I hope this helps! If not, please shoot me an email and I'll see if I can be more specific. :)

Link to shop
Finally, I have actually decided to open up shop on Etsy. I used to have a knitting shop, so I expect I'll eventually add some knit/crochet items as well. For now, I have a few dolls ready-made for purchase. My custom order schedule is all full right now, but feel free to contact me if you'd like something made-- I could give you an idea of timeline!

Thanks for all the great feedback and thank you to my wonderful friends and family who are supporting me in this endeavor so far!!

UPDATE: I have also started a "Gallery Site" at Weebly: MotherMerryCrafts. I may streamline everything to bring it back here soon, but this works for now!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Which We Celebrate the Annunciation


Here's a throw-back from my old blog (that's allowed, right?).
Happy Feast Day to my sister and her family!!! <3

by Tanner
Happy Feast of the Annunciation!
I couldn't let this great opportunity pass to offer a little reflection on this day, since I love the liturgical year so much.  What often comes to mind today is: NINE MONTHS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! ...but it seems to me that we often lose sight of what this feast is about: the beginning and end of Jesus' life.  

In ancient times, a life was considered 'perfect' if it began and ended on the same calendar day.  Since Easter was celebrated in connection with Passover from the earliest times in late March/early April, the ancients believed that the incarnation must have also happened around this time.  We moderns may think of it as merely a convention to mark the nine-months before the 'real' holiday of Christmas, but the Annunciation was a Christian feast before Christmas even came to the scene.  It's a feast which celebrates the 'wholeness,' the 'perfection' and the 'fullness' of Jesus' life on earth.  

Mary's "yes" is the beginning of the Christian drama and we celebrate her openness to God's will, but we should also meditate on what this feast means during our Lenten  time of preparation. We cannot celebrate the life of Jesus without also commemorating His sacrificial death.  We cannot imitate the fiat of Mary without knowing that it is deeply connected to her presence at the foot of the cross. 

Conversely, the sorrows of His death and cross are made joyful by the fact that Christ really took on human flesh through Mary and rose again through that same flesh.  So, too, are our sorrows now turned to joys through that fiat of Mary which enabled our Savior to become human as we are human, so that we might share in His eternal life as adopted sons and daughters of God. 

May we find in Mary's fiat the prayer of Jesus in the garden and may our times of joy and sorrow all be opportunities to encounter the Incarnate God.

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
Gate of Heaven, Star of the sea, 
Assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. 
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
Yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
Have pity on us poor sinners.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

St. Catherine of Siena and Me



I'm sure you were all waiting with baited breath to see when I would *finnnnnnalllly* finish the "Dialogue" by Catherine of Siena and...

...oh. You weren't? Okay. Well, that's fine, too.

I started reading this book way back in January, at the recommendation of my formation director.

You can get the full text here

At first I was really excited. I think the thought process was: "Catherine is a Dominican. I love Dominicans. She's a Doctor of the Church. I like Doctors of the Church. This is a dialogue. I've read Plato's dialogues and liked most of them...ergo, this should be great!"

It was not like Plato's dialogues. 

It was like slogging through mud.

At times, it didn't even "feel" like it was written by* a Dominican. 

Obviously, I am not a holy enough person to read this book. 

Much to my chagrin, I found the text to be incredibly similar in voice and style to The Story of a Soul, the great spiritual work by Therese of Lisieux.    

I had tried reading "Story of a Soul" last year (coincidentally, at the very same time *both* of my sisters had also picked it up), but again, it was like slogging through really dense, poorly organized, saccharine mud. I actually had to force myself to read it as a discipline, thinking that at least the seeds would be planted and maybe they'd bear fruit later.

Again: I am clearly not holy enough to read these books. 

What the astute blog-follower may notice, however, is that I have also just finished reading "Lay Siege to Heaven," an historical novel about St. Catherine of Siena by the incredibly talented Louis de Wohl.  

I could  should write an entire post about the great craftsmanship of Mr. de Wohl, but I haven't the time here.  Suffice it to say that the book was excellent-- so excellent in fact that after finishing it, I found it much easier to pick up the "Dialogue" and I even somewhat enjoyed it.  

Why am I writing all this? 
Because I realized something: I may not be spiritually ready to read Catherine or Therese in their own words and really get much out of it. Their personalities are obviously too different from mine. St. Thomas Aquinas may be a dense read-- but by golly he's organized and logical and I loved his stuff the first time I read it. Coming to know who these women are, though, to think about their lives, their historical situations, their families and their friends is a very good way to begin accessing a little bit of their particular expression of "holiness" without being blinded by it. Coming to love St. Catherine through de Wohl, I found myself capable of imagining a *person* speaking to me through those dense, mud-like pages.  If I was going to find her unintelligible anyway, I might as well picture her as an unintelligible sister. Or a friend. Or a mother.

It made me realize the great value of literature like de Wohl's-- to excite imagination in the way we read and understand the saints so that we can gradually come to imagine the strangest of all phenomena: holiness. God. Christ. The Sacraments. Faith...

This is no new idea-- Chesterton, Tolkien, de Saint-Exupery and every hagiographer of any Irish saint EVER knows this. I have been writing some children's books based on this idea**-- but this was the first time I felt the tangible results of what has up until now been just a theory in my heart.  

So thank you, Louis de Wohl. Thank you for introducing me to the great personalities behind some of our greatest saints so that I could hear their words more clearly. I pray that you are already in their ranks. I hope that you've had many great conversations with them about your books. 

What are your favorite books about/by saints? Have you ever had trouble learning to love a particular saint? Who resonates with you?

*Okay, so technically, the "Dialogue" was dictated by Catherine while she was in ecstasy, so she didn't write it. Nor were the words necessarily hers because the claim is that God spoke through her during His part of the Dialogue. But I hope you get what I mean. 
** I've already submitted one to publishers-- PLEASE pray for me as I continue to pursue this!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

An Open Letter


Dear Undergraduate Girl on the Bus,

I’m sure you will never read this blog, but maybe one of your friends will-- you know, the friends who were chatting with you today as I boarded the campus shuttle with my two toddlers?  It was a little before noon and admittedly the bus was busier than normal, but I was so happy to see that the window seat next to you was open. At least one of my girls could sit in safety!

When I asked if my daughter could have that open seat, however, you looked up at me and said: “That seat is wet.” Shocked and very grateful that you saved me from such an error, I looked in the seat to find.... four droplets of water.  That’s right: four teeny, tiny, itsy bitsy drops. I looked at you blankly as you stood your ground, neither scooting over nor shifting your legs to let my daughter through.

By now, the driver was waiting for me to sit down or move out of the aisle. More people had to board. I suggested, perhaps too condescendingly, that you might try wiping it off with your sleeve. Though fleeting, the look you gave me was full of disgust and disbelief. You were clearly not going to touch the water.

Fortunately, two magnanimous gentlemen gave up *both* of their seats so that my two daughters and I could sit behind you.  As I sat down, juggling one toddler and a diaper bag, I quickly reached over the back of the seat and wiped away the droplets that you couldn’t bring yourself to touch.  I believe I said, “There. It’s dry,” and tried to keep my cool as you and your friends exchanged 90’s-style “Whatever” glances and rolled your eyes.

I have to admit I felt a little smug when we pulled up to the next stop and you were able to scoot over for someone else, all because I had gallantly saved you from the inconvenience of having to get a corner of your sleeve slightly damp.

At first, I was very angry at you.  I thought you were either selfish or inept or completely stupid (which is difficult to believe considering the incredibly prestigious technical institute you attend)-- but these are not very good Christian things to think.  So I tried to imagine what could have possibly made you react the way you did and thank the Lord, I believe I finally understand why you couldn’t possibly have wiped off those droplets:

You have rabies. 

My heart goes out to you, Undergraduate Girl on the Bus.  If I were in your position I would be bitter and frightened of water as well.  I cannot even imagine the strife you must go through on a regular basis-- having to hide your disease as you neurotically avoid puddles and layer on the dry shampoo and deodorant just hoping your roommate doesn’t suggest a shower.  It is a tough life you live. And I am sorry for thinking so ill of you. I will pray that God cures you of this horrible disease so that you will never have to live in fear of four tiny water droplets ever again.

Also, thank you for not biting my children.

The Summa Momma

Friday, March 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Dolls!


I am addicted to making these little dolls now. Seriously. I can't stop. And I don't want to. So for my quick takes, here's a pictorial for your busy Friday:

1. Attempt number one: the angel duo next to attempt number two: The Archangel Gabriel

2. St. Rose of Lima

3. Saint Lucy
This was the first one I embroidered the face for, since she had the whole "no eyes" thing going on (my husband's great idea-- thanks honey!)

 4. Saint Brigid of Ireland

5. Empress Saint Helena, finder of the True Cross

6. Saint Maximilian Kolbe

7. Saint Mary Magdalene 

What's with the egg?

I'm thinking about making a few to sell for Easter.
Is this a good idea or am I just feeding an addiction? 

Now go to Conversion Diary and check out the other Quick Takes! As always, a BIG "thank you!" to Jen for hosting!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Black Hole


Seriously. Where is all our stuff?

I don't understand how a tiny, tiny apartment can just suck things into the walls... or the floor... or make them spontaneously disintegrate into their constituent atoms.

On the missing list so far:

An angel doll
A stuffed poodle
A sippy cup
My spouse ID card that is absolutely necessary
 for doing things around campus

A St. Rose of Lima doll narrowly escaped the fate of these other objects by being whisked away just before she could be eaten by the radiator.

St. Anthony has been no help so far. So whom do I go to next?
St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes?

Saint Jude clearly doesn't have time for this nonsense

Or perhaps St. Dominic, whom Google has just informed me is the patron saint of astronomers? (black holes...get it?)

I'm going crazy and cannot imagine where these things have ended up.

Do you ever lose groups of things at a time? Where on earth (or in heaven?) do you find them? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rosary For Busy Moms: Pt. #2


Happy Solemnity of Saint Joseph!

Well, we *still* don't have wireless back, but at least I can sit here tethered to the wall like the good ol' days and get some posting done.  Today, I'm continuing my series on the Rosary.  In Part 1, I talked a little bit about the history of the Rosary.  In Part 2, I'm tackling the question:

How Can I Fit the Rosary 
Into My Busy Day?

Lots of wonderful, holy, virtuous people will tell you that making time to pray will actually make your schedule "fall into place" better.  I happen to agree with them, but one of the biggest obstacles to working on a prayer life is simply finding the "right" time in what seems like an already-packed schedule. Though saying the Rosary only takes 15-20 mins (unless you're like me and go into ecstasy every time you pick one up-- that'll take you longer), it can seem a daunting task to find those precious few minutes.  So here's my first tip: start by doing it at the same time you do something else. 

1. In the Car
You may be busy shuttling the kids and the groceries from place to place, but driving isn't an activity that prohibits one from listening to music and singing along wildly-- why would it prohibit you from saying the Rosary? You can either pop in this wonderful CD by the MaryFoundation...

Get Your Copy Here

...or keep track of the decades with a little pocket rosary or with your fingers. I find the latter easier because my hands are on the steering wheel anyway, so I just press a little with each finger as I go through the decade. I love doing this because the kids are always in the car with me and they absorb so much of it just by listening.  Sometimes they even pray along!

2. During Your Walk/Exercise
In summer I find myself taking advantage of the city by walking.  Some of you may have regular times when you go for a run, swim, etc.  Instead of immediately pumping up the jams, play the Rosary on your iPod. If you're saying it on your own, though, try to match the rhythm of your breathing to the prayer.  This is an ancient meditative technique (commonly used with the Jesus Prayer) and could even help with your workout.

3. While Doing Chores
Some days, sitting on the couch for fifteen minutes just isn't going to happen.  At time like those, I just say my Rosary while I'm washing dishes.  This poses its own difficulties because my hands are covered in soapy water and I can't spare the fingers to grasp anything.  So I took advantage of a blank spot behind our sink and did this: 

It's a cross with ten little decorative paper swatches taped to the wall. Fancy, no? Everyone thinks I'm just skimping on the decor, but we know better. This has been a huge help on those super-busy days and it also helps me to think about allllllllllllllll the work that I do and how it serves my family-- it's a reminder that every chore can be a form of prayer. 

4. Throughout the Day
Don't have fifteen minutes doing any of these things? Say your Rosary in segments throughout the day. For example: 
First Decade- in the shower
Second Decade- in the car
Third Decade- in line at the grocery store
Fourth Decade- back in the car
Fifth decade- while you're setting the dinner table


This is just a start. I can guarantee that if you're just beginning (as I was six months ago), it will be hard. I still find it hard most days, but even on those days when my brain seems to be fighting me, I can sometimes feel a tugging at my heart that helps me.  Those are the days I expressly try to quiet myself and NOT say the Rosary at a time when doing something else.  But enough about me. Now I want to know: 

Do you say the Rosary regularly?
If not the Rosary, do you have another prayer you like to say on a regular basis? 
How do you make the time? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!


Still no wireless.

But today we went out for mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for Boston's patronal feast. There were pipers, harpists, lots of Gaelic, the awesomeness of Cardinal Sean and blessed shamrocks for everyone! The girls were so excited to bring their plants home and it was fun to have a little "break" during Lent.

Later, we took the girls out to a local pub and celebrated with some delicious chocolate milk!!!

E had the quote of the night. 
She said: "I LOVE SLAINTE!!!!!!"

May you all have a blessed day.
Saint Patrick, pray for us! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Interwebs Are Broken


I'm writing this on my phone because the internet is broken in our apartment... Well, not just our apartment but the whole buildinwasSo until that comes back, don't expect any great posts from my end.

I did, however, want to capture this gem for posterity: I spoke with my sister yesterday, who unfortunately has come down with a cold. S was immediately concerned-- and so was E (who is almost 2), but E kept saying things like, "I saying poor Aunt Seffie has a Winny day..." I couldn't figure out what she was talking about until it clicked and I burst out laughing.

For E, cold=windy day. So poor Aunt Steffie is suffering from a windy day.

I hope it gets better soon!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Angel Craft, Take 2


I get kind of obsessive when it comes to projects. I get something in my head and I have to DO IT. So after the relative success of the angel dolls earlier this week, I started wondering if I could learn a couple of new stitches or redesign the doll shape to make them easier/cuter.  The answer is: yes.

It took about two minutes to learn the blanket stitch and while mine don't look perfect, I think the result is better over all.  

So here's the new angel:

I didn't have blue, so I gave him a little scroll, which is the typical symbol of Gabriel.  S recognized him immediately! So, now I'm all excited and might just have to go to the fabric store to get some felt to make some saint dolls for the girls.... and everyone else, really.  

In the mean time, this little guy will eagerly await for my nephew's visit at the end of the month. Can't wait to see you guys! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thank You, Sis!


No long post today; I battled a migraine this afternoon and even though I'm feeling much better, I still have those annoying little residual "tingles" that come afterwards.

Just wanted to share two things:

1) My little sister is awesome
2) So is thredUP

As if having a migraine weren't bad enough, I spent the day traipsing around the mall and came home totally empty-handed.  I was looking for a dress and everything I found was either too expensive, too short, too casual or too busty for me.  Talk about a frustrating day! I messaged my sister and told her she needed to move to New England pronto so that she could go shopping with me.  I suffer from shopping paralysis sometimes and this was evidently one of those all-too-frequent days.

But thanks to her suggestion, I snagged this Banana Republic Dress from thredUP for less than $20! SCORE. I never shop there because it's always out of my price range.

Banana Republic

If you've never used thredUP, I suggest you check them out. But before you buy anything, write to me so that I can invite you and then you'll save $10 on your first purchase (thanks, again, sis!).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What's In a Name?


Naming children is really fun. But it's also super difficult.
This post is not about how we named our daughters (maybe more on that later), but rather about choosing a name for oneself, which seems to me an even more difficult task.

When I received the Sacrament of Confirmation, I chose St. Joan of Arc as my patroness.  My middle name is a variant of Joan, so it seemed fitting. Also, I was so pathetically unaware of the great multitude of saints, that choosing someone I had heard of and knew at least a basic biographical sketch of seemed a smart move.


Since that day, I have constantly been puzzled by my decision.  I believe that God led me to choose her and that she watches over me in a very special way, but sometimes I wonder why/how.  I wait to see what she and God have in store for me. :)

Now, I have before me another great opportunity: choosing a religious name.

I don't know how it works with other groups, but the Lay Dominicans allow a novice to select a religious name.  Though our group doesn't commonly use "Sister X" or "Brother X" during meetings, I have seen a few newsletter writings or other references that suggest some Dominicans actively use religious names for any business pertaining to the order. Neat, right?

However, I'm a little stuck. I find myself slightly paralyzed by the thought of such a great gift.  Taking someone's name means asking for their patronage and prayers in a very meaningful, deep way.  It means choosing someone whose life you intend to emulate to a certain degree. It means committing to a name-- and even though I do have to submit names for approval by my superiors, it is my desire that eventually I will be fully received into the order and so I feel that I must operate as if this decision is final.

So guess what? You all get to hear about it, because I've been praying and I keep getting confusing answers. Maybe I just need to get the thoughts out; or perhaps one of you will be moved by the Holy Spirit to say something seemingly random that helps me! So here goes:

I thought I had decided on Cecilia.

This is a very fitting name for me for multiple reasons. First, I am a singer and a musician. So are a lot of my friends. I don't think I could even count the number of kids named "Cecilia" from our group of college friends. I also love Cecilia, though, because my first encounter with real, flesh and blood Dominicans were the Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville. I don't need to go on and on about how great they are, because if you are reading this, the chances are that you already know. The short end of a long love story with them is that I had health issues at the time I made formal inquiries about joining, so I was turned away. Curious that since marrying my husband, many of these issues have gone away...

Finally, I love the idea of Cecilia because Bl. Cecilia Cesarini was the first woman to receive the Dominican habit and she received it from the hands of Dominic himself.  She was a dear friend of his and bequeathed to us a series of recollections about him and the impact he had on her life. Her closeness to Dominic is something I desire, for I feel that I have much to learn about him and the charism he let loose on the world through his Order of Preachers. 

Competing with Cecilia, though, is a woman whose state of life is closer to my own. Though she is rightly associated with the Carmelite Order, Bl. Zelie Martin has grabbed my attention over the past couple of years and she has been a constant prayer companion of mine for various reasons.  

Image Source
First of all, "Sister Zelie" just sounds soooooo cool. It's a total hipster name, no? Not to mention, she had a lot of daughters and all of them were blessed with religious vocations. Plus, it seems like she's kind of nagging a loving, motherly sort of way.

Finally, I've been wondering about Rose. My grandmother passed away recently and with her funeral came the unexpected revelations that I knew so very little about her amazing life, but also that I had absorbed some valuable lessons by her example that I never thought much about before.  The connection? Her middle name was Rose. My great-grandmother (her mother) was also named Rose, and many of my cousins share the family name.  Recently, my younger girl has latched on to a beautiful image of Rose of Lima in her saints book-- a saint who happened to be a Third Order Dominican. 

How can I not think of "Rose" when dear little E keeps running around the house with her book yelling, "Ros-a-lima pay uh us!!!"

Of course there is also Catherine, which links two great saints with Dominican ties: Catherine of Alexandria (patroness of scholars and visitor to saint Dominic in a mystical vision) and Catherine of Siena (a Third Order Dominican and Doctor of the Church). 

Catherine of Alexandria, Lotto
Catherine of Siena
Catherine of Alexandria (I am tempted to say "coincidentally," but I know better than that) was also one of the counsellors to.. Saint Joan of Arc. Hmmmmmmmm.

Plus, there's always Thomas Aquinas. If I were to take his name I think it'd be in conjunction with a female name; e.g. Rose Thomas, Zelie Thomas, Cecilia Zelie Thomas Rose... you know. 

So what do you think? But even more fun: 
If you were to choose a religious name, what would you pick???
How would you choose?

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Craft that Sort of Worked


I woke up this morning to snow.
I felt the life force draining from me.
I needed Something To Do.

Immediately, my mind leaped to the bundles of felt I have left over in my room from the Vestment Project  and then I remembered these ADORABLE dolls from My Little Felt Friends.

The crazy was already bubbling up inside me, so my mind did a few contortions and came up with an absurd idea: 

"I could make those!!!!!"

I'll just go ahead and let you know: I can't. To start off with, I didn't have the right colors. All I had were the liturgical colors, along with some yellow I had stashed away from a different project. I convinced the girls that we should make angel dolls with pink (... rose?) dresses and they were very excited.  One problem solved. The second problem is that my sewing skills aren't really...great. I'm adequate, but I only know a few stitches and I haven't the knotting techniques nor the patience to pull off something as lovely as that Therese doll above. But I was desperate and the kids were excited about pink.

I let the girls decorate the dresses with fabric pens, which kept them entertained for about five minutes. Fortunately, they managed to get the paint all over the vinyl tablecloth, their arms and their faces-- which was much easier to clean up than if they had drawn on their clothes!

The trickiest part about the whole affair, though, was that assembling the dolls took a lot more effort than I thought. There were times when I was dangling three different needles, all with different thread colors, trying to sew the pieces in the correct order.  It was a little bit of a pain and I'm sure someone with better skillz could have managed easier, but it wasn't all that bad.  All in all, I spent three hours sewing the dolls this morning and here they are!

Notice how the seams are all bulgy and the angel on the left has her head on totally crooked. But I finished the craft and when all was said and done, this happened: 


The girls really seem to enjoy them. They are so proud that they made the dresses, and I'm happy they'll have some dolls they can take to church.

Now off to tackle the rest of the day!

Addendum: The girls have decided that what these angels reallllly need is some glitter glue. I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Kids TV


I'm not a mom that's super-crazy about limiting my kids' screen time. S watched her first Notre Dame  football game when she was 3 months old-- and she loved it. My kids regularly watch between 20 mins- 1 hr 20 mins of TV each day, based on how bad the weather is, how much active play time we've had, how much work I have to do and all sorts of other variables.  We could debate the merits/demerits of screen time and it would take the rest of our lives-- but at some point each mom just has to decide which battles she wants to fight and for me, that isn't one of them. And it hasn't really been an issue yet.

Lest you think I'm totally negligent, though, we do have plenty of rules about what we watch and when. For example, we *never* watch kids programming with commercials (DVDs, Netflix, Amazon Prime offerings only!)  The only time they see commercials is when we have a game on, and even then they hardly pay attention because it's "grown up TV." Whenever I detect a sense of entitlement creeping in with regards to TV shows, we take a couple of whine-filled days off and things get back to normal. I never watch any of my shows in front of them, just in case adult themes pop in and surprise me.  There is no TV during meal times, no TV while friends are over and a few minutes with the iPad is a rare treat.  

The biggest struggle, though, of trying to figure out TV time is What To Watch.  I don't know if you've sampled the latest offerings, but I find it hard to find quality programming for kids that isn't annoying for me to listen to or simply pandering to the children.  We used to watch Madeline, the animated show from the 1990's featuring Ludwig Bemelmans' beloved literary heroine.  

This show is great because it features a little girl with a Big Imagination, who learns all sorts of lessons about courage, finding creative solutions to problems, following rules and the value of friendship.  The animation is simple, pleasantly-paced and charming, unlike so many other shows that flit about from scene to scene with garish colors and barely-identifiable human figures.  The first few episodes are even recited in verse! ...But Netflix got rid of it a couple of years ago. We have some of the episodes on DVD, but to fill the Madeline gap we next moved to... 

The de Brunhoffs' world of the Kingdom of Elephants is wonderfully depicted in this early 90's series about Babar and his family. What I love about this series is that it is also simply illustrated-- but the soundtrack is just wonderful! What other children's show features a string quartet for the opening theme? I also love the characters, who for the most part embody a very well-functioning family.  The kids are generally respectful of their parents and Babar and Celeste (the king and queen) have incredibly even temperaments and show each other quiet, though endearing affection.  But alas! This was also recently taken away from Netflix. So next up was Angelina Ballerina.

If you search for "Angelina Ballerina Show," you'll most likely find a hideously CG-animated show that features characters equally as annoying.  We tried watching it when Netflix cancelled the "old" series (ARE YOU SEEING A THEME?!?!), but even the girls thought it was atrocious and asked me to turn it off.  So if you are looking for the DVD version (Amazon Prime also has a few episodes on instant play), be sure to find the HIT Entertainment version, made in the UK.  The animation, dialogue, music and plotlines are just enchanting and everyone has a British accent. What's not to like? They even feature little ballet class clips between episodes, which S loves to dance along with.

Now, here's a brief list of the movies we've had success with:

Disney's Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 are remarkable attention-grabbers for my kids.  When I put in either of these films, I can count on BOTH of the girls sitting still for an hour and a half.  They are quiet. And they are listening to classical music.  E can recognize the Pastoral Symphony.  S loves Pomp and Circumstance.  This is a parenting "win."
I was skeptical when we got one of these CG Tinkerbell animated movies for the girls last Christmas, but WOW-- it was great! There are four movies in this "Tinkerbell and Friends" series and every one of them is bright, beautiful and sweet.  Tinkerbell et al have their flaws, but these friends stick together, help each other and learn lots of valuable lessons, including the importance of family.

I don't need to say anything about Toy Story-- you already know that it's wonderful.  The girls love all three (can you believe there are three?? I feel so old...) movies.  As a matter of fact, they have loved almost every Pixar movie we've watched (the same cannot be said for the princess movies, which feature dark and scary villains).  A Bug's Life is a regular in our rotation, as now are Wall-E and Up.  S also *loved* Frozen and let's face it: Pixar films are great fun for the adults, too.

So there it is. No big treatise on screen time or the role of technology in brain development, but just a few ideas of what works for us and how we're slowly learning to navigate and regulate what will undoubtedly be a big challenge in raising our kids.

What about you? Do you have go-to shows when you're desperate for a few quiet moments? How do you choose what to let the kids watch? Or, if you don't have kids, what are your favorite shows from growing up? 

Friday, March 7, 2014

7 Ideas for Combatting New England Winter

Poor Snowman

While at a dear friend's house yesterday, she and I couldn't help but giggle over a magazine article that had suggestions for how to make the most of winter.  One of the suggestions was to have outdoor gatherings. The picture was of a group of adults huddled under blankets and multiple layers of thermal outerwear, sitting around a giant bonfire in the middle of their own private lake, the lights of their cabin glistening in the background.

This is not real life.

Who are these people? In what magical, drug-induced fantasy land to they live? I don't have a cabin! Or a lake! And city regulations will *certainly* prohibit me from lighting a bonfire on my tiny tiny tiny porch.  Furthermore, I have kids. Even if I could manage to convince my poor friends that an outdoor gathering in New England winter is a good idea, what would we do with the kids???? 

But this article did make me laugh. And that made this cold, bleak winter just a little bit better. So in the spirit of awful, ridiculous suggestions for making your own winter a little better, I present you with:

7 Ways to Make the Best of Winter
Go to to read everyone else's "real" posts

1. Go to the Zoo

It's really important in winter to find time outside of the house.  The kids are getting restless, which doesn't make your life any easier. Why not go to the zoo? Visiting off-season means that there won't be nearly as many crowds.  Plus, I don't know about you, but I find zoos to be overwhelming! SO MANY ANIMALS! Avoid animal over-load by visiting on the coldest day, so that as many animals as possible will be safely tucked away in their non-viewing habitats for winter.  Then you have time to thoroughly enjoy the wolverine habitat without being bothered with visiting those pesky baby elephants.

2. Learn How to Knit
Nothing says 'warm and cozy' like a hand-knit scarf.  Knitting is really easy to pick up when you find yourself in total isolation for weeks on end. Simply bend over your computer screen and strain your eyes by watching and re-watching and re-watching instructional YouTube videos.  After you've thrown away your first seven projects (because they will be total rubbish anyway-- that's just how it goes), you'll have completed your scarf masterpiece just in time for Spring!

3. Pick up a Drinking Habit
The tail-end of winter is a great time to start drinking.  Everyone else has given up alcohol for Lent, so you'll find the shelves pleasantly stocked with all sorts of vice-inducing beverages.  Plus, drinking warms the belly. Just as St. Bernard. He knows. Of course, this only works if you don't have a drinking habit already, in which case you might want to consider...

4. Drop a Drinking Habit
The holidays are a great time to give up drinking! Vices are expensive-- and who needs that financial strain to compound the stress of holiday get-togethers? With all the money you'll save, you can now buy your friends and family truly meaningful gifts so that they can successfully achieve #3.

5. Pick up a New Sport
Nothing combats cabin fever like a good outdoor activity.  While some people prefer the extreme sports of polar plunges and frozen 5-Ks, maybe you could consider a more community-friendly activity like competitive snow-shoveling? The city desperately needs the help and you need the exercise. It's a win-win.

6. Have a Sauna Party
Even though it's bad for your skin, winter is the best time to spoil yourself with extended shower time.  Nothing else can quite melt away that persistent cold like a forty-minute scalding-hot shower.  Why not extend that idea and create a social event? Invite your friends over for a sauna evening. Prior to the guests arrival, run the shower for at least three hours on its hottest setting, leaving the bathroom door open.  Soon, your apartment will be filled with rejuvenating steam.  Be sure to have fresh linens available for guests who feel the need to disrobe immediately upon entering. 

7. Pick up Blogging
Nothing alleviates frustration like a good 'rant' now and again.  Your family and friends are sick of you complaining about how long the winter is (seriously-- they're going through it, too, aren't they? Suck it up!)... but the internet is a source of almost unlimited, yet-untapped ranting receptacles.  Point people toward your blog with reckless abandon and relish in the delight that thanks to your blogging savvy, two more people now know that you are sick of winter. 

What about you? What are your ideas? 

Have a Blessed Friday!!!
The Summa Momma

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Rosary for Busy Moms: Pt #1


If you want lots of heavy theology on the Rosary, go read Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

I'm here because I don't have time to read that stuff anymore and my suspicion is neither do you, but as an aspiring Lay Dominican, part of our rule is to say a daily Rosary and so I've been thinking about it a lot.

I have to admit that for much of my life, I considered myself someone for whom the Rosary just "didn't do it." I have much preferred Liturgy of the Hours or even the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  For some reason, the Marian emphasis of the Rosary just threw me for a loop.

Imagine how I felt, though, when I realized that the Rosary is based on the Psalms.
(Oh no, she didn't... she seriously must have lost it. Doesn't she know the prayers and meditations all come from the NEW TESTAMENT? Pshhhh, I'm never coming to this blog ever again.)

Yep, the psalms. I hope to dedicate many more posts to this wonderful devotion, but today the lesson is:

A Very Brief and Incomplete History of the Rosary

Wayyyyyyy back in the ninth century, the lay people were looking for more ways to pray (good for them!). The monks had it easy, really. They prayed the Psalter (150 Psalms) regularly through the eight Canonical Hours (aka Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours) and let's face it: just like today, it's hard to get through all of that praying if you're trying to run a household and raise a family.  Plus, the vast majority of people couldn't read, so even if they magically got hold of a book they wouldn't know what to do with it.

And so some bright person thought:
150 psalms. What if I said 150 "Our Fathers" instead? 
Some people did this. Others shortened their 150 prayers to the simple Angelic Salutation given by Gabriel to Mary: "Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee!"

The great idea caught on, but there was a little bit of trouble. "How do we keep track of 150 prayers?" Some people kept pebbles in bags (but that got heavy), some people tied knots in ropes (but these ended up being quite long and hard to carry). Finally, a smart person realized that if they just put fifty beads on a string, they could go through the beads three times and that would equal 150! Brilliant!

Then, some time in the thirteenth century, Biblical scholars started looking at the psalms and they said:
"Gee, this is interesting. There are three major categories of psalms: lament, thanksgiving and praise (liturgy). We could think about all the lament psalms in the context of Jesus' passion and death. We could think about the psalms of thanksgiving in kind of a joyful way and all those liturgical psalms speak of the glory of Jesus' Resurrection and the great mysteries of the Church." 
-- Verbatim Quote from Anonymous Parisian Doctor of Theology

Do you see where I'm going with this?
People were already in the habit of saying THREE rounds of FIFTY Pater Nosters/Angelic Salutations. Now, they had an easy way to divide those rounds and contemplate different aspects of Jesus' life and mission.  At the same time, people were also contemplating the role of Mary in these great mysteries.

Then along comes...

...Father Dominic! This intense man with the fiery red hair and his little band of beggar preachers begins using these meditations and prayers as weapons against the wide-spread Albigensian heresy.  He preached the little psalter of Mary as a way to protect oneself against error and to win souls for Christ. Even though Dominic wasn't the source of the Rosary as legend has often claimed, he and his friars are certainly a primary source of its widespread popularity.  Mary may not have fabricated the Rosary in St. Dominic's mystical vision, but she certainly showed him how to use it.

Over many years, the form of the Rosary has solidified into the three sets of mysteries, each with five decades (totaling 150 Hail Marys).  This numerical tie to the Psalter was obscured with the introduction of the Luminous Mysteries by Pope Blessed John Paul II, but the roots of the Rosary remain the same.

The Rosary is still a wonderful weapon against error, encouraging us to meditate on the life of Jesus and to come to know Him through the Immaculate Eyes of His Mother.  I cannot say that it has been easy to try and incorporate the Rosary into my daily prayers, but it hasn't been as difficult as I had expected.

Oh-- and if anyone loves trivia as much as I do, you'll be happy to know:

Dominicans still wear their rosaries as part of their habit, dangling down the left side of their waist--  in the place where a soldier would keep his sword.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

No Response


My older daughter likes to pretend to be a cat. She was snuggling up with me earlier and this was our exchange:

S: Meow! My name is Cupcake Frosting Chocolate Marshmallow. Meow!

Me: Wow! That's a really long name.

S: Yes, but it's not as long as Chocolate Frosting Marshmallow Cupcake Therese the Little Flower.




Me: Touché.