Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Mom's Hour

My routine has been the same for years: babies, toddlers, teenagers, homeschool, homemaking. Rinse and repeat. With seven children, there’s always someone, or several, in all those age brackets. Two kids have cystic fibrosis, so there are extra health chores daily and two-week hospitalizations occasionally that add to the mix. I have always been honored to be known as my husband’s wife and my children’s mother; it is not a loss of my identity but a flowering of it. So when feelings of discontent began whispering to me in my forty-fifth year, I was shaken and embarrassed. I wondered if I should get a job, complete a degree, or send the kids off to school. Am I boring? Am I useless? Am I fulfilled? I made a list of the pros and cons for each possibility and could not live with any of the cons. How to transform myself?

I spent a morning alone at a local cafe to relax and think, with an attractive, expensive cup of coffee and a delicious, tiny slice of biscotti. I decided to take baby
steps; or more accurately, one baby step: in the middle of the day, every single Howell at home was going to be silent for one hour. The small ones could rest and the older ones could read or draw. Separately was the key. I told them they were going to be alone with themselves. I promised myself not to clean or cook or help with lessons, but to simply be with me. I would use that hour to nap, read a book, learn to crochet, write a letter, or relearn how to play the piano -- something to stretch my mind and heart.

I'm pretty sure I see a positive boon for myself and our entire household order. It is both exciting and grounding. My next plan is to sign up for one college class online. We are getting used to Mom’s Hour and I am confident that some of those hours will be perfect for working through an anthropology or literature course.

I did not have to give up or reinvent what defines me --my home and family-- in order to fulfill something new welling up within me. A bit of balance is coming with one baby step, one hour, one day at a time. I look forward to my next year, one Mom’s Hour at a time.

Now to start filling out forms ...
Love, Allison


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book Review by Clare

(Copied and pasted from her blog by her pleased-as-punch mother!)

Book Review: ARAM
Cover for ARAM 2013This is a book review on ARAM, the first in the Deliverance trilogy.
This post is mainly what I thought of the book, not what it's about. If you want to know more on what it's about, Here is a good synopsis on the story.

ARAM was written by a Catholic, and has a Catholic writers' seal of approval or something like that inside the front cover, but I don't think it's exclusively Catholic so most Christians should also enjoy it. I also noticed some Pro-Life themes, which may or may not be considered a good thing for readers (it's considered awesome for us!). Age range is probably 10 and up, but parents should know what their kid is like. Ian (little brother) is eleven, but he is really sensitive and didn't like all the war, fighting, and scariness.
On the subject of that, the book can be violent. Bad guys are constantly attacking the good guys, and there's evil spirits and demons throughout (all seen in a bad light, though!). Many beloved characters die, often in horrible ways (Ian stopped reading after his favorite good guy was stabbed while asking
for peace).
But it's more than just killing and death. As I said before, it's written by a Catholic, so there's God, but thankfully it wasn't too preachy (I can't abide books like that). Here's an excerpt from the writer's website about ARAM:
Imagine hours of entertaining reading which helps you to experience life from a new
perspective, enhances your understanding of spiritual realities, and takes you
on an epic journey with characters who face terrifying fears, overcome
incredible temptations and are inspired to grow into better people delving into
life more profoundly.

One thing I would change with the series though, is a different editor, because there's some spelling and grammatical mistakes in it, but please don't let that deter you from reading it, because ARAM is awesome! Only . . . my favorite character turns into a nutcase by the end >:(
Ah, well.
I've already finished the second book (Ishtar's redemption: Trial by Fire), and am currently in the middle of the last book (Neb the Great: Shadows of the Past). I'll do some reviews on them next!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Better than Martha Stewart's

To my CF Mom friends,

I have managed to improve upon a Martha Stewart recipe for chocolate chip cookie bars. Here's the original recipe:

3 sticks butter
4 C  flour
2t  baking soda
3/4 t  salt
1C  white sugar
1 1/2 C  brown sugar
2  eggs
1T  vanilla
2 C  chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars; add eggs and vanilla; mix dry ingredients together and mix with wet stuff; mix in chips. Bake in buttered half sheet pan for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Here are my changes:

1.) For the creaming, I used 2 1/2 sticks of butter with 1/2 C peanut butter and 1/3 C (it didn't quite reach the top of the measuring cup because I ran out) of real maple syrup.

2.) I blended up oatmeal into flour and substituted 1C of regular flour for 1C of this oat flour.

3.) I only used 1 1/2 C of chocolate chips because we don't like the inside to be completely chocolate.

So good, you guys. They had something extra you couldn't quite put your finger on. I don't know if it was the PB, the syrup, the oat flour, or the combination but I'm not changing anything. I see no reason to put pans of chocolate chip cookies in and out of the oven. They have arrived.

Oats, flour, butter, eggs, sugar ~ add some milk for the kids and coffee for me and we've got breakfast!

Happy sunshine,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mother's Day

I wrote two Mother's Day articles this past week:

This one for Catholic Sistas is a story about my own mother.

And this one for our local Frontiersman is about Mary the mother of Christ. You may have to answer a silly survey question to open the page.

CF mothers are the best, though. Love to you all!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reading Glasses and Tears

This past weekend, Ken picked up some reading glasses and I cried. Not because he looked awful ~ quite the opposite! ~ but because it hit me harder than usual that we really are growing old together. I wondered if he would be sad or grumpy or have existential angst at the solid proof that his body is doing weird, old things, but he didn't seem to be anything other than thrilled that reading was much easier.

Now I believe him more when he tells me that he thinks my graying hair is pretty and that my laugh lines and concentrating wrinkles warm his heart. We're coming up on our 25th wedding anniversary full of happiness, glasses and gray notwithstanding! I still cry, but it's all right.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Give Drink to the Thirsty

Our Frontiersman newspaper printed this article of mine last Tuesday and I've been thinking about it for days. You see, I've never actually done what I've written that we could do (Give drink to the thirsty and give food to the hungry). I'm sort of afraid of homeless people asking for food, money, and jobs. I'm also sort of mad at them. I know that it doesn't matter, that mercy given is mercy given, period. So I've added "case of bottled water" and "huge box of granola bars" to my husband's weekly Sam's Club list. I'm going to try. 

“Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick or in prison and come to You? And the King will say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’.” (Matthew 25:3-40)
Although enlivened by God’s love, dignified by prayer, and sanctified by Jesus’ spiritual presence, these corporal works of mercy are raw, earthy and physical. Easing the bodily distress of another human being can be discomfiting, but we dare not shrink from solidarity with our sisters and brothers on the journey.
Jesus visited with mean, messy and mixed-up people. He dried tears, shared meals, addressed problems, and performed miracles.
He was grabbed, sat upon, leaned on and questioned. He gave and gave and gave. His love had active hands. We are to follow him, offering up our hands as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1) as we reach out to others with tangible mercy.
Human mercy is an expression of divine mercy and is demonstrated by compassion and patience. At every Mass we pray, “Lord, have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy.” And we are to extend that mercy to others not as holier-than-thou, but as fellow receivers of mercy.
We’ve been discussing and memorizing the corporal works of mercy with our children, and all but one seem obvious: give drink to the thirsty. Why is this one separate from giving food to the hungry? Is it just poetry? Who needs water today? A brief peek at the UN's informational page can answer that with shocking clarity.
Give drink to the thirsty. How can we practice this? In our country, water is free and so accessible that we play in it, take it for granted, and sadly, even waste it.
It is pumped directly into our homes into two or more receptacles. There is neither a shortage of water nor of corporate competitors marketing different brands of water to us. We have sophisticated filtration systems and storage facilities and more bodies of water than we can count.
We do not have to repair and refit community wells; we do not have to erect dams and filtration systems for filthy rivers; we do not have to live with warring tribes that deny their enemies access to water. We do not have to send our women and children to fill buckets.
Recalling a poignant scene from Ben Hur, we will never have the opportunity to give drinks to political slaves being marched across the desert to the ocean where they will be chained to a ship’s galley. But, we can cheerfully give drinks to our children. We can generously invite people to our home to drink; even a tight budget can probably manage a friendly cup of tea.
We can keep a case of bottled water (and packaged snacks to feed the hungry) in our vehicles to pass out to the homeless or hard-up with a smile. If there’s more money, we can give more cases of bottled water to our local food banks. We can reach beyond our town and country and donate to international charities that focus on clean water, thus having a real hand in helping those community wells and filthy rivers.
We have our votes, as well. We can get informed about the state’s and country’s bills, charities and actions involving clean water and warring tribes. We can take a minute to type a few words of thanks and support for those charitable initiatives that make the world kinder and safer with a touch of Jesus’ loving hands.
The Scriptures are full of stories and sacraments involving water, from creation to Noah, from the Red Sea to the Jordan River, from Jesus’ thirst to our baptisms, and to heaven’s crystal-clear river. Our bodies are mostly water; we cannot live long without water. It is a simple, powerful gift and not one to be taken lightly.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to ‘be able to give to those in need’.” (Section 2444)
“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.” (Section 2446)
King David sang in Psalm 42:1-2; “As the deer pants for brooks of water, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
When we quench our spiritual thirst with the living God, we can then, in the words of the Mass, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” and “be doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving ourselves (James 1:22).”

That day is best wherein we give
A thought to others’ sorrows;
Forgetting self, we learn to live,
And blessings born of kindly deeds
Make golden our tomorrows.
(Sir Alfred Tennyson)

Yes, Lord, I will love and serve You. I will give a thought to others’ sorrows. I will give drink to the thirsty.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Was the Eucharist Ever a Little Snack?

A Facebook friend recently joked, "-slippery slope! The Eucharist started out as 'snack time' for the Catholics and look where that went!"

I'm not sure he knows how a slippery slope works.

The Eucharist is a Christian teaching that has remained constant for 2000 years. That is no slippery slope. The real slide is on the protestant side, slipping away from His Church (John 16:13; Matthew 16:18; Matthew 28:16-20) with thousands of competing denominations all claiming to be "Bible only." The Eucharist has been the pinnacle of our services since Acts; they are the ones who have slid into little snacks. I don't care if he doesn't believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but I do care when Church teaching is misrepresented.

For the Eucharist has never been "snack time." About an hour of reading the first Christian writers (If one can stop after only an hour; we couldn't!), beginning with the Gospels and epistles, then onward 300 years until the New Testament was codified (and on and on ...) makes it crystal clear that these men believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine. And these were the same men who picked and prayed our New Testament into life.

The apostles were Jews. They knew about manna from heaven. They knew what the Passover was ~ the sacrifice of the innocent lamb whose blood saved them from death. They ate their lamb. They watched Jesus bless food, break it, and feed 5000. He told them to eat His flesh in John 6. When some left out of horror, Our Lord said again that they had to eat His flesh.  At the Last Supper, when He lifted up the Passover bread and wine and said, "This is My Body; this is My Blood," they were floored. They got it. After the resurrection, with some disciples in Emmaus, He was known in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-32). Paul told the Corinthians that they would be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord if they came unworthily (I Corinthians 11:27-29).

The Didache, a catechism written in the 90's (yes, the 90's!), directs Christians to confess their sins before partaking in the Eucharist so that the sacrifice would be pure. *Since the sacrifice of Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, what He did 2000 years ago is  just as effecacious now. He is our perfect sacrifice for sin!

Ignatious of Antioch, writing in the year AD 110, said that he desired the Eucharist, the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Justin the Martyr, AD 100-165, wrote, "For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which, our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus."

And on and on they wrote of the Real Presence of Jesus in the bread and wine, long before the New Testament was even bound and called sacred by Church councils. Men like Irenaus of Lyons, Tertullian, Origen, Clement, Augustine, and the council of Nicaea. The first Church council was in Jerusalem, BTW, and recorded in Acts 15, when the question of circumcision was hashed out by Church leaders, then explained to the people. *We believe what Jesus said to the Twelve in John 16, that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. He still does. And we still follow.

So I encourage my non-Catholic friends as they insult the Church, to at least make sure the facts are straight. When you falsely say that the Eucharist began as a little snack, your entire witticism falls apart. We joke our own Church very well anyway!

To know what the Catholic Church teaches, go to its catechism online or pick up a print copy. Parroting what protestants say Catholicism teaches is shoddy scholarship and those of us who love the Church will call it out. At least then your jokes will be better!