Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our First Annual Saint Anne’s Liturgical Tea: A GFCF Plant-Strong Celebration

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When I was born, my parents decided that my “saint name” would be Anne, even if my first name was different. Well, lo and behold, when I began listing dates for celebrating our family’s Name Days, I realized that St. Anne’s feast day was coming up fast! So, I scoured the Internet for some initial ideas and, then, asked our children for theirs. Just days later, we found ourselves enjoying our first annual St. Anne’s Liturgical Tea.


Since St. Anne is traditionally depicted wearing red dress (for love) and green mantle (for rebirth or immortality), we used these colors as the inspiration for our table decor, which included both red and green candles and an Immaculate Heart of Mary candle that Nina had spied at the grocery store one day and had requested we purchase for whenever we celebrate days related to Mary. (The kids said St. Anne is Mary’s mother so we should use the candle.)

We also printed a painting of St Anne and young Mary offline and set it up in a frame and used a St. Anne’ s construction that Luke designed and his sibling helped him make as a centerpiece, with the help of miniaturized printouts of Paper Dali's wonderful St. Anne, St. Joachim, Young Mary and Shepherd paper dolls.

Teatime Fare

Because St. Anne’s feast day fell on a weekday this year, our only options for celebrating it as a family were a breakfast tea with Daddy before work or a dinner one with him after. We opted for the latter, so we knew we had to come up with a fairly substantial selection of items for the menu.

We also had some other menu guidelines:
  •  Foods should be somehow connected to St. Anne or to historical traditions for celebrating her feast day. 
  • All foods should be able to be prepared within a few hours of the tea since our schedule would not allow any further advanced preparation.
  • The overall menu should be plant strong, plus, GFCF and as additive, preservative and dye-free diet as we could manage. 
  • Menu items should be festive tea fair – finger foods, small bites, dainty or eye-pleasing. 

I must say, the kids easily helped me to come up with a menu that met these parameters and was pleasing to all our palettes:
  • Ham and Cucumber Mini-Kebabs (for St. Anne’s red and green colors) 
  • Berry-Grape-Kiwi Mini-Kebabs (again, the colors; plus, plant-strong) Red Potato and Spinach Salad (more St. Anne colored food) 
  • Salmon on GFCF Crackers (seafood because St. Anne’s day is often traditionally celebrated with seafood on GFCF crackers to remind us of St. Ann’s grandson, Jesus – think “Bread of Life”)
  • Fresh-Picked Pepper-and-Tomato on Buttered GFCF Crackers (the plant-strong, color, bread of Life theme again)
  • Nut Butter on GFCF Bread Sandwiches (for more protein at the table, by request of the kiddoes)
  • Cucumber-Basil-Tomato Sandwiches (the red and green theme, plus cucumber sandwiches always remind me of afternoon tea)
  • Cherries (plant strong an red)
  • Fresh Watermelon-Lemon Juice (you got it, the plant-strong St. Anne color inspiration again)
  • GFCF Chocolate Cake St. Anne’s Home Model (designed by Luke to include St. Anne’s home, St. Anne herself and the bird’s nest St. Anne prayed near)

Although I had bookmarked many prayers online, the children requested that we make up a prayer and then pray the “Hail Mary”, because, as Luke reminded, “St. Anne is Mary’s mother.” I also read the Patron Saint prayer from Prayers to the Saints.


Simple is best, right? Especially when a Liturgical Tea is celebrated shortly before bedtime. Thus, our activities included colored Waltzing Matilda’s St. Anne page to add to our Saints Day books...

...and reading the Saint Anne chapter of Story Library of the Saints as well as Mary and Young Mary of Nazareth , which both begin with parts of St. Anne’s story.

From initial planning, through preparation, through “partying”, our first annual St. Anne’s Liturgical Tea was a fruitful experience. I learned a few new things when browsing the internet and consulting some favorite Catholic traditions books. The children impressed me, first, with how much they already knew about St. Anne from prior discussions and read alouds about Mother Mary and, then, through how they literally constructed new learning as we prepared for the tea. Finally, we all enjoyed the food and family fellowship at dinner.

Yep. I think we are off to a good start for a year of Name Day tradition making and hope that by sharing our ideas, we might inspire others to enjoy similar Name Day festivities or Liturgical Teas.

Looking ahead for us, your ideas, links and recipes for St. Micheal, St. Luke, St. Nino (Nina) and St. John (Jack) are most welcome! Please share them! 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

While You Were Napping...

Before I begin to read and sing Jack to nap each day, I often set Luke and Nina up with an activity that will keep them quiet long enough for me to actually get Jack to sleep while also encouraging my older two to stay focused enough that I do not come out to a mini-disaster.

Sometimes it works, and other times Jack’s settling down time outlasts Luke and Nina’s interest in whatever activity I have left them with. Those are the times when either insanity ensues or suspicious silence –punctuated by whispers and giggles – taunts me from the other end of the hall.

Such was the case the other day.

As I waited for Jack’s fluttering eyelids to finally settle into still slumber, I wondered what Luke and Nina were getting up to in the kitchen. They had had a “busy” morning, so I was glad that whatever they were doing had not degenerated into tears, teasing and the use of unkind hands. Still, I concerned about exactly what was keeping them “so quiet".

To my delight, once Jack was asleep, I discovered any fears unfounded. No major messes awaited me in the kitchen. Nothing was broken or defaced. In fact, what greeted were two children who had remembered to put on paint shirts before becoming completely absorbed in focused creativity:

 Face painting! 

As I witnessed Nina carefully applying color to Luke’s face, I smiled. The scene in front of me spoke of so many things:

  • attention to detail
  • fine motor control
  • tactile tolerance
  • creativity
  • responsibility
  • team work
  • self-confidence
  • independence 
What have your children’s self-directed activities evidenced for you recently?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Celebrate Name Days and Baptism Anniverseries

celebrate name days and baptism anniverseries

When each of my children was born, I fully intended to celebrate their name days and baptism anniversaries yearly.  I imagined our children becoming familiar with the stories of all of our patron saints and building anticipated traditions around these.  I envisioned simple, yet powerful celebrations to honor the promise of their baptisms.  I longed to create memories tied strongly to rejoicing in the gift each individual child is as well as the blessing that our communal faith is.

What I did not foretell was six years and counting of letting distraction override intention.

Our family has yet to celebrate a name day ,and I can count on one hand the number of baptism anniversaries that we have commemorated.  In fact, I am ashamed to admit that this morning I could not even recall the dates on which Jack, Nina and Luke were baptized and just spent hours trolling through recovered computer files trying to jog my memory.

Why all the effort?  Because this (school) year is the year I am committed to making my initial dream a reality.  I am fully intent on getting both Name Days and Baptism Anniversaries on the calendar so we will be more apt to prepare for and celebrate them.  I am absolving myself of past neglect and focusing myself on yearly rhythms of fun with faith and family to come.

So, tell me, does your family celebrate Name Days?  How about Baptism Anniversaries?  What favorite traditions have you developed around these?  And, how about St. Anne’s day?  Do you have favorite ideas for observing her (and Joachim’s) feast day?  It happens to be a Name Day here and I’ve got but four days to prepare for it...

Traditions are unfolding... 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Viruses, Viruses... Glad to Be Through Them

Happy Sunday!

I am celebrating: The sun is shining. Mass and the beach await my family, plus my computer is sitting once more upon my desk.

Now, these may seem like simple blessings, but they are ones I rejoice in nonetheless. For viruses – virtual and real – have waylaid one or more of these blessings for each of the past few weeks in our home and now it seems we are through them. 

Those wondering where I was for last week’s Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children and why I have not been blogging much at all, please understand, my computer was hit by a trojan horse dropper virus that would not be eradicated through my own limited knowledge, nor remotely by our favorite local computer guy. It finally necessitated the "big guns": an extended trip to a computer gurus fix-it shack.

Concurrent with the virtual virus, each of my children braved a stomach virus over the past three weeks, and one even stayed strong through a puzzling rash that ensued, scaring me more than the child herself.

So, life with my computer and away from it required a brief, unexpected blogging break again.

That break is now over, but I make no promises regarding how consistently I will be blogging again.   My main call is to my family; their needs take priority.  Blogging is a passion that I like to keep up with, but it is also one I must continue to put on pause as family – and computer woes – demand.

For the present, I am simply glad to be through all the viruses and to have a moment to say hello to faithful readers again. I pray your Sunday is as full of simple celebrations as mine is today and, as I do every Sunday (every day, that, it is,when our home is not beset by viruses), I invite you to link up below.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Roly Poly Guacamole: An Anytime Game for Vestibular and Tacile Input (with Lots of Giggles!)

NOTE: Please excuse the "realness" of the photos included in this post, fuzzy shots in which I am wearing Great-Grammy's old housedress and sporitng crazy hair.  These photos were taken for us to remember a fun night, but, when I reviewed them, I decided that the game was too fun not to share. 

Roly Poly...
Roly Poly...
Roly Poly...

This simple game is a great one for tactile and vestibular input, as well as for inciting lots of giggles.

Basically, one person lays atop another (or, in the case of our family, a dollie can lay atop a kid, too.)

The person on the bottom cradles the back of the person on the top’s head in hands for extra protection.
Hands here?  No.
How about here? No!

How about here?  YES!

Then, the players rock from side-to-side-to-side-to-side while chanting, “Roly poly, roly poly, roly poly, roly poly...”

Finally, the player on the bottom flips the player on the top over to the floor, but, for safety’s sake, tries not to lay on the now-“bottom” player, but rather uses arms to support a little “safety space” or lands just to the side of the player.

Then, with giggled begging, play happens again with the direction of the roll changing during different rounds. Sometimes to the left. Sometimes to the right.

Silly? Yes! Fun? Definitely! A great little game that can be played almost anywhere anytime (as long as there is floor or lawn space) to feed a sensory diet or just to induce giggles? Absolutely!

How did we add the game to our family repertoire?

A few weeks ago, we had a “free Saturday”. That is a day when we did not have outside commitments on the calendar, so Mike entertained the kids with some Daddy time while I attended to some overdo paperwork and attacked home purging and organizing.

As I often do when I am alone, I spent time listening to faith-based audio CD’s and free personal development and parenting interviews online to keep my mind as busy as my hands were while I worked. Among what I listened to were replays on The Great Parenting Show (GPS), a program where Jacqueline Green seeks “to empower parents to become or remain the great parent they want to be, by connecting them to the right parenting expert for their unique situation.” (For the record: I love GPS and think what Jacqueline does on it is awesome, especially since she always reminds people to take what resonates with them and to leave the rest. In all honesty, a few of the guests interviewed by Jacqueline on GPS do not speak to me at all. However, many offer a useful tip or two and some seem hand-picked for me!)

Unfortunately, I cannot recall which of the GPS guests that I listened to the day the kids and I started playing Roly Poly Guacamole mentioned the game, but I am grateful that one did. For despite having been active with Daddy all day, my children were whack-o just before bedtime and needed some guided “rough play”. Recalling the mention of Roly Poly Guacamole on GPS earlier in the day, a new (to us!) game was born. I got the kids down on the floor, modeled how to play Roly Poly Guacamole with a few added safety precautions and let the giggling (and then the settling in for the night!) begin...

Have you added any silly games or sensory activities to your family's repertoire lately?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Song for Jack, A Hope for Life

From this...

Jack, little  boy, our surprise number three,
I'm so glad God planned you to be:
Our special blessing, our little boy.
You bring Mommy so much joy.

You came three weeks early and gave us a scare.
Tiny and weak, you needed some prayer.
But now look at you, so big and strong.
With smiles and independence as you move along.

Jack, little boy, I'm so glad you could be
Exactly as God planned you to be:
Our special blessing, our little boy.
You bring our family so much joy. 

To this...

This weekend as we celebrated our youngest child’s second birthday, I sang these words to him.  They are familiar words – ones that I sing to Jack often at his nap times, bed times and cuddle times.  They are words that speak from my heart to Jack’s about who he is and what he means.

Every time I sing Jack’s song to him, I recognize anew what a gift he is to our family – a gift we were not expecting, but one that God had planned especially for us and one that we are so grateful to have accepted.

Although it should not astound me that God knew better than Mike and I what we could handle and what our family needed, it does.  When we realized that Jack had been conceived, we were not confident about the timing of an unexpected third child.  Our lives were in a state of flux and challenge.  It was hard to trust that another baby coming into our lives was “right”.  

Faith encouraged trust and trust brought blessings.  God proved to us what He so often does:  His timing is perfect even when it does not coincide exactly with ours. 

From the timing of Jack’s conception, to that of his birth, to so many things since, surprises keep on unfolding.  More often than not, these surprises are joy-filled ones.  Always, they reinforce that God’s timing is magnificent, even when it is not in line with our own.

Today, and every day when I sing Jack’s song to him, I marvel at what a perfectly timed gift he continues to be for our family.  I give thanks for his existence and pray that my simple words help him and his sibling to understand that being open to life is one of the greatest gifts any of us can receive (and gift forward!)

Indeed, as I sing to Jack – and to Nina and Luke as well, since each of my children has their own song – I sing with praise, gratitude and hope.  The hope being that my children will always embrace life as the gift that it is.  The hope that all people will.

To whatever he is dreaming and He has planned...

What traditions and teachings help you help your young children to know and value the gift that life is?


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