Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Night at the Symphony

You know when you're raising a Catholic boy when he turns to you and says, "Mom, I thought we weren't supposed to say 'alleluia' during Lent?"

Last night, I took Skipper on a date to the symphony orchestra to see Beethoven's 9th symphony. Prior to the 9th, the orchestra performed different pieces, one of which was the Hallelujah from Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives. I am more familiar with Beethoven's instrumental work so this choral piece was a nice surprise, and now I want to hear the entire piece. According to the director, Beethoven's take on Christ's passion was interesting (compared to Bach, Mozart, etc.) because while the others chose to base their compositions on the gospels, Beethoven chose to go from the point of view of Christ himself. When I dug a little deeper, it appears that the composition also coincides with Beethoven's continuing deafness. Even more amazing, he wrote the entire piece (approximately 50 minutes long) in only a few short weeks!

Ignore my wonderful photography skills... We were up at the back of the balcony. On either side of the stage are huge paintings depicting each season. They are really neat, and Skipper liked them. The chandelier is just gorgeous.

The icing on the cake of the night was the performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, in particular the fourth and final movement (the one that most everyone has heard: most popularly known as Ode to Joy). Skipper was bouncing in his seat, his arms waving like a crazed director. As I looked at him, my own foot tapping enthusiastically, I thought, "how wonderful it is to be a child - to be so present, to love so hard, to be so happy, to be so enthusiastic." Of course, this also means to hurt so much, to feel so easily. But, as I looked around I found it amazing how still everyone was. Why weren't we jumping up and down? Or, at least moving our heads? This Ode to Joy simply bursts with joy, with the awesomeness of God. Oh, to be like Skipper!

Note: I did see one older lady whose head was nodding quite vigorously. ;)

While it pales in comparison, I wanted to share the translated lyrics with you today (written in German by Beethoven himself and Friedrich Schiller). And, here is a link that has a nice little piece on why this symphony is still such a mystery. You Tube video of the entire 9th. Or the full symphony using a scrolling bar-graph score which is neat. Check out Pope Benedict's reaction to Beethoven's 9th.

Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing
And more joyful sounds!
Joy! (Joy!)
Joy! (Joy!)

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods*
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly one, your sanctuary!
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divided.
All men become brothers,
Where your gentle wing rests.

Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!

Joy all creatures drink
At the breasts of nature;
All good, all bad
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and vines,
A friend, proved to the end;
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.
Before God!

Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven's glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.

Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods
Spark of the gods!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Our Lady of Lourdes

While the Catholic world went a bit crazy at the news of Pope Benedict's resignation, the kids and I enjoyed a nice productive day at home on this Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Praise God, I have been headache free for two days now!!! This new medicine must be working. It really feels like a little miracle. I thank you for any prayers you may have offered up.

All this has certainly reinforced my desire to take better care of this body God has given me, not only for my own selfish reasons, but for Him and for those I am in charge of. And, not only that, but I feel such a need to pray during the easier times to bolster my family through the rough ones (and to pray for those who suffer so much more). Oh, I have such feelings, but absolutely no words right now.

Funnily enough, there are some humorous moments to having migraines (what's life after all without humor?). During attacks I cannot think straight and so often mix up words or cannot finish a train of thought. My oldest boy, in particular, thinks it's funny to correct me. You know the little eye rolling, laugh at silly mom attitude that kids naturally pick up on? The other day I was telling my husband how I had asked Skipper if he was feeling ok because his "peeks were chink." While retelling the story, I said, "I am headless" when I meant to say, "I can't think straight [with these headaches]." Perhaps I might as well be headless, right? ;)

Anyway, off to today. Any feast that involves Mary is a load of excitement for Miss Bear. She just loves Mary and I love that she does too. We read the book, Our Lady of Lourdes, and then the kids had "art" while creating our grotto replica out of gluten-free Cocoa Pebbles rice crispy treats that I made up last night. I helped with the main part of the grotto, and then they filled in with more chunks of "rock." We added a blue-tinted bowl of water, a rosary, and our little peg saint dolls to finish it off. For a more polished grotto - and better directions - check out Catholic Cuisine.

For dinner, I made a crock-pot French onion soup (with my own alterations of course), with gluten-free beer bread, and a nice green salad with French dressing. Yum! I may have been the only one to have enjoyed the meal in its entirety, but hey, a girl needs some French onion soup every few years or so.

I think the most excitement came when I told the kids they could eat as much of the dessert as they wanted so it would be gone before Wednesday. Oh, it was gone within five minutes. Even Miss Z had a few pieces, and I am sure I don't have to tell you how much she loved it. ;)

The next few days are busy, busy, busy here so I pray you have a great start to Lent!
Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman, Blessed by the Most High! Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, We join in your song of praise, to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom and the full liberation of humanity.
Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord, Glorious Mother of Christ! Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word, Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word, and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit, attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience and to his manifestations in the events of history. 
Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living! Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve, Be our guide along the paths of the world. Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified. 
Hail Mary, woman of faith, First of the disciples! Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love. Teach us to build up the world beginning from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross. 
Holy Mary, Mother of believers, Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
 from Pope John Paul II's prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Preparing for Lent

Isn't it hard to believe Lent begins in a week? It seems to me like Christmas has barely faded away, especially with all this fluffy, Christmas snow that has fallen around here lately.

For awhile now I have thought and thought of what I wanted to do with the kids for Lent. Advent has become a very nice time indeed for my family, but Lent always seems to kind of fall away mid-season until Holy Week. So what could I do to keep the momentum going? Could I take anything that works from Advent and use it during Lent?

This is what I have come up with. On paper, it looks like so much, but I think it will be very doable in real life, even for those days where I do not have much energy, which seems to happen much too regularly lately.

(I did call to see the doctor for all "this weird stuff going on" as I told him over the phone. I am not so sure it is migraine related. It is very frustrating, but I try to remind myself that it could be so much worse.)

During Advent we love the Jesse Tree so we will continue with our Jesus Tree, which I had posted about last year. I do plan on switching up how we do it as I have never liked the felt background I made, and our space is smaller at this new house. But, truly this is the simplest thing to do with the kids and it only takes a few minutes each day. Then, each year, they are learning salvation history again and again and again. I have started to see the fruit of this practice in my oldest with his Biblical knowledge.

We will have some kind of visual countdown. I will leave it up to the kids: a paper chain countdown or a calendar of sorts like this one.

The kids (and I) loved reading about Jotham every day from Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent. The author does have an Easter follow-up book, but since it is about Jotham's son, I will save this for the future after we have read through the other Advent books of his. Instead, I found the book A Family Journey with Jesus Through Lent, which uses kids of that time to tell the story. In addition to the story, it has a little thought to think about, as well as a craft and/or activity to do for the day if desired. This is my first time reading/using it, so I cannot say whether it is good or not. Flipping through it, though, it does seem promising.

During our dinners in Advent, we light the Advent Wreath, using song, prayer and candles. For Lent, I decided to grab enough candles for each Sunday in Lent (5 purple, 1 rose). Instead of lighting one the first days and adding to it, I like the idea of lighting all and slowly diminishing the light as we near Good Friday. I found prayers to use each week that seem fitting, and I will also sing a song as I proceed to light them. This past Advent, we added a song to the Advent Wreath and what a difference that simple change did. Not to mention, the kids loved it! For this Lent, I chose the chant Agnus Dei. (Check out this video for a simple "lesson" if needed.)

Finally, one last resource. Skipper chose to do a daily workbook / devotional to do during Lent from Pflaum Publishing: Totally Lent! A Child's Journey to Easter 2013. It looks "fun" and short and simple. He reads a bit - hopefully thinks on it a bit as well - and finishes a little puzzle or workbook activity.

I have some other plans for the kids, some are day specific, and hopefully I can share as we go along. Most of all, though, I pray we have a fruitful Lent, and I pray the same for you. God bless.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A 6th Birthday!

Critter turned six on Wednesday, January 30th! Naturally, he was very excited, and oh, how the time has flown for me. The birthday boy requested an Angry Birds theme. Why are they angry anyway? I do find the games fun - both the digital and the "board" game. My detail / mechanical - oriented child likes this very much. My husband also took the kids to a local game + playground area. They had loads of fun! I had to miss out because of horrible disorganization coupled with the worst cake experience I have had to date. It worked out in the end, but what aggravation!

Catholic School vs. THE GUILT

This week is Catholic School Week in the United States (not even sure this is a thing outside of the States...). The kids and I attended daily Mass on Wednesday. The school kids were there, and I left church that day feeling something I had not felt since our homeschooling journey began: guilt and a whole lot of loneliness.

I recognize that I have felt a little off this past week, and that of course Father would talk about Catholic schools during Catholic School Week during an all-school Mass, and yet, I feel let-down, adrift in a sea of an unknown parish, guilty that I keep my children at home, teaching them not only academics, but faith and of life. At least, I try to!

Some guilt comes from feeling that I cannot give my children enough, from feeling more isolated here than my previous location as far as other homeschooling families (Opus Domini women, I miss you!), and guilt from this past year of struggling to keep one foot in front of the other, let alone what I would like to do with my children. The boys are a struggle this year with keeping them to task so that I have little time to play with the girls, something they both desperately need and desire.

Loneliness because while I have talked to a few - much older - parish members, most others get up and go, or hang in their very large post-Mass circles. Even Father has gone off into the sacristy before the kids and I are bundled up and ready to leave, even on days where we do not linger to pray or visit Jesus in the Tabernacle (Miss Bear just loves to do this especially).

I did put Skipper in the parish's ccd program, and he does great. His teachers love him, and say how "he's a wonderful kid ... a sweet boy." And I love that. I love that he wants to go, is excited, and that all the kids seem to get along.

But outside of that, I still feel very much an outsider, and I do not see that changing any time soon. As far as homeschooling support (let alone Catholic homeschooling support), it is few and far between in this rural area. I do not regret the move (family is important, my husband more so), but I do miss my homeschooling ties so much.

Oh, one other thing, when I saw all the school kids at Mass, and then adding the ccd kids (the public school kids), I wonder where these kids are during Sunday Mass? There are two Mass times. We go to the earliest most Sundays, but I do not see very many kids. Could they really all attend that second Mass? I have a hard time believing all the kids and family members fit inside the church. Personally, I dislike the second time as it runs into lunch time and nap time. The kids are a little easier to handle on my own first thing.

By the way, I firmly believe we all have a choice as to how we educate our children, and through prayer, we can discern that, so I in no way feel superior or judgmental to those who choose not to homeschool or who choose public school over Catholic school! But I hate feeling inferior, feeling the guilt and feeling that my kids should be in the parish school, that somehow I am doing wrong by them.