Tag Archives: tradition

Manners Monday: Reclaiming the fine art of the Thank You note

Ah. The day after Christmas. Boxing Day if you are in a Boxing Day country. Personally I think Boxing Day is a great idea… why don’t we have Boxing Day? Or just celebrate St. Stephen’s Day? I know, it’s just an excuse to go out and shop, but the extra bank holiday might be appreciated by some. Anyway…

Gifts have been unwrapped and put away. Paper and packaging has been cleared away. New play-doh that came out of the can in such vibrant colors are now a sad shade of beige. What’s next to do? Thank You Notes. Time to write the Thank You notes.

What?! You may think that Thank You notes are antiquated and a throwback to the dark ages before we had stuff like email and unlimited minutes and instant gratification but that is what makes Thank You notes (or letter writing and manners in general) is fine art that transcends all social and class lines. It really can be the great equalizer!

Writing a note by hand allows you to put to paper human emotions: joy, sorrow, gratitude, love, nostalgia. And if you think about it, those (and anger) are among the first emotions we learn to articulate verbally.

Before sitting down to write your notes, gather your supplies:

Pen

Paper

Envelopes

Address Book

List of gifts and their givers (if needed)

According to Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of the Handwritten Note,  your Thank You Note should have five characteristics. It should be: generous, specific, prompt, succinct and personal.

Generous. Send the note even if you’ve already thanked the giver in another way.

Specific. Mention the gift but thank them for the THOUGHT behind it.

Prompt. Send the note right away, but don’t let lateness stop you from writing at all.

Succinct. Keep it short by writing about any unrelated matters in a separate note.

Personal. Write it by hand. No form letters, printouts or greeting cards.

Things to say:

Thank you so much.

It’s just what I’ve wanted

How did you guess I wanted a [the gift]

I am enjoying wearing, playing with, looking at, eating, listening to, reading [the gift]

You were so thoughtful, kind, generous

Things to avoid:

Thank you for the gift [this may imply to the giver that you have forgotten what they gave you or that you lost the gift. EXCEPTION: when the gift is money in some form. In that case, thank them for the “gift” but then be sure to tell them what you are planning to do with the gift.]

You shouldn’t have 

Thank you for dinner. [Was the rest of the evening just awful?]

I’m exchanging it. [Wow.]

IT’S THE BEST GIFT EVER!! [makes you sound a bit insincere.]

Now some of you, like me, are parents. And since you are a parent, that means you have children. If you have taught your kids to say “thank you,” you can teach them to write thank you notes! When it comes to kids, you have a new options. For the first five years, or so, you can write on your child’s behalf. I, personally, write in the child’s voice. For an older preschooler, they could dictate to you what to write or copy a few lines down that you have written for them (if they can write their letters) or they can write their name at the end of the note.

For older children, help them enjoy writing notes by employing some of the following tactics:

Schedule time together to write. We all know how kids fare better when they know what to expect and when, so set aside, in advance, a set an hour or so on a specific day to write notes

Support your child. Give your child their very own stationery and special pen. Make sure your child has all of the needed addresses or address the envelopes for them as they write the note.

Personalize it. If you child likes glitter, stickers, stamps, or the like, let them add the embellishments to their note.

Model. Your child will not want to write thank you notes if they do not see you writing notes. Just as your child sees you saying “Thank You” in person, let them see how that gratitude is translated into a thank you note. Make sure your child sees how enjoyable RECEIVING thank-you notes is by reading the notes you receive aloud and posting them.

Join them. Sit down with your child and write something as well: your own thank-you notes, journal, a letter, etc. If nothing else, it’s helpful for your child for you to be there, to offer support with spelling, advice and phrasing.

Have the gift at the ready. Kids are concrete. They remember the here and now, so it might be helpful for to have the gift in front of your child when they write. Ask your child how they felt when they received the gift. If they were not too keen on the gift, ask them to imagine how happy Auntie was picking out the gift for them.

Reciprocity. Help your child understand the pleasure people get from being thanked by making sure they know what it feels like to give a gift and then receive a thank-you note. If you write a thank-you note to your child, it is a concrete example of how thank-you notes make people feel. And how cool is it, as a child, to receive a thank-you note from a grown-up?!

I hope this takes some of the scare out of writing thank-you notes and encourages you to start a new tradition of your own!

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Filed under christmas, etiquette, family, gifts, holidays, manners, monday, mothering, toddler

Jesse Tree Day 5: Sarah

Scripture: Gen 18:1-15, Gen 21:1-17

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[a] do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs[b] of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

1 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac[a] to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[c] began to sob.

17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.

A long time ago, old Abraham’s wife
Got the biggest surprise she’d had in her life.
Sarah and Abraham knew they were old.
But God said they’d soon have a baby to hold.

When Sarah heard this, she let out a laugh.
Could she have a baby at ninety and a half?
But just as God said, right before her eyes,
A son was born! She got her surprise.

(From My Princess Bible by Andy Holmes)

I think Sarah had a reaction that any of us would have when faced with an impossibility, she laughed. We tend to laugh when nervous, laugh in disbelief, laugh to disguise our discomfort, laughter can be a knee-jerk reaction to something that we just can’t process in that moment. Before she was told by God that she would bear a child for Abraham, Sarah decided to take things into her own hands (how many of us have never felt that way…) and decided that Abraham should have a child by her slave, Hagar, at least that way Abraham’s lineage would live on. So.. Ishmael was born of the union between Abraham and Hagar. And that was all fine and dandy until Sarah conceived and bore her son. Once Isaac was weaned (so he was most likely around 3 or 4 years old and Ishmael was maybe 4 or 5) Sarah decided she wanted Hagar and Ishmael out. (Granted, Ishmael was mocking Isaac, but still not cool, in my opinion.) In deciding this she basically gave Hagar and Ishmael a death sentence in sending them away, but God takes care of all of his people. God promised Abraham that out of Ishmael a nation would come as well, because he too was a son of Abraham. We call that nation of Ishmael the Nation of Islam. Judaism, Islam and Christianity are called “Abrahamic Religions” because all three have Abraham as a common ancestor and despite all of the differences we like to bring up, we are all sons and daughters of Abraham.

Ornament: Baby Feet

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So, I hope you enjoyed today’s devotion. Unless indicated, all devotions are out of my brain, so if you don’t like them, you can tell me. 🙂 I will try to post additional musings as time permits, but no promises. Don’t forget to enter to win an autographed copy of Little Star by Anthony DeStefano. You have until Dec 13! Click Here to see the post where you can enter!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under Advent, breastfeeding, Catholic, family, Friday, tradition

Jesse Tree Day 4: Abraham

Scripture: Gen 12: 1-7, Gen 13:2-18, Gen 18:1

1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.[a]
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”[b]

4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring[a] forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the LORD.

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.

How many of us honestly have the faith in God that Abraham does? Here he was, one day, minding his own business when all of a sudden, God begins speaking to him. He could have just brushed off the voice of the Almighty as being a figment of his imagination, but he didn’t. He stopped and listened. And that voice began telling him some far-out things. Abram was old but for men that really is a moot point as men are still fertile when they are old. But here’s the kicker, his wife, Sarai was old too, and as we know, for the ladies, fertility is not forever. So, here are Abram and Sarai, both past middle age, past the ideal parenting ages and they are being told by some mysterious voice that not only will they have offspring, but that their offspring will be like the “dust of the earth.” (Gen 13:16) That’s a lot of people. Abram, like Noah before him, trusted in the Lord with all of his heart and put his faith in God. If we could have one iota of that faith, imagine the good works that could be done through us. But remember, God can do much with just a little. All he asks of us is to have faith the size of a mustard seed.

(And a little FYI: I have “Faith” by George Michael totally stuck in my head right now.)

Ornament: Man on Camel under a star filled sky

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So, I hope you enjoyed today’s devotion. Unless indicated, all devotions are out of my brain, so if you don’t like them, you can tell me. 🙂 I will try to post additional musings as time permits, but no promises. Don’t forget to enter to win an autographed copy of Little Star by Anthony DeStefano. You have until Dec 13! Click Here to see the post where you can enter!

Pax Christi!

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Jesse Tree Day 2: The Fall of Man

Scripture: Gen 3: 1-24

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Ornament: Serpent and the Apple

Today’s Devotion is from Madeleine L’Engle:

When we left the garden we knew that it would be
forever.
The new world we entered was dark and strange.
Nights were cold.
We lay together for warmth, and because we were
afraid
of the un-named animals, and of the others: we
had never
known about the giants, and angels gone wild.
We had not been told
of dwarves and elves; they teased us; we hid
whenever they played.

Adam held me. When my belly grew taut and
began to swell
I didn’t know what was happening. I thought it was
the beginning
of death, the very first death. I clung to Adam and
cried.
As I grew bigger something within me moved.
One day I fell
and the pains started. A true angel came and
pushed the grinning
creatures back. Adam helped. There was a tearing.
I thought I’d died.
Instead, from within me came a tiny thing, a new
creature,
red-faced, bellowing, mouth groping for my breast.
This was not death, but birth, and joy came to my
heart again.
This was the first-born child. How I did laugh and
sing!
But from this birth came death. He never gave me
any rest.
And then he killed his brother. Oh, my child. Oh,
my son Cain.

I watched from then on over every birth,
seeing in each babe cruelty ready to kill
compassion.
For centuries the pattern did not change. Birth
always meant death.
Each man child who was born upon the longing
earth
in gratefulness and joy brought me only a fresh
ration
of tears. I had let hate into the world with that first
breath.

Yet something made me hope. Each baby born
brought me hurrying, bringing, as in the old tales,
a gift
looking- for what? I went to every slum and cave
and palace
seeking the mothers, thinking that at least I could
warn
their hearts. Thus perhaps the balance might shift
and kindness and concern replace self-will and
malice.

So I was waiting at that extraordinary intersection
of Eternity and Time when David’s son (Adam’s
too)
was born. I watched the Incarnate at his mother’s
breast
making, by his humble, holy birth the one possible
correction
of all that I by disobedience had done. I knelt and
saw new
Adam, and I cried, “My son!” and came at last to
rest.

I have nothing to top that.

Jesse Tree Day 2: The Fall of Man

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So, I hope you enjoyed today’s devotion. Unless indicated, all devotions are out of my brain, so if you don’t like them, you can tell me. 🙂 I will try to post additional musings as time permits, but no promises. Don’t forget to enter to win an autographed copy of Little Star by Anthony DeStefano. You have until Dec 13! Click Here to see the post where you can enter!

Pax Christi!

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Jesse Tree Day 1: Creation

Scripture Reading: Gen. 1: 24-28

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Ornament: Globe

Whether you are an evolutionist or a creationist or somewhere in-between, there is one thing you can’t deny. We have been given quite a gift in this planet that we are living on and while we were given authority over it, we were also given the duty to take care of it. The creation of the Heavens and Earth was the first act by God and all other acts flow from it. Without the Earth, there would have neither been a Garden of Eden nor would there have been a primordial ooze out of which the earliest creatures had slinked. If we do not take care of God’s creation, a creation that he entrusted to us, who will? I mean, think back to when you were a teen. If you borrowed your parents’ car and brought it back wrecked, that’s not being a good steward, is it? Well, same thing goes for God’s creation. Easy-Peasy.

Jesse Tree Day 1: Creation

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So, I hope you enjoyed today’s devotion. Unless indicated, all devotions are out of my brain, so if you don’t like them, you can tell me. 🙂 I will try to post additional musings as time permits, but no promises. Don’t forget to enter to win an autographed copy of Little Star by Anthony DeStefano. You have until Dec 13! Click Here to see the post where you can enter!

Pax Christi!

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First Sunday of Advent

Scripture: Matthew 24:37-44

37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Today begins my favorite season in the Liturgical Year: Advent! For me, there is something about the preparation and the waiting that really speaks to me. The other nice thing about Advent is that it forces you to slow down and really enjoy the preparations for the Christmas season.

Today, before our evening meal, we blessed our Advent Wreath and lit the first candle. We spent the entire meal trying to prevent the three-year-old from blowing the candle out (one of the reasons she loves going to Mass… candles EVERYWHERE!) but the evening was very spiritual.

What else is kind of neat is to try to imagine myself in the place of Mary. I have carried and borne two children and that last month of pregnancy is difficult. You are tired of being pregnant, baby is getting heavy, you definately have the pregnancy waddle going on and your joints are so loosey-goosey that you are afraid to do simple acts for fear of dislocation! I can’t be sure, but I can imagine that Our Blessed Mother felt the same way. But she was carrying no ordinary baby… she had the Savior of the world in her Womb! No pressure there.

One tradition that our family started last year is the Jesse Tree. It is an Advent Calendar (but there are no chocolates involved) that traces the linage and the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The title comes from that Jesse was the father of King David. God promised David that his Kingdom would last forever – and that through him and his seed God would save his people and bless the world. Two centuries after the death of King David God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. (Isaiah 11:1-4)

During this season of Advent, I will be posting Jesse Tree Devotions, along with the ornament that we are using. There are different versions of the Jesse Tree out there and it’s great because each family can make it their own. The tree onto which we will be hanging our ornaments is painted on our sliding glass door… and if I may say so, it’s not half bad.

Jesse Tree on DoorJesse Tree Ornaments

Edited to add: There are 24 Jesse Tree Ornaments, but 28 days in Advent. To make the ornaments last the entire Advent season, we are only doing Jesse Tree devotions on Monday-Saturday while the four Sundays of Advent will be reserved for candle lighting and whatever else your family does on the Sundays of Advent. I will post the Gospel Reading from that day though. Makes everything more uniform and us type A folks like that uniformity.
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So, I hope you enjoy the devotions. I will try to post additional musings as time permits, but no promises. Don’t forget to enter to win an autographed copy of Little Star by Anthony DeStefano. You have until Dec 13! Click Here to see the post where you can enter!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under Advent, Catholic, family, tradition

Children’s Book Review: Little Star

A King is about to be born! The stars in the heavens are competing to shine the brightest to celebrate his birth. But when they see the poor family, the donkey, the shabby stable, the stars all think, That can’t possibly be a king. We’ve been fooled.

All except one. The smallest, loneliest star in the sky, Little Star, is the only one to understand what the king is about to bring to the world. But what can Little Star do for him?

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by best-selling author Anthony DeStefano about reviewing his latest Children’s Book, Little Star. As I was humbled and honored by his request and, of course, I jumped at the chance.

Mr. DeStefano’s book has all of the elements of the traditional Christmas Story, told from the perspective of the stars in the heavens. The story of the Nativity is intertwined with themes of self-worth, perseverence and ultimately, self-sacrifice out of love for others. (hmm… sound familiar?)

For me, the mark of a “good” Children’s book is if it can make me cry and this one certainly does that (and for those of you who do not know me personally, I do not cry easily.) The illustrations by Mark Elliot are beautifully rendered and are works of art in of themselves. My eldest daughter, the three year old, loves this book and calls it her “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” book and right now, really wants it back. *smile*

If you are looking for a nice addition to your family Christmas traditions, please pick up a copy of Little Star. While the text is easily designed for children aged 3-8, children of all ages will love and appreciate this heartwarming tale.

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Want a chance to win your very own, autographed by the author, copy of Little Star? Well… all you have to to is leave a comment below with your favorite Christmas tradition or Service Project. For an additional entry, Become a Fan of Caffeinated Catholic Mama on FaceBook!

Entries will be accepted until Monday, December 13 at 11:59p (CST) and the winner will be drawn by random number generator on Tuesday December 14th.

Pax Christi!

(I was provided a review copy of Little Star by the author, in exchange for my honest review.)

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Filed under Art, Catholic, Giveaway, monday, tradition

Just icing on the cake

I was reading the St. Louis Review (Catholic News) this weekend and there was a letter to the editor that just made me climb on my soapbox and rant at DH.

The letter, written by a Grandmother, outlined the various grievences that she had with the Mass and people attending said Masses. Her points included:

-people not genuflecting/ bowing before entering the pew
-young people not paying attention
-young children hanging on their parents, turning around, not using books,
-chewing gum and then receiving Communion
-the presence of loud music and singing of songs that are “anything but hymns”

She closes by saying:

What on earth will our faith be like 20 years down the road? Will my young grandchildren have a strong faith to see them through life’s hard times? Singing and shaking hands will not do much with standing by a hospital bed. It all makes me sad and very tired.

So of course, the CCM got all up in arms and was ready to fire her own letter to the editor when I decided to bring it here instead.

Now, I can see some of her points. It does irritate me when I see kids playing on their Nintendo DS or PS3 or iPods during the Mass, my husband does not genuflect and sometimes I just want to tie my 3 year old to the pew, but then I remember a few things:

1. My 3 year old is, after all 3. What I expect a 3 year old to accomplish during the Mass is totally different than what she CAN accomplish.
2. All the other stuff: other people’s behavior, music selections, skills of the choir, quality of the homily, is not why we are there.

We attend Mass to take part in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist, all of that other stuff is just extra. I try my best to remember that fact and when I find myself being disparaged by the extra stuff that I don’t like, I offer it up. Offer the suffering that you might be experiencing because of the extra stuff up for a poor soul in purgatory and pray that the Lord helps you to stay focused on the task at hand.

At our Parish, we are fortunate to have a multitude of Masses to choose from: If you want an early meal, try the 5pm Vigil Mass; want a more contemplative Mass, 7am; want a more grown up Mass, 8:45a; contemporary? 10:30 is for you and if you want to raise the roof with Praise and Worship songs, hit up the LifeTeen Mass at 12:15p.

The writer asks how her grandchildren’s faith will be shaped in 20 years. To that, I have to respond with the hope that their faith is firmly grounded in a love for and of Christ which can only be done with the Church and the Domestic Church (home) working in concert.

And as Saint Augustine said: “Cantare est bis orare.” (To sing is to pray twice.)
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Tomorrow is “Ask CCM Tuesday!” If you have questions about Catholicism, conversion, RCIA, Natural Family Planning, Breastfeeding, Cloth Diapering, Frugal Living, Knitting, Crochet, Biology, Forensic Science, Marriage, Parenting, Gentle Discipline, etc., etc., please send me an email at:

CaffeinatedCatholicMama (at) gmail (dot) com

In your email, please include your first name and your location and let me know if you want your name withheld when I answer your question on the blog.

I have no prizes to offer for your questions other than the knowledge that you might be helping others with their questions!

Pax Christi!

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Filed under Catholic, sacraments, tradition

Breastfeeding… Normalized

This past weekend, my family traveled to my hometown for a family reunion. We haven’t had a reunion… well as long as I can remember to be honest. It was great seeing cousins who I haven’t spent time with since I was little and it was really hard not to see them as little kids, but as adults and parents. My daughter had a blast playing with her 3nd cousins, most of whom, she just referred to as her “friends.” Hey, you try explaining the levels of cousins to a 3 year old! (Thank you, Wikipedia for the cousins equations!)

I come from a pretty stereotypical African-American family… we’re loud, pretty funny and love to eat! There was so much food there this weekend, that we are still recovering: Ribs, Chicken, Turkey, Baked Beans, Collard Greens, Cornbread, Salads, Fruit Pies and Cobblers… not to mention Aunt Rosie’s Famous Carrot Cake! However, my favorite part of the day was not the copious food or laughing with the family. My favorite part was when my three year old showed the whole family what normal is for her.

My daughter (The Bear) received a stuffed cat as a “Yay! You are a big sister!” present from one of my college friends. This stuffed cat has become her constant companion and she named him “Kitty Boy.” Early in the day of the reunion, The Bear carried Kitty Boy over to a folding chair in the midst of the older relatives of the family (and when I say older, I mean older; These are the matriarchs of my family, all in their 80s and 90s), climbed up on the chair, lifted her shirt and “latched” Kitty Boy on. When she was asked what she was doing, she looked up and said “I’m nursing kitty boy.” The matriarchs looked at each other, shrugged, kind of smiled and said “She’s nursing her kitty.”

My daughter has no idea how important and special her simple declaration was. Breastfeeding was not really encouraged in my family and for her to show everyone without fear or shame what it means to be a mother in her world, means I am doing something right.

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Filed under breastfeeding, feminism, life, mothering

When less is more

Last week, my little area of the blogosphere was all a twitter about an article written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about how breastfeeding can lead to marriage difficulties. As it turns out, the article was a few years old (written in 2006), and the good Rabbi wrote a clarification piece in response to the initial backlash, but that’s not the point of my post.

There was one section of the piece that initially p*ssed me off.

I told the mother that in being so devoted to her son, she had committed the cardinal sin of marriage, which is to put someone else before her spouse, even if that someone is your child. Furthermore, I said, her obsession had turned one of her most attractive body parts into a feeding station, an attractive cafeteria rather than a scintillating piece of flesh.

(emphasis mine)

WHAT?! A. SCINTILLATING. PIECE. OF. FLESH???!!! (now, imagine a look of horror, outrage and disgust all in one plastered on my face.) So, not only is Rabbi Shmuley telling me that breastfeeding could hurt my marriage but it also is taking all pleasure away from my husband, after all that’s all a woman is to a man… a scintillating. piece. of. flesh. Oh, yeah, and God-forbid the Man-Child I married be denied pleasure. Steam, Fume, Grumble.

And then I continued reading:

In the end, there are two effects of breast-feeding that we often refuse to acknowledge. One is the de-eroticization of a woman’s body, as her husband witnesses one of the most attractive parts of her body serving a utilitarian rather than romantic purpose. This is not to say that breast-feeding isn’t sexy. Indeed, the maternal dimension is a central part of womanliness. But public breast-feeding is profoundly de-eroticizing, and I believe that wives should cover up, even when they nurse their babies in their husband’s presence.

Wait?! Now Rabbi Crazy is telling me that I am not even supposed to use my breasts for what they are designed for because it’s going to hurt the feelings of the Man-Child I married?!?!?! At this point, I just about hit the roof and my loving husband told me to close the computer and go for a walk before I do something crazy. I let it stew for a bit (after all this hit right around June 7-8) and then I started thinking a little bit more. I re-read the article a few times (it took a few times because I found myself getting all angry and emotional before I got to the end) and I finally got it.

Rabbi Shmuley is making two big points. One is that we have to remember to keep our marriages “spouse-centered” rather than “child-centered.” Many parents make the mistake of making their children trump over their spouse and what happens to the marriage that is not tended to? It withers and dies. I have some friends who make the counter-point of that kids are only little for so long and that marriages are forever, but we have to remember the strength of inerita and Newton’s first law of motion: An object in motion tends to stay in motion, an object at rest tends to stay at rest. If your marriage is not tended to and in a state of rest for 2,3,4 or 5 or more years… while your kids are “little” it will be that much harder to get things moving again, especially if you compound that with how long you were husband and wife before you were mom and dad. For some of us, we were only husband and wife for a few months or few years before God blessed us with children but we always have to keep in mind that it was because we were husband and wife that we became mom and dad.

The second point was a little harder to wrap my mind around, especially since he is basically telling wives to cover up when nursing in their homes, but as we approach summer it’s becoming clearer. We tend to get de-sensitized to things that we see over and over again. If you watch violent movies, television shows you might not bat an eye at the shootings on the news. If you watch programs with overly sexual tones, you don’t see the harm in wearing a tube top to Mass. The Rabbi warns against spouses parading around the bedroom naked because it takes the specialness away from the body and makes it common. Most people do not react when seeing a hand or nose or toe because you see them everywhere, but seeing the curve of a woman or that vee under a man’s belly button, can really set one ablaze. So, in asking wives to cover when nursing can be seen not an act of repression on the part of the husband to the wife but rather an act of love by the wife to the husband by keeping one of the most erotic parts of her body for his eyes only.

Now, you won’t see me covering up while nursing around my house or in public for that matter (but you will find me veiling at Mass,) and no one should make a mother cover when nursing, except the nursing mother in question, but like I said, I can get what he’s saying. After all, whenever I hear people getting all up in arms about seeing a woman nurse in public the thought that goes through my head is “What is wrong with people? It’s just a breast?! It’s function is to feed a baby!” but we do have to remember that breasts are secondary sexual organs as well as primary feeding sources for our young. And who better than to be given the role of multitasking than… Mom.

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What do you think? Am I spot on or way off? Let me know your thoughts!

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Filed under breastfeeding, Catholic, feminism, marriage, mothering