Friday, March 27, 2015

Weaning: my hows, whys, and whens

Sometimes when I get a mailbag question, I can't believe I really haven't ever written on the subject before. This was one of those. I've written about breastfeeding (those posts always spark quite a discussion) and getting babies to sleep (conversation AND, um, insults on those posts) but, somehow, I've yet to share how we handle weaning around here. Thanks to Amy for asking!

The Question:

Hi Kendra,

I hope you are well!  I just got my baby down for a nap, which took 30 minutes, and had an "I should ask Kendra..." moment.

My baby (first one) is 16 months old.  I've read a lot of your parenting posts, especially on breastfeeding and other food related posts, so I know that we have similar approaches in this.

I feel a little bad about this, but I'm kind of ready to stop nursing -- at least the daytime nursing.  The morning session seems to be phasing itself out.  The pre-nap session is harder. That said, I did just get him to go down for a nap without nursing but it took a half hour for him to settle himself enough to sleep.

All that said... how did  you go about "weaning" your babies?  When did they totally stop? Did you let them lead the process?  Did some take longer than others?  Did you ever nurse while pregnant?  (I'm not... I don't think... but sometimes I wonder how that would work.)

The Answer:

Great question Amy.

I've been able to exclusively breastfeed all of my babies, and to nurse them for over a year, which has worked really well for us. I'm awfully grateful for the ease and convenience of it, and it has always fit
really well into my lifestyle.

Figuring out nursing was a bit emotionally taxing and physically painful for me with the first couple babies, but then it got pretty darn easy with all the rest (until I got a silly nursing injury with Lulu, my seventh, and spent a few days fighting back tears every time she had to nurse). But I'd say, mostly, I've been very fortunate and have really loved breastfeeding. I'm happy to nurse my babies pretty much on demand, whenever, wherever, and let them start solid foods on their own as they're interested in them. However, for most of my babies, figuring out solid food hasn't translated into not wanting to nurse. I've only have one baby wean himself (it was Frankie, of course). For all the others, at around fourteen months or so, I just start feeling a bit spent on it all. I'm usually pregnant again by that point, and ready to be able to share nap and bedtime routines with my husband (or now with my big kids) and have my body back to myself a bit (as much as that's possible for someone who is pregnant).

I know there are lots of schools of thought on this, and lots of passionately held opinions. So, I'm going to put a quick disclaimer in here saying that I realize that there are many legitimate reasons that a mom wouldn't be able to exclusively breastfeed for as long as I have (thus far) been able to do. I also understand that many moms choose extended nursing, and that that works well for them and their kids.

I haven't felt like extended nursing was something my babies so far have needed, and it hasn't been something I felt like I wanted or needed to take on. And I have found that, for my kids, there has been kind of a magic window between thirteen and sixteen or seventeen months, when they don't really NEED to nurse anymore, but they're not quite aware enough to have the process of weaning be all that traumatic. I only nursed one baby to eighteen months, because we were postponing pregnancy. And the process with her was definitely more stressful than it has been with my others. She could talk about nursing, and she remembered it and wanted it, even if we had already skipped a day or two. It was harder than I think it needed to be on both of us.

That experience with Anita convinced me that I either want to wean by sixteen or seventeen months, or be prepared to wait until past two, when they are a bit more reasonable.

The way I approach weaning is pretty much just what you've been doing.

I start by not offering during the day, and providing baby with snacks and water or milk in a sippy cup. Instead of pulling baby into bed with me in the morning to nurse, or snuggling down in a chair to nurse (and watch TV) after naps, I just get us going right away. We have a snack, and we do something active, so baby doesn't really think about nursing. In that way we get down to just nursing before naps and bedtime.

I co-sleep with my babies for six to nine months or so, then transition them to a crib in conjunction with sleep-training, that still involves some nighttime nursing. I've always sleep-trained my babies before I wean them, so they are already familiar with sleeping in a crib on their own, and with soothing, <cough -or sometimes crying- cough> themselves to sleep, on days that they don't nurse completely to sleep. I have no idea how people wean while co-sleeping. I suppose it's possible, but I can't wrap my head around it.

During the weaning process, daddy takes over the bedtime routine for at least a couple of days. Baby isn't expecting to be nursed by him, so that seems to go more smoothly than me trying to just put a confused baby down with no nursing. After a few days of that, then I am able to substitute reading a book, or singing and rocking for a bit in the baby's room, for nursing, then I can just lay him down in the crib and leave.

For my babies, this has worked very quickly (a day or two) and with only a little unhappiness and no trauma to the baby.

I just try to be really upbeat, and consistent about it. I think if I acted worried about it, my babies would sense that, and I think giving in and nursing every once in a while would probably make the process take a lot longer than if I just go ahead and do it, once we're down to only a couple sessions a day, anyway.

My two outliers have been Frankie and Anita. Frankie flash-weaned himself at twelve months, he just flat out refused to nurse. So that was that. And, like I said, with Anita it was a longer, more difficult process that involved a lot of unhappiness and attempting to reason with and explain to a baby who wasn't really able to understand. But even with her, the whole process only took a couple of weeks. And then she was fine. So perhaps I'm making too big a deal of the age on this anyway.

Like everything with parenting, a calm but firm attitude, having age-appropriate expectations, and being really consistent, seems to make everything go more smoothly.

Anyway, I hope things have been going well with it. You can do it. And it's okay to want to.

Good luck!



Some additional reading . . . 

Breastfeeding posts:

Lactivism, aka I'll Teach YOU How to Feel About Nursing

I Want it All: a Nourished Baby AND Good Manners (also superpowers)

Solid food posts:

Starting Baby on Solid Foods for Moms Who Don't Have Time For That Sort of Thing

I Do Not Cook Two Dinners: how we avoid mealtime battles

These two are about sleep training, which isn't what you asked, but mom-lead weaning might well include some crying oneself to sleep for the baby, and I really, really think that's okay.

Have a Baby They Said . . . It Will Sleep Like a Baby They Said

How I Changed My Mind About Sleep Training

Mailbag Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Five Family Movies for Holy Week on Netflix

Movies can be a great way to bring families together, and a great way to help kids understand complicated concepts. Holy Week is an excellent time to do both of those things. So, even though we give up our family screen time during Lent, our family Holy Week traditions include watching some movies together. 

And they're available on Netflix streaming! (Clicking on the movie title should open it for you in Netflix, if you are logged into your account. Or click "DVD" to find a copy that way, whether or not you have Netflix.)

So, here they are . . .

- 1. Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie -

Jonah, who spends three days in the belly of a whale, is an Old Testament prefigurement of Jesus, which makes this movie a good choice for Holy Week. Also, the Ninevites slap each other with fish, which is pretty great, any time. We've watched quite a few Veggie Tales movies, but I think this one is my favorite of them all. The songs are fun, the characters are charming, it's a fun watch for the whole family.  (also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

- 2. The Prince of Egypt - 

I really can't recommend this animated movie of the life of Moses highly enough. It has an all-star voice cast, and beautiful songs, and beautiful visuals. It's also the perfect thing to watch on Holy Thursday, as it features the Ten Plagues of Egypt and the Passover, which Jesus and his disciples were commemorating at the Last Supper. (also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

- 3. The Robe -

This classic movie from 1953, starring a young Richard Burton, has the distinction of being the first movie ever shot in the super widescreen "CinemaScope" format. Oooooh. It is the story of a Roman officer, tormented by having participated in the crucifixion of Jesus. It's an old school Hollywood epic, complete with a cast of thousands, dramatic music, and a healthy dose of grimacing overacting. But, somehow, it still gets a lot right. Particularly the efficacy of relics, the freedom in forgiveness, and a very counter-cultural happy ending. There are cheesy bits, but overall it's still a really worthwhile film. It's appropriate for the whole family, but might not hold the attention of preschoolers. (available on streaming only through 4/1/2015, also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

- 4. The Gospel of John -

This is a narration of the complete text of the Gospel of John, over the background of a very impressive visual representation of all of the events of the gospel. The entire movie is two hours and forty minutes, which might be a good way to spend the hours of noon to three pm on Good Friday. Or, if you don't have that much time, you can start at about 1:30 in, and watch beginning on Palm Sunday. The depiction of Jesus' passion is pretty restrained, all things considered (no whips are shown cutting in to his skin, we don't see the nails go in), but we do see Jesus' bloodied body, and his crucifixion. I would feel comfortable showing it to even my little kids. But it might be too intense for some. (available exclusively on Netflix streaming)

- 5. The Passion of the Christ -

I'm probably not going to tell you anything you don't already know about this movie. It's beautifully done, but very raw and painful to watch. As it should be, right? But this movie isn't for everyone, and it isn't for young children. I can't handle watching it every year, but our oldest is nearly thirteen, and I think we might watch it with him this Good Friday, after the other kids have gone to bed. (also available on DVD from Netflix or here )

For more family activities for Holy Week, check out . . .

Lent: The End Begins (Ideas and Printables for Holy Week and Easter) 


The "You Can Still Do This" Guide to All Things Holy Week

AND . . . I've been meaning to sit down and put together a scripture-based Passion Play for kids, like the Nativity Play we do for Christmas. But now I don't have to, because Elena from Barefoot and Sometimes Pregnant has just taken care of it. There are options for longer and shorter versions, and it's really pretty much just what I would have done, if I had done it, which I didn't.

A Passion Play for Kids

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post. (Also, I need us all to pretend that this is April, because I'm supposed to do one of these per month.)

What have I missed? Do YOU have any favorite Holy Week movies?


Monday, March 23, 2015

A Twelve Year Old Boy Reviews Cinderella

Last week, I took just my two older daughters to see Cinderella. I liked it. A LOT. They liked it a LOT. We've all been singing Lavender's Blue pretty much nonstop ever since. I felt pretty confident recommending it to women and girls. (And I did. I recommended the heck out of it. Maleficent . . . not so much.) But I couldn't be sure how it would go over with boys. So this weekend, I went again. This time with the whole family. My twelve year old son, Jack, was kind enough to agree to be interviewed and share with you a DIFFERENT perspective.

Me: What are your favorite movies?

Jack: I like movies with action and lots of funny parts. And fighting.

Was this movie as excellent as you thought it was going to be?

Ummm . . . yes. Yes it was.

Hah. Well, played. Does that mean you liked it?

It's still definitely a princess movie. Actually, I guess she went straight to being a queen, didn't she? Anyway, it had some funny parts. Like the goose who gets turned into a coachman, pointing out that he was a goose and therefore did not know how to drive. 

You have a few sisters, does that mean you also see a lot of princess movies?

Yes. I thought this movie was better than most princess movies. Not as good as Tangled or The Frog Princess, but at least on par with Brave or Frozen (the FIRST TIME you see it).

This movie is WAY better than Brave or Frozen. Anyway. What did you think of the prince character?

He was pretty good. I liked that he stood up for what he believed in with his father. He was brave but also respectful. He wore tights, though. It's hard to take a guy wearing tights seriously.

How about the fathers? Wasn't it nice to have some GOOD fathers in a movie for once, instead of them always being portrayed as idiots or evil?

I like Darth Vader better.

But that's exactly what I mean. He's TOTALLY evil. He's trying to corrupt his son, and barring that, kill him.

I know! That's a REAL bad guy. Not just a step mother who laughs at you and sends you to your room. Your room that you could totally escape from.

Who is a character in this movie that boys can look up to?

The prince is good, I guess.

How is he good?

Well, he's not a pushover, but he's not a tyrant either. When he is hunting, he listens to what Cinderella says, and he gives her his reasons, but he listens to her reasons too, and he decides to change his mind.

Does anyone extend that same courtesy to him later on?

Huh. Yeah, I guess so. The king listens to him and changes his mind about him having to marry the princess from "zztharragoztha."

What did you think of Cinderella? Are there any things in her character that a boy could learn from?

I think a boy could learn that if he's locked in an attic by an evil stepmother, he should just wait for some mice to accidentally reveal his presence to some rescuers. Rather than, say, opening a window himself and just getting out of there.

But she wanted to stay in the house because it reminded her of her mother. Right?

Yeah. I don't really get that. Plus, she seemed happy enough to leave with the prince.

Good point. How about the overall message of the movie?

Always be yourself.

Isn't that more the message of My Little Pony?

No. The message of My Little Pony is that if you can find where you truly belong you will get a magical butt tattoo that depicts your interests.

Really? Maybe I should be paying more attention to that show. But, what did you learn from this movie?

The catch phrase was "be kind and have courage." So I learned that?

Don't you think that's a good lesson? Didn't that allow Cinderella to be happy and be a good person even in difficult circumstances? Isn't that applicable to boys?

Yes. I think it's a good lesson. Cinderella didn't make that up though. Kindness and courage are virtues. 

So, if any brothers out there are wondering if they should go see this movie, what would you tell them?

A lot of it would depend on if there is candy and popcorn. If there is candy and popcorn, you might not hate it.

Jack out.

Some other expert opinions . . .

Frankie (3): I liked the DANcing. And da goose. Dat was willy willy funny.

Gus (7): I liked it. Not the kissing. But I liked it.

Bobby (9): I liked the fencing part.

The husband: I enjoyed it. But I don't think I liked it better than the classic version. The animals are more interesting characters in that one.

Betty and Anita liked it just as much the second time around. Lulu . . . made it. But if you don't have to take a one and a half year old to the movies with you, please don't.

For more of Jack's favorites, see . . .

Big Hero 6: Jack Has Some Thoughts

What's All This, Now, About "Guardians of the Galaxy"?

In totally, completely, other news . . .  

Also today, I'm the Catholic on "Ask a Catholic" at A Home Called Shalom, trying to help our non-Catholic friends understand what is the deal with Catholics and Lent. Click on over and let Allyson know if I got it right.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lent: The End Begins (Ideas and Printables for Holy Week and Easter)

Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Passion Sunday. This is the day on which images and statues are often veiled in churches. We like to do this in our home as well. (I used think we were supposed to do this for all of Lent, but have recently been corrected. You learn something new everyday!) Basically, we're supposed to be reminded to buckle down and Lent it up for these next two weeks.

What I Wore Sunday: Dress = Anthropologie, Bump = Twenty-two weeks
Anita and Lulu are sporting Old Navy
Frankie is in Costco and a handmade bow-tie from my friend Marquette

 March 25th, Wednesday, is the Annunciation! It's a solemnity, so celebrating is mandatory.

We'll be doing this:

Kids Don't Forget a Thing Like Waffles for Dinner

And saying this:


In the hopes of helping you (and me) do that. I'm going to share some brand new printables, and tell you all about how our family observes Holy Week and prepares for Easter. If you're a visual learner and/or too busy to remember things like days of the week, you could print them each out and put a new one up on the fridge each day to remind you which day it is.

As with all my printables, you are welcome to right click on the image and save it to your computer for your own personal use. You may print the images and or upload them and have prints made for your personal use or to give as gifts. You may use my images on your blog, just please link back to my blog. If you would like to sell my images, please contact me first.

For LOTS MORE free printable prayers, check out my Pinterest board.

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The priest wears red, we wave palms, it all seems quite celebratory. But there's some subtext going on we don't want to miss. The priest's vestments are red, and red vestments are kind of all over the place. Priests wear them to celebrate feasts of the Holy Spirit, but also the feasts of martyrs. The red reminds us of Jesus' upcoming suffering. We wave palms and shout "hosanna!" just like the people lining the streets of Jerusalem did. But those same people, *WE* turn on Jesus just days later, and start demanding that he be crucified.

We try to wear red to Mass that day (I think my dress will fit again this year, but not Lulu's), and when we get home with our palms, I confiscate them so the kids won't have any (more) sword fights with them, and make a little display on our little altar table.

I plan to serve something red, like spaghetti and meatballs, alongside this salad, which is pretty much perfect . . .

And now, on to Holy Week . . .

Here is the post I wrote last year detailing what we do each day of Holy Week (click on the title not the image to go to the post).

The "You Can Still Do This" Guide to All Things Holy Week

But here's the cliff's notes version, with the new images . . . 

To read . . . 

Matthew 26: 1-16

To do . . .

Our activity for the day is a little social experiment on the kids in which they get to learn about the power of money to turn people against each other. Read all about it here.

To eat . . . 

I don't actually have a usual menu for Spy Wednesday. Leftovers probably, we need to make room in the fridge. Unless anyone has any suggestions?

Holy Thursday is another happy/sad day. The institution of the Eucharist and of the priesthood is something to celebrate, but Jesus' betrayal and arrest is something to lament. So we do both.

To read . . . 

I like to point out to my kids that Peter betrayed Jesus just as much as Judas did. But Peter repented and asked for forgiveness, while Judas despaired and took his own life. And that makes all the difference.

To do . . . 

It's a busy day for us. The busiest of the week. We do a Seven Churches Visitation, a family Last Supper with rice krispy lamb cake, go to Mass, wash each other's feet, and watch a movie .

To eat . . .

We try to duplicate what Jesus and the twelve would have eaten for dinner that night, without attempting to replicate all the prayers and ceremony that would have gone along with it. I cook lamb chops, and serve them with a bitter herb salad, flatbread, potato knishes, and applesauce. See this post for all the recipes.

We keep Good Friday quiet and solemn around here, as much as we are able. Which, truth be told isn't THAT much.  But we try.

To read . . .

For how we handle talking to little kids about the events of this day, check out . . .

How to Talk to Little Kids About the Crucifixion

To do . . . 

We'll attend Good Friday services if we are able, or just visit a quiet church with an empty adoration chapel and venerate the cross. As the last of our Lenten soup and stations get togethers, we'll host friends for a simple southern catfish fry, and do the stations of the cross. If there's time, the kids will watch this movie , and there's always this one for grownups , if it's your cup of tea. It's not for everyone, and that's okay. I can handle it every few years.

To eat . . . 

We have hot cross buns for breakfast (but they're little, so it counts as half a breakfast) and something light for lunch, then fried catfish, coleslaw, cornbread, and water for dinner. For more details, see this post.

Holy Saturday isn't actually ALL that restful around here. There's a lot of stuff to do. But we do try to spend the day mindful that this is the day Jesus' body was in the tomb, and the rest of him was collecting his dad and the rest of the good guys from the Limbo of the Fathers.

To read . . . 

"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell" Luke 16:22
"Now that he ascended, what is it, but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth" Ephesians 4:9
"Because Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit, In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison: Which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe, when the ark was a building: wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water." 1 Peter 3:18-20
"And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise" Luke 23:42-43

To do . . . 

We put away our Lent decorations, and decorate for Easter. We dye our Easter eggs and do our meal preparation for Easter dinner. We do not attend Easter Egg Hunts or other Easter celebrations on Holy Saturday. If you have family that starts celebrating on Holy Saturday, you'll have to make that judgement call for your own selves. We take the big kids to the Vigil.

To eat . . . 

I've made these in previous years, but they are kind of labor intensive, and frankly, I don't really need more work the day before Easter. So, unless the kids remember them and there is a great outcry, probably we'll skip them this year. Other than that, I just try to use up leftovers.

And then . . . it's Easter!

For some Easter basket ideas, check out this post . . .

Last Minute Somewhat Free Easter Baskets

And for more photos of last year's goings on and more free printables, see this post:

An Easter Present for All of You but Mostly Bonnie and a Triduum / Easter Recap

I'll still be around the blog between now and then, but I'll take a moment here to wish you a very fruitful Holy Week, and the most joyful of Easters!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Maleficent vs Cinderella and the Heroes We Give Our Children

I almost didn't go to see Disney's new Cinderella, and I certainly didn't plan to take my daughters to see it. Why? Because I saw Maleficent.

Maleficent is everything that's wrong with a modern re-imagining of a classic story. It takes a tale of good vs evil and twists it into moral relativism. It is a movie marketed to children that features the mutilation (intended by the actress and filmmakers to symbolize the rape) of our heroine by her childhood sweetheart, and then uses that act of violence to excuse her descent into tyranny and violence. The worldview of this film is that true romantic love does not exist. Maleficent is betrayed and dismembered by the man she loved, in order that he might gain power and prestige. And, in the climax of the film, as Princess Aurora lays in a death-like sleep, under the curse placed upon her by the spiteful Maleficent, Prince Philip kisses her . . . and she doesn't awaken. Only Maleficent's own warped pseudo-maternal love is true enough to awaken the princess.

So. Messed. Up.

I very nearly swore off Disney live action remakes forever. But . . . what can I say, I'm a romantic. Once I starting hearing good things about Cinderella, I decided that the girls and I should give it a chance.

So we got ourselves gussied up (Betty is Cinderella, Anita is her mouse friend) . . .

and we went to go see it.

I am very glad we did.

I haven't loved every bit of a movie this much since I saw Les Miserables. That movie, of course, isn't for kids. But this one is for everyone. I sat next to my daughters in the theater as they laughed aloud at the jokes, and gasped in awe at the beauty, and cried rolling tears at the tragedy, and applauded at the triumphs, and swooned at the romance. Every second of it was a joy to behold and to share.

Cinderella gets everything right where Maleficent got it wrong. Cinderella also suffers tragedy and cruelty, but instead of descending into evil herself, she follows the advice given to her by her dying mother: to "have courage, and be kind."

Cinderella the character is strong where Maleficent the character is weak, and Cinderella the film is true where Maleficent the film is false.

Cinderella is the best of all worlds. The cinematography and sets are breathtaking. Going into it, I couldn't imagine how they were going to do the mice, but they totally pull it off. The estate and the grounds and Cinderella's attic are all filled with the most extraordinary details. Her carriage and the palace are all beautifully over the top, as are all the dresses.

The writing is great, the casting is great. The romance is <sigh> perfect. The character development is excellent. Maleficent completely dispenses with the canon of Sleeping Beauty by telling us that we think we know what happened, but . . . really we don't. And then they just totally change EVERYTHING. In contrast, the new Cinderella is utterly true to the spirit and the general plot of the Disney cartoon and is enhanced by extra elements from the Perrault fairy tale. It's better than its source material.

As in real life, in the movie there are people who are noble and try to do good and there are people who are ignoble, scarred by selfishness and damaged by their choices. The writers give Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters reasons, but not excuses. And Cinderella's responses to their cruelty just get more and more beautiful as the movie progresses.

Maleficent wants to tell my daughters that love is not to be trusted, that men who seem to love you will betray you, and hurt you, and you'll have no choice but to become evil. Maleficent wants to tell my sons that sometimes a man will violate the woman he loves in order to gain professional advancement, and that sometimes a man is just an impotent pretty boy who cannot save the woman he loves, who cannot even truly love the woman he loves.

But Cinderella believes in love. Cinderella teaches my daughters that they are worthy of love. Cinderella's parents love and cherish her, their love and their lessons make her strong enough to survive their deaths, and their legacy is that she can suffer cruelty with her charity intact. Cinderella teaches my daughter that a good and noble man could love her for her strength and honesty and courage and kindness, despite the obstacles between them. Cinderella teaches my sons that they can be good and loving husbands, fathers, sons, and friends.

I think those lessons matter. I really do. I think the movies we love as children color our worldview.

I am, frankly, astounded that a movie as full of goodness and self-sacrifice, and truth and beauty even exists. I am grateful to have seen it with my daughters. I have every intention of having my boys watch it as well. I'm not sure what they'll make of it. But it's that good. I have to try.

I can't encourage you enough to go out and support this movie. If you have the means, please go see it in the theaters. This is what we want in our entertainment, this is what we want influencing our daughters and our culture. It is a true and good and beautiful movie.

For a deeper look at how Cinderella really does get it right, check out:

Charity Has Power and How Disney Didn’t Ruin Cinderella

P.S. For pretty much exactly these same reasons (right down to the first-love-turned-ambitious-murderous-maniac and the ineffective true love's kiss), my family owns Tangled, but not Frozen. There's a right way and a wrong way for young ladies to react to adversity. And I don't want my daughters to doubt for one second that true love is real and has the power to save them.

You might also enjoy . . .

What Went Right With Les Misérables: and Why I'm Sad My Kids Can't See It Yet

There's a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Fracture a Fairy Tale . . . 

Update:  Based on the very interesting comment thread going on Facebook from when I posted this this morning, I should clarify something. . . .

I didn't personally enjoy watching Maleficent, but different folks have different taste in movies. I do not have a problem with adults watching it, and I understand that for some people who have already experienced tragic or violent relationships, Maleficent can feel empowering and give them hope.
However, the movie is rated PG, it's based on a beloved children's cartoon, and it was very clearly marketed to children and families. I think Maleficent sends a confusing and inappropriate message to children about how best to confront the difficulties and cruelties that all children will face in their lives (although, I pray, not to the extent that Maleficent and Cinderella do). Cinderella also faces cruelty and tragedies, but chooses to approach them in a way that, in the end, makes HER happier and more empowered. That is the kind of inspiration I want for my children.

If there's any question as to how it was marketed, I submit the following promotional still . . .

‪#‎teamcinderella‬ That's all.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Solemnities are NOT for Being Solemn: What They Are, Why They Matter, and New Free Printables for the Solemnity of St. Joseph

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Joseph, and it's a biggie. St. Joseph's Day on March 19th and the Annunciation coming up on March 25th are both solemnities.

Solemnity. Sounds like a real bummer, right? But, actually, the solemnities of the church commemorate very happy occasions. The "solemn" part refers to how the Mass is celebrated. In liturgical talk solemn equals fancy. So, on solemnities, we celebrate Mass as on a Sunday, with the Gloria and the Apostle's Creed, and all the stuff that makes Mass take longer than twenty-two minutes. (Although most are NOT holy days of obligation.)

So, what ARE solemnities? Let's do a quick review of the liturgical calendar: There are about 250 feast days on the liturgical calendar, but most are classified as "optional memorials." Those are days on which we can choose to remember the life of a particular saint, if we have a personal or family or regional devotion to that saint. Greater than that are actual "feasts." Those celebrate saints to whom we should ALL have at least a bit of a devotion: the archangels, most of the apostles, some of the doctors of the church. Finally there are solemnities. There are seventeen universal solemnities throughout the year, plus some regions have extra ones (St. Patrick's day is a solemnity in Ireland, but an optional memorial in the US, for instance). On these days, we remember the most important people and events in our faith history: we celebrate solemnities for the major Marian feast days, some major events in the life of Jesus, plus the Trinity, Saint John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, and . . . St. Joseph!

The other cool thing about solemnities is that they trump Fridays! Every Catholic should be making an act of penance every Friday (not just during Lent). It used to be that the required Friday penance for all Catholics was to abstain from meat. However, the guidelines were changed to allow each person to choose his own act of penance. In our home, we find it easiest and most meaningful to continue the traditional practice of abstaining as a family from meat every Friday of the year. EXCEPT when a solemnity falls on a Friday, then we make a big deal of eating meat that day. A solemnity on a Friday might be the only day all year we'll cook steaks. Just to make it memorable.

Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

If you're just starting out trying to incorporate a little liturgical living into your home, I'd recommend starting with the Three Special Days, because those are individual-person centered, so they are easier to remember and simple to celebrate: have cake, sing song, blow out candle. Done.

Once you've been doing that and it hasn't killed you, solemnities are the next (and actually, totally MORE important) place to go. (But still, I'd START with the Three Special Days.)

Some of them you're already celebrating: Christmas and Easter are covered, right? Right. Many of them are already on a Sunday (and more seem to be heading that way all the time) and hopefully you're already celebrating Sundays in your home with Mass and a family meal and a dessert. So it's just an average of one weekday per month (although they aren't spread evenly) to have a special meal, and a dessert, and maybe get to an extra Mass, and talk as a family about these special people and events that have brought Catholics together throughout the centuries.

In our home, we have traditions that we do again each year for many of the solemnities. We have a bonfire for Pentecost, and a picnic for St. John the Baptist, and all white food for the Immaculate Conception, and waffles for dinner for the Annunciation, and for St. Joseph's Day we eat with our hands. None are expensive or take much time to prepare, but we do them each year, so they are memorable and meaningful for our family and part of our family culture.

Here are some free printables I made up for the Solemnity of St. Joseph.

As with all my printables, you are welcome to right click on the image and save it to your computer for your own personal use. You may print the images and or upload them and have prints made for your personal use or to give as gifts. (These are sized for 8x10 or square but will print well much bigger.) You may use my images on your blog, just please link back to my blog. If you would like to sell my images, please contact me first.

For LOTS MORE free printable prayers, check out my Pinterest board.

This is from the Litany of St. Joseph (and now I kind of want to design a whole nursery around it) . . .
And this is a quote from Saint John Paul II . . .

 But the husband thought it was coming across a bit feminine, so I tried again . . .

There are all sorts of really great, really complicated traditional ways to celebrate St. Joseph's Day. But around here, we're going to keep it simple and memorable. If you don't yet have anything planned, give it a try! But whatever you do, NO BEING SOLEMN.

You may also enjoy . . .

Baby Steps to Living the Liturgical Year as a Family

Pasta un Gobbola Tabola: The Most Fun You Can Have on St. Joseph's Day


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ten Quick Tips for Throwing a Great Party as Illustrated by the 2015 Hooley

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Did I mention we throw a St. Patrick's Day party? I DID? Once or twice?

Well, this year's Hooley was last weekend, and it was our biggest. party. evah. A very fine time was had by all, I wish you could have been here. But, really, it's your own fault for living so far away.

It got me thinking though, maybe you might want to throw your OWN party, and invite your friends and then maybe one of them would have a party and then someone they invite would have a party, and we'll start a whole big thing. It'll be great.

If you read this blog you know that we throw a lot of parties. My parents threw parties. My grandparents threw parties that are the stuff of LEGEND. Anyway, I come from a long line of party-throwers. In case you didn't, while you're enjoying the photos of the Hooley at the Tierneys' 2015, I'll share a few quick tips we've learned over the years.

1. Have a Gimmick

People are LOOKING for an excuse to celebrate. You just need to give it to them. As Catholics, we have literally hundreds of built in excuses to party right there in the liturgical calendar. There are the ones folks will be expecting, like, ya know, Christmas and St. Patrick's Day. Or you can go a bit more obscure and have a wine tasting for St. Vincent of Saragossa's feast day on January 22nd or throw an outdoor picnic on May 28th for St. Bernard of Montjoux.

And the liturgical year isn't the ONLY thing, of course, there are plenty of other holidays that need celebrating. You could pick Pie Day, or Pi Day, or Star Wars Day, or Hobbit Day. If you throw it, they will come.

Then, embrace your theme.

People have been coming to our Hooley long enough to know that we encourage all manner of hooliganism, including silly green clothing . . . 

2. And Something Memorable

Every year at the Hooley we have singing and carrying on . . .

Party guests (aka hooligans) come ready to sing or play an intrument.

And we're lucky enough to know some folks with REAL talent, who'll share it with us . . .

But it could be another tradition, like a white elephant party, or charades, or a pinata, just something that gets everyone involved.

3. Add Some Whimsy

First comes the theme, then come the decorations. Pinterest is always great for ideas. For a small party around here, it's sometimes as simple as a centerpiece on the table, or a banner I print out on the computer. For birthday parties, I try to create a whole festive atmosphere. For the Hooley, I know I'm going to be able to use most of the decorations again, so I've been trying to add a few new things each year.

Stickers, cupcake toppers (actually two stickers stuck together on a toothpick), metal wallhanging printable prayer, napkins, and Irish folk lyric pillows are all from tinyprints. And *I* want to hug them too. So, so cute. All of it.

4. Don't Give People Too Many Choices

Whether the party is big or small, less is more on choices. In my experience, too many choices is too much work for the hostess, makes for too many leftovers, and just isn't necessary for guests. Even with a hundreds-of-people party like this one, we only had two choices for main dishes: corned beef sandwiches or chicken wings. For sides, there were potatoes, coleslaw, and a salad, plus fruit and jello. And a few snacks. That's it.


5. Let Them Know What Everything Is

I always have little food tags printed up to tell people what each dish is (or a little menu if we're having a sit down dinner). Because most people like to know what it is before they eat it. And some people have food allergies or aversions and can't just take a taste to see what it is.

Food tags are also a way to have a little fun with the theme.

We had a separate kids' table with a some kid-friendly choices, including Irish chicken o'nuggets, Noah's animal crackers (no unicorns), and a pot of gold(-fish crackers).

6. Let People Help

This was the treat table. It got MUCH bigger as people brought things to share, and then was completely emptied at the end of the party.

Most people like to come to a party bearing a little something. For a big party, I usually ask people to bring appetizers or desserts, then those things are all taken care of and I don't have to worry about them. For a dinner party, I'll sometimes ask the other families to each bring one thing, like a salad or a vegetable, then I can concentrate on the main course.

And parties for us are a family affair, we ALL help with the cleaning and the baking and the decorating and the errands. Many hands makes for short work and all that.

7. Plan Ahead

I keep a schedule of what needs to happen when, that I've adjusted over the years to know what works for me. I send out invitations a month to a week in advance, depending on how big the party is. I order things that need to be ordered in advance like novelty sodas, and custom decorations, and deli corned beef. I clean the house the weekend before, which is really the only motivation that works for me to actually get my counters cleaned off. I do as much of the shopping as I can early in the week. I do all baking a few days in advance and freeze it, which works just fine. Then the day of the party we do the final cooking, tidying, decorating, and setting up.

8. Keep Good Notes

I keep a running note on my iPad (it used to be in a spiral notebook) about exactly how much food we went through and what worked and what didn't at each party. Then, when I go to shop the next year, the first thing I see in the note is: "JUST BUY THIS. DON'T BUY OTHER FOOD OR YOU WILL HAVE TOO MUCH." All in caps like that. Apparently, I have to yell at me to get me to listen.

8. Defense, Defense, Defense

One of the scariest things about throwing a party is worrying about what might happen to your home and belongings if you invite other people (and other people's kids) into your home. What I've learned over many years and many parties, is to get really proactive about keeping messes and accidents from happening (as much as possible, anyway). We put ALL toys into the toy closet and then move the playroom couch in front of it. No access to toy bins means no toy bins get dumped. Kids can still get to our dress up box and the duplo bin, and that's plenty for kids who don't want to play outside. But mostly, I really, really want them to just play outside.

We set up a little craft table in the garage, in case the weather is chilly on the day of the party and we need something to keep kids occupied. On a lovely day like this year, it mostly doesn't get used. But crafts will keep for next year.

9. They Don't Have to Go Home, But They Can't Stay Here

All good things must come to an end, right? Parties, too. About an hour before the party is "over," I stop replenishing food, so that people will just finish up what's on the table. I take empty serving dishes away, and, once the food starts to dwindle, people start to slowly head for the door.

If that didn't work, I guess we'd have to sic Frankie on them.

I found him wandering around the party with what can ONLY be described as a shillelagh. I have no idea how he found it. But it's mine now.

At the end of a party, especially a big one, I've learned to gratefully accept help as it's offered, and I'm lucky enough to have some friends who can always be counted upon to do a a little tidying before they leave. For the Hooley, in particular, we also hire some help, to keep the food table full and the dishes done. That way I get to visit with my guests. But for smaller parties, I can keep up with it myself.

10. Finish What You Start

This technique works for me because I throw the kind of parties that are over and done by nine-thirty . . . but I always try to have the house back in order (at least eighty percent in order anyway) before we go to bed that night. I hate waking up to a mountain of dishes and paper plates and green river bottles covering the surfaces of the house.

And that's that. That's how we do it. Now you can, too.

For more on how we party, try . . .


Happy St. Patrick's Day!