Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Little Kids and Death: How Taking My Kids to a Traditional Funeral Didn't Freak Them Out

On Thursday, the husband's Aunt Maureen passed away after a battle with lung cancer. 

On Sunday afternoon we were all in Chicago at the wake. A real, no kidding, Chicago Irish wake. 

The whole family and close friends, kids included, spent the afternoon and evening visiting and kneeling in prayer and playing Uno, all with Aunt Maureen's body visible there in the corner.

And my kids, aged 5 months to twelve years, were unfazed.

Wakes and funerals were not a part of my upbringing, I never saw a dead body or even went to a Catholic funeral as a child. Death was something mysterious and unknown. When people died, they just went away. But the husband figures he went to a wake once a month growing up in Chicago. Death and grief were a part of his childhood.

We have decided that that's what we want for our own kids. We don't want to hide death from them. We want to help them understand and process it appropriately.

Here's what we helped our kids learn this weekend:

1. People have a soul. 

The soul is what animates the body. Aunt Maureen's soul wasn't in her body anymore, it went to eternal life. Seeing the body of someone they knew well helped our kids understand this. We told them what to expect ahead of time. When we arrived at the wake, the kids knelt before the coffin and said a prayer for the repose of her soul. Then they went off to play with their cousins. I can't speak for all kids, of course, but I'm pretty sure my kids weren't uncomfortable with it because we weren't uncomfortable with it.

2. Grief is okay.

More upsetting to my kids than seeing the body was seeing how upset their Gramma and Papa and other family members were. It brought the older ones to tears themselves. But I don't think grief is something that needs to be hidden from children. Watching other people process grief will help my kids understand how to process it for themselves.

3. We Can Help.

Taking a family of nine halfway across the country on a couple of days' notice is no mean feat. But it was worth the effort. My kids could see how much it meant to their grandparents and to Uncle Dave to have us all there with him. Having children at the wake is a visible sign that life does go on. There's a lot of comfort there. And distraction. And comfort. Seeing their dad as a pallbearer, actually helping to bear the weight of Aunt Maureen's death for our family is a powerful visual sign for our children.

4. The Mass is a Celebration in any Context.

It's easy to focus on happy sacraments. We all want our kids to be a part of baptisms and weddings. But I also want my kids to see funeral Masses. I want them to see the way our faith brings us together as the Body of Christ to support each other in tough times, not just good times.

We're back home now. I asked the kids in the car on the way home from the airport what they thought of our trip. 

Betty, 10, said, "I thought it meant a lot to our family for us to be there." 
Anita, 4, said, "I was happy to see Aunt Maureen, but I was sad too."
Frankie, 2, said, "I like a eat a cookies."

So . . . we each learned something.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Happy Clappy Answer Me This

Welcome to another edition of Answer Me This. Here are this week's questions:

1. Do you hate happy clappy church music?

Will you all throw me out of the club if I say that I don't? 

I know I shouldn't like it. 

Intellectually, I understand that the jazzy hymns of the modern era are inferior to the rich historical deposit of Catholic liturgical music. 

I know it makes many faithful Catholics (including the one to whom I am married) sad or mad or disappointed or distracted or infuriated.

But I mostly think I'm just not sophisticated enough musically to really appreciate the difference. Either is fine with me. I'll try to follow along singing the many little up and down dots of a Latin chanty-type song (I told you I didn't know what I was talking about) or I'll tap my toes to some folksy abomination and not be bothered a bit.

And then there's this:

which I don't dislike nearly as much as I ought to, and will now have stuck in my head for three days.

2. What is your priority: eating or sleeping?

They both rank below accomplishing all the things, but between the two, I'd have to say sleeping.

Noël Hallé - Le Doux Repos

I have an odd schedule. I write in the middle of the night, because that's the only time the house is quiet. So I need an afternoon nap, especially if I'm pregnant or nursing, which I have been for the last twelve years.

I figure I can always grab something to eat while I'm doing something else, but if I see a nap window, I take it.

3. What type of milk do you drink in your house?

Our family consumes whole dairy products. I try to make foods from scratch and choose the least-processed options available. I have a general ideological problem with diet or reduced calorie food in general (food is FOR calories, that's its whole point) and current research seems to indicate that lower fat dairy doesn't make for lower fat persons anyway.

4. What is a book that changed your perspective on something?

So, so many. I'll try to narrow it down. Okay, I'm going to say this one:

Angel in the Waters
It's a sweet picture book about a baby waiting to be born. My kids all love it, and I often give it as a gift to friends expecting another baby. It's great for helping soon-to-be big brothers and sisters to understand how babies develop.

For me, it also had a much deeper significance. It helped me to understand Heaven. 

Obviously, I want to go to Heaven. I know that. I want to be with God and worship him alongside the angels and the communion of saints.

But sometimes, or all the time, it's hard for me to yearn for Heaven, because of how wonderful THIS world is. I love my life and my faith and my family. I love the warm sun and the twinkling stars and craggy mountains and crashing waves and towering skyscrapers. I love the way goats walk on their tiptoes and how octopuses can jet propel and that there are such things as tiny tiny owls.

Photograph by JASON IDZERDA
I used to worry about why I couldn't seem to wrap my head around wanting Heaven, but this book helped. In it, the unborn baby is perfectly content inside his mother. When his angel tells him it's time to move on, he's reluctant to go. But his angel assures him that the next world will be bigger and better than the one he's in now, and he will like it more. And that eventually the angel will come to take him to an even bigger and even better world.

So that's how I see it now. I'm content where I am, like an unborn baby is content. But the world outside of the inside of a mother is astoundingly, amazingly better and more complex and wonderful than that baby could possibly imagine. And that's how Heaven will compare with this world.

I shouldn't expect to understand it, but I believe in it.

5. Who is your favorite saint?

I like a lot of saints. All of them to be precise. But, my two favorite saints today are intertwined in my oldest son. Jack is named John Paul after Pope John Paul II, who is of course being canonized in Rome this very day! 

JPII is the Pope of my youth. He was elected when I was two years old, and when he died his beautiful and public death, I was a wife and the mother of two young children.

And he's just so cool.

My other favorite is quite obscure in comparison. 

St. Nuno was a knight in 14th century Portugal, who renounced his title and family fortune to become a Carmelite priest. We learned of his existence as we attempted to get Jack into Pope Benedict XVI's line for Jack's First Communion on a family pilgrimage to Rome. Through the postulator of St. Nuno's cause we were able to get Jack the very last seat in the VIP section of St. Nuno's canonization Mass and our whole family has had a great devotion to him ever since.

We ask for his intersession on all sorts of crazy stuff and boy, does he ever come through for us. I'm guessing he doesn't have a whole lot of other folks coming to him with prayer requests. 

You might want to give him a try, tell him the Tierneys sent you.

6. Introvert or extrovert?

I am an introvert. The Today Show says so.

But I'm making it work:



Here's What I Wore Sunday, on Saturday because we went to the Vigil. We're off to Chicago this morning to attend the funeral of Jim's Aunt Maureen. She was loved by all. Please pray for the repose of her soul.

Dress: Old Navy Maternity, even though I'm not, because tags aren't the boss of me
Scarf: a gift from my mom, because I'm nursing, and Haley is right
Necklace & Boots: Anthropologie
Jacket: Gap

For next week's Answer Me This I'm tagging:

Kayleen at When I Grow Up. Post to check out =
my grandma's house (You do not want to miss this tea set.)

Jenna at Wilber Huset. Post to check out = 
Top 10 Newborn Items (The recommendations look great, and there are some things on this list I'd like to try, but mostly there's an epic family photo in there.)

Here are next week's questions for them and for you:

1. Are you becoming your mother?

2. Coffee or tea?

3. What foreign country would you like to visit?

4. Do you cry easily?

5. How often do you wear heels?

6. Do you play an instrument?

I look forward to reading everyone's posts!

Next week's installment will go live at 10pm Pacific Saturday night, and will be open until 10pm Wednesday night.

So, please, answer this week's questions for yourself in the comments. If you have a blog, answer the questions there, link back to this post, and link your blog post up below. Thanks for playing along.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

This Just Might Be the Best Defense of Catholicism Since Aquinas

Did you see it? It's my new favorite.

It also just happens to star Frankie's godmother, my good friend Blythe of The Fike Life. It shows the beauty and joy of our Catholic faith, lived in the particular vocation of a big family.

If this somehow infuriates you <cough, some commenters, cough>, you must be one of those hundred Venerable Fulton Sheen was talking about. Because this IS what the Catholic Church really is.

I waited and waited to read the comments. I thought the video was so well done and so accurately represented my experience as a Catholic, and I care so much about the interviewee, that I wondered if I could bear to read people dismissing and misrepresenting and misunderstanding it.

But, because I wanted to share it here, I decided to brave the comments. And . . . they weren't as bad as I expected. Still, there are some comments we should talk about. Hey! Let's make it seven of them, shall we?


"Imagine if religion were shut off like a switch. Imagine the millions that would immediately lay down arms. Now that would uncomplicate some things around this joint."

According to the Encyclopedia of Wars (Phillips and Axelrod), of the 1,763 major conflicts in recorded history, only 123 of them can be classified as having been fought over religious differences. That’s less than 7 percent. (read the rest here)


"to have a religion forbid/teach against birth control is probably just fine for people like this lady who honestly don't care how many kids they have (and seem to be able to support them just fine) and are in a marriage where there's no concern for STDs.. but it's really a dangerous concept overall and pretty toxic for the majority :("

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there is insufficient evidence to claim that condoms are effective in preventing the transmission of STDs other than AIDS (and condoms are only 85% effective against the transmission of AIDS, which still seems awfully risky) and, of course, other contraceptive methods don't offer any protections at all against the transmission of disease.

Catholic sexual moral teaching, on the other hand, DOES allow for an entirely STD-free sexual experience . . . within the bonds of matrimony.


"If you claim authority outside of the bible than you're a heretic and heathen. The bible as God's word is the only authority over anything,we believe."

Catholic doctrine is based on the Bible, sacred tradition, and the teaching authority of the Magisterium.

I was raised Catholic, so perhaps I should refrain from poking the Sola Scriptura with this here stick.

But it seems to me that the main problem with Sola Scriptura . . . is that it's not IN the Bible. Christianity predates the compilation of the Bible by hundreds of years. It was sacred tradition and the teaching authority of the Magisterium that determined which were the divinely inspired books that would make up the Bible.

For more, see: According to Scripture.


"so basically she forces her children to study at home because she would be alone and she doesn't trust her children that they are going to study properly in normal education system? so does this suppose to make me feel "oh Catholics are just normal people", because this look like a selfish overprotecting mother that she does what she does supposedly because she is catholic"

I can't answer this for Blythe, but I can answer it for me. 

I homeschool not because I don't trust my children, or because I don't trust the government, or because I'm selfish, or overprotective, or lonely, or because I think it's the only thing good Catholics can do.

I homeschool because we looked at all the options and this is what worked best for our family.


"This is a very sweet video, however the lady is not exactly correct regarding natural family planning. It is not far reaching to say that natural family planning is a form of birth control; the purpose of birth control is to virtually extinguish the possibility of pregnancy and ultimately enjoy sex, the purpose of natural family planning is identical. So wether you wear a condom, swallow a pill, or wait until there is no chance of pregnancy, your mental state is the same, avoid pregnancy."

There is not, and never has been, a mandate within the Catholic Church that couples must have as many children as possible.

A woman is fertile sometimes and not fertile other times. That's the way God made us.
NFP is always open to the gift of life. Contraception turns against our fertility and tries to sterilize it. NFP recognizes God as the Author and Sovereign of all life, and during the woman's fertile period allows Him to decide if a new person shall be conceived. Contraception pushes God out of the picture, and attempts to take complete control over the possible procreation of a new person who will live forever. NFP takes advantage of the natural rhythms of fertility and infertility. Contraception suppresses and manipulates fertility, and refuses to practice periodic abstinence. (read the rest here)
Not having sex is pretty different than . . . having sex, and not "ultimately enjoy"able in quite the same way.

While the outcome might be the same -- to postpone or avoid pregnancy -- it's the mental state that couldn't be more different. 

Which is not to say that NFP isn't a pain in the butt. It totally is. But it's a statistically effective, morally acceptable pain in the butt.


"Catholics do not believe in the gospel. They worship men, popes, mary and all together idols. Repent."

Yes we do. 

No we don't.



"I'm not a religious expert or anything but I thought that the Christian Orthodox Church was older than the Roman Catholic Church (since her reason for being Catholic was because she wanted to be part of the oldest branch of Christianity)"

it's on a t-shirt, so it must be right

I'm not a religious expert either, so I had to look this one up. And, whew, it's a doozy. But, like Blythe, I remain convinced that the Catholic Church is the church established by Jesus Christ, and that it has existed continuously since then, despite being made up of a bunch of human beings who have a tendency to muddle things up. For that reason I think it's the one I should be a part of.


So, big hugs from me to Zach, and Blythe, and Blythe's kids, and Blythe's chickens, and SoulPancake, and everyone involved in making this video. It's a beautiful representation of my experience of the Catholic faith.

These three books were really helpful to me, as a cradle Catholic who really didn't have much of an understanding of Catholic doctrine:

The Faith Explained

Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words

Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux 
Friends who have become Catholic from other faith traditions (or are considering it) have highly recommended these books to me:

By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition 

Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs

Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism 

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary.


Monday, April 21, 2014

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

Happy Easter everyone! 

He is Risen. . . 

Are you guys getting tired of that yet? Sorry. I just found out about it this year. It's possible I'm getting carried away. Also, I've eaten a LOT of candy. They're always saying how easy it is to take candy from a baby. But they never mention how hard it is to NOT take candy from a baby. I mean, it's sitting right there. And he can't even count. He would never know . . .

. . . 

Ooops, sorry. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Easter. 

<sing-song> I made you guys a preh-zuuuuuuhnt!

Go thank Bonnie at A Knotted Life. She asked on Facebook if anyone knew where she could find fun prints of The Morning Offering and The Act of Contrition. And no one did. So I couldn't resist trying out my brand new full membership at PicMonkey, and here ya go:

The Morning Offering on yellow
click here to download

The Morning Offering on white
(it really is white, I don't know why it looks dingy here)
click here to download

The Act of Contrition on purple
click here to download

The Act of Contrition on white
click here to download
Shutterfly tells me they should print well up to 20x30, and right now that size is on sale for $18.39, and an 8x10 is only $3.99. I hope you like them Bonnie!

Please tell me if this doesn't work.

It's a good thing that Easter is fifty days long, because I haven't finished decorating yet. We really did it up for the Triduum, though.

Here's what it looked like . . . 

on Holy Thursday:

Seven Churches Visitation

Last Supper supper

family foot washing

 on Good Friday:

Southern Catfish Fry and
Stations of the Cross

on Holy Saturday:

our dyed/watercolor painted eggs

And Easter Sunday!: 

my first Easter

The kids really loved their Usborne books. If you're looking for high quality, creative, entertaining books and sticker books for kids, check 'em out at Molly's. Their stickers are the perfect amount of sticky. I am very particular about that. I hate stickers that won't stick, but it's nice if they'll move a bit. These are just right. (I bought these books with my own money. I just really like them. If you click on the link and buy some books, I might get to get some more.)
And we went to Mass and whatnot, obviously. There are photos of what we wore here.

Happy Easter everyone, hope yours was/is/will be great!

Please stay tuned this week for a really extraordinary giveaway. Seriously, it's amazing. I can't wait for it to find its perfect winner.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Answer Me This: He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. (Updated!)

If you know me in real life, fair warning, I have every intention of doing this to you over the next fifty days or so.

The Paschal greeting, also known as the Easter acclamation, is an Easter custom among Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Christians, as well as among some Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians. Instead of "hello" or its equivalent, one is to greet another person with "Christ is Risen!", and the response is "He is Risen Indeed" (compare Matthew 27:64, Matthew 28:6–7, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6, Luke 24:34).
from Wikipedia (so you know you're getting the best possible information)
And now, here's this week's installment of Answer Me This! I totally flaked on tagging people last week, so I'm just going to spring it on a couple of bloggers who I'm hoping were already planning to participate this week:

Iris at Country Girl's Daybook. Post to check out = any of her movie reviews, they're great. 

Kate at The Rhodes Log. Post to check out = 
How I Came to Love the Crunchy Simple Life (with a side of Mennonites)

1. What did you and your family wear to Mass on Easter Sunday?

If this is of interest to you, please check back at around 2pm Pacific, as I plan to update this post with family Easter dress photos after we all get back from Mass.

Until then I will subject you to some grainy iPhone photos of last night's third-grade-and-up + one-year-and-down Vigil brigade.

Here's the gang:

And more importantly, here's my friend Tami holding baby Lulu's BFF baby Phoebe as Tami was received into full communion with the Catholic Church. This made me so, so, so happy.

Congratulations to Tami and to the rest of you awesome folks who were received into the Church at the Vigil this year. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

PLEASE say hi in the comments so we can all give you some love!

Update! Here we are in our Easter 

finery . . . 

the cousins

with my parents, my sister, and her family

2. Easter Bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs up here.

Not way, way up like for Santa, and leprechauns.

Mostly because, jeesh, how creepy are Easter Bunnies?

via Huffington Post
But I stand firmly behind magical holidays and fairy tale childhoods, so the bunny it is.

Although I'm not all that good at it. The husband had to intercept a rabbit's foot key-chain I had picked up for Gus, since he's a big fan of all things soft, and suggest that to put a rabbit's foot in an Easter basket from the Easter Bunny would fall somewhere between inappropriate and insane on the old Easter-Basket-Continuum.

So don't listen to me. Listen to my friend E at Teaching Sam + Scout instead:

Jesus + Bunnies 

All those things? The pastel colors, the painted eggs, the “baby bunnies”? We will have them, and we will enjoy them; but, we will also talk about how they are only symbols of the NEWNESS and LIFE that Jesus’s death and resurrection bring to our everyday.  They will be packed up and sent to live in the basement on Monday, but the new start and full life that we get from Jesus at Easter is FOREVER. Before the cross, we were lifeless and doomed. After it, we start FRESH with the hope of life eternal.  THAT is worth celebrating. Heck, that is worth wearing our finest clothes and cooking a ham and eating a few too many jellybeans.  Am I right? So… Our Easter includes bunnies and eggs, but it is about Jesus.
read the rest here.

3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or at someone else's house?

I like both, but I prefer to have them at our house. Especially since my mom almost always comes up and does all the cooking so . . . best-of-both-worlds much?

We spent the first five or six years of kid-dom taking turns going back and forth between the different grandparents' houses for holidays. Which was lovely.

Easter 2005 in Chicago.
That baby that looks exactly like Lulu is Betty.

My mother and mother-in-law are both generous hostesses and excellent holiday cooks, but there came a time when I really began to long for our own family holiday traditions.

Easter 2006 in San Diego.
New and improved, now with baby Bobby.

I wanted my kids to have memories of spending holidays at our house.

So, for the most part, we now have major holidays here, with an open invitation to any and all family members to join us.

4. What is your favorite kind of candy?

I have a huge sweet tooth. I really, really like candy. I may have a pack-a-day Reese's peanut butter cups habit when I'm pregnant.

But even better than regular Reese's peanut butter cups are holiday Reese's peanut butter stuff.

The peanut butter to chocolate ratio is improved in the eggs and trees that you can only get for the holidays. Improved, I say.

5. Do you like video games?

I do not. I don't really GET video games. I like to have something to show for my time spent, and video games don't really have anything to offer in that department.

My kids DO like them.

I also don't get that. 

But, so far, they can stay. I wrote more about it here:


6. Do you speak another language?

Here's where I would love to go super-geek and be able to tell you that I speak elvish, or Klingon, or even Latin.

But alas, all I speak is I-was-raised-in-Southern-California-so-I-kinda-picked-it-up Español.


For next week I'm tagging:

Elise at In Endless Song. Post to check out =
Will you join her in a novena to St. Gianna Molla? {p,h,f,r}, holy week & an invitation

Annery at Annery at Home. Post to check out = 
The Dirt {TT} Why I've Been Quiet

Here are next week's questions for them and for you:

1. Do you hate happy clappy church music?

2. What is your priority: eating or sleeping?

3. What type of milk do you drink in your house?

4. What is a book that changed your perspective on something?

5. Who is your favorite saint?

6. Introvert or extrovert?

I look forward to reading everyone's posts!

Next week's installment will go live at 10pm Pacific Saturday night, and will be open until 10pm Wednesday night.

So, please, answer this week's questions for yourself in the comments. If you have a blog, answer the questions there, link back to this post, and link your blog post up below. Thanks for playing along.

And Happy Easter!