Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Tierneys!

Dear Gentle Readers,

Thank you so much for being the best online community a gal could have. Thanks for your comments and opinions, your questions and your encouragement. Thanks for making this blog one of my favorite spaces. I wish you and yours a most beautiful Christmas season!

And since I may have misplaced your address, here's a copy of this year's Christmas card, just for YOU!

Photo credit: my friend Micaela from California to Korea

Well played, two thousand fifteen. Seriously.

You started out pretty regular: house, job, homeschool, family vacation to the East Coast. Saw the sights around Washington DC, visited the homes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and our cousin Luke, battled on the fields of Gettysburg, let the kids attempt to seek employment as child-reenactors at Colonial Williamsburg. (They were turned down: blah, blah, blah, child labor laws.)

So, regular.

Then, towards the end of the school year, things took a turn for the . . . interesting. Jack got expelled from homeschool decided eighth grade would be the appropriate time to transition to traditional schooling. So we needed to move. We spent the next five months negotiating with sellers, agents, bankers, and inspectors until we finally became the owners of the most amazing 1920 tumbledown mansion you ever did see. Weedy tennis court? We got one. Cabana full of bees? Two. We have two cabanas full of bees. Nine bedrooms? Check. Secret chapel? Yep. And a moldy butler’s pantry and a rickety servants’ staircase. But we can’t seem to find those guys.

It needs . . . some work. If we had an unlimited budget, it would end up the awesomest house ever. As it is, it’s probably barely going to crack the top ten. But still.

And that’s only the second craziest thing we did this year. First prize goes to . . .

Mary Jane (5 months) who, after forty-five minutes of labor, was accidentally born at home, in the bathtub. She has continued to make our lives exciting and memorable.

Lulu (2) has got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in her heart. Her favorite things are getting her hair done, putting toys away, rosaries, milk, and boots. She asked for a Pride and Prejudice birthday party, and it was as adorable as you’re imagining.

Frankie (4) also has joy, but it’s deeper down. Like really REALLY deep. He enjoys breaking things, making loud noises, the dead guy in the floor at church, and being the first one up in the morning. He also likes taco trucks. And Mary Jane.

Anita (6) is an intrepid little thing. She attacks everything she does with gusto, be it schoolwork, or preparing for her First Holy Communion, or keeping an eye on the doings of all her brothers and sisters. She WILL tattle if necessary. Or punch.

Gus (8) is looking forward to the new Star Wars movies with an excitement that borders on hysteria. He enjoys watching USNA football, and can totally keep up with the pushups each time they score, which he thinks makes him a shoo-in for acceptance.

Bobby (10) wanted his and Gus’ birthday party to be going to see the new Star Wars movie. When it was pointed out to him that his friends live all over town and their parents wouldn’t want to drop them off at a movie so far away, he suggested that WE do all the driving and that the party be IN our twelve passenger van. So that’s the plan. The party is IN the van.

Betty (almost 12) is the tennis ball around which our homemade model of the solar system rotates. She comforts the sorrowful, she feeds the hungry, she clothes the naked, she returns to bed those who have gotten up during nap time. And she learned how to cross stitch.

Jack (13) is, in a word, flourishing. He loves his new school, his teachers, and classes, and friends. He’s playing football and basketball, and is doing science and chess clubs. He is the owner of a provisional patent for a boomerang zipline, and has plans to start a business planning dangerous backyard birthday parties for kids. There are still some details to work out. But, really, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Kendra highly recommends being the mother of a teenager and a newborn. It’s amazing. She’s a fan of the forty five minute version of labor. She is grateful for loving parents, spunky kids, and a husband with whom she can tackle even the craziest of renovation projects.

Jim’s proudest achievement this year is either having delivered a baby or having finished reading aloud the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books to the kids. Both were a pretty big deal.

Here’s hoping that two thousand sixteen is just as great, if a little less dramatic. And we wish you a Merry Christmas!

the Tierneys

Here are a couple Christmasy printables I made for you.

Please feel free to print or share them as you please, for any personal (but not commercial) use. To request a custom printable, visit my Etsy shop here.

I'm going to be signing off of the blog for a bit for Christmas here. But I'd love to see you around Facebook or Instagram. Some other Catholic bloggers and I will be using the hashtag #twelvedays as we share about how we are celebrating Christmas for all of, ya know, Christmas. I hope you'll join us.

I would especially love to see it if you put on a Family Nativity Play, like, for instance, this one, that I typed up a few years (and kids) back. If you do one at your house, you can let me know via email or on the Catholic All Year Facebook page or tag me on Instagram (@kendra_tierney). And that would be AWESOME.

You may also enjoy these Christmasy-type posts, from Christmases past and present, but not future. Sorry.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Blessed Virgin and the Blasting Out of the Baby Jesus

When I was expecting my second baby, lo those many years ago, my oldest would happily tell anyone in earshot that the new baby was going to "blast out" of mommy sometime soon. He also thought that maybe it was going to be a baby elephant, "like Dumbo."

He was wrong . . . on both counts. It was a baby person. And she was born the regular way, through and down and out and whatnot.

And there were the "pangs" (how's that for euphemistic, huh?) of childbirth to go with it. A challenge, to be sure, but I think it's kind of cool that women across the world and throughout time are united through the shared experience of pain in giving birth. Whether you went natural or opted for the epidural, be it regular or c-section, there's pain involved in there somewhere. It unites us in community with each other and with generations past.

But guess who's NOT in the club?

The Virgin Mary. That's who.

In addition to being different from us in things like talking with angels, and being a virgin when she conceived her baby, and not sinning . . . ever, she also had a very different experience of childbirth than the rest of us.

It's been the long and unbroken tradition of the Church that Jesus was born miraculously, blasting out, as it were, without breaking the seal of the womb and without pain to Mary.

It seems like, perhaps in an effort to make Mary more identifiable somehow, we've lost track of that deep and ancient tradition. In popular movies we see Mary giving birth the old fashioned way, with pain and pushing and all that.

Granted, she's considerably calmer than most of us can claim, but the birth depicted here seems like a regular, non-miraculous one.

But NOTHING about the incarnation was regular. Mary isn't someone we get to identify with, she's aspirational. She's perfect. She's sinless. And she gave birth painlessly, with her physical virginity intact.

The three essential aspects of Our Lady’s Virginity were defined by Pope St. Martin I in 649 at the First Lateran Council: she maintained her perfect virginity before, DURING, and after the birth of Jesus. This has always included the traditional patristic and magisterial understanding that Mary gave “miraculous birth” to Jesus (in the words of Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 1943), without any violation to her virginity. As the Fathers of the Church explained, as “light passes through glass without harming the glass," so Jesus was born without affecting Mary physically.

The mystery of Mary’s virginity in giving birth to the Savior was preached and taught consistently by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. One finds beautiful expositions of it in the homilies and catecheses of St. Gregory of Nyssa (+ c. 394),  St. Ambrose (+ 397), St. John Chrysostom (+ 407), St. Proclus of Constantinople (+ 446), Theodotus of Ancyra (+ before 446), St. Peter Chrysologus (+ 450), Pope St. Leo the Great (+ 461), Severus of Antioch (+ 538), St. Romanos the Melodist (+ c. 560),  St. Venantius Fortunatus (+ c. 600), and Pope St. Gregory the Great (+ 604). ()

As Christians, we hear plenty about Mary's virginity before Jesus was conceived. And Catholics are clear on the point of her remaining a virgin after Jesus' birth. But I can't personally ever remember hearing a homily that mentioned Mary's virginity during birth.

However, the Church Fathers were quite clear about it back in the day.

St. Ambrose: There is a gate of the womb, although it is not always closed; indeed only one was able to remain closed, that through which the One born of the Virgin came forth without the loss of genital intactness (per quam sine dispendio claustrorum genitalium virginis partus exivit).

Pope St. Martin I: [Mary] gave birth to (God the Word) without corruption.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent:
For in a way wonderful beyond expression or conception, he is born of his Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity. As he afterwards went forth from the sepulcher while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which his disciples were assembled, although “the doors were closed” (Jn. 20:19), or, not to depart from natural events which we witness every day, as the rays of the sun penetrate the substance of glass without breaking or injuring it in the least: so, but in a more incomprehensible manner, did Jesus Christ come forth from his mother’s womb without injury to her maternal virginity. …
To Eve it was said: “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate, she brought forth Jesus the Son of God, without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.

It's all a part of the fact that Christ's incarnation and birth are inextricably, wonderfully, beautifully bound together with his death and ressurection. The wood of the cross recalls the wood of the manger. Jesus was born without breaking the seal of the womb just as he rose from the dead without breaking the seal of the tomb.

How could she not have gazed at her son with awe and wonder on the night he was born?

How could we not do the same?


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Star Wars Birthday Party (in the van) *with spoiler-free movie review*

Okay, here it is you guys. Finally. I have been having exasperating computer issues that have been a drain on my already limited blogging time. But I just know you guys have been dying -dying- to know what I think about The Force Awakens and whether or not it's a good idea to have a birthday party for eleven little boys in your twelve passenger van. So here goes . . .

As you'll recall from this post, Bobby and Gus wanted to go see the new Star Wars movie with their friends for their birthday, and they wanted to have the party in our van. And since we are gluttons for punishment love them very, very much, that's just what we did.

We went to see The Force Awakens on opening day.

With our eight kids.

And eight extra little boys.

Here's how it all went down . . .

The Prep

This party was actually less work than our normal parties. I didn't even have to clean the house!

Bobby designed 4x6 Star Wars character trading cards in PicMonkey, and we had them printed up at the one hour photo place (I threw in some of the quotes and prayers I made as well). They turned out really cute and the kids had a blast playing with them.

I put the character cards in the Etsy shop in case you need a last minute gift! All proceeds go to Bobby. :)

I made candymelt cupcake toppers, again, because my cake pans are still packed up. But also because cupcakes are quite portable. And I made them like this . . .

because it's how I do most things. (The trading cards also make excellent candymelt templates.)

Betty did the baking. We're turning into quite a team in the kitchen.

Jack typed up a trivia game for the boys to play during the drive.

The morning of the party, Bobby and Gus cleaned out the van, and decorated it with a few hanging decorations we got at the party store.

And I called to order some pizzas.

The Pre Game

We met up at our regular homeschool parkday, and the boys ran around in a barely-containable frenzy of excitement until the husband arrived to pick them up.

It wasn't Mary Jane's party, but she was pretty stoked about it nonetheless.

Jack, Bobby, Gus, and eight of their friends filled up the big van, and my parents and I in two minivans with the rest of the kids joined the caravan to the movie theater.

We ate pizza on the sidewalk.

We sang happy birthday and had cupcakes.

The Main Event

I just picked a random movie theater on Fandango for its proximity to the park, and it turned out to be one of those fancy recliner ones. I may be spoiled forever. Those chairs are excellent for nursing.

The boys liked them too.

I got reuseable plastic Star Wars cups from the party store, to hand out to the kids in the theater for snacks and as their party favor. We bought two large popcorns and I brought a big bag of m&ms and we all shared those between us.

It goes without saying that they LOVED the movie. Listening to them gasp in wonder as the movie started is something I will always cherish. Seriously. I'm not a super sentimental person. But it really felt like a special moment to be able to share together.

The Post Game

After the movie, I drove the rest of my kids home, and the husband spent two hours dropping boys off at various locations. His take: "How was it? It was fine. I don't know if I'd recommend it, necessarily. But now I can say I've done that."

The boys had a great time trading their cards. There were only five of each card and eleven boys, so they had to make deals with each other to end up with the ones they wanted.

They also played the trivia game and no one barfed. So . . . sounds like it was a success to me.

Spoiler Free Thoughts on the Movie

I watched it surrounded by ecstatic little boys, who loved every second of it, from the opening credits on. So, I would have had to have a heart of stone or it would have had to be truly terrible for me not to like it. But, really, I did like it.

I thought the effects were excellent. There's been a lot of talk about the return to models and real stunts and film cameras (alongside digital effects), and I thought it was all worth it. There was a realness and heft to the traditional effects that was refreshing. 

I liked the new characters. BB8 is uhDORable. Rey is a strong female character. Finn is a charming, if reluctant, hero. I LOVED that there was no language or innuendo or suggestiveness at all. (There are some battle scenes, but nothing gory.)

I liked the old characters. It's wonderful to see them again, having aged as actual people do. The mature relationship between some of them is bittersweet, but seems in character. Han spoke almost exclusively in action movie one-liners, which got old. But I get what they were trying to do.

I appreciated that they went simple with the plot after the prequels and their Senate resolutions and trade agreements and Midichlorians and other unnecessarily complicated plots. But I think maybe they over corrected. Pretty much the whole plot was trying to find a map . . . to a person. Which A. Isn't a thing (unless you're Maroon 5) and B. Wasn't even really explained (who made the map? Why not ask that guy? What if the person you're looking for has, ya know, changed location? People do that.)

Clearly the nostalgia factor was high. Mostly I liked it. But what I liked was when they put nods to the original movies in a new setting, like the lightsaber in the snow, wiggling. I didn't love how the plot itself was so self-derivative. There's a Death Star. BUT ITS REALLY BIG! People get killed and fall down shafts. Why do they even have shafts? (I kept thinking of The Emperor's New Groove.) There's a death that is very reminiscent of a death in the original trilogy.

The surprising twist is VERY surprising. I was shocked! 

Basically, it felt like they were going for . . . safe. Don't go too deep or too edgy or too complicated, just make sure people don't hate it.

Anyway, I'm hoping the plots gets better and the rest stays good. Overall I think it's enjoyable. And appropriate for kids of all ages.

Thoughts on Parties in Vans

I think it was cool. And certainly something the boys will remember fondly. I might even be talked into doing it again on May 26, 2017. It just happens to be exactly one month before Jack's 15th birthday . . .  

You might also enjoy . . . 

The Force is Strong With These Guys (but you already knew that)

DIY Chewbacca Sleepsack Mod and a Homemade X-Wing Bomber


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Very Netflix Christmas 2015: Win it!

Last year, I wrote about all our favorite Christmas movies, but I had to update it for this year because -- you guys -- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is no longer available on Netflix. If you missed it, all I can say is I'm so, so sorry.

But there ARE still some other Christmas movies available. Lets take a look at a few, shall we? And in true Christmas spirit . . . I get to give away a six month subscription to Netflix to one lucky reader, yay!

If you are logged in to Netflix, clicking on the title will start it right up for you.

A classic version of the classic story. It's in black and white, and the effects are old fashioned, but neither of those things is a problem for me. My kids haven't seen this version yet, but we've been doing A Christmas Carol as a family read aloud, and I figure we'll watch this once we've finished.

This was on the list last year, but I still love it. And so do my kids. The boys love the first half, the girls love the second half . . . everyone wins. It's a colorized version, about which I have mixed feelings.

Veggie Tales! It's no substitute for the real It's a Wonderful Life, which we watch as a family each year. But it's good as something to put on for the kids some afternoon.

There are three Disney compilations of Christmas movies on Netflix. THIS one, I like. The backstory part is is annoying, but the cartoons themselves are mostly great. Especially Pluto's Christmas Tree, and Mickey's Christmas Carol. There's a super weird Nutcracker one in there, maybe skip that one, or use those four minutes to go sneak some cookies.

The other two are Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas and the sequel, Twice Upon a Christmas. I really don't much like either. The first one has a Goofy cartoon with a "bullies telling you Santa's not real" story line, plus The Gift of the Magi, which always just makes me writhe in discomfort. Please. No one EVER do anything permanent to buy me a present.

But I digress.

Twice has bad CGI and most of the cartoons are about how even the most terrible of people still get to have Christmas. I'm pretty sure my kids have watched them all in previous years. But I don't have plans to put them in this year's rotation.

This collection is uh-mazing, and occasionally it's seasonally appropriate. But many, nay, most of the shorts are really intense and might be too much for young kids to handle.

John Henry dies heroically and The Little Matchgirl dies tragically, but both are beautiful stories. Lorenzo features a cat who gets his tail cursed and then tries to kill himself a bunch of ways before the same witch cat who cursed him gives Lorenzo a knife so he can chop off his cursed tail. It will freak your kid out. But the animation and music are beautiful. That's the thing with these shorts, they are really intended as art, so they challenge as much as they entertain.

Except for the two princess ones, those are not scary OR challenging, or that entertaining. Elsa's ice powers that also make dresses and . . . create LIFE are on full display. But I won't start. I'm moving on.

Tick Tock Tale features a main character who sacrifices himself dramatically to save the shopmates who tease him. Get a Horse has an old-timey damsel in distress/bad guy plot that is certainly not the kind of thing we're used to seeing in children's entertainment these days.

Paperman is adorable and sweet and romantic and Feast is adorable and sweet and romantic and has a super cute ending.

But the only reason the collection on this list is because of Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa. It's Christmasy, and cute enough, but it does feature Mrs. Santa, which is always a little weird if you're trying to focus on the St. Nicholas being a bishop thing. We just laugh and say, "That's silly, Santa isn't married." But it's your call if you even want to open that can of worms in your house.

And, that's kinda it. I really did want to find some undiscovered treasure for you guys this year. I even watched a badly dubbed Norwegian movie called Journey to the Christmas Star for you. But it was . . . not good.

I didn't hate the Bill Murray Christmas special, it's not scandalous or anything, it's just not that . . . special.

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.

And NOW . . . I get to give away a six month subscription! If you'd like to get to see all this for yourself, just leave a comment telling me your favorite Christmas movie. I'll announce the winner on Friday. You can use the subscription yourself or give it to a friend, and it works in Europe too!


Friday, December 11, 2015

A Pride and Prejudice 2nd Birthday Party to Ardently Admire and Love

Lulu's "Pie Pedjus" second birthday party was last weekend, but it's taken me all week to get this post written because I fell hard down the rabbit hole of picMonkey + Jane Austen. But more on that later.

First, for the party . . .

Lulu is a big, big fan of the BabyLit books. They're all super cute. But her favorite (and mine) is Pie Pedjus.

Pride & Prejudice: A BabyLit® Counting Primer
And that's what she asked for as a birthday party. It just so happened that we had recently bought a house that seemed more appropriate for the event than our current house (despite it not having furniture, or entirely functioning toilets). So, we used her birthday as a chance to invite a few friend over to see the new digs.

The Food:

I was going for old-timey/toddler-appropriate/could be prepared in a pretty-much-not-functional kitchen. So, we ended up with picnic foods . . .

  • tea sandwiches
  • pb&j
  • chicken salad sandwiches
  • chicken nuggets
  • kale salad (toddlers love kale)
  • bowl of berries
  • fruit basket
how cute are these bibs from Bamboo Button?!
The Decor:

We are currently without a color printer, which is how I usually do my decorating. So the decor was some paper bunting and battery operated lights.

But that's okay, because who would want to look at anything except these ladies in their regency dresses?

My friend Geraly made the dresses for all four of the girls because she is the best, and very, very talented and you should check out her Etsy shop and her beautiful and whimsical art here and here. And tell her I say, "hi."

The Cake:

I had grand plans for a cake . . .  that turned into cupcakes when I realized that all my cake pans are packed up.

I made all the little decorations by putting a piece of parchment paper over the book and drawing the illustrations in candy melts. I do not know why I can do this. But I can. So I do.

The Game:

Usually Jack comes up with the games for our parties. But he's been busy with real school and all that goes along with it. So, I was in charge. And whenever I would try to think of a game that would have to do with Pride and Prejudice, all I could think of was this scene from the 2005 movie (which I LOVE, despite the haters and their hatin').

Gus agreed to be the piglet.

The Craft:

I usually have a little craft for kids to do at our parties, and since it was St. Nicholas Day, I figured the kids could make ornaments with these great Kiwi Crate holiday kits that the good folks at Kiwi Crate sent me after I recommended them to you guys last month. But then everyone at the party was having fun just running around so I brought them home and let my kids do them all by themselves.

They turned out really cute, and it looks like most of the kits are still available. You can buy the holiday kits individually, without a subscription. (They're under the shop tab.) You can get 60% off with the code BACK60, but I'm not sure if it applies to individual crates, or just subscriptions.

And speaking of making stuff, I made you guys this free printable:

That was going to be it, just because I thought it was funny, and it's apropos to my life somehow. There's always SOMETHING to chase. But then I just kept thinking of all the other Pride and Prejudice quotes I love (and that are actually in the book!).

And finally I could no longer resist, and I made all of these and put them in the Etsy shop:

set one: romantic

set two: sassy
And then they needed to go on t-shirts and mugs and jammies and whatnot, right? RIGHT?

So I put them in the Cafepress Shop, too:

I want to get the "I have not the pleasure of understanding you" mug so I can just sort of gesture to it while drinking my tea as my kids talk over one another at me.

So, that's that.

Happy birthday to our sweet, sweet Lulu. She really is an absolute joy.

And happy weekend, and happy advent to you! And Go Navy, Beat Army!

You might also enjoy . . .

How We Throw a Backyard Birthday Party

Murdered by Pirates is Good (a Princess Bride 10th birthday party)

Happee Birthdae Betty (a Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 11th Birthday Party)