Sunday, February 11, 2018

When (Involuntary) Penances Begin before Lent (Or, Why No Regular Post This Sunday)

Picture three children, laying feverish on an air mattress on a living room floor.  

Now, picture a mom laying on a couch.  

Now, picture a Mom and son laying together in the dark unable to turn an electric light on.

You have just pictured the last two weeks of our lives here. 

Abut two weeks ago my daughter went down with a fever and her siblings soon followed.  Their fevers were high and their energy low, but they were champs as Daddy and I nursed them back to health - and, before a week was out, they were fever free.

Still, I kept us quarantined just to ensure that we would not pass on any unwanted germ gifts to others, for I had heard this year's bug is contagious from one day prior to symptoms until three days or so after the first symptom appears.  Thus, I wanted to be certain that my children were free and clear - and that I was not going to get hit - before venturing out.

When what I thought was our safe "greenlight" day came, out we went for a few hours and... BOOM!  That very night I got hit with something.  

That something brought fevers, chills, and lethargy like my children had had, but also persisted after fevers abated with persistent lightheadnedness and other symptoms that only I seem to suffer from.  These symptoms did not debilitate me completely, but sure have been making doing anything on my feet for more than 15 minutes or so difficult, which is not fun and is also not conducive to homeschool mothering. 

Praise God, then, for relatively good kids, a committed husband, and plenty of prayers from friends and family this past week. Without them, the week would have been a disaster.  Also, props to God for reminding me that sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

In fact, the wee hours of this morning found me in the midst of a comedy of errors that made me do just that - well, after moments of concern, disgust, and frustration passed.

You see, in the middle of the night, our electricity suddenly went out.  While we were in the dark, my oldest son woke up and got scared.  I heard him immediately, and called to him to explain that the lights were out and he could follow the flashlight beam to me if he needed comfort.  He did an fell onto the couch next to me n a heap. 

I stroked his hair and back and said, "Buddy, it's okay.  Did you have a bad dream? I bet waking up to such darkness really scared you. Mama's here, though.  He looked at me, face twisted, and said, "I don't feel well."  I told him he was probably just scared.  Mama was with him.  It would be okay.

For a minute, my son began to quiet, but, then, he got up and raced to the bathroom thinking he might be sick.  But,no, he was okay.

When my son returned to me, I hugged him and said, "Maybe you're just anxious, buddy.  Sit with, Mama.  You'll be okay."  he did, but,then, got up and stumbled through the darkness to the bathroom again.  This time he did get sick, and, unfortunately, did not make it to the toilet.  But, at least he was able to find the sink.

So, then, as my son sat on the bathroom floor debating if he was going to have another bout of sickness, I found myself, standing, lightheaded, trying to clean and unclog the sink using just a tiny stream of flashlight to tackle the task by.  Thankfully, as I was finishing the rather disgusting job, my husband awoke and helped me arrange a sick bed for my son- all by flashlight beam, of course. 

As I tucked my son in gave him a new blessing, and kissed his forehead in the dark, I could not help but to laugh.  Boy down.  Mama down.  Lights down.  But, spirit not down. 

These involuntary penances have a purpose, I am certain.  If we offer them up, they can be used for good.  And, so, even as we move from week two to week three of sickness here, I am grateful.

All things work together for good - even electric outages and sickness - and most certainly prayers and support.

However your Lenten journey begins this year, may love and prayers be pervasive.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

3 Jars Can Help Your Children Remember to Pray, Fast, and Give

Pray, fast, and give.
Pray, fast, and give.
All through Lent
As learn, love, and live,
We pray, fast, and give.

For years now, we've been singing versions of this made up ditty during the 40 days of Lent, often in conjunction with filling our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars.

Randomly, this morning, my daughter began singing the song, perhaps in anticipation of the coming Lenten season or perhaps because we have been doing a lot of praying and fasting this past week while fighting fevers.  Whatever the reason, after my my daughter sang the ditty, I asked her if she could explain how we make and use our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars, so I could share it here.  She was happy to do so.

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My Daughter Explains Pray, Fast, and Give Jars

To make our Pray, Fast, and Give jars we used three small glass babyfood jars. First, we nailed a hole in the lid.  Then, we took paper and wrote "pray" on the first...
..."fast" on the second, and "give" on the third. 
We used purple, because it is Lent.  
Then, we glued these papers onto the jars, and, near them, we put birdseed.   
Every time we pray, fast, or give during Lent, we put a seed (or bean) into a jar, depending on whether we prayed, fasted, or gave.  Then, on Easter, the jars "grow" lollipops , symbolizing the sweetness of Jesus' love, and we throw our seeds of sacrifice to the birdies.
We first heard about a similar thing on Holy Heroes, where they use one big jar for their family and use beans that turn into jelly beans.  We changed from jelly beans to lollipops, because when we went gluten-free, casein-free, and dye-free, lollipops we could have were easier to find. 
We changed to bird seed so we could feed the birds, too.  And, we like to have three jars - one for praying, one for fasting, and one for giving - because we like to see how much each one gets.  Usually praying has the most.  We need to remember fast and give more - especially fasting!
I think other people with children can enjoy this tradition.  It's fun and also supports praying, fasting, and giving, because you have something visual and concrete to do every day during Lent, and, then, can rejoice and enjoy lollipops on Easter!
Through the Years with Our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars

As many traditions do, our family's tradition of using Lenten Jars has morphed through the years.  We've adapted how many jars we use, where we place them, and what we put in them according to the needs and ideas of each given Lenten season.  However, even as these practical details have changed from year to year, one thing has not:  Pray, Fast, and Give Jars have become a staple Lenten tradition for us which reminds us daily to focus on the penitential practices. 

We began using Lenten Jars in 2010 before my third child was born.  That year, I was out of purple paper on the day we made the jars, so, we used green, instead, (since we were just coming out of Ordinary Time) and decided to decorate the papeer with our names, hearts to reminds us to love Jesus through sacrifices, and the words "pray", "fast", and "give" written in penitential purple.  Then, throughout Lent, we dropped up to three beans a day into our jars,  depending on if we remembered to pray, fast, and give during that given day

To help us remember our penitential focus, we also posted the words "Pray", "Fast", and "Give" above our jars using purple paper letters that I'd cut out and let the children affix smiley stickers on. (That is where the last of my purple paper went that year before making the jars.).  The
 smiley faces reminded us that Jesus smiles when we offer him our sacrifices.

Then, on Easter of that year, our beans disappeared and were replaced with sweet, long-lasting treats - lollipops - to symbolize the enduring gift of Jesus' love.   Plus, the Lenten purple cloth below the beans turned to Easter white, the word "alleluia" re-appeared along with a wish for happy Easter, and an image of the risen Jesus came out, too.

This first experience of using our Lenten Jars proved effective in helping us to reflect upon and keep track of our efforts at prayer, fasting, and almsgiving throughout Lent, and, of course, the children loved discovering their efforts transformed into joy and sweetness on Easter.  So, in 2011, we decided to make new jars.

That year, with a baby in the house, we kept the jar-making simple by just wrapping jars with purple paper that the children used foam stickers, markers, and crayons on.  We placed these under a cross of paper the children painted purple which acted as a reminder to pray, fast, and give alms throughout the season.  The children also added other bits of decor - mostly homemade - to the display as Lent unfolded, including crosses and sacrifice beads.

Then, on Easter morning, the purple tablecloth beneath the Lenten Jars was replaced with a white cloth, Easter cards that the children had received were placed on the table, an image of a risen Jesus appeared, and angel crafts the children had made came to the fore to remind us of the angel in the Bible that announced Jesus had risen.  Plus, of course, the lollipops grew.

During Lent 2012, we transitioned from using a single Lenten Jar per person to be filled with up to three beans a night to a using set of three Pray, Fast, and Give Jars for the entire family, which we filled whenever we remembered to do so after praying, fasting, and giving.  

After making our jars, we set them out with a bin of beans (hidden under a purple cloth), a Lenten nature craft of three crosses, and an image of Jesus carrying his cross.  

The kids could not wait to start using the jars and began praying, fasting, and looking for opportunities to give right away.

The "big kids" also got a bit over-zealous helping their baby brother to use our Pray, Fat, and Give jars..  Yep, the beans went everywhere - and, with them, a message was carried.

After cleaning those beans up - and finding stray bean after stray bean for days - there were still plenty to drop in our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars when we made sacrifices, so, of course, on Easter morning, the children were thrilled to discover that their jars had grown Easter sweetness and so had the hill where they had placed their nature-crafted crosses.  Homemade butterflies, an image of the risen Jesus, unburied "Alleluia's", and liturgical year wheel completed the scene.

In 2013, before we'd even made our jars, my daughter began praying at the table where they'd be placed. Then, my oldest son suggested that we change what we put in our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars from beans to birdseed.  So, that is what we did. 

I cannot find a photo of our 2013 Pray, Fast, and Give Jars out on our Lenten prayer table, but I was able to find this shot of the table transformed for Easter morning with lollipops growing out of our seed bowl and jar filled with seeds of sacrificial love.  (Note: I learned from the prior year and put out a much smaller container of seeds than I had of beans the year before!)

In 2014, our living room configuration changed and, so our prayer table disappeared, to be replaced by a cubby on our learning shelves.  Unfortunately, I cannot find a picture of how our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars looked there, but I do have a photo of the kids making the jars - which, by then, had become a quick and easy - yet still enjoyable - process since we'd been doing it for several years.

Then, instead of keeping our jars tucked onto the cubby shelf on Easter morning, they got moved over by our Easter baskets.

Lent 2015 found our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars moving to the kitchen table on a tray of seed (which we would not recommend to families with wee ones who might eat or get too overzealous with such a set up, nor to those with pets or pests.) We found that this placement prompted us to actually make sacrificial acts of prayer, fasting, and giving throughout our days better since the display was right where we cook, eat, and often do lessons or crafts.

Soon, a crucifix joined the scene, tucked into the small basket in which we placed strips of paper from completed sacrifices from our Lenten Chain

Then, on Easter lollipops grew from our seeds of sacrificial love (which went out to feed our feathered friends), and they also appeared in the little basket nearby.  Our buried-and-resurrected "Alleluias" became a backdrop for the scene, and some paper plate pencil topper Easter lilies, white candles, and opened paper Easter tombs that one of the kids had made completed our not-picture-perfect-yet-perfect-enough-for-us Easter vignette.

In 2016, our jars moved to the shelf between our living room and our dining room, however, I neglected to take any photos of them until the labels had come off, the seeds had been spread outside, and the children had gotten into the sweet reminders of Jesus' love.  You can see here, though, that we decided to add a small statue of a risen Jesus near to our Easter morning display.

Lent 2017 was a rather crazy time for us since, among other things, we had recently lost Nana and Daddy was recovering from a surgery. Plus the children were preparing for and competing in their first Destination Imagination competition and, well, there was just a lot going on in our heads, hearts, and lives.  So, to be honest, even though it was only a year ago, I cannot recall if our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars remained on the shelf or made their way back to the table.  I do know, however, that during a somewhat stressful Lent, our tradition of using Pray, Fast, and Give Jars reminded us daily to offer up our hardships and to keep focusing on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

By the time Easter came, we were all ready to savor the sweetness blooming from our jars, which were tucked at the top of our Easter morning table.  We also rejoiced in the sweetness of knowing Jesus, indeed, rose again.  Darkness never triumphs.

So it is that for almost a decade now, we have enjoyed our tradition of Pray, Fast, and Give Jars, and undoubtedly, will continue to do so for many years to come. Especially last year, they proved to us how a simple 
tool - three jars, some paper, some markers, birdseed, and lollipops - can work to focus us on the penitential practices of Lent and the joy of Easter.  Our Pray, Fast, and Give Jars have certainly become an enduring and meaningful tradition for us.  Perhaps your family might borrow the idea.

Whatever traditions you and yours practice, may your Lenten journey be a meaningful time or prayer, fasting, and almsgiving!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Enjoy this True Story about St. John Bosco and His Dog

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My youngest child received a book about St. John Bosco for Christmas, and, in reading it, became curious to learn more about the dog who saved the saint on more than one occasion.  His curiosity reminded me that the folks at Caritas Press had been kind enough to send me a copy of Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog by Hayley Medeiros some time ago and that I had yet to review it here.  So, since yesterday was St. John the Bosco's feast day and I had a household full of feverish children that sought cuddly read-together time, I unearthed our copy of Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, enjoyed it with my children, and asked them to narrate their thoughts about the book.  

A True - But Maybe Unfamiliar Story - of Saint John Bosco

Before sharing what my kiddoes thought about Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, I'd like to share my take on this little gem of a saint-based picture book.  

Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog is a sweet story with richly-colored, child-like illustrations, which chronicles how a huge, wolf-like dog befriended and protected Saint John Bosco during the mid- to late-1800's.  In doing so, the book engages children and adults alike in thinking about how God is always present in our lives - sometimes offering miraculous protection.

The one-page afterward in 
Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog makes it clear that author and illustrator Hayley Medeiros researched the story of Saint John Bosco and his dog Grigio well and chose to share only episodes about the duo that could be found in a primary resource.  I appreciate her efforts to write a charming children's story about Saint John Bosco that is as historically accurate as possible.

I also appreciate how the story of 
Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog highlights the humanness of Saint John Bosco and some of the ways God stepped in to help him live his calling.  As Saint John Bosco goes about his life,we see him facing fears and challenges, as well as delighting in friendship and love.  Part of that friendship and love is shared with his beloved dog Grigio - a dog that often seems like a literal Godsend. 

As my children and I read Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, even before getting to the overt questions on the final page of the story, we began to wonder:  Was Grigio's appearance in Saint John Bosco's life a miracle?  Was Grigio an angel in dog form?  Isn't it amazing how God works to protect us so that we can do His work?  Then, as we closed the book, we thought about all the people and experiences in our own lives that seem heaven-sent. 

Truly, becoming a saint may seem an unattainable goal at times and miracles may seem like they only happened in days of old, but, as my children and I paused to reflect after reading Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, we couldn't help be to remind ourselves that all saints are merely humans who say "yes" to God's call and that God, indeed, offers us miracles - tiny and tremendous - every day.

Don't you just love when an enjoyable children's book offers uplifting reminders?!

My Children's Thoughts

After reading Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog, my youngest, 7, said:

I liked the part about when the dog came when the bandits were attacking St. John Bosco.  I liked the illustration where the dog is jumping up to attack the bandits to save St. John Bosco, and, then, St. John Bosco calmed his dog and was safe.  

I also like the illustration where the man had a huge amount of pasta for the doggy, but the doggy disappeared. 
The illustrations are colorful and bright and the story is good.

Obviously, he liked the vibrant illustrations as much as the story.  My daughter, 10, did, too.  She said:

I like the picture on the cover.  The dog's eyes are so blue! 
I also like the illustration when St. John Bosco and the dog are looking at the stars at the beginning of the book when they first become friends.

And, I like the illustration where the man has a big plate of pasta, and the dog has vanished.  It's funny how the man prepared a ton of pasta for the dog, but the dog disappeared.  Before that, in the story, I was thinking that the dog might be St. John Bosco's guardian angel.  Then, when we read the page with the pasta, I thought, The dog is definitely an angel.  The end of the story said I might be right. 
It's a good book.  It tells a fun - and true - tale about a saint.  I know it's true, because we read on the final page of the book about how the story came from Saint John Bosco's autobiography.

My oldest, 12, appreciated the book, too.  He said:

I like this story, because, at the beginning, it tells a little background about St. John Bosco, and, then, starts talking more about the dog Grigio. 
Grigio was a wolf-like dog that defended and guarded St. John Bosco against bad guys a number of times.  For example, when two guys attacked John Bosco because they didn't like what he was doing in helping kids, Grigio defended him.  When John Bosco was walking home in the evenings, Grigio walked next to him to guard him. 
When we were reading the book, I began thinking Grigio was St. John Bosco's guardian angel.  Then, I learned at the end of the book that many people think Grigio was an angel or a miracle.  I think Grigio was St. John Bosco's guardian angel, because God can do anything and might have sent St John Bosco's guardian angel as a dog instead of sending a giant angel coming at people with a flaming sword terrifying everyone. 
Saint John Bosco and His Big Gray Dog is a good book.  I am glad we have it.  I like the story it told, and the illustrations are interesting.  They look like they were made with colored pencil and paint.  I think I might be able to copy some.  I'd like to try it.  Maybe I will start with the silhouette one that goes with when St. John Bosco was walking during the evening wishing his dog was near him. 

I think other children will like this book.

I agree with my son: Children - and adults- will enjoy this lovely picture book which reminds us of how God sends us the help we need to fulfill His work for us on earth.  

Learn More

Saint John Bosco and His Big Day Dog comes in print or e-book format.  The e-book is currently FREE to borrow with KindleUnlimited and just $3.99 to purchase to read on Kindle.

Obviously, the book is a perfect read for St. John Bosco's feast day (January 31).  It might also be ideal:

  • on the Guardian Angels Feast Day (October 2), reminding us that angels can come in many forms.
  • when learning about Salesian Missions, since Saint John Bosco began the Salesian Congregation.
  • when studying about dogs or pets, because it is always lovely to connect saints to unit studies.
  • seeking inspiration for art projects, because the illustrations are almost child-like at times and invite children like mine to say, "I might be able to do that!"
  • when focusing on love and friendship, as Grigio is a prime example of a faithful (furry) friend.
  • when introducing miracles, since Grigio's appearance often seems miraculous and since other stories of John Bosco invite us to think even more deeply about miracles.
  • when studying primary and secondary sources or comparing and contrasting tales and truth, since the afterword points us to these directions.

Or, of course, just for fun!  Saint John Bosco and His Big Day Dog is a short and enjoyable saint-based read!

Caritas Press publishes a host of other wonderful faith-focused books, including the fuEncyclopedia of Peg Saints that I have previously reviewed.

I encourage you to check out other fiction, non-fiction, rosary books, and children's books from Caritas Press at their website, or they have an expanding line of Catholic and pro-life books with a wonderful mission:

"...shedding light on things eternal in a culture that is becoming increasingly blind to the wonders of God’s works and numb to his boundless love. Making use of the subtle and the beautiful.. to play a part in igniting in children and adults a desire to know God more fully."

Caritas Press can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

{Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this book and said I would write an honest review of it.  I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed are my own of those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.}

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Plan a St. Brigid and St. Verdiana Art, Music, and a Poet-Tea

February first is the Memorial of Saint Brigid of Ireland and also that of Saint Verdiana (although some calendars have Saint Verdiana's day listed as February 16th.)  It is also a day that our AMP It Up club is scheduled to meet.  Thus, I am planning another saint-based Poet-Tea, filled with faith, food, friendship, art, music, and poetry.

If you'd like to include saint-centered snacks and arts immersion on the St. Brigid's and St. Verdiana's feast day, I thought I'd share our Poet-Tea plans.

A St. Brigid and St. Verdiana Poet-Tea Setting and Menu
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Our poet-tea table will be decorated with:

  • a white tablecloth (for the purity of the saint' love for God) layered with a blue fabric with golden "stars" on it (since St. Brigid's mantle is sometimes depicted as blue with stars).
  • green candle (to remind us that we are in Ordinary Time) and a white candle (also to remind us of the purity of the saints' love for God).
  • several books depicting Saint Brigid and Saint Verdiana including: 
Saint Bridget and the Fox and Saint Verdiana and the Snakes in Amazing Saints & their Awesome Animals

  •  a St. Brigid cross (if I have time to fashion one) and some dry beans to remind us of how St. Verdiana, with her charitable heart,  gave away all her beans to the poor).
  • a globe, so we can locate Ireland (for St. Brigid) and Italy (for St. Verdiana).
  • perhaps some snake and cow figurines (since snakes play into St. Verdiana's stories and cows into St. Brigid's)

The food and drink we will serve s still being decided, but will likely include some of the following:
  • bread, water, and herbs (because St. Verdiana's diet consisted of eating bread and water once a day, and, sometimes, eating herbs or vegetables.)
  • beans (because Verdiana gave beans to the poor.)
  • apples (because apples play into one of the tales of St. Brigid's miracles and charity.)
  • coconut milk (because there are a number of tales and traditions related to St. Brigid and milk, but my children are cow-milk-free kids and one of our guests has both nut and soy allergies, so coconut milk is our only milk alternative)
  • oat bread (adapted from traditional St. Brigid's oat cakes)
  • blueberry jam (because it is traditional to eat on St. Brigid's day.)
  • an "Italian Flag" fruit plate and an "Irish Flag" vegetable plate (because St. Verdiana was Italian and St. Brigid was Irish.)

Whatever the fare ends up being, I know, we'll pray pray grace, some spontaneous prayers, and a Traditional Catholic Prayer to Saint Brigid before digging into it and chatting more about the lives of Saint Brigid and Saint Verdiana, who were both known for their charity.


We will revisit the poem The Giveaway, a long-time St. Brigid Day favorite of mine using a pdf from Clondalkin Village Parish.  Then, after reading about Saint Verdiana, I will ask the children to try their hand at writing a poem, inspired by The Giveaway, about Verdiana.


Bridging from poetry to music, we will take a peak at the lyrics of the Hymn to Saint Brigid as we listen to it sung on a Youtube video:

We will also sing along to We Sing a Song to Saint Brigid.


This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Refer to Wellcome blog post (archive).

Finally, for art, we will notice how the illustrations in 
Saint Brigid and the Cows use hatching and how an engraving of St. Verdiana by Bartolozzi uses stippling, much like his other artwork did as demonstrated in the detail below:

Then, we'll explore hatching and stippling using simple exercises like this one:

Or, perhaps, by creating our own simple line drawings of items and creatures that remind us of Saint Brigid's or Saint Verdiana's story, and, then, adding value to our drawings through hatching or stippling.


Find loads of ideas, resources, and links for lessons inspired by Saint. Brigid and Verdiana as well as plans for a luncheon.

Enjoy some ideas for simple stories and notebooking -including a link to a free online story, take a peak at plans for a simple Saint Brigid Feast day for younger children, or flashback to how we celebrated one year when my children were wee ones.

Browse through Poet-Tea plans and photos for other liturgical celebrations.

Saint Brigid, pray for us.  Saint Verdiana, pray for us.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Pray, Fast, and Give on the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

January 22nd is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
and so, in our home, we'll be taking a bit of a break from our usual life and lesson activities to focus on extra measures of prayer, fasting, almsgiving. We encourage others to do the same.


Of course, attending Mass and praying for unborn children, for their mothers, and for our nation to respect the rights of the unborn child is an ideal choice for the day. 

Praying an intentional Rosary for Life is, too. 

Or, for those who seek shorter prayers, the Prayer to End Abortion by Rec. Frank Pavone at is a powerful one.


Ideally, all healthy adults will participate in fasting, eating only one full meal and two smaller meals which do not equal one full meal. 

Children (and adults!) might choose to offer penances by:

  • abstaining from meat
  • abstaining from a particular food or beverage 
  • fasting  from one meal
  • offering up the day’s challenges and inconveniences 
  • giving up some form of entertainment for the day
  •  offering up extra works of charity


Everyone in the family might offer some money to give to a pro-life organization. 

Or, perhaps, the family can shop for baby items to be brought to such an organization or simply collect like-new items from home to gift forward.

For crafty kids (and grown-ups!) decorating bibs and onesies to donate can be fun and meaningful.

Family Time

Counting our own blessings with gratitude is important, too.  So, our family will likely gather to chat about specific ways each of us blesses others - affirming the unique gift each person truly is. 

I can foresee this leading us into a trip down memory lane, sharing stories and pictures from birth and early childhood and, perhaps, singing our Song of Jack and for each of our other children.

To keep the warmth of family time going, I have also already begun stacking up favorite books for a "read in", when our family snuggles together to read book after book after book together.  

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Some of our pro-life favorites are:

Also, since we all enjoy family movie-time, I've also put The Altar Gang's Skif and AJ's Fantastic Voyage in our pile.  It's a beloved DVD around here.

Surely, on January 22, we can all set aside some time to pray, fast, and give, praying for legal protection for unborn children and giving thanks for each of our lives.  Perhaps, we'd like to start now:

God our Creator, we give thanks to you, who alone have the power to impart the breath of life as you form each of us in our mother's womb; grant, we pray, that we, whom you have made stewards of creation, may remain faithful to this sacred trust and constant in safeguarding the dignity of every human life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
~Collect Prayer

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Walking Down Memory Lane with St. Nina, "Mother of Georgia"

Tonight, I've been taking a walk down memory lane, looking back at how we've observed St. Nina's feast day since our family re-committed to celebrating each of our Name Days and enjoyed our first St. Nina family feast in 2013

That year, our annual celebrations kicked off in a rather smoky kitchen, because, sometimes, new recipes don't cook up quite the way you expect them to do so.

Still, we enjoyed learning more about St. Nina and tasting dishes inspired by the cuisine of the Republic of Georgia.

Since, then, we've continued to mark 
St. Nina's feast day with prayers, food, and celebration each year.

In 2014, we did so as a family.

First, though, the children practiced practical life skills, climbing up to the kitchen sink... work as a team, freeing delicious pomegranate seeds.

One also concentrated on slicing cucumbers...

.... to make a traditional Georgian salad,

... while another sliced and dicde mushrooms...

.... for a Georgian-inspired dish.

Still, a third happily chopped walnuts... candy and enjoy.

Then, they all helped prepare traditional corn bread...

...bean dishes, and more,

which all resulted in a full spread Georgian-inspired dishes to enjoy together...

...after prayer, finding where St. Nina may have been born and where she traveled to...

... and giving our own Nina her very own homemade "book" about St. Nina, because she had been asking why we don't have any books about her name saint. 

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We have since found two published children's books for our girl:

Saints Lives and Illuminations contains a St. Nina page...

...and The Life of Saint Nina is an entire rhyming children's book about her!

In 2015, we had a lot going on right before St. Nina's feast day and could not do much preparation, but that did not keep us from celebrating our girl's beloved name saint.

We just had to get a little creative about food choices, which resulted in us making a makeshift "St. Nina Cross" our of gluten-free toast...

... to eat with preserves (popular in Georgia) and sides of grapes (because St. Nina had a grapevine cross) and salad with walnuts and pomegranates (because both of these are common in Georgian cuisine).

A simple meal served on special dishes made everyone happy!

In 2016, we again found ourselves scrambling, trying to fit a feast day celebration in between pre-scheduled commitments, so we went even simpler - and delectably sweet!

You can never go wrong with sundaes made with blue and red berries (since St. Nina is often depicted in these colors) and walnuts (since St. Nina is considered the "mother of Georgia", having converted many there to Christianity, and walnuts are popular in Georgian cuisine.)

Yes, our sundaes were a hit!

Then, last year, in 2017, we had to go even simpler for St Nina's Day.

Nana was quite ill, so we traveled to see her one last time, and, thus, our typically festive St. Nina Day observances were put on hold.  Basically, we recalled the day, with a simple, "It's your Name Day," and prayer with our girl and allowed her to indulge in a rare treat of potato chips (because salty fried potatoes are common in the Republic of Georgia) as a happy "high" on an otherwise mostly low day when we were making prayerful and emotional goodbyes to our Nana.  

Nana passed but a week later  -  God rest her soul - and we would appreciate continued prayers as the first anniversary of her passing nears.  Thank you.

We also invite you to join us in praying for the intercession of St. Nina:

St. Nina, like you, 
may we endure hardships with faith, 
be a healing balm to others, spiritually and physically,
and glorify God in all we do and say,
growing in holiness.
Also like you, may we have a transforming effect on others through our witness. 
St. Nina, please intercede for us 
that God may save our souls.

If you would like to know more about St. Nina, visit our St. Nina Name Day post from 2013, where you'll find more information and links and, also, view this brief video, which offers a summary of St. Nina's life:

We'd love to hear your favorite prayers, resources, recipes, and traditions related to St. Nina and wish you a blessed ad beautiful St. Nina feast day.

St. Nina, pray for us.


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