A dragon for Michaelmas

Happy Michaelmas: a day for talking about angels, symbolically slaying dragons, and (apparently) blowing the dust off one’s long-neglected blog. Phooooot. Michaelmas is a new one for me, but in the spirit of slowly embracing/incorporating more of the church year I thought we’d give it a go. So I made a dragon. And then we killed and ate it. Good times!

The recipe is pretty easy:

1. Start with whatever basic biscuit recipe you’ve memorized. You have memorized a biscuit recipe, haven’t you?

2. Add half a cup of sugar. Yum.

3. Increase the liquid and butter a bit to make up for the added half-cup of dry ingredient.

4. Oops, too much liquid. Better add some more flour.

5. Sprinkle sprinkle, stir stir, sprinkle sprinkle, stir stir, sprinkle sprinkle, stir stir, why the sam-hey is this not coming together?

6. Make a dragon shape anyway. Get dough all over your hands because it’s really too goopy to do this. Fend off design criticisms from the preschoolers.

7. Decorate with whatever you have on hand: dried fruit, in this case.

8. Pop that baby in the oven. When your husband peeks in and asks “That’s a dragon?” tell him yes.

9. When the timer goes off, realise you’ve burned the dried apricots but the centre still isn’t baked through. Cover with tinfoil and return to oven. Forget to reset your timer.

10. Pull when it seems done. Eat dinner and talk about angels and the great war in heaven. Say “after you’ve finished your dinner” about eighteen times.

11. Slay that sucker and dig in.

Transplanting

The last time we moved, a friend sent me an excerpt of a letter from Mr. Rogers to Amy Hollingsworth, a longtime friend who had moved to a new community (I think her husband was a pastor though I am having trouble tracking that detail down). He wrote,

Just as it takes a tree a long time to begin to grow again once it’s transplanted, so you can give your healthy roots time to find the nourishment of your new soil in your new community. (Quoted in The Simple Faith of Mr.Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth, p. 6)

We too are transplanting. Or being transplanted. Or however that works. Settling into the house, setting into the community… all that jazz. It is often hard to be patient with the process, even though we’ve done several of these big moves before and know (or should!) how it works. As the song from the Daniel Tiger movie about moving goes, It takes time, it takes time to make a new house feel like home.

One of the joys of where we’re living now, for me, is that we have a small back yard, and so I have been able to do some literal transplanting. I am very much brand-new to gardening, but I got eight plants in the ground this past week (2 ea. of foxglove, lupine, black-eyed susan, and English lavender). Here are some of them looking brave & perky:

We’ll see if they take — I am hopeful, though. So far so good. In our front there were already flowers waiting for us: some lovely hyacinths (they are done blooming now but I will dead-head them and see if that forces a second round), some tulips ready to open soon, and something else coming up that I haven’t yet identified. I can’t wait to see what’s there.I also have a new project on the hook:

This is the “Lotus Flower Blanket” from Hooked by Robin, and it is gorgeous. It will be a circular blanket, probably close to a meter in diameter once it’s finished, and uses a whopping kilometer of yarn!

I splurged with some gift money and bought the recommended Scheepjes Whirl yarn, which has an incredibly beautiful slow gradient — you can just see the pink lightening in this shot as it moves toward the edge. This is far and away the most intricate project I have ever done, with the most delicate (and most expensive) yarn I’ve ever used. So far so good.”So far so good” is about the status of our family transplant right now. We’ll get there. We’re getting there.

Hallowe’en and All Saints

Sometimes I mostly write a post and then forget about it. Rescued from my drafts folder, an account of some of our Fall:

This year we took the kids out trick-or-treating for the first time! We had previously let the holiday pass by unremarked — not out of any particular objection to Hallowe’en, but just because it seemed a lot of work for kids who were to small to get much out of it (or even eat candy, for that matter).

Anyway, our glorious run of non-participation came to an end this year as Anselm was old enough to clue in to the fact that something called Hallowe’en a) existed and b) looked like fun. Fortunately for me, neither of them has yet realised that children usually get to pick their own costumes, so I was able to (enthusiastically) inform them of what their costumes would be, after I looked around and figured out something I thought I could make relatively easily and cheaply.

Behold, a scarecrow and a bird:

For Anselm’s costume, I cut down an old shirt that my husband was getting rid of anyway, bought a cowboy hat at Party City, and the rest is just strips of yellow felt cut into fringes and glued to the insides of his shirt. The fringes around his ankles are just safety-pinned together with a regular pair of jeans over them.

For Perpetua, I started with a blue t-shirt a few sizes too big for her (I wanted both costumes to fit over a couple of inside layers for warmth), and cut and glued teardrop-shaped felt onto it for her front plumage. I measured her from the middle of her neck down to her wrists and cut two large wings for the back that would be long enough to come down and cover her hands; those were also just glue-gunned in place, as were the little wrist cuffs. The headpiece was all felt: a wide band with two cartoon-eyeball-shaped projections at the front, white and brown felt glued to that to make the actual eyes, and yellow felt cut like a slightly rounded triangle and then folded and glued to more or less look like a beak. I also glued blue feathers sticking up from the inside of the headband — you can just see a few of them in this picture on the sides.

The night itself was a success; we went out after dinner, and they got totally tuckered out after the first two blocks. Little legs get tired! We carried them home, sorted the candy, and that was that. Except, of course, right after Hallowe’en comes All Saints, so we were still celebrating the next day!

Our All Saints was very simple: I put a tablecloth on the table (nothing says “special dinner” like digging out a tablecloth, amirite?), made pan de muerto, and we talked a bit about the saints. Oh, and ate a bunch of candy from the night before, of course. The end.

I used this recipe for pan de muerto again, with a few adjustments. I was able to get my hands on some aniseed this year (last year I left it out), which added a really lovely flavour. I cut the recipe in half to get a more manageable size for our family of four, and I decided to skip the glaze. Last year the glaze tasted good, but it made the whole loaf crazy-sticky, which made it hard to cut and even harder to get off little fingers. The bread is sweet enough on its own, really. I forgot to get a picture of the loaf after it was baked, but here are my crossed bones during the second rise:

And that was that.

One of the most satisfying things to me as we build our family and liturgical traditions was realising that nothing has to be extravagant to be special. Simple works very well, as long as simple is different from our regular days. I look forward to continuing these traditions as our children age — even if it means that they will get to choose their own costumes one day!

In pursuit of the beautiful dream

I have an internet-friend named Véronique. Véro is a Canadian, Catholic, mother of nine (!) who lives not far from where I once did — we have mutual friends in common although we have not met ourselves, and we correspond from time to time. I’ve been reading her blog since about… forever. She also hosts a podcast called Fearless Family Life, and on her latest episode she tackled the subject of “Making room for your interests and passions in the middle of chaos”, prompted by someone asking her if there is room for personal projects in the midst of family life, or if motherhood is just supposed to be “enough”.

During the course of that episode she mentioned the book One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to them Both by Jennifer Fulweiler, which also looks at that exact question. I promptly ordered it from the library, and finished it last night.

This book came to me at exactly the right time, I think.

Jennifer Fulwiler is a mother of six who also writes books (this is her second) and hosts a daily two-hour radio show on Sirius XM. This book tells the story of how she found a way to pursue her passion for the writing life, even while dealing with the considerable household chaos that comes from having six children in eight years. Here’s an excerpt from the back jacket:

When Jennifer Fulweiler had her third child, she faced a crisis. As much as she loved her life, something was missing. It had been so long since she’d pursued her own passions that she was starting to forget what they were.

After being jerked out of her routine by an unexpected opportunity, she dared to ask: Is there any room for personal fulfilment during seasons of sacrifice? How can we use our God-given talents while still honoring our obligations?

Good questions. I think this is a struggle that is very relatable — I know it’s something I think about in my own life. Right now I’m a stay-at-home-mom and most of my day is taken up with the care and feeding and et cetera of two small children. And while I enjoy what I do, and generally find it fulfilling, I don’t think that this is all I’m called to do, either. There are things that are life-giving for me — reading, writing, crochet, singing — that don’t especially have anything to do with the vocation of motherhood but which are still pretty integral to what it means to be me. And while having a family absolutely requires self-sacrifice, as we learn to put the life of the family ahead of the life of the self, it doesn’t require self-erasing. The gifts and talents that I have are meant to be used and are part of the recipe for my own flourishing. And we shouldn’t imagine that flourishing as something that happens despite having a family, but something that happens in the middle of a family, and that is also for the good of the whole family. (Because if I am putting myself last to the point of being miserable and resentful… who is that helping, exactly?)

One Beautiful Dream is a funny, honest, and thought-provoking book. It’s given me a lot of things to think about in terms of the vision for our family life and my particular part in it. I recommend it highly.

I didn’t expect philosophical conflict quite this early

Anselm and Perpetua were born a mere 20 months apart, and so it’s been easy to predict most of their conflicts. They squabble over toys and compete for our attention — all par for the course at this age, really. What I hadn’t anticipated is that they would be engaging in philosophical debates. And yet —

It all started yesterday, towards lunchtime, when we were taking a long, meandering route home as I tried to find a gas station with a working air pump for my tires. Perpetua started complaining that she was tired.

Anselm objected: No, it’s lunchtime!

Perpetua: I’m feeling very tired!

Anselm: No! It’s time to eat lunch!

Apparently one is not allowed to feel tired before eating. Anselm prefers things to be in their proper order, thankyouverymuch. And as everyone knows, nap follows lunch instead of the other way around.

But it didn’t stop there. I will admit that I was doing my best to tune them out at this point — but when I tuned back in they had begun arguing the root issue of their respective positions on sleep vs. hunger: whether it was day or night.

I ask you.

I had been prepared to side with Perpetua on the issue of whether one is allowed/capable of experiencing sleepiness before taking the noon repast. Unfortunately she was now the one who had taken the unreasonable position, arguing vociferously that it was not day, but night. (I do have to admire her commitment. Nobody sticks to their guns quite like an almost-two-year-old.)

Around this point I was finally able to air up the tires, and the argument had petered out by the time I got back in the car. Anselm was right on its being day, of course, but Perpetua struck a final blow for her side by falling asleep in the car before he got any lunch.

I’m going to call this one a tie.