Monday, March 31, 2008

First Heralds

I have been thinking for a while about starting a new blog to post specifically about teaching the Catholic faith to toddlers and preschoolers. I finally did it, and a number of very kind people with little ones of their own have agreed to contribute. I think it is going to be good! Take a look at the list of contributors in the sidebar and I'm sure you will agree.

You can find the blog here, at First Heralds. If you wonder about the title, it was inspired by this section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the "first heralds" for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. (CCC 2225)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Turin Shroud

I have been using iPlayer to catch up with various TV programmes I missed over Easter. One was a new BBC documentary about the Shroud of Turin, the cloth impregnated with markings indicating it was the burial cloth of a crucified man, and long believed to be the burial cloth of Christ. It was pretty interesting, so I thought I'd share the programme's findings.

You may know that back in the 1980s radio carbon dating seemed to identify the Shroud as a medieval fake, dating the fabric to the early fourteenth century. This programme pursued mainly historical rather than scientific evidence, which convincingly dates the Shroud much earlier. Here is the gist of the evidence ...

  • Documentary evidence shows that there was a Shroud believed to be the Shroud of Jesus in Constantinople in the twelfth century. It disappeared during the sack of Constinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Shroud of Turin is known to have appeared in the mid fourteenth century in a French village. The knight who owned the Shroud was the descendent of a crusader who took part in the Fourth Crusade.
  • The Shroud of Turin can be shown to have fold marks consistent with being kept in a display mechanism that would tally with the way in which the Constantinople Shroud was displayed.
  • Scientific evidence shows that the Shroud bears real blood stains, of blood shed in both life and death. These blood stains are Group AB, the rarest of the main blood types.
  • There is another relic believed to have covered the face of Christ after the Crucifixion: the Sudarium of Oviedo. The blood stains on this cloth are also Group AB, and when placed alongside the Shroud, the stains in the head area can be matched up. The evidence strongly indicates that the two cloths were used to wrap the same body. (There is an article on this here.) The Sudarium is definitely known to have been brought to Spain from the Holy Land in the 600s.
  • The markings on the Shroud indicate that the nails used during the crucifixion where placed in the man's wrists and heels. Archaeological evidence shows this was the method used by the Romans. However, medieval art always shows the nails in palms and feet. A forger would presumably have followed the convention of his time, and would have had no means of knowing that this was inaccurate.
Why does the historical evidence and the radio carbon dating clash? Nobody knows, but the suspicion is now that there must be some error in the scientific dating. The scientists who carried out the test are now reviewing their methods to see if they are flawed.

Interesting stuff!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Yellow Music

I promised you trivia, and it doesn't get much more trivial than this. Yellow music to go with yesterday's yellow list ...

  • Big Yellow Taxi
  • Mellow Yellow
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  • Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Yellow River
And to raise the tone a little (and date me less), some classics for spring ...
  • Four Seasons: Spring (Vivaldi)
  • The Rite of Spring (Stravinsky)
  • Appalachian Spring (Copland)
  • Spring Symphony (Britten)
  • Songs Without Words: Spring Song (Mendelssohn)

Reader's Block

Am I the only person who suffers from reader's block?

There I am, reading away happily for a while, when wham! Along comes the wrong book at the wrong time (or is it the right book at the wrong time?) and suddenly I'm stuck. Reader's block. I can't get to the end of the book, but neither can I bring myself to let go of it.

My latest reader's block has been caused by Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners: a History of the Popes. I got maybe a quarter of the way through and ground to a halt. I don't want to give up. Duffy is a top notch historian and the book is a subject that interests me ... but it is a fairly dense read. A big, big subject, and small print, which doesn't help. I have to be in the right mood to pick it up, and mostly I'm not. And there are an awful lot of pages to go. But neither can I quite bring myself to put it aside. It means that for the last month I have read little other than knitting books.

Right, Bookworm. Move on! You have permission to stop reading that book. Or, rather, to stop not reading it.

In a similar vein, I have been short on ideas for blog posts lately (is it a Lenten thing?), but since Easter I'm bubbling over with ideas. Whatever writer's block I had seems to have vanished. Lots to write about ... Little Cherub snippets, interesting conversations going on elsewhere, plans, thoughts and just plain trivia. Now I just need to make time to do the writing!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Seeing Yellow

I haven't done one of these for a while, so here, for spring, are thirteen yellow things I like ...

  1. Daffodils - my favourite flowers
  2. Buttercups - another favourite. Maybe because I also like ...
  3. Butter - yes, the real, comes-in-a-block, saturated fat stuff. I justify only ever buying the real thing on the grounds that a little butter is better than a lot of low-fat spread. In fact, according to Tevye's biochemist cousin, a little butter is better than even a little margarine, which he wouldn't have in his house. (I'll gloss over the fact that he has since moved on to only using olive oil.)
  4. Sunshine - at least I think I do. Can someone remind me what it looks like?
  5. Sunflowers - big, yellow and beautiful
  6. Smiley faces - because they brighten up dull text much more than :) and ;)
  7. Bananas - yellow superfood
  8. Lemons - lemon sorbet, lemon mousse, lemon cake, lemon chicken, lemonade, lemon squeezed on pancakes ...
  9. Little Cherub's cute duvet cover - now I just need to paint her room yellow to match
  10. Yellow cars - supposedly the safest colour, because they are most visible. I was once the proud owner of a yellow car, until it died of old age.
  11. Golden lion tamarins - aren't these the cutest monkeys? One of my favourites at the zoo.
  12. The yellow brick road - can't you just see me dancing down it, off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz .. dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum ...
  13. Winnie the Pooh - the original, not the Disney version

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter Display

For the last few months I have been using this space on top of a storage unit in the sitting room for a liturgical / seasonal display. I'm rather pleased with the way my Easter one came out. I bought the little egg tree on impulse from Tesco - though I think it could be quite a fun craft to make something similar. Maybe another year? The picture is one I found online, printed and laminated. The wooden candlestick I found forgotten in a drawer. The cloth is just a square of white felt - I also have green and purple squares to use for Advent, Lent and Ordinary Time. Very cheap and simple, but t make it easy to incorporate the liturgical colours. In front is Little Cherub's liturgical year book, and the three knitted eggs (one is hidden behind the candlestick) are there because I had an urge to knit them and then had no idea what to do with them!

Leaving Home

Getting ready (note carefully applied back-to-front hat)

Time to go! What do you mean, I can't go for a walk if I'm not dressed? What's wrong with my sleepsuit?

Mind you. I'm not sure that I want to go if there is any of that odd white stuff about!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Easter Reflection

Not from me - I'm not feeling particularly reflective this year - but from Jennifer at Et Tu?, who reflects on her experience of the Eucharist since becoming a Catholic at the Easter Vigil last year.

Her initial response before her conversion was bemused disbelief ...

There was a part of me that kept hoping I'd find that it was all a misunderstanding, that Catholics were only required to believe that the consecration of the Eucharist was a really, really, really important symbolic event, that all that crazy talk about drinking blood and eating flesh was just some old fashioned superstition that us enlightened modern folks weren't required to believe. I was a lifelong atheist, after all. It was enough of a feat that I even came to believe in God in the first place. It was enough of a leap of faith for me to believe that some miracles might have happened a few times throughout history. But to ask a former militant atheist to believe that a miracle happens at every single Catholic Mass, that bread and wine are actually changed into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ despite the fact that they look exactly the seemed too much to ask.
Then she moved on to intellectual acceptance ...
When I received my first Communion at Easter Vigil last year I had come to accept that the teaching on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is true. Or, perhaps more accurately, I was willing to accept on faith that it was not false. I was undoubtedly being led to the Catholic Church, and found its defense of this teaching to be solid and compelling, so I trusted that it was true in some mysterious way, even though I didn't really get it.
And now, after a year of experiencing the Eucharist ...
This belief in and love of the Eucharist is the most surprising thing that's ever happened to me. Never in my dreams would I have thought that I could believe such an incredible, outlandish claim. On some occasions I have even taken a step back to look at it all as objectively as possible, to set everything aside and honestly ask myself if this is all in my head, if perhaps I am eating bread and drinking wine at the Mass, but that its great symbolic value has led me to put myself in a different state of mind. And all I can come up with is this:

If this is a symbol, then I am insane.

It's not Tolkien, but that's about the best I can do. The way this Sacrament has slowly transformed my soul and given me a connection to God that I never knew before, the way I could easily move myself to tears at the thought of not being able to receive it, the strength I have drawn from having this direct communion with God...if these things are not real, then nothing is.
Go and read the whole post here.

And I'm very glad she linked to the Tolkien quote, which I had forgotten about (and in any case, had never found a source for). I added part of it to my sidebar.

What Narnian Are You?

And you can add consistent to those qualities. I did the same quiz two years ago and got the same result.

HT: Theresa at LaPaz Home Learning

Monday, March 24, 2008

Glimpses from Holy Week

Palm Sunday
Woefully unprepared for Holy Week. Also woefully unprepared for Star and best-friend-F. I find myself in the sad position of finding it less stressful taking a 21 month old to Mass than taking a 9 year old. F's mother read them the riot act beforehand, with dire warnings of what would happen if there was a repeat of last year's sword fighting with palm crosses during Mass. Neither of us thought to warn them not to be palm trees. Waving, rustling, noisy palm trees.

Took Little Cherub to Mass, where she behaved beautifully. Joined two homeschooling friends for a Stations of the Cross afternoon. The children made plaques out of clay, with a scene of their choice, then we placed them round the garden and prayed the Stations. Cherub enjoyed herself with salt dough and a doll's house. I enjoyed a sociable afternoon and reconnecting with homeschooling life.

Nothing memorable.

Went to Mass again. I was tired and found the walk hard going (30 minutes there, a bit more back as it is uphill). Castigated myself for bemoaning a 30 minutes walk ... after all, who wouldn't walk for 30 minutes if they knew God was waiting at the end of it? Cherub untypically cross and agitated during Mass, for some reason I couldn't fathom. Realised afterwards that it was because the step-counter she had attached herself to had got left in her pushchair and she was not best pleased!

Woke up with a headache and general malaise, which doubtless explained why Wednesday's walk was such hard work. Mass of the Last Supper, which never fails to move me, this year included despite feeling limp. Struck particularly by the stark change of mood during the Eucharistic Prayer, when the bells rung during the Gloria were replaced by wooden clappers. No Cherub. No Star. Only Angel and she was serving, meaning I was child-free and able to focus (not that Angel on her own would be a distraction). Worked on putting together Cherub's Way of Light box.

Headache persisted. Good Friday liturgy, with Star and Cherub. Both well behaved, apart from a little service sheet chewing by Cherub once she got bored of "reading" it. I dithered over whether to take Cherub, but decided I would risk it as she responds quite strongly to things at Church being different - Ash Wednesday was good for two or three weeks of interest in black splodges on foreheads, and this week there has been much signing of "all gone!" over the purple covered statues. Despite a little restlessness during the reading of the Passion, she was very engaged by the veneration of the Cross. She wanted to "kiss Jesus", but was overcome by nerves at the last minute and decided against. I was thankful all over again for her Stations of the Cross box, which has kept her interest through the whole of Lent and meant that in her own small way she had some idea of what was going on.

Confessions in the morning. (Quote: "Star, if you don't stop that you will have to add being noisy in the Confession queue to your list!") Finished off Cherub's Way of Light box, more or less, and did some baking for Easter Sunday. Attended Easter Vigil with Angel and Star, who had been given the choice of coming with us the Vigil or going to Mass on Sunday morning. Twenty minute wait beforehand almost too much for her - much whinging about being tired and having a headache. Fortunately she was distracted by the interest of fire and candles and forgot her woes until the Vigil was nearly over. By this time I was struggling with aching head, aching chest (usually I love incense, but it just isn't good for coughs) and tiredness of my own. Some years the Triduum is an intensely spiritual experience; others, like this one, it is a case of being present and participating as best I can amongst the distractions.

Easter Sunday
Celebrated! Chilled (literally, as the snow fell). Coughed. Ate chocolate. Ate breakfast. Organised a chocolate egg hunt for the girls. Coughed. Ate more chocolate. Grandma and my brother arrived. With chocolate. Ate very large lunch. Ate more chocolate. Chilled (now not so literally, as the snow had melted). Coughed. Ate tea. Relaxed with a nice, medicinal glass of wine. And chocolate. Enjoyed a couple of treats from the BBC: the last episode of Lark Rise to Candleford, and a dramatisation of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

This is a first for me .... a WHITE Easter. At least the Daffodils match my spring theme!

May you have a happy and blessed Easter season.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Holy Week

Palm Sunday tomorrow and the beginning of Holy Week. I am not planning to blog any more until Easter. I am planning to pray rather more than I have during Lent. (Why am I always so full of good intentions, and so incapable of putting them into practice?)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Introvert / Extrovert

This post by Amy Welborn on introverted parents of extroverted children got Melanie thinking about parenting her extroverted toddler, which in turn set my mental wheels in motion.

I have always registered as an extrovert (in the sense that being with others charges my batteries) on Myers-Briggs type tests. However over time the degree of extroversion has narrowed, and now only just tips the scales into extrovert rather than introvert - 53% according to the badge in my sidebar. Oddly, I've never before considered how this relates to my children.

Angel is an extreme extrovert. Sending her to school was like plugging her in to a high performance battery charger. Stamina? After a day at school, she is up for anything! Her need for company is intense, which at least means she is not likely to be prone to the teenage phase of lurking in her bedroom alone. Homeschooling an extreme extrovert can be a challenge. We were lucky in that a combination of neighbour children and after school activities provided enough social time to keep her going. In our earlier homeschooling years, I had the energy and enthusiasm to take her out and about regularly to a mix of organised activities and informal socialising. Now, with my own need for that social charge lessening, I'm not sure I could meet those needs so well.

Star is an introvert, though I have only now realised this. She comes home from school tired, which initially I assumed was just a matter of not having developed the stamina to cope with a long and busy day, but now I think it is the introvert's reaction to a long period with others. When she gets in, all she wants to do is slump in front of the TV ... and this seems to be the result of a real internal drive, not just inertia. Thinking in terms of personality types, I can now see it is her way of shutting out the world and giving herself the chance to recharge - a classic introverted response. If she was a book lover, this is where she would disappear into a book. As she is not, TV provides an alternative outlet. I suspect half the time she is not taking in what she is supposedly watching, it is just there as a block.

Whereas Angel will never miss out on any opportunity to socialise, it is not uncommon for Star to refuse the option of a get together with a friend. She often does enjoy being with others and has many friends, so I think we have fallen into the trap of not realising that social interaction drains her. She very much wants our company, but she wants it on her own terms - maybe this is because fitting in with someone elses preferences also drains her. Looking back on our homeschooling years, Star was often on the edge of, or outside, a group by her own choice. I put it down to her away-with-the-fairies personality, and had never twigged that people tire her. I wish I had realised this earlier, as there are things I would have done differently. Too often I assumed that what was good for Angel would also be good for Star. As it is, I think will help me respond better to her needs in future.

I'm not sure about Little Cherub. I think she is somewhere in the middle. She is certainly not another extreme extrovert. I can remember Angel getting the same buzz as a toddler from people - any people! anywhere! - that Melanie describes in Bella. That isn't Cherub. On the other hand, neither is she happy in her own world the way Star was as a toddler. She sits back and observes where Angel would have wanted to be in the centre of things. Star - again with hindsight - showed some sign of discomfort in group situations, but Cherub does not. Cherub is used to a much busier household and more people around than was the case with the other two, and I wonder how much difference this makes - my guess is that it may make her appear more extroverted. I'm going to watch with interest. My hunch is that she and I may currently be in much the same place - needing a few social outlets, but also happy with a lot of time at home or out and about by ourselves.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Liturgical Boxes

Following a brainstorming session at the 4 Real Learning bulletin boards, I have put together a web page with suggestions for making a Rosary Box similar to the Stations of the Cross Box I have been using with Little Cherub.

I have also finished another page with a set of cards and box ideas for a Stations of the Resurrection Box to use during the Easter season.

Here they are:

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Little Cherub's Book Choice: Ten Seeds

We have been on a roll with good picture books lately. Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown is a reverse counting book with a difference, combining the number aspect with the life cycle of a plant. Starting with ten seeds, it counts down to one big sunflower ... then the sunflower dies and sheds ten seeds, ready to start again.

What makes the book is the quality of the rich and detailed illustrations. On each page one of the seeds or small plants is lost - to an ant, a pigeon, a mouse, a slimy slug, a mole, a cat, and so on. For a toddler these are the main interest, but Little Cherub also now likes to point out the roots growing out of the seeds, and the little shoots. Like many good picture books, this is one that we can revisit later at another level.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Google Calendar Glee

My love affair with Google Calendar deepens. I have made two new discoveries.

1. Google Calendars can easily be imported into iCal. That means I can then synchronise my calendars with my iPod Touch. As they are read-only in iCal I can't add to or amend them on my iPod if it is offline, but I can at least check my diary. If it is online, then I can add to the Calendars directly through Google Mobile.

2. I can set my menu plan up as a Google Calendar. This means:

  • I can adjust my menu plan as necessary according to what is on the calendar. We are going to be out one evening? Bump dinner to another night at the touch of a button.
  • I can see my menu plan at a glance on either computer or my iPod.
  • I no longer have to print out my menu plan and / or remember which computer I used to compile it.
Who would have thought a mere calendar could be the cause of such delight?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mothering Style

Your type is: ENTP —The “Independence” Mother

“When I held my babies, I always faced them outward so they could take in the world.”

  • Full of energy and confident in her own self-sufficiency and competence, the ENTP mother encourages her children—as a role model and as a teacher—to be independent and confident on their own in the world.
  • A “big picture” person, she points out options and possibilities along the way. Objective and logical as well, the ENTP wants her children to evaluate their choices and learn from the consequences of their own decisions.
  • The ENTP mother is resourceful and action-oriented. She likes going places and doing things with her children, exploring all that life has to offer. She is less concerned with rules, routines, and schedules. Introducing her children to new concepts and activities, challenging them, and stimulating their intellectual development are top priorities.
I put my ability to be relaxed about throwing my children out the door (well OK, not quite literally!) and letting them get on with things down to my years at boarding school, but it seems I am just naturally made that way. Or is my personality a function of those years at boarding school? Now I'm confusing myself ...

You can find your mothering style here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Cattern's Day

A snippet I discovered at the museum yesterday, where there is a section on the history of Buckinghamshire lace ...

Saint Catherine is the patron saint of spinners and lacemakers. Her feast of November 25th was known as Cattern's Day, and marked the point of the year at which lacemakers in Buckinghamshire began to work by candlelight. The day was celebrated with "Cattern cakes" and the custom of jumping over a lighted candlestick. This was the origin of the rhyme:

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack jump over the candlestick
The candlestick on display in the museum was considerably higher than I would want to jump over, particularly wearing long skirts!

I love the way saints' days continued to influence the calendar of ordinary people in England long, long after the Reformation. There is lots more about the lacemaker's year here.

It seems to me that St. Catherine would also make a good patron saint for knitters, who are pretty close on the spectrum to spinners and lacemakers. I can't find anything definitive about a knitting patron - a quick Google suggested St. Clare (patron of embroiderers), St. Fiacre (patron of cap makers and associated with a knitting guild in sixteenth century Paris), St. Dymphna (why??) and an unofficial patron, St. Rafqa of Lebanon. I'm rather fond of St. Rafqa, so I'm happy with this choice, but as St. Catherine is my name saint I have a definite bias towards adding her.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Prayer Request

Please say a prayer or two for Melanie, in labour with her second baby. Her waters have broken but contractions have stalled. Pray that they will kick in again and baby Sophia will make her appearance sooner rather than later.

At least Melanie and husband Dom have a laptop with them and the hospital has WiFi. (When Tevye reads this I can guarantee he will be horrified!)

Edited to add: I see Melanie just commented on my previous post. Must be the first (and probably last!) time anyone has read my blog while in a labour ward!

History for Toddlers

Little Cherub and I finally took last week's postponed trip to the Buckinghamshire County Museum. She had a ball! We went by bus, which she considers a treat, and since I last visited the museum has become one of the most child-friendly I've been to. We stayed for two hours and she would happily have stayed longer. The Museum has a Roald Dahl Gallery with even more hands-on things to explore, but we didn't make it that far. That section has an entry charge (the main museum is free), so I decided I would see how much there was that would interest her in the rest of the museum first. Lots, as it turned out! Victorian toys to play with, a large wooden train with goods and drivers to slot in, drawers to open and close (and point in admiration at the contents, even though she had no idea what they were!), peep holes to peep through ...

Here she is testing out a Victorian hip-bath ...

And dressing Tudor girls ...

The main building looks Georgian from the outside, but inside it is a hotch-potch built round a Tudor core. This was only discovered in the late 20th century, and the upstairs rooms have been restored to show the Tudor features. The original Tudor building dates from the later fifteenth century, and was built not as a house but as a community facility for the Fraternity of the Virgin Mary, a lay society attached to the nearby Church of St. Mary. After the Fraternity was dissolved at the Reformation the building passed into private hands.

Here is one of the beamed Tudor rooms (though with a Georgian window, to fit with the facade). The Museum website suggests that this part of the building may have been living accommodation for a priest, reached by an external staircase.

After our museum visit we took lunch to the park (sadly, one of the most underwhelming town centre parks I've seen, with a few sorry looking flower beds, threadbare grass, a disintegrating hard surface that was once tennis courts and a row of trees pollarded within an inch of their lives). Then Cherub fell asleep in her pushchair and I pottered around the shops until it was time for our bus home.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Picture Books

I've just had a mid-Lent online shopping splurge. Two batches of yarn from eBay to make these sweaters, and a book order from Amazon. I decided our picture books could use a top up.

On their way for little cherub are ...

Also in my shopping basket were Wholly Irresponsible Experiments (Sean Connolly), to put away for Star's birthday, and the DVD Stardust for Angel's birthday.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

My Personality Profile

ENTP, Originator, Intellectual, Linguistic, Logical

That's me, according to

Click to view my Personality Profile page
HT: Romany