It was Easter Sunday morning at 7:30 am, and the family was getting ready to get out the door to Mass. Everyone was pulling tags off sweaters and scraping stickers from the bottoms of new shoes. Eleven-year-old Maureen was searching for white tights, going from room to room asking her older sisters if she might borrow a pair. No one seemed to have any, and I regretting not remembering to buy new ones for her.
Then, suddenly, I had a thought.
"Maureen, go to my bottom drawer and reach all the way to the back. You will find a beautiful pair of white lace tights, and you're welcome to borrow them."
Twenty-two years and two days before Easter Sunday was the last time I wore them, yet, for some reason, I have always kept them in my drawer and never packed away out of reach. Those tights have survived four moves and countless decluttering sprees. This Lent alone, I filled forty bags of clothes to give to charity, yet the pretty lace tights passed through my hands, before being lovingly folded and put right back in the drawer.
Maureen was overwhelmed to be granted the use of this family heirloom.
"Please make sure you do not run around in them without shoes," I warned her.
"I won't," she promised, smiling.
True to her word, she returned them later as snowy white as ever. Well, just about as snowy white--and with an Easter memory attached.If I could do it all over again, I would have skipped the silly "garter ceremony" so popular in 1990s weddings. As you can see, ours was as respectable as possible.Still, I am grateful for that ceremony for one reason--without it, I would have no photo of those lacey tights from the big day.
How is it possible my sixth child is already big enough to wear them?
I cannot recall where I saw this idea, but somewhere on the internet an ingenious mother suggested putting small, appetizing, varied items in an ice cube tray for toddlers. Danielle usually does not like to sit down for a meal, but she will snack on this all day. The fruit juice gummy bears and Smart Puffs were the first thing to go from this arrangement, but she will get to the carrots by lunch time.
Another thing I like to do to get some healthy food into the younger ones is to make a "sample platter" for them while I am cooking. This usually consists of every vegetable that happens to be going into the pot--snippets of celery, a few broccoli flowers, a mushroom cap, even a bit of onion and parsley. If I call it a "sample platter," they will eat it all every time.
For a meatless Friday in Lent, we started the day with blue smoothies. They were more maroon than blue, and how kind of the lad to wear a matching shirt.
I started the vegetable soup before Mass with a delicious recipe that calls for eight cups of any vegetable you have on hand. In went every vegetable lingering lonely in the bottom of the refrigerator, including the rejected zucchini and yellow squash from a crudite platter.
For a light lunch, we had seven layer dip, full of beans and guacamole and deliciously fragrant lime:
By mid-morning, I was feeling pretty accomplished. The smoothies had been well received; the layered dip had just the right bite to it: and a healthy meatless dinner bubbled on the stove. As I was patting myself on the back for doing a pretty good job feeding the family on the second of three Ember Days, I noticed the tell tale signs of a cabinet raid:
"She's making herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!" came the excited report.
Someone was taking matters into her own hands.
Wednesday morning, I was thinking about the Ember Days and planning on how to observe them with the children. There is something so perfect in the thought of spending three days in prayer and fasting to dedicate the upcoming season, in this case Spring, to God. On the way home from Mass, I stopped for coffee at a local farm stand. So often, if we are learning about a new liturgical season, I pick up a piece of candy or cookie to celebrate with the children, but this was Lent, so it seemed unlikely there would be anything there for them. Then, lo and behold, what did I see by the register?
These had not been there the day before, and look at the price. Do my eyes deceive me? Five cents? You can't buy a jelly bean for five cents these days. I passed the grocer two bits and told her to keep the change, bringing home nine of these dear little watering cans. (Yes, the college girls each get one too.)
The children loved hearing about the Ember Days of the Catholic Church, the nearness of Spring and the symbol of the watering can, reminding us to nurture and tend the seed of Faith in our hearts. That and sweet straws of honey to remind us of the industrious bees.
You may notice a tenth watering can. Truth is, I picked one up for myself as well!
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week mark the "Lenten Embertide." Four times a year--in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall--the Church sets aside three days for the faithful to offer the upcoming season to God through prayer and fasting. Here we are in the bleakest, coldest part of our record-breaking Winter, yet the Church bids us give thanks to God for Spring. Not much is known about the origin of the name "Ember" days. So often, we think of embers as something dying--the last bright holdouts in a fire about to consume itself. Yet embers are better seen as something living--sparks of light and life lying in the ashes, ready to blaze again.
Ember days come clothed in purple and remind us of the promise of Spring. The first crocus of the Liturgical Year.
A day or so ago, I dozed off on the couch, later discovering that Jude (age 6) had been keeping busy by shooting dozens of photos. Here is a Jude's eye view of our life, saved for posterity.
Big brother is on the computer:
Can you find the two sisters asleep in a corner of the couch?
"Dining with Prunella" is a real oldie, going back to my one or two baby days. (Lissa, this book came from Rite Aid!) Note to self: break out the vacuum once in a while.
He photographed practically every page:
Not to mention a number of other books, before moving on to the toys in the room. His sisters had kindly left their dolls in a perfect pose:
Noah's Ark awaits the flood:
The dove is a model of patience:
Time for a duck-face:
Here is a lovely photo of Our Lady. Jude is starting to get the hang of this:
Well, would you look at that? A photo of Mom's legs as she lies slumped over on the couch underneath a small child. The Gunther Family Flop-house is packed today:
That's it for Jude's photo essay. Here are the proofs:
I read somewhere recently that the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday are traditional Spring Cleaning days. Unfortunately, it would take closer to forty days to Spring clean the many mystery areas this house, but I am going to try, starting with the pantry. Here is a before photo:
With the assistance of my team of helpers we emptied all the shelves.
I made a few interesting discoveries. For example, who would have suspected that on top of this group of shelves . . . .
. . . tucked in to the the right of those candle-birdcages, someone had a secret Shirley Temple making bar:
I found this bag of cookies and asked the nearest little blonde suspect how they had come to be opened. "I think a gooten-fee kid opened dem," she ventured. A gooten-fee kid, eh? A likely story.
Naturally, forts were built:
There is no better place to read Comic Strip Math:
And, here is the after picture. The pantry is now the neatest room in the house. The kitchen, on the other hand . . . .