Sunday, October 30, 2011

Easy, Low Cost Saint Costumes and Games

Last year, my daughter’s school was on holiday for All Saints Day, so I planned a number of crafts and learning activities about several saints to keep us busy.  This year, we attended an All Saints Day party hosted by my Catholic moms group, so we have lots to review about some new saints we haven’t studied yet.  

A few weeks ago, one of the moms organizing the party, Jessica, shared her idea for easy saint costumes: big t-shirts!  A tunic or dress doesn’t get easier than that, especially if you already have appropriate colors on hand.  My oldest daughter chose to dress as an angel and my youngest agreed to be Mary.  So, I raided our closet, grabbing my husband’s white polo shirt and my light blue t-shirt.  

For the angel costume, she wore the white shirt backwards with the polo collar folded in slightly.   We added angel wings and a halo from a store-bought costume we used a couple of years ago.  The folded collar looks purposeful and the angel wings cover the shirt’s logo in the back.

For Mary, she wore the shirt inside out (to hide the logos), folded and clipped in the back at the collar to slim it down.  A blue ribbon tied around her waist also helped with that.  For the veil, I used a white pillowcase clipped under the chin.  My friend Bea also dressed her oldest as Mary, and wrapped the veil around a hairband.

Vee at Paper Dali has collected links with more super easy costume ideas.  You can read her post here.  Also, be sure to check out her saint coloring pages and paper dolls; they are amazing and so fun to color!

Saint coloring pages are our main activity for learning about the saints; I tell the saint’s story while my girls are coloring.  If you can’t find the coloring page you are looking for at Paper Dali, you can find many more choices with a quick internet search.

Last October, we made images of Saint Francis and St. Therese of Lisieux on their feast days from wooden spoons.  The samples I’ve seen on-line were dressed with cloth, but I made ours by drawing a rough form out of construction paper.  Just fold the paper around the spoon, draw a tunic or veil that touches the fold, cut it out, and attach to your spoon with tape.  Draw a face on the spoon, and objects of the saint on the robe.  Leave the drawing to your children to find out if they were listening during the lesson.

We decided to have a parade with our images of saints, and made more with a paper doll pattern that includes all the shapes you need for different saint clothing and objects.  You can find the Catholic Icing blog post that includes links for wooden spoon saints and the paper doll pattern here (scroll down to the bottom of the post).  Link to the original source for the paper dolls here.

Above, you see Mary, St. Patrick, St. Theresa of Avila and the Blessed Mother Theresa.  Yes, we like saints named Theresa, and my girls sometimes want to make their habits more colorful.  However you make your saint images, line them up for a parade and sing “When the saints go marching in.”

The blogosphere is full of posts detailing different games for All Saints Day.  Xhonane at Familia Católica posted about simple versions that you can put together with items you have at home.  Her post also includes a link to the original source of her ideas.  Her Spanish language blog includes the Google Translator at the top. 

In 2012, I am linking with:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Link Up Parties for Catholic Families and Bloggers

My friend, Xhonané, has invited me to participate in her Liturgical Calendar Link Up Party as a hostess.  A link up party is a way for bloggers to share their posts about the theme of the “party” in one place.  It’s a great way to find lots of posts about the same topic, to get to know other blogs, and to introduce people to your own blog by participating in the link up.  For Xhonané’s link up party, each blogger who participates will host one or more link ups themed around an event from the Catholic Church Calendar of Feast Days for the coming year.  Since I am committed to learning more about blogging, and I enjoy learning more about how to celebrate Catholic events with my family, I agreed to participate!

Xhonané blogs at Familia Católica, in Spanish (with the Google Translator at the top for those who don’t read Spanish) and decided that with a group of bloggers hosting for different events, we can all help each other learn about and celebrate the feast days for the coming year so much easier.  You can read about this link up, see who else is participating, or volunteer to host a theme by clicking on the button below.  

If you also blog, consider participating by hosting a link up, or simply by adding a relevant post to one or more of the link ups scheduled, especially mine!  I’m hosting for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity scheduled for next June.  I gave myself plenty of lead time to learn how to make a button and host a link up!  You can learn too; we could learn together, if you like.

Today, I learned how to copy buttons, how to embed URLs for the host pages into the buttons, and how to place them in my sidebar.  You can see the two buttons at the top of the left sidebar.  The top button is for the inaugural link up of the Liturgical Calendar Link Party: All Saints Day, November 1st, and the next button will take you to the Liturgical Calendar Fiesta page (same as above).  Click on the button below (or the top one on the sidebar) to see all the posts participating in the All Saints Link up, or to link your own post.  This link up is hosted by Silvia of Homeschooling Católico (also in Spanish with the Google Translator at the top).  Some of the links in the party are in English; mine will be too.

I’m hoping to write a quick post about All Saints Day soon, so please check back for ideas about how to celebrate the saints with crafts and games, as well as saint costumes made with stuff you already have!

Reminder: check my Upcoming Events Page for information about two events where you can hear me read my poetry.  I’ll be on the radio and at a park in downtown Houston reading poetry next week.  You can RSVP for the park event at the top of the right sidebar.

If you are interested in more link ups for Catholics, visit Monica’s Catho-Link Library at Equipping Catholic Families.  She has collected link ups for many different events, so her page is a great resource for the entire liturgical year.

Also, at the new Catholic Bloggers Network, you will also find pages with links to Catholic Blogs, a Monthly Round up, Events, a Store, and much more.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Feminism and Respect Life Month

Every October, Catholics are asked to remember our commitment to life through prayer, giving thanks for the gift of life, and voicing opposition to policies that disregard human life.  Many pro-life organizations hold protests and media events highlighting their efforts to protect the lives of the unborn and occasionally, the lives of those on feeding tubes or those awaiting death row sentences.  As a Catholic and a mother, I see the need for these groups to broadcast their messages as alternatives in a society focused on preserving some lives over others.  However, as a Catholic, a feminist, and a teacher, I recognize that my commitment to respecting life is more complicated than the abortion debate, euthanasia, or the death penalty.

As promised in an earlier post, I will hash out the main difference between feminism and Catholicism here, by discussing the issue of respecting life, particularly the controversy over abortion, in more complexity.  For me, abortion is a less polemic issue than for many others, because I see it as part of a larger picture, rather than the picture itself.

This year, the leader of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese, Daniel Cardinal Dinardo, in his message about Respect Life Month, suggested Catholics “witness to the inherent equality and transcendent value of every human being.”  Equality is an important goal, but a difficult one for our contemporary society, which remains organized around maintaining differences in race, class, age, gender, sexuality, ability, and many more categories.  As a feminist, I am committed to promoting equality every day, including equality for those who are “the least” among us, as Christ asks us to.  In a society where power and resources remain mostly in the hands of men, women and children are “the least” among us.

For me, promoting equality and respect for life go hand in hand; I believe you must consider them together and work toward them as a common goal.  The current debate about abortion focuses on respecting the life of the child vs. that of the mother.  I believe we must consider another angle: how can we respect both lives at the same time?  By creating a society where all women and men are equal: socially, culturally, politically, and economically.  

When the human dignity of women is acknowledged with equal treatment in our society, women and men alike will take responsibility for their sexuality, will understand the awesome power of their fertility, and will respect the gift of life that may result from their sexual unions.  Under current societal structures, many women remain subject to the will of men, both men and women are influenced to sexually objectify their bodies and those of others, and many are ignorant about human fertility.  Under such conditions, respect for life cannot flourish, because men and women are not respecting themselves or each other.

While my image of an egalitarian society may seem idealistic, it is no more idealistic than the visions of others who have succeeded in the past.  Consider how much our society has changed since the civil rights movement.  Change is possible, and necessary.  Things move slowly, but surely.  Consider the Occupy Wall Street Protests; they ask for a more equitable distribution of wealth.  Equality in financial circumstances is an important part of what feminists fight for.  When all women earn the same salaries as men for the same work, instead of the 77¢ we currently earn for every dollar earned by men, married couples and individual women alike will be less likely to see children as a financial burden.  When all families and individuals earn wages that compensate them fairly for the time they spend away from their loved ones, children will be seen as the gift that they are.

During mass this month, we have prayed for the ill, for the deceased and their grieving relatives, for those serving in our military, for the end to all oppressions, for more respect of all human life, and for pregnant women who feel they have no alternative to abortion.  I strongly believe that working toward equality for women will provide those alternatives.  If women were equal to men in our society, fewer women would be subject to sexual violence and to poverty, and fewer would choose to preserve the circumstances of their own lives at the cost of their children’s.  Others may disagree with me, equating equality for women with more access to abortion.  I believe the opposite: an unequal society promotes a culture of disrespect for the lives of women and their children, and sees them as expendable.  Only when we are all equal will we all value each other’s human dignity the same as our own.  That is what I pray for this month.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Forthcoming Book and Virtual Reading Experience

I received word from my publisher, Maria Maloney at Mouthfeel Press, that my chapbook Fronteras is scheduled for publication next month!  I am thrilled; this has been a banner year for my writing, so closing 2011 with a new book is also the perfect way to kick off another great year.  (See my post Summer Writing News for more information about my writing achievements this year).  I must thank ire’ene lara silva for suggesting that I send a manuscript to Mouthfeel, and Maria for her patience while I put it together and revised many of the poems.

While the bulk of the writing is done, there is work for me to do before the book comes out.  I am thinking about the cover art, asking other writers for promotional blurbs, wondering how and where I will set up readings to promote the book, and of course, feeling joyful and ecstatic about the news.

One of the great things about working with an independent publisher like Mouthfeel Press is that I get to participate in the process a bit more than I would with a mainstream publisher.  I’ll be sure to write more about it as things progress, so watch for news here and on the My Publications page.  I learned a lot about publishing from my first experience with an independent publisher, particularly about how dedicated the individuals who run these small presses are to producing quality books and introducing those books to new audiences.  Thank you, Karen Braucher, for the work you did with my first chapbook, and thank you, Maria.  Each of you has done fantastic work for poetry; the poetry community would not be the same without small presses like yours.

I’m fresh from participating in my first virtual reading, which was also organized by Maria for the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum.  I really enjoyed being able to share the stage with readers from other parts of Texas as well as two other states; such gatherings are more difficult to arrange in person.  Several of us had to arrange for childcare, and one reader arrived late because she was stuck at work, but these arrangements are easier to organize than finding childcare for several days, paying for travel and hotel rooms, and requesting time off work in order to meet in person.  I “met” my publisher Maria and two of the poets I will present with at the AWP Conference next year in Chicago, or perhaps I should say my avatar met their avatars!  While we will still need to officially meet each other when we arrive in Chicago, I will now be able to recognize their voices.

I’m still adjusting to life inworld; since I don’t play video games or spend time in other on-line communities, this was a new experience for me.  The best part was hearing the poets read and having a conversation as a group afterwards; the audio quality was excellent and it felt just like having in a room full of poets in my home office.  The hardest part for me was moving around and adjusting the view.  I’m not good at walking through the on-line environment, and I often make my avatar bump into things.  The second time I was inworld, I got caught in quicksand!  The inworld view you see on the computer screen can be adjusted by zooming in or out and changing your angle, but I found it awkward because I couldn’t always look someone in the face when my avatar was speaking to them, or adjust the view so I could see everyone from the computer screen.  Maybe I’ll get better at manipulating the view with time.

Maria invited all of us to participate in future events and to design our own events and workshops, so I’ll probably plan something for next summer.  Let me know if you have ideas or would like to participate in some kind of free inworld poetry workshop.  

If you are in Houston, I hope you will attend my next reading, scheduled for Saturday, November 5 at 2 p.m. in Discovery Green Park beside the HPL Express library, next to the Lake House Café.  This is my second reading for Public Poetry, recently voted Best Reading Series 2011.  You can RSVP for this event at the top of the right sidebar on this blog.  I’ll be sure to look for you at the reading if I know you will attend.  Remember to bring the whole family to enjoy the many play areas at the park.  You can read more information about the other featured poets on the brochure below.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Birthday Rain

I am writing this on my birthday, and it has been raining and raining and raining most of the day.  I could not have asked for a better birthday present.  In our neighborhood, we have not had an all day rain in about a year.  Seriously.  While other parts of Houston have rained to the point of flooding several times this year, our neighborhood has not had more than a quick rain shower now and again.  The windows and doors are open, so I’m listening to the rain pouring off the roof, and I am content.

Fall has always been my favorite season, because fresher cooler air puts me in a good mood and gives me energy.  I welcome cool breezes after the long hot season, and I really enjoy seeing the leaves bursting with color if we’ve had enough rain that year.  I like to hear the crunch fallen leaves make when you walk on them, and I enjoy sunny days that are less humid.  Even though the days get shorter, in my opinion, the better weather makes up for that.

Here’s hoping the fall will bring us more rain; even with today’s drenching, we are still in a rain deficit.  Recently, I was talking with my friend Sylvia about how much the climate of Houston has changed since we were children.  We lived in a rainy city growing up, but now we don’t.  That is more than enough proof for me that global warming has caused climate change.  I keep hoping that we have seen all the change we will get, but I also know that predictions say we may get even less rain for the next decade.  Instead of the Bayou City, we may be a city of dry ditches.  I remember seeing green everywhere in this city; now everything is brown.  The occasional green patch or flowering field is an attention getter.  When my husband waters the lawn, birds come over from the barely trickling bayou to get wet.  If the drought continues, my children will know this city in a different way than I did.  Hopefully, they will learn to appreciate the rain, whether it is abundant or rare.

October is also a month of remembering for me.  I have miscarried two babies, and they both would have been born this month if they had survived.  They would have been five and four this year; I share the birthday greetings I have received and today’s gift of rain with them.  I blow my birthday candles and eat chocolate cake with them in mind.  My maternal grandfather’s birthday was also this month.  I have been thinking about my grandparents often lately, perhaps because I have been thinking of generational turnover: my parents and in-laws are reaching the advanced years, my husband and I are middle aged (our friends, too), and my children are no longer babies.  I see and feel new signs of time passing in others and myself every day; I don’t need a birthday to remind me that I am getting older!  Age also brings many forms of wisdom, and I look forward to being wiser.

In my wisdom, I have decided to put in a fall garden after all, but have not yet had the time to do it.  I may try some cooler weather veggies, like more spinach, cilantro, carrots, onions, maybe kale or swiss chard, possibly potatoes.  Since I have never planted this late before, I may need to rely on your gardening wisdom.  Any suggestions?

Reminder: I will be participating in a reading for the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum this Friday, October 14, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. CDT live inworld for the museum’s Second Life virtual environment.  More details on my Upcoming Events page.  I just completed the sound check for this event, and I’m excited about reading in a new venue.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Healthier Peanut Butter Sandwich

I have decided to add a regular feature to this blog: posts labeled “healthier eating” that will highlight healthy alternatives to specific foods or food groups.  We begin with the peanut butter sandwich.

Recently, my friend Crystal told me how she ate peanut butter and pancake syrup sandwiches as a kid, and how she had to ask her parents not to make these sandwiches for her daughter.  So, I started thinking about all the healthier peanut butter sandwiches my family has been eating the last few years, compared to those of my own childhood.

Crystal makes peanut butter and fruit sandwiches for her daughter.  We do too, because it is very hard to find jelly or jam or even fruit preserves without high fructose corn syrup or a chemical preservative or both.  The only one I have found at our local supermarket is imported from Lebanon: Cortas Fig Jam.  My kids will eat it, but they prefer other flavors.  I have made strawberry jam myself a few times, but since I’d rather use organic strawberries, it’s not really cost effective.  So, we slice strawberries, or bananas, or peaches, or apples (really, any fruit will do) and put them on top of the peanut butter.  The girls even like to make faces or other shapes with the fruit.

We also buy all natural peanut butter made with only peanuts and salt.  Laura Scudders brand has no added sugar, corn syrup, or unpronounceable ingredients.  When you buy it, you need to stir it, as the oil separates from the solids at room temperature, but if you refrigerate it, it will stay together.  Otherwise, you will need to stir it each time you use it.  Another alternative is almond butter (just almonds, sugar, and salt) or the no-stir almond butter with added date palm oil.  Date palm oil is a saturated vegetable fat that stays solid at room temperature.  It does not pose the health risks associated with saturated animal fats.  Do not purchase nut butters with hydrogenated oils or other saturated oils.  We buy MaraNatha Creamy Almond Butter No-stir because we can get it at our local supermarket.

Which brings me to the bread.  I have tried to get my husband to like whole wheat or other whole grain breads for ten years.  Finally, we found one that he likes enough to stop asking for white bread: Mrs. Beard’s Honey 7 Grain.  The label claims “No Artificial Preservatives, Colors, or Flavors.”  This bread does contain some questionable ingredients, but I am willing to eat those if it means I don’t have to listen to complaints about bread all the time.  Also, despite the 7 grains, this bread does not have that much dietary fiber, but we tend to eat a high fiber diet most of the time, so I think we’ll be ok.  One of these days, I’ll get around to baking our bread, but I have yet to find the time.

Nature’s Own makes a similar bread, and according to their website, they are removing high fructose corn syrup from all of their breads, so maybe we can find another one with higher fiber that my husband likes.  We are trying Nature’s Own Honey 7 Grain this week.

You may be wondering: Why do I bother to avoid products with corn syrup?  [By the way, pancake syrup is corn syrup with artificial color and flavor.  I’ll post about healthier alternatives to that another time.]  Believe me, it is not easy to avoid corn syrup, but it is well worth the effort.  Corn syrup and other additives made from refined corn are in nearly every single processed food and drink.  For this reason, they are major contributors to obesity and poor health.  American taste buds have grown accustomed to the super sweet taste of corn syrup and we over consume sweetened foods to feed our cravings.  Part of the reason we crave sugar and high glycemic carbs is because the sweet foods we eat are refined instead of whole, and they don’t contain the fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients present in raw sugar cane and corn.  We don’t get the feeling of being full from the fiber or get the B vitamins needed to process the sugar from refined foods, so we crave more.  All that low nutrient, high calorie food makes us gain weight.

Consider this: if you are eating lots of processed food, most of what you consume is refined corn and soy beans.  If you are eating a chicken nugget, for example, the chicken was fed corn, the batter is made from different refined parts of corn, and the oil it is fried in could be made from corn . . . your whole meal is basically corn!  All day long, you are eating processed foods, but really most of what you are eating started out as corn.  Your body becomes nutrient deficient, because corn is not a complete food, and most of the fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients are removed during processing.

If you believe the claims of the corn processing industry, their “corn sugar” is the same as any other sugar.  Here’s the problem with sugar (and sugar substitutes): it debilitates your immune system for hours and gives easy quick energy to cancer cells.  Frequent consumption of sugar and refined carbs that are broken down into sugars is also the guilty culprit in many adult health problems, including high triglycerides and atherosclerosis.  Children experience hyperactivity and lack of concentration.  Seriously, for your health, stay away from refined sugar whenever you can.  The healthier peanut butter sandwich avoids high fructose corn syrup in the two spreads and the bread and provides many more nutrients than the corn infused bread spread with corn butter and corn jam.  I bet your kids will love it, or at least, they won’t notice enough difference in the taste to say anything.  

Now, it’s your turn.  How do you make a healthier peanut butter sandwich?  What other healthy alternatives do you want to share, or to read about in this blog?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...