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What a mess.

I’m a terrible baker. Actually, that might be overstating it, since I’m not a baker at all. At. All. The amount of times it occurs to me to take the trouble to bake is shamefully close to zero. I’m not sure why this is – maybe I never did it before I got married? I didn’t do well in Chemistry? I prefer a chicken leg to a piece of cake any day? My mother is an awesome baker? So many excuses, so little time.

The thing about kids – or, maybe my kids in particular – they seem to really enjoy the fruits of baking. To them, being given something freshly baked is one of the greatest acts of love they can ever imagine. I can’t wrap my mind around it. Let’s be honest: they wouldn’t sneeze at a lovely piece of Costco-bought pastry. But freshly baked? By a person that they know? Who will even let them help? And lick the bowl? And the spatula and the floor? That’s heaven on earth.

My husband bakes. And let’s the kids help. And lick things. And together they wait in front of the oven and watch the magic of baking soda and baking powder in action. I take pictures of them as they make memories together and then go away and hide.

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a tough Lent. Tough for all sorts of reasons but look:


There he is and he went through all sorts of tough and awful and heartbreaking things because he loves me so… I’m doing my best to hang in there. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. The stats are not so great.

So it occurs to me to Offer It All Up and make a Super Big Sacrifice and conjure up an Act of Love for my little people. It is Lent after all. I decide to make Banana Muffins. While the one-year old was napping of course (I’m not a saint yet – baby steps).

I toil. I lose a few years of my life stressing that the baby will wake up at the critical Spooning of the Batter into the Muffin Cups stage. I even Clean Up Afterwards. The smell of freshly baked muffins fill my house. My shoulders relax. Thank you, Jesus. I really needed that.

The school bus arrives and crew marches into my house. They smile when they notice the smell.

“MAMA! Did DADDY make muffins?!”
“No… I did.”
“Did Daddy HELP you?!”

Our Lady of Sorrows. I can talk to her. She understands.


This was the hymn of the mid-morning prayer over at iBreviary. I had never heard it before and found this YouTube video to share with you.

At the parish
Kudos to the St. Clement School kids and their teachers and the folks at the parish office for putting together yet another powerful tableaux-style Stations of the Cross! You guys did such a good job! My husband only had to take the one-year old to the foyer (where he continued to compete with the presentation). The bigger little kids were enough engaged and were able to stay still and watch wide-eyed as Jesus carried his cross (“Is that really heavy, Mama?”). And afterwards?

One child: That was REALLY short, Mama. That was shorter than Mass!
Another child: That was WAY longer than Mass!
Another child: Was that a Mass? (Um, no.)

At home
At home, we’ve been trying the same format that we’ve been using for the past couple of years. We can only do about seven stations (max, sometimes much less) at one go before certain individuals get the giggles and then it’s over. Then we just start from where we left of when we get a chance again. One day, everyone will be so mature that we’ll get to the stations in the double digits… in one evening!

In other news
The one-year old is learning the Sign of the Cross! Right now it resembles Tarzan thumping his chest, but it’s PROGRESS.


Christ in the Garden of Olives, Paul Gauguin

From the bulletin: On Friday, March 28th (tomorrow!), students from St. Clement Catholic School will present each of the 14 stations in tableau form. With the help of scripture and song they will lead us through the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. A priest will be available to hear confessions immediately after Stations.

This annual parish event has become a bit of a family tradition for us. It’s nice for our little kids to have a special night out to see the St. Clement big kids present each of the stations, complete with costumes.

Since it’s Lent, we added this song to our bedtime prayers rotation, now complete with actions.

photo (6)

photo 5

photo 4

photo 3

photo 2
when you come into your

photo 1

Repeat and repeat and repeat.

We’ve all seen something like this, right? First put on your own oxygen mask, then place one on your children.

I suppose this would work well with Lent, too. Or even more generally, with living out the faith.

First, tend to my relationship with God,
then, worry about my children’s relationship with God.

Hmm… not that one should ever be worrying. A wise person once said to me, Try replacing the word ‘worry’ with the word ‘pray’.

Where does that bring us?

First, tend to my relationship with God,
then, pray about my children’s relationship with God.

Sounds good to me. It’s a good beginning, anyway.

photo (5)

They really taste better than they look. At least, I really liked them. They go really well with steak, and if it’s Friday, thinking about the steak that you’re not having is really very Lenten. For Fridays, they would be a nice side to the standard macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, fish, or even with just crusty bread.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Slice tomatoes in half and arrange on a baking pan sliced-side up. Sprinkle a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, some oregano, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil on each of the tomato slices. Bake for 15 minutes.

I would say about 25% of the kids enjoyed it. Everyone else took the mandatory Dr. Seuss Try it, try it and you may, try it and you may I say bite. The practice of trying out strange new food without making faces and rude remarks is a difficult work in progress, but I imagine it’ll be worthwhile. It occurs that I could even throw in a smallish lesson on what offering it up means. Or not.

The “Lenten Resources” page is back! Check out the link above (beside “First Communion Preparation 2014”). Please feel free to comment if you have any resources you think would be good to add to the list.

Father Zimmer’s homily from the first Sunday of Lent featured another Examination of Conscience to add to our collection:

According to the testimony of sacred scripture, Jesus began his public ministry in the wilderness of Sinai.

Alone in the desert, he confronted Satan. And in the strength of the Spirit he rejected all his works and all his empty promises.

Each year, at the beginning of Lent, we are invited to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are challenged to confront the reality of sin in our own personal lives.

For a variety of reasons many of us find it hard to make this examination of conscience. We find it difficult to verbalize our failures before God.

And so, I invite you to sit back, close your eyes, and ponder the following questions in the quiet of your heart.

Do I recognize God’s authority over my life? Or do I follow my own agenda, fitting God in when it’s convenient?

Do my own ambitions or desires, my career, or any need for human respect control my life, rather than God’s authority and word?

Do I open myself to the love of God each day through daily prayer and scripture reading?

Do I honour God by participating in the Eucharist each Sunday?

Do I reverence God’s Name in my speech?

Do I build up or break down relationships with members of my family, close relatives, fellow workers or neighbours?

Do my words or actions reflect self-centeredness?

Am I concerned only for myself, or do I show compassion and concern in word and deed for others, especially the poor, less fortunate, sick and suffering?

Do I recognize and respond to my obligation as a Christian to be aware of injustice in society and to foster justice?

Do I allow myself to be controlled by moods at home or at work?

Am I angry, bitter, or resentful toward anyone, particularly a family member?

Do I recognize the sin in my anger or do I savour it and refuse to let it go?

Have I forgiven everyone who has injured or offended me?

Have I damaged anyone’s reputation or dignity through gossip or lies?

Do I honour my parents, showing them proper respect and obedience? Do I give proper time and attention to my spouse, my children, my brothers and sisters?

Have I been cynical or disrespectful to legitimate authority?

Have I been truthful in my words as well as in my actions?

Do I give my mind over to lustful thoughts, fantasies or daydreams?

Has my conversation included obscene or off-colour language or stories?

Have I accessed pornography on the internet? Acted impurely with myself or others?

Have I respected the sanctity of all human life, from the moment of conception until its natural end?

Have I abused my body with drugs or alcohol?

Have I participated in the occult, fortune telling, palm reading, astrology or other superstitious activities?

Are there any other areas in which the Holy Spirit is leading me toward repentance…for example, past sins forgotten or deliberately covered over, troubling hurts that need healing or special areas of difficulty?

Together we have looked into our hearts. And identified our sins. During Lent there are many opportunities available for Confession. Jesus waits for us with open arms.

Just a short note to say that the Lenten Resources page is back up! Please let me know if you have any other resources that might help others in their Lenten journey. Praying that you and your family have a blessed Lent.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

The other day, an old prayer card with a version of Our Lady of Perpetual Help surfaced from somewhere (likely a bookmark found by a toddler “reading” through the big people books). This was the prayer at the back of it:

Marie, ma chère Mère, j’aime cette photo de vous et de Jésus. J’aime la façon que vous tenez Jésus dans vos bras, car en même temps vous me regardez aussi. Je vous demande de me protéger ainsi que ma famille. Aidez-moi à être aimable avec les autres, à répondre généreusement aux demandes d’aide, et à toujours apprécier toutes les bonnes choses que je possède. Amen

French! How cool is that? According to our friends at, it means:

Mary, dear Mother, I love this picture of you and Jesus. I like the way you hold Jesus in your arms, at the same time as you look at me too. I ask you to protect me and my family. Help me to be nice to others, to respond generously to calls for help, and still enjoy all the good things I have. Amen

Isn’t that a simple and sweet prayer? I’m thinking of giving it to my seven-year old, who will be receiving her First Communion in the coming Easter season – a little gift from Our Lady for a very exciting occassion.

Another version
When searching for an image to share with you, I found this cute version from a seller at Etsy:

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Flor Larios

Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Mother of Perpetual Help, you have been blessed and favored by God. You became not only the Mother of the Redeemer, but the Mother of the redeemed as well. We come to you today as you loving children. Watch over us and take care of us. As you held the child Jesus in your loving arms, so take us in your arms. Be a mother ready at every moment to help us. For God who is mighty has done great things for you, and his mercy is from age to age on those who love him. Our greatest fear is that in time of temptation, we may fail to call out to you, and become lost children. Intercede for us, dear Mother, in obtaining pardon for our sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to call upon you, Mother of Perpetual Help.

Trying to keep by Mary’s side as we face the Holy days ahead. These images of her and the child Jesus seem so far away from those of pain and suffering that we have been seeing during Lent. Keeping you and your family in my prayers during Holy Week.

One of my earliest memories was listening to my grandfather singing Were you there? He sang it quietly as he worked, maybe even absent-mindedly. He wasn’t a talkative man, but he was perpetually singing, usually a gospel song, usually quietly. Where you there when they nailed him to a tree? he would sing, while polishing his shoes, or while using the drill press in his workshop. He knew all the verses. Thanks to him, this song will forever be in my head. It surfaces when I’m working on something quietly, as if genetically programmed. It surfaces particularly during Holy Week. I sing it while washing dishes, or sweeping the floor, and my children are fascinated and listen carefully to the story unfolding. I may have heard a few of them singing it absent-mindedly, too.

I thought I would share the full lyrics, so you can let your inner gospel singer loose, as well as version by Marion Williams, for inspiration.

Were you there, Marion Williams

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

… when they nailed him to the tree?
… when they pierced him in the side?
… when the sun refused to shine?
… when they laid him in the tomb?
… when they rolled the stone away?

In these images, faith and art combine so as to penetrate our heart and summon us to conversion.
– Pope Benedict XVI, after the Way of the Cross in Madrid, WYD 2011

Deposition by Rogier van der Wyden

Be sure to check out a larger version of this painting. The rest of the Holy Father’s address is also really worth reading. Or printing and leaving out on the kitchen table.

Can anyone really resist drawing googly eyes on an avaocado and a tomato?

As a recovering picky-eater, I marvel each day at what my children are willing to eat. For some reason, my kids seem to really like avocados and tomatoes. Even mixed together. Even with other mysterious things in it. Our simplified guacamole is only a small part of a very messy meal that involves tortilla chips, sour cream (or plain yoghurt), grated cheddar cheese and salsa. I spoon a bit over everything (in neat, separated piles) into their bowls and they do their very best. Everyone has their own technique. Everyone’s technique makes a big mess (including mine). It’s a great lesson in staying calm even when your lunch is just not cooperating. As our three-year old says, “It’s messy, but it’s good!”

After dicing and mixing an avocado and a tomato, I add a bit of lime, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper. For adults, we use real Spanish onions and garlic.

Super cool tomato dicing technique
I’ve got to share this with you because it is mind-blowing.

Holding the tomato down firmly with one hand, start slicing parallel lines without slicing straight through.

Rotate the tomato and start slicing perpendicular to the original slices. Remember not to slice straight through. Leave a bit of tomato at the bottom unsliced.

At this point you’ve created little tomato fingers sticking out of a base.

Hold the tomato so that the fingers are sideways and cut out little cubes. Suddenly… diced tomatoes!

You’ll be left with the bottom part to just dice in the non-cool way. I welcome any advice regarding dicing avocados. It’s just a big mushy mess each time.

So green! So healthy!

It was 5:00pm on a Friday. All the easy meal options available in my fridge contained some sort of meat. After a quick consultation with all the stakeholders, we decided on our go-to meatless meal, macaroni and cheese. Without consulting the stakeholders, I decided to add some colour to dinner by cooking spinach in butter and serving it as a side. It didn’t sell very well. The kids dutifully tasted a small piece of shiny green leaf (as per Dr. Seuss’ instructions, Try it, try it, and you may. Try it and you may, I say…). No takers tonight. Except for me. I thought it was delicious.

Tonight, I simply sautéed the spinach in butter and added a bit of salt and pepper. After some online research, I might try this recipe, which involves a bit of garlic, lemon and crushed red peppers. Snow pea leaves, available at your local asian food store (just not in my fridge tonight, unfortunately), is also great cooked this way. It has a lovely, gentle taste that the kids are more open to (despite its suspiciously similar appearance to spinach).

From Father Zimmer in the bulletin:
A priest will be available to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with you on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after the 7:00 p.m. Mass and Friday after Stations. Two priests will hear confessions on Saturday, March 31st at 9:30 a.m. and from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Don’t wait for the last minute to approach the Lord.

Here’s some imagery that helps my daughter (and me) think about the Sacrament of Reconcilation:

Here’s my soul before Confession…

… and here it is after! Look at that shiny dresser, ready to face the world.

On Monday mornings, our kids and I have been trying out something new: daily Mass. At 8 o’clock in the morning, instead of heading out the corner to wait for the school bus, we pile into the van and drive to St. Clement for the 8:15 Mass. By the time the Mass ends, we have just enough time to drive to school for 9am to drop-off the school-agers. Because it’s shorter, my kids call it a “little Mass.”

Super nice people
The regulars at daily Mass are very sweet. This is particularly good since I travel with a bunch of kids who may or may not be very quiet or behaved. We have our days. Everyone is very forgiving of our antics and help us herd in and out of the Communion line. Fellow parishoners have even helped me with wanderers, throwers of stuffed animals and droppers of hymnals.

A pew all to yourself
I love empty pews – more room for the diaper bag, the coats, the kids, me.

A good view
Because the sight lines are fantastic and the kids are more relaxed, I’m finding it’s a great time for them to see and experience and learn more about the Mass. It also provides extra practice time for things like sitting nicely and being quiet, genuflecting to Jesus the Tabernacle, bowing to the altar, and getting blessed during Communion.

Getting to go
When one of kids say “Mama, why do we have to something or another,” I automatically respond, “We don’t have to, we get to!” I know eh, what a mom thing to say. Well, this mom is getting to go to an extra little daily Mass once a week. It’s been surprisingly painless and possible. It’s been surprisingly pleasant. I think it might become a welcome part of starting the week.

From Father Zimmer in the bulletin:

March Break is upon us. School is out from Monday March 12th to Friday March 16th. Parents, we encourage you to bring the kids to Weekday Mass as a family Lenten observance. Early risers can try the 8:15 Mass on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Slug-a-beds can aim for the 7:00 p.m. Mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Try dropping in to the Adoration Chapel for a quick prayer with the family at any time of the day.

Look at that lovely, clean bathroom…

Since becoming Co-Master of My Own Domain (read: co-responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, among other things), I gained some transferable wisdom: faithfulness is a good thing. When I ignore the bathrooms until it’s time for Health Canada to shut our operation down, then cleaning them is a Big Deal. Gotta get the mask on, the strong cleaners, the rubber gloves, the elbow grease. I feel guilty and it’s generally a bad scene. But, when I stay on top of it (that is, when I make time for tending to the bathrooms weekly or sometimes daily, depending on the “adventures” that happen in there), then all that is needed is a quick and painless pass-through with a rag and some light cleaner. Not a big deal.

Clean bathrooms, clean soul
Faithfulness is a good thing. It’s much easier to stay on top of the battle to be better by frequently examining my conscience. The more often I do it, the more familiar I become with my weaknesses, with the sins that I struggle with the most, with the occasions during which I fall. Then, all that is needed is a quick and painless encounter with the merciful love of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and ta-dah: good to go, equipped with the Grace of God to start again.

If it’s been a while
It’s tough to clean anything that hasn’t been tended to in a while. I find that some good music and a glass of wine helps. Not that I’ve tried those while examining my conscience, but hey, I might start. It can be humbling. It can be painful. Jesus, I haven’t examined my conscience in a while. I’m not looking forward to it. Help me do a good job. Help me be thorough. Help me do it for love of you and those you’ve put in my care.

Helping children
Children follow our lead. When they see us taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently, it can help them make it a normal part of their life, too. It also helps when we are humble and honest about our sins or mistakes. When we are merciful and gentle with them, they are able to imagine the mercy and love of God, who will always take them back, no matter what.

Online resources
The folks at Be An Amazing Catechist have shared a simple Examination of Conscience written for children. For adults, here is an old post that has two versions that are different from the usual format that is based on the Ten Commandments. A quick search with the terms “Examination of Conscience catholic” brings up a great deal of resources from online.

Images from the Stations of the Cross by Sister Marie Claire Naidu, Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bangalore, India

Going through each of the Stations in a simple way allows our kids to get familiar with the story of Jesus’ passion and death. This Lent, we’re trying to use this one from the Vatican website. Sitting together with the screen visible to everyone, we do this:

  • Someone who can read announces the station, e.g. “Ninth station, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem”
  • My husband or I read the little Gospel passage near the beginning of each station. (It’s in italics.) We simplify, shorten or skip this part altogether depending on everyone’s attention span.
  • Someone gets a turn singing: Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.(2X)
  • On to the next station…

While we’re going through it, there are many, many whys to answer. Our two-year old and three-year old wander in and out quietly, sometimes stopping to look at the pictures. Mostly everyone is quiet and thoughtful. The pictures are powerful and give everyone food for thought.

With younger kids, I imagine that one can simplify even further by just looking at and naming each station. Or with older kids, one could also join in at the parish every Friday at 7pm as they do the Stations of the Cross, followed by Confessions. Either way, bringing the little ones along on our Lenten journey helps the entire family prepare for the celebration of Easter together.

I’ve put together a page called “Lenten Resources”, which gathers a few of the pages online that have been useful to us during Lent in the past. It has a handy schedule for daily Mass and Confessions, a link to two Examinations of Conscience. Please let me know if there are other resources which could be added to it.

Update: I’ve just retired this page and will bring it back up next Lent. Happy Easter!

What is this?

Here a volunteer parishoner at St. Clement shares her personal experiences as her young family tries to keep the Catholic faith alive in their homes, living out the promises of their Baptism. Thank you for stopping in and be sure to share some of your stories as well!