It's Midwinter! Celebrate Candlemas and Groundhog Day {February 2}

Friday, January 31, 2014

We are now in the depths of winter.  For us Marylanders, that has meant temps in the teens and snow sticking around much longer than usual.  For centuries, people have looked to the natural world to predict the end of winter and upcoming spring.  In the United States, this tradition is celebrated on February 2nd, Groundhog Day.  February 2nd is also a Catholic feast day: The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, also known as Candlemas.  Interestingly enough, Candlemas also has been a time for predicting the weather.  So let's get to celebrating us some middle of winter!


This year will be our first time celebrating Candlemas, and I'm excited for our family to learn more about it.  Candlemas is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin.  It is during Jesus' presentation at the temple that Simeon recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, as Simeon says that Jesus is "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32).  Jesus is "the light of the World" that brings us out of darkness, and so at the Candlemas Day mass, there is a procession of candles and a blessing of candles.    More details about the history and celebration of this feast day can be found at Catholic Culture.

Because I'm new to Candlemas, I don't have any creative or original ideas to post.  But I did find some great resources with activities and foods to celebrate this often overlooked feast day.  And, here's a song played for Candlemas!

Candlemas Tea
Cottage Blessings
Alice, at Cottage Blessings, provides simple yet symbolic menu ideas for Candlemas, including "Holy Simeon's Arms" pretzels, "Pure Hearts" strawberries and cream, and "Anna the Prophetess" cookies.  She has a knack for using symbolism wherever she can, even with the "Piercing Swords" toothpicks holding together the grape tomatoes and cheese.  Of course, she also uses candles in the celebration.

Crepes Recipe
Crepes or pancakes are also traditional foods for Candlemas.  Sounds good to me!

Candlemas Cookies with Drip Plates
Catholic Cuisine
How cool are these candlestick cookies?!  Very cool.  The answer is very cool.

Beeswax candle making kit
Make your own candles with a beeswax candle making kit, like the one above.  There are also kits with more neutral tones.  This would be a great craft with kids 4 and up.

Although the weather prediction aspect of Candlemas is not necessarily of Catholic origin, I don't see it as a conflict if we aren't being superstitious.  This is one of the historical rhymes to predict the weather:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, 
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.

Which leads us to another very popular weather-predicting holiday....

Groundhog Day

Being that the groundhog's party is very early on February 2nd, it is best to learn about Groundhog Day and do activities on the days leading up to it.  That way, you'll be all set to find out Punxsutawney Phil's prediction! I'm not going to go into too much description here, as this post is already super long and the links should be pretty self-explanatory.

Groundhog Day Slideshow for Kids

Basic Groundhog Information Slideshow


Groundhog poems

Groundhog Day!
By Gail Gibbons
Go to Sleep, Groundhog!
By Judy Cox

Who Will See Their Shadows This Year?
Who Will See Their Shadows This Year?
By Jerry Pallotta


groundhog day creative foods and crafts
Lots of fun Groundhog snacks
OhMy! Creative


Groundhog Day Coloring Page
Groundhog Day coloring page
Kiboomu Worksheets
Groundhog Day Poem Painting
The Educator's Spin On It

Wake Up Groundhog! Printable Book
Little Giraffes
Printable headband
Danielle's Place

Groundhog Puppet
Best Handicraft Blogs

Of course, the climax of Groundhog Day events is finding out whether Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not.  You can find this out on the news, or check out the Groundhog Day website for video of the event.  

Have a wonderful Candlemas and let's hope for an early spring!

Why I Am Pro-life and Always Will Be

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On this 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I was hoping to be in Washington, DC participating in the March for Life.  But plans change when you have small children and big, ill-timed snow storms.  And since I can't be there in person, I thought I'd share why I am pro-life.  

In the last eight years or so, I have gone from being apathetic about abortion to being a pro-life advocate.  There was no one moment, event, or epiphany that led me to become staunchly pro-life.  It was more of a steady realization of truth.  A learning of facts combined with a deeper moral understanding, that made it impossible for me to ever accept abortion or the killing of any innocent human being.  

Science has always been very persuasive to me, as it is for most people.  I was apathetic about abortion mainly because I was ignorant.  Everything changed when I became informed.  Informed of how a child develops in the womb, how abortions are performedstatistics on abortion, etc..  I'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has Googled abortion, looked at the images, and is not affected.  

After learning the scientific aspects, I looked at the abortion issue through logical reasoning.  In having discussions with some pro-choice people, I found that they were not able to answer the hard questions that were leading me to be pro-life.

If not at conception, when does the fetus become a human being?  
Pro-choicers have given me so many different answers to this question, and even the supposed medical professionals at Planned Parenthood haven't quite figured out the science either.  But scientists know that at the moment of conception, a human life has begun in the mother's womb.  It is not part of it's mother, but a unique human being just starting its development.  

At what point in a pregnancy is abortion wrong?  
Most people agree that late-term abortion is morally wrong.  But why then?  Some argue because the baby can survive outside the womb.  But that just means that a human being's right to life is determined by scientific advancements.  By that logic, babies in developed countries have an earlier right to life than those in third-world countries, and the right to life will change throughout history.

For those who think abortion is permissible up until birth, I wonder what the critical difference is between that baby outside the womb and one second earlier inside the womb? 

And if you are appalled at the idea of killing a baby born alive after an abortion, what made it okay to kill the baby just seconds before while inside his mother?

Our humanity does not depend on whether or not we are completely dependent on another human being.  Otherwise, it would be fine to kill already-born babies, children, a sick spouse, or an elderly person.  The bottom line is that pro-choice people don't have the answers to the hard questions.  

Besides science and logic, my daughters solidified my pro-life stance.  From the very beginning of pregnancy, I knew that a life was growing inside of me.  That new life made me very sick, in fact.  I could see how my body was changing in order to grow this new life, and it was a weighty realization that I was a helper in God's miracle of creation.  Eventually I could feel the swishing of this tiny baby in my belly, and then the kicks and punches.  The moment my first daughter was born, as I held this fragile, miracle in my hands, the gravity of the situation hit me.  This little person did not just matter because I already loved her and she was wanted;  She mattered simply because she was a human being, needing to be loved and cared for.

As a mother (aunt, friend, teacher), it is so clear that each human life is unique from the beginning.  Each has her own personality, body makeup, and facial expressions.  Each has her own developmental journey.  Each has her own potential.  But at the most basic level, each is a unique creation of God. 

There is no way that I can believe that each person is a miracle created by God, and think it is permissible to kill even one of them.  

When I think about the abortion industry, I think of the bible quote from Matthew 7:15-17, "Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves.  You will be able to tell them by their fruits.  Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit".

Our culture and many political leaders are leading us astray when they try to promote abortion as a good thing for women and a necessity for society.  Or even those who say they personally think it is killing, but they won't tell another person not to kill.  They are the wolves in sheep's clothing.  

Look at the "fruit" of abortion.  Are the fruits of abortion good?  There have been almost 57,000,000 babies aborted since 1973 (Roe v. Wade).   Abortion is the number 1 killer of African Americans, and in New York City more black babies are aborted than born alive.   Kermit Gosnell's house of horrors, where infants born alive were decapitated, went under the radar for years because organizations like the National Abortion Federation failed to report the deplorable conditions they found.  Planned Parenthood and other abortion doctors have been found lying and breaking the law in a wide array of undercover videos by Live Action.  This is also backed up by dozens of former abortion workers.  In Florida, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman defended infanticide, AKA killing babies born alive.  We are now at a point where babies are aborted because of their gender or a disability.  In fact 90% of babies determined with prenatal testing to possibly have Down Syndrome are aborted.  That is 9 out of 10.  And one of the earliest proponents of abortion, and creator of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger was a racist, who believed in using birth control, sterilization, and abortion to limit the "human weeds, reckless breeders...who should never have been born" and to "create a race of thoroughbreds".  Charming, right?

It doesn't take much to realize that the fruits on the thorny abortion tree are rotten to the core.  

On the other hand, I have found that the pro-life movement has an incredible amount of love and a deep desire to help all people, through all stages of life.  It is not simply about saving babies.  These are people who spend their time, talents, and money helping women who are experiencing crises, babies whose lives are at stake, and families who feel they have no hope.  These are people who congratulate and support any pregnancy, planned or unplanned, and any child, wanted or unwanted.

I have never been so sure of anything in my life as I am that being pro-life is right.  That is why I am pro-life.

Get it together, New Year's Eve T.V.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I've never been huge on the NYE thing, but watching the ball drop in Times Square is an American tradition.  I stayed up until midnight with some close friends, and as we flipped around on the major networks before midnight, I was slapped in the face by the crassness that is our media culture.  

I am not going to go into why I follow Pat Sajak on Twitter (because I don't really even go on Twitter or tweet), but I do and he is hilarious.  So you should follow him too.  And by the way, his tweet about New Year's Eve is spot on.

On NBC, Carson Daly was sitting with Jane Lynch, the guy from Hang Time,  and an apparent actress/comedian, Natasha Leggero (who I've never heard of).  To fill the half-hour before midnight, Daly's gang were giving "comedic" commentary on celebrity twitter pictures from the last year.  This included making fun of a shirtless Giraldo Rivera.  I believe the comment may have been, "nobody wants that head".  Justin Bieber's raised eyebrow was a talking point, along with the wood-paneled hospital room he was lying in.  Yes, people were actually discussing wood paneling in a Justin Bieber twitter picture in the final minutes of 2013.  And of course, no NYE would be complete without mocking Pearl Harbor Veterans.  

Did these people learn nothing from the whole Melissa Harris-Perry debacle just two days earlier?  You know, where time was allotted to caption Mitt Romney's family photo.  Race was brought up (surprise!), and Romney's adopted, African-American grandson was the victim of the jokes.

I just don't get it.  When did the media decide that this is how we spend our time?  These are the people who protest bullying and preach tolerance, but set a special time in their program to ridicule people.  The hypocrisy is astounding.

I didn't see as much of ABC's New Year's Rockin Eve, but I do know that Miley Cyrus was performing, and that in and of itself is cause for concern.  And of course Jenny McCarthy making out with someone.  Who is apparently her boyfriend, Donnie Wahlberg (I had to do research to figure that out.  Sad).

As a parent, I am thankful that my children are too young to stay up to watch the ball drop, and I bet I'm not alone.  I don't want to have to use every TV viewing as an opportunity to teach morality to my child.  "That wasn't very nice was it?  No, it's not right to make fun of others.  I don't know why they're spending time doing that." or "They are kissing because they love each other.  I don't know why they're using their tongues."  Sometimes I just want to watch mainstream TV during family events and be able to enjoy it.  I have enough teachable moments in my day!  

So if this New Year's Eve wasn't a sign of a soon-to-be Apocalypse, I hope the execs at NBC and ABC will consider avoiding the following in next year's NYE programs:
  • Sitting in a circle making fun of people (FYI: celebrities are people too.)
  • Miley Cyrus or any performer who is famous simply for showing poor judgement.  (Licking a tool used in demolitions may be used as a litmus test.)
  • Jenny McCarthy supposedly searching for someone to make out with.

If not, I hope they at least let us know in advance, so I can be sure my kids watch a different channel.