Author Archive for Marcia Mattern

Saintly Peg Dolls

halloween image

Our peg dolls are smiling from the table. Little hands reach up to collect a few. Then we chat about who this saint was and is. Have you heard about the rage of saint dolls for Catholic children?

Meet some of our peg dolls.

peg doll3

peg doll2

peg doll1

I’ve been painting small pegs of wood for many years. Sometimes I do a few at a time.   Imagine the simplicity of having a small image of a saint that mom would allow a child to carry around! The thrill of having your own likeness of a saint for your very own! My young children love it! I hear them play in the voice and character of each saint. It’s an awesome way to work out the understanding of what you have learned about a saint. We are encouraged to grow in faith and virtue as we learn about someone who strived before us.

Last summer I painted 20 of the same saint and traded dolls with some other moms. I began with a gentle sanding of the wood with fine grit sand paper. Then a gentle buffing with a cloth. Next required some study and imagination to translate 2D images depicting a saint into a 3D simple drawing. Each layer of paint was given to the wood with adequate time to draw.   I wondered if it was similar to how an icon is written. There was much time waiting for the paint to dry. When I had finished with all the paint, I gave three coats of protectant to the dolls. Again this required a waiting for the paint to dry between each layer. I was learning patience and so were my children!

Now these saints grace our children’s tables and move throughout the house as reminders. These saints are showing us how to be more like Jesus whether in our work or in our play.

Resources

Would you like to make your own saintly peg dolls? Here are some resources:

Paint a Peg Saint Tutorial. This is a great step-by-step tutorial for getting started on your saintly peg collection.

Easy Peg Dolls. Lacy at Catholic Icing has made it easy for anybody to make saint peg dolls. She offers patterns of the saint’s body to decoupage onto your peg, then you only need to paint the head.

The Rosary Box

rosary boxtitleEditor’s Note: As it’s the Month of the Holy Rosary, please enjoy this repost of a wonderful idea presented by Marcia last year: The Rosary Box. LOVE this!

Four years ago, when I had four children aged 10, 7, 5 and 2, I realized we didn’t have a good handle on the mysteries of the Rosary.  My husband, having grown up in a Catholic family and having attended Catholic schools, was quite proficient on knowing the mysteries.

I felt our practice of praying the rosary could be improved.  When we had one child, we could pray a whole rosary as a family in the evening.  The one quiet daughter would happily sit on our laps or hold a rosary near us during prayer time.  When we had two and three children, we switched to praying just a decade as a family in the evening.  Twenty minutes of quiet before bed seemed so difficult to impose by this mother.  Our prayer time would collapse in mother’s disappointment.  Most often it was mother’s disappointment in her lack of patience.

Fast forward to four kids.  There had to be a way to help them focus for 20 minutes!  I began to look for simple images to convey the mysteries.  There are lots of resources on the internet.   Some very beautiful.  Some very traditional American.  Some very basic.  I purchased this durable book: Mysteries of the Rosary for Children by Cy Speltz.

rosary cy speltz

rosarysorrow

Images only work great for those that can visualize and sit still!  So I began to think developmentally for my 5 year old and 2 year old.  What could help them?  What things did I already have around the house?  What things could I find simply, inexpensively?  What could represent the mysteries as a small manipulative?

At a local crafting store, I found four small cardboard boxes (about 3×3 each) which could fit into a larger box (about 8×8).

I collected five small images and 5 small manipulatives for each of four boxes.   Putting this work together for the child forced me to think through and be more familiar with the mysteries myself!

I covered each box in what I thought was appropriate themed paper.  For the Joyful mysteries, a happy floral paper.  For the Luminous, a shining paper.  For the Glorious, a gold paper.  For the Sorrowful, a sad blue paper.  The larger box that houses all our items, I covered in a red paper.  Each box has a label.  I also added a few handmade rosaries and a couple of simple booklets for children about the rosary.

rosary box2

rosary box

There isn’t a magic item for the boxes.  Any object that creates a memory device for you or your child works.  In our Joyful mysteries box, we have a small dove for the mystery of the Annunciation, a spring for the Visitation, a small wooden baby for the Nativity, two small birds for the Presentation in the temple and a scroll for the Finding in the temple.  If you were creating this for a younger than 3 year old child, you might wish to increase the size of the items and the boxes to prevent choking hazards.

In our house, these boxes appeal to children who are about three to seven years old.  I encourage the children to remove one box at a time. During a child’s own quiet prayer time, I observe them using this box.  When we pray as a family, the younger children remove the objects and images.  It is a great memory game to return all 20 mystery items to their correct boxes.

Using this rosary box, does not promise peacefully well-behaved children during the family rosary.  It does mean that there might be more participation from the younger crowd in your home.  And you just might be inspired to pray as a family more often.

The Rosary Box

rosary buttonFour years ago, when I had four children aged 10, 7, 5 and 2, I realized we didn’t have a good handle on the mysteries of the Rosary.  My husband, having grown up in a Catholic family and having attended Catholic schools, was quite proficient on knowing the mysteries.

I felt our practice of praying the rosary could be improved.  When we had one child, we could pray a whole rosary as a family in the evening.  The one quiet daughter would happily sit on our laps or hold a rosary near us during prayer time.  When we had two and three children, we switched to praying just a decade as a family in the evening.  Twenty minutes of quiet before bed seemed so difficult to impose by this mother.  Our prayer time would collapse in mother’s disappointment.  Most often it was mother’s disappointment in her lack of patience.

Fast forward to four kids.  There had to be a way to help them focus for 20 minutes!  I began to look for simple images to convey the mysteries.  There are lots of resources on the internet.   Some very beautiful.  Some very traditional American.  Some very basic.  I purchased this durable book-Mysteries of the Rosary for Children by Cy Speltz.

rosarysorrow

 

Images only work great for those that can visualize and sit still!  So I began to think developmentally for my 5 year old and 2 year old.  What could help them?  What things did I already have around the house?  What things could I find simply, inexpensively?  What could represent the mysteries as a small manipulative?

At a local crafting store, I found four small cardboard boxes (about 3×3 each) which could fit into a larger box (about 8×8).

I collected five small images and 5 small manipulatives for each of four boxes.   Putting this work together for the child forced me to think through and be more familiar with the mysteries myself!

I covered each box in what I thought was appropriate themed paper.  For the Joyful mysteries, a happy floral paper.  For the Luminous, a shining paper.  For the Glorious, a gold paper.  For the Sorrowful, a sad blue paper.  The larger box that houses all our items, I covered in a red paper.  Each box has a label.  I also added a few handmade rosaries and a couple of simple booklets for children about the rosary.

rosary box

rosary box2

There isn’t a magic item for the boxes.  Any object that creates a memory device for you or your child works.  In our Joyful mysteries box, we have a small dove for the mystery of the Annunciation, a spring for the Visitation, a small wooden baby for the Nativity, two small birds for the Presentation in the temple and a scroll for the Finding in the temple.  If you were creating this for a younger than 3 year old child, you might wish to increase the size of the items and the boxes to prevent choking hazards.

In our house, these boxes appeal to the 3-7 year old age children.  I encourage the children to remove one box at a time. During a child’s own quiet prayer time, I observe them using this box.  When we pray as a family, the younger children remove the objects and images.  It is a great memory game to return all 20 mystery items to their correct boxes.

Using this rosary box, does not promise peacefully well-behaved children during the family rosary.  It does mean that there might be more participation from the younger crowd in your home.  And you just might be inspired to pray as a family more often.

Living the Year of Faith: Hospitality

year of faith photo
As I looked towards this new Year of Faith from October 2012 through November 2013, I wanted to create some memories for my family. In our family we discussed different options to no avail. Then my husband suggested we focus on what we already do and give it an extra emphasis.  We found inspiration in a command from Romans 12:13: Contribute to the needs of the saints; practice hospitality.

So when encouraged, I realized, we provide the gift of hospitality.  Our family welcomes others on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. And we wanted to use this year to pull out all the stops. Not only did we want to host people, but we wanted their visit in our home and with our family to be one that encouraged them in the faith. We wanted them to leave our house loving our heavenly Father more.

So we thought about how we might accomplish this goal.  Romans 15:7 exhorts us to welcome others as if they were Christ. Is that something I can do each time someone enters my home? Will we, as a family, be willing to give persons a welcome feeling without any judgment? Can we give them true friendship? Can we see them as Jesus in our midst (Matthew 25:35)?

When I looked up “hospitality” in the Biblical dictionary, I saw that hospitality was of vital importance to survival in the desert. We in 2012, too, live in a desert of sorts . . . in which meals together are lost in the desert of technology. So we welcome strangers, families and friends around our table and the media is off (that’s TV, phone, and mobile devices!).

Is there any better way to treat someone than to give them food and drink? To link to the Eucharistic banquet that we share at the Mass to the communion we have over a meal? Isn’t sharing a meal with others a foretaste of the Parousia?

Each time I sit at our dining room table, I remember the visitation of the three to Abraham in Genesis 18.  Isn’t God with us? Are you familiar with the Rublev icon in which there is a place open for those looking at the icon to join the three at the table?

rublev-angels-at-mamre-trinity1

The Trinity welcomes us into the life of God and we can share the love of Christ with those who eat at our table. We keep this icon on the wall in our dining room. Just a glance around the table scans this icon and reminds us to join the Trinity in our behavior at meals.

Besides changing our mind set, I did a simple, yet often forgotten, step to make this year extra hospitable. I purchased a “year of faith” hospitality guest book.

Guest_Book
 

Each time someone visits our house, we encourage them to sign their name.  I hope it to be a great way to remind us of the images of God who pass through our doors in 2013.

At the end of the Year of Faith, we hope that we will have witnessed some trends. Seeing Jesus in those we meet. Deeper engagement in our Faith. Laughter. Joy. And a little taste of heaven here below around the dining room table.

Empathic Response

According to Dr. William Sears, being emotionally responsive to your child is of paramount importance in parenting. It’s something that begins early and continues to grow as you and your child grow.  Because of this empathy, only you become the best-educated person on your own child.

Our Catholic faith tells us that we are the first educators of our children. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2221+) In our choices of response or restraint, we teach our children about the Father’s love.  Positive response is love.  Positive response means specifically responding with what is good to the very particular needs of the child at a particular time.  God himself gives of himself in a particular way to us (through his very self) and we, as parents, learn to imitate this love of God to our children.

A mother gives of her physical self during pregnancy and nursing.  A father learns self-denial and restraint in educating through life and atmosphere to his children.  His response to his child gives a child his/her first education of what a heavenly Father is like.  For me, the first part of being empathically responsive to my child is to find a calm in myself.  When I am at peace with myself, I am much more able to respond to the daily needs of each of my children.  And birth is just the beginning of a life of responding to a child!

The Saint Francis of Assisi prayer can be one to help you find peace in a tense moment with a child.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

Or in the heat of a moment we may find assistance in an even simpler prayer such as “Mary Queen of Peace, pray for me!”.

The initial response of a mother to a child at birth might include skin to skin contact. Skin to skin contact is proven to increase the mother-child bond. As the child calms at the mothers chest or breast, the mother receives both emotional and physical benefits. This begins a beautiful circle of growth for mothers to continue to respond to their children’s needs for years.

An emotionally responsive mother uses all her senses to notice her child’s needs. In the beginning years, when communication from an infant is all noise and body movements, a mother learns to identify the need behind specific cries. She sees and learns that a fist placed near a mouth might mean “I’m hungry”. The changes in baby’s breathing patterns teaches a mother through hearing that someone is lonely or tired. A mother can even smell the need for a diaper change!

 

Keeping a child near mother both during awake and asleep times can help the mother to respond quickly to her needs. I’ve found babywearing to be particularly helpful in noticing changes in babies’ needs. During the night, having a baby near mom makes for a quick response. Safe co-sleeping allows a parent to respond to a child before they reach a panic state. If a mother is breastfeeding, she will be able to return to sleep more quickly when baby is with her in the bed.  (The benefit for mother to have extended infertility is great too!)

When a baby is responded to quickly, she begins to trust her parent. This becomes a strong bond that lasts for life. A parent must continue to grow this relationship everyday. As a child grows, the parent finds new ways to respond to needs/wants/requests. With each response to our child, we teach our child. Learning to respond with clear boundaries and expectations allows us to balance our child’s needs with our own.  As children reach two years of age, they can learn through our gentle communication that sometimes a response means “wait” and sometimes it means “no”.  This is a way that parents can teach virtue.

God’s emotional responsiveness was shown to Adam and Eve and recorded in the Old Testament. His presence (Shekinah) to his chosen people, the Hebrews, went before them as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. This showed them that God was both present to them and protecting them. (Exodus 13:21) In the New Covenant, Jesus came physically to us as a human and remains with us physically after every Mass. God also sent the Holy Spirit to be continually present with us until his return. (John 16:5-15)

Empathic responsiveness toward toddlers, who are yet to develop words for how they feel, requires us to decode their behavior. According to Pam Leo, in her book Connection Parenting, “decoding behavior means looking for the intention behind the action.” When children act, they are communicating. It’s a parent’s responsibility to help them communicate their need until they are old enough to meet their own needs. We, as adults, might give them words to say such as “you are feeling angry about Tim taking that toy from you.” This list helps me to know different ways to share how kids are feeling (and for myself at times too). As parents it’s also our responsibility to follow up by saying “It’s not okay to hit Tim when he takes your toy.” “Let’s tell Tim that it hurts you when he takes your toy without asking.”

As children find their voice, they can share their needs and wants. We, as adults, can see the many blessings that God gives us without us even voicing our needs (though sometimes we need reminders to see them!). It becomes a gift when parents can respond to their child before their child even asks for a need. This might be through preparing a snack for a long morning away from the house with the knowledge that hunger comes after shopping with a toddler. Some parents might find a child is emotionally exhausted after trips away from the home and so they plan down time accordingly for that child. A parent might plan for a longer night-time routine when having been away from a child during the day.

As children reach school age, responsiveness can mean walking away from daily distractions and purposefully carving out time just for our child.  This might mean finding a project to share together on a continued basis or as simple as a weekly walk in the woods. By having this one-on-one time together, we foster a powerful but quiet togetherness. In those moments of quiet work and play, a child feels safe enough to share his feelings with a parent. It can be a tender time of continued growth in the relationship between child and parent. For me, sewing with my daughters and gardening with my son allow us to have time to share and quiet companionship.

Empathic responsiveness begets more empathic responsiveness. When children see parents responding to their siblings, they too want to be emotionally responsive. This carries on down the line. When children’s emotional cups are filled, they are much more able to respond to the needs and concerns of others.

Do you remember those cheesy bumper stickers from the 80’s?

I’d like to challenge you a step further:  How will you be emotionally responsive to your child today?

Ways to Bond With Your Baby Before Birth

Editor’s note:  Please welcome Marcia Mattern, CAPC’s newest contributor!  A convert to our Catholic Faith, Marcia lives in Illinois with her husband and 5 children where she’s active in her parish.  For the next few months, Marcia’s articles will consider CAPC’s 7 Building Blocks for a Family-Centered Home©.

 

Marcia Mattern with her family excited and waiting for the birth of her 5th baby!! Photo copyright Marcia Mattern

 

We often think of bonding with baby after they are born….but we can begin even earlier!

A Catholic couple prepares for childbirth by embracing their mutual fertility and welcoming children consciously with God’s gift of life.

Before Conception:

Systematic observations of fertility (tracking the wife’s basal temperature and cervical mucus) allow a couple to see a woman’s natural signs of fertility.  With this knowledge, the couple can make responsible choices of spacing birth.  There are many good choices for Natural Family Planning (NFP) such as Creighton, Couple to Couple League, and Northwest.

Even before conceiving a new life, parents may ask God to intercede in the growth and health of the developing child.  Mothers traditionally ask for the intercession of  St. Gerard  and St. Margaret of Antioch  regarding conception and pregnancy.

In times of difficulty in conceiving, spouses welcome more education and instruction to comply completely with the requirements of our Catholic Faith.  For these couples, welcoming a new life through spiritual adoption is a comfort and a blessing.

Newly Expecting: 

Upon conception, parents can find peace in receiving a blessing upon the new life.  In 2012, the United States Bishops released a prayer which parents may ask for by their priest:  Rite-for-the-Blessing-of-a-Child-in-the-Womb.

Some Catholic parents find passages from the Holy Bible to give them comfort during pregnancy.  We can find several passages that show the amazing power of God in taking part in creating the life in the womb of the Mother.  Psalm 139:13 might be the most well know passage “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb”.

Other passages supporting God’s handiwork include: Wisdom 7:1, Ecclesiastes 11:5 and Job 1:21.

Preparing for Birth: 

Parents may wish to take childbirth classes to educate themselves about this new gift of life.  Reading books and watching videos about different options for birth help the parents prepare for the labor and delivery.

Exercise and healthy eating during the time before conception as well as during pregnancy increase the chances of a healthy mom and child.

Some parents find connecting with other parents who have similar values can give support during pregnancy and childbirth. Parishes may offer ministries especially for pregnant women such as Elizabeth Ministry .

Choosing a health care provider who embraces the Catholic teachings regarding fertility is often high on the list for expecting Catholic couples.  One More Soul  offers a long listing of providers in the United States as well as options for Natural Family Planning.

The companions a couple invites to their child’s birth can increase chances for a calm and natural birth.  Increasing numbers of couples are choosing a doula  to accompany them during labor and delivery.  A doula is a non-medical support person trained to support the mother and spouse during the pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum period.

Preparing Older Siblings: 

Read books to older siblings about their new baby. Photo copyright Marcia Mattern

Bonding with baby takes on a twist when the second and successive pregnancies come along!

An attached parent melts the other children’s heart by helping the other children welcome siblings joyfully.  The Blessed Pope John Paul II even exhorted the faithful that a sibling was the greatest gift parents could give a child.  The other children learn self giving and to embrace the uniqueness of each unrepeatable person when they welcome a sibling.

Reading books and watching child focused videos with your children can help them bond with the new life growing as well.  Tell your children their own birth story.  As developmentally appropriate, parents can share with their children the wonder of God’s creation of man and the wide depth of how as Catholics we see the Theology of the Body.

I personally recommend Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman and My Mom Is Having a Baby by Dorri Miller.  Parts of the Business of Being Born DVD by Abby Epstein and/or Gentle Birth DVD by Barbara Harper would allow some visualization of the birthing process for children as parents see fit.  Please preview these before determining if they are good for sharing with your children.

Photo copyright Marcia Mattern.

 

References:

John Paul II’s letter to Families 1994

John Paul II’s letter to the US upon his first visit in 1979

Familiaris Consortio (On the role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)

General audience talks on Theology of the Body