My Sunday Best and the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Sundays are treasured days because Daddy is home and we all go to Mass together as a family.  I used to somewhat dread the chaotic nature of Mass with a toddler; I would cringe when she was loud or sigh and grumble because instead of peacefully focusing on the homily I was busy keeping her from putting down all the door stops in the narthex.  But now I cherish that time, the three of us together, savoring these crazy days of early childhood and our young family, my husband and I deep in the trenches of raising this child and setting an example for her and laughing at her antics even as we try to gently guide her.  It helps to be sitting next to good friends who are in the same boat.

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My skirt is Express, my blouse from Target, and E’s dress is from Zulily.  This is the first time I dared wear a white skirt since becoming a mother.  I guess I’m more confident in my abilities now, or I’ve just decided to throw caution to the wind and live my life!  Probably the latter!  Ha!

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She is obsessing over a mockingbird and saying “daadada” (her interpretation of birds’ songs).  Just seconds later, she bolts out of my arms and into the street after the bird, her daddy sprinting after her.  She keeps us on our toes, and scares us to death sometimes!

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Yesterday my husband had work 13 hours, so Baby Girl and I were on our own.  We packed in a very full day—read books, did puzzles, went to Walmart, the bank, Lowe’s, a local grocery store, and went for a walk—and then realized it was only 10 am!  Sigh.  So we did what works best for us.  We turned to the garden.  E, adorable little dictator that she is, does not let me accomplish tasks inside the house, and cleaning by myself with her is next to impossible.  But she loves to garden!  We could be outside for hours in the garden, and she remains content and occupied.  She was my little helper yesterday.

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I am convinced that there are few things as wonderful in the world as roses and lavender.  Having them in the garden makes me blissfully happy.  I love pulling up to our home and having them welcome me.  I love sitting on the porch and marveling at the bees hovering on their pink and purple blooms.  And I love glancing out the window and seeing these plants as a backdrop to our daily lives.

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For so long I dreamed of having hydrangea but lived in a condo without a yard.  When we bought our house 3 years ago, there were already hydrangeas all along the side of the house, as if someone knew I was coming and had planted them for me.  And blue!  Perfect!

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My little garden helper’s favorite part is watering.  Because she usually gets wet.  And getting wet is super fun.  In fact, she goes out of her way to do it, standing underneath the hanging basket and imagining she is taking a shower.

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We are probably too late in the season, but a couple months ago I had purchased seeds.  I was going to start them in the house, but then our lives were suddenly thrown in upheaval (see my last post) and I didn’t get to them.  So I just threw them in some pots, and we will see what happens.  It was more an experiment and something to do with E than anything else.

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Later that evening to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart I baked a heart shaped  blueberry cake.  I spread Cool Whip all over it, made flowers out of blueberries and mint, and inserted a cinnamon stick sword in it and called it a day.  Perhaps next year there will be flames coming out.  We will see.

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Not too bad for an impromptu bake.

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Linking up with Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for the My Sunday Best series!

 

 

 

New Orleans and the Liturgical Year

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I’ve lived all my life in the New Orleans metropolitan area.  From the time I was just a little girl, I knew that I lived in a special place and felt blessed to be part of the unique cultural heritage that distinguished the city of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.  My ancestors arrived in 1718, the year the city was founded, and I have a strong French Catholic heritage that my family always celebrated and viewed as a source of pride.

As an adult, I began to learn more about my faith.  I loved the exploring the rich, ancient history of the Church, journeying deeper into the sacraments, and discovering the rituals and traditions of the liturgical year.  Suddenly my eyes were opened.  Instantly I saw a connection between my hometown’s culture and traditions and the Church’s liturgical year.  In fact, so much of the day to day life and rhythm of my beloved city was determined by the Church.  There is a good reason for that.  Louisiana was a French colony, and for the first part of its history, Catholicism was the only religion allowed to be practiced.  Catholicism was the established faith of New Orleans, leading to the common practices of its citizens being firmly rooted in Catholic theology.

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I truly believe we are one of the only places in the United States where an entire region adheres—consciously or unconsciously—to the Church’s liturgical year.  Transplants observe it as they naturally adhere to the rhythm of a city they have come to love.  A large number of people in New Orleans, Catholic and Protestant, attend Catholic schools and have embraced the Catholic culture despite what their personal religious practices might be.  All of this leads to a thriving Catholic city.

Our Catholic tradition is most evident this time of year.  Yesterday was the Epiphany, the celebration of the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus.  The Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, is a very significant day in the New Orleans calendar; it begins the Carnival season!  Carnival is a season lasts from Epiphany through Mardi Gras day, ending on Ash Wednesday.  It is a time to eat, drink, and be merry, to party, dress in costumes, and attend parades.  Our parades are not like in the rest of the country.  We have massive, elaborate floats with riders throwing beads, doubloons, stuffed animals, and many, many other fun things.

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Our food is sacred here in southeast Louisiana.  Food is the center of our gatherings, family life, and culture.  We love a good feast.  The beginning of Carnival season would not be complete without a signature food.  So we have the king cake.  The king cake is full of Catholic meaning.  The name of the cake comes from the three kings who visited Jesus.  The circular or oval shaped, cinnamon flavored cake is decorated with the three colors of Carnival: purple, green, and gold.  These three colors represent the three wise men or Magi.  Purple represents justice, green faith, and gold power.  Inside the cake, a plastic baby is hidden, symbolizing Jesus.  Just as the wise men found Jesus, we hope to find Jesus in the cake (at least kids do).  Adults are a bit reluctant to get the baby, as it means you have to throw the next party!

Carnival is all about family for me.  The tourism industry markets a whole different kind of carnival experience, one that is very different than what most natives embrace.  I grew up attending parades with my entire family—parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—and loved the parades that my relatives rode in.  We watched the parades Uptown, and I never once witnessed anything vulgar or inappropriate.  Most of what you see are family and friends out having a good time.  We intend to raise our children with this same important tradition.

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The partying, feasting, and craziness that come with Carnival are a perfect preparation for Lent.  By the time Ash Wednesday arrives, you are actually eager to fast, rest, and have some quiet down time.  The slowing down, the contemplation, and the temperance that characterize Lent are actually welcomed, not dreaded, after experiencing the high energy revelry of Mardi Gras.  I knew this intuitively as a young child, because it was common practice in my culture.  Thinking about it intellectually as an adult, I am all the more appreciative of the liturgical year of the Catholic church and the traditions of my hometown.