Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Saint Gianna Molla: A Working Catholic Mom

The feast day of St. Gianna Molla was yesterday, April 28th, so I'm slightly late in posting. I feel I've been missing a lot of things lately. State testing at school and the dance studio's annual recital are all happening around the same time, so things are crazy. Waking up early for testing, staying up late for rehearsals; when I get home all I want to do is sleep! But of course I've got a husband and two kids at home to take care of and spend time with. This challenging situation does tie into today's post though!

St. Gianna lived from 1922 to 1965 in Italy and was a wife, mother, and pediatrician. She is best known for sacrificing her life so her baby could live when medical complications arose during her pregnancy with her 4th child. Her beautiful, selfless, and loving act has made her a patron for the pro-life movement in a world that often promotes death and selfishness. However, there is another reason that St. Gianna is a wonderful saint for our times. St. Gianna was a working mother.

In U.S. society in general, stay-at home parents often feel misunderstood and judged. People can treat them like the life they chose is somehow less important, oppressive; a waste of talents and intellect. Of course being a stay at home parent is none of these things. (I say parent instead of mom because my husband is currently a proud stay at home dad!) It is a beautiful vocation and a choice that should be celebrated, not maligned. However, I think it is important to realize that there is another side of the coin.

As a working mom who runs in a more conservative Catholic circle, I am often the one who feels out of place, like I'm not good enough, like I've chosen the lesser path. While I am blessed that none of my stay at home mom friends have done anything to make me feel this way, the comparisons and jealousy that sometimes come from myself can often make the mommy guilt run high. And trust me, the people who go out of their way to make working mothers feel inadequate are out there. While I haven't personally met one face to face, I have met them online. A while back I joined a facebook group of Catholic women who were supposed to  be sharing cooking and housekeeping tips. While most of the women were fine, I did run into someone who felt that it was her duty as a Christian, (her words), to ask working mothers how they could be so selfish to abandon their families to work, and asserted that the only acceptable reason for a mother to work was if her husband passed away. Needless to say, that was not a group I felt I could stay in.

Due to situations like this, working mothers who run in more conservative circles often feel they need to justify their decision by explaining that they need to work due to their family's financial situation. While there are many families that are in this situation, it is not necessary to be in this situation to make it okay for a mother to work. God does call some women to a career outside the house. And is it really fair to make a woman reveal her family's personal financial information to justify the choices she makes for herself and her family? Trust me, working Catholic mothers, all working mothers, struggle with the guilt that comes from trying to balance family and work life enough on our own, we don't need anyone else's help in that area!

So a word of encouragement working Catholic moms - being a working mother is not a sin, you do not need to take it to the confessional!  Remember that godly women come in all shapes and sizes, including working mothers like St. Gianna. And St. Gianna didn't have just any job, she had a demanding career as a physician! You can serve God both at home and in your career. When things get tough, when the work/home balance is out of whack, when the mommy guilt runs high, ask for her intercession. I plan on putting her picture up in my home office along with other saints, like St. Josemaria Escriva, who taught about serving God through our daily work. I also recommend that among the many wonderful Catholic family blogs out there written by stay at home and/or homeschooling moms, to add blogs like The Working Catholic Mom and 8 Kids and a Business to your list of blogs to follow.  And to those stay at home moms, please, instead of tearing these women down, lift them up. Befriend them, welcome them, plan some get togethers and play dates at times when they can join you, help them when work gets crazy by offering to babysit, pick kids up, or even to help with housework and meals. Reassure them that working in and of itself does not make them a bad mother. Give them prayers and words of love and encouragement, trust me, we need it! 

A couple other saints that were working Catholic moms:

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton - Mother of 5, teacher, and founder of the first Catholic school in the United States.  (Also going in my office, I am a teacher after all!)

Bl. Zelie Martin - Mother of 9, (including St. Therese of Liseux), had a successful lacemaking business.

If you know any other saints who were working Catholic moms, or have any advice about how to balance work and motherhood, please put it in the comments!

St. Gianna, St. Elizabeth, and Bl. Zelie, pray for us!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Two Easter Desserts


This Easter I got to host my first big holiday meal! We usually go over to other people's houses for holidays, often several different places in one day, so I was excited to stay at home and play hostess! I roasted a leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and it just turned out gorgeous. Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of it, maybe next year! The big star of the show, and what I personally enjoy making the most, was the desserts. I went with some of my personal favorite flavors with the blueberry lemonies, (a brownie-like bar flavored with lemon and mixed with blueberries), and an "everyone will like it" crowd pleaser of dirt pudding made to look impressive by using a trifle dish. The white chocolate strawberry "carrots" growing out of it along with the candy eggs and flower decorations gave it a nice spring garden theme that went well with our Easter celebration.


Blueberry Lemonies
If you are a lemon lover like myself, adding these bars to your repertoire is a must. Everyone who tried them loved them and I already have requests to make them again, including from me to myself. It is really the glaze that makes it, adding a punch of fresh lemon flavor. And yes, fresh lemons are a must. The blueberries add a pop of vibrant color and flavor. I used berried that I picked at a local farm over the summer and froze. I promise, it will be love at first bite!
Ingredients:

3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of one lemon

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8x8 pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside. 
2. In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the white chocolate and butter, about 1 minute on high power. 
3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in a little of the white chocolate/butter mixture, and then gradually add the eggs into the big bowl with the rest of the while chocolate/butter mixture, whisking as you go. This is called tempering, and will keep the eggs from becoming scrambled.
4. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and extract. Stir until combined. 
5. Add the flour and stir until combined. 
6. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with a little flour. This will keep them from sinking. Fold them gently into the batter.  
7. Put batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 27 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. While the bars bake, make the glaze. 
8. To make the glaze, mix the powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest together. 
9. When the bars come our of the oven, pour the glaze over the top. Use a spatula to spread if necessary. Let the bars cool in the pan for 2-3 hours before slicing so the glaze can set up. 
Enjoy!


Dirt Pudding Trifle

Making a trifle is great for any special occasion. It's super easy and super impressive all at the same time! Just pick whatever things you want to layer; cake, fruit, cream, etc, and voila! It's done! I got this trifle dish at my local supermarket for less than seven dollars. My son loves chocolate, so I decided to go with a dirt pudding trifle, complete with gummy worms and strawberry "carrots!" Adding the elements of homemade brownies and fresh whipped cream made this dirt pudding the best I've ever tasted. Here is what I used for my layers:

Brownies
Instant Chocolate Pudding
Gummy Worms
Whipped Cream
Crushed Oreo Cookies
White chocolate (colored orange) covered strawberries
Frosting (colored green)
Candy eggs

Layer and enjoy!




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