Celebrating Every Day

Happiness

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. – Thomas Merton

©Nissa GadboisA maple wood bowl filled with sweet fern and acorns.
 
 

I used to believe that happiness was a matter of intensity.  I craved stimulation of all the senses, all the time.  I needed to feel life in order to be sure I was alive.

Over the last year, I’ve had more stimulation of the senses than I could ever have dreamed.  We all have.  That constant onslaught makes you tender and sore.  It makes you crave quietude.  And it often makes happiness feel elusive.  We forgot how to be happy in the storm that is trauma.  Trauma is evil.  Trauma steals all good things.  It is hell.

And then Brian and I had a talk at a restaurant dinner table recently… 

We were working through strategies for bringing back an abundance of peace and joy, hope and love into our home.  I think we both started out thinking that we had to plan an elaborate distraction – a weekend away in a totally new environment with new adventures.  But in the end, it was the small things that we decided would make the most difference – order and rhythm would restore balance and harmony. 

The gentle, orderly rhythm that is provided by our prayer life and homeschool studies, the flow of the liturgical seasons, the joy of marking holidays and holy days with simple, joyful celebrations.  That is what heals the soul, what brings happiness back to the hearth, what dispels darkness.

Martinmas

Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin
Rode through wind and snow
On his strong horse, his heart aglow,
He rode so boldly through the storm
His great cloak kept him well and warm

By the roadside, by the roadside, by the roadside
A poor man arose,
Out of the snow in tattered clothes
He said please help me with my plight
Or I shall die of cold tonight

Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin
Stopped his horse and drew
His sword and cut his cloak in two
One half to the beggar man he gave
And by this deed a life did save

Saint Martin, Saint Martin, Saint Martin
Rode through wind and snow
On his strong horse, his heart aglow,
He rode so boldly through the storm
His great cloak kept him well and warm – Traditional

©Nissa Gadbois
 
©Nissa Gadbois

Father, by his life and death Martin of Tours offered you worship and praise. Renew in your hearts the power of your love, so that neither death nor life may separate us from you. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.  Amen.

I wanted to wait until this evening to post this since the lanterns look so much better in the dark.  May you respond to the grace of generosity and grow in holiness!

Pieces of Our Hearts

Today is one year.  One year since we walked into that orphanage in a tiny Bulgarian village and our world changed forever.

For many families, the day that they arrive at the orphanage (or foster home) to pick up their child(ren) is a happy day to be celebrated every year.  But when you adopt an older child – a much older child – it’s a day that is bittersweet to commemorate.  It is the day on which they are rescued.  It is the beginning of a new life, a second chance.  It is a full ride to the School of Love.

But it costs them everything. 

It is the day on which they’ve lost all that they know.  Everything.  It is devastating.  They have lost their language and culture, they’ve lost all of their friends, they’ve lost familiar surroundings, and any adult they had come to trust.  They’ve lost the possibility of being reunited with their birth family.  No matter what we are to our children, how much we love them, how hard we try to keep language and culture alive, we are not replacements for those people and things they’ve lost.  They are being saved from a life they (please, God) will never truly understand.  But they won’t know that until they are grown, until they are themselves parents.  Perhaps they will never fully appreciate what they have lost and gained.

It takes a great measure of bravery for these kids to keep their heads up and move on into a new life about which they know nothing.  It takes enormous strength to leave behind little pieces of their hearts and give the rest to someone new.  Some kids, particularly much older ones, can never give the rest of their hearts to their new families.  They cling desperately to the remains.  They don’t know that this act of preservation isn’t saving them at all.  They slowly die inside.  Only they can choose whether to love or not.  Some never choose love.
 ©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

And us? 
We left pieces of our hearts behind in Bulgaria, too.  One child in particular became very special to us throughout the process of adopting Nick and Olivia.  We left the orphanage that day knowing that we might never meet again this side of Heaven.  And we loved each other well.  We smiled and we laughed, we hugged and we kissed.  We held hands.  And we wept.  We sobbed as we tore pieces of our hearts off and handed them to each other.  And it remains one of the most enduring and precious memories I have. 

©Nissa Gadbois
This day is a day to be treasured always for so many reasons. 

For the work that God has done through us.
For the children we rescued.
For the love they’ve brought into our lives.
For their resilience, and their bravery.
For the strength we have gained through the difficulties.
For the wisdom and courage to follow our hearts.
For the desire to keep on helping those left behind.
For a daughter who is ever present in our hearts, if not in our arms.

{Family Centered Kitchen}: Maple Walnut Pie

You can find the recipe for my Impossibly Flaky Pie Crust here.
 

Maple Walnut Pie
Serves 8
I came up with this recipe for our son Louis' tenth birthday. We love pecan pie, and this is a twist on that classic, made with our own maple syrup. It's bound to become a family favourite.
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Prep Time
1 hr 10 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr 10 min
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 c maple syrup (use the real thing - NO substitutes)
  2. 1/2 c sugar (we use maple sugar or organic raw)
  3. 3 large eggs
  4. 3 T butter, melted
  5. 1 T flour
  6. 1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
  7. 1/2 recipe Impossibly Flaky Pie Crust
  8. 1 1/2 c walnuts (halves or chopped)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. In a mixing bowl, blend syrup, sugar, eggs, milk, flour, and vanilla paste. Place walnuts in the crust and pour the syrup mixture over all. Rearrange nuts if needed.
  3. Bake 10 minutes at 450°. Reduce temperature to 350° and bake a further 30-35 minutes.
  4. Cool on a rack. Serve with whipped cream.
Notes
  1. Variation: spread melted unsweetened dark chocolate on the base of the pie crust or sprinkle dark chocolate mini chips or shards before pouring in the filling.
At Home With the Gadbois Family http://gadboisfamily.com/

School Days

On Michaelmas, we started a fresh school year.  We started off slowly and have now fallen into a nice rhythm again.  It has been a welcome occupation for everyone.  In slackening off out of consideration of our two Bulgarians, we lost our direction, became rudderless.  In the end, the lack of routine wasn’t actually doing any good for the two we were trying to help.  Live and learn, I suppose. 

The night before, we prepared first day of school gifts and laid them out so that the children would find them in their places in the morning.  We filled some silver lunchboxes with school supplies and a couple of treats.

After breakfast, Brian gave a blessing for our school year, as he always does.  How lovely it is to have a resident deacon!

It was a bit disappointing to have to use the dining room as our learning space again this year,  It makes it so much more difficult to be ready to welcome guests.  Ah, well…  It’s authentically us, right where we are today.  Come on in anyway.

We start each day with the daily readings from the Mass and incense, then right on to our main lesson.  After twenty years of homeschooling, I have abandoned clever ‘circle time’ poems and embraced a style of gathering that is more in-keeping with our faith.  It has freed me, and relieved my anxiety. 

And this year, I think that I have finally settled into a (self-designed) curriculum that will see us through the next 15 years or so.  It was conceived in such a way that I can teach all of my kids, regardless of developmental level, using largely the same material and at the same time.  It is a huge time and sanity saver.  I’ll spend the next three years putting it to paper as we go, and then, perhaps, I’ll share it.

More than anything, I cherish watching my children work together, help each other, love each other.  What a magnificent gift to be the mother of so many. 

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

©Nissa Gadbois

 

 How is your school year going?

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