A Happy and Blessed New Year



This exquisite Neilson Carlin portrait appears on a Christmas card I received this year. I have rarely seen Jesus portrayed as a toddler, which He certainly 0nce was–notice how securely Mary holds her little barefooted runner! And I’ve never seen a picture of the Holy Family which includes His grandparents, Anne and Joachim, the parents of Mary. Jesus has learned how to hold His small fingers correctly for the bestowal of a blessing. Perhaps this is because He is already aware of who He is. His gentle yet piercing eyes look, to me, like those of an old soul. Perhaps in His heart, He is already the 3o-something who will one day offer the world a radical path to follow toward Peace on Earth. A Happy, Peaceful, and Blessed New Year to all my WordPress and Facebook friends. 

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A Reflection on the Meaning of Christmas


Christmas is a good time to reflect upon the startling impact that the birth of Jesus has had on an unsuspecting world throughout the ages. Here is the Christmas story told from the unique perspective of one of its traditional familiar figures. Notice, in the second paragraph, the eerie references to images related to the death of Jesus. (Sorry to take liberties with your lines, Mr. Eliot) :

The Journey of the Magi

by T. S. Eliot

“A cold coming we had of it, just the worst time of the year for a journey, and such a long journey. The ways deep and the weather sharp, the very dead of winter. And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory, lying down in the melting snow. There were times we regretted the summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, and the silken girls bringing sherbet. Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away, and wanting their liquor and women, and the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, and the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly and the villages dirty and charging high prices: a hard time we had of it. At the end we preferred to travel all night, sleeping in snatches, with the voices singing in our ears, saying that this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation; with a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness, and three trees on the low sky, and an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, and feet kicking the empty wine-skins. But there was no information, and so we continued, and arriving at evening, not a moment too soon finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember, and I would do it again, but set down, this set down, this: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly. We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, but had thought they were different; this Birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.”

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St. Kateri Tekakwitha: The Lily of the Mohawks


With the passing of Halloween and the coming of All Saints Day on November 1st, mid-autumn is officially here, and a lovely time of year to reflect upon the life of this remarkable young woman. Born in a 17th century Iroquois village along the Mohawk River in what is now Upstate New York, Kateri Tekakwitha is venerated today as North America’s first Native American saint.

Orphaned as a little girl, nearly blind from a bout of smallpox, and devoted to her Catholic faith, Kateri wanted to escape the restrictive life her aunts had planned for her. She fled by canoe down the Mohawk River, protected by two Catholic Iroquois young men. They managed to hide along the shore from Kateri’s angry uncles, and made their way to a spot not far from the Hudson, near Albany. There they left the canoe and walked the entire way to the Jesuit missionary settlement near Montreal in present-day Quebec.

Camping along the way, it took these three young people two months to reach the village on the southern bank of the St. Lawrence River. There, Kateri lived a life of complete service to others, teaching the children, praying, and caring for the sick and elderly. She died at the age of 24 and is buried nearby.

The children’s chapter book pictured above is an account of the life of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Just 28 pages long, divided into 6 chapters, it is suitable for children ages 4 and up. The story moves from Kateri’s birth through the major events of her short, gentle life. It also relates, in simple terms, the history of her slow but steady journey through the traditional channels of the Catholic Church to her canonization in October, 2012.

The book is available at Amazon.com. Just type in my full name, Catherine Becker Reynolds, and it should come right up. The Kindle edition is just $.99, and the paperback is $5.40.

You may find Kateri’s story fascinating, too, even if you are not Catholic and do not believe in saints. Walking from the Mohawk River to the banks of the St. Lawrence? Whoa, it’s hilly! The Adirondack Mountains are in the way, and nights are freezing up there, even in summer!

Kidding aside, it’s hard not to be inspired by this resourceful young woman, who was brave as the strongest of us; kind and patient as the best of us; constant in purpose as the Morning Star; and true to herself and her life’s path until the end. We can all learn something from her.

Posted in American History, children's biography, Native Americans | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

August Dog Days Fun

Do you find the kids lying around, too sweaty and bored these Dog Day afternoons to do anything but snooze in whatever shade they can find?

A Three Dog Afternoon

A Three Dog Day Afternoon

Do you invite a friend over only to watch each other droop into melting piles of Zzzzzzzzzz in the August heat? 

A Two Friend Dog Day Afternoon

A Two Friend Dog Day Afternoon

Well, instead of filling the wading pool with ice cubes, breaking everybody’s piggy bank and heading to a chilly movie, or watching Frozen for the six hundred and ninety-eleventh time to keep cool, here are some cheap, fun indoor games to liven up your August doldrums (leftovers from my Fourth of July post in case you read it):

First is JAVELIN: 

EQUIPMENT: A 12-inch ruler (the “javelin”) — that’s all. One person is the referee, one is the javelin catcher, and everybody else gets to be the cheering fans while they wait their turns.

PROCEDURE: The referee holds up the javelin between thumb and forefinger at the one-inch end, with the 12-inch end at the bottom. The javelin catcher extends one hand just below the javelin, as if to shake hands. The javelin should be between the catcher’s thumb and palm, but just above the hand–no touching of the javelin! Without warning, the referee drops the javelin, and the javelin catcher grabs it as it falls. Now, no moving your hand, javelin catcher!

THE GOAL OF THE GAME: Catch the javelin as fast as you can.

SCORING: The whole-inch number just above the javelin catcher’s hand is the score. Javelin catcher with the highest score is the winner.

It’s fun to do this over and over, as players get faster with practice, and the referee gets craftier at dropping the javelin when the catcher least expects it.

Too easy? Well, here’s a much harder competition:



EQUIPMENT: Some paperback books (start with skinny ones) and a ruler. As for participants, you need a referee, a weightlifter, and friends waiting their turns can be the cheering section.

PROCEDURE: The weightlifter places a hand, palm down, on a table. The referee then places a book on just the extended fingers of the weightlifter. The weightlifter attempts to lift the book with just the pinkie finger. No lifting of your hand or other fingers is allowed, weightlifter! If the weightlifter succeeds in lifting the book with just the pinkie finger, then the referee piles on another book and the weightlifter tries again. The referee continues to pile books on as long as the weightlifter is successful at lifting the pile after each new addition.

THE GOAL OF THE GAME:  To lift as high a pile of books as you can with just your pinkie, and without lifting your hand or other fingers.

SCORING: The referee measures each weightlifter’s highest book pile with the ruler. The weightlifter who lifts the thickest pile of books is the winner.

Too boring? I know, Javelin takes coordination, and Weightlifting takes strength. Here’s something you can practice for hours and get very good at:



EQUIPMENT: a paper clip and a scrap of paper for each diver, and just one empty drinking cup for the pool. You also need a desk or table edge to “dive” from. You and a friend can take turns and keep score–you don’t need a referee, though a cheering section is always nice, though a little distracting at times–good practice for those crowded stadiums when you go pro!

PROCEDURE: Each person makes a diver, using the paper clip and scrap of paper. The paper may be folded, bent, or twisted any way you want in the clip. Place the drinking cup “pool” on the floor and the diver on the edge of a desk or table. Using one finger, knock the diver off the edge into the pool. Each competitor may position the cup “pool” anywhere on the floor.

THE GOAL OF THE GAME: To get your diver into the “pool” below. You have 10 tries per turn, and then it’s the next person’s turn.

SCORING: Each competitor scores one point for each successful dive in 10 tries.


Posted in eye-hand coordination fun, Family fun, kids indoor fun, lazy day activities | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

New: Mini Olympic Sports for Your Rainy (or Exhausted) Fourth of July Party…Old: Answers to the State Scramble

Happy Last Day of June! Summer 2015 proceeds apace, and the Fourth of July makes haste to snap, crackle, and pop itself over the land. BUT WHAT IF IT RAINS? Never fear, fun indoor Olympic Sports await you below. First, here are the answers to last week’s State Scramble:

1. OHIO, 2. MAINE, 3. NEVADA, 4. FLORIDA, 5. MARYLAND, 6. LOUISIANA, 7. CALIFORNIA, 8. CONNECTICUT, 9. PENNSYLVANIA, 10. MASSACHUSETTS Not too hard for you Geography Geniuses, I hope! But if the pencil and paper games posts of the last few weeks are too easy, dull and boring for your restless crowd? — On to the Mini Olympic events: Today we have BASKETBALL and BALANCE BEAM:

In tears over your sopping wet court?

In tears over your sopping wet court?


Don’t cry over your wet basketball court! Hustle inside and find a coin and one of your pretty patriotic red, white, and blue paper cups and you’ll be all set for fun. I’ve tried this myself and found it very hard, so use any of the suggested rules to make it fun for all ages: ADULTS should play on a table. Place your fist on the table and set the cup at what looks like a fair distance. Put a coin on your thumbnail and flip it into the cup. YOUR FIST CANNOT LEAVE THE TABLE WHILE YOU’RE SHOOTING. This takes some practice, at least for an all-thumbs athlete like me. It’s easiest if you jam your thumbnail into the side of your forefinger to provide leverage. Then snap your thumb up and watch your coin go sailing every which way but toward the basket! You may have to do some warmups before your competition arrives, but feel free to modify your grip by tipping your fist forward, or move the basket to an easy position and distance–just don’t lift your fist up off the table.

Mini Olympic Basketball is sure to cheer you up

Mini Olympic Basketball is sure to cheer you up

KIDS can also try it this way. After all, the future of the NBA or WNBA is out there somewhere, and it may just be at your Fourth of July Party! If it’s too hard, just let the kids put the cup on the floor and try lobbing the coin in from wherever they decide to stand–FUN IS THE OBJECT, REMEMBER. Once they’re really good at it, suggest they take a giant step backwards and start a new game.

POINTS: Each player gets 10 shots at the basket, with one point for each basket in 10 tries.

Here’s the next event:


Too many s'mores to turn that tummy upside down? Too wet and slippery on that backyard balance beam?

Too many s’mores to turn that tummy upside down? Too wet and slippery on that backyard swing set balance beam?

For this game, you need a regular hexagonal pencil–that’s the kind that some smart inventor (probably a teacher beyond the fringe) put six sides on, so 35 pencils wouldn’t keep rolling off the desks and driving her/him crazy. You also need a pile of coins of different sizes.

Now, rest the pencil on one of its sides on a flat surface. Players take turns balancing the coins on top of each other in any order until the stack falls over.

POINTS: One point for each coin in the stack before it topples. Fun, right? I hope so, after all it’s a party! But if these aren’t exciting enough:

POSTING LATER THIS WEEK: Mini Olympic Javelin, Weightlifting, and High Diving!

Posted in #Fourth of July Party Activity, #holiday family activity, indoor games | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

New: A State Scramble — Old: Answers to Last Week’s Hidden Cities Activity

Me, Cross-eyed After Typing This

Me, Cross-eyed After Typing This

Good Morning! Or Good Afternoon if the sun’s already on its downward swing where you are. I hope last week’s Hidden Cities puzzle didn’t put you on a downward swing. I tried it first without knowing the states, but quit when it gave me the beginnings of creeping brain melt. I decided to give you the states, so as to prevent similar mishaps. However, I think many of you could have solved these easily, even in a stateless state. Here are the answers:

1. Baltimore, Maryland

2. El Paso, Texas

3. Scranton, Pennsylvania

4. Reading, Pennsylvania

5. Canton, Ohio

6. Bangor, Maine

7. Wichita, Kansas

8. Buffalo, New York

9. Chicago, Illinois

10. Newark, New Jersey

11. Norfolk, Virginia

12. Utica, New York

13. Lowell, Massachusetts

14. Wheeling, West Virginia

15. Richmond, Virginia

Here’s the new one for you:


It is what it is, just unscramble the letters to spell 10 states. HINT: They are all just one word, none of that easy “New” business:











Please don’t go cross-eyed trying to solve these, as I did, trying to type and check them at the same time. Answers next Monday! Then I’ll suggest a few indoor games to keep you busy in case it rains on your Fourth of July parade, picnic, or fireworks show. I sure hope you won’t need them.

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The Hidden Capitals Activity Answers + A New One

State Capitol Building Sacramento, California, a capital city which does not appear in any of the answers.

State Capitol Building
Sacramento, California, a capital city which does not appear in any of the answers.

Good Morning! For me, last Monday’s Hidden Capitals activity was a little like digging through a Lost and Found box while not knowing exactly what I had lost. I kept moving from word to word, looking for something that sounded vaguely familiar. I trust you are a little more up on your state capitals than I am! (Incidentally, “capital” refers to the city, “capitol” refers to the building.) Here are your answers in the order in which they appear in the paragraph, and I took the liberty of putting their states next to them:

1. Denver (Colorado) 2. Augusta (Maine) 3. Trenton (New Jersey) 4. Juneau (Alaska) 5. Carson City (Nevada) 6. Jackson (Mississippi) 7. Madison (Wisconsin) 8. Albany (New York) 9. Concord (New Hampshire) 10. Dover (Delaware) 11. Hartford (Connecticut) 12. Annapolis (Maryland) 13. Helena (Montana) 14. Salem (Oregon) 15. Pierre (South Dakota) 16. Lansing (Michigan) and 17. Boston (Massachusetts)

A Few Facts That Came to Me While Typing Answers: Concord, NH is not the Concord of “Lexington and Concord”, nor is Salem, OR the Salem associated with witches – both of those historic towns are in Massachusetts. If Hartford, CT always makes you think of insurance, it’s because of advertising. It really is a big insurance center. And “Pierre” is pronounced “pier” by people who live in South Dakota and probably many others who are now “in the know” after having to “stand corrected” in the past. In the WAY past, it probably was pronounced the French way, as it was named for an American fur trader from France.

Well, now that Hidden Capitals are out of the way, on to the next brain neuron tangler:


Each has its own sentence. I’ve noted each state in order to narrow down your choices :

1. When I go mining for cobalt, I more often find nickel. (Maryland)

2. When I called for help, a soldier came to my aid. (Texas)

3. The long-playing disc ran to noon before it ended. (Pennsylvania)

4. I like to eat bread in good restaurants. (Pennsylvania)

5. A brisk morning walk is the best American tonic. (Ohio)

6. The visiting rajah wore a turban gorgeous with glittering rubies and emeralds. (Maine)

7. Whenever I eat a sandwich, it always seems enough for lunch. (Kansas)

8. After receiving a severe rebuff, a lonely person can become very unhappy. (New York)

9. Juanita looked quite chic, a golden comb sparkling from her raven hair. (Illinois)

10. From the day we sighted the first plane, war kept coming closer and closer. (New Jersey)

11. Neither legends nor folklore change over the years. (Virginia)

12. I find some puzzles hard, but I can solve this one very easily! (New York)

13. Does Michael owe Lloyd a dollar or doesn’t he? (Massachusetts)

14. Don’t step with a narrow heel in gratings or they will trip you. (West Virginia)

15. We feed the ostrich Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (Virginia)

Actually, I think the braggart’s #12 is the hardest one. FUN, YES?!

ANSWERS NEXT MONDAY, and another Patriotic Puzzle, too.

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