7 Steps to a Clean Home with the Help of Joyful Children (One Method of Teaching Responsibility While Growing Closer as a Family)

I truly feel this entire concept was inspired by the Holy Spirit, or maybe even Mother Mary whispering wisdom into my ear.  Whatever the case, one moment I was standing in the kitchen calling my children to attention (with frustration and despair bogging down my mind) and the next moment, four of my children (ages 10, 8, 7 and 6) were happily and busily cleaning the entire house without one grumble or complaint!  Follow these simple steps to get similar results in your home.

Step 1:  Breathe.  Remember that they are children and children will make messes, explore and be creative.  Remember that they are capable of amazing things and allow them the room to show you their strengths.  Don’t expect perfection.

Step 2:  Divide the main areas of your house into Zones.  Don’t include bathrooms, bedrooms, or other “private” areas in your Zones.  Try to create one Zone per person.

Step 3:  Let the kids pick their cleaning Zone.  So far, I have had not arguments over who gets which Zone.  If a disagreement should happen then come up with a fair way of choosing: have them draw straws, roll dice, go from youngest to oldest, etc.

Step 4:  Explain the scoring system to the kids and put it up on a chart or white board as you explain.  Stay with me here as this is where it can get complicated.  Maybe say something along these lines:

     Your Zone will be scored on the following points: cleanliness (how well you do in picking up toys, trash and other misplaced items and putting them in their proper place); speed (how quickly you get the job done WELL; not just hurry up, but diligently work on your task to do the job well and completely–think perseverance and diligence); and attitude (Are you joyful or grumpy?).  These will be scored on a scale from 0-5, with 5 being the best possible score.  These scores will be added together to get your subtotal.  Everyone with me? [demonstrate on the white board].

Then say, “Now, you are all different ages and have different abilities.  To account for this, I will assign a Degree of Difficulty to your Zone based on your age and ability AND the extent to which you clean the room.”  A Degree of Difficulty of “1” is the basic pickup of the floor and flat surfaces; but a “5” would be if you cleaned under the sofa, organized the book shelf, vacuumed the floor, mopped the tile, etc.  The more you do, the higher the Degree of Difficulty becomes.  The reason why this is important is because your subtotal will be MULTIPLIED by your Degree of Difficulty to get your final score. [Demonstrate on the board how 15  x 1 is 15, but 15 x 5 is 75]  Let them give you different scores to see how it affects the total. [Bonus math lesson here ;-)]

zones

Step 5.  When the children complete their zone to their satisfaction, have them come to you and let you know that they are ready for scoring.  Then, with your full attention go into the room and inspect their job.  Be sure to give lots of positive feedback on the work they did well.  Don’t be afraid to make suggestions of where it could be improved, or hints about items that were overlooked.  Be generous, but honest with your score.  If my kids worked hard and gave it their all, I rarely score less than a 5.  In the above example, Zone 4 got a “4” in cleanliness because there was still quite a bit of trash on the floor and items on flat surfaces.  The Degree of Difficulty is the clincher here.  How much were they willing to put into their efforts?  My Zone 1 in the above example was the kitchen.  The 12 year old chose it with vigor and she delved into organizing cabinets and drawers, in addition to counters, floors and hand washing that her brother overlooked that morning.  That kind of effort deserved a perfect score for sure!  The Degree of Difficulty of 3 in the above example was the oldest child who chose to do the minimum effort.  He still had a great attitude and the room was picked up and vacuumed, so I explained that he could have earned a higher Degree of Difficulty by going under the furniture and straightening the bookshelves.  He did a great job, but it wasn’t going to be enough to win the contest.

Step 6.  Reward the top score with a prize.  I give 1st place 5 cents per point, 2nd place 1 cent per point and everyone else a quarter.  My children are still young at ages 6 to 13, so the prize is minimal.  If you have older children, then you might consider a higher payout–how much is a clean house worth after all?   The prize doesn’t have to be elaborate, but just a well-deserved reward for their effort.  At the end of this contest, your entire house will be picked up, vacuumed, spot mopped, and better organized than when you started.  Allow the reward to lift EVERYONE up, but still make the winner feel special for his/her effort.  Bask in their incredible efforts and boast on how enjoyable the home is when it is tidy and everyone works together well.  Sometimes we play a game, go swimming, or the kids watch a movie following the clean up—an activity to enjoy a job well done.

Step 7.  Repeat as needed to maintain the orderliness of the home, but not more frequently than once per week.  We decided to do “Zones” on Friday afternoons so we can enjoy a movie night and focus on family projects or outings on Saturdays.  This week my kids decided to do it on Thursday because the house had become quite messy and even they wanted the order back!  Hey, I’ll take it any day.

I would love to hear your feedback on how this works in your home, what changes you made, and what rewards were given.  I pray that you have as much success with it as I have had.  Truth be told the greatest reward for me has been the feeling of connection, that we really work well as a team, the Domestic Church’s version of the Body of Christ in action.

Edit:  I am usually working on my paying job while they are cleaning.  Sometimes, I clean an area as well, but don’t get scored in the contest.  Yesterday, they actually did all of the cleaning while I was gone for an appointment.  It was especially rewarding to come home to a clean house and to know the kids had matured to this level of responsibility without my direct oversight!  My goal here is not the clean house.  That is just a side benefit.  My goal is to grow relationships with my children as they learn to be responsible and independent members of our family and community.

To School or Not to School

That is the question. I’m still waiting for God’s answer, but I am finding more peace with the unknown as each day passes. So much has changed since last August. I thought that with my regained health that homeschooling would be a shoe in, but I’m finding that it is not the case.

When I lost my regular helpers in January, I urged my husband to look at our traditional school options. We applied to a Charter school that has been the new option for several of our Catholic homeschooling friends over the past year or so. Our youngest made it in, but the rest are still on the waiting list.

For most of the Spring, I thought that I would still homeschool in the Fall. Surely, God was still calling us to it. That Sunday was the Gospel reading where the risen Christ asks Peter, “Peter, do you love me?” three times. And three times Peter responds, “Yes, Lord.” It was so moving for me that tears were streaming down my face as the Gospel was read. When Father read the words of Christ’s reply, “Then feed my sheep.” I thought, “That’s it. You want me to homeschool.” Then Fr. Luke gave the homily and it shook me to the core.

Father said that when we aren’t sure what we should do, then we should do nothing. He used the analogy of weddings at church. During the rehearsal he advises the wedding party to look to him, the priest, for direction during the ceremony. He counsels them that if they are uncertain of what they should be doing, to do nothing and wait for his direction. He said that it was his job to make sure that everyone knew what to do and when and that it was their job to wait and follow the direction. “Okay,” I thought, “I will wait for direction before I homeschool…” and then father continued speaking. He said, the human response to confusion is one of three things: 1. Do nothing 2. Do what is comfortable or 3… well, I can’t remember exactly; but the point he was making is that we often choose what is comfortable because it is familiar and we know how to do it, even though it may not be what God wants us to do. God asked Peter to walk on the water with Him, to step out of the boat and into the storm. It was this moment where I finally let go of the comfortable, known option of homeschooling as the only option and opened my heart and mind to the possibility of stepping out into the storm, the unknown. And because I am still uncertain of what we should do, I’m doing nothing. Oh, I have lesson plans written should we continue to homeschool; but I also filled out the paperwork for Ben to start in August at the Charter school. Now, I just stay here until the High Priest gives me my directions. I do still worry from time to time, but I realize quickly that I don’t have to do anything right now. It is His job to give the directions and my job to follow them. I’ll be sure to give y’all an update when I find out where we are going.

Have Mercy on Me, O Lord! A Sinner

First, my apologies if anyone has been waiting for a new blog post. My health improved, so I took the kids on a trip for ten days to give my husband a quiet and less stressful home (and time to finish taxes). Well, we came back with strep and exposure to chicken pox. So, two weeks of kids taking turns with strep and ear infections was closely followed by two weeks of all seven kids with severe chicken pox! The good Lord answered my prayers that they all got them at once, but it was a rough two weeks for the lot of us. My kids were amazingly brave troopers through it all and I wonder just how many souls were saved through their heroic suffering without complaint. This week was less eventful, but still involved bed rest for Allison and I as we both recovered from chest colds. Will this school year ever end? In God’s time is the only answer I have for that.

plague2015

Today, I wanted to share some thoughts on mercy.  Mercy is the word that keeps coming to my mind. Pope Francis declared this to be the Holy Year of Mercy beginning December 8, 2015 and ending on the feast of Christ the King in 2016.  Maybe the news of this declaration has something to do with mercy being my latest buzzword.  My initial reaction was that a “Holy Year of Mercy” seemed a wimpy declaration. I thought, what does that mean? Images of Jon Stamos in Full House came to mind. “Have mercy,” he exclaimed each episode in reaction to a beautiful woman or car. But, then I started to really think about what mercy is, the Divine Mercy, the most merciful Lord and savior. And as I looked around my world, I found a desparate lack of mercy. I smiled to myself as I was reminded once again how foolish I am and how great and wise is the Holy Spirit to inspire a Year of Mercy. We can certainly use it!

Don’t believe me? Well, just turn on the news; listen to a talk show; or read comments on any on-line forum, article or social media. There’s a deplorable lack of mercy. Pay attention to your inner voice as you react to any news you hear. Is it like mine with an automatic critical or negative thought? Are you quick to judge, like me? The fact is that we never have all the facts. So, when reacting to the “big story” in the news we are participating in sinful gossip. Commenting on-line is a dangerous tight-rope walk not easily balanced with facts and charitable discussion, but easily igniting anger and bitterness. It makes my heart so heavy. First, to know I am guilty of such criticism and lack of charity—even if I just think it for a brief moment. But, then to see it play out in our world brings a heaviness and sorrow that I can not explain in words. How quickly lives are destroyed and the pain and suffering ripple out!

My duty is to tend to my own soul and those souls of the children still under my care. It is a full-time job and not a fun or glamorous one to be sure. My soul is filthy and dusty and grimy. So, it is much more appealing to me to work on other people’s souls, until I see that it really doesn’t get me (or them) any closer to God. But, extending love and mercy? That draws us to unity with God and one another. Mercy is not the condoning of a sinful act, but the openness to growth and change when one repents of that action. It is the taking in account of our fallen human nature and loving one another despite it. In Fr. Lang’s Dictionary of the Liturgy, he describes God’s mercy as the “willingness of God to draw near to human beings in a loving and saving encounter. . . Those who come to know God and experience Him in this way can live only in a state of being continually converted to Him.” So, basically, if we try to work on our own souls to live out God’s will; then we have no need to worry about the criticism of others and can disregard it as such.  (This is not to say that it will be painless or free of suffering.  One only needs to look to Jesus on the cross to understand that even this perfect and sinless human was a victim of mob mentality).  In living out the Will of God we cannot help but recognize our own faults and weaknesses and understand that we are NOTHING without God. Then, we can more easily understand the weakness and failures of others and extend mercy towards them; mainly in the form of prayer and fasting.  Likewise, it will strengthen us to avoid negative thoughts and actions.  As others feel this mercy, they will naturally turn towards God and begin to improve their soul and lives accordingly. The ripple of love and mercy will be a conduit of evangelization throughout the world. I can’t think of a time where our world has needed it more than the present moment.

"For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."

“For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Advent Approaching

This is my favorite time of year despite colder weather. Christ the King Sunday is this weekend and Thanksgiving is right behind it. Advent is quickly approaching, which means our wedding anniversary will also be celebrated soon.   It has been one year since my health “crash” and as I reflect back on the lessons I’ve learned, I see the blessings in the experience. One of my first lessons was in living out the Advent season. I couldn’t shop, couldn’t decorate and, well, pretty much couldn’t do anything that took any amount of energy over getting dressed. Spending nearly two weeks at a convent allowed me an opportunity for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament like never before and I drank it in deeply.  I spent hours in prayer and spiritual reading, as well as taking lots of time to rest and heal.  I long for that time again.

It is not realistic to retreat to a convent for two weeks every year–after all I have been called to the vocation of motherhood and wife, which requires me to be in the world. I can bring the prayerful aspects of the convent life to my family and my home though. We can make an effort to go to Adoration at least once a week during Advent.  We can refocus and redouble our efforts for daily family prayer. We can resist the secular model of the holidays and refrain from decorating until Christmas Eve. And then, in true rebel form, we can celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas with joy and festivities. I am still trying to wrap my head around how this will look. The kids and Patrick are with me on this and we are all excited to live the Liturgical Year out loud.

Here is what I have thought out so far:

  1. The day after Thanksgiving we used to decorate the whole house for Christmas. This year we will pull out the tree, but leave it undecorated. I will put the lights on, but not light them. Then each day of advent we will put our Jesse Tree ornaments on and read the story from the Bible.
  2. We will also set up the Creche, but leave baby Jesus tucked away until Christmas. On Christmas we will lay him in the manger and sing “Happy Birthday”
  3. Our stockings will be hung in anticipation of St. Nick’s Feast Day on December 6. We will read the story of St. Nicholas and talk about how his story evolved into the present day story of Santa Claus. And I will remind the kids not to spoil the imagry of Santa Claus for other children whose family’s hold that tradition.
  4. If the weather cooperates, we will decorate the house with lights and yard ornaments, but they will remain unlit until Christmas Eve as well.
  5. The kids can set up the new Christmas village and train set that Grandma and Grandpa Allen handed down to us. That will be such a special and exciting activity for all of us!
  6. We will set up an Advent wreath on our table and take turn lighting the candles at our evening meals. I found short, round candles at the dollar store several months ago and snatched them up. Taper candles make me a little nervous and don’t seem to stay in their holders very well.  
  7. The kids are getting old enough to enjoy the reading of Jotham’s Journey. It is an Advent story that is read each night of Advent and you follow the shepherd boy, Jotham through a series of adventures. I challenge you not to read ahead!
  8. We will focus on serving others, attending weekly Adoration, and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for celebrating the greatest gift ever given to us: Jesus Christ Our Savior.
  9. The older kids will sing at the Christmas Eve Mass. For the first time in our married life we will celebrate Christmas Eve at home. After attending Mass, we will arrive home to the house lit up, the tree fully decorated and lighted, and presents wrapped and waiting under the tree.
  10. We will place baby Jesus in the manger, exchange gifts, and enjoy our family time. This will allow us to relax and enjoy Christmas Day as a family: bonding and playing and praying together like I imagine the Holy Family to have done as Mary and Joseph soaked in the wonder of their new babe.
  11. Finally, we will celebrate the end of the Season with our married daughter and her family on Epiphany Sunday. This is a tradition we established several years ago when we realized the stress in trying to squeeze several family celebrations into a few days.

I think we will continue school and work up to Christmas Eve and then take off the entire Christmas Season through Epiphany.  I will leave it up to God with how well it works out. How will you be celebrating your Advent and Christmas?  Have you ever tried to live out Advent deliberately, or are you swept along with the crowd as I usually am?  The secular world has made this holy season into a holiday celebration.  I think we can reclaim Christmas only when we recognize Advent and truly prepare our hearts and homes for Him.  At least this is my hope.

Letting Go

I am currently sitting in the Library on St. Gregory’s campus in Oklahoma acting like I have nothing pressing to do.  Since Lauren was busy walking across the United States of America this summer raising awareness for life from conception to natural death, we only had a few days to see her.  My Dad was coming up to Oklahoma to meet with the Abbott, so I hitched a ride and am hanging out until Lauren finishes with classes and work tomorrow.  I got a quick lunch with her today, will be able to grab dinner with her this evening, and tomorrow  I’ll have a 4-5 hour car ride back home with her.  Just to be with her is a blessing for this momma.  And I am enjoying the quiet, AC, and am surrounded with books—what better place is there?  Since I have all this free time and my mind is all about Lauren, I thought that I should blog about my first biological offspring.  Good idea, right?

Lauren will probably be the least happy to see that I have written a blog post about her.  She is my humble, introverted, little Lauren.  My first biological child, therefore my first guinea pig.  I can still recall the overwhelming feeling of love the first moment I laid eyes on her.   I knew I had been endowed with a precious gift from God and was terrified of the prospect, overwhelmed by the responsibility, and overcome with a love so deep that I wanted to protect her from all evil.  image  So within weeks of bringing her home I insisted that we sell the car and get a van.  I just knew that the car would be hi-jacked sometime between strapping her into her carseat and my climbing into the driver’s seat.  With a van, I could get inside and lock the doors and then get the seat belts fastened.  You’re laughing, but I am dead serious.  Just ask my blessed husband.   After the hormones calmed down, I let go a little more; but I know that I’m not the only mother who can identify with that feeling of ferocious protection of our offspring.

Lauren is incredibly gifted with knowledge and has the ability to learn things easily and quickly, as well as being fiercely independent.  She is also incredibly creative with a unique ability to think outside the box.  I, on the other hand, only know the box and what’s in it so this ability intrigues me.   I’m not sure what God has planned for her, but I have no doubt that He will do great things with her if she subverts to His divine will.  Lauren displayed these traits from a very early age.  I, being a first-time mom, thought it was typical for a child to speak in sentences at age one, count to 20 by 15 months, and know all of her colors and shapes (including her favorite shape, cylinder) by 18 months.  So, when she gives me a hard time now about the fact that I made her write her own thank you notes after her second birthday party, please take into consideration that she began writing her name at 14 months of age and I thought this was what every two-year old could do!  Don’t ask me why Ben is not potty trained at 3 ½.  

Don't talk about it!

Don’t talk about it!

We are talking about Lauren here.  We will get to Benjamin another time.  Probably after he’s potty trained.

Anyway, in addition to her intelligence Lauren has a keen sense of humor and loves to play practical jokes.  She has had a knack for the witty for as long as I can remember.  Maybe sarcasm and snarky are not the best traits to have, but I can at least take some credit for those.  Is that a good thing?  Well, it is something.  It still brings a smile to my face when I think of her as 20 month old toddler, telling knock knock jokes and getting the timing right.  Or her sarcastic reply to my exasperated question, “Where did all this laundry come from?”  “The store,” she said and walked away laughing.

Besides her beautiful face, I miss the laughter she brings to our family while she has been away at college and walking across the country this summer for Pro Life Crossroads.  I mentioned that she is fiercely independent, right?  Her first summer in college she worked in Oklahoma for Totus Tuus spreading the Gospel and catechizing the youth.  We had a couple of weeks with her at the beginning, middle and end of summer in 2013.  It was NOT what this mama had envisioned for Lauren’s first summer in college.  I thought she would come home, get a job, spend time with us . . . But, when she told me that she would be working as a Catachesis, how could I say no?  This summer we had 3 days in May, one in June and 3 hours on Saturday evening with her before she returned to school on Sunday.  But who’s counting?  Me.  That’s who.  I am very grateful for Skype and Google Hangouts; but, it isn’t the same as seeing my baby face-to-face.  Although it is true that we missed her, I am in awe of the experience that she gained in walking across the country.  Seriously.  Can you even imagine?  Her team started in San Francisco by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Then she went through the mountains, across the dessert, through the heartlands and into the places that saw the birth of our nation!  In addition to this tactile experience of our great country, she was the face of Pro Life along the way—a witness for the unborn, the vulnerable among us, the elderly, the dignity of each individual human life created uniquely and equally in the image of God.  image image Sure, she has some funky tan lines; but, what an adventure!  During our short reunion, I soaked up every moment and asked her what she learned.  I was anticipating a deep and thoughtful response, or even a witty one.  She replied, “Did you know that other families don’t require their kids to submit a budget to get their allowance and that most three year old’s don’t do chores?”  Yes. Yes, I did.  Although her answer doesn’t appear monumental or particularly deep on the service, it is a marker that she has become more independent from her father and me.  She is realizing in a tangible way that her childhood experiences are remarkably different from others.  This inevitably leads to making life choices that are more her own and less what Mom and Dad would do.  And that is a very healthy and mature outcome.

When we began to homeschool Lauren at age 6 after having enrolled her in a private Catholic school for PreK and Kindergarten, many people thought we were trying to protect and shelter her.  We just felt that it was the best environment for her to learn and grow at her own pace.  She thrived.  Lauren left for college shortly after her 17th birthday.  Many people wondered how I could let her go so young.  When she announced her plans with Crossroads this spring, several people expressed concern for her safety and wondered how we could let her go.  The fact is that Lauren has been my lesson in letting go from the day she was born.   My experience serves to remind me that our children are only on loan to us from God.  It is our duty to instill in them faith and morals, to educate their minds, bodies and souls, and then to let them go and live the Gospel fully and completely, always seeking God’s will.  Am I scared?  Sometimes.  But, unlike those first years peppered with irrational fears of being hi-jacked or watching her fall to her death from the park slide, I too have matured and grown.  I know God loves her more than I ever could.  I know that if He is calling her to task, it is my duty to step aside and let her go.  And I know that He will give us all the graces and strength to persevere.  In the meantime, I am going to continue to soak up every minute I can.  How long until dinner?

image

To read about some of Lauren and Crossroads Central Walkers’ experiences, go to their blog at www.crossroadsprolife@wordpress.com.

Weekly Workbooks

As I’m preparing for my highest school enrollment so far, I thought I could share a few of the organizing tips that have worked well for us in our homeschooling adventures. This year I will have 7 students. 1 in Pre-K, 2 in Kindergarten, 2 in Third/Fourth Grade, 1 in Fifth Grade and 1 in High School. My tips are for the elementary grades and have not been tested for Junior High or High School 😉

 

I do not use one set curriculum. Every year I change up the books that I am using and the sources to best meet the needs of my students, my self and our family for that particular time in our life. Although I love, love, love the Classical style, Montessori, and Charlotte Mason methods I have not always been able to utilize them due to their teacher intensive nature. I have no formal background, so it could just be that I am not properly trained or just simply doing it all wrong. In any case, this year I have my High School student enrolled in MODG with LS classes (live internet-based classes with grading) and TS (teacher directed through phone calls with grading). This is reassuring to me that she will not fall through the cracks. My 5th grader is enrolled with Seton. My ¾ graders are doing just the basics with Total Language Plus covering the language arts and Math, Religion, and Historical Literature to round them out. My Kindergartners are going to learn to read this year (using AVKO’s Reading from Square One), so my focus is on them. Once they can read, independent work becomes much, much easier. As you can see, these curricula choices are workbook intensive, which leads me to the following organizational system.  It is a weekly workbook system that puts all of the assignments for a week in one, nice, neat package.

 

This is not my original idea. I read about it years ago, and implemented it and tweaked it to make it my own. First, I found these folders by Pendaflex.

The only difference is that this one has 10 tabs, ours have 6 tabs.

The only difference is that this one has 10 tabs, ours have 6 tabs.

Because Kindergarten isn't complete without Stickers

Because Kindergarten isn’t complete without Stickers

 They are a heavy duty plastic and the first set of 3 have been in use for five years now. So, although they may seem pricey for a folder, they will pay for themselves in due time. And they are so easy to use! Label each tab for a subject. Tear out one week’s worth of papers for that subject and slide into place. Repeat for each subject. Other than the occasional text book or reader, this is all your student will need to get to work. It is easy to transport from room-to-room, or for on the go. It also gives the student a tangible grasp on the expectations for the week. Once they finish the pages in the folder, their work for the week is complete. Here is an example of everything needed to “get ‘er done” by student.  Fifth grade:

fifthThird/Fourth Grade:

 

 

4th

Kindergarten

Kindergarten

You may have noticed the notebook labeled “Book of Centuries.”  This is an incredible tool for teaching History and giving a visual context for when things happened. It is a timeline contained in one notebook with 1/2 a century per page.  It is easy to personalize and a life-long learning tool and keepsake.  You can download your own copy here for only $2!  Catholic Icing is one of my favorite resources!

My older students have their own shelf for their books and supplies.  3:4 books

For my Kindergarten and Pre-schoolers, I found these cool colored bins at Costco. All of their books fit nicely in the bin and they are easy for the kids to open, carry and store. kid bin

 

This isn’t exactly on topic, but since I mentioned Costco, I found these large magnetic maps of the US and World. Store them up high though or you will learn more about Geography in one week than you will have ever desired to know.  I’m speaking from experience here.  I purchased these one week ago.worldmap

 

Blessings on your new school year! Don’t hesitate to share your tips with me! I am always open to learning new and improved ways of doing things.

Easter Highs and Sugar Lows

Happy Easter!  He is risen, He is risen indeed!  I hope that you all had a blessed Holy Week and joyful Easter Sunday celebrations.  We had a busy weekend filled with family, candy, desserts, candy, and even swimming.  I am delayed in writing this blog because it has taken me all week to recover.  On Saturday, we drove to Dallas to visit family and had an early lunch that the kids didn’t eat because we had just had breakfast a couple of hours earlier.  So, with empty stomachs they dove head first into the bowls of M&M’s and chocolate kisses.  This was followed by an egg hunt and the devouring of candy in said eggs, followed by desserts, and sodas to wash it all down.  Normally, we have strict rules about eating our grow food and limiting sweets; but, it has always been our policy that at special events the kids have free reign over their tastebuds with gentle reminders that too much might cause tummy aches.  I think it is a good way of teaching them responsibility for their actions without giving away too much parental guidance and oversight.  They all had a good sugar high, and no one was harmed in the experiment.

Sophia woke up screaming around 3 am on Easter Sunday.  Patrick settled her down and when he crawled back into bed I reminded him that the Easter bunny had left the baskets in the top of her closet and forgot to put them out.  So, out he went again to do his Easter duty.  Mass was beautiful and beautifully crowded!   We had to split into three pews to even get seats, but Lauren was home so we had adult supervision for each group.  We came home and ate a wonderful and tasty balanced lunch with protein and vegetables and then headed off to my sister’s home for another egg hunt, cake, ice cream  and more soda.  My sister heated her pool and the kids got to go in for a short swim before a storm came through.  I wonder if my niece has regained her hearing yet?  She was the lucky one holding Sophia in the pool when it thundered.  Sophia and thunder do not mix.  Think of a cat with claws being dipped in water and add the head of a screaming banshee with beautiful blue eyes and short bobbed hair:  Sophia in a thunderstorm.

Sophia woke up Monday asking when we were doing the egg hunt.  She learned that Easter is 50 days in length and was ready to continue the celebrations.  Of course, we didn’t have any more celebrations, but everyone was excited to have dessert with dinner.  We typically only have dessert on Name Days (feast days of our patron saints) or on days of Solemnity.  It is not that we are so holy to observe those days, it was a way for me to cut back on the grocery budget and not be the bad guy for saying no to dessert all the time.  It has saved me money and the added bonus is that my kids really pay attention to the liturgical calendar, which has heightened all of our awareness of the beauty and traditions in the Catholic Church, forming a stronger connection to the Communion of the Saints.  In any case, Monday went fairly well and we took the day off of school to enjoy a few more moments with Lauren before she headed back to college.

Then came Tuesday.  Whoo Weee!  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what went wrong.  The older kids were constantly bickering about every. little. thing. and the younger kids were either screaming, yelling or screeching at the top of their lungs.  I woke up feeling like my blood had been replaced with cement.  On three different occasions I attempted to take a nap only to be woken up by the horrible, terrible, sassy aliens that had invaded my kids’ bodies.  Fifi took the kids to the park and I enjoyed my one hour of silence.  When Fifi left at 2pm, I sat outside with the kids hoping that the fresh air and exercise would bring peace and calm.  It did not.  I resorted to having the kids do 25 jumping jacks for each infraction.  After dinner I gave them to Dad.  He took them for a walk and had them doing sets of 100 jumping jacks.  They all slept well.  We have not seen signs of the alien invaders since.  I am pretty sure they were from the planet Sugar in the galaxy of Chocolate and Sodas.  So, you might be on the lookout in case they are looking for new bodies to occupy.