Off to School we Go!

God always, ALWAYS, is with us.  He provided me an opportunity to go on a private retreat the first weekend of August.  At this point, only Benjamin was accepted into school.  The others were on the waitlist in positions ranging from 10-27, which didn’t look too hopeful.  I struggled with grabbing back the familiar and the control.  It’s my default move to just take it all back and not trust in the bigger plan.  But, God patiently and lovingly spoke to me: to my heart in adoration and through the books I read.  I called Patrick and was so confident in God’s will for us that I was able to speak my need clearly and succinctly.  We had to enroll the kids in school and UME was the right school for us.  If they didn’t get in at first, then Patrick agreed to oversee the daily checklist and grading the Math and I would oversee the school during the day.  Our intermediate plan was to homeschool until they were accepted.  The next week a friend alerted me that the kids may not be listed as Benjamin’s siblings, which would affect the waitlist status.  Sure enough, when I called the school we discovered that a change in the computer system had left them detached from Benjamin.  When this error was corrected all the kids were moved up to positions ranging from 1 to 10.  It was a little sliver of hope and encouragement.

Benjamin started school on August 17.  I took all six kids with me to the Open House, so that in the event they were admitted they would be familiar with the school and some of the teachers.  Patrick was supposed to go with us, but his dentist appointment ran long and he could no longer meet up with us.  This event alone would have put me into a full panic attack just a mere 6 months ago.  But, God equips us to do His will.  There was no anxiety within me.  We saw a few families that we knew, but mostly it felt as if we just floated from room to room in a bubble, met the teachers we needed to meet and I left feeling excited and at peace about the new possibilities.  This is God’s grace in action.

By Friday, Daniel, Samuel and Sophia were enrolled.  One week later Joshua began his first day of 7th grade.  It only took 10 days for five of the six kids to be fully enrolled!  While I was on retreat, it looked like it could be the next semester or not at all; but, God was just giving me the opportunity to put my trust in Him.  He is such a loving, gentle and patient teacher.

So, we happily pack our lunches and backpacks, the kids cheerily skip off to school each morning and I sit drinking my coffee and lay by the pool soaking in the quiet.  Not a all.  The early mornings are a definite struggle.  Patrick oversees breakfast, getting the kids awake and dressed, and takes them to Shelly’s. (We carpool with a friend, but our car is the only one big enough to carry everyone, so it’s quite the system of exchanging vehicles in order to get the kids from point A to point B; but, it is also quite a blessing).  I haven’t slept well since school started, so my rising and my movement is very slow and limited.  I manage to get a few tasks accomplished and then I go to pick the kids up.  It is a 25 minute drive one direction.  We arrive home and dig into homework, which leads directly into dinner preparation and clean up, family reading time, prayers and bedtime.  This six-hour period of constant activity leaves me feeling like a wrung out washrag.  At the same time, Patrick is finishing a fourteen-hour work day and isn’t in much better shape.  After a week, the kids excitement and fascination with going to school has worn off and it takes a little more effort to get everyone motivated and moving.  Homeschooling was actually much easier and more efficient.  I won’t lie, I’ve already thought about throwing in the towel.

I was actually contemplating if we had made a huge mistake by putting them in school when I saw a video that my doctor posted on Facebook.  He spoke about walking through the fire.  He said things like “we always have something to learn” and “maybe it’s not about us, but about what other people see in our journey.” BAM!  God lead us to this path.  We are here at this moment, in this place for a reason.  It is hard, brutally difficult and challenging.  It is especially a struggle because I know that the hardships we are facing to make this school thing happen can be relieved by just going back to homeschooling.  But, I can not–must not–look back.  No, comparison and “what ifs” are the handy  work of the enemy.  God is calling us to go forward, to trust in Him completely.  He has a plan for us and the lesson in it is not only for me.  God wants to use our family and our story to show His goodness.  I will not stand in His way.

I beg your prayers for us during this time of transition.  We really are feeling the physical effects of this effort.  Pray for strength for us, for perseverance for all, and for all to learn the lesson that God is teaching us through the experience.  Thank you for journeying with me.

UPDATE:  In the midst of this transition, we have a new granddaughter!  Savannah Grace made her appearance at 5 am this morning.  And this Saturday we will gain a son when our daughter, Lauren celebrates the Sacrament of Matrimony with Matthew Perrier.  Such blessings in our lives!!  All Praise and Glory to God be given.

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 Ten Things Parents Can Do to Make Mass Successful with Children

Attending Mass with young children can be a challenge for any parent whether it is your first child, or your fifteenth.  Children will be children and to expect otherwise is setting yourself up for disappointment.  For twenty years my husband and I have been attending Mass with young children.  Some days I felt like the ushers should be handing out T-shirts saying, “I survived Mass today” because just making it through the liturgy was an exercise in patience and physical endurance.  Most of the time Mass is enjoyable and the kids are very well behaved.  This didn’t happen by accident.  We made our share of mistakes, but the well-sought advice from parents who had walked in our shoes made the most difference.  Here is a list of the actions that have worked well for us.  With our youngest children ages 3, 4 and 6 I am happy to report that we rarely have to do much past steps  4 or 5 any more.  (Of course, now that I posted this on my blog, I will probably be eating some humble pie really soon.

1.  Set the Stage

As the kids are strapped in their carseats on the way to Mass, my husband shuts off the radio, gets everyone’s attention and  makes the same statement EVERY week.  “Okay, guys.  I expect good kids in church.  Good prayer hands.  Stand on two feet.  Sit quietly.”  Then he goes through each child by name and gets their commitment, “Yes, Dad.”  This is so much of a routine that the kids even know the stoplight and intersection to expect this conversation.  Consistency is key.

  1. Be an Example

If you truly believe in the presence of Christ:  body, soul, blood and divinity, then your actions will speak your beliefs loudly.  Practice reverence and fold your hands like you were taught when making your First Holy Communion.  Those little children will mimmick your actions and melt Jesus’ heart with their innocence and purity.  Our church still rings the bells at the consecration.  Take the time to whisper that Jesus is present on the altar, so the children can become aware of the incredible miracle taking place before them.

3.  The Look

My kids know the “look” and correct themselves fairly quickly.  The older they are, the more effective it is.  I don’t have to explain this.  Everyone knows a parent’s look.

  1. The Snap

For a child that is sitting in front of you or a few people away from you, a snap of your fingers followed by the look is a quick and unobtrusive way to let them know that their behavior needs to change.  Like the “Look”, my kids understand the “snap” and correct fairly quickly.

5.  The Redirect

Sometimes children just need physical redirection.  A gentle squaring of their shoulders with your hands to face them towards the altar, or to keep their foot from kicking the pew or others are some examples of this.

6.  The Squeeze/Pinch

This one may seem controversial to some, but I have used it will all of my kids and found it to be extremely effective.  Beginning at one year old or when your child understands, “no” this tool can begin to be implemented.  The point is not to hurt the child, or to cause physical pain; but to draw attention to correcting undesired behavior.  When a child in his mother or father’s arms wants down, begins to wiggle/wrestle, or makes loud  noises, the parent gently squeezes the child’s thigh and says,”no” with a firm voice.  You have to use your judgement with this as each child is different and we are not trying to stop kids from being kids, but simply train them for proper behavior.  Think Pavlov and don’t expect immediate results.  The results come with consistency.  As the child’s understanding increases, the squeeze becomes more firm.  At ages 6 and above, it is a pinch to get their attention because if you have consistently practiced steps 1-5 for their lifetime, you should not have to get to number 6.

  1. The Take Out

Most people will take screaming kids out of Mass.  Do the Take Out before it reaches that point if you are able.  If the gentle squeeze did not correct the behavior, then warn your child that you will leave Mass.  If you take them out, it should not be a reward.  Sometimes I spank, most of the time I simply restate my expectations for their behavior.  I go to a quiet corner or outside and get at eye level to speak with them.  Before returning to Mass, they verbally commit to improved behavior.  Ie:  We are going to sit still and be quiet, right?  Then, we have found that having the child lay his/her head on your shoulder when returning shows submission and is effective in making them feel loved and secure even after being corrected.  They have lost their privilege to sit on their own and will spend the rest of Mass on a parental lap.  Many naps have followed this scenario.

  1. Cry Room Criteria

If the Take Out did not get the desired results, it is probably time to go to the Cry Room.  Some families start out here, but personally I think that is a mistake.  Our cry room is very small as well, so it is unfair for entire families to take up this vital space.  But, that is just my personal opinion.  In any case, the cry room does not make for a play room!  When we have to go to the cry room, my kids know it won’t be fun.  They are not allowed off my lap and can not take any books or toys with them.  All the crying and fit throwing in the world will not earn them freedom and this is clear from the moment we step foot out of the main church.  In all honesty, my babies are the only ones who have ever cried in there.  Mostly the kids sit in my lap in awe of the kids that are climbing and talking and playing and running wild.  Once their behavior is corrected, the baby is nursed to sleep, or I feel confident enough– I return to our seats with our family.  I have rarely spent the entire Mass in the cry room.  It is an over-crowed place of distraction with lack of reverence and I dread every minute I have to be in there;  but am thankful to have a place to go with an unruly child, a hungry infant, or a stinky diaper that needs immediate attention.  Yes, that is the only changing station in the church facility.

  1. Practice

For children age 4 or older, sometimes we just need a little more practice standing still, sitting still, or folding our hands.  If we had a difficult time doing these things at Mass then we practice once we get home.  A rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age.  So a 5 year old can practice sitting quietly for 5 minutes.  We set a timer while we are making lunch and explain what we are doing and why: always reinforcing the expectation that was announced to begin with.  Consistency.  Reinforcement.  Gentleness.  Patience.  Any of these things done with anger will defeat your original purpose of teaching and training your children to understand and love the beauty of the Mass.  Yes, I have done them in anger.  No, they were not effective.

10.  Daily Mass

This was my biggest boost when we attended regularly.  Once my older kids learned proper behavior, the younger ones followed suit.  Daily Mass first and foremost filled me and my children with graces.  The days we attended daily Mass, things seemed to go more smoothly and set the right tone for the week.  The regular church goers fussed over my kids and lavished them with praise and treats, which made attendance so much more rewarding.  There is also a playground that I used for bribery purposes.  I am not ashamed to admit this.  Finally, the Mass is only 30 minutes long so it is not as demanding as the hour to hour-and-a-half long Sunday Masses.  It is the perfect place to begin to learn the prayers and rhythm of the Mass.  I speak of this in past tense because we haven’t attended since Ben was born due to my health issues.  I look forward to getting this back into our daily routine.  My college age daughter still attends daily Mass and my 16 year old goes whenever she can break away from helping me.  I don’t want to deny that to my other children as I fully understand that the weight of a Mass cannot be measured in earthly terms.

I hope that these are helpful to other parents with young children.  Hang in there as these young years don’t last forever (just twenty some years in our case).  One day they will be out of diapers, out of the nursery, and out of your home; but, God willing, they will never leave the Mass that they were taught to love from their very first moments.

First Things First

Years ago I read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Steven Covey.  I took away lots of great insight and advice from the book, but one analogy has stood out the strongest over all these years.  In short its message was “Put first things, first.”  I have tried to continually put it into practice and to pass this important lesson along to my kids.  Then, the opportunity presented itself for a tangible lesson and teaching opportunity.  And because of that teaching opportunity, I also gained material for a blog post.  So, win–win, right?

My kids have lots of toys and I try to organize them in a way that we can maintain a clean home, have space to play, and have access to games and toys without complete chaos in the wake.  One of the recent favorite toys to pull out and play with for hours and hours are the Playmobile sets, known as Mo-mobile sets in our home because that is how Daniel heard it called and it stuck.  image The problem with mo-mobile is there are lots, and I mean LOTS, of tiny pieces.  The best way to keep up with it all is to have one large storage bin for all three sets.  Everything is in one place and we don’t go insane trying to match up parts to specific sets.  (DISCLAIMER:  this does not include Samuel’s set.  All the pieces are in their precise designated location, kept in the original box in the top of his closet, off limits to all siblings.)  But, for the not-so-OCD-Mach children, the remaining sets are fit very well in one large bin–IF you put them in the bin in the proper order.  And here is where the teachable moment fits in.

My children, including Samuel, want to get the toys picked up with the least amount of effort.  Good.  Efficiency is good.  They will toss the pieces into the bin in no particular order, and finding that the lid will not fit on the bin, begin to push and cram the pieces hoping to get the desired results.  It never works.   Stephen Covey tells us in 7 Habits that we have to put the “big” stuff in first.  We have to put important things like prayer, marriage and parenting into life before we can add in the activities, the parties, or even work at times.  If we put the big things in first, all the little stuff will fit in much more easily.  The other night it was Joshua who was assigned to clean up the mo-mobiles.  In his rush he tossed the items into the bin, but couldn’t get the lid on.  With frustration and irritation in my voice, I said, “You’ve got to put the big stuff in first, Bud.”  He tried to scoop the small items to one side and slip in the largest house.  He even figured out how some pieces nested together to save space, but still the lid would not shut.  So, I got down on the floor and showed him how to do it.  image image image I removed the large pieces and set them to the side.  Then, I dumped all the pieces out onto the lid with only a few spilling onto the carpet.  I replaced the large pieces and lifting the lid, I carefully dumped all the little pieces into the bin.  In less than one minute they were all neatly in the bin, lid on, and slid into their home on the shelf.  His eyes were wide with amazement.  Not only did everything fit, it was easier and faster to do it that way.

The analogy was not lost on me and I hope it rooted deeply into Joshua’s heart as well.  It sometimes seems for me that time for prayer, relaxation, or any activity apart from hearth and home will not fit into my busy day.  I try stuffing it all in, but like toys that get lost or broken in the process, I too can become lost and broken.  I get in a hurry to get it all done and in the end nothing gets done well, if at all.  I put it off because the thought of fitting it all in is just overwhelming, but then I realize that I just need to focus on the big things first and take them one at a time.  When I finally set all the little things in my life to one side, I can see more clearly where the big things can fit in.  If I start my day with prayer, work on my relationship with my husband and kids, and focus on my main job of teaching; somehow I have a little time here to read a blog or two, a little time there to play a game, and another spot of time to work on growing my business (new venture, I’ll post details soon).  It all fits and it is easier and less stressful to boot.

Now, I just need to remember to put it into practice daily.  Old habits die hard.

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.

Team Mach

Our chore list with color coded assignments

Our chore list with color coded assignments

I was dining with a friend recently and she posed the questions: How do you get your children to do chores?  And What do you do when they don’t follow through?  Since the same topic came up with another friend today, I thought it might be good to share our experiences with you as well.  First, we (my husband and I) have always agreed that children should have chores that fit their ability according to age and maturity.  Likewise, they have privileges that also meet their ability according to age and maturity.  Responsibility and Freedom go hand-in-hand and this is how we pass that knowledge on to our children.   We are a family and as a family we have to work together as a team.  When someone gets sick or is unable to fulfill his/her duty, the rest of us jump in to take care of that member of the family and cover their chores.  Everyone will be in a position of needing family support and every person will also be in a position to offer service to benefit the other members.  The family is the Domestic Church.  That means it is a place to experience God’s love through our parents, offer service to others, receive the support we need, as well as put into practice being virtuous, while pruning our vices.

Living out our vocation as parents is always a work in progress.  As Karen has told me, “We get to get up and make our bed again every day.”  I think that is a wise and merciful insight to the old saying, “You made your bed, now you can lie in it.”  Once we realize that we are all humans who make mistakes, we can begin to be more patient with ourselves, our spouses and our children.  Having realistic expectations is a concept that I am continuously working towards.  So, how do we get our children to do chores?  We begin when they are little. Toddlers naturally want to help us.  Capitalize on that natural desire by letting them help.  Yes, it will take longer to complete the task in the short term, but we are working towards a long term goal of raising independent adults.  A three year old can easily sort silverware into the drawer, or set napkins at each place at the table.

If, like my friend, your children are past the toddler stage, it is not too late to make them a team player!  In order to be a team player, they will need to know the rules of the game, who is on the team, and how you win the game.  Everyone wants to be on a winning team.   Every August, just before we start back to school, we have a family meeting.  This is a natural time to come together and review how we are doing as a team and what changes we can make to improve.  Our children are growing and so are their abilities to serve and their need for more independence.    Here are some guidelines for the meeting:

DO

  1. Have a husband and wife meeting to get on the same page before presenting ideas to the kids
  2. Acknowledge each person’s contributions to the family over the past year
  3. Ask what kind of family everyone would like to have (do we need to spend more time together, less fighting, more family meals, etc)
  4. Guide the discussion towards positive solutions to make your dream family a reality
  5. Allow the children to choose the service they wish to provide (this can be done in a very structured format with gentle parental guidance)

DON’T

  1. Make this a time for berating or discipline.  If there are issues they should be done in private with the particular child.
  2. Undermine the other parent in front of the children.
  3. Announce what chores each child will do without allowing their input in the discussion
  4. Be negative

After a short discussion on the kind of family you want to be, explain how each person’s contributions to the family are critical to making that dream come true.  This is where I post all the chores and allow the children to begin volunteering.  This is a guided exercise and some chores are “assigned” if there is only one child who is truly able to complete the task, or only one task a child is capable of doing.  The point of the exercise is for the children to feel empowered, to feel that he or she is a part of the team.  After this, state your expectations clearly.  For example, “I will post the new chore assignments on the board.  I will remind you one time to complete your task.  There will be no play time, video games, going out with friends, etc. until your chores are completed.”

Our August 2, 2014 meeting in progress

Our August 2, 2014 meeting in progress

In my post last year, I explained in detail how our positive incentive system works.  I stand by this system 100% and we still continue to utilize it with much success.  In fact, it has had the added bonus of teaching fiscal responsibility (ie. purchasing quality items for the long term vs. cheap toys that last less than a day).  The combination of allowing the children to be a part of the process and acknowledging their contributions and effort is the HOW in getting our children to do their chores.  Now, what do we do when that isn’t enough?  Well, I have screamed, threatened, grounded, fought, pleaded, whined, and cried.  None of that worked with much success.  Then my logical, even-keeled husband reminded me that we already established consequences.  I ask once, maybe give another gentle reminder of the consequences, but when that  fails to get the job done, I simply and calmly say, “I’m sorry.  You can’t do ________ because you didn’t do “x”.”  If the child continues to argue, I simply and calmly state, “This is not up for debate.  We agreed that you would do “x” before you could do “z”.”  Then you have to learn how to allow them to be upset with you.  In fact, they are not really upset with your, they are really upset at themselves for not holding up their end of the bargain, but it is easier to take it out on you.  The reality is that you have just earned their respect.  You set a boundary.  You set clear, realistic expectations and you followed through.  You were honest and just.  If you are consistent it won’t take long before your kids will be team players and you WILL have a winning team.  Now get out there and win, win, WIN!

June Book Review

I am no expert on literature, but I am a lover of books, reading, and the written word. As volunteer librarian for our home school support group, I have learned to categorize and organize our 600+ books and videos in a reasonable fashion. I even catalogued the books on http://www.LibrayThing.com so that members can see our titles from the comfort of their own internet connections. One area that has been severely lacking is access to the physical library due to my health and the general busy-ness of homeschoolers in general. It is a most underused asset to be certain.
I am hoping to change that. Each month I will spotlight a book or video that we have in our Library. I decided that I should be more familiar with the books that I am recommending, so I will also add in a short review to the spotlight. This got me to thinking. If I am going to review a book for my support group, why not share my knowledge with my blog readers as well? So, here are my recommendations and reviews for June and handy links to Amazon should you want to purchase them for your own benefit as well. If you use my links, you will also help to support our home school and that will be very much appreciated!

One of my favorite bloggers, Simcha Fisher, inspired me with this photo on her post today.

photo by Simcha Fisher

Anyone with children knows that summertime will inevitably bring about the phrase, “I’m Bored.” If you have teenagers in the house, then I have some reading recommendations for them and you!

Regina Doman has written a series of fairy tales retold. This Catholic author takes traditional fairy tales and sets them in modern times with fascinating characters and story lines that will captivate the reader. Hot summer afternoons are sure to pass by quickly as you devour these novels. These include The Shadow of the Bear: A Fairy Tale Retold, Black as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold, Waking Rose: A Fairy Tale Retold, The Midnight Dancers: A Fairy Tale Retold, and the latest release Rapunzel Let Down: A Fairy Tale Retold.

For a slightly more serious read, your high school boys may enjoy Fr. Larry Richard’s book, Be A Man!: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be. Fr. Richards doesn’t mince words and will capture your son’s attention with his honesty and his gift of storytelling. This book is written to encourage deep thought about what it means to be a Catholic man in today’s world. Rather than telling the reader what to think, Fr. Richards asks them questions that will guide them into a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationship with God. Each chapter ends with goals and reflection questions.

Happy Reading!

Ain’t It Great to be Crazy

My husband always jokes that it is our duty as parents to screw up our kids. I think our number one duty is to annoy and embarrass them. I am especially blessed in this department because I was given the gift of changing lyrics in songs to fit the occasion. This combined with my lack of singing abilities really gets the sighs and eye rolling responses that parents dream about.

In all seriousness, I love to joke and be silly with my kids. My mother and father where always fun that way and my childhood is filled with memories of laughter and singing. My mom knew hundreds of songs by heart probably because her own father, my beloved Grandpa Stich played the accordion and loved to sing. Almost 14  years ago she compiled all the lyrics to the songs she sang to us as children, typed them up, scrapbooked pictures and bound a book for each of her children as a gift.image It is one of my most treasured books with the words to 200 songs. imageSo, I have these tunes floating in my head and they just come out spontaneously always sure to garnish a few laughs.

For example, last week I saw some turkey vultures lunching on a flattened squirrel. Being the homeschooling mom that I am, I quickly took video on my phone to share with my kids. Science class? Check. After dinner, I remembered the vultures and shared the video with my children. This lead to my dramatic Angela declaring the she, “missed Stumpy!” “ Who is Stumpy,” you ask. Stumpy was a squirrel in our neighborhood that earned his name because his tail was no more than a stump, making him easy to recognize. We saw Stumpy often over the course of two years and then, one day, poor Stumpy was seen dead in the road. So, of course when Angela was feeling sentimental over the memory of Stumpy, I immediately came up with a song for the occasion. (to the tune of Grandma got run over by a reindeer)

Stumpy got run over by a neighbor,
Playing out in our yard yesterday.
He was playing with his squirrel-friends
And forgot to look both ways.

See, it’s a gift, I tell you. Of course, it needed a second verse. This came with some struggles, but the end result was satisfying if not historically accurate (well, mostly).

The vultures came to eat him,
Pick his flesh and eat his bones,
But our neighbor quickly snatched him
And buried him outside her home.

For added encouragement, my kids are cringing as I type this. They are squirming with the thought that I am putting this on my blog. Angela just told me that everyone will know that I am crazy if I post this. To which I responded:

Boom. Boom.  Ain’t it great to be crazy?
Boom.  Boom.  Ain’t great to be crazy,
Giddy and foolish the whole day through,
Boom. Boom. Ain’t it great to be crazy?