Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let Freedom Ring and Splash!

Memorial Day Weekend...

Remember when you were a kid and practically lived in the pool on hot Summer days? 
Swimming so long and happily that sunburns and fatigue seemed like the ridiculous folly of adulthood...

Discovering the first time that you could swim without wings, touch a toe to the shallow end, swim alone in the deep end...

Now I have Mommy memories of the endless days of Summer. The first time they're little toes meet the water...the first time they try to "swim" on their own...making juice and serving cookies...cuddling little happy people with blue, chattering lips...

Daddy bought her a new swimsuit. 
He picked it out himself and when he gave it to her she smiled bigger than big, hugged it to her and said "For ME???" 

Summer is a ridiculously short season in Northeast Ohio. But I think these days are sometimes worth two as mommies have an excuse to sit in the sun for hours and just enjoy watching the children...and daddies have an excuse to act like little boys. Uncles get pushed in the pool with their sneakers on. A little person occasionally needs a hero to pull her out of depths beyond her height. 

Happy Memorial Day! And a huge prayer of gratitude for all those who have given their lives to preserve the freedoms we enjoy this weekend! Thank you to all currently serving and to your families who sacrifice to let you do what you do. God bless you!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

18 Weeks: It's a Boy!

We have friends who own and operate a 3D/4D ultrasound studio. Since baby #4 we have had the great pleasure of being able to visit and see our unborn children in a non-medical setting and take home amazing photograph quality images.

I am about 18 weeks pregnant right now so the 3D images are not as clear (the baby is not as chubby) as he will be later in his development. But what a joy it is to be able to connect visually so early with a baby. It changes me every time. I am a mother 7 times. I know that life is within me and will eventually be known to the world (or in the case of miscarriage, to me alone). But those early months of pregnancy are a great trial for me and my focus is self-centered. I couldn't wait to go to my appointment yesterday because I know what it does to my heart to see. My focus cannot help but turn to the child.

This photo is a 2D image which is the best way to check the sex of the baby and also a lovely way to see cute little noses at this early age. The technician knew right away that our baby is a boy! If you look over his belly, you can see 4 little fingers peeking out of the blackness.

Another amazing thing about these early ultrasounds is seeing the level of activity going on so secretly in the womb. Although I can occasionally feel little thumbs and bumps, I cannot feel anything most of the time. For an hour, I watched my little one kicking and punching, raising his arms, rubbing his eyes and turning...and I didn't feel a bit of it! This little, unknown life so vibrant and thriving!

This photo is a 3D image. These generally aren't as good as they will be once the baby gets chubbier but still worth seeing. I liked this one because he raised his hands to his head and looked like he was trying to make little muscles! The legs are hidden but the umbilical cord is visible.

There are many people who love the surprise of finding out the sex of the baby at birth. I love the surprise just comes a bit earlier! The opportunity to see these videos and images is too wonderful to pass up and I can't seem to say no when they ask if I want to know. :)

The ultrasound technician is a strong Christian. At one point she said, "I wish every girl and woman could see pictures of their unborn children. I think most of those who abort are just ignorant. I can't believe that they could see what we're seeing and still choose to murder their child."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Gentle Kick in the Pants and a Mighty Whisper

As a follow-up to yesterday's post , I just have to say that God works through blogging. That seems a bit obvious since God works everywhere, I know. But my gentle gift today came through two internet sources. One from a blog I regularly follow in a lurking sort of fashion. The other through a fellow Handmade for Life member who strongly recommended a video to post to the team blog.

The good Lord could have given me a mighty hard kick in the pants for my whininess yesterday. But He did not...this time. He sent a gentle breeze of overwhelming compassion and beauty to direct my soul. He's reminding me yet again of the peace that comes with being little in His arms.

The first whisper of the Spirit came while reading the most recent blog post at A Holy Experience . There are times when the words another person offers are so clearly a gift from the Father to a soul. I don't have the words to convey the particular ways in which I was loved through the author's writing. The gift surpasses my verbal skills, my thoughts, and just drives straight to my heart. True beauty does that. I don't know where you are in life but if you are a wife and a mother, there is likely some part of this piece that will resonate with you; with your fears and hopes, insecurities and joys in the context of the intimacy of married life. Intimate Issues: The Making of a Marriage Bed

The second whisper came more directly from the following video. Nick's message of hope is direct and completely infectious. When that man, who seems on the surface to have so much missing, looks at the teenage young ladies and says "You are beautiful," you can see the conflict in their eyes. They want to be told this by a man who loves them. And the purity and truth that this man speaks directly to them surpasses all of the hype and superficiality of teenage drama...and cuts to the heart of the truth.

God has reminded me not to whine today. He has also reminded me that His beauty surpasses anything I could possibly desire in this lifetime. The tiniest glimpses that he blesses and consoles with can be overwhelming moments of joy and passion...with a reminder that we need not be content with glimpes but can finally, one day, rest with Him in that peaceful beauty forever.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Fine Skin of Vanity

"There is nothing so agonizing to the fine skin of vanity as the application of a rough truth" 
-- Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I've been having trouble with confidence issues this pregnancy. In other words, I'm very vain and am not handling the extra weight gain well. Maternity clothes at 15 weeks? Yikes. Christian humility is not holding up well under this relatively small challenge. It's a tiny cross. Why does it feel so heavy? My pride is clearly having a flare up.

I've quickly lost my sense of humor on the topic. A clear indication of pride. Proof of this is a conversation that I had at church this past Sunday. A woman I know from the parish ran up to me after Mass and said, "I just had to come and see! I sat behind you and noticed you were a little broad in the bean...I had to come and get a look at the belly!!" This said with 3 others present including 2 men.

I didn't laugh and the effort of smiling was similar to the effort it takes to smile when outside for an extended period in sub-freezing temps. What could I say? Thank you so much for commenting about the size of my behind in front of these people? She surely noticed it because she followed up with, "Oh, pregnant bodies are beautiful! So womanly and amazing!"

That's fine. So glad. But she had already sucker punched my vanity.

I admit that I hate the visual attention during pregnancy. I do not like people looking me up and down and commenting on my belly and what-not. It is decidedly worse to have someone comment on my rear end, I care not what the intentions are. I should have been able to laugh and to hug her in appreciation for her joy and enthusiasm.

Lesson learned: I am much more vain than I thought. It's something to work on. An opportunity to grow in humility and give everything over to the Lord.

Gratitude reminder: My husband is gentle with me during my crazy proud times. He finds many ways to communicate that he still thinks I'm lovely. Accepting that gift is sometimes difficult but I am thankful that he continually offers it.

Prayer: Jesus, teach me to control my pride: May it never reach the extent of vanity. I seek to model You as a humble child.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lovely Links: A little of This, A little of That

Liturgical Year
Yummy ideas for celebrating Pentacost at Catholic Cuisine.

Social Justice
A little pro-life inspiration: Woman conceived in rape is grateful for life

Home Education
Lovely blog that will inspire you to get your children involved in God's great big beautiful world. Perfect for Summer! Many nice links and nature resources. A Number of Things...

Crafty Distraction
Make a darling planner from a vintage book:  Vintage Book Planner Tutorial

Friday, May 21, 2010

Developing all students into advanced readers...

In my last post, I wrote about the program that I have used to teach my kids to read and which I credit with providing the foundational work for their reading success. Our school has three proficient readers plus one learning reader and one pre-reader. My experience is somewhat limited by the size of my family but because they all have such different personalities and learning strengths and yet all excel in this area, I thought it would be helpful (to someone?) to lay out the common factors I think contribute to reading success.

The primary contributing factor is what might be called a Culture of Reading within the home. When reading becomes such a common and positive activity in which little ones long to participate, the problem of motivation becomes a non-issue. Homeschoolers have a huge advantage in this area because reading isn't just a separate school subject but can easily become a regular source of joy and comfort. There is no one around during those early lessons to poison their mind with words such as "I hate reading!" The opportunity for positive encouragement and example is constant.

When my oldest son was six-years old, he was already reading many books with very few or no pictures. His 4-year old sister would watch him sit in the rocking chair for hours staring at those pages. When he left that chair she would race to it, pick up the book and study it, trying to figure out what the tremendous attraction was to all those tiny black markings. Naturally, she desired to participate in this activity that her beloved brother so often engaged in.

Each subsequent child has had a similar response to the reading interests of the older siblings. When asked if they would like to learn to read, the instant and enthusiastic answer is always "YES!!" They feel that they are about to take hold of a beautiful treasure!

Another way that reading becomes a positive activity in the home is when it is a primary indoor (and often outdoor) leisure activity. It is given the time and place to blossom and take hold of a child's heart and mind. That means that television must have an extremely limited presence in the early development of interests. During later years, it must not be allowed to stunt interest that developed early. Many families I know limit television watching to only preselected videos allowed at limited times. Aside from keeping a lot of visual and audio trash out of the Ecclesiae Domestica, it also creates an environment that elevates the profile of the family book shelf.

Even my most active child (the one we call "Crash" with good reason) will spend an hour or two reading  of his own volition. Of course, energy that must be burned off following these sessions is extreme but I'm hoping that more balance will be achieved as he matures!

I suspect that I'm mostly preaching to the choir on these issues but I do have one additional recommendation that some do not agree with me on...

I recommend limiting the reading of secular grade school level chapter books. By this, I mean books or book series' in the style of those written by authors such as Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume. I disagree with educators and parents who are happy to have reading as an end in itself. The common indication of this mindset is the statement "Well, at least he's reading."  Something. Anything. That's the idea, right? I don't think it is.

Why do we teach reading? What is the purpose of developing a love and proficiency for reading? We all agree that reading has a rightful place among pleasant leisure activities. As Christians, we also know that it's primary role is to serve the highest end of man by providing rich food for the mind and soul. We should be working to bring our students to a higher level of skill and comprehension than these books promise.

By the time a student reaches high school, he should be able to read, comprehend and even enjoy the works of important historical figures, great classics of Western civilization, significant documents of state, and non-fiction literature relevant to their faith and the Sacred Scriptures. They will not be able to accomplish this task if they have been prepared with years of a steady diet of fluff.

Please note, I am not saying that fluff is always bad or inherently evil. I am saying that it is attractive, addictive and distracting and needs to be extremely limited. In other words, a steady diet of Harry Potter or even American Girl books will not develop the mind but only keep it blissfully stagnant or improperly directed.

I can hear some adults now..."How boring! What high schooler wants to read that stuff?" I suggest that, just like children, we adults dislike reading what does not come to us easily. Children who hate reading hate it because it is difficult and consequently unpleasant. Adults who hate reading adult level literature suffer from the same problem. We either lack the fundamental skill and vocabulary or we are not accustomed to taxing ourselves with challenging subject matter.

My 12-year old son is well on his way to surpassing me. He reads tomes on things like chess and the details of historical battles the way I used to read The Babysitter's Club and can't understand why I don't want to read them, too. The other kids are hot on his heels. I'm not a genius. They are not geniuses. They simply have been given the tools and environment that allow their reading abilities to grow to capacity.

When my son was in the 5th grade, he was reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Charles Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Jules Verne, and Tolkien. All of his grade level peers attending local Catholic schools (with whom he played sports) were all reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid  as part of their coursework.

So, how do we help our kids make the jump from beginning reader to readers of good books? I admit that it is a challenging stage with the largest dearth of options. But it also should be a relatively short period of time.  It is a mistake to allow that brief period to extend to an entire childhood. If we navigate careful and thoughtfully during this brief window with a concrete goal in mind, we will be able to give our children the gift of an enjoyable and mature level of reading.

I hope to soon post a list of our reading favorites and staples by approximate age levels. It sounds like a lot of work to me (!) but it will also help me organize our own library for our up-and-coming readers.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Best $20 I ever spent for homeschooling...

I won't lie to you. I have made plenty of purchase mistakes with homeschooling. Art programs that looked so amazing in the catalog but bombed on the kitchen table. Grammar programs that were so tedious that even I hated them and stopped using them. That is one of the beauties of it all though; I can change textbooks or a curriculum any time I like when something isn't working well. Institutional schools' purchase mistakes can't be repaired so easily since the replacement of hundreds or thousands of books is cost prohibitive. (Not to mention the time the issue must spend in committee first.)

There are, however, two programs that I have been using since the beginning and have never doubted or replaced for one day. The first is our Math program. Math-U-See has been absolutely perfect for every child (in spite of different learning styles) in every grade I have taught so far (pre-K through 7th). It has also been perfect for me, which is a very important element!

The other program is the reason for this post. It really is the best investment we have ever made in the education of our children and I want to share it with the world! Back in 1999, I read a great review of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  and purchased it within the week. One book. $20. I would have spent a lot more for the value it has brought to our home.

No program is magical. We do not flip a switch or say a word and find that our children can suddenly read or write or do word problems. Teaching itself is vital to this process. But there are some learning systems that do make teaching and learning easier. Each of the children I have taught to read have very different learning personalities and each are phenomenal readers, well beyond their grade levels not only in technical skills but also comprehension. I strongly believe that their strong foundation and positive early experience has been pivotal in that success.

By the end of this program my kids have been at about a 2nd grade reading level. This allows them to jump immediately to short chapter books. It isn't long before they are able to dive into much more advanced literature.

I do have some words of advice for those interested in this program:

-- This program does not use the traditional alphabet order for teaching sounds. Nor does it even introduce the names of letters until the second half of the book. There are excellent reasons for this but it is difficult at first for a parent to resist using the methods with which we were taught. Read the forward information thoroughly and commit to it and you won't be sorry. It has always been a little awkward when my pre-K students can't sing the ABC song with peers but it pays off when my 10-year olds are reading Shakespeare. :)

-- The program is designed in 100 lessons but this does not mean that it must (or should) be done in 100 consecutive days. In fact, I recommend making or purchasing sound and word flash cards that can be used to reinforce lessons in between book days. Some kids need more of this than others. You'll know how much time they need as you go along.

-- Take as much time as your student needs in review time but avoid repeating lessons. It really tends to demoralize the kids, especially if they struggled the first time. The book instructions do warn against this but it can be tempting to do it anyway. Don't. If the child is not ready for the new lesson, review until they are; but repeating lessons is a drag and feels like a failure. If the lesson is a total disaster for one reason or another, just stop, focus on review (or allow a day off) and just begin again another day. There are some children who LOVE to go back and read everything again. I'm not talking about those easy children. lol!

-- The program uses a particular way of writing sounds that differs slightly from traditional lettering. This is designed to get the kids reading faster (which is highly motivating) and does work. But there is a point toward the latter part of the program during which the transition is made to standard lettering. This can be a bit challenging for the kids. My advice is to just be patient and recognize that the primary obstacle (in my experience) for the kids is the fear of something apparently unknown and not the actual inability to read. My more conservative children stumbled a little over this transition. The more adventurous just plowed ahead!

There are many program aids available through the publisher. I used none of them for the first two but did purchase the flash card supplement for my third which I have found to be extremely helpful. I made my own sound cards prior to that but never had the patience to write out all the words. The purchased cards include the sounds plus hundreds of words organized by lesson. The only downside is having to cut them out yourself but that's a lot easier than writing them out, in my opinion! I don't remember how much I paid but the website now lists options between $10 and $35.

So...a $20 to $55 investment yields a priceless treasure!

The book is available at Amazon for $15. It is available with Educational Resources (the publisher) for $22 along with additional learning aids.

In my next post, I'll share my thoughts and experiences with developing all students into advanced readers in spite of different personalities and learning styles.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dreaming of my Summer Date...

Talking about babysitting (previous post) really got me thinking about (and dreaming about) a romantic Summer date with my handsome husband. In typical dreamy female style, I have already picked out my outfit. Some of these items I have and some I am still dreaming about. I'm thinking perfect breezy Summer day (if only we lived by the ocean) and feeling pretty even with a pregnant belly. :)

Simple Summery dress from Eddie Bauer. I loved this dress in yellow, too, but something about white just screams "dreamy." I'm not the only one since I notice the dress is already backordered. Looks like it needs a slip and a camisole but that is easily done.

Dressy or casual and very comfy. I don't have these shoes but a similar pair. They have heels (which make me feel pretty) but don't make me fall over. Rubberized soles are a must for someone who lives in running shoes.

I love flowers in my hair. Nothing makes me feel more like a girl. I attached these pretties to sterling silver bobbies and can wear them everywhere.

I bought this pretty necklace last year at a "store closing" sale. Much prettier in person. This talented lady closed her jewelry business but I buy all of my make-up from her at her bath and body store .

Babysitting Rates??

I have a dream.

That one day, I will have a couple hours with my husband. Alone. Without the children.

By "alone", I do NOT meant the following:

-Sitting with my husband at 7am in a medical lobby waiting for our toddler to wake from general anesthesia.
-Sitting up with him until 3am discussing the children while they sleep upstairs.
-Going with my husband to an obstetrics appointment.

I DO mean any of the following:

-Taking a long walk with him in the state park with nowhere specific to go and no rush to get there.
-Going out to dinner. A table for 2 please. No crayons. No high chair.
-Oh, I don't know. Anywhere else will do. Anywhere except the grocery store or dentist office.

We have rarely ever had a sitter outside of family members. And we have so many, many utilitarian reasons for needing a sitter these days (doctor's appointments, etc) that we never seem to be able to fit a real date in. And I'm starving for a date.

I have no idea what to pay a sitter. There is a graduated homeschooler off college for the Summer, 19 years old. She has experience and is a good family friend. I used some online calculators for figuring out sitting rates and came up with $16 and hour for my size family (5 kids). Does that add up right for those of you who regularly get sitters?

As you can see from the photo, they are perfect little saints (St. Luke, St. Kateri, St. Therese, St. Louis and a Holy Innocent to be exact) and never give anyone an ounce of trouble. :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Princess Tough Guy impresses the Judges

Jellybean has been hangin' with the big kids and raslin' with her brothers since the very beginning. She's the perfect combination of Princess and Tomboy and the calmest child I have ever had.

Two weeks ago, she fell into a table at a restaurant and a bottom tooth went completely through her bottom lip. Mama felt seriously woozy. It was gross and in spite of having 5 kids I've never had a total lip perforation before. *shudder* She'll have that scar for a long time. But she only cried for about 30 seconds.

This morning, she had to undergo extensive dental work under anesthesia. Apparently, there is a defect in her primary molars that occurred during formation in utero (around the 16th week of pregnancy). I had no idea that 2-year olds could have root canals! The anesthesiologist discussed the procedure with my husband and I and assured us that she would cry while being put under. "Don't worry" she said, "they always do and it helps the process since they take nice deep breaths while crying." My husband gave the woman his best "dad" look and said with confidence, "She's not going to cry."

And she didn't. Not before, even though she was afraid. Not after, even when she was disoriented and feeling crummy. The medical staff was impressed and delighted.

She's not lifeless or dull. She's just used to rolling with the punches. The pampered princess knows a thing or two about tough. It's absolutely nothing that I did. I'm pretty sure she has her big brothers to thank! And her sisters always make sure that she has something pretty for her hair. Between the constant commotion combined with tender care, she knows that when she does fall down she'll end up safely in someone's arms.

Pope John Paul II said: "The greatest gift you can give your child is another sibling." And I do get what he meant, especially when I reflect on the fact that their beautiful individual personalities mirror some of the most amazing qualities of their brothers and sisters.

Infertility has clearly not been a problem for me! I do know that it is for many others. Both family situations offer tremendous blessings and also specific crosses. Thanks be to God for the unique and amazing adventure that He has planned for each of our kids!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Handsome is as Handsome Does...

Related to all the recent hullabaloo about unfaithful Catholic priests...

A close relative recently told me that she thinks it an unfortunate thing for a priest to be young and handsome. For a split second I could see her point. Then it passed as I considered that the same could be said of husbands or non-religious single men. The implication is that handsome young men have to struggle more with temptations against chastity because they are more attractive to women; so handsome young men should not undertake a serious commitment to live purely and chastely.

Should I have married an ugly man? After all, he goes out into the world daily and I know has been the object of advances in spite of his wedding ring. He must remain faithful to one woman in spite of the fact that he may attract and receive inappropriate attention from many lovely women. Single handsome young men must remain chaste in spite of the fact that they are also attractive and additionally, available.

The priest is not available but has given himself body and soul to the love of Christ. As for the handsome ones? I, for one, am glad not all priests are old men and I cannot see the benefit of wishing physical ugliness upon any of them. God's garden is flourishing with beauty and variety. And chastity is not necessarily less difficult for the priest who is lacking physical beauty.

The issue ultimately hinges on holiness and love of Christ. God bestows beauty at His pleasure and calls all to holiness and purity. We do not sin because we are more or less susceptible to temptations but because we fail to remain vigilant in defense of love.

God bless our faithful priests; the homely ones and the handsome ones. May He bless them with a fervent and holy desire that overcomes all passing desires of the flesh.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Queen for a Day...

Mother's Day was lovely. Mass is always such a perfect way to start any celebration. Father gave a beautiful blessing to all mothers and my heart was so full of gratitude. (My son, who was serving at the altar, noticed that more than one mother had tears in her eyes.) Then a meal and fellowship with family.

I'm not picky about presents and would be fine with cards but my husband loves to pamper me with gifts when I am least expecting it. Mother's Day is not a big gift day but I was in for a bit of a surprise...

I received a gorgeous pair of earrings, a new dress that I have had my eye on and a book that I asked for many months ago. It felt like Christmas! He doesn't always splurge so richly on me for such a simple occasion but I think he he knew how far some pampering would carry me right now. I'm just starting to rise out of very intense pregnancy sickness that has lasted almost 3 months. And I've been discouraged about an already significant weight gain (fitting into maternity clothes before the 2nd trimester was a bad sign). He clearly wants me to feel lovelier than I have been feeling and has learned that a bit of sparkle can work wonders!

The book is very exciting gift. I was so eager to read it after falling in love with a book by the same author this past year. Secrets of the Interior Life by Archbishop Luis M. Martinez has become a favorite of mine and I have heard good things about this one, True Devotion to the Holy Spirit . Hey, when Fr. Benedict Groeschel recommends a book, I pay attention!

One of the exciting things about the book gift is the timing. Two weeks ago, I would not have been able to read it. My illness was rendering me completely apathetic to all of my normal interests and activities. Spiritual reading has been like going to the dentist. I'm more than ready now. Like a lost soul that just wandered out of the desert, thirsty beyond words.

Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, dear Husband! And Happy Mother's Day to Blessed Mother who has always loved me into the arms of her Son.

(I'll let you all know what I think of the book when I'm finished.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Number One Strangest Objection to Homeschooling...

I'm standing pool side at a crowded swim meet talking to a teammate's mother about homeschooling. Actually, we've only just begun to talk about home education after she asks where my children go to school. She is taken aback by my response. She reflexively looks at the 3 children at my side who are 6, 3 and 1-year old and blurts out, "But what about PROM?!"

This is one of those moments in life where one must create a reason to become occupied so as not to offend with uproarious laughter. "Oh dear, Button, what have you got on your shoe?" "Hmmm...Is your diaper full, baby?"

I just need a moment with that question. It almost always happens the same way; as a knee-jerk question born of honest incredulity. And it always makes me giggle shamefully as I wonder how on earth to satisfactorily answer such a question. I think the question has been asked of me at least a dozen times in the last 4 years by different moms.

I honestly don't remember what I've answered in the past. I hope I didn't say anything offensive or dumb. But really...

I went to prom. And I just can't reconcile my experience with the gravity of the posed question.

I planned it for months. Special ordered an expensive dress from a downtown boutique. Had a handsome and charming date. Details down to my handmade garter (yikes! Why on earth do they do garter dances at proms?) were all taken care of. My date went into debt to his parents for food, limo, tickets and what-not. We had a fine time. Life goes on.

I attended dozens of dance socials during high school and 6 formal dances prior to prom. Prom was the high school social dance experience on steroids and dad's credit card. A strong argument against homeschooling? I'm not seeing it.

But I do get the point. They really want to know why I would keep my children from the standard social lifestyle of "normal" teenagers. That's a much bigger question. If they really wanted to know how I felt about that can of worms I could tell them how I really feel about the modern prom scene.

We recently received our local newspaper which regularly highlights school happenings in our district. The main attraction this week was, of course, prom weekend. They showcased numerous photos of barely dressed young ladies with their starry-eyed dates and some silly quotes. One parent was quoted saying, "These kids are preparing for the best night of their lives!" My eyes flitted to a picture of a voluptuous young lady in one of those outrageous, but very popular, cut-out dresses (think bikini with a train) and to the young man at her side and I sarcastically thought: Yes, that young man is certainly hoping to have a delightful evening.

I can hardly help myself. I went to high school. Didn't you?

So, I'm a homeschooling fuddy duddy now, I guess, because I really, really don't care a whit about whether of not my kids attend a high school prom. Life is fertile soil for many beautiful and exciting experiences. Prom? eh. Been there. Done that. That's why I giggle. I can't believe I'm the only one who thought the hype was infinitely bigger than the actual beauty of the night. It is certainly not enough to keep me from giving this amazing experience of home-based education to my kids.

Friday, May 7, 2010

When real Beauty meets make-up...

Caught in the act of using mommy's lipstick...exactly 3 years ago today!
She looks so guilty, doesn't she? These are the moments for which cameras exist. And when held up to the face, they help to hide mother's laughter.

Have I really worn that color lipstick? Perhaps with black fishnet stockings and tattoos? LOL!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

There are moments when I'm perfect...

A funny thing has happened to me with age. As a teen I had a strong sense of my talents and character strengths and felt confident in my actions. I felt that if I didn't accomplish my goals well it was only because I chose not to and felt the only way to go was up! Since then, I seem to have gotten a bit rusty. Or maybe my vision of reality has cleared a bit. I don't seem to be able to do anything with the mastery and success that I would like. It's a little (or a lot) painful to give 110% and constantly fall short anyway.

Time has changed many things. More is required of me since I have more people relying on me. My energy is divided, my temper shorter. My broom sweeps up the last crumb and the toilet overflows before I have put the broom away. While I'm cleaning up the toilet water, crumbs have somehow reappeared on the swept floor. My motherly words of wisdom are beginning to fall on the all-knowing and superior ears of my *gasp* teenager! I was amazingly wise and wonderful as the mother of two toddlers. A female Solomon to be sure! I seem to have lost my touch with 5. This on-the-job training is brutal.

But there is one moment when I am absolutely perfect.

Last night, my two-year old was sweating with a fever. Her body was limp as I held her in my arms. I held her close to me and she stared at me with her sleepy sick eyes. "Mommy's here, baby." She reached out one hot little hand and stroked my hair. She touched my eyes and pulled on my ears. She pulled my cheek tightly to her own. Then she turned over and tried to sleep. I stayed with her while the storm raged outside. Her eyes would open when the thunder rumbled and she made sure I was near before closing them again.

I was comforted as I held her. At this moment, I was a perfect mother. I was holding and comforting my sick little girl and I wasn't messing it up. When she was resting comfortably, I went to the next room to spend time with my husband. Before I left I told her to "Call me if you need me, okay?" She nodded, turned over and closed her eyes. A few minutes later, a loud thunder clap startled her awake and I heard a little call. I hurried to the side of the couch she was on. She looked me in the eyes and said "You need me, mommy."

I did need her. I needed her in that moment in time to allow me to be perfect. Just this once. Perfectly attentive to my vocation and in obedience to love. If I did nothing else well yesterday, I did love my toddler perfectly during her night of illness.

I had time later that night to reflect on the blessing of the early years of motherhood. Mothering an infant is not easy but it is relatively simple. When they cry, we see if they are hungry or lonely or sick or uncomfortable or bored...and we meet the need. And when we don't know why they cry we hold them anyway to let them know our presence. Sometimes we do that all night. Sometimes we cry with them in the distress of our fatigue. Babies give me confidence in this way. They are so needy and simple. All I have to do is offer my presence.

As my children grow, I also grow to know and love them more and more. But mothering them is never as simple as the total physical donation required of mothering an infant. How many nights have I spent in absolute weariness of spirit begging the Lord to show me how to mother these older children well? They really are wonderful kids and I wouldn't trade them for the world. Still, they are individuals with free will and I am an imperfect mother.

Last night, I had the opportunity to be perfect again for a moment. It was a beautiful reminder of the blessing of my unborn child as well. I have yet another opportunity to meet the needs of a child perfectly. I won't always have babies to nurture and I recognized the gift.

Call me when you need me, little one. "You need me, Mommy."

"Lo, children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. " -- Psalm 127

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Economics for you and me...

I very much enjoy the things Walter Williams has to say and was interested to discover his online tutorial, Economics for the Citizen . I skimmed a bit and am eager to dig into it as soon as time permits. Join me?

With a grateful nod to the Headmistress at The Common Room .

Monday, May 3, 2010

More First Communion Joy!

"Mommy, this was the best day in my entire life!" What joy those words brought to my heart! I also enjoyed the day tremendously and can't resist posting a couple more pictures to relive some moments.   I don't remember one single thing about my First Holy Communion so I am grateful that my children seem to soak up every detail of their own.

Invasion of the vestry!
"Can we wear the red cassocks today, Father? How about the fancy surplices?"

The liturgy was beautiful. The Professor's only disappointment was that they didn't have enough servers for incense. 

The children jumped at the chance to participate in the reading of Sacred Scripture and petitions. All homeschooled and not an introvert among them! 

I have to post this one again. Because they were the only two First Communicants at the Mass, the children were able to receive on their knees. I am so grateful that Father not only allowed it but encouraged it.
(This photo is also evidence of the wonders of digital photography. The original was sans flash and almost completely black. With the click of the mouse I was able to salvage it.)

Mama is happy. Very, very happy. My five "little" blessings. All thoughts of the disaster we left at the house trying to get out the door on time? Gone. (By the way, I was immensely grateful that we were not hosting the party that day! lol)

A very brilliant (and trouble making) set of grandparents gave Crash a bucket of water guns as one of his First Communion gifts. It did not take long before they were put to use. It took just a little longer for Crash to realize that a superior weapon was available. Between the hose and the rubber knife he got from his cousin, he was ready to do battle with the fiercest of party guests! 

Crash's top 3 favorite gifts?
A camouflage Bible case
A rubber Bowie knife
A small metal statue of St. Louis of France

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A New Springtime for the Legionaries of Christ

The Vatican has finally issued a statement revealing the conclusion of the apostolic visitation of the Legionaries of Christ. Read the statement and relevant links here .

In a nutshell, the Holy Father is taking control of the order and beginning a process of further investigation and "revision". It's a hard thing and a painful purging but I can't help feeling a sense of great relief and gratitude. The disease has been discovered, the larger effects also identified, and a new day has dawned. The purging is not nearly over. Neither has Pope Benedict's pastoral scalpel touched all that needs to be cut out.

But healing has begun. Hope is alive and God is extending His merciful and paternal hand over the wounded of the Legion and Regnum Christi. There are many who weep and mourn for what has been lost. But perhaps they have not attempted to imagine the work that the Spirit can do without Macial standing in the way.

Praise the Lord!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

O Sacrament Most Holy!

O Sacrament most holy!

O Sacrament divine! 

All praise and all thanksgiving
be every moment Thine. 

A beautiful day. Beginning with the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the First Holy Communion of my niece and son. Ending with water gun fights and lots of cake.
Absolutely perfect!


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